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Title: Odette's Marriage - A Novel, From The French Of Albert Delpit, Translated From - The "Revue Des Deux Mondes," by Emily Prescott
Author: Delpit, Albert
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Odette's Marriage - A Novel, From The French Of Albert Delpit, Translated From - The "Revue Des Deux Mondes," by Emily Prescott" ***

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                          ODETTE'S MARRIAGE;

                               A Novel,

                               FROM THE

                       FRENCH OF ALBERT DELPIT.


             TRANSLATED FROM THE "RÉVUE DES DEUX MONDES,"

                          BY EMILY PRESCOTT.

                            FIFTH EDITION.

                               CHICAGO:
                     HENRY A. SUMNER AND COMPANY.
                                 1882

                   *       *       *       *       *


                              COPYRIGHT,
                     HENRY A. SUMNER AND COMPANY,
                                 1880.

                 DONNELLEY, GASSETTE & LOYD, PRINTERS.

                   *       *       *       *       *


                               CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.    ODETTE,                     9

  CHAPTER II.   M. LAVIGUERIE,             20

  CHAPTER III.  PAUL FRAGER,               32

  CHAPTER IV.   COMPLICATIONS,             46

  CHAPTER V.    "MY ADMIRABLE SON,"        63

  CHAPTER VI.   GERMAINE,                  82

  CHAPTER VII.  ODETTE'S MARRIAGE,         92

  CHAPTER VIII. THE WEDDING JOURNEY,      108

  CHAPTER IX.   CLAUDE'S PASSION,         122

  CHAPTER X.    SCANDAL,                  143

  CHAPTER XI.   THE DISCOVERY,            166

  CHAPTER XII.  A MOTHER'S TEARS,         177

  CHAPTER XIII. THE HOME SECRET,          191

  CHAPTER XIV.  THE LETTER,               208

  CHAPTER XV.   EXPOSURE,                 235


                   *       *       *       *       *



                          ODETTE'S MARRIAGE.

                   *       *       *       *       *



_Odette's Marriage._



CHAPTER I.


She rode slowly up the sandy avenue of the country house, and drew rein
before the broad steps.

"Good morning, Odette!" Mme. Descoutures called to her, leaning over
the balustrade. "Come up here before you go into the house. I wish to
have a little talk with you."

"Is my father at home?"

"No; he has gone out for a walk, with my husband."

Odette called her groom and dismounted. Gathering the long black train
of her riding habit in her hand, she quietly ascended the steps leading
to the terrace facing the sea. Mme. Descoutures met her with an embrace
and the exclamation:

"Heavens! how lovely you are!"

Odette was wonderfully beautiful this morning. Her habit showed her
exquisite form to the best advantage, graceful and flexible as a young
willow tree. The transparent complexion was slightly flushed from her
ride; the forehead, crossed by a delicate line between the eye-brows,
was gilded by the warm reflection from her glorious golden hair.

A strange contrast--her eyes were dark. Large, black eyes, beaming
with intelligence and cultivation, but shadowed by an expression of
pride and sadness. She stood before her friend, straight and slender;
her lips parted in a slight smile, and the rich splendor of her hair
shining in the sunbeams. Mme. Descoutures continued:

"You are simply magnificent! But I called you to give you a scolding,
and here I am paying you compliments!"

Odette sank carelessly into one of the arm-chairs on the terrace.

"My dear child, I am worried about you. Your whole character seems to
be changing. Every one is speaking about it. You were always gay and
happy until this Winter, while now!--I know you must find it very dull
here, of course, but it was your own choice to come. You could have
stayed in Paris if you had wished to. Are you listening to me?"

"Certainly."

"Since you are here, can you not try to be a little more agreeable? You
have seemed tired and languid ever since you came home from Pornic,
and, what is worse, this ennui seems to be increasing every day. You
have not looked in a book for a whole month. In spite of your passion
for music, you have not once opened the piano this Winter. It is the
same way with your painting. Your only pleasure seems to be to sit
by the sea, and stare at it. Of course, it is very fashionable to
admire the sea; but I really think you might exert yourself to be
a little more entertaining--not with me, of course. Friends of ten
years' standing never try to entertain each other--but to your father's
friends and mine. Are you listening?"

"Certainly."

"Forgive me for scolding you. I am giving you not only my own opinion,
but that of others as well; Mme. Bricourt, for example. You know that
Mme. Bricourt is an authority. She came to call on me yesterday while
you were out driving with Paul Frager. She is very fond of you. You
need not deny it. She thinks a great deal of you. According to her
ideas, the education you have received is a disgrace, and there is
no need to add to it by your conduct. You have never been baptized,
never been to the communion, and, to tell the truth, you are a regular
heathen. You do not even try to conceal it. It is your father's fault,
I know. He is an atheist. So much the worse for him and for you. I
am not shocked, of course, as I am somewhat advanced in my ideas, you
know; but every one is not up to my standard, and many people are
horrified."

This time Odette did not even reply "Certainly." Leaning back in her
chair, she was gazing straight ahead. Far away the Mediterranean
was lost to sight in a bank of crimson clouds. To the left lay
Carqueirannes; its little houses, clinging to the hill, looked like
a flock of black and white sheep. Now and then a group of fishermen
could be seen dragging a long wet net across the beach. To the right
stretched an immense pine forest, with here and there an oak tree,
shining in the warm October sunbeams. Down to the right, between two
small pine woods, lay the road leading from Carqueirannes to Canet,
crossing the Toulon main highway farther on.

While Odette continued lost in her revery, her friend rambled on at
ease. Corinne Descoutures was a happy woman. Most incomplete natures
feel at least something of their incompleteness, but Corinne firmly
believes herself the most beautiful and intellectual woman in the
world. Her forty years do not trouble her in the least. She makes up
by art all that she has lost by nature. She paints, of course, and
very ridiculously--that is, when she has too much white on one side,
there will be far too much red on the other. Her eye-brows would be
very fine, only they are never twice in the same place. She thinks
her tall form is queenly; her aquiline nose, an imperial profile; her
extraordinary leanness, an exquisite fragility. As to her dresses, they
are the delight of those who meet her, and the perpetual mortification
of her friends. Her friendship with Odette came about by mere chance.
M. Descoutures is one of those amateur scientists, gentle, modest
and inoffensive, who revolve around some celebrated man, in humble
adoration.

He had happened to become attached to Odette's father, and his wife
had approved of this friendship (about the only point of agreement in
their lives). The poor little man was extinguished by his wife--several
inches taller than he. At first he struggled against his fate, but
he soon saw that there is no use opposing a Mme. Descoutures! And,
finally, just from living with her so long, he had arrived at a state
of profound admiration for her.

Their friends spoke of him as "Corinne's husband," and "Corinne's
husband" never complained; always approved of everything, and clung
closer and closer to the great Laviguerie, who appreciated him in
return. He left his dignified wife alone as much as possible, and she
never complained. Knowing that Laviguerie wished to retire to the quiet
of the country to write a scientific book, she had offered him her
villa near Carqueirannes, which explains how they all four happened to
be assembled there at present.

In spite of her sublime self-conceit, Corinne had to confess, at last,
to herself that Odette was not paying her the least attention, and,
tapping her gently on the shoulder, said:

"Odette! stop dreaming, and attend to me. I see you do not agree with
me, and you are wrong."

"If it was your own opinion, my dear friend, I would accept it with
pleasure; but why should I care for what Mme. Bricourt says? I know I
am an atheist, a materialist, and spoiled by reading too much. People
tell all sorts of stories about me. My father brought me up according
to his ideas, and I thank him for it. You must take me as I am. Does my
education disgrace me? I have learned by it the most thorough contempt
for what is called religion. My ideas are shocking, I suppose, because
I always tell the truth. I have read books that a young girl ought not
to read, they say. They have educated me, so I am not a doll, like
most young ladies. But I have disdainfully refused the hand of Amable
Bricourt--that is my crime. His venerable mother (as he calls her) will
never forgive me for having disappointed her admirable son (as she
calls him)."

Corinne replied roguishly: "Ah! you prefer Paul Frager's company."

Odette shrugged her shoulders. "M. Frager is as little to me as the
admirable son himself, or any of those who have proposed to me. I shall
never marry, as I have already told you a hundred times. Only I believe
he is unhappy; for some reason he does not live with his mother,
and I know he grieves over it. Besides that, he talks well, is very
intelligent and cultivated, and has one great advantage over everybody
else--he never has made love to me."

"What! he never has made love to you?"

"Never, in any way."

"He has been completely devoted to you for the past year. Why, knowing
you to be here, he has come to pass the Winter at Canet, not a mile
away!"

Odette burst into a silvery laugh.

"Who knows? he may have come solely on your account, dear Corinne." But
before her friend could reply, she continued: "To tell the truth, I am
bored to death."

"Since your trip to Pornic!"

Mme. Descoutures said these words with some emphasis, which Odette
seemed to understand, as she grew pale. A yellow lightning shot across
the depths of her dark eyes. Her lips moved as if she were about to
speak, but, evidently changing her mind, she sank again into her
revery, her eyes fixed on the sea.

"Have I annoyed you?" Corinne asked gently; "then let us leave this
subject. Have you heard from Germaine to-day?"

The name of Germaine roused Odette again. "No," she replied. "No letter
from her for three days. If I do not hear before to-night, I shall
telegraph to Naples. I am afraid she is sick."

She rose and paced up and down the terrace in great agitation. Her face
expressed the deepest anxiety.

"Come, come, do not be so distressed! Germaine, perhaps, has been kept
busy by her aunt; you know Mme. Rozan's health is very delicate. But
see, while we have been chatting, the gentlemen have finished their
stroll, and are returning by the beach."

The young girl smoothed her forehead with her hand as if to drive away
the shadow lurking there, and, leaning over the balustrade, threw a
kiss to the gentlemen below. Then, turning to Mme. Descoutures, with
a gesture of supreme contempt, she added: "As to the venerable Mme.
Bricourt, I do not care a straw for her opinion. As to Paul Frager, he
is not at all in love with me. He lives solitary, away from his family,
and I intend to keep him for a friend. I must go and take off my habit
now. I will be back soon."



CHAPTER II.


Francis Laviguerie is sixty years old. He is tall and manly looking.
He stoops a little when he walks, as if the mighty intellect in his
large head were too heavy a burden. His gray hair, with his keen black
eyes, give him a soldierly appearance. In fact, he is a soldier. He has
fought all his life for what he considers the truth. His early life was
one of poverty and privation, but his abilities were soon recognized,
and his thirtieth year found him professor in the College of France,
proclaiming himself the disciple of Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines
he strictly followed. He has long been a member of the Academy of
Sciences, and, since 1867, of the French Academy also.

In private life he is firm, gentle, simple and unostentatious. His
whole life has been one long devotion to science and labor. He has
known sorrow of all kinds. Twice married, both wives are dead--one
after three years of married life; the other, ten months, each having
presented him with a daughter.

Germaine and Odette at first were brought up together; but the friends
of the philosopher noticed that he showed a great preference for
Odette, the youngest, and seemed to ignore Germaine completely. In
1865 Mme. Rozan, a sister of his first wife, happening to come to
Paris, begged him to give her the little Germaine--a sickly, nervous
child--and he consented gladly in spite of Odette's tears and despair.

The little sisters simply worshiped each other, and during the eleven
long years that they had been separated, their devoted love had
suffered nothing from absence, that great enemy of human affections.
They wrote to each other every day, relating every incident of their
lives. They knew each other as intimately as if they had never been
separated. One wrote about Vesuvius and the beautiful Adriatic; the
other, about the fogs and mud of Paris. They sent volumes to each
other, and each could have given the most minute descriptions of
the other and her surroundings. However, an abyss separated the two
sisters. Mme. Rozan, religious without being bigoted, had educated her
niece in her own ideas, and it was the greatest grief of Germaine's
life that Odette thought differently. By common consent they avoided
the dangerous subject of religion; but Germaine never forgot to pray
for her misguided sister.

"Good morning, Corinne," said M. Laviguerie, sitting down in the chair
his daughter had vacated. "Odette was with you. She did not run away
from me, I hope."

"Oh, no; she simply went to her room to take off her riding-habit."

"Will you excuse me if I read this letter? It was just handed to me."

"Certainly, sir," replied Corinne; "besides, I must retire, myself,
as lunch will soon be ready, and I am not dressed for the day." Then,
turning to her husband with the air of an empress addressing the
meanest of her subjects: "It seems to me, sir, you delay to offer me
your arm."

M. Descoutures, always very short, seemed to shrink two or three inches
more, and, knocking over a camp-stool in his haste, murmured, "Pardon
me, Madame, I thought--"

They always addressed each other in this formal style. The humble
M. Descoutures did not remain long absent; merely the five minutes
necessary to escort his wife to the door of her rooms and return. When
he reappeared upon the terrace, M. Laviguerie had just finished reading
his letter. He looked harassed and worried.

"Have you received any bad news, dear friend, in your letter?"

"No bad news; still it is very annoying."

"Corinne's husband" did not seem the same man when alone with his
friend. His shyness almost entirely disappeared, and he ventured to
talk, taking care to disguise his ideas somewhat in apologetic phrases,
wrapping them in cotton, as it were.

"I need some advice," continued Laviguerie, "and I can not do better
than to turn to you. During our long friendship, I have often admired
the correctness of your judgment, and your common sense, which is never
at fault. Doubtless, you have sometimes wondered that I kept my eldest
daughter so far away from me. It is strange, I confess, and many have
been astonished at it, I suppose. I am obliged now to change this state
of affairs. Mme. Rozan is dead, and Germaine writes that she is leaving
Naples to come back to her father and sister."

"But I am sure, my dear Laviguerie, that this reunion will give Odette
the greatest happiness, and I do not see--"

"Why I called it annoying? I will tell you. You never met my first
wife. When I married her, she was a lovely young girl, cultivated and
charming. Perhaps I ought to have inquired into the antecedents of the
family; but I was in love. I did nothing of the kind, and I was wrong.
I soon discovered that my wife was one of those women whose nervous
system rules the whole body. At first, I hoped I was mistaken; but a
physiologist can never deceive himself long. She would be seized with
fits of the deepest depression, morbid despair, followed by floods of
tears, or else immoderate laughter. Her character changed little by
little, until I no longer dared to take her out with me. When Germaine
was born, she seemed to rally for a time, but soon became again a prey
to the most violent nervous affection, and, in one of her spasms,
died, leaving me a widower, with a little girl who, of course, had
inherited the mother's disease. I had a daughter a prey to hysteria, as
others have a deformed or a blind child. I married again, as you know;
I wanted a home. I will say nothing of my second wife. You know how I
loved her--so sweet, so calm, so gentle. She died when Odette was born.
Ah! my friend, I should have died of grief, if it had not been for my
work."

He stopped a few minutes. The strong man was shaken by these sad
memories, as the tempest tosses the oak tree. He continued more slowly:

"For eight years Germaine and Odette grew up side by side, and I
watched them with the most searching eyes. I soon found in Germaine the
frightful symptoms of her mother's disease. She was excessively nervous
and sensitive, so that when her aunt asked for her, it was with great
satisfaction I consented. I had ceased to love her. It was cruel and
selfish of me, I know; but I am only a man, and subject to the same
faults and failings as the meanest of them!"

"And now Germaine is coming home," replied M. Descoutures, "permit me
to say, with the greatest respect, that I think you did wrong. But
what is past is past. To-day, your duty--if I may venture to say that
word to a man like you--is to receive your daughter as if everything
were all right. You need not fear that Odette could possibly become
nervous by living with her. Odette is too full of vitality, and--" M.
Descoutures stopped short. Corinne had appeared, and he never spoke
more than was absolutely necessary, when she was near.

Corinne had painted her cheeks as red as those dolls that speak when
they are pressed in the stomach. Her hair fell over her shoulders like
the blonde locks of some little twelve-year-old, or the drooping
branches of a weeping willow.

She was beaming with happiness. Her heart was beating fast for that
Paul Frager of whom she had been speaking to Odette. She had always
supposed his frequent visits to the villa had been on Odette's account.
But, as she learned this to have been a mistake, there was no longer
any room for doubt--she, Corinne, was the beloved object of his
affections.

Almost at the same time Odette returned, simply dressed as usual,
looking like a beautiful Amazon with her helmet of sparkling gold.

She kissed her father, shook hands with M. Descoutures, and cried
cheerfully, "Are we never to have any lunch? I am famishing."

Laviguerie was still harassed by Germaine's near arrival. However,
nothing could be done to prevent it. As they were passing into the
lunch room, he detained Odette a few minutes. "My dear child," he
said, "you have not heard from your sister for several days, I believe.
Has it not seemed strange to you?" Odette grew pale, and said anxiously:

"Is she sick?"

"No! but a great sorrow has befallen her. Mme. Rozan is dead."

"Her aunt is dead? But then she will come to us?"

"Yes; this evening."

Odette threw her arms around her father's neck. "She is coming back!
Oh! how happy I am! I wanted her every minute and every hour. Let me
kiss you again for the glorious news!" And she embraced him a third
time with all the grace and roguishness of a spoiled child. Then,
running into the dining-room, she danced up to her friends, saying:
"Germaine is coming! She is coming this evening! We will all go to the
depot to meet her!"

M. Laviguerie came in behind his daughter, silent and sad. "You know,
father, there is a room next to mine that she can have. We have
been separated so long that now we must be together all the time."
Laviguerie looked on, sadly smiling at his daughter's happiness.
Putting her arms around his neck, she continued: "Do you not like to
see me so happy? Are you afraid that I shall love Germaine more than I
do you? You need not fear. I have always loved Germaine the most, and
yet had plenty of love for my dear father."

Laviguerie took his daughter in his arms and, kissing her brow, simply
said: "You have a loving heart, dear child."

Lunch passed off gayly. Nothing is more contagious than joy or sadness.
Which of us has not experienced the effect of a hearty laugh? Odette
chatted merrily on about her plans for the future. She would make
Germaine so happy; they would have so much to see together, and then
they must make plans to marry off our "dear little Germaine"--not to
any of the old Academy professors, but to some nice, interesting young
gentleman.

No one interrupted Odette. Her father was recalling the misery of
his first marriage. M. Descoutures was enjoying her charming and gay
vivacity; while Corinne was dreaming of her conquest. Happy Corinne! As
usual, she was imagining a love scene. This time, it was Paul Frager at
her feet, his eyes cast down, confessing his passion. She would reply:
"Poor, dear boy," and imprint a chaste kiss on his brow.

Having brought things to so satisfactory a conclusion, Corinne deigned
to smile and join in the merry conversation.



CHAPTER III.


Paul Frager is a young man of a tall and elegant figure, with delicate
and regular features. His black hair, cut close to his head, gives
energy to his sweet expression. He has beautiful black eyes, frank
and sincere, that look you full in the face. His dark heavy moustache
can not hide his dazzlingly white teeth. He has many friends. No one
can help loving that warm and sympathetic heart, always ready for any
sacrifice to love or friendship. His manly strength would lead one to
doubt the almost womanly tenderness and delicacy of sentiment which
seem to be the foundation of his character. Admitted to the bar when
very young, he has since lived quietly on a small income, inherited
from his father, collecting material for a work on comparative
legislation, which he hopes to publish some of these days.

Each year he travels two or three months, usually afoot, studying the
manners and customs of different countries. Two years ago, he traveled
in this way through Italy. Perhaps next year he may go to England.

Up to the year 1872, his life was as calm as a lake in Scotland on a
Summer evening. His mother's second marriage took place at this time,
and ever since his friends had noticed a great change in him. He became
still more absorbed in his studies; became silent and almost morose.
Then another change was noticed in him; his gaiety seemed to return.
But suddenly, one morning, he left Paris and established himself at
Canet, a pretty little fishing village, which lies stretched out
sleepily like a great lizard, basking in the sun, on the shore of the
Mediterranean.

When he had returned from his morning's ride with Odette, he sat down
to his work by the open window. He heard from time to time the heavy
waves breaking against the rocks below. He was gazing out of the window
at the glorious panorama of water and clouds, when he heard a knock at
the door. He called out, "Come in," without turning his head. The door
opened with a creak, and some one entered.

"It is I, my dear fellow! Of course, you did not expect to see me; but
I wished to have a little talk with you."

At the sound of this voice, Paul turned around quickly, and with
evident astonishment:

"You? Can it be you--here?"

"Yes; here I am, returning from Italy with your mother. I did not want
to pass so near you without dropping in to see you."

He was a man about forty years old, very tall, broad-shouldered, and
strikingly handsome. His hair, slightly gray, covered only the back and
sides of his head. He was elegantly but very simply dressed--the ribbon
of the Legion of Honor at his button-hole.

Claude Sirvin, in 1876, was at the height of his fame and renown. Life
had only caresses to offer him. When very young, he won the great
"prix de Rome" by his "Death of Beaurepaire." As usual, wealth and
honor accompanied success, and he stepped at once to the front rank
among artists. He was a man of the world at the same time, and allowed
himself to be made love to by the dozens of pretty little fools who are
always ready to throw themselves at the head of any celebrated man.
Having always plenty of money at his command, he lived the life of a
prince, spending freely and enjoying life to the utmost. But he always
kept his glowing, devoted passion for his art free from the least stain
or impurity. It was his religion, his faith, his God. He was admitted
to the Institute in 1873. A few months later, a rumor arose that Claude
was Claude no longer--Claude was going to be married; then that Claude
was married.

At first, no one would believe the absurd report. Every one added his
witticism, to the effect that it was impossible. What would become
of all the forsaken Ariadnes? Then arose a story that he had married
a Russian princess, with eleven millions in her own right. (No one
knew why she always had exactly eleven millions.) Then, another story
was heard, that he had married a little actress out of the "Comédie
Française." When the truth first came out, his friends were dumb with
astonishment. They learned that Claude had married a Creole widow,
of small fortune and exquisite beauty. Elaine was a very cultivated,
refined woman, and she fascinated Claude by her gentle, womanly
dignity.

Paul offered an easy chair to his step-father, and sat down facing him.

"Well, my dear Paul, you are still the same. You can not conceal your
thought that my visit is a disagreeable surprise to you."

"Sir!"

"Never mind--I am not annoyed; but we must have an important
conversation together--may be a long one. You were studying as I came
in. Can you give me your attention for an hour or two?"

"My time is at your disposal, sir; and, since you have taken the
trouble to come and visit me, I should be very impolite if I did not
express myself as grateful for your kindness."

"Thank you, my dear Paul. I have only one request to make, and that
is, that you will give me your attention. First, I must recall the
past. In tropical countries, girls marry young. You were born when Mme.
Frager was only fifteen years old. For eighteen years, she devoted her
whole life to you. You were eighteen years old when I first saw your
mother. I was deeply interested in her from the first moment. Although
thirty-three years old, she barely appeared twenty-five. I was so
fortunate as to please her. The noble woman had brought you to manhood.
Her task might be considered as accomplished. I begged for her hand,
and she made me the happiest of mortals by granting my request. Ever
since that time, you have been opposed to me. The time has now come to
put an end to this misunderstanding. Before my marriage, I confess, my
life was not what it should have been. As you grow older, dear Paul,
you will learn that one of the first virtues in this world is charity.
I confessed my faults to your mother. She, alone, had the right to
condemn me. She forgave me, and I had the inestimable happiness of
giving my name to the one I love and reverence more than all else on
earth. I regret to awaken these painful memories, but I am coming to
our unfortunate disagreement; you have never forgiven me for marrying
your mother. I was never angry at you. Children are always more or
less selfish in their affections. You never reflected that, after
having consecrated the best years of her life to you, your mother had
the right to think at last of her own happiness. In short, you were
offended at her marriage with me, and separated yourself entirely from
us, leaving your mother, who loved you so tenderly, turning your back
on me, who was anxious to give you the affection of an older brother.
But, instead of being angry, we only respected you the more. Such pride
shows that you are warm-hearted and impulsive. You will understand
that, under ordinary circumstances, I should never have intruded upon
you; but the cause of my journey here was the anxiety aroused by your
last few letters to your mother."

