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Title: The Bath Keepers, v.2 (Novels of Paul de Kock Volume VII)
Author: Kock, Charles Paul de, 1794-1871
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bath Keepers, v.2 (Novels of Paul de Kock Volume VII)" ***

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



[Illustration: _LEODGARD CALLED TO ACCOUNT_

_Landry uttered a sort of hollow growl which presaged a storm on the
point of bursting. Bathilde hid her face in her hands, and Ambroisine
squeezed her father's arm._]



NOVELS

BY

PAUL DE KOCK

VOLUME VIII

THE BATH KEEPERS;

OR,

PARIS IN THOSE DAYS

VOL. II

[Illustration: PRINTED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH GEORGE BARRIE'S SONS]

THE JEFFERSON PRESS

BOSTON NEW YORK

Copyrighted, 1903-1904, by G. B. & Sons.



THE BATH KEEPERS;

OR,

PARIS IN THOSE DAYS

[CONTINUED]



XXIX

AN UNFORTUNATE GIRL


The storm which Plumard feared for the next day burst that same evening,
very shortly after the solicitor's clerk delivered the plume. At the
bath keeper's house on Rue Saint-Jacques, Ambroisine was alone,
listening to the roar of the thunder and the rain as she awaited her
father's return.

Master Hugonnet had gone to visit his neighbor the keeper of the wine
shop; but he had prolonged his stay there beyond his usual hour, and his
daughter was beginning to be anxious, when she heard at last a knock at
the street door; by the sound of the knocker, she recognized her
father's hand, which was more or less heavy according as his libations
had been more or less frequent during the evening.

This time, Ambroisine knew by the sound that her father was drunk.

She made haste to open the door. Master Hugonnet was leaning on the arm
of the keeper of the wine shop, his neighbor, who had deemed it prudent
to escort his customer to his home.

While the bath keeper stumbled into the house, urging his neighbor to
come in, the latter said in Ambroisine's ear:

"Your father has thrashed, beaten, half killed a little solicitor's
clerk, who was regaling himself at my place. He is a regular hothead
when he is sober; but now he's a perfect lamb; and he embraced his
victim! He ought to be drunk all the time, mademoiselle, for he is much
more agreeable in company then."

The cabaretier took his leave, and Ambroisine returned to her father,
who had seated himself at a table and was striking it with his hand,
crying:

"Ambroisine, give us some wine and goblets; our neighbor is going to
take a glass with me.--Well! where is our neighbor?"

"He has gone back, father; for it is very late. It is time for everyone
to be getting to bed, and you will do well to go; you are not thirsty
now--you have drunk enough."

Hugonnet seemed not to have heard his daughter; he passed his hand over
his eyes, sighed profoundly, and stammered:

"Poor little solicitor--for I think he was a solicitor--the idea of
beating him like that! A boy no taller than my cane! It's a shame! it's
disgusting! there are people who abuse their strength over feeble
creatures!"

"But, father, I understand that it was you who beat this little clerk!
What had he done to you, pray? for you certainly don't pick quarrels
with people without some reason!"

"I! it is impossible! He is my friend, that little dwarf; I would like
to embrace him. Poor boy! he wanted pomade; I told him I hadn't any. He
insisted on having some, and declared that a barber ought to make
pomade. Poor fellow!"

"And you beat him because he asked you for some pomade! A pretty subject
for a quarrel that!"

"I, beat him! Who says that?--He said to me: 'Do you know how to make
hair grow? give me a receipt. Do you think that by mixing soot with
horse droppings one would obtain a good result?'--Ha! ha! stupid
nonsense that!--Where's our neighbor?"

"I tell you again that he has gone home to bed, father, and that you
would do well to do the same, instead of staying in this room."

"Poor little solicitor! Mon Dieu! such a little fellow!--Think of
beating a mere piece of a man! It's outrageous! And if I knew the
villain who did it!--To be sure, you can't make pomade with horse
droppings and soot--nonsense! It's making fun of a barber to ask him
such questions!--The idea of putting pomade made like that on your
customers' heads! Never! What do you take me for?--Embrace me! Someone
has made a bump on your forehead, let me shed tears on it."

"For heaven's sake, father, go to your room! Listen; the thunder is very
loud! Everybody in the house has gone to bed, and I would like to do the
same. You will be much more comfortable in bed."

"Isn't our neighbor coming back?"

"In such weather as this, when the rain is falling in torrents! when the
sky is so black!--Ah! what a flash! it is frightful!--Who on earth do
you suppose would go out in such horrible weather?--If my deadliest
enemy were in my house, I would not turn him out of doors!"

At that moment, someone knocked at the barber's door. Ambroisine was
thunderstruck, and Master Hugonnet hiccoughed:

"There--you hear--someone knocked; it's our neighbor come back."

"Oh, no! it is impossible," said Ambroisine; "it cannot be he. We must
have been mistaken; it was the roar of the storm that we heard."

Two more blows, struck with a feeble hand, but very near together,
removed all doubt from the girl's mind. She shuddered, unable to assign
a cause for her emotion; but she hastily seized a lamp and darted into
the hall that led to the street door, exclaiming:

"Somebody out of doors in this terrible storm! I must not keep him
waiting."

She drew the bolts and opened the heavy door. A woman stood before her,
pale, dishevelled, trembling, and with water dripping from all her
garments.

Ambroisine uttered a cry and stood for a moment without moving; she
could not believe her eyes, she was suffocated with emotion.

"Bathilde!" she whispered; "you--in this condition! No, no! it is
impossible!"

"Yes, it is I," replied a faint voice. "It is really Bathilde, driven
from her father's house, cursed by her father and mother, who comes to
you to beg for shelter! For I have no home, they have turned me out of
doors. If you spurn me, Ambroisine; if you too turn me away--then I
shall remain in the street; but it will soon be over!"

"I, turn you away! I, refuse you shelter, my friend, my sister!--Oh! mon
Dieu! I cannot speak!"

Tears choked Ambroisine, and deprived her of the use of her voice. But
she led Bathilde into the house. She embraced her, strained her to her
heart; she strove to warm her by her caresses; and the poor girl,
reanimated by such a welcome, tried to calm her sobs, saying:

"You do not turn me away--you still love me, do you not?--Ah! I am less
unhappy than I was!"

"Poor child! Come with me--we must dry you first of all, change your
clothes. You cannot stay like this. Ah! if my father should see you in
this state!"

"Your father! Perhaps he would not receive me in his house; for I am
very guilty, and if you knew----"

"Hush! you must not talk about that now.--Wait a moment; I have an idea
that he is asleep; I will just go to make sure."

Ambroisine returned to the room where she had left her father. Master
Hugonnet was sound asleep, with his head resting on the table.

"Come to my room," said Ambroisine, returning to Bathilde and taking her
hand; "father is asleep, and I did not wake him."

Having reached the bedroom, the two girls threw themselves into each
other's arms once more, Bathilde finding relief in weeping on her
friend's breast, and Ambroisine already trying to devise a method of
diminishing her companion's distress in some measure.

Ambroisine first disengaged herself from that loving embrace, saying:

"Mon Dieu! I forget that you are all wet, drenched! Take off all your
clothes in the first place, and get into my bed; I will cover you up
carefully, and you will get warm sooner."

"And you, Ambroisine?"

"I? oh! I will lie beside you; the bed is wide enough for us two. But
first--here is some wine; you must drink some to put your blood in
circulation.--Poor sister! you were out of doors in this storm!"

"Oh! it had begun when my mother drove me from the house, despite my
prayers and supplications. I knelt to her; she pushed me away. I threw
myself at her feet--she was inexorable!"

"Don't tell me that.--O my God! I do not know if Thou wilt ever grant me
the happiness of being a mother; but if I do have children some day, I
swear to Thee, O my God, that, whatever fault they may have committed,
whatever their crimes, I will never curse them, I will never close my
arms to them!"

Bathilde had fallen on her knees; she clasped her hands, held them up
toward heaven, and her tears flowed freely as she faltered:

"Forgive me, mother! forgive me, father, for the sin of which I am
guilty! Ah! I am well punished! And when you drove me from your house, I
would have killed myself, if that would not have been a greater
crime.--Indeed, I had no right to take that step, for I too am a mother,
and I will love my child so dearly!"

"A mother! you, a mother!" cried Ambroisine, running to Bathilde and
pressing her to her heart again. "But your mother cannot have known that
when she turned you out of her house in this frightful storm!"

"Yes, she knew it; I had just confessed everything to her--told her that
I bore within me the fruit of my sin. That is why she turned me out and
cursed me!"

"Come, my poor girl, calm yourself a little; try not to grieve so.
Remember that now you are not alone in your suffering, that I will
assume half of your troubles, and that I will not rest until I have
relieved them; for something tells me that I am in a measure the cause
of what has happened to you."

In a few moments Bathilde was undressed and lying in Ambroisine's bed.
Her friend begged her to try to sleep, but Bathilde shook her head.

"To sleep would be utterly impossible for me at this moment," she
murmured. "If you are willing, I would prefer to tell you everything;
but you are tired, you need rest, do you not?"

"No, I am too excited. I had too violent a shock when I saw you in the
street just now. I feel that I cannot sleep, either; and I prefer to
listen to you. Tell me everything. But wait; I will sit here by the bed,
close beside you--there; now, go on."

"The man whom I love, Ambroisine--do I need to tell you his name?"

"Oh, no! it is Comte Léodgard. I have had a sort of presentiment of it
ever since that evening, at the Fire of Saint-Jean. Mon Dieu! how I
regret that I ever had the unfortunate idea of taking you there with
me!"

"Do not reproach yourself, Ambroisine; was it your fault that the count
found me--to his liking; and that I could not help feeling the most
tender affection for him? You did all that you could do to keep me from
loving him. You advised me like a mother. But the wound was
inflicted--my heart had already ceased to be mine. It was no longer
possible for me to shield myself against that love, which was stronger
than my reason.--Ah! if you knew how sweet it is to love! Look you, even
at this moment, when I am so miserably unhappy, I do not curse my
troubles when I remember that it is for Léodgard that I am subjected to
them!"

"And to think that I believed you to be cured of that love! Because for
a long time you had not mentioned the letter that the count wrote you;
you never asked me for it!"

"What need had I of the letter, when I could see every day the man who
wrote it?--How shall I tell you, Ambroisine? My mother was away; all day
long I could see him from the windows looking on the street. At night I
was imprudent enough to go there still and look. And one night--I don't
know how he did it--I found him there, before me, then at my feet,
swearing that he would always love me; and I had not the courage to send
him away."

"The harm is done and cannot be undone. Well?"

"Two months passed--oh, so quickly! My mother was still absent, and I
saw Léodgard almost every night. How many times during those two months,
when you came to see me, I was tempted to make you the confidante of my
love and my sin! It was painful to me to have a secret from you, but he
had enjoined upon me the strictest secrecy, he had made me promise that
I would tell you nothing, and I did not want to disobey him.--At last,
about a month ago, I learned that my mother was coming home. My blood
ran cold with fear, and I begged Léodgard to delay no longer asking my
parents for my hand. He promised to do it; but I have not seen him
since that day! It is true that I ceased to be free of my movements in
the house. My mother had returned; she watched me, kept me in sight, as
before. For the last two days it seemed to me that she was harsher than
ever with me; her face was dark; when her eyes met mine, I could not
sustain them; I felt that I turned pale and trembled. More than once I
was on the point of falling at her feet and confessing all. But I
waited, I still hoped. I said to myself: 'To-day, perhaps, he who made
me a guilty woman will come to ask my parents for my hand. And as the
reparation will follow the confession of my sin, they will not refuse to
forgive us.'"

"Yes," said Ambroisine, with a sigh; "but your seducer did not keep his
promise!"

"Oh! he will keep it, Ambroisine; I refuse to doubt it. If he had known,
if I had dared to tell him, that I was a mother, I am sure that he would
have come before this to dry my tears! But I had not dared to make that
confession to him before my mother's return parted us so abruptly."

"Ah! he does not know---- But finish your story, I beg you!"

"Mon Dieu! I have nothing left to tell but what took place at our house
this evening. I was working with my mother, in a room away from the
street. We were perfectly silent; but from time to time I saw that my
mother's eyes were fixed on my person. I trembled lest she should
discover what I still tried to conceal. But suddenly my father entered
the room; and he, usually so kind and gentle, also had a lowering,
troubled expression. He came to me and held out a white plume, which I
recognized as one I had seen on Léodgard's hat.

"'Here,' he said, 'here is something that a lover of yours sends you!
But the fellow will not be tempted to try it again, I fancy; for I
treated him in a way to take away any such desire.'

"I was pale and speechless, for it seemed to me that nobody but Léodgard
could have brought that plume.

"But my mother instantly cried:

"'A lover! so it's true that she has a lover, is it? My suspicions are
well founded!--Ah! you wretched, shameless girl!'

"I fell on my knees, stammering: 'Pardon! pardon! yes, I am guilty; but
he will marry me! he has sworn it, and he will keep his oath!'

"When they heard an avowal which doubtless they were far from expecting,
my father hid his face in his hands. But my mother--oh! her wrath was
terrible! She strode toward me to strike me, but I think that my father
caught her arm. She heaped insults upon me, and questioned me. I was so
terrified that I could not speak.

"'But,' she cried, 'that villain--her seducer--who is he? Did you see
him, Landry?'

"'I don't understand it,' said my father; 'it was a wretched little
solicitor's clerk--horribly ugly and a perfect idiot--who ran away when
I thrashed him!'

"I knew then, of course, that Léodgard had not brought the white plume,
and I faltered:

"'It is not he, father; no, I don't know the man you saw.'

"'But, in that case, who is your seducer? Tell me his name--his name,
instantly, that I may go and wash away in his blood the affront put upon
my honor!'

"My father's eyes were threatening; he meant to kill my lover; so I
refused to name him.

"'Very well!' said my mother; 'go and join the man for whom you have
forgotten your duty; the man who has brought shame into our house;
go--you can live with us no longer; you are no longer worthy to live
under our roof; we turn you out. Begone!'

"In the hope of moving her, I told her then that I bore within me a
helpless creature, innocent of my sin! But, far from appeasing her
anger, it seemed to redouble when she heard that. She called me a----
But what need is there for me to tell you more? You saw me in the
street, when the storm, increasing in violence to crush me, seemed to
say to me that the wrath of God had joined forces with my mother's to
punish the girl who had forfeited her honor, who had brought a blush to
her father's brow!"

Bathilde's eyes filled with fresh tears as she finished her story.

Ambroisine allowed her grief to vent itself; there are times when words
of consolation buzz in our ears without reaching the heart.

At last Bathilde took her friend's hand and pressed it, saying:

"Forgive me for causing you so much distress. But your father--if he
learns that you have taken in the child whom her parents have cursed,
perhaps he too will turn me out of doors. I will remain hidden in your
chamber, Ambroisine; I will not stir from it. You will not tell your
father that I am here; for where should I go, if he too should turn me
away?--With no roof to shelter me, I should die of grief and want. And I
do not want to die, because there is a little being to whom I must give
life."

"Calm your fears, my poor darling! I shall tell my father all, for I
should not like to have any secrets from him; but I am not at all
alarmed; he is soft-hearted, is my father; although he shouts and
storms, he has a kind heart; and, far from blaming me for taking you in,
he will approve of it, he will say that I did quite right; and then he
will go to see your parents and plead for you; for it is not possible
that they do not regret having turned you away."

"You do not know my mother, Ambroisine; she never recedes from her
resolutions; and my father is so exacting with respect to honor! he had
such perfect confidence in his daughter! Believe me, your father would
take an absolutely useless step; but there is someone whom I would like
much to see; someone whom I must inform of my condition, my present
plight; for then he will be able--at least, I hope so--to allay the
anger of my parents by telling them that he means to repair his
wrongdoing--and to console me a little for all my suffering by telling
me that he still loves me. That someone--you know who it is, do you not,
Ambroisine? Well, you can easily find his home--the Hôtel de Marvejols
is on Place Royale.--You are so kind, Ambroisine, that I know that you
will go to see him, and tell him all that has happened, and give him a
letter which I will write to him, begging him to put an end to our
misery, and telling him also that--that there is another person to whom
he owes aid and protection.--You will see Léodgard, will you not?--Ah!
if he knew that I had been cursed by my mother, he would have come here
ere this to comfort me."

"I will do whatever you wish, my poor love!" Ambroisine replied, forcing
back a sigh. "But, sleep a little, take a little rest; remember that you
need it, and that you must be careful of your health."

Bathilde made no reply, but closed her eyes. Fatigue brings sleep at
last, as time always brings forgetfulness. Which proves that in us
mortals the mind is always vanquished by the body.



XXX

GOOD FRIENDS


On waking the next morning, Master Hugonnet remembered nothing of his
debauch except his dispute with the little clerk, with whom he was now
furiously angry. As he arranged his shop, he cried:

"Can anyone imagine such a sly, impertinent knave! To propose to me to
make pomade for him out of vile things, and to ask me if it would make
hair grow!--He had a very cunning leer as he said that, the horrible
dwarf!--Just imagine, my girl, a little man with a nose so turned up
that you can see nothing but two holes in his face; and making sport of
me for all that, because he had a few crowns in his pocket, won in
gambling hells, no doubt. If I find him again, I'll give him another
good thrashing! I don't propose to have the Basoche insult bath
keepers!"

Ambroisine let her father give vent to his bile. Then she approached him
and smiled.

"Father," she said, "you didn't talk like that last night when you came
home from the wine shop! Then you adored this little dwarf; you shed
tears of regret because someone had beaten him."

"Really! I must have been drunk then?"

"Why, yes! rather."

"I must cure myself of that failing."

"Oh! father, a single failing may be excused in one who has so many good
qualities; the world is not perfect."

"You spoil me, my child; but as for you, I know of none but good
qualities, not a single fault!"

"Do you remember, father, that someone knocked last night, near
midnight, during the storm?"

"No, I don't remember."

"But you do remember at least the horrible storm, that lasted almost all
night?"

"Very vaguely; why?"

"If someone had come to ask me for hospitality in that weather, should I
have done wrong to grant it?"

"It is never wrong to do a good deed, even though it fall upon
ingrates."

"Well, father, someone came--all drenched and shivering; that person was
very unhappy--with no place to go for shelter. And so I took her in and
gave her a night's lodging; she passed the night in this house, and is
here still."

"She is here--where, pray?"

"In my room."

"In your room!"

And Master Hugonnet's brows began to contract, but Ambroisine hastened
to add:

"That person, father, is Bathilde, the daughter of your friend Landry."

"Landry's daughter here! and she passed the night here, you say? What on
earth has happened at her father's house? What's the trouble?"

"Oh! father, some very terrible things have happened in your friend's
house."

"Tell me all about it, my child."

Ambroisine, with downcast eyes, told the story of Bathilde's liaison
with the young Comte de Marvejols, of Dame Ragonde's return, and of the
terrible catastrophe which had followed the discovery of that mystery.

Hugonnet listened, his face betraying the interest he took in the story;
at times he clenched his fists, his features contracted, his eyes blazed
with anger; but at the last, when Ambroisine described the condition in
which she had found Bathilde in the street, at midnight, when the rain
was falling in torrents and the thunder roaring almost incessantly, then
Master Hugonnet could no longer resist his emotion; tears dimmed his
eyes, and he could not help muttering:

"Ah! that was too much! they were too harsh! they were without pity in
their anger!--Why, the poor girl might have died!"

"Yes, indeed! a little later, and I should have found her dead!" cried
Ambroisine, putting her arm about her father's neck. "Ah! you would not
be the man to drive your daughter away like that, without pity, without
mercy--to turn her out of doors, where she would be exposed to the fury
of such a storm! No, no! no matter how guilty I might be, you would not
treat me so, father! you love your girl too dearly!"

Hugonnet had not the strength to reply; he could do no more than wipe
his eyes and kiss his daughter.

"I have told you all, father," Ambroisine continued; "I have even told
you the name of Bathilde's seducer; but I implore you to keep the
secret; for if Master Landry should discover it, he would fight with the
count; and if either of them should be killed, the poor girl would be
still more to be pitied."

"Very good, I will hold my tongue! but this seducer must be punished!
Let me undertake that duty."

"No, father, no; you must not interfere in this business at all. I beg
you not to. I propose to see Comte Léodgard. Bathilde believes that he
still loves her, she is convinced that he will repair his wrongdoing,
that he will restore her honor by marrying her."

"He! Comte Léodgard! that scapegrace, marry Landry's daughter! the
daughter of a bath keeper!--Do not hope for that! He will never marry
Bathilde, never!"

"Oh! father, if she should hear you, think of her despair!--Well, I
shall take no rest until the count has undone the wrong he has done her;
nothing will stop me, nothing deter me from attaining that end! You see,
I am strong and determined, father; I resemble you--I am brave. Let me
act, I beg you; let me see the count myself, and take whatever steps
are necessary to make Bathilde happy once more!--I do not know whether
it is simply my longing for success, but something tells me that I shall
succeed."

Hugonnet pressed Ambroisine's hand.

"Do as you think best; you are a good girl, and I have confidence in
you."

"Oh! thanks, father! And now, won't you come with me and say a word of
consolation to poor Bathilde, who will not stir from my room and dares
not show herself to you?--Come, father, and see her, I beg you; if you
do not, she will think that you are angry because I made her welcome;
that will add to her grief, and she has quite enough now."

Hugonnet allowed his daughter to take his hand and lead him to her room,
where she softly opened the door.

At sight of Ambroisine's father, Bathilde fell on her knees and hid her
face in her hands. But when Hugonnet's eyes fell on the poor girl, whose
sufferings had already made inroads on her beauty, he forgot her fault
and remembered only her misfortune.

He ran to her, lifted her up, and kissed her, saying:

"I am not your judge, I am your friend, as I used to be your father's.
Would you like me to go to see him, and entreat him to be kind to his
daughter?"

"Oh! you are too kind, monsieur. But I am afraid that you would do no
good; perhaps, indeed, the anger of my parents would be redoubled if
they should learn that you know of my wrongdoing."

"But suppose that I should go to see Landry and pretend to know nothing
about it?"

"That would be better, father," said Ambroisine; "you can see how they
receive you, and whether they mention their daughter."

"They will not mention her!" said Bathilde, sadly shaking her head.
"When they turned me out of the house, they said to me: 'Never show your
face here again; we shall not recognize you, for hereafter we have no
daughter!'--So, you see, they will not mention me."

"Courage, my child, courage! It is impossible that their anger will not
die away finally. Meanwhile, this house is yours, my daughter will be
your sister, and I will try to replace those who have withdrawn their
affection from you."

Bathilde kissed Hugonnet's hands; and Ambroisine threw her arms about
her father's neck, crying:

"Ah! if I didn't love you already with all my heart, I believe that I
should love you more than ever at this moment!"

Left alone with Ambroisine, Bathilde, who had but one thought, one hope,
hastily scribbled this note to Léodgard:

"My parents have found out everything, and they have turned me out of
their house. Ambroisine has taken me in; she is like a sister to me. But
without you, Léodgard, I cannot hope for pardon. I must tell you what I
dared not tell you before, something that makes me glad and miserable at
once: I am a mother! Oh! my dear, remember your oaths, and come, come
quickly, to give your child a father."

       *       *       *       *       *

She handed her letter to her friend and said:

"It's on Place Royale; you will find the place, won't you?"

"Never fear," Ambroisine replied, placing the paper in her bosom. "Place
Royale is not very hard to find; I passed through it not so long ago, on
my way home from Vincennes, where I had been to see my godmother; she
gave me a message for somebody who lives on Place Royale.--Ah! I shall
never forget that day; for on the road that I took---- But, great
heaven! here I am telling you things that don't interest you; and I read
in your eyes that you wish that I had started before this with your
letter. That is natural enough, since what you have written is sure to
interest the count so deeply.--Come, be calm, I am going--I am going at
once!"

"Dear Ambroisine! what torment, what trouble I cause you!"

"Will you be kind enough not to say that? I tell you once more that your
not being in your father's house now is my fault. If it had not been for
that infernal idea of mine of taking you to see the Fire of Saint-Jean,
you would still be on Rue Dauphine, working by your mother's side. As I
am the prime cause of the trouble, the least that I can do is to try to
repair it."

Ambroisine left the house, walked very fast, did not stop on the way,
and reached Place Royale in less than half an hour. She asked at a shop
where the Hôtel de Marvejols was; it was pointed out to her, and in a
moment the girl saw the heavy gate leading into the courtyard swing open
before her.

"What do you want?" cried the concierge, in a rough voice, and without
leaving the large armchair in which he sat at the back of his lodge.

"I would like to speak to Monsieur le Comte Léodgard de Marvejols."

"He is not in."

"Will you have the kindness to tell me at what hour I can find him?"

"Never!"

"What! never?"

"No; monsieur le comte no longer lives here, he doesn't sleep in
monsieur le marquis his father's house, and he never comes here; so, you
see, you will never find him here."

"Then, monsieur le concierge, will you kindly tell me where monsieur le
comte lives now, and I will go there."

"I don't know where monsieur le comte lives; besides, it is none of my
business to give his address!"

"But, monsieur, I must speak with monsieur le comte; it is absolutely
necessary!"

"That is none of my business."

And the concierge closed the door of his lodge with a most unamiable
air.

Ambroisine remained in the courtyard, in despair at the unsuccess of the
step she had taken, and unable to make up her mind to go away. At that
moment old Hector, the marquis's valet, came from a porch at the rear
and crossed the courtyard. He saw Ambroisine, and as beauty always
exerts a charm, even over old men, he approached the comely girl and
said, observing her distressed look:

"What is the matter, my pretty maid? Do you wish something here?"

"Yes, monsieur; I hoped to find someone, and I am told that he is no
longer here."

"Whom do you seek, my child?"

"I desire to see the young gentleman of the house, monsieur--Comte
Léodgard."

"My master's son!" rejoined old Hector, with a profound sigh. "Ah! this
is no longer the place to look for him; Monsieur le Comte de Marvejols
is no longer to be found under his father's roof. Nearly a month ago he
ceased entirely to come to the house; and monsieur le marquis, although
he tries not to show it, is deeply grieved, I can see."

"But, monsieur, if monsieur le comte no longer lives here, he must live
somewhere, unless--mon Dieu!--unless he has left Paris--France?"

"No, no, my child, don't be alarmed!" replied the old servant,
compressing his lips with an expression in which there was a faint
suggestion of cunning; "monsieur le marquis's son has not left Paris.
Oh! he leads too merry a life here to have any idea of going away!--And
are you so very anxious to see him, my pretty maid?"

"Yes, monsieur, it is so important! A certain person's repose, her
happiness, is at stake. I have a letter to give to Monsieur Léodgard;
and your concierge will not tell me where I can find him."

"But I do not believe that he knows. Since monsieur le comte ceased to
live with his father, monsieur le marquis never speaks of his son, and
he will never hear his name mentioned. But I, who, without making any
pretence, know what goes on in my master's heart, have made inquiries
without saying anything to him about it; I talked with the valet of one
of Monsieur Léodgard's friends, and I learned from him that monsieur le
comte occupies a very pretty, elegant house a long way from here--in Rue
de Bretonvilliers. It is close by Ile Saint-Louis--a new street recently
laid out, in a very deserted quarter. But it seems that that does not
prevent monsieur le comte from enjoying himself immensely in his new
abode, where he gives fêtes, or rather orgies! for our young gentlemen
do not know how to amuse themselves in any other way. Probably fortune,
which used to treat Monsieur Léodgard so ill, has ceased to be adverse
to him. Well, well! card playing has its chances; there are times when
luck favors you as much as it has been against you. If monsieur le comte
is lucky now, so much the better; for his father would never pay his
debts again.--But I stand chattering here, and my master may need my
services."

"Rue de Bretonvilliers, you said? Thanks, thanks, monsieur!"

"I don't know the number, but there are very few houses on that street
as yet, and it will be easy for you to find it."

"Oh! yes, monsieur, yes, I will find it; thanks for your kindness."

"Go, my child; I hope that you will not make a useless journey!"

Ambroisine left the Hôtel de Marvejols and started off again; but she
reflected on what the old servant had just told her. If the young count,
since he had ceased to live with his father, led a more dissipated life
than ever, of course he had entirely forgotten poor Bathilde.

That thought weighed heavily on Ambroisine's heart; she had never had
any confidence in the oaths which the count had sworn to her friend; but
it shook neither her resolution nor her courage.

Rue de Bretonvilliers, begun in 1615, contained as yet very few houses;
the new buildings were, in many instances, separated by walls enclosing
gardens or unimproved land. The _belle baigneuse_ observed one house of
a refined but curious style of architecture, consisting of three wings,
two of which were on the street, while the third, which was much
smaller, was at the rear of an immense courtyard.

Something told Ambroisine that that was Léodgard's residence, and she
did not hesitate to knock there.

"Monsieur le Comte de Marvejols?" she inquired of an old woman whom she
saw in the courtyard. The old woman nodded, then took a trumpet from her
pocket and put it to her ear.

Ambroisine repeated her question, speaking very loud.

"Monsieur le comte is not in!" replied the deaf old concierge; "what do
you want of him?"

"I have a letter for him."

"Give it to me."

"But I would like an answer."

"You can come again."

"When must I come to find the count?"

"No one ever knows; he doesn't say."

"But you will hand him this letter to-day?"

"Yes, if I see him."

"Do you not see him every day?"

"No; he is at liberty not to come home!"

"What sort of a life is he leading?" thought Ambroisine.--"At all
events, you will give him this letter as soon as he returns?"

"Yes, if I see him."

"What! you do not see him when he returns?--you, the concierge?"

"Bless me! he has his own key; and he doesn't always knock."

"Well! try to see him as soon as possible!"

Ambroisine went home, far from satisfied with what she had learned.

Bathilde was impatiently awaiting her; she told her all that she had
done, all that the marquis's old valet had told her concerning the young
count. But Bathilde, far from being dismayed, was persuaded that her
lover had left his father's house only to be more free to offer a home
to his future wife.

"He will have my letter soon!" she cried, taking her friend's hand; "he
will know my plight, all that I have had to suffer for him; in a word,
he will know that I am a mother.--Ah! you will see, Ambroisine, that he
will come at once to comfort me."

Ambroisine made no reply; but she did not share her friend's hope.

Master Hugonnet came again in the evening to see the poor girl, and said
to her with a disappointed air:

"I went to Master Landry's to-day."

"You have seen my father!" cried Bathilde; "well?"

"He received me very coolly, very shortly, in fact; he answered only a
few curt words to what I said. His face was dark and careworn."

"Oh! my poor father! it is I who am the cause of his unhappiness!"

"But he did not say a word about you.--As for your mother, when she saw
me, she turned her back and disappeared; perhaps she was afraid that I
should read her grief in her eyes."

"Oh, no! monsieur, she was afraid that you would mention her daughter's
name."

And Bathilde turned away to weep, thinking how sad it was to be an
object of shame and misery to those whose existence it was her duty to
make glad.

Two days passed, and Bathilde received no news of Léodgard. Each hour,
each minute that went seemed a century to the poor girl, whose eyes
expressed the anxiety and suffering that were devouring her heart.

When the second day had gone, Ambroisine, realizing her friend's
tortures, said to her in the morning, after kissing her:

"While my father is busy with his customers, I will run to Rue de
Bretonvilliers."

"Oh, yes! do go, Ambroisine; it is not possible that Léodgard has
received my letter and has not taken the slightest step toward consoling
me. If he will simply come and tell me that he still loves me, that will
give me strength to endure my suffering. Either the concierge has not
seen him or she has forgotten to hand him my note."

"That is what I propose to find out."

"If he is at home, try to see him, to speak to him, to obtain an answer
from him, so that I may at least know what my child's fate will be!"

"I know all that I am to say to him."

"But do not reproach him. You know how impatient, how quick-tempered he
is! Avoid irritating him."

"I shall think of you, and, like you, I will be indulgent."

Ambroisine left the house. Bathilde hardly breathed all the time that
she was absent. At last her friend returned, but her face did not
announce cheerful news, and her voice trembled as she said to Bathilde:

"The concierge swore that she gave the letter to her master the day
before yesterday, before night; she knows nothing more."

"And you did not see him?"

"'Monsieur le comte is absent,'--that is what she told me.

"'But at what time must I return in order to see him?' I asked the
woman.

"'I don't know, myself; monsieur le comte goes in and out without saying
anything to me, and he won't even allow me to ask him if he will return
at night. "That does not concern you!" he told me once, and with such an
angry, threatening look, that I vowed I would never ask him another
question.'

"That, my poor girl, is what that woman told me."

"He received my letter two days ago!" murmured Bathilde, weeping; "and
he has not been here, he has sent me no answer!--Mon Dieu! can it be
that what you told me of Comte Léodgard is the truth? Was I simply one
of those victims to whom a man does not become attached, only a
caprice, only one seduction more?--Oh! if that is true, if I am no
longer loved by the man for whom I ruined myself, if he has abandoned me
forever--Ambroisine, I shall not have the courage to endure my misery!"

"Yes, you will have that courage," said Ambroisine; "heaven will give it
to you; indeed, you will derive it from your very situation. When you
think that you are a mother, you will remember what you owe your
child--that child whom you love already, although you do not know it
yet; but who will make you forget all your troubles, when its little
arms try to embrace you, when its mouth calls you by the sweet name of
mother, when the sounds of its voice reach your heart."

Bathilde wiped her tears away and looked up at her friend, saying:

"Oh! you are right! one cannot desire death when one is a mother.--I
will be brave; for my child's sake, I will try to think only of it."

"But do you think that you must abandon all hope?--No, indeed! I am not
easily rebuffed, I tell you! I did not find the count to-day; well, I
will go there ten times, a hundred times; and, if necessary, I will pass
whole days and nights in front of his house, until I am able to see him
and speak to him; and unless he goes in and out like a ghost, or has the
power to make himself invisible, I shall end by meeting him. Meanwhile,
I say again, patience and courage, and think of your child!"



XXXI

THE HOUSE IN RUE DE BRETONVILLIERS


The small hôtel, or rather _maison de plaisance_, occupied by the young
Comte de Marvejols, in Rue de Bretonvilliers, had been built by a
farmer-general, who had given his architect special instructions.

That wealthy functionary had purposely bought a lot of land in a quarter
distant from the centre of the city and almost deserted. When building
there a _petite maison_, where he could at his ease receive his
mistresses, entertain his friends, and give fêtes which generally
degenerated into orgies, our farmer-general, who nevertheless affected
to lead a more regular life than many of his confrères, had not
forgotten to arrange a means whereby he could always avoid scandal, and
even be able at need to deny his presence at his little house in Rue de
Bretonvilliers.

To that end, the architect had, in accordance with his instructions,
divided the house into three parts, or rather three wings; one, the
largest and most sumptuous, on the right of the courtyard, was the
general rendezvous of the guests; there they supped and gambled and
indulged in the most unbridled dissipation.

The left wing contained the kitchen, the offices, and the servants'
quarters.

Lastly, at the rear of the courtyard, was a smaller building, never
occupied except by the master of the house and those of his most
intimate friends whom he allowed to have access to it. It was rumored
that in that part of the house there were secret doors opening into
underground passages which had their issue in deserted lanes or in the
unimproved lands on the other side of Rue de Bretonvilliers, and that by
means of those secret exits the proprietor could, when he chose,
disappear from his house, and even deny his presence there, where it was
always impossible to take him unawares.

Despite all his precautions, our farmer-general was surprised one day by
someone whom it was impossible to avoid, and against whom it is
fruitless to resort to secret exits and secret doors: Death had struck
him down at the apogee of his prosperity, at the very moment when that
man, always fortunate theretofore, was cudgelling his brains to devise
some new desire to be gratified.

But Death often seizes his victims at such times; as an ancient
philosopher has told us: excess of good fortune is almost as much to be
dreaded as adversity.

The farmer-general left none but collateral relations, who had offered
the house in Rue de Bretonvilliers for sale. But time passed and no
purchaser appeared. The roués of those days preferred to have their
_petites maisons_ in the faubourgs, or in the country--altogether
outside the city. So it had been decided to offer the house for hire,
and there the Comte de Marvejols had taken up his abode when he ceased
to live in his father's house.

Within a few weeks, Léodgard's situation had totally changed. The young
noble whom we saw near the Pont-aux-Choux staking his cloak because he
no longer had a denier to stake now cut a brilliant figure; he had
repaid the sums that he owed his friends, and it was said that he had
squared accounts with the old usurer to whom he had had recourse so
often; his dress now was in the extreme of fashion, rich jewels gleamed
in his sword hilt and in the clasps of his ribbons; the courtesans to
whom he addressed his homage received sumptuous gifts from him and
praised his generosity incessantly; lastly, he often gave entertainments
to his friends and their mistresses, in his new residence, and at those
festivities nothing was lacking: the daintiest dishes, the most
exquisite wines, were supplied lavishly, in an apartment where the
brilliant glare of chandeliers and candles was reflected on all sides by
the lovely Venetian mirrors with which the walls were covered.

It was two o'clock in the morning.

The right wing of the _petite maison_ in Rue de Bretonvilliers was
brilliantly illuminated; from the courtyard one could hear the bursts of
laughter of the guests who were still in the banquet hall, seated, or
rather half reclining, like the Greeks, around a table laden with
flowers, decanters full and empty, and the débris of a supper, the
remnants of which would have made a royal feast for more than one
family.

In an adjoining room, the portières of which were drawn aside, were card
tables, surrounded by numerous lovers of games of chance. Some women
were among them, and seemed not the least eager in the pursuit of luck
and in contending against it.

Lastly, in the less brilliantly lighted rooms of the suite, away from
the intrepid gamblers and banqueters, divers couples were seated on
sofas, talking, if not of their love affairs, of their amorous
adventures. Some fair ones sought, by dint of eloquent glances, to
subdue hearts which had thus far resisted their charms, but which would
naturally be more submissive after a sumptuous supper, and in an
assemblage where pleasure was the only law that anyone chose to
recognize.

The Marquis de Sénange, the Sire de Beausseilly, and the Chevalier de
Monclair had remained undauntedly at table, talking and drinking, while
their friends played cards or made love to the ladies.

"Do you know, messieurs, that this little house is a most delicious
spot!" said Sénange, as he glanced about the banquet hall. "Nothing is
lacking here; everything is refined, convenient, and decorated with
perfect taste!"

"What I admire above all is the way in which the cellar is supplied.
Vertudieu! messieurs, judging from our entertainment, there must be a
profusion of everything here!"

"Just try, Monclair, not to get into such a state as on that night that
we lay on the grass near the Pont-aux-Choux! Do you remember?"

"Yes, indeed--about two months ago.--Give me some of that malaga,
Sénange.--Well, messeigneurs, just see what changes may take place in
two months! Do you remember poor Léodgard's destitute plight at that
time?"

"Pardieu! of course I remember it, as we played for his cloak, which I
won from him!--But he has paid me more than its value since!"

"Who would have told us then that a few weeks later this same Léodgard
would give us delicious suppers, in a charming house built for a
farmer-general; that he would display as much elegance and splendor as
his predecessor!"

"Mon Dieu! I see nothing so surprising in that! Fortune is capricious!
She treated Léodgard harshly, and now he is her favorite. Instead of
losing all the time at cards, he wins--that is the whole story!"

"Not to-night, however, for the charming Herminie has just won a hundred
rose crowns from him at lansquenet; she was sitting by me just now,
counting them."

"Give me some cyprus, my masters; it is my favorite wine, and this is
simply perfect."

"I' faith! if Léodgard is losing, he doesn't show it," said the fair
Camilla, a young courtesan with almond-shaped eyes, who had returned to
the banqueting room to take some sweetmeats from the table. "He is
throwing his gold and silver about to-night with the indifference of a
nabob. He is an accomplished cavalier now."

"It must be that his father, the old marquis, has decided to make a
sacrifice, to loosen his purse strings; for his winnings at the card
table could not have changed Léodgard's position so quickly."

"That is very probable; but when anyone questions him on the subject,
that devil of a Léodgard loses his temper; he says that it is nobody's
business."

"He is not fond of talking about his affairs; generally speaking, he is
not expansive."

"Oh! we must not say that before the fair Camilla! Surely she knows the
secrets of her most submissive adorer; a _cavalier servant_ has no
secrets from the lady of his thoughts.--Is not that true, adorable
Camilla?"

"Mon Dieu! seigneurs, I am less inquisitive than you are! So long as
Léodgard gives me everything that I want, what more would you have me
ask him for?"

"Well answered!--Ah! my bucks, that will teach you to question a woman!"

"For my own part," said the Sire de Beausseilly, "there is something
that surprises me more than the present magnificence of the Comte de
Marvejols."

"What is that?" asked Monclair, after tossing off another glass of
Cyprus.

"Well, messieurs, it is the strange expression that has characterized
our host for some time past; the sad or gloomy look that is always in
his eyes, even among us, in the midst of our merrymaking, and when he
hears nothing but joyous words and songs all around him!"

"Well, upon my word! that is delicious!--You are mad, Beausseilly!--He
would like to make us believe now that Léodgard is sad when he gives us
a fête! Why, he sang at the table only a moment ago!"

"He did sing, I admit it; but his expression was no more hilarious, for
all that; he tried to appear so--that may be; but there is a long
distance between real gayety and bursts of forced laughter!"

"Nonsense, Beausseilly! no more of that; I fancy, my dear fellow, that
the fumes of this Spanish wine are beginning to go to your head!"

"No, messieurs, I am quite sober, I am in full possession of my senses.
I will not agree to retain them all night, by the way, for there are
some lovely eyes here quite capable of depriving me of them!--But to
return to Léodgard. Come, I will leave it to his mistress; ask Camilla
if she does not think that his manner is less cheerful, less frank, less
open, than it used to be.--Answer, O terrestrial divinity!"

The beautiful courtesan took a bunch of flowers from a vase and threw it
in Beausseilly's face, saying:

"You do not know what you are talking about; Léodgard is charming; try
to be as gallant as he, and all the ladies will adore you.--Do you want
to see a serious cavalier, who never laughs, and who does not even look
at the ladies?--Well, I will show you one now--there is no need to seek
far. See--that man all in black at yonder card table; if you have seen
him smile once to-night, I will give you my chin to kiss!"

"She means Jarnonville," said Sénange, laughing.

"Jarnonville, yes, that is what they call him," said Camilla; "but tell
me, my noble friends, why that funereal face comes to a joyous party
like this?"

"Did you not see him at table? He drank for four!"

"Then he must carry his wine well; for he looks no more cheerful with it
all!"

"He's a brave fellow--he fights as well as he drinks!"

"That does not make him any more attractive.--Ah! by the way, Flavia,
that madcap Flavia, has bet that she will make a conquest of that
dark-browed knight. I am sure that she will have nothing to show for her
ogling and her sighs! I must go and watch."

The fascinating Camilla left the banquet hall and returned to the card
room.

The playing was very animated; the young nobles, excited by wine, risked
large sums on a card or the fall of the dice.

Léodgard was banker at a lansquenet table. Luck, which had been
unfavorable to him at first, had changed; he won on every deal, and the
gold lay in piles before him. He raked in his adversaries' money with
the utmost sang-froid. He was in no wise excited by his good fortune;
from time to time he glanced about with a vague expression and seemed to
give little thought to the pastime in which he was indulging.

"Evidently, it is hopeless to play against the Comte de Marvejols
to-night," said the Chevalier de la Valteline, leaving the card table in
a pet; "I believe he has sold himself to the devil; he has a familiar
demon who favors him!"

"Nonsense!" said Montrevert; "we must not find fault with his good luck;
he lost steadily for a long enough time; he was even reduced once to
staking his cloak.--Do you remember that night, Léodgard?"

"Yes, yes, I remember it.--Messieurs, the bets are not all made."

"For my part, I shall not forget it!" continued Montrevert; "for it was
the same night that I was attacked and robbed by Giovanni."

"Come, messieurs, make your bets!" cried Léodgard, frowning darkly,
while all his features contracted as if in a nervous spasm.

"Léodgard must remember it, too," added La Valteline, "for it was that
same night that he insisted on pursuing that famous robber, to kill him;
and, although he did not kill him, he had the honor of wounding him at
all events, for he came back covered with blood."

"Well, comte, what are you doing? You are taking up the money, although
you lost!" said Jarnonville to Léodgard, whose face had suddenly become
ghastly pale.

"Oh, yes! to be sure; I beg pardon. I did lose, did I not?--Well! let
someone else take the bank."

"All the same, I would be very glad to have had the honor of fighting
with that Giovanni!"

"Is he still performing his doughty deeds, the villain?"

"I should say so! He is more audacious than ever, so it seems. Not four
days ago, the Vicomte de Monferrant, on his way home from a party where
there had been some high play, was attacked on Rue Saint-Paul and robbed
by that bedevilled Italian!"

"Did Monferrant defend himself?"

"He says so, but I don't believe it; he is too much of a coward for
that."

"In that case, how did he happen to be going home alone?"

"He was not alone--his servant was in front with a lantern; but at his
master's first outcry, the rascal, instead of running to his assistance,
fled, it seems, without so much as looking back."

"And a few days earlier, the old Baronne de Graveline was going home one
evening in a _brouette_; Giovanni drove away the man who wheeled the
_brouette_, then relieved the baroness of her money, diamonds, and
jewels; she had some very fine ones on that night."

"It is worthy of remark that this infernal villain has extraordinary
luck; he always stumbles on a rich victim!"

"Do you call that luck, Montrevert? For my part, I am persuaded that
Giovanni attacks only where he is sure of his ground. I mean by that
that he must have confederates, who probably inform him as to the
profitable strokes that may be made on a certain evening."

"In that case, Giovanni's confederates must be received in the best
society, and even at court, to be so thoroughly posted concerning what
is going on, and to know what road such and such a person is likely to
take to return home."

"Ha! ha! that is not an unlikely supposition, on my word! There is
no safety anywhere, messieurs!--I say, Comte de Marvejols, are you
quite certain that you have had no thieves at your party
to-night?--Léodgard!--Where in the devil is he?"

Léodgard had left the card room and had gone to the table where the
indomitable drinkers were still at work; he had swallowed several
glasses of maraschino, then had gone out into the courtyard, only to
return in a moment to the dining hall.

"Have you the fidgets in your legs to-night, comte?" murmured young
Monclair; "you do not seem to stay a second in one place."

"You are mistaken; I stayed a very long time at the lansquenet table,"
rejoined Léodgard, curtly.

"I' faith! my dear fellow, it is a delightful affair," said Sénange; "it
is impossible to do things more handsomely or to entertain one's guests
with more magnificence."

"I am very glad if you have had an enjoyable evening," said Léodgard;
and his brow lost a few of its wrinkles.

"Vive Dieu! we should be most exacting if we did not think this supper
perfectly exquisite; you did well to hire this little house, on my word!
it seems to have been built expressly for parties of this sort."

"But you have never shown us the whole of your house. If I am not
mistaken, there is another wing at the rear of the courtyard; does no
one go there?"

"That is where I live," replied Léodgard, becoming serious once more;
"but it is not arranged for the reception of company."

"Moreover, it is the mysterious wing!" cried Camilla, laughingly. "If I
wish to be allowed to go there, I must notify monsieur le comte a long
while beforehand."

"Hush, Camilla! a truce to your foolery!" said Léodgard, with a stern
glance at the courtesan.

"Upon my word, you are gallant to-night!--Don't expect me to take your
part another time when people say that you no longer seem cheerful!"

"Who said that?"

"Never mind! I am going to enter the lists with Flavia to make the
conquest of the Black Chevalier."

Jarnonville had left the card table and had taken a seat in a less
brilliantly lighted part of the room; but Mademoiselle Flavia, a young
madcap with very eloquent eyes, bright and languorous in turn, soon
seated herself beside him, and said:

"What are you doing in this corner? you look as if you were sulking, and
that is not what people come here for. Come, say something to me. Do you
know that you are not at all gallant--you have not said a single word to
one of these ladies to-night!"

"As you see that I pay no attention to the ladies, why do you pay any
attention to me?" retorted Jarnonville, meeting with absolute
indifference the fire of the blonde Flavia's glances.

"Why?--Why, my dear man, do you know nothing of women?--For the very
reason that you pay no attention to us, that you seem to scorn to win
our favors, I long to make your conquest--from a spirit of
contradiction! We always desire what is not offered us.--What is the
meaning of this mania for playing the bear at your time of life? Come,
tell me your troubles."

"You would not understand them!"

"What a boor!--Mon Dieu! I can guess them: you have been betrayed by
your wife or your mistress--it is always that that makes you men
misanthropic."

"I was sure that you would not understand me," said Jarnonville, rising;
and he was about to turn away, when the dark-haired Camilla planted
herself in front of him, with a smile on her face.

"How now, Sire de Jarnonville," she said; "can it be that you think of
going already? Why, it is not daylight yet! We are going to sing, and
dance chaconnes; will you not be my partner?"

"Such pleasures have not appealed to me for many years. Excuse me, fair
Camilla; you are unfortunate in your choice."

"Oh! my dear, you will waste your glances and your smiles, as I have
done!" cried the blonde Flavia, showing the double row of pearls with
which her mouth was embellished. "Your sweetest tones will slide over
that steel cuirass. This gentleman has a heart of granite--or, rather,
he has no heart at all!--See, he is not listening to us, he is going
away!"

"Oh! not yet!" rejoined Camilla, laying her pretty hand on Jarnonville's
arm.--"Tell me, chevalier, why do you insist on going away? Do you find
yourself so very wretched with us?--Look at us--are we so unpleasant to
the eye that you cannot even endure the sight of us?"

The young courtesan uttered these words in such a cajoling, suppliant
tone, that the Black Chevalier glanced at her in spite of himself, and
for the first time his expression lost something of its sternness.

"Good, it is decided!" exclaimed the fascinating brunette, overjoyed by
this first success; "I propose to keep you; and why should you leave us
so early? for you are your own master, you have neither wife nor child."

The words were no sooner out of her mouth than Jarnonville pushed the
two courtesans roughly aside and left the card room, muttering in a
hollow voice:

"No child! no child! Ah, no! I have no child! I have lost my most
cherished treasure, my joy in the present, my hope for the future. That
angel, a single glance from whose eyes banished all my cares, whose
voice opened my heart to a felicity so pure that I lived in a veritable
heaven on earth!--I have her no longer--death struck her down! In God's
name, what had she done that she should die, O inexorable fate!"

Speaking thus to himself, Jarnonville left the house, crossed the
courtyard, motioned to the concierge to open the gate, and passed out
into the street. But he had not walked twenty yards from the gate when a
person rushed to meet him and almost threw herself at his feet, crying:

"In pity's name, seigneur, listen to me! do not, I implore you, spurn a
woman who seeks your help!"

"A woman!" rejoined Jarnonville, harshly, thinking that it was still
another courtesan who accosted him; "what does it matter to me that you
are a woman? Seek protection from the young popinjays within, but do not
detain me, let me pass."

"Sire de Jarnonville!" exclaimed she who had stopped the Black
Chevalier. "Ah! Providence befriends me.--You will not spurn me,
seigneur, you will come to my assistance. I am no courtesan; I am not
one of the women who frequent this house from which you have just come.
I am an honest girl, and I can hold up my head before you without fear!
Perhaps you would recognize me if the daylight were not still so faint.
My name is Ambroisine--I am the daughter of Master Hugonnet, the bath
keeper on Rue Saint-Jacques; and you have often been to my father's
place."

Jarnonville gazed at the _belle baigneuse_ for some seconds, then said:

"And what is Hugonnet's daughter doing, alone, in the middle of the
night, in this lonely quarter, so far from her father's house?"

"She is here, chevalier, in the hope of restoring peace of mind and
happiness to a friend who is now in the lowest depths of despair.--Oh!
this is not the first time that I have passed the whole night near this
house, watching for Comte Léodgard to go in or out. There has been
scarcely an evening for a month past that I have not stolen secretly
from our house to come to this place to do sentry duty. My father does
not know it; he thinks that I am in bed; he would be anxious if he knew
that his daughter exposed herself to danger, alone, at night, in this
horrible neighborhood! And yet, he could not be angry with me, for I am
doing it all to save my friend."

"I do not understand you."

"I have no reason to conceal the truth, least of all from you, whom I
know to be less hard-hearted than you choose to appear.--Comte Léodgard
has seduced, dragged down into the depths of despair, a poor girl who
had been, until she fell in with him, as pure as the angels. He promised
her, swore on his honor, that she should be his wife. She believed in
the sincerity of his love and his oaths.--Bathilde's parents discovered
her sin, and drove her from their house without pity. I took her in, and
my father did not blame me--far from it!--But the author of all
Bathilde's sufferings, the man who lives here, Comte Léodgard---- Can
you believe, seigneur, that he has utterly deserted the girl he
seduced?--Bathilde wrote to him that her parents had turned her out of
doors; and he has not come to see her, he has not even deigned to answer
her letter. He received it, however, for I myself gave it to his
concierge. In the last month, I have come here twenty times, to see him,
to speak to him--it is impossible to find him! He has refused to admit
me!--And that man gives grand parties in his fine house! He passes his
nights in dissipation, while his poor victim weeps in despair and
appeals to him in vain for a word of comfort!--Ah! it is frightful!--But
I vowed that I would see this Léodgard, this unworthy nobleman, who
dishonors the name he bears--that I would see him and speak to him. I am
only a woman, but I am brave and determined.--To-day, Providence has
permitted me to meet you, and I am deeply grateful. I cannot doubt that,
with your help, I shall be able to speak with the count."

Jarnonville listened attentively to what Ambroisine said; for a moment
he seemed moved, but almost instantly, as if he regretted that he had
allowed his heart to be touched, he pushed the girl away and would have
walked on.

"A mere love story!" he said; "a woman seduced! What have I to do with
all that? Comte Léodgard's intrigues do not concern me!"

"But a poor girl who is on the point of becoming a mother, and whose
child, spurned by its father, will have no name, nothing to eat--that
concerns you, for you are compassionate to children, I know!"

Jarnonville stopped; he passed his hand across his forehead, heaved a
profound sigh, and returned to Ambroisine, saying:

"Come with me!"

The chevalier retraced his steps to Léodgard's house and knocked; the
gate swung open and he bade Ambroisine enter with him.

Seeing the girl in the courtyard, the concierge, who recognized her,
cried:

"What are you doing here? Monsieur le comte will not receive you, as you
know quite well! I have orders to send you away whenever you come here,
so----"

"This young woman is with me," said Jarnonville, in a tone that imposed
silence on the concierge. "Hold your peace!"

And taking Ambroisine's hand, he led her through the vestibule at the
right into a room preceding the banquet hall, and said:

"Remain here. I will find Léodgard and send him to you, without telling
him who it is that wishes to see him."

"Oh! thanks! thanks a thousand times, seigneur!--I knew that you would
help me!"

Jarnonville left the room; and Ambroisine, undismayed, awaited
Léodgard's appearance. She was not embarrassed at finding herself in
that sumptuous abode. Grandeur loses all its prestige when it loses its
power to inspire respect.

Hardly five minutes had passed when Léodgard entered the room in which
Ambroisine awaited him.

"A lady to see me?" he exclaimed; "why does she not come to the salons
where my guests are assembled?"

"Because that is not her place, monsieur le comte, and because, no
doubt, you would not be pleased to see her there," said Ambroisine,
stepping forward with a resolute air.

As he recognized Hugonnet's daughter, Léodgard could not restrain an
angry gesture. He glanced at her disdainfully and muttered:

"What! is it you? By hell! you are persistent! You have been to my house
too often already; you must have understood that I did not choose to
receive you. You have no right to violate a person's domicile
thus!--Understand, my dear, that this is not your father's bathing
establishment, where anyone who pleases has a right to enter."

"Oh! I know quite well that I am not in my father's house, monsieur le
comte; there is no possibility of mistake on that score. For Master
Hugonnet's house is the house of an honorable man, from which those who
come to demand justice are not turned away."

"On my soul, I believe that she presumes to be impertinent!--Begone! I
have nothing to say to you!"

"And I did not come here to talk, monsieur, but to demand an answer to
the letter you have received."

"What letter?"

"The letter from Bathilde--that poor girl whom you have deceived and
seduced, and who bears within her the result of her fault. When she
implores you in her child's name, can you be deaf to her prayer? What
shall I say to Bathilde, monsieur le comte?"

"Nothing! I do not answer such letters! Upon my word, these girls are
mad! We do them the honor to think them pretty, to make love to them,
and they expect that sort of thing to last forever!--Your friend will be
consoled.--Adieu!"

"Monsieur le comte," said Ambroisine, falling at Léodgard's knees, "for
the love of heaven, have some pity for Bathilde, who believed your
oaths!--Give her back her honor; remember that her parents have cast her
out!--Excuse me for not addressing you with more respect. Treat me as
harshly as you will, but be moved by Bathilde's suffering, I implore
you!"

"Enough! enough! let me hear no more of all this! And above all, girl,
never put your foot in my house again, for I shall not always be so
patient!"

As he spoke, Léodgard roughly extricated himself from Ambroisine's
hands, and hurried from the room.

"The villain!" said the girl, as she rose. "Ah! poor Bathilde, who will
take care of your child?"

"I will!" said Jarnonville, who had returned to Ambroisine; and he made
haste to escort her from the hôtel in Rue de Bretonvilliers.



