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Title: Brother Jacques (Novels of Paul de Kock, Volume XVII)
Author: Kock, Charles Paul de, 1794-1871
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration]

_THE REPENTANT HUSBAND_


_Jacques no longer had the strength to spurn him; Edouard approached
Adeline and threw himself at her feet, placing his head against the
ground, and sobbing piteously._



NOVELS

BY

Paul de Kock

VOLUME XVII

BROTHER JACQUES

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

THE JEFFERSON PRESS

BOSTON NEW YORK



I

A WEDDING PARTY AT THE CADRAN-BLEU.--THE MURVILLE FAMILY


It is midnight; whence come these joyful shouts, these bursts of
laughter, these outcries, this music, this singing, this uproar? Pause a
moment on the boulevard, in front of the Cadran-Bleu; follow the example
of those folk who look on at all the wedding parties, all the banquets,
which take place at the restaurants on Boulevard du Temple, by walking
in front of the windows, or in the roadway, and who enjoy comfortably
the spectacle of a ladies’ chain, a waltz, or a chocolate cream,--at the
risk, however, of being jostled by passers-by, splashed by carriages and
insulted by drivers. But at midnight the idlers, the loiterers, or the
loungers--whichever you may choose to call them--have returned home;
nothing remains in front of the door of the Cadran-Bleu except cabs or
private carriages, according as the guests choose to assume an air of
greater or less importance; but that is the hour at which the tableau
becomes more interesting, more varied, more animated; for not until then
do the guests begin to become really acquainted.

But, you will ask me, what is the occasion of this assemblage at the
Cadran-Bleu? Is it a birthday party, an anniversary, or a banquet of
some society? Better than any of these; it is a wedding party.

A wedding party! What a world of reflections those words arouse! To how
many thoughts, hopes, and memories they give rise! How fast they make
the young girl’s heart beat, who sighs for the moment to come when she
will be the heroine of that great day, when she will carry that pretty
white bouquet, that wreath of orange blossoms, the symbols of modesty
and of maidenhood, which have unhappily lied to more than one husband
who has never boasted about it, and for a good reason! But how the
thought of that ceremony saddens the young wife, but a few years
married, who already has ceased to know happiness except in her memory!
She trembles for the lot of the poor child who is pledging herself! She
remembers the day of her own wedding, the ardor and zealous attentions
of her husband; she compares that day with those that have followed, and
realizes how much confidence can be placed in the vows of man.

But let us leave such reflections. Let us enter the Cadran-Bleu, and
make the acquaintance of the principal persons at this function, whom,
probably, we shall have occasion to see more than once in the course of
this narrative, unless it happens that this chapter has no connection
with the plot, which is quite possible; we read many chapters of that
sort.

Edouard Murville was twenty-five years of age; he was of medium stature
but well-proportioned; his face was attractive, his voice soft, his
manners distinguished. He had all the social talents, played moderately
well on the violin, sang with expression, and danced gracefully; his
language was well-chosen, he was accustomed to society, and he knew how
to enter and leave a salon, which, be it said in passing, is not so easy
as one might think. What! I hear my readers say, does this fellow
suppose that we do not know how to walk, to enter a room, and to bow
gracefully? God forbid that I should express such a judgment upon the
nation which dances best! But there are degrees in everything, and it is
upon those degrees that I base my judgment. A very clever, but slightly
sarcastic woman, beside whom I was sitting not long ago, in the salon of
a banker, favored me with some of her observations, which in general are
very just.

“Come,” she said, “let us examine together the people who come into this
salon; I will wager that I can guess their dispositions, their humor, by
the way in which they enter.--See that tall lady passing through the
crowd, not deigning to notice anybody with even so much as a nod! Now
she is sitting down in front of the fireplace, she places her feet upon
the screen, and installs herself in the best place, without looking to
see whether she is in the way of the people behind her or not. What do
you think of that woman?”

“That she is very pretentious and desires to display her fine dress.”

“That is not all,--add that she is a fool. A clever woman has a thousand
ways of attracting attention without assuming ridiculous airs; and when
she desires to create a sensation, she goes about it skilfully at least,
and does not look with disdain upon people who are dressed in an
old-fashioned way, or whose toilet is slightly careless.--But what is
that noise in the reception room? Has some virtuoso arrived? Has a
sideboard been knocked over? The master of the house is hurrying in that
direction, and we shall soon know what the matter is. Ah! I recognize
that voice. It is Monsieur J----. Listen; you can easily hear him from
here.”

“Ah! my dear friend! I am terribly distressed to arrive so late! Upon my
honor, I am covered with confusion! I don’t know whether I ought to
come in! I am dressed like a thief! I must hide in some corner!”

“Well,” said my neighbor to me, “what do you think of this gentleman,
who does not want to be seen, and who so declares in such a loud voice
that he makes everybody in the salon turn his head?--Ah! he has made up
his mind to come in, nevertheless.”

I expected to see a young dandy, but I saw a man of between forty and
fifty, with a light wig, come forward with a mincing step, bowing to
right and to left and smiling almost agreeably.

“Who on earth is this man?” I asked my neighbor.

“Monsieur J---- is the universal man; he knows all Paris, he belongs to
all the clubs, especially those where they have music. He plays three or
four instruments; there is no amateur concert where he does not take
part; nor is there an artiste who does not know him. You have had an
opportunity of judging, by his method of entering this room, that his
happiness consists in making a sensation; I do not draw from that fact a
very favorable augury of his talents; for, as you know, merit is not in
the habit of seeking a brilliant light. Mediocrity, on the contrary,
makes a great deal of noise, thrusts itself forward, insists upon
pervading everything, and always succeeds in dazzling fools.

“But I see a new face, that of a young man; he at least makes no noise;
he comes in so softly that one can hardly hear him, he half bows, stands
near the door, then creeps along the wall, and finally seizes a chair,
upon which he seats himself very quickly, and from which he will not
stir throughout the evening, I promise you. Poor fellow, he twists his
mouth, winks and blinks, and does not know what to do with his hands. I
will wager that he thinks that all the women are looking at him and
discussing him. I have noticed, that as a general rule, timidity, yes,
even awkwardness, often results from excessive self-consciousness: the
fear of seeming ridiculous, or of not wearing a sufficiently fascinating
expression, imparts that embarrassment to the bearing, that almost
comical expression to the face; if you wish to convince yourself of it,
examine on the stage some _jeune premier_ who is rather good-looking,
and who would act well, perhaps, if he were not engrossed entirely by
his wig, his cravat, his attitude, and the effect which his face is
likely to produce in the hall.”

My neighbor continued her observations; and I would gladly communicate
them to you, reader, were it not that I am beginning to notice that you
opened this volume, not to hear me talk with her, but to learn of the
adventures of Brother Jacques.--A thousand pardons for taking you to a
banker’s salon. I return to the Cadran-Bleu.

You know now that the marriage of Edouard Murville is being celebrated
there, that the bridegroom is twenty-five years old and a very
good-looking fellow. But you do not yet know his wife, and I must hasten
to repair my neglect in that respect; for she is lovely, sweet,
attractive, and virtuous; it would be impossible to make her
acquaintance too soon.

Adeline Germeuil was eighteen years old, and she possessed all those
qualities which charm at first sight and attach one thereafter:
beautiful eyes, fine teeth, graceful manners, a fresh complexion, wit
unsullied by ill-temper, gaiety without coquetry, charm without
affectation, modesty without timidity. She knew that she was pretty, but
did not think that for that reason all men ought to do homage to her;
she loved pleasure but did not make that her sole occupation. In short,
she was a woman such as it is very pleasant to meet, especially when
one is a bachelor.

Adeline was devoted to Edouard, to whom she had given preference over
several much more advantageous offers, for Edouard’s only fortune was
the place which he occupied in one of the government departments, while
Adeline had about fifteen thousand francs a year. But Mademoiselle
Germeuil had no ambition, she considered happiness to consist in
delights of the heart, and not in more or less wealth. Moreover, with
fifteen thousand francs a year, one can live without privation,
especially when one is the wife of a man of orderly habits, who knows
how to regulate his household expenses. Now Murville seemed such a man,
he seemed to have all the estimable qualities, and he carried the day.

Mademoiselle Germeuil had no parent but her mother, a most estimable
woman, who adored her daughter and was never willing to thwart her
desires. However, it was her duty to look after Adeline’s future
welfare; and so, as soon as she discovered her daughter’s love for
Edouard Murville, she made haste to seek information concerning the
young man’s moral character, and concerning his family.

She found that he was born of well-to-do parents; that his father had
followed the profession of the law with honor, but that several
successive failures had reduced the family to the strict necessaries of
life. Edouard and Jacques were Monsieur Murville’s only children.
Jacques was a year younger than Edouard; but Madame Murville had not
divided her affections equally between her two sons. Edouard was the
favorite. A circumstance, apparently most trivial, had influenced Madame
Murville’s sentiments; she had little intellect and a great deal of
vanity; so that she was certain to set great store by all the petty,
puerile things which are of such great weight in society. When she first
became enceinte, she put her mind on the rack, to think what name she
should give to her child. Her desire was to find a name which should be
at once graceful, pleasant to the ear and distinguished; after long
discussions and profound reflections, she decided upon Edouard for a
boy, or Célénie for a girl, Monsieur Murville having left her entirely
free to decide that question.

The first-born was a boy, and he received the name of Edouard, with all
his mother’s affection. When she became enceinte again, she did not
doubt for an instant that she should bring into the world a pretty
little Célénie; the birth of a daughter would have filled her cup to
overflowing. But after long suffering, she brought into the world a
bouncing boy.

It will be understood that this one was not so warmly received as the
first. Moreover, they had not had the slightest expectation of a boy,
and they had not decided what name he should bear. But this time any
previous deliberation upon that subject would have been wasted, for
Monsieur Murville informed his wife that a friend of his desired to be
his son’s godfather. This friend was very rich and they were under some
obligation to him, so that they could not refuse him as godfather. So he
held the child at the altar, and to the great scandal of Madame
Murville, gave him the name of Jacques.

In truth, although Jacques is as good a name as another, it is not very
melodious, and it offended the delicate ear of Madame Murville, who
maintained that it was a name fit for a footman, a Savoyard, a
messenger, and that it was a shame to call her son by it. In vain did
her husband try to make her listen to reason, and recite to her again
and again the history of Scotland, where the throne had been occupied
by many Jacqueses. Madame Murville could never pronounce that name
without a sigh.

However, there was no way to change it, for the godfather, who was
naturally called Jacques also, and who came often to see his godson,
would have been deeply offended to hear him called by any other name.

So the little fellow remained Jacques, to the great distress of Madame
Murville. As for Edouard, whether from a spirit of mischief on his part,
or because the name pleased him, he called Brother Jacques every moment
during the day; and when he had done anything naughty, he always shifted
it to Brother Jacques’s shoulders.

The two brothers were entirely different in disposition; Edouard placid,
well-behaved, obliging, was glad to pass his day by his mother’s side;
Jacques, noisy, boisterous, quick-tempered, could not keep still, and
never went anywhere without turning everything upside down.

Edouard learned readily what was told him; Jacques would throw his books
and pens into the fire, and make a hoop or a wooden sword.

Finally, at sixteen, Edouard went into company with his parents; he had
already learned to listen to conversation and to smile pleasantly at a
pretty woman. At fifteen, Jacques left his parents’ roof, and
disappeared, leaving no letter behind, nothing to indicate his plans, or
the purpose of his departure. They made all possible investigation and
search; they put his description in the newspapers, but they never
learned what had become of him; they waited for news of him, but none
ever came.

Monsieur Murville was deeply grieved at the flight of the hare-brained
young man; even Madame Murville herself realized that she was a mother,
and that a boy might be named Jacques and still be her son; she repented
of her unjust prejudice, she reproached herself for it, but it was too
late. The unfortunate name had had its effect; it had closed to Jacques
his mother’s heart; it drew upon him the mockery of his brother; and
perhaps all these causes combined had driven the young man from the home
of his parents. Who knows? There is so much tossing to and fro in life!

“I caught the measles recently,” said a young man to me yesterday,
“because a man who makes shoes for a young lady friend of mine broke his
spectacles.”

“What connection is there?” said I, “between your measles and a
shoemaker’s spectacles?”

“It was like this, my dear fellow; the lady in question had given me her
word to sing with me that evening at the house of one of our
acquaintances. But she expected some pretty cherry slippers in the
morning, to wear with a dress of that color; the shoemaker in question
had broken his spectacles on the day that he took her measure, so that
he brought her some slippers, which, though they were lovely, were too
small. However, she could not resist the desire to try them on; they
hurt a great deal, but the shoemaker assured her that they would be all
right after she had worn them a while. Ladies think a great deal about
having a small foot. She limped a little when she left the house; when
she was on the boulevard, in the presence of some of her acquaintances,
she did not wish to seem to be limping, so she exerted herself to walk
lightly; but the foot became inflamed and swollen; she suffered
horribly, and was obliged to return home. There she threw the infernal
slippers aside, and examined her feet; they were raw and swollen, and
she could not hope to go out for a week. I, knowing nothing about this,
went to our rendezvous, expecting to employ my evening singing. I did
not find the lady; the mistress of the house was alone; she is very
agreeable, but she is forty years old. The time dragged terribly, I
became impatient, and after waiting for an hour, I went out, having no
idea where I should go. I passed a theatre, went in mechanically, and
solely to kill time, for I knew the plays by heart. I saw a pretty face,
and instinctively took a seat beside it; I said a few words and she
answered; she seemed fond of talking, and I was very glad to find an
opportunity to amuse myself. At last the play came to an end and I
offered my pretty talker my arm. After some slight parley she accepted;
I escorted my fair conquest to her home and did not leave her until I
had obtained permission to call upon her. I did not fail to do so the
next day. In a word, I soon became an intimate friend, and in one of my
visits I caught the measles, which the lady had, unknown to me. So you
see, if the shoemaker hadn’t broken his spectacles, it wouldn’t have
happened.”

My young friend was right: the most important events are often caused by
the most simple distractions, the most trivial circumstances. As for my
hero, there is no doubt that his baptismal name exerted an influence
over his whole destiny. How many men have owed to the splendors of a
famous name, which their ancestors have transmitted to them, a degree of
consideration which would never have been accorded their individuality!
Happy is the man who is able to make his own name famous, and to
transmit it to posterity with glory. But happier perhaps is he who lives
unknown, and whose name will never arouse hatred or envy!

Now you know the Murville family; it remains for me to tell you of the
death of Edouard’s father and mother, who followed each other to the
tomb after a short interval, carrying with them their regret as to the
fate of their son Jacques; and they enjoined upon Edouard to forgive
him his escapade in their name, if he should ever find him.

Edouard was left master of his actions. He was twenty-two years old, and
had a place worth two thousand francs a year; he could live respectably
by behaving himself. He loved pleasure; but society, music, the theatre,
offered him pleasures which cost him little; it never occurred to him to
gamble. He was fond of ladies’ society; but he was not bad-looking and
had no reason to complain of their severity. He allowed himself to be
led astray easily, and had not sufficient strength of character; but
luckily for him, he was not intimate with men of dissolute habits. In a
word, he could not be cited as a model to be followed, but on the other
hand, he had no very great faults.

So that Madame Germeuil readily decided to give her Adeline to Edouard
Murville.

“This young man will make my daughter happy,” she said to herself; “he
has not much strength of character; very good! then my dear child will
be the mistress, and households where the wives rule are often the best
conducted.”

And that is why there was a wedding party at the Cadran-Bleu.



II

GREAT EVENTS CAUSED BY A JIG AND A SNUFF BOX


“How pretty she is! What a fine figure she has! What charm and
freshness!” said the young men, and even the fathers, to one another, as
they watched the bride and followed her every motion when she danced.
“Ah! what a lucky fellow that Edouard is!”

Such was the general opinion.

Edouard heard all this; he was in fact as happy as a man can be when he
is on the point of becoming entirely happy. To conceal his desires, his
impatience, he skipped and danced about, and did not keep still one
minute. From time to time he went into the corridor to consult his
watch; it was still too early--not for him! but he must spare his wife’s
blushes; and what would the company say; what would his wife’s mother
say? Well! he must wait; oh! how long that day had been! Poor husband
and wife! It is the brightest day in all your lives, and yet you wish
that it were already passed! Man is never content.

“The bridegroom looks to be very much in love!” said all the married
ladies; the unmarried ones did not say so, but they thought it.

“Ah! Monsieur Volenville, that is the way you looked at me twenty-two
years ago,” said, with a sigh, to her husband, a lady of forty-five,
overladen with rouge, flowers, laces and ribbons, who sat in a corner of
the ball-room, where she had been waiting in vain since dinner for a
partner to present himself. Monsieur Volenville, formerly a frequent
attendant at the balls at Sceaux, and now an auctioneer in the Marais,
did not answer his wife, but took a pinch of snuff and went into the
next room to watch a game of écarté.

Madame Volenville testily changed her place, which she had done already
several times. She placed herself between two young women, hoping
apparently that that side of the room would be invited in a body, and
that she would thus be included in the dancers. But her hope was
disappointed once more; she saw young men coming toward her, she nodded
her head gracefully, smiled, and put out her foot, which was not
unshapely. They approached; but oh, woe! they addressed themselves to
her right or to her left, and seemed to pay no attention to her and her
soft glances and her pretty foot.

It is really most unpleasant to be a wall-flower, and Madame Volenville,
not knowing what method to employ to attract a partner, deliberated
whether to show the lower part of her leg; it had formerly performed
miracles, and it would be as well to try its power, as the foot produced
no effect.

She decided to do it; the lower part of the calf was about to be shown
as modestly as possible, when suddenly there was a loud call for a
fourth couple to fill up a quadrille. There were no more ladies
remaining; some had left the party, and all the rest were on the floor.
A young man, well-curled and well-perfumed, glanced about the ball-room;
he spied the auctioneer’s wife, resigned himself to his fate, and walked
gravely toward her to ask her to dance. Madame Volenville did not give
the young man time to finish his invitation; she rose, darted toward
him, seized his hand, and squeezed it so that she almost made him cry
out. Our dandy jumped back; he concluded that the poor woman was subject
to hysterical attacks; he gazed at her uneasily, not knowing what course
to pursue; but Madame Volenville gave him little time for reflection:
she dragged him roughly away toward the incomplete quadrille; she took
her place, bowed to her partner, and led him through the cat’s tail and
the ladies’ chain, before he had recovered from his bewilderment.

The heroic and free-and-easy manner of Madame Volenville’s dancing
created a sensation; a confused murmur ran through the salon and the
young men left the card-table for the place where our auctioneeress was
performing. She considered this eagerness to watch her very flattering,
and was enchanted by it; she danced with redoubled fire and animation,
and tried to electrify her partner, who did not seem to share her
vivacity; flushing with rage when he saw the circle which had formed
about him, and heard the sarcastic compliments which the young men
addressed to him, and the spiteful remarks of the young women, he bit
his lips, clenched his fists, and would have given all that he possessed
to have the quadrille come to a close. But Madame Volenville left him
but little time to himself; she was almost always in the air; she
insisted upon balancing, or going forward and back, all the time,
despite the remonstrances of her partner, who said to her until he was
hoarse:

“It isn’t our turn, madame; in a minute; that figure is finished; pray
stop!”

But Madame Volenville was started, and she was determined to make up to
herself for five hours of waiting; and when by chance she did pause for
a second, her glance rested complacently upon the large crowd which
surrounded her; and as with her handkerchief she wiped away the drops
of perspiration which stood on her brow, her eyes seemed to say to the
throng:

“You didn’t expect to see such dancing as this, eh? Another time,
perhaps you will ask me!”

Meanwhile the torture of Belcour--that was the name of Madame
Volenville’s partner--was approaching its end; the quadrille was almost
finished; already they had thrice performed the famous _chassez les
huit_; once more, and all would have been over, when a young notary’s
clerk, a mischievous joker, who loved a laugh, like most of his fellows,
conceived the idea of running to the orchestra, and asking for a jig in
the name of the whole company. The musicians at a wedding party never
refuse any request, and they began to play a jig at the moment that
Belcour bowed to Madame Volenville and attempted to slink away.

The voice of Orpheus imploring the gods of the infernal regions did not
produce so much effect upon Pluto as the strains of the violins and the
air of the jig produced upon Madame Volenville.

“Monsieur! monsieur! it isn’t over yet,” she cried to Belcour, who was
walking away. He pretended not to hear, and was already near the door of
the salon, when Madame Volenville ran after him, caught him and arrested
his steps.

“Monsieur, what are you doing? Don’t you hear the violins? Ah! what a
pretty tune! it’s a jig; come quickly!”

“A thousand pardons, madame, but I thought----”

“It is a jig, monsieur, and I love that dance to madness!”

“Madame, I do not feel very well, and----”

“You shall see my English steps; it was while dancing the jig that I
used to make so many conquests.”

“Madame, I would like a breath of fresh air----”

“And indeed that I fascinated--I attracted my husband, at the ball at
Sceaux.”

“But, madame----”

In vain did Belcour seek to resist; Madame Volenville would not let him
go, but dragged him toward the dance, paying no heed to his excuses.
Seeing that a longer discussion would intensify the absurdity of his
position, he yielded at last and returned to the quadrille. The crowd of
curious onlookers hastily stood aside to make room for the couple upon
whom all eyes were fixed.

The signal was given and everyone started off, the men to the right,
then the ladies, Madame Volenville among the first. With what ardor she
ran to the other men and swung them round as on a pivot! The
perspiration rolled down her cheeks, and streaked her rouge; two of her
_mouches_ fell from her temple to a spot below the ear; her curls became
loosened, her wreath of roses was detached and took the place of a
collar; but none of those things was capable of stopping her: in an
instant she had made the circuit of the quadrille and had returned to
her place. Belcour was no longer there. He had taken advantage of the
confusion occasioned by the figure, to steal away. But Madame Volenville
must have a partner, and she took the first one who came to hand; it was
an old attorney in a hammer wig, who happened to be standing opposite
her. The excellent man had joined the crowd, impelled by curiosity; he
had forced his way to the front and was gazing enviously at a pretty
little breast of twenty years, as white and fresh and solid as a rock,
that belonged to a pretty dancer. The old attorney remarked, with the
lecherous gaze of a connoisseur, that the exertion of dancing scarcely
shook the two lovely globes; he was amazed thereat, because it was a
long while since he had seen anything of the sort at a ball, whether
fancy dress, public, in fashionable or middle-class society, or even at
open air fêtes. Overjoyed by his discovery, and to manifest his
satisfaction to the pretty dancer, he displayed the tip of his tongue
and smiled pleasantly; a method adopted by old rakes to declare their
passion without words.

But the pretty dancer paid no heed to the attorney and his grimaces, and
he, tired of showing his tongue without obtaining a glance, was
deliberating whether, during a moment of crowding and confusion, he
might venture to take her hand, when Madame Volenville, with the
rapidity of a bomb, arrived between him and the young lady he was
admiring, and began to execute her English steps, accompanied by an
alluring simper.

The old libertine gazed with a bewildered air at the flushed, disfigured
face, the disordered headdress and the limp form of Madame Volenville;
he tried to retreat; but she took both his hands, whirled him about and
made him jump into the air.

“Madame, I don’t know this!” cried the attorney, struggling to free
himself.

“Come on, all the same, monsieur! I must have a partner!”

“Stop this, madame; I never waltzed in my life!”

“This isn’t a waltz, monsieur; it’s a jig.”

“Stop, madame, I beg! I am dizzy; I shall fall!”

“You dance like an angel!”

Madame Volenville was a very devil; she considered herself still as
fascinating as at twenty; she was persuaded that her steps, her graces,
her vivacity and her little mincing ways were calculated to fascinate
everybody; she did not realize that years entirely change the aspect of
things. That which is charming at twenty becomes affectation at forty;
the frivolity natural to youth seems folly in maturer years, and the
little simpering expressions which we forgive on a childish face, later
are mere absurdities and sometimes downright grimaces.

It is possible, nevertheless, for a woman of mature years to please; but
she does not succeed in so doing by aping the manners of youth. Nothing
can be more agreeable to the eye, more calculated to attract favorable
notice, than a mother dancing without any affectation of youthful
graces, opposite her daughter; nothing more absurd than an old coquette,
with her hair dressed as if she were sixteen, trying to rival girls of
that age in agility.

Madame Volenville was, as you see, an indefatigable dancer; she strove
to infect her partner with the ardor that animated her; but the old
attorney, red as a cherry, rolled his eyes wildly, unable to distinguish
objects; everything about him was going round and round; the jig, the
heat and his wrath combined to make him helplessly dizzy. He held his
face as far from his partner’s as possible; but, to put the finishing
touch to his discomfiture, his wig came off, fell to the floor, where it
was trampled under foot by the dancers, and the attorney’s head was
revealed to the eyes of the guests, as bare as one’s hand.

This last mishap, adding tenfold to the old fellow’s rage, gave him the
strength to break loose from his partner; he pushed her away with great
force. Madame Volenville fell into the lap of a stout clerk, who was
sitting peacefully on a bench at the end of the room, running over in
his mind with keen enjoyment the names of all the dishes he had eaten at
dinner.

The corpulent party uttered a sharp exclamation when Madame Volenville
landed on him; he swore that he was being suffocated; but she did not
stir, because no woman in good society ought to fall upon anyone
without swooning. Monsieur Tourte--that was the clerk’s name--called for
help, while Monsieur Robineau--our attorney--loudly demanded his wig,
which he sought in vain in every corner of the room, but could not find,
because the young notary’s clerk had obtained possession of it first and
had thrown it out of the window onto the boulevard, where it fell on the
nose of a cab-driver, who was looking at the sky to see if it was likely
to rain the next day.

Meanwhile Edouard and Madame Germeuil strove to restore tranquillity and
to bring order out of chaos. Adeline, for her part, could not help
laughing, with all the other young women, at Madame Volenville’s
attitude, Monsieur Tourte’s face and Monsieur Robineau’s fury.

Monsieur Volenville finally left his game of écarté, went to get a
carafe of water, and approached his wife, whom he did not recognize, so
great was the havoc wrought upon her dress and her face. After taking
his pinch of snuff, he relieved his wife of her wreath of roses and
began to slap her hands, while Madame Germeuil held a phial of salts
under her nose. But nothing availed, nothing had any effect on the
benumbed senses of the formidable dancer. Madame Germeuil was at her
wit’s end. Monsieur Tourte swore that he would bite Madame Volenville in
the arm or somewhere else, if somebody did not instantly remove the
burden that was suffocating him, and the auctioneer resorted to his
snuff-box in quest of ideas.

At that moment Monsieur Robineau was rushing about the ball-room in the
guise of a cherub, and feeling angrily under the furniture and even
under people’s feet, in search of his wig. He drew near the group
surrounding the auctioneer’s unconscious wife; he spied something gray
under the bench that supported his late partner and the stout clerk.
Instantly he darted forward, pushed aside Monsieur Volenville, who was
in front of him, threw himself on his hands and knees, and put his hand
between the auctioneer’s legs to grasp the object which he believed to
be his dear wig.

Monsieur Robineau’s manœuvre was executed so suddenly that Monsieur
Volenville lost his balance; as he was stooping forward, he fell almost
upon his wife, and the snuff-box, which he had just opened, emptied
itself entirely into his loving better half’s nose and mouth.

This accident recalled Madame Volenville to life; she sneezed five times
in rapid succession, rubbed her eyes, opened her mouth, swallowed a
large quantity of snuff, made such horrible faces that they put to
flight her husband and all the other persons who were near her, squirmed
about and spat violently into the face of Monsieur Robineau, who at that
moment withdrew his hand from under the bench and rose, swearing like
the damned--who swear a great deal in this world, to say nothing of what
they will do when they are roasting in hell like pork pies.

And why did Monsieur Robineau swear? Why, reader? Because, instead of
putting his hand on his wig, which, as you know, was reposing on the
boulevard, the unlucky attorney had seized the tail of a cat, which,
vexed at being pulled so violently by a sensitive part, had, in
accordance with the custom of its kind, buried its claws in the cruel
hand that had grasped it.

“It is very unpleasant to be unlucky!” said a worthy bourgeois of the
Marais the other evening at a performance of _La Pie Voleuse_, as he
wept over the misfortunes of Palaiseau’s little maid-servant. To
interpret what I presume to be that gentleman’s meaning, I will say that
it is very painful to experience so many misfortunes as Monsieur
Robineau did in one evening. When one has danced against one’s will and
has lost one’s wig; when one has been clawed on the hands and has been
spat upon, one is quite justified in being angry. The poor attorney was
so angry that he turned yellow, red and white, almost at the same
instant; in his frenzy, he had no idea what he was doing, and,
regardless of sex, was about to assault Madame Volenville, when some of
the guests interposed between him and the person whom he justly regarded
as the cause of all his misfortunes.

They had much difficulty in pacifying Monsieur Robineau and in making
him understand that madame had expectorated without malicious intent.
Edouard succeeded at last in calming him a little; and while he wiped
his face, the young bridegroom took from his pocket a dainty silk
handkerchief, which he offered the attorney to put over his head.
Monsieur Robineau accepted it, covered his head with the handkerchief,
and placed his round hat on top; which gave him the appearance of a
Spanish rebel, or a bandolero, or a guerilla, or battueca; or, if you
prefer, of one of those little dogs, dressed in human garb, which ride
majestically along the boulevard in baskets borne by a learned donkey.

The attorney left the salon without paying his respects to the ladies,
and without kissing the bride; he hurried from the Cadran-Bleu, but as
he passed the waiters and scullions from the restaurant he could not
help hearing their laughter and jests. He did not take a cab, because he
lived on Rue du Perche; and when he reached home, he went to bed,
cursing waltzes and jigs, and calculating what a new wig would cost him.

As for Madame Volenville, of whom Monsieur Tourte finally succeeded in
ridding himself, it was most essential to induce her to leave the
ball-room, for the snuff which she had swallowed produced a most
unpleasant effect on her stomach. The expectoration became more
frequent, and began to change to hiccoughs and symptoms of nausea, that
presaged an accident which one is never desirous to witness, and which,
moreover, it is prudent to avert in a room where people are dancing.

So the poor woman was taken away, almost carried, from the scene of her
exploits. When she passed a mirror, she thought that she would die of
chagrin, or swoon again; in truth, her snuff-besmeared face, her
dishevelled hair, her disordered clothing, were well adapted to drive to
despair a woman with pretensions; and we have seen that Madame
Volenville possessed rather a large supply for her years.

They looked for her husband, and had some difficulty in inducing him to
go to his wife, upon whom he insisted that someone had put a mask. At
last they were placed in a cab, which took them home, where, if you
please, we will leave them, to return to the newly-married pair.

Terpsichore had banished cruel Discord, who, since the nuptials of
Peleus and Thetis, to which, foolishly enough, she was not bidden, has
adopted the habit of coming unexpectedly to sow confusion in marriage
festivities; that was the reason, I presume, that she deigned to attend
the bourgeois wedding at the Cadran-Bleu; for it is said that a couple
can never escape a visit from the ill-omened goddess; and if she does
not appear on the first day, she makes up for it during the year.

But let us leave Terpsichore, Discord and all mythology; let us abandon
metaphors and figures of speech; let us leave to the authors of octavo
romances, flowers, cascades, the moon, the stars, and above all, those
poetical inversions of language which tell you at the end of a sentence
what the hero meant to say at the beginning; those delightful détours,
whereby a father will say: “At last toward me stepped forth my
daughter;” instead of saying simply: “My daughter stepped toward me;”
which, in my judgment, would be much more clear, but which would
resemble the ordinary way of talking in the world, in society; a vulgar
jargon, which should not be employed by persons who live in underground
dungeons without breaking their necks, or who constantly scale
perpendicular cliffs without being tired when they reach the top.

Moreover, will our lovely women, our _petites-maîtresses_ extol a novel
to the clouds, if the hero does not speak another language than that of
their husbands and lovers?--”Bah! that is a book for the servants’
hall!” they will say, as they disdainfully cast aside a novel which is
neither English, nor German, nor romantic! “It is an insufferable sort
of work! forbidden words are used in it! I find the word _cuckold_
there! Mon Dieu! it is shocking! But our newspaper critic will belabor
that author soundly for us!”

And in fact the critic reads the work and considers it revoltingly
immoral! The author’s cynicism, his obscenity are beyond words! he uses
the word _cuckold_ when he finds it necessary! Did anyone ever hear of
such indecency?--To be sure, Molière often used the same word, and some
others even stronger, in several of his works; but what a difference!
one must be very careful not to print in a novel what one may say on the
stage before a large audience!--Make your inversions, ye novelists; go
back to the Syntax; adopt a style _ad usum tyronum linguæ Latinæ_;
monopolize mythology, astronomy, mineralogy, ornithology, zoology, aye,
even conchology; mingle with it all a little ancient and sacred history,
much about dreams and ghosts, minstrels, druids, or hermits, according
to the scene of your plot; indulge in sonorous phrases, which used to be
called fustian, and you will surely have a fashionable success! Some
ladies will faint when they are reading you, others after they read you;
there will even be some who will not understand you; but you will appear
all the nobler to them! To be unintelligible is to be sublime in your
kind. Great geniuses wrap themselves in mystery.--Ask Cagliostro
rather,--he ought not to be dead, as he was a sorcerer,--or Lord Byron,
or Mademoiselle Lenormand.

As for you, young authors, who claim to be simple and natural, who seek
to arouse laughter or interest with events which may happen any day
before our eyes, and who describe them for us in such wise as to be
readily understood, away with you to oblivion! or go to see _George
Dandin_ and _Le Malade Imaginaire_; those plays are worthy of you; but
you will never be read by our vaporish ladies, and you will not cause
the hundred mouths of Renown to sound.

Despite all this, we have the unfortunate habit of writing as we should
speak, and we shall continue so to do; you are at liberty, reader, to
drop us here and now if our method does not suit you.

So the dancing continued at the Cadran-Bleu; but the fête drew toward
its close, to the great satisfaction of Edouard, and doubtless of
Adeline, who blushed and smiled whenever her fond husband glanced at
her.

At last the clock struck the hour to retire; Madame Germeuil herself
took her daughter away; they entered a carriage, drove off, and in due
time arrived at Boulevard Montmartre, where the young couple were to
live, and with them the dear mamma, who did not wish to part from her
Adeline, who, she hoped, would close her eyes.

A dainty apartment was all arranged. Madame Germeuil embraced her
daughter lovingly, then went to her own room, not without a sigh. That
was quite natural; the rights of a mother cease when those of a husband
begin! But what do rights matter when hearts remain the same? Nature and
love easily find lodgment in a sensitive heart, and have no power over a
cold and selfish one. Men make the laws, but the feelings are not to be
commanded.

Luckily for Edouard, the charming Adeline loved him because he pleased
her, and not simply because the Church ordered her to love him. That is
why, when she was alone with her husband, she threw herself into his
arms without a tear; that is why she did not make a great fuss about
allowing herself to be undressed, and why she was so soon in bed; and
lastly, that is why we shall say no more about it.



III

DUFRESNE


While our young husband and wife abandoned themselves to the
unrestrained enjoyment of their mutual love and indulged the legitimate
passion they felt; while Adeline readily yielded to her new situation,
as young wives do, let us leave them and make the acquaintance of a
person whom we shall meet again in the course of this narrative.

Among the crowd which had surrounded Madame Volenville and Monsieur
Robineau, and had laughed at the misfortunes of the auctioneer’s wife
and the attorney, there was one man who had remained indifferent to the
pranks of the other guests and had taken no part in the jests of the
young clerk and the tricks resorted to in order to prolong the famous
quadrille.

This man seemed to be not more than twenty-eight or thirty years old; he
was tall and well-shaped; his features were regular, and would have been
handsome if his eyes had been less shifty; but his vague glance, to
which he sought to give an expression of benevolence, inspired neither
friendship nor confidence; and the smile which sometimes played about
his lips seemed rather bitter than amiable.

Dufresne--such was this young man’s name--had been brought to Edouard
Murville’s wedding by a stout lady with three daughters, who had for a
long time been in the habit of taking half a dozen young men to all the
parties which she attended with her young ladies. Madame Devaux liked to
entertain a great deal of company, especially young men; and her motive
was easily divined: when one has three daughters, and no dowry to give
them, one does not find husbands for them by keeping them always in
their room; they must be introduced into society, and must wait until
chance inspires a very sincere little passion which ends in marriage.

Unfortunately, sincere passions are more infrequent in society than in
English novels; and often, in their search for husbands, the young
ladies meet gay deceivers instead, who are strong on the passions, but
weak in virtue! But still, something must be risked in order to catch a
husband.

So it was that Madame Devaux had received Dufresne, who had been
introduced to her by a friend of one of her neighbors; and as he was
young and rather good-looking, she had included him in the list of the
men whom she proposed to take to Edouard’s wedding, in order that her
young ladies might not lack partners.

Dufresne knew neither the bridegroom nor his wife; but it often happens
at a large party that one does not know the host; and now that our
French receptions are adopting the style of English _routs_, and are
becoming mere mobs, no one pays any heed to his neighbor, and it not
infrequently happens that you leave those noisy functions without even
saluting the host or the hostess.

Madame Devaux had made a mistake, however, in relying upon Dufresne to
dance with her daughters. He cared little for dancing; he made haste to
pay his debt by inviting each of the Devaux girls to dance once; but
after that, he contented himself with the rôle of simple spectator,
taking the precaution to go into the card room when the quadrilles were
not full. He cast his eyes over all the guests in the salons, but they
rested most frequently upon Edouard and Adeline; the sight of the
husband and wife seemed to attract all his attention; he followed their
movements; watched their slightest actions, and seemed to be trying to
read the inmost thoughts of their hearts. When Adeline smiled fondly at
her husband, Dufresne, standing a few steps away, observed that smile,
and his eyes eagerly followed its development.

“Really, mamma,” said Cleopatra, the oldest of the daughters, to Madame
Devaux, “we won’t take Monsieur Dufresne to a ball again; just see how
he acts! he doesn’t dance! he looks like a bear!”

“That is true, my child! If he would only come and sit down by us and
talk and pretend to be polite!”

“Oh, yes! why, he doesn’t pay the slightest attention to us! I should
like to know what he is doing in that corner, near Madame Germeuil!”

“He certainly is not agreeable, and I shall not take him to Monsieur
Verdure’s the day after to-morrow, where there is to be music, and
perhaps a collation. I will take little Godard; he is rather stupid, but
at all events he will dance as long as anybody wants him to.”

“Yes, and he is always on hand to give us something to drink.”

“By the way, Cleopatra, who will go home with us to-night?”

“Why, I don’t know. Two of our gentlemen have gone away already; one had
a headache, and the other wanted to go to bed early because he had an
appointment for to-morrow morning. But we must have someone.”

“Never fear, I will hide Monsieur Dufresne’s hat, and he won’t go away
without us, I promise you; that would be too much,--to be taken to a
party by ladies, and let them go home alone!”

“You know very well, mamma, that it wouldn’t be the first time that such
a thing had happened to us.”

“Never mind, Cleopatra, it won’t be so to-night, and Monsieur Dufresne
will pay for the cab.”

While the ladies were conversing, Dufresne continued his observations.
He had noticed that Madame Germeuil was on very intimate terms with a
young widow named Madame Dolban; thereafter this Madame Dolban became
the object of Dufresne’s attentions, and he easily succeeded in making
her acquaintance; for the widow was not at all pretty, and the homage of
an attractive man was certain to seem all the more flattering to her
because she rarely received anything of the sort.

When Dufresne wished to go, he fell into the trap which Madame Devaux
had set for him: he did not find his hat until the moment when the
mother and her three daughters were ready to go. It was impossible for
him to avoid the duty. Moreover, Madame Dolban had refused his escort;
but she had given him permission to call and pay her his respects, and
that was all that he wanted. So the young man performed with sufficient
good grace the service which was expected of him; he packed the Devaux
family into a cab, seated himself on the front seat between Cleopatra
and Césarine, and they started for Rue des Martyrs.

On the way, Dufresne was compelled to undergo a constant fire of
epigrams discharged by the three girls against men who are not
attentive, who do not do as other men do, who have wretched taste, who
speak to ugly women and neglect pretty ones; and a thousand other
sarcasms inspired by the irritation which it had caused them to see him
devote himself to Madame Dolban.

Dufresne listened to all this very calmly, or, to speak more accurately,
I believe that he did not listen to it at all; but he cared very little
what the people thought who were chattering by his side, and his mind
was too much preoccupied to heed the prattling of the three young women.

At last they reached the Rue des Martyrs. Dufresne left the Devaux
family at their door; he received with a bow the curtsy of the mother,
the cold salutation of Cleopatra, the curt good-evening of Césarine and
the stifled sigh of Cornélie.



IV

PROJECTS OF BLISS


Adeline woke in Edouard’s arms; the young wife felt like an entirely
different person by her husband’s side; one night of love is enough to
establish a pleasing confidence, a loving intimacy, and to banish that
feeling of awe, of timidity which naught but sensual enjoyment can
dispel.

What delightful plans for the future, what a charming existence of
unbroken happiness one devises, when, in the arms of the object of one’s
affection, one abandons oneself without reserve to all the illusions
which embellish the imagination of two young lovers.

Adeline, sweet, sensitive, and loving, was certain that she would always
be happy so long as her Edouard loved her, and that her Edouard would
always love her; she had no doubt of it, nor had he. It is not when a
man has experienced for the first time all the joys of love in the arms
of his wife, that he thinks upon the possibility of changing. Then he is
sincere, he really feels all that he says, and doubtless he would keep
all his promises, if the same joys could always cause the same
pleasures.

It seems, in those moments of expansiveness which follow the
manifestations of love, that the husband and wife were really born for
each other. They have the same tastes, the same thoughts, the same
desires; what one does, the other approves; the husband was just about
to propose what the young wife has planned, they mutually divine each
other’s thoughts, and it seems to them perfectly natural that they
should have but one mind and but one will. Blessed concord! you would
bestow the most perfect happiness, if you might only last forever!

“And so, my dear love,” said Edouard, kissing his wife’s pretty little
hands, “we will pass the winter in Paris, and four months of warm
weather in the country.”

“Yes, my dear, that is agreed.”

“But shall I keep my place in the department? That would prevent me from
leaving the city.”

“You must not keep it! What is the use? We have fifteen thousand francs
a year; is that not enough to be happy?”

“Oh! it is more than we need.”

“Besides, your place would keep you away from me all day and I don’t
want that!”

“Dear Adeline, but your mother--what will she say if I give up my
place?”

“Mamma has but one desire--to make me happy; she will approve our plans,
for she has no more ambition than we have.”

“All right, then it is decided; I send in my resignation to-morrow.”

“Yes, dear.”

“And we will buy a small country house, simple, but in good taste, where
we will live with your mother. Where shall we buy?”

“Where you please, my dear.”

“No, it is for you to decide.”

“You know that I am always of your opinion.”

“Very well, then we will visit the suburbs, we will read the
advertisements, we will consult mamma.”

“That is right, my dear.”

“Shall we entertain much?”

“As you please, my dear.”

“My dear love, that is for you to decide.”

“Very well! then we will receive very few people, for company would
prevent us from being together, from going to walk and to drive alone;
and I feel that that would annoy me terribly!”

“How sweet you are!”

“We will receive just a few friends; mamma’s, for example.”

“Exactly. In the morning we will walk in the garden--for we must have a
garden, mustn’t we?”

“Oh! yes, my dear! A big garden, with lots of shade,--and thickets!”

“Ah! you are already thinking of the thickets!”

“Does that offend you, monsieur?”

Edouard’s only reply was to kiss his wife, press her to his heart,
receive her soft caresses, and--the conversation was interrupted for
several minutes.

“So we will have a big garden with dense thickets,” said Edouard when
they renewed the conversation.

“Yes, my dear,” replied Adeline, smiling, and lowering her eyes, still
glistening with pleasure. “In the evening, we will walk about the
neighborhood, and dance with the village people; or, if the weather is
bad, we will play cards with some of the neighbors. Do you like that
prospect?”

“Yes, my dear love, very much.”

The doting Adeline was always of her husband’s opinion; Edouard refused
to have a will of his own; and they were so in accord that they vied
with each other in seeing who should not be the master, and should not
rule the house.

The young people had reached a very interesting article in the matter of
conjugal happiness: they were thinking of the children they would have,
of the education they would give them and of the professions which they
would advise them to embrace, when there was a gentle tap at the door of
their chamber. It was Madame Germeuil, come to embrace her daughter and
to enjoy the happiness which she read in her eyes. A pleasant sight for
a mother,--which reminded her of the same period in her own life.

Adeline blushed as she kissed her mother; the good woman informed them
that breakfast was awaiting them, and breakfast is a very essential
affair. The bride ate little; she was too preoccupied to have any
appetite; the new ideas which thronged through her brain were enough to
banish every other thought; but it was very different with the groom--he
did not eat, he devoured! An additional proof this that men are less
affectionate than women, since the same cause does not produce the same
result.

During breakfast, the young people spoke to Madame Germeuil of their
plans. The mother made a slight grimace when they told her that Edouard
proposed to give up his place. She attempted to make some objections;
she essayed to prove what a mistake that would be for Murville, who
hoped to be promoted and to become a chief of bureau some day. The young
man said nothing; perhaps he felt in his inmost heart that his
mother-in-law was right; but Adeline entreated her mother with such
grace, she kissed her so lovingly, and drew such a touching picture of
the happiness they would all three enjoy, if they need never part; she
praised so adroitly the pleasures of the country, their scheme of life,
and all the attractions with which they would embellish her existence,
that Madame Germeuil had not the courage to resist her daughter’s
entreaties, and the plan was adopted.

“But,” said Madame Germeuil, “Edouard cannot remain idle. Idleness is a
very dangerous business, and one which often leads us to do foolish
things, which would never have occurred to us if we had been occupied.”

“Oh! never fear, mamma! Edouard will always have occupation! I myself
will undertake to provide him with it! In the first place, all the
details of our affairs;--he will have to look after the management of
our little fortune; and then the care of our little country house, the
time in my company and the walks we shall take----”

“But, my dear love, one cannot walk all the time.”

“Of course not! but then we will rest, or work in the garden. And our
children, to whom you do not give a thought; shall we not have to bring
them up, to look after their education, to guide their first steps?”

“Ah! you are thinking already of your children?”

“Yes, mamma; they come into our plans.”

“What a mad creature you are, my dear Adeline!”

“No, mamma; on the contrary, you will see that I shall be very sensible,
and my husband too.”

Madame Germeuil did not seem altogether convinced of the wisdom of her
daughter’s plans; but she proposed to keep constant watch upon the
conduct of her two children, and she knew that Adeline, always given to
building castles in Spain, would be the first to abandon her errors, if
she should ever commit any. As to Edouard, he would do whatever they
wished, so that it was only a question of giving him good advice, and of
not following the example of his wife, who always agreed with him.

After breakfast they discussed the question where they would live. They
had sent out for a copy of the _Petites-Affiches_; Adeline passed the
paper to her husband, and Madame Germeuil was trying to remember in
which direction the air was likely to be most healthy, when Murville
uttered a cry of surprise and jumped up from his chair.

“What is it, my dear?” asked Adeline, amazed by her husband’s
excitement.

“It is the very place,” said Edouard, still reading the paper; “at
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, the house looking on the fields, two floors, a
large garden, a summer-house, a courtyard, an iron fence----”

“Well, my dear, is that what nearly made you upset the breakfast table?”

“Oh! my dear love! oh! my dear mamma--that house----”

“Do you know it?”

“Do I know it! It belonged to my father, and I passed a great part of my
youth there.”

“Is it possible?”

“Misfortune compelled us to sell it, but I have always regretted it.”

“Why, my dear, you never mentioned it to us.”

“I didn’t know that it was for sale now.”

“It is settled, my dear, let us not look any farther; we have found what
we want, the house where you passed a large part of your childhood! Dear
Edouard! Oh! how we shall enjoy living there!--You agree, mamma, do you
not?”

“Why, my child, if the house is not too dear----”

“Oh! it can’t be too dear; it is Edouard’s house; we shall be so happy
there!”

“Villeneuve-Saint-Georges--yes, I believe that the air is very good
there!”

“Certainly it’s delicious; let us start at once, dear.”

“But it is already late, my child, for you did not get up early; and if
we should wait until to-morrow----”

“To-morrow! and suppose the house should be sold to-day? Ah! I should
never get over it; nor Edouard either; he says nothing, but he too is
crazy to start.”

“Very well, my children, since it will give you so much pleasure; but it
is four leagues from here!”

“We have a good country cabriolet, and the horse has been resting for a
fortnight; he will take us there very fast.”

“Where shall we dine?”

“At Villeneuve-Saint-Georges; there are some very good restaurants
there, aren’t there, my dear?”

“Why, yes. Oh! we shall have no difficulty about getting dinner there.”

“And it will be dark when we come back.--You know, Adeline, that I don’t
like to drive after dark.”

“Oh! Edouard will drive, mamma; you know what a prudent driver he is.
Besides, the road is magnificent; isn’t it, my dear?”

“Why, yes; at all events, it was ten years ago.”

“You see, mamma, that there is no danger. Oh! say that you will go!”

“I must do whatever you want!”

“How good you are! I will run and put on my hat.”

Adeline ran to her dressing-room, Edouard told old Raymond, their
servant, to put the horse in the cabriolet. Madame Germeuil prepared for
the drive, and Marie, the maid-servant of the new household, was grieved
to learn that they would not taste the dainty dinner which she had
prepared for the day after the wedding.

The young wife was ready first; a woman takes little time over her
toilet when she is certain to please; doubtless that is why old
coquettes pass two hours in front of the mirror. Adeline wore a simple
muslin dress, with a belt about the shapeliest waist imaginable; a straw
hat, not overladen with feathers and flowers, and a light shawl thrown
carelessly over her shoulders; in that unpretentious costume Adeline was
charming; everything about her was attractive; every feature was
instinct with love and happiness; and pleasure makes a pretty woman even
prettier.

Edouard gazed at his wife in rapture, and Madame Germeuil looked upon
her daughter with pride; Adeline kissed them both and took her mother’s
hand to make her go downstairs at once; the young woman was eager to be
gone, and to see the country house where her Edouard was brought up. He
was no less desirous to revisit the scenes which had witnessed his
childish sports. At last the mother was seated on the back seat of the
carriage, with Adeline by her side; Edouard took the reins, and they
started for Villeneuve-Saint-Georges.



V

THE FACE WITH MOUSTACHES


Edouard drove the horse at a fast pace, and they reached the village in
a short time. When they had passed through the main street, and turned
in the direction of the country, they discovered the house which they
were anxious to see; thereupon Adeline leaped for joy, and took off her
hat so that she could see better; Edouard urged the horse more eagerly,
and Madame Germeuil shrieked, saying that they would be overturned.

At last the cabriolet stopped in front of the gate which gave admission
to the courtyard.

“This is the place, this is the very place,” said Edouard, leaping to
the ground; “oh! there is no mistake. I recognize the gate, the
courtyard, and even this bell. It’s the same one that was here in my
time. And there is the sign saying that the house is for sale.”

While he was examining with emotion the outside of the house, Adeline
assisted her mother from the carriage; they fastened the horse, and then
entered the courtyard, for the gate was not locked.

“Oh! how I shall enjoy myself here!” said Adeline, glancing about with a
satisfied expression; “isn’t this house fascinating, mamma?”

“But, one moment, my child; we have seen nothing as yet.”

A tall peasant came out of a room on the ground floor, followed by an
enormous dog.

“What do you want?” he said, scrutinizing them surlily enough.

“We want to see this house,” Edouard replied.

“All right,” muttered the concierge between his teeth; “come with me,
and I will take you to my master.”

Edouard, with his wife and Madame Germeuil, followed their conductor,
who ascended a staircase and showed them into a dining-room on the first
floor, where he left them, to go to summon his master.

Soon a shrill little voice arose in the room which the concierge had
entered, and our travellers heard this colloquy:

“What do you want of me, Pierre?”

“Some one has come to buy the house, monsieur.”

“Have you come again to disturb me to no purpose, and to bring me some
boorish fellow, as you did just now?”

“Oh! no, monsieur! these folks look like swells!”

“That devilish fellow put me into a terrible temper! I shall be sick, I
am sure!”

“I tell you, monsieur, that these folks have a cabriolet.”

“Oh! that’s different! I’ll go and speak to them.”

Madame Germeuil and her children were wondering what they should think
of what they had heard, when the door of the adjoining room opened, and
a short, thin, yellow, wrinkled man, in dressing gown and nightcap
appeared and saluted his visitors with an air which he tried in vain to
make amiable.

“We wish to examine this house,” said Edouard; “not that I do not know
it very well; but these ladies would be very glad to see it.”

“It is very strange,” said the little man, glancing at the concierge;
“everybody knows my house!--And is it your purpose to buy it?”

“Why, to be sure, if the price suits us.”

“In that case, I will show you around myself.”

“What an original creature!” whispered Adeline to her husband; “I will
bet that it is some old money-lender, who went into retirement here, and
can’t resist the desire to do business in the capital again.”

They went over the house from the ground floor to the attic; the little
man spared them nothing, and Edouard, who was very glad to see his
former home once more, listened patiently to all the details which the
old fellow gave them concerning the advantages of his abode.

From time to time, our young man glanced at his wife and smiled.

“Yes,” he said as he entered each room, “I recognize this room, this
closet, these wardrobes.”

Thereupon the old gentleman would glance at his servant and smile in his
turn: they seemed to understand each other.

“So you used to live here, did you, monsieur?” the master of the house
asked him.

“Yes, monsieur, yes, I passed a large part of my youth here.”

“This is mighty queer!” muttered the concierge.

“This is surprising!” said the little proprietor to himself.

Madame Germeuil considered the house convenient and the air good.
Adeline was enchanted. Edouard asked permission to inspect the garden;
the little man apologized for not accompanying them, for he was tired
already; he asked them to follow the concierge, and the young people
were not at all sorry to be rid of him for a moment.

The peasant walked ahead; Madame Germeuil followed him, and Adeline and
Edouard brought up the rear, hand in hand. Edouard called his wife’s
attention to all the spots which reminded him of some period of his
life.

“This is the place,” said Edouard, “where I used to read with my father;
it was on this path that my Brother Jacques used to like to run about
and climb these fine apricot trees.”

“Poor Brother Jacques! you have never heard from him?”

“No! Oh! he died in some foreign country! Otherwise he would have
returned, he would have tried to see our parents again.”

“That,” said Madame Germeuil, “is what comes of not watching over
children! Perhaps he came to a bad end.”

Edouard made no reply; the memory of his brother always made him sad and
thoughtful; he was almost persuaded that poor Brother Jacques was no
more, and perhaps his self-esteem preferred to nourish that idea, in
order to banish those which suggested that Jacques might be wandering
about, wretched and debased. It was especially since his marriage with
Adeline that Edouard had often thought with dread of meeting his brother
amid the multitude of unfortunate wretches; he thought that that might
injure him in the estimation of Madame Germeuil; and whenever a beggar
of about his brother’s age stopped in front of Edouard, he felt the
blood rise to his cheeks and he walked rapidly away, without glancing at
the poor devil who begged of him, for fear of recognizing his Brother
Jacques in him. And yet Edouard was not heartless; he would have shrunk
from turning his back upon his brother, and he dreaded to find him in a
degraded condition. That is how men are constituted; their infernal
self-esteem often stifles the most generous sentiments; a man blushes
for his brother, or his sister! Indeed, there are some who blush for
their father or mother; such people apparently think that they are not
sufficiently estimable in themselves to do without a genealogical tree.

But let us return to our young bride and groom, who investigated every
nook and corner of the garden, and smiled and squeezed each other’s
hands as they passed a dark grotto, or a dense clump of shrubbery. The
concierge stopped for a moment to buckle his dog’s collar; Madame
Germeuil and her children walked on. They reached the end of the garden,
on that side which adjoined the open country and was surrounded by a
very high wall; but an opening had been made for the convenience of the
tenants, and the gate which closed that opening was covered with boards,
so that people who were passing could not look into the garden.

But these boards were half rotten and had fallen away in places; and
when the visitors passed the gate, they saw a man’s face against the
iron bars, gazing earnestly into the garden, through a place where the
boards were broken.

Madame Germeuil could not restrain a cry of surprise; Adeline was
conscious of a secret thrill of emotion, and Edouard himself was moved
at the sight of that face which he did not expect to find there.

The features of the man who was gazing into the garden were in fact
calculated to cause a sort of terror at a first glance; black eyes, an
olive-brown complexion, heavy moustaches, and a scar which started from
the left eyebrow and extended across the forehead, all these imparted to
the face a savage aspect which did not prepossess one in favor of the
man who bore it.

“Ah! mon Dieu! what on earth is that?” said Madame Germeuil, suddenly
stopping.

“Why, it is a man who is amusing himself looking through this gate,”
replied Edouard, gazing at the stranger, who did not move but continued
to examine the garden.

“I am almost afraid,” said Adeline under her breath.

“Almost, my dear child! you are very lucky! For my own part, I admit
that I do not feel comfortable yet.”

As Madame Germeuil spoke, she walked away from the gate and moved closer
to her son-in-law.

“What children you are, mesdames! What is there surprising in the fact
that a man as he passes a garden which looks like a fine one should
amuse himself by examining it for a moment? We have done that twenty
times!”

“Yes, no doubt. But we haven’t faces with moustaches like that, well
calculated to make any one shudder! Just look! he doesn’t move in the
least! He doesn’t seem to pay the slightest attention to us.”

At that moment the concierge joined the party. As he approached the gate
opening into the fields, he saw the face which had frightened the
ladies. Thereupon he made a very pronounced grimace, and muttered:

“Still here! so that infernal man won’t go away, it seems!”

The stranger looked up at the concierge, and the ladies read in the
glance that he cast at the peasant an expression of wrath and contempt.
Then, after examining for a moment the other persons in the garden, he
drew back his head from the bars and disappeared.

“I would like right well to know who that man is,” said Adeline, looking
at her husband.

“Faith! I augur no good for him,” said Madame Germeuil, who breathed
more freely since the face had withdrawn from the gate.

“That man looked as if he had evil intentions, did he not, Edouard?”

“Oh! my dear mamma, I don’t go as far as you do! If we had seen the
whole man, perhaps his face would have seemed less strange than it did
above those old boards.”

“My husband is right, mamma; I think that the way in which we look at
things depends upon the situation in which they strike our eyes at
first. A man clothed in rags often arouses our suspicions; if he should
appear before us well-dressed, we should have no feeling of dread at his
aspect. Darkness, silence, moonlight, and the shadows thrown upon
objects, all these conditions change our way of seeing things and make
our imagination work very rapidly.”

“You may say whatever you please, my dear girl, but that face was not
the face of a man looking into a garden from mere curiosity.”

“That may be, but I should have liked to see this stranger’s figure.”

“Parbleu!” said the concierge, “you wouldn’t have seen anything very
fine, I assure you.”

“Do you know that man?” asked Adeline quickly.

“I don’t know him, but I have seen him once before this morning; he
looks to me like a scamp who is prowling round about the village to
commit some deviltry. But he better not come back here, or I will set my
dog on him!”

“And you don’t know what he wants in the village?”

“Faith! I don’t care. So long as he don’t come to the house, that’s all
I ask.”

As they were in front of the house at that moment, and as the proprietor
was waiting for them in his doorway, Adeline did not prolong her
conversation with the concierge.

“Well! what do you think of these gardens?” the old man asked Adeline.

“Oh! they are very pretty, monsieur; and they will suit us, will they
not, mamma?”

“Yes, yes, perhaps they will suit us.”

Since Mamma Germeuil had seen at the end of the garden that face which
seemed to her of ill augury, she did not find so many attractions about
the house, and seemed less delighted with its situation. But as her
children were so intensely eager to purchase it, and as she realized how
childish her own repugnance was, she did not oppose the conclusion of
the bargain.

The little man tried at first to impose upon the strangers; but when
they proposed to pay cash, he consented to take off something from the
price, and the bargain was concluded. In his delight, the proprietor
invited the ladies to come in and rest, and even went so far as to
offer them a glass of wine and water. But they had no desire to become
better acquainted with the old miser; moreover, the ladies were hungry,
and they had only time to go to the notary’s office before dinner.

The little old man did not insist upon their stopping at his house; he
took off his nightcap, sent the concierge to fetch an old, shabby, felt
hat, which he carried under his arm in order to preserve it longer; he
put on a coat once nut-colored, but of which no one could possibly
divine the color now, and did not forget the bill-headed cane, upon
which he leaned the more heavily, because he thought that by using a
support for part of his weight, he would save the soles of his shoes.

They went to the office of the local notary; he received the details of
the bargain, and promised to have the deed ready in due form in
twenty-four hours. Edouard agreed to return to the village on the
following day with the purchase money, and Monsieur Renâré,--such was
the proprietor’s name,--agreed to be punctual and to turn over the keys
of the house. Everything being settled, they separated, each party well
pleased with his bargain.



VI

A DINNER PARTY IN THE COUNTRY


“Now let us think about dinner,” said Edouard, as he and the ladies left
the notary’s, “and let us try to find the best restaurant in the place.”

“We ought to have asked Monsieur Renâré that, my dear.”

“No indeed! I am sure that the old miser goes to the vilest wine-shop,
in order to dine the cheaper. But I see yonder a very good-looking
house--it is a wine-shop and restaurant,--the _Epée Couronnée_, ‘wedding
and other parties.’--What do you say to that, mesdames?”

“Very good; let us go to the Epée Couronnée.”

They entered the country restaurant; the outer walls were adorned with
hams, pies, turkeys, chickens, game, and bunches of asparagus; but as a
rule the kitchen of a village restaurant never contains more than one
fourth of what is painted on the front wall; and even so, the ovens are
often cold.

When our Parisians entered the common room of the Epée Couronnée, the
proprietor, who was also chief cook, was occupied in shaving, his little
scullion was playing with a cup-and-ball, the mistress of the house was
knitting, and the two girls who did the heavy work were washing and
ironing.

“The deuce!” said Edouard in an undertone, “this doesn’t indicate a very
well-heated oven! However, in war we must do as soldiers do!”

“Yes, my dear; besides, appetite is a very good cook.”

At sight of two fashionably-dressed ladies, escorted by a fine
gentleman, and of a cabriolet in front of the door, everybody in the
restaurant was up in arms. The proprietor threw razor and shaving-mug
aside; he partly wiped his face, and came forward, half shaved, to meet
the newcomers, to whom he made repeated bows. His wife hastily dropped
her knitting and rolled it up, as she made a curtsy, and placed it on a
table on which the girls were ironing; whereupon Goton, one of the
servants, who then had in her hand a very hot iron, looked up to examine
the fine ladies who were coming in, and placed the iron on her
mistress’s hand, thinking that she was ironing an apron.

Her mistress uttered a piercing cry when she felt the burn; she jumped
back and overturned the tub; the little scullion, in his fright,
concealed his cup-and-ball in a saucepan, and the ladies recoiled, in
order not to walk in soap-suds, with which the floor was flooded.

The host confounded himself in apologies, trying at the same time to
pacify his wife.

“A thousand pardons, mesdames and monsieur; pray walk in.--Hush, wife!
it won’t amount to anything; I do much worse things to myself every
day.--We have everything that you can possibly desire, mesdames; the
kitchen is well stocked.--It was that idiot of a Goton, who never looks
to see what she is doing. Put some potato on it, wife.--But step in,
mesdames, and select a bedroom or a private dining-room, whichever you
please.”

The ladies were in no hurry to enter, because they did not want to wet
their feet. At last one of the maids brought a long board, which they
used as a bridge to pass into another room; they made the passage,
laughing heartily, and looked forward to much enjoyment at an inn where
their arrival had already caused such a sensation.

“Well, monsieur le traiteur, what can you give us?” Murville asked the
cook, who followed them, boasting of his talent in serving a dinner
promptly.

“Why, monsieur, I can give you a rabbit stew which will please you.”

“Parbleu! Rabbit stew is never missing in these places! But we don’t
care much for it; have you any cutlets?”

“Yes, monsieur, I can easily get some.”

“And a fowl?”

“I have one which should be excellent.”

“Fresh eggs?”

“Oh! as to eggs, I don’t have any but fresh ones.”

“Well, that is all that we want; with lettuce and some of your best wine
we shall dine very well, shall we not, mesdames?”

“Yes, but don’t keep us waiting, for we are positively starving.”

“Never fear, mesdames, it will take but a moment.”

Master Bonneau returned to his staff.

“Look alive,” he said, tying his handkerchief around his waist, which he
only did on great occasions; “look alive, wife and girls, we have swells
to feed, and we have nothing except the regulation rabbit stew, which
unfortunately they don’t want, and that infernal fowl which I roasted a
week ago for a Jew who ate nothing but fresh pork, and which I haven’t
been able to do anything with since; I hope that it is going to be eaten
at last. Goton, put it on the spit again; that will be the fifth time, I
believe; but never mind, I will make a gravy with the juice of that beef
_à la mode_, and it will be delicious.”

“Mon Dieu! what a horrible burn! This is the seventh potato that I have
scraped on it.”

“Parbleu! you give me a happy idea: these grated potatoes are all
cooked, put ’em aside, wife, and I will make a soufflé for our guests.
You, Fanfan, run to the butcher and get some cutlets, and you, Marianne,
go and buy some eggs, and come back and pick some lettuce. By the way,
light me a candle, as quick as possible, and give me some wax, so that I
can put seals on my bottles; that makes people think that the wine is
better.”

Everyone set about executing Master Bonneau’s orders, while he lighted
his fires and turned up his sleeves with an important air, in order to
heat water for the eggs; Goton put the unlucky fowl on the spit, praying
heaven that it might be the last time; Marianne brought eggs and went
out into the garden to pluck lettuce; and Madame Bonneau grated potato
after potato, which she placed upon her burn, and then carefully
collected in a plate, as her husband had directed, because a clever cook
makes use of everything.

But Fanfan returned from the butcher’s with sad news: “there were no
cutlets, because the mayor had bought the last that morning; but if they
could wait a while, the shop-boy, who had gone to sharpen his knives,
would come back, and they would kill a sheep.”

“The devil! this is mighty unpleasant,” said Master Bonneau, as he put
his eggs in the water; “well, I must go and consult with the company.”

The host entered the room where the ladies and the young man were
beginning to get impatient for their dinner, while they laughed over the
scene which their unexpected arrival had caused.

“Well, are we going to dine?” said Edouard when he caught sight of their
host.

“Instantly, monsieur.”

“Your instants are very long, monsieur le traiteur.”

“I came to get your opinion on the cutlets.”

“What’s that?”

“There aren’t any just now at the butcher’s; but the man is coming back,
and he is going to kill a sheep; so if you will take a turn in the
garden until they are cooked----”

“Parbleu! we should have to wait a long while! A pleasant suggestion
that! We didn’t come here to inspect your bed of lettuce.”

“Come, come, my dear, don’t get excited,” said Adeline, laughing at the
placidity of their host, and the irritation of Edouard, “we will do
without cutlets.”

“May I replace that dish with an excellent rabbit stew?”

“Give us whatever you please, but give us something at least.”

“You shall be served instantly.”

Master Bonneau was well pleased to give them rabbit stew; it was the
dish in which he most excelled, for he had had twenty years’ practice in
making good ones. He seized the saucepan containing the remnants of two
rabbits, and placed it over the fire; then after covering it, he
instructed Fanfan to watch it, and went to carry the fresh eggs to his
guests.

“You see, mesdames, that I am prompt,” he said as he gracefully placed
the eggs on the table. “By the way, I thought that a soufflé of potatoes
and orange blossoms would not displease the company.”

“What, monsieur, do you make soufflés at the Epée Couronnée?”

“Yes, monsieur, and a good sort too, I flatter myself.”

“Then you are an expert?”

“Why, monsieur, when one has learned the profession at Paris, at the
Boisseau Fleuri, one is equal to anything.”

“Oho! that makes a difference! If you are a graduate of the Boisseau
Fleuri, we are surprised at nothing, and we await your soufflés with
confidence.”

Bonneau retired, all puffed up with the compliments they had paid him.
The ladies tried to crumble their bread into their eggs, but it was
impossible; they were cooked so hard that they had to make up their
minds to remove the shells and eat them from their hands. Adeline
shouted with laughter, Madame Germeuil shook her head, and Edouard
announced that to cap the climax the eggs smelled of straw.

“This does not give me a very pleasant anticipation of the soufflés,”
said the mother, placing her egg on the table.

“Well, madame, let us still hope! Great men, you know, pay no heed to
small matters, and the pupil of the Boisseau Fleuri may well not know
how to cook eggs.”

Bonneau entered the room, carrying in his two hands an enormous dish of
rabbit stew, which he placed in front of Edouard.

