Cesar's last thought as he fell asleep was a fear that his wife would make peremptory objections in the morning, and he ordered himself to get up very early and escape them. At the dawn of day he slipped out noiselessly, leaving his wife in bed, dressed quickly, and went down to the shop, just as the boy was taking down the numbered shutters. Birotteau, finding himself alone, the clerks not having appeared, went to the doorway to see how the boy, named Raguet, did his work,—for Birotteau knew all about it from experience. In spite of the sharp air the weather was beautiful.
"Popinot, get your hat, put on your shoes, and call Monsieur Celestin; you and I will go and have a talk in the Tuileries," he said, when he saw Anselme come down.
Popinot, the admirable antipodes of du Tillet, apprenticed to Cesar by one of those lucky chances which lead us to believe in a Sub-Providence, plays so great a part in this history that it becomes absolutely necessary to sketch his profile here. Madame Ragon was a Popinot. She had two brothers. One, the youngest of the family, was at this time a judge in the Lower courts of the Seine,—courts which take cognizance of all civil contests involving sums above a certain amount. The eldest, who was in the wholesale wool-trade, lost his property and died, leaving to the care of Madame Ragon and his brother an only son, who had lost his mother at his birth. To give him a trade, Madame Ragon placed her nephew at "The Queen of Roses," hoping he might some day succeed Birotteau. Anselme Popinot was a little fellow and club-footed,—an infirmity bestowed by fate on Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and Monsieur de Talleyrand, that others so afflicted might suffer no discouragement. He had the brilliant skin, with frequent blotches, which belongs to persons with red hair; but his clear brow, his eyes the color of a grey-veined agate, his pleasant mouth, his fair complexion, the charm of his modest youth and the shyness which grew out of his deformity, all inspired feelings of protection in those who knew him: we love the weak, and Popinot was loved. Little Popinot—everybody called him so—belonged to a family essentially religious, whose virtues were intelligent, and whose lives were simple and full of noble actions. The lad himself, brought up by his uncle the judge, presented a union of qualities which are the beauty of youth; good and affectionate, a little shame-faced though full of eagerness, gentle as a lamb but energetic in his work, devoted and sober, he was endowed with the virtues of a Christian in the early ages of the Church.
When he heard of a walk in the Tuileries,—certainly the most eccentric proposal that his august master could have made to him at that hour of the day,—Popinot felt sure that he must intend to speak to him about setting up in business. He thought suddenly of Cesarine, the true queen of roses, the living sign of the house, whom he had loved from the day when he was taken into Birotteau's employ, two months before the advent of du Tillet. As he went upstairs he was forced to pause; his heart swelled, his arteries throbbed violently. However, he soon came down again, followed by Celestin, the head-clerk. Anselme and his master turned without a word in the direction of the Tuileries.
Popinot was twenty-one years old. Birotteau himself had married at that age. Anselme therefore could see no hindrance to his marriage with Cesarine, though the wealth of the perfumer and the beauty of the daughter were immense obstacles in the path of his ambitious desires: but love gets onward by leaps of hope, and the more absurd they are the greater faith it has in them; the farther off was the mistress of Anselme's heart, the more ardent became his desires. Happy the youth who in those levelling days when all hats looked alike, had contrived to create a sense of distance between the daughter of a perfumer and himself, the scion of an old Parisian family! In spite of all his doubts and fears he was happy; did he not dine every day beside Cesarine? So, while attending to the business of the house, he threw a zeal and energy into his work which deprived it of all hardship; doing it for the sake of Cesarine, nothing tired him. Love, in a youth of twenty, feeds on devotion.
"He is a true merchant; he will succeed," Cesar would say to Madame Ragon, as he praised Anselme's activity in preparing the work at the factory, or boasted of his readiness in learning the niceties of the trade, or recalled his arduous labors when shipments had to be made, and when, with his sleeves rolled up and his arms bare, the lame lad packed and nailed up, himself alone, more cases than all the other clerks put together.
