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 The regiment1 was altogether nonplused: Petticoat Burle had quarreled with Melanie. When a week had elapsed it became a proved and undeniable fact; the captain no longer set foot inside the Café de Paris, where the chemist, it was averred3, once more reigned4 in his stead, to the profound sorrow of the retired5 magistrate6. An even more incredible statement was that Captain Burle led the life of a recluse7 in the Rue8 des Recollets. He was becoming a reformed character; he spent his evenings at his own fireside, hearing little Charles repeat his lessons. His mother, who had never breathed a word to him of his manipulations with Gagneux, maintained her old severity of demeanor9 as she sat opposite to him in her armchair, but her looks seemed to imply that she believed him reclaimed10.  
A fortnight later Major Laguitte came one evening to invite himself to dinner. He felt some awkwardness at the prospect11 of meeting Burle again, not on his own account but because he dreaded12 awakening13 painful memories. However, as the captain was mending his ways he wished to shake hands and break a crust with him. He thought this would please his old friend.
When Laguitte arrived Burle was in his room, so it was the old lady who received the major. The latter, after announcing that he had come to have a plate of soup with them, added, lowering his voice:
“Well, how goes it?”
“It is all right,” answered the old lady.
“Nothing queer?”
“Absolutely nothing. Never away—in bed at nine—and looking quite happy.”
“Ah, confound it,” replied the major, “I knew very well he only wanted a shaking. He has some heart left, the dog!”
When Burle appeared he almost crushed the major’s hands in his grasp, and standing15 before the fire, waiting for the dinner, they conversed16 peacefully, honestly, together, extolling18 the charms of home life. The captain vowed19 he wouldn’t exchange his home for a kingdom and declared that when he had removed his braces20, put on his slippers21 and settled himself in his armchair, no king was fit to hold a candle to him. The major assented22 and examined him. At all events his virtuous23 conduct had not made him any thinner; he still looked bloated; his eyes were bleared, and his mouth was heavy. He seemed to be half asleep as he repeated mechanically: “Home life! There’s nothing like home life, nothing in the world!”
“No doubt,” said the major; “still, one mustn’t exaggerate—take a little exercise and come to the cafe now and then.”
“To the cafe, why?” asked Burle. “Do I lack anything here? No, no, I remain at home.”
When Charles had laid his books aside Laguitte was surprised to see a maid come in to lay the cloth.
“So you keep a servant now,” he remarked to Mme Burle.
“I had to get one,” she answered with a sigh. “My legs are not what they used to be, and the household was going to rack and ruin. Fortunately Cabrol let me have his daughter. You know old Cabrol, who sweeps the market? He did not know what to do with Rose—I am teaching her how to work.”
Just then the girl left the room.
“How old is she?” asked the major.
“Barely seventeen. She is stupid and dirty, but I only give her ten francs a month, and she eats nothing but soup.”
When Rose returned with an armful of plates Laguitte, though he did not care about women, began to scrutinize24 her and was amazed at seeing so ugly a creature. She was very short, very dark and slightly deformed25, with a face like an ape’s: a flat nose, a huge mouth and narrow greenish eyes. Her broad back and long arms gave her an appearance of great strength.
“What a snout!” said Laguitte, laughing, when the maid had again left the room to fetch the cruets.
“Never mind,” said Burle carelessly, “she is very obliging and does all one asks her. She suits us well enough as a scullion.”
The dinner was very pleasant. It consisted of boiled beef and mutton hash. Charles was encouraged to relate some stories of his school, and Mme Burle repeatedly asked him the same question: “Don’t you want to be a soldier?” A faint smile hovered26 over the child’s wan14 lips as he answered with the frightened obedience27 of a trained dog, “Oh yes, Grandmother.” Captain Burle, with his elbows on the table, was masticating28 slowly with an absent-minded expression. The big room was getting warmer; the single lamp placed on the table left the corners in vague gloom. There was a certain amount of heavy comfort, the familiar intimacy29 of penurious30 people who do not change their plates at every course but become joyously31 excited at the unexpected appearance of a bowl of whipped egg cream at the close of the meal.
