"They ring. A maidservant opens the door, they hand her the
letter, and assure the maid that they're both so in love that
they'll die on the spot at the door. The maid, stupefied,
carries in their messages. All at once a gentleman appears with
whiskers like sausages, as red as a lobster, announces that there
is no one living in the flat except his wife, and sends them both
about their business."
"How do you know he had whiskers like sausages, as you say?"
"Ah, you shall hear. I've just been to make peace between them."
"Well, and what then?"
"That's the most interesting part of the story. It appears that
it's a happy couple, a government clerk and his lady. The
government clerk lodges a complaint, and I became a mediator, and
such a mediator!... I assure you Talleyrand couldn't hold a
candle to me."
"Why, where was the difficulty?"
"Ah, you shall hear.... We apologize in due form: we are in
despair, we entreat forgiveness for the unfortunate
misunderstanding. The government clerk with the sausages begins
to melt, but he, too, desires to express his sentiments, and as
soon as ever he begins to express them, he begins to get hot and
say nasty things, and again I'm obliged to trot out all my
diplomatic talents. I allowed that their conduct was bad, but I
urged him to take into consideration their heedlessness, their
youth; then, too, the young men had only just been lunching
together. 'You understand. They regret it deeply, and beg you
to overlook their misbehavior.' The government clerk was
softened once more. 'I consent, count, and am ready to overlook
it; but you perceive that my wife--my wife's a respectable woman
--his been exposed to the persecution, and insults, and
effrontery of young upstarts, scoundrels....' And you must
understand, the young upstarts are present all the while, and I
have to keep the peace between them. Again I call out all my
diplomacy, and again as soon as the thing was about at an end,
our friend the government clerk gets hot and red, and his
sausages stand on end with wrath, and once more I launch out into