XXXII

PASSEDIX PUTS ON A NEW SKIN


One fine winter's day, the Chevalier Passedix, who had left his lodgings
in the morning shivering with cold, being but poorly protected by his
threadbare and scanty cloak, returned to the Hôtel du Sanglier with a
radiant face and with his head in the air, throwing the doors open like
a man who is not afraid of being rebuked for making too much noise.

Instead of going upstairs to his lodgings, the chevalier entered the
room on the ground floor with which we are already acquainted, wherein
Dame Cadichard, the mistress of the establishment, was wont to sit and
take her meals.

Passedix appeared in the room at the moment that his hostess was about
to attack some panada which her old servant, Popelinette, had just
placed before her. He threw himself into a venerable easy-chair opposite
Dame Cadichard and stretched out his legs, crying:

"Sandis! what a beastly chair! May God damn me if it isn't stuffed with
nutshells!"

Widow Cadichard cried out in amazement, almost in anger, when she saw
the lack of ceremony with which her fifth-floor tenant presumed to make
himself at home before her, and carried his impertinence to the point of
criticising her easy-chair.

"What is the meaning of this tone, these manners, Monsieur de Passedix?"
she demanded at last, pausing over her panada. "Since when has it been
the fashion to enter a room where there is a lady without even putting
your hand to your hat? And why do you stretch yourself out in that
chair, if you don't find it soft enough for you?"

"Enough, sweet Cadichard, enough, I beg! Put a curb on your tongue,
whose intemperance begins to annoy me. I have been patient with your
nonsense long enough, and I am disposed to be so no longer.--Put that in
your pocket, Dame Cadichard!--That panada you are eating has a very
sorry look. For shame! I will bet that there's no sugar in it! I desire
a breakfast somewhat more substantial than that.--Where is Popelinette,
that I may send her to the nearest wine shop?--Holà! Popelinette!"

"My servant is not at your orders, monsieur le chevalier; she does
housework for the tenants who pay me. When you do that, she will work
for you too."

Without a word in reply, the Gascon took from his belt a stout purse
full of gold pieces, and threw it on the table at which his hostess was
seated. Then he said to her:

"Well! _belle dame_, there is enough money to pay more than I owe you.
Be good enough to make up my account, so that we may become good friends
once more! For I have learned to appreciate the truth of the proverb:
'Short reckonings make long friends!'--That is very melancholy for the
human race! It proves that the human race is damnably selfish! But I do
not undertake to correct it; I take it as I find it.--Make up your
account, Dame Cadichard, and pay yourself from this all that I owe you
to this day."

The hostess was struck dumb by the sight of that well-lined purse, which
had almost fallen into her soup; for the gold which it contained shone
with the brilliancy of good alloy. In the joy and amazement caused by
her tenant's action, she tried to say something; but she could only
stammer a few incoherent words, ending with a sneeze, whose
ramifications extended to her panada. So she confined herself to
stirring that compound, until, recovering her speech at last, she cried,
with the most gracious of smiles:

"Mon Dieu! what in the world has happened to you, chevalier? What change
has taken place in your position since yesterday? for only yesterday you
could not give me anything on account of my rent!"

"What has happened to me, my dear hostess? Why, one of those very simple
events which happen every day to people who have rich relations.--One of
my uncles has deceased; _mortuus est!_ And that uncle, who could not
endure me, who was never willing to see me on his birthday, or on New
Year's Day, thought better of it when he was on his deathbed, and made
me his only heir, to the exclusion of certain cousins who fawned on him
and wheedled him from morning till night!"

"Ah! that is fine, monsieur le chevalier!--Believe that I share with you
in your joy at what has happened."

"I do not doubt it! And first of all, you will share with me by taking
your dues from this purse.--Well, this morning, I met a friend who was
coming to bring me the good news!--He threw his arms about my neck and
embraced me until he nearly strangled me.--I was about to ask him the
reason, when he cried:

"'Your uncle Flic-Flac, of Pézenas, has closed his shop--in other words,
put out his lantern--in other words, broken his pipe; in short, he has
started on the long journey, and has left you all his property--about
two thousand crowns a year!'"

"Two thousand crowns a year! why, that's a very pretty income, Monsieur
de Passedix! It's the same as six thousand livres."

"Even so, Dame Cadichard, you reckon with marvellous accuracy; my
inheritance is six thousand livres a year, without counting the
furniture and chattels of the defunct, which also come to me.--When
Craquenard--that is my friend's name--had told me all that, I admit that
at first blush I refused to believe it.

"'Craquenard, you are making sport of me,' I cried; 'you are telling me
lies. If you are, I will run Roland through your belly!'"

"Oh! monsieur le chevalier, how ill-tempered you become all at once!"

"What can you expect? I cannot help it--my blood is always forty degrees
above zero.--But Craquenard replied:

"'To prove that I am not telling fables, just come with me; I'll take
you to Maître Bourdinard's, the solicitor; he has received a copy of the
will, and is instructed to hand you the money you have inherited.'

"You will understand, Dame Cadichard, that I did not have to be asked
twice to accompany Craquenard to the solicitor's! There, as soon as my
identity was established, they offered to give me something in advance
on what will come to me when everything is settled. And that is why, my
sweet hostess, I return with such a well-lined purse! To say nothing of
another little sack which I have in my belt.--Aha! wealth is very nice,
indeed! Sandioux! I never felt so happy in my life.--Make up your
account, if you please."

"Here it is, monsieur le chevalier; it has been made a long while,"
replied Dame Cadichard, taking a paper from a drawer; then she handed it
to the Gascon, saying: "Be kind enough to verify the account!"

"Fie! fie! who ever heard of a gentleman like me verifying an account?
That is all well enough for the lowborn, for clowns!--We do not always
pay, perhaps! but, at all events, we never verify!--Once more, take from
this purse what I owe you, so that I may be entirely square with you."

The hostess opened the purse, took out several gold pieces, counted on
her fingers, then with a pen, and receipted her account, which she
handed to the chevalier, with the purse, which was still well filled.

"That is all settled, Monsieur de Passedix. When you have time, you may
make sure that the account is not padded by a single denier."

"Oh! Dame Cadichard! once more, what do you take me for?--I should be
very sorry to look at this paper. See--this is how much I care for it!"

And Passedix tossed the account into a tiny fire that burned in a huge
fireplace, whose feeble heat hardly changed the temperature, which was
very cold outside.

Dame Cadichard, marvelling at the noble indifference with which her
tenant paid his debts, said to him, with a respectful inclination of the
head:

"Monsieur le chevalier, would you accept a plate of this soup? That will
help you to wait for what you propose to send for to the wine shop."

"Oh, no! no, thanks!" cried Passedix, probably recalling the accident
that had befallen the soup. "I have no desire to taste it.--May I not
have Popelinette's services?"

"I beg pardon, monsieur le chevalier,--at once, instantly."

And Dame Cadichard, leaving her soup, left the room and went into the
hall to call her servant in such shrill, imperative tones that old
Popelinette soon came running in in dismay, crying:

"What's the matter? who's sick? where's the fire? Something must have
happened!"

"The matter is, Popelinette, that Monsieur le Chevalier de Passedix
wants to send you on an errand, and he must not be kept waiting."

"What! was it for that thing that madame was yelling as if she wanted to
sprain her throat?"

"That thing!--Popelinette, try to express yourself more respectfully
when you are talking about Monsieur de Passedix!"

The old servant stood with a dazed expression in the middle of the room,
unable to understand how it happened that her mistress spoke so kindly
now of a tenant whom she had abused so roundly only that morning.

Passedix put an end to the servant's conjectures by placing a gold piece
in her hand, with these words:

"Go to the nearest wine shop, Popelinette, and order a dainty breakfast;
let them bring everything for three. I feel capable of multiplying the
size of my mouthfuls by three. Order several bottles of the best wine,
also.--Go, and what money remains shall be yours!"

The sight of a fine gold doubloon instantly made the servant as polite
and zealous as her mistress. What a mighty influence has that metal,
which acts in the same way upon almost all temperaments! Physicians have
never found its like among all the drugs that they force us to take.

When Popelinette had gone, the chevalier resumed his seat at the table
and said to his hostess:

"Now, Dame Cadichard, let us talk a little. You will readily understand,
I think, that a man with two thousand crowns a year, to say nothing of
the lesser objects, cannot continue to live under the eaves, where he
has for fellow lodgers rats of all dimensions."

"Oh! of course, monsieur le chevalier, I realize that this lodging is
not worthy of you; and be sure that, if I put you up there, it was
because special circumstances forced me to do it.--It was very much
against my will."

"Enough! enough! Dame Cadichard, you should never recur to unpleasant
subjects.--Do you consider me wealthy enough now to resume my handsome
apartment on the first floor, which you let to that noble Spaniard, the
so-called Comte de Carvajal?"

"I wish that I had a much handsomer one to offer you, Monsieur de
Passedix; but my first floor is at your service."

"Very good.--Speaking of this Comte de Carvajal--have you never seen
him, dear hostess, since he left your house so abruptly?"

"Never.--One night, when you were absent, I was very much surprised when
Monsieur de Carvajal, who had not given me any notice, came in and said:
'Madame Cadichard, I must leave your house instantly; news just received
forces me to return at once to Spain.'--Thereupon he paid me what he
owed me, gave Popelinette a handsome _pourboire_, sent for a porter to
take his trunks, and disappeared, leaving me amazed at his abrupt
departure."

"Oh! the villain! the traitor! He did not start for Spain, for that same
night--I remember it only too well, because, when I asked about your
tenant the next morning, I was told that he had left the hotel the night
before--that same night following his departure, as I was walking with a
young lady to whom I was paying court, we met on the street a sort of
rustic, or vagabond,--I don't know what to call him,--who threw himself
between me and my fair.--As you can imagine, I unsheathed at once----"

"I do not doubt it, monsieur le chevalier."

"But that simpleton, that clown, had under his cloak a short, broad
sword, which he used like a hatchet.--That disconcerted me. I am
accustomed to fighting with people who know how to stand on guard. I
tried to thrust a little too far, and Roland slipped from my hand. While
I was looking for him, my knave disappeared with my belle, whom, by the
way, I have not seen since."

"But I fail to see what connection there is between that adventure and
the Comte de Carvajal."

"This is the connection: the rustic was not a rustic; I had met him
before, in the guise of an artisan. And again, the artisan was not an
artisan; I had previously had dealings with him, when he was dressed as
an old Bohemian. And finally, all these disguises concealed the Comte de
Carvajal, your magnificent tenant."

"The Comte de Carvajal! is it possible? But, in that case, he must be a
very mysterious personage. Disguise himself like that--what can be his
purpose?"

"I have no idea. The man was probably a political spy, sent here by his
government to observe, to discover the cardinal's projects; perhaps to
organize a conspiracy against him!"

"Oh! mon Dieu! why, if that's so, his stay in my house might have
compromised me!"

"Sandis! I should say so! They would have ended by razing your house. It
is great good fortune for you, Dame Cadichard, that that fine spark has
bade you adieu!"

"You make me shudder, monsieur le chevalier!"

"As he has decamped, you are no longer in any danger. But, by Roland, I
do not bid him adieu! If he is still in Paris, I will find him, and then
it will be war to the death between us!--But, with your permission, I
will at once install myself, or rather reinstall myself, in the first
floor lodging. I will take my repast there.--By the way, Dame Cadichard,
I expect a very agreeable young man--very small, but very agreeable for
his size. He is a clerk in my solicitor's office; and as I happened to
mention before him my desire to replenish my wardrobe entirely, and as
quickly as possible, he told me that he had a friend who knew a
second-hand dealer amply supplied with clothes of the latest cut. He is
to bring him to me here."

"Never fear, monsieur le chevalier, I will send him up to you."

"To the first floor, Dame Cadichard. Don't forget that I have come down.
I shall go up again some day, perhaps; it is not safe to swear to
anything."

"Oh! Monsieur de Passedix!"

"But that worries me very little.--Six thousand livres a year! Sandis! I
used to make conquests galore, but now I shall be overwhelmed with
them!"

The chevalier resumed possession of the apartment on the first floor; he
stretched himself out luxuriously in an enormous easy-chair that was
almost suitable for a bed, and glanced about the room, saying to
himself:

"Ah! Monsieur de Carvajal, so I am occupying your place now!--Who knows?
perhaps you would be very happy now to live in a little room under the
eaves; for in this world, when one goes up, we frequently see others
come down, and _vice versa_.--Oh! but I will find this mysterious
Spaniard! From all I have been able to judge, he knows that little
Miretta; I believe him to be my rival with the little brunette. A
grandee of Spain, in love with a chambermaid--that is rather
extraordinary! But, after all, I sigh for that girl, and I am the equal
of the grandest of Spanish grandees."

Popelinette returned with two waiters from the wine shop, bringing
dishes and bottles. In a short time, a dinner fit for Gargantua was
spread before Passedix; but the newly made heir seemed not at all
alarmed when he saw the contents of the dishes that were served him; and
from the way in which he attacked them one might fairly presume that he
would reach the end of them.

Passedix had already put away half of his repast, and was attacking the
second half, when Popelinette, the old servant, who had become as
courteous as her mistress, came in with repeated reverences and informed
him that Monsieur Bahuchet and his comrade, Monsieur Plumard, had
arrived, and wished to speak with him.

"Very good! I know what they are here for!" cried Passedix; "they have
brought new clothes, in the latest style.--Usher these young men into my
presence; I will choose such things as seem worthy of my person, and it
will not prevent my finishing my dinner!"

Before we introduce the solicitor's two clerks, let us see what had
happened between them as a result of the delicate commission which one
had intrusted to the other.



XXXIII

BAHUCHET'S POMADE


We have seen in what fashion Master Landry treated young Plumard, whom
he had taken for a lover of his daughter.

We know, too, that little Bahuchet, having betaken himself to a wine
shop with the purpose of regaling himself there, had found means to
obtain a thrashing from Master Hugonnet, to whom he had applied for some
pomade which would make the hair grow. As in those days hair dressers
employed neither bear's grease nor lion's flesh, the bath keeper had
taken the young clerk's request in very ill part. Bahuchet had returned
home sorely vexed because he had been beaten, but even more dissatisfied
because he had obtained no pomade; for he was most solicitous to recover
possession of the gold piece that he had given to his comrade Plumard,
and which the latter had promised to return to him on receipt of the
precious cosmetic that was to restore to the nape of his neck the shade
which it had lost.

"After all," said Bahuchet to himself, the next morning, "as that brute
of a barber would not give me any pomade, pardieu! I will make some
myself! And who knows! perhaps it will be better for the head than all
the infernal drugs that the wigmakers rub into our hair."

After having considered some time what he could make it of, the little
clerk took some gum, mustard, pitch, starch, and molasses, and with all
of these he compounded a solid paste which gave forth a not very sweet
odor, but which clung so persistently to the hands that it was extremely
difficult to free them from it. He filled a small jar with this
substance, wrapped it in a paper, put his seal upon it, and walked
proudly to the office, saying to himself:

"Plumard shall have his pomade, and I my gold piece."

The two clerks accosted each other, each with a most amusing expression.

"Well, friend Plumard, did you do my errand? did you deliver the white
plume?"

"Yes, to be sure; I put it into Master Landry's own hands."

"How did he take the thing?"

"In very bad part, and at one time I thought he was going to treat me
shamefully; luckily, I ran away in time.--But I would not undertake such
a commission again! it was too dangerous!"

"And for that reason you shall be handsomely paid!" said Bahuchet,
taking from his pocket the little jar in which he had placed his vile
mixture.

Plumard's face beamed; his hand was already put forth to grasp the
little jar, but Bahuchet pushed it away, saying:

"One minute; how about my gold piece?"

"Oh! of course, I will return it to you; I ask nothing better; I much
prefer this jar!"

"I should think so! a wonderful invention like this! I ought to have
made you pay me its weight in gold; but between friends, you know.
Besides, a promise is a sacred thing! Here, take your stuff!"

And Bahuchet, having received his money, handed his comrade the little
jar.

Plumard was in such a hurry to experiment with his pomade, that he
instantly tore off the paper and looked at and smelt the contents of the
jar.

"It is black," he said.

"I suppose that it has to be black."

"It has a strange smell."

"Probably because the old sibyl uses plants that are unknown to us."

"How hard it is!"

"You must warm it a little before using; then it becomes more ductile."

"No matter; I mean to put some of it on my head at once."

"What! here, in the office? You had better put it on at home."

"No! there are only we two in the office as yet, and I do not want to
postpone making use of it."

"You don't imagine, I suppose, that your hair will grow instantly? You
must give the stuff time to act on the capillary tissues."

"Very good; but the sooner I put some of it on my head, the sooner the
hair will grow.--By the way, is there any particular way of using it?"

Bahuchet reflected a few moments, then replied:

"Yes; wait till I recall the old witch's instructions.--Ah! now I have
it: first heat the pomade, then rub your skull with it, put on a good
lot; then you must cover it with a small round piece of linen, cotton,
or woollen stuff--the material is not important; you must simply be sure
that the pomaded part is well covered. Then, in a few days you will see
your hair!"

"Very well! I will follow your instructions to the letter; I will warm
it on the stove. But what in the devil shall I put on my head to cover
the pomade?"

"See--there's an old black woollen stocking that Maître Bourdinard's
servant must have left here by mistake; you can cut a cap out of that."

"Faith! you are right; I shall look like a little abbé. Come, let us set
to work!"

Bahuchet cut from the stocking a round piece large enough to cover the
top of Plumard's head; meanwhile, the latter daubed his head with the
mixture, which the heat had melted; he noticed with surprise that he
could not free his fingers from the pomade after he had used it; but
Bahuchet told him that that was a proof of the virtue of the cosmetic.
At last, the clerk's head being sufficiently pomaded, the piece of
woollen stocking was applied, and the operation was at an end. The clerk
then covered his head with the cap which he hardly ever laid aside.

The next morning, young Plumard put his hand to his head to make sure
that his plaster was still firm. As he passed his fingers over it, he
felt a sort of crust, but the woollen covering did not stir, and the
clerk was convinced that the process of growing was under way.

A week passed.

Plumard had tried, but to no purpose, to remove the piece of woollen
stocking that covered his head.

"Let it alone, for heaven's sake!" said Bahuchet; "if it sticks, it must
be that the work is going on; when the hair has grown a little, your
skullcap will fall off of itself."

Another week elapsed, and Plumard made another attempt to remove the
piece of stocking, but obtained no better result.

At last, after a month, he could stand it no longer; he determined to
find out what was under the skullcap, and he said to Bahuchet one
morning:

"Take off this piece of woollen, which is beginning to be a nuisance; it
is high time to see if my hair is growing."

Bahuchet no longer dared to deny his friend's entreaty. He pinched up
the edge of the stocking, and tried to pull it off; but Plumard uttered
a piercing shriek.

"Stop!" he cried; "you are tearing off my skin!"

Bahuchet's pomade, being composed largely of pitch, had, when it dried,
become firmly glued to the scalp, while the piece of stocking was so
stuck to the pitch that it was utterly impossible to detach it. To pull
off even a small fragment, it would be necessary to pull off a bit of
the pitch, and the skin would inevitably come with it. We can
understand, therefore, why Plumard screamed aloud when Bahuchet tried to
remove his skullcap.

"Don't you want me to try again?" inquired Bahuchet.

"Why, can't you see that you are tearing the skin off my head? I don't
want to be trepanned!--What infernal kind of pomade did you give me?"

"Probably you are in too great a hurry; the work is not done yet; you
must keep the covering on a while longer."

"Alas! I am beginning to think I shall keep it on forever; I don't want
to have my skin torn off!"

"After all, that black cap is not bad-looking; you look as if you had on
a wig, or, rather, as if your hair was cut too short. I assure you that
it is preferable to your bald head."

Several weeks had passed since this conversation between the two clerks.
Plumard was still wearing his woollen skullcap glued to his head; he
tried to make the best of it, but there were times when a fit of anger
seized him, and then he vented his fury upon Bahuchet, accusing him of
having given him a pomade which, instead of accelerating the growth of
his hair, must necessarily prevent the growth of anything whatever on
his head.

To appease his comrade and restore their friendly relations, Bahuchet
lost no time in taking him aside after the Chevalier de Passedix paid
his first visit to the solicitor's office.

"There is a chance for a good windfall," he said; "this Gascon has
inherited a lot of money; he wants to replenish his wardrobe. You have
an uncle in the old clothes trade; let us go to his shop and select an
outfit--we can make a hundred per cent on it with the Chevalier de
Passedix. And then, I have an idea that he will be a profitable
acquaintance for us; the newly made capitalist seems inclined to spend
his inheritance merrily, and it is quite as well that he should run
through it with us as with somebody else; don't you think so, Plumard?"

Plumard, having scratched his black woollen patch, with a wry face,
pulled his other cap over his eyes and left the office with his comrade,
saying:

"All right! let us go to see my uncle the old clothes man."

Having made a selection from the second-hand garments, which the uncle
had intrusted to his nephew with the greatest hesitation, the two clerks
bent their steps toward Place aux Chats, and entered the Hôtel du
Sanglier, where they were speedily ushered into the presence of the
Gascon chevalier, who was discussing the second part of his repast.

Bahuchet and Plumard bowed low to the newly made heir, like Turks before
a pasha. Passedix bestowed a gracious smile upon them and pointed to two
chairs.

"Be seated, young men," he said; "with your permission, I will finish my
dinner."

"With our permission!--We are at monsieur le chevalier's service; and we
are in no hurry--are we, Plumard?"

"Not at all," replied Plumard, who, as courtesy demanded, had removed
his cap; and he passed his hand from time to time over the piece of
stocking, which he still hoped to detach.

"Are you both employed in Maître Bourdinard's office?"

"Yes, monsieur le chevalier; we are the two chief clerks."

"Is it a good office?"

"Excellent; the result is that we have too much work."

"And you are not handsomely paid?"

"In a solicitor's office! Bah! there is no grease except on the backs of
the chairs."[A]

  [A] The chevalier asked: "Et l'on n'est _grassement_
  payé?"--The adverb literally means _fatly_, hence _greasily_.

"Will you drink a glass with me, young Basochians?"

"It is a very great honor to us, monsieur le chevalier; we will drink as
long as you choose."

"That is what I call talking, sandis!--Goblets, Popelinette!--and go to
the wine shop again and order some more bottles of different brands;
meanwhile, we will finish these. Here, servant; take this other gold
piece; and above all, do not haggle; nay, nay! to haggle is bourgeois,
it is foolish! Say: 'It is for the noble and gallant Chevalier de
Passedix,' and pay without a word."

The old servant went away, and Bahuchet whispered to his comrade:

"You hear--he doesn't haggle. He will pay for these duds whatever we
ask."

Passedix filled the goblets; the two clerks respectfully touched the
chevalier's with theirs, and he exclaimed as he looked at Plumard:

"Why, my poor boy! you don't seem to be in very good condition!"

"How so, seigneur chevalier?" rejoined the clerk, drawing himself up.

"Because I see that you have a plaster on your head, such as they put on
sick dogs."

Plumard turned purple, while Bahuchet made haste to say:

"That's nothing, he has a cold in his head, and it's a blister he's
trying.--But while monsieur le chevalier is finishing his repast, we
might show him the superb costume we have brought.--Open your bundle,
Plumard."

"You are right, little clerks; show me the clothes."

First of all, Plumard took from the bundle a pair of orange silk
knee-breeches, slashed with lemon-colored satin.

Passedix was overjoyed with the short-clothes; he took them in his hand,
examined them closely, and cried:

"Charming! delicious! they are in the best taste--they are dainty and
elegant! The breeches please me exceedingly, and I have an idea that the
orange color will be very becoming to me.--Let us see the doublet."

The doublet was of the same material and embellished with slashes of
lemon-colored satin, like the short-clothes.

Passedix was enchanted.

"This harmonizes perfectly with the breeches!" he said; "it is
perfect.--And the girdle?"

"Here it is," said Plumard, producing one of orange silk with fringe of
the same color.

"Oh! how pretty it is, and how well they all go together!" said
Passedix. "Now let us see the cloak."

Bahuchet smilingly presented the cloak, which was orange velvet, faced
with lemon-colored silk.

"Admirable! magnificent!" cried Passedix. "Still, if the cloak had been
of another color, to form a contrast with the rest----"

"Oh! monsieur le chevalier, it is much richer, much more stylish, like
this. Look at our king, Louis XIII--does he wear several colors? is he
not almost always dressed in black throughout: short-clothes, doublet,
and cloak?"

"Sandioux! he is right! and I could not choose a nobler model!--Yes, all
of one color--that is more harmonious, it is pleasanter to the eye. On
my honor, I am enraptured with this costume! Let us drink, messieurs; I
long to try it on."

"We shall have the honor to serve you as valets de chambre, monsieur le
chevalier."

"You are too obliging! Drink, I say, young clerks!"

Passedix, who was as impatient as a child over the prospect of putting
on a new garment, hastily finished his dinner, then proceeded to his
toilet. With the assistance of the two clerks, he speedily donned
short-clothes, doublet, girdle, and cloak. Then he strode about the
room, looked at himself in the great mirror that adorned the
mantelpiece, and seemed not to tire of viewing himself both before and
behind.

"How do you find me?" he asked the young men; "tell me, without
flattery."

Every part of the costume was much too large for the Gascon, whose thin,
lank body danced about in his new clothes. But Bahuchet assumed an
expression of admiration as he gazed at him, and exclaimed:

"It suits you magnificently, seigneur chevalier! One would swear that
the costume was made for you; it makes you stouter.--Egad! how handsome
you are now!"

"The short-clothes are perhaps a little full, are they not?"

"That will be all right; you are superb!"

"In truth, I believe that I am not to be despised in this garb; and if
the little one should see me now, it is probable that she would be less
surly; but she shall see me--I must meet her somewhere. I propose to
exhibit myself to the whole city."

"You will find no cruel fair, seigneur."

"He is very agreeable, this little clerk!--It's a pity that your friend
has that plaster on his head--it makes him look too much like a poodle;
if I were in his place, I would rather sneeze than wear that.--By the
way, messieurs, I forgot the most essential article--the price of these
clothes."

"Thirty pistoles for the whole outfit," said Plumard, curtly, for he was
not pleased to be thought to resemble a poodle.

"Thirty pistoles it is! we will draw on the little bag. Money is made to
keep moving, sandis!"

While Passedix counted out the thirty pistoles to Plumard, for a costume
which his uncle the second-hand dealer had said that he would sell for
fifteen, Popelinette returned with a basket containing divers bottles.

The old servant was dumfounded at sight of Passedix, whom she did not
recognize.

"Who in the world is this person?" she murmured.

"This person, Popelinette, is your tenant, whom you have never seen in
such gorgeous attire, and whom you did not deem capable of becoming so
charming, I fear; there are so many people who notice only the clothes,
and do not choose to take the trouble to look deeper! I was as handsome
a man this morning, but I did not wear this magnificent costume, so that
I was less admired!"

"I am inclined to think that he was not admired at all!" said Plumard to
his comrade.

"Oh! monsieur le chevalier--why, you look like an orange now!" replied
the old servant.

"So much the better, my dear, so much the better! The orange is a
distinguished and sweet-smelling fruit. I will go to some perfumer's
shop this evening, and cause myself to be sprinkled from head to foot,
so that people may smell me five minutes before they see me.--But let us
drink, my dear clerks, let us taste these bottles--let us empty them,
cadédis!--and no heeltaps!--Come, young plaster! Cheer up, and take off
that shocking blister, which makes you look like a spaniel."

Plumard made a wry face, but he drank; Bahuchet laughed at his
companion's expression, and emptied his glass, which Passedix refilled.

The two clerks were soon more than hilarious, and began to make remarks
which might have compromised them in Passedix's eyes, if he had been in
a condition to notice them; but, being engrossed by his new costume and
his newly acquired wealth, and being passably excited himself by his
frequent libations, the chevalier did not hear what the two clerks said;
especially as the wine had loosened the tongues of all three, so that
they all talked at once.

"Six thousand francs a year! O fortune!--How becoming this color is to
me!"

"I like this wine rather well."

"Plumard, we must go into the old clothes business; it pays."

"Why does he call me _spaniel_ and _poodle_? I get tired of that, in the
end.--Let's take a drink!"

"Your health, boys!--Ah! when she sees me thus, as brilliant as the sun,
I shall be one too many for her four-faced lover!"

"Bahuchet's infernal pomade is responsible for my wearing this round
thing on my head!"

"Your health, O my infanta!"

"Thirty pistoles! I make a profit of a hundred per cent, and I am
tempted not to give my uncle anything."

"O Miretta! I will lay my little hoard at thy feet, and myself as well!"

"The devil take Maître Bourdinard's office! I propose to enjoy myself; I
work no more!"

In the midst of this hubbub, the bottles being empty, Passedix paid no
further heed to the two clerks, but left the hotel, to display himself
to an admiring Paris and to seek Miretta.

Bahuchet and his friend followed him to Place aux Chats. There they
stopped, looked at each other, and began to laugh. They linked arms,
each thinking that he was supporting the other, and Bahuchet stammered:

"We have thirty pistoles to spend; for I don't suppose, dear boy, that
you will be foolish enough to give half of it to your uncle the old
clothes man?"

"I never had any such intention. My uncle can afford to make me that
little gift."

"If he loses his temper, you can tell him that somebody stole the
bundle, the clothes."

"That is true. I'll say that the famous Giovanni stripped me."

"Bravo! the very thing; let us charge the accident to Giovanni's
account. Par la sambleu! the fellow is stout enough to take a lot of
robberies on his shoulders."

"Now, we will have some sport. We must make the thirty pistoles
dance.--Look out, my dear boy, steady!"

"Where shall we go to spend it?"

"We must go out of Paris, or we might meet some of our comrades, and
then we should have to treat them too."

"No such fools!"

"Let us go to the village of Le Roule."

"Where is that village?"

"Le Roule?--It's a pretty village, just after you leave Paris by Porte
Saint-Honoré.--There's a leper's hospital there."

"A leper's hospital! Thanks! What an attraction! Do you propose that we
go for diversion to a leper's hospital?"

"Why, no; you don't let me finish. I said that to show you that I know
the locality. There is also a certain _pêcheur-rotisseur_, who serves
stewed rabbit and fried fish. We shall be very comfortable there, and we
can regale ourselves at our ease."

"So be it! let us go there; lead the way."

"Try not to waver so on your legs."

"Isn't he delicious!--when it is he who stumbles at every step."

The two clerks, each supporting the other, and sometimes describing
zigzags which terrified the passers-by, set out for Le Roule, which was
then only a village, although destined to become one of the great
faubourgs of Paris.



XXXIV

A BOLD STEP


Since Bathilde had learned the result of Ambroisine's visit to Léodgard,
since she had learned in what way he had treated the person who went to
implore him in her behalf, a profound melancholy, a gloomy resignation,
had succeeded the impatience, the anxiety, the hope, which had divided
the empire of her mind at first.

It has often been said, and justly, that anxiety is worse than
misfortune itself.

Bathilde, when she found that she had nothing to hope from Léodgard save
contempt and disdain, turned all her thoughts upon the child to which
she was to give life. It was for it that she resolved to live; it was
for it that she derived courage and resignation from the very excess of
her suffering.

But one thought still tormented the poor child: she was afraid that her
presence was a burden, not to Ambroisine, but to her father; she was
afraid that her prolonged sojourn in Master Hugonnet's house was an
embarrassment, an inconvenience, which, from kindness of heart, he was
careful to conceal from her.

But in her plight, without money or resources of any sort, whither
should she go if Ambroisine's father sent her away?

Bathilde was wrong to conceive such fears; Master Hugonnet did not do
good for ostentation's sake; he simply followed the biddings of his
heart, and he was happy himself when he could render a service; it never
occurred to him to plume himself upon it. The thought of sending the
poor girl away who had come to him for shelter would never have entered
his mind, and it was not necessary that she should be Ambroisine's
friend to induce him to be kind and charitable toward her; kind hearts
do not require to be stimulated; they who need a great number of
witnesses in order to do a good deed are not truly generous.

But Ambroisine read her friend's heart; she divined her thoughts, her
anxieties, her fears; she did her utmost to banish them, impressing upon
Bathilde that her presence, far from being the slightest embarrassment,
was very advantageous to them; that by her skill with her needle she
assisted them materially; that her company made her, Ambroisine's,
retreat delightful; and that, in fine, it was to Bathilde that
gratitude was due.

Friendship is ingenious when it seeks to dissemble its kindly acts.

Bathilde smiled at her friend and pressed her hand; but tears fell from
her eyes, despite her efforts.

"Weeping again!" said Ambroisine, one day. "You are not reasonable. You
have no further reason to tremble for your child's future. Did I not
tell you that the Sire de Jarnonville had promised to be a father to it?
And he will not break his word! I judged him rightly when I thought that
beneath that savage, yes, terrifying manner, the Black Chevalier
concealed a heart accessible to pity. How could he fail to be moved by
the sufferings of others, he who had suffered so terribly himself in the
loss of his child?--He has been here several times since the day that I
met him in Rue de Bretonvilliers. He comes to me when I am alone, and
asks in an undertone: 'How is your friend? Does she need anything? Do
not forget that I propose to be a father to her child.'"

"A father!" rejoined Bathilde, bitterly. "What! Can it be that the child
of Comte Léodgard de Marvejols needs that a stranger should be a father
to it--when its own father exists?--Alas! I do what I can to be brave,
Ambroisine. But, in spite of myself, I suffer when I think that shame is
the only inheritance that I shall bequeath to my child."

On the day following this conversation, Ambroisine was alone in her
father's shop, just at nightfall, when the Black Chevalier crossed the
street, halted in front of her, and said in a curt tone which ill
dissembled what was taking place in his heart:

"That poor girl--your friend--can I do anything for her yet?"

Ambroisine looked up at Jarnonville, and, as if struck by a sudden idea,
cried:

"Pardon me, seigneur; you can assist me to restore her honor,
perhaps.--For I see plainly that my poor Bathilde cannot console herself
for the abandonment of her lover and the curses of her mother. Since
yesterday an idea, a hope, has come into my mind. Heaven, doubtless,
suggested it to me.--Sire de Jarnonville, Comte Léodgard's father is
still living, is he not?"

"To be sure--the Marquis de Marvejols."

"What sort of man is he?"

"The old Seigneur de Marvejols is an upright, just man, who is sensitive
to the last degree in the matter of honor. Proud of the name that his
ancestors have handed down to him, he is no less proud of having no
unjust act for which to reproach himself in the whole course of his
life. Stern in his speech, he has nevertheless a sensitive and generous
heart; the evil-minded may tremble before him; the unfortunate never."

"What you tell me, seigneur, confirms me in my plan."

"What is it?"

"To go to Comte Léodgard's father, to lay before him the whole story of
his son's behavior toward Bathilde, and the events that have resulted
from it, and to demand justice for the victim of a shameful seduction."

And seeing that Jarnonville kept silence, Ambroisine continued:

"Do you disapprove of my project, seigneur chevalier? What have I to
fear, after all? My poor Bathilde cannot possibly be more unhappy! Her
seducer cannot treat her any more cruelly!--Yes! I am determined to
attempt this method of restoring my friend's honor! This old marquis,
who is such a just man, will perhaps insist upon his son's keeping the
promises, the oaths, he made to Bathilde."

"But how will you prove to Léodgard's father that his son did really
make your friend a solemn promise! He will tell you that all men who
seek to seduce a woman use the same language, and that it is her place
not to listen to words whose value she should know."

"How will I prove it! Oh! luckily enough, I have kept a letter written
to Bathilde by the count when he had not succeeded in his projects. It
is the first and, I believe, the only letter he ever wrote to her. The
poor child gave it to me at the time, to be rid of the temptation to
read it all day long. For the eloquent oaths of love which it contained
were beginning even then to turn her head. Writing is something more
than mere words."

"Yes, you are right; and if you have that letter----"

"I have always kept it carefully; something told me that it might be of
use to Bathilde some day; she thinks, no doubt, that I burned it long
ago."

"In that case, carry out your plan. But I do not see in what way I can
be of use to you in all this, and why you claim my assistance?"

"To help me to gain access to the old Seigneur de Marvejols--that is why
I appealed to you."

"Do you know where the Hôtel de Marvejols is?"

"Yes, chevalier; it is on Place Royale. I went there once, expecting to
find Monsieur Léodgard there."

"Well! go there now; ask for monsieur le marquis; say that it is a poor
girl who desires to speak with him, to obtain justice, and you will
speedily be admitted to the old nobleman's presence. To obtain access to
the upright man who reckons duty superior to birth and fortune, one
needs no influence; it is enough to be oppressed and to claim his
support. Therefore, a sponsor would be of no use to you; on the
contrary, it would offend the old marquis, by showing him that you
confounded him with those powerful men who are insensible to the laments
of the unfortunate."

"Oh! thanks, Sire de Jarnonville, thanks! To-morrow I will go to the
Hôtel de Marvejols."

"Does your friend know of your plan?"

"No, indeed! I should not think of mentioning it to her. In the first
place, I am sure that she would forbid me to go to her seducer's father;
she would be afraid of drawing upon herself that _honorable_ young
man's wrath; but he was not ashamed, by presuming upon a poor girl's
innocence, to look on while she was cursed and cast out by her
parents!--Oh, no! Bathilde shall know nothing about it, seigneur
chevalier! If I fail in my undertaking, at all events she will not have
this fresh humiliation to add to her grief; if the old marquis listens
to me kindly, then it will be time enough to give her heart a little
hope."

"Go, brave girl, and may you succeed in your noble purpose!"

The next day, about noon, Léodgard's father was alone in his study. The
old nobleman's countenance had seemed sterner than ever of late, because
it had become more melancholy.

The desertion of his son, who had entirely ceased to visit the old Hôtel
de Marvejols, was the probable cause of the grief which the marquis
concealed beneath a prouder and more gloomy expression. But upon that
noble brow, furrowed by age, there was something else than sternness to
be read.

The marquis was seated in his great easy-chair; a book lay open before
him on a table; but he was not reading; his head was resting on his
hand, and he seemed absorbed in profound meditation. From time to time
he glanced at certain papers that lay scattered over the table, and
murmured:

"All his debts are paid; he has contracted no others; and yet he passes
his time in fêtes, in orgies, entertaining his friends and their
mistresses. The most princely magnificence reigns in that house that he
occupies in Rue de Bretonvilliers! Where, in heaven's name, does he
obtain this money which he seems to squander so lavishly? Doubtless
chance has become favorable to him, but chance cannot be always on one
side; and not long ago he lost quite a large sum at the Duc de
Soubiran's. Where does he find enough money to meet his insane
expenditures? Can it be true, as rumor has it, that some foreign
courtesan has given him immense wealth in exchange for his love; and
that Léodgard has agreed to that shameful bargain?--Ah! I do not propose
to seek any further to learn the source of his fortune; for something
tells me that the discovery of that secret would bring the flush of
shame to my brow!--And his marriage to Mademoiselle de Mongarcin--I must
think no more of that; it will never take place. That nobly born heiress
would refuse now to marry a man whose conduct is a constant
scandal.--Ah! Léodgard did thoroughly everything that was necessary to
prevent that union from being arranged!"

The old man had relapsed into meditation, when the door of his study
opened, and old Hector discreetly showed his face before the rest of his
body.

"What do you want, Hector?" inquired the marquis, raising his head; "I
did not ring for you."

"That is true, monsieur le marquis; and I should not have ventured to
disturb you without a reason, a motive; someone----"

"What is it, pray? Speak, explain yourself, Hector. Does someone wish to
speak with me? Is it my son, or someone from him?"

"No, monsieur," replied the valet sadly, turning his eyes upon the
floor; "no, it is not Monsieur Léodgard who sends--although the person
probably knows him, for she came here to ask for him several months
ago."

"The person--who is this person?"

"It is a young girl; she asks to be allowed the favor of speaking with
monseigneur--in private."

"A young girl--and an acquaintance of Comte Léodgard--I can have nothing
in common with such a person! Send the girl away, Hector!"

"I have the honor to assure monsieur le marquis that the person in
question appears to be no less virtuous than respectable. She implores
monseigneur to consent to hear her; she demands justice and says that
she has no hope of obtaining it except through him."

"Justice!" muttered the marquis. "In that case, Hector, do not keep this
girl waiting--admit her at once."

The old valet left the room, but he very soon returned with Ambroisine,
who, when she reached the doorway, turned pale and began to tremble, and
dared not go forward, for the marquis's aspect was stern and imposing.
The old man fastened his eyes upon her, and they inspired as much fear
as respect in the person who faced them for the first time.

Hector gently pushed the lovely girl into the room, whispering to her:

"Don't be afraid! Monsieur le marquis is not so terrible as he looks."

Then, at a sign from his master, the valet bowed and disappeared,
leaving Ambroisine alone with Léodgard's father, who motioned for her to
come forward, saying:

"Come nearer, take a chair, and tell me what you desire from me, young
woman."

"Justice, monsieur le marquis," replied Ambroisine, raising her head;
for the old man's deep voice, instead of frightening her, seemed to
restore her courage by reminding her of the motive that brought her
thither.

"Justice? Has someone wronged you? have you reason to complain of
someone?"

"I am not the one who has been wronged, seigneur; and it is not for
myself that I have come to implore your assistance; it is for a friend,
who is very unhappy, greatly to be pitied, but who would never have
dared to come herself to tell you of her trials; and yet----"

"Explain yourself more clearly, my girl, and, above all things, be
careful to tell nothing but the truth!"

"Ah! monseigneur, could anyone dare to lie before you? But I beg you to
excuse me if I cannot express myself very well."

"A person always expresses herself well when falsehood and calumny do
not sully her lips, and when she has faith in God's justice.--Speak, my
child, I am listening."

"Bathilde--that is my friend's name--is not yet eighteen years old; her
father, now the keeper of a bathing establishment on Rue Dauphine, is an
old soldier, who served under Henri IV; he is a man of great courage,
and the soul of honor. Bathilde was brought up very strictly in her
parents' house; her mother never allowed her to go out, or to have any
pleasure whatever.--Excuse me, monsieur le marquis, for going into all
these details; I do it because the poor girl who knows nothing is in
much greater danger of allowing herself to be deceived than one who is
warned by experience. Unfortunately, Bathilde's mother went on a
journey, and during her absence her daughter had more liberty. A young
man noticed her at the Fire of Saint-Jean, to which I had the
unfortunate idea of taking her.--You see, Bathilde is so pretty! there
is so much candor and innocence in her beauty that it was easy for a
seducer to divine that he could readily deceive her and triumph over
her. Well, this young man constantly appeared before my friend's
windows; then he sent her, by way of the window, a letter in which he
made her the most loving promises; he swore that she should be his wife;
he called God to witness the sanctity of his oath.--Ah! monseigneur,
poor Bathilde would have considered that she insulted the man she loved
if she had not had confidence in such an oath. She was weak, she was
guilty! But judge of her despair when her mother returned and discovered
her sin! Poor Bathilde was cast out pitilessly, turned into the street
at midnight.--Luckily she remembered that I was her friend.--We did not
spurn her! we gave her shelter; my father forgave her fault when he saw
how miserably unhappy she was.--But Bathilde still hoped that her
seducer would keep his promises; she wrote to him, she informed him that
she bore within her a pledge of their love; and I undertook to deliver
her letter, to see the man in whom her only hope lay.--Ah! monsieur le
marquis, he who was the cause of all the harm rejected my petition; he
was unmoved by the sufferings of the poor girl whom he had shamefully
abused; he ordered me to be turned out of his house, and forbade me ever
to appear there again.--Is not that infamous behavior, seigneur? Is it
not true that when one has dishonored a poor girl who was as pure and
virtuous as she was beautiful, he has no right to be deaf to her prayers
and to deny his child?"

The old man listened to Ambroisine with interest, and without
interrupting her; while she was speaking, he sat with his head resting
on his hand, seemingly weighing every word. When she finished, he looked
at her with a kindly expression and said:

"You are a sincere and devoted friend--that is well; this that you are
doing, one might ask in vain of the young men who press one another's
hands with endless protestations of friendship. But, alas! my poor girl,
what has happened to your friend is one of those misfortunes which have
become too common in our day. Moreover, what is there to prove that
this young Bathilde did not herself invite seduction, that her coquetry
did not cause her ruin?--Lastly, why do you apply to me rather than to
another, to obtain justice from this seducer? Am I his kinsman or his
connection? have I any rights, any power, over him?"

Ambroisine, without replying, took from her breast the letter written to
Bathilde by Léodgard, and with a trembling hand presented it to the old
man; he had no sooner cast his eye on the paper than he recognized his
son's hand. Thereupon his expression changed, a cloud darkened his brow;
he controlled his emotion, however, and read the document that he held
in his hands. As he read on, his expression became more severe, and when
he had finished he let his head fall forward on his breast and seemed
utterly crushed by that fresh blow.

Ambroisine, hopeful and afraid by turns, sat perfectly still, not daring
to break the silence, and prayed under her breath that heaven would move
the old man's heart to pity for poor Bathilde.

"It is my son, the heir of my name, who has done all this!" murmured the
marquis at last, speaking to himself, as if he had forgotten the girl's
presence. "O mon Dieu! am I doomed always to find him culpable? Shall I
owe to him nothing but subjects of grief, misery, and shame?--Yes, it
was certainly his hand that traced these characters--indeed, he did not
hesitate to sign the letter--to write a name that has always been
honorable at the foot of these lines which contain naught but falsehood
and perfidy! which have no purpose but to drag an innocent girl to the
pit!--Ah! he is misplaced in the reign of a just and virtuous monarch!
In the time of Henri III, in that age of license and libertinage, among
the Maugirons and Schombergs and Saint-Mégrins and the rest of the
king's _mignons_, he would have found his fitting place, and would have
obtained the approbation and favors of a dissolute court for his
conduct! But to-day, when a firm hand holds the reins of the State, when
protecting laws restore the courage of the weak and make the criminal
tremble, my son, the last descendant of the line of Marvejols, seems by
his conduct to seek to gain for his name the scandalous celebrity
courted by the favorites of Henri III! I cannot allow these disgraceful
proceedings to be prolonged! no! Justice must be done before all! Honor
takes precedence of nobility!"

And the old man, raising his head proudly, said to Ambroisine in a firm
voice:

"Go back to your friend, my girl, and say to her that she will hear from
me ere long."

Ambroisine would have been glad to know what she might hope for
Bathilde, but a gesture from the marquis imposed silence on her; and she
left the Hôtel de Marvejols, uncertain as yet whether she should
congratulate herself on having gone thither.



XXXV

AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE


Although the old marquis had told Ambroisine to say to Bathilde that she
would soon hear from him, the _belle baigneuse_ did not think it well to
tell her of the visit she had made to the father of her friend's
seducer. She was afraid of arousing vain hopes in her heart. To no one
save the Sire de Jarnonville did she describe her interview with
Léodgard's father. The Black Chevalier, who now took a deep interest in
Bathilde, said to Ambroisine, when she finished her story:

"Justice will be done! Do not doubt it, brave girl. The old marquis
will, first of all, make inquiries about your friend and her relations;
he will wish to make sure, first of all, that you have not deceived him
in any respect; and when he is certain that all you have told him is
true, I repeat, he will see that justice is done."

"But what do you mean by justice, seigneur chevalier? Can he force his
son to marry Bathilde?"

"No; and, frankly, I do not think that such is his intention. But if
Léodgard has a right to refuse to contract a union which does not meet
his views; if, being of full age, and his own master, he is at liberty
to defy his father's desires or his will, his father, who is in very
good favor with the cardinal-minister, has but a word to say to induce
Richelieu to send Léodgard to the Bastille. As for his victim, I do not
doubt that the old marquis will make her independent and take care of
her child."

"Money to Bathilde! Her lover in prison!--Oh! that is not what I wanted!
Bathilde will refuse the marquis's benefactions. She will blame herself
for the punishment he inflicts on his son. And I shall be the cause of
it all! Oh! I bitterly repent now that I went to the Hôtel de
Marvejols--my poor friend will never forgive me!"

"What was your hope, pray, when you went to Léodgard's father to tell
him everything?"

"Mon Dieu!--I cannot say.--In the first place, I wanted him to scold his
son--but without sending him to the Bastille! And then, I thought that
perhaps Monsieur Léodgard would be ashamed of his conduct, and would try
to make up for everything by--by marrying Bathilde!"

"Marry a bath keeper's daughter!--he, the Comte de Marvejols?--Ah! that
is just what you must never dream of hoping for!"

Ambroisine cast down her eyes, but a deep flush overspread her cheeks,
and her voice thrilled with noble pride as she murmured:

"Ah! then the daughters of bath keepers are of very little account in
your eyes, monsieur le chevalier, if you think that they may be
dishonored with impunity."

Jarnonville raised his eyes and gazed earnestly at the girl for some
time. Never before had he examined her so closely. He was impressed by
her beauty, for at that moment the flush which suffused her face, the
pride and the grief that could be read upon her brow, gave to all her
features an expression which made them even more charming than usual.

The chevalier was surprised beyond measure; he had never noticed that
Hugonnet's daughter was so beautiful, or that her person possessed so
many charms; for the first time in many months a faint smile played
about his lips, and he said at last:

"If the daughters of bath keepers were contemptible, you alone would
suffice to rehabilitate them. You mistook the meaning of my words. Far
from my mind be the thought that there exists a class which may be
outraged with impunity! But, in conformity with the passions of mankind,
there are prejudices, customs, conventional proprieties; also pride and
vanity, which, though they do not commit sin, too often prevent its
being atoned for.--But I say again, I had no intention of insulting you,
noble-hearted, devoted, generous girl! You, who embody so perfectly all
the marvellous tales we are told of the friendships of ancient
times!--Come, give me your hand, let me press it in mine, as gallant men
do when they are reconciled; and then I shall be quite certain that you
no longer bear me any ill will."

The Sire de Jarnonville offered Ambroisine his hand. She seemed to
hesitate, her face flushed vividly once more, but its expression was
softer and more yielding. At last she made up her mind; slowly she put
forth her plump white hand, and laid it, trembling, in the chevalier's.
He pressed it as if it were the hand of a friend; but it is doubtful
whether these two experienced at the contact the same sensations that
two friends would have felt.

After a few seconds Jarnonville released Ambroisine's hand, and they
parted, the former with a less sombre expression than usual, the _belle
baigneuse_ reflecting upon what she had done for Bathilde, and perhaps
also upon the grasp she had just exchanged with the Black Chevalier; for
women have a meaning in all that they do, whereas a man often yields
unreflectingly to a sudden impulse.

Six days had passed, and nothing had occurred to disturb the peaceful
life that Bathilde was leading in her room at Master Hugonnet's.
Ambroisine had not ventured to tell her of her visit to the old Marquis
de Marvejols. But she was constantly preoccupied and anxious; at the
least unexpected sound in the house, she ran to inquire if anyone had
come. So that now it was Bathilde's turn to be surprised at her
restlessness, and she insisted upon knowing its cause.

But Ambroisine confined herself to replying:

"Nothing is the matter! I assure you that nothing is the matter! But I
was thinking--I am surprised that the Sire de Jarnonville has not been
to our shop for several days, to ask me about you, as he has been
accustomed to do for some time."

"Why, Ambroisine, he must have much else in his head! Why should he
think so often of a poor girl whom he does not know?"

"Upon my word! I would like to see him forget you! After he promised to
take care of your child--especially now that----"

"That what?"

"Why, that the time is approaching when you will be a mother.--Oh, no!
he will not forget you. He is not like most of the young nobles of the
court, I tell you! And as he doesn't come, there must be something to
prevent; for he put his hand in mine; that means that he is my friend,
that I may rely on him under all circumstances; and he is not the man to
break his engagements."

Toward the close of that day, a servant in the Marquis de Marvejols's
livery appeared at Master Hugonnet's shop, bearing two large letters
sealed with the crest of that noble house.

Ambroisine, who was with her father at the moment, turned pale and began
to tremble when the servant entered, for she instantly recognized the
livery.

"Master Hugonnet, bath keeper?" said the man, addressing the master of
the house.

"That is my name, monsieur; what do you wish?"

"I am instructed to hand you this letter from my master--Monsieur le
Marquis de Marvejols."

Hugonnet glanced at the letter that was presented to him; he hesitated
about taking it, and said to the valet:

"Are you not making a mistake, monsieur; I have not the honor of knowing
Monsieur le Marquis de Marvejols, and----"

"Yes, father, yes, it is surely for you," interposed Ambroisine; "take
it--take it, I say!"

"Ah! you are sure that there is no mistake?"

"Yes, yes; you will see.--And that other letter, monsieur?"

"It is for a certain Demoiselle Bathilde Landry, who lives with you.
Will you have the kindness to hand it to her?"

"Yes, monsieur, oh, yes! I will take it to her at once."

"Then my errand is done."

And the valet went away, after bowing very respectfully to the bath
keeper and his daughter.

"So you know what all this means, do you?" said Hugonnet, looking at his
daughter with a surprised expression.

"Yes, father; I will explain it to you. But break this seal first, I
entreat you, and see what he has written to you."

"Break the seal! that would be a pity! It is magnificent--just look!"

"But, father, seals are made to be broken. How else do you expect to
know what anyone writes to you?--Break it! please break it!"

"Oh! how impatient you are!--Well! if I must----"

The seal was broken, and the bath keeper unfolded a large sheet of
paper, on which he read:

"The Marquis de Marvejols requests Master Hugonnet, bath keeper, and his
daughter Ambroisine to accompany Bathilde Landry to his house to-morrow.

"He will expect them at two o'clock in the afternoon, all other affairs
being put aside."

"What does this mean?" said Hugonnet, glancing at his daughter.

"It means, father, that I went, all alone, to see the old Seigneur de
Marvejols, that I told him the whole story of his son's treatment of
Bathilde, giving him as proof of what I said a letter that Monsieur
Léodgard once wrote to my friend; and that I demanded justice at his
hands for the victim of the seduction.--That is what I did, father,
without asking Bathilde's permission."

"Nor mine either, I believe?"

"That is true, father. Are you angry with me for doing it? Do you think
that I did wrong?"

Hugonnet reflected a moment, then cried:

"I' faith! no! You did not do wrong. But you should have told me.--No
matter; kiss me; you are a good girl, a true friend.--Well! we will go
to the marquis's to-morrow, and we will see what he has to say. After
all, he cannot make it out a crime in us to take a poor child in, who
was without a home and without means."

"Oh! no, father! on the contrary, he thanked me for doing it."

"Go now, and take your friend her letter. It probably contains the same
invitation as this one."

"Yes, father, I am going. But if you knew how excited I am! What will
Bathilde say when she learns that I went to her seducer's father and
told him everything?"

"Why, you are not afraid of her scolding you, are you? I have forgiven
you."

"Oh! that is not the same thing."

"True; with me, you are always sure of being in the right. But you acted
for Bathilde's good--and, above all, for her child's! Go--go; if the
friend blames, the mother will pardon you!"

Ambroisine left her father and went to her friend's room, concealing
beneath her neckerchief the marquis's second letter. She tried to assume
an indifferent, cheerful air as she walked toward Bathilde; but the
latter was not deceived, and after looking into Ambroisine's eyes for an
instant she said, somewhat sharply:

"You have something to tell me, and you are afraid to speak; what makes
you afraid? Cast out and cursed by my parents, abandoned by the man I
loved, it seems to me that I can defy fate now. What more have I to
dread?"

"It is true that I have something to tell you; but it is no new
misfortune that threatens you--far from it!"

"What is it, then, and why do you hesitate to say what you have to say?"

Ambroisine took from her bosom the letter sealed with the marquis's
crest, and handed it to Bathilde, saying in a faltering tone:

"Here--here is a letter that was just brought here for you."

"A letter!--Oh! it is from him; yes, nobody but he can have written to
me. So he is still thinking of me--and you did not give it to me at
once!"

Bathilde had already snatched the letter; she broke the seal, unfolded
the sheet, and read:

"The Marquis de Marvejols requests Demoiselle Bathilde Landry to come to
his house to-morrow, at two o'clock, accompanied by Master Hugonnet and
his daughter Ambroisine."

"What does this mean?" murmured Bathilde, whom the reading of the letter
had terrified beyond words. "It is his father, that old man, who does
not know me, who writes me this!"

Thereupon Ambroisine sat down beside her friend, took one of her hands
in hers, and in her softest voice confessed to her the course she had
adopted in conferring with Léodgard's father.

Bathilde shuddered as she listened; and when her friend had finished,
she said to her, weeping bitterly:

"I cannot scold you for what you did, for you hoped to put an end to my
trials! And yet, if you had consulted me, I should have dissuaded you
from this plan; for the result can only be to increase my misery, if the
marquis punishes his son. He will hate me all the more intensely; he
will be furiously angry with me, for he will think that it was I who
asked you to tell his father all.--Ah! as if his desertion were not
enough! Must I endure his hatred in addition?--The old Seigneur de
Marvejols will take care of my child, you say. But suppose that, in
order to keep a closer watch on the child, to give it an education
worthy of the blood that will flow in its veins, it should occur to him
to take it into his own house! Then I should be compelled to part with
it--never to see it again, perhaps!--Oh! the mere thought turns my heart
to ice! I, part with my child, my treasure, my hope, the only living
thing that still attaches me to life!--Never! never! far better to die!"

