The Merry Men

Page 99

You telegraph me to leave my business and come down here on yours. I come, I ask the business, you say "Find me this thief!" Well, I find him; I say "There he is! You need not like it, but you have no manner of right to take offence.'

'Well,' returned the Doctor, 'I grant that; I will even thank you for your mistaken zeal. But your hypothesis was so extravagantly monstrous - '

'Look here,' interrupted Casimir; 'was it you or Stasie?'

'Certainly not,' answered the Doctor.

'Very well; then it was the boy. Say no more about it,' said the brother-in-law, and he produced his cigar-case.

'I will say this much more,' returned Desprez: 'if that boy came and told me so himself, I should not believe him; and if I did believe him, so implicit is my trust, I should conclude that he had acted for the best.'

'Well, well,' said Casimir, indulgently. 'Have you a light? I must be going. And by the way, I wish you would let me sell your Turks for you. I always told you, it meant smash. I tell you so again. Indeed, it was partly that that brought me down. You never acknowledge my letters - a most unpardonable habit.'

'My good brother,' replied the Doctor blandly, 'I have never denied your ability in business; but I can perceive your limitations.'

'Egad, my friend, I can return the compliment,' observed the man of business. 'Your limitation is to be downright irrational.'

'Observe the relative position,' returned the Doctor with a smile. 'It is your attitude to believe through thick and thin in one man's judgment - your own. I follow the same opinion, but critically and with open eyes. Which is the more irrational? - I leave it to yourself.'

'O, my dear fellow!' cried Casimir, 'stick to your Turks, stick to your stable-boy, go to the devil in general in your own way and be done with it. But don't ratiocinate with me - I cannot bear it. And so, ta-ta. I might as well have stayed away for any good I've done. Say good-bye from me to Stasie, and to the sullen hang-dog of a stable-boy, if you insist on it; I'm off.'

And Casimir departed. The Doctor, that night, dissected his character before Anastasie. 'One thing, my beautiful,' he said, 'he has learned one thing from his lifelong acquaintance with your husband: the word RATIOCINATE. It shines in his vocabulary, like a jewel in a muck-heap. And, even so, he continually misapplies it. For you must have observed he uses it as a sort of taunt, in the sense of to ERGOTISE, implying, as it were - the poor, dear fellow! - a vein of sophistry. As for his cruelty to Jean-Marie, it must be forgiven him - it is not his nature, it is the nature of his life. A man who deals with money, my dear, is a man lost.'

With Jean-Marie the process of reconciliation had been somewhat slow. At first he was inconsolable, insisted on leaving the family, went from paroxysm to paroxysm of tears; and it was only after Anastasie had been closeted for an hour with him, alone, that she came forth, sought out the Doctor, and, with tears in her eyes, acquainted that gentleman with what had passed.

'At first, my husband, he would hear of nothing,' she said. 'Imagine! if he had left us! what would the treasure be to that? Horrible treasure, it has brought all this about! At last, after he has sobbed his very heart out, he agrees to stay on a condition - we are not to mention this matter, this infamous suspicion, not even to mention the robbery. On that agreement only, the poor, cruel boy will consent to remain among his friends.'

'But this inhibition,' said the Doctor, 'this embargo - it cannot possibly apply to me?'

'To all of us,' Anastasie assured him.

'My cherished one,' Desprez protested, 'you must have misunderstood. It cannot apply to me. He would naturally come to me.'

'Henri,' she said, 'it does; I swear to you it does.'

'This is a painful, a very painful circumstance,' the Doctor said, looking a little black. 'I cannot affect, Anastasie, to be anything but justly wounded. I feel this, I feel it, my wife, acutely.'

'I knew you would,' she said.

The Merry Men Page 100

Robert Louis Stevenson

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