Paul was listening with the greatest attention. Claude Sirvin was
speaking with all his heart in his words, and Paul could not help being
touched by them. The artist talked, as he painted, with his whole soul.
His voice was sometimes tender and sweet, then it rose to firmness,
according to the thought he was expressing. This eloquence was what
made him so dangerously fascinating to women.

He continued: "Now we come to the cause of my visit. I have spoken
of our anxiety. For some time past, your letters have been feverish,
glowing, nervous, and it is easy to guess that you are in love at last."

Paul started visibly, blushed, and then grew pale, trembling violently.
Claude gently took his hand:

"Do not say anything. Wait till I have finished. You love a young girl.
Is it not so? I was sure of it, Paul. Love, with you, is not merely a
violent caprice, as it is with some. Your heart belongs to her, once
and for all; and, that frightens you, for you say to yourself: 'I can
not marry. I am poor.' Have I not guessed aright?"

"Ah, sir," replied Paul, sadly, "every one of your words is truth. I
love a young girl, but I can not describe her--you would think me a
fool; and, then, there are no words strong enough to do her justice. It
is absurd, I know, but you understand. I met her in Paris last Winter,
at a party. And, to think that at first I did not notice her! She went
to the piano, and played some sonata or nocturne, with her soul shining
bright in her glorious eyes. I felt at once that I belonged no longer
to myself, but to that young girl, so calm, so unconscious." Paul was
completely carried away by the remembrance of that evening. He was
again under its magic spell. He continued: "After that first interview,
I was introduced to her, and seized every opportunity to be with her.
Now you know the reason of my burying myself at Canet for the Winter.
It is because she is staying hardly a mile away. You have been talking
to me in a way that has opened my heart, and I have replied with
frankness and truth."

"Thank you. That is what I expected. But, now, why are you not happy
in your love? There are two reasons; either the young lady is poor,
and you dread to offer her your small fortune, knowing that a life of
straightened circumstances is often worse than absolute poverty; or
else she is rich, and you are too proud to have her think you can be
actuated by interested motives.

"Ah! that is it? You see that our affection for you has caused us to
guess right once more. Now, what is the use of a father and mother,
except to smoothe away difficulties? What is mine is your mother's. Do
not deny it. That is law, you know. Mme. Frager was poor when she gave
me her hand, and I had the happiness of presenting her with the wealth
she was so fitted to adorn. Let me add that every year a small sum has
been set aside from our abundance, for your marriage-portion. It now
amounts to a little more than three hundred thousand francs. You know
that I can make all the money I need with my brush; so it is a mere
trifle for me. You can, you must, accept it as it is offered. Now, you
can go to your loved one, and say: 'I am no longer poor. I love you.
Will you accept my love?'"

Paul was deeply moved. This man, who had been showing him such
thoughtful tenderness, he had bitterly hated for four years, for Claude
was right; he had never forgiven him for coming between his mother and
himself. He could not speak. Tears of gratitude and joy stood in his
eyes. Claude understood his emotion, and gently pressed his hand.

"How good you are!" finally exclaimed the young man. "Not content
with surpassing every one by your genius, you have the best heart in
the world! You are right. An offer like yours should be accepted as
generously as it is made. I will not swear an eternal gratitude. It is
not necessary. You know me well enough to know that I am now bound to
you for life!"

Claude was delighted. His really kind heart was pleased with the signs
of Paul's happiness--his work; and then, he was flattered at having won
the heart of this obstinate rebel at last. Claude was accustomed to
charm every one around him, and, was he to blame if he took a certain
pride in his rôle of universal fascinator?

"And now," he continued, "will you not tell me her name?"

Paul hesitated. "Will you forgive me, if I wait until I have proposed
to her? Oh, Heavens! if she should not love me!"

Claude smiled at his step-son. He was thinking that he, too, had
known the pangs and joys of youth and love, which the first gray hair
banishes for ever! He repeated, half sadly, Metastasio's immortal
couplet:

  "O jeunesse! printemps de la vie--
  O printemps! jeunesse de l'année."

Then, "Now we must separate. You can go to her, and I will return to
your mother, at Hyères, and announce the success of my mission. You can
bring us her answer, and we will all come to Canet, for, of course, she
will say 'Yes!'"

So they separated with no further words. The hearts of both were too
full. To tell the truth, Claude was the happiest of the two, as, to
receive is merely a delight, while to give is the purest and sweetest
of all happiness!



CHAPTER IV.


An exquisite landscape lay before Paul as he hurried to the
villa--forests, mountains and rocks--the beautiful sea, bounding the
horizon on three sides; but he saw nothing of it. He hurried along, his
whole frame trembling with excitement. What should he say to Odette?
What would she reply? Did she love him? He did not know. He knew that
she enjoyed his society; but, what did that signify? He knew she was
proud--disdainful, even--finding it impossible to dissemble in the
least; not at all a flirt, she studiously avoided anything leading to
a declaration of love, which is the delight of most women. Therefore,
he had some slight grounds for hope; but, as he had carefully avoided
anything like love-making--knowing himself so poor--he was completely
ignorant of the state of her heart. But he worshiped her so devoutly;
his faith in her was so sublime; his love so inexpressibly tender, he
felt she must love him in return.

All this time, Corinne Descoutures had been dreaming languidly by the
open window. She was disturbed in her revery by the sound of a bell,
and glancing around, she saw Paul coming up the steps. "Oh, joy! it
is he!" But she was in despair that she was not dressed to the best
advantage. Of course, he had come to "declare his passion." She rushed
to the mirror in the hall, straightened one of her eye-brows, and,
in less than a second, was back in her arm-chair, still languidly
dreaming. As Paul came in she noticed his exceeding pallor. "What an
interesting young man! He seemed deeply agitated," she thought. In
fact, he was agitated. He wanted to see Odette, of course; and, how
could he make Mme. Descoutures understand that he wished her to go
away, and send Odette to him. Corinne opened hostilities. She leaned
her head languishingly to one side, like a sick canary, and said
plaintively: "I hope you are quite well, M. Frager."

"Very well, indeed, thank you."

Pause.

Mme. Descoutures continued still more plaintively: "You have suffered
much, have you not, dear friend?"

Second pause.

This time he did not understand her. Why should this dried-up old
woman ask him such a question as that? Corinne mistook the young man's
astonishment for emotion. She was touched, and, for the first time in
her life, spoke simply and cordially.

"Excuse me," she said, "for speaking so to you; but Odette and I
have often spoken together about you, and always with the greatest
interest--so young, so solitary, separated from your family--"

Paul thought he understood. Mme. Descoutures wished to indicate to
him that Odette was expecting some day a proposal from him; besides,
he had never mentioned his mother's second marriage to any of his
friends--always calling her Mme. Frager; so, thinking his suit
encouraged by Odette's friend, he said with sincere gratitude: "I thank
you for your great kindness, Madame. My life, indeed, has not been very
happy; but, since you give me hope--" Corinne's features had already
assumed an expression of startled modesty, like Psyche surprised by
Cupid, when the door opened, and Odette came in. "Ah! M. Frager,"
holding out her hand to him, "I am so glad to see you. I was just
wishing to give you a little errand in the village."

Corinne's first thought was a wish for Odette's total annihilation;
her second, to bless her. Of course, she interrupted them at a most
interesting crisis; but still, she could entertain Paul for a few
minutes, while Corinne could slip away, change her dress, and reappear
in all her war-paint and feathers, when they could resume their
conversation at the point where they had left off.

"I leave you with Odette; but, if you will be so kind as to wait for
me, I will soon return."

Odette and Paul were alone.

"If you will take the trouble to buy me a--"

"Forgive me for interrupting you," said Paul; "but, I am afraid I could
not pay any attention to your commission just now. I want to speak to
you on a very serious subject, and I implore you to listen to me."

She glanced at him, saw his pallor and agitation, and understood him
immediately. Her eyes looked almost contemptuous as she seemed to
think: "What a pity! Another man in love with me; and he was such a
pleasant friend!"

Paul continued: "You must have noticed the happiness it has always
given me to be with you. Family reasons have prevented my explaining
myself before; now, they are at an end, and I come to you boldly, to
say I love you."

She sat quietly opposite him, playing carelessly with the fringe of the
parasol in her hand.

Paul continued passionately: "I adore the very trifles you have
touched. Believe me, this has been in my mind from the first hour I
ever saw you. I address myself to you, rather than to your father, as I
know your choice will have his approval."

Odette leaned back in her chair, crossed her hands on her lap, and,
in a calm tone, with a slight, contemptuous inflection, said: "Your
proposal is a great compliment, sir. As such, I thank you, as I thank
all who come to me on the same errand. But I must reply as I have
replied to those who have done me so much honor: I do not wish to
marry."

There was no chance to mistake her calm, convincing reply. Paul saw his
hopes utterly annihilated. His fall was the more complete, as he had
felt himself encouraged in his pursuit since he had entered the house.
A wild despair shone from his eyes. He started up, and, in a voice
whose mortal anguish would have softened the hardest heart, exclaimed:
"Ah! that is what you have said to all the others! but no one ever
loved you as I love! When a man marries, he offers his wife the
battered remains of a heart that has been dragged through all kinds of
filth! But I, long before I met you, knew that I could never love but
once in my life; and, when I saw you, I felt that here was the woman
to whom my life, my thoughts, my soul, belonged! When I was unhappy,
my consolation was, 'She will love me some day.' When I was happy,
I thought, 'What a pity she does not love me yet!' and joy turned to
sadness. If I were to tell you all the absurdities I have committed,
merely to be with you! The morning you were reading in the garden, I
was hidden behind the rock against which you were leaning. The evening
you walked alone on the sea-shore, I was close by you. At night, I
watched your window; and you tell me what you tell your other lovers!
What have they ever done? Some of them have married since then, as if
they could forget you. But I--I am yours for life and death--yours,
whether you want me or not; bound to you by my love, by my will, and by
my passion."

As he spoke, Odette sat up, listening, full of pity for his sorrow
and suffering. He was right. He deserved something more than the
careless reply she usually made. She looked at him with inexpressible
tenderness, her dark eyes moist with tears.

"You love me. I believe you sincerely. You are wounded, and I am very
sorry. Forgive me for being the cause of your suffering. I assure you
that I never dreamed of anything like this; otherwise, I should not
have allowed you to cherish a love that I could never return. I beg
your pardon for the grief I have caused you; but I can never be your
wife, because I do not love you."

At these words, Paul felt his strength leaving him. He sank into a
chair, and, burying his face in his hands, he wept. This proud, strong
man wept in his despair like a little child. Tears were falling from
Odette's eyes as she sought to take his hand. He pushed her away.
Raising his head, he said with the composure of utter hopelessness:
"Forgive me. I have not shed tears for many years. You do not love me.
I shall die. With me, my heart is my life, and I know death will soon
relieve me from my suffering. I endured agonies when my mother married
a second time, four years ago. I left her. I became nearly insane
with jealous grief. I hated my step-father until an hour ago; but he
then removed the obstacles to my confession of love to you. I forgot
everything in my gratitude, because my love for you is stronger than my
love for my mother; and, now, you escape from me. You see that I can
not help dying of grief."

Odette's heart was bleeding at his supreme despair. Suddenly she raised
her head, with a gesture of sudden resolution. "Dear friend," she said,
"I will make you a confession. It wounds me to the soul to make it; but
you must be cured of your unfortunate passion, and the only way is to
show that I am unworthy of it."

She was shuddering and pale. "I do not marry you, because I can not. If
I had only known this before! You are too late. I have loved another,
insanely, passionately as you love me. For a whole month I lived on
his words, his glances; and, if he had opened his arms, I should have
fallen into them."

Odette stood before him, red with shame, yet proudly laying bare
her heart to cure her friend, at the expense of untold suffering to
herself. She continued: "The very words he let fall were of inspired
eloquence. He had all combined that could fascinate a woman; fame,
genius, and beauty. My punishment for having given my heart unsought
is, that now I can not love you--for, I might have loved you. I now
lose you forever; but I have at least cured you of loving one so
unworthy."

"You, unworthy of me!" cried Paul, no longer able to restrain his
passion. "You have loved another; but, what is there to blame in that?
You have not fallen in the least from your pedestal. Do you think that,
because you have met and admired some man of genius, your life must be
blasted ever after; that you can never have a home, with children of
your own? Let me have the hope of some day replacing him in your heart!"

Odette thanked him through her falling tears for his noble answer to
her confession; but replied, "Alas, it is impossible. No man can ever
forgive his wife her love for another."

"What do I care if I am the second in your heart? I will surround you
with such divine tenderness, such glowing passion, that you can not
help loving me."

Odette's firmness returned. She was on the point of saying No, when
Paul interrupted her.

"You would be so happy with me. My family would worship you almost as I
do. You know how I love my mother. She is beautiful, good, and the most
cultivated woman I ever knew. I have never spoken of my step-father,
because--because until to-day I had the greatest dislike for him. But
I always acknowledged his great genius. You have admired his paintings
a hundred times--Claude Sirvin. My family, you see, is worthy of even
you."

Paul stopped, startled at Odette's sudden pallor. If a bomb-shell had
exploded at her feet, it would not have shocked her as did this name of
Claude Sirvin. Her teeth chattered. The young man cried:

"My God! Odette! what is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing; a dizziness merely." Her will-power was very strong,
evidently, as she regained self-possession almost immediately, and,
smiling faintly: "You see, it is nothing!" And, as he was about to
speak, she said: "If you will leave me alone three minutes, I will give
you my final answer. Go down to the foot of the garden, and back."

"And you will tell me----?"

She smiled and pointed to the door. Hardly had he disappeared, when her
features became gloomy, and the line in her forehead deepened. "I, the
daughter-in-law of Claude Sirvin!" then started as if frightened at
the sound of her own voice. She seemed torn by conflicting emotions.
Suddenly, as if to put an end to her indecision, she sprang to the door
and ran after Paul. "Paul," she almost screamed to him. The young man
was slowly returning up the garden walk. At the sound of her voice, he
sprang to her. Odette grasped his hand:

"Swear that you will forget my confession."

"I solemnly swear it."

"Swear that you will never regret marrying me!"

"I solemnly swear it."

"Then you may keep my hand; it is yours."

"Odette!"

He was on the point of throwing himself at her feet, when Corinne
appeared. She had profited by her absence, and was now perfectly
resplendent! Imagine a low-necked dress, covered with ruffles--little
ones, wide ones, ruffles trimmed with fringe; ruffles trimmed with red
and yellow silk; ruffles in every direction. The dress was made short
in front so as to show the large feet, squeezed into slippers a size
too small; and showing, also, the black stockings embroidered with
gold-thread.

Odette nearly laughed outright, but leaning towards Paul, she said:
"Come back this evening." He was sorry to leave her so soon, but he
obeyed his divinity and left, without a glance at Mme. Descoutures.
"Where has M. Frager gone?" she asked, settling herself in an arm-chair.

"He has gone home."

"Gone home--just as I return!" These few words contained the very
essence of bitter disappointment. Odette in her preoccupation, did not
notice it, however, and simply asked: "Is my father in his study?"

"Yes, I believe so; but you know he does not like to be disturbed at
his work."

"Oh! he will not mind. I want to tell him something important."

"What is it?"

"That I am going to be married."

"To be married!"

"Yes; to M. Paul Frager. I have just accepted him;" and she quietly
walked off, leaving Corinne a prey to the most intense astonishment and
disappointment.

This state did not last long. It was succeeded by the most violent
anger against Odette, who had stolen her lover--for she never doubted
but that the young man had come to see her, and, during her absence,
Odette had bewitched him in some way. Medea, jealous of Creusa;
Hermione, furious at Andromache; Calypso and Eucharis; none of the
betrayed lovers of mythology or fiction hated their rivals more than
Corinne hated Odette from henceforth. Odette never suspected it. If
she had, she would not have cared. But Achilles was murdered by Paris,
the coward; and a little gnat can drive an elephant nearly distracted;
the proof of which is that the hatred of Corinne--that seemingly
inoffensive, silly and vain nonentity--was the cause of untold misery
to Odette.



CHAPTER V.


The "venerable Mme. Bricourt" is a round, plump little old woman. Her
face is so full of wrinkles that it looks like a last year's apple,
still clinging to the branch. She is an artist in her way, as she
possesses the talent of saying the cruelest things about her friends,
while apparently praising them; and more than all, shows a gentle
sympathy to them that appeals to their hearts, so that they confide all
their secrets to her.

She wished her son to marry Odette, solely because M. Laviguerie was
one of the lions of the day; and, as nothing would be refused to such a
celebrated man, member of two academies, Mme. Bricourt thought that her
son might attain to some high office as his son-in-law. At present he
is merely a civil engineer.

As to this "admirable son," he was as stupid as he was big and awkward,
which is saying a great deal. Mme. Bricourt soon recognized his lack
of refinement and intellect, and, by a stroke of genius, dubbed him
"My admirable son." This title imposed on her friends as she expected,
and, seeing its success, Amable adopted the same tone in speaking
of his mother; so that soon "the venerable Mme. Bricourt" became an
established authority on all subjects.

She was peacefully reading by the window this afternoon, when Corinne
was announced. Mme. Descoutures was looking for an ally, still furious
from her late discomfiture.

"You look as sweet as a peach, my dear child," said Mme. Bricourt,
as they kissed each other. As soon as Mme. Bricourt discovered the
faults and foibles of her friends, she knew how to play upon them as
skillfully as a gypsy on her guitar. So she was always paying Corinne
compliments on her beauty, or the wonderful amount of admiration she
received; even going so far as to call her "my dear child." Could
anything be more delicately flattering?

"What lucky chance brought you here to-day?"

"I am come to invite you to dine with us this evening."

"With the greatest pleasure."

"I hope your son will accompany you."

The face of "the venerable Mme. Bricourt" was shaded by an expression
of sad resignation.

"You know, my dear child, that my son is such an admirable worker. From
morning to night he is buried in his business, and I am afraid he will
wear himself out before long. He left this morning for Toulon, to find
an important reference in some book in the public library."

To tell the truth, Amable Bricourt had gone to Toulon to spend the day
with some friends in a billiard-saloon.

Corinne resumed: "We shall all regret his absence very much,
particularly as we are celebrating to-night the arrival of Mr.
Laviguerie's oldest daughter, as well as Odette's engagement."

"Is Odette going to be married?"

"To M. Paul Frager. It is the very latest news. Her father was just
telling me the arrangement suited him in every respect."

"It really is a very excellent match, I should say," Mme. Bricourt
continued, in her most dove-like tones. "Odette is a remarkably fine
girl. It is a great pity she has been so badly brought up. Why, my
son, of course, knows almost everything; but there are certain things
that Odette is perfectly familiar with, that I doubt if he ever heard
of. But she is pretty. I know some people say she does not know how to
dress, and that her features are not perfectly regular; but still, she
is pretty. It is not beauty. Her mouth is too large, and her ears are
not set on right; but still, she is pretty."

Imagine Corinne's delight when she saw from these remarks that Mme.
Bricourt was on her side!

"As for M. Frager," continued Mme. Bricourt, sweetly, "I do not know
him well enough to pass judgment on him. He ought to be something
remarkable, to marry the daughter of such a distinguished man as
Laviguerie. But, to tell the truth, I do not think he will turn out
well. He has no business, you know; and, when a young man has no
business--I am thinking of the way in which my admirable son passes his
time! Why does Paul Frager live alone? Why will his family have nothing
to do with him? The future alone will answer these questions, and let
us hope that they will be favorably answered."

She was interrupted by a carriage driving rapidly and noisily past. She
leaned out of the window, bowing and smiling to some one, saying: "The
pretty dear!"

"The pretty dear" was none other than Odette, driving with her father
to meet Germaine at the depot.

Odette was beaming with joy at the thought of her darling sister, so
soon to be with her. Her important interview with Paul had sobered her
for awhile; but, now, she was only thinking of how happy she was. Her
head was full of plans for the amusement of "darling Germaine," and
she chattered on to her father, the picture of hope and happiness.
Laviguerie said, "You are exquisitely lovely to-day, my child;" and,
as she said gayly, "Just wait till you have seen Germaine--she will
eclipse me and every body else!" the philosopher felt a jealous pang as
he thought, "How she worships her!"

Odette had hastened their starting to such an extent that they had now
over half an hour to wait. Her father sat down quietly in the shade
of the little white station, while Odette walked impatiently up and
down the platform, asking the men around anxiously, if the train was
not late--consulting her watch a dozen times at least, and comparing
it with the big clock over the door. Finally, she said to herself, she
would walk six times around the building, and had just accomplished the
third circuit, when she heard the shrill whistle of the locomotive. She
sprang to the edge of the platform, and looked eagerly down the track.
She saw the train far away, skirting the shore of the Mediterranean,
with its white plume of steam floating in the air. These three or four
minutes seemed an eternity. Finally, the train stopped before her, a
door opened, and a young lady stepped out, followed by her waiting-maid.

The young traveler had no time to look around her before Odette was
embracing her; they cried "Odette!" "Germaine!" and crying and laughing
at the same time, they embraced again and again. M. Laviguerie looked
on, more affected than he would have supposed possible. Germaine had
changed so completely from the delicate, nervous child he remembered.
Her black, abundant hair was drawn back from her broad, noble brow,
where purity and dignity seemed to reign. She had grown tall, was very
finely proportioned, and her large, gray eyes only added to the general
impression of sincerity and sweet refinement.

The two sisters were lost in their examination and admiration of
each other,--they paid no attention to the train steaming past, to
the baggage piled up around them, nor to M. Laviguerie standing
impatiently near them. He finally interrupted them by saying, "Isn't
it my turn now?" and as Germaine came to him, he kissed her almost
affectionately, then leading them to the carriage, he left them,
saying, "I will walk home, after sending your maid and your luggage in
the omnibus."

The sisters were alone in the carriage. They only stopped embracing
to embrace again,--they had so many years to make up! At last, Odette
said, "Dear Germaine, you are so beautiful! Your photographs never
showed the lovely soul looking out through your eyes! Oh! if you only
knew how happy I am."

And as Germaine sighed, "I know you are sad over Mme. Rozan's
death--forgive me, please, for seeming to rejoice at what is your
sorrow!"

"There is nothing to forgive, my darling Odette," replied Germaine.
"But you know, for eleven years, Mme. Rozan has been the kindest,
sweetest, most loving and devoted of mothers to me." And leaning her
head against Odette's shoulder, she wept softly, while Odette caressed
her tenderly. They soon drove up the avenue to the villa, and Germaine
tried to control her emotion, as she saw that it grieved her sister,
and besides, she was to meet strangers at the house. Odette smiled
and said, "You will soon have the pleasure of being introduced to M.
and Mme. Descoutures. That will cheer you up somewhat; and to add to
your happiness, you will meet the 'venerable Mme. Bricourt' and her
'admirable son.'"

