"No," I replied, "you had better take a seat,"
She did so, but in a timid manner, which annoyed me, because it seemed to express that she was a dependent of mine. I told her so gently, and made her take some coffee with me, and her shyness soon wore off.
We were just stepping into the carriage when a man came and told me that the lamps were out of repair and would come off if something were not done to them. He offered to put them into good repair in the course of an hour. I was in a terrible rage, and called Clairmont and began to scold him, but he said that the lamps were all right a short while ago, and that the man must have put them out of order that he might have the task of repairing them.
He had hit it off exactly. I had heard of the trick before, and I called out to the man; and on his answering me rather impudently, I began to kick him, with my pistol in my hand. He ran off swearing, and the noise brought up the landlord and five or six of his people. Everybody said I was in the right, but all the same I had to waste two hours as it would not have been prudent to travel without lamps.
Another lamp-maker was summoned; he looked at the damage, and laughed at the rascally trick his fellow-tradesman had played me.
"Can I imprison the rascal?" I said to the landlord. "I should like to have the satisfaction of doing so, were it to cost me two Louis."
"Two Louis! Your honour shall be attended to in a moment."
I was in a dreadful rage, and did not notice Adele, who was quite afraid of me. A police official came up to take my information, and examine witnesses, and to draw up the case.
"How much is your time worth, sir?" he asked me.
With these words I slid two louis into his hand, and he immediately wrote down a fine of twenty louis against the lamp-maker, and then went his way, saying,--
"Your man will be in prison in the next ten minutes." I breathed again at the prospect of vengeance. I then begged Mdlle. Adele's pardon, who asked mine in her turn, not knowing how I had offended her. This might have led to some affectionate passages, but her father came in saying that the rascal was in prison, and that everyone said I was right.
"I am perfectly ready to swear that he did the damage," said he.
"You saw him, did you?"
"No, but that's of no consequence, as everybody is sure he did it."
This piece of simplicity restored my good temper completely, and I began to ask Moreau, as he called himself, several questions. He told me he was a widower, that Adele was his only child, that he was going to set up in business at Louviers, and so on.
In the course of an hour the farce turned into a tragedy, in the following manner. Two women, one of them with a baby at her breast, and followed by four brats, all of whom might have been put under a bushel measure, came before me, and falling on their knees made me guess the reason of this pitiful sight. They were the wife, the mother, and the children of the delinquent.
My heart was soon moved with pity for them, for my vengeance had been complete, and I did not harbour resentment; but the wife almost put me in a fury again by saying that her husband was an innocent man, and that they who had accused him were rascals.
The mother, seeing the storm ready to burst, attacked me more adroitly, admitting that her son might be guilty, but that he must have been driven to it by misery, as he had got no bread wherewith to feed his children. She added:
"My good sir, take pity on us, for he is our only support. Do a good deed and set him free, for he would stay in prison all his days unless we sold our beds to pay you."
"My worthy woman, I forgive him completely. Hand this document to the police magistrate and all will be well."
At the same time I gave her a louis and told her to go, not wishing to be troubled with her thanks. A few moments after, the official came to get my signature for the man's release, and I had to pay him the legal costs. My lamps cost twelve francs to mend, and at nine o'clock I started, having spent four or five louis for nothing.