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The Brotherhood Of Consolation

by Honore De Balzac, Trans. By Katharine Prescott Wormeley

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Godefroid was in debt. As a first test, a first task, he resolved to live in some retired place, and pay his debts from his income. To a man accustomed to spend six thousand francs when he had but five, it was no small undertaking. Every morning he studied advertisements, till the following met his eye: -- "To Let. A small lodging for seventy francs a month; suitable for an ecclesiastic. A quiet tenant desired. Board supplied; the rooms can be furnished at a moderate cost if mutually acceptable." At four o'clock on the grocer, who told him that Madame de la Chanterie was then dining, and did not receive anyone when at her meals. The lady, he said, was visible in the evening after seven o'clock, or in the morning between ten and twelve. While speaking, Monsieur Millet examined Godefroid, and made him submit to what magistrates call the "first degree of interrogation." "Was monsieur unmarried? Madame wished a person of regular habits; the gate was closed at eleven at the latest. Monsieur certainly seemed of an age to suit Madame de la Chanterie." "How old do you think me?" asked Godefroid. "About forty!" replied the grocer. This ingenuous answer threw the young man into a state of misanthropic gloom. He went off and dined at a restaurant on the quai de la Tournelle, and afterwards went to the parapet to contemplate Notre-Dame at the moment when the fires of the setting sun were rippling and breaking about the manifold buttresses of the apsis.

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This last remark made the dreamer at the parapet quiver. The man who made it little knew that, to use a proverbial expression, he was killing two birds with one stone, addressing two miseries,--a working life brought to despair, a suffering soul without a compass, the victim of what Panurge's sheep call progress, and what, in France, is called equality.



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