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Title: Luxury-Gluttony: - two of the seven cardinal sins
Author: Sue, Eugène, 1804-1857
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE SEVEN CARDINAL SINS

LUXURY

[Illustration: "'_There he is._'"

Original etching by Adrian Marcel.]

Luxury--Gluttony. Two of the Seven
Cardinal Sins. _ILLUSTRATED WITH
ETCHINGS BY ADRIAN MARCEL.

BY EUGENE SUE

BOSTON
FRANCIS A. NICCOLLS & CO.
PUBLISHERS_

Edition de Luxe

_This edition is limited to one thousand copies, of which this is_

No. 505

_Copyright, 1899_
BY FRANCIS A. NICCOLLS & CO.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                          PAGE

"'THERE HE IS'"                  _Frontispiece_

"'MONSEIGNEUR, LISTEN TO ME'"              125

"'IT IS NO'"                               158

"'YOU SHALL NOT ESCAPE ME'"                242

"THE MOST DELICATE GAME WAS SUSPENDED"     324


Luxury and Gluttony



MADELEINE



LUXURY.



CHAPTER I.


The palace of the Élysée-Bourbon,--the old hôtel of the Marquise de
Pompadour,--situated in the middle of the Faubourg St. Honoré, was,
previous to the last revolution, furnished, as every one knows, for the
occupancy of foreign royal highnesses,--Roman Catholic, Protestant, or
Mussulman, from the princes of the German confederation to Ibrahim
Pacha.

About the end of the month of July, in a year long past, at eleven
o'clock in the morning, several young secretaries and gentlemen
belonging to the retinue of his Royal Highness, the Archduke Leopold
Maximilian, who had occupied the Élysée for six weeks, met in one of the
official parlours of the palace.

"The review on the Field of Mars in honour of his Royal Highness is
prolonged," remarked one of the company. "The audience of the prince
will be crowded this morning."

"The fact is," replied another, "five or six persons have already been
waiting a half-hour, and monseigneur, in his rigorous military
punctuality, will regret this enforced delay."

Then one of the doors opened; a young man not more than twenty years old
at most, a guest of the house, crossed the parlour, and entered an
adjoining chamber, after having saluted, with mingled kindness and
embarrassment, the speakers, who rose upon seeing him, thus testifying a
deference which seemed unwarranted by his age and position.

When he had disappeared, one of the gentlemen, alluding to him, said:

"Poor Count Frantz, always so timid! A young girl of fifteen, just out
of the convent, would have more assurance! To look at him, who would
believe him capable of such rare bravery, and that, too, for three years
in the Caucasus war? And that he came so valiantly and brilliantly out
of that duel forced on him in Vienna? I, gentlemen, picture to myself
Count Frantz modestly dropping his eyes as he gave the Circassians a
thrust of his sword."

"Besides, I believe that his Royal Highness makes a decided convenience
of the ingenuousness of his son--"

"The devil! No indiscretion, dear sir!"

"Let me finish, please. I say that monseigneur makes a convenience of
the unconquerable ingenuousness of his godson."

"Well and good. And I think with you that the prince does not see this
handsome boy exposed to the temptations of wicked Paris, without some
anxiety. But what are you smiling at, my dear sir?"

"Nothing."

"Do you think that Count Frantz has had some love affair, in spite of
his apparent innocence?"

"You can see after a little, gentlemen, all the fine things a smile may
mean, for I call you to witness I am satisfied with smiling."

"Seriously, my dear sir, what do you think of Count Frantz?"

"I think nothing, I say nothing, I shall be as mute as a diplomatist
whose interest it is to keep silent, or as a young officer of the noble
guards when he passes, for the first time, under the inspection of
monseigneur."

"The truth is, the prince has a glance which intimidates the boldest.
But to return to Count Frantz."

This conversation was interrupted by a number of persons who entered the
official chamber.

The newcomers banished the thought of Count Frantz, and two or three
voices asked at once:

"Well, what about your sightseeing? Is this famous manufactory in the
Faubourg St. Marceau worth the trouble of a visit?"

"For my part, gentlemen, I am always very curious about the construction
of machinery," replied one who had just entered. "The whole morning has
been interesting, and I declare M. Charles Dutertre, the proprietor of
this factory, one of the most accomplished and intelligent machinists
that I know, besides being a most agreeable man; I intend to persuade
monseigneur to visit his workshops."

"Well and good, my dear sir; we will not accuse you of wasting your time
in frivolities, but I have not such high pretensions, and my pretension
is only in a state of hope."

"And what hope?"

"To be invited to dine with the celebrated Doctor Gasterini."

"The most illustrious, the most profound gourmand of Europe."

"They say, really, that his table is an ideal of the paradise of
gourmands."

"I do not know, alas! if this paradise will be as open to me as the
other, but I hope so."

"I confess my weakness. Of all that I have seen in Paris, what has most
charmed me, fascinated me, dazzled me, I will even say instructed--"

"Well, is what?"

"It is--our proud and modest Germany will blush at the blasphemy--it
is--"

"Do finish!"

"It is the Mabille ball!"

The laughter and the exclamations provoked by this frank avowal lasted
until one of the secretaries of the archduke entered, holding two
letters in his hand, and saying, gaily:

"Gentlemen, fresh news from Bologna and Venice!"

"Bravo, my dear Ulrik, what news?"

"The most curious, the most extraordinary in the world!"

"Really?"

"Quick, tell us, dear Ulrik."

"In the first place, Bologna, and Venice afterward, have been for
several days in a state of incredible agitation, for reason of a series
of events not less incredible."

"A revolution?"

"A movement of young Italy?"

"Perhaps a new mandate from the papal defender?"

"No, gentleman, it concerns a woman."

"A woman?"

"Yes, if it is not the devil, which I am inclined to believe."

"Ulrik, you are putting us to entreaty, do explain."

"Do you remember, gentlemen, last year, having heard in Germany that
young Mexican widow, the Marquise de Miranda, spoken of?"

"Zounds! the one whom our poet, Moser-Hartmann, wrote of in such
magnificent and passionate verse, under the name of the modern
Aphrodite."

"Ah, ah, ah, what a charming mistake!" said one of the inquirers,
roaring with laughter. "Moser-Hartmann, the religious and soulful poet,
the chaste poet, pure and cold as the immaculate snow, sings Aphrodite,
in burning verses. I have heard those admirable verses repeated, but,
evidently, they are the production of another Hartmann."

"And I assure you, my dear sir, and Ulrik will confirm it, that this
poem, which they say rightfully ranks with the most beautiful odes of
Sappho, is truly the work of Moser-Hartmann."

"Nothing more true," replied Ulrik. "I heard Moser-Hartmann recite the
verses himself,--they are worthy of antiquity."

"Then I believe you, but how do you explain this sudden incomprehensible
transformation?"

"Ah, my God! This transformation which has changed a cold, correct man,
but a man of estimable talent, indeed, a man of genius, full of fire and
power, whose name is renowned through Europe--this transformation has
been wrought by the woman whom the poet has praised, by the Marquise de
Miranda."

"Moser-Hartmann so changed? I would have thought the thing impossible!"

"Bah!" replied Ulrik, "the marquise has done several things, and here is
one of her best tricks, written to me from Bologna. There was there a
cardinal legate of the Pope, the terror and aversion of the country."

"His name is Orsini, a man as detestable as he is detested."

"And his exterior reveals his nature. I saw him in Lombardy. What a
cadaverous, sinister face! He always seemed to me the very type of an
inquisitor."

"Well, the marquise took him to a ball at the Casino in Bologna,
disguised as a Hungarian hussar!"

"The cardinal legate as a Hungarian hussar!" cried the company, in one
voice.

"Come, Ulrik, you are telling an idle tale."

"You can read this letter, and when you see who signs it you will doubt
no longer, skeptical as you are," replied Ulrik. "Yes, the marquise made
Orsini accompany her so disguised; then, in the midst of the dance, she
tore his mask from his face and said, in a loud voice: 'Good evening,
Cardinal Orsini,' and, laughing like a crazy woman, she disappeared,
leaving the legate exposed to the hoots and hisses of the exasperated
crowd. He would have run some danger if his escort had not protected
him. The next day Bologna was in a stir, demanding the dismissal of
Orsini, who, after two days of excitement, was forced to leave the city
by night. In the evening every house was illuminated for joy, and my
correspondent says the monogram of the marquise was seen on many
transparencies."

"And what became of her?"

"She was not seen again, she left for Venice," replied Ulrik, showing a
second letter, "and there, they write me, another thing has happened."

"What a woman! What a woman!"

"What sort of a woman is she?"

"Have you seen her?"

"No."

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

"They say she is very tall and very slender."

"They told me she was above the ordinary height."

"One thing is sure, she is a brunette, because Moser-Hartmann praises
her black eyes and black eyebrows."

"All I can say is," replied Ulrik, "that in this letter from Venice,
which place the marquise has recently left for France, as I am informed,
she is poetically called the 'blonde star,' so I think she must be a
blonde."

"But what has she done in Venice? What has happened there?"

"My faith!" exclaimed Ulrik, "it is an adventure which smacks of the
manners of pagan antiquity and the middle ages of Italy at the same
time."

Unfortunately for the curiosity of Ulrik's auditors, the sudden beating
of a drum outside announced the return of the Archduke Leopold, and each
person in the house of the prince at once went to his post, ready to
receive the Royal Highness.

In fact, the sentinel of the Élysée, descrying the approach of several
carriages in the livery of the King of the French, had called "To
arms!" The soldiers on guard with their commanding officer were
immediately in line, and at the moment the carriages entered
successively the immense court of the Élysée, the drums beat and the
troops presented arms.

The first of the carriages stopped before the palace; the footmen in
bright red livery opened the door, and his Royal Highness, the Archduke
Maximilian Leopold, slowly ascended the steps, conversing with a
colonel, officer of ordinance, whose office it was to accompany him; a
few steps behind the prince came his aids-de-camp, dressed in brilliant
foreign uniforms, and took their places in order at the foot of the
steps by the royal carriages. The archduke, thirty-nine years old, was
robust, yet slenderly proportioned. He wore with military severity the
full-dress uniform of the field-marshal, white coat, with epaulettes of
gold; scarlet casimir breeches over which reached the shining black of
his high riding-boots, a little dusty, as he had assisted in the review
appointed in his honour. The great cordon red, the collar of the fleece
of gold, and five or six medallions of different orders ornamented his
breast; his hair was pale blond, as was his long moustache turned up in
military style, which gave a still more severe expression to his
features, and strongly augmented the breadth of his chin and the
prominent angle of his nose; his eye, cold and penetrating, half-covered
by the eyelid, was set under a very heavy eyebrow, which gave him the
air of always looking very high. This severe and disdainful glance,
united to an imperious manner and an inflexible carriage of the head,
gave to the whole personal bearing of the archduke a remarkable
character of arrogant, icy authority.

About a quarter of an hour after the prince had returned to the Élysée,
the carriage of a French minister, and that of an ambassador from a
great power in the North, stopped successively before the entrance, and
the statesman and the diplomatist entered the palace.

Almost at the same moment, one of the principal persons of this story
arrived on foot in the court of the Élysée-Bourbon.

M. Pascal, for such was our hero's name, appeared to be about thirty-six
years old. He was of middle stature, very dark, and wore quite a long
beard, as rough and black as his eyebrows, beneath which glittered two
little very piercing gray eyes. As he had the habit of holding his head
down, and his two hands in the pockets of his trousers, the attitude
served to increase the roundness of his broad shoulders. His features
were especially remarkable for their expression of sarcastic sternness,
to which was joined that air of inexorable assurance peculiar to people
who are convinced of their power and are vain of it. A narrow black
cravat, tied, as they say, à la Colin, a long waistcoat of Scotch cloth,
a light greatcoat, whitish in colour, a gray hat well worn, and wide
nankin trousers, in the pockets of which M. Pascal kept his hands, made
up his costume of doubtful cleanliness, and perfectly in harmony with
the extreme heat of the season and the habitual carelessness of the
wearer.

When M. Pascal passed before the porter's lodge, he was challenged by
that functionary, who from the depth of his armchair called:

"Eh!--speak, sir, where are you going?"

Either M. Pascal did not hear the porter, or he did not wish to give
himself the trouble to reply, as he continued to walk toward the
entrance of the palace without saying a word.

The porter, forced to rise from his armchair, ran after the mute
visitor, and said, impatiently:

"I ask again, sir, where are you going? You can reply, can you not?"

M. Pascal stopped, took a disdainful survey of his interlocutor,
shrugged his shoulders, and said, as he turned again toward the
entrance: "I am going--to see the archduke."

The porter knew the class with which he was accustomed to deal. He could
not imagine that this visitor, in a summer greatcoat and loose cravat,
really had an audience with the prince, or would dare to present himself
before his Highness in a costume so impertinently outside of the
regulation, for all persons who had the honour of being received at the
palace were usually attired in black; so taking M. Pascal for some
half-witted or badly informed tradesman, he followed him, calling in a
loud voice:

"But sir, tradespeople who come to see his Highness do not pass by the
grand staircase. Down there at the right you will see the door for
tradesmen and servants by which you ought to enter."

M. Pascal did not care to talk; he shrugged his shoulders again, and
continued his march toward the staircase without a word.

The porter, exasperated by this silence and this obstinacy, seized M.
Pascal by the arm, and, speaking louder still, said:

"Must I tell you again, sir, that you cannot pass that way?"

"What do you mean, scoundrel?" cried M. Pascal, in a tone of contempt
and anger, as if this outrage on the part of the porter was as insolent
as inconceivable, "do you know to whom you are talking?"

There was in these words an expression of authority so threatening, that
the poor porter, frightened for a moment, stammered:

"Monsieur,--I--do--not--know."

The great door of the vestibule was suddenly opened. One of the
aids-de-camp of the prince, having seen from the parlour window the
altercation between the visitor and the porter, hastily descended the
staircase, and, eagerly approaching M. Pascal, said to him in excellent
French, with a sympathetic tone:

"Ah, monsieur, his Royal Highness will, I am sure, be much grieved by
this misunderstanding. Do me the honour to follow me; I will introduce
you at once. I have just received orders from monseigneur concerning
you, sir."

M. Pascal bowed his head in assent, and followed the aid-de-camp,
leaving the porter amazed and afflicted by his own want of address.

When M. Pascal and his guide arrived in the chamber of waiting, where
other officials were congregated, the young officer said:

"The audience of his Royal Highness is crowded this morning, because the
review detained monseigneur much longer than he expected, so, desiring
to make you wait as short a time as possible, he has ordered me to
conduct you, upon your arrival, into a chamber adjoining his private
office, where his Royal Highness will meet you as soon as his conference
with the minister of foreign affairs is ended."

M. Pascal again made sign of assent, and, following the aid-de-camp,
crossed a dark passage, and entered a chamber overlooking the
magnificent garden of the Élysée-Bourbon.

Before withdrawing, the aid-de-camp, not a little annoyed by the
unfortunate altercation between the porter and M. Pascal, remarked the
negligent attire of the latter. Habituated to the severe formalities of
etiquette, the young courtier was shocked at the unconventional dress of
the person he was about to introduce, and hesitated between the fear of
antagonising a man like Pascal and the desire to protest against the
unsuitability of his bearing as an insult to the dignity of a prince,
who was known to be inexorable in all that pertained to the respect due
his rank; but the first fear prevailed, and as it was too late to insist
upon a change of dress consistent with the requirements of court
etiquette, the young courtier said:

"As soon as the foreign minister withdraws from the presence of his
Royal Highness, I will inform him, sir, that you are at his orders."

These last words, "that you are at his orders," did not appear to sound
very well in the ears of M. Pascal. A sardonic smile played upon his
lips, but making himself at home, so to speak, and finding the
temperature of the room too warm, he opened one of the windows, placed
his elbows on the balustrade, and, keeping his hat on his head, occupied
himself with a survey of the garden.



CHAPTER II.


Everybody knows the garden of the Élysée, that charming little park,
planted with the most beautiful trees in the world, whose fresh green
turf is watered by a clear winding river; a terraced walk, shaded by
elms a century old, borders this park on the side of the avenue called
Marigny; a similar walk, parallel to it, bounds it on the opposite side,
and a very low wall separates it from the neighbouring gardens. This
last mentioned walk ended a short distance from the window where M.
Pascal was so comfortably seated, and soon his attention was keenly
awakened by several incidents.

The young man who had passed through the parlour, occupied by
secretaries and gentlemen, and who had, for reason of his timidity, been
the subject of several remarks, was slowly promenading the shaded walk.
He was of slender and graceful stature. Every few moments he stopped,
stooped down, and remained immovable a second, then continued his
promenade. When he reached the extremity of the walk, he approached,
almost by stealth, the wall bordering upon the adjacent garden, and, as
at this point the wall was hardly more than four feet high, he leaned
upon it, apparently absorbed in reflection or the expectation of meeting
another person.

So long as the promenader kept his back turned to M. Pascal, who now
began to feel very curious concerning him, his features of course could
not be distinguished; but when he turned, after having made some
desired discovery, and retraced his steps, he was face to face with his
observer at the window.

Count Frantz de Neuberg, as we have said, passed for the godson of the
archduke, by whom he was tenderly loved. According to the rumours of the
court, his Royal Highness, having had no children since his marriage
with the Princess of Saxe-Teschen, had abundant reason for exercising
paternal interest in Frantz de Neuberg, the secret fruit of a first
love.

Frantz, scarcely twenty years old at the time of this history, presented
the perfect type of the melancholy beauty of the North. His long blond
hair, parted in the middle of a brow as white and ingenuous as that of a
young girl, framed a face whose regularity was without a flaw. His large
blue eyes, soft and dreaming, seemed to reflect the purity of his soul,
and an incipient beard, shading his chin and upper lip with a silken,
golden down, accentuated the virility of his charming face.

As he came up the walk, Frantz more and more attracted the attention of
M. Pascal, who looked at him with a sort of admiring surprise, for it
would have been difficult not to observe the rare perfection of the
young man's features; but when at a short distance from the window he
encountered the fixed and persistent gaze of M. Pascal, he appeared not
less provoked than embarrassed, blushed, looked downward, and, turning
on his heel, abruptly, quickened his pace until he reached the middle of
the walk, where he began again his slow promenade, evidently constrained
by the thought that a stranger was watching his movements. He hardly
dared approach the boundary of the neighbouring garden, but suddenly,
forgetting all preoccupation, he ran toward the wall at the sight of a
little straw hat which appeared on the other side, and encased in its
frame lined with rose-coloured silk was the freshest, most entrancing
countenance of fifteen years that ever entered into a young man's
dream.

"Mlle. Antonine," said Frantz quickly, in a low voice, "some one is
looking at us."

"This evening," murmured a sweet voice, in reply.

And the little straw hat disappeared as by enchantment, as the young
girl jumped from a bench she had mounted on the other side of the wall.
But as compensation, no doubt, for this abrupt retreat, a beautiful rose
fell at the feet of Frantz, who picked it up and passionately pressed it
to his lips, then, hiding the flower in his waistcoat, the young man
disappeared in a thicket instead of continuing his promenade in the long
walk. Notwithstanding the rapidity with which these incidents
transpired, and the instantaneous disappearance of the little straw hat,
M. Pascal had seen distinctly the exquisite loveliness of the young
girl's face, and Frantz also, as he kissed the rose which fell at his
feet.

The hard and saturnine features of M. Pascal took on a strange and
gloomy expression, where one could read violent anger mingled with
jealousy, pain, and hatred. For some moments, his physiognomy, almost
terrifying in its malevolence, betrayed the man, who, accustomed to see
all bend before him, is capable of sentiments and actions of diabolical
wickedness when an unforeseen obstacle contradicts his iron will.

"She! she! here in this garden near the Élysée!" exclaimed he, with
concentrated rage. "What is she doing there? Triple fool that I am! she
comes here to coquet with this puny, blond youth. Perhaps she lives in
the next hôtel. Misery! misery! to find out the place where she dwells
after having done everything in vain to discover it since this damned
pretty face of fifteen struck my eyes, and made me a fool,--I, who
believed myself dead to these sudden and frantic caprices, compared to
which what are called violent passions of the heart are ice. I have met
this little girl three times, and feel myself, as in my young days,
capable of anything in order to possess her. How jealousy irritates and
devours me this moment! Misery! it is stupid, it is silly, but oh, how I
suffer!"

As he uttered these words, M. Pascal's face expressed malicious and
ferocious grief; then shaking his fist at the side of the wall where the
little straw hat had disappeared, he muttered, in a voice of
concentrated rage:

"You shall pay for it. Go, little girl, and whatever it may cost me, you
shall belong to me."

And sitting with his elbows on the balustrade, unable to detach his
angry glances from the spot where he had seen Frantz speak to the young
girl, M. Pascal presented a picture of fury and despair, when one of the
doors of the parlour softly opened, and the archduke entered.

The prince, evidently, felt so sure that he would meet his expected
visitor face to face, that, beforehand, instead of his usual cold
arrogance, he had assumed a most agreeable expression, entering the room
with a smile upon his lips.

But M. Pascal, leaning half way out of the window, had not heard the
door open, and, never suspecting the presence of the prince, he remained
seated, his back to the Royal Highness, and his elbows on the sill of
the window.

A physiognomist witnessing this silent scene would have found in it a
curious study of the reaction of feeling in the countenance of the
prince.

At the sight of M. Pascal leaning out of the window, wearing a summer
greatcoat, and violating all propriety by keeping his hat on his head,
the archduke stopped short; his assumed smile vanished from his lips,
and, taking a prouder attitude than ordinary, he stiffened himself in
his handsome uniform, turned purple with anger, knit his eyebrows, while
his eyes flashed with indignation. But soon reflection, doubtless,
appeasing this inner storm, the features of the prince took on an
expression of resignation as bitter as it was sad, and he bowed his
head, as if he submitted to a fatal necessity.

Stifling a sigh of offended pride as he threw a glance of vindictive
contempt on Pascal at the window, the prince again assumed, as we have
said, his smile of affability, and walked toward the casement, coughing
loud enough to announce his presence, and spare himself the last
humiliation of touching the shoulder of our familiar visitor in order to
attract his attention.

At the sonorous "hum-hum!" of his Royal Highness, M. Pascal turned
around suddenly. The gloomy expression of his face was succeeded by a
sort of cruel and malicious satisfaction, as if the occasion had
furnished a victim upon whom he could vent his suppressed wrath.

M. Pascal approached the prince, saluted him in a free and easy manner,
and holding his hat in one hand, while the other was plunged deep in his
pocket, he said:

"A thousand pardons, monseigneur, really I did not know you were there."

"I am persuaded of that, M. Pascal," replied the prince, with
ill-disguised haughtiness.

Then he added:

"Please follow me into my study, sir. I have some official news to
communicate to you."

And he walked toward his study, when M. Pascal, with apparent calmness,
for this man had a wonderful control over himself when it was necessary,
said:

"Monseigneur, will you permit me one question?"

"Speak, sir," replied the prince, stopping and turning to his visitor,
with surprise.

"Monseigneur, who is that young man of twenty at the most, with long
blond hair, who promenades in the walk which can be seen from this
window? Who is he, monseigneur?"

"You mean, no doubt, monsieur, my godson, Count Frantz de Neuberg."

"Ah, this young man is your godson, monseigneur? I congratulate you
sincerely,--one could not see a prettier boy."

"Is he not?" replied the prince, sensible of this praise, even in the
mouth of Pascal. "Has he not a charming face?"

"That is what I have just been observing at my leisure, monseigneur."

"And Count Frantz has not only a charming face," added the prince; "he
has fine qualities of heart and great bravery."

"I am enchanted, monseigneur, to know that you have such an accomplished
godson. Has he been in Paris long?"

"He arrived with me."

"And he will depart with you, monseigneur, for it must be painful for
you to be separated from this amiable young man?"

"Yes, monsieur, I hope to take Count Frantz with me back to Germany."

"A thousand pardons, monseigneur, for my indiscreet curiosity, but your
godson is one of those persons in whom one is interested in spite of
himself. Now, I am at your service."

"Then follow me, if you please, monsieur."

Pascal nodded his head in assent, and, walking side by side with the
archduke, he reached the door of the study with him, then, stopping with
a gesture of deference, which was only another impertinence, he bowed
slightly, and said to the prince, as if his Highness had hesitated to
enter first:

"After you, monseigneur, after you."

The prince understood the insolence, but swallowed it, and entered his
study, making a sign to Pascal to follow him.

The latter, although unaccustomed to the ceremonial of the court, had
too much penetration not to comprehend the import of his acts and words.
He had not only the consciousness of his insolence, instigated by his
recent and suppressed resentment, but this insolence he had actually
studied and calculated, and even in his interview had considered the
question of addressing his Royal Highness as monsieur, simply; but, by a
refinement of intelligent impertinence, he thought the ceremonious
appellation of monseigneur would render his familiarities still more
disagreeable to the dignity and good breeding of the prince.

Let us turn back to an analysis of the character of Pascal,--a character
less eccentric, perhaps, than it appears at first to be. Let us say,
simply, that for ten years of his life this man, born in a humble and
precarious position, had as a day-labourer and drudge submitted to the
most painful humiliations, the most insolent domination, and the most
outrageous contempt. Thus, bitter and implacable hatreds were massed
together in his soul, and the day when, in his turn, he became powerful,
he abandoned himself without scruple and without remorse to the fierce
joy of reprisal, and it gave him little concern if his revenge fell upon
an innocent head.

The archduke, instead of a superior mind, possessed a long, practical
acquaintance with men, acquired in the exercise of supreme authority in
the military hierarchy of his country; besides, in his second interview
with M. Pascal,--at which interview we have assisted,--he had understood
the significance of the studied insolence of this person, and when, as
he entered his study with him, he saw him, without invitation, seat
himself familiarly in the armchair just occupied by a prime minister,
whom he found full of courtesy and deference, the prince felt a new and
cruel oppression of the heart.

The penetrating glance of Pascal surprised the expression of this
feeling on the face of the archduke, and he said to himself, with
triumphant disdain: "Here is a prince born on the steps of a throne, a
cousin, at least, of all the kings of Europe, a generalissimo of an
army of a hundred thousand soldiers, here he is in all the glory of his
battle uniform, adorned with all the insignia of honour and war. This
highness, this man, despises me in his pride of a sovereign race. He
hates me because he has need of me, and knows well that he must
humiliate himself; nevertheless, this man, in spite of his contempt, in
spite of his hatred, I hold in my power, and I intend to make him feel
it keenly, for to-day my heart is steeped in gall."



CHAPTER III.


M. Pascal, having seated himself in the gilded armchair on the side of
the table opposite the prince, first seized a mother-of-pearl
paper-cutter that he found under his hand, and, whirling it incessantly,
said:

"Monseigneur, if it is agreeable to you, let us talk of business, for at
a certain hour I must be in the Faubourg St. Marceau, at the house of a
manufacturer, who is one of my friends."

"I wish to inform you, monsieur," replied the prince, restraining
himself with difficulty, "that I have already postponed until to-morrow
other audiences that should have taken place to-day, that I might devote
all my time to you."

"That is very kind of you, monseigneur, but let us come to the point."

The prince took up from the table a long sheet of official paper, and,
handing it to M. Pascal, said to him:

"This note will prove to you, monsieur, that all the parties interested
in the transfer that is proposed to me not only authorise me formally to
accept it, but willingly offer their pledges, and even protect all the
accidents of my acceptance."

M. Pascal, without moving from his armchair, extended his hand from one
side of the table to the other, to receive the note, and, taking it,
said:

"There was absolutely nothing to be done without this security."

And he began to read slowly, nibbling the while the mother-of-pearl
knife, which he did not surrender for a moment.

The prince fixed an anxious, penetrating glance on Pascal, trying to
divine, from the expression of his face, if his visitor had confidence
in the security offered.

At the end of a few moments, M. Pascal discontinued his reading, saying
between his teeth, with an offended air, as if he were talking to
himself:

"Ho! ho! This Article 7 does not suit me at all,--not at all!"

"Explain yourself, monsieur," said the prince, seriously annoyed.

"However," continued M. Pascal, taking up his reading again, without
replying to the archduke, and pretending to be talking to himself, "this
Article 7 is corrected by Article 8,--yes,--and, in fact, it is quite
good,--it is very good."

The countenance of the prince seemed to brighten, for, earnestly
occupied with the powerful interests of which M. Pascal had necessarily
become the umpire, he forgot the impertinence and calculated wickedness
of this man, who found a savage delight in making his victim pass
through all the perplexities of fear and hope.

At the end of a few moments, each one of which brought new anxiety to
the prince, M. Pascal exclaimed:

"Impossible, that! impossible! For me everything would be annulled by
this first supplementary article. It is a mockery!"

"Monsieur," cried the prince, "speak more clearly!"

"Pardon me, monseigneur, at that moment I was reading to myself. Well
and good, if you wish, I will read for both of us."

The archduke bowed his head, turned red with suppressed indignation,
appeared discouraged, and leaned his head on his hand.

M. Pascal, continuing his perusal of the paper, threw a glance by
stealth at the prince, and replied after a few moments, in a more
satisfied tone:

"This is a sure, incontestable security."

Then, as the prince seemed to regain hope, he added:

"Unfortunately, this security is apart from--"

He did not finish, but continued his reading in silence.

Never a solicitor in distress imploring a haughty and unfeeling
protector, never a despairing borrower humbly addressing a dishonest and
whimsical usurer, never accused seeking to read his pardon or
condemnation in the countenance of his judge, experienced the torture
felt by the prince while M. Pascal was reading the note which he had
examined and which he now laid on the table.

"Well, monsieur," said the prince, swallowing his impatience, "what do
you decide?"

"Monseigneur, will you have the kindness to lend me a pen and some
paper?"

The prince pushed an inkstand, a pen, and some paper before M. Pascal,
who began a long series of figures, sometimes lifting his eyes to the
ceiling, as if to make a calculation in his head, sometimes muttering
incomplete sentences, such as--

"No--I am mistaken because--but I was about to forget--it is
evident--the balance will be equal if--"

After long expectation on the part of the prince, M. Pascal threw the
pen down on the table, plunged both hands in the pockets of his
trousers, threw his head back, and shut his eyes, as if making a last
mental calculation, then, holding his head up, said in a short,
peremptory voice:

"Impossible, monseigneur."

"What, monsieur!" cried the prince, dismayed. "You assured me in our
first interview that the operation was practicable."

"Practicable, monseigneur, but not accomplished."

"But this note, monsieur, this note, joined to the securities I have
offered you?"

"This note completes, I know, the securities indispensable to such an
operation."

"Then, monsieur, how do you account for your refusal?"

"For particular reasons, monseigneur."

"But, I ask again, do I not offer all the security desirable?"

"Yes, monseigneur, I will say that I regard the operation not only
feasible, but sure and advantageous to one who is willing to undertake
it; so, I do not doubt, monseigneur, you can find--"

"Eh! monsieur," interrupted the prince, "you know that in the present
financial crisis, and for other reasons which you understand as well as
I, that you are the only person who can undertake this business."

"The preference of your Royal Highness honours and flatters me
infinitely," said Pascal, with an accent of ironical recognition, "so I
doubly regret my inability to meet it."

The prince perceived the sarcasm, and replied, feigning offence at the
want of appreciation his kindness had met:

"You are unjust, monsieur. The proof that I adhered to my agreement with
you in this affair is that I have refused to entertain the proposition
of the house Durand."

"I am almost certain that it is a lie," thought M. Pascal, "but no
matter, I will get information about the thing; besides, this house
sometimes disturbs and cramps me. Fortunately, thanks to that knave,
Marcelange, I have an excellent means of protecting myself from that
inconvenience in the future."

"Another proof that I adhered directly to my personal agreement with
you, M. Pascal," continued the prince, in a deferential tone, "is that I
have desired no agent to come between us, certain that we would
understand each other as the matter should be understood. Yes," added
the archduke, with a still more insinuating tone, "I hoped that this
just homage rendered to your financial intelligence, so universally
recognised--"

"Ah, monseigneur."

"To your character as honourable as it is honoured--"

"Monseigneur, really, you overwhelm me."

"I hoped, I repeat, my dear M. Pascal, that in coming frankly to you to
propose--what?--an operation whose solidity and advantage you recognise,
you would appreciate my attitude, since it appeals to the financier as
much as to the private citizen. In short, I hoped to assure you, not
only by pecuniary advantage, but by especial testimony, of my esteem and
gratitude."

"Monseigneur--"

"I repeat it, my dear M. Pascal, of my gratitude, since, in making a
successful speculation, you would render me an immense service, for you
cannot know what the results of this loan I solicit from you would be to
my dearest family interests."

"Monseigneur, I am ignorant of--"

"And when I speak to you of family interests," said the prince,
interrupting M. Pascal, whom he hoped to bring back to his views, "when
I speak of family interests, it is not enough; an important question of
state also attaches to the transfer of the duchy that is offered me, and
which I can acquire only through your powerful financial aid. So, in
rendering me a personal service, you would be greatly useful to my
nation, and you know, my dear M. Pascal, how great empires requite
services done to the state."

"Excuse my ignorance, monseigneur, but I am altogether ignorant of the
whole thing."

The prince smiled, remained silent a moment, and replied, with an accent
he believed irresistible:

"My dear M. Pascal, are you acquainted with the celebrated banker,
Tortolia?"

"I know him by name, monseigneur."

"Do you know that he is a prince of the Holy Empire?"

"Prince of the Holy Empire, monseigneur!" replied Pascal, with
amazement.

"I have my man," thought the prince, and he replied aloud: "Do you know
that the banker, Tortolia, is a great dignitary in one of the most
coveted orders?"

"It would be possible, monseigneur."

"It is not only possible, but it is an actual fact, my dear M. Pascal.
Now, I do not see why what has been done for M. Tortolia cannot be done
for you."

"Could that be, monseigneur?"

"I say," repeated the prince, with emphasis, "I say I do not see why an
illustrious title and high dignities should not recompense you also."

"Me, monseigneur?"

"You."

"Me, monseigneur, I become Prince Pascal?"

"Why not?"

"Come, come, monseigneur is laughing at his poor servant."

"No one has ever doubted my promise, monsieur, and it is almost an
offence to me to believe me capable of laughing at you."

"Then, monseigneur, I would laugh at myself, very heartily and very
long, if I were stupid enough to desire to pose as a prince, or duke, or
marquis, in Europe's carnival of nobility! You see, monseigneur, I am
only a poor devil of a plebeian,--my father was a peddler, and I have
been a day-labourer. I have laid up a few cents, in attending to my
small affairs. I have only my common sense, but this good common sense,
monseigneur, will always prevent my decking myself out as the Marquis de
la Janotière--that is a very pretty story by Voltaire, you ought to read
it, monseigneur!--or making myself the laughing-stock of those malicious
people who amuse themselves by creating marquises and princes out of
poor folk."

The archduke was far from expecting this refusal and this bitter retort;
however, he put a good face on it, and replied, significantly:

"M. Pascal, I admire this rough sincerity; I admire this
disinterestedness. Thank God, there are other means of proving to you my
gratitude, and, one day, my friendship."

"Your friendship, monseigneur?"

"It is because I know its worth," added the prince, with imposing
dignity, "that I assure you of my friendship, if--"

"Your friendship for me, monseigneur," replied Pascal, interrupting the
prince, "your friendship for me, who have, as the wicked ones say,
increased my little possessions a hundredfold by dangerous methods,
although I have come out of these calumniating accusations as white as a
young dove?"

"It is because you have, as you say, monsieur, come out of these odious
calumnies, by which all who elevate themselves by labour and merit are
pursued, that I would assure you of my affectionate gratitude, if you
render me the important service I expect of you."

"Monseigneur, I could not be more impressed or more flattered by your
kindness, but unfortunately business is business," said M. Pascal, "and
this affair you air does not suit me at all. I need not say how much it
costs me to renounce the friendship of which your Royal Highness has
desired to assure me."

At this response, bitter and humiliating in its insulting irony, the
prince was on the point of flying into a passion, but, reflecting upon
the shame and futility of such a transport of rage, he controlled
himself, and, desiring to attempt a final effort, he said, in an
aggrieved tone:

"So, M. Pascal, it will be said that I prayed, supplicated, and implored
you in vain."

These words, "prayed, supplicated, implored," uttered in a tone of
sincere distress, appeared in the eyes of the prince to make an
impression on M. Pascal, and, in fact, did make a decided impression,
inasmuch as, up to that moment, the archduke had not entirely abased
himself, but seeing this royal person, after such obstinate refusal,
willing to descend to further supplication, M. Pascal experienced an
intensity of happiness that he had never known before.

The prince, observing his silence, believed his purpose was shaken, and
added, readily:

"Come, my dear M. Pascal, I cannot appeal to your generous heart in
vain."

"Really, monseigneur," replied the bloodthirsty villain, who, knowing
the speculation to be a good one, was at heart disposed to undertake it,
but wanted to realise pleasure as well as profit from it, "you have such
a way of putting things. Business, I repeat, ought to be business only,
but see now, in spite of myself, I yield like a child to sentiment I am
so weak--"

"You consent?" interrupted the prince, radiant with joy, and he seized
both hands of the financier in his own. "You consent, my worthy and kind
M. Pascal?"

"How can I resist you, monseigneur?"

"At last!" cried the archduke, drawing a long breath of profound
satisfaction, as if he had just escaped a frightful danger. "At last!"

"But, monseigneur," replied Pascal, "I must make one little condition."

"Oh, I shall not stand on that, whatever it may be. I subscribe to it
beforehand."

"You pledge yourself to more, perhaps, than you think, monseigneur."

"What do you mean?" asked the prince, somewhat disquieted. "What
condition do you speak of?"

"In three days, monseigneur, to the hour, I will inform you."

"What!" exclaimed the prince, astonished and crestfallen; "more delays.
Do you not give me your positive promise?"

"In three days, monseigneur, I will give it to you, provided you accept
my condition."

"But, pray, tell me this condition now."

"Impossible, monseigneur."

"My dear M. Pascal--"

"Monseigneur," replied Pascal, with ironical gravity, "it is not my
habit to be weak twice in succession during one interview. It is now the
hour for my appointment in the Faubourg St. Marceau; I have the honour
of presenting my respectful compliments to your Royal Highness."

M. Pascal, leaving the prince full of vexation and concern, walked to
the door, then turned, and said:

"To-day is Monday; on Thursday, at eleven o'clock, I shall have the
honour of seeing your Royal Highness again, and will then submit my
little condition."

"Very well, monsieur; on Thursday."

M. Pascal bowed profoundly, and went out.

When he passed through the parlour where the officials were assembled
all rose respectfully, recognising the importance of the person whom the
prince had just received. M. Pascal returned their courtesy with a
patronising inclination of the head, and left the palace as he had
entered it, both hands in his pockets, not denying himself the
pleasure--for this man lost nothing--of stopping a minute before the
lodge of the porter and saying to him:

"Well, scoundrel, will you recognise me another time?"

"Oh, I shall recognise monsieur hereafter! I beg monsieur to pardon my
mistake."

"He begs me," said Pascal, half aloud, with a bitter smile. "They know
how to beg from the Royal Highness to the porter."

M. Pascal, as he went out of the Élysée, fell again into painful
reflections upon the subject of the young girl whose secret meeting with
Count Frantz de Neuberg he had surprised. Wishing to know if she lived
in the house contiguous to the palace, he was going to make inquiries,
when, remembering that such a course might perhaps compromise his plans,
he prudently resolved to wait until evening.

Seeing a hackney coach, he called the driver, entered the carriage, and
said to him:

"Faubourg St. Marceau, fifteen; the large factory whose chimney you see
from the street."

"The factory belonging to M. Dutertre? I know, citizen, I know;
everybody knows that."

The coachman drove down the street.



CHAPTER IV.


M. Pascal, as we have said, had spent a part of his life in a
subordinate and precarious position, enduring the most ignominious
treatment with a patience full of bitterness and hatred.

Born of a peddler who had amassed a competency by dint of privation and
illicit or questionable traffic, he had commenced his business career as
a day-labourer in the house of a provincial usurer, to whom Pascal's
father had entrusted the care of his money.

The first years of our hero were passed in a state of servitude as hard
as it was humiliating. Nevertheless, as he was endowed with considerable
intelligence and unusual ingenuity, and as his despotic will could, upon
necessity, hide itself under an exterior of insinuating meanness,--a
dissimulation which was the result of his condition,--Pascal, without
the knowledge of his master, learned to read, write, and draw up
accounts, the faculty for financial calculation developing in him
spontaneously with marvellous rapidity. Foreseeing the value of these
acquirements, he resolved to conceal them, using them only for his own
advantage, and as a dangerous weapon against his master, whom he
detested. After mature reflection, Pascal finally thought it his
interest to reveal the knowledge he had secretly acquired. The usurer,
struck with the ability of the man who was his drudge, then took him as
his bookkeeper at a reduced salary, increased his meagre pay by the
smallest possible amount, continued to treat him with brutal contempt,
vilifying him more than ever that he might not suspect the use that he
made of his new services.

Pascal, earnest, indefatigable in work, and eager to further his
financial education, continued to submit passively to the outrages
heaped upon him, redoubling his servility in proportion as his master
redoubled disdain and cruelty.

At the end of a few years thus passed, he felt sufficiently strong to
leave the province, and seek a field more worthy of his ability. He
entered into a business correspondence with a banker in Paris, to whom
he offered his services. The banker had long appreciated Pascal's work,
accepted his proposition, and the bookkeeper left the little town, to
the great regret of his former master, who tried too late to retain him
in his own interests.

The new patron of our hero was at the head of one of those rich houses,
morally questionable, but--and it is not unusual--regarded, in a
commercial sense, as irreproachable; because, if these houses deal in
speculations which sometimes touch upon robbery and fraud, and enrich
themselves by ingenious and successful bankruptcy, they, to use their
own pretentious words, honour their signature, however dishonourable
that signature may be in the opinion of others.

Fervent disciples of that beautiful axiom so universally adopted before
the revolution of 1848,--Get rich!--they proudly take their seats in the
Chamber of Commerce, heroically assume the name of honourable, and even
aim at control of the administration. Why not?

The luxury so much boasted by the old tenants was misery compared to the
magnificence of M. Thomas Rousselet.

Pascal, transplanted to this house of absurd and extravagant opulence,
suffered humiliations altogether different, but quite as bitter and
painful as when he was with the knavish usurer in the province, who, it
is true, treated him as a despicable hireling, but had with him in his
daily work frequent and familiar relations.

One would seek in vain, among the proudest nobility, the most exclusive
aristocracy, anything which could approach the imperious and crushing
disdain with which M. and Madame Rousselet treated their subordinates.
Shut up in their gloomy offices, from which they saw the sumptuous
displays of the Hôtel Rousselet, the persons employed in this house knew
only by fairy-like tradition or fabulous legend the gorgeous wonders of
these parlours and this dining-room, from which they were absolutely
excluded by the dignity of Madame Rousselet, who was as haughty and
domineering as the first lady of the chamber to a princess of Lorraine
or Rohan.

Although of a new class, these humiliations were not the less galling to
Pascal; he now felt more than ever his dependence, his nothingness, and
the yoke of the opulent banker chafed him far more than the abuse of the
usurer; but our hero, faithful to his plans, hid his wounds, smiled at
blows, and licked the varnished boot which sometimes deigned to amuse
itself by kicking him, redoubling labour, study, and shrewdness, until
he learned the practice of this house, which he considered the perfect
pattern of business enterprise, whose motto was:

"Get as much money as possible with the least money possible by all the
means possible, carefully protecting yourself from the police and the
court."

The margin is a large one, and, as can be easily seen, one can operate
there at pleasure.

Thus passed five or six years. The imagination revolts at the
accumulation of bitterness, hatred, anger, venom, and malice in the
depths of this calculating and vindictive soul, always calm without,
like the black and gloomy surface of a poisonous morass.

One day M. Pascal learned the death of his father.

The peddler's savings, considerably increased by skilful financial
manipulation, had attained a very high figure. Once possessed of this
capital, Pascal swore that he would amass a great fortune by untiring
diligence and fortitude, by knowing what to do, and, still more, by
knowing how to take; for, argued he, one must risk something, and, if
need be, go outside of the straight and narrow path of lawfulness. Our
hero kept his oath. He left the house of Rousselet. Ability, chance,
fraud, luck, adroitness, and the laws of the time all contributed to his
success. He gained important sums, rewarding with cash the friendship of
an agent, who, keeping him well informed, put it in his power to handle
safely seventy thousand on the Exchange, and lay up almost two millions.
A short time afterward an intelligent and adventurous broker, versed in
the business of London, helped him to see the possibility of realising
immense profit, by boldly engaging in railway speculations, then
altogether new in England. Pascal went to London, engaged successfully
in an enterprise which soon assumed unheard-of proportions, threw his
whole fortune upon one cast of the die, and, realising in time, came
back to France with fifteen millions. Then, as cool and prudent as he
had been adventurous, and naturally endowed with great financial talent,
his only thought was to continually increase this unexpected fortune; he
succeeded, availing himself of every opportunity with rare skill, living
comfortably, satisfying, at any cost, his numerous sensual desires, but
never attracting attention by any exterior display or luxury, and always
dining at a public house. In this way he scarcely spent the fifth part
of his income, which, furnishing new capital each year, constantly added
to the fortune which successful speculation as constantly augmented.

Then, as we have said, came to Pascal his great and terrible day of
reprisal.

This soul, hardened by so many years of humiliation and hatred, became
implacable, and found a thousand cruel delights in making others feel
the weight of the money yoke which he had worn so long.

His keenest suffering had come from the vassalage, the servitude, and
complete effacement of self in which he had been held for so long a time
under the tyranny of his opulent employers. Now, his pleasure was to
impose this servitude on others,--on some, by exercising their natural
servility, on others, by compelling them to submit to hard necessity,
thus symbolising in himself the almighty power of money, holding all who
came within his grasp in absolute slavery, from the petty merchant whom
he commanded to the prince of royal blood who humbled himself to obtain
a loan. This awful despotism, which the man who lends exercises over the
man whose necessities force him to borrow, Pascal wielded and enjoyed
with all the refinement and delicacy of an incredible barbarity. We hear
often of the power of Satan over souls. M. Pascal was able to destroy or
torture as many and more souls than Satan.

Once in his power, through credit, loan, or partnership,--often granted
with a show of perfect good-nature, and not unfrequently offered with a
duplicity which looked like generosity, though always on solid
security,--a man belonged to himself no longer; he had, as was commonly
said, sold his soul to Satan-Pascal.

He calculated and arranged his bargains with a skill which seemed
infernal.

A commercial crisis would arrive,--capital not be found, or at such
exorbitant interest that merchants, at other times solvent and prompt in
payment, saw themselves in extreme embarrassment, often upon the brink
of failure. M. Pascal, perfectly instructed and certain of covering his
advances by merchandise or property, granted or proposed assistance at
enormous interest, with the invariable condition that he was to be
reimbursed at his will, hastening to add that he would not exercise his
right, inasmuch as his own advantage would be gained by keeping his
money at interest; but by habit or caprice, as he argued, he always held
to this express condition, to be reimbursed at his will.

The alternative was cruel indeed for the unhappy ones whom Satan-Pascal
tempted: on one hand, the ruin of a prosperous industry; on the other,
an unexpected aid, so easily offered that it might pass for a generous
service. The impossibility of finding capital, even at ruinous rates,
and the confidence which M. Pascal knew how to inspire, rendered the
temptation most powerful, a temptation all the more seductive by the
insinuating kindness of the multi-millionaire, who came, as he declared,
as a financial providence to the assistance of honest, labouring people.

In a word, everything conspired to stifle suspicion; they accepted. From
that time Pascal possessed them.

Beset by the fear of an immediate demand for repayment which must reduce
them to a desperate condition from which they could not hope to rise,
they had but one aim, to please M. Pascal, but one dread, to displease
M. Pascal, who was master of their fate.

It not infrequently happened that our Satan did not at first use his
power, and, by a refinement of wicked malice, would play the part of a
kind man, a benefactor, taking a fiendish pleasure in hearing the
benedictions with which his victims loaded him, leaving them for a long
time in the error which led them to adore their benevolent friend; then,
by degrees, according to his humour, he revealed himself slowly, never
employing threats, rudeness, or passion, but, on the contrary, affecting
an insinuating sweetness which in itself became frightful. Circumstances
the most insignificant and puerile offered him a thousand means of
tormenting the persons he held in his absolute power.

For instance, he would arrive at the house of one of his vassals, so to
speak. Perhaps the man was going with his wife and children to some
family reunion, long before arranged.

"I have come to dine with you without ceremony to-day, my friends," this
Satan would say.

"My God, M. Pascal! how sorry we are! To-day is my mother's birthday,
and you see we are just getting ready to go to dine with her. It is an
anniversary we never fail to celebrate."

"Ah! that is very provoking, as I hoped to spend my evening with you."

"And do you think it is less annoying to us, dear M. Pascal?"

"Bah! you could very easily give up a family reunion for me. After all,
your mother would not die if you were not there."

"Oh, my dear M. Pascal, that is impossible! It would be the first time
since our marriage that we failed in this little family ceremony."

"Come, you surely will do that for me."

"But, M. Pascal--"

"I tell you, you will do that for your good M. Pascal, will you not?"

"We would like to do it with all our heart, but--"

"What! you refuse me that--me--the first thing I have ever asked of
you?"

And M. Pascal put such an emphasis on the word _me_ that the whole
family suddenly trembled; they felt, as is vulgarly said, their master,
and knowing of the strange caprice of the capitalist, they submitted
sadly rather than offend the dreadful man upon whom their fate depended.
They gave up the visit and improvised a dinner. They tried to smile, to
have a cheerful air, and not to appear to regret the family festivity
which they had renounced. But soon another fear begins to oppress their
hearts; the dinner is becoming more and more sad and constrained. M.
Pascal professes a sort of pathetic astonishment, as he complains with a
sigh:

"Come, now, I have interfered with your plans; you feel bitterly toward
me, alas! I see it."

"Ah, M. Pascal!" cried the unhappy family, more and more disquieted,
"how can you conceive such a thought?"

"Oh, I am not mistaken. I see it, I feel it, because my heart tells me
so. Eh, my God! just to think of it! It is always a great wrong to put
friendship to the proof, even in the smallest things, because they serve
sometimes to measure great ones. I,--yes, I,--who counted on you as true
and good friends!--yet it was a deception, perhaps."

And Satan-Pascal put his hand over his eyes, got up from the table, and
went out of the house with a grieved and afflicted air, leaving the
miserable inmates in unspeakable anguish, because he no longer believed
in their friendship, and thought them ungrateful,--he who could in one
moment plunge them in an abyss of woe by demanding the money he had so
generously offered. The gratitude that he expected from them was their
only assurance of his continued assistance.

We have insisted on these circumstances, trifling as they may seem
perhaps, but whose result was so cruel, because we wished to give an
example of how M. Pascal tortured his victims.

Let one judge after that of the degrees of torture to which he was
capable of subjecting them, when so insignificant a fact as we have
mentioned offered such food to his calculating cruelty.

He was a monster, it must be admitted.

There are Neros, unhappily, everywhere and in every age, but who would
dare say that Pascal could have reached such a degree of perversity
without the pernicious influences and terrible resentments which his
soul, irritated by a degrading servitude, had nourished for so long a
time?

The word reprisal does not excuse the cruelty of this man; it explains
itself. Man rarely becomes wicked without a cause. Evil owes its birth
to evil.

M. Pascal thus portrayed, we will precede him by one hour to the home of
M. Charles Dutertre.



CHAPTER V.


The factory of M. Dutertre, devoted to the manufacture of locomotives
for railroads, occupied an immense site in the Faubourg St. Marceau, and
its tall brick chimneys, constantly smoking, designated it at a great
distance.

M. Dutertre and his family lived in a small house separated from the
workshops by a large garden.

At the moment we introduce the reader into this modest dwelling, an air
of festivity reigned there; every one in the house seemed to be occupied
with hospitable preparation. A young and active servant had just
finished arranging the table in the middle of the dining-room, the
window of which looked out upon the garden, and which bordered upon a
small kitchen separated from the landing-place by a glass partition,
panes set in an unpolished frame. An old cook woman went to and fro with
a bewildered air in this culinary laboratory, from which issued whiffs
of appetising odours, which sometimes pervaded the dining-room.

In the parlour, furnished with walnut covered in yellow Utrecht velvet
and curtains of white muslin, other preparations were going on. Two
vases of white porcelain, ornamenting the chimneypiece, had just been
filled with fresh flowers; between these two vases, replacing the
ornamental clock, was a miniature locomotive under a glass globe, a
veritable masterpiece of mechanism and ironmongery. On the black
pedestal of this trinket of iron, copper, and steel one could see
engraved the words:

    _To M. Charles Dutertre._
    _His grateful workmen._

Téniers or Gérard Dow would have made a charming picture of the family
group in this parlour.

A blind old man, with a venerable and melancholy face encircled by long
white hair falling over his shoulders, was seated in an armchair,
holding two children on his knees,--a little boy of three years old and
a little girl of five,--two angels of beauty and grace.

The little boy, dark and rosy, with great black eyes as soft as velvet,
every now and then would look at his pretty blue casimir shirt and white
trousers with the utmost satisfaction, but was most of all delighted
with his white silk stockings striped with crimson, and his black
morocco shoes with ribbon bows.

The little girl, named Madeleine for an intimate friend of the mother
who was godmother to the child, was fair and rosy, with lovely blue
eyes, and wore a pretty white dress. Her shoulders and arms were bare,
and her legs were only half covered by dainty Scotch socks. To tell how
many dimples were in those shoulders, on those arms, and in those fat
little cheeks, so red and fresh and smooth, would have required a
mother's computation, and she could only have learned by the number of
kisses she gave them.

Standing by and leaning on the back of the old blind man's chair, Madame
Dutertre was listening with a mother's interest and earnestness to the
chirping of the little warblers that the grandfather held on his knees,
talking of this and of that, in that infantine jargon which mothers know
how to translate with such rare sagacity.

Madame Sophie Dutertre was only twenty-five years old, and, although
slightly marked by smallpox, had unusually regular and beautiful
features. It would be difficult to imagine a more gracious or attractive
countenance, a more refined or agreeable smile, which was the ideal of
sweetness and amiability. Superb hair, teeth of pearl, a dazzling
complexion, and an elegant stature rendered her a charming presence
under any circumstances, and when she raised her large, bright, limpid
eyes to her husband, who was then standing on the other side of the
blind old grandfather, love and maternity gave to this tender glance an
expression at the same time pathetic and passionate, for the marriage of
Sophie and Charles Dutertre had been a marriage of love.

The only fault--if a fault could be said to pertain to Sophie
Dutertre--was, as careful and fastidious as she was about the attire of
her children, she gave very little attention to her own toilet. An
unbecoming, badly made stuff dress disparaged her elegant figure; her
little foot was by no means irreproachably shod, and her beautiful brown
hair was arranged with as little taste as care.

Frank and resolute, intelligent and kind, such was the character of M.
Dutertre, then about twenty-eight years old. His keen eye, full of fire,
and his robust, yet slender figure announced an active, energetic
nature. A civil engineer, a man of science and study, as capable of
solving difficult problems with the pen as of handling the file and the
iron hammer; knowing how to command as well as to execute; honouring and
elevating manual labour and sometimes practising it, whether by example
or encouragement; scrupulously just; loyal and confiding almost to
temerity; paternal, firm and impartial toward his numerous workmen;
possessing an antique simplicity of manner; enthusiastic in labour, and
in love with his creatures of iron and copper and steel, his life was
divided between the three great things which constitute the happiness of
man,--love, family, and labour.

Charles Dutertre had only one sorrow, the blindness of his father, and
yet this affliction was the opportunity for such tender devotion, such
delicate and constant care, that Dutertre and his wife endeavoured to
console themselves in the thought that it enabled them to prove to the
old man their affection and fidelity. Notwithstanding the preparations
for the approaching festivity, Charles Dutertre had postponed shaving
until the next day, and his working suit which he kept on showed here
and there upon the gray cloth spots and stains and burns which gave
evidence of his contact with the forge. His forehead was high and
noble-looking, his hands, which were white and nervous, were somewhat
blackened by the smoke of the workshops. He seemed to forget, in his
laborious and untiring activity, or in the refreshing repose which
succeeded it, that personal care which some men very properly never
renounce.

Such were the persons assembled in the modest parlour of the little
home. The two children, chatting incessantly and at the same time, tried
to make themselves understood by their grandfather, who responded with
the best will in the world, and, smiling sweetly, would ask them:

"What did you say, my little Augustus, and what do you say, my little
Madeleine?"

"Will madame the interpreter have the kindness to translate this pretty
chirping into common language?" said Charles Dutertre to his wife, as he
laughed merrily.

"Why, Charles, do you not understand?"

"Not at all."

"Do you not understand the children, father?" said she to the old man.

"I thought I heard something about Sunday dress," said the old man,
smiling, "but it was so complicated that I gave up all hope of
comprehending it."

"It was something very like that,--come, come, only mothers and
grandfathers understand little children," said Sophie, triumphantly.

Then turning to the children, she said:

"My dears, did you not say to your grandfather, 'To-day is Sunday
because we have on our pretty new clothes'?"

The little blonde Madeleine opened her great blue eyes wide, and bowed
her curly head in the affirmative.

"You are the Champollion of mothers!" cried Charles Dutertre, while the
old man said to the two children:

"No, to-day is not Sunday, my children, but it is a feast-day."

Here Sophie was obliged to interfere again, and translate.

"They ask why it is a feast-day, father."

"Because we are going to have a friend visit us, and when a friend comes
to see us, it is always a feast," replied the old man, with a smile
somewhat constrained.

"Ah, we must not forget the purse," said Dutertre to his wife.

"Wait a moment," replied Sophie, gaily, to her husband, as she pointed
to a little rose-coloured box on the table, "do you think that I, any
more than you, could forget our good M. Pascal, our worthy benefactor?"

The grandfather, turning to little Madeleine, said, as he kissed her
brow:

"We are expecting M. Pascal,--you know M. Pascal."

Madeleine again opened her great blue eyes; her face took on an
expression almost of fear, and shaking her little curly head sadly, she
said:

"He is bad."

"M. Pascal?" said Sophie.

"Oh, yes, very bad!" replied the child.

"But," said the young mother, "my dear Madeleine, why do you think that
M. Pascal is bad?"

"Come, Sophie," said Charles Dutertre, smiling, "you are not going to
stop to listen to this childish talk about our worthy friend, are you?"