The well-known and avowed intentions of Alexandre Crottat, head-clerk to Roguin, and the wealth of his father, a rich farmer of Brie, were certainly obstacles in the lad's way; but even these were not the hardest to conquer. Popinot buried in the depths of his heart a sad secret, which widened the distance between Cesarine and himself. The property of the Ragons, on which he might have counted, was involved, and the orphan lad had the satisfaction of enabling them to live by making over to them his meagre salary. Yet with all these drawbacks he believed in success! He had sometimes caught a glance of dignified approval from Cesarine; in the depths of her blue eyes he had dared to read a secret thought full of caressing hopes. He now walked beside Cesar, heaving with these ideas, trembling, silent, agitated, as any young lad might well have been by such an occurrence in the burgeoning time of youth.
"Popinot," said the worthy man, "is your aunt well?"
"She has seemed rather anxious lately. Does anything trouble her? Listen, my boy; you must not be too reticent with me. I am half one of the family. I have known your uncle Ragon thirty-five years. I went to him in hob-nailed shoes, just as I came from my village. That place is called Les Tresorieres, but I can tell you that all my worldly goods were one louis, given me by my godmother the late Marquise d'Uxelles, a relation of Monsieur le Duc and Madame la Duchesse de Lenoncourt, who are now customers of ours. I pray every Sunday for her and for all her family; I send yearly to her niece in Touraine, Madame de Mortsauf, all her perfumery. I get a good deal of custom through them; there's Monsieur de Vandenesse who spends twelve hundred francs a year with us. If I were not grateful out of good feeling, I ought to be so out of policy; but as for you Anselme, I wish you well for you own sake, and without any other thought."
"Ah, monsieur! if you will allow me to say so, you have got a head of gold."
"No, no, my boy, that's not it. I don't say that my head-piece isn't as good as another's; but the thing is, I've been honest,—tenaciously! I've kept to good conduct; I never loved any woman except my wife. Love is a famous vehicle,—happy word used by Monsieur Villele in the tribune yesterday."
"Love!" exclaimed Popinot. "Oh, monsieur! can it be—"
"Bless me! there's Pere Roguin, on foot at this hour, at the top of the Place Louis XV. I wonder what he is doing there!" thought Cesar, forgetting all about Anselme and the oil of nuts.
The suspicions of his wife came back to his mind; and instead of turning in to the Tuileries Gardens, Birotteau walked on to meet the notary. Anselme followed his master at a distance, without being able to define the reason why he suddenly felt an interest in a matter so apparently unimportant, and full of joy at the encouragement he derived from Cesar's mention of the hob-nailed shoes, the one louis, and love.
In times gone by, Roguin—a large stout man, with a pimpled face, a very bald forehead, and black hair—had not been wanting in a certain force of character and countenance. He had once been young and daring; beginning as a mere clerk, he had risen to be a notary; but at this period his face showed, to the eyes of an observer, certain haggard lines, and an expression of weariness in the pursuit of pleasure. When a man plunges into the mire of excesses it is seldom that his face shows no trace of it. In the present instance the lines of the wrinkles and the heat of the complexion were markedly ignoble. Instead of the pure glow which suffuses the tissues of a virtuous man and stamps them, as it were, with the flower of health, the impurities of his blood could be seen to master the soundness of his body. His nose was ignominiously shortened like those of men in whom scrofulous humors, attacking that organ, produce a secret infirmity which a virtuous queen of France innocently believed to be a misfortune common to the whole human race, for she had never approached any man but the king sufficiently near to become aware of her blunder. Roguin hoped to conceal this misfortune by the excessive use of snuff, but he only increased the trouble which was the principal cause of his disasters.
Is it not a too-prolonged social flattery to paint men forever under false colors, and never to reveal the actual causes which underlie their vicissitudes, caused as they so often are by maladies? Physical evil, considered under the aspect of its moral ravages, examined as to its influence upon the mechanism of life, has been perhaps too much neglected by the historians of the social kingdom. Madame Cesar had guessed the secret of Roguin's household.
