A CENTENARIAN ASPIRANT
He had taken prizes in his boyhood at the College of Moulins, where he
was born, and he had been crowned by the hand of the Duc de Nivernais,
whom he called the Duc de Nevers. Neither the Convention, nor the
death of Louis XVI., nor the Napoleon, nor the return of the Bourbons,
nor anything else had been able to efface the memory of this crowning.
The Duc de Nevers was, in his eyes, the great figure of the century.
"What a charming grand seigneur," he said, "and what a fine air he
had with his blue ribbon!"
In the eyes of M. Gillenormand, Catherine the Second had made reparation
for the crime of the partition of Poland by purchasing, for three
thousand roubles, the secret of the elixir of gold, from Bestucheff.
He grew animated on this subject: "The elixir of gold," he exclaimed,
"the yellow dye of Bestucheff, General Lamotte's drops, in the
eighteenth century,--this was the great remedy for the catastrophes
of love, the panacea against Venus, at one louis the half-ounce phial.
Louis XV. sent two hundred phials of it to the Pope." He would have
been greatly irritated and thrown off his balance, had any one told
him that the elixir of gold is nothing but the perchloride of iron.
M. Gillenormand adored the Bourbons, and had a horror of 1789;
he was forever narrating in what manner he had saved himself during
the Terror, and how he had been obliged to display a vast deal of
gayety and cleverness in order to escape having his head cut off.
If any young man ventured to pronounce an eulogium on the Republic
in his presence, he turned purple and grew so angry that he was on
the point of swooning. He sometimes alluded to his ninety years,
and said, "I hope that I shall not see ninety-three twice."
On these occasions, he hinted to people that he meant to live to be