Germaine could not help smiling as she replied, "I know them now, from
your descriptions, as well as if I had been living here with you." They
entered the house. Corinne met them smiling, and appearing to admire
Germaine exceedingly; as they passed through the drawing-room, Germaine
noticed a small gentleman bowing to her in the shadow of the curtains.
She answered his salutation, but Corinne said, naïvely, "Oh, never mind
him, that is only my husband." This was the introduction of the master
of the house to the oldest daughter of his most intimate friend.

When Odette and Germaine were finally alone in their room, Odette
locked the doors, and seating her sister on the sofa, she sat down at
her feet, on the carpet. "Now, darling," she commenced, "how much we
have to tell each other! One can not write about everything, you know.
With your wonderful beauty you must have set many a heart on fire. I
have always heard, too, the Italians were very inflammable."

"I never went into society at all, you know."

"That does not make any difference. No matter if you were shut up in
a tower, like the princess in the fairy-tale--some handsome young
stranger would find you out."

Germaine blushed--Odette clapped her hands with delight and cried, "Ah,
ha! Am I not right?"

"Little goose!" Germaine replied, smilingly.

"I don't care if I am a goose, I am right all the same, or you would
not blush so. Is he blonde or brunette?"

"Very dark. However, there is no romance at all, only a very ordinary
incident; but as my life was so quiet and retired, I magnified somewhat
a very simple affair."

"Tell me your 'ordinary incident,' I am all attention."

"Well, then, once upon a time (two years ago), my aunt and I were
taking a walk in the country, when two beggars, covered with dirty
rags, came toward us, and began to beg. We were very much frightened
at their threatening gestures, and gave them all the money we had with
us. Then one pointed to my ear-rings, saying they were very pretty. I
understood him, and taking them off, handed them to him. In short, they
took every bit of jewelry from us, and were turning to leave, when a
young man, who, it seems, had been watching us from a little hill near
by, suddenly sprang down upon them, and, belaboring them with his iron
walking-stick, forced them to return to us not only the jewelry they
had taken, but the money as well; and begged to be allowed to escort
us home. I had time then to look at him, and saw that he was tall,
handsome, and even in his simple linen suit exceedingly distinguished
looking. We were nearly home when our protector uttered a cry of pain
and fell at our feet. The wretched beggars, furious at losing their
booty, had followed us at a distance and thrown a large stone, which
had struck the young man on the shoulder, making a painful wound. With
my assistance, our new friend managed to drag himself to our house."

Odette burst out laughing. "Is that what you call an 'ordinary
incident?' Italy must be a queer place if it is. But tell me, how long
did your 'fairy prince,' your 'protector,' your 'new friend,' stay at
your house?"

"Two days."

"And since then?"

"I have never seen him."

"Did he never write to you?"

"A simple letter of thanks for our hospitality."

"Well, any way, I hope he said good-bye in a proper heart-broken
manner, with tears in his eyes, etc."

"Not in the least."

"But you, at least, were miserable?"

Germaine let her beautiful liquid eyes rest on her sister's face, as
she quietly replied "Yes."

"Then you love a young man whom you never saw but those two days, whom
you hardly know, and you have never tried to meet him again."

"I do not know if I love him. I think not, for it would be ridiculous
to fall in love so quickly as that. But when I think of him, it is
with the most inexpressible tenderness. Even now I have only to shut
my eyes to see him as plainly as ever. Can you imagine a flower whose
perfume would remain, even after the flower had long since withered
away? He passed me by. I looked at him, I listened to his voice, and I
can not forget. That is all."

"Now, dear," said Odette, "confess that, in coming to France, you had
the hope of some day meeting again your 'protector.'"

"I do not know about that; but I had one aim and object in coming here,
that I am sure of; and that is your conversion to Christianity."

Odette started; then taking her sister's hand and trying to speak as
tenderly as before: "Do you not remember my wish never to discuss
religion?"

"I remember it; but I shall never agree to it. It would be a crime if
I should! My poor blind sister, my greatest happiness on earth is the
hope of opening your eyes to the Light some day."

But as they loved each other too much to say any thing wounding, they
left the subject immediately, and Germaine continued: "Now I have told
you every thing, I must ask you the same questions you asked me. Tell
me now about your love affairs."

The line in Odette's forehead deepened as she replied: "I have nothing
of the kind to tell you; not even a two-day romance like yours. I am
going to be married, that's all."

"You are going to be married! and never told me!"

"It has only been settled to-day."

"Do you love him very, very much?" whispered Germaine, leaning
caressingly toward her sister.

Odette replied, without committing herself, and yet so as to satisfy
Germaine. "He is worthy of the most tender devotion. He is kind, manly
and good. He is tall, dark, twenty-two years old, and his name is Paul
Frager. There! I have answered all your questions beforehand. Heavens!
it is striking four--dinner-time--and we are not dressed. Get ready as
quickly as you can, for I must take the scolding for it."

No sooner was the door closed behind Odette, who had hurried off
without observing her sister's evident agitation, than Germaine,
turning the key in the lock, threw herself on the sofa in the most
bitter despair. She congratulated herself, however, that she had not
happened to name the hero of her little romance, for it was Paul
Frager! And Paul Frager was engaged to her sister! Her tears fell fast,
and bitter sobs convulsed her whole frame. She saw him before her as
clearly and distinctly as if she were still at Naples, waiting upon the
wounded man. And she would see him again to-night; and Odette was going
to marry him! And Odette loved him, of course. Had she not said so
just now?

She was roused from her grief by the first dinner-bell. Hurrying
to dress, she succeeded in partly driving away her sorrow. When
Odette returned she was ready to accompany her down stairs, and they
entered the drawing-room together. No painter could have imagined
a more charming picture than these two lovely girls presented. The
complete dissimilarity between them heightened their rare beauty.
Mme. Bricourt had only sincere expressions of admiration for them. A
new and startling plan was maturing in her brain. She wished her son
to marry a daughter of the great Laviguerie, and if she could not
have one, was prepared to give chase to the other, so she and Mme.
Descoutures overwhelmed poor Germaine with a flood of compliments. At
last, to change the subject, Germaine ventured to make some remark
to Mme. Bricourt about her "admirable son." That put an end to all
other conversation, as the "venerable mother" never stopped, when once
started on that subject. Corinne apologized when dessert was served,
saying, "I beg ten thousand pardons for interrupting you, dear friend,
but I must order dinner hurried a little, as we expect, immediately
afterwards, to see M. Frager, with his father and mother, M. and Mme.
Claude Sirvin."

Odette and Germaine both became deadly pale, and to conceal their
emotion, proposed an adjournment to the terrace.



CHAPTER VI.


After leaving the villa, Paul's only thought was to hasten to his
mother to tell her of his happiness. He engaged a carriage, and
promising a handful of silver to the driver, was soon galloping over
the sandy, dusty road to Hyères. He was to marry Odette! The wind was
blowing almost a gale, the surf dashed furiously against the rocks, the
sand was blown up into fantastic wreaths, whirling along the road; the
branches of the trees were tossing wildly above him, and the carriage
was dashing madly along, enveloped in a cloud of dust. Life seemed to
him too short for his happiness! Odette had accepted him! God was good,
and life was bliss!

Paul found his mother alone. Claude with his usual sympathetic instinct
had gone "to hunt up a landscape," leaving the mother to welcome her
son after four years of separation. If they would leave the address, he
would follow them on his return.

"You love her, and she loves you," said Mme. Sirvin, after an hour or
so spent in conversation. "I am not jealous, dear. I know that our
hearts are large enough to contain two boundless affections at the same
time. I know you are convinced that she is the most beautiful, the most
charming, the most accomplished being in the world. I am satisfied. I
know that you are incapable of loving any one unworthy of you. Claude
has already told me of your complete surrender."

"My step-father has been an angel to me to-day. Tell him that I seal my
gratitude by embracing you."

Elaine Sirvin might have posed for the Venus of Milo. There was
absolutely nothing to criticize in her faultless face and figure. Her
beautiful blonde hair was wound like a crown around her queenly head.
Her large eyes were as pure and blue as a mountain lake; her delicate,
sweet mouth, fresh as a ripe peach; her exquisite profile--twenty times
had Claude commenced to paint this ideal beauty, and twenty times had
he abandoned the half-finished portrait, saying his genius was not
equal to such a model.

Paul left directions for Claude to follow them, and set out with his
mother for the villa. As they only spoke of Odette, the ride seemed
very short to him; he looked neither to right nor left, and yet the
scene was well worthy of attention. The wind had died away; the
air was clear and perfumed; the sky shone soft as an opal, and the
Mediterranean lay before them in silvery loveliness. Paul noticed
nothing, not even a shadowy form that started from the rocks as the
carriage approached and came towards it; but, as he happened to speak
just then to his driver, the vague, white shadow stopped, and, turning,
disappeared.

It was Odette. Ten minutes before this, she had complained of a sudden
headache, and refusing her sister's offers of aid, said she was going
down to the beach, and would soon return. Her father remarked that it
would be more polite to remain to receive the expected guests; but
saying they would excuse her, as she was indisposed, she sauntered down
to the beach. She sat down on a rock near the road, and recalled the
past. The sea moaned and murmured softly at her feet. Above her lay the
vast expanse of deep blue sky, while in her heart raged a tempest of
sorrow and passionate despair.

She saw, as in a dream, the little ivy-clad cottage where she had spent
that month at Pornic; and, then, the day when she was strolling by the
sea and met the friends who introduced her to Claude Sirvin. Ah! those
eyes! so full of genius and fascination! At the first glance Odette
felt she was conquered. Violent were her struggles against this sudden
passion; but all were in vain. Her heart had found its master. Claude
soon discovered her love, and returned it in his way. He had come to
Pornic for some "sea effects," and as he daily went out to sketch, they
were constantly meeting. As all looked up to the great painter with
wondering admiration, Odette's infatuation was not noticed by her
friends. Claude's love for her was ephemeral, though bright while it
lasted; and, when, one morning he received a despatch announcing his
wife's sudden illness at Paris, he left immediately, leaving a short
letter of excuses for Odette.

"She will forget me soon," he thought to himself. But she had never
forgotten him. She soon learned the truth through her friends and
by her own womanly instinct. At first, she hated his wife; but soon
repented of her injustice in this. She never expected to marry;
but when Paul consented to make her his wife, knowing of her former
infatuation, and make her the daughter-in-law of the man she loved, she
hailed it as a means of escape from her misery. Revolving these things
in her mind, Odette sat alone by the sea. She had completely forgotten
the villa and Paul's arrival.

Mme. Sirvin readily excused Odette's absence by her sudden illness, and
the thought never came to Paul that she could do anything that called
for an excuse.

As he was quietly dreaming in a chair on the terrace, a little hand
took his, and a sweet voice cried, "M. Frager! I am very glad to meet
you again."

Paul stared at Germaine with the greatest astonishment.

"Will you not walk with me in the garden?"

"With pleasure. I have not forgotten our meeting at Naples, and your
kindness to me there."

"My aunt is dead, and I have returned home, to be with my father and
sister."

"Is it possible that you are Odette's sister? Why, of course, the name
of Laviguerie,--I might have known"----

Germaine noticed that even her name had escaped his memory.

"Yes," she continued, "I am soon to be your sister-in-law. You did not
know that when you saw me last!"

If the moon had shone under the trees, as it shone on the sea and the
rocks, it would have sparkled on the tears falling from her eyes.

They strolled around the garden, and as they returned, Paul remarked,
"How surprised Odette will be."

"But, my dear friend, she must never know we have ever met before."

"Not know"----

"I am afraid I can not explain myself clearly; but you know we always
sent each other a letter every day. As it happened, at the time of
your visit, my aunt was not very well, so I did not have the leisure to
write as fully as usual. You must excuse me, but afterwards, the little
incident quite escaped my memory; and I am afraid now, if Odette hears
of it for the first time, she will be a little annoyed. Please do not
mention it to her."

"Certainly not."

"Thank you; and do not smile at my anxiety to avoid causing Odette any
uneasiness."

Odette, meanwhile, was gazing sadly at the sea; suddenly she heard the
sound of carriage wheels. It must be Claude! Her heart beat loud and
fast. The carriage approached in the moonlight, and Odette shuddered
as she recognized him. When the horses were within a few steps, she
called, "Stop!" in such a tone of command that, involuntarily, the
driver drew rein. Then advancing to the astonished Claude, she said,
"It is I!"

"You!"

He left the carriage; the driver, turning around, drove off.

They were alone. Nothing but the sea and the rocks to listen to their
words.

"Did your step-son give you the name of the young lady he is to marry?"

"No; he seemed to prefer waiting until he was sure of her consent."

"She is before you!"

"You!"

Claude seemed overwhelmed at this revelation; finally he said, "But you
know it is impossible!"

"Why?"

He did not reply, so she continued:

"Because I have loved you? Your step-son knows it; that is, he knows
that I have loved before. He forgave me, for he has a noble heart. So I
can never marry? My life is to be blasted for ever? I can not marry a
man that I, at least, esteem and admire? But how will he ever know you
were my first love? You are incapable of the cowardice of betraying my
secret, and no one else knows it."

"But it would be wrong to marry the son, after having loved the father."

She parted her hair which had fallen over her pale face, and, gazing
fixedly at him, said:

"After having loved you? I love you still! I have struggled to forget,
but in vain. The thought of you is always gnawing, gnawing at my heart.
At the idea of becoming your daughter, I shouted in my joy, for I was
saved! Duty will succeed where every thing else has failed, and I shall
be free from this disgraceful love which is my despair!"

As her dark eyes flamed in their anguish, Claude hesitated, then
repeated:

"This marriage shall never take place."

"Who will prevent it?"

"I will."

"You can not! I defy you to do your utmost. You can not prevent it
now!"



CHAPTER VII.


Four weeks later Odette's marriage took place.

Odette was right when she said Claude would find it impossible to
prevent it. The only way in which it could have been done, would have
been to tell Paul of that passionate love in Odette's heart; and
Claude, of course, could not reveal her secret.

As time passed on, he became more accustomed to the idea; and resolving
to see as little of Odette as possible in the future, and always to be
formally ceremoniously reserved whenever he was obliged to meet her, he
was forced to let things take their course.

Among the witnesses to the ceremony was Grenoble, Claude's most
intimate friend. He is celebrated for his sparkling, witty
conversation in all the salons of Paris. For twenty-five years, he
was one of that noble army of martyrs who fling themselves before the
Juggernaut car of art. His genius as a sculptor made him famous, but
left him to starve.

We often think that genius is all that is necessary to win fame and
riches, and we are usually right as regards painting and literature;
but it is different with music and sculpture.

When an earnest, talented sculptor is poor, his life is one long
torture. His only income is what he occasionally receives for some
small statuette, which the dealers condescend to buy--merely an
aggravation, when, like Grenoble, one's imagination is teeming with
grand statues, immortal works of art.

There are fanatics in art as well as in religion. His advanced,
republican ideas made him the enemy of the reigning government, and, in
spite of the solicitations of his friends who recognized his genius,
no minister would give him an order. As a member of the Imperial
Cabinet said to Claude one day, as he was arguing for Grenoble: "But,
my dear Claude, do you not see that it is as much as we can do to
reward our friends? You would not have us lavish money and commissions
on our enemies!"

With the Republic came honor, fame and wealth to Grenoble. But it
was too late. He had lived in poverty for so many years that he had
become accustomed to it, and would not leave the little studio in
Claude's house, to which he had become so attached. He repaid Claude's
hospitality by presenting him from time to time with some noble statue,
or an exquisite bronze; and he was always ready to give his friend
sincere and valuable advice on any subject.

He advised Paul not to go to Italy or Spain on his wedding-trip. "There
is no need to go so far away to find glorious scenery and grand
cathedrals. Go to Bordeaux and, taking the south-eastern railroad, stop
at Albi, with its magnificent cathedral, then at Montauban, one of
the most picturesquely situated towns in the world; then at Toulouse,
the former capital of southern France, full of grand, old palaces,
half buried under piles of rubbish, and worthy of a long visit. As
you come nearer the Mediterranean, stop at Carcassonne,--you will
imagine you are living in the thirteenth century while you are there.
Narbonne comes next, the old Roman colony; then Nismes, with its Roman
amphitheatre; Montpellier, with its fine museums; and then you arrive,
once more, at the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean."

This trip pleased both Paul and Odette, and accepting Grenoble's
advice, they left for Bordeaux. Paul was in heaven. Odette was his
wife! That glorious splendor of hair, those deep, dark eyes, that
perfect form; all belonged to him, and he never tired of gazing at
her. His love for her was complete. He loved her with his whole heart
and his mind. And yet he sought to know her thoughts, to study the
workings of her heart and imagination, for a worm was gnawing at his
heart, one thought was tormenting him incessantly,--the thought of that
_other_, of that man whom she had loved before! However, he believed
she had forgotten him; she was so gentle, so loving and sweet. One
night, while she was sleeping, he raised himself on his elbow to look
at her by the pale light of the night-lamp. How infinitely lovely she
looked as she lay there so quietly, and how inexpressibly sad it was
that another had stolen into her heart before him! He gazed at that
beautiful face in its frame of golden hair, her exquisite teeth shining
between her moist lips. She opened her eyes under his burning gaze, and
smiling sweetly, said, "You were looking at me asleep?" She could not
help being pleased and touched at the adoration and humble worship
that Paul lavished at her feet. She had been studying him since her
marriage, and was astonished at the cultivation his mind had received.
He could discuss painting, sculpture and poetry, as if he were himself
a painter or a poet. He understood his chosen profession, law, as not
one lawyer in a thousand does. His frank, beautiful eyes, and fine
profile, made him remarkably handsome, and his goodness of heart was
constantly being shown in numberless little instances. No poor person
could apply to him in vain. Many a time had Odette surprised him in
that simple, quiet charity that pleases most on high.

One evening, Paul sat down at the piano and sang in a charming,
cultivated voice, a little Russian song.

Odette cried, "And are you a musician, too? You have every talent!"

"I have only one, and that is to love my wife."

She sprang to him and embraced him, saying, "I love you, dear Paul."
And no one would have suspected that she was saying to herself, "I must
love him; he is worthy of my whole heart."

So time passed on. They had been traveling now for a couple of months,
and, as February approached, they decided to return to Carqueirannes
for a few weeks. Odette was changing gradually; growing gentler,
sweeter and more loving, as the days drifted by in such dreamy
tranquillity. After nights of feverish anxiety and sleepless despair,
came this refreshing peace. Every day she grew happier, and more
affectionately disposed towards her husband. The hours seemed to have
wings. Mornings, they would stroll into the country, or explore the
depths of the forest, as light-hearted and gay as two little children.
Paul would stop from time to time to wreathe flowers in her hair.
Suddenly, in front of them they would see the Mediterranean, and
would sit down on the fresh grass to enjoy the lovely scene. Neither
would say a word, but would listen to the voices of the forest. The
birds, singing and chattering as they flew from branch to branch; the
trees, nodding to each other as if they had some secrets to impart; the
insects, buzzing and hiding in the grass and moss; the continual murmur
that Nature has in her solitude, all combined to intoxicate the young
couple. Sometimes Odette would spring up, saying: "The idyl has lasted
long enough this morning. Let us go and get some lunch." So they would
return, laughing and gay, for Odette was gay from morning till night in
this new life. After lunch they would have music, and the rest of the
day would pass so quickly that when night spread her dark mantle over
the earth, they could hardly refrain from exclaiming, "What! already!"

Ah! if Paul had only had the key to her heart! But he was too
passionately in love to notice the delicate shades of her character.
He did not see that her nervous, feverish restlessness was slowly
leaving her for ever. But he occasionally seemed to feel an intuition
of something of the kind, for one night he said: "You remind me of that
story in the Arabian Nights, where the only cure for the sick woman was
marriage. You came to me an invalid, but when we return home you will
be strong and well."

Odette started and grew pale. She felt she was not cured yet, but only
on the road to health, and was sad and thoughtful for a few minutes.
Her new happiness soon restored her cheerfulness, and the day passed as
pleasantly as usual. The next day they strolled down to the beach and
were soon in the midst of the immense rocks and boulders that the waves
have dashed against for centuries.

Odette said: "Do you know what day of the month it is?"

"No."

"To-day is Thursday, the twelfth of February. Do you not remember it
was the twelfth, and a Thursday, when you first spoke to me of love?"
She added, "Would you have killed yourself, if I had refused your
offer?"

"Do you doubt it?"

"No; but I was thinking that I am not worthy of such love. No one ought
to throw away his life for a woman. And you, just entering life, would
you have destroyed all your hopes and dreams of the future for such a
weak creature as I am?"

Paul shuddered as he replied: "You do not love me as I love you: or
you would understand that there is no medium--either the bliss of
possession, or the consolation of death; and if I thought you would
ever cease to love me, I--"

"What would you do?" she said, looking almost haughtily at him.

"I would dash you to death now, against these rocks!"

"Dear, dear Paul!" she exclaimed, throwing herself into his arms,
subdued by his cry of jealous fury.

This was the happiest day since their marriage. They revelled in the
glorious sunshine of this southern Spring that sends the blood dancing
through the veins, and fills the heart with happiness and joy. They
were late in returning home, as they lunched at a little wayside
inn, like a couple of merry young students. Paul found a letter from
Paris awaiting him on his return, and glanced over it while Odette
was dressing for dinner. It was from Mme. Sirvin, who complained of
their long wanderings. She said it seemed a year since the marriage,
and begged them to come home soon. She was hoping to be so happy with
her dear son with her once more! for, it had been arranged that "the
children" were to live at home, and their rooms had long been ready
for their arrival. She had had some trouble to reconcile Claude to this
plan, as he did not think the young couple would like it very much.
Odette, perhaps, wished for a separate establishment; but no where
could she be more at home than with her parents, in their large and
elegant mansion on the avenue.

Paul read the letter through again, and admired the delicate
thoughtfulness of his step-father for Odette's slightest wishes. He was
delighted with his mother's plan, and saw no reason why it would not
be charming in every respect. His unreasonable jealousy had separated
him from her for so long, and he was so tenderly fond and proud of her,
that the idea of living once more in the same house, pleased him beyond
measure. When Odette returned, he gave her the letter, saying, "Here is
some good news for us." As she read Mme. Sirvin's offer of a home, she
trembled, and it required all her strength to keep from showing her
agitation.

"Well, what do you say?" said Paul, smiling.

"I say--that M. Sirvin is right. I should not like it at all to live
with them."

"I thought you would say so; but read on. My mother says we can be as
free as we could be any where. We have the whole of the second story
to ourselves, with separate table and entrance, and need never see the
Sirvins if we do not wish to."

"I thought, perhaps, we could travel for a longer time."

"But, dearest Odette, we must settle down some time, and here is a
charming nest all prepared for us. Besides, I can not study or write
while we live as we have been living lately."

Odette was in despair. She, like Claude, was struggling in vain against
this dangerous plan. And she, like him, would be forced to submit to
circumstances, unless she wished to excite suspicion. As she was
silent, Paul supposed she was convinced.

"You agree with me?" he said.

"Not at all," she replied; "I implore you to refuse your mother's
offer."

"You implore me! That is too formidable a word for such a simple
matter. You do not wish to live with my mother? I love you too much to
refuse you any thing, Odette; but it will be a great sacrifice to me.
I hoped to regain those four years of happiness that I have lost. It
would be a wonderful pleasure to be always near her; but, since you
think otherwise, we will give up the idea. It is a little curious that
both you and Claude should oppose the plan."

