Taking the letter which the young man held out to him, he went to a window in order to see to read it.
“Te! It is from mamma.”
He said it with so happy an air; that word “mamma” lit up all his face with so young, so kind a smile, that the visitor, who had been at first repulsed by the vulgar aspect of this parvenu, felt himself filled with sympathy for him.
In an undertone the Nabob read these few lines written in an awkward hand, incorrect and shaky, which contrasted with the large glazed note-paper, with its heading “Chateau de Saint-Romans.”
“My dear son, this letter will be delivered to you by the eldest son of M. de Gery, the former justice of the peace for Bourg-Saint-Andeol, who has shown us so much kindness.”
The Nabob broke off his reading.
“I ought to have recognised you, M. de Gery. You resemble your father. Sit down, I beg of you.”
Then he finished running through the letter. His mother asked him nothing precise, but, in the name of the services which the de Gery family had rendered them in former years, she recommended M. Paul to him. An orphan, burdened with the care of his two young brothers, he had been called to the bar in the south, and was now coming to Paris to seek his fortune. She implored Jansoulet to aid him, “for he needed it badly, poor fellow,” and she signed herself, “Thy mother who pines for thee, Francoise.”
This letter from his mother, whom he had not seen for six years, those expressions of the south country of which he could hear the intonations that he knew so well, that coarse handwriting which sketched for him an adored face, all wrinkled, scored, and cracked, but smiling beneath its peasant’s head-dress, had affected the Nabob. During the six weeks that he had been in France, lost in the whirl of Paris, the business of getting settled in his new habitation, he had not yet given a thought to his dear old lady at home; and now he saw all of her again in these lines. He remained a moment looking at the letter, which trembled in his heavy fingers.
Then, this emotion having passed:
“M. de Gery,” said he, “I am glad of the opportunity which is about to permit me to repay to you a little of the kindness which your family has shown to mine. From to-day, if you consent, I take you into my house. You are educated, you seem intelligent, you can be of great service to me. I have a thousand plans, a thousand affairs in hand. I am being drawn into a crowd of large industrial enterprises. I want some one who will aid me; represent me at need. I have indeed a secretary, a steward, that excellent Bompain, but the unfortunate fellow knows nothing of Paris; he has been, as it were, bewildered ever since his arrival. You will tell me that you also come straight from the country, but that does not matter. Well brought up as you are, a southerner, alert and adaptable, you will quickly pick up the routine of the Boulevard. For the rest, I myself undertake your education from that point of view. In a few weeks you will find yourself, I answer for it, as much at home in Paris as I am.”