“On condition that poor Cephyse is to go with us. It will raise her spirits.”
“Well, Cephyse shall be of the party.”
“Have you come into a fortune, great apostle?”
“Better than that, most rosy and pompous of all Rose-Pom, pons! I am head editor of a religious journal; and as I must make some appearance in so respectable a concern, I ask every month for four weeks in advance, and three days of liberty. On this condition, I consent to play the saint for twenty-seven days out of thirty, and to be always as grave and heavy as the paper itself.”
“A journal! that will be something droll, and dance forbidden steps all alone on the tables of the cafes.”
“Yes, it will be droll enough; but not for everybody. They are rich sacristans, who pay the expenses. They don’t look to money, provided the journal bites, tears, burns, pounds, exterminates and destroys. On my word of honor, I shall never have been in such a fury!” added Ninny Moulin, with a loud, hoarse laugh. “I shall wash the wounds of my adversaries with venom of the finest vintage, and gall of the first quality.”
For his peroration, Ninny Moulin imitated the pop of uncorking a bottle of champagne—which made Rose-Pompon laugh heartily.
“And what,” resumed she, “will be the name of your journal of sacristans?”
“It will be called `Neighborly Love.’”
“Come! that is a very pretty name.”
“Wait a little! there is a second title.”
“Let us hear it.”
“`Neighborly Love; or, the Exterminator of the Incredulous, the Indifferent, the Lukewarm, and Others,’ with this motto from the great Bossuet: `Those who are not for us are against us.’”
“That is what Philemon says in the battles at the Chaumiere, when he shakes his cane.”
“Which proves, that the genius of the Eagle of Meaux is universal. I only reproach him for having been jealous of Moliere.”
“Bah! actor’s jealousy,” said Rose-Pompon.
“Naughty girl!” cried Ninny Moulin, threatening her with his finger.
“But if you are going to exterminate Madame de la Sainte-Colombo, who is somewhat lukewarm—how about your marriage?”
“My journal will advance it, on the contrary. Only think! editor-In chief is a superb position; the sacristans will praise, and push, and support, and bless me; I shall get La-Sainte-Colombe—and then, what a life I’ll lead!”
At this moment, a postman entered the shop, and delivered a letter to the greengrocer, saying: “For M. Charlemagne, post-paid!”
“My!” said Rose-Pompon; “it is for the little mysterious old man, who has such extraordinary ways. Does it come from far?”
“I believe you; it comes from Italy, from Rome,” said Ninny Moulin, looking in his turn at the letter, which the greengrocer held in her hand. “Who is the astonishing little old man of whom you speak?”
“Just imagine to yourself, my great apostle,” said Rose-Pompon, “a little old man, who has two rooms at the bottom of that court. He never sleeps there, but comes from time to time, and shuts himself up for hours, without ever allowing any one to enter his lodging, and without any one knowing what he does there.”