This union of her name with Claude's frightened her, and, interrupting
him hastily, she said: "I see now how selfish it would be to oppose it
any longer. You can write your mother that you accept." As Paul thanked
her with a tender embrace, she continued: "But not just yet! Let us
have another month or so of this sweet, idle life. Not just yet."

"We will stay as long as you please. You shall fix the day yourself for
our return to civilization."

The shadows cleared away from her face. Instinctively she clung to
Paul; but he only saw an expression of tender affection in what was
really the appeal to him for protection and help.

So their former pleasant life was resumed, and the days passed as
happily as before. Towards the end of February, Paul proposed to go to
Italy, stopping at Nice. But Odette said, "No." She did not wish to
leave Carqueirannes, where they were so happy. Finally, one day, about
the middle of March, Paul found her emptying closets, etc., and asked
the reason.

She replied, "I am getting ready to have the trunks packed. You left
it to me to fix the day for our return, you know, and I have decided
upon to-morrow. Only, I wish to stop one day in Dijon, to see my old
cousin, Anna. I will arrange everything; now you can go and smoke your
cigar in the garden, for you will be in my way."

"All right; I obey; but first, my reward." Odette smiled, and offered
him her fresh, sweet lips. He seemed disposed to linger over them, but
she pushed him gently aside and then sent him off. She followed him
with her eyes and exclaimed, with an indescribable air of triumph and
pride, "I love him! He is good; he is handsome; he is intelligent. I
love him at last!"

And she could have shouted aloud in her joy. She had shaken off the old
love, and she felt free from its degrading chains. Now she was safe.
She could return to Paris serene and calm. What did it matter where she
lived now? She was at peace with herself and all the world. She would
at first see as little of Claude as possible, and never would have any
more to do with him than was necessary for appearances.



CHAPTER VIII.


They started for Paris the next day, stopping at Dijon, to see Anna
Laviguerie, a distant cousin, aged and poor, who would have died of
starvation long ago if Odette had not sent her money from time to
time. Thanks to her cousin, Mdlle. Anna was able to spend her days in
complete mental and physical peace, which is really, if we did but know
it, two-thirds of what we call happiness in this world.

The old lady was so gratified and pleased at their visit that they were
really touched; but they could not stop long; the next day they took
the express for Paris. As they came north they found the weather very
much colder, of course, and the country was covered with snow.

When the train stopped in the Paris dépôt, the first person they saw
was Grenoble waving his long arms in welcome, while Mme. Sirvin stood
near him, beaming with joy.

"Let me look at you, dear children," said Elaine, when they were seated
in the carriage. "You have both grown handsome during your travels.
Have they not, Grenoble? You must excuse your step-father's absence; he
has been out of town a few days and will not return until to-morrow."

Odette enquired for her father and sister. Elaine replied that she
would meet them at the house. The conversation ran on, gay and lively.
Paul pressed his mother's hand from time to time, as if he would say,
"You are not mistaken. I am very, very happy."

Grenoble seemed to think his suggestions for their trip had proved very
successful, and said that Paris would seem dull and gloomy after the
southern sunshine.

They soon arrived at the house where Laviguerie and Germaine were
awaiting them. Germaine looked pale, but smiling and lovely as usual.

"Are you happy?" she found time to whisper to Odette.

"Very happy. I love him, and he loves me."

"May God watch over your happiness. And He will. Your husband will love
you as long as he lives, and he is worthy of your utmost love."

She did not even sigh at this happiness, built upon the ruins of hers.
She seemed quietly happy all the evening, as usual. It would have
needed a very close observer to have noticed the slight tremor when she
happened to meet her brother-in-law's glance. The company broke up at
eleven, as Odette was tired from her journey. Their rooms were ready
on the second floor, as Mme. Sirvin had written. The sweet intimacy of
their early married life had come to an end, as Paul and Odette, of
course, now had their separate apartments.

In spite of her fatigue, Odette could not sleep. She lay with wide-open
eyes, staring at the dying embers on the hearth. She would see Claude
the next day! What would he say to her? What would she reply? What
could they say, these two that used to love one another? Not that she
was afraid. She loved Paul now, and was cured of the old infatuation.
But in spite of such thoughts, a dull pain was gnawing at her heart.
Any slight noise, the fire-brands falling, startled her into almost a
fever. She finally fell asleep, but was haunted by weird dreams all
night long, and woke in the morning exhausted and nervous.

Until their house-keeping arrangements were completed, they were to
take their meals with the Sirvins, so Odette kept her room until lunch
time, when she knew the dreaded interview must take place.

As she entered the lunch room with Mme. Sirvin, she saw Claude talking
to Grenoble by the window. He turned as she approached and said
politely and naturally: "I hope you have recovered from the fatigue of
your journey, Madame."

She thanked him by a formal salutation, but she could not utter a
sound. She felt as if some one had suddenly pierced her heart with
a red-hot iron. She soon excused herself on a plea of headache, and
returned to her room. Then slowly she drew a chair in front of the long
cheval glass, and, sinking into it, gazed at her reflection. Her face
was livid. Her eyes were nearly twice their natural size. She passed
her hand across her cold brow, and said in a tone of utter despair:

"I am lost!"

At the sound of her own voice she trembled from head to foot. So all
her struggles and efforts had been in vain. She had seen him, and one
glance had brought the old passion back again in all its strength and
power. What could she do? Where could she flee? She could implore Paul
to save her, to take her away, any where; but it would break his heart.

Her arms crossed, she paced up and down, nervous, feverish, almost
insane. Who could help her? Perhaps Germaine. If she were to confess
every thing to her sister! She would go immediately! She rang for the
maid. Paul answered the summons, and, with the tender vigilance of
affection, inquired if she were sick, or if any thing were the matter.
Her excitement lent her strength to dissemble: "I am better, thank you.
I want to see Germaine. I have a thousand things to tell her. No!--I do
not care to have you go with me."

She spoke quite naturally, almost smilingly, running a pin again and
again into her hat, which she held in her hand. She felt that her
husband must be allowed no glimpse of her anguish. And how could
he have had the least suspicion? How could he know any thing of her
unhappy passion?

As soon as she was alone on the street, her former thought came again
to her, to confess every thing to Germaine. But she felt now it was
impossible. Her womanly instinct revolted at the thought of such a
confession. There are some things that can never be confided, even to a
dearly loved sister. She hurried along, her eyes fixed on the ground,
accusing herself of cowardice; that one little sentence from Claude
had sufficed to undo the work of months. M. Laviguerie occupied the
first floor of one of those large, old-fashioned houses on the quai
Voltaire, with high ceilings, comfortable and airy. Germaine had taken
possession of two large sunny rooms, one for her bed-room, the other
her sitting-room, and was always at home to any one in trouble. Mme.
de Rozan had left her a considerable fortune, which she expended in
feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, with tender words of sympathy
and hope for those in sorrow. Thus was her life spent; almost nun-like
in her self-sacrificing devotion to suffering humanity.

At seven o'clock, every morning, she attended early service at Saint
Germain-des-Prés. She then visited her poor people until lunch time,
when she returned home to be with her father, trying to enter into his
pursuits and make his life cheerful and happy.

At first, M. Laviguerie was somewhat embarrassed in her presence.
He did not feel at ease with this daughter that he had condemned to
disease and morbid nervousness. Her peaceful life seemed to subvert
all his theories. But he felt re-assured of his correct judgment when
he saw her devotion to religion and charity. He saw in her many little
traits that reminded him of her mother, and when M. Descoutures, one
day, with great hesitation, ventured to enquire his present opinion
of Germaine, he replied, "I was not mistaken. There are certain
unmistakable symptoms. Women of this nature must always have something
to which they can devote their time and energies; at present, Germaine
thinks of nothing but her religion and her poor people. I do not
interfere at all, of course."

Germaine was sewing busily on a black dress, for a poor woman whose
husband had been killed the day before by some accident, when Odette
came to her room.

"You are very kind to come and see me so soon, dear Odette; but how
feverish you are. Are you sick?"

"I am not well, Germaine. I am suffering beyond expression. Do not ask
me any questions, I can not answer them; but I come to you for help.
I am being carried away by a raging torrent, and I cling to you for
safety!"

Germaine was dumb with astonishment and consternation, then suddenly
she comprehended, and as Odette stopped, she said, "Oh, unhappy soul!
You do not love your husband!"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Odette, terrified at her sister's keenness. "You
are mistaken, I do love him."

"But not as you ought to love him," replied Germaine, as excited as
Odette, "for then you could not be unhappy. Then you would appreciate
your wonderfully happy lot in life, or, if you were in trouble you
would appeal to him, not come to me."

Odette came closer to her sister, seized her hands and said slowly:
"You are right. I do not love him."

Germaine's eyes flashed with anger. What! _his_ wife! belong to _him_!
so tenderly loved, and no love for him in return! Oh, it was infamous!
She groaned in her despair, but suddenly reproached herself that her
sympathy was all for Paul. She conquered her anger, and with infinite
tenderness said: "Then, dear one, I understand your sufferings; but,
hope! dearest Odette. Every one has hours of anguish and despair; but
hope, and you will regain your lost love. Depend on me and on God!"

As Germaine repeated her last word, the young wife cried: "You can
believe and pray. I can not; I have tried, and found nothing to answer
me." She covered her face with her hands, while sobs convulsed her
frame from head to foot.

"Weep, dear Odette. I weep with you from the depths of my heart. I do
not understand, though. Why did you marry if you did not love him? and,
if you loved him, why have you changed so suddenly?"

Odette commenced a true confession, but again her womanly delicacy
rebelled. She could not tell her pure and gentle sister the shameful
secret of her marriage, and no words could she bring over her lips. At
last she said: "Do not leave me alone, Germaine; come back with me to
the house to-day. I must return now. Come with me, I beseech you. I
will leave a note for my father, so that he will come up to dinner."

"I will do whatever you wish," Germaine replied.

Claude happened to have invited a few gentlemen to dinner, so the
conversation was very gay and animated. Odette wished nothing more
than to be left to her own thoughts; but Grenoble insisted upon
discussing art with her, and she replied with some vivacity. As she
became interested in the subject, her wit and sparkling sallies drew
the attention of the whole party. Grenoble and the gentlemen applauded.
She was inexpressibly beautiful--her nervous excitement flushing her
delicate complexion and lending brilliancy to her glorious eyes. Claude
looked at her in wondering admiration, appreciating her rare wit and
beauty.

Usually he went out after dinner, or the gentlemen adjourned to the
studio; but no one left the drawing-room this evening.

"You are eloquent, Madame," said Grenoble. "I never heard an art critic
express himself better. Women play with paradoxes as skilfully as
Japanese jugglers play with knives."

"Do not abuse the paradox, M. Grenoble. It is the truth of to-morrow."

Grenoble turned to Claude, saying: "Do you know that I think you are
very foolish to be hunting every where for a model for your Danae. If
Mme. Frager would consent, you could copy from her the loveliest head
that ever was painted on canvas. Do you not agree with me, Mme. Elaine?"

"You are right, Grenoble," replied Mme. Sirvin.

Neither Claude nor Odette replied; but in her heart Odette resolved she
never would sit to him. The conversation soon took another turn, and a
different subject was introduced.

As for Germaine, her heart was bleeding all the evening. Her thoughts
were now in Naples, and now on the sad revelation of the afternoon. How
was it that Odette could help loving Paul--so handsome, so good, so
loyal! For the first time her virgin heart suffered something like the
pangs of jealousy. When she bade him good night, she had to close her
eyes that he might not see the tender love and pity swimming in their
depths.

"But you must not go home alone, Germaine," said Mme. Sirvin. "The
carriage is ready. Paul will go with you."

"Oh, no!" she replied, quickly. "Odette will lend me her maid," and to
Paul's polite insistance she gave a firm refusal. She had whispered,
"Be brave," to Odette, and as she drove off, asked herself why life
never unites those who would be happiest together.



CHAPTER IX.


As the days passed on, Claude's friends were astonished that they saw
so little of him. Of course he was working at his painting for the
"Salon," but that was no reason for his staying at home all the time.
Before, as well as since his marriage, Claude always went out every
evening, either into society or to some of his friends' studios. As
artists can only work by daylight, they usually retire early, and are
ready for work in the morning before the rest of the world is awake.
But Claude was an exception, as he had always gone much into society.
So it was a great change for him to pass his evenings quietly at home,
and when a month had thus elapsed, the astonishment of his friends
bordered on consternation.

At first Claude did not understand himself; but gradually, he was
forced to acknowledge the complete surrender of his heart to Odette.
The magic charm in her every movement, the tender grace of her face and
figure; all seemed to change his very being.

His happiest hours were when he could sit and watch her quietly as
she leaned back in her arm-chair, gazing into the fire. He had never
dreamed it possible that, as his step-daughter, he could look upon her
with anything more than a fatherly interest; so he was not watching
his heart at all, until suddenly he found himself bound hand and foot,
like an eagle caught in a net. He was frightened and dismayed when he
realized the extent and depth of his passionate admiration. He tried
to forget himself in his work, but his thoughts were always with her,
working or idle. One morning he commenced painting quite early, and
worked busily for two or three hours at his great Danae painting;
suddenly he rose and stepped back a few feet to judge of the effect.
With horror, he saw that his Danae was an exact portrait of Odette.
Seizing a cloth, he hastily rubbed out the whole morning's work, and
patiently recommenced to sketch Danae's head. Again, after hours of
labor, did the golden hair and glorious dark eyes smile at him from
the canvas. This time he erased the paint with his pen-knife, as if no
trace should remain of his insane infatuation. He threw his brush into
a corner of the studio, and as Grenoble happened to enter just then, he
said "Come, I will sit for you to-day, I can not paint;" and taking off
some wet cloths wound around a bust, in the center of the room, he sat
down opposite it.

Grenoble had been working at this portrait bust of his friend for
some months, and every one said it was the finest work he had ever
accomplished. It was Claude Sirvin, the man and the artist, human and
inspired. Before answering, Grenoble stopped in front of the Danae.
"Splendid!" he said. "Your Jupiter is perfect! and this drapery is
marvelous. But, your Danae seems to bother you. Why don't you take my
advice and take your daughter-in-law for your model?" and, without
noticing Claude's agitation, he quietly sat down on his camp-stool and
said, "As you are kind enough to sit, I will see what I can accomplish
to-day."

Grenoble repeated his advice about the Danae at breakfast and dinner,
again and again, until all had become so accustomed to the idea, that
Odette's disinclination seemed almost childish. Claude sincerely
thought (he was always sincere), that perhaps he could get free from
her haunting image, if he could once get it fairly on the canvas.

So Claude yielded, Odette yielded, and the result was, that one
pleasant afternoon in April, they were sitting alone in the studio.
It was quite warm in the room. On a table near by, some pastilles were
burning to perfume the smoke-laden air. Buried in an arm-chair, her
head posed according to directions, Odette lay lost in thought, her eye
gazing at vacancy. Around her the thousand and one curious objects to
be found in all studios--here a pile of armor glistening in the sun,
there some drapery thrown carelessly over an easel; every where frames
and pictures of all shapes and sizes. She was posing in a low-necked
dress to show her throat fully; around her neck a heavy pearl
necklace--Danae's pearls, her first temptation. They had not spoken for
more than two hours. At first Odette had taken a large Spanish knife
in her hand, playing with it to hide her nervousness somewhat; but it
dropped from her fingers, and she sat quiet, staring at vacancy, trying
to control her wildly beating heart. She would rather die than let him
see the intense agitation this tête-à-tête was causing her.

Claude commenced to paint with great energy; but the sweet intoxication
of her presence gradually mounted to his brain. He had just completed
the face, when the necklace slipped on her neck. He rose, and, speaking
for the first time in two hours, said: "If you will allow me, I will--"
As he approached, she looked at him. Did he see the love in her eyes?
or, was he conquered by his own passion? His fingers had just touched
the necklace, when he seized her passionately in his arms, and, kissing
her bare white throat, he murmured: "I love you." At one bound she was
on her feet. She escaped from his arms, haggard and trembling. She
extended her hand to protect herself, and the large knife she still
held struck his cheek, making a slight wound which began to bleed. Then
Odette, with a cry of horror, fled from the room.

Claude did not follow her. He stood where she had left him,
mechanically wiping away the drops of blood from his cheek. He seemed
to see clearly now, and for the first time, that this passion for
Odette was the one love of his whole life; all else had been nothing
in comparison. Did she love him? He could not decide. While he was
thus reflecting, time was passing. He heard the noise of a carriage
being driven to the door, and, looking out of the window, he saw Odette
and her husband get into it. One of the servants placed a small trunk
beside the driver, the gate was opened, and the coupé drove off. So she
was going away. He was seized with the utmost anxiety, for, if Odette
had proclaimed his rashness, he knew well that his wife would despise
him ever after. But gradually his love again gained the ascendancy,
and he said to himself the next hour would decide his fate. Either
Odette had left forever with her husband, or else she had invented
some trivial excuse to leave home for a short time, showing she was
afraid of her own weakness, and this fear would prove that she returned
Claude's love. He seated himself on the sofa, burying his face in his
hands, while his heart was torn with love and remorse. Night came on
gradually, until all was dark outside, as his heart was, it being
covered with the black pall of his disgraceful passion. He did not
reflect that this woman he loved was the daughter-in-law of her who
bore his name! At first he almost wished that Odette had left his house
to return no more. He supposed that, if they never met again, he could
conquer this love in time. But as the hours passed, his former thoughts
returned to him, and he would have bought with his life's blood the
assurance that he would soon see Odette again. When he heard the
outside door open, and distinguished Paul's voice, he uttered a cry of
joy. The young man came up to the studio almost immediately. "Why, you
are in the dark!" he exclaimed, "Odette must have been sitting for you
when her cousin's telegram was brought to her. I wished to go with her
to Dijon, but she said it was quite unnecessary."

As the studio was so dark, Paul could not see Claude's excitement.

He asked almost unconsciously: "What train did she take?"

"The accommodation train. She will not reach Dijon till midnight. I
tried to persuade her to wait for the eight o'clock express, but she
wished to start as soon as possible. So she has gone."

Claude was not mistaken. Odette was fleeing from him and from herself.
When she escaped from the studio, she hurried to her room, with his
kiss still burning on her neck. It seemed as if she must be branded
there, and every one would see the mark. Again she said, "I am lost,"
as she had said it a few weeks ago. And she was lost. The curse had
come upon her, and she could not escape her destiny. But her conscience
filled her with contempt and disgust for her own self. A voice seemed
to cry, "Flee! flee for your life!" but where? and with whom? She never
thought that her only safety now was in her husband; that she must
confess every thing to him, and flee with him far, far away, never,
never to return. She did not know that this was her last chance. She
only felt the necessity of flight for to-day. She thought not of the
morrow. Her mind formed a dozen plans. Finally, she decided, and trying
to regain self-possession, she went to her husband's room.

Paul was busily writing. He looked up as the door opened, and cried
joyfully: "Welcome, welcome! I am so glad to see you! How goes the
Danae?"

"I had to break off the sitting. A telegram was brought me from Dijon.
My cousin Anna is very sick, and sends for me. I should like to start
immediately."

Her first lie necessitated another, and then another, without the
thought occurring to her that, if Paul had asked the servants about the
despatch, he would have discovered her falsehood. But the young man
never stooped to any thing like that. Such trust and confidence as his
is never suspicious. He tried to persuade her to wait for the express,
but in vain, as she insisted upon starting immediately.

She did not draw a long breath until she was settled in the train,
and the whistle of the engine sounded the shrill note of departure.
She felt safe at last--in her foolish blindness--safe! As she closed
her eyes, the scene in the studio appeared again. She felt Claude's
burning gaze fastened upon her. She felt him approach, and again his
arms were around her! She shuddered, and, opening the window, held
her burning forehead to the cool night air. Then she returned to the
thought of her own safety. She had fled, so she was pure and good.
She loved Claude beyond expression; she had wounded him with a knife,
and was fleeing from him! So she was still true to herself! She was
sincere. We never lie to ourselves. Of course, she loved Claude; but
that was not her fault. We are not responsible for our feelings. We are
only responsible for our actions. Who could accuse her, if the whole
world could read her heart? Who could say, "She is guilty?" She was not
guilty, because she had left him. She had struggled and fought against
this overwhelming love. She recalled her vain efforts to throw it off.
She had earnestly tried to love her husband. It was her misfortune,
not her fault, that she could not succeed. She felt proud of her
resistance to Claude, and the farther behind her that Paris lay, the
more did shame and disgrace seem to recede from her. She thought of the
monstrous hippogriff on whose back Ariosto's heroes escaped from their
enemies, and the engine seemed just such another monster, bearing her
away from Claude.

And her sister, who advised her to pray! She smiled with contempt. She
did not need a God to keep her from doing wrong. Will and energy are
all that we need on earth. Reason, not God, rules the universe. It was
reason that showed her the abyss before her, that told her to flee, and
that led her to Dijon! Pray? If there were a God, He ought not to have
permitted this love to take possession of her heart. He ought to have
comforted her and sympathized with her struggles. It was not necessary
for her to mumble prayers. When she said, "I will be true," that was
all that was needed. The kiss on her neck burnt no longer while she was
congratulating herself on her safety and her strength; but it was still
there.

Odette was completely exhausted when she arrived at Dijon. She went to
a hotel, and was asleep in five minutes after being shown to a room.
When she awoke, the room was flooded with sunshine. She was ready at
ten o'clock to go to her cousin.

She had gone over the same road lately, with her husband. How many
things had happened since then! The appearance of the country was
entirely different, too, with no more snow or ice to be seen. As the
carriage passed over the little hills, or wound around among the forest
trees, the peacefulness and loveliness seemed to give her weary soul a
refreshing rest. Her cousin was completely amazed at her arrival.

"What can have brought you here? I can not believe my eyes!"

"I have come to spend a few days with you. I told my husband you had
sent me a telegram, because I was longing for some fresh country air."

Anna was delighted to see her. Odette accompanied her all day, from
the dairy to the farm-yard, from the farm-yard to the kitchen, and
every where did she seem interested and pleased. The old lady was in
raptures. She had always loved Odette, but from this day she idolized
her. And the young wife, in return, was grateful for the peace and
oblivion of this quiet refuge. When evening arrived, they sat in front
of the great fire-place, with its crackling wood fire. For many years
Anna's eyes had never been open as late as ten o'clock.

The farmer's daughter, Anna's servant, had arranged the best rooms
in the house for the "pretty lady," as she called Odette. They
consisted of two large rooms, occupying the whole of one side of
the ground floor. Odette kissed her cousin "good-night," and went
into her bed-room. She took the lamp and amused herself by examining
the old-fashioned engravings on the walls, "Poniatowski throwing
himself into the Elster," and "Hippocrates refusing the presents
from Artaxerxes," etc. Then she put the lamp on a table and opened
the window. She inhaled the fresh, cool air, and enjoyed the lovely
landscape before her,--the woods in tender blue and black shades, the
fields gray and white, as the moon shone through the clouds; she could
hear the little brook murmuring under the drooping branches of the
willow trees. She wrapped a shawl around her and sat down, to enjoy at
her ease the clear, cool night, so silent and lovely.

Suddenly she started. She saw a shadow on the garden wall. She thought
she was mistaken, and leaned forward. The shadow climbed the wall and
directed its way across the garden to the lighted window. Odette knew
what it was. She instinctively felt that the thief, climbing into the
garden at night, was the one she most dreaded to see. He crossed the
garden, stepped on a stone under the window, swung himself up by his
hands, and stood before her, pale and determined. They gazed at each
other a moment, then,

"I love you!" he whispered.