"Who says that anyone thinks of separating you and your child?" cried
Ambroisine, raising her head proudly. "Do you think that I would allow
it? Oh! have no fear; if I did wrong to go to your seducer's father
without consulting you, never fear, I will see to it that no misfortune
comes to you on that account!--On the contrary, something tells me that
you will not blame me long for having done so.--Courage, Bathilde,
courage! the Marquis de Marvejols is a just and honorable man. Have
confidence in him."

The next day, at noon, the large hall in the Hôtel de Marvejols was
arranged as if for a solemn ceremonial. Chairs were placed in rows on
each side. At one end a large table, covered with a velvet cloth with
gold fringe, stood before three handsome armchairs, each provided with a
sumptuous silken footstool. On the table were papers and writing
materials.

Several valets in rich livery, among them old Hector, went in and out of
the hall, making sure that everything was prepared in accordance with
their master's orders.

As the clock struck two, one of the doors opened, and three persons were
ushered into the hall. They were Bathilde, Ambroisine, and Master
Hugonnet.

Bathilde, whose aspect was made even more interesting by her condition
and her suffering expression, leaned on her friend's arm, trembling from
head to foot, and seemed to lack courage to raise her eyes.

Ambroisine walked forward with a confident step, although, in the depths
of her heart, she was intensely excited. Then came the master bath
keeper, who entered the hall with a respectful demeanor, cap in hand,
saluting all the servants and even the articles of furniture as he
passed, because the magnificence of the hôtel made a profound impression
upon him.

Old Hector stepped forward at once to meet the young women, and escorted
them to one side of the hall, where he gave them seats, saying:

"Pray be seated; monsieur le marquis will come very soon. Pray be
seated, and your companion also."

Bathilde and her friends had been in the hall hardly five minutes,
afraid to do more than exchange a few words in whispers, when another
door opened and the Marquis de Marvejols entered, accompanied by two
gentlemen, one of whom, almost as old as the marquis, had a venerable,
benevolent face which inspired respect and confidence; while the other,
who was much younger, had a noble, severe expression, and a glance that
seemed determined to read one's inmost heart.

"That is the marquis!" whispered Ambroisine to Bathilde; but she,
instead of looking up, cast her eyes on the floor and felt as if she
were about to swoon.

She rose, however, on the entrance of the three gentlemen, as did her
friend and Master Hugonnet. The new-comers bowed graciously to the
persons who were in the hall before them; and the marquis, walking
forward alone toward Ambroisine, said to her, looking at Bathilde:

"This is your friend?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

Bathilde tottered; fear and excitement made her heart beat furiously.
But, despite her prostration and her extreme pallor, her beautiful and
refined features were still fascinating, and the old man seemed
impressed by the sweetness and charm of her face.

He gazed at her a few seconds in silence, then placed his hand on the
girl's arm and said:

"Do not tremble, my child; calm your emotion; you are not here as an
accused person."

With that, the marquis returned to the two gentlemen who had come with
him, and they all took their seats in the armchairs at the end of the
hall.

In a moment a man clad in the black costume then worn by men of the law
took his place in front of the table, on which papers and parchments
were strewn.

Old Hector appeared at one of the doors and made a slight motion with
his head to his master, who said:

"You may admit him now."

Hector left the hall by the door through which Bathilde and her friends
had entered; a few moments later, a man appeared at that door; he was
pale and his emotion was apparent, but his glance was stern. He had
donned his old uniform, which he had ceased to wear except on solemn
occasions. He carried his head erect, and his step was firm as he walked
into the hall without turning his eyes in the direction of Bathilde, who
shuddered at sight of him, and hid her face against Ambroisine's bosom,
murmuring:

"My father! it is my father!"

It was, in fact, the old trooper of Henri IV who had passed within a few
feet of his daughter. He walked toward the marquis, and said to him in
a tone in which, although perfectly respectful, there was a slight tinge
of bitterness:

"Seigneur, you request me to come to your house; you inform me that you
will make known to me the seducer of my--of her who was once my
daughter; you might well be certain that I would not decline that
invitation; but permit me to say that I did not suppose that this
information would be given before so many witnesses; I did not think
that it was necessary that my shame should be so public!"

"Master Landry, do not accuse us before you know what we propose to do,"
replied the Marquis de Marvejols; "we know that you are a most honorable
man; the fact that you served under King Henri honors you in our eyes no
less than the most ancient quarterings of nobility on your arms could
do; you cannot believe, therefore, that in requesting you to come before
us our purpose was to humiliate you. On the contrary, we propose that
justice shall be done you; and if your shame has been public, the
reparation shall be equally public.--Be kind enough to take a seat--on
this side."

The marquis pointed to the side opposite that where Landry's daughter
was seated; and the old soldier, whose features had softened somewhat as
he listened to the words of the Seigneur de Marvejols, seated himself on
a bench, caressing his grizzled moustache, but taking pains not to look
toward Bathilde.

She had been hardly able to control herself since she had been in her
father's presence.

"He does not deign even to cast a glance at me!" she whispered to her
friend.

"Because he is afraid of breaking down. He knows very well that you are
here! If he saw you so pale and distressed, do you suppose that he could
continue to be angry?--Wait, and hope."

The sound of a curtain drawn noisily back, and of spurs jangling loudly
on the floor, attracted the attention of the two girls. A new personage
had entered the hall; he made his appearance there as a master; and his
manner was proud and arrogant as he strode toward the old marquis,
passing disdainfully before the persons assembled there.

Bathilde instantly recognized Léodgard; she pressed Ambroisine's hand,
murmuring:

"It is he! O mon Dieu! what is going to happen?"

"You wrote to me to come to you, seigneur, with respect to a matter
which concerns the honor of our family, you say," said Léodgard, halting
in front of his father; "but what is the meaning of such an assemblage
as this? Are you about to sit in judgment? Have you sent for me to come
here as an accused person?"

"Perhaps," replied the old marquis, in a solemn voice, fastening his
eyes upon his son with a look which compelled him to turn his away.

But Léodgard, looking at the persons who surrounded him, speedily
recognized them all. At sight of Bathilde he turned pale, and could not
master his confusion; but when he recognized Landry, an expression of
annoyance, of anger, appeared on his face, and he waited, quivering with
impatience, to hear what was wanted of him.

"Comte de Marvejols," said the old marquis, "when a sin--I might say, a
crime--has covered an old man's brow with shame and brought despair into
a family, reparation should not be made in darkness and secrecy.
Therefore I have requested Monsieur le Duc de Montaulac and Monsieur le
Baron de Freilly to be kind enough to assist me with their presence
to-day; for, in the presence of such gentlemen, one must do his duty or
be adjudged unworthy to wear a sword."

"I do not understand you, seigneur," rejoined Léodgard, while his
features assumed an arrogant and scornful expression. "If anyone here
considers that I am unworthy to wear a sword, let him come forward and
tell me so, and I will show him how I handle it."

"Honor, monsieur, does not consist simply in being able to fight with
skill; if it were so, bandits, highwaymen, cutthroats, would all be men
of honor, and would be rewarded rather than punished.--But a truce to
discussion.--Comte Léodgard, cast your eye upon this young woman who is
here, by your side,--upon this old soldier, who has never been recreant
to honor, and who no longer dares to look upon his child, because she
has brought the flush of shame to his brow--those are your two
victims."

"What! he is the man! he! the mise----"

And Landry, leaving his sentence unfinished, put his hand to the hilt of
his sabre. But a glance from the old marquis recalled him to himself; he
restrained his passion and confined himself to glaring at the young man
in a fashion which was sufficiently indicative of what he proposed to
do.

The marquis resumed, still addressing his son:

"You seduced Bathilde, Landry's daughter; you deceived a young girl,
innocent until then. She put faith in your promises and your oaths. And
after ruining her, you abandoned her in the most dastardly manner when
she was cursed and cast out by her parents!--Comte Léodgard, was it
because you belong to an illustrious house, because you bear a noble
name, that you deemed yourself entitled to bring misfortune and infamy
upon a family of lower rank, a family which had as its possessions only
honor?--Answer me!"

Profound silence reigned for a moment in the hall. Landry toyed with the
hilt of his old sabre with a trembling hand. Bathilde scarcely breathed.
Ambroisine waited anxiously for what was to follow; and all the other
witnesses of the scene seemed to share her anxiety.

After a brief interval, Léodgard, who had turned his head away to avoid
Bathilde's glance, said, trying to give an ironical accent to his
voice:

"Really, monsieur le marquis, I did not expect to be haled thus before a
court of honor, for an act in which, I must confess, I had not detected
so many crimes, so many terrible disasters!--From the way in which you
reprove what is, after all, only a peccadillo, a youthful escapade, one
would think that I had done something that no gentleman had ever dared
to do before! By Notre-Dame! he who thinks that has but little
acquaintance with our young noblemen of to-day! There is not one of them
who has not been guilty of five or six offences of the sort for which
you reproach me!--But, far from blushing and repenting of them, they,
one and all, pride themselves thereon! And since when has it been
forbidden to us young men of the court to make love to the _petites
bourgeoises_, to the young girls of the lower orders? After all, if they
wish to remain virtuous, it is their business not to listen to us! But,
instead of that, they incite our advances by their glances, their
allurements! They would be sorely disappointed if we did not try to
seduce them!"

Landry uttered a sort of hollow growl which presaged a storm on the
point of bursting. Bathilde hid her face in her hands, and Ambroisine
squeezed her father's arm, murmuring:

"How horrible! how shameful!--Oh, no! she did none of that!"

But the old marquis rose and interrupted Léodgard, exclaiming in a voice
of thunder:

"Enough, monsieur, enough! your defence is simply an additional insult
to the woman you have outraged!--We know that there are women who invite
seduction, who even provoke it; they do not deserve our pity! But do you
dare to place this unhappy creature here among those girls who have
neither modesty nor morals?--In that case, why did you need, in order to
seduce her, to employ the most sacred oaths, to write her that you would
take her for your wife?"

"I!--write such things to her!"

"See, here is your letter; do you deny your own signature?"

And the marquis handed his son the letter which he had written to
Bathilde long before, and which he had long ago forgotten.

When he recognized his own handwriting, Léodgard was confounded.

A ray of joy gleamed in Ambroisine's eyes. As for Landry, a sudden
change transformed his features; they lost in an instant all their
severity, and turning his eyes upon his daughter the old soldier gazed
at her, no longer in anger, but in sorrow. Pity had found its way into
his heart, and it was easy to see that pardon was not far behind.

But Léodgard was not long in recovering from that first moment of
surprise.

"After all, seigneur," he demanded, with an impatient gesture, "what is
your purpose? For heaven's sake, let us put an end to this scene! Why
did you summon me here?"

"That you might restore the honor of this girl, whom you have made a
mother; and to do that, you must marry her, give her your name."

Léodgard stared at his father as if he doubted his ears; it was the same
with all those present, except the two noblemen seated with the marquis.

"If you consent to this union, Léodgard," continued the latter, "I will
this very day convey to Bathilde Landry this house and the revenue of
two other houses which I own in Paris; moreover, I will settle my entire
fortune, after my death, on the child that is soon to be born. I myself
will retire to my estate of Champfleury, and end my life there; life in
the city is no longer congenial to my years or my tastes. If you refuse
to take Bathilde for your wife, then, monsieur, there is another
satisfaction which her father has the right to expect; I read in his
eyes that he is burning to demand it, and I cannot blame him!--Choose,
therefore, Bathilde's hand, or a duel with her father."

"My choice cannot be doubted!" cried Léodgard. "The Comte de Marvejols
will not marry a bath keeper's daughter! And if the bath keeper desires
to measure swords with me, I am willing to consent to do him that
honor."

A low groan was heard from the direction of the two girls, while Landry,
proudly twisting his moustache, said calmly:

"Monsieur le comte, King Henri IV tapped me on the shoulder and called
me his _brave_! I do not think that you will dishonor yourself by
measuring your sword with my rapier!"

"And so," rejoined the marquis, with a grief-stricken glance at his son,
"you expect, by shedding her father's blood, to efface the shame with
which you have sullied this maid's honor! Let it be as you choose,
monsieur! Henceforth God will attend to your punishment.--But be not
alarmed, my poor girl, poor mother, whom your seducer spurns; whatever
the result of the combat about to take place, I will henceforth take
care of you as if you were my own child.--And you, Landry, you, her
father--now that you see her grief, her suffering, her repentance, you
will forgive her for her sin; yes, you will forgive her--I see it in
your eyes; and then you will thank this other maid, her friend, of whose
devotion you are not as yet aware.--Come forward, Ambroisine, and
receive the praise which you deserve; let your father hear it; let us
bring joy to one heart at least!"

Master Hugonnet, flushing crimson with pleasure, gently pushed
Ambroisine forward; she walked a few steps, being in dire embarrassment,
and said, lowering her eyes:

"Monsieur le marquis is too kind; what I have done was quite natural--I
should have been so happy to find that Monsieur le Comte Léodgard still
loved Bathilde!--And so, before making up my mind to tell the whole
story to monsieur le marquis, I went many times to the house in Rue de
Bretonvilliers, to try to speak with monsieur le comte; and yet I
confess that I was a little afraid when I went to that quarter alone at
night. And then, as they always told me that Monsieur Léodgard was not
in, I sometimes passed a great part of the night waiting for his return;
and once--oh! I was so frightened--I had such a horrible
experience!--But I beg pardon, monseigneur; that cannot interest
you--excuse me."

Within a few seconds, Léodgard's face, as he listened to Ambroisine, had
become deathly pale, and great drops of sweat stood on his brow; but he
remained motionless in his place and affected to make light of what she
said.

The old marquis motioned to Ambroisine as she was about to turn away,
saying:

"Go on, my child; what happened to you in your friend's service cannot
fail to interest us. What was this experience?"

"Mon Dieu! monsieur le marquis--excuse me--it was like a ghost.--This is
how it happened. I was waiting for monsieur le comte to return; the
clock had struck twelve; as I did not know what to do to kill time,
instead of standing still in front of the gate, I walked now and then
along the walls on one side or the other--for the hôtel stands entirely
by itself. That night, as I stopped at the end of the wall, behind the
hôtel, a man suddenly appeared; I had neither heard nor seen him; it was
as if he came out of the wall.--But imagine my terror; by his hairy cap
and his olive-green cloak, I had no doubt that it was Giovanni the
brigand, whom I had heard described so often; and then----"

"It is all over! I will atone for everything!" cried Léodgard in a
hoarse voice, roughly pushing Ambroisine aside, to approach Bathilde.
"Monsieur le marquis, I surrender, I consent, I will marry Bathilde; I
am ready to lead her to the altar!"

It would be impossible to describe the effect of these words, which
everyone was so far from expecting.

The keenest delight was depicted on every face. Bathilde uttered a cry
of joy. Landry went to his daughter and took her in his arms. Ambroisine
and her father were in ecstasies.

The old Marquis de Marvejols offered his son his hand as a sign of
reconciliation.

And no one thought to ask for the end of the adventure which the _belle
baigneuse_ had begun to narrate.



XXXVI

A STRANGE CHOICE


One beautiful day in spring, Valentine de Mongarcin sat in the salon
where her aunt Madame de Ravenelle preferred to pass her time, amusing
herself by picking out chords on her zither and singing the words of a
new virelay.

Madame de Ravenelle, reclining on an immense couch, listened to her
niece, keeping time gently with her head, and smiling with the contented
expression of a person whose digestion is good and who has no cares.

The fair Valentine was a long way from displaying a countenance as
placid as her aunt's; her brow often contracted; her mouth expressed
melancholy rather than pleasure, and her eyes, which she turned
constantly from side to side, indicated that her mind was deeply
preoccupied.

"Well! go on, Valentine; why have you stopped singing?" inquired the old
lady.

"What do you say, aunt? was I singing?"

"Well! this is charming! do you mean that you did not know it? that you
sang without being aware of it?"

"I assure you, aunt, that I was not thinking of music at all!"

"Is it possible? However, you have been so distraught, so pensive, for
some time past, that if I did not know you, I should really believe that
you had some passion in your heart!--But I am not at all alarmed in that
direction; I know that you love no one!"

"That is true, aunt: I have no love for anyone."

"Still, you will have to decide some day. You do not lack suitors, at
all events; there are more than ten gentlemen, rich and of noble birth,
who seek your hand. I say to them all: 'Wait, be patient; she will come
to it.'"

Valentine made no reply. But, a few minutes later, she asked:

"Did you hear anything last evening, aunt, at Madame de Brissac's
reception, of a very--a very extraordinary occurrence?"

"No, niece, no; and I prefer not to. Extraordinary events sometimes
cause keen emotion, and I dislike anything that disturbs my delightfully
quiet life."

"Well, I heard two young gentlemen talking within a few feet of me--not
so low that I could not hear their words. One of them said: 'Yes, my
friend, Léodgard de Marvejols is married.'--'That is impossible,' the
other replied; 'why should his marriage be kept secret?'--The first one
answered; but just then he and his friend walked away, so that I could
learn nothing more."

"You must have heard wrong, niece; or else the young gentleman was
amusing himself at his friend's expense.--A man of the Marvejols blood
does not contract a marriage without letting it be known beforehand in
society! That would in truth be most extraordinary!"

At that moment a servant appeared and announced the Baron de Germandré.

The old lady ordered him to be admitted, and soon a little, wizened,
bald-headed old man entered the salon, saluted the ladies with all the
grace of a courtier, and, after presenting his respects with a sprightly
air, dropped upon a sofa, saying:

"Great news, mesdames! great news! I am always among the first to learn
the news, you know. I like that; early fruits are always agreeable: ha!
ha! ha!"

"What is it, Monsieur de Germandré?" asked Madame de Ravenelle, half
raising her head; "is the king making love to his wife? is Richelieu out
of favor?"

"No, no, to-day's news does not concern the court, but a gentleman of
noble lineage, of a very ancient family.--Why, it is utterly
inconceivable! And if I had not had my information from the old Duc de
Montaulac, who was one of the witnesses, I should refuse to believe it;
but one must yield to evidence!"

"When you are willing to explain yourself fully, baron, we shall be very
glad; for thus far you have confined yourself to most ambiguous
phrases."

"That is true, mesdames--I beg pardon; this is the authentic news: the
son of the Marquis de Marvejols, young Comte Léodgard, is married!"

"Married!" cried Madame de Ravenelle, unable to control a movement of
surprise; and she glanced at her niece; but the latter remained
impassive and simply pressed her lips tightly together, like one who was
not at all surprised by what she heard.

"That would be perfectly natural," continued the baron; "the count's
marriage was sure to come, and it would surprise no one if he had
married someone of his own rank, a person of noble birth, of an
illustrious family. But if you knew to whom he has given his name!--why,
it is beyond belief; such a thing was never seen!"

"Really, baron, you are intolerable! You keep us in this suspense!"

"Oh! a thousand pardons, _belle dame_!--Well, the descendant of the
house of Marvejols, Comte Léodgard, has married a girl of the common
people--the daughter of a bath keeper. That is the sort of people with
whom that noble gentleman has allied himself."

Valentine clenched her fingers on the chair on which her hand rested,
but she strove to retain her self-control.

For the first time in her life perhaps, Madame de Ravenelle uttered an
exclamation, and seemed deeply moved; she could hardly murmur:

"It cannot be so, baron; there must be some mistake; such a marriage is
impossible!"

"Mon Dieu! I said exactly the same thing, madame, when I heard of it;
but since the Duc de Montaulac and the Baron de Freilly were present as
witnesses to the marriage, and since they have confirmed the report,
how can you entertain any further doubt?"

"And the old Marquis de Marvejols consented to this marriage?"

"He not only consented, but--and this may seem to you even more
incredible--he forced his son to contract it, so to speak."

"He? the marquis?"

"Yes, madame.--You know that he is a very strange man, is the dear
marquis! He has certain ideas, certain principles, on the subject of
honor, which are worthy of much respect, no doubt; but still there are
cases when one may well make an exception to the rule."

"And the Duc de Montaulac and the Baron de Freilly consented to act as
witnesses to a marriage which violates all the proprieties, which is
almost an insult to the nobility?"

"What would you have? It seems that it is quite a romantic story. They
say that the girl, who was a model of virtue, was seduced by that
scapegrace of a Léodgard--for the gentleman is said to be a sad rake.
And then, the affair having had certain--er--consequences, the girl was
turned out of doors by her parents, and but for a friend who assisted
her and gave her shelter she would probably have died in the street; for
the dashing Léodgard had abandoned her!"

"That was very wrong! He should have given her money--a great deal of
money!"

"He has never had any too much for himself; though now, they say, he
spends as much as a sultan!--To make my story short, the father learned
all from the girl's friend, who went to see him. He summoned all the
parties before him, and it was then that the Duc de Montaulac and
Monsieur de Freilly were present. He told his son that he owed
reparation to the father of the girl he had seduced. This father is an
old soldier, so it seems; the marquis gave the count his choice between
marrying the girl and fighting a duel with her father?"

"And Léodgard preferred the marriage? It is inconceivable!"

"He refused at first; he even rejected the proposition with contempt.
Then, all of a sudden--no one knows how it came about--he changed his
mind and consented to marry. The ceremony took place instantly, in the
chapel of the Hôtel de Marvejols. A venerable priest had been summoned.
Everything was ready. The rite was performed."

"I cannot get over my surprise! No, it passes my understanding. The new
bridegroom will not have the audacity to present his wife at court, I
presume?"

"It seems that after the marriage the bride's parents gave up their
bathing establishment and went to live in the provinces."

"What a pity! we might have gone to the Comte de Marvejols's
father-in-law's place to bathe! That might have become the fashion."

"As for the old marquis, he has given his mansion on Place Royale to the
young bride, so they say. It seems that he has lavished gifts upon her;
he has settled an enormous income upon her. But he has arranged it so
that his son cannot touch it; in short, he has determined that the young
woman shall have an independent fortune.--It is certain that with the
sort of life that Comte Léodgard is leading now few fortunes could stand
the strain.--Finally, the old marquis has left Paris; he has gone to his
fine estate of Champfleury, announcing that he does not propose to leave
it again."

"That is a very strange series of events!--Do the new husband and wife
live happily?"

"Oh, yes! for they do not live together. On the very day of his
marriage, Comte Léodgard left his wife and returned to his _petite
maison_ in Rue de Bretonvilliers. As for the new countess, she has taken
up her abode in the Hôtel de Marvejols, and I am assured that the count,
her husband, has not set his foot inside the door since she took
possession."

"All that you have told me is so astounding--it has excited me too
much.--I am afraid that I am going to be ill, baron; this is contrary to
all my habits."

"You will resume them again, _belle dame_; after all, no matter what
happens, it seems to me that it is a matter of indifference to us. So
much the worse for people who make fools of themselves! The idea of
marrying a woman whom you leave on your wedding day and whom you refuse
to see again! I declare that, had I been in the count's place, I would
have fought a hundred times rather than enter into such an absurd
alliance!"

"You would have done well, baron; you would have done very well! Ah! you
do not belie your blood!"

"What the devil! one is a gentleman or one is not; I know no other
distinction!--But I must leave you, mesdames; receive my respects. I
confess that I am in haste to go to several other houses to tell the
story of the Comte de Marvejols's extraordinary marriage."

"I can understand that. Go, Baron de Germandré, go; we will detain you
no longer."

The old baron took his leave.

Madame de Ravenelle glanced at her niece; Valentine simply said, in a
curt tone:

"Well, madame! you see that I heard aright, do you not?"

The old lady made no reply; but, after so severe a shock, after such an
excess of fatiguing emotion, it was plain that she wished to enjoy a
little repose, for she stretched herself out on her couch as she did
when she proposed to sleep.

Thereupon Valentine at once left the salon and went to her own
apartment.

"Send Miretta to me!" she said to a servant whom she met; then, having
no longer any motive for concealing her feelings, she abandoned herself
to chagrin, wrath, mortification; she tore whatever was within reach of
her hand; she spurned and broke everything that came in her way.

Miretta soon appeared before her mistress. For some time past, Miretta
had been sad and pensive. Wherever she might be, her brow was pale and
anxious, and her eyes expressed grief and discouragement; she was no
longer the pretty and piquant brunette who fascinated all eyes. Grief
soon works havoc with beauty.

"Mademoiselle sent for me, and I am here," she said in a low tone,
bending her head before her mistress.

"Yes, come in; close that door, so that I may speak, so that I may at
last give full vent to my feelings, without constraint."

"Mademoiselle is much agitated! Has anything happened to grieve her?"

"Oh, yes! yes! I am suffering acutely; I feel deeply humiliated! I
cannot tell you all that I feel; I do not know myself what is taking
place in my heart; but I would like to be able to avenge
myself!--Miretta, that man who was to be my husband--at least, such was
the wish of both our families--that Léodgard de Marvejols, is
married--married to the girl Bathilde, the daughter of a bath keeper!
he, the descendant of an illustrious family! Do you understand?--do you
realize what a terrible affront he has put upon me?--To marry
Mademoiselle Bathilde Landry, he disdained, he refused, the
hand of Valentine de Mongarcin!--Ah! that thought drives me
frantic--it suffocates me, it makes my nerves tingle! Give me
water--water--quickly! It seems to me as if I were choking."

Miretta waited upon her young mistress with the most zealous attention.
Valentine soon became calmer, and even smiled at her maid, saying:

"I feel better now--thanks, Miretta! In truth, I was very foolish to
make myself ill over that man; that is not the way to be avenged! But to
marry that Bathilde--who would ever have believed it of him?"

"And the white plume you sent her, mademoiselle?"

"I believe that instead of ruining the girl, it simply helped to make
her a countess!--She! she! Comtesse de Marvejols! I cannot accustom
myself to the idea. And yet, it would seem that he no longer loves her.
Just imagine that on the very day of their marriage Léodgard left this
Bathilde! She lives in the hôtel on Place Royale, and the count
continues to occupy his house in Rue de Bretonvilliers; and since the
day that he contracted that shameful marriage he has not been once to
visit his wife!"

"That proves, mademoiselle, that Monsieur le Comte Léodgard did not
marry willingly; and that he must certainly have been forced into this
marriage with the bath keeper Landry's daughter."

"No, he might have refused; he is old enough to control his own actions.
He had his choice between this marriage and a duel with this Bathilde's
father, and he dastardly declined the duel!"

"Oh! mademoiselle, it is inconceivable that it was from lack of courage.
Everybody agrees in saying that Monsieur le Comte Léodgard is the
bravest of the brave!"

"Yes, yes, you are right; but, in that case, why did he consent? There
is some mystery underneath all this--something which I would give all
the world to discover!"

And Valentine, resting her head on one of her hands, half reclining on a
sofa, lay for several minutes deep in thought. Miretta, kneeling on a
cushion by her mistress's side, was equally motionless, and, wholly
engrossed by her thoughts, evidently had no idea what she was doing.

Valentine emerged from her reverie at last, and said, passing her hand
through Miretta's lovely black hair:

"Poor girl! you too are in trouble, and you have nobody to whom to
confide your sorrows. But I have noticed your depression for some time;
your face is careworn, and when you try to smile there are tears in your
eyes--tears which you try in vain to conceal!--Come, tell me your
troubles; has the man whom you loved so dearly betrayed you?"

"Alas! mademoiselle, I do not know whether he has betrayed me; yet I can
but think that he has ceased to love me, as he no longer tries to see
me. Days, weeks, months have passed, and I never see him--I cannot
succeed in meeting him!"

"Poor Miretta, I understand your melancholy; but do you know whether he
is still in Paris? Perhaps he has been compelled to absent himself, to
take a journey, and had no time to send you word?"

"Oh, no! he is still in Paris, mademoiselle, I am very sure; for I--I
sometimes hear of him."

"Those persons from whom you hear of your lover should be able to tell
you where he is, where you might find him."

Miretta lowered her eyes and replied, after a moment's pause:

"No, mademoiselle; for he will not tell where he lives, he does not wish
me to go to see him.--Mon Dieu! what have I done to him that he should
forget me, avoid me thus? He knows very well that I came to this country
only because he was here! I only asked to be allowed to see him now and
then, at long intervals; was I so unreasonable? And yet, the last time
that I saw him, he was so far from being cold to me that one would have
said that he loved me more than ever. He came with me to this door, he
pressed my hands lovingly, he looked at me as one looks with the heart;
and can he have ceased to love me? No, it is impossible! Oh! there are
times when I should believe that he was dead, if I did not know that he
has been seen, in Paris, within the fortnight."

"Look you, Miretta, you are childish to be alarmed, to distress
yourself; you have no real reason for it; your fears are as vague as
your suspicions; whereas I--I feel that I must have revenge for the
affront put upon me. But to whom shall I look for my revenge? Not to my
aunt; she was considerably moved, I admit, when she learned of this
monstrous marriage; but in a moment she went to sleep, in order to
forget all about it. So that I must depend on myself alone for my
vengeance, yes, on myself! But a young girl does not count in the world;
she can do nothing. It is better--yes, she must be able to maintain her
rank, to show herself, to make a sensation, and perhaps----"

Valentine's features became animated, her thought seemed to embrace the
whole future. She remained for a long while buried in meditation, then
said to Miretta:

"You must have seen here all the noblemen who aspire to my hand. I wish
you to tell me what you think of them; what you may have heard about
them. Pages and esquires are never dumb when their masters are
mentioned. Answer me frankly. You cannot hurt me, for I love none of
these gentlemen.--The Sire de Vergy?"

"He is a very handsome cavalier, perhaps a little too much in love with
himself; he thinks of nothing but his dress, he adores perfumery----"

"Let us pass to another;--the Comte de Brillancourt?"

"He is a very fine-looking man; he is most anxious to be considered a
roué, a seducer, a man who makes conquests every day; but his servants
declare that he boasts of more than he makes, and that he never finds
anybody at the rendezvous which he claims to have received."

"He must be a fool! he would be a very depressing companion.--The Sire
de Montaubry?"

"He is considered an agreeable gentleman, who adores pleasure and passes
his life in merrymaking. He is generous to prodigality; he rewards his
esquire when he has invented some pleasant occupation for his time.
Cards, dancing, music, the table, horses--these are what he must have
every day."

"The man must be insufferable with his high spirits!--The Baron
d'Arcelle?"

"He is no longer young, but he is enormously rich! He is a great
stickler for etiquette; he dismissed his coachman one day because he
allowed the carriage of a farmer of the salt tax to pass him."

"They who ascribe so much importance to little things are incapable of
great things!--The Marquis de Santoval?"

"Oh! there is a man in whose glance there is something that inspires
fear! He has a handsome face; but such a black beard, and eyes that
shine with a smoldering fire, and heavy eyebrows that almost join. His
servants say that he is very just to them, but that he punishes
inexorably the slightest fault. He is a widower; his first wife was very
pretty, and Monsieur de Santoval is terribly jealous; they say that he
did not make her happy. He adores the chase, and passes a large part of
the year on his estates, hunting wolves."

"Enough, enough! my choice is made!--Go, Miretta, see if my aunt has
finished her siesta."

Miretta returned and informed her mistress that Madame de Ravenelle was
quite ready to listen to her. So Valentine left her apartment and went
to her aunt. After saluting her with great gravity, she said:

"Madame, I have decided at last to take a husband; it is time for me to
occupy my rightful place in society."

"Ah! you have decided, niece? Very good! Mon Dieu! what a multitude of
events for a single day!--Well, Valentine, it only remains to make a
choice among all the noble suitors who have asked for your hand."

"My choice is made, aunt."

"Indeed! it is extraordinary how rapidly everything happens to-day!"

"My choice has fallen on the Marquis de Santoval. I accept him for my
husband."

"The Marquis de Santoval!"

And the old lady uttered another exclamation of surprise, then fell back
on her couch, saying:

"Everybody seems determined to kill me to-day by exciting me beyond
endurance!"



XXXVII

BATHILDE'S CHILD


The magnificent Hôtel de Marvejols had changed masters. In the place of
the old marquis, Bathilde, Comte Léodgard's lawful wife, was installed
in the vast apartments, and gave orders to the numerous servants whom
the marquis had left with her as a nucleus of her household.

An abrupt change seemed to have taken place in the young woman's mind,
manners, and bearing. Nature, seconding her newly acquired fortune,
lavished upon her a multitude of gifts, which, previously to that time
at least, had been hidden by her timidity and the retirement in which
she had lived.

On receiving a name and a title which raised her in her own esteem, the
modest and trembling girl had become an excellent woman, humane and
beneficent to all those about her.

She wore without embarrassment, even with dignity, the richer garb which
her lofty position demanded. Far from being awkward and ill at ease in
the rich attire of a noble dame, Bathilde displayed new graces; her
refined and fascinating features seemed made to go with silk fabrics and
velvet cloaks.

Nothing offended the eye, nothing seemed out of place, in the young
woman suddenly transported from a modest little chamber to a luxurious
mansion; and no one, seeing her in her salon, dressed as a wealthy
countess should be dressed, would have suspected that he had before his
eyes the daughter of a bath keeper.

When Bathilde, on leaving the chapel, saw Léodgard hasten away without
bestowing a glance upon her or addressing her a single word, her heart
felt a cruel pang; but she succeeded in dissembling her pain; she said
to herself that, after the honor that she had received, and now that her
child had a name, and that she could look her father in the face without
blushing, to abandon herself to her disappointment in love would be pure
weakness, and that it behooved her thenceforth to show that she was
worthy of the rank to which she had been raised. She said to herself,
too, that the seduced girl, the mistress, must disappear before the
legitimate wife; and she found strength in her soul to force back her
suffering, and to show to those about her a tranquil brow, a
self-possessed glance, and a pleasant smile.

Perhaps, in the depths of her heart, Bathilde hoped that her spouse
would not always bear her ill will, that he would some day desire to see
her to whom he had given his name.

But when weeks and months passed without a sight of Léodgard, she
understood that his mind was definitely made up; that he had married her
to satisfy his father's wishes, but that he proposed, by living apart
from her, to prove to her that he had not contracted the marriage of his
free will.

After installing Bathilde in the noble mansion on Place Royale, after
handing her the documents which assured to her, and to her unborn child
as well, an independent fortune, the old marquis had imprinted a kiss on
the brow of his new daughter, and had left Paris for his estate in the
country, taking with him old Hector and several of his oldest servants;
the others had remained in the young countess's service.

As for Landry, his daughter's new position in the world satisfied his
honor without dazzling his mind. But his good sense told him that the
father of the Comtesse de Marvejols ought not to carry on a bathing
establishment, and he lost no time in selling it.

On the day following her marriage, Bathilde went to her mother to ask
her pardon and to entreat a renewal of her affection. But Dame Ragonde
could not forgive even her own child. After listening coldly to her
daughter's entreaties, she replied in a harsh, dry tone:

"I congratulate you on having become a countess; but I trust that it
will not encourage other girls to imitate you!"

With that, she turned her back on Bathilde, who was fain to be content
with her father's warm embrace.

Soon after, the old soldier and his wife started for Normandie.

Although Bathilde had had to renounce the hope of recovering her
mother's favor,--in truth, her mother had never manifested the least
real affection for her,--by way of compensation there were some persons
whom her new fortune made very happy, and who did not attempt to conceal
the joy and satisfaction which that unhoped-for event caused them.

Is it necessary to name Ambroisine and her father?

But Ambroisine especially was overjoyed, because, as she contemplated
Bathilde in her fine clothes, and in that superb mansion which had
become hers, she could justly say to herself:

"This is my work; she owes it to me that she is in this place, that she
has a name and a handsome fortune!"

The sweet-natured Bathilde did not show herself ungrateful. Her first
care when she found that she was the mistress of large means was to beg
Ambroisine and her father to share her wealth with her. At first, she
asked them to live in her house; then she insisted upon enriching Master
Hugonnet, and begged him to accept as a token of her friendship a
handsome sum which would assure his well-being for life, so that he need
work no more.

But Ambroisine and her father refused everything.

"Keep your wealth, my dear young lady," said Hugonnet, pressing
Bathilde's hand in his; "I have no use for it! I am well to do, my trade
is prosperous, all goes well! I have no idea of ceasing to work. My
health is good, and I am not too old. Besides, I should die of ennui,
if I had nothing to do; and to avoid being bored to death, I should
probably get tipsy every day, which would be too often!--So you see that
I must refuse this money that you offer me--for I do not believe that
you mean to pay me for the pleasure it gave me to be of use to you, to
offer you a shelter under my roof; such things are not to be paid for,
and you know it!--Oh! if I were unfortunate, if some unlucky accident
should happen to me, I would come without a blush to ask your
assistance, and I should consider that I insulted you if I applied first
to others. But I flatter myself that that won't happen.--Meanwhile,
continue your friendship for us; look upon us still as your best
friends. That is the way to make us as happy as yourself.--As for my
daughter, you offer to keep her with you; but it would cost me too much
to part with her. Ten thousand hogsheads! I am fond of my daughter, you
see! and I hope that she cares a little bit for me!"

"Oh, yes! my dear, good father!" cried Ambroisine, throwing herself into
Hugonnet's arms. "Never fear, I will not leave you! I will come to see
Bathilde--madame la comtesse--often, very often----"

"But you will never call me anything but Bathilde, your friend, your
sister, who owes everything to you! If you do, I shall think that you no
longer love me!"

"As you please, as you please, dear Bathilde!"

"Look you, my dear young lady," continued Hugonnet, "I will tell you all
that I can do for you. In the first place, I promise that Ambroisine
shall do no more shaving; no, that is all over! for when one visits a
countess one must keep to one's place!"

"But I have not shaved anybody for a long while, father."

"Hum! now and then. In the second place, she will no longer look after
the details of the shop; indeed, she need never enter it at all, if she
prefers not to. I can do without her, and she will have more time to
come to you."

Ambroisine kissed her father once more; and that was all the share that
those excellent people consented to accept of the handsome fortune of
the girl whom they had made welcome, entertained, and comforted when she
was without a home and without food.

But a new being was destined ere long, on receiving life, to revivify,
to enliven, and to embellish all its surroundings.

Bathilde brought into the world a daughter, who bade fair to be as
lovely as her mother. When she heard her child's first cry, and gave her
the first kiss, the young mother felt as if she had been transported to
Paradise.

Ambroisine was with her friend when, by the young countess's orders, a
messenger was sent to Comte Léodgard to announce the birth of his
daughter and to receive his commands with respect to her baptism.

The steward to whom that commission was intrusted soon returned to the
Hôtel de Marvejols. Bathilde sent for him and bade him deliver his
report to her in person.

"Did you see monsieur le comte?" she asked, taking her eyes for a moment
from her child, who lay beside her on the bed.

"Yes, madame; I requested to be allowed that honor, as one who had
something of great importance to say to monsieur le comte, and I was
ushered into his presence."

"And you told him----?"

"That madame had brought into the world a daughter, as beautiful as the
day."

Bathilde smiled, and glanced at the child with an expression that seemed
to say:

"He told the truth, my child! there is nothing on earth more beautiful
than thou art!"

Then she motioned to the messenger to continue.

"I had the honor to say to monsieur le comte that madame la comtesse
desired to receive his commands relative to the ceremony of baptism."

"Well! what was monsieur le comte's reply?"

"Monseigneur first asked me what persons were with madame la comtesse at
this moment?"

"And you told him that no one was with me save my loyal friend
Ambroisine and my servants?"

"Yes, madame; and then monsieur le comte remained for a long time
absorbed in thought, so that he probably forgot that I was there; for he
suddenly looked up and said to me: 'What are you doing here?'

"'Monseigneur,' I replied, 'I am waiting to know what I am to say to
madame la comtesse.'

"'Tell her,' said monsieur le comte, 'that she may do as she pleases,
that I leave her entirely at liberty, that I have no orders to give.'

"And monseigneur dismissed me with a wave of his hand."

"That will do," said Bathilde, heaving a sigh, which died away over her
child's cradle; and she motioned to the servant to leave the room.

When he had gone, she glanced sadly at Ambroisine.

"He will not come here," she said, "even to see his daughter!"

"Console yourself! he will come some day, and when he has once seen this
little angel you will no longer need to send messages to him!"

"You are right!" said the young mother, letting her eyes rest once more
on her child. "Yes, I must place all my confidence, all my hope, on this
little darling; and, in truth, when heaven has sent me such a treasure,
it is no time for me to indulge in lamentations. But still, Ambroisine,
who will hold my daughter over the baptismal font?"

"Does not the grandfather always act as sponsor for the firstborn?--Send
a courier to Monsieur le Marquis de Marvejols, at Champfleury; it is
near Chartres--about forty leagues from here, I believe. You will
receive a reply within a week."

"You are right, Ambroisine; yes, it is my duty to turn now for guidance
to that venerable man who has been so kind to me. But I am still too
weak. Act for me, give the necessary orders, see that the courier is
despatched."

Ambroisine made haste to carry out the young countess's commands. By her
direction, an intelligent man was sent to the old marquis, and he
promised to bring back an answer as soon as possible.

But in those days promptitude was very slow. Post routes were not
established until the reign of Louis XI, and then only for the king's
service. Not until the reign of Louis XIII, in the year 1630, did the
service assume some regularity, with the inauguration of the system of
relays, and the appointment of inspectors to superintend the service.
But, for all that, as couriers intrusted with despatches by private
individuals were still very rare on the highroads, the roads were, for
that reason, in very bad repair; and the relay stations often had in
their stables only a few gaunt nags, or donkeys masquerading as horses.

However, the time did not seem long to Bathilde, for she had her
daughter--her daughter whom she nursed herself, unable to conceive that
a mother could intrust that duty to a stranger when nature had not
denied her the means to perform it herself. Thus the hours passed like
minutes, and the days flew by with surprising rapidity in the eyes of
that young wife, who took such intense delight in nursing and rocking
and caressing her child.

After several days the courier returned; he was the bearer of a letter
which the old Marquis de Marvejols had delivered to him for the
countess.

She hastily broke the seal; and as she knew how to read,--a rare
accomplishment at that period among the daughters of the common
people,--she soon knew the contents of the letter, which was thus
conceived:

     "MY DEAR BATHILDE:

     "It gives me great pleasure to say that I will be sponsor to the
     daughter whom God has given to you. But, my dear child, it is
     impossible for me to come to you at this moment, for the gout holds
     me fast to my easy-chair; and when it once has its grip upon me, it
     does not readily relax it.

     "Obtain a substitute for me, then, for that solemn ceremony, which
     should never be long delayed. Let some worthy gentleman hold the
     child in my name, and let her receive the name of Blanche; it was
     my wife's. To me it will be a memory and a source of hope.

     "As for the godmother, I believe that I shall anticipate your
     wishes by urging you to select for that agreeable post the
     excellent young girl who displays such loyal and devoted friendship
     for you.

     "Adieu, my dear daughter. May heaven grant you long life to watch
     over the little angel, who, I doubt not, will cause you to forget
     all your past sufferings!

     "MARQUIS DE MARVEJOLS."

The young countess put her lips to the letter written by her husband's
father, saying:

"It shall be as you deign to permit, O venerable man, who read my heart
so well.--Blanche! Blanche! that is your name, my darling, it is the
name your grandfather gives you. Ah! how sweet it is to pronounce! How
well it suits the purity of your soul!--Blanche! one would say that she
understands me already, and that she thanks me for giving her that
name!"

Ambroisine rarely passed a day without going to see Bathilde, especially
since her friend had become a mother.

As soon as she reached the house, the young countess gave her the
marquis's letter, saying:

"Read this; it concerns you too."

Ambroisine read the letter eagerly; her cheeks instantly flushed with
joy and pleasure, and she threw her arms about her friend, crying:

"I shall be her godmother! he permits me to be your daughter's
godmother!--What a noble old man!--Ah, yes! he knew right well that he
would make us both happy by suggesting that!--And he gives her the name
of Blanche--Blanche!"

Ambroisine stopped as if she had suddenly remembered something.

"What is it?" said Bathilde; "one would say that that name recalled some
memory."

"No, no; I was reflecting."

"About whom I shall accord the honor of taking Monsieur de Marvejols's
place, eh?--Mon Dieu! I confess that that embarrasses me considerably;
for I do not know any nobleman. Nobody comes here but you."

"Oh! do not be embarrassed, do not think any more, for I have already
thought of someone."

"You have? Of whom, pray?"

"Have you forgotten, dear Bathilde, that generous gentleman, who, when
you were still at my father's house, authorized me to offer you his
assistance, and promised to take care of your child--the Sire de
Jarnonville?"

"Ah, yes! you are right, Ambroisine; I ought not to have forgotten him;
forgive me. But, you see, I think of nothing but my daughter now!--Do
you see him sometimes?"

"Yes, quite often, in fact; he comes to my father's, not to joke and
talk nonsense with all those idle young noblemen who rendezvous there,
but to ask me about you and your child. Ah! he was heartily glad of your
good fortune."

"And do you think that he will be willing to hold my child over the
font, in monsieur le marquis's place?"

"Oh! I am sure that he will accept the post with great pleasure--he is
so fond of children! For he is a widower, and he once had a little girl
whom he adored, and her name was Blanche, like your child's.--That was
what came into my mind just now."

"And what you dared not tell me, because he lost his daughter!--Oh!
don't be alarmed, dear Ambroisine, I am very far from seeing in that an
omen of disaster for my Blanche. No, heaven has sent her to us to allay
all our suffering. She has given me so much happiness, that I am sure
that she will soften the Sire de Jarnonville's regrets in some degree.
He will transfer to her the love that he had for his own child."

That same evening the Black Chevalier stopped in front of the barber's
house, and, as always, looked through the window to see if Ambroisine
was there.

The girl's frank and sprightly conversation had insensibly lightened the
Sire de Jarnonville's sombre humor; and often, without a previously
formed intention, he walked in the direction of Rue Saint-Jacques, to
obtain that distraction which became more necessary to him every day,
and which he had begun to prefer to the debauches and combats that had
formerly been an essential part of his life.

That evening Ambroisine was on the watch for the chevalier; for she was
eager to tell him what Bathilde expected from him.

She very soon told him the tenor of the old marquis's response, and
added, lowering her eyes, that she had made bold to say that the Sire de
Jarnonville would consent to take his place and to represent him.

"You were quite right to give that assurance," replied the chevalier,
gently pressing Ambroisine's hand. "It will be an honor and a pleasure
to me to act as godfather to the countess's child. Moreover, the Marquis
de Marvejols is very old, and I am still young and strong. If the first
godfather should die, it is only right that there should be one left to
succeed him and to watch over the child, whose father seems determined
to close his arms to her."

"The old marquis wishes the little girl to be named Blanche," said
Ambroisine, hesitatingly.

"Blanche! Blanche!" murmured Jarnonville, letting his head droop on his
breast. "Ah! that was the name of an angel!"

"Well! this is another angel, as you will see. You will be her
protector, her second father. The little darling--she will love you
dearly. She will not cause you to forget the other, but she will ask you
to give her a little of the affection which you feel for all children,
in memory of the child you have lost."

Jarnonville was too deeply moved to reply. He took leave of Ambroisine,
saying:

"To-morrow I will go to pay my respects to madame la comtesse, and to
receive her orders for the ceremony."

Two days after this conversation, the daughter of Léodgard and Bathilde
was presented for baptism by the Sire de Jarnonville and Ambroisine.

An old gentleman who was a friend of the chevalier, Master Hugonnet, and
a few faithful old retainers of the marquis, were the only witnesses of
the ceremony, which Bathilde was too weak to attend.

When he carried little Blanche back to her mother and placed her in her
arms, Jarnonville kissed the child's forehead. His emotion was most
intense, for the little girl's features recalled the cherished darling
whom he had lost. He could hardly articulate the words:

"Will you allow me, madame, to come occasionally to present my respects
to you and to embrace this child?"

"Henceforth this house is open to you, seigneur," Bathilde replied. "You
will honor me by coming here; you will make me happy by taking an
interest in my daughter."

At first the Black Chevalier availed himself sparingly of the permission
accorded him by the young mother. But as little Blanche developed, as
her features became more individualized, as her eyes began to beam with
something different from the vague expression of infancy, she became so
lovely, there was so much sweetness and charm in her glance, that it was
impossible not to feel the keenest interest in her, or to leave her
without a secret determination to see her soon again.

As he gazed at little Blanche, Jarnonville tried to discover in her
features some likeness to the child he had lost, and it rarely happened
that he did not succeed; for in early childhood the little creatures
almost always make use of the same cries, the same language, to express
joy, grief, and pain.

Thus the chevalier's visits gradually became increasingly frequent, for
with every day that passed his affection for little Blanche
strengthened.

And then Ambroisine, who loved the little girl almost as dearly as her
mother did, rarely let a day pass without coming to see Bathilde's
child; so that, when he went to the Hôtel de Marvejols, Jarnonville was
almost certain to meet the fair godmother there; which was an additional
motive for him to go thither often.

Bathilde saw with pride and rapture that her daughter became every day
lovelier and sweeter; she was happy in the affection which everyone
manifested for the child; but in the midst of her joy, surrounded by her
faithful friends, with her child in her arms, she sometimes raised her
eyes toward heaven and sighed, saying:

"Ah! if her father could see her, I am very sure that he too would love
her!"



XXXVIII

THE ORANGE CHEVALIER


We left the Chevalier Passedix, dressed in his orange-colored costume,
just as he parted from the two clerks who had sold him his second-hand
clothes, intending to exhibit himself for admiration in the streets of
Paris, and, above all, to try to fall in with Miretta, of whom he was
still deeply enamored, and whose favor he flattered himself upon winning
in his new costume.

But to no purpose did the Gascon chevalier scour the streets during the
whole afternoon and a large part of the night; he did not see the woman
whom he burned to meet.

By way of compensation for his bad luck, Passedix finished the night in
a low resort which closely resembled a bawdy house; and there he became
completely drunk by dint of treating all the habitués of the place who
complimented him on his costume and on the noble way in which he wore
it.

For some time Passedix continued to lead a jovial life, turning night
into day, passing a great part of his time at the table, and parading
through the streets during entire evenings; then betaking himself to the
wine shop, treating his acquaintances and even perfect strangers,
getting tipsy regularly every night, and returning at daybreak to the
Hôtel du Sanglier, where, the next morning, old Popelinette, with the
utmost zeal, administered tea or some other calming potion of the sort
that is often necessary to a man who leads such a disorderly life.

But sometimes, on the morrow of a more highly spiced debauch than usual,
our Gascon, as he drank the cup of tea prepared by Popelinette, would
heave tremendous sighs, run his hands through his hair, and stare at the
ceiling, crying:

"Sandis! I would never have believed it! Ah! Popelinette, so it is true
that wealth does not bring happiness!"

"Bah! is it possible, monsieur le chevalier?"

"The fact that I say it proves that it is possible! Now I have my
pockets full of gold; I can indulge myself with the most exquisite
dishes, the rarest wines."

"And you don't stint yourself, I should say!"

"Of course I do not stint myself! I must needs make the crowns dance,
and do myself credit with my wealth! I breakfast for four, I dine for
six, I sup like the greatest epicure in France; I receive eloquent
glances from all sides until I am fairly bewildered; I gamble; I often
frequent tennis courts; I am very strong at tennis--I always lose, but I
am very strong at it; you should see how I send back the _esteuf_!
People flock to see me play at the courts in Rue de la Perle and Rue
Cassette, and especially at the fine court in Rue Mazarine. In short,
Popelinette, I lead what is called a joyous life."

"Oh! as to that, there's no doubt!"

"Well! I am not joyous at all; amid all these pleasures, I sigh, I
languish.--Sandioux! your tea is devilishly insipid this morning; put
some more sugar in it!--Yes, I would give all these parties, all these
banquets, for a glance from my love!--Alas!"

"Aha! so you have a love who won't look at you, monsieur le chevalier?"

"What a blockhead you are, Popelinette!--She doesn't look at me, because
I am not before her eyes. It is a century since I saw her; I cannot
succeed in meeting her. In fact, she has not seen me since I have had
this elegant costume, which all the women dote on, and thanks to which I
make conquests at every step. Not a woman who does not turn to look at
me!"

"Bless me! it's true enough, monsieur le chevalier, that you're very
funny-looking in those orange-colored clothes!"

"Funny-looking! what do you mean by funny-looking, old woman?--Pray try
to use more elegant language; you talk like a goose, Popelinette, and
you serve me hot water instead of tea! Take away this drug, and prepare
me an emollient not to be taken through the mouth--do you
understand?--Go, old witch, and be careful not to call me funny-looking
again, or I will bury Roland in your half-moons!"

The old woman withdrew, grumbling, and Passedix paced his room as if he
were rehearsing a scene from a tragedy.

"O Miretta!" he cried; "caprice of my heart! Shouldst thou but see me
now, I cannot believe that thou wouldst be so cruel; women love fine
apparel upon themselves and upon those who pay court to them. I was
infernally seedy when thou didst know me, and that must have done me
much discredit in thy sight.--And to think that I cannot meet her! I
have planted myself like a sentinel twenty times in front of the Hôtel
de Mongarcin, but she has not come out. I cannot stand there all day
long, especially as I attract too much attention--the women gather about
me in flocks!--No matter! I will see my fascinating brunette again--I
swear it by Roland!"

About midday Passedix issued forth once more, saying to himself:

"I will turn my steps in another direction; perhaps chance will be more
favorable to me."

And for two hours the orange chevalier traversed the Saint-Honoré
quarter and the Halles in all directions. Then he changed his route,
and, turning toward the Cloister of Saint-Merri, entered Rue Brisemiche,
then in very bad repute, being specially assigned for the residence of
prostitutes. At the end of the fourteenth century, the Provost of Paris
had, at the request of the curé of Saint-Merri, issued an edict
expelling the _golden girdles_ from Rue Brisemiche and Rue Tire-Boudin;
but certain bourgeois resisted the execution of this edict and insisted
upon maintaining the prostitutes in possession of those streets. And the
Parliament, by a decree of January 21, 1388, ratified the opposition of
the bourgeois!--What do you think of the _good old times_?

Passedix had just passed a dark second-hand clothes shop of very grimy
aspect, when a little man, advanced in years, but thickset and powerful,
who was taking the air on the threshold of the shop in question, having
scrutinized the chevalier for a moment, set up a screech worthy of a
peacock, and, darting after the saunterer, overtook him and seized him
by his cloak.

"Ah! I have him! here he is!--Oh! you won't get away from me, my buck!"

Surprised by this sudden attack, the Gascon turned, eyed the clothes
dealer with a disdainful air, and tried to release his cloak, saying:

"Who in the devil are you seizing, my good man? You have certainly made
a mistake; you should try wearing spectacles.--Let this cloak alone,
cadédis! you will rumple it!"

But the dealer had strong hands; he did not release the cloak, and so
detained Passedix, shouting all the while:

"Let you go, you thief, you brigand! Oh, no! you shall not get away from
me! This is my merchandise: cloak, doublet, short-clothes, and even the
girdle--nothing is missing!--What an impudent knave you must be, to walk
about with it all on your body!--Help, friends, neighbors! Help! Watch!
watch! Come and help me arrest a thief!"

"A thief!" the cry was echoed on all sides; people ran to the spot, and
in a trice a compact crowd surrounded the two struggling men.

"He takes me for a thief!" exclaimed Passedix, addressing the witnesses
of the scene. "I should find it very amusing, if I were not afraid that
this clown would tear my cloak! Sandis! if he makes the slightest rent
in it, I will make him pay for it!"

"He will make me pay for what is mine, what he stole from my own
nephew!" exclaimed the shopkeeper. "Ah! you villain! you don't belie
your reputation.--My friends, messieurs, mesdemoiselles, do you know who
this man is? He is Giovanni! the celebrated Giovanni! the Italian robber
who has been working Paris for a long while, and whom the police can
never catch! Well! I have caught him, I have! And I promise you that I
won't let him go.--It's a great capture! Help me take him to the
guardhouse at the Châtelet; we shall render a great service to society!"

"Giovanni! Giovanni!" cried the bystanders. And one and all pushed and
crowded and stood on tiptoe, trying to obtain a better view of the
famous brigand of whom everyone was talking, and of whom stories were
told that made women and children, and often husbands and brothers too,
quake with fear.

"What! is that the Italian brigand?" said a bourgeois; "I have heard
that he has a horrible face. This tall fellow makes me more inclined to
laugh."

"I was told he is a handsome young man," said a corpulent matron; "this
man is very ugly and he isn't young."

"He hasn't a surly look at all, this cavalier," said a tradesman; "are
you quite sure, neighbor, that you are not mistaken?"

"Am I sure!" cried the dealer in clothes; "why, it's very easy to
explain.--I intrusted to my nephew Plumard, a solicitor's clerk, the
complete costume, orange silk, slashed with lemon, which this man is
wearing. My nephew Plumard came back and told me, with tears in his
eyes, that he had been attacked and robbed in Rue des Bourdonnais by the
brigand Giovanni, dressed in the costume in which he is always
seen.--Now, then, as this man is wearing the complete outfit that I
intrusted to my nephew, he must be the man who stole it; and he must
have been very glad to put on this costume, because he knows that the
police have his description in the other."

"Yes, yes, he's Giovanni, he's the robber!" cried the crowd, inclined,
like all crowds, to find a culprit.

"We must take him to the Châtelet; we mustn't let him escape. Let's take
away his long sword!"

"Sandioux! you are cowards all!" shouted Passedix, drawing Roland from
the scabbard, and trying to force his way through the multitude. "This
old clothes man is a fool--I don't know him! The clothes I have on I
paid for in honest crowns--thirty pistoles, do you hear?"

