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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Nabob - Chapter 1. Doctor Jenkin's Patients
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The Nabob - Chapter 1. Doctor Jenkin's Patients Post by :linksavage Category :Long Stories Author :Alphonse Daudet Date :May 2012 Read :3134

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The Nabob - Chapter 1. Doctor Jenkin's Patients


Standing on the steps of his little town-house in the Rue de Lisbonne, freshly shaven, with sparkling eyes, and lips parted in easy enjoyment, his long hair slightly gray flowing over a huge coat collar, square shouldered, strong as an oak, the famous Irish doctor, Robert Jenkins, Knight of the Medjidjieh and of the distinguished order of Charles III of Spain, President and Founder of the Bethlehem Society. Jenkins in a word, the Jenkins of the Jenkins Pills with an arsenical base--that is to say, the fashionable doctor of the year 1864, the busiest man in Paris, was preparing to step into his carriage when a casement opened on the first floor looking over the inner court-yard of the house, and a woman's voice asked timidly:

"Shall you be home for luncheon, Robert?"

Oh, how good and loyal was the smile that suddenly illumined the fine apostle-like head with its air of learning, and in the tender "good-morning" which his eyes threw up towards the warm, white dressing-gown visible behind the raised curtains; how easy it was to divine one of those conjugal passions, tranquil and sure, which habit re-enforces and with supple and stable bonds binds closer.

"No, Mrs. Jenkins." He was fond of thus bestowing upon her publicly her title as his lawful wife, as if he found in it an intimate gratification, a sort of acquittal of conscience towards the woman who made life so bright for him. "No, do not expect me this morning. I lunch in the Place Vendome."

"Ah! yes, the Nabob," said the handsome Mrs. Jenkins with a very marked note of respect for this personage out of the _Thousand and One Nights of whom all Paris had been talking for the last month; then, after a little hesitation, very tenderly, in a quite low voice, from between the heavy tapestries, she whispered for the ears of the doctor only:

"Be sure you do not forget what you promised me."

Apparently it was something very difficult to fulfil, for at the reminder of this promise the eyebrows of the apostle contracted into a frown, his smile became petrified, his whole visage assumed an expression of incredible hardness; but it was only for an instant. At the bedside of their patients the physiognomies of these fashionable doctors become expert in lying. In his most tender, most cordial manner, he replied, disclosing a row of dazzling white teeth:

"What I promised shall be done, Mrs. Jenkins. And now, go in quickly and shut your window. The fog is cold this morning."

Yes, the fog was cold, but white as snow mist; and, filling the air outside the glasses of the large brougham, it brightened with soft gleams the unfolded newspaper in the doctor's hands. Over yonder, in the populous quarters, confined and gloomy, in the Paris of tradesman and mechanic, that charming morning haze which lingers in the great thoroughfares is not known. The bustle of awakening, the going and coming of the market-carts, of the omnibuses, of the heavy trucks rattling their old iron, have early and quickly cut it up, unravelled and scattered it. Every passer-by carries away a little of it in a threadbare overcoat, a muffler which shows the woof, and coarse gloves rubbed one against the other. It soaks through the thin blouses, and the mackintoshes thrown over the working skirts; it melts away at every breath that is drawn, warm from sleeplessness or alcohol; it is engulfed in the depths of empty stomachs, dispersed in the shops as they are opened, and the dark courts, or even to the fireless attics. That is the reason why there remains so little of it out of doors. But in that spacious and grandiose region of Paris, which was inhabited by Jenkins's clients, on those wide boulevards planted with trees, and those deserted quays, the fog hovered without a stain, like so many sheets, with waverings and cotton wool-like flakes. The effect was of a place inclosed, secret, almost sumptuous, as the sun after his slothful rising began to diffuse softly crimsoned tints, which gave to the mist enshrouding the rows of houses to their summits the appearance of white muslin thrown over some scarlet material. One might have fancied it a great curtain beneath which nothing could be heard save the cautious closing of some court-yard gate, the tin measuring-cans of the milkmen, the little bells of a herd of she-asses passing at a quick trot followed by the short and panting breath of their shepherd, and the dull rumble of Jenkins's brougham commencing its daily round.

First, to Mora House. This was a magnificent palace on the Quai d'Orsay, next door to the Spanish embassy, whose long terraces succeeded its own, having its principal entrance in the Rue de Lille, and a door upon the side next the river. Between two lofty walls overgrown with ivy, and united by imposing vaulted arches, the brougham shot in, announced by two strokes of a sonorous bell which roused Jenkins from the reverie into which the reading of his newspaper seemed to have plunged him. Then the noise of the wheels became deadened on the sand of a vast court-yard, and they drew up, after describing an elegant curve, before the steps of the mansion, which were surrounded by a large circular awning. In the obscurity of the fog, a dozen carriages could be seen ranged in line, and along an avenue of acacias, quite withered at that season and leafless in their bark, the profiles of English grooms leading out the saddle-horses of the duke for their exercise. Everything revealed a luxury thought-out, settled, grandiose, and assured.