She receded before him to the back of the room. "What are you doing
here?" she cried. "Why do you persecute me with your shameful love? I
am not your wife. Leave me this minute, or I will scream for help and
have you driven away as a thief!"

Claude repeated, "I love you!"

She could not recede any further, she was already against the wall.
Claude stood quiet; then, in his eloquent, trembling voice, fascinating
her with the tender brilliancy of his eyes, he continued: "You love
me! You can not deny it. You belong to me. To me alone. I take all the
shame, the disgrace, upon myself, because I worship you, because I can
not live without you, because you alone are my life and my happiness.
Do you not see how I, too, have fought and struggled against this love
that you have awakened in my heart. But all, all in vain. We must
submit to our destiny. I love you."

Odette stood pale and trembling against the wall. She felt she was
tottering on the brink of an abyss. She was falling, falling.

As Claude advanced, she raised her hand with a gesture of superb
disdain.

"Coward!" she exclaimed.

Claude approached nearer.

"Coward!" she repeated.

Claude was at her side. He whispered softly again: "I love you;" and,
as he opened his arms, she sank into his embrace, incapable of further
resistance to the passionate love in her heart.

Odette was alone in the train. She had left Dijon the day after her
arrival, and was returning to Paris. As on the journey down, her brain
was throbbing with thoughts of all kinds. She was seeking excuses for
her crime, and the books she had studied with her father supplied her
with many. Did not Darwin write, "All human beings are forced to obey
their instincts?" Spencer wrote, "Will can never conquer Nature;" while
Rousseau said, "Uncontrollable emotion excuses any crime." Those she
revered as her masters, justified her. Why should she feel called upon
to accuse herself? Her conscience could be at rest, as she had resisted
this love in her heart to the utmost.

She recalled one quotation after another, to show that she had,
after all, nothing to reproach herself with. She acknowledged no
responsibility to any God. Only to her own conscience was she
responsible, and that gave her absolution. Since the world is as it
is, all weak human creatures must expect to be occasionally worsted in
their strife against evil. And then, she knew that this life is the end
of the soul. Her father had taught her that there is no Judge to punish
the wicked and reward the good, as the Bible declares. And before
arriving at this total annihilation, the inevitable end of all men
and things, she was going to live to enjoy life and love and be happy.
She would be prudent, so that no one would suspect, and there would be
nothing to fear. At this moment, she thought of her sister, and a sharp
pang of agony pierced her soul as she felt that Germaine would despise
her. In the midst of this total shipwreck of all that was true and good
in her heart, only this affection for her sister remained; and the
poor creature, born with good impulses, but corrupted by her wretched
education, degraded by the teachings of the brutal materialism of the
day, burst into sobs of sorrow and despair.

Then trying to find some way out of her grief, she began to apply the
same sophistic reasonings to her sister. Yes, Germaine would despise
her, but only because she had been brought up amid the superstitions
and mummeries of religion. Germaine's judgment would be warped by her
absurd faith in God and Christianity. She would not pay any attention
to her contempt. An intelligent being should be governed by reason, and
not by superstition. Her reason told her that when one has done all in
one's power, that is sufficient. And she complacently rested in the
free pardon given by her reason, without reflecting that day before
yesterday her reason had been the first to condemn her.

The unhappy creature did not know that every human being has a terrible
judge in himself. No matter how low or degraded he may be, some day his
conscience will stand before him, judge and executioner at the same
time; and from that day he will despise himself as he is despised by
all who know his crime. He will never be able to tear off this Nessus'
robe that eats into his vitals!



CHAPTER X.


"Yes, M. David," continued Mme. Descoutures, "I was so beautiful
when I was seventeen, that I made a great sensation. I remember well
one little incident. Sundays, when the men on the estate had worked
particularly well during the week, my father used to put me in a chair
just inside the gate, and let them come up and look at me as a reward."

Grenoble interrupted her: "And was that all the reward they received?
Your father must have been a great joker."

Corinne flushed with indignation; but, before she could annihilate him
with her contempt, he had left her and was chatting in another group,
leaving her M. David for a victim.

It was at Mme. Descoutures's house in Paris, that this took place six
weeks later. June had arrived, and, in spite of the open windows, it
was very hot in the drawing-rooms, filled with guests. Laviguerie was
deeply interested in a game of chess. Germaine, near him, was replying
absently to the questions addressed her from time to time. Odette,
alone, was carrying on a lively conversation, while Claude was talking
in a gay group of artists. Paul and Mme. Sirvin had not left home this
evening.

"By the way," said Mme. Bricourt suddenly to Odette, "is your husband
ill?"

"Not in the least, Madame."

"I am very glad to hear it. As we never meet him any where nowadays, I
was afraid he was sick."

It was not the first time this question had been asked Odette. Lately,
their friends had noticed that Odette went every where, as usual, but
that her husband was seldom seen with her. Her reply was always that
Paul was very busy, and that Mme. Sirvin was not quite as well as usual.

The venerable Mme. Bricourt had no time to push her investigations
further at present, as Grenoble's voice rose above all the others,
and all turned to listen. He was maliciously drawing out M. Amable
Bricourt, to expose his ignorance to the best advantage.

"Ah! you lean to the realistic school? By Jove! you are right! That
is true art! The day of idealism is past. It has been laid on the
shelf with the paintings of Ingres and Delacroix. As Zola shows us in
l'Assommoir, truth is only found in poverty and degradation. Realism
has one advantage over idealism, more people understand it. For
instance: I am sure M. David is a realist. Am I not right?"

The banker stepped forward and said with great pomposity:

"I am proud to do all I can to encourage art."

"But, my dear sir, you should not!" interrupted Grenoble. "What we
need nowadays is to have art discouraged! Just think of the thousands
of dollars paid for paintings alone every year; and not one in a
hundred is worth the canvas it is painted on. Nine-tenths of the
painters decide on art for a profession, because it pays better than a
clerkship."

M. David subsided into a chair by Odette. He was a coarse, vulgar man,
who had made several millions on Change. Originally from Bruges, he had
bought a title of nobility, and was called Count David of Bruges--by
his servants. He spoke little, thinking that his money spoke for him,
and went through the world self-satisfied and contented, never noticing
that he was a continual source of amusement to his acquaintances by his
pretensions to nobility and his pompous vanity and conceit.

He had once proposed to Odette, and since her return to Paris, had
been very attentive to her, which irritated Grenoble beyond endurance;
so that now, as he saw him sit down at her side, he followed him, and
standing before him, said: "I must make a portrait bust of you some
day. Do not look so horrified! I shall not charge you any thing for it."

"I always pay promptly for every thing," answered the banker, very much
annoyed. "Every one will tell you that Count David--"

"Never makes a mistake in his accounts. I can well understand that!"

Odette smiled. M. David growled to himself: "These artists are so
insolent. M. Grenoble, I was speaking of you the other day to a friend,
recommending you, in fact; but he seemed to think you were so little
known--"

"Alas!" modestly replied the famous sculptor, "it is not granted to all
to have their names in every mouth, as yours is!"

This little scene passed unnoticed. Odette, after receiving a glance
from Claude, rose and went to her sister, leaving M. David a prey to
melancholy.

"Can you come with us?" Mme. Frager asked her sister.

At this moment Laviguerie cried: "Checkmate!" and rose from the chess
table.

"Papa has finished," Odette added, taking Germaine's arm. "So you are
free. Will you come?" Then she whispered: "By the way, how is your
little Bessie?"

"Very well, thank you."

There was quite a little bustle and confusion as the large party took
leave, M. David and several others saying good-night at the same time.
There were only seven or eight guests left after they had disappeared.

"Mme. Frager grows prettier every day," said M. Amable Bricourt,
twisting his moustache.

"Her face and figure are perfection. What a pity! what a pity!" and
Mme. Bricourt cast her eyes up to the ceiling, with an expression of
the most angelic sympathy and sorrow.

"Why! is there any thing wrong?" asked one of the ladies, with great
curiosity.

All turned to listen. Corinne said: "Dear Mme. Bricourt, tell us
what they say, so we can all know how to defend her--if it becomes
necessary--our dear Odette."

The venerable Mme. Bricourt settled back in her arm-chair, and in the
sweetest, softest tones, said:

"They are so wicked to spread these calumnies about her. She is a good,
pure woman. I have my opinion of slanderers, and always avoid them when
I can. They say she goes out a great deal with her father-in-law. Well,
why shouldn't she? Only a very wicked person could see any thing wrong
in that M. Frager is very busy; almost as tireless in his studies and
work as my estimable son himself. So I think it very natural that M.
Sirvin should be her escort. They ask, too, where all the money comes
from to dress Odette so extravagantly; for M. Frager, you know, has a
very small income. I protest against these malicious conclusions, with
all my heart; but they reply that M. Sirvin and Mme. Frager are always
together, often alone, at balls and parties, at the opera and at the
theater. These are all calumnies, and I fight them every where, for
Odette is as good and pure as she is lovely."

An actress would have envied the perfect skill with which Mme. Bricourt
uttered this tirade. She emphasized some words, gesticulating at
others; in short, she was mistress of her art.

"It is infamous!" cried Mme. de Smarte. "I will answer for Odette, as I
would for myself."

"Of course, it is infamous! and we, her friends, must stand by her.
We must deny every thing, and try to explain away any thing that
seems strange in her conduct. It is not her fault. She was educated so
disgracefully."

Poor little M. Descoutures had been uneasy for several minutes. He
coughed timidly once or twice as if he were about to speak, for his
loyal heart saw the malice and envy in these remarks. But the minute he
opened his mouth, an angry glance from his wife nailed him dumb to his
chair. He looked like a beetle pinned to a card in an entomologist's
collection, that can move its limbs, but can not escape.

Mme. Bricourt arose to depart. Amable seized her shawl to present to
her. The venerable lady looked at him with tears in her eyes, to call
attention to his tender solicitude for his beloved mother.

She embraced Corinne, and saluted the others gracefully; but, before
leaving the drawing-room, she launched this Parthian dart: "And it
is very easy to reply to all their insinuations, that M. Sirvin was
always very fond of Odette. You remember he settled that money on Paul,
so he could marry her, and did all in his power to bring the match
about. But I must not stop chatting here so late. Au revoir, dear
friends."

When M. and Mme. Descoutures were alone, he tried to beg her to be
kinder to Odette; but she did not even deign to listen, and withdrew
immediately to her apartment.

In the mean time, Laviguerie and Germaine were quietly strolling
homewards. The philosopher was commencing to understand his daughter
better, and, unconsciously to himself, was learning to love her more
every day. He felt that her nervous strength and energy were being
expended in acts of charity and religion. He had had still another
proof of it in the following incident:

One April morning, Mme. Descoutures called for Germaine to accompany
her to Clermont, one of the suburbs of Paris, a little beyond
Versailles. They were both muffled in furs, but beyond this there was
very little resemblance in their attire. Germaine, plainly dressed
in black, drew all eyes by her sweet fresh beauty; while Corinne, in
addition to her striking costume, wore an immense hat, loaded with
feathers and flowers. As long as they were in the train, the other
travelers merely smiled quietly to themselves; but when they reached
Clermont, it was mortifying for Germaine at least, as the whole
population turned out to gaze at this absurd apparition. They climbed
on doorsteps and fences to look at her. Corinne was delighted at what
she called her triumph; how they all seemed to admire her! how they
stared!

They were passing in front of the old castle, which is now used as a
prison for women. As they passed along beneath its gloomy walls, they
heard voices singing, sad and sweet. Germaine listened. It sounded
as if they were singing a dirge. A few steps farther and they were
opposite the gate, and Germaine heard a pure, velvety voice singing the
De Profundis slowly and richly, as it is chanted in church. She saw the
gatekeeper placidly smoking his pipe in front of the gate.

"Why are they singing a dirge?" she asked him.

"One of the prisoners is dead," he replied, politely taking off his cap.

Germaine shivered: "Dead? she is free then. How sad it must be to die
in a prison!"

The gatekeeper had never thought of that. He shook his head sadly.

Corinne stood waiting for Germaine. What could she find to say to an
old man like that? She called her:

"Come, child, it is cold."

"Please wait a few minutes!"

She was still listening to that angelic voice that came from the gray,
gloomy chapel, the voice of a prisoner, probably, praying for her dead
companion.

"What was the crime of the one that is dead?" Germaine asked the
gatekeeper.

"She killed her lover in a fit of jealousy. But the saddest thing about
it, is that she has a child, a little girl. She wanted to see it before
she died."

At this moment the gate was opened, a priest in his white surplice
appeared, followed by two choir-boys; then the bier, covered with the
black pall. Death had taken the poor Magdalen to his arms, and she was
now at rest. Behind the bier walked a little girl about eight years
old, pale and thin, her large black eyes full of tears.

Corinne tried to pull Germaine away.

"Excuse me, Corinne, but I can not go with you to your friend. I will
meet you at the dépôt in an hour.

"Where are you going?"

"I am going with this mother and child;" and, without waiting for
Corinne's reply, Germaine approached the child and embraced her
tenderly; then, taking her little clinging hand, she walked with her
behind the bier, through the streets to the cemetery. The priest had
noticed every thing, and when the ceremony was at an end, he turned to
her, saying: "God will reward your kind heart, Madame."

"Dear sir, I would like to adopt this little one."

"What! would you consent?"

"Will there be any difficulty? Is there a family?"

"Alas, no, Madame. These little waifs are alone in the world. There
is no place but a foundling asylum for them. But you would do well to
reflect carefully before undertaking such a responsibility. Perhaps
your husband--"

"I am not married, sir. My name is Germaine Laviguerie. You may,
perhaps, have heard of my father (the priest nodded); he is good and
kind; he allows me to do as I choose. Besides, I have some fortune
of my own, and would like to adopt this little one, and bring it up
according to my ideas, which are the same as yours."

The priest bowed. He understood her noble, charitable intentions, and
appreciated them. The child still stood with her eyes fastened on the
tomb where they had laid her mother. Her grief was most touching in its
sad resignation. Germaine bent over her and asked, in her caressing
voice: "Would you like to come with me?"

The child replied solemnly, without the least hesitation, "Yes."

The necessary formalities were soon complied with. A certificate,
signed by the superintendent of the prison and by the mayor, was given
to Germaine, and that was all. She had a daughter. When she arrived at
the dépôt, she found Mme. Descoutures impatient at her long delay.
When Corinne discovered what Germaine had accomplished, her amazement
and indignation were beyond expression. She broke out into strong
reproaches, however, saying: "For Heaven's sake! The idea of tying
a little beggar like that to you for life! Your father will be very
angry! At your age, to adopt a child!" But Germaine did not even hear
her. She was whispering tenderly to the poor child.

"What is your name?"

"Elizabeth."

"Where have you been living since your mother left you?"

"At the Foundling's Home."

"Well, dear, you will never go back there. You are my little girl now,
and I will be your mother."

Elizabeth, or Bessy, as they afterwards named her, clung to her new
friend, and a sad smile hovered on her wan little face. The child
accepted her virgin mother.

Corinne was mistaken as regards Laviguerie. He was not astonished
at any thing Germaine ever did. At first, he thought it a little
unfortunate that her fancy had happened to fall on the child of a
murderess! But the philosopher felt himself bound to rise above common
prejudices, and soon became interested in the child himself.

"You expect to bring up the child?" he asked Germaine.

"You have no objection, dear father?"

"I? Not in the least. But suppose you wish to marry some of these days?"

"Dear father, you know that I shall never marry."

Laviguerie shrugged his shoulders thinking that Odette used to say
the same, yet she was married. He went back to his library, saying to
himself that philosophy is much easier to understand than the workings
of any woman's heart, and that women, generally, were incomprehensible
creatures.

A few weeks later he came, one day, to his daughter's room, saying,
"Will I disturb you if I come in for a little while?"

"You can never disturb me, dear father."

"I want to talk to you seriously, dear, dear child."

Germaine was astonished at these expressions of affection. M.
Laviguerie himself was not at his ease. He had been obliged to
acknowledge that in all his theories about Germaine, that he had
confided to M. Descoutures, in one and all had he been proved mistaken.
He continued:

"I must confess to you, dear Germaine, that I did not love you when
you returned from Naples. I had formed mistaken ideas about you. You
must forgive me. My preference for your sister came from my knowing her
better; now that I know you as well, I wish to tell you, dear child,
that you share my heart equally with Odette."

Germaine embraced her father. He continued, "I think you are one of the
best women on earth. I fully appreciate your kind, good heart, and
wonderful unselfishness. I have not done my duty to you, for I ought to
have been looking out for a husband for my dear daughter."

"Oh! I implore you, do not speak of that."

"But why not? You are not in earnest when you say you do not wish to
marry!"

"Indeed, indeed I am!"

"I am very sorry, my daughter. The true happiness in this life, for a
woman, is to be a wife and a mother. In spite of your religious ideas,
you are too sensible to wish to be a nun; but the life you lead now is
nothing more than that. It would gratify me beyond measure to see you
well married, so that when Death comes for me I may know I leave you in
loving care."

Germaine was frightened at his insistance. What could it mean?

"What possible objection can you have to it?" continued the father;
"I can see none whatever. You are young, you are attractive, you are
rich. Little Bessie, of course, would be no hindrance; you could look
after her just as well if you were married----"

"But, father, before I can marry, I must find a husband, and no one has
proposed to me yet."

"There you are mistaken. This very morning, a young gentleman that I
respect and admire, asked my permission to address you. It was a great
and agreeable surprise. He is in every respect worthy of you. When I
tell you his name--"

"Do not name him, dear father. I am obliged to refuse his offer."

"But why, my dear child? You must give me some reason. Can it be
possible," he continued tenderly, "that you love another?"

Germaine buried her face in her hands, as she replied "Yes."

Laviguerie smiled: "Why did you not tell me long ago? You were not
afraid of my refusal, surely. I am sure that your heart has chosen
well, and I consent beforehand to any thing that is for your happiness.
Tell me his name, dear child."

Germaine grew paler still. "I can never marry him, father."

"He does not return your affection?"

"He is not free to do so."

"He is married? Oh! my poor, poor child! But where did you meet him;
here--in Italy?"

"I implore you, dear father, do not ask me any more questions. Let me
stay with you--" Tears interrupted her.

Laviguerie took her in his arms, and, with inexpressible tenderness
said: "Here, dear Germaine, you are unhappy, and I can only mingle my
tears with yours. But let us speak of something else. I have received a
note from Odette, inviting us to dinner to-morrow. I accepted in your
name as well as my own. Have you not neglected your sister somewhat
lately? I began to suspect either M. Sirvin or Paul had annoyed you
in some way." He stopped. Germaine was as pale and rigid as a statue
in his arms. Philosophers, as a rule, are not very clear-sighted; but
Germaine's misery revealed the truth to him.

"It is Paul that you love?"

"Yes."

"You met him in Italy?"

"Yes."

Laviguerie recalled the past; Germaine's arrival the very day of
Odette's betrothal, and her silence so as not to interfere with her
sister's happiness. He knew that a word from Germaine would have broken
the engagement; for Odette would never have consented to be the cause
of any suffering to Germaine.

Many things now seemed clear to him. He understood why the pure young
girl devoted her life to the poor and unhappy, trying to relieve them
as much as possible; why she spent all her leisure time sewing for
them; and why she had adopted little Bessie. All this privation and
work was to divert her mind from her unhappy love, and, by making
others happy, to forget her own sorrow; and Laviguerie had prophesied
shame and disease to this noble woman, who suffered a martyrdom with
such sweet serenity. He asked himself whence came this strength to
"suffer and be strong," and an immense sympathy and tenderness filled
his heart.

"My daughter, forgive me!" he said solemnly, and left the room, as
he saw she was longing for solitude. He was full of amazement that
religious faith could so strengthen and comfort Germaine in her
hopeless sorrow, and felt his theories and principles had received a
violent shock.



CHAPTER XI.


One night not long after this, Grenoble, after trying in vain to fall
asleep, sprang from his bed, and dressed himself hastily. He was
subject to fearful head-aches, and at such times his head felt as if it
were being slowly crushed in a vice. He opened his door gently to go
down to the garden. As he stepped into the hall, he was astonished to
hear steps near him. He waited, motionless, and saw by the moonlight
streaming through the window on the landing, that it was Claude,
creeping softly up stairs, listening and stopping from time to time,
as if afraid of being overheard. When he had disappeared in the second
story, Grenoble went on his way to the garden, trying to imagine what
could take Claude up stairs at this time of night, as Paul and his
wife were the only ones on that floor. He thought for an instant of
going up himself to see if any one were sick, but was afraid he might
intrude. He strolled around the garden a few minutes when he noticed
that light was streaming from Odette's window, and glancing up, he was
perfectly thunder-struck at what he saw. The shadow of two figures in a
close embrace was thrown on the white curtain. Claude was with Odette.
It was such a sudden shock to Grenoble's loyal heart that it felled him
to the ground. But it could not be as he imagined! He must have made a
mistake! However, he had certainly seen Claude not five minutes ago,
creeping cautiously to the rendezvous. Grenoble arose and walked to a
garden-seat, staggering as if intoxicated. Then he sat down and tried
to collect his thoughts. The artist was Odette's lover! A sudden light
seemed thrown on their life for the last few months. He thought of
those frequent tête-à-têtes, drives, etc., and that Claude seemed to
have relinquished painting entirely. He would go to his studio, get his
easel ready, spread his paints, and that would be all. His hand seemed
too heavy to work, or his head was empty of ideas. Grenoble had not
paid much attention to this idleness, as he had taken it for granted
it was one of those fits of inactivity that are common to all artists
when the flame of inspiration seems to burn lower and lower. But now
he understood it. Claude was carried away by a terrible passion that
seemed to have destroyed at the same time his genius and his honor.

Grenoble meditated a long time, sunk in the deepest despair. He thought
of Elaine, that pure, noble woman! What would become of her should she
ever learn the truth? What would become of Paul? And the cause of all
this misery was Claude, his own, dearest friend, the man he loved best
in the whole world, of whom he was so proud, enjoying his successes
and fame as if they were his own. He was dizzy and faint from his
excessive emotion; going back to his room he threw himself on the bed.
Late in the morning he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. When he awoke
he had formed his plan, he knew what he must do. Some day or other, the
disgraceful secret would be found out; he was sure of that. Who knew
but what Elaine's suspicions were already aroused? Grenoble recalled
her pale face, sadly changed in the last few weeks. The morning passed;
he had left the house and did not return till one, when he went to
the studio. He found Claude there alone, gazing mournfully at his
Danae that he could not finish. He turned around as Grenoble entered,
offering him his hand.

The sculptor did not take it, but said: "Claude, be more careful next
time you go to your daughter-in-law's apartments. Others might see you,
as I did last night."

Claude started in surprise and consternation. Grenoble continued:

"It is not for me to condemn you. You have been inexpressibly kind and
generous to me. I was dying of hunger; you took me to your home. I was
loaded with debts; you set me free. For ten years have I eaten your
bread, slept under your roof, shared your joys and sorrows. Such ties
can never be broken."

He approached Claude, who was listening with down-cast eyes, not even
seeking to defend himself with a word. He took his hand. "My poor
friend, you have done wrong."