Strange enough, the old man's countenance at once assumed a vague
expression of disquietude, and whether he trusted the instinct and
penetration of children, or whether he was influenced by another
thought, far from making a jest of Madeleine's words, as his son did, he
leaned over the child, and said:

"Tell us, my child, why M. Pascal is bad."

The little blonde shook her head, and said, innocently:

"Don't know,--but, very sure, he is bad."

Sophie, who felt a good deal like the grandfather on the subject of the
wonderful sagacity of children, could not overcome a slight feeling of
alarm, for there are secret, mysterious relations between a mother and
the children of her blood. An indefinable presentiment, against which
Sophie struggled with all her strength, because she thought it absurd
and foolish, told her that the little girl had made no mistake in
reading the character of M. Pascal, although she had heretofore esteemed
him as the impersonation of goodness and generosity.

Charles Dutertre, never suspecting the impressions of his wife and
father, replied, smiling:

"Now it is my turn to give a lesson to this grandfather and this mother,
who pretend to understand the prattle and feeling of children so well.
Our excellent friend has a rough exterior, heavy eyebrows, and a black
beard and dark skin and unprepossessing speech; he is, in a word, a sort
of benevolent churl, but he does not deserve the name of bad, even upon
the authority of this little blonde."

At this moment the servant entered, and said to her mistress:

"Madame, Mlle. Hubert is here with her maid, and--"

"Antonine? What good fortune!" said Sophie, rising immediately, and
going to meet the young girl.

"Madame," added the servant, mysteriously, "Agatha wants to know if M.
Pascal likes his peas with sugar or bacon?"

"Charles!" called Sophie, merrily, to her husband, "this is a grave
question, what do you think of it?"

"Make one dish of peas with sugar, and the other with bacon," replied
Charles, thoughtfully.

"It takes mathematicians to solve problems," replied Sophie, then,
taking her children by the hand, she added: "I want Antonine to see how
large and pretty they are."

"But I hope you will persuade Mlle. Hubert to come in, or I must go
after her."

"I am going to take the children to their nurse, and I will return with
Antonine."

"Charles," said the old man, rising, when the young woman had
disappeared, "give me your arm, please."

"Certainly, father; but M. Pascal will arrive before long."

"And you insist upon my being present, my son?"

"You know, father, all the respect that our friend has for you, and how
glad he is to show it to you."

After a moment's silence, the old man replied:

"Do you know that, since you have dismissed your old cashier,
Marcelange, he often visits M. Pascal?"

"This is the first time I have heard it."

"Does it not seem singular to you?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Listen to me, Charles, I--"

"I beg your pardon, father," replied Dutertre, interrupting the old man,
"now I think of it, nothing is more natural; I have not seen our friend
since I sent Marcelange away; Marcelange knows of our friendship for M.
Pascal, and he perhaps has gone to see him, to beg him to intercede with
me for him."

"It can be so explained," said the old man, thoughtfully. "Yet--"

"Well, father?"

"Your little girl's impression struck me forcibly."

"Come, father," replied Dutertre, smiling, "you say that to compliment
my wife. Unfortunately, she is not present to hear you. But I will
report your gallantry to her."

"I say so, Charles," replied the old man, in a solemn tone, "because, as
childish as it may appear, your little girl's impression seems to me to
have a certain weight, and when I recall some other circumstances, and
think of the frequent interviews between Marcelange and M. Pascal, I
confess to you that I feel in spite of myself a vague distrust of your
friend."

"Oh, father, father," replied Charles Dutertre, with emotion, "of course
you do not mean it, but you distress me very much. Doubt our generous
benefactor, M. Pascal! Ah, banish your suspicions, father, for this is
the first sorrow I have felt in a long time. To suspect without proof,
to be influenced by the passing impression of a little child," added
Dutertre, with all the warmth of his natural generosity, "that is
unjust, indeed!"

"Charles!" said the old man, wounded by his son's resentment.

"Oh, pardon me, pardon me, father," cried Dutertre, taking the old man's
hands in his own, "I was too quick, forgive me; for a moment friendship
spoke louder than my respect for you."

"My poor Charles," replied the old man, affectionately, "Heaven grant
that you may be right in differing from me, and, far from complaining of
your readiness to defend a friend, I am glad of it. But I hear some one
coming,--take me back to my room."

At the moment M. Dutertre closed the door of the chamber where he had
conducted the blind man, Mlle. Hubert entered the parlour accompanied by
Madame Dutertre.



CHAPTER VI.


Notwithstanding the triteness of the mythological comparison, we must be
pardoned for saying that never Hebe, the cupbearer to the gods of
Olympus, in all the brilliancy of her superhuman beauty, united in
herself more resplendent charms than did, in her terrestrial loveliness,
the modest maiden, Antonine Hubert, whose love secret with Frantz M.
Pascal had surprised.

What seemed most attractive in this young girl was the beauty of fifteen
years and a half which combined the grace and freshness of the child
with the budding charms of young womanhood,--enchanting age, still full
of mysteries and chaste ignorances, a pure dawn, white and transparent,
that the first palpitations of an innocent love would colour with the
exquisite tint of the full-blown rose.

Such was the age of Antonine, and she had the charm and all the charms
of that age.

To humanise our Hebe, we will make her descend from her pedestal, and,
veiling her delicate and beautiful form, will clothe her in an elegant
summer robe; a black silk mantle will hide the exquisite contour of her
bust, and a straw hat, lined with silk as rosy as her cheeks, allowing
us a view of her chestnut tresses, will serve as a frame for the oval
face, as fresh, as fair, and as soft as that of the child she has just
embraced.

As she entered the parlour with Sophie, mademoiselle blushed slightly,
for she had the timidity of her fifteen years; then, put at ease by the
cordial reception of Dutertre and his wife, she said to the latter, with
a sort of deference drawn from their old relations of child and mother,
as they were called in the boarding-school where they had been brought
up together:

"You do not know the good fortune which brings me here, Sophie."

"A good fortune!--so much the better, my little Antonine!"

"A letter from St. Madeleine," replied the young girl, drawing an
envelope from her pocket.

"Really!" exclaimed Sophie, blushing with joy and surprise, as she
reached her hand impatiently for the letter.

"What, Mlle. Antonine," said Charles Dutertre, laughing, "you are in
correspondence with paradise? Though if it is true I ought not to be
astonished, inasmuch--"

"Be silent, M. Tease," interrupted Sophie, "and do not make jokes about
Antonine's and my best friend."

"I will be careful,--but what is the meaning of this name, St.
Madeleine?"

"Why, Charles, have I not told you a thousand times about my school
friend, Madeleine Silveyra, who is godmother by proxy of our little one?
What are you thinking of?"

"I have a very good memory, my dear Sophie," replied Dutertre, "because
I have not forgotten that this young Mexican had such a singular kind of
beauty that she inspired as much surprise as admiration."

"The very same lady, my dear; after me, Madeleine acted as a mother to
Antonine, as we said at school, where each large girl had the care of a
child from ten to eleven years old; so, when I left school, I confided
dear Antonine to the affection of St. Madeleine."

"It is just that surname which was the cause of my mistake," replied
Dutertre, "a surname which seems to me very ambitious or very humble for
such a pretty person, for she must be near your age."

"They gave Madeleine the name of saint at school because she deserved
it, M. Dutertre," replied Antonine, with all the seriousness of fifteen
years, "and while she was my little mother they continued to call her
St. Madeleine, as they did in Sophie's time."

"Was this Mlle. St. Madeleine a very austere devotee?" asked Dutertre.

"Madeleine, like all people of her country,--we gave our French form to
her name of Magdalena,--gave herself to a particular devotion. She had
chosen the Christ, and her adoration for her Saviour became an ecstasy,"
replied Sophie; "besides, she united to this enthusiastic devotion the
warmest heart and the most interesting, enjoyable mind in the world. But
I pray you, Charles, let me read her letter. I am impatient. Just
imagine, the first letter after two years of separation! Antonine and I
felt a little bitter at her silence, but you see the first remembrance
we receive from her disarms us."

And taking the letter which Antonine had just given her, Sophie read,
with an emotion which increased with every line.

"Dear Madeleine, always tender and affectionate, always witty and
bright, always so appreciative of any remembrance of the past. After a
few days' rest at Marseilles, where she has arrived from Venice, she
comes to Paris, almost at the same time her letter arrives, and she
thinks only of the happiness of seeing Sophie, her friend, and her
little girl Antonine, and she writes in haste to both of us, and signs
herself as of old, St. Madeleine."

"Then she is not married?" asked Charles Dutertre.

"I do not know, my dear," replied his wife, "she signs only her
baptismal name."

"But why should I ask such an absurd question?--think of a married
saint!"

At that moment the servant entered, and, stopping on the threshold of
the door, made a significant sign to her mistress, who replied:

"You can speak, Julie, Mlle. Antonine is a part of the family."

"Madame," said the servant, "Agatha wants to know if she must put the
chicken on the spit if M. Pascal does not come?"

"Certainly," said Madame Dutertre, "M. Pascal is a little late, but we
expect him every minute."

"You are expecting some one, then, Sophie?" asked Antonine, when the
servant retired. "Well, good-bye, I will see you again," added the young
girl, with a sigh. "I did not come only to bring St. Madeleine's letter,
I wanted to have a long chat with you. I will see you again to-morrow,
dear Sophie."

"Not at all, my little Antonine. I use my authority as mother to keep my
dear little girl and have her breakfast with us. It is a sort of family
feast. Is it because your place was not ready, my child?"

"Come, Mlle. Antonine," said Charles, "do us the kindness to stay."

"You are a thousand times too good, M. Dutertre, but, really, I cannot
accept."

"Then," replied he, "I am going to employ the greatest means of seducing
you; in a word, if you will stay, you shall see the generous man who, of
his own accord, came to our rescue this day a year ago, for this is the
anniversary of that noble action that we are celebrating to-day."

Sophie, having forgotten the presentiment awakened in her mind by the
words of her little girl, added:

"Yes, my little Antonine, at the very moment, the critical moment, when
ruin threatened our business, M. Pascal said to Charles: 'Monsieur, I do
not know you personally, but I know you are as just as you are laborious
and intelligent; you need fifty thousand to put your business in a good
condition. I offer it to you as a friend, accept it as a friend; as to
interest, we will estimate that afterward, and still as a friend.'"

"That was to act nobly, indeed!" said Antonine.

"Yes," said Charles Dutertre, with profound emotion, "for it is not only
my industry which he has saved, but it was the labour of the numerous
workmen I employ, it was the repose of my father's old age, the
happiness of my wife, the future of my children. Oh, stay with us, stay,
Mlle. Antonine, the sight of such a good man is so rare, so sweet--But
wait, there he is!" exclaimed M. Dutertre, as he saw M. Pascal pass the
parlour window.

"I am much impressed with all Sophie and you have told me, M. Dutertre,
and I regret I cannot see this generous man to whom you owe so much, but
breakfast would detain me too long. I must return early. My uncle
expects me, and he has passed a very painful night; in these attacks of
suffering he always wants me near him, and these attacks come at any
time."

Then, taking Sophie by the hand, the young girl added:

"Can I see you again soon?"

"To-morrow or day after, my dear little Antonine, I am coming to see
you, and we will talk as long as you like."

The door opened; M. Pascal entered.

Antonine embraced her friend, and Sophie said to the financier, with
affectionate cordiality:

"Permit me, will you not, M. Pascal, to take leave of mademoiselle. I
need not say that I will hasten to return."

"No need of ceremony, my dear Madame Dutertre," stammered M. Pascal, in
spite of his assurance astonished to see Antonine again, and he followed
her with an intense, surly gaze until she had left the room.



CHAPTER VII.


M. Pascal, at the sight of Antonine, whom he saw for the second time
that morning, was, as we have said, a moment bewildered with surprise
and admiration before this fresh and innocent beauty.

"At last, here you are!" said Charles Dutertre, effusively extending
both hands to M. Pascal when he found himself alone with him. "Do you
know we were beginning to question your promptness? All the week my wife
and I have looked forward with joy to this day, for, after the
anniversary of the birth of our children, the day that we celebrate with
the most pleasure is the one from which dates, thanks to you, the
security of their future. It is so good, so sweet to feel, by the
gratitude of our hearts, the lofty nobleness of those generous deeds
which honour him who offers as much as him who accepts."

M. Pascal did not appear to have heard the words of M. Dutertre, and
said to him:

"Who is that young girl who just went out of here?"

"Mlle. Antonine Hubert."

"Is she related to President Hubert, who has lately been so ill?"

"She is his niece."

"Ah!" said Pascal, thoughtfully.

"You know if my father were not with us," replied M. Dutertre, smiling,
"our little festivity would not be complete. I am going to inform him of
your arrival, my dear M. Pascal."

And as he stepped to the door of the old man's chamber, M. Pascal
stopped him with a gesture, and said:

"Does not President Hubert reside--"

And as he hesitated, Dutertre added:

"In Faubourg St. Honoré. The garden joins that of the Élysée-Bourbon."

"Has this young girl lived with her uncle long?"

Dutertre, quite surprised at this persistent inquiry concerning
Antonine, answered:

"About three months ago M. Hubert went to Nice for Antonine, where she
lived after the death of her parents."

"And is Madame Dutertre very intimate with this young person?"

"They were together at boarding-school, where Sophie was a sort of
mother to her, and ever since they have been upon the most affectionate
terms."

"Ah!" said Pascal, again relapsing into deep thought.

This man possessed a great and rare faculty which had contributed to the
accumulation of his immense fortune,--he could with perfect ease detach
himself from any line of thought, and enter upon a totally different set
of ideas. Thus, after the interview of Frantz and Antonine which he had
surprised, and which had excited him so profoundly, he was able to talk
with the archduke upon business affairs, and to torture him with
deliberate malice.

In the same way, after this meeting with Antonine at the house of
Dutertre, he postponed, so to speak, his violent resentment and his
plans regarding the young girl, and said, with perfect good-nature, to
Sophie's husband:

"While we wait for the return of your wife, I have a little favour to
ask of you."

"At last!" exclaimed Dutertre, rubbing his hands with evident
satisfaction; "better late than never."

"You had a cashier named Marcelange?"

"Yes, unfortunately."

"Unfortunately?"

"He committed, while in my employ, not an act of dishonesty, for I
should not, at any price, have saved him from the punishment he merited;
but he was guilty of an indelicacy under circumstances which proved to
me that the man was a wretch, and I dismissed him."

"Marcelange told me, in fact, that you sent him away."

"You are acquainted with him?" replied Dutertre, in surprise, as he
recalled his father's words.

"Some days ago he came to see me. He wished to get a position in the
Durand house."

"He? Among such honourable people?"

"Why not? He was employed by you."

"But, as I have told you, my dear M. Pascal, I sent him away as soon as
his conduct was known to me."

"I understand perfectly. Only, as he is without a position, he must
have, in order to enter the Durand house, a letter of recommendation
from you, as the Durands are not willing to accept the poor fellow
otherwise; now this letter, my dear Dutertre, I come honestly to ask of
you."

After a moment of astonishment, Dutertre said, with a smile:

"After all, I ought not to be astonished. You are so kind! This man is
full of artifice and falsity, and knows how to take advantage of your
confidence."

"I believe, really, that Marcelange is very false, very sly; but that
need not prevent your giving me the letter I ask."

Dutertre could not believe that he had heard aright, or that he
understood M. Pascal, and replied:

"I beg your pardon, sir. I have just told you that--"

"You have reason to complain of an act of indelicacy on the part of
this fellow, but, bah! what does that matter?"

"What! M. Pascal, you ask, what does it matter? Know then, that, in my
eyes, this man's act was even more blamable than fraud in money
matters."

"I believe you, my dear Dutertre, I believe you; there is no better
judge of honourable dealing than yourself. Marcelange seems to me truly
a cunning rascal, and, if I must tell you, it is on that account that I
insist--insist very much on his being recommended by you."

"Honestly, M. Pascal, I believe that I should be acting a dishonourable
part in aiding the entrance of Marcelange into a thoroughly respectable
house."

"Come, now, do this for me!"

"You are not speaking seriously, M. Pascal?"

"I am speaking very seriously."

"After what I have just confided to you?"

"My God! yes, why not?"

"You! you! honour and loyalty itself!"

"I, the impersonation of honour and loyalty, ask you to give me this
letter."

Dutertre looked at M. Pascal, bewildered; then, after a moment's
reflection, he replied, in a tone of affectionate reproach:

"Ah, sir, after a year has elapsed, was this proof necessary?"

"What proof?"

"To propose an unworthy action to me, that you might feel assured that I
deserved your confidence."

"My dear Dutertre, I repeat to you that I must have this letter. It
concerns an affair which is very important to me."

M. Pascal was speaking seriously. Dutertre could no longer doubt it. He
then remembered the words of his father, the antipathy of his little
girl, and, seized with a vague dread, he replied, in a constrained
voice:

"So, monsieur, you forget the grave responsibility which would rest upon
me if I did what you desire."

"Eh, my God! my brave Dutertre, if we only asked easy things of our
friends!"

"You ask of me an impossible thing, monsieur."

"So, then, you refuse to do it for me, do you?"

"M. Pascal," said Dutertre, with an accent at the same time firm and
full of emotion, "I owe you everything. There is not a day that I, my
wife, and my father do not recall the fact that, one year ago, without
your unexpected succour, our own ruin, and the ruin of many other
people, would have been inevitable. All that gratitude can inspire of
respect and affection we feel for you. Every possible proof of devotion
we are ready to give you with pleasure, with happiness, but--"

"One word more, and you will understand me," interrupted M. Pascal.
"Since I must tell you, Dutertre, I have a special interest in having
some one who belongs to me--entirely to me, you understand, entirely
mine--in the business house of Durand. Now, you can comprehend that,
holding Marcelange by this letter which you will give me for him, and by
what I know of his antecedents, I can make him my creature, my blind
instrument. This is entirely between us, my dear Dutertre, and, counting
on your absolute discretion, I will go further even, and I will tell you
that--"

"Not a word more on this subject, sir, I beg," exclaimed Dutertre, with
increasing surprise and distress, for up to that time he had believed
Pascal to be a man of incorruptible integrity. "Not a word more. There
are secrets whose confidence one does not wish to accept."

"Why?"

"Because they might become very embarrassing, sir."

"Really! The confidences of an old friend can become an annoyance! Very
well, I will keep them. Then, give me this letter without any more
explanations."

"I repeat to you, sir, that it is impossible for me to do so."

M. Pascal bit his lips and unconsciously knit his eyebrows; as surprised
as he was angry at the refusal of Dutertre, he could scarcely believe
that a man who was dependent upon him could have the audacity to oppose
his will, or the courage to sacrifice the present and the future to a
scruple of honour.

However, as he had a special interest in this letter, he replied, with a
tone of affectionate reproach:

"What! You refuse me that, my dear Dutertre,--refuse me, your friend?"

"I refuse you above all,--you who have had faith enough in my
incorruptible honesty to advance for me, without even knowing me, a
considerable amount."

"Come, my dear Dutertre, do not make me more adventurous than I am. Are
not your honesty, your intelligence, your interest even, and at any rate
the material in your factory, sufficient security for my capital? Am I
not always in a safe position, by the right I reserve to myself, to
exact repayment at will? A right which I will not exercise in your case
for a long time, as I know. I am too much interested in you to do that,
Dutertre," as he saw astonishment and anguish depicted in Dutertre's
face, "but, indeed, let us suppose,--oh, it will not come to that, thank
God,--but let us suppose that, in the constrained condition and trying
crisis in which business is at present, I should say to you to-day, M.
Dutertre, I shall need my money in a month, and I withdraw my credit
from you."

"Great God!" exclaimed Dutertre, terrified, staggered at the bare
supposition of such a disaster, "I would go into bankruptcy! It would be
my ruin, the loss of my business; I would be obliged, perhaps, to work
with my own hands, if I could find employment, to support my infirm
father, my wife, and my children."

"Will you be silent, you wicked man, and not put such painful things
before my eyes! You are going to spoil my whole day!" exclaimed M.
Pascal, with irresistible good-nature, taking Dutertre's hands in his
own. "Do you speak in this way, when I, like you, am making a festivity
of this morning? Well, well, what is the matter? How pale you look,
now!"

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Dutertre, wiping the drops of cold sweat
from his brow, "but at the very thought of such an unexpected blow which
would strike all that I hold dearest in the world, my honour, my family,
my labour--Ah, yes, monsieur, you are right, let us drive this thought
far from us, it is too horrible."

"Eh! my God, that is just what I was saying to you; do not let us make
this charming day a sad one. So, to finish the matter," added M. Pascal,
cheerfully, "let us hurry over business affairs, let us empty our bag,
as the saying is. Give me this letter, and we will talk no more about
it."

Dutertre started, a frightful pain wrung his heart, and he replied:

"Such persistence astonishes and distresses me, monsieur. I repeat to
you it is absolutely impossible for me to do what you ask."

"What a child you are! my persistent request proves to you how much
importance I attach to this affair."

"That may be, monsieur."

"And why do I attach such importance to it, my brave Dutertre? It is
because this matter interests you as well as myself."

"What do you mean, monsieur?"

"Eh! without doubt. My combination with the house of Durand failing,
since your refusal would prevent my employing this knave Marcelange, as
I desire (you do not wish to know my secrets, so I am forced to keep
them), perhaps I should be compelled for certain reasons," added M.
Pascal, pronouncing his words slowly, and looking at his victim with a
sharp, cold eye, "I say, perhaps I should be compelled--and it would
draw the blood from my heart--to demand the repayment of my capital, and
withdraw my credit from you."

"Oh, my God!" exclaimed Dutertre, clasping his hands and looking as pale
as a ghost.

"So you see, bad man, in what an atrocious position you put yourself.
Force me to an action which, I repeat to you, would tear my soul--"

"But, monsieur, a moment ago you assured me that--"

"Zounds! my intention would be to let you keep this wretched capital as
long as possible. You pay me the interest with remarkable punctuality,
it was perfectly well placed, and, thanks to our terms of liquidation,
you would have been free in ten years, and I should have made a good
investment in doing you a service."

"Really, monsieur," murmured Dutertre, overwhelmed, "such were your
promises, if not written, at least verbal, and the generosity of your
offer, the loyalty of your character, all gave me perfect confidence.
God grant that I may not have to consider myself the most rash, the most
stupid man, to have trusted your word!"

"As to that, Dutertre, you can be at peace with yourself; at that period
of commercial crisis, at least as terrible as it is to-day, you could
not have found anywhere the capital that I offered you at such a
moderate rate."

"I know it, monsieur."

"Then you can, and you must, indeed, by sheer force of necessity, accept
the condition I put upon this loan."

"But, monsieur," cried Dutertre, with inexpressible alarm, "I appeal to
your honour! You have expressly promised me that--"

"Eh, my God, yes, I promised you, saving the superior force of events;
and unfortunately your refusal to give this poor little letter creates
an event of stronger force which places me in the painful--the grievous
necessity of asking you for repayment of my money."

"But, monsieur, it is an unworthy action that you ask me to do, think of
it."

At this moment was heard the sweet ringing laughter of Sophie, who was
approaching the parlour.

"Ah, monsieur," said her husband, "not a word of this before my wife,
because it may not be your final resolve. I hope that--"

Charles Dutertre could not finish, because Sophie had entered the
parlour.

The unhappy man could only make a supplicating gesture to Pascal, who
responded to it by a sign of sympathetic intelligence.



CHAPTER VIII.


When Sophie Dutertre entered the parlour, where were seated her husband
and M. Pascal, the gracious countenance of the young woman, more flushed
than usual, the light throbbing of her bosom, and her moist eyes, all
testified to a recent fit of hilarious laughter.

"Ah, ah, Madame Dutertre!" said M. Pascal, cheerfully. "I heard you
distinctly; you were laughing like a lunatic."

Then, turning to Dutertre, who was trying to hide his intense distress
and to hold on to a last hope, he said:

"How gay happiness makes these young women! Nothing like the sight of
them puts joy in the heart, does it, my brave Dutertre?"

"I was laughing in spite of myself, I assure you, my dear M. Pascal,"
replied Sophie.

"In spite of yourself?" answered our hero. "Why, does some sorrow--"

"Sorrow? Oh, no, thank God! But I was more disposed to tenderness than
gaiety. This dear Antonine, if you only knew her, Charles," added the
young woman, with sweet emotion, addressing her husband. "I cannot tell
you how she has moved me, what a pure, touching confession she has made
to me, for the heart of the poor child was too full, and she could not
go away without telling me all."

And a tear of sympathy moistened Sophie's beautiful eyes.

At the name of Antonine, M. Pascal, notwithstanding his great control
over himself, started. His thoughts concerning this young girl, for a
moment postponed, returned more ardent, more persistent than ever, and
as Sophie was wiping her eyes he threw upon her a penetrating glance,
trying to divine what he might hope from her, in reference to the plan
he meditated.

Sophie soon spoke, addressing her husband:

"But, Charles,--I will relate it all to you, after awhile,--while I was
absorbed in thinking of my interview with Antonine, my little Madeleine
came to me, and said in her baby language such ridiculous things that I
could not keep from bursting into laughter. But, pardon me, M. Pascal,
your heart will understand and excuse, I know, all a mother's weakness."

"Do you say that to me," replied Pascal, cordially, "a bachelor,--you
say it to me, a good old fellow?"

"That is true," added Sophie, affectionately, "but we love you so much
here, you see, that we think you are right to call yourself a good old
fellow. Ask Charles if he will contradict my words."

Dutertre replied with a constrained smile, and he had the strength and
the courage to restrain his feelings before his wife to such a degree
that she, occupied with M. Pascal, had not the least suspicion of her
husband's anxiety. So, going to the table and taking up the purse she
had embroidered, she presented it to M. Pascal, and said to him, in a
voice full of emotion:

"My dear M. Pascal, this purse is the fruit of my evening
work,--evenings that I have spent here with my husband, with his
excellent father, and with my children. If each one of these little
steel beads could speak, all would tell you how many times your name has
been pronounced among us, with all the affection and gratitude it
deserves."

"Ah, thank you, thank you, my dear Madame Dutertre," replied Pascal, "I
cannot tell you how much I appreciate this pretty present, this lovely
remembrance,--only, you see, it embarrasses me a little."

"How is that?"

"You come to give me something, and I came to ask you something."

"What happiness! Ask, ask, by all means, dear M. Pascal."

Then turning to her husband, with surprise, she said:

"Charles, what are you doing there, seated before that desk?"

"M. Pascal will excuse me. I just recollected that I had neglected to
examine some notes relative to important business," replied Dutertre,
turning the leaves of some papers, to keep himself in countenance, and
to hide from his wife, to whom he had turned his back, the pain which
showed itself in his face.

"My dear," said Sophie, in a tone of tender reproach; "can you not lay
aside work now and wait until--"

"Madame Dutertre, I shall rebel if you disturb your husband on my
account," cried M. Pascal, "do I not know the exactness of business?
Come, come, happy woman that you are, thanks to the indefatigable labour
of brave Dutertre, who stands to-day at the head of his business."

"And who has encouraged him in his zeal for work, but you, M. Pascal? If
Charles is as you say at the head of his industry, if our future and
that of our children is ever assured, do we not owe it to you?"

"My dear Madame Dutertre, you confuse me so that I shall not know how to
ask the little service I expect from you."

"Oh, I forgot it," replied Sophie, smiling, "but we were speaking of
more important services that you have rendered us, were we not? But tell
us quick, quick,--what is it?" said the young woman, with an eagerness
which gave her an additional charm.

"What I am going to tell you will surprise you, perhaps?"

"So much the better, I adore surprises."

"Ah, well, the isolation of bachelor life weighs upon me, and--"

"And?"

"I wish to get married."

"Truly!"

"Does it astonish you? I am sure it does."

"You are entirely mistaken, for in my opinion you ought to get married."

"Pray, why?"

"How often I have said to myself, sooner or later this good M. Pascal,
who lives so much by his heart, will enjoy the sweets of family life,
and, if I must confess my vain presumption," added Sophie, "I said to
myself, it is impossible that the sight of the happiness Charles and I
enjoy should not some day suggest the idea of marriage to M. Pascal.
Now, was I not happy in foreseeing your intention?"

"Have your triumph, then, dear Madame Dutertre, because, in fact,
seduced by your example and that of your husband, I desire to make, as
you two did, a marriage of love."

"Can any other marriage be possible?" replied Sophie, shrugging her
shoulders with a most graceful movement, and, without reflecting upon
the thirty-eight years of M. Pascal, she added:

"And you are loved?"

"My God, that depends on you."

"On me?"

"Absolutely."

"On me?" exclaimed Sophie, with increasing surprise. "Do you hear,
Charles, what M. Pascal says."

"I hear," replied Dutertre, who, not less astonished than his wife, was
listening with involuntary anxiety.

"How can I, M. Pascal, how can I make you loved?" asked Sophie.

"You can do so, my dear Madame Dutertre."

"Although it seems incomprehensible to me, bless God for it. If I have
the magic power you attribute to me, my dear M. Pascal," replied Sophie,
with her sweetest smile, "then you will be loved, as you deserve to be."

"Counting on your promise, then, I will not travel four roads, but
confess at once, my dear Madame Dutertre, that I am in love with Mlle.
Antonine Hubert."

"Antonine!" exclaimed Sophie, astounded; while Dutertre, seated before
his desk, turned abruptly to his wife, whose astonishment he shared.

"Antonine!" replied Sophie, as if she could not believe what she had
heard. "You love Antonine!"

"Yes, it is she. I met her to-day in your house, for the fourth time,
only I have never spoken to her. However, my mind is made up, for I am
one of those people who decide quickly and by instinct. For instance,
when it was necessary for me to come to the aid of this brave Dutertre,
the thing was done in two hours. Well, the ravishing beauty of Mlle.
Antonine, the purity of her face, a something, I know not what, tells me
that this young person has the best qualities in the world,--all has
contributed to render me madly in love with her, and to desire in a
marriage of love, like yours, my dear Madame Dutertre, that inward
happiness, those joys of the heart, that you believe me worthy of
knowing and enjoying."

"Monsieur," said Sophie, with painful embarrassment, "permit me--"

"One word more, it is love at first sight, you will say,--that may be,
but there are twenty examples of love as sudden as they are deep.
Besides, as I have told you, I am plainly a man of instinct, of
presentiment; with a single glance of the eye, I have always judged a
thing good or bad. Why should I not follow in marriage a method which
has always perfectly succeeded with me? I have told you that it depends
entirely on you to make Mlle. Antonine love me. I will explain. At
fifteen years, and she seems hardly to be so old as that, young girls
have no wills of their own. You have acted as mother to Mlle. Antonine,
as Dutertre has told me; you possess great influence over her, nothing
would be more easy, by talking to her of me in a certain manner, when
you shall have presented me to her, and that can be not later than
to-morrow, can it not? I repeat, it will be easy for you to induce her
to share my love, and to marry me. If I owe you this happiness, my dear
Madame Dutertre, wait and see," added Pascal, with a tone full of
emotion and sincerity. "You speak of gratitude? Well, that which you
have toward me would be ingratitude, compared with what I would feel
toward you!"

Sophie had listened to M. Pascal with as much grief as surprise; for she
believed, and she had reason to believe, in the reality of the love, or
rather the ardent desire for possession that this man felt; so she
replied, with deep feeling, for it cost her much to disappoint hopes
which seemed to her honourable:

"My poor M. Pascal, you must see that I am distressed not to be able to
render you the first service you ask of me. I need not tell you how
deeply I regret it."

"What is impossible in it?"

"Believe me, do not think of this marriage."

"Does not Mlle. Antonine deserve--"

"Antonine is an angel. I have known her from infancy. There is not a
better heart, a better character, in the world."

"What you tell me, my dear Madame Dutertre, would suffice to augment my
desire, if that could be done."

"I say again, this marriage is impossible."

"Well, tell me why."

"In the first place, think of it, Antonine is only fifteen and a half,
and you--"

"I am thirty-eight. Is it that?"

"The difference of age is very great, you must confess, and as I would
not advise my daughter or my sister to make a marriage so
disproportionate, I cannot advise Antonine to do so, because I would not
at any price make your unhappiness or hers."

"Oh, make yourself easy! I will answer for my own happiness."

"And that of Antonine?"

"Bah! bah! for a few years, more or less--"

"I married for love, my dear M. Pascal. I do not comprehend other
marriages. Perhaps it is wrong, but indeed I think so, and I ought to
tell you so, since you consult me."

"According to you, then, I am not capable of pleasing Mlle. Antonine?"

"I believe that, like Charles and myself, and like all generous hearts,
she would appreciate the nobility of your character, but--"

"Permit me again, my dear Madame Dutertre,--a child of fifteen years has
no settled ideas on the subject of marriage; and Mlle. Antonine has a
blind confidence in you. Present me to her; tell her all sorts of good
about the good man, Pascal. The affair is sure,--if you wish to do it,
you can."

"Hear me, my dear M. Pascal, this conversation grieves me more than I
can tell you, and to put an end to it I will trust a secret to your
discretion and your loyalty."

"Very well, what is this secret?"

"Antonine loves, and is loved. Ah, M. Pascal, nothing could be purer or
more affecting than this love, and, for many reasons, I am certain it
will assure Antonine's happiness. Her uncle's health is precarious, and
should the poor child lose him she would be obliged to live with
relatives who, not without reason, inspire her with aversion. Once
married according to the dictate of her heart, she can hope for a happy
future, for her warm affection is nobly placed. You must see, then, my
dear M. Pascal, that, even with my influence, you would have no chance
of success, and how can I give you my influence, with the approval of my
conscience, leaving out of consideration the disparity of age, which, in
my opinion, is an insuperable objection? I am sure, and I do not speak
lightly, that the love which Antonine both feels and inspires ought to
make her happy throughout her life."

At this confirmation of Antonine's love for Frantz, a secret already
half understood by M. Pascal, he was filled with rage and resentment,
which was all the more violent for reason of the refusal of Madame
Dutertre, who declined to enter into his impossible plans; but he
restrained himself with a view of attempting a last effort. Failing in
that, he resolved to take a terrible revenge. So, with apparent
calmness, he replied:

"Ah, so Mlle. Antonine is in love! Well, so be it; but we know, my dear
Madame Dutertre, what these grand passions of young girls are,--a straw
fire. You can blow it out; this beautiful love could not resist your
influence."

"I assure you, M. Pascal, I would not try to influence Antonine upon
this subject, for it would be useless."

"You think so?"

"I am certain of it."

"Bah! it is always worth while to try."

"But I tell you, sir, that Antonine--"

"Is in love! I understand, and more, the good old bachelor Pascal is
thirty-eight, and evidently not handsome, but on the other hand he has
some handsome little millions, and when this evening (for you will see
her this evening, will you not? I count on it) you make this
unsophisticated maiden comprehend that, if love is a good thing, money
is still better, for love passes and money stays, she will follow your
counsel, dismiss her lover to-morrow, and I will have no more to say
but 'Glory and thanks to you, my dear Madame Dutertre!'"

Sophie stared at M. Pascal in amazement. Her womanly sensitivity was
deeply shocked, and her instinct told her that a man who could talk as
M. Pascal had done was not the man of good feeling and rectitude that
she had believed him to be.

At this moment, too, Dutertre rose from his chair, showing in his
countenance the perplexity which agitated his mind; for the first time,
his wife observed the alteration of his expression, and exclaimed as she
advanced to meet him:

"My God! Charles, how pale you are! Are you in pain?"

"No, Sophie, nothing is the matter with me,--only a slight headache."

"But I tell you something else is the matter. This pallor is not
natural. Oh, M. Pascal, do look at Charles!"

"Really, my good Dutertre, you do not appear at your ease."

"Nothing is the matter, sir," replied Dutertre, with an icy tone which
increased Sophie's undefined fear.

She looked in silence, first at her husband, and then at M. Pascal,
trying to discern the cause of the change that she saw and feared.

"Well, my dear Dutertre," said M. Pascal, "you have heard our
conversation; pray join me in trying to make your dear and excellent
wife comprehend that mademoiselle, notwithstanding her foolish, childish
love, could not find a better party than myself."

"I share my wife's opinion on this subject, monsieur."

"What! You wicked man! you, too!"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Pray consider that--"

"My wife has told you, sir. We made a marriage of love, and, like her,
I believe that love marriages are the only happy ones."

"To make merchandise of Antonine! I, counsel her to be guilty of an act
of shocking meanness, a marriage of interest! to sell herself, in a
word, when but an hour ago she confessed her pure and noble love to me!
Ah, monsieur, I thought you had a higher opinion of me!"

"Come, come, now, my dear Dutertre, you are a man of sense, confess that
these reasons are nothing but romance; help me to convince your wife."

"I repeat, monsieur, that I think as she does."

"Ah," exclaimed M. Pascal, "I did not expect to find here friends so
cold and indifferent to what concerned me."

"Sir," exclaimed Sophie, "that reproach is unjust."

"Unjust! alas, I wish it were; but, indeed, I have too much reason to
think differently. But a moment ago, your husband refused one of my
requests, and now it is you. Ah, it is sad--sad. What can I rely upon
after this?"

"Refused what?" said Sophie to her husband, more and more disquieted.
"What does he mean, Charles?"

"It is not necessary to mention it, my dear Sophie."

"I think, on the contrary," replied Pascal, "that it would be well to
tell your wife, my dear Dutertre, and have her opinion."

"Sir!" exclaimed Dutertre, clasping his hands in dismay.

"Come! is it not a marriage of love?" said Pascal, "you do not have any
secrets from each other!"

"Charles, I beseech you, explain to me the meaning of all this. Ah, I
saw plainly enough that you were suffering. Monsieur, has anything
happened between you and Charles?" said she to Pascal, in a tone of
entreaty. "I implore you to tell me."

"My God! a very simple thing happened. You can judge of it yourself,
madame--"

"Monsieur!" cried Dutertre, "in the name of the gratitude we owe you, in
the name of pity, not one word more, I beseech you, for I can never
believe that you will persist in your resolution. And then, what good
does it do to torture my wife with needless alarm?"

Then, turning to Madame Dutertre, he said:

"Compose yourself, Sophie, I beg you."

The father Dutertre, hearing the sound of voices as he sat in his
chamber, suddenly opened his door, made two steps into the parlour,
extending his hands before him, and cried, trembling with excitement:

"Charles! Sophie. My God! what is the matter?"

"My father!" whispered Dutertre, wholly overcome.

"The old man!" said Pascal. "Good! that suits me!"



CHAPTER IX.


A moment's silence followed the entrance of the old blind man into the
parlour.

Dutertre went quickly to meet his father, took hold of his trembling
hand, and said, as he pressed it tenderly:

"Calm yourself, father, it is nothing; a simple discussion, a little
lively. Let me take you back to your chamber."

"Charles," said the old man, shaking his head sadly, "your hand is cold,
you are nervous, your voice is changed; something has happened which you
wish to hide from me."

"You are not mistaken, sir," said Pascal to the old man. "Your son is
hiding something from you, and in his interest, in yours, and in the
interest of your daughter-in-law and her children, you ought not to be
ignorant of it."

"But M. Pascal, can nothing touch your heart?" cried Charles Dutertre.
"Are you without pity, without compassion?"

"It is because I pity your obstinate folly, and that of your wife, my
dear Dutertre, that I wish to appeal from it, to the good sense of your
respectable father."

"Charles," cried Sophie, "however cruel the truth may be, tell it. This
doubt, this agony, is beyond my endurance!"

"My son," added the old man, "be frank, as you have always been, and we
will have courage."

"You see, my dear Dutertre," persisted M. Pascal, "your worthy father
himself wishes to know the truth."

"Monsieur," answered Dutertre, in a broken voice, looking at Pascal with
tears which he could hardly restrain, "be good, be generous, as you have
been until to-day. Your power is immense, I know; with one word you can
plunge us in distress, in disaster; but with one word, too, you can
restore to us the peace and happiness which we have owed to you. I
implore you, do not be pitiless."

At the sight of the tears, which, in spite of his efforts to control,
rose to the eyes of Dutertre, a man so resolute and energetic, Sophie
detected the greatness of the danger, and, turning to M. Pascal, said,
in a heartrending voice:

"My God! I do not know the danger with which you threaten us, but I am
afraid, oh, I am afraid, and I implore you also, M. Pascal."

"After having been our saviour," cried Dutertre, drying the tears which
escaped in spite of him, "surely you will not be our executioner!"

"Your executioner!" repeated Pascal. "Please God, my poor friends, it is
not I, it is you who wish to be your own executioner. This word you
expect from me, this word which can assure your happiness, say it, my
dear Dutertre, and our little feast will be as joyous as it ought to be;
if not, then do not complain of the bad fate which awaits you. Alas, you
will have it so!"

"Charles, if it depends on you," cried Sophie, in a voice of agony, "if
this word M. Pascal asks depends on you, then say it, oh, my God, since
the salvation of your father and your children depend upon it."

"You hear your wife, my dear Dutertre," resumed Pascal. "Will you be
insensible to her voice?"

"Ah, well, then," cried Dutertre, pale and desperate, "since this man is
pitiless, you, my father, and you, too, Sophie, can know all. I
dismissed Marcelange from my employ. M. Pascal has an interest, of which
I am ignorant, in having this man enter the business house of Durand,
and he asks me to give to this firm a voucher for the integrity of a
wretch whom I have thrown out of my establishment as an arrant
impostor."

"Ah, monsieur," said the old man, shocked, as he turned to the side
where he supposed M. Pascal to be, "that is impossible. You cannot
expect such an unworthy action from my son!"

"And if I refuse to do this degrading thing," said Dutertre, "M. Pascal
withdraws from me the capital which I have so rashly accepted, he
refuses me credit, and in our present crisis that would be our loss, our
ruin."

"Great God!" whispered Sophie, terrified.

"That is not all, father," continued Dutertre. "My wife, too, must pay
her tribute of shame. M. Pascal is, he says, in love with Mlle.
Antonine, and Sophie must serve this love, which she knows to be
impossible, and which for honourable reasons she disapproves, or a
threat is still suspended over our heads. Now you have the truth,
father,--submit to a ruin as terrible as unforeseen, or commit a base
action, such is the alternative to which a man whom we have trusted so
long as loyal and generous reduces me."

"That again, always that; so goes the world," interposed M. Pascal,
sighing and shrugging his shoulders. "So long as they can receive your
aid without making any return, oh, then they flatter you and praise you.
It is always 'My noble benefactor, my generous saviour;' they call you
'dear, good man,' load you with attentions; they embroider purses for
you and make a feast for you. The little children repeat compliments to
you, but let the day come when this poor, innocent man presumes in his
turn to ask one or two miserable little favours, then they cry,
'Scoundrel!' 'Unworthy!' 'Infamous!'"

"Any sacrifice, compatible with honour, you might have asked of me, M.
Pascal," said Dutertre, in a voice which told how deeply he was wounded,
"and I would have made it with joy!"

"Then, what is to be expected?" continued Pascal, without replying to
Dutertre, "if the 'good, innocent man,' so good-natured as they suppose
him to be, the benefactor, at last, grows weary, ingratitude breaks his
heart, for he is naturally sensitive, too sensitive?"

"Ingratitude!" cried Sophie, bursting into tears, "we--we--ingrates, oh,
my God!"

"And as the 'good, innocent man' sees a little later that he has been
mistaken," continued Pascal, without replying to Sophie, "as he
recognises the fact, with pain, that he has been dealing with people
incapable of putting their grateful friendship beyond a few puerile
prejudices, he says to himself that he would be by far too much of an
'innocent man' to continue to open his purse for the use of such
lukewarm friends. So he withdraws his money and his credit as I do,
being brought to this resolution by certain circumstances consequent
upon the refusal of this dear Dutertre, whom I loved so much, and whom I
would love still to call my friend. One last word, sir," added Pascal,
addressing the old man. "I have just told you frankly my attitude toward
your son, and his toward me; but as it would cost my own heart too much
to renounce the faith that I had in the affection of this dear Dutertre,
as I know the terrible evils which, through his own fault, must come
upon him and his family, I am willing still to give him one quarter of
an hour for reconsideration. Let him give me the letter in question, let
Madame Dutertre make me the promise that I ask of her, and all shall
become again as in the past, and I shall ask for breakfast, and
enthusiastically drink a toast to friendship. You are the father of
Dutertre, monsieur, you have a great influence over him; judge and
decide."

"Charles," said the old man to his son, in a voice full of emotion, "you
have acted as an honest man. That is well, but there is still another
thing to do; to refuse to vouch for the integrity of a scoundrel is not
enough."

"Ah, ah!" interrupted Pascal, "what more, then, is there to do?"

"If M. Pascal," continued the old man, "persists in this dangerous
design, you ought, my son, to write to the house of Durand, that for
reasons of which you are ignorant, but which are perhaps hostile to
their interests, M. Pascal desires to place this Marcelange with them,
and that they must be on their guard, because to be silent when an
unworthy project is proposed is to become an accomplice."

"I will follow your advice, father," replied Dutertre, in a firm voice.

"Better and better," exclaimed Pascal, sighing, "to ingratitude they add
the odious abuse of confidence. Ah, well, I will drink the cup to the
dregs. Only, my poor former friends," added he, throwing a strange and
sinister glance upon the actors in this scene, "only I fear, you see,
that after drinking it a great deal of bitterness and rancour will
remain in my heart, and then, you know, when a legitimate hatred
succeeds a tender friendship, this hatred, unhappily, becomes a terrible
thing."

"Oh, Charles! he frightens me," whispered the young wife, drawing nearer
her husband.

"As to you, my dear Sophie," added the old man, with imperturbable
calmness, without replying to M. Pascal's threat, "you ought not only to
favour in nothing--the course which you have taken--a marriage which you
must disapprove, but if M. Pascal persists in his intentions, you ought,
by all means, to enlighten Mlle. Antonine as to the character of the man
who seeks her. To do that, you have only to inform her at what an
infamous price he put the continuation of the aid he has rendered your
husband."

"That is my duty," replied Sophie, in a calmer voice, "and I will do it,
father."

"And you, too, my dear Madame Dutertre, to abuse an honest confidence!"
said M. Pascal, hiding his anger under a veil of sweetness, "to strike
me in my dearest hope, ah, this is generous! God grant that I may not
give myself up to cruel retaliation! After two years of friendship to
part with such sentiments! But it must be, it must be!" added Pascal,
looking alternately at Dutertre and his wife. "Is all ended between us?"

Sophie and her husband preserved a silence full of resignation and
dignity.

"Oh, well," said Pascal, taking his hat, "another proof of the
ingratitude of men, alas!"

"Monsieur," cried Dutertre, exasperated beyond measure at the affected
sensibility of Pascal, "in the presence of the frightful blow with which
you intend to crush us, this continued sarcasm is atrocious. Leave us,
leave us!"

"Ah, here I am driven away from this house by people who are conscious
of owing their happiness to me for so long a time,--their salvation
even, they owe to me," said Pascal, walking slowly toward the door.
"Driven away from here! I! Ah, this mortifying grief disappoints me,
indeed!"

Then, pausing, he rummaged his pocket, and drew out the little purse
that Sophie had given him a few moments before, and, handing it to the
young wife, he said, with a pitiless accent of sardonic contrition:

"Happily, they are mute, or these pearls of steel would tell me every
moment how much my name was blessed in this house from which I am driven
away."

Then, with the air of changing his mind, he put the purse back in his
pocket, after looking at it with a melancholy smile, and said:

"No, no, I will keep you, poor little innocent purse. You will recall to
me the little good I have done, and the cruel deception which has been
my reward."

So saying, M. Pascal put his hand on the knob of the door, opened it,
and went out, while Sophie and her husband and her father sat in gloomy
silence.

This oppressive silence was still unbroken when M. Pascal, returning
and opening the door half-way, said across the threshold:

"To tell the truth, Dutertre, I have reflected. Listen to me, my dear
Dutertre."

A ray of foolish hope illumined the face of Dutertre; for a moment he
believed that, in spite of the cold and sarcastic cruelty that Pascal
had first affected, he did feel some pity at last.

Sophie shared the same hope; like her husband she listened with
indescribable anguish to the words of the man who was to dispose so
absolutely of their fate, while Pascal said:

"Next Saturday is your pay-day, is it not, my dear Dutertre? Let me call
you so notwithstanding what has passed between us."

"Thank God, he has some pity," thought Dutertre, and he replied aloud:

"Yes, monsieur."

"I would not wish, you understand, my dear Dutertre," continued Pascal,
"to put you in ruinous embarrassment. I know Paris, and in the present
business crisis you could not get credit for a cent, especially if it
were known that I have withdrawn mine from you, and as, after all, you
relied upon my name to meet your liabilities, did you not?"

"Charles, we are saved!" whispered Sophie, panting, "he was only testing
us."

Dutertre, struck with this idea, which appeared to him all the more
probable as he had at first suspected it, no longer doubted his safety;
his heart beat violently, his contracted features relaxed into their
ordinary cheerful expression, and he replied, stammering from excess of
emotion:

"In fact, sir, trusting blindly to your promises, I relied on your
credit as usual."

"Well, my dear Dutertre, that you may not find yourself in an
embarrassed position, I have come back to tell you that, as you still
have about a week, you had better provide for yourself elsewhere, as you
cannot depend on Paris or on me."

And M. Pascal closed the door, and took his departure.

The reaction was so terrible that Dutertre fell back in his chair, pale,
inanimate, and utterly exhausted. Hiding his face in his hands, he
sobbed:

"Lost, lost!"

"Oh, our children!" cried Sophie, in a heartrending voice, as she threw
herself down at her husband's knees, "our poor children!"

"Charles," said the old man, extending his hands, and timidly groping
his way to his son, "Charles, my beloved son, have courage!"

"Oh, father, it is ruin, it is bankruptcy," said the unhappy man, with
convulsive sobs. "The misery, oh, my God! the misery in store for us
all!"

At the height of this overwhelming sorrow came a cruel contrast; the
little children, clamorous with joy, rushed into the parlour,
exclaiming:

"It is Madeleine; here is Madeleine!"



CHAPTER X.


At the sight of Madeleine, who was no other than the Marquise de
Miranda, the happiness of Madame Dutertre was so great that for a moment
all her sorrows and all her terrors for the future were forgotten; her
sweet and gracious countenance beamed with joy, she could only pronounce
these words in broken accents:

"Madeleine, dear Madeleine! after such a long absence, at last you have
come!"

After the two young women had embraced each other Sophie said to her
friend as she looked at her husband and the old man:

"Madeleine, my husband and his father,--our father, as he calls me his
daughter."

The marquise, entering suddenly, had thrown herself upon Sophie's neck
with such impetuous affection that Charles Dutertre could not
distinguish the features of the stranger, but when, at Madame Dutertre's
last words, the newly arrived friend turned toward him, he felt a sudden
strange impression,--an impression so positive that, for a few minutes,
he, like his wife, forgot the vindictive speech of M. Pascal.

What Charles Dutertre felt at the sight of Madeleine was a singular
mixture of surprise, admiration, and almost distress, for he experienced
a sort of indefinable remorse at the thought of being in that critical
moment accessible to any emotion except that which pertained to the ruin
which threatened him and his family.

The Marquise de Miranda would hardly, at first sight, seem capable of
making so sudden and so deep an impression. Quite tall in stature, her
form and waist were completely hidden under a large mantle of spring
material which matched that of her dress, whose long, trailing folds
scarcely permitted a view of the extremity of her little boot. It was
the same with her hands, which were almost entirely concealed by the
sleeves of her dress, which she wore, as was her custom, long and
floating. A little hood made of crape, as white as snow, formed a
framework for her distinctly oval face, and set off the tint of her
complexion, for Madeleine had that dull, pale flesh-colour so often
found in brunettes of a pronounced type, with large, expressive blue
eyes fringed with lashes as black as her eyebrows of jet, while, by a
bewitching contrast, her hair, arranged in a mass of little curls, à la
Sevigné, was of that charming and delicate ash-blonde which Rubens makes
flow like waves upon the shoulders of his fair naiads.

This pallid complexion, these blue eyes, these black eyebrows and blonde
hair, gave to Madeleine's physiognomy a very fetching attraction; her
ebony lashes were so thick, so closely set, that one might have
said--like the women of the East, who by this means impart a passionate
and at the same time an enervated expression to their faces--she painted
with black the under part of her eyelids, almost always partially closed
over their large azure-coloured pupils; her pink nostrils, changing and
nervous, dilated on each side of a Greek nose exquisite in its contour;
while her lips, of so warm a red that one might almost see the blood
circulate under their delicate epidermis, were full but clear cut, and a
little prominent, like those of an antique Erigone, and sometimes under
their bright coloured edges one could see the beautiful enamel of her
teeth.

But why continue this portrait? Will there not be always, however
faithful our description, however highly coloured it may be, as
immeasurable a distance between that and the reality as exists between a
painting and a living being? It would be impossible to make perceptible
that atmosphere of irresistible attraction, that magnetism, we might
say, which emanated from this singular creature. That which in others
would have produced a neutralising effect, seemed in her to increase her
fascinations a hundredfold. The very length and amplitude of her
garments, which, without revealing the contour of her figure, allowed
only a sight of the end of her fingers and the extremity of her boot,
added a charm to her. In a word, if the chaste drapery which falls at
the feet of an antique muse, of severe and thoughtful face, enhances the
dignity of her aspect, a veil thrown over the beautiful form of the
Venus Aphrodite only serves to excite and inflame the imagination.

Such was the impression which Madeleine had produced on Charles
Dutertre, who, speechless and troubled, stood for some moments gazing at
her.

Sophie, not suspecting the cause of her husband's silence and emotion,
supposed him to be absorbed in thought of the imminent danger which
threatened him, and this idea bringing her back to the position she had
for a moment forgotten, she said to the marquise, trying to force a
smile:

"My dear Madeleine, you must excuse the preoccupation of Charles. At the
moment you entered we were talking of business, and business of a very
serious nature indeed."

"Yes, really, madame, you must excuse me," said Dutertre, starting, and
reproaching himself for the strange impression his wife's friend had
made upon him. "Fortunately, all that Sophie has told me of your
kindness encourages me to presume upon your indulgence."

"My indulgence? It is I who have need of yours, monsieur," replied the
marquise, smiling, "for in my overmastering desire to see my dear Sophie
again, running here unawares, I threw myself on her neck, without
dreaming of your presence or that of your father. But he will, I know,
pardon me for treating Sophie like a sister, since he treats her as a
daughter."

With these words, Madeleine turned to the old man.

"Alas! madame," exclaimed he, involuntarily, "never did my poor children
have greater need of the fidelity of their friends. Perhaps it is Heaven
that sends you--"

"Take care, father," said Dutertre, in a low voice to the old man, as if
he would reproach him tenderly for making a stranger acquainted with
their domestic troubles, for Madeleine had suddenly directed a surprised
and interrogative glance toward Sophie.

The old man comprehended his son's thought, and whispered:

"You are right. I ought to keep silent, but grief is so indiscreet! Come
now, Charles, take me back to my room. I feel very much overcome."

And he took his son's arm. As Dutertre was about to leave the parlour
the marquise approached him, and said:

"I shall see you soon, M. Dutertre, I warn you, for I am resolved during
my sojourn in Paris to come often, oh! very often, to see my dear
Sophie. Besides, I wish to make a request of you, and, in order to be
certain of your consent, I shall charge Sophie to ask it. You see, I act
without ceremony, as a friend, an old friend, for my friendship for you,
M. Dutertre, dates from the happiness Sophie owes you. I shall see you,
then, soon!" added the marquise, extending her hand to Dutertre with
gracious cordiality.

For the first time in his life Sophie's husband felt ashamed of the
hands blackened by toil; he hardly dared touch the rosy little fingers
of Madeleine; he trembled slightly at the contact; a burning blush
mounted to his forehead, and, to dissimulate his mortification and
embarrassment, he bowed profoundly before the marquise, and went out
with his father.

From the commencement of this scene Sophie's two little children,
holding each other's hands, and hiding now and then behind their mother,
near whom they were standing, opened their eyes wide in silent and
curious contemplation of the great lady.

The marquise, perceiving them, exclaimed, as she looked at her friend:

"Your children? My God, how pretty they are! How proud you must be!" And
she dropped on her knees before them, putting herself, so to speak, on a
level with them; then, dispersing with one hand the blond curls which
hid the brow and eyes of the little girl, she lifted the chin of the
child's half-bent head with the other hand, looked a moment at the
charming little face so rosy and fresh, and kissed the cheeks and eyes
and brow and hair and neck of the little one with maternal tenderness.

"And you, little cherub, you must not be jealous," added she, and,
holding the brown head of the little boy and the blond curls of the
little girl together, she divided her caresses between them.

Sophie Dutertre, moved to tears, smiled sadly at this picture, when the
marquise, still on her knees, looked up at her and said, holding both
children in her embrace:

"You would not believe, Sophie, that, in embracing these little angels,
I comprehend, I feel almost the happiness that you experience when you
devour them with kisses and caresses, and it seems to me that I love you
even more to know that you are so happy, so perfectly happy."

As she heard her happiness thus extolled, Sophie, brought back to the
painful present a moment forgotten, dropped her head, turned pale, and
showed in her countenance such intense agony, that Madeleine rose
immediately, and exclaimed:

"My God, Sophie, how pale you are! What is the matter?"

Madame Dutertre stifled a sigh, lifted her head sadly, and replied:

"Nothing is the matter, Madeleine; the excitement, the joy of seeing you
again after such a long separation,--that is all."

"Excitement, joy?" answered the marquise, with an air of painful doubt.
"No, no! A few moments ago it was excitement and joy, but now you seem
to be heart-broken, Sophie."

Madame Dutertre said nothing, hid her tears, embraced her children, and
then whispered to them:

"Go find your nurse, my darlings."

Madeleine and Augustus obeyed and left the parlour, not, however,
without turning many times to look at the great lady whom they thought
so charming.



CHAPTER XI.


Scarcely were the two children out of the parlour, when Madeleine said
to her friend, quickly:

"Now we are alone, Sophie, I pray you, answer me; what is the matter
with you? What is the cause of this sudden oppression? Have absence and
distance destroyed your confidence in me?"

Sophie had courage enough to overcome her feelings, and hide without
falsehood the painful secret which was not hers. Not daring to confess,
even to her best friend, the probable and approaching ruin of Dutertre,
she said to Madeleine, with apparent calmness:

"If I must tell you my weakness, my friend, I share sometimes, and
doubtless exaggerate, the financial troubles of my husband in this
crisis,--temporary they may be, but at the same time very dangerous to
our industry," said Sophie, trying to smile.

"But this crisis, my dear Sophie, is, as you say, only temporary, is it
not? It is not yet grave and should it become so, what can be done to
render it less painful to you and your husband? Without being very rich
I live in perfect ease,--is there anything I would not do?"

