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Title: Mysteries of Paris — Volume 02
Author: Sue, Eugène
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mysteries of Paris — Volume 02" ***

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[Illustration: THE SAUCEPAN THROWN IN DEFIANCE]



THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS



_IN THREE VOLUMES_


VOLUME TWO



By EUGENE SUE



[Illustration]

THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE EXECUTION.


The surprised lapidary rose and opened the door. Two men entered the
garret. One of them was tall and thin, with a face mean and pimpled,
surrounded by thick, grayish whiskers; he held in his hand a stout
loaded cane, and wore a shapeless hat and a large green greatcoat,
covered with mud, and buttoned close up to the neck; the black velvet
collar, much worn, exposed to view his long, bare, red throat, which
resembled a vulture's. This man was one Malicorne. The other was short
and thick-set, his countenance equally mean, and his hair red. He was
dressed with an attempt at finery, quite ridiculous. Bright studs
fastened the front of his shirt, whose cleanliness was more than
doubtful; a long gold chain, passed across his second-hand plaid stuff
waistcoat, was left to view by a velveteen jacket, of a yellowish-gray
color. This man's name was Bourdin.

"Oh, what a stink of misery and death is here!" said Malicorne,
stopping at the threshold.

"The fact is, it does not smell of musk. What habits!" repeated
Bourdin, turning up his nose in disgust and disdain. He then advanced
toward the artisan, who looked at him with mingled surprise and
indignation.

Through the half-open door was seen Hoppy's evil, watchful, and
cunning face, who, having followed the strangers, unknown to them, was
narrowly watching and listening attentively.

"What do you want?" challenged the lapidary, roughly, disgusted with
the rudeness of the two men.

"Jerome Morel," responded Bourdin.

"I am he."

"Working jeweler?"

"The same."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Once more, I am that person; you annoy me--what do you want? Explain,
or leave the room!"

"Oh, you are coming the _bounce_, are you? I say, Malicorne,"
said this man, turning toward his companion, "there is no catch here;
it is not like the haul at Viscount de Saint-Remy's."

"No, but when there is much, the door is shut against you, as we found
in the Rue de---. The bird had watched the net, and would not be
taken; while such vermin as these stick to their _cribs_ like a
snail to his shell."

"It is my opinion that they only require to be jugged to cram
themselves."

"Still the costs will be more than ever the creditor _wolf_ will
get here; however, that's his look-out."

"Hold!" said Morel with indignation; "if you were not drunk, as you
surely are, I should be very angry. Instantly leave my room!"

"How very sharp you are this morning, old lopsides!" cried Malicorne,
insultingly alluding to the deformity in the lapidary's person.

"Do you hear, Malicorne?--he has the impudence to call this place a
_room_--a hole where I would not put my dog."

"For heaven's sake!" cried Madeleine, so alarmed, that till then she
had not spoken a word, "call for assistance; perhaps they are thieves.
Take care of the diamonds!"

In truth, seeing these two strangers, of doubtful appearance, approach
nearer and nearer to the bench on which lay the jewels, Morel, fearing
some evil intention, ran forward, and with both hands covered the
precious stones.

Hoppy, always on the watch, and listening, hearing Madeleine's words,
and seeing the movement of the artisan, said to himself; "They say he
is a cutter of false stones; if so, he would not fear their being
stolen. Just as well to know that. _I take!_ Then again, Mother
Mathieu, who comes here so often, is a dealer in _real_; and
those she has in her casket are real diamonds. I will put the Owl up
to this!" added Red Arm's son.

"If you do not leave this room instantly, I will call the police,"
said Morel.

The children, frightened at this scene, began to cry, while the old
idiot started upright in her bed.

"If any one has a right to call the police, we're the men. Do you
hear, Mister Sideways?" said Bourdin.

"You'll see the police lend a hand to take you, if you don't go
quietly," added Malicorne; "we have not the magistrate with us, it is
true; but if you wish to enjoy his society, you shall have a taste of
one, just out of his bed, quite hot and heavy. Bourdin will go and
fetch him."

"To prison! Me?" cried the astounded Morel.

"Yes, to Clichy."

"To Clichy!" repeated the artisan, with a wild look.

"Is he hard of hearing?" asked Malicorne.

"Well, then, to the debtor's prison, if you like that better,"
explained Bourdin.

"You--you--are--can it be?--the lawyer! Oh, my God!"

The artisan, pale as death, fell back on his stool, unable to utter
another word.

"We are the officers who are to take you, if we can; do you understand
now, old fellow?"

"Morel, it is for the bill in the hands of Louise's master! We are all
lost!" said Madeleine, with a sorrowful voice.

"This is the warrant," said Malicorne, taking from his dirty pocket-book
a stamped writ.

After having mumbled over in the usual way a part of this document, in
a voice hardly intelligible, he pronounced distinctly the last words,
unfortunately too well understood by the artisan.--

"As final judgment, the court condemns Jerome Morel to pay to Pierre
Petit-Jean, merchant,[Footnote: The crafty notary incompetent to
proceed in his own name, had got from the unfortunate Morel a blank
acceptance, and had introduced a third party's name.] by all his
goods, and even with his body, the sum of thirteen hundred francs,
with lawful interest, dated from the day of the protest; and he is
besides condemned to pay all other and extra costs. Given and judged
at Paris, the 30th of September," etc., etc.

"And Louise, then? Louise!" cried Morel, almost distracted, without
appearing to have heard what had just been read. "Where is she? She
must have left the lawyer, since he sends me to prison. Louise! my
child! what has become of her?"

"Who is this Louise?" said Bourdin.

"Let him alone," said Malicorne. "Don't you see he's coming the
artful?" Then, approaching Morel, he added: "Come, to the
right-about-face, march; I want to breathe the air, I am poisoned here!"

"Morel, do not go!" said Madeleine, wildly. "Kill them, the thieves!
Oh, you are a coward! You will let them take you, and abandon us to
our fate."

"Act as though you were at home, madame," said Bourdin, sarcastically;
"but if your husband lifts his hand against me, I will give him
something to remember it by," continued he, twisting his loaded stick
round and round.

Occupied solely with thoughts of Louise, Morel heard nothing of what
was said. Suddenly, an expression of bitter joy lighting up his face,
he cried out, "Louise has quitted the lawyer's house. I shall go to
prison with a light heart!" But then, glancing round him, he
exclaimed, "But my wife, and her mother, and my poor children--who
will support them? They will not trust me with stones to cut in
prison; for it will be supposed that my own misconduct has sent me
there. Does this lawyer desire the death of all of us?"

"Once for all, let us be off!" said Bourdin; "I am sick of all this.
Come, dress yourself and march."

"My good gentleman, forgive what I have just said to you," cried
Madeleine, still in bed; "you will not have the cruelty to take away
Morel; what do you think will become of me, with my five children, and
my idiot mother? There she is, huddled up on her mattress. She is
foolish, my good gentlemen; she is quite out of her mind."

"The old woman that is shorn?"

"Sure enough she is shaved," said Malicorne; "I thought she had on a
white scull-cap."

"My dear children, throw yourselves at the feet of these two
gentlemen," said Madeleine, hoping, by a last effort, to soften the
bailiffs, "entreat them not to take away your poor father--our only
hope." But in spite of the order of their mother, the children,
frightened and crying, dared not leave their beds.

At the unusual noise, and the sight of the two bailiffs, whom she did
not know, the idiot began to utter deafening howls, crouching herself
against the wall. Morel appeared careless to all that was passing
around him; the blow was so frightful, so unexpected, the consequences
of this arrest appeared so terrible, that he could scarcely believe in
its reality. Already weakened by privations of every description, his
strength failed him; he remained pale and haggard, seated on his
stool, as though incapable of speech or motion, his head drooping on
his breast, and his arms hanging listlessly down.

"Confound it! when will all this end?" cried Malicorne; "think you
that we come here for fun? Off with you, or I shall make you!" So
saying, the bailiff put his hand on the artisan's shoulder, and shook
him roughly. The threat and action alarmed the children; the three
little boys left their mattress half naked, and came, in a flood of
tears, to throw themselves at the feet of the bailiffs, and, with
clasped hands, cried, in tones of touching earnestness, "Pray, pray do
not kill father."

At sight of these unhappy children, shivering with cold and fear,
Bourdin, in spite of his natural callousness, and the constant sight
of scenes like the present, felt something akin to compassion; his
companion, unpitying, brutally disengaged his leg from the grasp of
the kneeling supplicants.

"Hands off, you young ragamuffins! A pretty business ours would be
truly, if we had always to do with such beggars!"

A fearful addition was made to the horrors of this scene. The elder of
the little girls, who had remained in the straw with her sick sister,
cried out, "Oh, mother, mother! I do not know what is the matter with
Adele! She is quite cold, and she stares so at me and she don't
breathe!"

The poor consumptive child had just quietly expired, without a murmur,
her looks resting on her sister, whom she tenderly loved.

No language can describe the heart-rending cry of anguish uttered by
the diamond-cutter's wife at this frightful announcement, for she
understood it all. It was one of those stifling, convulsive screams,
torn from the depth of a mother's heart.

"My sister seems as though she were dead!" continued the child. "Oh,
how she frightens me! She still looks at me, but how cold her face
is!" Saying this, the poor child suddenly rose from the side of her
dead sister, and, running terrified, threw herself into the arms of
her mother; while the distracted parent, forgetful that her paralyzed
limbs were incapable of sustaining her, made a violent effort to rise,
and ran toward the corpse; but her strength failed her, and she fell
on the floor, uttering a last cry of despair. That cry found an echo
in Morel's heart, and roused him from his stupor; with one step he
reached the bed's side, snatching from it his child, four years old.
She was dead! Cold and want had hastened her end, although her
complaint, brought on by the want of common necessaries, was beyond
cure. Her poor little limbs were already cold and stiff. Morel, his
gray hair almost standing on end with despair and fright, remained
motionless, holding his dead child in his arms, whom he contemplated
with fixed, tearless eyes, bloodshot with agony.

"Morel! Morel! give my Adele to me!" shrieked the unhappy mother,
holding out her arms toward her husband; "it is not true that she is
dead: you shall see--I will warm her in my arms!"

The idiot's curiosity was excited by the haste with which the two
bailiffs approached the lapidary, who would not part with the body of
his infant. The old woman ceased to howl, rose from her bed, slowly
approached Morel, and passing her hideous and stupid face over his
shoulder, gazed vacantly on the corpse of her grandchild. The features
of the idiot retained their usual expression of ferocity. After a
little time, she uttered a sort of hoarse, hollow groan, like a hungry
beast, and returning to her bed, she threw herself upon it, crying
out, "I am hungry! I am hungry!"

"You see, gentlemen, this poor little girl, just four years old--
Adele; yes, she was named Adele. Only last night, she fondly returned
my caresses--and now--look at her! You will, perhaps, say that I have
one less to feed, and that I ought not to murmur," said the artisan,
with a haggard look.

The poor man's reason began to totter under so many repeated shocks.

"Morel, I want my child; I will have her!" said Madeleine.

"True, true," replied the lapidary, "each in turn, that is but fair!"
He went and laid the child in the arms of his wife. Then, hiding his
face between his hands, he groaned bitterly. Madeleine, almost as
frenzied as her husband, laid the child in the straw of her couch, and
watched it with a sort of savage jealousy; while the other children
were kneeling round in tears.

The bailiffs, for a moment softened by the death of the child, soon
returned to their accustomed brutality of conduct. "Oh, look here, my
friend," said Malicorne to the lapidary, "your child is dead; it is
unfortunate, but we are all mortal; we cannot help it, nor can you, so
there's an end of it. We have an extra job to do to-day--a
_swell_ to grab."

Morel did not hear the man. Completely lost in mournful contemplation,
the artisan said to himself, in a hollow and broken voice: "It will be
necessary to bury my poor little girl--to watch her here till they
come to carry her away. But how?--we have nothing! And the coffin!--
who will give us credit? Oh, a little coffin for a child of four years
old ought not to cost much! And then we shall want no bearers! One can
take it under his arm. Ha! ha! ha!" added he, with a frightful burst
of laughter, "how lucky I am! She might perhaps have lived to be
eighteen, Louise's age, and no one would have given me credit for a
large coffin!"

"Egad! this chap seems as though he would lose his senses!" said
Bourdin to Malicorne. "Look at him; he quite frightens me! and how the
old idiot howls with hunger! What a queer lot!"

"We must, however, make a finish; although the arrest of this beggar
is only for seventy-six francs, seventy-five centimes, it is only
right that we should swell the costs to two hundred and forty or fifty
francs. It is the _wolf_ who pays."

"You mean who has to _fork out_--for this poor devil here will
have to pay the fiddler, since it is he that must dance."

"By the time he has paid his creditor two thousand five hundred
francs, for principal, interest, costs, and all, he will be warm."

"It will not be then as now, for it freezes," said the bailiff,
blowing his fingers. "Come, old fellow, pack up and let us be off; you
can blubber as you go along. Who the devil can help the youngun's
kicking the bucket!"

"Besides, when people are so poor, they have no right to have
children."

"A good idea!" said Malicorne. Then slapping Morel on the shoulder, he
continued: "Come, come, old boy, we can wait no longer; since you
cannot pay, off to prison with you!"

"Prison!" said a pure, youthful voice; "Morel to prison!" A young,
bright, rosy brunette suddenly entered the garret.

"Oh, Miss Dimpleton!" said one of the children, crying; "you are so
good; save papa! they want to take him to prison, and little sister is
dead."

"Adele dead!" exclaimed the girl, whose large, brilliant black eyes
were veiled in tears. "Your father to prison? This cannot be."
Stupefied by surprise, she looked alternately at the lapidary, his
wife, and the bailiffs.

"My pretty girl," said Bourdin approaching Miss Dimpleton, "you're
cool, you must try to make this poor man listen to reason; his little
girl is dead, but nevertheless he must come with us to Clichy--to the
debtors' prison. We are sheriffs' officers."

"It is, then, all true," said the girl.

"Quite true. The mother has the little one in her bed--they cannot
take it from her; and while she is hugging it there, the father ought
to take the opportunity of slipping out."

"My God! my God! what misery," said Miss Dimpleton. "What is to be
done?"

"Pay, or go to prison! there is no other way, unless you have notes
for two or three thousand francs to lend them," said Malicorne, in a
careless tone; "if you have them, _shell out_, and we will
_cut_, devilish glad to get away."

"Oh, this is dreadful!" said Miss Dimpleton, with indignation; "daring
to jest with such dreadful misfortunes."

"Well then, joking aside," replied the other bailiff, "if you would do
some good, endeavor to prevent the woman from seeing us take away her
husband. You will thus save each of them a very disagreeable quarter
of an hour."

The advice was good, though coarsely given, and Miss Dimpleton,
following it, approached Madeleine, who, distracted with grief, did
not appear to notice the young girl, as she knelt down beside the bed
with the children.

Meanwhile, Morel had only recovered from his temporary delirium to
sink under the most painful reflections. Having become calm, he could
view far too clearly the horror of his situation. The notary must be
pitiless, since he had gone to such extremity; the bailiffs did but do
their duty. The artisan was therefore resigned.

"Come, come, let's be marching some time to-day," said Bourdin to him.

"I cannot leave these diamonds here, my wife is half mad," said Morel,
pointing to the stones scattered upon the bench; "the person for whom
I work will come for them this morning, or in the course of the day.
Their amount is considerable."

"Good!" said Hoppy, who still remained near the half-open door: "good,
good! Screech-Owl shall know that."

"Grant me only till to-morrow," urged Morel, "that I may restore the
diamonds."

"Impossible! We must go immediately."

"But I cannot, by leaving the diamonds here, run the risk of their
being lost."

"Take them with you, a coach waits at the door, which you will have to
pay for, with the other expenses. We can call on the owner of the
stones; if he is not at home you can place them in the registry at
Clichy; they will be as safe there as in the bank. Come, make haste;
we will slip away before your wife or children are aware of it."

"Grant me only till to-morrow, that I may bury my child!" entreated
Morel, with a supplicating voice, half stifled with the sobs he
endeavored to restrain.

"No! we have already lost more than an hour waiting here."

"This burying still worries you, then?" added Malicorne.

"Oh! yes, it makes me sad," said Morel, with bitterness; "you so much
fear to grieve people. Well, then, a last farewell!"

"There, again! confound you, make haste!" said Malicorne, with brutal
impatience.

"How long have you had the order to arrest me?"

"The judgment was signed four months since; but it was only yesterday
that our officer received instructions from the lawyer to put it in
execution."

"Yesterday only. Why was it delayed so long?"

"How can I tell? Come, pack up."

"Yesterday! and Louise not yet here! Where can she be? what has become
of her?" said the lapidary, taking from the bench a card-box filled
with cotton, in which he arranged the jewels. "But never mind that; in
prison I shall have plenty of time for thinking."

"Come, pack up the duds to take with you, and make haste and dress
yourself."

"I have no clothes to pack up: I have only these diamonds to take
away, and place in the prison registry."

"Well, then, dress yourself."

"I have no other clothes than these."

"Going out in these rags?" said Bourdin.

"You will be ashamed of me, doubtless," said the lapidary, bitterly.

"No, it is of no consequence, since we go in your coach," answered
Malicorne.

"Father, father! mother is calling you," said one of the children.

"You hear?" muttered Morel, rapidly, appealing to one of the bailiffs;
"do not be inhuman; grant me a last favor. I have not the courage to
say farewell to my wife and children; it would break my heart. If they
see you take me away they will run after me, and I would avoid that. I
therefore beg of you to say aloud that you will return in three or
four days, and pretend to go away; you can wait for me on the landing
below; I will come to you in less than five minutes. That will spare
me the pain of saying farewell. I will no longer resist, I promise
you. I shall go stark mad; I was nearly so just now."

"Not so green!--you want to give us the slip!" said Malicorne, "want
to bolt, old son!"

"Oh, God! God!" cried Morel, with mournful indignation.

"I don't think he intends to chouse us," said Bourdin, in a low tone
to his companion; "let us do as he wishes, or we'll never get away. I
will wait outside the door, there is no other outlet from the garret--
he cannot escape us."

"Very well; but he needn't be so particular about leaving the mucky
crib!" Then, addressing Morel in a low voice, he said: "Now then, look
sharp, and we will wait for you below. Make haste, and offer some
pretense for our going."

"I thank you," said Morel.

"Very well, it shall be so," said Bourdin, in a loud voice, and
looking significantly at the artisan; "in such case, as you promise to
pay in a short time, we will leave you for the present, and call again
in four or five days; but then you must be punctual."

"Yes, gentlemen, I trust I shall then be able to pay you."

The bailiffs left the room; while Hoppy, for fear of being seen, had
disappeared down the staircase at the same time the bailiffs quitted
the garret.

"Madame Morel, do you hear?" said Miss Dimpleton, trying to withdraw
the attention of the mother from her melancholy abstraction; "they
will not take away your husband--the two men are gone."

"Mother, don't you hear? they will not take father away," said the
eldest of the boys.

"Morel, listen to me," murmured Madeleine, in a state of delirium.
"Take one of the large diamonds and sell it--no one will know it, and
we shall be saved. Our Adele will no longer feel cold; she will not be
dead."

Taking advantage of a moment when none belonging to him were observing
his actions, the lapidary cautiously left the room. The bailiff was
waiting for him upon a sort of little landing, covered also by the
roof. Upon this landing, opened the door of a loft, which had formerly
been part of the garret occupied by the Morels, and in which Pipelet
kept his stock of leather; and the worthy porter called this place his
_box at the play_, because, by means of a hole made in the wall
between two laths, he was sometimes a witness to the sad scenes that
passed in the Morels' room. The bailiff noticed the door of the loft;
in a moment he thought that most likely his prisoner had reckoned upon
that outlet for escape, or to hide himself.

"Come, march, old fellow!" said he, beginning to descend the stair,
and making a sign to the lapidary to follow.

"One minute more, I beseech!" said Morel; and he fell on his knees
upon the floor. Through a chink in the door, he threw a last look upon
his family, and clasping his hands, he uttered, in a low, heart-rending
voice, while tears flowed down his haggard cheeks: "Farewell,
my dear children--my poor wife! may heaven preserve you all!
Farewell!"

"Make haste and cut that sermon," said Bourdin, brutally, "Malicorne
is quite right; you needn't make so much fuss about leaving the
stinking kennel. What a hole! what a hole!"

Morel rose to follow the bailiff, when the words "Father! father!"
sounded on the staircase.

"Louise!" exclaimed the lapidary, raising his hands toward heaven; "I
can then clasp you to my breast before I go!"

"I thank thee, God, I am in time!" said the voice, approaching nearer
and nearer, and light steps were heard rapidly ascending the stairs.

"Be calm, my dear," said a third voice, sharp, asthmatic, and out of
breath, coming from a lower part of the house;

"I will lay in wait, if I must, in the alley, with my broom and my old
darling, and they sha'n't leave here till you have spoken to them, the
contemptible beggars!"

The reader has doubtless recognized Mrs. Pipelet, who, less nimble
than Louise, followed her slowly. An instant after, the lapidary's
daughter was in her father's arms.

"It is indeed you, Louise, my darling Louise!" said Morel, crying;
"but how pale you are! For mercy's sake what ails you?"

"Nothing, nothing, father," stammered Louise. "I have run so fast.
Here is the money!"

"How is this?"

"You are free!"

"So you know?"

"Yes, yes! Here, sir, take the money," said the young girl, giving a
rouleau of gold to Malicorne.

"But this money, Louise--this money?"

"You shall know all presently; don't be uneasy. Come and comfort dear
mother."

"No, not now!" exclaimed Morel, placing himself before the door,
remembering that Louise was still in ignorance of the death of the
little girl; "wait, I must speak to you. Now, about this money?"

"Stay!" said Malicorne, as he finished counting the gold, and while
putting it in his pocket; "sixty-four, sixty-five--that will just make
thirteen hundred francs. Have you no more than that, my little dear?"

"Why, you only owe thirteen hundred francs?" said Louise, addressing
her father, with a stupefied air.

"Yes," said the lapidary.

"Stop!" rejoined the catchpole; "the bill is for thirteen hundred
francs. Well, the bill is paid; but the expenses? Without the
execution, they are already eleven hundred and forty francs."
[Footnote: We append some curious facts about imprisonment for debt,
taken from "_Le Pauvre Jacques_," a paper published by the
Society of Christian Morality Prison Committee:--

"A protest and a warrant is legally set down as at 4 francs 35
centimes for the first, and 4 francs 70 centimes for the other, but is
generally increased by the warrant-officers to 10fr. 40c., and 16fr.
40c. respectively. Thus 26fr. 80c. illegally obtained for what should
have been but 9fr. 50c. The law sets down bailiff fees thus:--Stamp
and registry, 3fr. 50c.; hackney-coach, 5fr.; arresting and
imprisonment, 60fr. 25c.; turnkey's fee, 8fr. Total 76fr. 75c. One
bill of charges taken as the average of those sent in by sheriffs'
officers, swells the above to 240 francs!"

In the same paper is this paragraph:--

"M---, bailiff, has written to desire correction of the article on the
Hanged Woman. He did not kill her, he says. We did not say that he did
_kill_ that unfortunate woman. We reprint that article:--

"M---, bailiff, having writ out for a cabinet-maker in the Rue de la
Lune, was seen by the latter from the house windows. He called out to
his wife.--'I am lost, for there they come to arrest me!' His wife
heard this, and fastened the door, while her husband hid him self in
the loft. The bailiff called in a locksmith. The wife's room door was
forced, and they found the woman had hanged herself! The sight of
the corpse did not delay or prevent the officer hunting for the husband.
'I arrest you.' 'I have no money.' 'To prison, then.' 'Very well, let me
give my wife good-bye.' 'That be hanged, like she is herself. She's
dead.' What can you complain of, M---? we only print your own words,
which minutely and blackly paint this frightful picture."

This same paper quotes three or four hundred facts, of which the
following is a fair sample:--

"On collection of a 300 franc debt a warrant-officer charged 964
francs! The debtor, a workman with five children, lay seven months in
prison."

For two reasons, the present writer quotes from "_Le Pauvre
Jacques_," firstly, to show that the chapter just read falls below
reality; and again, to prove that, if merely in a philanthropic point
of view, the maintenance of such a state of things (the exorbitance of
extras, illegally extorted by public servants,) often paralyzes the
most generous intentions. For instance, with 1,000 francs there might
be three or four honest though unfortunate workmen restored to their
families from a prison whither petty debts of 250 or 500 francs had
driven them; but these sums being tripled by a shameful exaggeration
of costs, the most charitable persons often recoil from doing a good
deed at the thought of two-thirds of their bounty merely going to
sheriffs and their officers. And yet, there are few hardships more
worthy of relief than those befalling such unfortunate people as we
speak of.]

"Gracious heaven!" cried Louise; "I thought it was only thirteen
hundred francs in all! But, sir, we will very soon pay you the
remainder; this is a pretty good sum on account--is it not, father?"

"Soon!--very well; bring the money to the office, and we will then let
your father go. Come, let's be off."

"You will take him away?"

"At once. This is on account. When the rest is paid, he will be free.
Go on, Bourdin; let us get out of this."

"Mercy! mercy!" shrieked Louise.

"Oh, what a row! here it is--the old game over again: it is enough to
make one sweat in the depth of winter--on my honor!" said the bailiff,
in a brutal tone. Then advancing toward Morel, he continued: "If you
don't come along at once, I will take you by the collar, and bundle
you down. This wind-up is beastly!"

"Oh, poor father! when I had hoped to save you!" said Louise,
overwhelmed.

"No, no! hope nothing for me! Heaven is not just!" cried the lapidary,
in a voice of deep despair, and stamping his feet with rage.

"Peace! heaven is just! There is Providence for honest men!" said a
soft, yet manly voice.

The same instant Rudolph appeared at the door of the little recess,
from whence he had, unseen, witnessed the greater part of the scenes
we have just related. He was very pale, and deeply moved. At this
sudden interposition, the bailiffs drew back with surprise; while
Morel and his daughter stared at the prince vacantly. Taking from his
pocket a small parcel of folded bank notes, Rudolph selected three,
and giving them to Malicorne, said to him: "Here are two thousand five
hundred francs; give back to this girl the money you have just
received from her."

More and more surprised, the bailiff took the notes hesitatingly,
examined them very suspiciously, turning them over and over, and
finally pocketed them. But as his alarm and surprise began to subside,
so did his natural coarseness return, and eying Rudolph from head to
foot with an impertinent stare, he exclaimed, "Your notes are good;
but how came the likes of you with so large a sum? I hope, at least,
it is your own!" added he.

Rudolph was very humbly dressed, and covered with dust--thanks to his
stay in Pipelet's loft.

"I have bidden you restore that gold to the young girl," answered
Rudolph, in a sharp, stern voice.

"Bid me! Who gives you the right to order me?" cried the bailiff,
advancing toward Rudolph, in a threatening manner.

"The gold! the gold!" said the prince, seizing the fellow's wrist so
violently that he winced under the iron hold, and cried out,

"Oh, you hurt me! Hands off!"

"Restore the gold! you are paid. Take yourself off, without further
insolence, or I will kick you to the foot of the stairs."

"Very well; here is the gold," said Malicorne, giving it to the girl;
"but mind what you are about, young man--don't fancy you are going to
do as you like with me, because you happen to be the strongest."

"That's right. Who are you, to give yourself such airs?" said Bourdin,
sheltering himself behind his companion. "Who are you?"

"Who is he? He is my tenant, the king of tenants, you foul-mouthed
wretches!" cried Mrs. Pipelet, who appeared at last, quite out of
breath, still wearing the Brutus wig. In her hand she held an earthen
pot filled with boiling soup, which she was kindly taking to the
Morels.

"What does this old polecat want?" said Bourdin.

"If you dare to pass any of your blackguard remarks upon me, I'll make
you feel my nails--and my teeth too, if necessary!" screamed Mrs.
Pipelet: "and more than that, my lodger, my prince of lodgers, will
pitch you from the top to the bottom of the staircase, as he says! And
I will sweep you away like a heap of rubbish, as you are!"

"This old woman will rouse all the people in the house against us. We
are paid, and our expenses also; let us be off!" said Bourdin to
Malicorne.

"Here are your documents," said the last-named individual, throwing a
bundle of papers at Morel's feet.

"Pick them up, and deliver them properly! You are paid for being
civil," said Rudolph, seizing the bailiff with his vigorous hand,
while the other he pointed to the papers.

Convinced by this new and formidable grasp that he could not struggle
against so powerful an adversary, the bailiff stooped down grumbling,
picked up the bundle of papers, and gave them to Morel, who took them
mechanically. The lapidary believed himself under the influence of a
dream.

"Mind, young fellow, although you have an arm as strong as a porter's,
never come under our lash!" said Malicorne. Shaking his fist at
Rudolph, he nimbly jumped down the stairs, followed by his companion,
who looked behind him with fear.

Mrs. Pipelet, burning for revenge on the bailiffs, for the insults
offered to Rudolph, looked at her saucepan with an air of inspiration,
and cried out, heroically: "Morel's debts are paid; they will now have
plenty to eat, and no longer stand in need of my soup--heads!" Leaning
over the banisters, the old woman emptied the contents of her saucepan
on the backs of the bailiffs, who had just arrived at the first-floor
landing.

"Oh, you are caught, I see!" added the portress. "They are soaked
through like two sops! He! he! this is capital!"

"A thousand million thunders!" cried Malicorne, wet through with Mrs.
Pipelet's culinary preparation. "Will you take care what you are about
up there, you old baggage!"

"Alfred!" retorted Mrs. Pipelet, bawling in a voice sharp enough to
split the tympanum of a deaf man. "Alfred! have at 'em, old darling!
They wanted to behave improperly to thy 'Stasie! (Anastasia). Those
rascals would take liberties with me! Pitch into them with your broom!
call the oyster-woman and the potboy next door to help you. Quick!--
quick!--after them! Murder! police! thieves! Hish!--hish!--hish!
bravo! Halloo! go it, old darling! Broom!--broom!" By way of a
formidable finish to these hootings, which she had accompanied with a
violent stamping of her feet, Mrs. Pipelet, carried away by the
intoxication of her victory, hurled from the top to the bottom of the
staircase her earthenware saucepan, which, breaking with a loud,
crashing noise, the very moment the bailiffs, stunned by the frightful
cries, were taking the stairs four at a time, added greatly to their
fears.

"Ha! ha! I rayther think you have got enough for once!" cried
Anastasia laughing loudly, and folding her arms in an attitude of
triumph.

While Mrs. Pipelet was thus venting her rage upon the bailiffs, Morel,
overcome with gratitude, had thrown himself at Rudolph's feet.

"Ah, sir, you have saved our lives! To whom do we owe this
unlooked-for succor?"

"'_To HIM who watches over and protects honest men_,' as our
immortal Beranger says."



CHAPTER XXXIX.

MISS DIMPLETON.


Louise, the lapidary's daughter, was possessed of remarkable
loveliness; tall and graceful, she resembled the classic Juno for
regularity of features, and the huntress Diana for the finish of her
tall figure. In spite of her sunburned complexion, her rough and
freckled hands, beautifully formed, but hardened by domestic labor; in
spite of her humble garments, this girl possessed a nobility of
exterior.

We will not attempt to describe the gratitude and surprise of this
family, so abruptly snatched from a fearful fate; in the first burst
of happiness, even the death of the little girl was forgotten. Rudolph
alone remarked the extreme paleness of Louise, and the utter
abstraction with which she seemed oppressed, in spite of her father's
deliverance. Wishing to completely satisfy the Morels as to
apprehensions about the future, and to explain a liberality which
might otherwise betray suspicions as to the character he thought
proper to assume, Rudolph said to the lapidary, whom he took to the
landing (while Miss Dimpleton broke to Louise the news of her sister's
death):

"Yesterday morning a young lady came to see you."

"Yes, sir, and appeared much distressed at the situation in which she
found us."

"It is to her you must return thanks, and not to me."

"Is it indeed true, sir? That young lady--"

"Is your benefactress. I have often waited upon her with goods from
our warehouse. The day before yesterday, while I was here engaging an
apartment on the fourth story, I learned from the portress your cruel
position. Knowing this lady's charity, I went to her. She came, so
that she might herself judge of the extent of your misfortunes, with
which she was painfully moved; but as your situation might be the
result of misconduct, she begged of me as soon as possible, to make
some inquiries respecting you, as she was desirous of apportioning her
benefits according to your deserts."

"Good and excellent lady! I had reason to say--"

"As you observed to Madeleine: 'If the rich knew,' is it not so?"

"How, sir!--you know the name of my wife! Who told you that?"

"Since six o' clock this morning," said Rudolph, interrupting Morel,
"I have been concealed in the little loft which adjoins your garret."

"You, sir!"

"Yes, and I have heard all that passed, my honest man."

"Oh, sir! but why were you there?"

"I could employ no better means of getting at your real character and
sentiments. I wished to see and hear all, without your knowledge. The
porter had spoken to me of this little nook, and offered it to me that
I might keep my wood in it. This morning I requested him to permit me
to visit it; I remained there an hour, and I feel convinced that there
does not exist a character more worthy, noble, and courageously
resigned than yours."

"Nay, sir, indeed I cannot see much merit in my conduct; I was born
honest, and cannot act otherwise than I have done."

"I know it; and for that reason I do not praise your conduct but
appreciate it. I had quitted the loft to release you from the bailiffs
when I heard your daughter's voice. I wished to leave her the pleasure
of saving you; unhappily the rapacity of the bailiffs prevented poor
Louise from enjoying so sweet a delight. I then made my appearance.
Fortunately, I yesterday recovered several sums of money that were due
to me, and I was able to give an advance to your benefactress by
paying for you this unfortunate debt. But your misfortunes are so
great, so unmerited, so nobly sustained, that the interest felt for
you and deserved, will not stop here. I can, in the name of your
preserving angel, assure you of future repose with happiness to you
and yours."

"Is it possible? But at least tell me her name, sir--the name of this
preserving angel, as you have called her."

"Yes, she is an angel; and you have still reason to say that the great
and the lowly have their troubles."

"Is this lady, then, unhappy?"

"Who is there without their sorrows? But I see no cause to withhold
her name. This lady is called--"

Remembering that Mrs. Pipelet knew that Lady d'Harville had come to
her house to inquire for the Commander, Rudolph, hearing the
indiscreet gossiping of the portress, said after a moment's
reflection: "I will tell you the name of this lady on one condition--"

"Oh, pray, speak, sir!"

"It is, that you will repeat it to no one. You understand!--to no
one."

"Oh, I will solemnly promise that to you. But cannot I at least offer
my thanks to this savior of the unhappy?"

"I will ask Lady d'Harville, and I doubt not she will give her
consent."

"Then this lady is--"

"The Marchioness d'Harville."

"Oh, I shall never forget that name! It shall be my saint, my
adoration! To think that, thanks to her, my wife and children are
saved! saved!--no, not all, not all, my poor little Adele, we shall
never see her again. Alas! but it is necessary to remember that any
day we might have lost her, for she was doomed." Here the poor
lapidary brushed the tears from his eyes.

"As regards the last sad duties to be performed for this little one,"
said Rudolph, "trust to my advice; this is what must be done: I do not
yet occupy my room, which is large, wholesome, and well aired. There
is already a bed in it; we will convey thither all that is necessary
for yourself and family to be established there till Lady d'Harville
has arranged where to lodge you suitably. Your child's body will
remain in the garret, where it shall to-night, as is customary, be
attended and watched by a priest. I will go and request M. Pipelet to
undertake the management of these sad duties."

"But, sir, it is not necessary to deprive you of your room. Now that
we are in peace, and I no longer fear being taken to prison, our
humble apartment appears to me a palace, particularly if my dear
Louise remains with us, to attend to the family as formerly."

"Your Louise will not again leave you. You said not long ago it would
be a luxury to have her always with you; as some recompense for your
past sufferings, she shall never leave you again."

"Oh, sir, can it be possible? It surely cannot be a reality! My senses
seem lulled in a sweet dream. I have never thought much of religion,
but this sudden change from so much misery to so much happiness shows
the hand of an overruling Providence."

"And if a father's grief could be assuaged by promises of reward or
recompense," said Rudolph, "I should remind you, that although the
Almighty hand has removed one of your daughters from you, He has
mercifully restored another."

"True, true, sir. Henceforth we shall have our dear Louise to content
us for the loss of poor little Adele."

"You will accept my chamber, will you not? If you refuse, how can you
manage the mournful duties toward the poor child that is gone? Think
also of your wife, whose mind is already so distracted--to leave her
for four-and-twenty hours with such an afflicting spectacle before her
eyes!"

"You think of everything--of all! How kind you are, sir!"

"It is your benefactress you must thank, for her goodness inspires me.
I say to you as she would say, and I am sure she would approve of all;
so it is agreed that you will accept the offer of my room. Now tell
me, this Jacques Ferrand--"

A dark frown passed across Morel's face.

"This Jacques Ferrand," continued Rudolph, "is the same lawyer who
resides in the Rue du Sentier?"

"Yes, sir; do you know him?" Then, his fears newly awakened on the
subject of Louise, Morel exclaimed: "Since you have heard all that
passed, sir, say, say--have I not a right to hate this man? And who
knows, if my child, my Louise--"

He could not proceed; he hid his face with his hands. Rudolph
understood his fears.

"The lawyer's proceedings," said he to him, "ought to reassure you, as
he doubtless ordered your arrest to be revenged for the scorn of your
daughter; I have good reason, too, to believe that he is a dishonest
man. If he is so," resumed Rudolph, after a moment's silence, "let us
believe that Providence will punish him. If the justice of Heaven
often appears to slumber it awakens some time or other."

"He is very rich, and very hypocritical, sir."

"In your deepest despair, a guardian angel came to your assistance,
and plucked you from inevitable ruin; so, at a moment when least
expected, the Almighty Avenger may call upon the lawyer to atone for
his past crimes if he be guilty."

At this moment Miss Dimpleton came from the garret, wiping her eyes.
Rudolph said to the young girl, "Will it not, my good neighbor, be
better that M. Morel should occupy my room, with his family, until his
benefactress, whose agent I am, shall have provided a suitable
lodging?"

Miss Dimpleton regarded Rudolph with a look of unfeigned surprise.
"Oh, sir! are you really in earnest when you make so generous an
offer?"

"Yes, but on one condition, which will depend on yourself."

"Oh, depend upon all that is in my power!"

"I had some accounts required in haste, to arrange for my employers;
they will come for them soon. Now, if you will be so neighborly as to
permit me to work in your room, on a corner of your table, I should
not disturb your work in the least, and the Morel family can, with the
assistance of M. and Mrs. Pipelet, immediately be settled in my room."

"Oh, if it be only that, sir, most willingly; neighbors ought to
assist each other. You have set so good an example by what you have
done for that poor Morel, that I am at your service, sir."

"No, no, call me neighbor. If you use any ceremony toward me, I shall
not have courage to intrude on you," said Rudolph.

"Well, then, it shall be so, I will call you 'neighbor,' because you
really are so."

"Father, father!" cried one of Morel's little boys, coming out of the
garret, "mother is calling you; come directly, pray do." The lapidary
hastily entered the room.

"Now, neighbor," said Rudolph to Miss Dimpleton, "you must render me a
still further service."

"With all my heart, if it be in my power."

"You are, I am sure, an excellent little housewife. It is necessary to
purchase immediately all that is wanted for Morel's family to be
properly clothed, bedded, and settled in my room, for there is only
sufficient for myself as a bachelor, that was brought yesterday. How
can we manage to procure instantly all I wish for the Morels?"

Miss Dimpleton thought for a moment, and answered: "In a couple of
hours you can have all your want; good clothes ready-made, warm and
neat, with good clean linen for all the family: two little beds for
the children, and one for the grandmother--in short, all that is
necessary; but it will cost a great deal of money."

"You don't say so! How much?"

"Oh, at least--at the very least--five or six hundred francs."

"For everything?"

"Yes, it is a great sum of money, you see," said Miss Dimpleton
opening her large eyes, and shaking her bead.

"And we can procure all these things--"

"In two hours."

"You must be a fairy, neighbor."

"Oh, no, it is quite easy. The Temple is only two steps from here,
where you will find all of which you are in want." "The Temple?"

"Yes, the Temple."

"What place is that?"

"Don't know the Temple, neighbor?"

"No."

"It is, nevertheless, here where people like you and I furnish our
rooms, and clothe ourselves, when we would be economical. Things are
cheaper there than elsewhere, and quite as good."

"Really?"

"I assure you. Come, now, I suppose--But what did you pay for this
great-coat?"

"I do not know exactly."

"What, neighbor, can't tell how much your great-coat cost you?"

"I acknowledge to you in confidence," said Rudolph, smiling, "that I
owe for it; now do you understand that I cannot know?"

"Oh, neighbor, neighbor, I fear you are a spendthrift!"

"Alas! neighbor!"

"You must alter in that respect, if you wish us to be good friends;
and I already see that we shall be such, you appear so kind! You shall
see that you will be glad to have me for a neighbor; for on that
account we can assist each other. I will take care of your linen, and
you will help me clean my room. I rise very early, and will call you,
so that you may not be late at your shop. I'll knock at the wall until
you say to me: 'Good-morning, neighbor.'"

"It is agreed; you shall wake me, take care of my linen, and I will
clean your room."

"And you will be very neat?"

"Certainly."

"And when you wish to make any purchase, you will go to the Temple,
because here is an example; your greatcoat cost, I suppose, eighty
francs; very well, you could have had it at the Temple for thirty."

"Why, that is marvelous! Then you think that with five or six hundred
francs, these poor Morels--"

"Will be stocked with everything, first-class, for a long time to
come."

"Neighbor, an idea has just struck me."

"Well, what is it about?"

"Do you understand household affairs--are you clever at making
purchases?"

"Yes--rather so," said Miss Dimpleton, with a look of simplicity.

"Take my arm, and let us go to the Temple and buy wherewith to clothe
the Morels; will that suit you?"

"Oh, what happiness! Poor creatures!--but where's the money?"

"I have sufficient."

"Five hundred francs?"

"The benefactress of the Morels has given me _carte blanche;_
nothing is to be spared that these poor people require. Is there even
a place where better things are to be had than at the Temple?"

"You will find nowhere better; then there is everything, and all
ready-made--little frocks for the children, and dresses for their
mother."

"Then let us go at once to the Temple, neighbor."

"Oh! but--"

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing; but you see, my time is everything to me; and I am already a
little behindhand, in occasionally nursing the poor woman Morel; and
you may imagine that an hour in one way and an hour in another makes
in time a day; a day brings thirty sous, and if we earn nothing one
must still live all the same. But, pshaw! never mind; I must spare
from my nights; and then, again, parties of pleasure are rare, and I
will make this a joyful day; it will seem to me that I am rich, and
that it is with my own money I am buying such good things for these
poor Morels. Very well, as soon as I have put on my shawl and cap, I
shall be at your service, neighbor."

"Suppose, during the time, I bring my papers to your room?"

"Willingly, and then you will see my apartment," said Miss Dimpleton,
with pride; "for it is already put in order, and that will prove to
you that I am an early riser, and that if you are sleepy and idle so
much the worse for you, for I shall be a troublesome neighbor."

So saying, light as a bird, she flew down the stairs, followed by
Rudolph, who went to his room to brush off the dust he had carried
away from Pipelet's loft. We will hereafter disclose to the reader how
Rudolph was not yet informed of the abduction of Fleur-de-Marie from
Bouqueval farm, and why he had not visited the Morels the day after
the conversation with Lady d'Harville.

Rudolph, for the sake of appearances, furnished himself with a large
roll of papers, which he carried into Miss Dimpleton's room.

Miss Dimpleton was nearly of the same age as Goualeuse, her former
prison-friend. There was between these girls the same difference that
exists between laughter and tears; between joyful carelessness and
melancholy reverie; between daring improvidence and serious, incessant
anticipation of the future: between a nature exquisitely delicate,
elevated, poetic, morbidly sensitive, incurably wounded by remorse,
and a disposition gay, lively, happy, unreflective, although good and
compassionate; for, far from being selfish, Miss Dimpleton only cared
for the griefs of others; with them she sympathized entirely, devoting
herself, soul and body, to those who suffered; but, to use a common
expression, her _back turned_ on them, she thought no more about
them. Often she interrupted a lively laugh to weep passionately, and
checked her tears to laugh again. A real child of Paris, Miss
Dimpleton preferred tumult to quiet, bustle to repose, the sharp,
ringing harmony of the orchestra at the balls of the _Chartreuse_
and the _Colysee_, to the soft murmur of wind, water, and trees;
the deafening tumult of the streets of Paris, to the silence of the
country; the dazzling of the fireworks, the glittering of the flowers,
the crash of the rockets, to the serenity of a lovely night--starlit,
clear, and still. Alas! yes, this good girl preferred the black mud of
the streets of the capital to the verdure of its flowery meadows; its
pavements miry or tortuous, to the fresh and velvet moss of the paths
in the woods, perfumed by violets; the suffocating dust at the City
gates, or the Boulevards, to the waving of the golden ears of corn,
enameled by the scarlet of the wild poppy and the azure of the
bluebell.

Miss Dimpleton never left home but on Sundays, and every morning laid
in her provisions of chick-weed, bread, hempseed, and milk for her
birds and herself, as Mrs. Pipelet observed. But she lived in Paris
for the sake of Paris; she would have been miserable elsewhere than in
the capital.

After a few words upon the personal appearance of the grisette, we
will introduce Rudolph into his neighbor's apartment.

Miss Dimpleton had scarcely attained her eighteenth year; rather below
the middle size, her figure was so gracefully formed and voluptuously
rounded, harmonizing so well with a sprightly and elastic step, that
an inch more in height would have spoiled the graceful symmetry that
distinguished her. The movement of her pretty little feet, incased in
faultless boots of black cloth, with a rather stout sole, reminded you
of the quick, pretty, and cautious tread of the quail or wagtail. She
did not seem to walk, but to pass over the pavement as if she were
gliding over its surface. This step, so peculiar to _grisettes_,
at once nimble, attractive, and as if somewhat alarmed, may be
attributed to three causes; their desire to be thought pretty, their
fear of a too-plainly expressed admiration, and the desire they always
have not to lose a minute in their peregrinations.

Rudolph had never seen Miss Dimpleton but by the somber light in
Morel's garret, or on the landing, equally obscure; he was therefore
dazzled by the brilliant freshness of the girl, when he entered
silently her room, lit by two large windows. He remained for an
instant motionless, struck by the charming picture before him.
Standing before a glass, placed over the chimney-piece, Miss Dimpleton
had just finished tying under her chin the strings of a small cap of
bordered tulle, trimmed with cherry-colored ribbons. The cap, which
fitted tightly, was placed far back on her head, and thus revealed two
large thick braids of glossy hair, shining like jet, and falling very
low in front. Her eyebrows, well-defined, seemed as if traced in ink,
and were arched above large black eyes, full of vivacity and
expression; her firm and downy cheeks were tinted with a lovely bloom,
like a ripe peach sprinkled with the dew of morning. Her small,
upturned, and saucy nose would have made the fortune of a Lisette or
Marton; her mouth, rather large, with rosy lips and small white teeth,
was full of laughter and sport; her cheeks were dimpled and also her
chin, not far from which was a little speck of beauty, a dark mole,
_killingly_ placed at the corner of her mouth. Between a very low
worked collar and the border of the little cap, gathered in by a
cherry-colored ribbon, was seen beautiful hair, so carefully twisted
and turned up, that its roots were as clear and as black as if they
had been painted on the ivory of that tempting neck. A plum-colored
merino dress, with a plain back and tight sleeves, skillfully made by
herself, covered a bust so dainty and supple, that the young girl
never wore a corset--for economy's sake. An ease and unusual freedom
in the smallest action of the shoulders and body, resembling the
facile, undulating motions of a cat, evinced this peculiarity. Imagine
a gown fitting tightly to a form rounded and polished as marble, and
we must agree that Miss Dimpleton could easily dispense with the
accessory to the dress of which we have spoken. The band of a small
apron of dark green levantine formed a girdle round a waist which
might have been spanned with your two hands.

[Illustration: THE ROTUNDA]

Supposing herself to be quite alone (for Rudolph still remained at the
door motionless and unperceived), Miss Dimpleton, after having
smoothed the bands of her hair with her small white hand, placed her
little foot upon a chair, and stooped down to tighten her boot-lace.
This attitude disclosed to Rudolph a snow-white cotton stocking, and
half of a beautifully formed leg.

After this detailed account we may conclude that Miss Dimpleton had
put on her prettiest cap and apron, to do honor to her neighbor on
their visit to the Temple. The person of the pretended merchant's
clerk was quite to her taste: his face, benevolent, proud, and noble,
pleased her greatly: and then he had shown so much compassion toward
the poor Morels, in giving up his room to them, that, thanks to his
kindness of heart, and perhaps also to his good looks, Rudolph had
made great steps in the confidence of the grisette, who, according to
her ideas of the necessity of reciprocal obligations imposed on
neighbors, esteemed herself fortunate that Rudolph had succeeded the
commission-traveler, Cabrion, and Francois Germain; for she had begun
to feel that the next room had been too long empty, and she feared,
above all, that it would not be _agreeably_ occupied.

Rudolph took advantage of his being unperceived, to throw a curious
look around this room, which he found deserved more praise than Mrs.
Pipelet had given to the extreme neatness of Miss Dimpleton's humble
home. Nothing could be gayer or better arranged than this little room.
A gray paper, with green flowers, covered the walls; the red-waxed
floor shone like a mirror; a saucepan of white earthenware was on the
hob, where was also arranged a small quantity of wood, cut so fine and
small that you could well compare each piece to a large match. Upon
the stone mantelpiece, representing gray marble, were placed for
ornament two common flower-pots, painted an emerald green; a little
wooden stand held a silver watch, which served in lieu of a clock. On
one side shone a brass candle-stick, bright as gold, ornamented with
an end of wax candle; on the other side, was one of those lamps formed
of a cylinder, with a tin reflector, mounted upon a steel stem, with a
leaden stand. A tolerably large glass, in a frame of black wood,
surmounted the mantel.

Curtains of green and gray chintz, bordered with worsted galloon, cut
out and arranged by Miss Dimpleton, and placed on slight rods of black
iron, draperied the windows; and the bed was covered with a quilt of
the same make and material. Two glass-fronted cupboards, painted white
and varnished, were placed each side of the recess; no doubt
containing the household utensils--the portable stove, the broom,
etc., etc.; for none of these necessaries destroyed the harmonious
arrangement of the room.

A walnut chest of drawers, beautifully grained and well polished, four
chairs of the same wood, a large table with one of those green cloth
covers sometimes seen in country cottages, a straw-bottom armchair,
with a footstool--such was the unpretending furniture. There was, too,
in the recess in one of the windows, the cage of the two canaries,
faithful companions of Miss Dimpleton. By one of those notable
inventions which arise only in the minds of poor people, the cage was
set in the middle of a large chest, a foot in depth, upon the table:
this chest, which Miss Dimpleton called the garden of her birds, was
filled with earth, covered with moss during the winter, and in the
spring with turf and flowers. Rudolph gazed into this apartment with
interest and curiosity; he perfectly comprehended the joyous humor of
this young girl; he pictured the silence disturbed by the warbling
birds, and the singing of Miss Dimpleton. In the summer, doubtless,
she worked near the open window, half hidden by a verdant curtain of
sweet pea, nasturtium, and blue and white morning-glories; in the
winter, she sat by the side of the stove, enlivened by the soft light
of her lamp.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Rudolph was thus far in these reflections, when, looking mechanically
at the door, he noticed a strong bolt--a bolt that would not have been
out of place on the door of a prison. This bolt caused him to reflect.
It had two meanings, two distinct uses: to shut the door _upon_
lovers within--to shut the door _against_ lovers without. One of
these uses would utterly contradict the assertions of Mrs. Pipelet--
the other would confirm them. Rudolph had just arrived at these
conclusions, when Miss Dimpleton, turning her head, perceived him,
and, without changing her position, said: "What, neighbor! there you
are then!" Instantly the pretty leg disappeared under the ample skirt
of the currant-colored gown, and Miss Dimpleton added: "Caught you,
Cunning!"

"I am here, admiring in silence."

"And what do you admire, neighbor?"

"This pretty little room, for you are lodged like a queen."

"Nay, you see, this is my enjoyment. I seldom go out; so at least I
may please myself at home."

"But I do not find fault. What tasteful curtains! and the drawers--as
good as mahogany. You must have spent heaps of money here."

"Oh, pray don't remind me of it! I had four hundred and twenty-six
francs when I left prison, and almost all is gone."

"When you left prison?"

"Yes; it is quite a story. But you do not, I hope, think I was in
prison for any crime?"

"Certainly not; but how was it?"

"After the cholera, I found myself alone in the world; I was then, I
believe, about ten years of age."

"Until that time, who had taken care of you?"

"Oh, very good people; but they died of the cholera (here the large
black eyes became tearful); the little they left was sold to discharge
two or three small debts, and I found that no one would shelter me.
Not knowing what to do I went to the guard-house, opposite where I had
resided, and said to the sentinel: 'Soldier, my parents are dead, and
I do not know where to go. What must I do?' The sub-officer came and
took me to the magistrate, who sent me to prison as a vagabond, which
I was allowed to quit at sixteen years of age."

"But your parents?"

"I do not know who was my father; I was six years old when I lost my
mother, who had taken me from the Foundling Hospital, where she had
been compelled at first to place me. The kind people of whom I have
spoken lived in our house; they had no children, and seeing me an
orphan, took care of me."

"And how did they live? What was their condition in life?"

"Papa Cretu, so I always called him, was a house-painter, and the
female who lived with him worked at her needle."

"Then they were tolerably well off?"

"Oh, as well off as most people in their station. Though not married,
they called each other husband and wife. They had their ups and downs;
to-day in abundance, if there was plenty of work; to-morrow
straitened, if there was not any; but that did not prevent them from
being contented and gay (at this remembrance Miss Dimpleton's face
brightened). There was nowhere near a house like it--always cheerful,
always singing; and with all that, good and kind beyond belief! What
was theirs, was for others also. Mamma Cretu was a plump body of
thirty, clean as a new penny, lively as an eel, merry as a finch. Her
husband was a regular jolly old King Cole; he had a large nose, a
large mouth, always a paper cap on his head, and a face so droll--oh,
so droll, that you could not look at him without laughing! When he
returned home after work he did nothing but sing, make faces, and
gambol like a child. He made me dance, and jump upon his knees; he
played with me as if he were my own age, and his wife entirely spoilt
me. Both required of me but one thing--to be good-humored; and in
that, thank God! I never disappointed them; so they baptized me,
Dimpleton (not Simpleton, neighbor!) and the cap fitted. As to gayety,
they set me the example: never did I see them sad. If they uttered
reproaches at all, it was the wife said to her husband: 'Stop, Cretu,
you make me laugh too much!' or he said to her 'Hold your tongue,
Ramonette (I do not know why he called her Ramonette), you will make
me ill, you are so funny!' And as for me, I laughed to see them laugh.
That's how I was brought up, and how my character was formed; I trust
I have profited by it!"

"To perfection, neighbor! Then they never quarreled?"

"Never; oh, the biggest kind of never! Sunday, Monday, sometimes
Tuesday, they had, as they called it, an outing, and took me always
with them. Papa Cretu was a very good workman; when employed, he could
earn what he pleased, and so could his wife too. As soon as they had
sufficient for the Sunday and Monday, and could live till then, well
or ill, they were satisfied. After that if they were on short
allowance, they were still contented. I remember that when we had only
bread and water, Papa Cretu used to take out of his library--"

"He had a library?"

"So he called a little chest, where he put his collections of new
songs: for he bought all the new songs, and knew them all. When there
was nothing in the house but bread, he would take from his library an
old cookery-book, and say to us: 'Let us see what we will have to eat
today--this or that?' and he would read to us a list of many good
things. Each chose their dish. Papa Cretu would then take an empty
stewpan, and with the drollest manner, and the funniest jests in the
world, pretend to put in all the ingredients necessary to make a good
stew, and seemed to pour it into a plate, also empty, which he would
place on the table, always with grimaces that made us hold our sides,
then taking his book again, he would read, for example, the receipt
for a good fricassee of chicken that we had chosen, and that made our
mouths water; we then eat our bread (while he read) laughing like so
many mad things."

"And were they in debt?"

"Not at all! As long as they had money they feasted: when they had
none they dined on _water-color_ as Papa Cretu called it."

"And did they not think of the future?"

"Oh, yes, they thought of it; but then our present and future were
like Sunday and Monday--summer we spent gayly and happily outside the
City, the winter we got over at home."

"Since these poor people agreed so well together, why did they not
marry?"

"One of their friends once asked the same question, before me."

"Well?"

"They answered: 'If we should ever have children, we will marry; but
we are very well as we are. What is the good of compelling us to do
that which we now do willingly? Besides, it is expensive, and we have
no money to spare.' But see how I am gossiping! as I always do on the
subject of those good people, who were so kind to me, for I never tire
of speaking of them. Here, neighbor, be civil enough to take my shawl,
which is on the bed, and fasten it under the collar of my dress with
this large pin, and we will then go, for we shall be some time
selecting all you wish to purchase for the Morels."

Rudolph hastened to obey the instructions; he took from the bed a
large plaid shawl, and carefully arranged it on his neighbor's lovely
shoulders.

"Now then, lift up the collar a little, press the dress and shawl
close together and stick in the pin. Above all, take care not to prick
me."

The prince executed the given instructions with zealous nicety; then
he observed, smilingly, to the grisette, "Oh, Miss Dimpleton, I must
not be your _femme de chambre_--there is danger in it!"

"Yes, yes," answer Miss Dimpleton, gayly, "there is great danger of my
having a pin run into me! But now," added she, after they had left the
room and locked the door after them; "here, neighbor, take the key; it
is so very heavy, that I always fear it will tear my pocket. It is
quite a pistol for size!" And then she laughed merrily.

Rudolph accordingly took possession of an enormous key--such a one as
is sometimes seen in those allegorical representations where the
vanquished offer the keys of their cities to the conquerors. Although
Rudolph believed himself sufficiently changed by years not to be
recognized by Polidori, he yet pulled up the collar of his coat before
passing the door of the quack Bradamanti.

"Neighbor, don't forget to tell M. Pipelet that some goods will be
brought here, which must be taken to your room," said Miss Dimpleton.

"You are right, neighbor; we will step into the lodge as we pass by."

Pipelet, his everlasting immense hat, as usual, on his head, dressed
in his green coat, was sitting gravely before a table, on which were
spread pieces of leather and fragments of old shoes; he was occupied
in putting a new sole to a boot, which he did with that serious and
meditative air which characterized all his doings. Anastasia was
absent from the lodge.

"Well, M. Pipelet," said Miss Dimpleton, "I trust things will be
better now! Thanks to my neighbor, the poor Morels were rescued from
trouble just as those heartless bailiffs were about to drag the
unhappy man to prison."

"Oh! these bailiffs are really without hearts, or manners either,
mademoiselle," added Pipelet, in an angry voice, flourishing the boot
he was repairing, in which he had thrust his left hand and arm.

"No! I do not fear to repeat, in the face of heaven and man, that they
are without manners; they took advantage of the darkness of the
staircase to make rude remarks on my wife's very person. On hearing
the cries of her offended modesty, in spite of myself, I yielded to
the impulse of my temper. I do not disguise it, my first movement was
to remain perfectly motionless."

"But afterward you followed them, I hope, M. Pipelet?" said Miss
Dimpleton, who had some trouble to preserve a serious air.

"I thought of it," answered Pipelet, with a deep sigh; "but when those
shameless ruffians passed before my door, my blood rose, and I could
not hinder myself from putting my hand before my eyes, to hide the
monsters from my sight! But that does not surprise me; I knew
something unfortunate would happen to me to-day, for I dreamed--last
night--of Monster Cabrion!"

Miss Dimpleton smiled, as Pipelet's painful sighs were mingled with
the taps of the hammer, which he vigorously applied to the sole of the
old boot.

"You truly acted the part of a wise man, my dear M. Pipelet, that of
despising offenses, and holding it beneath you to revenge them. But
let us forget these miserable bailiffs. Will you be kind enough to do
me a favor?" asked Rudolph.

"Man is born to assist his fellow-man," replied Pipelet, in a
sententious and melancholy tone: "and more particularly so when his
fellow-man is so good a lodger as yourself."

"It will be necessary to take up to my room different things which
will be brought here presently for the Morels."

"Be assured I will take charge of them," replied Pipelet, "and
faithfully carry out your wishes."

"And afterward," said Rudolph, sadly, "you must obtain a priest to
watch by the little girl the Morels have lost in the night. Go and
register her death, and order a decent funeral. Here is money; spare
not, for Morel's benefactress, whose mere agent I am, wishes all to go
well."

"Make your mind quite easy, sir," replied Pipelet; "directly my wife
comes back, I will go to the mayor, the church, and the ham-and-beef
shop--to the church for the soul of the dead, to the cook-shop for the
body of the living," added Pipelet, philosophically and poetically.
"You may consider it done--already done, in both cases, my good sir."

At the entrance, Rudolph and Miss Dimpleton found themselves face to
face with Anastasia, who had returned from market, bearing a heavy
basket of provisions.

"Well done!" exclaimed the portress, looking at them both with a
knowing and significant air; "already arm-in-arm! That's your sort!
Young people will be young people--and where's the harm? To a pretty
lass, a handsome lad! If you don't enjoy yourselves while young, you
will find it difficult to do so when you get old! My poor dear Alfred
and I, for instance, when we were young, didn't we go the pace--But
now, oh, dear! oh, dear!--Well, never mind; go along, my dears, and
make yourselves happy while you can. Love forever!" The old woman
disappeared in the darkness of the alley, calling out, "Alfred, do not
grumble, old darling. Here is 'Stasie who brings you good things--rare
dainties!"

The young couple had left the house.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

To the mind of Rudolph, for Miss Dimpleton was too little prone to
mournful impressions to long reflect on the matter, the troubles of
the Morels had ceased; but in the grim reality, a calamity, ten fold
severer than their direst poverty, was gathering and forming nearer
them, ready to burst upon their heads almost before the gay young
couple would return from their stroll. What this great evil was, and
what fate befalls other characters yet to be introduced, will
presently be revealed, in shadow and by sunshine.

The Slasher, the Schoolmaster, the Screech-Owl, Hoppy, and the other
wretches whose misdeeds blacken these pages, form the foil; while
Fleur-de-Marie, Clemence d'Harville, Miss Dimpleton, and Mrs. George
are the gems which will be seen to shed their luster and charm over
the no less interesting pages of the Second Division of this work,
entitled, "_Part Second:_ NOON."



PART II.

NOON.


CHAPTER I.

THE ARREST.


To the snow of the past night had succeeded a very sharp wind; so that
the pavement of the streets, usually muddy, was almost dry, as Rudolph
and Miss Dimpleton directed their steps toward the extensive and
singular bazaar called the Temple. The girl leaned without ceremony
upon the arm of her cavalier, with as little restraint as though they
had been intimate for a long time.

"Isn't Mrs. Pipelet funny," said the grisette to Rudolph, "with the
odd remarks she makes?"

"Indeed, neighbor, I think she is quite right."

"In what?"

"Why when she said: 'Young people will be young people--and where's
the harm?--Love forever!'"

"Well?"

"Well! I mean to say that I perfectly agree with her."

"Agree with her!"

"Yes, I should like nothing better than to pass my youth with you,
taking '_Love forever_!' for my motto."

"I believe it: you are not difficult to please."

"Where is the harm? We are neighbors."

"If we were not neighbors, I should not walk out with you in this
way."

"Then allow me to hope--"

"Hope what?" "That you will learn to love me."

"I love you already."

"Really?"

"To be sure I do and for a very simple reason. You are good and
lively; although poor yourself, you do all you can for those
unfortunate Morels, in interesting rich people in their behalf; you
have a face that pleases me much, and a well-turned figure, which is
agreeable and flattering to me, as I shall frequently accept your arm.
Here are, I think, many reasons that I should love you."

Then interrupting herself to enjoy a hearty laugh, Miss Dimpleton
cried: "Look! look at that fat woman, with her old furrowed shoes; one
could imagine her drawn along by two cats without tails!" And again
she laughed merrily.

"I prefer looking at you, neighbor; I am so happy in thinking you
already love me."

"I tell you so, because it is so; if you did not please me, I should
say so all the same. I cannot reproach myself with having ever
deceived or flattered any one; when people please me, I tell them so
at once."

Then, interrupting herself again, to stop before a shop-window, the
grisette exclaimed:

"Oh, look at that beautiful clock, and those two pretty vases! I have
already saved up three francs and a half toward buying some like them.
In five or six years I may be able to manage it."

"Saved up, neighbor? Then you earn--"

"At least thirty sous a day--sometimes forty, but I only reckon upon
thirty; it is more prudent, and I regulate my expenses accordingly,"
said Miss Dimpleton, with an air as important as though it related to
the transactions of a financier.

"But with thirty sous a day, how can you manage to live?"

"The reckoning is not difficult; shall I explain it to you, neighbor?
You appear rather extravagant, so it may serve you as an example."

"Let's hear it."

"Thirty sous a day will make forty-five francs a month, will it not?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, by that account I have twelve francs for lodging, and
twenty-three francs for living."

"Twenty-three francs for a month's living!"

"Yes, quite as much. I acknowledge that, for a person like myself, it
is enormous; but then, you see, I refuse myself nothing."

"Oh, you little glutton!"

"Ah, but I also include food for my birds."

"Certainly, if you reckon for three, it is less extravagant. But let
me hear the detail of your every-day management, that I may benefit by
the instruction."

"Listen then. A pound of bread, that is four sous; milk, two sous--
that makes six; four sous for vegetables in winter, or fruit and salad
in summer (I dote on salad and vegetables, because they do not soil
the hands)--there is already ten sous; three sous for butter or oil
and vinegar, as seasoning--thirteen sous; two pailfuls of water (oh,
that is my luxury!) that will make fifteen sous; add to that two sous
for chickweed and hempseed for my two birds, which usually share with
me my bread and milk--that is twenty-two or twenty-three francs a
month, neither more nor less."

"And do you never eat meat?"

"Oh, Lord! Meat indeed! that costs ten to twelve sous a pound; how can
I think of that? Besides, it smells of the kitchen, of the stewpan;
instead of which, milk, fruit, and vegetables require no cooking. I
will tell you a dish I am very fond of, not troublesome, and which I
make to perfection."

"Hold up the dish!"

"I put fine potatoes in the oven of my stove; when they are done, I
mash them with a little butter and milk, and a pinch of salt. It is a
meal for the gods! If you are well behaved I will let you taste them
some day."

"Prepared by your pretty hands, it cannot fail to be excellent. But
let us see neighbor; we have already reckoned twenty-three francs for
living, and twelve francs for lodging--that makes thirty-five francs a
month."

"Well, then, out of the forty-five or fifty francs I earn, there
remain to me ten or fifteen francs for wood and oil during winter, as
well as for my dress and washing--that is to say for soap--as,
excepting my sheets, I wash for myself: that is another luxury--a
laundress would pretty well ruin me; and as I also iron very well, I
thereby save my money. During the five winter months I burn a load and
a half of wood, and four or five sous-worth of oil in the day for my
lamp; that makes nearly eighteen francs a year for my light and fire."

"So that there remain to you more than a hundred francs for your
clothing?"

"Yes; and it is from that I have saved the three francs and a half."

"But your dresses--your shoes and stockings--this pretty cap?"

"My caps I only wear when I go out, and that does not ruin me, for I
make them myself; at home I am satisfied with my hair. As to my
dresses and boots--is there not the Temple?"--"Oh, yes, that
contentment, excellent Temple! Well, you buy there--"

"Very good and pretty dresses. You must know that rich ladies are
accustomed to give their old dresses to their waiting maids--when I
say old, I mean that maybe they have worn them in their carriages a
month or two--and their servants go and sell them to people who keep
shops at the Temple for almost nothing. Thus, you see, I have a nice
merino dress that I bought for fifteen francs, which perhaps cost
sixty; it has hardly been put on and is beautifully fine. I altered it
to fit me, and I flatter myself it does me credit."

"Indeed you do it much credit! Thanks to the resources of the Temple,
I begin to think you can manage to dress respectably with a hundred
francs a year."

"To be sure I can. Why, I can buy charming dresses for five or six
francs; and boots, the same that I have on now, and almost new, for
two or three francs. Look! would not any one say that they were made
for me?" said Miss Dimpleton, stooping and showing the tip of her
pretty little foot, very nicely set off by the well-made and well-fitting
boot.

"The foot is charming, truly; but you must find a difficulty in
fitting it. After that you will doubtless tell me that they sell
children's shoes at the Temple."

"You are a sad flatterer, neighbor; however, after what I have told
you, you will acknowledge that a girl, quite alone and well, can live
respectably on thirty sous a day? I must tell you, by-the-by, the four
hundred and fifty francs which I brought from prison assisted
materially in establishing me. When once known that I possessed
furniture, it inspired confidence and I had work intrusted to me to
take home; but it was necessary to wait a long time before I could
meet with employment. Fortunately I kept sufficient money to live upon
for three months, without earning anything."

"Spite of your gay, heedless manner, allow me to say that you possess
a great deal of good sense, neighbor."

"Nay, when one is alone in the world, and would not be under
obligation to any one, you must exercise some management to build your
nest well, and take care of it when it is built, as the saying is."

"And your nest is delightful!"

"Is it not? for, as I have said, I refuse myself nothing; I consider I
have a lodging above my station. Then, again, I have birds; in summer
always at least two pots of flowers on the mantelpiece, besides the
boxes in the windows; and then, as I told you, I had three francs or
more in my money-box, toward ornaments I hoped one day to be able to
purchase for the chimney-piece."

"And what became of these savings?"

"Why, latterly I have seen those poor Morels so unhappy, so very
unhappy, that I said to myself: 'There is no sense in having these
ugly pieces of money idling in a box, whilst poor people are perishing
of hunger beside you,' so I lent them to Morel. When I say lent, I
mean I told him I only lent them, in order to spare his feelings, for
I assure you I gave them freely."

"Yes, neighbor, but as they are no longer in want, you surely will not
refuse to allow them to repay you?"

"True, I shall not refuse it; it will be something toward the purchase
of chimney-ornaments--my dream."

"And then, again, you ought to think a little of the future."

"The future?"

"Should you fall ill, for instance."

And, at the bare idea, Miss Dimpleton burst into an immoderate fit of
laughter, so loud, that a fat man, who was walking before her,
carrying a dog under his arm, turned round quite angrily, believing
himself to be the butt. Miss Dimpleton, resuming her composure, made a
half-courtesy to the stout person, and pointing to the animal under
his arm, said: "Is your dog so very tired, sir?"

The fat man grumbled something, and continued to walk.

"Come, come, neighbor," said Rudolph; "are you losing your senses?"

"It is your fault if I am."

"My fault?"

"Yes; because you say such silly things to me."

"What, because I tell you that you may fall ill?"

"I ill?"

"Why not?"

"Am I a likely-looking person to be sick then?"

"Never have I beheld a face more rosy and fresh!"

"Very well then, why do you think I shall be ill?"

"Nay, but--"

"At eighteen years of age, leading the life I do, how can that be
possible? I rise at five o'clock, winter and summer; I go to bed at
ten or eleven; I eat to satisfy my hunger, which is not very great, it
is true; I sing like a lark all day, and at night I sleep like a
dormouse: I have a mind free, joyful, and contented, with the
certainty of plenty of work, because my employers are pleased with
what I have done. Why should I be sick! What an idea! Well, I never!"

And Miss Dimpleton again relapsed into long and hearty laughter.
Rudolph, struck with this blind, yet happy confidence in the future,
reproached himself with having attempted to shake it. He thought, with
horror, that an illness of a month could ruin this merry, peaceful
mode of existence. Miss Dimpleton's deep faith in her health and her
eighteen years, her only treasures, appeared to Rudolph something akin
to holiness; for, on the young girl's part, it was neither
carelessness nor improvidence, but an instinctive reliance on the
commiseration of Divine justice, which could not abandon an
industrious and virtuous creature, whose only error was a too
confident dependence on the youth and health she enjoyed. The birds,
as they cleave with gay and agile wings the azure skies in spring, or
skim lightly over the blooming fields, do they think of the cheerless
winter?

"Then," said Rudolph to the grisette, "you are not ambitious to
possess more than you have?"

"Nothing."

"Absolutely nothing?"

"No--that is to say, I should like to have my chimney-ornaments, and I
shall have them, though I do not know when; but I have it in my head
to possess them, and I will, if I should have to sit up to work all
night to do it."

"And besides these ornaments--"

"I want for nothing; I cannot recollect a single thing more that I
care about possessing now."

"How now?"

"Because, if you had asked me the same question yesterday, I should
have told you I was longing for a suitable neighbor; so that I could
arrange with him comfortably, as I have always done, to perform little
services for him, that he might return nice little attentions to me."

"Well, it is already agreed, my pretty neighbor, that you shall take
charge of my linen, and that I shall clean your room--without naming
your waking me early in the morning, by tapping at the wall."

"And do you think that will be all?'

"What else is there?"

"Oh, bless your heart, you have not arrived at the end of what I
expect of you. Is it not necessary that on Sundays you take me for a
walk on the Boulevards?--you know that is the only day I have for
recreation."

"To be sure. In summer we will go into the country."

"No, I detest the country. I like no place so well as Paris.
Nevertheless, I went, once upon a time, out of good nature, with a
young friend of mine, who was my companion in prison, to visit Meudon
and Saint-Germain. My friend was a very pleasant, good girl, whom they
called Sweet-throat, because she was always singing."

"And what has become of her?"

"I do not know. She spent all the money she brought from prison,
without appearing to be much amused; she was always sad, but
sympathizing and charitable. When we used to go out together, I had
not then any work; but when I succeeded in obtaining some, I did not
stir from home. I gave her my address, but as she has not been to see
me, doubtless she has also some occupation, and, like me, is too busy
to get out. I only mention this to let you know, neighbor, that I love
Paris above every other place. So whenever you can, on Sunday, you may
take me to dine at the ordinary, sometimes to the play; or, if you
have not any money, you can take me to see the fashionable shops,
which will amuse me almost as much. Rest satisfied, that in our little
excursions I shall not disgrace you. You will see how smart I shall
look in my pretty dress of blue levantine, that I only wear on
Sundays: it suits me to perfection. With that I wear a pretty little
cap, trimmed with lace and orange-colored ribbon, which does not
contrast badly with my black hair; satin boots, that I have made for
me; an elegant shawl of silk imitation Cashmere! Indeed, I expect,
neighbor, people will turn round to look after us as we pass along.
Men will say: 'Really, that is a pretty little girl, upon my word!'
And the women, on their part, will exclaim: 'Look at that tall young
man! what an elegant shape! He has an air that is truly fashionable!
and his little brown mustache becomes him exceedingly!' And I shall be
of their opinion, for I adore mustaches. Unfortunately, M. Germain did
not wear one, because of the situation he held. M. Cabrion did, but
then it was red, like his long beard, and I do not like those great
beards; besides, he made himself so ridiculously conspicuous in the
streets, and teased poor M. Pipelet so much. Now, M. Giraudeau, who
was my neighbor before M. Cabrion, dressed well, and altogether had a
very good appearance, but he squinted. At first it annoyed me very
much, because he always appeared to be looking at some one at the side
of me, and without thinking, I often turned round to see who--" And
again Miss Dimpleton laughed.

Rudolph, as he listened to this prattle, asked himself, for the third
or fourth time, what he ought to think of the _virtue_ of Miss
Dimpleton. Sometimes the frankness of the grisette, and the
remembrance of the large bolt, made him almost believe that she loved
her neighbors merely as _brothers_ or _companions_, and that
Mrs. Pipelet had caluminated her; then again he smiled at his
credulity, in thinking it probable that a girl so young, so pretty, so
solitary, should have escaped the seductions of Giraudeau, Cabrion,
and Germain. Still, for all that, Miss Dimpleton's frankness and
originality disposed him to think favorably of her.

"You delight me, neighbor, by your manner of disposing of my Sundays,"
said Rudolph, gayly; "we will have some famous treats."

"Stop a moment, Mr. Spendthrift. I warn you that I shall keep house.
In summer, we can dine very well--yes, very well--for three francs, at
the Chartreuse or at the Montmartre Hermitage, half a dozen country
dances, or valses included, with a ride upon the wooden horses:--oh, I
do so love riding on horseback! That will makeup your five francs--not
a farthing more, I assure you. Do you valse?"

"Very well."

"Oh, this pleases me! M. Cabrion always trod on my feet, and then for
fun he would throw fulminating balls on the ground, which was the
reason they would not let him go any more to the Chartreuse."

"Be assured, I will answer for my discretion wherever we go together;
and as to the fulminating balls, I will have nothing to do with them.
But in winter, what shall we do?" "In winter, we are less hungry, and
can dine luxuriously for forty sous; then we shall have three francs
left for the play, for I would not have you exceed a hundred sous--
that is indeed too much to spend in pleasure; but if alone, you would
spend much more at the wine-shop or the billiard-rooms, with low
fellows, who smell horribly of tobacco. Is it not better to pass the
day pleasantly with a young friend, very laughter-loving and discreet,
who will save you some expense, by hemming your cravats, and taking
care of your other little domestic affairs?"

"It is clearly a gaining for me, neighbor; only if my friends should
meet me with my pretty little friend on my arm, what then?"

"Well, they will look at us and say: 'He is not at all unlucky, that
rogue Rudolph!'"

"You know my name?"

"Why, to be sure I do. When I learned that the next room was let, I
asked to whom!"

"Yes, when people meet us together, no doubt, as you say, they will
remark: 'What a lucky fellow that Rudolph is!' and will envy me."

"So much the better."

"They will think me perfectly happy."

"Of course they will; and so much the better!"

"And if I should not be so happy as I seem?"

"What does that matter, provided they believe it; men require nothing
further than mere outward show."

"But your reputation?"

Miss Dimpleton burst into an immoderate fit of laughter.

"The reputation of a grisette! Would any one believe in such a
phenomenon?" answered she. "If I had father or mother, brother or
sister, for them I should be careful of what people would say: but I
am alone in the world, and it's my own look out. As long as I am
satisfied with myself, I don't care a snap for others!"

"But still I should be very uncomfortable."

"What for?"

"In being thought happy in having you for a companion, while, on the
contrary, I love you. It would be something like taking dinner with
Papa Cretu--eating dry bread, whilst a cookery book was being read to
me."

"Nonsense, nonsense! You will be very happy to live after my fashion.
I shall prove so mild, grateful, and unwearying, that you will say:
'After all, it is as well to pass my Sunday, with her as with any one
else.' If you should be disengaged in the evenings, during the week,
and it would not annoy you, you might pass them in my room, and have
the advantage of my fire and lamp, you could hire romances, and read
them aloud to me. Better than go and lose your money at billiards.
Otherwise, if you were kept late at your business, or you liked better
to go to the _cafe_, you could wish me good-night on your return,
if I were still up. But should I be in bed, at an early hour next day
I would say good-morning, by tapping at the wall to waken you. M.
Germain, my last neighbor, spent all his evenings in that manner with
me, and did not complain; he read all Walter Scott's works to me,
which were very interesting. Sometimes on Sunday, when the weather was
bad, instead of leaving home, he bought something nice, and we made a
downright banquet in my room; after which we amused ourselves with
reading, and I was almost as much pleased as if I had been at the
theater. This is to show you that it would not be difficult to live
with me, and that I will do what I can to make things pleasant and
agreeable. And then, you, who talk of illness, if ever you should be
laid up, I'll be a real Sister of Charity; only ask the Morels what
sort of a nurse I am! So, you see, you are not aware of all your
happiness; it is as good as a lucky hit in the lottery to have me for
a neighbor."

"That is true, I have always been lucky; but, speaking of M. Germain,
where is he now?"

"In Paris, I believe."

"Then you never see him now?"

"Since he left this house, he has not been to see me."

"But where does he live, and what is he doing?"

"Why do you ask those questions, neighbor?"

"Because I feel jealous of him," said Rudolph, smiling, "and I would--"

"Jealous!" exclaimed Miss Dimpleton, laughing. "There is no reason for
that, poor fellow!"

"Seriously, then, I have the greatest interest in knowing the address
of M. Germain; you know where he lives, and I may, without boasting,
add, that I am incapable of abusing the secret I ask of you; it will
be for his interest also." "Seriously, neighbor, I believe you wish
every good to M. Germain, but he made me promise not to give his
address to any one; therefore, be assured, that as I do not give it to
you, it is because I cannot. You ought not to be angry with me; if you
had intrusted a secret to me, you would be pleased to find I acted as
I am now doing."

"But--"

"Stop, neighbor! Once for all, do not speak to me any more on that
subject; I have made a promise, I intend to keep it, and, whatever you
may say to me, I shall still answer you in the same way."

In spite of her giddiness and frivolity, the girl pronounced these
last words so decisively, that Rudolph felt, to his great regret, that
he would never obtain from her the desired information about Germain;
and he felt a repugnance to employ artifice in surprising her
confidence. He paused a moment, and then resumed: "Do not let us speak
of it again, neighbor. Upon my soul, you keep so well the secrets of
others, that I am no longer surprised at your keeping your own."

"Secrets! I have secrets! I wish I had some; it must be so very
amusing."

"Do you mean to say that you have not a little secret of the heart?"

"A secret of the heart!"

"In a word, have you never loved?" said Rudolph, looking steadfastly
at Miss Dimpleton, to read the truth in her tell-tale face.

"Loved!--have I not loved M. Giraudeau, M. Cabrion, M. Germain, and
you?"

"And did you love them the same as you love me--neither more nor
less?"

"Oh, I cannot tell you that, exactly--less, perhaps; for I had to
habituate myself to the squint of M. Giraudeau, to the red beard and
disagreeable jests of M. Cabrion, and the melancholy of M. Germain,
for he was so very sad, poor young man: while you, on the contrary,
pleased me instantly."

"You will not feel angry, neighbor, if I speak to you as a friend?"

"Oh, no, don't be afraid--I am very good-natured; and then you are so
kind, that I am sure you have not the heart to say anything that would
cause me pain."

"Certainly not; but now, frankly, have you never had--a lover?"

"Lovers! Now, is that very likely? Have I time for that?"

"But what has time to do with it?"

"Everything. First of all, I should be as jealous as a tiger, and I
should be constantly worrying myself with one idea or the other. Then,
again, do I earn money enough to enable me to lose two or three hours
a day in grief and tears?--and if he deceived me, what weeping, what
sorrow! All that would throw me pretty well behindhand, you may
guess."

"But all lovers are not unfaithful, and do not cause their mistresses
to weep."

"That would be still worse. If he were very good and loving, could I
live a moment away from him? And then, as most likely he would be
obliged to stay all day, either at the desk, manufactory, or shop, I
should be like a poor restless spirit during his absence. I should
invent a thousand chimeras; imagine that others loved him, and that he
was with them. Heaven only knows what I might be tempted to do in my
despair! Certain it is, that my work would be neglected, and what
would become of me then? I can manage, quiet as I am, to live by
working twelve or fourteen hours a day; but, were I to lose two or
three days in the week by tormenting myself, how could I make up the
lost time? Impossible! I must then take a situation. Oh, no, I love my
liberty too well."

"Your liberty?"

"Yes; I could enter as forewoman to the person who now employs me; I
should receive four hundred francs a year, with board and lodging."

"And you will not accept that?"

"No, indeed. I should be dependent on others; instead of which,
however humble my home may be, it is my own. I owe no one anything; I
have courage, health and gayety: with an agreeable neighbor like
yourself, what do I want more?"

"Then you have never thought of marrying?"

"I marry! I could only expect to meet with a husband as poor as
myself; and look at the unhappy Morels--see where it ends! When you
have but yourself to look to, you can always manage somehow."

"Then you never build castles in the air--never dream?"

"Yes, I dream of my chimney-ornaments; besides them what can I
desire?"

"But suppose, now, some relation, of whom you have never heard, should
die and leave you a fortune--say twelve hundred francs a year--to you,
who live upon five hundred francs----"

"It might prove a good thing--perhaps an evil."

"An evil?"

"I am very happy as I am; I can enjoy the life I now lead, but I do
not know how I should pass my time if I were rich. After a hard day's
work, I go to bed, my lamp extinguished, and, by a few light embers
that remain in my stove, I see my room neat--curtains, drawers,
chairs, birds, watch, and my table spread with goods intrusted to me--
and then I say to myself, `All this I owe to myself.' Truly, neighbor,
these thoughts cradle me softly, and sometimes I go to sleep with
pride, always with content. But here we are at the Temple! You must
confess, now, that it is a very superb show!"

Although Rudolph did not participate in the deep veneration expressed
by Miss Dimpleton at the sight of the Temple, he was nevertheless
struck by the singular appearance of this enormous bazaar, with its
numerous divisions and passages. Toward the middle of the Rue du
Temple, not far from a fountain which was placed in the angle of a
large square, might be seen an immense parallelogram built of timber,
surmounted with a slated roof. That building is the Temple. Bounded on
the left by the Rue du Petit Thouars, on the right by the Rue Percee,
it finished in a vast rotunda, surrounded with a gallery, forming a
sort of arcade. A long opening, intersecting this parallelogram in its
length, divided it in two equal parts; these were in their turn
divided and subdivided by little lateral and transverse courts,
sheltered from the rain by the roof of the edifice. In this bazaar new
merchandise is generally prohibited; but the smallest rag of any
stuff, the smallest piece of iron, brass, or steel, there found its
buyer or seller.

There you saw dealers in scraps of cloth of all colors, ages, shades,
qualities, and fashion, to assimilate either with worn-out or ill-fitting
garments. Some of the shops presented mountains of old shoes,
some trodden down at heel, others twisted, torn, split, and in holes,
presenting a mass of nameless, formless, colorless objects, among
which were grimly visible some species of _fossil_ soles, about
an inch thick, studded with thick nails, like a prison door, and hard
as a horseshoe, the actual skeletons of shoes whose other component
parts had long since been devoured by Time. Yet all this moldy, rusty,
dried-up accumulation of decaying rubbish found a willing purchaser,
an extensive body of _merchants_ trading in this particular line.

There existed retailers of trimming, fringes, cords, ravelings of
silk, cotton, or thread, during the destruction of curtains, etc.,
rendered unfit for use. Other industrious persons occupied themselves
in the business of women's bonnets; these bonnets never came to their
shop but in the bags of the retailer, after the most singular changes,
the most extraordinary transformations, the most unheard-of
discolorations. To prevent the merchandise taking up too much room in
a shop usually of the size of a large box, they folded these bonnets
in two, after which they smoothed them and pressed them down
excessively tight--saving the salt, it is positively the same process
as is used in the preservation of herrings: thus you may imagine how
much, thanks to this method of stowage, may be contained in a space of
four square feet.

When the purchaser presents himself, they withdraw these bags from the
pressure to which they are subject; the merchant, with a careless air,
gives a slight push with his fist to the bottom of the crown, to raise
it up, smooths the front upon his knee, and presents to your eyes an
object at once whimsically fantastical, which recalls confusedly to
your memory those fabulous head-dresses favored by box-keepers, aunts
of opera dancers, or duennas of provincial theaters. Further on, at
the sign of the _Gout du jour_, under the arcades of the Rotunda,
elevated at the end of the wide opening which separates the Temple in
two parts, were hanging, like _exotics_, numerous clothes, in
color, shape, and make still more extravagant than those of the
bonnets just described. Here were seen frock-coats, flashily set off
by three rows of hussar-jacket buttons, and warmly ornamented with a
little fur collar of fox's skin. Great-coats, formerly of bottle-green,
rendered by time _invisible_, edged with a black cord, and
brightened by a lining of plaid, blue and yellow, which had a most
laughable effect. Coats, formerly styled the "swallow-tails," of a
reddish-brown, with a handsome collar of plush, ornamented with
buttons, once gilt, but now of a copper color. There were also to be
seen Polish cloaks, with collars of cat-skin, frogged, and faced with
old black cotton-velvet; not far from these were dressing-gowns,
cunningly made of watchmen's old great-coats, from which were taken
the many capes, and lined with pieces of printed cotton; the better
sort were of dead blue and dark green, patched up with sundry pieces
of variegated colors, and fastened round the waist with an old woolen
bell-rope serving for a girdle, making a finish to these elegant
_deshabilles_, so exultingly worn by Robert Macaire.

We shall briefly pass over a variety of "loud" costumes, more or less
uncouth, in the midst of which might here and there be seen some
authentic relics of royalty or greatness, dragged by the revolution of
time from palaces and noble halls, to figure on the dingy shelves of
the Rotunda.

These exhibitions of old shoes, old hats, and ridiculous old dresses,
were on the grotesque side of the bazaar--the quarter for beggars,
ostentatiously decked out and disguised; but it must be allowed, or
rather distinctly asserted, that this vast establishment was of
immense use to the humble classes, or those of limited means. There
they might purchase, at an amazing reduction in price, excellent
things, almost new, the actual depreciation in value being almost
imaginary. On one side of the Temple, set apart for bedding, there
were heaps of coverlets, sheets, mattresses, and pillows. Further on
were carpets, curtains, and all sorts of kitchen utensils, besides
clothes, shoes, and head-dresses for all classes and ages. These
objects, generally of perfect cleanliness, offered nothing repugnant
to the sight.

One could scarcely believe, before visiting the bazaar, how little
time and money were requisite to fill a cart with all that is
necessary to the complete fitting out of two or three families who
wanted everything.

Rudolph was struck by the manner, at once eager, obliging, and merry,
with which the various dealers, standing outside their shops,
solicited the custom of the passers-by; these manners, stamped with a
sort of respectful familiarity, seemed to belong to another age.
Scarcely had Miss Dimpleton and her companion appeared in the long
passage occupied by those who sold bedding, than they were surrounded
by the most seductive offers.

"Sir, come in and see my mattresses; they are better than new! I will
unsew a corner, that you may examine the stuffing; you will think it
lambs'-wool, it is so white and soft!"

"My pretty little lady, I have sheets of fine holland, finer than at
first, for their stiffness has been taken out of them; they are as
soft as a glove, strong as steel!"

"Come, my elegant new-married couple, buy of me a counterpane. See how
soft, warm, and light they are--you would imagine them of eider-down;
nearly new--have not been used twenty times. Look, my little lady;
decide for your husband; give me your custom--I will furnish very
cheaply for you--you will be satisfied--you will come again to Mother
Bouvard. You will find all you want in my shop; yesterday I made
beautiful purchases--you shall see them all. Come in, anyhow; it will
not cost anything to look."

"By my faith, neighbor," said Rudolph to Miss Dimpleton, "this good
fat woman shall have the preference. She takes us for young married
people; the supposition flatters me, and I decide for her shop."

"To the good fat woman's, then," answered Miss Dimpleton; "her face
pleases me too."

The grisette and her companion then entered Mother Bouvard's shop. By
a magnanimity perhaps unexampled anywhere but at the Temple, the
rivals of Mother Bouvard did not rebel at the preference accorded her;
one of the neighbors, indeed, had the generosity to say, "So long as
it is Mother Bouvard, and no other, who has this customer, it is very
well: she has a family, and is the oldest inhabitant of the Temple,
and an honor to it." It was, besides, impossible to have a face more
prepossessing, open, and joyous than hers.

"Here, my pretty little lady," said she to Miss Dimpleton, who
examined everything with the manner of one capable of judging, "this
is the purchase of which I spoke; two beds, completely fitted up, and
as good as new. If by chance you want a little old secretary, and not
dear, there is one," and she pointed to it, "that I had in the same
lot. Although I do not generally buy furniture, I could not refuse to
take it, as the person of whom I had all this seemed so unhappy. Poor
lady! it was the parting with that, above all, that appeared to rend
her heart; an old piece of furniture very long with the family."