"It is quite useless for me to come early; others always arrive before me," said Jenkins to himself as he saw the file in which his brougham took its place; but, certain of not having to wait, with head carried high, and an air of tranquil authority, he ascended that official flight of steps which is mounted every day by so many trembling ambitions, so many anxieties on hesitating feet.

From the very antechamber, lofty and resonant like a church, which, although calorifers burned night and day, possessed two great wood-fires that filled it with a radiant life, the luxury of this interior reached you by warm and heady puffs. It suggested at once a hot-house and a Turkish bath. A great deal of heat and yet brightness; white wainscoting, white marbles, immense windows, nothing stifling or shut in, and yet a uniform atmosphere meet for the surrounding of some rare existence, refined and nervous. Jenkins always expanded in this factitious sun of wealth; he greeted with a "good-morning, my lads," the powdered porter, with his wide golden scarf, the footmen in knee-breeches and livery of gold and blue, all standing to do him honour; lightly drew his finger across the bars of the large cages of monkeys full of sharp cries and capers, and, whistling under his breath, stepped quickly up the staircase of shining marble laid with a carpet as thick as the turf of a lawn, which led to the apartments of the duke. Although six months had passed since his first visit to Mora House, the good doctor was not yet become insensible to the quite physical impression of gaiety, of frivolity, which he received from this dwelling.

Although you were in the abode of the first official of the Empire there was nothing here suggestive of the work of government or its boxes of dusty old papers. The duke had only consented to accept his high dignitaries as Minister of State and President of the Council upon the condition that he should not quit his private mansion; he only went to his office for an hour or two daily, the time necessary to give the indispensable signatures, and held his receptions in his bed-chamber. At this moment, notwithstanding the earliness of the hour, the hall was crowded. You saw there grave, anxious faces, provincial prefects with shaven lips, and administrative whiskers, slightly less arrogant in this antechamber than yonder in their prefectures, magistrates of austere air, sober in gesture, deputies important of manner, big-wigs of the financial world, rich and boorish manufacturers, among whom stood out here and there the slender, ambitious figure of some substitute of a prefectorial councillor, in the garb of one seeking a favour, dress-coat and white tie; and all, standing, sitting in groups or solitary, sought silently to penetrate with their gaze that high door closed upon their destiny, by which they would issue forth directly triumphant or with cast-down head. Jenkins passed through the crowd rapidly, and every one followed with an envious eye this newcomer whom the doorkeeper, with his official chain, correct and icy in his demeanour, seated at a table beside the door, greeted with a little smile at once respectful and familiar.

"Who is with him?" asked the doctor, indicating the chamber of the duke.

Hardly moving his lips, and not without a slightly ironical glance of the eye, the doorkeeper whispered a name which, if they had heard it, would have roused the indignation of all these high personages who had been waiting for an hour past until the costumier of the opera should have ended his audience.

A sound of voices, a ray of light. Jenkins had just entered the duke's presence; he never waited, he.

Standing with his back to the fireplace, closely wrapped in a dressing-jacket of blue fur, the soft reflections from which gave an air of refinement to an energetic and haughty head, the President of the Council was causing to be designed under his eyes a Pierrette costume for the duchess to wear at her next ball, and was giving his directions with the same gravity with which he would have dictated the draft of a new law.

"Let the frill be very fine on the ruff, and put no frills on the sleeves.--Good-morning, Jenkins. I am with you directly."

Jenkins bowed, and took a few steps in the immense room, of which the windows, opening on a garden that extended as far as the Seine, framed one of the finest views of Paris, the bridges, the Tuileries, the Louvre, in a network of black trees traced as it were in Indian ink upon the floating background of fog. A large and very low bed, raised by a few steps above the floor, two or three little lacquer screens with vague and capricious gilding, indicating, like the double doors and the carpets of thick wool, a fear of cold pushed even to excess, various seats, lounges, warmers, scattered about rather indiscriminately, all low, rounded, indolent, or voluptuous in shape, composed the furniture of this celebrated chamber in which the gravest questions and the most frivolous were wont to be treated alike with the same seriousness. On the wall was a handsome portrait of the duchess; on the chimneypiece a bust of the duke, the work of Felicia Ruys, which at the recent Salon had received the honours of a first medal.

"Well, Jenkins, how are we this morning?" said his excellency, approaching, while the costumier was picking up his fashion-plates, scattered over all the easy chairs.