"The proof that he lies," cried the second-hand dealer, "is that I asked
only fifteen pistoles for the complete outfit, as it was second-hand."

"Ah! the blackguards! the reptiles! they cheated me!" rejoined the
Gascon. "But I paid for the whole suit, none the less. Let the man who
says I did not, come forward; I offer to fight him to the death--with
dagger, sword, or partisan!"

But no one listened to the chevalier, because they were only too glad to
be able to believe that they had Giovanni in their hands.

Meanwhile several soldiers and arquebusiers had forced their way into
the crowd, and the unfortunate Passedix was speedily disarmed; they
bound his hands behind his back and forced him to go with them to the
Châtelet, while the crowd heaped insults upon him and beat him with
their fists. The little clothes dealer headed the procession, which
increased in size every moment, because all the passers-by and shop
clerks on the route they traversed, when they heard someone say: "It is
Giovanni whom they have arrested," hastened to join the crowd, hoping to
obtain a glimpse of the brigand who had caused them to tremble with
dread for many months.



XXXIX

THE MARQUISE DE SANTOVAL


While these things were taking place, a scene of a different sort was
being enacted in a superb mansion in Rue Sainte-Avoie, which mansion
belonged to the Marquis de Santoval, who had become the husband of
Valentine de Mongarcin several months earlier.

When she married, the heiress had been compelled to leave her abode on
Rue Saint-Honoré, to follow the spouse whom she had chosen. She had
parted from her aunt, Madame de Ravenelle, without any very poignant
regret, for their temperaments were in no respect sympathetic; nor did
the old lady display any deep emotion when her niece left her.

Selfish people are happy in that they refer all their sensations to
themselves alone; they love themselves too much to waste any love on
others.

Valentine had taken Miretta with her, whom she treated as a friend
rather than as a lady's-maid, and with whom she would not willingly have
parted for anything on earth. This arrangement had been made without any
difficulty. Monsieur de Santoval, proud of the preference which
Valentine had accorded him over his numerous rivals, displayed the
greatest zeal in gratifying his lovely wife's lightest wish; and he had
lavished diamonds and other valuable gifts upon her.

He left her entirely at liberty, feeling sure doubtless that she would
not abuse the privilege; perhaps, too, he had reserved the means of
satisfying himself whether she did abuse it or not.

The marquis had one of those faces which always make one shudder when
they assume to express confidence in a person.

The young Marquise de Santoval was in her dressing room, standing before
a large Venetian mirror, which, in those days, filled the place of the
modern psyche. She was trying the effect against her hair of a new set
of rubies which her husband had brought her that morning. And as the
reddish gleam of the stones harmonized perfectly with the brilliant
gloss of her raven locks, Valentine could not restrain a smile of
satisfaction at finding herself so lovely.

"This is becoming to me, is it not, Miretta?" she asked, turning to her
pretty maid, who stood behind her gazing at her with a sad expression.

"Yes, madame, it is admirable; it is perfectly suited to you. I do not
think that it is possible to be more lovely."

"Aha! flatterer!--But it is possible to be less lovely and more
attractive!"

"Monsieur le marquis is very gallant; his presents are magnificent!"

"He does no more than he should do! I think that he was much flattered
by the preference I accorded him."

"Can it be that madame regrets it now?"

"Hush, Miretta, hush! there are some things that must never be
said!--However, I have no regrets; I did what I was determined to do. It
was not a caprice that guided my action. Nor, as you may imagine, was it
love--although Monsieur de Santoval is still young, and a very handsome
man. Indeed, there are some women who consider him superb. Not long ago,
Madame de Grangeville whispered in my ear: 'I congratulate you on your
choice! Monsieur de Santoval is one of the handsomest cavaliers at
court!'"

"Did that flatter you, madame?"

"Flatter me? Bah! what difference do you think that it makes to me? When
one has no love for a man, what does one care what people say about
him?"

"Monsieur de Santoval seems to be very much in love, himself!"

"In love with me?--Hum! yes, perhaps he is; but he is very proud, very
haughty, and, above all, very jealous of his honor!"

"And of madame too, probably?"

"Why, of course, as the two go together!--What a strange thing!"

"What is strange, madame?"

"Nothing! nothing!"

And Valentine smiled, as if she had had the thought which Beaumarchais
many years later put into the mouth of Comte Almaviva in _Le Mariage de
Figaro_.

"Has not Joseph returned, Miretta?"

"No, madame, not yet."

"How long a time that fellow takes to do such a simple errand! I sent
him to Madame de Ligneulle's, only a few steps away, to ask if she
expected to go to the Baronne de Beaumont's this evening; and it is more
than an hour since he went! He amuses himself by the way, it seems."

"It surprises me, madame, for Joseph is usually very zealous and very
prompt in the execution of madame's orders."

"I know it, and that is why I employ him. But Madame de Ligneulle's
house is within five minutes' walk--and to take more than an hour in
going there and returning!"

"They kept him waiting, no doubt."

"When a messenger comes from me, she never keeps him waiting."

"Does madame mean to go to Madame de Beaumont's this evening?"

"Yes, I shall go."

"Madame enjoys society since her marriage."

"You think so, because I go out a great deal. I have not yet found--what
I am seeking; but it must happen sooner or later."

The portière of the dressing room was softly put aside, and a servant in
rich livery showed his face, asking respectfully if he might enter.

"Ah! you have returned at last, Joseph!" cried Valentine. "Have you had
an accident, pray, that you have been away so long?--Come in, and
speak."

"Oh! yes, madame!" the valet replied, entering the room. "That is to
say, I have not actually had an accident; but there was such a crowd in
the street, so many people had collected to see him pass--they crowded
and pushed----"

"What was the reason of the crowd? what was there to see that was so
interesting?"

"Oh! can it be that madame does not know?--He is arrested, he is caught
at last! It was high time, too!"

"Who is arrested at last?"

"The famous Italian brigand--the dreaded Giovanni!"

"Giovanni is arrested, you say?" cried Miretta, who had suddenly turned
deathly pale; and she seized the valet's arm and pressed it violently.
"Giovanni taken! Are you sure of it?"

"Certainly, mademoiselle; for they were taking him to the Petit
Châtelet, and everybody crowded to see him."

"Ah! unhappy wretch that I am!"

And the girl, with a loud shriek, darted from the room, entirely
forgetting her mistress and everything about her. In two or three
seconds she had rushed through the salons, the vestibule, and the
courtyard, and was hurrying along the street, roughly pushing aside
everybody who came in her way.

But, as the orange chevalier drew near the Petit Châtelet, where many
malefactors were then confined, three young noblemen, having just
crossed the Petit Pont, noticed the crowd, and, hearing it said that
Giovanni had been arrested, forced their way through the spectators
until they reached the Gascon, at whom everybody was pointing, saying:

"That is the famous bandit!"

Thereupon, to the vast amazement of the multitude, the three young
gentlemen roared with laughter; then they seized the malefactor's hands
and pressed them cordially, while he exclaimed:

"Gad! this is very lucky! Sandis! here are some friends who know me, at
last! It's Sénange and Monclair!--Can you believe, messieurs, that these
people absolutely insist that I am the celebrated robber Giovanni?"

"You, Giovanni? Poor Passedix!"

"Poor! Deuce take it! he has not been poor since he inherited a
fortune!"

"Who is it that is fool enough to take you for the Italian brigand?"

"That infamous little clothes dealer yonder! But, by Roland! I will have
satisfaction for his insults!"

"Pardieu!" said Sénange, "it happens that Captain Raynold is on duty at
the Châtelet, and he knows our friend Passedix."

A captain of archers came from the prison at that moment to inquire the
cause of the commotion; when he saw Passedix, with whom he had more than
once drunk and played cards at wine shops, he offered him his hand,
which fully satisfied the crowd that they had made a mistake and that
the prisoner was not Giovanni.

The captain administered a sharp rebuke to the men who had made the
arrest, calling their attention to the fact that the orange chevalier's
face and figure bore no resemblance whatever to the well-known
description of Giovanni.

"But," cried the little dealer, in dire distress because of his error,
"it is none the less true that those very noticeable garments came from
my shop, and that they were stolen from my nephew, to whom I delivered
them to be sold."

"One moment, old Jew," said Passedix; "what is your nephew's name?"

"Plumard; he is clerk to Maître Bourdinard, solicitor."

"Very good; now we are on the track; and he has a friend, another little
villain, even smaller than you, whose name is Bahuchet?"

"That is true."

"And one of them has a plaster on his head, which makes him look like a
sick cur?"

"It's my nephew who wears that plaster--in place of hair."

"Well, you damned clothes man, if you had listened to me, I would have
told you that your nephew and his friend Bahuchet came to my Hôtel du
Sanglier on Place aux Chats, and, knowing that I desired a complete new
outfit and that I had inherited a large property, they brought me this
orange costume, for which I paid them thirty pistoles in honest crowns."

"Is it possible? You gave them thirty pistoles?"

"I swear it on my honor! And these gentlemen will bear witness that I am
to be believed."

"Yes, yes! palsambleu! Thirty pistoles--why, that is nothing to him now,
for he doesn't know what to do with his doubloons."

"Pardon! a thousand pardons, monsieur le chevalier! Then it must be my
nephew who robbed me."

"That is very probable. That little rascal, with his plaster, looked to
me like a consummate knave, and I fancy that that Bahuchet is little
better; but when I meet them, I will administer salutary chastisement to
them. As for you, dealer in old clothes, I ought to shave your ears a
trifle! You called the fine flower of chivalry a robber!"

As he spoke, Passedix seized the little man by one ear and shook him
roughly. The young noblemen, who were highly amused by the scene, urged
the chevalier to enforce all the rights of the victor; the terrified
tradesman was beginning to whine and beg for mercy, when suddenly the
Gascon's face became radiant, his eyes flashed fire, and he released the
little man's ear, crying:

"There she is! it is she! I find her again at last!--Adieu, my noble
friends! Do not follow me, I beg!"

It was indeed Miretta whom Passedix had espied; Miretta, who, after
running hither and thither a long while, had succeeded at last in
forcing her way through the crowd, and at the very moment when she
expected to see her lover had heard people saying all about her:

"They have made a mistake."

"It isn't Giovanni that they caught."

"Oh! what a misfortune!"

"Who was it they arrested, then?"

"No one! Oh, yes! they arrested that tall, lank man dressed in orange;
but it seems that he isn't a thief, as all those gentlemen know him, and
the captain of the archers himself came up and shook hands with him."

"That old idiot of a second-hand clothes dealer is the cause of it all!"

"Down with the old clothes man!"

"To the gallows with the old clothes man!"

Miretta's heart swelled when she heard all these remarks, and, as she
had run a long way, she leaned against a post and began to breathe more
freely.

Then it was that Passedix appeared and struck an attitude in front of
her, with a courteous bow, saying:

"At last, I see thee again! star of my soul, firmament of my heart, moon
of my thoughts, planet----"

"Tell me, monsieur le chevalier, did they really take you for Giovanni?"
said Miretta, breaking in upon her adorer's compliments.

"Yes, fascinating brunette! Can you understand such a thing?--I am not
acquainted with the famous robber, but it is impossible that he should
have this elegant figure, this noble carriage, in a word, this
distinguished physique which I possess!"

"Oh! surely not! he does not resemble you!"

"What? Do you know him, siren?"

"No, but I have heard him described so often!"

"And Giovanni is not likely to have a costume like this, is he, my
dear?--But we have said enough of this brigand. Pray tell me, adorable
brunette, what has become of a certain Comte de Carvajal, whom you know
rather intimately, I believe?"

Miretta was disturbed by the question, but she made haste to reply:

"I do not know what you mean, monsieur le chevalier; I know no one of
that name."

"Really? But all those rustics, with the wrist of steel, with whom I
have met you,--and notably the one who, I know not how, caused Roland to
fall from my hand,--were devilishly like the foreigner who lodged at the
Hôtel du Sanglier."

"What do you want with that foreigner?"

"What does it matter to you, if you do not know him? But you know that
is not true, naughty wench!"

"Adieu, monsieur le chevalier! I can stay here no longer."

"What! deprive me of your company already! I will escort you to Rue
Saint-Honoré."

"I no longer live there; since Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin
became Marquise de Santoval, we live on Rue Sainte-Avoie."

"Aha! so your lady is now Marquise de Santoval! And that is the reason
why my vigils in front of the Hôtel de Mongarcin have led to nothing!"

"Take my advice, monsieur le chevalier, and make no further attempt to
see me."

"Ah! I am rich now, Miretta; I will cover you with fine pearls!"

"You might offer me all the treasures of the Indies, and I would still
say to you: 'You are wasting your time; I do not love you; I shall never
love you.'"

"Then it must be that mysterious Carvajal whom you love. But, by death!
if I ever meet him!"

"Ah, me! I would like right well to meet him!"

As she said these words, Miretta darted away so swiftly that she soon
disappeared from the eyes of Passedix, who pulled his cap over his
forehead, muttering angrily:

"Mordioux! she defies me still. I must forget her! I must show my
dignity! Let us get tipsy!"

Miretta hurried back to the Hôtel de Santoval; she remembered how
precipitately she had left the house, and she feared that her mistress
would be displeased with her for absenting herself at a time when she
required her services; so that Miretta was almost trembling when she
returned to the house.

She had no sooner entered than a servant informed her that her mistress
wished to see her.

Valentine was alone in her bedroom; her expression was not at all stern,
but it denoted profound reflection.

When she saw Miretta, she motioned to her to lock all the doors with
care, then beckoned her to a seat on a stool by her side.

Miretta walked toward her and began to falter some words of apology; but
Valentine placed a finger on her lips and again pointed to the stool.

The girl seated herself, speechless with surprise, and waited anxiously
to hear what her mistress could have to say to her that demanded so much
mystery.

Valentine fastened her great velvety dark-gray eyes on those of her
maid, who looked down at the floor; then she said to her, taking care to
speak low:

"Miretta, swear that you will answer frankly the question I am about to
ask you; swear that you will not lie to me!"

The girl looked up, glanced at her mistress, and, seeing nothing in her
expression to indicate anger, answered:

"I swear, madame."

"That is well; now, listen to me. I have just discovered a secret of
great importance to you, which we must not let anybody else discover! I
know who your lover is--the man whom you love."

"You know, madame?"

"Yes, I tell you; and you are going to tell me if I am mistaken. The man
whom you have not seen for so long a time, the man for whose sake you
came to France, of whom you are constantly thinking, and who causes you
so much anxiety--is Giovanni!"

"O madame! you think----"

"It is Giovanni! Contradict me if you dare!--Have no fear of me,
Miretta; you should know me well. But remember your oath: the man you
love is Giovanni, is he not? Answer--answer!"

Miretta fell on her knees before her mistress, clasping her hands, and
murmured at last:

"Yes, madame, yes--it is Giovanni who is my lover.--Oh! forgive me!"

"Rise, rise, my child! Your frankness makes me more fond of you. Do you
think, pray, that I asked you for your secret with the intention of
reproaching you? You loved this Giovanni, doubtless, before he became a
brigand?"

"Oh! yes, madame."

"And since you have known the trade he was plying, you have not ceased
to love him!--I understand that. I understand all that love can lead one
to do. Under the sway of that passion, is it possible to reason, to
reflect?--And then, this man must be very brave; the reputation he has
made for himself, the very terror inseparable from his name--yes, there
is something in all that which almost makes one forget his crimes."

"Oh! if you knew, madame, how earnestly I have begged, implored him to
renounce his pursuit! And he promised to do it.--'Only a few months
more,' he said, 'and we will return to Italy, and no one will recognize
in me the dreaded bandit.'--But, alas! it is more than a year since he
told me that, and I have not met him since."

"But he has not been arrested, as Joseph said.--Another servant, whom I
sent out to make inquiries, has just returned and told me that they made
a mistake, that the man who was arrested was not the famous robber."

"That is true, madame. Thank heaven, my fears were unfounded! Ah! if you
knew what a feeling of despair took possession of me!"

"Do you think that I did not see it, poor girl? Do you think that I was
not struck by your pallor, by your confusion, by that grief-stricken cry
which you uttered, when Joseph said: 'Giovanni is arrested'?--It was
that that revealed your secret to me. Luckily, the servants saw nothing
but curiosity in your precipitate exit--nothing but the desire to see a
man who spreads terror throughout Paris.--Now that you know that he is
not arrested, you are calmer and happier. In future be more prudent; be
careful not to betray yourself."

"Oh! you are right, madame; I will try to conceal my feelings."

"But, look you, Miretta--try more earnestly than ever to meet the man
you love; and the first time that you see him, remember to tell him
this: that I wish to see him and speak with him; that I have need of his
services; that he can safely trust me; that I will go, alone with you,
to whatever place of rendezvous he may appoint; and that I will reward
him generously for what he does for me.--Will you tell him all that,
Miretta? Do you promise?"

"Yes, madame, I will do whatever you command. But, alas! in order to
tell Giovanni this, I must see him; and, as you know, I cannot succeed
in that."

"Do not despair; you will see your lover again. Chance often serves us
better than we serve ourselves, and our wishes are gratified at the
moment when we least expect it.--Look at me: since I have been Marquise
de Santoval, I have been to all sorts of festivities, balls, and
receptions, and yet I have not met the man I seek. He avoids me
doubtless, but it is useless; he will be obliged to see me again, for I
am determined that he shall.--But I hear the Marquis de Santoval's
step!--Go, take this secret door!--It is as well that he should not see
you, for you are still perturbed, and he has eyes that read deeper than
our faces.--Go."



XL

A FÊTE AT CAMILLA'S


The courtesan Camilla occupied a charming little house near Porte
Saint-Honoré; it was in the city, and yet it was almost in the country.

A garden of lilacs, syringas, and roses was behind the wing of the house
in which its mistress spent most of her time; and in summer it seemed a
continuation of a delightful salon on the ground floor, the portières of
which were drawn aside in graceful folds, affording a view of the
flowering shrubs and the well-kept paths, where the dense foliage of
numerous lovely sycamores made the air as cool by day as by night.

It was midsummer; a heavy, oppressively hot atmosphere had relaxed the
nerves of the people of Paris.

Camilla had chosen that time to give an evening party; for evening was
the only part of the day when one could breathe with any pleasure, when
the air was made somewhat cooler by gentle breezes, and it was delicious
to stroll in the garden and rest under the shrubbery.

The fascinating courtesan had chosen her time with most excellent
judgment. What could be more voluptuous in summer than a garden
intersected by vague gleams of light, beneath a sky thickly strewn with
twinkling stars!

Not far from a brilliantly illuminated circle of velvety turf, a dark
path wound among darker thickets.

The strains of the instruments, the perfume of the flowers, the bouquet
of the wines and liqueurs of all sorts which were served to the guests,
charmed and intoxicated the senses. Everyone was at liberty to do only
what he pleased--constraint and etiquette were not admitted to Camilla's
abode; and they who did the most extravagant things were considered the
most agreeable.

But it was not solely to display her gardens, her flowers, the furniture
of her salons, and the magnificence of her toilet, that Camilla was
giving this fête. For some time past, Léodgard's favorite had observed a
noticeable abatement in the ardor of the count's passion; her lover was
still as generous, as magnificent as ever in his dealings with her, but
he felt no pleasure in seeing her and left her without regret; and when
he passed a few hours with her, those hours seemed interminable to him,
for his eyes expressed ennui rather than enjoyment.

A woman seldom mistakes these symptoms; vanishing love is even more
visible than dawning love; for the latter does at least observe the
proprieties, while the other is sometimes most discourteous.

Camilla tried to keep her lover with her, in some slight degree from
love perhaps, but largely for selfish reasons: a young and comely lover
who throws money about lavishly is not always easily replaced.

In those days, as to-day, there were men who dealt magnificently with
their mistresses, but they were for the most part old and ugly.

After employing many methods of seduction to rekindle a flame that was
on the point of dying out, Camilla determined to resort to that final
method, which sometimes succeeds, but which destroys all hope when it
fails of its effect. She determined to try to make Léodgard jealous.

In that multitude of young noblemen, brilliant dandies, and confessed
libertines whom she had invited to her evening party, it was inevitable
that there should be more than one who made love to her and aspired to
take her away from Léodgard, or at least to induce her to be unfaithful
to him.

"I will be more fascinating, more coquettish than ever," said Camilla to
the fair-haired Flavia, her friend and confidante. "I will accord a very
marked preference to some of my adorers, so that Léodgard must notice
it! He will be annoyed--he is so hot-blooded, so passionate! perhaps a
scene will result--sword thrusts--a duel!--Oh! that would be delicious!
for then he would come back to me, more in love than ever."

"And suppose he should be killed in the duel?" rejoined Flavia.

"So much the worse! What would you have? he who risks nothing obtains
nothing.--But, no--Léodgard is as brave as he is skilful; he would be
the victor."

"In that case, the other will be killed."

"Well, my dear! I shall have given him the sweetest of hopes all the
evening! Will he be so very much to be pitied?"

That is how courtesans loved in those days; and even among the _grandes
dames_, there were some, you know, who cast their glove into an
amphitheatre filled with lions and said to their lovers:

"If you really love me, you will go there and pick it up."

What affection, great God! What a melancholy idea of love that would
give one!

Luckily, to comfort our hearts, we have Philemon and Baucis, Pyramus and
Thisbe, Hero and Leander; but they are fabulous characters, and the
others are historical.

It was midnight, and almost all Camilla's guests had arrived. The
apartments were resplendent with light, the gardens exhaled the sweetest
perfumes, and an orchestra, which certainly was not equal to those of
our time, but which seemed very tuneful then, executed sarabands,
chaconnes, and bransles.

There was card playing in one room, drinking in another; those who did
not dance went out into the garden to chat and stroll. The heat was not
insupportable, but the guests sought the outer air, the cool evening
breeze; the ladies had been careful to wear the lightest of gowns, which
did not conceal their charms, and which gave them the aspect of nymphs
or of hamadryads, at least, as they flitted about the garden paths.

Camilla wore a seductive costume of irresistible effect. She had donned
a gown similar to those worn by the lovely Spanish girls who dance
boleros and cachuchas with so much ardor and supple grace. The dress,
which was of puce-colored satin, trimmed with rich black lace, and
rather short, permitted the spectator to admire a shapely leg, a
well-arched foot, and a charming figure; it left almost entirely bare a
dazzlingly white breast and shoulders worthy to serve as models for a
sculptor.

In her hair, which was dressed in an original fashion, were sprays of
foliage, and long gold pins with pearls and diamonds for heads.

Beneath this fanciful costume, the courtesan, whose eyes flashed fire,
and whose least movement, least pose, was full of voluptuous suggestion,
could not fail to add to the number of her conquests; and even the women
did her justice; to be sure, they were almost all pretty, and envy could
hardly find a foothold among them.

Léodgard had arrived but a short time before. When he caught sight of
Camilla, he simply smiled at her, but she stood in front of him and
asked in a low tone:

"How do I look?"

"Beautiful, very beautiful, as always," the count replied, and walked
into another room.

"As always!" muttered Camilla, biting her lips in vexation; "I look as I
always do! Whereas all these other young gentlemen do not tire of
telling me that I have never been so beautiful, so seductive! Why, he
did not even look at my hair, or notice this Spanish costume! He no
longer loves me, and yet I do not think that he loves another."

"Of what are you dreaming, divine Manola?" said the Marquis de Sénange,
as he approached Camilla, taking her hand and passing it through his
arm.

"Why--of you, perhaps!" replied the courtesan, displaying a double row
of teeth of irreproachable whiteness.

"Of me! of me! Ah! if I could believe it!--Look you, Camilla--your eyes
and this costume were quite enough to turn my head; but the words you
have uttered make me mad with love!"

"Well! what harm would it do, after all, if you were a little mad? It
would not change you much, I should say."

"Camilla, I would gladly endure all possible tortures, pass through
every conceivable trial, if you would reward me by allowing me to love
you!"

"Love me! why, what prevents you? Have you not as much right to love me
as another man?"

"But let us understand each other, adorable siren! It is not cheerful to
love all by one's self! Love is increased twofold when it is shared."

"Indeed! What a pity that it is not so with everything! I would become
very charitable!"

"Look you, Camilla, have you not been faithful to Léodgard long enough?
Frankly, you cover yourself with ridicule! A woman with such a wealth
of attractions is a flower; it is not fair that a single man should
inhale all her perfume!"

"Ah! marquis, you wish to plunder your friend's garden!"

"There are no friends where a lovely woman is concerned! Besides,
Léodgard is becoming very unamiable of late--you must agree to that."

"Why, he is married, poor dear! and that is quite enough to change a
man's expression!"

"Oh! little he cares for all that! Moreover, you are well aware that,
although he is married, he lives absolutely as if he were a bachelor!
But, I say again, he is no longer the roué, the jovial scapegrace, of
the old days; one would say that he had grown fifteen years older; his
features are altered, his face is always careworn or gloomy, he has
forgotten how to laugh and drink; he must also have forgotten how to
love!"

"Ah! do you think so? You may be mistaken. Léodgard always was of a
fantastic humor."

"I have known him only as a man who was always laughing and
singing!--Give me some hope, Camilla."

"Well! we shall see. The night is young yet. But here are more people
coming; I must go to receive them."

The young marquis left Camilla, but he deemed himself sure of his
triumph, and his face expressed his delight.

Flavia went to her friend a moment later and whispered:

"So it is the fascinating Sénange whom you have chosen for your victim?"

"Why not he as well as another?"

"Rather he, for he is very agreeable, and it would be a pity if anything
should happen to him!"

"Nothing will happen to him. See how indifferent Léodgard is to me! He
passed us while I was on the marquis's arm, and did not even notice us!"

"Oh! do not torment yourself!--Think of nothing but your fête--it is
simply delicious! There are great numbers of very attractive gentlemen
here; you expect nobody else, I suppose?"

"I believe that everybody has come.--Oh, yes! I did also invite--but I
suspected that it would be useless; he will not come."

"Who is it?"

"Do you remember that gentleman in black, whom we tried in vain to rouse
one night, at a fête given by Léodgard?"

"The Sire de Jarnonville, was it not?"

"Precisely."

"Oh! what a pity that he is not here! I considered him very original.
Why should he not come?"

"Because for some time past he has not been seen at any festivity; he no
longer drinks, no longer gambles, no longer fights, even! In short, he
is a lost man, so far as his friends are concerned! That is why I feel
sure that he will not come."

At that moment a servant appeared at the door of the salon and
announced:

"The Sire de Jarnonville!"

"Well, this is strange!" cried Flavia; "at the very moment when we
despaired of seeing him!"

"He confers a great favor on me! And I am proud of it, I assure you!"

As she spoke, Camilla went to meet Jarnonville, who was just entering
the salon. Everybody was impressed by the advantageous change that had
taken place in his appearance; his face was expansive, amiable, almost
smiling; even his costume had undergone some modification; although his
doublet and short-clothes were still black, his girdle was pale blue,
and his cloak was of velvet of the same color. In short, the chevalier's
person no longer wore that stern and sombre aspect which caused pleasure
and love to flee at his approach.

"It is most amiable of you, Sire de Jarnonville," said Camilla, "to
accept my invitation. I am the more sensible of your kindness, because
you are seen very seldom now in society, at our parties."

"Yours, _belle dame_, certainly deserved that I should make an exception
in its favor."

"Can it be that you have renounced misanthropy, chevalier? Have you
ceased to be the Chevalier de Verglas, as you used to be called?--So
much the better! in that case, you are one of us once more."

"I have never renounced anything, not even the pleasure of telling you
that you are ravishingly beautiful in this costume."

Having achieved this compliment, Jarnonville bowed to the courtesan and
lost himself in the crowd that thronged the salons and gardens.

"Why, he is becoming a charming cavalier!" said Camilla; "he told me
that I was ravishingly beautiful; _he_ noticed my costume! He is more
gallant than Léodgard.--I believe that we can make a conquest of him
now, Flavia."

"Oh! I no longer care about it; I preferred him when he was all in black
and looked like a bear."

While the two ladies exchanged their opinions concerning Jarnonville,
the new-comer was being discussed also in a group of young gentlemen.

"Did you see Jarnonville, Monclair?"

"Yes, I have just bade him good-evening."

"Don't you think that he cuts an entirely different figure from what he
used?"

"Why so? because he wears a blue cloak instead of a black one?"

"No, it is not that; but because he no longer has that gloomy, unhappy
expression that he used to carry with him everywhere."

"That is true," said young La Valteline; "I noticed the change; it
impressed me when Jarnonville entered the salon."

"Well, messieurs, what is there so surprising in that?" said Monclair;
"after all, grief is not eternal! After the rain comes the sunshine! And
Jarnonville's coming here proves that he is no longer a foe to
pleasure."

"I tell you, messieurs," said the Baron de Montrevert, shaking his head
with an air of importance, "that a change in humor, in disposition,
never happens without a cause."

"Well! do you know what the cause is, Montrevert?" inquired Sénange.

"Oh! perhaps! perhaps!"

"He knows it, messieurs, he is going to tell us what it is. Speak, my
dear fellow, speak, we will not lose a syllable!"

"I will tell you, messieurs, what someone told me--the reports that are
current; I vouch for nothing, however."

"The preamble is perfect! Come down to the facts, advocate."

"Well! this is what people say: for several months past, Jarnonville has
been a frequent visitor at the Hôtel de Marvejols, where the young
countess lives."

"Oh! the deuce! is it so? And what does he go there for?"

"Why, it seems to me to be very easy to guess; he goes to see our friend
Léodgard's wife."

"The bath keeper's daughter!"

"Hush! you wretch! Suppose Léodgard should hear you! He will not allow
anyone to speak of his wife, either kindly or unkindly. Only a few days
ago, the young Vicomte de Saunois ventured in his presence to jest about
ill-assorted marriages; he threw his glove in his face, and the next
morning he killed Saunois by running him through with his sword."

"What do we care for all that?--Let us return to Jarnonville; so he goes
to pay court to the little countess, eh?"

"I cannot tell you absolutely why he goes to the Hôtel de Marvejols, but
he goes there very often; and they say that, despite her low birth, this
young countess is extremely pretty."

"Indeed!"

"And it is since Jarnonville has been going to see that young woman that
his melancholy has vanished, that his eyes have lost their savage
expression."

"And that he has worn a blue cloak! Ha! ha! this is delicious!--Pardieu!
messeigneurs, I consider it most diverting that this ill-tamed ex-bear
should hunt on Léodgard's preserves, who, by the way, has become far
from agreeable since he became rich!"

"Oh! that would be a most excellent joke!"

"It is possible to hunt on another part of his domains," said Sénange,
playing with his moustache; "but I take that task upon myself."

"Ah! is it so?" rejoined the young men, laughingly; "it is evident that
the Comte de Marvejols is beset on all sides."

The two persons who were the subjects of this conversation were in the
garden at the time. Léodgard, pausing beside a basin surrounded by
flowers, with which lights of all colors were mingled, gazed gloomily at
the reflection of the hyacinths and lilies in the water; it is probable
that he did not appreciate the charm of that portion of the garden,
where the water cooled the air, where the illuminations were not so
brilliant as to tire the eye; yet he remained there, musing, lost in
thought.

Jarnonville, after walking through the salons without meeting the Comte
de Marvejols, had also stepped into the garden; for it was with no
intention of taking part in the thousand and one amusements which
Camilla's guests anticipated that the chevalier had accepted the
courtesan's invitation. But since he had acquired the habit of visiting
the young countess, since he had been able to admire and caress the
charming little Blanche, who, while recalling the child he had lost, had
transformed his sombre humor into a not ungracious melancholy, and had
opened his heart to gentler sensations, Jarnonville had more than once
heard Bathilde express her regret that Léodgard did not know his
daughter. And the chevalier, who too believed that it was impossible to
know Blanche without loving her, had said to himself:

"If Léodgard should see the child, he would long to see her again, and
the little angel would bring him back to that young wife who is so
worthy of his love."

But in order that Léodgard should wish to see his daughter, it was
necessary to speak to him of her, to arouse in his heart a desire to
know her; and for that it was necessary to see him.

Jarnonville had been several times to the little house in Rue de
Bretonvilliers; but he had never succeeded in finding Léodgard, who was
absent or was unwilling to receive him.

Then it was that Camilla's invitation reached the chevalier. He knew
that Léodgard could not fail to attend a fête given by his mistress, and
the reader will understand the purpose which had led the chevalier
thither.

At the end of a path Jarnonville found himself in the circle of which
the basin formed the centre. He saw before him the man he was seeking,
and, as Léodgard did not see him, he went to him and touched his arm
gently.

"You seem very pensive in the midst of so hilarious a gathering, Comte
de Marvejols!"

Léodgard started; but on recognizing Jarnonville, he replied, with an
air of surprise:

"Ah! is it you, Jarnonville? How does it happen that we see you at this
fête? You have not been seen lately at any card party, or in any affray
with the rabble. People say that you are becoming virtuous! that you are
no longer the mischief-maker, the intrepid swordsman, of the old days!
It is too bad, i' faith! it is too bad! and for my part, I regret the
Black Chevalier, with his rough hand and his lusty blows with sword and
dagger!"

"My sword and dagger will never fail to respond to a friend's call, and
will strike, I trust, as lusty blows as of old! But I must needs know
first whether the cause that I defend be just, or whether I am asked to
fight to forward some despicable intrigue."

Léodgard drew his heavy eyebrows together, and said in an ironical tone:

"You see, chevalier, you are no longer the same man. You desire now to
make inquiries before you fight! Whereas, formerly, you would throw
yourself head foremost into the mêlée, without disturbing yourself
concerning the motive of the quarrel, and sometimes dealing blows on
both sides. You were admirable then."

"Perhaps so.--Yes, I do not deny that I am no longer the same. The
hatred that I once felt for the whole human race has vanished and given
place to gentler sentiments. When I felt my heart beat again, I realized
that all sensibility had not died within me. I have found my heart anew,
I have felt sensations which I never expected again to know. And the
gloom and despair which consumed me are transformed into touching
memories."

"What can have produced this miraculous change in you, I pray to know?"

"A child!"

"A child?"

"Yes. The loss of my daughter made me the man you described so well just
now. Another child--an angel like the first--has restored me to myself.
This child is not mine; but she is so affectionate, so lovable! Dear
little one! she smiles at my caresses, she already manifests affection
for me, and I imagine that my own daughter is given back to me!"

"Who is this marvellous child, pray?"

"Yours, count. I am speaking of your daughter, your little Blanche.--Ah!
I am entitled to love her, to lavish my affection upon her, for I,
representing your father, had the honor to act as her godfather. I tell
you again, your daughter is an angel; it is not only the beauty of her
features that people admire in her; young as she is, her eyes already
have a sweet and gentle expression which charms, attracts one, while her
pure and noble brow denotes unusual intelligence!--Do you not wish to
see her, count? Will you never imprint a kiss on that angel's brow? You
have no suspicion that you possess such a treasure; but I am convinced
that to see her for an instant will suffice to make you love her?"

"Was it to tell me all this, to speak to me of that child, that you came
hither, chevalier?" asked Léodgard, with a sombre expression.

"You have said it, count: it was for that purpose that I came to this
festivity. I was anxious to see you; I had been to your house several
times in vain; I thought that I should be more fortunate here."

"If that is so, I regret that you have taken so much trouble. You would
have done better not to mix with a company of courtesans and rakes.
Frankly, it is not becoming in a man who has renounced Satan."

"Is this the only reply that I can obtain from you, count? Will you not
go once at least to see and embrace your daughter? Ah! if you had seen
her! if her eyes had rested on yours! if her soft little voice had
fallen on your ears! You would agree that all that I have said is far
below the truth."

"Chevalier, do not recur to this subject. It is useless for you to
attempt to lead me back to a person--whom I do not choose to see. For I
understand that the little girl is only a pretext; you talk to me of the
child, in order to reconcile me with the mother."

"And if that were true, count? The time is not so far away when I met
you one night keeping watch under her windows. Oh! then she was an
angel, you adored her, you could not live without her! and to-day----"

"Enough, Jarnonville, enough!"

Léodgard raised his voice as he uttered these last words in an angry
tone; and several of the guests, who happened to be walking in that part
of the garden, hurried to the spot, thinking that a quarrel was on.

"What is it, messieurs, what's the matter?" asked the Baron de
Montrevert, who was one of the first to arrive. "Are you at odds here?
What! two excellent friends--Léodgard and the Sire de Jarnonville!"

"No matter!" cried Sénange; "if you need seconds, here we are!"

"But first you must tell us the cause of your falling-out."

"You are mistaken, my masters!" rejoined Léodgard, calm once more.
"There is neither quarrel nor falling-out between us; I was talking with
the chevalier, and I may have become a little heated and have raised my
voice. But we have no inclination to fight, for we have no reason to
cease to be friends."

"Oh! that's a pity!" muttered Monclair, walking away. "It would have
amused me to see them cross swords."

"He did not choose to tell us the truth," said Montrevert, leading his
friends away. "But we are not his dupes. He probably has got wind of
Jarnonville's visits to his wife, and he was saying two words to him on
the subject."

"In that case, they will fight at the first opportunity."

"That is inevitable!"

"Ah! here is Flavia!"

"And pretty Nadina! Come with us for a stroll, enchantresses!"

The two courtesans to whom these words were addressed turned back toward
the salons, saying:

"No, indeed, we will not walk in the gardens with you, seigneurs; you
have too pronounced a penchant for the dark paths."

"Besides, I want to dance!" said little Nadina, who was rather stout for
her short stature, but who carried her premature embonpoint with such
graceful abandon and such a saucy expression that the men felt drawn
toward the _Little Ball_, a sobriquet which her female friends had given
her.

"She wants to dance, in order to melt her fat!" whispered Flavia to one
of the gentlemen.

"Why so? for my part, I think her very comely as she is."

"Bah! one cannot see any figure!"

"I assure you that one can see some very pretty things!"

"As if men knew anything about it!"

"Ah! that remark is characteristic of a woman! They try to captivate, to
seduce men, and then they declare that men are not capable of judging
them!"

"Messeigneurs," said Camilla, approaching a group of gentlemen, among
whom she saw Léodgard and Sénange, "the supper is served under the great
arbor of lilacs yonder. If it is your pleasure to serve us as
cupbearers, we will take our places at the table.--Come, mesdames."

As she spoke, the fair courtesan led her friends away, and they ran like
a swarm of butterflies in the direction of the supper table.

"On my honor, that Spanish costume is marvellously becoming to Camilla!"
said Sénange, exalted to the seventh heaven by a smile which the
courtesan had bestowed upon him. "I do not believe that it is possible
to find a more fascinating woman.--I am going to supper."

"Camilla is certainly very good-looking; I do justice to her
attractions," said Montrevert, remaining behind to chat with a number of
young men. "But as for saying that there is no more fascinating
woman--Sénange goes too far! What would he say if he had seen the young
Marquise de Santoval? Ah! she is what I call a beauty that eclipses all
others! And, with all Camilla's charms, I will bet that no one would
notice her if she stood beside the marchioness!"

"Who is this Marquise de Santoval? where does she come from?" asked
Monclair.

"It is plain that you spend all your time in wine shops, Monclair;
otherwise, you would know that the Marquis de Santoval married
Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin, the daughter of an illustrious
family."

"Oh, yes! I remember now.--And it is this young woman who is so
beautiful, you say?"

"Montrevert does not exaggerate," said La Valteline. "A few days ago, I
was at a ball at Madame de Beaumont's, and the young Marquise de
Santoval was there. Her entrance caused a sensation; the whole salon
joined in a cry of admiration!--That young woman turned everybody's
head. In addition to her beauty, there is an expression on her face
which it is impossible to describe--coquetry, pride, languor, irony--and
the combination is simply ravishing!"

"Well, well! it would seem that this Santoval is a very lucky man!"

"He is far too much so, messieurs! He is in great danger!"

"The devil! we must take precautions, then. For this husband is a
veritable wild boar, supplied with nasty tusks."

"Let us go to supper, messieurs."

"Let us go to supper."

The young men walked away; but Léodgard, who had overheard them,
remained seated on a bench under the trees, saying thoughtfully to
himself:

"Ah! this Marquise de Santoval, who is said to be so beautiful, is
Valentine--the woman whom I was to marry! I hardly noticed her, then! I
am curious to know if they tell the truth.--And then, it will distract
me, and I need distraction."

And the count walked slowly toward the place where the company was
assembled.

As for Jarnonville, he had long since left the courtesan's abode, sorely
depressed because his attempt to arouse Léodgard's interest had proved
fruitless.



XLI

A GLANCE


A few weeks later, a splendid ball was given by the Prince de Valdimer,
a wealthy and luxury-loving foreigner, ambassador of one of the Northern
powers.

Every person who imparted any ray of brilliancy to the somewhat dismal
court of Louis XIII, every bearer of an illustrious name in France, was
bidden to this festivity. The Comte de Marvejols had not been forgotten.

It was hardly possible to move in the salons of the vast mansion which
the Prince de Valdimer had hired, and which he had caused to be
decorated and illuminated on a most magnificent scale.

The ladies, dressed in rich gowns, were covered with diamonds, pearls,
and jewels. The men, who were more coquettish in those days than we are
to-day, also wore laces, plumes, and precious stones on their garments.

Then there were the newly rich merchants, the financiers, the
farmers-general, who sought to disguise their origin by arraying
themselves in sumptuous vestments of gold and silver brocade.

A fact that gave additional importance to this function in the eyes of
many persons was that it was said that the Cardinal de Richelieu had
promised to attend.

The crowd was therefore so great that one sometimes had to wait a long
while before going from one room to another, if one did not wish to be
suffocated.

A young woman of rare beauty, holding her elegant figure gracefully
erect, and leaning on the arm of a man of forty, whose face wore a
severe but noble expression, led her escort into a window recess as if
in search of air, saying:

"In heaven's name, monsieur le marquis, let us not mingle with that
crowd; let us wait here a moment, where we may perhaps be able to
breathe! Mon Dieu! what a multitude of people! the whole court and the
whole city are at this fête!"

"If you dread the heat, if this crowded hall has no charms for you,
Valentine, we will go away."

"Oh, no! I wish to stay; it is a very brilliant affair; but I would like
to rest a moment here."

"As you please."

"Why, here is Monsieur le Marquis de Santoval!" cried a little
hunchbacked old man, who held his head erect, however, and whose eyes
were instinct with cunning and good humor, addressing the escort of the
lady who had taken refuge in the window recess; "have I the honor of
saluting madame la marquise?"

"Yes, my dear De Noirteuil," replied Monsieur de Santoval, shaking hands
with the little old man.

"Ah! present me, I pray you."

"Madame, allow me to present Monsieur de Noirteuil, a gentleman from the
South--like myself; moreover, a clever diplomatist who has often placed
his talents at the service of his country, and always with success."

"What would you have--I had nothing else to offer my country; it would
have none of my person!--But allow me to congratulate you, Santoval! You
are a lucky mortal, 'pon my honor! I have heard your wife's beauty
extolled, but I see that what I have heard is far below the truth!"

"You are gallant, as always, De Noirteuil!"

"At this moment I am simply the echo of what is said on every
side.--What think you of this fête, _belle dame_? a little crowded, is
it not?"

"Why, monsieur, it seems to me to be very brilliant, very splendid!"

"Humph! too many people! That is the way with these foreigners; when
they want to give a fête, they invite and invite! they would do much
better to make a selection, to sort people out."

"What! do you mean to say that you have seen anybody who is out of place
here?"

"I do not say that; still, after all, he might well have invited a
smaller number."

"They say that the cardinal is coming."

"That is possible; but it is all the same to me--I don't care about
seeing him, I have no request to make of him. He has just organized two
companies of _mousquetaires_, but I fancy that he will not appoint me
to a captaincy. Ha! ha!"

"Still fond of your laugh, my dear De Noirteuil!"

"Ah! I must have something, you know, marquis! Now, you possess an
enchanting wife, and I, my gayety! I never had any other companion; but
it has its good points.--Mon Dieu! what do I see? What miracle is this?
Is it really he? Yes, it is himself, on my word!"

"Of whom are you speaking, De Noirteuil?"

"Of that young cavalier whom I see yonder, at the entrance of the
gallery; dressed in the extreme of fashion, with princely magnificence!
But he carries it well, vrai Dieu! He is a very pretty fellow, that
Léodgard de Marvejols!"

"Ah! you are speaking of the Comte de Marvejols?--What is the matter,
Valentine? do you feel ill?"

"I, monsieur? not in the least. Why do you ask me that?"

"Because it seemed to me that your arm suddenly rested very heavily on
mine.--I am happy that my alarm was unfounded."

"I uttered that exclamation of surprise," continued the hunchback,
"because it is a long while since young Marvejols has been seen at any
ball or party; he has ceased entirely to go to court; in short, between
us, he is looked upon as a regular _mauvais sujet_, who frequents only
courtesans and low gambling hells!"

"It would seem that you are not his friend, monsieur," said Valentine,
with an ironical glance at the little man.

"I, madame la marquise? Oh! I bear him no ill will. I have never been
his rival. Ha! ha!--Look, he is coming this way!"

Léodgard, having learned from several persons that the Marquise de
Santoval was in that room, was trying to force his way through the crowd
and had succeeded in reaching a point within a few feet of the window
where Valentine was.

Old De Noirteuil immediately bowed several times to Léodgard and offered
him his hand, saying, in the shrill, piercing voice which seems to be
the patrimony of hunchbacks:

"Hail! my dear count, hail! Enchanted to see you, on my word of honor!
you are such a rare bird--at court, at all events; no one will ever
reproach you for being too zealous a courtier! But, vive Dieu! you
should not abandon your place to others in this way! A Marvejols is
intended to show himself, as I was saying just now to my friend the
Marquis de Santoval and his charming wife."

While the little old man was speaking, Léodgard had fixed his eyes on
Valentine, who, in her turn, fixed hers upon him. This reciprocal glance
lasted only an instant, but what a multitude of things were said during
that swift flash, which seemed of the sort to kindle a conflagration!

The Comte de Marvejols well deserved that a lady should rest her eyes
upon him. Hardly twenty-eight years old, tall, well made, and endowed
with a noble and graceful bearing, he possessed in addition very
handsome features and an expression at once winning and haughty. The
only points that one could criticise in Léodgard's appearance were an
extreme pallor which gave to his face a suggestion of the other world,
and a certain vagueness in his glance which harmonized too well with the
pallor of his brow.

But, as women, in general, are rather inclined to men who have something
uncommon about them, Léodgard made many conquests, and his appearance at
the Prince de Valdimer's had created a sensation.

After exchanging a handshake with Monsieur de Noirteuil, he saluted the
Marquis de Santoval; then he bowed low to Valentine, accompanying the
movement with a slight smile, which indicated that it was not the first
time that he had presented his respects to the marchioness. Then he
walked on into another salon.

"He is good-looking, very good-looking, a charming cavalier!" murmured
the little old man, looking after the count.

"Monsieur de Marvejols bowed to you as to an old acquaintance, it seemed
to me," said Monsieur de Santoval, whose brow had grown dark.

"Why, my father was a very close friend of the Marquis de Marvejols, so
that the count and I are not strangers; I have met him once or twice."

"Oh! I beg pardon; I knew nothing of that.--Is not the count married?"

"Yes, indeed! oh, yes!" said Monsieur de Noirteuil; "in fact, he made a
very absurd marriage--the daughter of a man who kept a shop; and it was
his father, the old marquis, who insisted that the marriage should take
place. It seems that there had been seduction, malediction,
desertion--and a child with it all."

"Men renowned for their _bonnes fortunes_ seem to have bad ones too,
sometimes!" observed Monsieur de Santoval, smiling in a strange fashion.

"It seems to me, monsieur, that the crowd is less dense," said
Valentine, "and that we might walk through the other rooms now."

"With pleasure, madame; I am at your service."

"Lovely woman! enchanting woman!" cried the little hunchback, as he
watched the young marchioness move away on her husband's arm.

"Yes," said the Baron de Montrevert, leaning unceremoniously on the
little man's shoulder; "but much too lovely for her husband--eh,
Noirteuil?"

"Do not lean on me so, baron--you are heavy, you are extremely heavy,
baron!"

"What do you mean by that, you crafty old man? Do you refer to my body
or my mind?"

"Both."

"Is it true that Léodgard is here?"

"Quite true; I spoke to him just now."

"Do you know that Sénange has enticed Camilla, his mistress, away from
him?"

"How do you suppose that I know that? Do I consort with courtesans,
pray? I have never cared for that sort of woman!"

"Ha! ha! ha! I think that you have been very wise, my dear friend!"

"You laugh, do you? Mon Dieu! if I had chosen to cover them with gold,
they would have adored me."

"You mean that they would have pretended to."

"To a man of sense, that amounts to the same thing. Look you--you
mention Léodgard; he is handsome, young, and well made; and yet you told
me just now that his mistress had left him!"

"That is true; and the strangest part of it is that Léodgard has not had
a quarrel with Sénange; indeed, it is said that they continue to be good
friends."

"Par la sambleu! I should say so! What greater service can one render a
friend than to rid him of an old mistress?"

"Noirteuil, you are a villain! It is very lucky for the ladies that you
have that slight protuberance on your shoulder!"

"Why so?"

"Because it has preserved them from the tricks you would have played on
them.--But I propose to try to find the fair Santoval, and, if possible,
I will dance with her."

"Go! go singe yourself at the candle, my handsome moth!" said the little
old man, mingling with the crowd; "I fancy that more than one of you
will scorch his wings; but I shall not be one!"

Léodgard had turned his back on Valentine, still fascinated by her
glance, by her beauty which had disturbed his senses, by her charming
and noble carriage, by the grace with which she wore her splendid
costume, and, lastly, by the change which the title of wife had wrought
in her manner and in her whole aspect.

He could not convince himself that that intoxicating beauty was really
the maiden whose hand he had refused. But he remembered that in those
days he had hardly glanced at her, and that she, on her side, had barely
raised her eyes to his face; and he said to himself:

"What a difference! What a glance she flashed at me just now! There was
in her eyes a sort of ironical expression which seemed to jeer at me for
having failed to appreciate her--a sort of challenge to me to refuse to
do homage to her charms!--Ah! I long to see her again! to gaze upon her
charms a long while, a very long while! to taste that happiness which I
once spurned! Will she look at me again as she did just now?"

Léodgard succeeded without difficulty in finding Valentine. The young
marchioness, alleging the heat as a pretext, had refused all invitations
to dance; she had seated herself on one of the raised benches in the
gallery, which were so arranged that the ladies who sat there could
enjoy the sight of the ball without moving.

When he discovered Valentine, the Comte de Marvejols leaned against a
pillar within fifteen feet of her, because from that place, thanks to
her elevated position, he could gaze at her at his ease. The Marquis de
Santoval, being at the foot of the benches, and surrounded by people,
could not see Léodgard.

The latter had been in his chosen place but a few moments when he became
certain that Valentine had seen him, that she knew that he was there for
the sole purpose of admiring her and watching her movements. Thereafter
he saw nobody in the whole assemblage but that woman, a single glance
from whose eyes had sufficed to set his heart on fire. All the passing,
all the going and coming about him were powerless to divert his
attention; his eyes did not wander from the Marquise de Santoval.

"Vive Dieu! my dear count, you are terribly preoccupied, this is the
second time that I have spoken to you without obtaining a reply!"

As he spoke, the Baron de Montrevert placed his hand on Léodgard's arm;
the latter angrily roused himself from his contemplation and muttered:

"Well! what is it, Montrevert? Is not a man the master of his thoughts
and actions here?"

"Oh, the devil! How surly you are to-night, Léodgard! Have I disturbed
you in some very pleasant occupation? I will wager that I know what has
nailed you to this pillar! Yes, now I know!--Aha! my dear master, we are
admiring the Marquise de Santoval, who is on one of the benches
yonder!--Well! in that case, I forgive you for snarling at me--such a
lovely woman is quite capable of making us forget our friends!--But
look--it seems to me that she casts a glance in our direction; this is a
good place, apparently!"

Léodgard had resumed his contemplation of the marchioness and was no
longer listening to Montrevert.

At that moment the little old hunchback joined them and stood on tiptoe,
crying:

"What are you looking at there? Is the cardinal in that direction? I
don't care about seeing him--I know him; still, as they say that he is
thinner than ever, I should like to judge.--Montrevert, take me in your
arms a moment, so that I may see."

Montrevert followed Léodgard's example--he did not reply. The Chevalier
de La Valteline, who also had stopped near them, said to Monsieur de
Noirteuil:

"Console yourself; it is not the cardinal they are looking at; it is the
young Marquise de Santoval, whom everybody is admiring."

"The Marquise de Santoval! Oh! that makes a difference; I know her! I am
very intimate with her husband!--But what a noise there is in the next
room! Doubtless the cardinal is making his _entrée_; he seems to be
coming this way, for the commotion is approaching us. So much the
better! we shall be able to see him."

At that moment, the new arrival, whose peculiar costume and unique
figure caused such a lively sensation in the throng that filled the
rooms, made his appearance at the door of the gallery where the benches
were. At sight of him many ladies could not control their desire to
laugh, which they tried to dissemble behind their fans, while the little
hunchback cried:

"By Notre Dame! who is this green man, who looks not unlike an asparagus
stalk?--But I know him! why, yes, it's the Gascon chevalier, Monsieur de
Passedix!--Where in the devil did the Prince de Valdimer pick up all
these people?"

"My dear De Noirteuil," said La Valteline, "do not make a mistake;
Passedix is a genuine chevalier of good family! He is absurd with
respect to his physique, his costume, and his pretentious ways--that may
be; but he is in no wise out of place here!"

The Gascon had, in fact, laid aside his orange costume. Having succeeded
in obtaining an invitation to the Prince de Valdimer's ball, he had
determined to create a sensation there by his magnificence, and, above
all, by the originality of his costume; he had, in short, decided to do
his utmost to forget Miretta; and having found no cure for his troubles
in wine, he proposed to himself to make other conquests, hoping that
another love would cure him of the passion which had caused him naught
but vexation.

For several days, Passedix had reflected upon the subject of the color
which would be most becoming to him and at the same time would be likely
to attract the eyes of the ladies at a ball. He had decided on
apple-green, and had ordered a satin doublet and short-clothes of that
color, both slashed with olive-green, to form a contrast with the
background. A dark-green girdle surrounded his waist; a short
apple-green cloak was fastened to the left shoulder; and lastly, a
sea-green velvet cap, surmounted by plumes of the same shade, completed
the costume of the chevalier, who resembled an ambulatory tree, and
whose entrance had produced an effect even beyond his hopes.

"One could never imagine anything like it, if one did not see it!" said
the little old man.

Passedix, who had recognized La Valteline and Montrevert, pushed through
the crowd which escorted him, and hastened to join them.

"Hail to the flower of chivalry!" exclaimed La Valteline, smiling.

"Enchanted to meet you, my fine fellows!--Cadédis! what a crowd at this
ball! it is gorgeous! it is elegant! The fair sex predominates--so much
the better, sandis!--I say with François I: a ball without ladies is a
court without roses--no, I mean a springtime--but, no matter!--Ah! but
there is our friend the Comte de Marvejols, glued to yonder
pillar.--Good-evening, Léodgard! How now! not a word for a comrade?--Can
he have gone deaf, I wonder? he does not answer!"

"No," said Montrevert; "but I believe that he has fallen in love with
the Marquise de Santoval, who is sitting over yonder."

"The Marquise de Santoval!" repeated Passedix, with difficulty
repressing a sigh.

"That name makes you sigh, chevalier," said La Valteline; "can it be
that you too are one of the adorers of that lady, who sows confusion in
all hearts?"

"I! oh! not at all; but I remembered that the Marquise de Santoval is no
other than Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin--that is all."

"Vertuchoux! monsieur," said the little old man, saluting Passedix in
his turn, "you have chosen an exceedingly dashing costume for the ball,
and one which, as you must have noticed, produces a great effect here."

"My costume is graceful and distinguished, is it not? I have always had
a weakness for apple-green; it is very becoming to me!"

"Yes, you wear it in a way that is peculiar to yourself."

"You have the general aspect of a shrub," said Montrevert.

"So much the better, sandioux! I am a rosebush; the ladies will be the
roses."

"You represent hope also!" said Monsieur de Noirteuil.

"As you say, I am the chevalier of hope."

"One might also take him for a lettuce!" said the little hunchback, in
an undertone.

"But, if I remember aright, you were all orange not long ago?"

"Yes, yes, that is true; but I have had enough of my orange costume; it
came very near costing me dear.--Did Sénange and Monclair never tell you
what happened to me, thanks to that infernal doublet?"

"No, we know nothing about it. Was it not a love adventure?"

"Love adventure! Bigre!--I beg pardon, I meant to say no, by Roland!--I
was arrested, taken away--the crowd was already beginning to talk of
hanging me! and all because they absolutely insisted that I was the
famous robber Giovanni!"

"Giovanni! you, Giovanni! Ha! ha! ha! that is too absurd!--I say,
Léodgard, Passedix was mistaken for Giovanni!"

The name of the Italian robber produced a magical effect upon Léodgard.
The amorous expression of his glance instantly disappeared; he turned
toward those who had addressed him, gazed at them with a distracted air,
and replied in a metallic voice:

"What? what is it? what do you say? I did not hear."

"I said, count, that the Chevalier Passedix, whom you see before you
disguised as a lawn----"

"What do you mean by _lawn_?" cried the Gascon.