"Good, dear, excellent friend!" said Sophie, interrupting Madeleine,
with emotion, "always the same heart! Reassure yourself,--this time of
crisis will, I hope, be only a passing evil,--let us talk no more about
it, let me have all the joy of seeing you again."

"But, Sophie, if these troubles--"

"Madeleine," replied Sophie, sweetly, interrupting her friend again,
"first, let us talk of yourself."

"Egoist!"

"That is true, when it touches you; but tell me, you are happy, are you
not? because, marquise as you are, you have made a marriage of love,
have you not? And what about your husband?"

"I am a widow."

"Oh, my God, already!"

"I was a widow the evening of my wedding, my dear Sophie."

"What do you mean?"

"As extraordinary as it may seem, it is nevertheless quite simple.
Listen to me: when I left boarding-school and returned to Mexico, where
I was ordered, as you know, by my father, I found but one relative of my
mother, the Marquis de Miranda, mortally attacked by one of those
epidemics which so often ravage Lima. He had no children and had seen me
when I was a small child. He knew that my father's fortune had been
entirely destroyed by disastrous lawsuits. He had a paternal sentiment
for me, and almost on his death-bed offered me his hand. 'Accept, my
dear Magdelena, my poor orphan,' said he to me, 'my name will give you a
social position, my fortune will assure your independence, and I shall
die content in knowing that you are happy.'"

"Noble heart!" said Sophie.

"Yes," replied Madeleine, with emotion, "he was the best of men. My
isolated position and earnest entreaties made me accept his generous
offer. The priest came to his bedside to consecrate our union, and the
ceremony was hardly over when the hand of the Marquis de Miranda was
like ice in my own."

"Madeleine, forgive me," said Madame Dutertre, involuntarily, "I have
made you sad by recalling such painful memories."

"Painful? no, it is with a sweet melancholy that I think of Marquis de
Miranda. It is only ingratitude that is bitter to the heart."

"And so young still, does not your liberty incommode you? Alone, without
family, are you accustomed to this life of isolation?"

"I think I am the happiest of women, after you, let it be understood,"
replied Madeleine, smiling.

"And do you never think of marrying again, or rather," added Sophie,
smiling in her turn, "of marrying? Because, really, notwithstanding your
widowhood, you are a maiden."

"I hide nothing from you, Sophie. Ah, well, yes. One time I had a desire
to marry,--that was a grand passion, a romance," replied Madeleine,
gaily.

"Well, as you are free, who prevented this marriage?"

"Alas! I saw my hero for five minutes only, and from my balcony."

"Only five minutes?"

"Not more."

"And you loved him at once?"

"Passionately."

"And you have never seen him since?"

"Never! No doubt he has been translated to heaven among his brothers,
the archangels, whose ideal beauty he possessed."

"Madeleine, are you speaking seriously?"

"Listen: six months ago I was in Vienna. I lived in the country situated
near one of the suburbs of the city. One morning I was in a kiosk, the
window of which looked out upon a field. Suddenly my attention was
attracted by the noise of stamping and the clash of swords. I ran to my
window; it was a duel."

"Oh, my God!"

"A young man of nineteen or twenty at most, as gracious and beautiful as
they paint the angels, was fighting with a sort of giant with a
ferocious face. My first wish was that the blond archangel--for blond is
my passion--might triumph over the horrible demon, and although the
combat lasted in my presence not more than two minutes, I had time to
admire the intrepidity, the calmness, and dexterity of my hero,--his
white breast half naked, his long, blond hair floating to the wind, his
brow serene, his eyes brilliant, and a smile upon his lips, he seemed to
brave danger with a charming grace, and at that moment, I confess it,
his beauty appeared to me more than human. Suddenly, in the midst of a
kind of fascination that the flashing of the swords had for me, I saw
the giant stagger and fall. Immediately my beautiful hero threw away his
sword, clasped his hands, and, falling on his knees before his
adversary, lifted to heaven his enchanting face, where shone an
expression so touching, so ingenuous, that to see him thus bending in
grief over his vanquished enemy, one would have thought of a young
girl's grief for her wounded dove, if we can compare this hideous giant
to a dove. But his wound did not seem to be mortal, for he sat up, and,
in a hoarse voice, which I could hear through my window-blind, said to
his young enemy:

"'On my knees, monsieur, I ask your pardon for my disloyal conduct and
my rude provocation; if you had killed me it would have been justice.'

"Immediately a carriage arrived and carried the wounded man away, and a
few minutes afterward all the witnesses of the duel had disappeared. It
happened so rapidly that I would have thought I had dreamed it, but for
the remembrance of my hero, who has been in my thought always since that
day, the ideal of all that is most beautiful, most brave, and most
generous."

"Now, Madeleine, I conceive that under such circumstances one might, in
five minutes, feel a profound impression, perhaps ineffaceable. But have
you never seen your hero again?"

"Never, I tell you. I do not know his name even; yet, if I marry, I
should marry no man except him."

"Madeleine, you know that our old friendship gives me the privilege of
being frank with you."

"Could you be otherwise?"

"It seems to me that you bear this grand passion very cheerfully."

"Why should I be sad?"

"But when one loves passionately, nothing is more cruel than absence and
separation, and, above all, the fear of never seeing the beloved object
again."

"That is true; and notwithstanding the effects of this profound passion,
I declare to you they have a very different result with me."

"What must I say to you? When I began to love Charles, I should have
died of distress if I had been separated from him."

"That is singular. My passion, I repeat to you, manifests itself in an
entirely different fashion. There is not a day in which I do not think
of my hero, my ideal; not a day in which I do not recall with love, in
the smallest details, the only circumstances under which I saw him; not
a day in which I do not turn all my thought to him; not a day in which I
do not triumph with pride in comparing him to others, for he is the most
beautiful of the most beautiful, most generous of the most generous; in
fact, thanks to him, not a day in which I do not lull myself in the most
beautiful dreams. Yes, it seems to me that my soul is for ever attached
to his by cords as mysterious as they are indissoluble. I do not know if
I shall ever behold him again, and yet I feel in my heart only delight
and cheerfulness."

"I must say, as you do, my dear Madeleine, that it is very singular."

"Come, Sophie, let us talk sincerely; we are alone and, among women,
although I am still a young lady to be married or a marriageable girl,
we can say the truth. You find my love, do you not, a little platonic?
You are astonished to see me so careless or ignorant of the thrill you
felt, when for the first time the hand of Charles pressed your hand in
love?"

"Come, Madeleine, you are getting silly."

"Be frank, I have guessed your feeling."

"A little, but less than you think."

"That little suffices to penetrate your inmost thought, Madame
Materialist."

"I say again, Madeleine, you are growing silly."

"Oh, oh, not so silly!"

Then, after a moment's silence, the marquise resumed, with a smile:

"If you only knew, Sophie, the strange, extraordinary, I might say
incomprehensible things that have come in my life! What extravagant
adventures have happened to me since our separation! My physician and my
friend, the celebrated Doctor Gasterini, a great philosopher as well,
has told me a hundred times there is not a creature in the world as
singularly endowed as myself."

"Explain your meaning."

"Later, perhaps."

"Why not now?"

"If I had a sorrow to reveal, do you think I would hesitate? But,
notwithstanding all that has been extraordinary in my life, or perhaps
for that particular reason, I have been the happiest of women. Oh, my
God! wait, for this moment I have almost a sorrow for my want of heart
and memory."

"A want of memory?"

"Yes, of Antonine; have I not forgotten her since I have been here,
talking to you only of myself? Is it wicked? Is it ingratitude enough?"

"I would be at least as culpable as you, but we need not reproach
ourselves. This morning she came to bring me your letter and announce
your arrival to me. Think of her joy, for she has, you can believe me,
the strongest and most tender attachment to you."

"Poor child, how natural and charming she was! But tell me, has she
fulfilled the promise of her childhood? She ought to be as pretty as an
angel, with her fifteen years just in flower."

"You are right; she is a rosebud of freshness; add to that the finest,
most delicate features that you could ever see. After the death of her
nearest relative, she came, as you know, to live with her uncle,
President Hubert, who has always been kind to her. Unhappily, he is now
seriously ill, and should she lose him she would be compelled to go and
live with some distant relatives, and the thought makes her very sad.
Besides, you will see her and she will give you her confidence. She has
made one to me, in order to ask my advice, for the circumstances are
very grave."

"What is this confidence?"

"'If you see Madeleine before I do,' said Antonine to me, 'tell her
nothing, my dear Sophie. I wish to confide all to her myself; it is a
right which her affection for me gives me. I have other reasons, too,
for laying this injunction on you.' So you see, my dear friend, I am
obliged, perforce, to be discreet."

"I do not insist upon knowing more. To-day or to-morrow I will go to see
this dear child," said the marquise, rising to take leave of Madame
Dutertre.

"You leave me so soon, Madeleine?"

"Unfortunately, I must. I have an appointment from three to four, at the
house of the Mexican envoy, my compatriot. He is going to conduct me
to-morrow to the palace of a foreign Royal Highness. You see, Sophie, I
am among the grandees."

"A Highness?"

"Such a Highness that, like all princes who belong to the reigning
foreign families, he resides in the Élysée-Bourbon during his sojourn in
Paris."

Madame Dutertre could not restrain a movement of surprise, and said,
after a minute's reflection:

"That is singular."

"What, pray?"

"Antonine lives in a house contiguous to the Élysée. There is nothing
very surprising in that, but--"

"But what?"

"I cannot tell you more, Madeleine; when you have heard Antonine's
confidences you will comprehend why I have been struck with this
coincidence."

"What is there in common with Antonine and the Élysée?"

"I tell you again, my dear friend, wait for the confidences of
Antonine."

"So be it, my mysterious friend. Besides, I did not know she lived near
the palace. I addressed a letter to her at her old dwelling-house. That
suits my plans marvellously; I will go to see her before or after my
audience with the prince."

"Come, what a great lady you are!"

"Pity me, rather, my dear Sophie, because it is a question of entreaty,
not for myself, I am not in the habit of begging, but it concerns an
important service to be done for a proscribed family, and one worthy of
the highest interest. The mission is very difficult, very delicate;
however, I consented to undertake it at the time of my departure from
Venice, and I desire to try everything which can further my success."

"And surely you will succeed. Can any one refuse you anything? Do you
remember when we were at school, as soon as a petition was to be
addressed to our mistress you were always chosen as ambassadress; and
they were right, for, really, you seem to possess a talisman for
obtaining all you want."

"I assure you, my good Sophie," replied Madeleine, smiling in spite of
herself, "I assure you I am often a magician without trying to be one.
My God!" added the marquise, laughing, "how many fine extravagances I
have to tell you. But we will see, some other time. Come, dear Sophie,
good-bye,--will see you soon."

"Oh, yes, come again soon, I implore you!"

"My God! you can count on my coming almost every day, because I am a
bird of passage, and I have decided to employ my time in Paris well,
that is to say, I shall see you very often."

"What! you are not thinking of leaving Paris soon?"

"I do not know; that will depend upon the inspiration that my hero, my
passion, my ideal will give me, for I decide on nothing without
consulting him in thought. But, as he always inspires me admirably, I
doubt not he will induce me to stay near you as long a time as
possible."

"Ah, my God, Madeleine; but, now I think of it, you told my husband that
you had a favour to ask of him."

"That is true, I forgot it. It is a very simple thing. I understand
nothing of money affairs. I learned that recently, to my cost, in
Germany. I had a letter of credit on a certain Aloysius Schmidt, of
Vienna; he cheated me shamefully, so I promised myself to be on my guard
in the future. So I have taken another letter of credit on Paris. I wish
to ask your husband to demand money for me when I have need of it. He
will watch over my interests, and, thanks to him, I shall not be exposed
to the possibility of falling into the clutches of a new Aloysius
Schmidt."

"Nothing easier, my dear Madeleine. Charles will endorse your letter of
credit and verify at hand all your accounts."

"That will be all the more necessary, since, between us, I am told that
the person on whom they have given me this letter of credit is
enormously rich, and as solvent as one could be, but crafty and sordid
to the last degree."

"You do well to inform me beforehand. Charles will redouble his
watchfulness."

"Besides, your husband, who is in business, ought to know the man of
whom I speak,--they say he is one of the greatest capitalists in
France."

"What is his name?"

"M. Pascal."

"M. Pascal?" repeated Madame Dutertre.

And she could not help trembling and turning pale.

The marquise, seeing her friend's emotion, said, quickly:

"Sophie, pray, what is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing, I assure you."

"I see that something is the matter; answer me, I implore you."

"Ah, well, if I must tell you, my husband has had some business
relations with M. Pascal. Unhappily, a great misunderstanding was the
result, and--"

"Why, Sophie, you are very unreasonable to give yourself so much
concern, because, in consequence of this misunderstanding with M.
Pascal, your husband cannot render me the good office I expected from
him."

Madame Dutertre, willing to leave her friend in this error, tried to
regain her calmness, and said to her:

"Indeed, it disappoints me very much to think that Charles will not be
able to do you the first service that you ask of us."

"Stop, Sophie, you will make me regret having appealed so cordially to
you."

"Madeleine--"

"Really, it is not such a great pity! And, besides, to prevent my being
deceived, I will address myself directly to this M. Pascal, but I will
demand my accounts every week. Your husband can examine them, and, if
they are not correct, I will know perfectly well how to complain of them
to monsieur, my banker, and to take another."

"You are right, Madeleine," said Sophie, recovering by degrees her
self-possession, "and the supervision of my husband will, in fact, be
more necessary than you think."

"So this M. Pascal is a sordid fellow?"

"Madeleine," said Madame Dutertre, unable longer to conquer her emotion,
"I beseech you, and let me speak to you as a friend, as a sister,
whatever may be the reason, whatever may be the pretext, place no
dependence in M. Pascal!"

"What do you mean, Sophie?"

"In a word, if he offers you his services, refuse them."

"His services? But I have no service to ask of him. I have a letter of
credit on him. I will go and draw money from his bank when I have need
of it--that is all."

"That may be, but you might, through mistake or ignorance of business,
exceed your credit, and then--"

"Well, what then?"

"I know from a person who has told Charles and myself that, once M.
Pascal has you in his debt, he will abuse his power cruelly, oh, so
cruelly."

"Come, my good Sophie, I see that you take me for a giddy prodigal.
Reassure yourself, and admire my economy. I have so much order that I
lay by every year something from my income, and although these savings
are small I place them at your disposal."

"Dear, tender friend, I thank you a thousand times! I repeat, the crisis
which gives my husband and myself so much concern will soon end; but let
me tell you again, do not trust M. Pascal. When you have seen Antonine,
I will tell you more."

"Antonine again! You just spoke of her in connection with the Élysée."

"Yes, it all hangs together; you will see it yourself after to-morrow. I
will explain myself entirely, which will be important to Antonine."

"After to-morrow, then, my dear Sophie. I must confess you excite my
curiosity very much, and I try in vain to discover what there can be in
common between Antonine and the Élysée, or between Antonine and that
wicked man, for so at least he appears who is named M. Pascal."

Half-past three sounded from the factory clock.

"My God! how late I am!" said Madeleine to her friend. "I shall barely
have time, but I must embrace your angelic children before I go."

The two women left the parlour.

We will return with the reader to the Élysée-Bourbon, where we left the
archduke alone, after the departure of M. Pascal.



CHAPTER XII.


The archduke, anxious and preoccupied, was walking back and forth in his
study, while his secretary of ordinance unsealed and examined the
letters received during the day.

"This despatch, monseigneur," pursued the secretary, "relates to Colonel
Pernetti, exiled with his family to England. We think it necessary to
put your Highness on guard against the proceedings and petitions of the
friends of Colonel Pernetti."

"I do not need that warning. The republican principles of this man are
too dangerous for me to listen, under any consideration, to what may be
urged in his favour. Go on."

"His Eminence, the envoy plenipotentiary from the Mexican Republic, asks
the favour of presenting one of his compatriots to your Highness. It
concerns a very urgent interest, and he requests your Highness to have
the kindness to grant an audience to-morrow."

"Is the list of audiences complete for to-morrow?"

"No, monseigneur."

"Write that at two o'clock, to-morrow, I will receive the envoy from
Mexico, and his compatriot."

The secretary wrote.

A moment passed, and the archduke said to him:

"Does he mention in this letter the name of the person whom he wishes to
present?"

"No, monseigneur."

"That is contrary to all custom; I shall not grant the audience."

The secretary put the letter he had begun to write aside, and took
another sheet of paper.

In the meanwhile the prince changed his mind after reflection, and said:

"I will grant the audience."

The secretary bowed his head in assent, and, taking another letter, he
rose and presented it to the prince without breaking the seal, and said:

"On this envelope is written 'Confidential and Special,' monseigneur."

The archduke took the letter and read it. It was from M. Pascal, and was
expressed in these familiar words:

       *       *       *       *       *

"After mature reflection, monseigneur, instead of waiting upon you
Thursday I will see you to-morrow at three o'clock; it will depend upon
you absolutely whether our business is concluded and signed during that
interview. Your devoted

"PASCAL."

       *       *       *       *       *

One moment of lively hope, soon tempered by the recollection of the
eccentricities of M. Pascal's character, thrilled the prince, who,
however, said, coldly:

"Write M. Pascal on the list of audiences for to-morrow at three
o'clock."

An aide-de-camp was then presented, who asked if the prince could
receive Count Frantz de Neuberg.

"Certainly," said the archduke.

After a few more moments' work with his secretary of ordinance, he gave
the order to introduce Frantz.

Frantz presented himself, blushing, before the prince, his godfather,
for the young count was excessively timid, and unsophisticated to a
degree that would make our experienced lads of twenty laugh. Brought up
by a Protestant pastor in the depth of a German village belonging to one
of the numerous possessions of the archduke, the godson of the Royal
Highness had left this austere solitude, only to enter at sixteen years
a military school devoted to the nobility, and kept with puritanical
strictness. From that school, he went, by order of the prince, to serve
in the Russian army as a volunteer in the wars of the Caucasus. The rude
discipline of the camp; the severity of manners which characterised the
old general to whom he had been sent and especially recommended by his
royal godfather; the chain of sad and serious thought peculiar to brave
but tender and melancholy souls; the sight of the fields of battle
during a bitter war which knew no mercy nor pity; the habitual gravity
of mind imparted to these same souls by the possibility if not the
expectation of death, coolly braved every day in the midst of the most
frightful perils; the mystery of his birth, to which was joined the pain
of never having known the caresses of a father or a mother,--all had
conspired to accentuate the natural reserve and timidity of his
character, and increase the ingenuousness of his sincere and loving
heart. In Frantz, as in many others, heroic courage was united with
extreme and unconquerable timidity in the ordinary relations of life.

Besides, whether from prudence, or other reason, the prince, during the
six months passed in Germany after the young man had returned from the
war, had kept his godson far from the court. This determination agreed
marvellously with the simple and studious habits of Frantz, who found
the highest happiness in an obscure and tranquil life. As to the
sentiments he felt for the prince, his godfather, he was full of
gratitude, loyalty, and respectful affection, the expression of which
was greatly restrained by the imposing prestige of his royal protector's
rank.

The embarrassment of Frantz was so painful, when, after the departure of
the secretary, he stood in the presence of his godfather, that for some
time he remained silent, his eyes cast down.

Fortunately, at the sight of the young man, the prince appeared to
forget his laborious duties; his cold and haughty face relaxed, his brow
grew clearer, a smile parted his lips, and he said, affectionately, to
Frantz:

"Good morning, my child."

And taking the young man's blond head in his two hands, he kissed him
tenderly on the forehead; then he added, as if he felt the need of
opening his heart:

"I am glad to see you, Frantz. I have been overwhelmed with business,
sad business, this morning. Here, give me your arm and let us take a
turn together in the garden."

Frantz opened one of the glass doors which led to the steps opposite the
lawn, and the godfather and godson, arm in arm, took their way to the
shady walk in which the young man had promenaded so long that morning.

"Now, what is the matter, my child?" said the prince, observing at once
the embarrassment of the young man.

"Monseigneur," replied Frantz, with increasing bashfulness, "I have a
confidence to make to your Royal Highness."

"A confidence!" repeated the prince, smiling. "Let us hear, then, the
confidence of Count Frantz."

"It is a very important confidence, monseigneur."

"Well, what is this important confidence?"

"Monseigneur, I have no parents. Your Royal Highness has, up to this
time, deigned to stand for me in the place of family."

"And you have bravely repaid my care, and fulfilled my hopes, my dear
Frantz; you have even surpassed them. Modest, studious, and courageous,
although a lad, three years ago, you fought with such intelligence and
intrepidity in that terrible war to which I sent you for your first
experience. You have received there your first wound, your baptism of
fire. I will not speak of a duel, which I ought to ignore, but in which
you have, I know, given proof of as much bravery as generosity."

"Monseigneur--"

"I pray you, let me in this moment recall all your claims to my
tenderness. It does me good, it makes me forget the bitter vexations of
which you are the innocent and involuntary cause."

"I, monseigneur?"

"You, because, if you continue to fill me with satisfaction, you cannot
foresee the future which my loving ambition prepares for you,--the
unhoped-for position which perhaps awaits you."

"You know, monseigneur, the simplicity of my tastes, and--"

"My dear Frantz," interrupted the prince, "this simplicity, this
modesty, are virtues under certain conditions, while under other
circumstances these virtues become weakness and indolence. But we are
getting far away from the confidence. Come, what is it you have to tell
me?"

"Monseigneur--"

"Well, speak; are you afraid of me? Is there a single thought in your
heart which you cannot confess with a bold face and steady eye?"

"No, monseigneur; so, without any evasion, I will tell your Highness
that I wish to get married."

If a thunderbolt had fallen at the feet of the prince he could not have
been more astounded than he was at the words of Frantz; he rudely
withdrew his arm from that of the young man, stepped back, and
exclaimed:

"You marry, Frantz?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Why, you are a fool."

"Monseigneur!"

"You marry, and hardly twenty years old! You marry! When I was planning
for you to--"

Then the prince, regaining his self-possession, said, calmly and coldly:

"And whom do you wish to marry, Frantz?"

"Mlle. Antonine Hubert, monseigneur."

"Who is this Mlle. Hubert? What did you say her name was?"

"Hubert, monseigneur."

"And what is Mlle. Hubert?"

"The niece of a French magistrate, monseigneur, President Hubert."

"And where have you made the acquaintance of this young lady?"

"Here, monseigneur."

"Here? I have never received any person of that name."

"When I say here, monseigneur, I mean to say in this walk where we are."

"Speak more clearly."

"Your Royal Highness sees this wall of protection which separates the
neighbouring garden?"

"Yes, go on."

"I was promenading in this walk when I saw Mlle. Antonine for the first
time."

"In this garden?" replied the prince, advancing to the wall, and taking
a view of it. Then he added:

"This young lady, then, lives in the next house?"

"Yes, monseigneur; her uncle occupies a part of the ground floor."

"Very well."

After a few minutes' reflection, the prince added, severely:

"You have given me your confidence, Frantz. I accept it; but act with
perfect candour, with the most thorough sincerity, if you do not--"

"Monseigneur!" interrupted Frantz, in painful surprise.

"Well, well, I was wrong to suspect your truthfulness, Frantz. You have
never lied to me in your life. Speak, I will listen to you."

"Your Royal Highness knows that, since our arrival in Paris, I have
rarely gone out in the evening."

"That is true; I am aware of your disinclination to society, and, too,
of your excessive timidity, which increases your distaste for appearing
at these dreaded French functions, where you are naturally a stranger. I
have not insisted upon it, Frantz, and have allowed you to dispose of
most of your evenings as you pleased."

"In one of these evenings, monseigneur, six weeks ago, I saw Mlle.
Antonine for the first time. She was watering flowers; I was leaning on
my elbow there at the wall. She saw me; I saluted her. She returned my
salutation, blushed, and continued to water her flowers; twice she
looked up at me, and we bowed to each other again; then, as it grew dark
entirely, Mlle. Antonine left the garden."

It is impossible to reproduce the ingenuous grace with which poor Frantz
made this artless recital of his first interview with the young girl.
The emotion betrayed by his voice, the heightened colour of his face,
all proved the honesty of this pure and innocent soul.

"One question, Frantz," said the prince. "Has this young lady a mother?"

"No, monseigneur, Mlle. Antonine lost her mother when she was in the
cradle, and her father died some years ago."

"Is her uncle, President Hubert, married?"

"No, monseigneur."

"How old is she?"

"Fifteen years and a half, monseigneur."

"And is she pretty?"

"Antonine! monseigneur!"

In this exclamation of Frantz, there was almost a reproach, as if it
were possible for him not to recognise the beauty of Mlle. Antonine.

"I ask you, Frantz," repeated the archduke, "if this young girl is
pretty?"

"Monseigneur, do you recollect the sleeping Hebe in the gallery of your
palace of Offenbach?"

"One of my finest Correggios."

"Monseigneur, Mlle. Antonine resembles this painting by Correggio,
although she is far more beautiful."

"It would be difficult to be that."

"Monseigneur knows that I always speak the truth," replied Frantz,
ingenuously.

"Well, go on with your story."

"I cannot tell you, monseigneur, what I felt when returning to my
chamber. I thought of Mlle. Antonine. I was agitated, troubled, and
happy at the same time. I did not sleep all night. The moon rose; I
opened my window, and remained on my balcony until day, looking at the
tops of the trees in Mlle. Antonine's garden. Oh, monseigneur, how long
the hours of the next day seemed to me! Before sunset, I was there again
at the wall. At last mademoiselle came again to water her flowers. Every
moment, thinking she had already seen me, I prepared to salute her, but
I do not know how it happened, she did not see me. She came, however, to
water flowers close to the wall where I was standing. I wanted to cough
lightly to attract her attention, but I dared not. Night came on, my
heart was broken, monseigneur, for still mademoiselle had not seen me.
Finally, she returned to the house, after setting her little
watering-pot near the fountain. Fortunately, thinking, no doubt, that it
was out of place there, she returned, and set it on a bench near the
wall. Then by chance, turning her eyes toward me, she discovered me at
last. We saluted each other at the same time, monseigneur, and she went
back into the house quickly. I then gathered some beautiful roses, and,
trying to be very dexterous, although my heart was beating violently, I
had the good luck to let the bouquet fall in the mouth of the
watering-pot that mademoiselle had left there. When I returned to my
room, I trembled to think what would be the thought of the young lady
when she found these flowers. I was so uneasy, that I had a great mind
to descend again and jump over the little wall and take the bouquet
away. I do know what restrained me. Perhaps I hoped that Mlle. Antonine
would not take offence at it. What a night I passed, monseigneur! The
next day I ran to the wall; the watering-pot and the bouquet were there
on the bench, but I waited in vain for Mlle. Antonine. She did not come
that evening or the next day to look after her flowers. I cannot
describe to you, monseigneur, the sadness and the anguish I endured
those three days and nights, and you would have discovered my grief if
you had not taken your departure just at that time."

"For the journey to Fontainebleau, you mean?"

"Yes, monseigneur. But, pardon me; perhaps I am abusing the patience of
your Royal Highness?"

"No, no, Frantz, continue; on the contrary, I insist upon knowing all. I
pray you, continue your story with the same sincerity."



CHAPTER XIII.


At the invitation of the archduke, Frantz de Neuberg continued his
recital with charming frankness:

"For three days Mlle. Antonine did not appear, monseigneur. Overwhelmed
with sadness, and hoping nothing, I went, nevertheless, at the
accustomed hour to the garden. What was my surprise, my joy,
monseigneur, when, arriving near the wall, I saw just below me Mlle.
Antonine, seated on the bench! She held in her hand, lying on her lap,
my bouquet of roses, faded a long time; her head was bent over; I could
only see her neck and the edge of her hair; she did not suspect I was
there; I remained motionless, hardly daring to breathe, for fear I might
drive her away by revealing my presence. Finally I grew bolder, and I
said, trembling, for it was the first time I had spoken to her, 'Good
evening, mademoiselle.' She trembled so that the faded bouquet fell out
of her lap. She did not notice it, and, without changing her attitude or
lifting her head, she replied, in a low voice, as agitated as my own,
'Good evening, monsieur.' Seeing I was so well received, I added: 'You
have not come to water your flowers for three days, mademoiselle.' 'That
is true, monsieur,' answered she, in a broken voice, 'I have been a
little sick.' 'Oh, my God!' I exclaimed, with such evident distress that
mademoiselle raised her head a moment and looked at me. I saw, alas!
that she was, monseigneur, really very pale, but she soon resumed her
first attitude, and again I saw only her neck, which seemed to me to be
slightly blushing: 'And now, mademoiselle, you are better?' 'Yes,
monsieur,' said she. Then, after a short silence, I added: 'You will
then be able to water your flowers every evening as you have done in the
past.' 'I do not know, monsieur, I hope so.' 'And do you not feel afraid
the fresh evening air will be injurious to you, after having been sick,
mademoiselle?' 'You are right, monsieur,' replied she, 'I thank you, I
am going back into the house.' And really, monseigneur, it had rained
all the morning and it was growing very cold. The moment she left the
bench I said to her: 'Mademoiselle, will you give me this faded bouquet
which has fallen at your feet?' She picked it up and handed it to me in
silence, without lifting her head or looking at me. I took it as a
treasure, monseigneur, and soon Mlle. Antonine disappeared in a turn of
the garden walk."

The prince listened to his godson with profound attention. The frankness
of this recital proved its sincerity. Until then, his only thought was
that Frantz had been the sport of one of those Parisian coquettes, so
dangerous to strangers, or the dupe of an adventurous and designing
girl; but now a graver fear assailed him: a love like this, so chaste
and pure, would, for reason of its purity, which banished all remorse
from the minds of these two children,--one fifteen and a half and the
other twenty,--become profoundly rooted in their hearts.

Frantz, seeing the countenance of the prince grow more and more gloomy,
and meeting his glance, which had regained its usual haughty coldness,
stopped, utterly confounded.

"So," said the archduke, sarcastically, when his godson discontinued his
story, "you wish to marry a young girl to whom you have addressed three
or four words, and whose rare beauty, as you say, has turned your head."

"I hope to obtain the consent of your Royal Highness to marry Mlle.
Antonine, because I love her, monseigneur, and it is impossible for our
marriage to be postponed."

At these words, so resolutely uttered in spite of the timidity of
Frantz, the prince trembled and reproached himself for having believed
it to be one of those chaste loves of such proverbial purity.

"And why, sir," said the prince, in a threatening voice, "why cannot
this marriage be postponed?"

"Because I am a man of honour, monseigneur."

"A man of honour! You are either a dishonest man, sir, or a dupe."

"Monseigneur!"

"You have basely abused the innocence of a child of fifteen years, I
tell you, or you are her dupe. Parisian girls are precocious in the art
of cheating husbands."

Frantz looked at the prince a moment in silence, but without anger or
confusion, vainly trying to ascertain the meaning of these words which
touched him neither in his love nor in his honour.

"Excuse me, monseigneur, I do not understand you."

Frantz uttered these words with such an expression of sincerity, with
such ingenuous assurance, that the prince, more and more astonished,
added, after a moment's silence, looking at the young man with a
penetrating gaze:

"Did you not just tell me that your marriage with this young lady could
not be deferred?"

"No, monseigneur; with the permission of your Royal Highness, it ought
not to be and will not be!"

"Because without marriage you would be wanting in honour?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"And in what and why would you be wanting in honour, if you did not
marry Mlle. Antonine?"

"Because we have sworn before Heaven to belong to each other,
monseigneur," replied Frantz, with restrained energy.

The prince, half reassured, added, however:

"And pray, under what circumstances have you exchanged this oath?"

"Fearing to displease you, monseigneur, or fatigue your attention, I
discontinued my story."

"Well, continue it."

"Monseigneur, I fear--"

"Continue,--omit nothing. I wish to know all of this affair."

"The uncle of mademoiselle went out in the evening, monseigneur, and she
remained at home alone. The season was so beautiful that Mlle. Antonine
spent all her evenings in the garden. We grew better acquainted with
each other; we talked long together many times,--she, on the little
bench, I, leaning on my elbow on the wall; she told me all about her
life; I told her about mine, and, above all, monseigneur, my respectful
affection for you, to whom I owe so much. Mlle. Antonine shares this
moment my profound gratitude to your Royal Highness."

At this point of the conversation, the sound of a gradually approaching
step attracted the attention of the prince. He turned and saw one of his
aids, who advanced, but stopped respectfully at a little distance. At a
sign from the archduke, the officer came forward.

"What is it, sir?" asked the prince.

"His Excellence, the minister of war, has just arrived; he is at the
order of your Royal Highness for the visit which is to be made to the
Hôtel des Invalides."

"Say to his Excellence that I will be with him in a moment."

As the aide-de-camp departed, the prince turned coldly to Frantz, and
said:

"Return to your apartments, monsieur; you are under arrest until the
moment of your departure."

"My departure, monseigneur?"

"Yes."

"My departure?" repeated Frantz, amazed. "Oh, my God! And where are you
going to send me, monseigneur?"

"You will see. I shall confide you to the care of Major Butler; he will
answer for you to me. Before twenty-four hours you shall leave Paris."

"Mercy, monseigneur!" cried Frantz, in a supplicating voice, not able to
believe what he had heard. "Have pity on me, and do not compel me to
depart."

"Return to your apartments," said the prince, with the severity of a
military command, making a sign for Frantz to pass before him. "I never
revoke an order once given. Obey!"

Frantz, overwhelmed, returned in sadness to his chamber, situated on the
first floor of the palace, not far from the apartment of the archduke,
and looking out upon the garden. At seven o'clock a dinner was served
the young prisoner, which he did not touch. Night came, and Frantz, to
his great astonishment, and to his deep and painful humiliation, heard
his outside doors fastened with a double lock. Toward midnight, when the
whole palace was asleep, he opened his window softly, went out on the
balcony, and leaning outside, succeeded, with the aid of his cane, in
removing a little of the wall plastered on one of the posts of a
window-blind on the ground floor. It was on this tottering support that
Frantz, with as much dexterity as temerity, having straddled the balcony
railing, set the point of his foot; then, aiding himself by the rounds
of the blind as a ladder, he reached the ground, ran into the shady
walk, jumped the little wall, and soon found himself in the garden of
the house occupied by Antonine.

Although the moon was veiled by thick clouds, a dim light shone under
the great trees which had served as a place of meeting for Antonine and
Frantz; at the end of a few moments, he perceived at a distance a figure
in white, rapidly approaching; the young girl soon approached him and
said, in a voice which betrayed her excitement:

"I came only for one minute, that you might not be disappointed, Frantz.
I have taken advantage of my uncle's sleep; he is very sick, and I
cannot stay away from him a longer time. Good-bye, Frantz," added
Antonine, with a deep sigh; "it is very sad to part so soon, but it must
be. Good-bye, again,--perhaps I can see you to-morrow."

The young man was so crushed by the news he had to communicate to the
young girl that he had not the strength to interrupt her. Then, in a
voice broken by sobs, he exclaimed:

"Antonine, we are lost!"

"Lost!"

"I am going away."

"You!"

"The prince compels me to go."

"Oh, my God!" murmured Antonine, turning pale and leaning for support on
the back of the rustic bench. "Oh, my God!"

And, unable to utter another word, she burst into tears. After a
heartrending silence, she said:

"And you hoped for the consent of the prince, Frantz."

"Alas! I hoped to obtain it by simply telling him how much I loved you,
and how much you deserved that love. The prince is inflexible."

"To go away,--to be separated from each other, Frantz," murmured
Antonine, in a broken voice; "but it is not possible,--it would kill us
both with sorrow, and the prince would not do that."

"His will is inflexible; but whatever may happen," cried Frantz, falling
at the young girl's knees, "yes, although I am a foreigner here, without
family, without knowing what may be the consequence, I will stay in
spite of the prince. Have courage, Antonine--"

[Illustration: "_'Monseigneur, listen to me.'_"

Original etching by Adrian Marcel.]

Frantz could not continue; he saw a light shining in the distance, and a
voice in great pain called:

"Mlle. Antonine!"

"My God! that is my uncle's nurse,--she is looking for me!" cried the
young girl; then, turning to Frantz, she said, "Frantz, if you go away,
I shall die."

And Antonine disappeared in the direction of the light.

The young man, overcome by grief, fell on the bench, hiding his face in
his hands. Presently he heard a voice, coming down the walk in the
garden of the Élysée, calling him by name:

"Frantz!"

He started, thinking it was the voice of the prince; he was not
mistaken. A second time his name was called.

Fear, the habit of passive obedience, and his respect for the archduke,
as well as his gratitude, led Frantz back to the little wall which
separated the two gardens; behind this wall he saw the prince standing
in the light of the moon. The prince extended his hand with haughty
reserve, and assisted him to regain the walk.

"Immediately upon my return, I entered your apartment," said the
archduke, severely. "I did not find you. Your open window told me all.
Now, follow me."

"Monseigneur," cried Frantz, throwing himself at the feet of the prince,
and clasping his hands, "monseigneur, listen to me."

"Major Butler," said the prince, in a loud voice, addressing a person
who until then had been hidden by the shade, "accompany Count Frantz to
his apartment, and do not leave him a moment. I hold you responsible for
him."



CHAPTER XIV.


The day after these events had transpired the archduke, dressed always
in his uniform, for he carried military etiquette to its most extreme
limit, was in his study about two o'clock in the afternoon. One of his
aids, a man about forty years old, of calm and resolute countenance, was
standing before the table on the side opposite the prince, who was
seated, writing, with a haughtier, severer, and more care-worn manner
than usual. As he wrote, without raising his eyes to the officer, he
said to him:

"Is Captain Blum with Count Frantz?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"You have just seen the physician."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"What does he think of the count's condition?"

"He finds it more satisfactory, monseigneur."

"Does he think Count Frantz can support the fatigues of the journey
without danger?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Major Butler, go and give the order at once to prepare one of my
travelling carriages."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"This evening at six o'clock you will depart with Count Frantz. Here is
the guide for your route," added the prince, handing to his aid the note
he had just written.

Then he remarked:

"Major Butler, you will not wait long for the proofs of my satisfaction
if you accomplish, with your usual devotion and firmness, the mission I
entrust to you."

"Your Highness can rely upon me."

"I know it, but I also know that, once recovering from his present
dejection, and being no longer restrained by his respect for me, Count
Frantz will certainly try to escape from your care along the route, and
to get back to Paris at any risk. If this misfortune happens, sir, take
care, for all my resentment will fall on you."

"I am certain that I shall not be undeserving of the kindness of your
Highness."

"I hope so. Do not forget, too, to write to me twice a day until you
reach the frontier."

"I will not fail, monseigneur."

"Upon your arrival on the territory of the Rhine provinces, send a
despatch to the military authority."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"The end of your journey reached, you will inform me, and you will
receive new orders from me."

At this moment the prince, hearing a light knock at the door, said to
the major:

"See who that is."

Another aide-de-camp handed the officer a letter, and said, in a low
voice:

"The envoy from Mexico has just sent this letter for his Highness."

And the aide-de-camp went out.

The major presented the letter to the prince, informing him whence it
came.

"I recommend to you once more the strictest vigilance, Major Butler,"
said the archduke, putting aside the letter from the Mexican envoy
without opening it. "You will answer to me in conducting Count Frantz to
the frontier."

"I give you my word, monseigneur."

"Go, major, I accept your word, I know its value. If you keep it, you
will have only cause for congratulation. So, make your preparation to
leave at six o'clock promptly. Diesbach will provide you with the money
necessary for your journey."

The major bowed respectfully.

"Say to Colonel Heidelberg that, after a few minutes, he can introduce
the envoy of Mexico and the person who accompanies him."

"Yes, monseigneur."

The officer bowed profoundly, and went out.

The prince, left alone, said to himself as he slowly unsealed the letter
which had been delivered to him:

"I must save this unhappy young man from his own folly. Such a marriage!
It is insanity. Well, I must be mad myself to feel so disturbed about
the consequences of this foolish passion of Frantz, as if I had not
complete power over him. It is not anger, it is pity which his conduct
ought to inspire in me."

In the midst of these reflections the prince had broken the seal of the
letter and glanced perfunctorily over its contents. Suddenly he jumped
up from his armchair; his haughty features took on an expression of
righteous indignation, as he said:

"The Marquise de Miranda, that infernal woman who recently created such
a scandal in Bologna,--almost a revolution,--by exposing that
unfortunate cardinal to the hisses and the fury of an entire populace
already so much disaffected! Oh, on no pretext will I receive that
shameless creature."

And the prince sprang to the door to give the order not to admit the
marquise.

He was too late.

The folding doors opened at that very moment, and she entered,
accompanied by the envoy of Mexico.

Taking advantage of the surprise of the archduke, the cause of which he
did not understand, the diplomatist bowed profoundly, and said:

"Monseigneur, I dare hope that your Highness will accept the excuses I
have just had the honour of offering you by letter on the subject of my
omission yesterday of an important formality. I ought to have mentioned
the name of the person for whom I solicited the favour of an audience
from your Highness. I have repaired this omission, and now it only
remains for me to have the honour of presenting to your Highness the
Marquise de Miranda, who bears a distinguished name in our country, and
to commend her to the kindness of your Highness."

The diplomatist, taking the prolonged silence of the prince for a
dismissal, bowed respectfully, and went out, not a little disappointed
at so cold a reception.

Madeleine and the archduke were left alone.

The marquise was, according to her custom, as simply and amply dressed
as on the day before; only, by chance or intention, a little veil of
English point adorned her hood of white crape, and almost entirely hid
her face.

The prince, whose manners partook at the same time of military harshness
and religious austerity,--his love for the mother of Frantz having been
his first and only youthful error,--looked with a sort of aversion upon
this woman, who, in his eyes, symbolised the most profound and most
dangerous perversity, for popular rumour accused the marquise of
attacking, by preference, with her seductions, persons of the most
imposing and sacred character; and then, finally, the widely known
adventure with the cardinal legate had, as the archduke believed, been
followed by such deplorable consequences that a sentiment of political
revenge was added to his hatred of Madeleine. So, notwithstanding his
cold and polished dignity, he thought at first of dismissing his
importunate visitor unceremoniously, or of disdainfully retiring into
another chamber without uttering a word. But finally, the curiosity to
see this woman about whom so many strange rumours were in circulation,
and, above all, a keen desire to treat her with that contempt which in
his opinion she deserved, modified his resolution. He remained; but
instead of offering a seat to Madeleine, who studied his face
attentively through her veil, he leaned his back squarely against the
chimney, crossed his arms, and, with his head thrown back, his eyebrows
imperiously elevated, he measured her with all the haughtiness of his
sovereign pride, shut himself up in a chilling silence, and said to her
not one word of encouragement or common civility.

The marquise, accustomed to produce a very different impression, and
feeling, unconsciously perhaps, a kind of intimidation which many
persons feel in the presence of high rank, particularly when it is
identified with such insolent arrogance, was abashed by such a crushing
reception, when she had hoped so much from the courtesy of the prince.

However, as she was acting for interests she believed to be sacred, and
as she was brave, she conquered her emotion, and, as the Spanish proverb
naturalised in Mexico says, she resolved bravely to "take the bull by
the horns." So, seating herself carelessly in an armchair, she said to
the prince, with the easiest and most smiling manner in the world:

"I come, monseigneur, simply to ask two things of you, one almost
impossible and the other altogether impossible."

The archduke was confounded; his sovereign rank, his dignity, the
severity of his character, his inflexible code of etiquette, always so
powerful in the courts of the North, had accustomed him to see women,
even, approach him with the most humble respect. Judge, then, of his
dismay when Madeleine continued gaily, with familiar ease:

"You do not reply, monseigneur? How shall I interpret the silence of
your Highness? Is it reflection? Is it timidity, or is it consent? Can
it be impoliteness? Impoliteness? No, I cannot believe that. In
touching the soil of France, slaves become free, and men with the least
gallantry at once assume an exquisite courtesy."

The prince, almost crazed by the amazement and anger produced by these
audacious words, remained silent.

The marquise continued, smiling:

"Nothing? Not a word? Come, monseigneur, what is the real significance
of the continued speechlessness of your Highness? Again I ask, is it
reflection? Then reflect. Is it timidity? Then overcome it. Is it
impoliteness? Remember that we are in France, and that I am a woman. But
can I, on the contrary, regard your silence as a blind consent to what I
am going to ask of you? Then say so at once, that I may at least inform
you what are the favours that you grant me so graciously beforehand, and
for which I desire to thank you cordially."

Then Madeleine, taking off her gloves, extended her hand to the
archduke. That perfect little hand, white, delicate, tapering,
fluttering, veined with azure, whose finger-nails resembled
rose-coloured shells, attracted the attention of the prince; in all his
life he had never seen such a hand. But soon, ashamed, revolting at the
thought of yielding to such a triviality at such an important moment,
the blush of indignation mounted to his brow, and he sought some word
superlatively scornful and wounding, that he might crush, with a single
club-like blow, this presumptuous woman, whose insolence had already
lasted too long for the dignity of an archduke.

Unfortunately, the prince was more accustomed to command his troops, or
to receive the homage of courtiers, than to find crushing words on the
spur of the moment, especially when they were wanted to crush a young
and pretty woman; nevertheless, he persisted in seeking.

This serene cogitation gave Madeleine the time to hide her hand under
her large sleeves, and to say to the prince, with a mischievous smile:

"There is no longer room for doubt, monseigneur, that the silence of
your Highness is due to timidity, and, too, to German timidity. I am
acquainted with that. After the timidity of the scholar, there is none
more unconquerable, and, therefore, more venerable, but there are
limitations to everything. So, I beg you, monseigneur, recover yourself.
I do not think there is anything in me calculated to awe your Highness,"
added the marquise, without lifting the veil which concealed her
features.

The archduke was unfortunate; in spite of his desire, he could not find
the crushing word, but, feeling how ridiculous his position was
becoming, he said;

"I do not know, madame, how you dared to present yourself here."

"But I present myself here in accordance with your consent,
monseigneur."

"When you requested an audience yesterday, I did not know your name,
madame."

"And what has my name done to you, monseigneur?"

"Your name, madame? Your name?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Your name has been the scandal of Germany; you have made the most
spiritual of our poets a pagan, an idolater, a materialist."

"Indeed, monseigneur," replied Madeleine, with an accent of simplicity
quite provincial, "that was not my fault."

"It was not your fault?"

"And then, where is the great evil, monseigneur? Your religious poet
made mediocre verses, but now he writes magnificent ones."

"They are only the more dangerous, madame. And his soul,--his soul?"

"His soul has passed into his verses, monseigneur, so now it is twice
immortal."

"And the cardinal legate, madame?"

"At least, you cannot reproach me for having injured his soul, for he
had none."

"What, madame! have you not sufficiently vilified the sacred character
of the prince of the Church, this priest who until then was so austere,
this statesman who for twenty years was the terror of the impious and
the seditious? Have you not delivered him to the contempt, the hatred,
of wicked people? But for unexpected succour, they would have murdered
him; in short, madame, were you not on the point of revolutionising
Bologna?"

"Ah, monseigneur, you flatter me."

"And you dare, madame, to present yourself in the palace of a prince who
has so much interest in the peace and submission of Germany and Italy?
You dare come to ask favours of me,--things that you yourself say are
impossible or almost impossible? And in what tone do you make this
inconceivable request? In a tone familiar and jesting, as if you were
certain of obtaining anything from me. You have made a mistake, madame,
a great mistake! I resemble, I give you fair warning, neither the poet,
Moser-Hartmann, nor the cardinal legate, nor many others, they say you
have bewitched; in truth, your impudence would seem to be more like a
dream or nightmare than reality. But who are you then, madame, you who
think yourself so far above respect and duty as to treat me as an
equal,--me, whom the princesses of royal families approach only with
deference?"

"Alas, monseigneur! I am only a poor woman," replied Madeleine.

And she threw back the veil which had concealed her face from the eyes
of the archduke.



CHAPTER XV.


The prince, carried away by the vehemence of his furious indignation,
had, as he talked, come nearer and nearer the marquise, who still sat at
her ease in the armchair.

When she threw back her veil, at the same time throwing her head back
lightly, so as to be able to fix her eyes upon the eyes of the prince,
he stood motionless, and experienced that mingling of surprise,
admiration, and involuntary pain which almost everybody felt at the
sight of that charming face, to which a pallid complexion, large azure
blue eyes, black eyebrows, and blonde hair gave a fascination so
singular.

This profound impression made upon the prince, Charles Dutertre had also
received, notwithstanding his love for his wife, notwithstanding the
agonising fears of ruin and disaster by which he was besieged.

For a few seconds the archduke remained, so to speak, under the
fascination of this fixed, penetrating gaze, in which the marquise
endeavoured to concentrate all the attraction, all the magnetism which
was in her, and to cast it into the eyes of the prince, for the
projecting power of Madeleine's glance was, so to speak, intermittent,
subject, if we may use the expression, to pulsations; so at each of
these pulsations, the rebound of which he seemed to feel physically, the
archduke started involuntarily; his icy pride appeared to melt like snow
in the sun; his haughty attitude seemed to bend; his arrogant
countenance betrayed inexpressible uneasiness.

Suddenly Madeleine pulled her veil over her face, bowed her head, and
tried to efface herself as much as possible under the ample folds of her
mantle and trailing robe, which completely hid her small foot, as her
wide sleeves hid the beautiful hand she had extended to the prince, who
now saw before him only an undefined and chastely veiled form.

The most provoking coquetry, the boldest exposure of personal charms,
would have been ingenuousness itself compared to this mysterious
reserve, which, concealing from view the whole person from the point of
the foot to the tips of the fingers, gave free rein to the imagination,
which took fire at the recollection of the wonderful stories of the
marquise current in Paris.

When Madeleine's face again disappeared under her veil, the prince,
delivered from the influence which had held him in spite of himself,
regained his self-possession, roughly curbed his weakness, and, as a
safeguard against all dangerous allurement, forced himself to ponder the
deplorable adventures which proved how fatal was the power of this woman
over men known to be strong and inexorable.

But alas! the fall or transformation of these men only brought back more
forcibly the irresistible fascination of the marquise. He felt the grave
and imminent peril, but every one knows the attraction of danger.

In vain the prince argued with himself, that, naturally phlegmatic, he
had attained the maturity of age without ever having submitted to the
empire of those gross passions which degrade men. In vain he said to
himself that he was a prince of the royal blood, that he owed it to the
sovereign dignity of his rank not to debase himself by yielding to
shameful enticements. In a word, the unhappy archduke philosophised
marvellously well, but as uselessly as a man who, seeing in terror that
he is rolling down a steep declivity, gravely philosophises upon the
delightful advantages of repose.

Words, phrases, and pages are necessary to portray impressions as
instantaneous as thought, and all that we have described at such length,
from the moment Madeleine lifted her veil to the moment she dropped it
again, transpired in a few seconds, and the archduke, in the midst of
his efforts at self-restraint, unconsciously, no doubt,--so much did his
philosophy disengage his mind from matter,--tried, we say, yes, tried
again to see Madeleine's features through the lace which concealed them.

"I told you, monseigneur," said the marquise, holding her head down from
the covetous and anxious gaze of the archduke, "I told you that I was a
poor widow who values her reputation, and who really does not deserve
your severity."

"Madame--"

"Oh, I do not reproach you, monseigneur. You, no doubt, like many
others, believe certain rumours--"

"Rumours, madame!" cried the archduke, delighted to feel his anger
kindle again. "Rumours! The scandalous apostasy of the poet,
Moser-Hartmann, was a rumour, was it?"

"What you call his apostasy is a fact, monseigneur; that may be, but--"

"Perhaps the degradation of the cardinal legate was also a vain rumour?"
continued the archduke, impetuously interrupting Madeleine.

"That may be a fact, monseigneur, but--"

"So, madame, you confess yourself that--"

"Pardon me, monseigneur, listen to me. I am called Madeleine; it is the
name of a great sinner, as you know."

"She received pardon, madame."

"Yes, because she loved much; nevertheless, believe me, monseigneur, I
am not seeking an excuse in the example of the life of my patron saint.
I have done nothing which requires pardon, no, nothing, absolutely
nothing, monseigneur. That seems to astonish you very much. So, to make
myself entirely understood, which is quite embarrassing, I shall be
obliged, at the risk of appearing pedantic, to appeal to the classical
knowledge of Your Highness."

"What do you mean, madame?"

"Something very odd; but the acrimony of your reproaches, as well as
other reasons, compels me to a confession, or rather to a very singular
justification."

"Madame, explain yourself."

"You know, monseigneur, upon what condition the vestal virgins at Rome
were chosen?"

"Certainly, madame," replied the prince, with a modest blush, and, he
added, ingenuously, "but I cannot see what relation--"

"Ah, well, monseigneur," interrupted Madeleine, smiling at the Germanism
of the prince, "if we were at Rome under the empire of the Cæsars, I
would have every possible right to keep the sacred fire on the altar of
the chaste goddess. In a word, I am a widow without ever having been
married; because, upon my return from Europe the Marquis de Miranda, my
relative and benefactor, died, and he married me on his death-bed that
he might leave me his name and his fortune."

The accent of truth is irresistible, and the prince at once believed the
words of Madeleine, in spite of the amazement produced by this
revelation so diametrically opposite to the rumours of adventures and
gallantries which were rife about the marquise.

The astonishment of the prince was mingled with a vague satisfaction
which he did not care to estimate. However, fearing he might fall into a
snare, he said, no longer with passion, but with a sorrowful
recrimination:

"You count too much on my credulity, madame. What! when just now you
confessed to me that--"

"I beg your pardon, monseigneur; do me the favour to reply to a few
questions."

"Speak, madame."

"You certainly have all the valiant exterior of a man of war,
monseigneur, and when I saw you in Vienna, mounted on your beautiful
battle-horse, proudly cross the Prater, followed by your aides-de-camp,
I often said, 'That is my type of an army general; there is a man made
to command soldiers.'"

"You saw me in Vienna?" asked the archduke, whose voice softened
singularly. "You observed me there?"

"Fortunately you did not know it, monseigneur, or you would have exiled
me, would you not?"

"Well," replied the prince, smiling, "I fear so."

"Come, that is gallantry; I like you better so. I was saying to you,
then, monseigneur, that you have the exterior of a valiant man of war,
and your character responds to this exterior. But will you not confess
to me that sometimes the most martial figure may hide a poltroon--"

"No one better understands that than I. I had under my orders a
major-general who had the most ferocious-looking personality that could
be imagined, and he was the most arrant coward."

"You will admit again, monseigneur, that sometimes the most
contemptible-looking personality may hide a hero."

"Certainly, Frederick the Great, Prince Eugene, were not great in
manner--"

"Alas! monseigneur, it is even so, and I, on the contrary, am different
from these great men; unfortunately, I have too much manner."

"What do you mean, madame?"

"Ah, my God, yes! I am like the coward who makes everybody tremble by
his stern appearance, and who is really more afraid than the most
cowardly of the cowards he intimidates. In a word, I inspire that which
I do not feel; picture to yourself, monseigneur, the poor icicle
carrying around him flame and conflagration. And I would have the
presumption to call myself a phenomenon if I did not recollect that the
beautiful fruits of my country, so bright-coloured, so delicate, so
fragrant, awaken in me a furious appetite, without sharing the least in
the world the fine appetite they give, or ever feeling the slightest
desire to be crunched. It is so with me, monseigneur, it seems that as
innocently as the fruits of my country I excite, in some respects, the
hunger of an ogre, I who am of a cenobitic frugality. So now I have
concluded to be no longer astonished at the influence I exercise
involuntarily, but as, after all, this action is powerful, inasmuch as
it excites the most violent passions of men, I try to elicit the best
that is possible from my victims, either for themselves or for the good
of others, and that, I swear without coquetry, deception, or promises,
if one says to me, 'I am passionately in love with you,' I answer,
'Well, cherish your passion, perhaps its fire will melt my ice, perhaps
the lava will hide itself in me under the snow. Fan your flame, then,
let it burn until it wins me; I ask nothing better, for I am as free as
the air, and I am twenty-two years old.'"

As she uttered these words, Madeleine raised her head, lifted her veil,
and gazed intently at the archduke.

The marquise spoke truly, for her passion for her blond archangel, of
whom she had talked to Sophie Dutertre, had never had anything
terrestrial in it.

The prince believed Madeleine; first, because truth almost always
carries conviction with it, then, because he felt happy in putting faith
in the words of the young woman. He blushed less in acknowledging to
himself the profound and sudden impression produced on him by this
singular creature, when he realised that, after all, she had been worthy
of guarding the sacred fire of Vesta; so, the imprudent man, his eyes
fixed on the eyes of Madeleine, contemplating them with passionate
eagerness, drank at leisure the enchanted love-potion.

Madeleine resumed, smiling:

"At this moment, monseigneur, you are asking yourself, I am sure, a
question which I often ask myself."

"What is that, pray?"

"You are asking yourself (to speak like an old-time romance), 'Who is he
who will make me share his passion?' Ah, well, I, too, am very anxious
to penetrate the future on this subject."

"That future, nevertheless, depends on you."

"No, monseigneur, to draw music from the lyre, some one must make it
vibrate."

"And who will that happy mortal be?"

"My God! who knows? Perhaps you, monseigneur."

"I!" cried the prince, charmed, transported. "I!"

"I say perhaps."

"Oh, what must I do?"

"Please me."

"And how shall I do that?"

"Listen, monseigneur."

"I pray you, do not call me monseigneur; it is too ceremonious."

"Oh, oh, monseigneur; it is a great favour for a prince to be treated
with familiarity; he must deserve it. You ask me how you may please me.
I will give you not an example, but a fact. The poet, Moser-Hartmann,
whose apostasy you say I caused, addressed to me the most singular
remark in the world. One day he met me at the house of a mutual friend,
looked at me a long time, and then said, with an air of angry alarm:
'Madame, for the peace of spirituality, you ought to be buried alive!'
And he went out, but next day he came to see me, madly in love, a
victim, he told me, to a sudden passion,--as sudden and novel as it was
uncontrollable. 'Let your passion burn,' I said to him, 'but hear the
advice of a friend; the passion devours you, let it flow in your verse.
Become a great poet, and perhaps your glory will intoxicate me.'"

"And did the inebriation ever come to you?" said the prince.

"No, but glory has come to my lover to console him, and a poet can be
consoled for the loss of everything by glory. Ah, well, monseigneur,
have I used my influence well or ill?"

Suddenly the archduke started.

A keen suspicion pierced his heart. Dissimulating this painful doubt, he
said to Madeleine, with a forced smile:

"But, madame, your adventure with the cardinal legate did not have so
happy an end for him. What is left to console him?"