From the night of her marriage, the charming and only daughter of the banker Chevrel conceived for the unhappy notary an insurmountable antipathy, and wished to apply at once for a divorce. But Roguin, happy in obtaining a rich wife with five hundred thousand francs of her own, to say nothing of expectations, entreated her not to institute an action for divorce, promising to leave her free, and to accept all the consequences of such an agreement. Madame Roguin thus became sovereign mistress of the situation, and treated her husband as a courtesan treats an elderly lover. Roguin soon found his wife too expensive, and like other Parisian husbands he set up a private establishment of his own, keeping the cost, in the first instance, within the limits of moderate expenditure. In the beginning he encountered, at no great expense, grisettes who were glad of his protection; but for the past three years he had fallen a prey to one of those unconquerable passions which sometimes invade the whole being of a man between fifty and sixty years of age. It was roused by a magnificent creature known as la belle Hollandaise in the annals of prostitution, for into that gulf she was to fall back and become a noted personage through her death. She was originally brought from Bruges by a client of Roguin, who soon after left Paris in consequence of political events, presenting her to the notary in 1815. Roguin bought a house for her in the Champs-Elysees, furnished it handsomely, and in trying to satisfy her costly caprices had gradually eaten up his whole fortune.
The gloomy look on the notary's face, which he hastened to lay aside when he saw Birotteau, grew out of certain mysterious circumstances which were at the bottom of the secret fortune so rapidly acquired by du Tillet. The scheme originally planned by that adventurer had changed on the first Sunday when he saw, at Birotteau's house, the relations existing between Monsieur and Madame Roguin. He had come there not so much to seduce Madame Cesar as to obtain the offer of her daughter's hand by way of compensation for frustrated hopes, and he found little difficulty in renouncing his purpose when he discovered that Cesar, whom he supposed to be rich, was in point of fact comparatively poor. He set a watch on the notary, wormed himself into his confidence, was presented to la belle Hollandaise, made a study of their relation to each other, and soon found that she threatened to renounce her lover if he limited her luxuries. La belle Hollandaise was one of those mad-cap women who care nothing as to where the money comes from, or how it is obtained, and who are capable of giving a ball with the gold obtained by a parricide. She never thought of the morrow; for her the future was after dinner, and the end of the month eternity, even if she had bills to pay. Du Tillet, delighted to have found such a lever, exacted from la belle Hollandaise a promise that she would love Roguin for thirty thousand francs a year instead of fifty thousand,—a service which infatuated old men seldom forget.
One evening, after a supper where the wine flowed freely, Roguin unbosomed himself to du Tillet on the subject of his financial difficulties. His own estate was tied up and legally settled on his wife, and he had been led by his fatal passion to take from the funds entrusted to him by his clients a sum which was already more than half their amount. When the whole were gone, the unfortunate man intended to blow out his brains, hoping to mitigate the disgrace of his conduct by making a demand upon public pity. A fortune, rapid and secure, darted before du Tillet's eyes like a flash of lightning in a saturnalian night. He promptly reassured Roguin, and made him fire his pistols into the air.
"With such risks as yours," he said, "a man of your calibre should not behave like a fool and walk on tiptoe, but speculate—boldly."
He advised Roguin to take a large sum from the remaining trust-moneys and give it to him, du Tillet, with permission to stake it bravely on some large operation, either at the Bourse, or in one of the thousand enterprises of private speculation then about to be launched. Should he win, they were to form a banking-house, where they could turn to good account a portion of the deposits, while the profits could be used by Roguin for his pleasures. If luck went against them, Roguin was to get away and live in foreign countries, and trust to his friend du Tillet, who would be faithful to him to the last sou. It was a rope thrown to a drowning man, and Roguin did not perceive that the perfumer's clerk had flung it round his neck.
Master of Roguin's secret, du Tillet made use of it to establish his power over wife, mistress, and husband. Madame Roguin, when told of a disaster she was far from suspecting, accepted du Tillet's attentions, who about this time left his situation with Birotteau, confident of future success. He found no difficulty in persuading the mistress to risk a certain sum of money as a provision against the necessity of resorting to prostitution if misfortunes overtook her. The wife, on the other hand, regulated her accounts, and gathered together quite a little capital, which she gave to the man whom her husband confided in; for by this time the notary had given a hundred thousand francs of the remaining trust-money to his accomplice. Du Tillet's relations to Madame Roguin then became such that her interest in him was transformed into affection and finally into a violent passion. Through his three sleeping-partners Ferdinand naturally derived a profit; but not content with that profit, he had the audacity, when gambling at the Bourse in their name, to make an agreement with a pretended adversary, a man of straw, from whom he received back for himself certain sums which he had charged as losses to his clients. As soon as he had gained fifty thousand francs he was sure of fortune. He had the eye of an eagle to discern the phases through which France was then passing. He played low during the campaign of the allied armies, and high on the restoration of the Bourbons. Two months after the return of Louis XVIII., Madame Roguin was worth two hundred thousand francs, du Tillet three hundred thousand, and the notary had been able to get his accounts once more into order.