At these words, while the shopkeeper and Miss Dimpleton were debating
the prices of different articles, Rudolph looked more attentively at
the piece of furniture which Mother Bouvard had pointed out. It was
one of those old secretaries of rosewood, in shape nearly triangular,
shut in by a panel in front, which, thrown back, and supported by two
long brass hinges, could be used as a writing-desk. In the middle of
the panel, inlaid with different-colored wood, Rudolph noticed a
cipher in ebony, an M. and R. interlaced, and surmounted by the
coronet of a count. He imagined its last possessor to belong to an
elevated class of society. His curiosity increased; he examined the
secretary with renewed attention; he opened mechanically the drawers,
one after the other, when, finding some difficulty in opening the
last, and seeking the cause, he discovered and drew out carefully a
sheet of paper, partly entangled between the drawer and the bottom of
the secretary. While Miss Dimpleton was finishing her purchases with
Mother Bouvard, Rudolph narrowly scrutinized the paper; from the many
erasures it was easily to be seen that it was an unfinished draught of
a letter. Rudolph, with difficulty, read as follows:

"Sir,--Be assured that misfortunes the most frightful could alone
compel me to address you. It is not from ill-placed pride I feel these
scruples, but the absolute want of any claim to the service I venture
to ask of you. The sight of my daughter, reduced, like myself, to the
most painful privation, urges me to the task. A few words will explain
the cause of the misfortunes which overwhelm me. After the death of my
husband, there remained to me a fortune of three hundred thousand
francs, placed by my brother with M. Jacques Ferrand, notary. I
received at Angers, where I had retired with my daughter, the interest
of this sum in remittances from my brother. You remember, sir, the
frightful event that put an end to his existence: ruined, as it
appeared, by secret and unfortunate speculations, he destroyed himself
eight months since. Before this melancholy event, I received from him
a few lines, written in despair, in which he said, when I read them he
should have ceased to exist; he finished by informing me that he
possessed no document relative to the sum placed in my name with M.
Jacques Ferrand, as that individual never gave a receipt, but was
honor and goodness itself, and it would only be necessary for me to
call on him for the affairs to be satisfactorily arranged. As soon as
I could possibly turn my attention to anything but the fearful death
of my brother, I came to Paris, where I knew no one but yourself, sir,
and that indirectly, by business you had had with my husband. I told
you that the sum placed with M. Jacques Ferrand comprised the whole of
my fortune, and that my brother sent me, every six months, the
interest derived from that sum. More than a year having passed since
the last payment, I consequently called on the notary, to demand that
of which I stood greatly in want. Scarcely had I made myself known,
than, without respecting my grief, he accused my brother of having
borrowed from him two thousand francs, which he had entirely lost by
his death; adding, that not only was his suicide a crime toward God
and man, but that it was still further an act of dishonesty, of which
he was the victim. This odious speech made me indignant. The upright
conduct of my brother was well known; he had, it is true, without the
knowledge of myself or his friends, lost his fortune in hazardous
speculations, but he died with his reputation unsullied, regretted by
every one, and leaving no debts, save that to his notary. I replied to
M. Ferrand that I authorized him to take instantly, from the sum he
had in his charge of mine, the two thousand francs my brother was
indebted to him. At these words he looked at me in stupefied manner,
and asked me of what money I spoke. 'The three hundred thousand francs
that my brother placed in your hands eighteen months since, sir; the
interest of which you have remitted, through him,' said I not
comprehending his question. The notary shrugged his shoulders, smiled
in pity, as though my assertion was not true, and answered me that, so
far from having placed money with him, he had borrowed two thousand
francs.

"It is impossible to explain to you my terror at this answer. 'But
what, then, has become of this sum?' asked I. 'My daughter and myself
have no other resource; if it be taken from us, there remains but the
greatest misery. What will become of us?' 'I know nothing about it,'
said the notary coolly: 'it is most likely that your brother, instead
of placing this sum with me, as he told you, made use of it in those
unfortunate speculations to which he gave himself up, without the
knowledge of any one.' 'It is false, sir!' I exclaimed; 'my brother
was honor's self. Far from despoiling myself and child, he sacrificed
himself to us. He would never marry, that he might leave all he
possessed to my child.' 'Dare you assume, then, madame, that I am
capable of denying a trust reposed in me?' asked the notary, with an
indignation so apparently honorable and sincere, that I replied, 'No,
sir; without doubt your reputation for probity is well known; but,
notwithstanding, I cannot accuse my brother of so cruel an abuse of
confidence.' 'Upon what deeds do you found this demand on me?' asked
M. Ferrand. 'None, sir; eighteen months since, my brother, who took
upon himself the management of my affairs, wrote to me, saying, 'I
have an excellent opportunity of realizing six per cent.; send me your
warrant of attorney; I will deposit three hundred thousand francs,
which I have concluded about, with M. Ferrand, the notary.' I sent the
power of attorney; and, a few days after, he informed me that he had
effected the deposit with you, and at the end of six months he sent me
the interest of that sum. 'At least you have some letters from him on
the subject, madame?' 'No, sir; as they related only to business, I
did not preserve them.' 'I, unhappily, madame, know nothing of all
this,' replied the notary; 'if my character was not above all
suspicion, all attack, I should say to you, 'The law is open to you--
proceed against me; the judges will have to choose between an
honorable man, who for thirty years has enjoyed the esteem of persons
of consideration, and the posthumous declaration of a man who, after
ruining himself in the most hazardous speculations, found refuge only
in suicide.' In short, I say to you now, attack me, madame, if you
dare, and the memory of your brother will be dishonored! But I should
think that you will nave the good sense to be resigned to a
misfortune, doubtless very great, but to which I am a stranger.' 'But,
sir, I am a mother; if my fortune is lost to me, my daughter and
myself have only the resource of some little furniture; that sold,
there remains but misery, sir, appalling misery!' 'You have,
unfortunately, been cheated; I can do nothing,' replied the notary.
'Again I tell you, madame, your brother deceived you. If you hesitate
between my word and his, proceed against me; the law is open to you--I
abide by its decision.' I left the office of the notary in the deepest
despair. What remained for me to do in this extremity. Without any
document to prove the validity of my claim, convinced of the strict
honesty of my brother, confounded by the assurance of M. Ferrand,
having no one from whom I could ask advice (you were then traveling),
knowing that money was necessary to have the opinion of counsel, and
wishing carefully to preserve the little which was left to me, I dared
not undertake the commencement of a lawsuit. It was then--"

This copy of a letter ended here, for strokes not decipherable,
covered some lines which followed: at last, at the bottom, in a corner
of the page, Rudolph read the following memorandum: "_Write to the
Duchess de Lucenay, for M. de Saint-Remy_."

Rudolph remained thoughtful after the perusal of this fragment of a
letter, in which he had found two names whose connection struck him.
Although the additional infamy with which M. Ferrand appeared to be
accused was not proved, this man had shown himself so pitiless towards
the unfortunate Morel, so infamous to Louise, his daughter, that a
denial of the deposit, protected as he was from certain discovery, did
not appear strange, coming from such a wretch. This mother, who
claimed a fortune which had so strangely disappeared, no doubt
accustomed to the comforts of life, was ruined by a blow so sudden:
knowing no one at Paris, as the letter said, what could now be the
existence of these two females, deprived of everything, alone in the
heart of this immense city?

The prince had, as we know, promised to Lady d'Harville _some
intrigues_, which he hazarded for the purpose of occupying her
mind, and a part to perform in some future work of charity, feeling
certain of finding, before his again meeting the lady, some grief to
assuage: he trusted that perhaps chance might throw in his path some
worthy, unfortunate person, who could, agreeably to his project,
interest the heart and imagination of Lady d'Harville. The wording of
the letter that he held in his hands, a copy of which, without doubt,
had never been sent to the person from whom assistance was implored,
showed a character proud and resigned, to whom the offer of charity
would be no doubt repugnant. In that case, what precautions and
delicate deceptions would be necessary to hide the source of a
generous succor, or to make it acceptable! And then, what address to
gain introduction to this lady, so that you might judge if she really
merited the interest it seemed she ought to inspire! Rudolph foresaw a
crowd of emotions, new, curious, and touching, which ought singularly
to amuse Lady d'Harville, as he had promised her.

"Well, _husband_," said Miss Dimpleton, gayly, "what is that
scrap of paper you are reading?"

"My little _wife_," answered Rudolph, "you are very curious. I
will tell you presently. Have you concluded your purchases?"

"Certainly, and your poor friends will be established like kings.
There remains only to pay. Mother Bouvard is very accommodating, it
must be allowed."

"My little _wife_, an idea has just struck me; while I am paying,
will you go and choose clothing for Mrs. Morel and her children; I
confess my ignorance on the subject of such purchases. You can tell
them to bring the things here, as there need be but one journey, and
the poor people will have all at the same time."

"You are always right, _husband_. Wait for me, I shall not be
long; I know two shopkeepers with whom I always deal, and I shall find
there all that I want." Miss Dimpleton went out, saying, "Mother
Bouvard, I trust my _husband_ to you; do not make love to him."
And, laughing, she hastily disappeared.

"Indeed, sir," said Mother Bouvard to Rudolph, after the departure of
Miss Dimpleton, "you must allow that you possess a famous little
manager. She understands well how to buy. So pretty! Red and white,
with beautiful large black eyes, and hair to match!"

"Is she not charming? Am I not a happy husband, Mother Bouvard?"

"As happy a husband as she is a wife, I am quite sure."

"You are not mistaken there; but tell me, how much do I owe you?"

"Your little lady would not go beyond three hundred and thirty francs
for all. As there is a heaven above, I only clear fifteen francs, for
I did not buy them so cheaply as I might; I had not the heart to beat
them down, the people who sold them appeared so very unhappy!"

"Indeed! were they not the same persons of whom you bought the little
secretary?"

"Yes, sir; and its break my heart only to think of it. There came here
the day before yesterday, a lady, still young and beautiful, but so
pale and thin, that it gave you pain to see her. Although she was neat
and clean, her old threadbare, black worsted shawl, her black stuff
gown, also much worn and frayed, her straw bonnet in the month of
January, for she was in mourning, proclaimed what is termed a
_shabby genteel_ appearance, but I am sure she was of real
quality. At length she inquired, with a blush, if I would purchase two
beds complete, and an old secretary. I replied, that as I sold I must
buy, and that, if they suited me, I would have them. She then begged
me to go with her, not far from here, on the other side of the street,
to a house on the quay of the Canal Saint Martin. I left my shop in
charge of my niece, and followed the lady. We came to a shabby-looking
house, quite at the bottom of a court; we went up to the fourth story,
the lady knocked, and a young girl of fourteen opened the door; she
was also in mourning, and equally pale and thin, but in spite of this,
beautiful as the day--so beautiful, that I was enraptured!"

"Well, and this young girl?"

"Was the daughter of the lady in mourning. Although so cold she had on
nothing more than a black cotton dress with white spots, and a little
black shawl quite worn out."

"And their lodging was wretched?"

"Imagine, sir, two little rooms, very clean, but almost empty, and so
cold that I was nearly frozen; a fireplace where you could not
perceive the least appearance of ashes; there had not been a fire for
a long time. The whole of the furniture consisted of two beds, two
chairs, a chest of drawers, an old trunk, and the little secretary.
Upon the trunk was a bundle in a handkerchief. This bundle was all
that remained to the mother and daughter, when once their furniture
was sold. The landlord selected the two bedsteads, the chairs, trunk,
and table, for what they were indebted to him, as the porter said who
came up with us. When the lady begged me to put a fair value on the
mattress, sheets, curtains, and blankets, on the faith of an honest
woman, sir, although I live by buying cheap and selling dear, when I
saw the poor young lady, her eyes filled with tears, and her mother,
in spite of her calmness, appearing to weep inwardly, I estimated them
within fifteen francs of their value to sell again, I assure you; I
even consented, to oblige them, to take the little secretary, although
it is not in my line of business."

"I will buy it of you, Mother Bouvard."

"Will you though? So much the better, sir; it would have remained on
my hands a long time, and I only took it to serve the lady. I then
told her what I would give for the things, and I expected she would
ask me more than I had offered; but no, she said not a word about it.
This still more satisfied me that she was no common person; _genteel
poverty_, sir, be assured. I said, 'So much,' she answered, 'Thank
you! now let us return to your shop, and you can then pay me, as I
shall not come back again to this house.' Then, speaking to her
daughter, who was sitting on the trunk, crying, she said, 'Claire,
take the bundle.' I remember the name well. The young lady rose up,
but in passing by the side of the little secretary, she threw herself
on her knees before it, and began to sob. 'Courage, my child, they are
looking at us,' said her mother, in a low tone, but yet I heard her.
You can understand, sir, they are poor but proud people. When the lady
gave me the key of the little secretary, I noticed a tear in her eyes,
her heart seemed breaking at parting with the old piece of furniture;
but she still tried to preserve her calmness and dignity before
strangers. She then gave the porter to understand that I was to take
away all the landlord did not keep, and afterward we returned here.
The young lady gave her arm to her mother, and carried in her hand the
little bundle which contained their all. I paid them three hundred and
fifteen francs, and have not since seen them."

"But their name?"

"I do not know: the lady sold me the things in the presence of the
porter; I had not the necessity to ask her name, as what she sold
belonged to herself."

"But their new abode?"

"That, also, I do not know."

"Perhaps they can inform me at their old lodging?"

"No, sir; for when I returned to fetch away the things, the porter
said, speaking of the mother and daughter; 'They are very quiet
people, but very unhappy; some misfortunes have happened to them. They
always appeared calm; but I am sure they were in a state of despair.'
'And where are they going to lodge at this late hour?' I asked him.
'In truth, I know nothing,' answered he; 'it is, however, quite
certain they will not return here.'"

The hopes that Rudolph had entertained for a moment vanished. How
could he discover these two unhappy females, having only as a clew the
name of the young girl, Claire, and the fragment of a letter, of which
we have spoken, at the bottom of which were the words: "_Write to
Madame de Lucenay, for M. de Saint-Remy_."

The only chance, and that was a very faint one, of tracing these
unfortunates, rested in Madame de Lucenay, who, fortunately, was on
intimate terms with Lady d'Harville.

"Here, madame, pay yourself," said Rudolph to the shopkeeper, giving
her a note for five hundred francs.

"I will give you the difference, sir."

"Where can I engage a cart to carry the things?"

"If it be not very far, a large truck will be sufficient; Father
Jerome has one, quite close by; I always employ him. What is your
address?"

"No. 17, Rue du Temple."

"Rue du Temple, No. 17. Yes, yes, I know the house."

"You have been there?"

"Many times. First, I bought some clothes of a pawnbroker who lived
there. It is true, she did not carry on a large business, but that was
no affair of mine: she sold, I bought, and we were quits. Another
time, not six months ago, I went again for the furniture of a young
man who lived on the fourth story, and who was going to remove."

"M. Francois Germain, perhaps," said Rudolph.

"The same. Do you know him?"

"Very well. Unhappily, he has not left in the Rue du Temple his
present address, and I do not know where to find him."

"If that be all, I can remove the difficulty."

"You know where he lives?"

"Not exactly; but I know where you will be sure to meet with him."

"Where is that?"--

"At a notary's, where he is employed."

"At a notary's?"

"Yes; who lives in the Rue du Sentier."

"M. Jacques Ferrand!" exclaimed Rudolph.

"The same; a worthy man; he has a crucifix and a bit of the true cross
in his office, which reminds one of a sacristy."

"But how do you know that M. Germain is with the notary?"

"Why, in this way. The young man came to me, and proposed that I
should buy all his furniture; although not in my way of business, I
agreed, and afterward retailed them here; for, as it suited the young
man, I did not like to refuse. Well, then, I bought him clean out, and
gave him a good price; he was, doubtless, satisfied with me, for at
the end of a fortnight he came to buy a bedstead and bedding. He
brought with him a truck and a porter; they packed up all; but just as
he was about to pay he found he had forgotten his purse. He appeared
such an honest young man, that I said to him: 'Take the things with
you, all the same; I will call for the money.''Very well,' he said;
'but I am seldom at home; call, therefore, tomorrow, in the Rue du
Sentier, at M. Jacques Ferrand's the notary, where I am employed, and
I will then pay you.' I went the next day, and he paid me. Only, what
I thought so odd, was, his selling me all his goods, and buying others
in a fortnight after."

Rudolph thought he could account for the cause of this singularity.
Germain, wishing that the wretches who pursued him should lose all
traces, of him, had sold his goods, thinking that if he removed them
it might give a clew to his new abode, and had preferred, to avoid
this evil, purchasing others, and taking them himself to his lodgings.
Rudolph started with joy when he thought of the happiness for Mrs.
George, who was at last about to see this son, so long and vainly
sought.

Miss Dimpleton now returned with joyful eyes and smiling lips.

"Well, did I not tell you?" she exclaimed. "I was not wrong: we have
spent, in all, six hundred and forty francs, and the Morels will be
housed like princes. See! the shopkeepers are coming: are they not
loaded? Nothing is wanted for the use of the family--even to a
gridiron, two beautiful saucepans newly tinned, and a coffee-pot. I
said to myself, since everything is to be had, it shall be so; and,
besides all that, I have spent three hours. But make haste and pay,
neighbor, and let us go. It is almost noon, and my needle must go at a
pretty rate to overtake this morning!"

Rudolph paid, and left the Temple with Miss Dimpleton. As the grisette
and her companion entered the passage of the house, they were almost
thrown down by Mrs. Pipelet, who was running out, troubled,
frightened, aghast.

"Gracious heaven!" said Miss Dimpleton, "what is the matter with you,
Mrs. Pipelet? Where are you running to in that manner?"

"Is that you, Miss Dimpleton?" exclaimed Anastasia.

"Providence has sent you. Help me! save the life of Alfred!"

"What do you say?"

"That poor old darling has fainted! Have pity upon us! run and fetch
two sous worth of absinthe--very strong; that is the remedy when he is
indisposed in the pylorus. Be kind; do not refuse me, and I can return
to Alfred. I am quite confused!"

Miss Dimpleton left Rudolph's arm, and ran off to the dram-shop.

"But what has happened, Mrs. Pipelet?" asked Rudolph, following the
portress, who returned to the lodge.

"How should I know, my worthy sir? I left home to go to the mayor's,
the church, and the cook-shop, to prevent Alfred from tiring himself.
I returned; what did I see? the dear old man with his legs and arms
all in the air! Look, M. Rudolph!" said Anastasia, opening the door of
the room, "is not that a sight to break one's heart?"

Lamentable spectacle! With his enormous hat still on his head, even
further on than usual, for the questionable _castor,_ pushed
down, no doubt, by violence, if we may judge by a transverse gap,
covered Pipelet's eyes, who was on his back on the floor, at the foot
of his bed.

The fainting was over, and Alfred was beginning to make some slight
movements with his hands, as though he wished to repulse some one or
some thing; and then he tried to remove his troublesome visor.

"He kicks! that is a good sign; he recovers!" cried the portress--and
stooping down, she bawled in his ears: "What is the matter with my
Alfred? It is his 'Stasie who is here. How are you now? They are
coming to bring you some absinthe; that will put you to rights." Then,
assuming a caressing tone of voice, she added: "Have they abused you,
killed you, my dear old darling--eh?"

Alfred sighed deeply, and with a groan uttered a fatal word:
"_Cabrion!_" His trembling hands seemed as though desirous of
repulsing a frightful vision.

"Cabrion! that devil of a painter again!" exclaimed Mrs. Pipelet.
"Alfred all night dreamed so much about him, that he kicked me
dreadfully. That monster is his nightmare! Not only has he poisoned
his days, but his nights also; he persecutes him even in his sleep--
yes, sir, as though Alfred was a malefactor, and this Cabrion, whom
may the devil confound! is his remorseless enemy."

Rudolph smiled, as he foresaw some new trick on the part of Miss
Dimpleton's former neighbor.

"Alfred, answer me; do not remain dumb--you alarm me," said Mrs.
Pipelet; "let us get you up. Why will you think on that beggarly
fellow? You know that, when you think of him, it has the same effect
on you as when you eat cabbage--it fills up your gizzard, and stifles
you!"

"Cabrion!" repeated Pipelet, lifting with difficulty his hat from his
eyes, which he rolled about with a frightened air.

Miss Dimpleton entered, carrying a small bottle of absinthe.

"Thank you, mademoiselle; you are very kind," said the old woman. Then
she added: "Here, darling, pop it down; it will bring you to
yourself."

And Anastasia, presenting the vial quickly to Pipelet's lips, insisted
on his swallowing the contents. Alfred in vain struggled courageously:
his wife, profiting by the weakness of her victim, held his head with
a firm grasp in one hand, and with the other introduced the neck of
the vial between his teeth, and forced him to drink the absinthe;
after which she cried triumphantly: "Well done! you are again on your
pins, my cherished one!"

Alfred, having wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, opened his
eyes, stood up, and asked in a trembling voice: "Have you seen him?"

"Who?"

"Is he gone?"

"Alfred, whom do you mean?"

"Cabrion!"

"Has he dared--" cried the portress.

Pipelet, as dumb as the statue of the Commander in _Don
Giovanni,_ bowed his head twice in the affirmative.

"M. Cabrion, has he been here?" asked Miss Dimpleton, restraining with
difficulty an inclination to laugh.

"That monster! has he been let loose upon Alfred?" cried Mrs. Pipelet.
"Oh, if I had been here with my broom, he should have eaten it up, to
the very handle! But speak, Alfred; relate to us this horrible
affair."

Pipelet made a sign with his hand that he was about to speak, and they
listened to the man of the immense hat in religious silence. Pie
expressed himself in these terms, with a voice deeply agitated: "My
wife had just left me to complete the orders given by you, sir (bowing
to Rudolph), to call at the mayor's and the cook-shop."

"The dear old man had the nightmare all night, and I wished him to
rest," said Anastasia.

"This nightmare was sent me as a warning from above," said the porter,
solemnly. "I had dreamed of Cabrion--I was to suffer by Cabrion. Here
was I sitting quietly before the table, thinking of an alteration that
I wished to make in this boot confided to me, when I heard a noise, a
rustling at the window of my lodge--was it a presentiment--a warning
from above? My heart beat; I raised my head, and through the window I
saw--saw--"

"Cabrion!" cried Anastasia, clasping her hands.

"Cabrion!" replied Pipelet, in a hollow tone. "His hideous face was
there, close to the window, looking at me with his cat's eyes--what do
I say? tiger's eyes! just as in my dream. I tried to speak, but my
tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth: I would have risen--I was glued
to my seat; the boot fell from my hands, and, as in every critical and
important event of my life, I remained completely motionless. Then the
key turned in the lock; the door opened, and Cabrion entered!"

"He entered? what effrontery!" said Mrs. Pipelet, as much astonished
as her husband at such audacity.

"Cabrion advanced slowly, his looks fixed on me, as a serpent glares
on the bird, like a phantom--on, on, chilling, lowering!"

"I'm goose-flesh all over!" groaned Anastasia.

"He came quite close to me; I could no longer endure his revolting
aspect; it was too much, I could hold out no longer. I shut my eyes,
and I then felt that he dared to put his hands on my hat, took it
slowly off my head, and left it naked! I was seized with giddiness--my
breathing was suspended--a ringing came in my ears--I was more than
ever glued to my seat--I shut my eyes more firmly. Then Cabrion
stooped, took my bald head between his hands, cold as death, and upon
my forehead, bathed in sweat, imprinted a lascivious kiss!"

Anastasia lifted her arms toward heaven.

"My most inveterate enemy kissed my forehead! A monstrosity so
unparalleled overcame and paralyzed me. Cabrion profited by my stupor
to replace my hat on my head: then, with a blow on the crown, bonneted
me as you saw. The last outrage quite overpowered me--the measure was
full; everything about me turned round, and I fainted at the moment
when I saw him, from under the rim of my hat, leave the room as
quietly and slowly as he had entered."

Then, as though this recital had exhausted his strength, Pipelet fell
back on his chair, raising his hands to heaven in the attitude of mute
imprecation. Miss Dimpleton left the room suddenly; her desire to
laugh almost stifled her, and she could no longer restrain herself.
Rudolph himself had with difficulty preserved his gravity.

Suddenly a confused murmur, such as announces the assembling of a
multitude, was heard in the street; a tumult arose at the end of the
passage, and then musket-butts sounded on the door-step.

"Good heaven, M. Rudolph!" cried Miss Dimpleton, running back, pale
and trembling; "here are a commissary of police and the guard!"

"Divine justice watches over me!" said Pipelet, in a burst of
religious gratitude; "they come to arrest Cabrion! Unhappily, it is
too late!"

A commissary of police, known by a scarf worn under his black coat,
entered the lodge. His countenance was grave, dignified, and severe.

"M. le Commissaire, you are too late; the malefactor has fled!" said
Pipelet, sadly; "but I can give you his description. Villainous smile,
impudent manners--"

"Of whom do you speak?" asked the officer.

"Of Cabrion, M. le Commissaire, and if you make all haste, there may
be yet time to get hold of him," answered Pipelet.

"I do not know who this Cabrion is," said the officer, impatiently.
"Does Jerome Morel, working lapidary, live in this house?"

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Pipelet, standing at the salute.

"Conduct me to his apartment."'

"Morel, the lapidary!" resumed the portress, quite surprised; "he is
as gentle as a lamb, and incapable of--"

"Does Jerome Morel live here or not?"

"He does live here, sir, with his family, in the attic."

"Show me, then, to this garret."

Then, addressing a man who accompanied him, the magistrate said: "Let
the two municipal guards wait below, and not leave the alley. Send
Justin for a coach." The man left to execute these orders.

"Now," said the magistrate, addressing Pipelet, "conduct me to Morel."

"If it be all the same to you, sir, I will go instead of Alfred, who
is indisposed from the persecution of Cabrion; who, just as cabbage
does, troubles his gizzard."

"You, or your husband, it matters little which--go on." Preceded by
Mrs. Pipelet, he began to ascend the stairs; but he soon stopped,
perceiving that he was followed by Rudolph and Miss Dimpleton.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" demanded he.

"They are the two fourth-floors," said Mrs. Pipelet.

"Pardon me, sir, I did not know that you belonged to the house," said
he, to Rudolph; who, auguring well from the politeness of the
magistrate, said, "You will find a family in great distress, sir. I do
not know what new misfortune menaces the unhappy artisan, but he has
been cruelly tried last night; one of his children, worn out by
illness, is dead beneath his eyes--dead from cold and misery."

"Is it possible?"

"It is the truth," said Mrs. Pipelet. "If it had not been for the
gentleman who now speaks to you, and who is a king of lodgers, for he
has saved, by his goodness, poor Morel from prison, the whole family
of the lapidary must have died from hunger."

The commissary looked at Rudolph with as much interest as surprise.

"Nothing is more simple, sir," said the latter. "A person who is very
charitable, knowing that Morel, to whose worth I pledge my honor, was
in a position as deplorable as it was unmerited, instructed me to pay
a bill of exchange, for which the bailiffs were about to drag to
prison this poor man, the sole support of a large family."

Struck in his turn by the noble appearance of Rudolph, and the dignity
of his manner, the magistrate replied, "I do not doubt the probity of
Morel; I only regret being compelled to fulfill a painful duty before
you, sir, who have shown so lively an interest in this family."

"What can you mean, sir?"

"After the services you have rendered the Morels, and from your
language, I know that you are a worthy man. Having, besides, no reason
to conceal the object of the mandate I am about to execute, I will
acknowledge that I am about to arrest Louise Morel, the lapidary's
daughter."

The rouleau of gold that she had offered to the bailiffs came to the
mind of Rudolph.

"Of what is she accused?"

"She is accused of infanticide."

"She, she! Oh, her poor father!"

"From what you have told me, sir, I conceive that, under the
circumstances in which the artisan is placed, this new blow will be
terrible for him. Unfortunately I must obey my orders."

"But it is only a simple accusation!" cried Rudolph. "The proofs are
wanting, without doubt?"

"I cannot explain myself further on this subject. The authorities have
been informed of this crime, or rather, the presumption, by the
declarations of a man in every way respectable--the master of Louise
Morel."

"Jacques Ferrand, the notary," said Rudolph indignantly.

"Yes, sir. But why this vivacity?"

"M. Jacques Ferrand, the notary, is a scoundrel, sir!"

"I see with pain that you do not know of whom you speak. M. Jacques
Ferrand is the most honorable man in the world; of most exemplary
piety, and known probity."

"I repeat to you, sir, that the notary is a scoundrel. He wished to
imprison Morel, because his daughter repulsed his infamous
propositions. If Louise is only accused on the testimony of such a
man--acknowledge, sir, that it merits but little belief."

"It does not belong to me, sir, and it does not become me, to discuss
the value of the testimony of M. Ferrand," said the officer coldly.
"Justice has taken cognizance of the affair; the tribunals will
decide. As to me, I have orders to arrest Louise Morel, and I shall do
it."

"You are right, sir. I regret that a movement of indignation, perhaps
legitimate, has made me forget that this is neither the time nor place
for such a discussion. One word alone: the body of the child he has
lost is in the garret. I have offered my room to this family, to spare
them the sad sight of the corpse; hence it is, probably, in my chamber
you will find the artisan and his daughter. I conjure you, sir, in the
name of humanity, do not arrest Louise suddenly in the midst of these
misfortunes. Morel has gone through so many shocks this night, that
his reason will give way: his wife is also dangerously sick--such a
blow will kill her. If you will permit me, I'll ask you a favor. This
is what I propose. The young girl who follows us with the door-keeper
occupies a room adjoining mine; I do not doubt but that she will place
it at your disposal. You can at first send for Louise; then, if it
must be, for Morel, that his daughter may bid him farewell. You will
at least spare a poor, sick, and infirm mother a heart-rending scene.

"If this can be arranged so, sir, willingly."

The conversation had taken place in an undertone, while Rigolette and
Mrs. Pipelet held themselves discreetly at some distance off.

Rudolph descended, and said to the former: "My poor neighbor, I must
ask another favor; you must let me have your room at my disposal for
an hour."

"As long as you please, M. Rudolph. You have my key. But, what is the
matter?"

"I will tell you directly. This is not all: you must be kind enough to
return to the Temple to tell them to delay sending home our purchases
for an hour." "Willingly, M. Rudolph; but is there a new misfortune
happened to the Morels?"

"Alas! yes; you will know it only too soon."

"Come, neighbor, I fly to the Temple. I, thanks to you, thought them
out of trouble," said the grisette, descending rapidly the stairs.

Rudolph wished to spare Rigolette the sad spectacle of the arrest of
Louise. "Officer," said Mrs. Pipelet, "since my prince of lodgers
accompanies you, I can go and find Alfred. He alarms me: he has hardly
recovered from his attack of--Cabrion."

"Go--go!" said the magistrate; who remained alone with Rudolph. Both
arrived on the landing place of the fourth, opposite the door of the
room where the artisan and his family were temporarily placed.

Suddenly this door was opened. Louise, pale and weeping, came out
quickly. "Adieu, adieu! father," cried she; "I will return--I must go
now."

"Louise, my child, listen to me, then," answered Morel, following his
daughter, and trying to detain her.

At the sight of Rudolph and the magistrate they remained immovable.

"Ah, sir! you, our savior," said the artisan, recognizing Rudolph;
"aid me to prevent Louise from going. I do not know what is the matter
with her, she makes me afraid; she wishes to go away. Is it not so,
sir, that she must not return any more to her master? Did you not say,
'Louise shall quit you no more--this shall be your recompense'? Oh! at
this delightful promise, I avow it, for a moment I have forgotten the
death of my poor little Adele; but to be separated from you, Louise,
never, never!"

Rudolph felt himself overcome; be had not strength to utter a word.

The officer said severely to Louise, "Are you Louise Morel?"

"Yes, sir!" answered the young girl, amazed. Rudolph had opened the
chamber of Rigolette.

"You are Jerome Morel, her father?" added the magistrate addressing
the artisan.

"Yes, sir! but--"

"Enter there with your daughter." And the magistrate pointed to the
chamber of Rigolette, where Rudolph already was. Reassured by his
presence, the artisan and Louise, astonished and troubled, obeyed; the
officer shut the door, and said to Morel, with emotion, "I know your
honesty and misfortunes; it is, then, with regret I inform you that,
in the name of the law, I come to arrest your daughter."

"All is discovered--I am lost!" cried Louise, throwing herself in the
arms of her father.

"What do you say? what do you say?" said Morel, stupefied. "Are you
mad? why lost? arrest you! why arrest you? who will arrest you?"

"I--in the name of the law!" and the officer showed his scarf.

"Oh, unfortunate! unfortunate that I am!" cried Louise, falling on her
knees.

"How, in the name of the law?" said the artisan, whose mind began to
wander; "why arrest my daughter in the name of the law? I answer for
Louise, I--she is my daughter, my worthy daughter--is it not true,
Louise? How arrest you, when our guardian angel restores you to us, to
console us for the death of my little Adele? Come now! it cannot be!
And besides, sir, speaking with respect, only criminals are arrested,
do you understand--and Louise, my daughter, is not a criminal. Very
sure, do you see, my child, this gentleman is mistaken. My name is
Morel; there are more Morels than me. You are Louise--but there are
more of the same name. That's it, you see, sir; there is a mistake!"

"Unfortunately, there is no mistake! Louise Morel, say farewell to
your father."

"You carry away my daughter, will you?" cried the workman, furious
from grief, and advancing toward the magistrate with a threatening
air.

Rudolph seized him by the arm, and said, "Calm yourself, and hope;
your daughter shall be returned to you--her innocence shall be proved;
she is doubtless not culpable."

"Of what? she can be culpable of nothing. I would place my hand in the
fire that"--then recollecting the gold that Louise had brought to pay
the note, Morel cried, "But that money, that money, Louise?" and he
cast on his daughter a terrible look.

Louise understood it. "I steal!" cried she, and the cheeks colored
with generous indignation. Her tone of voice, her gesture, satisfied
her father.

"I knew it!" he cried. "Do you see, sir--she denies it--and never in
her life has she lied, I swear to you. Ask every one who knows her,
and they will say the same. She lie? she is too proud for that.
Besides, the bill was paid by our benefactor. She don't want gold; she
was going to return it to the person who lent it, wasn't you, Louise?"

"Your daughter is not accused of theft," said the magistrate.

"But of what is she accused, then? I, her father, swear that, whatever
she is accused of, she is innocent; and all my life I have never
lied."

"What good will it do to know what she is accused of?" said Rudolph to
him; "her innocence shall be proven--the person who interests herself
so much in you will protect your daughter. Come, come. This time,
again, Providence will not fail you. Embrace your daughter--you will
soon see her again."

"M. le Commissaire," cried Morel, without listening to Rudolph, "a
daughter is not taken away from a father without at least telling him
of what she is accused! I wish to know all! Louise, will you speak?"

"Your daughter is accused--of infanticide," said the magistrate.

"I--I--do not comprehend--I--you--"

"Your daughter is accused of having killed her child," said the
officer, much overcome at this scene.

"But it is not yet proved that she has committed this crime."

"Oh, no, it is not so, sir, it is not so," cried Louise, with force,
and raising herself up: "I swear to you it was dead. It breathed no
more; it was frozen; I lost all consciousness; that is my crime. But
kill my child, oh, never!"

"Your child, wretch!" cried Morel, raising his hands to Louise, as if
he wished to annihilate her with this gesture and terrible
imprecation.

"Pardon, father, pardon!" cried she.

After a moment of frightful silence, Morel went on with a calmness
still more frightful.

"Sir, take away this creature; she is not my child."

He wished to go out; Louise threw herself at his knees, which she
embraced with both arms, and, with face upward, frantic and
supplicating, she cried, "Father, listen to me, only listen to me."

"Officer, take her away, I abandon her to you," said the artisan,
making every effort to disengage himself from the embraces of Louise.

"Listen to her," said Rudolph, stopping him; "do not be now without
pity."

"She, she!" repeated Morel, burying his face in his hands, "she
dishonored! oh! infamous, infamous!"

"Is she dishonored to save you?" whispered Rudolph.

These words made a startling impression on Morel; he looked at his
weeping child, still kneeling at his feet, then, interrogating her
with a look impossible to describe, he cried in a hollow voice, his
teeth grinding with rage, "The notary!"

An answer came to the lips of Louise. She was about to speak, but, on
reflection, she stopped, bent her head, and remained silent.

"But no--he wished to imprison me this morning," continued Morel; "it
is not he? oh, so much the better! so much the better. She has no
excuse for her fault; I can curse her without remorse."

"No, no! do not curse me, my father; to you I will tell all; to you
alone; and you will see--you will see if I do not deserve your
pardon."

"Listen to her for the sake of pity," said Rudolph.

"What can she tell me? her infamy? it will soon be public; I will
wait."

"Sir!" cried Louise to the magistrate, "in mercy let me say a few
words to my father before leaving him, perhaps forever. And before you
also, our savior, I will speak, but only before you and my father."

"I consent," said the magistrate.

"Will you, then, be insensible? will you refuse this last consolation
to your child?" asked Rudolph. "If you think you owe me some return
for the favors I have directed toward you, grant the prayer of your
daughter."

After a moment of mournful silence, Morel answered, "Let us go."

"But where shall we go?" asked Rudolph; "your family is in the next
room."

"Where shall we go?" cried the artisan, with bitter irony, "where
shall we go? up there--up there, in the garret, alongside of the body
of my child. The place is well chosen for this confession--is it not?
Come--we will see if Louise will dare to lie in the sight of her
sister. Come!" Morel went out precipitately, with a wild stare,
without looking at Louise."

"Sir," whispered the officer to Rudolph, "do not prolong this
interview. You said truly, his reason will not sustain it; just now
his look was that of a madman."

"Alas! sir, I fear, like you, a terrible and new misfortune: I will
shorten as much as possible the touching adieus." And Rudolph rejoined
the artisan and his daughter.



CHAPTER II.

CONFESSION.


Dark and gloomy spectacle.

In the garret reposed, on the couch of the idiot, the corpse of the
little child. An old piece of sheet covered it. Rudolph standing with
his back to the wall, was painfully affected. Morel, seated on his
work-bench, his head down, hands hanging; his looks, fixed, wild, were
constantly bent on the bed where reposed the remains of the little
Adele.

At this sight, the anger, the indignation of the artisan became
weaker, and changed into a sadness of inexpressible bitterness; his
energy abandoned him--he sunk under this new blow. Louise, of a mortal
paleness, felt her strength fail her. The revelation that she was
about to make frightened her. Yet she took tremblingly the hand of her
father--that poor, thin hand, deformed by excess of labor.

He did not withdraw it. Then his daughter, bursting into tears,
covered it with kisses, and soon felt it press lightly against her
lips.

The anger of Morel had ceased; his tears, for a long time retained,
flowed at last. "My father, if you knew--if you knew how much I am to
be pitied."

"Oh! stop; you see, this will be the grief of all my life, Louise--of
all my life," answered the artisan, weeping. "You in prison--in the
dock--you, so proud-when you had the right to be so. No," continued
he, in a new access of desperate grief, "no, I should prefer to seeing
you under the winding-sheet, alongside your poor little sister."

"And I, also, wish it were so," answered Louise.

"Hush, unfortunate child, you give me pain. I was wrong to say that; I
went too far. Come, speak, but tell the truth. However frightful it
may be, tell me all. If I hear it from you, it will appear less cruel
to me. Speak; alas! our moments are counted; you are waited for. Oh!
the sad, sad parting."

"My father, I will tell you all," said Louise, resolutely; "but
promise me, and you, our benefactor, promise also, not to repeat this
to any one. If he knew that I had spoken, do you see--oh! you would be
lost--lost like me; for you do not know the power and ferocity of this
man."

"Of what man?"

"My master."

"The notary?"

"Yes," said Louise, in a low tone, and looking around her, as if she
were afraid of being overheard.

"Compose yourself," answered Rudolph. "This man is cruel and powerful,
but no matter; we will face him. Besides, if I reveal what you are
about to tell us, it will be only in your interest or in that of your
father."

"And, Louise, if I speak, it will be to try to save you. But what has
this wicked man done?"

"This is not all," said Louise, after a moment's reflection; "this sad
tale concerns some one who has rendered me a great service--who has
been for my father and family full of kindness--this person was
employed at M. Ferrand's when I went; I have sworn not to mention the
name."

"If you mean Francois Germain, be easy; his secret will be kept by
your father and myself," said Rudolph.

Louise looked at Rudolph with surprise.

"You know him?" said she.

"The good and excellent young man who lived here for three months, and
was employed at the notary's when you went there?" said Morel. "The
first time you saw him here you appeared not to know him."

"That was agreed upon between us. He had grave reasons to conceal that
he worked for M. Ferrand. It was I who told him of the chamber on the
fourth story, knowing he would be a good neighbor for you."

"But," said Rudolph, "who placed your daughter with the notary?"

"When my wife was taken sick, I had said to Madame Burette, the
pawnbroker, who lives in this house, that Louise wished to go to
service to aid us. Madame Burette knew the housekeeper of the notary;
she gave me a letter to her, in which she strongly recommended Louise.
Cursed--cursed be that letter; it has caused all our misfortunes. So,
sir, this is the way my daughter went there."

"Although I am informed of some of the facts which have caused the
hatred of M. Ferrand toward your father," said Rudolph to Louise, "I
beg you will relate to me in a few words what passed between you and
the notary since you entered his service. This may serve to defend
you."

"During the first months of my stay at M. Ferrand's I had no reason to
complain of him. I had much work to do; the housekeeper was often very
rough toward me; the house was gloomy; but I endured all with
patience; servitude is servitude, otherwise I should have had other
disagreements. M. Ferrand had a stern look. He went to mass; he often
received priests. I did not mistrust him. At first he hardly looked at
me. He spoke very cross to me; above all, in the presence of
strangers.

"Except the porter who lodged on the street, in the building where the
office is, I was the only domestic with Mrs. Seraphin, the
housekeeper. The building we occupied was an old isolated ruin,
between the court and garden. My chamber was quite up to the top. Very
often I was afraid to remain alone all the evening, either in the
kitchen, which was underground, or in my chamber. In the night, I
sometimes thought I heard extraordinary noises in the room under mine,
which no one occupied, and where M. Germain alone often came to work
during the day. Two of the windows of this story were walled up, and
one of the doors, very thick, was strengthened with bars of iron. The
housekeeper told me afterward that M. Ferrand kept his strong box
there.

"One night I had sat up very late to finish some mending, which was
very urgent; I was about to go to bed, when I heard some one walking
very softly in the corridor at the end of which was my chamber: they
stopped at my door; at first I thought it was the housekeeper, but as
she did not come in, it made me afraid; I dared not stir; I listened,
no one stirred; I was, however, sure there was some one behind the
door; I asked twice who was there--no one answered. More and more
alarmed, I pushed my chest of drawers against the door, which had
neither lock nor bolt. I still listened--nothing stirred; at the end
of half-an-hour, which appeared very long, I threw myself on my bed;
the night passed tranquilly. The next morning I asked the housekeeper
for permission to put a bolt on my door, as there was no lock,
relating to her my fears of the last night; she answered that I had
dreamed, that I must speak to M. Ferrand about it; at my demand he
shrugged his shoulders, and told me I was a fool. I did not dare to
say anything more.

"Some time after this happened the affair of the diamond. My father,
almost desperate, knew not what to do. I related his trouble to Mrs.
Seraphin; she answered, 'M. Ferrand is so charitable that perhaps he
will do something for your father.' The same evening I waited on
table; M. Ferrand said to me, bluntly, 'Your father has need of
thirteen hundred francs; go this night and tell him to come to my
office to-morrow; he shall have the money. He is an honest man, and
deserves that one should interest himself for him.' At this act of
kindness I burst into tears; I did not know how to thank my master. He
said to me, in his ordinary rough manner, 'It is well, it is well;
what I have done is very simple." In the evening I came to tell the
good news to my father, and the next day----"

"I had the money, against a bill at three months' date, accepted in
blank by me," said Morel. "I did like Louise; I wept with gratitude: I
called him my benefactor. Oh! he must needs have been wicked indeed to
destroy the gratitude and veneration I vowed to him."

"This precaution to make you sign a bill in blank, at such a date that
you could not pay it, did not awaken your suspicions?" asked Rudolph.

[Illustration: THE ARRIVAL OF THE SOLDIERS]

"No, sir, I thought that the notary only took it for security;
besides, he told me I need not think of paying it under two years;
every three months it should be renewed for the sake of being regular;
yet, at the end of the first term, it was presented, and not being
paid, he obtained a judgment against me under another name; but he
told me not to be troubled, that it was an error of his clerk."

"He wished thus to have you in his power," said Rudolph.

"Alas! yes, sir; for it was from the date of his judgment he began to--but
continue, Louise, continue: I do not know where I am. My head
turns. I shall become mad; it is too much--too much!"

Rudolph soothed him, and Louise continued: "I redoubled my zeal to
show my gratitude. The housekeeper then held me in great aversion; she
often placed me in the wrong by not repeating the orders that M.
Ferrand gave her for me; I suffered from this, and would have
preferred another place, but the obligation of my father to my master
prevented my leaving. It was now three months since he had lent the
money; he continued to scold me before Mrs. Seraphin, yet he looked at
me sometimes behind her back in such a manner as to embarrass me, and
he smiled in seeing me blush."

"You comprehend, sir, he was then about to obtain a judgment against
me."

"One day," continued Louise, "the housekeeper went out after dinner,
as was her custom; the clerks had left the office; they lodged
elsewhere. M. Ferrand sent the porter on an errand; I remained in the
house alone with my master; I was working in the ante-chamber; he rang
for me. I entered his room; he was standing before the fireplace; I
drew near; he turned quickly, and took me by the arm. I was alarmed. I
ran into the ante-chamber, and shut the door, holding it with all my
strength; the key was on his side."

"You understand, sir. You hear," said Morel to Rudolph, "the conduct
of this worthy benefactor."

"At the end of a few moments the door yielded to his efforts,"
continued Louise. "I blew out the light--he called me. I made no
answer. He then said, in a voice trembling with rage, 'If you resist,
I will send your father to prison for the money he owes and cannot
pay.' I begged him to have pity on me; promised to do everything I
could to serve him, and show my gratitude, but I declared nothing
could induce me to degrade myself."

"Yes; this is the language of Louise," said Morel, "of my Louise, when
she had the right to be proud. But now? Continue--continue."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"The next morning after this scene, in spite of the threats of my
master, I came here and told my father all. He wished to make me leave
the house at once--but there was the prison. The little that I earned
was indispensable to the family, since the illness of my mother; and
the bad character which M. Ferrand threatened to give me would prevent
my seeking or obtaining another place for a long time, perhaps."

"Yes," said Morel, with great bitterness, "we had the cowardice, the
selfishness, to let our child return there. Oh! poverty, poverty! how
many crimes it causes to be committed!"

"Alas! father! did you not try all means to obtain the money? That
being impossible, we had to submit."

"Go on, go on, continue. Your parents have been your executioners; we
are guiltier than you are," said the artisan, concealing his face in
his hands.

"When I saw my master again," said Louise, "he acted toward me as
usual, cross and harshly; he said not a word of the past; the
housekeeper continued to torment me; she hardly gave me enough to eat,
locked up the bread; sometimes, out of wickedness, she would defile
the remains of the dinner before my eyes, for she always ate with
Ferrand. At night I hardly slept. I feared at each moment to see the
notary enter my room! He had taken away the drawers with which I had
barricaded my door; there only remained a chair, a little table, and
my trunk; I always retired to bed dressed. For some time he left me
tranquil; he did not even look at me. I began to be at ease, thinking
that he thought no more of me. One Sunday he allowed me to go out; I
came to announce this good news to my parents. We were all very happy!
It is up to this moment you have known all. What remains to tell," and
the voice of Louise trembled, "is frightful! I have always concealed
it from you."

"Oh, I was very sure of it--very sure that you concealed a secret from
me," cried Morel, with a kind of wandering, and a singular volubility
of expression which astonished Rudolph. "Your pallor and expression
should have enlightened me. A hundred times I have spoken to your
mother; but she always repelled me. Look at us well! look at us! To
escape a prison, we leave our daughter at this monster's. And where
does our child go to? To the dock! Because one is poor--yes--but the
others--the others." Then, stopping as if to collect his thoughts,
Morel struck himself on the forehead, and cried, "Stop, I do not know
what I say. My head pains dreadfully. It seems to me I am drunk." And
he concealed his face in his hands.

Rudolph, not wishing to let Louise see how much he was alarmed at the
incoherent language of her father, said, gravely, "You are not just,
Morel; it was not for herself alone, but for her mother, for her
children, for yourself, that your poor wife feared the consequences of
Louise leaving the notary. Accuse no one. Let all the maledictions,
all your hatred, fall on one man--this monster of hypocrisy, who
placed a girl between dishonor and ruin; the death, perhaps, of her
father and his family; on this master, who abused in an infamous
manner his power as a master. But, patience; I have told you
Providence often reserves for great crimes a surprising and frightful
vengeance."

The words of Rudolph were stamped with such force and conviction, in
speaking of this providential vengeance, that Louise looked at him
with surprise, almost with fear.

"Continue, my child," said he: "conceal nothing; this is more
important than you think."

"I began, then, to feel some security," said Louise, "when one night
Ferrand and his housekeeper both went out, each their own way. They
did not dine at home; I remained alone. As usual, they left me some
bread and water, and wine. My work finished, I dined; and then,
fearing to remain alone in the apartments, I went up to my own room,
after having lighted M. Ferrand's lamp. When he went out at night no
one waited for him. I began to sew, and, what was very unusual, by
degrees, sleep overpowered me. Oh, father," cried Louise, "you will
not believe me--you will accuse me of falsehood; and yet, on the
corpse of my little sister, I swear I tell you the truth."

"Explain yourself," said Rudolph.

"Alas! sir, for seven months I sought in vain to explain to myself
this frightful night. I have almost lost my reason in trying to
explore this mystery."

"Oh!" cried the artisan, "what is she going to say?"

"Contrary to my custom, I fell asleep on my chair," continued Louise.
"That is the last thing I recollect. Before--before--oh, father,
pardon! I swear to you I am not culpable."

"I believe you, I believe you; but speak!"

"I do not know how long I slept; when I awoke I was still in my
chamber, but--"

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh! the wretch, the wretch," cried Rudolph. "Do you know, Morel, what
he gave her to drink?" The artisan looked at Rudolph, but made no
reply. "The housekeeper, his accomplice, had put in the drink of
Louise a soporific--opium, without doubt; the strength, the senses of
your child have been paralyzed for some hours; when she awoke from
this lethargic sleep, the crime was committed."

"Ah! now," cried Louise, "my misfortune is explained; you see, father,
I am less guilty than I appear. Father, father! answer me!"

The look of the artisan was of a frightful vagueness.

Such horrible perversity could not be understood by so honest and
simple-hearted a man. He could hardly comprehend the dreadful
revelation. And, besides, it must be said, that for some moments his
reason had deserted him; at each moment his ideas became more obscure;
then he fell into that vacuity of thought which is to the mind what
night is to the sight: formidable symptoms of mental alienation. Yet
Morel answered, in a quick, dull, and a mournful tone, "Oh! yes, it is
very wicked, very wicked, wicked."

And he fell back into his apathy. Rudolph looked at him with anxiety:
he thought that the intensity of indignation began to be exhausted
with him; the same as after violent griefs tears are often wanting.
Wishing to terminate as soon as possible this sad conversation,
Rudolph said to Louise:

"Courage, my child; finish unveiling this tissue of horrors."

"Alas! sir, what you have heard is nothing as yet."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Ah! all precautions were taken to conceal his enormity!" said
Rudolph.

"Yes, sir, and I was ruined. To all that he said to me I could find no
answer. Ignorant what drink I had taken, I could not explain my long
sleep. Appearances were against me. If I complained, every one would
condemn me; it must be so, for to me all was an impenetrable mystery."



CHAPTER III

THE CRIME


Rudolph remained confounded at the detestable villainy of Ferrand.
"Then," said he to Louise, "you did not dare to complain to your
father of the odious conduct of the notary?"

"No, sir; I feared he would have thought me the accomplice instead of
the victim; and besides, I feared that, in his anger, my father would
forget that his liberty, the existence of his family, depended
entirely upon my master."

"And was his conduct less brutal toward you afterward?"

"No, sir. To drive away suspicion, when by chance he had the Cure of
Bonne Nouvelle and his vicar to dinner, my master addressed me before
them with severe reproaches; he prayed the Cure to admonish me; he
said that sooner or later I should be lost; that my manners were too
free with his clerks; that I was idle; that he kept me out of charity
for my father, an honest man with a family, whom he had served. All
this was false. I never saw the clerks; they were in a separate
building from us."

"And when you found yourself alone with M. Ferrand, how did he explain
his conduct toward you before the Cure?

"He assured me that he joked. But the Cure took these accusations for
serious; he told me severely that one must be doubly vicious to act
thus in a holy house, where I had religious examples continually under
my eyes. To that I did not know what to answer; I held down my head,
blushing. My silence, my confusion, turned still more against me; my
life was such a burden that several times I was on the point of
destroying myself; but I thought of my father, my mother, my brothers
and sisters, whom I helped to support. I resigned myself; in the midst
of my degradation I found a consolation--at least my father was saved
from prison. A new misfortune overwhelmed me--I was _enceinte;_ I
saw myself altogether lost. I do not know why, I had a presentiment
that M. Ferrand, in learning an event which should have rendered him
less cruel toward me, would increase his bad treatment; I was,
however, far from supposing what would happen."

Morel recovered from his momentary aberration, looked around him with
astonishment, passed his hand over his face, collected his thoughts,
and said to his daughter, "It seems to me I have forgotten myself for
a moment--fatigue--sorrow. What did you say?"

"When M. Ferrand was informed of my situation--"

The artisan made a movement of despair. Rudolph calmed him with a
look.

"Go on; I will listen to the end," said Morel. "Go on, go on."

Louise resumed:--"I asked M. Ferrand by what means I could conceal my
shame. Interrupting me with indignation, and a feigned surprise, he
pretended not to understand me; he asked me if I were mad; frightened,
I cried, 'But, my God, what do you wish to become of me now? If you
have no pity on me, have at least some pity on your child!' 'What a
horror!' cried he, raising his hands toward heaven. 'How, wretch! You
have the audacity to accuse me of being corrupt enough to descend to a
girl of your class! you have effrontery enough to accuse me!--I, who
have a hundred times repeated before the most respectable witnesses
that you would be ruined, vile wanton. Leave my house this moment--I
thrust you from my door.'"

Rudolph and Morel remained horror-struck; such atrocity overpowered
them.

"Oh! I confess," said Rudolph, "this passes all conception."

Morel said nothing; his eyes became enlarged in a fearful manner: a
convulsive spasm contracted his features; he descended from the bench
where he was seated, opened quickly a drawer, and took out a strong,
very sharp, file, with a wooden handle, and rushed toward the door.

Rudolph, divining his thoughts, seized him by the arm and stopped him.

"Morel, where are you going? You will ruin yourself, unfortunate man."

"Take care!" cried the artisan, furiously struggling; "I shall commit
two crimes instead of one!" and the madman threatened Rudolph.

"Father, it is our savior!" cried Louise.

"He is mocking us! bah, bah! he wishes to save the notary!" answered
Morel, completely wild, and contending with Rudolph. At the end of a
second, he succeeded in disarming him, opened the door, and threw the
instrument on the staircase.

Louise ran to the artisan, held him in her arms, and said, "Father, he
is our benefactor; you have raised your hand on him; come to
yourself."

These words recalled Morel to himself; he covered his face with his
hands, and, without saying a word, he fell at Rudolph's feet.

"Rise, unfortunate father!" said Rudolph kindly. "Patience, patience;
I understand your fury, I partake of your hatred; but, in the name
even of your vengeance, do not compromise it."

"Good heavens!" cried the artisan, raising himself up. "What can
justice--law--do in such a case? Poor as we are, when we go and accuse
the powerful, rich, and respected man, they will laugh in our face--
ah, ah, ah!" and he laughed convulsively. "And they will be right.
Where are our proofs--yes, our proofs? They will not believe us.
Therefore, I tell you," cried he, in another storm of madness, "I tell
you I have no confidence but in the impartiality of the knife!"

"Silence, Morel; grief makes you wander," said Rudolph suddenly. "Let
your daughter speak; moments are precious--the magistrate waits; I
must know all--I tell you, all. Continue, my child."

"It is useless, sir," said Louise, "to speak to you of my tears, my
prayers. I was disregarded. This took place at ten o'clock in the
morning, in the cabinet of M. Ferrand. The priest was to breakfast
with him that morning; he entered at the moment my master was loading
me with reproaches and outrages. He appeared much vexed at the sight
of the priest."

"And what did he say then?"

"He soon made up his mind what course to pursue; he cried, pointing to
me, 'Well, reverend sir, I said truly that this creature would be
ruined. She is lost--lost forever; she has just acknowledged to me her
fault and her shame, begging me to save her. And to think that I,
through pity, have received such a wretch into my house.' 'How,' said
the priest to me, with indignation, 'in spite of the salutary counsels
which your master has given you so often before me, you have thus
degraded yourself? Oh, this is unpardonable. My friend, after the
kindness you have shown her and her family, pity would be a weakness.
Be inexorable,' said the priest, a dupe, like everybody else, of the
hypocrisy of M. Ferrand."

"And you did not at once unmask the scoundrel?" said Rudolph.

"I was terrified, my head turned; I dared not, I could not pronounce a
word, yet I wished to speak, to defend myself. 'But, sir'--I cried.
'Not a word more, unworthy creature!' said M. Ferrand, interrupting
me. 'You have heard the worthy priest: pity would be weakness. In an
hour, you leave my house!' Then, without giving me time to answer, he
led the priest into another room.

"After the departure of M. Ferrand," continued Louise, "I was for a
moment, as it were, delirious. I saw myself driven from his house, not
able to get another place, on account of my situation and the bad
character my master would give me. I did not doubt but that in his
anger he would imprison my father; I did not know what would become of
me. I went for refuge and to weep, to my chamber. At the end of two
hours M. Ferrand appeared. 'Is your trunk ready?' said he. 'Have
mercy!' I cried, falling at his feet 'Do not send me away in the state
in which I am; what will become of me? I can find no other place.' 'So
much the better; God will thus punish your conduct and your lies.' 'You
dare to say that I lie!' cried I indignantly; 'you dare to say you
are not the cause of my ruin?' 'Leave my house at once, you infamous
creature, since you persist in your calumnies!' cried he, in a
terrible voice. 'And to punish you, to-morrow I will imprison your
father.' 'Well--no, no!' said I, aghast; 'I will accuse you no longer,
sir--I promise it; but do not drive me away--have pity on my father;
the little that I earn here supports my family. Keep me here--I will
say nothing--I will conceal everything as long as I can, and then--you
can send me away.'

"After renewed supplications, M. Ferrand consented to my prayers: I
regarded it as a great favor, so frightful was my condition. Yet, for
the five months which followed this cruel scene, I was very unhappy,
very cruelly treated. Sometimes only M. Germain, whom I saw but
seldom, interrogated me with kindness on the subject of my sorrows;
but shame forbade my confession."

"Is it not about this time that he came to live here?"

"Yes, sir. He wished for a room near the Temple or the Arsenal; there
was one to be let here, it suited him."

"And you never thought of confiding your sorrows to M. Germain?" asked
Rudolph.

"No, sir; he was also a dupe of M. Ferrand's; he said he was hard and
exacting, but he thought him the most honest man in the world. I
passed these five months in tears, in continual agony. With care, I
had concealed my situation from all eyes, but I could hope to do so no
longer. The future was for me most dreadful; M. Ferrand had declared
he would not keep me any longer with him. I was thus about to be
deprived of the small resource that aided our family to live. Cursed,
driven away by my father--for, after the falsehoods that I had told
him to dissipate his suspicions, he would not believe me to be the
victim of M. Ferrand--what was to become of me? where was I to fly?
where to find a refuge? I had then a very wicked idea. I confess this,
sir, because I wish to conceal nothing, even that which may cast
suspicion on me, and also to show you to what an extremity I was
reduced by the cruelty of M. Ferrand. If I had yielded to a fatal
thought, would he not have been an accomplice of my crime?"

After a moment's silence, Louise resumed, with an effort, and in a
trembling voice, "I had heard from the portress that a quack lived in
the house--and--" She could not finish.

Rudolph remembered that at his first call on Mrs. Pipelet he had
received from the postman, in her absence, a letter written on coarse
paper, in a disguised hand, and on which he had remarked the traces of
tears. "And you did write him, unhappy child, three days since? On
this letter you have wept; your writing was disguised."

Louise looked at Rudolph with affright. "How do you know, sir?"

"Calm yourself. I was alone in the lodge of Mrs. Pipelet when this
letter was handed in, and it was my chance to receive it."

"Yes, sir; in this letter, without signature, I wrote to M.
Bradamanti, that, not daring to come to him, I begged he would meet me
that evening near the Château dead. I was half crazy. I wished to ask
his fearful advice. I left my master's house to meet him; but my
reason returned. I regained the house; I did not see him. Thus the
scene took place, from the consequences of which I am now suffering--
M. Ferrand believing me gone out for two hours, while after a very
short time I returned."

"In pacing before the little door of the garden, to my great
astonishment I saw it open. I entered that way, and I carried the key
to the cabinet of M. Ferrand, where it was ordinarily kept. This was,
next to his bed-chamber, the most retired place in the house: it was
there he gave his secret audiences. You will see, sir, why I give you
these details. Knowing all the ways of the house very well, after
having crossed the dining-room, which was lighted, I entered into the
saloon in the dark, then to the cabinet, as I said before. The door of
his chamber opened at the moment I placed the key on the table. Hardly
had my master perceived me by the light which was burning in his
chamber, than he closed the door quickly on a person whom I could not
see. Then he threw himself on me, seized me by the throat as if he
wished to strangle me, and said to me in a low tone, at once furious
and alarmed, 'You were spying; you listened at the door; what did you
hear? Answer, answer! or I'll strangle you.' But changing his mind,
without giving me time to say a word, he pushed me backward into the
dining-room. The office was open; he threw me into it brutally, and
locked the door."

"And you heard nothing of his conversation?"

"Nothing, sir: if I had known he had anybody in the room, I should
have taken care not to have entered the cabinet; he forbade even Mrs.
Seraphin to do so."

"And when you came out of the office, what did he say to you?"

"It was the housekeeper who came to conduct me, and I did not see him
again that night. The alarm I had experienced had made me very ill.
The next morning, as I came downstairs, I met M. Ferrand. I shuddered
in thinking of his threats of the evening previous; what was my
surprise when he said to me, almost calmly, 'You know I forbid any one
to come into my cabinet when I have some one in my chamber; but for
the short time that you have to remain here, it is useless to scold
any more,' and he passed into his office. This moderation surprised
me, after the violence of the previous evening. I went on with my
usual duties; I went to put in order his sleeping apartment. In
arranging some clothes in a dark closet near the alcove, I was
suddenly taken very ill; I felt that I was about to faint. In falling,
I grasped at a cloak which was hanging against the wall. I dragged it
along with me; it covered me completely as I lay upon the floor. When
I came to myself, the glass door of this closet was shut. I heard the
voice of M. Ferrand. He spoke very loud. Recollecting the scene of the
previous evening, I thought myself killed if I stirred. I supposed
that, concealed under the mantle which had fallen on me, my master, in
shutting the door, had not perceived me. If he discovered me, how
could I make him believe that my presence was accidental? I held my
breath, and, in spite of myself, I heard the end of this conversation,
which doubtless had been commenced for some time."

"Who was the person who was talking with him?" asked Rudolph.

"I am ignorant, sir; I did not know the voice."

"And what did they say?"

"The conversation had lasted for some time, doubtless, for this is all
I heard. 'Nothing can be plainer,' said this unknown voice. 'A queer
fish, called Bras-Rouge (Red-Arm), a determined smuggler, has brought
me, for the affair I have just spoken about, in connection with a
family of fresh-water pirates, who are established at the point of a
little island near Aspires. They are the greatest bandits in the land;
the father and grandfather have both been guillotined, two of the sons
are to the galleys for life; but the mother, three sons, and two
daughters are left, all as great villains one as the other. It is said
that at night, to rob on both sides of the Seine, they come down in
their boats sometimes as far as Barky. They are folks who will kill
the first comer for a crown; but we have no need of them; it suffices
if they will give hospitality to your country lady. The Martial (the
name of my pirates) will pass in her eyes for an honest family of
fishermen. I will go on your account, and make two or three visits to
your young lady; I will order her certain potions, and at the end of
eight days she will make acquaintance with Aspires Cemetery. In the
villages, a death passes like a letter through the post-office, while
at Paris they scrutinize too closely. But when will you send your
country girl to the island, so that I can advise the Martial what part
they have to play?' 'She will arrive to-morrow, and the day after she
will be there,' answered Ferrand; 'and I will inform her that the
Doctor Vincent will take care of her on my account.' 'Agreed for the
name of Vincent,' said the voice; 'I like that as well as any other.'"

"What is this new mystery of crime and infamy?" said Rudolph, more and
more surprised.

"New? no, sir; you will see that it has reference to a crime that you
do know," answered Louise; and she continued, "I heard the movement of
chairs; the conversation was at an end. 'I do not ask you to be
secret,' said M. Ferrand; 'you hold me as I hold you.' 'That proves
that we can serve, but never injure one another,' answered the voice;
'see my zeal. I received your letter last night at ten o'clock; this
morning I am here. Farewell, accomplice; do not forget the Island of
Asnieres, the fisher Martial, and Dr. Vincent. Thanks to these three
magical words, your country girl has only eight days left.' 'Stop,'
said M. Ferrand, 'while I go and unbolt the door of my cabinet, and
see if there is any one in the ante-chamber, that you may go out by
the garden, as you came in.' M. Ferrand went out a moment, and then
returned, and finally I heard him go off with the unknown person. You
may imagine my alarm, sir, during this conversation, and my horror at
knowing such a secret. Two hours after this conversation, Mrs.
Seraphin came to seek me in my chamber, where I had gone more
trembling and sick than I had yet been. 'M. Ferrand wants you,' said
she; 'you have more good luck than you deserve; come, descend. You are
very pale; what you are going to learn will give you more color.'

"I followed Mrs. Seraphin; M. Ferrand was in his cabinet. At seeing
him, I shuddered in spite of myself; yet he had a less wicked look
than usual; he looked at me fixedly for a long time, as if he wished
to read my thoughts. I cast down my eyes. 'You appear very ill,' said
he. 'Yes, sir,' I answered, astonished that he did not address me
familiarly as usual. 'It is very plain,' added he, 'it is in
consequence of your situation; but notwithstanding your lies, your bad
conduct, and your indiscretion of yesterday,' added he, in a softened
tone, 'I have pity on you. Although I have treated you as you deserved
before the cure of the parish, such an affair as this will be a
scandal to my house; and, moreover, your family will be in despair. I
consent, under these circumstances to come to your assistance.' 'Ah,
sir,' I cried, 'these words of kindness on your part make me forget
all.' 'Forget what?' asked he sharply. 'Nothing, nothing; pardon me,
sir,' answered I, fearing to irritate him, and believing in his
professions of pity. 'Listen to me,' said he; 'you will go to see your
father to-day; you will announce to him that I am going to send you
for two or three months in the country to take charge of a house I
have just bought; during your absence I will send him your wages.
To-morrow you will leave Paris; I will give you a letter of
recommendation for Mrs. Martial, the mother of a family of honest
fishermen who live near Asnieres. You will require to say you came
from the country, nothing more. Later you will know the object of this
letter, all for your interest. Mrs. Martial will treat you as her
child; a physician, a friend of mine, Dr. Vincent, will take you under
his charge. You see how good I am for you!'"

"What a horrible plot!" cried Rudolph. "Now I comprehend all.
Believing that the evening previous you had become possessed of a
secret of great importance to him, he wished to get rid of you. He had
probably some interest in deceiving his accomplice, in representing
you as a girl from the country. What must have been your affright at
this proposition!"

"It was a great blow. I was completely bewildered; I knew not what to
answer; I looked at M. Ferrand with affright; my mind wandered. I was
about, perhaps, to risk my life in telling him that I had overheard
his projects in the morning, when, happily, I recollected the new
dangers to which this would expose me. 'You do not comprehend me,
then?' asked he, with impatience. 'Yes, sir, but,' said I, trembling,
'I prefer not to go to the country.' 'Why not? You will be perfectly
well taken care of where I shall send you. 'No, no, I will not go; I
prefer to remain in Paris, near my family; I had rather confess all,
die with shame, if it is necessary.' 'You refuse me!' said M. Ferrand,
restraining his anger, and looking at me with attention. 'Why have you
changed your mind so quickly? Just now you accepted.' I saw that if he
suspected me I was lost; I answered that I did not think that he meant
me to leave Paris and my family. 'But you will dishonor your family,
wretch,' cried he; and not being able any longer to contain himself,
he seized me by the arm, and pushed me so violently that I fell. 'I
give you until after to-morrow,' cried he; 'to-morrow you shall leave
this to go to the Martials, or to tell your father I have sent you
away, and that he goes the same day to prison.' I remained alone,
stretched on the earth; I had not the strength to get up. Mrs.
Seraphin came, and with her assistance I regained my chamber. I threw
myself on my bed; I remained there until night."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Amid the horrors of this frightful, solitary night, I had a moment of
bitter joy: it was when I pressed my child in my arms." And the voice
of Louise was suffocated with her tears.

Morel had listened to the story of his daughter with an apathy and
indifference which alarmed Rudolph. Yet, seeing her in tears, he
looked fixedly at her and said: "She weeps--she weeps; why, then, does
she weep? Oh, yes; I know, I know--the notary. Continue, my poor
Louise; you are my child. I love you still--just now I did not know
you; my tears obscured my sight. Oh, my head--my head--it gives me
great pain."

"You see I am not culpable; is it not so, father?"

"Yes, yes."

"It is a great sorrow--but I feared the notary so much!"

"The notary? Oh! I believe you--he is so bad--so wicked!"

"You pardon me now?"

"Yes."

"Truly?"

"Yes, truly. Oh, I love you still--go--although--I cannot--say--do you
see--because--oh! my head! my bead!"

Louise looked at Rudolph with alarm.

"He suffers; let him compose himself. Continue."

"I pressed my child to my heart. I was astonished not to hear it
breathe, but I said to myself, the respiration of so young a child can
hardly be heard; and yet it seemed to me that it was very cold. I had
no light. I waited until dawn, trying to warm it as well as I could,
At daylight I found it was stiff--icy. I placed my hand on its heart;
it did not beat--it was dead."

And Louise burst into bitter sobs.

"Oh! at this moment," continued she, "thoughts passed impossible to
describe, I remember it confusedly as a dream; it was at once despair,
terror, anger, and, above all, I was seized with another alarm; I no
longer dreaded that Ferrand would strangle me, but I feared that if my
child was found dead at my side I should be accused of having killed
it. Then I had but one thought, that of concealing it from all eyes;
in that way my dishonor would not be known; I would no longer have to
dread the anger of my father; I should escape the vengeance of
Ferrand; then I could leave his house, procure another place, and
continue to earn something toward the support of my family. Alas! sir,
such are the reasons which induced me to acknowledge nothing, to
conceal the body of my child from all eyes. It was wrong, certainly;
but the position I was in, overwhelmed on all sides, crushed by long
sufferings, almost delirious, I did not reflect to what I exposed
myself if I was discovered."

"What tortures! what tortures!" said Rudolph, overcome.

"Daylight increased," continued Louise, "in a short time every one
would be awake in the house. I hesitated no longer. I wrapped up my
child as well as I could; I descended very softly; I went to the end
of the garden to make a hole in the ground to bury it, but it had
frozen all night--the earth was too hard. Then I hid the body at the
bottom of a kind of cellar where no one entered in winter. I covered
it with an empty flower-box, and I returned to my room without seeing
any one. Of all I tell you, sir, I have but a confused idea. Feeble as
I was, I can as yet hardly comprehend how I had the nerve to do all
this. At nine o'clock, Mrs. Seraphin came to know why I was not yet
up. I said that I was so ill, that I begged her to let me remain in
bed all day; the next day I would quit the house, since M. Ferrand
sent me away. At the end of one hour he came himself. 'You are worse;
this is the consequence of your self-will,' said he. 'If you had
profited by my offers, to-day you would have been established with
kind people, who would have taken every care of you; however, I will
not be so inhuman as to let you suffer; to-night Dr. Vincent will come
to see you.' At this threat I shuddered with fear. I answered that I
was wrong the night before to refuse his offers; that I accepted them;
but that, as yet being too ill to leave, I would go the next day but
one to the Martials; and that it was useless to send for Dr. Vincent.
I only wished to gain time; I was decided to leave the house, and to
go to my father. I hoped in this manner he would be ignorant of all.
But, deceived by my promise, M. Ferrand was almost affectionate toward
me, and recommended me, for the first time in his life, to the care of
Mrs. Seraphin.

"I passed the day in mental agony, trembling at each moment that
chance would cause a discovery of the body of my child. I only desired
one thing--that the cold might cease, so that I might be able to dig a
grave. It snowed--that gave me hopes. I remained all day in bed. The
night being come, I waited until every one was asleep. I had strength
to get up to go to the wood pile to look for a hatchet to cut some
wood to make a hole in the frozen ground. After infinite trouble I at
last succeeded; then I took the body, I wept over it again, and I
buried it as I could in the little flower-box. I did not know the
prayer for the dead; I said a pater and an ave, praying God to receive
it. I thought my courage would have failed me when I covered it with
the earth. A mother interring her child! At length I succeeded. Oh!
what it cost me! I placed the snow over the grave, so that nothing
should be seen. The moon gave me light. When all was finished, I could
not make up my mind to come away. Poor little thing! in the frozen
ground--under the snow. Although it was dead, it seemed to me that it
must feel the cold. At length I returned to my chamber. I went to my
bed with a violent fever. In the morning M. Ferrand sent to know how I
was. I answered that I felt rather better, and that I should certainly
be ready to leave for the country the next day. I remained all this
day still in bed, in order to gain strength. In the evening I arose. I
went to the kitchen to warm myself. I remained late, all alone. I went
to the garden to say a last prayer. At the moment I ascended toward my
chamber, I met M. Germain on the landing-place of the cabinet, where
he sometimes worked; he was very pale. He said to me, quickly, placing
a rouleau in my hand, 'Your father will be arrested early to-morrow
morning; here is the money; as soon as it is day run to his house. It
is only to-day I have found out Ferrand; he is a bad man; I will
unmask him. Do not, above all, say that you have this money from me.'
And M. Germain, not giving me time to thank him, descended the stairs
quickly."



CHAPTER IV.

MADNESS.


Louise continued: "This morning, before any one was up, I came here
with the money, but it was not sufficient; and, without your
generosity, he would not have escaped the bailiffs. Probably, after my
departure, some one had gone to my room and discovered some traces
which had led to this discovery. A last service I ask of you, sir,"
said Louise, drawing out the rouleau of gold from her pocket; "will
you hand this money to M. Germain? I promised him not to tell any one
that he was employed at Ferrand's; but since you know it, I have not
been indiscreet. Now, sir, I repeat, before God, who hears me, and
before you, I have not said a word that is not true. I have not sought
to "--but, interrupting herself suddenly, Louise, much alarmed, cried,
"Oh, sir! look at my father! look at him! What is the matter with
him?"

Morel had listened to the last part of this narrative with somber
indifference, which Rudolph had explained to himself by attributing it
to the overwhelming grief of this unhappy man. After so many violent
shocks, so oft repeated, his tears were dried up, his sensibility
blunted--he has not even strength enough left to vent his indignation,
thought Rudolph.

He was mistaken. Like the flickering light of a lamp about to expire,
the reason of Morel, already strongly shaken, vacillated for some
time, showed forth now and then some last rays of intelligence, and
then suddenly became obscured.

Absolutely a stranger to what was said, to what passed around him, for
some moments the artisan had become mad!

Although his wheel was placed the other side of his work-table, and he
had in his hands neither diamonds nor tools, the artisan, attentively
occupied, imitated his ordinary occupations. He accompanied this
pantomime with a clacking noise with his tongue, like the wheel when
in operation.

"Oh, sir!" said Louise, with increased alarm; "look at my father!"
Then, approaching him, she said, "Father! father!"

Morel looked at his daughter with that vacant stare peculiar to
lunatics. Without ceasing for a moment his imaginary occupation, he
answered, in a soft and mournful voice, "I owe thirteen hundred francs
to the notary, the price of Louise's blood. I must work, work, work!
Oh! I will pay, pay, pay!"

"This is not possible! This cannot last! He is not altogether mad is
he?" cried Louise, in a heart-rending tone, "He will come to himself--
it is only momentary----"

"Morel, my friend," said Rudolph, "we are here. Your daughter is
alongside of you; she is innocent."

"Thirteen hundred francs," said the artisan, without looking at
Rudolph, and continuing his imaginary occupation.

"Father," cried Louise, throwing herself at his feet, and taking hold
of his hands, "it is I, Louise!"

"Thirteen hundred francs," repeated he, endeavoring to disengage
himself from Louise; "thirteen hundred francs, or else," added he, in
a low and confidential tone, "or else Louise is guillotined," and he
began to turn his wheel.

Louise uttered a piercing cry. "He is mad," cried she, "he is mad! and
it is I--I--who am the cause. Oh, yet it Is not my fault; I did not
wish to do wrong; it is this monster!"

"Come, poor child, courage!" said Rudolph, "let us hope. This madness
will be but momentary. Your father has suffered too much, his reason
has become weakened, he will get better."

"But my mother--my grandmother--my brothers and sister! what will
become of them?" cried Louise. "See, they are deprived of both my
father and myself. They will die with hunger, with poverty, and
despair!"

"Am I not here? Be calm, they shall want for nothing. Courage, I pray
you: your revelation will cause the punishment of a great criminal.
You have convinced me of your innocence; it shall certainly be known
and acknowledged."

"Oh, sir, you see dishonor--madness--death; these are the evils he has
caused--this man; nothing can be done to him--nothing. Ah, this
thought completes all my troubles!"

"Far from that; let a contrary thought aid you in supporting them."

"What do you say, sir?"

"Carry with you the certainty that you shall be avenged."

"Avenged!"

"Yes, I swear to you," answered Rudolph, with solemnity, that, his
crimes proved, this man shall severely expiate the dishonor, madness,
and death he has caused. If the laws are powerless, if his cunning and
address equal his misdeeds, to his cunning shall be opposed cunning--
to his misdeeds, misdeeds--but which shall be to them what the just
and avenging punishment, inflicted on the culpable by an inexorable
hand, is to the cowardly and concealed murder."

"Ah, sir, may God hear you! It is not myself I wish to revenge, it is
my crazy father; it is"--then, turning to her father, she cried,
"Father, farewell. They take me to prison--I shall never see you more;
it is your Louise who bids you farewell--father, father, father!"

At this touching appeal nothing responded; nothing responded in this
poor annihilated mind--nothing. The paternal cords, always the last
broken, vibrated no more.

The garret door opened, and the officer entered.

"My time is up, sir," said he to Rudolph. "I declare to you, with
regret, that it is impossible for me to wait any longer."

"The conversation is terminated, sir," answered Rudolph bitterly,
pointing to the artisan. "Louise has nothing more to say to her
father; he has nothing more to hear from his daughter--he is mad."

"Good God! just what I feared. Ah, it is frightful," cried the
magistrate; and approaching quickly to the artisan, after a moment's
examination he was convinced of the sad reality. "Ah, sir," said he,
sadly, to Rudolph, "I have already made sincere wishes that the
innocence of this young girl may be proved; but now I will not confine
myself to wishes--no, no, I will tell of this last dreadful blow; and,
do not doubt it, the judges will have a motive the more to find her
innocent."

"Well, well, sir," said Rudolph, "in acting thus, it is not only your
duty you fulfill, but you are performing a worthy part."

"Believe me, sir, some of our missions are so painful, that it is with
happiness, with gratitude, that we interest ourselves in what is good
and virtuous."

"One word more, sir. The revelations of Louise Morel have evidently
proved to me her innocence. Can you inform me how her pretended crime
has been discovered, or rather denounced?"

"This morning," said the magistrate, "a woman in the employ of M.
Ferrand, notary, came and declared to me that, after the precipitate
flight of Louise Morel, who she knew was _enceinte_, she had gone
up into the chamber of this young girl, and that she had there found
traces of a clandestine accouchement; after some investigations, some
footsteps in the snow had led to the discovery of a newborn child
interred in the garden. On the relation of this woman, I went to the
Rue du Sentier. I found M. Jacques Ferrand very indignant that such a
thing should have occurred in his house. The priest of Bonne Nouvelle
Church, whom he had sent for, also declared to me that the girl Morel
had acknowledged her fault before him one day; that she had implored
the pity and indulgence of her master, and that, still more, he had
often heard M. Ferrand give Louise Morel the most severe reprimands,
predicting that, sooner or later, she would be ruined. 'A prediction
which had just been realized so unfortunately,' added the priest. The
indignation of M. Ferrand," continued the magistrate, "appeared to me
so real, that I partook of it. He told me that, without doubt, Louise
Morel had taken refuge at her father's. I came here at once; the crime
being flagrant, I had the right to proceed to an immediate arrest."

Rudolph restrained himself in hearing the indignation of M. Ferrand
spoken of. He said to the magistrate, "I thank you a thousand times,
sir, for your kindness and for the assistance you tender Louise. I
shall conduct this unfortunate man to a lunatic hospital, as well as
the mother of his wife." Then, addressing Louise, who yet kneeled
before her father, trying in vain to restore him to reason, "Be
resigned, my child, to go without embracing your mother; spare her
this touching farewell. Be assured as to her welfare--nothing shall
henceforth be wanting. I will find a woman who will take care of your
mother, and your brothers and sisters, under the superintendence of
your good neighbor, Miss Dimpleton. As to your father, nothing shall
be spared, that his cure shall be rapid and complete. Courage, then;
believe me, virtuous people are often harshly tried by misfortunes,
but they always come out of these struggles purer, stronger, and more
respected."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after the arrest of Louise, the artisan and the old idiot
were, by the orders of Rudolph, conducted to Charenton; they were to
have chamber treatment, and receive particular care and attention.
Morel left the house without assistance; indifferent, he went where
they took him; his madness was inoffensive and sad. The grand mother
had hunger; they showed her food; she followed this food.

The diamonds and rubies confided to the wife of the artisan were the
same day given to Mrs. Mathieu, the broker, who came to get them.
Unfortunately, this woman was watched and followed by Tortillard, who
knew the value of the pretended false jewels, from a conversation he
had overheard when Morel was arrested by the bailiffs. The son of
Bras-Rouge (Red Arm) ascertained that she lived at No. 11 Boulevard
Saint Denis.

Miss Dimpleton informed Mrs. Morel, with much tact, of the lunacy of
her husband and the imprisonment of Louise. At first she wept much,
uttering sorrowful cries. Then, the first spasms of grief over, the
poor creature, weak and unsettled, consoled herself by degrees in
seeing herself and children surrounded by comforts which they owed to
the generosity of their benefactor.

Rudolph's thoughts were bitter in thinking of the revelations of
Louise.



CHAPTER V.

JACQUES FERRAND.


At the time when the events passed which we relate, at one of the
extremities of the Rue du Sentier could have been seen a long wall,
much cracked, and covered with a coating of plaster, the top protected
with pieces of broken glass. This wall, forming the boundary on this
side of the garden of Jacques Ferrand, the notary, extended to a
building situated on the street, of only one story and a garret. Two
large brass plates, the sign of the notary's office, flanked the
worm-eaten gate, the primitive appearance of which was no longer to be
distinguished under the mud which covered it. This door led to a
covered passage; on the right was the lodge of an old porter, half
deaf, who was to the fraternity of tailors what Pipelet was to the
boot-maker; on the left a stable, which served the purposes of a
cellar, wash-house, wood-house, and of a growing colony of rabbits,
lodged in a manger by the porter, who consoled himself from the pangs
of a recent bereavement, in the death of his wife, by raising these
domestic animals.

Alongside the lodge was the crooked, narrow, and obscure staircase,
leading to the office, as the clients were informed by a hand painted
black, the forefinger pointing to these words on the wall "Office--
Second Floor." On one side of a large paved court, overgrown with
grass, were to be seen the unoccupied carriage-houses, on the other, a
rusty iron railing, which inclosed the garden; at the end the
pavillion, where the notary alone dwelt.

A flight of eight or ten steps of tottering, disjointed stones,
covered with moss and worn by time, led to this house, composed of a
kitchen, and other offices under ground, two floors and an attic,
where Louise had slept.

This pavilion appeared also in a great state of decay; immense cracks
were to be seen in the walls; the windows and blinds, once painted
gray, had become with age almost black; the six windows of the first
story, looking upon the court, had no curtains; the glasses were
almost incrusted with dirt; on the ground floor they were rather
cleaner, and were hung with faded yellow curtains, red-flowered. On
the side toward the garden the pavilion had but four windows; two were
walled up.

This garden, overgrown with wild briers, seemed abandoned; not a
single border, not a bed; a cluster of elms, five or six large trees,
some acacias and alders, a yellow grass-plot, walks encumbered with
brambles, and bounded by a high wall. Such was the sad aspect of the
garden and habitation.

To this appearance, or rather to this reality, Ferrand attached great
importance. To vulgar eyes, a carelessness of comfort and prosperity
passes almost always for disinterestedness; uncleanliness for
austerity.

Comparing the grand financial luxury of some notaries, or the reported
toilets of their wives, to the gloomy mansion of M. Ferrand, so
contemptuous of elegance and splendor, the clients felt a kind of
respect, or, rather, of blind confidence for this man, who, from the
number of his employers and the fortune he was supposed to possess,
could have said, like many of his brethren, "My equipage, my
country-house, my opera-box," etc., and who, far from that, lived with
great economy; thus deposits, legacies on trust, investments, all those
affairs in fine which depend upon the most tried integrity, or the
most perfect good faith, flowed into the hands of Ferrand. In living
as he did, the notary consulted his taste. He detested society, pomp,
pleasures dearly bought; had it been otherwise, he would have, without
hesitation, sacrificed his most lively wishes to the appearances which
it was important to give himself. Some words on the character of this
man. He was a son of the grand family of misers. Avarice is, above
all, a negative, passive passion. Yet Jacques Ferrand risked, and
risked much.

He counted on his cunning--it was extreme; on his hypocrisy--it was
profound; on his understanding--it was fertile and pliable; on his
audacity--it was infernal--to assure impunity to his crimes, and they
were already numerous.

One single passion, or rather appetite, but most disgraceful, ignoble,
shameful, but almost ferocious, raised him often to frenzy--lust.

Save this weakness, Jacques Ferrand loved but gold He loved gold for
the sake of gold.

Not for the enjoyments it procured; he was stoical.

Notwithstanding his great cunning, this man had committed two or three
errors which the most crafty criminals hardly ever escape from.

Forced by circumstances, it is true, he had two accomplices: this
great fault, as he said himself, had been repaired in part; neither of
his accomplices could betray him without betraying themselves; nor
could any advantage be derived from their denouncing the notary and
themselves to public vindictiveness. He was therefore on this head
quite at rest.

Some words now on the personal appearance of Ferrand, and we will
introduce the reader into the notary's study, where he will find out
the principal personages. Ferrand had passed his fiftieth year. He did
not appear more than forty; he was of medium size, round-shouldered,
square-built, strong, thick-set, red-haired, shaggy as a bear. His
hair lay smooth on his temples, the top of his head was bald, his
eyebrows hardly to be perceived; his bilious-looking skin was covered
with large freckles; but when any lively emotion agitated it, this
yellow, clayey visage filled with blood, and became a livid red.

His face was as flat as a death's-head, his nose crushed down, his
lips so thin, so imperceptible, that his mouth seemed cut in his face;
when he smiled in a wicked and sinister manner, the ends of his teeth
could be seen, black and decayed. Closely shaved to his temples, this
man's countenance had an expression austere, sanctified, impassible,
rigid, cold and reflecting; his little black eyes--quick, piercing,
restless,--were hidden by large green spectacles.

Jacques Ferrand had excellent sight, but under the shelter of his
spectacles he had great advantages, observing without being observed;
he knew how much a glance of the eye is often and involuntarily
significant. In spite of his imperturbable audacity, he had
encountered, two or three times in his life, certain powerful looks,
before which he had been forced to quail. Now, in some circumstances,
it is fatal to cast down your eye before the man who interrogates,
accuses, or judges you. The large spectacles of Ferrand were therefore
a kind of covered breastwork, from whence he could attentively examine
the maneuvers of the enemy; for many such he had to encounter, because
many found themselves more or less his dupes.

He affected in his dress a negligence which reached to uncleanliness,
or, rather, it was naturally rusty and mean. His face, shaved but once
in two or three days, his dirty bald head, his black nails, old
snuff-colored-coats, greasy hats, threadbare cravats, black woolen hose,
and coarse shoes, recommended him singularly to his clients, by giving him
an air of detachment from the world, and a perfume of practical
philosophy, which charmed them. "To what pleasures--what passions--
could the notary," said they, "sacrifice the confidence which was
shown him? He gained, perhaps, sixty thousand francs a year, and his
household was composed of a servant and an old housekeeper; his sole
pleasure was to go every Sunday to mass and vespers; he knew no opera
comparable to the solemn sounds of the organ, no company which could
equal an evening passed at his fireside with the parish priest, after
a frugal dinner. Finally, he placed his delight in his probity, his
pride in his honor, his happiness in his religion."

Such was the opinion of many concerning Jacques Ferrand, this good and
excellent man.



CHAPTER VI.

THE OFFICE.


His office resembled all offices, his clerks all other clerks. It was
reached by an ante-chamber, furnished with four old chairs. In the
office, properly so called, surrounded by shelves furnished with paper
boxes, containing documents belonging to the clients of the notary,
five young men, bending over desks of black wood, laughed, talked, or
scribbled incessantly. An adjoining room, in which usually remained
the head clerk, then an empty room, which, for the sake of secrecy,
separated the notary's sanctum from the other offices, such was this
laboratory of all kinds and sorts. Two o'clock had just struck by an
old cuckoo clock, placed between the two windows of the office;
agitation seemed to reign among the clerks, which some fragments of
their conversation will explain.

"Certainly, if any one had told me that Francois Germain was a thief,"
said one of the young men, "I should have answered, `You are a liar!'"

"And I!"

"And I also!"

"I! It produced such an effect on me to see him arrested and taken
away by the guard that I could not eat my breakfast. I was
recompensed, however, for it spared me from eating the daily mess of
Mother Seraphin."

"Seventeen thousand francs--it is a sum!"

"A famous sum!"

"And to think that for seventeen months, since he has been cashier, he
never has been wanting a centime in his cash account!"

"As for me, I think master was wrong to arrest Germain, since the poor
fellow swore that he had only taken thirteen hundred francs in gold."

"Yes. And so much the more, that he brought back the amount this
morning at the moment the master had sent for the guard!"

"That is the consequence of being of such a rigid probity as master.
Such people are always without pity."

"Never mind; one ought always to think twice before ruining a poor
young man who always conducted himself well until now."

"M. Ferrand would reply to that, 'It was for the sake of example.'"

"Example of what? It is of no use to those who are honest; and those
who are not, know well enough that they are likely to be discovered if
they steal."

"This house is, however, a good customer for the officer."

"How?"

"Why, this morning poor Louise; just now Germain."

"As for me, the affair of Germain don't appear too clear."

"But he has acknowledged it!"

"He confessed that he had taken thirteen hundred francs--yes; but he
maintained that he had not taken the remaining fifteen thousand francs
in bank bills, and the remaining seven hundred francs that were
missing."

"Exactly; since he acknowledged one thing, why not the other?"

"It is true, one is as much punished for five hundred as for fifteen
thousand francs.".

"Yes; but one keeps the fifteen thousand francs, and on coming out of
prison, that makes a nice little establishment, a rogue would say."

"Not so bad."

"One may well say there is something in that."

"And Germain, who always defended master when we called him a Jesuit!"

"It is nevertheless true. 'Why hasn't master a right to go to mass?'
he would say: 'you have the right to stay away.'"