"And you, my dear duke? I thought you a little pale last evening at the Varietes."

"Come, come! I have never felt so well. Your pills have a most marvellous effect upon me. I am conscious of a vivacity, a freshness, when I remember how run down I was six months ago."

Jenkins, without saying anything, had laid his great head against the fur-coat of the minister of state, at the place where, in common men, the heart beats. He listened a moment while his excellency continued to speak in the indolent, bored tone which was one of the characteristics of his distinction.

"And who was your companion, doctor, last night? That huge, bronzed Tartar who was laughing so loudly in the front of your box."

"It was the Nabob, _Monsieur le Duc_. The famous Jansoulet, about whom people are talking so much just now."

"I ought to have guessed it. The whole house was watching him. The actresses played for him alone. You know him? What sort of man is he?"

"I know him. That is to say, I attend him professionally.--Thank you, my dear duke, I have finished. All is right in that region.--When he arrived in Paris a month ago, he had found the change of climate somewhat trying. He sent for me, and since then has received me upon the most friendly footing. What I know of him is that he possesses a colossal fortune, made in Tunis, in the service of the Bey, that he has a loyal heart, a generous soul, in which the ideas of humanity--"

"In Tunis?" interrupted the duke, who was by nature very little sentimental and humanitarian. "In that case, why this name of Nabob?"

"Bah! the Parisians do not look at things so closely. For them, every rich foreigner is a nabob, no matter whence he comes. Furthermore, this nabob has all the physical qualities for the part--a copper-coloured skin, eyes like burning coals, and, what is more, gigantic wealth, of which he makes, I do not fear to say it, the most noble and the most intelligent use. It is to him that I owe"--here the doctor assumed a modest air--"that I owe it that I have at last been able to found the Bethlehem Society for the suckling of infants, which a morning paper, that I was looking over just now--the _Messenger_, I think--calls 'the great philanthropic idea of the century.'"

The duke threw a listless glance over the sheet which Jenkins held out to him. He was not the man to be caught by the turn of an advertisement.

"He must be very rich, this M. Jansoulet," said he, coldly. "He finances Cardailhac's theatre; Monpavon gets him to pay his debts; Bois l'Hery starts a stable for him; old Schwalbach a picture gallery. It means money, all that."

Jenkins laughed.

"What will you have, my dear duke, this poor Nabob, you are his great occupation. Arriving here with the firm resolution to become a Parisian, a man of the world, he has taken you for his model in everything, and I do not conceal from you that he would very much like to study his model from a nearer standpoint."

"I know, I know. Monpavon has already asked my permission to bring him to see me. But I prefer to wait; I wish to see. With these great fortunes that come from so far away one has to be careful. _Mon Dieu_! I do not say that if I should meet him elsewhere than in my own house, at the theatre, in a drawing-room----"

"As it just happens, Mrs. Jenkins is proposing to give a small party next month. If you would do us the honour----"

"I shall be glad to come, my dear doctor, and if your Nabob should chance to be there I should make no objection to his being presented to me."

At this moment the usher on duty opened the door.

"Monsieur the Minister of the Interior is in the blue salon. He has only one word to say to his excellency. Monsieur the Prefect of Police is still waiting downstairs, in the gallery."

"Very well," said the duke, "I am coming. But I should like first to finish the matter of this costume. Let us see--friend, what's your name--what are we deciding upon for these ruffs? Au revoir, doctor. There is nothing to be done, is there, except to continue the pills?"

"Continue the pills," said Jenkins, bowing; and he left the room beaming with delight at the two pieces of good fortune which were befalling him at the same time--the honour of entertaining the duke and the pleasure of obliging his dear Nabob. In the antechamber, the crowd of petitioners through which he passed was still more numerous than at his entry; newcomers had joined those who had been patiently waiting from the first, others were mounting the staircase, with busy look and very pale, and in the courtyard the carriages continued to arrive, and to range themselves on ranks in a circle, gravely, solemnly, while the question of the sleeve ruffs was being discussed upstairs with not less solemnity.

"To the club," said Jenkins to his coachman.

The brougham bowled along the quays, recrossed the bridges, reached the Place de la Concorde, which already no longer wore the same aspect as an hour earlier. The fog was lifting in the direction of the Garde-Meuble and the Greek temple of the Madeleine, allowing to be dimly distinguished here and there the white plume of a jet of water, the arcade of a palace, the upper portion of a statue, the tree-clumps of the Tuileries, grouped in chilly fashion near the gates. The veil, not raised, but broken in places, disclosed fragments of horizon; and on the avenue which leads to the Arc de Triomphe could be seen brakes passing at full trot laden with coachmen and jobmasters, dragoons of the Empress, fuglemen bedizened with lace and covered with furs, going two by two in long files with a jangling of bits and spurs, and the snorting of fresh horses, the whole lighted by a sun still invisible, the light issuing from the misty atmosphere, and here and there withdrawing into it again as if offering a fleeting vision of the morning luxury of that quarter of the town.