Claude raised his head and answered hastily: "Of course, I have done
wrong! Do I not know that? I feel that I have committed a great crime!
But you do not know that we loved each other before she was married. We
had met long ago. Is it my fault, or hers, that the love revived in our
hearts?"

"Do not seek excuses. There are none. You have fallen with her into an
abyss. You think it an excuse that you had met and loved before her
marriage! You call that an excuse. If she loved you, what caused her to
marry Paul? If you loved her, why did you consent to the marriage? The
more I reflect, the less I understand. The only thing I do understand
is that you are dishonored. I am not condemning you. I am only trying
to open your eyes to the truth."

He put his arm around Claude as if he were a little child.

"You must leave home, or she must. I beseech you, do not refuse me. Am
I not your friend, your brother? Breaking off this shameful intrigue
now--this minute--you can not erase the past, but you can at least
preserve the future. Think of that noble woman, your wife! She would
never survive such a shock as this would be! She worships in you the
incarnation of genius and love. Do not force her to dash you from the
pedestal where she has placed you. It is not alone for her I speak, but
for yourself. Elaine is half your inspiration. Your paintings have been
marvelous works of art ever since your marriage; and, now that you are
untrue to her, see! you have not painted a stroke in two months. But I
am only appealing to your interest. I wish to touch your heart. You are
good; you would not voluntarily torture that loyal woman, who loves you
so fondly, who worships you next to her Maker, whose life is purity and
innocence itself. You are good and noble, Claude. Will you not promise
me to shake off these odious fetters? Will you not, dear, dear friend?"

Sirvin had gently extricated himself from Grenoble's embrace. Sinking
into an arm-chair, he sat motionless, his head bowed, listening, but
not touched by what his friend was saying. The sculptor saw that words,
reproaches, supplications, were all in vain. He became angry, and,
tearing the wet cloths from the bust of Claude in the center of the
studio, he gravely, solemnly examined his work. Gradually tears came
to his eyes. "It is fine," he said. "I love you, Claude. I put all my
talent, all my soul, into this clay. I molded what I saw in you--your
beauty, your warm heart, your genius, your inspired eloquence. It is
wonderful, but I added goodness, and the portrait is not perfect--you
are not good!"

He buried his fingers in the soft clay, destroying in one moment the
work of so many months, and, tearing it to pieces, threw the moist clay
on the floor.

"All gone! I thought you had a noble, loyal heart; you have none at
all. I thought you a genius; but you are not. You are cruel, you are
wicked, without strength and without goodness. There was a Claude
Sirvin that I used to love; he is dead. Farewell, dear Claude--dead,
dead and buried! buried and gone! Another grand promise of genius
and truth crumbles to dust when the hour of fulfillment has arrived.
Wretched man that I am! Claude is dead! Truth is dead! Oh, wretched
world!" And he sobbed like a little child, while Claude dashed out of
the room, conquered by his emotion. He heard Grenoble's accusations
ringing in his ears, and he knew they were all true. This odious
passion was destroying every thing good and noble in his character.
His talent had flown, his honor was tarnished. He saw Elaine dying of
grief, Paul committing suicide to end his disgrace.

He remembered that Odette must be awaiting him in the drawing-room, as
they were to take a walk together at two. This drawing-room, very large
and elegant, occupied the front of the first floor, with four large
windows opening on the avenue. The curtains were carefully closed to
shut out the hot June sunshine, so that it was quite dark in the room.
At each end was a large door, hung with heavy tapestry. One of these
doors opened into Elaine's apartment, the other into the hall. When
Claude entered, he found Odette already waiting for him.

"I thought you were never coming. Had you forgotten our proposed walk?"

He put his arms around her, folding her close to his throbbing heart,
and pressing his lips to hers in a long passionate caress.

She was astonished. "Why, what is the matter? You are trembling!"

"Grenoble saw us last night."

"Grenoble?"

"I have no time to tell you about it--somebody might interrupt us here."

"Do you love me?" she asked.

At this moment the heavy portiére was raised at the other end of the
room, and Elaine appeared. Claude replied:

"Do I love you? More than life or honor." Elaine came from the sunshine
in her room and could not see any thing in the dim light of the
drawing-room, but she recognized the voice and heard his cruel words.
She uttered a low cry and disappeared. The two lovers started back in
horror. Who had overheard them? Odette spoke first:

"No one could have seen us," she said; "it is so dark in here. I will
go to my room."

They crossed the hall without speaking, both a prey to the utmost
anxiety and distress. Who had surprised their guilty secret? Was it
Elaine? Could it have been Paul? As they arrived at the foot of the
stair-case they met Paul coming to find them.

"Good morning," he said, smiling. "It is such a lovely day, I should
like to join you in your walk. When you are ready you can come for me
to my mother's room. I am afraid she is not very well."



CHAPTER XII.


Poor Elaine. She had returned to her room completely overwhelmed by
what she had heard. What woman could it have been with Claude? To whom
could he have been talking? Some cruel coquette who made it her pastime
to lead men astray, blinding them to their true happiness and boasting
of her conquests. She, Elaine, had been a help to him in his work,
his faithful companion, always ready with sweet sympathy and valuable
counsel. How many times had she helped him to overcome despondency and
to triumph over obstacles of all kinds. And was she to lose all this?
Was she to submit passively to the sight of her happiness crumbling to
the ground before her eyes? No! she would struggle to regain it! She
would make every effort as long as there was the least hope; would try
to win back his love; would never reproach him; would be as cheerful
and as lovely as ever. She would try in every way to make herself
beautiful and fascinating. One thought tormented her--she turned to the
mirror to see if she were commencing to grow old. How many women have
asked themselves this same question, and with what fear of the answer?

She heard a knock at the door.

"It is I, mother; may I come in?"

Her son!

"Certainly."

Paul started when he saw how pale his mother was.

She sat down, pointing out a chair for her son; but he knelt at her
feet, and, embracing her tenderly, said:

"You are the loveliest woman in the world, and the most intelligent;
but, at the same time, you are the most ungrateful."

"I, ungrateful?"

"Oh! you need not look so astonished. Do you not remember when we used
to live alone together, that I told you every thing? No matter what the
trouble was, I would turn to you, and you would console me. How many
times have you wiped away my tears! But now, you are in sorrow; and you
will not confide in me."

Paul felt his mother tremble.

"You are mistaken dear child. I am not unhappy."

"Then, why are you so sad? Why do you tremble? Why are you so pale, and
why are these tears in your eyes?"

Elaine's wounded heart could not withstand this loving appeal. Her head
rested on Paul's shoulder, and she burst into tears.

The young man was frightened. Was the wound so deep--

"Great God, mother! you are unhappy? What can be the cause?"

She wept without replying. Paul pressed his cheek against her lovely
head, his eyes full of tears.

"You will not tell me? But, remember, dearest mother, that you have
always been my mother and sister at the same time. I know there are
some things that a mother can not reveal to her son. Keep your secret
from your son, but confide it to your loving brother."

"Thank you, darling. I am unhappy."

"But, why?"

"Because I--"

"Open your heart so that I can sympathize with you."

"Forgive me, Paul. I am weak and miserable. I dread to reveal my
heart's secrets. A mother ought not to make a confidant of her son;
but I am wretched! and who can sympathize with me but you? Who can
comfort me, but you? You were angry when I married your step-father.
But I loved him, and I could not resist his pleading. He confessed
his faults, his past love-affairs, fully to me, and I, in my foolish
vanity, thought I could change his life; thought his love would keep
him pure and loyal to me. For four years his conduct has been above
reproach. Is he deceiving me now? I do not know. I do not wish to know.
His disloyalty, if it exists, has not taken him away from home; but I
feel that he is drifting away from me. He is no longer mine. For two
months has this terrible truth been slowly forcing itself upon me. I
have a rival, a pitiless rival, whose iron will and stony heart are
coming between me and my husband.

"I am losing his confidence, as well as his affection. I no longer
reign supreme. If you knew how I have suffered! Many a time have I
spent the whole night in tears and misery! When we met again in the
morning, you knew not that my smiling face was only a mask to cover the
sorrow and despair within."

"Dear, dear mother! why did you not appeal to me for sympathy long
ago? Love is as cruel as it is blissful. I can imagine what I should
suffer, if Odette were to drift away from me. But I do not think you
need be so hopeless. Claude is true and good. You will always be his
guiding star, as you have been in the past. We must forgive much to
these excitable, artistic natures. That is where you have always shown
such tender wisdom. Who knows but what he may return to you to-morrow,
more loving, more devoted than ever?"

She continued, with more energy, "No! this time he is caught in a
strong net. This rival, whoever she may be, is dangerous. Claude has
always before been incapable of dissimulation or falsehood, but she has
tainted him with her poisonous hypocrisy. Do you not see how careful he
is to spend as much time as possible at home with us all; he is either
with us four, or with dear Odette all the time."

"Can it not be that you are mistaken? When and where could he meet
her, as he is so seldom out of our sight?"

"Ah, Paul! Must I tell you every thing? You ask me where he meets
her. Here, in my house! He dares to make love to her at my very side.
Why, not half an hour ago, I surprised him and some woman in the
drawing-room; and he said----"

"I know," interrupted Paul, smilingly.

"What?"

"He was with Odette."

Elaine stood turned to stone. She closed her eyes, on the point of
swooning. She heard again Claude's exquisite, soft tones, "I love you
more than life and honor." And he had said that to Odette!

"You are astonished that I know so much," Paul continued. "I met them
just as they were leaving the drawing-room together. Now, do you not
see you were mistaken. Your jealous fancy causes you to misconstrue
what you saw and heard. Claude is sincere and loyal; he is incapable
of treachery of any kind, and you must confess now that you were
entirely mistaken."

Elaine was listening no longer. She thought she was dying. So this
rival, implacable and cruel, was Odette! The conviction came to her
with the irresistible force of truth. She was afraid her son would read
it in her eyes, but could neither speak nor move. He continued in the
same cheerful tone. "I can explain every thing, dear mother; you have
been unreasonably jealous lately, and misconstrued every thing, so
that you seemed to yourself to be right in your conclusions. Instead
of confiding in Claude, you have shut your heart to him and sought
proofs of infidelity where every thing was simple and loyal. I have
noticed myself that Claude has painted very little lately, but Grenoble
says this temporary paralysis comes upon him occasionally, and he only
works the better after it. But I do not wish to leave you with a single
suspicion; I hope to cure you completely; so tell me what you thought
you heard him say just now in the drawing-room?"

She gazed at her son with haggard eyes. She knew that Paul would not
survive the truth one single hour, and, by a supreme effort, forced her
lips to a smile, saying, "You are right; I was mistaken; you have cured
me. Thanks! oh, my child! my child! my child!"

She kissed him again and again. "I love you, dear Paul; my jealousy is
at an end--if you could only see the happiness in my heart."

The door opened and Odette came in, dressed for her walk, buttoning her
gloves.

"I am ready first, Paul," she said.

"I will not keep you waiting five seconds," he replied, and whispered
to his mother. "We will not tell any one our little secrets--good bye,"
and he hurried from the room, leaving the two women face to face, the
elder knowing herself so infamously betrayed by the other!

Elaine followed Paul with her eyes. As soon as he had disappeared she
rose. The savage despair in her heart flamed from her eyes. She sprang
towards Odette in a burst of jealous fury.

"Wretch!" she hissed between her teeth.

Odette started as if a bullet had reached her heart. As a flash of
lightning lights up a landscape, so did every thing come clear before
her eyes. She did not attempt any denial.

"Yes, Claude is my lover," she said in a hollow voice. "You call me a
wretch? I have called myself nothing else for a long time. What can you
do? It will kill Paul if you tell him."

Elaine felt herself fainting away. The thought of appearing so weak
before Odette, gave her strength enough to drag herself to the window,
where she leaned against the frame. The sun streamed in uninterrupted
on the furniture, the pictures and the carpet. Its dazzling brilliancy
flooded the whole room and the two women who stood there, dumb and
immovable as statues--Odette, her eyes flashing anguish and suspense;
Elaine, struggling against her deathly faintness. She held fast
to the window-frame, her teeth chattering. The avenue was full of
people--carriages dashing past to the Bois de Boulogne; the sidewalks
filled with gay loungers, enjoying the glorious weather. An orange-man
had raised his little stall across the avenue, and was crying his
oranges in a shrill, loud voice. The trees waved gently in the soft
June air. Some children were playing on the lawn between the sidewalk
and the street. None of these details escaped Elaine's eyes, which yet
were staring at vacancy, while her brain was burning with thoughts and
ideas dashing against each other like waves on the ocean in a storm.

She wanted to scream to Paul, "Kill this guilty wretch!" then the
thought of Paul's despair restrained her. And the other woman saw
her dilemma and gloated over it. What could she do? Her heart writhed
in her breast. Could she see her at her table, eat in the same room,
smile at her, talk to her? That would be more than human nature could
endure! In spite of herself, her mouth would scream the truth, and Paul
would kill himself. The poor woman felt as if she were in a cage of
red-hot iron. Whichever way she turned, she hit against the bars that
burned into her flesh. Paul would kill himself if she told him the
truth, and she could not plunge the knife into her son's heart. She
shook convulsively from head to foot. Then she forced her will to obey
her, and, turning suddenly, faced Odette. She would sacrifice her life
for her son--any thing--rather than that he should learn the truth.
Her life was ended. She offered her heart and pride on the altar of
maternity. She resolved to tear herself to pieces with her own hands,
rather than have Paul suffer.

She heard him outside, giving an order to a servant. She did not even
tremble, but advanced to Odette, took her arm, forced her to sit down
on the sofa, and sat down by her side. Paul came in. At the first
glance he cast upon them, he cried: "My God! what is the matter,
Odette? You are so pale, mother!"

Elaine took Odette's hand affectionately. "I was very faint.
Fortunately your wife was here to help me. I am quite well again now."

Paul supposed it was the effects of his conversation with his mother;
so he was not so much alarmed.

"The weather is magnificent. Go, my children."

Paul replied: "But we will not leave you if you are not well."

"No, no; go! It will do you both good to take a walk. This glorious
sunshine is so delightful."

Paul kissed her, and offered his arm to Odette. She had said nothing.
She was completely crushed to the ground at Elaine's great sacrifice.

"Why do you not kiss my mother?" asked Paul, astonished at her silence.

Odette looked at Elaine humbly, deprecatingly. She leaned over and
touched her lips to Mme. Sirvin's cold brow. Elaine shuddered to the
very depths of her soul.

The husband and wife left the room. Then a frightful change came over
this suffering saint. She remained one minute immovable--Odette's touch
was still burning on her forehead. Then she sprang to her feet with
a wild shriek of "Paul! Paul!" Her strength, however, had all gone;
wildly beating the air with her arms, with a groan of despair, she fell
her full length on the floor, rigid and unconscious.



CHAPTER XIII.


Odette was in the cruelest suspense and anxiety during her stroll
through the Bois de Boulogne with her husband. Fortunately, Paul was so
gay and happy that he chatted merrily all the time, hardly giving her a
chance to reply. After an hour or so they returned home, Paul saying he
must go to his mother.

As they reached the gate, Odette said "I will leave you here."

"Are you not coming in?"

"Not just yet; I have a call to make in the neighborhood."

So Paul left her and went to his mother's room. As soon as he had
entered the house she walked quickly to Claude's studio, and finding it
empty, went in and locked the door. At last she was alone! She had had
no time yet to think. Ever since her trip to Dijon had she been haunted
by the dread of discovery, although she had always tried to banish
the thought. If it did intrude she had always answered it by thinking
that Paul would kill her, or else that she and Claude would commit
suicide together. As she crouched now in a corner of the sofa these
thoughts thronged her brain; she lived over again the frightful scene
with Elaine, and grovelled in spirit before her sublime sacrifice. She
compared herself to Elaine, and writhed at the abyss separating them;
one so pure and noble, the other so degraded. It grew dark; her mind
was full of despair and anguish. Would Claude never come to put an end
to this cruel uncertainty?

At last she heard his step outside. He fitted his key in the lock and
opened the door. He lighted a wax taper on the mantelpiece and started
when he saw Odette. He had been walking aimlessly, miles and miles,
into the country, trying to find some way to retrieve his honor and
extricate himself from the quicksands where his passion had led him.
But he had arrived at no decision, and had returned as miserable and
anxious as when he started.

"I have been waiting hours for your return," said Odette, "for it was
your wife that overheard us in the drawing-room."

"Elaine?"

"Yes! She knows all. So I was waiting till you came, to----"

"To what?"

"To commit suicide."

"Commit suicide!"

"What else can we do, now that your wife has discovered our secret? I
wish you could have seen her! She knew our guilt, and yet she had the
superhuman strength to speak to me, to smile and take my hand, so that
she could shield her son from the blow. But no human being could stand
such a struggle without succumbing sooner or later. And, besides, I
should die under her contempt. My own seems, sometimes, more than I can
endure. We must die!"

Claude did not reply. His was one of those natures that look upon a
secret crime as comparatively harmless. Only when it is dragged to the
light do they see its guilt in its true color. And now he felt degraded
in his own sight, and torn by conflicting emotions.

"We must kill ourselves. There is no other way out of it."

"Kill ourselves!" he repeated in the same tone of consternation.

"Death, or flight. Take your choice."

"But, Odette, you are insane. Your ideas are entirely too dramatic. You
never see such tragedies except on the stage. When we are so happy in
our love, that is not the time to commit suicide!"

"But there is no other way of escape that I can discover. We have
committed a crime, and must abide the consequences. We can flee, it
is true. I am ready now to take your arm and go out with you into the
world, giving up home and reputation for your love. Come, shall we go?"

"No; that is impossible, too."

Odette was filled with contempt at his cowardly indecision.

"Do you want to give me up?" she cried. "Would you leave me?"

"Leave you? never! You know I can not live without you. But I hesitate
to sacrifice your honor, your reputation--"

"My honor! that was tarnished long ago when I gave it into your
keeping. My reputation--what do I care for the respect of others, when
I have lost my own!"

"And the disgrace!"

"Are you afraid? I am not."

"I am only thinking of you."

She saw his hesitation.

"You are a coward! You are trembling. You did not tremble when you
followed me to Dijon. You were the one that proposed flight then. Do
you not see that we must accept the responsibility of our guilt, and
support it with dignity and courage. I have been more distressed by
the thought of retaining the respect of our friends by deceit, than by
any thing else. That has tormented me at times beyond endurance; this
cringing dissembling, hypocrisy and treachery. When your wife flung her
disdain and contempt in my face, I breathed freely for the first time
in months; for this hateful deception of all around us must now come to
an end. The world, our world, will cover us with disgrace; but we need
not care. Place the pleasures of our mutual love in one side of the
balance, with society's contempt in the other, and which will turn the
scale? Braving scandal and disgrace shows that we at least have dignity
and courage left. Come, let us go."

These burning words roused him from his torpor. How beautiful she was
in her scorn and excitement! He replied to Odette, who stood straight
and motionless before him:

"No; we will not go."

Her lip curled with contempt; but without replying, she turned to the
door.

"Odette, where are you going?" he cried, frightened at her silence.

"I despise you."

He sprang to her side and seized her in his arms.

"But I love you. Am I not yours, body and soul? Do you blame me for
hesitating to resort to extremes? You wish to die, because you are a
woman, and they always incline to tragedy. I wish to enjoy your love,
and yet avoid any thing leading to scandal and disgrace." He covered
her with kisses as she lay quiet in his arms.

"Be reasonable and calm. We must not meet this danger with any foolish,
sentimental excitement, but with cool and wary plans. Sit down here by
me, and let us discuss it quietly."

She yielded, subdued as usual by his magnetic influence over her.

"Who knows our secret? Elaine.--Poor Elaine! I curse the day I was born
when I think of what she must be suffering. As she shows herself nobler
and more self-sacrificing, my remorse increases."

"Yes, indeed," sighed Odette.

There was silence between them. Both were lost in wondering admiration
of Elaine's grand sacrifice. Claude continued:

"Why should not our life go on as before? Elaine will keep the secret,
and I can not bear the thought of Death when we are enjoying such love
and life. Flight would be shame and disgrace for both of us--your
reputation irretrievably ruined, my career ended. You see that we can
remain at home; Elaine will close her eyes to our affection----"

Both were flushed with shame at their cruel calculations on Elaine's
tortured heart. Instinctively, they felt themselves still more closely
bound together as they sunk lower and lower.

A servant's voice was heard outside. Odette rose. She had not replied
to Claude, save by her silence. She felt herself humiliated and
mortified; her brave resolutions had vanished, and she accused herself
of cowardice, but still she yielded to Claude's advice.

They separated,--she going to her room, and Claude to his wife, so as
to have the dreaded interview over at once.

Elaine had not left her room. When Paul knocked, she had begged him to
leave her alone. Alone? She could never be alone again! The thought of
her husband's black and cruel treachery would never leave her. More and
more did she become convinced that her renunciation of his heart was
the only way to save Paul. She must sacrifice her life to save his,
and she must nerve herself to seeing Claude and Odette together under
her roof. She would close her eyes to the shameful truth; she would
even protect it from discovery. Her only fear was that her strength
would not be sufficient to carry out the sacrifice to the bitter end.
One moment of thoughtlessness or resentment would undo all. Her son
must be saved from the tortures she was then undergoing.

And Claude, she shuddered when she thought of him. She loved him no
longer. She saw the idol crumble to dust that she had supposed so grand
and noble. She had almost deified him in her heart, but she must have
been blinded by her love. She recalled their early married life. No, he
was sincere and loyal in those days. Did she deceive herself, or did he
deceive her?

Her maid came in to say that M. Sirvin was at the door, wishing to see
her a few minutes. She replied that he might enter, in a voice she
tried in vain to control. Claude appeared pale and trembling. Elaine
did not venture to even glance at him--innocence always shows more
embarrassment than guilt. At last she raised her head, saying coldly,
"I suppose Odette has told you that I know your cruel treachery."

"Elaine!"

She looked him full in the face, with an expression of such scorn that
he dropped his eyes.

She continued:

"Here is my decision. If I only listened to my own contempt
and disgust, I would leave the house this minute with my son.
Unfortunately, we can not always follow our inclinations in this world.
One victim, I hope, is enough for you. I do not wish to have the son's
heart broken, as you have broken the mother's. Our life can continue
as usual, we four under one roof. That is all I wish to say, so will
detain you no longer."

Claude stood in remorseful admiration before her. He gazed at her
exquisite beauty, resembling in its stony pallor some antique statue.
He saw the sublimity and strength of this noble character, and a sharp
and strange regret overpowered him when he saw that he had lost her
forever. Alas, for poor humanity! His keen regret caused him to forget
Odette entirely, and only see Elaine in her sorrow.

"Why do you not leave me?" said Elaine still more coldly, surprised
that he did not move.

"I am waiting your permission to say--"

"There is nothing to be said. Go!"

"But you are my wife. You loved me once--"

She interrupted him with a glance.

"Certainly; but I love you no longer."

"Forgive me, but I must say one word. I will obey you, whatever you
say. May I not see at least a glimmer of hope that some day when I have
expiated my sin by penances, punishments without number, some day you
will forgive me?"

Seeing the cold scorn in her eyes he continued: "Very well. There are
some crimes that only blood can wash away. I will kill myself."

"It is too late for that! You should have killed yourself before, not
after your crime."

Pointing again to the door, he was forced to leave her.

Claude was perfectly sincere in his appeal for a hope of pardon. His
heart was elastic enough to hold two affections at the same time. His
passionate love for Odette did not interfere with his tender, admiring
affection for Elaine; and, besides, it cut him to the quick to meet
scorn and contempt where he had always before found loving idolatry.

