Honore de Balzac: The Country Doctor


As Benassis finished his story, he was struck by the troubled expression of the officer's face. It touched him to have been so well understood. He was almost ready to reproach himself for having distressed his visitor. He spoke:

"But these troubles of mine, Captain Bluteau----"

"Do not call me Captain Bluteau," cried Genestas, breaking in upon the doctor, and springing to his feet with sudden energy, a change of position that seemed to be prompted by inward dissatisfaction of some kind. "There is no such person as Captain Bluteau. . . . I am a scoundrel!"

With no little astonishment, Benassis beheld Genestas pacing to and fro in the salon, like a bumble-bee in quest of an exit from the room which he has incautiously entered.

"Then who are you, sir?" inquired Benassis.

"Ah! there now!" the officer answered, as he turned and took his stand before the doctor, though he lacked courage to look at his friend. "I have deceived you!" he went on (and there was a change in his voice). "I have acted a lie for the first time in my life, and I am well punished for it; for after this I cannot explain why I came here to play the spy upon you, confound it! Ever since I have had a glimpse of your soul, so to speak, I would far sooner have taken a box on the ear whenever I heard you call me Captain Bluteau! Perhaps you may forgive me for this subterfuge, but I shall never forgive myself; I, Pierre Joseph Genestas, who would not lie to save my life before a court- martial!"

"Are you Commandant Genestas?" cried Benassis, rising to his feet. He grasped the officer's hand warmly, and added: "As you said but a short time ago, sir, we were friends before we knew each other. I have been very anxious to make your acquaintance, for I have often heard M. Gravier speak of you. He used to call you, 'one of Plutarch's men.' "

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