“Monsieur le traiteur, for a man equal to anything, you made rather a
failure of our eggs; they are boiled hard and smell of straw.”

“As for the straw, monsieur, you must know that I don’t make the eggs
myself, that depends entirely on the hens; as for the way they were
cooked, that is entirely the fault of the water; I leave the eggs in the
water five minutes; if the watch loses time while the eggs are in the
water, the best cook might be deceived.”

“True, you are right; luckily there are no eggs in a rabbit stew, and it
isn’t cooked by the minute.”

“So you must tell me what you think of it; I will go now and make sure
that your fowl is cooked to a turn.”

Bonneau left the room, carrying his hard boiled eggs, which no one had
touched, and which he proceeded to cut up and place on the salad, so
that they would be paid for twice over; that was a clear gain; and in
order that there might not be any further complaint of their smelling of
the straw, the host took from his sideboard a certain oil, the taste of
which was bound to predominate.

“Well,” said Edouard, as he prepared to serve the ladies, “as we
absolutely must eat rabbit stew, let us see if this one does our host
credit. But what the deuce is there in it? It is a string. Can it be
that the pupil of the Boisseau Fleuri puts whole rabbits into his stew?
This is attached to something, and I don’t see the end of it. Parbleu!
we shall get the pieces that are tied, later. But what is this I see?
Look, mesdames--is it a thigh, or a head? These rabbits are most
peculiarly constructed.”

“Oh! bless my soul!” said Adeline, examining what Edouard had on his
fork, “it’s a cup-and-ball!”

The young woman dropped her fork, laughing like mad; Edouard did the
same, and even Madame Germeuil could not keep a straight face, at sight
of the toy which her son-in-law had found in the stew.

The reader will remember that at the time of the arrival of the
fashionable guests from Paris, everything was in confusion in the
restaurant; the scullion was playing with a cup-and-ball; when his
mistress burned herself and upset the tub of water, Fanfan was alarmed,
and fearing to be scolded by his master and mistress, had thrust his
cup-and-ball into the first saucepan that he saw. It happened to be the
one containing the rabbit stew, into which the scullion had put his toy.
When Master Bonneau took the saucepan later, he covered it without
looking in; then the little fellow had watched and stirred the stew,
without a suspicion of what was in it; he was very far from thinking
that he was cooking his own cup-and-ball.

“Aha!” said the host, “it seems that our friends are satisfied; I was
sure that that rabbit stew would restore their good humor. So much the
better! the result will be that the fowl will pass the more readily. We
must make haste and serve it with the salad. Goton, give me the bottle
of oil. That’s it. Have you put the eggs on yet? on the top of the
salad? Good! that’s very good. This meal will bring us in enough to last
a week.”

Our man returned to the dining-room, where they had made up their minds
to laugh instead of dining. He placed the fowl on the table and stood
silent, with the air of a man who expects a compliment.

“On my word, monsieur le traiteur,” said Edouard, trying to keep a sober
face, “you treat us very strangely! What kind of a thing is a fricassée
of cup-and-ball?”

“What do you mean, monsieur?”

“That we never had such a thing before, Monsieur Bonneau, and that we
don’t like it.”

“But what does it mean?”

“Look, monsieur, is this rabbit?”

Master Bonneau was thunderstruck when he saw the cup-and-ball covered
with gravy.

“Here,” said Adeline, “take away your rabbit stew; what we found in it
has taken away all desire to taste it.”

“Madame, I am really distressed at what I see! But you must realize that
it is not my fault. If rabbits eat cups-and-balls----”

“Ah! this is too much; and if your fowl is no better than the rest, we
shall have to go elsewhere to dine.”

The host left the room, without waiting to hear any more; he rushed back
to the kitchen, crimson with rage, and began to pull Fanfan’s ears, to
teach him to put cups-and-balls in his stews.

“What on earth is the matter, my dear?” Madame Bonneau asked her
husband, as she brought him the plate containing the remedy for burns.

“What’s the matter? What’s the matter? This little scamp is forever
doing foolish things! He stuffs all sorts of trash into my stews; the
other day I found two corks in a chowder; luckily it was for drunkards
who took them for mushrooms; but to-day we have some people who are very
particular, and he is responsible for their not tasting my rabbit stew;
and that too, just at the moment when I carried them that unlucky fowl!
The little scamp is as dirty as if he were employed in some low
cook-shop! Wife, scrape your burn carefully, you still have some potato
on it. Well! I must repair my reputation with the soufflé.”

While Bonneau labored over the soufflé, Edouard was trying to carve the
fowl, and Madame Germeuil seasoned the salad. But in vain did the young
man turn and return the old turkey; it was all dried up, because it had
been on the fire so much, and the knife was powerless to pierce it.

“I must give it up,” said Edouard, pushing the dish away.

“It is impossible to eat this oil,” said Madame Germeuil, who had just
tasted the salad.

“Evidently we shan’t dine to-day,” said Adeline.

“Faith, mesdames,” said Edouard, rising from the table, “I don’t think
it worth while to wait for the potato soufflé, in which we should
undoubtedly find pieces of fish. Put on your shawls and bonnets while I
go and say a word to the restaurant keeper, who really seems to have
intended to make sport of us.”

“But pray don’t lose your temper, my dear! Remember that the wisest way
is to laugh at everything that has happened; is it not, mamma?”

“Yes, my daughter; but still we ought not to pay for such a dinner as
this.”

Edouard left the room and went toward the kitchen. As he was about to
enter the common room, the voice of one of the servants reached his ear;
he heard the word soufflé, and stopped by the glass door, curious to
learn the subject of their discussion; there he overheard the following
conversation:

“I tell you, Marianne, I wouldn’t eat that stuff that our master’s
making now, not even if he would pay me for doing it.”

“Then you’re very hard to suit! That’s a delicacy that he’s making.”

“A pretty kind of delicacy! and it will taste nice!”

“Oh! you mustn’t be so particular as that! If you should see the bread
now, why that’s different! They often have the dough in other places
than in their hands! But it cooks all the same! And the wine! Bless my
soul! An uncle of mine is a wine dresser, and he has boils on his rump,
but that don’t prevent him from getting into the vats as naked as God
made him, and his wine is good, too.”

“You can say whatever you please, Goton, I don’t see wine made nor bread
either; but I did see the potatoes grated on the mistress’s hands, and
she don’t wash them every day; and I say that a cake made with them
wouldn’t take my fancy at all.”

Edouard knew enough; he entered the room abruptly; the two servants were
struck dumb, and allowed him to go on to the kitchen, where he found
Master Bonneau thickening his soufflé with molasses.

Our young man gave the portable oven a kick and sent the entremets into
the garden for the pigeons to eat. The proprietor stared at him with an
air of dismay.

“What is the matter with monsieur? Why is he so angry?”

“Ah! you miserable pothouse keeper! You make soufflé of potatoes that
have been put on your wife’s burned hands!”

“What do you mean, monsieur?”

“You understand me perfectly; you deserve to have me give you a
thrashing.”

“Monsieur, I haven’t an idea----”

“We are going now, but I shall return to this neighborhood; and I shall
remember Master Bonneau, pupil of the Boisseau Fleuri, who supplies
wedding and other parties at the Epée Couronnée.”

With that, Edouard left his host and rejoined the ladies, who were
prepared to leave the dining-room.

“Let us go, mesdames,” said Edouard, “let us leave this house at once!
and consider yourselves fortunate that you did not eat the soufflé.”

“Why, what was the matter with it?”

“I will tell you about it later; the most important thing now is to
leave the house of this infernal poisoner.”

Edouard took Adeline’s hand, Madame Germeuil followed them, and they
were about to leave the inn, when the proprietor ran after them and
stopped them.

“One moment, mesdames and monsieur,” said Master Bonneau, pushing his
cotton cap to the back of his head, “one moment, if you please; it seems
to me that before leaving a restaurant you ought to pay for your
dinner.”

“Our dinner! Parbleu! monsieur le traiteur, you will be decidedly clever
if you prove to us that we have dined!”

“I served all that you ordered, monsieur; if you didn’t eat it, that’s
none of my business!”

“You are laughing at us, Monsieur Bonneau, when you say that you served
all that we ordered; we ordered soft boiled eggs, you gave them to us
hard; we ordered cutlets, you served us a rabbit stew with a
cup-and-ball in it; for wine you gave us vinegar, lamp oil to dress the
salad, a fowl which I would defy an Englishman to carve, and a soufflé
made of--Ah! take my advice, monsieur le traiteur, and don’t be ugly, or
I will have you punished for a dangerous man, and have your restaurant
closed.”

“My restaurant!” said Bonneau, bursting with rage; “indeed! we will see
about that! Pay me at once the amount of this bill, forty francs and
fifteen centimes, or I will take you before the mayor.”

Edouard’s only reply was to take the bill and throw it into the
wine-dealer’s face. Thereupon he made a terrible uproar and the whole
village flocked to the spot.

“These folks from Paris refuse to pay for their dinner,” said the
rabble, always ready to take sides against people from the city; “they
come in a cabriolet, and they haven’t got a sou in their pockets!”

Our young bride and groom laughed at what they heard and made ready to
go before the mayor. Mamma Germeuil followed them into the cabriolet;
all the peasants surrounded Master Bonneau, who marched at their head,
with Fanfan beside him, carrying the famous fowl on a platter, because
Edouard had insisted that it should be submitted to the examination of
experts. The procession passed through the village thus, and on its way
to the mayor’s office, was momentarily increased by the curious folk of
the village, to whom that event was a piece of good fortune.

At last they reached the mayor’s house and requested to speak with him.

“He hasn’t time to listen to you now,” said the servant; “he is just
going to sit down to dinner.”

“But he must judge our dispute,” said Bonneau.

“And he must judge this fowl,” said Edouard with a laugh.

“Oho! there’s a fowl in it, is there?” said the servant; “oh, well! that
makes a difference; I will go and tell monsieur that it is about a fowl,
and that he must attend to it.”

The servant went to her master, and explained the matter so fully that
the mayor, understanding nothing about it, decided at last to leave his
guests for a moment, and to go to his audience room.

In those days, the mayor of the village was not a genius; he had just
had a summer-house built at the foot of his garden; and as he was
delighted with that little building, the idea of which he himself had
conceived, and which he seemed to fear that people would think that he
had seen somewhere else, he had caused to be written over the door:
“This Summer-House was Built Here.”

Profound silence reigned in the assemblage when the mayor appeared.

“Where is the fowl which is the subject of dispute?” he asked gravely.

“Monsieur le maire, it isn’t a fowl simply, it is a dinner that they
refuse to pay me for,” said Master Bonneau, stepping forward.

“A dinner! That’s a matter of some consequence! Did they eat it?”

“No, monsieur,” said Edouard, “and you see in this fowl a specimen of
it.”

“Examine the bill, monsieur le maire, and you will see that it is
perfectly fair.”

“Let us see the bill--fresh eggs----”

“They were hard.”

“Never mind, he who breaks the glasses pays for them; consequently he
who breaks the eggs ought to pay for them.”

“Rabbit stew----”

“We found a cup-and-ball in it.”

“That doesn’t concern the rabbits. Besides, cup-and-ball isn’t capable
of turning the sauce sour.--Let us go on: a capon----”

“Here it is, monsieur le maire; just feel it and smell it.”

The mayor motioned to Fanfan to approach; but the little scullion,
abashed at the sight of so many people, held the plate forward with a
trembling hand, and the fowl rolled on the floor.

The so-called capon made a sound like that of a child’s drum when it
falls to the ground.

“Oho! it seems a little dry,” said the mayor, examining it.

“That’s because it was brought here in the sun,” said Bonneau; “that
burned it just a bit.”

“Pardieu! I have my friend the notary here, who is a connoisseur in
capons, so his wife tells me. I will get him to give me his opinion.”

The mayor opened the door, and called the notary, who was dining with
him, to come and pass judgment on the capon. Edouard and his wife were
beginning to lose patience; they divined from what the judge had already
said to them that they would have to pay the rascally inn-keeper; and
that worthy also anticipated a victory; he stared at them insolently,
then turned with a smile toward the peasants, who were eagerly awaiting
the moment when they could make sport of the fine gentleman and fine
ladies from Paris, which is a great source of enjoyment to peasants.

But the notary appeared; he looked at Edouard and his wife, and
recognized them as the purchasers of Monsieur Renâré’s house; and
instead of looking at the fowl which Bonneau thrust under his nose, he
saluted Murville and his companion most humbly.

“What! do you know monsieur and madame?” asked the mayor in amazement.

“I have that honor; monsieur has bought my neighbor Renâré’s estate, and
pays cash for it. The deeds are being made in my office.”

The notary’s words changed the whole aspect of the affair. The mayor
became extremely polite to Edouard and his wife; he begged them to come
into his salon a moment and rest; and then, turning with a stern
expression toward Master Bonneau, who did not know which way to turn, he
cried angrily:

“You are a scoundrel! You are a knave! You dare to demand payment for a
dinner which was not eaten! You serve dried-up fowls, rotten eggs, and
ask forty francs for them.”

“But, monsieur le maire----”

“Hold your tongue, or I will make you pay a fine; I know that you mix
drugs with your wine, and that you steal all the cats to make rabbit
stew; but take care, Master Bonneau,--you will be held responsible for
the first plump cat that disappears.”

The inn-keeper retired, covered with confusion, and storming under his
breath at the arrival of the notary, who had made the mayor turn about
like a weathercock. He drove Fanfan before him, returned to the inn
with the wretched fowl in his hand, and in order that everyone might
share his ill-humor, he announced that they would have the capon for
supper.

The mayor, learning that Edouard and his wife had not dined, absolutely
insisted that they should dine with him; he, himself, offered to fetch
Madame Germeuil, who had remained in the cabriolet; but the young people
declined, declaring that they were expected in Paris early and that they
could not delay their departure any longer.

So they separated, the mayor protesting that he should have great
pleasure in becoming better acquainted with his constituents, and our
young people thanking him for the zeal he had shown in their behalf
after the notary’s arrival.

The peasants were still in front of the mayor’s house when Edouard and
Adeline came out; they stood aside to let them pass; some even ran to
the carriage to tell Madame Germeuil; and one and all bowed most humbly
when they drove away. And yet they were the very same persons upon whom
the clowns had heaped insolent epithets, and at whom they had been
poking fun a moment before; but they did not know then that the mayor
would treat them courteously. Men are the same everywhere.



VII

IN WHICH WE SEE THE MAN WITH MOUSTACHES ONCE MORE


They reached Paris famished, as you may imagine. They ordered dinner at
once. The servants made all possible haste, jostled one another in order
to move faster, and by jostling and colliding with one another, took one
thing instead of something else, overturned the sauces, let one dish
burn, and served another cold; in a word, they did everything wrong,
which often happens when people try to make too much haste.

The servants had ceased to expect their masters to dinner; old Raymond
could not understand why they returned hungry; it gave him a very bad
impression of the place where they had been, and the cook was very sorry
that she had not divined their condition. But our travellers found
everything delicious; Master Bonneau’s cooking was still foremost in
their thoughts.

On the day following this memorable excursion, Adeline was too tired to
accompany Edouard to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, and as they had given
their word to Monsieur Renâré, the young wife was obliged to consent to
let her husband go alone.

Murville promised to be absent only a short time; he intended to return
to dinner.

“Take care,” said Madame Germeuil, “and don’t have any unpleasant
experiences.”

“I will wager, mamma, that you are still thinking of that face with the
moustaches that we saw at the end of the garden.”

“Yes, I don’t deny it; indeed I will confess, my children, that I
dreamed of it all night.”

“That is not surprising; when something has excited us intensely during
the day, our imagination sees the same thing in a dream. But that does
not mean that we should conceive dismal presentiments from the fact.”

“Really, mamma, you will make me unhappy,” said Adeline; “I begin to
wish already that Edouard were home again.”

“And yet one must be very childish to be afraid without any reason!
Come, off with you, my dear, and return quickly; above all things, do
not dine at the Epée Couronnée!”

Edouard kissed Madame Germeuil’s hand; he embraced his wife, as people
embrace on the day after their wedding, when they have found the first
night all that they hoped, or when they think that they have found it
so, which is the same thing, and which happens to many people who know
nothing about it, and who consider themselves very shrewd.

He arrived in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, and alighted from the carriage
in front of the house which was soon to belong to him.

“Is Monsieur Renâré in?” he asked the concierge.

“He is already at the notary’s, monsieur.”

“The deuce! what promptitude! I must not keep him waiting.”

Murville left the cabriolet in the courtyard, and walked to the
notary’s. The deeds were ready, and Monsieur Renâré was impatiently
awaiting the arrival of the purchaser; for, having learned the night
before of the episode at the Epée Couronnée, he had begun to feel some
anxiety concerning the bargain; but Edouard’s presence, and especially
the sight of a wallet stuffed with good bank notes, restored all his
tranquillity.

The deeds were signed, the price paid, and Monsieur Renâré smilingly
presented the keys of the house to Edouard.

“You are the owner now, monsieur; from this moment you can do as you
please with your house and everything that it contains, as I have sold
it to you furnished.”

“I thank you, monsieur, but you may take all the time that you please to
make your preparations for departure. I do not wish to embarrass you in
any way.”

“Oh! my preparations will very soon be made, monsieur. I simply have a
little bundle to pack, and I can carry it under my arm.”

“Then you already have another house in view?”

“Why,” said the notary, “Monsieur Renâré has six houses in Paris, and
three more in the suburbs; so he is not likely to be at a loss.”

“Six houses in Paris,” thought Edouard, “and he wears a patched coat and
a broken hat! And he is a bachelor, too! and he has no heirs! Does the
man think that he is never going to die?”

Our young man bowed to the old miser and left the notary’s office. He
returned to his newly-acquired property. The concierge was waiting in
the courtyard, and seemed to have some question to ask him. Edouard
guessed the cause of his embarrassment.

“This house is now mine,” he said to the peasant; “here is the deed
stating that I am the owner of it. However, Monsieur Renâré will soon
inform you of it himself.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it, monsieur.”

“Are you attached to Monsieur Renâré?”

“No, monsieur, I ain’t attached to anything but the house, and if
monsieur doesn’t keep me, I shall be out of work.”

“Very well, I will keep you! I do not mean to discharge anybody; from
this moment you are in my employ.”

“Very good, monsieur, I will try to satisfy you.”

Edouard was not greatly pleased with the peasant. He seemed brusque and
rough, and had lived so long with Renâré that he had acquired an air of
distrust, that made itself manifest in all his acts. But Edouard did not
desire, on returning to occupy the home of his parents, to create a bad
impression on the people in the village.

As it was still early, and Edouard had finished his business at the
notary’s sooner than he expected, he could not resist the temptation to
inspect his property; he ordered the concierge to give him the key of
the gate at the end of the garden, and left him beside his cabriolet.

When we know that an estate belongs to us, we are likely to scrutinize
every part of it closely. Edouard noticed that Monsieur Renâré had
planted cabbages and lettuces in all the beds intended for flowers; he
had cut down the beautiful acacias, which, to be sure, produced nothing
but shade, and had replaced them by fruit trees. Instead of box as a
border for the paths, he had planted parsley and nasturtiums; and as he
entered a clump of shrubbery, which formerly was bright with lilacs and
roses, Edouard smelled nothing but the odor of chevril and onion.

“We shall have to make many changes,” said Edouard to himself, laughing
at the former owner’s parsimony; “but in a week everything will be as it
was, with the exception of the acacias, on which I used to have a
swing; but I have passed the age when I could enjoy it so much.”

He was then at the end of the garden; he approached the gate, saying to
himself:

“It seems that that appalling face which frightened the ladies so does
not show itself every day;” and he was on the point of putting the key
into the lock, when the face with moustaches appeared above the broken
plank, exactly on a level with the eyes.

Edouard stopped; he felt that his heart was beating violently; but he
soon recovered himself.

“What do you want?” he asked the stranger; “and why are you continually
behind this gate, with your eyes fixed upon the garden?”

“I want nothing,” the stranger replied, in a loud voice and with an
abrupt manner. “I am looking at this garden because I choose to, and I
look at it through this gate, because they would not permit me to walk
about inside.”

“If that is what you wish, you may gratify yourself now. Come in,
monsieur; there is nothing now to prevent you.”

As he spoke, Edouard, who was curious to see the whole of the stranger’s
face, opened the gate leading into the fields.

The stranger seemed surprised at Edouard’s invitation; however, as soon
as the gate was opened, he did not wait to be asked a second time, but
entered the garden. Murville was then able to contemplate him at his
ease. He saw a man of tall stature, dressed in an old blue frock-coat,
buttoned to the chin, who wore black gaiters and a dilapidated
three-cornered hat, which he carried in his hand.

As he examined this singular individual, whose pale face, long beard and
neglected dress seemed to indicate misfortune and want, Edouard
remembered his mother-in-law’s suspicions, and a feeling of distrust
entered his mind.

The stranger walked about the garden, pausing from time to time in front
of a clump of shrubs or an old tree, and apparently forgetting that
there was some one with him.

“Parbleu!” said Edouard to himself, “I propose to have something to show
for my good-nature; I must find out who this man is, and why he planted
himself behind the little gate. I must take the first step, and as he
says nothing, I must begin the conversation; he will have to answer me.”

The stranger had seated himself upon a mound of turf, from which the
front of the house could be seen. Edouard approached and sat down beside
him.

“Oh! I beg your pardon, monsieur,” said the stranger, as if suddenly
arousing himself from his abstraction, “I have not thought yet to thank
you for your kindness. But I was in such a hurry to see this place
again!”

“Oh! there is no harm done.”

“Are you the son of the owner of this house?”

“No.”

“So much the better for you.”

“Why so?”

“Because he is an old money-lender, an impertinent fellow; and so is his
concierge, to whom I was strongly tempted to administer a thrashing, in
order to teach him how to behave!”

“What have they done to you?”

“I came to this village for the express purpose of seeing this house. I
arrived here yesterday, utterly tired out; I entered the courtyard, and
sat down on a stone bench to rest. The concierge came to me, and asked
me what I was there for. I told him that I wanted to see the garden. He
asked me if I intended to buy the house. That question was an
impertinence in itself, for I don’t look like a person with money to
invest.”

“That is true,” thought Edouard.

“When he learned that I had come here for another reason, he ordered me
to leave; I asked him again to let me walk about this garden for a
moment; he called his master; an old Jew appeared, and the two together
tried to turn me out! Ten thousand thunders! Turn me out! me--a--But,
no! I forgot that I am one no longer! All the same, if it hadn’t been
that my memories restrained me, I would have thrashed master and
servant. I didn’t do it, however, and as I was able only to look at the
place from a distance, I took my stand behind that gate where you saw me
yesterday.”

“I am very glad that I have been able to atone for the discourtesy of
the concierge, and that I found you again to-day at the same place.”

“Faith! it’s a mere chance! If I were not waiting for a comrade, whom I
agreed to meet in this village, I certainly should not have stayed
here.”

“Ah! you are waiting for a comrade?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

Edouard was silent for a moment; he seemed to be reflecting upon what
the stranger had said; the latter resumed the conversation.

“Excuse me, monsieur, if I question you in my turn; but how does it
happen that the old villain of a proprietor has intrusted the keys of
his garden to you?”

“This house no longer belongs to Monsieur Renâré; he has sold it to me
this very day.”

“Sold it! Pardieu! I am delighted to hear that. I was distressed to see
this house in the clutches of that Arab!”

“You seem to be very fond of this house?”

“I well may be, as I passed a large part of my youth here.”

“You?”

“I.”

Edouard looked more closely at the stranger; vague suspicions, a secret
presentiment made his heart leap. He observed that the stranger was
young and that it seemed to be fatigue simply that had wasted his
sun-burned features; he desired, yet dreaded to learn more.

“Yes, monsieur,” continued the stranger after a moment’s silence, “I
have lived in this house. Indeed I was partly brought up here. At that
time I was with my parents, and the future looked very bright to me. I
had a kind father, I had a brother! I left them all! And I well deserve
what is happening to me now!”

“Are your parents dead?” asked Edouard in a broken voice, gazing at the
man whom he already feared that he recognized.

“Yes, monsieur, they are dead,--perhaps of the sorrow that I caused
them! My mother did not love me very much; but my father was devoted to
me! And I shall never see him again! Oh! this accursed temper of mine,
that has made me do so many foolish things!”

“And your brother?”

“My brother is still alive, so I learned at Paris; he has just married,
I was told. The person who told me was not then able to give me his
address, but is to give it to me to-morrow; then I shall go to see him.
Poor Edouard, he will be greatly surprised to see me! I will bet that he
thinks that I am dead!”

Edouard did not reply; he lowered his eyes, uncertain as to what course
he ought to adopt, and not daring to admit to himself that it was his
brother whom he had found.

Jacques,--for it was he in very truth,--Jacques had relapsed into
meditation; with one hand he fondled his long moustaches, and with the
other rubbed his forehead as if he wished to clear up his ideas. Edouard
stood motionless and silent; his eyes turned sometimes upon the friend
of his childhood, but the shabby coat, the old gaiters, and above all,
the long beard, checked the impulse of his heart which bade him throw
himself into his brother’s arms without stopping to consider his dress,
or without wondering what his position might be.

Suddenly an idea seemed to strike Jacques’s mind, and he turned to
Edouard, and said abruptly:

“It isn’t impossible that you may know my brother; you seem to belong to
fashionable society, and you usually live in Paris, do you not?”

“I do.”

“Perhaps you may have heard of Edouard Murville?”

“Yes--I--I know him.”

“You know my brother?”

“I am Edouard Murville.”

Edouard said these words in such a low tone that no one but Jacques
could have heard them; but he was listening closely, and before his
brother had finished his sentence, he had thrown himself on his neck,
and pressed him in his arms.

Edouard submitted to the embrace with very good grace; but the infernal
moustaches still disturbed him; he did not feel at his ease, and he did
not know whether he ought to rejoice or to be sorry that he had found
his brother.

“I say, why didn’t you tell me your name sooner?” said Jacques, after
embracing Edouard again; “didn’t you guess who I was?”

“Yes, but I wanted to be certain.”

“And you--you seem to be rich and happy?”

“I--yes.”

“You are married; and where is your wife? I shall be delighted to know
her.”

“My wife----”

Edouard paused; the thought of Adeline, of Madame Germeuil, the
suspicions which the latter had conceived the night before, when she saw
the face with moustaches; the brusque manners, and the more than
careless garb of Jacques, which was in such striking contrast to his
own, all this tormented the spirit of the young bridegroom, who, at the
best weak and irresolute, tried in vain to harmonize his self-esteem and
the sentiments which the sight of his brother awoke in him.

“What the devil are you thinking about?” asked Jacques, taking Edouard’s
arm.

“Oh! I was reflecting; it is late, and I must go back to Paris.
Important business demands my presence there.”

Jacques made no reply, but his brow darkened, and he walked a few steps
away from his brother.

“What are you doing now, Jacques?”

“Nothing,” said Jacques, as he scrutinized Edouard with more attention.

“Nothing? Then what are your means of existence?”

“Up to this time I have never asked anyone for anything.”

“However, you do not seem to be very well off.”

“I am not, that is a fact!”

“What an idea, to wear such moustaches! You don’t expect to see my wife,
with those on your face, I fancy?”

“My moustaches will stay where they are; if your wife is a prude and the
sight of me frightens her, never fear! she won’t see me very often!”

“You misunderstand me, that isn’t what I meant. But I must leave you; I
am expected in Paris; I do not ask you to come with me now--indeed you
are expecting to meet someone in this village, I believe.”

“Yes, I am expecting a comrade, a _friend_.”

Jacques emphasized the last word and cast a meaning glance at his
brother.

“Well, I must leave you,” said Edouard, after a moment’s hesitation; “we
shall meet again soon, I hope. Meanwhile, here, take this.”

As he spoke, Edouard drew from his pocket his purse, which contained
about ten louis, and offered it with a trembling hand to his brother;
but Jacques proudly pushed Edouard’s hand away, pulled his hat over his
eyes, put his hand quickly to the collar of his coat, and seemed to
contemplate baring his breast; but he checked himself and said to
Edouard in a cold tone:

“Keep your money; I didn’t come here to ask alms of you, and I do not
propose to become an object of your compassion; I thought that I had
found a brother, but I made a mistake. I do not seem to you worthy to be
received into your house; my dress and my face frighten you; that is
enough; adieu, you will see me no more.”

Jacques cast an angry glance at his brother, and strode from the garden
through the little barred gate, that had remained open.

Edouard, like all irresolute people, stood for a moment without moving,
with his eyes fixed upon the gate through which his brother had left the
garden. At last his natural feelings carried the day, he ran to the
gate, went into the fields, and shouted at the top of his voice:

“Jacques, Brother Jacques!”

But it was too late; Jacques had disappeared, he was already far away,
and his brother’s shouts did not reach his ears.

Edouard returned sadly to the garden; he paused in the gateway, and
looked out into the fields once more, and as he could see no one,
decided at last to close the gate.

“Oh! he will come again,” he said to himself; “he is a hot-headed
fellow, who loses his temper in an instant. However, I didn’t mean to
insult him; I offered him money, because he seemed in great need of it,
and I don’t see why he took offence at that. I gave him to understand
that his dress, his aspect, would be out of place in a salon. Was I so
very wrong? Can I conscientiously present to my wife and my
mother-in-law a man who looks like an escaped convict, at the best? It
would be enough to make a man die of shame--and that too on the very
morrow of my marriage! With the money I offered him he might have
dressed decently; but no! he will not shave his moustaches! Faith, he
may do as he pleases; I did what it was my duty to do.”

Edouard strove to convince himself that he had not done wrong; he did
not admit that his cold and constrained manner might well have
humiliated his brother; but a secret voice arose in the depths of his
heart and reproached him for his unkindness. Dissatisfied with himself
and disturbed concerning the outcome of that adventure, Edouard returned
to his cabriolet and drove away from the village, without giving the
concierge any orders.

When he entered Paris, he was still uncertain as to what he should do.
At last he decided not to mention the encounter to his wife and his
mother-in-law, thinking that it would be time enough to introduce them
to his brother when he should call. When he arrived, his Adeline ran to
meet him, scolded him fondly because he had been away so long, and asked
him about his journey.

“It is all finished,” said Edouard; “the deeds are passed and the pretty
house is ours now.”

“And you had no unpleasant meetings?” asked Adeline with a smile.

“I--no--as you see.”

“And you did not see that terrible face with the moustaches again?”
asked Madame Germeuil.

“No, I did not see him again.”

“I am glad of it, for that man really looked like the leader of a band
of robbers, and for my part I have no sort of desire to see him again, I
assure you.”

Edouard blushed; his brother had the appearance of a highwayman! That
thought troubled him; he believed that they would guess his secret, and
he dared not raise his eyes. But his wife’s caresses dispelled his
disquietude to some extent.

“What on earth is the matter, my dear?” asked Adeline; “you seem very
pensive and preoccupied to-night.”

“Nothing is the matter, my dear love; the bore of being away from you so
long has been my only unhappiness.”

“Dear Edouard! May you always think the same, for then you will never
leave me.--By the way, when do we start for our country house?”

“Oh! in a week.”

“A week! That is a very long while!”

“We must give the former owner time to pack up.”

“Ah, yes! that is true, my dear.”

Edouard did not tell the truth; another reason caused him to delay his
return to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. That reason he dared not
communicate to Adeline; and after forty-eight hours of married life,
after their mutual promises of absolute and reciprocal confidence,
behold he already had a secret from his wife!



VIII

WE MUST NOT JUDGE BY APPEARANCES


Let us leave Edouard and his wife for awhile, and return to Brother
Jacques, with whom we must become better acquainted.

After his abrupt departure from the garden, Jacques had struck across
the fields, and had walked for a long while without paying any heed to
the road he was following; his only object was to get away from his
brother, whose manners and language had wounded him to the heart. From
time to time Jacques muttered a few words; he raised his eyes, stamped
violently on the ground and seemed intensely excited. Having arrived in
a lovely valley, shaded by ancient walnut trees, Jacques felt the need
of rest; he looked about him as if to make sure that no one was
following him; everything was calm and peaceful. The peasants working in
the fields were the only living things that enlivened the landscape.
Jacques lay down at the foot of a tree, and reviewed in his memory the
conversation which he had just had with Edouard.

“Because I look as if I were unfortunate, he treats me with contempt!
Because I wear moustaches, he dares not introduce me to his wife! He
offers me money, and does not ask me to live with him! Is that the way a
man should treat his brother? Why that contemptuous air? Have I
dishonored my father’s name? If my manners are rough, my speech is frank
and my conscience clear. I may be poor and unfortunate, but never, no,
never, will I commit an action for which I would need to blush. I have
done foolish things,--youthful escapades, it is true; but I have no
shameful offences to reproach myself with, and this that I have here, on
my breast, should guarantee me against all reproach, by commanding me
never to deserve it.”

Thereupon Jacques opened his coat and gazed proudly at the cross of the
Legion of Honor, pinned to an old military jacket which he wore
underneath. That reward of his valor was his sole consolation; and yet
Jacques had concealed the decoration, because he had been for several
days past forced to seek hospitality from peasants, who were not always
hospitable, and Jacques did not wish to show his cross at the risk of
humiliation. He was right; a man who wears a symbol of merit should not
be an object of compassion to other people.

Jacques had his eyes fixed upon his decoration; he was thinking of the
day when his colonel had pinned it on his breast; he remembered the
battles in which he had taken part, his mind returned to the
battlefield, and he saw himself surrounded by his comrades, and marching
eagerly against the enemy; the memory of those glorious days revived his
depressed spirit, and he forgot his sorrows and his brother’s coldness.

At that moment, a young man, dressed very much like Jacques, but whose
bright and animated face denoted neither depression nor poverty, came
down a hill leading into the valley, whistling a military march, and
marking time with a switch on the gooseberry bushes and lilacs which
lined the road.

On arriving in the valley, the traveller stopped and looked about in all
directions.

“What the deuce! not an inn! not a poor little wine-shop even! I wonder
if I have gone astray? I don’t see any sign of a village, and I’m as
thirsty as one possessed. But no matter! Forward!”

And he began to sing:

    “I saw Jeanneton
     And her pretty little foot
     I even saw her----”

“Ah! there’s someone at last. I say, my friend!”

The traveller’s words were addressed to Jacques, who raised his eyes and
recognized his faithful comrade; he ran toward him, exclaiming:

“Ah! it is you, is it, my dear Sans-Souci?”

“Why, it’s comrade Jacques! Pardieu! I couldn’t have better luck; wait
till I lie down beside you in the shade of your walnut; I would rather
be in the shade of a cask of burgundy; but however, one must accommodate
oneself to everything.”

“Still the same, Sans-Souci! still cheerful, and fond of good living!”

“Oh! as for that, I shan’t change; cheerfulness is the wealth of poor
devils like us. You know that I used to sing when we were going into
battle! They--let me see--what do they call that?”

“Disbanded.”

“Yes, that’s it,--they disbanded us; and instead of being soldiers, here
we are civilians again! Well, we must make the best of it; besides, we
have always behaved well, and if there is any need to defend the country
again some day, why then, forward march!”

“Yes, but how are we to live meanwhile?”

“Like other people, by working.”

“My poor Sans-Souci! there are some people that live on the fat of the
land without ever turning their hand; and others, with the best will in
the world to work, can’t find any way to earn their living.”

“Bah! you always look at the dark side. Didn’t your journey turn out
well? You came into this region for some purpose.”

“Oh! I found more than I expected.”

“And you are not satisfied?”

“I have no reason to be. I just saw my brother, and he received me like
a beggar.”

“Your brother is a wild Indian, whom I would beat with the flat of my
sword if I still had one.”

“My dress, my face, and my long moustaches--he didn’t like any of them.”

“That’s a great pity! Didn’t he see that token of your valor?”

“No, it was out of sight, and I am very glad of it; my brother isn’t
capable of appreciating what I have here, and I propose to make him
blush for his treatment of me some day.”

“So your brother is a rich man?”

“Yes, yes.”

“A swell?”

“Yes.”

“So you have a family, have you?”

“To be sure.”

“Ah! that’s something I haven’t got. I never knew father or mother. I am
a natural child; and it doesn’t prevent me from going my way with my
head up, because my ancestors’ brats don’t look at me; and besides that,
in the days of our first parents, there wasn’t any notaries, and that
doesn’t prevent the descendants of Cain from being very well thought of
in the world. In fact our sergeant, who could talk very well when he
wasn’t tight, told me that love children made their way better than
other children; and on that subject quoted a long list of names that I
won’t undertake to repeat, because I’ve forgotten them.--But let’s
return to your business. You never mentioned your family or your
adventures to me; we knew each other in the regiment, and we made
several campaigns together; we both had the jaundice in Spain, and
frozen feet in Russia; and I say that such things are very good at
cementing friendship; you won the cross and I didn’t--that’s the only
difference between us; but you well earned it; you saved the colonel’s
life. But, the excellent man! that didn’t prevent his being killed the
next day; it was unlucky that you couldn’t always be on hand.--Well,
after a great many things had happened, they disbanded us! That’s a
pity, for perhaps we might have become marshals of France. In order to
comfort each other, we stayed together, except that you came alone to
this village, while I went to a place nearby to look after a little
brunette, whom I courted long ago and who swore a bullet-proof fidelity
to me!”

“Well, did you find your brunette?”

“Pardieu, yes! Oh! I tell you that there’s some analogy between our
destinies: while your brother was receiving you so cordially, my
sweetheart came to me with three children she had had during my absence,
and another half way along. You can imagine that there was nothing to
say to that. My first impulse was to give her a good thrashing, but I
reflected that the poor child might well have thought me dead and that
calmed me down. I kissed my faithless one, and while her children were
splashing in the mud with the ducks, and her husband cutting wood, we
made peace; in fact, we did better than that, for I mean to have
something to do with the fourth, which she began while waiting for me;
so we parted good friends and I came off!”

“Poor Sans-Souci! Women are no better than men, but men are simply less
skilful at concealing their falseness! I have learned to know the world,
I tell you, and I ought to have guessed what sort of welcome my brother
would have given me. But one always hopes, and that is where one makes a
mistake.”

“Come, tell me your adventures; we are in the open air, no one can hear
us, and no one will disturb us; and while I listen to you, I will rest
and smoke a cigar.”

“Well! all right; I will tell you what has happened to me since I was
fifteen years old, for that was the time that I began my cruising.”

Jacques unbuttoned his coat, leaned back against the tree and made ready
to relate his adventures to his comrade; while he, having taken a flint
and steel from his pocket and lighted a cigar, gravely placed it in his
mouth, in order to listen to his companion’s narrative with twofold
enjoyment.



IX

BROTHER JACQUES’S ADVENTURES


I left my father’s house at fifteen. My mother did not seem to care much
for me, and she never mentioned my name except with repugnance. But I
remember a stout old fellow with a pleasant face, who used to come to
our house sometimes and who always called me Jacques with all the
strength of his lungs. I believe indeed, that that old fellow was my
godfather and that his name too was Jacques. This much is certain, that
he seemed to be very fond of me and that whenever he came to see me he
gave me toys or bonbons. But in spite of my godfather’s kindness, my
father’s caresses and my love for my brother, I was horribly bored at
home. I could not keep still a minute. I had no taste for study, and as
I thought of nothing but travelling round the world and fighting, I did
not see the necessity of learning Latin and mathematics. Ah! my dear
Sans-Souci, I have paid already for those errors of my youth, and I have
learned at my own expense that education is always of great service, no
matter in what situation we may find ourselves. If I had had some
education I should not have remained a simple private; and even if my
good conduct had raised me to the rank of captain, it is always
disagreeable when one goes into the society of one’s superiors never to
be able to open one’s mouth without the fear of making some horrible
slip, and of setting other people laughing at you. But let us return to
our subject: I started off one fine morning without trumpet or drum, or
without thinking in which direction I should go. I had one louis in my
pocket, which I had received a few days before from my godfather, and I
imagined that such a sum would never be exhausted.

After walking for a very long time, I stopped in a village in front of a
wine shop. I went in and ordered dinner, with the assurance of a
government messenger. I was well treated; I had an open, honest face,
and I jingled my money as I hopped about the kitchen and uncovered all
the dishes in order to select what I wanted. The host watched me
laughingly and let me do as I chose. He served a good dinner and gave me
white wine and red wine. A little hunchback, who was dining at a table
near me, examined me closely. He tried to enter into conversation with
me and find out where I came from and where I was going; but as I have
never liked inquisitive people and as the little hunchback’s remarks
displeased me, I looked at him without answering, or whistled and sang
while he was talking.

When I was well filled, I asked the host how much he wanted; the rascal
asked me fifteen francs for my dinner. I made a wry face; but I paid the
bill and left the inn, reflecting that my louis, which was to last
forever, would not suffice to pay for a second meal, if I chose to
continue to play the nobleman.

The place where I had dined and which I had taken for a village was
Saint-Germain; I asked the way to the forest and resumed my journey,
stopping only to jump ditches, and to belabor donkeys that I happened to
pass.

As I was entering Poissy, I heard a horse trotting behind me; I stopped
and recognized my hunchback, who was riding a raw-boned little horse,
which he was obliged to strike constantly with the spur and the whip;
else the animal would have stopped every few steps. He ceased to crack
his whip when he was beside me, and contented himself with a walk, in
order to remain at my side. He tried to enter into conversation, and as
I was beginning to be tired then, and the croup of a horse, however thin
the beast might be, seemed to me a very agreeable seat, I displayed less
pride, and talked with the hunchback.

“Where are you going at this rate, my dear boy?” he asked me.

“Why, I don’t exactly know. I mean to travel, to see the country and
enjoy myself.”

“Have you no parents?”

“Oh, yes! But they are in Paris and want me to pass my time in reading
and writing; I got tired of that and I came away.”

“I understand; a piece of folly! a youthful escapade! Oh! I know what it
is. That’s about all one sees now.--But have you much money for your
travels?”

“I have nine francs.”

“Nine francs! Hum! you’ll have to eat wild cow.”[A]

[A] _Manger de la vache enragée: i.e._, to endure hunger and privation.

“What do you mean with your cow? I ate chicken and eels and pigeons and
ducks.”

“Yes, but you spent fifteen francs, and with the nine you’ve left, you
can’t eat three more meals like that.”

I made no reply, but I realized that the hunchback was right; and yet,
as I had a will of my own, and as I was accustomed to make up my mind
quickly, I looked at the little man with a decided air, and said to him
after a moment:

“All right! I will eat cow.”

“I see that you have pluck,” he said; “but still, when a man can find a
chance to live well while travelling, it isn’t to be despised; and I
can supply you with the means.”

“You can?”

“Yes, myself.”

“How so?”

“I will tell you. But so that you can listen to me at your ease and not
get more tired, wouldn’t you like to get up here behind me?”

“Oh! I ask nothing better.”

Delighted by my new travelling companion’s proposition, I jumped
recklessly on the poor horse’s back; I slipped, grasped the little man’s
hump, fell, and dragged him with me, and we both rolled in the road; but
luckily his placid steed did not stir.

My new acquaintance rose good-humoredly enough, and simply advised me to
be less eager in the future, because we might not always fall so softly.
I promised. My hunchback put his foot in the stirrup. I too mounted, but
with more precaution; and when we were firmly seated on our saddle and
he had, by dint of blows, induced his nag to walk on, he resumed his
discourse, which I had interrupted so abruptly.

“My dear boy, everyone in this world tries to make money and earn a
fortune, that is, unless he is born rich; and still, we see millionaires
thinking of nothing but speculation, capitalists engaged in large
undertakings in order to double their wealth; and nobles seeking
alliances which may add to the splendor of their family. I, who am
neither a noble nor a capitalist nor even a merchant, and have no hope
of becoming any one of them, I tried for a long time to think of some
means by which I could, if not make a fortune, at least live at my ease.
I soon found that means. With intelligence one soon learns to know men.
I travelled; I studied men’s tastes and characters. I saw that, with a
little address, poor mortals are easily deceived; all that is necessary
is to take them on their weak side, which one can easily divine when one
has tact and penetration, as I have.”

“Ah! so you have tact and penetration?” I said to my companion, as I
buried in the flanks of our steed some pins which I had discovered on
the portmanteau that was between us.

“Yes, my dear boy, I flatter myself that I have.”

“Then, why is your horse going so fast now?”

“Because I keep my whip snapping, and he knows that he is soon going to
have his supper.”

“That is true; I see that you have tact.--Well, go on, I am listening.”

“So then, it was by flattering men’s passions that I found a way to live
at my ease; moreover, I instructed myself in botany, medicine,
chemistry, and even in anatomy too; and with my knowledge I have not
only composed remedies for all diseases but also philters to arouse
love, hatred, jealousy, and to make well people sick; it is in this last
art that I am particularly proficient.”

“Ah! I understand now. No doubt you sell vulneraries too, like that
tall, red man that I used to see in Paris on the squares and
street-corners. People called him a charlatan, I believe.”

At the name charlatan, my companion leaped in the saddle in such a way
that he nearly threw us both off; luckily I clung firmly to him, and we
got off with merely a fright.

“My dear boy,” he said when he had become a little calmer, “I forgive
you the name of charlatan. You don’t know me yet; indeed I admit that
there is a little charlatanism in my business, and that three-quarters
of my remedies and my philters do not produce the effect that is
expected of them; but we make mistakes in medicine as we do in
everything else. We take cathartics and make ourselves sick; we have a
toothache, and we take an elixir which spoils all our teeth; we try to
obtain a position which we are not able to fill; we go into maritime
speculations which a sudden storm destroys; we think that we have
intelligence when we have not the intelligence to succeed, which is the
most important of all; we determine to be prudent and we make fools of
ourselves; we desire happiness, and we marry and have a wife and
children who often cause us untold anxiety!--In short, my little man,
people have made mistakes in all lines, and it is great luck when things
turn out as we had anticipated, or hoped.”

“Look here, monsieur,” I said to my little hunchback, whose chatter was
beginning to weary me, “what do you expect to do with me, after all is
said and done?”

“This: when I stop in a village or small town, I cannot make myself
sufficiently well known alone; I need an assistant, to go about the town
to deliver prospectuses, and to answer for me when I am busy, and make a
memorandum of the questions that people want to ask me.”

“But I don’t choose to be your assistant, as I don’t want to learn
anything.”

“I understand that very well, my friend. Oh! I don’t propose to drive
you crazy with fatiguing work. I will have you make pills, that’s all.”

“Pills?”

“Yes, pills of all sizes and of all colors. Never fear, it won’t be
hard; but that isn’t all.”

“What else shall I do?”

“You must be able to sleep when you choose, and to play the sleep-walker
when you please.”

“Oh! as to sleeping, I can do that all right!”

“When you are asleep, you must answer the questions that are asked you.”

“How do you expect me to answer questions when I am asleep?”

“Why, you will pretend to be asleep, my boy; I will explain all that to
you. Oh! that is one of the principal branches of my business.”

“When you put people to sleep?”

“No, but when I make sleep-walkers talk, and when I make them give
remedies to sick people.”

“One moment; I am willing to sleep, but I am not willing to give
remedies or take them.--Indeed, I have been whipped at home for
refusing.”

“Oh! you don’t understand; when I say remedies, I mean medicines to
take----”

“Yes, with a syringe; I know all about that!”

“I tell you that you don’t know what I am talking about. You will talk
while pretending to be asleep; I will teach you your lesson beforehand,
and you will answer the questions asked by invalids or curiosity
seekers.”

“Well, I don’t understand at all.”

“Pardieu! I can believe that; nor do those people who question the
somnambulists; and that is just wherein the charm of it lies; if they
knew what to think about it, it would no longer be possible to earn
one’s living with magnetism and somnambulism. But will you be my
assistant and help me with my business, or not? I will feed you well, I
will dress you suitably, and you will see the country, for I never stay
long in the same place.”

“And all I shall have to do for that is to make pills and sleep?”

“Not another thing!”

“Then, it’s agreed, I will go with you.”

So I became the little hunchback’s assistant. We reached a village that
night. My patron went to the best inn, and ordered a very good supper.
It seemed to me very pleasant to travel on horseback, without having to
worry about my meals. Moreover, I was always at liberty to leave my
companion when I chose, and that reason was enough to make me enjoy
myself with him; the certainty of being free gives a charm to existence
and makes the most trivial incidents enjoyable; bondage, on the
contrary, throws a tinge of gloom over all our actions; it causes us to
shun pleasure; it takes away all the joy of love, it deprives the heart
of all its strength and the imagination of all its vivacity.

This that I am saying, Sans-Souci, is not my own; it is a sentence which
my godfather repeated to me often, and which I remembered easily because
it harmonized with my taste.

When I awoke the next morning, my hunchback, whose name was
Graograicus--a name which he had probably manufactured for himself, and
which no one could pronounce without making a wry face, which made it
altogether impressive--my little hunchback, as I said, suggested giving
me a lesson in somnambulism, which we were to practise in the first
place of any importance in which we might stop. I accepted his
proposition. He made me sit down, told me to stare at vacancy as if I
were looking at nothing, and taught me to sleep with my eyes open; but,
as that tired my eyes, he allowed me to close them when we only had
peasants or poor devils to cure.

Then came the matter of philters; my companion was out of them, and it
was necessary to prepare more. While I was cleaning a dozen or more
four-ounce phials, which were to contain the charms, Master Graograicus
went out to purchase plants, roots, and such other ingredients as he
needed in the manufacture of the philters. He lighted a fire, and
borrowed from our host all the bowls that he had; and our bedroom, where
everything was turned topsy-turvy, began, in my companion’s language, to
be a workshop of chemistry and magic.

“Look here,” I said to my hunchback, while he was pulverizing burdock,
and I was rolling cinnamon, “what are you going to use these things for
that you are making? I am willing to be your assistant, but only on
condition that you teach me your mysteries.”

“You shall know, my boy; we must not have any secrets from each other. I
am now making a philter to arouse love; it is not very difficult to
make, for all I need is tonics, alcohol and stimulants. I boil cinnamon,
cloves, vanilla, pepper, sugar and brandy together. When a person has
swallowed that mixture, that person becomes very amorous; and as soon as
he or she who has administered my philter is with the object of his or
her love, he finds that the charm operates and has no doubt that I am a
magician. Furthermore, this little drug has the property of ruining the
teeth; teeth are not ruined without pain, and as the toothache is
commonly called love-sickness, as soon as it is known that the person
who takes the philter has pains in his teeth, it is presumed that he has
fallen in love. I sell a great deal of this philter, especially to
ladies; we will lay in a good stock of it.

“Let us go on to the next one, which arouses jealousy. Ah! I confess
that it cost me long study and profound reflection, but I believe that I
have solved the problem successfully. In the first place, what gives
rise to jealousy? The suspicions which one conceives concerning the
fidelity of the object of one’s love. Now, these suspicions have a
cause, for there is no effect without a cause; to be sure, a person is
sometimes jealous without cause, but much more frequently with a cause;
so I said to myself:

“‘By making one lover unfaithful, I shall necessarily make the other one
jealous; but how am I to make unfaithful the one who does not take my
drugs?’--Ah! that, my little man, was where a stroke of genius was
required. That is something a fool would never have discovered, and
which I did discover, without the help of any treatises upon medicine. I
compounded this philter of corrosive sublimate and herbs that have an
effect upon the skin. This compound has the property of making the eyes
dull, the complexion leaden and the nose drawn; it brings out a humor,
and the skin is covered with pimples and pustules of all sizes,--while
it makes the breath fit to kill flies at ten yards. So you see that the
man or woman who frequents the person who has taken my philter readily
becomes unfaithful, while the one who has taken it becomes as jealous as
a demon; and the effect lasts through life; for, let him do what he
pleases, he can never again succeed in making himself attractive and in
inspiring love.--Well! what do you say to that? What deep thought, what
a thorough acquaintance with the passions and their effects! But see
what the world is: I sell much less of this philter than of the others;
indeed it rarely happens that the same person takes it twice.

“As for this last, for which I am pulverizing this burdock, it serves to
arouse anger, hatred, ill-humor, and it never fails to produce its
effect; it is a compound of manna, rhubarb, vinegar, turpentine, and
cacao, to which I add this burdock to form a syrup. This little charm,
at once emollient and astringent, produces the colic and sick headache;
now, when one has a pain in the head and the stomach at the same time,
he is certain not to be in a good humor; he easily loses his temper,
and feels a grudge against the whole world, especially when the pains
are constantly on the increase. It seems to me that that is rather
prettily reasoned out, and that nothing less than my tact and my
penetration would have sufficed to find the means of arousing so many
different passions.”

I listened to my companion with attention, and when he had finished, I
asked him if he expected to try his philters upon me; he said that he
had no such purpose, and that assurance restored my good humor, for I
would not have consented at any price to taste Master Graograicus’s
charms.

“It only remains for me now,” he said, “to teach you to make pills; that
is very easy; I make them with the soft part of bread, and roll them in
different powders to give them different colors.”

“And what are they used for?”

“To cure all diseases.”

“What! you cure diseases with bread?”

“I sometimes cure them, for many diseases exist in the imagination only,
and when the patient believes that he is taking an infallible remedy, he
is easily persuaded that it is doing him good, and it is that persuasion
that cures him, and not my pills. But at all events they can’t do any
harm and that is always something. I sell large quantities of them to
nurses and old women.”



X

A LESSON IN MAGNETISM


Thus I was made acquainted with all my companion’s secrets; he required
me to promise not to betray him, and I solemnly swore. But I did not
swear that I would not amuse myself at the expense of the idiots who
might consult him; and that was what I secretly determined to do; for,
although I was only fifteen years old, I was resolute, courageous,
stubborn and reasonably mischievous.

The village in which we passed the night seemed unlikely to afford my
hunchback an opportunity to put forth his talents and sell his drugs, so
we prepared to leave it. But my crafty companion succeeded none the less
in inducing our host’s wife to purchase secretly a box of pills to
prevent her hair from turning white and her teeth from turning black.

We set out on our travels once more, carrying our fortune tied to our
saddle. The weather was not propitious. We encountered a furious storm
and when we reached the small town which was destined to ring with the
fame of our talents, we were in such a pitiable condition that we were
more likely to be taken for wretched mountebanks than for learned
doctors.

However, we betook ourselves to the best inn in the place. At first the
inn-keeper paid no attention to us, and did not put himself out to
receive us; but when my companion ordered one of the finest suites and a
splendid repast, he scrutinized us with a hesitating expression which
was eloquent of his doubts concerning the state of our finances. My
crafty hunchback tossed a number of crowns on the table, and requested
the host to take out a week’s rent of the apartment in advance.

This method of beginning operations completely changed the ideas of the
inn-keeper, who concluded that he had to deal with noblemen travelling
incognito. We were given rooms on the first floor and served on the
minute.

“Monsieur l’aubergiste,” said my companion to our host, as we took our
seats at the table, “you don’t know who I am; I am going to make myself
known to you for the good of this town. Be good enough to inform the
inhabitants that they have the privilege of entertaining within their
walls, but for only a week, the celebrated Graograicus,
physician-in-chief to the Emperor of China, magnetizer to the favorite
sultana of the Sultan of Damascus, physician by letters patent to the
court of the King of Morocco, chemist to the Grand Vizier of
Constantinople, and astrologer to the Hetman of the Cossacks. Tell them
also that I have with me temporarily the little somnambulist, the most
famous, the most extraordinary that has ever appeared on the face of the
globe. He is a young man of thirty years, who looks less than fifteen,
because he has passed half of his life asleep. This strange young man,
born on the banks of the Indus, knows all languages--not to speak them,
it is true, but he understands them better than you and I do. In his
sleep he discovers your disease, its cause, its effects, the pains that
you feel, the periods of recurrence, and points out the remedies you
should take, even for future sicknesses. He has had the honor of putting
himself to sleep before counts, marquises, dukes, and even royal
highnesses. He has effected, sleeping all the while, cures that would
have passed for miracles under the reign of the great Solomon, and even
under that of King Dagobert. He has cured an Englishman of the spleen, a
German baroness of a cutaneous disease, and her husband of the gout; a
young dancer of hatred for men, and an old woman of her love for her
dog; a courtier of the habit of bending his back, and a courtesan of a
peculiar habit of wriggling; an annuitant of a weakness of the stomach,
and a Prussian of indigestion; an author of a buzzing in his ears, and a
musician of a weakness in his legs; a bailiff of rheumatism in the loins
and an attorney of itching fingers; a lawyer of a defect in his speech,
and a singer of defective respiration; a coquette of her vapors, and an
old libertine of his asthma; a pacha with three tails, of his inability
to secure offspring, and a muleteer of his too bountiful gifts in this
direction; a dissolute husband of the habit of sowing good grain on
stony ground, and an Italian of the habit of whipping small boys; and
many other people, whom I will not name, because it would take too long,
and also because we are not mere charlatans, who simply try to throw
dust in people’s eyes.--This little prospectus, which I will beg you to
distribute, will suffice to give the inhabitants of this town an idea of
our learning. Here, monsieur l’aubergiste, take these, and believe.”

The host listened with wide-open eyes to this harangue of the little
hunchback, delivered with extraordinary emphasis and assurance; he took
the prospectuses with a respectful bow, assured us of his devotion,
tried to pronounce my companion’s name, failed, made a grimace, took off
his cap, and backed out of our room.

When he had gone, I asked my companion if I was the somnambulist, thirty
years old, who had cured so many people.

“Yes, my dear boy,” he replied; “don’t be surprised at anything; I will
answer for everything. You told me to call you Jacques, but that name is
too far within the reach of everybody; when we have visitors, I shall
call you nothing but Tatouos--don’t forget.--I am going to take a walk
about the town and make a few memoranda; while I am gone, amuse yourself
arranging my philters in this cupboard, and making a few boxes of pills;
I will return very soon.”

I was left alone, but, instead of making pills, I amused myself eating
the cacao, cinnamon and other ingredients used in compounding the
so-called charms. I also inspected the valise, which my companion had
left open; I found a long, black gown, a false nose, a scratch wig and a
flaxen beard. I was busily engaged in the examination of these different
objects, when someone tapped softly at our door.

“Come in,” I said, without moving. The door opened very gently and a
young brunette of some twenty years entered our apartment. She was one
of the servants of the inn, and, like most of her class, she was very
inquisitive and passably wanton. She had heard her master exclaim on
leaving our room that he had as guests in his inn the two most
extraordinary men in the universe: a scholar, who treated Frenchmen like
the Chinese, and a somnambulist thirty years old, who looked like a
child of twelve, and who could put the widest awake people to sleep.
When she heard that, Clairette had resolved to be the first one to be
put to sleep, to see what effect it would produce on her; and, presuming
that when we became well known, it would be more difficult to obtain an
audience, she had made haste to come up to our room, on the pretext of
asking whether we wanted anything.

The girl came forward on tiptoe, like a person moved by fear and
curiosity at the same time. She stopped within two steps of me and
looked at me with close attention. I looked at her in my turn, and found
her most attractive. I had never yet thought about women; indeed, I had
never before been alone with a young girl. The presence of that one, her
close scrutiny of me, and the pleasant expression of her face,--all
those things excited me greatly, and I was conscious of a feeling which
I had never known before.

We were both silent for some time; Clairette broke the silence:

“What, monsieur!” she said, staring with all her eyes, “what! are you
thirty years old?”

“Yes, mademoiselle,” I replied at once, recalling what my companion had
told me, and thinking that that falsehood might lead to some amusing
adventures. Moreover, as you must know, a young man of fifteen is always
well pleased to appear older and more mature than he is; whereas at
thirty, he regrets that he is not fifteen still.

“Bless my soul! why, I can’t get over it! Thirty years old! You don’t
look half of it!”

And Clairette examined me more closely; I made no objection and tried to
play the exquisite.

“You must have some secret, monsieur, to keep you from growing old?”

“Yes, mademoiselle; and I have many others too.”

“Oh! if you could only tell me that one, monsieur! I’d be so pleased, so
happy--to look young forever! Ah! how delightful that would be! I
promise you that I won’t tell your secret. You see, I wouldn’t want the
other girls in town to stay young too! ’twould take away all the
pleasure.--Monsieur, will you be kind enough to--I say--if you will, you
can ask me for all you choose!”

The young servant seemed, in very truth, predisposed in my favor; I
already felt innumerable desires surging in my heart; but I dared not
make them known as yet; I was very green, but I felt a longing to cease
to be, and I wished to receive my first instructions from Clairette.

However, when you pretend to be thirty years old, you don’t want to
appear to be an ignoramus; and, in order to avoid talking and acting
awkwardly, I held my peace and did nothing but look at Clairette.

The girl, amazed by my silence, was afraid that she had said too much;
however, the desire to remain young tormented her so that she soon
renewed her questions.

“They say you’re a somnambulist, monsieur?”

“Yes, I am.”

“And that you put everybody to sleep?”

“I put those people to sleep who believe in my skill.”

“Oh! I believe in it absolutely, monsieur! and if you would put me to
sleep--Perhaps that is what gives the young look?”

“Why, yes, that’s the beginning of it.”

“Oh! begin me, monsieur, please! it will be so much done! Please, while
we’re alone and you’ve got time----”

“What do you want?”

“To be put to sleep, monsieur. See, I’m all ready.”

I was terribly embarrassed; I didn’t know how to go to work to play the
sorcerer, and I bitterly regretted that I had not asked my little
hunchback for fuller details as to that matter. However, as I did not
desire to be cruel any longer to young Clairette, who appeared to me in
such charming fashion, I said to myself: “Parbleu! I’m not any more
stupid than my hunchback; he hasn’t taught me his way of putting people
to sleep, so I’ll invent a way of my own, and perhaps mine will be just
as good as his.”

“All right, I consent,” I said to Clairette, “I’ll give you a lesson;
but it will only be just to give you a little bit of an idea; we’ll do
more another time.”

“Oh! just as you say, monsieur.”

The young woman was so pleased with what I had agreed to do for her,
that she jumped about the room like a mad girl.

“First of all, sit down,” I said, trying to assume a very serious
expression.

“Where shall I sit, monsieur?”

“Why, here--on a chair by my side.”

“Here I am, monsieur.”

“Give me your hand.”

“Oh! both of ’em, if you want.”

I took both her hands and squeezed them hard; I felt a pleasant warmth
run through my whole being; I was so happy that I dared not stir for
fear of breaking the charm that intoxicated my senses; my eyes were
fixed on Clairette’s, and their tender languor aroused my first love.
Instead of giving the girl a lesson, I felt that she could teach me a
thousand things. I trembled, I blushed and turned pale in quick
succession; never was a sorcerer so timid; but I had forgotten my rôle,
and Clairette had unconsciously assumed it.

“It’s mighty funny,” said the girl when I had been squeezing her hand
for five minutes, “it don’t make me a bit sleepy.”

“Wait, wait. It doesn’t work at once. Now you must shut your eyes.”

“Bless me! shut ’em tight?”

“Yes, that is absolutely necessary.”

“All right--now I can’t see a thing.”

As Clairette was no longer looking at me, I became less timid, and after
contemplating at leisure a lovely bosom, from which I had put the
neckerchief partly aside, I ventured to steal a kiss from the lips of my
pretty pupil. Instantly an unknown flame set my heart on fire, I found
in those kisses an unfamiliar sensation of bliss, I could not take
enough of them, and Clairette made no objection, but murmured brokenly:

“Ah! why--this is funny--it don’t make me sleepy--a single bit.”

I don’t know how that first lesson would have ended, had not my
companion suddenly entered the room, just as I embraced Clairette. His
presence confused me so that I reached the other end of the room in one
bound. Clairette seemed less embarrassed than I was; she remained in her
chair, glancing from me to the little hunchback, like a person awaiting
the result of an experiment.

“What are you doing, my dear Tatouos?” said the crafty hunchback with a
smile, for he easily guessed the cause of my confusion.

“Why, I--I was trying to put this girl to sleep.”

“Ah! you were going on to that, were you?--But, as you know, there are
some indispensable preliminaries, and besides this is not a propitious
hour. Take my advice, and postpone your lesson in magnetism until
another time.”

As he said this, my companion made signs to me which I understood
perfectly; then he went to Clairette, who was still sitting quietly in
her chair.

“My dear child, I am glad to see that you desire to obtain instruction,
and that you have faith in our skill. Never fear, we will teach you much
more than you imagine--especially Signor Tatouos, who is extremely well
versed in his art, and whose one aim is to make proselytes. But the
moment has not arrived. Your master wants you in the kitchen; your
fricassees may burn; our supper would be the worse for it, and I should
be very sorry; for I have a good appetite, and I don’t like curdled
sauces and overdone meat. Go, my dear girl,--to-morrow we shall begin
our grand experiments! And if you are the sort of person that I hope you
shall be initiated into our mysteries! In a word, to-morrow you shall
sleep and you shall see the light.”

I am not sure that Clairette fully understood my companion’s meaning,
but she made a profound reverence and left the room. As she passed me,
she shot a glance at me that completely turned my head. Unable longer to
resist my feeling for her, and heedless of what my companion might say,
I followed her into the corridor.

“If you want me to teach you all I know,” I said to her in an undertone,
“tell me where your room is; I will come to see you to-night.”

“Oh! I don’t ask anything better. Look--you go up these stairs, and up
at the very top, the small door to the right; anyway, I’ll leave it open
a little.”

“Good!”

“But you will show me how to keep young?”

“Never fear.”

Clairette left me and I returned to my companion. As you see, love had
already made me inventive; I was determined to leave no stone unturned
to possess Clairette, and yet I was only fifteen and a few months; but a
resolute will, an ardent temperament and robust health impelled me to
embark upon an adventurous career before the usual age.



XI

JACQUES PUTS CLAIRETTE TO SLEEP AND ACCOMPLISHES MARVELS


When I returned to my travelling companion, I expected a severe
reprimand for my inconsiderate conduct with the young maid-servant, and
I had determined to reply that I would remain with him only on condition
of doing as I chose; but I was agreeably surprised to see him laugh and
come forward gayly to meet me.

“It seems to me, my young friend,” he said slyly, “that you are already
disposed to work on your own account. Peste! you are beginning rather
young! However, I do not propose to interfere with you in anything;
indeed, I am neither your father nor your guardian, and you wouldn’t
listen to me if I should preach virtue to you. Allow me simply to give
you some advice dictated by prudence and by our mutual interest.”

“I am listening.”

“I am a man of great tact; and I believe that you are in love with the
girl who was here just now.”

“Indeed? you didn’t need any great tact to discover that.”

“But it’s essential to find out whether she likes you.”

“Why shouldn’t she?”

“You are so young!”

“She thinks I am thirty.”

“True! I had forgotten that. Then you must try to enlist her in our
interest; you understand, my dear Jacques, that to have a great success
in a town, I must make, or find, accomplices.”

“What! can’t you do without them? You are not very clever, so far as I
can see.”

“My little Jacques, you are just beginning your pranks and your travels;
you don’t know the world as yet; if you had studied it as I have, you
would know that even the most cunning people often require the help of
others to succeed; and that is what I call complicity. The tradesmen
enter into agreements with one another, in order to get better prices
for their wares; the steward makes a bargain with the tradesmen about
paying their bills; the courtiers put their heads together to flatter
the prince and conceal the truth from him; the young dandy plots with a
dancer at the Opéra to ruin a farmer-general; the doctor has an
understanding with the druggist, the tailor with the dealer in cloth,
the dressmaker with the lady’s maid, the author with the _claqueurs_,
who also have an understanding with one another about selling the
tickets they receive for applauding; stockbrokers make agreements to
raise and lower quotations, cabals to ruin the sale of a work by a man
who is not of their coteries, musicians to play badly the music of a
confrère, actors to prevent the production of a play in which they do
not act; and wives have a most excellent understanding with their
husbands’ friends. All this, my dear boy, is complicity. Need you be
surprised then, that a sleight-of-hand man, a manipulator of goblets,
requires accomplices?--So much the worse for the idiots who allow
themselves to be tricked! or rather, so much the better; for if there
were no illusion, there would be very little enjoyment.--As for myself,
I require to know beforehand who the people are who come to consult me;
for you understand that I am no more of a sorcerer than other men. In
order that you, while playing the somnambulist, may divine the pains
that people are feeling, as well as those that they have felt, I must
teach you your lesson in advance. That won’t prevent our making cures,
please God! but we must impose on the multitude; and men are so
constituted that the marvelous delights and always will delight them.
Now then, this little servant seems to me very sly and very wide awake,
and we must make her our accomplice; you will give her love, and I
money. With the two, we shall be very unlucky or very bungling if we do
not enlist her in our cause.”

I was overjoyed by my companion’s proposition; to give love to Clairette
was my only thought, my only desire! But, as the little hunchback
constantly enjoined prudence upon me, and requested me to do nothing
without consulting him, I did not mention my appointment with the young
servant; he might have considered it too abrupt, too sudden, and not for
anything in the world would I have missed my first rendezvous.