Jenkins alighted at the corner of the Rue Royale. From top to bottom of the great gambling house the servants were passing to and fro, shaking the carpets, airing the rooms where the fume of cigars still hung about and heaps of fine glowing ashes were crumbling away at the back of the hearths, while on the green tables, still vibrant with the night's play, there stood burning a few silver candlesticks whose flames rose straight in the wan light of day. The noise, the coming and going, ceased at the third floor, where sundry members of the club had their apartments. Among them was the Marquis de Monpavon, whose abode Jenkins was now on his way to visit.

"What! It is you, doctor? The devil take it! What is the time then? I'm not visible."

"Not even for the doctor?"

"Oh, for nobody. Question of etiquette, _mon cher_. No matter, come in all the same. You'll warm your feet for a moment while Francis finishes doing my hair."

Jenkins entered the bed-chamber, a banal place like all furnished apartments, and moved towards the fire on which there were set to heat curling-tongs of all sizes, while in the contiguous laboratory, separated from the room by a curtain of Algerian tapestry, the Marquis de Monpavon gave himself up to the manipulations of his valet. Odours of patchouli, of cold-cream, of hartshorn, and of singed hair escaped from the part of the room which was shut off, and from time to time, when Francis came to fetch a curling-iron, Jenkins caught sight of a huge dressing-table laden with a thousand little instruments of ivory, and mother-of-pearl, with steel files, scissors, puffs, and brushes, with bottles, with little trays, with cosmetics, labelled and arranged methodically in groups and lines; and amid all this display, awkward and already shaky, an old man's hand, shrunken and long, delicately trimmed and polished about the nails like that of a Japanese painter, which faltered about among this fine hardware and doll's china.

While continuing the process of making up his face, the longest, the most complicated of his morning occupations, Monpavon chatted with the doctor, told of his little ailments, and the good effect of the _pills_. They made him young again, he said. And at a distance, thus, without seeing him, one would have taken him for the Duc de Mora, to such a degree had he usurped his manner of speech. There were the same unfinished phrases, ended by "ps, ps, ps," muttered between the teeth, expressions like "What's its name?" "Who was it?" constantly thrown into what he was saying, a kind of aristocratic stutter, fatigued, listless, wherein you might perceive a profound contempt for the vulgar art of speech. In the society of which the duke was the centre, every one sought to imitate that accent, those disdainful intonations with an affectation of simplicity.

Jenkins, finding the sitting rather long, had risen to take his departure.

"Adieu, I must be off. We shall see you at the Nabob's?"

"Yes, I intend to be there for luncheon. Promised to bring him--what's his name. Who was it? What? You know, for our big affair--ps, ps, ps. Were it not for that, should gladly stay away. Real menagerie, that house."

The Irishman, despite his benevolence, agreed that the society was rather mixed at his friend's. But then! One could hardly blame him for it. The poor fellow, he knew no better.

"Neither knows nor is willing to learn," remarked Monpavon with bitterness. "Instead of consulting people of experience--ps, ps, ps--first sponger that comes along. Have you seen the horses that Bois l'Hery has persuaded him to buy? Absolute rubbish those animals. And he paid twenty thousand francs for them. We may wager that Bois l'Hery got them for six thousand."

"Oh, for shame--a nobleman!" said Jenkins, with the indignation of a lofty soul refusing to believe in baseness.

Monpavon continued, without seeming to hear:

"All that because the horses came from Mora's stable."

"It is true that the dear Nabob's heart is very full of the duke. I am about to make him very happy, therefore, when I inform him----"

The doctor paused, embarrassed.

"When you inform him of what, Jenkins?"

Somewhat abashed, Jenkins had to confess that he had obtained permission from his excellency to present to him his friend Jansoulet. Scarcely had he finished his sentence before a tall spectre, with flabby face and hair and whiskers diversely coloured, bounded from the dressing-room into the chamber, with his two hands folding round a fleshless but very erect neck a dressing-gown of flimsy silk with violet spots, in which he was wrapped like a sweetmeat in its paper. The most striking thing about this mock-heroic physiognomy was a large curved nose all shiny with cold cream, and an eye alive, keen, too young, too bright, for the heavy and wrinkled eyelid which covered it. Jenkins's patients all had that eye.

Monpavon must indeed have been deeply moved to show himself thus devoid of all prestige. In point of fact, with white lips and a changed voice he addressed the doctor quickly, without the lisp this time, and in a single outburst:

"Come now, _mon cher_, no tomfoolery between us, eh? We are both met before the same dish, but I leave you your share. I intend that you shall leave me mine."

