The Count's Millions HTML version

Chapter 5.
If through the length and breadth of Paris there is a really quiet, peaceful street, a refuge
for the thoughtfully inclined, it is surely the broad Rue d'Ulm, which starts from the Place
du Pantheon, and finishes abruptly at the Rue des Feuillantines. The shops are
unassuming, and so few that one can easily count them. There is a wine-shop on the left-
hand side, at the corner of the Rue de la Vieille-Estrapade; then a little toy-shop, then a
washerwoman's and then a book-binder's establishment; while on the right-hand you will
find the office of the Bulletin, with a locksmith's, a fruiterer's, and a baker's--that is all.
Along the rest of the street run several spacious buildings, somewhat austere in
appearance, though some of them are surrounded by large gardens. Here stands the
Convent of the Sisters of the Cross, with the House of Our Lady of Adoration; while
further on, near the Rue des Feuillantines, you find the Normal School, with the office of
the General Omnibus Company hard by. At day-time you mostly meet grave and
thoughtful faces in the street: priests, savants, professors, and clerks employed in the
adjacent public libraries. The only stir is round about the omnibus office; and if
occasional bursts of laughter are heard they are sure to come from the Normal School.
After nightfall, a person might suppose himself to be at least a hundred leagues from the
Boulevard Montmartre and the Opera-House, in some quiet old provincial town, at
Poitiers, for instance. And it is only on listening attentively that you can catch even a
faint echo of the tumult of Paris.
It was in this street--"out of the world," as M. de Coralth expressed it--that Pascal
Ferailleur resided with his mother. They occupied a second floor, a pretty suite of five
rooms, looking out upon a garden. Their rent was high. Indeed, they paid fourteen
hundred francs a year. But this was a burden which Pascal's profession imposed upon
him; for he, of course, required a private office and a little waiting-room for his clients.
With this exception, the mother and son led a straightened, simple life. Their only servant
was a woman who came at seven o'clock to do the heavy work, went home again at
twelve, and did not return again until the evening, to serve dinner. Madame Ferailleur
attended to everything, not blushing in the least when she was compelled to open the door
for some client. Besides, she could do this without the least risk of encountering
disrespect, so imposing and dignified were her manners and her person.
M. de Coralth had shown excellent judgment when he compared her to a family portrait.
She was, in fact, exactly the person a painter would select to represent some old burgher's
wife--a chaste and loving spouse, a devoted mother, an incomparable housewife--in one
phrase, the faithful guardian of her husband's domestic happiness. She had just passed her
fiftieth birthday, and looked fully her age. She had suffered. A close observer would have
detected traces of weeping about her wrinkled eyelids; and the twinge of her lips was
expressive of cruel anguish, heroically endured. Still, she was not severe, nor even too
sedate; and the few friends who visited her were often really astonished at her wit.
Besides, she was one of those women who have no history, and who find happiness in
what others would call duty. Her life could be summed up in a single sentence: she had
loved; she had mourned.