Master Graograicus proceeded to tell me the result of his walk about the
town; he was already familiar with the gossip, the intrigues, recent
events, the appointments about to be made, the diseases most in vogue,
the persons to be treated with consideration, the marriages soon to take
place and those which were broken off,--in a word, everything of present
interest to the bigwigs of the place. Give me a small town for a place
to learn all the news in a short time! to be informed, all one needs to
do is to stop a moment at the baker’s, the hair-dresser’s and the
fruit-woman’s.

My companion had a great knack at remembering everything that could
possibly be useful to him; his memory was almost always accurate; it
supplied the place of learning, as in many people it supplies the place
of wit.

Our supper was served. The host came first himself, to lay the cloth and
take our orders. Clairette appeared finally; she seemed less confident
than on the occasion of her first visit; she kept her eyes on the floor,
and paid no heed to my meaning glances and the little hunchback’s sly
smile. I was on pins and needles; I was afraid that she had changed her
mind and her determination. I was a novice in amorous intrigue, and I
did not know that a woman never conceals her wishes so effectively as at
the moment that they are about to be fulfilled.

She left the room, and I did what I could to hasten the supper; but my
companion, who was not in love, abandoned himself with keen delight to
the pleasures of the table. I had no choice but to watch him linger over
each dish, and to listen to his jests concerning my lack of appetite. He
was very far, however, from suspecting the real cause of my
preoccupation.

The supper came to an end at last, and we went into our bedroom, where
there were two beds side by side. I made haste to jump into mine,
placing my trousers at my feet, that I might find them more readily.
After making the tour of the room a dozen times, and arranging his
philters and pill boxes, until my nerves fairly tingled with impatience,
my companion finally decided to go to bed. I awaited that moment as the
signal for my happiness, for I knew that he would be sound asleep as
soon as he was in bed.

At last that instant so ardently desired arrived. My comrade was in bed;
I made certain that he was snoring. I rose, slipped into my trousers,
and, not taking the time to put on my shoes, I hurried to the door,
opened it very softly, and stood on the landing.

I felt my way upstairs, making no noise, in my bare feet, and holding my
breath, I was so afraid of giving the alarm to the people in the house,
and of seeing that unfamiliar felicity which I burned to know elude my
grasp. At last I reached the appointed place at the top of the stairs; I
heard a faint cough and my heart told me that I was near Clairette. I
found a door ajar, and by the light of a night lamp, I saw the little
servant awaiting me.

The girl wore nothing but a short petticoat and a jacket, evidently
assuming that an elaborate toilet was not necessary in the mysteries of
somnambulism; but no woman had ever seemed to me so bewitching, nor had
I ever seen a woman look at me in such an expressive fashion.

“I was waiting for you,” she said; “let’s go right on with the lesson
your companion interrupted so unpleasantly; I am anxious to know how you
are going to make me young!”

“You don’t need to be made young,” I said; “all you need is to stay just
as you are now.”

“Yes, that’s what I meant. Let’s make haste. See, I’ll sit down and shut
my eyes as I did before.”

And without waiting for my reply, Clairette sat down on the foot of her
bed, doubtless because the only chair in the room did not seem to her
strong enough to stand our experiment in magnetism. I was careful not to
urge my pupil to do otherwise, and I went at once and took my place by
her side. I was too excited then to be timid; and Clairette, with her
eyes still closed, contented herself with saying:

“Oh! is that the way? is that what makes a person young? Why, Pierre and
Jérôme have taught me as much already!”

I had repeated my experiment several times and had fallen asleep in
Clairette’s arms, when a great noise woke us both. The uproar seemed to
come from the room beneath; we distinguished a confused murmur of
voices, among others that of the inn-keeper, calling Clairette and
shouting for a light.

What was I to do? If the inn-keeper himself should come upstairs, where
was I to hide? There was nothing in Clairette’s room large enough to
hide me from her master’s eyes. The young woman pushed me from the room
and begged me to save her from the anger of her employer, who did not
propose that the servants in his inn should have weaknesses for others
than himself.

While she blew out her lamp and made a pretence of striking a light, I
went downstairs with no very clear idea what I was going to say. I had
no sooner reached the floor below than someone came to me, grasped my
arm and whispered in my ear:

“Play the sleep-walker; I had an attack of indigestion, I took our
host’s bedroom for the cabinet, and a tureen containing soup-stock for a
night vessel. Don’t be alarmed, I will get you out of the scrape.”

I recognized the voice of my companion, and I at once recovered my
courage. The inn-keeper, irritated because no light was brought, went up
himself to Clairette’s room, where she was still striking the flint
without using tinder--an infallible method of striking fire without
striking a light. At last our host came down again with two lighted
candles; he was on the point of entering his room, when he saw me
walking about the corridor, in my shirt, with solemn tread, carrying my
trousers under my arm, as I had not had time to put them on.

“What does this mean?” he demanded, gazing at me with an expression of
surprise mingled with alarm; “what are you doing here, monsieur? who are
you looking for, at this time of night? Was it you who came into my room
and woke me up, with a dull noise that sounded like a drum, and filled
the room with an infernal smell? Answer me!”

I was careful not to reply and continued to walk slowly along the
corridor; the inn-keeper followed me with his two candles, and Pierre
and Jérôme, the two men-servants, attracted by the noise, awaited with
curiosity the upshot of the adventure. At last a groan came from the
inn-keeper’s bedroom.

“Ah! there’s someone in my room!” he cried, turning pale; “come here,
you fellows, and go on ahead.”

He pushed Pierre and Jérôme before him, and they entered the room where
my companion was, leaving me in the corridor. Soon I heard our host’s
voice, who seemed very wroth with Master Graograicus. I concluded that
it was time to make peace between them, and with that end in view I
stalked solemnly into the room where they were quarrelling.

At my appearance the hubbub ceased.

“Hush! silence! attention!” said my companion in a low tone; “it’s
Tatouos, in a somnambulistic state. I will put him in communication with
myself, and you’ll see that he will tell you all I have done to-night.”

The little hunchback came to me at once. He passed his hands in front of
my face several times, put his forefinger on the end of my nose, in
order, he said, to establish communication, and began his questions:

“What have I had to-night?”

“Pains in the stomach.”

“And then?”

“Nausea.”

“And then?”

“Colic.”

“There! what did I tell you just now?” cried my companion, turning
toward the stupefied audience. “But let’s go on; this is nothing; I’ll
wager that he will tell you everything I did.--What caused my trouble?”

“Indigestion.”

“And the indigestion?”

“From eating too much supper.”

“Surprising! prodigious!” said the host, crowding between his two
servants.

“Hush!” said my companion; “don’t break the spell.--Then what did I do?”

“You got up.”

“With what purpose?”

“With the purpose of going to a certain place.”

“Did I take a light?”

“No, you had none.”

“How did I walk?”

“Feeling your way.”

“You hear him, messieurs; I felt my way because I had no light; he
doesn’t make a mistake as to a single detail.--Let’s go on: where did I
go?”

“Out into the corridor; you forgot that you had been told that it was
the door at the left; you turned to the right and came into this room.”

“Exactly,--and then?”

“You found a soup-tureen, and you used it for----”

“Better and better!”

“The noise woke our host; he yelled and went out to get out a light, and
meanwhile you hid the tureen under the bed.”

“Exactly. Look and see if he is mistaken in a single point!”

The servants did in fact find the tureen, which they soon returned to
its place, holding their noses. The host was stupefied; but his spoiled
soup-stock made him rather sulky, for he expected to make soup with it
for a whole week. My companion, seeing what disturbed him, came back to
me.

“What has it been my intention to do, since I discovered my mistake?”

“To give our host twelve francs as compensation for this accident.”

“Parbleu! exactly! Twelve francs! I told you so a moment ago, my dear
host, to appease your wrath.”

“No, monsieur, I assure you that you never mentioned it.”

“No? Well, I had it on the tip of my tongue. Now you are satisfied, I
hope, and I can wake our young man.”

He came to me and pinched the end of my little finger. I shook my head
and rubbed my eyes, like a person just waking, and naturally asked what
I was doing there.

My companion glanced at the people of the inn; they were so surprised by
all that they had seen and heard, that they stared at me as at a
supernatural being.

“Now let’s go back to bed,” said the crafty hunchback. “Until to-morrow,
messieurs; I promise you that you will see many more wonderful things,
if you allow us to make our experiments in peace.”

My companion took my arm and we returned to our room, leaving the
inn-keeper and his servants assuring one another that all that they had
just seen had really happened.



XII

MARVELOUS EXPERIMENTS OF THE LITTLE HUNCHBACK


When we were closeted in our room, my companion threw himself into my
arms and embraced me joyfully.

“My boy, I am delighted with you,” he said; “you played your rôle like
an angel! You are an invaluable fellow, and our fortune is made.
To-night’s adventure will create a sensation.”

We went to bed well pleased with the way in which we had extricated
ourselves from a bad scrape. I fell asleep thinking of Clairette, of her
charms, of the pleasure I owed to her, of those I hoped still to enjoy;
and my companion, reckoning what his first séance would be worth to him
in a town where his reputation had obtained such a favorable start.

The little hunchback was not mistaken in his belief that the adventure
of the night would bring us a crowd of curiosity seekers. The servants
of the inn had risen early, in order to lose no time in telling all that
they had seen and heard. The hair-dressers, the bakers, the grocers were
the first to be informed; but that was quite enough to make it certain
that the whole town would soon know what we were capable of doing. An
adventure becomes so magnified by passing from mouth to mouth that we
sometimes have difficulty in recognizing things that have happened to
ourselves, when we hear others tell them. Everyone takes delight in
adding some strange or marvelous detail, in outbidding his neighbor;
thus it is that a brook becomes a rushing torrent, that a child who
recites a complimentary poem without a mistake is a prodigy, that a
juggler is a magician, that a man who has a soprano voice is a eunuch,
that the man whose love is all for his country is a suspicious person in
the eyes of him who loves only his own interest, and that a comet
announces the end of the world.

The maid-servant, when she went to buy her ounce of coffee, learned from
the grocer’s clerk that there were two most extraordinary men at the
Tête-Noire inn, who were endowed with the power to tell you what you had
done and what you meant to do.

“Pardieu! I must go and tell my mistress that,” said the maid as she
left the shop; “she went to walk with her cousin the other night, and
she don’t want her husband to know it; I’ll tell her not to go and let
those sorcerers get scent of it.”

“What’s the news?” the old bachelor asked the barber, as he took his
seat in the chair and put on his towel.

“What news, Monsieur Sauvageon! Peste! we have some very peculiar, very
interesting people in town!”

“Tell me about them, my friend; go on!”

“Those two strangers, those doctors who arrived at the Tête-Noire last
night, have been making experiments already.”

“Indeed?”

“It’s an absolute fact; I got it from Jérôme, the servant at the inn,
who saw it and heard it.”

“The devil.”

“The somnambulist began his nocturnal expeditions last night.”

“Nocturnal expeditions at night! Are these somnambulists nyctalopes?”

“Yes, monsieur, they’re nycta--What do you call it, Monsieur Sauvageon?”

“Nyctalopes, my friend.”

“They’re nyctalopes, for sure.--What does nyctalopes mean?”

“It means that they see in the dark.”

“Oh! I understand! they’re like cats; in fact, somnambulists are as
smart as cats in the dark.--But to return to this one at the Tête-Noire,
you must know that he tells everything anybody’s done; and last night he
discovered something that was hidden from all eyes!”

“I understand! he discovered some intrigue.”[B]

[B] _Le pot aux roses_; lit. the jar of roses.

“Well, not exactly that! His companion had a pain in the night--he was
doubled up with colic caused by his supper.”

“And perhaps by some badly prepared dish, or a half-scoured saucepan;
for the entertainment is not first-class at the Tête-Noire; I once ate a
_fricandeau_ there that lay on my stomach three days, because it was
seasoned with nutmeg, which always makes me ill. Nutmeg in a fricandeau!
You must agree that that is perfectly horrible!”

“True, that inn doesn’t deserve its reputation; for at my sister’s
wedding party, which was held there----”

“Your sister? which one, pray?”

“The one who married Lagripe, the sub-prefect’s indoor man--you know?
the little man with blue eyes and a red nose?”

“Oh, yes! the father of the child the little sempstress opposite had.”

“Oh! as to that, I don’t believe a word of it! It’s all made up by
evil-tongued gossips.”

“Look out, my friend, you are cutting me.”

“That’s nothing; it was a bit of straw on your cheek, that caught the
razor.--You must know that if Lagripe had got the sempstress with child,
my sister wouldn’t have married him.”

“Why not, pray? Between ourselves, my good fellow, your sister----”

“What’s that? what do you mean, Monsieur Sauvageon?”

“All right, my friend. Give me a bit of powder, and let us return to the
somnambulist.--You were saying that he cured his companion’s colic last
night?”

“I don’t say that he cured him; but I tell you that he discovered the
most hidden things, among others a soup-tureen that was under the
landlord’s bed.”

“And which someone had probably stolen and hidden there until the time
came to carry it away.”

“That is quite possible; but this much is certain, that he told
everything that was in the tureen!”

“Peste! that is rather strong! Did Jérôme tell you what the tureen
contained?”

“Certainly; it contained the supper of the magician, the doctor, the
hunchback one.”

“That is beyond me! To pilfer a supper, and then have it found in its
natural state, after eating it--I confess that that is a most remarkable
trick!”

“But, Monsieur Sauvageon, I didn’t say that the supper was in its
natural state; on the contrary, it was the result of the colic that was
found!”

“Morbleu! my man, why didn’t you say so? You keep me here two hours
about the--Put on a little _pommade à la vanille_.”

And, as our old bachelor was shaved and combed, the hair-dresser left
him, to repeat his story to another of his customers, taking care to
change it or add something to it. It is delightful to many people to
have a piece of news to tell, and to make comments thereon.

But, talking of anecdotes, master author, you are terribly loquacious,
and you seem to take pleasure in listening to all the tittle-tattle of a
small town. Surely Brother Jacques did not repeat to Sans-Souci the old
bachelor’s conversation with his barber, or the maid-servant’s with the
grocer’s clerk. How could he have known about them?

True, reader; I plead guilty; I will try not to intrude my own remarks
again in our soldier’s narrative of his adventures; and to begin with, I
will allow him to resume at once.

We had no sooner risen and rung for our breakfast, than the host entered
our room, holding in his hand a large sheet of paper, which he presented
to my companion.

“Messieurs,” he said, bowing to the ground, “here is a list of the
people who wish to consult you this evening, and who have entered their
names here.”

“Very well--give it to me. Have you written the names, titles, age and
occupation of each one?”

“They are all there, monsieur.”

“Very good. Leave us, and send your servant Clairette to us for a
moment; I have some orders to give her relative to my séance this
evening.”

The host bowed with the respect of a Chinaman passing a mandarin, and
left the room, promising to send the girl to us at once.

My companion scanned the list; it was quite long and promised numerous
proselytes. The little hunchback was reading it aloud and indulging in
preliminary conjectures concerning the names, when Clairette entered the
room.

The girl seemed rather embarrassed. She kept her eyes on the floor and
her hands wrapped in her apron. For my part, I was as red as fire, and I
did not know what to say. Clairette’s presence caused a revolution in my
whole being; I was honestly in love with her; I felt a genuine passion
for her; and after the proofs of affection which she had given me during
the night, I believed that she loved me sincerely. I think that if I had
been told then that I must marry the little servant, or else give her up
forever, I should not have hesitated to give her my hand! And what I
felt, I will wager that many young men have felt like me. One loves so
earnestly the first time!--Ah! my dear Sans-Souci, I was very young then
and very green! But I have learned since that the more experience one
acquires, the less pleasure one has.

My companion locked the door. No curious person must overhear our
conversation with Clairette. Then he returned to us and opened the
interview with a roar of laughter, which made me open my eyes in
amazement, while Clairette dropped the corners of her apron.

“My friends, you are still rather unsophisticated,” he said at last;
“you, my dear Jacques, who are in love with a girl who will have
forgotten you to-morrow; and you, my little Clairette, who believe in
witchcraft, and imagine that a person can look young all her life. We
are no more magicians than other men are, my dear girl; but you must
help us to impose on the fools who contend for the pleasure of
consulting us. You must do whatever we want, first, because that will
give you an opportunity to make fun of lots of people, which is always
pleasant; and secondly, because we will pay you handsomely--I with
money, and this young man with love; and if you should refuse to help
us, you would deprive yourself of a large number of little perquisites
that are not often to be had in a small town.”

This speech put us all at our ease. Clairette, who saw that the little
hunchback was acquainted with everything, smilingly accepted a double
louis which he slipped into her hand, and asked nothing better than to
act as our confederate. Everything being arranged, Master Graograicus
took up his list, requested me to write down the girl’s replies, so that
we might not make any mistakes, and began his examination, to which
Clairette replied as well as she could.

“Annette-Suzanne-Estelle Guignard, thirty-six years of age?”

“She lies; she’s forty-five at least. She’s an old maid, who’d like to
be married on any terms; but no one will have her; in the first place,
because she’s lame; and then because she chews tobacco.”

“Enough.--Antoine-Nicolas La Giraudière, forty years of age, clerk in
the mayor’s office?”

“He’s a fat fellow, as round as a ball; they say that he’s not likely to
set the North River on fire; perhaps he wants to consult you about
giving him a little wit.”

“Impossible! People always think that they have enough.”

“Oh! wait a minute: his wife has already had four girls, and she’s
furious because she hasn’t got any boys.”

“That’s it; I understand. He wants me to tell him a way to make
boys.--Next. Romuald-César-Hercule de La Souche, Marquis de
Vieux-Buissons, seventy-five years old, former Grand Huntsman, former
light horseman, former page, former--Parbleu! he needn’t have taken the
trouble to put ‘former’ before all his titles! I presume that he doesn’t
ride or hunt any more. What can he want of me?”

“He has just bought a small estate in the suburbs; he is having a
dispute with his vassals; he claims that they’re rabbits----”

“Rabbits! his vassals?”

“No--wait a minute; I made a mistake, it’s stags--_cerfs_.”

“Ah! very good, I understand what you mean--serfs.”

“And then, whenever there’s a marriage among ’em, he insists on having
the bride come and pass an hour alone with him, and bless me! the
peasants don’t take to that! The result is he’s always quarrelling with
’em.”

“That’s all right; I know enough about him.--Angélique Prudhomme, Madame
Jolicœur, thirty-two years of age, laundress to all the notables of the
town. The deuce! what an honor!”

“Ah! she’s a hussy, I tell you, is Madame Jolicœur! She keeps the town
talking about her. She launders for the officers in the garrison and
goes to balls with ’em.”

“Is she pretty?”

“Oh! so-so.--A saucy face, and a bold way--like a cuirassier! She’s
already been the means of setting more than twelve people by the ears,
and only a little while ago, on the town holiday, she waltzed with the
drum-major, who quarrelled with a sapper because she’d made an
appointment with the sapper to take a walk in the labyrinth. That would
have been a serious matter, if Monsieur Jolicœur hadn’t turned up! But
he’s good-natured; he made peace between the drum-major and the sapper,
swearing to the latter that his wife didn’t intend to break her word to
him, and that it was pure forgetfulness on her part.”

“That husband knows how to live.--Let’s go on. Cunégonde-Aline
Trouillard, forty-four years old and keeps a very popular café.”

“Ah! that’s the lemonade woman! She’s always having the vapors and sick
headaches and--in short, she always thinks she’s sick and passes her
time taking medicine instead of staying at her desk.”

“She must be a very valuable woman to the druggists!”

“Her husband tries to be smart, to play the chemist; he makes coffee out
of asparagus seed and sugar out of turnips. I’m sure that he’ll come to
consult you too.”

I continued to make memoranda of Clairette’s answers, and we had almost
exhausted the list, when there was a knock at our door. I answered the
knock; it was our landlord, who had come to inform us that the mayor
wished to see us, and that he expected us at his office. We could not
decline that invitation. My companion donned his best coat and lent me a
pair of black silk knee-breeches that reached to my heels, the little
hunchback having purchased them at secondhand from a great poet, who had
them from an actor at one of the boulevard theatres, who had them from a
member of the Academy who was paying court to a ballet dancer, at whose
rooms he had left them.

We started, somewhat disturbed concerning the results of our visit.
However, my companion, who was very quick-witted, hoped to find a way
out of the dilemma. We arrived at the mayor’s abode and were ushered
into his study. We saw a short, lean man, whose eyes sparkled with
intelligence and animation. From the first questions that he asked us,
my companion saw that he had to do with a redoubtable party. The mayor
was a scholar; he was thoroughly acquainted with several abstract
sciences, among others, medicine, chemistry, botany and astronomy. In
his presence, my poor little hunchback lost his loquacity and his
presumption. The mayor, perceiving our embarrassment, chose to put an
end to it.

“I have no intention of preventing you from earning your living,” he
said, with a smile; “far from it! You practise magnetism, I understand,
and cure all diseases by its means; that is very well. I sincerely
desire the welfare of my constituents, I am especially earnest in trying
to cure them of those absurd prejudices, those ancient superstitions, to
which men are only too much inclined. Magic, witchcraft, magnetism,
somnambulism are certain to present many attractions to lovers of the
marvelous. I know that it is vain to combat the opinions of mankind;
there is but one means to cure them, and that is to allow them to be
duped themselves. That is why I am glad to have charlatans come to this
town. It is always an additional lesson to the inhabitants, for
sorcerers never leave a place without making dupes. So I give you
permission to magnetize my people.”

The mayor’s remarks were not complimentary to us; however, my companion
bowed low as he thanked him for his kindness.

“Doubtless,” said the mayor, “you have some remedy that you sell
_gratis_--as the custom is. Let me see what it is.”

The hunchback immediately handed him one of his boxes of pills. The
mayor took one and threw it into a small vessel, where it was
decomposed. He scrutinized the bread for a moment, then returned the box
and said with a smile:

“Go, messieurs, and sell lots of them; they are not dangerous.”

Thus ended that visit. We returned to our inn, well pleased that we had
not shown monsieur le maire our philters and charms.

At last the hour for our public séance arrived. My companion had given
me all necessary instructions, and made me rehearse my part several
times. He assumed the regulation costume: the black gown, which makes
thin persons taller, and adds to the deformities of the misshapen, and
in which the little hunchback looked exactly like a sorcerer or
magician, who should never be built like an ordinary mortal; in
addition, the venerable beard and the conventional tall cap--such was
the costume of Master Graograicus.

As for me, he dressed me in a sort of red tunic studded with yellow
stars, which he had made out of an old coverlet bought at the Temple in
Paris; which tunic was supposed to have come to me from the Great Mogul.
He also insisted upon putting on my head a turban of his own make; but
as I considered it unbecoming, and as Clairette was to see me in my
grand costume, I refused to wear the turban, and my colleague was
obliged to consent to let me brush my hair back _à la_ Charles XII; that
did not go very well with the tunic, but great geniuses do not bother
about such trifles.

The salon of our suite was prepared for the mysterious things which were
about to take place before everybody. A tub filled with water, an iron
ring, a wand of the same metal, easy-chairs for the clients, plain
chairs for the aspirants, benches for the mere onlookers, and a single
lamp, which diffused only a dim light through the room; such were our
arrangements.

As soon as my companion had told the host that the people might come in,
a crowd rushed into the room. Some came forward confidently, others with
a frightened air, the great majority impelled by curiosity; but at all
events we had a large number, and that was the essential thing.

When they had all entered and had taken such places as they could find;
when the first whisperings had subsided and we had been stared at
sufficiently, Master Graograicus saluted the assemblage with much
dignity, and, having no low bench, he mounted a foot-warmer in order
that everybody might see him; then he began the usual harangue.

“Messieurs, mesdames and mesdemoiselles--that is, if there are any in
the room--you know, or do not know, that there is in nature a material
principle thus far unknown, which acts upon the nerves. If you know it,
I am telling you nothing new; if you do not know it, I will proceed to
explain. We say then that there is a principle, and we start from that;
by means of this principle, and in accordance with special mechanical
laws, there is a reciprocal influence between animate bodies, the earth,
and the heavenly bodies; consequently there are manifested in
animals--observe this, messieurs,--in animals, and especially in man,
properties analogous to those of the magnet. It is this animal magnetism
which I have discovered the secret of applying to diseases, and it is by
this method that I claim to cure them all. The magnetic influence may be
transmitted and propagated by other bodies. That subtle matter
penetrates walls, doors, glass, metals, without losing any perceptible
portion of its power; it may be accumulated, concentrated, and
transmitted through water; it is also propagated, communicated and
intensified by bran; in short, its power has no limits; and all this
that I am telling you, I did not invent; I am simply repeating what such
learned men as Mesmer, Derlon and others would say now if they were not
dead.”

The audience listened in the most profound silence; the young men stared
with all their eyes, the young ladies smiled, the old men shook their
heads, the matrons exchanged glances, and no one dared to tell his
neighbor that he did not understand a word of the new thaumaturgist’s
explanation. He noticed this, and continued:

“I see, messieurs and mesdames, that I have convinced you; therefore I
will develop my arguments no farther. I must add, however, before
beginning my experiments, that there are bodies which are not sensitive
to animal magnetism, and which even have a property diametrically
opposed thereto, by means of which they destroy its efficiency in other
bodies. I flatter myself that we shall find none of those unfortunate
persons here; but I thought it my duty to warn you, in case it should
happen. Raise your minds, if possible, to the level of the sublime
discovery which now occupies our attention. This is no charlatanism; it
is evidence, it is power, it is the secret influence at work; it is----”

At this point in his harangue, the foot-warmer broke, and the orator
measured his length on the floor; but he instantly sprang to his feet
and cried, addressing his hearers with renewed vigor:

“Messieurs, I thought that I should conclude with an experiment; while
talking to you just now, I magnetized this foot-warmer with my left
foot, and I was certain of reducing it to powder! As you see, I have
succeeded!”

A tempest of applause burst forth from all parts of the room.

“You see,” whispered my companion to me, “the man of intellect turns
everything to account, by never losing his head.”

The time for the experiments to begin had arrived; and as effrontery is
more readily imparted than magnetism, I was awaiting impatiently, in my
easy-chair, an opportunity to display my skill.

Madame Jolicœur came first, despite the representations of the Marquis
de Vieux-Buissons, who maintained that a man of his rank should take
precedence over everybody else. But the laundress was not the woman to
give way to anyone; moreover, she was young and pretty, the marquis old,
ugly and crabbed; so that Madame Jolicœur had the first chance.

The great magnetizer took her by the hand and led her around the tub,
then made her sit down, and magnetized her with the end of his wand. The
young woman did not seem inclined to sleep.

“I will put you in communication with my somnambulist,” he said. The
laundress looked at me and smiled; she did not seem to dislike the idea
of being put in communication with me.

I knew my rôle; I had taken notes concerning Madame Jolicœur.

“We must take the bull by the horns,” my companion whispered to me, “for
this woman is quite capable of making fun of us.”

The laundress was seated facing me; she was enjoined to be silent and to
allow herself to be touched, which she did with much good humor; but she
laughed slyly while I held her hand, and I heard her mutter while
pretending to be asleep:

“Oh! mon Dieu! how stupid this is! The sapper told me that they’d try
some flim-flam game on me!”

I at once proclaimed aloud all that Clairette had told us concerning the
laundress’s love-affairs. I forgot nothing, neither the drum-major, nor
the waltz, nor the assignation, nor its consequences. At my first words,
the company began to laugh, Madame Jolicœur was covered with confusion,
and before I had finished my speech, the laundress had left her seat,
elbowed her way through the crowd and rushed from the inn, swearing
that we were sorcerers.

This first experiment left no doubt in anyone’s mind concerning the
virtue of magnetism; so that Monsieur le Marquis de Vieux-Buissons
stalked solemnly toward us, and, in an almost courteous tone, requested
my confrère to put him in communication with me at once.

The usual preliminaries concluded, the following dialogue took place
between us two:

“Who am I?”

“A most high and mighty seigneur in your ancient château, of which but
one wing remains; that is why you have recently purchased another small
seigniory in the neighborhood.”

“That is true; but what do I wish to do now?”

“You wish that your vassals should be submissive, trembling and fearful
in your presence, like lambs before a lion; you wish to be the master of
their destinies; you wish that they should give you their fairest and
best--what they have earned by the sweat of their brow; and in addition
to all that, you wish that they should pay you.”

“That is very true.”

“You would that maidens should not change their state without your
permission.”

“That is the truth.”

“And as you are no longer capable of effecting this, you would, on the
wedding day, put your old bare leg into the bed of the young virgin, who
will shriek and weep at the sight of her lord’s calf, a result which
will do great honor to him, as he is very glad now to frighten his
vassals with that, since he can arouse no other sentiment. In short, you
wish to revive the rights of _jambage_, _cuissage_, _marquette_ and
_prélibation_, as they existed in the good old days of chivalry, when a
knight always rode with lance in rest, fighting when neither would
yield to the other, on a narrow road where two could not pass; fighting
when the man whom he met refused to declare aloud that his lady was the
fairest, although he had never seen her; fighting with dwarfs--there
were dwarfs in those days--and with giants who carried off young
maidens, and who, despite their enormous clubs--for a giant never went
abroad without one--allowed themselves to be run through like manikins
by the first knight who appeared on the scene!”

“That’s it, that’s it exactly! I mean to have a dwarf at the door of my
dovecote, and to kill the first giant who appears on my land, where one
has never yet been seen.”

“Very well, monsieur le marquis, buy some of Master Graograicus’s pills,
take them in large quantities and often; they will make you young,
vigorous, active and lusty; your white hair will turn black again, your
figure will become straight, your wrinkles will disappear, your cheeks
will fill out, your color will come back and your teeth will grow again.
I will guarantee that, when this transformation has taken place, your
vassals will do whatever you wish, and especially that the girls will no
longer avoid you.”

The marquis, delighted by my replies, took twelve boxes of the pills and
paid for them without haggling. He put some in every pocket; he
swallowed half a dozen at once, and started for home, with head erect
and a sparkling eye, and feeling ten years younger already.

After the marquis, Aline-Cunégonde Trouillard came forward; there was no
need of preliminaries or of harangues to induce Madame Trouillard to
believe in magnetism; the poor woman had such sensitive nerves that she
fell into a trance as soon as my companion touched her with the end of
his wand. In my interview with her I said recklessly whatever came into
my head; she had all the diseases that I mentioned, she felt all the
symptoms that I suggested to her. What a windfall to charlatans such
weak-minded creatures are! Madame Trouillard filled her reticule with
pills and went away, after subscribing to all our séances, public and
private.

We were awaiting Estelle Guignard, whose name was on our list, when a
sturdy fellow, in wooden shoes and a blue blouse, forced his way through
the crowd and approached us. I had no answers prepared for this new
arrival, so I let him address my companion, who looked about for
Clairette, hoping to obtain from her some indispensable information; but
the girl, thinking that we had no further need of her, had gone down to
the kitchen; so that we had to proceed without a confederate. My
colleague hoped to extricate himself from the difficulty easily,
especially as he had to do with a peasant. He walked up to the man, who
was staring with a surprised expression into the mysterious tub; and
trying to assume a more imposing air than ever, he began to question
him.

“Who are you?”

“Pardine! you’d ought to know well enough, as you’re a sorcerer.”

“Of course I know; but as I ask you, of course I must have secret
reasons for doing so. Answer then, without tergiversation.”

“Without tergi--without terger--What are you talking about?”

“I ask you your name.”

“My name’s like my brother’s, Eustache Nicole.”

“What do you do?”

“Why, I work in the fields, or else I drive folks’ wagons when there’s
stuff to carry.”

“Why have you come here?”

“What! why, I’ve come like the rest of ’em! to see what a sorcerer looks
like.”

“Who told you that I was a sorcerer?”

“The barber did, when I got clipped at his place this morning; and as
there ain’t been no sorcerers in these parts for a long time, I stayed
in town on purpose to see you.”

“Do you want to be magnetized?”

“Magne--What do you mean by that?”

“Do you want me to put the secret agent at work on you?”

“Pardi! I don’t care what you put to work!”

“Well, what do you wish to know?”

“Oh! well! lots o’ things!--You mean to say that you can’t guess ’em?”

“Yes, indeed; and first of all I am going to magnetize you.”

“All right, I’m willing; will it cost me much?”

“I charge nothing for that.”

“If that’s so, then you must be a sorcerer sure enough, if you do your
business without having your hand greased!”

My little hunchback seated the peasant in a great easy-chair, then
touched him several times with the magic wand; but the clown let him
keep on, and seemed to be not in the slightest degree under the charm.
Thereupon my companion began to pass his fingers very lightly over his
eyes, in order to communicate the magnetic fluid to him. The peasant
said nothing, but contented himself with turning his chair from time to
time and rubbing his eyes. I felt a strong desire to laugh when I saw
the pains that my poor comrade was taking, perspiring profusely in his
efforts to magnetize Eustache Nicole.

At last the peasant seemed quieter; he ceased to move and rub his eyes.

“The charm is working,” said Master Graograicus in an undertone, as he
continued his labors; “this fellow has given me a lot of trouble! but I
have succeeded at last! As you see, he is entering the somnambulistic
state; before long he will speak.”

But, instead of speaking, the peasant, who had really fallen asleep,
gave passage to so prolonged a sound that the most dauntless magnetizer
would not have had the courage to continue. My hunchback jumped back,
holding his nose. I roared with laughter and the whole audience followed
suit.

That sudden noise awoke our peasant; he rose and asked if the experiment
was at an end.

“You are a boor,” said my companion angrily; “you have failed in respect
to the whole company, and you are not worthy to be magnetized.”

The peasant was not long-suffering; he lost his temper, declared that we
were making fools of the poor people and that we were no more sorcerers
than he was. At that, Master Graograicus attempted to expel the insolent
villain who cast a doubt upon his learning. He pushed him with his wand.
The angry peasant turned and seized my illustrious magnetizer by the
beard. The hunchback cried out, the spectators came forward; the women
called for help, the wiser sort contented themselves with laughing, and
the partisans of magnetism rushed to the assistance of the poor
sorcerer. He was fighting with Monsieur Nicole, who would not relax his
grasp on the beard. In their struggles they approached the tub; they
stumbled over it and both fell in, face down. Water cools and allays the
passions. The peasant, on withdrawing his head from the tub, released
his opponent’s beard and quietly left the room. My companion, who was
thoroughly drenched, felt that he was no longer in a condition to make
proselytes, and he declared the séance adjourned.



XIII

EFFECTS OF THE PHILTERS.--BROTHER JACQUES LEAVES HIS COMPANION


Despite the unpleasant conclusion of our first séance in magnetism, we
did a very good business at the Tête-Noire. Clairette gave us all the
information that we desired, and to avoid a repetition of the Eustache
Nicole episode, we admitted only those persons who had entered their
names beforehand.

But the public curiosity abated, and the effects of our pills did not
always correspond to the expectations of the purchasers. Moreover, I
began to be less in love with Clairette; I had surprised her several
times being rejuvenated by Pierre and Jérôme, and that had taken away
all the illusion of a first love. So that I was not disappointed when my
companion suggested that we should go away.

For six months we lived in that same way, remaining a longer or shorter
time in one place according to the number of dupes we made there. That
worked very well; but we did not always find accomplices, and then we
were likely to make serious mistakes. One day I told a money-lender that
he didn’t care for money, a drunkard that he didn’t like wine, a gambler
that he didn’t care for cards, and a bachelor that his wife was false
to him; you can imagine, Sans-Souci, that we did not make a brilliant
success in that town.

I began to be tired of that kind of life; I had informed my companion
that I wished to leave him, but he always strove to keep me. But one day
I resolved to give my love of mischief a free rein and to play some
trick on him that would take away all desire on his part to have me for
a partner.

We were in a small town where we were performing miracles. Magnetism and
somnambulism seemed to have turned everyone’s head; people fought for
the privilege of consulting us first, of obtaining private conferences.
I could not fill the orders for pills, and even the charms were selling
very well. It was in that place that I determined to try an experiment
of my own invention on the fools who applied to us.

An old advocate had been paying court for some time to a coquette of
uncertain age, who refused to respond to his flame, but did not cease to
listen to his tender declarations. The lady was crafty, she was well
pleased to inspire passions, and she was afraid of losing her influence
over her adorer if she yielded to his desires. They both came to consult
us: the advocate to learn how to soften the heart of his charmer, and
she, how to retain the charms that made so many men wretched. My
companion promised Monsieur Gérard--that was the old suitor’s name--a
philter that would make the coldest woman amorous; and he promised
Madame Dubelair a charm that would shelter hers from the ravages of
time.

In the same house with Madame Dubelair lived the deputy mayor of the
town. Monsieur Rose was an excellent man; but his wife complained of one
great failing in him; he was not enough in love with her, and was not
in the slightest degree jealous. So Madame Rose also came to consult us
as to the means she could employ to put an end to her husband’s
indifference. To make a husband amorous of his wife after fifteen years
of wedlock was rather difficult. Nevertheless my companion promised
Madame Rose a philter with a marvelous power of causing jealousy, and
the dear soul went away, overjoyed to know that she might still hope to
drive her husband frantic.

My hunchback made haste to compound the philters, and gave them to me to
carry to their addresses, instructing me to collect the pay for them. On
the way I reflected how amusing it would be to change the destination of
the little phials.

“Parbleu!” I said to myself, “I am going to see what will happen! I will
give Madame Rose, instead of the charm for jealousy, the one to make a
person amorous; to Monsieur Gérard the one to arouse anger, and to
Madame Dubelair the one for jealousy; the results cannot fail to be
comical.”

I instantly put my plan into execution; I delivered the phials to the
three persons concerned, assuring them of their miraculous effect; then
I returned to the inn and impatiently awaited the result of my prank.

Monsieur Gérard had solicited and obtained from Madame Dubelair
permission to lunch with her _en tête-à-tête_. I had carried him the
alluring charm early in the morning, and he thought that it would not be
a bad idea for him to take part of it before calling upon his inamorata,
in order to give himself resolution and audacity. Madame Dubelair had
lost no time in tasting the marvelous phial, which was to make her
charms impervious to time; and Madame Rose had poured a large part of
hers into the chocolate that her husband drank every morning.

You know, my dear Sans-Souci, what my master’s drugs were compounded of,
and how he had figured out their inevitable effect. Imagine therefore
the events that occurred during that memorable evening! Monsieur Gérard
betook himself to his adored one’s abode; on the way, he felt slight
colicky pains; his head was burning hot. He supposed that the charm was
working and he hastened to Madame Dubelair’s. He found her reclining
negligently in a long chair. But imagine his surprise! His charming
friend was unrecognizable; her nose was red and swollen, her skin
tightly drawn; several blotches embellished her brow.

“How do you think I look this evening, Monsieur Gérard?” she asked with
a sly smile; “I am sure that you find me changed.”

“In truth, madame,” replied the poor advocate, holding his hands to his
abdomen and making diabolical faces as he spoke, “I do find you changed.
You are ill, no doubt.”

“Ill, monsieur! ill! when you yourself are writhing and twisting in such
an extraordinary way!”

“Madame, I admit, that for a minute or two----”

“My mirror, Fifine; I wish to know if I look sick, as monsieur thinks.”

Poor Gérard could stand it no longer; the philter was working; colic and
headache appeared. The maid brought Madame Dubelair her mirror. The
coquette looked at herself and began to shriek horribly; she broke the
mirror, she had an attack of hysterics, and her poor lover implored
Fifine to give him the key to his mistress’s closet. The girl, who was
mischievous and sly, like most soubrettes, roared with laughter when she
saw Monsieur Gérard’s plight; and to make the confusion complete, Madame
Rose rushed in, crying that she was betrayed, dishonored; that her
husband was a monster who gave her no children but had just debauched
his concierge. Our amorous philter had raised the deuce with Monsieur
Rose; the poor man had gone home, hoping to find his wife there; she had
hidden in order to make him jealous, and the dear husband, finding
nobody but his concierge at hand, had made her the victim of the flames
that consumed him.

The cries of Madame Rose, who was frantic with rage, of the concierge,
who pretended to be, of Madame Dubelair, who was trying to tear off her
nose, of Monsieur Gérard, who was holding his stomach, and of Monsieur
Rose, who was weeping over his own perversity, soon attracted the whole
quarter. The neighbors hurried to the spot, asked questions, pushed and
crowded, gave Madame Rose orange-flower water, the concierge cologne,
Madame Dubelair ether, Monsieur Gérard an enema, and Monsieur Rose
extract of water lily.

When the first outcries had subsided, an attempt was made to ascertain
the cause of so many untoward events. It was clear that there must be
some witchcraft underneath. Madame Dubelair swore that she had never in
her whole life had a pimple on her nose or anywhere else, Monsieur
Gérard never ate too much, and Madame Rose, despite her wrath, admitted
that her husband was not the man to pinch a woman’s knee unless he had
been made tipsy. Thus these extraordinary events must have had some
hidden cause. They remembered the philters; they confided in one
another; and the result was that the little hunchback was voted a
sorcerer, a magician, a charlatan, an impostor worthy of hell-fire. But,
pending the time when he should go to hell, they considered that it was
necessary to put him in prison, in order to prevent him from repeating
his infamous incantations.

Rose, the deputy, went to the mayor and explained the affair to him; he
obtained an order for the culprit’s arrest. On his side, the advocate
assembled all the notables of the town; they shared his wrath and
considered that the scoundrel who gave one of the long robe the colic
could not be punished too severely. Madame Dubelair and Madame Rose
stirred up all the women; Madame Dubelair especially had to say no more
than this: “A man who can make the nose red and the complexion
lead-color is a villain who deserves the halter!”--As for the philter of
which Monsieur Rose had drunk, all the ladies begged for a few drops of
it for their private use, thinking that, when thus divided, it could not
fail to produce very pleasant results.

These events had taken time; it was daybreak when they started for our
lodgings to arrest us. I say us, for I am quite sure that I should have
shared my companion’s fate. But since the preceding day I had been on
the alert, walking about the town, watching all that took place,
listening to what people said; in short, I learned that they were coming
to arrest us, and I did not deem it prudent to wait until that time.
While my companion was asleep, I made a little bundle of everything
belonging to me, and of the money I had earned with him, being careful
to take no more than was really mine; then, wishing my little hunchback
much good fortune, I left our lodgings, leaving him to get out of the
scrape as he could.

I have no idea what happened to him, for I never saw him again; but as
sorcerers are no longer hanged, since it has been discovered that there
are no such things, I am very sure that my poor charlatan got off with a
few months in prison.



XIV

END OF JACQUES’S ADVENTURES


I had about thirty louis in my purse; for selling pills made of bread is
a very good business; you make few advances and never sell on credit,
which proves that there is nothing that has not some value. You can
imagine, my dear Sans-Souci, that my only idea was to enjoy myself
thoroughly, and that is what I did in several towns where I stopped; but
the adventure that happened to me in Brussels put an end to my
enjoyment.

I had been living at an inn two days, and I passed my time like all
idlers or strangers, eating much, drinking a great deal, and walking
about without any definite object, but going into all the public places,
and visiting everything that seemed likely to be at all interesting to
me.

On the second day, having gone to the theatre, I found myself beside a
young man of respectable exterior. He seemed to be three or four years
older than myself and to be thoroughly acquainted with society. We
talked together, and he told me at once that he was from Lyon, and was
travelling for pleasure and to escape from a marriage which his parents
wished to force upon him. His confidence invited mine; so I in my turn
told him all my adventures, the narrative of which seemed to interest
him greatly.

In a word, by virtue of this similarity of tastes and of temperament, we
became friends. Bréville--that was my new acquaintance’s name--invited
me to dine with him on the following day, at one of the best
restaurants, and I accepted very gladly; for it is a great pleasure,
when one arrives in a town, to find some one with whom one can form an
intimacy.

My new friend entertained me handsomely; we lived on the fat of the
land; we walked and drove, and went to the theatre and to all the cafés.
Bréville seemed to know the city very well for a stranger; he took me to
all the tap-rooms and public places; I commented upon it laughingly to
him and complimented him on the facility with which he remembered the
way to all the places of amusement. To make a long story short, after
doing the city one night, visiting cafés and frail ladies, we found
ourselves at one o’clock one morning in the street, drunk with punch,
liqueurs, porter, whiskey and faro.

I could hardly hold myself erect, and I was most desirous to be in my
bed, to which I would have liked to be transported by some kind genie,
for I felt that my legs were but a feeble support to me. Bréville seemed
less affected than myself, but he too complained of fatigue. The street
lamps gave a very dim light. For an hour I had been urging my companion
to take me home; but in vain did we walk through streets and squares, I
could not discover my inn.

At last my guide admitted that he had lost the way and that we were very
far from my lodging; but by way of compensation we were very near his,
where he offered me a bed. As you may imagine, I accepted without
hesitation. I was no longer able to walk, I could hardly see where I was
going,--the inevitable result of the numerous forms of dissipation in
which we had indulged.

Bréville knocked at a door leading into a dark passageway. An old woman
admitted us. I hastened, or rather was carried, up a dirty winding
staircase, and at last I found myself in an almost unfurnished chamber,
which at any other time would not have given me a very brilliant idea of
the situation of my new acquaintance; but at that time I thought of
nothing but sleep, and in two minutes I was lying on a wretched bed and
sleeping soundly.

Whether it was the effect of the punch, or of the strong liqueurs, I
passed a very restless night; I did not wake however and it was not
until late in the morning that a violent shaking made me open my eyes.

“I say, my friend! wake up! You have been sleeping a long time, and it
ain’t good for you!”

Such were the words that first fell upon my ears. I opened my eyes to
their fullest extent, looked about me, and made no reply, for the
picture before me left me uncertain as to whether I was really wide
awake.

Imagine my surprise, my dear Sans-Souci; instead of finding myself in a
bedroom and in the bed on which I had lain down the night before, I
found myself stretched out on a stone bench, in a sort of square,
without coat or hat, and with nothing on but my shirt, trousers and
waistcoat, and surrounded by a number of messengers who were gazing at
me with curiosity.

“Come, come, comrade,” said one of them; “come to yourself; you must
have had a good supper last night, and drunk a great deal! That makes
you sleep sound; I know how it is! And the morning after, you are as
stupid as a fool; you don’t know where the deuce your memory has gone
to! But it comes back little by little!”

The fellow’s words recalled all my folly of the night before. An impulse
as swift as thought led me to feel my pockets and my fob. Alas! they
were empty; and like most young men, I had been ass enough to carry all
that I possessed about me. I was the dupe of a swindler. In vain did I
ask the men about me where Bréville lived; no one knew him. I looked to
see if I could recognize the house to which the traitor had taken me; I
saw nothing that resembled it.

I rose, with rage and shame in my heart; if at that moment I had caught
sight of the scoundrel who had swindled me, I don’t know what I might
have done! But, as you may imagine, he did not show himself. I asked the
way to my inn, and returned thither sadly enough. But what was I to do?
What would become of me? I had not a sou, and I was dressed like a
beggar. After playing the grand seigneur, after gratifying one’s every
wish, to be reduced to ask alms! What a horrible comedown! How bitterly
I then regretted my little hunchback and our séances in magnetism! If
only I had been able to begin that trade alone, I should have felt
better. But I had not even the means to buy what was required to make
pills, and I realized that a somnambulist who had neither coat nor
stockings could never put anybody to sleep.

However, I was fully decided to die rather than to beg my living, and it
was in that frame of mind that I reached the inn, which I had left the
night before in such a different plight. I entered the room where the
guests were breakfasting. No one recognized me and the waiters were
about to turn me out, when I told them of my melancholy adventures.

The inn-keeper expressed sympathy for me, but did not invite me to
return to my room, where I had left a few effects which were hardly
sufficient to pay my bill. I stood motionless in the midst of the
guests; I said nothing more, but tears rolled down my cheeks and my very
silence must have been eloquent.

“Well, young man, what are you going to do now?” asked a voice, which at
that moment went straight to my heart. I turned my head and saw two
soldiers breakfasting at a table near me.

“Alas! monsieur,” I answered, addressing the one who seemed to look at
me with interest, “I have no idea. I have nothing left.”

“Nothing left! a man always has something left when he is a
stout-hearted fellow and has done nothing disgraceful. Come, sit down
here and breakfast with us and pluck up your courage, morbleu! No one
ought to despair at your age.”

These words restored all my good humor; I did not wait to be asked
again, and I ate my full share of a slice of ham and a piece of cheese,
which composed the breakfast of the two soldiers. When my hunger was
somewhat abated, the one who seemed superior in rank addressed me again:

“My boy, you left your parents to make a fool of yourself; the first
mistake. You formed intimacies with villains; second mistake. And you
allowed yourself to be robbed; third mistake. However, your mistakes are
excusable; but look out--after being a dupe, one sometimes becomes a
knave. That is what happens only too often to the reckless youngsters,
who, like yourself, find themselves without money on the day after a
debauch. Then they give way to their passions, to their inclinations for
dissipation and idleness; then they resort to low tricks to obtain their
living; and at last they become guilty, although they began by simply
being reckless. You are on the way, young man, and you must take a
stand; you won’t get a dinner by walking about with your arms folded,
nor a pair of breeches by looking at the stars, when there are any. Have
you a trade?”

“No, monsieur.”

“In that case, enlist. Take the musket and carry it with honor. You are
young, tall and well-built; be brave, obedient to your superiors, and I
will guarantee that you will make your way.”

This proposition gave me so much pleasure that I leaped for joy on my
chair, and in trying to embrace my protector, I overturned the table,
upon which luckily there was nothing left.

My eagerness pleased the sergeant and his comrade. They led me away
instantly and took me to their captain, who, after eyeing me from head
to foot with a glance, received me into his company, where I always did
my duty with honor, I venture to say.

Now, my dear Sans-Souci, you know all my adventures; I will not mention
those which happened to me in the regiment, and which you shared with
me. Indeed, they are common to all brave soldiers: love-affairs,
battles, disputes, reconciliations, feasting, starving, victories, and
defeats.--Those are what always make up a soldier’s history.

Years passed; but I had not forgotten my family; I confess, however,
that I did not want to return to them except with an honorable rank; I
had the hope of obtaining it, and this decoration already made my heart
beat more peaceably, when suddenly events changed their aspect.
Relegated to the civilian class, I thought that an honorable and gallant
soldier could not make his parents blush, and I went to Paris to find
them. There I learned of their death! That was a cruel blow! But the icy
welcome, the cold and contemptuous tone of my brother, put the finishing
touch to the laceration of my heart! It is all over, Sans-Souci, he will
never see me again, the ingrate; he will never hear my name again!

Thus did Jacques bring to a close the story of his adventures, and a
tear glistened in his eye during the last portion of his narrative; that
tear was for his brother, whom he still loved, despite the way in which
he had received him.

It was dark; Jacques’s story had taken longer than he had at first
supposed it would, and Sans-Souci had listened to it with so much
interest that he had not realized that the dinner hour had long since
passed. But when his comrade had finished, he rose, shook his head, and
tapped his stomach, as he glanced at his companion.

“Have you told me the whole, comrade?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, forward!”

“What for? Where do you mean to go?”

“No matter where, so long as it is some place where there is something
to eat.”

“Ah! you’re hungry, are you?”

“Yes, ten thousand cartridges! And terribly hungry too! My stomach
doesn’t thrive on adventures. Still, yours have amused me very much; but
since you stopped talking, I feel that I need something solid.”

“Do you want me to begin again?”

“No, no! I want you to come with me.”

“But where shall we go?”

“Come on; forward!”

Jacques and his comrade started across the fields. They could not see
very clearly and they did not know which direction to take. Jacques did
not say a word, Sans-Souci sang and swore alternately, frequently
cursing the hedges and bushes which barred their path. At last, after
walking for an hour, they spied a light.

“Forward toward the light!” said Sans-Souci, doubling his pace; “they
must give us some supper.”

“Have you any money, Sans-Souci?”

“Not a sou; and you?”

“No more than you.”

“No matter, let us go on all the same.”

They approached the building from which the light came; it seemed to be
large enough for a farm-house, but it was too dark to distinguish
objects plainly. Sans-Souci felt his way forward and began to knock with
all the strength of his feet and hands at the first door that he found.
In vain did Jacques urge him to make less noise; Sans-Souci was dying of
hunger, and he listened to nothing but his stomach, which shouted as
loud as himself.

At last two dogs that were prowling about the yard answered the uproar
that he made; their barking awoke the cows, which began to low, and the
donkeys, which began to bray; there was an infernal hurly-burly, in the
midst of which the voice of a woman, who had come to a window, had
difficulty in making itself heard.

“Who’s that? What do you want? answer!”

“Ah! ten thousand cannonades! I am not mistaken; it’s her, it’s my
brunette!--Didn’t I tell you, Jacques, that we should get a supper; we
are at her farm. Open, my duck, open quick! Love and hunger bring me
back to you!”

“What? can it be him?”

“Yes, yes! It is him, it’s me, it’s us, in fact! Come, Louise, put on
the necessary skirt, and come and let us in. But try to make your beasts
quiet, for we can’t hear ourselves talk here!”

The farmer’s wife left the window to come down to admit them, and
thereupon Sans-Souci informed Jacques that they were at the abode of the
unfaithful sweetheart of whom he had spoken that morning, and who was
at heart very kind, very sentimental,--she had given him proofs of it
that morning,--very obliging, and that she made her husband a cuckold
solely because of her temperament.

“But this husband,” said Jacques; “he is the master in his own house,
and----”

“No; in the first place, Louise is the mistress; in the second place,
he’s a good fellow. Oh! she told me all about it this morning; she
wanted me then to pass some time at the farm, as a distant relative of
hers, just back from the army. I didn’t accept, because I had promised
to join you, and your friendship goes ahead of everything; but so long
as you are here, and we are our own masters, faith! it’s a good wind
that blows us to my old flame’s house--Hush! here’s the lady herself!”

Louise did in fact open the door at that moment; she seemed surprised at
sight of Jacques.

“This is my friend, let me introduce him to you,” said Sans-Souci; “he
is a fine fellow, a good comrade, whom I don’t ever mean to leave.”

“Oh, well, then it’s all right, he’s our friend too. By the way, my
husband’s asleep, but it don’t make any difference,--don’t forget that
you’re my cousin, Sans-Souci.”

“All right, that’s agreed; now let’s be off to the kitchen.”

“I will make you an omelet with pork.”

“That will be fine! But are you alone?”

“Our farm boy’s to be married the day after to-morrow, and bless my
soul! he is sleeping all he can beforehand.”

“That’s a good idea.--Give me the frying-pan.”

In a short time the supper was prepared, and Sans-Souci and Jacques did
full honor to it; Louise watched them, and laughed at the thought of
her husband’s surprise when he should find that two strangers had slept
in his house.

“I am going to put you into the little cheese room. It is close by, and
you can go into it without going through our room and waking up my man.
We will tell him all about it to-morrow.”

Louise was very particular that they should not wake her husband; she
guided the two newcomers to a small room where the cheeses which they
made were placed on boards along the wall. They did not diffuse a very
pleasant odor through the room, but two soldiers are not particular.
Jacques threw himself on the bed and slept soundly; Sans-Souci
complained that the cheeses disturbed him, and he went out to take the
air or for some other purpose; but the night passed very comfortably,
and the farmer did not wake inopportunely.

The next day everybody was up early. Farmer Guillot opened his eyes at
his wife’s story, when she told him about a cousin of hers having
arrived during the night with one of his comrades. Guillot made haste to
embrace his cousin and his friend; he welcomed them cordially, drank
with them, found them exceedingly pleasant companions, and took them to
see his farm, his hens, his oxen, his wheat and his hay. Our soldiers
declared everything first-class and splendidly kept up; they
complimented the farmer, and they were soon the best friends in the
world.

Jacques loved the country, the meadows, the woods, and work in the
fields. Sans-Souci loved the farmer’s wife and her cooking. In the
evening, Jacques told Guillot about his battles, his sieges and his
adventures. The farmer opened his eyes and held his breath; even
Sans-Souci kept quiet and shared the pleasure of the peasants, which he
prolonged by adding the story of his own experiences. Their adventures
entertained the peasants to such a degree that they went more cheerfully
to the fields in the morning, when the two soldiers had promised them a
story for the evening.

The people of the village requested as a favor to be allowed to come and
listen to Louise’s cousin and his comrade; and as formality and ceremony
are unknown in the country, the great living-room of the farm-house was
crowded with villagers as soon as the work of the day was finished. The
old woman brought her flax and her spinning-wheel, the housekeeper plied
her needle, the maiden bound up the sheaves; in one corner a young
peasant sifted his horse’s grain; in another, the old man drank his ale,
while the laborer smoked his pipe, leaning on a barrel; the children
crawled about on the floor or played with Sans-Souci’s moustache, while
Louise prepared the soup, Guillot sorted out grains, and one and all had
their eyes fixed upon Jacques, listening attentively to his description
of a battle. When the affair became hot and Jacques grew animated, the
faces of the listeners expressed anxiety, dread, terror; the old woman
stopped her spinning-wheel, the laborer took his pipe from his mouth,
the old man forgot his glass, the young man ceased to shake his sifter,
and everyone, with head stretched forward and mouth wide open, awaited
the result of the battle before resuming his former occupation.

A week passed thus with great rapidity. Our two companions, who did not
choose to pay for the farmer’s hospitality with stories alone, went out
in the morning to assist the peasants in their work. Jacques went with
Guillot to the fields, and plowed and dug with great strength and
good-will. At first the farmer had set his face against his working,
but Jacques had insisted, and in a very short time had become very
skilful. As for Sans-Souci, he preferred to remain in the house. Louise
undertook to supply him with work and she kept him busy. She was a very
capable woman, and a hand never lacked work with her; whether it was in
the attic, or in the cellar, or in the garden, or in the kitchen, she
found some way to employ him always.

After some time, the farm-hand who had married went to live in his
cottage with his wife. Guillot was in need of some one to take his
place; the farm was an extensive one, and its dependencies considerable,
and the farmer felt that Jacques and Sans-Souci would be none too many
to help him work it. He dared not make the proposition to the two men,
but Louise, who was anxious to keep them, undertook to arrange the
affair. At the first words which she said, Jacques joyfully embraced the
farmer’s wife.

“I was afraid,” he said, “of being a burden to you, but you offer me the
means of earning my living honorably and I accept with gratitude. I will
be a farm-hand, and I promise you that Sans-Souci will follow my
example. We have both been soldiers, but whether one carries the musket
or guides the plough, he is still serving his country, is he not?”

Thus everything was arranged to the perfect satisfaction of everyone.
Jacques devoted himself completely to his new occupation; sometimes, in
the midst of his toil, the thought of his brother came to his mind, and
then his features would become clouded, his hand rest on the spade, and
his eyes turn toward the road to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. But he
instantly banished his melancholy thoughts, and resumed his work with
renewed zeal, striving to banish Edouard’s image from his heart.



XV

FOUR MONTHS OF MARRIED LIFE.--NEW PLANS


Edouard, his wife and Mamma Germeuil were settled in the pretty house at
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Edouard, who had not mentioned his brother,
had trembled with apprehension as he drew near the village, and he was
even more agitated when he stepped inside his parents’ former abode. He
thought every instant that he should meet his brother, and on the day of
his arrival he absolutely refused to walk in the garden. However, he had
fully decided to welcome Jacques cordially and to present him to his
wife’s family; but while forming this resolution, he was conscious of an
embarrassment, a vague dread, which aroused a secret dissatisfaction in
his heart.

On the second day after his arrival in the country, he privately
questioned the concierge of his house:

“Has anybody been here in my absence? Have you seen that stranger again,
that man who was forever standing at the foot of the garden?”

“No, monsieur, no, I haven’t seen him again, and no one has been here to
see you.”

Edouard began to breathe more freely, and became more cheerful with the
ladies. Time passed, and the face with moustaches did not reappear.
Madame Germeuil sometimes referred to it, laughingly, with no suspicion
of the distress which she caused her son-in-law; but they finally forgot
the episode altogether, and Edouard recovered his tranquillity.

Adeline’s heart had not changed; still sentimental and emotional, she
loved her husband with idolatry, she was happy so long as he was with
her, and so long as she could read in his eyes the same sentiments, the
same love, the same happiness. She carried in her bosom a pledge of
Edouard’s love; that was a new subject of delight, of hopes, of projects
for the future. Engrossed by that happiness, Adeline was less
thoughtless, less vivacious.

They had little company in the country, but Edouard was still in love
with his wife, and he was not at all bored. Sometimes, however, the
evenings seemed rather long to him; Madame Germeuil’s game of piquet was
endless, and the excursions about the neighborhood impressed him as
being slightly monotonous. But Adeline’s caresses were still pleasant to
him, and her kisses as sweet as ever.

One fine day a carriage stopped in front of Edouard’s house, and two
ladies and a gentleman alighted and entered the courtyard. The concierge
asked the strangers’ names in order to announce them to the ladies, who
were in the garden. But they desired to surprise the Murville family and
one of the two ladies who seemed to be in command, at once walked toward
the garden, beckoning to her friends to follow her.

At last they discovered Madame Germeuil and Adeline, who rose in
surprise and ran to meet Madame Dolban.

“What! is it you, my dear love? How kind of you to come!”

“I wanted to surprise you; I have been promising myself this pleasure
for a long time, for I am passionately fond of the country. I have
brought my little cousin with me; and as we required an escort, I have
taken the liberty of bringing Monsieur Dufresne, who is delighted to
present his respects to you.”

Monsieur Dufresne bowed low to the ladies, and Mamma Germeuil assured
Madame Dolban that anybody whom she might bring would always be welcome.

“But monsieur is not a stranger to you,” continued Madame Dolban; “he
was at my dear Adeline’s wedding; it was Madame Devaux who introduced
him to you.”

“Indeed I believe that I remember,” said Madame Germeuil; “but on such
days one is so busy that one may be pardoned for not noticing all the
young people. You know too, how many strange things happened that
evening! Poor Madame de Volenville, and Monsieur Robineau!”

“Oh! don’t speak of them, my dear love, or I shall die of laughter.--But
where is Murville?”

“He is somewhere in the neighborhood; he will soon return home;
meanwhile, come into the house and rest yourselves.”

They went to the salon; Dufresne offered Madame Germeuil his hand, and
Adeline escorted Madame Dolban and her cousin. Edouard soon returned. He
seemed agreeably surprised to find company. No matter how much a man may
be in love, the most delightful tête-à-têtes become tiresome after a
while; so that a coquette is very careful to be sparing of them,
interrupting them sometimes in order that they may be more eagerly
desired afterwards. But Adeline was not a coquette.

Let us return to our company. Madame Dolban was still a young woman; she
was not pretty, but her face had character, and she had that quality
which in society is called ease of manner, and plenty of small talk.

Little Jenny was a girl of eighteen, very sweet and simple-mannered, and
trained to be silent when her cousin was talking. As for Dufresne, we
know him already; imperfectly to be sure, but the sequel will enable us
to judge him better.

It was at Adeline’s wedding that he had made Madame Dolban’s
acquaintance. Had he fallen in love with her? That seemed rather
improbable; however, he had acted like a very passionate lover; paying
the most assiduous court to the widow, he had easily triumphed over her.
Madame Dolban was not a prude, but she made a point of concealing her
feelings, in order to be received more willingly in circles where
morality and decency are held in esteem, and Madame Germeuil’s house was
one of the small number of which that could be said.

Dufresne had acquired absolute empire over the mind of Madame Dolban,
who loved him passionately and who would have sacrificed everything for
him. She had soon discovered that that young man, who claimed to be a
business agent, broker, commission merchant, and tradesman, and who
assumed all sorts of titles according to circumstances, was in reality
nothing more than a knight of industry, having no trade, no office, and
no perceptible means of livelihood.

A prudent woman would have broken with such a character; Madame Dolban
had not the moral courage; on the contrary, she devoted herself
absolutely to him, opened her purse to him, and allowed him to become
absolute master in her house; and Dufresne used his friend’s small
fortune without the slightest hesitation, assuring her that he was about
to make a bold stroke in business, and that he would very soon treble
her capital.

Impelled by some unknown motive, Dufresne often inquired about Adeline
and her husband. At last, he expressed one day a desire to go to their
place in the country. Madame Dolban instantly made her preparations to
go; she took her little cousin, in order to dispel any suspicion of a
too close intimacy with a young man whom she wished to introduce to
Madame Germeuil.

Dufresne was bright, he was accustomed to society, and could be
entertaining when he chose to be; and in the visit to the young husband
and wife he did whatever he considered most likely to attract the whole
family. Attentive, zealous, even gallant with Madame Germeuil,--for he
knew that gallantry has a fascination even for mothers,--he was
agreeable, reserved and respectful to Adeline; but it was with Edouard
especially that he put forth all the resources of his wit, in order to
obtain Murville’s entire confidence; and he at once applied himself to
the study of his disposition, and to finding out his tastes and sounding
his sentiments.

Everything assumed a festive appearance in the household at
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Three additional persons cause much change in
a house. They sang and played, drove, hunted and fished. The time passed
very quickly to Edouard, who longed for company. But it seemed long to
Adeline, who was unable to find a moment in the day to be alone with her
husband.

On the third day after her arrival, Madame Dolban talked about returning
to Paris. Edouard insisted on keeping his guests a few days longer. He
could not do without Dufresne. They went hunting together, and drove in
the morning before the ladies were up. Murville was delighted with his
new friend; wit, merriment, an even disposition, and a similarity of
tastes made Dufresne’s presence a necessity to him, as his friendship
was a delight.

Adeline could not be jealous of this new intimacy; and yet she felt a
secret pain when she saw that her own affection did not fill her
husband’s heart sufficiently to exclude every other sentiment. Love is
often selfish and even friendship offends it; anything which for a
moment attracts the loved one seems a theft to that exacting god. But
this excess of love is always excusable, and it does not seem a burden
except when it ceases to be shared.

Madame Dolban and her friends took leave of the young couple at last.
Adeline was pleased, for she was about to be alone with Edouard once
more; she could talk to him without reserve as to the future, of the
education of their children, and of all the family joys which were in
store for them. Murville was sorry to see their guests go; but he was
careful to urge Dufresne to come often to see him, and to pass at
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges all the time that his business left him at
leisure.

In the evening, Adeline took her husband’s arm and led him into the
garden; she told him how delighted she felt at being alone with him; she
pressed his hands lovingly in hers; and she fixed her lovely eyes,
filled with love, upon him. But Edouard was distraught and preoccupied;
while replying to his wife, he seemed to be thinking of something else
than what he said. Adeline noticed it; she sighed and the walk came to
an end much earlier than usual.

The next day when they met at breakfast, Edouard spoke of Dufresne and
of the pleasure it had afforded him to make his acquaintance. He was a
charming man, full of intelligence and talent, who could not fail to
succeed and make a handsome fortune.

“But, my dear,” said Adeline, “it seems to me that you can hardly know
that gentleman as yet.”

“I myself,” said Madame Germeuil, “think Monsieur Dufresne a most
agreeable man; he is pleasant in company, and then, too, Madame Dolban
has known him a long time, no doubt. But after all, my dear Edouard,
you never spoke to him until within a week, for we cannot count the day
of your wedding; you were too busy to pay any attention to him then.”

“Oh, yes,” said Adeline, with a sigh, “that day he thought of nothing
but me.”

“Really, mesdames, you talk rather strangely; does it require so very
long, pray, to know a person and to form a judgment upon him? For my own
part, two days are enough for me; besides, what interest could Dufresne
have in putting on a false face with us? He has no need of our services,
and you know that in the world we are constantly guided by our own
interests; but aside from that, why should he put himself out? Dufresne
has money, he is in business.”

“What business?”

“Oh! business on the Bourse, commerce, speculation; in short, very
extensive business, according to what he tells me.”

“Has he an office, or any place? Is he a solicitor--a business agent?”

“No! no! But a man need not have any of those things now, to make his
way. Moreover, mesdames, allow me to tell you that you know nothing
about it.”

“Upon my word, my dear, you are very amiable! Why do you think that we
are not so well able as men to decide what may be useful to us?”

“Because you are not brought up to do it.”

“My dear,” said Madame Germeuil, “education supplies neither intellect
nor judgment. Believe me, a woman may give very good advice, and men are
almost always wrong to despise it. The only advice that I can give you
myself is not to form too rashly an intimacy with a man whom you have
known only a week. Friendship should not be given so readily.”

“But Edouard is naturally so kind, so easy-going----”

“Oh! I know how to value people. I promise you that Dufresne’s
friendship will be very valuable to me.”

“How so?”

“Parbleu! I mean to do as he does; and to increase our fortune, I too
will go into business. I feel, moreover, that a man cannot live without
having something to do. When we are in Paris, I can’t walk about from
morning till night; I shall neither go hunting nor fishing.”