And Jenkins's air of astonishment did not make him pause. "Let this be said once for all. I have promised the Nabob to present him to the duke, just as, formerly, I presented you. Do not mix yourself up, therefore, with what concerns me alone."

Jenkins laid his hand on his heart, protested his innocence. He had never had any intention. Certainly Monpavon was too intimate a friend of the duke, for any other--How could he have supposed?

"I suppose nothing," said the old nobleman, calmer but still cold. "I merely desired to have a very clear explanation with you on this subject."

The Irishman extended a widely opened hand.

"My dear marquis, explanations are always clear between men of honour."

"Honour is a big word, Jenkins. Let us say people of deportment--that suffices."

And that deportment, which he invoked as the supreme guide of conduct, recalling him suddenly to the sense of his ludicrous situation, the marquis offered one finger to his friend's demonstrative shake of the hand, and passed back with dignity behind his curtain, while the other left, in haste to resume his round.

What a magnificent clientele he had, this Jenkins! Nothing but princely mansions, heated staircases, laden with flowers at every landing, upholstered and silky alcoves, where disease was transformed into something discreet, elegant, where nothing suggested that brutal hand which throws on a bed of pain those who only cease to work in order to die. They were not in any true speech, sick people, these clients of the Irish doctor. They would have been refused admission to a hospital. Their organs not possessing even strength to give them a shock, the seat of their malady was to be discovered nowhere, and the doctor, as he bent over them, might have sought in vain the throb of any suffering in those bodies which the inertia, the silence of death already inhabited. They were worn-out, debilitated people, anaemics, exhausted by an absurd life, but who found it so good still that they fought to have it prolonged. And the Jenkins pills became famous precisely by reason of that lash of the whip which they gave to jaded existences.

"Doctor, I beseech you, let me be fit to go to the ball this evening!" the young woman would say, prostrate on her lounge, and whose voice was reduced to a breath.

"You shall go, my dear child."

And she went; and never had she looked more beautiful.

"Doctor, at all costs, though it should kill me, to-morrow morning I must be at the Cabinet Council."

He was there, and carried away from it in a triumph of eloquence and of ambitious diplomacy.

Afterward--oh, afterward, if you please! But no matter! To their last day Jenkins's clients went about, showed themselves, cheated the devouring egotism of the crowd. They died on their feet, as became men and women of the world.

After a thousand peregrinations in the Chaussee d'Antin and the Champs-Elysees, after having visited every millionaire or titled personage in the Faubourg Saint Honore, the fashionable doctor arrived at the corner of the Cours-la-Reine and the Rue Francois I., before a house with a rounded front, which occupied the angle on the quay, and entered an apartment on the ground floor which resembled in nowise those through which he had been passing since morning. From the threshold, tapestries covering the wall, windows of old stained glass with strips of lead cutting across a discrete and composite light, a gigantic saint in carved wood which fronted a Japanese monster with protruding eyes and a back covered with delicate scales like tiles, indicated the imaginative and curious taste of an artist. The little page who answered the door held in leash an Arab greyhound larger than himself.

"Mme. Constance is at mass," he said, "and Mademoiselle is in the studio quite alone. We have been at work since six o'clock this morning," added the child with a rueful yawn which the dog caught on the wing, making him open wide his pink mouth with its sharp teeth.

Jenkins, whom we have seen enter with so much self-possession the chamber of the Minister of State, trembled a little as he raised the curtain masking the door of the studio which had been left open. It was a splendid sculptor's studio, the front of which, on the street corner, semi-circular in shape, gave the room one whole wall of glass, with pilasters at the sides, a large, well-lighted bay, opal-coloured just then by reason of the fog. More ornate than are usually such work-rooms, which the stains of the plaster, the boasting-tools, the clay, the puddles of water generally cause to resemble a stone-mason's shed, this one added a touch of coquetry to its artistic purpose. Green plants in every corner, a few good pictures suspended against the bare wall and, here and there, resting upon oak brackets, two or three works of Sebastien Ruys, of which the last, exhibited after his death, was covered with a piece of black gauze.

The mistress of the house, Felicia Ruys, the daughter of the famous sculptor and herself already known by two masterpieces, the bust of her father and that of the Duc de Mora, was standing in the middle of the studio, occupied in the modelling of a figure. Wearing a tightly fitting riding-habit of blue cloth with long folds, a fichu of China silk twisted about her neck like a man's tie, her black, fine hair caught up carelessly above the antique modelling of her small head, Felicia was at work with an extreme earnestness which added to her beauty the concentration, the intensity which are given to the features by an attentive and satisfied expression. But that changed immediately upon the arrival of the doctor.

