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"You are right," replied the father; "but I have somewhere heard of a very beautiful science, which is called astronomy, I think." "The more's the pity then," cried the tutor; "does any one regulate himself by the stars in this world? and is it necessary that Monsieur the Marquis should murder himself by calculating an eclipse, when he will find its very point of time in the almanack, a book which will teach him moreover the moveable feasts and fasts, the age of the moon, and that of all the princesses in Europe." Madame was entirely of the tutor's opinion; the little Marquis was overjoyed; the father was very much undecided. "What must my son learn then?" said he. "To make himself agreeable:—if," replied the friend whom they had consulted, " he knows but how to please, he knows every thing; that is in an art he can learn from his mother, without giving the least trouble either to that master or this."
At this speech, Madame embraced the polite ignoramus, and said to him, " It is very plain, Sir, that you are the most learned man in the whole world; my son will owe his entire education to you: however, I conceive that it will be as well if he should know a little of history." "Alas! Madame, what is that good for?" replied he: "there is nothing either so pleasing or so instructive as the history of the day; all ancient history, as one of our wits observes, is nothing but a preconcerted fable; and as for modern, it is a chaos which no one can disintricate: what does it signify to Monsieur your son that Charlemagne instituted the twelve peers of France, and that his successor was a stutterer?"
"Nothing was ever better said," cried the tutor; "the spirits of children are overwhelmed with a mass of useless knowledge; but of all absurd sciences, that which, in my opinion, is the most likely to stifle the spark of genius, is geometry. This ridiculous science has for its object surfaces, lines, and points, which have no existence in nature;" ten thousand crooked lines are by the mere twist of imagination made to pass between a circle and a right line that touches it, although in reality it is impossible to draw a straw between them. In short, geometry is nothing but an execrable joke."
Monsieur and Madame did not understand too much of what the tutor said; but they were entirely of his opinion.
"A nobleman like Monsieur the Marquis," continued ne," ought not to dry up his brains with such useless studies; if at any time he has occasion for one of your sublime geometricians to draw the plan of his estates, can't money buy him a surveyor? or if he wishes to unravel the antiquity of his nobility, which rises to the most obscure times, can't he send for a benedictine? And it is the same in every other art. A young lord, bor n undera lucky star, is neither
painttT, musician, architect, nor sculptor: but he makes all those arts flourish in proportion as his magnificence encourages them; and it is much better to patronise than to exercise them. Enough that Monsieur the Marquis has a taste; let artists work for him; it is in this we have so great reason to say,that men of quality (I mean those who are very rich) know every thing, without having learned any thing; because in fact they at least know how to judge of every thing which they order and pay for." The amiable ignoramus then took up the conversation. '' You have very justly remarked, Madame, that the great end of man is to rise in society: seriously now, is it by science that success is to be obtained? Does any man in company even so much as think of talking about geometry? Is a man of fashion ever asked what star rose with the sun to-day? Who wishes to know, at supper, if the long-haired Clodia passed the Rhine?" "Nobody, without doubt," exclaimed the Marchioness de la Jeannotiere, whose personal attractions had somewhat initiated herin the polite world; "andMonsieur my son ought not to cramp his genius by studj ing all this trash. But, after all, what shall he learn? for it is but right that a young lord should know how to shine upon occasion, as Monsieur my husband very justly observes. I remember hearing an old abbe say once, that the most delightful of all possible sciences was something, of which I have forgotten the name; butit begins with an A." "With an A, Madame; it was not horticulture?" "No, it was not horticulture ne meant; it begins, I tell you, with an h and ends with a ry." "Ah! I understand you, Madame, 'tis heraldry: heraldry is indeed a very profound science, but it has been out of fashion ever since the custom of painting arms on carriage doors was dropped. It was once the most useful thing in the world in a wellregulated state: but the study would have become endless; for nowa-days there is not a hair-dresser but has his coat of arms; and you know that whatever becomes common ceases to be esteemed." At length, after having examined the merits and demerits of every science, it was decided that Monsieur the Marquis should learn to dance.
Nature, which does every thing, had bestowed on him a gift that quickly developed itself with a prodigious success; it was an agreeable knack at singing ballads. The graces of youth joined to this superior talent, made him looked upon as a young man of the greatest promise. He was beloved by the women; and having his head always stuffed with songs, he manufactured them for his mistresses. He plundered Bacchus and Cupid to make one sonnet, the Night and the Day, for another, the Charms and Alarms, for a third; butashe always found in his verses some feet too little, or some too much he was obliged to have them corrected at twenty shillings a song; and thus he got a place in the Literary Year, by the side of the La Fares, the Chaulieus, the Hamiltons, the Sarrasins, and the Voitures of the day.
Madame the Marchioness now thought she should gain the reputation of being the mother of a wit; and gave a supper to all the wits in Paris accordingly. The young man's brain was presently turned; he acquired the art of speaking without understanding a single word he said, and perfected himself in the art of being good for nothing. When his father saw him so eloquent, he began to regret very sensibly, that he had not had his son taught Latin; for in that case, he could have bought him such a valuable place in the law. The mother, whose sentiments were less groveling, wished to solicit a regiment for her son; and in the meantime the son fell in love. Love is sometimes more expensive than a regiment: it cost him a great deal; while his parents pinched themselves still more, in order to live among great lords.
