As for the cross, things were going still better. The Bethlehem Society had assuredly made the devil of a noise at the Tuileries. They were now only waiting until after the visit of M. de la Perriere and his report, which could not be other than favorable, before inscribing on the list for the 16th March, on the date of an imperial anniversary, the glorious name of Jansoulet. The 16th March; that was to say, within a month. What would the fat Hemerlingue find to say of this signal favour, he who for so long had had to content himself with the Nisham? And the Bey, who had been misled into believing that Jansoulet was cut by Parisian society, and the old mother, down yonder at Saint-Romans, ever so happy in the successes of her son! Was that not worth a few millions cleverly squandered along the path of glory which the Nabob was treading like a child, all unconscious of the fate that lay waiting to devour him at its end? And in these external joys, these honours, this consideration so dearly bought, was there not a compensation for all the troubles of this Oriental won back to European life, who desired a home and possessed only a caravansary, looked for a wife and found only a Levantine?
THE BETHLEHEM SOCIETY
BETHLEHEM! Why did it give one such a chill to see written in letters of gold over the iron gate that historic name, sweet and warm like the straw of the miraculous stable! Perhaps it was partly to be accounted for by the melancholy of the landscape, that immense gloomy plain which stretches from Nanterre to Saint Cloud, broken only by a few clumps of trees or the smoke of factory chimneys. Possibly also by the disproportion that existed between the humble little straggling village which you expected to find and the grandiose establishment, this country mansion in the style of Louis XIII, an agglomeration of mortar looking pink through the branches of its leafless park, ornamented with wide pieces of water thick with green weeds. What is certain is that as you passed this place your heart was conscious of an oppression. When you entered it was still worse. A heavy inexplicable silence weighed on the house, and the faces you might see at the windows had a mournful air behind the little, old-fashioned greenish panes. The goats scattered along the paths nibbled languidly at the new spring grass, with “baas” at the woman who was tending them, and looked bored, as she followed the visitors with a lack-lustre eye. A mournfulness was over the place, like the terror of a contagion. Yet it had been a cheerful house, and one where even recently there had been high junketings. Replanted with timber for the famous singer who had sold it to Jenkins, it revealed clearly the kind of imagination which is characteristic of the opera-house in a bridge flung over the miniature lake, with its broken punt half filled with mouldy leaves, and in its pavilion all of rockery-work, garlanded by ivy. It had witnessed gay scenes, this pavilion, in the singer’s time; now it looked on sad ones, for the infirmary was installed in it.