"Ah, it is you," said she brusquely, as though awaked from a dream. "The bell was rung, then? I did not hear it."

And in the ennui, the lassitude that suddenly took possession of that adorable face, the only thing that remained expressive and brilliant was the eyes, eyes in which the factitious gleam of the Jenkins pills was heightened by the constitutional wildness.

Oh, how the doctor's voice became humble and condescending as he answered her:

"So you are quite absorbed in your work, my dear Felicia. Is it something new that you are at work on there? It seems to me very pretty."

He moved towards the rough and still formless model out of which there was beginning to issue vaguely a group of two animals, one a greyhound which was scampering at full speed with a rush that was truly extraordinary.

"The idea of it came to me last night. I began to work it out by lamplight. My poor Kadour, he sees no fun in it," said the girl, glancing with a look of caressing kindness at the greyhound whose paws the little page was endeavouring to place apart in order to get the pose again.

Jenkins remarked in a fatherly way that she did wrong to tire herself thus, and taking her wrist with ecclesiastical precautions:

"Come, I am sure you are feverish."

At the contact of his hand with her own, Felicia made a movement almost of repulsion.

"No, no, leave me alone. Your pills can do nothing for me. When I do not work I am bored. I am bored to death, to extinction; my thoughts are the colour of that water which flows over yonder, brackish and heavy. To be commencing life, and to be disgusted with it! It is hard. I am reduced to the point of envying my poor Constance, who passes her days in her chair, without opening her mouth, but smiling to herself over her memories of the past. I have not even that, I, happy remembrances to muse upon. I have only work--work!"

As she talked she went on modelling furiously, now with the boasting-tool, now with her fingers, which she wiped from time to time on a little sponge placed on the wooden platform which supported the group; so that her complaints, her melancholies, inexplicable in the mouth of a girl of twenty which, in repose, had the purity of a Greek smile, seemed uttered at random and addressed to no one in particular.

Jenkins, however, appeared disturbed by them, troubled, despite the evident attention which he gave to the work of the artist, or rather to the artist herself, to the triumphant grace of this girl whom her beauty seemed to have predestined to the study of the plastic arts.

Embarrassed by the admiring gaze which she felt fixed upon her, Felicia resumed:

"Apropos, I have seen him, you know, your Nabob. Some one pointed him out to me last Friday at the opera."

"You were at the opera on Friday?"

"Yes. The duke had sent me his box."

Jenkins changed colour.

"I persuaded Constance to go with me. It was the first time for twenty-five years since her farewell performance, that she had been inside the Opera-House. It made a great impression on her. During the ballet, especially, she trembled, she beamed, all her old triumphs sparkled in her eyes. Happy who has emotions like that. A real type, that Nabob. You will have to bring him to see me. He has a head that it would amuse me to do."

"He! Why, he is hideous! You cannot have looked at him carefully."

"On the contrary, I had a perfect view. He was opposite us. That mask, as of a white Ethiopian, would be superb in marble. And not vulgar, in any case. Besides, since he is so ugly as that, you will not be so unhappy as you were last year when I was doing Mora's bust. What a disagreeable face you had, Jenkins, in those days!"

"For ten years of life," muttered Jenkins in a gloomy voice, "I would not have that time over again. But you it amuses to behold suffering."

"You know quite well that nothing amuses me," said she, shrugging her shoulders with a supreme impertinence.

Then, without looking at him, without adding another word, she plunged into one of those dumb activities by which true artists escape from themselves and from everything that surrounds them.

Jenkins paced a few steps in the studio, much moved, with avowals on the tip of his tongue which yet dared not put themselves into words. At length, feeling himself dismissed, he took his hat and walked towards the door.

"So it is understood. I must bring him to see you."


"Why, the Nabob. It was you who this very moment----"

"Ah, yes," remarked the strange person whose caprices were short-lived. "Bring him if you like. I don't care, otherwise."

And her beautiful dejected voice, in which something seemed broken, the listlessness of her whole personality, said distinctly enough that it was true, that she cared really for nothing in the world.

Jenkins left the room, extremely troubled, and with a gloomy brow. But, the moment he was outside, he assumed once more his laughing and cordial expression, being of those who, in the streets, go masked. The morning was advancing. The mist, still perceptible in the vicinity of the Seine, floated now only in shreds and gave a vaporous unsubstantiality to the houses on the quay, to the river steamers whose paddles remained invisible, to the distant horizon in which the dome of the Invalides hung poised like a gilded balloon with a rope that darted sunbeams. A diffused warmth, the movement in the streets, told that noon was not far distant, that it would be there directly with the striking of all the bells.