A young widow of quality in their neighbourhood, who had but a very moderate fortune, had a great mind to resolve upon putting the vast riches of Monsieur and Madame de la Jeannotiere in a place of security, which she could easily do by appropriating them to her own use, and marrying the young Marquis. She attracted him, suffered him to love her, gave him to understand that she was not indifferent to him, drew him in by degrees, enchanted, and vanquished him without much difficulty: sometimes she gave him praise, and sometimes advice, and quickly became the favourite both of his father and his mother. An old neighbour proposed their marriage; the parents, dazzled with the splendour of the alliance, joyfully accepted the offer, and gave their only son to their intimate friend. The young Marquis was thus about to marry a woman he adored, and by whom he himself was beloved; the friends of his family congratulated him, and the marriage articles were just about to be settled, whilst all hands were working at their wedding clothes and songs.
He was one morning upon his knees before the charming wife, with whom love, esteem, and friendship were about to present him: they were tasting in a tender and animated conversation, the first fruits of their felicity, and were parcelling out a most delicious life, when a valet-de-chambre belonging to Madame the mother came up quite scared: "Here is very different news," said he: "the bailiffs are ransacking the house of Monsieur and Madame; every thing is laid hold of by the creditors; nay, they talk of seizing your persons; and so I made haste to come and be paid my wages." "Let us see a little," said the Marquis, " what all this means; what can this adventure be?" "Go," said the widow, "and punish these rascals,—go quickly." He runs to the house; his father was already imprisoned; all the domestics had fled, each about his own business, but having first carried away every thing they could lay hold on; his mother was alone, without protection, without consolation, drowned in tears; nothing remained but the recollection of her fortune, the recollection of her beauty, the recollection of her errors, and the recollection of her mad profuseness.
After the son had wept a long time with the mother, he ventured to say to her: "Let us not despair; this young widow loves me to distraction, and is still more generous than rich, I can answer for her; I'll fly to her, and bring her to you." He then returned to his mistress, and found her in a private interview with a very charming young officer. "What! is it you, Monsieur de la Jeannotiere? what do you do here? is it thus you have abandoned your mother? Go to that unfortunate woman, and tell her that I wish her every happiness: I am in want of a chamber-maid, and I will most undoubtedly give her the preference." "My lad," said the officer, "you seem well shaped enough; if you are inclined to enlist in my company, I'll give you every encouragement."
The Marquis, thunderstruck, and bursting with rage, went in quest of his old tutor, lodged his troubles in his breast, and asked his advice The tutor proposed to him to become a preceptor like himself. "Alas!" said the Marquis, " I know nothing; you have taught me nothing, and are indeed the principal cause of all my misfortunes." As he spoke this, he sobbed aloud. "Write romances," said a wit who was present; "it is an excellent resource at Paris."
The young man, more desperate than ever, ran towards his mother's confessor, who was a Theatin in great repute, troubling himself with the consciences of women of the first rank only. As soon as Jeannot saw him, he prostrated himself before him. "Good God! Monsieur Marquis," said he, "where is your carriage? how does that respectable lady, the Marchioness your mother?" The poor unfortunate youth related the disasters of his family; and the farther he proceeded, the graver, the cooler, and the more hypocritical was the air of the Theatin. "My son," said he, " ithas pleased God to reduce you to this; riches serve but to corrupt the heart; God has therefore conferred a favour on your mother in bringing her to this miserable state."
"Yes, Sir."—" Her election is thus rendered the more sure."— "But, father," resumed the Marquis, "in the meantime, is there no means of obtaining relief in this world?" "Adieu! my son; there is a court-lady waiting for me."
The Marquis was ready to faint: he was treated in pretty much the same way by all his friends, and gained more knowledge of the world in half a day than he did all the rest of his life.
As he was thus plunged into the blackest despair, he saw advancing an old-fashioned sort of calash or tilted-cart, with leather curtains, which was followed by four enormous waggons well loaded. In the chaise was a young man coarsely clothed; he had a countenance round and fresh, breathing all the complacency of cheerfulness: his wife, a little brunette, fat, but not disagreeably so, was jolted in beside him; the vehicle did not move like the carriage of a petit-maitre, but afforded the traveller sufficient time to contemplate the Marquis, motionless and abyssed in grief as he stood. "Eh! good God!" cried the rider, "I do think that is Jeannot." At this name the Marquis lifted up his eyes; the chaise stopped. "It is too true, it is Jeannot," sighed the Marquis. The fat little fellow made but one jump of it, and flew to embrace his old school-fellow. Jeannot recognized Colin; and shame and tears covered his face. "You have abandoned me," said Colin; "but though you are a great Lord, I will love you for ever." Jeannot, confused and heart-broken, related to him with many sobs a part of his story. "Come to the inn where I lodge and tell me the rest there,"said Colin; "embrace my little wife, and then let's go and dine together."
They all three set forward on foot, their baggage following behind. "What is the meaning of all this equipage? is it yours?" says Jeannot. "Yes, it is all mine and my wife's. We are just arrived from the country, where I have the management of a good manufactory of tin and copper; I have married the daughter of a rich dealer in utensils which are necessary both to great and small: we work hard; God has prospered us: we have never changed our condition; we are happy; and we will assist our friend Jeannot. Be a Marquis no longer; all the greatness in the world is not to be compared to a friend. You shall go back into the country with me, 1 will teach you our trade; it is not very difficult; I will make you my partner, and we will live merrily in the very corner of the earth where we were born."
The astonished Jeannot felt himself divided between grief and joy, between affection and shame; and said to himself: " All my fashionable friends have betrayed me, and Colin, whom I despised, alone comes to my relief." What an instruction! Thegoodness of Colin's soul elicited from the breast of Jeannot a spark of nature which all the world had not yet stifled; he felt himself unable to abandon his father and mother. "We'll take care of your mother," said Colin; "and as to your father, who is in prison, I understand those matters a little; his creditors, when they see he has nothing to pay, will