“That is just what I told you when you insisted on leaving your place,”
said Mamma Germeuil; “but then you didn’t listen to me.”

“Oh! my dear mamma, if I had remained twenty years nailed to an office
stool, what would that have led me to? To be a deputy chief perhaps, a
year or two before being retired on a pension. A noble prospect! Instead
of that, I may become very wealthy some day.”

“What, Edouard, have you become ambitious now?”

“I am not ambitious, my dear Adeline; but suppose I were? our family may
be increased, and there is no law against a man’s thinking about the
welfare of his children.”

“Of course not! of course not!” said Madame Germeuil; “but sometimes, by
insisting upon running about after vain chimeras, you lose what you have
for certain.”

“Oh! never fear, madame, I shall not run after chimeras. I shall act
only upon certainty; I shall advance only a very little; and besides,
Dufresne will give me good advice.”

Thus ended this conversation. Edouard left the house to meditate upon
his new plans for acquiring wealth; Madame Germeuil returned sadly to
her bedroom, and Adeline went out to muse alone in the garden.



XVI

RETURN TO PARIS.--THE BUSINESS AGENT


A few days later, Monsieur Dufresne paid another visit to the family in
the country. Edouard received him like an old friend, Madame Germeuil
courteously, and Adeline rather coldly. The newcomer talked much of his
affairs, of his speculations, of his extensive schemes. All this charmed
and dazzled Murville, who was already crazy to start on the career which
his friend was to open to him, and who, hurt by his mother-in-law’s lack
of confidence in this method of making his way, was keenly desirous to
prove to her the absurdity of her fears.

Despite all that Edouard could say, Dufresne stayed but one day with
him. His time was all occupied and his interests recalled him to Paris.
But the season was advancing; they could not remain longer among the
fields, which were already losing their verdure. It was the end of
October, and they had been in the country nearly six months. Edouard
looked forward with delight to the moment for returning to Paris.
Adeline reproached him gently; Madame Germeuil said nothing, but she was
already apprehensive for the future, and everything had not turned out
as she had hoped when she gave her daughter’s hand to Murville. The
latter was of a weak, irresolute character, and yet Adeline did whatever
he desired.

“Ah!” thought the good lady, “my daughter is too loving, too emotional.
She is not the wife that Edouard needed. She knows how to do nothing but
embrace and sigh; and if he ever chooses to make a fool of himself, she
will never have the strength to resist! Let us hope that he will not do
it.”

They returned to Paris. Then Edouard set about realizing the plans that
he had formed. Every day he went to the Bourse and to the cafés where
business men gathered; he did not go into any business at once, but he
listened, walked about, talked and made acquaintances. Dufresne was
often present, and he had promised his friend to let him in for a share
in his brilliant speculations. Moreover, when business was not brisk,
such people passed their time agreeably, laughing, telling one another
the news of the day, talking about theatres, balls, fashions, concerts
and love-affairs. The course of the stock market did not prevent them
from being thoroughly posted as to the course of literature, music and
dancing. While negotiating bills of exchange on Vienna or London, they
enquired the name of the actress who was to play in the new piece; they
undertook to sell shares and to hire a box at the Bouffons; they
extolled the honesty of this or that tradesman, and the eccentricity of
Lord Byron; the punctuality of a commission merchant, and the pirouettes
of Paul; they knew the cause of the latest failure, and the plot of the
melodrama which was then the rage; they knew what had happened at the
last ball given by a banker, and in his wife’s curtained box at the
theatre. In fact, they knew everything, for they discussed all subjects.
At all these gatherings they declared war and peace, and settled the
course of the weather; they divided, reunited, and enlarged empires with
the end of a cane or switch; they knew the secrets of the cabinets of
all the powers of Europe!--yet when they returned home to their wives,
they did not notice everything that had taken place during their
absence.

Adeline sighed for the happy days that she had passed in the country
immediately after her marriage. However, her husband still loved her;
she did not doubt it; but she saw him less frequently, and when he was
with her, he no longer, as formerly, talked of love, of constancy, of
conjugal happiness, but he assured her that he would soon be engaged in
extensive affairs, speculations, in which he would make large profits.

“But what need have we of so much money, my dear?” said Adeline,
throwing her arms about her husband; “I am soon to be a mother, that is
to me the greatest of all joys; with your love I desire no other----”

“My dear love, what you say is very pretty; I share your sentiments, but
I see farther than you do. Never fear, we shall be very happy some day.”

“Ah! my dear, never so happy, never more happy than I have been; before
you knew Dufresne, you thought of nobody but me!”

“Well, now you are going to talk about Dufresne, are you? You don’t like
him; you have taken a grudge against him. What has he done to cause
this? He gives me good advice, and he is pushing me along the road to
wealth; I don’t see in that any reason for detesting him!”

“I detest nobody.”

“But you receive him coldly, and Madame Dolban too.”

“I receive him as I do everybody.”

“Oh! no doubt; you would like to live like a bear, and never see any
company.”

“I have not said that; but formerly I was enough for you, and you didn’t
need company to be happy in your home.”

“Pshaw! now you are crying! tears are no argument! how childish you are!
you know perfectly well that I love you, that I love nobody but you!”

“Oh! I won’t cry any more, my dear. If it pleases you, I will see a
great deal of company.”

“Oh! I don’t say that; we will see if my plans succeed. Dufresne tells
me that it would not be a bad idea for me to give evening parties,
punches, with a violin and an écarté table. But don’t mention this yet
to your mother,--she is so peculiar!”

“I won’t say anything, my dear.”

Edouard went out to his business, and Adeline remained alone. Thereupon,
she gave free vent to her tears, for she could not conceal the fact from
herself, that her husband was not the same. Still he loved her tenderly,
he was not unfaithful; why then should she be disturbed by a change
which was only natural and which nothing could prevent? Eight months of
wedded life had not diminished Adeline’s affection. Her love was still
as ardent, as exclusive, her caresses as warm and passionate; but a
man’s heart needs a respite in its affections; it is unable to love a
long while with the same passion; it beats violently and then stops; it
blazes and then grows cold; it is a fire which does not burn with equal
intensity; a trifle is sufficient to extinguish or rekindle it.

The young wife said all this to herself to console herself; above all,
she determined to conceal her grief from her mother; but she could not
change with respect to Dufresne; that man aroused in her a feeling of
repulsion, which her heart could not explain. And yet he was agreeable,
courteous to her; he had never ceased to be respectful in his
attentions: at what then could she take offence? She had no idea, but
she did not like him, and her glance caused him an embarrassment and
confusion which were not natural; she fancied that she detected in him a
sort of constraint which she could not define. When she appeared,
Dufresne seemed ill at ease, and he left the room if Madame Dolban were
present; if chance caused him to be left alone with his friend’s wife,
he had nothing to say; but at such times, his eyes followed Adeline’s
every movement, and they wore an expression which she could not endure.

Several days after the conversation he had had with his wife, Edouard
returned home with a triumphant air; his face was radiant, his eyes
gleamed with pleasure.

“What’s the matter, son-in-law, what has happened to you?” said Mamma
Germeuil; “you seem very happy.”

“In truth, I am, and I have good reason to be.”

“Of course you will let us share your joy, my dear.”

“Yes, mesdames, you will cease now, I hope, to say that I delude myself
with chimeras; by the luckiest chance I have recently become acquainted
with a rich foreigner, who proposes to settle in France. He was looking
for a large, pleasant house, all furnished, in one of the best quarters
of the city; I found one for him; he looked at it, was delighted with
it, bought it, and gives me six thousand francs for my trouble; and the
seller gives me as much more for my commission. Well! isn’t that rather
pleasant? Twelve thousand francs earned in a moment.”

“True, son-in-law, but you have been running about for three months to
reach that moment!”

“Twelve thousand francs! That is well worth taking a little trouble
for!”

“That is true, but such affairs must be rare.”

“I shall find others.”

“They will not all be so fortunate.”

“Oh! if a man earned twelve thousand francs every day, he would be too
lucky.”

“In this matter, you do not seem to have needed Dufresne’s assistance?”

“Oh! he will put me in the way of more profitable ones yet. But in order
to do a good business, I must have an office. You must understand that
when my clients come to see me, I can’t receive them in a salon or a
bedroom. I must have an office well stocked with boxes. That makes an
impression; and as it is impossible to have a suitable place here, we
must move.”

“What! do you mean to leave these lodgings, son-in-law?”

“Ah! my dear! this is where our hands were united by mamma. It was here
that Hymen fulfilled our wishes, and I have been so happy here!”

“My dear love, one is happy anywhere when one is rich. We will take a
much handsomer apartment. This salon is too small.”

“It is large enough to receive our friends.”

“Yes, but friends are not the only ones to be received; we have
acquaintances too.”

“Son-in-law, don’t you think that you are undertaking an establishment
beyond your means?”

“Madame, I wish to make my fortune; that is a very praiseworthy
ambition, it seems to me; why should I not try what thousands of others
have tried successfully? Have I less merit, less talents than my
predecessors? I propose to prove the contrary to your satisfaction. Who
is this manufacturer, whose name is in every mouth, whose wealth is
immense and his credit unlimited? He came to Paris without a sou; he
simply knew how to write and make figures; he entered, as a petty clerk,
the establishment of which to-day he is the owner; but he was ambitious,
he worked hard, and everything succeeded with him. This financier, who
is engaged in such enormous operations on the Bourse, arrived from his
village, asking hospitality at the taverns along the road, sleeping on
straw, and eating nothing but bread, lucky when he had enough of that to
satisfy his appetite. He stopped at Paris on Place du Péron, hesitating
whether he should ask alms or should jump into the river. A tradesman
happened to notice him and gave him a letter to carry; the promptness
and zeal which he displayed in doing the errand interested people in his
favor. Every one selected him for his messenger; he soon succeeded in
saving some money, and speculated on his own account; the movement of
stocks was favorable to him; and to make a long story short, he has
become a millionaire. I could cite you a hundred similar examples; and
since one may become something from nothing, it seems to me that it is
much easier to become rich when one already has something in hand.”

“When one has nothing, son-in-law, one does not risk ruining oneself.”

“Oh! only the fools ruin themselves, madame!”

“It is better to be a fool than a knave, and many people have made their
fortunes only at the expense of those of other people.”

“I trust, madame, that you do not consider me capable of enriching
myself in that way?”

“No, of course not! But before everything else one should be orderly and
economical. By this means the financier and manufacturer whom you
mentioned just now have grown rich, and not by giving extravagant
receptions and balls.”

“Other times, other methods, madame; to-day, men do business and seek
enjoyment at the same time. They negotiate a sale while drinking punch,
and sign a deed at a bouillotte or an écarté table, and buy consols
while dancing a quadrille. Well, I see no harm in all that. It is what
is called carrying on business gayly.”

“Yes, monsieur, but not substantially.--For my own part, I shall not
choose for my banker the one who gives the most beautiful parties; and
if it is your purpose to leave this lodging in order to live in that
way, I warn you that I shall not live with you.”

Edouard made no reply to his mother-in-law, but took his hat and went
out in a very ill humor, storming against women who insist upon meddling
in business of which they understand nothing. Madame Germeuil remained
with her daughter.

“Oh! mamma,” said Adeline, throwing herself into her mother’s arms,
“don’t be angry with Edouard. Alas! It is I alone who am guilty. It was
I who urged him to leave the place he had. But could I have anticipated?
It is that Dufresne, it is his advice which turns my husband’s head.”

“My dear Adeline, in the early days of your married life, you should
have taken possession of your husband’s mind, and accustomed him to do
what you wanted; at that time it would have been very easy for you, but
you did just the opposite.”

“I simply tried to please him, and we had but one will then! But soon I
am going to be a mother. Ah! how impatiently I await that moment! I am
sure that his child’s caresses will make Edouard forget all his schemes
of wealth and grandeur.”

“May you say true!”

The term marked by nature approached. Edouard realized that that was no
time to change his abode, so he said no more of his plans, and Adeline
thought that he had abandoned them. Soon she brought into the world a
pretty little girl, a faithful image of her mother’s charms. Edouard
desired that Dufresne should be his child’s godfather, but Madame
Germeuil refused him as an associate; so it was necessary to give way,
and to take in his place an old annuitant, most upright, orderly and
methodical, who gave the godmother three boxes of bonbons and two pairs
of gloves, and promised to dine every week with the young mother, in
order to learn how his goddaughter was coming on.

Edouard did not say a word, but he awaited his wife’s entire recovery
before putting his plans into execution; and he secretly hoped that
Madame Germeuil would persist in her refusal to change her lodgings, in
order that he might no longer have beneath his roof a mother-in-law
whose advice and reproaches were beginning to be distasteful to him.

Adeline was engrossed by the joy of being a mother; she nursed her
child, in spite of all that Edouard could say to prove that that was not
done in good society; but in that matter Adeline resisted her husband,
the mother-love carried the day, and that new sentiment abated in some
degree the force of the sentiment which hitherto had reigned
despotically in her heart.

For some time Madame Dolban had been a less frequent visitor at the
Murville house; Adeline and her mother did not know the reason, but they
were not sorry to be less often in the company of Dufresne, who
ordinarily accompanied Madame Dolban. They thought that if he saw him
less often, Edouard would pay less heed to the new dreams of wealth
which had been suggested to him by that young man.

The ladies were mistaken; Dufresne was very careful not to neglect
Murville, with whose character he was now perfectly acquainted. He knew
all that he could hope to gain by his acquaintance. He had, moreover,
extensive projects. Which events will soon place us in a position to
judge, no doubt. But like a clever man, Dufresne waited until the
propitious moment came to carry out his plans. He saw that Madame
Germeuil did not like him; the presence of Adeline’s mother interfered
with his designs; so he tried shrewdly to sow discord between her and
her son-in-law; he found a way of separating them, by suggesting to
Edouard to find a larger apartment in order to give handsome parties.
The two friends met everyday, and passed a large part of the morning
together; and when Murville left the house at night, it was to go to
other houses where Dufresne had agreed to meet him. Edouard could not do
without his friend, he was unwilling to do anything without consulting
him, to undertake anything until he had seen him. But if his wife gave
him advice, if his mother-in-law ventured to make a remonstrance,
Edouard lost his temper, flew into a rage, and insisted that he was the
master, whereas he was simply the plaything of the man who had the art
to flatter his tastes. A curious character! naturally weak, unreasonably
obstinate, intending to be firm and not to allow himself to be guided by
others, Edouard abandoned himself to the will of the man who secretly
advised him to be persevering and determined in his plans, because he
was well aware that that was the way to speak to a weak man who in his
eyes was simply a mass of ductile matter, to which he could give
whatever shape he chose.

Adeline did not suffer from the new duties to which she devoted herself;
on the contrary, her features seemed even lovelier, her eyes more
melting, her bearing more graceful; she was fascinating when she held
her child in her arms, and when she went out in the morning to give her
a breath of air. Another than Murville would have considered Adeline
improved; but a husband rarely makes such observations, he sees only
the contrary. In default of him, others notice his wife’s beauty, admire
what he does not see, praise what he has ceased to praise, and rave over
what he neglects; that is something that husbands do not think about,
that they do not trouble themselves about at all, and yet it is the
thing which plays them such cruel tricks.

One man observed what Edouard no longer observed; he followed Adeline,
without her knowledge, he admired her charms, he divined those which he
could not see and devoured with his eyes all that he could see. A
violent passion had assumed the mastery of him; he was simply waiting
for a favorable moment to try to induce her to share his passion.
However, there was very little hope that he could win her love, and he
knew it. Adeline was virtue personified; she was absolutely devoted to
her husband and to her child. But there was no obstacle, no barrier,
that the man who adored her had not resolved to overturn. Nothing can
check the impetuous torrent swelled by heavy rains; nothing could
discourage his love if we may thus name the unbridled desires, the
delirium, the jealousy that for a long time had filled his heart. He had
decided to attempt everything, to undertake everything, to dare
everything, in order to triumph over Adeline; his passion, long
concealed, was only the more violent on that account; the fire which
devoured him was likely to consume everything when it should break
forth. But who was this mysterious man, whose love thus far had remained
a secret? You know him, reader, and I will wager that you have already
guessed his name.

Edouard, who had plunged deeper than ever into business, of which he
understood nothing, but which seemed to him all the more attractive on
that account,--Edouard hired a handsome house, a fashionable carriage,
bought magnificent furniture of the latest style, furnished a very
elaborate office, with shelves on all sides, on which were pasteboard
boxes, empty to be sure, but soon to contain the documents relating to
the transactions which could not fail to come to his hands in a
multitude. Pending their arrival, our man hired a clerk, who passed his
time reading the _Gazette_ and cutting quill pens.

Adeline was installed in her new abode. She looked at everything, sighed
and held her peace. Madame Germeuil, on the contrary, burst forth into
reproaches, and had a violent scene with her son-in-law. She predicted
that he would ruin himself. Edouard was vexed and lost his temper, and a
rupture followed. Madame Germeuil left her son-in-law’s house, swearing
never to see him again; she refused to be moved by her daughter’s tears,
tears for which the good woman blamed herself in the depths of her
heart; she realized that it would have been better to give her daughter
to a man of firm but sensible character than to a weak, irresolute
creature, who had not enough intelligence to admit his failings, and too
much obstinacy to repair them. But the harm was done.

After Madame Germeuil’s departure there was another scene between the
husband and the wife; for Adeline could not forbear to scold her husband
in her turn, and she begged him to go after her mother and bring her
back. He was obstinate; he persisted in refusing to attempt a
reconciliation, and he informed his wife that he was determined to do as
he chose, that all remonstrance would be fruitless thenceforth and would
not change his line of conduct, in which he did not propose to be guided
by women.

Thus the splendid abode of the new business agent was christened by
tears; but Murville no longer paid any heed to such trifles; he had
matters of great importance in his head. Dufresne was to put him in the
way of earning fifty thousand francs with a wealthy shipowner who had
just arrived in Paris and was seeking investments for his money, with
which he did not know what to do. In order to become acquainted with
that invaluable man, it was necessary to give an evening party, a ball,
to which he would be brought by a third person. The ball was decided
upon; and in accordance with his friend’s advice, Edouard made the most
elaborate preparations for a function which was to give him an
established position in society. To be sure, the expenses of that
function would be enormous. The twelve thousand francs earned some time
before were largely spent; he had had to encroach upon his income to buy
the furniture and to decorate his house; but all that was nothing at
all; in order to reap, one must sow,--that was Dufresne’s maxim. And his
example proved that it worked well with him; never had he seemed more
fortunate, more magnificent, more at his ease. He had a cabriolet, a
groom, and such diamonds! Therefore he must be doing an excellent
business.



XVII

A GRAND PARTY.--A DECLARATION OF LOVE


“My dear love,” said Edouard to his wife, one morning, “I am going to
give a party to-morrow--a ball; you must prepare to do the honors.”

“You are going to give a party--to whom, pray? Can it be that you are
reconciled with mamma?”

“Who is talking about your mother? She is a woman who insists upon
meddling in affairs which she does not understand, and who, because her
tastes lead her to live in a narrow circle, wishes also to prevent us
from going out of it. You must agree that that is utterly absurd.
However, when I have fifty thousand francs a year, I fancy that she will
forgive me for not listening to her advice.”

“That will not be very soon, I take it!”

“Sooner than you think, madame, and I act accordingly.”

“And is that the reason that you are giving a party?”

“Exactly.”

“Whom do you expect to have?”

“Oh! never fear, we shall have lots of people. In the first place, we
must, for it is the fashion now; if one is not crowded and pushed about
in a salon, he does not think that he has enjoyed himself.”

“Oh! what nonsense, my dear! Who told you that?”

“It is not nonsense, madame. I go into society while you are taking care
of your daughter.”

“Oh! I am well aware that you no longer stay with me.”

“That is necessary; I must show myself in society; that is the place
where a man makes acquaintances.”

“Disastrous ones, sometimes!”

“Oh! mon Dieu! I am not a child; I know with whom I am dealing! Why, to
hear you and your mother talk, anyone would think that I am not capable
of taking care of myself.

“I never said that, my dear; but I cannot help regretting the time when
I alone was sufficient for your enjoyment; then you passed all your time
with me,--you did not go into society.--Well! were you not happy?”

“To be sure I was.”

“Then why have you changed your mode of life?”

“Why? why? That is a strange question to ask me! a man cannot always be
making love to his wife, can he?”

“Oh! I have discovered that! But I did not expect to learn it after only
a year of married life.”

“Well, well! are you going to begin your reproaches again? Women are
never reasonable.”

“I am not reproaching you, my dear; give parties, as that gives you
pleasure; I shall never object.”

“You are a love; you are not obstinate like your mother; and I tell you
again that this is all for our good. So make the necessary preparations.
I have already ordered and arranged everything, and all that you will
have to do will be to see that my orders are carried out.”

“Very well. But what shall I say to people whom I do not know?”

“Oh! don’t let that trouble you! You just bow and smile to every one.
With your grace and your wit you will always be fascinating.”

“I would like to be fascinating to you alone.”

“Do you mean that I am unfaithful to you? I am really so good----”

“That some day you will be laughed at for it.”

“Never fear, I love you only.--I am going to send a few more
invitations; prepare for our party.”

Edouard kissed his wife and left her. Adeline, in order to please him,
inquired about what was to be done on the following day; she was alarmed
at the magnitude of the expense, but it was too late to oppose it. After
giving her orders, the young wife went to see her mother. It was on
Madame Germeuil’s bosom that she poured out her grief, though she
concealed much of it, in order not to make her mother more bitter
against her husband.

“Oh!” said Adeline, “so long as he is faithful to me, I shall have
nothing to complain of. I can forgive him everything except
indifference, which I absolutely could not endure.”

The next day, at daybreak, everything was in confusion in the Murville
establishment. The servants could not attend to the innumerable
preparations which were under way on every side; workmen came to put
carpets and chandeliers in place and vases of flowers along the
stair-rails. The mirror-maker’s apprentices, upholsterers, florists and
decorators filled the salons, and got in the way of the footmen and
other servants. Soon the caterers arrived, the pastry cooks and the ice
dealer’s men, who took possession of the servants’ quarters and began
the decoration of the sideboards, which were to be furnished in the
evening in the most sumptuous way, and to offer everything which could
fascinate the eyes, the nose and the palate at once. Adeline attempted
to pass through several rooms to her husband’s office; she was
bewildered by the uproar, the shouts, the tumult; she could not
recognize her own apartments. At last she spied Edouard walking about
the salons, and watching with a self-satisfied air the preparations for
the party.

“Well, my dear love,” he said to his wife as soon as he caught sight of
her, “what do you think of all this?”

“That I do not understand how anyone can take so much trouble to
entertain people whom one does not know, and who feel no obligation for
the pains which one takes to treat them so handsomely.”

“But, my dear love, you must remember that a man does all this for his
reputation’s sake. Parbleu! I care nothing at all for the people whom I
entertain; I am not at all anxious for their friendship, but I am
anxious that people should say in society: ‘Monsieur Murville’s party
was delightful, nothing was lacking; and everything was in the very best
style. That function must have cost a tremendous sum!’--You will agree
that that will do me credit; people will assume that I have a
considerable fortune, and that I have more business than I desire.--Be
sure to dress handsomely, and wear your diamonds; they are not so fine
as I wish they were, but before long I hope to make you a present of a
superb string of them.”

“My dear, you know perfectly well that I do not want anything of that
kind; your love alone----”

“It is getting late; go and dress.”

The time fixed for the party arrived; between nine and ten o’clock, the
carriages and the pedestrians--for some people always come on foot, even
to the largest balls--the courtyard of Murville’s house in swarms. They
crowded under the porte cochère; the coachmen insulted one another and
disputed for precedence; the young women, wrapped in their pelisses or
cloaks, jumped lightly to the landing, and waited, one for her mother,
another for her husband, to take her up to the salons. The officious
young man mounted the stairs gracefully, his body enveloped in an ample
cloak lined with crimson velvet, which concealed almost the whole of his
face, leaving only the end of his nose visible; he offered his hand to a
young lady whose fear of the horses standing in the courtyard had
separated her from her escort. The young gallant in the cloak saw only a
pair of very expressive eyes and a few curls, for all the rest was
concealed under the hood of a pelisse; but he saw enough to divine
lovely features and the form of a nymph. He gently pressed the hand
which she entrusted to him; he engaged his fair unknown for the first
quadrille, and his hopes were aroused before he had even entered the
reception room. That room was crowded; in one corner the ladies
arranged their dresses, gave a last glance to their finery, which had
become rumpled in the carriage; farther on, in a less brilliantly
lighted spot, a number of economical bank clerks took slippers from
their pockets and put them on in place of their shoes, which they
carefully wrapped in large pieces of paper with their gaiters, and
placed them under some heavy piece of furniture which was not likely to
be moved. After effecting this slight change of costume, they carefully
pulled their ruffs from their waistcoats, retied their cravats, passed
their hands through their hair, rumpling it or smoothing it according as
their style of beauty required, and then, drawing themselves up proudly,
entered the salon with an air of impertinence and conceit which was
calculated to persuade all the other guests that they had come in a
tilbury.

The salon was already filled with women of all ages; for by the face
only, not by the dress, could the mother be distinguished from the
daughter, the aunt from the niece. The men strolled about, eyeglass in
hand, and despite that little accessory, almost put their noses into the
ladies’ faces, as they stopped in front of them, making wry faces when
one was not to their liking; while the ladies themselves smiled at them
instead of spitting in their faces as their insolent manner of staring
at them well deserved. Soon the crowd became so large that one could
hardly move. That was the delightful moment; a young exquisite halted in
front of a girl seated beside her mother, and made the most indecent
gestures, which the poor child avoided only by keeping her own eyes
constantly on the floor, which prevented her from enjoying the spectacle
of the ball; but the young man was persistent; he did not stir from in
front of her, and had the effrontery to interpret in his favor the blush
which covered the brow of her whom he deigned to notice. A few steps
away, another young exquisite pointed out to four or five of his friends
a pretty woman whose husband stood nearby; he told them in confidence
that she had been his mistress for a week; his friends congratulated
him, and asked him for details concerning the lady’s secret charms and
her way of making love; he replied, laughing heartily, and gesticulating
like one possessed, which could not fail to attract every eye, and to
arouse the curiosity of those who did not hear him. Luckily the husband
was of the latter number; but he desired to know what was being said, so
he approached and enquired:

“What are you laughing at so loudly, gentlemen?”

“Oh! it was nothing, a joke he was telling us.”

“Some rascality, I will wager; you are sad rakes!”

“You will find out later what it was.”

And the young men dispersed, laughing louder than ever; the husband
laughed with them; he did not know why, but he wanted to seem to be
informed.

The signal to begin the dance was given, and an excellent orchestra,
directed by Collinet, played several delightful quadrilles, which
invited one to dance; fascinating tunes, selected from the masterpieces
of the great masters, are now used as the theme and motif of a _poule_,
_a trénis_, or a _pantalon_. How can one resist the temptation, when one
has the opportunity to execute a pirouette, a _balancé_, or an
_entre-chat_ to passages from Rossini, Mozart, or Boieldieu? The ear is
no less charmed by the method of execution; modern quadrilles are little
concerts for wind and stringed instruments; it requires talent to play
them. We have left to the poor blind men such tunes as the Monaco, the
Périgourdine and the Furstemberg; we need artistes to play the
quadrilles of Weber, Collinet, Rubner, etc.

There was little room; the guests trod on one another’s feet, and
jostled one another; but they danced, and that was the essential thing;
what joy for the young woman who desires to display her charms, and for
the woman on the decline who flatters herself that she is still very
light on her feet!

Those who were not attracted by the dancing and the music took their
places at an écarté table; there they abandoned themselves to their
passion for gambling, awaiting a favorable stroke of luck; they tried to
fathom the play of their opponents, to read upon their faces what cards
they had in their hands. They forgot their wives or their daughters; and
very frequently those ladies in the salon forgot those who were at the
écarté table.

The bets opened and soon became very considerable; young men, who should
have paid no heed to aught except the ladies and the dance, waited
anxiously to see if their adversary would turn a king; their blood
boiled; the sight of gold, the hope of winning, led them on; and more
than one, who walked away from the tables with empty pockets, would
refuse the next day to give money to his tailor or his bootmaker; while
our economical friends of the shoes and the gaiters, who had allowed
themselves to be led astray by example, observed to one another as they
took off their slippers, that they would have done better to hire a cab
than to bet or play écarté.

Others had recourse to the sideboard for consolation and stuffed
themselves with pastry and refreshments; the greatest glutton took the
most delicate sweetmeats, on the pretext that he was taking them to the
ladies. What horrible waste there is in such mobs! Plates overturned,
one dish cast aside to take another, of which three-quarters is left;
the creams that the guests snatch from one another; the bonbons that
disappear before one has time to take one;--such is the ordinary course
of collations at large parties; the sideboard is always being pillaged,
and the young men who surround it act as if they had eaten nothing for a
week. What an extraordinary way for people in good society to behave!

Adeline tried to discover some acquaintance amid the crowd and the
tumult; but most of the faces were unknown to her. Weary of listening to
insipid or exaggerated compliments, addressed to her by men whom she did
not know, and disgusted at being stared at through the eyeglasses of
these men, the young woman seized a moment when everybody was busy
according to his or her taste, to go to her room, to make sure that her
daughter was asleep, and to enjoy, by embracing her, the only pleasure
that that evening could afford her.

To reach the room where her little Ermance was in bed, Adeline was
obliged to leave her guests altogether, for she had determined that her
child should not be awakened by the noise; she passed through several
half-lighted rooms and finally reached her daughter’s side; she paused
by the cradle and gazed at Ermance, who was sleeping peacefully. With
her mind more at ease, Adeline was going back to her guests; but, as she
entered a dimly-lighted boudoir which adjoined her daughter’s bedroom,
she saw some one gliding along the wall. A feeling of alarm took
possession of her.

“Who is there?” she said instantly.

“Don’t be afraid, madame; I am distressed to have taken you so by
surprise.”

Adeline recovered herself, for she recognized Dufresne’s voice, and
asked: “What are you seeking here?”

“The noise and heat of the salon made me feel uncomfortable; I was very
glad to be able to come away and rest for a moment.”

Adeline went into the next room for a lamp, and brought it into the room
where Dufresne had remained; he followed her every movement with his
eyes, and seemed intensely agitated.

“If you are not feeling well, I will go and bring you something.”

“Oh, no! stay, madame, I beg you; your presence is a hundred times more
beneficial to me.”

Dufresne had taken Adeline’s hand; she, amazed by the extraordinary tone
and by the fire with which he addressed her, did not know what reply to
make, but stood before him sorely embarrassed. Dufresne squeezed
violently the hand that he held in his. Adeline withdrew it at once in
dismay, and started to leave the room, but he stood in front of her and
stopped her.

“What do you want of me?” she said to him, her voice trembling with a
feeling of terror she could not explain.

“That you should listen to me, madame, that you should deign to listen
to me.”

“What have you to say to me, pray, that demands so much mystery? We
might talk quite as well in the salon.”

“No, madame, no,--here. Ah! for a long while I have been postponing this
moment; but I feel that it is impossible for me to conceal longer the
passion which consumes me; no, I am no longer able to see you, to
contemplate so many charms, without giving expression to the ardor which
devours me.”

“What are you saying to me, monsieur?”

“That I love you, that I adore you, lovely Adeline, and that you must be
mine!”

“Merciful heaven! What do I hear?”

“Learn all at last; know that from the first moment that I saw you, you
have been the object of all my thoughts, of all my desires, the goal of
all my acts; I became intimate with Madame Dolban only to obtain an
opportunity to be introduced at your house; that hope and the hope of
winning your favor some day alone prevented me from committing some
foolish extravagance between the day of your wedding and the day when I
was introduced to you. But how I suffered then, concealing from everyone
the flame which consumed me! and what torments have I not endured when I
have seen you lavishing upon my fortunate rival all those caresses which
he received with indifference, whereas a single one would have been the
height of felicity to me.”

“This is too much, monsieur; I have restrained my indignation, but I
shall no longer be able to do so, if I listen to you any more.”

“Your indignation! Wherein do I deserve it?”

“To call my husband your rival, and in return for his friendship to try
to win his wife--such conduct is shocking!”

“Such conduct is very common, and it only seems shocking to you because
you do not share my sentiments; for, if you loved me, instead of being a
monster, I should be an unhappy wretch consumed by an insurmountable
passion, suffering for a long while and concealing his agony from every
eye, even before her who is the cause of it. Such conduct then would not
seem criminal to you; so much love and constancy would arouse your pity
at least, and you would accord it to me, madame, you would listen to me
without anger, and perhaps a gentler sentiment would plead my cause in
your heart, and would help me to obtain the reward of all my attentions.
That, madame, is what you should consider. I adore you--that is my
crime; it will cease to be a crime if you share my passion; success
insures forgiveness for the most audacious enterprises, and I shall be
guilty only if you hate me.”

“Your speeches, monsieur, will never justify you in my eyes. I might
excuse your love, but not your hope of inducing me to share it. A person
is not master of his heart, I believe, but he is master of his conduct,
and yours is unworthy of a decent man----”

“Madame----”

“Never speak to me again of your love; only on that condition do I agree
to forget this conversation and to refrain from repeating it to my
husband.”

“Your husband! He wouldn’t believe you.”

“What do you say?”

“No, madame, he would never believe anything that you might say against
me. Do you suppose that I have not provided against everything? I have
obtained such control over your husband’s mind that he no longer sees
except through my eyes, no longer acts except by my will; in fact, he is
a machine, whose movements I govern at my pleasure. But tremble, if you
reject my suit, for the power which I shall exert over the weak-minded
Edouard! You will learn then to know me, and you will repent your unjust
pride; but it will be too late, for my hatred will be as active as my
love is violent.”

“Abominable man! I feel that the horror that you have inspired in me has
increased twofold, but I defy your threats, and I forbid you to come
into my presence again.”

Dufresne’s face expressed rage and irony at once; his nerves contracted,
a bitter smile played about his lips, while his eyes darted flashes of
fire. Adeline, in terror, tried to fly; he stopped her, threw his
muscular arms about her, pressed her violently to his breast, and placed
his burning lips upon his victim’s heaving breast; he was about to
proceed to the last excess, but the young woman uttered a piercing
shriek; people hurried to the spot, the sound of footsteps drew near.
Dufresne opened a window looking on the garden, jumped out and
disappeared.

Several servants and young men entered the room; they gathered about
Adeline and inquired the cause of her alarm. Her eyes wandered
distractedly about; the sight of the open window recalled all that had
passed, and she realized the necessity of concealing her emotion.

“What’s the matter, madame, what has happened to you?” was asked on all
sides.

“I don’t know,” she said, trying to calm her agitation, “I did not feel
very well, the heat made me uncomfortable. I came to this room to obtain
a breath of fresh air; but as I opened that window, a fit of
dizziness--I tried to call for help, and I had not the strength.”

The explanation seemed very plausible; they urged Madame Murville not to
return to the salon, where the intense heat might make her ill again.
Adeline had no idea of doing so; she would have been unable to endure
Dufresne’s presence. So she withdrew to her apartments, requesting
somebody to apologize for her to the rest of the company.

She asked her maid to tell Edouard that she wished to see him as soon as
he was at liberty. The servant delivered the message. But Murville paid
little heed to it. He had just lost forty louis at écarté to an
exceedingly pretty young woman, who bestowed very expressive glances
upon him, smiling at him and showing the loveliest teeth in the world;
and, accidentally, no doubt, allowed her little foot to rest upon his,
and her knee to remain between his legs. How could he help allowing
himself to be beaten by so attractive a player? She pouted so sweetly
when he refused to give her cards that it was impossible to resist her.
Edouard felt that he was subjugated; but imagine his sensations when she
asked him to wipe the perspiration from a very white back, which was
moist from dancing! He performed the service with trembling fingers; she
thanked him with a pressure of the hand, and invited him to come to see
her and to take his revenge for the game of écarté.

At five in the morning, they danced the regulation quadrille to close
the ball. They laughed and mixed the figures up and tired themselves
out; they made much noise and much dust; and then they took their leave,
one carrying away an old hat in place of the new one he had had when he
came, and which he could not find; another, minus the pretty cane which
he had taken pains to place in a dark corner; very fortunate when the
mackintosh or overcoat or cloak had not been changed.

Advice to young men who frequent large parties: Do not carry valuable
canes, and wear nothing better than an old hat to leave in the reception
room, unless you choose to keep it in your hand all the time, as many
people do nowadays to avoid the slight vexation which we have just
mentioned.

Edouard, with a full heart and an empty purse, went to his room,
engrossed by the pretty woman with whom he had played écarté, and
without a thought for his own wife, who had long been waiting for him in
vain.



XVIII

FOLLY.--BLINDNESS.--WEAKNESS


Adeline had risen during the night, being anxious concerning her
husband; but on learning that he had gone to his apartment very late,
she decided not to disturb his rest, and waited until he should be awake
to tell him what had taken place in the evening between herself and
Dufresne, whom she hoped to make known to him as he really was.

Edouard woke and went downstairs to breakfast. Adeline was waiting for
him; she reproached him gently for his indifference of the night before;
but he hardly listened to her; he was distraught, preoccupied, and
complained of a violent headache which he hoped to get rid of by going
out. Adeline detained him, informing him that she had something of great
importance to say. Amazed by his wife’s tone, Edouard instinctively
resumed his seat and requested her to hurry because business required
his attention. The servants were dismissed and Adeline repeated to her
husband her conversation with Dufresne on the previous evening.

Edouard listened at first with indifference; but soon displeasure and
impatience were depicted upon his face.

“Well, my dear,” said Adeline, after she had told him everything, “what
do you think now of your sincere friend?”

“I think--I think that you make a crime of a trifle, and a matter of
importance of something that amounts to nothing.”

“What! my dear----”

“Certainly; a declaration to a woman! mon Dieu! is that such a rare
thing, for heaven’s sake, a thing for which it is necessary to make so
much fuss? Every day pretty women receive declarations addressed to them
in jest, to which they attach no more importance than they deserve. But
you take fright at a word! a simple compliment seems to you an attempt
at seduction! you shouldn’t take things so! But I know you: you don’t
like--more than that, you detest Dufresne. For a long time you have been
trying to ruin him in my estimation, and you seize this pretext for
accomplishing your purpose; but I warn you, madame, that you will not
succeed.”

“Is it possible, monsieur? do you accuse me, do you suspect me of being
capable of deceiving you?”

“Or of being deceived? How do you know that Dufresne did not talk all
that nonsense to you to make sport of you, and to be revenged for your
hatred, which he perceives very plainly?”

“Was it for that purpose too that he tried to carry his audacity so far
as to kiss me?”

“Kiss you! Well, I admit that he was wrong to kiss you against your
will, and I shall scold him for it. But a kiss is not a thing which
should irritate you to this point!”

“You do not intend then, monsieur, to cease to receive Monsieur Dufresne
in your house?”

“Most assuredly, madame, I do not intend to make myself unhappy, to make
myself ridiculous, and to cause people to point their fingers at me as a
jealous husband, simply because somebody ventured to embrace you in
jest! That would be utterly absurd! But calm yourself, I will forbid
Dufresne to mention his passion to you again!”

“What, Edouard, you laugh! You think so little of what I have told you?”

“I do what it is my duty to do, and I know how to behave.”

“Alas! you no longer love me, I see. Formerly you were more jealous.”

“One may love without being jealous; and besides--but it is getting
late, and I have business that I must attend to.”

“What about that rich shipowner for whom you gave the party?”

“He was not able to come.”

“So all your expense was useless?”

“Useless! No, indeed; I was very warmly congratulated on my party. It
will do me a great deal of good in the sequel, and I am delighted that I
gave it.--I must leave you, for I have not a moment of my own.”

Edouard hurried away to Dufresne. That gentleman seemed a little
disturbed at sight of him, but he soon recovered himself; it was not to
talk about what his wife had told him that Murville was so eager to be
with him, but to talk about the lovely woman with whom he had played
écarté the night before, to find out who she was and what position she
held in society; in a word, it was to dilate without reserve upon
desires and hopes which he did not shrink from disclosing to his friend.

Dufresne gratified Edouard’s curiosity by informing him that Madame de
Géran was the widow of a general, that she was absolutely her own
mistress, that she had some means but possessed the art of spending
money rapidly, because she was exceedingly fond of pleasure. Dufresne
took pains to add that many men paid court to the young widow, but that
she received their homage with indifference, treated love as a joke and
made sport of the flames she kindled, and that her conquest seemed to
be difficult of accomplishment.

All that he learned added to Edouard’s newly-born passion. What joy to
carry off the palm from so many rivals,--and Madame de Géran had looked
at him and treated him in such a way as to justify him in forming hopes.
The fact was that she had turned his head; and Dufresne, who had no
difficulty in reading the weak and fickle Murville’s heart, seized the
opportunity to broach the subject of his interview with Adeline, taking
pains to represent the thing as a mere pleasantry, which he did not
expect would be so severely reprehended.

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Edouard; “my wife spoke to me about it this
morning.”

“Ah! she told you----”

“That you were a monster, a villain, a false friend!”

“Indeed!”

“And much more too! for I warn you that she is furiously angry with you.
But never fear--I will pacify her; she will see that she took the thing
in the wrong way when she learns that you mentioned it first.”

“I am truly sorry that I amused myself by--But after all, your wife is a
very strange woman!”

“It’s her mother, Madame Germeuil, who has stuffed her head with
romantic ideas.”

“Certainly no one would ever think that she was educated in Paris.”

“Oh! she will have to form herself in good society. Would you believe
that she expressed a purpose not to receive you again?”

“If my presence is unpleasant to Madame Murville, I shall be careful to
avoid her.”

“Nonsense! that is just what I don’t propose to have, or I shall be
angry with you. I mean that you shall come to the house more than ever;
that is my desire and it must suffice. Are you not friendly enough to me
to overlook my wife’s eccentric character?”

“Oh! my attachment to you has no bounds!”

“Dear Dufresne!--Look you, to prove how much confidence I have in you,
and how little heed I pay to my wife’s fairy tales, I am going to
confide a secret to you, and I rely on your friendship to help me in the
matter.”

“I am entirely devoted to you--speak.”

“My friend, I love, I adore, I am mad over Madame de Géran.”

“Is it possible? Why, you have only known her since last night.”

“That is long enough to make me love her.--What would you have--we
cannot control those things. It’s a caprice, a weakness, whatever you
choose to call it! But I have lost my head.”

“You, Murville--such a reasonable man! and married, too!”

“Oh! my dear fellow, are married men any more virtuous than bachelors?
You know very well that the contrary is true; a man can’t stick to his
wife forever.”

“If your wife should think as you do!”

“Oh! so far as that is concerned, I am not alarmed; my wife is virtue
personified, and she does no more than her duty; for a woman--that’s a
very different matter.”

“As to the consequences, yes; but morally, and even according to the law
of nature, I consider that the fault is absolutely identical.”

“You are joking! At all events, aren’t the consequences everything? Is
the absurdity of it the same? Will any one ever laugh at a wife whose
husband has mistresses? No, nothing is ever said then, because it is
considered a very common occurrence; but if a wife makes her husband a
cuckold----”

“That is a very common occurrence too.”

“For all that, people laugh at the poor husband and point their fingers
at him!--Besides, what harm can come of the husband’s infidelity? None
at all. The fair ones who have yielded to him won’t go about boasting of
it! With a woman it is just the opposite; her lovers always ruin her
reputation, either by their words, or by their actions, which never
escape the eyes of curiosity and calumny. In fact, a woman who finds her
husband in another woman’s arms can only complain and weep; while a man
who surprises his wife in _flagrante delicto_ has a right to punish the
culprit; so you see, my dear fellow, that the offence is not the same,
as the punishment is different.”

“I see that it was we men who made the laws, and that we treated
ourselves very well.”

“Are you going to preach to me too? Really, Dufresne, you are almost as
savagely virtuous as my wife.”

“No, my dear fellow, you don’t know me yet. But before assisting you, I
wanted to find out whether you had fully weighed the consequences of
this intrigue.”

“I have weighed and calculated everything. I love Madame de Géran, and I
wish to be loved in return. I feel that there is no sacrifice of which I
am not capable to attain my object. Do you understand?”

“Oh! very well. Since your mind is made up, I will second you; but of
course you won’t reproach me for leading you on.”

“No, no! On the contrary, I beg you to assist me, and to help me to
conceal this intrigue from my wife’s eyes.”

“Don’t be alarmed--leave all that to me. I will answer for all. When
will you call on Madame de Géran?”

“This evening. They play cards there, of course?”

“Yes, and for rather high stakes.”

“The devil! The fact is that I haven’t any money. That party drained me
dry.”

“It is very easy to obtain some. Consols are at a very high premium.
Sell. They cannot fail to drop before long; then, as we shall have
speculated in something else, and you will probably be in funds, you can
buy in again. You see, it is a good thing to do from a business
standpoint.”

“True, you are right. But the consols are in my wife’s name.”

“Can’t you get her to sign by telling her that you are engaged in a
magnificent operation?”

“Oh, yes! she will sign, I am sure; she’ll sign whatever I want her to.”

“Take advantage of her compliant disposition to sell your consols; I
tell you again, they are on the point of falling, and in a few days you
will be able to buy the same amount with much less money. If it will be
any more convenient for you, I will see to the business for you.”

“You will confer a great favor on me, for I am still rather a bungler in
business, and but for you I should often be embarrassed.”

“Don’t be afraid. Act boldly. I assure you that your party last night
added immensely to your credit. If you needed thirty thousand francs,
you could easily obtain them.”

“You delight me. I will go back to my wife. Wait for me at the café; I
will be there very soon with the papers in question.”

“I will go there. Be on your guard with your wife.”

“Do you take me for a child?--I won’t say adieu, my dear Dufresne.”

Edouard hastened home and went up to Adeline’s apartment, where he found
her with her child in her arms. At sight of her husband, who was not
accustomed to come home during the day, a soothing hope made her heart
beat fast; she thought that it was love that led him back to her, and a
smile of happiness embellished her lovely features.

Edouard was speechless in her presence; he was embarrassed, he was
conscious of a painful sensation; he felt that he was guilty toward her,
but he did not choose to admit it even to himself.

“Is it you, my dear?” said Adeline in the sweetest of tones; “how happy
I am when I see you! It happens so rarely now!--Come and kiss your
daughter.”

Edouard walked mechanically toward them and kissed the child with a
distraught air, heedless of her infantile graces. He stood like one in a
dream, unable to decide how to broach the subject that had brought him
there.

“You seem distressed,” said Adeline; “is anything troubling you? For
heaven’s sake, let me share your trouble--you have no more loving, more
sincere friend than your wife.”

“I know it, my dear Adeline, but nothing is troubling me. No, I am
preoccupied, because I am thinking of a very important transaction in
which I shall make a great deal of money.”

“Always schemes, speculations--and never love, repose and happiness!”

“Oh! when we are rich--why, then--But I have a request to make of you; I
want to ask you to sign a paper--it has to do with an operation that
will be very profitable.”

“Are you certain of that, my dear?”

“Yes, perfectly certain; it was----”

Edouard was going to say that it was Dufresne who gave him that
assurance, but he reflected that that would not be the best way to
convince his wife, and he checked himself. Having taken from his desk
all the papers that he required, he drew up a document by which his wife
assented to the transfer of her consols, and with a trembling hand
presented the pen to Adeline. She, trustful and submissive, signed the
paper which he put before her, without even reading it.

“That is all right,” said Murville as he put the papers in his pocket.
“Now I must hurry to the Bourse, to conclude this important affair.”

He kissed Adeline and hurried from the room. She realized that it was
not to see her that he had come home; but her heart made excuses for
him; she believed him to be entirely engrossed by business.

“He loves nobody but me,” she said to herself; “that is the main thing.
I must forgive this love of work, and this perfectly natural desire to
enrich his wife and children.”

Poor Adeline! she did not know what use her husband proposed to make of
the money that he was in such haste to obtain.



XIX

IT WAS NOT HER FAULT


Edouard returned in triumph to Dufresne; he was the possessor of a
considerable sum of which he could dispose as he pleased, for his wife
would never ask him for an accounting, and his mother-in-law had ceased
to meddle in his affairs. Dufresne was awaiting Murville impatiently; he
was afraid that Adeline would make some objections. But when he saw the
precious papers, a smile of satisfaction played about his lips; a
sentiment which he tried to dissemble gave to his face a peculiar
expression which would have attracted the attention of anybody but
Edouard; but he did not give Dufresne time to speak; he urged him to go
at once and obtain the funds, and Dufresne made haste to gratify him,
fearing that he might change his mind.

Adeline waited in vain for her husband to return; the day passed and he
did not come. She thought that he had probably been invited to dine by
some of his new acquaintances; she tried to reconcile herself to it; but
what grieved her most was her husband’s blindness with respect to
Dufresne, and the indifference with which he had listened to her story
of the outrageous conduct of the man whom he considered his friend.
Dufresne’s threats recurred to Adeline’s memory; she thought of her
husband’s weakness of will, and she could not help shuddering as she
reflected that her happiness, her repose, and her child’s, perhaps, were
in the hands of a wicked man, who seemed to be capable of going all
lengths to gratify his passions.

It was nine o’clock in the evening; Adeline, absorbed in her
reflections, was sadly awaiting her husband’s return, when she heard a
loud knock at the street door. Soon she heard someone coming
upstairs--it was Edouard, of course. She ran to open the door; but it
was not he; one of her servants appeared, bringing a letter which a
stranger had just left at the door with an urgent request that it be
handed to madame at once. The stranger had gone away without waiting for
a reply. The servant handed the letter to his mistress and left the
room.

Adeline broke the seal; the writing was unfamiliar to her; it seemed the
work of a weak and tremulous hand; the letter was signed by Madame
Dolban.

“What can she have to write to me?” thought Adeline; “let me see.”

     “Madame:

     “I am very ill; I have been unable to leave my room for a long
     while, but I am unwilling to delay any longer to give you some most
     important advice. I am responsible for all the harm, and it is my
     place to try to repair it. I brought a man named Dufresne to your
     house. Alas! how bitterly I repent it! but at that time I believed
     him to be incapable of doing anything indelicate even. A deplorable
     passion had long made me blind, but now it is no longer possible
     for me to doubt the ghastly truth. This Dufresne is a miserable
     wretch, capable of every villainy. I have only too many proofs of
     the infamy of his conduct. He has robbed me of all that I
     possessed, but my regret for my money is less than my shame at
     having been his dupe. Gambling, debauchery, all sorts of vice are
     familiar to him, and he has the art to conceal his shocking
     passions. I dare not tell you what I know--but break off instantly
     the intimacy he has formed with your husband, or fear the worst for
     him from the advice of a monster to whom nothing is sacred.

     “WIDOW DOLBAN.”

Adeline shuddered; her heart was oppressed by secret terror; she read
the fatal letter once more, then raised her lovely tear-bedewed eyes
heavenward.

“So this is the man on whose account Edouard fell out with my mother!
this is the sort of man that his adviser, his best friend, is! O heaven!
what misery I foresee in the future! but how am I to avert it? My
husband no longer listens to me; he spurns my advice, he is deaf to my
prayers. But he could not be deaf to my tears. No, Edouard is not
hard-hearted; he loves me still, he will not spurn his Adeline. I will
implore him, in our child’s name, to cease to see a man who will lead
him on to ruin. This letter will be a sufficient proof, I trust; he will
open his eyes and sever all relations with him who has already caused me
so much unhappiness.”

These reflections allayed Adeline’s distress in some measure; fully
determined to show her husband, as soon as he should return, the letter
that she had received, she decided to sit up for him. He could not be
much longer, it was already quite late, and all she needed was a little
courage. Poor woman! if she had known how her husband was occupied,
while she, melancholy and pensive, devoured in silence the torments of
anxiety and jealousy! You who try to read the future,--how you would
deserve to be pitied if your eyes could pierce space, and if your ears
always heard the truth! Illusion was invented for the happiness of
mortals; it does them almost as much good as hope.

The young woman tried to beguile the time by making plans for the
future. She rejoiced in the approach of the season of fine weather; soon
they might return to the pretty little place in the country. She had
been so happy there in the early days of her married life that she
looked forward to finding there once more the happiness that she had not
found in Paris. Edouard would accompany her; he would have forgotten all
his plans, have given up the business that tormented him, and have
broken entirely with the perfidious Dufresne. Then nothing could disturb
their felicity. Her mother would return to live with them; little
Ermance would grow up and be educated under her parents’ eyes, learning
to love and respect them. What a delightful future! How short the time
would seem! how well it would be employed!

Adeline’s heart thrilled with the pleasure caused by the delicious
tableau which her imagination had conjured up. But the clock struck; she
glanced at it and sighed; the image of happiness vanished, the
melancholy reality returned!

Thus do the unfortunate try to deceive their suffering, to conceal their
grief from themselves. He who has lost a beloved sweetheart has her
image constantly in his thoughts; he sees her, speaks to her, lives
again with her in the past; he hears her voice, her sweet accents, her
loving confession which makes his heart beat fast with bliss; he recalls
those delicious interviews of which love bore the whole burden; he
fancies that he holds his loved one’s hands in his; he seeks her burning
lips from which he once stole the sweetest of kisses--but the illusion
vanishes; she is no longer there! Ah! what a ghastly void! what a cruel
return to life!

Adeline was agitated by all these gleams of hope and fear; twenty times
she went to her daughter’s cradle, then returned to her place at the
window and listened anxiously, intently, for the faintest sound; but
only the rumbling of an occasional carriage broke the silence of the
night. Each time that she heard that noise, Adeline’s heart beat faster.
It was her husband returning home; yes, it was he--the carriage was
coming nearer; but it passed on, it did not stop.

Adeline had watched many hours pass; the cold of the night and the
weariness caused by her lonely vigil benumbed her senses. Despite her
desire to wait for her husband, she felt that she could no longer resist
the drowsiness that oppressed her. She decided at last to go to bed; but
she placed Madame Dolban’s letter on her night table, so that she might
have it at hand in order to be able to show it to her husband as soon as
she saw him. From that priceless letter she anticipated peace of mind
and happiness. She lighted the night lamp that she used every night. She
went to bed at last--regretfully--and still tried to fight against
sleep; but fatigue triumphed over anxiety; her eyelids drooped, she fell
into a deep sleep.

Adeline had been asleep an hour; a loud noise, caused by the fall of a
chair, awoke her with a start; she opened her eyes, but could see
nothing. Her lamp was out; she made a movement to rise, but an arm
passed about her body kept her in bed and two kisses closed her mouth.
Adeline knew that her husband alone had a key to her room, that no other
than he could enter there at night; so that it was Edouard who had
returned and was in her arms.

“Oh! my dear,” she said, “I sat up for you a long, long while; I was so
anxious to see you and speak to you. If you knew! I have had a letter
from Madame Dolban, poor woman! she is very unhappy! You will find that
I was not mistaken about Dufresne--the monster! It is he who has ruined
her; he has every failing, every vice. My dear Edouard, I implore you,
do not continue your intimacy with that man--he will be your ruin! You
won’t tell me any more that my ideas are chimeras. The letter is here,
on my night table; if the lamp had not gone out, I would read it to you
now.”

Adeline was on the point of rising to light the lamp, but love detained
her in her bed. The most loving caresses, the most ardent kisses were
lavished upon her; she had recovered her husband; she yielded to his
desires, she abandoned herself to his love, shared the intense ardor
with which he was inflamed; her past sorrows were nothing more than a
dream which the most blissful ecstasy dispelled.

Pleasure is always followed by desire to rest; drunk with love and joy,
Adeline fell asleep in the arms of him who had shared her delirium. A
ray of light was shining through the window when she opened her eyes;
her heart was still palpitating with the pleasure she had enjoyed. She
turned her head to look at her sleeping husband. A shriek of horror
escaped her; she trembled, she could hardly breathe, her eyes assumed a
glassy stare, her heart ceased to beat. It was Dufresne who was by her
side; it was his breast upon which her head had rested; it was he upon
whom she had lavished her caresses; it was in his arms that she had
tasted the ecstasy, the transports of love.

The young woman’s shriek awoke Dufresne; he looked at Adeline, and a
treacherous smile, an expression of savage joy, gleamed in the eyes that
he fastened upon his victim. She seemed bereft of the power to act; she
was completely crushed. Dufresne determined to make the most of the
little time that remained; he moved nearer to her and attempted to
renew his hateful caresses. Adeline came to life again; she recovered
her strength, pushed the monster away with all her might, leaped out of
bed and wrapped her dress about her; and her resolute and haughty
expression seemed to defy him to commit a fresh outrage.

Dufresne stopped, gazed at her a moment in silence, then said with a
sneering laugh:

“What, madame! more resistance--more affectation of prudery? Really, you
must agree that, after what has taken place between us during the night,
this is mere childishness. Your pride is sadly misplaced now! Come, take
my advice; let us make peace. I assure you that your husband shall know
nothing about it. A little more or a little less will make him no more
of a cuckold! Indeed, I may as well tell you that he too is in the arms
of another; so you will have nothing to reproach yourself for.”

Dufresne walked toward Adeline, and she recoiled from him in horror. He
reached her side and attempted to satisfy his desires again. Adeline
struggled; she seemed endowed with fresh strength, and her voice,
calling Edouard’s name, rang through the apartment. Dufresne stopped and
released her; he realized that the young woman’s shrieks might be heard;
the servants might come, and that would upset all his plans. So that he
had no choice but to leave Adeline; but fierce anger blazed in the
glances that he cast at her. He ran to the table, seized Madame Dolban’s
letter and brandished it in the face of the woman who defied his wrath
and defeated his renewed attempts to outrage her.

“Here it is,” he said with an ironical smile; “here is the document of
which you hoped to make such good use. You despise, you spurn my love;
tremble before the effects of my hatred and of the revenge I will have
for your contempt. Adieu! I take with me Madame Dolban’s letter; she
will not write you any more.”



XX

THE PASSIONS TRAVEL FAST WHEN ONE DOES NOT RESIST THEM


Edouard had received from Dufresne the sum of one hundred thousand
francs; that amount was only one-half of the proceeds of the sale of the
consols; but Dufresne, who was very glad of an opportunity to retain the
other half, told Edouard that he had not sold them all, because he hoped
to dispose of the rest within a few days at a better price; and the
credulous Murville, trusting absolutely in the good faith of the man
whom he believed to be his friend, told him to complete the transaction
whenever he thought best.

Engrossed by his new passion for Madame de Géran, Edouard betook himself
to the lovely widow’s abode, neglecting for her his wife, his child and
his home. He found her whose charms excited his imagination, alone. The
soi-disant widow was in her boudoir; it was a great favor, to begin
with, to be admitted to a tête-à-tête with her. The coquette knew how to
put forth all her graces, to make the most of all her advantages, in
order to complete the conquest of the young business agent; she
accomplished her object with ease; weak people allow themselves to be
beguiled so readily! A smile, a glance makes them amorous; and in that
respect strong-minded folk often resemble their weaker brothers. A
clever woman, who is not in love, artfully delays her surrender; not
until she is certain of commanding, of governing her victim, does she
accord her favors. With a roué, a libertine, Madame de Géran would have
obtained little influence; but with a man who has never loved any woman
but his wife, a coquette is sure to make rapid progress. That is why a
wise woman should preferably marry a man who has sown his wild oats, for
he, at least, is on his guard against seduction.

It is very certain that for a woman to make a man love her it is not
always necessary that she should love him, but simply that she should
pretend to. True love makes one timid, awkward, bungling, imprudent;
how, with all these failings, can one be attractive? When one truly
loves, one loses all one’s attractions. When a girl--observe that I mean
an innocent girl--sees the man she loves enter the salon where she is
surrounded by people, she instantly becomes embarrassed, pensive,
distraught; the blood rises to her cheeks; speak to her and she answers
incoherently; she dares not raise her eyes for fear of attracting
attention; she trembles lest someone may guess what she wants; it seems
to her that all eyes are fastened on her, and that everyone knows her
secret. If two persons speak in low tones, she fancies that they are
talking about her. The slightest thing adds to her confusion. If she is
musical and is escorted to the piano, her fingers get in one another’s
way and cannot touch the keys correctly. Does she sing? her voice
trembles, she is afraid of putting too much meaning into the words which
refer to love. Does she dance? she is afraid to dance with the man she
adores; she despairs in secret if he dances with another.--Poor child!
if you were not in love, or if he were not there you would recover your
charm, your good spirits; you would flirt perhaps, but you would be much
more attractive; and your kind girl friends would not laugh among
themselves at your awkwardness and your stupidity.

In the case of a young man it is even worse, for the timidity and
embarrassment which take possession of a young woman always give her a
certain air of innocence and candor, which induces one to excuse her
awkwardness. But a lovelorn man who sits and sulks in a corner of the
salon if the woman he loves does not look at him fondly enough, who
sighs without speaking when he is seated beside his charmer; who does
not know what to say when an opportunity presents itself to declare his
flame: such a man, it must be confessed, is far from attractive; he is
laughed at in society, and she who is the cause of his blunders is often
the first to make fun of him. Whereas a giddy youngster, who is not in
love, who has no feeling; who takes pleasure in tormenting women, who
turns sentiment into ridicule and constancy into a subject of
derision--a ne’er-do-well, in a word--easily makes himself master of a
heart and triumphs in a day over her for whom the shrinking and
sensitive lover has sighed in vain for many years! To be sure, the
ne’er-do-well is very lively, very pushing, very enterprising in a
tête-à-tête! while the poor lover--The old song is quite right:

“Ah! how stupid is the man who’s in love!”

But I see many ladies fly into a rage with me and exclaim:

“What, monsieur l’auteur, you advise men not to love us sincerely? Why,
that is frightful! You have outrageous principles!”

Calm yourselves, mesdames, for heaven’s sake! it must be that I did not
explain my meaning clearly; I do advise men not to love you awkwardly,
foolishly,--that is all; therein you yourselves will agree that I am
right. A lover who can do nothing but sigh is a very uninteresting
creature. I would have men make love to you with spirit and wit, when
they have any; with gayety, because that adds to the charms of love;
with ardor, because that does not displease you, and because life is not
everlasting, and when two people suit each other, I do not see the
necessity of waiting a century before telling each other so; seeing that
it is as well to be happy to-day as to-morrow.

But let us drop the metaphysics of love, and return to Edouard, who was
very much in love with a woman who had never been in love with anybody,
and who was not likely to begin with him, whom she desired to make her
slave, and whom, for that reason, she did not propose to love; for we do
not put chains on the person we love, but we wear them together.

A rich and passionate young man like Edouard was a windfall to Madame de
Géran, who, whatever Dufresne might say, was not so cruel as she chose
to appear. If Edouard had taken the trouble to make inquiries concerning
the young widow, he would have learned that his divinity had a more than
equivocal reputation; that she had had intimate liaisons with a great
Russian noble, a stout baronet, a contractor and a dealer in cashmere
shawls; that her house was the rendezvous of young rakes, schemers and
gamblers; and lastly, that no one had ever found at the Ministry of War
the name of the general whose widow she claimed to be.

Edouard knew nothing of all this. He believed that he possessed a woman
who gave herself to him by virtue of the bond of sympathy that drew them
together; he was as proud as a peacock over a triumph which twenty
other men had won before him; and he went into ecstasies over charms
which he considered far superior to his wife’s; for a mistress always
has a softer skin, a firmer breast and a smaller foot than a wife; which
is not true three-fourths of the time; but the wives take their revenge
by allowing connoisseurs to admire them.

So Edouard passed the day caressing the soft skin, the firm breast and
the tiny foot of Madame de Géran, who allowed him to do as he chose
because she could not resist the force of her love and the voice of her
heart; at all events, that is what she told him as she received his
caresses. Time passes very swiftly in such pleasant occupation. Edouard
entirely forgot his house and his business. He knew that night had
arrived only by the appearance of a dozen or more persons, habitués of
the fascinating widow’s house, who came there every evening to play
cards.

Edouard would have taken his leave, but Madame de Géran objected; she
desired to keep him all the evening; moreover she owed him his revenge
at écarté. Edouard remained and took his seat at a card table opposite
his beloved, who played écarté with bewitching grace, as he had good
reason to know.

Dufresne appeared at Madame de Géran’s during the evening; he seemed
surprised to find his friend there. Edouard was then playing with a man
whom he did not know. His dear widow had abandoned the game because she
played with extraordinary good luck, and did not choose, she said, to
take advantage of Murville’s unlucky vein. He was no more fortunate
however with the little man who had taken her seat; he lost constantly,
but would not stop playing, because he hoped to recoup.

Dufresne stood facing Edouard and scrutinized him in silence. A secret
satisfaction was reflected on his features; he detected in his friend
all the symptoms of a passion which, when once fully aroused, would know
no bounds. At sight of Murville’s discomposed face, his swollen veins,
his heavy breathing, it was easy to judge of the effect that the game
produced on him. But, recalling the fact that the imprudent young man
was the bearer of a considerable sum, and as he did not propose that it
should pass into the hands of another, Dufresne went to Edouard and
advised him in an undertone not to play any more. But his advice was not
heeded; Murville was already experiencing the ascendancy of the fatal
passion to which he had yielded; moreover, obstinacy and vanity
prevented him from leaving the field.

“At all events,” said Dufresne, “if you insist on continuing to play,
give me your wallet and what it still contains; you have enough money in
front of you, especially as you are playing in hard luck; do not take
the risk of losing such a large amount in one evening.”

From anybody else the counsel would not have been listened to; but
Dufresne had acquired such empire over Murville that he unhesitatingly
handed him his wallet, from which he had already taken several bank
notes.

“Here,” he said in a broken voice, trying to conceal the keen emotion
caused by the loss of his money, “take it. And here is the key to my
apartment; go there and wait for me.”

Dufresne did not wait to have this suggestion repeated. He went to
Murville’s during the evening; but the servants were so accustomed to
seeing him that they paid no attention to him. He waited for Edouard far
into the night, alone in his room; and at last, when he found that he
did not return, he conceived the audacious scheme of stealing into
Adeline’s bedroom when she was asleep. It was easy for him to do, as he
had noticed where the key was kept; and we have seen how he carried out
his undertaking.

As for Edouard, luck was not favorable to him. He lost all the money
that he had retained, and three thousand francs more on credit. To
console him, Madame de Géran kept him alone to supper. She assured him
that Chevalier Desfleurets, who had won his money, was a most honorable
man who would give him his revenge whenever he wished and that, as luck
must turn in the end, he might expect to recover his losses sooner or
later. Such convincing arguments caused Edouard to forget the petty loss
he had sustained. He passed the night with his fair enslaver, who
intoxicated him with love and pleasure; and it was very late when he
fell asleep in her arms. He woke the next morning, poorer by ten
thousand francs; that was rather a high price to pay for the favors he
had obtained; but love does not calculate.



XXI

THE ROULETTE TABLE


Adeline remained for a long time crushed beneath the burden of her
suffering; and several hours after Dufresne’s departure, she was still
sitting, half naked, in a corner of her room, having to cover her only
the clothes which she had hurriedly seized, and which she still held
pressed against her breast.

It was broad daylight; the servants were going and coming in the house.
Adeline arose at last and dressed herself mechanically; then sank back
on the chair she had left; she no longer had any plans, desires, or
hopes; she suffered, but she had ceased to think.

There came a light tap at her door; she roused herself from her
depression, recalled what had happened, and awoke once more to the
consciousness of her misery. She started to open the door, but paused
near the threshold, detained by a sudden thought: suppose it were her
husband! She felt that she could not endure his glance! she thought that
he would read her shame upon her brow! Poor Adeline! you were not guilty
and yet you trembled. What a contrast to what we see every day in
society!

She heard a voice; it was her maid’s, asking her mistress if she might
come in. Adeline took courage and opened the door.

“I beg pardon, madame,” said the servant, “but I was anxious about your
health; it is very late, but you have not rung for me and you did not
come down to breakfast.”

“Is it late, Marie? Has Monsieur Murville come in?”

“Yes, madame, monsieur came in a little while ago; he went to his room
for a moment, then went right away again.”

“He has gone out, you say?”

“Yes, madame.”

Adeline breathed more freely; she felt less agitated; for now she
dreaded the presence of the man for whom she had waited impatiently a
few hours before.

Marie glanced at her mistress; she saw that she was pale and changed,
and she sighed and pitied her; she thought that her husband’s conduct
was the cause of Madame Murville’s grief. Servants are the first to
criticise their masters’ conduct; they see everything, nothing escapes
them; no man is a hero to his valet, and very few husbands are faithful
in their servants’ eyes.

“Was madame sick in the night?” asked Marie at last in an undertone.