Before going on to the Nabob's, Jenkins had, however, one other visit to make. But he appeared to find it a great nuisance. However, since he had made the promise! And, resolutely:

"68 Rue Saint-Ferdinand, at the Ternes," he said, as he sprang into his carriage.

The address required to be repeated twice to the coachman, Joey, who was scandalized; the very horse showed a momentary hesitation, as if the valuable beast and the impeccably clad servant had felt revolt at the idea of driving out to such a distant suburb, beyond the limited but so brilliant circle wherein their master's clients were scattered. The carriage arrived, all the same, without accident, at the end of a provincial-looking, unfinished street, and at the last of its buildings, a house of unfurnished apartments with five stories, which the street seemed to have despatched forward as a reconnoitring party to discover whether it might continue on that side isolated as it stood between vaguely marked-out sites waiting to be built upon or heaped with the debris of houses broken down, with blocks of freestone, old shutters lying amid the desolation, mouldy butchers' blocks with broken hinges hanging, an immense ossuary of a whole demolished region of the town.

Innumerable placards were stuck above the door, the latter being decorated by a great frame of photographs white with dust before which Jenkins paused for a moment as he passed. Had the famous doctor come so far, then, simply for the purpose of having a photograph taken? It might have been thought so, judging by the attention with which he stayed to examine this display, the fifteen or twenty photographs which represented the same family in different poses and actions and with varying expressions; an old gentleman, with chin supported by a high white neckcloth, and a leathern portfolio under his arm, surrounded by a bevy of young girls with their hair in plait or in curls, and with modest ornaments on their black frocks. Sometimes the old gentleman had posed with but two of his daughters; or perhaps one of those young and pretty profile figures stood out alone, the elbow resting upon a broken column, the head bowed over a book in a natural and easy pose. But, in short, it was always the same air with variations, and within the glass frame there was no gentleman save the old gentleman with the white neckcloth, nor other feminine figures that those of his numerous daughters.

"Studios upstairs, on the fifth floor," said a line above the frame. Jenkins sighed, measured with his eye the distance that separated the ground from the little balcony up there in the clouds, then he decided to enter. In the corridor he passed a white neckcloth and a majestic leathern portfolio, evidently the old gentleman of the photographic exhibition. Questioned, this individual replied that M. Maranne did indeed live on the fifth floor. "But," he added, with an engaging smile, "the stories are not lofty." Upon this encouragement the Irishman began to ascend a narrow and quite new staircase with landings no larger than a step, only one door on each floor, and badly lighted windows through which could be seen a gloomy, ill-paved court-yard and other cage-like staircases, all empty; one of those frightful modern houses, built by the dozen by penniless speculators, and having as their worst disadvantage thin partition walls which oblige all the inhabitants to live in a phalansterian community.

At this particular time the inconvenience was not great, the fourth and fifth floors alone happening to be occupied, as though the tenants had dropped into them from the sky.

On the fourth floor, behind a door with a copper plate bearing the announcement "M. Joyeuse, Expert in Bookkeeping," the doctor heard a sound of fresh laughter, of young people's chatter, and of romping steps, which accompanied him to the floor above, to the photographic establishment.

These little businesses perched away in corners with the air of having no communication with any outside world are one of the surprises of Paris. One asks one's self how the people live who go into these trades, what fastidious Providence can, for example, send clients to a photographer lodged on a fifth floor in a nondescript region, well beyond the Rue Saint-Ferdinand, or books to keep to the accountant below. Jenkins, as he made this reflection, smiled in pity, then went straight in as he was invited by the following inscription, "Enter without knocking." Alas! the permission was scarcely abused. A tall young man wearing spectacles, and writing at a small table, with his legs wrapped in a travelling-rug, rose precipitately to greet the visitor whom his short sight had prevented him from recognising.

"Good-morning, Andre," said the doctor, stretching out his loyal hand.

"M. Jenkins!"

"You see, I am good-natured as I have always been. Your conduct towards us, your obstinacy in persisting in living far away from your parents, imposed a great reserve on me, for my own dignity's sake; but your mother has wept. And here I am."

While he spoke, he examined the poor little studio, with its bare walls, its scanty furniture, the brand-new photographic apparatus, the little Prussian fireplace, new also and never yet used for a fire, all forced into painfully clear evidence beneath the direct light falling from the glass roof. The drawn face, the scanty beard of the young man, to whom the bright colour of his eyes, the narrow height of his forehead, his long and fair hair thrown backward gave the air of a visionary, everything was accentuated in the crude light; and also the resolute will in that clear glance which settled upon Jenkins coldly, and in advance to all his reasonings, to all his protestations, opposed an invincible resistance.

But the good Jenkins feigned not to perceive anything of this.