"Stop, here is Chalomel; now he will be astonished!"

"About what! what! My good fellow, is there anything new concerning
poor Louise?"

"You would have known, lazybones, if you hadn't been absent so long."

"Hold; you think it is only a hop, skip, and a jump from here to the
Rue de Chaillot."

"Well; this famous Viscount de Saint Remy?"

"Has he not come yet?"

"No."

"His carriage was all ready, and his valet told me that he would come
at once; but he did not appear pleased, the domestic said. Oh! that is
a fine hotel; one might say it had belonged to the lords of the olden
time, as are spoken of in Faublas. Oh! Faublas! he is my hero, my
model!" said Chalomel, putting away his umbrella and taking off his
overshoes.

"I believe that this viscount is in debt, and there are writs out
against him."

"A writ for thirty-four thousand francs, which has been sent here,
since it is here he must come to pay it; the creditor prefers it, why,
I know not."

"He must be able to pay it now, because he returned last night from
the country, where he has been concealed for three days to escape the
bailiffs."

"But why did they not levy on his furniture?"

"He is not such an ass! The house is not his; the furniture is in the
name of his valet, who is looked upon as hiring him furnished
lodgings, in the same way that his horses and carriages are in the
name of his coachman, who says he lets them out to the viscount at so
much per month. Oh! he is cunning, this Viscount de Saint Remy. But
what is that you were talking about? Has anything new happened here?"

"Just imagine--about two hours since, master came in here like a
madman: 'Germain is not here?' cried he. 'No, sir.' 'Well! the
scoundrel has robbed me, last night, of seventeen thousand francs!'
continued the governor."

"Germain steal! Come, come, draw it mild."

"You shall see. 'How sir! are you sure? It is not possible!' we all
cried.

"'I tell you, gentlemen, that I put yesterday in the desk where he
works fifteen notes of a thousand francs, besides two thousand francs
in gold in a small box; all has disappeared.' At this moment Marriton,
the porter, came in and said, 'The guard is coming.'"

"And Germain?"

"Stop a moment. The governor said to the porter. 'As soon as Germain
comes, send him here, without telling him anything. I wish to confound
him before you, gentlemen,' continued the governor. At the end of
fifteen minutes poor Germain arrived, as if nothing was the matter.
Mother Seraphin came to bring us our breakfast; she saluted the
governor, and said good-day to us very tranquilly. 'Germain, do you
not breakfast?' said M. Ferrand. 'No, sir, I am not hungry, I thank
you.' 'You come very late!' 'Yes, sir, I have been to Belleville this
morning.' 'To conceal, doubtless the money you have stolen from me,'
cried M. Ferrand with a terrible voice."

"And Germain?"

"Oh! the poor boy became as pale as death, stammering, 'Sir, I beg
you, do not ruin me."

"He had stolen?"

"Now, do wait, Chalomel. 'Do not ruin me,' said he to the governor.
'You acknowledge then, wretch?' 'Yes, sir; but here is the money that
is wanting. I thought I should be able to return it this morning
before you were up; unfortunately, a friend, who had a small sum of
mine, and whom I thought to find at home last night, had been at
Belleville for two days. I was obliged to go there this morning, which
has caused my delay. Pardon me, sir, do not ruin me! In taking this
money, I knew I could return it this morning. Here are the thirteen
hundred francs in gold.' 'You have robbed me of fifteen notes of one
thousand francs each, that were in a green book, and two thousand
francs in gold!' 'I! never!' cried poor Germain. 'I took the thirteen
hundred francs, but not one penny more. I have seen no pocket-book in
the drawer; there was only two thousand francs in gold in a box.' 'Oh!
the infamous liar!' cried the master. 'You have stolen thirteen
hundred francs, you could well steal more; justice will decide. Oh! I
shall be without pity for such a frightful breach of confidence. It
will be an example.' Finally, the guard arrived with an officer to
make out a commitment; they carried him off, and that's all!"

"Can it be possible? Germain, the cream of honest people!"

"It has appeared to us quite as singular."

"After all, it must be confessed, Germain was reserved; he never would
tell where he lived."

"That is true."

"He always had a mysterious air"

"That's no reason why he should steal the money."

"Doubtless. It is a remark I make."

"Ah! well, this is news! It is as if some one had given me a stunner
on the head--Germain--who looked so honest; who would have died
without confession!"

"One would have said that he had a presentiment of his misfortune."

"Why?"

"For some time past he looked as if something troubled him."

"It was, perhaps, concerning Louise."

"Louise?"

"Oh! I only repeat what Mother Seraphin said this morning,"

"What?"

"That he was the lover of Louise, and the--"

"Oh! the cunning fellow."

"Stop, stop, stop!"

"Bah!"

"It is not true!"

"How do you know that, Chalomel?"

"It is not two weeks since, that Germain told me, in confidence, that
he was dead in love with a little sewing girl, whom he had known in
the house where he lived; he had tears in his eyes when he spoke to me
about her."

"Oh!"

"He says that Faublas is his hero, and yet he is simple enough, stupid
enough, not to comprehend that one can be in love with one and the
love of another."

"I tell you that Germain spoke seriously."

At this moment the chief clerk entered the office.

"Well," said he. "Chalomel, have you finished all your errands?"

"Yes, M. Dubois, I have been to M. de Saint Remy: he will be here
shortly to pay."

"And to Countess M'Gregor?"

"Likewise; here is the answer."

"And to Countess d'Orbigny?"

"She is much obliged; she arrived yesterday from Normandy, she did not
expect an answer so soon; here is her letter. I have also been to the
Marquis d'Harville's steward, as he required, for the charges of the
contract I signed the other day at the hotel."

"You told him that it was not pressing?"

"Yes, but he would pay it. There is the money. Ah! I forgot that this
card was here, below, at the porter's; the words in pencil written
underneath by the porter; this gentleman asked for M. Ferrand; he left
this."

"'WALTER MURPHY,'" read the chief clerk; and then in pencil, "'_Will
return at three o'clock on important business_.' I do not know this
name."

"Oh! I forgot," continued Chalomel; "M. Badinot said it was all right,
that M. Ferrand should do as he pleased; that would be always right."

"He did not give a written answer?"

"No, sir, he said he hadn't time."

"Very well."

"M. Charles Robert will also come in the course of the day to speak to
the governor; it appears he fought a duel yesterday with the Duke of
Lucenay."

"Is he wounded?"

"I believe not, or they would have told me of it at his house."

"Look! here is a carriage stopping."

"Oh! the fine horses, are they not mettlesome."

"And the fat English coachman, with his white wig and brown livery,
with silver lace and epaulets like a colonel!"

"An embassador, surely."

"And the chasseur, has not he enough silver lace?"

"And grand mustachios."

"Hold!" said Chalomel, "it is the carriage of the Viscount de Saint
Remy."

"Ain't it stylish? Whew!"

Soon afterward Saint Remy entered the office. We have described the
charming face, the exquisite elegance, the ravishing bearing of Saint
Remy, arrived the previous evening from Arnouville Farm, belonging to
the Duchess Lucenay, where he had found a refuge from the bailiffs.

Saint Remy entered the office hastily, his hat on, his manner haughty
and proud, his eyes half closed, asking, in a very impertinent way,
without looking at any one, "The notary? where is he?"

"M. Ferrand is busy in his private office," answered the head clerk;
"if you will wait a moment, sir, he will receive you."

"I wait?"

"But, sir----"

"There are no 'but, sirs'; go and tell him that M. de Saint Remy is
here. I find it very singular that this notary makes me wait in his
antechamber; it smells of the stove."

"Please to pass into the next room, sir," said the clerk; "I will go
at once and inform M. Ferrand."

Saint Remy shrugged his shoulders, and followed the head clerk. At the
end of a quarter of an hour, which seemed to him very long, and
changed his contempt into rage, Saint Remy was introduced into the
cabinet of the notary. Nothing could be more curious than the contrast
of these two men, both profound physiognomists, and generally
accustomed to judge at a first glance with whom they had to deal.

Saint Remy saw Jacques Ferrand for the first time. He was struck with
the characteristics of this wan, rigid, impassible face; the
expression concealed by the large green spectacles, the head
half-hidden in an old black silk cap.

The notary was seated before his desk in a leathern arm-chair, beside
a broken-down fireplace, filled with ashes, in which were smoking two
black stumps. Curtains of green muslin, almost in tatters, suspended
from iron rods, concealed the lower part of the windows, and cast into
this cabinet, already dark enough, a dull and disagreeable light.
Shelves of black wood, filled with labeled boxes; some chairs of
cherry wood, covered with yellow Utrecht velvet; a mahogany clock; a
yellow, moist, and slippery floor; a ceiling filled with cracks, and,
ornamented with garlands of spider-webs; such was the sanctum
sanctorum of Jacques Ferrand.

The viscount had not advanced two steps, had not said a single word,
before the notary who knew him by reputation, hated him already. In
the first place, he saw in him, so to speak, a rival in knavery; and,
although Ferrand was of a mean and ignoble appearance himself, he did
not the less detest in others elegance, grace, and youth; above all
when an air deeply insolent accompanied these advantages.

The notary ordinarily affected a sort of rudeness, almost gross,
toward his clients, who only felt more esteem for him for these
boorish manners. He promised himself to redouble this brutality toward
the viscount.

He, knowing M. Ferrand only by reputation, expected to find in him a
kind of scrivener, good-natured or ridiculous, the viscount figuring
to himself always that men of proverbial probity must be simpletons.
Far from this, the other's looks imposed on the viscount an
undefinable feeling, half fear, half hatred, although he had no
serious reason to fear or hate him. Thus, in consequence of his
resolute character, Saint Remy increased his insolence and habitual
foppery of manner. The notary kept his cap upon his head; the viscount
retained his hat, and cried from the door in a loud, sharp voice:

"It is, by Jove! very strange, that you give me the trouble to come
here, instead of sending to me for the money for the bills I have
indorsed for this Badinot, for which the fellow has sued me. You
should not expose me to wait a quarter of an hour in your antechamber;
that is not so polite as it might be."

Ferrand, without paying the least attention, finished a calculation he
was making, wiped his pen methodically on the sponge which lay near
his ink-stand, and raised toward the viscount his cold, unearthly,
flattened face, encumbered with the green spectacles.

It looked like a death's head, whose eyes had been replaced by great,
fixed, glassy sockets. After having looked at him for a moment in
silence, he said to the viscount, in a rough, short tone, "Where is
the money?"

Such coolness exasperated Saint Remy.

He-he! the idol of the women, the envy of men, the paragon of the best
company in Paris, the renowned duelist, not to produce more effect on
a miserable notary! It was odious; although he was _tete-a-tete_
with Jacques Ferrand, his self-pride revolted.

"Where are the bills?"

With the ends of his fingers, hard as iron, and covered with red hair,
the notary, without answering, struck on a large portfolio of leather
placed near him.

Decided to be equally laconic, although bursting with rage, the
viscount took from the pocket of his coat a small book of Russian
leather, clasped with golden hasps, drew out forty-one thousand franc
notes and showed them to the notary.

"How much?" asked he.

"Forty thousand francs."

"Give them to me."

"Here, and let us finish quickly, sir; do your business, pay yourself,
hand me back the papers," said the viscount, throwing the packet
impatiently on the table.

The notary took them, arose and examined them near the window, turning
them over one by one with an attention so scrupulous and so insulting
to Saint Remy, that he grew pale with rage.

The notary, as if he had suspected the thoughts which agitated the
viscount, shook his head, half turned toward him, and said, in an
undefinable tone, "There are such things as--"

For a moment astonished, Saint Remy replied, dryly, "What?"

"Counterfeits," answered the notary, continuing to examine those he
held closely.

"For what purpose do you make this remark to me, Sir?"

Jacques Ferrand stopped a moment, looked steadily at the viscount
through his glasses; then, shrugging his shoulders, he turned again to
counting and examining the bills.

"By George, Master Notary, you must know, when I ask a question, I am
always answered!" cried Saint Remy, irritated beyond measure at the
calmness of Jacques Ferrand.

"_These_ are good," said the notary, turning toward his bureau,
whence he took a bundle of stamped papers, to which were annexed two
bills of exchange; he afterward placed one of the notes for a thousand
francs and three rouleaux of one hundred francs on the back of the
papers; then he said to Saint Remy, pointing his finger to the money
and bills, "There is what is to come to you from the forty thousand
francs; my client has ordered me to collect the bill of costs."

The viscount had with great difficulty contained himself while Jacques
Ferrand arranged his accounts. Instead of answering him and taking the
money, he cried, in a voice trembling with anger, "I ask you, sir, why
you said to me, respecting the bank bills that I have just given you,
_that there were such things as forged notes?_"

"Why?"

"Yes."

"Because I have sent for you here concerning a forgery." The notary
turned his green glasses full on the viscount.

"How does this forgery affect me?"

After a moment's pause Ferrand said, with a severe tone, "Are you
acquainted, sir, with the duties of a notary?"

"The duties are perfectly clear to me, sir. I had just now forty
thousand francs; I have now remaining but thirteen hundred."

"You are very jocose, sir. I will tell you, that a notary is to
temporal affairs what a confessor is to spiritual ones; from his
profession he often knows ignoble secrets."

"What next, sir?"

"He is often obliged to be in relations with rogues."

"What after this, sir?"

"He ought, as much as in his power, to prevent an honorable name from
being dragged in the mire."

"What have I in common with all this?"

"Your father has left you a respected name, which you dishoner, sir!"

"What do you dare to say?"

"But for the interest that this name inspires to all honest people,
instead of being cited here before me, you would have been at this
moment before the police."

"I do not comprehend you."

"About two months since, you discounted, through the agency of a
broker, a bill for fifty-eight thousand francs, drawn by the house of
Meulaert and Co., of Hamburgh, in favor of one William Smith, and
payable in three months, at Grimaldi's, banker, in Paris."

"Well!"

"That bill is a forgery."

"That is not true."

"This bill is a forgery! the house of Meulaert has never contracted
any engagement with William Smith; they do not know him."

"Can it be true!" cried Saint Remy, with as much surprise as
indignation, "but then I have been horribly deceived, sir, for I
received this bill as ready money."

"From whom?"

"From William Smith himself; the house of Meulaert is so well known, I
knew so well myself the probity of Smith, that I accepted this bill in
payment of a debt he owed me."

"William Smith has never existed; it is an imaginary person."

"Sir, you insult me!"

"His signature is as false as the others."

"I tell you, sir, that William Smith does exist; but I have, without
doubt, been the dupe of a horrible breach of confidence."

"Poor young man!"

"Explain yourself!" cried Saint Remy, whose anxiety and humiliation
were increased by this ironical pity.

"In a word, the actual holder of the bill is convinced that you have
committed the forgery."

"Sir!"

"He pretends to have the proof; two days ago he came to me to beg me
to send for you here, and to propose to return you this forged note,
under an arrangement. So far, all was right; this is not; and I only
tell you for information. He asks one hundred thousand francs. Today
even, or to-morrow at noon, the forgery will be made known to the
public prosecutor."

"This is indignity!"

"And what is more, absurdity. You are ruined. You were prosecuted for
a sum that you have just paid me, from some resource I do not know of:
this is what I told to this third party. He answered, 'That a certain
great lady, who is very rich, would not leave you in this
embarrassment.'"

"Enough, sir, enough!"

"Another indignity! another absurdity! we agree."

"In short, sir, what do they want?"

"Unworthily to take advantage of an unworthy action. I have consented
to make this proposition known to you, in branding it as an honest man
ought to brand it. Now it is your affair. If you are guilty, choose
between the court of assize or the terms proposed. My part is
altogether professional. I will have nothing more to do with so dirty
a business. The third party's name is M. Petit Jean, oil merchant; he
lives on the banks of the Seine, No. 10, Quai de Billy. Settle with
him. You are worthy of each other, if you are a forger, as he
affirms."

Saint Remy had entered the notary's with an insolent voice and lofty
head. Although he had committed in his life some disgraceful actions,
there remained in him still a certain pride of lineage--a natural
courage which had never failed him. At the commencement of this
conversation, regarding the notary as an adversary quite unworthy of
him, he treated him with contempt.

When Jacques Ferrand spoke of forgery, the viscount felt himself
crushed. He found the notary had the advantage in his turn. Except for
his great self-command, he could not have concealed the great
impression made upon him by this unexpected accusation, for the
consequences might be most fatal to him, of which even the notary had
no idea.

After a moment's reflection and silence, he determined--though so
proud, so irritable, so vain of his bravery--to throw himself on the
mercy of this vulgar man, who had so roughly spoken the austere
language of probity. "Sir, you give me a proof of interest for which I
thank you; I regret the harshness of my opening words," said Saint
Remy, in a cordial manner.

"I do not interest myself in you at all," answered the notary,
brutally. "Your father was honor itself; I did not wish to see his
name in the court of assizes, that's all."

"I repeat to yon, sir, that I am incapable of the infamy of which I am
accused."

"You can tell that to M. Petit Jean."

"But I avow that the absence of Mr. Smith, who has so unworthily taken
advantage of my good faith--"

"Infamous Smith!"

"The absence of Mr. Smith places me in a cruel position; I am
innocent; let them accuse me, I will prove it, but such an accusation
always injures a gallant man."

"What next?"

"Be generous enough to use the sum I have just paid you to quiet, in
part, this third person."

"This money belongs to my client--it is sacred."

"But in two or three days I will repay you."

"You cannot do it."

"I have resources."

"None available, at least. Your furniture, your horses, no longer
belong to you, as you may say; which to me has the appearance of
fraud."

"You are very hard, sir. But admitting this, will I not turn
everything into money, in a situation so desperate? Only as it is
impossible for me to procure between this and to-morrow one hundred
thousand francs, I conjure you, employ this money to withdraw this
unhappy draught. Or you, who are so rich, make me an advance; do not
leave me in such a position."

"I make myself responsible for a hundred thousand francs for you!
Really, are you a fool?"

"Sir, I supplicate you, in the name of my father, of whom you have
spoken, be so kind as to--"

"I am kind for those who deserve it," said the notary, rudely; "an
honest man; I hate sharpers; and I should not be sorry to see one of
you fine gentlemen, who are without law or gospel, impious and
debauched, some fine day, standing in the pillory as an example for
others. But, I hear, your horses are very restless, sir viscount,"
said the notary, smiling, and showing his black teeth.

At this moment some one knocked at the door. "Who is it?" asked
Jacques Ferrand.

"Her ladyship the Countess d'Orbigny," said the clerk.

"Beg her to wait a moment."

"It is the step-mother of the Marquise d'Harville," cried Saint Remy.

"Yes, sir. She has an appointment with me; so, good-morning."

"Not a word of this, sir," said Saint Remy, in a threatening tone.

"I have told you, sir, that a notary was as discreet as a confessor."

Jacques Ferrand rang the bell, and the clerk appeared.

"Show in her ladyship." Then, addressing the viscount, he added, "Take
these thirteen hundred francs, sir; it will be so much on account with
M. Petit Jean."

Lady d'Orbigny (formerly Madame Roland) entered as the viscount went
out, his features contracted with rage for having uselessly humiliated
himself before the notary.

"Oh, good-morning, Saint Remy!" said the countess; "it is a long time
since I have seen you."

"Yes, madame; since the marriage of D'Harville, of which I was a
witness, I have not had the honor to meet you," said Saint Remy,
bowing, and suddenly assuming a most smiling and affable expression.
"Since then, you have always remained in Normandy?"

"Dear me! yes. M. d'Orbigny cannot live now but in the country; and
where he lives, I live. Thus you see in me a true 'county lady.' I
have not been to Paris since the marriage of my dear step-daughter
with excellent D'Harville. Do you see him often?"

"D'Harville has become very savage and very morose. I meet him very
seldom in society," said Saint Remy, with a shade of impatience; for
this conversation was insupportable, both from its inopportuneness,
and because the notary seemed to be much amused. But the stepmother of
Madame d'Harville, enchanted at this meeting with a beau of society,
was not the woman to let her prey escape so easily.

"And my dear step-daughter," continued she, "is not, I hope, as savage
as her husband?"

"Madame d'Harville is very fashionable, and always much sought after,
as a pretty woman should be; but I fear, madame, I trespass on your
time, and--"

"Not at all, I assure you. I am quite fortunate to meet the 'mold of
form, the glass of fashion;' in ten minutes I shall know all about
Paris, as if I had never left it. And your dear friend, De Lucenay,
who was with you a witness of D'Harville's marriage?"

"More of an original than ever; he set out for the East, and he
returned just in time to receive yesterday morning a thrust from a
sword; of no great harm, however."

"The poor duke! and his wife, still beautiful and ravishing?"

"You know, madame, that I have the honor to be one of her best
friends; my testimony on this subject would be suspected. Will you,
madame, on your return to Aubiers, do me the honor to remember me to
M. d'Orbigny?"

"He will be very sensible of your kind recollections, I assure you,
for he often asks after you and your success. He says you remind him
of the Duke de Lauzun."

"This comparison alone is quite an eulogium; but, unfortunately for
me, it is much more kind than true. Adieu, madame; for I dare not hope
that you will do me the honor to receive me before your departure."

"I should be distressed if you should take the trouble to call upon
me. I am for a few days at furnished lodgings; but if, this summer or
fall, you pass our way to some of the fashionable country-seats, grant
us a few days only by way of contrast, and to rest yourself with some
poor country-folks from the giddy round of the chateau life, so
elegant and so extravagant; for it is always holidays where you go."

"Madame----"

"I need not tell you how happy D'Orbigny and myself would be to
receive you; but adieu, sir: I fear that the benevolent humorist,"
pointing to the notary, "will become tired of our talk."

"Just the contrary, madame, just the contrary," said Ferrand, in an
accent which redoubled the restrained rage of the viscount.

"Acknowledge that M. Ferrand is a terrible man," continued Madame
d'Orbigny; "but take care, since he is, fortunately for you, charged
with your affairs, he will scold you furiously; he is without pity.
But what do I say? A man like you to have M. Ferrand for notary--it is
a sign of amendment: for every one knows he never lets his clients
commit any follies without informing them of it. Oh! he does not wish
to be the notary of every one." Then, addressing Jacques Ferrand, she
said, "Do you know, Mr. Puritan, that this is a superb conversion you
have made here--to render wise and prudent the king of fashion!"

"It is exactly a conversion, madame; M. le Vicomte leaves ray cabinet
altogether different from what he entered it."

"When I say you perform miracles, it is not astonishing: you are a
saint."

"Oh, madame, you flatter me," said Jacques Ferrand.

Saint Remy profoundly saluted Madame d'Orbigny; and at the moment of
leaving the notary, wishing to try a last effort to soften him, he
said, in a careless manner, which nevertheless disclosed profound
anxiety:

"Decidedly, my dear M. Ferrand, you will not grant me what I ask?"

"Some folly, without doubt! Be inexorable, my dear Puritan," cried
Madame d'Orbigny, laughing. "You hear, sir; I cannot act contrary to
the advice of so handsome a lady."

"My dear M. Ferrand, let us speak seriously of serious things, and you
know that this is so. You refuse decidedly?" asked the viscount, with
anguish he could not conceal.

The notary was cruel enough to appear to hesitate; Saint Remy had a
moment of hope.

"How, man of iron, you relent?" said the step-mother of Madame
d'Harville, laughing; "you submit also to the charms of the
irresistible?"

"Faith, madame, I was on the point of yielding, as you say, but you
make me blush for my weakness," said Ferrand; then turning to the
viscount, with an expression of which he comprehended all the
signification, he continued, "There, seriously, it is impossible; I
will not suffer that, through caprice, you should commit such an
absurdity. M. le Vicomte, I regard myself as the mentor of my clients;
I have no other family, and I should regard myself as an accomplice of
any errors I should allow them to commit."

"Oh! the Puritan, the Puritan!" cried Madame d'Orbigny.

"Yet, see M. Petit Jean; he will think, I am sure, as I do; and, like
me, he will refuse."

Saint Remy left in a state of desperation. After a moment's thought,
he said, "It must be!" Then, addressing his footman, who held open the
door of the carriage, "To Lucenay House." While Saint Remy is on his
way to the duchess, we will be present with the reader at the
interview between Ferrand and the stepmother of Madame d'Harville.



CHAPTER VII.

THE WILL.


Madame D'Orbigny was a slender blonde, with eyebrows nearly white, and
pale blue eyes, almost round; her speech honeyed, her look
hypocritical, her manners insinuating and insidious.

"What a charming young man is the Viscount de Saint Remy!" said she to
Jacques Ferrand, when the viscount had gone.

"Charming; but, madame, let us talk of business. You wrote me from
Normandy that you wished to consult me on some grave affairs."

"Have you not always been my adviser since good Dr. Polidori referred
me to you? Apropos, have you heard from him?" asked Madame d'Orbigny,
in a careless manner.

"Since his departure from Paris he has not written me once," answered
the notary, no less indifferently. We must inform the reader that
these two personages lied most boldly to each other. The notary had
seen Polidori recently (one of his two accomplices), and had proposed
to him to go to Asnieres, to the Martials, the freshwater pirates (of
whom we shall speak presently), under the name of Dr. Vincent, to
poison Louise Morel. The stepmother of Madame d'Harville came to Paris
expressly to have a conference with this scoundrel, who now went by
the name of Caesar Bradamanti.

"But it is not concerning the good doctor," said Madame d'Orbigny,
"you see me much troubled; my husband is sick--he grows worse daily.
Without causing me serious fears, his condition troubles me, or,
rather, troubles him," continued she, wiping her tearless eyes.

"What is the matter?"

"He continually speaks of his final arrangements--of his will." Here
Madame d'Orbigny hid her face in her handkerchief for some moments.

"That is sad, doubtless," said the notary; "but this precaution is not
alarming. What are his intentions, madame?"

"How can I tell? You know well, when he touches on this subject I
change it."

"But has he said nothing positive?"

"I believe," said Madaine d'Orbigny, in a most disinterested manner,
"I believe he wishes not only to give me all the law allows--but--oh!
hold, I beg you, let us not speak of this!"

"What shall we speak of?"

"Alas! you are right, relentless man; we must return to the sad
subject which brought me here. Well, D'Orbigny carries his kindness so
far as to wish to convert a part of his fortune, and give me a
considerable sum."

"But his daughter--his daughter?" cried Ferrand, with severity. "I
ought to tell you that, for a year past, M. d'Harville has given me
charge of his affairs. I have lately bought for him a magnificent
property. You know my roughness in business. It imports little to me
that M. d'Harville is my client; that which I plead is the cause of
justice. If your husband takes toward his daughter, Madame d'Harville,
a determination which seems to me not proper, I tell you plainly he
must not count on me. Straightforward! such has always been my line of
conduct."

"And mine also. Thus I repeat to my husband always just as you have
said: 'Your daughter has treated you badly; so be it; but that is no
reason to disinherit her.'"

"Very well--all right; and what did he answer?"

"He answered, 'I will leave my daughter twenty-five thousand francs a
year. She had more than a million from her mother; her husband has an
enormous income. Can I not leave the rest to you, my tender friend,
the sole support, the sole consolation of my old age, my guardian
angel?' I repeat these too flattering words," said Madame d'Orbigny,
with a modest sigh, "to show you his goodness toward me; yet I have
always refused his offers; seeing which, he decided to beg me to come
and find you."

"But I do not know M. d'Orbigny."

"But he, like every one else, knows your probity."

"But how did he address you to me?"

"To silence my scruples. He said, 'I do not ask you to consult my
notary, you will think him too much under my orders; but I will leave
it to the decision of a man whose honesty is proverbial, M. Ferrand.
If he finds your delicacy compromised by your acceptance of my offer,
we will talk no more about it; if not, you acquiesce.' 'I consent,'
said I, and in this way you have become our arbitrator. 'If he
approves,' added my husband, 'I will send him a power of attorney to
realize, in my name, my real estate and bank stock; he will keep this
sum on deposit, and, after my death, you will at least have an income
worthy of you."

Never, perhaps, had Ferrand felt more the value of his spectacles than
at this moment. Without them, Madame d'Orbigny would have seen how his
eyes sparkled at the word "deposit."

He answered, however, in a morose tone, "This is troublesome; this is
for the tenth or twelfth time that I have been chosen an arbiter,
always under pretext of my probity; that is the only word in their
mouths--my probity! my probity! Great advantage; it only gives me
trouble and--"

"My good M. Ferrand, come, don't scold; you will write to M.
d'Orbigny; he awaits your letter, to send you his full power to
realize the sum."

"How much is it?"

"He said, I believe, that it was about four or five hundred thousand
francs."

"The amount is not so large as I thought. After all, you have devoted
yourself to M. d'Orbigny. His daughter is very rich--you have nothing;
I can approve of this. It appears to me you might accept."

"Really, you think so?" said Madame d'Orbigny, dupe, like every one
else, of the proverbial honesty of the notary, and not undeceived in
this respect by Polidori.

"You may accept," said he.

"I shall accept then," said Madame d'Orbigny, with a sigh.

The clerk knocked at the door. "Who is it?" demanded Ferrand.

"Her ladyship, the Countess M'Gregor."

"Let her wait a moment."

"I leave you, then, my dear M. Ferrand," said Madame d'Orbigny; "you
will write to my husband, since he desires it, and he will send you
full powers tomorrow."

"I will write."

"Adieu, my worthy and good counselor."

"Ah! you people of the world do not know how disagreeable it is to
take charge of such deposits--the responsibility which bears on us. I
tell you there is nothing more detestable than this fine reputation
for probity which brings one nothing but drudgery."

"And the admiration of good people."

"Praise the Lord! I place otherwise than here below the recompense I
seek for," said Ferrand, in a sanctified tone.

To Madame d'Orbigny succeeded Countess Sarah M'Gregor.

Sarah entered the cabinet of the notary with her habitual coolness and
assurance. Jacques Ferrand did not know her; he was ignorant of the
object of her visit. He observed her very closely, in the hope to make
a new dupe; and, notwithstanding the impassibility of the marble face,
he remarked a slight tremor, which appeared to him to betray concealed
embarrassment.

The notary arose from his chair, and handed a seat to the countess,
saying, "You asked for a meeting, madame, yesterday. I was so much
occupied that I could not send you an answer until this morning; I
make you a thousand excuses."

"I desired to see you, sir, on business of the greatest importance.
Your reputation has made me hope my business with you will be
successful."

The notary bowed in his chair. "I know, sir, that your discretion is
well tried."

"It is my duty, madame."

"You are, sir, a rigid and incorruptible man."

"Granted, madame."

"Yet, if one should say to you, sir, it depends on you to restore
life--more than life--reason to an unhappy mother, would you have the
courage to refuse?"

"State facts, madame, I will answer."

"About fourteen years since, in December, 1824, a young man, dressed
in mourning, came to propose to you to take, for an annuity, the sum
of one hundred and fifty thousand francs, for a child of three years,
whose parents desired to remain unknown."

"Continue, madame," said the notary, avoiding a direct answer.

"You consented to receive this amount, and to assure the child an
income of eight thousand francs. The one-half of this amount was to be
added to the capital until its majority; the other half was to be paid
by you to the person who should take charge of this little girl."

"Continue, madame."

"At the end of two years," said Sarah, without being able to conquer a
slight emotion, "the 28th November, 1827, this child died."

"Before continuing this conversation, madame, I shall ask you what
interest you have in this affair?"

"The mother of this little girl is my _sister_, sir; I have here,
for proof of what I advance, the publication of the death of this poor
little thing, the letters from the person who had care of her, the
receipt of one of your clients, with whom you placed the fifty
thousand crowns."

"Let me see these papers, madame."

Quite astonished not to be believed at her word, Sarah drew from a
portfolio several papers, which the notary closely examined.

"Ah, well, madame, what do you want? The notice of the death is quite
correct; the fifty thousand crowns became the property of M. Petit
Jean, my client, by the death of the child; as to the interests, they
were always punctually paid by me until its decease."

"Nothing can be more correct than your conduct in this affair; sir, I
am pleased to acknowledge it. The woman to whom the child was confided
has also a right to our gratitude; she has taken the greatest care of
my poor little niece."

"That is true, madame; I was so much pleased with her conduct, that,
after the death of the child, I took her in my service; she is still
there."

"Mrs. Seraphin is in your service, sir?"

"For fourteen years, as housekeeper."

"Since it is thus, sir, she can be of great assistance, if you will
grant a demand which will appear strange, perhaps, even culpable at
first; but, when you shall know with what intention--"

"A culpable demand, madame; I do not think you are any more capable of
making than I am of hearing it."

"I know, sir, that you are the last person to whom one should address
such a request; but I place all my hopes--my sole hope--in your pity.
In every case I rely on your discretion."

"Yes, madame."

"I continue, then. The death of this poor little girl has cast her
mother into such a state, her grief is as poignant at the present day
as it was fourteen years since; and, after having feared for her life,
to-day we fear for her reason."

"Poor mother!" said Ferrand, with a sigh.

"Oh! yes, very unfortunate mother, sir; for she could only blush at
the birth of her daughter, at the time she lost her; while now
circumstances are such, that my sister, if her child still lived,
could own her, be proud of her, never leave her. Thus, this incessant
regret, joined to other griefs, makes us fear for her reason."

"Unfortunately, nothing can be done for her."

"Oh, yes."

"How, madame?"

"Suppose some one should come and say to the poor mother. 'Your child
was supposed to be dead; she is not; the woman who had care of her
infancy can affirm it.'"

"Such a falsehood would be cruel, madame. Why cause vain hopes to this
poor mother?"

"But if this was not a falsehood, sir; or, rather, if this supposition
could be realized?"

"By a miracle! If it only needed, to obtain it, my prayers joined to
yours, I would pray from the bottom of my heart. Alas! there can be no
doubt of her death."

"I know it, alas! sir, the child is dead: and yet, if you wish it, the
evil is not irreparable."

"It is an enigma, madame."

"I will speak, then, more plainly. If my sister finds to-morrow her
child, not only will she be restored to health, but, what is more, she
is sure to marry the father of this child, now as free as she is. My
niece died at six years. Separated from her parents at this tender
age, they have no recollection of her. Suppose that a young girl of
seventeen could be found; that my sister should be told, 'Here is your
child; you have been deceived; certain interests required that she
should be thought dead. The woman who had charge of her, a respectable
notary will affirm, will prove to you that it is she--'"

Jacques Ferrand, after having allowed the countess to speak without
interrupting her, rose suddenly, and cried, in an indigant manner,
"Enough, enough, madame. Oh! this is infamous."

"Sir!"

"To dare to propose to me--to me--to palm off a child--a criminal
action! It is the first time in my life that I have received such an
outrage, and I have not deserved it--heaven knows."

"But, who is wronged by it? My sister and the person she desires to
marry are single; both regret bitterly the child they have lost; to
deceive them is to restore to them happiness--life; it is to assure
some forsaken young girl a most happy lot: thus it is a noble,
generous action, and not a crime."

"Truly," cried the notary, with increasing indignation, "I see how the
most execrable projects can be colored with--"

"But reflect."

"I repeat to you, madame, that it is infamous. It is a shame to see a
woman of your rank contriving such abominations, to which your sister,
I hope, is a stranger."

"Sir!"

"Enough, madame, enough! I am not a gallant, not I. I tell you the
naked truth."

Sarah cast on the notary one of her dark looks, and said coldly, "You
refuse?"

"No new insult, madame!"

"Take care!"

"Threats?"

"Threats! and to prove to you that they will not be in vain, learn, in
the first place, that I have no sister."

"What, madame?"

"I am the mother of this child."

"You?"

"I invented this fable to interest you. You are without pity: I raise
the mask. You want war! well, war be it."

"War! because I refuse to lend myself to a criminal act? what
audacity!"

"Listen to me, sir; your reputation as an honest man is great--known
far and near."

"Because it is merited. You must have lost your reason before you
would have dared to make such a proposition?"

"Better than any one, I know, sir, how much one ought to suspect these
reputations of such strict virtue, which often conceal the gallantries
of women and the scoundrelism of men."

"You dare to say this, madame?"

"Since the commencement of our conversation, I do not know wherefore,
I doubted that you deserve the consideration and esteem which you
enjoy."

"Truly, madame, this doubt does honor to your perspicacity."

"Does it not so? for this doubt is founded on nothing--on mere
instinct--on inexplicable presentiments; but rarely has this boding
deceived me."

"Let us finish this conversation, madame."

"Before we do so, know my determination. I begin by telling you, that
I am convinced of the death of my poor child; but, no matter, I will
pretend she is not dead; the most unlikely events are often brought
about. You are at this moment in such a position that you must have
many envious rivals; they will regard it as a piece of good fortune to
attack you. I will furnish means to them."

"You!"

"I, in attacking you under an absurd pretext, on an irregularity in
the registry of death, let us say--no matter, I will maintain my child
is not dead. As I have the greatest interest in having it believed
that she still lives, although lost, this process will serve me in
giving much notoriety to this affair; a mother who reclaims her child
is always interesting; I shall have on my side those who are envious
of you, your enemies, and all those who are feeling and romantic."

"This is as foolish as wicked. Why should I? For what interest should
I say your child is dead, if she were not?"

"That is true, the motive is sufficiently embarrassing to find.
Happily, lawyers are plenty. But a thought! ah! an excellent one:
wishing to divide with your client the sum paid for the annuity, you
have caused the child to be carried off."

The notary, without moving a muscle of his face, shrugged his
shoulders. "If I had been criminal enough to do that, instead of
sending her off, I would have killed her!"

[Illustration: THE DUEL]

Sarah shuddered with surprise, remained silent for a moment, then
resumed with bitterness: "For a holy man, that is a thought of crime
profoundly deep! Have I touched to the quick in shooting at random?
This sets me thinking. One last word: you see what kind of a woman I
am--I crush without pity all who cross my path. Reflect well; to-morrow
you must decide! you can do with impunity what you are asked.
In his joy, the father of my child would not discuss the probability
of such a resurrection, if our falsehoods, which will render him so
happy, are adroitly combined. He has, besides, no other proofs of the
death of our child, than what I wrote to him fourteen years since; it
will be easy for me to persuade him that I deceived him on this
subject; for then I had just cause of complaint against him. I will
tell him that in my anger I wished to break, in his eyes, the last
link which still held us together. You cannot therefore in any way be
compromised; affirm only, irreproachable man, affirm that all has been
concerted between you and me and Mrs. Seraphin, and you will be
believed. As to the money placed with you, that concerns me alone; it
shall remain with your client, who must be ignorant of all this;
finally, you shall name your own recompense."

Jacques Ferrand preserved all his coolness, notwithstanding his
position, so strange and dangerous for him. The countess, believing
really in the death of her child, came to ask him to represent as
living this child, whom he had himself _passed for dead_ fourteen
years before. He was too cunning, and knew too well the perils of his
situation, not to comprehend the bearing of Sarah's threats. Although
admirably constructed, the edifice of the notary's reputation was
built on sand. The public as easily detach as they attach themselves,
and are pleased with the right to trample under foot those whom they
once had exalted to the skies. How foresee the consequences of the
first attack on the reputation of Jacques Ferrand? However ridiculous
this attack might be, its boldness alone might awaken suspicion.

The pertinacity of Sarah, and her obduracy, alarmed the notary. This
mother had not shown for a moment any feeling in speaking of her
child; she had only seemed to consider her death as the loss of a
means of action. Such dispositions are implacable in their objects,
and in their vengeance. Wishing to give himself time to seek some
means to avoid the dangerous blow, Ferrand said coldly to Sarah, "You
have asked until noon to-morrow. It is I, madame, who give you until
the next day to renounce a project, of which you know not the gravity.
If, meanwhile, I do not receive a letter from you in which you
announce that you have abandoned this foolish and criminal
undertaking, you will learn to your cost that justice knows how to
protect honest people who refuse to lend themselves to culpable acts."

"That is to say, sir, that you demand one day more to reflect on my
proposition? That is a good sign; I grant it to you. The day after
to-morrow, at this hour, I will return here, and it shall be between us
peace or war; I repeat it to you, a war to the knife, without mercy or
pity;" and Sarah disappeared.

"All goes well," said she to herself. "This miserable young girl, for
whom Rudolph was so much interested--thanks to old One Eye, who has
delivered me from her, is no longer to be feared. The skill of Rudolph
has saved Madame d'Harville from the snare I placed for her, but it is
impossible she can escape from the new plot I have contrived; she will
then be forever lost to him. Then, sad, discouraged, isolated from all
ties, will he not be in such a disposition of mind, that he will not
desire anything better than to be the dupe of a falsehood, to which,
with the aid of the notary, I can give every appearance of truth? And
the notary will assist me for I have alarmed him. I can easily find a
young orphan girl, interesting and poor who, instructed by me, will
fill the part of our child, so bitterly regretted by Rudolph. I know
the grandeur and generosity of his heart. Yes, to give a name and rank
to her whom he believes to be his daughter, until then unhappy and
abandoned, he will renew those ties which I had thought indissoluble.
The predictions of my nurse will at length be realized, and I shall
have this time surely attained the constant aim of my life--a crown."
Hardly had Sarah left the mansion of the notary, than Charles Robert
entered it, descending from an elegant cabriolet: he turned toward the
private cabinet, as one having free admission.



CHAPTER VIII.

CHARLES ROBERT.


The new-comer entered without any ceremony the notary's office, who
was in a very thoughtful and splenetic mood, and who said to him very
roughly, "I reserve the afternoon for my clients; when you wish to
speak to me, come in the morning."

"My dear scribbler" (this was one of the pleasantries of M. Robert),
"it is concerning an important affair, in the first place, and then I
wish to assure you myself concerning the fears that you might have."

"What fears?"

"Do you not know?"

"What?"

"My duel with the Duke de Lucenay. Are you ignorant of it?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

"Why this duel?"

"Something very serious, which required blood. Just imagine that, in
the face of the whole embassy, M. de Lucenay allowed himself to say to
me, to my face, that I had a cough, a complaint that must be very
ridiculous."

"You fought for this?"

"And what the devil would you have one to fight for? Do you think that
one could, in cold blood, hear one's self accused of having a cough?
and before a charming woman, too; what is more, before a little
marchioness, who, in brief--it could not be overlooked."

"Certainly."

"We soldiers, you understand, we are always on the look out. My
seconds, the day before yesterday, had an interview with those of the
duke. I had the question placed very plainly; a duel or a retraction."

"A retraction of what?"

"Of the cough, by Jove, which he allowed himself to attribute to me."
The notary shrugged his shoulders.

"On their side the duke's seconds said, 'We render justice to the
honorable character of M. Charles Robert; but his grace of Lucenay
cannot, ought not, will not retract.' 'Then, gentlemen,' responded my
seconds, 'M. de Lucenay still continues to insist that M. Charles
Robert has a cough?' 'Yes, gentlemen; but he does not intend it as an
attack upon M. Robert's reputation.' 'Then let him retract.' 'No,
gentlemen; M. de Lucenay recognizes M. Robert for a gallant man, but
he insists that he has a cough.' You see there was no way of arranging
so serious an affair."

"None. You were insulted in that which a man holds to be most
respectable."

"So they agreed on the day and hour of meeting, and yesterday morning
at Vincennes, all passed in the most honorable manner. I touched the
duke slightly in the arm with my sword; the seconds declared my honor
satisfied. Then the duke said, in a loud voice, 'I never retract
before an affair; afterward, it is different: it is therefore my duty
to proclaim that I falsely accused M. Charles Robert of having a
cough. Gentlemen, I confess, not only that my loyal adversary has no
cough, but I affirm that he is incapable of ever having it.' Then the
duke extended his hand to me cordially, saying, 'Are you content?
Henceforth we are friends in life until death.' I answered, that I
owed him as much. The duke has done everything that was right. He
might have said nothing at all, or contented himself with saying that
I had not the cough; but to affirm that I never could have one was a
very delicate proceeding on his part."

"This is what I call courage well employed. But what do you mean?"

"My dear banker" (another pleasantry of M. Robert), "it concerns
something of great importance to me. You know that in our agreement,
when I advanced you 350,000 francs, in order that you might finish the
purchase of your notariat, it was stipulated that, by giving you three
months' notice, I could withdraw from you this amount for which you
now pay interest."

"What next?"

"Well!" said M. Robert, with hesitation, "I; no, but--"

"What?"

"You perceive it is pure caprice; an idea to become a landed
proprietor, my dear law-writer."

"Explain yourself; you annoy me."

"In a word, I have been offered a territorial acquisition, and, if it
is not disagreeable to you I should wish, that is to say, I should
desire, to withdraw my funds from you; and I come to give you notice,
according to our agreement."

"Humph!"

"It does not make you angry, I hope!"

"Why should it?"

"Because you might think--"

"I may think?"

"That I am the echo of rumors."

"What rumors?"

"No, nothing; absurdities."

"But, tell me then?"

"It is no reason because there _are_ reports in circulation about
you----"

"About me?"

"There is not a word of truth in it--that you have been doing some bad
business; pure scandal, no doubt, like when we speculated on the
'Change together. That report soon fell to the ground; for I wish that
you and I might become----"

"Then you think your money is no longer safe with me?"

"Not so; but I prefer to have it in my hands."

"Wait a minute."

Ferrand shut the drawer of his bureau, and rose.

"Where are you going to, my dear banker?"

"To look for something to convince you of the truth of the rumors
concerning me," said the notary, ironically. And opening a little
private staircase which led to the pavilion, without going through the
office, he disappeared.

Hardly had he gone when the clerk knocked at the door. "Come in," said
Charles Robert.

"Is not M. Ferrand here?"

"No, my worthy blue-baggist."

"A veiled lady wishes to speak to master instantly, on very pressing
business."

"Worthy fellow, your master will return directly; I will tell him. Is
she pretty?"

"One must be a wizard to find this out; she wears a black veil, so
thick that her face cannot be seen."

"Good, good! I'll take a look at her when I go out."

The clerk left the room.

"Where the devil is he gone to?" said Charles to himself. "If these
reports are absurd, so much the better. Never mind, I prefer to have
my money. I will buy the chateau they have spoken to me of, with
Gothic towers of the time of Louis XIV.; that will give me a noble
appearance. It will not be like my affair with this prude of a Madame
d'Harville--fine game! Oh, no; I have not made my expenses, as the
stupid old portress in the Rue du Temple said, with her fantastic
periwig. This pleasantry has cost meat least a thousand crowns. It is
true, the furniture remains; and I can compromise the marquise. But
here is the scrivener."

Ferrand returned, holding in his hand some papers, which he gave to
Robert.

"Here," said he to him, "are three hundred and fifty thousand francs
in Treasury notes. In a few days we will regulate the interest. Write
me a receipt."

"Eh!" cried Charles, stupefied. "Oh! now don't think, at least, that
I--"

"I think nothing."

"But--"

"This receipt!"

"Dear sir."

"Write; and tell the people who speak to you of my embarrassments how
I answer such suspicions."

"The fact is, as soon as this is known, your credit will only be the
more solid. But, really, take the money; I cannot use it now; I said
in three months."

"M. Charles Robert, no one shall suspect me twice."

"You are angry?"

"The receipt."

"Oh, obstinacy!" said Charles Robert; then he added, writing the
receipt, "There is a lady closely veiled, who wishes to speak to you
on some very pressing business. I shall take a good look at her when I
pass. Here is your receipt; is it right?"

"Very well; now go away by the little staircase."

"But the lady?"

"It is just to prevent your seeing her."

The notary rang for the clerk, saying to him, "Show the lady in.
Adieu, M. Robert."

"Well, I must renounce seeing her. No ill-feeling, eh! scrivener?"

"Believe as much."

"Well, well! adieu."

The notary shut the door on Charles Robert.

After a few moments the clerk introduced the Duchess de Lucenay, very
modestly dressed, wrapped in a large shawl, her face completely
concealed by a thick veil of black lace, which covered her moire hat
of the same color.



CHAPTER IX.

THE DUCHESS DE LUCENAY.


Madame de Lucenay slowly approached the desk, in an agitated manner;
he advanced to meet her.

"Who are you, madame, and what do you want with me?" said the notary,
roughly, whose temper, already fretted by the threat of Sarah, was
exasperated at the suspicions of Robert. Besides, the duchess was so
modestly dressed, that the notary saw no reason why he should be civil
to her. As she hesitated to speak, he said, even more harshly, "Will
you explain yourself, madame?"

"Sir," said she, in a trembling voice, trying to conceal her face
under the folds of her veil, "Sir, can one confide a secret to you of
the highest importance?"

"Anything can be confided to me, madame, but I must see and know to
whom I speak."

"That, perhaps, is not necessary. I know that you are honor and
loyalty itself."

"Just so, madame, just so; there is some one there waiting. Who are
you?"

"My name is of no importance, sir. One of my friends--of my relations--
has just left you."

"His name?"

"M. Floreston de Saint Remy."

"Ah!" said the notary, casting on the duchess an inquisitive and
searching glance; then he resumed: "Well, madame!"

"M. de Saint Remy has told me everything, sir."

"What did he tell you?"

"All!"

"But what did he say?"

"You know well."

"I know many things about M. de Saint Remy."

"Alas! sir, a terrible thing."

"I know a great many terrible things about M. de Saint Remy."

"Ah! sir, he told me truly--you are without pity."

"For cheats and forgers like him, yes, I am without pity. Is Saint
Remy your relation? Instead of confessing it, you ought to blush. Do
you come here to weep, to soften me? It is useless; without saying
that you are performing a wretched part for an honest woman, if you
are one."

This brutal insolence was revolting to the pride and patrician blood
of the duchess. She drew herself up, threw her veil back, and with a
proud look, and a firm, imperious voice, she said, "Sir, I am the
Duchess of Lucenay."

This woman assumed so haughty an air, her appearance became so
imposing, that the notary, overcome, charmed, fell back astonished;
took off, mechanically, his black silk cap, and saluted her
profoundly.

Nothing could be, indeed, more graceful and more majestic than the
face and bearing of Madame de Lucenay; yet she was then over thirty
years of age, with a pale face, appearing slightly fatigued; but she
had large sparkling brown eyes, splendid black hair, a fine arched
nose, a proud and ruby lip, dazzling complexion, very white teeth,
tall and slender figure, a form like a "goddess on the clouds," as the
immortal St. Simon says.

She had entered the notary's as a timid woman; all at once she showed
herself a grand, proud, and irritated lady. Never had Jacques Ferrand
in his life met with a woman of so much insolent beauty, at once so
bold and so noble. Although old, ugly, mean, and sordid, Jacques
Ferrand was as capable as any one else of appreciating the style of
beauty of Madame de Lucenay. His hatred and his rage against Saint
Remy augmented with his admiration of the charming duchess. He thought
to himself that this gentleman forger, who had almost kneeled before
him, inspired such love in this grand lady, that she risked a step
which might ruin her. At these thoughts the notary felt his audacity,
which for a moment was paralyzed, restored. Hatred, envy, a kind of
burning, savage resentment kindled in his looks, on his forehead, and
his cheeks--the most shameful and wicked passions. Seeing Madame de
Lucenay on the point of commencing a conversation so delicate, he
expected on her part some turnings, expedients. What was his surprise!
She spoke to him with as much assurance and pride as if it was
concerning the most natural thing in the world, and as if before a man
of his species, she had no thought of the reserve and fitness which
she had certainly shown to her equals. In fact, the gross insolence of
the notary, in wounding her to the quick, had forced Madame de
Lucenay, to quit the humble and imploring part that she had at first
assumed with much trouble; returned to her own dignity, she believed
it to be beneath her to descend to the least concealment with this
scribbler of deeds.

"Sir notary," said the duchess, resolutely, to Jacques Ferrand, "M. de
Saint Remy is one of my friends; he has confided to me the
embarrassing situation in which he finds himself, from the
inconvenience of a double piece of villainy of which he is the victim.
Everything can be managed with money. How much is necessary to
terminate these miserable, shuffling tricks?"

Jacques Ferrand was completely astounded with this cavalier and
deliberate manner of opening the business.

"They ask a hundred thousand francs," answered he, as soon as he had
recovered from his astonishment.

"You shall have your hundred thousand francs; and you will send at
once the bad papers to M. de Saint Remy."

"Where are the hundred thousand francs, your grace?"

"Did I not tell you that you should have them, sir?"

"They must be had to-morrow, before noon, madame; otherwise a
complaint of forgery will be made."

"Well, give this amount; I will be accountable for it; as for you I
will pay you well."

"But, madame, it is impossible."

"You will not tell me, I hope, that a notary like you cannot procure a
hundred thousand francs any day?"

"On what security, madame?"

"What does that mean? Explain yourself."

"Who is to be answerable for this amount?" "I."

"But, madame--"

"Is it necessary for me to tell you that I have property yielding
eighty thousand livres rent, at four leagues from Paris? That will
suffice, I believe, for that which you call guarantee?"

"Yes, madame, by means of a mortgage."

"What does that mean again? Some formality, doubtless. Make it, sir,
make it."

"Such a deed cannot be drawn up under two weeks, and it needs the
consent of your husband, madame."

"But this is my property, mine--mine alone," said the duchess,
impatiently.

"No matter, madame; you are in the power of your husband, and a deed
of mortgage is very long and very minute."

"But once more, sir, you cannot make me believe that it so difficult
to procure one hundred thousand francs in two hours."

"Then, madame, apply to your own notary, to your steward; with me, it
is impossible."

"I have reasons, sir, to keep this a secret," said Madame de Lucenay,
heartily. "You know the rogues who wish to rob M. de Saint Remy; it is
on this account I address myself to you."

"Your confidence infinitely honors me, madame; but I cannot do what
you ask."

"You have not this amount?"

"I have much more than this sum in bank bills, or in gold--here--here,
in my safe."

"Oh, what a waste of words! Is it my signature you wish? I give it
you; let us finish."

"In admitting, madame, that you are the Duchess of Lucenay."

"Come in an hour's time to the Hôtel de Lucenay, sir: I will sign at
home what is necessary to be signed."

"Will his grace sign also?"

"I do not understand you, sir."

"Your signature alone is of no value to me, madame."

Jacques Ferrand enjoyed with cruel delight the impatience of the
duchess, who, under the appearance of _sang froid_ and disdain,
concealed the most painful anguish. She was for a moment at the end of
her resources. The evening previous, her jeweler had advanced her a
considerable sum on her diamonds, some of which were confided to
Morel, the artisan. This sum had served to pay the bills of Saint
Remy, and disarm other creditors; Dubreul, the farmer at Arnouville,
was more than a year in advance, and besides, time was wanting;
unfortunately for Madame de Lucenay, two of her friends, to whom she
could have had recourse in an extreme situation, were then absent from
Paris. In her eyes, the viscount was innocent; he had told her, and
she believed it, that he was the dupe of two rogues; but her situation
was none the less terrible. He accused, he dragged to prison! Then,
even if he should take to flight would his name be any less dishonored
by such a suspicion?

"Since you possess the sum I ask for, sir, and my guarantee is
sufficient, why do you refuse me?"

"Because men have their caprices as well as women, madame."

"But what is this caprice, which makes you act thus against your
interest? for, I repeat to you, make your conditions; whatever they
may be, I accept them!"

"Your grace will accept all the conditions?" said the notary, with a
singular expression.

"All! two, three, four thousand francs--more, if you will; for I tell
you," added the duchess, frankly, in a tone almost affectionate, "I
have no resource but in you, sir--in you alone. It will be impossible
for me to find elsewhere that which I ask you for to-morrow; and it
must be--you understand--it must be absolutely. Thus, I repeat to you,
whatever condition you impose on me for this service, I accept."

In his blindness, he had interpreted in an unworthy manner the last
words of the duchess. It was an idea as stupid as it was infamous; but
we have already said that sometimes Jacques Ferrand became a tiger or
a wolf; then the beast overpowered the man. He arose quickly and
advanced toward the duchess. She, thunder-struck, rose at the same
moment and regarded him with astonishment.

"You will not regard the cost?" cried he, in a broken voice,
approaching still nearer to the duchess. "Well, this sum I will lend
to you on one condition, one single condition--and I swear that----"
He could not finish his declaration.

By one of those strange contradictions of human nature at the sight of
the hideous face of M. Ferrand, at the mere thought of what his
conditions might be, Madame de Lucenay, notwithstanding her
inquietudes and troubles, burst out in a laugh so frank, so loud, so
mirthful, that the notary recoiled confounded.

Without giving him time to utter a word, the duchess, abandoning
herself more and more to her hilarity, pulled down her veil, and
between two renewed bursts of laughter, said to the notary, who was
almost blind with rage, hatred, and fury, "I prefer, upon the whole,
to ask this favor openly of the duke." She then went out, continuing
to laugh so loudly that, though the door of the cabinet was closed,
the notary could still hear her.

Jacques Ferrand returned to his senses only to curse his imprudence
bitterly. Yet, by degrees he reassured himself in thinking that the
duchess could not speak of this interview without gravely compromising
herself.

Nevertheless, it was a bad day for him. He was buried in the blackest
thoughts, when the private door of his cabinet was opened, and Mrs.
Seraphin entered wildly.

"Oh, Ferrand!" cried she, clasping her hands, "you were right enough
in saying that we should some day regret having spared her life!"

"Whose?"

"That cursed little girl's."

"How?"

"A one-eyed woman, whom I did not know, to whom Tournemine delivered
the little girl to rid us of her, fourteen years ago, when we said she
was dead. Oh, who would have thought it!"

"Speak!"

"This woman has just been here; she was below just now. She told me
she knew it was I who gave up the child."

"Malediction! who could have told her? Tournemine is at the galleys."

"I denied everything, treating her as a liar. But she maintains that
she has found this child again, now grown up; that she knows where she
is, and that it only depends upon herself to discover everything."

"Is hell unchained against me to-day?" cried the notary, in a fit of
rage that rendered him hideous.

"What shall be said to the woman? What must we promise, to keep her
silent?"

"Does she look as if she were poor?"

"As I treated her like a beggar, she shook her reticule--there was
money in it."

"And she knows where this young girl is now?"

"She declares she knows."

"And she is the daughter of Countess M'Gregor!" said the notary to
himself, "who just now offered me so much to say that her child was
not dead! And the child lives. I can restore her to her! Yes; but this
false certificate of death--if any inquiry is made, I am lost! This
crime may put them on the scent of others." After a moment's thought,
he said to Madame Seraphin, "This one-eyed woman knows where the girl
is?"

"Yes."

"And this woman will return to-morrow?"

"To-morrow."

"Write to Polidori to be here to-night at nine o'clock."

"Do you mean to get rid of the girl and the old woman? It will be too
much for one time, Ferrand!"

"I tell you to write to Folidori to be here to-night by nine o'clock."



At the close of this day, Rudolph said to Murphy, who had not been
able to see the notary, "Let M. de Graun send a courtier off at once.
Cicily must be in Paris in six days."

"Once more that infernal she-devil! the execrable wife of poor David,
as handsome as she is infamous! For what good, your highness?"

"For what good, Sir Walter? In a month's time you may ask this
question of the notary, Jacques Ferrand."



CHAPTER X.

DENUNCIATION.


About ten o'clock in the evening of the day on which Fleur-de-Marie
had been carried off by Screech-owl and the Schoolmaster, a man on
horseback arrived at the farm, coming, as he said, on the part of
Rudolph, to reassure Mrs. George as to the disappearance of her young
_protegee_, who would return to her in a few days. For several
very important reasons, added this man, Rudolph begged Mrs. George, in
the event of her having anything to send him, not to write him at
Paris, but to hand the letter to the courier, who would take charge of
it.

This courier was an emissary of Sarah's. By this she tranquilized Mrs.
George, and retarded thus for some days the moment when Rudolph must
hear of the abduction. In this interval, Sarah hoped to force the
notary to favor the unworthy scheme of which we have spoken. This was
not all. Sarah wished also to get rid of Madame d'Harville, who
inspired her with serious fears, and who would have been lost but for
Rudolph's rescue.

On the day when the marquis had followed his wife to the house in the
Rue du Temple, where she was to meet Charles Robert, but where Rudolph
led her to the Morels, and thus changed the assignation into a call in
charity, Sarah's brother Tom went there, easily set Mrs. Pipelet
jabbering, and learned that a young lady, on the point of being
surprised by her husband, had been saved, thanks to a lodger in the
house named Rudolph. Informed of this circumstance, Sarah, possessing
no material proof of the rendezvous that Lady d'Harville had given to
Charles Robert, conceived another odious plan. It was concocted to
send an anonymous letter to the marquis, in order to effect a complete
rupture between him and Rudolph, or, at least, to make the marquis so
suspicious as to forbid any further intercourse between the prince and
his wife.

This letter was thus couched:

"You have been deceived most shamefully. The other day, your wife,
advised that you were following her, pretended an imaginary visit of
charity; she went to meet a very _august personage_, who has
hired in the Rue du Temple a room in the fourth story, under the name
of Rudolph. If you doubt these facts, strange as they may appear, go
to the Rue du Temple, No. 17, and inform yourself; paint to yourself
the features of the _august person_ spoken of, and you will easily
acknowledge that you are the most credulous, good-natured husband
who has ever been so _sovereignly_ deceived. Do not neglect
this advice; otherwise it will be supposed that you, also are too much.

    "THE FRIEND OF PRINCES."

This note was put in the post at five o'clock by Sarah, on the day of
her interview with the notary. The same evening, Rudolph went to pay a
visit to a foreign embassy: after which it was his intention to go to
Madame d'Harville's to announce to her that he had found a charitable
intrigue worthy of her. We will conduct the reader to Madame
d'Harville's. It will be seen, from the following conversation, that
this young lady, in showing herself generous and compassionate towards
her husband, whom she had until then treated with extreme coldness,
followed already the noble counsels of Rudolph.

The marquis and his wife had just left the table; the scene passed in
the little saloon of which we have spoken; the expression of Clemence
d'Harville was affectionate and kind; D'Harville seemed less sad than
usual. He had not yet received the now infamous letter from Sarah.

"What are you going to do to-night?" said he, mechanically, to his
wife.

"I shall not go out; pray what are your plans?"

"I do not know," answered he, with a sigh. "Society is insupportable
to me. I will pass this evening, like so many other evenings, alone."

"Why alone, since I am not going out?"

M. d'Harville looked at his wife with surprise. "Doubtless, but--"

"Well?"

"I know that you often prefer solitude when you do not go out."

"Yes; but as I am very capricious," said Clemence, smiling, "at
present I prefer to partake my solitude with you, if it is agreeable
to you."

"Really," cried D'Harville, with emotion, "how kind you are to
anticipate what I dared not express."

"Do you know, dear, that your astonishment has almost an air of
reproach?"

"A reproach? Oh, no, no! not after my unjust and cruel suspicions the
other day. To find you so forgiving, it is, I confess, a surprise for
me; but a surprise the most delightful."

"Let us forget the past," said she to her husband, with an angelic
smile.

"Clemence, can you forget?" answered he, sadly. "Have I not dared to
suspect you? To tell you to what extremity a blind jealousy has
impelled me? But what is all this compared to other wrongs, still
greater, more irreparable?"

"Let us forget the past, I say," repeated Clemence, restraining her
emotion.

"What do I hear? The past also--can you forget it?"

"I hope to do so."

"Can it be true, Clemence, you can be so generous? But no, no, I
cannot believe in so much happiness; I had renounced it forever."

"You were wrong, you see."

"What a change! Is it a dream? Oh, tell me I am not mistaken."

"No, no, you are not mistaken."

"And, truly, your look is less cold; your voice almost falters. Oh,
say, is it true? Am I not under an illusion?"

"No; for I also have need of pardon."

"You!"

"Have I not been cruel towards you! Ought I not to have thought that
you must have needed a rare courage, a virtue more than human, to act
differently from what you did? Isolated, unhappy, how resist the
desire of seeking some consolation in a marriage which pleased you?
Alas! when one suffers, one is so disposed to believe in the
generosity of others! Your error has been, until now, to count on
mine. Well, henceforth I will try to give you reason."

"Oh, speak, speak once more!" said D'Harville, his hands clasped in a
kind of ecstasy.

"Our existence is forever united. I will do all in my power to render
your life less bitter."

"Is it you I hear?"

"I beg you do not be so much astonished; it gives me pain; it is a
bitter censure on my past conduct. Who else should pity you? Who
should lend you a friendly and helping hand, if not I? A happy
inspiration I have received. I have reflected, well reflected, on the
past, on the future. I have seen my errors, and I have found, I
believe, the means to repair them."

"Your errors, poor wife?"

"Yes; I should have, the next day after our marriage, appealed to your
honor, and frankly demanded a separation."

"Ah, Clemence, pity, pity!"

"Otherwise, since I accepted my position, I should have augmented it
by submission, instead of causing you constant self-reproach by my
haughty and taciturn coldness. I should have endeavored to console you
for a fearful malady, by only remembering your misfortune. By degrees
I should have become attached to my work of commiseration, by reason
even of the cares, perhaps the sacrifices, which it would have cost
me; your gratitude had rewarded me, and then--but what is the matter?
You weep!"

"Yes, I weep--weep with joy. You do not know how many new emotions
your words cause me. Oh, Clemence, let me weep!"

"Never more than at this moment have I comprehended how culpable I
have been in chaining you to my sad destiny!"

"And never have I felt more decided to forget. These gentle tears that
you shed make me acquainted with a happiness of which I was ignorant.
Courage, dear, courage; in default of a fortunate and smiling destiny,
let us seek our satisfaction in the accomplishment of the serious
duties that fate imposes. Let us be indulgent to one another; if we
falter, let us regard the cradle of our child, let us concentrate on
her all our affections, and we shall yet have some joys, melancholy
and holy."

"An angel, she is an angel!" cried D'Harville, joining his hands and
looking at his wife with affectionate admiration. "Oh! you do not know
the pain and pleasure you cause me, Clemence! you do not know that
your harshest words formerly, your most severe reproaches, alas! the
most merited, have never so much overwhelmed me as this adorable,
generous resignation, and yet, in spite of myself, you make hope
spring up again. You do not know the future that I dare imagine."

"And you can have blind and entire faith in what I tell you, Albert.
This resolution is taken firmly; it shall never fail, I swear it to
you. Before long I may give you new guarantees of my word."

"Guarantees?" cried D'Harville, more and more excited by happiness so
unlooked for, "guarantees! have I need of them? Your look, your voice,
this beaming expression of goodness which still graces you, the
throbbings of my heart, all, all prove to me that what you say is
true. But you know, Clemence, man is insatiable in his hopes," added
the marquis. "Your noble and touching words give me courage to hope,
yes, to hope what yesterday I regarded as an insensate dream."

"Albert, I swear to you I shall always be the most devoted of friends,
the most tender of sisters; but nothing more. Pardon, pardon, if
unknowingly my words have ever given you hopes which can never be
realized."

"Never?" cried D'Harville, fixing on her a desperate and supplicating
look.

"Never!" answered Clemence.

This single word, the tone of voice, revealed an irrevocable
resolution. Clemence, brought back to noble resolutions by the
influence of Rudolph, was firmly resolved to surround her husband with
the most touching attentions; but she felt that she was incapable of
ever loving him. An impression still stronger than fright, contempt,
hatred, separated Clemence from her husband forever. It was a
repugnance invincible. After a moment of mournful silence, D'Harville
passed his hand over his eyes, and said to his wife, bitterly:

"Pardon me for deceiving myself; pardon me for having abandoned myself
to a hope, mad as it was foolish. Oh! I am very unfortunate!"

"My friend," said Clemence to him gently, "I do not wish to reproach
you; yet do you reckon as nothing my promise to be for you the most
tender of sisters? You will owe to the most devoted friendship
attentions that love could not give you. Hope for better days. Until
now you have found me almost indifferent to your sorrows; you shall
see how I shall compassionate you, and what consolations you will find
in my affection."

A servant entered, and said to Clemence, "His Royal Highness the Grand
Duke of Gerolstein asks if your ladyship will receive him?"

Clemence looked at her husband, who, recovering his coolness, said to
her, "Of course." The servant retired.

"Pardon me, my friend," said Clemence; "I did not say that I would not
receive. Besides, it is a long time since you have seen the prince; he
will be happy to find you here. I shall, also, be much pleased to see
him; yet I avow, that just now I am so agitated that I should have
preferred to receive his visit some other day."

"I can comprehend it; but what could we do? Here he is." At the same
moment, Rudolph was announced.

"I am a thousand times happy, madame, to have the honor to meet you,"
said Rudolph; "and I doubly appreciate my good fortune, since it also
procures me the pleasure of seeing you, my dear Albert," added he,
turning toward the marquis, whom he cordially shook by the hand.

"It is a long time since I have had the honor to pay your highness my
respects."

"And whose fault is it, invisible lord? The last time I came to pay my
respects to Madame d'Harville, I asked for you; you were absent. It is
now three weeks that you have forgotten me; it is very wrong."

"Be merciless, your highness," said Clemence, smiling: "M. d'Harville
is the more guilty, since he has for your highness the most profound
respect, and he might make that doubted by his negligence."

"Well! see my vanity, madame; whatever D'Harville might do, it would
always be impossible for me to doubt his affection; but I ought not to
say this. I am encouraging him in such conduct."

"Believe me, your highness, that some unforeseen circumstances alone
have prevented me from profiting oftener by your kindness toward me."

"Between ourselves, my dear Albert, I believe you a little too
platonic in friendship; very sure that you are loved, you are not
pliant enough to give or receive proofs of attachment."

Through a breach of etiquette, which rather annoyed Madame d'Harville,
a servant entered, bringing a letter to the marquis. It was the
anonymous denunciation of Sarah, which accused the prince of being the
lover of Madame d'Harville.

The marquis, out of deference to the prince, pushed back with his hand
the silver salver which the servant handed him, and said, in an
undertone, "Not now, not now."

"My dear Albert," said the prince, in the most affectionate tone, "do
you stand on ceremony with me?"

"But, your highness--"

"With the permission of Madame d'Harville, I beg you to read this
letter!"

"I assure your highness that there is nothing pressing."

"Once more, Albert, read this letter!"

"But--"

"I entreat you--I wish it."

"Since your royal highness requires it," said the marquis, taking the
letter from the salver.

"Certainly. I require you to treat me as a friend."

Then turning toward the marchioness, while M. d'Harville broke the
seal of this fatal letter, the contents of which Rudolph could not
have imagined, he added, smiling, "What a triumph for you, madame, to
cause this will, so stern, always to yield!"

D'Harville drew near one of the candelabra on the chimney-piece, and
opened the letter. Rudolph and Clemence conversed together, while
D'Harville twice read the letter. His countenance remained composed; a
nervous trembling, almost imperceptible, agitated his hands alone;
after a moment's hesitation, he put the note into his waistcoat
pocket.

"At the risk of passing for a savage," said he to Rudolph, smiling, "I
shall ask permission to go and answer this letter--more important than
I thought at first."

"Shall I not see you again to-night?"

"I do not think that I can have that honor; I hope your royal highness
will excuse me."

"What a man!" said Rudolph gayly. "Will you not try to retain him,
madame!"

"I dare not attempt what your highness has attempted in vain."

"Seriously, my dear Albert, try to return to us as soon as your letter
is written; if not, promise to grant me an interview some morning. I
have a thousand things to say to you."

"Your royal highness overwhelms me," said the marquis, bowing
profoundly as he retired.

"Your husband is preoccupied," said Rudolph to the marchioness, "his
smile appeared constrained."

"When your royal highness arrived D'Harville was profoundly affected;
he had great trouble to conceal it."

"I have arrived, perhaps, at an inopportune moment."

"No, you have even spared me the conclusion of a painful
conversation."

"How is that?"

"I have told D'Harville the new line of conduct that I was resolved to
follow, promising him support and consolation."

"How happy he should be!"

"At first he was as much so as myself; for his tears and joy produced
an emotion to which I had, as yet, been a stranger. Formerly I thought
I revenged myself by addressing him a reproach, a sarcasm. Sad
revenge! My sorrow afterward has only been more bitter. While just
now--what a difference! I asked my husband if he were going out: he
answered me sadly, that he should pass the evening alone, as was
usually the case. When I offered to remain with him--Oh! if you could
have seen his astonishment! how his expression, always sad, became at
once radiant. Ah! you were right--nothing is more pleasing than to
contrive such surprises of happiness!"

"But how did these proofs of goodness on your part lead to this
painful conversation of which you have spoken?"

"Alas!" said Clemence, blushing, "to these hopes succeeded hopes more
tender, which I was very guarded not to excite, because it will always
be impossible for me to realize them."

"I comprehend; he loves you tenderly."

"As much as I was at first touched with his gratitude, so much was I
alarmed at his protestations of love. I could not conceal my alarm. I
caused him a sad blow in manifesting thus my invincible repugnance to
his love, I regret it. But, at least, D'Harville is now forever
convinced that he has only to expect from me the most devoted
friendship."

"I pity him, without being able to blame you; there are
susceptibilities, thus to speak, which are sacred. Poor Albert, so
good, so kind! If you knew how much I have been afflicted, for a long
time past, with his sadness and dejection, although ignorant of the
cause. Let us leave all to time, to reason. By degrees he will
recognize the value of the affection you offer him, and he will be
resigned to it, as he was resigned before having the touching
consolations which you offer him."

"And which shall never be wanting, I swear to your highness."

"Now let us think of the other unfortunates. I have promised you a
good work, having all the charm of a romance in action. I come to
fulfill my engagement."

"Already! what happiness!"

"Ah! it was a kind of happy inspiration that induced me to take that
poor room in the house of the Rue du Temple, of which I have spoken to
you. You cannot imagine all that I find curious and interesting! In
the first place, your _proteges_ of the garret enjoy the comforts
your presence had promised them; they have, however, yet to undergo
some sad trials; but I do not wish to make you sad. Some day you shall
know how many horrible calamities may overwhelm one single family."

"What must be their gratitude toward you!" "It is your name they
bless."

"Your highness has succored them in my name?"

"To render the charity sweeter to them. Besides, I have only realized
your promises."

"Oh! I will go and undeceive them: tell them it is to you they owe--"

"Do not do that! you know I have a room in that house: be guarded
against any new cowardly acts of your enemies, or of mine; and since
the Morels are now out of the reach of want, think of others. Let us
think of our intrigue. It concerns a poor mother and her daughter,
who, formerly in affluence, are at this time, in consequence of an
infamous spoliation, reduced to the most frightful misery."

"Unfortunate women! and where do they live, your highness?"

"I do not know."

"But how did you find out their situation?"

"Yesterday I went to the temple. Your ladyship does not know what the
Temple is?"

"No, my lord."

"It is a bazaar very amusing to see. I went there to make some
purchases with my neighbor of the fourth floor."

"Your neighbor?"

"Have I not my room in the Rue du Temple?"

"I forgot."

"This neighbor is a charming little grisette; she calls herself
Rigolette; this Miss Dimpleton is always laughing, and never had a
lover."

"What virtue for a grisette!"

"It is not exactly from virtue that she is virtuous, but because, she
says, she has no time to be in love; for she must work from twelve to
fifteen hours a-day to earn twenty-five sous, on which she lives."

"She can live on so small an amount?"

"Rather; and she has even articles of luxury; two birds who eat more
than she does; her little room is as neat as possible, and her dress
really quite coquettish."

"Live on twenty-five sous a-day! she is a prodigy."

"A real prodigy of order, labor, economy, and practical philosophy, I
assure you; hence, I recommend her to you. She is, she says, a very
skillful seamstress. At all events, you would not be ashamed to wear
the clothes she may make."

"To-morrow I will send her some work. Poor girl! to live on so small a
sum, and, so to speak, be unknown to us, who are rich, whose smallest
caprices cost a hundred times that amount."

"I am rejoiced that you have determined to interest yourself in my
little _protegee_. I will now explain our new adventure. I had
gone to the Temple with Rigolette, to purchase some furniture designed
for the poor people in the garret, when, upon accidentally examining
an old secretary which was for sale, I found the draft of a letter
written by a female to some individual, in which she complained that
herself and daughter were reduced to the greatest misery, on account
of the dishonesty of a lawyer. The secretary was part of a lot of
furniture, which a woman of middle age had been compelled by her
penury to sell; and I was told by the dealer that the woman and her
daughter seemed to belong to the upper classes of society, and to bear
their reverses with great fortitude and pride."

"And you do not know their abode?"

"Unfortunately, no. But I have given orders to M. de Graun to endeavor
to discover it, even if he is obliged to apply to the police. It is
possible that, stripped of every thing, the mother and daughter have
sought refuge in some miserably furnished lodgings. If it should be
so, we have some hope, for the landlords report every evening the
strangers who arrive in the course of the day."

"What a singular concurrence of circumstances!" said Madame
d'Harville, with astonishment.

"This is not all. In a corner of this letter, found in the old
secretary were these words, '_Write to Madame de Lucenay_.'"

"What good fortune! perhaps we can find out something from the
duchess," cried Madame d'Harville, with vivacity; then she continued,
with a sigh, "But I am ignorant of the name of this woman--how
designate her to Madame de Lucenay?"

"You must ask if she does not know a widow, still young, of
distinguished appearance, whose daughter, aged sixteen or seventeen,
is named Claire."

"I remember the name. The name of my own daughter! It seems to me a
motive the more to interest me in their misfortunes."

"I forgot to tell you that the brother of this widow committed suicide
some months ago."

"If Madame de Lucenay knows this family," said Madame d'Harville,
"such information will suffice to bring them to her mind. How desirous
I am of going to see her. I will write her a note to-night, so that I
shall be sure to find her to-morrow morning. Who can these women be?
From what you know of them, they appear to belong to the upper classes
of society. And to find themselves reduced to such distress! Ah! for
them poverty must be doubly frightful!"

"By the robbery of a notary, a miserable scoundrel, of whom I already
know many other misdeeds--Jacques Ferrand."

"My husband's notary!" cried Clemence; "the notary of my step-mother!
But you are deceived, my lord; he is looked upon as one of the most
honorable men in the world."

"I have proofs to the contrary. But do not, I pray you, say a word on
this subject to any one; he is as crafty as he is criminal, and to
unmask him, I have need that he shall not suspect, or rather, that he
shall go on with impunity a short time longer. Yes; it is he who has
despoiled these unfortunates, by denying a deposit which, from all
appearances, had been placed in his hands by the brother of this
widow."

"And this sum?"

"Was their sole resource! Oh! what a crime--what a crime!" cried
Rudolph; "a crime that nothing can excuse--neither want nor passion.
Often does hunger cause robbery, vengeance, murder. But this notary
was already rich; and, clothed by society with a character almost
holy, which imposes, ay, forces confidence, this man is induced to
crime by a cold and implacable cupidity. The assassin only kills you
once, and quickly, with his knife; he kills you slowly, by all the
horrors of despair and misery into which he plunges you. For a man
like this Ferrand, no patrimony of the orphan or savings of the poor
are sacred! You confide to him gold; this gold tempts him; he makes
you a beggar. By the force of privations and toil, you have assured to
yourself bread, and an asylum for your old age; _the will_ of
this man tears from your old age this bread and shelter. This is not
all. See the fearful effects of these infamous spoliations; this widow
of whom we speak may die of sorrow and distress; her daughter, young
and handsome, without support, without resources, accustomed to a
competency, unfit, from her education, to gain a living, soon finds
herself between starvation and dishonor! she is lost! By this robbery,
Jacques Ferrand is the cause of the death of the mother, the ruin of
the child! he has killed the body of one, he has killed the soul of
the other; and this, once more I say it, not at once, like other
homicides, but with cruelty, and slowly."

[Illustration: BETWEEN DISHONOR AND HUNGER]

Clemence had never heard Rudolph speak with so much bitterness and
indignation; she listened in silence, struck by these words of
eloquence, doubtless very sad, but which discovered a vigorous hatred
of evil.

"Pardon me, madame," said Rudolph, after a moment's pause; "I cannot
restrain my indignation in thinking of the cruel fate which your
future _protegees_ may have realized. Ah! believe me, the
consequences of ruin and poverty are very seldom exaggerated."

"Oh! on the contrary, I thank your highness for having, by these
terrible words, still more augmented, if that is possible, the sincere
commiseration I feel for these unfortunates. Alas! it is above all for
her daughter she must suffer! oh! it is frightful. But we will save
them--we will assure their future. I am rich, but not as much so as I
could wish, now that I see a new use for money; but, if it is
necessary, I will speak to D'Harville; I will make him so happy that
he cannot refuse any of my new caprices. Our _protegees_ are
proud, your highness says; I like them better for it: pride in
misfortune always proves an elevated mind. I will find the means to
save them, without their knowing that they owe the succor they receive
to a benefactor. It will be difficult; so much the better! Oh! I have
already a project; you shall see, your highness, you shall see that I
am not wanting in address and cunning."

"I already foresee the most Machiavelian combinations," said Rudolph,
smiling.

"But we must first discover them; how I wish it was to-morrow! On
having Madame de Lucenay I will go to their old lodgings, I will
question their neighbors; I will see for myself. I will ask
information from everybody. I will compromise myself, if it is
necessary! I shall be so proud to obtain by myself, and by myself
alone, the result I desire: oh! I will succeed; this adventure is so
touching. Poor women: it seems to me I feel more interest in them when
I think of my child."

Rudolph, touched with this charitable eagerness, smiled sadly on
seeing this lady, so handsome, so lovely, trying to forget in noble
occupations the domestic troubles which afflicted her; the eyes of
Clemence sparkled with vivacity, her cheeks were slightly suffused;
the animation of her gesture, of her speech, gave new attraction to
her ravishing countenance. She perceived that Rudolph was
contemplating her in silence. She blushed, cast down her eyes; then,
raising them in charming confusion, she said, "You laugh at my
enthusiasm? It is because I am impatient to taste those holy joys
which are about to reanimate my existence, until now sad and useless.
Such, without doubt, was not the life I dreamed of; there is a
sentiment, a happiness, more lively still that I can never know;
although still very young, I must renounce it!" added Clemence,
suppressing a sigh. "But thanks to you, my deliverer, always thanks to
you, I have created for myself other interests; charity shall replace
love. I am already indebted to your advice for such touching emotions!
Your words, your highness, have so much influence! The more I
meditate, the more I reflect on your ideas, the more I find them just,
great, and fruitful. Oh! how much goodness your mind discloses! from
what source have you, then, drawn these feelings of tender
commiseration?"

"I have suffered much, I still suffer! This is the reason I know the
cause of many sorrows."

"Your highness unhappy!"

"Yes, for one would say that, to prepare me to solace all kinds of
sorrow, fate has willed I should undergo them all. A lover, it has
struck me through the first woman that I loved with all the blind
confidence of youth; a husband, through my wife; a son, it has struck
me through my father; a father, through my child!"

"I thought that the grand duchess did not leave you any child?"

"She did not; but before my marriage with her I had a daughter, who
died very young. Well! strange as it may appear to you, the loss of
this child, whom I had hardly seen, is the sorrow of my life. The
older I become, the more profound my regrets! Each year redoubles the
bitterness. It seems to increase as her years would have increased.
Now she would have been seventeen!"

"And does her mother still live?" asked Clemence.

"Oh! do not speak of her!" cried Rudolph. "Her mother is an unworthy
creature, a being bronzed by egotism and ambition. Sometimes I ask
myself if it were not better my child should be dead, than to have
remained in the hands of her mother."

Clemence experienced a kind of satisfaction in hearing Rudolph express
himself thus. "Oh! I conceive," cried she, "how you doubly regret your
daughter!"

"I should have loved her so well! and, besides, it seems to me that
among us princes there is always in our love for a son a kind of
interest of race and name; but a daughter is loved for herself alone.
And when one has seen, alas! humanity under the most sinister aspects,
what delight to contemplate a pure and lovely being! to inhale her
virgin purity, to watch over her with tender care! A mother the most
fond and most proud of her daughter cannot experience this feeling;
she is herself too similar to taste these ineffable delights; she will
appreciate much more the manly qualities of a bold and noble boy. For,
do you not find that that which renders, perhaps, still more touching
the love of a mother for her son, a father for his daughter, is, that
there is always in these affections a feeble being who has need of
protection. The son protects the mother, the father protects the
daughter."

"Oh, it is true."

"But, alas! why understand the ineffable joys, when one can never
experience them?" said Rudolph, dejectedly. "But pardon me, madame; my
regrets and my souvenirs have, in spite of myself, carried me away;
you will excuse me?"

"Ah! believe I partake of your sorrows. Have I not the right? Have you
not partaken of mine? Unfortunately, the consolations that I can offer
you are in vain."

"No, no; the expression of your interest is sweet and salutary to me.
It is weakness, but I cannot hear a young girl spoken of without
thinking of her whom I have lost."

"These thoughts are so natural! Hold, my lord; since I have seen you,
I have accompanied, in visits to the prisons, a lady of my
acquaintance, who is a patroness of the work of the young women
confined at Saint Lazare; this house contains many culprits. If I were
not a mother, I should have judged them, doubtless, with still more
severity, while I now feel for them pity; much softened in thinking
that, perhaps, they had not been lost, except for the state of poverty
and neglect they had been in from their infancy. I do not know why,
but after these thoughts it seemed to me I loved my child the more."

"Come, courage," said Rudolph, with a melancholy smile: "this
conversation leaves me quite reassured as to you. A salutary path is
open to you; in following it, you will pass through, without
stumbling, these years of trial, so dangerous for women, above all for
a woman gifted as you are; your reward shall be great; you will still
have to struggle and suffer-for you are very young--but you will renew
your strength in thinking of the good you have done--of that which you
still do."

Madame d'Harville burst into tears. "At least," said she, "your
assistance, your counsels, will never fail me?" "Far or near, I shall
always take the deepest interest in all that concerns you; always, as
much as depends upon me, I will contribute to your happiness: to the
man's to whom I have vowed the most constant friendship."

"Oh! thank your highness for this promise," said Clemence, drying her
tears; "without your generous support, my strength would abandon me;
but, believe me, I swear it here, I will constantly accomplish my
duty."

On these words, a small door, concealed behind the tapestry, was
opened roughly. Clemence uttered a cry. Rudolph shuddered. D'Harville
appeared pale and profoundly affected: his eyes were wet with tears.
The first astonishment over, the marquis said to Rudolph, giving him
Sarah's letter, "Your highness, here is the infamous letter which I
received just now before you. I pray you to burn it after you have
read it."

Clemence looked at her husband with alarm. "Oh, this is infamous!"
cried Rudolph, indignantly. "Yet there is something still more
infamous than this anonymous scurrility--it is my own conduct." "What
do you mean to say?" "A little while ago, instead of showing you this
letter frankly, boldly, I concealed it from you; I pretended to be
calm, while I had jealousy, anger, and despair in my heart; this is
not all. Do you know what I did, my lord? I shamefully went and
concealed myself behind this door to listen to you--to spy--yes, I
have been wretch enough to doubt your honor. Oh! the author of this
letter knows to whom he addresses it; he knows how weak my head is.
Well, my lord, say, after hearing what I have just heard--for I have
not lost a word of your conversation, and know why you go to the Rue
du Temple--ought I not, on my knees, ask for pardon and pity? and I do
it, my lord. I do it, Clemence; I have no more hope but in your
generosity."

"My dear Albert, what have I to pardon?" said Rudolph, extending both
hands with the most touching cordiality. "_Now_ you know our
secrets, I am delighted. I can preach to you at my leisure. I am your
confidant by compulsion, and, what is still better, you are the
confidant of Madeline d'Harville; that is to say, you now know all you
have to expect from that noble heart."

"And, Clemence, will you pardon me also?"

"Yes: on condition that you will assist me in assuring your own
happiness," and she extended her hand to her husband, who pressed it
with emotion.

"My dear marquis," cried Rudolph, "our enemies are unlucky; thanks to
them, we are only the more intimate from the past. You never have more
justly appreciated Madame d'Harville: she has never been more devoted
to you; acknowledge that we are well avenged of the envious and
wicked. That will answer while waiting for something better, for I
divine from whence this came, and I am not accustomed to suffer
patiently the injuries done to my friends. But this regards me. Adieu,
madame; here is our _intrigue_ discovered; you will no longer be
alone in assisting your _protegees_: be assured we will get up
some new mysterious enterprise, which the marquis must be very cunning
to discover."

After having accompanied the prince to his carriage, to thank him
again, the marquis retired to his own apartments without seeing
Clemence again.



CHAPTER XI.

REFLECTIONS.


It would be difficult to describe the tumultuous and contrary
sentiments which agitated D'Harville when he found himself alone. He
acknowleged with joy the falsity of the accusation against Rudolph and
Clemence, but he was also convinced that he must renounce the hope of
being loved by her. The more in her conversation with Rudolph Clemence
had shown herself courageous and resolute to do good, the more he
bitterly reproached himself for having, with guilty egotism, linked
this unhappy lady to his fate. Far from being consoled from the
conversation he had just heard, he fell into a state of sadness, of
inexpressible despondency. There is in a life of opulence without
employment this terrible disadvantage: nothing turns its attention,
nothing protects the mind from brooding on its sorrows, on itself.
Never being compelled to occupy itself with the necessities of the
future, or the labors of each day, it remains entirely a prey to great
mental afflictions. Being able to possess all that gold can procure,
it desires or regrets violently that which gold alone cannot procure.

The grief of D'Harville was desperate; for, after all, he desired
nothing but what was just and lawful.

To transports of vain anger succeeded a feeling of gloomy dejection.
"Oh!" cried he, at once softened and cast down, "it is my fault, my
fault! poor unhappy woman, I have deceived her, unworthily deceived
her! She can, she ought to hate me; and yet, just now, again she
evinced the most touching interest for me; but, instead of contenting
myself with that, my foolish passions have carried me away. I became
tender; I have spoken to her of my love, and hardly had my lips
touched her hand, than she trembled with affright. If I could still
have had any doubt of the invincible repugnance with which I inspire
her, what she has just now said to the prince leaves me no illusion.
Oh! it is frightful--frightful!

"And by what right did she confide to him this hideous secret? it is
an unworthy betrayal of confidence? By what right? Alas! by the same
right as prisoners have to complain of their executioner. Poor girl!
so young and lovely, all that she could find to say that was cruel
against the horrible fate to which I have doomed her, is that such was
not the lot she had dreamed of, and that she was very young to
renounce love! I know Clemence; the word she has given me, which she
has given to the prince, she will henceforth keep; she will be for me
the most affectionate sister. Well! my position is not worthy of envy!
to the cold and constrained feeling which existed between us, are
going to succeed the most affectionate and the kindest relations,
while she might have continued to treat me with a frozen contempt,
without my daring to complain. Another torture! How I have suffered,
my God! when I thought her guilty!--what terrible agony! But no, this
fear is vain; Clemence has sworn not to fail in her duties; she will
keep her promises; but at what a price! Just now, when she returned to
me with her affectionate words, how her sad, soft, melancholy smile
caused me pain! How much this return to her executioner must have cost
her! Poor woman, how handsome she looked! For the first time I felt
acute remorse, for until then her haughty coldness was her revenge.
Oh, unfortunate man, unfortunate man that I am!"

After a long sleepless night of bitter reflections, the agitation of
D'Harville ceased as by enchantment.

He awaited the day with impatience. As soon as it was morning, he rang
for his valet, old Joseph. On entering the room, the latter heard his
master, to his great astonishment, humming a hunting-song, a sign, as
rare as it was sure, of D'Harville's good-humor.

"Ah!" said the faithful servant, quite softened, "what a good voice
your lordship has! what a shame you do not sing oftener!" "Really,
Joseph, have I a good voice?" said D'Harville, laughing.

"My lord might have a voice as hoarse as an owl or a rattle, I should
still think he had a good voice."

"Hold your tongue, flatterer!"

"When your lordship sings, it is a sign you are contented; and then
your voice appears to me the most charming music in the world."

"In that case, Joseph, learn to open your long ears."

"What do you say?"

"You can enjoy this charming music every day."

"You will be happy every day, my lord?" cried Joseph, clasping his
hands with astonished delight.

"Every day, my old Joseph! happy every day. Yes, no more sorrow--no
more sadness. I can tell this to you, who are sole and discreet
confidant of all my sorrows! I am overjoyed with happiness! My wife is
an angel of goodness! she has asked pardon for her past coldness,
attributing it to--can you guess?--to jealousy!"

