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The Wrong House
by [?]

Quartermaster Varajou had obtained a week’s leave to go and visit his sister, Madame Padoie. Varajou, who was in garrison at Rennes and was leading a pretty gay life, finding himself high and dry, wrote to his sister saying that he would devote a week to her. It was not that he cared particularly for Mme. Padoie, a little moralist, a devotee, and always cross; but he needed money, needed it very badly, and he remembered that, of all his relations, the Padoies were the only ones whom he had never approached on the subject.

Pere Varajou, formerly a horticulturist at Angers, but now retired from business, had closed his purse strings to his scapegrace son and had hardly seen him for two years. His daughter had married Padoie, a former treasury clerk, who had just been appointed tax collector at Vannes.

Varajou, on leaving the train, had some one direct him to the house of his brother-in-law, whom he found in his office arguing with the Breton peasants of the neighborhood. Padoie rose from his seat, held out his hand across the table littered with papers, murmured, “Take a chair. I will be at liberty in a moment,” sat down again and resumed his discussion.

The peasants did not understand his explanations, the collector did not understand their line of argument. He spoke French, they spoke Breton, and the clerk who acted as interpreter appeared not to understand either.

It lasted a long time, a very long lime. Varajou looked at his brother- in-law and thought: “What a fool!” Padoie must have been almost fifty. He was tall, thin, bony, slow, hairy, with heavy arched eyebrows. He wore a velvet skull cap with a gold cord vandyke design round it. His look was gentle, like his actions. His speech, his gestures, his thoughts, all were soft. Varajou said to himself, “What a fool!”

He, himself, was one of those noisy roysterers for whom the greatest pleasures in life are the cafe and abandoned women. He understood nothing outside of these conditions of existence.

A boisterous braggart, filled with contempt for the rest of the world, he despised the entire universe from the height of his ignorance. When he said: “Nom d’un chien, what a spree!” he expressed the highest degree of admiration of which his mind was capable.

Having finally got rid of his peasants, Padoie inquired:

“How are you?”

“Pretty well, as you see. And how are you?”

“Quite well, thank you. It is very kind of you to have thought of coming to see us.”

“Oh, I have been thinking of it for some time; but, you know, in the military profession one has not much freedom.”

“Oh, I know, I know. All the same, it is very kind of you.”

“And Josephine, is she well?”

“Yes, yes, thank you; you will see her presently.” “Where is she?”

“She is making some calls. We have a great many friends here; it is a very nice town.”

“I thought so.”

The door opened and Mme. Padoie appeared. She went over to her brother without any eagerness, held her cheek for him to kiss, and asked:

“Have you been here long?”

“No, hardly half an hour.”

“Oh, I thought the train would be late. Will you come into the parlor?”

They went into the adjoining room, leaving Padoie to his accounts and his taxpayers. As soon as they were alone, she said:

“I have heard nice things about you!”

“What have you heard?”

“It seems that you are behaving like a blackguard, getting drunk and contracting debts.”

He appeared very much astonished.

“I! never in the world!”

“Oh, do not deny it, I know it.”

He attempted to defend himself, but she gave him such a lecture that he could say nothing more.

She then resumed:

“We dine at six o’clock, and you can amuse yourself until then. I cannot entertain you, as I have so many things to do.”