La belle Hollandaise wasted her share of the profits; for she was secretly a prey to an infamous scoundrel named Maxime de Trailles, a former page of the Emperor. Du Tillet discovered the real name of this woman in drawing out a deed. She was Sarah Gobseck. Struck by the coincidence of the name with that of a well-known usurer, he went to the old money-lender (that providence of young men of family) to find out how far he would back the credit of his relation. The Brutus of usurers was implacable towards his great-niece, but du Tillet himself pleased him by posing as Sarah's banker, and having funds to invest. The Norman nature and the rapacious nature suited each other. Gobseck happened to want a clever young man to examine into an affair in a foreign country. It chanced that an auditor of the Council of State, overtaken by the return of the Bourbons and anxious to stand well at court, had gone to Germany and bought up all the debts contracted by the princes during the emigration. He now offered the profits of the affair, which to him was merely political, to any one who would reimburse him. Gobseck would pay no money down, unless in proportion to the redemption of the debts, and insisted on a careful examination of the affair. Usurers never trust any one; they demand vouchers. With them the bird in the hand is everything; icy when they have no need of a man, they are wheedling and inclined to be gracious when they can make him useful.
Du Tillet knew the enormous underground part played in the world by such men as Werbrust and Gigonnet, commercial money-lenders in the Rues Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin; by Palma, banker in the Faubourg Poissonniere,—all of whom were closely connected with Gobseck. He accordingly offered a cash security, and obtained an interest in the affair, on condition that these gentlemen would use in their commercial loans certain moneys he should place in their hands. By this means he strengthened himself with a solid support on all sides.
Du Tillet accompanied Monsieur Clement Chardin des Lupeaulx to Germany during the Hundred Days, and came back at the second Restoration, having done more to increase his means of making a fortune than augmented the fortune itself. He was now in the secret councils of the sharpest speculators in Paris; he had secured the friendship of the man with whom he had examined into the affair of the debts, and that clever juggler had laid bare to him the secrets of legal and political science. Du Tillet possessed one of those minds which understand at half a word, and he completed his education during his travels in Germany. On his return he found Madame Roguin faithful to him. As to the notary, he longed for Ferdinand with as much impatience as his wife did, for la belle Hollandaise had once more ruined him. Du Tillet questioned the woman, but could find no outlay equal to the sum dissipated. It was then that he discovered the secret which Sarah had carefully concealed from him,—her mad passion for Maxime de Trailles, whose earliest steps in a career of vice showed him for what he was, one of those good-for-nothing members of the body politic who seem the necessary evil of all good government, and whose love of gambling renders them insatiable. On making this discovery, du Tillet at once saw the reason of Gobseck's insensibility to the claims of his niece.
Under these circumstances du Tillet the banker (for Ferdinand was now a banker) advised Roguin to lay up something against a rainy day, by persuading his clients to invest in some enterprise which might enable him to put by for himself large sums of money, in case he were forced to go into bankruptcy through the affairs of the bank. After many ups and downs, which were profitable to none but Madame Roguin and du Tillet, Roguin heard the fatal hour of his insolvency and final ruin strike. His misery was then worked upon by his faithful friend. Ferdinand invented the speculation in lands about the Madeleine. The hundred thousand francs belonging to Cesar Birotteau, which were in the hands of the notary, were made over to du Tillet; for the latter, whose object was to ruin the perfumer, had made Roguin understand that he would run less risk if he got his nearest friends into the net. "A friend," he said, "is more considerate, even if angry."