Elaine, as he left her, buried her face in her hands, weeping: "I am
bereaved. My husband is dead, but my son is left me; henceforth I only
live for him."

So life recommenced for these three, as if nothing had happened. Paul
always found his mother smiling and apparently cheerful. He saw her
pale face, however, marked with lines of care, and was anxious about
her health, fearing some secret complaint that she would not confess
for fear of distressing her dear ones.

Her torments were increasing. At first Claude and Odette were silent
and constrained in her presence; then gradually their prudent guard
relaxed, knowing so well that Elaine would not betray them. Paul's
confidence was so absolute and loyal that not the least suspicion could
come to him.

But Elaine's misery increased every hour. We can accomplish in a moment
of sublime courage and despair some wonderful act of self-martyrdom;
but it is beyond human strength to meet with the same heroism an agony,
renewed hour after hour, day after day.

Often was she tempted to shriek out the horrible truth, and have the
guilty pair driven from her presence. As the days passed by and she
occasionally surprised a glance passing between them, or overheard some
whispered remark, she felt that she would become insane, unless she
had some respite from her unceasing torture. So one morning, about a
fortnight later, she sent for M. Sirvin.

"Sir!" said Elaine, as he appeared in answer to her summons, "I wish
to have you and Mme. Frager leave the house for a short time. You can
easily arrange some sketching tour with Grenoble, while Mme. Frager can
accept Mme. de Smarte's invitation to spend a few days with her at St.
Cloud."

Claude did not reply, and Mme. Sirvin, thinking his hesitation arose
from disinclination, cried: "Do you not see that I can not stand this
life another hour? I am growing insane, and my mouth will proclaim the
truth in spite of my struggles to be silent."

"We will obey you, Madame."

The same day Elaine spoke to her son, saying: "Do you not think that
Odette is indisposed? She needs a change. A few days in the country
would improve her health very much. Do not be selfish, and keep her
shut up with you in the stifling, hot city."

"Dear mother, how thoughtful you are! A little trip to the mountains
would do us both good. I will go with her next week some where--"

"What, would you leave me alone! I have a better plan than that. Let
Odette accept Mme. de Smarte's invitation to St. Cloud. She would then
have the advantage of country air, and yet be so near that you could go
to see her every day. Grenoble and Claude are going away to-morrow on a
sketching tour, so you and I will be alone together for a week or so."

Claude left the next day; Odette, two or three days later. Elaine felt
as if half of her burden had been removed when the pair were no longer
in her sight. The future did not look so utterly hopeless when she and
her son were at last alone.



CHAPTER XIV.


Corinne and the humble M. Descoutures were at lunch when Mme. de
Bricourt was announced. They entered the drawing-room together, Corinne
having signified her august desire for him to remain and help her
receive her venerable friend.

"How glad I am to see you, dear child," said Mme. de Bricourt,
embracing Corinne affectionately. "How charming you look to-day. Your
hair is arranged so artistically and becomingly. Do you know I am
worried to death over these slanders about our poor, dear Odette. We
must find some way to defend her, or her reputation will be ruined
for ever. What can we do to save her?" She raised her eyes to heaven
as if calling it to witness to the purity and loyalty of her heart.
Fortunately heaven usually refuses to testify in such cases. Corinne
had assumed an air of dumb consternation that relieved her from the
responsibility of replying.

"This love affair between Odette and Claude, is whispered about on all
sides. Of course, we do not believe in it; but all agree in saying that
there must be some fire where there is so much smoke. We must do some
thing, dearest Corinne, to save Odette, before it is too late. We must
sacrifice every thing to friendship; but, what can we do?"

"I am sure I do not know!"

"I thought perhaps you might tell her what people are saying about her;
skilfully, you know, concealing the worst, perhaps. What could be more
natural than for you to do so--two friends of about the same age."

Corinne smiled at this pleasant little fiction in regard to their age
being the same, but replied:

"I do not think that would have the least effect, Odette is so wilful
and determined."

"Yes, I am afraid you are right. She would naturally be indignant and
deny every thing. But if we could only let her husband know in some way
of the disgrace hanging over his name."

Corinne's eyes sparkled. She had never forgiven Paul his desertion
of her for Odette, at Carqueirannes; and here was an opportunity for
revenge, both on him and on Odette.

Mme. de Bricourt continued: "He will never know, unless some accident
or some devoted friend opens his eyes. If I were young and charming
like you, dear child, I would not delay an instant in informing him of
these slanders, so that he could refute them. I am too old to undertake
the task. My fingers are not delicate enough to pour the balm into the
wound; but you, dear Corinne, your gentle sympathy would heal the blow
as it was made."

Corinne sighed. She was thinking of that declaration of love, so
inopportunely and fatally interrupted by Odette. Perhaps free from her
sorcery, he might return to his first love. Mme. de Bricourt read these
thoughts in her mind as well as if she had spoken them aloud, and was
satisfied with her work. The seed she had sown would come to maturity.
So she adroitly changed the subject, and, soon after, took leave.

When Corinne returned to the drawing-room after having accompanied her
friend to the door, she found M. Descoutures pacing up and down the
room in great agitation, instead of sitting quietly upright in his
chair, as usual.

Corinne glanced at him severely: "Are you trying to imitate the bears
at the menagerie? But it is of no consequence; leave the room. I wish
to be alone."

He usually vanished at this command; but this time he did not obey.

"Did you not hear me, M. Descoutures?"

He stood before her, pale, evidently trying to nerve himself to speak.
He opened his mouth two or three times, but had not the courage to
utter a sound. Finally, he said:

"If--I--yes, heard you, only I--perfectly--wanted to say--"

"What do you want to say?"

"I was in the room during your conversation with Mme. de Bricourt; and,
I beg your pardon if I am mistaken, but I understood from your remarks
that it was your intention to repeat these foolish scandals to M.
Frager."

"Well! what then?" she replied scornfully indifferent.

M. Descoutures seemed to grow more and more embarrassed. He loosened
his cravat, that appeared to be strangling him. His eyes seemed to be
starting from their sockets.

He continued, however: "But you must not do any thing to open his eyes.
Your heart must show you that ignorance is better than the anguish of
certainty or even suspicion. In your blind, mistaken generosity, you
would plunge a whole family into the bitterest sorrow and despair."

Poor, brave little gentleman! He had spoken quickly, and only stopped
as he thought of Laviguerie overwhelmed by this scandal about his
favorite daughter. Corinne gazed at him in amazement, and then, struck
by the absurdity of the situation, laughed and turned to leave the
room. M. Descoutures rose to the occasion. Seizing her by the arm, he
continued: "To begin with, you must not leave this room." Corinne drew
herself to her full height and said with the greatest indignation: "Do
you dare to lay hands on me! You must be insane!" She tried to leave
the room, but the little man held her fast. "I am not insane now, but I
was the day I married you, you cruel, wicked woman! I have been quiet
for twenty years, submitting to you and your unreasonable demands. I
did not care so much when you only wounded me; but now you are planning
to mortally injure the friends I love most on earth, and I swear you
shall not do it. I see through your plots, and if you attempt to resist
me, and carry them out, by God! I will kill you!"

M. Descoutures stood erect before her, his arms crossed. Corinne
really was afraid of him. She sank into a chair. M. Descoutures pulled
the bell. When the servant answered the summons, he said: "Madame
Descoutures is very much indisposed. She will keep her room for a few
days, and will see no callers or friends. She will not be at home to
any one. Do you understand?"

The servant looked at Madame Descoutures for a ratification of the
order, but he only met her gaze of stony horror. He felt vaguely that
some unusual scene was taking place; that the authority in the house
was changing hands.

When he had disappeared, M. Descoutures turned to his wife, saying:
"Now go to your room, and do not dare to leave it."

She rose and went to her room, his threat still ringing in her ears,
"By God! I will murder you!" Her anger and baffled fury were at a
white heat by this time. She charged Odette with being the cause of
all this humiliation, and her affection for her was not increased by
this thought. And she was balked of her revenge! At this point the good
soul wept with rage. She spent an hour trying to devise some means
to circumvent her husband. A Hindoo proverb says, "If you imprison a
woman, keep watch over the key-hole." Corinne could write. She could
use that cowardly weapon--an anonymous letter.

But how could she word it? Her accusation must be accompanied by
convincing proof, or Paul's noble, trusting heart would meet it with
simple disbelief. Where could she find this proof? She reflected for
another hour, till finally, she started with a cry of delight. Claude
and Odette must certainly have exchanged a few notes. Lovers have so
much to say to each other, that, in spite of their frequent meetings,
they must have occasionally written a line or two to slip into the
other's hand. At first, of course they destroyed them; but Odette
surely must have received some little note so sweet, so tender, that
she could not deny herself the pleasure of keeping it to read again
at her leisure. A woman that preserves one love-letter is lost, for a
second and a third is added to it, until all are preserved, hidden away
under lock and key.

Corinne had found the thread to guide her out of the labyrinth, while
her jealous hatred aided her still farther. Taking it for granted that
Odette had some love-letters from Claude in her possession, where could
she have concealed them. Corinne thought she was baffled at first,
but she finally remembered an exquisitely carved oaken cabinet that
Germaine had found in a bric-à-brac store in Naples and sent to her
sister. Odette valued it very highly, and was in the habit of keeping
her letters and jewelry in it. What would be more probable than that
she had locked Claude's letters in this desk with her other valuables.

So Corinne based her communication on two hypotheses; first, that any
letters had passed between the lovers; second, the place where they
were kept.

In any case, such an accusation, accompanied with such apparent proof,
must destroy the confidence and loving trust of the husband.

He would either find the letters, or he would not find them. If his
trust survived this shock Corinne could then find some other way to
enlighten him.

She sat down to her writing-desk, and disguising her handwriting as
much as possible, wrote as follows:

"One of your friends believes it his duty to inform you that M. Sirvin
is the favored lover of Mme. Frager. He was her lover before she
married you. If you still doubt, ask her to show you the contents of
the oaken desk, in her bed-room."

Mme. Descoutures quietly folded her note, put it in an envelope, wrote
the address, and calling a servant, gave it to him to mail.

M. Descoutures having given no orders to the contrary, the servant
obeyed, and Corinne, from the window, watched him put it into the
letter-box on the corner.

So it was launched. It was taken from the letter-box to the
post-office, where it seemed lost among the thousands of other letters,
circulars and newspapers. One of the employés picked it up, little
dreaming that he held in his hand the fate of a whole family; he tossed
it one side, on a table already covered with hundreds of letters.

The Greeks of old wrote of Fate. The oracles of ancient Greece are
replaced to-day by the honest, sturdy letter-carriers in their grey and
black uniform.

It was nine o'clock in the evening. Odette was visiting her friend at
St. Cloud; Claude and Grenoble had been absent several days on their
sketching tour; Mme. Sirvin had retired early; so Paul was writing
alone in his study. His book was progressing finely and would soon be
ready for the publisher. Happiness is such a help to labor. He finally
threw aside his pen, gayly, conscious that he had written well, and
glad to have accomplished so much. He looked around for the evening
paper and saw the letter lying on the table, that the servant had
brought up with the paper. He noticed that the handwriting was unknown
to him, and, carelessly thinking of some thing else, he opened the
envelope.

He read the note in one glance, without moving, or uttering a sound;
then, thinking he had misunderstood it, read it again. He crushed the
paper in his hand and tossed it away, saying, "Poor Odette! That such a
scoundrel should dare to even take her name on his lips!" Not a moment,
not an instant of suspicion. His only thought was of tender sympathy
with his wife and anger at her enemy.

He walked up and down the room, trying to imagine who could have
written the cowardly, venomous thing; but could not think of a single
enemy, far or near. The idea of his wife being untrue to him brought a
smile to his lips, it was so preposterous. Then, to think that the only
man whose name could be coupled with hers, should be Claude! Claude, so
kind, so generous and thoughtful! These hideous fancies, perhaps, arose
from the fact that it was Claude's generosity that had enabled them to
marry; and then, Claude and Odette were obliged to go out a great deal
together, as they were dwelling under the same roof. He did not notice
that he was proving that the calumny at least had some appearance of
probability. He knew well the oak cabinet in her room; he could catch
a glimpse of it through the open door. Involuntarily he walked in and
looked at it, and a sudden instinct caused him to seize the poker from
the fireplace, and knock on the lock till it gave way and the carved
doors flew open. He felt ashamed of his suspicious search as he saw the
little drawers and divisions open before him. He withdrew his hand that
he had half extended. Then, hurriedly, stealthily, like a thief in the
night, he pulled open the drawers one by one, looking their contents
carefully over, and tossing them aside. At last he came across a small,
square, Japanese box. He shuddered as he found it locked. He knocked it
violently against the desk, so that the cover came off in his hands,
and his heart stood still as he saw a package of letters inside, tied
with a narrow ribbon. He tore off this band and read the letters. He
uttered a stifled cry of horror and despair. A wild, insane longing to
have the blood of the guilty pair, seized him. He remembered that both
were away from home; but Odette was at St. Cloud. He seized his hat and
rushed out of the house, saying to himself; "I will kill her! I will
kill her!" The avenue was crowded with the usual Summer evening throng,
happy and gay; but Paul made his way through it, seeing nothing,
hearing nothing, but Odette in Claude's arms, and a voice in his heart
crying fiercely, Kill her! kill her!

So he had been deceived from the first! Even before his marriage
had Claude and Odette loved each other! Nothing but treachery! He
recalled the first months of his married life, when Odette had been so
inexpressibly sweet and fascinating; those long, passionate embraces;
their strolls in the woods; he could see the waves dancing in the
sunbeams as he closed his eyes; that enchanting "solitude à deux;" and
he gnashed his teeth as he reflected that it was all treachery and
deceit. Odette had been lying when she told him she loved him; lying,
when she embraced him. Nothing, nothing was left him. All had been
false. She must die; and Claude must die. Paul recalled Claude's visit
to Canet, when he thought him the soul of generosity and honor; and
that, too, was false treachery! Claude wanted to establish his mistress
in a house of her own, and could find no more suitable husband for her
than his wife's son! Oh! it was infamous! And perhaps people thought
that Paul had walked into the snare with his eyes open! No one could
have believed that he alone was blind to his dishonor, but must have
supposed his complaisant approval arose from feeling it to be to his
interest to silently acquiesce! Paul stopped. He was seized with a
sudden dizziness that forced him to cling to a tree for support. He
had been walking blindly through the Bois de Boulogne, deserted and
quiet at this late hour. His honor, as well as his happiness, had been
smitten to the ground. Again he felt the instinct to kill his guilty
wife drive him on. He dashed madly forward. He stumbled over a stone
and fell to the ground. He grasped a drooping branch of the tree above
him, and raised himself to his feet. He found his wild flight stopped
by a low wall, broken down in many places, and covered with moss. He
uttered a cry of dismay, for it was a cemetery that lay before him,
gloomy and silent.

Paul saw the white gravestones in the pale moonlight, extending as far
as he could see. The neglected cypresses and willows stretched their
shaggy arms towards each other in ghostly silence. The grass grew
thick and rank on the graves. No grand monuments or tombs were to be
seen; only simple crosses, or plain marble slabs, gray and discolored
with age.

It all seemed to Paul so sad, so sweetly peaceful. His anger subsided.
He was hurrying to St. Cloud to kill his wife, and here lay Death at
his feet. He leaned his arms on the wall and gazed on the solemn scene.
Just before him lay a grave whose plain slab bore no other words save
this simple inscription: "My Mother." Probably some poor, nameless
woman, whose child had raised this touching tribute to her memory.

Those two words, "My Mother," sank into Paul's heart. Where was he
going? To kill Odette, and to bring shame and disgrace to the wife of
Claude Sirvin, the other victim of the tragedy. His mother! He thought
no longer of himself, only of her, and his heart seemed ready to burst
with sorrow and grief for her. How she worshiped her husband! and she
would die at the news of his crime! Then the same thought came to him,
in his love for his mother, that had come to the mother in her love
for him; the sublime and noble idea of sacrificing himself for her
happiness. The son said "My mother," as the mother had said "My son."

His eyes still rested on the slab before him, that seemed to say:
"Tread lightly; speak softly; there is some one sleeping here."

This unknown son, imploring silence for his dead mother, seemed to
show Paul that his duty was silence. Mme. Sirvin must never learn the
horrible truth. It was a fearful sacrifice; but had not the mother
borne as much for him? She had carried him under her heart; she had
brought him into the world; she had devoted her life to rear him to
manhood. Now he must, in his turn, suffer for her.

But could he be silent? Could he close his eyes to his own dishonor?
He would take Odette far, far away; cross the ocean; hide himself in a
desert--no matter where; at least, he would leave peace and contentment
with his mother.

God seemed to reward his noble resolution, for a heavenly calm
succeeded the tempest of rage in his soul. He had been on the point of
committing a crime, but God had shown him that vengeance cometh from
on high. Was he the only unhappy creature on earth? Among the hundreds
lying so peacefully before him, there must have been some that had
suffered during their mortal life. The moonlight showed hundreds and
hundreds of graves, and in each one there must be either a man, or a
woman, or a child; and each one had had their share of pain and sorrow.

Pain and sorrow--they meet us at the cradle, and accompany us to the
grave.

Paul buried his face in his hands and wept. The cypresses, the willows,
the graves--all were silent. Not a murmur, not a whisper, among the
branches. Nature seemed to sympathize with his unspeakable woe. As he
wept his grief seemed lightened. His mother needed him, or he would
have been tempted to lay down this life that had grown such a sad,
sad burden. He envied the dead around him. But still it was cowardly
to even wish to die. This life is a battle-field, and God pardons no
deserters. Paul said to himself he would fight it out to the bitter
end, would struggle and conquer. If even his contempt and hatred
should not strangle his fatal love for Odette; if, in spite of all his
efforts, he could not tear her from his heart, why, even then, life is
not made for happiness alone, and he ought not to complain.

The path of duty lay plain before him. Prevent his mother from
suspecting the truth; take his wife to America, for he must earn his
own livelihood now. That infamous gift of Claude's should be cast in
his teeth!

He raised his head, strengthened by his decisions, and turned to
retrace his steps; but where could he go? Return to Claude's house--eat
his bread? Never! And yet he would be obliged to, for he must avoid
giving his mother the least cause for suspicion. He would go to St.
Cloud the next day to acquaint Odette with his decision. He thought of
her quite calmly now; his scorn and contempt had killed his love.

It was long past midnight when he found himself again in his study. He
shuddered, for he was surrounded by the traces of Odette's presence. He
saw her in the book she had been reading, in the furniture, arranged
according to her taste, in the paintings she admired.

He staggered into her bedchamber, where he fell into a chair, his heart
beating fast. Every thing was as he had left it. The oaken cabinet
faced him with its open doors and contents in disorder. The letters
still lay scattered about the floor. Her room! And he had loved her
so! The delicate perfume that she was accustomed to use floated in the
air; in one corner stood the tiny book-case with her favorite books;
Germaine's portrait smiled at him from the wall. He shivered from head
to foot; and he thought his love had been killed by contempt! How
foolish he had been to think that his passionate love, stronger than
death itself, had been destroyed in an hour!

He hated her; he despised her; and he adored her! He threw himself,
still dressed, on the bed, and all night long he tossed and turned,
his brain teeming with these burning thoughts, his heart bleeding with
anguish, and his imagination recalling scenes of happiness and despair.
The sun stood high in the heavens when sleep came at last to soothe his
fevered brain.

Elaine wondered what made her son sleep so unusually late this morning,
but would not allow him to be disturbed. Between four and five she went
to his room and knocked lightly. As she received no reply she opened
the door, and saw Paul throwing clothes and books into his trunk.

"Are you going away, my son?"

He turned hastily, hesitated an instant, then tenderly embraced her.
She supposed he was going to spend a day or so with Odette, and the
thought filled her with sorrow and indignation; but she must conceal
her feelings, so she said:

"Is it a pleasant day?"

He, too, had his terrible secret. If the room had been lighter she
would have read it in his blood-shot eyes, in his drawn features, and
his livid pallor. But she saw nothing of it.

"Very pleasant, mother."

A long silence. Both hesitating and embarrassed; neither daring to
glance at the other. Elaine saw his reflection in the mirror and
started at his paleness. Could he have any suspicions? Did he know of
his wife's dishonor? How could she find out? Turning to the window, she
said, "Why, here is a carriage at the door. How tiresome; some one has
come to call, and I'm not dressed. But, no; it is Grenoble, and there
is Claude."

"He?" cried Paul, angrily.

Elaine turned around. She said,

"You know all."

Without replying, he buried his head in his hands. Elaine went to him,
put her arms around him, and drew his head to her bosom.

"My poor child, how you must suffer."

"Oh, mother!" and he wept like a little child. She kissed him, caressed
him, as if he were again the little son of so many years ago. A son
never seems a man in his mother's eyes, and when he is in trouble, she
takes him again to her heart, as she did in his childhood.

She whispered:

"And have you found it out? And did you try to conceal it from me to
save my happiness, as I have kept it from you to save yours, my brave
Paul?"

In the midst of her bitter anguish, she still felt a glow of pride at
this proof of her son's noble character. They seemed drawn still closer
together by their mutual suffering--their mutual sacrifice.

Grieving over his sorrow, she forgot her own. He was so young. He had
barely raised the cup of life and happiness to his lips, when it was
dashed from his hand. So young, so brave, so noble!

Finally, she raised her head:

"We must weep no longer, Paul. Every crime must have its punishment. Do
your duty. Those two criminals deserve no mercy. They have dishonored
the mother and the son. You know where to find them. Do your duty--my
revenge and yours!"

She raised her hand and pointed to the door, beautiful as Truth,
implacable as Destiny!



CHAPTER XV.


A little beyond Montrétout, the road makes a sudden turn to the left.
At this point commences a magnificent avenue of old elms, leading to a
country house built in the days of Louis XIV, and now hardly visible
through the dense foliage surrounding it.

Here lived M. and Mme. de Smarte, and here Odette was spending a few
days with her friend.

Adèle de Smarte was one of the loveliest and best women in Paris,
stylish and witty. It is not difficult to acquire a reputation for
brilliancy by making cruel, sarcastic remarks about one's friends; but
Adèle's witty conversation never belied her loving, loyal heart.

Towards eight o'clock, the guests, scattered about the grounds since
dinner, gradually re-assembled in the drawing-rooms. It was one of
those exquisite Summer evenings, when mere existence is bliss.

"Do not forget your promise to give us some music this evening, dear
Odette," said Mme. de Smarte.

"I have not forgotten it," she replied.

Odette was a wonderful pianist. Her exceptional musical talent had
been cultivated until perfection was the result. She never waited to
be urged. Only indifferent performers require coaxing and persuading,
before they will attack the unfortunate piano.

"What will you have?" she asked, turning to her hostess.

"Beethoven--his music suits all tastes."

Odette commenced the sonata in C sharp, minor--that marvelous work--it
is a soul crying out in its agony. Mme. Frager played it with her whole
heart, and when she had finished, all remained silent still affected
by its wonderful beauty.

The sound of the door-bell broke the silence.

"Who can be coming here so late?" exclaimed Mme. de Smarte, in
astonishment.

A servant opened the door to the drawing-room, and announced:

"M. Paul Frager."

Odette started to her feet as she heard her husband's name, and stood
leaning against the piano.