“No, no, I haven’t been sick,” replied Adeline, blushing; then she hid
her face in her handkerchief and tried to restrain her sobs.

“Pardi!” rejoined the kind-hearted Marie, “madame does very wrong to
grieve like this. Mon Dieu! husbands all act the same way; they seem to
have a sort of rage for doing the town! You can’t keep them from it. But
they get over it; and madame is so good that----”

“Leave me.”

The domestic was about to go away, but Adeline recalled her.

“Marie, did anybody come to the house last night?”

“Did anybody come--last night!” and the maid looked at her mistress in
amazement, for she could not understand her question.

“Yes, did you hear anyone knock? Was there any noise?”

“If anybody knocked at night, it couldn’t be anybody but monsieur, but
he did not come in; we were not disturbed, thank God! And everybody
slept soundly; that isn’t surprising after the hurly-burly of the night
before last; we were tired out.”

Adeline dismissed her maid, feeling a little more tranquil; she was
certain at all events that her dishonor was a secret; she went to her
little Ermance; she took her in her arms, and sought consolation with
her; a voice within told her that she was not to blame; she felt that it
was true, and recovered a little courage. Intent alone constitutes the
crime, and Adeline felt the most violent hatred for Dufresne; she
nourished that sentiment with delight; it seemed to her that the more
horror she felt for him, the less guilty she was in her own eyes.

But a crushing thought came to her mind; she remembered Dufresne’s last
words: Edouard loved another woman. It was in the arms of a woman that
he had passed that wretched night; he had come home and had not thought
of seeking her; it was all over; he had forgotten her, he was
unfaithful. That certainty filled the cup of poor Adeline’s despair; it
took away her last hope of happiness.

Still bewildered by the day and night that he had passed, Edouard had
left Madame de Géran’s house to return home; but a sense of shame, a
secret feeling of remorse prevented him from going to his wife. In vain
does a man make excuses for himself, unless he has long been addicted to
all forms of excess, and accustomed to defy public opinion--he does not
commit a culpable act without feeling an inward dissatisfaction, without
hearing the reproofs of his conscience. Edouard was still too unused to
the paths of vice not to feel the remorse which follows a first sin. A
night passed away from home, his wife neglected, a large sum of money
lost at play in two days! What fruitful subjects for reflections!
Edouard did as most men do who have just committed some foolish act;
instead of determining to be more prudent and more orderly in the
future, he sought to forget himself, and abandoned himself more ardently
than ever to his passions; like those poor wretches who drown themselves
for fear the world’s end is at hand.

With Dufresne, Edouard was sure of finding distraction. So it was to his
lodgings that he betook himself. Dufresne was alone, absorbed in deep
thought. For the first time Murville began to use the familiar form of
address; he felt more at his ease with him since he had ceased to be
happy in his own family. He shared Dufresne’s principles and his way of
looking at things to the full, so that all ceremony was naturally
banished between two friends so closely united. Edouard threw himself
into a chair and looked at Dufresne, who waited for him to speak first.

“Here I am, my dear fellow; I expected to find you at my house.”

“I went there last evening; but as you didn’t return and I was tired of
waiting, I came away.”

“Faith! it is quite as well that you did. You would have waited in vain.
I passed the night at Madame de Géran’s. You understand me?”

“Yes, perfectly. I congratulate you; you could not be more fortunate.
That woman adores you!”

“Oh! she is mad over me!--that’s the word; she didn’t want me to leave
her this morning; I had difficulty in tearing myself from her arms.”

“Be careful; Madame de Géran has intense passions, a fiery brain, an
exalted imagination! She is capable of dogging your steps all the time.”

“You enchant me! I like such women!”

“But suppose your wife should discover it?”

“Bah! she is such an indolent creature! Her way of loving doesn’t
resemble Madame de Géran’s in the least.”

“If I dared give you some advice----”

“Speak; but no more of the formal mode of address between us, my dear
Dufresne. Let us banish ceremony.”

“With all my heart.”

“You were saying----”

“If you take my advice, you will send your wife into the country, in
order to be more free.”

“Parbleu! that is an excellent idea of yours! In truth, she talks to me
every day about the fields and meadows and green grass. I will send her
to pasture, and I will remain in Paris.”

“But you don’t mention your game of cards with Chevalier Desfleurets;
did you recoup your losses?”

“No; on the contrary, I played in the most extraordinary luck; I lost
continually.--By the way, that reminds me that I owe him three thousand
francs, and that I promised to give them to him this morning.”

“Gambling debts are sacred; you must pay up.”

“That is what I propose to do. I made an appointment with him at the
Palais-Royal, at number 9; does he live there?”

“Ha! ha! ha! how ignorant you are, my dear Murville! Don’t you know that
number nine is an _academy_, a roulette establishment?”

“What! the chevalier frequents a roulette establishment?”

“Why not? You will see the most fashionable people there; many nobles
who try their hardest to win the money of plebeians, and worthy
bourgeois, who are delighted to play with a chevalier or a viscount; but
always the utmost decency and good-breeding; no disturbance! I assure
you that more than one society gambler might take lessons in deportment
at the academy; people lose their money there without whining; they
swear only under their breath; in short, everything there is most
agreeable.”

“Parbleu! I am curious to see the place; but I thought that a business
man ought not to show himself in such places; I have been told that it
was very injurious to the reputation.”

“You have been misinformed; and the proof is that you will see many
merchants, business agents, brokers, commission merchants there; it is a
very respectable assemblage; the rendezvous of soldiers, foreigners, and
great noblemen travelling incognito; and the police see to it that none
of the riffraff gets in; they leave number 113 to the workmen, the
apprentices, and the petty tradesmen, because those good people must
enjoy themselves also; but number 9 is almost as respectable as
Frascati’s.”

“According to that, I may go there without fear.”

“You cannot fail to find Desfleurets there; he is there from the time it
opens till the dinner hour, and indeed he does not always go out for
dinner. He sits at the green table, pricking cards. For ten years he has
been seeking a _martingale_ certain to make his fortune; and he declares
that he will have it before long, and then he will tell it to all his
acquaintances. If one could find that, on my word, it would be
delightful; one would no longer need to worry about anything; we would
enjoy ourselves and lead the gayest lives imaginable.”

“Do you think that it is possible?”

“Why, certainly! More extraordinary things have been seen; examples are
plentiful. Look you, between ourselves, I know more than twenty people,
who hold an excellent position in society, who spend a great deal of
money, follow the fashions, deny themselves nothing, and who live solely
by gambling; listen to a favorite author:

    “’Tis play brings many lives of ease--
    As hosts of cabbies, chairmen; add to these
    The lombard keen, with faded gems supplied
    Which every day sees on new fingers tried,
    And Gascons loud who sup at game-house board,
    Unribboned knights, and misses all ignored
    Who, save for lansquenet and gains quite sly,
    Their virtue weak would market far from high!”

“You surprise me; I would not have believed it, for it is always a
matter of chance.”

“Oh! my dear fellow, there is no such thing as chance for the man who
chooses to reason coolly, to reckon the chances, the series of numbers
and the probabilities. However, what I am saying is not meant to induce
you to play; you are not lucky, and you had much better hold on to
something solid.”

“By the way, what about business?”

“Absolute stagnation; we must wait.”

“All right. Ah! my dear Dufresne, if you should find a reliable
martingale, what sport we would have while my wife is in the country!”

“Nonsense! take my advice and think no more about that! It is mere
folly, a delusion.--I must leave you.”

“We shall meet this evening.”

“Where?”

“Parbleu! at Madame de Géran’s.”

Dufresne and Edouard parted; the former perfectly certain of the effect
which his remarks had produced upon the feeble brain of Adeline’s
husband, and the latter dreaming only of roulette and martingales, and
already forming the most extravagant projects.

It was in this frame of mind that Edouard sought the place mentioned by
the chevalier; he entered and walked through several rooms, until at
last he reached one where a number of gamblers were assembled around a
roulette table. He felt the blood mount to his cheeks, and he tried to
conceal his embarrassment and to assume the air of an habitué of the
game. Chevalier Desfleurets spied him; he rose, and ran toward him, and
forgot to prick his card, he was in such haste to receive the three
thousand francs. Edouard at once paid his debt; the chevalier was
delighted with his debtor’s promptitude, and he invited him to sit down
for a moment beside him. Edouard hesitated; he looked uneasily about
him, fearing to meet someone whom he knew. He did in fact see several
business agents whom he had met with Dufresne, and some other persons
who had come to his party. But they all seemed wholly engrossed by the
green cloth, and paid no attention to him. The chevalier led him, he
allowed himself to be led, and in a moment he was seated at the roulette
table.

Desfleurets took up his cards and began to prick again, after having
inquired of a tall, lean man in a nut-colored coat, what numbers had
come out. The tall man glanced angrily at him, coughed, spat, blew his
nose, made a grimace, clenched his fists, and did not reply.

“He is a crank,” said the chevalier to Edouard, in an undertone; “he
pricks his card three hours before risking his five-franc piece, and he
almost always waits too long. He was watching the red zero, and I will
wager that it came out before he bet on it. That man will never know the
way to gamble; he is too much of a coward!”

Edouard looked on and listened with astonishment to what was taking
place before him for the first time; for before his marriage he had
never chosen to enter a gambling house, being prudent enough then to
distrust his own weakness. It is only when one is certain not to yield
to temptation, when one experiences for games of chance the horror which
they should inspire in every sensible man, that one can safely enter a
gambling hell. What a vast field for watching and studying the effects
of that deplorable passion! The result of one’s reflections is
melancholy, but it teaches a useful lesson, and a gambling house is the
best place for a young man to correct himself of that fatal taste, if,
instead of abandoning himself to the passion that leads him thither, he
could examine coolly what is taking place about him.

What vertigo has seized upon those unhappy wretches, who crowd about the
table and devour with their eyes the heaps of silver and gold, and the
bank notes spread out before the croupiers? They do not see that all
that money is there only to allure them, to lead them on; they say to
themselves: “This one wins, that one goes away with his pockets full;
why should not we be as fortunate as they?”--Ah! even if they should,
would the money won in a gambling hell ever serve to enrich a family, to
support a wife; to endow a daughter, to help the unfortunate? No, the
gambler’s heart is hard and unfeeling, his mind is sordid and debased by
the passion which dominates it. If they win to-day, they will play again
to-morrow, until they can no longer procure aught to satisfy the
insatiable greed which draws them to the fatal table. If they return
home with their pockets filled with gold, do not imagine that they will
be more generous with their families. Their wives are ill-clad, their
children lack everything, creditors besiege their door; but they will
give nothing, they will pay nobody, they will laugh at the threats of
those whose wages they hold back, and will be indifferent to the voice
of nature. Soon they will lose the money that a lucky chance caused them
to win, and then woe to the poor creatures that surround them! it is
upon them that they vent their rage, which they do not dare to display
before strangers. It is in their own homes that they abandon themselves
to anger, to brutality, even to the last excesses. They must have money;
they seize upon everything that can still produce it; their children’s
last garments are sold, the result of a day’s work disappears in a
second upon a color or a number. Then they glare darkly about them,
despair is depicted upon all their features; they gaze in frenzy at that
gold which they cannot possess, and at the croupiers, who observe their
despair with the coldest indifference. Then the guiltiest desires and
the basest villainy torment their frantic imagination; they covet their
neighbors’ money; they put out their hand toward it, and often, impelled
by the cruel passion which destroys their wits, they commit the most
shameful crimes. Such examples are only too common; gambling has three
results, but they are inevitable: it leads either to suicide, to the
poor-house or to the stool of repentance.

Edouard did not indulge in these reflections, unfortunately for him. He
watched the game, and after he had mastered its principles, he placed a
twenty-franc piece on the red; that color came out nine times in
succession; and as Edouard had left his stake each time, he won in five
minutes ten thousand two hundred and forty francs. Chevalier
Desfleurets, leaping up and down on his chair in amazement at the sight
of such extraordinary good-fortune, advised Murville in a whisper to
stop there for the time, because, according to the probabilities and the
prickings on his card, the black could not fail to come out next. The
chevalier was very pleased to see the young man win, for he expected to
meet him at Madame de Géran’s, and as he played very badly at écarté and
paid very promptly, it was very satisfactory to know that he was in
funds.

Edouard did not care about probabilities, but he was conscious of a
great void in his stomach; for the occupation with which his new
conquest had provided him all night made him feel the necessity of
renewing his strength. So he rose and left the table, promising the
chevalier to play with him that evening.

At that moment the ball stopped in a compartment, and, contrary to
Desfleurets’s expectations, it rested on the red. Edouard was terribly
vexed that he had left the game so soon, but he promised to make up for
it at the first opportunity. The tall man in the nut-colored coat, who
had overheard the advice which the chevalier had given Edouard, uttered
a vulgar oath when he saw the red come out; whereat Murville was
slightly astonished, in view of the fact that Dufresne had emphasized
the extreme good breeding which prevailed in that establishment; but he
stuffed his gold in his pockets none the less, and left the place,
radiant because of his good luck.

He turned his steps homeward; on the way he thought of his wife; she
must be very anxious, and very angry with him; she had not seen him
since the day before. He felt greatly embarrassed about speaking to her,
but he decided to go to her, and, after taking his money to his office,
where he found his clerk asleep over the _Moniteur_, Edouard went up to
his wife’s apartment.

Despite the indifference which Edouard had felt for his wife for some
time past, he was moved when he saw the change which had taken place in
her whole person since the day before. Adeline was pale and depressed;
her swollen, red eyes were still full of tears; every feature bore the
mark of the most intense suffering. Edouard had no doubt that his long
absence was the cause of his wife’s grief; so he approached her and
tried to find some excuses to palliate his conduct.

“Perhaps you sat up for me last night; no doubt you were anxious; but I
was detained against my will at a party where there was card playing; I
was winning, and I could not decently leave.”

“You are the master of your actions, monsieur,” replied Adeline, without
looking up at her husband; “you would be very foolish to put yourself
out for me.”

Edouard did not expect to find such submission; he dreaded reproaches,
complaints and tears; but Adeline did not say another word; she seemed
resigned, she sighed and held her peace. This behavior produced more
effect on her husband’s heart than outcries and remonstrances; he felt
touched; he was on the point of falling at his wife’s feet and asking
her pardon for his misdeed; but Madame de Géran’s image presented itself
to his mind and changed all his sensations; he repelled a sentimentality
too vulgar for a man of fashion, and returned to his new plans.

“Madame, you have expressed a wish to return to the country; the summer
is advancing and you must take advantage of it. Moreover, I believe that
it will be an excellent thing for our child. I advise you to start at
once. I cannot go with you now, for some important matters keep me in
Paris; but I hope to come to see you often.”

“Very well, monsieur; I will make all necessary preparations for going
away and for my stay in the country, where I shall remain until I
receive your orders to return.”

“On my honor,” said Edouard to himself, “my wife is charming! such
obedience! It is altogether extraordinary.”

He took Adeline’s hand and pressed it lightly; and paying no heed to the
trembling of that once cherished hand, he imprinted a very cold kiss
upon it, and hurried away with the rapidity of a schoolboy when he hears
the bell ring for recess.

“He wants me to go away,” said Adeline to herself when she was alone;
“my presence embarrasses him. Well, we will go. What does it matter to
me now in what part of the world I live, since I shall find happiness
nowhere? I have lost my husband’s love, I have lost honor and repose of
mind; I will go away and conceal my melancholy existence; for my
daughter’s sake only do I desire to preserve it, and I will devote it
entirely to her. Poor child! What would become of you if you should lose
me?”

Adeline embraced her daughter; only by reminding herself that she was a
mother could she succeed in reviving her vanishing courage. She made
preparations for her departure for Villeneuve-Saint-Georges; she would
have been glad to induce her mother to accompany her; but Mamma Germeuil
cared very little for the country; she had her own habits, her
acquaintances in Paris, and old age always grows selfish; she felt that
she had but few pleasures left to enjoy, and she did not care to
sacrifice any of them.

A week was sufficient for Adeline to prepare all that was necessary for
her and her daughter in the country. At the end of that time, during
which she caught a glimpse of her husband at rare intervals, she
prepared to start. But before taking her leave, she determined to make a
last effort, not to recover her husband’s love, for she well knew that
that sentiment cannot be commanded, but to show him Dufresne as he
really was. Edouard did not listen to her and refused to believe her
when she mentioned the villain who was leading him on to his ruin; but
Adeline thought of Madame Dolban; she thought that she would not refuse
to write Murville another letter, wherein she would describe in detail
the wickedness of the man whom he called his friend.

It was for Edouard’s honor and his good name that Adeline took this last
step, which could not restore her happiness but would reassure her
concerning the future of her husband.

The young wife went at once to Madame Dolban’s house and asked the
concierge if she could see her.

“You come too late, madame,” the man replied; “Madame Dolban died three
days ago!”

“She is dead! Why, she wrote to me only nine days ago!”

“Oh! mon Dieu! that’s the way things go in this world! A severe attack
of fever, and then nervous collapse, and I don’t know what else. It
carried her off right away.”

“All is lost,” said Adeline as she turned away; “there is no hope now of
convincing Edouard. Dufresne triumphs. He will drag him to his
destruction!”

Discouraged by this fresh disappointment, the griefstricken Adeline made
haste to leave Paris; she started with her daughter for
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, and as she sat in the carriage, with none but
her child to witness her grief, she thought of the difference between
that journey and the journey of the preceding year, and she wept over
the rapidity with which her happiness had vanished.



XXII

THE SCHEMERS.--THE GAMBLERS.--THE SWINDLERS


Rid of his wife’s presence, the sight of whom was still disturbing to
his conscience, Edouard abandoned himself without restraint to
Dufresne’s advice, to his love for Madame de Géran, and to his passion
for gambling.

Dufresne had kept half of the sum produced by the sale of the consols.
He had always intended to appropriate a portion of Edouard’s fortune,
upon whose purse he had already been drawing for some time, because, as
he said, business was not good. But Dufresne added to all his other
vices that of gambling, and the sum that he kept was speedily lost in
the gulf in which he had, in a very short time, squandered Madame
Dolban’s fortune.

Edouard passed a large part of his days in the academies, and his nights
with Madame de Géran, at whose house there was gambling of the wildest
sort. People reasonably well dressed, but whose faces denoted the vilest
sort of characters, resorted every evening to the house of the general’s
widow, where they were certain to find Monsieur Murville and some other
dupes, over whom the schemers and kept women disputed.

But Madame de Géran did not lose sight of her lover; she did not propose
that her slave should escape her; she was an adept at working all the
springs of coquetry; all sorts of stratagems, all methods were employed
to bewilder and blind a man who believed himself to be adored, and who
made every conceivable sacrifice to gratify the wishes of his mistress.

Madame de Géran led her lovers a rapid pace: cards, theatres, dinners,
drives, select parties, dresses, shawls, jewels, suppers, love,
caresses!--only with the aid of all these could one rely even upon
ostensible fidelity from her. But it must be confessed too, that amid
all these diversions, Edouard had not a moment to himself; he did not
even find time to be bored; and that is rarely the case when one is
surfeited with everything.

But luck had ceased to be favorable to him. After winning at roulette
several times in succession, he experienced the inconstancy of fortune
and lost considerable sums. Instead of stopping, he persisted
obstinately in going on; that is the inevitable result of a first gain,
which acts as a bait to people who are beginning to frequent gambling
hells; so that the bankers watch with a smile the gambler who goes out
with his pockets full of gold, feeling very sure that the next day the
unfortunate wretch will lose twice what he has won.

    “S’il est quelque joueur qui vive de son gain,
     On en voit tous les jours mille mourir de faim.”[C]

[C]

    If some gamblers there be who live by their gains,
    We see thousands who but starve for their pains.


After trying trente-et-un, dice and roulette, and after losing twenty
thousand francs in an hour, the last remnant of the sum which Dufresne
had handed him before his wife’s departure, Edouard returned to his
house, gloomy and anxious; he scolded his servants and talked roughly to
everybody without reason; but he felt the need of venting a part of his
ill-humor upon his people. He entered his office, where he found the
clerk asleep on his desk; he shook him roughly.

“What are you doing here? Is this the way you attend to your work?”

The young man yawned, stretched his arms, rubbed his eyes, and gazed at
his employer, who was pacing the floor of the office.

“Well! do you hear me, monsieur? Why aren’t you at work?”

“Why, monsieur, you know very well that I haven’t any.”

“Why aren’t you writing circulars for the provinces?”

“Monsieur knows too that we sent several of his circulars to the same
people, and they haven’t answered.”

“You’re a fool! You don’t know how to manage an affair. And what about
that house that someone wanted to buy?”

“Monsieur, the person came three times to obtain information, but he
didn’t find you.”

“You ought to have given it to him!”

“But, monsieur, I knew nothing about it.”

“And that investment that someone wanted to make?”

“The person made two appointments with you that you didn’t keep.”

“For heaven’s sake, do these people think that I am at their orders?”

“They say that you should be prompt.”

“Hold your tongue! You are an insolent fellow! I have no need of a
fellow who sleeps on my desk. I discharge you.”

“Monsieur will please pay me my wages first.”

“Your wages! You earn them by sleeping.”

“Monsieur, it isn’t my fault that there isn’t anything to do in your
office; pay me and----”

“I’ll pay you; leave me.”

Edouard was well aware that he had nothing with which to pay his clerk;
he opened the desk, examined all the drawers, and found nothing. He
relied upon the sum which Dufresne still had in his hands, and
determined to see him and urge him to sell at once at any price; he
absolutely must have money. Fatigued and discomfited by his sitting at
the gaming table, he did not wish to go out before he had changed his
clothes, and he decided to send someone at once to summon Dufresne. He
rang and called his servant, but no one replied. The servants had become
unaccustomed to seeing their master since Adeline had left the house;
Edouard sometimes passed several nights in succession away; the servants
no longer observed any restraint, and spent their time amusing
themselves. Faithful Marie, the only honest one of them all, had left
the house after her mistress’s departure.

Edouard left his office and went over the house; he found the kitchen
empty, but the cellar door was open; he went down and found his
concierge drinking his wine with the cook. The servants were dumfounded
at the appearance of their master. He swore and stormed and seized the
concierge by the ear, while he administered a kick to the cook.

“Monsieur,” stammered the half-tipsy concierge, “you don’t eat in the
house any more, and we came here to find out whether the wine was
getting spoiled.”

Edouard drove the servants before him, left the cellar, and returned to
the first floor. Thinking that he heard a noise in his wife’s dressing
room, he entered suddenly and found his valet deeply engrossed in close
intercourse with the wife of the concierge, a rather attractive young
woman, who loved love as much as her husband loved wine.

“Morbleu!” cried Edouard, “what a household! what disorder! Do you think
that I will put up with this, you curs? I discharge you all!”

“As monsieur pleases,” rejoined the valet, with perfect unconcern, as he
attended to his costume, while the concierge’s wife held her hands over
her breast and did her utmost to shield herself further from the
observation to which her dear friend had exposed her, “just pay us our
wages, and we’ll go.”

Edouard left the room in a passion, and shut himself into his office.
Since his wife’s departure, he had not given a sou to his servants, for
he had never had money enough to provide for his own expenses, and now
he was compelled to retain wretches who robbed him, and turned
everything upside down in his house. But he reflected that Dufresne
would supply him with the means to extricate himself from embarrassment;
he was about to go in search of him when Dufresne himself entered the
office, with an air of desperation.

“Ah! you come most opportunely,” cried Edouard; “I was anxious to see
you, my dear fellow! I must have money! I must have some this very day!”

“That will be rather hard,” replied Dufresne in a gloomy voice.

“What! haven’t you the consols?”

“I have come to tell you of a terrible calamity: the man in whose hands
I had placed them, as well as the blank power of attorney----”

“Well?”

“He has sold them, but he has gone off with the money.”

“Gone off?”

“Yes, he has disappeared; it is impossible to find out anything about
him.”

Edouard was thunderstruck. He threw himself into a chair in despair.

“I am ruined! I have lost everything!”

“Ruined! what nonsense! when a man has credit and acquaintances! Come,
be yourself; I give you my word that I will repair this disaster. Trust
to my zeal, my friend; I made the mistake through my over-confidence; I
propose to get you out of the scrape.”

“But how?”

“There are a thousand ways.”

“Remember that I haven’t a sou, and that I need money every moment,
especially with Madame de Géran, from whom I desire to conceal this
disaster.”

“You will be very wise, although I am convinced that she adores you.”

“I have promised her a lovely cashmere shawl, which she is very anxious
to have.”

“You shall give it to her.--Here, sign this.”

“What is it?”

“Notes to my order for twenty thousand francs.”

“But I don’t owe you anything.”

“Of course not; and this is simply to raise money. That is called
‘flying kites.’”

“Ah! is it allowable?”

“Allowable! parbleu! we don’t ask permission to do it.”

“But it’s rather a delicate matter to----”

“Ha! ha! you make me laugh with your scruples. After all, you will pay
them, so what right will anyone have to say anything?”

“And you hope to discount them?”

“I am very sure of it; you are thought to be rich, you have an expensive
establishment, and your party did you much good. Never fear; I will
bring you the money to-morrow, and all you will need is a streak of luck
to win twice what you have lost to-day.”

“That infernal roulette,--a long series of odd numbers!”

“Oh! that was mere luck! It doesn’t happen twice. That devil of a
chevalier has found an infallible martingale, he says; but it requires
funds to start it.”

“Perhaps we shall not have enough.”

“Oh! I have resources. But sign quickly, and I will go and attend to
discounting your notes.”

Edouard signed notes amounting to twenty thousand francs; and to divert
his thoughts, went to see his mistress. She pouted a little when she
found that he had not brought the shawl that she coveted, but he
promised it for the next day, and she became charmingly amiable once
more; she scolded her devoted friend for his solemn and distraught air;
he apologized by saying that he was engrossed by an affair of great
importance, and she kissed him and fondled him and caressed him. A man
who is engaged in great speculations, and who is generous--what an
invaluable treasure to preserve!

The regular company soon arrived. If it was far from select, it was
numerous, at all events: ruined marquises, nobles without a château,
landed proprietors without property, knights of industry, business
agents like Edouard, all gamblers or schemers, and some young men of
good family who had nothing left to lose, and some idiots who fancied
themselves in the best society--such in the main were the male guests.
The ladies were worthy of these gentlemen: old _intrigantes_, panders,
kept women, or those who wished to be, habitués of the gambling hells to
which the fair sex is admitted; such was the assemblage at Madame de
Géran’s, where they affected decent behavior, grand airs, refined
manners, and severely scrupulous language, which soon became obscene,
when the passions of these ladies and gentlemen were so far excited as
to make them forget their costumes and the rank which they were supposed
to occupy.

Madame de Géran gave a punch: that is a shrewd way of exciting the
gamblers’ brains, and of making the women seem attractive to them. The
imagination heated by liquor attributes charms to superannuated and
withered beauties. The glasses circulate, heads become confused, the
stakes increase in amount, the heat is stifling, the ladies remove their
neckerchiefs; the eye of a connoisseur standing behind the chair of a
fair gambler rests upon a breast which a pitiless corset strives to keep
at a predetermined height; if he looks behind, he sees reasonably white
shoulders, a perfectly bare back, and his wandering vision easily
divines the little that is concealed. How deny the siren who turns and
borrows twenty-five louis, with a glance full of meaning touching the
mode of payment; whereupon you proceed to take an instalment by sitting
down beside your fascinating debtor, and doing whatever you choose; for
she offers no resistance; and thus it is that acquaintances are made at
large parties. Edouard did not admire the breasts and backs of the
ladies, because he was completely subjugated by a single one; but he
took his seat at a table after borrowing thirty louis of his mistress,
because, he said, he had forgotten to bring money. She readily lent it
to him, being certain he would return it with interest the next day.

A certain Marquis de Monclair, an intimate friend of the Chevalier
Desfleurets, suggested to Edouard a game of écarté; they took their
places and Desfleurets took his stand behind Edouard, with the purpose,
he said, of bringing him luck. But Murville lost every game; the thirty
louis which he had borrowed were soon gone; then his opponent willingly
played with him on credit, because he was aware how promptly he always
paid.

Madame de Géran caused the punch to circulate with profusion; she
herself drank several glasses in order to do the honors of her reception
with more grace. Everyone seemed very much engrossed, either by the
cards or by gallantry; the ordinary reserve was replaced by uproar; the
guests generally forgot themselves; artificial modesty gave place to
somewhat indecorous hilarity on the part of the ladies, oaths were heard
in one direction, loud laughter in another; there was quarrelling and
teasing; the card players disputed over the game, there was love-making
on sofas, and the result was a most varied and animated tableau, wherein
each actor had his own private interest to subserve.

Madame de Géran herself seemed greatly heated, although she was not
playing; she approached Edouard’s table for a moment, saw that he was
absorbed with his game, and left the salon, to cool off.

Edouard was unable to win a single game; rage and despair were rampant
in his heart; he already owed fifteen thousand francs to the marquis,
and constantly doubled his stake, hoping to make up his losses; but his
expectations were always disappointed. Pale, trembling, wild-eyed, he no
longer knew what he was doing; his hands were clenched, his nerves were
on edge, and he could hardly breathe.

“I will play you for the fifteen thousand francs at one stake,” he said
at last to his adversary, in a trembling voice.

“I agree,” replied the marquis; “I am a bold player, as you see; in
truth, I am terribly distressed to see you lose so constantly.”

Edouard made no reply; he was intent upon the game that was about to
begin; his eyes were unswervingly fixed upon the cards which were to
decide his fate; there were no other witnesses than Desfleurets, who
still stood behind Edouard, and an old _intrigante_, who was very
intimate with the marquis and was deeply interested in his play. All the
other guests were engaged at other tables.

The game began; when the marquis already had three points, he turned a
king. Edouard, incensed by such uninterrupted good fortune, turned
suddenly to complain to Desfleurets; he discovered him, with other
cards, showing to his adversary, behind his back, what he had in his
hand. The chevalier tried to conceal his cards, but Edouard did not give
him time; he snatched them from his hands, realized the rascality of
which he had been the victim, overturned the table and informed the
marquis that he should not pay him. The marquis, accustomed to such
scenes, did not lose his head, but demanded his money. Edouard called
him a swindler; his adversary seized a chair and threatened him, while
the chevalier picked up a number of louis which had fallen to the floor.
The old woman shrieked, and Murville seized a candle-stick which he
threw at his creditor’s head. The marquis received the candle in the
face, and lost an eye and part of his nose; he uttered fearful shrieks,
and everybody sprang to his feet; the women fled, some men did the same,
and the swindlers, being in force, surrounded Murville and threatened to
beat him. At that moment Dufresne entered the room, and realized
Edouard’s danger at a glance; quick to make the most of circumstances,
he forced his way to his side, pushing everybody out of his way; he
shouted louder than all the rest, and, making a sign to Edouard to leave
the salon, said that he would undertake to settle the affair, and
promised the marquis that he should receive the value of his face, which
was not likely to be a large sum. Dufresne had a tone and manner which
imposed upon those gentry; they became calmer, and Murville, feeling
that he was in a hopeless minority, went out of the salon, leaving
Dufresne to represent him.

In order to console himself in some degree for this misadventure,
Edouard looked about for Madame de Géran; she was not in the salon; he
passed through the reception rooms without finding her; she had
evidently gone to her bedroom, which was above. He rushed hurriedly up
the stairs; they were not lighted; but he knew the way. He opened the
dressing-room door and saw a light shining beneath the door leading into
the boudoir; the key was in the lock, he entered abruptly; but imagine
his sensations when he saw his dear mistress lying on a couch in company
with her groom, in a situation which clearly denoted the sort of
refreshment that had been provided.

Edouard stood like a statue for several minutes, unable to believe his
eyes; the groom, a tall youth of eighteen, strong, lusty and well-built,
but as stupid as an ass, whose physical advantages he possessed, had
been selected by Madame de Géran for her private delectation, and he
performed his duties with zeal and promptitude. He was always ready
whenever his mistress sent for him and gave him the preconcerted signal;
and she had had no occasion to do aught but praise his excellent conduct
and his services, which were frequently in demand. But we must say also
that Charlot had been only two months in Madame de Géran’s service,
where the food was excellent, but where the grooms were very quickly
worn out.

The punch had produced its effect on the nerves of the petite-maîtresse;
she had felt the need of being refreshed; and after making sure that
Murville was engaged in a serious game, which she thought unlikely to
come to an end so soon, she had passed through the anteroom, where
Charlot was, with her little finger at her ear; the groom, knowing what
that meant, had followed close at his mistress’s heels, and we have seen
what happened.

The boudoir was a long way from the salon; they had heard only a part of
the tumult, to which indeed they were well accustomed. Charlot had
paused a moment to listen, however; but his mistress, whose attention
was not distracted, and who was intent upon her own affairs, had said
lovingly:

“Go on, imbecile! What do you care for that? Let them fight.”

Edouard’s abrupt entrance did not disturb the groom; presuming that it
was one of the gamblers who had been disputing below, and remembering
what his mistress had said to him a moment before, Charlot continued his
work without turning his head. As for Madame de Géran, seeing that it
was no longer possible to deceive Edouard, she made the best of it, at
the same time ignoring the interruption.

But Murville’s wrath, held in check a few seconds by his extreme
surprise, soon burst forth with fury; he seized a fire-shovel and dealt
Charlot several blows. The groom yelled that he was being murdered;
Madame de Géran shrieked and Edouard shouted as loud as they did, and,
weary of striking Charlot, threw the shovel at madame’s mirror.

The mirror was shattered and fell to the floor in splinters. Edouard
swore and stormed, completely beside himself. Charlot wept, pressing his
battered body; Madame de Géran called for help, because she was afraid
for her other furniture and even for herself; in her terror she suddenly
pushed the groom away and he rolled over against a washstand which he
overturned; whereupon sponges, phials, essences and the bowl and pitcher
fell on the floor; and at the uproar, the shrieks, the tears and the
crashing of glass, a large proportion of the guests hurried to the scene
and entered the boudoir.

They all expressed much surprise at sight of Madame de Géran in such
great excitement, of the groom, in such unusual appearance, sprawling on
the floor amid the débris of the mirror, the bowl and the phials, and of
Edouard, who stalked amid the ruins with flashing eyes, as Achilles
stalked about the ramparts of Troy, and seemed inclined to deluge
everything with blood and fire.

They inquired what had happened, pushing, jostling, and asking
questions, and by dint of trying to restore tranquillity, increased the
confusion. The Marquis de Monclair held his handkerchief to his face, to
preserve the remains of his nose; he swore that Murville was a madman
who ought to be shut up. Desfleurets followed him, still holding in his
hand a pack of cards with which he was preparing some private _coup_. He
put in his pockets the phials and sponges that he found within reach,
taking advantage of the confusion to restock his toilet table. A number
of old coquettes gathered about Charlot, whose youth and other
attractions interested them greatly. They examined the injuries and
prescribed remedies. The young men assisted Madame de Géran to restore
her composure; those who had retained the most self-possession tried to
pacify Murville and insisted that explanations should precede fighting.
The mistress of the house vouchsafed no other explanation than to demand
the value of her mirror and toilet articles. Edouard called her a hussy
and held everybody at arm’s length. Dufresne, who was always on hand in
emergencies, pulled Edouard by the coat-tail and forced him to quit the
boudoir, sorely against his will, leaving the others to laugh or cry as
their private interests might dictate.

“You are a child!” said Dufresne when they were in the street; “why did
you make such a row?”

“Why? why? Don’t you know that I have been betrayed, shamefully
deceived, by that woman, who as I thought adored me? And for whom? for a
servant!”

“Bless my soul! is that a reason for turning a house upside down? You
must learn to take things philosophically. A man doesn’t smash furniture
for such a trifle. You will find a thousand other women who will adore
you--for your money.”

“After all the sacrifices I have made for her!”

“Oh! it’s unpleasant, I agree! But, my dear fellow, the money one gives
to a woman is always thrown away!--Look you, the most unfortunate
feature in all this is your trouble with Monclair. I was obliged to
give him a large part of the proceeds of your notes, to induce him not
to show his face to a justice of the peace; that would have led to
investigations, to law suits and expenses, which one should always
avoid.--Peste! do you know that you are a terrible fellow?--Cutting one
man’s nose off and hammering another man’s rump! If I should leave you
to yourself, you’d get into a fine mess! Luckily, I am always on hand to
cool you down. But this evening has cost you a great deal.”

“And so that money that I have been counting on----”

“Oh! never fear, you shall have it; you must make more notes; and
besides, the luck will change; no one is unlucky all the time; there are
ways of arranging with fortune.”

“There are?”

“Yes, yes; you shall know them later. But it is beginning to be light,
and it’s time to go to bed. Come home with me; to-morrow we will think
about our affairs.”

Dufresne led Edouard away; and he, bewildered, crushed, desperate on
account of his late experiences, was already afraid to cast a glance
behind, or to face what the future had in store for him.



XXIII

VIEW OF THE INTERIOR OF A GAMBLING HOUSE


“Look here, we must see about settling your affairs now,” said Dufresne,
as he rose after the stormy night at Madame de Géran’s. “You must make
more notes for about fifteen thousand francs, and I will try to discount
them. I confess, however, that it is more difficult than I thought.
People are none too anxious to have our signatures. They are becoming
more exacting. Only a few Jews will take them, and they demand fifty per
cent. What do you say to that?”

“That traitress, to betray me for a lackey!”

“What! you are still thinking of your faithless one! What folly!”

“If I could revenge myself!”

“The best revenge is to spend money freely, to live magnificently; then
she will regret you. So you see that you still need money. I am going
out to obtain some. Meanwhile, do not allow yourself to give way to
melancholy, and throw off this languor, which will lead to nothing good.
Go and take a turn at the card tables. That is where you will recover
your nerve and your ideas.”

“I haven’t a sou; what sort of figure should I cut there?”

“You must think up some method of winning. Au revoir; I am going to get
some money.”

Dufresne went out and Murville went home. He found a letter from his
wife there; it was the sixth she had written him since she had gone to
the country, but Edouard had never replied. He had read the first ones;
they contained Adeline’s wishes for his welfare, entreaties that he
would take care of his health, but not a word of love; Adeline no longer
dared to mention hers. To speak of one’s affection to a faithless lover
is like speaking of colors to a blind man, of music to a deaf man, of
manners to a savage.

Edouard had ceased to read his wife’s letters, because he did not know
what to reply. His heart said nothing, and his conscience said too much.
He hardened the one, and did not listen to the other. The season was
advanced; he was afraid that Adeline would talk of returning, and he
felt that her presence would embarrass him more than ever. He desired to
conceal from her the condition of his affairs, which confirmed only too
fully the fears that his wife and his mother-in-law had manifested.

On entering his apartments, the business agent was greatly surprised to
find bailiffs proceeding to levy upon his furniture.

“What does this mean,” cried Edouard; “who has sent you to my house?”

“Monsieur,” replied a little man in black, “the owner of the house, of
which you don’t pay the rent.”

“You ought to have warned me.”

“Summonses have been sent to you.”

“I did not read them.”

“That isn’t my fault.”

“I don’t know the forms of procedure.”

“What! monsieur is joking--a business agent!”

“I am not one now.”

“That doesn’t concern us.”

Edouard left the officers of the law and went up to his office; the
clerk was not there. He examined his papers, but he had no knowledge
whatever of his business. He tossed the boxes angrily into the middle of
the room. He went downstairs and called his servants; they had gone. The
concierge alone remained, and he answered Edouard insolently, because he
saw that he was ruined.

Murville left his home and walked slowly toward the Palais-Royal, having
no idea what course to pursue, or how to rid himself of the bailiffs. He
waited for Dufresne, in order to consult him; he arrived at last; he
seemed content, and announced that he had obtained some money. Edouard
revived at that news, and told Dufresne what was taking place at his
house.

“Faith,” said Dufresne, “if you take my advice, you will let them go
ahead and sell a lot of furniture which is of no use to you now; you
don’t need such an establishment, as you are living the life of a
bachelor; it is sleeping property, and we turn it to some use.”

“But if my wife should return----”

“Bah! she prefers the country; and besides, don’t you know that in
Paris, with plenty of money, one can find in an hour’s time, a house and
furniture and servants?”

“That is true; but you advised me to live luxuriously.”

“We will hire some magnificently furnished lodgings.”

“But my reputation----”

“Never fear, it is making progress. Make your fortune and let the fools
talk--that is the essential thing.”

“Yes, but I am very far from making my fortune!”

“Because you go about it in the wrong way.”

“I do whatever you tell me.”

“Oh, no! you still have a false delicacy, which does you harm, and which
you must get rid of. But come to a restaurant; let us drink some
champagne and madeira, and snap our fingers at whatever may happen.”

Edouard allowed himself to be led away; he abandoned himself like a
blind man to Dufresne’s advice; he followed the torrent which drew him
on; and those people who had seen him at the time of his marriage had
difficulty in recognizing him, so great a change had been wrought in him
by debauchery and gambling.

What an existence is that of a gambler! Never a moment’s repose or
tranquillity! It seems that a permanent fever acts constantly on his
organs; his eyes are hollow and rimmed with red; his complexion pale and
seamed by lack of sleep; his cheeks sunken, all his features drawn; his
dress soiled and in disorder; his gait jerky or uncertain; feverish
anxiety can be read in his eyes; if he smiles, it is with bitterness; it
seems that cheerfulness is a stranger to his mind, which is incessantly
excited by the thirst for gold, by the eagerness for gain, by the
anxiety of the gaming table.

Such had Edouard become; who could recognize now the young man who,
engrossed by his good fortune and his love, proudly led his charming
bride to the altar? Now his features are worn, the expression of his
face is changed, his very voice is not recognizable, for amid the
passions and agonies of suspense which he endures every day, his
transports of despair and rage, his oaths and imprecations have made his
accents threatening or hoarse; his conversation bears the imprint of the
society which he frequents; not in gambling hells, with swindlers or
abandoned women, does one acquire the tone of refined society; one loses
in such company all courtesy, all modesty, all restraint. Edouard had
acquired the habit of shouting, swearing, flying into a rage on all
occasions; his manners, his bearing, his principles, were like those of
the models which he had constantly under his eyes. A virtuous, upright,
reasonable man has much difficulty in resisting the influence of an evil
companion; what then is likely to become of a weak man, enslaved by his
passions, who is surrounded by none but the offscourings of society?

The winter arrived; Edouard received no more letters from his wife. He
did not know that Dufresne received them for him and returned them to
Adeline as from her husband. The first notes had been paid with the
money arising from the sale of the furniture; but the second ones were
about to mature, and the two inseparables had no more money. In vain did
Murville, who no longer blushed to put out his hand to borrow in every
direction, go at night, with the small sums he had succeeded in
obtaining, to take his seat at the fatal green cloth; in vain did he too
try to calculate, and to make combinations by pricking cards, or forming
martingales; nothing succeeded. He saw the money that he had deposited
with trembling hand upon a number, pass to the banker’s pile; the fatal
rake swept from him the sum which he had hoped to quadruple; he had
nothing left, he turned his eyes in all directions, seeking some
acquaintance from whom he could borrow again, but he saw no one; a
gambler has no friends. Edouard left number 9, and hurried through the
galleries of the Palais-Royal, entering each academy in search of
Dufresne or some other; he found no one who was willing to lend him. He
arrived at number 113, which he had never entered as yet. He saw the
poor mechanic who goes thither, trembling with anticipation, to risk the
fruit of his day’s labor; he leaves the place with empty pockets, and
returns to his home, where his wife with her children is waiting for the
return of her husband, to go out to buy something for her little
family’s supper; but he brings nothing, the poor children will go to bed
without food, and the unhappy wife will wet her pillow with her tears,
because her husband has been to the gambling house.

And this tradesman, whom people believe to be engrossed by his
business,--what does he do in this den of iniquity? he squanders his
fortune, his reputation, his honor, the property of his correspondents;
he has to pay on the morrow notes which he has signed, and he resorts to
the roulette table in search of the funds. His gaze is fixed on the
color which he hopes to see come forth, and every time that luck betrays
his hopes, his hand, concealed in his coat, tears his clothing and rends
his breast. But he feels nothing, his sensations are concentrated on the
little ball which is to decide his fate.

This young man, of respectable exterior and decently dressed, who acts
as if he wished to hide, because he is still sensitive to shame, comes
hither to venture, at the game of chance, a sum which the banker by whom
he is employed has intrusted to him to be taken to a notary. Luck
betrays him, he has lost all! And yet he remains there; he cannot as yet
credit his crime, his misfortune! What will he do upon leaving that vile
den, where he has left honor behind? His family is poor, but honorable;
he cannot make up his mind to bring dishonor upon it, to endure his
father’s reproaches; despair takes possession of his soul, and he sees
but one means to avoid the future which terrifies him. He goes forth, he
walks hurriedly in the direction of the river, he arrives there, and
puts an end to his existence by leaping into the waves! And a man who
might have followed a happy and honorable career, a man who should have
assured the happiness of his family, commits suicide at twenty years of
age because he has been to the gambling house.

Such pictures are only too true; we have examples of them every day;
when will these abodes of crime cease to be tolerated?

Edouard should have profited by the lessons which he had before his
eyes; instead of that, he took his seat at the game of _biribi_; he
still had ten sous in his pocket; and he hastened to risk them on the
table where the last farthing is extorted from the poor wretches who
resort to it.

He had been at the table but a moment, seated among people who resembled
beggars, when Dufresne appeared and motioned to him to follow him.

“I have good news for you,” he said with a joyful air; “in the first
place, your mother-in-law died last night of an attack of apoplexy.”

“Is it possible?”

“It was a young fellow employed here, who lives in her house, who just
told me. Moreover, I have obtained the money on your notes, on condition
that you give a mortgage on your house at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges.”

“My house--but----”

“Come, come; don’t raise objections! In any event, with what little
money you get from your mother-in-law, you will be able to pay your
notes and redeem your house. You see that everything is turning out for
the best. Oh! if only I had thought of your country house before! But
now you are in funds, that is the essential thing; all that you will
need, to obtain what Madame Germeuil has left, is a power of attorney
from your wife.”

“How am I to get it? I shall never dare to tell her of her mother’s
death; she will be desperate!”

“Very well; I will undertake to do it. If you wish, I will go to
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges in your place, and I will tell your wife the
news with all possible precaution.”

“You will do me a great favor. Tell her also that I have not forgotten
her, that I expect to go to see her very soon.”

“Yes, I know all that I must say to her; rely upon my zeal and my
friendship.”

This arrangement being concluded, Dufresne urged Edouard to make haste
to provide him with the necessary papers, that he might go to Adeline,
whom he was burning to see again. As for Edouard, having pledged his
country house, the last shelter of his family, and having obtained the
proceeds of his notes, he abandoned himself anew to the frantic passion
which dominated him.



XXIV

KIND HEARTS.--GRATITUDE


Adeline was still at the pretty country house. She had arrived there
very unhappy and melancholy; but in due time the peaceful country, and
the first caresses of her daughter, brought a little repose to her soul;
she became resigned to her fate. In the early days after her arrival,
she still hoped that Edouard would join her, that he would weary of the
false pleasures to which he had abandoned himself, and would open his
eyes concerning the people who surrounded him; but she speedily lost
this last hope. She wrote to her husband, but he did not reply; she
received news from Paris through her mother, and that news was most
distressing; she learned in what excesses the man whom she still loved
was indulging; she shuddered as she thought of Edouard’s weakness and
Dufresne’s vengeance. She wrote again, but her letters were returned to
her unopened. This last mark of indifference and contempt cut Adeline to
the quick; she waited in silence, and without a complaint, for the man
whose joy she had once been, to remember the bonds which attached him to
her.

As she was walking in the country one day, with her little Ermance in
her arms, Adeline, absorbed by her thoughts, did not notice that she had
gone farther than usual; but at last fatigue compelled her to stop; she
looked about her: not recognizing her surroundings, and fearing that she
would lose her way if she should attempt to return, she bent her steps
toward a farm house, which she saw at some distance, in order to ask her
way, and to obtain a guide if that were necessary.

She soon arrived at Guillot’s, for it was his farm which she had seen.
Louise was in front of her door, driving the ducks and fowls into their
coops; Sans-Souci was in the yard, piling bundles of hay. The children
were wallowing in the mud according to their custom, with the geese and
the chickens.

This picture brought a smile to Adeline’s lips. She regretted that she
had not been born in a village, where the days are all alike, monotonous
perhaps, but at all events free from trouble and bitterness.

The farmer’s wife cordially invited the young lady to enter the house.
She took little Ermance in her arms and dandled her, while answering the
questions of Adeline, who learned that she was more than two leagues
from her home, and who, touched by the frank and hearty welcome of the
villagers, consented to rest for a few moments, and to share the repast
prepared for the men about to return from their work.

The clock struck six; that was the time when the people at the farm
assembled to partake gayly of their simple but substantial meal,
seasoned always by appetite.

Guillot appeared, bringing wood according to his custom. Sans-Souci
entered the living room humming a ballad, and Jacques deposited in a
corner the instruments of toil. The farmer examined the young lady with
the stupid expression which was habitual with him; Jacques bowed and
took his seat without paying much attention to Adeline, while she, as
she glanced at the newcomers, tried to remember an incident long ago
dispelled from her memory.

They took their places at the table; Jacques was seated beside Adeline,
who was surprised by his courtesy, by his frank manners, and by his
gentleness with the children. From time to time she cast a glance at
that stern face, adorned with heavy moustaches, and bearing the scars of
several wounds. Jacques did not notice the young lady’s scrutiny; it was
impossible for him to recognize her whom he had seen but once, through
the gate of a garden, and to whom he had paid little heed. But as she
gazed at Jacques’s face and especially at his enormous moustaches,
Adeline remembered the place where she had seen him, and she could not
restrain an exclamation of surprise.

“What! can it be you, monsieur? Ah! I knew that I had seen you before.”

“Does madame refer to me?” said Jacques in amazement.

“Yes, monsieur, it is surely you; I am certain now.”

“Do you know my comrade, madame?” said Sans-Souci; “if you do, you know
a fine, honest fellow.”

“I don’t doubt it, and yet monsieur frightened me terribly.”

“Frightened you, madame; I am very sorry; but how could I have done it?”

“Do you remember a certain day when you went to
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, about sixteen months ago? You stood for a long
time at the gate of a garden; that barred gate, partly covered with
boards, made it impossible to see anything from the garden except your
face, and I confess that your eyes, your scars and your moustaches
frightened me terribly.”

“What!” said Jacques, after examining Adeline with interest, “you were
in that garden?”

“Yes, monsieur, it is the garden of my house. But at that time, I was
visiting it for the first time with my mother and my husband.”

Jacques made no reply; he became gloomy and thoughtful; he passed his
hand across his forehead, toyed with his moustaches, and uttered a
profound sigh.

“Well,” said Guillot, after drinking a large glass of wine, “that shows
that it don’t make any difference, and although a face may be or
not,--and I say that it ain’t always a moustache behind a gate that does
it; for you see, that when a person is frightened at things like
that--why that’s how it is----”

“That’s all right, my man,” said the farmer’s wife, cutting short
Guillot’s eloquence; “but if madame had seen that cross of honor on our
friend Jacques’s stomach, I guess she wouldn’t have been afraid.”

“Oh!” said Adeline, “I don’t need to see it now, to realize my mistake.
But what can you expect? his strange position--for women are timid, you
know, and that face with moustaches, appearing all alone at the end of
the garden----”

“Oh, yes! that’s so,” rejoined Guillot; “it ain’t surprising, and I
think that I’d have been afraid myself; because the surprise, behind
the gate, and moustaches, in a garden--a body can’t help himself.”

“Hold your tongue, my man! You’re a coward! Ain’t it a shame, cousin?”

“Ten thousand bayonets!” said Sans-Souci; “if robbers attacked the farm
house, I promise you that I would make ’em turn to the right about and
march!”

“Is your husband still at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges?” asked Jacques of
Adeline, after a moment’s silence.

“No, he has been in Paris for a long while.”

The young woman seemed so sad after she had said this that Jacques
regretted his question. The more he looked at his brother’s wife, the
more he felt drawn toward her and disposed to love her; he did not doubt
that Edouard had said nothing of his meeting with him.

“She would not have turned me away,” he said to himself; “with such
gentleness in the features and the voice, a person cannot have a hard
and unfeeling heart. Edouard alone is guilty. But I will not tell her; I
should distress her to no purpose; and, besides, I have no intention of
going near the ingrate who spurned me.”

It was growing dark; Adeline could not remain at the farm; everyone
offered to escort her, but she selected Jacques, to show him that she
harbored no unpleasant memories against him. He was secretly flattered
by the preference. He took little Ermance on one arm and offered the
other to the young woman, who bade the people at the farm adieu, and,
delighted by their cordial welcome, promised to go again to see them.

They walked in silence at first. From time to time Jacques embraced
pretty Ermance, who was only eight months old, but who smiled at the
honest soldier, and passed her little hand over his moustaches.

“I am very sorry to give you so much trouble,” said Adeline, “but I did
not think that I had gone so far.”

“Madame, it is a pleasure to me.”

“That child must tire you.”

“Tire me! No! ten thousand cannons!--Ah! I beg pardon; one should not
swear before ladies.”

“It is very excusable in an old soldier.”

“You see, I am very fond of children; and this little one is really so
pretty.”

“Ah me! she is my only consolation!” murmured Adeline.

Jacques could not hear, but he saw that she was sad, and he changed the
subject.

“Madame will soon return to Paris, no doubt; it is late in the season,
October is almost here.”

“No, I do not expect to leave the country yet; I may pass the winter
here.”

“This is strange,” thought Jacques; “she remains in the country and her
husband in the city; can it be that they do not live happily
together?--In that case,” he said aloud, “I hope that we shall have the
pleasure of seeing madame at the farm sometimes.”

“Yes, I look forward with pleasure to going there again. You are a
relative of the farmer, I suppose?”

“No, madame, my comrade is their cousin, but I am only an old soldier,
without family or acquaintances, whom they have been good enough to
supply with work.”

“I am sure that they congratulate themselves upon it every day.--You are
still young, you cannot have served very long?”

“I beg your pardon, I enlisted very early.”

“And on your return from the army you had no mother, no sister, to take
care of you and to make you forget the fatigues of war?”

“No, madame. I have only one relative, and he treated me with so little
affection! I am proud, I have a keen sense of honor, and I rejected
assistance which was not offered by the heart, and which would have
humiliated me.”

“That must have been some distant relative?”

“Yes, madame.”

“My husband has a brother. By the way, his name is Jacques as yours is.
He left his family many years ago; he is dead, no doubt, but if he were
still alive, if he should return--oh! I am very sure that Edouard would
be overjoyed to see him.”

Jacques made no reply; but he turned his head aside to conceal a tear
that dropped from his eyes.

At that moment they arrived at Murville’s house. Adeline urged Jacques
to come in and rest for a few moments; but he declined; he was afraid of
yielding to his emotions, and of betraying himself.

“At least,” said the young woman, “when you come to
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, I hope that you will come to see me. I will
show you the gardens which you saw only through the gate.”

“With pleasure, madame; and I urge you not to forget the farm.”

Adeline promised and Jacques went away, after casting a last glance at
the house.

“That is a fine fellow,” said Adeline, as she entered the house, “and
mamma and I judged him very unjustly. I am sure that that rough and
stern exterior conceals a sensitive and honest heart. Ah! appearances
are often deceitful!”

Some time after, Adeline went to the farm one morning, followed by her
nurse, a stout country girl, who carried her child. The villagers
received her joyfully; Adeline was so amiable, so sweet, so simple with
the people at the farm, that they were quite at their ease with her.
Guillot began sentences that never ended; Louise played with little
Ermance; Sans-Souci swore that he had never seen such a lovely woman in
the regiment, and Jacques manifested the greatest regard for the young
woman, and the deepest interest; his attentions to Adeline were so
considerate, his manners so respectful, that she did not know how to
interpret his affecting yet mysterious conduct; but there was in
Jacques’s eyes an expression at which no one could take offence; only
interest and affection could be read in them, and her heart was moved by
those same sentiments, although she could not understand them.

They all disputed for the honor of escorting the young lady home.
Guillot would offer his arm, Louise insist on carrying the child,
Jacques on acting as guide, and Sans-Souci on going before as
skirmisher. But Adeline, in order to make none of them jealous, returned
alone with her maid when it was not late, unless the weather was very
fine; for in that case, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges was a pleasant walk,
which they insisted upon taking with Madame Murville, who was touched by
the attachment which the peasants showed for her.

Several months passed in this way. Winter had come, the verdure had
disappeared, the country was dismal. Adeline received no company. She
was alone in her house with her maid and an old gardener, who had
replaced the insolent concierge, dismissed by Adeline because she had
learned that he turned the poor people and beggars harshly away when
they begged a crust of bread at her door.

Adeline’s only diversion was to go to the farm, when the weather was
fine and the air not too sharp for her child. Jacques was conscious of
a feeling of satisfaction as soon as he saw her; but he concealed a
large part of his sensations, in order not to arouse the curiosity of
the peasants. Sans-Souci was the only one who was in Jacques’s
confidence; he knew that Adeline was the wife of Jacques’s brother; but
he had sworn not to reveal the secret to anyone; and his oath could be
relied upon, although privately he raged at his inability to inform
Adeline of the bond between her and his friend. But Jacques insisted
that it should be so. He had divined a part of his sister-in-law’s
griefs, and he did not wish to intensify them by telling her of
Edouard’s conduct toward him.

Meanwhile, they were very far from suspecting at the farm what was
taking place in Paris. Intelligence arrived only too soon, to destroy
such repose as Adeline still enjoyed. It was Dufresne who had taken it
upon himself to wreck the peace of mind of the woman whose scorn he was
unable to forgive.

One day, Adeline learned that a gentleman just from Paris desired to
speak with her; she went to the salon where the stranger was, and
shuddered with horror when she saw Dufresne, seated in an easy-chair,
and placidly awaiting her arrival.

“You here, monsieur!” she said, striving to recover her courage; “I did
not suppose that you would dare to appear in my presence again!”

“I beg pardon, madame,” Dufresne replied in a hypocritical tone; “I
hoped time would lessen your hatred.”

“Never, monsieur; you know too well that your outrages can never be
effaced from my memory! Make haste to tell me what brings you here.”

“I am going to cause you distress again; but your husband’s orders----”

“Speak; I am prepared for anything.”

“Your mother, you know, of course----”

“My mother! Oh heaven! It cannot be that she is sick? But she wrote me
only a short time ago.”

“An attack of apoplexy, a blood vessel----”

“Great God! she is dead, and I did not see her in her last moments!”

Adeline fell upon a chair, utterly crushed; two streams of tears flowed
from her eyes, and her sobs, her grief, would have moved the most
insensible of mortals; but gentle sentiments were not made for
Dufresne’s heart; he was only moved by the passions which degrade
mankind. He contemplated in silence the despair of a young and lovely
woman, whose unhappiness was his work; he listened to her sighs, he
seemed to count her sobs, and far from feeling the slightest twinge of
repentance, he deliberated upon the fresh torments which he proposed to
inflict on her.

Dufresne’s presence intensified Adeline’s grief; before him she could
not even weep freely and think solely of her mother; she tried to summon
a little courage in order to dismiss the contemptible man who fed upon
her suffering.

“Was your only purpose in coming here to tell me of the cruel loss I
have suffered?” she said, rising and trying to restrain her sobs.

“Madame, the property which Madame Germeuil left must be administered; I
feared that it would be painful to you to attend to these details which
are indeed your husband’s concern, but we require your signature, and I
have brought the papers.”

“Oh! give them to me, give them to me! I will sign anything; I consent
to give up everything! But at least let my retirement no longer be
disturbed by your presence!”

As she spoke, Adeline seized the papers which Dufresne handed her, she
signed them all blindly, and handed them back to him, and was turning
away, but he grasped her with violence by the arm, just as she was about
to leave the salon.

“One moment, madame; you are in a great hurry to leave me. For my own
part, I propose to recompense myself for the time I have passed without
seeing you; besides, I have news of your husband for you.”

A cruel smile gleamed in Dufresne’s eyes; Adeline shuddered and tried to
escape.

“Do not detain me,” she cried, “or I shall find a way to punish your
audacity.”

“Oh! don’t be so proud, my lovely Adeline! Do you suppose that I have
not taken my precautions? Your gardener is busy at the end of the
garden, your maid has gone down to her kitchen, where she cannot hear
you; for I know this house perfectly. You will stay here because I wish
it; you will listen to me, and then we will see.”

“Villain! do not think to frighten me; the hatred which you inspire in
me will double my strength.”

“Ah! so you hate me still; you refuse to be reasonable? I am of better
composition; I would forget your insults if you would consent to love me
at last. But beware; my patience will wear out, and then I shall be
capable of anything.”

“O mon Dieu! must I listen to such infamous words?”

“Come, no temper! you cannot love your husband any longer, for he
abandons you, forgets you, ruins you, consorts with prostitutes and
haunts gambling houses. He is now almost as much of a rake as of a
gambler, and that is not saying little; he will bring you to the
gutter!--But I will give you riches; nothing will cost too much that
will gratify your desires. Open your eyes! and see if I am not the equal
of your imbecile Edouard! You are silent? Good,--I see that you realize
the justice of my words.--Let us make peace.”

Dufresne walked toward Adeline; she uttered a piercing shriek.

“What! still the same harsh treatment? Oh! I will not make this journey
for nothing; I must have a kiss.”

“Monster! I would rather die!”

“Oh, no! one doesn’t die for so small a matter.”

In vain did the unhappy woman try to flee, the villain held her fast; he
was about to sully with his impure breath the lips of beauty, when a
loud noise was heard, and in another instant Jacques entered the salon,
followed by Sans-Souci.

Dufresne had not had time to leave the room; the struggle that Adeline
had sustained had exhausted her strength; she could only falter these
words:

“Deliver me, save me from this monster!” then she fell unconscious to
the floor.

Jacques ran to Adeline, shaking his fist at Dufresne. The latter tried
to go out, but Sans-Souci barred his passage, crying:

“One moment, comrade; you have failed in respect to this young lady, and
you don’t get off like this.”

“You are wrong,” replied Dufresne, doing his utmost to conceal the
perturbation which had seized him at sight of Jacques. “This lady is
subject to attacks of hysteria; I hurried here in response to her cries;
I came to help her. Let me go for her servants.”

Sans-Souci was hesitating, he did not know what to think; but Jacques,
struck by Dufresne’s voice, had turned and was examining him carefully;
he soon recognized him and shouted to Sans-Souci:

“Stop that villain; don’t let him escape; it is Bréville,--that
scoundrel who robbed me at Brussels! Ten thousand cartridges! he has got
to pay me for that!”

“Aha! my comrade,” said Sans-Souci, “you didn’t expect to be recognized!
It is disagreeable, I agree; but you have got to dance. Forward!”

Dufresne saw that it was impossible to escape by stratagem; his only
resource was in flight. Jacques was still busy over Adeline, who had not
recovered her senses; therefore there was only Sans-Souci to stop him;
but Dufresne was stout and strong, Sans-Souci small and thin. He at once
made up his mind; he rushed upon his adversary, whirled him about, threw
him down before he had time to realize what was happening, and leaping
over him, opened the door and descended the stairs four at a time. But
Louise had accompanied Jacques and Sans-Souci to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges;
they had come to invite Madame Murville to be one of a small party,
which they were preparing for Guillot’s birthday. On entering the
courtyard and not finding the gardener, the farmer’s wife had gone to
the kitchen to learn where madame was; and Jacques and his companion
were waiting at the foot of the stairs when they heard shrieks and
hastened up to Adeline’s assistance.

In his flight Dufresne encountered Louise, who was going up to the
salon; he roughly pushed her aside, she stumbled and fell between his
legs. While he was trying to disentangle himself, Sans-Souci, who had
risen, and who was frantic at being worsted by the villain, ran up,
armed with his knotted stick; he overtook Dufresne, and bestowed upon
his head and shoulders a perfect hailstorm of blows, which he had not
time to ward off. Thereupon he ran toward the garden, with Sans-Souci in
pursuit; but Dufresne, who knew all the windings, succeeded in eluding
his enemy. Coming to a wall along which there ran a trellis, he climbed
over, jumped down into the fields, and fled toward Paris, cursing his
misadventure.

Sans-Souci returned to the house when he found that the man he was
looking for had escaped. Adeline had recovered consciousness, thanks to
the attentions of Jacques, who had not left her. She opened her eyes,
and saw Jacques at her feet and the farmer’s wife at her side.

“Ah! my friends,” she said, in a voice trembling with emotion, “without
you I should have been lost!”

“The villain!” said Jacques; “oh! I have known him for a long time; he
robbed me once; I will tell you about that, madame.”

“Ah! the rascal!” said the farmer’s wife in her turn; “he threw me head
over heels just as if I was a dog; but Sans-Souci gave him a fine
beating, I tell you! You couldn’t see the stick!”

At that moment Sans-Souci returned with an air of vexation.

“Well,” said Jacques, “did you stop him?”

“No; I don’t know how he did it, but I lost sight of him in the garden,
which he seems to know. For my part, I didn’t know which way to turn;
but no matter, he got a trouncing. If madame wishes, I will beat up the
fields and search the village.”

“No, it is no use,” said Adeline; “I thank you for your zeal; but we
will let the villain go; I flatter myself that he will never dare to
show his face here again.”

“Didn’t he steal anything, madame?” said Jacques.

“No, he came here about some business, to get some information; then he
dared to speak to me of love; and flying into a rage at my contempt, he
was about to proceed to the last extremity, when you arrived.”

“The monster! Ah! if I find him----”

“Pardi! what a miserable scamp! To think of falling in love with a
sweet, pretty woman like Madame Murville! I wouldn’t let him touch the
end of my finger!”

“He had better not think of touching anything of yours, or of looking at
madame,” said Sans-Souci; “or by the battle of Austerlitz, the hilt of
my sword will serve him for a watch chain.”

Tranquillity was restored; but Adeline, sorely distressed by the loss of
her mother, and by what the treacherous Dufresne had told her of
Edouard, refused to go to Guillot’s party, to the great disappointment
of the people at the farm. In vain did Louise and her companions try to
shake her resolution; they could obtain no promise; they had to return,
sadly enough, without Madame Murville, and to leave her a prey to the
sorrow with which she seemed overwhelmed.

Jacques and Sans-Souci offered to pass the night in the house, in order
to defend her against any new enterprises on the part of the villain who
had escaped them; but Adeline would not consent; she thanked them,
assuring them that she had nothing more to fear; but urged them to come
often to see her.

The people from the farm took their leave regretfully, and Jacques
registered an inward vow to watch over his brother’s wife.



XXV

THE LOTTERY OFFICE


“How does it happen that I am ruined, while I see other men win all the
time? Shall I never be able to find a way to grow rich rapidly?”

Thus did Edouard commune with himself on the day of Dufresne’s departure
for Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. He came out of an academy--a decent method
of designating a gambling hell,--where he had lost a large part of the
sum he had borrowed on his house. He strode angrily along the streets of
Paris; he dreamed of cards, of martingales, of series, of _parolis_, and
of all those unlucky combinations which constantly perturb the brain of
a gambler. A noisy burst of music, the booming of a bass drum, the
strains of two clarinets and a pair of cymbals, roused him from his
reverie; he raised his eyes with the intention of walking away from the
musicians, whose uproar tired him, and saw that he was in front of a
lottery office. The music which he heard was produced by one of those
travelling bands which, for a forty-sou piece given them by the keeper
of the office, raise an infernal tumult before the door and attract all
the gossips of the neighborhood to the “lucky office” where the list of
_ambes_, _ternes_, and even _quaternes_, said to have been won, is hung
at the door with an exact statement of the result of the lottery; the
whole embellished with pink and blue ribbons like the sweetmeats in a
confectioner’s window.

Edouard stopped instinctively, and like all the rest, gazed at the
seductive list. Seventy-five thousand francs won with twenty sous! That
was very enticing! To be sure, the winner had had a _quaterne_; that is
very rare; but still it has been seen, and one man’s chance is as good
as another’s.

“Ah! neighbor, what a fine drawing!” said a fish dealer to a fruit
woman, who stood near Edouard, copying the result of the lottery; “11,
20, 44, 19, 76.--I ought to be as rich as a queen to-day. Here, for more
than a year I have been following up a _dry terne_ on the first three
numbers that come out; the day before yesterday was the last day. I was
waiting for Thomas, who works at La Vallée; he was going to bring me a
goose stuffed with chestnuts for our supper, with some sixteen-sou wine
from Eustache’s at the Barreaux Verts, which has a fine bouquet! It was
my idea to have a nice little supper in a private room--that brings
luck--and to take my ticket when we went home to bed.--But not a bit of
it. Thomas kept me cooling my heels, waiting for him. I got tired of it
and went to his garret, and he had colic in the loins from dancing too
much on Sunday at the _Rabbits_. I had to stay and nurse him, the
closing time passed and I forgot my _dry terne_ while I was giving him
injections.”