"To jealousy?"

"Yes; absurd suspicions, caused by anonymous letters."

"What indignity!"

"You comprehend? women have so much self-love! It needed nothing more
to separate us; but, happily, last night we had an explanation. I
undeceived her; to tell you of her joy would be impossible; for she
loves me! oh, how she loves me! Thus, this cruel separation has
ceased; judge of my joy!"

"Can it be true?" cried Joseph, with tears in his eyes. "Then, my
lord, you are forever happy, since the love of her ladyship was alone
wanting, as you have told me."

"And to whom should I have told it, my poor old Joseph? Do you not
possess a still more sorrowful secret? But let us not talk of sorrow;
the day is too happy. You see, perhaps, I have wept! it is thus, you
see, happiness overpowers me! I so little expected it! How weak I am!"

"Yes, yes, my lord can well weep for joy, who has wept so much for
sorrow. Hold! am I not acting as you are? Brave tears! I would not
part with them for ten years of my life. I have only one fear: it is
that I shall hardly be able to keep from throwing myself at my lady's
feet the first time I see her."

"Old fool! you are as unreasonable as your master. Now I have a fear
that this will not last. I am too happy! what is wanting?"

"Nothing, my lord, absolutely nothing."

"It is on this account I am mistrustful of happiness so perfect--so
complete!"

"Alas! if it was not for--but no, I dare not."

"I understand you: well, believe your fears are vain; the change that
my happiness causes me is so great, so profound, that I am almost sure
of being saved."

"How is that?"

"My physician has told me a hundred times, that often a violent mental
shock sufficed to induce or cure my malady. Why should not emotions of
happiness produce the same effect?"

"If you believe this, my lord, it will be so--it is so--you are cured!
Why this is, indeed, a blessed day! Ah! as you say, her ladyship is a
good angel descended from heaven; and I begin to be almost alarmed
myself; it is, perhaps, too much felicity for one day; but I must
think--if to reassure you it only needs a small sorrow--I have it!"

"How?"

"One of your friends has received, very fortunately and seasonably, as
it happens, a sword cut--not at all serious, it is true; but no
matter, it is enough to make you a little sorry, that there may be, as
you desire it, a little trouble on this happy day. It is true, that in
regard to that, it had been better if the thrust had been more
dangerous; but we must be contented as it is."

"Will you be quiet? Of whom do you speak?"

"Of his grace the Duke of Lucenay. He is wounded! a scratch on the
arm. He came yesterday to see you, and he said he would come this
morning and ask for a cup of tea."

"Poor Lucenay! why did you not tell me?"

"Last night I was not able to see my lord."

After a moment's thought, D'Harville replied, "You are right; this
light sorrow will doubtless satisfy jealous destiny. But an idea has
just struck me; I have a mind to have this morning a bachelor
breakfast, all friends of M. de Lucenay, to congratulate him on the
happy result of his duel: he will be enchanted."

"Joy forever! Make up lost time. How many covers, so that I can give
the orders?"

"Six, in the little winter breakfast parlor."

"And the invitations?"

"I will go and write them. A man from the stables can take them round
on horseback. It is early; they will all be found at home. Ring."

D'Harville entered his cabinet, and wrote the following notes, without
any other address than the name of the invited:--

 "My Dear * * *--This is a circular; an impromptu affair is in
 agitation. Lucenay is to come and breakfast with me this morning; he
 counts only on a _tete-a-tete_; cause him a very agreeable
 surprise by joining me, and a few other of his friends, whom I have
 also advised.

 "At noon precisely.

   "A. D'HARVILLE."

"Let some one mount a horse immediately," said D'Harville, to a
servant who answered the bell, "and deliver these letters." Then,
turning to Joseph, he directed him to address them as follows: "M. le
Vicomte de Saint Remy. Lucenay cannot do without him," said D'Harville
to himself. "M. de Monville--one of his traveling companions. Lord
Douglas--his faithful partner at whist. Baron de Sezannes--the friend
of his youth. Have you written?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Send these letters without losing a moment," said D'Harville.

"Ah, Philippe! ask M. Doublet to come to me." The servant retired.
"Well! what is the matter?" asked D'Harville of Joseph, who looked at
him with amazement.

"I cannot get over it, sir! I never saw you so gay; and, besides, you,
who are commonly so pale, have a fine color--your eyes sparkle."

"Happiness! old Joseph, happiness! Oh! now you must assist me in a
scheme. You must go and find out from Juliette who has charge of her
ladyship's diamonds."

"Yes, it is Mademoiselle Juliette, my lord, who takes care of them; I
helped her, not a week ago, to clean them."

"You go and ask her the name and address of the jeweler of her
mistress; but she must not say a word on the subject to my lady."

"Ah! I understand! A surprise."

"Go quickly. Here is M. Doublet. My dear M. Doublet, I am going to
frighten you," said he, laughing. "I am going to make you utter cries
of distress."

"Me! my lord?"

"You!"

"I will do all in my power to satisfy your lordship."

"I am going to spend a great deal of money, M. Doublet--an enormous
amount of money."

"What of that, my lord? We are able to do it--well able to do it."

"For a long time I've been possessed with the notion of building. I
have it in contemplation to add a gallery on the garden to the right
wing of the hotel. After a long hesitation, I have quite decided. You
must tell my architect to-day so that he can come and talk over the
plans. Well, M. Doublet, you don't groan over this expense?"

"I can assure your lordship that I do not groan."

"This gallery will be destined for _fetes_; I wish it to be
built, as it were, by enchantment; now, enchantments being very dear,
you must sell fifteen or twenty thousand livres of stock, to be ready
to furnish the funds, for I wish the work commenced as soon as
possible." Joseph entered.

"Here is the address of the jeweler, my lord; his name is Baudoin."

"My dear M. Doublet, you will go, I beg you, to this jeweler, and tell
him to bring here, in an hour, a diamond necklace worth about two
thousand louis. Women can never have too many jewels, now that dresses
are trimmed with them. You will arrange with the jeweler for the
payment."

"Yes, my lord. It is on account of the surprise that I do not groan
this time. Diamonds are like buildings, the value remains; and,
besides, this surprise to the marchioness! It is as I had the honor to
say the other day--there is not in the world a happier man than your
lordship."

"Good M. Doublet!" said D'Harville, smiling; "his felicitations are
always so inconceivably _apropos_"

"It is their sole merit, my lord; and they have, perhaps, this merit
because they come from the bottom of the heart. I go to the jeweler,"
said Doublet, retiring.

As soon as he was gone, D'Harville paced the floor, his arms folded,
his eyes fixed and meditative.

Suddenly his countenance changed; it no longer expressed the content
of which the attendant and the old servant had just been the dupe, but
a calm, cold, and mournful resolution. After having walked some time,
he seated himself, as if overcome by the weight of his troubles, with
his face buried in his hands. Then he suddenly arose, wiped away a
tear which moistened his burning eyelid, and said, with an effort,
"Come, courage."

He wrote letters to several persons about insignificant objects, but
in the letters he appointed or put off different meetings several
days. This correspondence finished, Joseph came in; he was so gay that
he so far forgot himself as to sing in his turn.

"Joseph, you have a very fine voice," said his master smiling.

"So much the worse, my lord, for I never knew it; something sings so
loudly within that it must be heard without."

"You will put these letters in the post-office."

"Yes, my lord; but where will you receive these gentlemen?"

"Here in my cabinet; they will smoke after breakfast, and the odor of
the tobacco will not reach her lady-ship."

At this moment the noise of a carriage was heard in the courtyard.

"It is her ladyship going out; she ordered the horses this morning at
an early hour," said Joseph.

"Run and beg her to come here before she goes out."

"Yes, my lord."

Hardly had the domestic gone, than D'Harville approached a glass, and
examined himself minutely. "Well, well," said he in a gloomy tone;
"that's right--the cheeks flushed, the eye sparkling--joy or fear--no
matter--as long as they are deceived. Let us see now--a smile on the
lips. There are so many kinds of smiles. But who can distinguish the
false from the real? who can penetrate under this lying mask, to say,
this smile conceals a black despair? no one, happily, no one! Stay,
yes, love could never be mistaken; no, its instinct would enlighten
it. But I hear my wife--my wife! Come to your post, inauspicious
buffoon."

"Good-day, Albert," said Madame d'Harville, with a sweet smile, giving
him her hand. "But what is the matter, my friend? You appear so happy
and gay!"

"It is, that at the moment you came in, dear little sister, I was
thinking of you. Besides, I was under the influence of an excellent
resolution."

"That does not surprise me."

"What took place yesterday--your admirable generity, the noble conduct
of the prince--gave me much to think about, and I am a convert to your
ideas. You would not have excused me last night if I had too easily
renounced your love, I am sure, Clemence."

"What language, what a happy change!" cried Madame d'Harville. "Oh! I
was very sure that in addressing myself to your heart, to your reason,
you would comprehend me. Now I have no longer any doubt for the
future."

"Nor I, Clemence, I assure you. Yes, since the resolution I have taken
last night, the future, which seemed to me dark and gloomy, has become
singularly cleared up--simplified."

"Nothing is more natural, my friend; now we move toward one object,
leaning fraternally on each other: at the end of our career we will
find ourselves as we are to-day. In fine, I desire that you shall be
happy, and this shall be so, for I have placed it there," said
Clemence, putting her finger on his forehead, ere she resumed, with a
charming expression, lowering her hand to his heart: "No, I am
mistaken; it is here that this good thought will incessantly watch for
you, and for me also; and you shall see what is the obstinacy of a
devoted heart."

"Dear Clemence," answered D'Harville, with constrained emotion; then,
after a pause, he added gayly, "I begged you to come here before your
departure to inform you that I could not take tea with you this
morning. I have a number of persons to breakfast with me; it is a kind
of impromptu assemblage to congratulate M. de Lucenay on the happy
issue of his duel."

"What a coincidence! M. de Lucenay comes to breakfast with you, while
I go, perhaps very indiscreetly, to invite myself to do the same with
Madame de Lucenay; for I have much to say to her about my unknown
_protegees_. From there I intend to go to the prison of Saint
Lazare, with Madame de Blinval, for you do not know all my ambition;
at this moment I am intriguing to be admitted into the Discharged
Prisoners' Aid Society."

"Truly, you are insatiable," said the marquis; "thus," added he,
restraining with great difficulty his emotion, "thus I shall see you
no more--to-day!" he hastened to add.

"Are you vexed that I go out this morning so early?" asked Madame
d'Harville, quickly, astonished at the tone of his voice. "If you ask
it, I will put off my visit to Madame de Lucenay."

The marquis was on the point of betraying himself; but said, in the
most affectionate manner, "Yes, my dear, I am as much vexed to see you
go out as I shall be impatient to see you return; these are defects I
shall never correct myself of."

"And you will do well, dear; for I should be very angry."

A bell announcing a visit resounded throughout the hotel.

"Here are, doubtless, some of your guests," said Madame d'Harville; "I
leave you--by the way, what are you going to do to-night? If you have
not disposed of your evening, I wish you would accompany me to the
opera; perhaps, now, music will please you more!"

"I place myself under your orders with the greatest pleasure."

"Are you going out soon? Shall I see you again before dinner?"

"I am not going out. You will find me here."

"Then, when I return, I will come and see if your bachelor breakfast
has been amusing."

"Adieu, Clemence."

"By, 'by! I leave you the field clear; I wish you much pleasure. Be
very gay!" And after having cordially pressed the hand of her husband,
Clemence went out by one door a moment before M. de Lucenay entered by
another.

"She wishes me much amusement--she tells me to be gay--she went away
tranquilly--smiling! this does honor to my dissimulation. By Jove! I
did not think myself so good an actor. But here is Lucenay."

The Duke de Lucenay entered the room; his wound had been so slight
that he did not carry his arm in a sling. He was one of those men
whose countenances are always cheerful and contemptuous, movements
always restless, and mania to make a bustle insurmountable. Yet,
notwithstanding his caprices, his pleasantries in very bad taste, and
his enormous nose, he was not a vulgar man, thanks to a kind of
natural dignity and courageous impertinence which never abandoned him.

"How indifferent you must suppose me to be as regards anything
concerning you, my dear Henry!" said D'Harville, extending his hand to
Lucenay; "but it was only this morning I heard of your disagreeable
adventure."

"Disagreeable! come now, marquis! I got the worth of my money, as they
say. I never laughed so much in my life! M. Robert appeared so
solemnly determined not to pass for having a cold. You don't know what
was the cause of the duel? The other night at the embassy, I asked
him, before your wife and the Countess M'Gregor, how he got on with
his cough; between us, he had not this inconvenience. But never mind.
You understand--to say that before handsome women is annoying."

"What folly! I recognize you there. But who is this M. Robert?"

"I' faith! I don't know anything about him; he is a gentleman whom I
met at the watering-places; he passed before us in the winter-garden
at the embassy; I called him to play off this joke; he answered the
second day after by giving me, very gallantly, a nice little thrust
with his sword. But don't let us talk of this nonsense. I come to beg
a cup of tea." Saying this, Lucenay threw himself at full length on
the sofa; after which, introducing the end of his cane between the
wall and the frame of a picture placed over his head, he commenced
moving it backward and forward.

"I expected you, my dear Henry, and I have arranged a little surprise
for you."

"Oh, what is it?" cried Lucenay, pushing the picture into a very
ticklish position.

"You'll end by pulling that picture on your head."

"That's true, by Jove! you have the eye of an eagle. But your
surprise, what is it?"

"I have sent for some friends to breakfast with us."

"Ah, good! marquis, bravo! bravissimo! archibravissimo!" screamed
Lucenay, striking heavy blows on the sofa cushions. "And whom shall we
have?"

"Saint Remy."

"No; he has been in the country for some days."

"What the devil can he manage to do in the country in winter! Are you
sure he is not in Paris?"

"Very sure; I wrote him to be my second; he was absent; I fell back on
Lord Douglas and Sezannes."

"That is fortunate; they breakfast with us."

"Bravo! bravo!" cried Lucenay, anew. Then he turned and twisted
himself on the sofa, accompanying his loud cries with a series of
somersaults that would have astonished a rope-dancer. The acrobatic
evolutions were interrupted by the arrival of Saint Remy.

"I have no need to ask if Lucenay is here," said the viscount, gayly.
"He can be heard below."

"How! is it you? beautiful sylvan! countryman! wolf's cub!" cried the
duke, much surprised; "I thought you were in the country."

"I came back, yesterday; I received the invitation just now, and here
I am, quite delighted at this surprise," and Saint Remy gave his hand
to Lucenay, and then to the marquis.

"I take this very kind in you, my dear Saint Remy. Is it not natural
that the friends of Lucenay should rejoice at the happy issue of this
duel, which, after all, might have had a very grievous result?"

"But," resumed the duke obstinately, "what have you been doing in the
country in midwinter, Saint Remy? that beats me."

"How curious he is!" said the viscount, addressing D'Harville. "I wish
to wean myself from Paris, since I must so soon quit it."

"Ah! yes, this beautiful whim to attach yourself to the legation of
France at Gerolstein. None of your nonsense and stuff about diplomacy;
you will never go there. My wife says so, and everybody repeats it."

"I assure you that Madame de Lucenay is mistaken, like every one
else."

"She told you before me that it was a folly!"

"I have committed so many in my lifetime!"

"Elegant and charming follies, very well, so as to ruin yourself, as
they say, by your Sardanapalus's magnificence--I admit that; but to go
and bury yourself in such a hole of a court as Gerolstein! Come, now,
this is folly, and you are too sensible to do a stupid thing."

"Take care, my dear Lucenay; in abusing this German court you will
have a quarrel with D'Harville, the intimate friend of the grand duke,
who, besides, received me most kindly the other night at the embassade
of----where I was presented to him."

"Really! my dear Henry," said D'Harville, "if you knew the grand duke
as I know him, you would comprehend that Saint Remy could have no
repugnance to go and pass some time at Gerolstein,"

"I believe you, marquis, although, your grand duke is said to be
proudly original; but that doesn't prevent that a beau like Saint
Remy, the finest flower among blossoms, cannot live, excepting at
Paris; his value is only known at Paris."

The other guests had just arrived, when Joseph entered, and said a few
words in a low tone to his master.

"Gentlemen, will you allow me," said the marquis; "it is the jeweler
who brings me some diamonds to choose for my wife--a surprise. You
know, Lucenay, you and I being husbands of the old schools."

"Oh! if you talk of a surprise," cried the duke, "my wife gave me one
yesterday; a famous one, I tell you."

"Some splendid present?"

"She asked me for a hundred thousand francs."

"And as you are a magnifico, you--"

"Lent them! they will be mortgaged on her Arnonville farm--short
accounts make long friends. But never mind; to lend in two hours one
hundred thousand francs to some one who wants them, is generous and
rare. Is it not, spendthrift? You who are an expert at loans," said
the Duke de Lucenay, laughing, without dreaming of the bearing of his
speech.

Notwithstanding his audacity, the viscount at first slightly blushed,
but he said with effrontery, "One hundred thousand francs! enormous.
How can a woman ever have need of such an amount. With men that's
another story."

"I don't know what she wanted with the money. It is all the same to
me. Some bills, probably some urgent creditors; that's her look-out.
And, besides, you well know, my dear Saint Remy, that in lending her
my money, it would have been in the worst taste in the world to ask
what she wanted it for."

"It is, however, a very excusable curiosity in those who lend, to wish
to know what the borrower wants to do with the money," said the
viscount, laughing.

"Saint Remy," said D'Harville, "you, who have such excellent taste,
must aid me in choosing the set I intend for my wife; your approbation
will sanction my choice--be it law."

The jeweler entered, carrying several caskets in a large leather bag.

"Ah! here is M. Baudoin!" said Lucenay.

"At your grace's service."

"I am sure that it is you who ruin my wife with your infernal and
dazzling temptations," said Lucenay.

"Her grace has only had her diamonds reset this winter," said the
jeweler, slightly embarrassed. "I have this moment left them with her
grace, on my way here."

Saint Remy knew that Madame de Lucenay, to assist him, had changed her
diamonds for false ones; this conversation was very disagreeable to
him, but he said boldly, "How curious these husbands are! do not
answer, M. Baudoin."

"Curious! goodness, no," answered the duke; "my wife pays; she is
richer than I am."

During this conversation, Baudoin had displayed on a bureau several
admirable necklaces of rubies and diamonds.

"How splendid! how divinely the stones are cut!" said Lord Douglas.

"Alas! my lord," answered the jeweler, "I employed in this work one of
the best artisans in Paris; unfortunately, he has gone mad, and I
shall never find his equal. My broker tells me that it is probably
misery which has turned his brain, poor man."

"Misery! you confide diamonds to a man in poverty!"

"Certainly, my lord, and I have never known an instance of an artisan
concealing or secreting anything confided to him, however poor he
might be."

"How much for this necklace?" asked D'Harville.

"Your lordship will remark that the stones are of splendid cutting,
and the purest water, almost all of the same size."

"Here are some wordy precautions most menacing for your purse," said
Saint Remy, laughing; "expect now, D'Harville, some exorbitant price."

"Come, M. Baudoin, your lowest price?" said D'Harville.

"I do not wish to make your lordship haggle, so I say the lowest is
forty-two thousand francs."

"Gentlemen!" cried Lucenay, "let us admire D'Harville in silence. To
arrange a surprise for his wife for forty-two thousand francs! The
devil! don't go and noise that abroad; it will be a detestable
example."

"Laugh as much as you please, gentlemen," said the marquis, gayly. "I
am in love with my wife, I do not conceal it; I boast of it!"

"That is easily seen," said Saint Remy; "such a present speaks more
than all the protestations in the world."

"I take this necklace, then," said D'Harville, "if you approve of the
black enamel setting, Saint Remy."

"It sets off to advantage the brilliancy of the stones; they are
beautifully arranged."

"I decide, then, for this necklace," said D'Harville. "You will have
to settle with M. Doublet, my steward, Baudoin."

"M. Doublet has advised me, my lord," said the jeweler, and he went
out, after having put in his sack, without counting them, the
different sets of jewels which he had brought, and which Saint Remy
had for a long time handled and examined during this conversation.

D'Harville, in giving this necklace to Joseph, who awaited his orders,
whispered to him, "Mlle. Juliette must put these diamonds quietly with
her lady's, without her suspecting it, so that the surprise will be
complete."

At this moment the butler announced that breakfast was served; the
guests passed into the breakfast-room and seated themselves at the
table.

"Do you know, my dear D'Harville," said the duke, "that this house is
one of the most elegant and best arranged in Paris?"

"It is commodious enough, but it wants space; my project is to add a
gallery on the garden. Madame d'Harville desires to give some grand
balls, and our three saloons are not large enough; besides, I find
nothing more inconvenient than the encroachments made by a fete on the
apartments which one habitually occupies, and from which, for the
time, you are exiled."

"I am of your opinion," said Saint Remy; "nothing is in worse taste,
more in the 'city' fashion, than these forced removals by authority of
a ball or concert. To give fetes really splendid, without any
inconvenience to one's self, a particular suite of apartments must be
arranged exclusively for them; and, besides, vast and splendid
saloons, destined for grand balls, ought to have a different character
from rooms in ordinary occupation: there is between the two species of
apartments the same difference as between a splendid fresco and a
cabinet picture."

"He is right," said D'Harville; "what a pity that Saint Remy has not
twelve or fifteen hundred thousand livres a year! what wonders we
should enjoy!"

"Since we have the happiness to enjoy a representative government,"
said the Duke de Lucenay, "ought not the country to vote a million a
year to Saint Remy, and charge him to represent at Paris French taste
and fashion, which would thus decide the fashion of Europe and the
world?"

"Adopted!" was cried in chorus.

"And this million should be annually raised in form of a tax on those
abominable misers who, possessors of enormous fortunes, shall be
arraigned, tried, and convicted of living like skinflints," added
Lucenay.

"And as such," said D'Harville, "condemned to defray the magnificences
which they ought to display."

"While waiting for the decision which will legalize the supremacy
which Saint Remy now exercises in fact," said D'Harville, "I ask his
advice for the gallery I am about to construct."

"My feeble lights are at your disposal, D'Harville."

"And when shall this inauguration take place, my dear fellow?"

"Next year, I suppose, for I am going to commence immediately."

"What a man of projects you are!"

"I have many others. I contemplate a complete change at Val Richer."

"Your estate in Burgundy?"

"Yes; there are some admirable plans to execute there, if my life is
spared."

"Poor old man! But have you not lately bought a farm near Val Richer
to add to your estate?"

"Yes, a very good affair that my notary advised."

"Who is this rare and precious notary who advises such good things?"

"M. Jacques Ferrand."

At this name a slight shade passed over the viscount's brow.

"Is he really as honest a man as he is reputed to be?" asked he,
carelessly, of D'Harville, who then remembered what Rudolph had
related to Clemence concerning the notary.

"Jacques Ferrand? what a question; why, he is a man of antique
probity!" said Lucenay. "As respected as respectable. Very pious--that
hurts no one. Excessively avaricious--which is a guarantee for his
clients."

"He is, in fine, one of our notaries of the old school, who ask you
for whom you take them when you speak of a receipt for money confided
to them."

"For no other cause than that I would confide my whole fortune to
him."

"But where the devil, Saint Remy, did you get your doubts concerning
this worthy man, of proverbial integrity?"

"I am only the echo of vague rumors, otherwise I have no reason to
defame this phenix of notaries. But to return to your projects,
D'Harville; what are you going to build at Val Richer? The chateau is
said to be superb."

"You shall be consulted, my dear Saint Remy, and sooner, perhaps, than
you think, for I delight in these works; it seems to me there is
nothing more pleasant than to have your plans spread out for years to
come. To day this project--in a year this one--still later some other:
add to this a charming wife whom one adores, is the motive of all your
plans, and life passes gently enough."

"I believe you; it is a real paradise on earth."

"Now," said D'Harville, when breakfast was over, "if you will smoke a
cigar in my cabinet, you will find some excellent ones there."

They arose from the table and returned to the cabinet of the marquis:
the door of his sleeping apartment, which communicated with it, was
open. The sole ornament of this room was a panoply of arms. Lucenay,
having lighted a cigar, followed the marquis into his chamber.

"Here are some splendid guns, truly; faith, I do not know which to
prefer, the French or the English."

"Douglas," cried Lucenay, "come and see if these guns will not compare
with the best Mantons."

Lord Douglas, Saint Remy, and the two other guests entered the chamber
of the marquis to examine the arms.

D'Harville took a pistol, cocked it, and said, laughing, "Here,
gentlemen, is the universal panacea for all woes, the spleen, or
ennui." He placed the muzzle laughingly to his mouth.

"I prefer another specific," said Saint Remy; "this is only good in
desperate cases."

"Yes, but it is so prompt," said D'Harville. "Click! and it is done;
the will is not more rapid. Really! it is marvelous."

"Take care, D'Harville, such jokes are always dangerous, and accidents
might happen," said Lucenay, seeing the marquis again place the pistol
to his lips.

"Do you think that if it was loaded I would play these tricks?"

"Doubtless, no, but it is always wrong."

"Look here, sirs, this is the way they do it; the barrel is introduced
delicately between the teeth, and then--"

"How foolish you are, D'Harville, when you once get a-going," said
Lucenay, shrugging his shoulders.

"The finger is placed on the trigger," added D'Harville.

"Is he not a child--childish at his age?"

"A little movement on the lock," continued the marquis, "and one goes
straight to the land of spirits."

With these words the pistol went off.

D'Harville had blown his brains out!

We will renounce the task; we cannot describe the affright, the
amazement, of the guests. The next day was seen in a newspaper:

"Yesterday an event, as unforeseen as deplorable, agitated the whole
Faubourg St. Germain. One of those imprudent acts, which lead every
year to such fatal accidents, has caused a most lamentable affair.
Here are the facts which we have gathered, the authenticity of which
we can guarantee.

"The Marquis D'Harville, possessor of an immense fortune, hardly
twenty-six years of age, noted for the elevation of his character and
the goodness of his heart, married to a lady whom he adored, had
invited a few friends to breakfast. On leaving the table, they passed
into the sleeping apartment of M. d'Harville, where were displayed
several valuable arms. In showing some of his guests, M. d'Harville,
in jest, placed a pistol, which he did not know was loaded, to his
lips. In his security, he drew the trigger; it went off, and the
unhappy young nobleman fell dead, with his skull fractured. The
frightful consternation of the surrounding friends may easily be
imagined, to whom, but a moment before, in the bloom of youth, he had
just been conversing of his projects for the future. And as if all the
circumstances attending this painful event should be more cruel from
contrast, the same morning M. d'Harville, wishing to surprise his
wife, had just purchased a valuable necklace. And it is just at this
moment, when, perhaps, life never appeared more smiling, more
desirable, that he falls a victim to a deplorable accident.

"Before such a misfortune all reflections are useless; we can only
remain, as it were, annihilated by the inscrutable decrees of
Providence."

We quote the papers merely to show that general belief attributed the
death of D'Harville to a deplorable accident. It is hardly necessary
to say, that D'Harville carried with him to the tomb the mysterious
secret of this voluntary death. Yes, voluntary; calculated and
meditated with as much coolness as genorosity, so that Clemence could
not have the slightest suspicion of the true cause of this suicide.

Thus the project of which D'Harville had conversed with his friends
and his intendant, his confidential communications to his old servant,
the surprise which he arranged for his wife, were just so many snares
laid for public credulity.

How could a man be supposed about to kill himself, who was so much
occupied with plans for the future--so desirous of pleasing his wife?
His death was therefore attributed, and could only be attributed, to
an imprudence. As to the resolution, an incurable despair had dictated
it.

"My death alone can dissolve these ties--it must be--I shall kill
myself." And this is the reason why D'Harville had accomplished this
grave and melancholy sacrifice.

If a suitable law of divorce had existed, would he have committed
suicide? No! He would have repaired in part the evil he had done;
restored his wife to liberty, permitted her to find happiness in
another union. The inexorable immutability of the law, then, often
renders certain faults irremediable; or, as in this case, only allows
them to be effaced by a new crime.



CHAPTER XII.

SAINT LAZARE.


We think we ought to inform the most scrupulous of our readers that
the prison of Saint Lazare, specially devoted to prostitutes and
female thieves, is daily visited by several ladies, whose charities,
name, and social position command general respect. These ladies,
brought up amid the splendors of fortune, who with good reason are
classed among the most elevated in society, come every week to pass
long hours with the miserable prisoners. Observing in these degraded
beings the least aspiration after virtue, the least regret for a past
crime, they encourage the better tendencies and repentance; and, by
the powerful magic of the words "duty," "honor," "virtue," sometimes
they rescue from the depths of degradation one abandoned, despised,
ruined being.

Accustomed to the refinements of the best society, these courageous
women leave their houses, pressing their lips to the virginal cheeks
of their daughters, pure as the angels of heaven, and go to the gloomy
prisons to brave the gross indifference, or the criminal conversation,
of thieves and prostitutes.

Faithful to their mission of high morality, they valiantly descend
into the infected receptacle, place the hand on all these ulcerated
hearts, and if some feeble pulsation of honor reveals to them the
slightest hope of saving them, they contend and tear from an almost
irrevocable perdition the wretch of whom they do not despair. The
scrupulous reader, to whom we address ourselves, will calm, then, his
sensibility, in thinking that he will only hear and see, after all,
what these venerated women see and hear every day.

After having, we hope, appeased the reader's scruples, we introduce
him to Saint Lazare, an immense edifice, of imposing and gloomy
aspect, situated in the Rue de Faubourg Saint Denis.

Ignorant of the terrible drama that was passing at home, Madame
d'Harville had gone to the prison, after having obtained some
information from Madame de Lucenay concerning the two unhappy women
whom the cupidity of Jacques Ferrand had plunged into distress. Madame
de Blinval, one of the patronesses before spoken of, not being able to
accompany Clemence to Saint Lazare, she came alone. She was received
with much kindness by the director, and by several inspectresses,
known by their black dresses and a blue ribbon with a silver medal.

One of these, a woman of advanced age, of a soft and grave expression,
remained alone with Madame d'Harville, in a small room adjoining the
office.

Madame Armand, the inspectress who had remained alone with Madame
d'Harville, possessed to an extreme degree of foreknowledge and
insight into the character of the prisoners. Her word and judgment was
of paramount authority in the house.

She said to Clemence: "Since your ladyship has been kind enough to
request me to point out those inmates who, from good conduct or
sincere repentance, should merit your interest, I believe I can
recommend one unfortunate, whom I believe more unhappy than culpable;
for I do not think I deceive myself in affirming, that it is not too
late to save this girl, a poor child of sixteen, or seventeen at
most."

[Illustration: THE INSPECTION OF THE DORMITORY]

"For what has she been confined?"

"She is guilty of being found on the Champs Elysees in the evening. As
it is forbidden her class, under very severe penalties, to frequent,
either day or night, certain places, and the Champs Elysees is among
the number of these prohibited places, she was arrested."

"And she appears interesting to you?"

"I have never seen more regular or more ingenuous features. Imagine,
my lady, a picture of the Virgin. What gave still more to her
appearance a most modest expression was, that when she came here she
was dressed like a peasant girl of the environs of Paris."

"She is, then, a country girl?"

"No, my lady. The inspectors recognized her. She lived in a horrible
house in the city, from which she was absent two or three months but
as she had not her name erased from the police registers, she remained
under the control of the officers, who sent her here."

"But perhaps she left Paris to endeavor to reinstate herself?"

"I think so. I felt at once interested in her. I interrogated her as
to the past; I asked her if she came from the country, telling her to
be of good cheer, if, as I hoped, she wished to return to the paths of
virtue."

"What did she reply?"

"Lifting on me her large blue, melancholy eyes, full of tears, she
said to me, in a tone of angelic sweetness, 'I thank you, madame, for
your kindness, but I cannot speak of the past; I have been arrested--I
was wrong--I do not complain.' 'But where do you come from? Where have
you been since you left the city; if you have been to the country to
seek an honest existence, say so; prove it: we will write to the
police to obtain your discharge. You shall be erased from the police
lists, and your good resolutions shall be encouraged.' 'I entreat you,
madame, do not question me; I cannot answer you,' she replied. 'But
when you leave here, do you wish to return to that horrible house
again?' 'Oh, never,' she cried, 'What will you do then?' 'Heaven
knows!' she replied, letting her head fall on her breast."

"This is very strange! She expresses herself--"

"In very good terms, madame; her deportment is timid, respectful, but
without meanness. I will say more. Notwithstanding the extreme
sweetness of her voice and her look, there is at times in her accent,
in her attitude, a kind of sorrowful pride which confounds me. If she
did not belong to the unhappy class of which she is a part, I should
almost think that this pride is that of a soul conscious of its
elevation."



CHAPTER XIII.

MONT SAINT JEAN.


The clock of the prison struck two.

To the severe frost which had reigned for some days, a temperature
soft, mild, almost spring-like, had succeeded; the sunbeams were
reflected on the water of a large square basin, with a stone margin,
situated in the middle of the yard, planted with trees, and surrounded
by high, gloomy walls, pierced with a number of grated windows; wooden
benches were placed here and there in this vast inclosure, which
served as the prisoners' exercise ground.

The tinkling of a bell announcing the hour of recreation, the
prisoners noisily rushed into the court through a strong wicket-door
which was opened for them. These women, dressed in uniform, wore black
caps and long blue woolen frocks, confined by a belt and iron buckle.
There were two hundred prostitutes there, condemned for infringements
of the laws which register them, and place them without the common
law.

At the sight of this collection of lost creatures, one cannot prevent
the sad thought, that many among them have been pure and virtuous, at
least some time. We make this restriction, because a great number have
been vitiated, corrupted, depraved, not only from their youth, but
from their most tender infancy.

When the prisoners rushed into the court, screeching and shouting, it
was easy to see that joy alone at escaping from labor did not render
them so noisy. After having pushed through the only door that led to
the yard, the crowd separated, and made a circle around a deformed
being, whom they overwhelmed with hootings.

She was a woman of about thirty-six or forty, short, thick-set,
crooked, her neck sunk between unequal shoulders. They had pulled off
her cap, and her hair, of a rather faded yellow, uncombed, tangled,
striped with gray, fell over her low and stupid face. She was dressed
in a blue frock, like the other prisoners, and carried under her arm a
bundle tied up in a miserable, ragged handkerchief. She tried to ward
off the threatened blows with her left arm.

Nothing could be more sadly grotesque than the features of this poor
creature. It was a ridiculous and hideous face, lengthened to a snout,
wrinkled, tanned, and dirty, pierced with nostrils, and small red
eyes, squinting and bloodshot; by turns supplicating or angry, she
implored and scolded; but they laughed more at her complaints than at
her threats. This woman was the butt of the prisoners. One fact alone,
however, should have saved her from their bad treatment; she was about
to become a mother. But her ugliness and imbecility, and the habit
they had of looking upon her as a victim devoted to the general
amusement, rendered her persecutors implacable, notwithstanding their
ordinary respect for maternity.

Among the most furious of the enemies of Mont Saint Jean (this was the
name of the drudge) could have been remarked La Louve--a tall girl of
about twenty, active, masculine, with rather regular features; her
coarse, black hair was shaded with red; her face was disfigured with
pimples; her thick lips were slightly covered with a bluish down; her
dark eyebrows, very thick and heavy, met above her large brown eyes;
something violent, ferocious, and brutal in her expression, a kind of
habitual laugh, which, lifting her upper lip when she was angry,
showing her white and scattering teeth, explains her surname of La
Louve (She-Wolf). Nevertheless, this face expressed more audacity and
insolence than cruelty--in a word, rather vicious than thoroughly bad,
this woman was yet susceptible of some good feelings.

"Oh, dear, what have I done to you?" cried Mont Saint Jean. "Why do
you treat me so?"

"Because it amuses us. Because you are only fit to be tormented. It is
your trade. Look at yourself; you will see you have no right to
complain."

"But you know I do not complain until I can't stand it any longer."

"Well, we'll leave you alone if you will tell us why you are called
Mont Saint Jean."

"Yes, yes, tell us that."

"I have told you this-a hundred times. An old soldier, whom I once
loved, was called so because he was wounded in the battle of Mont
Saint Jean. I took his name. Are you content now? You make me repeat
the same things."

"If he looked like you he was a beauty! He must have been one of the
invalids."

"I am ugly, I know. Say what you please: all the same to me; but don't
strike me, that's all I ask."

"What have you got in that old handkerchief?" said La Louve.

"Yes, yes, what is it? Come, show it."

"Oh no, I entreat you!" said the poor creature, holding the bundle
tightly in her hands.

"You must give it up."

"Yes; take it from her, La Louve."

"What is it?"

"Well, it is baby's clothes I have commenced for my child. I make them
with the old pieces of linen I pick up. It is of no consequence to
you, is it?"

"Oh, let us see the baby-linen of Mont Saint Jean! Come, come," cried
La Louve, snatching the bundle from the hands of Mont Saint Jean.

The wretched handkerchief was torn to pieces in the struggle, and its
contents, composed of rags and bits of stuff of all colors, were
strewn on the ground and trampled under foot, amid shouts of laughter.

"What rags! What trash! An old rag shop! Takes more thread than stuff!
Here, pick up your duds, Mont Saint Jean!"

"How wicked you are! How bad you must be!" cried the poor creature
running here and there after the scraps and rags, which she tried to
pick up, notwithstanding the blows they gave her. "I have never harmed
any one," said she, weeping. "I have offered, if they would let me
alone, to do anything for them they wanted; to give them half of my
rations, although I am very hungry. Ah, well! no, no, it is just the
same. But what must I do for peace? They have not even pity on a poor
woman in my condition! They must be more savage than wild beasts! I
had so much trouble to collect those little scraps of linen. How do
you think I shall do, since I have no money to buy anything?" Suddenly
she cried, in an accent of joy, "Oh, now you have come, La Goualeuse,
I am saved! Speak to them for me! They will listen to you, surely, for
they love you as much as they hate me."

The Goualeuse (the Songstress) arriving, the last of the prisoners had
entered the yard.



CHAPTER XIV.

GOUALEUSE AND LOUISE.


Before we continue the account of this horrible scene, we must return
to the Marchioness d'Harville and Madame Armand, whose conversation
had been for a moment interrupted. At the ringing of the bell, the
inspectress had hastened to one of the doors which opened into the
prison yard, to be ready to prevent by her presence, or calm by her
authority, any tumult or quarrels that might arise among the scholars,
whose passions, restrained for some time by discipline and employment,
only wanted the hour of idleness and recreation to be aroused and
excited. Madame Armand had witnessed, in mournful silence, the cruel
treatment of which Mont Saint Jean was a victim, and she had already
advanced to snatch her from her tormentors, when Fleur-de-Marie
appeared.

"She is saved!" said she to herself, and returned to the parlor where
Madame d'Harville awaited her.

"But this is quite a romance that you have just related," cried the
latter, without giving Madame Armand time to apologize for her
absence. "What are the relations of this girl, whose beauty, language,
and manners form such a strange contrast to her past degradation and
present situation with the other prisoners? If she is endowed with the
elevation of mind that you suppose, she must suffer much from
associating with her miserable companions."

"Everything concerning this girl is a subject of astonishment. Hardly
has she been here three days, yet already she possesses a kind of
influence over the other prisoners."

"In so short a time?"

"They show her not only interest, but almost respect."

"How? These unfortunates--"

"Have sometimes an instinct of singular delicacy in perceiving the
noble qualities of others; yet they often hate those whose superiority
they are obliged to admit."

"But they do not hate this young girl?"

"Far from that, madame; not one of them knew her before she entered
here. They were at first struck with her beauty. Her features,
although of rare beauty, are, it is true, veiled with a touching,
unhealthy paleness. This sweet and melancholy face inspired them at
first with more interest than jealousy. Then she became very quiet--
another subject of astonishment for these creatures, who, for the most
part, endeavor always to drown the voice of conscience by force of
noise and tumult. In short, although dignified and reserved, she
showed herself compassionate, which prevented her companions from
being exasperated at her coldness. This is not all. A month ago there
came here an unruly creature, called La Louve, so violent, audacious,
and ferocious is her character. She is a girl of about twenty; tall,
masculine, rather a fine face, but very coarse. We are often obliged
to put her in confinement to subdue her turbulence. Only the day
before yesterday she came out of the cell, very much irritated at the
punishment she had just received. It was meal-time: the poor girl of
whom I have spoken did not eat; she said sadly to her companions, 'Who
wants my bread?' 'I,' said La Louve, first. 'I,' said a poor deformed
creature afterward, called Mont Saint Jean, who serves as a
laughingstock, and sometimes, in spite of us, as a butt to the other
prisoners. The girl gave her bread to the latter, to the great rage of
La Louve. 'I asked you first,' cried she furiously. 'It is true, but
this poor woman has more need of it than you,' answered the girl. La
Louve snatched the bread from the hands of Mont Saint Jean, and began
to vociferate, brandishing her knife. As she is very irascible, and
very much feared, no one dared to take the part of poor Goualeuse."

"What do you call her, madame?"

"La Goualeuse. It is the name, or rather surname, under which she has
been confined here. Almost all of them have similar borrowed names."

"It is very singular."

"It signifies, in their hideous slang, the Songstress; for this young
girl has, they say, a very fine voice; and I readily believe it, for
her tone is enchanting."

"And how did she escape from this villainous Louve?"

"Rendered still more furious by La Goualeuse's coolness, she ran
toward her with an oath and uplifted knife. All the prisoners screamed
with terror. Goualeuse alone regarded without fear this formidable
creature. Smiling bitterly, she said, in her angelic voice, 'Oh, kill
me! kill me! I desire it; but do not make me suffer much.' These
words, it was reported to me, were pronounced with a simplicity so
touching, that almost all the prisoners had tears in their eyes."

"I believe it, said Lady d'Harville, painfully affected.

"The worst characters," answered the inspectress, "happily have
sometimes moments of reflection--a kind of return to the correct path.
On hearing these words, expressed with such resignation, La Louve,
touched to the heart, as she afterward said, threw her knife on the
ground, trampled it under foot, and cried, 'I was wrong to threaten
you, Songstress, for I am stronger than you; you were not afraid of my
knife; you are courageous--I love courage; so now, if any one attempts
to hurt you, I'll defend you.'"

"What a singular character."

"The example of La Louve increased the influence of La Goualeuse; and
at present, a thing almost without a precedent, hardly any of the
prisoners address her familiarly; the greater part respect her, and
even offer to render her any little service that can be rendered among
prisoners. I asked some of the prisoners who slept in the same room
with her, what was the cause of the deference shown her. 'That's more
than we can tell,' they answered; 'it is plain to be seen she is not
one of our sort.' 'But who told you so?' 'No one told us; we see.' 'By
what?' 'In a thousand things. For instance, last night, before she
went to bed, she went on her knees and said her prayers; as she prays,
so La Louve says, she must have a right to pray!'"

"What a strange observation!"

"These poor creatures have no sentiment of religion, yet they never
utter here a sacrilegious or impious word. You will see, madame, in
all our rooms a kind of altar, where the statue of the Virgin is
surrounded with offerings and ornaments made by themselves. But to
return to La Goualeuse. Her companions said to me, 'We see that she is
not our sort, from her soft manners, her sadness, the way in which she
speaks.' And then said La Louve, who was present at this conversation,
'It must be that she is not one of us; for this morning, in our
sleeping-room, without knowing why, we were ashamed to dress ourselves
before her!"

"What strange delicacy in the midst of so much degradation!" cried
Lady d'Harville. "They have a profound sense of their degradation?"

"No one can despise them as much as they despise themselves. Among
some of them, whose repentance is sincere, this original stain of vice
remains indelible in their eyes, even when they find themselves in a
better situation; others become insane, so much does the sense of
their former aberration remain fixed and implacable. I should not be
surprised if the profound sorrow of the Goualeuse proceeds from some
such cause."

"If this should be so, what torture for her! a remorse which nothing
can soothe!"

"Happily, madame, for the honor of the human race, this remorse occurs
oftener than is supposed; avenging conscience never completely sleeps,
or rather, strange thing, sometimes one would say that the spirit
watches while the body sleeps. It is an observation that I made only
this night again in reference to my _protegee_. Very, often, when
the prisoners are asleep, I make the rounds of the sleeping
apartments. Your ladyship cannot imagine how much the physiognomies of
these women differ in expression while they sleep. A great number of
them, whom I had seen during the day careless, bold, brazen, impudent,
seemed completely to have changed when sleep had deprived their
features of all the audacity of wickedness; for vice, alas! has its
pride. Oh, what sorrowful revelations on these countenances, then
dejected, melancholy, and sad! What involuntary starts! What mournful
sighs torn from them by a dream, doubtless impressed with an
inexorable reality! I spoke to you just now, madame, of this girl
called La Louve. About fifteen days ago she insulted me brutally
before all the prisoners. I shrugged my shoulders; my indifference but
exasperated her. Then she thought to wound me by uttering something
disgraceful concerning my mother, whom she had often seen here on a
visit to me. Ah, how horrid! I acknowledge, stupid as this attack was,
she hurt me. La Louve saw it, and triumphed. That night I went to make
an inspection in the sleeping apartment; I reached the bed of La
Louve, who was to be put in the cell next morning; I was struck with
the sweetness of her face, compared with the hard and insolent
expression which was habitual to her; her features seemed
supplicating, full of sadness and contrition; her lips were half-open,
her breathing oppressed; finally, a thing which appeared to me
incredible, for I thought it impossible, tears--tears fell from her
eyes. I looked at her in silence for some moments, when I heard her
pronounce these words, 'Pardon! pardon her, mother!' I listened more
attentively, but all that I could hear was my name, Madame Armand,
pronounced with a sigh."

"She repented, during her sleep, of having abused your mother?"

"I thought so, and it made me less severe."

"And the next day, did she express any regret for her past conduct?"

"None; she showed herself as wild as ever."

"But, madame, you must need great courage, much strength of mind, not
to recoil before the unpleasantness of a task which brings such rare
returns!"

"The consciousness of fulfilling a duty sustains and encourages me--
besides, sometimes, one is recompensed by some happy discovery."

"No matter; women like you, madame, are seldom to be found."

"No, no; I assure you what I do others do, and with more success and
intelligence than I. One of the inspectresses of the other quarter of
Saint Lazaro, destined for those accused of other crimes, will
interest you much more. She related to me the arrival, this morning,
of a young girl, accused of infanticide. Never have I heard anything
more touching. The father of the poor unfortunate has become insane
from grief, on learning the shame of his child. It appears that
nothing could be more frightful than the poverty of this family, who
lived in a wretched garret in the Rue du Temple!"

"The Rue du Temple!" cried Madame d'Harville, astonished. "What is the
name of the family?"

"Morel. Her name is Louise Morel."

"This poor family has been recommended to me," said Clemence,
blushing, "but I was far from expecting to hear such terrible news--
and Louise Morel--"

"Says she is innocent; she swears her child was dead; and her words
have the accent of truth. Since you have interested yourself in her
family, if you would have the kindness to see her, this mark of your
goodness would calm her despair, which they say is fearful."

"Certainly, I will see her, and the Goualeuse also; for all you tell
me about this poor girl affects me sincerely. But what must I do to
obtain her liberty? Then I will find her a place; I will take charge
of her."

"With the relations your ladyship has, it will be very easy for you to
get her discharge to-day or to-morrow; it depends entirely on the
prefect of the police. The recommendation of a person of quality would
be decisive with him. But I have wandered far, madame, from the
observation that I made on the slumber of the Goualeuse. On this
subject, I must confess, that I should not be astonished that, to the
sentiments of profound grief for her first fault, is joined another
sorrow, not less cruel."

"What do you mean to say, madame?"

"Perhaps I am deceived; but I should not be astonished that this young
girl, emancipated, as it were, from the degradation into which she was
first plunged, had experienced perhaps a virtuous love, which was at
once her happiness and misery."

"Why do you think so?"

"The obstinate silence she keeps as to the place where she passed the
three months which followed her departure from the City, makes me
think that she fears to be reclaimed by the persons with whom,
perhaps, she found a refuge."

"And why this fear?"

"Because she would then have to avow a past life, of which they are
doubtless ignorant."

"Really, this peasant's dress--"

"Besides, another circumstance has strengthened my suspicions. Last
night, as I made my inspection, I drew near the Goualeuse's bed; she
slept profoundly; her face was calm and serene; her thick flaxen hair,
half escaping from under her cap, fell in profusion on her neck and
shoulders. She had her small hands clasped over her bosom, as if she
had fallen asleep while in the act of prayer. I contemplated with
compassion this angelic countenance, when, in a low voice, and in a
tone at once respectful, sorrowful and endearing, she pronounced a
name."

"And this name?"

After a moment's silence, Madame Armand said gravely, "Although I
consider as sacred that which one hears another express in their
sleep, you interest yourself so generously in this unfortunate,
madame, that I can confide to you this secret. The name was Rudolph."

"Rudolph!" cried Madame d'Harville, thinking of the prince. Then,
reflecting that, after all, the Grand Duke of Gerolstein could have no
connection with the Rudolph of poor Goualeuse, she said to the
inspectress, who seemed astonished at her exclamation, "This name
surprised me, madame, for by a singular chance, one of my relations
bears it also; but all you have told me of the Goualeuse interests me
more and more. Can I not see her to-day? Now?"

"Yes, madame, I will go, if you wish, to find her, I can also ask
about Louise Morel, who is in the other part of the prison."

"I shall be much obliged," answered Madame d'Harville, and she
remained alone.

"It is singular," said she; "I cannot account for the strange
impression which the name of Rudolph caused me. Truly, I am mad!
between _him_ and such a creature, what relations can exist?"
Then, after a pause, she added, "He was right! how much all this
interests me! the mind, the heart, expand when they are applied to
such noble occupations! As he says, it seems as if one participated in
the power of Providence, when relieving those who are deserving. And
these excursions in a world of whose existence we have no suspicion
are so interesting, so _amusing_, as _he_ was pleased to
say! What romance could give me such touching emotions, excite to this
point my curiosity! This poor Goualeuse, for example, inspires me with
profound pity, and this unfortunate daughter of the artisan, whom the
prince had so generously relieved in my name! Poor people! their
frightful misery served as a pretext to save me. I have escaped shame,
death, perhaps, by a hypocritical falsehood; this deceit oppresses me;
but I will expiate it by force of benefactions. This will be easy! it
is so sweet to follow the noble counsels of Rudolph, it is rather to
love than to obey him! Oh! I feel it--I know it. I experience a sweet
delight in acting through him; for I love him. Oh, yes, I love him!
yet he will be for ever ignorant of this eternal passion of my life."

While Madame d'Harville awaits the Goualeuse, we will return to the
prison-yard.



CHAPTER XV.

WOLF AND LAMB.


Fleur-de-Marie, the Songstress, wore the blue dress and black cap of
the prisoners; but even in this common costume she was charming. Yet
since she was carried off from the farm of Bouqueval, her features
were much altered; her natural paleness, slightly tinted with rose,
was now as dead as the whitest alabaster; her expression had also
changed; it had now assumed a kind of dignified sadness.
Fleur-de-Marie knew that to endure courageously the grievous sacrifices
of expiation is almost to obtain a kind of regeneration.

"Ask their pardon for me, La Goualeuse," said Mont Saint Jean. "See
how they drag in the dirt all that I had collected with so much
trouble; what good can it do them?"

Fleur-de-Marie did not say a word, but she began actively to collect,
one by one, from under the feet of the prisoners, all the rags she
could find. One of the prisoners retaining mischievously under her
foot a piece of coarse muslin, Fleur-de-Marie, stooping, raised her
enchanting face toward this woman, and said, in her sweet voice, "I
beg you to let me take this, in the name of the poor weeping woman."

The prisoner withdrew her foot. The muslin was saved, as well as all
the other rags, which the Goualeuse secured piece by piece. There
remained only one little cap, which two of them were contending for,
laughing.

Fleur-de-Marie said to them, "Come, be good now, and give her that
little cap."

"My eye! is it for a baby harlequin, this cap? Made of gray stuff,
with peaks of green and black fustian, and a bedtick lining!" This
description of the cap was received with shouts of laughter.

"Laugh at it as much as you please, but give it to me," said Mont
Saint Jean; "don't drag it in the gutter, as you did the rest. I beg
your pardon, La Goualeuse, for having made you soil your hands for
me," added she, in a grateful voice.

"Give me the harlequin cap," said La Louve, who caught it, and shook
it in the air as a trophy.

"I entreat you to give it to me," said La Goualeuse.

"No; because you will give it to Mont Saint Jean."

"Certainly!"

"Ah! bah! such a fag! it's not worth the trouble."

"It is because Mont Saint Jean has nothing but rags to dress her child
with that you should have pity on her, La Louve," said Fleur-de-Marie,
sadly, extending her hand toward the cap.

"You sha'n't have it!" answered La Louve, brutally; "must one always
give up to you because you are the weakest? You take advantage of
this."

"Where would be the merit of giving it to me if I were the strongest?"
answered La Goualeuse, with a smile full of grace.

"No, no, you wish to twist me about again with your little soft voice;
you sha'n't have it."

"Come, now, La Louve, don't be naughty."

"Leave me alone, you tire me."

"I entreat you!"

"Stop! don't make me angry--I have said no, and no it is!" cried La
Louve, very much irritated.

"Have pity upon her; see how she weeps!"

"What is that to me? So much the worse for her; she is our target."

"That's true, that's true, don't give it up," murmured several of the
prisoners, carried away by the example of La Louve.

"You are right--so much the worse for her!" said Fleur-de-Marie, with
bitterness. "She is your butt; she ought to be resigned to it; her
groans amuse you, her tears make you laugh. You must pass the time in
some way; if you should kill her on the spot, she has no right to say
anything. You are right, La Louve--it is just! this poor woman has
done no harm; she cannot defend herself; she is one against the whole--
you overpower her--that is very brave and very generous."

"Are we cowards, then?" cried La Louve, carried away by the violence
of her character, and by her impatience of all contradiction. "Will
you answer? are we cowards, eh?" said she, more and more irritated.

Murmurs, very threatening for the Goualeuse, began to be heard. The
offended prisoners approached and surrounded her, vociferating,
forgetting or revolting against the ascendancy that the young girl had
until then obtained over them.

"She calls us cowards! By what right does she scold us? Is it because
she is greater than we are? We have been too good to her, and now she
wants to put on airs with us. If we choose to torment Mont Saint Jean,
what has she got to say about it? Since it is so, you shall be worse
beaten than before, do you hear, Mont Saint Jean?"

"Hold, here is one to begin with," said one of them, giving her a
blow. "And if you meddle with what don't concern you, La Goualeuse,
we'll treat you in the same way."

"Yes, yes!"

"This isn't all!" cried La Louve; "La Goualeuse must ask our pardon
for having called us cowards! If not, and we let her go on, she'll
finish by eating us up; we are very stupid not to see that. She must
ask our pardon. On her knee! on both knees! or we'll treat her like
Mont Saint Jean, her _protegee_. On your knees--on your knees!
Oh! we are cowards, are we?"

Fleur-de-Marie was not alarmed at these furious cries; she let the
storm rage, but as soon as she could be heard, casting a calm and
melancholy glance around her, she replied to La Louve, who vociferated
anew, "Dare to repeat that we are cowards!"

"You? no, no; it is this poor woman whose clothes you have torn, whom
you have beaten, dragged in the mire, who is a coward! Do you not see
how she weeps, how she trembles in looking at you? It is she who is a
coward, since she is afraid of you."

The discernment of Fleur-de-Marie served her perfectly. She might have
invoked justice and duty to disarm the stupid and brutal conduct of
the prisoners, they would not have listened to her; but in addressing
them with this sentiment of natural generosity, which is never extinct
even in the most contemptible natures, she awoke a feeling of pity.

La Louve and her companions still murmured; Fleur-de-Marie continued:
"Your target does not deserve compassion, you say; but her child
deserves it. Alas! does it not feel the blows given to the mother?
When she cries for mercy, it is not for herself, it is for her child!
When she asks for some of your bread, if you have too much, because
she has more hunger than usual, it is not for her, but for her child!
When she begs you, with tears in her eyes, to spare these rags, which
she has had so much trouble to collect, it is not for her, but for her
child! This poor little cap, which you have made so much fun of, is
laughable, perhaps; yet only to look at it makes me feel like weeping.
I avow it. Laugh at us both, Mont Saint Jean and me, if you will." The
prisoners did not laugh. La Louve even looked sadly at the little cap
she held in her hand. "Come, now!" continued Fleur-de-Marie, wiping
her eyes with the back of her white and delicate hand; "I know you are
not so hard. You torment Mont Saint Jean from want of employment, not
from cruelty. But you forget that she has her child. Could she hold it
in her arms that it should protect her, not only would you not strike
her, for fear of hurting the poor innocent, but if it was cold, you
would give to its mother all you could to cover it, eh, La Louve?"

"It is true: who would not pity a child?"

"It is very plain."

"If it was hungry you would take the bread out of your own mouth;
would you not, La Louve?"

"Yes, and willingly. I am no worse than others."

"Nor we neither."

"A poor little innocent!"

"Who would have a heart to hurt it?"

"Must be a monster!"

"No hearts!"

"Wild beasts!"

"I told you truly," said Fleur-de-Marie. "That you were not cruel. You
are kind; your error is not reflecting that Mont Saint Jean deserves
as much compassion as though she had her child in her arms, that's
all."

"That's all!" cried La Louve, with warmth; "no, that's not all. You
were right, La Goualeuse; we were cowards, and you were brave in
daring to tell us so; and you are brave in not trembling after having
told us. You see we were right in constantly insisting that _you
were not one of us_--it must always come to that. It vexes me; but
so it is. We were all wrong just now. You were pluckier than the whole
gang of us!"

"That's true; this little blonde must have had courage to tell us the
truth right in our faces."

"After all, it is true, when we strike Mont Saint Jean, we do strike
her child."

"I didn't think of that."

"Nor I either."

"But La Goualeuse thinks of everything."

"And to strike a child is shameful!"

"There isn't one of us capable of doing it."

"Nothing is more easily moved than popular passion-nothing more abrupt
and rapid than the return from evil to good and from good to evil." The
few simple and touching words from Fleur-de-Marie had caused a sudden
reaction in favor of Mont Saint Jean, who wept gently.

Suddenly La Louve, violent and hasty in everything, took the little
cap she held in her hand, made a kind of purse of it, fumbled in her
pocket, and drew out twenty sous, threw them into the cap, and cried,
presenting it to her companions, "I give twenty sous toward buying
baby-linen for Mont Saint Jean. We'll cut it all out and sew it
ourselves, so that the making-up sha'n't cost a copper!"

"Yes, yes."

"That's it! let us club together."

"I'm agreed!"

"Famous idea!"

"Poor woman!"

"She is as ugly as a monster; but she is a mother, like any one else."

"I give ten sous."

"I thirty."

"I twenty."

"I four sous; got no more."

"I have nothing; but I will sell my ration for tomorrow-who'll buy?"

"I," said La Louve; "I put ten sous for you; but you'll keep your
ration, and Mont Saint Jean's baby shall be togged out like a
princess."

To express the surprise and joy of Mont Saint Jean would be
impossible; her grotesque and ugly visage became almost touching.
Happiness and gratitude beamed the Fleur-de-Marie was also very happy,
although she had been obliged to say to La Louve, when she held the
little cap toward her, "I have no money; but I will work as much as
you like."

"Oh! my good little angel from Paradise," cried Mont Saint Jean,
falling at the feet of La Goualeuse, and trying to take her hand to
kiss it. "What is it I have done that you should be so charitable
toward me, and all these _ladies_ also? Is it possible, my good
angel? For my child--everything that I want! Who could have believed
it? I shall go off my head, I am sure. Why, I was just now the
scapegoat of every one! In a moment, because you said something in
your dear little voice of a seraph, you turn them from evil to good;
and now they love me, and I love them. They are so good! I was wrong
to get angry. Wasn't I a fool, and unjust, and ungrateful? All they
have done to me was only for a laugh; they didn't wish me any harm--it
was for my good; for here is the proof. Why, now, if they were to kill
me on the spot, I would not say a word."

"We have eighty-four francs and seven sous," said La Louve, having
finished counting the money she had collected. "Who will be treasurer?
Mustn't give it to Mont Saint Jean; she is too stupid."

"Let Goualeuse take charge of the money," they all cried unanimously.

"If you listen to me," said Fleur-de-Marie, "you will beg Madame
Armand, the inspectress, to take charge of this sum, and make the
necessary purchases; and then she will know the good action you have
done, and, perhaps, will ask to have your time reduced. Well, La
Louve," added she, taking her companion by the arm, "don't you now
feel happier than when you were casting to the winds, just now, the
poor rags of Mont Saint Jean?"

La Louve at first did not answer. To the generous warmth which had for
a moment animated her features had succeeded a kind of savage
defiance.

Fleur-de-Marie looked at her with surprise, not understanding this
sudden change.

"La Goualeuse, come; I want to talk to you," said La Louve, in a
sullen manner; and leaving the other prisoners, she led Fleur-de-Marie
near to the basin which was in the center of the court. La Louve and
her companion seated themselves, isolated from the rest of their
companions.

The winter's sun shed its pale rays upon them, the blue sky was
partially obscured by white and fleecy clouds; some birds, deceived by
the mildness of the atmosphere, were warbling in the black branches of
the large chestnut-trees in the court; two or three sparrows, bolder
than the rest, came to drink and to bathe in a little brook which
flowed from the fountain; the stone margin was covered with green
moss, and here and there from the interstices rose some tufts of green
herbs, which the frost had spared. This description of the prison
basin may seem trifling, but Fleur-de-Marie lost not one of these
details; with her eyes fixed sadly on the clouds as they broke the
azure of the sky, or reflected the golden rays of the sun, she
thought, with a sigh, of the magnificence of nature, which she much
loved, admired poetically, and of which she was deprived.

"What do you wish to say to me?" asked La Goualeuse of her companion,
who, seated alongside of her, remained somber and silent.

"It is necessary that we have a settlement," cried La Louve, harshly,
"this can't go on."

"I don't understand you, La Louve."

"Just now, in the court, I said to myself, 'I will not yield to La
Goualeuse,' and yet I have again given way to you." "But--"

"I tell you this can't last so."

"What have you against me, La Louve?"

"Why, I am no longer the same since your arrival; no, I have no more
courage, strength, or hardihood."

Interrupting herself, she pushed up the sleeve of her dress and showed
to La Goualeuse her strong white arm, pointing out to her, pricked in
with indelible ink, a poniard half plunged in a red heart; over this
emblem were these words:

"Death to Dastards! MARTIAL. For life!"

"Do you see that?" cried La Louve.

"Yes; it makes me afraid," said La Goualeuse, turning away her head.

"When Martial, my lover, wrote this with a red-hot needle, he thought
me brave; if he knew my conduct for three days past, he would drive
his knife in my body, as this poniard is planted in this heart; and he
would be right, for be has written there '_Death to Dastards_'
and I am one."

"What have you done cowardly?"

"Everything."

"Do you regret what you have done just now?"

"Yes!"

"I do not believe you."

"I tell you that I regret it, for it is another proof of the power you
have over us all. Did you not hear what Mont Saint Jean said when she
was on her knees to thank you?"

"What did she say?"

"She said, in speaking of us, that with nothing you turn us from evil
to good. I could have strangled her when she said that, for, to our
shame, it is true. Yes, in a moment you change us from black to white:
we listen to you, we give way to our impulses, and we are your dupes."

"My dupe--because you have generously assisted this poor woman!"

"It shall not be said," cried La Louve, "that a little girl like you
can trample me under foot."

"I! how?"

"Do I know how? You come here--you commence by offending me."

"Offend you?"

"Yes: you ask who wants your bread: I answer first 'I.' Mont Saint
Jean only asks for it afterward and you give her the preference.
Furious at this, I rush on you with my knife raised."

"And I said to you, 'Kill me if you will, but do not make me suffer
too much,'" answered La Goualeuse; "that was all."

"That was all! Yes, that was all! and yet, these words alone caused
the knife to fall from my hands; made me ask pardon from you, who had
offended me. Is it natural? Why, when I return to my senses, I pity
myself. And the night when you arrived here, when you knelt to say
your prayers, why, instead of laughing at you and arousing the whole
company--why was it that I said, 'Leave her alone; she prays because
she has the right to do so.' And, the next morning, why were we all
ashamed to dress before you?"

"I do not know, La Louve."

"Really!" said this violent creature, with irony, "you don't know! It
is, doubtless, as we have told you sometimes in jest, that you are of
another family than ours. Perhaps you believe that?"

"I never said so."

"You never said so, but you act so."

"I pray you to listen to me."

"No! it has been of no service for me to listen to you--to look at
you. Up to now I have never envied any one. Well, two or three times I
have surprised myself in envying--can anything be more sneaking?--in
envying your face--like the Holy Virgin's! your soft, sad manner! Yes,
I have envied even your fair hair, and your blue eyes. I--who have
always detested fair faces, since I am a brunette--wish to resemble
you!"

"No, La Louve! me?"

"A week ago I should have left my mark on any one who would have dared
to tell me this. However, I do not envy you your lot; you are as sad
as a Magdalen. Is it natural? speak!"

"How can you expect me to account to you for the impressions I cause?"

"Oh, you know well enough what you do with your touch-me-not air."

"But what design can I have?"

"Do you think I know? It is exactly because I cannot understand all
this that I suspect you. There is another thing: until now I have
always been gay or angry, but never a thinker; and you have made me
think. Yes, there are some words you say which, in spite of me, have
touched my heart, and make me think all manner of sad things."

"I am sorry to have made you sad, La Louve; but I do not remember to
have said any--"

"Oh!" cried La Louve; "what you do is often as touching as what you
say! You are so malignant!"

"Do not be angry, La Louve! explain yourself."

"Yesterday, in the workshop, I saw you plainly. You had your eyes
down, fixed on your work; a tear fell on your hand; you looked at it
for a moment, and then you carried your hand to your lips, as if to
kiss away this tear; is it not true?"

"It is true," said La Goualeuse, blushing.

"That has the appearance of nothing! But, at that moment you looked so
unhappy--so unhappy, that I felt myself all heartache--every feeling
stirred up. Say now? do you think this is amusing? I have always been
as hard as a rock about everything concerning myself. No one can boast
of ever having seen me weep; and it must be that in looking at your
little face I should feel cowardice at my heart! Yes, for all that is
pure cowardice; and the proof is, that for three days I have not dared
to write to Martial, my conscience accuses me so much. Yes, keeping
company with you has weakened my character; it must stop; I have
enough of it; I wish to remain as I am, and not have people laugh at
me."

"Why should they laugh at you?"

"Because they would see me acting a stupid good-natured part, who made
them all tremble here! No, no, I am twenty; I am as handsome as you,
in my style; I am wicked; I am feared, and that's what I want. I laugh
at the rest. Perish all who say the contrary!"

"You are angry with me, La Louve!"

"Yes, you are for me a bad acquaintance; if this is continued, in
fifteen days, instead of being called Wolf, they will call me Sheep.
Thank you! it's not me they'll baptize so. Martial would kill me. In
short, I want none of your company; I am going to ask to be put in
another hall; if they refuse, I'll flare up so that they will put me
in the dungeon until my time is out. That's what I have to say to you,
La Goualeuse."

"I assure you, La Louve," said Fleur-de-Marie, "that you feel an
interest in me, not because you are soft, but because you are
generous--brave hearts alone feel the misfortunes of others."

"There is neither generosity nor courage in this," said La Louve,
brutally; "it is cowardice. Besides, I do not wish you to tell me that
I am touched--softened; it is not true."

"I will not say so any more, La Louve; but since you have shown some
interest for me, you will let me be grateful to you for it, will you
not?"

"To-night I shall be in another hall from you, or alone in the
dungeon; and soon I shall be away from here."

"And where will you go?"

"Home; Rue Pierre Lescot. I have my own furnished room."

"And Martial!" said La Goualeuse, who hoped to continue the
conversation by speaking of an object interesting to her; "you'll be
very happy to see him?"

"Yes; oh, yes!" answered she. "When I was arrested he was recovering
from sickness--a fever which he had, because he is always on the
water. For sixteen or seventeen nights I never left him for a moment.
I sold half that I possessed to pay for a doctor and medicines. I can
boast of it; and I do boast of it. If my man lives, he owes it to me.
I yesterday burned a candle before the Virgin for him. It is foolish;
but never mind, some very good effects have proceeded from this, for
he is convalescent."

"Where is he now? what does he do?"

"He lives near the Asnieres Bridge, on the shore."

"On the shore?"

"Yes, with his family, in a solitary house. He is always warring with
the river-keepers; and when once he is in his boat, with his
double-barreled gun, it's no good to approach him!" said La Louve,
proudly.

"What is his trade?"

"He fishes by stealth at night; his father had some
_misunderstanding_ with justice. He has still a mother, two
sisters, and a brother. It would be better for him not to have such a
brother, for he is a scoundrel, who will be guillotined one of these
days; his sisters also. However, never mind, their necks belong to
themselves."

"Where did you first meet Martial?"

"In Paris. He wished to learn the trade of a locksmith; a fine trade,
always red-hot iron and fire around one, and danger, too; that suited
him, but, like me, he had a bad head--couldn't agree with the
slow-pokes: so he returned to his family, and began to maraud on the
river. He came to Paris to see me, and I went to see him at Asnieres; it
is very near; but if it had been further, I should have gone, even if I
had been obliged to go on my hands and knees."

"You will be very happy to go to the country, you, La Louve," said the
Goualeuse, sighing; "above all, if you love, as I do, to walk in the
fields."

"I prefer to walk in the woods--in the large forests, with Martial!"

"In forests? are you not afraid?"

"Afraid! Is a wolf afraid? The thicker and darker the forest, the more
I like it. A lonely hut, where I should live with Martial, who should
be a poacher; to go with him at night, to set traps for the game; and
then, if the guards come to arrest us, to fire on them, hiding in the
bushes--ah! that's what I like!"

"You have lived in a, forest. La Louve?"

"Never."

"Who gave you such ideas?"

"Martial. He was a poacher in Rambouillet Wood. About a year ago he
was _looked upon_ as having fired upon a guard who had fired upon
him--villain of a guard! It was not proved in court, but Martial was
obliged to leave. So he then came to Paris to learn a trade; as I
said, he left and went to maraud on the river; it is less slavish. But
he always regrets the woods, and will return there some day or other."

"And, La Louve, where are your parents?"

"Do you think I know!"

"Is it a long time since you have seen them?"

"I do not know if they are dead or alive."

Fleur-de-Marie, although plunged very young into an atmosphere of
corruption, had since respired an air so pure, that she experienced a
painful oppression at the horrid story of La Louve. Suppressing the
emotion which the sad confession of her companion had caused her, she
said to her, timidly, "Listen to me without being angry."

"Come, say on; I hope I have talked enough; but, in truth, all the
same, since it is the last time we shall converse together."

"Are you happy, La Louve?"

"What do you mean?"

"With the life you lead?"

"Here at Saint Lazare?"

"No; at your home, when you are free."

"Yes, I am happy."

"Always?"

"Always."

"You would not change your lot for any other?"

"For what other? There's no other lot for me."

"Tell me, La Louve," continued Fleur-de-Marie, after a moment's
silence, "do you not sometimes like to build castles in the air here
in prison? It is so amusing."

"Castles in the air?"

"About Martial."

"Martial?"

"Yes."

"Ma foi, I never have."

"Let me build one for you and Martial."

"What's the use?"

"To pass the time."

"Well, let us see this castle."

"Just imagine, for example, that by chance you should meet some one
who should say to you, 'Abandoned by your father and mother, your
childhood has been surrounded by bad examples; that you must be pitied
as much as blamed for having become--'"

"Having become what?"

"What you and I--have become," answered Goualeuse, in a soft voice.
"Suppose this person were to say to you, 'You love Martial--he loves
you; leave your present mode of life, and become his wife.'"

La Louve shrugged her shoulders.

"Do you think he would take me for his wife?"

"Except his poaching, has he ever committed any other culpable
action?"

"No; he is a poacher on the river, as he was in the woods; and he is
right. Are not fish, like game, the property of those who can take
them? Where is the mark of their owner?"

"Well, suppose, having renounced this, he wishes to become an honest
man; suppose that he inspired, by the frankness of his good
resolutions, enough confidence in an unknown benefactor to be given a
place--as gamekeeper, for instance. To a poacher, it would be to his
liking. It is the same trade, only lawful."

"Lord! yes; it is life in the woods."

"Only this place would be given to him on the sole condition that he
would marry you and take you with him."

"I go with Martial?"

"Yes; you would be happy, you say, to live together in a forest. Would
you not like better, instead of a miserable poacher's hut where you
would hide yourselves like criminals, to have a nice little cottage,
of which you should be the active, industrious housekeeper?"

"You make fun of me. Can this be possible?"

[Illustration: THE SCAFFOLD]

"Who knows? though it is only a castle."

"Ah, true; very well."

"I say, La Louve, it seems to me I already see you established in your
cottage in the forest, with your husband, and two or three children.
What happiness!"

"Children! Martial!" cried La Louve; "oh, yes, they would be
_proudly_ loved."

"How much company they would be for you in your solitude. Then, when
they began to grow up, they could render you some assistance. The
smallest could pick up the dead branches for your fire; the largest
could drive to pasture the cow which has been given to your husband
for his activity; for, having been a poacher himself, he would make
all the better gamekeeper."

"Just so; that's true. Ah, these castles in the air are amusing. Tell
me some more, La Goualeuse."

"They will be very much pleased with your husband. You will receive
from his master some presents; a nice garden. But marry! you will have
to work, La Louve, from morning to night." "Oh, if that was all, once
along with Martial, work wouldn't make me afraid. I have strong arms."

"And you would have enough to occupy them, I answer for it. There is
so much to do. There are the meals to prepare, clothes to mend; one
day the washing, another day the baking, or the house to clean from
top to bottom; so that the other gamekeepers would say, 'Oh, there is
not a housekeeper like Martial's wife; from cellar to garret her house
is as nice as a new pin; and the children always so neat and clean. It
is because she is so industrious.'"

"Tell me, La Goualeuse, is it true I would be called Madame Martial?"

"It is a great deal better than to be called La Louve, is it not?"

"Certainly; I prefer the name of any man to the name of a beast. But,
bah! bah! wolf I am born, and wolf I shall die."

"Who knows? Do not recoil from a hard but honest life that brings
happiness. So, work would not alarm you?"

"Oh, no."

"And then, besides, it is not all labor: there are moments of repose.
In the winter evenings, while your children are asleep, and your
husband smoking his pipe, cleaning his gun, or caressing his dogs, you
could have a nice quiet time."

"Bah! bah! a quiet time, sit with my arms folded. Goodness, no; I
would prefer to mend the family linen in the evening, in the
chimney-corner; that is not so tiresome. The days are so short in
winter."

At the words of Fleur-de-Marie, La Louve forgot more and more of the
present in these dreams of the future. La Louve did not conceal the
wild tastes with which her lover had inspired her. Fleur-de-Marie had
thought, with reason, that if her companion would suffer herself to be
sufficiently moved at this picture of a rough, poor, and solitary
life, to ardently desire to live such a one, this woman would deserve
interest and pity.

Enchanted at seeing her companion listen with curiosity, La Goualeuse
continued, smiling: "And, then you see _Madame Martial_--let me
call you so, what do you care?"

"On the contrary, it flatters me," said La Louve, shrugging her
shoulders, but smiling. "What folly--to play _Madame!_ What
children we are! Never mind, go on--it is amusing. You said, then----"

"I say, Madame Martial, that in speaking of your mode of living in
winter, in the woods, we only think of the worst part of the season."

"No, that is not the worst. To hear the wind whistle at night in the
forest, and from time to time the wolves howl, far off--far off; I
would not find it tiresome, not I, if I am alongside of a good fire,
with my man and my brats; or even all alone with my children, while he
is gone to make his rounds. Oh! a gun doesn't frighten me. If I had my
children to defend, I'd be good then. La Louve would take good care of
her cubs!"

"Oh! I believe you--you are very brave; but coward me prefers spring
to winter. Oh! the spring, Madame Martial, the spring! when the leaves
burst forth; when the pretty wood-flowers blossom, which smell so
good--so good, that the air is perfumed. Then it is that your children
will tumble gayly on the new grass, and the forest will become so
thick and bushy, that your house can hardly be seen for the foliage; I
think I can see it from here. There is a bower before the door that
your husband has planted, which shades the seat of turf where he
sleeps during the heat of the day, while you go and come, and tell the
children not to wake their father. I do not know if you have remarked
it, but at noon in the middle of summer, it is as silent in the woods
as during the night. Not a leaf stirs, not a bird is heard to sing."

"That is true," repeated La Louve, mechanically, who, forgetting more
and more the reality, believed almost that she saw displayed before
her eyes the smiling pictures described by the poetic imagination of
Fleur-de-Marie, instinctively a lover of the beauties of nature.

Delighted with the profound attention which her companion lent her,
she continued, allowing herself to be carried away by the charm of the
thoughts she evoked. "There is one thing that I like almost as well as
the silence of the woods; it is the patter of the large drops of rain
in the summer, falling on the leaves; do you like this also?"

"Oh yes--I like also, very much, the summer rain."

"When the trees, moss, and grass are all well moistened, what a fine
fresh odor! And then, how the sun, peeping through the trees, makes
all the drops of water sparkle which hang from the leaves after the
shower. Have you remarked this also?"

"Yes, but I didn't remember it till you told it me. How droll it is!
you tell it so well, La Goualeuse, that one seems to see everything as
you speak; and--I do not know how to explain this to you; but what you
have said--smells good--is refreshing--like the summer rain of which
you spoke."

Thus, like the beautiful and the good, poetry is often contagious. La
Louve's brutal and savage nature had to submit in everything to the
influence of Fleur-de-Marie. She added, smiling, "We must not believe
that we are alone in loving the summer rain. How happy the birds are!
how they shake their wings in warbling joyously--not more joyously,
however, than your children, free, gay, and lively as they are: see
how, at the close of day, the youngest runs through the woods to meet
his brother, who brings the heifers from the pasture; they soon heard
the tinkling of their bells."

"Why, La Goualeuse, it seems to me that I can see the smallest, yet
the boldest, who has been placed by his brother, who sustains him,
astride the back of one of the cows."

"And one would say that the poor beast knew what burden she was
bearing, she walks with so much precaution.

"But now it is supper time: your eldest, while the cattle were
grazing, has amused himself in filling a basket for you with wild
strawberries, which he has brought covered with violets."

"Strawberries and violets--oh! that must be a balm. But where the
mischief do you get such ideas, La Goualeuse?"

"In the woods, where the strawberries ripen, where the violets bloom;
it is only to look and collect, Madame Martial. But let us speak of
the housekeeping: it is night, you must milk your cows, prepare the
supper under the arbor, for you hear your husband's dogs bark, and
soon the voice of their master, who, tired as he is, comes home
singing. And why should he not sing, when, on a fine summer evening,
with a contented mind, he regains his house, where a good wife and
fine children await him?"

"True, one could not do otherwise than sing," said La Louve, becoming
more and more thoughtful.

"At least, if one does not weep from joy," continued Fleur-de-Marie,
herself affected. "And such tears are as sweet as songs. And then,
when night has closed in, what happiness to remain under the arbor, to
enjoy the serenity of a fine evening; to breathe the perfume of the
forest; to hear the children prattle; to look at the stars! Then the
heart is so full that it must be relieved by prayer. How not thank Him
to whom one owes the freshness of the night, the perfume of the woods,
the sweet light of the starry heavens? After these thanks or this
prayer, you go to sleep peacefully until the morning, and then again
you thank the Creator; for this poor, industrious, but calm and honest
life, is that of every day."

"Of every day!" repeated La Louve, her head on her bosom, her eyes
fixed, her breathing oppressed; "for it is true, God is good to give
us the power to live happy on so little."

"Well, now, say," continued Fleur-de-Marie, gently, "say, ought he not
be blessed and thanked next to Heaven, who would give you this
peaceful and industrious life, instead of the miserable one you lead
in the mud in the streets of Paris?"

The word "Paris" called La Louve to the reality.

A strange phenomenon had just been occurring in the mind, the soul of
this creature. A natural picture of an humble working life, a simple
recital, now lighted up by the soft glimmerings of a domestic
fireside, gilded by some joyous rays of the sun, refreshed by the
gentle winds of the forest, or perfumed by the odor of wild flowers,
had made on La Louve an impression more profound, more striking, than
all the exhortations of transcendent morality could have effected.
Yes, as Fleur-de-Marie spoke, La Louve had yearned to be an
indefatigable housekeeper, an honest wife, a pious and devoted mother.
To inspire, even for a moment, a violent, immoral, degraded woman,
with a love of family, the respect of duty, the desire to labor,
gratitude toward the Creator, and that by promising her merely what
God gives to all, the sun of Heaven and the shade of the forest, what
man owes to the sweat of his brow, bread and shelter--was it not a
triumph for Fleur-de-Marie? Would the moralist the most severe, the
preacher the most fulminating, have obtained more by their menacing
threats of every vengeance, human and Divine?

The angry feelings shown by La Louve when she awoke from her dream to
the reality, showed the effects or influence of the words of her
companion. The more her regrets were bitter on awakening to the sense
of her horrible position, the more the triumph of the Goualeuse was
manifest.

After a moment of silent reflection, La Louve suddenly raised her
head, passed her hand over her face, and arose from her seat,
threatening and angry.

"You see that I had reason to avoid you, and not listen to you,
because it only does me harm! Why have you talked in this way to me?--
to laugh at me? to torment me? And because I was fool enough to tell
you that I would like to live in a forest with Martial! But who are
you, then? Why do you turn my head in this way? You do not know what
you have done, unlucky girl! Now in spite of myself, I shall always be
thinking of that wood, that house, those children, all that happiness,
which I never shall have--never, never! And if I cannot forget what
you have told me, my life will be a torment, a hell; and all by your
fault--yes, by your fault!"

"So much the better!--oh! so much the better!" said Fleur-de-Marie.

"You dare to say so?" cried La Louve, with threatening eyes.

"Yes, so much the better; for if your miserable mode of living from
henceforth proves a hell, you will prefer that of which I have
spoken."

"And what good for me to prefer it, since I cannot enjoy it? why
regret being a girl of the streets, since I must die one?" cried La
Louve, more and more irritated, seizing hold of the small hand of
Fleur-de-Marie. "Answer--answer! Why have you made me wish for a life
I cannot have?"

"To wish for an honest and industrious life is to be worthy of such a
life, I have told you," answered Fleur-de-Marie, without seeking to
disengage her hand.

"Well, what then, when I shall be worthy? what does it prove? how
advance me?"

"To see realized that which you regard as a dream," said Fleur-de-Marie,
in a voice so serious and convincing that La Louve, again
overpowered, abandoned the hand of La Goualeuse, and remained struck
with astonishment. "Listen to me, La Louve," added Marie, in a voice
full of compassion; "do not think me so cruel as to awaken in you
these thoughts, these hopes, if I were not sure, in making you ashamed
of your present condition, to give you the means to escape from it."

"You cannot do that!"

"I--no; but some one who is good, great, almost all-powerful."

"All-powerful?"

"Listen again, La Louve. Three months since, like you, I was a poor,
lost, abandoned creature. One day, he, of whom I speak with tears of
gratitude,"--Fleur-de-Marie wiped her tears--"came to me; he was not
afraid, debased and despised although I was, to speak to me words of
consolation--the first I ever heard! I told him my sufferings, misery,
and shame, without concealing anything, just as you have now related
to me your life, La Louve. After having listened to me with kindness,
he did not blame--but pitied me, he did not deride me for my
degradation, but extolled the happy and peaceful life of the country."

"Like you just now."

"Then my situation appeared the more frightful, as the possible future
which he pointed out seemed to me more enchanting."

"Like me also."

"Yes; and like you I said, 'What good, alas! to show this Paradise to
me, who am condemned to a hell upon earth?' But I was wrong to
despair; for he of whom I speak is sovereignly just, sovereignly good,
and incapable of causing a false hope to shine in the eyes of a poor
creature who asked neither pity, nor hope, nor happiness from any
one."

"And what did he do for you?"

"He treated me like a sick child; I was, like you, plunged in air
corrupt, he sent me to respire a salubrious and vivifying atmosphere;
I lived also among hideous and criminal beings; he confided me to
beings made after his own image, who have purified my soul, elevated
my mind; for, to all those he loves and respects, he gives a spark of
his celestial intelligence. Yes, if my words move you, La Louve, if my
tears cause your tears to flow, it is his mind, his thoughts inspire
me! if I speak to you of a future more happy, which you will obtain by
repentance, it is because I can promise you this future in his name,
although he is now ignorant of the engagement I make. In short, if I
say to you, 'Hope!' it is because he always hears the voice of those
who desire to become better; for God has sent him on this earth to
further the belief in Providence."

Thus speaking, the countenance of Fleur-de-Marie became glowing and
inspired; her pale cheeks were colored for a moment with a slight
carnation; her beautiful blue eyes softly sparkled; she beamed forth a
beauty so noble, so touching, that La Louve, profoundly affected at
this conversation, looked at her companion with admiration, and cried,
"Where am I? Do I dream? I have never heard nor seen anything like
this; it is not possible! but who are you, once more? oh! I said truly
that you were not one of us! But how is it that you who speak so well,
who can do so much, who know such powerful people, are here, a
prisoner with us? is it to tempt us? You are, then, for good--what the
devil is for evil!"

Fleur-de-Marie was about to reply, when Madame Armand came and
interrupted her to conduct her to Madame d'Harvile. She said to La
Louve, who remained dumb from surprise, "I see with pleasure that the
presence of La Goualeuse in this prison has been beneficial to you and
your companions. I know that you have made a collection for poor Mont
Saint Jean; that is good and charitable, La Louve. It shall be
reckoned to you. I was sure that you were better than you appeared to
be. In recompense for your good action, I think I can promise you that
your imprisonment shall be abridged by many days." And Madame Armand
departed, followed by Fleur-de-Marie.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE PROTECTRESS.


The inspectress entered, with Goualeuse, the room where Clemence was;
the pale cheeks of the girl were slightly flushed from her earnest
conversation with La Louve.

"My lady the marchioness, pleased with the excellent accounts I have
given of you," said Madame Armand to Fleur-de-Marie, "desires to see
you, and perhaps will deign to obtain permission for you to leave here
before the expiration of your time."

"I thank you, madame," answered Fleur-de-Marie, timidly, to Madame
Armand, who left her alone with the noble lady.

Clemence, struck with the beautiful features of her _protegee_,
and her graceful and modest bearing, could not help remembering that
the Goualeuse had, in her sleep, pronounced the name of Rudolph, and
that the inspectress believed her to be preyed upon by a deep and
concealed love. Although perfectly convinced that the Grand Duke
Rudolph could not be in question, Clemence allowed that, at least in
point of beauty, La Goualeuse was worthy of the love of a prince. At
the sight of her protectress, whose expression, as we have said, was
that of ineffable goodness, Fleur-de-Marie felt herself irresistibly
drawn toward her.

"My child," said Clemence, "in praising much the sweetness of your
disposition and the exemplary propriety of your conduct, Madame Armand
complains of your want of confidence in her."

Fleur-de-Marie held down her head without replying.

"The peasant dress in which you were clothed when you were arrested,
your silence on the subject of where you resided before you came here,
prove that you conceal something."

"Madame--"

"I have no right to your confidence, my poor child; I wish to ask you
no improper questions; only I am assured, that if I ask your release
from prison it will be granted. Before I ask, I wish to talk with you
of your projects and resources for the future. Once free, what will
you do? If, as I doubt not, you are decided to follow in the good path
you have entered, have confidence in me--I will put you in a way to
gain your living honorably."

La Goualeuse was affected to tears at the interest Madame d'Harville
evinced for her. She said, after a moment's thought, "You deign,
madame, to show yourself so benevolent and generous, that I ought,
perhaps, to break the silence which I have hitherto preserved as to
the past. An oath compelled me."

"An oath?"

"Yes, madame; I have sworn to conceal from justice, and from the
persons employed in this prison, in what manner I have been brought
here; yet, if you will, madame, make me a promise--"

"What promise?"

"To keep my secret. I can, thanks to you, madame, without breaking my
oath, relieve some respectable people, who, doubtless, are very uneasy
about me."

"Count on my discretion; I will only tell what you authorize me to
say."

"Oh, thank you, madame! I feared so much that my silence toward my
benefactors would look like ingratitude."

The sweet tears of Fleur-de-Marie, her language, so well chosen,
struck Madame d'Harville with renewed astonishment.

"I cannot conceal from you," said she, "that your bearing, your words,
all astonish me much. How, with an education such as you appear to
have had, how could you---"

"Fall so low, madame?" said the Goualeuse, bitterly.

"Yes, alas!"

"It is but a short time since I received it. I owe it to a generous
protector, who, like you, madame, without knowing me, without ever
having the favorable accounts which they have given you here of me,
took compassion on me."

"And who is this protector?"

"I am ignorant, madame."

"You are ignorant?"

"He has only made himself known to me by his inexhaustible goodness.
Thanks to heaven! I found myself in his way."

"Where did you meet him?"

"One night, in the city, madame," said La Goualeuse, casting down her
eyes, "a man wanted to strike me; this unknown benefactor courageously
defended me. Such was my first encounter with him."

"He was, then, a man of the common order?"

"The first time I saw him he had their dress and language, but
afterward--"

"Afterward?"

"The manner in which he spoke to me, the profound respect shown him by
the people to whom he confided me, all proved to me that he had
disguised himself as one of the men who frequent the city."

"But for what purpose?"

"I do not know."

"And the name of this mysterious protector, do you know it?"

"Oh, yes, madame, thank heaven!" said Goualeuse, with warmth; "for I
can bless and adore without ceasing this name. My deliverer is known
as Rudolph, madame."

Clemence blushed deeply.

"And has he no other name?" asked she, quickly, of Fleur-de-Marie.

"I do not know, madame. At the farm where he sent me, he was only
known by the name of Rudolph."

"And his age?"

"He is still young, madame."

"And handsome?"

"Oh, yes! handsome, noble--as his heart."

The grateful, feeling manner with which Fleur-de-Marie pronounced
these words, caused a disagreeable sensation to Madame d'Harville. An
invincible, an inexplicable presentiment told her that this Rudolph
was the prince.

"The observations of the inspectress were well founded," thought
Clemence. "The Goualeuse loves Rudolph; it was his name she pronounced
in her sleep. Under what strange circumstances had the prince and this
poor girl met? Why did Rudolph go disguised into the city?" She could
not resolve these questions; only she remembered that Sarah had
formerly, wickedly and falsely, related to her some pretended
eccentricities of Rudolph, and of his strange amours. Was it not,
indeed, strange that he had taken from a life of misery this creature,
of ravishing beauty and of no common mind?

Clemence had noble qualities, but she was a woman, and she loved
Rudolph profoundly, although she had determined to bury this secret in
the very depths of her heart. Without reflecting that this, no doubt,
was one of those generous actions which the prince was accustomed to
do secretly; without reflecting that, perhaps, she confounded with
love a sentiment of warm gratitude; without reflecting, finally, that
of this sentiment, even if it were more tender, Rudolph might be
ignorant, the lady, in the first feeling of bitterness and injustice,
could not prevent herself considering the Goualeuse as a rival. Her
pride revolted in feeling that she blushed; that she suffered, in
spite of herself, at a rivalry so abject. She resumed, then, in a cold
manner, which cruelly contrasted with the affectionate benevolence of
her first words, "And how is it, girl, that your protector leaves you
in prison? How did you get here?"

"Madame," said Fleur-de-Marie, timidly, struck with this change of
language: "have I displeased you in any way?"

"How could you have displeased me?" demanded Madame d'Harville, with
haughtiness.

"It seems to me that just now you spoke to me with more kindness,
madame."

"Truly, girl, must I weigh each of my words, since I consent to
interest myself in you? I have the right, I think, to address you
questions?"