Rose, whose heavy tread shook the floor as she paced round the table, had not yet opened her mouth. At last she stopped behind the captain’s chair and asked in a gruff voice: “Cheese, sir?”
Burle started. “What, eh? Oh yes—cheese. Hold the plate tight.”
He cut a piece of Gruyere, the girl watching him the while with her narrow eyes. Laguitte laughed; Rose’s unparalleled ugliness amused him immensely. He whispered in the captain’s ear, “She is ripping! There never was such a nose and such a mouth! You ought to send her to the colonel’s someday as a curiosity. It would amuse him to see her.”
More and more struck by this phenomenal ugliness, the major felt a paternal32 desire to examine the girl more closely.
“Come here,” he said, “I want some cheese too.”
She brought the plate, and Laguitte, sticking the knife in the Gruyere, stared at her, grinning the while because he discovered that she had one nostril33 broader than the other. Rose gravely allowed herself to be looked at, waiting till the gentleman had done laughing.
She removed the cloth and disappeared. Burle immediately went to sleep in the chimney corner while the major and Mme Burle began to chat. Charles had returned to his exercises. Quietude fell from the loft34 ceiling; the quietude of a middle-class household gathered in concord35 around their fireside. At nine o’clock Burle woke up, yawned and announced that he was going off to bed; he apologized but declared that he could not keep his eyes open. Half an hour later, when the major took his leave, Mme Burle vainly called for Rose to light him downstairs; the girl must have gone up to her room; she was, indeed, a regular hen, snoring the round of the clock without waking.
“No need to disturb anybody,” said Laguitte on the landing; “my legs are not much better than yours, but if I get hold of the banisters I shan’t break any bones. Now, my dear lady, I leave you happy; your troubles are ended at last. I watched Burle closely, and I’ll take my oath that he’s guileless as a child. Dash it—after all, it was high time for Petticoat Burle to reform; he was going downhill fast.”
The major went away fully17 satisfied with the house and its inmates36; the walls were of glass and could harbor no equivocal conduct. What particularly delighted him in his friend’s return to virtue37 was that it absolved38 him from the obligation of verifying the accounts. Nothing was more distasteful to him than the inspection39 of a number of ledgers40, and as long as Burle kept steady, he—Laguitte—could smoke his pipe in peace and sign the books in all confidence. However, he continued to keep one eye open for a little while longer and found the receipts genuine, the entries correct, the columns admirably balanced. A month later he contented41 himself with glancing at the receipts and running his eye over the totals. Then one morning, without the slightest suspicion of there being anything wrong, simply because he had lit a second pipe and had nothing to do, he carelessly added up a row of figures and fancied that he detected an error of thirteen francs. The balance seemed perfectly42 correct, and yet he was not mistaken; the total outlay43 was thirteen francs more than the various sums for which receipts were furnished. It looked queer, but he said nothing to Burle, just making up his mind to examine the next accounts closely. On the following week he detected a fresh error of nineteen francs, and then, suddenly becoming alarmed, he shut himself up with the books and spent a wretched morning poring over them, perspiring44, swearing and feeling as if his very skull45 were bursting with the figures. At every page he discovered thefts of a few francs—the most miserable46 petty thefts—ten, eight, eleven francs, latterly, three and four; and, indeed, there was one column showing that Burle had pilfered47 just one franc and a half. For two months, however, he had been steadily49 robbing the cashbox, and by comparing dates the major found to his disgust that the famous lesson respecting Gagneux had only kept him straight for one week! This last discovery infuriated Laguitte, who struck the books with his clenched50 fists, yelling through a shower of oaths:
“This is more abominable51 still! At least there was some pluck about those forged receipts of Gagneux. But this time he is as
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