“Poor Françoise! that was hard luck.--Well! my poor dead man might have
had pains in his belly--that wouldn’t ‘a’ made me forget my tickets! For
the last ten years I’ve always paid my rent with number 20; it went a
little by the date this time, but I got it all the same--I put my
counterpane up the spout to do it. You see, I’d rather have sold my
chemise than dropped it, for I was bound to have it.”

“Do you know any of those that won the big prize?”

“Why, the dry goods dealer’s cook. Three numbers taken out of the wheel
at random!”

“That’s what I call luck!”

“Oh! it ain’t to be wondered at; she dreamed that her master used the
soup-kettle for a chamber.”

“Then it was sure money! I’m down on my luck; I’ve never been able to
dream of nasty things.”

“Oh! as for me, I often used to dream some in my late husband’s time.”

Edouard turned away, forcing a passage through the crowd in front of the
office. As he walked along he thought of the numbers that had come out.
It was not so quick a way of getting rich as roulette, the chances were
less favorable; but the results, when one is lucky, are much more
advantageous, as one may win a large sum with a modest coin.

He passed the day thinking about the lottery, and the next morning he
decided to tempt fortune in that new manner. He entered the first office
that he saw; and he had not to go far, for lottery offices are more
numerous than poor relief offices.

It was ten o’clock in the morning. It was the last day of a foreign
lottery. The office was full, the crowd was so great that one could
hardly enter, and it was necessary to take one’s place at the end of a
long line in order to exchange one’s money for some slips of paper.

Edouard decided to wait. He glanced at the crowd that surrounded him. It
was composed almost entirely of people of the lower classes--street
hawkers, cooks, menders of lace, cobblers, messengers, rag-pickers.

It is not that the upper classes do not try their luck in the lottery;
but fashionable people send others to buy tickets for them, and the
bourgeois, who are ashamed of what they do, enter only by the private
door.

Edouard held his nose, for that assemblage of ladies and gentlemen
exhaled an odor anything but agreeable; and the muddy boots of the
Savoyard, the fish-woman’s herring, the rag-picker’s bag, the cobbler’s
wax, and the cook’s whiting formed a combination of smells which would
disgust a grenadier. But the purchasers of lottery tickets are engrossed
by their calculations and they smell nothing.

While awaiting their turn, the habitués form groups and confide their
dreams and ideas to one another. Everyone talks at once; but in that
respect everyone is wise; it is a veritable babel, despite the
remonstrances of the mistress of the place, who shouts every five
minutes, as they do in court:

“Silence in the corner. Pray be quiet, mesdames, you can’t hear yourself
think!”

Edouard, not being accustomed to it, was bewildered by the chatter of
the gossips, who talked on without stopping; but wealth cannot be bought
too dearly, and he made the best of it, and even determined to profit by
what he overheard.

“My girl,” said an old hag covered with rags, to another who held her
chafing-dish under her arm; “I saw a gray spider behind my bed this
morning before breakfast.”

“Pardi!” replied the other--”spiders! I see ’em every day at home!”

“No matter, they bring luck; I’m going to put a crown on 9, 30 and 51;
I’m sure they won’t all draw blanks.”

And the poor creature, who wore no stockings and whose skirt was full of
holes, took a crown from her pocket to put on her spider. To those who
believe firmly in dreams, numbers cease to be numbers, and become the
objects they have seen in their dreams, all of which are represented by
particular numbers, as set forth in the books of dreams, the _Petit
Cagliostro_, the _Aveugle du Bonheur_, and a thousand nice little works
of about the same value, which the ticket buyers know by heart. The
keeper of the office, who knew her trade, and, when the customer was
worth the trouble, could make calculations on the mists of the Seine,
told them what numbers to take, when they described their dreams to her.

“Monsieur, give me my oxen,” said an oyster woman, presenting her
thirty-sou piece.

“Monsieur, put twenty-four sous on a white cat for me.”

“My aunt’s dressing jacket, monsieur.”

“My little woman, some anchovies, in the first drawing.”

“Give me a _terne_ on artichokes.”

“My child, I saw horses trotting round my room all night, just as if it
was a stable.”

“What color were they?” inquired the agent, with the most comical
gravity.

“Bless me! wait a minute--I believe they were dappled--no, they were
black.”

“That’s 24.--Were they harnessed?”

“I should say so!”

“That’s 23.--Did they run fast?”

“Like the Circus!”

“That’s 72.”

“All right! arrange ’em right for me. With such a dream as that, I can’t
fail to have a carriage to ride in.”

“I had a funnier dream than that! I was in a country where there was
cows that danced with shepherds and shepherdesses, and houses built of
gingerbread.”

“The deuce you say! You could get fat by licking the walls.”

“Let her go on, saucebox.”

“And I was rowing on a river where the water was boiling and bubbling
like a soup-kettle.”

“And you caught fish all cooked, eh?”

“Hold your tongue, you magpie!--At last I saw a palace on the other side
of the river, come up out of the ground the way they do at the
Funambules; the roof was made of diamonds, the walls of gold, the
windows of silver and the door of rubies.”

“The devil! that must ‘a’ made your gingerbread houses look mean.”

“When I sees that, I tells my boatman--and a fine young man he was--I
tells him to take me to the palace; and would you believe that he asks
me to let him make a fool of me as pay for my passage. I said no, sharp,
but he didn’t listen to me; he just threw me into the bottom of his
boat--and the rascal overpowered me, my dears!”

“Well! so that’s your fine dream! All that just to come to the climax!
It was your man, of course; while you was asleep, he----”

“Oh, yes, indeed! Why, not since Saint-Fiacre’s Eve, six months ago----”

“Oho! so you’ve had a row, have you?”

“Why, once he made me swallow truffles for the King of Prussia, and
since then, when he comes to me--not if I know it!”

“Well, you’re wrong; yes, you’re wrong! refuse and you’re left to muse.
He’ll just take your property somewhere else. Don’t be a fool; once
those dogs have found another kennel, there’s no way to bring ’em back;
it’s all over!”

“I believe you’re right, Bérénice; I’ll rub a sponge over it next
Sunday.”

“And you’ll do well.”

“You’re very good, mesdames,” said a cook, stuffing into her basket the
fowl she had just bought, which, from its odor, might have been taken
for game, “you’re very good, but my master’s waiting for his chocolate;
he wants to go out early and I ain’t lighted my fire yet.--Quick,
madame, my regular number; here’s thirty-six sous--please hurry up.”

The cook took her ticket and returned to her master, making figures on
the way: the fowl had cost her fifty sous; by calling it eighty-six
sous, she would get her ticket for nothing, which was very pleasant. To
be sure, her master would eat a tainted fowl instead of a delicate bird;
but one must have one’s little perquisites, and what was the use of
being a cordon bleu if one did not make something out of the marketing?

“The _considérés_ are very old combinations,” said a little man who had
been gazing at the list for three-quarters of an hour; “they’re
excellent to play by extracts.”

“See,” said another, “notice that the 6 is a prisoner; it will soon come
out.”

“The 2 has come, that brings the 20.”

“The 39 in a hundred and three drawings--it’s an ingot of gold! Zeros
haven’t done anything for a long while.”

“That’s true; I’ll bet that they’ll come in a _terne_ or an _ambe_.”

“How often the forties come out! If I’d followed my first idea, I’d have
had an _ambe_ at Strasbourg; I must tell you that, when my wife dreams
that she’s had a child, the 44 comes out--that never fails. Well! she
dreamed that the other night. I’ve got a dog that I’ve taught to draw
numbers out of a bag; he’s beginning to do it very well with his paw. He
drew out 46, and I was going to put it with my wife’s dream; we thought
about it all day, and she wanted to put instead of it the number of her
birthday which was very near; and what do you suppose?--my dog’s number
came out with her dream!--I wouldn’t sell that beast for three hundred
francs.”

“I’m shrewder than you, my dear man,” said an old candy woman; “I’ve got
a talisman.”

“A talisman!”

“Yes, it’s a fact; a fortune-teller told me the secret.”

“What is it?” shouted all the gossips at once.

“A bit of clean parchment, with letters written on it with my blood.”

“Mon Dieu! that’s worse than the play at the Ambigu.--Tell us, what do
your letters say?”

“Faith! I don’t know; they’re Hebrew, so she said.”

“Look out, Javotte! don’t trust it; it may be an invention of the devil,
and then you’ll go straight to hell with your talisman.”

“Bah! I ain’t afraid, and I won’t let go of my little parchment. I’m a
philosopher!”

“What a fool she is with her talisman!” said the gossips, when Javotte
had gone. “It beats the devil what luck it brings her! She owes
everybody in the quarter, and she can’t pay.--But it’s almost market
time, and I haven’t put out my goods.”

“And I ought by now to be at the Fontaine des Innocents!”

“Bless my soul! you remind me that my children ain’t up yet, and I’m
sure they’re squalling, the little brats! and their gruel has been on
the fire ever since eight o’clock.”

“It’ll be well cooked!”

“I’m off; good-day, neighbor.”

“See you soon; we shall have the list if the sun shines.”

Amid this mob, pushed by one, pulled by another, deafened by them all,
Edouard waited for three-quarters of an hour for his turn to come. At
last he reached the desk; all that he had heard about _considérés_,
prisoners and lucky numbers was running in his head; but as he had no
idea what to choose, he put twenty francs on the first numbers that
occurred to him, and left the office with hope in his pocket.

On the street he met many individuals most shabbily clad, who offered
him fifty louis in gold for twelve sous. These gentlemen and ladies
apparently disdained for themselves the fortune that they proposed to
sell to the passers-by at such a bargain. But Murville declined their
offers. He had in his pocket what he wanted. He was already building
castles in Spain, for his numbers were excellent--so the agent told
him--and could not fail to draw something. He was about to be released
from embarrassment; he could live in style, and keep the prettiest, aye,
and the most expensive women, which would drive Madame de Géran frantic.
In short, he would deny himself nothing.

But the sun shone; at three o’clock the list was posted outside the
offices; Edouard, who had been pacing back and forth impatiently in
front of the one at which he had bought his ticket, eagerly drew near;
he looked at the list and saw that he had drawn nothing.



XXVI

THE KIND FRIENDS AND WHAT RESULTED


Dufresne left the village behind him, with rage in his heart and his
head filled with schemes of revenge. It was no longer the hope of seeing
Adeline share his brutal passion that tormented him; he felt that that
was impossible now; only by the most infamous craft had he succeeded in
gratifying his lust; and Adeline was no less virtuous than before. In
vain had he hoped, by that method, to change the sentiments of Edouard’s
wife; she detested him more than ever. What did he propose to do? Was
she not unhappy enough? She wept for a fault which she had not
committed; she had lost the affection of her husband; she would soon
find herself reduced to penury! What other blows could he deal her?

Dufresne’s advice was not needed any longer to lure Edouard to the
gaming table; the unhappy wretch did not pass a single day without
visiting one or more of the gambling hells in which the capital abounds.
He sought there to forget his plight, by plunging deeper and deeper into
the abyss. The proceeds of his last notes went to join his fortune,
which had been divided among Madame de Géran, roulette, trente-et-un,
prostitutes and swindlers. What was he to do now, to procure the means
to gratify his depraved tastes? The maturity of his notes was
approaching; he could not pay them, his country house would be sold, his
wife and child would have no roof to cover their heads, no resource
except in him; but it was not that that preoccupied him; he thought of
himself alone, and if he desired to procure money, it was not to relieve
his family. No, he no longer remembered the sacred bonds which united
him to an amiable and lovely wife. The cards caused him to forget
entirely that he was a husband and father.

Forced to leave the apartment which he occupied alone in a handsome
house, he went to Dufresne and took up his abode with him. The latter
had been anxious for some days after his return from the country; he was
afraid that Jacques would pursue him to Paris, and, in order to avoid
his search, he changed his name, and urged his companion to do the same.
Dufresne called himself Courval, and Edouard, Monbrun. It was under
these names that they hired lodgings, in a wretched lodging house in
Faubourg Saint-Jacques, having no other associates than blacklegs and
men without means, who like Dufresne had reasons of their own for
avoiding the daylight.

Three weeks after Madame Germeuil’s death, what she had left was already
spent, and they were compelled to have recourse every day to all sorts
of expedients to obtain means of subsistence.

One evening, when Dufresne and Edouard had remained at home, having no
money to gamble, and cudgeling their brains to think of a way of
procuring some, there was a knock at their door, and one Lampin, a
consummate scamp, worthy to be Dufresne’s intimate friend, entered their
room with a joyous air, and with four bottles under his arm.

“Oho! is that you, Lampin?” said Dufresne, as he opened the door to his
friend, and made certain signs to which the other replied without being
detected by Edouard, who was absorbed in his thoughts.

“Yes, messieurs, it’s me. Come, come, comrade Monbrun, come, stop your
dreaming! I have brought something to brighten you up.”

“What’s that?”

“Wine, brandy and rum.”

“The deuce it is! so you are in funds, are you?”

“Faith, I won ten francs at _biribi_, and I have come to drink ’em up
with my friends.”

“That’s right, Lampin, you’re a good fellow. You have come just in time
to cheer us up, for we were as dismal as empty pockets, Monbrun and I.”

“Let’s have a drink first; that will set you up, and then we will talk.”

The four bottles were placed on a table; the gentlemen took their places
at it, and the glasses were filled and emptied rapidly.

“We haven’t a sou, Lampin, and that’s a wretched disease.”

“Bah! because you are fools!--Here’s your health.”

“What do you mean by that, Jean-Fesse?”

“I mean that if I had your talents, and especially Monbrun’s, I wouldn’t
be where you are now, but I would have my bread well buttered.”

“What do you mean?” asked Edouard, pouring out a glass of brandy;
“explain yourself.”

“Anybody can understand that, my son; I tell you again that if I knew
how to handle a pen as you do, I would speculate on a large scale! But
you’re scared to death!”

“We have speculated enough, but it hasn’t succeeded with us.”

“But that’s not what I’m talking about, youngster. Let’s take a drink,
messieurs; it’s good stuff, at all events.”

“Tell us, Lampin, what you would have done to----”

“Ah! I’m a blade, I am; I would risk the job! But I write like a cat.”

“But what is it that you’d write?”

“That depends--sometimes one thing, sometimes another.--Look here,
here’s a note that a friend entrusted to me; it is the proceeds of his
father’s property, which is to be paid him here in Paris, because he
means to enjoy himself with us.”

“What is it?”

“A note for twelve hundred francs, accepted by a famous banker of Paris.
Oh! it’s good, anyone would discount it for you on the instant; my
colleague knows a man who lives in the suburbs of Paris, and who
proposed to give him _rocks_ for his paper.--Well, my boy, make one like
it, and you can get that discounted too.”

“What? What do you say? Counterfeit this note?”

“Oh, no, not counterfeit it, for instead of twelve hundred francs I
would make it twelve thousand; it’s just an imitation. Here’s your
health.”

“Why, you villain! that’s forgery!”

“No, it ain’t forgery; it’s a note that we put in circulation; it ain’t
forgery; is it, Dufresne? In all this, the banker is the only one that’s
fooled; but those rascals are rich enough to make us a little present.”

“In fact,” said Dufresne, “it isn’t exactly a forgery; we create a note,
that’s all, and we make someone else pay it.”

“That’s just it, my boy, it’s only a little joke.--Oh! you understand
such games, you do; but Monbrun is a little dull.”

“No, no, I understand very well, messieurs; but I cannot consent to
resort to such methods. I disapprove of your plan.”

“Is that so? Well, you’ll never get ahead, my man, and you’ll die of
hunger, like the fleas in winter!”

“It is true that we have no resources,” said Dufresne; “no linen, no
clothes except those we have on!”

“That’s very fine! Just reflect that you have everything to gain and
nothing to lose.”

“What about honor?” said Edouard in a weak voice.

“Honor! Pardi! I rather guess yours has been roaming the country for a
long while; as for Dufresne, he’s like me, never had any, for fear of
losing it.”

“This rascal of a Lampin is always joking! Let’s have a drink,
messieurs.”

“Remember, too, that with the twelve thousand francs you will get, you
can make up all your losses. I have discovered a sure way of winning;
you only need three hundred louis to catch a thousand.”

“Really?”

“On my word as an honest man; I will teach you my scheme, and we will
share the profits.”

“That is really attractive,” said Dufresne, examining the note closely,
while Lampin filled Edouard’s glass with rum, and he began to lose
command of his wits.

“You say, Lampin, that you know a man who would discount your friend’s
note?”

“Yes, he knows that it is all right. It can’t look suspicious to him, I
tell you; he will think that the inheritance was larger, that’s all.”

“True,” said Dufresne; “who will ever know about it? It is a secret
between ourselves.”

“And our conscience?” faltered Edouard.

“Oh! damn! What an ass he is with his conscience! Do you think you’re
talking to small boys?”

“The most essential thing,” continued Dufresne, “is to succeed. For my
part, if Monbrun will write the body of the note, I will look after the
signature, and I will take the whole thing on myself.”

“Well! what have you got to say to that, booby? Are you going to make
more fuss? You hear, he takes the whole thing on himself; I should say
that that was acting like a friend?”

“What! Dufresne, would you----”

“Faith, I see no other way of extricating ourselves from poverty; I tell
you again, it will not put you forward in any way!”

“Are you sure of it?”

“Bah! What’s the matter with you, Nicodemus, when he tells you that you
won’t be put forward? Look here, colleagues, I happen to have on me a
blank note, all stamped; just cut a quill, Dufresne, and let’s amuse
ourselves by making different kinds of letters.”

“My hand trembles, messieurs,” said Edouard; “I shall never be able to
write.”

“Go on, go on! that’s just right! Ah! how rich I should be if I had been
able to do as much! But my education was rather neglected.”

“Suppose we should be arrested, identified as the authors of----”

“Bah! it is impossible; and if you should be, you would get off with a
few months in prison; and you are very well off there, you enjoy
yourself and make acquaintances.”

Edouard, led astray by the talk of the villains who were with him, and
having long since lost all sense of delicacy in the haunts of vice and
debauchery, crossed the narrow space which still separated him from the
miserable wretches who are at odds with the laws; he choked back the
last cry of his conscience, and committed the most shameful of crimes.

The note was written, Dufresne exerted himself to counterfeit the
signatures, and succeeded perfectly, whereat Edouard alone was
surprised. They invented endorsers; the unhappy Murville, who allowed
himself to be led wherever they would, disguised his handwriting and
wrote on the back of the note the names that they gave him.

Lampin was overjoyed, and for greater safety proposed to carry the note
to the man who had agreed to discount the one for twelve hundred francs,
and who lived in a small town not far from Paris. This plan was agreed
upon: Dufresne was to accompany Lampin, because those gentry did not
trust him sufficiently to leave their note in his hands; and Edouard,
who was less bold than they, was to await at Paris the result of the
affair.

Everything being arranged, they drank again, Edouard to deaden his
conscience more completely, the others for conviviality’s sake. They
formed plans for the use of their future wealth, and ended by falling
asleep with their elbows on the table.

Edouard, who had drunk more, and who was less able to stand excessive
indulgence in wine and liqueurs than the others, did not wake until
eight o’clock in the morning. The first thought that came to his mind
was that of the dishonorable act he had committed the night before. He
shuddered, for he realized the full extent of his crime; he looked for
Dufresne, to urge him to destroy the false note; but Dufresne was not
there, he had gone away early with Lampin, anticipating remorse on
Edouard’s part, and by his own absence making it impossible for him to
retrace his steps.

Edouard left his room, and went out into the street with no definite
object. But he sought some distraction from the anxiety which beset him.
Already he was afraid of being recognized as a criminal. He glanced
about him fearfully; if anyone looked hard at him as he passed, he
blushed, became confused, and fancied that he was about to be arrested;
he tried in vain to overcome his terror and his weakness, but he could
not succeed, and he already cursed money obtained at so high a price.

At a street corner, he heard a cry; someone uttered his name. He
quickened his pace, not daring to look back; but someone ran after him,
overtook him and grasped his arm; he trembled, the cold perspiration
stood on his brow; he raised his eyes and saw his wife and daughter
before him.

“Is it really you? I have found you at last!” said Adeline; “oh! I have
been looking for you for a long, long while.”

“You frightened me,” said Edouard, greatly surprised by this meeting.
“But why are you here? Why did you leave the country?”

“Your creditors have turned me out of the house I was living in; it no
longer belongs to you. Some time ago the notary warned me that your
fortune was impaired; that such property as you possessed was subject to
numerous mortgages.”

“I know all that, madame; spare me your useless complaints and
reproaches.”

“I don’t propose to make any complaints or reproaches; and yet--Oh! my
dear, how changed you are!”

“I have been sick.”

“Why not have written to me? I would have come and nursed you.”

“I needed nobody.”

“And this is the way you treat her whom you have reduced to want! I have
lost my mother, and I no longer have a husband! Chance alone is
responsible for my meeting you; I have asked for you in all the places
where you have lived, but no one has been able to give me any news of
you. For a fortnight I have been here; I was losing hope when at last I
caught sight of you, dear Edouard; and this is the way you speak to me;
and you don’t even kiss your daughter!”

“Do you want me to make a show of myself to the passers-by?”

“How can the sight of a father kissing his child be absurd, in the eyes
of decent people? But let us go in somewhere, into a café.”

“I haven’t any time.”

“Where do you live now?”

“A long way from here; I was in very straitened circumstances, and
Dufresne took me in to lodge with him.”

“You live with Dufresne? A villain who has already been guilty of all
sorts of crimes!”

“Hold your tongue, and don’t bore me with your preaching! I do what I
choose and I see whom I choose; I give you leave to do the same.”

“What a tone, and what manners!” said Adeline to herself, as she
examined Edouard; “but no matter, I must make one last
attempt.--Monsieur,” she said aloud, “if it is want that forces you to
remain with that scoundrel who deceives you, come and live with me; let
us leave this city, which would recall painful memories to you, and come
with me to some lonely place in the country; I have nothing, but I will
work, I will work nights if necessary, and I will provide means of
subsistence for us. In a poor cottage we may still be happy, if we
endure adversity with courage, and Heaven, moved by our resignation,
will perhaps take pity on us. You will find the repose which eludes you,
and I shall find my husband. In pity’s name, do not refuse me; come, I
implore you; leave this town, with its treacherous counselors and
dangerous acquaintances, or beware lest you become a criminal.”

Edouard was moved; his heart was agitated by pity and remorse, and he
looked at his daughter for the first time.

“Well,” he said to Adeline, “I will see; if I can arrange my affairs, I
will go with you.”

“What detains you now?”

“A single thing, but a most important one; I must find out--where are
you staying now?”

“At a hotel in Faubourg Saint-Antoine; see, here is my address.”

“Give it to me; to-morrow I will go to see you.”

“Do you promise?”

“Yes; until to-morrow. Adieu, I leave you.”

Edouard hurried away, and Adeline returned to her hotel, passing from
hope to fear and from fear to hope. She knew her husband, she knew how
little she could rely upon his promises, so that she awaited the morrow
with anxiety. But on the morrow Dufresne and Lampin returned with money.
The discounter had fallen into the trap; he had thought that he had
recognized the banker’s signature. Those men led Edouard away; they
abandoned themselves anew to the pleasures of the table and the gambling
house. They made Murville drunk; they put his remorse and his scruples
to silence; they laughed at his fears; and Adeline, instead of seeing
him whom she expected, received in the morning a note containing only
these words:

     “Do not try to see me again, do not hope that I will go with you to
     bury myself in a cottage; that sort of thing does not suit me.
     Leave Paris without me; this is the last command that you will
     receive from your husband, who leaves you entirely at liberty to do
     whatever you please.”

Adeline bathed the letter in her tears.

“You have no father now,” she said to little Ermance; “poor child, what
will your lot be? Let us leave this city, let us follow my husband’s
last orders. Let us go back to the honest villagers; at the farm they
will not spurn me. I shall not blush to ask them for work. O mother! If
you were still alive, I should find comfort in your arms. If only I had
followed your advice! Perhaps Edouard then--but it’s too late! At all
events, you never knew the full extent of my sorrow.”

Adeline sold all that she thought unlikely to be of use to her in the
situation which she was about to occupy. No more jewels, no more
flowers, no superfluous wardrobe; in a simple dress and a straw hat tied
with a modest ribbon, with her daughter on one arm and a small bundle on
the other,--thus did Madame Murville set out for Guillot’s farm.



XXVII

ADELINE FINDS A PROTECTOR


The farmer’s family were in despair at Madame Murville’s flight. Since
the day that Dufresne had been driven from the village, Adeline, buried
in the most profound melancholy, had not left her home; she took no
diversion whatever, and the solicitations of the peasants had failed to
induce her to emerge from her retirement.

Jacques did not know what to think of his brother’s conduct. He easily
guessed that he made his wife unhappy; but he was still far from
suspecting the extent of his misbehavior! Edouard’s brother dared not
question Adeline, but she read in his eyes his sympathy with her
distress, and her grateful heart rewarded the honest laborer with the
most sincere friendship. Every two days Jacques went to the village to
enquire for Madame Murville’s health. One morning when he rang as usual
at the courtyard gate, the old gardener answered the bell, with tears in
his eyes.

“What’s the matter, Père Forêt, what has happened to Madame Murville
now?” Jacques asked anxiously; “can it be that that scamp of the other
day has come again?”

“Ah! my dear monsieur, more than one scamp has come to-day! And they
have turned my mistress out of doors!”

“Turned her out! That isn’t possible, ten thousand dead men!”

“It is true, however.”

“What were they? brigands, robbers?”

“No, no, monsieur, they were bailiffs, creditors, what do I know? They
showed madame some papers, and told her that she wasn’t in her own house
any longer. Poor woman! she cried, but she didn’t make any answer; she
just did her clothes up in a bundle, took her daughter in her arms, and
left.”

“Left! She has gone away? Is it possible? The villain! he has reduced
her to destitution!”

“Monsieur Jacques, I tell you there was a lot of them. Look, here’s the
placard; this house is for sale now, and they left me here, so that
there might be some one to show it to people.”

“Do you know where Madame Murville has gone?”

“Bless me! she took the Paris road.”

“She has gone to join him.”

“Yes, no doubt she has gone to her husband; but look you, between
ourselves, they say that he is a regular good-for-nothing; that he
raises the devil at Paris; and you must agree, Monsieur Jacques, that
when one has a pretty, good, young wife like madame--For, bless my soul,
she is virtue and goodness personified! And then a child, which will be
its mother’s portrait; well, I say, when a man has all that, and forgets
them all the year round, it ain’t right, and it don’t speak well for
him.”

Jacques, having taken his leave of the gardener, cast a last glance at
the house and walked sadly away from the village. A thousand plans
passed through his mind; he thought of going to Paris to look for
Adeline; he thought of speaking to his brother, reproaching him for his
evil conduct, and making him ashamed of the destitution in which he had
left his wife; with his mind filled with such thoughts as these, he
arrived at the farm. His friends there questioned him; they grieved with
him, but still they hoped that Madame Murville would come to see them.
Sans-Souci shared that hope; he encouraged his comrade, and urged him to
wait a few days before taking any steps.

Jacques’s patience was beginning to be exhausted; he was on the point of
leaving the farm and going to Paris, when one morning the joyous outcry
of the children announced some good news. It was Adeline, who appeared
at the farm with her little Ermance.

Everybody ran to meet her; they surrounded her, pressed against her,
embraced her, and manifested the most sincere joy. Adeline, deeply moved
by the attachment of the peasants, found that she could still feel a
sensation of pleasure.

“Ah!” she said to them, “I have not lost all, since I still have sincere
friends.”

Jacques did not know what he was doing; he seized Adeline’s hands,
kissed them, swore, cried, stamped, and turned away to hide his tears.
Sans-Souci, overjoyed by Adeline’s return, and by the pleasure which his
comrade felt, leaped and gamboled about among the hens and the ducks,
and played with all the children; which he did only in moments of good
humor.

“My friends,” said Adeline to the people of the farm, as they crowded
about her, “I am no longer what I was; unfortunate events have deprived
me of my fortune, and I have nothing now but courage to endure this
reverse, and my conscience, which tells me that I did not deserve it. I
must work now, to earn my living and to bring up my child; you made me
welcome when I was rich; you will not turn me away now that I am poor;
and I come to you confidently, to beg you to give me work. Oh! do not
refuse me! On no other terms will I consent to remain here.”

While Adeline was speaking, profound emotion was depicted on the
features of those who surrounded her; Louise could not restrain her
tears; Guillot, with wide-open mouth and eyes fastened upon Madame
Murville, heaved profound sighs every moment, and Sans-Souci twisted his
moustaches and passed his hand over his eyes.

But Jacques, more deeply moved, more touched than they, at sight of the
resignation of a lovely woman, who came to bury herself in a farm-house,
renouncing all the pleasures of the capital and all the customs of
aristocratic society, without uttering a word of reproach against the
man who was responsible for her misfortunes,--honest Jacques could not
restrain himself; he pushed away Louise and Guillot, who stood beside
Adeline, and, shaking the young woman’s arm violently, as she gazed at
him in amazement:

“No, sacrebleu!” he cried; “you shall not work, you shall not risk your
health, you shall not roughen that soft skin by labor beyond your
strength; I will take it upon myself to look after the support of you
and your child. I will take care of you, I will watch over you both; and
morbleu! so long as there is a drop of blood in my veins, I shall find a
way to do my duty.”

“What do you say, Jacques? your duty?”

“Yes, madame, yes, my duty; my brother has ruined your life, and the
least that I can do will be to devote my life to you, and to try to
repair his villainy.”

“Is it possible? You are----”

“Jacques Murville, the boy who began his travels at fifteen, giving way
to quick passions, and to his desire to see the world; and I confess,
between ourselves, groaning in secret at his mother’s coldness, and
jealous of the caresses which were lavished upon his brother and
unjustly denied to him. But none the less I possessed a heart,
sensitive in the matter of honor, from which I have never departed, even
in the midst of my youthful follies.--That is my story; embrace me; I
feel that I am worthy of your affection, and you can bestow it upon me
without blushing.”

Adeline embraced Jacques warmly; she felt the keenest joy in meeting her
husband’s brother, and the peasants exclaimed aloud in surprise, while
Sans-Souci shouted at the top of his lungs as he rubbed his hands:

“I knew it! I knew it! but my comrade closed my mouth and I wouldn’t
have said a word for all of the great Sultan’s pipes!”

“But why conceal from me so long the bond that unites us?” Adeline asked
Jacques; “did you doubt it would please me to embrace my husband’s
brother?”

“No,” replied Jacques, somewhat embarrassed, “no; but I wanted first of
all to know you better; people sometimes blush for their relations.”

“Ah! my friend, when a man wears this symbol of honor, can he conceive
such fears?”

“Ten thousand bombs! that’s what I have been killing myself telling him
every day,” said Sans-Souci; “but he is a little pig-headed, is my
friend; when he gets a thing into his head, he won’t let it go again.”

“You have found me now that I can be useful to you; that is all that is
necessary. Let us embrace again, and look upon me as your brother, as
the father of this poor child; since he who ought to cherish her, and to
adore you, has not a heart like other men; since he is unworthy
to--Well, well! you want me to hold my tongue; you love him still, I
see. Well! I am done; we won’t talk about him any more, and we will try
to forget him.”

“Oh! if he had seen you,” said Adeline; “if he had found his brother,
perhaps your advice----”

“If he had seen me!--But I must let that drop.--Let us forget an
ingrate, who is not worthy of a single one of the tears you shed for
him.”

“Yes, yes, let’s be merry and joyful,” said Guillot; “morgué! we mustn’t
be groaning all the time; that makes a body stupid as a fool. Let’s sit
down at the table, and to-night Brother Jacques will tell us about one
of his battles, to amuse us. That’s amusing, I tell you! When I have
been listening to him, I dream about battles all night long, I take my
wife’s rump for a battery of artillery, and her legs for a battalion of
infantry; and I think I hear the cannon.”

“Hold your tongue, my man.”

After the meal, they set about making the preparations required by
Adeline’s presence at the farm. Louise arranged for her a small room
looking on the fields; she tried to make it as pleasant as possible, by
carrying thither such pretty things as she could find in the house. In
vain did Adeline try to prevent her; when Louise had determined upon
anything, that thing must be done; she refused to listen to the young
woman when she implored her to look upon her as nothing but a poor
peasant woman; the farmer’s wife desired to make Madame Murville forget
her change of fortune, by redoubling her efforts to serve her with zeal
and affection. Jacques did not thank the farmer’s wife, but he took her
hands and pressed them fondly every time that she did anything for his
sister, and Sans-Souci cried, bringing his hand down upon Guillot’s
back:

“Morbleu! you have a fine wife, cousin! She manages things right well!”

“That’s so,” said Guillot; “that’s why I don’t meddle with anything, not
even with the children. Well, well, morgué, they come along well, all
the same!”

Thus Adeline became an inmate of the farm house; she worked rapidly with
the needle, and Louise was obliged to allow her to employ her whole day,
either in sewing or spinning. Jacques felt that his strength was
increased twofold since his brother’s wife and his little niece were
with him. He alone was worth three farm hands; having become expert in
the labor of the farm, he added to the farmer’s income by the pains that
he took with everything which he did. Sans-Souci for his part imitated
his comrade; he would have been ashamed to remain idle while the others
employed their time to such good purpose. So that everything went well
at the farm; Guillot and his wife scolded Adeline because she worked too
much, and forbade Jacques to do so large a share of the work. But no
heed was paid to them, and they had the agreeable certainty that they
were not a burden to the worthy peasants.

Several months passed thus, without bringing any change in the situation
of the people at the farm. Adeline would have been content with her lot,
if she could sometimes have heard from her husband; for she still loved
the man who had wrecked her life, and the memory of Edouard constantly
disturbed her repose. “What is he doing now?” she would ask herself each
day; and the thought that Dufresne was with him added to her unhappiness
and redoubled her anxiety. Often she formed the plan of going to Paris
to make inquiries concerning her husband’s conduct; but she was afraid
of offending Jacques, who, being bitterly angry with his brother, did
not wish to hear his name mentioned, and had begged Adeline never to
talk to him about Edouard.

Jacques feigned an indifference which he was far from feeling. In secret
he thought of his brother, and he would have given anything in the world
to know that he had repented of his errors, and to have him return and
beg for a forgiveness which was already accorded him.

So Adeline and Jacques concealed from each other the thoughts that
engrossed them, because each of them feared to distress the other by
renewing the memory of his or her grief. Sans-Souci was the confidant of
them both; Guillot sometimes had errands to be done in Paris, either to
sell his grain, or to buy things that were needed at the farm; it was
always Sans-Souci who was sent, because Jacques refused to go, lest he
should meet his brother. But every time that Sans-Souci was to pay a
visit to the capital, Adeline took him aside and begged him to ascertain
what her husband was doing; Jacques dared not give the same commission
to his comrade, but he would overtake Sans-Souci a little way from the
farm, stop him a moment and say in an undertone:

“If you learn anything unpleasant about the man who has forgotten us,
remember to hold your tongue, sacrebleu! If you breathe a word of it to
my sister, you are no longer my friend.”

And Sans-Souci would depart, charged with this twofold commission; but
he always returned without learning anything. As Edouard had changed his
name, no one could tell him what had become of him.



XXVIII

THE AUDACIOUS VILLAIN.--THE COWARD.--THE DRUNKARD


Fortune seemed to smile anew upon the wretches who, to obtain money, had
been false to honor and had defied all the laws of society; it was a
fresh temptation, which impelled them toward crime and prevented them
from turning back. The first success seems to warrant impunity for the
future; the guilty man grows bolder, and one who enters in fear and
trembling the path of vice soon casts aside all shame and seeks to
surpass those who have led him on to dishonor.

The gaming table, to which Edouard abandoned himself more madly than
ever, had ceased to be unfavorable to him; he won constantly, and the
wretch congratulated himself upon having found an expedient to restore
his fortune. Dufresne and Lampin taught him all the methods employed by
blacklegs to play, without risk of loss, with such gulls as would play
with them. Then the worthy trio would laugh among themselves at the
expense of the dupes they had ruined, and each of them tried to invent
some more rascally trick, in order to outdo his comrades.

Lampin lived with his two friends; Dufresne had convinced Edouard that
it was not safe to break with him. Moreover, Lampin was endowed with an
imagination fertile in stratagems and in skilful devices; he was a great
help to swindlers.

When fortune had been favorable, or they had found some new dupe, they
thought only of enjoying themselves. They would take to their rooms some
of those women who go everywhere, and who, for money, sell themselves to
the mason, the pensioner, the banker, or the bootblack,
indiscriminately. Such women alone were suitable companions for men who
took part in the most horrible orgies, the most unbridled debauchery.

One evening, when they were waiting for Lampin before taking their seats
at the table, he arrived laughing, and hastened to inform his friends,
as a very amusing piece of news, that a certain note had been declared a
forgery, and that the discounter was out of pocket to the amount of the
note. Edouard was horrified and turned pale; Dufresne reassured him by
declaring that they could never be discovered; they had changed their
names and abode since then, and no one could recognize them; there were
no proofs to be produced against them. Lampin alone might be sought for;
but he was so accomplished in changing his face and his whole person,
that he snapped his fingers at the police.

Edouard was not reassured; however, he tried to divert his thoughts and
to drive away his fears. Two young women, frequent guests of these
gentlemen, arrived opportunely to enliven the company.

“Parbleu,” said Lampin, “Véronique-la-Blonde must tell us some amusing
story; she always knows the most interesting news; that will brace up
our friend Bellecour--this was Edouard’s new name--who is rather in the
dumps to-night.”

“Oh! I am not just in the mood for fooling,” replied Véronique, with a
sigh; “I am sort of upside down myself to-day.”

“It seems to me that you ought to be used to that.”

“Oh! don’t talk a lot of nonsense. Really, my heart is terribly sore.”

“The deuce you say! Have you had trouble with the beaks?”

“No, it ain’t that; but I’ve got a friend who’s mixed up in a bad piece
of business, and that troubles me.”

“What business is it? Tell us; perhaps we can help her out of it.”

“Oh, no! The law has got its hand on her, and yet the poor child is as
innocent as you and me.”

“The devil! that’s saying a good deal; but tell us what it’s all about.”

“You must know that my friend, who has only been in the business a
little while, was formerly a servant, a lady’s maid in several houses;
among others she worked for a widow lady who died a little while ago.
Well, would you believe that they have taken it into their heads, in the
quarter, that that lady was poisoned! That report came to the ears of
the authorities; they dug up the dead woman, and it seems that the
doctors say the same thing as the neighbors. So they looked into the
matter, and they’ve arrested my friend, because she worked for the lady
at that time; but the poor child is as pure as this glass of wine, I
swear.”

Dufresne listened attentively to Véronique’s story, while Lampin toyed
with the other young woman, and Edouard, who had relapsed into his
reflections concerning a forgery of which he knew that he was guilty,
had thrown himself into an easy-chair in a corner of the room, paying no
heed to a story which did not interest him in the least.

“This affair seems to me to be a most remarkable one,” said Dufresne,
drawing his chair nearer to Véronique’s; “but what is your friend’s
name?”

“Suzanne; she is a good child, on my honor, and incapable of tearing a
hair from anybody’s head, I don’t care whose.”

At the name of Suzanne, Dufresne showed signs of perturbation. But
instantly recovering himself, he glanced about the room, saw that
Murville was not listening, and that Lampin was busy; and he continued
to question Véronique.

“It seems to me that your Suzanne will have difficulty in getting out of
the scrape, if, as you say, this lady had no other servant than her?”

“Oh! that don’t make any difference; Suzanne suspects who it was that
did the job.”

“Really?”

“Yes, my friend. A young man, a friend of the widow, her lover, used to
come to see her; he was a gambler, a rascal, a sharper.”

“All right! all right! I understand!--Well?”

“The poor woman ruined herself for the good-for-nothing!--Wait a minute,
I know her name--Madame Dou--Dol------”

“No matter! no matter!” said Dufresne, abruptly interrupting Véronique,
“I don’t need to know her name.”

“That’s so, that don’t make any difference about the business. However,
this lady was mad over her lover, who didn’t care anything for her and
robbed her all he could. It seems that they had a row toward the end,
and that the monster must have poisoned her to revenge himself because
she proposed to tell about all his goings-on.”

“That is very probable.”

“Ah! men are vile dogs nowadays. They kill a woman as quick as a fly!”

“What does your Suzanne intend to do?”

“Oh! she has already told the police all this, so that they can get
track of the criminal, who is now I don’t know where.”

“That is very wise, and I hope they will discover the truth.”

Dufresne said these last words in an undertone. Despite the assurance
which he affected, the discomposure of his features betrayed the
sensations that agitated him.

The evening came to an end earlier than usual. Edouard was anxious, and
Dufresne also seemed greatly excited. They sent the two young women
away. Lampin, who alone had retained his good spirits, poured out bumper
after bumper for his friends, making fun of their gloom. Edouard drank
to forget himself, but Dufresne was not inclined to bear them company,
and Lampin got tipsy alone, trying in vain to make his companions laugh.

“Come, come, my boys, this won’t work,” he said, filling the glasses;
“you’re as solemn to-night as gallows-birds! I forgive Bellecour,
who is only a chicken-hearted fellow anyway! But you over
there--Vermontré--Courval--Dufresne--or whatever you choose to call
yourself----”

“Hold your tongue, you idiot!” cried Dufresne angrily; “I forbid you to
call me by that last name now!”

“You forbid me! Well, upon my soul! what a savage look! You used to call
yourself that, when you lived with that poor Dolban, who thought you
really loved her, and who----”

“Hold your tongue, I say, you sot!”

“Sot! ah! it sounds well for you to call me a sot, when you slept under
the table last night! and when you drink punch like a hole in the
ground! But never mind, I don’t quarrel with my friends, and we are
friends, after all. It is plain enough that you are both out of temper;
Edouard on account of that scrap of paper which worries him so, and
you--Oh! as to you, I don’t know what the matter is; it must be some
martingale that didn’t work, or some friend that took you in, or else
it’s--But I say, what was that Véronique was telling you, about her
poisoning, and her widow, and the lover who wasn’t her lover? Do you
know that’s as like your intimacy with old Dolban as one drop of water
is like another! If it was you--Ha! ha! you’re quite capable of such a
game!”

“For heaven’s sake, go to bed, Lampin; you see that Edouard is asleep
already, and you will wake him up with your laughter.”

“Well! what’s the harm if I should wake him? The deuce! You’re terribly
careful of him to-night! But I propose to laugh, to laugh and drink; and
I don’t propose to go to bed, do you understand? I feel in the mood for
raising the deuce! I’m sorry I let our girls go; I’m just the man to
deal with ’em.--Tra la la la.”

“Do you mean that you don’t propose to go to bed at all to-night?”

“I will go to bed when I please, you fox. Oh! I see that you’re in an
ugly mood, I tell you. You are keeping something from us; Véronique’s
story dried you up altogether, my poor Dufresne!”

“You villain, will you hold your tongue?” cried Dufresne, seizing Lampin
by the throat; he struggled, stepped back and almost fell upon Edouard,
who had fallen asleep in a corner of the room, and who, being awakened
with a start, glanced about him in terror, crying:

“Here they are! here they are! they have come to arrest me!”

“To arrest you,” said Dufresne; “who, for God’s sake?”

“Ha! ha! what fools you are!” cried Lampin, rising and trying to
maintain his equilibrium; “one of them is dreaming and the other one
doesn’t see it!”

“Ah! it was only a dream,” said Edouard, passing his hand across his
brow.

“Why, yes! you are a couple of babies; but, my boy, don’t take it into
your head to grasp my windpipe again, or I shall lose my temper for good
and all.”

“It’s getting late, messieurs,” said Dufresne; “I’m tired and I’m going
to lie down!”

“Well, go! Our friend here will keep me company and finish up this
bottle of rum.”

“No, I’m going to bed too; my head is in a whirl already.”

“Go to the devil! I will drink all by myself.”

“Once more, Lampin, don’t make so much noise; it may annoy the
neighbors.”

“Let the neighbors go to grass! I don’t care a hang, and I’ll make more
noise than ever.--Tra la la.”

Lampin sang at the top of his voice, as he drank a large glass of rum.
Edouard and Dufresne had taken candles, to go to their bedroom, when
there came three very loud knocks at the street door.

Dufresne started back in dismay, Edouard listened, trembling from head
to foot, and Lampin threw himself on a couch.

“Somebody’s knocking,” said Edouard, looking at Dufresne.

“Yes, I heard it.”

“Well! so did I; I ain’t deaf, and they knocked loud enough anyway, but
what difference does it make to us? We don’t expect anybody, for it’s
nearly three o’clock in the morning; unless it’s our lady friends come
back to rock us to sleep.”

“Hush! somebody is opening the door, I think.”

“Somebody must open the door to let them in! In a furnished lodging
house, especially one of this kind, don’t people come in at all hours of
the night? However, come what may, I snap my fingers at it, and I
propose to keep on drinking.”

“I don’t hear anything more,” said Dufresne; “it evidently wasn’t for
us.”

Edouard put his ear to the door opening on the landing, and listened
attentively. Lampin resumed his singing, and tried to put to his lips a
glass which his hand was no longer strong enough to raise. Suddenly
Edouard seemed to become more excited.

“What is it?” Dufresne asked in an undertone.

“I hear several voices whispering; the noise is coming nearer--yes, they
are coming up these stairs. Ah! there is no more doubt; they are coming
to arrest us,--we are discovered!”

“Silence! what imprudence!” said Dufresne, trying to overcome his own
alarm; “if they are really coming here, let us not lose our heads, and
be careful what you say; above all things, do not call me Dufresne.”

“I don’t know where I am,” said Edouard, whose terror redoubled as the
noise drew nearer.

“Well! I--I don’t know what my name is, myself,” said Lampin, dropping
his glass; “but I tell you that they don’t want us.”

At that moment there was a ring at the door on the landing. Edouard
fell, almost lifeless, on a chair; Dufresne remained standing in the
middle of the room, motioning to the others not to stir. Soon there was
another ring, accompanied by violent knocking.

“There’s no one here,” cried Lampin; “go to the devil!”

“Damn!” said Dufresne, “we must open the door now.--Who’s there?”

“Open, messieurs, or we shall be obliged to break in the door.”

“Break away, my friend!” said Lampin; “it’s all one to me! The house
ain’t mine.”

Dufresne, seeing that there was no way to avoid it, decided to open the
door, after motioning to the others to be prudent; but Lampin could no
longer see, and Murville had lost his head completely.

Several gendarmes and a sergeant entered the apartment. At sight of them
Dufresne turned pale. Edouard uttered a cry of alarm, and Lampin rolled
from his chair to the floor.

“You must come with us, monsieur,” said the sergeant, addressing
Dufresne. He tried to put a bold face upon the matter and asked
insolently by what right they came to disturb his rest.

“Yes, by what right do you disturb respectable people in their
pleasures?” stammered Lampin; “why, I will answer for my friend, body
for body!”

“Your guarantee is of no value; we know you, Master Lampin.”

“Well, then you have a pleasant acquaintance, I flatter myself.”

“You must come with us, too.”

“I? Ah! that will be rather hard; I wouldn’t walk a step for a bowl of
punch; judge whether I will go to prison.”

“As for monsieur,” said the sergeant, turning to Edouard, “I have no
orders to arrest him, but I advise him to select his acquaintances more
wisely.”

Edouard stood in a corner of the room, trembling, and with downcast
eyes. He did not hear what was said to him, he was so thoroughly
convinced that they were going to take him away that he fancied himself
already confined in a dungeon, and had decided to confess his crime, in
the hope that his outspokenness would move his judges to pity.

Dufresne was furious to find that he was to be arrested and that Edouard
would not accompany him to prison.

“You have made a mistake, messieurs,” said he; “I have done nothing to
be arrested for.”

“You are Dufresne, who lived with Madame Dolban?”

“You are mistaken, my name is Vermontré.”

“Oh! that’s the truth,” said Lampin, trying to stand up without the help
of the gendarmes; “it’s at least two months that he’s been calling
himself that.”

“It’s of no use for you to try to deny it. The police have been watching
you for a long while, and when we heard of the murder of which you are
accused, it was not difficult for us to find you, despite all the false
names you have assumed.”

“Murder! murder!” exclaimed Lampin; “one moment, messieurs, I haven’t
got anything to do with that. I thought that you came about the matter
of the scrap of paper, which is only a trifle. But a murder! Damnation!
let us understand each other. I am as white as snow, and Fluet, who’s
over there in the corner, will tell you as much. We only worked on the
writings, we two.”

“On the writings?”

“Yes; when I say we--why it was La Valeur, who stands shaking over
there, that did most of it; but he writes mighty well! Ah! that was a
good job! And the old Jew tumbled into it; so that we’ve eaten and drunk
the stuff all up. If you would like to join us, I’m your man.”

The sergeant listened attentively, and Edouard’s terror, combined with
Lampin’s fragments of sentences, led him to guess that those gentry were
the authors of some rascality of a different sort from the affair which
had brought him thither. The crime committed upon Madame Dolban was the
occasion of that midnight visit, undertaken because they wished to make
sure of Dufresne; the forgery had only been discovered the day before,
and the police had not yet found the tracks of the culprits.

“After what I have heard, you will have to come with us too, monsieur,”
said the sergeant to Edouard; “if you are innocent, it will be easy for
you to clear your skirts.”

“Oh! I will confess everything,” said Edouard, allowing the gendarmes to
lay hold of him.

“Well! you’re nothing but a fool, on the faith of Lampin! For my part, I
won’t confess anything.--Come, my friends, carry me, if you want me to
go with you.”

They dragged away Dufresne, who tried to resist. Edouard, on the
contrary, allowed himself to be led away without uttering a word. As for
Lampin, they were obliged to carry him; for he could not stand on his
legs. The three men passed the rest of the night in prison.

Taken the next morning before an examining magistrate, in order to
undergo a preliminary examination, Edouard trembled and stammered, but
he had not the courage to deny his crime; in vain did Lampin, now
thoroughly sober, impress upon him the importance of the replies he was
to make, and teach him his lesson; Edouard promised him to be steadfast
and to follow his advice; but in the magistrate’s presence the miserable
wretch lost courage, and did not know what he said.

Edouard was confined with Lampin at La Force, until judgment should be
pronounced upon him for the forgery. Dufresne was not with them; being
accused of having poisoned Madame Dolban, he was to be tried before his
two friends, and he had been taken to the Conciergerie.

Edouard, who had not taken the precaution to supply himself with money,
was confined with Lampin in a pestilential room, in the midst of a
multitude of wretches, all arrested for theft or offences of that
nature. He slept upon a handful of straw, and his food was that supplied
by the prison to those awaiting trial. Lampin gaily made the best of it;
he sang and shouted and played the devil with the outcasts who
surrounded him. But Edouard had not the courage of crime; he felt
remorse and regret in the depths of his soul. He wept at night on the
stone which served him as a bed, and his tears were a source of jest and
witticisms to the miserable creatures confined with him.

During the day the prisoners were allowed to walk in a large courtyard;
Edouard did not go with them, in order that he might be alone for a few
moments, and at all events lament at liberty. He saw no one from
outside; he had no friends; his companions in dissipation did not come
to visit him in prison; and yet the other prisoners, who were no better
than he, received visits every day and were not deserted by their worthy
comrades. But Edouard bore the reputation among them of a weak and
pusillanimous creature; men of that description are good for nothing;
the slightest reverse discourages them, and cowards are as much despised
by criminals as they are ignored by respectable people.

The memory of Adeline and her daughter recurred to Edouard’s mind; it is
when we are unhappy that we remember those who truly love us. He had
spurned his wife and child, and had abandoned them without taking pains
to ascertain whether the unfortunate creatures could find means of
subsistence; but he felt sure that Adeline would hasten to his side, to
comfort him, and to mingle her tears with his, if she knew that he was
in prison. Despite all the injury that he had done her, he knew enough
not to doubt the warmth of her heart.

One day, Lampin approached Murville, and his joyous air seemed to
announce good news.

“Are we pardoned?” Edouard at once asked him.

“Pardoned! oh, no! we needn’t expect that. Besides, you jackass, you
made our affair so clear, that unless they are blind, they can’t help
convicting us. Ah! if you had been another kind of man; if you had
simply recited your lesson, we would have mixed the whole thing up so
that they wouldn’t have seen anything but smoke; but you chatter like a
magpie.”

“Do you forget that it was your fault that I was arrested? It was you
who put those officers on the track.”

“Oh! my boy, that’s different; I was drunk, like a good fellow; I drank
for you too, and in wine, as the proverb says,--_in vino_--the
truth.--But after all, that isn’t what I wanted to talk about: our
friend Dufresne is luckier than we are.”

“Have they given him his liberty?”

“Oh, no! but he has taken it. In other words, he has escaped from prison
with two other prisoners. Bless my soul! my son, what a fellow that
Dufresne is! He is a solid rascal, I tell you, and not soft like you. I
will bet that he would set the prison on fire rather than stay there.
When a man is like that, he don’t lack friends. Dufresne found
acquaintances there; he has escaped, and he has done well; for they say
that he is certain to be sentenced to death.”

“To death! Why, what has he done?”

“What has he done? Well, well! that’s a good one, that is. Have you just
come out of a rat-hole? Do you mean to say that you don’t know why they
pinched him?”

“I thought it was on account of that miserable note,--for the same
reason that they took us.”

“Oh, no! it’s something better than that. But I do remember now, that
fright acted on you like wine; you didn’t know what was going on. Let me
tell you that Dufresne is accused of poisoning a certain Madame Dolban,
with whom he used to live.”

“Great God! the monster!”

“It seems that his case is serious; he will be sentenced to death in
default; but you understand that he won’t return to these diggings, to
be caught. We shan’t see him again; I am sorry for that, for he is a
smart fellow; it’s a pity that he went too far.”

“And we?”

“We are to be transferred to the Conciergerie before long, to be tried.
That’s the place, my man, where you will need firmness and eloquence. If
you weep there as you do here, it’s all over; we shall take a sea voyage
in the service of the government.”

“You villain! is it possible?”

“Hush, they’re listening to us; enough said.”

While the wretched Edouard was in the throes of all the anguish of
terror and remorse, and, surrounded by vile criminals who plumed
themselves upon their crimes and their depravity, found himself the
object of their contempt, so that not one of them addressed a word of
compassion to him or deigned to sympathize with his sufferings, Adeline
passed peaceful days at Guillot’s farm. She watched the growth of her
daughter, who was already beginning to lisp a few words which only a
mother could understand. Jacques, still overflowing with zeal and
courage, insisted upon doing the hardest work; he did more than two farm
hands, and to him toil was a pleasure. At night he returned to Adeline;
he took his little niece on his knees, and danced her up and down to the
refrain of a military ballad. Everybody loved Brother Jacques; for that
is what he was called in the village after he was known to be Madame
Murville’s brother-in-law; and the peasants were proud to have under
their humble roof a woman like Adeline, and a fine fellow like Jacques.

But that peaceful life could not endure; a certain trip of Sans-Souci’s
to Paris was destined to cause a great change. Jacques’s excellent
comrade set out one day for the great city, intrusted as usual with
secret commissions from Adeline and her brother-in-law, both of whom,
although without communicating with each other, had the same thought,
the same desire, and burned to know what Edouard was doing.

Hitherto Sans-Souci had been unable to obtain any information, but an
unlucky chance led this time to his meeting a friend whom he had not
seen for a very long time. This friend, after practising divers trades,
had become a messenger at the Conciergerie. He was employed by those
prisoners who were still allowed to communicate with the outside world.
Sans-Souci mentioned the name of Edouard Murville; his friend informed
him that he was in the prison, and that his sentence was to be
pronounced on the following day.

“In prison!” cried Sans-Souci; “my brave comrade’s brother! Ten thousand
cartridges! this will be a sad blow to Jacques.”

The messenger, seeing that Sans-Souci was deeply interested in Edouard,
regretted having said so much.

“But why is he in prison?” asked Sans-Souci anxiously; “what has he
done? Speak! tell me. Is it for debt?”

“Yes, yes; I believe it’s about a note,” replied the messenger,
hesitating, and resolved not to disclose the truth; and he tried, but in
vain, to change the subject.

“Morbleu! his brother--her husband--in prison! Poor little woman! Poor
fellow!”

“Don’t say anything about it to them, my friend, don’t mention it to
them. I am sorry myself that I told you this distressing news.”

“You are right, I will hold my tongue, I won’t say anything. After all,
they can’t help it. That Edouard is a bad fellow! So much the worse for
him.”

“Oh, yes! he is a very bad fellow, and they will do well to forget him.”

“Yes, of course, we can think that, we fellows; but a wife, a brother,
they have hearts, you see, and when it’s a question of someone you love,
the heart always drives you on.--Good-bye, old man; I am going back to
the farm, very sorry that I met you, although it isn’t your fault. My
heart is heavy, and the trouble is that I am too stupid to
make-believe.”

Sans-Souci left his friend and returned to the farm. Adeline and Jacques
questioned him according to their custom, and Sans-Souci replied that he
knew no more than at other times; but in vain did he try to dissemble;
his sadness betrayed him; his embarrassment, when Adeline spoke to him
of Edouard, aroused her suspicions; a woman easily divines our secret
thoughts. Edouard’s wife, convinced that Sans-Souci was concealing from
her something unpleasant about her husband, was constantly at his heels;
she urged him, she implored him to tell her all.

For two days the honest soldier’s courage held good against Adeline’s
prayers. But he reflected upon the plight of Edouard, whom he believed
to be in prison for debt; he thought that his wife might have
acquaintances in Paris, through whom she could probably alleviate
Edouard’s situation. Edouard had been guilty; but perhaps misfortune
would have matured his character. And it was not right to deprive him of
help and encouragement. These reflections caused Sans-Souci to decide to
conceal no longer from Adeline what he knew. The opportunity soon
presented itself; the next day the young woman entreated him again to
tell her what her husband was doing; Sans-Souci surrendered, on
condition that she would not mention it to Jacques, by whom he feared to
be scolded. Adeline promised, and then he told her all that he had
learned in Paris.

As soon as Adeline heard that her husband was in prison, she made up her
mind what course to pursue; she left Sans-Souci, went to her chamber,
collected a few jewels, the last remnant of her past fortune, made a
little bundle of her clothes, and after writing on a sheet of paper that
they must not be disturbed by her absence, she took her little Ermance
in her arms and secretly left the farm house, resolved to leave no stone
unturned to obtain her husband’s freedom, or to share his captivity.

It was then nine o’clock in the morning; Jacques was in the fields, and
the peasants were occupied in different directions. Adeline was on the
Paris road before the people at the farm had discovered her departure.



XXIX

THE PLACE DU PALAIS


Adeline did not know as yet what method she should employ to obtain
access to her husband; she had formed no plan; she had no idea what
steps she must take in order to speak with a prisoner; a single thought
filled her mind: her Edouard was unhappy, he was languishing in prison,
deprived of all consolation. For Adeline knew the world, she had shrewd
suspicions that those people who crowded about Edouard in his prosperity
would have abandoned him in his distress. Who then would wipe away the
poor prisoner’s tears, if not his wife and his daughter? To be sure, he
had cast them aside; he had formerly avoided their caresses. But when
the man we love is crushed beneath the weight of misfortune, a generous
soul never remembers his wrongdoing.

Sans-Souci had mentioned the Conciergerie; so it was to the Conciergerie
she must go. Adeline believed that her prayers, her tears, and the sight
of her child, would move the jailers; she had no doubt that they would
allow her to see her husband. That hope redoubled her courage. After
walking to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, carrying little Ermance, who was
not yet a year-and-a-half old, Adeline at last fell in with one of those
wretched carriages which take Parisians into the suburbs, and to the
open-air festivals. For a modest sum the driver agreed to take the young
woman and her child, and headed his nags toward Paris.

There was a single other traveller in the carriage with Adeline; it was
an old man of about seventy years, but with a pleasant face, and an
open, kindly expression which inspired confidence and respect. His dress
indicated wealth without ostentation, and his manners, while they were
not those of fashionable society, denoted familiarity with good company.

Adeline bowed to her travelling companion and seated herself beside him,
without speaking.

The old gentleman scrutinized her at first with attention, then with
interest. Adeline had such a noble and appealing countenance that it was
impossible to look upon her without being prepossessed in her favor, and
without desiring to know her better.

Little Ermance was on her mother’s knees; her childish graces fascinated
the old man, who gave her bonbons and bestowed some caresses upon her.
Adeline thanked the old gentleman for his kindness, smiled at her
daughter, then relapsed into her reflections.

The traveller tried to engage the young woman in conversation; but her
replies were so short, she seemed so preoccupied, that her companion
feared to intrude. He said no more, but he noticed Adeline’s melancholy,
he heard her sighs, and he saw that her lovely eyes were constantly
turned toward Paris, and often wet with tears. He dared not try to
divert her thoughts from her trouble, but he pitied her in silence.

Adeline found the journey very long; the wretched horses went at their
ordinary pace, nothing on earth could have induced them to gallop.
Sometimes, Adeline, giving way to her impatience, was on the point of
alighting from the vehicle, in the hope that she would reach Paris
sooner on foot. But she would have to carry little Ermance, and her
strength was not equal to her courage. So she remained in the carriage
and reflected that each turn of the wheels brought her nearer to her
husband.

The old gentleman looked at his watch, and at that Adeline addressed
him:

“Monsieur, would you kindly tell me what time it is?”

“Almost one o’clock, madame.”

“Are we still far from Paris?”

“Why, no, only a short league; in three-quarters of an hour you will be
there.”

“In three-quarters of an hour! Oh! how slowly the time goes!”

“I see that madame has some important business calling her to Paris?”

“Yes, monsieur, oh, yes! I long to be there!”

“Of course madame has friends there? If not, if I could be of any
service to madame----”

Adeline made no reply; she did not hear her companion; she was once more
absorbed in thought, she was with her husband.

The old gentleman profited nothing by his offer of his services; but far
from taking offence, he felt all the deeper interest in the young woman,
who seemed beset by such profound sorrow.

At last they reached Paris, and the carriage stopped. Adeline alighted
hastily, took her child in her arms, and paid the driver; then she bowed
to her companion, and disappeared before the old gentleman had had time
to put his foot on the little stool which a street urchin had placed on
the ground to help him to alight from the vehicle.

“Poor young woman!” said the old man, looking in the direction in which
Adeline had disappeared; “how she runs! how excited she seems! dear me!
I hope that she will not learn any bad news.”

Adeline went as fast as it is possible to go when one has a child in
one’s arms. She asked the way to the Conciergerie; it was pointed out to
her, and she hurried on without stopping. Love and anxiety redoubled her
strength; she drew near at last; she saw a square--it was that in front
of the Palais de Justice.

That square was surrounded by people; the crowd was so dense that one
could hardly walk.

“And I must pass through,” said Adeline sadly to herself; “well, as
there is no other road, I must make one last effort and try to force my
way through.”

But why had so many people assembled there? Was it a fête-day, some
public rejoicing? Had some charlatan established his travelling booth
there? Was that multitude attracted by singers or jugglers, with their
music or their tricks? No, it was none of those things; our Parisian
idlers would show less interest, if it were a matter of pleasant
diversion only. It was an execution which was to take place; several
miserable wretches were to be branded, and exposed to public view upon
the fatal stool of repentance; and it was to gaze on that spectacle,
distressing to mankind, that those children, those young maidens, those
old men, hastened thither so eagerly! Are you surprised to hear it? Do
you not know that La Grève is crowded, that the windows which look on
the square are rented, when a criminal is to undergo capital punishment
there? And whom do we see gloat with the greatest avidity over these
ghastly spectacles? Women, young women, whose faces are instinct with
gentleness and sensitiveness.--What takes place in the depths of the
human heart, if this excess of stoicism is to be found in a weak and
timid sex?

But let us do justice to those who shun such abhorrent spectacles, and
who cannot endure to look upon an execution. Adeline was one of these;
she did not know what was about to happen on the square, and she paid no
attention to the cries of the mob that surrounded her.

“Here they come! here they come!” cried the people; “ah! just wait and
see what faces they will make in a minute, when they feel the red hot
iron!”

Adeline tried to cross the square, but she could not do it; the crowd
either forced her back or dragged her in the opposite direction; thus,
without intention, she found herself quite near the gendarmes who
surrounded the culprits. She raised her eyes, and saw the miserable
wretches, marked with the brand of infamy. She instantly looked away,
she preferred not to see that horrid spectacle. At that moment a piteous
cry arose; it came from one of the wretches who had just been branded.
That cry went to Adeline’s heart, it revolutionized all her senses; she
heard it constantly, for she had recognized the griefstricken tone. A
sentiment which she could not control caused her to turn her eyes toward
the culprits. A man, still young, but pale, downcast, disfigured, was
bound upon the stool in front of her. Adeline gazed at him. She could
not fail to recognize him. The miserable wretch’s eyes met hers. It was
Edouard, it was her husband, who had been cast out from society, and
whom she found upon the stool of repentance.

A shriek of horror escaped from the young woman’s lips. The criminal
dropped his head on his breast, and Adeline, beside herself, bereft of
her senses, succumbed at last to the violence of her grief, and fell
unconscious to the ground, still pressing her child to her bosom with a
convulsive movement.



XXX

GOODMAN GERVAL


The French, especially the lower classes, have this merit, that they
pass readily from one sensation to another; after witnessing an
execution, they will stop in front of a Punch and Judy show; they laugh
and weep with amazing rapidity; and the same man who has just pushed his
neighbor roughly aside because he prevented him from seeing a criminal
led to the gallows, will eagerly raise and succor the unfortunate mortal
whom destitution or some accident causes to fall at his feet.

The gossips and the young girls who crowded Place du Palais forgot the
pleasant spectacle they had come to see, and turned their attention to
the young woman who lay unconscious on the ground.

Adeline and her child were carried to the nearest café, and there
everything that could be done was done for the poor mother. Everybody
formed his or her own conjectures concerning the incident.

“Perhaps it was the crowd, or the heat, which was too much for this
pretty young lady,” said some. Others thought with more reason that the
stranger’s trouble seemed to be too serious to have been caused by so
simple a matter.

“Perhaps,” they said, “she saw among those poor devils someone she once
knew and loved.”

While they all tried to guess the cause of the accident, little Ermance
uttered piercing shrieks, and although she was too young to appreciate
her misfortune, she wept bitterly none the less because her mother did
not kiss her.

They succeeded at last in restoring the young woman to consciousness.
The unhappy creature! Did they do her a service thereby? Everybody
waited with curiosity to see what she would say; but Adeline gazed about
her with expressionless eyes; then, taking her daughter in her arms, as
if she wished to protect her from some peril, she started to leave the
café without uttering a word.

This extraordinary behavior surprised all those who were present.

“Why do you go away so soon, madame?” said one kindhearted old woman,
taking Adeline’s arm; “you must rest a little longer, and recover your
wits entirely.”

“Oh! I must go, I must go and join him,” Adeline replied, looking toward
the street; “he is there waiting for me; he motioned for me to rescue
him from that place, to take off those chains. I can still hear his
voice; yes, he is calling me. Listen, don’t you hear? He is
groaning--ah! that heartrending cry! Poor fellow! How they are hurting
him!”

Adeline fell motionless on a chair; her eyes turned away in horror from
a spectacle which she seemed to have constantly in her mind. All those
who stood about her shed tears; they saw that she had lost her reason;
one and all pitied the unfortunate creature and tried to restore peace
to her mind; but to no purpose did they offer her such comfort as they
could; Adeline did not hear them, she recognized no one but her
daughter, and persisted in her purpose to fly with her.

What were they to do? How could they find out who the family or the
kindred of the poor woman were? Her dress did not indicate wealth; the
bundle of clothes, containing in addition to her garments the jewels
that she had taken away, was not found by Adeline’s side when they
picked her up; doubtless some spectator, observing in anticipation the
place that he was likely to occupy some day, had found a way to abstract
Adeline’s property. So she seemed to be without means, and as with many
people, emotion is always sterile, they were already talking of taking
the poor woman to a refuge, and her child to the Foundling Hospital,
when the arrival of a new personage suspended their plans.

An old man entered the café and enquired the cause of the gathering.
Everyone tried to tell him the story. The stranger walked in, forcing
his way through the curious crowd of spectators who surrounded the
unfortunate young woman; he approached Adeline, and uttered a cry of
surprise when he recognized the person with whom he had travelled from
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges to Paris.

“It is really she!” he cried; and little Ermance held out her arms to
him with a smile; for she recognized the man who had given her bonbons
but a few hours before.

