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- Mysteries of Paris, V3 - 3/89 -
astonished at the extraordinary liberality of the governor."
"Germain would say: 'The governor is out of his head.'"
"And forty sous a-head out of his pocket," said Chalamel.
"Well done! the first chemist was right who said: 'Bitter as _Calomel!_'"
"Seriously, I believe that the governor is sick."
"For ten days past, he is scarcely to be recognized. His cheeks are so hollow, that you might thrust in your fist."
"And he is so absent-minded, that it is curious to see him. The other day he took off his glasses to read a deed; his eyes were red as live coals."
"He was right; short reckonings make long friends."
"For heaven's sake, don't cut me with your saws. I tell you, gentlemen, that it is very singular. It was upside down."
"Which was upside down?--the deed or the governor? It is singular, as you say. What the devil was he doing in that position? I should think it would have given him the apoplexy, unless his habits, as you say, have changed very suddenly."
"How wearisome you are, Chalamel! I mean that it was the deed which I presented wrong end foremost."
"How wild he must have been!"
"Not at all; he didn't even perceive it. He looked at it for ten minutes, with his bloodshot eyes fixed upon it, and then he gave it back to me, saying: 'Quite correct.'"
"Still upside down?"
"How could he have read the deed?"
"He couldn't, unless he can read upside down."
"No man can do that."
"He looked so gloomy and savage, that I dared not open my lips, and I went away as if nothing had happened."
"I have got something to tell you. Four days ago I was in the office of the head clerk, and in come one client, two clients, three clients, with whom the governor had made an appointment. They waited impatiently, and requested me to go and rap at the door of the study. I rapped, and, receiving no answer, I walked in."
"Well, what did you see?"
"M. Ferrand lying upon his arms, which were placed upon the table, and his bald head uncovered. He did not stir."
"He was asleep, probably."
"I thought so. I approached him, and said: 'There are some clients outside, who wish to see you.' He did not move. 'M. Ferrand!' No reply. At length I touched his shoulder, and he started up as if the devil had bitten him. His motion was so sudden, that his big glasses fell off from his nose, and I saw--you never can believe it--"
"Out with it. What did you see?"
"Isn't he a queer bird?"
"The governor weep! Get out of the way!"
"When you see him cry, ladybirds will play on the French horn!"
"And monkeys chew tobacco!"
"Pshaw! your nonsense won't prevent me from knowing what I saw with my own eyes. I tell you I saw him as I have described."
"Yes, weeping. And after that, he was wroth at being caught in such a lachrymose condition, and sung out to me: 'Go away--go away!' 'But, sir.--' 'Go away, I tell you!' 'There are some clients in the office, with whom you have made an appointment, sir, and--' 'I haven't the time to see them. Let them go to the devil, and you with them.' Thereupon he arose, as furious as he could be, and looked so much as if he would kick me out at the door, that I didn't wait for the compliment, but hooked it, and told the clients to leave also. They didn't look greatly pleased, I assure you; but for the reputation of the office, I told them that the governor had caught the whooping-cough."
This conversation was now interrupted by the entrance of the principal clerk, who came in as if pressed with business. His appearance was hailed by a general acclamation, and all eyes were turned toward the turkey.
"Without being uncivil, my lord, I must say that you have detained us from breakfast for a long time," said Chalamel. "You must look out, for the next time our appetites won't be under such good control."
"It is not my fault, I assure you; I was more impatient than you are--the governor must be mad!"
"That's what I have been saying."
"But the madness of the governor ought not to keep us from eating."
"It should have the opposite effect."
"We can talk just as well with our mouths full."
"A thousand times better," said the office-boy.
Chalamel was carving the turkey, and he said to the principal clerk: "What reason have you for thinking that the governor is crazy?"
"We were inclined to think that he had become perfectly stupid, when he agreed to give us forty sous per head for our daily breakfast."
"I confess that I was as much surprised as you are, gentlemen; but it is a trifle, actually a trifle, compared with what has just occurred."
"You don't say so!" said another.
"Is the notary crazy enough to invite us to dine every day, at his expense, at the Cadran-Bleu?"
"And give us tickets to the play, after dinner?"
"And after that, take us to the _café_, to round off with punch?"
"And after that a la--"
"Gentlemen, just as far as you please; but the scene which I have just observed is more frightful than funny."
"Give us the scene, I beg of you."
"That's right; don't trouble yourself about the breakfast--we are all ears."
"And all jaws! I see through you, my pretties! while I am speaking, your teeth will be in motion, and the turkey would be finished before my story. Be patient; I will reserve it for the dessert."
We do not know whether it was the goad of hunger or curiosity that stimulated the mastication of the young limbs of the law, but the breakfast was so rapidly completed, that the moment for the story arrived immediately.
Not to be surprised by the governor, they sent the office-boy, on whom the carcass and claws of the turkey had been most liberally bestowed, as a sentry into the neighboring room.
The head clerk said to his colleagues, "In the first place, you must know that, for some days past the porter has been alarmed about master's health. As the good man sits up very late, he has seen M. Ferrand go down to the garden in the night in spite of the cold and rain, and walk up and down rapidly. He ventured to leave his nest, and ask his master if he had need of anything. The governor sent him to bed in such a tone that, since then, the porter has kept himself quiet, and he will keep himself so always, as soon as he hears the governor descend to the garden, which happens every night, no matter what weather."
"The old boy is, perhaps, a somnambulist?"
"Not probable; but such nocturnal promenades announce great agitation. I arrive at my story: just now, I went in to get some signatures. At the moment I placed my hand on the lock, I thought I heard some one speak. I stopped, and distinguished two or three dull cries, like stifled sobs. After having hesitated to enter for a moment, fearing some misfortune, I opened the door."
"What did I see? The governor on his knees, on the floor."
"On his knees?"
"On the floor?"
"Yes, kneeling on the floor, his face in his hands and Us elbows on the seat of one of his old arm-chairs."
"It is very plain. What fools we are! He is so bigoted, he was making an extra prayer."
"In any case, it would be a funny prayer! Nothing could be heard but stifled groans, only from time to time he murmured, between his teeth, 'Lord, lord!' like a man in a state of despair. Seeing this, I did not know whether I ought to remain or to retire."
"That would have been also my political opinion."
"I remained, therefore, very much embarrassed, when he rose and turned
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