The Patron by Guy de Maupassant
We never dreamed of such good fortune! The son of a provincial bailiff,
Jean Marin had come, as do so many others, to study law in the Quartier
Latin. In the various beer-houses that he had frequented he had made
friends with several talkative students who spouted politics as they
drank their beer. He had a great admiration for them and followed them
persistently from cafe to cafe, even paying for their drinks when he had
He became a lawyer and pleaded causes, which he lost. However, one
morning he read in the papers that one of his former comrades of the
Quartier had just been appointed deputy.
He again became his faithful hound, the friend who does the drudgery, the
unpleasant tasks, for whom one sends when one has need of him and with
whom one does not stand on ceremony. But it chanced through some
parliamentary incident that the deputy became a minister. Six months
later Jean Marin was appointed a state councillor.
He was so elated with pride at first that he lost his head. He would walk
through the streets just to show himself off, as though one could tell by
his appearance what position he occupied. He managed to say to the
shopkeepers as soon as he entered a store, bringing it in somehow in the
course of the most insignificant remarks and even to the news vendors and
"I, who am a state councillor—"
Then, in consequence of his position as well as for professional reasons
and as in duty bound through being an influential and generous man, he
felt an imperious need of patronizing others. He offered his support to
every one on all occasions and with unbounded generosity.
When he met any one he recognized on the boulevards he would advance to
meet them with a charmed air, would take their hand, inquire after their
health, and, without waiting for any questions, remark:
"You know I am state councillor, and I am entirely at your service. If I
can be of any use to you, do not hesitate to call on me. In my position
one has great influence."
Then he would go into some cafe with the friend he had just met and ask
for a pen and ink and a sheet of paper. "Just one, waiter; it is to write
a letter of recommendation."
And he wrote ten, twenty, fifty letters of recommendation a day. He wrote
them to the Cafe Americain, to Bignon's, to Tortoni's, to the Maison
Doree, to the Cafe Riche, to the Helder, to the Cafe Anglais, to the
Napolitain, everywhere, everywhere. He wrote them to all the officials of
the republican government, from the magistrates to the ministers. And he
was happy, perfectly happy.
One morning as he was starting out to go to the council it began to rain.
He hesitated about taking a cab, but decided not to do so and set out on
The rain came down in torrents, swamping the sidewalks and inundating the
streets. M. Marin was obliged to take shelter in a doorway. An old priest
was standing there—an old priest with white hair. Before he became
a councillor M. Marin did not like the clergy. Now he treated them with
consideration, ever since a cardinal had consulted him on an important
matter. The rain continued to pour down in floods and obliged the two men
to take shelter in the porter's lodge so as to avoid getting wet. M.
Marin, who was always itching to talk so as to let people know who he
"This is horrible weather, Monsieur l'Abbe."
The old priest bowed:
"Yes indeed, sir, it is very unpleasant when one comes to Paris for only
a few days."
"Ah! You come from the provinces?"
"Yes, monsieur. I am only passing through on my journey."
"It certainly is very disagreeable to have rain during the few days one
spends in the capital. We officials who stay here the year round, we
think nothing of it."
The priest did not reply. He was looking at the street where the rain
seemed to be falling less heavily. And with a sudden resolve he raised
his cassock just as women raise their skirts in stepping across water.
M. Marin, seeing him start away, exclaimed:
"You will get drenched, Monsieur l'Abbe. Wait a few moments longer; the
rain will be over."
The good man stopped irresistibly and then said:
"But I am in a great hurry. I have an important engagement."
M. Marin seemed quite worried.
"But you will be absolutely drenched. Might I ask in which direction you
The priest appeared to hesitate. Then he said:
"I am going in the direction of the Palais Royal."
"In that case, if you will allow me, Monsieur l'Abbe, I will offer you
the shelter of my umbrella: As for me, I am going to the council. I am a
councillor of state."
The old priest raised his head and looked at his neighbor and then
"I thank you, monsieur. I shall be glad to accept your offer."
M. Marin then took his arm and led him away. He directed him, watched
over him and advised him.
