A French story.
Lefort was a man some forty years old, with an income of fifteen thousand , fond of pictures, and painting landscapes himself in a very remarkable manner.
He lived in de Provence
, in an apartment in the third story, where he was often visited by his friend, Decamps, the distinguished painter who has recently died in Paris
, who was very fond of Lefort, and of sitting to talk in his rooms.
They passed long evenings in chatting and smoking together before an open window, which overlooked the vast gardens of the Hotel Lafitte
and the Hotel Rothschild
One day, Lefort arrived at the cafe
with a long face and an air of great dissatisfaction.
‘"What is the matter?"’ said Decamps.
‘"The matter is, I am wretched at having to move from our apartment."’
‘"Are you going to leave it?"’
‘"Yes, my landlord wanted to raise my rent.
I resisted — he insisted.
I grew angry, and gave up the rooms.
I am wretched now. You were so fond of these rooms."’
‘"Ah, well, sake back your lease."’
‘"You are right, I will take it back."’
The next day Lefort had still the long face and the grieved air of the previous day. He had wished to resume his lease.
But it was too late.
The apartment was let for a term of nine years.
Lefort must move in the month of October.
His landlord informed him, however, in an obliging manner, that the person who was to succeed him would not arrive from the country until the middle of November, and that he had all that time to seek an apartment to suit him, only Lefort must leave empty a part of the suite of rooms to store the furniture of his successor.
Lefort consented to this joyfully, and the furniture of the new tenant was brought in.
Meantime, Decamps, who saw him still so sorrowful at having to quit his rooms, said to him one day:
‘"There is, perhaps, some way to arrange with your new successor."’
‘"I do not know him, and don't wish to try to make a bargain."’
‘"Show me his furniture,"’ said Decamps, ‘"and I can guess what sort of a man he is."’
Lefort conducted Decamps into the rooms where the furniture of the new tenant was placed.
‘"Hum, hum,"’ said Decamps on casting his eyes over the articles, ‘"all this is simple, comfortable, in good taste, furniture for an income of twenty thousand francs, lately removed.
It is the right sort of man — or rather it is a woman; here is woman's furniture, this toilet, this wash-table, this book-stand of inlaid work."’
‘"But the husband?"’
‘"I don't see any husband in the matter; no masculine furniture, a single bed; no bureau; we only want to know if she is a widow, a young girl, an old maid."’
‘"How shall we find out that?"’
He opened the toilet table.
There was a small comb, to which was attached two magnificent hairs of golden blond.
‘"Good,"’ this hair does not belong to an old woman; let us look further.
He perceived a portrait turned against the wall.
He turned the canvas.
It was the portrait of a woman, blond, very pretty, painted in 1825, by Horsent.
‘"It is the portrait of the lady,"’ said Decamps.
‘"It is the portrait of a married woman; the dress indicates it. This woman was about twenty when it was painted.
She must be still very pretty.
She is an intelligent woman, loving art, I judge by the selection of the books in this library, by the music on the piano.
My friend, you will not quit your apartment."’
‘"I must ask this lady to give it up to me, then."’
‘"No, you must ask her to share it with you. You must marry her."’
‘"You are mad; you are laughing at me."’
‘"I speak very seriously.
Your furniture seems made to go with that of the lady.
The suite of rooms is too large for one of you alone; it is exactly what is wanted for you two. "’
‘"But I don't wish to marry."’
‘"You are wrong.
You are forty years old; this lady suits you in every respect.
She pleases me, this woman, and I wish you to marry her. Let me manage."’
Lefort gave him leave.
When the lady came from the country, she was surprised to find her rooms occupied and her furniture doubled.
Decamps awaited her. He showed the lady the rooms arranged by himself, and the portrait of Lefort hung up opposite her own.
‘"See, madame,"’ said he, ‘"what wonderful harmony between these articles of furniture.
See how well the portrait matches your own. It is certainly the portrait of the man who should be your husband."’
The lady was sensible and kind.
She was not angry, and laughed heartily, and as he was an intelligent man, distingue,
a very good fellow, with a suitable fortune, he was accepted.
He married the widow and did not leave the rooms.
He never left them until last year at the death of his wife whom he adored, and whom he rendered happy till the last moment.
Decamps remained their friend, and both, whenever they saw him, thanked him for having made the marriage of their furniture.