Thereupon the old man became an interesting character to the crowd, who
were most eager to learn the poor mother’s story. They all plied the old
gentleman with questions, and he, annoyed and wearied by their
importunities, sent for a carriage, and after learning from the keeper
of the café exactly what had happened to the young stranger, he put
Adeline and her child into the cab, and thus removed them from the
scrutiny of the curiosity seekers.

Adeline had fallen into a state of listless prostration. She allowed
herself to be taken away, without uttering a word; she seemed to pay no
heed to what was taking place about her, and even her daughter no longer
engaged her attention.

Monsieur Gerval--such was the old man’s name--gazed at the young woman
with deep emotion; he could not as yet believe that she whom he had seen
in the morning, sad, it is true, but in the full enjoyment of her
senses, could so soon be deprived of her reason. He lost himself in
conjectures as to the cause of that strange occurrence.

The cab stopped in front of a handsome, furnished lodging house. It was
where Monsieur Gerval stopped when he was in Paris. He was well known in
the house, and everyone treated him with the regard which his years and
his character deserved.

He caused Adeline and her daughter to alight and took them to his
hostess.

“Look you, madame,” he said, “here is a stranger whom I beg you to take
care of until further orders.”

“Ah! mon Dieu! how pretty she is! But what a melancholy expression! what
an air of depression!--Can’t she speak, Monsieur Gerval?”

“She is ill; she has undergone some great misfortune; they say even that
her mind----”

“Merciful heaven! what a pity!”

“I hope that with the best care, we shall succeed in calming her
excitement. I commend this unfortunate woman and her child to you.”

“Never fear, Monsieur Gerval, she shall have everything she
needs.--Another unfortunate of whom you have taken charge, I see.”

“What would you have, my dear hostess; a man must needs make himself
useful when he can. I have no children, and I am growing old; what good
would all my wealth do me, if I did not assist the unfortunate?
Moreover, it is a source of enjoyment to myself. I am like Florian’s
man: ‘I often do good for the pleasure of it.’”

“Ah! if all the rich men thought as you do, Monsieur Gerval!”

“Tell me, madame, has my old Dupré come in?”

“Yes, monsieur, he is waiting for you in your room.”

“I will go up to him. Look after this young woman, I beg you, and see
that she lacks nothing.”

“Rely upon me, monsieur.”

Worthy Monsieur Gerval went up to his apartment, where he found his old
servant Dupré impatiently awaiting his master’s return.

“Ah! here you are, monsieur; I was anxious because you stayed away so
long. Have you had a pleasant journey? Have you learned anything?”

“No, my friend; the house where the Murville family used to live is now
for sale. I was told that one Edouard Murville lived there for some time
with his wife, but no one knows what has become of them. And you,
Dupré?”

“I have found out nothing more, monsieur. Your old friends are dead; and
their children are nobody knows where. Several people did mention a
Murville, who was a business agent, then a swindler, and all-in-all a
thoroughly bad fellow. But no one was able or willing to tell me what
has become of him. Perhaps he may have been the younger of the two sons,
the one who ran away from his father’s house at fifteen; such an
escapade as that promises nothing good for the future.”

“I should be very sorry if it were so; I would have liked--but I see
that I have returned too late. My travels kept me away from Paris ten
years, and it was only within a year that, on retiring from business, I
was able to return to this city. But what changes ten years have
produced! My friends--to be sure they were quite old when I went
away--my friends are dead or else they have disappeared. That depresses
me, Dupré; there is nothing left for me in this city but memories. I
think we will leave it, and go back to my little place in the Vosges to
live; I propose to end my life there.--But let us drop this subject; I
have something to tell you, for my journey has not been altogether
without fruit; it has made me acquainted with a very interesting young
woman, who seems most unfortunate too.”

“Indeed! Where did monsieur meet her?”

“We returned to Paris in the same carriage; for notwithstanding your
advice, I made the trip in one of those miserable cabriolets.”

“Oh! the idea of subjecting yourself to such a jolting! That is
unreasonable!”

“Nonsense! nonsense! I’m perfectly well, and I congratulate myself that
I did not take your advice, as I travelled with a poor woman, whom I
found afterward by chance in a most melancholy plight.”

Monsieur Gerval told the servant what had happened to him, and the
chance which had led to his finding the traveller again in a café, just
as those present were talking of taking her to a refuge. Dupré, whose
heart was as soft as his master’s, was very impatient to see the young
woman and her pretty little girl; he followed his master, who asked to
be taken to the room which had been given to Adeline.

Edouard’s wife was pacing the floor excitedly, while little Ermance was
lying in an armchair. The entrance of Monsieur Gerval and Dupré caused
Adeline a moment’s terror; she ran to her daughter and seemed to be
afraid that it was their intention to take her away from her.

“Don’t be alarmed, madame,” said the old man gently, as he approached
her; “it is a friend who has come to comfort you. Tell me your
troubles; I shall be able to lighten them, I hope.”

“What a crowd there is about me!” said Adeline, glancing wildly about;
“what a multitude of people! Why this gathering? Ah! I will not, no, I
will not stop on this square. They have come here to gaze on those poor
wretches. Let me go! But I cannot; the cruel crowd forces me back. Ah! I
must close my eyes, and not look! He is there, close to me!”

She fell upon a chair and put her hands before her face.

“Poor woman!” said Dupré; “some horrible thing must have happened to
her. Do you know, monsieur, that it seems to me that this unfortunate
creature belongs to a good family? Her clothes are very simple, almost
like a peasant’s; but for all that, I will bet that this woman is no
peasant.”

“Why, of course not; I can see that as well as you. But how are we to
find out who she is? If this child could talk better----”

“The little girl is waking up, monsieur; give her some bonbons and try
to make out the name she mentions.”

Gerval went to Ermance and kissed her; the child recognized him and went
to him of her own accord. He gave her bonbons, danced her on his knees,
and she lisped the name of Jacques; for it was Jacques who played with
her and danced with her every evening.

“One would say that she knows you, monsieur,” said Dupré to his master;
“I believe it is Jacques she says; just listen.”

“Poor child; it is true. Perhaps that is her father’s name. Let us try
to find out if that is really the name she is lisping; if it is, her
mother knows it without any question.”

The old man walked toward Adeline, uttering the name of Jacques in a
loud voice. The young woman instantly arose and repeated the name.

“Good! she understood us,” whispered Dupré.

“You are looking for Jacques,” said Adeline to Monsieur Gerval; “oh! in
pity’s name, do not tell him this horrible secret; let him always remain
ignorant of his shame! Poor Jacques! he would die of grief. Oh! promise
me that you will say nothing to him.”

Honest Gerval promised, and Dupré sadly shook his head.

“It is of no use,” he said to his master, “there is no hope.--But what
is your plan?”

“We must make all possible investigations. You, Dupré, will go to
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, and inquire about all the Jacqueses there are
in the village; in short, you will try to find out something. If we
cannot discover anything then, I will see what----”

“Ah! I am very sure, my dear master, that you won’t abandon this young
woman and this poor child.”

“No, Dupré, no, I shall not abandon them. But it is late and I am tired.
I am going to bed, and to-morrow we will begin our search.”

Having once more commended Adeline and her daughter to the people of the
house, honest Gerval retired.

During the night as during the day, Adeline was intensely excited at
times, talking incoherently, and sometimes in a state of the most
complete prostration, seeming to see nothing of what took place about
her. They observed, however, that any noise, the sound of a loud voice,
or the faintest cry, made her jump, and threw her into the wildest
delirium.

The next day a doctor summoned by Monsieur Gerval came to see the
unhappy young woman, but all his skill could accomplish nothing more
than to calm her a little; he thought that a tranquil existence would
make the alarming outbursts of her mania less frequent. But he gave
little hope of the restoration of her reason, as he knew nothing of the
cause which had led to its being unseated.

Dupré went to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges and inquired concerning all the
Jacqueses in the neighborhood. Only two peasants bore that name, and
they had no idea what he meant by his questions about the young woman
and her daughter. Dupré was unable to learn anything, and he returned to
his master.

Monsieur Gerval had made no further progress in his investigations in
Paris; the newspapers did not mention the disappearance of a young woman
and her daughter from their home, and he could obtain no information
concerning the name and family of his protégées.

Ten days passed, and Adeline was still in the same condition. Her
prostration was less frequently disturbed by violent outbreaks; but when
by chance a cry reached her ear, her delirium became terrible to see,
and her condition was horrifying. Only her daughter’s voice never acted
unfavorably upon her; that voice always went to the heart of the poor
mother, who never mistook her child’s accents.

“My dear Dupré,” said Monsieur Gerval to his servant, at the end of
those ten days, “I see that we must abandon the hope of ever finding out
who this interesting young woman is. I have made up my mind what to do,
my friend: I have determined to take these unfortunate creatures with
me. As you know, I am going to retire to my estate in the Vosges. That
solitary place, surrounded by woods, is best suited to our poor invalid.
That is the doctor’s opinion, and we must be guided by it; and at all
events nothing will disturb the tranquillity which the poor creature
requires. We will look to it that she hears no cries there. We will
bring up her daughter; Catherine, who is so fond of children, will look
after the poor child, and the innocent darling’s caresses will pay me
for what I do for her mother.--Well, what do you think of my plan,
Dupré?”

“It delights me, monsieur, and I recognize yourself in it. Always kind
and always doing good! You give all you have to the unfortunate.”

“That is my pleasure; I have no family, the unfortunate are my children.
As you know, I came to Paris with the hope of learning something of a
certain little boy whom I loved in his infancy, and who besides is
entitled to my protection. But faith, as I can’t find him, this little
girl shall take his place. From this moment I adopt her; I take charge
of her mother, and I thank Providence for selecting me to be their
protector.”

The next day honest Gerval put his plan into execution: he bought a
large and commodious berlin, placed in it everything that the young
woman and her daughter would need on the journey; and then, having left
his address with the landlady, so that she might write to him in case
she should learn anything concerning the strangers, the protector of
Adeline and Ermance left Paris with them and his old servant, for the
country residence where he proposed to end his days in peace.



XXXI

JACQUES AND SANS-SOUCI


While honest Gerval’s carriage bore Adeline and her daughter toward the
north of France, what were Jacques’s thoughts concerning the sudden
disappearance of the two persons whom he loved best? In order to
ascertain, let us return to the farm.

On his return from the fields, surprised to find that Adeline and her
daughter, who were always the first to reward his labors with a caress,
did not come to meet him, Jacques looked about for his sister. Disturbed
to find that she was not in the living room, he asked Louise if she were
not well.

“I hope nothing’s the matter with her,” said the farmer’s wife, “but I
haven’t seen her all day; you know sometimes she likes to stay by
herself in her room, and I don’t dare to disturb her. But she ought to
be with us before this.”

“I will go and look for her,” said Jacques; and he hurried up to
Adeline’s room.

The peasants also began to fear that Adeline was ill. Sans-Souci said
nothing, but he was more anxious than the rest, for he remembered what
he had told Adeline that morning, and he suspected that she had done
something on impulse. They all impatiently awaited Jacques’s return. He
came down at last, but grief and melancholy were expressed on his
features, his eyes were moist and his brow was dark.

“What has happened?” cried the peasants.

“She has gone, she has left us,” said Jacques, pacing the floor, raising
his eyes to the ceiling, clenching his fists, and pausing now and then
to stamp the floor violently.

“She has gone!” repeated the whole family sadly.

“Oh! that ain’t possible,” said Guillot.

“Here, read this;” and Jacques threw down in front of the farmer the
paper that Adeline had left. Guillot took it and gazed at it earnestly
for some moments.

“Well!” said Sans-Souci, walking toward him, “what does she say?”

“You see, I don’t know how to read,” replied Guillot, still staring at
the paper. Sans-Souci snatched it from his hands and read it aloud.

“You see she tells us not to be worried about her absence,” said Louise;
“she will come back soon, I’m sure.”

“Oh! so far as that goes, I will answer for it too,” said Guillot; “she
wouldn’t leave us without saying good-bye to us, that’s sure!”

Sans-Souci agreed with the peasants, and he tried to comfort his friend.

“But where has she gone?” said Jacques. “Why this sudden departure? She
didn’t seem to have any idea of it yesterday; and for a young woman,
weak as she is, to travel with a child that has to be carried--She will
make herself sick. Ah! she must have had some news from Paris. Ten
thousand bayonets! If I knew that anything had been kept from me----”

As he said this, Jacques’s eyes turned toward Sans-Souci, who looked at
the floor, twisted his moustache and utterly failed to conceal his
embarrassment.

“Come, come, Brother Jacques, let us wait before we lose hope,” said the
farmer’s wife, urging the honest plowman to go to bed; “perhaps she
will be back to-morrow.”

“Yes,” said Guillot, “and we will have a famous soup to celebrate, and
we will drink some of last year’s wine, which is beginning to be just
right.”

Sans-Souci dared not say anything; he was afraid of becoming confused
and betraying himself; his comrade’s glances closed his mouth.

“I will wait a few days,” said Jacques; “but if she doesn’t come back,
then I will go to find her, even if I have to go to the end of the
world.”

They parted for the night sadly enough. Several days passed, and Adeline
did not return. All pleasure and peace of mind had vanished from the
farm; Jacques neglected his work, Guillot his fields, the farmer’s wife
her household duties; Sans-Souci neglected the farmer’s wife, and
everybody was unhappy. No more ballads, merry meals, amusing stories, or
descriptions of battles. Sans-Souci was losing hope of Adeline’s return;
he bitterly repented having told her of her husband, and he hovered
about Jacques, but dared not confess the truth to him.

On the eighth day Jacques announced that he was going to start out in
search of his sister. Sans-Souci decided then to speak; he took his
comrade aside and began by tearing out a handful of hair, and heaving a
profound sigh.

“What is the meaning of all this groaning?” asked Jacques; “speak, and
stop your nonsense.”

“Look you, comrade, I am an infernal brute! I am corked up like the
barrel of Guillot’s gun, and yet I did everything for the best.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am the cause of your dear sister’s leaving the farm.”

“You! you villain!”

“If you don’t forgive me, I’ll put five pounds of lead between my
eyebrows.”

“Nonsense! Speak, I implore you.”

“I found out that your brother was in prison; I didn’t dare to tell you
and I didn’t mean to tell his wife either; but she urged me so hard, and
you know that women do whatever they want to with me, especially the
ones that I respect; and then I thought that she might comfort her
husband a little.”

“And do you think that I have an iron heart? My brother is unfortunate,
that ends it; I forget the way he received me; I too must comfort him.”

“Poor Jacques! I was sure of it.”

“And yet you kept your mouth shut, you idiot, and you left me consumed
with anxiety--Poor woman! Perhaps she is with him!”

“Parbleu! there’s no doubt of that!”

“Is he in prison in Paris?”

“Yes--wait--he is at the Conciergerie.”

“He must have spent and sold everything, and his creditors had him
arrested!--Ah! if I were rich, brother, how happy I would be to be of
some use to you! But fate has willed it otherwise.--No matter; I can at
least prove to you that you still have a friend.--Sans-Souci, I am going
to Paris.”

“So am I; morbleu! I will go with you; I don’t propose to leave you.”

“Very well. We won’t say anything to the peasants about my brother’s
imprisonment; those excellent people would be quite capable of insisting
upon doing still more to assist us, and we must not accept it; they have
done enough for us already.”

“You are always right. I agree with you; let us go and say good-bye to
them; forward!”

Jacques and Sans-Souci embraced the peasants and told them that they
were going to look for Adeline; then they started for Paris, where they
arrived that afternoon.

“You know the way,” said Jacques to his comrade; “take me to the prison.
I will ask to speak to the commander, the captain, the governor; in
fact, to speak to everybody, if necessary; this honorable decoration
will serve as my safe-conduct.”

“Look you, I don’t know the prison any better than you do, but I’ll take
you to my old friend, who is the messenger to the prisoners; he will
tell us how we must go to work to see your brother.”

“Very well, let us speak to your friend; I trust that we may find him.”

“Yes,” said Sans-Souci; “I see him now, over yonder.”

They quickened their pace and accosted the messenger, who recognized his
friend, and shook hands with him, asking him what brought him to Paris.

“Let us sit down on this stone bench and talk,” said Sans-Souci; “this
is my comrade, a fine fellow----”

“He has some scars and a bit of ribbon which say enough.--Can I help you
in any way, messieurs?”

“Yes, we have come on important business--we want to see a prisoner. You
know, that Edouard Murville, whom you mentioned to me the last time I
saw you; well, my comrade is his brother.”

“You are his brother?” said the messenger, looking at Jacques with
compassion. “I am sorry for you.”

“I am not the one to be sorry for,” said Jacques; “he is the one, since
he is unfortunate; for he has not been guilty of any dishonorable act, I
trust?”

“What have you come here for?” said the messenger, without answering
Jacques’s question.

“Morbleu! we have come to see my brother; his wife and child have been
here already to console him.”

“No woman has been here to see him, I assure you; in fact, no woman has
attempted to see him.”

“Is it possible?”

“It would be useless now to try to see him, for--he is no longer at the
Conciergerie.”

“He isn’t there? Where is he then?”

“Why, why--I cannot--tell you exactly.”

“What! Damnation! Can’t I find out where my brother is?”

“Come, come, my poor Jacques, don’t be discouraged,” said Sans-Souci;
“my friend isn’t well posted; we will try to find out something more.”

“I tell you again, messieurs, that Edouard Murville is no longer in this
prison, and that he must have left Paris before this. Adieu, my good
Jacques, take my advice and return to your village; do not try to learn
anything more, and forget a brother who is altogether unworthy of you.”

The messenger, deeply moved, pressed Jacques’s hand, and turned away
from the friends, after saying this.

Jacques stood in deep thought; his brow darkened, his glance became more
stern. Sans-Souci also was silent; he began to fear that it was not
simply for debt that his comrade’s brother had been arrested. The two
honest fellows dared not communicate their thoughts to each other, and
the darkness surprised them seated on the stone bench and lost in their
reflections.

“What are we going to do now?” asked Sans-Souci at last; “we are sitting
here like two lost sentinels; but we must make up our minds to
something.”

“Let us hunt for Adeline and her child,” said Jacques, in a gloomy
voice, “and forget Edouard. I am beginning to fear that the wretch--let
us look for Adeline; she will never make me blush.”

“Oh! for her I would rush into the hottest fire.”

“Poor woman! poor little Ermance! Where are they now? Perhaps her grief
at learning that her husband--oh! why did you tell her that,
Sans-Souci?”

“Don’t mention it. I would to God that you would use my tongue for a
cartridge.”

“There is no rest for me until I know what has become of them. Let us
search Paris and enquire at every house if necessary; and if we don’t
find them in this city, let us search the whole of France, towns,
hamlets, villages.”

“Corbleu! yes, we will go to the devil if necessary! But we will find
them, comrade, we will find them, I tell you that.”

Jacques and his companion took rooms at a poor inn; they were on foot
with the dawn, and scoured every quarter of the city, enquiring
everywhere for Adeline and her child; but no one could give them any
information concerning the young woman whom they sought. The sight of
unfortunate people is so common that little attention is paid to them.
However, sometimes the abode of some poor mother was pointed out to
them; they would visit her, and find that she was not the object of
their search.

On the eleventh day after their arrival in Paris, Jacques and Sans-Souci
were walking on the boulevard, always thinking of Adeline and cudgeling
their brains to divine what could have become of her.

Suddenly the people on the sidewalk pressed toward the driveway,
seemingly awaiting some curious sight.

“What is going by?” Sans-Souci asked a workman who had stopped near
him.

“It’s the chain of convicts, starting from Bicêtre to go to the galleys
at Toulon,” was the reply. “See, here, here’s the wagon coming now; we
shall see them in a minute.”

“It is hardly worth while to crowd so to see a parcel of villains,” said
Sans-Souci.

“They ask for alms on the road.”

“If they had any pluck, they would ask to be shot.--Come, Jacques, let’s
not stay here; I haven’t any pity for those fellows.”

“I want to stay,” said Jacques with emotion; “I want to see them.”

The vehicle came forward slowly, and Jacques, impelled by a secret
presentiment, drew very near, and took a few sous from his pocket. Soon
the convicts were before him; they held out their crime-stained hands,
imploring the pity of the passers-by. Jacques scrutinized them closely,
and noticed one who did not imitate his companions in infamy, but who
tried on the contrary to avoid the eyes of the crowd; but the villain
with whom he was shackled was one of those who displayed the most
effrontery; he jerked him violently, and that movement afforded Jacques
an opportunity to see the poor wretch’s features; it seemed to him that
he recognized his brother. The cold sweat stood on his forehead; and
with a movement swifter than thought, he put his hand to his buttonhole
and removed his decoration, which he instantly thrust into his breast.

The wagon had gone on, and Jacques followed it with his eyes. Sans-Souci
pulled his arm.

“Come,” he said to him; “how in the devil can you take any pleasure in
looking at those beggars?--But what’s the matter with you? Your face is
all distorted.”

“Ah! I am ruined, Sans-Souci! dishonored!”

“You, dishonored! that is impossible; do be reasonable.”

“My brother----”

“Well?”

Jacques dared not utter the fatal words; but with his hand he pointed to
the chain of convicts, who could still be seen in the distance.

“It wasn’t he, my friend, you made a mistake.”

“Ah! would to God I had! But no, it was no mistake; and the words of
that kindhearted messenger, his compassionate air as he spoke to me and
shook my hand.--There is no more doubt; I understand everything now.”

“Well! even if your brother is a miserable villain, is it your fault?
Did you fight for your country any the less, and thrash its enemies? And
have the scars vanished from your face and your breast? Ten thousand
million citadels! Who could ever blush for having known you? I will make
the man swallow ten inches of my sword!”

“Ah! my name is sullied, my friend. O father! if you knew!”

“Your father is dead; if he was alive, your glory would console him for
your brother’s shame.”

“No, Sans-Souci, consolation for such a calamity is impossible. There is
but one thing left for me to do, and that is to overtake those wretched
creatures, to find some way to approach the man whom I can no longer
call my brother, and to blow his brains out, and then do the same by
myself.”

“That’s a very pretty scheme of yours. But you won’t carry it out. You
will remember that you have a sister, for that dear Adeline loves you
like a brother; you will remember little Ermance, whom you danced on
your knees; you will not deprive those poor creatures of the last
friend who is left to them; you will forget your grief in order to allay
theirs, and with them you will feel that you have not lost
everything.--But we shall find them, comrade; we will search every
corner of the earth; how do you know that they are not at the farm now,
or in some poor cabin where they need our help? and you would leave this
world when there are unfortunate mortals here who rely upon you? No,
sacrebleu! that shall not be! You surrender, you are touched. Come,
Jacques, be brave in grief as you were under fire, and forward march!”

Jacques allowed himself to be persuaded by his comrade, who took
advantage of that circumstance to induce him to leave a city where they
had lost all hope of discovering Adeline; and they returned to the farm,
still flattering themselves that they would find the young fugitive
there.

But that last hope was soon destroyed; the sadness of the peasants left
them in no doubt. Jacques insisted upon starting off again at once in
search of Adeline and her child, and only with great difficulty did they
persuade him to remain one night at the farm. They saw that Brother
Jacques was gloomy and melancholy since he had been in Paris; but the
peasants attributed his gloom to the non-success of his search.

Sans-Souci made all their preparations for a journey which he thought
with good reason would be likely to last a long while. Louise was
greatly grieved to have her cousin go away, but she realized that he
ought not to abandon his friend. The farmer’s wife thrust a well-filled
purse into the bag of each of the travellers. It was simply their wages
for all the time that they had worked at the farm; but she dared not
offer it to them, for she knew that the method that she employed was
the best one to avoid a refusal. Kindhearted folk are always shrewd and
clever, when it is a question of doing a kind act.

At dawn Jacques was up. Sans-Souci soon joined him. He appeared with his
bag over his shoulder, and a stout staff in his hand, and said to his
comrade:

“Whenever you are ready, forward march!”

The two friends were about to start. The farmer and his family came
forward weeping, to bid them adieu. The children, who had long been
accustomed to play with Jacques’s moustaches and to roll on the grass
with Sans-Souci, clung to the legs of both travellers, and would not let
them go. Louise held a corner of her apron to her eyes, and her sighs
said much more than her words. Guillot was no less sorrowful than the
rest.

“I say! I’m going to be left alone with my wife, am I?” he said; “what a
stupid time I shall have!--Here, comrade Jacques, let me give you a
little present for your journey; it may be of some use to you; for you
don’t know where you may be.”

As he spoke, Guillot handed Jacques a pair of small pocket pistols.

“I bought them second-hand in the village not long ago, of an old
soldier; my idea was to give ’em to you on your birthday, but so long as
you’re going away, why take ’em now.”

Jacques thanked the honest farmer and accepted his present; then, after
embracing everybody, he set forth with Sans-Souci, swearing not to
return to the farm without Adeline, and to take no rest until he had
found her.



XXXII

THE GALLEY SLAVES


Jacques was not mistaken when he thought he saw his brother among the
convicts. The unhappy Edouard had undergone his punishment for the crime
which he had allowed himself to be led into committing. His sentence
condemned him to twenty years hard labor, to be branded and exposed to
public view.

Lampin, who had already been in prison for theft, was sentenced to the
galleys for life. In vain did he repeat to Edouard his lesson, and urge
him to deny everything; Edouard had not enough strength of character to
form a resolution. He contradicted himself, betrayed himself, and
allowed himself to be easily convicted of his crime. The miserable
wretch recognized his wife and child at the moment that he was branded
with the mark of infamy. He saw Adeline fall unconscious before him;
that heartrending picture was long present in his mind; the image of a
woman who adored him and whose life he had wrecked, the sight of a child
whom he condemned to the shame of not being able to mention her father
without a shudder, and the memory of the happiness he had once enjoyed
in his home,--all these overwhelmed the unhappy felon and made him feel
more keenly the horror of his situation.

Remorse gnawed at Edouard’s heart, and led him, so far as he was able,
to avoid the society of the other prisoners, who laughed at his grief
and sneered at his cowardice. A hundred times the poor wretch formed a
plan to put an end to his existence, but only in fear and trembling did
he invent methods which his weak character instantly spurned. In this
frame of mind Murville made the journey from Bicêtre to Toulon, without
observing that his brother gave alms to his companions as they passed
through Paris.

Lampin was always the same; at the galleys he retained his recklessness
and gayety; shame was to him nothing more than an empty word, and he
strove every day to lift Edouard above what he called prejudice.

The penitent culprit never receives useful advice in the society of
galley slaves. For one criminal who knows the pangs of remorse, how many
are there who become hardened in crime and take pleasure in corrupting
entirely those whom sincere repentance might have led back into the
paths of virtue!

The image of Adeline and her daughter gradually faded from Edouard’s
mind, and gave way to the schemes of which his companions talked to him
day after day. He banished a remorse which they proved to be useless, in
order to invent some plan of escape; and after six months of
imprisonment, distaste for life was replaced in his mind by an ardent
longing for liberty.

A bold scheme was formed. Even at the galleys, prisoners find a way of
establishing relations with those of their friends who are momentarily
enjoying their freedom; and these latter brave everything to serve their
comrades, because they know that they are likely at any day to demand a
similar service from them.

It was Lampin who supervised the execution of the plot. Forced to be
sober, he was in full possession of his wits. The day, the moment
arrived. A keeper, who had been bribed, left a door unlocked; the
convicts, supplied with files, removed their fetters; they assembled at
midnight, killed three watchmen, and made their way into a yard, the
wall of which was easily scaled by men accustomed to climb walls. Lampin
went up first; Edouard followed him, clinging to the chain which his
companion still had attached to his feet; several convicts had thus
passed over the wall and jumped into the ditch which was on the other
side. But musket shots were heard, the alarm was given, the garrison was
under arms, soldiers ran to the walls and fired at the prisoners.
Several fell dead, others surrendered, the revolt was put down; but it
was some time before they could ascertain the number of those who had
escaped.

Lampin and Edouard had heard the report of shots. They succeeded in
getting out of the ditch, but where should they go? How could they make
their escape quickly enough? Already soldiers were scouring the city and
the harbor; soon they would fall into their hands. Edouard was in
despair, and Lampin was cudgeling his brains, swearing that they should
not take him alive. But at that moment they heard the sound of bells on
a horse, and soon an open wagon, loaded with vegetables and driven by a
young peasant, passed them. The peasant was seated in the front of the
wagon, fast asleep, with his reins lying on the back of the horse, which
followed at a slow pace its accustomed road.

“Do as I do,” said Lampin, running after the wagon. “We are saved.”

He climbed up behind, made a great hole in the peas, cabbages and
carrots, and climbed into it, followed by Edouard, leaving hardly enough
space to give them air. The peasant turned, rubbed his eyes, and saw
nothing, for he was still half asleep; and he was preparing to snore
louder than ever, when some soldiers passed the wagon.

“Did you meet anyone, my friend?” asked the sergeant of the peasant.

“No, no, no one, messieurs, no one but donkeys, wagons and people from
our place.”

“Be on the lookout; some convicts have escaped; if you see any of them,
call for help and notice which way they go.”

The soldiers passed on. The peasant lay down again, mumbling between his
teeth:

“Oh, yes! I think I see myself watching convicts! I would much rather
dream about my dear Manette; anyway I ain’t afraid of them; those
fellows don’t amuse themselves stealing cabbages and carrots.”

“We are saved!” said Edouard to his companion, in an undertone.

“Not yet,” said Lampin; “this peasant is taking his vegetables to
market, and if he should uncover us, I don’t believe he would take us
for two bunches of onions.”

“What are we to do then?”

“Parbleu! we must take to the fields; but let’s wait until this rascal
snores well; it won’t be long, as he is thinking of his dear Manette.”

In fact, the peasant was soon sound asleep. Thereupon Lampin put one
hand out from under the vegetables, seized the rein, and pulled the
horse to the other side of the road. The beast knew but two roads, the
one to market and the one to his stable. When he was jerked violently
away from the former, he supposed that his master was going home, so he
turned back toward the village without hesitation.

“Well, we are safe now,” said Edouard, softly putting his head out from
under the vegetables which covered him, and seeing nothing but trees and
fields about him,--no houses.

“You always think that you are safe, you idiot,” said Lampin, “but we
are not out of danger yet; we have just left Toulon; this peasant is
taking us to his village, where we shall be pinched.”

“We must get out of the wagon and hide.”

“A fine thing to do! hide! Where, I should like to know? In the trees,
like parrots? We must gain ground first, and with these chains on our
feet, we shan’t go far.”

“We will file them.”

“Have we got the time? Come, let’s make a bold stroke; we are in a
sunken road, and I don’t see any houses, and--first of all, get down,
quick.”

“And then?”

“Get down, I tell you, and stop the horse quietly; meanwhile I will
begin by searching our driver.”

Edouard got down from the wagon. Lampin drew in the reins, and the horse
stopped.

“We must unharness him, and escape on him,” said Lampin; “let’s make
haste.”

As he spoke, he searched the peasant’s pockets and took possession of
his knife and a few pieces of money. Edouard, being very awkward and
unskilled in the art of unharnessing a horse, called Lampin to his
assistance. He seemed to be meditating a new plan as he looked at the
peasant’s clothes.

“I am in mortal terror that he will wake,” said Edouard.

“If he wakes, he is a dead man,” said Lampin, as he hastily alighted and
unfastened the straps that held the horse in the shafts. But the peasant
was so accustomed to the movement of the wagon that he woke a few
moments after it stopped.

“Go on, go on, I say!” he said, rubbing his eyes.

“We are lost!” whispered Edouard. Lampin did not reply, but he darted
toward the wagon, and as the hapless peasant started to rise, he buried
his knife in his breast.

The man uttered but one feeble cry. Edouard was horrorstruck.

“You wretch! what have you done?” he said with a shudder.

“What was necessary,” said Lampin; “the worst of it now is that I can’t
take his clothes, which are drenched with blood; I must be content with
the hat and the blouse.”

As he said this, the villain stripped his victim, put on his blouse, and
hastily mounted the horse; then he turned toward Edouard, who had not
yet recovered from his stupor.

“Now, my boy,” he said, “get out of it how you can.”

And he at once pricked his horse with the point of his knife, and
disappeared, leaving Edouard beside the unfortunate man whom his
companion had murdered.



XXXIII

THE WOOD-CUTTER AND THE ROBBERS


The night was drawing toward its close. Edouard was still beside the
wagon, dismayed by Lampin’s flight, and so disturbed by all that had
happened to him within a few hours that he had no idea what he had
better do.

The unfortunate peasant still breathed; from time to time he uttered
feeble groans. Edouard could not decide whether he ought to help him or
to take to flight. He wavered and hesitated and the first rays of dawn
found him in that condition. Glancing at himself, he shuddered at sight
of his coat, which at once identified him as an escaped convict; and he
trembled lest he should be taken for the murderer of the peasant. That
thought froze his blood with terror; the sight of the peasant was
horrible to him, and he walked away as rapidly as his strength
permitted, until he reached a small tract of woodland, where he hoped to
elude pursuit.

His first care was to file his fetters and throw them away; but he could
not rid himself of his costume also, and he realized that he could not
show himself without risk of being arrested. That thought drove him to
frenzy for an instant. He regretted that he had not stripped the peasant
entirely.

Day broke, and the peasants began to go to their work. Edouard plunged
into the wood, picked figs and olives and climbed into a tree to await
the return of night.

But how long that day was! and how many times did he shudder with
apprehension as he saw peasants come into the wood and sit down to rest
not far from the tree in which he was hiding! He heard them talking
about the poor wagoner’s murder.

“It was a convict who did the job,” said the peasants; “a number of them
escaped last night from the galleys at Toulon, but they’re on their
tracks, and they can’t fail to take them soon.”

Edouard realized only too well the difficulty he would have in escaping,
and he abandoned himself to despair. The night arrived at last; he
descended from his protecting tree and resumed his journey. Every time
that the faintest noise reached his ear, he stopped and buried himself
in the thickest bushes. His face and hands were torn by thorns and
brambles; but he did not feel the pain; he would have been glad to hide
in the bowels of the earth. He walked as fast as his strength permitted,
picking up fruit of which he retained some for the following day,
stopping only in the most solitary places, and hiding during the day in
the top of some densely-leaved tree.

On the fourth day, toward morning, he passed a small cottage surrounded
by a garden; he cast a glance over the wall in the hope of discovering
fruit; but what was his joy when he saw linen and clothes hanging on
lines; the idea of taking possession of them and getting rid of his
convict’s costume, at once occurred to his mind; the thought of theft no
longer frightened him; he justified it by his plight. Only a half ruined
wall, four feet high, separated him from the priceless garments; for the
first time, he did not stop to consider the danger. He climbed the wall,
took whatever he needed, and made his escape without the slightest
twinge of remorse; for what he had done seemed to him a mere trifle to
what he had seen done.

Having reached a dense wood, he removed his accusing costume and donned
the clothes which he had stolen. Thereupon, being a little more at ease
in his mind, and thinking that he must already be very far from Toulon,
he set forth again, determined to ask hospitality for the night of some
peasant, and hoping that they would give him a crust of bread, which
seemed to him a priceless treasure capable of restoring his strength. As
he did not choose, however, to take the risk of entering a village,
where he feared to meet gendarmes who were in pursuit of him, he decided
to knock at the door of an isolated cabin, surrounded by dense woods.

A peasant answered his knock and asked him what he could do for him.

“A great deal,” said Edouard; “I am an unfortunate man, worn out with
fatigue and hunger; allow me to pass the night in your house, and you
will save my life.”

“It’s a fact,” said the peasant, scrutinizing him with attention, “you
seem very tired and very sick. But who are you? For a body must know who
he takes in.”

“I am--I am an unfortunate deserter; I trust my secret to you; don’t
betray me!”

“A deserter--the devil! It isn’t right to desert! But I’m not capable of
betraying you; come, come in, and you can tell me why you deserted.”

Edouard entered the cabin, conscious of a keen sense of delight in being
once more under a roof.

“Look you,” said the peasant, “I’ll give you half of what I have got and
that won’t be very good; but you hadn’t ought to be hard to suit. I’m a
poor wood-cutter; I ain’t rich, I live from day to day, but I am glad to
share my supper and my bed with you. I’ve got some bread and some cheese
and the remains of a bottle of wine, and we’ll finish it. My bed ain’t
bad; it’s the best thing in my house, and I’ll bet you won’t wake up.
Come, my friend, tell me your adventures. I have been in the army
myself; yes, I used to be a soldier, and I flatter myself that I didn’t
desert; I’d like to know what reason you had for doing such a miserable
thing as that.”

Edouard invented a fable, which he told the wood-cutter, who listened
with attention.

The strangeness of Edouard’s story, the improbability of his adventures,
his embarrassment when his host asked him for details concerning his
regiment and the place where they had been in garrison, all tended to
arouse the wood-cutter’s suspicions, and he began to fear that he had
been duped by some vagabond.

However, as he owned nothing that was likely to tempt cupidity, the
peasant shared his supper with Edouard none the less; then he invited
him to undress and go to bed. Edouard accepted this invitation with a
good heart; he had taken off his jacket and was about to remove his
waistcoat, when a sudden reflection stopped him, and he stood before the
wood-cutter, speechless with confusion.

“Well, have you got over wanting to go to bed?” said the peasant,
noticing Edouard’s sudden terror.

“I beg pardon; I am going--I am going to lie down.”

“It seems to me that you started to undress yourself, and now you stand
there as if you didn’t know what to do.”

“Oh! the fact is, I thought better of it; it will be wiser for me to
stay dressed, so that I can get ready quicker to go away in the
morning.”

“As you please! suit yourself.”

Edouard threw himself on the bed, and the wood-cutter did the same; but
not with the purpose of going to sleep; he was secretly anxious, for he
was afraid that he had offered shelter to a scoundrel, and he was trying
to think how he could set his doubts at rest.

The miserable wretch, who was overdone with fatigue, and who had not
slept on so soft a couch for a weary while, soon yielded to the sleep
that took possession of him. The wood-cutter, who had pretended to do
the same, rose softly as soon as he was certain that the stranger whom
he had made welcome was asleep.

He left the room, and struck a light in a small cave. He lighted a lamp,
took his gun, and noiselessly returned to the small room where Edouard
lay. The unhappy man’s sleep was disturbed and restless; he struggled
and twisted violently on his couch, and broken sentences escaped from
his lips; the wood-cutter listened and distinctly heard these words:

“On the road--in the middle of the night--he was murdered--take off
these irons, relieve me of these chains which prevent me from escaping.”

“Murdered!” echoed the peasant between his teeth. “Damnation! I have
taken in a highway robber! And that scoundrel is sleeping on an honest
man’s bed! Who knows that he hasn’t made an appointment with all his
gang at my house? Indeed, they say that the neighborhood has been
infested with robbers for some time. Perhaps they mean to take
possession of my cabin and turn it into one of their dens. The devil! if
I was sure of it, I’d begin by getting rid of this fellow, while he is
alone. But let me see; I must try to verify this suspicion of mine.”

The wood-cutter walked toward Edouard; with great care he slit the back
of the unfortunate convict’s waistcoat, put aside the portion which
covered the shoulder, and held his lamp to it, concealing with the other
hand the rays of light which might have fallen on the stranger’s eyes.
Holding his breath, he put his head forward and with a shudder of horror
saw the fatal brand.

“I wasn’t mistaken,” said the wood-cutter, setting his lamp down on the
hearth and cocking his gun. “He is a villain, but by all the devils, he
shan’t stay in my house any longer! Even if I have to run the risk of
other dangers, I will drive this rascal out of my cabin.”

He returned to the bed and pushed Edouard roughly with the butt of his
gun. The convict woke, sat up in bed and gazed in terror at his host,
who was aiming the gun at him, and whose eyes were blazing with anger.

“Leave my house this minute!” cried the wood-cutter in a loud voice,
with his gun still leveled at Edouard; “clear out! and don’t think of
coming back, or I will blow your brains out.”

“What’s the matter? why this outbreak?” said Edouard, gazing about him
in surprise. “Am I no longer in the cabin where I was made welcome? Are
you the man who deigned to share your food and your bed with an
unfortunate fellow-creature? And now you turn me out! What have I done
to be treated like this?”

“You know well enough, you villain; go and join your comrades on the
highroads, go and rob and murder travellers; but you will find no
shelter under my roof.”

“You are mistaken, monsieur, you are wrong; I swear to you, I am not a
robber, I am not capable of evil designs!”

“Indeed! and perhaps you’re an honest man? What about that mark that you
bear? Was it for your brave acts that you were decorated like that?”

“Great God!” said Edouard, putting his hand to his waistcoat and
discovering that it was cut; “what--you dared----”

“I wanted to make sure what you were; your conduct aroused my suspicion
and I had to see if I was right. Come, you can see that your talk and
your stories won’t deceive me any longer. Come now, off with you, I
can’t sleep with a man like you.”

“Unhappy wretch that I am,” said Edouard, leaving the bed and beating
his brow, “I have no resources left; I am lost, cast out by the whole
world. Obliged to shun society, which spurns me, reduced to the
necessity of living in the darkness, this infamous mark drives me to
crime; only among brigands can I find shelter now; only by committing
new crimes can I prolong my existence! The road of repentance is closed
to me; I have no choice but to be a criminal!”

As he spoke, he threw himself on the ground and writhed in despair at
the wood-cutter’s feet. The latter was moved for a moment, when he saw
the mental distress of the wretch before him; he laid down his gun, and
would perhaps have yielded to compassion, when two whistles rang out and
were repeated loudly in different parts of the forest.

Instantly the wood-cutter’s suspicion and rage revived in full force. He
had no doubt that the signal that he had heard was that of the brigands
come to join their comrade. He took his gun again; Edouard tried once
more to implore his compassion; he approached his host, raising his
hands in entreaty; but the wood-cutter, mistaking the meaning of the
miserable wretch, whom he deemed capable of murdering him, stepped back
and pulled the trigger.

The gun was discharged! being badly aimed, the murderous bullet did not
strike its victim, but whistled over his shoulder as he knelt on the
floor, and buried itself in the wall. Thereupon rage and despair revived
Edouard’s courage; he determined to sell his life dearly; he seized an
axe which he saw in a corner of the cabin, and as his host returned
toward him to strike him with the butt of his gun, he dealt him a blow
in the head which stretched him lifeless at his feet. The wood-cutter
fell without uttering a sound; his blood spurted upon Edouard, who was
horrified to find himself covered with it.

At the same moment the door of the cabin was broken in; four men,
clothed with rags, but armed to the teeth and wearing hideous masks,
appeared in the doorway and put their heads into the room, gazing for
some moments in surprise at the spectacle which met their eyes.

“Oho!” said the one who seemed to be their chief, “it seems to me that
strange things are happening here, and that we have comrades in the
neighborhood. Thunder and guns! Here’s a fellow who looks to me as if he
had done a good job!”

Edouard was standing motionless in the middle of the room, still holding
in his hand the bloody axe with which he had struck down the
wood-cutter.

The brigands entered the room. The leader scrutinized Edouard and
uttered an exclamation of surprise and delight.

“It is he!” he cried at last; “it is really he! Look at him,
comrade,--you should recognize him too.”

“Parbleu! yes, it’s our friend; come, Murville, embrace your old
acquaintances, your faithful companions in pleasure and adversity.”

Edouard heard voices which were familiar to him; he raised his eyes and
saw Lampin before him; but he did not recognize the other brigand, whose
voice had caught his attention. The latter took his hand and shook it
violently; Edouard looked at him again, and sought upon the horribly
mutilated face features which were not unknown to him.

“What,” said Lampin; “don’t you recognize Dufresne, our old friend?”

“Dufresne!” cried Edouard; “is it possible?”

“Yes, Murville, it is himself,” said Dufresne, untying a number of bands
which disfigured his face by representing scars, and taking off a
plaster which concealed one eye and a part of his forehead, as well as a
beard which covered his chin and his upper lip. “I’m delighted that you
don’t recognize me, for that demonstrates my talent for disguising
myself; and that’s something, especially when one has a death sentence
hanging over him. But you, my rascal, you seem to have limbered up a
little since we met. The devil! this does you credit.”

“Comrades,” said Lampin, who had been prowling about the cabin, “there’s
nothing of any good to us here; the shot we heard may bring people in
this direction, whom we should not be pleased to meet. Take my advice
and let us quit this hovel and go back into the woods; we can talk more
safely there.”

Lampin’s advice being adjudged prudent, the robbers left the cabin,
taking with them Edouard, who had hardly recovered from his surprise and
could not believe that he had found Dufresne again in the person of the
chief of a band of outlaws.

After walking for some time through the thickest part of the forest, the
robbers stopped in a clearing; they built a fire, produced provisions
which they spread on the grass, and having prepared their weapons in
case of surprise, they seated themselves about the flame, which alone
lighted their meal.

“I don’t know,” said Dufresne, gazing at Edouard with savage joy, “what
presentiment led me to hope that we should be united some day. In fact,
I have always acted with that end in view; isn’t that so, Lampin?”

Lampin was eating ravenously, and according to his custom, drinking even
more ravenously; he contented himself with a glance at Edouard,
accompanied by a laugh. Edouard observed his new companions, uncertain
as yet if he ought to congratulate himself upon meeting them.

“How does it happen that I meet you with Lampin in this forest?” he
asked Dufresne at last; “what has led you to embrace such a dangerous
life?”

“What’s that? what other sort of life do you expect a man to embrace
when he is outlawed from society, as we are? You’re not going to play
the innocent, are you, you who have just killed a poor wood-cutter,
whose death was of no benefit to you?”

“I did nothing but defend myself; that man had fired at me and was
threatening me again; I had to parry his blows.”

“The deuce, comrade, you have a pretty way of parrying!--But no matter,
let us return to ourselves. You must know that I have been sentenced to
death; luckily I didn’t wait for my sentence before escaping from
prison, thanks to these two faithful friends whom I had helped long ago.
We could not appear in the daylight; so we selected the woods and the
highways to carry on our trade; a man must do something. A little while
ago, we stopped a traveller who was riding through these woods, and I
recognized Lampin, who asked nothing better than to join us. You must
join us too, my dear Murville, for there is nothing else for you to do;
you ought to be enchanted to have met us.”

“Yes, yes,” said Lampin, “and I am sure that you no longer bear me a
grudge for leaving you with the wagoner at midnight. What can you
expect, my boy? I saw that the horse wasn’t worth much; he would never
have been able to gallop with two men on his back, and I gave myself the
preference; that was natural enough.”

“What a miserable life!” said Edouard, glancing about; “to live in the
woods, in the darkness, to dread being arrested every minute, to risk
one’s life for a few gold pieces!”

“Deuce take it, my little man,” said Lampin; “I agree that it was
livelier when we danced with Véronique-la-Blonde, beating time on her
flanks, and drinking madeira or champagne; but, you see, we all have our
ups and our downs.”

“Muster up your courage, my dear Murville,” said Dufresne; “we may be
rich yet, and enjoy life under another sky. Meanwhile, I don’t propose
any longer to confine myself to living in the woods, and waiting for a
poor traveller now and then; besides, four or five men are not enough to
form a formidable band, equal to stopping well-loaded vehicles. But I
have more extensive projects, and as I possess the talent of making
myself unrecognizable, when necessary, I hope that when my comrades are
thoroughly saturated with my lessons, we shall be able to try some bold
stroke,--either breaking into some wealthy man’s house, or assuming
title and rank, according to circumstances.”

“Ah! he’s a sly fox! he knows a lot! I would like right well to know the
man who educated him!”

“I can satisfy you, my friends, by telling you the story of my youth; it
will not take long and it will amuse you. Moreover, Murville will derive
some profit from it; there are some things in it which concern him, and
I have no need now of standing on ceremony with him.”

“Tell on, tell on,” said Lampin; “meanwhile, we will drink; in fact,
there’s nothing better for us to do in this infernal wood, where we have
drawn blank for two nights. Come, comrades, let us start up the fire and
drink quietly.”

The robbers rekindled the fire, took a bottle each, and gathered about
their leader; while Edouard, with his head resting in his hands, waited
in gloomy silence for Dufresne to begin his story.



XXXIV

DUFRESNE’S STORY


I was born in a small village in the neighborhood of Rennes. My father,
who had been rich and highly esteemed, was completely ruined by the loss
of a lawsuit which a cousin of his brought against him. Reduced to
poverty and having no friends, he was obliged to accept a place as
game-keeper to an old nobleman who cared more for his game than for his
vassals, and would not forgive the death of a rabbit or a partridge
killed on his land.

My father, embittered by misfortune, cherished in the depths of his
heart a longing to be revenged upon the man who had stolen his property
from him. He lived in a small cabin in the midst of the woods; he took
me there and kept me with him. I was six years old when my father
retired into that solitude. I was bold, enterprising, brave, wilful, and
even then determined in my resolutions. The almost savage life which I
led for several years did not help to soften my nature. I constantly
roamed about the forests, and climbed mountains and steep cliffs; I
leaped torrents and ravines; and when I returned home to my father, he
would rehearse the story of his misfortune; he taught me to curse men
whose injustice had revolted his heart; he urged me to distrust the
whole world, and never to rely upon the equity or gratitude of my
fellowmen; and to prove what he said, he told me of the services he had
rendered when he was rich, all of which had been repaid with
ingratitude; he told me of the unjust lawsuit which he had lost only
through fraud and bad faith; and finally made me swear to avenge him
upon the man who had ruined him.

My father’s words readily found a lodging in my memory. Perhaps other
advice might have led me to protect and defend those whom I swore to
despise and to hate; but first impressions are all-powerful upon an
inexperienced mind, and the independence of my tastes inclined me to
crush without examination all the obstacles which thwarted my desires.

An episode which I witnessed served to intensify my aversion for
mankind. I was then thirteen years old, and I had just taken a lesson in
reading from my father; for he had told me that education was essential
to my best interests, and that reason alone had induced me to learn
something. I was walking in the woods when I heard two shots very near
me. I ran in the direction from which the reports came, and I saw two
young men, who had been arrested because they were hunting in the
nobleman’s forest.

One was a well-dressed young man, of aristocratic manners and bearing;
the other was a poor peasant, covered with rags and apparently in the
last stages of want. The first had killed a kid, the other a rabbit, and
yet the young man from the city was laughing and singing among the
keepers, while the peasant, pale-faced and trembling, had hardly
strength enough to stand.

Curious to learn the sequel of the affair, I followed the crowd to the
château; the nobleman was absent at the time, but his steward took his
place; he had full power and represented his master; so the two
prisoners were taken before the steward. I mingled with the crowd and
succeeded thus in making my way into a large hall, to which the poachers
were taken first. The steward arrived; when he saw the young man from
the city, he realized that he had not, as usual, to deal with country
bumpkins who were accustomed to tremble before him. He dismissed
everybody, in order to question the fine gentleman in private. But I,
instead of going out with the others, concealed myself under a table
covered with a cloth, and heard very distinctly the following
conversation:

“Monsieur, I am distressed to be obliged to act harshly,” said the
steward in a wheedling tone, “but my master is very strict, and his
orders are absolute.”

“Bah! old fox, you are joking, I fancy, with your orders,” said the
young man, laughing at the steward; “understand that I am a young man of
family, and that if you do not set me at liberty instantly, I will cut
off your ears at the first opportunity.”

“Monsieur, this is a very strange tone, and I cannot allow----”

“Look you, old Arab, I see what you want! You are the steward, that
tells the whole story; take this purse; there are fifteen louis in it;
that is more than all your master’s kids are worth.”

As he spoke, the young man took from his pocket a purse, which the
steward accepted without hesitation. Then, opening a little secret door,
he said in an undertone:

“Go down this way into the garden; then turn to the right and you can go
out through another gate that leads into the fields. I am endangering
myself for you, but you have such engaging manners!”

The young huntsman did not wait to hear any more; he was already in the
garden. The steward carefully locked the small door, then rang for a
servant and ordered him to bring the other poacher before him.

They brought in the peasant, and the steward was left alone with him.

“Why do you hunt?” he asked the peasant, in a harsh voice and a sharp
tone which bore no resemblance to that which he had assumed with the
other prisoner.

“My good monsieur,” said the poor man, falling on his knees, “pray
forgive me; it is the first time and I swear that it shall be the last.”

“These rascals always say the same thing!”

“I ain’t a rascal, but a poor devil with a wife and five children, and I
can’t support ’em.”

“Well, you knave, why do you have children?”

“Well! monsieur l’intendant, that’s the only pleasure a man can get
without money.”

“As if clowns like you ought to have any pleasure! Work, you dog, work;
that’s your lot.”

“I haven’t got any work, and I earn so little, so little, that it’s
hardly enough to keep us alive!”

“Because you eat like ogres!”

“I don’t ever eat enough, so’s to have some to give to the little ones.”

“Your little ones! your little ones! These rascals starve the whole
province with their little ones!”

“Pardi! monsieur l’intendant, your master raises more than fifty dogs,
and it seems to me that I can raise four or five children.”

“Fancy this wretch daring to compare his disgusting young ones with
monseigneur’s greyhounds! Come, no arguing, you were caught poaching,
your case is clear, and the theft is proved. You will be lashed, fined,
and imprisoned!”

“Oh! mercy, monsieur! it was only a rabbit!”

“A rabbit, you scoundrel! a rabbit! Do you know what a rabbit is?
Monseigneur preserves rabbits; I must avenge the one that you killed.”

“Morgué! if it was for monsieur’s table----”

“That’s a very different matter; it would be too happy to enter its
master’s mouth; but you are a poacher.”

“Have pity on my wife and children, monsieur l’intendant! We are so
poor! there ain’t a sou in our house!”

“You deserve to be hanged! Off with you, to prison, and to-morrow the
lash.”

The steward rang, the servants appeared, and the peasant was taken away
despite his prayers and his tears.

I had remained under the table, where I was fairly choking with
indignation; when everybody had gone, I jumped out of the window and ran
home, to tell my father all that I had heard. My story did not surprise
him. It was only one proof more of the injustice and the barbarity of
men. For my own part, I had my plan. I knew that the nobleman was to
return next day, and I proposed to assure the punishment of the rascally
steward.

And so at daybreak I started for the château. When I arrived there, I
saw the unfortunate peasant in the courtyard being pitilessly beaten by
the servants, while the nobleman watched the spectacle from the balcony,
giving biscuit to his Danish hound and sugar to his greyhound.

“I am going to avenge you, goodman,” I said, as I passed the peasant;
and I at once ran up the stairs four at a time and entered monseigneur’s
apartments before the servants had had time to announce me. The steward
was with his master, counting out money; I ran and threw myself at
monseigneur’s feet; but in my eagerness I trod upon the paw of one of
his favorites. The hound began to yelp and his master cast an angry
glance at me, asking why I had been allowed access to him. Before anyone
could reply, I began my story and told, almost without stopping for
breath, all that I had heard the day before between the steward and the
aristocratic huntsman.

The old nobleman seemed a little surprised to learn that another poacher
had been arrested; but the steward, who quivered with anger while I was
speaking, made haste to tell his master that the young man was a
marquis, and that he had thought that he ought not to detain him.

“A marquis,” said the nobleman, taking a pinch of snuff, “a marquis! The
devil! that’s so--of course we could not have him beaten; so the peasant
must pay for both.”

“That is what I thought, monseigneur.”

“And you did well; send away this boy, who was awkward enough to tread
on Castor’s paw.”

The steward did not wait for the order to be repeated; he took me by the
arm; and I went unresistingly, unable to understand why monseigneur had
not been angry with the rascally servant. On the way, the steward gave
me a number of blows, and as many kicks; that was the only reward which
I received at the château.

I returned home in a frenzy of rage, revolving in my brain a thousand
schemes of revenge. My father, who then realized to what excess my
animosity might lead me, tried, but in vain, to pacify me.

The next morning, a message from the steward informed my father that he
was no longer monseigneur’s game-keeper. That was a result of my action
of the day before; he suspected as much, but did not reproach me. We
left our cabin with no idea of what was to become of us. As for me, my
father’s misfortune confirmed me in a plan which I had conceived and
which I was eager to execute.

During the night, while my father slept at the foot of a tree, I stole
away with a dark lantern and the gun which he always carried with him.

I hurried in the direction of monseigneur’s château. When I arrived
there, I made piles of sticks, and set fire to the four corners of the
château, taking pains, lest the fire should not burn quickly enough, to
throw blazing brands on the roofs of all the buildings, with particular
attention to the stables.

I soon had the pleasure of seeing that my revenge was complete; the fire
caught in several places and spread rapidly to all the wings of the
château. They sounded the tocsin, the villagers hastened to the spot,
and several of them had the complaisance to throw themselves into the
flames, to save a nobleman who took pleasure in having them beaten. Amid
the confusion and the tumult, I made my way to the private apartments
and found the steward trying to escape, with a little casket which he
held against his breast. I took my stand in front of him and said,
aiming my gun at him:

“Look you, this is to teach you to strike me and kick me!”

I fired, and he fell dead at my feet. I threw my gun away, took
possession of the casket, and leaping from a window with my usual
agility, I fled from the château, which soon presented nothing but a
pile of ruins.

I made haste to return to the place where I had left my father. I was
proud of my revenge and overjoyed to possess a casket which I presumed
to be full of gold. I had always noticed that with gold one could
procure everything and make one’s escape from all dangers.

But what was my surprise not to find my father, whom I supposed to be
still sleeping at the foot of the tree! In vain did I search the whole
neighborhood, calling him at the top of my voice; I had to go on to
another village, uncertain what had become of him. Being uneasy
concerning my treasure, I buried it at the foot of an old oak, after
taking out a few pieces of gold of which the casket was full.

I went to bed at a small inn, thinking justly enough that a child would
not be suspected of setting fire to the château. In fact, little
attention was paid to me; everyone was talking about the terrible
calamity that had happened to the nobleman. Everyone formed conjectures
of his own, but during the day a peasant came in and said that the
guilty party was arrested; he was, so he stated, a former game-keeper in
monseigneur’s service; he had been discharged, and was bitterly incensed
against the steward, whom he presumed to be responsible for his
disgrace. He had set the fire in order to obtain access to his enemy
more easily, for they had found the latter, killed by a rifle shot, and
had recognized the weapon as belonging to the game-keeper.

On hearing that story, I had no doubt that my father had been arrested
in my place; I trembled for him, and having determined to sacrifice
myself to save him, I at once left the inn and started for the village
to which he was to have been taken. I did not stop an instant on the
road, for I felt that minutes were precious; I reached the public square
of the village at last, and saw my father hanging on a gallows.

I abandoned myself, not to grief, for that was not the sensation that I
felt, but to frenzied rage. I would have been glad to be able to set
fire to the village and burn all the inhabitants at once.

At night, I took down my father’s body; I had the strength to carry it
into the forest, where I dug a grave for it; I swore, over his lifeless
remains, to avenge his death and his misfortune upon all mankind, and
never to love those who had unjustly ruined him and put him to death,
although innocent.

I went to get my precious casket, and I left the country. Thanks to the
treasure which I possessed, I was able to gratify all my tastes and
procure myself all sorts of pleasure. I lived thus for five years,
abandoning myself to all the passions which age had developed within me;
I loved wine, cards and women, and so long as I had money, I denied
myself nothing; but my treasure could not last long with the life I was
leading. At the age of eighteen, I saw the bottom of my treasure chest;
but, far from mourning over that event, I rejoiced at the thought that
the time had come to keep the oath I had taken over my father’s grave.

So I devoted my whole time to making dupes, and that was not difficult
for me; in the best society, to which, thanks to my wealth, I had
succeeded in introducing myself, I had learned good manners; I had,
furthermore, the talent of disguising my features and of changing my
voice when that was necessary; add to that, wit, audacity, resolution,
and eloquence, and you may judge what triumphs were in store for me.

Under the name of Bréville, I knew at Brussels a certain Jacques
Murville, who had run away from home. He was your brother, my poor
Edouard, and I was clever enough to strip him of all that he possessed.
In Paris, assuming a different name, I was present at your marriage; the
name of Murville caught my attention; I made inquiries, I learned that
you had a brother, and it seemed to me a good joke to appropriate the
fortune of the older brother after spending the money of the younger.
But another thought took my heart by storm when I saw your wife.
Adeline’s beauty and charms fascinated me; I fell madly in love with
her, and I swore to resort to every means to possess her.

First of all, it was necessary to obtain access to your house; I
succeeded; then I found a way to sow discord in your family, by leading
you on gently to your ruin, which was the goal of all my plans. I
discovered your inclination for gambling; after that it was not hard for
me to lead you into all imaginable sorts of folly. I desired to enrich
myself at your expense, but the infernal cards were never favorable to
me. I forced you on toward crime, because your wife had spurned me, and
I was determined to revenge myself upon you for all her contempt. In
short, you were simply a machine, which I handled at my pleasure.

After having tried all methods to overcome Adeline’s resistance, I had
recourse to stratagem, and I succeeded one night in making my way to her
apartment and in sharing her bed.--You shudder! Oh! my poor Edouard,
your wife deceived no one but herself! you had a very dragon of virtue!
When she saw who I was, she manifested more detestation of me than ever,
but I had the certainty of having ruined her happiness for all time.

Now you know me; learn to judge men, at your own expense. As for me, who
have seen everywhere nothing but falseness, cupidity, ingratitude,
injustice, selfishness, ambition, jealousy; and who have always
sacrificed worldly prejudices to my passions,--I should view with
indifference my position as a leader of robbers, if I were able to
gratify all my tastes in this sort of life. But whatever the position
that I occupy, whatever the profession that I embrace, I shall keep the
oath sworn over my father’s grave; I shall continue to abhor men; and I
would destroy even you, if you were not, like myself, born for the
misfortune of mankind, according to the vulgar expression.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dufresne concluded his narrative, and the robbers seemed proud of having
such a miscreant to command them. Edouard, appalled by what he had
heard, shuddered at the memory of all that he had done through the
advice of a monster who had sworn his destruction, and who coolly told
him of his own dishonor. But it was too late to look back, especially
with Edouard’s weak and reckless nature. He felt that he hated Dufresne,
but he had not the strength to leave him.

Vice debases and degrades men. Edouard, while he realized the horror of
his situation, had not sufficient energy to try to escape from it.

The dawn was beginning to whiten the mountain peaks, and to make its way
into the clearings of the forest. The robbers extinguished the fire and
placed the remains of their provisions in their wallet.

“Comrades,” said Dufresne, “we must leave this neighborhood, we are
making nothing here. So let us start; but in the first town of any size
near which we pass, the boldest of us must go and buy some clothes which
will give us the appearance of respectable people, for believe me, it is
the same with our trade as with all others: to be successful, we must
throw dust in people’s eyes; and with our torn jackets and trousers we
shall never be able to leave these woods, but shall remain miserable
vagabonds all our lives.”

Dufresne’s words were like an oracle to his companions, so they prepared
to follow his advice, and resumed their journey, carefully avoiding
frequented roads by day. Dufresne guided the little troop; Lampin sang
and drank as he walked, while the other two bandits dreamed of crimes
they might commit, and Edouard tried to decide whether he should fly
from his companions or remain with them.



XXXV

THE HOUSE IN THE VOSGES


A long chain of mountains, covered with forests, separates Alsace and
Franche-Comté from Lorraine, and extends as far as the Ardennes. It was
among these mountains, called the Vosges, that the excellent Monsieur
Gerval’s estate was situated, and it was there that he took the
ill-fated creatures whom he had resolved to protect.

Monsieur Gerval’s house was simple, but convenient: a pretty courtyard,
surrounded by a strong fence, led to the ground floor, where there were
only two windows looking out of doors; but these windows were barred,
and supplied in addition with very thick shutters, a necessary
precaution in an isolated house in the woods. The first floor looked
upon the courtyard and also upon a large garden behind the house,
enclosed by a very high wall. The house was on a slope of a hill, not
far from a narrow road leading to the commune of Montigny. And its
picturesque situation, its isolation from other houses, and the unbroken
calm that reigned all about, seemed to stamp that simple retreat as the
abode of repose and peace.

Monsieur Gerval’s household consisted of Dupré, whom we already know; of
Catherine, who performed the duties of cook,--an old woman somewhat
talkative, but faithful, obliging, kindhearted, and deeply attached to
her master; and lastly, of a young peasant named Lucas, who was
gardener, indoor man, and messenger.

Throughout the neighborhood, within a radius of many leagues, the name
of Gerval was revered and pronounced with emotion by the unfortunate
ones upon whom the good man constantly lavished benefactions. He had not
always occupied his house in the woods; often the exigencies of his
business had kept him away for a long time; but at such times Dupré and
Catherine, who knew their master’s heart, continued his beneficent work,
so that the poor could hardly notice the absence of their protector.

The peasants, when they learned that Monsieur Gerval had gone to Paris,
were afraid that he would not return to them; Catherine herself shared
that feeling, for she knew that her master wished to see some old
friends whom he had been obliged to neglect for a long time, and to whom
he was very much attached. But a letter from Monsieur Gerval brought joy
to the people of the Vosges; they learned that they were to see their
friend, their staff, their father, once more; that he was to return
among them, never to leave them again. This news soon became known
throughout the neighborhood; the people hurried to Catherine to
ascertain if it were true, and she read to each one her master’s letter,
announcing his arrival on a certain day.

That day arrived and everything was in confusion in the house, to
celebrate the goodman’s return. Lucas robbed his garden, to decorate the
dining-room; Catherine surpassed herself in the repast which she
prepared; the peasants from round about, and all the unfortunates whom
the kindhearted Gerval had assisted, gathered at the cottage.

“He hasn’t arrived yet,” said the old servant, “but he cannot be long
now.”

They strung themselves out along the road, they went up to the hilltops,
in order to descry the carriage sooner. They saw it at last; it was
instantly surrounded, the old man’s name passed from mouth to mouth, and
the blessings of the poor celebrated the return of their wealthy
benefactor.

Gerval shed tears of emotion when he saw the joy of the worthy folk who
regarded him as their father.

“Ah! my friend,” he said to Dupré, “how pleasant it is to be able to do
good!”

The carriage entered the courtyard; the peasants uttered cries of joy.

“Hush! hush! my friends,” said the old man as he alighted from his
carriage; “do not give such loud expression to your joy; it pleases me,
but it distresses an unhappy woman to whom the slightest noise is a
danger.”

As he spoke, Gerval helped Adeline out of the carriage, while Dupré
lifted little Ermance in his arms.

Adeline glanced uneasily about; much noise always caused her to shrink
in alarm; the sight of a number of people increased her excitement; she
shuddered and tried to fly. Gerval was obliged to motion to the
villagers to stand a little aside, before he could induce the
unfortunate young woman to enter the house.

They gazed at Adeline with interest, and joy gave way to sadness when
they realized her condition.

“Poor woman!” was heard on all sides; “what can have deprived her of her
reason? And that little girl! how beautiful she will be some day! They
are two more unfortunates, whom Monsieur Gerval has taken under his
protection.”

“My children,” said Catherine, “as soon as I learn this young stranger’s
story, I will tell it to you, I promise you; and I shall know it soon,
for my master keeps nothing from me.”

Unfortunately for Catherine, her master knew no more than she upon that
subject. To satisfy his old servant’s curiosity, Monsieur Gerval told
her how he had made Adeline’s acquaintance, and the deplorable state in
which he had found her afterward. The servant uttered exclamations of
surprise during her master’s narrative, but she declared that she would
be able to learn all the young woman’s misfortunes little by little.
Meanwhile, as she already felt drawn to love and cherish her child, she
hastened to prepare one of the pleasantest rooms in the house for them.

Adeline was given a room on the ground floor, looking on the woods; the
window was supplied with stout iron bars, and there was no danger that
she would run away from the house in one of her fits of delirium. They
left the child with her, for she seemed always to know her daughter, and
often pressed her affectionately to her heart.

“Those are the only moments of happiness which she seems still to
enjoy,” said Monsieur Gerval; “let us not deprive her of them! and let
us not rob the child of her mother’s caresses!”

Catherine undertook with pleasure to take care of the invalid and her
daughter. It was she who accompanied the young woman in her walks about
the neighborhood, when the weather was fine; and Lucas was ordered to
decorate Adeline’s room with fresh flowers every morning. It was by dint
of unremitting care and attention that Monsieur Gerval hoped to restore
peace to the hapless woman’s soul.

They knew little Ermance’s name, because her mother had called her by it
several times in her delirium; but they did not know the mother’s name,
and Monsieur Gerval had decided that she should be called Constance.
That melodious name was approved by Catherine, who declared that the
stranger’s misfortunes must be due to love. So that was the name by
which Adeline was called by the people at the house in the woods; but
sometimes Lucas, and the peasants of the neighborhood, called her simply
“the mad woman.”