Few people realize to-day how little value the lands about the Madeleine had at the period of which we write; but at that time they were likely to be sold even below their then value, because of the difficulty of finding purchasers willing to wait for the profits of the enterprise. Now, du Tillet's aim was to seize the profits speedily without the losses of a protracted speculation. In other words, his plan was to strangle the speculation and get hold of it as a dead thing, which he might galvanize back to life when it suited him. In such a scheme the Gobsecks, Palmas, and Werbrusts would have been ready to lend a hand, but du Tillet was not yet sufficiently intimate with them to ask their aid; besides, he wanted to hide his own hand in conducting the affair, that he might get the profits of his theft without the shame of it. He felt the necessity of having under his thumb one of those living lay-figures called in commercial language a "man of straw." His former tool at the Bourse struck him as a suitable person for the post; he accordingly trenched upon Divine right, and created a man. Out of a former commercial traveller, who was without means or capacity of any kind, except that of talking indefinitely on all subjects and saying nothing, who was without a farthing or a chance to make one,—able, nevertheless, to understand a part and act it without compromising the play or the actors in it, and possessed of a rare sort of honor, that of keeping a secret and letting himself be dishonored to screen his employers,—out of such a being du Tillet now made a banker, who set on foot and directed vast enterprises; the head, namely, of the house of Claparon.
The fate of Charles Claparon would be, if du Tillet's scheme ended in bankruptcy, a swift deliverance to the tender mercies of Jews and Pharisees; and he well knew it. But to a poor devil who was despondently roaming the boulevard with a future of forty sous in his pocket when his old comrade du Tillet chanced to meet him, the little gains that he was to get out of the affair seemed an Eldorado. His friendship, his devotion, to du Tillet, increased by unreflecting gratitude and stimulated by the wants of a libertine and vagabond life, led him to say amen to everything. Having sold his honor, he saw it risked with so much caution that he ended by attaching himself to his old comrade as a dog to his master. Claparon was an ugly poodle, but as ready to jump as Curtius. In the present affair he was to represent half the purchasers of the land, while Cesar Birotteau represented the other half. The notes which Claparon was to receive from Birotteau were to be discounted by one of the usurers whose name du Tillet was authorized to use, and this would send Cesar headlong into bankruptcy so soon as Roguin had drawn from him his last funds. The assignees of the failure would, as du Tillet felt certain, follow his cue; and he, already possessed of the property paid over by the perfumer and his associates, could sell the lands at auction and buy them in at half their value with the funds of Roguin and the assets of the failure. The notary went into this scheme believing that he should enrich himself by the spoliation of Birotteau and his copartners; but the man in whose power he had placed himself intended to take, and eventually did take, the lion's share. Roguin, unable to sue du Tillet in any of the courts, was glad of the bone flung to him, month by month, in the recesses of Switzerland, where he found nymphs at a reduction. Circumstances, actual facts, and not the imagination of a tragic author inventing a catastrophe, gave birth to this horrible scheme. Hatred without a thirst for vengeance is like a seed falling on stony ground; but vengeance vowed to a Cesar by a du Tillet is a natural movement of the soul. If it were not, then we must deny the warfare between the angels of light and the spirits of darkness.
Du Tillet could not very easily assassinate the man who knew him to be guilty of a petty theft, but he could fling him into the mire and annihilate him so completely that his word and testimony would count for nothing. For a long time revenge had germinated in his heart without budding; for the men who hate most are usually those who have little time in Paris to make plans; life is too fast, too full, too much at the mercy of unexpected events. But such perpetual changes, though they hinder premeditation, nevertheless offer opportunity to thoughts lurking in the depths of a purpose which is strong enough to lie in wait for their tidal chances. When Roguin first confided his troubles to du Tillet, the latter had vaguely foreseen the possibility of destroying Cesar, and he was not mistaken. Forced at last to give up his mistress, the notary drank the dregs of his philter from a broken chalice. He went every day to the Champs Elysees returning home early in the morning. The suspicions of Madame Cesar were justified.
From the moment when a man consents to play the part which du Tillet had allotted to Roguin, he develops the talents of a comedian; he has the eye of a lynx and the penetration of a seer; he magnetizes his dupe. The notary had seen Birotteau some time before Birotteau had caught sight of him; when the perfumer did see him, Roguin held out his hand before they met.
"I have just been to make the will of a great personage who has only eight days to live," he said, with an easy manner. "They have treated me like a country doctor,—fetched me in a carriage, and let me walk home on foot."
These words chased away the slight shade of suspicion which clouded the face of the perfumer, and which Roguin had been quick to perceive. The notary was careful not to be the first to mention the land speculation; his part was to deal the last blow.
"After wills come marriage contracts," said Birotteau. "Such is life. Apropos, when do we marry the Madeleine? Hey! hey! papa Roguin," he added, tapping the notary on the stomach.