"There rests with him the consciousness of having delivered a country
that abhorred him from his presence," replied Madeleine, gaily. "Is
there nothing in that, monseigneur?"

"Come now, between us, what interest had you in making this unhappy man
the victim of a terrible scandal?"

"How! What interest, monseigneur? What but the interest of unmasking an
infamous hypocrite, of chasing him out of a city that he oppressed,--in
short, to cover him with contempt and shame. 'I believe in your
passion,' said I to him, 'and perhaps I may share it if you will mask as
a Hungarian hussar, and come with me to the ball of the Rialto, my dear
cardinal; it is an extravagant, foolish caprice on my part, no doubt,
but that is my condition, and, besides, who will recognise you under the
mask?' This horrible priest had his head turned; he accepted, and I
destroyed him."

"And you will destroy me, madame, as you did the cardinal legate," cried
the archduke, rising and making a supreme effort to break the charm
whose irresistible power he already felt. "I see the snare; I have
enemies; you wish by your perfidious seductions, to drag me into some
dangerous proceeding, and afterwards to hand me over to the contempt
and ridicule that my weakness would deserve. But, bless God! he has
opened my eyes in time. I recognise with horror that infernal
fascination which took from me the use of my reason, and which was not
love even,--no, I yielded to the grossest, most degrading passion which
can lower man to the level of a brute, to that passion which, to my
shame and to yours, I desire to stigmatise aloud as lust, madame!"

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders and began to laugh derisively, then
rising from her seat and walking up to the prince, who had stepped back
to the chimney, she took him gently by the hand, and led him back to a
chair near her own, without his having the strength to resist this
peaceable violence.

"Do me the favour to listen to me, monseigneur," said Madeleine. "I have
only a few more words to say to you, and then you will not see the
Marquise de Miranda again in your life."



CHAPTER XVI.


When Madeleine had seated the prince near her, she said to him:

"Listen, monseigneur, I will be frank, so frank that I defy you not to
believe me. I came here with the hope of turning your head."

"So," cried the prince, astonished, "you confess it!"

"Entirely. That end attained, I wished to use my influence over you, to
obtain, as I told you, monseigneur, at the beginning of our interview,
two things, one considered almost impossible, the other as altogether
impossible."

"You are right, madame, to defy me not to believe you," replied the
prince, with a constrained smile. "I believe you."

"The two deeds that I wished to obtain from you were great, noble, and
generous; they would have made you esteemed and respected. That is very
far, I think, from wishing to abuse my influence over you to excite you
to evil or indignity, as you suppose."

"Well, madame, come to the point; what is it?"

"First, an act of clemency, or rather of justice, which would rally
around you a multitude of hearts in Lombardy,--the free and full pardon
of Colonel Pernetti."

The prince jumped up from his chair, and exclaimed:

"Never, madame, never!"

"The free and full pardon of Colonel Pernetti, one of the most honoured
men in all Italy," pursued Madeleine, without noticing the interruption
of the prince. "The reasonable pride of this noble-hearted man will
prevent his asking you for the slightest alleviation of his woes, but
come generously to his relief, and his gratitude will assure you of his
devotion."

"I repeat to you, madame, that important reasons of state oppose your
request. It is impossible, altogether impossible."

"To be sure. I began, you know, by telling you that, monseigneur. As to
the other thing, doubtless more impossible still, it simply concerns
your consent to the marriage of a young man whom you have brought up."

"I!" cried the archduke, as if he could not believe his ears. "I,
consent to the marriage of Count Frantz?"

"I do not know if he is a count, but I do know that his name is Frantz,
since it was told me this morning by Mlle. Antonine Hubert, an angel of
sweetness and beauty, whom I have loved from her childhood, and for whom
I feel the tenderness of a mother and a sister."

"Madame, in three hours from this moment Count Frantz will have left
Paris,--that is my reply."

"My God, monseigneur, that is admirable! All this is impossible,
absolutely impossible. I say again, I admit that it is impossible!"

"Then, madame, why do you ask it?"

"Why, to obtain it, of course, monseigneur."

"What! notwithstanding all I have just said to you, you dare hope
still?"

"I have that presumption, monseigneur."

"Such self-conceit--"

"Is very modest because I am not counting on my presence."

"On what, then, madame, do you rely?"

"On my absence, monseigneur," said Madeleine, rising.

"On your absence?"

"On your remembrance, if you prefer it."

"You are going," said the prince, unable to conceal his regret and
vexation, "you are going so soon?"

"It is my last and only means of bringing you to an agreement."

"But really, madame----"

"Wait, monseigneur, do you wish me to tell you what is going to happen?"

"Let us hear, madame."

"I am going to leave you. At first you will be relieved of a great
burden; my presence will no longer beset you with all sorts of
temptations, which have their agony as well as their charm; you will
banish me entirely from your thoughts. Unfortunately, by degrees, and in
spite of yourself, I will return to occupy your thoughts; my mysterious,
veiled figure will follow you everywhere; you will feel still more how
little there is of the platonic in your inclination toward me, and these
sentiments will become only more irritating and more obstinate.
To-morrow, the next day, perhaps, reflecting that, after all, I asked
noble and generous actions only of you, you will bitterly regret my
departure, but it will be too late, monseigneur."

"Too late?"

"Too late for you; not for me. I have taken it into my head that Colonel
Pernetti will have his pardon, and that Count Frantz will marry
Antonine. You understand, monseigneur, that it must be."

"In spite of me?"

"In spite of you."

"That would be rather difficult."

"So it is. But, let us see, monseigneur, to mention to you only facts
which you already know; when one has known how to induce the cardinal
legate to masquerade as a Hungarian hussar, when one has known how to
create a great poet by the fire of a single glance, when one has known
how to render amorous--and I humbly confess I use the expression in its
earthly sense--a man like you, monseigneur, it is evident that one can
accomplish something else also. You force, do you not, this poor Count
Frantz to leave Paris? But the journey is long, and before he is out of
France I have two days before me. A little delay in the pardon of
Colonel Pernetti will be nothing for him, and, after all, his pardon
does not depend on you alone, monseigneur; you cannot imagine to what
point the rebound of influence may reach, and, thank God, here in France
I have the means and the liberty to act. Is it war that you wish,
monseigneur? Then let it be war. I depart, and I leave you already
wounded,--that is to say, in love. Ah, my God! although I have a right
to be proud of my success, it is not vanity which makes me insist upon
the sudden impression I have made on you; because, to tell the truth, I
have not employed the least coquetry in all this; almost always I have
kept my veil down, and I am dressed as a veritable grandmother. Well,
good-bye, monseigneur. At least do me the favour to accompany me to the
door of your front parlour; war does not forbid courtesy."

The archduke was in unutterable uneasiness of mind. He felt that
Madeleine was speaking the truth, for, already, at the bare thought of
seeing her depart, perhaps for ever, he experienced a real sorrow; then,
reflecting that if the charm, the singular and almost irresistible
attraction of this woman could act so powerfully on him, who for so many
reasons believed himself protected from such an influence, as well as
from others which might induce him to submit to this control, he felt a
sort of vague but bitter and angry jealousy; and while he could not make
up his mind to grant the pardon asked of him, or to consent to the
marriage of Frantz, he tried, like all undecided minds, to temporise,
and said to the marquise, with emotion:

"Since I cannot see you again, at least prolong your visit a little."

"For what purpose, monseigneur?"

"It matters little to you if it makes me happy."

"It would not by any means make you happy, monseigneur, because you have
neither the strength to let me depart nor to grant me what I ask of
you."

"That is true," answered the prince, sighing, "for one request seems as
impossible to me as the other."

"Ah, to-morrow, after my departure, how you will repent!"

The prince, after a long silence, said, with effort, yet with the most
insinuating voice:

"Wait, my dear marquise, let us suppose that which is not supposable,
that perhaps some day I may think of granting the pardon of Pernetti."

"A supposition? perhaps some day you will think of it? How vague and
unsatisfactory all that is, monseigneur! Why not say, positively, 'Admit
that I grant you the pardon of Colonel Pernetti.'"

"Very well, then, admit it."

"Good; you grant me this pardon, monseigneur, and you consent to the
marriage of Frantz? I must have all or nothing."

"As to the marriage, never, never!"

"Do not say never, monseigneur. Do you know anything about it?"

"After all, a supposition binds me to nothing. Well, to make an end of
it, let us admit that I grant all you desire. I will be at least certain
of my recompense--"

"You ask it of me, monseigneur? Is not every generous action its own
reward?"

"Granted. But there is one, in my eyes the most precious of all, and
that one you alone can give."

"Oh, make no conditions, monseigneur."

"Why?"

"Frankly, monseigneur, can I pledge myself to anything? Does not all
depend on you and not on me? You must please me, that concerns you."

"Oh! what a woman you are!" said the prince, with vexation. "But,
really, shall I please you? Do you think I can please you?"

"My faith, monseigneur, I know nothing about it. You have done nothing
so far but receive me with rudeness, I can truthfully say."

"My God! I was wrong, forgive me; if you only knew the uneasiness, I
might almost say the fear, that you inspire in me, my dear marquise!"

"Come, I forgive you the past, monseigneur, and promise you to allow
myself to be captivated with the best will in the world, and, as I am
very frank, I will even add that it does seem to me that I would like
you so much that you might succeed."

"Truly!" cried the prince, transported.

"Yes; you are half a sovereign, and you perhaps will be one some day,
and there may be all sorts of good and beautiful things for you to order
through the influence of this consuming passion you have just branded
like a real capuchin,--allow me the expression. Come, monseigneur, if
the good God has put this passion in all his creatures, he knew what he
was doing. It is an immense power, because, in the hope of satisfying
it, those who are under its influence are capable of everything, even
the most generous actions, is it not true, monseigneur?"

"So," added the prince, with increasing rapture, "I can hope--"

"Hope all at your ease, monseigneur, but, I tell you plainly, I bind
myself to nothing. My faith! fan your flame, make it burn, let it melt
my snow."

"But, in a word, suppose that I grant all that you ask, what would you
feel for me?"

"Perhaps this first proof of devotion to my wishes would make a deep
impression upon me, but I cannot assert it, my power of divination does
not extend so far as that, monseigneur."

"Ah, you are pitiless!" cried the archduke, with a vexation that had a
touch of sorrow in it, "you only know how to exact."

"Would it be better to make false promises, monseigneur? That would be
worthy neither of you nor of me, and then, in a word, let us speak as
people who have hearts. Once more, what is it I ask of you? to show
justice and mercy to the most honourable of men, and paternal affection
for the orphan you have reared! If you only knew how these poor orphans
love each other! What innocence! what tenderness! what despair! This
morning, as she told me of the ruin of her hopes, Antonine was moved to
tears."

"Frantz is of illustrious birth. I have other plans and other views for
him," replied the prince, impatiently. "He ought not to make a
misalliance."

"The word is a pretty one. And then who am I, monseigneur? Magdalena
Pérès, daughter of an honest Mexican merchant, ruined by failures in
business, and a marquise by chance. You love me, nevertheless, without
fear of misalliance."

"Ah, madame! I! I!"

"You, you, it is another thing, is it not? as the comedy says."

"At least, I am free in my actions."

"And why should not Frantz be free in his, when his tastes restrain him
to a modest and honourable life, adorned by a pure and noble love? Come,
monseigneur, if you were, as you say, smitten with me, how tenderly you
would compassionate the despairing love of those two poor children, who
adore each other with all the ardour and innocence of their age! If
passion does not render you better and more generous, this passion is
not true, and if I am to share it I must begin by believing in it, which
I cannot do when I see your relentless cruelty to Frantz."

"Ah, my God, if I loved him less I would not be relentless!"

"A singular way to love people!"

"Have I not told you that I intended him for a high destiny?"

"And I tell you, monseigneur, that the high destiny you reserve for him
would be odious to him. He is born for a happy, sweet, and modest life;
his tastes are simple, the timidity of his character, his qualities
even, separate him from all that is showy and pompous; is it not true?"

"Then," said the prince, greatly surprised, "you are acquainted with
him?"

"I have never seen him."

"How, then, do you know?"

"Has not this dear Antonine given me all her confidence? Is it not true
that, according to the way you love people, you are able to divine their
true character? In a word, monseigneur, the character of Frantz is such
as I have described, is it not,--yes or no?"

"It is true, such is his character."

"And you would have the cruelty to impose upon him an existence which
would be insupportable to him, when there under his hand he would find
the happiness of his life?"

"But, know that I love Frantz as my own son, and I will never consent to
be separated from him."

"Great pleasure for you to have constantly under your eyes the sad face
of a poor creature whose eternal misery you have caused! Besides,
Antonine is an orphan; nothing forbids her accompanying Frantz; in the
place of one child, you would have two. What a relief from your
grandeur, from the adulations of a false and selfish and artificial
society would the sight of this sweet and smiling happiness be to you;
with what joy would you go to refresh your heart and soul in the home of
these two children who would cherish you with all the happiness they
would owe to you!"

"Stop, leave me," cried the prince, more and more moved. "I do not know
what inconceivable power your words have, but I feel my firmest
resolutions give way, I feel the convictions of my whole life growing
weak."

"Do you complain of that, monseigneur! Hold! Between us, without
detracting from princes, I think they would often do well to renounce
the convictions of all their life, for God knows what these convictions
may be. Come, believe me, yield to the impression which now dominates
you, it is good and generous."

"Ah, my God, in this moment do I know how to distinguish good from
evil?"

"For that, monseigneur, interrogate the faces of those whose happiness
you have assured; when you will say to one, 'Go, poor exile, return to
the country that you weep; your brothers wait for you with open arms,'
and to the other, 'My beloved child, be happy, marry Antonine,' then
look well at both, monseigneur, and if tears moisten their eyes, as at
this moment they moisten yours and mine, be tranquil, monseigneur, you
have done good, and for this good, to encourage you because your emotion
touches me, I promise you to accompany Antonine to Germany."

"Truly," cried the prince, "you promise me?"

"I must, monseigneur," said Madeleine, smiling, "give you the
opportunity to captivate me."

"Ah, well, whatever may happen, whatever you may do, for perhaps you are
making sport of me," said the prince, throwing himself at Madeleine's
knees, "I give you my royal word that I will pardon the exile, that I--"

The archduke was suddenly interrupted by a violent noise outside the
door of his study, a noise which revealed the sharp contention of
several voices, above which rose distinctly the words:

"I tell you, sir, you shall not enter!"

The archduke got up from his position suddenly, turned pale with anger,
and said to Madeleine, who was listening also to the noise with great
surprise:

"I beseech you, go into the next chamber; something extraordinary is
taking place. In an instant I will rejoin you."

At that moment a violent blow resounded behind the door.

The prince added, as he went to open the adjacent room for Madeleine:

"Enter there, please."

Then, closing the door, and wishing in his anger to know the cause of
this insolent and unusual noise, he went out of his study quickly, and
saw M. Pascal, whom two exasperated officers were trying to restrain.



CHAPTER XVII.


At the sight of the archduke, the officers turned aside respectfully,
and M. Pascal, who seemed to have lost control of himself, cried:

"Zounds! monseigneur, you receive people here singularly!"

The prince, remembering the appointment that he had made with M. Pascal,
and fearing for his own dignity some new insult from this brutal person,
said, making a sign to him:

"Come, monsieur, come."

And before the eyes of the silent officers the door closed on the prince
and the capitalist.

"Now, monsieur," said the archduke, pale with anger and hardly able to
restrain himself, "will you tell me the cause of this scandal?"

"What! you make an appointment for me at three o'clock; I am punctual; a
quarter of an hour passes,--nobody; a half-hour,--nobody; my faith! I
lose patience, and I ask one of your officers to inform you that I am
waiting. They answer that you have an audience. I begin to champ my bit,
and at last, at the end of another half-hour, I tell your gentlemen,
positively, that if they do not inform you I will go in myself."

"That, monsieur, is an insolence--"

"What, an insolence! Ah, well, monseigneur, is it I who have need of
you, or you who have need of me?"

"M. Pascal!"

"Is it I who come to you, monseigneur? Is it I who have asked for the
loan of money?"

"But, monsieur--"

"But, monseigneur, when I consent to interrupt my own business to come
here and wait in your antechamber,--what I do for nobody,--it seems to
me that you ought not to let me go to the devil for one hour, and the
most important hour, too, on the Exchange, which, thanks to you,
monseigneur, I have missed to-day; and in addition to that vexation, I
think it very strange that your officers repulse me, when, on their
refusal to announce me, I take the liberty of announcing myself."

"Discretion and the simplest propriety command you to wait the end of
the audience I was giving, monsieur."

"That is possible, monseigneur, but, unfortunately, my just impatience
contradicts discretion, and, frankly, I think I deserve a different
reception, especially when I come to talk with you of a service that you
have implored me to do for you."

In the first moment of his anger, increased by the persistent coarseness
of M. Pascal, the prince had forgotten that the Marquise de Miranda
could hear his conversation with his rude visitor from the adjoining
room; so, overwhelmed with shame and feeling the necessity of appeasing
the angry humour of the man, he endeavoured with all his self-control to
appear calm, and tried to lead M. Pascal, as he talked with him, over to
the embrasure of one of the windows, where Madeleine would not be able
to hear the interview.

"You know, M. Pascal," said he, "that I have always been very tolerant
of your bluntness, and I will continue to be so."

"Really, you are very good, monseigneur," replied Pascal, sarcastically,
"but you see each one of us has his little contrarieties, and at the
present moment I have very large ones, which make it impossible for me
to possess the gentleness of a lamb."

"That excuse, or, rather, that explanation suffices for me, M. Pascal,"
replied the prince, dominated by his need of the financier's services.
"Opposition often exasperates the gentlest characters, but let us talk
no longer of the past. You asked me to anticipate by two days the
appointment we had made to terminate our business. I hope that you bring
me a satisfactory reply."

"I bring you a thoroughly complete yes, monseigneur," replied our hero,
growing gentle. And he drew a pocketbook from his pocket. "And more, to
corroborate this yes, here is a draft on the Bank of France for the
tenth of the amount, and this contract of mine for the remainder of the
loan."

"Ah, my dear M. Pascal!" cried the prince, radiant, "you are a man--a
man of gold."

"'A man of gold!' that is the word, monseigneur. That is no doubt the
cause of your liking for me."

The prince did not observe this sarcasm. Delighted with the whole day,
which seemed to fulfil his various desires, and impatient to dismiss the
financier so as to return to Madeleine, he said:

"Since all is settled, my dear M. Pascal, we need only exchange our
signatures, and to-morrow or after, at your hour, we will regulate the
matter completely."

"I understand, monseigneur; once the money and the signature in your
pocket, the keenest desire of your heart is to rid yourself as soon as
possible of your very humble servant, Pascal, and to-morrow you will
turn him over to some subaltern charged with the power of arranging the
affair."

"Monsieur!"

"Good! monseigneur, is not that the natural course of things? Before the
loan, one is a good genius, a half or three-quarters of God; once the
money is loaned, one is a Jew or an Arab. I know this, it is the other
side of the medallion. Do not hasten, monseigneur, to turn over the said
medallion."

"Really, monsieur, you must explain yourself."

"Immediately, monseigneur, for I am in a hurry. The money is there, my
signature is there," added he, striking the pocketbook. "The affair is
concluded on one condition."

"Still conditions?"

"Each, monseigneur, manages his little affairs as he understands them.
My condition, however, is very simple."

"Let us hear it, monsieur, let us come to an end."

"Yesterday I told you that I observed a handsome blond young man in the
garden, where he was promenading, who lives here, you inform me."

"Without doubt, it is Count Frantz, my godson."

"Certainly, one could not see a prettier boy, I told you. Now then, as
you are the godfather of this pretty boy, you ought to have some
influence over him, ought you not?"

"What are you aiming at, monsieur?"

"Monseigneur, in the interest of your dear godson, I will tell you in
confidence that I think the air of Paris is bad for him."

"What!"

"Yes, and you would do wisely to send him back to Germany; his health
would improve very much, monseigneur, very much indeed."

"Is this a pleasantry, monsieur?"

"It is serious, monseigneur, so serious that the only condition that I
put to the conclusion of our affair is that you must make your godson
depart for Germany in twenty-four hours at the latest."

"Truly, monsieur, I cannot recover from my surprise. What interest have
you in the departure of Frantz? It is inexplicable."

"I am going to explain myself, monseigneur, and that you may better
understand the interest I have in his departure, I must make you a
confidence; that will enable me to point out exactly what I expect from
you. Now then, monseigneur, such as you see me I am madly in love. Eh,
my God! yes, madly in love; that seems queer to you and to me also. But
the fact remains. I am in love with a young girl named Mlle. Antonine
Hubert, your neighbour."

"You, monsieur, you!" exclaimed the prince, dismayed.

"Certainly, me! Me! Pascal! And why not, monsieur? 'Love is of every
age,' says the song. Only, as it is also of the age of your godson,
Count Frantz, he has in the most innocent way in the world begun to love
Mlle. Antonine; she, not less innocently, returns the love of this
pretty boy, which places me, you see, in an exceedingly disobliging
frame of mind; fortunately, you can assist me in getting out of this
frame of mind, monseigneur."

"I?"

"Yes, monseigneur; I will tell you how. Assure me that you will require
Count Frantz to leave France this instant,--and that is easy,--and
demand also that he is not to set foot in France for several years; the
rest belongs to me."

"But there is another thing you do not think of, monsieur. If this young
person loves Frantz?"

"The rest belongs to me, I tell you, monseigneur. President Hubert has
not two days to live; my batteries are ready, the little girl will be
forced to go to live with an old relative who is horribly covetous and
avaricious; a hundred thousand francs will answer to me for this old
vixen, and once she gets the little girl in her clutches I swear to God
that Antonine will become, willing or unwilling, Madame Pascal, and
that, too, without resorting to violence. Come now, monseigneur, all the
love affairs of fifteen years will not hold against the desire to
become, I will not say madame the archduchess, but madame the
archmillionaire. Now, monseigneur, you see it all, I have frankly played
the cards on the table; having no interest in acting otherwise, it is
of little or no moment to you that your godson should marry a little
girl who has not a cent. The condition that I impose is the easiest
possible one to fulfil. Again, is it yes, or is it no?"

The prince was overwhelmed, less by the plans of Pascal and his odious
misanthropy, than by the cruel alternative in which the condition
imposed by the capitalist placed him.

To order the departure of Frantz, and oppose his marriage with Antonine,
was to lose Madeleine; to refuse the condition imposed by M. Pascal was
to renounce the loan, which would enable him to accomplish his projects
of ambitious aggrandisement.

In the midst of this conflict of two violent passions, the prince
recollected that he had only given his word to Madeleine for the pardon
of the exile, the tumult caused by the fury of M. Pascal having
interrupted him at the very moment he was about to swear to Madeleine to
consent to the marriage of Frantz.

Notwithstanding the facility which this evasion left to him, the
archduke realised how powerful was the influence of Madeleine over him,
as that morning even he had not hesitated to sacrifice Frantz to his
ambition.

The hesitation and perplexity of the prince struck Pascal with
increasing surprise; he could not believe that his demand concerning
Frantz was the only question; however, to influence the determination of
the prince by placing before him the consequences of his refusal, he
broke the silence, and said:

[Illustration: "_'It is no.'_"

Original etching by Adrian Marcel.]

"Really, monseigneur, your hesitation is incomprehensible! What! by a
weak deference to the love affair of a schoolboy, you renounce the
certainty of obtaining a crown? For, after all, the duchy whose transfer
is offered to you is sovereign and independent. This transfer, my loan
only can put it in your power to accept, which, I may say in passing, is
not a little flattering to the good man Pascal. Because, in a word,
through the might of his little savings, he can make or unmake
sovereigns, he can permit or prevent that pretty commerce where these
simpletons of people sell and sell again, transfer and reassign, no more
nor less than if it were a park of cattle or sheep. But that does not
concern me at all. I am not a politician, but you are, monseigneur, and
I do not understand your hesitation. Once more, is it yes? is it no?"

"It is no!" said Madeleine, coming suddenly out of the adjoining room,
where she had heard the preceding conversation, notwithstanding the
precautions of the prince.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The archduke, at the unexpected appearance of the Marquise de Miranda,
shared the surprise of M. Pascal, who looked at Madeleine with
amazement, supposing her a guest of the palace, for she had taken off
her hat, and her singular beauty shone in all its splendour. The shadow
thrown by the rim of her hat, which hid a part of her forehead and
cheeks, was no longer there, and the bright light of broad day,
heightening the transparent purity of her dark, pale complexion, gilded
the light curls of her magnificent blond hair, and gave to the azure of
her large eyes, with long black eyebrows, that sparkling clearness that
the rays of the sun give to the blue of a tranquil sea. Madeleine, her
cheek slightly flushed by the indignation which this odious project of
Pascal had aroused, her glance animated, her nostrils dilating, her head
proudly thrown back on her slender, beautiful neck, advanced to the
middle of the parlour, and, addressing the financier, repeated the
words:

"No, the prince will not accept the condition which you have the
audacity to impose upon him, monsieur."

"Madame!" stammered M. Pascal, feeling his usual effrontery forsaking
him, and recoiling, intimidated, pained, and charmed at the same time,
"I do not know who you are, I do not know by what right you--"

"Come, monseigneur," continued the marquise, addressing the archduke,
"resume your dignity, not as a prince, but as a man; receive the
humiliating condition which he imposes on you with the contempt which it
deserves. Great God! at what price would you buy an increase of power?
What! You would have the courage to pick up your sovereign crown at the
feet of this man? It would defile your brow! But a man of courage would
not have endured the thousandth part of the outrages which you have just
brooked, monseigneur. And you a prince! You so proud! You belong to
those who believe themselves of a race superior to the vulgar herd. And
so for your humble courtiers, your base flatterers, your intimidated
followers, you have only haughtiness, and before M. Pascal you abase
your sovereign pride! And this, then, is the power of money!" added
Madeleine, with increasing exaltation, hurling the words at the
financier with a gesture of crushing disdain, "you bow before this man!
God have mercy! This is to-day the king of kings! Think of it, prince,
think then that what makes the power and the insolence of this man is
your ambition. Come, monseigneur, instead of buying by a shameful
degradation the fragile plaything of a sovereign rank, renounce this
poor vanity, retake your rights as a man of courage, and you will be
able to drive this man away ignominiously, who treats you more
insolently than you have ever treated the meanest of your poor vassals."

Pascal, since his accession of fortune, was accustomed to a despotic
domination as well as to the timid deference of those whose fate he held
in his hands; judge, then, of his violent shock, of his rage, in hearing
himself thus addressed by the most attractive, if not the most beautiful
woman he had ever met. Picture his exasperation as he thought he must,
doubtless, renounce the hope of marrying Antonine, and lose besides the
profit of the ducal loan, an excellent investment for him; so he cried,
with a threatening air:

"Madame, take care; this power of money, which you treat so
contemptuously, is able to command many resources for the service of
revenge. Take care!"

"Thank God! the threat is good, and it frightens me very much," said
Madeleine, with a burst of sarcastic laughter, stopping by a gesture the
prince, who took a quick step toward Pascal. "Your power is great, do
you say, Sir Strong-box! It is true money is an immense power. I have
seen at Frankfort a little old man, who said in 1830 to two or three
furious kings, 'You wish to make war on France; it does not suit me or
my family, and I will not give you the money to pay your troops;' and
there was no war. This good old man, a hundred times richer than you, M.
Pascal, occupied the humble house of his father and lived upon little,
while his beneficent name is inscribed on twenty splendid monuments of
public usefulness. He is called the 'king of the people,' and his name
is blessed as much as yours is shamed and hissed, M. Pascal! For your
reputation as a true and honest man is as well known to the foreigner as
in France. Certainly, oh, you are known, M. Pascal, too well known,
because you do not imagine how much your delicacy, your scrupulous
probity, is appreciated! And what is the object of universal
consideration, the honourable course, by which you have made your
immense fortune? All that has given you a very wide-spread reputation,
M. Pascal, and I am happy to declare it under present circumstances."

"Madame," replied Pascal, with an icy calmness more terrible than his
anger, "you know many things, but you do not know the man whom you
provoke. You are ignorant of what this man, this Strong-box as you call
him, can do."

The prince made a threatening gesture which Madeleine again checked,
then, shrugging her shoulders, she continued:

"What I do know, M. Pascal, is that, notwithstanding your audacity, your
impudence, or your strong-box, you will never marry Mlle. Antonine
Hubert, who will be betrothed to-morrow to Count Frantz de Neuberg, as
monseigneur can assure you."

And the marquise, without waiting for the reply of Pascal, made a
half-mocking bow and returned to the adjoining chamber. Excited by the
generous indignation of Madeleine's words, more and more subjugated by
her beauty, which had just appeared to him under a new light, the
archduke, feeling all the bitterness, all the anger accumulated by the
many insolences of Pascal, revive in his heart, experienced the joy of
the slave at last freed from a detested yoke. At the impassioned voice
of the young woman the wicked soul of this prince, hardened by the pride
of race, frozen by the atmosphere of mute adulation in which he had
always lived, had at least some noble impulses, and the blush of shame
covered the brow of this haughty man as he realised to what a state of
abjection he had descended to gain the favour of M. Pascal.

The financier, no longer intimidated or handicapped by the presence of
the marquise, felt his audacity spring up again, and, turning abruptly
to the prince, he said, with the habitual brutal sarcasm in which was
mingled a jealous hatred to see the archduke in possession of so
beautiful a mistress,--for such at least was Pascal's belief:

"Zounds! I am no longer astonished, monseigneur, at having stood so long
like a crane on one foot in your antechamber. You were, I see, occupied
with fine company. I am a fine judge and I compliment your taste; but
men like us are not under petticoat government, and I think you know
your interests too well to renounce my loan and take seriously the words
you have just heard, and which I shall not forget, because I--I am sorry
for you, monseigneur," added Pascal, whose rage redoubled his
effrontery,--"in spite of her beautiful eyes, I must have revenge for
the outrages of this too adorable person."

"M. Pascal," said the prince, triumphant at the thought of avenging
himself, "M. Pascal!" and with a significant gesture he showed him the
door; "leave this room, and never set your foot here again!"

"Monseigneur, these words--"

"M. Pascal," repeated the prince, in a louder voice, reaching his hand
to the bell-cord, "go out of this room instantly, or I will have you put
out."

There is ordinarily so much cowardice in insolence, so much baseness in
avarice, that M. Pascal, overwhelmed at the prospect of the destruction
of his hopes as well as the loss of his profit on the loan, repented too
late his brutality, and, becoming as abject as he had been arrogant,
said to the prince, in a pitiful voice:

"Monseigneur, I was jesting. I thought your Highness, in deigning to
allow me to talk frankly, would be amused at my whims; that is why I
permitted myself to say such improper things. Can your Highness suppose
that I would dare cherish the least resentment for the pleasantries this
charming lady addressed to me? I am too gallant, too much of a French
knight for that I will even ask your Highness, in case, as I hope, the
loan takes place, to offer to this respectable lady what we men of the
strong-box, as she so amusingly called us just now, call pin-money for
her toilet,--a few rolls of a thousand louis. Ladies always have some
little purchases to make, and--"

"M. Pascal," said the prince, who enjoyed this humiliation which he had
not the courage to inflict on Pascal, "you are a miserable scoundrel. Go
out!"

"Ah, so, monseigneur! Do you mean seriously to treat me in this way?"
cried Pascal.

The prince without replying rang vigorously; an officer entered.

"You see that man," said the archduke, indicating Pascal by a gesture;
"look at him."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Do you know his name?"

"Yes, monseigneur; it is M. Pascal."

"Would you recognise him again?"

"Perfectly, monseigneur."

"Very well. Conduct this man to the door of the vestibule, and if he
ever has the impudence to present himself here, drive him away in
disgrace."

"We will not fail to do it, monseigneur," replied the officer, who with
his comrades had endured the insolence of M. Pascal.

Our hero, realising the ruin of his hopes, and having no longer a point
to gain, recovered his audacity, held up his head and said to the
prince, who, sufficiently avenged, was eager to join Madeleine in the
adjoining chamber:

"Wait, M. archduke, the courage and baseness of both of us are of the
same feather,--the other day I was strong for reason of your cowardice,
as now you are strong for reason of mine. The only brave person here is
that damned woman with the black eyebrows and blond hair; but I will
have my revenge on her and on you!"

The prince, angered at being thus addressed in the presence of one of
his subordinates, became purple, and stamped his foot in fury.

"Will you go out, sir?" cried the officer, putting his hand on the hilt
of his sword, as a threat to M. Pascal. "Out of here, or, if not--"

"Softly, M. fighter," replied Pascal, coolly, as he retired, "softly,
sir, they do not cut up people with a sword here, you see! And we are in
France, you see! And we have, you see, some good little commissaries of
police who receive the complaints of an honest citizen who is
maltreated."

M. Pascal went out of the palace steeped in rancour, devoured with hate,
bursting with rage. He thought of his thwarted scheme for usury, his
disappointed love, and he could not banish from his thoughts the pale
and glowing face of Madeleine, who, far from making him forget the
virginal purity of Antonine's beauty, seemed to recall her more
forcibly to his memory,--the two perfect, yet dissimilar, types
heightening the charms of each by contrast.

"Man is a strange animal. I feel within me all the instincts of the
tiger," said Pascal to himself, as he slowly walked down the street of
the Faubourg St. Honoré, with both hands plunged in the pockets of his
trousers. "No," added he, continuing to walk with his head down, and his
eyes fixed mechanically on the pavement, "it is not necessary to say
that for fear of rendering the envy they bear us millionaires less
cruel, less bitter to those who feel it, because, fortunately, those who
envy us suffer the torments of the damned for every joy they suppose we
have. Yet, indeed, it is a fact,--here I am at this hour, with a purse
which can provide me with every pleasure permitted or forbidden that
ever a man was allowed to dream! I am still young, I am not a fool, I am
full of strength and health, free as a bird, the earth is open to me. I
can obtain the most exquisite of all the country offers. I can lead the
life of a sybarite in Paris, London, Vienna, Naples, or Constantinople;
I can be a prince, duke, or marquis, and covered with insignia; I can
have this evening the most beautiful and coveted actresses in Paris; I
can have every day a feast of Lucullus, and have myself drawn by the
finest horses in Paris; I could even in one month, by taking a splendid
hôtel, as many knaves and imbeciles do, surround myself with the élite
of Paris and of Europe,--even this so-called king, whom I failed to
consecrate with the holy vial of the Bank of France, this archduke whom
I have just left, has licked my feet. Ah, well, my word of honour!"
added M. Pascal, mentally, gnashing his teeth, "I wager there is not a
person in the world who suffers as I do this moment. I was in paradise
when, as a drudge, I cleaned the shoes of my old rascal usurer in the
province. Fortunately, not to masticate empty, I can always, while
waiting for better morsels, chew a little on Dutertre. Let us run to
the house of my bailiff."

       *       *       *       *       *

The archduke, after the departure of the financier, hastened, as we have
said, to find the Marquise de Miranda, but, to his great astonishment,
she was not in the next room.

As this chamber had no other egress than through the study, the prince
asked the officers if they had seen the person to whom he had given
audience pass. They replied that the lady had come out of the parlour,
and had left the palace a little while before the departure of M.
Pascal.

Madeleine had really gone away, although it was her first intention to
wait for the prince after the conclusion of his interview with M.
Pascal.

This is why the marquise did not keep her first resolution.

She reëntered the parlour, after having treated M. Pascal as he well
deserved, when, looking into the garden by chance, she saw Frantz, who
had asked the favour of a turn in the park, accompanied by Major Butler.

At the sight of Frantz, Madeleine stood petrified with astonishment. She
recognised her blond archangel, the object of that ideal and only
passion which she had confessed to Sophie Dutertre.



CHAPTER XIX.


Madeleine did not doubt that the hero of the duel of which she had been
an invisible witness, her blond archangel, and the ideal of her passion,
Frantz, and the lover of Antonine, were one and the same person.

At this sudden discovery the marquise felt a profound agitation. Until
then, this love, surrounded with the mystery of the unknown, this vague
and charming love which seemed like the memory of a sweet dream, had
sufficed to fill her heart in the midst of the perturbations of her
life, rendered so fantastic by the calm of her own indifference and the
foolish transport that she involuntarily inspired in others.

It had never occurred to Madeleine that her ideal could be in love with
another woman, or, rather, her thought had never rested on this doubt;
for her, this radiant archangel was provided with beautiful wings, which
might carry him away before all eyes into the infinite plains of ether.
Incessantly besieged by lovers, by no means platonic, she experienced a
joy, an ineffable moral repose, in lifting herself into immaterial
regions, where her charmed and dazzled eyes saw her ideal hovering. But
suddenly reality cut the wings of the archangel, and, fallen from his
celestial sphere, he was no more than a handsome young man, in love with
a pretty girl of fifteen, who adored him.

At this discovery, Madeleine could not repress a sort of sadness, or,
rather, of sweet melancholy like that which follows the awakening from
an enchanted dream, for to experience the tortures of jealousy, would be
to love carnally. In short, if Frantz had almost always occupied the
thought of Madeleine, he had never had part in her life; it only
concerned her, then, to break the thousand ties that habit, sympathy,
and confidence had rendered so dear. Nevertheless, she felt herself a
prey to a growing disquietude, to painful presentiments which she could
not explain to herself. Suddenly she started, and said:

"If fate should order that this strange charm that I exercise on almost
all who approach me should also act upon Frantz, if I, too, should share
his feeling on seeing the only man who has ever occupied my heart and my
thought!"

Then, trying to reassure herself by an appeal to her humility, Madeleine
said:

"No, no; Frantz loves Antonine too much, it is his first love; the
purity, the sincerity of this love will protect him. He will have for me
that coldness which I have for all. Yes, and who can say that my pride,
my self-esteem will not revolt from the coldness of Frantz? Who can tell
me that, forgetting the duties of sacred friendship, almost maternal,
toward Antonine, I may not employ all the resources of my mind and all
my power of seduction to conquer Frantz? Oh, no, that would be odious,
and then I deceive myself again, Frantz loves Antonine too much. Alas!
the husband of Sophie loves her tenderly, too, and I fear that--"

These reflections of the marquise were interrupted by the sound of the
archduke's voice as he ordered Pascal to go out; listening to this
discussion, she said to herself:

"After he has put this man out, the prince will come in here. I must
attend to what is most urgent."

Drawing a memorandum-book from her pocket, the marquise detached one of
the leaflets, wrote a few lines with a pencil, folded the paper, and
closed it firmly by means of a pin. After writing the address, "For the
prince," she laid the note where it could be seen on a marble table in
the middle of the parlour, put on her hat, and went out, as we have
said, a little before the departure of M. Pascal.

While the archduke, astonished and disappointed not to find the
marquise, was opening with inexpressible anguish the note she had left,
she was on her way to the home of Antonine, where Sophie Dutertre was
also expected.

Upon her arrival at the house of President Hubert, introduced in a
modest parlour, the marquise was received by Sophie Dutertre, who,
running to her, asked, anxiously:

"Ah, well, Madeleine, have you seen the prince?"

"Yes, and I have good hope."

"Will it be possible?"

"Possible; yes, my dear Sophie, but that is all. I do not wish to excite
foolish hope in the heart of this poor child. Where is she?"

"With her uncle. Happily, the crisis of this morning appeared to leave
results more and more satisfactory. The physician has just said that, if
the present condition continues, M. Hubert will perhaps be out of danger
this evening."

"Tell me, Sophie, do you think M. Hubert is in a state to receive a
visitor?"

"From whom?"

"From a certain person. I cannot tell you more now."

"I think so; because one of his friends has just seen him. Only the
physician advised him not to stay too long, as the invalid might become
fatigued."

"That suits marvellously. And poor little Antonine! She must be in
mortal uneasiness."

"Poor dear child! She is to be pitied. It is such an innocent sorrow,
and at the same time so desperate, that my own heart is almost broken.
Indeed, Madeleine, I am sure she will die of grief if she must give up
Frantz. Ah, death is preferable to some kinds of suffering," added
Sophie, with an accent so profoundly sad that the tears rose to her
eyes; then, drying them, she added, "Yes, but when one has children, one
must live."

Madeleine was so impressed by the tone of Madame Dutertre, by her pallor
that she had not observed before, and by the tears that she saw her
shed, that she said to her:

"My God! Sophie, what is the matter, pray? Why these painful words? Why
these tears? Yesterday I left you calm and happy, except, as you told
me, the concern occasioned by your husband's business. Is there anything
new to-day?"

"No, I--think--not," replied Sophie Dutertre, with hesitation. "But
since yesterday--my husband's business concerns me less than--"

"Go on."

"No, no; I am foolish," replied Madame Dutertre, restraining herself,
and seeming to hold back some words ready to escape; "but let us not
talk of me, let us talk of Antonine; I am so touched by the despair of
this poor child that one might say her suffering is mine."

"Sophie, you are not telling me the truth."

"I assure you."

"I see you are pale and changed. Yes, since yesterday you have suffered,
and suffered much, I am sure."

"No," replied the young woman, putting her handkerchief to her eyes,
"you are mistaken."

"Sophie," said Madeleine, quickly taking her friend's hands in her own,
"you do not know how much your lack of confidence distresses me; you
will make me think you have some complaint against me."

"What are you saying?" cried Sophie, pained by this suspicion, "you are
and you will always be my best friend, and I am only afraid of fatiguing
you with my grievances."

"Ah, again?" replied the marquise, in a tone of affectionate reproach.

"Forgive me, forgive me, Madeleine; but really, is it not enough to
confide to your friends your real sorrows, without saddening them by the
confession of vague apprehensions, which are, nevertheless, very
distressing?"

"My dear Sophie, tell me these apprehensions."

"Since yesterday,--but, again, I say no, no, I shall appear too foolish
to you."

"You appear foolish to me, well, what of it? Speak, I beseech you."

"Ah, well, it seems to me that since yesterday my husband is under the
influence of some idea which completely absorbs him."

"Business matters, perhaps?"

"No, oh, no; it is something else, and that is what confounds and alarms
me."

"What have you observed?"

"Yesterday, after your departure, it had been agreed that he would
undertake two measures of great importance to us. Seeing the hour slip
away I went into our chamber, where he had gone to dress himself. I
found him with his working apparel on, seated before a table, his head
leaning on his hand; he had not heard me enter. 'Charles,' said I to
him, 'you forget the hour. You are to go out, you know.' 'Why am I to go
out?' he asked. 'My God! why, on urgent business,' and I recalled to his
mind the two matters requiring his immediate attention. 'You are right,'
said he, 'I had not thought of them again.' 'But what are you thinking
of, Charles,' I asked. He blushed, appeared embarrassed, and did not
answer a word."

"Perhaps he has some project, some plan he is meditating, that he thinks
he ought not to confide to you yet."

"That is possible; yet he has never hidden anything from me, even his
most undeveloped plans. No, no, it is not business affairs which absorb
him, because yesterday, instead of talking with his father and me of the
state of things, which I confess to you, Madeleine, is graver than I
thought, or than I told you, Charles talked of things altogether
irrelevant to the subject which concerned us so deeply. And then I did
not have the courage to blame him, because he talked to us especially of
you."

"Of me? And what did he say?"

"That you had been so full of kindness to him yesterday morning. Then he
asked me a thousand little details about you, about your infancy and
your life. I replied to him with pleasure, as you can well believe,
Madeleine. Then suddenly he relapsed into a gloomy silence,--into a sort
of meditation so deep that nothing could draw him out of it, not even
the caresses of our children."

At this moment the old servant of M. Hubert entered, with a surprised
and busy air, and said to Sophie:

"Madame, Mlle. Antonine is with her uncle, no doubt!"

"Yes, Peter; what is the matter?"

"My God, madame! it has astonished me so that I do not know what to
answer."

"What is it, Peter? Explain yourself."

"Well, madame, it is this. There is a strange officer there; probably
one belonging to the prince who now occupies the Élysée."

"Well?"

"This officer has a letter which he wishes to deliver himself, he says,
into the hands of President Hubert, who must give an answer. I tried in
vain to make this officer understand that monsieur was very sick. He
assured me that it concerned a very important and very urgent matter,
and that he came from his Highness who occupies the Élysée. Then,
madame, in my embarrassment I have come to you to ask what I must do."

Madame Dutertre, forgetting her grievance, turned to Madeleine and said,
quickly, with the greatest joy:

"Your hope has not been mistaken. This letter from the prince is,
perhaps, his consent to this marriage. Poor Antonine, how happy she will
be!"

"We must not rejoice too soon, dear Sophie. Let us wait. But do you go
and see this officer, who is no doubt an aid of the prince. Tell him
that M. Hubert, although a little better, is not able to receive him.
Ask the officer to give you the letter, assuring him that you will
deliver it at once to M. Hubert, who will send an answer."

"You are right, Madeleine. Come, Peter," said Sophie, going out of the
room, accompanied by the old servant.

"I was not mistaken," said the marquise, when she was alone. "Those
glances of M. Dutertre. Really it seems a fatality. But I hope," added
she, smiling, "in Sophie's interest, and in her husband's, I shall be
able to draw some good from this slight infidelity."

Then, reflecting a moment, Madeleine added:

"The prince is remarkably punctual. Is it possible that he has given
such immediate attention to the advice contained in my note!"

Antonine came out of her uncle's chamber. At the sight of the marquise
the poor child did not dare take another step. She remained motionless,
mute and trembling, waiting her fate with mortal agony, for Madeleine
had promised that morning to intercede with the prince.

Sophie then entered, holding in her hand the letter which the
aide-de-camp had just delivered. She gave it to Antonine, and said:

"Here, my child, carry this letter to your uncle immediately. It is very
urgent, very important. He will give you an answer, and I will take it
to the man who is waiting."

Antonine took the letter from the hand of Madame Dutertre, throwing a
look of anxious curiosity upon her two friends, who exchanged a hopeful,
intelligent glance. Their expressions of countenance so impressed
Antonine that, addressing the two young women in turn, she said to them:

"Sophie, Madeleine, what is the matter? You look at each other in
silence, and what is this letter? Pray, what has happened? My God!"

"Go quick, my child," said Madeleine. "You will find us here when you
return."

Antonine, more and more perplexed, ran precipitately to her uncle's
room. Madame Dutertre, seeing the marquise bend her head in silent
thought, said to her:

"Madeleine, now what is the matter with you?"

"Nothing, my friend. I am thinking of the happiness of poor
Antonine,--that is, if my hopes do not deceive me."

"Ah, her happiness she will owe to you! With what enthusiastic delight
she and Count Frantz will thank you! Will you not have been their
special providence?"

At the name of Frantz, Madeleine started, blushed slightly, and a cloud
passed over her brow. Sophie had not time to perceive the emotion of her
friend, as Antonine rushed suddenly out of the adjoining chamber, her
charming face radiant with an expression of joy and surprise impossible
to describe. Then, without uttering a word, she threw herself on
Madeleine's neck; but her emotion was excessive; she suddenly turned
pale, and the two friends were obliged to support her.

"God be praised!" said Sophie, "for, in spite of your pallor and
agitation, my poor Antonine, I am certain you have good news."

"Do not tremble so, dear child," said Madeleine, in her turn. "Recover
yourself! Calm yourself!"

"Oh, if you only knew!" murmured the young girl. "No, no, I cannot
believe it yet."

The Marquise de Miranda, taking Antonine's hands affectionately in her
own, said to her:

"You must always believe in happiness, my child. But come now, explain
what you mean."

"Just now," the young girl went on to say, with a voice broken by tears
of joy, "I carried the letter to my uncle. He said to me: 'Antonine, my
sight is very weak; read this letter to me, please.' Then I broke the
seal of the envelope; I did not know why my heart beat with such
violence, but it palpitated so I felt sick. Wait, it is beating now,"
added the young girl, putting her hand on her side, as if she would
restrain the rapid pulsations which interrupted her narrative. Then she
continued:

"I then read the letter; there was--Oh, I have not forgotten a single
word of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"'MONSIEUR PRESIDENT HUBERT:--I pray you, notwithstanding your condition
of illness, to grant me at once, if it is possible, a moment of
conversation upon a most urgent and important subject.

"'Your affectionate,

"'LEOPOLD MAXIMILIAN.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"'But,' said my uncle, sitting up in bed,'this is the name of the prince
who now occupies the Élysée, is it not?' 'I--I--think--it is, uncle,' I
replied. 'What can he wish with me?' asked my uncle. 'I do not know,'
said I, trembling and blushing, because I was telling a falsehood, and I
reproached myself for not daring to confess my love for Frantz. Then my
uncle said, 'It is impossible for me, although I am suffering, to refuse
to receive the prince, but I cannot reply to his letter, I am too
feeble. Take my place, Antonine, and write this,--recollect it well:

"'MONSEIGNEUR:--My weak condition does not permit me to have the honour
of replying to your Highness with my own hand, and I ask another to say
to you, monseigneur, that I am at your service.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"I am going to write this letter now for my uncle," said Antonine,
approaching a desk in the parlour. "But, say, Sophie," added the young
girl, impulsively, "ought I not to bless Madeleine and thank her on both
knees? For if the prince intended to oppose my marriage with Frantz, he
would not come to see my uncle,--do you think he would, Sophie? And but
for Madeleine, the prince would never have consented to come, would he?"

"Like you, my child, I say that we ought to bless our dear Madeleine,"
replied Madame Dutertre, pressing the hand of the marquise. "But really,
I repeat it again and again, Madeleine, you have a talisman for getting
all you want."

"Alas, dear Sophie!" replied the marquise, smiling, "this talisman, if
indeed I have one, only serves others; not myself."

While the two friends conversed Antonine had seated herself at the desk,
but, at the end of a few moments' vain effort, she was obliged to give
up writing; her little hand trembled so violently that she could not
hold her pen.

"Let me take your place, my dear child," said Madeleine, who had not
taken her eyes off the young girl. "I will write for you."

"Excuse me, Madeleine," said Antonine, yielding her place to the
marquise. "It is not my fault, this excitement is too much for me."

"It is the fault of your heart, poor little thing. I understand your
emotion," writing President Hubert's reply with a firm hand. "Now,"
added she, "ring for some one, Antonine, so that this letter can be
delivered to the officer of the prince without delay."

The old servant entered, and was instructed to deliver the letter to the
officer.

"Now, my little Antonine," said the marquise to the young girl, "there
remains one duty to be fulfilled, and I am certain that Sophie will be
of my opinion; before the arrival of the prince, you must confess all to
your uncle."

"What Madeleine says is very right," replied Sophie. "It would have a
bad effect if your uncle should not be prepared for the probable
intention of the visit of the prince."

"Your uncle is very kind and considerate, my dear Antonine," added
Madeleine, "and he will forgive a lack of confidence, caused
principally, I do not doubt, by your timidity."

"You are right, both of you, I know it," said Antonine, "and, besides, I
ought not to blush at this confession, for, my God, I loved Frantz
without thinking of it, and in spite of myself."

"That is why you should hasten to confide in your uncle, my child, for
the prince will not delay his visit. But tell me," added the marquise,
"because, for reasons of my own, I do not wish to be found here when the
prince arrives, can I not enter your chamber from this parlour?"

"The corridor into which this door opens," replied Antonine, "leads to
my chamber; Sophie knows the way."

"Certainly, I will conduct you, Madeleine," replied Sophie, rising with
the marquise, who, kissing Antonine tenderly on the forehead, said to
her as she pointed to the door of her uncle's chamber, "Go quick, my
dear little one, the moments are precious."

The young girl threw a glance of affectionate gratitude on the two
friends, who, leaving the parlour, followed the corridor on their way to
Antonine's chamber, when they saw the old servant coming.

He approached and said to Sophie:

"Madame, M. Dutertre wishes to speak to you this moment."

"My husband! where is he?"

"Below, madame, in a carriage at the door; he told the porter to order
me to ask you to come down without delay."

"That is strange! Why did he not come up?" said Sophie, looking at her
friend.

"M. Dutertre has something to say to you, madame," said Peter.

Madame Dutertre, not a little disquieted, followed him, as she said to
the marquise,--

"I shall return immediately, my friend, for I am eager to know the
result of the prince's visit to M. Hubert."

Madeleine was left alone.

"I did well to hurry," thought she, with a sort of bitterness. "I did
well to yield to my first instinct of generosity; to-morrow it would
have been too late. I would not, perhaps, have had the courage to
sacrifice myself to Antonine. How strange it is! An hour ago, in
thinking of Frantz and her, I had not a feeling of jealousy or pain, and
only a sweet melancholy, but now by degrees my heart is contracted and
filled with sorrow, and this moment I suffer--oh, yes, how I suffer!"

The abrupt entrance of Sophie interrupted the reflections of the
marquise, and she guessed that some great misfortune had happened by the
frightened, almost wild, expression of Madame Dutertre, who said to her,
in a short, panting voice:

"Madeleine, you have offered me aid, and now I accept it!"

"Great God! Sophie, what is the matter?"

"Our condition is desperate."

"Do explain."

"To-morrow, this evening, perhaps, Charles will be arrested."

"Your husband?"

"Arrested, I say; oh, my God!"

"But what for? What is it?"

"That monster of wickedness, whom we thought our benefactor, M. Pascal,
has--"

"M. Pascal!"

"Yes, yesterday--I did not dare--I have not told you all, but--"

"M. Pascal!" interrupted Madeleine.

"Our fate is in the hands of that pitiless man; he can, and he wishes to
reduce us to the last degree of misery. My God! what will become of us?
What will become of our children and the father of my husband? What will
become of us all? Oh, it is horrible! It is horrible!"

"M. Pascal!" said the marquise, with restrained indignation, "the
wretch! Oh, yes, I read it in his face; I have seen his insolence and
meanness--such a man would be without pity."

"You are acquainted with him?"

"This morning I met him at the palace with the prince. Ah, now I regret
having yielded to the anger, the contempt, which this man inspired in
me. Why did you not tell me sooner? It is a great misfortune that you
did not, Sophie, a great misfortune."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, no matter. There is no use in going back to the past. But let us
see, Sophie, my friend, do not allow yourself to despond, exaggerate
nothing and tell me all, and we will find some way of escaping the blow
which threatens you."

"It is impossible; all that I come to ask in the name of Charles, in the
name of my children, is that--"

"Let me interrupt you. Why do you say it is impossible to prevent this
disaster?"

"M. Pascal is relentless."

"That may be, but what is your position toward him?"

"A year ago my husband found himself, like so many other manufacturers,
in an embarrassed position. M. Pascal offered his services to us.
Charles, deceived by fair appearances, accepted. It would be too long to
explain to you by what a train of affairs Charles, trusting the promises
of M. Pascal, soon discovered that he was absolutely dependent on this
man, who could any day recall more than a hundred thousand crowns,--that
is to say, could ruin our business and plunge us in misery. At last that
day has come, and M. Pascal, strong in this terrible power, places my
husband and myself in the alternative of submitting to this ruin or
consenting to two unworthy deeds he imposes upon us."

"The wretch! The infamous wretch!"

"Yesterday, when you arrived, he had just made known to us his
intentions. We answered according to our hearts and our honour; he swore
to revenge himself on us and to-day he has kept his word. We are lost, I
tell you; he claims, too, that by reason of some authority, he will put
Charles in prison temporarily. My idea, above everything else, is to
save my husband from prison, but he refuses to escape, saying it is only
a decoy, that he has nothing to fear, and that he--"

Madeleine, who had remained silent and thoughtful for some time, again
interrupted her friend, and said to her:

"What would be necessary to free you from all fear of M. Pascal?"

"To reimburse him."

"And what does your husband owe him?"

"More than a hundred thousand crowns, our factory as security, but once
deprived of our property we would possess nothing in the world. My
husband would be declared a bankrupt, and our future would be
hopeless."

"And is there absolutely no other way of escaping M. Pascal than by
immediate repayment?"

"There is one on which my husband had always relied, resting on the word
of this wicked man."

"And what is that way?"

"To give Charles ten years to pay off the debt."

"And suppose you had that assurance?"

"Alas! we would be saved, but M. Pascal wishes to have his revenge, and
he will never consent to give us any means of salvation."

This sad conversation was interrupted by Antonine, who, beaming with
joy, ran into the room, saying:

"Oh, Madeleine! come! come!"

"What is it, my child? Some happy news, I know it by your radiant
countenance."

"Ah, dear friends," said the young girl, "all my fear is that I will not
be able to bear so much happiness! My uncle and the prince consent to
all, and the prince,--oh, he was so kind, so fatherly to me, for he
wanted me to take part in his conversation with my uncle, and he even
asked my pardon for the grief he had caused me in opposing our marriage.
'My only excuse,' said he, with the greatest tenderness, 'is, Mlle.
Antonine, that I did not know you. Madame Marquise de Miranda began my
conversion, and you have finished it, and since she is here, you say,
have the goodness to let her know that I would like to thank her before
you for having put me in the way of repairing the wrong I have done
you.' Were not those noble, touching words!" added the young girl. "Oh,
come, Madeleine, come, my benefactress, my sister, my mother, you to
whom Frantz and I will owe our happiness. And you come too, Sophie,"
added Antonine, taking Madame Dutertre by the hand, "are you not also a
sharer in my happiness as you have been in my confidence and my
despair?"

"My dear child," said Madame Dutertre, trying to disguise her trouble,
"I need not tell you that I share your joy; but the presence of the
prince would embarrass me, and besides, as I was telling Madeleine just
now, I must return home. I cannot leave my children alone too long.
Come, embrace me, Antonine, your happiness is assured; that thought will
be sweet to me, and if I have some sorrow, believe me, it will help me
to bear it. Good-bye. If you have anything new to tell me, come to see
me to-morrow morning."

"Sophie," said the marquise, in a low but firm voice to her friend,
"courage and hope! Do not let your husband go away; wait for me at your
house to-morrow, all the morning."

"What do you mean?"

"I cannot explain more, only let Antonine's experience give you a little
confidence. This morning she was in despair, now you see her radiant
with happiness."

"Yes, thanks to you."

"Come, now, embrace me once more; courage and hope."

Then, approaching Antonine, Madeleine said to her:

"Now, my child, go back to the prince."

The young girl and the marquise left Madame Dutertre, who, yielding in
spite of herself to the conviction which seemed to ring from Madeleine's
words, returned to her dwelling with a ray of hope. The prince waited
for Madeleine in the parlour of President Hubert; he saluted her
respectfully, and said to her, with that ceremonious formality which
Antonine's presence imposed:

"I had it in my heart, marquise, to thank you for the great service you
have rendered me. You have put it in my power to appreciate Mlle. Hubert
as she deserves to be; the happiness of my godson Frantz is for ever
assured. I have agreed with M. President Hubert, who willingly consents
to it, that to-morrow morning the betrothal of Frantz and Mlle. Hubert
will take place according to the German custom, that is to say, that I
and President Hubert will sign, under penalty of perjury and
infidelity, the contract of marriage which Frantz and mademoiselle will
sign under the same conditions."