"No; I meant to say dressed as a meadow--in short, this worthy gentleman
was arrested by mistake for the robber Giovanni!"

"Ah! he was arrested?"

"Don't you agree with me that it is very comical?"

"Sandis! baron, I see nothing amusing in it at all! What do you see in
it that moves you to laughter?"

"Pardieu! Passedix, the fact that you no more resemble Giovanni than
that enormous lady yonder resembles the Marquise de Santoval; and I
speak by the card, having had the honor of being set upon and robbed by
the illustrious brigand!"

"What, monsieur le baron! have you been attacked by the famous
Giovanni?" said the little hunchback, raising his head in order to look
at Montrevert more closely.

"Yes, monsieur, and much more than attacked--I was beaten; for I tried
to defend myself. But Léodgard here knows Giovanni much better than I,
for he has had two encounters with him: the first, when he was robbed,
like myself; on the second occasion, he tried to avenge me and kill the
villainous thief; he fought with him and wounded him.--Is not that so,
count?"

"Yes, it is true, I wounded him; at least, I thought so!" Léodgard
replied, trying to hide his emotion, and glancing uneasily in every
direction.

"You thought so!" rejoined Montrevert; "why, it was no delusion, as you
were covered with blood when you came back to us."

"Cadédis!" cried Passedix, raising his hand to put aside one of the
plumes, which fell over his left eye; "I don't know what I would give to
cut that infernal robber in four pieces!"

"In that case, messieurs," said Monsieur de Noirteuil, "you must indeed
know this Giovanni perfectly."

"That is why I said just now that the Chevalier Passedix did not
resemble him at all!" said Montrevert. "Not that you can see his face,
which is all hidden by his beard, but you can distinguish his eyes,
which are very black and very bright, and his nose, which is long and
sharp."

"Well! all that resembles me, I should say!"

"But he is a long way from having a figure like yours--he is not even so
tall as Léodgard; he is very active, and seems to be powerfully built
and quite young."

"I see no great difference from your humble servant."

"For some time past, we have heard nothing of people being attacked by
this robber," said the little old man; "it would seem that he is
reposing, or that he has left Paris."

"No, indeed!" said La Valteline; "but the shrewd rascal always awaits a
good opportunity before acting; he does not steal for trifles! No, no!
he is a fellow who selects his victims.--Not more than fifteen days,
that is to say, fifteen nights ago, the wealthy Destaillis, receiver of
the salt tax, was robbed by him as he left a gambling house in which he
had broken the bank!"

"Sandis! if I were lieutenant of police, I would be ashamed of not
having captured this Giovanni yet!"

"It seems that he has retreats, hiding places, in every quarter; he
throws off the track all the bloodhounds that are set on him."

"Patience, messieurs," said the little hunchback; "I have been assured
that the Cardinal de Richelieu said lately that he proposed to turn his
attention to that villain! And if his eminence takes a hand in it,
Giovanni will be caught."

"But what is this commotion in the gallery?--Ah! messieurs, this time it
is really the cardinal; he is going to pass through here."

"I don't care about seeing him," said the hunchback, darting toward the
crowd, "but he may have something to say to me; that is why I think it
better to be where he can see me."

"For my part, I should not be sorry to have him notice me!" said
Passedix.

"Oh! parbleu, chevalier!" said Montrevert; "he cannot help it! You have
a costume that attracts every eye."

"So much the better! Sandis! you make me swim in joy! Bigre! here he is!
we must stand erect!"

Richelieu came forward slowly, surrounded by a throng of courtiers, all
of whom strove to obtain a favorable glance or a mere word from his
eminence; and those who were vilifying the prime minister most savagely
a few moments before were not the least eager to bend their backs double
to obtain a smile.

As it was absolutely necessary for the guests to stand aside and make
room for the cardinal to pass, he stopped a moment in front of the
pillar against which Léodgard was leaning, and glanced at the persons
nearest him.

"His eminence paused to look at me," said Passedix, leaning toward La
Valteline. "Look--see----"

"He turns and speaks in an undertone to the Prince de Valdimer, who is
at his side."

"I should not be surprised if he were to call me! He wishes to know the
address of my tailor!"

But the Gascon's expectations were not fulfilled; it was not upon him
that Richelieu had cast his eagle eye; it was Léodgard whom he had
noticed; it was the name of the Comte de Marvejols that had come from
his mouth.

After gracefully saluting the ladies who stood along his path, Richelieu
walked through the gallery; but before he took his leave he cast at
Léodgard another glance, of which all the courtiers then present sought
in vain to divine the meaning.



XLII

THE PLOT THICKENS


During the first few weeks after the ball given by the foreign prince,
Léodgard tried to forget Valentine's image, to banish her from his mind;
he said to himself that it would be madness on his part to fall in love
with a woman whose husband he had refused to be.

But the young marchioness's tender and expressive eyes were not the kind
that one easily forgets, especially when they have seemed to say to one:

"Love me, I insist upon it!"

Tired of fighting against a sentiment which gave him no rest, Léodgard
said to himself at last:

"Well! I will love this woman!--She will love me in return, I am certain
of it; I saw it in her eyes. What do the obstacles that lie between us
matter to me? Two lovers, when they understand each other, admit no
obstacles!--She does not love this Marquis de Santoval; I saw that too.
There are things which a glance suffices to reveal to us.--Now, I wish
to be in Valentine's company again. I will go wherever she is likely to
be; ere long she will cease to doubt my love. Yes, that woman shall be
mine. I will trample under my feet anyone who may seek to prevent me
from obtaining her."

A few days later, a brilliant reception was given by a great personage.
Léodgard attended; he wore a costume the magnificence of which
heightened the beauty of his face and his soldierly figure. A diamond of
great value held the plumes that waved above his cap; his sword hilt and
the aglets that glistened on his shoulders were incrusted with gold and
precious stones.

As he passed, the Comte de Marvejols might have gathered more than one
loving glance bestowed upon him by lovely and noble dames, whose
conquest many a cavalier struggled to achieve. But Léodgard paid no
attention to them; he had come there for but one woman--all others were
indifferent to him; he passed unscathed through the fire of their
glances.

At last he spied her who engrossed all his thoughts.

Valentine was seated among a number of ladies of the court, whom she
dominated by the power of her charms as the majestic oak dominates the
slender saplings that surround it.

The young marchioness's toilet was noble in its simplicity; it was less
ornate than those of her neighbors, and yet hers was the one that was
observed and admired; for veritable beauty imparts a charm to everything
that it wears.

Léodgard stopped in front of Valentine and fastened his eyes upon her;
he made no attempt to conceal the admiration she aroused in him.

Valentine, on her side, had perceived Léodgard at once, and a faint
smile played about her lips, while her eyes expressed the keenest
satisfaction.

Léodgard stood on the same spot, gazing at Valentine longer than strict
propriety permitted. But suddenly the marchioness's lovely eyes ceased
to respond to his burning glances, and seemed, on the contrary, to do
their utmost to avoid them.

He sought to discover the cause of the change and soon succeeded: as he
turned his head, he saw the Marquis de Santoval standing within a few
steps and watching what was taking place.

The Comte de Marvejols decided, albeit regretfully, to leave his
position. He did not lose sight of Valentine, however; he waited, hoping
and seeking constantly to approach her; but Monsieur de Santoval
remained near his wife; when Léodgard thought that he had gone into
another room, he suddenly reappeared like a ghost, like a threatening
spectre; for his brow was dark, and his eyes emitted ominous flashes
which seemed the precursors of a violent storm.

At last the marchioness left her seat, to walk through the salons on her
husband's arm. Seizing a moment when they were surrounded by people,
Léodgard approached Valentine and said in her ear:

"I am dying with love for you, madame!"

"It is very late!" murmured the young woman, with a glance of flame at
him who had addressed her.

"What? what did you say, madame?" demanded the Marquis de Santoval,
turning to his wife.

"I said that it was very late, monsieur."

"You are right, madame; it is time to leave this function, which, in
truth, offers little in the way of recreation."

The marquis took Valentine away; and Léodgard, as soon as he was certain
that they had left the party, made haste to follow their example.

But Valentine knew that he loved her, and the words that she had let
fall were not calculated to discourage him, even if they had not been
accompanied by a soft glance.

A few days later, a ball was given by one of the king's favorites.
Léodgard did not fail to attend, but in vain did he wander through the
salons looking for her whom he burned to see again. The Marquis de
Santoval and his wife did not appear; they had been invited, however;
for the noble duke who gave the fête expressed more than once his
disappointment that the lovely marchioness was not among his guests.

Several parties, several large receptions followed, and Léodgard did not
miss one; but she whom he always hoped to meet did not appear.

The time passed; and love, which is intensified by separation, so long
as it has not been rewarded, became every day more violent in Léodgard's
heart.

It was evident that the Marquis de Santoval was jealous, that he had
noticed the impassioned glances which the Comte de Marvejols had
bestowed on his wife and, above all, a certain expression of
satisfaction, of triumph, that shone in Valentine's eyes while Léodgard
made himself drunk with love by gazing at her.

To prevent a repetition of that pantomime, the husband could devise no
better means than to cease taking his wife into society.

But Léodgard said to himself that Valentine was not the woman to allow
herself to be sequestered, to live without the pleasures suited to her
years. In that case, it must be she herself who did not choose to be
thrown with him again. Was it because she detested him? Was it not
rather because she was afraid that she might love him?

"Her efforts will be vain; I will see her!" thought Léodgard; "I will
find a way to approach her; indeed, her soft glances seemed to say that
that would not displease her."

Several more weeks passed. At last Léodgard, who continued to go into
society, found himself one evening in the same room with the Marquis de
Santoval and his wife. There was a melancholy, melting expression on
Valentine's features, which was not habitual to them; but her beauty was
far from being diminished by the soft languor that dimmed the brilliancy
of her eyes; on the contrary, their power was increased thereby.

Léodgard did not dissemble his sensations when he saw the marchioness
again. She looked at him only an instant, but in the glance that she
gave him there was the wherewithal to overturn the reason of the most
virtuous man; and Léodgard was mad with love already.

But the Marquis de Santoval did not leave his wife for an instant; it
was impossible for the most enterprising lover to say a word to her in
secret, for there was no crowd there to facilitate a private interview.

The Comte de Marvejols was obliged, therefore, to allow the marchioness
to go away without exchanging a single word with her. But he no longer
doubted that she was alive to his passion, and he determined to resort
to other methods of seeing her.

The Hôtel de Santoval was situated on Rue Sainte-Avoie. During the next
few days, Léodgard passed and repassed that hôtel, the great gate of
which was always closed. He renewed the occupation of seducer, which he
had abandoned of late; but the servants who went in and out had one and
all a surly air of the sort that does not inspire confidence; they
either answered by monosyllables the questions that were put to them, or
walked away without answering at all. The concierge, too, who sometimes
appeared for a moment in the gateway, had a crabbed look far from
encouraging to lovers.

"By hell! I must find a way to send the lovely Valentine a note!" said
Léodgard to himself, stamping the ground in vexation.

Then as his eye happened to fall on a wretched little wine shop, within
a gunshot of the Hôtel de Santoval, he decided to enter.

Although enveloped in an immense brown cloak, it was easy to recognize a
_grand seigneur_ in the individual who entered the dark and smoky common
room of the wine shop; so that the proprietor, who was not in the habit
of receiving such guests, outdid himself in salutations, and invited
Léodgard to walk into a small room behind his shop, where he could be
alone, if such were his pleasure.

But Léodgard, preferring not to lose sight of the street and of
Valentine's abode, took his seat at a table near the window, saying:

"I am very comfortable here; I will not move."

"What shall I serve monsieur?"

"A bottle of your best wine."

The host bowed again; for in those days wine served in bottles was not
common, and was correspondingly dear. Only noblemen or rich merchants
indulged in that luxury at wine shops.

The room in which Léodgard was seated contained but few drinkers at that
moment. At the rear, two old soldiers were discussing their campaigns
over their wine; there were also three workmen, who were breakfasting
very frugally and singing snatches of ballads.

The latter soon left the wine shop, to return to their work. A few
moments later, two young men arrived; their attire was very modest, but
they talked very loudly.

As they made their entrance into the room, the shorter one exclaimed:

"Ah! ten thousand names of devils! It isn't so brilliant here as at the
famous tavern of the Loup de Mer--eh, Plumard? This place is a regular
hole!"

"It's large enough for what we have to spend!" muttered the second
clerk, removing his cap to scratch the bit of plaster which was still
attached to his scalp, and which, by dint of patience and by working
with his nails, he had succeeded in reducing to about the size of a
crown piece.

Bahuchet--the reader will ere this have recognized the two
Basochians--approached the table next to Léodgard's, saying:

"Let us sit here, my dear boy; we shall be very comfortable here; we
shall be able to see a little something--that is, if our proximity does
not annoy his lordship?"

These last words were addressed to the count, who, having pulled the
brim of his hat over his eyes, simply moved his head; whereupon the two
clerks took their seats at the next table.

"What shall I serve you, gentlemen?" the host asked the new-comers.

"He calls us _gentlemen_!" muttered Plumard.

"The shrewd knave flatters us, hoping to induce us to spend more; but he
will have nothing to show for his compliments and his reverences!--We
have no choice--eleven sous between us; that is rather meagre, but we
can't go beyond it!"

The host was still waiting. Bahuchet beckoned to him to come nearer.

"Listen carefully, good host, and do not exceed our order; we came here
simply to eat a morsel--between our meals. Serve us three sous' worth of
bread, six of wine, and two of good meat."

The host made a wry face and replaced his cap on his head.

"What kind of good meat do you expect me to serve for two sous?" he
retorted.--"Make it six at least, messieurs, and you shall have a dish."

"We will not add a single denier--we have our reasons for it. Go,
cabaretier, and serve it hot."

"Hot! you will have cheese!--I am not in the habit of serving it hot!"

"Ah! poor Bahuchet! where are your days of bluster?" muttered Plumard,
digging his nails into his plaster.

"What would you have, Plumard? The days follow, but do not resemble one
another!--Your skull is the only thing that persists in not changing; it
is infernally obstinate about it."

"Do you remember, Bahuchet, when we regaled ourselves on the costume of
my uncle the clothes dealer?--Ha! ha! thirty pistoles--no less; and what
a spree we had at Le Roule, for two or three days!"

"I should say so; they had to take you to the hospital; you nearly died
of indigestion.--Those were the good times!"

"To be sure, that great idiot of a Gascon chevalier was the cause of our
having a scene with my uncle afterward!"

"Yes, but your uncle could never make us give back the money.--Ah! here
comes our banquet. Fichtre! the good meat they are bringing can be smelt
a long way off!"

"It's cheese--very well done."

The two clerks concluded to attack their breakfast. They stuffed
themselves with bread and cheese. But after a moment Bahuchet observed,
with a sigh:

"Ah! what a pity that Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin is married!
She used to give me famous commissions! and she paid handsomely."

Léodgard, who up to this time had heard the lamentations of his two
neighbors, but had paid no heed to them, suddenly became very attentive
and did not lose a word of what followed; for Valentine's name had
reached his ears, and nothing more was needed to arouse his curiosity.

"Oh, yes!" replied Plumard, making a wry face as he tasted the wine that
had been brought them; "you used to receive well-filled purses in those
days; and you used to treat me. I remember the commission about the
white plume; I came near receiving a cudgelling."

"I would run the risk often now, to obtain the wherewithal to pay for a
sumptuous repast."

"Why do you not go to the Hôtel de Mongarcin any more?"

"I do go there sometimes, as Maître Bourdinard, our employer, is still
Madame de Ravenelle's solicitor and has charge of her affairs. But
Mademoiselle Valentine doesn't live with her aunt since she married the
Marquis de Santoval."

"The result being that you never see her."

"Faith! the other day the old aunt came within an ace of sending me to
her niece to obtain her signature to a document concerning the sale of a
piece of real estate; but some formalities had been omitted, and I had
to carry the document back to the office, where they prepared
another.--Sacrebleu! what beastly wine!"

"Messieurs," said Léodgard, turning to his neighbors, but without
removing his hat, which partly concealed his face, "would you like to
taste this? you may not think it bad."

And the count raised the bottle to fill the two clerks' goblets. They
both made a gesture of surprise, which ended in the most gracious of
smiles. They did not wait to be asked twice to hold their goblets.

"Really, my gentleman, we are deeply touched by your courtesy!" said
Bahuchet, losing no time in emptying his goblet.

"Excellent! it is excellent!" cried Plumard, who would have been glad to
salute his generous neighbor without uncovering his head, and who
constantly put his hand to his cap, taking pains to reveal only half of
his forehead.

"If you like it, you must fill again.--Holà! landlord, two more
bottles!"

"Ah! my dear fellow," Plumard whispered in his comrade's ear, "what an
agreeable gentleman! he has ordered two more bottles! we evidently have
made a very favorable impression on him."

"Oh! there is something behind all this," Bahuchet replied, with a
half-smile; "this young nobleman does not look to me like a fool, or a
new arrival in Paris. If he treats us so generously, it means that he
has need of us! But I snap my fingers at him! Let us accept his treat
first, and let us not be bashful. It seems to me that I know this young
dandy; and you, Plumard?"

"How do you expect me to recognize him? I can see only the end of his
nose."

"Messieurs," said Léodgard, "would you not like to take something
besides cheese with your wine?--Look you, I know what young men are;
their purses are not always well filled."

"That is true!" said Plumard; "we will not play at pride with you,
seigneur; we will admit frankly that we have but eleven sous; to be
sure, we are clerks to Maître Bourdinard, solicitor, but he pays so
little."

"In that case, allow me to offer you some breakfast."

"You invite us so graciously, that we cannot refuse."

"Landlord, bring us some ham, an omelet, cutlets--in short, the best of
everything that you have!"

The tavern keeper stared in amazement at Léodgard and the two clerks;
but the count had tossed a gold piece on the table, and such things were
seen so rarely in that poor shop that the host took it up, gazed at it a
long while, and rang it on the table to be sure that he was not
mistaken.

Reassured at last with respect to the quality of the metal, he tossed
his cap in the air and ran off to his kitchen, overturning all the
tables that stood in his path.

The breakfast was soon brought. Léodgard ate something, so that his
conduct might seem less extraordinary to his guests, whose glasses he
was careful to fill frequently; and as they never refused, they were
speedily in the best of humors. But Plumard did not carry his wine so
well as his friend; he began to find difficulty in expressing himself,
while Bahuchet was only a little giddy.

Léodgard leaned toward the latter and said to him in an undertone:

"If I should ask a service at your hands, and should offer to pay for it
its weight in gold, should you be inclined to render it?"

"Altogether inclined, my gentleman; indeed, I am the one who would be
greatly obliged. But move away a little, if you please; it is
unnecessary that my comrade should hear you; when there is money to be
earned, I prefer not to share it. To be sure, if he should hear now, he
wouldn't understand. He is drunk! he doesn't know how to drink!"

The count pushed his seat away, and Bahuchet moved nearer to him.
Plumard, his goblet having been filled once more, emptied it and began
to talk to himself.

"Do you know the Marquis de Santoval's young wife?" asked Léodgard,
taking pains to speak so that only Bahuchet could hear.

"Yes, seigneur, yes; but----"

"Your master attends to her aunt's business?"

"He does."

"You have a document to carry to Madame de Ravenelle's niece for her
signature?"

"I say--you know that?"

"When you carry that document, you can take charge of a letter which I
will give you for the marchioness; but you must hand that letter to no
one but herself, and without allowing any other person to see you."

"Very good; I understand."

"Will you find a way to perform this commission?"

"Will I find a way! Never fear, I have done more difficult things."

"The husband must not suspect anything."

"He will know nothing about it."

"And you will try to get a reply. If she will not write one, remember
exactly what she says to you."

"Word for word."

"Now, can you do all this to-day?"

"To-day? impossible! the document has to be copied; but
to-morrow--to-morrow, I can go to the Hôtel de Santoval."

"To-morrow, then, at one o'clock in the afternoon, I will await you
here, I will give you my letter, and you will return here and report to
me the result of your mission.--See, take this money; I will give you as
much more if you serve me adroitly and with discretion!"

"You will be content with me, my gentleman, for I am most desirous to
serve you often.--Pardon, I think that I cannot be mistaken--you are the
Comte de Marvejols?"

"Possibly--but try to forget it; I do not wish to be known here, or by
your comrade."

"Never fear, monseigneur; I no longer know you."

"Until to-morrow, then!"

Léodgard left the wine shop. Bahuchet, with the keenest delight, counted
the gold pieces which he held in his hand, but carefully concealed them
from Plumard, who asked him why their new friend had gone away.

"Because he had business to attend to, had that most excellent
gentleman! It seems to me that we too shall do well to leave the table.
It is high time to return to the office."

"To the office? what! do you intend to work to-day?"

"Why not? Come, Plumard, off we go, my boy! The air will do you good."

And Bahuchet led his comrade from the shop; but when they were in the
street, as Plumard stumbled at every step instead of going forward,
Bahuchet deposited him on a stone bench, and hastened back alone to the
solicitor's office.

The next day, Léodgard and the little clerk arrived at the wine shop at
almost the same moment. The former handed Bahuchet the note for
Valentine which he had prepared; and the clerk, who had had no
breakfast, promised to perform his mission adroitly.

Valentine was alone in her bedroom, buried in meditation. Her brow was
stern, and the young woman's thoughts were certainly not of a frivolous
description. She did not hear her maid, who had just entered the room,
until she said to her:

"A young clerk is here, and wishes to know if madame will receive him.
He is sent by Madame de Ravenelle. I recognize him--it is the same young
man to whom madame intrusted a white plume, before her marriage; it is
Monsieur Bahuchet."

"Bahuchet!" cried Valentine, in whose mind that name evoked a thousand
memories. "Is that little fellow here?"

"Yes, madame."

"Admit him at once."

The little Basochian was ushered into the room; he bent himself double
as he entered, retaining, however, the mocking, self-sufficient air
which was customary with him, and which was intensified at that moment
by the importance of the commission with which he was charged.

"My aunt sends you to me, you say, monsieur?" said Valentine, gazing
fixedly at the messenger. "What does she want? or rather, with what
message are you intrusted?"

"Madame, it is a matter of a parcel of real estate--a house that
belonged to a second cousin on your mother's side; the said cousin
having deceased without issue, and the estate descending to her
collateral heirs----"

"Enough, enough, monsieur, I beg you! I understand nothing about
inheritances, and I do not care to have my brain confused with all these
details, which I find horribly wearisome. Come to the point. What am I
to sign? a power of attorney?--Come, tell me quickly!"

"I was coming to the point, madame. Yes, I have a document in my pocket,
which you will be good enough to sign, perhaps; but not until you have
first read it carefully, for one should never sign anything without
reading it."

Bahuchet accompanied his words with such an expressive pantomime, that
it was impossible for Valentine not to understand that the little clerk
had another message for her, which he dared not deliver before a third
person. Her face brightened at once, and she said to the girl:

"Miretta, keep a close watch, be on your guard; and if you hear Monsieur
de Santoval coming, move a chair.--And now, Monsieur Bahuchet, explain
yourself; no more grimaces. What have you to say to me?"

"Does madame wish that I--before her femme de chambre?"

"I have no secrets from her. Speak at once."

After casting a glance about the room, Bahuchet took from his pocket the
letter he had concealed there.

"Madame, the document to be signed was only a pretext to gain access to
you. But here is a note which a young and handsome cavalier bade me hand
you in secret.--Please to read it; he is waiting for me close by, and
hopes for an answer."

Valentine took the letter and read it at once. An expression of joy, of
triumph, lighted up her face. The little clerk had respectfully walked
away, and could not hear the words which the marchioness, after reading
the note, muttered between her teeth:

"Aha! monsieur le comte! you ask for a rendezvous! You are very
impatient, now! But you go too fast!"

She beckoned Bahuchet to her side.

"Where was this note given to you?"

"Near by--at a wine shop."

"Do you know the person who gave it to you?"

"No, madame; but it was easy to guess that he was a nobleman."

"And he is waiting for you now?"

"Yes, madame; at the same place where he gave me his letter. What reply
shall I take to him?"

"None."

"What, madame! no letter, and no word?"

"You will simply tell him that I smiled when I read his letter, and that
I placed it--here."

Valentine, as she spoke, slipped the letter into her bosom.

At that moment, Miretta hurriedly moved a chair.

"My husband is coming--let me have the paper--quickly!"

"Here it is, madame; also a quill and an inkhorn; we always have them
about us.--Omit one of your baptismal names," he added, in an undertone;
"that will give me a pretext for coming again, and I fancy that it may
be necessary."

The Marquis de Santoval entered his wife's room and scrutinized the
little clerk, who bowed to the floor. The marquis paused in the middle
of the room, saying:

"I disturb you, madame; you have visitors."

"Not at all, monsieur. My aunt, Madame de Ravenelle, has sent her
solicitor's clerk with this document for me to sign. It is nothing very
interesting, as you see--the sale of an old house, I believe, is it
not?"

Bahuchet hastened to reply in his shrill falsetto:

"Yes, madame, the sale of the estate described herein, situated on Rue
de la Parcheminerie, which street takes its name from the guild of
workmen who once lived there, as the custom formerly was; so that we
have Rues de la Ferronnerie, de la Heaumerie, de la Coutellerie, and
many others. But as Paris increased in size----"

"Very good, young man, very good," said the marquis; "madame has signed,
I believe?"

"Yes, monsieur le marquis, that is true; and I have only to take my
leave."

And the little clerk pocketed the deed, saluted, and left the room.

Monsieur de Santoval remained for some time talking with his wife. But
when he had left her, he called his valet and said:

"Did you see a very small man, with his nose in the air, who went away
from the house not long ago?"

"Yes, monsieur le marquis."

"If he comes again to speak with madame, follow him when he goes away;
see where he goes, and ascertain whether he speaks to anybody on leaving
here. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, monsieur le marquis; and your orders shall be carried out."

"I rely upon it; for I am well aware of your zeal and intelligence."



XLIII

ANOTHER THRASHING


Léodgard was but partially satisfied with the result of his message. The
marchioness had smiled, and had placed the letter over her heart. To be
sure, that did not indicate that she was annoyed with him who had
written it; but it advanced his love affair very little.

"And now you have no excuse for going again to the marchioness's, have
you?" the count asked his messenger.

Whereupon the little clerk drew himself up, placed his hand proudly on
his hip, and replied with a self-satisfied air:

"We always have one, monseigneur; we are never at a loss for expedients,
God be praised! This time we told the lady to omit one of her names when
she signed the deed. That will suffice to require us to return for the
rectification of that error.--Ha! ha! that was not bad!--But if we had
not that pretext, we would invent a thousand others."

"Very good! I see that you are a sharp-witted youth."

"I dare to flatter myself that I am, seigneur."

"Take this money, and come again to this same wine shop four days hence;
I will then give you another letter for the marchioness."

"Agreed, monsieur le comte; and be sure that on that day I will arrange
still another pretext for returning to the house."

Four days later, Bahuchet, having concealed beneath his doublet a second
letter from Léodgard, and holding in his hand a large roll of paper
covered with another roll of parchment, containing the deed of transfer
which he expected would make many trips from the solicitor's office to
the Hôtel de Santoval, presented himself again at the latter place and
asked to speak with madame la marquise.

He was admitted without difficulty. This time Valentine was alone in her
room. When she saw the little clerk come in, parchment in hand, she
could not help smiling.

Bahuchet unrolled his parchment and said aloud:

"The last time that I had the honor to see madame la marquise, when she
signed this document she omitted one of her baptismal names; that
omission might, at some later time, give rise to discussion, to demands
for birth certificates; it might even result in making void the
conveyance which you wish to effect."

"Oh! it is quite possible, monsieur; I am very absent-minded."

Bahuchet, having walked to Valentine's side, produced the note which was
in his doublet and handed it to her with the document. The young woman
gave the preference to the love letter. She opened and read it, and
found therein renewed protestations of an everlasting passion, and the
same request for a rendezvous, at which the writer could express with
his voice the love that he felt for her.

Having read the letter, Valentine hastily concealed it in her alms
purse; then she said in an undertone to the young clerk, who questioned
her with his eyes:

"You will say that I am too closely watched at this moment. He must
wait."--Then she continued, speaking aloud: "Where shall I write the
name that I forgot, monsieur? I know nothing about your documents."

"Here, madame, if you please; then make a flourish under the word
inserted.--Omit one letter of the name," Bahuchet added, in an
undertone; "that will furnish me with a reason for coming again."

Valentine did what the little clerk suggested; whereupon he once more
rolled up the deed, carefully covered it with the parchment, and, bowing
low to the marchioness, left the house without seeing the Marquis de
Santoval.

He hastened to join Léodgard, to whom he repeated the verbal reply that
had been given him. The count stamped his foot impatiently, muttering:

"Wait!--Ah! then she does not share my love! And not to condescend to
write me a word! not to send me the slightest pledge, the veriest
trifle!--Can you go to the Hôtel de Santoval again?" he said to the
little clerk.

"Oh! yes, seigneur; I have arranged a little _plea in bar_--it is such a
simple matter in our profession! And the next time I will find another."

"In that case, return in a fortnight; that is a long time! but since she
will have it so--I will tell you then what you must do."

Bahuchet, having been handsomely paid once more, promised to be exact;
and he returned to his office, oblivious of the fact that he had been
followed on leaving the Hôtel de Santoval, and continued to be till he
had entered the office door.

The fortnight having passed, Bahuchet met Léodgard again at their usual
place of rendezvous.

"Go to the marchioness," said the count; "as my letters have obtained no
reply, you will not carry one this time; but you will say to her that I
entreat her to give you a word for me; add that, if she denies me this
favor, I am capable of committing the most imprudent acts in order to
see her.--Go--I will await your return; and I will double the usual sum
if you bring me a note from the marchioness."

"By Plumard's scalp!" said Bahuchet to himself, as he walked toward the
Hôtel de Santoval; "the lovely marchioness simply must write a few
words! I will grovel at her feet to obtain them.--Vertuchoux! this is a
right good trade! I am feathering my nest!--Let things go on like this
for a few months, and I shall have enough to set up for myself!--I will
keep a tavern adjoining the law courts; that is more amusing than
pettifogging.--Here is my charmer's house; I have my deed, I am all
armed--I will present myself boldly!"

Bahuchet knocked at the gate, which was opened to admit him, then
suddenly closed behind him. He smiled affably to the concierge, saying:

"I have come to request the honor of speaking with Madame la Marquise de
Santoval on business, from my employer's office."

And he was about to walk toward the vestibule leading to the main
staircase, when four servants suddenly appeared, lifted him up, carried
him to the carriage house, and there thrashed him mercilessly with
cudgels and stirrup leathers, paying no heed to his shrieks and his
entreaties.

The operation concluded, the valet de chambre, who had superintended it,
began to search the little Basochian, and did not release him until he
was certain that he bore no secret missive. Then he hustled him to the
gate, which was reopened, and, with a few parting blows of the stirrup
leathers, threw him into the street, saying:

"This is the way that you will be treated whenever you appear here."

"Oh! bigre! oh! my ribs! my loins! This is infamous--the villains! how
they went at it! Hoo! I shall be hunchbacked. What an ambush! Catch me
going there again, to their devilish hôtel! And I thought it a good
business!--A pretty business, on my word! I must be pretty sturdy to be
able to walk. Hoo! what a pity that it didn't occur to me to send
Plumard to do my errand to-day!"

Groaning and limping, Bahuchet arrived at the wine shop. Instead of
going in, he beckoned to Léodgard to join him, and said:

"Let us not stay near that house, monsieur le comte; it's not a safe
place! Perhaps they have a treat in store for you like the one I've just
received."

He then described the way he had been maltreated by the Marquis de
Santoval's servants.

"And they searched you?" asked Léodgard, apparently little moved by his
messenger's groans.

"Yes, seigneur, from top to bottom!"

"It is lucky that I gave you no letter to-day."

"Yes, seigneur; for I believe that in that case they would have killed
me on the spot.--Hoo! I am bruised to a jelly! I shall have a serious
illness!"

"Nonsense! a man should not be so delicate! Just for a few blows with a
cudgel!"

"A few blows? No, thanks, seigneur! they rained on my body like hail! If
you had been beaten like that----"

"I would have defended myself! I would have killed two or three of the
miserable lackeys!"

"Oh, yes! that would have been the finishing touch. I should have got
myself into a pretty pickle! to trot off to the Châtelet or the
Bastille, and rot there!"

"Nonsense! hold your peace and take this gold, which will heal your
wounds."

"Thanks, seigneur! I certainly do need to buy medicines, ointments to
rub my body."

"And before long you will be in condition to return to the marchioness's
house."

"Return to the Hôtel de Santoval? Merciful heaven!"

And, waiting to hear no more, Bahuchet ran off as fast as his bruised
legs allowed, and soon vanished from the count's sight.

"The coward!" exclaimed Léodgard, as he watched the little clerk's
flight; "he is afraid of the danger!--So this Marquis de Santoval has
suspicions; he plays the spy, he posts his servants in ambush! But it
will avail him nothing! If Valentine will second me, we will crush all
the obstacles that he may place between us!"

Some time had passed without any new occurrence, when Miretta one day
entered Maître Bourdinard's office, where Plumard was trying to detach
the last remaining piece of his plaster; while Bahuchet regaled himself
with a small ham and a bottle of superfine old wine, in which he
indulged himself with the proceeds of his visits to the Hôtel de
Santoval.

On recognizing the marchioness's young lady's-maid, Bahuchet turned pale
and swallowed a mouthful the wrong way, dreading a new cudgelling.

But the girl smiled at him and motioned that she wished to speak with
him in secret.

The little clerk regretfully quitted his ham and went out with Miretta,
who said to him when they reached a solitary spot:

"Are you willing to undertake a commission?"

"If it is to go to the Hôtel de Santoval again, never! I have had enough
of that!"

"No, it is not that, but to carry this note to him who sent you to my
mistress."

"Oh! that is a different matter."

"Here, this is for you; will you do the errand?"

Bahuchet at once placed in his belt the purse she handed him; then he
glanced at the note and said:

"But I see no address."

"What is the use? you know perfectly well for whom it is!"

"I beg pardon! I know perfectly well that it is for the young lord who
employed me; but I do not know that young lord; I know neither his name
nor his residence; I have never seen him, except in the cheap wine shop
where he always waited for me."

"And you do not know that he is Comte Léodgard de Marvejols?"

"The young Comte de Marvejols!--Peste!"

"You lie, Monsieur Bahuchet; for you told us about Comte Léodgard long
ago, and you knew him perfectly well then!"

"It is difficult to deceive you, my pretty brunette!" said Bahuchet,
scratching his ear; "I said that I didn't know the lover, because he
ordered me not to know him; but, between ourselves, I think we may speak
more frankly. It is a bargain; I will take the letter to the count."

"Do you know where he lives?"

"I know quite well that it is not with his wife. Say to your beautiful
mistress that her commission will be executed to-day.--She must have
pitied me when she learned how horribly I was maltreated in her house
the last time that I had the honor to call there?"

"We did not know about it until a long time after, and then only through
the indiscretion of one of the servants, upon whom absolute secrecy had
been enjoined."

"So that Monsieur le Marquis de Santoval got wind of something? Is the
man a tiger, a rhinoceros?"

"I know no more of him than you do, and I have no time to talk.--Adieu,
Monsieur Bahuchet; and do not forget to carry the letter to Comte
Léodgard!"

"It is as if he had it, piquant brunette!--By the way, are you still
inclined to assume the defence of the famous Giovanni?"

"Giovanni! Giovanni!" murmured Miretta, whose face had become deathly
pale; and she uttered a profound sigh.

"But I beg your pardon, my dear; I do not know why I speak to you of the
illustrious brigand, for they say that he has not shown himself in Paris
for more than six months--or, at all events, that he has not attacked
anybody--which makes it fair to presume that he has left our city! I'
faith, for my part, I am not sorry, and I wish him a pleasant journey;
let him go elsewhere to get himself hanged!"

Miretta walked sadly away, murmuring:

"Gone away! oh, yes! he has gone away! He has left France without me! He
has abandoned me--and still I cannot believe it!"



XLIV

PLACE ROYALE


It was not easy to obtain access to the Comte de Marvejols when one
called at the house in Rue de Bretonvilliers. But Bahuchet persisted,
although the concierge told him that the count did not choose to receive
visitors.

"Please to say to him that it is Bahuchet, the solicitor's clerk, the
young man of the little wine shop; and I will wager that your master
will receive me instantly."

The concierge ushered him into a room in the right wing, and went to the
wing at the rear, where Léodgard then was.

After waiting a long while, the concierge returned and said to the young
clerk:

"Monsieur le comte will come; wait."

"Why, in heaven's name, don't you take me to him? It seems to me that
that would be much simpler than to make him put himself out to come
here."

"Monsieur le comte never receives anybody in the wing that he occupies."

"Wolf's head! what mystery! what ceremony!" said Bahuchet to himself,
when he was alone. "If this Seigneur Léodgard were proscribed, condemned
to death, if the police had orders to pounce upon him, he could not
conceal himself more completely from observation!"

The count's appearance put an end abruptly to the little clerk's
conjectures.

"What brings you here? what do you want of me?" demanded Léodgard,
roughly.

"I have come, monsieur le comte, because I was told to come. I have come
from the marchioness."

"The marchioness! have you seen her?"

"No, monsieur le comte; but she sent her maid to me--a very pretty
brunette, on my word!"

"Well--go on!"

"Who handed me a note and bade me bring it to you."

"A letter from Valentine! Give it to me!"

Léodgard snatched the letter from Bahuchet's hands, and eagerly ran
through it.

"This letter requires no reply," he said to the little man, after
reading it. "You may retire."

Bahuchet made a faint grimace.

"Do you mean, monsieur le comte, that I am to go away like this, as I
came?"

Léodgard realized what he had forgotten, and hastily placed a gold piece
in the messenger's hand; whereupon Bahuchet withdrew with a radiant
face, making innumerable protestations of devotion.

When Léodgard was alone, he again read the note, which contained these
words only:

     "Beginning to-morrow, try to be on Place Royale between twelve and
     two o'clock. A girl who is wholly in my confidence will come--I
     cannot now say on what day--and speak to you in my behalf.--Trust
     to her, and do whatever she tells you."

The count pressed his lips to the letter, murmuring:

"Ah! you love me, Valentine! I was not in error! And the time drags with
you as with me! To-morrow I will be at the place she appoints--Place
Royale.--Place Royale! It is a pity that she selected that spot, so
near---- But what does it matter, after all? Doubtless it is the
proximity of Rue Sainte-Avoie that led her to make that selection. I
will go there."

At the period of our tale, the centre of Place Royale was a sort of
flower garden,--green turf embellished with flowers and surrounded by
trees. Everybody could walk there, and benches placed at short intervals
made it possible also to rest there, and read, while breathing the fresh
air.

The iron fence which surrounded the square at a later period was placed
there during the reign of Louis XIV, at the expense of the owners of the
surrounding houses, each of whom contributed a thousand livres toward
its construction. The bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIII was not
erected until 1639, and the events that we are narrating, beginning in
1634, have thus far brought us only to the autumn of 1637.

It was late in the month of October, but the weather was fair and mild;
so that there was a large number of people on Place Royale, where the
turf was still green, and some of the rosebushes still bore flowers. But
the habitués of the promenade consisted in great part of old men of the
quarter, who came there to sit in the sun, and young nursemaids, who
brought thither the children they had in charge, who could run about and
play on the grass at their ease. There were also divers couples of young
lovers, who made appointments to meet along the shady avenues, and
seated themselves on solitary benches to talk of their loves.--But why
need we tell that? Lovers are of all epochs and of all places of resort!

When Léodgard arrived on the square, he took pains to go to the point
farthest removed from the Hôtel de Marvejols, which his wife then
occupied. But the square was large; and between the avenues there were
spaces and trees which made it impossible to see from one end to the
other.

Having walked a few steps along the turf, he sat upon a bench, saying to
himself:

"I will wait for this girl whom the marchioness is to send me; she knows
me, doubtless, or else her mistress will have described me in such a way
that she cannot make a mistake."

Léodgard had been seated on the bench a few moments, gloomy thoughts
causing him little by little to forget that he was at a love rendezvous,
when a child about two years and a half old collided with him while
running by.

It was a little girl with a pink and white complexion, with long light
chestnut locks, already curling over her pure and noble brow. Her
deep-blue eyes were really larger than her mouth, and they had the
dawning expression of a sweet and kindly nature, instinct with
playfulness.

The lovely smiling mouth was formed by two lips, perhaps a trifle too
thick, which, however, denoted frankness and sincerity; whereas thin
lips always denote just the opposite. A pretty dimple on the chin put
the finishing touch to the fascinating beauty of the little angel, who,
laughing merrily, took refuge between the count's knees, where she
seemed to challenge her nurse to catch her.

Léodgard, roused so abruptly from his reflections, was surprised beyond
measure to see the child hiding between his legs; but she was so pretty,
her smile was so sweet as she looked up at the gentleman to whom she
seemed to appeal for protection, that he could not refrain from
admiring her and smoothing her hair.

"What a fascinating little girl!" he exclaimed.

A nursemaid soon appeared and said to the child:

"Well, well! what are you doing there, mademoiselle? You are disturbing
monsieur and annoying him! Come away quickly!"

A little voice, which could not as yet enunciate distinctly, but which
sounded very sweet to the ear, replied:

"No, I don't want to! You go and hide!"

"Once more, mademoiselle, come; monsieur will be angry!"

The little girl looked up at Léodgard as if to see whether he was, in
fact, going to scold her; and seeing nothing on his features to indicate
anger, she pressed still closer to him, laughing aloud--an expression of
the frank, unalloyed joy which one never experiences so fully as at that
age.

"This little girl is fascinating!" said the count, after kissing the
child on the forehead; "how old is she?"

"Nearly two and a half, monsieur."

"Her parents must idolize her?"

"Oh, yes! her mother loves her dearly, monsieur! And if madame had not
been a little indisposed for two or three days, she would have taken
mademoiselle out to walk as usual!"

"What lovely eyes! they are so soft and intelligent! She is not a
naughty girl, I am sure!"

"Oh, no! monsieur, she is very good--so everybody loves her. She is a
little mischievous sometimes--as at this moment, when she doesn't want
me to catch her.--But it's all in play, isn't it, Mademoiselle Blanche?"

"Blanche! Blanche!" murmured Léodgard, to whose mind that name recalled
his conversation with Jarnonville.--"Ah! so the little girl's name is
Blanche?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"And would it be out of place to ask her mother's name?"

"Mon Dieu! no, monsieur; the dear child is the daughter of Madame la
Comtesse de Marvejols, who lives yonder--on the other side of the
square, beyond the avenue at the left."

When he heard his own name, Léodgard gave a sudden start and pushed away
the child who was leaning on him; but Blanche instantly returned to her
place between his legs and clung with her little hands to his
knee-breeches, crying:

"No, I want to stay with you! Nurse can't catch Blanche!"

The child's voice was so sweet, there was such a winning expression in
her lovely eyes, which she fixed upon the count, that he did not feel
the courage to spurn her again; a pleasing emotion made his heart beat
fast; his sensations were so unfamiliar to him that he could not define
them; but that unknown sentiment that found its way to his heart was
like a grateful shower falling suddenly upon the parched and arid
ground.

He gazed silently at the little girl, whose tiny pink hands were resting
upon him.

But the nurse, fearing that the child annoyed the strange gentleman,
seized Blanche by the arm and drew her away, saying:

"If you will not come, mademoiselle, I shall go home to your mamma and
tell her that her little girl would not come back to her."

One could be perfectly sure of being listened to by Blanche as soon as
one mentioned her mother; she instantly left the place she had adopted
and took her nurse's hand, saying:

"We go see mamma."

"Bid this gentleman adieu, and ask his pardon for disturbing him."

Blanche turned to Léodgard with a lovely smile, and nodded her head,
murmuring:

"Adieu--pardon."

Then the nursemaid took her in her arms and disappeared along one of the
leafy avenues.

The count remained where he sat, lost in thought; he was tempted more
than once to turn his head and look after Blanche, but he resisted the
temptation. After some time, he rose abruptly and left Place Royale,
saying to himself:

"It is after two o'clock; no one will come to-day."

The next day, Léodgard went to Place Royale at about the same hour as on
the preceding day. Although his mind was full of Valentine, and he was
most impatient to see the person whom she was to send to him, when he
found himself near the flower beds, where a multitude of children were
running about at play, his eyes wandered in all directions, seeking a
certain child among them, although he would not admit it to himself.

After walking about for a moment, the count took his seat on a
bench--the same one on which he had previously sat. He even waited a
short time for two people who were sitting there to leave, instead of
taking a seat elsewhere.

He seated himself in such a way that his back was turned to the Hôtel de
Marvejols, but he glanced very often toward the greensward where the
children were playing.

Suddenly the same sweet voice that had fascinated him the day before
rang in his ears, and he saw little Blanche running toward him with
outstretched arms, crying:

"The gentleman, nurse, the gentleman."

Léodgard could not help opening his own arms to receive the child; and
when little Blanche reached them, he could not resist the temptation to
press her to his heart and kiss her.

The nurse soon came up.

"Oh! monsieur," she said, "mademoiselle saw you in the distance and
recognized you at once; then I could not possibly hold her back! She
began to run toward you, crying: 'The gentleman!'--You must have taken
her fancy, for she doesn't go to everybody like that!"

"Is--is the child's mother with you to-day?" the count asked
hesitatingly.

"No, monsieur; madame la comtesse is better; but she isn't strong enough
to go out yet."

Léodgard seemed more at ease, and he kissed once more the child whom he
was entitled to call his daughter, but to whom he said simply:

"Do you know that you are very pretty?"

"Oh, yes!" the child replied, with a smile.

"But it isn't enough to be pretty," said the nurse. "Mademoiselle knows
that she must be good and obedient too, or else she would be ugly."

At that moment a poor, half-clad little boy, whose pinched features
denoted privation and suffering, stopped a few feet from the bench and
held out his hand to ask alms.

Little Blanche, as she glanced at the mendicant, ceased to smile, and
with her eyes questioned the nurse, who said:

"He is unfortunate; your mother, you know, always helps them and wants
you to do the same; she gives us money for that purpose. Here,
mademoiselle, would you like to give it to him yourself?"

Blanche eagerly took the coin which her nurse handed her, and ran to
give it to the little beggar, saying:

"Take this--poor boy!"

Léodgard followed the little girl's every movement; when she returned to
him, he took her in his arms once more and could not resist the longing
to kiss her again.

At that moment he heard a cry of surprise close at hand, and these words
fell on his ear:

"O mon Dieu! is it possible? What joy! Monsieur le comte embracing his
daughter!"

Léodgard instantly raised his eyes and saw Ambroisine, who had halted a
few steps from the bench, and was gazing at him, deeply moved.

To place the child hurriedly on the ground, to rise and walk rapidly
away--all that was a matter of a second for Léodgard.

Ambroisine stood as if petrified; even little Blanche seemed surprised
at the disappearance of "the gentleman"; and as for the nurse, the words
she had heard seemed to daze her, and she did nothing but murmur:

"Is it possible? Jésus bon Dieu! What! that gentleman who was kissing
our dear little one--can it be?--was monsieur le comte, her father! How
is it, then, that when I told him yesterday that mademoiselle belonged
to Madame la Comtesse de Marvejols, he didn't say: 'She is my
daughter'?"

"Yes, he is really her father, he is the Comte de Marvejols!" said
Ambroisine, with a sigh. "Oh! I am terribly sorry that I showed myself
and let those words escape me. But, no matter! he kissed her--and he
knew that she was his daughter.--Ah! I must make haste to tell
Bathilde--she will be so happy!--Come, Blanche; come, dear child; let us
hurry home to your mamma; we are going to make her very happy!"

Ambroisine took Blanche in her arms and returned to the Hôtel de
Marvejols, covering with kisses the lovely child, who made no objection
and seemed already to share the happiness that she diffused about her.



XLV

PRESENTIMENTS


After walking about for some time in the streets near Place Royale,
Léodgard said to himself:

"That Ambroisine probably has left the square now; she has taken the
child home, to tell Bathilde what she saw; so that I may safely return
to the place appointed; for it is not yet two o'clock, and if that girl
should go there and not find me, Valentine's pride would be offended,
and who can say that all hope would not be lost?"

The count returned to the place he had just left; but he advanced more
cautiously now, looking all about and scrutinizing everybody who
passed. His premonitions proved accurate; Ambroisine, with the child and
her nurse, had returned to the Hôtel de Marvejols.

The count did not take his place on the same bench, however, and he
constantly rose to walk a little and look about him.

He had been thus engaged for about half an hour, and his increasing
impatience had nearly led him to leave the square, when a girl coming
slowly along Rue des Tournelles, who had observed Léodgard's restless
movements, approached him and stopped, with every sign of intense
agitation.

"You are the person whom I have been expecting, doubtless?" said the
count, closely observing the girl, whose eyes assumed a strange
expression as she looked at him.

Miretta, for it was she who had stopped in front of Léodgard, replied in
a faltering voice, and as if under the influence of a secret terror:

"You are--Comte--Léodgard de Marvejols?"

"Yes, I am he; and you are sent by the lady who wrote me to be on this
square?"

"Yes, seigneur, yes--I come from her."

"But what is the matter with you, girl? Your voice trembles--you seem to
be intensely agitated. Can any misfortune have happened to your
mistress? have you a sad message to transmit to me? In heaven's name,
speak! This perturbation of yours is not natural."

"Mon Dieu! seigneur, I do not know myself why I tremble so, why my body
is suddenly bathed in cold perspiration. I have no misfortune to
announce--on the contrary, my message cannot fail to be agreeable to
you. But when I saw you, when I stopped in front of you, I felt a
strange oppression; I do not know what took place within me; it seemed
to me that I was dying."

"Control yourself; you must have walked too fast--and an attack of
dizziness---- But you seem to be better already?"

"Yes, seigneur, yes; it is passing away."

"Then you will perhaps deliver your message, and tell me----"

"That if you wish to see my mistress, she can accord you a few moments
this evening."

"If I wish to see her! Why, is it not my most earnest desire, my dearest
hope? What am I to do to obtain that favor?"

"Simply come to the house; but you will say to the concierge, whom I
will be careful to notify in advance, that you wish to see me. Once in
the courtyard, go to the rear, and on the right you will see a narrow
servants' staircase; go up to the second floor, and you will find me."

"And the marchioness?"

"She will be in my room; she will come there by a secret passage
communicating with her apartment."

"Very good. But does she not fear that the marquis will ask for
her--that he may go to her apartment?"

"Everything is provided for; this evening monsieur le marquis goes to a
large reception; madame has feigned an indisposition as a pretext for
not accompanying him. The only danger to be feared is that monsieur le
marquis may return too early--but that will not deter monsieur le comte,
I presume?"

"Nothing can deter me when it is a matter of seeing your beautiful
mistress. I ask these questions, I assure you, solely in the interest of
the marchioness. For my own part, I would joyfully encounter the
greatest perils to prove my love for her."

"This evening, then, seigneur, at nine."

"Good.--But one moment--you forget the most essential point; if I am to
ask for you, it is indispensable that I should know your name, and you
have not told me that."

"Pardon, monsieur le comte, I thought that my mistress had told you.
Well, you will say to the concierge: 'I am going to see Miretta.'"

"Miretta!" faltered Léodgard, to whose mind the young lady's-maid's name
seemed to recall a painful memory; and a sudden change took place in his
expression.

"Yes, seigneur, my name is Miretta," replied the pretty brunette, who
had observed the magical effect which her name produced on the count,
and wished to know the cause of it. "Does my name remind you of anyone
whom you have known?"

"No--no--no one," stammered Léodgard, who, as he strove to recover his
self-possession, scrutinized the girl with peculiar attention. "Have
you been long in the Marquise de Santoval's service?"

"I entered Mademoiselle de Mongarcin's service on my arrival in Paris,
more than three years ago. I had a letter of recommendation for
mademoiselle."

"Ah! and you came----"

"I came from Italy; I was reared in the outskirts of Milan."

Léodgard's features contracted still more, but in an instant he rejoined
hurriedly:

"This evening at nine o'clock; I will be prompt. Assure your mistress of
the zeal with which I shall fly to her."

As he spoke, Léodgard slipped a purse into Miretta's hand, then walked
away before she had time to realize his action.

The girl gazed with a feeling of repugnance at the purse the count had
put in her hand, and said to herself:

"Why does he give me this money? Does he think, I wonder, that I need it
to induce me to obey my mistress, to serve her faithfully? From her I
may properly accept the wages that I earn, but I wish for nothing from
others. I do not know why this young nobleman arouses a sort of secret
antipathy in my heart. I cannot understand what took place within me
when my eyes first beheld him;--all my blood rushed back to my heart.
And yet, I do not know the man. How is it that his expression changed
when I told him my name?--Oh! I detected his emotion! He shuddered; one
would have said that I frightened him! It is certain that it was not the
first time that he had heard the name Miretta. Perhaps it reminded him
of some other poor girl whom he seduced and then deserted!--But this
purse weighs upon me; I do not propose to keep it; it seems to me that
it burns me.--Ah! I know what I can do with it."

A little beggar was passing through the square; Miretta ran to him and
thrust into the little fellow's hand the purse filled with glistening
gold pieces.

"This is for you," she said; then she hurried away and disappeared,
leaving the boy utterly dumfounded by the fortune that had come to him;
but it was the same child to whom Blanche had given alms a few moments
before, and the alms of an angel should bring him good luck.

Miretta returned at once to the Hôtel de Santoval, and went straight to
her mistress; having assured herself that no one could hear them, she
said:

"Your errand is done, madame."

"You have seen the count?"

"Yes, madame; he was waiting on Place Royale. He will be here this
evening, at nine o'clock."

"You told him what direction he must take to reach your room?"

"Yes, madame.--Oh! he will not go astray."

"Did he seem very happy on receiving the appointment?"

"Oh, yes!--He would be glad, he said, to defy a thousand dangers to see
madame."

"Well! we will afford him that pleasure.--You had never seen Léodgard,
Miretta; is he not a charming cavalier?"

"Why, yes, madame; he is well favored."

"You say that as if you thought just the opposite!"

"Mon Dieu! madame, the fact is, that, although monsieur le comte is a
handsome gentleman, I--I do not like his face."

"You are hard to please, Miretta!"

"But--but I inferred--I thought from what madame had said to me, that
monsieur le comte had ceased to please her."

"I propose to have my revenge for the affront he put upon me! But that
does not prevent me from doing him justice.--The rendezvous this evening
will be without danger for him--at least, I think so; but I shall be
very glad to see at my feet the man who refused to be my husband! I long
to hear him make oaths of love, protestations of undying affection for
me. I want him to curse the day on which he allowed me to become the
wife of another man!"

"But, beware, madame!--Since you consider monsieur le comte so
fascinating, are you not afraid that that feeling will triumph over your
resentment, as you listen to his words of love?"

"Oh, no! no! I fear nothing!--Besides, you will stay with me, Miretta;
you will not leave me."

On both sides the coming of night was awaited with impatience.

It came at last, and about eight o'clock the Marquis de Santoval went to
his wife's apartment; she had feigned indisposition since the day
before, and had remained in her room.

The marquis glanced about him for some time with an expression that was
far from benevolent. He had never said a word to Valentine on the
subject of the young clerk whom he had had cudgelled. Monsieur de
Santoval was one of those men who do not speak for a mere suspicion, but
who collect facts, and are terrible when they allow the storm to burst
which they have long repressed in the depths of their hearts.

"Well, madame, how are you this evening?" he asked, as he seated himself
beside his wife.

"Still about the same, monsieur; my head aches, and I feel languid; I
must have a touch of fever.--See, feel my pulse."

"I know nothing of such matters, madame," replied the marquis; and he
did not touch the arm that his wife held out to him.

"Oh! that is a pity!"

"So you cannot come with me to the Duchesse de Brillac's?"

"You must realize that it is impossible, monsieur. In my opinion, one
should not go into society looking as if one were bored and ill! You
must make my excuses to the duchess."

"Yes, madame, yes. I am sorry to leave you not feeling well; and if I
had not promised the duke----"

"I should be very sorry to have you deprive yourself of an agreeable
evening because of a simple indisposition, entirely unattended by any
danger.--I have Miretta, who will stay with me, who will not leave me."

"Your faithful maid. That girl is very much attached to you, is she
not?"

"I think so; I have every reason to praise her zeal and her fidelity."

"And I think that she should congratulate herself on being in your
service. She must be very happy here; and yet, I have noticed of late
that she seems to be profoundly sad and depressed. A smile never appears
on her lips. Have not you noticed it, madame?"

"Pardon me, monsieur; but as I know the cause of her melancholy, I
overlook it."

"Ah! you know the cause of it?"

"Indeed, it is not difficult to guess: an unfortunate love affair; the
man she loves has disappeared!"

"Very good; I see that you know your maid's secrets."

"The poor girl is alone in this country, without kindred or friends. Why
should I not be interested in her?"

"You should, of course; and then, women are always compassionate for
troubles of the heart.--Well, madame, I go, with regret; take care of
your health."

"He has suspicions!" said Valentine to herself, when the marquis had
gone; "but what does it matter? I know the way to dispel them."

