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When he recovered consciousness he perceived Lisa
sitting by his bedside, silently stirring some cooling drink in a cup.
As he tried to thank her, she told him that he must keep perfectly
quiet, and that they could talk together later on. At the end of another
three days Florent was on his feet again. Then one morning Quenu went up
to tell him that Lisa awaited them in her room on the first floor.

Quenu and his wife there occupied a suite of three rooms and a
dressing-room. You first passed through an antechamber, containing
nothing but chairs, and then a small sitting-room, whose furniture,
shrouded in white covers, slumbered in the gloom cast by the Venetian
shutters, which were always kept closed so as to prevent the light blue
of the upholstery from fading. Then came the bedroom, the only one of
the three which was really used. It was very comfortably furnished in
mahogany. The bed, bulky and drowsy of aspect in the depths of the
damp alcove, was really wonderful, with its four mattresses, its four
pillows, its layers of blankets, and its corpulent _edredon_. It was
evidently a bed intended for slumber. A mirrored wardrobe, a washstand
with drawers, a small central table with a worked cover, and several
chairs whose seats were protected by squares of lace, gave the room an
aspect of plain but substantial middle-class luxury. On the left-hand
wall, on either side of the mantelpiece, which was ornamented with some
landscape-painted vases mounted on bronze stands, and a gilt timepiece
on which a figure of , also gilt, stood in an attitude of
deep thought, hung portraits in oils of Quenu and Lisa, in ornate
oval frames. Quenu had a smiling face, while Lisa wore an air of grave
propriety; and both were dressed in black and depicted in flattering
fashion, their features idealised, their skins wondrously smooth,
their complexions soft and pinky. A carpet, in the Wilton style, with
a complicated pattern of roses mingling with stars, concealed the
flooring; while in front of the bed was a fluffy mat, made out of long
pieces of curly wool, a work of patience at which Lisa herself had
toiled while seated behind her counter. But the most striking object
of all in the midst of this array of new furniture was a great square,
thick-set secretaire, which had been re-polished in vain, for the cracks
and notches in the marble top and the scratches on the old mahogany
front, quite black with age, still showed plainly. Lisa had desired to
retain this piece of furniture, however, as Uncle Gradelle had used it
for more than forty years. It would bring them good luck, she said. It's
metal fastenings were truly something terrible, it's lock was like that
of a prison gate, and it was so heavy that it could scarcely be moved.

When Florent and Quenu entered the room they found Lisa seated at the
lowered desk of the secretaire, writing and putting down figures in a
big, round, and very legible hand. She signed to them not to disturb
her, and the two men sat down. Florent looked round the room, and
notably at the two portraits, the bed and the timepiece, with an air of
surprise.

"There!" at last exclaimed Lisa, after having carefully verified a whole
page of calculations. "Listen to me now; we have an account to render to
you, my dear Florent."

It was the first time that she had so addressed him. However, taking up
the page of figures, she continued: "Your Uncle Gradelle died without
leaving a will. Consequently you and your brother are his sole heirs. We
now have to hand your share over to you."

"But I do not ask you for anything!" exclaimed Florent, "I don't wish
for anything!"

Quenu had apparently been in ignorance of his wife's intentions. He
turned rather pale and looked at her with an expression of displeasure.
Of course, he certainly loved his brother dearly; but there was no
occasion to hurl his uncle's money at him in this way. There would have
been plenty of time to go into the matter later on.

"I know very well, my dear Florent," continued Lisa, "that you did not
come back with the intention of claiming from us what belongs to you;
but business is business, you know, and we had better get things settled
at once. Your uncle's savings amounted to eighty-five thousand francs. I
have therefore put down forty-two thousand five hundred to your credit.
See!"

She showed him the figures on the sheet of paper.

"It is unfortunately not so easy to value the shop, plant,
stock-in-trade, and goodwill. I have only been able to put down
approximate amounts, but I don't think I have underestimated anything.
Well, the total valuation which I have made comes to fifteen thousand
three hundred and ten francs; your half of which is seven thousand six
hundred and fifty-five francs, so that your share amounts, in all, to
fifty thousand one hundred and fifty-five francs. Please verify it for
yourself, will you?"

She had called out the figures in a clear, distinct voice, and she now
handed the paper to Florent, who was obliged to take it.