Hardly were these words pronounced than Clemence, for many reasons,
regretted their severity. In the first place, by a praiseworthy return
of generosity; then because she thought, by offending her rival, she
could learn nothing more of what she wished to know.

In effect, the countenance of La Goualeuse, one moment open and
confiding, became instantly reserved.

Like the sensitive plant, which at the first touch closes its delicate
leaves, and folds them within its bosom, the heart of Fleur-de-Marie
contracted painfully.

Clemence resumed gently, not to awaken the suspicions of her
_protegee_ by too sudden a change. "In truth, I repeat to you, I
cannot comprehend that, having so much to praise in your benefactor,
you should be a prisoner here; how, after having sincerely returned to
the paths of rectitude, could you cause yourself to be arrested in a
place to you interdicted? All this seems to me extraordinary. You
speak of an oath which so far has imposed silence upon you; but this
oath even is so strange!"

"I have told the truth, madame."

"I am sure of it; one has only to see and hear you to believe you
incapable of a falsehood. But, what is incomprehensible in your
situation, augments, irritates my impatient curiosity; it is only to
that that you must attribute the sharpness of my words just now. Come,
I avow I was wrong; for, although I had no other right to your
confidence than my earnest wish to be useful to you, you have offered
to tell me that which you have told to no one, and I am very sensible,
believe me, my poor child, of this proof of your faith in the interest
I have for you. Hence, I promise you, in guarding scrupulously your
secret, if you confide it to me, I will do all in my power to meet
your wishes."

Thanks to this palliating speech, Madame d'Harville regained the
confidence of La Goualeuse, for a moment impaired. Fleur-de-Marie, in
her innocence, reproached herself for having misinterpreted the words
which had wounded her.

"Pardon me, madame," said she; "I was doubtless wrong not to tell you
at once what you wished to know; but you asked me the name of my
rescuer; in spite of myself, I cannot resist the pleasure of speaking
of him."

"Nothing is better; it proves how grateful you are toward him. But why
have you left the good people with whom he had placed you? Does your
oath have reference to this?"

"Yes, madame; but thanks to you, I believe now, still keeping my word,
I shall be able to satisfy my benefactors as to my disappearance."
"Come, my poor child, I listen."  "It is about three months since M.
Rudolph placed me at a farm situated four or five leagues hence."  "He
conducted you there himself?"  "Yes, madame; he confided me to the
care of a lady as good as she was venerable, whom I soon loved as a
mother. She and the cure of the village, at the request of M. Rudolph,
took charge of my education."  "And M. Rudolph often came to the
farm?"  "No, madame; he came there only three times while I was
there."  Clemence could not conceal a thrill of joy.  "And when he
came to see you, it made you very happy, did it not?"  "Oh, yes,
madame! it was for me more than happiness: It was a sentiment mixed
with gratitude, respect, admiration, and even a little fear."  "Fear!"
"From him to me--from him to others--the distance is so great!"  "But
what is his rank?"  "I am ignorant if he has any rank, madame."  "Yet
you speak of the distance which exists between him and others."  "Oh,
madame! that which places him above the rest of the world is the
elevation of his character--his inexhaustible generosity for those who
suffer; it is the enthusiasm with which he inspires everybody. The
wicked even cannot hear his name without trembling; they respect him
as much as they fear him. But pardon me, madame, for having again
spoken of him--I ought to be silent; for I should give you but an
imperfect idea of him whom I ought to content myself with adoring to
myself. As well attempt to express by words the grandeur of Heaven!
This comparison is perhaps sacrilegious, madame. But will it offend to
compare to Goodness itself the man who has given me a consciousness of
good and evil--who has dragged me from the abyss--to whom I owe a new
existence?"  "I do not blame you, my child; I comprehend your
feelings. But how have you abandoned this farm, where you were so
happy?"

"Alas, it was not voluntary, madame!"

"Who forced you, then?"

"One night, a short time since," said Fleur-de-Marie, trembling at the
recital, "I went to the parsonage of the village, when a wicked woman,
who had treated me cruelly in my childhood, and a man, her accomplice,
who was concealed with her in a ravine, threw themselves upon me,
wrapped me up, and carried me off in a carriage."

"For what purpose?"

"I do not know, madame. My waylayers were acting, I think, under the
orders of some powerful persons."

"What then ensued?"

"Hardly had the vehicle moved, than the bad woman, whose name was La
Chouette (Screech-Owl), cried, 'I have got some vitriol; I am going to
wash the face of La Goualeuse, to disfigure her.'"

"How horrid! Unfortunate child! What saved you from that danger?"

"The accomplice of this woman, a blind man, called the Schoolmaster."

"He defended you?"

"Yes, madame, on this occasion and on another. This time a struggle
ensued between him and La Chouette. Availing himself of his strength,
he forced her to throw out of the window the bottle which contained
the vitriol. This was the first service he rendered me, after having
assisted in carrying me off. The night was very dark. At the end of an
hour and a half the carriage stopped, I believe on the high road which
crosses the plain of Saint Denis; a man on horseback waited for us
here. 'Well,' said he, 'have you got her at last?' 'Yes, we have her,'
answered La Chouette, who was furious at having been prevented from
disfiguring me. 'If you wish to get rid of this little thing there is
a good way; I will stretch her on the road--drive the wheels of the
carriage over her head--it will look as if she was run over by
accident.'"

"Oh, this is frightful!"

"Alas, madame! La Chouette was well capable of doing what she said.
Happily, the man on horseback said that he did not wish to harm me;
that it was only necessary to keep me shut up for two months in some
place where I could neither get out nor write to any one. Then La
Chouette proposed to take me to a man called Bras-Rouge, who kept a
tavern in the Champs Elysees. In this tavern there were several
subterranean chambers; one of them, La Chouette said, could answer for
my prison. The man on horseback accepted this proposition. Then he
promised me that, after remaining two months with Bras-Rouge, I should
be so provided for that I would not regret the farm at Bouqueval."

"What a strange mystery!"

"This man gave some money to La Chouette, promising her some more when
I should be taken from Bras-Rouge, and set out on a gallop. We
continued our route toward Paris. A short time before we arrived at
the gates, the Schoolmaster said to La Chouette, 'You wish to shut up
La Goualeuse in one of Bras-Rouge's cellars; you know very well that,
being near the river, these cellars in winter are always inundated. Do
you wish to drown her?' 'Yes,' answered La Chouette."

"But what had you done to this horrible woman?"

"Nothing, madame: and yet, since my infancy, she has always shown this
feeling toward me. The Schoolmaster answered, 'I will not have the
Goualeuse drowned; she shall not go to Bras-Rouge.' La Chouette was as
much surprised as I was, madame, to hear this man defend me thus. She
became furious, and swore that she would take me to Bras-Rouge in
spite of him. 'I defy you,' said he,' for I have La Goualeuse by the
arm; I will not let her go, and I'll strangle you if you come near
her.' But what do you mean to do with her?' cried La Chouette, 'since
she must be put out of the way for two months.' 'There is a way,' said
the Schoolmaster; 'we are going to the Champs Elysees; we will stop
the carriage near the guard-house; you will go and look for Bras-Rouge
at his tavern. It is midnight; you will find him there; bring him with
you; he will take La Goualeuse to the post, and declare she is a gay
girl, whom he found near his tavern. As they are condemned to three
months' imprisonment when they are caught on the Champs Elysees, and
Goualeuse is still on the police lists, she will be arrested, and sent
to Saint Lazare, where she will be as well guarded and concealed as in
the cellar of Bras-Rouge.' 'But,' replied La Chouette, 'the Goualeuse
will not suffer herself to be arrested; once at the guard-house, she
will tell all, she will denounce us. Supposing, even, that she is
imprisoned, she will write to her protectors; all will be discovered.'
'No, she will go to prison willingly,' answered the School-master; 'she
must swear that she will not denounce us to any one as long as she
remains at Saint Lazare, nor afterward either. She owes as much to me,
for I have prevented her being disfigured by you, and drowned at
Bras-Rouge's; but if after having sworn not to speak, she should do
it, we will set the farm at Bouqueval a-fire.' Then, addressing me, he
said, 'Decide! swear the oath I ask, you shall go to prison for two
months; otherwise I abandon you to La Chouette, who will take you to
the cellar, where you'll be drowned. Come, decide. I know If you swear
you will keep your oath.'"

"And you have sworn?"

"Alas! yes, madame; I feared so much to be disfigured by La Chouette,
or to be drowned in a cellar; that appeared to me so frightful. Any
other kind of death would nave appeared less fearful. I should not,
perhaps, have endeavored to escape."

"What a gloomy idea at your age!" said Madame d'Harville, looking at
La Goualeuse with surprise. "Once away from this place, returned to
your benefactors, will you not be very happy? Has not your repentance
effaced the past?"

"Can the past be effaced? Can the past be forgotten? Can repentance
destroy the memory, madame?" cried Fleur-de-Marie, in a tone so
despairing that Clemence shuddered.

"But all faults can be redeemed, unhappy child!"

"But the recollection of the stain--madame, does it not become more
and more terrible in measure as the mind is purified, as the soul
becomes elevated? Alas! the more you mount the deeper appears the
abyss from which you have emerged."

"Then you renounce all hope of re-establishment and pardon?"

"On the part of others--no, madame; your goodness proves that
indulgence is never wanting to the penitent."

"You will, then, be the only one without pity toward yourself?"

"Others may be ignorant, may pardon and forget what I have been. I,
madame, never can forget."'

"And sometimes you wish to die?"

"Sometimes!" said La Goualeuse, smiling bitterly, "yes, madame,
sometimes."

"Yet you feared to be disfigured by that horrible woman? you cling to
your beauty, then, poor child? That announces that life has some
charms for you. Courage, then--courage!"

"It is, perhaps, a weakness to think so; but if I were handsome, as
you say, madame, I should wish to die handsome, in pronouncing the
name of my benefactor."

The eyes of Madame d'Harville filled with tears.

Fleur-de-Marie had said these words so simply; her angelic features,
pale and cast down, her mournful smile, were so much in unison with
her words, that no one could doubt the reality of her gloomy desire.
Madame d'Harville was endowed with too much sensibility not to feel
what was fatal and inflexible in this thought of La Goualeuse-_ "I
shall never forget what I have been" _--a fixed, constant idea,
which would predominate and torture the life of Fleur-de-Marie.
Clemence, ashamed at having for a moment misunderstood the generosity,
always so disinterested, of the prince, also regretted that she should
have had for a moment a feeling of jealousy toward La Goualeuse, who
had expressed, with so much warmth, her gratitude toward her
protector. Strange thing--the admiration which this poor prisoner
showed so vividly for Rudolph, augmented, perhaps, still more the
profound love which Clemence was forever to conceal from him. She
resumed, to drive away her thoughts: "I hope that, in future, you will
be less severe toward yourself. But let us speak of your oath; now I
can understand your silence. You did not wish to denounce the
wretches?"

"Although the Schoolmaster took part in my abduction, he had twice
defended me--I was afraid of being ungrateful toward him."

"And you lent yourself to the designs of these monsters?"

"Yes, madame, I was so much alarmed! La Chouette went to seek
Bras-Rouge; he took me to the guard-house, saying he found me roving
about his inn; I did not deny it; I was arrested, and brought here."

"But your friends at the farm must be very much alarmed."

"Alas, madame, in my fright I did not reflect that my oath would
prevent me from informing them; now it gives me much pain, but I
believe that, without breaking my oath, I can beg you to write to
Madame George, at the farm of Bouqueval, to have no uneasiness about
me, without telling her where I am, for I have promised to be silent."

"My child, these precautions will become useless if, at my
recommendation, you are pardoned; to-morrow you shall return to the
farm, without having broken your oath; you can then consult your
benefactors, to know how far you are restricted by this oath, drawn
from you by threats."

"You think, madame, that, thanks to your kindness, I can hope to leave
here soon?"

"You deserve so much interest, that I shall succeed, I am sure, and I
doubt not that after to-morrow you can go yourself to reassure your
benefactors."

"How can I have merited so much kindness on your ladyship's part? How
can I show my gratitude?"

"By continuing to conduct yourself as you have done. I only regret I
can do nothing for your future welfare-it is a pleasure that your
friends have reserved."

Madame Armand entered suddenly, with an alarmed air.

"Madame," said she to Clemence, with hesitation, "I am grieved at the
message I have to deliver to you."

"What do you mean to say, madame?"

"The Duke de Lucenay is below-he comes from your house, madame."

"You frighten me; what is it?"

"I am ignorant, madame, but M. de Lucenay has information for you, he
says, as sad, as it was unforeseen. He learned at his wife's that you
were here and he came in all haste."

"Sad news!" said Madame d'Harville. Then suddenly she cried in a
heart-rending tone, "My daughter-my child, perhaps! Oh, speak,
madame!"

"I am ignorant, madame."

"Oh! in mercy, madame, take me to M. de Lucenay," cried Madame
d'Harville, going out, quite bewildered, and followed by Madame
Armand.

"Poor mother!" said the Gonaleuse, sadly; "oh, now, it is impossible!
At the moment even when she was showing so much benevolence toward me,
such a blow to fall! No, no-once more, it is impossible!"



CHAPTER XVII.

A FORGED INTIMACY.


We will conduct the reader to the house in the Rue du Temple, the day
of the suicide of M. d'Harville, about three o'clock in the afternoon.
Pipelet, the porter, alone in the lodge, was occupied in mending a
boot. The chaste porter was dejected and melancholy. As a soldier, in
the humiliation of his defeat, passes his hand sadly over his scars,
Pipelet breathed a profound sigh, stopped his work, and moved his
trembling finger over the transverse fracture of his huge hat, made by
an insolent hand. Then all the chagrin, inquietude, and fears of
Alfred Pipelet were awakened in thinking of the inconceivable and
incessant pursuits of the author.

Pipelet had not a very extended or elevated mind; his imagination was
not the most lively nor the most poetical, but he possessed a very
solid, very logical, very common sense.

Cabrion, a painter, formerly a tenant, had seen fit to make the porter
a butt of the most audacious practical jokes, inundating him with
caricatures, laughable labels, and startling appearances before his
unexpectant appalled sight. Unfortunately, by a natural consequence of
the rectitude of his judgment, not being able to comprehend practical
jokes, Pipelet endeavored to find some reasonable motive for the
outrageous conduct of Cabrion, and on this subject he posed himself
with a thousand insoluble questions. Thus, sometimes, a new Paschal,
he felt himself seized with a vertigo in trying to sound the
bottomless abyss which the infernal genius of the painter had dug
under his feet. How many times, in the overflowings of his
imagination, he had been forced to commune within himself thanks to
the frenzied skepticism of Madame Pipelet, who, only looking at facts,
and disdaining to seek after causes, grossly considered the
incomprehensible conduct of Cabrion toward Alfred as simple
comicality.

Pipelet, a serious man, could not admit of such an interpretation; he
groaned at the blindness of his wife; his dignity as a man revolted at
the thought that he could be the plaything of a combination so vulgar
as a _lark!_ He was absolutely convinced that the unheard-of
conduct of Cabriori concealed some mysterious plot under a frivolous
appearance.

It was to solve this fatal problem that the man in the big hat
exhausted his powerful logic. "I would sooner lay my head on the
scaffold," said this austere man, who, as soon as he touched them,
increased immensely the importance of any propositions. "I would
sooner lay my head upon the scaffold than admit that, in the mere
intention of a stupid pleasantry, Cabrion could be so obstinately
exasperated against me; a _farce_ is only played for the gallery.
Now, in his last undertaking, this obnoxious creature had no witness;
he acted alone and in obscurity, as always; he clandestinely
introduced himself into the solitude of my lodge to deposit on my
forehead a hideous kiss! I ask any disinterested person, for what
purpose? It was not from bravado--no one saw him; it was not from
pleasure--the laws of nature opposed it; it was not from friendship--I
have but one enemy in the world--it is he. It must, then, be
acknowledged that there is a mystery there which my reason cannot
penetrate! Then to what does this diabolical plot, concerted and
pursued with a persistence which alarms me, tend? That I cannot
comprehend: it is this impossibility to raise the veil, which, by
degrees, is undermining and consuming me."

Such were the painful reflections of Pipelet at the moment when we
present him to our readers. The honest porter had just torn open his
bleeding wounds, by carry--his hand mechanically to the fracture of
his hat, when a piercing voice, coming from one of the upper stories
of the house, made these words resound again: "Mr. Pipelet, quick!
quick! come up! make haste!"

"I do not know that voice," said Alfred, after a moment of anxious
listening, and he let his arm, inclosed in the boot he was mending,
fall on his knees.

"Mr. Pipelet! make haste!" repeated the voice, in a pressing tone.

"That voice is completely strange to me. It is masculine; it calls me,
that I can affirm. It is not a sufficient reason that I should abandon
my lodge. Leave it--desert it in the absence of my wife--never!" cried
Alfred, heroically, "never!"

"Mr. Pipelet," said the voice, "come up quick, Mrs. Pipelet is off in
a swoon."

"Anastasia!" cried Alfred, rising from his seat: then be fell back
again, saying to himself, "child that I am--it is impossible; my wife
went out an hour ago. Yes, but might she not have returned without my
seeing her? This would be rather irregular; but I must declare that it
is possible."

"Mr. Pipelet, come up; I have your wife in my arms!"

"Some one has my wife in their arms!" said Pipelet, rising abruptly.

"I cannot unlace Mrs. Pipelet all alone!" added the voice.

These words produced a magical effect upon Alfred: his face flushed,
his chastity revolted.

"The masculine and unknown voice speaks of unlacing Anastasia!" cried
he: "I oppose it, I forbid it!" and he rushed out of the lodge; but on
the threshold he stopped.

Pipelet found himself in one of those horribly critical, and eminently
dramatical positions, so often described by poets. On the one hand,
duty retained him in his lodge: on the other, his chaste and conjugal
susceptibility called him to the upper stories of the house. In the
midst of these terrible perplexities, the voice said:

"You don't come, Mr. Pipelet? so much the worse--I cut the strings,
and I shut my eyes!"

This threat decided Pipelet.

"Mossieur!" cried he, in a stentorian voice, "in the name of honor I
conjure you to cut nothing--to leave my wife intact! I come!" and
Alfred rushed upstairs, leaving, in his alarm, the door of the lodge
open. Hardly had he left it, than a man entered quickly, took from the
table a hammer, jumped on the bed, at the back part of the obscure
alcove, and vanished. This operation was done so quickly, that the
porter, remembering almost immediately that he had left the door open,
returned precipitately, shut it, and carried off the key, without
suspecting that any one could have entered in this interval. After
this measure of precaution, Alfred started again to the assistance of
Anastasia, crying, with all his strength, "Cut nothing--I am coming--
here I am--I place my wife under the safeguard of your delicacy!"

Hardly had he mounted the first flight, before he heard the voice of
Anastasia, not from the upper story, but in the alley.

The voice, shriller than ever cried, "Alfred! here you leave the lodge
alone! Where are you, old gadabout?"

At this moment, Pipelet was about placing his right foot on the
landing-place of the first story; he remained petrified, his head
turned toward the bottom of the stairs, his mouth open, his eyes
fixed, his foot raised.

"Alfred!" cried Mrs. Pipelet anew.

"Anastasia is below--she is not above, occupied in being sick," said
Pipelet to himself, faithful to his logical argumentation. "But then
this unknown and masculine voice, who threatened to unlace her, is an
impostor. He has been playing a cruel game with my emotions! What is
his design? There is something extraordinary going on here! No matter:
do your duty, happen what may! After having responded to my wife, I
shall mount to enlighten this mystery and verify this voice."

Pipelet descended, very much troubled, and found himself face to face
with his wife.

"It is you?" said he.

"Well! yes, it is me; who would you have it to be?"

"It is you--my eyes do not deceive me!"

"Ah, now! what is the matter, that makes your big eyes look like
billiard balls? You look at me as if you were going to eat me."

"Your presence reveals to me that something has been passing here--
things--"

"What things? Come, give me the key of the lodge; why do you leave it?
I come from the office of the Normandy diligences, where I went in a
hack, to carry the trunk of M. Bradamanti, who did not wish it to be
known that he was about to leave town to-night, and who could not
depend on that little scoundrel Tortillard (Hoppy)--and he is right!"

Saying these words, Mrs. Pipelet took the key, which her husband held
in his hand, opened the lodge, and went in before her husband.

Hardly had they entered, when a person, descending the staircase
lightly, passed rapidly and unperceived before the lodge. It was the
"masculine voice" which had so deeply excited the inquietudes of
Alfred.

Pipelet rested himself heavily on his chair, and said to his wife in a
trembling voice, "Anastasia, I do not feel at my accustomed ease;
things occurring here--events--"

"Now you repeat that again; but things occur everywhere; what is the
matter? Come, let us see--why, you are all wet--all in a perspiration!
what effort have you been making? He's all a-trickling--the old
darling!"

"Yes, I perspire, as I have reason to;" Pipelet passed his hand over
his face, dripping with moisture; "for there are regular revolutionary
events passing here."

"Again I ask, what is it? You never can remain quiet. You must always
be trotting about like a cat, instead of remaining in your chair to
take care of the lodge."

"If I trot, it is for you."

"For me?"

"Yes; to spare you an outrage for which we both should have groaned
and blushed, I have deserted a post which I consider as sacred as the
sentry-box."

"Some one wished to commit an outrage on me--on me!"

"It was not on you, since the outrage of which you were threatened was
to have been accomplished upstairs, and you were gone out--"

"May Old Harry run away with me, if I understand a single word of what
you are singing there. Ah, ah! is it that you are decidedly losing your
noddle? I shall begin to think that you are absent-minded--the fault
of that beggarly Cabrion! Since his games of the other day, I don't
know you; you look struck all of a heap. That being will be always
your nightmare."

Hardly had Anastasia pronounced the words than a strange thing came to
pass. Alfred remained sitting, his face turned toward the bed. The
lodge was lighted by the sickly light of a winter's day, and by a
lamp. At the moment his wife pronounced the name Cabrion, Pipelet
thought he saw in the shade of the alcove the immovable, cunning face
of the painter. It was he, his pointed hat, long hair, thin face,
satanic smile, queer beard, and paralyzing gaze. For a moment, Pipelet
thought himself in a dream; he passed his hand over his eyes,
believing that he was the victim of an illusion. It was not an
illusion. Nothing could be more real than this apparition. Frightful
thing! nobody could be seen, but only a head, of which the living
flesh stood out in bold relief from the obscurity of the alcove. At
this sight Pipelet fell over backward, without saying a word; he
raised his right arm toward the bed, and pointed at this terrible
vision, with a gesture so alarming, that Mrs. Pipelet turned to seek
the cause of an alarm of which she soon partook, in spite of her
habitual courage. She recoiled two steps, seized with force the hand
of Alfred, and cried, "Cabrion!"

"Yes," murmured Pipelet, in a hollow voice, almost extinct, shutting
his eyes.

The stupor of the pair paid the greatest honor to the talent of the
artist who had so admirably painted on the pasteboard the features of
Cabrion. Her first surprise over, Anastasia, as bold as a lion, ran to
the bed, got on it, and tore the picture from the wall.

The amazon crowned this valiant enterprise by shouting, as a war-cry,
her favorite exclamation, "Go ahead!"

Alfred, with his eyes closed, his hands stretched forth, remained
immovable, as he had always been accustomed to do in the critical
moments of his life. The convulsive oscillations of his hat alone
revealed, from time to time, the continued violence of his interior
emotions.

"Open your eyes, old darling," said Mrs. Pipelet, triumphantly; "it's
nothing! it's a picture; the portrait of that scoundrel Cabrion! Look,
see how I stamp upon him!" and Anastasia, in her indignation, threw
the picture on the ground, and trampled it under her feet, crying,
"That's the way I would like to treat his flesh and bones, the
wretch!" then picking it up, "see!" said she, "now it has my marks;
look now!"

Alfred shook his head negatively, without saying a word, and making a
sign to his wife to take away the detested picture.

"Has ever any one seen such impudence? This is not all; he has
written at the bottom, in red letters, 'Cabrion, to his good friend
Pipelet, for life,'" said the portress, examining the picture by the
light.

"His good friend for life!" murmured Alfred; raising his hands as if
to call heaven to witness this new outrageous irony.

[Illustration: Louise in Prison]

"But how could he do it?" said Anastasia. "This portrait was not there
this morning when I made the bed, very sure. You took the key with you
just now: nobody could have entered while you were absent? How, then,
once more, could this portrait get there? Could it be you, by chance,
who put it there, old darling?"

At this monstrous hypothesis, Alfred bounced from his seat; he opened
his eyes wide and threatening.

"I fasten in my alcove the portrait of this evil-doer, who, not
content with persecuting me by his odious presence, pursues me at
night in my dreams--the daytime in a picture! Would you make me mad,
Anastasia? mad enough to be chained?"

"Well! for the sake of making peace, you might have agreed with
Cabrion during my absence. Where would be the great harm?"

"I make up with--oh, merciful powers! you hear her?"

"And then, he might have given you his portrait, as a pledge of
friendship. If this is so, do not deny it."

"Anastasia!"

"If this is so, it must be confessed you are as capricious as a pretty
woman."

"Wife!"

"In short, it must have been you who placed the portrait!"

"I--oh!"

"But who is it then?"

"You, madame."

"I!"

"Yes," cried Pipelet wildly, "it is you; I have reason to believe it
is you. This morning, having my back turned toward the bed I could see
nothing."

"But, old darling, I tell you it must be you, otherwise I shall think
it was the devil."

"I have not left the lodge, and when I went upstairs to answer to the
call of the masculine organ, I had the key; the door was shut. You
opened it; deny that!"

"Ma foi; it is true!"

"You confess, then?"

"I confess that I comprehend nothing. It's a game, and it is prettily
played."

"A game!" cried Pipelet, carried away by frenzied indignation. "Ah!
there you are again! I tell you, I, that all this conceals some
abominable plot; there is something under all this--a plot. The abyss
is hidden under flowers--they try to stun me to prevent my seeing the
precipice from which they wish to plunge me. It only remains for me to
place myself under the protection of the laws. Happily, the Lord is on
our side;" and Pipelet turned toward the door,

"Where are you going, old darling?"

"To the commissary's, to lodge my complaint, and this portrait as
proof of the persecutions I am overwhelmed with."

"But what will you complain of?"

"What will I complain of? How! my most inveterate enemy shall find
means by proceeding fraudulently to force me to have his portrait in
my house, even on my nuptial bed, and the magistrates will not take me
under the aegis? Give me the portrait, Anastasia--give it to me--not
the side where the painting is, the sight revolts me! The traitor
cannot deny it; it is in his hand; Cabrion to his good friend Pipelet,
for life. For life! Yes, that's it; for my life, without doubt, he
pursues me, and he will finish by having it. I live in continual
alarm: I shall think that this infernal being is here, always here--
under the floor, in the walls, in the ceiling! at night he sees me
reposing in the arms of my wife; in the daytime he is standing behind
me, always with his satanic smile; and who will tell me that even at
this moment he is not here, concealed somewhere, like a venomous
insect? Come, now! are you there, monster? Are you here?" cried
Pipelet, accompanying this furious imprecation with a circular
movement of the head, as if he had wished to interrogate all parts of
the lodge.

"I am here, good friend!" said most affectionately the well-known
voice of Cabrion.

These words seemed to come from the bottom of the alcove, merely from
the effects of ventriloquism; for the infernal artist was standing
outside the door of the lodge, enjoying the smallest details of this
scene; however, after having pronounced these last words, he prudently
made off, not without leaving, as we shall see, a new subject of rage,
astonishment, and meditation to his victim. Mrs. Pipelet, always
courageous and skeptical, looked under the bed, and in every hole and
corner, without success, while M. Pipelet, undone by the last blow,
had fallen on the chair in a state of utter despair.

"It's nothing, Alfred," said Anastasia; "the scoundrel was concealed
behind the door, and while I looked one way, he escaped the other.
Patience, I'll catch him one of these days, and then, let him look
out! he shall taste the handle of my broom!"

The door opened, and Mrs. Seraphin, housekeeper of Jacques Ferrand,
entered.

"Good-day, Mrs. Seraphin," said Mrs. Pipelet, who, wishing to conceal
from a stranger her domestic sorrows, assumed a very gracious and
smiling air; "what can I do to serve you?"

"First, tell me, then, what is your new sign?"

"New sign?"

"The little sign."

"A little sign?"

"Yes, black with red letters, which is nailed over the door of your
alley."

"In the street?"

"Why, yes, in the street, just over your door."

"My dear Mrs. Seraphin, may I never speak again, if I understand a
word; and you, old darling?" Alfred remained dumb.

"In truth, it concerns Mr. Pipelet," said Mrs. Seraphin; "he must
explain this to me."

Alfred uttered a sort of low, inarticulate groan, shaking his hat, a
pantomime signifying that Alfred found himself incapable of explaining
anything to others, being sufficiently preoccupied with an infinity of
problems, each one more difficult of solution than the other.

"Pay no attention, Mrs. Seraphin," said Anastasia. "Poor Alfred has
got the cramp; that makes him--"

"But what is this sign, then, of which you speak?"

"Perhaps our neighbor--"

"No, no; I tell you it is a little sign nailed over your door."

"Come, you want to joke."

"Not at all; I saw it as I came in. There is written on it in large
letters, 'Pipelet and Cabrion, Dealers in Friendship, etc. Apply
within.'"

"That's written over our door, do you hear, Alfred?"

Pipelet looked at Mrs. Seraphin with a wild stare. He did not
comprehend; he did not wish to comprehend.

"It is in the street--on a sign!" repeated Mrs. Pipelet, confounded at
this new audacity.

"Yes, for I have just read it. Then I said to myself, 'What a funny
thing! Pipelet is a cobbler by trade, and he informs the passer-by
that he is engaged in a _commerce d'amitie_ with Cabrion. What
does it signify? There is something concealed, it is clear; but as
the sign says inquire within, Mrs. Pipelet will explain it." "But look
there," cried Mrs. Seraphin, suddenly, "your husband looks as if he
was sick; take care, he will fall backward!"

Mrs. Pipelet received Alfred in her arms, in a fainting state. This
last blow had been too violent; the man nearly lost all consciousness
as he pronounced these words:

"The creature has publicly posted me."

"I told you, Mrs. Seraphin, Alfred has the cramp, without speaking of
an unchained blackguard, who undermines him with his sorry tricks. The
poor old darling cannot resist it! Happily, I have a drop of bitters
here; probably it will put him on his legs."

In fact, thanks to the infallible remedy of Mrs. Pipelet, Alfred by
degrees recovered his senses; but, alas! hardly had he come to, than
he had to undergo another trial.

A middle-aged person, neatly dressed, and with a pleasing face, opened
the door, and said, "I have just seen on a sign placed over this door,
'Pipelet and Cabrion, Dealers in Friendship.' Can you, if you please,
do me the honor to inform me what this means--you being the porter of
this house?"

"What this means!" cried Pipelet in a thundering voice, giving vent to
his indignation, too long suppressed; "this means that Mr. Cabrion is
an infamous impostor, sir!"

The man, at this sudden and furious explosion, drew back a step.
Alfred, much exasperated, with a fiery look and purple face, had
stretched his body half out of the lodge, and leaned his contracted
hands on the lower half of the door, while the figures of Mrs.
Seraphin and Anastasia could be vaguely seen in the background, in the
semi-obscure light of the lodge.

"Learn, sir," cried Pipelet, "that I have no dealings with this
scoundrel Cabrion, and that of friendship still less than any other!"

"It is true; and you must be very queer, old noodle that you are to
come and ask such a question," cried Madame Pipelet, sharply, showing
her quarrelsome face over the shoulder of her husband.

"Madame!" said the man sententiously, falling back another step,
"notices are made to be read; you put them up, I read; I have the
right to do so, but you have no right to say such rude things."

"Rude things yourself, you beggarly wretch!" replied Anastasia,
showing her teeth. "You are a low-bred fellow. Alfred, your boot-tree,
till I take the length of his muzzle, to teach him to come and play
the Joe Miller at his age, old clown!"

"Insults when one comes to ask the meaning of a notice placed over
your own door? It shall not pass over in this way, madame!"

"But, sir!" cried the unhappy porter.

"But, sir," answered the quiz, pretending to be angry, "be as friendly
as you please with your Mr. Cabrion, but zounds! don't stick it in
large letters under the noses of the passers-by! I find myself under
the necessity of telling you that you are a pitiful wretch, and that I
shall go and make my complaint to the authorities!" and the quiz
departed in a great rage.

"Anastasia!" said Mr. Pipelet, in a sorrowful tone, "I shall not
survive this, I feel it; I am wounded to death. I have no hope of
escaping him. You see, my name is publicly stuck up alongside of this
wretch. He dares to say that I have a friendly trade with him, and the
public will believe it. I inform you--I say it--I communicate it; it
is monstrous, it is enormous it is an infernal idea: but it must
finish; the measure is full; either he or I must fall in this
struggle!" and, overcoming his habitual apathy, Pipelet, determined on
a vigorous resolution, seized the portrait of Cabrion, and rushed
toward the door.

"Where are you going to, Alfred?"

"To the commissary's. At the same time I am going to tear down this
infamous sign; then with this portrait and this sign in my hand, I
will cry to the commissary, 'Defend me! avenge me! deliver me from
Cabrion!'"

"Well said, old darling; stir yourself, shake yourself; if you cannot
get the sign down, ask the next door to help you, and lend you his
ladder."

"Rascally Cabrion! Oh, if I had him, and I could do it, I'd fry him on
my stove. I should like so much to see him suffer. Yes, people are
guillotined who do not deserve it as much as he does. The wretch! I
should like to see him on the scaffold, the villain!"

Alfred showed under these circumstances the most sublime equanimity.
Notwithstanding his great causes of revenge against Cabrion, he had
the generosity to feel sentiments akin to pity for him.

"No," said he; "no; even if I could, I would not ask for his head."

"As for me, I would. Go do it!" cried the ferocious Anastasia.

"No," replied Alfred; "I do not like blood; but I have a right to
claim the perpetual seclusion of this evil-doer; my repose requires
it; my health commands it; the law accords me this reparation;
otherwise, I leave la France--ma belle France! That is what they'll
gain!"

And Alfred, swallowed up in his grief, walked majestically out of the
lodge, like one of those imposing victims of ancient fatality.



CHAPTER XVIII.

CECILY.


Before we relate the conversation between Mrs. Seraphin and Mrs.
Pipelet, we will inform the reader that Anastasia, without suspecting
the least in the world the virtue and devotion of the notary, blamed
extremely the severity he had shown toward Louise Morel and Germain.
Naturally she included Mrs. Seraphin in her reprobation; but like a
skillful politician, for reasons which we will show by and by, she
concealed her feeling for the housekeeper under a most cordial
reception. After having formally disapproved of the unworthy conduct
of Cabrion, Mrs. Seraphin added, "What has become of M. Bradamanti
(Polidori)? Last night I wrote to him--no answer; this morning I came
to find him--no one. I hope this time I shall be more fortunate."

Mrs. Pipelet feigned to be very much vexed.

"Ah!" cried she, "you must have bad luck."

"How?"

"M. Bradamanti has not come in."

"It is insupportable!"

"It is vexing, my poor Mrs. Seraphin!"

"I have so much to say to him."

"It is just like fate."

"So much the more, as I have to invent so many pretexts for coming
here; for if M. Ferrand ever suspected that I knew a quack, he being
so devout and scrupulous, you can judge of the scene."

"Just like Alfred. He is so prudish, that he is startled at
everything." "And you do not know when Bradamanti will come in?"

"He made an appointment for six or seven o'clock in the evening, for
he told me to say to the person to call again if he had not returned.
Come back this evening, you will be sure to find him." Anastasia added
to herself: "You can count on this: in one hour he will be on the road
to Normandy."

"I will return then to-night," said Mrs. Seraphin, much annoyed; "but
I have something else to say to you, my dear Mrs. Pipelet. You know
what has happened to this wench of a Louise, whom every one thought so
virtuous?"

"Don't speak of it," answered Mrs. Pipelet, raising her eyes with
compunction, "it makes my hair stand on end."

"I want to tell you that we have no servant; and that if by chance you
should hear a girl spoken of, virtuous, hard-working, honest, you will
be very kind if you will address her to me. Good subjects are so
difficult to find, that one has to look on all sides for them."

"Be quite easy, Mrs. Seraphin. If I hear of any one, I will inform
you. Good places are as difficult to find as good subjects;" then she
added mentally, "Very likely I'd send you a poor girl to be starved to
death in your hovel! Your master is too miserly and too wicked--to
denounce, in one breath, poor Louise and poor M. Germain."

"I need not tell you," said Mrs. Seraphin, "how quiet our house is; a
girl gains much by getting there, and this Louise must have been an
incarnate imp to have turned out so bad, notwithstanding all the good
and holy advice M. Ferrand gave her."

"Certainly, so depend upon me; if I hear any one spoken of that I
think will answer, I will send them to you."

"There is one thing more," said Mrs. Seraphin; "M. Ferrand prefers
that this servant should have no family, because, you comprehend,
having no occasion to go out, she will run less risk; so, if by chance
she could be found, monsieur would prefer an orphan, I suppose; in the
first place, because it would be a good action, and then because,
having no friends, she would have no pretext to go out. This miserable
Louise is a good lesson for him, my poor Mrs. Pipelet! That's what
makes him so hard to please in the choice of a domestic. Such a
scandalous affair in a pious house like ours--how horrid! well,
goodbye; to-night, when I go to see M. Bradamanti, I'll call upon
Madame Burette."

"Good-bye, Mrs. Seraphin--you will certainly see him to-night."

Mrs. Seraphin took her departure.

"Isn't she crazy after Bradamanti!" said Mrs. Pipelet. "What can she
want with him? and wasn't he crazy for fear he should see her before
he left for Normandy? I was afraid she wouldn't go, as M. Bradamanti
expects the lady who came last night; I couldn't see her, but this
time I'll try to unmask her. But who can this lady of M. Bradamanti's
be? A lady or a common woman? I'd like to know, for I am as curious as
a magpie. It is not my fault--I'm made so. It is my character. Ah,
hold! an idea, a famous one too--to find out her name! I'll try it.
But who comes there? Ah! it is my prince of lodgers. Hail, Mr.
Rudolph," said Mrs. Pipelet, putting herself in the attitude of
carrying arms, the back of her left hand to her wig.

It was Rudolph, as yet ignorant of the death of M. d'Harville. "Good-day,
Madame Pipelet," said he on entering. "Is Mile. Rigolette at home?
I wish to speak to her."

"The poor little puss is always at home at her work! Does she ever
take a holiday?"

"And how is Morel's wife? Does she cheer up any?"

"Yes, Mr. Rudolph, many thanks to you, or to the protector of whom you
are the agent, she and her children are so happy now! They are like
fish _in_ water; they have fire, air, good beds, good food, a
nurse to take care of them, without reckoning little Rigolette, who
working like a little beaver, without appearing to, keeps them under
her eye? and, besides, a negro doctor has been to see them. Mr.
Rudolph, I said to myself, 'Ah! but this is the coalheaver doctor,
this black man; he can feel their pulse without soiling his hands!'
But never mind, color is skin deep; he seems to be a first-rate hand,
all the same. He ordered a potion for Madame Morel, which relieved her
at once."

"Poor woman, she must be very sad."

"Oh! yes, Mr. Rudolph, what else? her husband mad, and then her Louise
in prison. Louise is her heart's grief; for an honest family it is
terrible; and when I think that just now Mother Seraphin came here to
say such things about her. If I had not a gudgeon to make her swallow,
old Seraphin would not have got off so easy, but for a quarter of an
hour I gave her fair words. Didn't she have the brass to come and ask
me if I knew of any young body to take the place of Louise, at that
beggar of a notary's? Ain't he close and miserly? Just imagine, they
want an orphan, if she can be found. Do you know why, Mr. Rudolph?
Because she would never want to go out. But that is not it--trash, a
lie! The truth is, that they want to get hold of a girl who, having no
one to advise her, could be ground out of her wages at their pleasure.
Isn't it true?"

"Yes, yes," answered Rudolph, in a thoughtful manner.

Learning that Mrs. Seraphin sought an orphan to take the place of
Louise, Rudolph foresaw in this circumstance a means, perhaps certain
of obtaining the punishment of the notary. While Mrs. Pipelet was
speaking, he arranged in his mind the part a tool of his might play,
as a principal instrument in the just punishment which he wished to
inflict on the executioner of Louise Morel.

"I was sure you would think as I did," said Madame Pipelet; "yes, I
repeat it, and I would sooner die than send any one to them. Am I not
right, Mr. Rudolph?"

"Mrs. Pipelet, will you render me a great service?"

"Lord o' mercy! Mr. Rudolph, do you wish me to throw myself across the
fire, curl my wig with boiling oil? or would you prefer I should bite
some one? Speak, I am wholly yours! I and my heart are your slaves,
except--"

"Make yourself easy, Mrs. Pipelet; this is not what I mean. I want a
place for a young orphan. She is a stranger; she has never been at
Paris, and I wish to send her to M. Ferrand's."

"You suffocate me! How? In his barrack? to that Old miser's?"

"It is nevertheless a situation. If the girl should not like it, she
can leave; but, at least, she will for the time earn her living, and I
shall be easy on her account."

"Marry! Mr. Rudolph, it's your affair: you are warned. If,
notwithstanding, you find the place good, you are the master; and,
besides, I must be just--speaking of the notary--if there's something
against, there's also something for him. He is as miserly as a dog,
hard as an ass, bigoted as a sacristan, it is true; but he is as
honest as one can be. He gives small wages, but he pays like a man.
The food is bad. In fine, it is a house where one must work like a
horse, but where there is no risk of a young girl's reputation. Louise
was an exception."

"Madame Pipelet, I am going to confide a secret to your honor."

"On the faith of Anastasia Pipelet, whose maiden name was Galimard, as
true as there is a holiness in heaven, and Alfred wears only green
coats, I shall be as dumb as a fish."

"You must not say a word to Mr. Pipelet."

"I swear it on the head of my old darling! If the motive is honest."

"Oh, Mrs. Pipelet!"

"It is between ourselves, my prince of lodgers. Go on."

"The girl of whom I have spoken has committed a fault."

"I twig! If I had not at fifteen married Alfred, I should have perhaps
committed fifty-hundreds of faults! I, that you see--I was a regular
saltpeter mine unchained! Happily, Pipelet extinguished me in his
virtue; without that I should have committed follies. If your girl has
only committed one fault, there is yet some hope."

"I think so also. The girl was a servant in Germany, at one of my
relatives'; the son of this relative has been the accomplice of the
fault: you comprehend?"

"Whew! I comprehend-as if I had committed the _faux pas_ myself."

"The mother drove away the servant; but the young man was mad enough
to leave his paternal home, and bring this poor girl to Paris."

"Oh, these young folks--"

"After this came reflections--all the wiser as the money they had was
all gone. My young relative called upon me; I consented to give him
enough to return to his mother, but on condition that he should leave
this girl here, and I would endeavor to place her."

"I could not have done better for my own son, if Pipelet had been
pleased to grant me one."

"I am enchanted with your approbation; only as the young girl has no
recommendations, and is a stranger, it is very difficult to find a
place. If you would tell Mrs. Seraphin that one of your relations in
Germany had addressed and recommended this young girl to you, and the
notary would take her in his service, I should be doubly pleased.
Cecily--that is her name--having been only led astray, would be made
correct, certainly, in a house so strict as that of the notary. It is
for this reason I wish to see her enter the service of M. Ferrand. I
need not tell you that, presented by you--a person so respectable--"

"Oh! Mr. Rudolph--"

"So estimable--"

"Oh, my prince of lodgers-"

"She will be certainly accepted by Madame Seraphin; while, presented
by me--"

"Understood! It is as if I presented a young man. Oh, well! done! it
suits me. Stick old Seraphin! So much the better! I have a bone to
pick with her. I will answer for the affair, Mr. Rudolph! I'll make
her see stars at noon. I'll tell her I had a cousin, ever so long ago,
settle in Germany, one of the Galimards--my family name; that I have
just received the news that she is defunct, her husband also, and that
their daughter, now an orphan, will be on my hands immediately."

"Very well. You will take Cecily yourself to M. Ferrand, without
saying anything more to Mrs. Seraphin. As it is twenty years since you
have seen your cousin, you will have nothing to answer, except that
since her departure for Germany you have received no news from her."

"Ah, now! but if the young woman only jabbers German?"

"She speaks French perfectly; I will give her her lesson; all you have
to do is to recommend her strongly to Mrs. Seraphin; or, rather, I
think, no--for she would suspect, perhaps, that you wished to force
her. You know it suffices often merely to ask for a thing to have it
refused."

"To whom do you tell this? That's the way I always served cajolers. If
they had asked nothing, I do not say--"

"That always happens. You must say, then, that Cecily is an orphan and
a stranger, very young and very handsome; that she is going to be a
heavy charge for you; that you feel but slight affection for her, as
you had quarreled with your cousin, and that you are not much obliged
for such a present as she has made you."

"Oh, my! how cunning you are. But be easy--we two'll fix the pair. I
say, Mr. Rudolph, how we understand each other. When I think that if
you had been of my age in the time when I was a train of powder--_ma
foi_, I don't know--and you?"

"Hush! if Mr. Pipelet--"

"Oh, yes! poor dear man! You don't know a new infamy of Cabrion's? But
I will tell you directly. As to your young girl, be easy; I bet that
I'll lead old Seraphin to ask me to place my relation with them."

"If you succeed, my dear Mrs. Pipelet, there is a hundred francs for
you. I am not rich, but--"

"Do you mock at me, Mr. Rudolph? Do you think I do this from
interested feelings? It is pure friendship--a hundred francs!"

"But remember that if I had this girl for a long time under my charge
it would cost me more than that at the end of some months."

"It is only to oblige you that I shall take the hundred francs, Mr.
Rudolph; but it was a famous ticket in the lottery for us when you
came to this house. I can cry from the roof, you are the prince of
lodgers. Holloa! a hack! It is doubtless the little lady for M.
Bradamanti. She came yesterday; I could not see her. I am going to
trifle with her, to make her show her face; without counting that I
have invented a way to find out her name. You'll see me work; it will
amuse you."

"No, no, Mrs. Pipelet, the name and face of this lady are of no
importance to me," said Rudolph, retreating to the back part of the
lodge.

"Madame!" cried Anastasia, rushing out before the lady who entered,
"where are you going, madame?"

"To M. Bradamanti's," said the female, visibly annoyed at thus being
stopped in the passage.

"He is not at home."

"It is impossible; I have an appointment with him."

"He is not at home."

"You are mistaken."

"I am not mistaken at all," trying all the time to catch a glimpse of
her face. "M. Bradamanti has gone out, certainly gone out--very
certainly gone out--that is to say, except for a lady."

"Well! it is I! you annoy me; let me pass."

"Your name, madame? I shall soon know if it is the person M.
Bradamanti told me to pass in. If you have not that name, you must
step over my body before you shall enter."

"He told you my name?" cried the lady, with as much surprise as
inquietude.

"Yes, madame."

"What imprudence!" murmured the lady; then, after a moment's pause,
she added impatiently, in a low voice, as if she feared to be
overheard, "Well! I am Lady d'Orbigny!"

At this name Rudolph started. It was the stepmother of Madame
d'Harville. Instead of remaining in the shade he advanced; and, by the
light of the day and the lamp, he easily recognized her, from the
description Clemence had more than once given him.

"Lady d'Orbigny!" repeated Mrs. Pipelet, "that's the name; you can go
up, madame."

The step-mother of Clemence passed rapidly before the lodge.

"Look at that!" cried the portress, in a triumphant manner; "gammoned
the citizen! know her name--she is called D'Orbigny; my means were not
bad, Mr. Rudolph? But what is the matter? You are quite pensive!"

"This lady has been here before?" asked Rudolph.

"Yes, last night; as soon as she was gone, M. Bradamanti went out,
probably to take his place in the diligence for to-day; for on his
return, last night, he begged me to go with his trunk to the office,
as he could not depend upon that little devil Tortillard."

"And where is M. Bradamanti going to? do you know?"

"To Normandy--to Alencon."

Rudolph remembered that the estate of Aubiers, where M. d'Orbigny
resided, was situated in Normandy. There could be no doubt the quack
was going to see the father of Clemence for no good purpose.

"It is the departure of M. Bradamanti that will finely provoke old
Seraphin!" said Madame Pipelet. "She is like a mad wolf after M.
Cesar, who avoids her as much as he can; for he told me to conceal
from her that he was going to leave to-night; thus, when she returns,
she will find nobody at home! I'll profit by this to speak of your
young woman. Apropos, how is she called--Ciec?"

"Cecely."

"It is the same as if you said Cecile with an _i_ at the end. All
the same; I must put a piece of paper in my snuff-box to remember this
name--Cici--Casi--Cecily, good, I have it."

"Now I go to see Mlle. Rigolette," said Rudolph; and, singularly
preoccupied with the visit of Madame d'Orbigny to Polidori, he
ascended to the fourth story.



CHAPTER XIX.

RIGOLETTE'S FIRST GRIEF.


Rigolette's chamber shone with coquettish nicety; a heavy silver
watch, placed on the chimney, marked four o'clock; the very cold
weather having passed, the economical workwoman had not put any fire
in her stove. Hardly could one see from the window any part of the
sky, the rough, irregular mass of roofs, garrets, and high chimneys,
on the other side of the street, forming the horizon.

Suddenly a ray of the sun, astray as it were, glancing between two
high roofs, came to light up, for some moments, with its purple tints,
the windows of the room.

Rigolette was working, seated near the casement, sewing, with her feet
on a stool, placed before her. Thus, as a noble amuses himself
sometimes, through caprice, in concealing the walls of a cottage by
the most splendid draperies, for a moment the setting sun illuminated
the little apartment with a thousand sparkling fires, cast its golden
rays on the gray and green chintz curtains, made the highly-polished
furniture sparkle, the waxed floor to glisten like brass, and
surrounded with gilded wire the bird-cage.

But, alas! notwithstanding the provoking joyousness of this ray of the
sun, its two canaries flew about with an unquiet air, and, contrary to
custom, did not sing.

It was because, contrary to custom, also, Rigolette did not sing. None
of the three warbled without the others. Almost always the fresh and
matinal song of one awoke the song of the others, who, more lazy, did
not leave their nests at so early an hour. Then it was a challenge, a
contest of clear, sonorous, brilliant, silvery notes, in which the
birds did not always have the advantage.

Rigolette sung no more, because, for the first time in her life, she
experienced a _sorrow_.

Until then, the sight of the misery of the Morels had often afflicted
her, but such scenes are too familiar to the poorer classes to make
any durable impression.

After having each day assisted these unfortunates as much as was in
her power, sincerely wept with them, and for them, the girl felt
affected, yet satisfied; affected with their misfortunes, and
satisfied with her conduct toward them. But this was no _sorrow_.

Soon the natural gayety of her character resumed its empire. And
besides, without egotism, but from comparison, she found herself so
happy in her little chamber, on leaving the horrible den of the
Morels, that her ephemeral sadness was soon dissipated.

Before we inform the reader of the cause of the first grief of
Rigolette, we wish to assure him completely as to the virtue of this
young girl. We regret to use the word virtue--a grave, pompous, and
solemn word, which always carries along with it ideas of a grievous
sacrifice, of a painful contest with the passions, austere meditations
on the end of things here below. Such was not the virtue of Rigolette.
She had neither struggled nor meditated. She had worked, laughed, and
sung.

It depended on a question of time. She had no leisure to be in love.

Before all--gay, industrious, managing--order, work, gayety, had,
unknown to her, defended, sustained, and saved her. Perhaps this
morality will be found light, easy, and joyous; but what matters the
cause, provided the effect subsists? What matters the direction of the
roots, if the flower blooms brilliant and perfumed. But let us descend
from our Utopian sphere, and return to the cause of Rigolette's first
grief.

Except Germain, a good and serious young man, the neighbors of the
grisette had taken, at first, her familiarity and neighborly kindness
for very significant encouragement; but these gentlemen had been
obliged to acknowledge, with as much surprise as vexation, that they
found in Rigolette an amiable and gay companion for their Sunday
recreations, a kind neighbor, and "nice little girl," but nothing
more. Their surprise and their vexation quailed by degrees to the
frank and charming disposition of the grisette, and her neighbors were
proud on Sunday to have on their arm a pretty girl who did them honor
(Rigolette cared little for appearances), and who only cost the
partaking of their modest pleasures, which her presence and
sprightliness enhanced. Besides, the dear girl was so easily
contented; in the days of penury she dined so well and so gayly on a
piece of hot cake, nipped with all the force of her little white
teeth; after which she amused herself so much with a walk on the
boulevards or streets.

Francois Germain alone founded no foolish hopes on the girl's
familiarity. Either from penetration or delicacy of mind, he saw at
once all that could be agreeable in the mode of living offered by
Rigolette. That which, of course, would happen, happened. He became
desperately in love with his neighbor, without daring to speak of this
love. Far from imitating his predecessors, who, soon convinced of the
vanity of their pursuits, had consoled themselves elsewhere, Germain
had deliciously enjoyed his intimacy with the girl, passing with her
not only Sundays, but every evening that he was not occupied.

During these long hours, Rigolette had conducted herself, as always,
lively and gay; Germain tender, attentive, serious, and often a little
melancholy. This sadness was the only inconvenience; for his manners,
naturally uncommon, could not be compared to the ridiculous
pretensions of Girandeau, the traveling clerk, nor to the noisy
eccentricities of Cabrion; M. Girandeau by his inexhaustible
loquacity, and the painter by his hilarity not less so, had the
advantage of Germain, whose gentle gravity awed a little his lively
neighbor.

Rigolette had not, until now, any marked preference for either of her
three lovers; but as she was not wanting in judgment, she found that
Germain alone united all the qualities necessary to make a reasonable
woman happy.

These antecedents disposed of, we will say why Rigolette was sad, and
why neither she nor her birds sung.

Her round, blooming face was rather pale; her large black eyes,
ordinarily bright and sparkling, were cast down and dull; her
expression showed unaccustomed fatigue. She had worked more than half
the night. From time to time she regarded sadly a letter placed open
upon a table beside her; this letter was from Germain, and contained
what follows:

"Conciergerie Prison.

"MADEMOISELLE.--The place whence I write will tell you the extent of
my misfortune. I am incarcerated as a thief--I am criminal in the eyes
of the world, though I dare to write to you. It would be frightful for
me to think that you also looked upon me as a degraded and guilty
being. I implore you, do not condemn me before having read this
letter. If you cast me off, this last blow will overwhelm me quite.

"For some time past I have not lived in the Rue du Temple, but I knew
through poor Louise that the Morel family, in whom we were so much
interested, were more and more wretched. Alas I my pity for these poor
people has ruined me! I do not repent it, but my fate is a cruel one.
Yesterday, I remained quite late at M. Ferrand's, occupied with some
pressing writings. In the room where I worked was a desk; each day my
patron locked up in it the work I had done. This night he appeared
restless and agitated; he said to me, 'Do not go until these accounts
are finished; you will place them in the desk, of which I leave you
the key,' and he went out.

"My work being finished I opened the drawer to put it away;
mechanically my eyes fell upon an open letter, where I read the name
of Jerome Morel, the artisan. I confess, seeing that it referred to
that unfortunate man, I had the indiscretion to read this letter; I
thus learned that the artisan was to be arrested the next morning for
a note of thirteen hundred francs, at the suit of M. Ferrand, who,
under an assumed name, would cause him to be imprisoned. This notice
was from the agent of my patron. I knew the situation of the family
well enough to foresee what a horrible blow this would be for them. I
was as sorry as I was indignant. Unfortunately, I saw in the same
drawer an open box containing some gold; there was about two thousand
francs. At this moment I heard Louise on the staircase; without
reflecting on the gravity of my action, profiting by the occasion
which chance offered, I took thirteen hundred francs; I went into the
passage and placed the money in the hand of Louise, telling her, 'Your
father is to be arrested to-morrow at daylight for thirteen hundred
francs: here they are; save him, but do not say you had this money
from me. M. Ferrand is a bad man.'

"You see, mademoiselle, my intention was good though my conduct was
culpable; I conceal nothing. Now hear my excuse.

"During a long time, by economy, I have saved and placed at a banker's
the small sum of fifteen hundred francs. About a week ago he notified
me that the term of his obligation toward me being arrived, he held my
funds subject to my order, if I did not wish them to remain with him.

"I thus possessed more than I took from the notary. I could the next
day replace it; but the cashier of the bank did not reach his office
before twelve o'clock, and at daybreak they were to arrest poor Morel.
It was necessary to place him in a situation to pay, otherwise, even
if I were to go and take him from prison, the arrest might have
already killed his wife; besides, the very considerable expenses
attending this would have been at the cost of the artisan. You
comprehend that all these misfortunes would not have happened, if I
could have returned the thirteen hundred francs before M. Ferrand
discovered their loss.

"I left the house, no longer under the impression of indignation and
pity which had made me act in this manner. I reflected on all the
dangers of my position; a thousand fears assailed me. I knew the
severity of the notary; he could, after my departure, return and go to
the bureau, find out the _theft_; for in his eyes, to the eyes of
everybody, it is a theft.

"These ideas quite upset me; although it was late, I ran to the
banker's to beg him to return my money instantly. I should have
explained this extraordinary demand; afterward I would have returned
to M. Ferrand, and replaced the money I had taken.

"The banker, by a fatal chance, had been for two days at Belleville,
his country house. I awaited the daylight with increasing agony; at
length I arrived at Belleville. Everything seemed leagued against me;
the banker had left for Paris; I flew back, I got my money; I went to
M. Ferrand's--all was discovered.

"But this is only a part of my misfortunes; now the notary accuses me
of having stolen fifteen thousand francs in notes, which were, he
said, in the drawer with the two thousand francs in gold. It is a
false accusation, an infamous lie. I avow myself guilty of the first
charge; but by all that is sacred, I swear to you, mademoiselle, that
I am innocent of the second. I have seen no bills in the drawer; there
was only the gold, as I said before.

"Such is the truth, mademoiselle; I am under the charge of an
overwhelming accusation, and yet I affirm that you ought to think me
incapable of telling a falsehood. But who will believe me? Alas! as M.
Ferrand told me, he who has stolen a small sum can easily steal a
large one, and his words deserve no confidence.

"I have always found you so good and devoted to the unfortunate,
mademoiselle, I know you are so faithful and frank, that your heart
will guide you, I hope, in the appreciation of the truth--I ask
nothing more. Give faith to my words, and you will find me as much to
be pitied as blamed; for, I repeat, my intention was good;
circumstances impossible to foresee have ruined me.

"Oh, Mile. Rigolette, I am very unhappy. If you knew what kind of
people I am destined to live among until the day of my trial!
Yesterday they took me to a place which is called the station-house of
the Prefecture of Police. I cannot tell you what I experienced when,
after having mounted a gloomy staircase, I arrived before a door with
an iron wicket, which they opened, and soon closed upon me. I was so
much troubled, that at first I could distinguish nothing. A hot,
disagreeable air struck me in the face; I heard a great noise of
voices mingled with sinister laughs, accents of rage and low songs; I
held myself immovable near the door, looking at the stone flaggings,
daring neither to advance nor raise my eyes, believing that every one
was looking at me. They did not trouble themselves about me; one
prisoner more or less is of no consequence to them; at length I raised
my head. What horrible figures! how many clothed in rags! how many
ragged clothes soiled with mud! All the externals of vice and misery.
There were about forty or fifty, seated, standing, or lying on benches
fastened to the walls; vagabonds, robbers, assassins, in fine, all who
had been arrested that night or day.

"When they perceived me, I found a sad consolation in seeing that they
did not recognize me as one of their fellows. Some of them looked at
me with an insolent and jeering air; then they began to talk among
themselves, in a low tone, and in a hideous language I did not
comprehend. At the end of a short time, the most audacious of them
came and struck me on the shoulder, and asked me for some money to pay
my footing.

"I gave them some money, in hopes to purchase repose; it was not
enough; they required more; I refused. Then several of them surrounded
me, loading me with threats and insults; they were about to throw
themselves upon me, when happily, attracted by the noise, a keeper
entered. I complained to him; he made them give up the money I had
given them, and told me that, if I wished, I could, for a small
amount, be put alone in a cell. I accepted with gratitude, and left
these bandits in the midst of their threats for the future. The keeper
placed me in a cell, where I passed the rest of the night. It is hence
that I write to you this morning, Mlle. Rigolette. Immediately after
my examination, I shall be conducted to another prison, which is
called La Force, where I fear I shall meet many of my lock-up
companions. The keeper, interested by my grief and tears, has promised
me to send you this letter, although it is strictly forbidden. I
expect, Mlle. Rigolette, a last service of our old friendship, if now
you should not blush at this friendship.

"If you are willing to grant my demand, here it is.

"You will receive with this a small key, and a line for the porter of
the house where I reside, Boulevard Saint Denis, No. 11. I inform him
that you can dispose of all that belongs to me, and that he must obey
your orders. He will show you my room. You will have the kindness to
open my secretary with the key I send you; you will find a large
envelope covering many papers, which I wish you to take care of; one
of them was destined for you, as you will see by the address; others
have been written concerning you, in our happy days. Do not be angry--
you never else would have known it.

"I beg you also to take the small sum of money which is in the
secretary, also a sachet of satin, inclosing a little cravat of orange
silk, that you wore on our last Sunday walk, and gave me the day I
left the Rue du Temple. I wish that, with the exception of some linen,
which you will send to La Force, you would sell the furniture and
effects I possess: acquitted or condemned, I shall not be the less
ruined and obliged to leave Paris. Where shall I go? What are my
resources? Heaven only knows!

"Madame Bouvard, as saleswoman in the Temple, who has already sold and
bought for me, will doubtless arrange all this: she's an honest woman;
this arrangement will spare you much embarrassment, for I know how
precious your time is.

"I have paid my rent in advance; I beg you to give a small gratuity to
the porter. Pardon me, mademoiselle, for imposing on you with these
details, but you are the only person in the world to whom I dare and
can address myself.

"I might have asked this service from one of the clerks at M.
Ferrand's, but I feared his discretion respecting sundry papers: many
of them concerning you, as I have already told you; others have
reference to some sad events of my life.

"Oh! believe me, Mlle. Rigolette, if you grant it, this last proof of
your former affection will be my sole consolation in the great trouble
which crushes me; in spite of myself, I hope you will not refuse me.

"I ask, also, permission to write you sometimes--it will be so
soothing, so precious, to be able to pour out, to disclose to a
benevolent heart, the sorrows which overwhelm me.

"Alas! I am alone in the world; no one feels any interest in me. This
isolated condition was always painful--judge now what it is!

"And yet I am honest; and I have the consciousness of never having
injured any one; of having always, even at the peril of my life, shown
my aversion for evil, as you will see by the papers, which I beg you
to keep and read. But when I say this, who will believe me? M. Ferrand
is respected by everybody; his reputation is well established; he will
crush me; I resign myself, in advance, to my fate.

"In brief, Mlle. Rigolette, if you believe me, you will not have, I
hope, any contempt for me; you will pity me, and you will sometimes
think of a sincere friend; then, if I cause you much--much pity,
perhaps you will push your generosity so far as to come, some day-_a
Sunday_ (alas! what recollections does not the word awaken)--to
brave the reception-room of my prison.

"But, no, no! to see you in such a place--I never can dare. Yet you
are so kind, that--

"I am obliged to stop, and send you this, with the key and the note to
the porter, which I shall write in haste, as the keeper has come to
tell me I am to be taken before the judge. Adieu, adieu, Mlle.
Rigolette.

"Do not cast me off. I have no hope but in you--in you alone.

  "FRANCOIS GERMAIN.

"P.S.--If you answer address your letter to the prison of La Force."

The reader can now comprehend the cause of the first grief of La
Rigolette. Her excellent heart was profoundly affected at a calamity
of which she had not had until then any suspicion. She believed
implicitly in the entire veracity of the story of Germain. Not very
severe, she even found that her old neighbor enormously exaggerated
his fault. To save an unfortunate father, he had taken the money,
which he knew he could return. This action, in the eyes of the
grisette, was only generous.

By one of those inconsistencies natural to women, and above all, to
those of her class, this girl, who until then had felt for Germain, as
for her other neighbors, a joyous and cordial friendship, now
acknowledged a decided preference.

As soon as she knew he was unfortunate, unjustly accused, and a
prisoner, she thought no more of his rivals.

With Rigolette it was not yet love; it was a lively, sincere
affection, filled with commiseration and resolute devotion: a very new
sentiment for her, from the bitterness which was joined to it. Such
was her mental situation when Rudolph entered her room, after having
discreetly knocked at the door.

"Good-day, my neighbor," said Rudolph; "I hope I do not disturb you?"

"No, neighbor; I am, on the contrary, very glad to see you, for I have
much sorrow!"

"Why do I find you pale? you seem to have been weeping!"

"I should think I have wept! There is reason for it. Poor Germain!
Here, read;" and Rigolette handed to Rudolph the letter. "If this is
not enough to break one's heart! You told me you were interested in
him. Now is the time to show it," added she, while Rudolph read
attentively. "Is this villain, Ferrand, thirsting for the blood of
everybody? First it was Louise, now it is Germain. Oh! I am not cruel;
but if some misfortune should happen to this notary I should be
content! To accuse such an honest young man of having stolen one
thousand three hundred francs! Germain! truth and honesty itself, and
then so regular, so mild, so sad--is he not to be pitied, among all
these scoundrels-in prison! Oh! M. Rudolph, from to-day I begin to see
that all is not _couleur de rose_ in life."

"And what do you mean to do my neighbor?"

"Do? why, everything he asks, and as soon as possible. I should have
already been off, but for this work, which I must finish and take to
the Rue Saint Honore as I go to Germain's room to get the papers he
speaks of. I have passed a part of the night in working, so as to gain
some hours in advance. I am going to have so many things to do,
besides my work, that I must get in readiness. In the first place,
Madame Morel wishes me to see Louise in her prison? It is, perhaps,
very difficult, but I will try. Unfortunately, I do not know who to
address myself to."

"I have thought of that."

"You, my neighbor?"

"Here is a magistrate's order."

"What happiness! Can you not get me one also for the prison of this
unfortunate Germain? it will give him so much pleasure."

"I will give you, also, the means to see Germain."

"Oh, thank you, M. Rudolph."

"You are not afraid, then, to go to the prison?"

"Very certain my heart will beat the first time. But never mind. When
Germain was happy, did I not always find him ready to anticipate all
my wishes? To take me to the theater, or a walk? to read to me at
night? to assist me in arranging my flowers? to wax my floor? Well!
now he is in trouble, it is my turn; a poor little mouse like me can't
do much, I know; but all I can do I will do--he can count on it; he
shall see whether I am a good friend! M. Rudolph, there is one thing
that vexes me; it is his suspicion--he believes me capable of
despising him! I ask you why? This old miser of a notary accuses him
of theft; but what is that to me? I know it is not true. The letter of
Germain proves as clear as day that he is innocent, whom I should
never have thought guilty. Only to see him, to know him, shows he is
incapable of a wrong action. One must be as wicked as M. Ferrand to
maintain such false assertions."

"Bravo, neighbor, I like your indignation!"

"Oh! stop--I wish I was a man, to go see this notary, and say to him:
'Oh! you maintain that Germain has robbed you; well, look here, take
that, you old liar, he won't steal this from you.' And I'd beat him to
a mummy."

"You'd have very expeditious justice," said Rudolph, smiling at the
animation of Rigolette.

"It is so revolting; and, as Germain says in his letter, everybody
will take the master's part against him, because his master is rich,
and thought much of, while Germain is a poor young man without
protection; unless you come to his assistance, M. Rudolph, who know so
many benevolent persons. Can nothing be done?"

"He must wait for his trial. Once acquitted, as I think he will be,
numerous proofs of interest will be shown him, I assure you. But
listen, my neighbor. I know from experience that I can count on your
discretion."

"Oh, yes, M. Rudolph. I have never been a babbler."

"Well, no one must know, even Germain himself must be ignorant that he
has friends who are watching over him, for he has friends."

"Really."

"Very powerful and very devoted."

"It would give him so much courage to know it."

"Doubtless; but perhaps he could not keep the secret. Then, M.
Ferrand, alarmed, would be on his guard, his suspicions aroused; and
as he is very cunning, he would make it difficult to get at him; which
would be lamentable, for not only must the innocence of Germain be
proved, but his calumniator unmasked."

"I understand you, M. Rudolph."

"Just so with Louise; I bring you this permission to see her, so that
you can tell her not to speak to any one of what she had revealed to
me. She will know what this means."

"That is sufficient, M. Rudolph."

"In a word, Louise must be careful not to complain in her prison of
the conduct of her master; it is very important. But she must conceal
nothing from the lawyer who will be sent by me to prepare for her
defense; recommend all this to her."

"Be quite easy, neighbor; I will forget nothing. I have a good memory.
But I speak of kindness, when it is you who are good and generous! If
any one's in trouble, you are there at once!"

"I have told you, neighbor, I am only a poor clerk. When, in roving
about, I find good people who deserve protection, I inform a
benevolent person who has all confidence in me, and they are
assisted."

"Where do you lodge, now that you have given up your room to the
Morels?"

"I lodge--in furnished lodgings."

"Oh, how I detest that. To be where everybody else has been--it is as
if everybody had been in your own room."

"I am only there at night, and then--"

"I conceive--it is less disagreeable. My home, M. Rudolph, rendered me
so happy; I had arranged a life so tranquil, that I should not have
believed it possible to have a sorrow. Yet you see! No, I cannot tell
you what a blow the misfortunes of Germain have caused me. I have seen
the Morels and others--much to be pitied, it is true; but misery is
misery. Among poor folks they expect it; it does not surprise them,
and they help one another as they can. But to see a poor young man,
honest, and good, who has been your friend for a long time, accused of
theft, and imprisoned pell-mell with rogues and cut-throats! Oh, M.
Rudolph! it is true I have no strength against this; it is a
misfortune I have never thought of; it upsets me."

Rigolette's large eyes filled with tears.

"Courage, courage! your gayety will return when your friend is
acquitted."

"Oh, he must be acquitted! They will only have to read to the judges
the letter which he has written me--that will be enough, will it not,
M. Rudolph?"

"In reality, this simple and touching letter has all the marks of
truth. You must let me take a copy; it will be useful in his defense."

"Certainly, M. Rudolph. If I did not write like a real cat, in spite
of the lessons Germain gave me, I should propose to copy it for you;
but my writing is so coarse, so crooked, and besides, there are so
many--so many faults."

"I only ask you to lend me this letter until tomorrow."

"There it is, neighbor; but you will take good care of it? I have
burned all the _billets doux_ which M. Cabrion and M. Girandeau
wrote me at the commencement of our acquaintance, with bleeding hearts
and doves on the top of the paper; but this poor letter of Germain, I
will take good care of; it and others also, if he writes them. For, in
truth M. Rudolph, it is a proof in my favor that he asks these little
services."

"Without doubt it proves that you are the best little friend that one
can have. But I reflect--instead of going by and by alone to M.
Germain's, shall I accompany you?"

"With pleasure, neighbor. Night approaches, and I prefer not to be
alone in the streets after dark, especially as I have to go near the
Palais Royal. But to go so far will be tiresome and fatiguing to you,
perhaps?"

"Not at all; we will take a hack."

"Really! Oh, how it would amuse me to go in a carriage, if I had not
so much sorrow. And I must have sorrow, for this is the first day
since I lived here that I have not sung. My birds are all astonished.
Poor little things! they do not know what it means; two or three times
Papa Cretu has sung a little to entice me. I wished to amuse him; but
after a moment I began to weep; Ramonette then tried, but I could
answer no more."

[Illustration: MENACED IN PRISON]

"What singular names you have given your birds--Papa Cretu, Ramonette?"

"M. Rudolph, my birds are the joy of my solitude; they are my best
friends. I have given them the names of good people who were the joy
of my childhood, my best friends. Without reckoning, to finish the
resemblance, that Papa Cretu and Ramonette were as gay and tuneful as
the birds of heaven. My adopted parents were thus called. They are
ridiculous names for birds, I know; but it only concerns me. Now, it
was on this very subject that I saw Germain had a good heart."

"He had, eh?"

"Certainly; M. Girandeau and M. Cabrion--M. Cabrion, above all--were
forever making jokes on the names of my birds. 'To call a canary Papa
Cretu, did you ever?' M. Cabrion never finished, and then he would
laugh--such laughs. 'If it were a cock,' said he, 'very well, you I
might call it Cretu (combed). It is the same with the other one;
Ramonette sounds too much like Ramoneur (chimney sweep).' At length he
made me so angry that I would not go out with him for two Sundays,
just to teach him; and I told him, very seriously, that if he
recommenced his jokes, which were unpleasant to me, we should never go
out together again."

"What a courageous resolution!"

"It cost me a good deal, M. Rudolph--I looked so eagerly for my Sunday
excursions. I had a sorrowful heart, I tell you, to remain home all
alone of a fine day; but never mind, I preferred rather to sacrifice
my Sunday than to continue to hear M. Cabrion make fun of what I
respected. Except for this, and the ideas attached to it, I would have
preferred to give other names to my birds. There is, above all, one
name I should have loved to adoration--Humming-Bird. Well, I cannot do
it, because I never shall call my birds otherwise than Cretu and
Ramonette; it would seem to me that I sacrificed them, that I forgot
my kind adopted parents-wouldn't it, M. Rudolph?"

"You are right-a thousand times right. Germain did not make fun of
these names?"

"On the contrary; only the first time it appeared droll to him, as to
every one else--it is very simple; but when I explained my reasons, as
I had explained them to M. Cabrion, the tears came into his eyes. From
that day I said, `M. Germain has a kind heart; he has nothing against
him but his sadness.' And do you see, M. Rudolph, that he has brought
me misfortune to reproach him for his sadness. Then I did not
comprehend how one could be sad. Now I comprehend it but too well. But
now my work is finished, will you give me my shawl, neighbor It is not
cold enough for a cloak, is it?"

"We shall go in a carriage, and I will bring you back."

"It is true, we shall go and return quicker; it will be so much time
gained."

"But, on reflection, how are you going to manage? Your work will
suffer from your visit to the prisons?"

"Oh no, no! I have laid my plans. In the first place, I have my
Sundays; I will go and see Louise and Germain on these days--it will
serve me for a walk and recreation; then, in the week, I shall go to
the prison once or twice; each time will cost me three good hours a
day. Well, to make up for this, I will work one hour more each day,
and I will go to bed at twelve o'clock instead of eleven; that will
give me a clear gain of seven or eight hours each week, which I can
use in going to see Louise and Germain. You see, I am richer than I
appear to be," added Rigolette, smiling.

"And do you not fear this will fatigue you?"

"Bah! I can do it--one can do anything; and, besides, it will not last
forever."

"Here is your shawl, neighbor. I shall not be so indiscreet as to
bring my lips too close to this charming neck."

"Oh, neighbor! take care, you prick me."

"Come, the pin is crooked."

"Well, take another--there, on the pincushion. Oh, I forget! Will you
do me a favor, neighbor?"

"Command, neighbor."

"Make me a good pen, very coarse, so that I can, on my return, write
to poor Germain that his commissions are executed. He shall have my
letter to-morrow morning early."

"And where are your pens?"

"There, on the table; the knife is in the drawer. Stop, I am going to
light my candle, for it grows quite dark."

"I shall want it to mend the pen."

"And, besides, I can't see to tie my bonnet."

Rigolette took a match, and lit an end of candle, which was in a very
shining candlestick.

"Dear me! wax candle, neighbor--what luxury!"

"The little I burn costs me a trifle more than a tallow candle, but it
is so much neater."

"Not much dearer?"

"Oh, no. I buy these ends of candles by the pound, and a half-pound
serves me a month."

"But," said Rudolph, mending the pen carefully, while the grisette
tied her bonnet before the glass, "I see no preparations for your
dinner."

"I haven't a shadow of hunger. I took a cup of milk this morning; I
will take another to-night, with a little bread! I shall have enough."

"Will you not come and eat dinner with me when we come away from
Germain's?"

"I thank you, neighbor; I have my heart too full; another time with
pleasure. What do you say to the evening of the day that poor Germain
comes out of prison? I invite myself, and afterward we will go to the
play. Is it agreed?"

"It is, neighbor; I assure you that I shall not forget this
engagement. But to-day you refuse me?"

"Yes, M. Rudolph; I should be too stupid to-day; besides, it would
take up too much time. Only think--it is now, if ever, that I must not
be lazy."

"Come, I will give up this pleasure for to-day."

"Here, take my bundle, neighbor; go before, I will shut the door."

"Here is an excellent pen--now, your bundle."

"Take care you don't tumble it--it is poult de soie--it shows the
folds--hold it in your hand--that way--lightly. Well, pass on, I will
light you."

Rudolph descended, preceded by Rigolette. As they passed the lodge
they saw Pipelet, who, with his arms hanging down, advanced toward
them from the bottom of the alley. In one hand he held the sign, which
announced to the public that he would "deal in friendship" with
Cabrion; and in the other, the portrait of the infernal painter.

The despair of Alfred was so overwhelming that his chin rested on his
breast, and nothing could be seen but the top of his hat. On seeing
him approach, with his head down, toward Rudolph and Rigolette, one
would have said it was a goat or a negro butt preparing for combat.
Anastasia appeared on the threshold, and cried at the sight of her
husband. "Well, old darling! here you are, hey? What did the
commissary say to you? Alfred, pay attention; now you are going to
poke yourself against my prince of lodgers. Who has stolen your eyes?
Pardon, M. Rudolph; that beggar Cabrion stupefies him more and more--
he certainly will make him turn to a jackass, my poor love! Alfred,
answer!"

At this voice, so dear to his heart, Pipelet raised his head; his
features were imprinted with a melancholy bitterness.

"What did the commissary say to you?" repeated Anastasia.

"Anastasia, we must collect the little that we possess, clasp our
friends in our arms, pack our trunks, and expatriate ourselves from
France-from my 'belle France!'-for, sure now of impunity, the monster
is capable of pursuing me everywhere."

"Then, the commissary!"

"The commissary!" cried Pipelet, with savage indignation; "the
commissary laughed in my face."

"Your face! an aged man, who has so respectable an air, that you'd
look as stupid as a goose if one did not know your virtues."

"Well, notwithstanding that, when I had respectfully deposed before
him my heap of complaints and griefs against this infernal Cabrion,
this magistrate, after looking at and laughing--yes, laughing--I say,
laughing indecently--over the sign and portrait which I produced as
justificatory of my complaint, replied, 'My good man, this Cabrion is
a funny fellow--a jester--pay no attention to his jokes. I advise you
now, in a friendly manner, to laugh at them, for really there is
cause.' 'To laugh!' cried I; 'to laugh! but grief is devouring me--my
existence is imbittered by those scoundrels--they pester me--they will
cause me to lose my reason--I demand that they be locked up--exiled,
at least from my street.' At these words the commissary smiled, and
obligingly showed me the door. I understood this gesture of the
magistrate, and here I am."

"Magistrate of nothing at all!" cried Mrs. Pipelet.

"All is finished! Anastasia, all is finished! No more hope! There is
no longer any justice in France! I am atrociously sacrificed!" and by
way of peroration, Pipelet threw, with all his strength, the portrait
and sign to the end of the alley. Rudolph and Rigolette had, in the
obscurity, slightly smiled at Pipelet's despair. After having
addressed some words of consolation to Alfred, whom Anastasia was
calming in the best way she could, the "prince of lodgers" left the
house of the Rue du Temple with Rigolette, and got into a hackney
coach to go to the residence of Francois Germain.



CHAPTER XX.

THE WILL.


Francois Germain lived on the Boulevard Saint Denis, No. 11. During
the long ride from the Rue du Temple to the Rue Saint Honore, where
the woman lived who supplied Rigolette with work, Rudolph was able to
appreciate still more the girl's excellent feelings. Like all
characters instinctively good and devoted, she was not conscious of
the delicacy and generosity of her conduct, which seemed to her quite
natural.

Nothing would have been easier for Rudolph than to have made a liberal
provision for Rigolette, as well for her present wants as the future,
so that she could have gone charitably to console Louise and Germain,
without counting the time she lost in these visits from her work, her
only resource; but the prince feared to weaken the merit of the
grisette's devotion in rendering it too easy; quite decided to
recompense the rare and charming qualities which he had discovered in
her, he wished to follow her to the end of this new and interesting
trial. At the end of an hour the carriage, on its return from her Rue
Saint Honore, stopped on the Boulevard Saint Denis, No. 11, before a
house of modest appearance.

Rudolph assisted Rigolette to alight; she entered the porter's lodge
and communicated to him the intentions of Germain, without forgetting
the promised gratuity. From his amenity of disposition, the clerk was
everywhere loved. The _confrere_ of Pipelet was much concerned to
learn that the house should lose so honest and quiet a lodger: such
were his expressions. The grisette, furnished with a light, rejoined
her companion; the porter was to follow, after a little while, to
receive instructions. The chamber of Germain was on the fourth story.
On arriving at the door, Rigolette said to Rudolph, giving him the
key, "Here, neighbor, open--my hand trembles too much. You will laugh
at me; but, in thinking that poor Germain will never return here, it
seems to me I am about to enter a chamber of the dead."

"Come, be reasonable now, neighbor--have no such ideas!"

"I was wrong, but it was stronger than I;" and she wiped away a tear.

Without being as much moved as his companion, Rudolph nevertheless
experienced a painful impression on entering the modest apartment. He
knew that the unfortunate young man must have passed many sad hours
in this solitude. Rigolette placed the light on a table. Nothing could be
more plain than the furniture of this sleeping-room, composed of a
bed, a chest of drawers, a secretary of black walnut, four straw-bottomed
chairs, and a table; white cotton curtains covered the windows and the
bed recess; the only ornaments on the mantelpiece were a decanter
and a glass. From the appearance of the bed, which was made, it
could be seen that Germain had thrown himself upon it without taking
off his clothes the night preceding his arrest.

"Poor fellow," said Rigolette, sadly, examining, with interest, the
interior of the chamber: "it is easy to see that lie no longer has me
for a neighbor. It is in order, but not neat; there is dust
everywhere, the curtains are smoked, the windows are dirty, the floor
is not washed. Oh! what a difference! Rue du Temple was not handsome,
but it was more gay, because everything shone with neatness, like my
own room."

"It was because you were there, to give your advice."

"But see, now," cried Rigolette, showing the bed, "he did not go to
rest the other night, so much was he disturbed. Look here! his
handkerchief, which he has left, has been steeped in tears. That is
plain to be seen;" and she took it, adding, "Germain has kept a little
orange silk cravat of mine, which I gave him when we were happy; I am
sure he will not be angry."

"On the contrary, he will be very happy at this proof of your
affection."

"Now let us think of serious matters; I will make a package of linen,
which I shall find in the drawers, to take to him in prison; Mother
Bouvard, whom I shall send here to-morrow, will manage the rest.
First, however, I'll open the secretary and take out the papers and
money which M. Germain begged me keep for him."

"But while I think of it," said Rudolph, "Louise Morel gave me,
yesterday, one thousand three hundred francs in gold, which Germain
had given her to pay the debt of her father, which I had already done;
I have this money; it belongs to Germain, since he has paid back the
notary; I will give it to you; you can add it to the rest."

"As you please, M. Rudolph; yet I would rather not have so large a sum
with me at home, there are so many robbers nowadays. Papers are very
well--there is nothing to fear; but money is dangerous."

"Perhaps you are right, neighbor; shall I take charge of this sum? If
Germain has need of anything, you must let me know at once. I will
leave you my address, and I will send you what he wants."

"I should not have dared to ask this service from you; it will be much
better, neighbor. I will give you also the money I shall receive from
the sale of his effects. Let us see the papers," said the girl,
opening the secretary and several drawers. "Ah, it is probably this.
Here is a large envelope. Oh, my gracious! look here, M. Rudolph, how
sad it is what's written on this." And she read, in a faltering tone:

"In case I should die a violent death, or otherwise, I beg the person
who should open this secretary to carry these papers to Mlle.
Rigolette, seamstress, Rue du Temple, No. 17."

"Can I break the seal, M. Rudolph?"

"Doubtless; does he not say that among these papers there is one
particularly addressed to you?"

The girl broke the seal. Several papers were inclosed; one of them,
bearing the superscription, "_To Mademoiselle Rigolette_"
contained these words: "Mademoiselle--When you read this letter, I
shall no longer exist. If, as I fear, I die a violent death, in
falling a victim to willful murder, some information, under the title
of _Notes of my Life_ may give a clew to my assassins."

"Ah! M. Rudolph," said Rigolette, "I am no longer astonished that he
was so sad. Poor Germain! always pursued by such ideas!"

"Yes; he must have been much afflicted. But his worst days are over,
believe me."

"I hope so, M. Rudolph. But, however, to be in prison, accused of
robbery!"

"Be comforted. Once his innocence recognized, instead of falling into
an isolated state, he will find friends. You, in the first place; then
a beloved mother, from whom he has been separated since his
childhood."

"His mother! He has still a mother?"

"Yes. She thinks him lost to her. Judge of her joy when she will see
him again. Do not speak to him of his mother. I confide this secret to
you, because you interest yourself so generously in his favor."

"I thank you, M. Rudolph; you may be assured I will keep your secret,"
and Rigolette continued the reading of the letter:

"If you will, mademoiselle, look over these notes, you will see that I
have been all my life very unhappy, except during the time I passed
with you. What I should never have dared to tell you, you will find
written here, entitled '_My sole days of happiness._'

"Almost every evening, on leaving you, I thus poured out the consoling
thoughts that your affection inspired, and which alone tempered the
bitterness of my life. What was friendship when with you, became love
when absent from you. I have concealed this until this moment, when I
shall be no more for you than perhaps a sad souvenir. My destiny was
so unhappy, that I should never have spoken to you of this sentiment;
although sincere and profound, it would only have made you unhappy.

"One wish alone remains to be fulfilled, and I hope that you will
accomplish it. I have seen with what admirable courage you work, and
how much method and economy was necessary for you to live on the small
amount you earn so industriously. Often, without telling, you, I have
trembled in thinking that a malady, caused, perhaps, by excess of
labor, might reduce you to a situation so frightful that I could not
even think of it without alarm. It is very grateful to me to think
that I can at least spare you the horrors, and, perhaps, in a great
degree, the miseries, which you, in the thoughtlessness of youth, do
not foresee, happily."

"What does he mean, M. Rudolph?" said Rigolette, astonished.

"Continue, we shall see."

"I know on how little you can live, and what a resource the smallest
sum would be to you in a time of difficulty. I am very poor, but, by
economy, I have set aside one thousand five hundred francs, deposited
at a banker's; it is all that I possess. By my will, which you will
find here, I bequeath it to you; accept it from a friend, a good
brother, who is no more."

"Oh! M. Rudolph," said Rigolette, bursting into tears, and giving the
letter to the prince, "this gives me too much pain. Good Germain, thus
to think of me! Oh! what a heart! what an excellent heart!"

"Worthy and good young man!" replied Rudolph, with emotion. "But calm
yourself, my child. Germain is not dead; this anticipation will only
serve as a witness of his love for you."

"It is true. To be beloved by so good a young man is very flattering,
is it not, M. Rudolph?"

"And some day, perhaps, you will participate in this love?"

"M. Rudolph, it is very trying; poor Germain is so much to be pitied!
I'll put myself in his place--if at the moment when I thought myself
abandoned, despised by all the world, a person, a good friend, came to
me, still more kind than I could hope for--I should be so happy!"
After a moment's pause, Rigolette resumed with a sigh, "On the other
hand, we are both so poor, that perhaps it would not be reasonable.
Look here, M. Rudolph, I do not wish to think of that; perhaps I am
mistaken; but I will do all I can for Germain, as long as he remains
in prison. Once free, it will always be time enough to see if it is
love or friendship I feel for him; then if it is love, neighbor, it
will be love. But it grows late, M. Rudolph; will you collect these
papers, while I make up a bundle of linen? Oh! I forgot the sachet
inclosing the little orange cravat, which I have given him. It is in
this drawer, without a doubt. Oh! see how pretty it is, all
embroidered! Poor Germain has guarded it like a relic! I well remember
the last time I wore it, and when I gave it to him. He was so happy,
so happy."

At this moment some one knocked at the door.

"Who is there?" demanded Rudolph.

"I want to speak to Madame Mathieu," answered a hoarse and husky
voice, with an accent which denoted the speaker to be one of the
lowest order. Madame Mathieu was a diamond broker living in this
house, who employed Morel.

This voice, singularly accented, awakened some vague recollections in
the mind of Rudolph. Wishing to enlighten them, he went and opened the
door. He found himself face to face with a fellow whom he recognized
at once, so fully and plainly was the stamp of crime marked on his
youthful and besotted face.

Either this wretch had forgotten the features of Rudolph, whom he had
seen only once, or the change of dress prevented him from recognizing
him, for he manifested no astonishment at his appearance.

"What do you want?" said Rudolph.

"Here is a letter for Madame Mathieu. I must give it into her own
hands," answered the man.

"She does not live here: inquire opposite," said Rudolph.

"Thank you, friend; they told me it was the door to the left; I am
mistaken."

Rudolph did not know the name of the diamond broker; he had therefore
no motive to interest himself about the woman to whom the rogue came
as a messenger. Nevertheless, although he was ignorant of the crimes
of this bandit, his face had such a guilty look of perversity, that he
remained on the threshold of the door, curious to see the person to
whom he brought this letter. Hardly had the man knocked at the
opposite door when it was opened, and the broker, a large woman of
about fifty years of age, appeared, holding a candle in her hand.

"Madame Mathieu?" said the messenger.

"That's my name."

"Here is a letter; I want an answer." He made a step in advance, as if
to enter the room; but she made a motion for him not to advance,
unsealed the letter, read it, and answered, with a satisfied air:

"You will say it is all right, my lad; I will bring what they wish; I
will go to-morrow at the same time as before. Give my compliments to
this lady."

"Yes, ma'am. Don't forget the messenger."

"Go ask those who sent you; they are richer than I am;" and she closed
the door.

Rudolph re-entered Germain's room, seeing the messenger rapidly
descending the staircase.

The latter met on the boulevard a man of a villainous and ferocious
appearance, who waited for him before a shop. Although several persons
might have heard him, but not understood him, it is true, he appeared
so much pleased that he could not help saying to his companion, "Come,
toss off your tipple, Nick! the old girl's toddled into the trap;
she'll meet Screech Owl; Mother Martial will give us a lift in
squeezing the sparklers out of her, and then we will carry the cold
meat away in your boat."

"Look sharp, then; I must be at Asnieres early; I am afraid my brother
Martial will suspect something." And the rogues, after having held
this conversation, quite unintelligible to those who might have heard
it, directed their steps toward the Rue Saint Denis.

A few moments after, Rigolette and Rudolph left the abode of Germain,
got into the carriage, and drove to the Rue du Temple. When the
carriage stopped, and the portress came to open the door, Rudolph saw
by the street light a friend of his, who was waiting for him at the
passage door.

That presence announced some great event, or, at least, something
unexpected, for he alone knew where to find the prince.

"What is the matter, Murphy?" said Rudolph, quickly, while Rigolette
collected the papers in the vehicle.

"A great misfortune, your highness!"

"Speak, for Heaven's sake!"

"The Marquis d'Harville."

"You alarm me!"

"He gave a breakfast this morning to several of his friends.
Everything was going off well; he, above all, had never been more gay,
when a fatal imprudence--"

"Go on, go on!"

"In playing with a pistol which he did not know was loaded--"

"He has wounded himself?"

"Worse!"

"Well?"

"Something very terrible!"

"What do you say?"

"He is dead!"

"D'Harville! oh, this is frightful!" cried Rudolph in such a heart-rending
tone, that Rigolette, who had just descended from the carriage
with her bundles, said: "What is the matter, M. Rudolph?"

"Some very bad news that I have just told my friend, mademoiselle,"
said Murphy to the girl, for the prince was so much affected that he
could not answer.