As the clock struck nine, a man enveloped in an ample cloak, and wearing
a hat whose broad brim concealed a large part of his face, knocked at
the gate of the hôtel. He gave the Cerberus the name of Miretta, and was
admitted; he crossed the courtyard and found on the right hand the
narrow staircase, which he was about to venture upon although it was not
lighted, when a small hand seized his and a voice said:

"Allow me to guide you, seigneur."

Léodgard abandoned his hand; the one that held it was cold and
trembling.

They went up two flights; a lamp stood in a corner of the second
landing, and the count recognized Miretta in the person who had served
as his guide.

She instantly dropped the hand she held, as if she were glad to escape
at last from a painful necessity. Taking the lamp, she walked ahead; and
Léodgard was soon ushered into a dimly lighted room, where he saw the
marchioness.

Valentine was seated on a sofa; her costume was entirely black, and
imparted a certain solemnity to her noble and majestic figure.

At sight of Léodgard she carefully repressed a thrill of joy which
sought expression in her eyes, and tried to replace by a pleasant smile
the gleam of triumph which passed over her face.

The count bowed low before her, and seated himself on a chair very near
the sofa. He seized her hand before she gave him permission, and covered
it with kisses; while incoherent words, which, however, accurately
depicted his love and the perturbation of his senses, poured rapidly
from his lips. But, happening to glance toward the end of the room, he
saw Miretta sitting there, with her head sunk upon her breast,
motionless as a statue. Thereupon Léodgard's flow of words ceased, and,
looking at Valentine, he asked her in an undertone:

"What is your maid doing here, pray?"

"Nothing; she is awaiting my orders."

"Do you not propose to order her to leave the room?"

"No, indeed! on the contrary, I told her to remain."

"Ah! I thought, madame, that you had taken pity on my torments and my
love!"

"Is it not taking pity on you, pray, to accord you this rendezvous--to
consent to listen to you?--Upon my word, men are never satisfied!"

"But one dares not speak of love before a third person."

"Why not, when that third person is in our confidence and privy to all
our secrets?"

"A tête-à-tête with you would have been so sweet to me!"

"Before granting a tête-à-tête, it is necessary to know one's mind; and
one must be very sure of being loved!"

"Can you doubt it?"

"More than any other woman, I am justified in doubting it, when it is
you who tell me so.--Really, monsieur le comte, your conduct is so
extraordinary--it is now so directly opposed to what it has been, that
at times I can place no faith in your words, and I ask myself if it is
really you, Comte Léodgard de Marvejols, who sit here beside me, talking
to me of love!--So it was necessary that I should become another man's
wife, to arouse in you this longing to love me and to tell me that you
love me!--You must agree that that is quite unique, to say the least!"

There was a suggestion of irony in Valentine's tone as she said this,
which would have offended Léodgard if he had been less in love; but he
thought of nothing but compelling the marchioness to revise the judgment
she had pronounced, and to forget the doubts she still felt.

Skilful in the art of seducing, eloquent when he really loved, tender
and ardent by turns in his language, Léodgard knew the road to a woman's
heart. Valentine was already listening to him with secret emotion; her
eyes expressed that dreamy languor which denotes disturbance in the
heart; when Miretta, who had been watching her mistress closely for some
time, suddenly sprang to her feet, crying:

"People in the courtyard--I heard the gate close! It must be monsieur le
marquis!"

"Ah! I must return to my apartment!" cried Valentine; "so that it may
not be known that I have left it!--Miretta will show you the way
out.--Adieu!"

"You leave me, madame; and I have no idea when I shall see you again!"

"I will let you know. Adieu!"

Valentine disappeared before Léodgard could say another word. He put on
his cloak, wrapped it about him, and followed Miretta in obedience to a
sign from her. The girl walked swiftly across the courtyard and knocked
on the concierge's window, calling:

"Open the gate; I am going out."

The gate opened, and Léodgard alone went out; Miretta hastened back to
her mistress, who said as soon as she saw her:

"You were mistaken, Miretta; the marquis has not returned. I have just
asked Joseph. No one came in."

"I know it, madame; pray forgive me, but I listened to that gentleman's
words, and I saw how moved you were. I was afraid for you--and for your
revenge."

"Perhaps you did well, Miretta; yes, this Léodgard is very dangerous.
However, he shall not cause me to forget the past. You may leave me now;
I need rest."

Miretta left her mistress and returned to her own room, engrossed by the
events of the day, unable to account for the feeling of repulsion which
the handsome Comte de Marvejols inspired in her, and regretting perhaps
that the gallant had succeeded in making his exit without any unpleasant
encounter.

But, although no one had appeared in the courtyard when Léodgard went
out, there was watching on the street, within twenty-five yards of the
hôtel, in a corner formed by two houses, a man with orders to take
notice of everybody who went into or out of the Hôtel de Santoval.



XLVI

A DUEL


Several days passed. Léodgard impatiently awaited the second rendezvous
which Valentine had promised him; he assumed that he would receive
another message from the marchioness by the hands of the little clerk.

The marquis returned from the reception with a darker cloud than usual
on his brow; the next day, he hardly inquired concerning his wife's
health, and the tone of the question was so ironical as to indicate his
utter disbelief in the indisposition of which she complained.

Valentine, although she seemed not to notice it, observed carefully the
progress of the jealousy that gnawed at her husband's heart.

Miretta too remarked that the marquis's servants were constantly at her
heels in the house, and seemed to watch her slightest movements.

"I do not know what is going on, madame," said the girl, when she was
alone with her mistress, "but I see that monsieur's people always have
their eyes on me now; perhaps before long I shall not be at liberty to
go out whenever I please.--What have I done? why do they spy upon me
so?"

"What, Miretta! do you not divine that monsieur le marquis is jealous?
and as he knows that I have great confidence in you, he thinks that you
may assist me in my intrigues."

"But in that case, madame, he will discharge me."

"Have no fear; he will soon do justice to us both."

Everything announced that a violent explanation was likely to take place
very soon. The marquis's glances foreboded a storm; but Valentine,
always calm and impassive, awaited events with the most absolute
tranquillity.

At last, Miretta one day rushed into the salon where the marquis and
Valentine were together. The girl was very much excited, and could
hardly control her voice to say:

"Madame--I was going out--I had someone to see to-day! But the concierge
has just refused to open the gate, and he told me that he did it by
monsieur le marquis's order."

"Is this true, monsieur?" Valentine asked her husband.

"Yes, madame, it is true that he acted by my orders. You have absolute
confidence in this girl; but let me tell you, madame, that she abuses
it; for I assume that it is not with your consent that she receives her
lover in this house. Denial would be quite useless; I am certain of what
I say: about ten days ago,--the evening when you claimed to be
indisposed, madame,--a cavalier carefully enveloped in a cloak entered
this house after asking for mademoiselle. Now, was it she or you whom he
came to see? It is for you to answer this question, madame."

"It was not to see Miretta that that gentleman came, monsieur; it was to
see me."

The marquis stepped back, glaring at his wife, and murmured, while his
hand sought his sword hilt:

"To see you! that man came here to see you, madame!"

"Yes, monsieur, nor is that all; Miretta now has upon her a letter which
I gave her to take to this same gentleman."

"Infamous!--What, madame, you dare to confess----"

"One does not fear to confess, when no criminal purpose exists; there is
no infamy when a woman seeks to avenge her own honor; and really,
monsieur le marquis, for a man who, I had been told, was so jealous, so
sensitive in the matter of honor, you have been a long time finding out
that someone was making love to your wife.--Miretta, give monsieur le
marquis the note I handed you, and go."

Miretta made haste to obey the marchioness; she was secretly rejoiced to
deliver to the husband the note addressed to the lover; she understood
that her mistress was carrying out her scheme of vengeance at last; and
she left the room, with a glance at Valentine expressive of her
satisfaction.

The Marquis de Santoval took the note that the girl handed him; he was
still inclined to disbelieve what he heard; he found it difficult to
understand his wife's conduct. However, he opened the letter and read:

     "This evening, about ten o'clock, be in the first arcade on Place
     Royale, as you enter from Rue des Tournelles. I will join you
     there."

"This is an assignation, madame," said the marquis, angrily crumpling
the letter in his hand.

"Yes, monsieur; but pray do not crumple the paper so, unless you wish me
to have the trouble of writing another."

"What, madame, you propose----"

"Really, monsieur, I thought that you had more penetration; but, since I
must explain everything to you, listen: this letter was----"

"For Comte Léodgard de Marvejols, madame."

"Even so, monsieur; ah! I am very glad that you have at least guessed
that.--Now, do you not know that, in accordance with plans formed by our
parents, Comte Léodgard was to have been my husband?"

"Your husband?--I did not know it."

"The alliance was earnestly desired by the count's father, and I should
have complied with my father's last wishes. But Comte Léodgard would
have none of me for his companion; he scorned the projected union--and
all to marry a girl of the common people.--Monsieur le marquis, between
men there are insults that are never forgiven, and for which they swear
to wreak vengeance; do you think that among women one does not meet now
and then one of those proud natures which cannot endure an insult? Well,
I am such a woman. After I married you, my heart throbbed with joy when
I saw that the count, when I first met him in society, seemed to admire
my features and my figure, seemed, in short, to be enamored of my
person. Then, monsieur, instead of turning my eyes in disdain, as others
would have done perhaps in my place, I gave all my attention to him,
fastening my eyes upon his and trying to impart to them an expression of
languor, almost of tenderness; for at that party I said to myself: 'The
time has come to avenge myself on that man who refused to marry me; I
propose that he shall love me; I am determined to see him at my feet,
swearing everlasting love, imploring me to reciprocate, and cursing the
day when he refused my hand.'--That triumph I enjoyed, monsieur, on the
evening that the count was admitted to this house.--But that was not
enough; after pretending to be touched by his passion, I determined to
appoint a meeting with him in some solitary, out-of-the-way place; but,
I thought, he will not find me there; the man whose name I bear will go
to that rendezvous and will take it upon himself to make my vengeance
complete.--Well, monsieur le marquis, do you understand my conduct now?"

The marquis bent his knee before his wife and kissed her hand again and
again, saying:

"I admire you, madame; I am proud to be your husband!--Pray forgive me
for having misunderstood you for a moment. But if my jealousy was slow
to burst forth, it was because, in the bottom of my heart, I could not
believe in your treachery; it was because I remembered that you chose to
become my wife of your own free will, without any constraint; and
because I thought that you could not have assumed, solely to dishonor
it, the name that is now yours.--Here, madame--take this note, send it
by your maid, who is entirely at liberty now to leave the house. As for
the rest, rely upon me to conclude this affair, and to punish the
reckless man who, after being insane enough to spurn an alliance with
you, dares now to address his solicitations to the wife of the Marquis
de Santoval! I am well aware that Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu has
forbidden duelling, that he punishes it very severely, in fact; but
have no fear--it will all be between ourselves."

The weather was cold and dismal. A fine but steady rain made the streets
of Paris very slippery where they were paved, and even more dangerous
were those very numerous ones that had no pavements. At ten o'clock at
night, in November, and in cold and rainy weather, one met very few
people abroad. However, the famous Giovanni had ceased some time before
to molest belated wayfarers, and people were beginning to hope that he
had left Paris.

At a few minutes before ten, a man entered Place Royale, sheltering
himself as well as he could in a cloak of greater breadth than length.

"What a curious predilection the marchioness has for this square!" he
said to himself. "What a strange idea always to select it for her place
of rendezvous! But I trust that this is the last one that she will give
me here. She must consent to come to my _petite maison_. There we shall
have no surprises to dread; there are secret exits which put one out of
reach of any possible danger."

Having arrived at one of the arcades which surrounded the square, and
being sheltered from the rain there, Léodgard let his cloak fall back,
and raised his hat brim so that it covered his face less. Then, casting
his eyes about the square, which was deserted, and at its dark arcades,
he continued:

"The place is decidedly ill chosen for an amorous rendezvous. But
Valentine will probably send her messenger, young Miretta--Miretta! yes,
that is surely the name; and judging from what she told me, she is the
person! What a strange meeting! If that girl suspected!--Ah! I must
banish that ghastly memory!--How dismal this square is to-night! Really,
this spot would be much better suited for a meeting between two gallant
men armed with swords or daggers!--But is not this the place?--Yes, it
was at the entrance to Rue des Tournelles, where one side of the park
then came to an end--I have often been told the story--this is the very
spot where Maugiron, Quélus, and Livarot fought at five o'clock in the
morning, in April, 1578. Their adversaries were D'Entragues, Schomberg,
and Ribérac. This square was not then laid out, and from the top of the
towers of the Bastille one could watch the whole combat.--Ah! that
triple duel was a glorious battle! Maugiron, Schomberg, and Ribérac lost
their lives.--But that is the fitting death for a gentleman to
die!--Those were the good times!--The king, far from forbidding duels,
was foremost in encouraging them; whereas to-day the cardinal is
terribly severe. The Bastille, aye, death sometimes, for those who
fight, who disobey his edicts. And when he has said the word, Richelieu
is inflexible! How he looked at me at that fête at the Prince de
Valdimer's!--Was he thinking of my father, whom he esteems highly, they
say? Or was it---- That look upset me completely. That man knows so many
things!"

Léodgard let his head sink upon his breast, and stood lost in thought.
In that condition, he saw nothing, heard nothing, and seemed entirely
oblivious to everything that was taking place about him. So it was that
he did not notice an individual, quite tall, wrapped in his cloak, and
followed by a servant bearing a lantern, who entered the arcade in which
he was waiting, and walked toward him. The new-comer passed close to
Léodgard, who did not emerge from his reverie or lift his head.
Thereupon, at a sign from his master, the servant who carried the
lantern held it so near to the count's face that the light fell upon it.

"What are you doing here, knave?" cried Léodgard, instantly raising his
head. "Why do you stop so near me with your lantern? Did I ask you for a
light?"

"Excuse him, monsieur; it was at my command that he acted as he did. As
I passed you, I thought that I recognized you; but it is so dark under
these arcades that I was not certain, and, as I desired to assure myself
that I was not mistaken, I motioned to my servant to throw the light on
your face for a moment. So you see, he is not the culprit."

Léodgard's features contracted into a scowl; he had recognized the
Marquis de Santoval in the person who addressed him. He divined
instantly that the encounter was not simply the result of chance;
however, he determined to pretend to assume at first that it was so, and
he replied nonchalantly:

"It is Monsieur le Marquis de Santoval, I think.--I am overjoyed at the
chance which affords me the pleasure of offering you my most sincere
respects."

The marquis made a sign to his valet, who withdrew ten or twelve paces,
so that he could not overhear what was said. When the servant was out of
hearing, Monsieur de Santoval planted himself haughtily in front of
Léodgard, and said in a bantering tone:

"The weather is very bad for an open-air rendezvous, is it not, monsieur
le comte?"

"Why, it seems to me that you do not consider it too bad, monsieur le
marquis, as it does not prevent you from coming out."

"Ah! but I have not come here to meet a lady--quite the contrary!"

"Who told you that I was here with that purpose?"

"Who? You would be greatly surprised if I should tell you that it was
the very person who gave you the rendezvous!"

Léodgard with difficulty restrained an outburst of rage, and replied:

"I do not understand you, monsieur le marquis!"

"You do not understand me, count? That surprises me!--No matter, I will
explain myself more clearly.--There are gentlemen to whom nothing is
sacred, and who do not hesitate to pay their respects to other men's
wives. Their number is not small, I am aware! But it is less common to
see a gallant, after refusing to marry a nobly born and beautiful lady,
presume to make love to her as soon as she has become the wife of
another man.--You must agree that a man need be extremely self-conceited
to believe that he will succeed in obtaining a hearing then!"

"Monsieur le marquis----"

"But that is what you have done, count, failing to perceive that the
lady was laughing at you, and that she joyfully grasped the opportunity
to give you a lesson which you deserve."

"Enough, marquis, enough! I take lessons from no one!"

"You prefer a sword thrust, then?"

"I venture to believe that you came here to find me, monsieur le
marquis, with the intention of making use of your sword."

"You are not in error."

"Let us talk no longer, then!"

"Holà! Joseph! attend us with the light!"

The valet drew near with his lantern and leaned against a pillar. The
two gentlemen had already tossed aside their cloaks; they speedily
unsheathed their swords, and, taking their places within two yards of
the light, began to attack each other with great impetuosity. Léodgard
was stirred to frenzy by his anger at having been made a plaything by
Valentine; in the case of the marquis, the desire to be revenged upon a
man who had attempted to dishonor him was sufficient to strengthen his
arm and inflame his blood.

The marquis, however, was more self-controlled; he fought more prudently
than his adversary. Léodgard, enraged to find himself opposed by a man
whose skill equalled his own, hurried his blows as if he were in haste
to conclude; and as he lunged to deal a terrible thrust at the marquis,
the latter's sword entered his breast and passed through his body.

Léodgard fell to the ground without a cry. The valet held his lantern so
that he could see the wound, from which the blood poured forth in a
stream, and said to his master, who tranquilly wiped his sword and
resumed his cloak:

"Oh! monsieur, I do not think that the gentleman will recover. Such a
wound! and fair in the breast! That was a mighty thrust he
received!--What shall we do with the gentleman?"

"Blockhead! to suppose that I intend to pay any heed to the fellow!--We
have nothing more to do here. Go before and light me!"



XLVII

THE WOUNDED MAN


Let us return now to Bathilde, the sweet and charming countess, the
loving mother, whom events have compelled us to neglect for some time,
but whom it would be impossible to forget; for sweetness of disposition,
when combined with beauty, is a talisman which never loses its power.

When Ambroisine, on returning from Place Royale, where she had seen
Léodgard embrace his daughter, entered Bathilde's room with the child,
her friend divined from her radiant face that some fortunate event had
occurred; and rising from the reclining chair on which she was
stretched, she held out her arms to Blanche and cried:

"What has happened? What brings you back so soon?--Ambroisine, I see in
your eyes that you are happy. May I not share your happiness?"

"Oh! yes, indeed! Our reason for returning so soon was that you might
enjoy it the sooner. But first of all take your child on your knees, and
kiss her; the dear little angel--it is she who is the cause--it is she
who---- Mon Dieu! I am so glad--so glad, that I can't speak--it
suffocates me!"

Bathilde took the child on her knees; Blanche put her little arms about
her mother's neck and returned her kisses, lisping:

"The gentleman--he kiss Blanche again; he said--I am pretty!"

"What does she say?" asked Bathilde, looking from Ambroisine to the
nurse.

"She says," replied Ambroisine,--"what she says is true; yesterday there
was a fine gentleman on the square; he saw Blanche playing; he thought
her so pretty that he kissed her, and then he asked Marie the dear
child's name, and then her mother's; and when she told him, he kissed
Blanche once more; and that same gentleman came to-day again and sat on
the same bench; and I am perfectly sure that it was to see Blanche
again!"

"When mademoiselle saw him this morning," said the nurse, "she
recognized him at once, and began to run toward him."

"But this gentleman--who was he, pray?" asked Bathilde, in a trembling
voice.

"Do you not guess, Bathilde, do you not guess?"

"O mon Dieu! tell me!"

"He was the Comte de Marvejols--your husband."

"He! Is it possible?"

Bathilde turned pale; for a moment she was overcome; but joy rarely does
any harm, and the young mother covered her daughter with kisses once
more, crying:

"He kissed you, little darling, he kissed you! Why, that gentleman was
your father--your father for whom I have taught you to pray to God every
night, to preserve his life and bring him back to us. Ah! God has heard
your prayers.--Now, Marie, Ambroisine, tell me all that happened, all,
both yesterday and to-day. Do not forget anything, do not omit the most
trivial detail; I shall be so happy listening to you."

The maid described minutely the meeting of the preceding day.

"And you told me nothing of this yesterday, Marie!"

"Bless me! I could not imagine that it would interest you so deeply! I
was so far from suspecting that that handsome gentleman was monsieur le
comte; and if I must mention everybody who admires mademoiselle when I
take her out to walk, and everybody who exclaims at her beauty and
caresses her, I should never stop!"

"Well--and to-day, Marie!"

The nurse told what had happened previous to the arrival of Ambroisine,
who completed the story from that point.

"And he went away like that--hurriedly?" said Bathilde.

"Mon Dieu! yes; I am very sorry that I showed myself; but when I saw him
holding his daughter in his arms, could I be expected to control my
surprise?"

"He held her in his arms?"

"To be sure."

"And he kissed her?"

"Oh! several times."

"And you are sure, Marie, that he knew that Blanche was the daughter of
the Comtesse de Marvejols?"

"Pardine! I told the gentleman so yesterday, madame; and it was he
himself who asked me the question."

"He knew that she was his daughter, Ambroisine, and he took her in his
arms, and put his lips to her forehead! Oh! I cannot believe yet in such
good fortune! Why, in that case, he must love darling Blanche!"

"Does that surprise you? Is it possible to see the child without loving
her? Moreover, as he came again to-day and sat in the same place as
yesterday, don't you see that it must have been a desire to see his
daughter that brought him there again?"

"Oh! if that were true, if it were possible! But if he wishes to see his
daughter, does he not know that the doors of this house will fly open
before him any day, at any hour? And if it is my presence that offends
him, if it is I whom he does not wish to meet, why, I will be careful to
avoid his glances, I will conceal myself in the most distant part of the
house, and I will stay hidden there so long as he remains. But let him
come to see his daughter! let him lavish his caresses on her without
fear. I shall be only too happy, and I will not complain."

"Of course, monsieur le comte did not know at first," said Ambroisine,
"when Blanche attracted his attention, that it was his own daughter whom
he was praising; when he learned that fact, he could not help being
proud of her; and then the same feeling brought him back to the spot
where he knew that she ordinarily came to run about and play. But it is
a long way from that to coming to this house."

"Oh! no matter; to-morrow Blanche will go out with her nurse at the same
time; my daughter will go for her walk in the same direction, to the
same benches as to-day; perhaps he will come again to see her; and I
will go there with you, Ambroisine. I am strong enough to go out; at all
events, you will lend me your arm, and we will keep out of sight, a long
way off; but not so far that we cannot see whether the darling girl's
father caresses her again."

Everything was done the next day as Bathilde had planned. Blanche went
out with her nurse as the clock struck twelve; some distance behind, two
women walked arm in arm, following with their eyes every step, every
movement of the child.

But the bench on which they had found Léodgard two days in succession
was unoccupied; and more than once the little girl, after running in
that direction, returned to her nurse and said in her childish lisp, and
in an almost mournful tone:

"The gentleman not there, nurse; where is the gentleman?"

For Blanche had already come to look upon it as a pleasant custom to be
kissed and caressed by Léodgard. Children learn to love very quickly! A
person attracts them instantly or never; as they have not become
reasoning persons, they follow their first impulse.

That day had not the result for which they hoped. Léodgard did not
appear at the bench, or in any other part of Place Royale, where
Bathilde's and Ambroisine's eyes would not have failed to discover him.

On the following day they repeated the same manoeuvre, with no better
success. And Blanche, as she returned to the house with her mother, who
sighed profoundly, seemed to share her sadness.

"Mamma, he did not come--the gentleman!" she said.

Several days passed thus, and they were forced to conclude that
Léodgard, angry at having been surprised by Ambroisine when he was
kissing his daughter, had preferred not to return to Place Royale, for
fear of other disagreeable encounters.

The Sire de Jarnonville, the loyal friend of the countess and of
Ambroisine, who loved Blanche with all the fervent paternal love that
heaven had left in the depths of his heart, was speedily informed of
what had happened on Place Royale. He was more touched than surprised;
it seemed to him so natural that one should be drawn to Blanche at first
sight.

"I knew that he needed only to see her to love her!" cried Jarnonville,
letting his eyes rest on Blanche. "He refused to listen to me or to
believe me, one day when I spoke to him of his daughter; but Providence,
more powerful than his will, has brought him and the child together.
Henceforth, madame, be of good cheer; it is impossible that your child
should not bring her father back to you."

With such words did Jarnonville comfort Bathilde when she sighed because
Léodgard had not appeared again on the bench where his daughter had
twice met him. Ambroisine united her efforts with the chevalier's to
encourage her friend. Bathilde, Ambroisine, and the chevalier passed
almost every evening at the Hôtel de Marvejols, beside Blanche's cradle,
spending in pleasant converse the long autumn evenings, talking almost
constantly of him who refused to accept the pure happiness offered him
by his own fireside, his wife, and his child.

It was after such a conversation, prolonged to a later hour than usual,
that Ambroisine left the hôtel with Jarnonville, who always escorted her
to Master Hugonnet's door. On this particular evening it was very dark,
and the fine rain that was falling was icy cold, so that even when the
chevalier and his companion were still protected by the arcades of the
square he said to her more than once:

"Wrap yourself tightly in your cloak, mademoiselle, for it is raining
and it is quite cold."

Then, with an almost involuntary movement, the chevalier pressed closer
to his side the arm that the lovely girl had slipped through his.

They had reached the end of the arcade, when a horrible spectacle
arrested their steps: a man lay flat on the ground; his cloak and his
sword were at some little distance, and it was so dark that they could
not see the pool of blood in which his body lay.

"Mon Dieu! what is that?" exclaimed Ambroisine, stopping abruptly; "I
believe that it is a man there--lying on the ground."

"Yes, you are right; perhaps he is asleep; perhaps he is drunk.--Wait,
while I ascertain."

Jarnonville released Ambroisine's arm, walked nearer to the body that
lay there absolutely inert, and stooped over it. In a moment he cried
out:

"Ah! the poor fellow is bathed in his own blood!"

"See that sword yonder--perhaps there has been a duel."

"If I could raise his head; but his hair has fallen over his face and
conceals it.--Mon Dieu! is this a delusion?"

"What is it, chevalier?"

"For heaven's sake, stand aside a little, so that the light may shine on
this unfortunate man--yes, it is he! it is surely he!"

"Who, in God's name?"

"Léodgard!"

"The count--is it possible!--Great God! is he dead?"

"Wait--wait!--No, it seems to me that I feel a faint movement of the
heart."

"I will run at once to the hôtel for help; don't leave him, chevalier."

Ambroisine was no longer afraid, she forgot the cold and the darkness
alike. Running along the dark arcade, she soon reached the Hôtel de
Marvejols; and having enjoined upon the concierge to conceal from the
countess all knowledge of what was going on, she took two servants with
her and hurried back at full speed to Jarnonville, who was on his knees
beside Léodgard, having raised his head, which he was supporting against
his breast. But the wounded man had not recovered consciousness; he was
still in the same condition.

With the aid of the two servants, the chevalier raised Léodgard, who was
forthwith transported to the Hôtel de Marvejols. The count had his own
suite there, which he had not occupied for many months, but which was
always ready for his occupancy, none the less.

"It is your master," said the chevalier to the servants, whom curiosity
had drawn to the gateway; "it is Monsieur le Comte de Marvejols, whom we
found in this condition a few steps from here. Let one of you run with
all speed to fetch a physician or a surgeon. But, above all things,
absolute secrecy; do not let this accident reach madame la comtesse's
ears to-night; before we tell her that her husband is under her roof, we
must know if there is any hope of restoring him to life!"

Jarnonville's orders were executed with zeal. Ambroisine installed
herself by the wounded man's bedside, having sent a servant to inform
her father that she should pass the night at the Hôtel de Marvejols.

Luckily, the hôtel was an immense place, and the young countess's
apartment was in a different wing from that to which her husband had
been taken. So that Bathilde slept in peace beside her daughter, having
no suspicion that the constant object of her thoughts was so near her at
that moment.

The surgeon summoned by the servant carefully examined the deep wound in
Léodgard's breast. One and all waited anxiously to hear what he would
say, what judgment he would pronounce.

But the man of science simply shook his head in a far from encouraging
fashion, and said:

"This is a very serious wound, and the loss of blood has been
considerable. If monsieur le comte recovers, he will be very fortunate.
However, if the sword did not reach any of the vital organs, it is
possible that he may be cured. For the moment, it is impossible to say.
When the patient recovers consciousness, be careful, above all things,
not to let him talk; avoid everything that is likely to cause him the
slightest excitement."

The surgeon took his leave after giving the necessary directions, saying
that he would return at daybreak.

Jarnonville and Ambroisine passed the night beside the wounded man.

"Mon Dieu! if she suspected that he was here!" murmured the girl,
glancing at the chevalier.

"She would be unable to resist the desire to come to see him; she would
insist upon attending to his wants; and you heard what the surgeon
said--that the slightest excitement might be fatal to him. Do you think
that he would not be excited, if, on opening his eyes, he should see his
wife by his side?"

"You are right, chevalier; but if fate has willed that monsieur le comte
is to die of this wound, if to-morrow he should have ceased to live! Do
you think that Bathilde would ever forgive us for concealing from her
the fact that her husband is here--dying--so near her; and for depriving
her of the melancholy pleasure of closing his eyes?"

"I know not what to say; follow the dictates of your heart. You love the
countess too dearly not to divine which is likely to cause her the less
pain,--to remain in ignorance of her husband's danger, or to share our
anxiety concerning his fate."

Ambroisine hesitated, but she decided at last to wait until daybreak and
the surgeon's return.

Toward the middle of the night, Léodgard partly opened his eyes; but his
vague, uncertain glance could not endure the dim light in the room; he
soon dropped his eyelids, having recognized none of his surroundings.

At dawn, the surgeon returned to his patient; after examining him
carefully, feeling his pulse, and listening a long while to his
respiration, he made a motion with his head, more encouraging than the
earlier one, and said:

"I have a little hope; but I cannot say anything definite until I have
removed the dressing of the wound, and I must not do that until evening.
Until then, the same directions, the same precautions; give him this
phial to inhale from, if he should lose consciousness; but, above all
things, absolute silence."

When the surgeon had gone, Ambroisine, having made up her mind what to
do, went to her friend's room.

It was only seven o'clock in the morning; Bathilde was still asleep,
with her face turned toward her daughter's cradle, so that when she woke
her first glance was for her child.

Ambroisine walked into the room very softly, in order to make no noise.
The faithful Marie, who was already in the adjoining room, allowed her
mistress's young friend to pass without remonstrance; for the countess
had once told her that Ambroisine was at liberty to enter her apartment
at all times and seasons.

The young mother and her child were both sleeping peacefully.

"They are enjoying sweet repose," said Ambroisine to herself, as she
gazed at them. "Poor Bathilde! you have earned it by all the torments
and suffering you have endured!--Would it not be a crime to disturb it?
The man who is yonder is most unjust to you! does he deserve that you
should shed more tears for him?--Ah, no! it seems to me that he does not
deserve it.--But she still loves him, he is this little angel's father;
and then, too, he has held Blanche to his heart! For that reason, we
must forgive him."

And Ambroisine laid her hand gently on Bathilde's arm. Her light sleep
was disturbed by the slightest touch. When she saw her friend standing
by her side, the young mother apprehended some calamity and instantly
turned her eyes toward her daughter; but the child was sleeping quietly,
and her pink and white cheeks were altogether reassuring as to her
health.

"What is the matter, in heaven's name," asked Bathilde, half rising,
"that you are here so early, dear Ambroisine? You must have something of
great importance to tell me?"

"I have not left the house since yesterday; that is to say, I left it
for a moment, but returned at once and passed the night here."

"Speak, Ambroisine, explain yourself; one would say that you dared
not.--Oh! I will be brave enough, if necessary. Besides, my daughter is
with me; and when I fear nothing for her, I am very strong, I assure
you!"

Thereupon Ambroisine told her friend of the events of the previous
night, taking pains, however, not to make the count's wound appear so
serious as the surgeon had declared it to be.

But Bathilde did not give her time to finish her story; she had already
risen and was dressing in great haste, saying, in a voice broken by the
emotion that choked her utterance:

"He is here, mon Dieu! here--so near me--since last night--and I was not
told! And you left me in ignorance of his suffering!--Oh! that was
wrong--very wrong! is it not my duty to be with my husband when he needs
care?"

"Our duty was to follow the orders of the surgeon; he said that the
slightest excitement would be fatal to monsieur le comte."

"Mon Dieu! then he is very ill!"

"Remember that he does not know as yet where he has been taken; and if
he sees you by his side, if he recognizes you, do you think that it will
not excite him?"

"Very well! I will hide myself, I will keep out of sight, he shall not
see me!--But I shall see him, I shall know what his condition is, and I
shall be able to add my care to that which you give him.--Come,
Ambroisine, come!"

But before leaving the room Bathilde stopped to press her lips to her
daughter's brow; then, after bidding the faithful Marie to stay with
Blanche, she hurried to her husband's apartment.

Léodgard was still in the same condition; the ghastly pallor of his face
and his closed eyes gave him the aspect of a dead man; but a faint
breath that came from his lips proved that life had not abandoned him.

Bathilde gazed long at the sad spectacle, then fell on her knees beside
the bed, and implored heaven to preserve Léodgard's life.



XLVIII

THE SWEETEST LOVE


For twenty days, Léodgard hovered between life and death; a horrible
delirium succeeded the prostration which immediately followed his wound;
but during that time the most touchingly devoted care was lavished on
him.

Bathilde, Ambroisine, and the Sire de Jarnonville were almost constantly
at the patient's bedside; at first the young wife passed whole nights in
attendance on her husband; in order to induce her to be more reasonable,
to force her to take some rest, it was necessary to tell her that her
child was asking for her, that she refused to go to sleep unless her
mother was with her.

During those long nights, when the violence of the count's fever often
caused him to talk aloud in his dreams, or rather in his delirium, his
watchers had observed with amazement that the same person was constantly
in his thoughts, that he was almost invariably tormented by the same
memories; in short, that his lips many and many a time uttered a certain
name; and that name was Giovanni.

"Did you hear him?" Bathilde would ask her friend; "it is most
extraordinary that Léodgard, in his delirium, is always thinking of that
famous robber. One would say that he was afraid of the man--that he was
fighting with him!"

"Yes; only yesterday I heard monsieur le comte cry out: 'Avaunt,
wretched man! do not pursue me so!'--And a moment later, he said: 'But,
no, it is not he, it is I whom they mean to arrest! They have recognized
me! I am Giovanni, I! the other is dead!'"

"Poor love! what ghastly delirium!--Oh! when will he be calmer and
recover his reason?"

And one evening, Bathilde said to the Sire de Jarnonville, who seemed
lost in thought as he listened to the sick man's wanderings:

"Chevalier, as my husband is always thinking of this Giovanni, do not
you believe that, instead of having fought a duel, as you thought at
first, he was attacked by that terrible robber and received this
dangerous wound from him?"

"I haven't the least doubt about it, myself," said Ambroisine; "monsieur
le comte has that last encounter ever present in his mind, and so in his
delirium he believes he still sees this Giovanni."

Jarnonville seemed to reflect before he replied; at last he said to the
friends:

"Your conjectures may be well founded; yes, it may well be that, instead
of a duel, the count was the victim of an ambuscade."

"Besides, you have made inquiries, chevalier, have you not? you have
seen a number of gentlemen who are friends of Léodgard, and no one of
them knows of his having fought a duel?"

"No, madame; nor has anyone heard even of a possible quarrel. But, in
truth, since the cardinal issued such a severe edict against duellists,
there is little inclination to boast of such affairs; on the contrary,
whoever has one on hand tries to keep it entirely secret. For that
reason, whatever the cause of the count's wound, it is prudent to
attribute it to a nocturnal attack."

"Especially as it is probably the truth; otherwise, would my husband
think so constantly of that Giovanni?"

On the twenty-first day, the surgeon, having paid an early visit to his
patient, because he expected a crisis which would be decisive of his
fate, sent the ladies away, allowing no one to remain with him save the
Sire de Jarnonville; then he waited to see what Providence rather than
his skill would do for the count.

He had been in a violent fever since the night before, but the delirium
had ceased. Toward morning the fever subsided and was ere long succeeded
by a peaceful sleep.

Then the surgeon went to Bathilde, who was in an adjoining room, on her
knees, with her daughter kneeling beside her. Both were praying; and
they were such pure and spotless creatures that their prayers were
granted.

"Saved! I will answer for him now!" said the surgeon, as he approached
the countess.

She seized the doctor's hands, pressed them to her heart, and would have
kissed them if he had not prevented her.--Is not he who restores to us a
person whom we love a god in our eyes? and do we not always feel that
words are powerless to express our gratitude?

"But," continued the surgeon, "the greatest caution is necessary
still--no great excitement! The convalescence will be long--very long.
In order to heal perfectly, the wound needs prolonged rest; but, unless
something unforeseen happens, I repeat--monsieur le comte is
saved.--When he wakes, he will feel better, and he will question you, no
doubt. Urge him to think of nothing but getting well, and tell him that
I have forbidden you to allow him to talk."

Then, having written a new prescription, the doctor went away, carrying
with him the benedictions of those whom he had made happy.

"When he wakes," said Jarnonville, "the count will recognize this
apartment, as it is the one he occupied when he lived with his father."

"After all," said Ambroisine, "he must know it at some time. Where could
he be taken better care of than in his own house, with his wife and
child?"

"Oh! do not mention his wife to him!" cried Bathilde; "that might make
him angry, and you know what the doctor ordered!"

"Will you trust me?" said the chevalier; "I am sure that I can arrange
matters so that your husband will have an agreeable awakening, attended
by pleasant sensations.--Pray, madame, intrust your daughter to me."

"Blanche!"

"Yes; the sight of that little angel cannot fail to produce a happy
result."

"But he knows that she is his daughter."

"And that knowledge did not prevent him from embracing her!"

"But he fled when he noticed that someone saw him kissing his child!"

"He has just escaped death; and that circumstance sometimes induces
salutary reflections--when one has seen the grave so near at hand!"

"Well! I place myself in your hands, chevalier; take my dear Blanche--I
will remain here, and unless the count asks for me I will not venture to
show myself to him; but I shall be happy once more, if, from this room,
I hear my husband kiss his child."

Jarnonville took little Blanche by the hand, after she had been told not
to make any noise; she seemed already to understand that she was to have
a share in the cure of the gentleman who was lying there, although
Bathilde had not dared to tell her to call him _father_.

The chevalier returned softly to the count's room. Hearing some movement
in the bed, he left Blanche hidden by the curtains, and approached the
invalid, who had opened his eyes and was gazing about the room as if he
were trying to collect his thoughts, to marshal his recollections.

At sight of Jarnonville, Léodgard, more amazed than ever, faltered:

"What! is it you, Jarnonville? For heaven's sake, explain! What has
happened?"

"You were very dangerously wounded. I found you lying on the ground,
under an arcade on Place Royale."

"Oh, yes! yes! I remember--my duel--with the Marquis de Santoval.--And
you had me brought here? But I recognize this chamber--it used to be
mine; I am at the Hôtel de Marvejols."

"To carry you farther would have been impossible; you would have died on
the way; and besides, where else would you have found the devoted,
incessant care and attention with which you have been surrounded here
for three weeks past?"

Léodgard made no reply; he let his head fall back on the pillow; but his
expression had become sad, his brow was clouded.

Thereupon Jarnonville beckoned to Blanche, who had remained behind the
curtains, afraid to stir. The little girl came forward, climbed the bed
steps beside the bed, then suddenly showed her sweet face to Léodgard,
saying:

"I see the gentleman!"

An abrupt change took place in Léodgard's whole expression; at first he
started in surprise, but almost instantly a sentiment of well-being,
like the calm after a storm, found its way into the invalid's heart.

He smiled at Blanche and tried to hold out his hand to her. But he was
still too weak to use his arm, and could only say:

"Is it you, dear child?--Ah! it is very good of you to come to see me.
You must come often."

Then his eyes closed--the emotion had exhausted his strength; but the
weakness that he felt was in no wise dangerous, and it was soon
succeeded by a refreshing sleep.

"We have succeeded!" said Jarnonville, leading the child back to her
mother; "the sight of the child instantly dissipated the clouds that
darkened your husband's brow. Now, madame, you may be sure that Blanche
will complete her father's cure."

Bathilde lovingly embraced her daughter; then she took advantage of
Léodgard's slumber to go to his side and gaze at him at her ease.

By the sick man's movements they could always determine the moment when
he would wake; thereupon Ambroisine and Bathilde hastened from the room,
leaving Jarnonville there alone; or if the chevalier was absent, his
place was taken by a servant.

When Léodgard next opened his eyes, they wandered about the room, as if
in search of someone.

Jarnonville approached the bed and asked if he desired anything.

"Yes," whispered the count, trying to smile, "yes--I would like to
see--the little girl."

"He is not willing yet to say 'my daughter,' but that will come in
time," thought the chevalier, as he went to fetch Blanche, whom he soon
led to her father's bedside.

The little one ascended the bed steps without aid, and showed her pretty
face, her chestnut hair, and her winning smile.

"Bonjour, my friend!" she said.

Bathilde had instructed Blanche to address her father thus. Before
giving him a sweeter name, she wished that Léodgard himself should
authorize it.

The invalid succeeded in putting out his hand as far as the child, whose
hair, already thick and silky, he patted gently, saying:

"You are very good to come to see me; but perhaps you will get tired of
it. Will you come every day?"

"Yes, my friend."

"In the morning, and then again in the afternoon?"

"Yes--if mamma will let me!"

Léodgard became pensive, and was silent for a long while, still toying
with the child's hair. After a few minutes, Blanche cried:

"I prayed to the good Lord, I did, with mamma, to make my friend not be
sick any more!"

"Dear child, how kind you are! Do you love me a little?"

"Oh, yes! with all my heart!"

Léodgard made a movement; it was plain that he desired to kiss Blanche;
but he could not raise himself so as to put his face to hers.
Jarnonville, who was watching him out of the corner of his eye, saw all
this; he made no sign, however, but remained where he was, pretending
to be engrossed by his book.

At last, unable to reach the child's face, Léodgard decided to say to
her:

"Give me your hand--a little farther--against my lips; that is right."

And he covered his daughter's little hand with kisses, while she
exclaimed with delight:

"Oh! monsieur friend! he kiss Blanche's hand!"

Concealed behind the folds of a portière, Bathilde saw it all, and tears
of joy escaped from her eyes.

The count kept the child with him a long while, but at last made up his
mind to send her away.

"I do not wish to deprive her any longer of the pleasures, the
amusements suited to her years," he said to Jarnonville; "her pretty
color will fade beside a sickbed.--Take her away, chevalier.--Au revoir,
little one--until to-morrow! I shall wait impatiently for you to come to
pass a few moments with me."

Twelve days passed. Léodgard continued to improve and began to recover a
little strength; but it was not possible as yet for him to leave his
bed, the severity of the wound he had received demanding extreme
precautions. To beguile his ennui, to make the hours seem less long, he
often had Blanche with him, and each day he tried to keep her longer.

When his daughter was not by his side, Léodgard was silent, and his mind
seemed always to be engrossed by gloomy thoughts. He would hardly
answer Jarnonville when he tried to divert him, and sometimes passed
whole hours without opening his lips, without emerging from the torpor
in which he was plunged. But when Blanche's little steps pattered along
the floor, when her sweet voice made itself heard in the room, it was as
if a fairy had touched the Comte de Marvejols with her magic wand: his
brow instantly cleared, he raised his eyes, a bright smile changed the
whole expression of his countenance, and, being stronger now, he would
hold out his arms to Blanche, draw her to him, and make her sit on his
bed, where he could kiss her lovely face at his ease.

Then he would lead the child on to talk; he loved to hear her, to listen
to her childish answers, wherein sensibility and intelligence were
already apparent. These are natural gifts, which education and years do
not give; when they do not manifest themselves early in life, be sure
that you will look in vain for them later.

But Léodgard had not yet called Blanche his daughter; and when she spoke
of her mother, he very soon found a way to change the subject.

Bathilde continued to keep out of her husband's sight, and he had not
once inquired about her. But she did not complain; she was happy because
she had been able to nurse him, and even happier for the affection which
he displayed for his daughter.

Ambroisine thought it her duty as well to abstain from showing herself
to the sick man; the mere sight of her had seemed so unpleasant to the
count when she met him on Place Royale, holding Blanche in his arms,
that she did not care to cause him a repetition of that sensation.

So that Léodgard saw nobody save the surgeon, who continued to visit him
morning and evening; Jarnonville, who often came to bear him company,
and to whom he had confided the fact that he had fought a duel with the
Marquis de Santoval, but without disclosing the cause of their quarrel;
the servants, who came to him when he rang; and the child, who had
lately embellished the invalid's bed with divers toys, so that she might
remain longer with her friend.

One evening, the two ladies questioned the chevalier on the subject of
Léodgard's wound.

"Has he told you how it happened?" asked Bathilde; "how he was attacked
by Giovanni? For it was that brigand who wounded him, was it not?"

Jarnonville seemed to reflect before he replied:

"Madame, your husband is very uncommunicative; and since he has begun to
improve, he talks no more than before. Your daughter alone has the power
to make him talk. When I attempted to question him concerning this
adventure, he answered only by monosyllables, which led me to think that
my questions were displeasing to him; so that I thought that I should
not persist."

"Oh! you were quite right, chevalier; let monsieur le comte conceal from
us the cause of his accident, if that is his wish; the essential point
is that it should have no fatal consequences."

"Still," said Ambroisine, "I do not understand why he should make a
mystery of having been attacked by a robber! But if he had fought a
duel----"

"That is impossible," rejoined Bathilde; "remember that in his delirium
he talked constantly of this Giovanni."

Thus the two friends were still uncertain with respect to the cause of
the wound which had nearly caused the count's death; and Jarnonville,
who knew what it was and might have told them, pretended to share their
ignorance.

One morning, on awaking, Léodgard, who was accustomed to see Blanche at
the foot of his bed, or somewhere in the room, looked in vain for the
child, who was nowhere in sight. After waiting for some time for his
daughter to be brought to him, he rang for a servant.

"Why do they not send the child to me this morning, as usual?" he asked
the valet who answered the bell.

"I believe that I heard someone say, monsieur le comte, that
mademoiselle was not very well in the night; that is probably the reason
why she does not come to you."

"Ah! that makes a difference! And the physician--have they sent for the
physician?"

"Yes, monsieur le comte."

"Has the Sire de Jarnonville not yet come?"

"No, monseigneur."

"Very well; as soon as the physician has seen the child, send him to
me."

The valet left the room; but in a few moments the count rang again, and
asked that the child's nurse be sent to him.

Marie appeared, and the count was glad to see the nurse who was taking
his daughter to walk on Place Royale when he first met her there. He
motioned to her to come forward.

"Blanche is ill--what is the matter?"

"Oh! it will be nothing, monsieur le comte; mademoiselle coughed a
little in the night, and this morning she has a little fever; but it
will not amount to anything; children fall sick very quickly, but they
get well as quickly."

"Is she in pain?"

"No, monseigneur; she has already asked to get up, and to come to see
you."

"What! does she really think of me?"

"Oh! since she has been coming here, you are her first thought, after
she has kissed her mother."

"Dear child!"

"But as mademoiselle is feverish, it would be imprudent to allow her to
rise."

"Yes, it must not be. And her--her mother is with her, I presume?"

"Madame does not leave mademoiselle for an instant; especially as when
she is ill mademoiselle is not always very good about taking her
medicine. But when her mamma says to her: 'You must take this, my
child!' then she obeys instantly."

"It is well; go; let them send the doctor to me when he has seen
Blanche."

The time seemed very long to Léodgard, who had become accustomed to the
pleasure of seeing his daughter. We do not fully realize the value of
things until we are deprived of them. Until that moment, the count had
thought perhaps that his daughter's presence was simply an agreeable
diversion; now, he felt that it had become an imperative need.

At last the doctor came, and Léodgard questioned him eagerly concerning
Blanche's condition.

The doctor began by allaying his fears, and continued:

"Even if this indisposition should prove to be one of the diseases
common to children, we would cure her."

"A disease! What disease do you suspect, doctor?"

"Why, it is what used to be called _Pusula_--the _feu ardent_, _feu
sauvage_, Saint Anthony's fire."[B]

  [B] Erysipelas.

"You terrify me, doctor!"

"But in those days they were very ignorant! It is simply the
measles--what we doctors call _Boa_; a skin disease, very light in
children, unless they are not properly cared for--unless there is
imprudence. There is no danger of that in this case.--But how are you,
monsieur le comte?"

"I am doing well, and I wish that I might be allowed to rise."

"Wait a few more days. If your wound should reopen, you would be kept in
bed for a long, long time. Be reasonable, monsieur le comte; it is
really a miracle that you have recovered."

"Thanks, doctor; but henceforth give all your attention to the child."

The doctor went away, but Jarnonville soon came to stay with the count.
On this occasion he did not find him taciturn and pensive as usual. The
count asked him with much eagerness if he had seen his daughter,
questioned him about her condition, and told him what he had learned
from the doctor. And as the chevalier never tired of talking about
Blanche, those two men, whose aspect was sometimes so stern and
forbidding, passed a large part of the day talking about a child.

The next day, the doctor declared that his opinion was confirmed, and
that the child had the measles--a disease attended with no danger, if
not complicated by other circumstances.

Léodgard did not allow five minutes to pass without ringing and sending
servants to inquire for his daughter. He no longer hesitated to give her
that title when he spoke of her; and Jarnonville could not conceal his
joy when the count at last uttered that word.

On the third day, after inquiring for Blanche, he exclaimed:

"Oh! how fortunate her mother is! She is with her, she can see her, if
nothing more; and I--who had become so accustomed to seeing her every
day--how long the time seems to me now!"

On the following day, the servants' faces were more downcast, and
Jarnonville himself, although he said that the disease was following its
regular course, seemed more anxious, less cheerful, concerning Blanche's
safety.

After scrutinizing the faces of all those about him, Léodgard summoned a
valet and ordered him to help him to dress.

"What! you intend to rise?" cried Jarnonville; "that is most imprudent;
the doctor still forbids it."

"The doctor does not know how much I suffer from not seeing my daughter;
the sight of her will be more beneficial to me than all his
prescriptions. Moreover, to-day everyone seems to be more anxious about
Blanche's health, and I wish to satisfy myself with my own eyes
concerning her condition. You will give me your arm, chevalier, and take
me to my daughter."

The tone in which the count spoke showed that all objections would be
fruitless.

Enveloped in a voluminous robe de chambre, Léodgard took Jarnonville's
arm, and left his apartment at last, to go to the wing occupied by
Bathilde and her child.

But, despite all his resolution, the convalescent, whose legs shook and
wavered, could go only very slowly, and a servant hastened before him to
announce to the countess her husband's coming.

When she learned that Léodgard had insisted upon coming to see his
daughter, Bathilde could not restrain a joyful cry; and she lovingly
embraced the little invalid, saying to her:

"It is on your account that he comes, dear child, it is you who bring
him back to me!--Oh! I am well aware that it is not I whom he wishes to
see, but I shall not go away, for I never leave you; from the instant
that you are suffering, my place is with you! And your father must needs
endure my presence, if he wishes to have a share in nursing you."

As for Ambroisine, who also was beside the child's cradle, she went at
once into another room; for in that first interview between the husband
and wife a witness would have been in the way.

Slow and heavy steps announced the count's arrival. Bathilde seated
herself at some little distance from her daughter's cradle; but when
Léodgard entered the room, leaning on Jarnonville's arm, she could not
refrain from looking at him, and she was painfully impressed by the
tremendous change in his whole appearance. Considerably thinner than of
old, extremely pale, and with naught reminiscent of his large eyes save
a feverish and sombre fire, the Comte de Marvejols was no more than the
shadow of his former self. But in Bathilde's eyes he was still the man
whom she adored, the father of her child; and she was obliged to make a
mighty effort to keep from rushing to him and throwing herself into his
arms.

Léodgard simply bent his head to his wife. His eyes sought his
daughter's cradle, and when he espied it he dropped the chevalier's
arm, went forward alone, put aside the curtains that covered it, and sat
down beside it. Blanche was at the point of waking; her sweet face was
purple and swollen as a result of her disease; but she smiled when she
woke, and on recognizing Léodgard she cried:

"Oh! my friend! my friend! he not sick too! he come to see Blanche!"

The count leaned over the cradle and covered the child with kisses.
Bathilde turned her head away to hide her tears; but they were not
unpleasant, and she did not try to restrain them.

"Does the doctor still say that there is no danger?" asked Léodgard,
addressing Jarnonville; but he pretended not to hear, in order to compel
the count to address his wife.

Seeing that the chevalier persisted in not replying, Léodgard made up
his mind to turn to Bathilde; whereupon the young woman murmured,
without looking at her husband:

"My daughter has now reached the point where her disease is at its
height; but to-night, about midnight, the doctor says that the fever
should begin to abate; he has assured me that Blanche is in no danger."

"But this extreme redness----"

"Is characteristic of this fever. It worried me too, but the doctor
declares that it is better that it should be so.--But you, monsieur le
comte--I thought that you were not allowed to leave your bed yet; is it
not imprudent?"

"Your husband would not listen to reason, madame," said Jarnonville;
"his desire to see his daughter was stronger than any words of mine!"

Léodgard looked up at the chevalier and smiled slightly.

"Ah!" he murmured; "you seem to be talking now, Jarnonville!"

Then, turning again toward his daughter, he said:

"Little darling! I am terribly bored, being deprived of your
visits!--Get well very soon; but meanwhile it is my turn to come to see
you, and I will come."

"Every day?" whispered Blanche.

"Oh, yes! every day! Au revoir, my child, au revoir!"

And the count rose, bowed to Bathilde, took the chevalier's arm, and
returned to his apartment.

But the next day it was impossible for Léodgard to rise; the exertion of
the preceding day had reopened his wound. The doctor scolded him roundly
for his imprudence, and the count was fain to be content with hearing
from his daughter every instant of the day. Luckily, the reports were
excellent; the malady was abating, and the recovery would be rapid.
Blanche should be brought to him as soon as it could be done without
danger to her.

Four days more had elapsed, when, on waking one morning, Léodgard found
Blanche on his bed. He threw his arms about her and covered her with
kisses.

"Friend still sick?" asked the little girl, smiling at her father. But
he gazed fondly at her, saying:

"You must not say _friend_, dear love; after this, call me _father_--do
you understand?--father; for you are my daughter, and I am proud of
you.--Oh! why did I not know this happiness sooner--this inward
satisfaction which a man feels in pressing his child in his arms!--But I
did not believe in it until I possessed you. I was still blind, and I
denied the light!"

Joys of the heart are always the best remedy for all ills. As soon as he
saw his daughter once more, Léodgard rapidly improved; he was soon well
enough to rise and walk about his room; but to make him perfectly
comfortable, Blanche must be with him. He seemed to become more attached
to her every day. Albeit vastly surprised by the power which the child
exerted over his heart, he did not try to combat it; on the contrary, he
abandoned himself to it with delight, for he realized that the
unfamiliar sensation that he felt was the only one which causes us to
enjoy true happiness.

Sometimes, however, as he held his daughter on his knee, with his eyes
resting on her lovely eyes, Léodgard would suddenly become depressed and
thoughtful, and a livid pallor would overspread his features. Then,
putting Blanche on the floor, he would walk hurriedly away from her,
hiding his face in his hands, and muttering:

"Poor child! Suppose that some day she should learn--that somebody
should tell her that her father---- She would curse me, perhaps!--Oh!
the mere thought is terrible! it is my most cruel punishment!"

And Léodgard would remain as if crushed by his thoughts; but Blanche,
unable to understand why her father had suddenly turned his back on her,
would run to him and take his hand, saying in her sweet voice:

"Papa, don't you love Blanche any more?"

The little angel's tones very soon made their way to her father's heart,
and, like a ray of sunshine, dissipated the storm that had gathered
there.



XLIX

WOMAN CHANGES

    "Woman's moods are light as air;
    Foolish he who trusts the fair!"


After his duel with Léodgard, the Marquis de Santoval returned to his
hôtel and went at once to his wife, who was anxiously awaiting the
result of the meeting, which she herself had brought about, between the
count and her husband.

When the marquis appeared with a triumphant air, Valentine was conscious
of a thrill of horror which went to her heart.

"You are avenged, madame, completely avenged!" said Monsieur de
Santoval, as he saluted his wife.

"Ah! I was very anxious, monsieur!"

"I thank you for your anxiety. But with me you need have had no fear!"

"Did you--meet--the Comte de Marvejols?"

"Yes, madame; you may be sure that he would not fail to accept your
amiable invitation. One has not such a charming rendezvous every
evening!--And that fellow is so conceited! he could not fail to fall
into the trap!"

"And how did it come about?"

"As naturally as possible. The count was rather surprised to see me;
however, he tried to throw dust in my eyes. But as I was in haste to
have done, I told him frankly the whole truth."

"Ah! you told him----"

"That you had made a fool of him, that you were very glad to give him a
lesson, without which your vengeance would have been incomplete!--Ah! if
you knew how frantic the handsome seducer became at that!"

"I can well believe it, monsieur."

"We instantly drew our swords.--He fights well, but his anger blinded
him."

"And you wounded him?"

"Wounded him!--Oh! I did better than that--I killed him, madame. A
superb thrust, which ran him through. If he recovers, it will surprise
me greatly.--But what is the matter, madame? You turn pale!"

"Yes, monsieur; in truth, I do not feel well--the anxiety I have
suffered to-night, and---- But a night's rest will restore me. Be good
enough to send Miretta here."

"On the instant.--Really, I am deeply touched by your interest in me;
but, as you see, I did not receive the slightest scratch."

"Yes, monsieur, yes; that sets my mind at rest. And--that unhappy
man--whom you killed--what has become of him?"

