now such a saint. Oh! those were the jolly times. Every evening, some new entertainment at the chateau. What a fellow that colonel was, to set things going; how well he could act a play!--I remember--" The bailiff was unable to proceed. A stout maid-servant, wearing the costume and cap of Picardy, entered in haste, and thus addressed her mistress: "Madame, there is a person here that wants to speak to master; he has come in the postmaster's calash from Saint-Valery, and he says that he is M. Rodin." "M. Rodin?" said the bailiff rising. "Show him in directly!" A moment after, M. Rodin made his appearance. According to his custom, he was dressed even more than plainly. With an air of great humility, he saluted the bailiff and his wife, and at a sign from her husband, the latter withdrew. The cadaverous countenance of M. Rodin, his almost invisible lips, his little reptile eyes, half concealed by their flabby lids, and the sordid style of his dress, rendered his general aspect far from prepossessing; yet this man knew how, when it was necessary, to affect, with diabolical art, so much sincerity and good-nature--his words were so affectionate and subtly penetrating--that the disagreeable feeling of repugnance, which the first sight of him generally inspired, wore off little by little, and he almost always finished by involving his dupe or victim in the tortuous windings of an eloquence as pliant as it was honeyed and perfidious; for ugliness and evil have their fascination, as well as what is good and fair. The honest bailiff looked at this man with surprise, when he thought of the pressing recommendation of the steward of the Princess de Saint- Dizier; he had expected to see quite another sort of personage, and, hardly able to dissemble his astonishment, he said to him: "Is it to M. Rodin that I have the honor to speak?" "Yes, sir; and here is another letter from the steward of the Princess de Saint-Dizier." "Pray, sir, draw near the fire, whilst I just see what is in this letter. The weather is so bad," continued the bailiff, obligingly, "may I not offer you some refreshment?" "A thousand thanks, my dear sir; I am off again in an hour." Whilst M. Dupont read, M. Rodin threw inquisitive glances round the chamber; like a man of skill and experience, he had frequently drawn just and useful inductions from those little appearances, which, revealing a taste or habit, give at the same time some notion of a character; on this occasion, however, his curiosity was at fault. "Very good, sir," said the bailiff, when he had finished reading; "the steward renews his recommendation, and tells me to attend implicitly to your commands." "Well, sir, they will amount to very little, and I shall not trouble you long." "It will be no trouble, but an honor." "Nay, I know how much your time must be occupied, for, as soon as one enters this chateau, one is struck with the good order and perfect keeping of everything in it--which proves, my dear sir, what excellent care you take of it." "Oh, sir, you flatter me." "Flatter you?--a poor old man like myself has something else to think of. But to come to business: there is a room here which is called the Green Chamber?" "Yes, sir; the room which the late Count-Duke de Cardoville used for a study." "You will have the goodness to take me there." "Unfortunately, it is not in my power to do so. After the death of the Count-Duke, and when the seals were removed, a number of papers were shut up in a cabinet in that room, and the lawyers took the keys with them to Paris." "Here are those keys," said M. Rodin, showing to the bailiff a large and a small key tied together. "Oh, sir! that is different. You come to look for papers?" "Yes--for certain papers--and also far a small mahogany casket, with silver clasps--do you happen to know it?" "Yes, sir; I have often seen it on the count's writing-table. It must be in the large, lacquered cabinet, of which you have the key." "You will conduct me to this chamber, as authorized by the Princess de Saint-Dizier?" "Yes, sir; the princess continues in good health?" "Perfectly so. She lives altogether above worldly things." "And Mademoiselle Adrienne?" "Alas, my dear sir!" said M. Rodin, with a sigh of deep contrition and grief. "Good heaven, sir! has any calamity happened to Mademoiselle Adrienne?" "In what sense do you mean it?" "Is she ill?" "No, no--she is, unfortunately, as well as she is beautiful." "Unfortunately!" cried the bailiff, in surprise. "Alas, yes! for when beauty, youth, and health are joined to an evil spirit of revolt and perversity--to a character which certainly has not its equal upon earth--it would be far better to be deprived of those dangerous advantages, which only become so many causes of perdition. But I conjure you, my dear sir, let us talk of something else: this subject is too painful," said M. Rodin, with a voice of deep emotion, lifting the tip of his little finger to the corner of his right eye, as if