"Is it some really great misfortune?" asked Rigolette, tremblingly.

"A very great misfortune," answered the other.

"Oh! this is frightful!" said Rudolph, after a silence of some
moments; then, recollecting Rigolette, he said to her: "Pardon me, my
child, if I do not go with you to your room; to-morrow I will send you
my address, and a permit to go to Germain's prison. I will soon see
you again."

"Oh! M. Rudolph, I assure you I am very sorry for the bad news you
have heard. I thank you for having accompanied me to-night. Good-bye."

The prince and Murphy got into the coach, which took them to the Rue
Plumet.

Immediately Rudolph wrote to Clemence the following note:

"Madame,--I learn this moment the unexpected blow which has
overwhelmed you, and takes from me one of my best friends: I shall not
endeavor to describe my sorrow.

"Yet I must inform you of things foreign to this cruel event. I have
just learned that your step-mother, who has been for some days in
Paris, without doubt, leaves to-night for Normandy, taking with her
Polidori, alias Bradamanti. This will tell you of the dangers your
father is threatened with, and allow me to give you some advice. After
the frightful affair of this morning, your desire to leave Paris will
be nothing extraordinary. So set off at once for Aubiers, to arrive
there, if not before, at least as soon as your step-mother. Be
assured, madame, far or near, I shall still watch over you; the
abominable projects of your step-mother shall be baffled.

"Adieu, madame: I write this in haste. My heart is almost broken when
I think of last evening, when I left him more tranquil, more happy,
than he had been for a long time.

"Believe me, madame, in my profound and sincere devotion.

  "RUDOLPH."

Following this advice, Madame d'Harville, three hours after the
receipt of this letter, was on the road to Normandy. A post-chaise,
which left Rudolph's, followed the same route.

Unfortunately, from the trouble into which she was plunged by this
complication of events, and the precipitation of her departure,
Clemence forgot to acquaint the prince that she had met Fleur-de-Marie
at Saint Lazare.

It will be remembered, perhaps, that the evening previous, La Chouette
had threatened Mrs. Seraphin to disclose the fact of the existence of
La Goualeuse, affirming that she knew (and she told the truth) where
the young girl then was. It will also be remembered that after this
conversation Jacques Ferrand, fearing the revelation of his criminal
misdeeds, had determined that it was for his interest to put the
Goualeuse out of the way, whose existence, once known, might
compromise him dangerously. He had, therefore, caused to be written to
Bradamanti a note to summon him to come and hatch some new schemes, of
which Fleur-de-Marie was to be the victim.

Bradamanti, occupied with the interests, not less pressing, of the
stepmother of Madame d'Harville, who had her own reasons for
conducting the quack to the bedside of M. d'Orbigny, doubtless finding
it more to his advantage to serve his old friend, paid no attention to
the invitation of the notary, and set out for Normandy without seeing
Mrs. Seraphin.

The storm gathered around Jacques Ferrand; in the course of the day La
Chouette had returned to reiterate her threats, and, to prove that
they were not in vain, she had declared to the notary that the little
girl, formerly abandoned by Mrs. Seraphin, was then a prisoner at
Saint Lazare, under the name of La Goualeuse, and that if they did not
give her ten thousand francs in three days, this girl should receive
some papers which would inform her that she had been in her infancy
confided to the care of Jacques Ferrand.

According to his custom, the notary denied all this with audacity, and
drove off La Chouette as an impudent liar, although he was convinced
and frightened by her threats.

In the course of the day the notary found means to assure himself that
the Goualeuse was a prisoner at Saint Lazare, and so noted for her
good conduct that her release was expected soon.

Furnished with this information, Jacques Ferrand, having arranged a
most diabolical scheme, felt that, to execute it, the assistance of
Bradamanti was more and more indispensable; hence the frequent
attempts of Mrs. Seraphin to see the quack. Learning the same evening
of his departure, forced to act by the imminence of his fears and
danger, he remembered the Martial family--those river pirates
established near Asnieres Bridge, to whom Bradamanti had proposed to
send Louise Morel, in order to get rid of her with impunity.

Having absolutely need of an accomplice, to carry out his wicked
designs against Fleur-de-Marie, the notary took every precaution, in
the case a new crime should be committed; and the next morning, after
the departure of Bradamanti for Normandy, Mrs. Seraphin went in great
haste to see the Martials.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE RIVER PIRATE'S HAUNT.


The following scenes took place on the evening of the day that Mrs.
Seraphin had, according to the notary's orders, paid a visit to the
Martials, established on the point of a small island, not far from
Asnieres Bridge. Martial, the father, who had died on the scaffold
like his own father, left a widow, four sons, and two daughters. The
second of these sons was already condemned to the galleys for life. Of
this numerous family there remained on the island the mother; three
sons; the eldest (the lover of La Louve) twenty-five, the other
twenty, the youngest twelve; two daughters; one eighteen, the second
nine. Instances of such families, wherein is perpetuated a kind of
frightful inheritance in crime, are but too frequent. This must be so,
because society thinks only of punishing, never of preventing the
evil.

The gloomy picture which follows, of the river pirates, has for its
object to show what, in a family, inheritance of evil may be, when
society either legally or kindly does not interfere to preserve the
unfortunate, orphaned by the law, from the terrible consequences of
the judgment visited on their father.

The head of the Martial family, who had first settled on this little
island, was a dredger (_ravageur_).

They, as well as the _debardeurs_, and the _dechireurs_ of
boats, remain almost the entire day plunged in the water to their
waists, to follow their trade.

The _debardeurs_ bring to land floating wood.

The _dechireurs_ knock to pieces the rafts which bring down the
wood. Quite as aquatic as the preceding operatives, the labor of
_ravageurs_ has a very different object. Advancing in the water
as far as they can, they are enabled, by means of long rakes, to drag
the mud and sand from the bed of the river; then, collecting this in
large wooden bowls, they wash it, and thus collect a large quantity of
pieces of metal of all kinds, iron, copper, lead, and brass.

Often they find in the sand fragments of gold or silver jewels,
carried into the Seine either by the gutters or from the masses of
snow and ice collected in the streets in winter and thrown into the
river. We do not know by virtue of what tradition, or by what usage,
these industrious people, generally honest, peaceable, and laborious,
are so formidably named.

Old Martial first inhabitant of the island, being a ravageur (a sorry
exception), the people living on the banks of the river called it the
ravageur's island.

The dwelling of the river pirates is situated at the south end of the
isle. On a sign which hangs near the door can be seen:

        "THE DREDGERS' ARMS.
  Good Wines, Fish fried and boiled.
           Boats to Let."

It will be seen that to his other business the head of this family
had added an innkeeper's, fisherman's, and the keeping of boats for
hire. The widow of this executed criminal continued to keep the house.
Vagabonds, wandering quacks, and itinerate keepers of animals came to
pass Sundays and other non-working days in parties of pleasure.

Martial (the lover of La Louve), the eldest son of the family, least
vicious of all, fished by stealth, and, for pay, took the part of the
weak against the strong.

One of his brothers, Nicholas, the future accomplice of Barbillon in
the murder of the diamond broker, was apparently a ravageur, but in
fact a pirate along the Seine and its banks. Finally, Francois, the
youngest son, took care of those who wished to go boating.

We will just mention Ambrose Martial, imprisoned for life for robbery
and attempt at murder The eldest girl, nicknamed Calabash, assisted
her mother in the kitchen and to wait upon the guests; her sister,
Amandine, aged nine years, gave what aid she could to them.

On this night, thick, heavy clouds, driven by the winds, obscured the
sky; hardly one star could be seen through the increasing gloom. The
house, with its irregular gables, was completely buried in darkness,
except the two windows of the ground-floor, from which streamed a red
light, reflected like long trains of fire on the troubled waters near
the landing-place, close to the house. The chains of the boats moored
there mingled their rattling with the mournful sighing of the wind
through the poplars, and the heavy splashing of the water on the
shore. Part of the family was assembled in the kitchen, a large, low
room; opposite the door were two windows, between which was a large
dresser; on the left, a high fireplace; to the right, a staircase
which led to the upper story; at the side of this, the entrance to a
large room, furnished with several tables, destined for the guests.
The light of a lamp, joined to the flames of the hearth, shone on a
number of saucepans and other cooking utensils of copper, hung on the
walls, or arranged on shelves with crockery; a large table stood in
the center of the kitchen. The widow was seated by the fire with her
three children. Tall and thin, she appeared to be about forty-five
years of age. She was dressed in black; a mourning kerchief, tied
round her head with two loose ear-like ends, concealed her hair, and
almost covered her pale, wrinkled forehead; her nose was long,
straight, and pointed; her cheek-bones prominent, and cheeks fallen
in; her yellow, sickly-looking skin was deeply marked with the small-pox;
the corner of her mouth, always drawn down, rendered still harsher
the expression of her cold, stern, sinister-looking face, immovable
as a mask of marble. Her dull blue eyes were surmounted by gray
brows. She and her two daughters were occupied with some sewing.

The eldest resembled her mother--the same cold, calm, wicked look; her
thin nose, mouth, and pale look. Only her earthy skin, yellow as
saffron, gave her the nickname of Calabash. She wore no mourning: her
dress was brown; her black lace cap displayed two bands of uncommonly
light flaxen hair, with no luster. Francois, the youngest son, was
seated on a bench, mending a small mesh, a very destructive sort of
fishing net, strictly forbidden use on the Seine. Notwithstanding his
sunburned appearance, his skin was fair; red hair covered his head;
his features were well turned, his lips thick, his forehead
projecting, his eyes sharp and piercing: there was no resemblance to
his mother or eldest sister. His expression was timid yet cunning;
from time to time, through, the kind of mane which fell over his face,
he cast obliquely on his mother a look of defiance, or exchanged with
his sister Amandine a glance of intelligence and affection.

She, seated by his side, was occupied, not in marking, but in
unmarking some linen stolen the night previous. She was nine years
old, and resembled her brother as much as her sister did her mother;
her features, without being any more regular, were less coarse than
Francois'; although covered with freckles, her skin was of dazzling
purity; her lips were thick, but vermilion, her hair red, but fine,
silky, and brilliant; her eyes small, but soft and expressive.

When they exchanged looks, Amandine pointed to the door; at the sign
Francois answered by a sigh; then, calling the attention of his sister
by a rapid gesture, he counted distinctly from the end of his netting
needle ten threads of the net. This meant, in their own symbolical
language, that their brother Martial would not return before ten
o'clock.

On seeing these two quiet, wicked-looking women, and these two poor,
restless, mute, trembling little children, one could easily guess they
were two tormentors and two victims.

Calabash, noticing that Amandine had ceased a moment from work, said
to her, in a harsh voice, "Will you soon have done with that chemise?"

The child held down her head without replying; with fingers and
scissors, she quickly finished picking out the marks made with red
cotton, and then handing the work to her mother, said timidly, "Mamma,
I have finished it."

Without making any reply, the widow threw her another piece of linen.
The child could not catch it in time, and let it fall. Her sister gave
her, with her iron hand, a heavy slap on the arm, saying "Little
stupid fool!"

Amandine resumed her work, after having exchanged a hasty glance with
her brother; a tear glistened in her eye. The same silence continued
to reign in the kitchen. The wind howled without, and the sign creaked
mournfully on its hinges. The only sounds within were the bubbling of
a saucepan placed before the fire. The two children observed with
secret alarm that their mother did not speak. Although she was
habitually very quiet, this complete taciturnity and certain
contractions of her lips announced that the widow was in that which
they called her white rage, that is to say, a prey to some
concentrated irritation.

The fire appeared to be going out from want of fuel.

"Francois, a stick of wood!" said Calabash.

The young net-mender looked behind the chimney-piece, and answered,
"There is no more there."

"Go to the wood-pile," said Calabash.

Francois murmured some unintelligible words, but did not stir.

"Francois, did you hear me?" said Calabash sharply.

The widow placed on her knees a napkin, which she was unmarking, and
looked at her son.

He had his head down, but he thought he felt the terrible look of his
mother was upon him. Fearing to meet her formidable face, the child
remained immovable.

"Are you deaf, Francois'?" resumed Calabash, much irritated.

"Mother--do you see?"

Amandine, without being perceived, nudged her brother to urge him
tacitly to obey Calabash. Francois did not stir. The eldest sister
looked at her mother, as if to demand the punishment of the offender.
The widow understood her, and pointed with her long, bony finger to a
long willow switch, which stood in the corner.

Calabash leaned back, took this instrument of correction, and handed
it to her mother.

Francois had perfectly understood the gesture of his mother; he jumped
up quickly, and with one bound was out of his mother's reach.

"You want mother to beat you soundly?" cried Calabash, "do you?"

The widow, holding the rod in her hand, bit her lips, and looked at
Francois with a steady eye, without pronouncing a word. From the
slight agitation of Amandine's hands, who sat with her head down,
while her neck was suffused with red, it could be seen that the child,
although accustomed to such scenes, was alarmed at the fate which
awaited her brother, who, having taken refuge in a corner of the
kitchen, seemed alarmed and yet rebellious.

"Take care of yourself; mother will get up, and then it will be too
late," said Calabash.

"All the same to me," answered Francois, turning pale. "I prefer to be
beaten, as I was yesterday, to going to the wood-pile at night."

"And why?" said Calabash, impatiently.

"I am afraid of the wood-pile!" answered Francois, shuddering in spite
of himself.

"You are afraid, fool! of what?"

Francois hung his head without answering.

"Will you speak? What are you afraid of?"

"I don't know; but I'm afraid."

"You have been there a hundred times, and even last night?"

"I don't want to go there any more."

"There's mother; she's getting up."

"So much the worse for me," cried the child. "Let her beat me; let her
kill me; but I will not go to the wood-pile--at night, above all."

"But, once more, I ask you, why not?" said Calabash.

"Well, because there's some one--"

"Some one?"

"Buried there," murmured the trembling boy.

The widow, notwithstanding her impassibility, could not repress a
slight shudder; her daughter imitated her; one would have said that
the two had received an electric shock.

"Some one buried in the wood-house!" said Calabash, shrugging her
shoulders.

"Yes," said Francois, in a voice so low that he could hardly be heard.

"Liar!" cried Calabash.

"I tell you that not long ago, while piling the wood, I saw, in a dark
corner of the wood-house, a dead man's bone; it stuck out of the
ground, which was damp round about," replied Francois.

"Do you hear him, mother? Is he not a fool?" said Calabash, making a
significant sign to the widow. "They are some mutton bones I threw
there."

"It was not a mutton bone," answered the child; "it was bones buried--
dead men's bones: a foot which stuck out of the ground. I saw it."

"And you instantly told this to your brother, your good friend
Martial--did you not?" said Calabash. Francois did not answer.

"Wicked little spy!" cried Calabash, furiously. "Because he is as
cowardly as a cow, he will get us guillotined, as father was."

"Since you call me a spy," cried Francois, exasperated, "I shall tell
everything to Martial. I have not told him yet, for I have not seen
him since; but when he returns to-night, I--"

The child dared not finish, for his mother advanced toward him, calm
but inexorable. Although she habitually held herself much bent over,
her size was very large for a woman. Holding the switch in one hand,
with the other the widow took her son by the arm, and, in spite of the
alarm, resistance, prayers, and tears of the child, dragging him after
her, she compelled him to mount the stairs. In a moment was heard the
sound of heavy blows, mingled with cries and sobs. When this noise
ceased, a door was shut violently, and the widow descended. She placed
the whip in its place, seated herself alongside of the fire, and
resumed her work without saying a word.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE PIRATES.


After a few moments' silence, the widow said to her daughter, "Go and
get some wood; we will arrange the woodhouse to-night, on the return
of Nicholas and Martial."

"Martial! Will you also tell him that?"

"Some wood," repeated the widow, interrupting her daughter.

She, accustomed to this iron will, lighted a lantern and went out. At
the moment she opened the door it could be seen that the night was
very dark, and one could hear the whistling of the wind through the
poplars, the clanging of the chains which held the boats, and the wash
of the river. These noises were profoundly sad.

During the preceding scene, Amandine, painfully affected at the fate
of Francois, whom she loved tenderly, had dared neither to raise her
eyes nor wipe her tears, which fell drop by drop obscuring her sight.
In her haste to finish the work which was given her, she had wounded
her hand with the scissors; the blood flowed freely, but the poor
child thought less of the pain than the punishment which she might
expect for having stained the linen with her blood. Happily, the
widow, absorbed in profound thought, perceived nothing. Calabash
returned bringing a basket filled with wood. At a look from her
mother, she answered by a nod, intended to say that the dead man's
foot did appear above the earth.

The widow bit her lip and continued to work, but she appeared to
handle the needle more quickly. Calabash replenished the fire, and
resumed her seat alongside of her mother.

"Nicholas does not come," said she. "I hope the old woman who was here
this morning, in giving him a rendezvous with Bradamanti, has not got
him into some bad scrape. She had such a queer air; she would not
explain or tell her name, or where she came from." The widow shrugged
her shoulders.

"You think there is no danger for Nicholas, mother? After all,
perhaps, you are right. The old woman said he must be on the Quai de
Billy at seven in the evening, opposite the dock, where he would find
a man who wished to speak to him, and who would say 'Bradamanti' for
password. Really, that does not seem so very dangerous. If Nicholas is
late, it is, perhaps, because he has found something on the way, as he
did yesterday--this linen, boned from a washing-boat;" and she showed
one of the pieces of linen which Amandine was unmarking; then,
speaking to the child, she said, "What does boning mean?"

"This means to take," answered the child, without raising her eyes.

"It means to steal, little fool; do you hear, to steal?"

"Yes, sister."

"And when one knows how to bone like Nicholas there is always
something to gain. The linen he picked up yesterday has only cost us
the trouble of picking out the marks--eh, mother?" said Calabash, with
a burst of laughter which displayed her decayed teeth, as yellow as
her skin. The widow did not laugh.

"_Apropos_ of getting things gratis," continued Calabash, "we
can, perhaps, furnish ourselves from another shop. You know that an
old man, two or three days since, came to live in the country-house of
M. Griffion, the physician of the Paris Hospital--the lonely house a
few steps from the river, opposite the plaster quarry?" The widow
bowed her head.

"Nicholas said yesterday that now there was, perhaps, a good job to be
done there. And I know, since this morning, that there is some booty
there for certain. I must send Amandine to wander around the house;
they will pay no attention to her; she will pretend to be playing,
will look well about her, and then come and let us know what she has
seen. Do you hear what I say?"

"Yes, sister, I will go," answered the trembling child.

"You always say 'I will' but you never do it, you sly puss. The time I
told you to take the five francs from the counter of the grocer at
Asnieres, while I kept him busy at the other end of his shop--it was
very easy; no one suspects a child--why didn't you obey?"

"Sister, my heart failed me: I did not dare."

"The other day you dared to steal a handkerchief from the peddler's
pack while he was selling at the tavern. Did he find it out, fool?"

"Sister, you forced me--it was for you; and, besides, it was not
money."

"What of that?"

"To take a handkerchief is not so bad as to take money."

"On my word! Martial teaches you these whims doesn't he?" said
Calabash, in an ironical manner. "You'll go and tell him everything,
little spy! Do you think we are afraid that he'll eat us?" Then,
addressing the widow, Calabash added, "Mother, this will end badly for
him; he wants to lay down the law here. Nicholas is furious against
him; so am I. He sets Amandine and Francois against us, against you.
Can it be borne?"

"No!" said the mother, in a short, harsh voice.

"It is especially since his Louve was Saint-Lazared that he has gone
on like a madman. Is it our fault that she is in prison? When she is
once out of prison, let her come here, and I will serve her out--good
measure--though she is strong."

The widow, after a moment's pause, said to her daughter, "You think
there is something to be done with the old man who lives in the
doctor's house?"

"Yes, mother."

"He looks like a beggar."

"That doesn't prevent his being a noble."

"A noble?"

"Yes; or that he should have gold in his purse, although he goes to
Paris on foot every day, and returns in the same manner, with his
heavy stick for his carriage."

"How do you know that he has gold?"

"The other day I was at the post-office, to see if there were any
letters from Toulon."

At these words, which brought to her mind her son at the galleys, the
widow knit her brows and suppressed a sigh.

Calabash continued: "I awaited my turn, when the old man we speak of
came in. I twigged him at once by his beard, as white as his hair, and
his black eyebrows. In spite of his hair, he must be a determined old
man. He said, 'Have you any letters from Angers for the Count of Saint
Remy?' 'Yes,' was the answer, 'here is one.' 'It is for me,' said he;
'here is my passport.' While the postmaster examined it, the old man
drew out his purse to pay the postage. At one end I saw the gold
glittering through the meshes, at least forty or fifty louis," cried
Calabash, her eyes twinkling, "and yet he is dressed like a beggar. He
is one of those old misers who are stuffed with gold. Come, mother, we
know his name; it may serve us to get into the crib when Amandine
finds out if he has any servants."

A violent barking of the dogs interrupted Calabash. "Oh, the dogs
bark," said she; "they hear a boat. It is either Martial or Nicholas."

After a few moments the door opened, and Nicholas Martial made his
appearance. His face was ignoble and ferocious; small, thin, pitiful,
it could hardly be imagined that he followed so dangerous a calling;
but an indomitable energy supplied the place of the physical strength
which was wanting. Over his blue slop he wore a great-coat, without
sleeves, made of goat-skin with long hair. On entering he threw on the
ground a roll of copper which he had on his shoulder.

"Good-night, and good booty, mother," cried he, in a cracked voice;
"there are three more rolls in my boat, a bundle of clothes, and a box
filled with I don't know what, for I have not amused myself by opening
it. Perhaps I am sold--we shall see."

"And what about the man at the Quai de Billy?" asked Calabash, while
the widow looked at her son without saying a word.

He, for sole answer, put his hand in his pocket and jingled together a
number of pieces of silver.

"You took all that from him?" cried Calabash.

"No, he shelled out himself two hundred francs, and he will come down
with eight hundred more when I shall have--but enough; let us unload
the boat; we can jaw afterward. Isn't Martial here?"

"No," said the sister.

"So much the better; we will lock up the booty without him; just as
well he shouldn't know."

"You are afraid of him, coward!" said Calabash, crossly.

"Afraid of him? me!" He shrugged his shoulders. "I am afraid he'll
sell us, that's all. As to the fear, my sticker has too sharp a
tongue."

"Oh, when he is not here, you brag; let him but come, that shuts your
bill."

Nicholas appeared insensible to this reproach, and said, "Come, quick!
quick! to the boat. Where is Francois, mother? He could help us."

"Mother has shut him upstairs, after having dressed him nicely; he
goes to bed without supper," said Calabash.

"Good; but let him come and help us unload the boat all the same--eh,
mother? Calabash, him, and me, in a twist, will have all housed."

The widow pointed upward. Calabash understood, and went to look for
Francois.

The gloomy visage of Mother Martial had become slightly relaxed since
the arrival of Nicholas; she liked him better than Calabash, but not
as well as she did her Toulon son, as she called him; for the maternal
love of this ferocious creature increased in proportion to the
criminality of her offspring. This perverse preference sufficiently
explains the dislike of the widow to her youngest children, who
displayed no bad tendencies, and her profound hatred for Martial, her
eldest son, who, without leading a blameless life, might have passed
for a very honest man if he had been compared to Nicholas, Calabash,
or his brother, the galley--slave at Toulon.

[Illustration: THE PILLAGE ]

"Where have you been plundering to-night?" asked the widow.

"On returning from the Quai de Billy, I cast a sheep's-eye upon a
barge fastened to the quay near the Invalides Bridge. It was dark; I
said, no light in the cabin--the sailors are on shore--I'll go on
board; if I meet any one, I'll ask for a piece of seizing to mend my
oar. I went into the cabin--nobody; then I took what I could, some
clothes, a large box, and, on the deck, four rolls of copper; for I
returned twice. The barge was loaded with copper and iron. But here
come Francois and Calabash. Quick, to the boat! Come, be moving--you,
too, Amandine. You can carry the clothes. A dog learns to carry before
he is taught hunting."

Left alone, the widow busied herself in preparing the supper for the
family, placing on the table glasses, bottles, plates, and silver
forks and spoons. Just as she finished her preparation, her children
returned heavily laden. The weight of the two rolls, which he carried
on his shoulders, seemed almost to crush Francois. Amandine was hardly
visible under the bundle of clothes which she carried on her head.
Nicholas and Calabash carried between them a deal box, on the top of
which was placed the fourth roll of copper.

"The box, the box!" cried Calabash, with impatience. "Let us air the
case!" The copper was thrown on the ground. Nicholas, armed with a
hatchet, endeavored to get it under the cover, so as to force it up.
The red flickering light from the earth illuminated this scene of
pillage; without, the wind howled with renewed violence. Nicholas,
kneeling before the box, tried to break it, and uttered the most
horrible oaths on seeing his efforts useless. Her eyes glistening with
cupidity, her cheeks flushing, Calabash kneeled on the box, and
assisted Nicholas with all her strength. The widow, separated from the
group by the table, where she stood at full length, also had her eager
gaze fixed on the stolen object.

Finally, a thing, alas! too human, the two children, whose good
natural instincts had so often triumphed over the cursed influence of
this abominable domestic corruption, forgetting their scruples and
their fears, gave way to the attractions of a fatal curiosity. Leaning
against one another, their eyes sparkling, their breathing oppressed,
Francois and Amandine were not less anxious to know the contents of
the box than their brother or sister. At length the top was forced
off.

"Ah!" cried the family, in a joyful tone. And all, from the mother to
the little girl, crowded around the stolen case. Without doubt,
consigned by some Paris merchant to some of his country customers, it
contained a large quantity of articles for women's use.

"Nicholas is not sold!" cried Calabash, unrolling a piece of muslin de
laine.

"No," answered the pirate, shaking out a package of foulards; "no, I
have paid my expenses."

"Levantine! that will sell like bread," said the widow, putting her
hand in the box. "The Bras-Rouge's fence, who lives in the Rue du
Temple, will buy the stuffs, and Daddy Micou, who keeps furnished
lodgings in the Quartier Saint Honore, will arrange for the copper."

"Amandine!" whispered Francois to his little sister; "what a pretty
cravat this would make."

"Yes, and it would make a very fine scarf," answered the child, with
admiration. "I must say you had some luck, getting on board the
barge," said Calabash; "look here, famous shawls; three real silk! Do
look, mother?"

"Burette will give at least five hundred francs for the whole," said
the widow, after a close examination.

"Then it must be worth at least fifteen hundred francs," said
Nicholas, "but a receiver is as bad as a thief! Bah! I do not know how
to cheat. I shall be soft enough this time again to do just as Burette
wishes, and Micou also; but he is a friend."

"Never mind; the seller of old iron is a robber, just like the rest,
but these rascally receivers know one has need of them," said
Calabash, trying on one of the shawls, "and they abuse it."

"There's nothing more," said Nicholas, reaching the bottom of the box.

"Now all must be repacked," said the widow.

"I'll keep this shawl," said Calabash.

"You'll keep it!" cried Nicholas, brutally, "if I give it to you. You
are always taking--you--Miss Free-and-easy."

"Oh! you then refrain from taking?"

"I? I nail at the risk of my skin. It's not you who'd have been jugged
if they'd caught me on the barge."

"Well, there's your shawl! I don't care about it," said Calabash,
sharply throwing it back into the case.

"It is not on account of the shawl that I speak; I am not mean enough
to value a shawl; for one, more or less, old Burette will not change
her price; she buys in a lump," said Nicholas. "But instead of saying
that you'd take the shawl you might ask if I would give it you. Come,
keep it--keep it, I tell you; or if you won't, I'll pitch it into the
fire to make the pot boil."

These words soothed Calabash's bad temper, and she took the shawl.
Nicholas was, doubtless, in a generous mood; for, tearing off with his
teeth two of the handsomest handkerchiefs, he threw them to Francois
and Amandine.

"That's for you, my kids, to put you in the notion to go on the lay.
Appetite comes with eating. Now go to bed; I want to talk with mother.
Your supper shall be brought upstairs." The children clapped their
hands, and waved triumphantly the stolen handkerchiefs which had just
been given them.

"Well, you little blockheads!" said Calabash, "will you listen any
more to Martial? Has he ever given you such handsome things?" Francois
and Amandine looked at each other; then hung their heads without
replying.

"Speak!" said Calabash, harshly; "has he ever made you presents?"

"Well, no; he never has," said Francois, looking at his red
handkerchief with delight. Amandine said, in a very low tone, "Brother
Martial does not make us presents, because he hasn't the means."

"If he would steal, he'd have them," said Nicholas; "eh, Francois?"

"Yes, brother," answered Francois. Then he added: "Oh, the beautiful
silk! What a fine cravat for Sunday?"

"What a fine head-dress!" said Amandine.

"Not to say how wild the children of the lime-burner will be when they
see you pass," said Calabash, looking at the children to see if they
comprehended the bearing of the words. The abominable creature thus
called vanity to her assistance to stifle the last scruples of
conscience. "The beggars will burst with envy: while you, with your
fine silk, will look like little gentry."

"That's true," answered Francois. "I am much more content with my fine
cravat, since the little lime-burners will be so jealous; ain't you,
Amandine?"

"I am content with my fine kerchief."

"You'll never be anything but a noodle!" said Calabash, disdainfully;
and taking from the table a piece of bread and cheese, she gave it to
the children and said, "Go upstairs to bed. Here is a lantern. Take
care of the fire, and put out the light before you go to sleep."

"And," added Nicholas, "remember, if you say a word to Martial about
the box, or the copper, or the clothes, you shall have a dance, so
that you'll take fire; not to say taking away the silks."

After the departure of the children, Nicholas and his sister hid the
stolen articles in a little cellar under the kitchen.

"Mother! some drink, and let it be choice," cried the robber. "I have
well earned my day. Serve supper, Calabash; Martial shall gnaw our
bones--good enough for him. Now let us talk of the customer, 'Quai de
Billy,' for to-morrow or next day that must come off, if I wish to
pocket the money he promised. I am going to tell you, mother; but some
drink--thunder! let's have some drink. I'll stand some."

Nicholas rattled the money which he had in his pocket anew; then,
throwing off his goatskin jacket and his black woolen cap, he seated
himself at table before a ragout of mutton, a piece of cold veal, and
salad.

When Calabash had brought some wine and brandy, the widow seated
herself at the table, having Nicholas on her right and Calabash on her
left; opposite were the unoccupied places of Martial and the two
children. The thief drew from his pocket a long, broad knife, with a
horn handle and sharp blade. Looking at this murderous weapon with a
kind of ferocious satisfaction, he said to the widow, "My rib-tickler
still cuts well! Pass me the bread, mother!"

"Speaking of knives," said Calabash, "Francois saw something in the
woodhouse."

"What?" said Nicholas, not understanding her.

"He saw one of the trotters--"

"Of the man?" cried Nicholas.

"Yes," said the widow, putting a slice of meat on the plate of her
son.

"That's queer, for the hole was very deep," said the brigand, "but
since that time should have been heaped up."

"We must throw the lot into the river to-night," said the widow."

"It is more sure," answered Nicholas.

"We can tie a stone to it with a piece of old chain," added Calabash.

"Not so foolish!" said Nicholas, pouring out drink; "come, drink with
us, mother; it will make you more lively."

The widow shook her head, drew back her glass, and said to her son,
"And the man at the Quai de Billy?"

"Well," said Nicholas, continuing to eat and drink. "On arriving at
the wharf, I tied up my boat, and mounted on the wharf; seven o'clock
struck at the military bakehouse of Chaillot; I could hardly see my
hand before my face. I walked up and down for about fifteen minutes,
when I heard some one walk softly behind me. I stopped; a man wrapped
in a cloak approached, coughing; he halted. All that I know of his
face is, that his cloak hid his nose, and his hat covered his eyes."

(This mysterious personage was Jacques Ferrand, who, wishing to make
away with Fleur-de-Marie, had that morning dispatched Mrs. Seraphin to
the Martials, whom he hoped to make his instruments in this new
crime.)

"'Bradamanti,' said the tax-payer," continued Nicholas; "the password
agreed upon with the old woman. 'Ravageur,' I replied. 'Is your name
Martial?' said he to me. 'Rather!' 'A woman came to your island this
morning; what did she say?' 'That you had something to say to me from
M. Bradamanti.' 'Do you wish to gain some money?' 'Yes, much.' 'Have
you a boat?' 'Four! it is our business; boatmen and ravageurs from
father to son, at your service.' 'I'll tell you what is to be done--if
you are not afraid--' 'Afraid--of what?' 'To see some one _drowned
by accident_; only it is necessary to assist the _accident_.
Do you comprehend?' 'Oh, you want to make some cove drink of the Seine
by chance! that suits me; but, as it is rather a delicate draught, the
seasoning will cost rather dear.' 'How much for two?' 'For two! will
there be two persons to make soup of in the river?' 'Yes.' 'Five
hundred francs a-head, and not dear.' 'Agreed for a thousand francs.'
'Pay in advance?' 'Two hundred in advance, the remainder afterward.'
'You are afraid to trust me?' 'No, you can pocket my two hundred
francs without fulfilling our agreement.' 'And you, old friend, once
the affair finished, when I ask you for the remainder, can answer me--
go to the deuce!' 'You must run your chance; does this suit you, yes
or no? Two hundred francs down, and the night after to-morrow, here,
at nine o'clock, I will give you eight hundred francs.' 'And who shall
tell you that I have made these two persons drink?' 'I shall know it:
that's my affair! Is it a bargain?' 'It is.' 'Here's your money. Now
listen to me; you will know the old woman again who came to see you
this morning?' 'Yes.' 'To-morrow, or the day after at furthest, you
will see her arrive, about four o'clock in the afternoon, on the shore
opposite your island with a young girl; the old woman will make you a
signal by waving her handkerchief.' 'Yes.' 'How long does it take to
go from the shore to your island?' 'Twenty good minutes.' 'Your boats
have flat bottoms.' 'Flat as your hand.' 'You must make a hole in the
bottom of one of your boats, so as to be able, by opening it, to make
it sink in a twinkling; do you comprehend?' 'Very well; you are the
devil! I have an old boat that I was about to break up; it will just
answer for this last voyage.' 'You set out, then, from your island
with this boat; a good boat follows you, conducted by some one of your
family. You land; you take the old woman and the young girl on board
your boat, and you set off for the island; but, at a reasonable
distance from the shore, you feign to stoop to fix something; you open
the hole, and you jump lightly into the other boat, while the old
woman and the young girl--' 'Drink out of the same cup--that's it.'
'But are you sure of not being disturbed should there be any guests at
your tavern?' 'No fear, at this time, in winter, above all, no one
comes; it is our dead season; and if any one should come, they would
not be in the way; on the contrary--all tried friends.' 'Very well!
Besides, you will not be at all compromised; the boat will sink
through age, and the old woman with it. In fine, to be well assured
that both of them are drowned (remember, by accident), you should, if
they appear again, or if they cling to the boat, appear to do all in
your power to assist them, and--' 'Aid them--to dive again! Good
again.' 'It is better that the job take place after sunset, so that it
be dark when they fall into the water.' 'No, for if one cannot see
clear, how can they know whether the two women have drunk their fill,
or want some more?' 'That is true; then the accident must happen
before dark.' 'Very good; but does the old woman suspect anything?'
'No. On arriving she will whisper in your ear: We must drown the girl;
a short time before you sink the boat, make me a sign, so that I can
escape with you. You must answer in such a manner as to calm any
suspicions.' 'So that she thinks to lead the girl to drink?' 'And she
will drink with her.' 'It is wisely arranged.' 'Above all, let the old
woman suspect nothing.' 'Be easy; she shall swallow it like honey.'
'Well, good luck! If I am pleased, perhaps I shall employ you again.'
'At your service.' Thereupon," said the brigand, ending his story, "I
left the man in the cloak, got into my boat, and, passing by the
barge, I picked up the booty you have seen."

It will be seen from this recital, that the notary wished, by a double
crime, to get rid of Fleur-de-Marie and of Mrs. Seraphin at the same
time, by making the latter fall into the snare she believed only laid
for La Goualeuse. The reasons for putting the latter out of the way
are known to the reader; and in sacrificing Mrs. Seraphin, he silenced
one of his accomplices (Bradamanti was the other), who could at any
time ruin him by ruining themselves, it is true; but Jacques Ferrand
thought his secrets better guarded by the tomb than by personal
interest. The widow and Calabash had attentively listened to Nicholas,
who had only interrupted himself to drink to excess. For this reason
he began to talk with singular warmth.

"That's not all; I have managed another affair with La Chouette and
Barbillon, of the Rue aux Feves. It is a famous plant, knowingly got
up, and if we don't fail, there'll be something to try, I tell you. It
is in contemplation to rob a diamond broker, who has sometimes as much
as fifty thousand francs' value in her box."

"Fifty thousand francs!" cried mother and daughter, their eyes
sparkling with cupidity.

"Yes, that's all! Bras-Rouge is in the game. Yesterday he decoyed the
broker by a letter which Barbillon and I took to her on the Boulevard
Saint Denis. Brass-Rouge is a famous fellow! No one suspects him. To
make her bite, he has already sold her a diamond for four hundred
francs. She will not fail to come, at dusk, to his tavern in the
Champs Elysees. We will be there concealed. Calabash may come also, to
take care of my boat. If it is necessary to pack up the broker, dead
or alive, this will be a nice carriage, and leave no traces behind.
There's a plan for you! Rouge of a Bras-Rouge, what a college-bred
scamp!"

"I am always suspicious of Bras-Rouge," said the widow. "After the
affair of the Rue Montmartre, your brother Ambrose was sent to Toulon,
and Bras-Rouge was released."

"Because there was no proof against him, he is so cunning! But betray
others--never!"

The widow shook her head, as if she had been only half convinced of
the probity of Bras-Rouge. "I prefer," said she, "the affair of the
Quai de Billy--the women-drowning. But Martial will be in the way, as
he always is."

"The devil's thunder will not rid us of him then?" cried Nicholas,
half drunk, sticking his long knife with fury in the table.

"I told mother that we had had enough of him; that it could not last,"
said Calabash; "as long as he is here, we can make nothing out of the
children."

"I tell you he is capable of denouncing us any day, the sneak," said
Nicholas. "Do you see, mother; if you'd have agreed," added he, in a
ferocious manner, looking at the widow, "all would have been settled."

"There are other means."

"This is the best."

"At present, no," answered the widow, with a tone so absolute that
Nicholas was quiet, ruled by her influence. She added, "To-morrow
morning he leaves the island forever."

"How?" said Calabash and Nicholas in a breath.

"He will soon come in; seek a quarrel--boldly--as you have never dared
to do. Come to blows, if needs be. He is strong, but you will be two,
and I will help you. Above all, no knives--no blood; let him be
beaten, not wounded."

"And what then?" asked Nicholas.

"We'll have an explanation; we will tell him to leave the island to-morrow,
otherwise we'll repeat this again to-morrow night; such continual
quarrels will disgust him, I know; we have let him be too quiet."

"But he is stubborn as a mule; he'll remain on account of the
children," said Calabash.

"He is dead beat, but an attack will not scare him," added Nicholas.

"Oh, yes," said the widow; "but every day, every day is too much; he
will give up."

"And if he will not?"

"Then I have another plan to force him to leave tonight, or to-morrow
morning at latest," answered the widow, with a strange smile.

"Truly, mother?"

"Yes; but I would rather frighten him by quarreling and fighting; if I
do not then succeed, I'll try the other way."

"And if the other way don't answer, mother?" said Nicholas.

"There is still another, which always does," replied the widow.

Suddenly the door opened and Martial entered. It blew so hard outside
that they had not heard the barking of the dogs announcing the arrival
of the gallows widow's first-born.



CHAPTER XXIII.

MOTHER AND SON.


Ignorant of these evil designs, Martial slowly entered into the
kitchen.

A few words of La Louve, in her conversation with Fleur-de-Marie, have
already informed us of the singular life of this man. Endowed with
good natural instincts, incapable of an action positively bad or
wicked, Martial did not conduct himself as he should have done. He
fished contrary to law, and his strength and audacity inspired so much
terror in the river-keepers, that they shut their eyes on his
proceedings.

The lover of La Louve resembled Francois and Amandine very much; he
was of middling stature, but robust and broad-shouldered; his thick,
red hair, cut short, laid in points on his open forehead; his thick,
heavy beard, his large cheeks, square nose, bold blue eyes, gave to
him a singularly resolute expression.

He wore an old tarpaulin glazed hat; and, notwithstanding the cold,
had nothing on but a wretched blouse over his well-worn vest and
coarse velveteen trousers. He held in his hand an enormous knotty
stick, which he placed alongside of him on the table.

A large dog, with crooked legs, came in with Martial; but he remained
near the door, not daring to approach the fire, or the people at the
table; experience had proved to old Miraut, that he was, as well as
his master, not in very good odor with the family.

"Where are the children?" were the first words of Martial, as he took
his seat at the table.

"They are where they are," answered Calabash, sharply.

"Where are the children, mother?" repeated Martial, without paying any
attention to his sister.

"Gone to bed," answered the widow, dryly.

"Have they supped, mother?"

"What's that to you?" cried Nicholas, brutally, after having swallowed
a large glass of wine, to augment his audacity.

Martial as indifferent to the attacks of Nicholas as he was to
Calabash's, said to his mother, "I am sorry the children have already
gone to bed, for I like to have them alongside of me when I sup."

"And we, as they trouble us, packed them off," cried Nicholas; "if it
don't please you, go and look for them!"

Martial, much surprised, looked fixedly at his brother. Then, as if
reflecting on the folly of a quarrel, he shrugged his shoulders, cut a
piece of bread with his knife, and helped himself to a slice of meat.
The terrier had drawn nearer to Nicholas, although still at a very
respectful distance; the bandit, irritated at the contemptuous
indifference of his brother, and hoping to make him lose his patience
by striking the dog, gave Miraut a furious kick, which made him howl
piteously. Martial became purple, pressed in his contracted hands the
knife which he held, and struck violently on the table; but, still
containing himself, he called his dog, and said gently, "Here,
Miraut." The terrier came and laid down at his master's feet. This
moderation defeated the projects of Nicholas, who wished to push his
brother to extremities to bring about a rupture. So he added, "I don't
like dogs--I won't have your dog here." For answer, Martial poured out
a glass of wine, and drank it slowly.

Exchanging a rapid glance with Nicholas, the widow encouraged him by a
sign to continue his hostilities, hoping that a violent quarrel would
bring about a rupture and a complete separation.

Nicholas went and took the willow switch which stood in the corner,
and, approaching the terrier, struck him, crying, "Get out of this,
Miraut!" Up to this time, Nicholas had often shown his animosity
toward Martial, but never before had he dared to provoke him with so
much audacity and perseverance. At the yelp from his dog, Martial
rose, opened the door, put the terrier outside, and returned to
continue his supper. This incredible patience, little in harmony with
the ordinary character of Martial, confounded his aggressors. They
looked at each other, very much surprised. He, appearing completely a
stranger to what was passing, ate heartily, and kept profound silence.

"Calabash, take away the wine," said the widow to her daughter. She
hastened to obey, when Martial said, "Stop! I have not finished my
supper."

"So much the worse!" said the widow, taking away the bottle.

"Ah! as you like," answered he, and pouring out a large glass of
water, he drank it, and smacking his lips, cried, "That's famous
water!" This imperturbable coolness still more irritated Nicholas,
already much excited by his frequent libations; nevertheless, he
recoiled before a direct attack, knowing the superior strength of his
brother; suddenly he cried:

"You have done well to knock under, with your dog, Martial; it is a
good habit to get into; for you must expect to see La Louve kicked
out, just as we have kicked out your dog."

"Oh, yes--for if she has the misfortune to come to the island when she
comes out of prison," said Calabash, comprehending the intention of
Nicholas, "I will box her soundly."

"And I'll give her a ducking in the mud, near the hovel at the other
end of the island," added Nicholas; "and if she comes up again, I'll
put her under again with a kick--the hussy."

This insult, addressed to La Louvs whom he loved with unqualified
passion, triumphed over the pacific resolutions of Martial; he knit
his brows, his blood rushed to his face, the veins on his forehead and
neck swelled like ropes; yet he still had command over himself to say
to Nicholas, in a voice altered by suppressed rage. "Take care--you
seek a quarrel, and you will find a new trick that you do not look
for."

"A trick--to me?"

"Yes, better than the last."

"How? Nicholas," said Calabash, with well-feigned attachment, "has
Martial beat you? I say, mother, do you hear? I am no more astonished
that Nicholas is afraid of him."

"He whipped me, because he took me unawares," cried Nicholas, becoming
pale with rage.

"You lie! You attacked me slyly, I kicked you, and I took pity on you,
but if you undertake to speak again of La Louve--understand well, of
my Louve--then I'll have no mercy--you shall carry my marks for a long
time."

"And if I wish to speak of La Louve, I?" said Calabash.

"I will give you a couple of boxes just to warm you; and if you go on,
I'll go on to warm you."

"And if I speak of her?" said the widow, slowly.

"You?"

"Yes, me!"

"You?" said Martial, making a violent effort to contain himself,
"you?"

"You will beat me also, is it not so?"

"No! but if you speak of La Louve I'll thrash Nicholas; now go on, it
is your affair, and his also."

"You," cried the enraged bandit, raising his dangerous knife, "you
thrash me?"

"Nicholas, no knife!" cried the widow, endeavoring to seize the arm of
her son. But he, drunk with wine and anger, pushed his mother rudely
on one side, and rushed at his brother. Martial fell back quickly,
seized his heavy knotted stick, and put himself on the defensive.

"Nicholas, no knife!" repeated the widow.

"Let him alone!" cried Calabash, arming herself with a hatchet.

Nicholas, brandishing his formidable knife, watched a favorable moment
to throw himself on his brother. "I tell you," he cried, "that I'll
crush you and your Louve, both. Now, mother--now, Calabash! let us
cool him; this has lasted too long!" And, believing the time favorable
for his attack, the brigand rushed toward his brother with his knife
raised.

Martial, very expert with a club, retreated quickly, lifted his stick,
made a quick turn with it in the air, describing the figure eight, and
let it fall heavily on the arm of Nicholas, who, hurt severely,
dropped his knife. "Brigand, you have broken my arm!" cried he, taking
hold of his arm with his left hand.

"No, I felt my club rebound," answered Martial, kicking the knife
under the table. Then, profiting by the situation of Nicholas, he took
him by the collar, pushed him roughly backward toward the door of the
little cellar, opened it with one hand, and with the other threw him
in and shut the door.

Returning afterward to the two women, he took Calabash by the
shoulders, and, in spite of her resistance, her cries, and a blow from
the hatchet which wounded him slightly in the hand, he locked her in
the lower room of the tavern, which was adjoining the kitchen; then,
addressing the widow, still stupefied at this maneuver, as skillful as
it was unexpected, he said, coldly, "Now, mother, for us two."

"Well! yes; for us two," cried the widow, and her stoical face became
animated, her wan complexion became suffused, her eyes sparkled, anger
and hatred gave a terrible character to her features. "Yes; now for us
two!" said she, in a threatening tone; "I expected this moment--you
shall know at last what I have on my heart."

"And I also will tell you."

"If you live a hundred years you shall recollect this night."

"I shall remember it! My brother and sister wished to murder me; you
did nothing to prevent it. But come, speak: what have you against me?"

"What's my grudge?"

"Yes."

"Since the death of your father, you have done nothing but cowardly
acts."

"I?"

"Yes, coward! Instead of staying with us to sustain us, you fled to
Rambouillet, to poach in the woods with the game-peddler you knew at
Bercy."

"If I remained here, I should now have been at the galleys, like
Ambrose, or fit to go, like Nicholas; I did not wish to be a robber
like the others. Hence your hatred."

"And what was your trade? You stole game; you stole fish; no danger in
that, coward!"

"Fish, as well as game, belong to no one; to-day in one place, to-morrow
in another; it is for who can get it. I do not steal; as for being a
coward---"

"You fight for money men who are weaker than you are!"

"Because they have beaten those who are weaker than they are!"

"Trade of a coward! Trade of a coward!"

"There are more honest, it is true; it is not for you to tell me of
it."

"Why have you not followed these honest callings, instead of lounging
here and living at my expense?"

"I give you the first fish I take, and what money I have--it is not
much, but it is enough. I cost you nothing. I have tried to be a
locksmith, to gain more; but when one from his infancy has idled on
the river and in the woods, one can't do anything else; it is done for
life. And besides, I have always preferred to live alone, on the river
or in the woods; there no one questions me. Instead of that, in other
places, if any one should ask me of my father, must I not answer--
guillotined! of my brother--galley-slave! of my sister--thief!"

"And of your mother, what would you say!"

"I'd say she was dead."

"And you would do well; it is all as--I disown you, coward! Your
brother is at the galleys. Your grandfather and father have bravely
finished on the scaffold, in defying the priest and the executioner.
Instead of avenging them, you tremble!"

"Avenge them!"

"Yes, to show yourself a real Martial, spit on the knife of Jack Ketch
and his red cap, and finish like father and mother, brother and
sister."

Habituated as Martial was to the ferocious bombast of his mother, he
could not refrain from shuddering.

She resumed, with increasing fury, "Oh! coward, still more 'creatur'
than coward! You wish to be honest. Honest? is it that you shall not
always be despised, as the son of a murderer, brother of a galley-slave;
but you, instead of hugging vengeance, you are afraid; instead
of biting, you fly; when they cut off your father's head, you left us,
coward! And you knew we could not leave the island without being
hunted and howled after like mad dogs. Oh, they shall pay for it, they
shall pay for it!"

"One man--ten men can't make me afraid! but to be pointed at by
everybody as the son and brother of condemned criminals--well, no! I
could not stand it. I preferred to go and poach with Pierre the
game-seller."

"Why did you not remain in your woods?"

"I came back on account of my affair with the guard, and above all, on
account of the children, because they were of an age to be ruined by
bad example!"

"What is that to you?"

"To me? because I do not wish to see them become like Ambrose,
Nicholas, and Calabash."

"Not possible!"

"And alone with you all, they would not have failed, I made myself an
apprentice to try to earn something, to take them with me, and leave
the island; but at Paris every one knew it; it was always son of the
guillotined, brother of the galley slave. I had continual fights. It
tired me."

"And that did not tire you to be honest; that succeeded so well,
instead of having the heart to return to us, to do as we do--as the
children shall do in spite of you--yes, in spite of you. You think you
will stuff them with your preachings, but we are here. Francois
already belongs to us nearly--the first occasion, and he shall be of
the band."

"I tell you no."

"You will see. I know it. There is vice at the bottom; but you
restrain him. Amandine, when she is once fifteen, will go alone. Ah!
they have thrown stones at us, they have hunted us like mad dogs. They
shall see what our family is--except you, coward; for you alone make
us blush!"

"It is a pity."

"And as you may be spoiled here with us, to-morrow you will go from
this never to return."

Martial looked at his mother with surprise; after a moment's pause he
said, "You tried to get up a quarrel at supper to arrive at this."

"Yes, to show you what you may expect if you will stay here in spite
of us--a hell--do you understand?--a hell upon earth. Every day
disputes, blows, fights; and we shall not be alone like to-night; we
will have friends to help us; you'll not hold on a week."

"You think to frighten me?"

"I tell you what will happen to you."

"No matter. I remain."

"You will remain here?"

"Yes."

"In spite of us?"

"In spite of you, and Calabash, and Nicholas, and all others of the
same kidney."

"Stop; you make me laugh."

"I tell you I'll remain here until I find the means to earn my living
elsewhere with the children; alone, I should not be embarrassed. I
should return to the woods; but, on their account, I want more time to
find out what I want. Until then I remain."

"Ah! you remain until you can take away the children?"

"As you say!"

"Take away the children?"

"When I say to them come, they will come, and running too, I answer
for it."

The widow shrugged her shoulders, and replied, "Listen to me. I told
you, just now, if you were to live a thousand years, you would
remember this night. I am going to explain to you why; but once more,
have you well decided not to go?"

"Yes! yes! a thousand times, yes!"

"Directly you will say no! a thousand times, no! Listen to me well. Do
you know what trade your brother follows?"

"I suspect, but I do not want to know."

"You shall know. He steals."

"So much the worse for him."

"And for you."

"For me?"

"He is a burglar, a galley affair; we receive his plunder; if it is
discovered, we shall be condemned to the same punishment as receivers,
and you also; the family will be carried off, and the children will be
turned into the streets, where they will learn the trade of your
father and grandfather quite as well as here."

"I arrested as a receiver, as your accomplice! On what proof?"

"No one knows how you live; you are a vagrant on the water--you have
the reputation of a bad man--you live with us. Who will you make
believe that you are ignorant of our doings?"

"I will prove the contrary."

"We will accuse you as our accomplice."

"Accuse me! why?"

"To reward you for remaining here in spite of us."

"Just now you wished to alarm me in one way; now it is in another;
that don't take. I shall prove that I have never stolen. I remain."

"Ah! you remain? Listen, then, once more; do you remember what
happened last Christmas night?"

"Christmas night?" said Martial, endeavoring to collect his thoughts.

"Recollect well."

"I do not recollect."

"You do not remember that Bras-Rouge brought here at night a man well
dressed, who wished to be concealed?"

"Yes, now I remember; I went upstairs to bed, and I left him at supper
with you. He passed the night here; before daylight Nicholas took him
to Saint Ouen."

"You are sure Nicholas took him to Saint Ouen."

"You told me so the next morning!"

"Christmas night you were then here?"

"Yes. Well?"

"On that night that man, who had much money with him, was killed in
this house."

"He! Here!"

"And robbed, and buried in the little wood-house."

"It is not true," cried Martial, becoming pale with alarm, and not
willing to believe in this new crime of his kindred. "You wish to
alarm me. Once more I say it is not true."

"Ask your pet, Francois, what he saw in the wood-house."

"Francois, what did he see?"

"One of the feet of the man sticking out of the ground. Take the
lantern; go there, and satisfy yourself."

"No," said Martial, wiping the cold sweat from his brow. "No, I do not
believe you. You tell me that to---"

"To prove to you that, if you live here in spite of us, you run the
risk every moment to be arrested as an accomplice in murder and
robbery. You were here Christmas night; we will say how you gave us
your aid; how can you prove the contrary?"

"Oh!" said Martial, hiding his face in his hands.

"Now will you go?" said the widow, with a sarcastic smile.

Martial was thunderstruck; he did not doubt the truth of what his
mother had said; the roving life he led, his residence with a family
so criminal, might cause heavy suspicions to fall upon him, and these
might be changed into certainties in the eyes of justice, if his
mother, his brother, his sister, pointed to him as their accomplice.
The widow enjoyed the situation of her son.

"You have the means to escape from this; denounce us!"

"I ought to do it, but I shall not; you know it well!"

"It is for this I have told you all. Now will you go?"

Martial tried to soften his mother; with a mellowed voice he said,
"Mother, I do not believe you capable of this murder."

"As you like, but go away."

"I will go on one condition."

"No conditions."

"You will place the children as apprentices far from this, in the
provinces."

"They shall remain here."

"Come now, mother; when you have made them like Nicholas, Ambrose,
father--what good will it do you?"

"To do some good business with their aid. We are not yet too many.
Calabash remains here with me to keep the tavern. Nicholas is alone;
once taught, Francois and Amandine will help him. They threw stones at
them also, children as they were; they must revenge themselves."

"Mother, you love Calabash and Nicholas, don't you?"

"What then?"

"They will go to the scaffold like father."

"What then, what then?"

"And does not their fate make you tremble?"

"Their fate shall be mine--neither better nor worse. I steal, they
steal; I kill, they kill. Who takes the mother will take the children.
We will not be separated. If our heads fall, they shall fall in the
same basket, where they will say adieu! We will not turn back; you are
the only coward in the family; we drive you away. Get out!"

"But the children--the children!"

"The children will grow up. I tell you, except for you, they would
have been already formed. Francois is almost ready; when you are gone,
Amandine shall make up for lost time."

"Mother, I entreat you, consent to send the children away as
apprentices far from here."

"How many times must I tell you that they are in apprenticeship here?"

The widow articulated these words in such a stern manner that Martial
lost all hope of softening this heart of bronze.

"Since it is thus," said he, in a resolute and brief tone, "listen to
me in your turn, mother; I remain."

"Ah, ah!"

"Not in this house. I should be murdered by Nicholas, or poisoned by
Calabash; but, as I have not the means to lodge elsewhere, the
children and I will live in the hovel at the other end of the island:
the door is strong; I will make it stronger. Once there, well
barricaded, with my gun, my dog, and my club, I fear no one. To-morrow
morning I will take away the children; they will come with me,
sometimes in my boat, sometimes on the mainland. At night they shall
sleep near me in the cabin; we will live on my fishing. This shall
continue until I find a place for them; and I will find one."

"Ah! is it so?"

"Neither you, nor my brother, nor Calabash can prevent it. If your
thefts and your murders are discovered while I am still on the island,
so much the worse; I must run my chance. I shall explain that I
returned: that I remained on account of the children, to prevent their
becoming rogues. They can judge. But may the thunder crush me if I
leave this island, and if the children remain one day more in this
house! Yes, I defy you--defy you and yours to drive me from the
island!"

The widow knew the resolution of Martial; the children loved their
eldest brother as much as they feared him; they would follow him,
then, without hesitation, when he wished it. As to him, well armed,
resolute, always on his guard--in his boat during the day, barricaded
during the in his cabin--he had nothing to fear from any evil designs
of his family. The project of Martial could then, on all points, be
realized. But the widow had many reasons to prevent the execution.

In the first place, like as honest artisans consider sometimes the
number of their children as riches, on account of their services, so
the widow counted on Amandine and Francois to assist her in her
crimes. Then, what she had said of her desire to avenge her husband
and her son was true. Certain beings, nursed, become aged, hardened in
crime, enter into open revolt, into a murderous warfare against
society, and believe by new acts of guilt to avenge themselves for the
just punishment which has overtaken them and theirs. And then, in
fine, the wicked designs of Nicholas against Fleur-de-Marie, and still
later against the diamond broker, might be defeated by the presence of
Martial. The widow had hoped to bring about an immediate separation
between herself and Martial, either by fomenting the quarrel with
Nicholas, or by revealing to him what risk he ran by remaining on the
island. As cunning as she was acute, the widow, perceiving that she
was mistaken, felt that it was necessary to have recourse to perfidy
to entrap her son in a bloody snare. She resumed then, after a long
silence, and with affected bitterness: "I see your plan; you do not
wish to denounce us yourself--you wish to do it through the children."

"I?"

"They know now that there is a man buried here; they know that
Nicholas has stolen: once in apprenticeship, they will speak; we shall
be taken, and we shall all be executed--you, as well as we; that's
what will happen if I listen to you--if I allow you to place the
children elsewhere. And yet you say you don't wish us any harm! I do
not ask you to love me; but do not hasten the moment when we shall be
taken."

The softened tones of the widow made Martial believe that his threats
had produced a salutary effect: he fell into a frightful snare.

"I know the children," replied he. "I am sure if I tell them to say
nothing they will be quiet; besides, I shall always be with them, and
will answer for their silence."

"Can any one answer for the words of a child? at Paris, above all,
where people are so curious and talkative? It is as much to keep them
silent as to aid us that I wish to keep them here."

"Do they not go to the village and to Paris now? Who prevents them
from speaking, if they wish to speak? If they were far away from here,
so much the better: what they might say would be of no consequence."

"Far from here! and where is that?" said the widow, looking steadily
at her son.

"Let me take them away; no consequence to you."

"How would you live?"

"My old master, the locksmith, is a good man. I will tell him what is
necessary, and perhaps he will lend me something on account of the
children; with that I'll go and bind them out far away from this. We
set out in two days, and you will never hear more of us."

"No; I prefer to have them with me. I shall be more sure of them."

"Then I establish myself to-morrow at the hovel, waiting for something
better. I have a head also, and you know it."

"Yes, I know it. Oh, how I wish to see you far away from this! Why did
you not stay in your woods?"

"I offer to rid you both of myself and the children."

"You would leave La Louve, then--she whom you love so well?"

"That's my business: I know what I have to do; I have a plan."

"If I let you take them away, will you never return to Paris?"

"In three days we will be off, and like the dead for you."

"I prefer to have it so, rather than you should always be here, and be
suspicious of them. Come, since it must be so, take them away, and
clear out as soon as possible, that I may never see you again."

"Is this settled?"

"It is. Give me the key of the cellar, so that I can release
Nicholas."

"No he can sleep off his wine there."

"And Calabash?"

"It is different. You can open the door after I have gone to bed; it
makes me feel bad to see her."

"Go; and may the devil confound you!"

"Is it your good-night, mother?"

"Yes."

"Happily, it will be the last," said Martial.

"The last," replied the widow.

Her son lighted a candle, and, opening the kitchen door, whistled to
his dog, which came bounding in, and followed his master to the upper
story of the mansion.

"Go! your account is finished," muttered the mother, shaking her fist
at her son, who had just gone upstairs, "you have brought it upon
yourself." Then, assisted by Calabash, who went to look for a bunch of
false keys, the widow picked the lock of the cellar where Nicholas was
confined, and set him at liberty.



CHAPTER XXIV.

FRANCOIS AND AMANDINE.


Francois and Amandine slept in a room situated immediately over the
kitchen, at the extremity of a corridor, into which opened several
other rooms, serving as private dining-rooms to the frequenters of the
tavern. After having partaken of their frugal supper, instead of
extinguishing their lantern, according to the orders of the widow, the
two children had watched, leaving their door open, to see Martial when
he should come to his room. Placed on a rickety stool, the lantern
shed a sickly light through the miserable room. Walls of plaster, a
cot for Francois, a child's bedstead, very old, and much too short for
Amandine, a heap of broken chairs and benches, the result of some of
the drunken brawls and turbulent conduct which had taken place at the
tavern; such was the interior of this den.

Amandine, seated on the edge of the cot, tried to dress her head with
the stolen gift of her brother Nicholas, Francois, kneeling, presented
a fragment of looking-glass to his sister, who, with her head half-turned
round, was occupied in tying the ends of the silk into a large
rosette. Very attentive, and very much struck with this coiffure,
Francois neglected for a moment to hold the glass in such a position
that his sister could see. "Raise the glass higher now--I cannot see;
there--so--good. Wait a little; now I have finished. Look! how do you
think it looks?"

"Oh, very well--very well! What a fine tie! You'll make one just like
it with my cravat, won't you?"

"Yes, directly; but let me walk a little. You go before--backward;
hold the glass up so that I can see myself as I walk." Francois
executed this difficult maneuver very well, to the great satisfaction
of Amandine, who strutted up and down triumphantly, under the rosette
and ears of her _foulard._ Very innocent under any other
circumstances, this conduct become culpable, as Francois and Amandine
both knew the prize was stolen; another proof of the frightful
facility with which children, even well endowed, are corrupted almost
without knowing it, when they are continually plunged in a criminal
atmosphere.

And, besides, the sole mentor of these little unfortunates, their
brother Martial, was not himself irreproachable, as we have said:
incapable of committing a theft or murder, he did not the less lead an
irregular and wandering life. They refused to commit certain bad
actions, not from honesty, but to obey Martial, whom they tenderly
loved, and to disobey their mother, whom they feared and hated. It is
hard to say how much the perceptions of morality with these children
were doubtful, vacillating, precarious; with Francois particularly,
arrived at that dangerous period where the mind, hesitating, undecided
between good and evil, perhaps in one moment may be lost or saved.

"How this red becomes you, sister!" said Francois. "How pretty it is!
When we go and play on the shore in front of the plaster-kilns, you
must dress yourself so, to make the children wild, who are always
throwing stones at us and calling us little _guillotines._ I'll
put on my fine red cravat, and we will tell them, 'Never mind, you
haven't such handsome handkerchiefs as these.'"

"But I say, Francois," said Amandine, after a pause, "if they knew
that they were stolen, they would call us little thieves."

"Who cares if they do?"

"When it is not true, it's all the same; but now--"

"Since Nicholas has given us these, we have not stolen them."

"Yes, but he did; he took them from a boat; and brother Martial says
we must not steal."

"But since Nicholas has stolen them, it is none of our business."

"You think so, Francois?"

"Yes, I do."

"Yet it seems to me that I should have preferred that the person to
whom they belonged should have given them to us. Don't you think so,
Francois?"

"Oh, it's all the same to me. They have been given to us, and that's
enough."

"You are very sure?"

"Why, yes, yes; do be quiet."

"Then, so much the better; we have not done what brother Martial
forbids, and we have fine handkerchiefs."

"I say, Amandine, if he knew that the other day Calabash made you take
that handkerchief from the peddler's pack, when his back was turned!"

"Oh, Francois, do not speak of that!" said the poor child, whose eyes
were filled with tears: "brother Martial would love me no more. He
would leave us all alone here."

"Don't be afraid, I will not tell him," he said, laughing.

"Oh, don't laugh at that. Francois; I am sorry enough; but I had to do
it. Sister pinched me till the blood came, and then she looked at me
so--so! and yet twice my heart failed me; I thought I could never do
it. Finally, the peddler saw nothing, and sister kept the kerchief. If
he had seen me, Francois, they would have put me in prison."

"They did not see you; it is just the same as if you had not stolen."

"You think so?"

"Of course!"

"And in prison, how unhappy one must be!"

"On the contrary."

"How, Francois, on the contrary?"

"Look here! you know the big lame man who lives at Paris with Pere
Micou; the man who sells for Nicholas; who keeps furnished lodgings,
Passage de la Brasserie?"

"A big lame man?"

"Why, yes; who came here at the end of the autumn from Pere Micou,
with a man with monkeys, and two women."

"Oh, yes, yes; the lame man who spent so much money?"

"I think so; he paid for everybody."

"Do you recollect the excursion on the water?"

[Illustration: THE BRIGAND'S ATTACK ON HIS BROTHER]

"I went with them, and the man with the monkeys took his organ on
board to have some music in the boat."

"And then, at night, what fine fireworks they had, Francois!"

"Yes; and he was no miser: he gave me ten sous! He drank nothing but
sealed wine; they had chickens at all their meals; they had at least
eighty francs' worth."

"As much as that, Francois?" "Oh, yes."

"He was very rich, then?"

"Not at all; what he spent was the money which he earned in prison,
from whence he had just come."

"He gained all that money in prison?"

"Yes; he said he had seven hundred francs left; that when all was
gone, he would do some good job, and if they took him, he didn't care,
because he would return to the prison and join his good friends
there."

"He wasn't afraid of the prison, then, Francois?".

"Just the contrary; he told Calabash that they were all jolly
together; that he never had a better bed or better food than in
prison: good meat four times a week, fire all winter, and a good sum
when he came out, while there are so many stupid fools of honest
workmen who were starving for want of work."

"Did the lame man say that?"

"I heard him; for I was rowing in the boat while he told this to
Calabash and the two women, who said it was the same thing in the
prison for women; they had just come out."

"But, then, Francois, it can't be so wicked to steal, if one is so
well off in prison?"

"I don't know; here, there is no one but brother Martial who says it
is wrong to steal, perhaps he is mistaken."

"Never mind, we must believe him, Francois; he loves us so much!"

"He loves us, it is true! when he is here no one dares to beat us. If
he had been here to-night, mother wouldn't have whipped me. Old beast!
ain't she wicked? Oh! I hate her--hate her. How I wish I was a man, to
pay her back all the blows she has given me, and you, who can't bear
it as well as I can."

"Oh! Francois, hush, you make me afraid, to hear you say that you
would like to strike mother!" cried the poor little thing, weeping,
and throwing her arms around the neck of her brother, whom she
embraced tenderly.

"No, it is true," answered Francois, repulsing his sister gently; "why
are mother and Calabash always so severe and cross to us?"

"I do not know," said Amandine, wiping her eyes; "it is, perhaps,
because they guillotined father and sent Ambrose to the galleys."

"Is that our fault?"

"No; but--"

"If I am always to receive blows in the end, I would rather steal, as
they wish me to; what good does it do me not to steal?"

"And what would Martial say?"

"Oh! except for him I should have said 'yes' long ago, for I am tired
of being flogged; now to-night, mother never was so wicked--she was
like a fury--it was very dark, dark; she said not a word, I only felt
her cold hand, which held me by the neck, while with the other she
beat me, and I thought I saw her eyes glisten."

"Poor Francois! because you said you saw a dead man's bones in the
wood-house?"

"Yes, a foot which stuck out of the earth," said Francois, shuddering
with affright: "I am sure of it."

"Perhaps formerly there was a burying-ground there?"

"Must think so; but, then, why did mother say she would whip me again
if I spoke of it to Martial? I tell you what, it is likely some one
has been killed in a dispute, and been buried there so it should not
be known." "You are right! for, do you remember, such a thing once
liked to have happened?"

"When was that?"

"You know the time that Barbillon struck the man with the knife--the
tall man, who is so thin--so thin that he shows himself for money?"

"Ah! yes, the Living Skeleton, as they call him; mother came and
separated them, otherwise Barbillon would, perhaps, have killed the
great skeleton! Did you see how he foamed, and how his eyes stuck out
of his head?"

"Oh! he is not afraid to stick a knife into one for nothing."

"He is a madcap!"

"Oh! yes, so young, and so wicked, Francois!"

"Tortillard is much younger; and he would be quite as bad, if he had
the strength."

"Oh! yes, he is very bad. The other day he struck me because I would
not play with him."

"He struck you? good--the next time he comes--"

"No, no, Francois, it was only in fun."

"You are sure?"

"Yes, very sure."

"Very well--or--but I do not know where he gets so much money from;
when he came here with La Chouette, he showed us some gold pieces of
twenty francs."

"How impudent he looked when he told us, 'You could have just the
same, if you were not little duffers.'"

"Duffers?"

"Yes, that means stupid fools."

"Oh, yes! true."

"Forty francs--in gold--how many fine things I would buy with that!
And you, Amandine?"

"Oh! I likewise."

"And what would you buy?"

"Let me see," said the child, in a meditative manner; "in the first
place I would get a warm coat for brother Martial, so that he should
not be cold in his boat."

"But for yourself--for yourself?"

"I would like an infant Saviour, in wax, with his lamb and cross, like
the image-man had on Sunday, you know, at the door of the church of
Asnieres."

"I hope no one will tell mother Calabash that they saw us at church."

"True, she has so often forbidden us to enter one. It is a pity, for a
church is very nice inside, is it not, Francois?"

"Yes, what fine candlesticks!"

"And the picture of the Holy Virgin! how good she looks!"

"And the lamps; and the fine cloth on the table at the end, where the
priest said mass, with his two friends dressed like himself, who gave
him water and wine."

"Say, Francois, do you recollect last year, the Fete-Dieu, when we saw
from here all the little communicants, in their white veils, pass over
the bridge?"

"What handsome flowers they had!"

"How they sung, and held the ribbons of their banners!"

"And how the silver fringes of the banners glistened in the sun! That
must have cost a deal of money!"

"Goodness--how handsome it was, Francois!"

"I believe you, and the communicants with their badges of white satin
on the arm, and wax candles with velvet and gold handles."

"The little boys had banners also, had they not, Francois?"

"Oh! was I not whipped that day because I asked mother why we did not
walk in the procession, like other children!"

"Then it was that she told us never to enter a church, unless it was
to steal the money-box for the poor, 'or from the pockets of people
listening to mass,' added Calabash, laughing and showing her old,
yellow teeth."

"Bad creature, she is!"

"Oh, before I would steal in a church, they should kill me! Don't you
say so, Francois?"

"There, or elsewhere--what is the difference when one has decided?"

"I do not know, but I should have more fear; I never could."

"On account of the priests?"

"No, perhaps on account of the picture of the Holy Virgin, who looks
so good and kind."

"What of that?--the picture can't eat you, little fool!"

"True; but I could not; it is not my fault."

"Speaking of priests, Amandine, do you remember the day when Nicholas
struck me so hard, because he saw me bow to the cure who was passing
on the shore? I had seen him saluted--I did the same; I did not think
there was any harm."

"Yes; but that time Martial said just the same as Nicholas--that we
had no need to make a salute to a priest."

At this moment Francois and Amandine heard some one walk in the
corridor.

Martial reached his chamber without any further trouble, after his
conversation with the widow, believing Nicholas locked up until the
next morning. Seeing a ray of light issuing from the door of the
children's room, he went in. They both ran to him and embraced him
tenderly.

"Not yet gone to bed, little chatterers?"

"No, brother; we waited for you to come and say good-night," said
Amandine.

"And, besides, some one was talking very loud downstairs, as if it was
a quarrel," added Francois.

"Yes," said Martial, "I had a dispute with Nicholas, but it is
nothing. I am glad to find you up; I have some good news to tell you."

"Us, brother?"

"Would you like to go with me away from here--far away?"

"Oh yes, brother!"

"Well, in two or three days all three of us leave the island."

"How glad I am!" cried Amandine, clapping her hands.

"But where shall we go to?" asked Francois.

"You shall see, inquisitive; but never mind, wherever we go, you shall
learn a good trade, which will make you able to earn your living, that
is sure."

"Shall I not go any more fishing with you, brother?"

"No, my boy; you shall go as an apprentice to a cabinet-maker or a
locksmith. You are strong and active; with courage, and by working
hard, at the end of a year you will be able to earn something. Oh,
come now, what is the matter? You do not appear to be pleased."

"Because, brother, I--"

"Well, go on."

"Would rather remain with you, fish, mend your nets, than learn a
trade."

"Really?"

"To be shut up in a shop all day is so gloomy; and to be an apprentice
is so tiresome." Martial shrugged his shoulders.

"You would rather be idle, a vagabond, a rover," said he severely,
"before becoming a robber?"

"No, brother; but I would rather live here with you, as we live here--
that's all."

"Yes, that's it--to eat, drink, sleep, and amuse yourself with
fishing, like a lazybones."

"I like that better."

"It is very probable; but you must like something else. Look here, my
poor Francois, it is high time that I take you from this place;
without knowing it, you will become as bad as the others. Mother was
right--I am afraid you are rather vicious. But you, Amandine, wish to
learn a trade?"

"Oh, yes, brother; I would rather learn one than stay here. I shall be
so glad to go away with you and Francois?"

"But what have you got on your head?" said Martial, remarking the
triumphant head-dress of Amandine.

"A handkerchief which Nicholas gave me."

"He gave me one also," said Francois proudly.

"And where did they come from? It would surprise me if Nicholas should
have bought them for you."

The children hung their heads, without replying. After a moment's
pause, Francois said resolutely, "Nicholas gave them to us; we don't
know where they came from, do we, Amandine?"

"No, no, brother," answered she, stammering and blushing, and not
daring to raise her eyes."

"Do not tell a lie!" said Martial sweetly.

"We do not lie!" added Francois, boldly.

"Amandine, my child, tell the truth," said Martial, gently.

"Well, to tell the whole truth," answered Amandine, timidly, "they
came from a box of goods which Nicholas brought to-night in his boat."

"Stolen?"

"I think so, brother, from a barge."

"You see, Francois, you told a lie!" said Martial. The boy held down
his head, without answering.

"Give me the handkerchief, Amandine; give me yours, also, Francois."

The little girl took off her head-dress, took a last look at the
enormous rosette, and gave it to Martial, stifling a sigh of regret.
Francois drew his slowly from his pocket, and, like his sister,
returned it to Martial.

"To-morrow morning," said he, "I will give these to Nicholas. You
should not have taken them, my children; to profit by a theft is the
same as to be the thief."

"It's a pity--they are so handsome!" said Francois.

"When you have learned a trade, and earn money, you can buy some quite
as handsome. Come, go to bed; it is late, children."

"You are not angry, brother?" said Amandine timidly.

"No, no, my girl; it is not your fault. You live with rogues--you do
as they do without knowing it. When you are with honest people, you
will do as they do; and you soon shall be there--or deuce take me!
Good-night!"

"Good-night, brother;" and, embracing them both, Martial departed.

"What is the matter, Francois? you look so sad!" said Amandine.

"Brother has taken my handkerchief; and, besides, did you not hear?"

"What?"

"He wants to make us apprentices."

"Are you not glad?"

"Faith, no!"

"You would rather remain here, and be beaten every day?"

"I am beaten; but I don't have to work. I am all day in the boat, or
fishing or playing, or serving the company, who sometimes give me
something for drink, as the lame man did; it is much more amusing than
to be shut up from morning till night in a shop, to work like a dog."

"But did you not hear brother say, if we remained here any longer we
would become bad?"

"All the same to me, since other children call us already little
thieves. Work is too tiresome."

"But here they always beat us!"

"They beat us because we listen more to Martial than to them."

"He is so good to us."

"He is good, he is good, I do not deny; so I love him well. They do
not dare to harm us before him. He takes us out to walk, it is truer
but that is all; he never gives us anything."

"Brother, he has nothing; what he earns he gives to our mother for
board."

"Nicholas has something. I am sure that if we were to listen to him
and mother, he would not treat us so; he would give us fine things,
like to-day; he would no longer suspect us; we should have money, like
Tortillard."

"But we should have to steal, and that would cause brother Martial so
much sorrow!"

"Can't help that!"

"Oh, Francois! Besides, if they caught us, we should go to prison."

"In prison, or shut up all day in a shop, is the same thing. Besides,
the lame man said they amused them--selves so much in prison."

"But the sorrow we would cause to Martial--don't you think of that? It
is on our account he came back here, and now remains; alone, he could
easily get along: he could return and poach in the woods he likes so
well."

"Well! let him take us in the woods with him," said Francois: "that
would be best of all; I would be with him I love so much, and I should
not have to work at a trade I cannot bear."

The conversation of Francois and Amandine was interrupted. Their door
locked on the outside with a double turn.

"We are shut up!" cried Francois.

"Oh! what for, brother? What are they going to do with us?"

"Perhaps it is Martial."

"Listen, listen, his dog barks!" said Amandine.

"It sounds to me as if they were hammering something," said Francois;
"perhaps they are trying to break open Martial's door!"

"Yes, yes, his dog barks all the time."

"Listen, Francois! now it sounds like driving nails. Oh, dear, I am
afraid. What could brother have done? now hear how his dog howls!"

"Amandine, I hear nothing now," said Francois, approaching the door.

The two children, holding their breath, listened with anxiety.

"Now they return," said Francois, in a low tone, "I hear them walking
in the corridor."

"Let us jump into bed; mother would kill us if she found us up," said
Amandine.

"No!" answered Francois, still listening: "they have just passed our
door; they are running downstairs; now they open the kitchen door."

"You think so?"

"Yes, yes; I know the noise it makes."

"Martial's dog keeps on howling," said Amandine; then suddenly she
cried, "Francois, brother calls us."

"Martial?"

"Yes, don't you hear him?" And, notwithstanding the thickness of the
two closed doors, the stentorian voice of Martial, calling to the
children, could be heard. "We cannot go to him--we are locked up,"
said Amandine: "they wish to do him some harm, for he calls to us."

"Oh, if I could," cried Francois, resolutely, "I would prevent them,
if they were to cut me to pieces! But brother does not know that we
are locked up; he will think that we will not help him."

"Call to him, Francois, that we are shut up."

He was about to follow the advice of his sister, when a violent blow
shook the blind on the outside of the little window of their room.

"They are coming that way to kill us!" cried Amandine, and, in her
fright, she threw herself on the bed, and covered her face with her
hands.

Francois remained immovable, although he partook of the alarm of his
sister. Yet, after the violent blow of which we have spoken, the blind
was not opened; the most profound silence reigned throughout the
house.

Martial had ceased to call the children.

Somewhat recovered and excited by deep curiosity, Francois ventured to
half open the window, and tried to see without through the slats of
the blinds.

"Take care, brother," whispered Amandine, who, hearing Francois open
the window had partly raised herself up. "Do you see anything?"

"No; the night is too dark."

"Do you hear nothing?"

"No; the wind blows too hard."

"Come back, come back then!"

"Ah! now I see something."

"What?"

"The light of a lantern; it comes and goes."

"Who carries it?"

"I only see the light."

"Oh! now it comes nearer; some one speaks."

"Who is that?"

"Listen, listen! it is Calabash."

"What does she say?"

"She tells them to hold the foot of the ladder steady."

"Oh! do you see, it was in taking away the long ladder which was
against our window that they made such a noise just now."

"I hear nothing more."

"What are they doing with the ladder now?"

"I can't see anything more."

"Do you hear nothing?"

"No."

"Oh, Francois, it is, perhaps, to get into brother Martial's room by
the window that they have taken the ladder?"

"That may be."

"If you would open the shutter a little to see--"

"I dare not."

"Only a little."

"Oh! no, no. If mother should see it--"

"It is so dark there is no danger."

Francois, yielding to the entreaties of his sister, opened the blinds
and looked out.

"Well, brother?" said Amandine, overcoming her fears, and approaching
Francois on tiptoe.

"By the light of the lantern," said he; "I see Calabash holding the
foot of the ladder, placed against Martial's window."

"What then?"

"Nicholas goes up the ladder; he has his hatchet in his hands; I see
it shine."

"Hullo, you are not gone to bed! you are spying us!" cried the widow
suddenly, calling to Francois and his sister. Just as she was going
into the kitchen she saw the light from the half-opened window. The
unfortunate children had neglected to extinguish their light. "I am
coming up," added the widow, in a terrible voice; "I am coining to
you, little spies."

Such are the events which took place at the Ravageur's Island, the
evening before Mrs. Seraphin was to conduct thither Fleur-de-Marie.



CHAPTER XXV.

FURNISHED ROOMS.


Brasserie passage, a dark and gloomy passage, but little known,
although situated in the center of Paris, extended on one side from
the Rue Traversiere Saint Honore to the Cour Saint Guillaume on the
other. About the middle of this wet, muddy, dark, and gloomy street,
where the sun scarcely ever penetrates, stood a furnished house.

On a rascally-looking sign was to be seen, "_Furnished Rooms_;"
on the right of an obscure alley opened the door of a shop not less
obscure, where the proprietor was generally to be found. This man,
whose name has been several times mentioned on Ravageur's Island, was
Micou; openly a seller of old iron; but secretly he bought and sold
stolen metal, such as iron, lead, copper, and tin. To say that Micou
was in business and friendly relations with the Martials, is
sufficiently to appreciate his morality.

Micou was a corpulent man of about fifty years of age, with a low,
cunning look, a pimply nose, and bloated cheeks; he wore an otter-skin
cap, and was wrapped up in an old green garrick. Over the little iron
stove near which he was warming himself, a board with numbers painted
on it was nailed against the wall; there were suspended the keys of
the rooms whose lodgers were absent. The window looking into the
street was soaped in such a manner that those without could not see
what was going on within the shop; this window was heavily barred with
iron. Throughout this large shop reigned great obscurity: on the damp
and blackish walls were suspended rusty chains of all sorts and sizes;
the floor was nearly covered with fragments and clippings of iron and
lead. Three peculiar knocks at the door attracted the attention of
Micou.

"Come in!" cried he, and Nicholas appeared. He was very pale; his face
seemed still more sinister-looking than the evening previous, and yet
it will be seen he feigned a kind of noisy gayety during the following
conversation. This scene took place the morning after his quarrel with
his brother Martial.

"Oh! here you are, good fellow!" said the lodging-house keeper,
cordially.

"Yes, Daddy Micou; I come to have some business with you."

"Shut the door."

"My dog and little cart are there--with the swag."

"What do you bring me? folded tripe (stolen sheet-lead)?"

"No, Micou."

"It is not dredge, you are too cunning now; you are no longer a
_ravageur_; perhaps it is iron?"

"No, Micou; it is copper. There must be at least one hundred and fifty
pounds; my dog has as much as he can draw."

"Go and bring the stuff; we will weigh it."

"You must help me, Micou; I have a lame arm."

"What is the matter with your arm?"

"Nothing--a bruise."

"You must make some iron red hot, put it into some water, and bathe
your arm in this almost boiling water; it is a dealer-in-old-iron's
remedy, but it is excellent."

"Thank you, Daddy Micou."

"Come, let us bring in the metal: I will help you, lazybones!"

The copper was then brought in from a little cart drawn by an enormous
dog, and placed in the shop.

"That barrow is a good idea," said Micou, adjusting the scales.

"Yes; when I have anything to bring, I put my dog and cart into my
boat, and I harness him when I land. A jarvey might blab: my dog
can't."

"All well at home?" demanded the receiver, weighing the copper: "your
mother and sister are in good health?"

"Yes, Micou."

"The children also?"

"The children also."

"And your nephew Andre, where is he?"

"Don't speak of it! he was in luck yesterday. Barbillon and the Big
Cripple took him away; he only came back this morning; he is already
gone on an errand to the post-office, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau."

"And your brother Martial, is still savage?"

"I do not know anything about him."

"You don't know anything about him?"

"No," said Nicholas, affecting an indifferent manner; "for two days we
have not seen him; perhaps he has returned to his old trade of a
poacher--unless his boat, which was very old, has sunk in the river,
and he with--"

"That don't give you much concern, good-for-nothing, for you can't
feel it much!"

"It is true, one has his own ideas. How many pounds of copper are
there?"

"You made a good guess--one hundred and forty-eight pounds, my boy."

"And you will owe me--"

"Exactly thirty francs."

"Thirty francs, when copper is a franc a pound? Thirty francs!"

"We will say thirty-five, and don't turn up your nose, or I will send
you to the devil--you, copper, dog and cart."

"But, Micou you cheat me too much! there's no sense in it."

"Prove to me this copper belongs to you, and I will give you fifteen
sous a pound for it."

"Always the same song. You are all alike; get out, you nest of
thieves! Can one gouge a friend in such style? But this is not all. If
I take your merchandise in exchange, you should give me good measure
at least!"

"Just so! What do you want? chains or hooks for your boat?"

"No; I want four or five iron plates, very strong, such as would
answer to line window-shutters with."

"I have just what you want--the third of an inch thick; a pistol ball
could not go through."

"Just the thing!"

"What size?"

"In all, seven or eight feet square."

"Good! what else do you want?"

"Three iron bars, three to four feet long, and two inches square."

"I tore down the other day some grating from a window; that will suit
you like a glove. What next?"

"Two strong hinges and a latch; to fix and shut at will, a wicket two
feet square."

"A trap, you mean to say?"

"No; a wicket."

"I cannot comprehend what you can want with it?"

"That is possible, but I can."

"Very well, you have only to choose; there are the hinges. What else
do you need?"

"That's all."

"It is not much."

"Get my goods ready at once, Daddy Micou, I will take them as I pass;
I have some more errands to do."

"With your cart? I say, I saw a bale of goods in the bottom; is it
something more that you have taken from everybody's cupboard, little
glutton?"

"As you say, Daddy Micou: but you don't eat this; don't make me wait
for my iron, for I must be back to the island by twelve o'clock."

"Don't be uneasy, it is eight o'clock; if you are not going far, in an
hour you can return, all will be ready, Will you take a drop?"

"To be sure; you can well afford to pay it!"

Daddy Micou took out of an old chest a bottle of brandy, a cracked
glass, a cup without a handle, and poured out the liquor.

"Your health, old 'un!"

"Yours, my boy, and the ladies' at home!"

"Thank you; and your lodgings come on well?"

"So, so. I have always some lodgers for whom I fear the visits of the
grabs; but they pay more in consequence."

"Why?"

"How stupid you are! Sometimes I lodge as I buy; to such I no more ask
for their passports than I ask you for an invoice."

"Understood! but to those you let as dear as you buy of me cheap."

"Must take care of one's self. I have a cousin who keeps a fine hotel
in the Rue Saint Honore, while his wife is a mantua-maker, who employs
as many as twenty assistants, either at her shop, or at their own
homes."

"Say now, old obstinacy, there must be some pretty ones there?"

"I guess so! there are two or three that I have seen sometimes
bringing in their work. Crimini! ain't they nice! One little puss, who
works at home, always laughing, called Rigolette. Oh, my lark! what a
pity I ain't twenty!"

"Come, come, papa, put yourself out, or I'll cry fire!"

"But she is virtuous, my boy; she is virtuous."

"Get out! and you say that your cousin--"

"Keeps a very good house, and, as she is of the same number as little
Rigolette--"

"Virtuous?"

"Exactly."

"Over!"

"She will not have lodgers without passports or papers; but if any
present themselves, knowing I am not very particular, she sends them
to me."

"And they pay in consequence?"

"Always."

"But are they all friends of the family, those who have no papers?"

"No. Ah, now, speaking of that, my cousin sent me, a few days ago, a
customer. May the devil burn me, if I can understand it! Come, another
turn?"

"Agreed; the liquor is good. Your health, Micou!"

"Yours, lad! I say, then, that the other day my cousin sent me a
customer whom I cannot make out. Just imagine a mother and her
daughter, who had a very seedy look, it is true; they carried their
luggage in a handkerchief. Well, although they must, of course, be
nobody, since they had no papers, and they lodge by the fortnight;
since they have been here they do not stir out; no one comes to see
them, my pal--no one! and yet, if they were not so thin and so pale,
they'd be two fine women, the little one above all. She is not more
than fifteen at least; she is as white as a white rabbit, with large
black eyes--large as that! What eyes! what eyes!"

"You'll get on fire again; I'll call the engines! What do these women
do for a living?"

"I tell you I comprehend nothing about it; they must be virtuous, and
yet no papers; without counting that they receive letters without
address, their name must be bad to write."

"How is that?"

"They sent, this morning, my nephew Andre to the office of the letters
to be called for, to reclaim a letter addressed to Madame X. Z. The
letter was to come from Normandy, from a place called Aubiers. They
wrote that on a piece of paper, so that Andre might get the letter.
You see they can be no great things, women who take the name of X and
a Z."

"They will never pay you."

"It is not for an old ape like me to learn to make faces. They have
taken a room without a fireplace, for which I make them pay twenty
francs a fortnight, and in advance. They are, perhaps, sick; for two
days they have not come down. It certainly is not from indigestion;
for I do not think they have cooked anything since they have been
here."

"If you had only such lodgers as they, Micou--"

"That comes and goes. If I lodge people without passports, I lodge
great folks also; I have at this moment two traveling clerks, a
post-office carrier, the leader of the orchestra of the Cafe des Aveugles,
and an independent lady, all very genteel people. They save the
reputation of the house, if the police wish to examine too closely;
they are not lodgers by night, not they; they are lodgers in the full
light of the sun."

"Whenever it shines in your passage, Daddy--"

"Joker, one more turn."

"And the last, for I must take my hook. By-the-bye, does Robin, the
big lame man, lodge here yet?"

"Upstairs, next door to the mother and daughter. He has consumed all
his prison money, and I believe he has none left."

"I say, look out; he's broke his ticket-of-leave."

"I know it well; but I can't get rid of him. I believe he is after
something. Little Tortillard, the son of Bras-Rouge, came here the
other night with Barbillon, to look for him. I am afraid he will do
some harm to my good lodgers that damnable Robin. As soon as his term
is up, I shall put him out, telling him his room is engaged by an
embassador, or by the husband of Madame de Saint Ildefonso?"

"The lady?"

"I should think so! Three rooms and a cabinet on the front, nearly
furnished, without counting a garret for her female servant, eighty
francs a month, and paid in advance by her uncle, to whom she gives
one of her rooms as a stopping-place when he comes from the country.
After all, I believe his country house is the Rue Vivienne, Rue Saint
Honore, or in the environs of those places."

"Understood! she is an independent lady, because the old one pays her
rent."

"Hush, here is her maid."

A woman rather advanced in life, wearing a white apron of doubtful
purity, entered the shop. "What can I do for you, Madame Charles?"

"Daddy Micou, your nephew is not here?"

"He has gone on an errand to the post-office; he will soon return."

"M. Badinot wishes he would take this letter to its address; there is
no answer, but it is very urgent."

"In a quarter of an hour it shall be on the way."

"Let him hurry."

"Be easy." The maid retired.

"That's the servant of one of your lodgers, Micou?"

"Madame Saint Ildefonso's. But M. Badinot is her uncle; he came
yesterday from the country, "answered Micou. "But see, now, what fine
acquaintances they have! I told you they were people of style; he
writes to a viscount."

"No!"