"Whatever God wills should become of him.--For myself, my dear love, you
will understand that the best thing for me to do was to come away at
once! The law concerning duels is very severe!--But Joseph alone was our
witness, and I am sure of that fellow's fidelity.--Come, marchioness, be
reassured; take some rest; no more anxiety. I will send Miretta to you."

The marquis left the room. Valentine sat perfectly still, as if she were
overwhelmed. Her brow was blanched, her eyes shone with a sombre fire;
it was evident that a cruel thought absorbed all her senses. It was in
this condition that Miretta found her when she entered the room.

"Did madame send for me? Madame seems to be suffering," said the girl,
as she observed her mistress. "But monsieur le marquis has returned--so
that he must have been the victor, and madame is avenged!"

Valentine raised her head and flashed a terrible glance at her
confidante, crying:

"Avenged! unhappy girl! Why, do you not know that I am a miserable,
infamous wretch?--For that man has killed him! He has killed him! and I
am the cause of it; it was I who gave him that assignation, who laid the
snare for Léodgard, by making him believe that I loved him!--Yes, I did
love him! I did not lie! I tried to deceive myself concerning my
feelings; I tried to delude myself. I told myself that he had disdained
me, that I should wreak vengeance upon him for his scorn. I told myself
that! But in the bottom of my heart I always loved him. I wanted to see
him at my feet, to hear him make sweet protestations of love. I saw him
there, and I caused his death! I killed him!--Oh! I have a horror of
myself! I am unworthy of pity! And I would give my life now to undo the
evil I have done!"

Miretta seemed more surprised than moved by her mistress's despair. She
contented herself with saying:

"So monsieur le marquis killed his opponent?"

"Yes; at least, he thinks so.--Ah! if, however---- Miretta, you are
brave--you must go out, hasten to Place Royale, near Rue des
Tournelles,--the place where I promised to meet him. Look carefully. If
Léodgard is still there, ascertain whether he is breathing, and, in that
case, knock at some shop door and implore help, and see that the count
is taken to his house in Rue de Bretonvilliers.--See, here is money; do
not spare it. With money one can always find people ready to do one's
bidding.--Go, Miretta; you can go out when you choose now; the marquis
has the most perfect confidence in you.--Go; find Léodgard, and do not
leave him until you have stationed a doctor by his side.--And then
return--return! I shall count the minutes."

Miretta did not seem overjoyed by the mission which was intrusted to
her; but, being entirely devoted to her mistress, she did not murmur,
and made haste to obey. Moreover, when she went out at night, a secret
hope always awoke in the depths of the girl's heart, and would have
given her courage if she had lacked it.

Miretta looked in vain for Léodgard on Place Royale; we know that the
wounded man was no longer there. But a great pool of blood, in which her
foot slipped, satisfied her that she had found the spot where the duel
had taken place. Seeing no light anywhere, and having no hope of
obtaining information at midnight, she returned to the Hôtel de
Santoval, walking slowly, however, with her ears strained to detect the
faintest sound, stopping from time to time when she thought that she
heard footsteps, and entirely oblivious of the commission her mistress
had given her.

Valentine meanwhile impatiently awaited her maid's return. She appeared
at last, and informed the marchioness that the Comte de Marvejols was no
longer on Place Royale.

"Some charitable person must have taken care of him," said Valentine;
"and if he was able to speak, he has probably been taken to his own
house. At daybreak, Miretta, you will hasten to Rue de Bretonvilliers,
enter the count's house, ascertain whether he has been taken there, and
inquire concerning his condition. At daybreak, do you understand?"

"I will obey you, madame."

And the next morning, almost before there was light enough to see,
Miretta set about executing the orders she had received. But at the
house in Rue de Bretonvilliers the count had not been seen since the
preceding day, and no one knew what had become of him.

Valentine's torment increased with the ill success of the investigations
which she caused to be made.

"But certainly that unfortunate man's body cannot have disappeared
without having given rise to some talk!" cried the marchioness. "He was
left for dead by his adversary on Place Royale, and that is where he
must have been found. Go there again, Miretta, pass the whole day there
if necessary; but do not return without bringing me some news of
Léodgard."

Once more Miretta obeyed her mistress's orders; and after passing a
large part of the day on Place Royale, she was about to return to the
Hôtel de Santoval, when she happened to meet Ambroisine, to whose house
she had not been for a very long time, but for whom she still cherished
profound gratitude.

The two girls greeted each other with a smile, and the bath keeper's
daughter said to Miretta:

"What has become of you, pray? I never see you!"

"I am still in the service of Mademoiselle Valentine, who is now
Marquise de Santoval; and you?"

"I come almost every day to see my friend Bathilde, who is now Comtesse
de Marvejols."

"Ah, yes! I remember; I have heard of that marriage."

"It is a most extraordinary story. But I have no time to talk at this
moment. If you knew--last evening, the Sire de Jarnonville and I found
Monsieur le Comte Léodgard lying on the ground yonder, under the arcade,
bathed in his own blood; I ran to the house--which is close by--and they
took the wounded man there.--He is very ill; however, there is still
some hope perhaps.--Adieu! adieu! I must go back to Bathilde!"

Miretta had learned all that she wished to know, and she hastened to
make her report to her mistress.

On learning that Léodgard was in the house occupied by his wife,
Valentine had almost a paroxysm of rage; at last she fell exhausted on a
chair, saying:

"With his wife! he is with her now! And this is what all my projects of
revenge have resulted in--uniting him to this Bathilde! bringing about a
reconciliation between them, perhaps! Oh, no! no! I will poison that
woman's happiness.--Ah! I should regret it less now if Léodgard should
die of his wound!"

But the marchioness's hopes were not gratified; we know that the count
did not die of the sword thrust administered by the Marquis de Santoval.

When Valentine was once informed of the place where Léodgard was, she
easily succeeded in obtaining news of him; and almost every day she
sent Miretta to inquire in the neighborhood of the Hôtel de Marvejols
concerning his condition. The servants, as they went in and out, never
failed to give their neighbors news of their master, whom they believed
to have been attacked on the street by brigands. So that Valentine knew
that he was convalescent, and that he would soon be able to go out. She
awaited that moment with impatience.

But the days passed, and Léodgard did not leave the Hôtel de Marvejols.

"He must be well content to be with his wife!" thought Valentine, far
from suspecting that it was a child who detained Léodgard under the same
roof with Bathilde. "I will wait no longer! for if I do, it will perhaps
be too late to tear the count away from this new life."

The marchioness summoned Miretta and said to her:

"Léodgard is now cured, entirely recovered from his wound, I know; and
yet he still remains with this Bathilde. But something tells me that I
still have some power over the count's heart, and that a word from me
would suffice to bring him back to my feet."

"What, madame! do you propose----"

"Hush, Miretta; you cannot understand what is taking place in my heart.
I have but one thought now: to give myself to Léodgard, and to leave
this Marquis de Santoval, whose mere presence is horrible to me.--Not a
word! Do not try to combat my resolution--it is not to be shaken. Would
not you have suffered everything, defied every danger, for your
Giovanni? Would you not, to obey only him, have disobeyed the whole
world?"

"Oh, yes! I would have done all that for Giovanni, madame; and I am
ready to do it still!"

"Be not surprised to find in another woman a sentiment at least as
imperious as that which you yourself know!"

"Ah! madame, I never would have sent Giovanni to fight with another
man!"

"Poor fool! do you know what you would have done if you had seen your
lover desert you for a rival?--But let us talk no more of the past! It
is for the purpose of atoning for it that I wish to send a message to
Léodgard. I wish it to be placed in his own hands. You cannot take
charge of it, because you are known to that bath keeper's daughter, the
noble countess's close friend; she would insist upon taking the letter,
she might inform her friend, and then they would divine from whom you
came."

"Oh, yes, madame! for I told her that I was still with you; and if
monsieur le comte has admitted having fought a duel with monsieur le
marquis, they would think, if I should carry a letter there, that
another duel was in contemplation, and they would be quite capable of
not giving it to the count."

"That is why I do not wish to intrust it to you. The little solicitor's
clerk will do the errand perfectly. Go, Miretta, and find him. But he
cannot come again to this house, where he was beaten. Make an
appointment with him in some solitary, out-of-the-way place, and I will
meet him there. Thank heaven! Monsieur de Santoval has ceased to be
jealous since that duel. He leaves me entirely free. Go, then, find this
Bahuchet, promise him money, much money; I know that he is not to be
relied on without that."

Miretta lost no time in going to Maître Bourdinard's office; she knew
the way very well.

But when she entered the dirty, smoke-begrimed room where Bahuchet and
his friend usually sat, she was surprised to find new faces in the
places of those which she was accustomed to see there.

"What do you wish, young woman?" asked an old fellow as yellow as
parchment, as he saw the girl gazing around the room.

"I wish to see Monsieur Bahuchet."

"Master Bahuchet is not here."

"Oh! he has gone out; at what hour will he return, if you please?"

"He won't return at all, thank God! I say that he is not here, which
means that Maître Bourdinard has dismissed him, discharged him, kicked
him out, in short; and he well deserved it!"

"Oho!--But he had a friend, whom I do not see here!"

"Oh, yes! his friend Plumard; another fine subject--a worthy pendant to
Bahuchet! Those fellows fought all day long, but they became reconciled
at night in order to raise the devil all over the city. But when one of
the master's clients, a certain Chevalier de Passedix, came here and
told him the story of an orange-colored costume that those two scamps
sold him, Maître Bourdinard's eyes were opened, and he turned the two
little clerks out of doors--Plumard with Bahuchet, supporting each
other!"

"In that case, monsieur, please give me this Monsieur Bahuchet's
address, so that I may know where to find him; I must speak with him."

"His address, young woman--the address of a Bahuchet! Do you suppose
such gentry have an address? Do they live anywhere? In wine shops and
gambling hells and bawdy houses--that's where they live! But, frankly, I
don't advise you to go there to look for him; and if the fellow owes you
money, you will do well to make a cross on it."

Unable to obtain any information concerning him she sought, Miretta
returned to report to her mistress the unsatisfactory result of her
visit to the solicitor's office.

"More delay!" muttered Valentine, smiling bitterly; "one would say that
destiny takes pleasure in multiplying obstacles to retard what I wish to
do! But nothing will tire out my perseverance.--Miretta, you must find
this Bahuchet; the fellow can have no reason for hiding, for he must now
be in quest of another place. Search Paris for him; disguise yourself,
if necessary; conceal your pretty face beneath an ample cap, and go to
those dens which Monsieur Bahuchet frequents.--Who knows? while looking
for him, perhaps you will find someone in whom you are interested."

Miretta shook her head, as if to say that she had ceased to hope; but
she prepared, none the less, to obey the marchioness.



L

THE APPLE-GREEN CHEVALIER


It was eleven o'clock in the morning; the weather was dry and cold; the
wind was from the north; and they who were obliged to go abroad on
business walked rapidly, and sometimes took the risk of running, in
order to return the sooner to their homes.

However, in that sharp atmosphere, which is not uncommon toward the end
of December, two young men were crossing Pont-Neuf very slowly, noses in
air, looking from side to side, stopping before the most trivial
objects, scrutinizing with a curious eye even the dogs that passed, and
which they sometimes seemed inclined to follow; in a word, these two
individuals sauntered along like people with nothing better to do,
albeit their garments were ill calculated to protect them from the
inclement weather.

Their short-clothes, which were threadbare through long service,
displayed here and there an occasional rent which had been awkwardly
patched with material of a different color; their jackets, which took
the place of doublets, were too long for them, lacked several buttons,
and were worn through at the elbows; and lastly, the caps which covered
their heads were entirely shapeless, and did not even conceal the tips
of their ears.

In these two companions in idling and evil fortune the reader will
already have recognized the two clerks whom Maître Bourdinard had
dismissed from his employment.

"Do you know that it's terribly cold this morning, Bahuchet?"

"Pardieu! do I know it? I feel it quite as keenly as you; except on the
head, however, as I have hair to protect me, whereas you--naught!--You
must regret your plaster at this moment; you were wrong to take it off,
Plumard, for it made a sort of little skullcap for you."

"Do you propose to begin your wretched jests again, Bahuchet? I give you
warning that I am in no mood to put up with them!"

"Come, come! let us not quarrel, my dear fellow; that won't give us a
breakfast, and that is what we must have. My stomach has a shockingly
hollow ring, and fasting doesn't warm one's blood."

"No, indeed--far from it!"

"I thought that you would go to see your uncle the clothes dealer,
Plumard. What the devil! if he should give you nothing but a cloak to
carry you through the winter,--and that would be the least he could do
for his nephew,--you might try to get a cloak large enough to make each
of us one."

"I went to my uncle's this morning, while you were still asleep in that
dram shop where we passed the night. But he received me so unkindly that
I have no desire to go there again. He called me vagabond,
good-for-nothing, robber--all on account of that miserable
orange-colored suit that we consumed together, and for which he arrested
that long-legged Chevalier Passedix!--Oh! he has that episode on his
stomach!"

"What a fuss to make over a few faded duds! What's the use of having
uncles if they let you freeze to death?"

"Holy forks! how hungry I am!"

"Rascally solicitor, to turn us into the street!"

"It's all the fault of that lanky, ill-built Gascon, who went to him and
told him the story of the orange costume!"

"And all the offices are supplied with clerks--no place to be found!"

"If we could only find some other business!"

"It's all one to me; I would take anything that was open!"

"Even if it was a cook's place?"

"Pardieu! I would take it, I would turn cook with all my heart! Can you
imagine a more alluring trade at this moment? To stand in front of a
nice hot oven and smell the odor of a number of saucepans from which
you always select the choicest bits?"

"Yes, I agree that that would be more agreeable than walking on
Pont-Neuf in such weather as this! But as it isn't probable that we can
find places even as scullions, I think that, in order to avoid
starvation, we had best allow ourselves to be kidnapped by a sergeant in
the king's service, and decide to serve our country as best we can!"

"What do you say, Plumard? Enlist--go into the army--carry a musket!
Nay, nay! by all the devils, that is not my vocation! Though I should
have to take another turn in my saddle girth and drink nothing but
water, I propose to retain my liberty."

"Oh, well! don't be so disturbed, my poor Bahuchet! you won't be
enlisted. Indeed, you know very well that, even if you wanted to go for
a soldier, they wouldn't take you! you're too small! you haven't the
build!"

Bahuchet bit his lips and elevated his nose, as he rejoined, with a
mocking smile:

"If they don't want short men in the army, I fancy they don't care much
about having bald-headed ones either."

"You are an ass, my boy; as a soldier never goes bareheaded, either in
battle or on parade, he is entitled to have no hair if he pleases."

"You lie; it's part of the uniform; soldiers have their hair
dressed--they wear pigtails."

"I have some hair at the back of my head, to make a pigtail if need be."

"Oh! that would be very pretty! a pigtail hanging from a pate as bald as
one's knee!"

"It would be quite as pretty as a dwarf in uniform, whose sword dragged
on the ground!"

"Plumard, I believe that you are pining for a drubbing!"

"No; but I am pining to administer one; that will warm me."

"Indeed!--Well, I don't choose to receive one.--Look you, dear boy, it
is hunger that embitters our dispositions and makes us quarrelsome. The
proverb is very true: when there's no hay in the manger, the donkeys
fight."

"So you liken us to donkeys, eh?"

"Plumard, that proverb was made for men as well as for beasts.--Speaking
of beasts, cast your eye on that little dog running along yonder; how
clean and plump he is!"

"Are you inclined to eat that dog, I should like to know?"

"I' faith! in default of other viands, it might not be so bad. You, who
had an idea of going for a soldier, ought to know that in a town
beleaguered and besieged by the enemy they eat everything: dogs, cats,
rats!--Indeed, an old archer told me that one time, when he was in a
besieged place, he ate birds that had been stuffed and kept under glass
several years."

"They must have made a sorry feast.--But the dog has stopped; if we
could induce him to follow us, even if we had to use a little force, we
could sell him to a dog fancier and get the wherewithal to gnaw a
crust."

"You are right--come; let us act as if we did not see him. I will go
ahead, you stay behind, and we will surround the cur."

The two clerks quickened their pace, walking in the direction of the dog
they coveted, which had stopped to sniff a multitude of things. Bahuchet
was very near him, and was trying to coax him by talking to him in an
endearing tone; but just as he was about to put his hand on the animal's
collar, a heavy, callous hand roughly pushed his away, and a hoarse
voice exclaimed:

"Don't touch my dog, little jackanapes! He hasn't done anything to
you--why do you put your hand on him?"

"Pardon me, monsieur," replied Bahuchet, bowing low to the dog's owner,
a man of the people, with square shoulders and a face as rugged as his
hands; "I had no intention to injure this pretty spaniel; but he is so
handsome, so well trimmed, that I admired him and felt a desire to pat
him--that is all!"

"Oh, yes! oh, yes! I've heard that before! They make believe to pat our
dogs, and then, when no one is looking, they carry 'em off under their
cloaks. Pont-Neuf is always crowded with a pack of pickpockets, sneak
thieves, cutpurses!"

"Monsieur! I believe that you are insulting me! Do I look like a sneak
thief? I couldn't put your dog under my cloak, because I have none."

"Why did you put your hand on him? You don't look as if you had any too
much cash; go and have your elbows patched--that will be better than
patting other people's dogs!"

The owner of the spaniel walked away with his animal, and Bahuchet
returned with a crestfallen air to Plumard, who had deemed it prudent to
stand aloof.

"Did you hear that clown, that clodhopper, that pig?--If I had not held
myself in check, I should have gashed his face!"

"You did well to restrain yourself; that man would have made but one
mouthful of you!--It's a shot that missed fire, that's all!"

"Yes, let us try to find something better. Bigre! how cold I am!"

"Fichtre! how hungry I am!"

The two comrades walked on, exploring Pont-Neuf with famished eyes.
Suddenly Bahuchet stopped and uttered an exclamation of delight.

"It is he! it is certainly he!"

"Who, pray? do you see another dog?"

"I see someone who, unless we are fools, will pay for our breakfast, and
perhaps even more than that."

"Who is it?"

"Look, over yonder! Do you see that long beanpole dressed in
apple-green? Don't you recognize him?"

"Yes, indeed; it's our heir, the Chevalier de Passedix; but it seems to
me that he has changed his color."

"Come, Plumard, come; imitate me, second me, talk as I do--and a new
fortune will shine upon us!"

Thereupon little Bahuchet doubled the length of his strides, his comrade
followed his example, and they soon stood in front of Passedix, who was
strutting nonchalantly across Pont-Neuf, glancing out of the corner of
his eye to see whether the women who passed admired his bearing and his
attire, and casting upon the common herd patronizing glances which
seemed to say:

"Stand aside! I am rich--you must make room for me; I require a great
deal."

The Gascon chevalier was, in truth, in very comfortable case; six
thousand livres at that period were equivalent to fifteen thousand in
these times. Passedix, not being a gambler, did not find it easy to
spend his income; for the women did not welcome his homage; moreover,
his passion for Miretta still smoldered in the depths of his heart and
prevented him from falling in love with other charmers. So that he could
spend his money only at the table; and, despite his hearty appetite, he
could not succeed in eating his whole income, especially as his stomach,
as a result of overwork, began to show symptoms of sloth and to demand
rest from time to time.

Passedix therefore seemed but little surprised when he saw two persons
halt in front of him, bow to the ground, and remain in that humble
posture, which prevented him from going forward.

"What is it? what is the matter? what do you want, little fellows?"
queried the chevalier, caressing his chin with one hand and placing the
other on his hip.

"Monsieur le Chevalier de Passedix, permit us to offer you our respects;
we are so happy to have this honor! Does not monsieur le chevalier
recognize us?"

"Sandis! how do you suppose that I can recognize you? you show me only
your posteriors!--Rise, if you wish me to see your faces!"

Bahuchet and Plumard stood erect, the latter having decided to uncover
his head.

"Ah! cadédis! now I recognize you, my knaves!--This is the little
bald-head!--It was you who sold me the famous orange costume that you
filched from the dealer in second-hand clothes!"

"He was my uncle, monsieur le chevalier--an old skinflint, who gave it
to me and then accused me----"

"Oh! it matters little now; I have forgotten that trifle!--But you seem
to me, both of you, to be in rather a sorry plight!"

"Alas! monsieur le chevalier, we are without employment. Maître
Bourdinard--er--discharged us, on the pretext that we ate too much!"

"The idiot! I would like to be able to eat too much, myself; but for
some time past my appetite has fallen off; it is becoming as whimsical
as a woman."

"We are looking for places, monsieur le chevalier, and, i' faith!
Plumard and I were strolling along Pont-Neuf, when some ladies, as they
passed us, cried: 'Oh! see that handsome man over there, dressed all in
apple-green! Just see, my dear, what a fine figure! how well he carries
that elegant costume!'--Then we looked in the direction in which the
ladies were looking, and on recognizing you, monsieur le chevalier, we
were not surprised at the outburst of admiration from those
bourgeoises."

Passedix's face fairly beamed with pleasure. He placed his hand on
Bahuchet's shoulder, murmuring:

"Really! some ladies said that?"

"Yes, monsieur le chevalier;--isn't it so, Plumard?"

"It is the unadulterated truth; and there was one of them--the
younger--who stopped and said in a faltering tone: 'Let us walk toward
him!' but her companion, who was older, dragged her away, saying: 'No,
no; I see that that cavalier has turned your head; come, you will do
some foolish thing!'"

This time Passedix patted the second clerk's skull.

"Ah! capédébious! that young woman was attracted to me.--Ha! ha! these
two little rascals are very nice fellows. I rather like this bald head,
it reminds me of Dutch cheese, of which I am very fond.--Speaking of
cheese, tell me, young men, have you breakfasted, or dined?"

"Neither, monsieur le chevalier; we have fasted since yesterday noon."

"And we have a devilish appetite."

"Why didn't you say so at once!--Come with me; at the end of Rue
Saint-Jacques there's a wine shop where the wine is excellent; you will
tell me what you think about it."

"Oh! with great pleasure, monsieur le chevalier; but what a beautiful
cloak, what an exquisite doublet you have!"

"And these short-clothes! how dainty they are!"

"How this color becomes you! See! there is another fine lady stopping to
look at you!"

"Sandis! I am accustomed to it.--Come, my friends, and put on your caps;
I give you leave! Parbleu! I propose to regale you in the good old way!"

The two ex-clerks walked beside the Gascon chevalier, like two soldiers
escorting a marshal of France. They arrived at the wine shop at the end
of Rue Saint-Jacques. Passedix was known there, and, as he was now a
good customer, the waiters served him with the greatest zeal. The
chevalier selected a table, ordered three covers to be laid, and seated
himself between his two guests, saying:

"What vexes me is that I cannot eat with you. I have already breakfasted
twice, and I do not feel capable of dining at this moment. Formerly it
would have been easy for me. On my honor, it is pitiful! When one
becomes rich, one's capacities should be enlarged accordingly. But it is
just the opposite! When I had not a sou, I ate four times as much; to be
sure, I didn't eat every day. However, one can always drink, and that is
something."

Bahuchet and Plumard conducted themselves in such wise as to augment the
chevalier's regret for his lost appetite. The dishes simply appeared and
disappeared before the ex-clerks; their plates were no sooner filled
than they were as clean as if they had been washed; and this lasted for
a considerable time. The two friends hardly took time to drink.

"Bravo! sandioux! this is magnificent! it is superb!" cried Passedix;
"this is what I call eating--this is the way I used to work! It spurs
one on! it sets one on edge! I am sure that in your company I should
soon recover my former appetite!"

"Nothing prevents it, monsieur le chevalier; we are entirely at your
service; and there is a very simple way to make sure that we shall
always be at hand."

"What way is that, little one?"

"Attach us to your illustrious person! I believe that you have no
esquire; you need one--a chevalier of your rank cannot do without an
esquire; give me that post, and I will show myself worthy of the honor,
on the faith of Plumard!"

"Eh! why, in truth, that is not a bad idea! An esquire--yes, that looks
well; I will make him wear my livery."

"And I, seigneur," said Bahuchet, in his turn, "I offer myself as your
page; for an esquire is not enough--you need a page to carry your
billets-doux, your love messages--for you must send many of them!"

"Oh! to be sure, I send and receive a great many--that is to say, not so
many as you might think, perhaps, because---- Look you, I am going to
open my heart to you, to make you my confidants."

"That is too much honor for us, seigneur!"

"Understand that I nourish in the depths of my heart a passion which I
have tried a hundred times to banish; but it is impossible; the witch
constantly returns to torment me night and day!"

"Is monsieur le chevalier in love?"

"Pardieu! I should say as much! So much in love that I have lost my
sleep, my wits, and even my appetite! for it probably is this infernal
love that weighs on my stomach and impairs my digestion."

"Can it be that monsieur le chevalier's heart is fixed on a cruel fair!
That is not possible."

"You are right, Plumard; it is not possible! There can be no cruel fair
for monsieur le chevalier!"

"Mon Dieu! my boys,--what nice little fellows they are!--it is an
extraordinary case, most assuredly! But if you knew the history of my
love!--My heart is set upon a lovely female demon, whom I cannot see
when I wish--who eludes me, flies from me! who vanishes when I think
that I have her!"

"Monsieur le chevalier, whoever the object of your love may be, if you
take me for your page, I will undertake, ere long, to make you the happy
vanquisher of your inamorata!"

"And I take the same oath if I become esquire to Monsieur le
Chevalier--apple-green--I mean de Passedix; he will see how we will
forward his love affairs!"

"Very good! shake hands! it is a bargain; I attach you both to my
person; you are my page, and you my esquire."

"Vive monsieur le chevalier!"

"I say nothing of wages--but whatever you receive will be yours."

"That is enough for us."

"Are you still hungry?"

"Always!"

"They are admirable!--Waiter, a succulent dish to close the repast; a
fricassée of hare! that is your forte. And let us drink--let us even
touch glasses--I will condescend so far.--Moreover, I know that you are
young men of good breeding, ex-Basochians; for that reason, when I am
alone, I will always admit you to my table."

"And we will give you an appetite, seigneur!"

"I rely upon it!"

The goblets were filled; they touched and drank. At that moment the
waiter arrived with the last dish ordered; he came toward them and was
on the point of placing it on the table, when Plumard, in a renewed
outburst of enthusiasm, raised his arm and his glass so suddenly that he
overturned upon Passedix the dish that the waiter had in his hands.

In an instant the chevalier was covered from top to toe with the
fricassée of hare; his doublet and his short-clothes were drenched with
it. Passedix swore like one possessed, and would have thrashed the
waiter, who declared that it was not his fault. Plumard shouted even
louder, so that no one should guess that it was his. Bahuchet, who alone
had remained calm, observed, when the others had ceased their outcries:

"It was an accident! But since the harm has been done, monsieur le
chevalier, it seems to me that, instead of losing your temper, which
will do no good at all, it would be much better to think of repairing
the disaster."

"Repair the disaster! Sandis! my doublet and my breeches are covered
with grease. Such an elegant costume!--spoiled--ruined!--Can I show
myself in this condition?--Luckily, I had taken off my cloak; otherwise
it would undoubtedly have received its share of the fricassée!"

"I say again, seigneur, that the damage is not so great as you think; I
know a dyer and cleanser on Rue Saint-Denis, who is renowned for his
skill in removing spots from every kind of fabric; he will cleanse your
clothes perfectly, and it will not cost you overmuch."

"Eh! cadédis! what care I for the cost? As if I ever looked at money!
That is not what disturbs me! But in order to have my doublet and
breeches cleansed, I must certainly take them off; so I shall be left
almost naked--in shirt and cloak--and I cannot go home in that airy
costume."

"Another suggestion, seigneur," said Plumard; "suppose we should go to
some bathing establishment? You have eaten nothing, so you may safely
take a bath; and while you are taking it, Bahuchet will run to the
cleanser's with your clothes."

"Ah! that is not badly thought of! I approve my esquire's suggestion; I
was just thinking that I should like to bathe."

"Master Hugonnet's baths are on this street, not far away; let us go
there, seigneur."

"In that case, I must go out with this sauce all over me! That annoys
me!"

"We will walk close beside you, seigneur, one on the right, the other on
the left; and with your cloak, in addition, no one will see anything!"

"Very well, so be it!--Let us start at once for the baths; I am in haste
to be cleansed!"

Passedix paid the bill and left the wine shop, flanked by his page and
his esquire.



LI

A BATH


The chevalier and his bodyguard arrived at Master Hugonnet's.

"A bath for me instantly," said Passedix; "and while I am in the water,
my page here will take my garments to the cleanser's."

Master Hugonnet escorted the Gascon to the hot baths.

"I do not see your daughter Ambroisine, La Belle Baigneuse," Passedix
said to him on the way.

"She is rarely here now, seigneur chevalier; she passes a great part of
her time with Madame la Comtesse de Marvejols, who, although she has
become a _grande dame_, has not ceased to be a most affectionate friend
to my daughter."

"Oh, yes! I know; I have heard the story of the interesting Bathilde."

"But, in any event, monsieur le chevalier, even if my daughter was here,
you would hardly expect her to act as bath attendant for you, I
presume?"

"Eh? who the devil said anything about that? Everybody knows that La
Belle Baigneuse is as virtuous as she is cruel. I would like my bath to
be rather hot; my page and my esquire will help me to get into it."

In a twinkling the ex-clerks undressed their new master, who entered the
water without observing the grimaces and contortions to which the young
men were obliged to resort in order to avoid laughing at the aspect of
the Gascon's thin, yellow body. Bahuchet hastily made a bundle of the
doublet and breeches, took it under his arm, and started for the
cleanser's.

"Does monsieur le chevalier wish his esquire to remain in attendance
while he is in the bath?" inquired Plumard, when his comrade had gone.

"I do not see the necessity; go out into the street and take the air;
but do not go far away, so that you may be at hand to hasten hither if I
require your services."

"I will remain below, at the shop door, where I can hear if you ring."

Plumard left the cabinet in which Passedix was bathing. He went
downstairs and chatted with Master Hugonnet, who, taking advantage of
his daughter's absence, had already emptied several jars of wine with
his neighbors, and was consequently in the mood for talking and for
drinking more.

A half-hour passed. The Gascon was thinking of Miretta, of his wealth,
and of the effect he would produce with a page and an esquire. But after
giving sufficient thought to all these subjects, he began to find the
time rather long. He pulled a bellrope, and the bath attendant
appeared; he was a new servant, who had been in Master Hugonnet's employ
but a short time, and seemed as yet unfamiliar with his duties.

"Was it monsieur who rang?"

"To be sure it was I!"

"Does monsieur want anything?"

"As I rang, it is probable that I want something--but not you, sandis!
for you seem to me not to be very bright! Send my _écuyer_ [esquire] to
me."

"You want your _écu_--"

"I said nothing about my _écu_! I want my _écuyer!_--An _écu_ is a
shield--perhaps you don't know that, blockhead! A gentleman takes his
_écu_ only when he is about to go into the lists or into battle. What in
the devil do you suppose I want of my _écu_ when I am in the bath? Do
you imagine that I am going to wield a lance while I bathe?"

"Why, I don't know!"

"Begone, and send my esquire to me!"

The attendant went down into the shop, where he found his master
drinking with Plumard and several shopkeepers of the neighborhood.

"Who is the esquire of that tall, lanky, ugly gentleman bathing
upstairs?" the attendant asked.

There was no reply; they were all too busily occupied, drinking,
talking, and laughing, to pay any heed to what he said. Finding that no
one answered him, the attendant calmly took a seat at the rear of the
shop, saying to himself:

"The esquire doesn't seem to be here. No matter! it isn't my fault."

After waiting five minutes for his esquire to appear, Passedix concluded
to ring again.

"That bath attendant looks so stupid," he thought, "that I'll wager he
didn't understand what I said!"

The attendant, seated at the rear of the shop, heard the bell
distinctly, but he did not stir; he settled down comfortably in his
chair and said to himself:

"There's that tall skeleton ringing again; it can't be anybody else, for
there's nobody else in the baths just now.--But it isn't worth while for
me to go there, as he wants his esquire and not me.--As if I knew where
his esquire is! it's probably that little bit of a fellow that ran off
with a bundle under his arm, and he hasn't come back!"

Several more minutes passed, and the bell rang again, more violently.

The attendant kept his seat; it even seemed to amuse him to hear such a
merry peal.

Soon the jangling of the bell became incessant; and as there came a
moment when no one of the drinkers was speaking, because they were
emptying their glasses, Master Hugonnet at last heard the _carillon_ in
which his customer was indulging.

"Someone is ringing! Sarpejeu! someone is ringing! Don't you hear, Jean?
you sit there as calmly as you please! Go, see what is wanted."

"Oh! I hear the bell well enough, and I've heard it a long while,
monsieur; but it's no use going to see; I have been once."

"But the gentleman in the bath is calling."

"Yes; and I tell you that I went to see what he wanted. He wants his
esquire--that's what he wants; but I am not his esquire."

"His esquire!" cried Plumard, placing his glass on the table. "The
devil! you should have told me; I am his esquire!"

"I called you, but you didn't answer."

"Fichtre! I am going to be scolded. I must hurry; he is ringing as if he
would tear everything to pieces."

Plumard entered the cabinet where Passedix was bathing; he found him
exasperated, frantic with rage.

"Did monsieur le chevalier ring?"

"Did I ring! knave! gallows-bird! you presume to ask me! Why, I have
been ringing an hour!"

"Don't charge it to me, monseigneur; it's the fault of that fool of an
attendant. He said nothing to me; I only learned a moment ago that you
wanted me. I am terribly distressed, O my master!"

"I will thrash that attendant when I am out of the bath!"

"You will do well, monsieur le chevalier."

"Tell me, esquire, have you not yet seen my page return?"

"No, monseigneur, not yet."

"It seems to me that he is very long; it is nearly an hour that I have
been in the water, and I am beginning to have enough of it!"

"If monsieur le chevalier wishes to get out of the bath----"

"Get out! what in the devil shall I put on? I have neither short-clothes
nor doublet; I cannot go into the street in my shirt and cloak simply!"

"That is true; if monseigneur wishes, I will go to see if Bahuchet is
coming."

"No, no! Cadédis! I have no desire to be forced to ring another hour, to
recall you.--Sandioux! this water is getting cold; my page is making a
fool of his master!"

"Perhaps the spots are difficult to remove."

"I am afraid--I am shivering--I shall take cold.--Go, tell the bath
attendant to bring me some hot water."

In those days, persons who indulged in baths had not at their hand
faucets with which to heat or cool the water at pleasure; bath keepers
have progressed, like other people; but at that time the attendant
brought water in a pail to put in the bath tub.

Plumard went out to perform his master's commission.

"The fire's out," said the attendant, "there's no more hot water; your
tall, withered master has been in the bath more than an hour, and the
best thing he can do is to go away; it will take too long to start up
the fire again."

"Well-managed baths these, on my word! It's evident enough that Master
Hugonnet is drinking and that his daughter is away from home!"

And Plumard returned to the chevalier, who was beginning to shiver.

"I regret to announce, monseigneur, that there is no more hot water in
the establishment."

"No more hot water? Cadédis! what does this mean? are they laughing at
me?"

"No, my honored master; but the attendant has allowed the fire to go out
that heats the water for the baths. Master Hugonnet has been drinking so
much with some friends that it is impossible to obtain anything from
him!"

"O fair Ambroisine! it is evident that you pass all your time with a
countess! These baths are being managed wretchedly; it will be very hot
when I bathe here again!--And that rascally page does not return!--I
cannot pass the whole day in the water, however; it weakens me
terribly!"

"If monsieur le chevalier wishes--there must be some second-hand shop
hereabout; I could go there and buy a doublet and a pair of breeches!"

"I' faith! you are right; that is what we should have done long
ago.--Here, take my purse, which, luckily enough, I did not leave in my
short-clothes, and hasten to buy me something to wear--the first things
that you see, provided they are decent."

"Yes, monseigneur."

"And of some light color--they are most becoming to me. Do not consider
the price, but make haste, sandioux! for I am all gooseflesh. Have you
my purse?"

"Yes, monseigneur; I fly to the second-hand shop."

Plumard left the cabinet, and called to the attendant as he passed
through the shop:

"We will do without your hot water; my master is going to leave the
bath."

"In that case," said the attendant to himself, as he looked after the
esquire, "it seems that the tall, thin man won't want it any more; if
he's going to get out of his bath, I can begin to draw the water out of
his tub."

He went to a room situated directly beneath the men's bathrooms, pressed
a spring corresponding to the tub that he proposed to empty, and opened
a cock through which the water ran out of doors.

As for Master Hugonnet, urged by his friends, and no longer in full
possession of his reason, he had left his house, to make himself
completely drunk at his favorite wine shop.

Passedix sat in his tub, as motionless as a statue, because he knew that
the more one moves about, the more quickly the water grows cool. That in
his tub had fallen nearly to zero. The poor chevalier turned purple and
counted the minutes, saying to himself:

"Capédébious! I trust that my esquire will move more rapidly than my
page; I should have left him unrestricted in the matter of colors; he
will try to find a pretty shade, and that will delay him.--Well, what
does this mean? I have no water on my shoulders! But I had some a moment
ago. One would say that my bath was running away! Why, yes--it is not a
dream--my water is falling--my breast is dry!--Ah! ten thousand muskets!
this is the climax of our adventures!--Who is the gallows-bird, the
villain, the blockhead, that amuses himself emptying my bath tub? It
must be that dolt of an attendant! By Roland! the rascal shall pay me
for this! In a moment I shall be left high and dry, and all naked! This
is horrible! May the devil fly away with my esquire and my page!--Let us
ring! let us ring!--Ah! I shall not forget this bath!"

Passedix seized the bellrope and pulled it so hard that it broke in his
hand; but luckily the attendant heard the bell, and, as he knew that the
esquire had gone, he concluded to go up, saying to himself:

"It must be me that this gentleman wants now, as he has sent his
servants away; he wants to pay for his bath, I suppose, and give me a
_pourboire_."

But he was stupefied, on opening the door of the cabinet, to see the
chevalier still naked in the bath tub, where there was no longer a drop
of water, glaring savagely at him and threatening him with his fist.

"What! are you taking a dry bath, monsieur?" said the surprised
attendant.

"A dry bath, knave! a dry bath, blockhead! Why am I left high and dry in
my bath tub? Because you have drawn the water off, I presume!"

"Well! monsieur's esquire called to me when he went out: 'My master's
going to leave the bath!' so then I said to myself: 'I can empty the
tub.'"

"Ah! you clown, if I die of inflammation of the lungs, you shall pay me
for this! I am frozen!"

"But, monsieur, after all, why do you insist on staying in the tub
instead of dressing yourself?"

"Dressing myself! They are all in a plot to drive me frantic! Here is my
esquire doing just as my page did! He doesn't come back! How well I am
served! It was worth while setting up a staff of servants!--Well, I must
make up my mind to something. Give me my linen, rascal! and while I am
putting it on, that infernal bald-head will return, I trust--or perhaps
my page, Bahuchet!"

But Plumard, on leaving Master Hugonnet's house, weighed in his hand the
purse that his new master had bade him take. It was a large purse and
well filled; the ex-clerk could not resist the desire to know how much
it contained; so he stopped, sat on a stone, and counted out in the
hollow of his hand twenty-two gold pieces. That amounted to a
considerable sum; the ex-Basochian had never possessed so much. The
sight of the gold dazzled him; and the numerous bumpers he had drunk at
Master Hugonnet's having made him slightly giddy, he passed his hand
across his brow and muttered:

"By Saint Grimoire! I shall never earn as much as this in a year,
playing the esquire to that long, loose-jointed chevalier. Suppose I
should begin by enjoying myself with this money? The opportunity is all
the better because I shall not have to share with Bahuchet. I am in
luck, on my word! I'll go to the tavern which the pretty girls of the
quarter frequent; it's at the Pré-aux-Clercs. I have enough to treat
them like a great nobleman!--Oh! I'll wager that they will not refuse to
dance a courante or a Périgourd step with me to-night."

And Monsieur Plumard placed the purse in his belt and betook himself to
the Pré-aux-Clercs, without another thought for him he had left in the
bath.

Bahuchet, having no purse intrusted to him, had been unable to follow
the same course of action as his friend Plumard; but other reasons kept
him from returning to the chevalier.

Having taken his new master's garments to the cleanser's, where he was
told that it would take a long quarter of an hour to remove the spots on
the doublet and breeches, the little man left the shop and strolled
aimlessly along the street, stopping to look at everything that could
possibly amuse him for a moment.

Suddenly, as he was watching two dogs fight, Bahuchet felt a tap on his
shoulder. He turned and recognized Miretta, the young Marquise de
Santoval's pretty lady's-maid.

"I have found you at last, Monsieur Bahuchet," she said; "I have been
looking for you all over Paris for a long time."

"You have been looking for me, captivating brunette?"

"Yes; I went to your solicitor's to find you."

"To Maître Bourdinard's?--He dismissed me because I made blots on the
paper with my pen, and that wasted the ink. I say! what a skinflint!--So
you have been looking for me! I beg you to believe that, if I had known
it---- Do you require the services of your humble servant?"

"No, not I, but my mistress, madame la marquise.--Come, come quickly,
away from all these people."

"Oh! pardon me, pretty maid, but if I must go to the Hôtel de Santoval
again--many thanks! I am not your man! I remember the way I was treated
at the time of the last visit I paid you; I remember very well too that,
after beating me outrageously with stirrup leathers, the lackeys said:
'This is how you will be received every time that you come to this
house!'--After that, you may well be sure that I would not risk the end
of my nose there for anything in the world!--Look you--I am entirely
devoted to your lovely mistress, but more than all else I love my own
shoulders, I have the warmest regard for my ribs, and I have no desire
to be cudgelled again!"

"You will not be asked to go to the Hôtel de Santoval again, although
everything is changed there now."

"Where are you taking me, then?"

"Wherever you choose; select for yourself the place where you will await
my mistress; she will meet you there, for she is most desirous to speak
with you in secret, and to intrust to you a letter for the Comte de
Marvejols. If you undertake to deliver the letter, she will give you
money, as much as you ask."

"As much money as I ask!--By Mercury! pretty lady's-maid, this deserves
consideration!--Moreover, I am too gallant to refuse to hold an
interview with your mistress, whom I know to be as generous as she is
beautiful.--Faith! so much the worse for my new master; I will tell him
that the spots stuck like the devil; I can always find some fable to
tell him.--Let us be off."

"Choose the place where you will await my mistress."

"Let me see; I must try to think of a place where there are not too many
passers, so that we may talk undisturbed. Yes; I have what we want--on
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, I know a place where there have been no houses
built as yet; there is a hollow there, where one can talk as comfortably
as in one's own house; and it is not far from madame la marquise's
hôtel."

"Let us make haste, then."

Bahuchet and Miretta doubled their pace. The sometime clerk knew his
Paris perfectly, and the streets one could take to lessen the distance.
In a short time they reached Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. The little man
stopped at a vacant lot, where building materials had been dropped.

"This is the place; it is very convenient for a private conversation,
you see."

"It is well. Remain here, while I go to fetch my mistress."

"She will not be long?"

"I promise you that she will be here within half an hour."

"Very good! Above all things, do not let her bring one of her tall
lackeys with her! If I see one of them in the distance, off I go, and I
give you my word that you will not catch me!"

"Do you think that my mistress is setting a trap for you, Monsieur
Bahuchet?"

"No, pretty brunette, I certainly do not think that; but, look you, when
one has been thrashed as I was, one may well retain some apprehension."

"Fie! a man, and afraid! At least, you should not admit it. I am only a
woman, but I have never known what fear is!--Stay here, Monsieur
Bahuchet, and fear nothing; you will be handsomely paid."

Miretta fled with the swiftness of a deer; and Bahuchet seated himself
on a stone, saying to himself:

"That girl is well fitted to enter one of these new companies of
mousquetaires which are said to be forming; I am sure that she would
march into fire without a tremor.--After all, I have no occasion for
fear; although there are very few passers on this street, still there
are some. I myself chose the place of rendezvous.--So the fair Valentine
is still in love with the handsome Comte Léodgard! Hum! these women!
when a passion has taken firm root in their heart, all the obstacles
they encounter simply whet their appetite.--And that man who is waiting
for me in his bathtub? Faith! let him wait! he will be all the cleaner
for it! Besides, Plumard is with him; he will tell him lies to keep him
patient. But money--all the money I want! That I know is a way of
speaking; but still, the fair marchioness is generous--generous and
amorous; and she flings her money away freely!"

Bahuchet had not been at his post twenty-five minutes, when he spied two
women at the end of the street; one of them, enveloped in a cloak, and
with her head covered by a thick veil, glanced occasionally to the right
and left. They were the marchioness and her confidante. About fifty
yards from Bahuchet, Valentine told Miretta to stop, and went forward
alone toward the little ex-Basochian, who bowed low in the distance.

"Here I am, Monsieur Bahuchet; I have not kept you waiting too long, I
hope?"

"No, madame. Oh! I knew that with madame la marquise I should not lose
my time."

"Do not waste it in empty words. Will you undertake to carry this letter
to the Comte de Marvejols?"

"With great pleasure, madame."

"Here it is; accept at the same time this purse, and my promise to give
you twice as much as it contains if you bring me a reply from the
count--a line written by him."

Bahuchet could hardly hold in his hand the purse that Valentine placed
there, it was stuffed so full of gold pieces to its very mouth. He was
dazzled; he gazed at the purse in respectful admiration; and when he
heard the marchioness promise him twice as much more, his devotion could
contain itself no longer, and he cried:

"You shall have a reply from monsieur le comte, madame! You shall have
it, even if I have to write it myself!--No, not that; my zeal carries me
away; I do not know what I am saying!--But, once more, madame, the count
shall send you a reply; I will make it my business."

"You will take this letter to him at once?"

"Yes, madame. Oh! on the instant.--The other man may keep on bathing; I
don't care a fig for that!"

"Do you know where the count is now?"

"At his little hôtel in Rue de Bretonvilliers, I presume?"

"No; he is at present at the Hôtel de Marvejols, on Place Royale."

"Very good; I fly thither----"

"One moment! Léodgard is under the same roof with--his wife; you will
understand that you must give this letter into his own hands. Do not
intrust it to any other person. Ask to speak with the count in private;
see to it that there is no one with him when he reads my letter."

"I understand, madame, I understand. Never fear! I see that mystery is
necessary; I will act with all prudence."

"Do not say, when you present yourself at the house, that you come from
me; in that case, you would not be allowed access to Léodgard!"

"I am not so stupid!--By the way, madame; this reply which, I make no
doubt, the count will give me--where shall I deliver it to you?"

"Come here again this evening, at nine o'clock; you will find Miretta
here--she will await your coming."

"Very good! And Miretta will--will hand me what madame la marquise is
generous enough to promise me?"

"I always fulfil my promises, monsieur."

"Then I will go at once to Place Royale."

"And at nine o'clock this evening----"

"I will return here."

The marchioness joined Miretta and walked rapidly away with her, while
little Bahuchet, after fondling for a moment the purse filled with gold,
thrust it into his belt, and hastened away toward Place Royale.

And while all these things were happening, the Chevalier de Passedix,
clad only in shirt, ruff, and funnel-shaped boots, paced the floor of
his bathroom, stamping angrily and muttering:

"Knave of a page! blackguard of an esquire! Where on earth are they?
What has become of them? Cadédis! if this is the way those villains
serve me, I will kick them out of my employ at the earliest possible
moment!--But I shall not have the trouble of doing it if they do not
return. Miserable knaves! they have robbed me again! They shall have a
taste of Roland!--Woe to them if I ever fall in with them!"

And in his rage Passedix seized his sword, drew it from the scabbard,
and threatened everything within his reach; which performance caused the
bath attendant, who had remained in one corner of the room, to shudder
with fear. At last, losing patience, and feeling extremely cold,
Passedix halted in front of him and said:

"We must make an end of this! Come, varlet, take off your short-clothes
instantly! be quick about it!"

"Take off my short-clothes! What for?"

"Sandis! so that I may put them on, of course! I can't stand here all
day in my shirt!"

"But I have no others, monsieur; and if you take mine, then I shall be
in my shirt."

"That makes no difference to me--a terrible calamity, truly, that you
should be a little cool in your turn!"

"No, no! I won't give you my short-clothes!"

"Give them to me this instant, knave, and your miserable doublet too, or
I'll run you through with Roland!"

Passedix made such a terrible face, and held the point of his sword so
near the poor fellow's breast, that he, trembling for his life, quickly
removed his doublet and his breeches. The chevalier lost no time in
donning them, saying to himself:

"I shall be a horrible-looking creature in this costume! but, after all,
it is preferable to being naked!--Now, I will conceal it as well as I
can with my cloak.--Come, don't cry, you fool! Do you imagine that I
propose to steal your clothes? They will be returned to you as soon as I
have been home and have dressed myself in orange, pending the purchase
of a lovely costume, new throughout. I shall select a sky-blue this
time!--If my people return, you will say to them that I shall expect
them at the Hôtel du Sanglier, Place aux Chats; but I begin to doubt
whether they will return--the vagabonds!"

And Passedix, having finished his toilet to the best of his ability,
left the bathing establishment, grumbling between his teeth:

"These breeches are horribly unbecoming to me!--O my esquire! O my page!
you shall pay me for all this!"



LII

THE LITTLE ANGEL


Léodgard had recovered his health; he was entirely cured; still, he had
not left the abode of his ancestors. More than once he had formed the
plan of returning to his _petite maison_ in Rue de Bretonvilliers; but
whenever he had that idea, little Blanche was not with him. As soon as
his daughter appeared, as soon as she came running into the room,
smiling and holding out her little arms to him, all thought of going
away was forgotten; the time passed so quickly with the child, and so
pleasantly!

Blanche remained with her father almost all day; Bathilde deprived
herself of the pleasure of having her child with her, because she felt
that Blanche's presence alone detained Léodgard at the Hôtel de
Marvejols. But when the little one had been away from her mother several
hours in succession, she always asked to see her; for, in that loving
heart, the love that she felt for the count in no wise diminished her
affection for her mother.

And one day, when Blanche, having remained longer than usual with
Léodgard, asked to go back to her mother, and he, holding her in his
arms, would have kept her longer, the child suddenly said to him:

"Well! send for mamma to come here; then I will not ask to go away,
because I shall be with both of you."

To this very natural suggestion the count made no reply; he simply cast
down his eyes and sighed; but Blanche at once continued:

"Why doesn't mamma ever come here with me? When I ask her to, she always
says: 'That would annoy monsieur le comte.'--Are you _monsieur le
comte_?"

"To be sure," Léodgard replied, with a smile.

"Well! don't you want to have mamma come? Has she been naughty?"

Léodgard did not quite know what to say; children always go straight to
the point with their questions, and often embarrass the persons to whom
they propound them, because grown people are unable to answer as frankly
as they are questioned.

But at that moment Bathilde, being anxious about her daughter, who did
not usually remain so long in her father's apartment, drew the portière
aside and stopped timidly in the doorway.

"Excuse me, monsieur le comte," she said, "for coming here unsummoned.
But my daughter did not return, and I was afraid that she was not well."

Léodgard looked up at Bathilde. For the first time since she had been
his wife, he observed her with attention; he was surprised at the
changes for the better that had taken place in her whole person. On
becoming a countess, the bath keeper's daughter had undergone a
transformation. Endowed by nature with angelic beauty, she possessed
now, in addition, grace, distinction, and refinement; she fascinated by
her mere presence; one felt drawn toward her; and having no suspicion of
her power, Bathilde augmented it by the charm of her smile and the sweet
quality of her voice.

One would have said that Léodgard remarked all this as if he had never
before looked at his wife; and Bathilde, who had not seen the count
scrutinize her with so much interest for a long time, felt the blood
rush to her cheeks, as if beneath the flame of a lover's glance. But in
her eyes her husband was still the most beloved of lovers; she did not
know which way to turn; yet she was happy, very happy; she began to
hope that Léodgard might love her once more.

Blanche jumped down from her father's knee and ran to her mother.

"I wanted to come to see you," she said; "but papa didn't want to let me
go. Now you are here, and Blanche is very glad! After this, you'll come
here with me, won't you?"

Bathilde looked at her daughter and did not reply.

But Léodgard bent his head before his young wife, and said in a gracious
tone:

"When you choose to come here, madame, you will always be welcome."

"You are too kind, monsieur le comte," faltered Bathilde, who felt that
sobs would soon stifle her voice, and who longed, but did not yet dare,
to throw herself into her husband's arms. She hastily led her daughter
from the room and returned to her own apartment. There she took Blanche
in her arms, strained her to her heart, and bathed her with her tears.

"You crying, mamma?" said Blanche.

"Oh! it is with pleasure, with happiness this time, my darling; and this
happiness too I owe to you!"

On the day following this scene, about four in the afternoon, a servant
entered the apartment of Léodgard, who had his daughter on his knee, and
informed his master that a young man had called, saying that he was
charged with a message for the Comte de Marvejols and that he desired
to be admitted to his presence.

"What is the man's name?" inquired Léodgard.

"He refuses to give it, monsieur le comte; he desires to speak with you
alone."

"Admit him."

In a few moments Bahuchet bowed to the floor before the count.

On recognizing the little clerk, his messenger to Valentine, Léodgard
was conscious of a thrill of emotion; memories of the past awoke in his
heart; and he put Blanche on the floor, saying:

"Go, my child, go to your mother; you may come back to me later."

"Yes, papa!--Oh! what an awfully ugly man!"

And the little girl left the room, taking care to avoid Bahuchet, whose
presence seemed almost to terrify her.

"So it is you, messenger of disaster!" said Léodgard, when he and the
little clerk were alone; "why have you come here? I did not send for
you, I no longer require your services. Tell me--what do you want?
Speak!"

"Deign to excuse me for coming, monseigneur; you will understand that it
is only because I was requested, even implored, to do so."

"By whom?"

"Does not monsieur le comte divine? By Madame la Marquise de Santoval."

"That woman again! What! after causing me to fight with her husband!
after turning me to ridicule so abominably! she dares again---- Well!
what does she want with me?"

"This letter will tell you, monseigneur, I do not doubt."

"A letter from her! Ah! this is too much!--Let us see; I am curious to
know what she can have to write to me."

Léodgard took the letter, and Bahuchet discreetly withdrew to the other
end of the room.

Having hastily broken the seal, Léodgard read these words, written by
Valentine:

     "You have showered the most terrible epithets upon me, doubtless; I
     deserve them; I made a mock of you, it is true; but do you, in your
     turn, recall your conduct: I was to have been your wife, you
     preferred a bath keeper's daughter to me! I determined to be
     revenged, because I loved you in secret, because that love made
     even deeper the wound you had inflicted on me. I married the
     Marquis de Santoval, whom I did not love; but I knew his
     temperament, and I desired an avenger. Since that duel, in which he
     narrowly missed killing you, I have been unable to endure the
     marquis's presence; I can live with that man no longer--he is
     hateful to me.--Léodgard, you know every part of my conduct; if you
     had died of your wound, I should have killed myself in order not to
     survive you; for I love you still. Tell me that you forgive me,
     tell me that you will take me away from the Marquis de Santoval. I
     wish to see you, to speak with you. In pity's name, write me a few
     words in reply, and appoint a rendezvous for to-morrow, though it
     be but for a few minutes; do not refuse me!

     "VALENTINE."

The perusal of this letter threw Léodgard's mind into confusion; dark
clouds gathered on his brow, where something like tranquillity had
reigned of late. He rose and paced the floor, in the most intense
agitation; it was evident that a battle was raging in the depths of his
heart. He read Valentine's letter once more, then seemed to be lost in
thought.

"I was led to hope," murmured Bahuchet at last, in a wheedling tone,
"that monsieur le comte would give me a word in reply. The lady even
went so far as to make me promise not to return without one.--Poor lady!
she was so pale, so agitated, so interesting!"

"So you saw her, did you?"

"Yes, monsieur le comte. Her maid, Miretta, had been searching Paris for
me for a long time; after asking for me in vain at that miserly
solicitor's, who turned me out of doors, with Plumard, for a mere
nothing! a trifle!"

"Where did you see the marchioness?"

"On Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, in a little nook I selected. Oh! the lady
didn't keep me waiting.--Will monsieur le comte refuse to give me a few
words, in his hand? Poor lady! she will do some insane thing, if I do
not take her an answer."

"Yes, I am going to write to her.--Ah! so this lady loves me!--Pardieu!
I must make sure of that. But woe to her if she deceives me again!"

"I venture to assure monsieur le comte----"

"Hold your peace and let me write."

Léodgard seated himself at his desk and hastily wrote these lines:

     "You wish to see me, madame la marquise; you love me, so you say!
     Although I have difficulty in placing faith in a love which nearly
     cost me my life, I am too gallant and too brave to decline this new
     rendezvous, even if I were destined again to find a sword awaiting
     me instead of a smile.--Until to-morrow, then, at eight in the
     evening, in the Grand Pré-aux-Clercs."

Léodgard signed this letter and handed it to Bahuchet, who, overjoyed to
have obtained a written reply, took a hasty leave, fearing that the
count might be tempted to recall the letter he had given him.

When Léodgard was alone, he fell once more into a moody reverie;
absorbed by his memories and his new projects, he seemed to have
forgotten the present, to have forgotten where he was. In fact, he did
not hear Blanche, who returned to the room and stood in front of him for
several minutes, amazed that he said nothing to her.

