The Count's Millions HTML version
The magistrate who was now approaching the Chalusse mansion in the concierge's
company, exemplified in a remarkable manner all the ideas that are awakened in one's
mind by the grand yet simple title of "Justice of the Peace." He was the very person you
would like to think of as the family magistrate; as the promoter of friendly feeling; as the
guardian of the rights of the absent, the young, and the weak; as the just arbiter in
unfortunate differences between those who are closely related; a sage of wide experience
and boundless benevolence; a judge whose paternal justice dispenses with all pomp and
display, and who is allowed by French statutes to hold his court by his own fireside,
providing the doors stand open. He was considerably over fifty, tall, and very thin, with
bent shoulders. His clothes were rather old- fashioned in cut, but by no means ridiculous.
The expression of his face was gentleness itself; but it would not have done to presume
upon this gentleness, for his glance was keen and piercing--like the glance of all who are
expert in diving into consciences, and discovering the secrets hidden there. Moreover,
like all men who are accustomed to deliberate in public, his features were expressionless.
He could see and hear everything, suspect and understand everything, without letting a
muscle of his face move. And yet the habitues of his audience-chamber, and his clerks,
pretended that they could always detect the nature of his impressions. A ring which he
wore upon one of his fingers served as a barometer for those who knew him. If a difficult
case, or one that embarrassed his conscience, presented itself, his eyes fixed themselves
obstinately upon this ring. If he were satisfied that everything was right, he looked up
again, and began playing with the ring, slipping it up and down between the first and
second joint of his finger; but if he were displeased, he abruptly turned the bezel inside.
In appearance, he was sufficiently imposing to intimidate even M. Casimir. The proud
valet bowed low as the magistrate approached, and with his heart in his mouth, and in an
obsequious voice he said: "It was I who took the liberty of sending for you, monsieur."
"Ah!" said the magistrate, who already knew as much about the Hotel de Chalusse, and
the events of the past twelve hours, as M. Casimir himself; for on his way to the house,
he had turned Bourigeau inside out like a glove, by means of a dozen gentle questions.
"If monsieur wishes I will explain," resumed M. Casimir.
"Nothing! It is quite unnecessary. Usher us in."
This "us" astonished the valet; but before they reached the house it was explained to him.
He discovered a man of flourishing and even jovial mien who was walking along in the
magistrate's shadow carrying a large black portfolio under his arm. This was evidently
the clerk. He seemed to be as pleased with his employment as he was with himself; and
as he followed M. Casimir, he examined the adornments of the mansion, the mosaics in
the vestibule, the statuary and the frescoed walls with an appraiser's eye. Perhaps he was
calculating how many years' salary it would require to pay for the decorating of this one