The young man's features were distorted and pale. He was trembling, and
yet seemed rigid in his stately dignity.

Odette saw at the first glance that Paul knew her crime, and felt that
every thing was at an end for her, but did not stir from where she
stood, bravely awaiting the blow.

Mme. de Smarte welcomed M. Frager, and enquired after his mother. But
all in the room felt the tragedy to come, and all held their breath as
the young man began to speak.

"Madame," he said, bowing gravely to Mme. de Smarte, "only the
importance of my errand excuses this late arrival. I hope you will
forgive me, and grant me this request, that I may consider this house
as my own for the next ten minutes."

All had risen to their feet, pale and trembling. All understood that
the tempest had broken, and that the whispers about Odette were to be
answered in this fatal hour. Adèle's heart swelled with sympathy and
compassion for the betrayed husband, yet she dared not reply to him.
Her husband, however, bowed to the young man in token of silent assent,
and he continued slowly, "Madame, I have discovered a most abominable
crime. The woman that bears my name has a lover; that lover is my
mother's husband. I am ignorant of the exact length of time that my
dishonor has lasted; but I know this, every one seeing me live under
his roof and eat his bread, must have supposed my complaisant blindness
was bought and paid for; that I, the son of one and the husband of the
other, bargained with my mother's disgrace and my wife's virtue. God
keep you all from such despair as mine. But if my happiness is gone for
ever, I will at least preserve my honor."

Turning to Odette, he continued:

"As M. de Smarte has had the kindness to allow me to consider this
house as my own, I order you out of it, and not only out of this house,
but out of society. I want your degradation to be as public as your
disgrace has been."

All were silent. Odette stood proudly defiant before them.

Pointing to the open door, Paul exclaimed, "Begone!"

A smile curled her lips. Rather die than let any one see the savage
despair in her heart, she shrugged her shoulders, and passed through
the groups to the door. On the threshold she turned and confronted them
once more, then coolly took her shawl from a chair in the hall, threw
it over her shoulders, and walked slowly down the avenue until she was
lost to sight.

She sank on the grass by the road-side, saying, "There is nothing
so grand as a good, noble man," and sat there a few minutes staring
blankly into the darkness. She imagined she heard steps approaching;
frightened, she rose and fled.

Where could she go? To her father? Claude was away, and besides, in
this supreme hour, she saw clearly that Claude would abandon her
after such public disgrace. She was walking hurriedly down the road
to Montrétout. She could see Paris in front of her; the thousands of
lights twinkled in the distance like stars; no buildings could be
separately distinguished, only a dark mass, stretched as far as she
could see. The Seine lay like a ribbon before her, a belt that the
proud city has wound around her waist; yonder lay a dark shadow that
she knew was the Bois de Boulogne, with its thick foliage. Odette
stopped to gaze at the scene before her. So that was Paris--Paris that
had crowned her one of the queens of fashion and beauty! Paris that was
so indulgent to respectable vice; so forgiving to concealed crimes, and
so pitilessly cruel when the thin disguise was removed; so relentless
when the Rubicon has once been crossed.

The distant murmur that came to her from the great city seemed a
thousand voices, crying Shame. She was an outcast!

The train was just starting as she sprang into the car. Fortunately,
she met none of her acquaintances.

The scandal to-morrow would be known all over the city. The famous
artist's love for his daughter-in-law would be the sensation of the
hour.

Germaine alone remained to her. Germaine would receive her.

She was driven to the old house on the Quai Voltaire, and, in spite
of the late hour, found Germaine still busy at work, sewing. The door
stood open into little Bessie's bed-room, so that as she worked she
could watch the little one's peaceful slumber.

Germaine raised her head as the door opened, and looked quietly at her
sister.

"You are astonished at seeing me, Germaine."

"I was expecting you."

"Expecting me?"

"Yes. When a woman is sunk as deep in crime and degradation as you are,
the hour comes sooner or later when she is driven to seek shelter with
her own family. I am not surprised."

Odette staggered back against the wall. Germaine knew all!

Her sister's cold, quiet tones pierced her to the heart. What! would
Germaine, too, drive her away!

She ran to her sister, and, seizing her hand, cried: "Do you hate me,
too?"

Germaine released her hand without replying. Then the bitterness of
death overcame Odette. She was alone, alone! Even Germaine repulsed
her! But Germaine could not drive her away! She would never believe her
sister capable of such cold-heartedness.

Grasping her hand again, she cried: "Oh, Germaine, why do you treat me
so? I have only you left to love me. I never would have shut you out of
my heart if you had committed a crime. Here, on my knees, I implore you
to take pity on me." And she clung, sobbing, to her sister. Germaine
looked down at her with infinite compassion and sorrow.

"I have no excuse, not one! But, if you only knew what I suffered,
trying to resist this consuming passion. You can not know. Your life
is so pure and holy, that you can not even imagine what love and
passion are."

Germaine started up, her eyes flaming: "Your criminal passion is no
excuse. You think no one can resist this love that carries one away
like a mighty river. You think I can not even imagine what love and
passion are! But, let me tell you that I, too, know them as well as
you! I carry in my heart a love as deep, as wildly passionate, as
yours. You love Claude; I love Paul! Do you remember that little
romance I told you so long ago? It was Paul that was at our house. It
was Paul I loved. When you told me the name of your future husband, my
soul writhed in agony. But I said nothing, because I supposed of course
you loved him."

Odette was still kneeling on the floor, completely overwhelmed by this
revelation.

Germaine continued: "I have never entered your door since I discovered
that you were betraying your noble husband. I became nearly insane
with the longing to throw my arms around his neck, to lavish the love
and tenderness upon him that his wife was giving to another. Many and
many a time have I prayed for strength to resist this burning passion
that drove me to him. My sleepless nights, my feverish days--it is
with me all the time! So, do not come to me with any excuses for your
crime!" Seeing Odette's utter despair, she again felt only pity for
her, and stooped to embrace her. Odette avoided her, however, saying:
"You have compassion on me because you are an angel, but your love for
me is past."

"Odette!"

"Yes; you love me no longer. I do not blame you. I have unconsciously
caused you the greatest suffering and sorrow. I came between you and
your happiness. We can never be the same again, for I have ruined your
life. May I go to your room for to-night? I am fainting with fatigue,
and I wish to be alone."

Odette dragged herself to the bed-room and closed the door. So Germaine
loved Paul, as Odette loved Claude! Why had one fallen, while the
other stood firm? She glanced around the simple chamber, so pure and
sweet. The bed stood in the alcove, half hidden by the pretty muslin
curtains. A few vases and photographs lay on the mantelpiece, with a
little statue of the Virgin Mary in the center. Did Germaine's strength
of character come from that little statue? Could it be her religion
that had sustained and comforted her in her hours of darkness? Odette
meditated long and deeply. Which was true, Atheism or Religion? Which
of the two sisters was the better prepared for the battle of life; the
one with her beads and images, or the one with logic and reason?

Odette dared not reply. Germaine had not fallen, simply because her
temptation had not been as great. It was too absurd to think that her
faith in some stories about a cross and a child in a manger, had given
her the victory.

But Odette was persuaded that Germaine's flame-lit eyes revealed a
love as passionate as her own. Perhaps she, too, would have conquered,
if she had had this faith; and how it would have consoled her in her
present loathsome degradation! Did not Christ forgive the Magdalen at
his feet?

The hours passed slowly. Morning had arrived before she sank to sleep.

When she awoke, Germaine was kneeling at her bedside, holding her hand.

"You?" murmured Odette.

"Yes, dear sister. I am here to implore your forgiveness. I was harsh
and cruel to you last night. Will you accept me for your companion?
I have plenty of money, you know. Let us go far, far away, to some
other country, where you and I can live alone together, in peace and
content."

Odette replied:

"Oh, you brave, noble heart! I am guilty and miserable; but I am not
degraded enough to accept your noble offer."

She embraced her sister tenderly, humbly; then she rose.

"Farewell, dear Germaine! I must go to my doom. Farewell."

As she entered Germaine's sitting-room, she met her father, and saw by
his agitation and the open letter in his hand, that he had heard from
Paul.

"You, here!" he exclaimed. "Miserable girl!"

Odette had her hand on the door, but turned at these words.

"You, at least, can not reproach me, father! An hour of irresistible
temptation comes to us women. We feel ourselves dragged to the edge
of the precipice with a terrible grasp. Other women have some thing
to cling to, some God to cry to; but I could find nothing to seize
hold of. I screamed for help, but none came. I looked to Heaven, but
you had taught me it was empty. I know what you are going to say. My
shame and disgrace are known all over the city. I can feel the pitiless
finger of scorn pointed at me. I am fallen so low that, if I did not
have an angel for a sister, not one compassionate glance would fall on
me. This degradation is your work, father. Are you not proud of it?
God, the soul, eternity, the Virgin--they may be foolish, old-fashioned
superstitions; but women without them are helpless and lost."

She turned again to the door.

"Odette, Odette, where are you going?" cried the unhappy father.

"I am going where all women go whose honor is lost, who are desperate,
who believe in neither God, nor goodness, nor justice. I am going--to
perdition!"

And she disappeared, leaving her father's gray head bowed in despair,
while Germaine was kneeling, her eyes and hands raised to Heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

All Paris remembers Claude Sirvin's attempt at suicide.

The famous artist shot himself in the breast, but fortunately he
recovered from the dangerous wound. I met him not long since, gay and
smiling, with a pretty little actress on his arm.

       *       *       *       *       *

But no one seemed so thoroughly contented and happy as Count David
de Bruges; that is, until the day when his handsome horses ran away
with him and overturned the carriage. His injuries were comparatively
slight, but his companion, the beautiful Odette, was carried home
lifeless.

In a beautiful villa, almost hidden by the grand old elm trees
surrounding it, in Paissy, that lovely suburb of Paris, lives the
author of that work on "Comparative Legislation," which last Winter
attracted such attention in the legal circles of the old and the new
world.

A quiet peace and contentment reign in this charming home, where Elaine
and Paul, in their true and tender affection for each other, have
sought and found forgiveness and forgetfulness of the sad, sad past.

The future shines bright with hope, for Paul is soon to bring Germaine
to his mother as his tenderly loved wife.

With Elaine's devoted affection, and Germaine's true, noble heart that
for so many years has worshiped him in secret, Paul Frager will surely
find that beautiful happiness of home that is

                  ----"The only bliss
  Of Paradise that has survived the fall."



THE SUCCESS OF THE YEAR.

HAMMOCK SERIES, NO. 1.


"No Gentlemen."

The brightest, most readable and entertaining novel of the season.

_WHAT THE PRESS SAY OF IT._

 "We are soon amused, interested and charmed. Belonging to the class
 of stories popularly called 'bright,' and published judiciously at
 the opening of the season of hammocks and piazzas, it is far more
 readable than most of its kind. The plot is not too much of a plot
 for a legitimate New England story, and the conversation of 'Jabe' is
 racy enough to make us forget that we were tired of Yankee dialect, as
 treated by Mrs. Stowe and Mrs Whitney. Indeed the book is thoroughly
 enjoyable."--_The Critic, New York._

"No Gentlemen."

 "Is a very bright and readable novel."--_The Commercial, Louisville._

"No Gentlemen."

 "Clearly belongs to a class whose highest ambition is to be
 'bright'--an ambition which, indeed, is seldom more fully
 justified."--_The Dial._

"No Gentlemen."

 "Is readable, bright and never bores one."--_N. Y. Tribune._

 "The conversations in 'No Gentlemen' are bright, the characters well
 drawn and adroitly contrasted."--_Am. Bookseller, N. Y._

"No Gentlemen."

 "Is written in a bright, fresh style, something like that of Mrs. A.
 D. T. Whitney, or more nearly, perhaps, that of the author of Phyllis
 and Molly Bawn, which is to say, much of it. * * Girl graduates of the
 present season, into whose hands it falls, will seize upon it, after
 the first taste, as if it were a rosy and juicy peach; which, so to
 speak, in a figure, it very nearly is."--_Literary World, Boston._

 Hezekiah Butterworth, in the Boston _Transcript_, says of "No
 Gentlemen" that the plot is well managed, and the story brightly told.

"No Gentlemen."

 "The story opens in Boston, and concerns New England life. The
 characters, relative to the soil, are very clearly drawn, and there
 is a great deal of originality in the plot and treatment of the
 story."--_Boston Courier._

 "It is a bright narrative of the summering of a half-dozen Boston
 girls just out of school, at Red Farm, in Pineland, with Miss Hopeful
 Bounce, who advertises for summer boarders, but '_No Gentlemen_.' In
 order to make a novel, of course this prohibition must be broken down,
 and as the girls, particularly the heroine and her special friend, are
 pleasant company, the story is as readable as if it were a 'No Name,'
 as it is in fact."--_Springfield Republican._

"No Gentlemen."

 Is issued in elegant style, being printed on fine tinted paper, making
 a book of 348 pages, bound in fine cloth, with unique side stamp in
 black and gold, and sold at the low price of $1.00, by the publishers.

  HENRY A. SUMNER & COMPANY,
  205 Wabash Ave., CHICAGO


AN INSTANTANEOUS SUCCESS.

We, Von Arldens.

A New Novel by Miss Douglas.

12mo, 487 pp., illustrated. Cloth, side and back stamp. Retail price,
$1.50.


We, Von Arldens.

 "Is a novel which can not fail to become exceedingly popular with that
 portion of our people who find in a well written romance the necessary
 gold to give a gilt-edged finish to such aspirations as may give a new
 pleasure to existence."--_Albany Post._

We, Von Arldens.

 "This is an amusing story, racy in style, interesting in plan, and
 charming in delineation of characters.... A captivating story."--_The
 Saturday Evening Post, of San Francisco._

We, Von Arldens.

 "Full of life from beginning to end. It is one of those lively books
 that are always in demand."--_The Grand Rapids Eagle._

We, Von Arldens.

 "Miss Douglas has written a very pleasant domestic story. The family
 is a lively one, and their several characters are deftly drawn."--_The
 Chicago Evening Journal._

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 "There is a good deal of bright anecdote in the book."--_The Troy
 Times._

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 "It is a homelike story with no silly nonsense in it.... It ought to
 have a large sale."--_The Commercial Advocate, of Detroit._

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 "This is a cleverly contrived story, possessing marked originality and
 interest."--_Philadelphia Herald._

We, Von Arldens.

 "A lively, rattling story of county and village life."--_Pittsburgh
 Daily Post._

We, Von Arldens.

 "A spicily written story, of powerful grasp and decidedly
 Western texture. We have been exceedingly favorably impressed
 with the story, and think our readers will agree with us in this
 opinion."--_Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle._

We, Von Arldens.

 "It is a very spicy book, bubbling over with wit and repartee of a
 harmless kind.... In fact, the book is a very pleasant pill to take
 for the blues."--_Boston Sunday Herald._

  HENRY A. SUMNER & COMPANY,
  PUBLISHERS, CHICAGO.



THE HAMMOCK SERIES.--No. 2.

BARBERINE:

_The Story of a Woman's Devotion_.

A NOVEL.


"No one can begin this story without reading it to the end, for there
is not a page at which the interest flags, and it is almost impossible
not to feel that 'Barberine' was a woman of history, and not of
fiction."--_N. Y. Herald._

"The plot has to do with a Russian Nihilist conspiracy, and there is
enough love, murder and politics to furnish material for half a dozen
novels."--_Boston Evening Transcript._

"Chicago publishing houses are fast coming to the front with good
books, well made, and sold at popular prices. This is one of them, a
volume which we judge from a cursory glance, will find many readers
during the midsummer weather. It is not a philosophical treatise,
disguised as a novel by a _bright_, well-written story. The plot is
well laid, and the language in good taste."--_Albany Sunday Press._

"Few novels issued during the last half year are of more absorbing
interest. It is a story of a life of self-sacrifice.... There are
some fine dramatic effects produced by weaving into the romance an
insurrection in Poland, life in St. Petersburg, a journey to New York,
and thence to San Francisco before the days of the railroad."--_N. Y.
Evening Mail._

"It is told with great power, and in a strikingly realistic
manner."--_Saturday Evening Gazette, Boston._

"The plot is intricate and exciting, and incidents thickly crowded and
natural."--_St. Paul Pioneer Press._

"It is absorbingly interesting."--_American Bookseller, N. Y._

"There is nothing prosy about it in the least, but overflows with a
brilliancy that will cause it to be read by thousands."--_Commercial
Advertiser, Detroit._

"This is a charming novel."--_Daily Evening Post, San Francisco._


  1 vol., 12mo, 365 pages, Cloth, Red and Gold Stamp.
  Price, $1.00.

  Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the Publishers,
  _HENRY A. SUMNER & COMPANY, Chicago_.



WHAT THE PRESS SAY ABOUT

A Peculiar People.

An elegant 12mo vol. of 458 pages, handsomely bound in cloth.


A Peculiar People.

 "The recital throughout is spirited, and the book as a whole is one
 that may be read with pleasure, for the information it imparts and for
 the profitable reflections to which it gives rise."--_Saturday Evening
 Gazette, Boston._

A Peculiar People.

 "It is interesting and well written."--_The Commercial, Cincinnati._

A Peculiar People.

 "An entertaining sketch of oriental travel. It is full of
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A Peculiar People.

 "The book will well pay perusal."--_Albany Sunday Press._

A Peculiar People.

 "There is not a dull page in the book; it will have many
 admirers."--_Daily Monitor, Concord._

A Peculiar People.

 "We commend the book to those who desire home-travel in a wonderful
 land of mystery and marvel, of poetry and prophecy, of philosophy and
 promise."--_Pittsburgh Post._

A Peculiar People.

 "The scene of this unique story is laid in the Orient, in and near
 Mount Lebanon. A pleasing plot runs through the volume, which can not
 fail to interest the reader."--_Star and Covenant._

A Peculiar People.

 "The style is fascinating, and shows the vigor of young manhood,
 while the story illustrates the wisdom of a good, just and holy
 life."--_Gospel Banner, Augusta._


Mailed on receipt of price, $1.25, to any address, by the Publishers,

  =_HENRY A. SUMNER & COMPANY_,
  205 Wabash Ave., CHICAGO=.



A NEW AMERICAN NOVEL.

_Her Bright Future._

A brilliant story of American life, drawn from fact and fiction.


 "In many respects this is a strong story."--_Evening Journal_, Chicago.

 "Spiritedly written."--_Gazette_, Cincinnati.

 "The writer may be enrolled in the list of successful authors."--_Iowa
 State Register._

 "It is a story wrought out with considerable skill. The style is
 graceful and subdued, and although there are several sensational
 incidents, they are treated in quite an artistic manner."--_Daily
 Evening Traveler_, Boston, May 17, 1880.

 "Holds the attention closely from beginning to end."--_Bookseller and
 Stationer_, Chicago, May, 1880.

 "The story is not overdrawn, but it is natural and life-like, in plot
 and design, so much so that it does not read like a novel, but a true
 history of a beautiful life."--_Albany_ (N.Y.) _Sunday Press_, May 2,
 1880.

 "This is an American domestic novel, pure and clean, and beautiful in
 all its elements." * * _Missouri Republican_, St. Louis, May 8, 1880.

 "On the whole 'Her Bright Future' is above the general average, and,
 if a first dash into authorship, is at least very readable as well as
 unpretending."--_Evening News_, Philadelphia, May 7, 1880.

The elegant and unique binding, and handsomely printed page will add to
the pleasure of the possessor. 1 vol., 12mo., 310 pages, fine cloth,
black and gold stamp.



HENRY A. SUMNER & COMPANY,

PUBLISHERS, 205 WABASH AVE.,

Offer the following fresh and attractive books at popular prices:


IV. ZACHARIAH, THE CONGRESSMAN.

A Tale of American Society. By Gilbert A. Pierce. Illustrated. Square
12mo, heavy tinted paper, black and gold stamp, 440 pages, $1.00.

"Its Washington scenes are vividly sketched, and to the life, the
characters are drawn with the boldness of the ablest novelist,
and no American novel has ever fascinated me so resistlessly and
delightfully."--_Schuyler Colfax._

"I have read all of 'Zachariah,' and some of its passages two or three
times over. I do not hesitate to say that it is decidedly the best
story yet written in this country. Some of the scenes are as touching
as were ever penned by Dickens himself."--_Charles Aldrich._

A brilliant story of to-day. Will be read by all classes. NOW READY


III. A RESPECTABLE FAMILY.

By Ray Thompson. Square 12mo, black and gold stamp, etc. 550 pages,
$1.25.

A story of New England life, full of quaint humor and abounding in
pleasing incidents.

"He has given us an entertaining and not unprofitable book."--_Morning
Star._

"A perfect character-sketch of the humorous and earnest phrases of
American Life. The quaintness and native wit of Jones are delicious,
and many of his sayings and doings recall the genial side of Lincoln's
character.

"A thoroughly enjoyable book, and one showing the peculiarities of
American life in a most attractive manner."


II. SHADOWED BY THREE.

By Lawrence L. Lynch, Ex-Detective. Square 12mo, 53 illustrations,
black and gold stamp, 738 pages, $1.50.

The most remarkable and best written of all detective stories. The
illustrations alone are worth five times the price of the book.

"'Shadowed by Three' is _the_ novel of the day. If the author is as
good a detective as he is writer, he would be a boon to a Congressional
Investigating Committee--that is provided they ever wanted to 'find
things out,' which, of course, they don't. But do not imagine that this
book is a 'detective story' in the sense those words are generally
understood, for it is not. But it _is_ a powerfully constructed novel
of the school of 'The Woman in White,' 'The Moonstone,' 'Foul Play,'
etc., with the added great advantage that its author is thoroughly
familiar with, and master of, the varied and entrancing material he has
so skillfully woven into his vivid and richly colored story."


I. THE DOCTOR'S PROTÉGÉ.

By Miss May E. Stone. Square 12mo. 7 illustrations, black and gold
stamp, 330 pages, $1.00.

"The story is of rare beauty and intense interest."--_Boston Home Jour._

"It is a very pretty domestic novel gracefully written."--_Boston
Saturday Evening Gazette._

"Contains the material for a three-volumed novel, with enough surplus
to base half a dozen Sunday school books on."--_Detroit Evening News._

"The book is one that can not fail to please all who read its sparkling
pages. The story is a good one; genial, healthful, and charmingly
told."--_Wayne County Review._

"The book is a good one because it calls virtue and true womanhood and
the highest manhood into prominence."--_Chicago Inter Ocean._

Our publications are all gotten up in a superior style as regards
printing, binding, and illustrations. Mailed free on receipt of price.


HENRY A. SUMNER & CO., Publishers, CHICAGO.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

  Obvious printing mistakes have been corrected.
  Both "fireplace" and "fire-place" were used in this book.
  Both "depot" and "dépôt" were used in this book.
  Page 17, closing quotation mark added.
  Page 22, repeated word "the" removed in "the other, about the fogs."
  Page 35, "priz" changed to "prix."
  Page 100, "for-one" changed to "for one."
  Page 111, "wierd" changed to "weird."
  Page 160, "acknowlege" changed to "acknowledge."
  Page 168, "tête-á-têtes" changed to "tête-à-têtes."
  Page 176, opening quotation mark added.
  Page 253, superfluous opening quotation mark removed.
  Page 254, repeated word "one" removed.
  Page 256, added missing period after "May 7, 1880."
  Page 257, missing period added after "Detective."
  Page 257, opening double quotation mark added before "Shadowed by..."
  Page 257, missing period added after "colored story."





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