"Well, look: 'To his Lordship the Viscount of Saint Remy, Rue de
Chaillot. Haste, haste! (_Private_).' I hope that when one lodges
people who have uncles who write to viscounts, one can very well
overlook a poor devil in the fourth story who has no passport!"

"I think so. Well, good-bye for the present, Micou; I am going to
fasten my dog and cart to your door; I will carry what I have to carry
myself. Have my goods and money ready on my return."

"All shall be ready. But, I say, before you go I must tell you, since
you have been here, I have watched you."

"Well?"

"I don't know, but you seem to have something the matter with you."

"I?"

"Yes."

"You are a fool. I am hungry."

"Hungry! it is possible, but I should say that you wish to appear
lively, but at the bottom there is something that bites and pinches
you--conscience, as they say; and to trouble you it must bite hard,
for you are no prude."

"I tell you, you are crazy, Micou," said Nicholas, shuddering in spite
of himself.

"One would say that you tremble."

"My arm pains me."

"Then don't forget my recipe: it will cure you."

"Thank you, Father Micou. Good-bye," said Nicholas, taking his
departure.

The receiver, after having concealed the copper, busied himself in
collecting the different articles for Nicholas, when a new personage
entered the shop. He was a man of about fifty, with a knowing face,
heavy gray whiskers, and gold spectacles; he was dressed with some
care; the large sleeves of his brown paletot, with velvet cuffs,
displayed his straw-colored gloves; his boots undoubtedly the evening
previous had been brilliantly polished.

Such was M. Badinot, the uncle of Madame de Saint Ildefonso, whose
social position was the pride and security of Micou the Fence.

Badinot, formerly a lawyer, but struck off the rolls, and now a
chevalier d'industrie, and agent of equivocal affairs, served as a spy
for the Baron de Graün (Rudolph's friend), and gave the diplomatist a
great deal of information concerning several characters of this
narration.

"Madame Charles has just given you a letter?" said Badinot to the
receiver.

"Yes, sir; my nephew will soon return; in a moment he will be off
again."

"No, give me the letter; I have changed my mind; I will go myself to
the Viscount de Saint Remy," said Badinot, emphasizing purposely the
aristocratic address.

"Here is the letter, sir; have you no other commission?"

"No, friend Micou," said Badinot, with a patronizing air; "but I have
reproaches to make to you."

"To me, sir?"

"Very grave reproaches."

"How, sir?"

"Certainly Madame de Saint Ildefonso pays very dear for your first
floor. My niece is one of those lodgers to whom one should pay the
greatest respect; she came with confidence to this house, disliking
the noise of the large streets; she hoped she would be here as in the
country."

"And she is; just like a village. You ought to find it so, sir, who
live in the country--it is just like a real village here."

"A village? Very fine--always the most infernal noise."

"Yet it is impossible to find a more quiet house. Over madame, there
is the leader of the orchestra of the Cafe des Aveugles and a
traveling clerk; over them another clerk; over him again, there is--"

"It is not of these persons I complain; they are very quiet; my niece
finds no inconvenience from them; but in the fourth story there is a
lame man, whom Madame de Saint Ildefonso met yesterday drunk on the
staircase; he uttered horrible, savage cries; she almost fainted, she
was so much alarmed. If you think with such occupants your house
resembles a village--"

"I swear to you, sir, that I only wait an opportunity to put this lame
man out of doors; he has paid me his term in advance, otherwise he
would have been already shown how to get out."

"You should not have taken him for a lodger."

"But I hope madame has no other cause of complaint? There is a
postman, who is the very cream of honest people! and over him,
alongside of the lame man, a woman and her daughter, who keep as close
as mice."

"I repeat, Madame de Saint Iledefonso only complains of the lame man;
he is the nightmare of the whole house, that knave! and I warn you, if
you keep him, he will cause all the respectable people to leave."

"I will send him off, be assured--I do not hold to him."

"And you will do well, for they will not remain."

"Which would not answer my purpose. So, sir, you may regard the lame
man as off, for he only has four days to remain here."

"That is too many; however, it is your business. At the very first
insult my niece leaves the house."

"Be assured."

"All this is for your interest; profit by it, for I only speak once,"
said Badinot, in a patronizing manner, as he left the shop.

Is it not needless for us to say that this woman and girl who lived so
solitary, were victims of the cupidity of the notary? We will conduct
the reader into the miserable room they occupied.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE VICTIMS OF AN ABUSE OF TRUST.


Let the reader imagine a closet situated on the fourth story of the
house. A pale, gloomy light hardly penetrated this narrow apartment,
through a little window of cracked, dirty glass, with a single
shutter; a yellowish, dilapidated paper covered the walls; from the
broken ceiling hung long spider-webs. The floor, broken in several
places, showed the beams and laths of the room below. A deal table, a
chair, an old trunk without a lock, and a flock bed with coarse sheets
and an old woolen covering--such was the furniture. On the chair was
seated the Baroness de Fermont. In the bed reposed Claire de Fermont
(such were the names of the two victims of Jacques Ferrand).

Possessing but one narrow bed, the mother and daughter slept by turns,
dividing thus the hours of the night. The mother had too much anguish,
too many inquietudes, to get much repose; but the daughter found some
moments of rest and forgetfulness.

She was now asleep. Nothing could be more touching, more sorrowful,
than the sight of this misery, imposed by the cupidity of the notary
on two women, until then accustomed to the sweet enjoyments of a life
of ease, and surrounded in their native town with that consideration
which an honorable and honored family always inspire.

The Baroness de Fermont was about thirty-six years of age; her
countenance at once expresses mildness and excellence; her features,
formerly of remarkable beauty, are now sadly changed; her black hair,
divided on her forehead and confined behind her head, already shows
some tresses of silver. Clothed in a dress of mourning, tattered in
several places, the Baroness de Fermont, with her hand supporting her
head, leaned against the wretched bed of her child, and regarded her
with inexpressible anguish.

Claire was only sixteen; her complexion had lost its dazzling purity;
her beautiful dark eyelashes reached to her hollow cheeks. Once humid
and rosy, but now dry and pale, her lips, half-opened, displayed the
enamel of her teeth; the rude contact of the bedclothes had given a
red appearance in several places to the delicate neck, arms, and
shoulders of the young girl. From time to time a slight shudder passed
over her, as if she had some painful dream. For a long period the
Baroness de Fermont had not wept; she looked on her daughter with a
dry and inflamed eye, consumed by a slow fever, which was undermining
her. Each day she found herself weaker; but fearing to alarm Claire,
and not willing, we may say, to alarm herself, she struggled with all
her strength against the first symptoms of her sickness. Through
motives of similar generosity, the daughter endeavored to conceal her
sufferings. These two unhappy creatures, afflicted with the same
griefs, were yet to be afflicted with the same disease.

In misfortunes there are often moments when the future prospect is so
frightful, that the most energetic minds dare not look it in the face,
but shut their eyes, and endeavor to deceive themselves by mad
illusions. Such was the position of the Fermonts. To express the
tortures of this woman, during the long hours when she was thus
contemplating her sleeping child, thinking of the past, the present,
and the future, would be to describe what, in the holy and sacred
griefs of a mother, there is the most poignant, the most desperate,
the most insane; enchanting recollections, sinister fears, terrible
foresights, bitter regrets, extreme dejectedness, ejaculations of
powerless rage against the author of so much misery, vain
supplications, violent prayers, and, finally, frightful doubts of the
all-powerful justice of Him who remains inexorable to this cry,
dragged from the bottom of the maternal heart--to this sacred cry, of
which the echo ought to reach Heaven, "Pity for my child!"

"How cold she is now!" said the poor mother, touching lightly the icy
hand and arm of her daughter. "She is very cold; one hour ago she was
burning; it is fever; happily, she does not know she has it. How cold
she is! this covering is so thin! I would put my old shawl on the bed;
but if I take it from the door, where I have hung it, some of those
drunken men will come and look through the cracks, as they did
yesterday. What a horrible house! If I had known what kind of place it
was before I paid in advance, we should not have stayed here; but I
did not know--when one has no papers--could I think that I should ever
have need of a passport? When I left Angers in my own carriage, could
I have thought--but this infamous--because the notary has pleased to
rob me, I am reduced to the most frightful extremity, and against him
I can do nothing. Oh, the notary, he does not know the frightful
consequences of his robbery!

"Alas! yes, I never dare tell my child my fears--not to grieve her;
but I suffer; I have fever; I can hardly sustain myself; I feel within
me the germs of a malady--dangerous, perhaps--my bosom is on fire; my
heart throbs. Oh, if I should fall sick--if I should die! No, no! I
will not--I cannot die--leave Claire--alone, abandoned in Paris--can
it be possible? No! I am not sick, after all--what do I feel? A little
heat, a heaviness about the head, caused, no doubt, from my
uneasiness--from cold--oh, it is nothing serious!

"Come, come, no more of such weakness. It is by cherishing such ideas,
it is in listening thus, that one falls really sick. And I have the
time, truly! Must I not occupy myself in finding some work for Claire
and myself, since this man, who gave us engravings to color--"

Then, after a pause, she added, with indignation, "Oh! this is
abominable, to offer this work at the price of Claire's--to take from
us this miserable means of existence, because I would not allow my
child to go and work at his rooms! Perhaps we may find work elsewhere;
but when one knows nobody, it is so difficult! When one is so
miserably lodged they inspire no confidence; and yet, the small sum
that remains once gone, what shall we do? what will become of us?

"If the laws leave this crime unpunished, I will not--for, if fate
pushes me to the end--if I do not find the means to emerge from the
atrocious position in which this wretch has placed me and my child, I
do not know what I shall do--I shall be capable of killing him--I--
this man--then they can do what they will with me. Yes--but my child?
my child?

"To leave her alone, abandoned--ah! no, I do not wish to die! for
this, I cannot kill this man. What would become of her? She, at
sixteen--she is young, and pure as an angel; but she is handsome--but
misery, hunger, abandonment--what may they not cause? and then--and
then--into what abyss may she not fall?

"Oh! it is frightful--poverty! frightful enough for any one; but
perhaps more so for those who have always lived in opulence. I cannot
beg--I must absolutely see my child starve before I can beg! What a
coward--yet--"

Two or three violent knocks at the door made her tremble, and awoke
her daughter with a start.

"Mamma, what is that?" cried Claire, sitting up in bed; then, throwing
her arms around her mother's neck, who, very much alarmed, pressed her
child to her bosom, "Mamma, what is it?" repeated Claire.

"I do not know, my child; but do not be afraid, it is nothing: some
one knocked; it is, perhaps, the letter we expect."

At this moment the worm-eaten door shook again, under repeated blows
with the fist.

"Who is there?" said Madame de Fermont in a trembling voice.

A coarse, rough voice answered, "Are you deaf, neighbors?"

"What do you want? I do not know you," said Madame de Fermont, trying
to conceal the agitation of her voice.

"I am Robin, your neighbor; give me some fire to light my pipe: come,
make haste!"

"It is that lame man, who is always drunk," said the mother to her
child.

"Are you going to give me any fire! or I'll break all open, in the
name of thunder?"

"Sir, I have no fire."

"You must have some matches, then; everybody has them; do you open--
come?"

"Sir, go away."

"You won't open?--one, two--"

"I beg you to go away, or I will call."

"Once--twice--three times--no, you won't! Then I'll break all down,
then."

And the wretch gave such a furious kick against the door, he burst it
in, the miserable lock breaking at the first assault. The two women
screamed with alarm. Madame de Fermont, notwithstanding her weakness,
threw herself before the rough, and barred his entrance.

"This is outrageous: you shall not come in," cried the unhappy mother;
"I shall cry for help."

"For what--for what?" answered he: "mustn't we be neighborly? If you
had opened, I should not have broken in."

Then, with the stupid obstinacy of drunkenness, he added staggering,
"I wish to come in; I will come in, and I will not go out until I
light my pipe."

"I have neither fire nor matches. In the name of heaven, sir, retire."

"It's not true; you say that so I sha'n't see the little one in bed.
Yesterday you stopped up all the holes in the door. She is pretty; I
want to see her. Take care of yourself; I'll scratch your face if you
don't let me come in. I tell you that I will see the little one in
bed, and I will light my pipe, or I'll smash everything, and you along
with it!"

"Help! help!" cried Madame de Fermont, who felt the door giving way
under the violent push of the lame man.

Intimidated by the cries, the man stepped backward and shook his fist
at Madame de Fermont, saying, "You shall pay me for this; I will
return to-night--I'll catch hold of your tongue, and you cannot cry."

And the Big Cripple, as they called him at Ravageurs' Island,
descended the stairs, uttering horrible oaths. Madame de Fermont,
fearing that he might return, and seeing the lock broken, drew the
table against the door to barricade it. Claire had been so alarmed at
this horrible scene that she had fallen on her cot almost without
emotion, with a violent attack of the nerves. Madame de Fermont,
forgetting her own alarm, ran to her daughter, pressed her in her
arms, made her drink a little water, and, with the most tender
caresses, succeeded in calming her.

"Be composed, my poor child--the bad man has gone away." Then the
wretched mother cried, with a touching accent, "Yet it is this notary
who is the cause of all our troubles. Compose yourself, my child,"
resumed she, tenderly embracing her daughter; "this wretch is gone."

"Oh, mamma, if he should come back again? You see you have called for
help, and no one has come. Oh! I entreat you; let us leave this house.
I shall die here with fear."

"How you tremble! you have a fever!"

"No, no," said the young girl, to pacify her mother; "it is nothing;
it is fright; it will pass over; and you, how are you? Give me your
hands. How burning hot they are! Ah! you are suffering; you wish to
conceal it from me."

"Do not think so: I am better than ever; it is the emotion which this
man has caused me which makes me thus. I slept on the chair very
soundly; I only awoke when you did."

"Yet, mamma, your poor eyes are very red, much inflamed!"

"Ah! well, my child, on a chair sleep is not so refreshing, you know!"

"Really, do you not suffer?"

"No, no, I assure you; and you?"

"Nor I; only I tremble still from fear. I entreat you, mamma, let us
leave this house."

"And where shall we go to? You know with how much trouble we found
this wretched place; and, besides, we have paid two weeks in advance;
they will not return us our money; and we have so little left--so
little, that we should manage as closely as possible."

"Perhaps some day M. de Saint Remy will answer your letter."

"I no longer hope it; it is so long since I have written."

"He might not have received your letter: why do you not write him
again? From hence to Angers is not so far; we shall soon have an
answer."

"My poor child, you know how much this has cost me already."

"What do you risk? he is so good, notwithstanding his roughness. Was
he not one of my father's old friends, and, besides, he is our
relation."

"But he is poor himself; his fortune is very small. Perhaps he does
not reply, to avoid the mortification of being obliged to refuse us."

"But if he has not received your letter, mamma?"

"And if he has received it, my child; of two things choose one: either
he is in such a situation that he cannot come to our aid, or he feels
no interest for us; then why expose ourselves to a refusal or a
humiliation?"

"Come, courage, mamma, we have one hope left. Perhaps this morning
will bring us a happy answer."

"From Lord d'Orbigny?"

"Without doubt. This letter, of which you formerly made a draught, was
so simple, so touching--exposed so naturally our misfortunes, that he
will have pity on us. Really, I do not know what tells me you are
wrong to despair of assistance."

"He has so little reason to interest himself about us: he had, it is
true, formerly known your father, and I had often heard my brother
speak of Lord d'Orbigny as of a man with whom he had been on friendly
terms before he left Paris with his young wife."

"It is just on that account that I have hopes; he has a young wife,
she will be compassionate; and, besides, in the country one can do so
much good. He will take you, I suppose, for housekeeper; I will take
care of the linen. Since Lord d'Orbigny is very rich, in a large house
there is always employment."

"Yes; but we have so little right to his interest. We are so
unfortunate."

"That is frequently a title in the eyes of charitable people. Let us
hope that Lord d'Orbigny and his wife are so."

"Well, in case we need expect nothing from him, I will overcome my
false shame, and will write to the Duchess de Lucenay--this lady of
whom M. de Saint Remy spoke so often, whose generosity and good heart
he so often praised. Yes, the daughter of the Prince de Noirmont. He
knew her when she was very small, and he treated her almost as his
child, for he was intimately connected with the prince. Madame de
Lucenay must have many-acquaintances; she could, perhaps, find us a
place."

"Doubtless, mamma, but I understand your reserve; you do not know her
at all, while my poor father and uncle knew Lord d'Orbigny a little."

"Finally, in the case that Madame d'Orbigny can do nothing for us, I
will have recourse to a last resource."

"What is it, mamma?"

"It is a very weak one--a very foolish hope, perhaps; but why not try
it? the son of M. de Saint Remy is---"

"M. de Saint Remy has a son!" cried Claire, with astonishment.

"Yes, my child, he has a son."

"He never spoke of him--he never came to Angers."

"True, for reasons you cannot know. M. de Saint Remy, having left
Paris fifteen years ago, has not seen his son since."

"Fifteen years without seeing his father! can it be possible?"

"Alas! yes, you see. I tell you that the son of M. de Saint Remy,
being well known in the fashionable world, and very rich--"

"Very rich! and his father is poor?"

"All the fortune of M. de Saint Remy, the son, came from his mother."

"But no matter; how can he leave his father--"

"His father would accept nothing from him."

"Why is that?"

"This is once more a question to which I cannot reply, my dear child;
but I heard my poor brother say that the generosity of this young man
was generally praised. Young and generous, he ought to be good. Thus,
learning from me that my husband was the intimate friend of his
father, perhaps he might interest himself in procuring us some work or
employment; he has so many brilliant and numerous relations, that this
would be easy."

"And then we could find out from him, perhaps, if M. de Saint Remy,
his father, should have left Angers before you wrote to him; that
would explain his silence."

"I believe that M. de Saint Remy, my child, has no intercourse with
his father. In fine, it is only to try."

"Unless M. d'Orbigny should answer you in a favorable manner; and I
repeat it, I do not know why, but, in spite of myself, I have hope."

"But already many days have elapsed, my child, since I have written,
and nothing--nothing yet. A letter put in the office before four
o'clock in the afternoon, arrives the next morning at Aubiere; five
days have now passed since we might have received an answer."

"Perhaps he is thinking, before he writes, in what way he can be
useful to us."

"God hear you, my child!"

"It appears very plain to me, mamma, if he could do nothing for us, he
would have informed you at once."

"Unless he will do nothing at all."

"Ah, mamma, can it be possible? not deign to answer us, and leave us
to hope four days, eight days perhaps--for when one is unfortunate
they hope always."

"Alas! my child, there is sometimes so much indifference for the woes
which one does not know!"

"But your letter."

"My letter cannot give him an idea of our troubles, of our sufferings
of each moment. Can my letter picture to him our unfortunate life, our
humiliations of every description, our existence in this frightful
house, the alarm we have experienced even just now? Can my letter
describe to him the horrible future which awaits us, if--but stop, my
child, do not let us speak of this. Mon Dieu! you tremble--you are
cold."

"No, mamma; pay no attention to it; but tell me, suppose everything
fails, that the little money which remains in that trunk is spent, can
it be possible that in a rich place like Paris we should both die of
hunger and misery, for want of work, and because a bad man has taken
what you had?"

"Hush, poor child."

"But, mamma, could It be?"

"Alas!"

"But God, who knows all, who can do all, how could He abandon us, He
whom we have not offended?"

"I entreat you, my child, do not have such gloomy ideas; I would
rather see you hope, even against hope. Come, rouse me up with your
dear illusions; but I am but too apt to be discouraged, you know
well."

"Yes, yes; let us hope; it is better. The nephew of the porter will
soon return from the post-office with a letter. One more errand to pay
from your little treasure, and through my fault. If I had not been so
feeble to-day and yesterday, we could have gone ourselves, as we did
before, but you would not leave me alone here to go yourself."

"Could I, my child? Judge then, just now this wretch who broke in the
door, if you had been alone."

"Oh! mamma, hush; only to think of it makes me shudder."

At this moment some one knocked sharply at the door.

"Heavens, it is he," cried Madame de Fermont, and she pushed with all
her strength the table against the door. Her fears, however, ceased
when she heard the voice of Micou.

"Madame, my nephew, Andre, has come from the post-office. It is a
letter with an X and a Z for address; it comes from a distance. There
are eight sous postage and the commission--it is twenty sous."

"Mamma, a letter from the country; we are saved; it is from M. de
Saint Remy or M. d'Orbigny. Poor mother, you shall suffer no more, no
longer be uneasy about me; you shall be happy. God is just--God is
good!" cried the young girl, and a ray of hope lighted up her sweet
and charming face.

"Oh! sir, thank you; give--give me quickly," said Madame de Fermont,
pushing back the table and half opening the door.

"It is twenty sous, madame," said the fence, showing the letter so
impatiently desired.

"I am going to pay you, sir."

"Oh! madame, there is no hurry. I am going to the roof; in ten minutes
I will descend, and take the money as I pass." Micou handed the letter
to Madame de Fermont, and disappeared.

"The letter is from Normandy. On the stamp is _Aubiers_; it is
from M. d'Orbigny!" cried Madame de Fermont examining the address.

"Well, mamma, was I right?"

"Oh, how my heart beats! Our good or bad fortune is, however, here,"
said Madame de Ferment, in a faltering voice, showing the letter.

Twice her trembling hand approached the seal to break it. She had not
the courage. Can one hope to paint the terrible anguish suffered by
those who, like Madame de Fermont, await from a letter hope or
despair?

The burning and feverish emotion of a player whose last pieces of gold
are staked on a single card, and who, breathless, the eye inflamed,
awaits the decisive throw which saves or ruins him forever: this
emotion, so violent, would hardly give an idea of the terrible anguish
of which we speak. In an instant the soul is lifted up with the most
radiant hopes, or plunged into the blackest despair. The unfortunate
being passes in turn through the most contrary emotions; ineffable
feelings of happiness and gratitude toward the generous heart which
had pity on his sorrows--a sad and bitter resentment against the
selfish or indifferent.

"What weakness!" said Madame de Fermont, with a sad smile, seating
herself on the bed of her daughter: "once more, my poor Claire, our
fate is there. I burn to know it, and I dare not. If it is a refusal,
alas! it will be always soon enough."

"And if it should be a promise of succor? say, mamma; if this poor
little letter contains good and consoling words, which will assure us
as to the future, in promising us a modest employ in the house of M.
d'Orbigny, each minute we lose, is it not a moment of happiness lost?"

"Yes, my child; but if, on the contrary--"

"No, mamma; you are mistaken, I am sure of it--when I told you that M.
d'Orbigny would not have waited, so long to answer your letter, except
to give you a favorable answer. Let me look at the letter, mamma; I am
sure to guess, only from the writing, if the news is good or bad.
Hold, I am sure of it now," said Claire, taking the letter; "you have
only to look at the bold, good, and strong hand, to see that the
writer must be accustomed to give to those who suffer."

"I entreat you, Claire, no more of these foolish hopes, or I can never
open the letter."

"My God! good little mamma, without opening it I can tell you what it
contains; listen: 'Madame, your condition and that of your daughter is
so worthy of interest, that I beg you will have the goodness to come
immediately to me, in case you would like to take charge of my
house.'"

"My child, once more I entreat you--no insane hopes; the reverse will
be frightful. Come, courage," said Madame de Fermont, taking the
letter from her daughter, and preparing to break the seal.

"Courage for you--very well!" said Claire, smiling, and carried away
by a feeling of confidence so natural at her age. "As for me, I have
no need of it: I am so sure of what I advance. Stop, do you wish me to
open the letter? shall I read it? give it me, timid mamma."

"Yes--I would rather--here. But no, no; it is better that I should."
Madame de Fermont broke the seal with indescribable emotion. Her
daughter, also, in spite of her apparent confidence, could hardly
breathe.

"Read it aloud, mamma," said she.

"The letter is not long; it is from the Countess d'Orbigny," said
Madame de Fermont looking at the signature.

"So much the better; it is good. Do you see, mamma, this excellent
young lady has been pleased to answer you herself."

"We shall see."

"MADAME-M. le Comte d'Orbigny, very much indisposed for some time
past, could not reply to you during my absence."

"You see, mamma, it was not his fault."

"Listen, listen."

"Having arrived this morning from Paris, I hasten to write to you,
madame, after having conferred on the subject of your letter with M.
d'Orbigny. He has but a faint recollection of the relation which you
suppose to have existed between him and your brother. As to the name
of your husband, madame, it is not unknown to M. d'Orbigny; but he
cannot recollect under what circumstances he heard it mentioned. The
pretended spoliation, of which so lightly you accuse M. Jacques
Ferrand, whom we have the good fortune to have for a notary, is, in
the eyes of M. d'Orbigny, a cruel calumny, of which, doubtless, you
have not counted the bearing. My husband, as well as myself, madame,
know and admire the well-known probity of the respectable and pious
man you attack so blindly. This is to inform you, madame, that M.
d'Orbigny, feeling, doubtless, for the unfortunate position in which you
are placed, and of which it is not in his province to find out the
real cause, finds it out of his power to assist you.

"Be pleased to receive, madame, with this expression of the regrets of
M. d'Orbigny the assurance of my most distinguished sentiments.

    "COMTESSE D'ORSIGNY."

The mother and daughter looked at each other, incapable of uttering a
word.

Micou knocked at the door and said, "Madame, can I come in for the
postage and commission? It is twenty sous."

"Oh! it is right; such good news! well worth what we spend in two days
for our living," said Madame de Fermont, with a bitter smile; and
leaving the letter on the bed, she went toward an old trunk without a
lock, stooped down, and opened it. "We are robbed!" cried the unhappy
woman, with horror. "Nothing--no more;" added she, in a mournful tone.
And powerless, she leaned on the trunk.

"What do you say, mamma? The bag of money?"

But Madame de Fermont arose quickly, went out of the chamber, and,
addressing the receiver, she said, with a sparkling eye, and cheeks
colored with indignation and alarm, "Sir, I had a bag of money in this
trunk; some one has robbed me--yesterday, doubtless, for I went out
for an hour with my daughter. This money must be found. Do you hear?
You are responsible."

"Some one robbed you! It is not true; my house is honest," said the
receiver, harshly and insolently. "You say that, so as not to pay me
the twenty sous."

"I tell you that this money, all that I possessed in the world, some
one has stolen; it must be found, or I'll make a complaint. Oh! I
shall spare nothing, respect nothing--I notify you!"

"That would be very fine of you, who have no papers; go and make your
complaint; go at once! I defy you." The unhappy woman was overcome.
She could not go out and leave her daughter alone in bed, since the
fright she had received in the morning, and, above all, after the
threats addressed to her by the receiver. He continued, "It is a
cheat; you had no more a bag of silver than a bag of gold; you don't
want to pay me the postage, hey? Good! all the same; when you pass
before my door, I will tear off your old black shawl from your
shoulders; it is very threadbare, but it is worth at least twenty
sous."

"Oh! sir," cried Madame de Fermont, bursting into tears, "have pity on
us. This small sum was all we had--my daughter and I; that stolen, we
have nothing left--nothing, do you understand? nothing-but to starve."
"What would you have me to do? If it is true that you are robbed, and
silver, too, it has been spent long since: the money--"

"Alas!"

"The lad who stole them would not have been simple enough to mark the
money and keep it here, so that he might be caught--if it is some one
in this house, which I do not believe--for, as I said only this
morning to the uncle of the lady on the first floor, here is no place
for plunder! if you are robbed, it is your misfortune. For should you
make a hundred thousand complaints, you would not recover a sou--you
would gain nothing by it, I tell you--believe me. Well," cried the
receiver, seeing Madame de Fermont stagger, "what's the matter? You
turn pale? Take care of your mother, she is sick," added he, advancing
in time to save her from falling. The fictitious energy which had so
long sustained her gave way under this new affliction.

"Mother, what is the matter?" cried Claire, still in bed.

The receiver, yet active and strong for his age, seized with a
transitory feeling of pity, took Madame de Fermont in his arms, pushed
open the door, and entered, saying, "Mademoiselle, pardon me for
coming in while you are in bed, but I must bring in your mother; she
has fainted; it can't last."

On seeing this man enter, Claire uttered a cry of alarm, and concealed
herself as well as she could under the bedclothes. The receiver seated
Madame de Fermont on the chair near the bed, and retired, leaving the
door half-open, the Big Cripple having broken the lock.

One hour after this, the violent malady, which for so long a time had
threatened Madame de Fermont, showed itself. Attacked by a violent
fever and frightful delirium, the unfortunate woman was laid in the
bed of her child, who, alone, alarmed and almost as ill as her mother,
had neither money nor resources, and feared at any moment to see the
ruffian enter who lived upon the same floor.



CHAPTER XXVII.

IN THE RUE DE CHAILLOT.


We will precede, by some hours, M. Badinot, who had gone in haste to
the Viscount de Saint Remy. This last mentioned person lived in the
Rue de Chaillot, occupying a charming little house in this solitary
quarter, very near the Champs Elysees, the most fashionable promenade
in Paris. It is useless to enumerate the advantages which M. de Saint
Remy derived from a position so wisely chosen. We will only say, a
person could enter his house very secretly, through a little
garden-door, which opened on a small and very lonesome street.

In fine, by a miraculous chance, one of the finest horticultural
establishments in Paris had also, in this out-of-the-way passage, an
exit not much used. The mysterious visitors of Saint Remy, in case of
a surprise or unlooked-for renconter, were armed with a pretext
perfectly plausible and rural for having adventured in the lane. They
went (they might say) to choose rare flowers at a celebrated florist's
renowned for the beauty of his conservatories. These visitors,
besides, would only have told half a falsehood; the viscount, with
distinguished taste, had a charming green-house, which extended, in
part, along the little street we have spoken of; the little door
opened into this delicious winter garden, which reached a boudoir
situated on the ground-floor of the house.

Madame de Lucenay had demanded a key of this little door. The interior
of the mansion of Saint Remy presented a singular appearance; it was
divided into two establishments--the ground-floor, where he received
ladies; the first story, where he received gentlemen to dinner and
play: in fine, those he called his friends.

Thus, on the ground-floor was a room which shone with gold, mirrors,
flowers, silks, and lace; a small music-room, where were a harp and
pianos (Saint Remy was an excellent musician), a cabinet of pictures
and curiosities the boudoir communicating with the green-house, a
dining-room, a bathing-room, and a small library. It is useless to say
that all these rooms, furnished with exquisite taste, had for
ornaments some Watteaus but little known, some Bouchers unheard of,
groups of statuary in biscuit; and on their stands of jasper, a few
valuable copies, in white marble, of some of the finest groups of the
"Musee." Joined to this, in summer, for perspective, the deep shade of
a verdant green; quiet, loaded with flowers, peopled with birds,
watered by a little brook of living water, which, before it spreads
itself over the short grass, falls from a black and rustic rock,
shining like a ribbon of silver gauze, and is lost in a pearly wave,
in a limpid basin, where two fine swans show their graceful forms.

And when night came, calm and serene, how much shade, how much
perfume, what silence in sweet-scented groves, whose thick foliage
served as a canopy to the rustic sofas made of reeds and Indian mats.

In the winter, on the contrary, except the glass which opened into the
conservatory, all was closed; the transparent silk of the blinds, the
heavy mass of lace and muslin curtains, rendered the light still more
mysterious; on every disposable place large masses of exotics seemed
to spring out of vases glittering with gold and enamel.

Such was the viscount. At Athens he would have been, doubtless,
admired, exalted, deified, as the equal of Aleibiades; at the time of
which we speak, the viscount was nothing more than an unworthy forger,
a miserable cheat.

The first story had an entirely different appearance, altogether
masculine. There was nothing coquettish, nothing feminine; the
furniture was of a style simple and serene; for ornaments, fire-arms,
pictures of race-horses, which had earned for the viscount a good
number of gold and silver vases, placed on the tables; the
_tabogie_ (smoking-room) and the saloon for play joined a
lively-looking dining-room, where eight persons (the number always
strictly limited when it was a question of a choice meal) had often
appreciated the excellence of the cook, and the not less excellent merit
of the cellar, before commencing with him some games of whist for five
or six hundred louis, or to rattle the noisy dice box.

The apartments being thus thrown open to the reader, he will now
please to follow us to more familiar regions, to enter the carriage
court, and mount the little staircase which leads to the very
comfortable room of Edward Patterson, chief of the stables.

This illustrious coachman had invited to breakfast M. Boyer,
confidential valet de chambre of the viscount. A very pretty English
servant-girl having retired, after having brought in a silver teapot,
our two gentlemen were left alone.

Edward was about forty years of age; never did a more skillful or
fatter coachman cause his seat to groan under a rotundity more
imposing, nor to ornament with a powdered wig a face more rubicund,
nor to collect more elegantly, in his left hand, the quadruple ribbons
of a four-in-hand; as good a judge of horses as Tattersall of London,
having been, in his youth, as good a trainer as the celebrated elder
Chifney, the viscount had found in Edward a rare thing, an excellent
coachman and a man very capable of directing the training of some
race-horses which he had had for wagers. Edward, when he did not
display his sumptuous brown and silver livery on the emblazoned
hammer-cloth of his seat, looked very much like an honest English
farmer; it is under this guise we now shall present him to our
readers, adding, that in his broad and red face one could easily
perceive the diabolical and unmerciful cunning of a horse-jockey.

M. Boyer, his guest, the confidential valet, was a tall, slender man,
with gray hair, rather bald, and with a sly, cool, discreet, and
reserved expression; he used very choice language, had polite, easy
manners, rather literary, political opinions of the Conservative
stamp, and could creditably play his part of first violin in a quartet
of amateurs; at short intervals he took, with the best grace in the
world, a pinch of snuff from a golden box mounted with fine pearls,
after which he brushed negligently, with the back of his hand, the
folds of his fine linen shirt, quite as fine as that of his master.

"Do you know, my dear Edward," said Boyer, "that your servant, Betty,
makes quite a supportable plain cook?"

"She is a good girl," said Edward, who spoke French perfectly, "and I
shall take her with me if I should decide on housekeeping; and on this
subject, since we are here alone, my dear Boyer, let us talk business;
you understand it very well."

"Why, yes, a little," said Boyer, modestly, and taking a pinch of
snuff. "That is learned so naturally, when one occupies himself with
the affairs of others."

"I have then, very important advice to ask of you; it is on this
account that I begged the favor of your company to a cup of tea this
morning."

"Quite at your service, my dear Edward."

"You know that besides the race-horses, I had a contract with my lord
for the complete maintenance of his stables, cattle, and people; that
is to say, eight horses and five or six grooms and jockeys, for the
sum of twenty-four thousand francs a year, my wages included."

"It was reasonable."

"During four years, my lord punctually paid me; but about the middle
of last year he said to me, 'Patterson, I owe you about twenty-four
thousand francs; how much do you estimate, at the lowest price, my
horses and vehicles?' 'My lord, the eight horses would not sell for
less than three thousand francs each, one with the other, and then
they would be given away' (and it is true, Boyer, for the phaeton pair
cost five hundred guineas), 'that would make twenty-four thousand
francs for the horses. As to the carriages, there are four, say twelve
thousand francs, which, in all, would make thirty-six thousand
francs.' 'Well,' answered my lord, 'buy them all from me at this
price, on condition that, for the twelve thousand francs remaining
after your claim is paid, you will keep and leave at my disposition,
horses, servants and carriages for six months.'"

"And you wisely agreed to the bargain? It was a golden affair."

"Certainly it was; in two weeks the six months will have expired, and
I enter into possession."

"Nothing can be plainer. The papers were drawn up by M. Badinot,
the viscount's agent. In what have you need of my advice?"

"What ought I to do? Sell the establishment on account of my lord's
departure (and it will sell well), or shall I set up as a horse-dealer,
with my stable, which will make a fine beginning? What do you advise?"

"I advise you to do what I shall do myself."

"How?"

"I am in the same position that you are."

"How?"

"My lord detests details. When I came here I had, through economy, and
by inheritance, some sixty thousand francs. I paid the expenses of the
house, as you did the stables. About the same time that you did, I
found myself in advance some twenty thousand francs; and for those who
furnished the supplies, some sixty thousand. Then the viscount
proposed to me, as he did to you, to reimburse myself by buying of him
the furniture of the house, comprising the plate--which is fine--the
pictures, and so on, the whole estimated at the very lowest price, one
hundred and forty thousand francs. There were eighty thousand francs
to pay; with the remainder I engaged, as long as it lasted, to defray
the expenses of the table, servants, and so forth, and for nothing
else: it was a condition of the bargain."

"Because that on these expenses you would gain something more."

"Necessarily; for I have made arrangements with those who furnish the
supplies that I will not pay until after the sale," said Boyer, taking
a huge pinch of snuff, "so that at the end of this month--"

"The furniture is yours, as the horses and carriages are mine."

"Evidently. My lord has gained by this, to live as he always liked to
live, to the last moment--as a tip-top don--in the very teeth of his
creditors, for furniture, silver, horses, vehicles, all had been paid
for at his coming of age, and had become my property and yours."

"Then my lord is ruined?"

"In five years."

"And how much did he inherit?"

"Only a poor little million, cash down," said M. Boyer, quite
disdainfully, taking another pinch of snuff. "Add to this million
about two hundred thousand francs of debts, it is passable. It is
then, to tell you, my dear Edward, that I have had an idea of letting
this house, admirably furnished as it is, to some English people. Some
of your compatriots would have paid well for it."

"Without doubt. Why do you not do it?"

"Yes, but I fancy things are risky, so I have decided to sell. My lord
is so well known as a connoisseur, that everything would bring a
double price, so that I should realize a round sum. Do as I shall,
Edward; realize, realize, and do not adventure your earnings in
speculations. You chief coachman of the Viscount de Saint Remy! It
will be, who can get you. Only yesterday some one spoke to me of a
minor just of age, a cousin of the Duchess de Lucenay, young Duke de
Montbrison, arrived from Italy with his tutor, and about seeing life.
Two hundred and fifty thousand livres income, in good land; and just
entering into life--twenty years old. All the illusions of confidence--all
the infatuation of expense--prodigal as a prince. I know the
intendant. I can tell you this in confidence: he has already nearly
agreed with me as first valet de chambre. He countenances me, the
flat!" And M. Boyer shrugged his shoulders again, having recourse to
his snuff-box.

"You hope to foist him out?"

"Rather! he is imbecile or impertinent. He puts me there as if he had
no fear of me! Before two months are over I shall be in his place."

"Two hundred and fifty thousand livres income!" said Edward,
reflecting, "and a young man. It is a good seat."

"I will tell you what there is to do. I will speak for you to my
protector," said M. Boyer, ironically. "Enter there--it is a fortune
which has roots, to which one can hang on for a long time. Not this
miserable million of the viscount's--a real snowball--one ray of
Parisian sun, and all is over. I saw here that I should only be a bird
of passage: it is a pity, for this house does us honor; and up to the
last moment, I will serve my lord with the respect and esteem which
are his due."

"My dear Boyer, I thank you, and accept your proposition; but suppose
I was to propose to the young duke this stable? It is all ready; it is
known and admired by all Paris."

"Exactly so; you might make a mint."

"But why do you not propose this house to him, so admirably furnished?
What can he find better?"

"Edward, you are a man of mind; it does not surprise me, but you give
me an excellent idea. We must address ourselves to my lord, he is so
good a master that he would not refuse to speak for us to the young
duke. He can tell him that, leaving for the Legation of Gerolstein,
where he is an _attache_, he wishes to dispose of his whole
establishment. Let us see: one hundred and sixty thousand francs for
the house, all furnished, plate and pictures; fifty thousand francs
for the stables and carriages; that makes two hundred and thirty
thousand to two hundred and forty thousand francs. It is an excellent
affair for a young man who wants everything. He would spend three
times this amount before he could get anything half so elegant and
select together as this establishment; for it must be acknowledged,
Edward, there is no one can equal my lord in knowing how to live."

"And horses!"

"And good cheer! Godefroi, his cook, leaves here a hundred times
better than when he came. My lord has given him excellent counsels--
has enormously refined him."

"Besides, they say my lord is such a good player."

"Admirable! Gaining large sums with even more indifference than he
loses; and yet I have never seen any one lose more gallantly."

"What is he going to do now?"

"Set out for Germany, in a good traveling carriage, with seven or
eight thousand francs, which he knows how to get. Oh! I feel no
embarrassment about my lord: he is one who always falls on his feet,
as they say."

"And he has no more money to inherit?"

"None; for his father has only a small competency."

"His father?"

"Certainly."

"My lord's father is not dead?"

"He was not about five or six months since. We wrote to him for some
family papers."

"But he never comes here?"

"For a good reason. These fifteen years he has lived in the country,
at Angers."

"But my lord never goes to see him?"

"His father?"

"Yes."

"Never, never--not he!"

"Have they quarreled?"

"What I am going to tell you is no secret, for I had it from the
confidential agent of the Prince de Noirmont."

"The father of Madame de Lucenay?" said Edward, with a cunning and
significant look, of which Boyer, faithful to his habits of reserve
and discretion, took no notice, but resumed, coldly:

"The Duchess de Lucenay is the daughter of the Prince de Noirmont; the
father of my lord was intimately connected with the prince. The
duchess was then very young, and Saint Remy the elder treated her as
familiarly as if she had been his own child. Notwithstanding his sixty
years, he is a man of iron character, courageous as a lion, and of a
probity that I shall permit myself to designate as marvelous. He
possessed almost nothing, and had married, from love, the mother of
the viscount, a young person rather rich, who brought a million, at
the christening of which we have just had the honor to assist," and
Boyer made a low bow. Edward did the same.

"The marriage was very happy until the moment when my lord's father
found, as was said, by chance, some devilish letters, which proved
evidently that, during an absence, some three or four years after his
marriage, his wife had had a tender weakness for a certain Polish
count."

"That often happens to the Poles. When I lived with the Marquis de
Senneval, Madame the Marchioness--_une enragee_--"

Boyer interrupted his companion. "You should know, my dear Edward, the
alliances of our great families before you speak, otherwise you
reserve for yourself cruel mistakes."

"How?"

"The Marchioness of Senneval is the sister of the Duke of Montbrison,
where you desire to engage."

"Oh!--the devil!"

"Judge of the effect if you had spoken of her in this manner before
the envious or detractors: you would not have remained twenty-four
hours in the house."

"It is true, Boyer. I will try to know the alliances."

"I resume. The father of my lord discovered, then, after twelve or
fifteen years of a marriage until then happy, that he had reason to
complain of a Polish count. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the
viscount was born nine months after his father, or rather, Saint Remy
had returned from this fatal journey, so that he could not be certain
whether it was his child or not. Nevertheless, the count separated at
once from his wife, not wishing to touch a sou of the fortune she had
brought him, and retired to the country, with about eighty thousand
francs which he possessed; but you shall see the rancor of this
diabolical character. Although the outrage was dated back fifteen
years when he discovered it, yet he set off, accompanied by M. de
Fermont, one of his relations, in pursuit of the Pole, and found him
at Venice, after having sought for him in almost all the cities of
Europe."

"What an obstinate!"

"A devilish rancor, I tell you, my dear Edward! At Venice, a terrible
duel was fought, in which the Pole was killed. All was done fairly;
but, my lord's father showed, they say, such ferocious joy at seeing
the Pole mortally wounded, that his relation, M. de Fermont, was
obliged to drag him away; the count wishing to see, as he said, his
enemy expire under his eyes."

"What a man! what a man!"

"The count returned to Paris, went to the house of his wife, announced
to her that he had just returned from killing the Pole, and left her.
Since then, he has never seen her nor his son, but has lived at
Angers, like a real 'wehr-wolf' as they say, with what remains of his
eighty thousand francs, well curtailed, as you may suppose, by his
race after this Pole. At Angers he sees no one, except the wife and
daughter of his relation, M. de Fermont, who has been dead for some
years. And, besides, it would seem as if this was an unfortunate
family, for the brother of Madame de Fermont blew his brains out a few
weeks since, it is said."

"And the viscount's mother?"

"He lost her a long time since. It is on that account that my lord, on
his coming of age, has enjoyed the fortune of his mother. So you
plainly see, my dear Edward, that as regards inheritance, my lord has
nothing, or almost nothing, to expect from his father."

"Who besides must detest him?"

"He would never see him after the fatal discovery, persuaded that he
is the son of the Pole."

The conversation of the two personages was interrupted by a footman of
gigantic size, carefully powdered, although it was hardly eleven
o'clock.

"His lordship has rung twice," said the giant.

Boyer appeared distressed at this neglect; he arose precipitately, and
followed the servant with as much eagerness and respect as if he had
not been the proprietor of the mansion of his master.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE OLD COUNT DE SAINT REMY.


Two hours had passed since Boyer had gone to attend the viscount, when
the father of the last mentioned knocked at the gate of the house in
the Rue de Chaillot.

The Count de Saint Remy was a man of tall stature, still active and
vigorous, notwithstanding his age; the almost copper color of his skin
contrasted strangely with the silvery whiteness of his beard and hair;
his heavy, still black eyebrows overshadowed piercing but sunken eyes.
Although, from a kind of misanthropy, he wore clothes quite rusty,
there was in his whole appearance that which commanded respect. The
door of his son's house flew open, and he entered. A porter in a grand
livery of brown and silver, profusely powdered, and wearing silk
stockings, appeared on the threshold of an elegant lodge, which had as
much resemblance to the smoky den of the Pipelets as a cobbler's stall
could have to the sumptuous shop of a fashionable "emporium."

"M. de Saint Remy?" demanded the viscount, in a low tone.

The porter, instead of replying, examined with much contempt the white
beard, the threadbare coat, and the old hat of the stranger, who held
in his hand a large cane.

"M. de Saint Remy?" repeated the count, impatiently, shocked at the
impertinent examination of the porter.

"Not at home." So saying, Pipelet's rival drew the cord, and with a
significant gesture, invited the unknown to retire.

"I will wait," said the count, and he passed on.

"Stay, friend! one does not enter that way into houses!" cried the
porter, running after and taking him by the arm.

"How, scoundrel!" answered the old man, raising his cane; "you dare to
touch me!"

"I will dare something else, if you do not walk out at once. I have
told you that my lord was out, so walk off."

At this moment, Boyer, attracted by the sound of voices, made his
appearance. "What is the matter?" demanded he.

"M. Boyer, this man will absolutely enter, although I have told him
that my lord is out."

"Let us put a stop to this," replied the count, addressing Boyer; "I
wish to see my son---if he has gone out, I will wait."

We have said that Boyer was ignorant neither of the existence nor of
the misanthropy of the father, and sufficiently a physiognomist, he
did not for a moment doubt the identity of the count, but bowed low to
him, and answered, "If your lordship will be so good as to follow me,
I am at his orders."

"Go on," said Saint Remy, who accompanied Boyer, to the profound
dismay of the porter.

Preceded by the valet, the count arrived on the first story, and still
following his guide, was ushered into a little saloon, situated
immediately over the boudoir of the ground floor.

"My lord has been obliged to go out this morning," said Boyer, "and if
your lordship will have the kindness to wait, it will not be long
before he returns." And the valet disappeared.

Remaining alone, the count looked around him with indifference, until
suddenly he discovered the picture of his wife, the mother of
Florestan de Saint Remy. He folded his arms on his heart, held down
his head, as if to avoid the sight of this victim, and walked about
with rapid steps.

"And yet I am not certain---he may be my son---sometimes this doubt is
frightful to me. If he is my son, then my abandoning him, my refusal
ever to see him, are unpardonable. And then to think my name--of which
I have ever been so proud--belongs to the son of a man whose heart I
could have torn out! Oh! I do not know why I am not bereft of my
senses when I think of it." Saint Remy, continuing to walk with
agitation, raised mechanically the curtain which separated the saloon
from Florestan's study and entered the apartment.

He had hardly disappeared for a moment, than a small door, concealed
by the tapestry, opened softly, and Madame de Lucenay, wrapped in a
shawl of green Cashmere, and wearing a very plain black velvet bonnet,
entered the saloon which the count had just left. The duchess, as we
have said before, had a key to the little private garden-door; not
finding Florestan in the apartments below, she had supposed that,
perhaps, he was in his study, and without any fear had come up by a
small staircase which led from the boudoir to the first story.
Unfortunately, a very threatening visit from M. Badinot had obliged
him to go out precipitately.

Madame de Lucenay, seeing no one, was about to enter the cabinet, when
the curtains were thrown back, and she found herself face to face with
the father of Florestan. She could not restrain a cry of alarm.

"Clotilde!" cried the count, stupefied.

The duchess remained immovable, contemplating with surprise the old
white-bearded man, so badly clothed, whose features did not appear
altogether strange.

"You, Clotilde!" repeated the count, in a tone of sorrowful reproach,
"you here--in my son's house?"

These last words decided Madame de Lucenay; she at length recognized
the father of Florestan, and cried, "M. de Saint Remy!" Her position
was so plain and significant, that the duchess disdained to have
recourse to a falsehood to explain the motive of her presence in this
house; counting on the paternal affection which the count had formerly
shown her, she extended her hand, and said, with an air--gracious,
cordial, and fearless--which belonged only to her, "Come, do not
scold! you are my oldest friend! Do you remember, more than twenty
years ago, you called me your dear Clotilde?"

"Yes, I called you thus, but--"

"I know in advance all that you will say to me; you know my motto;
_What is, is; what shall be, shall be._"

"Ah, Clotilde!"

"Spare me your reproaches; let me rather speak to you of my joy at
seeing you! your presence recalls so many things; my poor father, in
the first place; and then my fifteenth year. Ah! fifteen--sweet
fifteen!"

"It was because your father was my friend, that--"

"Oh, yes!" answered the duchess, interrupting him, "he loved you so
much! Do you remember he called you, laughingly 'Green Ribbon.' You
always said to him, 'You will spoil Clotilde; take care!' and he would
answer, embracing me, 'I believe I spoil her; and I must hurry and
spoil her more, for soon fashion will carry her off, and spoil her in
its turn.' Excellent father that I lost!"

A tear glistened in the fine eyes of Madame de Lucenay, and giving her
hand to Saint Remy, she said to him, in an agitated voice, "True, I am
happy, very happy to see you again; you awaken souvenirs so precious,
so dear to my heart! If you have been in Paris for any time,"
continued Madame de Lucenay, "it was very unkind in you not to come to
see me; we should have talked so much of the past; for you know I
begin to arrive at the age when there is a great charm in talking to
old friends."

Perhaps the duchess could not have spoken with more nonchalance if she
had been receiving a visit at Lucenay House.

Saint Remy could not refrain from saying, earnestly, "Instead of
talking of the past, let us talk of the present. My son may come in at
any moment, and--"

"No!" said Clotilde, interrupting him, "I have the key of the private
door, and his arrival is always announced by a bell when he comes in
by the gate; at this noise I shall disappear as mysteriously as I
came, and leave you alone. What a sweet surprise you are going to
cause him! you, who have for so long a time abandoned him!"

"Hold! I have reproaches to make you."

"To me, to me?"

"Certainly! What guide, what assistance had I on entering into
society? and, for a thousand things, the counsels of a father are
indispensable. Thus, frankly, it has been very wrong in you to--"

Here Madame de Lucenay, giving way to the peculiarity of her
character, could not prevent herself from laughing heartily, and
saying to the count: "You must avow that the position is at least
singular, and that it is very piquant that I should preach to you!"

"It is rather strange; but I deserve neither your sermons nor your
praises. I come to my son; but it is not on account of my son. At his
age he can no longer need my counsels."

"What do you mean?"

"You must know for what reasons I detest society and hold Paris in
horror!" said the count. "Nothing but circumstances of the last
importance could have induced me to leave Angers, and, above all, to
come here--in this house! But I have conquered my repugnance, and have
recourse to every one who can aid me in researches of great interest
to me."

"Oh! then," said Madame de Lucenay, with most affectionate eagerness,
"I beg you dispose of me, if I can be of any use to you. Is there need
of any applications? M. de Lucenay ought to have a certain influence:
for, on the days when I go to dine with my great Aunt de Montbrison,
he gives a dinner at home to some deputies; this is not done without
some motive; this inconvenience must be paid for by some probable
advantage. Once more, if we can serve you, command us. There is my
young cousin, Duke de Montbrison, connected with all the nobility,
perhaps he could do something? In this case, I offer him to you. In a
word, dispose of me and mine: you know if I can call myself a devoted
friend!"

"I know it; and I do not refuse your assistance; although, however--"

"Come, my dear _Alceste_, we are people of the world, let us act
like such, whether we are here or elsewhere, it is of no import, I
suppose, to the affair which interests you, and which now interests me
extremely, since it is yours. Let us speak of this, and sincerely; I
require it."

Thus saying, the duchess approached the fireplace, and, leaning
against it, she put out the prettiest little foot in the world to warm
it.

With perfect tact, Madame de Lucenay seized the occasion to speak no
more of the viscount, and to converse with M. de Saint Remy on a
subject to which he attached much importance.

"You are ignorant, perhaps, Clotilde," said the count, "that for a
long time past I have lived at Angers?"

"No--I knew it."

"Notwithstanding the isolated state I sought, I had chosen this city,
because one of my relations dwelt there, M. de Fermont, who, during my
troubles, acted as a brother toward me, having acted as a second in a
duel."

"Yes, a terrible duel; my father told me of it," said Madame de
Lucenay, sadly; "but happily, Florestan is ignorant of this duel, and
also of the cause that led to it."

"I was willing to let him respect his mother," answered the count,
and, suppressing a sigh, he continued, and related to Madame de
Lucenay the history of Madame de Fermont up to the time of her leaving
Angers for Paris.

That history, if the old count had known and related it all, would
have run thus. Baron de Ferment's brother, ruined by concealed
speculations, had left three hundred thousand francs with Jacques
Ferrand. But when the baroness, upon her brother's suicide in
desperation, and her husband's death, had claimed it from that
honorable man, the notary had challenged her to produce proofs, of
which she had not one, and had, moreover, met her with a demand for
two thousand francs, a debt of the baron's to the notary. So she began
to suffer every hardship from this abuse of trust. Presuming this, we
let the count proceed:

"At the end of some time," said he, "I learned that the furniture of
the house which she occupied at Angers was sold by her orders, and
that this sum had been employed to pay some debts left by Madame de
Fermont. Uneasy at this circumstance, I inquired, and learned vaguely
that this unfortunate woman and her daughter were in distress--the
victims, doubtless, of a bankruptcy. If Madame de Fermont could, in
such an extremity, count on any one, it was on me. Yet I received no
news from her. You cannot imagine my sufferings--my inquietude. It was
absolutely necessary that I should find them, to know why they did not
apply to me, poor as I was. I set out for Paris, leaving a person at
Angers, who, if by chance any information was obtained, was to advise
me."

"Well?"

"Yesterday I had a letter from Angers; nothing was known. On arriving
here I commenced my researches. I went first to the former residence
of the brother of Madame de Fermont. Here they told me she lived by
the Canal Saint Martin."

"And this--"

"Had been her lodgings; but she had left, and they were ignorant of
her new abode. Since then all my inquiries have been useless; and I
have come here, in hopes that she may have applied to the son of her
old friend. I am afraid that even this will be in vain."

For some minutes Madame de Lucenay had listened to the count with
redoubled attention; suddenly she said, "Truly, it would be singular
if these should be the same as those Madame d'Harville is so much
interested for."

"Who?" asked the count.

"The widow of whom you speak is still young, and of a noble presence?"

"She is so. But how do you know?"

"Her daughter handsome as an angel, and about sixteen?"

"Yes, yes!"

"And is named Claire?"

"Oh, in mercy, speak! where are they?"

"Alas, I know not!"

"You do not know?"

"A lady of my acquaintance, Madame d'Harville, came to me to ask if I
know a widow who had a daughter named Claire, and whose brother
committed suicide. Madame d'Harville came to me because she had seen
these words, 'Write to Madame de Lucenay,' traced on the fragment of a
letter which this unhappy woman had written to a person unknown, whose
aid she entreated."

"She intended to write to you! Why?"

"I am ignorant; I do not know her."

"But she knew you!" cried Saint Remy, struck with a sudden idea.

"What do you say?"

"A hundred times she has heard me speak of your father, of you, of
your generous and excellent heart. In her trouble, she must have
thought of you."

"This can be thus explained."

"And how did Madame d'Harville get possession of this letter?"

"I am ignorant; all I know is, that, without knowing where this poor
mother and child had taken refuge, she was, I believe, on their
track."

"Then I count upon you, Clotilde, to introduce me to Madame
d'Harville; I must see her to-day."

"Impossible. Her husband has just fallen a victim to a frightful
accident. A gun, which he did not know was loaded, went off while in
his hands, and killed him on the spot."

"Oh, this is horrible!"

"She departed immediately, to pass her first mourning at her father's
in Normandy."

"Clotilde, I conjure you to write to her to-day; ask for whatever
information she may possess. Since she interests herself for these
poor women, tell her she cannot have a warmer auxiliary than me; my
sole desire is to find the widow of my friend, and to partake with her
and her daughter the little I possess. It is now my sole family."

"Always the same---always generous and devoted! Count on me; I will
write to-day to Madame d'Harville. Where shall I send her answer?"

"To Asnieres, poste restante."

"What eccentricity! Why do you lodge there and not at Paris?"

"I hate Paris, on account of the souvenirs it awakens," answered Saint
Remy, with a gloomy air. "My old physician, Dr. Griffin, has a small
country-house on the banks of the Seine, near Asnieres; he does not
live there in winter, and offered it to me; it is almost a suburb of
Paris; I could, after my researches, find there the solitude which
pleases me; I have accepted."

"I will write you, then, at Asnieres; I can, besides, give you now
some information which may perhaps serve you, which I received from
Madame d'Harville. The ruin of Madame de Fermont has been caused by
the roguery of the notary who had the charge of her fortune. He denies
the deposit."

"The scoundrel! What is the fellow's name?"

"Jacques Ferrand," said the duchess, without being able to conceal her
desire to laugh.

"What a strange being you are, Clotilde! There is nothing in all this
but what is serious and sad, yet you laugh!" said the count, surprised
and vexed.

"Pardon me, my friend," answered the duchess; "the notary is such a
singular man, and they tell such strange things of him. But,
seriously, if his reputation as an honest man is no more merited than
his reputation as a pious man (and I declare this usurped), he is a
wretch!"

"And he lives---"

"Rue du Gentier."

"He shall have a visit from me. What you have told me coincides with
certain suspicions."

"What suspicions?"

"From what I can learn respecting the death of the brother of my poor
friend, I am almost led to believe that this unfortunate man, instead
of committing suicide, has been the victim of an assassination."

"Goodness! what makes you suppose this?"

"Several reasons, too long to tell you. I leave you now."

"You leave without seeing Florestan?"

"This interview would be too painful for me--you must comprehend. I
only braved it in the hopes of obtaining some information about Madame
de Fermont, wishing to neglect no means to find her. Now adieu!"

"Oh, you are without pity!"

"Do you not know?"

"I know that your son has never had more need of your counsels."

"Is he not rich--happy?"

"Yes; but he does not know mankind. Blindly prodigal, because he is
confiding and generous--in everything, everywhere, and always truly
noble. I fear he is abused. If you knew what a noble heart he has! I
have never dared to lecture him on the subject of his expense and
extravagance; in the first place, because I am at least as foolish as
he is; and then for other reasons; but you on the contrary could--"

Madame de Lucenay did not finish; suddenly she heard the voice of
Florestan de Saint Remy. He entered precipitately into the cabinet
adjoining the saloon. After having quickly shut the door, he said, in
an agitated voice, to some one who accompanied him, "But it is
impossible!"

"But I repeat to you," answered the clear and piercing voice of M.
Badinot, "I repeat to you, that, without this, in four hours you will
be arrested. For if he has not this money, our man will go and make a
complaint to the attorney-general, and you know the penalty of a
forgery like this--the galleys, my poor lord!"

It is impossible to describe the look which Madame de Lucenay and the
father of Florestan exchanged on hearing these terrible words.



CHAPTER XXIX.

FATHER AND SON.


On hearing these fearful words addressed to his son by Badinot, the
count changed color, and clung to a chair for support. His venerable
and respected name dishonored by a man whom he had reason to doubt was
his son? His first feeling overcome, the angry looks of the old man,
and a threatening gesture which he made as he advanced toward the
study revealed a resolution so alarming that Madame de Lucenay caught
him by the hand, stopped him, and said, in a low tone, with the most
profound conviction, "He is innocent; I swear to you! Listen in
silence."

The count stood still; he wished to believe what the duchess had said
was true.

She, on her part, was persuaded of his honesty. To obtain new
sacrifices from this woman, so blindly generous--sacrifices which
alone had saved him from the threats of Jacques Ferrand--the viscount
had sworn to Madame de Lucenay, that, dupe of a scoundrel from whom he
had received in payment the forged bill, he ran the risk of being
regarded as an accomplice of the forger, having himself put it in
circulation.

Madame de Lucenay knew that the viscount was imprudent, prodigal, and
careless; but never for a moment had she supposed him capable of an
infamous action, not even the slightest indiscretion.

By twice lending him considerable sums under very peculiar
circumstances, she had wished to render him a friendly service, the
viscount only accepting this money on the express condition of
returning it; for there was due to him, he said, more than twice this
amount.

His apparent luxurious manner of living allowed her to believe it.
Besides, Madame de Lucenay, yielding to her natural kind impulses, had
only thought of being useful to Florestan, without any care whether he
could repay or not. He affirmed it, and she did not doubt. In
answering for the viscount's honor, in supplicating the old count to
listen to the conversation of his son, the duchess thought that he was
going to speak of the abuse of confidence of which he had been a
victim, and that he would be thus entirely exculpated in the eyes of
his father.

"Once more," continued Florestan, in an agitated voice, "I say this
Petit Jean is a scoundrel; he assured me that he had no other bills
than those I withdrew yesterday, and three days ago. I thought this
one was in circulation: it was payable three months after date, at
Adams & Co., London?"

"Yes, yes," said the clear and sharp voice of Badinot. "I know, my
dear viscount, that you have adroitly managed your affairs; your
forgeries were not to be discovered until you were far away. But you
have been caught by those more cunning than yourself."

"Oh! it is very well to tell me this now, wretch that you are!" cried
Florestan, furiously; "did you not yourself introduce this person to
me, who has negotiated the paper?"

"Come, my dear aristocrat," answered Badinot, coldly, "be calm! You
are very skillful in counterfeiting commercial signatures; it is
really wonderful; but that is no reason why you should treat your
friends with disagreeable familiarity. If you go on in this way--I
leave you to arrange as you please."

"Do you think one can preserve calmness in such a position? If what
you tell me is true--if this complaint is lodged against me to-day, I
am lost."

"It is exactly as I tell you, unless you should have recourse again to
your charming providence with the blue eyes."

"That is impossible."

"Then be resigned. It is a pity it was the last note! for twenty-five
thousand paltry francs, to go and take the air of the south at Toulon--it
is ridiculous, absurd, stupid! How could a cunning man like you
suffer yourself to be thus cornered?"

"What is to be done? what is to be done? nothing here belongs to me; I
have not twenty louis of my own."

"Your friends?"

"Oh! I owe to all who could lend me; do you think me such a fool as to
have waited until to-day to ask them?"

"That is true; pardon me--come, let us talk tranquilly, it is the best
way to arrive at a reasonable solution. Just now I wanted to tell you
how you were attacked by those who were more cunning than yourself.
You did not listen to me."

"Well, speak, if it can be of any use."

"Let us recapitulate: you said to me about two months since, 'I have
about one hundred and thirteen thousand francs in bills on different
banking-houses, which have some time to run; can you find means to
negotiate them for me, my dear Badinot--'"

"Well! what next?"

"Stop! I asked to see them. Something told me that the bills were
forgeries, although perfectly well done. I did not suspect that you,
it is true, possessed a caligraphic talent so far advanced; but having
the charge of your fortunes, ever since you had no more fortune, I
knew you were completely ruined. I had drawn up the deed by which your
horses, your carriages, the furniture of this hotel, belonged to Boyer
and Patterson. It was not wonderful for me to be astonished at seeing
you possess commercial securities of so much value, was it?"

"Do me the favor to spare me your astonishment and let us arrive at
the facts."

"Here they are. I had not enough experience or timidity to care to
meddle directly in affairs of that description; I recommended a third
person to you, who, not less sharp-sighted than I am, suspected the
game you wished to play."

"That is impossible-he would not have discounted these bills if he had
thought them false."

"How much money did he give you for the one hundred and thirteen
thousand francs?"

"Twenty-five thousand francs cash, and the remainder in debts to be
recovered."

"And how much did you ever recover from these?"

"Nothing, you know well enough; they were imaginary; but he certainly
risked twenty-five thousand francs."

"How unfledged you are, my dear lord! Having my commission of a
hundred louis to receive, I took good care not to tell this third
person the real state of your affairs. He thought you still quite
rich, and he knew, besides, that you were adored by a great lady, who
was very rich, and who would never have you in embarrassment; he was
then pretty sure to get back what he advanced; he ran some risk, to be
sure; but he also had a chance of making a great deal of money, and
his calculation was a good one; for, the other day you paid him one
hundred thousand francs to withdraw the forgery of fifty-eight
thousand francs, and yesterday thirty thousand francs for the second;
for this last, he had been contented with receiving its real value.
How you procured these thirty thousand francs yesterday may the devil
run away with me if I know! for you are a man unique. So you see that
at the end of the account, if Petit Jean forces you to pay the last
draft for twenty-five thousand francs, he will have received from you
one hundred and fifty-five thousand francs for twenty-five thousand
francs which he paid you; now, I had reason to say that you were in
the hands of those more cunning than yourself."

"But why did he tell me that this last bill, which he presented to-day,
was negotiated?"

"Not to alarm you; he also had told you that, with the exception of
the fifty-eight thousand francs, the others were in circulation; the
first, once paid, yesterday came the second, and to-day the third."

"The scoundrel!"

"Listen to me, then: every one for himself, as a celebrated lawyer
said, and I like the maxim. But let us talk coolly: this proves to you
that Petit Jean (and, between us, I should not be surprised if,
notwithstanding his holy reputation, Jacques Ferrand was half
concerned in these speculations), this proves to you, I say, that
Petit Jean, allured by your first payments, speculates on this last
bill, quite sure that your friends will not allow you to be dragged
before the judges. It is for you to see if these friends are so well
used, so drained, that not another golden drop can be squeezed from
them, for, if in three hours you have not the twenty-five thousand
francs, my noble lord, you are caged."

"If you were to repeat this to me forever--"

"Perhaps you would consent to pluck a last feather from the wing of
that generous duchess."

"I repeat to you, it must not be thought of. To find in three hours
twenty-five thousand francs more, after all the sacrifices she has
already made--it would be madness to think of it."

"To please you, fortunate mortal, one would try an impossibility."

"Oh! she has already tried it: this was to borrow one hundred thousand
francs from her husband, and she succeeded; but these are experiments
that cannot be tried twice. Let us see, my dear Badinot, until now you
have never had any reason to complain of me. I have always been
generous; try to obtain some delay from this miserable Petit Jean. You
know I always can find means to recompense those who serve me; this
last affair once hushed, I will take a new flight--you shall be
content with me."

"Petit Jean is as inflexible as you are unreasonable."

"I!"

"Try only to interest once more your generous friend in your sad fate.
The devil! Tell her right out the truth; not as you have already said,
that you are the dupe, but that you are the forger himself."

"No, never will I make such an acknowledgment; it would be shame
without any advantage."

"Do you prefer that she should learn it to-morrow by the 'Police
Gazette'?"

"I have three hours left--I can fly."

"Where will you go without money? Judge now! on the contrary, this
last forgery taken up, you will find yourself in a superb position;
you would have no more debts. Come, come, promise me to speak once
more to the duchess. You are such a rake, you know how to make
yourself so interesting in spite of your faults; at the very worst,
perhaps, you will be esteemed the less, or even no more, but you will
be lifted out of this scrape. Come, promise me to see your friend, and
I will run to Petit Jean, and do my best to obtain an hour or two
more."

"Hell! must I drink of shame to the very dregs?"

"Come now! good luck--be tender, charming, fond; I run to Petit Jean:
you will find me here until three o'clock; later it will no longer be
in time: the public prosecutor's office is closed after four o'clock."

Badinot took his departure.

When the door was closed, Florestan was heard to cry, in profound
despair, "Lost!"

During this conversation, which unmasked to the count the infamy of
his son, and to Madame de Lucenay the infamy of the man whom she had
so blindly loved, both remained immovable, scarcely breathing, under
the weight of this frightful revelation.

It would be impossible to describe the mute eloquence of the sorrowful
scene which passed between this young woman and the count, when there
was no longer any doubt of the crime of Florestan. Extending his arm
toward the room where his son remained, the old man smiled with bitter
irony, cast a withering look on Madame de Lucenay, and seemed to say
to her:

"Behold him for whom you have braved all shame, made every sacrifice!
Behold him you have reproached me for abandoning!"

The duchess understood the look; for a moment she hung her head under
the weight of her shame. The lesson was terrible.

Then by degrees, to the cruel anxiety which had contracted the
features of Madame de Lucenay succeeded a kind of noble indignation.
The inexcusable faults of this woman were at least palliated by the
fidelity of her love, by the boldness of her devotion, by the grandeur
of her generosity, by the frankness of her character, and by her
inexorable aversion for everything that was cowardly and dishonest.

Still too young, too handsome, too much sought after, to experience
the humility of having been made use of, this proud and decided woman,
once the illusion of love having vanished, felt neither hatred nor
anger; instantaneously, without any transition, a mortal disgust, an
icy disdain, killed her affection, until then so lively; it was no
longer a woman deceived by her lover, but it was the lady of fashion
discovering that a man of her society was a cheat and a forger.

In supposing even that some circumstances might have extenuated the
ignominy of Florestan, Madame de Lucenay would not have admitted them;
according to her views, the man who overstepped certain limits of
honor, either through vice or weakness, no longer existed in her eyes,
honor being for her a question of existence or non-existence. The only
sorrowful feeling experienced by the duchess, was excited by the
terrible effect which this unexpected revelation produced on the
count, her old friend. For some moments he appeared not to see nor
hear; his eyes were fixed, his head hung down, his arms suspended, his
paleness livid, and from time to time a convulsive sigh escaped from
his bosom. With a man as resolute as he was energetic, such a state of
dejection was more alarming than the most furious bursts of rage.

Madame de Lucenay looked at him with much anxiety. "Courage, my
friend," said she to him, in a low tone, "for you, for me, for this
man--I know what remains for me to do."

The old man looked at her fixedly; then, as if he had been aroused
from his stupor by some violent shock, he raised his head, his
features assumed a threatening appearance, and, forgetting that his
son might hear him, he cried: "And I, also, for you, for me, for this
man--I know what I have to do."

"Who is there?" cried Florestan, surprised.

Madame de Lucenay, fearing to meet the viscount, disappeared through
the small door, and descended the private staircase.

Florestan, having again demanded who was there, and receiving no
answer, entered the saloon.

The long beard of the old man changed him so much, he was so poorly
dressed, that his son, who had not seen him for many years, did not at
first recognize him; he advanced rapidly toward him with a menacing
air, and said, "Who are you? What do you want here?"

"I am the husband of that woman!" answered the count, showing the
portrait of Madame de Saint Remy.

"My father!" cried Florestan, retreating in alarm; and he endeavored
to recall to mind the features so long forgotten. Erect, formidable,
his looks irritated, his face purple with rage, his white hair thrown
back, his arms crossed on his breast, the count, over-awed, confounded
his son, who, with his head down, dared not to raise his eyes upon
him. Yet Saint Remy, from some secret motive, made a violent effort to
remain calm and to conceal his feelings of resentment.

"Father!" said Florestan, in a faltering voice, "you were there!" "I
was there."

"You have heard--"

"All."

"Oh!" cried the viscount, mournfully, concealing his face in his
hands.

There was a moment's pause. Florestan, at first as much astonished as
vexed at the unexpected apparition of his father, soon began to think
what he could make out of this incident. "All is not lost," said he to
himself; "the presence of my father is a stroke of fate. He knows all;
he will not have his name dishonored; he is not rich, but be must have
more than twenty-five thousand francs. Let us play close--address,
emotion, and a little tenderness. I will let the duchess alone, and I
am saved!"

Then, giving to his charming features an expression of mournful
dejection, moistening his eyes with the tears of repentance, assuming
his most thrilling tones, his most pathetic manner, he cried, joining
his hands with a gesture of despair: "Oh, my father: I am very
unhappy! after so many years--to see you again, and at such a moment!
I must appear so culpable to you! But deign to listen to me, I entreat
you--I supplicate you; permit me, not to justify myself, but to
explain to you my conduct; will you, my father?"

Old Saint Remy answered not a word: his features remained immovable:
he seated himself, and with his chin resting on the palm of his hand,
looked at his son in silence.

If Florestan had known the thoughts which filled the mind of his
father with hatred, fury, and vengeance, alarmed at the apparent
calmness of the count, he would not have tried to dupe him.

But, ignorant of the suspicions attached to his birth, ignorant of the
fault of his mother, Florestan doubted not the success of his trick,
believing he had only to soften a father who, at once a misanthrope
and very proud of his name, would be capable, rather than see his name
dishonored, to decide on any sacrifice.

"My father," he resumed timidly, "permit me to try, not to exculpate
myself, but to tell you how, from involuntary misleadings, I have
reached, almost in spite of myself, actions--infamous--I acknowledge."
The viscount took the silence of his father for a tacit consent, and
continued:

"When I had the misfortune to lose my mother--my poor mother, who
loved me so well--I was not twenty. I found myself alone, without
counsel, without protection. Master of a considerable fortune,
accustomed to luxury from my childhood, I had made it a habit, a want.
Ignorant of the difficulty of earning money, I lavished it without
measure. Unfortunately--and I say unfortunately, because this ruined
me--my expenses, foolish as they were, by their elegance were
remarkable. By good taste I eclipsed people who were ten times richer
than I was. This first success intoxicated me. I became a man of
luxury as one becomes a warrior or a statesman; yes, I loved luxury,
not from vulgar ostentation, but I loved it as the painter loves a
picture, as the poet loves poetry; like every other artist, I was
jealous of my work; and my work was my luxury. I sacrificed everything
to its perfection. I wished it fine, grand, complete, splendidly
harmonious in everything, from my stables to my table, from my dress
to my house. I wished in everything to be a model of taste and
elegance. As an artist, in fine, I was greedy of the applause of the
crowd, and of the admiration of people of fashion; this success, so
rare, I obtained."

In speaking thus, the features of Florestan lost by degrees their
hypocritical expression; his eyes shone with a kind of enthusiasm; he
told the truth; he had been at first reduced by this rather uncommon
manner of understanding luxury. He looked inquiringly at his father;
he thought he appeared rather softened.

He resumed, with growing warmth: "Oracle and regulator of the
fashions, my praise or censure made the law; I was quoted, copied,
extolled, admired, and that by the best company in Paris, that is to
say, Europe, the world. The women partook of the general infatuation;
the most charming disputed for the pleasure of coming to some very
select fetes which I gave; and everywhere, and always, nothing was
heard but of the incomparable elegance and exquisite taste of these
fetes, which the millionaires could neither equal nor eclipse; in
fine, I was the Glass of Fashion. This word will tell you all, my
father, if you understand it."

"I understand it, and I am sure that at the galleys you will invent
some refined elegance in the manner of carrying your chain, that will
become the fashion in the yard, and will be called a la Saint Remy,"
said the old man, with bitter irony; then he added, "and Saint Remy is
my name!"

It caused Florestan to exercise much control over himself to conceal
the wound caused by this sarcasm.

He continued, in a more humble tone: "Alas! my father, it is not from
pride that I recall the fact of this success; for, I repeat to you,
this success ruined me. Sought after, envied, flattered, praised, not
by interested parasites, but by people whose position much surpassed
mine, and over whom I only had the advantage derived from elegance--
which is to luxury what taste is to the arts--my head was turned; I
did not calculate that my fortune must be spent in a few years; little
did I heed it. Could I renounce this feverish, dazzling life, in which
pleasure succeeded to pleasure, enjoyments to enjoyments, fetes to
fetes, intoxications of all sorts to enchantments of all sorts? Oh, if
you knew, my father, what it is to be everywhere noticed as the hero
of the day; to hear the whisperings which announce your entrance into
a saloon; to hear the women say, 'It is he!--there he is!' Oh! if you
knew----"

"I know," said the old man, interrupting his son, and without changing
his position; "I know. Yes, the other day, in a public square, there
was a crowd, suddenly I heard a noise, like that with which you are
received when you go anywhere; then the looks of all, the women
especially, were fixed on a very handsome young man, just as they are
fixed on you, and they pointed him out, just as they do you, saying,
'It is he! there he is!' just exactly as they say of you."

"But this man, my father?"

"Was a forger they were placing in the pillory."

"Ah!" exclaimed Florestan, with suppressed rage; then, feigning
profound affliction, he added: "My father, have you no pity--what can
I say to you now? I do not seek to deny my faults--I only wish to
explain to you the fatal cause of them. Ah, well! yes, should you
again overwhelm me with cruel sarcasms, I will try to go to the end of
this confession--I will try to make you understand this feverish
vanity which has ruined me, because then, perhaps, you will pity me.
Yes, for one pities a fool--and I was a fool. Shutting my eyes, I
abandoned myself to the dazzling vortex, into which I dragged along
with me the most charming women, the most amiable men. Stop myself--
could I do it? As well say to the poet who exhausts himself, and whose
genius is consuming his health, 'Pause in the midst of the inspiration
which carries you away!' No! I could not; I--I! abdicate this royalty
which I exercised, and return, ruined, ashamed, mocked, to the state
of a plebeian--unknown; give this triumph to my rivals, whom I had
until then defied, ruled, crushed! No, no, I could not! not
voluntarily, at least. The fatal day came, when, for the first time,
my money was wanting. I was as surprised as if this moment never could
happen. Yet I had still my horses, my carriages, and the furniture of
this house. My debts paid, I should still have sixty thousand francs--
perhaps--what should I do with this trifle? Then, my father, I took
the first step in infamy. I was still honest. I had only spent what
belonged to me; but then I began to contract debts which I could not
pay. I sold all I possessed to two of my people, in order to settle
with them, and to be able, for six months longer, to enjoy this luxury
which intoxicated me, in spite of my creditors. To provide for my
wants at play and foolish expenses, I borrowed, in the first place,
from the Jews; then, to pay the Jews, from my friends. These resources
exhausted, commenced a new era of my life. From an honest man I had
become a chevalier d'industrie, but I was not yet criminal. However, I
hesitated. I wished to take a violent resolution. I had proved in
several duels that I was not afraid of death. I thought I would kill
myself."

"Indeed?" said the count, ironically.

"You do not believe me, my father?"

"It was too soon, or too late!" added the old man, quite immovable,
and in the same attitude.

Florestan, thinking he had alarmed his father in speaking to him of
his project of suicide, thought it necessary to get up the scene again
for a little stage effect. He opened a closet and took from it a
little green crystal vial, and said to the count, placing it on the
mantelpiece: "An Italian quack sold me this poison."

"And--it was for yourself?" said the old man, still leaning on his
elbow.

Florestan understood the bearing of his father's words. His face now
expressed real indignation, for he spoke the truth. One day, he had
had the idea of killing himself--an ephemeral fantasy; people of his
stamp are too cowardly to resolve coldly and without witnesses upon
death, which they will boldly meet in a duel through a point of honor.
He cried, then, in a tone of truth, "I have fallen very low, but at
least not so low as that, my father! It was for myself I reserved the
poison!"

"And you were afraid?" said the count, without change of position.

"I confess it, I recoiled before this dreadful extremity; nothing was
yet desperate, the persons whom I owed were rich, and could wait. At
my age, with my relations, I hoped for a moment, if not to repair my
fortune, at least to assure myself an honorable independent position
in its place. Several of my friends, perhaps, less capable than myself
had made rapid strides in diplomacy. I had a velleity of ambition. I
had only to request, and I was attached to the legation of Gerolstein.
Unfortunately, some days after this nomination, a gambling debt
contracted with a man I hated placed me in the most cruel
embarrassment. I had exhausted every resource. A fatal idea occurred
to me. Believing myself certain of impunity, I committed an infamous
action. You see, my father, I conceal nothing from you. I confess the
ignominy of my conduct. I seek to extenuate nothing. One of two
resolutions remains for me to take, and I have now to decide which.
The first is to kill myself, and to leave your name dishonored, for if
I do not pay to-day even the twenty-five thousand francs, the
complaint is made, the affair known, and, dead or living, I am ruined.
The second means is to throw myself in the hands of my father, to say
to you, save your son, save your name from infamy, and I swear to
leave to-morrow for Africa, to enlist as a soldier, and either to be
killed or to return some day honorably reinstated. What I now tell
you, my father, is true. In face of the extremity which overwhelms me,
I have no other way. Decide; either I die covered with shame, or
thanks to you, I will live to repair my faults. These are not the
threats and words of a young man, my father. I am now twenty-five; I
bear your name; I have courage enough either to kill myself, or to
become a soldier, for I will not go to the galleys."

The count arose.

"I will not have my name dishonored," said he coldly to Florestan.

"Oh, my father! my savior!" cried the viscount, warmly; and he was
about to throw himself into the arms of his father, when he, with an
icy gesture, checked the impulse.

"They wait for you until three o'clock, at the house of this man who
has the forgery?"

"Yes, my father; and it is now two o'clock."

"Let us pass into your cabinet--give me something to write with."

"Here, my father." The count seated himself before the desk of his
son, and wrote with a firm hand:

"I engage to pay this night, at ten o'clock, the 25,000 francs which
are owed by my son.

  "COUNT DE SAINT REMY."

"Your creditor insists upon having the money; notwithstanding his
threats, this engagement of mine will make him consent to a new delay;
he can go to Mr. Dupont, banker, in the Rue de Richelieu, No. 7, who
will inform him of the value of this note."

"Oh, father! however can--"

"You may expect me to-night; at ten o'clock. I will bring you the
money. Let your creditor be here."

"Yes, father, and after to-morrow, I start for Africa. You shall see
if I am ungrateful. Then, perhaps, when I have reinstated myself, you
will accept my thanks."

"You owe me nothing; I have said my name shall be no further
dishonored; it shall not be," said M. de Saint Remy, calmly; and
taking his cane, which he had placed on the bureau, he turned toward
the door.

"Father, your hand at least!" said Florestan, in a supplicating tone.

"Here, to-night, at ten-o'clock," replied the count, refusing his
hand. And he departed.

"Saved!" cried Florestan, joyfully, "saved!" then, after a moment's
reflection, he added, "saved! almost. No matter; so far good. Perhaps
to-night I will acknowledge the other thing; he is in train; he will
not stop halfway and let his sacrifice be useless, because he refuses
a second. Yet why tell him? Who will know it? Never mind; if nothing
is discovered, I will keep the money that he will give me to pay this
last debt. I had a great deal of trouble to move him, this devil of a
man! The bitterness of his sarcasms made me doubt my success; but my
threat of suicide, the fear of having his name dishonored, decided
him; that was the lucky stroke. He is, doubtless, not so poor as he
pretends to be, if he possesses a hundred thousand francs. He must
have saved money, living as he does. Once more, I say his coming was a
lucky chance. He has a cross look, but, at the bottom, I think he is a
good fellow; but I must hasten to this bailiff." He rang the bell.
Boyer appeared.

"Why did you not inform me that my father was here? you are very
negligent."

"Twice I endeavored to speak to you when you came through the garden
with M. Badinot; but, probably, preoccupied by your conversation with
M. Badinot, you made a motion with the hand not to be interrupted. I
did not permit myself to insist. I should be deeply wounded if my lord
could believe me guilty of negligence."

"Very well; tell Edward to harness immediately Orion--no--Plower, to
the cabriolet."

Boyer bowed respectfully; as he was about to retire, some one knocked
at the door.

"Come in!" said Florestan.

A second valet appeared, holding in his hand a small salver. Boyer
took hold of the salver with a kind of jealous officiousness, and came
and presented it to the viscount, who took from it a rather voluminous
envelope, sealed with black wax. The valets retired ceremoniously. The
viscount opened the package. It contained twenty-five thousand francs,
in treasury notes; with no other information.

"Decidedly," cried he, with joy, "the day is lucky--sacred! this time,
completely saved. I shall go to the jeweler's--and yet--perhaps--no,
let us wait--they can have no suspicion of me--twenty-five thousand
francs are good to keep; pardieu! I was a fool ever to doubt my star;
at the moment it seems most obscured does it not appear more brilliant
than ever? But where does this money come from? the writing of the
address is unknown to me; let me look at the seal--the cipher; yes,
yes, I am not mistaken--an N and an L--it is Clotilde! How has she
known?--and not a word--it is strange! How apropos! Oh I reflect--I
made a rendezvous for this morning--these threats of Badinot upset me.
I had forgotten Clotilde--after having waited some time, she has gone.
Doubtless, this is sent as a delicate hint that she fears I shall
forget her on account of my monetary embarrassments. Yes, it is an
indirect reproach for not addressing myself to her as usual. Good
Clotilde--always the same!--generous as a queen! What a pity to come
again from her--still so handsome! Sometimes I regret it; but I have
never asked her until, at the last extremity, I have been forced to
it."

"The cabriolet is ready," said Boyer.

"Who brought this letter?"

"I am uninformed, my lord."

"Exactly--I will ask at the door; but tell me, is there no one below?"
added the viscount, looking at Boyer in a significant manner.

"There is no longer any one, my lord."

"I was not deceived," thought Florestan. "Clotilde has waited for me,
and has gone away."

"Will my lord have the goodness to grant me two minutes?" said Boyer.

"Speak, but make haste."

"Mr. Patterson and I have understood that his Grace the Duke of
Montbrison was about to establish himself; if your lordship would have
the goodness to propose to let him have his house all furnished, as
well as the stables, it would be a good occasion for us to dispose of
all; and, perhaps, might also suit my lord."

"You are right, Boyer! I should much prefer it. I will see Montbrison,
and will speak to him about it. What are your conditions?"

"Your lordship understands that we ought to try to profit as much as
we can by his generosity."

"And gain by your bargain? nothing can be plainer! Come, what is the
price?"

"For the whole, two hundred and sixty thousand francs, my lord."

"How much do you and Patterson make?"

"About forty thousand francs, my lord."

"Very pretty! However, so much the better; for, after all, I am
satisfied with you, and if I had had a will to make, I should have
left this sum to you and Patterson." The viscount went out to go, in
the first place, to his creditor and Madame de Lucenay, whom he did
not suspect of having overheard his conversation with Badinot.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE INTERVIEW.


Lucenay House was one of those princely habitations of the Faubourg
Saint Germain which the unobstructed view renders so magnificent. A
modern house could have been placed with ease in the space occupied by
the staircase of one of these palaces; and an entire ward on the
ground they covered.

Toward nine o'clock in the evening of this same day, the enormous
gateway was opened to a glittering carriage, which, after having
described a scientific curve in the immense court stopped before a
covered porch, which led to an antechamber.

While the stampings of the two vigorous and mettlesome horses
resounded on the pavement, a gigantic footman opened the emblazoned
door, and a young man descended slowly from this brilliant vehicle,
and not less slowly mounted the five or six steps of the porch.

This was the Viscount de Saint Remy.

On leaving his creditor, who, satisfied with the engagement made by
the Count de Saint Remy, had granted the delay asked, and agreed to
come to Rue Chaillot at ten o'clock, Florestan was come to thank
Madame de Lucenay for the new service she had rendered; but, not
having met the duchess in the morning, he came in great spirits,
certain to find her at the hour she habitually reserved for him.

From the obsequiousness of the two footmen in the antechamber who ran
to open the door as soon as they recognized the carriage; from the
profoundly respectful air with which the rest of the liveried servants
spontaneously arose as the viscount passed, one could easily see that
he was looked upon as the second, if not the real master of the
mansion.

When the Duke de Lucenay entered his house, his umbrella in his hand,
and his feet in huge overshoes (he detested riding in the daytime),
the same domestic evolutions were repeated, and always respectfully;
yet to the eyes of an observer, there was a great difference of
expression between the reception given to the husband, and that which
was reserved for the _cicisbeo_.

The same respectful eagerness was manifested in the saloon of the
valets when Florestan entered there; in a moment, one of them preceded
him, to announce him to Madame de Lucenay.

Never had Florestan been more conceited; never did he feel more easy,
more sure of himself, more irresistible. The victory which he had
gained in the morning over his father; the new proof of attachment
from Madame de Lucenay; the joy at having so miraculously escaped from
so cruel a position; his renewed confidence in his star, gave to his
handsome face an expression of boldness and good humor which rendered
him still more seducing. In fine, he never was more pleased with
himself; and he had reason.

A last glance in a mirror completed the excellent opinion that
Florestan had of himself.

The valet opened the folding doors of the saloon, and announced, "His
lordship the Viscount de Saint Remy."

The astonishment and indignation of the duchess were indescribable.
She thought the count must have told his son that she also had
overheard all.

We have said before, that, on learning the infamy of Florestan, the
love of Madame de Lucenay was at once changed into utter disdain.

Being engaged out that evening, she was, although without diamonds,
dressed with her usual taste and magnificence: this splendid toilet;
the rouge which she wore boldly; her beauty, quite striking at night;
her figure of "the goddess sailing on clouds," rendered still more
striking a dignity, which no one possessed more than she did, and
which she pushed, when it was necessary, to a most superlative
haughtiness.

The proud, determined character of the duchess is known to the reader;
let him imagine her look, when the viscount, smiling, advanced toward
her, and said in loving tones, "My dear Clotilde, how kind you are!
how much you----" The viscount could not finish.

The duchess was seated, and had not stirred; but her actions, the
glance of her eye, revealed a contempt at once so calm and so
withering, that Florestan stopped short. He could not say a word, or
make a step in advance. Never had Madame de Lucenay conducted herself
thus toward him. He could not believe it to be the same woman whom he
had always found so tender and affectionate. His first surprise over,
Florestan was ashamed of his weakness; he resumed his habitual
audacity; making a step toward Madame de Lucenay to take her hand, he
said to her in the most caressing manner, "Clotilde, how is this? I
have never seen you so handsome, and yet--"

"Oh! this is too impudent!" cried the duchess, recoiling with such
unequivocal disgust and pride, that Florestan once more was surprised
and confounded.

However, assuming a little assurance, he said to her: "You will inform
me, at least, Clotilde, the cause of this sudden change? What have I
done? What do you wish?"

Without replying to him, Madame de Lucenay looked at him from head to
foot, with an expression so insulting that Florestan felt the flush of
resentment mount to his forehead, and he cried, "I know, madame, you
are habitually very hasty in your ruptures. Is it a rupture you wish?"

"The pretension is curious!" said Madame de Lucenay, with a burst of
sardonic laughter. "Know that when a lackey robs me--I do not break
with him--I turn him out."

"Madame!"

"Let us put a stop to this," said the duchess, in a decided and
haughty tone. "Your presence is repugnant to me! What do you want
here? Have you not got your money?"

"I was right then. I guessed it was you. These twenty-five thousand
francs--"

"Your last forgery is withdrawn, is it not? The honor of your family
name is saved. It is saved. Go away. Ah! believe--I much regret this
money--it would have succored so many honest people; but it was
necessary to think of your father's shame and of mine."

"Then, Clotilde, you know all! Oh! look you now; nothing remains for
me but to die," cried Florestan in the most pathetic and despairing
tone.

A burst of indignant laughter from the duchess replied to this
tragical exclamation, and she added, between two fits of hilarity, "I
never could have thought that infamy could make itself so ridiculous!"

"Madame!" cried Florestan, almost blind with rage.

The folding doors were thrown open suddenly, and a valet announced,
"His Grace the Duke de Montbrison!"

Notwithstanding his habitual self-command, Florestan could hardly
restrain himself, which a man more accustomed to society than the duke
would certainly have remarked. Montbrison was scarcely eighteen.

Let the reader imagine the charming face of a young girl, fair, white,
and red, whose rosy lips and smooth chin shall be slightly shaded with
an incipient beard; add to this, large brown eyes, still slightly
timid, a figure as graceful as that of the duchess, and he will have,
perhaps, an idea of the appearance of this young duke, the most ideal
Cherubino that a Countess and a Susanna had ever put on a woman's cap,
after admiring the whiteness of his ivory neck.

