Four Short Stories
The regiment 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 Cafe de Paris, where the chemist, it was averred, once more reigned in
his stead, to the profound sorrow of the retired magistrate. An even more incredible
statement was that Captain Burle led the life of a recluse in the Rue 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 demeanor as she sat opposite
to him in her armchair, but her looks seemed to imply that she believed him reclaimed.
A fortnight later Major Laguitte came one evening to invite himself to dinner. He felt
some awkwardness at the prospect of meeting Burle again, not on his own account but
because he dreaded awakening 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.
"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 standing
before the fire, waiting for the dinner, they conversed peacefully, honestly, together,
extolling the charms of home life. The captain vowed he wouldn't exchange his home for
a kingdom and declared that when he had removed his braces, put on his slippers and
settled himself in his armchair, no king was fit to hold a candle to him. The major
assented and examined him. At all events his virtuous 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!"