"Papa--I am here--don't you see me?" she murmured at last.

At the sound of Blanche's voice, Léodgard started, almost as if in
terror; he gazed at his daughter, but did not smile at her as usual; it
seemed that the sight of the child embarrassed him. And little Blanche,
accustomed as she was to be kissed and caressed by her father, looked at
him with a surprised expression, and said, after a pause:

"Why don't you kiss me to-night, papa? Have I been naughty?"

"No, no; you are not naughty, Blanche; but I was thinking; my mind was
on other things."

"Papa, mamma told me to ask you if you would like to have her come here
after me to-night; she would like to ever so much; do you want her to?"

"No, no; that cannot be, to-night; another time you may come with your
mother; but to-night I must be alone."

And the count rang for a servant and said to him:

"Take my daughter to her mother."

"You send me away so soon, papa!" said Blanche, with a little pout that
made her even more bewitching; "why, I haven't had time enough to kiss
you; I don't want to go yet!"

"You must obey me, Blanche; I wish it!"

Léodgard said these words in a stern tone, which brought tears to the
little angel's eyes, for she was not accustomed to be spoken to so. She
took the servant's hand and was about to leave the room, glancing
mournfully at her father. But that glance went to Léodgard's heart; he
ran to his daughter, took her in his arms, and kissed her again and
again, murmuring:

"I will come back, dear child; yes, you shall see me again."

When the servant had taken Blanche away, the count dressed to go out,
buckled on his sword, took his cloak and broad-brimmed hat, and left his
apartment, saying to himself:

"Now, I must leave this place and return to my little house in Rue de
Bretonvilliers. I should not be free here; and the sight of that child
would weaken my resolution.--Dear little darling! with her I had found
peace once more; my remorse was almost banished.--Ah! I do wrong to
leave her, perhaps; but that letter from Valentine has overwhelmed all
my senses; the memory of her beauty--this love that she swears that she
has for me--well! the die is cast; I must see that woman again!"

And the count, avoiding the apartments occupied by Bathilde, left the
Hôtel de Marvejols with a heavy heart, like a person who submits to
fatality.



LIII

DIVINE JUSTICE


The next evening, about eight o'clock, the Comte de Marvejols entered
the public promenade called the Pré-aux-Clercs; it was an extensive
meadow, divided into two parts by a canal called the Petite-Seine, which
started from the river to carry water to fill the moats of the abbey of
Saint-Germain-des-Prés. At that time some buildings had already been
erected on the small Pré-aux-Clercs, and preparations were being made
for building on the larger tract, where Rues des Petits-Augustins, de
Verneuil, de l'Université, des Saints-Pères, etc., were subsequently
laid out.

But the works in progress on the Pré-aux-Clercs still left ample space
for walking and for rendezvous; so that spot was a favorite one for
duellists and for lovers.

It was quite dark, and Léodgard had not taken a hundred steps on the
Grand Pré-aux-Clercs, when a woman stopped before him. Valentine was
dressed entirely in black, and her excitement, the pallor of her face,
the thrill that ran through her body at sight of the count, seemed to
enhance her majestic beauty.

Without a word, she offered her hand to Léodgard, who felt it tremble as
he took it in his.

"Come," said Valentine, in a broken voice, "let us sit on this bench.
Miretta is watching close by, and we may talk without fear.--Oh! I was
still afraid that you would not come, that you had changed your mind;
but you believed what I wrote in my letter, did you not? Yes, you must
have believed it, as you are here. And now, tell me if you have forgiven
me."

As she spoke, Valentine fixed upon Léodgard her lovely black eyes,
overflowing with love and fear. Thereupon the passion that that woman
had previously kindled in the count's heart broke forth into flame, more
ardent, more impetuous, more powerful than ever; and he could only fall
at her feet, crying:

"Forgive you! And you tell me that you love me--you confess that only
the passion that you felt for me inspired the wish to be revenged!--Ah!
am I not too happy to be so loved by you? If I had met the death that I
deserved, my fate would have been an enviable one. It is for me, who
refused the happiness that was offered me, to implore your forgiveness!"

"Let us not revert to the past.--Léodgard, as I have told you, I love
you; and now I can no longer endure the presence of the Marquis de
Santoval! If you share my love, I will be yours, but yours alone.
Valentine de Mongarcin will never stoop to deceive a man! She will leave
that man forever; for, once yours, she will die rather than return to
him!--You have heard me, Léodgard. Take me to some other country,
beneath a different sky; whither, it matters not to me, provided that I
am with you, that I may fly from a man whom I detest, that I may live
for you alone, with you alone!--But until then I will not be your
mistress; for, I say again, when I have been once in your arms, I will
never return to the Marquis de Santoval."

The thought of abducting Valentine, of taking her away from her husband,
made Léodgard's heart beat fast; he could no longer doubt the love of
that woman, who offered to sacrifice her reputation, her honor, her
exalted position in society, to be his; and she was so lovely, so young,
so fascinating, she promised such a wealth of tenderness and rapture,
that the count looked forward with ecstatic delight to the moment when
that prospect of love and bliss would become a reality.

But a certain reflection occurred to Léodgard's mind and allayed his
exaltation in some degree. In these blissful schemes which the
imagination conceives, one almost always forgets the most important
point, the foundation upon which all the joys of this world rest.

Valentine, who had seen the cloud pass across the count's brow,
instantly exclaimed:

"Ah! you hesitate, I see; what I propose appalls you. You would accept
me for your mistress, but you are not willing that your life should be
mine, that I should be always with you, that we should part no more; you
fear to burden yourself with a new chain! You have for me simply one of
those fleeting passions which possession soon allays.--Ah! that is not
the way that I love! But if it is so, we should never understand each
other. Let us part, monsieur le comte; for I must have as much love as I
give; if not, I want nothing!"

And Valentine had already started to go away, but Léodgard detained her,
kissing her lovely hands with passion, and said:

"How ill you judge me, madame! you should read my heart better. I have
but one thought, one purpose, one desire; and that is to realize at the
earliest possible moment this future of blissful delight which you offer
me. I regret that there are no obstacles to surmount, no rivals to
fight, in order to possess you! You would find that I should not
hesitate. The only thing that may delay us is this--that, before leaving
France for a considerable time, I must arrange certain matters of
business, dispose of certain property. But be assured that I shall do my
best to hasten the moment that is to unite us."

"Forgive me, Léodgard, for misjudging you; and since you love me as I
love you, since everything is soon to be common between us, allow me, my
friend, to ask you to give me your entire confidence. It may be that
what you have in mind at this moment is to procure a considerable amount
of money, in order to assure our future existence. But do not disturb
yourself about that; I have a fortune, and it does not belong to the
Marquis de Santoval. Thank heaven! I can take money with me, much money;
and when mine is all gone, then it will be your turn to draw upon what
belongs to you.--Does that arrangement please you?"

"Dear Valentine,--for you will allow me now to address you so,--I am
touched by such proofs of your affection; but, I say again, before
leaving Paris I must adjust some important matters. I do not need to
tell you that henceforth I can think of naught save hastening forward
the day that is to mark the beginning of a new life for us!"

"Let it be as you wish, then, my friend; I too will hasten with all my
prayers the arrival of that day. You will know now that I am waiting for
you, when the time that you fix for our flight has come. Simply send me
word on the preceding day. Beginning to-morrow, Miretta will walk here
every day at noon, and you will be certain to find her here. As for
myself, my departure will not be impeded in any way. Since your duel,
the Marquis de Santoval has not the slightest jealous suspicion, and,
although he knows that your wound was not fatal, I am at liberty to go
and come as I please, without remark from him. However, as we must not
defy chance, I will leave you now, Léodgard, and return to the Hôtel de
Santoval; and when I see you again, it will be to part no more."

"What!" said Léodgard, pressing Valentine's hand lovingly; "you are free
to do as you please, and, before our final union, you will not come once
to pay me a visit at my house in Rue de Bretonvilliers?"

"No, monsieur le comte," replied Valentine, in a gentle but firm tone.
"As I told you, I do not choose to be your mistress; I wish to be your
wife, and in a foreign land I hope that you will give me that title; for
no one will be there to dispute my right to it. Adieu, Léodgard, or,
rather, au revoir!"

Signalling to Miretta by coughing loudly, the marchioness joined her
maid, and they disappeared among the paths of the Pré-aux-Clercs.

As for Léodgard, he remained a long while on the bench which he had
occupied with the marchioness. Absorbed by his thoughts, and sighing
profoundly from time to time, he frequently passed his hand across his
brow, as if to brush away ghastly memories. At last he rose and walked
off in the direction of Rue de Bretonvilliers, saying to himself:

"I must do it! I hoped that I had abandoned that infamous rôle forever;
but I have hardly any money--and money I must have; I must have a great
deal! Can I think of living constantly at that woman's expense? Shall I
confess to her that I have squandered all of the fortune that was left
to me? No, no; it is impossible! Fate wills it; and destiny, which has
always been favorable to me, will protect me still!"

A few days later, people began to talk once more of the celebrated
robber Giovanni, who had reappeared in Paris, and was exhibiting his too
famous talent there, as of old. The streets, which had become dangerous
once more, were deserted at an early hour. But the lieutenant of police
had sworn a mighty oath that he would capture Giovanni this time and
would put an end to the reign of terror inaugurated by him. With that
end in view, the streets were patrolled by numerous parties of the
watch.

One evening, on returning home after passing two or three hours at a
large party, the Marquise de Santoval instantly rang for Miretta, and
said to her as soon as they were alone:

"Rejoice, little one; it is your turn to be happy; you will be united to
the man you love so dearly--unless, indeed, he allows himself to be
caught, for the man is playing a bold game."

"What, madame! can it be that----"

"Yes; Giovanni has reappeared in Paris."

"I had heard so; but I dared not believe it."

"You may be certain of it; for the old contractor Ducantal, who was at
Madame de Bérienne's this evening, was waylaid last night and stripped
clean by Giovanni. We could not help laughing as we heard the story, for
the old contractor was frantic with rage. He had just come from a
gambling den, where he had won a considerable sum, and it was all taken
from him, as well as his diamonds--and he had some very handsome
ones!--What intensified Monsieur Ducantal's wrath was that he had with
him two great footmen, who, instead of defending him, fled at the
robber's approach. But, no matter--you should advise your lover to
abandon the trade; it will end badly for him!"

"Oh! I will implore him once more to do so, madame. This very night I
will go out in search of him. What joy! I am going to see him again at
last, and I had lost all hope!"

"But be prudent--do not run any risk."

"Oh! I am not afraid; and what do I care for danger, so long as I see
Giovanni!--Have you any further need of my services, madame?"

"No, I will do without you; I will call Marie. Go; I give you your
liberty."

Miretta was no sooner relieved from duty, than she wrapped herself in
her cloak, left the hôtel, and wandered about Paris at random. But to no
purpose did she search several different quarters, looking into every
corner, stopping at the least noise; she met nobody but men, from whom
she fled, and whom, by virtue of her agility, she always succeeded in
eluding. At daybreak, completely exhausted, she returned to the Hôtel de
Santoval, saying to herself:

"I shall be more fortunate to-morrow, perhaps."

The concierge and the servants thought that their mistress's maid went
out of nights to meet her lover. But as they knew that Miretta stood
high in the marchioness's affections, they contented themselves with
making these reflections in an undertone.

The next night, Miretta went out again, but had no better fortune. She
did not lose courage, however, for, during the day, in the servants'
quarters, she had heard of a recent night attack of which Giovanni was
presumed to be the author, and she said to herself that she must surely
fall in with him at last.

The third night, Miretta, having turned her steps in the direction of
the Arsenal, had just made an examination of Rue Saint-Paul, and was
near Rue Saint-Antoine. Fatigued by the constant walking that she had
done for three nights, she was beginning to despair of finding her
lover; and glancing dejectedly about in all directions, she tried to
interrogate the walls and the darkness, as if to ask them if they had
seen Giovanni. Suddenly she thought that she heard outcries; she
stopped, listened intently, and distinctly heard a cry of "thief!" The
sound came from the direction of Rue des Nonaindières; the night was not
dark, and at intervals the moon appeared and made it possible to see a
considerable distance. Miretta, her heart throbbing violently, stopped
at the corner of Rue Saint-Paul and Rue Saint-Antoine; it seemed to her
that she heard someone running, and soon several shots rang out almost
simultaneously. She felt her strength giving way, for she did not doubt
that the shots were fired at Giovanni; she leaned against a house, in
order not to fall; but the footsteps of the person running drew near,
and in a moment a man flew past her.

"It is he, it is Giovanni!" said Miretta to herself, for she had
recognized her lover's peculiar costume; and she instantly started to
run after him, calling, in a voice which she was careful not to make too
loud:

"Giovanni! Giovanni! Have no fear--it is I, Miretta, who follows you.
Giovanni! in heaven's name, answer me! If you are pursued, tell me what
you wish me to do.--Mon Dieu! I see something on the ground--it is blood
that is dropping from you as you run! You are wounded! In the name of
heaven, answer me!"

The man whom Miretta was trying so hard to overtake was in fact wounded;
a bullet had struck his shoulder; he continued to fly, however; but, as
he was entering Place Royale, the pain compelled him to stop a moment.
This enabled Miretta to overtake him. At the girl's approach, he tried
to resume his flight, but she clung to his clothes, saying:

"Giovanni! Giovanni! pray speak to me! tell me---- Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!
this figure--this man is not he!--Oh! you will try in vain to escape me;
I will find out who you are; for, if you are not Giovanni, as you wear
his costume, it must be that you have killed him!--No, I will not let
you go; kill me, if you choose, but I will know who you are!"

As she spoke, Miretta succeeded in seizing the false beard of the man
before her; she tore it off, and by the same movement caused the
enormous cap that concealed his eyes to fall. At that instant the moon
appeared and shone full upon the two, and Miretta was able to examine at
her leisure the face of Léodgard.

On recognizing the count, the girl stood a moment as if turned to stone;
then a cry escaped from her lips, and she recoiled from him in horror,
muttering:

"Ah! that was the reason why I felt a secret terror in that man's
presence!"

Taking advantage of Miretta's surprise and stupefaction, Léodgard
hastily resumed his flight, running at random. But the blood that he
lost in large quantities, and the pain that he felt, caused his strength
to fail; he realized that it would soon be impossible for him to stand
erect, and he fancied that he heard in the distance the footsteps of
soldiers pursuing him. Thereupon, as he tried to recognize his
surroundings, to see where he was, he found that he had halted directly
in front of the gateway of the ancient mansion of his ancestors. Seizing
the knocker, he struck several violent blows. The heavy gate swung open
at last; Léodgard passed through and made haste to secure it behind him.
Then his strength failed him, and he fell at full length on the pavement
of the courtyard.

At that moment the soldiers of the watch entered the square, looking in
all directions for Giovanni.



LIV

AN ACCUSATION


The soldiers who were pursuing the robber had passed Miretta; but when
the officer in command saw the girl standing there alone, her whole
aspect indicating intense excitement and terror, he stopped and said to
her:

"Girl, did you see a man pass, running at full speed--a man enveloped in
a broad olive-green cloak, with a great hairy cap on his head?"

"Officer," said one of the soldiers, "here is a cap on the ground; isn't
it the brigand's?"

"Mordieu, yes! it is, indeed; exactly as it is detailed in the
description of him--in that case, girl, the robber must have stopped on
this spot.--Yes, there is blood here, too; that means that we have
wounded him.--Come, sacrebleu! answer, my beauty! You look frightened to
death; is it because the miserable Giovanni attacked you and robbed you
too?"

"Giovanni!" faltered Miretta, shaking her head sadly. "Oh! it is not he!
Alas! it is not Giovanni now! I was perfectly sure that he had been
murdered!"

"What does she say?--what is this fable you are telling us, girl? did
you see the robber pass--_yes_ or _no_?"

"Yes, I did see him pass; but he is not Giovanni! He wears his clothes,
he stole them, doubtless, but I tore off his false beard, and his cap
fell at the same time, and I recognized him."

"You recognized----"

After hesitating a moment, Miretta cried at last:

"Ah! why should I have any pity on the man who killed him whom I
loved?--No, it is my duty to unmask the infamous villain--to bring upon
him the punishment he deserves!"

"Well, girl, will you answer or not? Whom did you recognize?"

"I recognized, in the man you are pursuing, Comte Léodgard de
Marvejols!"

"The Comte de Marvejols!" exclaimed the officer, turning to his
soldiers; "one of the greatest nobles at court!--Nonsense! the girl is
mad!"

"Yes, yes! she doesn't know what she says."

"The fright has disturbed her reason!"

"Ha! ha! that's a likely story! The famous Giovanni is the Comte de
Marvejols!--Let us listen no longer to this girl, but continue our
search. Let us follow the marks of blood; attention, you fellows! they
may guide us to the place where we shall find our robber. And let us
take away this cap and false beard, too."

The soldiers went their way. Thereupon Miretta cast a vague, wandering
look about her, then hid her face in her hands and wept bitterly,
crying:

"O Giovanni! Giovanni! you were very wicked, I know; but I forgave you;
and I am sure that by my entreaties I could have persuaded you to
abandon your career of crime! I would have brought you back to worthier
sentiments. And by prayer and repentance, perhaps you might have
obtained God's forgiveness!--But you have been murdered, before you had
time to appease the Divine wrath!--Oh! I will avenge you; yes, I will
avenge you!"

Somewhat tranquillized by the tears she had shed, Miretta returned to
the Hôtel de Santoval, which she reached just at daybreak. She did not
try to sleep, for she knew that it would be useless; but she waited
anxiously for the time when her mistress could receive her.

The marchioness rang at last, and Miretta answered the bell.

The instant that her eyes fell on the maid's face, Valentine, struck by
her pallor and the sinister expression of her eyes, cried:

"Mon Dieu! what has happened to you, Miretta? I read some terrible
disaster on your features! You have seen Giovanni--he is
arrested--wounded, perhaps?--Pray answer; one would say that you were
afraid to speak."

"In truth, madame, what I have to tell you is so horrible---- But you
must know it, none the less--you must know, as he really is, the monster
to whom you have given your love."

"What! what do you mean? My love!--I do not understand you, Miretta; I
am talking of your Giovanni.--what has Léodgard in common with your love
affairs?"

"You shall know, madame. Last night, I went out in the hope of at last
meeting him whom I have sought in vain for more than three
years!--Despite all that I had heard within a few days of new robberies
committed by Giovanni, my heart, still depressed, did not throb with
that soothing hope which one feels when one is destined to see one's
love again!--Ah! there are presentiments that do not mislead us!--Well!
as I was standing at the end of Rue Saint-Paul, I heard cries, followed
by shots; then a man passed me, flying for his life. I recognized
Giovanni's cap and cloak, and I ran after him, supposing him to be my
lover; I called to him, I implored him to answer me, to listen to me; I
could not obtain a single word. But the fugitive was wounded, he was
losing blood; and as he entered Place Royale he slackened his pace, so
that I was able at last to overtake him."

"Well! it was Giovanni----"

"For the first moment or two I still thought so, madame; but, surprised
by his persistence in trying to continue his flight without answering
me, I examined him closely; he was taller than Giovanni, his head was
set differently on his shoulders; in short, my heart had already told
me--no, it was not Giovanni! The man tried to escape; I clung to his
cloak, and he sought in vain to release himself, to shake me off.--Ah! I
was very strong then!--I succeeded in pulling off his false beard and
his cap--the moon lighted us perfectly--and in the man who had assumed
Giovanni's costume and headgear I recognized Comte Léodgard de
Marvejols!"

"Léodgard! Léodgard!" cried Valentine, fastening her eyes upon the
girl's, to satisfy herself that she had not gone mad. "Oh! Miretta! what
are you saying? Why, you were mistaken--you were misled by an error of
your eyesight, by some resemblance perhaps--but that Comte Léodgard
should have assumed the disguise of Giovanni--consider, pray, that it is
utterly impossible!--With what object would he do it?"

"Why--to do what Giovanni used to do, I presume."

"Oh! Miretta, what you say is shocking! Why, it is utterly devoid of
sense, and I blush to think that I have listened to you!"

"I suspected that madame would not choose to believe me; but before
long, I trust, the truth will be made known, and madame will be forced
to recognize that I am not the dupe of a mere illusion!"

"What! what do you mean? Can it be that you have already had the
audacity to spread this hateful falsehood?"

"I have told no falsehood, madame! But when that man, when Comte
Léodgard--who recognized me perfectly--had disappeared--and I did not
think to look after him, I was so overwhelmed--some soldiers arrived,
looking for the robber, whom they believed to be Giovanni; but I
undeceived them; I told them who the man was whom they were pursuing and
whom they had wounded."

"You accused Léodgard?"

"Once more, madame; I told the truth."

"You are mad, Miretta; for if you reflect an instant, you will
understand that you must be mistaken. To make such charges against a man
whom I love---- Oh! it is abominable! I ought to drive you from my
presence!"

"The soldiers said as you do, madame, that I was mad; but what does it
matter to me now what anyone thinks of my words? I know, myself, that I
spoke the truth! You bid me reflect, madame! Ah! if I could still doubt
what I saw last night, by recalling my memories of the past I should
find additional proofs of what I assert.--In heaven's name, madame,
allow me to speak; you will still have the right to dismiss me
afterward.--I do not know whether you remember a murder that was
committed about three years and a half ago--a handsome young man was
found in the Fossés-Jaunes, near the Pont-aux-Choux;--the story was told
us by that little solicitor's clerk, Bahuchet."

"Yes, I remember very well."

"From that time, madame, I ceased to see Giovanni; it was he, I cannot
doubt, who was murdered, and robbed of his weapons and of the costume he
wore at night.--Oh! I remember so well now--the description of that
young man corresponded exactly with that of Giovanni."

"Assume that it be true--what connection has Léodgard----"

"I beg pardon, madame, but in the servants' quarters the servants of
your visitors talk with your own people; and as madame deigned sometimes
to talk to me of Comte Léodgard, I paid more attention when others spoke
of him; and about that time I often heard it said: 'Oh! Comte Léodgard
is an excellent master now! it is not as it used to be when he had not
the means to pay his esquire; he must have discovered a gold mine
lately, for he has paid all his debts, he has hired a beautiful house in
Rue de Bretonvilliers, and he gives superb parties there; in short, it
seems that he flings money about with both hands, and he's an excellent
master!'--That is what I heard said more than once, madame, about the
time when I ceased to see my poor Giovanni!"

Valentine had turned pale, and her brow was covered with a dark cloud;
she rose, however, and paced the floor excitedly, muttering from time to
time:

"No! no! not if I should hear it a hundred times! Mere
conjectures--antechamber gossip, servants' tittle-tattle--what does it
all prove? To dare to say that he, Léodgard--so noble and so
handsome!--Oh! it is frightful! it is an outrage!"

Then, seized with a sudden idea, she asked abruptly:

"This man who was pursued last night, and whom you claim to have
recognized--he was wounded, you say?"

"Yes, madame, and severely wounded, for he lost much blood."

"Where was he wounded?"

"In the shoulder, so far as I could judge--for he put his hand there
several times. I think that I divine madame's thought; if it is her
wish, I will go to inquire----"

"No, I do not wish you to go out; I will go myself to inquire.--You hear
me, Miretta? I forbid you to leave the house before my return."

"I will obey you, madame."

Valentine hastily donned an ample cloak, and a great veil which almost
concealed her features; then she betook herself at headlong speed,
taking care to avoid the most frequented streets, to Rue de
Bretonvilliers, inquired for Léodgard's hotel, and knocked at the gate.

"Is Monsieur le Comte de Marvejols within?"

"No, madame," replied the concierge, who was so impressed by the beauty
and the noble air of the lady who questioned him, that he accompanied
his reply with a low reverence.

"What! has monsieur le comte gone out so early?" asked Valentine, with a
searching glance into the courtyard.

"I have not seen monsieur le comte since last evening, madame; when he
goes out, I do not always know it!"

"In that case, how can you be certain that he is not within?"

"Because, madame, there has already been someone here to speak with
monseigneur this morning."

"Already! Who, pray?"

"Officers--king's troops! I am not quite sure who they were. However,
they were evidently very anxious to see monsieur le comte, for they came
in and searched all the wings,--those gentry are very unceremonious,--and
when they went away they said: 'He doesn't seem to have slept at home.'"

The marchioness listened to these details with the most intense
agitation; then she thanked the concierge and returned swiftly to her
own house, unable as yet to believe what Miretta had told her, but none
the less a prey to the most acute suffering.

Miretta awaited her mistress in her apartment, and questioned her with
her eyes. Valentine threw herself into a chair without uttering a word;
but the pallor of her cheeks and the distortion of her features betrayed
her suffering; and Miretta, deeply moved by her grief, dared not ask her
a question. The two women had been in this position for some time when
the Marquis de Santoval entered the room.

Monsieur de Santoval's face wore a more amiable expression than usual;
he was almost laughing as he entered his wife's apartment.

"Palsambleu! madame la marquise," he cried, "I must tell you some
strange news--a report that is in circulation this morning concerning
our dear friend Comte Léodgard de Marvejols. I thought it would amuse
you, and that is why I have come to tell you about it."

"What is it, pray, monsieur le marquis?"

"Oh! I must begin by telling you that it is utterly absurd, and that I
do not believe a word of it. However, Birague, who has just told me the
story, acted almost as if he believed it."

"I am waiting for you to explain yourself, monsieur; but perhaps
Miretta's presence embarrasses you?"

"No, she may remain. Indeed, I am confident that your maid will soon
hear this ghastly story below stairs; it will certainly make the circuit
of the city, and some action will be taken.--Fancy, madame, that Birague
was at the office of the lieutenant of police this morning, when he
received his reports of the night as usual. One of them was so
extraordinary that the lieutenant could not repress an exclamation of
surprise as he read it, and he said to Birague:

"'You can never guess what happened last night! My patrols gave chase to
Giovanni, who had just attacked someone, and as he ran away they fired
at him. Some of the watch pursued him, and at the entrance to Place
Royale, where they had lost track of him, they fell in with a young
woman, all alone, who seemed terribly frightened. They asked her if she
had seen the man they were pursuing; she answered in the affirmative.
And, in fact, they picked up at her feet the frightful hairy cap that
Giovanni usually wears, and a false beard with which he conceals a
large part of his face.'"

"But, monsieur, these details----"

"Pardon, madame; all these details, you will see, are of great
importance to the story. The lieutenant of police continued: 'This girl
then answered that she had seen the robber, but she added: "You are
mistaken; the man you are pursuing is not Giovanni; he is----"' Ah! this
is what will surprise you, madame.--'She cried: "The man who is running
away, the man who wore this cap and this false beard, is Comte Léodgard
de Marvejols!"'--Well! what do you say to that, madame?"

"Really, monsieur, it seems to me so absurd, that I am surprised that
anyone can have repeated it!"

"I agree with you. Although I am an enemy of the count, I am capable of
doing justice to his valor, his nobility of character--in a word, he
belongs to one of the most ancient families of France, whose honor is
stainless. When the lieutenant had finished, Birague could not help
laughing. Whereupon the official said to him: 'I have ordered the
sergeant who was in command of the watch to be sent here. I am going to
question him. Remain, if you are interested.' Birague asked nothing
better; he remained, and the sergeant of the watch soon appeared. He
told a story which corresponded exactly with the report, but added this:
'When we picked up the cap and false beard, we saw blood on the ground,
which proved that we had wounded our man.'--'And what did you do then?'
asked the lieutenant.--'Monseigneur, as the moon was shining, we
followed the blood along Place Royale to a point where it suddenly
stopped, as if the wounded man had gone no farther.'--'And you observed
that spot?'--'Yes, monseigneur; it was directly in front of the gate of
the Hôtel de Marvejols.'--As you may imagine, madame, that fact seemed
decidedly strange to the lieutenant as well as to Birague.--'And the
girl--what became of her?' monseigneur asked the sergeant, who admitted
that he had paid no further attention to her.--'You are a fool!' said
the lieutenant; 'you should have arrested the girl and taken her to the
guardhouse, and then have brought her before me. When a person presumes
to make so serious a charge against one of the first noblemen of the
court, she should not be allowed to disappear. From this girl we could
ascertain how much truth there is in this story; we could learn whether
you had an interview with a madwoman, or with a person who had some
reason to hate the count. You must find the girl, sergeant, do you hear?
You must find her.'--For my part, I consider that the lieutenant of
police was perfectly right, and that the arrest of this girl might lead
to some very curious revelations.--What do you think, marchioness?"

For several moments past, Valentine had turned all her attention to
Miretta; she kept her eyes fastened upon her with a glance of
supplication, as if the girl's action were a matter of life or death to
her. But Miretta, standing like a statue at the end of the room, kept
her eyes fixed on the floor; and there was nothing to betray what was
taking place in her mind.

"Well, madame, you do not answer," continued Monsieur de Santoval.

"Oh! I beg pardon, monsieur! The fact is that this story is so strange,
so absurd---- Really, I do not understand how so much importance can be
attached to it!"

"Pardon me, madame, but it is a curious affair.--While I place no faith
in the words of this girl, I believe that there is some mystery beneath
it all. But the riddle will be solved; this unknown maiden will be
found, let us hope!--By the way, I have not told you all: the lieutenant
of police, after dismissing the sergeant, ordered some of his
subordinates to go to Rue de Bretonvilliers, to the little house which
the count has occupied again since he has recovered from a--a certain
wound, and to inquire if any accident had happened to his lordship."

"Well--what did they learn there?"

"Comte Léodgard was absent, and, according to all appearance, had not
passed the night there."

"And they consider that very remarkable, too, I suppose; although I
fancy that it is in accordance with the young gentleman's habit."

"I have told you the whole story, marchioness; I thought that it would
amuse you, but I see that I was mistaken."

"Pardon me, monsieur, I find it very amusing--like everything that is
utterly devoid of sense! And I shall be obliged to you if you will keep
me informed if you learn anything more concerning this affair."

"If that is so, madame, I will not fail.--Ah! the most important thing
is to find that girl!"

The Marquis de Santoval had no sooner left his wife's apartment, than
she ran to Miretta, clasped her hands, and almost knelt to her, saying,
in a trembling voice and with tears in her eyes:

"Miretta! I implore you! do not say that it was you! do not make
yourself known! My life depends on your silence!--You will not say that
it was you? promise me!"

"I will wait, madame," the girl replied, with a sombre expression; "to
obey you, I will wait; but Giovanni must be avenged!"



LV

THE CARDINAL DE RICHELIEU


When Léodgard fell bleeding in the courtyard of the abode of his
ancestors, the concierge, having come from his lodge to ascertain who
had entered, uttered a cry of distress on recognizing his master lying
on the pavement. But the latter, who, notwithstanding the gravity of his
wound, was entirely conscious, ordered the concierge not to give the
alarm in the house, but simply to call a servant to aid in taking him to
his apartment.

Then, while the concierge left him to carry out this order, Léodgard,
despite his pain and his great weakness, succeeded, by dint of rolling
over and over on the ground, in extricating himself from the olive-green
cloak in which he was enveloped; he then folded the garment and held it
against his breast until his people arrived.

The count was carried to his apartment, as he desired; and while he was
being transported thither, he did not relax his hold of the olive-green
cloak and the short, broad sword with which he was armed.

When he was safely in bed, the wounded man bade the servant tell the
countess and request her to come to him.

"And I, monseigneur, will run to fetch a doctor," said the concierge.

"I forbid you to do it!" replied Léodgard, angrily. "Let no one dare to
leave the house! I have been wounded--in a duel; but it is a slight
wound, and I wish no one to know that I fought. The man who forgets my
orders will be dismissed instantly.--Go now and tell the countess."

The servant woke Marie, and she stole softly into her mistress's room to
give her the message. When she learned that her husband had returned to
the hôtel, but that he had returned wounded, Bathilde hurriedly slipped
on a loose garment and went at once to the bedside of the man whom she
had never ceased to love.

The sight of Bathilde seemed now to allay the count's pain; he tried to
smile at her, and said in a faint voice:

"Close the doors; I wish to be alone with you."

"But you are wounded, monsieur le comte; should we not send for a
surgeon first of all?"

"No, madame.--If you wish to gratify me, do only what I ask you to do.
We are quite alone, are we not?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Give me some of that cordial--in that phial on the table yonder. It is
what the doctor gave me when I was so ill--some time ago."

Bathilde at once gave Léodgard the cordial, and he drank several
swallows of it.

"That is enough," he said.

Revived by that draught, he succeeded, with his wife's aid, in sitting
up in bed, and with his own hand applied bandages to the wound, which
stopped the flow of blood.

Then, handing Bathilde a bundle which he had thus far kept out of sight,
he said:

"Put this in the fireplace, madame, and set fire to it at once."

"What, monsieur! this garment?"

"Be good enough to obey me, madame; everything that I ask you to do at
this moment is of more importance than you suppose."

The young woman did what the count ordered. The olive-green cloak was
soon in a blaze. As he watched it burn, Léodgard seemed to breathe more
freely, and when it was entirely consumed he muttered:

"Good! now there is nothing else to betray me except his sword. That
cannot be burned; but it may at least be hidden from all eyes."

And having carefully concealed the short sword under his coverlid,
Léodgard held out his hand to Bathilde, who took it and pressed it to
her heart, hardly able to credit that mark of affection on her husband's
part.

"I have caused you much unhappiness, Bathilde," said Léodgard, pausing
frequently between his words; "but heaven has punished me! I shall cause
you no more after this!"

"Mon Dieu! monsieur le comte, what do you mean? Your wound is not
dangerous, I hope?"

"No, Bathilde, no; be not alarmed. But now, when we are alone, I am
anxious to let you know that I repent of my wrongdoing--that I implore
your forgiveness."

"O Léodgard! dear Léodgard! If it is true that you have come back at
last to stay with us always--if my presence is no longer offensive to
you--am I not the happiest of women?--It is not for me to forgive you,
but I offer you all my love as in the old days!"

"Thanks, Bathilde, thanks! Our daughter is an angel. I love her--ah!
yes, I love her with all my heart! Dear child!--You will send her to me
to-morrow, as soon as she wakes, will you not?"

"As soon as you wish, my dear."

"Oh! let her sleep; do not disturb her rest.--And now, listen to me,
Bathilde; I must see the Sire de Jarnonville at the earliest possible
moment. Write him a line--ask him to come here, without giving him any
details. Send to him at daybreak. You understand? beg him to come at
once."

"You shall be obeyed, my dear; and the Sire de Jarnonville is such a
kind friend to us, that I doubt not that he will hasten to gratify your
wish."

"That is well. As soon as Jarnonville arrives, let him be sent to me.
And now, Bathilde, return to your rest."

"Do you expect me to leave you, my dear, when you are wounded? Oh! I
entreat you, let me sit up with you, let me pass the night by your
side.--And then, too, it seems to me that we should send for the
doctor."

"I tell you again, madame, that you would aggravate my condition by
doing so. And you do not wish to do that, I think?"

"What I would like, monsieur le comte, would be to have your wound
examined. You seem to be in pain."

"You are mistaken.--Follow my instructions, and do not go beyond
them.--Adieu, Bathilde!"

"You wish me to leave you?"

"I do. But first--come nearer--let me kiss your forehead."

"Dear Léodgard! I am so happy!"

The wounded man put his pallid lips to Bathilde's brow; then he motioned
to her to go, whispering:

"Jarnonville--at daybreak--do not forget!"

Bathilde left the room most regretfully; but she dared not disobey him
whose lightest wish was sacred to her.

Left to himself, Léodgard tried in vain to obtain a little rest. His
wound, being unskilfully dressed, pained him terribly, and his blood was
already boiling with fever. When he closed his eyes, terrifying images,
horrible visions, added to his misery; and in that state, bordering on
delirium, he awaited the end of that cruel night. The day appeared at
last; and not half an hour had elapsed since the dawn had driven away
the shadows, when the Sire de Jarnonville entered the wounded man's
bedroom.

At sight of the chevalier, Léodgard seemed to revive.

"You wish to speak with me, count," said Jarnonville; "and you are
wounded. Is it to the Marquis de Santoval again that you owe this new
misfortune?"

"No, chevalier; but I have some terrible revelations to make to you.
First of all, be good enough to give me that cordial, so that I may
obtain sufficient strength to speak.--Good--thanks!"

"You seem to be in great pain.--Shall I not first----"

"No one but you and myself; for it is not now a question of preserving
my life--it is my honor that must be saved--for my father's sake and my
child's. Then I will die; indeed, I must; and if this wound is not
sufficient, I will find some other way to put an end to my life!"

"You make me shudder!"

"When you have heard me through--then you will indeed shudder with
horror.--Come here--close to my bed--so that I need not raise my voice."

The chevalier did what the wounded man desired; and then Léodgard,
collecting what little strength remained to him, made his confession in
a low voice.

"You will remember, Jarnonville, that time when I was at the end of my
resources; I had foolishly wasted all the property that I inherited from
my mother; my father, who had just paid my debts once more, had declared
that I could not count upon him again. The cards continued to be
unfavorable to me, and I was in debt to all my friends; I had staked and
lost even my cloak! I could no longer find a Jew or a usurer to lend me
money! I was in that plight, when, on returning to Paris one night from
Montrevert's, where I had lost more than I could pay, we stopped near
the Pont-aux-Choux. We waited there for Montrevert, who was to overtake
us. He arrived at last, pale as death and disarmed; he had been attacked
and robbed by Giovanni. That bold brigand had stripped me too, several
months before; and, situated as I was, having nothing to lose and
consequently nothing to fear, I determined to punish the villain and
avenge myself. And so, refusing to let my companions go with me, I
hurried away in the direction of the spot where Giovanni had attacked
Montrevert.

"I walked a long while across the fields, without meeting anyone. Day
was beginning to break, but the country was still deserted. I advanced
slowly, avoiding making a sound with my footfall. Suddenly I saw a man
within twenty yards of me, seated close to a bush and busily engaged in
counting the contents of a purse; by his costume I recognized the bandit
who had once attacked me. He had not observed my approach, and I was
careful to get behind the bush; being behind him, I approached him,
unheard. The opportunity was favorable; just as I reached him, he
started to turn his head, and I ran my sword through his body; he
attempted then to rise to defend himself, but I had given him a mortal
blow, and I followed it with two others which stretched him dead at my
feet.

"When he fell, the brigand lost his beard and his cap. They lay on the
ground before me; as my eye fell on them, as I stooped to pick up two
purses full of gold, a hellish thought took possession of my mind. I
said to myself that no one had seen me kill Giovanni; that if I threw
his body into the Fossés-Jaunes, which were near by, it would never be
discovered; and, moreover, that if I should take away his weapons and
his disguise, there would be nothing by which to identify the body as
Giovanni's, even if it should be found. In short, the devil urged me on
to my destruction. I thought of my plight, of my debts; eager for
enjoyment, for dissipation, as I was, I had an insatiable thirst for
gold; and with the Italian bandit's disguise it would be so easy to
obtain it!--Ah! my brain was in a whirl--I was in a fever--a delirium,
no doubt; those thoughts were horrible; but instead of spurning them, I
dragged Giovanni's body to the Fossés-Jaunes and threw it in; then,
carefully concealing in some thick bushes the robber's weapons, cloak,
and cap, I returned to my friends, and told them that, after an
indecisive battle, Giovanni had escaped my vengeance once more. A few
days later the celebrated brigand began once more to attack and rob the
good people of Paris.--Ah! you shudder, Jarnonville, you turn your face
away!--I must be an object of horror to you.--Yes, I am a vile
wretch!--This is what the thirst for gold, unbridled passions, may lead
to--crime--forgetfulness of all that is most sacred, most worthy of
respect!--However, I have not, at all events, to reproach myself with
bloodshed. No! my presence caused such a panic, that those whom I
detained never thought of defending themselves, but instantly turned
over all that they possessed.--I am none the less an infamous
villain!--To-day, the Providence that I defied has put an end to my
crimes.--Ah, me! if I had listened to the cry of nature, if I had obeyed
that delicious sentiment to which the sight of my daughter, my Blanche,
gave birth in my heart!--Leaving the career of crime forever, perhaps
these ghastly passages of my life would never have become known, the
honor of my name would have been safe.--O father! this is what I held in
reserve for your old age! And my daughter! my daughter!"

Léodgard paused, his eyes closed; he could say no more.

Jarnonville hastened to his assistance; some cold water and a few
swallows of cordial soon revived him, and he was about to continue; but
Jarnonville urged him to rest a moment.

After a little while, there came a gentle tap at the door, and they
heard Bathilde's voice, asking if the count could receive her, and if he
wished her to bring his daughter to him.

"Not yet," said Léodgard; "I have not finished what I have to say to
you. Ask the countess to return to Blanche; I will send for her."

Jarnonville, having done what the wounded man requested, returned to his
bedside, saying:

"What reason have you to fear now that the truth may be known? Were you
recognized by anyone last night?"

"Yes. Listen. I had returned to my house in Rue de Bretonvilliers to
live, because there are secret exits there, leading to unoccupied land.
I could don Giovanni's costume and go out and in unseen by my people."

"And one night Ambroisine saw you in that guise; but she was very far
from suspecting that it was not Giovanni."

"True; but when she described that incident she made me shiver; I
thought that she knew my secret!--But last night--I still needed money;
Valentine--the Marquise de Santoval--I was to fly with her; and that is
why I had resumed the Italian's disguise.--Yes, Jarnonville, I was about
to abandon my wife and my daughter again--a wife so worthy of all my
love, and a child who had opened my heart to repentance.--Ah! I deserved
to be punished.--However, last night I had just attacked a financier;
soldiers came running to the spot, and I had hardly time to make my
escape. They fired at me, and I received a bullet, here, in the
shoulder."

"And the bullet?"

"Is still there, in the wound; I can feel it.--Ah! it hurts me
terribly!"

"But you must have it extracted."

"No, no! for a surgeon would see that it is not a pistol bullet. He
would see also that I was shot from behind, while running away.
Besides, it is necessary that I should die; but if only the truth might
be concealed--the cause of my death!"

"Rest a moment, count; this long narrative is killing you."

"I must finish; for someone may come--to arrest me."

"To arrest you?"

"Wait.--I was flying, despite my wound, when a young woman ran after me,
calling to Giovanni, and giving him the sweetest names. That young
woman, the Italian's mistress, overtook me not far from here; she clung
to me, my strength failed me, my cap and false beard fell off, and she
recognized me."

"Recognized you! Who is this young woman?"

"Miretta--the marchioness's maid."

"Fatality!--But, still, perhaps you alarm yourself needlessly; this girl
will hold her peace."

"She will speak; for she loved Giovanni, and she divined the whole
truth.--She will speak, for she is determined to avenge her lover!"

"Well! no one will listen to her! no one will believe her! Do you
suppose that, on the strength of a girl's word, they will dare to
accuse, aye, even to suspect, the Comte de Marvejols?--What proofs could
she adduce? Your costume?"

"When I arrived here I had only the cloak left; my servants may have
seen that; I made Bathilde burn it."

"And your weapons?"

"I never carried any but Giovanni's short sword. It is here, hidden;
see, here it is. If they should make a search--if they should find this
weapon!"

"Why should they make a search in this house, where you have not been
living for several weeks?"

"Because last night, if those soldiers followed my tracks, guided by the
blood I lost, they must have seen where I stopped."

"But they had lost your track, when you were overtaken by this girl."

"I say again, Jarnonville, it is not my life that I wish to save; I must
die--I am a miserable wretch--I blush for myself! But let my infamy be
kept secret--for my father's sake, for my child's!--Oh! how I suffer!"

Léodgard's head fell back, and a livid pallor overspread his face. The
chevalier was on the point of going to call Bathilde, when he heard
footsteps and voices in the courtyard. The wounded man raised his head
and whispered:

"Do you hear, Jarnonville? they are coming; those are the soldiers; they
are coming to arrest the Comte de Marvejols as a highwayman. I am lost!"

"Be calm. Yes, there are footsteps approaching."

"And Giovanni's weapon that I have here?"

"Give it to me; I will attach it to my belt in place of my sword, and no
one will even notice it."

In an instant Jarnonville removed his sword and placed it in a corner of
the room, and replaced it with the weapon that once belonged to
Giovanni. He had hardly made this change, when a servant entered the
room, saying:

"Monsieur le comte, there is an officer here, accompanied by several men
at arms, whom he has stationed in the courtyard. He desires to have the
honor of speaking with you. He is sent, he says, by Monseigneur le
Cardinal de Richelieu."

"By the cardinal!--Very well! admit this officer."

The servant left the room; and Léodgard cast an imploring glance at
Jarnonville, murmuring:

"The cardinal--who has always manifested such a profound regard for my
father--it is he who sends----"

The entrance of the officer prevented the count from finishing his
sentence. The cardinal's agent bowed low before Léodgard and
Jarnonville, and began:

"Monsieur le comte, a ridiculous report, the falsity of which it will
surely be very easy for you to prove, has gained currency this morning
in Paris, and has reached the ears of his eminence. Last night, some
soldiers of the watch pursued the famous Giovanni; they fired upon him
and wounded him, for he left a trail of blood as he fled. However, they
lost sight of the robber; but a girl whom they met, and near whom they
picked up the robber's cap and false beard, said to them:--I beg pardon,
monsieur le comte, it is the girl who is speaking;--she declared to them
that the man whom they were pursuing was not Giovanni, but Comte
Léodgard de Marvejols. These words would not have deserved to be
reported, had it not been for the fact that, by an accident which it
will doubtless be easy for you to explain, the blood marks stopped
directly in front of your gateway.--Having failed to find you at your
house in Rue de Bretonvilliers, I have been sent here. Monsieur le
cardinal would be glad, monsieur le comte, if you would take the trouble
to call upon him, so that a few words from you may suffice to put an end
to an abominable calumny."

"Monsieur," Léodgard replied, struggling to surmount his suffering, "I
should comply with monsieur le cardinal's wish with the greatest zeal,
but it is impossible at this moment; I cannot move--I am wounded!"

"Wounded!" exclaimed the officer; and his expression lost all its
amenity; "oho! you are wounded, are you, monsieur le comte? And since
when?"

"Since yesterday, monsieur."

"Since yesterday? May I inquire how you received this wound?"

"Under any other circumstances, I should refuse to reply, monsieur; but,
after the circulation of such rumors, I realize that it is my duty to
speak. I fought a duel yesterday, with pistols, in Vincennes Forest.--I
know the severity of the laws concerning duels, and I desired to keep
this secret, to conceal my wound. I waited until night before returning
here."

"Very good, monsieur le comte; pardon me if I ask you a few questions.
With whom did you fight?"

"Monsieur, I have delivered myself over to the cardinal's wrath, but I
will not denounce my opponent."

"The names of your seconds at least, monsieur le comte?"

Léodgard let his head fall back; his strength seemed to abandon him, and
he made no reply. Thereupon Jarnonville rose and placed himself in front
of the officer.

"Cease tormenting the Comte de Marvejols, monsieur; he is suffering
quite enough with his wound. You wish to know with whom he fought? Well,
it was with me. Yes, monsieur, we quarrelled yesterday for a trivial
cause; being both too hot-headed to wait until the next day, we went to
Vincennes, and there, with no other witness than the sky, we fired at
each other. I had the misfortune to wound the count severely in the
shoulder. We became friends once more as soon as blood flowed, and we
waited until it was very late before returning to Paris. This morning I
had just come to inquire for my adversary when you appeared.--Now you
know all, monsieur."

While Jarnonville was speaking, a gleam of joy illumined Léodgard's
features, and he gave the chevalier a glance expressive of all his
gratitude.

"Oh! that explains everything, monsieur le chevalier," said the officer;
"and I beg monsieur le comte to accept my apologies. But I still have a
painful duty to perform. You know the strict laws concerning duelling;
we are ordered to arrest all those who have infringed them. You are
both guilty. Because of his wound, I will leave monsieur le comte in his
own house, where he will remain until further orders. As for you, Sire
de Jarnonville, I cannot shirk the duty of escorting you at once before
the cardinal-minister, who will decide your fate."

"'Tis well, monsieur; take me to the cardinal--I am ready to follow
you."

The officer bowed and walked toward the door; while Jarnonville
approached the wounded man, who said to him in a failing voice:

"Chevalier, you have saved the honor of my family! thanks! thanks a
thousand times! May you not fall a victim to your noble sacrifice!--As
for myself, I know my duty--within an hour I shall have ceased to live.
Adieu! I do not ask you for your hand, for mine is sullied! But forgive
me--for my wife's sake and my child's!"

Jarnonville, deeply moved, offered Léodgard his hand; but the officer
said to him:

"I am waiting, Sire de Jarnonville;" and the chevalier hastened from the
room, with a last glance at the wounded man.

When Léodgard was left alone, he looked about the room for several
minutes with a vague, uncertain glance, until his eyes rested at last
upon a small article of furniture in a recess; a gleam of satisfaction
passed over his face, and he was about to ring, when a servant entered
and said timidly:

"Pardon me, monsieur le comte, for entering the room without being
summoned; but madame la comtesse is most desirous to see you; she is
bringing mademoiselle."

"Very well; in one instant. First, open that cupboard yonder; the key is
in the lock; that is right. In the left-hand drawer you will find a
phial; give it to me."

The servant obeyed his master's orders, and brought him a small phial
containing a yellowish liquid. Léodgard took it, examined it carefully,
and placed it under his pillow, saying:

"Now, you may inform madame la comtesse that I am ready to receive her."

Bathilde was evidently waiting in an adjoining room, for she appeared
almost instantly with Blanche, who ran to her father's bed, crying:

"Friend! papa! Blanche is very glad you came back. You sick; we are
going to take care of you, like we did before. But then you won't go
away any more, will you? you will stay with us?"

"No! oh, no! I shall not go away any more, darling girl!" replied
Léodgard, motioning to Bathilde to place Blanche on the bed, so that he
might kiss her. And in a moment he held her lovely face against his
breast and covered her brow with kisses, while great tears escaped from
his eyes, which had never wept.

Bathilde, profoundly moved, knelt beside the bed, murmuring:

"Dear Léodgard! it makes me so happy to see the love that you bear your
child! Ah! do not doubt that we will both do our utmost to be worthy of
your affection. To live with you will be the sweetest reward of our
devotion of every instant, of our zeal to please you in everything."

"Thanks, Bathilde! Give me your hand, that I may press it.--Do you too
come near, so that I may kiss your brow."

"O my dear! your lips are burning--your eyes seem more sunken--you are
suffering more! Please let me send for the doctor?"

"Do nothing of the sort; I forbid it! In a little while I will rest, and
that will cure me; I shall not suffer any more.--Blanche, my child, look
at me again. Ah! how lovely you are! how proud we shall be of you! And
you will be good, too; I can read it in your face. You love your
mother--you will make her happy."

"You, too, papa--I love you, too, with all my heart."

Léodgard raised himself once more to embrace his daughter passionately;
but a terrifying pallor overspread his features, and Bathilde cried:

"In heaven's name, do at least take some of that cordial that revived
you last night!"

"Not now; I need nothing but rest. Adieu, Bathilde! adieu, my daughter!"

"No, not _adieu_, my dear, but _au revoir_! we will return soon."

"Wait until I ring.--Dear darling, go, and pray to the good Lord for
me."

"Yes, papa; I will pray to have you get well very quick."

"My dear, if you will allow us to, we might stay with you; we would make
no noise."

"Yes, papa, let me stay; I will be very good; I won't play."

"Not now--go; later, later, you may come again. Go, I beg you; leave
me!"

Bathilde felt a heavy weight at her heart; she left her husband with
profound regret; but she dared not disobey him. She took Blanche away,
throwing kisses to her father; while he, surmounting his pain, succeeded
in smiling at her once more.

Jarnonville and the officer arrived in due time at the palace occupied
by the cardinal. No guards followed them, for the chevalier had given
his word not to try to escape, and they knew that he would not break it.
Having escorted Jarnonville to a reception room adjoining Richelieu's
cabinet, the officer left him there while he went to notify his
eminence. He returned in a few moments and informed his prisoner that
the cardinal begged him to wait until he was at liberty.

The chevalier was left alone, and half an hour passed, during which he
saw no one. But the time sped very quickly for him; for, having been
deeply impressed by all the events which he had witnessed, and in which
he now found himself playing an important part, he gave no thought to
the risk he himself was running; he thought of the tears Bathilde would
shed, of poor little Blanche, who would soon have no father; and he said
to himself:

"But it must be so! Yes, he must cease to live; his death will not
lessen his crimes, but it will make it possible to conceal them."

At last, a servant appeared and informed Jarnonville that the cardinal
could receive him, and the chevalier was ushered into Richelieu's study.

The minister was alone; dressed in his red soutane, and pale, thin,
fatigued by overwork. That fragile, ailing man, who made all Europe
tremble, retained in his glance, instinct with fire and vivacity, all
the youthful vigor that his body had lost.

Seated at his desk, examining reports, Richelieu toyed with a cat that
lay on his knees, while two others played on a rug at his feet. When the
Sire de Jarnonville entered, the cardinal raised his head, looked at him
a few seconds, and said at last in a tone that bore no trace of anger:

"What is this that I hear, Sire de Jarnonville? That you have been
fighting a duel with the Comte de Marvejols? Is that the truth?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"But you must be familiar with the edicts concerning single combats. I
have been compelled to put a curb upon this barbarous custom, this
mania that men have for killing one another for an idle word! If I had
not regulated the matter, the whole of the king's court would have taken
the field!--You know, then, monsieur, that it is a capital offence?"

"I know it, monseigneur."

"And that did not stop you!--What motive had you, grave enough to induce
you to defy the law?--Come, speak, chevalier. I thought that you were a
friend to Comte Léodgard; you were his child's godfather, I believe."

"I acted in place of the old Marquis de Marvejols--that is true."

"You take a deep interest in the young countess--and you fight with her
husband!--What was the cause of this duel?"

Jarnonville, who did not lie readily, especially when it was necessary
to invent a long story, was considerably embarrassed beneath Richelieu's
piercing gaze, and faltered:

"Sometimes, monseigneur, between two persons who meet often, a word too
lightly spoken is enough.--Comte Léodgard is quick to take
offence--and--and I myself lose my head sometimes."

While Jarnonville was seeking his phrases, the cardinal, who was
watching him closely, glanced at the short, broad sword that hung at his
belt. He frowned, and said, interrupting him:

"You have a peculiar sword there, chevalier?"

"This sword--ah, yes! I do not--er--wear it usually."

"I think not, for I have never seen it upon you. Whence have you it?"

"Why, I found it with other weapons--which belonged to my father."

"Ah! by the way, have you heard aught of the charges made by a young
woman with respect to Comte Léodgard?"

"Not until this morning, monseigneur."

"You do not give credit to them, do you?"

"How can I do so, monseigneur, when I know that it was I who wounded the
count, in a duel?"

"Very true. Let me look at this sword which came to you from your
father; I am curious to examine it."

Jarnonville detached the weapon from his belt and handed it, in the
scabbard, to Richelieu; but he unsheathed it, and read in gilt letters
on the steel the name _Giovanni_. Without making a sign, the cardinal
instantly replaced the sword in its scabbard, saying:

"Do you think that Comte Léodgard's wound is dangerous, Sire de
Jarnonville?"

At that moment a clock on the mantel shelf struck twelve; the chevalier
listened, then replied:

"The Comte de Marvejols no longer lives!"

"Do you think so?"

"I am certain, monseigneur."

The minister's expression became less stern. He returned the sword to
Jarnonville, and said:

"In that case, all is for the best; one culprit is punished, and that is
enough. As for you, chevalier, I pardon you, in spite of your duel--for,
of course, you fought with the count, did you not?--But put this sword
out of sight; break it, for it might compromise you. Go, chevalier;
comfort a widow and protect an orphan, as you have protected the honor
of the name they bear."

When Jarnonville returned to the Hôtel de Marvejols, he found everybody
in tears. The countess, anxious about her husband, had disregarded his
prohibition and returned to his side; she no longer found him living who
had embraced their child a few moments before.

Ambroisine ran to meet the chevalier to give him this intelligence;
Jarnonville pressed the girl's hand tenderly, as he replied:

"Let us think of nothing now but comforting your friend; time will do
the rest; her child's love, your friendship, my devotion, will avail, I
hope, to afford her many happy days."

Toward the close of this day, which had witnessed so many events, a girl
prowling about the neighborhood of the Hotel de Marvejols learned at
last that the Comte de Marvejols no longer existed. Thereupon her face
lighted up, and, raising her eyes heavenward, she said to herself:

"I may hold my peace now; for Giovanni is avenged; and soon, I hope, I
shall join him."

In the year following Bathilde's widowhood, Ambroisine became the wife
of the Sire de Jarnonville, who, finding in the _belle baigneuse_ all
the virtuous and estimable qualities of the mind, combined with physical
beauty, did not hesitate to form a _mésalliance_, in order to possess
them all.

It is said that the Chevalier de Passedix was seriously ill after his
bath, and was thereby cured of his love for Miretta. When he met
Bahuchet and Plumard again, he belabored them with the flat of Roland,
then took them into his service once more as page and esquire; for by
flattering the Gascon's amour propre, they were always able to obtain
pardon for their rascalities.

Let us say a word more of that little angel, pretty Blanche, whose sweet
words had taught that pure, sincere sentiment that led her father back
to virtue.

She at least was happy.

All roses do not die in the bud.





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