"Be careful of that stream, Monsieur l'Abbe. And be very careful about
the carriage wheels; they spatter you with mud sometimes from head to
foot. Look out for the umbrellas of the people passing by; there is
nothing more dangerous to the eyes than the tips of the ribs. Women
especially are unbearable; they pay no heed to where they are going and
always jab you in the face with the point of their parasols or umbrellas.
And they never move aside for anybody. One would suppose the town
belonged to them. They monopolize the pavement and the street. It is my
opinion that their education has been greatly neglected."
And M. Marin laughed.
The priest did not reply. He walked along, slightly bent over, picking
his steps carefully so as not to get mud on his boots or his cassock.
M. Marin resumed:
"I suppose you have come to Paris to divert your mind a little?"
The good man replied:
"No, I have some business to attend to."
"Ali! Is it important business? Might I venture to ask what it is? If I
can be of any service to you, you may command me."
The priest seemed embarrassed. He murmured:
"Oh, it is a little personal matter; a little difficulty with—with
my bishop. It would not interest you. It is a matter of internal
regulation—an ecclesiastical affair."
M. Marin was eager.
"But it is precisely the state council that regulates all those things.
In that case, make use of me."
"Yes, monsieur, it is to the council that I am going. You are a thousand
times too kind. I have to see M. Lerepere and M. Savon and also perhaps
M. Marin stopped short.
"Why, those are my friends, Monsieur l'Abbe, my best friends, excellent
colleagues, charming men. I will speak to them about you, and very
highly. Count upon me."
The cure thanked him, apologizing for troubling him, and stammered out a
thousand grateful promises.
M. Marin was enchanted.
"Ah, you may be proud of having made a stroke of luck, Monsieur l'Abbe.
You will see—you will see that, thanks to me, your affair will go
They reached the council hall. M. Marin took the priest into his office,
offered him a chair in front of the fire and sat down himself at his desk
and began to write.
"My dear colleague, allow me to recommend to you most highly a venerable
and particularly worthy and deserving priest, M. L'Abbe——"
He stopped and asked:
"Your name, if you please?"
"M. l'Abbe Ceinture, who needs your good office in a little matter which
he will communicate to you.
"I am pleased at this incident which gives me an opportunity, my dear
And he finished with the usual compliments.
When he had written the three letters he handed them to his protege, who
took his departure with many protestations of gratitude.
M. Marin attended to some business and then went home, passed the day
quietly, slept well, woke in a good humor and sent for his newspapers.
The first he opened was a radical sheet. He read:
"OUR CLERGY AND OUR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
"We shall never make an end of enumerating the misdeeds of the clergy. A
certain priest, named Ceinture, convicted of conspiracy against the
present government, accused of base actions to which we will not even
allude, suspected besides of being a former Jesuit, metamorphosed into a
simple priest, suspended by a bishop for causes that are said to be
unmentionable and summoned to Paris to give an explanation of his
conduct, has found an ardent defender in the man named Marin, a
councillor of state, who was not afraid to give this frocked malefactor
the warmest letters of recommendation to all the republican officials,
"We call the, attention of the ministry to the unheard of attitude of
this councillor of state——"
M. Marin bounded out of bed, dressed himself and hastened to his
colleague, Petitpas, who said to him:
"How now? You were crazy to recommend to me that old conspirator!"
M. Marin, bewildered, stammered out:
"Why no—you see—I was deceived. He looked such an honest man.
He played me a trick—a disgraceful trick! I beg that you will
sentence him severely, very severely. I am going to write. Tell me to
whom I should write about having him punished. I will go and see the
attorney-general and the archbishop of Paris—yes, the archbishop."
And seating himself abruptly at M. Petitpas' desk, he wrote:
"Monseigneur, I have the honor to bring to your grace's notice the fact
that I have recently been made a victim of the intrigues and lies of a
certain Abbe Ceinture, who imposed on my kind-heartedness.
"Deceived by the representations of this ecclesiastic, I was
Then, having signed and sealed his letter, he turned to his colleague and
"See here; my dear friend, let this be a warning to you never to
recommend any one again."