"Since you have said to Antonine, monseigneur, that I have put you in
the way of truth, Antonine is under obligation to prove to you all the
good that I have told you of her."

"I have a favour to ask of you, marquise," continued the prince, drawing
from his pocket a letter and presenting it to Madeleine. "You are
acquainted with the family of Colonel Pernetti?"

"Very well, monseigneur."

"Then do me the kindness to have this letter delivered to the colonel,
after you have taken knowledge of its contents. I am certain," added the
archduke, emphasising his last words, "that you will have as much
pleasure in sending this letter as he to whom it is addressed will have
pleasure in receiving it."

"I do not doubt it, monseigneur, and I here renew my very sincere
thanks," said the marquise, making a ceremonious curtsey.

"To-morrow, Mlle. Antonine," said the prince to the young girl, "I am
going to break the good news very gently to my poor Frantz, for fear he
may be overcome by his emotion; but I am certain when he knows all he,
like you, will forgive me for the grief I have caused him."

And, after having again formally saluted Antonine and the marquise, with
whom he exchanged a look of intelligence, the prince returned to the
Élysée-Bourbon.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day at ten o'clock Madeleine entered a carriage, and was
conducted first to the office of a notary, and then to the house of M.
Pascal.



CHAPTER XX.


M. Pascal lived alone on the ground floor of a house situated in the new
quarter St. Georges, and opening on the street. A private entrance was
reserved for the counting-room of the financier, which was managed by a
confidential clerk, assisted by a young deputy who attended to the
writing. Here M. Pascal continued to make very valuable discounts.

The principal entrance of his dwelling, preceded by a vestibule, led to
an antechamber and other rooms. This apartment, without any luxury, was,
nevertheless, comfortable; a valet for the interior and a lad of fifteen
years for errands sufficed for the service of M. Pascal, a man who never
compensated for his immense wealth by abundant expenditure, or
indulgence in those luxuries which support labour and art.

This morning, at half-past nine, M. Pascal, dressed in his morning gown,
was walking up and down the floor of his office with great agitation;
his night had been one of long and feverish sleeplessness. A well-paid
spy, employed for two days to observe what was taking place in the home
of Mlle. Antonine, had reported to M. Pascal the visit of the prince to
President Hubert.

This prompt and significant step left no doubt in the mind of the
financier concerning his own plans in connection with the young girl;
this cruel disappointment was complicated with other resentments: first,
rage at the recognition of the truth that, notwithstanding his millions,
his will, obstinate as it was, was obliged to submit before
impossibilities, all the more painful because he had believed himself
at the very door of success. That was not all. If he had no love for
Antonine, in the noblest acceptation of the word, he did feel for this
child, so lovely and charming, an ardent passion, ephemeral, perhaps,
but of extreme intensity as long as it lasted; and so, with a sort of
ferocious egotism, he reasoned with himself:

"I would like to possess that little girl at any price. I will marry her
if I must, and when I am tired of her an annuity of twelve or fifteen
thousand francs will rid me of her. I am rich enough to gratify myself
in that caprice."

All this, however detestable, was, from the standpoint of society as it
existed, perfectly possible and legal, and it was, we repeat, that
possibility which rendered his want of success so bitter to M. Pascal.
Another thing still: what he felt for Antonine being, after all, only a
sensual desire, did not tolerate the exclusive preference of pure love;
so that, in his passionate longing for this young girl of innocent and
virginal beauty, he had not been less strongly impressed by the
provoking charms of Madeleine, and, by a refinement of sensuality which
aggravated his torture, M. Pascal had all night evoked, by his inflamed
imagination, the contrasting loveliness of these two beautiful
creatures.

And at this hour in which we see him M. Pascal was a prey to the same
torment.

"Curses on me!" said he, promenading with a feverish and unequal step.
"Why did I ever see that damned blonde woman with the black eyebrows,
blue eyes, pale complexion, impudent face, and provoking figure? She
seems to me more attractive even than that little girl hardly grown.
Curses on me! will these two faces always pursue me? or, rather, will my
disordered mind always evoke them? Misery! have I not been fool enough,
brute enough? I do not know how, but the thing was so easy, so
practical, that is what makes me furious. Surely, rich as I am, I ought
to be able to marry this little girl and have the other for a mistress,
because I do not doubt she is the mistress of that archduke, confound
him! and I defy him to give her as much money as I would have given her.
Yes, yes," continued he, clenching his fists in excess of rage, "I am
becoming a fool, a furious fool, but I did not ask to have the Empress
of Russia for a mistress, or to marry the daughter of the Queen of
England or any other queen. What did I wish? To marry a little citizen,
niece of an old magistrate who has not a cent. Are there not thousands
of such marriages? And I could not succeed! and I have thirty millions!
Misery! my fortune is to fine purpose, not to take away a mistress from
this automaton German prince! After all, she only loves him for his
money. He is nearly forty; he is as proud as a peacock, stupid as a
goose, and cold as an icicle. I am younger than he, not any uglier, and
if he is an archduke, am I not a millionaire? And then I have the
advantage of having put him at my feet, for this accursed and insolent
woman heard me treat her imbecile prince as a poor creature; she
reproached him before me for enduring the humiliations I heaped upon
him. She ought to despise that man, and, like all women of her kind,
have a weakness for a rough and energetic man who put this crowned,
lanky fellow at his feet. She treated me cruelly before him, that is
true, but it was to flatter him; we all understand those profligates.
Oh, if I could only take this woman away from him, what a triumph! what
a revenge! what a consolation for my lost marriage! Consolation? No; for
one of these women could not make me forget the other. I do not know if
it is my age, but I have never known such tenacity of desire as I feel
for this little girl. But no matter, if I could only take his mistress
away from this prince, half of my will would be accomplished; and who
knows? This woman is acquainted with Antonine; she seems to have
influence over her. Yes, who knows, if once mine, I would not be able by
means of money to decide her to--Misery!" cried Pascal, with an
explosion of ferocious joy, "what a triumph, to take a wife from this
blond youth, and his beautiful mistress from the archduke! If my fortune
can do it, it shall be done!"

And our hero, holding up his head, seemed to develop into an attitude of
imperious will, while his features took on an expression of satanic joy.

"Come, come," said he, holding his head high; "if I have talked like a
fool and an ingrate, money is a beautiful thing." Then stopping to
reflect awhile he continued:

"Let us see now,--calmness by all means,--we will undertake the thing
well and slowly. My spy will know this evening where the archduke's
mistress lives, at least if she lives in the palace, which is not
probable. Let me find out where she lives," added he, stroking his chin
with a meditative air. "Zounds, I will send to her that old milliner,
Madame Doucet. It is the old way and always the best with these
actresses and such women, for, after all, the mistress of a prince is no
better. She came, her head uncovered, to throw herself unceremoniously
into our conversation; she had no discretion to protect. So I cannot
have a better go-between, a more suitable one, than old Mother Doucet. I
will write to her at once."

M. Pascal was occupied in writing at his desk when his valet entered.

"What is it?" asked the financier, abruptly. "I did not ring."

"Monsieur, it is a lady."

"I have no time."

"She has come for a letter of credit."

"Let her go to the counting-room."

"This lady wishes to speak to M. Pascal."

"Impossible. Let her go to the counting-room."

The valet went out.

Pascal continued to write, but at the end of a few moments the servant
returned.

"When will you finish? What is it now?"

"Monsieur, this lady who--"

"Ah, so you are making a jest, are you? I told you to send her to the
counting-room!"

"This lady has given me a card and asked me to tell monsieur to read
what she has just written at the bottom."

"Well, hand it here. It is insupportable!" said Pascal taking the card,
where he read the following:

       *       *       *       *       *

       "_The Marquise de Miranda._"

       *       *       *       *       *

Below the name was written with a pencil:

       *       *       *       *       *

"She had the honour of meeting M. Pascal yesterday at the
Élysée-Bourbon, with his Highness, the Archduke Leopold."

       *       *       *       *       *

If a thunderbolt had fallen at the feet of M. Pascal he could not have
been more astonished. He could not believe his eyes, and read the card a
second time soliloquising:

"The Marquise de Miranda! She is a marquise, then? Bah! she is a
marquise as Lola Montès is a countess--petticoat nobility; but at any
rate it is she. She here! in my house at the very moment I was taxing my
wits to contrive a meeting with her. Ah, Pascal, my friend Pascal, your
star of gold, for a moment hidden, shines at last in all its brilliancy.
And she comes here under the pretext of a letter of credit. Come, come,
Pascal, my friend, keep calm; one does not find such an opportunity
twice in his life. Think now, if you are sly, you can take the mistress
of the prince and the wife of the blond youth in the same net. Ah, how
my heart beats! I am sure I most look pale."

"Monsieur, what shall I answer this lady?" asked the valet, astonished
at the prolonged silence of his master.

"One minute, you rascal; wait my orders," replied Pascal, abruptly.
"Come, keep calm, keep calm," thought he to himself. "Excitement now
would lose all, would paralyse my plans. It is a terrible part to play,
but having such a fine game at hand, I believe I would blow my brains
out with rage if, through awkwardness now, I should lose it."

After another silence, during which he succeeded in mastering his
agitation, he said to himself:

"I am calm now. Let her come, I can play a sure game." Then he said
aloud to his valet:

"Show the lady in."

The servant went out and soon returned to open the door and announce,
"Madame the Marquise de Miranda."

Madeleine, contrary to her custom, was dressed, as she had said to the
prince, no longer like a grandmother, but with a dainty elegance which
rendered her beauty still more irresistible. A Pamela hat of rice straw,
ornamented with ears of corn mingled with corn-flowers, relieved and
revealed her face and neck; a new gown of white muslin, also strewn with
corn-flowers, delineated the outlines of her incomparable figure, the
finished type of refined elegance, the voluptuous flexibility
characteristic of Mexican Creoles, while her gauze scarf rose and fell
in gentle undulations with the tranquil breathing of her marble bosom.



CHAPTER XXI.


Pascal stood a moment dazzled, fascinated.

He beheld Madeleine a thousand times more beautiful, more attractive,
more interesting than the day before. And, although a fine judge, as he
had said to the prince, although he had enjoyed and abused all those
treasures of beauty, grace, and youth which misery renders tributary to
wealth, never in his life had he dreamed of such a creature as
Madeleine; and strange, or rather natural to this brutalised man,
deprived by satiety of all pleasures, he evoked the same moment the
virginal figure of Antonine by the side of the marquise. For him, Venus
Aphrodite was perfected by Hebe.

Madeleine, taking advantage of the involuntary silence of Pascal, said
in a dry, haughty tone, and without making the slightest allusion to the
scene of the day before, notwithstanding the words added to her name on
the card:

"Monsieur, I have a letter of credit on you: here it is. I wished to see
you in order to arrange some business matters."

This short and disdainful accent disconcerted Pascal; he expected some
explanation of the scene of the day before, if not an excuse for it, so
he said, stammering:

"What, madame, you come here--only--to learn about this letter of
credit?"

"For this letter first, then for something else."

"I suspected it," said Pascal to himself, with a light sigh of relief,
"this letter of credit was only a pretext. It is a good sign."

Then he said aloud:

"The letter of credit, madame, is in the hands of my cashier; he has the
order to attend to your demand. As to the other thing which brings you,
is it, as I hope, personal?"

"Yes."

"Before speaking, madame, permit me to ask you one question."

"What is it?"

"On the card which you have just sent me, madame, you wrote that you had
seen me yesterday at the Élysée."

"Well?"

"But you do not seem to recollect our interview."

"I do not comprehend."

"Well," said Pascal, regaining his assurance and thinking that the
dryness of Madeleine's tone was assumed for some purpose he did not
clearly understand, "let us now, madame marquise, confess, at least,
that you treated your humble servant very cruelly yesterday."

"What next?"

"What! you feel no remorse for having been so wicked? You do not regret
your unjust anger against me?"

"No."

"Very well, I understand; it was done for effect on this fine man, the
archduke," Pascal presumed to say with a smile, hoping in some way to
draw Madeleine out of this frozen reserve which had begun to make him
uneasy. "It is always very adroit to pretend to feel an interest in the
dignity of those we govern, because, between us,--beautiful, adorable,
as you are,--you can make of this poor prince all that you wish, but I
defy you ever to do so with a man of spirit or a brave man."

"Continue."

"Wait, madame marquise, I have not seen your letter of credit," and
Pascal opened it. "I wager it is an atrocious meanness. Zounds! I was
sure of it,--forty thousand francs! What would make a woman like you do
with such a beggarly pittance in Paris? Ah! Ah! Oh!--forty thousand
francs. Only a German archduke could be capable of such magnificence."

Madeleine had at first listened to Pascal without comprehending him.
Soon she saw his meaning: he regarded her as the mistress of the prince
and living on his liberality.

A deep blush mounted suddenly to Madeleine's face. Then a moment of
reflection calmed her, and for the sake of her projects she permitted
Pascal to keep his opinion, and replied, with a half-smile:

"Evidently you do not like the prince."

"I detest him!" cried Pascal, audaciously, encouraged by the smile of
the marquise, and thinking to make a master stroke by braving things
out. "I abominate this accursed prince, because he possesses an
inestimable treasure--that I would like to take away from him even at
the cost of all my--"

And Pascal threw an impassioned look on Madeleine, who replied:

"A treasure? I did not think the prince so rich, since he desired to
borrow from you, monsieur."

"Eh, madame," said Pascal, in a low, panting voice, "that treasure is
you."

"Come, you flatter me, monsieur."

"Listen, madame," replied Pascal, after a moment's silence, "let us come
to the point, that is the best method. You are a woman of mind, I am not
a fool, we understand each other."

"About what, monsieur?"

"I am going to tell you. If among foreigners I do not pass for a
schoolgirl in finances, I am supposed to have a little competency, am I
not?"

"You are known to be immensely rich, monsieur."

"I pass then for what I am; I am going to prove it to you; a million of
ready money for the expenses of the establishment, a hundred thousand
pounds annuity, a wedding basket, each as the united archdukes of
Germany could not pay for with all their little savings, and more, I pay
for the house. What do you say to that?"

Madeleine, who did not comprehend him at first, looked at Pascal with an
air of astonishment. He continued:

"This liberality amazes you, or perhaps you do not believe it. It
appears to you to be too much, does it? I will show you I can indulge
myself in that folly. Here is a little note-book which looks like
nothing," and he drew it from one of the drawers of his desk. "It is my
balance-sheet, and, without understanding finances, you can see that
this year my income amounted to twenty-seven millions, five hundred and
sixty thousand francs. Now let us suppose that my extravagance costs me
the round sum of three millions, there remain twenty-four little
millions, which, manipulated as I manipulate them, will bring me in
fifteen hundred thousand pounds income, and, as I live admirably well on
fifty or sixty thousand francs a year, I gain in three years, with my
income alone, the three millions which my folly cost me. I tell you
that, marquise, because in these adventures it is well to estimate and
prove that one can do all he promises. Now confess that the good man
Pascal is worth more than an archduke."

"So you make this offer to me, monsieur?"

"What a question! Come, leave your archduke, give me some promise, and I
put in your hand a million in drafts. I will make an act with my notary
for the hundred thousand pounds annuity, and if Father Pascal is
satisfied, he is not at the end of his rolls."

The financier spoke the truth; he had made these offers sincerely. The
increasing admiration he felt at the sight of Madeleine, the pride of
taking the mistress of a prince, the vanity of surrounding her, before
the eyes of all Paris, with a splendour which would excite the envy of
all,--finally, the abominable hope of inducing the marquise, by means of
money, to take Antonine away from Frantz,--all, in his ignominy and in
his magnificence, justified his offer to Madeleine.

Recognising from this offer the degree of influence she exercised over
Pascal, Madeleine rejoiced in it, and, to obtain further proof of his
sincerity, she said, with apparent hesitation:

"Without doubt, monsieur, these propositions are above my poor merit,
but--"

"Fifty thousand pounds more annuity, and a charming country-house,"
cried Pascal. "That is my last word, marquise."

"And this is mine, M. Pascal," said Madeleine, rising and giving the
financier a look which made him recoil.

"Listen to me well. You are basely avaricious; your magnificent offer
proves, then, the impression I have made on you."

"If this offer is not enough," cried Pascal, clasping his hands, "speak,
and--"

"Be silent, I have no need of your money."

"My fortune, if necessary."

"Look at me well, M. Pascal, and if you have ever dared look an honest
woman in the face, and know how to read truth on her brow, you will see
that I speak the truth. You might put all your fortune there at my feet,
and the disdain and disgust you excite in me would be the same."

"Crush me, but let me tell you--"

"Be silent! It has suited me to let you believe a moment that I was the
mistress of the prince; first, because I do not care for the esteem of a
man of your character, and then, because that would encourage you in
your insulting offers."

"But then, why have--"

"Be silent! I had need to know the degree of influence I possessed over
you. I know, and I am going to use it."

"Oh, I ask nothing better, if you wish--"

"I have come here for two reasons; the first, to receive this letter of
credit--"

"Instantly, but--"

"I have come for another reason,--to put an end to the infamous abuse
you have made of an apparent service, a pretended generosity rendered to
the husband of my best friend, M. Charles Dutertre."

"You are acquainted with the Dutertres! ah, I see the trap."

"All means are fair to catch malicious creatures; you are caught."

"Oh, not yet," replied Pascal, gnashing his teeth with rage and despair,
for the imperious beauty of Madeleine, increased by her glowing
animation, excited his passion to frenzy; "perhaps you triumph too soon,
madame."

"You will see."

"We will see," said Pascal, trying to pay off with audacity, in spite of
the torture he endured, "we will see."

"This instant, there on that table, you are going to sign a deed, in
good form, by which you engage yourself to grant to M. Dutertre the time
that you have granted by your verbal promise, to liquidate his debt to
you."

"But--"

"As you are capable of deceiving me, and as I understand nothing of
business, I have ordered a notary to draw up this deed, so that you have
only to sign it."

"This is a pleasantry!"

"The notary has accompanied me, he is waiting in the next room."

"What, have you brought a--"

"One does not come alone into the house of a man like you. You are going
to sign this deed instantly."

"For what return?"

"My disdain and contempt, as always."

"Misery! that is violence!"

"It is so."

"You wish to take from me, gratis, my sweetest morsel,--in the very
moment when, in the rage which possesses me, no reparation but revenge
was left to console me a little! Ah, Madame Dutertre is your best
friend! Ah, her tears will be bitter to you! Ah, the sorrows of this
family will break your heart! Zounds, that is to the point, and I will
have my revenge besides!"

"You refuse?"

"If I refuse? Ah, indeed, madame marquise, do you think me an idiot? And
for a woman of mind you have shown yourself very weak in this. You might
have caught me by cajolery--entangled by some promise. I was capable
of--"

"Come, now, who would stoop so low as to pretend to wish to seduce M.
Pascal? You are ordered to repair an injury, you make reparation, and M.
Pascal is despised after as before, to-day as yesterday, and to-morrow
as to-day."

"Misery! this is enough to make one mad!" cried the financier,
astonished, and almost frightened by the tone of conviction with which
Madeleine spoke, and he asked himself if she had not discovered some
secret rottenness in his life which she intended to use as a weapon. But
our hero had been a prudent scoundrel, and soon took heart again after a
rapid examination of conscience, and replied:

"Ah, well, madame, here I am ready to obey when you force me to do so. I
am waiting."

"It will not be long."

"I am waiting."

"I have seen in your street several lodgings to let. That is nothing
extraordinary, I am sure, M. Pascal; but a happy chance has shown me a
very pretty apartment on the first floor, not yet engaged, almost
opposite your house."

Pascal looked at Madeleine stupidly.

"This apartment I shall take, and shall install myself there to-morrow."

A vague foreboding made the financier start; he turned pale.

Madeleine continued, fixing her burning gaze on the man's eyes:

"At every hour of the day and the night you will know that I am there.
You will not be able to go out of your house without passing before my
windows, where I shall be often, very often. I am fond of sitting at the
window. You will not leave your house, I defy you. An irresistible,
fatal charm will draw you back to your punishment every instant. The
sight of me will give you torture, and you will seek that sight. Every
time you meet my glance, and you will meet it often, you will receive a
dagger in your heart, and yet, ambushed behind your curtains, you will
watch my every movement."

As she talked, Madeleine had made a step toward Pascal, holding him
fascinated, panting under her fixed, burning eyes, from which he could
not remove his own.

The marquise continued:

"That is not all. As this lodging is large, Antonine, immediately after
her marriage, and Frantz will come to live with me. I do not know, then,
my poor M. Pascal, what will become of you."

"Oh, this woman is infernal," murmured the financier.

"Judge, then, the tortures of all sorts that you will have to endure.
You must have been deeply smitten with Antonine to wish to marry her;
you must have been deeply smitten with me to put your fortune at my
feet. Ah, well, not only will you suffer an agonising martyrdom in
seeing the two women you have madly desired possessed by others,--for I
am a widow and will remarry,--but you will curse your riches, for every
moment of the day will tell you that they have been impotent, and that
they will always be impotent to satisfy your ardent desires."

"Leave me!" stammered Pascal, recoiling before Madeleine, who kept him
always under her eye. "Leave me! Truly this woman is a demon!"

"Stop, my poor M. Pascal," continued the marquise, "you see I pity you
in spite of myself, when I think of your envious rage, your ferocious
jealousy, exasperated to frenzy by the constant happiness of Antonine,
for you will see us every day, and often in the night. Yes, the season
is beautiful, the bright moon charming, and many times in the evening,
very late, hidden in the shadow with your eyes fixed on our dwelling,
you will see sometimes Antonine and sometimes me with our elbows on the
balcony railing, enjoying the cool of the evening, and smiling often, I
confess, at M. Pascal, then standing behind some window-blind or peeping
from some casement, devouring us with his eyes; often Antonine and
Frantz will talk of love by the light of the moon, often I and my future
husband will be as delightfully occupied under your eyes."

"Curses!" cried Pascal, losing all control of himself, "she tortures me
on burning coals."

"And that is not all," continued the marquise, in a low, almost panting,
voice. "At a late hour of the night you will see our windows closed, our
curtains discreetly drawn on the feeble light of our alabaster lamps, so
sweet and propitious to the voluptuousness of the night." Then the
marquise, bursting into peals of laughter, added: "And, my poor M.
Pascal, I would not be astonished then if, in your rage and despair, you
should become mad and blow your brains out."

"Not without having my revenge, at least," muttered Pascal, wrought to
frenzy, and rushing to his desk where he had a loaded pistol.

But Madeleine, who knew she had everything to fear from this man, had,
as she slowly approached him, kept him under her eye, and, step by step,
had reached the chimney; at the threatening gesture of Pascal she pulled
the bell-cord violently.

At the moment Pascal, livid and frightful, turned to face Madeleine, the
servant entered hastily, surprised at the loud ringing of the bell.

At the sound of the opening door and the sight of his valet, Pascal came
to himself, quickly thrust the hand which held the pistol behind him,
and let it fall on the carpet.

The marquise had taken advantage of the interruption to approach the
door left open by the servant, and to call in a loud voice to the
notary, who, seated in the next room, had also quickly risen at the
sudden sound of the bell:

"Monsieur, a thousand pardons for having made you wait so long; do me
the favour to enter."

The notary entered.

"Go out," said Pascal, roughly, to his servant.

And the financier wiped his livid brow, which was bathed in a cold
sweat.

Madeleine, alone with Pascal and the notary, said to the latter:

"You have, monsieur, prepared the deed relating to M. Charles Dutertre?"

"Yes, madame, there is nothing to do but to approve the document and
sign."

"Very well," said the marquise; then, while Pascal, wholly overcome, was
leaning on the armchair before his desk, she took a sheet of paper and a
pen, and wrote what follows:

"Sign the deed, and, not only will I not live opposite your house, but
this evening I will leave Paris, and will not return in a long time.
What I promise I will keep."

Having written these lines, she handed the paper to Pascal, and said to
the notary:

"I beg your pardon, sir; it concerned a condition relating to the deed
that I desire to submit to M. Pascal."

"Certainly, madame," replied the notary, while the financier was
reading.

He had hardly concluded his examination of the note, when he said to the
notary, in a changed voice, as if he were eager to escape a great
danger:

"Let us--finish--this--deed."

"I am going, monsieur, to give you a reading of it before signing,"
replied the notary, drawing the deed from his pocketbook, and slowly
unfolding it.

But M. Pascal snatched it rudely from his hands and said, as if his
sight were overcast:

"Where must I sign?"

"Here, monsieur, and approve the document first, but it is customary--"

Pascal wrote the approval of the document with a spasmodic and trembling
hand, signed it, threw the pen on the desk, and inclined his head so as
not to meet the glance of Madeleine.

"There is no flourish here," said the careful notary.

Pascal made the flourish; the notary took the deed with a surprised,
almost frightened look, so sinister and dreadful was the expression of
Pascal's face.

The marquise, perfectly cool, took up her letter of credit lying on the
desk, and said to the financier:

"As I will have need of all my funds for my journey, monsieur, and as I
leave this evening, I am going, if you please, to receive the whole
amount of this letter of credit."

"Pass to the counting-room," replied Pascal, mechanically, his eyes
wandering and bloodshot; his livid pallor had suddenly turned to a
purplish red.

Madeleine preceding the notary, who made a pretext of saluting Pascal in
order to look at him again, still with an air of alarm, went out of the
office, shut the door, and said to the servant:

"Where is the counting-room, please?"

"The first door on the left in the court, madame."

The marquise left the parlour when a loud noise was heard in the office
of M. Pascal.

It sounded like the fall of a body on the floor.

The servant, leaving Madeleine and the notary at once, ran to his
master's room.

The marquise, after having received bank-bills to the amount of her
letter of credit, was just about to enter her carriage, accompanied by
the notary, when she saw the servant rush out of the gateway with a
frightened air.

"What is the matter, my good friend?" asked the notary, "you seem to be
alarmed."

"Ah, monsieur, what a pity! my master has just had an attack of
apoplexy. I am running for the physician."

And he disappeared, running at the top of his speed.

"I thought," said the notary, addressing Madeleine, "this dear gentleman
did not appear to be in his natural condition. Did you not observe the
same thing, madame marquise?"

"I thought, like you, there was something peculiar in the countenance of
M. Pascal."

"God grant this attack may be nothing serious, madame. So rich a man to
die in the vigour of life, that would really be a pity!"

"A great pity indeed! But tell me, monsieur, if you wish, I can take you
home in my carriage, and you can deliver to me the deed relating to M.
Dutertre; I have need of it."

"Here it is, madame, but I shall not permit you to drive out of your way
for me. I am going only two or three steps from here."

"Very well. Have the kindness, then, to take these forty thousand
francs. I wish to have ten thousand for my journey and a letter of
credit on Vienna."

"I will attend to it immediately, madame. And when will you need this
money?"

"This evening before six o'clock, if you please."

"I will be on time, madame."

The notary bowed respectfully, and Madeleine ordered the coachman to
drive directly to the factory of Charles Dutertre.



CHAPTER XXII.


Madeleine, as we have said, on leaving the house of M. Pascal, went
directly to the home of Madame Dutertre, who was alone in her bedchamber
when the servant announced the marquise. Sophie, seated in an armchair,
seemed a prey to overwhelming despair. At the sight of her friend, she
raised her head quickly; her sad face, bathed in tears, was of a deadly
pallor.

"Take this, read it, and weep no longer," said Madeleine, tenderly,
handing her the deed signed by M. Pascal. "Was I wrong to tell you
yesterday to hope?"

"What is this paper?" asked Sophie Dutertre, in surprise, "explain it."

"Yours and your husband's deliverance--"

"Our deliverance?"

"M. Pascal has pledged himself to give your husband all the time needed
to pay the debt."

"Can it be true! No, no, such a happiness--Oh, it is impossible!"

"Read, then, and see for yourself, unbeliever."

Sophie rapidly looked over the deed; then, staring at the marquise, she
exclaimed:

"That seems like a miracle; I cannot believe my eyes. And how was it
done? My God, it must be magic!"

"Perhaps," replied Madeleine, smiling, "who knows?"

"Ah, forgive me, my friend!" cried Sophie, throwing her arms around the
neck of the marquise; "my surprise was so great that it paralysed my
gratitude. You have rescued us from ruin; we and our children owe you
everything,--happiness, safety, fortune! Oh, you are our guardian
angel!"

The expression of Sophie Dutertre's gratitude was sincere.

At the same time, the marquise observed a sort of constraint in the
gestures and gaze of her friend. Her countenance did not seem as serene
and radiant as she hoped to see it, at the announcement of such welcome
news.

Another grief evidently weighed upon Madame Dutertre, so, after a
moment's silence, Madeleine, who had been watching her closely, said:

"Sophie, you are hiding something from me; your sorrow is not at an
end."

"Can you think so, when, thanks to you, Madeleine, our future is as
bright, as assured, as yesterday it was desperate, when--"

"I tell you, my poor Sophie, you still suffer. Your face ought to be
radiant with joy, and yet you cannot disguise your grief."

"Could you believe me ungrateful?"

"I believe your poor heart is wounded, yes, and this wound is so deep
that it is not even ameliorated by the good news I brought you."

"Madeleine, I implore you, leave me; do not look at me that way! It
pains me. Do not question me, but believe, oh, I beseech you, believe
that never in all my life will I forget what we owe to you."

And with these words, Madame Dutertre hid her face in her hands and
burst into tears.

The marquise reflected for some minutes, and then said, with hesitation.

"Sophie, where is your husband?"

The young woman started, blushed, and turned pale by turns, and
exclaimed, impulsively, almost with fear:

"You wish to see him, then?"

"Yes."

"I do not know--if he is--this moment in the factory," replied Madame
Dutertre, stammering. "But if you wish it, if you insist upon it, I will
send for him, so that he may learn from you yourself all that we owe to
you."

The marquise shook her head sadly and replied:

"It is not to receive your husband's thanks that I desire to see him,
Sophie; it is only to say farewell to him as well as to you."

"Farewell?"

"This evening I leave Paris."

"You are going away!" cried Madame Dutertre, and her tone betrayed a
singular mingling of surprise, sadness, and joy.

Neither one of these emotions escaped the penetration of Madeleine. She
experienced at first a feeling of pain. Her eyes became moist; then,
overcoming her emotion, she said to her friend, smiling, and taking both
of Sophie's hands in her own:

"My poor Sophie, you are jealous."

"Madeleine!"

"You are jealous of me, confess it."

"I assure you--"

"Sophie, be frank; to deny it to me would make me think that you believe
that I have been intentionally coquetting with your husband, and God
knows I have never seen him but once, and in your presence--"

"Madeleine!" cried the young woman, with effusion, no longer able to
restrain her tears, "forgive me! This feeling is shameful and unworthy,
because I know the lofty nature of your heart, and at this time, too,
when you have come to save us--but if you only knew!"

"Yes, my good Sophie, if I knew, but I know nothing. Come now, make me
your confession to the end; perhaps it will give me a good idea."

"Madeleine, really I am ashamed; I would never dare."

"Come, what are you afraid of, since I am going away? I am going away
this evening."

"Wait, it is that which wounds me and provokes me with myself. Your
departure distresses me. I had hoped to see you here every day, for a
long time, perhaps, and yet--"

"And yet my departure will deliver you from a cruel apprehension, will
it not? But it is very simple, my good Sophie. What have you to reproach
yourself for? Since this morning, before seeing you, I had resolved to
depart."

"Yes, you say that, brave and generous as you always are."

"Sophie, I have not lied; I repeat to you that this morning, before
seeing you, my departure was arranged; but, I beseech you, tell me what
causes have aroused your jealousy? That is perhaps important for the
tranquillity of your future!"

"Ah, well, yesterday evening Charles returned home worn out with fatigue
and worry, and alarmed at the prompt measures threatened by M. Pascal.
Notwithstanding these terrible afflictions, he spent the whole time
talking of you. Then, I confess, the first suspicion entered my mind as
to what degree you controlled his thought. Charles went to bed; I
remained quietly seated by his pillow. Soon he fell asleep, exhausted by
the painful events of the day. At the end of a few minutes, his sleep,
at first tranquil, seemed disturbed; two or three times your name passed
his lips, then his features would contract painfully, and he would
murmur, as if oppressed by remorse, 'Forgive me, Sophie--forgive--and my
children--oh, Sophie.' Then he uttered some unintelligible words, and
his repose was no longer broken. That is all that has happened,
Madeleine, your name was only uttered by my husband during his sleep,
and yet I cannot tell you the frightful evil all this has done me; in
vain I tried to learn the cause of this impression, so deep and so
sudden, for Charles had seen you but once, and then hardly a quarter of
an hour. No doubt you are beautiful, oh, very beautiful. I cannot be
compared with you, I know, yet Charles has always loved me until now."
And the young woman wept bitterly.

"Poor, dear Sophie!" said the marquise with tenderness, "calm your
fears; he loves you, and will always love you, and you will soon make
him forget me."

Madame Dutertre sighed and shook her head sadly. Madeleine continued:

"Believe me, Sophie; it will depend on you to make me forgotten, as it
was entirely your own fault that your husband ever thought of me a
single instant."

"What do you mean?"

"Just now I provoked your confidence by assuring you that, doubtless,
some happy result to you and your husband would be the consequence of
it. I was not mistaken."

"Explain, if you please."

"Let us see now. Imagine, dear Sophie, that you are in a confessional,"
replied Madeleine, smiling, "yes, in the confessional of that great fat
abbé, Jolivet, you know, the chaplain of the boarding-school, who put
such strange questions to us when we were young girls. So, since that
time I have often asked myself why there were not abbesses to confess
young girls; but as, without being an abbess, I am a woman," added the
marquise, smiling again, "I am going to risk some questions which would
have been very tempting to our old confessor. Now, tell me, and do not
blush, your husband married you for love, did he not?"

"Alas! yes."

"Well, you need not groan at such a charming recollection."

"Ah, Madeleine, the sadder the present is, the more certain memories
tear our hearts."

"The present and the future will all be what you would like to have it.
But, answer me, during the first two or three years of your marriage,
you loved each other as lovers, did you not? You understand me?"

The young woman looked downwards and blushed.

"Then by degrees, without any diminution of love, that passionate
tenderness gave place to a calmer sentiment, that your love for your
children has filled with charm and sweetness; and, finally, the two
lovers were only two friends united by the dearest and most sacred
duties. Is that true?"

"That is true, Madeleine, and if I must say it, sometimes I have
regretted these days of first youth and love; but I reproached myself
for these regrets, with the thought that perhaps they were incompatible
with the serious duties imposed by motherhood."

"Poor Sophie! But, tell me, this coolness, or rather this transformation
of married lovers to friends, if you choose, was not sudden, was it? It
came insensibly and almost without your perceiving it."

"Practically, yes; but how do you know?"

"One more question, Sophie, dear. In the period of your early love, you
and you husband were, I am certain of it, very anxious to please each
other. Never could a toilet be fresh or pretty enough. You heightened by
painstaking and agreeableness every charm you possessed; indeed, your
only thought was to please your husband, to captivate him always, and to
keep him always in love. Your Charles, no doubt, preferred some delicate
perfume, and your beautiful hair, your garments, exhaled that sweet
odour, which, in time of absence, materialises, so to speak, the memory
of a beloved woman."

"That is true; we adored the odour of the violet and the iris. That
perfume always recalls to me the happy days of our past."

"You see plainly, then. As to your husband, I do not doubt, he vied
with you in the care and elegance and taste of the most trifling details
of his toilet. In short, both of you, ardent and passionate, guarded
with strictest attention all the delights of your young love. But, alas!
from the bosom of this happiness, so easily, so naturally, issued by
degrees habit,--that fatal precursor of familiarity, lack of ceremony,
neglect of self, habit!--all the more dangerous because it resembles,
even so as to be mistaken for it, a sweet and intimate confidence. So,
one says: 'I am sure of being loved, what need of this constant care and
painstaking? What are these trifles to true love?' So, my good Sophie,
there came a day when, entirely absorbed by your tenderness for your
children, you no longer occupied yourself in finding out if your hair
were arranged becomingly, in a style suited to your pretty face, if your
dress hung well or badly from your graceful waist, if your little foot
were coquettishly dressed in the morning. Your husband, on his part,
absorbed in his work as you were by the cares of maternity, neglected
himself, too. Unconsciously, your eyes grew accustomed to the change,
scarcely perceiving it; as in the same way, so to speak, people never
see each other grow old when they live continually together. And it is
true, dear Sophie, that if at this moment you should evoke, by memory,
the care, the elegance, and the charms with which you and your husband
surrounded yourselves in the beautiful time of your courtship, you would
be startled with surprise in comparing the present with the past."

"It is only too true, Madeleine," replied Sophie, throwing a sad,
embarrassed look on her careless attire and disordered hair. "Yes, by
degrees I have forgotten the art, or, rather, the desire to please my
husband. Alas! it is now too late to repent!"

"Too late!" exclaimed the marquise. "Too late! With your twenty-five
years, that attractive face, too late! With that enchanting figure, that
magnificent hair, those pearly teeth, those large, tender eyes, that
hand of a duchess, and those feet of a child, too late! Let me be your
tirewoman for a half-hour, Sophie, and you will see if it is too late to
make your husband as passionately in love with you as he ever was."

"Ah, Madeline, you are the only one in the world to give hope to those
who have none; nevertheless, the truth of your words frightens me. Alas,
alas! You are right. Charles loves me no longer."

"He loves you as much and perhaps even more than in the past, poor
foolish child, because you are the wife whose fidelity has been tested,
the tender mother of his children; but you are no longer the infatuating
mistress of the past, nor has he that tender, passionate love for you he
felt in the first days of your wedded bliss. What I say to you, my good
Sophie, may be a little harsh, but the good God knows what he has made
us. He has created us of immaterial essence. Neither are we all matter,
but neither are we all mind. It is true, believe me, that there is
something divine in pleasure, but we must guard it, purify it, idealise
it. Now, pray pardon this excessive management on my part, as you see
that a little appreciation of the sensuous is not too much to awaken a
nature benumbed by habit, or else the seductive mistress always has an
advantage over the wife; for, after all, Sophie, why should the duties
of wife and mother be incompatible with the charms and enticements of
the mistress? Why should the father, the husband, not be a charming
lover? Yes, my good Sophie, I am going, in a few words, with my usual
bluntness, to sum up your position and mine: your husband loves you, but
desires you no longer; he does not love me, and he desires me."

Then the marquise, laughing immoderately, added:

"Is it not strange that I, a young lady, alas! with no experience in the
question,--for I am like a gourmand without a stomach, who presumes to
talk of good cheer,--is it not strange that I should be giving a lesson
to a married woman?"

"Ah, Madeleine," exclaimed Sophie, with effusion, "you have saved us
twice to-day, because what my husband feels for you he might have felt
for a woman less generous than yourself; and then think of my sorrow, my
tears! Oh, you are right, you are right. Charles must see again and find
again in his wife the beloved mistress of the past."

The conversation of the two friends was interrupted by the arrival of
Antonine.



CHAPTER XXIII.


The conversation of Madeleine and Sophie was interrupted by the arrival
of Antonine, who, impetuous as joy, youth, and happiness, entered the
room, saying:

"Sophie, I knew yesterday that Madeleine would be here this morning, and
I ran in to tell you that--"

"Not a word more, little girl!" gaily replied the marquise, kissing
Antonine on the forehead; "we have not a moment to lose; we must be
to-day as we used to be in school, waiting-maids for Sophie."

"What do you mean?" said the young woman.

"But, Madeleine," replied Antonine, "I have come to inform you that my
contract has been signed by the prince and my uncle, and that--"

"Your contract is signed, my child! That is important and I expected it.
You can tell me the rest when we have made our dear Sophie the prettiest
and most captivating toilet in the world. It is very important and very
urgent."

Then the marquise whispered in the ear of Madame Dutertre:

"Your husband may come at any moment; he must be charmed, fascinated,
and he will be."

Then turning to Antonine, Madeleine added:

"Quick, quick, my child; help me to place this table before the window,
and we will first arrange Sophie's hair."

"But really, Madeleine," said Madame Dutertre, smiling, for she was
awakening in spite of herself to hope and happiness, "you are silly."

"Not so silly," replied the marquise, making Sophie sit down before the
toilet-table.

Uncoiling her friend's magnificent hair, she said:

"With such hair, if I were as ugly as a monster, I would make myself
attractive in the highest degree; judge for yourself, Sophie. Here, help
me, Antonine, this hair is so long and so thick, I cannot hold it all in
my hand."

It was a charming sight to see the three friends of such diverse beauty,
thus grouped together. The pure face of Antonine expressed an innocent
astonishment at this improvised toilet; Sophie, touched, and distressed
by the tender recollections of other days, felt under her veil of brown
hair her lovely face, sad and pale up to that moment, colour with an
involuntary blush; while Madeleine, handling her friend's superb hair
with marvellous skill, was making a ravishing coiffure.

"Now," said the marquise to Sophie, "what gown are you going to wear?
But now I think of it, they all fit you horribly, and all of them are
cut on the same pattern."

"They are, unfortunately," said Sophie, smiling.

"Very well," replied the marquise, "and all are high-necked, I warrant."

"Yes, all are high-necked," replied poor Sophie.

"Better and better," said Madeleine, "so that these dimpled shoulders,
these beautiful arms are condemned to perpetual burial! it is
deplorable! Let us see, you have at least some elegant morning
gown,--some coquettish dressing-gown,--have you not?"

"My morning gowns are all very simple. It is true that formerly--"

"Formerly?"

"I did have some beautiful ones."

"Well, where are they?"

"I thought they were too young for the mother of a family like me," said
Sophie, smiling. "So I relegated them, I believe, to a shelf in that
wardrobe with the glass door."

The marquise waited to hear no more; she ran to the wardrobe, which she
ransacked, and found two or three very pretty morning gowns of striped
taffeta of great beauty. She selected one of deep blue, with
straw-coloured stripes; the sleeves open and floating exposed the arms
to the elbow, and although it lapped over in front, the gown opened
enough to show the neck in the most graceful manner possible.

"Admirable!" exclaimed Madeleine, "this gown is as fresh and beautiful
as when it was new. Now I must have some white silk stockings to match
these Cendrillon slippers I found in this wardrobe where you have buried
your arms, Sophie, as they say of warriors who do not go to battle any
more."

"But, my dear Madeleine," said Sophie, "I--"

"There are no 'buts,'" said the marquise, impatiently. "I wish and
expect, when your husband enters here, he will think he has gone back
five years."

In spite of a feeble resistance, Sophie Dutertre was docile and obedient
to the advice and pretty attentions of her friend. Soon, half recumbent
on an easy chair, in a languishing attitude, she consented that the
marquise should give the finishing touch to the living picture. Finally
Madeleine arranged a few curls of the rich brown hair around the neck of
dazzling whiteness, lifted the sleeves so as to show the dimpled elbows,
opened somewhat the neck of the gown, notwithstanding the chaste
scruples of Sophie, and draped the skirt with provoking premeditation,
so as to reveal the neatest ankle and prettiest little foot in the
world.

It must be said that Sophie was charming,--emotion, hope, expectation,
and a vague disquietude, colouring her sweet and attractive face,
animated her appearance, and gave a bewitching expression to her
features.

Antonine, struck with the wonderful metamorphosis, exclaimed,
innocently, clapping her little hands:

"Why, Sophie, I did not know you were as pretty as that!"

"Nor did Sophie know it," replied Madeleine, shrugging her shoulders, "I
have exhumed so many attractions."

Just then Madame Dutertre's servant, having knocked at the door,
entered, and said to her mistress:

"Monsieur desires to speak to madame. He is in the shop, and wishes to
know if madame is at home."

"He knows you are here," whispered Sophie to Madeleine, with a sigh.

"Make him come up," replied the marquise, softly.

"Tell M. Dutertre that I am at home," said Sophie to the servant, who
went out.

Madeleine, addressing her friend in a voice full of emotion, as she
extended her arms to her, said:

"And now, good-bye, Sophie; tell your husband that he is delivered from
M. Pascal."

"You are going already?" said Sophie, with sadness; "when shall I see
you again?"

"I do not know,--some day, perhaps. But I hear your husband's step. I
leave you."

Then she added, smiling:

"Only I would like to hide behind that curtain and enjoy your triumph."

And making a sign to Antonine to accompany her, she retired behind the
curtain which separated the room from the next chamber, just as M.
Dutertre entered. For some moments the eyes of Charles wandered as if he
were looking for some one he expected to meet; he had not discovered the
change in Sophie, who said to him:

"Charles, we are saved, here is the non-suit of M. Pascal."

"Great God! can it be true?" cried Dutertre, looking over the paper his
wife had just delivered to him; then, raising his eyes, he beheld
Sophie in her bewitching, coquettish toilet. After a short silence
produced by surprise and admiration, he exclaimed:

"Sophie! what do I see? This toilet so charming, so new! Is it to
celebrate our day of deliverance?"

"Charles," replied Sophie, smiling and blushing by turns, "this toilet
is not new; some years ago, if you remember, you admired me in it."

"If I remember!" cried Dutertre, feeling a thousand tender memories
awaken in his mind. "Ah, it was the beautiful time of our ardent love,
and this happy time is born again, it exists. I see you again as in the
past; your beauty shines in my eyes with a new brilliancy. I do not know
what this enchantment is; but this elegance, this grace, this coquetry,
your blushes and the sweet perfume of the iris we used to love so
much,--all transport me and intoxicate me! Never, no, never, have I seen
you more beautiful!" added Dutertre, in a passionate voice, as he kissed
Sophie's little hands. "Oh, yes, it is you, it is you, I have found you
again, adored mistress of my first love!"

"Now, little girl, I think it is altogether proper that we should
retire," whispered Madeleine to Antonine, unable to keep from laughing.

And both, stealing away on tiptoe, left the parlour, the door of which
the marquise discreetly closed, and went into the study of M. Dutertre,
which opened into the garden.

"Just now, Madeleine," said Antonine to the marquise, "you did not let
me finish what I came to tell you."

"Very well, speak, my child."

"Count Frantz is here."


"He here!" said the marquise, starting with a feeling of sudden
disappointment. "And why and how is Count Frantz here?"

"Knowing from me that you would be here this morning," said Antonine,
"he has come to thank you for all your kindness to us. He is waiting in
the garden,--wait,--there he is!" With these words the young girl
pointed to Frantz, who was seated on a bench in the garden.

Madeleine threw a long and last look on her blond archangel, nor could
she restrain the tears which rose to her eyes; then, kissing Antonine on
the brow, she said, in a slightly altered voice:

"Good-bye, my child."

"Why, Madeleine," exclaimed the young girl, astounded at so abrupt a
departure, "will you go away without wishing to see Frantz? Why, that is
impossible--but you will--"

The marquise put her finger on her lips as a sign to Antonine to keep
silence; then walking away, turning her eyes only once to that side of
the garden, she disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after, the Marquise de Miranda quit Paris, leaving this note
for the archduke:

       *       *       *       *       *

"MONSEIGNEUR:--I am going to wait for you in Vienna; come and complete
your capture of me.

"MADELEINE."

THE END.



THE SEVEN CARDINAL SINS

GLUTTONY

DOCTOR GASTERINI



GLUTTONY.



CHAPTER I.


Toward the end of the month of October, 18--, the following conversation
occurred in the convent of St. Rosalie, between the mother superior,
whose name was Sister Prudence, and a certain Abbé Ledoux, whom perhaps
the readers of these recitals will remember.

The abbé had just entered the private parlour of Sister Prudence, a
woman about fifty years old, with a pale and serious face and a sharp,
penetrating eye.

"Well, dear abbé," said she, "what news from Dom Diégo? When will he
arrive?"

"The canon has arrived, my dear sister."

"With his niece?"

"With his niece."

"God be praised! Now, my dear abbé, let us pray Heaven to bless our
plans."

"Without doubt, my dear sister, we will pray, but, above all, let us
play a sure game, for it will not be easy to win."

"What do you say?"

"The truth. This truth I have learned only this morning, and here it is;
give me, I pray you, all your attention."

"I am listening, my dear brother."

"Moreover, that we may better agree, and clearly understand our
position, let us first settle the condition of things in our minds. Two
months ago, Rev. Father Benoit, who is engaged in foreign missions, and
at present is in Cadiz, wrote to me recommending to my especial
consideration Lord Dom Diégo, Canon of Alcantara, who was to sail from
Cadiz to France with his niece, Dolores Salcedo."

"Very well, my brother."

"Father Benoit added that he was sufficiently acquainted with the
character and disposition of Dolores Salcedo to feel sure that she could
be easily persuaded to take the veil, a resolution which would have the
approval of her uncle, Dom Diégo."

"And, as she is the only heir of the rich canon, the house which she
will enter will be greatly benefited by the fortune she inherits."

"Exactly so, my dear sister. Naturally, I have thought of our convent of
Ste. Rosalie for Senora Dolores, and I have spoken to you of these
intentions."

"I have adopted them, my dear brother, because, having some experience
with young girls, I feel almost sure that I can, by persuasion, guard
this innocent dove from the snares of a seductive and corrupt world, and
decide her to take the veil in our house. I shall be doing two good
works: save a young girl, and turn to the good of the poor riches which,
in other hands, would be used for evil; I cannot hesitate."

"Without doubt; but, now, my dear sister, the inconvenient thing is,
that this innocent dove has a lover."

"What do you tell me, my brother? What horror! But then, our plans."

"I have just warned you that we must play a sure game."

"And how have you learned this shocking thing, my dear brother?"

"By the majordomo of Dom Diégo, a modest servant who keeps me informed
of everything he can learn about the canon and his niece."

"These instructions are indispensable, my brother, because they enable
us to act with intelligence and security. But what ideas has this
majordomo given you concerning this unfortunate love, my dear brother?"

"Hear, now, how things have happened. The canon and his niece embarked
at Cadiz, on a three-master coming from the Indies, and sailing for
Bordeaux. Really, now, how many strange fatalities do occur!"

"What fatalities?"

"In the first place, the name of this vessel on which they embarked was
named _Gastronome._"

"Why, what a singular name for a vessel!"

"Less singular than it appears at first, my dear sister, because this
vessel, after having carried to the Indies the best unfermented wines of
Bordeaux and the south, hams from Bayonne, smoked tongues from Troyes,
pastry from Amiens and Strasbourg, tunnies and olives from Marseilles,
cheese from Switzerland, preserved fruits from Touraine and Montpellier,
etc., came back by the Cape of Good Hope with a cargo of wines from
Constance, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, tea, salted meats of Hachar, and
other comestibles of the Indies. She was to add to her cargo by taking
on at Cadiz a large quantity of Spanish wine, and afterward return to
Bordeaux."

"Good God, my brother! what a quantity of wine and food! It is enough to
make one shudder. I understand now why the vessel was named the
_Gastronome._"

"And you understand at the same time, my sister, why I spoke to you of
strange fatalities, and why the Canon Dom Diégo preferred to embark on
the _Gastronome_, rather than on any other vessel, without any regard to
her destination."

"Please explain yourself, my brother."

"As for that, I ought first to inform you that I myself was in
ignorance before my secret conference with the majordomo on the subject
of the canon; the fact is, he is a fabulous, unheard-of glutton."

"Oh, my brother, what a horrible sin!"

"Horrible sin it may be, but do not abuse this sin too much, my dear
sister, for, thanks to it, we may perhaps be able to compass our
praiseworthy end and win our game."

"And how is that, my brother?"

"I am going to tell you. The canon is an ideal glutton. All his
faculties, all his thoughts, are concentrated upon one sole
pleasure,--the table; and it seems that at Madrid and at Cadiz his table
was absolutely marvellous, because now I remember that my physician,
Doctor Gasterini--"

"An abominable atheist! a Sardanapalus!" exclaimed Sister Prudence,
interrupting Abbé Ledoux, and raising both hands to heaven. "I have
never understood why you receive the medical attentions of such a
miscreant!"

"I will tell you that some day, my dear sister, but, believe me, I know
what I am doing. Besides, notwithstanding his great age, Doctor
Gasterini is still the first physician in Paris, as he is the first
glutton in the world; but, as I was saying to you, my sister, I now
remember having heard him speak of a Spanish canon's table,--a table
which, according to one of the doctor's correspondents in Madrid, was
truly remarkable. At that time I was far from suspecting that it was Dom
Diégo who was the subject of their correspondence. However, the poor man
is a fool,--a man of small ability, and influenced by all those absurd
Southern superstitions. So, upon the authority of the majordomo, it will
be easy to make this gluttonous canon see the devil in flesh and bones!"

"One moment, my brother. I am not altogether displeased with the canon's
foolish superstition."

"Nor I, my sister; on the contrary, it suits me exactly. That is not
all. The canon, thanks to his religion, is not deceived about the
grossness of his ruling passion. He knows that gluttony is one of the
seven deadly sins. He believes that his sin will send him to hell, yet
he has not the courage to resist it; he eats with voluptuousness, and
remorse comes only when he is no longer hungry."

"Instead of remorse, he ought to have indigestion, unhappy man!" said
Sister Prudence. "That, perhaps, might cure him."

"True, my sister, but that is not the case. However, the canon's life is
passed in enjoying and regretting that he has enjoyed; sometimes
remorse, aided by superstition, leads him to expect some sudden and
terrible punishment from heaven, but when appetite returns remorse is
forgotten, and thus has it been a long time with the canon."

"After all, my brother, I think him far less culpable than this
Sardanapalus, your Doctor Gasterini, who impudently indulges his
appetite without compunction. The canon is, at least, conscious of his
sin, and that is something."

"Since the character of the canon is now understood, you will not be
astonished that, finding himself at Cadiz, and learning that a ship
named the _Gastronome_ was about to sail for France, Dom Diégo seized
the opportunity to embark on a vessel so happily named, so as to be
able, on his arrival at Bordeaux, to purchase several tons of the
choicest wines."

"Certainly. I understand that, my dear brother."

"Well, then, Dom Diégo embarked with his niece on board the
_Gastronome._ It is impossible to imagine--so the majordomo told me--the
quantity of stores, provisions, and refreshments of all sorts with which
the canon encumbered the deck of this vessel,--obstructions invariably
forbidden by all rules of navigation,--but the commander of this ship, a
certain Captain Horace, miscreant that he is, had only too good reason
for ignoring discipline and making himself agreeable to the canon."

"And this reason, my brother?"

"Fascinated by the beauty of the niece, when Dom Diégo came with her to
stipulate the terms of his passage, this contemptible captain, suddenly
enamoured of Dolores Salcedo, and expecting to profit by opportunities
the voyage would offer, granted all that Dom Diégo demanded, in the hope
of seeing him embark with his niece."

"What villainy on the part of this captain, my brother!"

"Fortunately, Heaven has punished him for it, and that can save us.
Well, the canon and his niece embarked on board the _Gastronome_, laden
with all that could tempt or satisfy appetite. Just as they left port a
terrible tempest arose, and the safety of the vessel required everything
to be thrown into the sea, not only the canon's provisions, but cages of
birds and beasts taken aboard for the sustenance of the passengers. This
squall, which drove the vessel far from the coast of Bordeaux, lasted so
long and with such fury that almost the entire voyage it was impossible
to do any cooking, and passengers, sailors, and officers were reduced to
the fare of dry biscuit and salt meat."

"Oh, the unhappy canon! what became of him?"

"He became furious, my sister, because this passage actually cost him
his appetite."

"Ah, my brother, the finger of Providence was there!"

"In a word, whether by reason of the terror caused by the tempest, or a
long deprivation of choice food, or whether the detestable nourishment
he was compelled to take impaired his health, the canon, since he
disembarked from the _Gastronome_, has completely lost his appetite. The
little that he eats to sustain him, the majordomo tells me, is insipid
and unpalatable, no matter how well prepared it may be; and more, he is
tormented by the idea or superstition that Heaven has justly punished
him for his inordinate indulgence. And, as Captain Horace is in his eyes
the chief instrument of Heaven's anger, the canon has taken an
unconquerable dislike to the miscreant, not forgetting, too, that all
his luxuries were thrown into the sea by order of the captain. In vain
has the captain tried to make him comprehend that his own salvation, as
well as that of many others, depended on this sacrifice; Dom Diégo
remains inflexible in his hatred. Well, my dear sister, would you
believe that, notwithstanding that, the captain, upon his arrival at
Bordeaux, had the audacity to ask of Dom Diégo the hand of his niece in
marriage, assuming that this unhappy young girl was in love with him.
You appreciate the fact, my sister, that two lovers do not remember bad
cheer or terrible tempests, and that this miscreant has bewildered the
innocent creature. I need not tell you of the fury of Dom Diégo at this
insolent proposal from the captain, whom he regards as his mortal enemy,
as the bad spirit sent to him by the anger of Heaven. So the canon has
informed Dolores that, as a punishment for having dared to fall in love
with such a scoundrel, he would put her in a convent upon his arrival in
Paris, and that she should there take the veil."

"But, my brother, so far I see only success for our plans. Everything
seems to favour them."

"Yes, my sister; but you are counting without the love of Dolores, and
the resolute character of this damned captain."

"What audacity!"

"He followed on horseback, relay after relay, the carriage of the canon,
galloping from Bordeaux to Paris like a state messenger. He must have a
constitution of iron. He stopped at every inn where Dom Diégo stopped,
and during the journey Dolores and the captain were ogling each other,
in spite of the rage and resistance of Dom Diégo. Could he prevent this
love-sick girl looking out of the window? Could he prevent this
miscreant riding on the highway by the side of his carriage?"

"Such audacity seems incredible, does it not, my brother?"

"Which is the reason I tell you we must be on guard everywhere from this
madman. He is not alone; one of his sailors, a veritable blackguard,
accompanied him, riding behind in his train, and holding on to his horse
like a monkey on a donkey, so the majordomo told me. But that did not
matter, this demon of a sailor is capable of anything to help his
captain, to whom he is devoted. And that is not all. Twenty times on the
route Dolores positively told her uncle that she did not wish to become
a religious, that she wished to marry the captain, and that he would
know how to come to her if they constrained her,--he and his sailor
would deliver her if they had to set fire to the convent."

"What a bandit!" cried Sister Prudence. "What a desperate villain!"

