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- CONSCIENCE - 10/13 -
able to answer your smile with a smile, because, cruel as his life was, he was sustained by hope and confidence; in Auvergne there will be no more hope or confidence, but the madness of a broken life, and the dejection of impotence. What sort of man should I be? Could you love such a man?"
"A thousand times more, for he would be unhappy, and I should have to comfort him."
"Would you have the strength to do it? After a time you would become weary, for the burden would be too heavy, however great your devotion or profound your tenderness, to see my real position and my hopes, and, descending into the future, to see my ruin. You know I am ambitious without having ever compassed the scope of this ambition, and of the hopes, dreams if you like, on which it rests. Understand that these dreams are on the eve of being realized; two months more, and in December or January I pass the 'concours' for the central bureau, which will make me a physician of the hospitals, and at the same time the one for the admission, which opens the Faculty of Medicine to me. Without pride, I believe myself in a position to succeed--what sportsmen call 'in condition.' And just when I have only a few days to wait, behold me ruined forever."
"A man leaves his village for Paris to make a name for himself, and he returns only when bad luck or inability sends him back. And then it is only every four years that there is a 'concours' for admission. In four years what will be my moral and intellectual condition? How should I support this exile of four years? Imagine the effect that four years of isolation in the mountains will produce. But this is not all. Besides this ostensible end that I have pursued since I left my village, I have my special work that I can carry out only in Paris. Without having overwhelmed you with the details of medicine, you know that it is about to undergo a revolution that will transform it. Until now it has been taught officially, in pathology, that the human organism carries within itself the germ of a great many infectious diseases which develop spontaneously in certain conditions; for instance, that tuberculosis is the result of fatigue, privations, and physiological miseries. Well, recently it has been admitted, that is to say, the revolutionists admit, a parasitical origin for these diseases, and in France and Germany there is an army looking for these parasites. I am a soldier in this army, and to help me in these researches I established a laboratory in the dining- room. It is to the parasites of tuberculosis and cancers that I devote myself, and for seven years, that is, since I was house-surgeon, my comrades have called me the cancer topic. I have discovered the parasite of the tuberculosis, but I have not yet been able to free it from all its impurities by the process of culture. I am still at it. That is to say, I am very near it, and to-morrow, perhaps, or in a few days, I may make a discovery that will be a revolution, and cover its discoverer with glory. The same with the cancer. I have found its microbe. But all is not done. See what I must give up in leaving Paris."
"Why give all this up? Could you not continue your researches in Auvergne?"
"It is impossible, for many reasons that are too long to explain, but one will suffice. The culture of these parasites can be done only in certain temperatures rigorously maintained at the necessary degree, and these temperatures can be obtained only by stoves, like the one in my laboratory, fed by gas, the entrance of which is automatically regulated by the temperature of the water. How could I use this stove in a country where there is no gas? No, no! If I leave Paris, everything is at an end my position, as well as my work. I shall become a country doctor, and nothing but a country doctor. Let the sheriff turn me out to-morrow, and all the four years' accumulations in my laboratory, all my works en train that demand only a few days or hours to complete, may go to the second-hand dealer, or be thrown into the street. Of all my efforts, weary nights, privations, and hopes, there remains only one souvenir--for me. And yet, if it did not remain, perhaps I should be less exasperated, and should accept with a heart less sore the life to which I shall never resign myself. You know very well that I am a rebel, and do not submit tamely."
She rose, and taking his hand, pressed it closely in her own.
"You must stay in Paris," she said. "Pardon me for having insisted that you could live in the country. I thought more of myself than of you, of our love and our marriage. It was an egotistic thought, a bad thought. A way must be found, no matter what it costs, to enable you to continue your work."
"But how to find it? Do you think I have not tried everything?"
He related his visits to Jardine, his solicitations, prayers, and also his request of a loan from Glady, and his visit to Caffie.
"Caffie!" she cried. "What made you think of going to Caffie?"
"I went partly because you had often spoken of him."
"But I spoke of him to you as the most wicked of men, capable of anything and everything that is bad."
"And partly, also, because I knew from one of my patients that he lends to those of whom he can make use."
"What did he say to you?"
"That it was probable he would not be able to find any one who would lend what I wished, but he would try to find some one, and would give me an answer tomorrow evening. He also promised to protect me from Jardine."
"You have put yourself in his hands?"
"Well, what do you expect? In my position, I am not at liberty to go to whom I wish and to those who inspire me with confidence in their honor. If I should go to a notary or a banker they would not listen to me, for I should be obliged to tell them, the first thing, that I have no security to offer. That is how the unfortunate fall into the hands of rascals; at least, these listen to them, and lend them something, small though it may be."
"What did he give you?"
"And you took it?"
"There is time gained. To-morrow, perhaps, I shall be turned into the street. Caffie will obtain a respite."
"And what price will he ask for this service?"
"It is only those who own something who worry about the price."
"You have your name, dignity, and honor, and once you are in Caffies hands, who knows what he may exact from you, what he may make you do, without your being able to resist him?."
"Then you wish me to leave Paris?"
"Certainly not; but I wish you to be on your guard against Caffie, whom you do not know, but I do, through what Florentin told us when he was with him. However secret a man may be, he cannot hide himself from his clerk. He is not only guilty of rascalities, but also of real crimes. I assure you that he deserves ten deaths. To gain a hundred francs he will do anything; he makes money only for the pleasure of making it, for he has neither child nor relative."
"Well, I promise to be on my guard as you advise. But, wicked as Caffie may be, I believe that I shall accept the concours that he offered me. Who knows what may happen in the short time that he gains for me? Because I need not tell you that I know beforehand what his reply will be to my request for a loan--he could find no one."
"I shall come, all the same, to-morrow evening to learn his answer."
Although Saniel did not build any false hopes on Caffie's reply, he went to see him the next afternoon at the same hour.
As before, he waited some time after ringing the bell. At last he heard a slow step within.
"Who is there?" Caffie asked.
As soon as Saniel answered, the door was opened.
"As I do not like to be disturbed in the evening by troublesome people, I do not always open the door," Caffie said. "But I have a signal for my clients so that I may know them. After ringing, knock three times on the door."
During this explanation they entered Caffie's office.
"Have you done anything about my affair?" Saniel asked, after a moment, as Caffie seemed disinclined to open the conversation.
"Yes, my dear sir. I have been running about all the morning for you. I never neglect my clients; their affairs are mine."
"Well?" Saniel said.
Caffie put on an expression of despair.
"What did I tell you, my dear sir? Do you remember? Do me the honor to believe that a man of my experience does not speak lightly. What I foresaw has come to pass. Everywhere I received the same reply. The risk is too great; no one would take it."
"Not even for a large interest?"
"Not even for a large interest; there is so much competition in your profession. As for me, I believe in your future, and I have proved it by my proposition; but, unfortunately, I am only an intermediary, and not the lender of money."
Caffie emphasized the words, "my proposition," and underlined them with a glance; but Saniel did not appear to understand.
"And the upholsterer's summons?" he asked.
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