Chupin had expected to find that M. de Coralth's apartments were handsomer than his own in the Faubourg Saint Denis; but he had scarcely imagined such luxury as pervaded this establishment. The chandeliers seemed marvels in his eyes; and the sumptuous chairs and couches eclipsed M. Fortunat's wonderful sofa completely. "So he no longer amuses himself with petty rascalities," thought Chupin, as he surveyed the rooms. "Monsieur's working on a grand scale now. Decidedly this mustn't be allowed to continue."
Thereupon he busied himself placing the flowers in the numerous jardinieres scattered about the rooms, as well as in a tiny conservatory, cleverly contrived on the balcony, and adjoining a little apartment with silk hangings, that was used as a smoking- room. Under the surveillance of the concierge and the valet he was allowed to visit the whole apartments. He admired the drawing-room, filled to overflowing with costly trifles; the dining-room, furnished in old oak; the luxurious bed-room with its bed mounted upon a platform, as if it were a throne, and the library filled with richly bound volumes. Everything was beautiful, sumptuous and magnificent, and Chupin admired, though he did not envy, this luxury. He said to himself that, if ever he became rich, his establishment should be quite different. He would have preferred rather more simplicity, a trifle less satin, velvet, hangings, mirrors and gilding. Still this did not prevent him from going into ecstasies over each room he entered; and he expressed his admiration so artlessly that the valet, feeling as much flattered as if he were the owner of the place, took a sort of pride in exhibiting everything.
He showed Chupin the target which the viscount practised at with pistols for an hour every morning; for Monsieur le Vicomte was a capital marksman, and could lodge eight balls out of ten in the neck of a bottle at a distance of twenty paces. He also displayed his master's swords; for Monsieur le Vicomte handled side arms as adroitly as pistols. He took a lesson every day from one of the best fencing-masters in Paris; and his duels had always terminated fortunately. He also showed the viscount's blue velvet dressing- gown, his fur-trimmed slippers, and even his elaborately embroidered night-shirts. But it was the dressing-room that most astonished and stupefied Chupin. He stood gazing in open-mouthed wonder at the immense white marble table, with its water spigots and its basins, its sponges and boxes, its pots and vials and cups; and he counted the brushes by the dozen--brushes hard and soft, brushes for the hair, for the beard, for the hands, and the application of cosmetic to the mustaches and eyebrows. Never had he seen in one collection such a variety of steel and silver instruments, knives, pincers, scissors, and files. "One might think oneself in a chiropodist's, or a dentist's establishment," remarked Chupin to the servant. "Does your master use all these every day?"
"Certainly, or rather twice a day--morning and evening--at his toilette."
Chupin expressed his feelings with a grimace and an exclamation of mocking wonder. "Ah, well! he must have a clean skin," he said.
His listeners laughed heartily; and the concierge, after exchanging a significant glance with the valet, said sotto voce, "Zounds! it's his business to be a handsome fellow!" The mystery was solved.
While Chupin changed the contents of the jardinieres, and remained upstairs in the intervals between the nine or ten journeys he made to the porte-cochere for more flowers, he listened attentively to the conversation between the concierge and the valet, and heard snatches of sentences that enlightened him wonderfully. Moreover, whenever a question arose as to placing a plant in one place rather than another, the valet stated as a conclusive argument that the baroness liked it in such or such a place, or that she would be better pleased with this or that arrangement, or that he must comply with the instructions she had given him. Chupin was therefore obliged to conclude that the flowers had been sent here by a baroness who possessed certain rights in the establishment. But who was she?
He was manoeuvering cleverly in the hope of ascertaining this point, when a carriage was heard driving into the courtyard below. "Monsieur must have returned!" exclaimed the valet, darting to the window.