"You see, dear sister, how things were yesterday, when Dom Diégo took
possession of the apartment I had previously engaged for him. This
morning he desired me to visit him. I found him in bed and very much
depressed. He told me that a sudden revolution had taken place in the
mind of his niece; that now she seemed as submissive and resigned as she
had been rebellious, that she had at last consented to go to the
convent, and to-day if it was required."

"My brother, my brother, this is a very sudden and timely change."

"Such is my opinion, my sister, and, if I am not mistaken, this sudden
change hides some snare. I have told you we must play a sure game. It is
a great deal, no doubt, to have this love-sick girl in our hands; but
we must not forget the enemy, this detestable Captain Horace, who,
accompanied by his sailor, will no doubt be prowling around the house,
like the ravening wolf spoken of in the Scriptures."

"_Quærens quem devoret,_" said Sister Prudence, who prided herself upon
her Latin.

"Just so, my sister, seeking whom he may devour, but, fortunately,
there's a good watch-dog for every good wolf, and we have intelligent
and courageous servants. The strictest watchfulness must be established
without and within. We will soon know where this miscreant of a captain
lives; he will not take a step without being followed by one of our men.
He will be very clever and very brave if he accomplishes anything."

"This watchfulness seems to me very necessary, my dear brother."

"Now my carriage is below, let us go to the canon's apartments, and in
an hour his niece will be here."

"Never to go out of this house, if it pleases Heaven, my brother,
because it is for the eternal happiness of this poor foolish girl."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after this conversation Senora Dolores Salcedo entered the
Convent of Ste. Rosalie.



CHAPTER II.


A few days after the entrance of Senora Dolores Salcedo in the house of
Ste. Rosalie, and just at the close of the day, two men were slowly
walking along the Boulevard de l'Hopital, one of the most deserted
places in Paris.

The younger of these two individuals seemed to be about twenty-five or
thirty years old. His face was frank and resolute, his complexion
sunburnt, his figure tall and robust, his step decided, and his dress
simple and of military severity.

His companion, a little shorter, but unusually square and thick-set,
seemed to be about fifty-five years old, and presented that type of the
sailor familiar to the eyes of Parisians. An oilcloth hat, low in shape,
with a wide brim, placed on the back of his head, revealed a brow
ornamented with five or six corkscrew curls, known as heart-catchers,
while the rest of his hair was cut very close. This manner of wearing
the hair, called the sailor style, was, if traditions are true, quite
popular in 1825 among crews of the line sailing from the port of Brest.

A white shirt with a blue collar, embroidered in red, falling over his
broad shoulders, permitted a view of the bull like neck of our sailor,
whose skin was tanned until it resembled parchment, the colour of brick.
A round vest of blue cloth, with buttons marked with an anchor, and wide
trousers bound to his hips by a red woollen girdle, completed our man's
apparel. Side-whiskers of brown, shaded with fawn colour, encased his
square face, which expressed both good humour and decision of
character. A superficial observer might have supposed the left cheek of
the sailor to be considerably inflamed, but a more attentive examination
would have disclosed the fact that an enormous quid of tobacco produced
this one-sided tumefaction. Let us add, lastly, that the sailor carried
on his back a bag, whose contents seemed quite bulky.

The two men had just reached a place in front of a high wall surrounding
a garden. The top of the trees could scarcely be distinguished, for the
night had fallen.

The young man said to his companion, as he stopped and turned his ear
eastward:

"Sans-Plume, listen."

"Please God, what is it, captain?" said the man with the tobacco quid,
in reply to this singular surname.

"I am not mistaken, it is certainly here."

"Yes, captain, it is in this made land between these two large trees.
Here is the place where the wall is a little damaged. I noticed it
yesterday evening at dusk, when we picked up the stone and the letter."

"That is so. Come quick, my old seaman," said the captain to his sailor,
indicating with his eye one of the large trees of the boulevard, several
of whose branches hung over the garden wall. "Up, Sans-Plume, while we
are waiting the hour let us see if we can rig the thing."

"Captain, there is still a bit of twilight, and I see below a man who is
coming this way."

"Then let us wait. Hide first your bag behind the trunk of this
tree,--you have forgotten nothing?"

"No, captain, all my rigging is in there."

"Come, then, let us go. This man is coming; we must not look as if we
were lying to before these walls."

"That's it, captain, we'll stand upon another tack so as to put him out
of his way."

And the two sailors began, as Sans-Plume had said in his picturesque
language, to stand the other tack in the path parallel to the public
walk, after the sailor had prudently picked up the bag he had hidden
between the trees of the boulevard and the wall.

"Sans-Plume," said the young man, as they walked along, "are you sure
you recognise the spot where the hackney-coach awaits us?"

"Yes, captain--But, I say, captain."

"What?"

"That man looks as if he were following us."

"Bah!"

"And spying on us."

"Come along, Sans-Plume, you are foolish!"

"Captain, let us set the prow larboard and you go and see."

"So be it," replied the captain.

And, followed by his sailor, he left the walk on the right of the
boulevard, crossed the pavement, and took the walk on the left.

"Well, captain," said Sans-Plume, in a low voice, "you see this lascar
navigates in our waters."

"That is true, we are followed."

"It is not the first time it has happened to me," said Sans-Plume, with
a shade of conceit, hiding one-half of his mouth with the back of his
hand in order to eject the excess of tobacco juice produced by the
mastication of his enormous quid. "One day, in Senegal, Gorée, I was
followed a whole league, bowsprit on stern, captain, till I came to a
plantation of sugar-cane, and--"

"The devil! that man is surely following us," said the captain,
interrupting the indiscreet confidences of the sailor. "That annoys me!"

"Captain, do you wish me to drop my bag and flank this lascar with
tobacco, in order to teach him to ply to our windward in spite of us?"

"Fine thing! but do you keep still and follow me."

The captain and his sailor, again crossing the pavement, regained the
walk on the right.

"See, captain," said Sans-Plume, "he turns tack with us."

"Let him go, and let us watch his steps."

The man who followed the two sailors, a large, jolly-looking fellow in a
blue blouse and cap, went beyond them a few steps, then stopped and
looked up at the stars, for the night had fully come.

The captain, after saying a few words in a low tone to the sailor who
had hidden himself behind the trunk of one of the large trees of the
boulevard, advanced alone to meet his disagreeable observer, and said to
him:

"Comrade, it is a fine evening."

"Very fine."

"You are waiting for some one here?"

"Yes."

"I, also."

"Ah!"

"Comrade, have you been waiting long?"

"For three hours at least."

"Comrade," replied the captain, after a moment's silence, "would you
like to make double the sum they give you for following me and spying
me?"

"I do not know what you mean. I do not follow you, sir. I am not spying
you."

"Yes."

"No."

"Let us end this. I will give you what you want if you will go on your
way,--stop, I have the gold in my pocket."

And the captain tingled the gold in his vest pocket, and said:

"I have twenty-five or thirty louis--"

"_Hein!_" said the man, with a singularly insinuating manner,
"twenty-five or thirty louis?"

At this moment a distant clock sounded half-past seven o'clock. Almost
at the same instant a guttural cry, resembling a call or a signal, was
heard in the direction that the man in the blouse had first taken to
join the two sailors. The spy made a movement as if he understood the
significance of this cry, and for a moment seemed undecided.

"Half-past seven o'clock," said the captain to himself. "That beggar
there is not alone."

Having made this reflection, he coughed.

Scarcely had the captain coughed, when the spy felt himself seized
vigorously at the ankles by some one who had thrown himself suddenly
between his legs. He fell backwards, but in falling he had time to cry
with a loud voice:

"Here, John, run to the--"

He was not able to finish. Sans-Plume, after having thrown him down, had
unceremoniously taken a seat on the breast of the spy, and, holding him
by the throat, prevented his speaking.

"The devil! do not strangle him," said the captain, who, kneeling down,
was binding securely with his silk handkerchief the two legs of the
indiscreet busybody.

"The bag, captain," said Sans-Plume, keeping his grip on the throat of
the spy, "the bag! it is large enough to wrap his head and arms; we will
bind him tight around the loins and he will not budge any more than a
roll of old canvas."

No sooner said than done. In a few seconds the spy, cowled like a monk
in the bag to the middle of his body, with his legs bound, found himself
unable to move. Sans-Plume had the courtesy to push his victim into one
of the wide verdant slopes which separated the trees, and nothing more
was heard from that quarter but an interrupted series of smothered
bellowings.

"The alarm will be given at the convent! Half-past seven has just
struck," said the captain to his sailor. "We must risk all now or all is
lost!"

"In twice three movements the thing is ready, captain," replied
Sans-Plume, running with his companion toward the large trees which hung
over the wall near which they had at first stood.



CHAPTER III.


While these events were transpiring on the boulevard, and a little
before half after seven had sounded, another scene was taking place in
the interior of the convent garden. Sister Prudence, the mother
superior, and Dolores Salcedo were walking in the garden,
notwithstanding the advanced hour of the evening.

Dolores, a brunette of charming appearance, united in herself the rare
and bewitching perfections of Spanish beauty. Hair of a blue black,
which, when uncoiled, dragged upon the floor; a pale complexion warmed
by the sun of the South; large eyes, by turns full of fire and languid
sweetness; a little mouth as red as the bud of the pomegranate steeped
in dew; a delicate and voluptuous form, tapering fingers, and an
Andalusian foot and ankle, completed her list of charms. As to the
exquisite grace of her figure and gait, one must, to have any idea of
it, have seen the undulating movements of the beautiful senoras of
Seville or Cadiz, when, speaking with their eyes or playing with their
fans, they slowly promenade, a beautiful summer evening, on the marble
floor of the Alameda.

Dolores accompanied Sister Prudence. Walking and talking, the two women
approached the wall behind which Captain Horace and his sailor had
stopped.

"You see, my dear daughter," said the mother superior to Dolores, "I
grant you all you desire, and, although the rules of the house forbid
promenades in the garden after nightfall, I have consented to stay here
until half-past seven o'clock, our supper hour, which will soon sound."

"I thank you, madame," said Dolores, with a slight Spanish accent, and
in a voice deliciously resonant. "I feel that this promenade will do me
good."

"You must call me mother and not madame, my dear daughter, I have
already told you that it is the custom here."

"I will conform to it, if I can, madame."

"Again!"

"It is difficult to call a person mother who is not your mother," said
Dolores, with a sigh.

"I am your spiritual mother, my dear daughter; your mother in God, as
you are, as you will be, my daughter in God; because you will leave us
no more, you will renounce the deceitful pleasures of a perverse and
corrupt world, you will have here a heavenly foretaste of eternal
peace."

"I begin to discover it, madame."

"You will live in prayer, silence, and meditation."

"I have no other desire, madame."

"Well, well, my dear daughter, after all, what will you sacrifice?"

"Oh, nothing, absolutely nothing!"

"I like that response, my dear daughter; really, it is nothing, less
than nothing, these wicked and worldly passions which cause us so much
sorrow and throw us in the way of perdition."

"Just Heaven! it makes me tremble to think of it, madame."

"The Lord inspires you to answer thus, my dear daughter, and I am sure
now that you can hardly understand how you have been able to love this
miscreant captain."

"It is true, madame, I was stupid enough to dream of happiness and the
joys of family affection; criminal enough to find this happiness in
mutual love and hope to become, like many others, a devoted wife and
tender mother; it was, as you have told me, an offence to Heaven. I
repent my impious vows, I comprehend all that is odious in them; you
must pardon me, madame, for having been wicked and silly to such a
degree."

"It is not necessary to exaggerate, my dear daughter," said Sister
Prudence, struck with the slightly ironical accent with which Dolores
had uttered these last words. "But," added she, observing the direction
taken by the young girl, "what is the good of returning to this walk? It
will soon be the hour for supper; come, my dear daughter, let us go back
to the house."

"Oh, madame, do you not perceive that sweet odour on this side of the
grove?"

"Those are a few clusters of mignonette. But come, it is getting cool; I
am not sixteen like you, my dear daughter, and I am afraid of catching
cold."

"Just one moment, please, that I may gather a few of these flowers."

"Go on, then, you must do everything you wish, my dear daughter; stop,
the night is clear enough for you to see this mignonette ten steps away;
go and gather a few sprigs and return."

Dolores, letting go the arm of the mother superior, went rapidly toward
the clusters of flowers.

At this moment half-past seven o'clock sounded.

"Half-past seven," murmured Dolores, trembling and turning her ear to
listen, "he is there, he will come!"

"My dear daughter, it is the hour for supper," said the mother superior,
walking on ahead of the canon's niece. "Stop, do you not hear the clock?
Quick! quick! come, it will take ten minutes to reach the house, for we
are at the bottom of the garden."

"Here I am, madame," replied the young girl, running before the mother
superior, who said to her, with affected sweetness:

"Oh, you foolish little thing, you run like a frightened fawn."

Suddenly Dolores shrieked, and fell on her knees.

"Great God!" cried Sister Prudence, running up to her, "what is the
matter, dear daughter? Why did you scream? What are you on your knees
for?"

"Ah, madame!"

"But what is it?"

"What pain!"

"Where?"

"In my foot, madame, I have sprained my ankle. Oh, how I suffer! My God,
how I suffer!"

"Try to get up, my dear child," said the mother, approaching Dolores
with a vague distrust, for this sprain seemed to her quite unnatural.

"Oh, impossible, madame, I cannot make a movement."

"But try, at least."

"I wish I could."

And the young girl made a show of wishing to stand up, but she fell
again on her knees, with a shriek that could be heard on the other side
of the garden wall.

Then Dolores said, with a groan:

"You see, madame, it is impossible for me to move. I pray you return to
the house, and tell some one to come for me with a chair or a litter.
Oh, how I suffer! My God, how I suffer! For pity's sake, madame, go back
quick to the house; it is so far, I shall never be able to drag myself
there."

"Mademoiselle," cried the mother superior, "I am not your dupe! You have
no more of a sprain than I have, it is an abominable falsehood! You
wish, I know not for what reason, to send me away, and remain alone in
the garden. Ah, indeed you make me repent of my condescension."

The light noise of a few pebbles falling across the boughs of the trees
attracted the attention of the mother superior and Dolores, who,
radiant with delight, leaped up with a bound, exclaiming:

"There he is!"

"Of whom are you speaking, unhappy girl?"

"Of Captain Horace, madame," said Dolores, curtseying with mock
reverence. "He is coming to carry me away."

"What impudence! Ah, you think that in spite of me--"

"We are at the bottom of the garden, madame; cry, call, nobody will hear
you."

"Oh, what horrible treason!" cried the mother superior. "But it is
impossible! The men on guard have not dared leave the boulevard since
nightfall."

"Horatio!" cried Dolores, in a clear, silvery voice. "My Horatio!"

"Shameless creature!" cried Sister Prudence, in desperation, rushing
forward to seize Dolores by the arm. But the Spanish girl, nimble as a
gazelle, with two bounds was out of the reach of Sister Prudence, whose
limbs, stiffened by age, refused to lend themselves to gymnastic
exercise; and already overcome, she cried, wringing her hands:

"Oh, those miserable patrols! They have not been on guard. I would cry,
but they would not hear me at the convent. To run there is to leave this
wretched girl here alone! Ah, I understand too late why this serpent
wished to prolong our walk."

"Horatio," cried Dolores a second time, holding herself at a distance
from the mother superior, "my dear Horatio!"

"Descend!" cried a ringing male voice which seemed to come from the sky.

This celestial voice was no other than that of Captain Horace, giving
the signal to his faithful Sans-Plume to descend something.

The mother superior and Dolores, notwithstanding the difference of the
emotions which agitated them, raised their eyes simultaneously when they
heard the voice of Captain Horace.

But let us recall the situation of the walk and garden in order to
explain the miracle about to be manifested to the sight of the recluse.

Two of the largest branches of the trees on the boulevard outside
extended like a gibbet, so to speak, above and beyond the coping of the
convent wall. The night was so clear that Dolores and the mother
superior saw, slowly descending, sustained by cords, an Indian hammock
in the bottom of which Captain Horace was extended, throwing with his
hand a shower of kisses to Dolores.

When the hammock was within two feet of the earth, the captain called,
in a ringing voice: "Stop!"

The hammock rested motionless. The captain leaped out of it, and said to
the young girl:

"Quick, we have not a moment to lose! Dear Dolores, get into this
hammock at once and do not be afraid."

"You will kill me first, villain!" cried the mother superior, throwing
herself upon the young girl, whom she held within her arms, at the same
time crying out, "Help! help!"

At this moment lights could be seen coming and going at a distance from
the bottom of the garden.

"Here comes somebody at last!" screamed Sister Prudence, redoubling her
cries of "Help! help!"

"Madame," said the captain, "let loose Dolores immediately!" And he
forcibly withdrew the young girl from the obstinate embrace, holding
Sister Prudence until Dolores could spring into the hammock. Seeing her
safely seated there, the captain called:

"Ho there! Hoist."

And the hammock rose rapidly, so light was the weight of the young girl.

[Illustration: "_'You shall not escape me.'_"

Original etching by Adrian Marcel.]

Sister Prudence, thoroughly enraged, and thinking that help would
come perhaps too late, for the lights were still distant, screamed
louder than ever, and threw herself on the hammock, to hold it down; but
the captain drew her arm familiarly within his own, and, in spite of her
struggles, held her like a vice.

"Dolores," said the captain, "do not be afraid, my love. When you reach
the large branches, yield yourself without fear to the motion which will
draw the hammock outside the wall. Sans-Plume is on the other side, and
he is watching everything. Tell him, as soon as you reach the earth, to
throw me the knotted rope, and hold it well on the outside."

"Yes, my Horatio," said Dolores, who was already eight or ten feet above
the earth; "be calm, our love doubles my courage."

And the young mocker, leaning out of the hammock, said, with a laugh;

"Good evening, Sister Prudence, good evening!"

"You will be damned, accursed creature," said the mother superior.

"But you, you wretch! you shall not escape me," added she, holding on
with desperate and convulsive anger to the captain's arm.

"They are coming, and you will be taken."

In fact, the lights were becoming more and more visible, and the captain
could distinctly hear the voices of persons calling:

"Sister Prudence! Sister Prudence!"

The arrival of this aid increased the strength of the mother superior,
who still clinched the arm of Horace. She was beginning to embarrass the
sailor quite seriously; he could not resort to violence to escape this
aged woman. In the meanwhile, the lights and the voices came nearer and
nearer, and Sans-Plume, occupied, no doubt, in assuring the safe descent
of Dolores on the other side of the wall, had not yet thrown the rope,
his only means of flight. Then wishing, at any cost, to extricate
himself from the grasp of the sister, the captain said to her:

"I pray you, madame, release me."

"Never, villain. Help, help!"

"Then pardon me, madame, because you force me to it. I am going to dance
with you an infernal waltz, a riotous polka."

"A polka with me! You dare!"

"Come, madame, since you insist upon it we must. Keep time to the air.
Tra, la, la, la."

And joining the act to the words, the merry sailor passed the arm that
was free around the bony waist of Sister Prudence, and carried her with
him, singing his refrain and whirling her around with such rapidity
that, at the end of a few seconds, bewildered, dizzy, and suffocated,
she could only gasp the syllables:

"Ah, help--help--you--wretch! He--takes--my--breath! Help--help!"

And soon overcome by the rapid whirling, Sister Prudence felt her
strength failing. The captain saw her about to faint on his arms, and
only had time to lay her gently on the grass.

"Ho!" at this moment cried Sans-Plume on the other side of the wall, as
he threw over the knotted rope to the captain.

"The devil, it is high time!" said the captain, rushing after the rope,
for the lights and the persons who carried them were no more than fifty
steps distant.

Armed with pitchforks and guns, they approached the mother superior, who
had recovered sufficiently to point over the wall as she said:

"There he is getting away!"

One of the men, armed with a gun, guided by her gesture, saw the
captain, who, thanks to his agility as a sailor, had just gained the
crest of the wall.

The man fired his gun, but missed his aim.

"You! You!" cried he to another man armed like himself. "There he is on
the top of the wall reaching for the branches of that tree,--fire!"

The second shot was fired just at the moment when Captain Horace,
astride one of the branches projecting over the garden, was approaching
the trunk of the tree, by means of which he meant to descend on the
outside. Scarcely had the second shot been fired, when Horace made a
sudden leap, stopped a moment, and then disappeared in the thick foliage
of the trees.

"Run! run outside!" cried Sister Prudence, still panting for breath.
"There is still time to catch them!"

The orders of the mother superior were executed, but when they arrived
on the boulevard outside, Dolores, the captain, and Sans-Plume had
disappeared. They found nothing but the hammock, which was lying a few
steps from the spy, who, enveloped in his bag, dolefully uttering
smothered groans at the bottom of the ditch.



CHAPTER IV.


Eight days after the abduction of Dolores Salcedo by Captain Horace,
Abbé Ledoux, in bed, received the visit of his physician.

The invalid, lying in a soft bed standing in the alcove of a comfortable
apartment, had always a fat and ruddy face; his triple chin descended to
the collar of a fine shirt made of Holland cloth, and the purple
brilliancy of the holy man's complexion contrasted with the immaculate
whiteness of his cotton cap, bound, according to the ancient custom,
with an orange-coloured ribbon. Notwithstanding these indications of
plethoric health, the abbé, his head propped on his pillow in a doleful
manner, uttered from time to time the most plaintive groans, while his
hand, small and effeminate, was given to his physician, who was gravely
feeling his pulse.

Doctor Gasterini,--such was the name of the physician,--although
seventy-five years old, did not look sixty. Tall and erect, as well as
lean and nervous, with a clear complexion and rosy lips, the doctor,
when he smiled with his pleasant, elegant air, disclosed thirty-two
teeth of irreproachable whiteness, which seemed to combine the polish of
ivory with the sharp durability of steel; a forest of white hair,
naturally curled, encircled the amiable and intelligent face of the
doctor. Dressed always in black, with a certain affectation, he remained
faithful to the tradition of small-clothes made of silk cloth, with shoe
buckles of gold, and silk stockings, which clearly delineated his
strong, sinewy legs.

Doctor Gasterini was holding delicately between his thumb and his index
finger--whose rosy polished nails might have been the envy of a pretty
woman--the wrist of his patient, who religiously awaited the decision of
his physician.

"My dear abbé," said the doctor, "you are not at all sick."

"But, doctor--"

"You have a soft, pliant skin, and sixty-five pulsations to the minute.
It would be impossible to find conditions of better health."

"But, again, doctor, I--"

"But, again, abbé, you are not sick. I am a good judge, perhaps."

"And I tell you, doctor, that I have not closed my eyes the whole night.
Madame Siboulet, my housekeeper, has been on her feet constantly,--she
gave me several times some drops made by the good sisters."

"Stuff!"

"And orange flower distilled at the Sacred Heart."

"The devil!"

"Yes, doctor, you may laugh; none of these remedies have given me
relief. I have done nothing but turn over and over all night long in my
bed. Alas, alas! I am not well. I have an excitement, an insupportable
weariness."

"Perhaps, my dear abbé, you experienced yesterday some annoyance, some
contradiction, and as you are very obstinate, very conceited, very
spiteful--"

"I?"

"You."

"Doctor, I assure you--"

"This annoyance, I tell you, might have put you in a diabolical humour;
for I know no remedy which can prevent these vexations. As to being ill,
or even indisposed, you are not the least so in the world, my dear
abbé."

"Then why did I ask you to come to see me this morning?"

"You ought to know that better than I, my dear abbé; nevertheless, I
suspect the unusual motive which has made you desire my visit."

"That is rather hard."

"No, not very hard, for we are old acquaintances, and I know all your
tricks, my dear abbé."

"My tricks!--you know my tricks?"

"You contrive excellent ones, sometimes,--but to return to our subject,
I believe that, under a pretext of sickness which really does not exist,
you have sent for me to learn from me, directly or indirectly, something
which is of interest to you."

"Come, doctor, that is rather a disagreeable pleasantry."

"Wait, my dear abbé. In my youth I was physician to the Duke d'Otrante,
when he was minister of police. He enjoyed, like you, perfect health,
yet there was scarcely a day that he did not exact a visit from me. I
was unsophisticated then, and, although well equipped in my profession,
I had need of patrons, so, notwithstanding my visits to his Excellency
seemed unnecessary, I went to his house regularly every day, about the
hour he made his toilet, and we conversed. The minister was very
inquisitive, and as I was professionally thrown with persons of all
conditions, he, with charming good nature, plied me with questions
concerning my patients. I responded with all the sincerity of my soul.
One day I arrived, as I have told you, at the minister's house, when he
had just completed his toilet, the very moment when a journeyman barber,
the most uncleanly-looking knave I had ever seen in my life, had
finished shaving him.

"'M. duke,' said I to the minister, after the barber had departed, 'how
is it that, instead of being shaved by one of your valets, you prefer
the services of these frightful journeyman barbers whom you change
almost every fortnight?'

"'My dear,' replied the duke in a confidential tone, "'you cannot
imagine how much one can learn about all sorts of people and things,
when one knows how to set such fellows as that prattling.' Was this
confession an amusement or a blunder on the part of this great man, or,
rather, did he think me too silly to comprehend the full significance of
his words? I do not know; but I do know that this avowal enlightened me
as to the real intention of his Excellency in having me chat with him so
freely every morning. After that, I responded with much circumspection
to the questions of the cunning chief, who knew so well how to put in
practice the transcendent maxim, 'The best spies are those who are spies
without knowing it.'"

"The anecdote is interesting, as are all that you tell, my dear doctor,"
replied the abbé, with repressed anger, "but I swear to you that your
allusion is entirely inapplicable, and that, alas! I am very sick."

"Forty years yet of such illness, and you will become a centenarian, my
dear abbé," said the doctor, rising and preparing to take his leave.

"Oh, what a man! what a man!" cried the abbé. "Do listen to me, doctor,
you have a heart of bronze; can you abandon a poor sick man in this
manner? Give me five minutes!"

"So be it; let us chat if you wish it, my dear abbé. I have a quarter of
an hour at your disposal; you are a man of mind, I cannot better employ
the time given to this visit."

"Ah, doctor, you are cruel!"

"If you wish a more agreeable physician, address some others of my
fraternity. You will find them eager to give their attention to the
celebrated preacher, Abbé Ledoux, the most fashionable director of the
Faubourg St. Germain--for, in spite of the Republic, or, for reason of
the Republic, there is more than ever a Faubourg St. Germain, and, under
every possible administration, the protection of Abbé Ledoux would be a
lofty one."

"No, doctor, I want no other physician than you, terrible man that you
are! Just see the confidence you inspire in me. It seems to me your
presence has already done me good,--it calms me."

"Poor dear abbé, what confidence! It is touching; that certainly proves
that it is only faith which saves."

"Do not speak of faith," said the abbé, affecting anger pleasantly. "Be
silent, you pagan, materialist, atheist, republican, for you are and
have been all, at your pleasure."

"Oh, oh, abbé, what an array of fine words!"

"You deserve them, wicked man; you will be damned, do you hear?--more
than damned!"

"God may will it that we may meet each other some day, my poor abbé."

"I, damned?"

"Eh, eh."

"Do I abandon myself as you do to the brutality of all my appetites?
Go,--you are a perfect Sardanapalus!"

"Flatterer! but then it is your manner. You reproach an old Lovelace for
the enormities of which he would like to be guilty, and in the meantime
you know that he has none of them; but it is all the same, your
reproaches delight him, they render him cheerful; then he confesses all
sorts of sins, of which, alas! he is incapable, poor man, and you have
the air of giving a last pretext to his decaying imbecility."

"Fie! fie! doctor, the serpent had no more malignity than you."

"You reproach the broken-down politician, the powerless man of state,
not less furiously, for his dark intrigues to overthrow the political
world,--Europe, perhaps. Then with what unction the poor man relishes
your reproaches! Everybody flies him like a pest when he opens his mouth
to bore them with his politics; but what good fortune for him to unveil
to you his Machiavellian projects for the advantage of the destinies of
Europe, and to find a patient listener to the ravings of his old age."

"Yes, yes, jest, jeer, ridicule, you rascally doctor! You wish to excuse
yourself by reviling others."

"Let us see, abbé, let us make an examination of conscience. Our
professions will be inverted; I, the physician for the body, am going to
ask a consultation with you, the physician for the soul."

"And you will have precious need of this consultation."

"Of what do you accuse me, abbé?"

"In the first place, you are a glutton, like Vitellius, Lucullus, the
Prince of Soubise, Talleyrand, D'Aigrefeuille, Cambacérès, and
Brillat-Savarin all together."

"A flatterer always! You reproach me for my only great and lofty
quality."

"Ah, come now, doctor, do you take me for an oyster with your frivolous
talk?"

"Take you for an oyster? How conceited you are! Unfortunately, I cannot
make a comparison so advantageous to you, abbé. It would be a heresy, an
anachronism. Good oysters (and others are not counted as existing) do
not give the right to discuss them until about the middle of November,
and we are by no means there."

"This, doctor, may be very witty, but it does not convince me in the
least that gluttony is, in you or any other person, a quality."

"I will convince you of it."

"You?"

"I, my dear abbé."

"That would be rather difficult. And how?"

"Give me your evening on the twentieth of November and I will prove
that--"

But interrupting himself, the doctor added:

"Come now, my dear abbé, what are you constantly looking at there by the
side of that door?"

The holy man, thus taken unawares, blushed to his ears, for he had
listened to the doctor with distraction, impatiently turning his eyes
toward the door as if he expected a person who had not arrived; but
after the first moment of surprise the abbé did not seem disconcerted,
and replied:

"What door do you speak of, doctor? I do not know what you mean."

"I mean that you frequently look on this side as if you expected the
appearance of some one."

"There is no one in the world, dear doctor, except you, who could have
such ideas. I was entirely absorbed in your sophistical but intelligent
conversation."

"Ah, abbé, abbé, you overwhelm me!"

"You wish, in a word, doctor, to prove to me that gluttony is a noble,
sublime passion, do you not?"

"Sublime, abbé, that is the word, sublime,--if not in itself at least in
its consequences; above all, in the interest of agriculture and
commerce."

"Come, doctor, that is a paradox. Agriculture and commerce are sustained
as other things are."

"It is not a paradox, it is a fact, yes, a fact, and if it is
demonstrated to you positively, mathematically, practically, and
economically, what can you say? Will you still doubt it?"

"I will doubt, or rather I will believe this abomination less than
ever."

"How, in spite of evidence, abbé?"

"Because of evidence, if so be that this evidence can ever exist, for it
is by just such means of these pretended evidences, these perfidious
appearances, that the bad spirit leads us into the most dangerous
snares."

"What, abbé, the devil! I am not a seminarian whom you are preparing to
take the bands. You are a man of mind and of knowledge. When I talk
reason to you, talk reason to me, and not of the devil and his horns."

"But, pagan, idolater that you are, do you not know that gluttony is
perhaps the most abominable of the seven capital sins?"

"In the first place, abbé, I pray you do not calumninate like that the
seven capital sins, but speak of them with the deference which is their
due. I have found them profoundly respected in general and in
particular."

"Indeed, it is not only gluttony that he glorifies,--he pushes his
paradox to the glorification of the seven capital sins!"

"Yes, dear abbé, all the seven, considered from a certain point of
view."

"That is monomania."

"Will you be convinced, abbé?"

"Of what?"

"Of the possible excellence,--of the conditional existence of the
worldly and philosophical excellence of the seven capital sins."

"Really, doctor, do you take me for a child?"

"Give me your evening on the twentieth of November; you will be
convinced."

"Come now, doctor, why always the twentieth of November?"

"That is for me a prophetic day, and more, it is the anniversary of my
birth, my dear abbé, so give me your evening on that day and you will
not regret having come."

"Very well, then, the twentieth of November, if my health--"

"Permits you,--well understood, my dear abbé; but my experience tells me
that you will be able to drag yourself to see me on that day."

"What a man. He is capable of giving me a perfect example, in his big
own damned person, of the seven capital sins."

At this moment the door opened.

It was on this door, more than once, that the glances of Abbé Ledoux had
been turned with secret and growing impatience, during his conversation
with the doctor.



CHAPTER V.


The abbé's housekeeper, having entered the chamber, handed a letter to
her master, and, exchanging with him a look of intelligence, said:

"It is very urgent, M. abbé."

"Permit me, doctor?" said the holy man, before breaking the seal of the
letter he held in his hand.

"At your convenience, my dear abbé," replied the doctor, rising from his
seat; "I must leave you now."

"I pray you, just a word!" cried the abbé, who seemed especially anxious
that the doctor should not depart so soon. "Give me time to glance over
this letter, and I am at your service."

"But, abbé, we have nothing more to say to each other. I have an urgent
consultation, and the hour is--"

"I implore you, doctor," insisted the abbé, breaking the seal and
running his eyes over the letter he had just received, "in the name of
Heaven, give me only five minutes, not more."

Surprised at this singular persistence on the part of the abbé, the
doctor hesitated to go out, when the invalid, discontinuing his reading
of the letter, raised his eyes to heaven and exclaimed:

"Ah, my God, my God!"

"What is the matter?"

"Ah, my poor doctor!"

"Finish what you have to say."

"Ah, doctor, it was Providence that sent you here."

"Providence!"

"Yes, because I find it in my power to render you a great service,
perhaps."

The physician appeared to be a little doubtful of the good-will of Abbé
Ledoux, and accepted his words not without a secret distrust.

"Let us see, my dear abbé," replied he, "what service can you render
me?"

"You have sometimes spoken to me of your sister's numerous children,
whom you have raised (notwithstanding your faults, wicked man) with
paternal tenderness, after the early death of their parents."

"Go on, abbé," said the doctor, fixing a penetrating gaze on the saintly
man, "go on."

"I was altogether ignorant that one of your nephews served in the navy,
and had been made captain. His name is Horace Brémont, is it not?"

At the name of Horace, the doctor started, imperceptibly; his gaze
seemed to penetrate to the depth of the abbé's heart, and he replied,
coldly:

"I have a nephew who is captain in the navy and his name is Horace."

"And he is now in Paris?"

"Or elsewhere, abbé."

"For God's sake, let us talk seriously, my dear doctor, the time is
precious. See here what has been written to me and you will judge of the
importance of the letter.

       *       *       *       *       *

"'M. ABBÉ:--I know that you are very intimate with the celebrated Doctor
Gasterini; you can render him a great service. His nephew, Captain
Horace, is compromised in a very disagreeable affair; although he has
succeeded in hiding himself up to this time, his retreat has been
discovered and perhaps, at the moment that I am writing to you, his
person has been seized.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The abbé stopped and looked attentively at the doctor.

The doctor remained impassible.

Surprised at this indifference, the abbé said, in a pathetic tone:

"Ah, my poor doctor, what cruel suffering for you! But what has this
unfortunate captain done?"

"I know nothing about it, abbé, continue."

Evidently the saintly man expected another result of the reading of his
letter. However, not allowing himself to be disconcerted, he continued:

"'Perhaps at this moment his person has been seized,'" repeated he,
laying stress on these words, and going on with the letter. "'But there
remains one chance of saving this young man who is more thoughtless than
culpable; you must, upon the reception of this letter, send some one
immediately to Doctor Gasterini.'"

And, stopping again, the abbé added:

"As I told you, doctor, Providence sent you here."

"It has never done anything else for my sake," coldly replied the
doctor. "Go on, abbé."

"'You must, upon the reception of this letter, send immediately to
Doctor Gasterini,'" repeated the abbé, more and more surprised at the
impassibility of the physician, and his indifference to the misfortune
which threatened his nephew. "'The doctor must send some person in whom
he has confidence, without losing a minute, to warn Captain Horace to
leave his retreat. Perhaps in this way he may get the start of the
officers about to arrest this unfortunate young man.'

"I need not say more to you, my dear doctor," hastily added the abbé,
throwing the letter on the bed. "A minute's delay may lose all. Run,
quick, save this unhappy young man! What! You do not move; you do not
reply! What are you thinking of, my poor doctor? Why do you look at me
with such a strange expression? Did you not hear what has been written
to me? And it is underlined, too. 'He must go instantly, without losing
a minute, to warn Captain Horace to leave his retreat.' Really, doctor,
I do not understand you."

"But I understand you perfectly, my dear abbé," said the doctor, with
sardonic calmness. "But, upon honour, this expedient is really not up to
the height of your usual inventions; you have done better than that,
abbé, much better."

"An expedient! My inventions!" replied the abbé, feigning amazement.
"Come, doctor, you surely are not speaking seriously?"

"You have forgotten, dear abbé, that an old fox like me discovers a
snare from afar."

"Doctor," replied the abbé, no longer able to conceal his violent anger,
"you are at liberty to jest,--at liberty to let the time pass, and lose
the opportunity of saving your nephew. I have warned you as a friend.
Now, do as you please, I wash my hands of it."

"So then, my dear abbé, you were and you are in the plot of those
sanctimonious persons who desired to make a nun of Dolores Salcedo, for
the purpose of getting possession of the property she would one day
inherit from her uncle, the canon?"

"Dolores Salcedo! Her uncle, the canon! Really, doctor, I do not know
what you mean."

"Ah! ah! you are in that pious plot! It is well to know it; it is always
useful to recognise your adversaries, above all, when they are as clever
as you are, dear abbé."

"But, hear me, doctor, I swear to you--"

"Stop, abbé, let us play an open game. You sent for me this morning,
that the pathetic epistle you have just read to me might arrive in my
presence."

"Doctor!" cried the abbé, "that is carrying distrust, suspicion, to a
point which becomes--which becomes--permit me to say it to you--"

"Oh, by all means,--I permit you."

"Well, which becomes outrageous in the last degree, doctor. Ah, truly,"
added the abbé, with bitterness, "I was far from expecting that my
eagerness to do you a kindness would be rewarded in such a manner."

"Zounds! I know very well, my poor abbé, that you hoped your ingenious
stratagem would have an entirely different result."

"Doctor, this is too much!"

"No, abbé, it is not enough. Now, listen to me. This is what you hoped,
I say, from your ingenious stratagem: Frightened by the danger to which
my nephew was exposed, I would thank you effusively for the means you
offered me to save him, and would fly like an arrow to warn this poor
fellow to leave his place of concealment."

"So, in fact, any other person in your place, doctor, would have done,
but you take care not to act so reasonably. Surely, to speak the truth,
you must be struck with frenzy and blindness."

"Alas! abbé, it is the beginning of the punishment for my sins. But let
us return to the consequences of your ingenious stratagem. According to
your hope, then, I would fly like an arrow to save, as you advise, my
nephew. My carriage is below. I would get in it, and have myself
conveyed as rapidly as possible to the mysterious retreat of Captain
Horace."

"Eh, without doubt, doctor, that is what you should have done some time
ago."

"Now, do you know what would have happened, my poor abbé?"

"You would have saved your nephew."

"I would have lost him, I would have betrayed him, I would have
delivered him to his enemies,--and see how. I wager that at this very
hour, while I am talking to you, there is, not far from here in the
street, and even in sight of this house, a cab, to which a strong horse
is hitched, and by a strange chance (unless you countermand your order)
this cab would follow my carriage wherever it might go."

The abbé turned scarlet, but replied:

"I do not know what cab you are speaking of, doctor."

"In other words, my dear abbé, you have been seeking traces of my nephew
in vain. In order to discover his retreat, you have had me followed in
vain. Now, you hoped, by the sudden announcement of the danger he was
running, to push me to the extremity of warning the captain. Your
emissary below would have followed my carriage, so that, without knowing
it, I, myself, would have disclosed the secret of my nephew's
hiding-place. Again, abbé, for any other than yourself, the invention
was not a bad one, but you have accustomed your admirers--and permit me
to include myself among them--to higher and bolder conceptions. Let us
hope, then, that another time you will show yourself more worthy of
yourself. Good-bye, and without bearing you any grudge, my dear abbé, I
count on you for our pleasant evening the twentieth of November.
Otherwise, I will come to remind you of your promise. Good-bye, again,
my poor, dear abbé. Come, do not look so vexed,--so out of countenance;
console yourself for this little defeat by recalling your past
triumphs."

And with this derisive conclusion to his remarks, Doctor Gasterini left
Abbé Ledoux.

"You sing victory, old serpent!" cried the abbé, purple with anger and
shaking his fist at the door by which the doctor went out. "You are very
arrogant, but you do not know that this morning even we have recaptured
Dolores Salcedo, and your miserable nephew shall not escape us, for I am
as cunning as you are, infernal doctor, and, as you say, I have more
than one trick in my bag."

The doctor, the subject of this imprecatory monologue, had concealed the
disquietude he felt by the discovery he had just made. He knew Abbé
Ledoux capable of taking a brilliant revenge, so as he descended the
steps of the saintly man's house, the doctor, before entering his
carriage, looked cautiously on both sides of the street. As he expected,
he saw a public cab about twenty steps from where he was standing. In
this cab was a large man, wearing a brown overcoat. Walking up to the
cab, the doctor, with a confidential air, said in a low voice to the
large man:

"My friend, you are posted there, are you not, to follow this open
carriage with two horses, standing before the door, Number 17?"

"Sir," said the man, hesitating, "I do not know who you are, or why
you--"

"Hush! my friend," replied the doctor, in a tone full of mystery, "I
have just left Abbé Ledoux; the order of proceeding is changed; the abbé
expects you at once, to give you new orders,--quick, go, go!"

The fat man, reassured by the explicit directions given by the doctor,
hesitated no longer, descended from his cab, and went in haste to see
the Abbé Ledoux. When the doctor saw the door close upon the emissary of
the abbé, feeling certain that he was not followed, he ordered his
coachman to drive in haste to the Faubourg Poissonnière, for if he
feared nothing for his nephew, he had reason enough for uneasiness since
he had learned that Abbé Ledoux was concerned in this intrigue.

The doctor's carriage had just entered one of the less frequented
streets of the Faubourg Poissonnière, not far from the gate of the same
name, when he perceived at a short distance quite a large assemblage in
front of a modest-looking house. The doctor ordered his carriage to
stop, descended from it, mingled with the crowd, and said to one of the
men:

"What is the matter there, sir?"

"It seems, sir, they are taking back a stray dove to the dove-cote."

"A dove!"

"Yes, or if you like it better, a young girl who escaped from a convent.
The commissary of police arrived with his deputies, and a very fat man
in a blue overcoat, who looked like a priest. He had the house opened.
The fugitive was found there, and put into a carriage with the fat man
in a blue overcoat. I have never seen any citizen ornamented with such a
stomach."

Doctor Gasterini did not wait to hear more, but rushed through the crowd
and imperatively rang the bell at the door of the little house of which
we have spoken. A young servant, still pale with emotion, came to open
it.

"Where is Madame Dupont?" asked the physician, impatiently.

"She is at home, sir. Oh, sir, if you only knew!"

The doctor made no reply; went through two apartments, and entered a
bedchamber, where he found an aged woman, with a venerable-looking face
full of sweetness.

"Ah, doctor, doctor!" cried Madame Dupont, bursting into tears, "what a
misfortune, what a scandal, poor young girl!"

"I am grieved, my poor Madame Dupont, that the service you rendered me
should have been followed by such disagreeable consequences."

"Oh, do not think it is that which afflicts, doctor. I owe you more than
my life, since I owe you the life of my son; I do not think of
complaining of a transient vexation, and I know you too well, in other
things, to raise the least doubt as to the intentions which led you to
ask me to give a temporary asylum to this young girl."

"By this time, my dear Madame Dupont, I can and I ought to tell you all.
Here is the whole story in two words: I have a nephew, an indiscreet
boy, but the bravest fellow in the world; he is captain in the marine
service. In his last voyage from Cadiz to Bordeaux he took as passengers
a Spanish canon and his niece. My nephew fell desperately in love with
the niece, but by a series of events too long and too ridiculous to
relate to you, the canon took the greatest aversion to my nephew, and
informed him that he should never marry Dolores. The opposition
exasperated the lovers; my devil of a nephew followed the canon to
Paris, discovered the convent where the uncle had placed the young girl,
put himself in correspondence with her, and eloped with her.
Horace--that is his name--is an honest fellow, and, the elopement
accomplished, he introduced Dolores to me and confessed all to me. While
the marriage was pending, he besought me to place this young girl in a
suitable house, since, for a thousand reasons, it was impossible for me
to keep the child in my house after such an uproar. Then I thought of
you, my good Madame Dupont."

"Ah, sir, I was certain that you acted nobly in that as you have always,
and, besides, the short time that she was here Mlle. Dolores interested
me exceedingly,--indeed I was already attached to her, and you can judge
of my distress this morning when--"

"The commissary of police ordered the house to be opened; I know it. And
the canon, Dom Diégo, accompanied him."

"Yes, sir, he was furious; he declared that he was acquainted with the
French law; that it would not permit such things; that it was abduction
of a minor, and that they were searching on all sides for your nephew."

"That is what I expected, and I exacted from my nephew, not only that he
would not see Dolores again until all was arranged, but that he would
keep himself concealed in order to escape the pursuit which I hoped to
quiet. Now I do not know if I can succeed; the situation is grave. I
have told Horace so, but the deed was done, and I confess I revolted
against the thought of placing this poor Dolores myself in the hands of
the canon, a kind of gluttonous, superstitious brute, from whom there is
nothing to hope."

"Ah, doctor, I am now well enough acquainted with Mlle. Dolores to be
sure that she will die of grief if she is left in that convent, and
believe me, sir, in the scene of this morning, that which most
distresses me is not the scandal of which my poor house has been the
theatre, but the thought of the sad future which is perhaps reserved for
that unhappy child. And now that I know all, doctor, I am all the more
troubled in thinking of the grave consequences that this abduction may
entail upon your nephew."

"I share your fears most keenly, my dear Madame Dupont. After a
discovery that I have this morning made, I am afraid that a complaint
has already been instituted against Horace; if it has not been it will
be, to-day perhaps, for now that Dolores is again in the power of her
uncle, if he can have my nephew arrested he will have nothing to fear
from his love for Dolores. Ah, this arrest would be dreadful! Law is
inflexible. My nephew went by night to a convent and abducted a minor.
It is liable to infamous punishment, and for him that would be worse
than death!"

"Great God!"

"And his brothers and sisters who love him so much! What sorrow for
me,--for our family!" added the old man, with sadness.

"But, sir, there ought to be something we can do to put a stop to this
pursuit."

"Ah, madame, dear Madame Dupont," replied the doctor, overcome with
emotion, "I lose my head when I think of the terrible consequences which
may result from this foolish adventure of a young man."

"But what shall we do, doctor, what shall we do?"

"Ah, do I know myself what to do, my poor Madame Dupont? I am going to
reflect on the best course to pursue, but I am dealing with such a
powerful adversary that I dare not hope for success." And Doctor
Gasterini left the Faubourg Poissonnière in a state of inexpressible
anxiety.



CHAPTER VI.


The day after Dolores Salcedo had been taken back to the convent, the
following scene took place in the home of the canon, Dom Diégo, who
lodged in a comfortable apartment engaged for him before his arrival by
Abbé Ledoux.

It was eleven o'clock in the morning.

Dom Diégo, reclining in a large armchair, seemed to be assailed by
gloomy thoughts. He was a large man of fifty years, and of enormous
obesity; his fat, bloated cheeks mingled with his quadruple chin, his
dingy skin was rough and flabby, and revealed the weakness of the inert
mass. His features were not wanting in a kind of good-humour, when they
were not under the domination of some disagreeable idea. His large mouth
and thick, hanging under-lip denoted sensuality. With half-closed eyes
under his heavy gray eyebrows, and hands crossed upon his Falstaff
stomach, whose vast rotundity was outlined beneath a violet-coloured
morning-gown, the canon sighed from time to time in a mournful and
despondent tone.

"More appetite, alas! more appetite!" murmured he. "Too many tossings of
the sea have upset me. My stomach, so stout, so regular in its habits,
is distracted like a watch out of order. This morning, at breakfast,
ordinarily my most enjoyable meal, I have hardly eaten at all.
Everything seemed insipid or bitter. What will it be at dinner, oh, what
will it be at dinner, a repast which I make almost always without hunger
in order to take and taste the delicate flower of the best things? Ah,
may that infernal Captain Horace be cursed and damned! The horrible
regimen to which I was subjected during that long voyage cost me my
appetite; my stomach was irritated and revolted against those execrable
salt meats and abominable dry vegetables. So, since this injury done to
the delicacy of its habits, my stomach pouts and treats me badly, as if
it were my fault, alas! It has a grudge against me, it punishes me, it
looks big before the best dishes!

"But who knows if the hand of Providence is not there? Now that I do not
feel the least hunger I realise that I have abandoned myself to a sin as
detestable as--delectable. Alas! gluttony! Perhaps Providence meant to
punish me by sending this miserable Captain Horace on my route. Ah, the
scoundrel, what evil has he done! And this was not enough; he abducted
my niece, he plunged me in new tribulations; he upset my life, my
repose. I, who only asked to eat with meditation and tranquillity! Oh,
this brigand captain! I will have my revenge. But whatever may be my
revenge, double traitor, I cannot return to you the twentieth part of
the evil that I owe you. Because here are two months that I have lost my
appetite, and if I should live one hundred years, I should never catch
up with those two months of enforced abstinence!"

This dolorous monologue was interrupted by the entrance of the canon's
majordomo, an old servant with gray hair.

"Well, Pablo," said Dom Diégo to him, "you come from the convent?"

"Yes, sir."

"And my unworthy niece?"

"Sir, she is in a sort of delirium, she has a hot fever; sometimes she
calls for Captain Horace with heartrending cries, sometimes she invokes
death, weeping and sobbing. I assure you, sir, it is enough to break
your heart."

Dom Diégo, in spite of his selfish sensuality, seemed at first touched
by the majordomo's words, but soon he cried:

"So much the better! Dolores only has what she deserves. This will teach
her to fall in love with the most detestable of men. She will remain in
the convent, she shall take the veil there. My excellent friend and
companion, Abbé Ledoux, is perfectly right; by this sample of my niece's
tricks I shall know what to expect, if I keep her near me,--perpetual
alarms and insults until I had her married, well or ill. Now to cut
short all this the Senora Dolores will take the veil, and accomplish her
salvation; my wealth will some day enrich the house, where they will
pray for the repose of my soul, and I will be relieved of this she-devil
of a niece,--three benefits for one."

"But, my lord, if the condition of the senora requires--"

"Not a word more, Pablo!" cried the canon, fearing he might be moved to
pity in spite of himself. "Not a word more. Have I not, alas! enough
personal troubles without your coming to torture me, to irritate me,
with contradictions?"

"Pardon, sir, then, I wish to speak to you of another thing."

"Of what?"

"There is a man in the antechamber who desires to speak with you."

"Who is this man?"

"An old man, well dressed."

"And what does this man want?"

"To talk with you, sir, upon a very important affair. He has brought
with him a large box that a porter has just delivered. It seems very
heavy."

"And what is this box, Pablo?"

"I do not know, sir."

"And the name of this man?"

"Oh, a very strange name."

"What?"

"Appetite, sir."

"What! this man's name is Appetite?"

"Yes, sir."

"You must have misunderstood him."

"No, sir, I made him repeat his name twice. It is certainly Appetite."

"Alas, alas! what a cruelly ironical name!" murmured the canon, with
bitterness. "But no matter, for the rarity of the name, send this man in
to me."

An instant after the man announced by the majordomo entered,
respectfully saluted Dom Diégo, and said to him:

"It is Lord Dom Diégo whom I have the honour of addressing?"

"Yes, what do you wish of me?"

"First, sir, to pay you the tribute of my profound admiration; then, to
offer you my services."

"But, monsieur, what is your name?"

"Appetite, sir."

"Do you write your name as appetite, the desire for food, is written?"

"Yes, sir, but I confess that it is not my name, but my surname."

"To deserve such a surname you ought to be eminently well endowed by
nature, M. Appetite; you ought to enjoy an eternal hunger," said the
canon, with a sigh of regretful envy.

"On the contrary, I eat very little, sir, as almost all those who have
the sacred mission of making others eat."

"How? What, then, is your profession?"

"Cook, sir, and would like the honour of serving you, if I can merit
that felicity."

The canon shook his head sadly, and hid his face in his hands; he felt
all his griefs revive at the proposition of M. Appetite, who went on to
say:

"My second master, Lord Wilmot, whose stomach was so debilitated that
for almost a year he ate without pleasure, and even without knowing the
taste of different dishes, literally devoured food the first day I had
the honour of serving him. It was he who, through gratitude, gave me the
name of Appetite, which I have kept ever since."

The canon looked at his visitor attentively, and replied:

"Ah, you are a cook? But tell me, you have spoken to me of paying me the
tribute of your admiration and of offering me your services, where were
you acquainted with me?"

"You have, sir, during your sojourn in Madrid, often dined with the
ambassador of France."

"Oh, yes, that was my good time," replied Dom Diégo, with sadness. "I
rendered ample justice to the table of the ambassador of France, and I
have proclaimed the fact that I knew of no better practitioner than his
chef."

"And this illustrious practitioner, with whom, my lord, I am in
correspondence, that we may mutually keep pace with the progress of the
science, has written to me to express his joy at having been so worthily
appreciated by a connoisseur like yourself. I had taken note of your
name, and yesterday, learning by chance that you were in search of a
cook, I come to have the honour of offering you my services."

"And from whom do you come, my friend?"

"For ten years, my lord, I have worked only for myself, that is to say,
for art. I have a modest fortune, but enough, so it is not a mercenary
motive which brings me to you, sir."

"But why do you offer your services to me, rather than to some one
else?"

"Because, being free to choose, I consult my convenience; because I am
very jealous, my lord, horribly jealous."

"Jealous; and of what?"

"Of my master's fidelity."

"What, the fidelity of your master?"

"Yes, my lord; and I am sure you will be faithful, because you live
alone, without family, and, by condition as well as character, you have
not, like so many others, all sorts of inclinations which always bore or
annoy one; as a serious and convinced man, you have only one passion,
but profound, absolute, and that is gluttony. Well, this passion, I
offer, my lord, to satisfy, as you have never been satisfied in your
life."

"You talk of gold, my dear friend, but do you know that, to make good
your claims, in the use of such extravagant language, you must have
great talent,--prodigious talent?"

"This great, this prodigious talent I have, my lord."

"Your avowal is not modest."

"It is sincere, and you know, sir, that one may employ a legitimate
assurance, from the consciousness of his power."

"I like this noble pride, my dear friend, and if your acts respond to
your words, you are a superior person."

"Sir, put me to trial to-day, this hour."

"To-day, this hour!" cried the canon, shrugging his shoulders. "You do
not know, then, that for two accursed months I have been in this
deplorable state; that there is nothing I can taste; that this morning I
have left untouched a breakfast ordered from Chevet, who supplies me
until my kitchen is well appointed. Ah, if you did not have the
appearance of an honest man, I would think you came to insult my
misery,--proposing to cook for me when I am never the least hungry."

"Sir, my name is Appetite."

"But I repeat to you, my dear friend, that only an hour ago I refused
the choicest things."

"So much the better, my lord, I could not present myself to you at a
more favourable juncture; my triumph will be great."

"Listen, my dear friend, I cannot tell you if it is the influence of
your name, or the learned and exalted manner with which you speak of
your art, which gives me confidence in you, in spite of myself; but I
experience, I will not say, a desire to eat, because I would challenge
you to make me swallow the wing of an ortolan; but indeed I experience,
in hearing you reason upon cooking, a pleasure which makes me hope that
perhaps, later, if appetite returns to me, I--"

"My lord, pardon me if I interrupt you; you have a kitchen here?"

"Certainly, with every appointment. A fire has just been kindled there
to keep warm what was brought already prepared from Chevet, but, alas!
utterly useless."

"Will you give me, sir, a half-hour?"

"What to do?"

"To prepare a breakfast for you, sir."

"With what?"

"I have brought all that is necessary."

"But what is the good of this breakfast, my dear friend? Go, believe me,
and do not compromise a talent in which I am pleased to believe, by
engaging in a foolish, impossible undertaking."

"Sir, will you give me a half-hour?"

"But I ask again, for what good?"

"To make you eat an excellent breakfast, sir, which will predispose you
for a still better dinner."

"That is folly, I tell you; you are mad."

"Try, my lord; what do you risk?"

"Go on, then, you must be a magician."

"I am, sir, perhaps," replied the cook, with a strange smile.

"Very well, bear then the penalty of your own pride," cried Dom Diégo,
ringing violently. "If you are instantly overwhelmed with humiliation,
and are compelled to confess the impotence of your art, it is you who
would have it. Take care, take care."

"You will eat, my lord," replied the artist, in a professional tone;
"yes, you will eat, and much, and deliciously."

At the moment the cook pronounced these rash words the majordomo, called
by the sound of the bell, entered.

"Pablo," said the canon, "open the kitchen to this man, and lay a cover
for me. Justice must be done."

"But, sir, this morning--"

"Do as I tell you, conduct M. Appetite to the kitchen, and if he has
need of help, let some one help him."

"I have need of no one, sir, I am accustomed to work alone in my
laboratory. I ask of you permission to shut myself in."

"Have all that you wish, my dear friend, but may I be for ever damned
for my sins if I swallow a mouthful of what you are going to serve me. I
understand myself, I think, and there is really an overweening pride in
you--"

"It is half-past eleven, my lord," said the cook, interrupting Dom
Diégo, with majesty; "when the clock strikes noon you will breakfast."

And the artist went out, accompanied by the majordomo.



CHAPTER VII.


After the disappearance of M. Appetite, this strange cook who offered
his services with such superb assurance, the canon, left alone, said to
himself, as he rose painfully from his chair and walked to and fro with
agitation:

"The arrogant self-confidence of this cook confounds me and impresses me
in spite of myself. But if he thinks he is dealing with a novice in the
knowledge of dainty dishes, he has made a mistake, and I will make him
see it. Well, what a fool I am to be so much disturbed! Can any human
power give me in five minutes the hunger that has failed me for two
months? Ah, that accursed Captain Horace! What a pleasure it would be to
me to put him under lock and key! To think that the only nourishment he
would have would be the nauseous diet given to prisoners, watered by a
glass of blue wine, as rough to the throat as a rasp, and as sour as
spoiled vinegar. But bah! This scoundrel, accustomed, doubtless, to the
frequent privations endured by mariners, is capable of being indifferent
to such a martyrdom, and of preserving his insolent appetite, while
I--Ah, if this cook has not told me a lie! But, no, no, like all the
French he is braggart, he is full of pride! And yet his assurance seems
to me conscientious. He has something, too, in his look, in his
countenance, expressive of power. But, in fact, what is this man? Where
does he come from? Can I trust myself to his sincerity? I recall now
that, when I spoke to him of the impossibility of reviving my appetite,
he replied, with a significant bow: 'My lord, perhaps I am a magician.'
If there are magicians they are the sons of the evil spirit, and God
keep me from ever meeting them! This man must be a real magician if he
makes me eat. Alas, I am a great sinner! Satan takes all sorts of forms,
and if--Oh, no, no, I shudder at the very thought! I must turn away from
such doleful meditations!"

