"When," asked one of the women, "will we enjoy the death，
Young Wilkie's lamentations were long and loud; but they did not prevent M. Patterson--for that was the gentleman's name--from taking him to the college of Louis-the-Great, where he was entered as a boarder. As he did not study, and as he was only endowed with a small amount of intelligence, he learned scarcely anything during the years he remained there. Every Sunday and every fete day, M. Patterson made his appearance at ten o'clock precisely, took Wilkie for a walk in Paris or the environs, gave him his breakfast and dinner at some of the best restaurants, bought everything he expressed a desire to have, and at nine o'clock precisely took him back to the college again. During the holidays M. Patterson kept the boy with him, refusing him nothing in the way of pleasure, granting all his wishes, but never losing sight of him for a moment. And if Wilkie complained of this constant watchfulness, M. Patterson always replied, "I must obey orders;" and this answer invariably put an end to the discussion.
So things went on until it became time for Wilkie to take his degree. He presented himself for examination; and, of course, he failed. Fortunately, however, M. Patterson was not at a loss for an expedient. He placed his charge in a private school; and the following year, at a cost of five thousand francs, he beguiled a poor devil into running the risk of three years' imprisonment, by assuming M. Wilkie's name, and passing the examination in his place. In possession of the precious diploma which opens the door of every career, M. Wilkie now hoped that his pockets would be filled, and that he would then be set at liberty. But the hope was vain! M. Patterson placed him in the hands of an old tutor who had been engaged to travel with him through Europe; and as this tutor held the purse-strings, Wilkie was obliged to follow him through Germany, England, and Italy.
When he returned to Paris he was just twenty years old, and the very next day M. Patterson conducted him to the suite of rooms which he still occupied in the Rue du Helder. "You are now in your own home, M. Wilkie," said M. Patterson in his most impressive manner. "You are now old enough to be responsible for your own actions, and I hope you will conduct yourself like an honest man. From this moment you are your own master. Those who gave you your education desire you to study law. If I were in your place, I should obey them. If you wish to be somebody, and to acquire a fortune, work, for you have no property, nor anything to expect from any one. The allowance which is granted you, a far too liberal one in my opinion, may be cut off at any moment. I don't think it right to conceal this fact from you. But at all events until then. I am instructed to pay you five thousand francs quarterly. Here is the amount for the first quarter, and in three months' time I shall send you a similar amount. I say 'shall SEND,' because my business compels me to return to England, and take up my abode there. Here is my London address; and if any serious trouble befalls you, write to me. Now, my duty being fulfilled, farewell."
"Go to the devil, you old preacher!" growled Wilkie, as he saw the door close on the retreating figure of M. Patterson, who had acted as his guardian for ten years. None of M. Patterson's wise advice lingered in the young fellow's mind. To use a familiar expression, "It went in through one ear and came out through the other." Only two facts had made an impression upon him: that he was to be his own master henceforth, and that he had a fortune at his command. There it lay upon the table, five thousand francs in glittering gold.
If M. Wilkie had taken the trouble to attentively examine the rooms which had suddenly become his own, he would perhaps have recognized the fact that a loving hand had prepared them for his reception. Countless details revealed the delicate taste of a woman, and the thoughtful tenderness of a mother. None of those little superfluities which delight a young man had been forgotten. There was a box of choice cigars upon the table, and a jar of tobacco on the mantel-shelf. But Wilkie did not take time to discover this. He hastily slipped five hundred francs into his pocket, locked the rest of his money in a drawer, and went out with as lofty an air as if all Paris belonged to him, or as if he had enough money to purchase it.
He had resolved to give a fete in honor of his deliverance, and so he hurried off in search of some of his old college chums. He found two of them; and, although it was very wounding to his self- love, M. Wilkie was obliged to confess to them that this was his first taste of liberty, and that he scarcely knew what to do with himself. Of course his friends assured him that they could quickly make him acquainted with the only life that it was worth while living; and, to prove it, they accepted the invitation to dinner which he immediately offered them. It was a remarkable repast. Other acquaintances dropped in, the wine flowed in rivers; and after dinner they danced. And at day-break, having served his apprenticeship at baccarat, M. Wilkie found himself without a penny in his pocket, and face to face with a bill of four hundred francs, for which amount he was obliged to go to his rooms, under the escort of one of the waiters. This first experiment ought to have disgusted him, or at least have made him reflect. But no. He felt quite in his element in the society of dissipated young men and enamelled women. He swore that he would win a place in their midst, and an influential place too. But it was easier to form this plan than to carry it into execution, as he discovered when, at the end of the month, he counted his money to see what remained of the five thousand francs that had been given him for his quarterly allowance. He had just three hundred francs left.
Twenty thousand francs a year is what one chooses to make it-- wealth or poverty. Twenty thousand francs a year represents about sixty francs a day; but what are sixty francs to a high liver, who breakfasts and dines at the best restaurants, whose clothes are designed by an illustrious tailor, who declines to make a pair of trousers for less than a hundred francs? What are three louis a day to a man who hires a box for first performances at the opera, to a man who gambles and gives expensive suppers, to a man who drives out with yellow-haired demoiselles, and who owns a race- horse? Measuring his purse and his ambition, M. Wilkie discovered that he should never succeed in making both ends meet. "How do other people manage?" he wondered. A puzzling question! Every evening a thousand gorgeously apparelled gentlemen, with a cigar in their mouth and a flower in their button-hole, may be seen promenading between the Chaussee d'Antin and the Faubourg Montmartre. Everybody knows them, and they know everybody, but how they exist is a problem which it is impossible to solve. How do they live, and what do they live on? Everybody knows that they have no property; they do nothing, and yet they are reckless in their expenditures, and rail at work and jeer at economy. What source do they derive their money from? What vile business are they engaged in?
However, M. Wilkie did not devote much time to solving this question. "My relatives must wish me to starve," he said to himself. "Not I--I'm not that sort of a person, as I'll soon let them know." And thereupon he wrote to M. Patterson. By return of post that gentleman sent him a cheque for one thousand francs--a mere drop in the bucket. M. Wilkie felt indignant and so he wrote again. This time he was obliged to wait for a reply. Still at last it came. M. Patterson sent him two thousand francs, and an interminable epistle full of reproaches. The interesting young man threw the letter into the fire, and went out to hire a carriage by the month and a servant.
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