to stop a rising tear. The bailiff did not see the tear, but he saw the gesture, and he was struck with the change in M. Rodin's voice. He answered him, therefore, with much sympathy: "Pardon my indiscretion, sir; I really did not know--" "It is I who should ask pardon for this involuntary display of feeling-- tears are so rare with old men--but if you had seen, as I have, the despair of that excellent princess, whose only fault has been too much kindness, too much weakness, with regard to her niece--by which she has encouraged her--but, once more, let us talk of something else, my dear sir!" After a moment's pause, during which M. Rodin seemed to recover from his emotion, he said to Dupont: "One part of my mission, my dear sir--that which relates to the Green Chamber--I have now told you; but there is yet another. Before coming to it, however, I must remind you of a circumstance you have perhaps forgotten--namely, that some fifteen or sixteen years ago, the Marquis d'Aigrigny, then colonel of the hussars in garrison at Abbeville, spent some time in this house." "Oh, sir! what a dashing officer was there! It was only just now, that I was talking about him to my wife. He was the life of the house!--how well he could perform plays--particularly the character of a scapegrace. In the Two Edmonds, for instance, he would make you die with laughing, in that part of a drunken soldier--and then, with what a charming voice he sang Joconde, sir--better than they could sing it at Paris!" Rodin, having listened complacently to the bailiff, said to him: "You doubtless know that, after a fierce duel he had with a furious Bonapartist, one General Simon, the Marquis d'Aigrigny (whose private secretary I have now the honor to be) left the world for the church." "No, sir! is it possible? That fine officer!" "That fine officer--brave, noble, rich, esteemed, and flattered-- abandoned all those advantages for the sorry black gown; and, notwithstanding his name, position, high connections, his reputation as a great preacher, he is still what he was fourteen years ago--a plain abbe --whilst so many, who have neither his merit nor his virtues, are archbishops and cardinals." M. Rodin expressed himself with so much goodness, with such an air of conviction, and the facts he cited appeared to be so incontestable, that M. Dupont could not help exclaiming: "Well, sir, that is splendid conduct!" "Splendid? Oh, no!" said M. Rodin, with an inimitable expression of simplicity; "it is quite a matter of course when one has a heart like M. d'Aigrigny's. But amongst all his good qualities, he has particularly that of never forgetting worthy people--people of integrity, honor, conscience--and therefore, my dear M. Dupont, he has not forgotten you." "What, the most noble marquis deigns to remember--" "Three days ago, I received a letter from him, in which he mentions your name." "Is he then at Paris?" "He will be there soon, if not there now. He went to Italy about three months ago, and, during his absence, he received a very sad piece of news--the death of his mother, who was passing the autumn on one of the estates of the Princess de Saint-Dizier." "Oh, indeed! I was not aware of it." "Yes, it was a cruel grief to him; but we must all resign ourselves to the will of Providence!" "And with regard to what subject did the marquis do me the honor to mention my name?" "I am going to tell you. First of all, you must know that this house is sold. The bill of sale was signed the day before my departure from Paris." "Oh, sir! that renews all my uneasiness." "Pray, why?" "I am afraid that the new proprietors may not choose to keep me as their bailiff." "Now see what a lucky chance! It is just on that subject that I am going to speak to you." "Is it possible?" "Certainly. Knowing the interest which the marquis feels for you, I am particularly desirous that you should keep this place, and I will do all in my power to serve you, if--" "Ah, sir!" cried Dupont, interrupting Rodin; "what gratitude do I not owe you! It is Heaven that sends you to me!' "Now, my dear sir, you flatter me in your turn; but I ought to tell you, that I'm obliged to annex a small condition to my support." "Oh, by all means! Only name it, sir--name it!" "The person who is about to inhabit this mansion, is an old lady in every way worthy of veneration; Madame de la Sainte-Colombe is the name of this respectable--" "What, sir?" said the bailiff, interrupting Rodin; "Madame de la Sainte- Colombe the lady who has bought us out?" "Do you know her?" "Yes, sir, she came last week to see the estate. My wife persists that she is a great lady; but--between ourselves--judging by certain words that I heard her speak--" "You are full of penetration, my dear M. Dupont. Madame de la Sainte- Colombe is far from being a great lady. I believe she was neither more nor less than a milliner, under one of the wooden porticoes of the Palais Royal. You see, that I deal openly with you." "And