"You know, my dear Andre, since the day when I married your mother I have regarded you as my son. I looked forward to leaving you my practice and my patients, to putting your foot in a golden stirrup, happy to see you following a career consecrated to the welfare of humanity. All at once, without giving any reason, without taking into any consideration the effect which such a rupture might well have in the eyes of the world, you have separated yourself from us, you have abandoned your studies, renounced your future, in order to launch out into I know not what eccentric life, engaging in a ridiculous trade, the refuge and the excuse of all unclassed people."

"I follow this occupation in order to earn a living. It is bread and butter in the meantime."

"In what meantime? While you are waiting for literary glory?"

He glanced disdainfully at the scribbling scattered over the table.

"All that is not serious, you know, and here is what I am come to tell you. An opportunity presents itself to you, a double-swing door opening into the future. The Bethlehem Society is founded. The most splendid of my philanthropic dreams has taken body. We have just purchased a superb villa at Nanterre for the housing of our first establishment. It is the care, the management of this house that I have thought of intrusting to you as to an _alter ego_. A princely dwelling, the salary of the commander of a division, and the satisfaction of a service rendered to the great human family. Say one word, and I take you to see the Nabob, the great-hearted man who defrays the expense of our undertaking. Do you accept?"

"No," said the other so curtly that Jenkins was somewhat put out of countenance.

"Just so. I was prepared for this refusal when I came here. But I am come nevertheless. I have taken for motto, 'To do good without hope,' and I remain faithful to my motto. So then, it is understood you prefer to the honourable, worthy, and profitable existence which I have just proposed to you, a life of hazard without aim and without dignity?"

Andre answered nothing, but his silence spoke for him.

"Take care. You know what that decision will involve, a definitive estrangement, but you have always wanted that. I need not tell you," continued Jenkins, "that to break with me is to break off relations also with your mother. She and I are one."

The young man turned pale, hesitated a moment, then said with effort:

"If it please my mother to come to see me here, I shall be delighted, certainly. But my determination to quit your house, to have no longer anything in common with you, is irrevocable."

"And will you at least say why?"

He made a negative sign; he would not say.

For once the Irishman felt a genuine impulse of anger. His whole face assumed a cunning, savage expression which would have very much astonished those that only knew the good and loyal Jenkins; but he took good care not to push further an explanation which he feared perhaps as much as he desired it.

"Adieu," said he, half turning his head on the threshold. "And never apply to us."

"Never," replied his stepson in a firm voice.

This time, when the doctor had said to Joey, "Place Vendome," the horse, as though he had understood that they were going to the Nabob's, gave a proud shake to his glittering curb-chains, and the brougham set off at full speed, transforming each axle of its wheels into sunshine. "To come so far to get a reception like that! A celebrity of the time to be treated thus by that Bohemian! One may try indeed to do good!" Jenkins gave vent to his anger in a long monologue of this character, then suddenly rousing himself, exclaimed, "Ah, bah!" and what anxiety there was remaining on his brow quickly vanished on the pavement of the Place Vendome. Noon was striking everywhere in the sunshine. Issued forth from behind its curtain of mist, luxurious Paris, awake and on its feet, was commencing its whirling day. The shop-windows of the Rue de la Paix shone brightly. The mansions of the square seemed to be ranging themselves haughtily for the receptions of the afternoon; and, right at the end of the Rue Castiglione with its white arcades, the Tuileries, beneath a fine burst of winter sunshine, raised shivering statues, pink with cold, amid the stripped trees.

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The Nabob - Chapter 2. A Luncheon In The Place Vendome The Nabob - Chapter 2. A Luncheon In The Place Vendome

The Nabob - Chapter 2. A Luncheon In The Place Vendome
CHAPTER II. A LUNCHEON IN THE PLACE VENDOMEThere were scarcely more than a score of persons that morning in the Nabob's dining-room, a dining-room in carved oak, supplied the previous evening as it were by some great upholsterer, who at the same stroke had furnished these suites of four drawing-rooms of which you caught sight through an open doorway, the hangings on the ceiling, the objects of art, the chandeliers, even the very plate on the sideboards and the servants who were in attendance. It was obviously the kind of interior improvised the moment he was out of the railway-train by

The Nabob - Introduction By William Peterfield Trent The Nabob - Introduction By William Peterfield Trent

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THE NABOB by Alphonse Daudet (Translated By W. Blaydes) Daudet once remarked that England was the last of foreign countries to welcome his novels, and that he was surprised at the fact, since for him, as for the typical Englishman, the intimacy of home life had great significance. However long he may have taken to win Anglo-Saxon hearts, there is no question that he finally won them more completely than any other contemporary French novelist was able to do, and that when but a few years since the news came that death had released him from his sufferings, thousands of men