The peace that reigned in the house in the Vosges, the tranquil life
that they led there, and the affectionate attentions lavished upon
Adeline, seemed to bring a little repose to her mind; she caressed her
daughter and often embraced her; she smiled at her benefactor and at all
those about her; but only incoherent words came from her lips; and she
would relapse almost immediately into a state of sombre melancholy from
which nothing could arouse her. She passed part of the day in the
garden, which was large and well cared for. Sometimes she plucked
flowers and seemed to feel a moment’s cheerfulness; but soon the smile
disappeared from her pale features, and she would seat herself upon a
bench of turf and remain whole hours there without a sign of life.

“What a misfortune!” said honest Gerval, as he contemplated her, while
playing with little Ermance, who already returned his caresses; “I am
inclined to think that there is no hope of her recovery.”

“Why do you say that?” said Catherine; “we must never despair of
anything. Patience, patience; perhaps a salutary crisis may come. Oh! if
we only knew the cause of her trouble!”

“Parbleu! to be sure, that is what the doctor from Paris says; but that
is just what we shall never know.”

“Pshaw! how can we tell? She talks sometimes. Look, she seems to be
smiling now; she is watching her daughter play; she is much better
to-day than usual, and I am going to question her.”

“Take care, Catherine, and don’t distress her.”

“Don’t be afraid, monsieur.”

Catherine walked toward the clump of shrubbery under which Adeline was
sitting, and Gerval, Dupré and Lucas stood near by in order to hear the
stranger’s replies.

“Madame,” said Catherine in her softest tone, “why do you grieve all the
time? You are surrounded by people who love you; tell us your trouble,
and we will try to comfort you.”

“Comfort me!” said Adeline, gazing at Catherine in amazement. “Oh! I am
happy, very happy! I have no need of comfort. Edouard adores me; he has
just sworn that he does; we are united again, and he will make me happy
now, for he is not wicked!”

“But why did he leave you?”

“Leave me! No, he did not leave me; he is with me in the house where he
lived in his youth; my mother, my daughter and his brother are with us.
Oh! I don’t want him to go to Paris; he might meet--No! no! don’t let
him go!”

“Take care, Catherine,” said Monsieur Gerval in an undertone; “her eyes
are beginning to flash, her excitement is increasing; for heaven’s sake,
don’t worry her any more.”

Catherine dared not disobey her master, but she burned to know more.
Adeline did in fact seem intensely excited; she rose, walked about at
random, and seemed inclined to fly. The old servant tried to quiet her.

“Let me alone,” said Adeline, shaking herself free, “let me fly! He is
there, he is chasing me! see, look,--do you see him? He follows me
everywhere; he has sworn to ruin me; he dares still to talk to me of his
love! The monster! Oh! in pity’s name, do not let him come near me!”

She hurried away, ran to every corner of the garden, and did not stop
until, exhausted and unable to endure her terror, she fell to the
ground, unconscious and helpless.

They took her at once to her apartment, and their zealous attentions
recalled her to life. Monsieur Gerval strictly forbade any questioning
of her because it always intensified her disease.

“All right, monsieur,” said Catherine; “but you see that we are certain
now that she is married, that her husband has a brother, and that with
all the rest there is some miserable fellow who makes love to her, and
whom she is afraid of! Oh! I can guess the trouble easily enough! I’ll
bet that it’s that same fellow who enticed the husband to Paris, where
he forgot his wife and child! Pardi! that’s sure to be the result. Oh!
what a pity that I can’t make her talk more! We should soon know
everything.”

But as the excellent woman did not wish to arouse the stranger’s
excitement, she dared not ask her questions. She often walked with
Adeline in the woods about the house; one or the other of them carried
Ermance; the old servant watched every movement of the young woman, she
listened carefully to the words that fell from her mouth, put them
together, and based conjectures upon them; but after three months, she
knew no more than on the second day.

Once, however, an unforeseen event disturbed Adeline’s monotonous life.
She was walking with her daughter on a hillside a short distance from
the village. Catherine followed her, admiring the graceful figure, the
charming features and bearing of the unfortunate young woman, and saying
to herself:

“That woman wasn’t born in a cabin; her manners and her language show
that she belongs in good society! And to think that we shall never know
who she is! It’s enough to drive one mad.”

A young peasant had climbed a tree to steal a nest; his foot slipped,
and a branch at which he grasped broke at the same time; he fell to the
ground, wounded himself badly in the head, and uttered a lamentable cry.

That cry was heard by Adeline, who was then near the wounded man; she
instantly stopped and began to tremble; terror was depicted upon her
features, and her eyes sought the ground as if they feared to rest upon
an object which horrified her; suddenly she took her child and fled
through the woods. In vain did Catherine run after her, calling to her;
Adeline’s strength was redoubled, and Catherine’s shouts augmented her
frenzy; she climbed the steepest paths without taking breath; she
scarcely touched the ground; she rushed into the mountains and the old
servant soon lost sight of her.

Catherine returned to her master in despair, and told him what had
happened. Monsieur Gerval knew that all the peasants were devoted to
him, and he sent Dupré and Lucas to beg them to search the whole
district. The good people made haste to beat up the forest. Success
crowned their zealous efforts; they found Adeline lying at the foot of a
tree; fever had given place to exhaustion, and the fugitive had been
unable to go farther.

They placed her on a litter hastily constructed of the branches of
trees, and carried her and her daughter back to their benefactor’s
house. The old man dismissed the villagers, after lauding their zeal,
and devoted his whole attention to pacifying the poor invalid, whom the
young peasant’s plaintive cry had cast into a more violent attack of
delirium than any that she had had since her arrival in the Vosges.

In the throes of constantly returning terror, Adeline talked more than
usual, and Catherine did not leave her side. But she shuddered at the
broken phrases that the stranger uttered:

“Take him from that scaffold!” Adeline exclaimed again and again,
putting her hands before her eyes. “In pity’s name, do not give him to
the executioners! They are going to kill him! I hear his voice! But no,
that plaintive cry did not come from his mouth; that was another
victim.--Oh! I cannot be mistaken, I recognize his tones; they always go
to my heart!”

Catherine shed tears; Monsieur Gerval caught a glimpse of a ghastly
mystery, and the old servant repeated to her master:

“A scaffold! executioners! Ah! that makes one shudder, monsieur!”

“No matter,” said the kindhearted Gerval; “if the young woman’s husband
or relatives are criminals I will keep her none the less. She is not
guilty, I am sure; she is only unfortunate!”

“Yes, monsieur; but the monsters who have brought her to this condition!
they are very guilty; they deserve to be severely punished!”

“Yes, my poor Catherine; but we do not know them; let us leave to
Providence the duty of avenging this unhappy creature, and let us not
doubt its justice. It would be too horrible to think that the wicked may
enjoy in peace the fruit of an evil deed, while the victim wastes her
life away in tears and despair.”

Monsieur Gerval summoned his servants again, and urged them to redouble
their attention, in order to spare the young mother such dangerous
emotion.

“No noise, no shouts in the neighborhood of her room! If you come
together to talk and laugh, which I do not wish to forbid you to do, let
it be in some room at a distance from Constance’s so that she cannot
hear you. Above all, no more questions; for they lead to no good
result.”

“Oh! I am done, monsieur,” said the old servant; “I have no desire to
learn anything more now; it strikes me as altogether too painful a
subject; and I should be terribly distressed to pain a woman whom I
should like to see happy once more.”

Thanks to these precautions, Adeline became calm once more, and
everything went on in its accustomed order. Some time passed before they
dared to let the invalid leave the house; and she no longer walked in
the woods except under the escort of both Lucas and Catherine; and as
soon as the peasants caught sight of her, knowing her condition and the
orders that Monsieur Gerval had given, they quietly moved away from her
path. If she approached, unperceived, a group of peasant girls, who were
engaged in diverting themselves, their games, their dancing or singing
were instantly suspended.

“It is the mad woman,” they would whisper to one another; “let’s not
make any noise, for that makes her worse.”

Time flew by without bringing any change in Adeline’s condition; but her
little Ermance grew rapidly and her features began to develop. Already
her smile had the sweet expression of her mother’s, and her affectionate
heart seemed to have inherited Adeline’s sensibility.

A year had passed since Monsieur Gerval had taken Adeline and her
daughter under his roof. Pretty Ermance loved the old man as she would
have loved her father. Her little white hands patted her protector’s
white hair, and he became more and more attached every day to the sweet
child.

“You have no parents,” he said to her one night, taking her on his
knees. “Your mother is dead to you, poor child! Your father is dead too,
no doubt, or else he has abandoned you, and does not deserve your love.
I propose to assure your future; you shall be rich; and may you be happy
and think sometimes of the old man who adopted you, but who will not
live long enough to see you enjoy his gifts!”

The winter came and stripped the trees of their foliage and the earth of
the verdure which embellished it. The woods were deserted, the birds had
gone to seek shade and water beneath another sky. The snow, falling in
great flakes on the mountains, lay in huge drifts among the Vosges, and
made the roads difficult for pedestrians and impracticable for
carriages. The evenings grew long, and the whistling of the wind made
them melancholy and gloomy. The peasant, who was forced to pass through
the woods, made haste to reach his home, for fear of being overtaken by
the darkness; he hurried along, blowing on his fingers, and his
footprints in the snow often served to guide the traveller who had lost
his way.

However, ennui did not find its way into honest Gerval’s abode; all the
inmates were able to employ their time profitably. The old man read, or
attended to his business and wrote to his farmers. Dupré made up his
accounts, and looked after the wants of the household; Catherine did the
housework and the cooking, and Lucas looked after his garden and tried
to protect his trees and his flowers from the rigors of the season.
Adeline did not leave her room except in the morning, when she made the
circuit of the garden a few times; she was rarely seen in the other
parts of the house. As soon as night came, she withdrew to her room,
sometimes taking her daughter with her; when, by any chance, she
remained with her host in the evening, she sat beside Catherine, who
told the child stories, while Gerval played a game of piquet or
backgammon with Dupré, and Lucas spelled out in a great book a story of
thieves or ghosts.

When a violent gust of wind made the windows creak, and blew against
them the branches of the trees which stood near the house, Lucas, who
was not courageous, but who loved to frighten himself by reading
terrifying stories, would drop his book and look about him in dismay;
the monotonous noise of the weathercock on the roof, the uniform beating
of an iron hook against the wall, were so many subjects of alarm to the
gardener.

Sometimes Adeline would break the silence, crying:

“There he is! I hear him!” and Lucas would jump from his chair, thinking
that someone was really about to appear. Then Catherine would make fun
of the gardener, his master would scold him for his cowardice, and
Lucas, to restore his courage, would take his book and continue his
ghost story.



XXXVI

THE TRUTH SOMETIMES SEEMS IMPROBABLE


The snow had fallen with more violence and in greater abundance than
usual; the gusts of wind constantly snapped off branches of the trees
and hurled them far away across the roads, which soon became impassable.
The clock struck eight and it had long been dark.

Adeline, whom the roaring of the tempest made more melancholy than
usual, had not left her room during the day. Catherine had brought
Ermance downstairs and put her to bed beside her mother, who was sitting
in a chair and refused to retire so early, despite the old servant’s
entreaties. The master of the house was playing his usual game with
Dupré, and Lucas had just taken up his great book, when the bell at the
gate rang loudly.

“Somebody is ringing,” said Monsieur Gerval; “company so late as this,
and in such weather!”

“It is very strange!” repeated Lucas.

“Shall I open the door, monsieur?” asked Dupré.

“Why, we must find out first who it is; it may be travellers who have
got lost in the mountains and cannot go any farther, or some unfortunate
creature whom the villagers have sent to me, as they sometimes do. I
hear Catherine coming, she will tell us who it is.”

Catherine had been to the door to look out, and she came up again to
take her master’s orders.

“Monsieur,” she said, “it is three travellers, three peddlers, it would
seem, for they have bales on their backs. They ask for shelter for
to-night, as they cannot go on, because there are more than two feet of
snow on the road. One of them is a poor old man who seems to suffer much
from the cold. Shall I let them in?”

“Certainly, and we will do our best for them.”

“But, monsieur,” said Dupré, “three men, at night--that is rather
imprudent!”

“Why so, Dupré? They are peddlers and one of them is old; what have we
to fear? It is perfectly natural that they should seek shelter in bad
weather; ought I to leave people to lose their way among these
mountains, for fear of entertaining vagabonds? Ah! my friend, if it were
necessary to read the hearts of those whom one succors, one would do
good too seldom! Go and let them in quickly, Catherine; do not leave
these travellers at the gate any longer; and do you, Dupré, make a big
fire so that they may dry themselves; and Lucas will prepare the small
room which I always reserve for visitors.”

Catherine went down and opened the gate for the travellers, who
overwhelmed her with thanks. The two younger ones held the old man by
the arms, and only with great difficulty did they succeed in helping him
up the staircase to the first floor, where the master of the house
awaited them in the living-room.

“Welcome, messieurs,” said honest Gerval, inviting them to draw near the
fire. “First of all, let us make this old gentleman comfortable; he
seems completely exhausted.”

“Yes, monsieur,” said the aged stranger in a tremulous voice, “the cold
has so affected me that, except for the help of my children, I should
have remained on the road.”

“You will soon feel better, my good man. Messieurs, take off those
bales, which are in your way, and I will send them to the room which you
are to occupy.”

The peddlers deposited in a corner of the room several bundles which
seemed to contain linens, handkerchiefs and muslin; Dupré, who was a
little suspicious, walked to the bundles and examined them; one of the
young men noticed his action, and made haste to open several of them and
exhibit his wares to the old servant.

“If there’s anything that takes your fancy, say so, monsieur,” he said;
“we will do our best to please you.”

“Thanks,” replied Dupré, seeing that his master appeared displeased by
his inspection of the bundles; “we can see these things better to-morrow
morning.”

The two peddlers returned to the old man, and sat down in front of the
fire. Catherine brought a bottle of wine and glasses, and Lucas took up
the bundles and carried them to the room on the second floor.

“Here is something that will warm you while your supper is preparing,”
said Monsieur Gerval, filling the strangers’ glasses. “Drink,
messieurs,--it is very good.”

“With pleasure,” said that one of the young men who had already spoken
to Dupré. “An excellent thing is good wine! Here, father; here, Jean;
your health, monsieur.”

“Are these your sons?” Monsieur Gerval asked the old man.

“Yes, monsieur, they are my support, the staff of my old age. This is
Gervais, my oldest; he is always merry, always ready to laugh; and this
is Jean, my youngest, he isn’t so light-hearted as his brother, he
doesn’t speak much, but he is a steady fellow, a great worker and very
economical. I love them both, for they are honest and incapable of
deceiving anybody, and with those qualities a man is certain to make his
way.”

“I congratulate you on having such children; but why do you go on the
road with them at your age?”

“You see, monsieur, we’re going to Metz to set up in business; my boys
are going to marry the daughters of a correspondent of theirs, and I am
going to live with them.”

“That makes a difference; but was it chance that brought you to my
house, or did the peasants point it out to you as a good place at which
to pass the night?”

“Monsieur,” said Gervais, “we are not familiar with this neighborhood,
and as we started out rather late, the darkness took us by surprise;
that is why we sought shelter, especially on account of our father, who
is too old to endure severe weather. But for him, we should never have
been able to make up our minds to ask a gentleman for a night’s lodging,
and we should have passed the night on the snow, my brother and
I--shouldn’t we, Jean?”

“Yes,” said Jean in a low voice, and without removing his gaze from the
fire.

“You would have done very wrong, messieurs,” said Monsieur Gerval,
filling the strangers’ glasses; “I like to be useful to my fellowmen,
and I will try to give you a comfortable night.”

“You live in a very isolated house,” said Gervais, emptying his glass;
“aren’t you ever afraid of being victimized by robbers?”

“I have never been afraid of that; nothing has ever happened to me thus
far.”

“Besides, there are enough of us here to defend ourselves,” said Dupré,
drawing himself up; “and we have weapons, thank God!”

“Dupré, go and see if Catherine is getting supper ready.”

“Yes, monsieur, and I’ll go too and see if Madame Constance and her
daughter want anything.”

Dupré did not go to Adeline’s room; but he was glad of an opportunity to
let the strangers know that there were more people in the house, for he
was not at all pleased to find that the strangers were going to pass the
night there.

He went to the kitchen, and asked Catherine what she thought of the
strangers.

“Faith! I think they’re honest folk; the old man seems very
respectable.”

“For an old man who can hardly stand on his legs, he has very bright
eyes! And his two sons! one of them looks very much like a regular
ne’er-do-well; he always has a sneering laugh when he speaks, and he
drinks--oh! he don’t leave any in his glass!”

“Indeed! that’s very surprising, isn’t it? A peddler!”

“And the other one,--such a sombre air! He never lifts his eyes; and so
far the only word he has said is a single ‘yes,’ and he said it in such
a lugubrious way! I don’t like those people.”

“Bah! you are too suspicious, my dear Dupré.”

“No, but I like to know my people.”

“Do we know this poor woman who has been living here for more than a
year?”

“Oh! but what a difference! A young, beautiful, and interesting woman;
why, her condition alone would make anyone pity her; and that child,
such a sweet, pretty creature! You see, I know something about faces;
and these peddlers--I tell you, Catherine, I shan’t sleep sound
to-night.”

“And I shall sleep very well, I trust.”

“For all that, don’t forget to lock your door.”

“Well, upon my word! if you’re not just like Lucas! I must say that we
have brave fellows here to defend us, if we should be attacked!”

“You are mistaken, Catherine; I am not a coward; but I realize that I am
more than twenty years old. Oh! if I were only twenty, I wouldn’t be
afraid of three men!”

“Let me get my supper ready, instead of making my ears ache with your
nonsense.”

“Nonsense! Hum! that’s easy to say.--And what about our young
woman,--won’t she come to supper?”

“You know very well that it isn’t her custom. She is asleep, I hope; I
suppose you would like to wake her, wouldn’t you?”

“Catherine.”

“Well?”

“It seems to me that I hear a noise in the yard, near the gate.”

“It’s the wind waving the trees and shaking the windows. However, go and
see.”

“Yes, I propose to make sure for myself, although you say that I am a
coward.”

Dupré lighted a lantern, and made the circuit of the courtyard.
Everything was in its accustomed order; the gate was securely locked; he
stopped a moment to look through the bars, but the wind blew the snow
into his face. While he was rubbing his eyes, a dull sound reached his
ears, which seemed to come from the room on the ground floor which
Adeline occupied.

“Poor woman! she isn’t asleep yet,” said Dupré to himself; “suppose I
should go and find out if she wants anything? But monsieur doesn’t want
her to be disturbed at night; he has forbidden it; so I’ll go upstairs
again and watch the peddlers.”

The old servant met Lucas on the stairs; the gardener was laughing and
singing, because he was always very cheerful when there was much company
in the house.

“Have you arranged the bedroom for these strangers?” asked Dupré.

“Yes, and I’ve carried their bundles there; and the tall one wanted to
give me a piece of money for my trouble, but I refused it.”

“You did well. For people who travel on foot, they’re very generous.”

“Oh! he has the look of a high liver, has that tall fellow with the red
hair; he laughs and drinks and talks for the whole party. If we often
had guests like him, there’d be a little more fun here, I tell you! But
we haven’t got anybody but that poor woman; and a lunatic is never very
gay, especially this one.”

“Humph! you don’t know how to judge people. I don’t say that these
peddlers are scoundrels, but----”

“But what?”

“Lock your door tight to-night--do you hear, Lucas?”

“Yes, Monsieur Dupré, yes, I hear,” replied Lucas, whose hilarity
suddenly vanished, and who became pale and perturbed, while Dupré
returned slowly to his master’s presence.

The old man and Gervais were talking with Monsieur Gerval; the other
young man replied only by monosyllables to the questions that were put
to him.

“My brother is a little serious,” said tall Gervais to his host, in an
undertone. “The trouble is, that he is jealous, he’s afraid that his
sweetheart has forgotten him in the two years that he has been away, and
that disturbs him.”

“I can understand that, but you don’t seem to have the same anxiety!”

“I? morbleu! woman never worried me! I’m a rake, I am! I snap my fingers
at them all, and I am capable of----”

“Hush, my son,” said the old man, interrupting him abruptly; “you talk a
little too freely; excuse him, monsieur; you see he’s been a soldier.”

“Aha! you have been in the army, have you?”

“Yes, to be sure I have; and when there’s any fighting to be done, I am
always on hand; eh, father?”

“Oh! to be sure! You are a wrong-headed youngster! anybody can see
that!”

Catherine appeared and announced that supper was served in the next
room.

“Let us adjourn to the table, messieurs,” said Monsieur Gerval,
escorting the newcomers to the dining-room. They took their seats, the
old peddler beside his host. Dupré, as a very old servant, who had
become his master’s friend, always ate at his table; he took his place,
but Monsieur Gerval noticed that there was another plate beside him.

“For whom is this place, Dupré?” asked Monsieur Gerval.

“It is for our young lady, monsieur, or for her daughter, if either of
them should come.”

“You know very well, my friend, that they are asleep now; Constance
isn’t in the habit of sitting up so late.”

“She isn’t asleep, monsieur, for I heard a noise in her room.”

The old man cast a glance at his two companions, then addressed his
host:

“You have ladies in your house? If we prevent them from coming to the
table, we will go up to our room at once.”

“No, indeed! I have only a young woman and a child. The poor mother,
alas! is bereft of her reason. She is an unfortunate creature, who has a
too loving heart.”

“I am sorry for her!”

“Let us drink to her health, messieurs,” said tall Gervais, filling his
glass and his neighbor’s.

“That fellow doesn’t stand much on ceremony,” thought Dupré, as he
glanced at the peddler, who took the bottle himself; “the devil! he
would exhaust our cellar in short order.”

The old man glanced at his oldest son from time to time; he seemed
displeased to see him drink so often, and reproached him for not being
more temperate.

“You see, our host’s wine is delicious,” replied Gervais; “and you know
that I am a good judge, father.”

“Do not spare it,” said Monsieur Gerval; “it will give you strength to
continue your journey to-morrow.”

“With pleasure, my dear monsieur; I am inclined to crook my elbow a
bit.”

Dupré made a wry face; it seemed to him that Monsieur Gervais used some
very peculiar expressions, and the more he drank, the less reserve he
manifested. Honest Gerval excused it, and was much amused by the
joviality of the peddler, which did not seem to please the old man so
much.

“Why don’t you drink, Jean?” said Gervais, nudging his neighbor; “you’re
a sad fellow! And you, my dear and honored father; you make eyes at me
that shine like salt cellars! Morbleu! I am the only one of the family
that knows how to laugh; eh, monsieur?--Monsieur de Gerval, your health
and your family’s and your lunatic’s; and yours, you old fox, who look
at us as if we’d come from Arabia Petræa.--Here’s everybody’s health! I
am not stingy!”

“Excuse him, monsieur,” the old man said to Dupré, “but when he has
drunk a little, he doesn’t know what he says.”

Dupré frowned and made no reply.

“I don’t know what I say!” cried Gervais; “ah! ten thousand dogs! you
think that, do you, my dear father? Well! you lie like the blockhead you
are! Isn’t that so, Jean? isn’t he a blockhead?”

The old man rose in a rage.

“If it weren’t for the respect that I owe to our host,” he said, “I’d
punish you for your insolence; but I take pity on the situation you’re
in; come with me, and let us not keep monsieur from retiring any
longer.”

“That’s so, that’s so, my dear father; I rather think I have been
talking nonsense, and it’s more prudent to go to bed; meanwhile I ask
you for your blessing.”

As he said this, Gervais approached the old man, who pushed him away,
and bade Monsieur Gerval good-night, apologizing again for his oldest
son’s conduct.

Lucas took candles and was about to escort the strangers to the room set
apart for them, when they heard a noise in the courtyard. The peddlers
expressed surprise and Dupré ran to the window to look out; he saw
Adeline, dressed in a simple déshabillé, holding a light in her hand and
walking excitedly through the drifts of snow in the courtyard.

“It is she, monsieur,” said Dupré to his master; “it’s very surprising
that she has left her room so late.”

“Is that the poor woman?” asked the old man.

“Pardieu! I want to see the mad woman!” cried tall Gervais; “I am
curious to know whether or not she is pretty.”

He ran at once to the window but Adeline had already returned to her
room.

“Good-night, messieurs,” said Gerval to the strangers; “I will see you
to-morrow before you leave.”

The peddlers went up to the second floor, Lucas left them a light, and
hastened down to his room, which adjoined the kitchen, taking care to
barricade the door, from top to bottom, as Dupré had advised.

The latter, left alone with his master, for the cook had already
retired, communicated to Monsieur Gerval his observations on the subject
of the strangers.

“You must agree, monsieur,” he said, “that that tall fellow has the look
of a vagabond. His way of talking and of behaving, his lack of respect
toward his father----”

“What do you expect? He had had a little too much to drink!”

“His peculiar expressions----”

“He has been in the army.”

“Oh! that isn’t the language of a soldier.--God grant, my dear master,
that you do not repent the hospitality you have given to these people!”

“What are you afraid of?”

“I don’t know, but everything about them looks suspicious to me; even
the silence of that other one, whose sinister expression does not
indicate an honest heart.”

“Nonsense, Dupré! calm your excitement and go to bed. A night is soon
passed.”

“Yes, when you sleep! but it is very long sometimes. What pleases me is
that my room is next to yours; if you hear any noise, you will call me
instantly, won’t you, monsieur?”

“Yes, my good Dupré; go now and don’t be frightened.”

Dupré left his master regretfully; the latter went to bed in perfect
confidence, and soon forgot in sleep his old servant’s words.

Dupré’s room was on the first floor, adjoining Monsieur Gerval’s; but
his door opened on the landing, from which one flight of stairs led up
to the second floor and another down to the courtyard.

Tormented by an anxiety which he could not overcome, Dupré resolved to
keep awake, and to try to clear up his suspicions. He looked from his
window at the strangers’ apartment; the light was still burning.

“They have not gone to bed,” he said; “if I only could hear them
talking! I will try.”

He left his room noiselessly, without a light, and went up to the second
floor; he stopped at the door of the peddlers’ room; but he remembered
then that there was a small dressing-room between the hall and the
bedroom, which made it impossible to hear what they said, from the
landing. Dupré was about to go down again, when he remembered that the
top of the chimney of the room where the strangers were was directly in
front of the round window in the loft. He at once went up to the loft,
walking with the utmost precaution. He opened the round window very
softly, crawled out on his stomach, and placed his ear near the top of
the flue; then, thanks to his nearness to the floor below, he easily
heard the following conversation:

“You are incorrigible, Lampin; your infernal sottishness came near
betraying us a hundred times.”

“Bah! bah; what had we to fear, after all? There’s nobody in the house
but three old blockheads, a fool, a mad woman and a child! That’s a very
terrible lot, isn’t it? If you had taken my advice, once we were in the
house, we would have acted without disguise. For my part, I would look
after the old Crœsus and his servant.”

“It is much better to act without risk, and to be able to effect our
retreat without disorder. You may be sure that, before bringing you
here, I made inquiries about the people in the house. The owner is very
rich, he helps everybody.”

“Well, he must help us too, the old Crœsus!”

“He must have much money here; I know that he received remittances from
his farmers a week ago. All that money must be in his room; we can
easily get in there, take possession of the treasure, and escape through
the mad woman’s room; for the gate is very strong, and very securely
fastened, and we should have much difficulty in forcing it.”

“Very good! But I saw bars at the ground floor window looking on the
woods. Is that the way that you propose to take us out, my most honored
father?”

“You idiot! Do you suppose that I haven’t thought of everything? Our
comrades have orders to file the bars, and I told them that they could
work without fear, as the woman who occupies the room would watch them
without saying a word.”

“Bravo! That is a most excellent idea; isn’t it, Edouard? Speak up, you
infernal dreamer!”

“Yes, yes, the plan is well devised.”

“It is very lucky that it pleases you! If only that old steward who
looked askance at us doesn’t disturb our arrangements.”

“Woe to him, if he should dare!--We will let our comrades in; then we
shall be in force; and those who make trouble for us will soon be
reduced to silence!”

“That’s the talk! strong measures.”

“Luckily I was moderate at table; if I had imitated you, Lampin, we
should have betrayed ourselves.”

“What the devil! you played the old man so well that I nearly choked
with laughter. But if I did drink, it only increased my courage; there
is gold to be got here, and that gives me nerve, my colleagues. Let’s
see, how do we distribute our functions?”

“We will let our friends in, in a few moments; we must give these old
men time to get to sleep. We will leave Edouard on guard with the mad
woman, to see that she doesn’t lock the door of her room in a fit of
delirium; for that would cut off our retreat. Our comrades will stand
guard, one over the gardener, the other over the cook; and you, Lampin,
will go with me in search of the money.”

“That’s well arranged; this good fellow cannot complain of having a too
dangerous post; to stay with a woman and a child, both asleep! What
prowess!”

“Very true, but they mustn’t wake; if they should make the slightest
sound--remember, Edouard, that our safety, our lives, are at stake.”

“All right, I understand.”

“And so do I,” said Dupré to himself, noiselessly withdrawing his head;
“I know enough;--the villains! I was not mistaken! We have given
hospitality to brigands! O my God! inspire me, so that I may save my
master and that poor woman!”

The old servant crept along the roof and reëntered the loft. Despite all
he could do to revive his spirits and his courage, his legs trembled, he
could hardly hold himself erect, and his imagination, thrown into
confusion by all that he had heard, saw nothing but scenes of blood and
death. Dupré was sixty-five years old; at that age, a man is a long time
coming to a decision; and in dangerous crises, the time that he loses in
making up his mind as to what he shall do makes the danger more
imminent.

Dupré felt his way through the loft. Should he wake his master or Lucas?
But the gardener did not wake easily, he would have to make much noise
at his door, and in the silence of the night, the slightest sound would
be heard by the robbers and would arouse their suspicions. Catherine was
locked into her kitchen, and would be of no assistance to them. But it
was the young woman’s apartment through which the comrades of the
brigands were to enter the house; it was most essential to close that
entrance, after removing Constance and her daughter from the room.

This plan seemed the wisest to the old servant. He decided to go
downstairs, but he trembled and shuddered as he placed his foot on the
staircase. If the villains should come out of their room and meet him,
he would be lost! He listened before venturing upon each step; at the
slightest sound he stopped. He was about to pass the door of the second
floor; but he heard voices and footsteps. The door was thrown open, and
Dupré hurried back to the loft.

The pretended peddlers had heard a noise above their heads; the old
man’s heavy step had made the boards creak and had disturbed the silence
of the night. Dufresne left the room first; he held a torch in one hand
and a dagger in the other. Lampin followed, and they entered the loft
just as the old servant was crawling under a bundle of straw.

“We are betrayed!” said Dufresne; “someone has been listening to us.”

He instantly plunged his dagger into the old man’s bosom, as he clasped
his hands to implore mercy. Dupré expired without uttering a sound; his
blood inundated the floor, and Lampin covered the ill-fated servant’s
body with straw.

“Let us go down,” said Dufresne; “and as suspicion has been aroused, let
us make haste to act!”

“What has happened?” asked Edouard, who had remained on the landing as a
sentinel.

“Nothing,” said Lampin; “only there is one less prying fool.”

“Let us go at once to the mad woman’s room; our friends should be at
their post; let us not leave them any longer cooling their heels in the
open air.”

The brigands went down to the ground floor; the key was in the door of
Adeline’s room, and they entered. A lamp on the hearth half lighted the
room, the window of which opened on the forest. The child’s little bed
was placed beside the mother’s, the curtains of which were tightly
drawn. Well assured that she who was in the bed was not awake to spy
upon their acts, Dufresne went at once to open the shutters, and
admitted his companions, who had remained by the window after sawing the
bars.

“All goes well,” said Dufresne; “let us leave these shutters open, and
there will be nothing to interfere with our flight. Edouard, remain
here; above all things, no pity if she wakes.--You, my friends, come
with me, and I will show you your posts; then Lampin and I will look
after the rest.”

During Dufresne’s speech, Lampin turned up his sleeves, drew his
weapons, and examined the point of his dagger; a tigerish smile gleamed
in his eyes, and his hideous face, animated by wine and the anticipation
of pillage, seemed to bear with joy the impress of crime.

The four brigands departed from the room and Edouard was left alone. On
the alert for the slightest noise, he walked constantly from the window
to the bed; he listened to see whether anyone passed in the woods, then
returned to put his ear to the curtains which concealed the young woman
from him. His eyes turned toward the child’s crib; she was not in it.
Adeline, more excited than usual, and disturbed by the dull sound she
had heard outside her shutters, had taken her daughter and laid her
across her breast, when she threw herself fully dressed on her bed.
Curious to see the mad woman, Edouard was about to put aside the
curtain when a noise from the woods attracted his attention, and he
returned to the window. He heard footsteps trampling over the dry
branches and crunching the half-frozen snow. The noise drew near, and he
heard voices. If they were gendarmes sent in pursuit of them, if they
should see the window with the broken bars--Edouard trembled; he softly
closed the shutters so that no one could see into the room. He hardly
breathed. Despite his precautions, Adeline had waked; she abruptly
opened her curtains, half rising.

“Is it you? is it you?” she cried in a loud voice.

“This miserable creature will betray us,” said Edouard to himself; “her
voice will attract those travellers in this direction.--Well! I must do
it!”

He ran to the bed, dagger in hand; he was about to strike, when he
recognized his wife and child.

A cry of dismay, of horror, issued from the mouth of the miserable
outcast, who dropped the murderous steel and stood motionless before the
woman he had been about to strike. But that terrible cry had found an
echo in Adeline’s soul; she recognized her husband’s voice; those same
accents which had destroyed her reason once more revolutionized her
whole being; she tried to collect her ideas; it was as if she were
waking from a hideous dream; she saw Edouard, recognized him, and rushed
into his arms with a cry of joy.

“Edouard! here, by my side!” cried Adeline, gazing at him lovingly. “My
dear, how does it happen? Ah! I do not know what to think! My head is on
fire!”

“Come,” said Edouard; “give me the child; let us fly, let us fly from
this place, or you are lost.”

“Why should we fly? What danger threatens you? Have you not suffered
enough? Does man’s justice pursue you still?”

“Yes, yes; and you yourself are in danger from the rage of the brigands!
Listen,--do you hear those shrieks in the house? They are murdering an
old man without pity; come, I tell you, or they will kill you before my
eyes! Oh! do not refuse me! I am a monster, a villain, but I long to
save you.”

Adeline allowed herself to be led away by her husband; she took her
child in her arms and was about to follow him, when the shutters were
violently thrown open, while the bell at the gate rang loudly.

A man appeared in the window, and prepared to leap into the room,
calling to his companion:

“Here’s a breach; this way, comrade, this way! There are villains in the
citadel; let us go in and we’ll give them a hiding, ten thousand
cartridges! Forward!”

At sight of the stranger, Edouard, bewildered and beside himself with
fear, had no doubt that he had come to arrest him and his companions;
seeking to avoid the punishment that awaited him, he dropped Adeline’s
hand and pushed her away when she clung to him.

“You are saved,” he said; “let me alone, do not follow me; adieu, adieu
forever!”

He rushed out through the door at the end of the room, reached the
courtyard, succeeded in climbing over the gate and fled into the woods.
At the same moment Jacques and Sans-Souci entered Adeline’s room by the
window; she, exhausted by all the shocks to which her mind had been
exposed, fell unconscious at the moment that her husband disappeared.



XXXVII

WHO GOODMAN GERVAL WAS


“Oh! what good fortune! Can I believe my eyes?” cried Jacques as he ran
to the assistance of the unfortunate young woman whom he saw on the
floor. “This woman--it is she, Sans-Souci! Come, come and look at her.”

“Why, yes! sacrebleu! It’s her! We’ve found her at last! Didn’t I tell
you that a man should never despair of anything?”

“And her daughter,--see, there she is; yes, I recognize her too.”

“But when I opened those shutters, I thought I saw a man; he has
escaped.--The devil! what a noise! Do you hear? somebody is calling for
help! Stay with her, but give me one of your pistols.”

Jacques gave Sans-Souci one of his weapons; and he, with the pistol in
one hand, and his stick in the other, rushed in the direction of the
shrieks; he went up to the first floor, entered a room the door of which
was broken down, and saw an old man on his knees, imploring the pity of
a miscreant, while another miscreant laden with bags of money was
preparing for flight. Sans-Souci discharged his pistol at Dufresne, who
was on the point of striking Monsieur Gerval; the monster fell at the
old man’s feet; his comrade threw down his bags and tried to escape; but
Sans-Souci did not give him time; he overtook him on the stairway and
dealt him such a lusty blow on the head that Lampin staggered, rolled
down several stairs, struck his head against the wall, and expired,
vomiting the most horrible imprecations.

“You are my savior! my liberator!” cried Monsieur Gerval; while
Sans-Souci relieved him of the cords that bound him.

“It is true, my dear monsieur, that it was high time; but perhaps there
are other brigands in your house, and I will complete my inspection.”

“I will go with you, I will go with you, monsieur,” said the old man; “I
will be your guide. Alas! I do not see my faithful Dupré.”

At that moment they heard a pistol shot. Sans-Souci descended the stairs
four at a time, and joined Jacques at the instant that he blew out the
brains of one of the brigands who was trying to fly through Adeline’s
room; while his comrades, being more prudent, escaped by the same road
that Edouard had followed.

The report of firearms, the uproar and the shrieks had awakened
Catherine and Lucas; but only in obedience to their master’s voice did
they dare to leave their rooms. Then they went all together, with
lights, to Adeline’s room. She was just recovering her senses and was
gazing with renewed surprise at Jacques, who stood by her.

“My brother, my friend, have I found you too?” she said at last; “I do
not know if it is a dream, but so many events have succeeded one
another! Just now Edouard was with me.”

“Edouard! Come to yourself, be calm, my dear Adeline, and have no fear;
the brigands are punished.”

Adeline made no reply but her eyes still sought her husband.

“Victory!” cried Sans-Souci; “I killed two of them, for my part.”

“We owe you our lives, gallant strangers,” said Monsieur Gerval,
approaching Jacques; “how can I ever pay my debt to you?”

“You have evidently taken care of my sister and my niece,” Jacques
answered the old man, “and I am still in your debt.”

“His sister! his niece!” exclaimed the good man and his servants.

“First of all, let us finish inspecting the house,” said Sans-Souci;
“there may be some more of the scoundrels hidden in some corner.”

“But Dupré doesn’t appear! I am terribly afraid that he has fallen a
victim to his zeal.”

“Let us put our friends in a place of safety, and go and look!”

Monsieur Gerval, Adeline, her daughter and Catherine were taken to a
room of which the door was securely fastened, and where they had nothing
to fear; then Jacques and Sans-Souci began to inspect the house, guided
by Lucas, who trembled like a leaf, but dared not refuse to accompany
them. The name of Edouard, which Adeline had pronounced, was an enigma
to Jacques, who dared not harbor the suspicions that came to his mind.
They examined every part of the house without finding anybody, except
the body of the unfortunate Dupré in the attic; after making sure that
there was no sign of life about him, Sans-Souci, aided by Lucas, took
him down to the ground floor, where the faithful servant’s remains were
destined to stay until the last rites should be performed over them.

While Sans-Souci and the gardener attended to this melancholy duty,
Jacques entered Monsieur Gerval’s apartment. A low groaning came from
one corner of the room. Dufresne was still alive; but the wound that he
had received was mortal and the villain struggled in vain against death.
Jacques put his lantern to the dying man’s face and an exclamation of
surprise escaped him. Dufresne also recognized Edouard’s brother; a
horrible smile animated his almost lifeless eyes; he mustered what
little strength he had left, to speak for the last time.

“I am dying; but if you have killed all those who were with me, you have
killed your brother. Tell his wife, tell that Adeline who despised me,
that her husband, after escaping from the galleys, has become by my
advice a robber and an assassin.”

Dufresne breathed his last after uttering these words, well content to
have done someone an injury at the last moment of his life.

Jacques stood for some moments frozen with horror by the dead body of
the man who had wrecked the happiness of his family. But, overcoming his
dismay, he determined to make sure of the horrible truth; he descended
the stairs, halted beside Lampin’s body and held the lantern to his
face, shuddering with apprehension. It was not he! Jacques breathed a
little more freely, and went down to the ground floor, where the man was
whom he himself had killed; and although he was very sure that it was
not his brother, he proceeded to satisfy himself beyond a doubt.

“Thank heaven!” he said after examining the brigand’s features, “my hand
is not wet with my brother’s blood! He has escaped. God grant that we
may never see him again! Let us forget a monster who dishonors us, and
devote all our care to the two unfortunate creatures whom I have found
again at last.”

But before returning to Adeline, Jacques carefully examined all the
pockets of all the brigands, especially Dufresne’s, fearing that some
paper relating to Edouard would be found upon them. He made sure that
they had only weapons and money about them, and then in a more tranquil
frame of mind returned to Adeline.

The occupants of the house had discovered with the most intense delight
that the young woman had recovered her reason; and while a thorough
search was being made in his house, Monsieur Gerval told Adeline how he
had found her and taken care of her at Paris, then brought her to his
estate in the country; and lastly, how long a time she had lived under
his roof.

Adeline threw herself at her protector’s knees. She realized now all
that she owed him, although honest Gerval, in his narrative, had spoken
only of the pleasure it had given him to oblige her, passing lightly
over all that he had done for her.

Adeline then inquired about the events of the preceding night. They told
her that brigands had made their way into the house, and that except for
the unexpected arrival of two travellers, one of whom appeared to be her
brother, they would have been pillaged by the robbers.

She shuddered; she remembered how Edouard had appeared before her, his
excitement, his terror at the appearance of the strangers; she dared not
continue her questions, but she anxiously awaited Jacques’s return. He
appeared at last.

“Some of the villains have escaped,” he said, approaching Adeline, upon
whom he bestowed a glance of which she understood the meaning. “Those
who were killed well deserve their fate.”

“Morbleu!” said Sans-Souci; “they all well deserve to be broken on the
wheel! I have only one regret, and that is that any of them got away.”

“And my faithful Dupré,” said Monsieur Gerval; “you tell me nothing of
him.”

“Alas, my dear monsieur, your old servant was, it seems, the first
victim of those monsters; he is no more!”

“The villains! to murder an old man! Ah, me! if I had heeded his
representations--poor Dupré, my imprudence was the cause of your death!
I shall reproach myself for it always. This house has become hateful to
me and I propose to leave it to-morrow!”

Monsieur Gerval shed tears over the fate of his old servant; Catherine
mingled her tears with his, and one and all tried to console the good
man, who blamed himself for the loss of his faithful companion.

The dawn surprised the inhabitants of the cottage in this situation.
Monsieur Gerval consented to take a little rest, while Lucas went to
notify the authorities of the neighboring village of the occurrences of
the night. Catherine, by her master’s orders, made preparations for
their departure, and Adeline promised the old man to tell him before
long the story of her misfortunes.

Jacques found an opportunity to be alone with Adeline. She burned to
question him, but dared not break the silence. He divined her grief, her
tremor, her most secret thoughts.

“Dufresne is no more,” he said to her; “the scoundrel has at last
received the reward of his crimes.”

“Dufresne? What, was Dufresne among those robbers? Unhappy creature that
I am! there is no doubt that he had led him on to the last stages of
crime; Edouard was----”

“Silence! never let this horrible secret be known to any but ourselves,”
said Jacques in a low voice; “the miserable wretch has escaped; let him
drag out his shameful existence in other lands; it is too late for him
to repent, and his presence would be to me, yes, to yourself, the height
of misery. Forget forever a man who did not deserve your love.
Everything combines to make it your bounden duty. The affection which
one retains for a creature so vile, so wretched, is a weakness, a
cowardice, unworthy of a noble and generous heart; live for your
daughter, for me, for all those who love you, and days of peace and
happiness will dawn again for us.”

Adeline threw herself into Jacques’s arms and wiped away the tears that
flowed from her eyes.

“My friend,” she said to him, “I will follow your advice, and you will
be content with me.”

The peasants of the neighborhood, who had learned of the melancholy
events that had happened in the house of their benefactor, hastened to
see him; and the stone over Dupré’s grave indicated the deplorable way
in which the faithful servant had met his end.

Monsieur Gerval at last inquired the name of his preserver.

“My name is Jacques, monsieur,” said he, “formerly a soldier, now a farm
hand.”

“Jacques,” said the old man, “I bear the same name as you. I gave it
also to my godson, a little rascal who would be about your age now, and
whom I have sought in vain in Paris.”

Jacques looked with more attention at him whose life he had saved; he
seemed to recognize in his venerable face the features of a person who
had always manifested the most affectionate interest in him in his
youth. A thousand memories thronged his mind; he could hardly find
strength to ask the good man his name, to which he had paid no attention
in the excitement of the events of the night.

“My name is Gerval,” said the old man, scrutinizing him in his turn with
evident emotion; “I used to be in business, and I had a large factory in
Paris.”

“Is it possible? You are Jacques Gerval, my godfather, whom I used to
love so dearly?”

Jacques leaped on the neck of the old man, who embraced him
affectionately and shed tears of pleasure at finding his dear godson;
while all the witnesses of the scene wept in sympathy.

“Ten thousand squadrons! how people keep finding each other!” said
Sans-Souci; “this is a recognition that I didn’t expect, by a long way,
nor you either, comrade.”

“My dear Jacques,” said Monsieur Gerval, “I have looked for you in all
directions; I was crazy with longing to see you again. Your escapade of
long ago caused me much pain, for I was innocently the cause of it. The
name of Jacques brought you ill luck, my poor godson; it had an
influence over your whole life; your mother neglected you, your father
dared not utter your name before her; I alone was kind to you, but that
was not enough for your sensitive heart. You left your father’s roof,
and I swore to make up for the injustice of your parents if I could ever
find you again. Here you are at last! I recognize you perfectly now!
These scars have not changed the expression of your features. We will
not part again, Jacques; you must close my eyes; you are my child, my
only heir; from this moment my fortune is yours; make use of it to
confer blessings upon all those whom you love.”

Jacques embraced his old godfather once more; he could not credit his
good fortune.

“Dear Adeline,” he said at last, “if I am rich, you shall never know
want again; that is the sweetest pleasure that I shall owe to wealth.”

Adeline and Ermance were wrapped in the old man’s arms in turn.

“So they are your sister and your niece?” he said to Jacques; “are you
married?”

“No,” he replied with some embarrassment; “they are my brother’s wife
and daughter.”

“Your brother--why, that is so,--what has become of him?”

“He is no more. Alas! I no longer have a brother, and she has no
husband.”

“I see that your tears are flowing again, my friends; I have
unintentionally renewed your grief; forgive me; perhaps the memory of
Edouard is painful to you; but I know nothing about your misfortunes;
tell me of them, and then I will try to make you forget them.”

Jacques undertook to tell the old man a part of Adeline’s sorrows, but
he did not make known the whole of his brother’s conduct, and Monsieur
Gerval believed that Edouard had died at Paris in destitution, after
abandoning his wife and child, and that it was the knowledge of her
husband’s unhappy end that had disturbed Adeline’s reason.

The excellent old man felt more than ever inclined to love that young
woman, a model for wives and mothers, and he was determined to become
acquainted with the people at the farm, who had shown so much affection
for Jacques and Adeline.

“That is very easy,” said Sans-Souci; “if you want to make them all
happy, you must go to the farm. Sacrebleu! when they see madame and my
comrade again, I am sure that Louise and Guillot will be happier than
they would if their house was a château.”

“Let us go to the farm,” said honest Gerval; “let us all go there; the
journey will do us good; it will divert my dear Adeline’s thoughts a
little, and it will amuse her little Ermance. Jacques will be able to
help in his turn the people who helped him in his need, and we, my poor
Catherine, we will try, among the people at the farm, to think less of
our old friend Dupré’s death.”

Monsieur Gerval’s plan made them all happy. Catherine was delighted to
leave a house which reminded her of melancholy events, and in which she
felt that she could never again sleep peacefully. Lucas asked his
master’s permission to leave his garden, in order to be his servant; the
old man consented and everybody prepared for departure.

The house in the Vosges was rented to peasants, who established an inn
there, most acceptable to people who travelled through those mountains;
Monsieur Gerval and his servants left the house, their hearts depressed
by the memory of Dupré. Jacques and Adeline turned their eyes away from
the spot which had witnessed Edouard’s infamy, and Sans-Souci looked
back with pride at the apartment where he had saved an old man’s life
and slain two villains.



XXXVIII

THE SMALL GATE IN THE GARDEN ONCE MORE


Sans-Souci rode beside the postilion, despite Monsieur Gerval’s request
that he should take a seat in the carriage; but he was fully determined
to act as scout, fearing mishaps on account of the deep ruts and the
wretched roads. His joy was so great at the thought of returning to the
farm with Madame Murville, that he was unwilling to depend upon any
other than himself to avert such accidents as might happen to them on
the way.

During the journey, Jacques told his old godfather of the adventures of
his youth; the story of the philters and the magnetism amused honest
Gerval and extorted a smile from Adeline.

“What happy chance brought you to our house so opportunely, with your
brave companion, to save us from the knives of the robbers?” old
Catherine asked Jacques.

“A few days after my dear Adeline’s departure,” said Jacques, “as she
did not return to the farm, and as I feared, with good reason, that some
unfortunate accident must have happened to her, I started off with
Sans-Souci, determined to travel all over France if necessary, to find
the mother and child. We went to Paris and stayed there several days,
but all to no purpose; I could not learn anything as to the fate of
those whom I sought. After going back to the farm to bid honest Guillot
and his wife good-bye, we started off again, and we visited one after
another all the provinces of France, stopping in the smallest towns, in
the most modest hamlets, making the most minute inquiries everywhere,
and always disappointed in our hopes. More than a year passed and our
search had come to nothing. But Sans-Souci, whose good spirits never
fail, sustained my courage and revived my hopes when he saw that my
grief and my sadness increased. We at last turned our steps toward this
province, with no expectation of being more fortunate here. After
travelling through part of Franche-Comté, we entered the Vosges. As we
were not afraid of robbers, we often travelled at night, and even more
often slept on the ground, as we did not always find shelter on our
road. Yesterday, however, the weather was so bad, and the snow had
blocked the roads so completely, that we lost ourselves in the woods. I
was numb with cold and almost exhausted, when Sans-Souci spied near at
hand a fine looking house. I dared not ask hospitality, but Sans-Souci
insisted upon stopping; and we were still disputing, when we heard
shrieks inside the house; then we no longer hesitated, but I rang
violently at the gate. Sans-Souci discovered an open window on the
ground floor, from which the bars had been removed, and we jumped into
the room. Imagine my surprise and my joy when I found there the woman
whom I had been looking for so long, and whom I should have left behind
forever, if your cry had not drawn me into the house.”

“My dear Jacques, it was surely Providence that sent you to our help,”
said Monsieur Gerval; “but the greatest miracle of all is that that
event has restored our dear Adeline’s reason.”

“Well, monsieur, didn’t I tell you so?” said Catherine; “all that was
needed was a violent shock, a crisis; and that is just what has
happened.”

The journey was made without accident, and they arrived at Guillot’s
farm. Jacques was conscious of a pleasant thrill of emotion as he passed
the fields in which he had worked.

“Yonder,” he said to good Monsieur Gerval, “is the plow with which I
turned up this ground, so often wet with my sweat.”

“My friend,” replied the old man, “never forget it even in the lap of
prosperity, and the unfortunate will never apply to you in vain.”

A carriage drawn by four horses is a great event in a country town. The
villagers, the farm hands, left their work, and the people from the farm
drew near with curiosity to look at the travellers; but Sans-Souci’s joy
had made itself heard already; he cracked his whip in such a way as to
make the chickens fly a league, while the pigeons took refuge on the
tallest chimneys.

“It’s us, it’s him, it’s her!” he shouted, as soon as he caught sight of
Louise and Guillot; “give us a big feast, my friends,--cabbage soup and
the light white wine! death to the rabbits and chickens!”

The villagers surrounded the carriage; Jacques, Adeline and Ermance were
embraced, caressed, and made much of by everybody. Louise wept, Guillot
swore aloud in his joy, and the old man was deeply moved by the sincere
affection which they all manifested for his children; for that was what
he called Jacques, Adeline and her daughter; and they escorted him in
triumph to the farm, where everything was soon turned topsy-turvy to
celebrate the return of those whom they had not expected to see again.

Amid the joy, the confusion, and the preparations for the feast,
Sans-Souci ran from one to another, tried to help everybody, broke
plates, upset saucepans, and exclaimed at every instant:

“You don’t know all; Jacques is rich now, and this excellent old man is
his godfather; we saved his life; we killed the rascals! I will tell you
all about it.”

“I see,” said Guillot, “things seem to be going pretty well; but what
about our friend Jacques’s brother?”

“Hush!” said Sans-Souci, putting his finger to his lips; “if you have
the misfortune to speak of him, gayety will disappear, tears will come
back, and your supper will be for the great Turk; so take my advice, and
turn your tongue over for an hour in your mouth, rather than say another
stupid word on that subject.”

“All right,” said Guillot, “I’ll chew my cud at the table before I
speak.”

Life at the farm delighted Monsieur Gerval; he drove all about the
neighborhood, admiring the charming sites and the fertile fields which
surrounded him.

“Morgué, monsieur,” said Guillot, “if you knew how pretty it all is in
summer! Bless my soul, you don’t see anything now! but if our fields are
worth more, if our farm brings in more, we owe it all to our friend
Jacques; in two years he did more and thought of more things than I
could ever do in six; he’s worth three hands all by himself. It is a
pity he’s rich now, for it robs me of a fine workman.”

“My dear Jacques,” said the old man, “you must love this country, these
fields, which have witnessed your labors, and it would be cruel in me to
take you away from here. We will settle in this neighborhood, my friend,
and I leave it to you to purchase some suitable estate here-about;
arrange it to suit yourself; I am too old to attend to business matters,
and I rely upon you to make a wise choice.”

Jacques joyfully accepted the commission entrusted to him. He already
had a plan in his head, and on the day following his arrival at the
farm, impelled by a secret hope, he went early in the morning to
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Trembling with emotion, he approached his
father’s house, that spot for which he had always sighed. His dearest
wish was to pass the rest of his life in that house, which recalled
memories which were both pleasant and painful.

When he reached the gate, he saw a placard pasted on the wall; he read:
“This house for sale or rent.”

“It’s ours!” he cried. “I am going to live again in the house where I
passed my childhood; I ran away from it at fifteen years of age, I shall
return to it at thirty; God grant that I may never leave it again!
Adeline, I am sure, will be delighted to return to it; it was here, she
told me, that she passed the happiest days of her life; even if this
place does remind her of a man she loved too well, at all events when
they lived here he was still worthy of her.”

Jacques rang at the gate; no one answered, but a neighbor advised him to
go to the notary’s, which was almost opposite. The notary was the same
man who had made the deeds for Edouard Murville four years before. The
house, having fallen into the hands of creditors, had belonged to
several owners in succession. The present owner almost never lived in it
and was very desirous to get rid of it. Jacques inquired the price and
promised to return the next day to conclude the bargain; he dared not do
it without consulting Monsieur Gerval. He hastened back to the farm, and
the old man saw by his pleased expression that he had found a house
which suited him.

“You will recognize it,” said Jacques, “for you often went there in the
old days; it is the house that belonged to my father.”

“And you didn’t conclude the bargain? Well! well! I see that I must go
myself and settle the business.”

And the next morning the old man set out in his carriage with his dear
godson. He drove to the notary’s and purchased the estate in the name of
Jacques, knowing that he did not intend to bear any other name; but
honest Gerval asked no explanation of that resolution, because he
guessed a part of Edouard’s misconduct.

“Here, my boy,” he said to Jacques, as he handed him the deed; “it is
high time that I should make you a present, to recompense you for having
given you such a wretched name. This estate is yours, and my little
Jacques is at home in the house from which his name caused him to run
away long ago.”

Jacques embraced the old man, and they returned to the farm for Adeline
and her daughter.

“Did I misjudge your heart,” Jacques asked his sister-in-law, “in
thinking that you would be glad to find yourself back in the dear old
house at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges?”

“No, my friend,” replied Adeline; “I have been too happy there not to
wish to pass the rest of my life there; happy memories will sometimes
mingle with my sad thoughts; I will banish from my mind all that he has
done elsewhere than there, and I will try to remember only the days of
his affection for me; then I shall at least be able to weep for him
without blushing.”

The Guillot family learned with delight that their friends were not to
leave the country; for the road from Villeneuve-Saint-Georges to the
farm was a pleasant walk, and they promised one another to take it often
in the fine weather.

Four days after their arrival, our travellers started for the new abode
in which they proposed to establish themselves. Adeline’s eyes were wet
with tears when she stood once more in that house, when she saw again
those gardens which had witnessed the first months of her married
life--such pleasant months, which passed so quickly, never to return!

Catherine took possession of the kitchen, Lucas of the garden and of the
post of concierge. Monsieur Gerval chose a room between Jacques and
Adeline, whom he liked to have near him; and little Ermance remained
with her mother, to cheer her by her prattle, to charm away her
melancholy by her caresses, and to mingle some hopes with her memories.

Sans-Souci wished to resume his labors at the farm, but Monsieur Gerval
and Jacques remonstrated.

“You saved my life,” said the old man, “and I don’t want you to leave
me.”

“You shared my trials and my adversity,” said Jacques, “and you must
share my fortune; everything is common between us.”

“Sacrebleu!” said Sans-Souci, passing his hand over his eyes, “these
people do whatever they please with me. I will stay with you, that’s all
right, but only on condition that I shall be at liberty to go to walk
when you have company, and that I shan’t sit at table with Madame
Adeline; for a man should be respectful to his superiors, and I am as
stupid as a goose in society.”

“You shall go to walk as much as you please,” said the old man; “you
shall hunt and fish, and smoke if that will give you pleasure; but you
are going to sit at table with us, because a brave man is out of place
nowhere.”

“All right, ten thousand cartridges! I see I must submit to that too.”

No more misadventures, no more storms, no more misfortunes; tranquil
days had dawned at last for the family at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges.
Adeline’s unhappiness had become a gentle melancholy, which the graces
and caresses of her daughter beguiled and made endurable. Little Ermance
grew and improved; her features became sweet and attractive; her voice
was as soft as her mother’s, and her sensitive and kindly heart never
turned away the unfortunate. Jacques, proud of his niece, had lost a
little of his brusque manner since he had lived in the bosom of his
family. Sans-Souci still swore, and would have thrown himself into the
fire for any of his friends. Old Gerval was made doubly happy at the
sight of the good that he himself did, and that Jacques did. In short,
one and all enjoyed a peaceable life, and the people at the farm were
often visited by their friends from the village.

A single thing marred Sans-Souci’s happiness; it was that Jacques no
longer wore the decoration that he had won on the battle-field.

“Why don’t you wear it any more?” he would say to him, when they were
alone; “what can prevent you? Morbleu! you act like a fool with your
resolutions.”

“My brother disgraced our name.”

“Well! was it to you or your name that they gave the cross?”

“It’s out of respect for that honorable reward, that I deprive myself of
the pleasure of wearing it.”

“But when you go by the name of Jacques simply----”

“That doesn’t matter; I know none the less that Edouard was a--Why, I
tell you, that ghastly thought would make me blush for that symbol of
honor; I shall never wear it again.”

“You are wrong.”

“That may be; I am and I shall always be a man of honor; but I have no
pride left when I think of my brother’s shame.”

The tranquillity enjoyed by the family at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges was
disturbed by a melancholy event which they still believed to be far
away: honest Gerval fell sick and died, and the zealous care of all
those who surrounded him was unavailing to save him.

“My children,” he said to them in his last moments, “I am sorry to leave
you, but at all events my mind is at rest concerning your future. I
hoped to live longer among you, but fate wills otherwise and I must
submit. Think of me, but don’t weep.”

The old man left his whole fortune to Jacques and Adeline. He had thirty
thousand francs a year, a large part of which was used in assisting the
unfortunate. Old Catherine survived her master only a few months, and
those two events caused deep sadness among the occupants of Jacques’s
house for a long while.

But time is always successful in calming the bitterest regrets; it
triumphs over everything; it is the Lethe wherein the memories of our
troubles and our pleasures alike are drowned.

Years passed. Ermance was nine years old; she was Jacques’s delight, and
her mother’s consolation. In order not to part with her, they caused
teachers to come to the village to begin her education.

“Ten thousand carbines!” said Sans-Souci as he looked at the little
girl; “that little face will turn a devilish lot of heads! Wit, beauty,
charm, talent, a kind heart,--she will have everything, sacrebleu!”

“Yes,” said Jacques, “but she will never be able to mention her father.”

“Oh! mon Dieu! there are many people in the same plight; that won’t
prevent your niece from rousing passions.”

“Morbleu! those same passions are what cause most of the unhappiness of
life; I would much prefer that she should not rouse any.”

“She won’t ask your permission for that, comrade.”

Adeline was proud of her daughter, who, being blest with the most happy
disposition, also made rapid progress in everything that she was taught.

“Dear Ermance!” her mother would say as she gazed at her, “may you be
happier than your parents!”

At such times, Adeline would devote a moment’s thought to Edouard, whom
she believed to have died long since in destitution and despair. “Ah!”
she would say sometimes to Jacques, when their eyes expressed the same
thought, “if only I could think that he died repentant, I feel that I
should have some slight consolation.”

Jacques would make no reply, but he would call Ermance and take her to
Adeline, that the sight of her might dispel a painful memory. Jacques
did not know that a mother always sees in her child the image of the man
she has loved.

One lovely summer evening, Jacques was walking to and fro pensively at
the end of the garden; Ermance, not very far from her uncle, was amusing
herself by plucking flowers, and Adeline, seated a few steps away on the
turf, looked on in silence at the graceful movements of her daughter.
Suddenly Ermance, as she ran toward a clump of rose bushes, uttered a
cry of alarm and stopped abruptly. Adeline ran to her daughter; Jacques
also drew near, and they both inquired what had frightened her.

“Look, look!” replied the child, pointing to the end of the garden,
“look, it is still there; that face frightened me.”

Jacques and Adeline looked in the direction indicated by Ermance, and
saw behind the small gate covered with boards, in the same spot where
the face with moustaches had appeared long ago, a man’s face gazing into
the garden.

“What a strange coincidence!” said Adeline, looking at Jacques; “do you
remember, my friend, that at that same spot, ten years ago, you appeared
before us?”

“That is true,” said Jacques; “yes, I remember very well.”

“We must excuse Ermance’s alarm, for I remember that then you frightened
me terribly! That man seems to be in trouble; come, my daughter, let us
go and offer help to him, and don’t be afraid any more; the unfortunate
should inspire pity and not fear.”

As she spoke, Adeline and Ermance approached the gate. The features of
the man who stood on the other side seemed to become animated; he gazed
at the young woman and her daughter, then he turned his eyes upon
Jacques, passed an arm through the gate, and seemed to implore their
pity. Adeline had drawn near; she scrutinized the beggar, then uttered a
piteous cry, and returned to Jacques, pale, distressed, trembling, and
hardly able to speak.

“I don’t know whether it is a delusion,” she said, “but that man--it
seems to me--yes--look--it is he, it is----”

She could say no more. Jacques ran to the little gate, he recognized his
brother, and threw the gate open. Edouard entered the garden, clad in
rags and tatters, overdone by fatigue and suffering, and presenting a
perfect image of misery and desperation.

“Help me, save me!” he said, dragging himself toward Jacques, who
scarcely dared believe his eyes; “for God’s sake, do not turn me away!”

“Oh! let’s go away, mamma, that man frightens me!” said Ermance,
clinging to her mother. Adeline, standing as still as a statue, gazed at
Edouard, while tears flowed from her eyes and fell on the child’s face.

“Unhappy wretch,” said Jacques at last, “why have you come here? Do you
propose to pursue us everywhere? Must your infamy inevitably follow your
family and make this child blush?”

“Ah!” said Edouard, throwing himself at Jacques’s feet, “I am a
miserable wretch indeed! she even hides my child from me, she shields
her from her father’s glance!”

Jacques no longer had the strength to spurn him; Edouard approached
Adeline and threw himself at her feet, placing his head against the
ground, and sobbing piteously. When she heard the unhappy man’s groans,
Ermance turned and looked at him; terror yielded to pity.

“Oh! that poor man looks very unhappy, mamma,” she said to Adeline; “he
causes me pain; let me help him to get up; I don’t feel afraid of him
any more.”

Thereupon Edouard seized his daughter’s hand and pressed it
affectionately in his, looking up at Adeline with an expression of which
she understood the meaning.

“I forgive you,” she said to him; “oh! if you had offended no one but
me! but your child, my daughter, she can never mention your name.”

Jacques checked Adeline, by putting a finger to his lips. At that moment
Sans-Souci ran toward them, and manifested great surprise at finding a
stranger in the garden.

“What do you want of us?” said Jacques; “why do you come upon us so
suddenly? what has happened?”

“Faith! comrade, I came to tell you that some gendarmes are searching
the village; they are looking for a vagabond whom they recognized only a
league from here, and they propose to search this house soon. I confess
that I told them that it wouldn’t be any use, but sacrebleu! I didn’t
know that----”

“Hush! hold your tongue,” said Jacques, “and don’t say a word about what
you see here. Go back to the house with the child and my sister.--Go,
have no fear, I will answer for everything.--Sans-Souci, take my sister
to the house; and above all, the most absolute silence.”

Sans-Souci promised, and walked a few steps away, tremendously surprised
by all that he saw. Adeline was terrified by the risks that Edouard ran,
but he himself implored her to abandon him to his unhappy fate. He
pressed her hand to his heart, kissed his daughter’s hand, and turned
away from them, while, at a sign from his comrade, Sans-Souci led
Adeline and Ermance toward the house.

“They have gone and we are alone,” said Jacques to his brother, when
Adeline was out of sight; “are you the man they are looking for?”

“Yes; a little way from here, in a wine shop I had entered to ask for
help, a man who used to be a keeper at the galleys at Toulon, happened
to be drinking at a table; he examined me closely, and I went out,
afraid of being recognized; but I see now that it was too late; my fate
is sealed; but I am less unhappy than I was; I have seen my daughter, my
wife has forgiven me, and you--oh! I entreat you, brother, forgive me
too!”

“Yes,” said Jacques, “I will forgive you; but you must--wretched man! do
you know what the punishment is that awaits you? You must die upon the
scaffold; and the scandal of your infamous death will make our shame
eternal! Will you never have the courage to do anything but commit
crimes? will you never be able to do what the honor of your wife and
your child has made it your duty to do for a long while? You shudder,
weak man! you await the executioner; remember that you cannot avoid
falling into the hands of the law again! Great God! and you are not
weary of a life dragged out in infamy and misery!”

“I understand you,” said Edouard; “be sure that death will be a blessing
to me; but before going down into the grave, I wanted to let you know
that I repent; now give me the means of escaping my punishment; I will
hesitate no longer.”

Jacques motioned to Edouard to wait for him; he hurried to his study,
took his pistols and returned to the garden. He saw his brother kneeling
beside the small barred gate. He handed him the weapons with a firm hand
and Edouard took them.

“Now,” said Jacques, “come, unhappy man! let us embrace for the last
time. Your brother pardons your crimes, and he will come every day to
pray to Heaven on your grave.”

Edouard threw himself into his brother’s arms; they embraced a long
while; but at last, Edouard walked a few steps away, a report rang
out,--the miserable wretch had ceased to live.

Jacques went to his brother’s body, and summoning all his courage,
although his tears fell rapidly, he hastily dug a grave at the foot of a
willow tree near the little gate. Sans-Souci arrived and surprised his
comrade in that melancholy occupation.

“Help me,” said Jacques, “it’s my brother.”

Sans-Souci tried to send his friend away and to perform that painful
task alone; but Jacques would not consent; he was determined to pay the
last duties to his brother. And not until the earth had concealed him
from his sight did he consent to return to Adeline.

“Well,” she said, “what has become of him?”

“Have no further fear for him,” said Jacques; “he has escaped; and I
give you my word that the law can never lay hold of him now.”

Adeline had faith in Jacques’s promise and looked on without
apprehension when the gendarmes, a few hours later, searched the house,
where of course they did not find Edouard.

After some time, Adeline noticed with surprise a tombstone which Jacques
had caused to be erected under the willow at the end of the garden.

“For whom is this stone?” she asked him.

“For my unhappy brother,” Jacques replied.

“Is he dead?”

“Yes, he is no more; I am absolutely certain of it.”

“Alas! in what part of the earth did he end his days?”

“He is there,” said Jacques at last, pointing to the end of the garden,
at the foot of the willow.

Adeline shuddered and dared to ask no more; but every day she took her
daughter to pray over the poor beggar’s grave, and Ermance never knew
that she was praying for her father.

And it was at the foot of the willow that Jacques buried his cross
also.





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