she boasted of all the noblemen, French and foreign, who used to visit her!" "No doubt, they came to buy bonnets for their wives! However, the fact is, that, having gained a large fortune and, after being in youth and middle age--indifferent--alas! more than indifferent to the salvation of her soul--Madame de la Sainte-Colombe is now in a likely way to experience grace--which renders her, as I told you, worthy of veneration, because nothing is so respectable as a sincere repentance--always providing it to be lasting. Now to make the good work sure and effectual, we shall need your assistance, my dear M. Dupont." "Mine, sir! what can I do in it?" "A great deal; and I will explain to you how. There is no church in this village, which stands at an equal distance from either of two parishes. Madame de la Sainte-Colombe, wishing to make choice of one of the two clergymen, will naturally apply to you and Madame Dupont, who have long lived in these parts, for information respecting them." "Oh! in that case the choice will soon be made. The incumbent of Danicourt is one of the best of men." "Now that is precisely what you must not say to Madame de la Sainte- Colombe." "How so?" "You must, on the contrary, much praise, without ceasing, the curate of Roiville, the other parish, so as to decide this good lady to trust herself to his care." "And why, sir, to him rather than to the other?" "Why?--because, if you and Madame Dupont succeed in persuading Madame de la Sainte-Colombe to make the choice I wish, you will be certain to keep your place as bailiff. I give you my word of it, and what I promise I perform." "I do not doubt, sir, that you have this power," said Dupont, convinced by Rodin's manner, and the authority of his words; "but I should like to know--" "One word more," said Rodin, interrupting him; "I will deal openly with you, and tell you why I insist on the preference which I beg you to support. I should be grieved if you saw in all this the shadow of an intrigue. It is only for the purpose of doing a good action. The curate of Roiville, for whom I ask your influence, is a man for whom M. d'Aigrigny feels a deep interest. Though very poor, he has to support an aged mother. Now, if he had the spiritual care of Madame de la Sainte- Colombe, he would do more good than any one else, because he is full of zeal and patience; and then it is clear he would reap some little advantages, by which his old mother might profit--there you see is the secret of this mighty scheme. When I knew that this lady was disposed to buy an estate in the neighborhood of our friend's parish, I wrote about it to the marquis; and he, remembering you, desired me to ask you to render him this small service, which, as you see, will not remain without a recompense. For I tell you once more, and I will prove it, that I have the power to keep you in your place as bailiff." "Well, sir," replied Dupont, after a moment's reflection, "you are so frank and obliging, that I will imitate your sincerity. In the same degree that the curate of Danicourt is respected and loved in this country, the curate of Roiville, whom you wish me to prefer to him, is dreaded for his intolerance--and, moreover--" "Well, and what more?" "Why, then, they say--" "Come, what do they say?" "They say--he is a Jesuit." Upon these words, M. Rodin burst into so hearty a laugh that the bailiff was quite struck dumb with amazement--for the countenance of M. Rodin took a singular expression when he laughed. "A Jesuit!" he repeated, with redoubled hilarity; "a Jesuit!--Now really, my dear M. Dupont, for a man of sense, experience, and intelligence, how can you believe such idle stories?--A Jesuit--are there such people as Jesuits?--in our time, above all, can you believe such romance of the Jacobins, hobgoblins of the old freedom lovers?--Come, come; I wager, you have read about them in the Constitutionnel!" "And yet, sir, they say--" "Good heavens! what will they not say?--But wise men, prudent men like you, do not meddle with what is said--they manage their own little matters, without doing injury to any one, and they never sacrifice, for the sake of nonsense, a good place, which secures them a comfortable provision for the rest of their days. I tell you frankly, however much I may regret it, that should you not succeed in getting the preference for my man, you will not remain bailiff here. "But, sir," said poor Dupont, "it will not be my fault, if this lady, hearing a great deal in praise of the other curate, should prefer him to your friend." "Ah! but if, on the other hand, persons who have long lived in the neighborhood--persons worthy of confidence, whom she will see every day-- tell Madame de la Sainte-Colombe a great deal of good of my friend, and a great deal of harm of the other curate, she will prefer the former, and you will continue bailiff." "But, sir--that would be calumny!" cried Dupont.
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