Then, after a moment's silence, the canon added, as he looked at his
watch:

"See, it will soon be noon. In spite of myself, the nearer the fatal
hour comes, the more my anxiety increases. I feel a strange emotion, I
can admit it to myself. I am almost afraid. It seems to me that this man
at this very hour is surrendering himself to a mysterious incantation,
that he is plotting something superhuman, because to resurrect the dead
and resurrect my appetite would be to work the same miracle. And this
wonderful man has undertaken to work this miracle. And if he does, must
I not recognise his supernatural power? Come, come, I am ashamed of this
weakness. Well, I am indifferent, I prefer not to be alone, because the
nearer the hour the more uncomfortable I am. I must ring for Pablo. (He
rings.) Yes, the silence of this dwelling, the thought that this strange
man is there in that subterranean kitchen, bending over his blazing
furnace, like some bad spirit occupied with his sorcery,--all that gives
me a strange sensation. Ah, so Pablo does not hear!" cried the canon,
now at the highest pitch of uneasiness.

And he rang the bell again, violently.

Pablo did not appear.

"What does that mean?" murmured Dom Diégo, looking around him in dismay.
"Pablo does not come! What a frightful and gloomy silence! Oh, something
wonderful is happening! I dare not take a step."

Turning his ear to listen, the canon added:

"What is that hollow sound? Nothing human. Some one is coming. Ah, I
have not a drop of blood in my veins!"

At this moment the door opened so violently that the canon screamed and
hid his face in his hands, as he gasped the words:

"_Vade--retro--Satanas!_"

It was not Satan by any means, but Pablo, the majordomo, who, not having
answered the two calls of the bell, was running precipitately, and thus
produced the noise that the superstitious imagination of the canon
transformed into something mysterious and supernatural.

The majordomo, struck with the attitude of the canon, approached him,
and said:

"Ah, my God, what is the matter with you, my lord?"

At the voice of Pablo, Dom Diégo dropped his fat hands, which covered
his face, and his servant saw the terror depicted in the master's
countenance.

"My lord, my lord, what has happened?"

"Nothing, poor Pablo,--a foolish idea, which I am ashamed of now. But
why are you so late?"

"Sir, it is not my fault."

"How is that?"

"I wished, sir, from curiosity, to enter this kitchen to see the work of
this famous cook."

"Very well, Pablo?"

"After I assisted him in carrying his box, this strange man ordered me
out of the kitchen, where he wished, he said, to be absolutely alone."

"Ah, Pablo, how he surrounds himself with mystery!"

"I obeyed, my lord, but I could not resist the temptation to stay
outside at the door."

"To listen?"

"No, sir, to scent."

"Well, Pablo?"

"Ah, my lord, my lord!"

"What is it, Pablo?"

"Little by little an odour passed through the door, so delicious, so
exquisite, so tempting, so exciting, that it was impossible for me to go
away. If I had been nailed to the door I could not have been more
immovable. I was bewildered, fascinated, entranced!"

"Truly, Pablo?"

"You know, my lord, that you gave me the excellent breakfast they
brought to you this morning."

"Alas! yes."

"That breakfast I have eaten, my lord."

"Happy Pablo!"

"Well, sir, this odour of which I tell you was so appetising that I felt
myself seized with a furious hunger, and, without leaving the door, I
took from one of the shelves of the pantry a large piece of dry bread."

"And you ate it, Pablo?"

"I devoured it, my lord."

"Dry?"

"Dry," replied the majordomo, bowing his head.

"Dry!" cried the canon, raising his hands and eyes to heaven. "It is a
miracle! He breakfasted an hour ago like an ogre, and now he has just
bolted a piece of dry bread!"

"Yes, my lord, this dry bread, seasoned with that juicy odour, seemed to
me the most delicious of morsels."

At this moment the clock struck noon.

"Noon!" cried the majordomo. "This marvellous cook instructed me to
serve you, my lord, at noon precisely. The cover is already laid on the
little table. I am going to bring it."

"Go, Pablo," said the canon, with a meditative air. "My destiny is about
to be accomplished. The miracle, if it is a miracle, is going to be
performed,--if it is to be performed; for I swear, in spite of all you
have just told me, I have not the least appetite. I have a heavy
stomach and a clammy mouth. Go, Pablo, I am waiting."

There was a resignation full of doubt, of curiosity, of anguish, and of
vague hope, in the accent with which Dom Diégo uttered the words, "I am
waiting."

Soon the majordomo reappeared.

He walked with a solemn air, bearing on a tray a little chafing-dish of
silver, the size of a plate, surmounted with its stew-pan. On the side
of the tray was a small crystal flagon, filled with a limpid liquid, the
colour of burnt topaz.

Pablo, as he approached, several times held his nose to the edge of the
stew-pan to inhale the appetising exhalations which escaped from it;
finally, he placed on the table the little chafing-dish, the flagon, and
a small card.

"Pablo," asked the canon, pointing to the chafing-dish, surmounted with
its pan, "what is that silver plate?"

"It belongs to M. Appetite, sir; under this pan is a dish with a double
bottom, filled with boiling water, because this great man says the food
must be eaten burning hot."

"And that flagon, Pablo?"

"Its use is marked on the card, sir, which informs you of all the dishes
you are going to eat."

"Let me see this card," said the canon, and he read:

"'Guinea fowl eggs fried in the fat of quails, relieved with a gravy of
crabs.

"'N. B. Eat burning hot, make only one mouthful of each egg, after
having softened it well with the gravy.

"'Masticate _pianissimo._

"'Drink after each egg two fingers of Madeira wine of 1807, which has
made five voyages from Rio Janeiro to Calcutta. (It is needless to say
that certain wines are vastly improved by long voyages.)

"'Drink this wine with meditation.

"'It is impossible for me not to take the liberty to accompany each dish
which I have the honour of serving Lord Dom Diégo with a flagon of wine
appropriate to the particular character of the aforesaid dish.'"

"What a man!" exclaimed the majordomo, with an expression of profound
admiration, "he thinks of everything!"

The canon, whose agitation was increasing, lifted the top of the silver
dish with a trembling hand.

Suddenly a delicious odour spread itself through the atmosphere. Pablo
clasped his hands, dilating his wide nostrils and looking at the dish
with a greedy eye.

In the middle of the silver dish, half steeped in an unctuous, velvety
gravy of a beautiful rosy hue, the majordomo saw four little round soft
eggs, that seemed still to tremble with their smoking, golden frying.

The canon, struck like his majordomo with the delicious fragrance of the
dish, literally ate it with his eyes, and for the first time in two
months a sudden desire of appetite tickled his palate. Nevertheless, he
still doubted, believing in the deceitful illusion of a false hunger.
Taking in a spoon one of the little eggs, well impregnated with gravy,
he shovelled it into his large mouth.

"Masticate _pianissimo_, my lord!" cried Pablo, who followed every
motion of his master with a beating heart. "Masticate slowly, the
magician said, and afterward drink this, according to the directions."

And Pablo poured out two fingers of the Madeira wine of 1807, in a glass
as thin as the peel of an onion, and presented it to Dom Diégo.

Oh, wonder! Oh, marvel! Oh, miracle! The second movement of the
mastication _pianissimo_ was hardly accomplished when the canon threw
his head gently back, and, half shutting his eyes in a sort of ecstasy,
crossed his two hands on his breast, still holding in one hand the spoon
with which he had just served himself.

"Well, my lord?" said Pablo, with keen interest, as he presented the two
fingers of Madeira wine, "well?"

The canon did not reply, but took the glass eagerly and carried it to
his lips.

"Above all, sir, drink with meditation," cried Pablo, a scrupulous
observer of the cook's order.

The canon drank, indeed, with meditation, then clapped his tongue
against his palate, and, if that can be said, listened an instant to
relish the flower of the wine which mingled so marvellously with the
after-taste of the dish he had just tasted; then, without replying to
the interrogations of Pablo, he ate _pianissimo_ the three last Guinea
fowl eggs, with a pensive and increasing delectation, emptied the little
flagon of Madeira wine, and,--must we confess the dreadful
impropriety?--he actually dipped his bread so scrupulously into every
drop of the crab gravy in which the eggs were served that the bottom of
the silver dish soon shone with an immaculate lustre.

Then addressing his majordomo for the first time, Dom Diégo exclaimed,
in a tender voice, while tears glittered in his eyes:

"Ah, Pablo!"

"What is the matter, my lord? This emotion--"

"Pablo, I do not know who it is has said that great joys have something
melancholy in them; whoever did say it has not made a mistake, because,
from the infirmity of our nature, we often sink under the weight of the
greatest felicities. Now, for the first time in two months, I can really
say I eat, and I eat as I have never eaten in my life. No, no, human
language, you must see, my dear Pablo, cannot express the luxury, the
exquisite delicacy of this dish, so simple in appearance, Guinea fowl
eggs fried in the fat of quail, watered with gravy of crabs. No, for you
see, in proportion as I relish them I felt my appetite renew itself, and
at present I am much more hungry than before I ate. And this wine,
Pablo, this wine, how it melts in the mouth, hey?"

"Alas! my lord," said the majordomo, with a woeful face, "I do not know
even the taste of this wine, but I am glad to believe you."

"Oh, yes, believe me, my poor Pablo; it is dry and velvety at the same
time,--what shall I say? a nectar! and if you only knew, Pablo, how
admirably the flavour of this nectar mingles with the perfume of the
crab gravy! It is ideal, Pablo, ideal, I tell you, and I ought to be
radiant, crazy with joy in the recovery of my lost appetite,--well, no,
I feel myself overcome with an inexpressible tenderness; in fact, I weep
like a child! Pablo, do you see it? I am weeping, I am hungry!"

A bell sounded.

"What is that, Pablo?"

"It is he, my lord."

"Who?"

"The great man! he is ringing for us."

"He?"

"Yes, my lord," replied Pablo, removing the dish. "He declares that
those who eat should be at the call of those who prepare their food, for
only the latter know the hour, the minute, the instant each dish ought
to be served and tasted so as not to lose one atom of its worth."

"What he has said is very deep! He is right. Run, then, Pablo. My God!
he is ringing again! I hope he has not taken offence. Go quick, quick!"

The majordomo ran, and, let us confess the impropriety, the poor
creature, instigated by a consuming curiosity, dared to lick the dish he
carried with desperate greediness, although the canon had left it
absolutely clean. The ever increasing impatience with which the canon
looked for the different dishes, always unknown to him beforehand, can
be imagined.

Each service was accompanied with an "order," as Pablo called it, and a
new flagon of wine, drawn, no doubt, from the cellar of this wonderful
cook.

A collection of these culinary bulletins will give an idea of the varied
delights enjoyed by Dom Diégo.

After the note which announced the Guinea fowl eggs, the following menu
was served, in the order in which we present it:

"Trout from the lake of Geneva with Montpellier butter, preserved in
ice.

"Envelope each mouthful of this exquisite fish, hermetically, in a layer
of this highly spiced seasoning.

"Masticate _allegro._

"Drink two glasses of this Bordeaux wine, Sauterne of 1834, which has
made the voyage from the Indies three times.

"This wine should be _meditated._"

"A painter or a poet would have made an enchanting picture of this trout
with Montpellier butter preserved in ice," said the canon to Pablo. "See
there, this charming little trout, with flesh the colour of a rose, and
a head like mother-of-pearl, voluptuously lying on this bed of shining
green, composed of fresh butter and virgin oil congealed by ice, to
which tarragon, chive, parsley, and water-cresses have given this bright
emerald colour! And what perfume! How the freshness of this seasoning
contrasts with the pungency of the spices which relieve it! How
delicious! And this wine of Sauterne! As the great man of the kitchen
says, how admirably this ambrosia is suited to the character of this
divine trout which gives me a growing appetite!"

After the trout came another dish, accompanied with this bulletin:

"Fillets of grouse with white Piedmont truffles, minced raw.

"Enclose each mouthful of grouse between two slices of truffle, and
moisten the whole well with sauce à la Perigueux, with which black
truffles are mingled.

"Masticate _forte_, as the white truffles are raw.

"Drink two glasses of this wine of Château-Margaux 1834,--it also has
made a voyage from the Indies.

"This wine reveals itself in all its majesty only in the after-taste."

These fillets of grouse, far from appeasing the growing appetite of the
canon, excited it to violent hunger, and, in spite of the profound
respect which the orders of the great man had inspired in him, he sent
Pablo, before another ringing of the bell, in search of a new culinary
wonder.

Finally the bell sounded.

The majordomo returned with this note, which accompanied another dish:

"Salt marsh rails roasted on toast à la Sardanapalus.

"Eat only the legs and rump of the rails; do not cut the leg, take it by
the foot, sprinkle it lightly with salt, then cut it off just above the
foot, and chew the flesh and the bone.

"Masticate _largo_ and _fortissimo_; eat at the same time a mouthful of
the hot toast, coated over with an unctuous condiment made of the
combination of snipe liver and brains and fat livers of Strasburg,
roebuck marrow, pounded anchovy, and pungent spices.

"Drink two glasses of Clos Vougeot of 1817.

"Pour out this wine with emotion, drink it with religion."

After this roast, worthy of Lucullus or Trimaleyon, and enjoyed by the
canon with all the intensity of unsatisfied hunger, the majordomo
reappeared with two side-dishes that the menu announced thus:

"Mushrooms with delicate herbs and the essence of ham; let this divine
mushroom soften and dissolve in the mouth.

"Masticate _pianissimo._

"Drink a glass of the wine Côte-Rôtie 1829, and a glass of Johannisberg
of 1729, drawn from the municipal vats of the burgomasters of
Heidelberg.

"No recommendation to make for the advantage of the wine, Côte-Rôtie; it
is a proud, imperious wine, it asserts itself. As for the old
Johannisberg, one hundred and forty years old, approach it with the
veneration which a centenarian inspires; drink it with compunction.

"Two sweet side-dishes.

"Morsels à la duchesse with pineapple jelly.

"Masticate _amoroso._

"Drink two or three glasses of champagne dipped in ice, dry Sillery the
year of the comet.

"Dessert.

"Cheese from Brie made on the farm of Estonville, near Meaux. This house
had for forty years the honour of serving the palate of Prince
Talleyrand, who pronounced the cheese of Brie the king of cheeses,--the
only royalty to which this great diplomatist remained faithful unto
death.

"Drink a glass or two of Port wine drawn from a hogshead recovered from
the great earthquake of Lisbon.

"Bless Providence for this miraculous salvage, and empty your glass
piously.

"N. B. Never fruits in the morning; they chill, burden, and involve the
stomach at the expense of the repose of the evening; simply rinse the
mouth with a glass of cream from the Barbadoes of Madame Amphoux, 1780,
and take a light siesta, dreaming of dinner."

It is needless to say that all the prescriptions of the cook were
followed literally by the canon, whose appetite, now a prodigious thing,
seemed to increase in proportion as it was fed; finally, having
exhausted his glass to the last drop, Dom Diégo, his ears scarlet, his
eyes softly closed, and his cheeks flushed, commenced to feel the tepid
moisture and light torpor of a happy and easy digestion; then, sinking
into his armchair with a delicious languor, he said to his majordomo:

"If I were not conscious of a tiger's hunger, which threatens explosion
too soon, I would believe myself in Paradise. So, Pablo, go at once for
this great man of the kitchen, this veritable magician; tell him to come
and enjoy his work; tell him to come and judge of the ineffable
beatitude in which he has plunged me, and above all, Pablo, tell him
that if I do not go myself to testify my admiration, my gratitude, it is
because--"

The canon was interrupted by the sight of the culinary artist, who
suddenly entered the room, and stood face to face with Diégo, staring at
him with a strange expression of countenance.



CHAPTER VIII.


At the sight of the cook, who wore, according to the habit of his
profession, a white vest and a cotton cap,--the ancient and highly
classic schools of Laguipierre, Morel, and Carême remained faithful to
the cotton cap, the young romantic school adopting the toque of white
muslin,--Canon Dom Diégo rose painfully from his armchair, made two
steps toward the culinary artist, with his hands extended, and cried, in
a voice full of emotion:

"Welcome, my saviour, my friend, my dear friend! Yes, I am proud to give
you this title; you have deserved it, because I owe you my appetite, and
appetite is happiness,--it is life!"

The cook did not appear extremely grateful for the friendly title with
which the canon had honoured him; he remained silent, his arms crossed
on his breast, and his gaze fixed on Dom Diégo, but the latter, in the
fiery ardour of gastronomic gratitude, did not observe the sardonic
smile,--we would almost say Satanic smile,--which played upon the lips
of the great man of the kitchen, and so continued the expression of his
gratitude:

"My friend," pursued the canon, "from this day you are mine; your
conditions will be mine. I am rich; good cheer is my only passion, and
for you I will not be a master, but an admirer. Never, my friend, never,
have you been better appreciated. You have told me yourself you work
only for art, and you prove it, for I declare openly you are the
greatest master cook of the world. The miracle that you have wrought
to-day, not only in restoring my appetite, but in increasing it as I
tasted your masterpieces (even at this hour I feel able to enjoy another
breakfast), this miracle, I say, places you outside of the line of
ordinary cooks. We will never part, my dear friend; all that you ask I
will grant; you can take other assistants, other subalterns, if you
desire to do so. I wish to spare you all fatigue; your health is too
precious to me to permit you to compromise it, for henceforth,--I feel
it there," and Dom Diégo put his fat hand on his stomach,--"henceforth,
I shall not know how to live without you, and--"

"So," cried the cook, interrupting the canon, and smiling with a
sarcastic air, "so you have breakfasted well, my lord canon?"

"Have I breakfasted well, my dear friend! Let me tell you I owe you the
enjoyment of an hour and a quarter. An inexpressible enjoyment, without
intermission except when your services were interrupted, and these
intermissions were filled with delight. Hovering between hope and
remembrance, was I not expecting new pleasures with an insatiable
longing? You ask me if I have breakfasted well! Pablo will tell you that
I have wept with tenderness. That is my reply."

"I have been permitted, my lord, to send you some wines as
accompaniments, because good dishes without good wines are like a
beautiful woman without soul. Now, have you found these wines palatable,
my lord?"

"Palatable! Great God, what blasphemy! Inestimable samples of all known
nectars--palatable! Wines whose value could not be paid, if you
exchanged them, bottle for bottle, with liquid gold--palatable! Come
now, my dear friend, your modesty is exaggerated, as you seemed a moment
ago to exaggerate your immense talent. But I recognise the fact that, if
your genius should be boasted to hyperbole, there would still remain
more than half untold."

"I have still more wine of this quality," said the cook, coldly; "for
twenty-five years I have been preparing a tolerable cellar for myself."

"But this tolerable cellar, my dear friend, must have cost you
millions?"

"It has cost me nothing, my lord."

"Nothing."

"They are all so many gifts to my humble merit."

"I am by no means astonished, my dear friend, but what are you going to
do with this cellar, which is rich enough to be the envy of a king? Ah,
if you desired to surrender to me the whole, or a part of it, I would
not hesitate to make any sacrifice for its possession; because, as you
have just said with so much significance, good dishes without good wines
are like a beautiful woman without soul. Now, these wines accompany your
productions so admirably that--I--"

The cook interrupted Dom Diégo with a sarcastic, sneering laugh.

"You laugh, my friend?" said the canon, greatly surprised. "You laugh?"

"Yes, my lord, I laugh."

"And at what, my friend?"

"At your gratitude to me, my lord canon."

"My friend, I do not understand you."

"Ah, Lord Dom Diégo! you believe that your good angel--and I picture him
to myself, fat and chubby, dressed as I am, like a cook, and wearing
pheasant wings on the back of his white robe!--ah, you believe, I say,
my lord canon, that your good angel has sent me to you!"

"My dear friend," said Dom Diégo, stretching his large eyes, and feeling
very uncomfortable on account of the cook's sardonic humour, "my dear
friend, I pray you, explain yourself clearly."

"My lord canon, this day will prove a fatal one for you."

"Great God! what do you say?"

"My lord canon!" replied the cook, his arms crossed and his eyes fixed
in a threatening manner on the canon.

And he took a step toward Dom Diégo, who recoiled from him with an
expression of pain.

"My lord canon, look at me well."

"I--I--am looking at you," stammered Dom Diégo, "but--"

"My lord canon, my face shall pursue you everywhere, in your sleep and
in your waking hours! You shall see me always before you, with my cotton
cap and white jacket, like a terrible and fantastic apparition."

"Ah, my God! it is all up with me!" murmured the canon, terrified. "My
presentiments did not deceive me; this appetite was too miraculous,
these dishes, these wines, too supernatural not to have some awful
mystery, some infernal magic in them."

Just at this critical moment the canon fortunately saw his majordomo
enter.

"My lord," said Pablo, "the lawyer has just arrived; you know the lawyer
who--"

"Pablo, stop there!" cried Dom Diégo, seizing his majordomo by the arm
and drawing him near to himself. "Do not leave me."

"My God, sir! what is the matter?" said Pablo. "You seem to be
frightened."

"Ah, Pablo, if you only knew," said Dom Diégo, in a low, whining voice,
without daring to turn his eyes away from the cook.

"My lord," replied Pablo, "I told you the lawyer had arrived."

"What lawyer, Pablo?"

"The one who comes to draw up in legal form your demand for the arrest
of Captain Horace, guilty of the abduction of Senora Dolores."

"Pablo, it is impossible to occupy myself now with business. I have no
head--I must be dreaming. Ah, if you only knew what had happened! This
cook--oh, my presentiments!"

"Then, my lord, I am going to send the lawyer away."

"No!" cried the canon, "no, it is this miserable Captain Horace who is
the cause of all my ills. If he had not destroyed my appetite, I should
have already breakfasted this morning when this tempter in a white
jacket introduced himself here, and I would not have been the victim of
his sorcery. No," added Dom Diégo, in a paroxysm of anger, "tell this
lawyer to wait; he shall write my complaint this very hour. But first
let me get out of this awful perplexity," added he, throwing a
frightened glance at the silent and formidable cook. "I must know what
this mysterious being wants of me to terrify me so. Tell the lawyer to
enter my study, and do not leave me, Pablo."

The majordomo went to say a few words outside of the door to the lawyer,
who entered an adjacent room, and the canon, the majordomo, and the cook
remained alone.

Dom Diégo, encouraged by the presence of Pablo, tried to reassure
himself, and said to the man in the white jacket, who still preserved
his unruffled and sardonic demeanour:

"See, my good friend, let us talk seriously. It is neither a question of
good or of bad angels, but of a man who possesses tremendous talent,--I
am speaking of you,--whom I would like to attach to my household at
whatever price it may cost. We were discussing the cellar of divine
wines, for the acquisition of which I would esteem no sacrifice too
much. I speak to you with all the sincerity of my soul, my dear and good
friend; reply to me in the same way."

Then the canon whispered to his majordomo:

"Pablo, do you stand between him and me."

"Then," replied the cook, "I will speak to you with equal sincerity, my
lord canon, and first, let me repeat, I will be the desolation, the
despair of your life."

"You?"

"I."

"Pablo, do you hear him? What have I done to him? My God!" murmured Dom
Diégo, "what grudge has he?"

"Remember well my words, my lord canon. In comparison with the
marvellous repast I have served you, the best dishes will seem insipid,
the best wines bitter, and your appetite, awakened a moment by my power,
will be again destroyed when I am no longer there to resurrect it."

"But, my friend," cried the canon, "you are thinking then of--"

The man in the cotton cap and white jacket again interrupted the canon
and said:

"In recalling the delicacies which I have made you enjoy a moment, you
will be like the fallen angels, who recall the celestial joys of
paradise only to regret them in the midst of lamentation and gnashing of
teeth."

"My good friend, I pray you one word!"

"You will gnash your teeth, canon!" cried the cook, in a solemn voice,
which sounded in the depths of Dom Diégo's soul like the blast of the
trumpet of the last judgment. "You will be as a soul,--no, you have no
soul, you will be like a stomach, scenting, hunting, touching all the
choicest dishes that can be served, and crying with terrible groanings
as you recall this morning's breakfast: 'Alas! alas! my appetite has
passed like a shadow; those exquisite dishes I will taste no more! alas!
alas!' Then in your despair you will become lean,--do you hear me,
canon?--you will become lean."

"Great God! Pablo, what is this wretched man saying?"

"Until the present, in spite of your loss of appetite, you have lived
upon your fat, like rats in winter, but henceforth you will suffer the
double and terrible blow of the loss of appetite and the ceaseless
regrets that I will leave to you. You will become lean, canon, yes, your
cheeks will be flabby, your triple chin will melt like wax in the sun,
your enormous stomach will become flat like a leather bottle exhausted
of its contents, your complexion, so radiant to-day, will grow yellow
under the constant flow of your tears, and you will become lean,
scraggy, and livid as an anchorite living on roots and water,--do you
hear, canon?"

"Pablo," murmured Dom Diégo, shutting his eyes, and leaning on his
majordomo, "support me. I feel as if I were struck with death. It seems
to me I see my own ghost, such as this demon portrays. Yes, Pablo, I see
myself lean, scraggy, livid. Oh, my God! it is frightful! it is
horrible! It is the divine punishment for my sin of gluttony."

"My lord, calm yourself," said the majordomo.

And addressing the cook with mingled fear and anger, he said:

"Do you undertake to tyrannise over such an excellent and venerable a
man as the Lord Dom Diégo?"

"And now," continued the cook, pitilessly, "farewell, canon, farewell
for ever."

"Farewell, farewell for ever," cried Dom Diégo, with a violent start, as
if he had received an electric shock. "What! can it be true? you will
abandon me for ever. Oh, no, no, I see all now: in making me regret your
loss so deeply, you wish to put your services at a higher price. Well,
then, speak, how much must you have?"

"Ah, ah, ah, ah!" shouted the man with the cotton cap and white jacket,
bursting into Mephistophelian laughter, and walking slowly toward the
door.

"No, no," cried the canon, clasping his hands; "no, you will not abandon
me thus,--it would be atrocious, it would be savage, it would be to
leave an unfortunate traveller in the middle of a burning desert, after
having given him the delight of an oasis full of shade and freshness."

"You ought to have been a great preacher in your time, canon," said the
man in the white jacket, continuing his march toward the door.

"Mercy, mercy!" cried Dom Diégo, in a voice choked with tears. "Ah,
indeed, it is no longer the artist, the cook of genius with whom I
plead; it is the man,--it is to one like myself that I bend the
knee,--oh, see me, and beseech him not to leave a brother in hopeless
woe."

"Yes, and see me at your knees, too, my lord cook!" cried the worthy
majordomo, excited by the emotion of his master, and like him, falling
on his knees; "a very humble poor creature joins his prayer to that of
the Lord Dom Diégo. Alas! do not abandon him, he will die!"

"Yes," replied the cook, with a Satanic burst of laughter, "he will die,
and he will die lean."

The last sarcasm changed the despair of Dom Diégo to fury. He rose
quickly, and, notwithstanding his obesity, threw himself upon the cook,
crying:

"Come to me, Pablo; the monster shall not cook for anybody, his death
only can deliver me from his infernal persecution!"

"My lord," cried the majordomo, less excited than his master, "what are
you doing? Grief makes you wild."

Fortunately, the man in the white jacket, at the first aggressive
movement of Dom Diégo, recoiled two steps, and put himself in a
defensive attitude by means of a large kitchen knife which he brandished
in one hand, while in the other he held a sharp larding-pin.

At the sight of the formidable knife and larding-pin, drawn like a
dagger, the murderous exasperation of the canon was dispelled; but the
violence of his emotions, the heat of his blood, and the state of his
digestion produced such a revolution that he tottered and fell
unconscious in the arms of the majordomo, who, too weak to sustain such
a weight, himself sank to the floor, screaming with all his strength:

"Help! help!"

Then the man in the white jacket disappeared, with a last resounding
burst of laughter which would have done honour to Satan himself, and
terrified the majordomo almost to death.



CHAPTER IX.


Many days had elapsed since the canon, Dom Diégo, had been so
mercilessly abandoned by the strange and inimitable cook of whom we have
spoken.

In the home of the Abbé Ledoux, the following scene occurred between him
and the canon.

The threatening predictions of the great cook were beginning to be
realised. Dom Diégo, pale, dejected, with a complexion yellowed by
abstinence,--for all dishes seemed to him tasteless and nauseating since
the marvellous breakfast of which he constantly dreamed,--would scarcely
have been recognised. His enormous stomach had already lost its
rotundity, and the poor man, whose physiognomy and attitude betrayed
abject misery, responded in a mournful tone to the questions of the
abbé, who, walking up and down the parlour in the greatest agitation,
addressed him in a rude and angry tone:

"In truth, you have not the least energy, Dom Diégo; you have fallen
into a desperate state of apathy."

"That is easy for you to say," murmured the canon, in a grieved tone. "I
would like very much to see you in my place, alas!"

"Oh, come now, this is shameful!"

"Abuse me, abbé, curse me; but what do you want? Since this accursed man
has abandoned me I live no longer, I eat no longer, I sleep no longer!
Ah, he well said, 'My memory and my face will pursue you everywhere,
canon!' In fact, I am always thinking of the Guinea fowl eggs, the
trout, and the roast à la Sardanapalus. And he, I see him always and
everywhere in his white jacket and cotton cap. It is like a
hallucination. To-night, even, yielding myself to a feverish, nervous
slumber, I dreamed of this demon."

"Better and better, canon."

"What a nightmare! My God! what a horrible nightmare! He had served me
with one of those exquisite, divine dishes, which he alone has the
genius to produce, and he said to me, with his sardonic air, 'Eat,
canon, eat.' It was, I recollect,--I see it still,--a delicious
reed-bird with orange sauce. I had a devouring appetite; I took my knife
and fork to carve the adorable little bird; I was carving it into
slices, golden outside and rosy within, and veined with such fine,
delicate fat. A thousand little drops of rosy juice appeared on the
flesh, like so many drops of dew, to such a point was it roasted. I
steeped it in several spoonfuls of orange sauce whose flavour tickled my
palate, before I tasted it. I took on the end of my fork a royal
mouthful; I opened my mouth. Suddenly the ferocious laughter of my
executioner resounded, and horror! I had on the end of my fork only a
great piece of rancid, glutinous, infected yellow bacon. 'Eat, canon,
why do you not eat?' repeated this accursed man, in his strident voice.
'Why do you not eat?' And in spite of myself, in spite of my terrible
repugnance, I ate! Yes, abbé, I ate this disgusting bacon. Oh, when I
think of it,--bah! it was horrible. And I awoke, bathed in tears. Night
before last another odious dream. It was about eel-pout livers, and--"

"Go to the devil, canon!" cried the abbé, already provoked by this
recital of Dom Diégo's gastronomic nightmare, "you are enough to damn a
saint with your maudlin prattle."

"Prattle!" cried the canon, in despair. "What! here for eight days I
have been able to swallow only a few spoonfuls of chocolate,--so faint,
so disheartened am I. What! I have had the fortitude to pass two hours
seated in the museums of Chevet and Bontoux, those famous cooks, hoping
that perhaps the sight of their rare collections of comestibles would
excite in me some desire of appetite,--and nothing, nothing. No, the
recollection of that celestial breakfast was there, always there,
annihilating everything by the sole power of a cherished memory. Ah,
abbé, abbé, I have never loved, but since these three days I comprehend
all that is exclusive in love; I comprehend how a man passionately in
love remains indifferent to the sight of the most beautiful creature in
the world, dreaming, alas!--three times alas!--only of the adored object
which he regrets."

"But, canon," said the abbé, looking at Dom Diégo with anxiety, "do you
know that all this will result in delirium--in insanity?"

"Eh, my God! I know it well, abbé, I am losing my head. This cursed
seducer has carried away my life and thought with him. In the street, I
gaze into the faces of all who pass, in the hope of meeting him. Great
God! if this good luck would only happen! Oh, he would not be insensible
to my prayers. 'Cruel, perfidious man,' I would say, 'look at me. See on
my features the mark of my sufferings! Will you be without pity? No, no;
mercy, mercy!'"

And the canon, falling back in his armchair, covered his face with his
hands and burst into sobs.

"My God! my God! how wretched I am!" he cried.

"What a double brute! He will be a fool, if he is not one already," said
the abbé to himself. "I will not complain of it, because, his insanity
once established, he will not leave our house, and whether it is he or
his niece little matters."

The abbé approached the canon with compunction, and said to him, gently:

"Come, my brother, be reasonable, calm yourself, perhaps we ought to
see in what has happened the punishment of Heaven."

"I think with you, abbé, this tempter came from hell. It is not given to
any human being to be such a cook. Ah, abbé, I must be a great sinner,
for my punishment is terrible!"

"You have indeed surrendered yourself, without measure, without
restraint, to one of the foulest of the capital sins,--gluttony, my dear
brother,--and I repeat to you Heaven punishes you, as is its law, in the
very thing by which you have sinned."

"But after all, what is my crime? I have simply used the admirable gifts
of the Creator, for in fact it is not I who, in order to enjoy them,
have created pheasants, ortolans, fat livers, salmon trout, truffles,
oysters, lobsters, wines, and--"

"My brother, my brother!" cried the abbé, interrupting this appetising
enumeration, "your words savour of materialism, pantheism, heresy! You
are not in a state of mind to listen to me as I refute these impious,
abominable systems which lead directly to paganism. But there is one
indisputable fact, which is, that you suffer, my brother, you suffer
cruelly; it is for us to bind up your wounds, my tender brother, it is
for us to comfort them with balm and honey."

At these words the canon made an involuntary grimace, because, in his
gastronomic monomania, the idea of honey and balm was especially
distasteful.

The abbé continued:

"Let us see, my dear brother, let us return to the cause of all your
ills."

"Alas! abbé, it is the loss of my appetite."

"Be it so, my brother, and who has caused the loss of your appetite?"

"That wretch!" cried the canon, irritated, "that infamous Captain
Horace."

"That is true; well, I will always preach to you the forgiveness of
injuries, my dear brother; but, too, I must recommend to you an
inexorable severity against sacrilege."

"What sacrilege, abbé?"

"Have not Captain Horace and one of his sailors dared to leap over the
sacred walls of the convent where you had shut up your niece? Have they
not had the audacity to carry away the miserable girl, whom happily we
have recaptured? This enormity in other times might have been punished
with fire, and one day it will be punished with eternal fire."

"And this villain of a captain will only have what he deserves," cried
Dom Diégo, ferociously; "yes, he will cook--he will roast on Satan's
spit by a slow fire, all eternity, where he will be moistened with gravy
of melted lead, after having been larded with red-hot iron. Such will be
his punishment, I earnestly hope."

"So may it be, but while waiting this eternal expiation, why not punish
him here below? Why have you had the culpable weakness to give up your
demand for the arrest of this miscreant? I need not remind you that this
man is the first cause of all that you call your ills,--that is, the
loss of your appetite."

"That is true, he is a great criminal."

"Then, my brother, why, I ask again, have you been so weak as to
renounce your pursuit of him? You do not reply, you seem to be
embarrassed."

"It is that--"

"It is what?"

"Alas, abbé, you are going to scold me, to lecture me again."

"Explain yourself, my brother."

"What shall I say? It is his fault, for, since he has disappeared, all
my thoughts come from him and return to him."

"Who, he?"

"This angel or this demon."

"What angel--what demon?"

"The cook."

"Again the cook?"

"Always!"

"Come," said the abbé, shrugging his shoulders, "do explain yourself, my
brother."

"Well, then, abbé, know that the day after the fatal day when I
breakfasted as I shall never breakfast again, alas! when my despair was
at its height, I received a mysterious note."

"And what did this contain, my brother?"

"Here it is."

"You have kept it."

"It is perhaps his cherished handwriting," murmured the canon, with a
melancholy accent.

And he handed the note to Abbé Ledoux, who read as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

"MY LORD CANON:--There remains perhaps one means of seeing me again.

"You now know the delights with which I am able to surfeit you.

"You also know the terrible torments which my absence inflicts.

"Before yesterday, not having felt these torments in all their anguish,
you presumed to refuse what I expected of you.

"To-day, as past sufferings will be a guarantee for the sufferings to
come, listen to me.

"You can put an end to these sufferings.

"For that, you must grant me three things.

"I demand the first to-day; in eight days the second; in fifteen days
the third.

"I proportion the importance of my demands to the progress of your
suffering, because the more you suffer, the more you will regret me and
show yourself docile.

"Here is my first demand:

"Send back by the bearer of this note, your nonsuit of all complaint
against Captain Horace.

"Give me by this act a proof of your desire to satisfy me, and then you
will be able to hope that you may find again

APPETITE."



CHAPTER X.


When Abbé Ledoux had finished reading this note, he reflected a moment
in silence, while the canon, repeating the last words of the letter,
said, bitterly:

"'And you will be able to hope to find Appetite!' What cruel irony in
this pitiless pun!"

"That is singular," said the abbé, thoughtfully. "Did you see the bearer
of this note, Dom Diégo?"

"Did I see him? Could I lose this opportunity to speak of _him?"_

"Well?"

"Ah, well, one would have thought I was speaking Hebrew to this animal.
To my most pressing questions, he responded with a stupid air. I was not
able to draw from him either the address or the name of the person who
had sent me the note."

"And so, canon, it is in obedience to this letter that you have
renounced your complaint against this renegade Captain Horace."

"Yes, because I hoped, by my deference to the desires of him who holds
my life in his hands, to soften his heart of stone, but alas! this
concession has not touched him."

"But what relations can exist between this accursed cook and Captain
Horace?" said Abbé Ledoux, still absorbed in thought. "Some intrigue is
hidden there."

Then after another silence he added:

"Dom Diégo, listen to me; I will not tell you to abandon the hope that
some day you may have in your service this cook whom you prize so
highly. I shall not insist upon the dangers which threaten your eternal
salvation in consequence of your persistent and abominable gluttony; you
are at this moment in such a state of excitement that you would not
comprehend it."

"I fear so, abbé"

"I am sure of it, canon. I will deal then with you as we deal, permit me
to say it, with monomaniacs. I will for the present put myself in your
place, extraordinary as it may seem, and I must tell you that you have
done exactly the contrary of what you ought to have done, if you wish to
gain power over this man, who, as you say, controls your destiny."

"Explain yourself, my dear abbé."

"After all you have confided to me, evidently this cook has no need of a
position; having learned of your favourite vice, he has only sought a
pretext for introducing himself into your house; his connivance with
Captain Horace only proves, do you not see, that their plan was arranged
beforehand, and they proposed to use your love of eating as a means of
gaining influence over you."

"Great God!" cried Dom Diégo, "that is a ray of light!"

"Do you confess your blindness now?"

"What an infernal plot! What atrocious Machiavellism!" murmured the
canon, thoroughly frightened.

Then he added, with a sigh of dejection, full of bitterness:

"Such dissimulation! Such perfidy united to such beautiful genius! Oh,
humanity! Oh, humanity!"

"Let me continue," replied the abbé. "You have already, by your unworthy
weakness, deprived yourself of one of the three means by which you might
have controlled this great cook, since, as he has had the effrontery to
warn you beforehand, there are yet two others he intends to exact from
you, and he counts on your deplorable readiness to yield, to obtain
them. Now, this end once attained, he will laugh at you, and you will
see him no more."

"Abbé, that is impossible."

"Why?"

"I tell you, abbé, such treason is impossible. You surely do not believe
that men are ferocious beasts,--monsters."

"I believe, canon," replied the abbé, with a shrug of the shoulders, "I
believe that a cook who gives gratis wines at one or two louis a
bottle--"

"Wait, pray," interrupted Dom Diégo. "Neither one, nor two, nor six
louis would pay the cost of such wines. They were nectar, abbé, they
were ambrosia, I tell you!"

"All the more reason, canon; a cook who is so prodigal of such costly
ambrosia has no need of hiring himself for wages, I imagine."

"I not only offered him wages, I offered him, also, my
friendship,--think of it, abbé, I said to this perfidious monster,
'Friend, I will not be your master, I will be your admirer.'"

"You see that he cared as little for your friendship as for your
admiration."

"Ah, that would be an ingrate, indeed!"

"That may be; but if you wish, in your turn, to put this ingrate at your
feet, there is a way for you to do so."

"To put him at my feet! Oh, abbé, if you could work this miracle! but,
no, no, you are without pity, you play upon my credulity."

"The miracle is very simple; refuse absolutely all that this man demands
of you, because if he has no need of your friendship or your admiration,
he has evidently great need of your leaving off your suit against this
Captain Horace. Refuse that, and you will hold your man. I do not know
for how long a time you will hold him, but you will hold him. We will
see afterward how to prolong your power. I am, you see, a man of wise
counsel."

"Abbé, you open my eyes, you are right; in refusing his demands, I shall
force him to return to me."

"Well, do you agree to it?"

"I was blind, silly! But what do you want, abbé? Despair, inanition! The
stomach reacts so terribly on the brain. Ah, why was I so weak as to
sign this nonsuit?"

"It is time to recall it."

"You think so, abbé?"

"I am certain of it. I know persons who are very influential with the
magistracy."

"What an opportunity, abbé, what an opportunity!"

"We have friends everywhere. Now, listen to what is necessary for you to
do. You go at once and present your complaint in legal form; we will
attest it immediately at the bar of the king's attorney. We will say to
him that the other day when you were in a condition of suffering and
wholly irresponsible, you signed the nonsuit, but reflecting upon the
sacrilegious crime of Captain Horace, you would fail in your double
character of canon and guardian if you did not deliver this criminal to
the rigour of the law. Begin by this act of decision and you will soon
see this insolent cook, who dictates his orders to you, humble and
submissive to your will."

"Abbé, dear abbé, you have saved my life."

"Wait, that is not all. This mysterious unknown, who interests himself
so much in Captain Horace, must also interest himself in the captain's
marriage with your niece. Evidently this intrigue concerns that,
because, understand me, I wager a hundred to one that one of the two
things which this impertinent cook reserves to ask of you is your
consent to this marriage."

"What a depth of villainy!" cried the canon. "What diabolical plotting!
There is no longer room for doubt, abbé, such was the plan of this
miserable creature. Oh, if in my turn I could only get him in my power!"

"The way is very easy, and whatever may be the cause of it, after the
various ramifications of this dark intrigue, of which your niece is the
end, you must see that there would be grave dangers in leaving her in
Paris, and whatever course you may take in regard to this--"

"She shall enter a convent," interrupted the canon, "that is my
intention at all hazards; she has already caused me enough worry, enough
care. I do not like to play the rôle of a guardian in a comedy."

"Your niece, then, will enter a convent; but to leave her in Paris is to
expose her to the plotting of Captain Horace and his friends, and you
know their audacity. Perhaps they will abduct her a second time. Imagine
what new sorrow that would bring to you."

"But where shall I send this accursed girl?"

"Let her depart for Lyons to-day, even; we have an excellent house in
that city, once entered there it would be impossible for her to
communicate with the outside. Now, see what we are going to do. The
first thing is to go at once to the Palais de Justice; there I shall
find an influential person who will recommend me to the king's attorney,
in whose hands you will lodge your complaint. After that we will hasten
to the convent; among the livery hacks there is always a carriage ready
for an emergency; one of our sisters and a steady and resolute man will
accompany your niece; you will give your orders to them; in two hours
she will be on the route to Lyons, and before the end of the day Captain
Horace will be locked in jail, because, as he believes your complaint is
withdrawn, he will come out of the retreat which we have not been able
to discover. Once this miscreant arrested, and your niece out of Paris,
you will see my Lord Appetite run to you, and with a little address--I
will help you if you wish it--you will have him at your mercy, and can
do with him as you please."

"Dear abbé, you are my saviour!" cried the canon, rising from his seat,
his face radiant with hope. "You are a superior man; Father Benoit told
me so in Cadiz. Let us go, let us go. I abandon myself blindly to your
counsels; everything tells me they are excellent, and that they will
place him, who is an angel and a demon to me, in my power for ever."

"Let us go, then, my dear Dom Diégo," said the abbé, hastily putting on
his hat, and dragging the canon by the arm.

The moment the canon opened the door of the parlour, he found himself
face to face with Doctor Gasterini, who familiarly entered the saintly
man's house without announcement.

The abbé was just going to address a word to the doctor, when at a cry
from the canon he turned abruptly and saw Dom Diégo, pale, motionless,
his gaze fixed, and his hands clasped, and his face expressing all the
contradictions of stupor, doubt, anguish, and hope. Finally, addressing
the abbé, who comprehended nothing of this sudden emotion, the canon
pointed to the doctor and stammered, in a broken voice, "It--is--he."

But Dom Diégo was not able to say more, and overcome by emotion he sat
down heavily in a chair, closed his eyes, and fell over in utter
weakness.

"The devil! the canon here!" said Doctor Gasterini to himself. "Cursed
accident!"

Abbé Ledoux, at the sight of Dom Diégo's collapse,--a pathetic
picture,--turned to the doctor, and said:

"I think, really, the canon must be ill. What is the matter with him?
Your arrival is fortunate, my dear doctor; wait,--here is a vial of
salts, it will assist his breathing."

Hardly was the bottle placed to the nostrils of the canon when he
sneezed violently, with a cavernous bellowing, then coming out of his
fainting fit, but not having the strength to rise, he turned his languid
eyes, suffused with tears, to the doctor, and said, with an accent which
he wished to be stern, but which was only tender:

"Ah, cruel man!"

"Cruel!" said the abbé, bewildered, "why do you call the doctor cruel,
Dom Diégo?"

"Yes," interposed the physician, perfectly calm and smiling, "what
cruelty can you accuse me of, sir?"

"You ask that, you ingrate!" said the canon. "You dare ask that!"

"What! you call the doctor an ingrate!" said the abbé.

"The doctor!" said the canon, "what doctor?"

"Why, my friend, the man to whom you are speaking," said the abbé, "my
friend standing there, Doctor Gasterini."

"He!" cried the canon, rising abruptly. "I tell you that is my tempter,
my seducer!"

"The devil! he sees him everywhere," said the abbé, impatiently. "I
repeat it to you that the gentleman is Doctor Gasterini, my friend."

"And I repeat to you, abbé," cried Dom Diégo, "that the gentleman is the
great cook of whom I have spoken to you!"

"Doctor," said the abbé, earnestly, "in the name of Heaven, do explain
this blunder."

"There is no blunder at all, my dear abbé."

"What?"

"The canon speaks the truth," replied Doctor Gasterini. "Day before
yesterday I had the pleasure of preparing a dish for him; for, in order
to have the honour of calling yourself a glutton, you must have a
practical acquaintance with the culinary art."



CHAPTER XI.


The abbé, amazed, looked at Doctor Gasterini, unable to believe what he
had heard; at last he said:

"What! you, doctor, have cooked dishes for Dom Diégo? You! you?"

"Yes, I, my dear abbé."

"A doctor," exclaimed the canon, in his turn amazed, "a physician?"

"Yes, canon," replied Doctor Gasterini, "I am a physician, which does
not prevent my being a passable cook."

"Passable!" cried the canon, "say rather, divine! But what means this--"

"I comprehend all!" replied Abbé Ledoux, after having remained silent
and thoughtful a moment, "the plot was skilfully contrived."

"What is it that you comprehend, abbé? Of what plot are you talking?"
said the canon, who, after his first astonishment, began to wonder how a
physician could be such an extraordinary cook. "I pray you explain
yourself, abbé!"

"Do you know, Dom Diégo," asked the abbé, with a bitter smile, "who
Doctor Gasterini is?"

"But," stammered the canon, wiping the perspiration from his brow, for
he had been making superhuman efforts to penetrate the mystery,
"everything is so complicated--so strange--that--"

"Doctor Gasterini," cried the abbé, "is the uncle of Captain Horace! Do
you understand now, Dom Diégo, the diabolical trick the doctor has
played you? Do you understand that he has played upon your deplorable
gluttony in order to get such a hold on you that he might induce you to
abandon your pursuit of Captain Horace, his nephew, and afterward to
induce you to consent to the marriage of your niece and the captain? Do
you understand at last to what point you have been duped? Do you see the
depth of the abyss you have escaped?"

"My God! this great cook a doctor! And he is the uncle of Captain
Horace!" murmured the canon, stunned by the revelation. "He is not a
real cook! Oh, illusion of illusions!"

The doctor remained silent and imperturbable.

"Hey, have you been duped enough?" asked the abbé. "Have you played a
sufficiently ridiculous rôle? And do you now believe that the
illustrious Doctor Gasterini, one of the princes of science, who has
fifty thousand a year income, would hire himself to you as a cook? Was I
wrong in saying that you had been made a scoff and jeer for other
persons' amusement?"

Every word from the abbé exasperated the anger, the grief, and the
despair of the canon. The last remark above all. "Do you think the
celebrated Doctor Gasterini would hire himself for wages," gave a mortal
blow to the last illusions that Dom Diégo cherished. Turning to the
doctor, he said, with an ill-concealed anger:

"Ah, sir, do you recollect the evil you have done me? I may die of it,
perhaps, but I will have my revenge, if not on you, at least on that
rascal, your nephew, and on my unworthy niece, who, no doubt, is also in
this abominable intrigue!"

"Well, courage, Dom Diégo; this righteous vengeance will not tarry,"
said Abbé Ledoux.

Then he turned to the doctor, and said, sarcastically:

"Ah, doctor, you are doubtless a very shrewd, clever man, but you know
the best players sometimes lose the best games, and you will lose this
one!"

"Perhaps," said the doctor, smiling; "who knows?"

"Come, my dear abbé, come," cried the canon, pale and exasperated;
"come, let us see the king's attorney, and then we will hasten the
departure of my niece."

And, turning to the doctor, he said:

"To employ arms so perfidious, so disloyal! to deceive a confiding and
inoffensive man with this odious Machiavellism! I who have eaten with my
eyes shut, I who have taken delight upon the very brink of an abyss! Ah,
sir, it is abominable, but I will have my revenge!"

"And this very instant," said the abbé. "Come, Dom Diégo, follow me. A
thousand pardons, my dear doctor, to leave you so abruptly, but you
understand moments are precious."

The canon, boiling with rage, was about to follow the abbé when Doctor
Gasterini said, in a calm voice:

"Canon, a word if you please."

"If you listen to him, you are lost, Dom Diégo!" cried the abbé,
dragging the canon with him. "The evil spirit himself is not more
insidious than this infernal doctor. Decide for yourself after the trick
he has played on you. Come, come!"

"Canon," said the doctor, seizing Dom Diégo by the right sleeve, while
the abbé, who held the worthy man by the left sleeve, was using every
effort to force him to follow him. "Canon," repeated the doctor, "just
one word, I pray you."

"No, no!" said the abbé, "let us flee, Dom Diégo, let us flee this
serpent tempter."

And the abbé continued to pull the canon by his right sleeve.

"Just a word," said the physician, "and you will see how much this dear
abbé deceives you in my place."

"The Abbé Ledoux deceives me in your place! That is too much by far!"
cried Dom Diégo. "How, sir, do you dare?"

"I am going to prove to you what I say, canon," said the doctor,
earnestly, as he saw Dom Diégo make an effort to approach him. The
abbé, suspecting the canon's weakness, pulled him violently, and said:

"Recollect, unhappy man, that your mother Eve was lost by listening to
the first word of Satan. I adjure you, I command you, to follow me this
instant! If you give way, unhappy man, take care! One second more, and
it is all up with you. Let us go, let us go!"

"Yes, yes, you are my saviour, take me away from here," stammered the
canon, disengaging himself from the grasp of the doctor. "In spite of
myself, I am already yielding to the incomprehensible influence of this
demon. I recall those Guinea fowl eggs with crab gravy, that trout with
frozen Montpellier butter, that celestial roast à la Sardanapalus, and
already a dim hope--let us fly, abbé, it is time, let us fly."

"Canon," said the doctor, holding on to the arm of Dom Diégo with all
his strength, "listen to me, I pray you."

"_Vade retro, Satanas!_" cried Dom Diégo, with horror, escaping from the
doctor's hands.

And dragged along by the abbé, he was on the threshold of the door, when
the physician cried:

"I will cook for you as much as you desire, and as long as I shall live,
Dom Diégo. Grant me five minutes, and I will prove what I declare. Five
minutes, what do you risk?"

At the magic words, "I will cook for you as much as you desire," the
canon seemed nailed to the door-sill, and did not advance a step, in
spite of the efforts of the abbé, who was too exhausted to struggle
against the weight of such a large man.

"You certainly are stupid!" cried the abbé, losing control of himself,
"what a fool you are to have any dealings with him!"

"Grant me five minutes, Dom Diégo," urged the doctor, "and, if I do not
convince you of the reality of my promises, then give free course to
your vengeance. I repeat, what do you risk? I only ask a poor five
minutes."

"In fact," said the canon, turning to the abbé, "what would I risk?"

"Go, you risk nothing!" cried the abbé, pushed to the extreme by the
weakness of the canon; "from this moment you are lost, a scoff and a
jeer. Go, go, throw yourself into the jaws of this monster, thrice dull
brute that you are!"

These unfortunate words, uttered by the abbé in anger, wounded the pride
of Dom Diégo to the quick, and he replied, with an offended air:

"At least, I will not be brute enough, Abbé Ledoux, to hesitate between
the loss of five minutes, and the ruin of my hopes, as weak as they may
be."

"As you please, Dom Diégo," replied the abbé, gnawing his nails with
anger; "you are a good, greasy dupe to experiment upon. Really, I am
ashamed of having pitied you."

"Not such a dupe, Abbé Ledoux, not such a dupe as you may suppose," said
the canon, in a self-sufficient tone. "You are going to discover, and
the doctor, too, for no doubt he is going to explain himself."

"At once," eagerly replied the doctor, "at once, my lord canon, and very
clearly too, very categorically."

"Let us see," said Dom Diégo, swelling cheeks with an important air.
"You discover, sir, that I have now powerful reasons for not allowing
myself to be satisfied with chimeras, because, as the abbé has said, I
would be a good, greasy dupe to permit you to deceive me, after so many
cautions."

"Oh, certainly," said the abbé, in his great indignation, "you are a
proud man, canon, and quite capable of fighting this son of Beelzebub."

"By which title you mean me, dear abbé," said the doctor, with sardonic
courtesy. "What an ingrate you are! I come to remind you that you
promised to dine with me to-day. Permit my lord canon, also,--he is not
a stranger to our subject, as you will see."

"Yes, doctor," said the abbé, "I did make you this promise, but--"

"You will keep it, I do not doubt, and I will remind you, too, that this
invitation was extended in consequence of a little discussion relative
to the seven capital sins. Again, canon, I am in the question, and you
are going to recognise it immediately."

"It is true, doctor," replied the abbé, with a constrained smile, "I
would brand, as they deserve to be, the seven capital sins, causes of
eternal damnation to the miserable beings who abandon themselves to
these abominable vices, and in your passion for paradoxes, you have
dared maintain that--"

"That the seven capital sins have good, in a certain point of view, in a
certain measure, and gluttony, particularly, may be made an admirable
passion."

"Gluttony!" cried the canon, amazed. "Gluttony admirable!"

"Admirable, my dear canon," replied the doctor, "and that, too, in the
eyes of the wisest, and most sincerely religious men."

"Gluttony!" repeated the canon, who had listened to the physician with
increasing bewilderment, "gluttony!"

"It is even more, my lord canon," said the doctor, solemnly, "because,
for those who are to put it in practice, it becomes an imperious duty to
humanity."

"A duty to humanity!" repeated Dom Diégo.

"And, above all, a question of high civilisation and great policy, my
lord canon," added the doctor, with an air so serious, so full of
conviction, that he imposed on the canon, who cried:

"Hold, doctor, if you could only demonstrate that--"

"Do you not see that the doctor is making you ridiculous?" said the
abbé, shrugging his shoulders. "Ah, I told you the truth, unhappy Dom
Diégo; you are lost, for ever lost, as soon as you consent to listen to
such foolery."

"Canon," the doctor hastened to add, "let us resume our subject, not by
reasoning, which, I confess, may appear to you specious, but by facts,
by acts, by proofs, and by figures. You are both a glutton and
superstitious. You have not the strength to resist your craving for good
things; then, your gluttony satisfied, you are afraid of having
committed a great sin, which sometimes spoils the pleasure of good
cheer, and above all, injures the calmness and regularity of your
digestion. Is this not true?"

"It is true," meekly replied the canon, dominated, fascinated by the
doctor's words, "it is too true."

"Well, my lord canon, I wish to convince you, I repeat, not by
reasoning, however logical it may be, but by visible, palpable facts and
by figures, first, that in being a glutton, you accomplish a mission
highly philanthropic, a benefit to civilisation and politics; second,
that I can, and will be able to make you eat and drink, when you wish,
with far more intense enjoyment than the other day."

"And I, I say to you," cried the abbé, appalled by the doctor's
assurance, "that if you prove by facts and figures, as you pretend, that
to be a glutton is to accomplish a mission to humanity or high
civilisation, or is a thing of great political significance, I swear to
you to become an adept in this philosophy, as absurd and visionary as it
appears."

"And if you prove to me, doctor, that you can open again, and in the
future continue to open the doors of the culinary paradise that you
opened to me day before yesterday," cried the canon, palpitating with
new hope, "if you prove to me that I accomplish a social duty in
yielding myself up to gluttony, you will be able to dominate me, I will
be your deputy, your slave, your thing."

"Agreed, my lord canon, agreed, Abbé Ledoux, you shall be satisfied. Let
us depart."

"Depart?" asked the canon, "where?"

"To my house, Dom Diégo."

"To your house," said the canon, with an air of distrust, "to your
house?"

"My carriage is below," replied the doctor; "in a quarter of an hour we
will arrive there."

"But, doctor," asked the canon, "why go to your house? What are we going
to do there?"

"At my house, only, will you be able to find those visible, palpable
proofs of what I have declared, for I have come to remind the dear abbé
that to-day is the twentieth of November, the day of the investigation
to which I have invited him. But the hour advances, gentlemen, let us
depart."

"I do not know if I am dreaming or awake," said Dom Diégo, "but I throw
myself in the gulf with my eyes shut."

"You must be the very devil himself, doctor, for my instinct and reason
revolt against your paradoxes. I do not believe one word of your
promises, yet it is impossible for me to resist the curious desire to
accompany you."

The canon and the abbé followed the doctor, entered his carriage with
him, and soon the three arrived at the house occupied by the
distinguished physician.



CHAPTER XII.


Doctor Gasterini lived in a charming house in the Faubourg du Roule,
where he soon arrived in company with the canon and Abbé Ledoux.