"But the old man's business was certainly never worth fifteen thousand
francs!" cried Quenu. "Why, I wouldn't have given ten thousand for it!"

He had ended by getting quite angry with his wife. Really, it was absurd
to carry honesty to such a point as that! Had Florent said one word
about the business? No, indeed, he had declared that he didn't wish for
anything.

"The business was worth fifteen thousand three hundred and ten francs,"
Lisa re-asserted, calmly. "You will agree with me, my dear Florent, that
it is quite unnecessary to bring a lawyer into our affairs. It is for us
to arrange the division between ourselves, since you have now turned up
again. I naturally thought of this as soon as you arrived; and, while
you were in bed with the fever, I did my best to draw up this little
inventory. It contains, as you see, a fairly complete statement of
everything. I have been through our old books, and have called up my
memory to help me. Read it aloud, and I will give you any additional
information you may want."

Florent ended by smiling. He was touched by this easy and, as it were,
natural display of probity. Placing the sheet of figures on the young
woman's knee, he took hold of her hand and said, "I am very glad, my
dear Lisa, to hear that you are prosperous, but I will not take your
money. The heritage belongs to you and my brother, who took care of my
uncle up to the last. I don't require anything, and I don't intend to
hamper you in carrying on your business."

Lisa insisted, and even showed some vexation, while Quenu gnawed his
thumbs in silence to restrain himself.

"Ah!" resumed Florent with a laugh, "if Uncle Gradelle could hear you,
I think he'd come back and take the money away again. I was never a
favourite of his, you know."

"Well, no," muttered Quenu, no longer able to keep still, "he certainly
wasn't over fond of you."

Lisa, however, still pressed the matter. She did not like to have money
in her secretaire that did not belong to her; it would worry her, said
she; the thought of it would disturb her peace. Thereupon Florent, still
in a joking way, proposed to invest his share in the business. Moreover,
said he, he did not intend to refuse their help; he would, no doubt, be
unable to find employment all at once; and then, too, he would need a
complete outfit, for he was scarcely presentable.

"Of course," cried Quenu, "you will board and lodge with us, and we will
buy you all that you want. That's understood. You know very well that we
are not likely to leave you in the streets, I hope!"

He was quite moved now, and even felt a trifle ashamed of the alarm he
had experienced at the thought of having to hand over a large amount of
money all at once. He began to joke, and told his brother that he would
undertake to fatten him. Florent gently shook his hand; while Lisa
folded up the sheet of figures and put it away in a drawer of the
secretaire.

"You are wrong," she said by way of conclusion. "I have done what I was
bound to do. Now it shall be as you wish. But, for my part, I should
never have had a moment's peace if I had not put things before you. Bad
thoughts would quite upset me."

They then began to speak of another matter. It would be necessary to
give some reason for Florent's presence, and at the same time avoid
exciting the suspicion of the police. He told them that in order to
return to France he had availed himself of the papers of a poor fellow
who had died in his arms at Surinam from yellow fever. By a singular
coincidence this young fellow's Christian name was Florent.

Florent Laquerriere, to give him his name in full, had left but one
relation in Paris, a female cousin, and had been informed of her death
while in America. Nothing could therefore be easier than for Quenu's
half brother to pass himself off as the man who had died at Surinam.
Lisa offered to take upon herself the part of the female cousin. They
then agreed to relate that their cousin Florent had returned from
abroad, where he had failed in his attempts to make a fortune, and that
they, the Quenu-Gradelles, as they were called in the neighbourhood, had
received him into their house until he could find suitable employment.
When this was all settled, Quenu insisted upon his brother making
a thorough inspection of the rooms, and would not spare him the
examination of a single stool. Whilst they were in the bare looking
chamber containing nothing but chairs, Lisa pushed open a door, and
showing Florent a small dressing room, told him that the shop girl
should sleep in it, so that he could retain the bedroom on the fifth
floor.

In the evening Florent was arrayed in new clothes from head to foot.
He had insisted upon again having a black coat and black trousers, much
against the advice of Quenu, upon whom black had a depressing effect.
No further attempts were made to conceal his presence in the house, and
Lisa told the story which had been planned to everyone who cared to
hear it. Henceforth Florent spent almost all his time on the premises,
lingering on a chair in the kitchen or leaning against the marble-work
in the shop.



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