Among men the most chaste of bourgeois have the ambition to appear rakish.
"Well, if it is not to-day," said the notary, with a diplomatic air, "then never. We are afraid that the affair may get wind. I am much urged by two of my wealthiest clients, who want a share in this speculation. There it is, to take or leave. This morning I shall draw the deeds. You have till one o'clock to make up your mind. Adieu; I am just on my way to read over the rough draft which Xandrot has been making out during the night."
"Well, my mind is made up. I pass my word," said Birotteau, running after the notary and seizing his hand. "Take the hundred thousand francs which were laid by for my daughter's portion."
"Very good," said Roguin, leaving him.
For a moment, as Birotteau turned to rejoin little Popinot, he felt a fierce heat in his entrails, the muscles of his stomach contracted, his ears buzzed.
"What is the matter, monsieur?" asked the clerk, when he saw his master's pale face.
"Ah, my lad! I have just with one word decided on a great undertaking; no man is master of himself at such a moment. You are a party to it. In fact, I brought you here that we might talk of it at our ease; no one can overhear us. Your aunt is in trouble; how did she lose her money? Tell me."
"Monsieur, my uncle and aunt put all their property into the hands of Monsieur de Nucingen, and they were forced to accept as security certain shares in the mines at Wortschin, which as yet pay no dividends; and it is hard at their age to live on hope."
"How do they live, then?"
"They do me the great pleasure of accepting my salary."
"Right, right, Anselme!" said the perfumer, as a tear rolled down his cheek. "You are worthy of the regard I feel for you. You are about to receive a great recompense for your fidelity to my interests."
As he said these words the worthy man swelled in his own eyes as much as he did in those of Popinot, and he uttered them with a plebeian and naive emphasis which was the genuine expression of his counterfeit superiority.
"Ah, monsieur! have you guessed my love for—"
"For whom?" asked his master.
"For Mademoiselle Cesarine."
"Ah, boy, you are bold indeed!" exclaimed Birotteau. "Keep your secret. I promise to forget it. You leave my house to-morrow. I am not angry with you; in your place—the devil! the devil!—I should have done the same. She is so lovely!"
"Oh, monsieur!" said the clerk, who felt his shirt getting wet with perspiration.
"My boy, this matter is not one to be settled in a day. Cesarine is her own mistress, and her mother has fixed ideas. Control yourself, wipe your eyes, hold your heart in hand, and don't let us talk any more about it. I should not blush to have you for my son-in-law. The nephew of Monsieur Popinot, a judge of the civil courts, nephew of the Ragons, you have the right to make your way as well as anybody; but there are buts and ifs and hows and whys. What a devil of a dog you have let loose upon me, in the midst of a business conversation! Here, sit down on that chair, and let the lover give place to the clerk. Popinot, are you a loyal man?" he said, looking fixedly at the youth. "Do you feel within you the nerve to struggle with something stronger than yourself, and fight hand to hand?"
"To maintain a long and dangerous battle?"
"To destroy Macassar Oil!" said Birotteau, rising on his toes like a hero in Plutarch. "Let us not mistake; the enemy is strong, well entrenched, formidable! Macassar Oil has been vigorously launched. The conception was strong. The square bottles were original; I have thought of making ours triangular. Yet on the whole I prefer, after ripe reflection, smaller bottles of thin glass, encased in wicker; they would have a mysterious look, and customers like things which puzzle them."
"They would be expensive," said Popinot. "We must get things out as cheap as we can, so as to make a good reduction at wholesale."
"Good, my lad! That's the right principle. But now, think of it. Macassar Oil will defend itself; it is specious; the name is seductive. It is offered as a foreign importation; and we have the ill-luck to belong to our own country. Come, Popinot, have you the courage to kill Macassar? Then begin the fight in foreign lands. It seems that Macassar is really in the Indies. Now, isn't it much better to supply a French product to the Indians than to send them back what they are supposed to send to us? Make the venture. Begin the fight in India, in foreign countries, in the departments. Macassar Oil has been thoroughly advertised; we must not underrate its power, it has been pushed everywhere, the public knows it."
"I'll kill it!" cried Popinot, with fire in his eyes.
"What with?" said Birotteau. "That's the way with ardent young people. Listen till I've done."
Anselme fell into position like a soldier presenting arms to a marshal of France.