"While we are waiting for dinner, would you like to take a turn in the
garden?" said the doctor, to his guests. "That will give me the
opportunity to present to you my poor sister's eight children, my
nephews and nieces, whom I have reared and established in the world
respectably, entirely by means of gluttony. You see, canon, we still
follow our subject."

"What, doctor!" replied the canon, "you have reared a numerous family by
means of gluttony?"

"You do not see that the doctor continues to ridicule you!" said the
abbé, shrugging his shoulders. "It is too much by far!"

"I give you my word of honour as an honest man," replied Doctor
Gasterini, "and besides, I am going to prove to you in a moment, by
facts, that if I had not been the greatest gourmand among men, I should
never have known how to make for each one of my nephews and nieces the
excellent positions which they hold, as worthy, honest, and intelligent
labourers, contributing, each in his sphere, to the prosperity of the
country."

"So we are really to see people who contribute to the prosperity of the
country, and for that we may thank the doctor's love of eating!" said
the canon, with amazement.

"No," cried the abbé, "what confounds me is to hear such absurdities
maintained till the last moment, and--" but suddenly interrupting
himself, he asked with surprise, as he looked around:

"What is that building, doctor? It looks like shops."

"That is my orangery," replied the doctor, "and to-day, as every year at
this time, my birthday, they set up shops here."

"How is that; set up shops, and what for?" asked the abbé.

"Zounds! why, to sell, of course, my dear abbé."

"Sell what? and who is to sell?"

"As to what is sold, you will soon see, and as to the purchasers, why,
they are my patrons, who are coming to spend the evening here."

"Really, doctor, I do not comprehend you."

"You know, my dear abbé, that for a long time charity shops have been
kept by some of the prettiest women in Paris."

"Ah, yes," replied the abbé; "the proceeds to be given to the poor."

"This is the same; the proceeds of this evening's sale will be
distributed among the poor of my district."

"And who are to keep these shops?" asked the canon.

"My sister's eight children, Dom Diégo. They will sell there, for the
charitable purpose I have mentioned, the produce of their own industry.
But come, gentlemen, let us enter, and I shall have the honour of
introducing to you my nieces and nephews."

With these words Doctor Gasterini conducted his friends into a vast
orangery, where were arranged eight little shops or stalls for the
display of wares. The green boxes of a large number of gigantic
orange-trees formed the railings and separations of these stalls, so
that each one had a ceiling of beautiful foliage.

"Ah, doctor," exclaimed the canon, stopping before the first stall in
admiration, "this is magnificent! I have never seen anything like it in
my life. It is magic!"

"It is indeed a feast for the eye," said the abbé. "It is unsurpassed."

Let us see what elicited the just admiration of Doctor Gasterini's
guests. The boxes forming the enclosure of the first stall were
ornamented with leaves and flowers; on each of these rustic platforms,
covered with moss, a collection of fruits and early vegetables was
displayed with rare beauty. Golden pineapples with crowns of green lay
above immense baskets of grapes of every shade, from the dark purple
cluster of the valley to the transparent red from the mountain
vineyards. Pyramids of pears, and apples of the rarest and choicest
species, of enormous size and variegated with the brightest colours,
reached up to summits of bananas, as golden as if the sun of the tropics
had ripened them. Farther on dwarf fig-trees in pots, and covered with
violet-coloured figs, stood among a rare collection of autumn melons,
Brazil pumpkins, and Spanish and white potatoes. Still farther, little
rush baskets of hothouse strawberries contrasted with rosy mushrooms,
and enormous truffles as black as ebony, obtained from the hotbed by
special culture. Then came the rare and early specimens of the
season,--green asparagus and varieties of lettuce.

In the midst of these marvels of the vegetable kingdom, which she
herself had grouped in such a charming and picturesque scene, stood a
beautiful young woman, elegantly attired in the costume of the peasants
living in the neighbourhood of Paris.

"I present to you one of my nieces," said the doctor to his guests,
"Juliette Dumont, cultivator of early fruits and vegetables, in the open
field and hothouse at Montreuil-sous-Bois."

Then, turning to the young woman, the doctor added:

"My child, tell these gentlemen, please, how many gardeners you and your
husband employ in your occupation."

"At least twenty men the whole time, my dear uncle."

"And their salary, my child."

"According to your advice, dear uncle, we give them the fixed price of
fifty cents, and a part of our profit, in order to interest them as much
as we are in the excellence of the work. We find this arrangement the
best in the world, for our gardeners, interested as much as ourselves in
the prosperity of our undertaking, labour with great zeal. So this year,
their part in the income of the establishment has almost amounted to
five francs a day."

"And about how much a year is the whole income, my child?"

"Thanks to our nurseries of fine fruit-trees, we make, dear uncle, from
eighty to a hundred thousand francs a year."

"As much as that?" said the abbé.

"Yes, sir," replied the young woman; "and there are many houses in the
neighbourhood of Paris and in the provinces whose incomes are larger
than ours."

The canon, absorbed in the contemplation of fragrant golden fruits,
truffles, and mushrooms, and the first vegetables of the season as
luscious as they were rare, gave only a distracted attention to the
economics of the conversation, and reluctantly accepted the doctor's
invitation, who said to him:

"Let us pass to another specimen of the industry of my family, canon,
for each one to-day displays his best wares. Now tell me if that jolly
fellow over there is not a true artist."

And with these words Doctor Gasterini pointed out the second stall to
his guests.

In the middle of an enclosure, carpeted with rushes and seaweeds, three
large, white marble tables rose one above the other at an interval of
one foot, gradually diminishing in size, like the basins of a fountain.
On these marble slabs, covered with marine herbs, was a fine display of
shells, crustaceans, and the choicest and most delicate sea-fish.

On the first slab was a sort of grotto made of shell-work, in which
could be seen mussels and oysters from Marennes, Ostend, and Cancale,
fattened at an immense expense in the parks. At the base of this slab
lobsters, shrimps, and crabs were slowly crawling, or putting out a
feeler from under their thick shells.

On the second slab, fringed with long seaweeds of a light green colour,
were fish of the most diminutive size and exquisite flavour; sardines
gleaming like silver, others of ultramarine blue, others still of bright
red, and dainty grill fish with backs as white as snow, and
rose-coloured bellies.

Finally, on the last and largest of these marble basins lay, here and
there, veritable monsters of the sea, enormous turbots, gigantic salmon,
formidable sturgeons, and prodigious tunnies.

A young man with sunburnt complexion, and frank, prepossessing
countenance, who recalled the features of Captain Horace, smiled
complaisantly at this magnificent exhibition of the products of the sea.

"Gentlemen, I present to you my nephew Thomas, patron of fisheries at
Etretat," said Doctor Gasterini to his guests, "and you see that his
nets do not bring back sand alone."

"I never saw anything in my life more admirable! I never saw more
appetising fish!" exclaimed Dom Diégo, with enthusiasm. "One could
almost eat them raw!"

"My boy," said Doctor Gasterini to his nephew, "these gentlemen would
like to know how many sailors you patron fishers employ in your boats."

"Each boat employs eight or ten men and a cabin-boy," replied patron
Thomas. "You see, my dear uncle, that makes quite a fine array of men,
when you think of the number of fishing-boats on the coasts of France,
from Bayonne to Dunkerque, and from Perpignan to Cannes."

"And what pay do these men get, my boy?" asked the doctor.

"We buy boats and nets in common, and divide the produce of the fish,
and when a sailor is carried away by a big wave, his widow and children
succeed to the father's portion; in a word, we work in an association,
all for each, and each for all, and I assure you that when it is
necessary to throw our nets or draw them in, to furl a sail or give it
to the winds, there is no idler among us. All work with a good heart."

"Very well, my brave boy," said the doctor. "But, my lord canon," added
he, turning to Dom Diégo, "as a true gourmand, you shall taste scalloped
salmon with truffles, and sole minced in the Venetian style. Here we
promote one of the noblest industries of the country, and it also
contributes to the amelioration of the condition of our marine service.
Let this thought, canon, take possession of your mind when you eat
sturgeon baked in its own liquor, flavoured highly with Bayonne ham and
oyster sauce, mingled with Madeira wine!"

At these words, Dom Diégo opened mechanically his large mouth and shut
it, passing his tongue over his lips, with a sigh of greedy desire.

Abbé Ledoux, too discerning not to comprehend the doctor's intention,
betrayed increasing resentment, but did not utter a word. The physician
affected not to perceive the vexation of his guest. Taking Dom Diégo by
the arm, he said, as he conducted him to the third stall:

"Honestly, my lord canon, did you ever see anything more beautiful, more
charming, than this?"

"Never, oh, never!" exclaimed Dom Diégo, clasping his hands in
admiration, "although the confections of my country are considered the
finest in the world."

Nor was there, indeed, anything more captivating or more beautiful than
this third stall, where was displayed in cups or porcelain dishes
everything that the most refined epicureans could imagine in preserves,
confections, and sweetmeats. In one place, crystallised sugar enveloped
sparkling stalactites of the most beautiful fruits; in another, pyramids
of all kinds, variegated with the brightest colours,--red with lozenges
of rose, green with frozen pistachios shading into tints of lemon;
farther on, oranges, limes, cedras, all covered with a snowy coating of
sugar. Again, transparent jellies, made from Rouen apples, and currant
jellies from Bar, shone with the prismatic brilliancy of ruby and topaz.
Still farther, wide slabs of nougat from Marseilles, white as fresh
cream, served as pedestals for columns of chocolate made in Bayonne, and
apricot paste from Montpellier. Boxes of preserved fruit from Touraine,
as fresh as if they had just been gathered, and in their gorgeous
colouring resembling Florentine mosaics, charmed the eyes of the
beholder.

A young and pretty woman, a niece of Dr. Gasterini, presided at this
exhibition of sweets, and welcomed her uncle with an amiable smile.

"I present to you, gentlemen, my niece Augustine, one of the first
confectioners in Paris, a true artist, who carves and paints in sugar,
and her masterpieces are literally the crack dainties of Paris; but this
specimen of her ability is nothing: in about a fortnight her shop on
Vivienne Street will show a fine display, and I am sure you will see
there some marvellous productions of her skill."

"Certainly, my dear uncle," replied the smiling mistress of the stall,
"we will have the newest sweetmeats, the richest boxes, the most
cleverly woven baskets of dainties, and the prettiest little bags, and
for all these accessories we have a workshop where we employ thirty
artisans, without counting, you understand, all the persons engaged in
the laboratory."

"What is the matter with you, my dear abbé?" asked the doctor of this
saintly man. "You seem to be quite gloomy. Are you vexed to see that
gluttony controls all sorts of industries and productions which count
for so much in the commercial progress of France? Zounds, man, you have
not reached the end yet!"

"Well, well," replied the abbé, under constraint, "I see what you are
coming to, you wicked man, but I will have a response for all. Go on, go
on, I do not say a word, but I do not think the less."

"I am at your service for discussion, my dear abbé, but in the
meanwhile, my lord canon," continued the doctor, turning to Dom Diégo,
"you ought to be already partially convinced, since you see that you
can, without remorse, enjoy the rarest fruits, the most delicate fish,
and the most delicious sweetmeats. And more, as I have told you before,
since you are a rich man, the consumption of these dainties is for you
an imperative social duty, for the more you consume the greater impetus
you give to production."

"And I realise that in my specialty I am at the height of this noble and
patriotic mission!" exclaimed the canon, with enthusiasm. "You give me,
dear doctor, the consciousness of duty performed."

"I did not expect less from the loftiness of your soul, my lord canon,"
replied the physician, "but a day will come when this kind mission of
consumer that you accept with such proud interest will be more generally
disseminated, and we will talk of that another time, but before passing
on to the next stall I must ask your indulgence for my poor nephew
Leonard, who presides at the exhibition you are going to see."

"Why my indulgence, doctor?"

"Because, you see, my nephew Leonard follows a rather dangerous calling,
but he has followed the bent of his inclination. This devil of a boy has
been reared like a savage. Put to nurse with a peasant woman living on
the frontier of the forest of Sénart, he was so puny for a long time
that I allowed him to remain in the country until he was twelve years
old. The peasant woman's husband was an arrant poacher, and my nephew
had his bump for the chase as well developed as a hunting hound. You can
judge what his bloodhound propensities would become under the tutelage
of such a foster-parent. At the age of six years, sickly as he was,
Leonard passed the whole day in the woods, busy with traps for rabbits,
hares, and pheasants. At ten years the little man inaugurated his career
as a hunter by killing a superb roebuck, one winter night, by the light
of the moon. I was ignorant of all that. When, however, he was twelve
years old, he seemed to have grown strong enough, and I placed him at
school. Three days after, he scaled the walls which surrounded the
boarding-school and returned to the forest of Sénart. In a word, canon,
nothing has been able to conquer the boy's passion for hunting. And,
unfortunately, I confess that I became an accomplice by making him a
present of a newly invented gun, so perfect and handy that it would make
of you, my dear abbé, as accomplished a hunter as my nephew. He is not
alone. Thousands of families live upon the superfluous game of rich
proprietors who hunt, not from necessity, but because they find it an
amusement. So, my lord canon, in tasting a leg of jerked venison, a hash
of young partridge, or a thigh of roasted pheasant,--I could not do you
the wrong of supposing you would prefer the wing,--you can assure
yourself that you are contributing to the support of a number of poor
households."



CHAPTER XIII.


The doctor, having concluded his eulogy upon the chase, approached his
nephew's stall, and, with a significant gesture, pointed out to the
canon and the abbé the finest exhibition of game that could be imagined.

The English gamekeepers, great masters of the art of grouping game, thus
making real pictures of dead nature, would have recognised the
superiority of Leonard.

Imagine a knotty, umbrageous tree six or seven feet high, standing in
the middle of this stall. At the foot of the tree were grouped, on a bed
of bright green fern, a young wild boar, a magnificent fallow deer, two
years old, the proper age for venison, and two fine roebucks. These
animals were lying in a restful position, the head gently bent over the
shoulder, as if they were in their accustomed haunts in the depths of
the forest. Long flexible branches of ivy fell from the lower boughs of
the tree, among whose glossy leaves could be seen hares and rabbits,
alternating with the wild geese of ashen-gray colour, wild ducks with
green heads and feathers tipped with white, pheasants with scarlet eyes
and necks of changeable blue and plumage shining like burnished copper;
and silver-coloured bustards, a bird of passage quite rare in our
climate. Here and there, branches of holly with purple berries, and the
rosy bloom of heather mingled gracefully with the game disposed at
different heights. Then came groups of woodcocks, gray partridges, red
partridges, gold-coloured plovers, water-hens as black as ebony, with
yellow beaks; upon the highest boughs the most delicate game was
suspended,--quails, thrushes, fig-peckers, and rails, those kings
of the plain; and finally, at the top of the tree, a magnificent
heath-cock, caught, no doubt, in the mountains of Ardennes, seemed to
open his broad wings of brown, touched with blue, and hover over this
hecatomb of game.

[Illustration: "_The most delicate game was suspended._"

Original etching by Adrian Marcel.]

Leonard, an agile, slender lad with a fawn-coloured eye, and frank,
resolute face, contemplated his work with admiration, giving here and
there a finishing touch, contrasting the red of a partridge with the
green branch of a juniper-tree, or the shining ebony of a water-hen with
the bright rose of the heather bloom.

"I have informed these gentlemen of your frightful trade, my bad boy,"
said Doctor Gasterini to his nephew Leonard, with a smile. "My lord
canon and the saintly abbé will pray for the salvation of your soul."

"Oh, oh, my good uncle!" replied Leonard, good-naturedly, "I would
rather have them pray for success in shooting the two finest deer, as
company for the wild boar I have killed, whose head and fillets I
present to you, uncle."

"Alas, alas, he is incorrigible!" said Doctor Gasterini, "and unhappily,
my lord canon, you have no idea of the deliciousness of the flavour
peculiar to the minced fillets and properly stuffed head of a year-old
wild boar, seasoned à la Saint Hubert! Ah, my dear canon, how rich, how
juicy! It was right to put this divine dish under the protection of the
patron saint of the chase. But let us pass on," continued the doctor,
preceding Dom Diégo, who was fascinated and dazzled by a display
entirely novel to him, for such wealth of game is unknown in Spain.

"Oh, how grand is Nature in her creations!" said the canon; "what a
marvellous scale of pleasures for the palate from the monstrous wild
boar to the fig-pecker,--that exquisite little bird! Glory, glory to
thee, eternal gratitude to thee," added he, in the manner of an
ejaculatory prayer.

"Bravo, Dom Diégo!" cried the doctor, "now are you in the right."

"Now he is in materialism, in paganism, and the grossest pantheism,"
said the intractable abbé. "You will damn him, doctor, you will destroy
his soul!"

"Still a little patience, my dear abbé," replied the doctor, walking
toward another stall. "Soon, in spite of yourself, you will be convinced
that I speak truly in extolling the excellence of gluttony, or rather
you will think as I do, although you will take occasion to deny the
evidence. Now, canon, you are going to see how this gluttony, so dear to
you and me, becomes one of the causes of the progress of agriculture,
the real basis of the prosperity of the country. And with this subject
let me introduce to you my nephew Mathurin, a tiller of those salt
meadows, which nourish the only beasts worthy of the gourmand, and which
give him those invaluable legs of mutton, those unsurpassed cutlets,
those fillets of wonderful beef which even England envies us. I present
to you also my nephew Mathurin's wife, native of Le Mans, and familiar
with that illustrious school of fattening animals, which produces those
pullets and capons known as one of the glories and riches of France."

The shop of farmer Mathurin was undeniably less picturesque, less
pretty, and by no means so showy as the others, but it had, by way of
compensation, an attractive and dignified simplicity.

Upon large screens of willow branches, covered with thyme, sage,
rosemary, tarragon, and other aromatic herbs, were displayed, in
Herculean size, monstrous pieces of beef for roasting, fabulous
sirloins, marvellous loins of veal, and those legs and saddles of
mutton, and unparalleled cutlets, which have filled the hundred mouths
of Rumour with the incomparable flavour of the famous beasts of the salt
meadows.

Although raw, this delicious meat, surrounded with sweet and pungent
herbs, was so delicate and of such a tempting red with its fat of
immaculate whiteness, that the glances which Dom Diégo threw upon these
specimens of bovine and ovine industry, were nothing less than
carnivorous. Half hidden among clusters of water-cresses was a
collection of pullets, capons, pure India cocks, and a species of fowl
called tardillons, so round and fat and plump, and with a satin skin of
such delicacy, that more than one pretty woman might have envied them.

"Oh, how pretty they are! how lovely they are!" stammered the canon.
"Oh, it is enough to make one lose his head!"

"Ah, my dear canon," said the doctor, "pray, what will you say when the
charming pallor of these pullets will turn into gold by the fires of the
turnspit? when, distended almost to breaking by truffles made bluish
under their delicate epidermis, this satin skin becomes rosy until it
sheds the tear-drops of purple juice, watered by the slow distillation
of its fat, as exquisitely delicate as the fat of a quail."

"Enough, doctor!" cried the canon, excited, "enough, I pray you, of
braving scandal. I will attack one of those adorable pullets, without
the least respect to its present condition."

"Calm yourself, my Lord Dom Diégo," said the doctor, smiling, "the
dinner hour approaches and you can then pay your homage to two sisters
of these adorable fowls."

Then, addressing his nephew Mathurin, the doctor said:

"My boy, these gentlemen think the produce of your farm very wonderful."

"The gentlemen are very kind, dear uncle," replied Mathurin, "but it is
the cattle of one who chooses and loves the work! I do not fear the
English or the Ardennois, upon the flavour of my beef, my veal, or my
mutton from the salt meadows which make my reputation and my fortune.
Because, you see, gentlemen, the prime object of agriculture is to make
food, as we say. The cattle produce the manure, the manure the pasture,
the pasture the fertility of the earth, and the fertility of the earth
gives provision and pasturage to the cattle. All is bound together: the
more the cattle is finely fattened, the better it is for the eater,
according to our proverb; the better it sells, the better is the manure
and consequently better is the culture. So with the poultry of Mathurin;
without doubt, it is a great expense and requires many persons on the
farm, for perhaps, gentlemen, you will not believe that to fatten one of
these capons and one of these pullets as you see them here, we must open
the beak and, fifteen or twenty times a day, put down the throat little
balls of barley flour and milk, and that, too, for three months! But we
get a famous product, because each capon brings us more than a weak
mutton or veal. But immense care is necessary. So, with the advice of
this dear uncle, whose advice is always good, we show every year at
Christmas what we do on the farm. In the evening, upon the return of the
cattle, the first two beeves which enter the stable, the finest or the
poorest, no matter, chance decides it, are set aside; it is the same
with the first six calves; afterward, when, the cages of the fowls are
opened, the first dozen capons, the first dozen pullets, and the first
dozen cocks which come out are set aside."

"What good is that?" asked the abbé. "What is done with these animals
thus appointed by fate?"

"We make a lot of them and they are sold for the profit of the people on
the farm. This profit is in addition to their fixed wages. You
understand, gentlemen, that all my people are thus interested in the
cattle and the poultry, which receive the best possible care, inasmuch
as chance alone decides the lot of _encouragement_, as we call it. What
is the result, gentlemen? It is that cattle and poultry become almost as
much the property of my people as mine, because the finer the lot, the
dearer it sells, and the larger the profit. Eh, gentlemen, would you
believe that, thanks to the zeal, the care and diligence which my farm
people give to the hope of this profit, I gain more than I give, because
our interest is common, so that in improving the condition of these poor
people, I advance my own."

"The moral of all this, my lord canon, is," said the doctor, smiling,
"that it is necessary to eat as many fine sirloins as possible, as many
tender cutlets from the salt meadows, and give oneself with equal
devotion to the unlimited consumption of pullets, capons, and India
cocks, so as to encourage this industry."

"I will try, doctor," said the canon, gravely, "to attain to the height
of my duties."

"And they are more numerous than you think, Dom Diégo, because it
depends upon you too to see that poor people are better clothed and
better shod, and to this you can make especial contribution, by eating
plenty of veal stewed à la Samaritan, plenty of beefsteak with anchovy
sauce, and plenty of lambs' tongues à la d'Uxelle."

"Come now, doctor," said the canon, "you are joking!"

"You are rather slow in discovering that, Dom Diégo," said the abbé.

"I am speaking seriously," replied the doctor, "and I am going to prove
it to you, Dom Diégo. What are shoes made of?"

"Of leather, doctor."

"And what produces this leather? Do not beeves, sheep, and calves? It is
then evident that the more cattle consumed, the more the price of
leather is diminished, and good health-promoting shoes become more
accessible to the poor, who can afford only wooden shoes."

"That is true," said the canon, with a thoughtful expression. "It is
certainly true."

"Now," continued the doctor, "of what are good woollen garments and
good woollen stockings woven? Of the fleece of the sheep! Now, then, the
greater the consumption of mutton, the cheaper wool becomes."

"Ah, doctor," cried the canon, carried away by a sudden burst of fine
philosophy, "what a pity we cannot eat six meals a day! Yes, yes, a man
could kill himself with indigestion for the greater happiness of his
fellow men."

"Ah, Dom Diégo!" replied the doctor, in a significant tone. "Such
perhaps is the martyrdom which awaits you!"

"And I shall submit to it with joy," cried the canon, enthusiastically.
"It is sweet to die for humanity!"

Abbé Ledoux could no longer doubt that Dom Diégo was wholly beyond his
influence, and manifested his vexation by angry glances, and disdainful
shrugs of his shoulders.

"Oh, my God, doctor," suddenly exclaimed the canon, expanding his wide
nostrils over and over again, "what is that appetising odour I scent
there?"

"That is the exhibition of the industry pursued by my nephew Michel, my
lord canon; these things are just out of the oven; see what a golden
brown they have, how dainty they are!"

And Doctor Gasterini pointed out to the canon, the most marvellous
specimens of pastry and bakery that one could possibly imagine: immense
pies of game, of fish and of fowl, delicious morsels of baked
shell-fish, fruit pies, little tarts with preserves and creams of all
sorts, smoking cakes of every description, meringues with pineapple
jelly, burnt almonds and sugared nuts, nougats mounted in shape of
rocks, supporting temples of sugar candy, graceful ships of candy, whose
top of fine spun sugar, resembling filigree work of silver, disclosed a
dish of vanilla cakes, floating in rose-coloured cream whipped as light
as foam. The list of wonderful dainties would be too long to enumerate,
and Canon Dom Diégo stood before them in mute admiration.

"The dinner hour approaches, and I must go to my stoves, to give the
finishing touch to certain dishes, which my pupils have begun," said
Doctor Gasterini to his guest. "But to prove to you the importance of
this appetising branch of industry, I will limit myself to a single
question."

And addressing his nephew Michel, he said:

"My boy, tell the gentleman how much the stock of pastry you exhibit in
the street of La Paix has cost."

"You ought to know, uncle," replied Michel, smiling affectionately at
Doctor Gasterini, "for you advanced the money necessary for the
expenditure."

"My faith, boy, you have reimbursed me long ago, and I have forgotten
the figures. Let us see. It was--"

"Two hundred thousand francs, uncle. And I have done an excellent
business. Besides, the house is good, because my predecessor made there
twenty thousand a year income in ten years."

"Twenty thousand income!" cried Dom Diégo in astonishment, "twenty
thousand!"

"Now you see, my lord canon, how capital is created by eating hot pies
and plum cake with pistachios. But would you like to see something
really grand? For this time we are discussing an industry which affects
not only the interests of almost all the counties of France, but which
extends over a great part of Europe and the East,--that is to say,
Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. An industry which puts in
circulation an enormous amount of capital, which occupies entire
populations, whose finest products sometimes reach a fabulous price,--an
industry, in short, which is to gluttony what the soul is to the body,
what mind is to matter. Wait, Dom Diégo, look and reverence, for here
the youngest are already very old."

Immediately, through instinct, the canon took off his hat, and
reverently bowed his head.

"I present to you my nephew Theodore, commissary of fine French and
foreign wines," said the doctor to the canon.

There was nothing brilliant or showy in this stall; only simple wooden
shelves filled with dusty bottles and above each shelf a label in red
letters on a black ground, which made the brief and significant
announcement:

       *       *       *       *       *

"_France._--Chambertin (comet); Clos-Vougeat, 1815; Volney (comet);
Nuits, 1820; Pomard, 1834; Châblis, 1834; Pouilly (comet); Château
Margot, 1818; Haut-Brion, 1820; Château Lafitte, 1834; Sauterne, 1811;
Grave (comet); Roussillon, 1800; Tavel, 1802; Cahors, 1793; Lunel, 1814;
Frontignan (comet); Rivesaltes, 1831; Foamy Ai, 1820; Ai rose, 1831; Dry
Sillery (comet); Eau de vie de Cognac, 1757; Anisette de Bordeaux, 1804;
Ratafia de Louvres, 1807.

"_Germany._--Johannisberg, 1779; Rudesteimer, 1747; Hocheimer, 1760;
Tokai, 1797; Vermouth, 1801; Vin de Hongrie, 1783; Kirchenwasser of the
Black Forest, 1801.

"_Holland._--Anisette, 1821; Curacao red, 1805; White Curacao, 1820;
Genievre, 1799.

"_Italy._--Lacryma Christi, 1803; Imola, 1819.

"_Greece._--Chypre, 1801; Samos, 1813.

"_Ionian Islands._--Marasquin de Zara.

"_Spain._--Val de Penas, 1812; Xeres dry, 1809; Sweet Xeres, 1810;
Escatelle, 1824; Tintilla de Rota, 1823; Malaga, 1799.

"_Portugal._--Po, 1778.

"_Island of Madeira._--Madeira, 1810; having made three voyages from the
Indies.

"_Cape of Good Hope._--Red and white and pale wines, 1826."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Dom Diégo was looking on with profound interest, Doctor Gasterini
said to his nephew:

"My boy, do you recollect the price at which some celebrated
wine-cellars have been sold?"

"Yes, dear uncle," replied Michel, "the Duke of Sussex owned a
wine-cellar which was sold for two hundred and eighty thousand francs;
Lafitte's wine-cellar sold in Paris for nearly one hundred thousand
francs; the one belonging to Lagillière, also in Paris, was sold for
sixty thousand francs."

"Well, well, Dom Diégo," said Doctor Gasterini to his guest, "what do
you think of it? Do you believe all this to be an abomination, as that
wag Abbé Ledoux, who is observing us now with such a deceitful
countenance, declares? Do you think the passion, which promotes an
industry of such importance, deserves to be anathematised only? Think of
the expenditure of labour in their transport and preservation that these
wine-cellars must have cost. How many people have lived on the money
they represent?"

"I think," said the canon, "that I was blind and stupid never to have
comprehended, until now, the immense social, political, and industrial
influence I have wielded by eating and drinking the choicest viands and
wines. I think now that the consciousness of accomplishing a mission to
the world in giving myself up to unbridled gluttony, will be a delicious
aperient for my appetite,--a consciousness which I owe to you, and to
you only, doctor. Oh, noble thinker! Oh, grand philosophy!"

"This is the science of gastronomy carried to insanity," said Abbé
Ledoux. "It is a new paganism."

"My Lord Diégo," continued the doctor, "we will speak of the gratitude
which you think you owe me, when we have taken a view of this last shop.
Here is an industry which surpasses in importance all of which we have
been speaking. The question is a grave one, for it turns the scale of
gluttony's influence upon the equilibrium of Europe."

"The equilibrium of Europe!" said the canon, more and more dismayed.
"What has eating to do with the equilibrium of Europe?"

"Go on, go on, Dom Diégo," said Abbé Ledoux, shrugging his shoulders,
"if you listen to this tempter, he will prove to you things still more
astonishing."

"I am going to prove, my dear abbé, both to you and to Dom Diégo, that I
advance nothing but what is strictly true. And, first, you will confess,
will you not, that the marine service of a nation like France has great
weight in the balance of the destinies of Europe?"

"Certainly," said the canon.

"Well, what follows?" said the abbé.

"Now," pursued the doctor, "you will agree with me, that as this
military marine service is strengthened or enfeebled, France gains or
loses in the same proportion?"

"Evidently," said the canon.

"Conclude your argument," cried the abbé, "that is what I am waiting
for."

"I will conclude then, my dear abbé, by saying that the more progress
gluttony makes, the more accessible it becomes to the greatest number,
the more will the military marine of France gain in strength and in
influence, and that, my Lord Dom Diégo, I am going to demonstrate to you
by begging you to read that sign."

And just above the door of this last stall, the only one not occupied by
a niece or nephew of Doctor Gasterini, were the words "Colonial
Provisions."

"Colonial provisions," repeated the canon aloud, looking at the
physician with an interrogating air, while the abbé, more discerning,
bit his lips with vexation.

"Do I need to tell you, lord canon," pursued the doctor, "that without
colonies, we would have no merchant service, and without a merchant
service, no navy for war, since the navy is recruited from the seamen
in the merchant service? Well, if the lovers of good eating did not
consume all the delicacies which you see exhibited here in small
samples,--sugar, coffee, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, rice,
pistachios, Cayenne pepper, nutmeg, liquors from the islands, hachars
from the Indies, what, I ask you, would become of our colonies, that is
to say, our maritime power?"

"I am amazed," cried the canon, "I am dizzy; at each step I feel myself
expand a hundred cubits."

"And, zounds! you are right, lord Dom Diégo," said the doctor, "for
indeed, when, after having tasted at dessert a cheese frozen with
vanilla, to which will succeed a glass of wine from Constance or the
Cape, you take a cup of coffee, and conclude of course with one or two
little glasses of liquor from the islands, flavoured with cloves or
cinnamon, ah, well, you will further heroically the maritime power of
France, and do in your sphere as much for the navy as the sailor or the
captain. And speaking of captains, lord canon," added the doctor, sadly,
"I wish you to observe that among all the shops we have seen, this one
alone is empty, because the captain of the ship which has brought all
these choice provisions from the Indies and the colonies dares not show
himself, while he is under the cloud of your vengeance. I mean, canon,
my poor nephew, Captain Horace. He alone has failed to come, to-day, to
this family feast."

"Ah, the accursed serpent!" muttered the abbé, "how adroitly he goes to
his aim; how well he knows how to wind this miserable brute, Dom Diégo,
around his finger."

At the name of Captain Horace, the canon started, then relapsed into
thoughtful silence.



CHAPTER XIV.


Canon Dom Diégo, after a few moments' silence, extended his fat hand to
Doctor Gasterini, and, trembling with emotion, said:

"Doctor, Captain Horace cost me my appetite; you have restored it to me,
I hope, for the remainder of my life; and much more, you have, according
to your promise, proven to me, not by specious reasoning, but by facts
and figures, that the gourmand, as you have declared with so much
wisdom, accomplishes a high social and political mission in the
civilised world; you have delivered me from the pangs of remorse by
giving me a knowledge of the noble task that my epicureanism may
perform, and in this sacred duty, doctor, I will not fail. So, in
gratitude to you, in appreciation of you, I hope to acquit myself
modestly by declaring to you that, not only shall I refuse to enter a
complaint against your nephew, Captain Horace, but I cordially bestow
upon him the hand of my niece in marriage."

"As I told you, canon," said the abbé, "I was very sure that once this
diabolical doctor had you in his clutches, he would do with you all that
he desired. Where now are the beautiful resolutions you made this
morning?"

"Abbé," replied Dom Diégo, in a self-sufficient tone, "I am not a child;
I shall know how to stand at the height of the rôle the doctor has
marked out for me."

Then turning to the doctor, he added:

"You can instruct me, sir, what to write; a reliable person will take my
letter, and go immediately in your carriage to the convent for my
niece, and conduct her to this house."

"Lord Dom Diégo," replied the doctor, "you assure the happiness of our
two children, the joy of my declining days, and consequently your
satisfaction and pleasure in the indulgence of your appetite, for I
shall keep my word; I will make you dine every day better than I made
you breakfast the other morning. A wing of this house will henceforth be
at your disposal; you will do me the honour of eating at my table, and
you see that, after the professions I have chosen for my nieces and
nephews,--with the knowledge and taste of an epicure, as I have told
you,--my larder and my wine-cellar will be always marvellously well
appointed and supplied. I am growing old, I have need of a staff in my
old age. Horace and his wife shall never leave me. I shall confide to
them the collection of my culinary traditions, that they may transmit
them from generation to generation; we shall all live together, and we
shall enjoy in turn the practice and philosophy of gluttony, my lord
canon."

"Doctor, I set my foot upon the very threshold of paradise!" cried the
canon. "Ah, Providence is merciful, it loads a poor sinner like myself
with blessings!"

"Heresy! blasphemy! impiety!" cried Abbé Ledoux. "You will be damned,
thrice damned, as will be your tempter!"

"Come now, dear abbé," replied the doctor, "none of your tricks. Confess
at once that I have convinced you by my reasoning."

"I! I am convinced!"

"Certainly, because I defy you--you and all like you, past, present, or
future--to get out of this dilemma."

"Let us hear the dilemma."

"If gluttony is a monstrosity, then frugality pushed to the extreme
ought to be a virtue."

"Certainly," answered the abbé.

"Then, my dear abbé, the more frugal a man is, according to your theory,
the more deserving is he."

"Evidently, doctor."

"So the man who lives on uncooked roots, and drinks water only for the
purpose of self-mortification, would be the type and model of a virtuous
man."

"And who doubts it? You can find that celestial type among the
anchorites."

"Admirable types, indeed, abbé! Now, according to your ideas of making
proselytes, you ought to desire most earnestly that all mankind should
approach this type of ideal perfection as nearly as possible,--a man
inhabiting a cave and living on roots. The beautiful ideal of your
religious society would then be a society of cave-dwellers and
root-eaters, administering rough discipline by way of pastime."

"Would to God it might be so!" sternly answered the abbé; "there would
be then as many righteous on the earth as there are men."

"In the first place that would deplete the census considerably, my dear
abbé, and afterward there would be the little inconvenience of
destroying with one blow all the various industries, the specimens of
which we have just been admiring. Without taking into account the
industry of weavers who make our cloth, silversmiths who emboss silver
plate, fabricators of porcelain and glass, painters, gilders, who
embellish our houses, upholsterers, etc., that is to say, society, in
approaching your ideal, would annihilate three-fourths of the most
flourishing industries, and, in other words, would return to a savage
state."

"Better work out your salvation in a savage state," persisted the
opinionated Abbé Ledoux, "than deserve eternal agony by abandoning
yourself to the pleasures of a corrupt civilisation."

"What sublime disinterestedness! But then, why leave so generously these
renunciations to others, these bitter, cruel privations, abandoning to
them your part of paradise, and modestly contenting yourself with easy
living here below, sleeping on eider-down, refreshing yourself with cool
drinks, and comforting your stomach with warm food? Come, let us talk
seriously, and confess that this is a veritable outrage, a veritable
blasphemy against the munificence of creation, not to enjoy the thousand
good things which she provides for the satisfaction of the creature."

"Pagans, materialists, philosophers!" exclaimed Abbé Ledoux, "who are
not able to admit what, in their infernal pride, they are not able to
comprehend!"

"Yes, _credo quia absurdum._ This axiom is as old as the world, my dear
abbé, but it does not prevent the world's progress to the overthrow of
your theories of privation and renunciation. Thank God, the world
continually seeks welfare! Believe me, it is not necessary to reduce
mankind to feeding on roots and drinking water; on the contrary, we
ought to work to the end that the largest possible number may live, at
least, upon good meats, good poultry, good fruit, good bread, and pure
wine. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has made man insatiable in demands
for his body, and in the aspirations of his intelligence, and, if we
think only of the wonderful things which man has made to gratify his
five senses, for which nature has provided so bountifully, we are struck
with admiration. We are then but obeying natural laws to labour with
enthusiasm for the comfort and well-being of others, by the consumption
and use of these provisions, and, as I told the canon, to do, each in
his own sphere, as much as possible; in short, to enjoy without remorse,
because--But the clock strikes six; come with me, my lord canon, and
write the letter which is to bring your charming niece here. I will take
a last look at my laboratory, where two of my best pupils have
undertaken duties which I have entrusted to them. The dear abbé will
await me in the parlour, for I intend to complete my programme and
prove to him, by economic facts, not only the excellence of gluttony,
but also of the other passions he calls the deadly sins."

"Very well, we will see how far you will push your sacrilegious
paradoxes," said Abbé Ledoux, imperturbably. "Besides, all monstrosities
are interesting to observe, but, doctor--doctor--three centuries ago,
what a magnificient auto da fé they would have made of you!"

"A bad roast, my dear abbé! It would not be worth much more than the
result of that hunt that you made in the glorious time of your
fanaticism against the Protestants in the mountains of Cévennes. Bad
game, abbé. Well, I shall be back soon, my dear guests," said the
doctor, taking his departure.

The canon having written to the mother superior of the convent, a man in
the confidence of Doctor Gasterini departed in a carriage to fetch
Senora Dolores Salcedo, and at the same time to inform Captain Horace
and his faithful Sans-Plume that they could come out of their
hiding-place.

A half-hour after the departure of this emissary, the canon, the abbé,
as well as the nieces and nephews of Doctor Gasterini, and several other
guests, met in the doctor's parlour.



CHAPTER XV.


Dolores and Horace soon arrived, within a short interval of each other,
at the house of Doctor Gasterini. We leave the reader to imagine the joy
of the two lovers and the expression of their tender gratitude to the
doctor and the canon. The profound pity of the canon, the consciousness
of assuring the happiness of his niece, were manifested by a hunger as
rapacious as that of a tiger, as he whispered, with a doleful voice, in
the doctor's ear:

"Alas, alas! will your other guests never come, doctor? Some people have
such frightful egotism!"

"My guests will not delay much longer, my dear canon; it is half-past
six, and at seven o'clock every one knows that I go to the table
relentlessly."

In fact the invited guests of the doctor were not long in assembling,
and a valet announced successively the following names:

"The Duke and Duchess of Senneterre-Maillefort!"

"Pride," whispered the doctor to the canon and abbé, who made a wry face
as he recalled the misadventure of his protégé, who pretended to the
hand of the rich heiress, Mlle. de Beaumesnil.

"How amiable you are, duchess, to have accepted my invitation!" said the
doctor to Herminie, whom he advanced to welcome, kissing her hand
respectfully. "If I must tell you, madame, I counted on you to decide on
this dear pride, that M. de Maillefort, M. de Senneterre, and I admire
so much in you."

"And how is that, my dear doctor?" said Gerald de Senneterre,
affectionately. "I well know that I owe the happiness of my life to my
wife's pride, but--"

"Our dear doctor is right," replied Herminie, smiling. "I am very proud
of the friendship he has for us, and I avail myself of every opportunity
to show him how much I appreciate his attachment, without even speaking
of the eternal gratitude we owe him for his devoted care of my son and
the daughter of Ernestine. I need not tell you, dear doctor, how much
she regrets not being here this evening, but her indisposition keeps her
at home, and dear Olivier and her uncle, M. de Maillefort, do not leave
the interesting invalid one minute."

"There is nothing like these old sailors, these old soldiers of Africa,
and these duellist marquises to make good nurses, without wishing to
depreciate the terrible Madame Barbançon," replied the doctor, gaily.
"Only, duchess, permit me to differ from you in the construction you
have placed on my words. I wished to say that your own tendency to pride
assured me beforehand that you will encourage in me that delightful sin,
in making me proud to have you in my house."

"And I, doctor," said Gerald de Senneterre, smiling, "I declare that you
encourage in us alarmingly the dainty sin of gluttony, because when one
has dined at your house, he becomes a gourmand for ever!"

The conversation of the doctor, Herminie, and Gerald, to which the canon
was giving close attention, was interrupted by the voice of the valet,
who announced:

"M. Yvon Cloarek!"

"Anger," whispered the doctor to the canon, advancing to meet the old
corsair, who, notwithstanding his great age, was still hale and
vigorous.

"Long live the railroads! for I come this instant from Havre, my old
comrade, to assist at the anniversary of your birthday," said Yvon,
cordially grasping the doctor's hands, "and to come here I have left
Sabine, Sabinon, and Sabinette,--names that the old centenarian,
Segoffin, my head artilleryman, has given to my granddaughter and
great-granddaughter, for I am a great-grandfather, you know."

"Zounds! old comrade, and I hope you will not stop at that!"

"And so my son-in-law, Onésime, whom you ushered into life thirty years
ago, charged me to remember him to you. And here I am!"

"Could you fail to be at our annual reunions, Yvon, my brave comrade, I
should have one of those magnificent attacks of anger which used to
possess you."

Then turning to the canon and the abbé, the doctor presented Yvon,
saying:

"This is Captain Cloarek, one of our oldest and most illustrious
corsairs, the famous hero of the brig _Hellhound_, which played
wonderful tricks at the end of the Empire."

"Ah, captain," said the canon, "in 1812 I was at Gibraltar, and I had
the honour of often hearing you and your ship cursed by the English."

"And do you know, my dear canon, to what admirable sin Captain Cloarek
owes his glory, and the services he rendered to France in the victorious
cruises he made against the English? I am going to tell you, and my old
friend will not contradict me. Glory, success, riches,--he owes all to
anger."

"To anger?" exclaimed the abbé.

"To anger!" said the canon.

"The truth is, gentlemen," modestly answered Cloarek, "that the little I
have done for my country I owe to my naturally tremendous anger."

"M. and Madame Michel," announced the valet.

"Indolence," said the doctor to the canon and the abbé, approaching
Florence and her husband,--Michel having married Madame de Lucenay after
the death of M. de Lucenay, victim of a balloon ascension he had
attempted from Mount Chimborazo, in company with Valentine.

"Ah, madame," said Doctor Gasterini, gallantly kissing the hand of
Florence, "how well I know your good-will when you tear yourself away
from your self-indulgent, sweet habits of idleness, to give me the
pleasure of having you at my house before your departure for your
beautiful retreat in Provence."

"Why, my good doctor," replied the young woman, smiling, "do you forget
that indolent people are capable of everything?"

"Even of making the incredible effort of coming to dine with one of
their best friends," added Michel, grasping the doctor's hand.

"And to think," replied Doctor Gasterini, "just to think that several
years ago I was consulted for the purpose of curing you of this dreadful
sin of indolence. Happily the limitations of science, and especially the
profound respect I feel for the gifts of the Creator, prevented my
attempt upon the ineffable supineness with which you are endowed."

And designating Abbé Ledoux by a glance of his eye, the doctor added:

"And, madame, Abbé Ledoux, whom I have the honour of presenting to you,
considers me, at this hour even, a pagan, a dreadful idolater. Be good
enough to rehabilitate me in his opinion, by informing this saintly man
that you and your husband have, in the midst of profound and invincible
idleness, exercised an activity without bounds, an inconceivable energy,
and a sagacity which have secured for both of you an honourable
independence."

"For the honour of indolence, respected abbé," replied Florence,
smiling, "I am obliged to do violence to my own modesty, as well as that
of my husband, by confessing that the dear doctor has spoken the truth."

"M. Richard!" announced the valet.

"Avarice," whispered the doctor to the canon and the abbé, while the
father of Louis Richard, the happy husband of Marietta, advanced to meet
him.

"Is this M. Richard?" said the abbé, in a low voice to Doctor Gasterini,
"the founder of those schools and houses of retreat established at
Chaillot, and so admirably organised?"

"It is he, himself," replied the doctor, extending his hand to the old
man, as he said, "Welcome, good Richard, the abbé was just speaking to
me of you."

"Of me, dear doctor?"

"Or, if you prefer it, of your wonderful endowments at Chaillot."

"Ah, doctor," said the old man, "you must render unto Cæsar the things
that are Cæsar's,--my son is the founder of those charitable
institutions."

"Let us see, my good Richard," replied the doctor, "if you had not been
as thorough a miser as your friend, Ramon, your worthy son would not
have been able to make your name blessed everywhere as he has done."

"As to that, doctor, it is the pure truth, and, too, I confess to you
that there is not a day I do not thank God, from this fact, for having
made me the most avaricious of men."

"And how is your son's friend, the Marquis of Saint-Hérem?"

"He came to visit us yesterday with his wife. His household is the very
pearl of establishments. He invited us to visit his castle just erected
in the valley of Chevreuse. They say that no palace in Paris equals it
in splendour. It seems that for three years fifteen hundred artisans
have been at work on it, without counting the terraces of the park,
which alone have employed the force of four villages, and, as the
marquis pays handsomely, you can conceive what comfort has been spread
abroad through the neighbourhoods around his castle."

"Well, then, my good Richard, you confess that, if the uncle of the
marquis had not had the same avarice which you possessed, this generous
fellow would not have been able to give work to so many families."

"That is true, my dear doctor, so, under the name of Saint-Ramon, as the
marquis has jestingly christened his uncle, the memory of this famous
miser is blessed by everybody."

"It is inconceivable, abbé," said the canon, "the doctor must be right.
I am confounded with what I hear and with what I see. We are actually
going to dine with the seven deadly sins."

"M. Henri David!" said the valet.

At this name the countenance of the doctor became grave; he walked up to
David, took both his hands with effusive tenderness, and said:

"Pardon me for having insisted upon your acceptance of this invitation,
my dear David, but I promised my excellent friend and pupil, Doctor
Dufour, who recommended you to me, to try to divert you during your
short sojourn in Paris."

"And I feel the need of these diversions, I assure you, sir. Down there
our life is so calm, so regular, that hours slip away unperceived; but
here, lost in the turmoil of this great city to which I have become a
stranger, I feel these paroxysms of painful sadness, and I thank you a
thousand times for having provided for me such an agreeable
distraction."

Henri David was talking thus to the doctor when seven o'clock sounded.

The canon uttered a profound sigh of satisfaction as he saw the steward
open the folding doors of the dining-room.



CONCLUSION.


At the moment the guests of the doctor were about to enter the
dining-room, the valet announced:

"Madame the Marquise de Miranda."

"Luxury," whispered the doctor to the abbé. "I feared she might fail
us."

Then offering his arm to Madeleine, more beautiful, more bewitching than
ever, the doctor said, as he conducted her to the dining-room:

"I had just begun to despair of the good fortune you had promised me,
madame. Listen to me, at my age the happiness of seeing you here again
you must know is inexpressible. Ah, if I were only fifty years younger!"

"I would take you for my cavalier, my dear doctor," said the marquise,
laughing extravagantly; "I think we have been friends, at the least
estimate, for fifty years."

We will not undertake to enumerate the wonders of the doctor's elegant
dining-room. We will limit ourselves to the menu of this dinner,--a menu
which each guest, thanks to a delicate forethought, found under his
napkin, between two dozen oysters, one from Ostend and the other from
Marennes. This menu was written on white vellum, and encased in a little
framework of carved silver leaves enamelled with green. Each guest thus
knew how to reserve his appetite for such dishes as he preferred. Let us
add only that the size of the table and the dining-room was such that,
instead of the narrow and inconvenient chairs which force you to eat, so
to speak, with the elbows close to the body, each guest, seated in a
large and comfortable chair, the feet on a soft carpet, had all the
latitude necessary for the evolutions of his knife and fork. Here is the
menu which the canon took with a hand trembling with emotion and read
religiously.

       *       *       *       *       *

                MENU FOR DINNER.

_Four Soups._--Soup à la Condé, rich crab soup with white meat of fowl,
soup with kouskoussou, consommé with toast.

_Four Relevés of Fish._--Head of sturgeon à la Godard, pieces of eel à
l'Italienne, salmon à la Chambord, turbot à la Hollandaise.

_Four By-plates._--Croquettes à la royale, morsels of baked lobster
tail, soft roe of carps à la Orly, little pies à la reine.

_Four Large Dishes._--Quarter of pickled wild boar, ragout of beef from
salt meadows, quarter of veal à la Monglas, roast beef from salt
meadows.

_Sixteen Entrées._--Scalloped roebuck à l'Espagnole, fillet of lamb à la
Toulouse, slices of duck with orange, sweetbreads with jelly, sweetmeats
of beccaficos à la d'Uxelle, meat pie à la Nesle, macaroni à la
Parisienne, hot ortolan pie, fillets of pullet from Mans, woodcocks with
choicest seasoning, quails on toast, rabbit cutlets à la maréchale, veal
liver with rice, partridge with black pudding à la Richelieu, foie gras
à la Provençal, fillet of plover à la Lyonnaise.

_Intermediate._--Punch à la Romaine.

_Birds._--Pheasants sauced and stuffed with truffles, fowl dressed with
slices of bacon, turkey stuffed with truffles from Périgord, grouse.

_Ten Side-dishes._--Cardoons with marrow, artichokes à la Napolitaine,
broiled mushrooms, Périgord truffles with champagne wine, white truffles
of Piedmont with olive oil, celery à la Française, lobster stewed with
Madeira wine, shrimps stewed with kari from the Indies, lettuce with
essence of ham, asparagus and peas.

_Two Large Confections._--Candy ship in rose-coloured cream, temple of
sugar candy with pistachios.

Chestnuts with frozen apricots, pineapple jelly with fruits, Bavarian
cheese frozen with raspberries, whipped cream with cherry jelly, French
cream with black coffee, preserved strawberries.

       *       *       *       *       *

After reading this menu, the canon, carried away with enthusiasm, and
forgetting, we must confess, all conventionalities, rose from his chair,
took his knife in one hand and his fork in the other, and, stretching
out his arm, said, in a solemn voice:

"Doctor, I swear I will eat it all!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And in fact the canon did eat all.

And still he had an appetite.

It is useless to say that the exquisite wines, whose delicious ambrosia
the canon had already tested, circulated in profusion.

At dessert, Doctor Gasterini rose, holding in his hand a little glass of
iced wine of Constance, and said:

"Ladies, I am going to offer an infernal toast,--a toast as diabolical
as if we were joyously banqueting among the damned in the lowest depth
of the dining-room in the kingdom of Satan."

"Oh, oh, dear, amiable doctor!" exclaimed all with one voice, "pray what
is this infernal toast?"

"To the seven deadly sins!" replied the doctor. "And now, ladies, permit
me to express to you the thought which this toast inspires in me. I
promised Abbé Ledoux, who has the honour of being seated by the Marquise
de Miranda,--I promised the abbé, I repeat, this man of mind, of
experience, and learning, but incredulous,--to prove to him by positive,
incontrovertible facts, the good that can be achieved in certain
instances, and in a certain measure by these tendencies, instincts, and
passions which we name the seven deadly sins. The whole problem is to
regulate them wisely, and to draw from them the best that is possible.
Now, as the Duchess of Senneterre-Maillefort, Madame Florence Michel,
and the Marquise de Miranda have for a long time honoured me with their
friendship,--as MM. Richard, Yvon Cloarek, and Henri David are my good
old friends, I hope that, for the triumph of sound ideas, my amiable
guests will have the grace to aid me in rehabilitating these capital
sins, that by their excess, owing to the absence of proper control, have
been absolutely condemned, and in converting this poor abbé to their
possible utility. He sins only through ignorance and obstinacy, it is
true, but he does not the less blaspheme these admirable means and
sources of energy, happiness, and wealth, which the inexhaustible
munificence of the Creator has bestowed upon his creatures. Now, as
nothing is more charming than a conversation at dessert, among men of
mind, I beg that, in the interest of our unfortunate brother, Abbé
Ledoux, the representatives of these various sins will tell us all that
they owe to them, both in their own careers and in the success of
others."

The proposition of Doctor Gasterini, unanimously welcomed, was carried
out with perfect grace and uninterrupted joyousness. Henri David, who
was the last but one to speak, interested the guests keenly in
recounting the prodigies of devotion and generosity that Envy had
inspired in Frederick Bastien, and even tears flowed at the account of
the death of that noble child and that of his angelic mother. Happily
the recital of Luxury concluded the dinner, and the lively marquise made
the whole company laugh, when speaking of her adventure with the
archduke, whose passion she did not share. She said that it was easier
to induce the Pope's legate to masquerade as a Hungarian hussar than to
make an Austrian archduke comprehend that man was born for liberty.
Moreover, the marquise announced that she contrived a plan of campaign
against the old Radetzki, and finally engaged in transforming him into a
coal merchant, and making him one of the chief instruments in the
liberation of Italy.

"But this snow, dear and beautiful marquise," said the doctor to her, in
a low voice, after this recital, "this armour of ice, which renders you
apparently disdainful to those whom you inflame, is it never melted by
so many fires?"

"No, no, my good doctor," replied the marquise, softly, with a
melancholy smile; "the memory of my blond archangel, my ideal and only
love, keeps the depths of my heart pure and fresh, like a flower under
the snow."

"And I had remorse!" cried the canon, in a transport of delight over his
easy digestion. "I was miscreant enough to feel remorse for the
indulgence of my appetite."

"Instead of remorse, an excellent dinner gives, on the contrary, even to
the most selfish hearts, a singular inclination to charity," replied the
doctor, "and if I did not fear I should be anathematised by our critical
and dear Abbé Ledoux, I would add that, from the point of view of
charity,--from that standpoint, gluttony would have the happiest
results."

"Go on," replied the abbé, shrugging his shoulders, as he sipped a
little glass of exquisite cream, flavoured with cinnamon of Madame
Amphoux, 1788. "You have already uttered so many absurdities, dear
doctor, that one more or less--"

"It depends not on chimeras, utopian schemes, but upon facts, palpable,
practical, to-day and to-morrow," interrupted the doctor, "facts which
can pour every day considerable sums in the coffers of the benevolent
enterprises of Paris! Is that an absurdity?"

"Speak, dear doctor," said the guests, unanimously; "speak! We are all
listening to you."

"This is what happened," replied the doctor; "and I regret that the
thought did not occur to me sooner. Three days ago I was walking on one
of the boulevards, about six o'clock in the evening. Surprised by a
heavy shower, I took refuge in a café, one of the most fashionable
restaurants in Paris. I never dine anywhere else than at home, but to
keep myself in countenance, and satisfy my desire for observation, I
ordered a few dishes which I did not touch, and, while I was waiting for
the rain to stop, I amused myself by observing the persons who were
dining. There could be a book, and a curious book, too, written upon the
different shades of manner, character, and social and other conditions
of people who reveal themselves unconsciously at the solemn hour of
dinner. But that is not the question. I made this observation only, that
each man, as he seated himself at the table, with an air indifferent,
anxious, cheerful, or morose, as the case might be, seemed, in
proportion as he dined upon excellent dishes, to yield to a sort of
beatitude and inward happiness, which was reflected upon his
countenance, that faithful mirror of the soul. As I was seated near one
of the windows, I followed with my eye each one as he left the café.
Outside the door stood a pale, ragged child, shivering under the cold
autumn rain. Ah, well, my friends,--I say it to the praise of
gourmands,--almost every one of those who had dined the best gave alms
to the poor little hungry, trembling creature. Now, without speaking ill
of my neighbour, I ask, would these same persons, fasting, have been as
charitable? And I venture to affirm that the little beggar would have
met with a harsh denial if he had asked them when they entered the café,
instead of waiting until they came out."

"Is this pagan going to tell us that charity owes its birth to
gluttony?" cried Abbé Ledoux.

"To reply successfully, dear abbé, it would be necessary for me to enter
into a physiological discussion upon the subject of the influence of the
physical on the moral," said the doctor. "I will tell you one simple
thing. You have boxes for the poor at the doors of your churches. No one
more than myself respects the charity of those faithful souls who put
their rich or modest offering in these sacred places; but why not place
alms-boxes in fashionable cafés, where the rich and the happy go to
satisfy their refined tastes? Why not, I say, place your poor-boxes in
some conspicuous spot, with the simple inscription, 'For the hungry?'"

"The doctor is right!" shouted the guests. "It is an excellent idea;
every great establishment would show large receipts every day."

"And the little establishments also," replied the doctor. "Ah, believe
me, my friends, he who has made a modest repast, as well as the opulent
diner, feels that compassion which is born of a satisfied want or
pleasure, when he thinks of those who are deprived of the satisfaction
of this want or this pleasure. Now, then, let me resume: If all the
proprietors of these restaurants and cafés would follow my counsel,
having an understanding with the members of benevolent enterprises, and
would place in some conspicuous spot their poor-boxes, with the words,
or others equivalent, 'For the hungry,' I am convinced, whether from
charity, pride, or respect for humanity, you would see alms rain down in
them to overflowing. For the most selfish man, who has spent a louis or
more for his dinner, feels, in spite of himself, a painful sense of
benefits, a sort of bitter after-taste, at the sight of those who
suffer. A generous alms absolves him in his own eyes, and from a
hygienic point of view, dear canon, this little act of charity would
give him a most happy digestion."

"Doctor, I confess myself vanquished!" cried Abbé Ledoux. "I drink, if
not to the seven deadly sins in general, at least, in particular to
gluttony."

THE END.





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