Poor man! It was touching to hear him speak of his Parisian habits, and of his experience; he whose destiny it was to be always a beginner.
“Now, that is understood, is it not? I engage you as secretary. You will have a fixed salary which we will settle directly, and I shall provide you with the opportunity to make your fortune rapidly.”
And while de Gery, raised suddenly above all the anxieties of a newcomer, of one who solicits a favour, of a neophyte, did not move for fear of awaking from a dream:
“Now,” said the Nabob to him in a gentle voice, “sit down there, next me, and let us talk a little about mamma.”
I had just finished my frugal morning repast and, as my habit was, placed the remains of my modest provisions in the board-room safe with a secret lock, which has served me as a store-cupboard during four years, almost, that I have been at the Territorial. Suddenly the governor walks into the offices, with his face all red and eyes inflamed, as though after a night’s feasting, draws in his breath noisily, and in rude terms says to me, with his Italian accent:
“But this place stinks, Moussiou Passajon.”
The place did not stink, if you like the word. Only—shall I say it?—I had ordered a few onions to garnish a knuckle of veal which Mme. Seraphine had sent down to me, she being the cook on the second floor, whose accounts I write out for her every evening. I tried to explain the matter to the governor, but he had flown into a temper, saying that to his mind there was no sense in poisoning the atmosphere of an office in that way, and that it was not worth while to maintain premises at a rent of twelve thousand francs, with eight windows fronting full on the Boulevard Malesherbes, in order to roast onions in them. I don’t know what he did not say to me in his passion. For my own part, naturally I got angry at hearing myself addressed in that insolent manner. It is surely the least a man can do to be polite with people in his service whom he does not pay. What the deuce! So I answered him that it was annoying, in truth, but that if the Territorial Bank paid me what it owed me, namely, four years’ arrears of salary, plus seven thousand francs personal advances made by me to the governor for expenses of cabs, newspapers, cigars, and American grogs on board days, I would go and eat decently at the nearest cookshop, and should not be reduced to cooking, in the room where our board was accustomed to sit, a wretched stew, for which I had to thank the public compassion of female cooks. Take that!