"Popinot, I have invented an oil to stimulate the growth of hair, to titillate the scalp, to revive the color of male and female tresses. This cosmetic will not be less successful than my Paste or my Lotion. But I don't intend to work it myself. I think of retiring from business. It is you, my boy, who are to launch my Oil Comagene,—from the latin word coma, which signifies 'hair,' as Monsieur Alibert, the King's physician, says. The word is found in the tragedy of Berenice, where Racine introduces a king of Comagene, lover of the queen so celebrated for the beauty of her hair; the king—no doubt as a delicate flattery—gave the name to his country. What wit and intellect there is in genius! it condescends to the minutest details."
Little Popinot kept his countenance as he listened to this absurd flourish, evidently said for his benefit as an educated young man.
"Anselme, I have cast my eyes upon you as the one to found a commercial house in the high-class druggist line, Rue des Lombards. I will be your secret partner, and supply the funds to start with. After the Oil Comagene, we will try an essence of vanilla and the spirit of peppermint. We'll tackle the drug-trade by revolutionizing it, by selling its products concentrated instead of selling them raw. Ambitious young man, are you satisfied?"
Anselme could not answer, his heart was full; but his eyes, filled with tears, answered for him. The offer seemed prompted by indulgent fatherhood, saying to him: "Deserve Cesarine by becoming rich and respected."
"Monsieur," he answered at last, "I will succeed!"
"That's what I said at your age," cried the perfumer; "that was my motto. If you don't win my daughter, at least you will win your fortune. Eh, boy! what is it?"
"Let me hope that in acquiring the one I may obtain the other."
"I can't prevent you from hoping, my friend," said Birotteau, touched by Anselme's tone.
"Well, then, monsieur, can I begin to-day to look for a shop, so as to start at once?"
"Yes, my son. To-morrow we will shut ourselves up in the workshop, you and I. Before you go to the Rue des Lombards, call at Livingston's and see if my hydraulic press will be ready to use to-morrow morning. To-night we will go, about dinner-time, to the good and illustrious Monsieur Vauquelin and consult him. He has lately been employed in studying the composition of hair; he has discovered the nature of the coloring matter and whence it comes; also the structure of the hair itself. The secret is just there, Popinot, and you shall know it; all we have to do is to work it out cleverly. Before you go to Livingston's, just stop at Pieri Berard's. My lad, the disinterested kindness of Monsieur Vauquelin is one of the sorrows of my life. I cannot make him accept any return. Happily, I found out from Chiffreville that he wished for the Dresden Madonna, engraved by a man named Muller. After two years correspondence with Germany, Berard has at last found one on Chinese paper before lettering. It cost fifteen hundred francs, my boy. To-day, my benefactor will see it in his antechamber when he bows us out; it is to be all framed, and I want you to see about it. We—that is, my wife and I—shall thus recall ourselves to his mind; as for gratitude, we have prayed to God for him daily for sixteen years. I can never forget him; but you see, Popinot, men buried in the depths of science do forget everything,—wives, friends, and those they have benefited. As for us plain people, our lack of mind keeps our hearts warm at any rate. That's the consolation for not being a great man. Look at those gentlemen of the Institute,—all brain; you will never meet one of them in a church. Monsieur Vauquelin is tied to his study or his laboratory; but I like to believe he thinks of God in analyzing the works of His hands.—Now, then, it is understood; I give you the money and put you in possession of my secret; we will go shares, and there's no need for any papers between us. Hurrah for success! we'll act in concert. Off with you, my boy! As for me, I've got my part to attend to. One minute, Popinot. I give a great ball three weeks hence; get yourself a dress-coat, and look like a merchant already launched."
This last kindness touched Popinot so deeply that he caught Cesar's big hand and kissed it; the worthy soul had flattered the lover by this confidence, and people in love are capable of anything.
"Poor boy!" thought Birotteau, as he watched him hurrying across the Tuileries. "Suppose Cesarine should love him? But he is lame, and his hair is the color of a warming-pan. Young girls are queer; still, I don't think that Cesarine—And then her mother wants to see her the wife of a notary. Alexandre Crottat can make her rich; wealth makes everything bearable, and there is no happiness that won't give way under poverty. However, I am resolved to leave my daughter mistress of herself, even if it seems a folly."