The viscount had the weakness or the audacity to remain.

"How kind you are, Conrad, to have thought of me tonight!" said Madame
de Lucenay in the most affectionate tone, extending her beautiful hand
to the young duke who hastened to shake hands with his cousin; but
Clotilde shrugged her shoulders, and said to him gayly, "You may kiss
them, cousin: you wear your gloves."

"Pardon me, cousin," said the youth; and he pressed his lips on the
charming hand she presented him.

"What are you going to do this evening, Conrad?" demanded the duchess,
without taking the least notice of Florestan.

"Nothing, cousin; when I leave here, I am going to my club."

"Not at all: you shall accompany M. de Lucenay and me to Madame de
Senneval's; it is her night; she has already asked me several times to
present you."

"Cousin, I shall be too happy to place myself under your orders."

"And besides, frankly, I do not like to see you so soon accustom
yourself to this taste for clubs; you have every requisite to be
perfectly well received and even sought after in society. So you must
go oftener."

"Yes, cousin."

"And as I am with you pretty much on the footing of a grandmother, my
dear Conrad, I am disposed to be very maternal. You are emancipated it
is true; but still I think you will have need for a long time of a
tutor. And you must absolutely accept of me."

"With joy, with delight, my cousin!" said the young duke with
vivacity.

It is impossible to describe the mute rage of Florestan, who remained
standing, leaning against the chimney-piece.

Neither the duke nor Clotilde paid any attention to him. Knowing how
quickly Madame de Lucenay decided on anything, he imagined that she
pushed her audacity and contempt so far that she wished to play the
coquette openly and before him with the young duke.

It was not so; the duchess felt for her young cousin an affection
quite maternal. But the young duke was so handsome, he seemed so happy
at the gracious reception of his young cousin, that Florestan was
exasperated by jealousy, or rather by pride; his heart writhed under
the cruel stings of envy, inspired by Conrad de Montbrison, who, rich
and charming, entered so splendidly this life of pleasures, which he
was leaving--he, ruined, despised, disgraced.

Saint Remy was brave--with the bravery of the head, if we may so
express it, which, through anger or vanity, causes one to face a duel;
but vile and corrupted, he had not that courage of the heart which
triumphs over evil propensities, or which at least gives one the
energy to escape infamy by a voluntary death.

Furious at the sovereign contempt of the duchess, thinking he saw a
successor in the young duke, Saint Remy resolved to match the
insolence of Clotilde, and, if it was necessary, to select a quarrel
with Conrad. The duchess, irritated at the audacity of Florestan, did
not look at him; and Montbrison, in his attraction toward his cousin,
forgetting the usages of society, had neither bowed nor said a word to
the viscount, whom he knew perfectly.

He advanced toward Conrad, whose back was turned toward him, touched
his arm lightly, and said, in an ironical and dry tone, "Good-evening,
your grace; a thousand pardons for not having perceived you before."

Montbrison, feeling that he had been wanting in politeness, turned
quickly, and said, cordially, "Sir, I am confused, truly, but I dare
hope that my cousin, who has caused my want of attention, will be
pleased to make my excuses, and--"

"Conrad!" said the duchess, incensed at the impudence of Florestan,
who persisted in remaining and braving her; "Conrad, it is right; no
excuses; it is not worth the trouble."

Montbrison, believing that his cousin reproached him in a playful
manner for being too formal, said gayly to the viscount, who was white
with rage, "I shall not insist, sir, since my cousin forbids. You see
her tutelage commences."

"And this tutelage will not stop there, my dear sir, be quite assured.
Thus, in this view of the case (which her grace the duchess will
readily approve, I do not doubt), an idea has just struck me to make
you a proposition."

"Me, sir?" said Conrad, beginning to dislike the sneering tone of
Florestan.

"You. I leave in some days for Gerolstein. I wish to dispose of my
house, all furnished, and my stables; you also should make _an
arrangement_." The viscount emphasized these last words, looking at
Madame de Lucenay. "It would be very piquant, would it not, your
grace?"

"I do not comprehend you, sir," said Montbrison, more and more
astonished.

"I will tell you, Conrad, why you cannot accept the offer which has
been made you," said Clotilde.

"And why cannot his grace accept my offer, madame?"

"My dear Conrad, that which is proposed to be sold to you is already
sold to others. You comprehend? You would have the inconvenience of
being robbed as on the highway."

Florestan bit his lips with rage. "Take care, madame," cried he.

"How? threats here?" said Conrad.

"Come now, Conrad, pay no attention," said Madame de Lucenay, eating a
bonbon imperturbably. "A man of honor ought not, nor may not, commit
himself with this gentleman. If he insists, I will tell you
wherefore."

A terrible scene was perhaps about to take place, when the doors were
again thrown open, and the Duke de Lucenay entered, and, according to
custom, with much noise and disturbance.

"How, my dear! not ready?" said he to his wife. "Why, it is
astonishing--surprising! Good-evening, Saint Remy; good-evening,
Conrad. Oh, you see before you the most despairing of men--that is to
say, I cannot sleep; I cannot eat; I am stupefied; I cannot get used
to it. Poor D'Harville, what an event!" And M. de Lucenay, throwing
himself backward on a sofa, threw his hat from him with a gesture of
despair, and, crossing his left leg over the right knee, he took his
foot in his hand, continuing to utter exclamations of grief.

The emotions of Conrad and Florestan had time to be subdued before M.
de Lucenay, the least observing man in the world, had perceived
anything.

Madame de Lucenay, not from embarrassment--she was not a woman to be
untimely embarrassed--but the presence of Florestan was repugnant and
unsupportable, said to the duke, "When you are ready, we will go. I am
to present Conrad to Madame de Senneval."

"No!" said the duke; and, throwing down a cushion, he arose quickly,
and began to walk about, violently gesticulating. "I cannot help but
think of poor D'Harville; can you, Saint Remy?"

"Truly, a frightful event!" said the viscount, who, with hatred and
rage in his heart, sought the looks of Montbrison; but he, after the
last words of his cousin, not from want of courage, but from pride,
turned away from a man so terribly debased.

"Pray, my lord," said the duchess to her husband, "do not regret M.
d'Harville in a manner so noisy, and, above all, so singularly. Ring,
if you please, for my servants."

"Only to think," said M. de Lucenay, seizing hold of the bell-pull,
"three days ago he was full of life, and now, what remains of him?
Nothing, nothing, nothing!" These last three exclamations were
accompanied by three pulls of the bell so violent, that the cord broke
which he held in his hand, separated from the upper string, and fell
upon a candelabra filled with waxlights, and overturned two; one fell
upon the mantelpiece, and broke a beautiful little vase of Sevres
china; the other rolled on the ground, and set fire to a rug of
ermine, which, for a moment in a blaze, was almost immediately
extinguished by Conrad.

At the same moment, two valets, summoned by the loud ringing, arrived
in haste, and found M. de Lucenay with the bell rope in his hand, the
duchess laughing violently at this ridiculous cascade of candies, and
Montbrison partaking the hilarity of his cousin.

Saint Remy alone did not laugh.

[Illustration: CAPITAL AND LABOR IN HARMONY ]

Lucenay, quite habituated to such accidents, preserved a serious
countenance; he threw the rope to one of the servants, and said, "The
coach!"

When he became a little more calm, the duchess said, "Really, sir,
there is no one else in the world but yourself who could have caused a
laugh at so lamentable an event."

"Lamentable! you may well say frightful! horrible! Now, only see,
since yesterday I have been thinking how many persons there are, even
in my own family, who I would rather should have died than poor
D'Harville. My nephew Emberval, for instance, who is so tiresome with
his stammering; or your aunt Merinville, who is always talking of her
nerves, her blues, and who swallows every day, while waiting for her
dinner, an abominable potpie, just like a bricklayer's wife! Do you
think much of your aunt Merinville?"

"Hush! your grace is crazy!" said the duchess, shrugging her
shoulders.

"But it is true," answered the duke; "one would give a hundred
indifferent persons for a friend. Is it not so, Saint Remy?"

"Doubtless."

"It is always that old story of the tailor. Do you know, Conrad, the
story of the tailor?"

"No, cousin."

"You will understand at once the allegory. A tailor was condemned to
be hung; there was no other tailor in the village; what do the
inhabitants do? They said to the judge, 'Your honor, we have only one
tailor, and we have three shoemakers; if it is all the same to you to
hang one of the shoemakers in the place of the tailor, we shall have
quite enough with two shoemakers.' Do you comprehend the allegory,
Conrad?"

'Yes, cousin."

"And you, Saint Remy?"

"I also."

"The coach," said one of the servants.

"Oh! but why do you not wear your diamonds?" said M. de Lucenay,
unexpectedly; "with this dress they would look devilish well."

Saint Remy shuddered.

"For one poor little time that we go out together," continued the
duke, "you might have honored me with your diamonds. They are really
very handsome. Have you ever seen them, Saint Remy?"

"Yes; his lordship knows them by heart," said Clotilde. "Give me your
arm, Conrad."

Lucenay followed the duchess with Saint Remy, who was almost beside
himself with rage.

"Are you not coming with us to the Sennevals'?" said Lucenay to him.

"No, impossible," answered he hastily.

"By the way, Saint Remy, Madame de Senneval is another one--what do I
say, one?--two-whom I would sacrifice willingly; for her husband is
also on my list."

"What list?"

"Of those persons whom I would willingly see die, if poor D'Harville
could have remained."

While Montbrison was assisting his cousin with her mantle, Lucenay
said to him, "Since you are going with us, Conrad, order your carriage
to follow ours, unless you will go, Saint Remy; then you can give me a
place, and I will tell you a story worth two of the tailor's."

"I thank you," said Florestan, dryly: "I cannot accompany you."

"Then, good-bye. Have you had a dispute with my wife? See, she is
getting into the carriage without speaking to you!"

"Cousin!" said Conrad, waiting through deference for the duke.

"Get in, get in," cried he: and stopping for a moment in the porch, he
admired the viscount's equipage.

"Are these your sorrels, Saint Remy?"

"Yes."

"And your fat driver--what a figure! Just see how he holds his horses
in his hands! I must confess, there is no one but a Saint Remy who has
the best of everything."

"Madame de Lucenay and her cousin are waiting," said Florestan, with
bitterness.

"It is true; how rude I am! Soon again, Saint Remy. Oh, I forgot; if
you have nothing better to do, come and dine with us to-morrow. Lord
Dudley has sent me from Scotland some grouse and heathcocks. Just
imagine something monstrous. It is agreed, is it not?"

The duke joined his wife and Conrad. Saint Remy remained alone, and
saw the carriage depart; his own drew up, and as he took his seat he
cast a look of rage, hatred, and despair on this house, where he had
so often entered as a master, and which he now left, ignominiously
driven away.

"Home," he said, roughly.

"To the hotel," said the footman to Patterson, shutting the door.

The bitter and sorrowful thoughts of Florestan on his way home can
easily be imagined. As he entered, Boyer, who was waiting for him at
the lodge, said, "My lord, the count is upstairs."

"It is well."

"There is also a man there, to whom the count has given an appointment
at ten o'clock."

"Well, well. Oh, what a day!" said Florestan, as he was going upstairs
to meet his father, whom he found in the saloon where the morning's
interview had taken place. "A thousand pardons, father, for not being
here when you arrived; but I----"

"The man who holds this forged draft is here?"

"Yes, father, below."

"Send for him to come up."

Florestan rang the bell; Boyer answered.

"Tell M. Petit Jean to come here."

"Yes, my lord;" and Boyer disappeared.

"How kind you are, father, to remember your promise!"

"I always remember what I promise."

"How grateful! How can I ever prove----"

"I will not have my name dishonored; it shall not be."

"It shall not be; no; and it shall never be more, I swear to you,
father."

The count looked at his son in a singular manner, and repeated, "No,
it shall never be more!" Then, with a sneering laugh, he added, "You
are a conjuror!"

"I read my resolution in my heart."

The count made no reply, but walked up and down the room with his
hands in the large pockets of his overcoat.

"M. Petit Jean," said Boyer, introducing a man with a low and cunning
expression of face.

"Where is that bill?" said the count.

"Here it is, sir," said Petit Jean (a man of straw of Jacques Ferrand)
presenting it.

"Is that it?" said the count to his son.

"Yes, father."

The count drew from the pocket of his waistcoat twenty-five notes of
one thousand francs each, handed them to his son, and said, "Pay!"

Florestan paid, and took the draft with a profound sigh of
satisfaction.

M. Petit Jean placed the bills carefully in an old pocket-book, and
retired. Saint Remy went with him out of the room, while Florestan
prudently tore up the note.

"At least the twenty-five thousand francs from Clotilde remain. If
nothing is discovered, it is a consolation. But how she has treated
me! Now, what can my father have to say to Petit Jean?"

The noise of a key turned in a lock made the viscount shudder.

His father re-entered; his pallor had increased.

"I thought I heard some one lock the door of my cabinet, father?"

"Yes, I locked it."

"You, father!" cried Florestan, surprised.

The count placed himself so that his son could not descend the private
stairs which led to out-doors.

Florestan, alarmed, began to remark the sinister look of his father,
and followed all his movements with anxiety. Without being able to
explain it, he felt alarmed. "Father, what is the matter?"

"This morning, on seeing me, your sole thought has been this: Father
will not have his name dishonored; he will pay, if I can manage to
make him believe in my assumed repentance."

"Oh! can you think that--"

"Do not interrupt me. I have been your dupe; you have neither shame
nor regret, nor remorse: you are rotten to the heart; you have never
had an honest sentiment; you have not robbed as long as you had enough
to satisfy your caprices; that is what is called probity by rich
people of your stamp; then followed want of decency, then baseness,
crime, and forgery. This is only the first period of your life--it is
beautiful and pure compared to that which awaits you."

"If I did not change my conduct, I acknowledge; but I will change,
father. I have sworn it to you."

"You would not change."

"But--"

"You could not change! Driven from the society to which you have been
accustomed, you would soon become criminal, like the wretches with
whom you would associate: a robber inevitably, and, if necessary, an
assassin. There is your future life."

"I an assassin!"

"Yes, because you are a coward!"

"I have fought duels, and I have proved--"

"I tell you, you are a coward! You have preferred infamy to death! A
day will come when you will prefer the impunity of your new crimes to
the life of others! That cannot be; I arrive in time to save,
henceforth, at least, my name from public dishonor. It must be
finished."

"How, father, finished! what do you mean to say?" cried Florestan,
more and more alarmed at the expression of his father and his
increasing paleness.

Suddenly some one knocked violently at the door of the cabinet.
Florestan made a movement, as if to open it, but his father seized him
with an iron hand, and withheld him.

"Who knocks?" demanded the former.

"In the name of the law, open, open!" said a voice.

"This forgery was not, then, the last?" said the count, in a low
voice, looking at his son with a terrible scowl.

"Yes, father, I swear it," answered Florestan, trying in vain to
release himself from the hold.

"In the name of the law open!" repeated the voice.

"What do you want?" demanded the count.

"I am an officer of police; I come to make a search on account of a
robbery of diamonds, of which M. de Saint Remy is accused. M. Baudoin,
jeweler, has the proofs. If you do not open, sir, I shall be obliged
to break in the door."

"A robber already! I was not deceived," said the count, in a low tone.
"I came to kill you--I have delayed too long."

"To kill me!"

"My name is enough dishonored! let us finish: I have two pistols here--
you are going to blow out your brains, otherwise I will do it for
you, and I will say you killed yourself to escape shame."

And the count, with frightful _sang-froid_, drew from his pocket
a pistol, and with his disengaged hand gave it to his son, saying:

"Come, proceed, if you are not a coward."

After new and fruitless efforts to escape from the bands of the count,
his son fell backward, overcome with fright and pale with horror. From
the terrible and inexorable looks of his father, he saw there was no
pity to expect from him.

"Father!" he cried.

"You must die!"

"I repent!"

"It is too late! Do you hear? they will break down the door!"

"I will expiate my faults!"

"They are going to enter! Must I, then, kill you?"

"Pardon!"

"The door will give way! You will have it so." And the count placed
the pistol against the breast of his son.

The viscount saw that he was lost. He took a sudden and desperate
resolution; no longer struggling with his father, he said, with
firmness and resignation, "You are right, my father; give me this
pistol. There is infamy enough attached to my name; the life that
awaits me is frightful, it is not worth contending for. Give me the
pistol. You shall see if I am a coward." And he extended his hand.
"But, at least, a word, one single word of consolation, of pity, of
farewell," said Florestan. His trembling lips and ashy paleness
evinced the emotion of his trying situation.

"If this should be my son!" thought the count, hesitating to give him
the instrument, "if this is my son, I ought still less to hesitate at
this sacrifice." The door of the cabinet was broken in with a
tremendous crash.

"Father--they come--oh! I feel now that death is a benefaction.
Thanks, thanks! but at least your hand, and pardon me!"

Notwithstanding his firmness, the count could not prevent a shudder,
and said, in a broken voice, "I pardon you."

"Father, the door opens; go to them; do not let them suspect you, at
least. And then, if they enter here, they will prevent me from
finishing. Adieu."

The footsteps of several persons were heard in the adjoining
apartment.

Florestan pointed the pistol to his heart.

It was discharged at the moment when the count, to escape this
horrible scene had turned away, and rushed out of the room, the
curtains closing after him.

At the noise of the explosion, at the sight of the count, pale and
trembling, the commissary stopped suddenly at the threshold of the
door, making a sign for his officers not to advance.

Informed by Badinot that the viscount was closeted with his father,
the magistrate at once comprehended everything, and respected his
great sorrow.

"Dead," cried the count, concealing his face in his hand; "dead!"
repeated he, overwhelmed. "It was right--better death than infamy, but
it is frightful!"

"My lord," said the magistrate, sadly after a few moments' silence,
"spare yourself a sorrowful spectacle; leave this house. Now there
remains for me a duty to perform still more painful than that which
brought me here."

"You are right, sir," said Saint Remy. "As to the victim of the
robbery, you can tell him to call at M. Dupont's, banker."

"Rue du Richelieu. He is well known," answered the magistrate.

"At what amount are the stolen diamonds estimated?"

"At about thirty thousand francs, my lord; the person who bought them,
through whom the robbery was discovered, gave that amount for them to
your son."

"I can yet pay this, sir. Let the jeweler call the day after to-morrow
on my banker; I will settle with him."

The commissary bowed, and the count departed. As soon as he was gone,
the magistrate, profoundly touched at this unexpected scene, turned
toward the saloon, the curtains of which were down. He raised them
with emotion.

"Nobody!" cried he, astonished, looking round the room, and not seeing
the least trace of the tragic event which was supposed to have
occurred.

Then, remarking the small door in the tapestry, he ran thither. It was
locked on the other side. "A trick," cried he in a rage; "he has
undoubtedly made his escape in this way."

And, in fact, the viscount, before his father, pointed the pistol at
his heart, but he had afterwards very dexterously discharged it under
his arm, and immediately fled.

Notwithstanding the most active researches in all parts of the house,
he was not to be found.

During the conversation between his father and the commissary, he had
rapidly gained the boudoir, thence the conservatory, the back street
and finally the Champs Elysees.



CHAPTER XXXI.

GOOD-BYE IN PRISON.


The morning after these last-mentioned events a touching scene took
place in Saint Lazare, at the hour of the recreation of the prisoners.

On this day, during the promenade of her companions, Fleur-de-Marie
was seated on a bench near the basin, already called hers. By a sort
of tacit agreement, the prisoners abandoned this place, which she
loved, for the sweet influence of the girl had much increased.
Goualeuse preferred this seat near the fountain, because the moss
which grew around the border of the reservoir recalled to her mind the
verdure of the fields, and even the limpid water with which it was
filled made her think of the little river of Bouqueval village.

To the sad gaze of a prisoner, a tuft of grass is a meadow, a flower
is a garden.

Confiding in the kind promise of Madame d'Harville, Fleur-de-Marie had
been expecting for two days to leave Saint Lazare. Although she had no
reason for inquietude at the delay, she from her habitual misfortunes,
hardly dared to hope soon for freedom.

Naturally, from the expectation of so soon seeing her friends at
Bouqueval and Rudolph, Fleur-de-Marie should have been transported
with joy.

It was not so. Her heart beat sadly; her thoughts returned without
ceasing to the words and lofty looks of Madame d'Harville, when the
poor prisoner had spoken with so much enthusiasm of her benefactor.

With singular intuition, Goualeuse had thus discovered a part of the
lady's secret.

"The warmth of my gratitude for M. Rudolph has wounded this young
lady, so handsome, and of a rank so elevated," thought Fleur-de-Marie.
"Now I comprehend the bitterness of her words! she expressed
disdainful jealousy! She, jealous of me! then she loves him, and I
love him, also! My love must have betrayed itself in spite of me! To
love him--I--a creature forever ruined! ungrateful, and wretch that I
am! Oh! if that were so, rather death a hundred times."

Let us hasten to say, the unhappy child, who seemed doomed to every
kind of martyrdom, exaggerated what she called her love. To her
profound gratitude toward Rudolph was joined an involuntary admiration
of the grace, strength, and beauty which distinguished him above all;
nothing less material, nothing more pure than this admiration, but it
existed lively and powerful, because physical beauty is always
attractive.

And then, besides, the voice of blood, so often denied, mute, unknown,
or disowned, sometimes makes itself heard; these bursts of passionate
tenderness, which drew Fleur-de-Marie toward Rudolph, and alarmed her
because in her ignorance she misconstrued their tendency, resulted
from mysterious sympathies as evident, but also as inexplicable, as
the resemblance of features. In a word, Fleur-de-Marie, learning that
she was Rudolph's daughter, could have at once accounted for her
feelings toward him; then, completely enlightened, she could admire
without any scruple the beauty of her father.

Thus is explained the dejectedness of Fleur-de-Marie, although she
expected at any moment to leave Saint Lazare.

Fleur-de-Marie, melancholy and pensive, was then seated on a bench
near the basin, regarding with a kind of mechanical interest the
gambols of two daring birds that came to sport on the curbstone. She
ceased for a moment to work on a little child's frock which she was
hemming. It is necessary to say that this belonged to the generous
offering made to Mont Saint Jean by the prisoners, thanks to the
touching intervention of Fleur-de-Marie.

The poor, deformed _protegee_ of La Goualeuse was seated at her
feet; quite busy in making a little cap; from time to time she cast on
her benefactress a look at once grateful, timid, and devoted--the look
of a dog to his master.

The beauty, charms, and adorable sweetness of Fleur-de-Marie inspired
this degraded woman with as much affection as respect.

There is always something holy and grand, even in the aspirations of a
heart debased, which, for the first time, opens itself to gratitude;
and, until then, no one had caused Mont Saint Jean to experience the
religious ardor of a sentiment so new to her. At the end of a few
moments, Fleur-de-Marie shuddered slightly, wiped away a tear, and
resumed her sewing.

"You will not, then, take a little rest during the recreation, my
angel?" said Mont Saint Jean to Goualeuse.

"As I have given no money to buy the lavette, I must furnish my
proportion in work," answered the girl.

"Your part! why, without you, instead of this fine white linen, and
warm fustian, to clothe my child, I should only have had those rags
which were trampled in the mud. I am very grateful toward my
companions; they have been very kind to me, it is true: but you! oh,
you! How, then, shall I explain myself?" added the poor creature,
hesitatingly, and very much embarrassed to express her thoughts.
"Hold!" resumed she; "there is the sun, is it not? there is the sun!"

"Yes, Mont Saint Jean, I listen," answered Fleur-de-Marie, inclining
her enchanting face toward the hideous visage of her companion.

"You will laugh at me," answered she, sadly; "I want to speak, and I
don't know how."

"Say on, Mont Saint Jean."

"Have you not the eyes of an angel!" said the prisoner, looking at
Fleur-de-Marie in a kind of ecstasy; "your beautiful eyes encourage
me. Come, I will try to say what I wish. There is the sun, is it not?
It is very warm, it makes our prison gay, it is pleasant to see and
feel, is it not?"

"Without doubt."

"Well, let us suppose--this sun did not make itself, and if one is
grateful to it, so much the more reason--"

"To be grateful toward Him who created it, you mean, Mont Saint Jean!
You are right; hence, you should pray to Him, adore Him--it is God."

"That's it, there's my idea," cried the prisoner, joyfully; "that's
it; I ought to be grateful to my companions, but I ought to pray to
you, adore you, La Goualeuse, for it is you who have rendered them
good to me, instead of being wicked as they were."

"But, if I am good, as you say, Mont Saint Jean, it is God who has
made me so; it is, then, He whom you must thank."

"Ah! marry--perhaps so, then, since you say so," answered the
prisoner; "if it pleases you to have it so, very well."'

"Yes, my poor Mont Saint Jean, pray to Him often. This will be the
best way of proving to me that you love me a little."

"Love you, La Goualeuse! But, do you not recollect what you told the
others, to prevent them from beating me? 'It is not her alone you
beat, it is also her child.' Well! for the same reason, I do not love
you for myself alone, but also for my child."

"Thank you, thank you, Mont Saint Jean; you give me pleasure to hear
you say that."

At this moment, Madame Armand, the inspectress, entered the court.
After having sought for Fleur-de-Marie with her eyes, she came to her
with a satisfied and smiling air. "Good news, my child!"

"What do you say, madame?" cried La Goualeuse, rising.

"Your friends have not forgotten you; they have obtained your liberty.
The director has just received the notice."

"Can it be possible, madame! Oh! what happiness!" The emotion of
Fleur-de-Marie was so violent, that she turned pale, put her hand to
her heart, which beat violently, and fell back on her seat.

"Calm yourself, my child," said Madame Armand, kindly: "happily, such
shocks are without danger."

"Ah, madame, how grateful I ought to be!"

"It is, doubtless, Madame d'Harville who has obtained your liberty.
There is an old lady here who is charged to conduct you to your
friends. Wait for me; I will return for you; I have a few words to say
in the workroom." It would be difficult to describe the expression of
deep grief which spread over the features of Mont Saint Jean on
learning that her good angel was to leave Saint Lazare.

The grief of this woman was caused less by the fear of a renewal of
her torments, than by the sorrow at parting from the sole being who
had ever evinced any interest for her. Still seated at the foot of the
bench, she took bold of the two tufts of tangled hair which escaped
from under her old black cap, as if to tear them out; then, this
violent affliction giving way to dejection, she let her head fall, and
remained dumb and immovable, with her face buried in her hands.

Notwithstanding her joy at leaving the prison, Fleur-de-Marie could
not prevent a shudder at the remembrance of La Chouette and the Maître
d'Ecole; recollecting that these two monsters had made her swear not
to inform her benefactors of her sad fate.

But these sad thoughts were soon dispelled at the hope of seeing
Bouqueval, Madame George, and Rudolph again; to the latter she wished
to recommend La Louve and Martial; it even seemed to her that the
sentiment which she reproached herself for having felt towards her
benefactor, being no longer nourished by sorrow and by solitude, would
be calmed and modified as soon as she should resume the rustic
occupations which she loved so much to partake with the good and
honest inhabitants of the farm.

Astonished at the silence of her companion, of which she did not
suspect the cause, she touched her slightly on the shoulder, and said,

"Mont Saint Jean, since I am now free, can I be of any service to
you?"

On feeling the hand of La Goualeuse, the prisoner shuddered, let her
arms fall, and turned toward the young girl, her face streaming with
tears.

"Listen to me, Mont Saint Jean," said Fleur-de Marie, touched at the
affection of this poor creature. "I can promise you nothing for
yourself, although I know some very charitable people; but for your
child it is different; it is innocent of every evil; he, and the
persons of whom I speak, would, perhaps, take the charge of it when
you can part with it."

"Part from it--never, oh, never!" cried Mont Saint Jean, with warmth.
"What would become of me then, now that I have counted on him?"

"But how will you support it? son or daughter, it must be honest, and
for that----"

"It must eat honest bread, is it not so, La Goualeuse? I think so; it
is my ambition. I say it to myself every day, thus: on leaving here I
shall not let the grass grow under my feet. I will become a rag-picker,
a crossing-sweeper, but I'll be correct; one owes that, if not
to one's self, at least to one's children, when one has the honor of
having any," said she with a kind of pride. "And who will take care of
your child while you work?" answered La Goualeuse; "would it not be
better, if that is possible, as I hope it is, to place it in the
country with some good people, who would make it a good farmer's girl
or a plowboy? You can come from time to time to see it, and some day,
perhaps, you would find the means to remain altogether--in the country
it costs so little to live."

"But to part with it, to part with it! All my joy is in it. I, who
have no one to love me!" "You must think more for it than for
yourself, my poor Mont Saint Jean; in two or three days I will write
to Madame Armand, and if the demand I mean to make in favor of your
child succeeds, you will never have occasion to say again, what you
said just now, 'Alas! what will become of it?'"

The inspectress, Madame Armand, interrupted this conversation; she
came to seek Fleur-de-Marie.

After having again burst into sobs, and bathed with tears of despair
the hands of the girl, Mont Saint Jean fell back on the bench quite
overcome with sorrow, not even thinking of the promise just made to
her by Fleur-de-Marie.

"Poor creature!" said Madame Armand, leaving the yard, followed by La
Goualeuse; "poor creature, her gratitude toward you gives me a better
opinion of her."

On learning that Fleur-de-Marie was pardoned, the other prisoners,
instead of being jealous, expressed their joy; some of them surrounded
her, and bade her farewell in a cordial manner, congratulating her
frankly on her quick deliverance from prison.

"All the same," said one of them, "she has made us do some good; it
was when we collected for Mont Saint Jean. This will be remembered in
Saint Lazare."

When Fleur-de-Marie had left the prison buildings under the conduct of
the inspectress, the latter said to her, "Now, my child, go to the
wardrobe, where you will leave your prison garments, and resume the
peasant's costume, which, from its rustic simplicity, becomes you so
well; adieu. You go to be happy, for you go under the protection of
worthy people, and you leave this house never to return. But--hold--I
am not unreasonable," said Madame Armand, whose eyes were bathed in
tears, "it is impossible for me to conceal from you how much I am
already attached to you, poor child!" Then, seeing Fleur-de-Marie much
affected, she added, "You do not wish me thus to sadden your
departure?"

"Ah! madame, is it not to your recommendation that this young lady, to
whom I owe my liberty, interested herself in my fate?"

"Yes, and I am happy at what I have done; my presentiments have not
deceived me." At this moment a bell rang. "Ah! this is the signal for
them to resume their work; I must go in. Adieu! once more adieu, my
dear child!"

And Madame Armand, quite as much affected as Fleur-de-Marie, embraced
her tenderly; she then said to one of the attendants, "Conduct her to
the wardrobe."

A quarter of an hour afterward, Fleur-de-Marie, clothed as a peasant,
entered the office where Mrs. Seraphin awaited her. This woman,
housekeeper of Jacques Ferrand, came to take the unfortunate child to
Ravageur's Island.



CHAPTER XXXII.

REMEMBRANCES.


Jacque Ferrand had easily and promptly obtained the liberty of
Fleur-de-Marie.

Instructed by La Chouette of the sojourn of La Goualeuse in Saint
Lazare, he had immediately addressed himself to one of his clients, an
influential man, telling him that a girl, led astray but sincerely
repentant, and recently confined in Saint Lazare, ran the risk, from
contact with the other prisoners, of having her good resolutions
weakened. This girl had been strongly recommended to him by some
respectable people, who would take charge of her as soon as she left
the prison. Jacques Ferrand had added, he begged his all-powerful
client, in the name of morality, of religion, and of the future
rehabilitation of this unfortunate, to solicit her discharge. Finally,
the notary, so as to completely conceal his part in the transaction,
particularly requested his client not to name him in the
accomplishment of this good work; this wish, attributed to the
philanthropic modesty of Jacques Ferrand, was scrupulously observed;
the release of Fleur-de-Marie was demanded and obtained solely in the
name of the client, who, as soon as it was received, sent it to
Jacques Ferrand that he might address it to the protectors of the
girl.

Mrs. Seraphin, on giving this order to the directors of the prison,
added that she was charged to conduct La Goualeuse to her friends.
From the excellent account given by the inspectress to Madame
d'Harville, no one doubted that she owed her freedom to the
intervention of the marchioness. Thus the notary's housekeeper could
in no way excite the suspicions of her victim.

Mrs. Seraphin had, as occasion required, the air of a good soul; it
required very close observation to remark something insidious, false
and cruel in her crafty look, her hypocritical smile.

In spite of her profound wickedness, which had made her the accomplice
or confidante of her master's crimes, Mrs. Seraphin could not help
being struck with the touching beauty of this girl, delivered by
herself when quite a child to La Chouette, whom she was then about to
conduct to certain death.

"Well, my dear," said she, in honeyed tones, "you must be delighted to
get out of prison."

"Oh! yes, ma'am; and, doubtless, I owe my deliverance to the
protection of Madame d'Harville, who has been so kind to me?"

"You are not mistaken. But come, we are rather late, and we have got a
long road to travel."

"We are going to Bouqueval Farm, to Madame George, ma'am?" cried La
Goualeuse.

"Yes, certainly, we are going to the country--to Madame George," said
the housekeeper, to drive away every suspicion from the mind of
Fleur-de-Marie; then she added, with malicious good nature, "But this is
not all; before you see Madame George, a little surprise awaits you.
Come, come, our hack is below. What delight you must feel at leaving
this place, dear. Come, let us go. Your servant, sirs." And Mrs. Seraphin,
after having exchanged salutations with the warders, descended with La
Goualeuse, followed by an officer to open the doors. The last one was
closed on the two females, and they found themselves under the large
porch which faces the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, when they met a
girl who was coming, doubtless, to visit a prisoner. It was Rigolette,
ever neat and coquettish. A little plain cap, very clean, and trimmed
with cherry-colored ribbons, which harmonized wonderfully with her
jet-black hair, surrounded her pretty face; a very white collar was
turned over her long brown tartan. She carried on her arm a straw
basket, and, thanks to her neat and graceful manner of walking, her
thick-soled boots were of marvelous cleanliness, although she came,
alas, very far.

"Rigolette!" cried Fleur-de-Marie, at once recognizing her.

"La Goualeuse!" exclaimed the grisette in her turn. And the girls
threw themselves into each other's arms. Nothing could be more
enchanting than the contrast between these young creatures of sixteen,
tenderly embracing, both so charming, and yet so different in
expression and beauty. The one fair, with large, blue, melancholy
eyes, and a profile of angelic pureness; the other a lively brunette,
with round and rosy cheeks, pretty black eyes, a charming picture of
youth and gayety, a rare and touching example of happiness in
indigence, of virtue in destitution, and of joy in industry.

When Fleur-de-Marie, dragged up, rather than brought up, had run away
from a hag known as Old One-eye, she had been arrested and committed
to prison for eight years. Taught sewing there, she had saved up some
three hundred francs. Ignorant, childishly fond of flowers and the
open air of the country, she had made Rigolette's acquaintance, with
hardly a deeper object than to have a companion in her jaunts. Her
money spent, Fleur-de-Marie had fallen in with the Ogress, the keeper
of the Lapin Blanc Tavern, who had kept her for the sinful purposes
which had blemished all her life.

After an exchange of their mutual caresses, the girls looked at each
other. Rigolette was joyful at the encounter, Fleur-de-Marie confused.

The sight of her friend recalled to her mind the few days of calm
enjoyment which had preceded her first degradation. "It is you--what
happiness!" said the grisette.

"Goodness me! what a delightful surprise, it is so long since we have
seen one another," answered La Goualeuse.

"Oh! now I am no longer astonished at not having met you for six
months," remarked Rigolette, observing the rustic clothes of La
Goualeuse; "you live in the country?"

"Yes, since some time," said Fleur-de-Marie, casting down her eyes.

"And you come, like me, to see some one in prison?"

"Yes--I came--I came to see some one," answered Fleur-de-Marie,
stammering and blushing with shame.

"And you are returning home, far from Paris, without doubt. Dear
little Goualeuse, always good, I recognize you there. Do you remember
the poor woman to whom you gave your mattress, linen, and the small
amount of money you had, which we were about to spend in the country?
for then you were crazy after the country, you little village girl!"

"And you did not like it much, Rigolette. How kind you were, for it
was on my account you went."

"And for mine also; for you, who were always a little serious, became
so contented, gay, and lively, once in the midst of the fields or
woods; if it were only to see you there, it was pleasure to me. But
let me look at you again! How this little round cap becomes you! how
pretty you look. Decidedly, it was your vocation to wear a peasant's
cap, as it was mine to wear the grisette's. Now you are according to
your wishes, you must be happy, it does not surprise me. When I did
not see you any more, I said to myself, 'Good little Goualeuse is not
made for Paris; she is a real flower of the forest, as the song says,
and these flowers cannot live in the capital; the air is not good
enough for them. La Goualeuse has got a place with some good people in
the country.' This is what you have done, is it not?"

"Yes," said Fleur-de-Marie, blushing.

"Only I have a reproach to make you."

"To me?"

"You should have advised me; one does not leave in this way, at least,
without sending some word."

"I--I left Paris so quick," said Fleur-de-Marie, more and more
confused, "that I could not."

"Oh! I did not wish it; I am too happy to see you again. In truth, you
did right to leave Paris, it is so difficult to live here quietly,
without reckoning that a poor girl, isolated as we are, might turn to
evil without wishing it. When one has nobody to advise with, one has
so few means of defense; the men make such fine promises; and then,
sometimes poverty is so hard. Do you remember little Julie, who was so
pretty? and Rosine, the blonde with black eyes?"

"Yes, I recollect them."

"Well! my poor Goualeuse, they have both been deceived, then
abandoned, and, finally, from misfortune, to misfortune, they have
fallen to be such wretched women as are shut up here."

"Oh!" cried Fleur-de-Marie, who held down her head and became purple
with shame.

Rigolette, deceived in the sense of the exclamation of her friend,
resumed: "Don't be as sad as me, don't cry."

"You have sorrows?"

"I? Oh, you know me, a regular Roger Bontemps. I am not changed, but,
unfortunately, everybody is not like me; and as others have their
troubles, that causes me to have some."

"Always kind!"

"Now just imagine, I came here for a poor girl--a neighbor--a very
lamb, who is accused wrongfully, and much to be pitied; she is Louise
Morel, daughter of an honest workman who has become crazy from his
misfortunes." At the name of Louise Morel, one of the victims of the
notary, Mrs. Seraphin shuddered and looked at Rigolette attentively.
The face of the grisette was absolutely unknown to her; nevertheless,
from that moment she paid great attention to the conversation.

"Poor thing," replied the songstress, "how happy she must be at your
not forgetting her in her trouble."

"This is not all--it is a fatality, just as you met me, I came a great
distance--and from another prison--a prison for men."

"You?"

"Oh! yes, I have there another very sad friend. You see my basket"
(and she showed it) "is divided in two; each one has a side; to-day I
bring Louise a little linen, and just now I carried something to poor
Germain; my prisoner is called Germain. I cannot think of what has
just passed between us without having a desire to weep; it is foolish--I
know it is of no use, but indeed, it is my nature."

"And why do you feel like weeping?"

"Only think, Germain is so unfortunate as to be associated with all
the prison rogues; it quite overcomes him; he has a taste for nothing,
eats nothing, and is growing thinner every day. I saw that, and I said
to myself, 'He is not hungry; I will make him a nice little dainty
bit, which he liked so much when he was my neighbor; that will give
him an appetite.' When I say a dainty bit, just understand me, it was
just some nice potatoes, mashed up with a little milk and sugar; I
filled a pretty cup with it, and just now I took it to him in prison,
telling him that I had prepared this myself, just as I used to do in
our happy days--you understand; I thought, perhaps, I could thus
induce him to eat, but it caused him to weep; when he saw the cup in
which I had so often taken my milk before him, he burst into tears;
and, more than the bargain, I finished by doing as he did, although I
tried all I could to prevent it; you see my luck. I thought I was
doing good--consoling him, and I made him more sad than before."

"Yes, but those tears must have been so sweet to him?"

"All the same, I should have preferred to console him differently; but
I speak of him without telling you who he is; he was an old neighbor
of mine, the most honest lad in the world, as gentle and timid as a
young girl, and whom I loved as a companion, as a brother."

"Oh! then I can imagine how his sorrows are yours."

"But you will see what a good heart he has. When I left him, I asked
him, as I always do, for his commissions, saying to him with a laugh,
just to raise his spirits a little, that I was his little housekeeper,
and that I should be very exact, very active, to keep his custom. Then
he, trying to smile, asked me to bring him one of the romances of
Walter Scott, which he used to read to me in the evenings when I
worked. This romance is called 'Ivan--Ivanhoe:' yes, that is the name.
I liked this book so much, that he read it to me twice. He begged me
to go to the same library, not to hire, but to buy the volumes we used
to read together--yes, to buy them--and you may judge it is a
sacrifice for him, for he is as poor as we are."

"Excellent heart!" said Goualeuse, quite affected.

"There! you are as much moved as I was, when he gave me this
commission, my good little Goualeuse; but you comprehend, the more I
felt a desire to weep, the more I tried to laugh; for to weep twice in
a visit made expressly to enliven him was too much. So to drive this
gloom away, I recalled to his mind the comic story of a Jew, one of
the characters of this romance, which formerly had so much amused us.
But the more I talked, the more he looked at me with the big, big
tears in his eyes. It touched my heart. I had restrained my tears for
a quarter of an hour; I ended by doing as he did. When I left him he
was sobbing; and I said to myself, furious at my stupidity, 'If this
is the way I cheer and console him, it is hardly worth while to go and
see him; I, who promised myself to make him laugh! It is astonishing
how I have succeeded!'"

At the name of Francois Germain, Mrs. Seraphin redoubled her
attention.

"And what has this young man done to be in prison?" asked
Fleur-de-Marie.

"He!" cried Rigolette, whose compassion gave place to indignation; "he
is persecuted by an old monster of a notary, who is also the denouncer
of Louise."

"Of Louise, whom you came here to see?"

"The same. She was the servant of the notary, and Germain was his
cashier. It would be too long a story to tell you of what they
unjustly accuse this poor boy. But what is quite sure is, that this
bad man is very angry with these two unfortunates, who have never
injured him. But patience--patience; every dog has his day."

Rigolette pronounced these last words with an expression which made
Mrs. Seraphin uneasy. Engaging in the conversation, instead of
remaining quiet, she said to Fleur-de-Marie in a wheedling manner, "My
dear child, it is late; we must go; we are waited for. I can well
comprehend that what your friend says interests you, for I, who do not
know this young girl and this young man, am much affected. Is it
possible people can be so wicked! And what is the name of this bad
notary of whom you speak, please?"

Rigolette had no reason to be suspicious of Mrs. Seraphin;
nevertheless, remembering the recommendations of Rudolph, who had
enjoined on her the greatest reserve on the subject of the secret
protection which he extended to Germain and Louise, she regretted she
had suffered herself to say, "Patience--every dog has his day."

"This bad man is one M. Ferrand, madame," answered Rigolette; adding
very adroitly, to repair her slight indiscretion, "and it is so much
the more wicked in him to persecute Louise and Germain thus, as they
have no one to interest themselves in their behalf except me, who can
be of no use to them."

"What a pity!" said Mrs. Seraphin. "I had hoped the contrary when you
said 'But patience.' I thought that you reckoned on some protector to
sustain these two unfortunates against this wicked notary."

"Alas! no, madame," answered Rigolette, in order to completely lull
the suspicions of Mrs. Seraphin. "Who would be generous enough to take
the part of these two poor young folks against a rich and powerful man
like M. Ferrand?"

"Oh, there are hearts generous enough for that!" cried Fleur-de-Marie,
after a moment's reflection, and with constrained warmth.

"I know some one who makes it a duty to protect those who suffer, and
defend them, for he of whom I speak is as charitable to honest people,
as he is formidable to the wicked."

Rigolette looked at Goualeuse with astonishment, and was on the point
of saying (thinking of Rudolph) that she also knew some one who
courageously took the part of the weak against the strong; but, still
faithful to the requests of her neighbor, she answered Fleur-de-Marie,
"Really! you do know some one generous enough to come to the aid of
the poor?"

"Yes. And although I have already implored his pity, his benevolence
for other persons, I am sure if he knew the unmerited misfortunes of
Louise and M. Germain, he would save them and punish their persecutor;
for his justice and goodness are almost as inexhaustible as God's."

Mrs. Seraphin looked at her victim with surprise.

"This little girl would be still more dangerous than we thought," said
she to herself. "If I had taken pity on her, what she has just said
would render the accident inevitable which will rid us of her."

"My good little Goualeuse, since you have such a good acquaintance, I
beg you will recommend my Louise and my Germain to him, for they do
not deserve their fate," said Rigolette, thinking that her friends
might gain by having two defenders instead of one.

"Be tranquil; I promise you to do what I can for your _proteges_
with M. Rudolph," said Fleur-de-Marie.

"M. Rudolph!" cried Rigolette, strangely surprised.

"Certainly," said La Goauleuse.

"M. Rudolph, a traveling clerk?"

"I do not know what he is. But why this astonishment?"

"Because I know a M. Rudolph also."

"Perhaps it is not the same."

"Let us see; what does he look like?"

"Young?"

"Exactly!"

"A face full of nobleness and goodness?"

"That's it; just like mine!" said Rigolette, more and more surprised;
and she added, "Is he dark? Has he small mustaches?"

"Yes."

"Is he tall and slender, fine figure, and an air too stylish for a
traveling clerk? Does yours look just so?"

"Without a doubt it is he," answered Fleur-de-Marie; "only, what is
strange is, that you think him a traveling clerk."

"As to that, I am sure of it; he told me so."

"You know him?"

"I know him. He is my neighbor!"

"M. Rudolph?"

"He has a chamber on the fourth floor, alongside of mine."

"He! he!"

"What is so astonishing in all this? It is very simple: he only earns
fifteen or eighteen hundred francs a year; he can only hire a modest
room, although he has very little regularity about him, for he does
not know what his clothes cost him, my dear."

"No, no; it is not the same," said Fleur-de-Marie, reflecting.

"Yours, then, is a phoenix for order?"

"He of whom I speak, Rigolette," said Fleur-de-Marie, with enthusiasm,
"is all-powerful; his name is only pronounced with love and
veneration, his appearance is imposing, and one is almost tempted to
kneel before his grandeur and his goodness."

"Then I am at fault, my poor Goualeuse; I say as you do, it is not the
same; for mine is neither all-powerful nor imposing. He is a very good
sort, very lively, and no one kneels before him--just the contrary;
for he has promised to help me wax my floor, and take me a walk on
Sunday. You see he is no great lord. But what am I thinking about? I
have truly the heart for a walk! And Louise and my poor Germain, as
long as they are in prison, there can be no pleasure for me."

For some moments, Fleur-de-Marie reflected profoundly; she recalled to
her mind that when she first saw Rudolph he had the appearance and
language of the guests of the Ogress, her keeper. Might he not play
the part of a traveling clerk with Rigolette? What could be the object
of this new transformation? The grisette, seeing the pensive air of
Fleur-de-Marie, said:

"There is no use of cracking your head on this account, my good
Goualeuse, we shall soon find out if we know the same M. Rudolph; when
you see yours, speak to him of me; when I see mine, I will speak to
him of you. In this way we can satisfy ourselves at once."

"And where do you live, Rigolette?"

"Rue du Temple, No. 17."

"Now this is strange, and worth remembering," said Madame Seraphin to
herself, having attentively listened to this conversation. "This M.
Rudolph, a mysterious and all-powerful personage, who doubtless makes
himself pass for a clerk, occupies a room adjoining that of this
little sewing-girl, who knows more than she chooses to say. Good,
good; if the grisette and the pretended clerk meddle with what does
not concern them, we know where to find them."

"When I have spoken to M. Rudolph I will write you,'" said La
Goualeuse; "and I will give you my address, so that you can answer:
but repeat your address, for fear I should forget it."

"Here, I have one of my cards that I leave at my customers';" and she
gave Fleur-de-Marie a little card, on which was written, in
magnificent italics, "Mademoiselle Rigolette, Dressmaker, 17, Rue du
Temple."

"It is just as if it were printed, is it not?" added the grisette.

"It was poor Germain who wrote them for me--he was so kind, so
thoughtful. Now, look you, it seems as if it were done purposely; one
would say I never found out his good qualities until he was
unfortunate, and now I am always reproaching myself for having put off
so long loving him."

"You love him, then?"

"Oh, dear, yes. I must have a pretext to go and see him in prison.
Confess that I am a strange girl!" said Rigolette, stifling a sigh,
and laughing through her tears, as the poets say.

"You are as good and generous as ever," said Fleur-de-Marie, pressing
tenderly the hands of her friend.

Old Seraphin had doubtless heard enough of the conversation of the
young girl, for she said, almost roughly, to Fleur-de-Marie, "Come,
come, my dear, let us go; it is late; here is a quarter of an hour
lost."

"What a surly look this old woman has! I don't like her face,"
whispered Rigolette to Fleur-de-Marie. Then she added, aloud, "When
you come to Paris, my good Goualeuse, do not forget me; your visit
will give me so much pleasure. I shall be so happy to pass a day with
you, to show you my housekeeping, my room, my birds! I have birds--it
is my luxury."

"I will try to come and see you, but I will certainly write. Good-bye,
Rigolette, good-bye. If you knew how happy I am to have met you!"

"And I too! But this shall not be the last time, I hope; and then I am
so impatient to know if your M. Rudolph is the same as mine. Write me
soon on this subject, I entreat you!"

"Yes, yes. Adieu, Rigolette."

"Adieu, my good little Goualeuse;" and the two girls embraced each
other tenderly, concealing their emotion. Rigolette entered the prison
to see Louise, and Fleur-de-Marie got into a hackney-coach with old
Seraphin, who ordered the coachman to go to Batignolles, and to stop
at the city gate.

A cross-road led from this place almost in a straight line to the
banks of the Seine, not far from the Ravageurs' Island. Fleur-de-Marie,
being unacquainted with Paris, did not perceive that the carriage was
driven on a different road from that to Saint Denis. It was only when the
vehicle stopped at Batignolles that she said to Mrs. Seraphin, who
invited her to get out--

"But it seems to me, madame, that this is not the road to Bouqueval;
and then, how can we go from hence to the farm on foot?"

'"All I can say to you, my dear," answered the housekeeper, "is, that
I execute the orders of your benefactors, and that you would cause
them much trouble if you hesitate to follow me."

"Oh! madame, do not think it," cried Fleur-de-Marie; "you are sent by
them--I have no question to ask--I follow you blindly; only tell me if
Madame George is well!"

"She is perfectly so."

"And--M. Rudolph?"

"Perfectly well also."

"You know him, then, ma'am? Yet just now, when I spoke of him with
Rigolette, you said nothing."

"Because I must say nothing--I have my orders."

"Did he give them to you?"

"Isn't she curious, the dear; isn't she curious?" said the
housekeeper, laughing.

"You are right; pardon my questions, ma'am. Since we go on foot to the
place to which you conduct me," added Fleur-de-Marie, sweetly, "I
shall know what I so much desire to know."

"In fact, my dear, before a quarter of an hour we shall have arrived."

The housekeeper, having left behind her the last houses of Batignolles
followed, with Fleur-de-Marie, a grassy footpath. The day was calm and
beautiful, the sky toward the west half concealed by red and purple
clouds; the sun, beginning to decline, cast his oblique rays on the
heights of Colombe, on the other side of the Seine. As Fleur-de-Marie
drew near the banks of the river, her pale cheeks became slightly
colored; she inhaled with delight the sharp, pure air of the country,
and cried, in a burst of artless joy, "Oh! there in the middle of the
river, do you see that pretty little island covered with willows and
poplars, with the white house on the shore? How charming this
habitation must be in summer, when all the trees are covered with
leaves! What repose, what refreshing air must be found there."

"Verily!" said Mrs. Seraphin with a strange smile, "I am delighted
that you find the island pretty."

"Why, madame?"

"Because we are going there."

"To that island?"

"Yes; does it surprise you?"

"A little, ma'am."

"And if you should find your friends there?"

"What do you say?"

"Your friends collected there, to celebrate your deliverance from
prison! would you not be more agreeably surprised?"

"Can it be possible: M. Rudolph? Ah! is it true I go to see Madame
George? I cannot believe it."

"Yet a little patience--in fifteen minutes you will see her, and then
you will believe."

"What I cannot comprehend," added Fleur-de-Marie, thoughtfully, "is
that Madame George awaits me there, instead of at the farm."

"Always so curious, the dear--always so curious!"

"How indiscreet I am, ma'am!" said Fleur-de-Marie, smiling.

"To punish you, I have a mind to tell you of a surprise that your
friends intend for you."

"A surprise? for me, madame?"

"Hold, leave me alone, little spy--you will make me speak in spite of
myself."

We will leave Mrs. Seraphin and her victim on the road which led to
the river. We will precede them both for some moments to the island.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

ON THE BOAT.


At night, the appearance of the island inhabited by the Martial family
was gloomy, but in the brilliant sunlight nothing could be more
charming and cheerful than the cursed dwelling-place.

Bordered by willows and poplars and almost entirely covered with thick
grass, intersected with winding paths of yellow gravel, the island
contained a small vegetable garden and a number of fruit trees. In
this orchard was situated the thatched roof dwelling where Martial had
wished to retire, with Francois and Amandine. From this place the
island terminated at its point by a breakwater, formed of large piles,
to prevent the washing away of the earth.

Before the house was an arbor of green trellis work, reaching quite to
the landing-place, destined to support during the summer the hop-vine
and honeysuckle under whose shade were arranged the seats and tables
of the guests.

At one of the extremities of the main building, painted white and
covered with tiles, a woodhouse, surmounted by a granary, formed a
wing, much lower than the principal edifice. Immediately over this
wing was a window with shutters covered with plates of iron, and
fastened exteriorly by two bars of the same material.

Three boats were lying at the landing-place, and at the bottom of one
of them Nicholas was trying how the trap worked which he had arranged.

Mounted on a bench outside of the arbor, Calabash, with her eyes
shaded with her hand, was looking in the direction where she expected
Seraphin and Fleur-de-Marie to appear.

"No one yet, neither old nor young," said Calabash, descending from
her bench, and addressing Nicholas; "it will be as yesterday! Like
poor fellows waiting for their ship to come in! If these women don't
come before a half hour, we must go: the affair of Bras-Rouge is
better worth our while; he is waiting for us. The broker is to be at
his house in the Champs Elysees at five-o'clock--we must be there
before him. This very morning La Chouette repeated it to us."

"You are right," answered Nicholas, leaving his boat. "May the thunder
crush this old woman, who physics us for no purpose! The trap works
like a charm--of the two jobs perhaps we shall have neither."

"Besides, Bras-Rouge and Barbillon have need of us--of themselves they
can do nothing."

"It is true; for while one does the business, Red-Arm must remain
outside his tavern to watch, and Barbillon is not strong enough to
drag the broker into the cellar alone; this old woman will kick."

"Did not La Chouette tell us, laughingly, that she kept the Maitre
d'Ecole as a boarder in this cellar?"

"Not in this one; in another which is much deeper, and inundated when
the river is high."

"Mustn't he vegetate there, in that cellar! To be there all alone and
blind as he is, after the accident to him!"

"He will see clear there, if he sees nowhere else: the cellar is as
dark as a furnace."

"All the same; when he has sung all the songs he knows to amuse
himself, the time must appear devilishly long to him."

"La Chouette says that he amuses himself in hunting rats, and that
this cellar is very full of game."

"I say, Nicholas, speaking of individuals who must be rather wearied,
fatigued," said Calabash with a ferocious smile, pointing with her
finger to the window just described, "there is one there who must be
sucking his own blood."

"Bah! he is asleep. Since this morning he has made no noise; and his
dog is silent."

"Perhaps he has strangled it for food; these two days past they must
have been almost mad with hunger up there."

"It is their business. Martial may endure all this as long as he
pleases, if it amuses him; when he has finished, we will say that he
died from a severe illness; there will be no difficulty."

"You think so?"

"Most surely. On going this morning to Asnieres, mother met Ferot, the
fisherman; as he expressed his surprise at not having seen his friend
Martial for two days, she told him that Martial did not leave his bed,
he was so ill, and his life was despaired of. He swallowed all that
just like honey; he will tell it to others--and when the affair
happens it will seem all natural."

"Yes, but he will not die at once; it takes a long time in this way."

"There is no other way to manage it. This madman, Martial, when he has
a mind, is as wicked as the devil, and as strong as a bull in the
bargain; had he suspected us, we could not have approached him without
danger; while with his door once well nailed up on the outside, what
can he do? His window was already ironed."

"He could loosen the bars by breaking away the plaster with his knife,
which he would have done, if, mounted on a ladder, I had not mangled
his hands with the hatchet every time he commenced his work!"

"What a duty!" said the other, chuckling; "how much you must have been
amused!"

"I had to give you time to arrive with the iron plate and bars which
you went to Micou's for."

"How he must have foamed. Dear brother!"

"He ground his teeth like a madman; two or three times he tried to
push me off with blows from his club, but then, having but one hand
free, he could not work at the grating."

"Fortunately, there is no fireplace in the room!"

"Yes, and the door is strong and his hands wounded! but for this he
would be capable of making a hole through the plank."

"No, no, there is no danger that he can escape. His bier is more solid
than if it were made of oak and lead."

"I say--when La Louve gets out of prison, and comes here to seek her
man, as she calls him?"

"Well! we will tell her to look for him."

"Apropos, do you know that if mother had not shut up these scamps of
children, they would have been capable of gnawing the door like rats,
to deliver Martial! That little scoundrel, Francois, is a real devil
since he suspects that we have shut up our big brother."

"But are you going to leave them in the room upstairs while we are
away from the island? Their window is not grated--they have only to
descend from the outside."

At this moment cries and sobs in the house attracted the attention of
Nicholas and Calabash. They saw the opened door of the ground-floor
shut violently: a moment after the pale and sinister face of the widow
appeared at the kitchen-window. With her long, bony arm she beckoned
her children to come to the house.

"Come, there is a squabble! I bet it is Francois who kicks," said
Nicholas.

"Scoundrel of a Martial! except for him the boy would have been all
alone. Watch well, and if you see the two females coming, call me."

While Calabash, mounted on the bench, awaited their approach, Nicholas
entered the house. Little Amandine, kneeling in the middle of the
kitchen, wept, and asked pardon for her brother Francois. He,
irritated and threatening, stood in one of the corners of the room,
brandishing a hatchet. He seemed this time to make a desperate
resistance to the wishes of his mother.

As usual, quiet and calm, she pointed to the half-open door leading to
the cellar, and made a sign to her son that she wished Francois shut
up there.

"I will not go there!" cried the determined child, whose eyes sparkled
like those of a wild cat; "you wish to let us die with hunger, like
brother Martial."

"Mamma, for the love of God, leave us upstairs in our own room, as you
did yesterday," asked the little girl in a supplicating tone, clasping
her hands; "in the dark cellar we shall be so much afraid!"

The widow looked at Nicholas in an impatient manner, as if to reproach
him for not having executed her orders, and she again pointed to
Francois.

Seeing his brother approach, the young boy brandished his hatchet in a
desperate manner, and cried, "If you want to shut me up there, whether
it is brother, mother, or Calabash--I strike, and the hatchet cuts!"

Both Nicholas and the widow felt the necessity of preventing the two
children from going to the assistance of Martial during their absence,
and also to conceal from them what was about to take place on the
river. But Nicholas, as cowardly as he was ferocious, and not caring
to receive a blow from the dangerous hatchet with which his brother
was armed, hesitated to approach him.

The widow, vexed at the hesitation of her eldest son, pushed him
roughly by the shoulder toward Francois.

But Nicholas, again drawing back, cried, "If he wounds me, what shall
I do, mother? You know well enough I am about to need the use of both
my arms, and I still feel the blow that Martial has given me."

The widow shrugged her shoulders with contempt, and made a step toward
Francois.

"Do not come near me, mother!" cried the enraged boy, "or you shall be
paid for all the blows you have given me and Amandine."

"Brother, rather let yourself be locked up. Oh! do not strike our
mother!" cried Amandine, terrified.

At this moment Nicholas saw on a chair a large woolen coverlet, which
was used for the ironing-table; he seized it, and adroitly threw it
over the head of Francois, who, in spite of all his efforts, finding
himself entangled in its thick folds, could make no use of his arms.
Then Nicholas threw himself upon him, and, with the aid of his mother,
carried him into the cellar. Amandine had remained kneeling in the
middle of the kitchen. As soon as she saw the fate of her brother, she
arose quickly, and, notwithstanding her alarm, went of her own accord
to join him in his gloomy prison. The door was double-locked on the
brother and sister.

"It is the fault of Martial, if these children are like unchained
devils against us," cried Nicholas.

"Nothing has been heard in his chamber since this morning," said the
widow, in a thoughtful manner, and she shuddered; "nothing."

"That proves, mother, that you did well to say to Ferot, the fisherman
of Asnieres, that Martial was sick in bed, and like to die. In this
way, when all is over, no one will be astonished." After a moment's
pause, as if she wished to escape a horrible thought, the widow said,
roughly, "Did La Chouette come here while I was at Asnieres?"

"Yes, mother."

"Why did she not remain and go with us to Bras-Rouge? I am suspicious
of her."

"Bah! you suspect everybody, mother: to-day it is La Chouette;
yesterday it was Bras-Rouge."

"Bras-Rouge is at liberty; my son is at Toulon; they both committed
the same robbery."

"You always repeat that old story. Bras-Rouge escaped because he is as
cunning as a steel trap, that's all. La Chouette did not remain here,
because she had an appointment at two o'clock, near the Observatory,
with the tall man in black, on whose account she carried off this girl
from the country, with the assistance of the Maitre d'Ecole and
Tortillard; and it was even Barbillon who drove the hack which this
tall man in black hired for the occasion. Come, now, mother, why
should La Chouette inform against us, since she tells us what jobs she
has in hand, and we do not tell her ours? for she knows nothing of our
proposed drowning scrape. Be tranquil, mother--dog don't eat dog. The
day's work will be a good one. When I think that the broker has often
twenty or thirty thousand francs' worth of diamonds in her bag, and
that in two hours' time we shall have her in Red Arm's cellar. Thirty
thousand francs in diamonds! only think of it."

"And while we hold the broker, Bras-Rouge remains outside?" said the
widow, with an air of suspicion.

"And where should he be? If any one should come in, must he not
answer, and prevent them approaching the place where we are doing our
job?"

"Nicholas, Nicholas!" cried Calabash, from without, "here are the two
women."

"Quick, quick, mother! your shawl! I will row you over--it will be so
much done," said Nicholas.

The widow had replaced her morning-cap with one of black tulle. She
wrapped herself in a large shawl of white and gray tartan, locked the
kitchen door, placed the key behind one of the shutters, and followed
her son to the landing-place.

Almost in spite of herself, before she left the island, she cast a
long, lingering look at Martial's window, knit her brows, bit her
lips, then, after a sudden fit of shivering, she murmured to herself,
"It is his fault--his own fault."

"Nicholas! do you see them? there, just by that rising ground," cried
Calabash, pointing to the other side of the river, where Mrs. Seraphin
and Fleur-de-Marie appeared, descending a small path leading to the
shore, near a small elevation, on which was placed a plaster-kiln.

"Let us wait for the signal, and have no bungling," said Nicholas.

"Are you blind? Don't you recognize the fat woman who came here the
day before yesterday? Look at her orange shawl, and see what a hurry
the little peasant girl is in! poor little puss--it is plain to see
she don't know what is coming."

"Yes, I see the fat woman now. Come, it looks like work."

"The old woman is making a sign with her handkerchief," said Calabash:
"there they are on the shore."

"Come, come, step on board, mother," cried Nicholas, unfastening the
boat: "come in the boat with the hole, so that the women will not
suspect anything. And you, Calabash, jump into the other one, my girl--
row strong. Oh! hold, take my hook, put it alongside of you--it is
pointed like a lance--it may be of use--now, push ahead!" said the
bandit, placing in the boat a long boathook, one end of which
terminated with a sharp spike of iron.

In a few moments the two boats touched the shore, where Mrs. Seraphin
and Fleur-de-Marie had been waiting impatiently.

While Nicholas was tying his boat to a post, Mrs. Seraphin approached
him, and whispered, hurriedly, "Say that Madame George awaits us;"
then she said in a loud tone, "We are a little behindhand, my lad."

"Yes, my good lady; Madame George has asked for you several times."

"You see, my dear, Madame George is waiting for us," said Mrs.
Seraphin, turning toward Fleur-de-Marie, who, notwithstanding her
confidence, had felt her heart beat at the appearance of the sinister
faces of the widow, Calabash and Nicholas.

But the name of Madame George reassured her, and she answered, "I am
also very impatient to see her; happily, the passage is short."

"Won't the dear lady be happy!" said Mrs. Seraphin. Then, turning
toward Nicholas, she added: "Come, bring your boat a little nearer,
that we can embark;" and, in a low tone, she whispered, "The little
one must be drowned; if she comes up, put her under again."

"It is settled; don't you be afraid; when I make a sign, give me your
hand. She will sink all alone--all is prepared--you have nothing to
fear," answered Nicholas, in a low tone. Then, with savage
imperturbability, without being touched either with the beauty or
youth of Fleur-de-Marie, he offered her his arm.

The girl leaned lightly on him, and entered the boat. "Now your turn,
my good lady," said Nicholas to Mrs. Seraphin. And he offered to
assist her.

Whether it was a presentiment, suspicion, or only a fear that she
could not jump quick enough from the boat where La Goualeuse and
Nicholas were seated when it should sink, the housekeeper of Jacques
Ferrand said to Nicholas, drawing back, "On second thoughts, I will go
in the boat of mademoiselle." And she took a seat alongside of
Calabash.

"Very good," said Nicholas, exchanging a glance with his sister; and,
with the end of his oar, he shoved off his boat, his sister doing the
same as soon as Mrs. Seraphin had taken her seat. Standing on the
shore, erect, immovable, indifferent to this scene, the widow, pensive
and absorbed, kept her eyes fixed on Martial's window, which could be
distinguished, through the poplar trees, from the shore.

During this time the two boats moved slowly off toward the opposite
side.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

DOES NOT A MEETING LIKE THIS MAKE AMENDS?


Before we acquaint the reader with the continuation of the drama which
passed on the boats, we will go back a little. A few moments after
Fleur-de-Marie had left Saint Lazare with Mrs. Seraphin, La Louve had
also quitted the prison.

Thanks to the recommendation of Madame Armand and of the director, who
wished to recompense her for her good action toward Mont Saint Jean,
she had been also pardoned and dismissed. A complete change had taken
place in this creature, heretofore so headstrong, vile, and corrupted.

Keeping constantly in mind the description made by Fleur-de-Marie of a
peaceful and solitary life, La Louve held in disgust her past crimes.

Confiding in the aid which Fleur-de-Marie had promised her in the name
of her unknown benefactor, La Louve determined to make this laudable
proposition to her lover, not without the bitter fear of a refusal,
for the Goualeuse, in leading her to blush for the past, had also
given her a consciousness of her position toward Martial.

Once free, La Louve only thought of seeing him. She had received no
news from him for many days. In the hope of meeting him on Ravageurs'
Island, she decided to wait there if she did not find him; she got
into a cab, and was rapidly driven to the Bridge of Asnieres, which
she crossed about fifteen minutes before Mrs. Seraphin and
Fleur-de-Marie, coming on foot, had arrived on the shore near the
plaster-kiln.

As Martial did not come to take La Louve in his boat to the island,
she applied to the old fisherman named Ferot, who lived near the
bridge.

At four o'clock in the afternoon, a cab stopped at the entrance of a
little street of Asnieres village. La Louve gave five francs to the
coachman. Jumped to the ground, and ran hastily to the abode of Ferot.

Having thrown off her prison dress, she wore a robe of dark green
merino, a red shawl, imitation cashmere, and a lace cap trimmed with
ribbons: her thick crispy hair was scarcely smoothed. In her
impatience to see Martial, she had dressed herself with more haste
than care. On reaching the house of the fisherman, she found him
seated at the door mending his nets.

As soon as she saw him, she cried out, "Your boat, Ferot--quick,
quick."

"Ah! is it you? Good-day, good-day. You have not been here for a long
time."

"Yes, but your boat--quick--to the island."

"Ah, well! fate will have it so; my good girl, it is impossible to-day."

"How?"

"My boy has taken my boat to go with the others to a rowing match at
Saint Ouen. There is not a single boat left on the whole shore from
this to the docks."

"Zounds!" cried La Louve, stamping and clinching her fists; "it
happens so expressly for me!"

"It's true, on my word. I am very sorry I cannot convey you to the
island, for, without doubt, he must be worse."

"Worse! Who?"

"Martial."

"Martial?" cried La Louve, seizing Ferot by the collar; "is Martial
sick?"

"Did you not know it?"

"Martial?"

"Yes, certainly; but you will tear my blouse; do be quiet."

"He is sick. Since when?"

"Two or three days ago."

"It is false; he would have written to me."

"Ah, well, yes! he is too sick to write."

"Too sick to write! And he is on the island; you are sure of that?"

"Don't get me into a scrape; this is the story: this morning I said to
the widow, 'For two days past I have not seen Martial, his boat is
there. Is he in the city?' Thereupon the widow looked at me with her
wicked eyes: 'He is sick on the island; and so sick that he will never
come off again.' I said to myself, 'How can that be? Three days ago--'
Well," said Ferot, interrupting himself, "where are you going to--
where the devil is she running to now?"

Believing the life of Martial menaced by the inhabitants of the
island, La Louve, overcome with alarm, and transported with rage,
listened no longer to the fisherman, but ran along the Seine.

Some topographical details are indispensable to understand the
following scene.

The island approached nearer the left side of the river than the right
shore, from whence Fleur-de-Marie and Mrs. Seraphin had embarked. La
Louve was on the left side. Without being very steep, the hills on the
island concealed, all its length, the view of one shore from the
other. Thus, La Louve had not seen the embarkation of La Goualeusea,
and the Martial family, of course, could not see her as she ran along
the shore on the opposite side.

We recall to the reader that the country-house belonging to Doctor
Griffon, where the Count de Saint Remy temporarily dwelt, was built on
the hillside, near the shore where La Louve was wandering,
half-distracted.

She passed, without seeing them, near two persons, who, struck with
her haggard look, turned to follow her at a distance. These two
persons were the Count de Saint Remy and Doctor Griffon.

The first impulse of La Louve, on learning the peril of her lover, had
been to run impetuously toward the place where she knew he was in
danger. But as she approached the island, she thought of the
difficulty of getting there. As the old fisherman had told her, she
could not count on any strange boat, and no one from the Martial
family would come for her.

Breathless, her face flushed, her eyes sparkling, she stopped opposite
a point of the island which, forming a curve at this place, was
nearest to the mainland. Through the leafless branches of the willows
and poplars, La Louve could see the roof of the house, where, perhaps,
Martial was dying. At this sight, uttering a fearful groan, she tore
off her shawl and cap, and slipping down her robe, keeping on her
petticoat, she threw herself into the river, and waded until she lost
her footing, when she began to swim vigorously toward the island.

It was the climax of savage energy.

At each stroke, the thick and long hair of La Louve, untied by the
violence of her movements, shook about her head like a shaggy mane of
copper color.

Suddenly, from the other side of the island, resounded a cry of
distress, of terrible, desperate agony. La Louve shuddered, and
stopped short. Then, treading water, with one hand she pushed back her
thick hair, and listened. A new cry was heard, but more feeble, more
supplicating, convulsive, expiring and all relapsed into a profound
silence. "My Martial!" cried La Louve, swimming again with all her
strength. She thought she had recognized the voice of Martial.

The count and doctor had not been able to follow La Louve quick enough
to prevent what she accomplished. They arrived opposite to the island
at the moment that the two fearful screams were heard, and stopped, as
much alarmed as La Louve. Seeing her struggle intrepidly against the
current, they cried, "The poor thing will be drowned!" These fears
were vain; she swam like an otter; still a few more strokes, and she
reached the land. She was getting out of the water by the assistance
of the poles, which, as we have said, formed a breakwater at the end
of the island, when she perceived the body of a young girl, dressed as
a peasant, sustained by her clothes, floating down the current.

To grasp with one hand the poles, and with the other to seize hold of
the girl by her dress, such was the movement of La Louve, as rapid as
thought. Then she drew her so violently toward her and within the
stakes, that, for a moment, she disappeared under the water, which was
of no great depth at this place.

Endued with no common strength and address, La Louve raised up La
Goualeuse (for it was she), whom she had not yet recognized, took her
up in her robust arms, as one would have taken a child, made some
steps in the water, and, finally, laid her on the green bank of the
island.

"Courage, courage!" cried M. de Saint Remy to her, as a witness, as
well as Dr. Griffon, of this bold act. "We are going to cross the
bridge, and will come to your aid in a boat." La Louve did not hear
these words. Let us repeat, that from the right shore of the Seine,
where Nicholas, Calabash, and their mother remained after the
consummation of their horrible crime, nothing could be seen of the
other side, owing to the height of the island. Fleur-de-Marie,
suddenly drawn within the row of piles by La Louve, having plunged for
a moment, and not reappearing to the sight of her murderers, they
believed their victim drowned and ingulfed.

Some few moments afterward, the current brought down another body, in
an eddy, which La Louve did not perceive. It was the corpse of the
notary's housekeeper. Dead--quite dead--this one.

Nicholas and Calabash had as much interest as Jacques Ferrand to get
rid of this witness, the accomplice of their new crime; so when the
boat with the hole sunk with Fleur-de-Marie, Nicholas, springing into
the boat of his sister, nearly upset it, and seizing a favorable
moment, threw the housekeeper into the river, and dispatched her with
the boat-hook.

Out of breath and exhausted, La Louve, kneeling on the ground
alongside of Fleur-de-Marie, recruited her strength, and examined the
features of her whom she had rescued from death. Let her surprise be
imagined when she recognized her companion of the prison, who had
exercised upon her destiny an influence so rapid, so ameliorating. In
her surprise, for a moment she forgot Martial.

"La Goualeuse!" cried she.

With bended body, leaning on her hands and knees, her hair disheveled,
her clothes dripping with water, she contemplated the unhappy child,
extended, almost expiring on the ground. Pale, inanimate, her eyes
half open and without expression, her beautiful flaxen hair falling
flat over her forehead, her blue lips, her small hands, already stiff
and icy--one would have thought her dead. "La Goualeuse!" repeated La
Louve, "what chance! I who came to tell my Martial the good and evil
she had done me with her words and promises; the resolution that I had
taken. Poor little thing! I find her here dead. But, no, no," cried La
Louve, approaching still nearer to Fleur-de-Marie, and feeling an
almost imperceptible breath escape from her mouth; "No! she breathes
still! I have saved her from death! that has never happened to me
before, to save any one. Ah! that does me good; it makes me warm. Yes,
but my Martial I must save also. Perhaps, at this moment, he is
expiring; his mother and brother are capable of killing him. Yet I
cannot leave this poor little thing here. I will carry her to the
widow's; she must take care of her, and show me Martial, or I will
break everything--I will kill everybody! Oh! neither mother, brother,
nor sister do I care for, when I know my Martial is there!"

And immediately getting up, La Louve carried Fleur-de-Marie in her
arms. With this light burden she ran toward the house, not doubting
but that the widow and her daughter, notwithstanding their wickedness,
would lend their assistance to Fleur-de-Marie.

When she reached the highest part of the island, whence could be seen
both shores of the Seine, Nicholas, his mother, and Calabash, were far
off, going in all haste to Bras-Rouge's tavern.

At this moment also, a man, who, concealed in the plaster-kiln, had
invisibly assisted at this horrible tragedy, disappeared, believing,
with the murderers, that the crime was executed. This man was Jacques
Ferrand. One of Nicholas's boats was tied to a pile near the place
where La Goualeuse and old Seraphin had embarked. Hardly had Jacques
Ferrand left the plaster-kiln to return to Paris, than M. de Saint
Remy and Dr. Griffon hastily crossed the Bridge of Asnieres, running
toward the island, thinking to reach it by Nicholas's boat, which they
had seen from afar.

To her great surprise, on arriving at the house of the Ravageurs, La
Louve found the door closed. Placing the still inanimate body of
Fleur-de-Marie under the arbor, she drew near the house. She knew the
window of Martial's chamber. What was her surprise, to see the
shutters covered with iron plates, and fastened with bars of the same
material!

Suspecting partly the truth, La Louve uttered a hoarse, resounding cry
and began to call with all her strength, "Martial! my love!"

No one answered. Alarmed at this silence, La Louve began to walk
around the building like a savage beast who scents his mate, and
seeks, with roaring, the entrance of the den where he is confined.

From time to time she cried, "My man--are you there, my man?" In her
rage she shook the bars of the kitchen window--she knocked against the
wall--she kicked against the door.

All at once a hollow sound answered from the interior of the house. La
Louve shuddered--listened. The noise ceased.

"My man has heard me! I must enter, even if I have to gnaw the door
with my teeth!" And again she uttered her savage cries.

Several blows, feebly struck on the inside of the window shutters of
Martial's room, answered to her shouts.

"He is there!" cried she, stopping suddenly under her lover's window,
"he is there! If needs must, I will tear off the iron shutters with my
nails, but I will open them."

So saying, she saw a large ladder placed behind one of the blinds of
the lower rooms; in drawing this blind violently toward her, La Louve
caused the key to fall which the widow had concealed on the window
bench. "If it unlocks," said La Louve, trying the key in the lock, "I
can go up to his chamber. It opens," cried she, with joy; "my friend
is saved!"

Once in the kitchen, she was struck by the cries of the children, who
shut up in the cellar and hearing an extraordinary noise, called for
help.

The widow, believing no one would come to the island or house during
her absence, had contented herself with locking Francois and Amandine
in the cellar, leaving the key in the lock.

Set at liberty by La Louve, the brother and sister rushed
precipitately from the cellar, crying, "Oh, La Louve, save brother
Martial! they wish to kill him; two days he has been walled up in his
room."

"They have not wounded him?"

"No, no; we believe not."

"I arrive in time!" cried La Louve, rushing to the staircase: then
suddenly stopping, she said, "And La Goualeuse! whom I forgot.
Amandine, some fire at once; you and your brother, bring here, near
the chimney-place, a poor girl who was drowning. I saved her. She is
under the arbor. Francois, a pair of pincers, a hatchet, an iron bar,
so that I can break down the door of my Martial!"

"Here is an ax to split wood, but it is too heavy for you," said the
young boy.

"Too heavy!" sneered La Louve, and she lifted with ease the iron mace,
which, under any other circumstances, she could hardly have raised
from the ground. Then, mounting the stairs four at a time, she
repeated to the children, "Run and bring in the girl, and place her
near the fire." In two bounds, La Louve was at the bottom of the
corridor, at Martial's door. "Courage, my friend--here is your Louve!"
cried she, and raising the ax with both hands, with a furious blow she
shook the door.

"It is nailed on the outside. Draw out the nails," cried Martial, in a
feeble voice.

Throwing herself on her knees in the corridor, with the aid of the
pincers and of her nails, which she tore, and her fingers, which she
cut, La Louve succeeded in drawing out the spikes which fastened the
door. At length the door was opened. Martial, pale, his hands covered
with blood, fell almost lifeless into the arms of his darling.

"At length I see you! I hold you! I have you!" cried La Louve,
receiving Martial in her arms with joy and savage energy; then
sustaining him, almost carrying him, she led him to a seat placed in
the corridor.

During some moments Martial remained weak and feeble, endeavoring to
recover from this violent shock, which had exhausted his failing
strength. La Louve saved her lover at the moment when, in a state of
despair, he felt himself about to die, less from the want of food than
from the deprivation of air, impossible to be renewed in a small room
without a chimney, without any aperture, and hermetically closed
through the atrocious foresight of Calabash, who had stopped up with
old linen even the smallest fissures of the door and window.

Palpitating with happiness and anguish, her eyes wet with tears, La
Louve, on her knees, watched the smallest movements of Martial. By
degrees he seemed to recover, as he breathed the pure and salubrious
air. After a slight shudder, he raised his weary head, uttered a long
sigh, and opened his eyes.

"Martial, it is I! your Louve; how do you feel?"

"Better," answered he, in a feeble voice.

"What will you have? water, vinegar?"

"No, no," cried Martial, less and less oppressed. "Air! oh, some air!
nothing but air!"

La Louve, at the risk of cutting her hand, broke the glass of a window
which she could not open without moving a heavy table.

"Now I breathe! I breathe! my head is relieved," said Martial, coming
quite to himself. Then, as if for the first time recalling to mind the
services she had rendered him, he cried, in a tone of ineffable
gratitude, "Without you, I should have died, my good Louve!"

"Well, well; how are you now?"

"Better and better."

"Are you hungry?"

"No, I am too weak. I suffered most from want of air; finally, I
suffocated! it was frightful!"

"And now?"

"I live again! I come out from the tomb; and I come out--thanks to
you."

"But your hands, your poor hands! these wounds? Who did this?--curse
them!"

"Nicholas and Calabash, not daring to attack me openly a second time,
shut me in my chamber, and left me to die with hunger. I tried to
prevent them from nailing up my window--my sister cut my hands with
the hatchet!"

"The monsters! they wished to have it believed that you were dead from
some sickness; your mother had already spread the report that you were
in a dying state. Your mother, my man, your mother!"

"Hold! do not speak to me of her," said Martial, bitterly; then, for
the first time, remarking the wet clothes and strange attire of La
Louve, he cried, "What has happened to you?--your hair is streaming
with water. You are without your dress."

"What matters it? You are saved--saved!"

"But explain to me why you are wet."

"I knew you were in danger--I could find no boat."

"And you swam here?"

"Yes. But your hands; let me kiss them. You suffer--the monsters! And
I was not here!"

"Oh! my brave Louve," cried Martial, with enthusiasm; "brave among all
brave creatures."

"Did you not write here 'death to dastards'?"

And La Louve showed her arm, where these words were written in
indelible characters.

"Intrepid! But you feel the cold, you tremble."

"It is not the cold."

"Never mind. Go in there; take Calabash's cloak to wrap yourself in."

"But--"

"I wish it."

In a second, La Louve was enveloped in a plaid cloak, and returned.

"For me, to run the risk of drowning!" repeated Martial, looking at
her with pride.

"No risk! A poor girl was almost drowned. I saved her. On reaching the
island--"

"You saved her also--where is she?"

"Below with the children; they are taking care of her."

"And who is this young girl?"

"If you knew what a chance--what happy chance! She was one of my
chums in Saint Lazare--a very extraordinary girl, you be sure!"

"How is that?"

"Imagine that I loved her and hated her because--she at the same time
planted both death and happiness in my heart."

"She?"

"Yes; concerning you."

"Me?"

"Listen, Martial." Then, interrupting herself, she added, "No, no. I
shall never dare."

"What is it then?"

"I wished to ask something of you. I came to see you on this account;
for when I left Paris I did not know that you were in danger."

"Well, speak."

"I dare not."

"You dare not--after what you have just done for me!"

"Exactly; it would seem as if I asked a recompense."

"Asked a recompense! And do I not owe you one? Did you not take care
of me, night and day, during my sickness last year?"

"Are you not my Martial?"

"Then you should speak to me frankly, because I am your Martial, and
will be always."

"Always, Martial?"

"Always! true as I am called Martial. For me, there shall be no other
woman in the world but you, La Louve No matter what you have been--
that's my lookout. I love you--you love me; and I owe my life to you.
But since you have been in prison, I am no longer the same; much has
happened; I have reflected; and you shall no more be what you have
been."

"What do you mean to say?"

"I never wish to leave you again. Neither do I wish to leave Francois
and Amandine."

"Your little brother and sister?"

"Yes; from this day I must be to them a father--you comprehend. This
gives me duties to perform, and tames me. I am obliged to take charge
of them. They wished to make finished thieves of them; to save them, I
shall take them away."

"Where?"

"I don't know; but certainly far from Paris."

"And me?"

"You? I will take you also."

"Take me also?" cried La Louve, in a joyous delirium. She could not
believe in so much happiness. "I shall not leave you?"

"No, my brave Louve, never. You shall aid me to bring up these
children. I know you. On saying to you, I wish that my poor little
Amandine should be a virtuous girl, I know what you will be for her; a
good mother."

"Oh! thank you, Martial, thank you!"

"We will live as honest work-folks; be easy, we will find work; we
will toil like negroes. At least, these children shall not be gallows'
birds, like their father and mother. I shall not hear myself called
any more the son and brother of a _guillotine_; in fine, I shall
no more pass through the streets where I am known. But what is the
matter?"

"Martial, I am afraid I shall become crazy."

"Crazy?"

"Crazy with joy!"

"Why?"

"Because this is too much."

"What?"

"What you ask me. Oh! it is too much. Saving the Goualeuse, this has
brought me this happiness; it must be so."

"But once more, what is the matter?"

"What you have just said. Oh, Martial, Martial!"

"Well?"

"I came to ask you!"

"To leave Paris?"

"Yes," answered she, quickly; "to go with you in the woods, where we
would have a nice little house, children whom I should love; oh! how I
should love them! how your Louve would love the children of her
Martial; or, rather, if you wished it," said La Louve, trembling, "I
would call you my husband; for we shall not have the place unless you
consent to this," she hastened to add, quickly.

Martial, in his turn, looked at La Louve with astonishment, not in the
least understanding her words. "Of what place do you speak?"

"A gamekeeper's."

"That I shall have?--and who will give it to me?"

"The protectors of the girl whom I have saved."

"Who is she, then?"

I don't know; I can't understand anything; but in my life I have never
seen, never heard anything like her; she is like a fairy to read what
one has in the heart. When I told her how much I loved you, instantly,
on that account, she became interested, not by using hard words (you
know how I would have stood that), but by speaking to me of a very
laborious, hard life, tranquilly passed with you according to your
taste, in the midst of the forest; only, according to her idea,
instead of being a poacher you were a gamekeeper, and I your wife; and
then our children were to run to meet you when you returned at night
from your rounds, with dogs, your gun on your shoulder; and then we
should sup at the door of the cabin, in the cool of the evening, under
the large trees; and then we would retire to rest so happy, so
peaceful. What shall I say? in spite of myself I listened; it was like
a charm. If you knew--she spoke so well, so well--that--all that she
said, I thought I could see; I dreamed wide awake!"

"Oh! yes; it would be a happy life," said Martial, sighing in his
turn; "without being altogether black at heart, poor Francois has
associated too much with Calabash and Nicholas; so that the good air
of the woods will be much better for him than the air of the city.
Amandine could help you in the house; I would be a good keeper, as I
was a famous poacher. I should have you for a manager, my brave Louve;
and then, as you say, with children, what should we need? When once
one is accustomed to the forest, one is quite at home; a hundred years
would pass as one day; but, see now, I am a fool. Hold! you should not
have spoken to me of this life; it only causes regrets, that's all."

"I let you go on, because you say exactly what I did to La Goualeuse."

"How?"

"Yes, in listening to these fairy tales, I said to her, 'What a pity
that these castles in the air, La Goualeuse, are not the truth!' Do
you know what she answered, Martial?" said La Louve, her eyes
sparkling with joy.

"No."

"'Let Martial marry you; promise both of you to live an honest life,
and this place, which causes you so much envy, I am almost sure to
obtain for you on leaving the prison,' was her answer."

"A gamekeeper's place for me?"

"Yes, for you."

"But you are right-it is a dream. If it only were needful that I
should marry you to obtain this place, my brave Louve, it should be
done to-morrow, if I had the means; for, from to-day you are my wife--
my true wife."

"Martial, I your real wife?"

"My real, my sole wife, and I wish you to call me your husband--it is
just the same as if the mayor had joined us."

"Oh! La Goualeuse was right; it makes one so proud to say, 'My
husband!' Martial--you shall see your Louve keeping house, at work!
you shall see."

"But this place--do you believe?"

"Poor little Goualeuse, if she is deceived it is others' faults; for
she appeared to believe what she told me. Besides, just now, on
leaving the prison, the inspectress told me that the protectors of La
Goualeuse, people of high rank, had taken her from the prison this
very day: that proves that she has benefactors, and that she can do
what she has promised."

"Oh!" cried Martial, suddenly, rising from his seat, "I do not know
what we are thinking about."

"What is it?"

"This girl is below, dying, perhaps; and instead of helping her, we
are here."

"Be satisfied; Francois and Amandine are with her; they would have
called us if there had been any danger. But you are right; let us go
to her; you must see her, she to whom, perhaps, we shall owe our
happiness." And Martial, leaning on the arm of La Louve, descended the
stairs.

Before they enter the kitchen, we will relate what passed since
Fleur-de-Marie had been confided to the care of the children.



CHAPTER XXXV.

DR. GRIFFON.


Francois and Amandine had just carried Fleur-de-Marie into the kitchen
near the fire, when Saint Remy and Dr. Griffon, who had crossed over
in Nicholas's boat, entered the house. While the children stirred up
the fire and threw on some dry fagots, which, soon kindling, gave out
a cheerful blaze, Dr. Griffon exercised all his skill to restore the
girl.

"The poor child is hardly seventeen," cried the count, profoundly
affected; then, turning toward the doctor, he said, "Well, what do you
think, my friend?"

"I can hardly feel the pulse; but, what is very singular, the skin of
the face is not colored blue in this subject, as is ordinarily the
case in asphyxia from submersion," answered the doctor with
imperturbable coolness, looking at Fleur-de-Marie with an air
profoundly meditative.

Dr. Griffon was a tall, thin man, very pale, and completely bald,
except two very scanty tufts of black hair, most carefully gathered
from behind, and laid flat on his forehead; his face, wrinkled and
furrowed by hard study, expressed intelligence reflection, and
coldness.

Of immense knowledge, of consummate experience, a skillful and
renowned practitioner, principal physician of a large hospital, Dr.
Griffon had but one defect--that of making, if we may express it, a
complete oversight of the patient, and only attending to the disease:
young or old, male or female, rich or poor, no matter; he thought only
of the medical fact, more or less curious or interesting in a
scientific point of view, which the _subject_ offered.

For him there only existed _subjects_.

"What a charming face! How handsome she is, notwithstanding this
frightful pallor!" said Saint Remy, contemplating Fleur-de-Marie with
sadness. "Have you ever seen, my dear doctor, features more regular or
more lovely? And so young--so young!"

"The age is nothing," said the physician, roughly; "no more than the
presence of water in the lungs, which formerly was thought to be
mortal. They were most grossly deceived: the admirable experiments of
Goodwin, of the famous Goodwin, have proved it."

"But, doctor--"

"But it is a fact," answered M. Griffon, absorbed by the love of his
art. "To ascertain the presence of a foreign liquid in the lungs,
Goodwin plunged some cats and dogs into a tub of ink for some seconds,
drew them out living, and dissected my gentlemen some time afterward.
Well, he convinced himself that the ink had penetrated into the lungs,
and that the presence of liquid in the organs of respiration does not
cause death."

The count knew the physician to be an excellent man at heart, but that
his frenzied passion for the sciences often made him appear
hard-hearted and almost cruel.

"Have you, at least, any hope?" asked he, with impatience.

"The extremities of the subject are very cold," said the doctor;
"there is but little hope."

"Oh, to die at her age, poor child--it is frightful!"

"The pupil fixed, dilated," answered the immovable doctor, raising
with his finger the moveless eyelid of Fleur-de-Marie.

"Strange man," cried the count, almost with indignation; "one would
think you without feeling; and yet I have seen you watch by my bedside
night after night. If I had been your brother, you could not have been
more devoted."

The doctor, quite occupied in administering to Fleur-de-Marie,
answered the count, without looking at him, and with settled calmness,
"Do you believe that one meets every day with such a malignant fever,
so marvelously complicated, so curious to study, as the one you had?
It was admirable, my good friend, admirable! Stupor, delirium,
twitchings of the sinews, syncopes--your deadly fever united the most
varied symptoms. Your constitution was also a rare thing, very rare,
and eminently interesting; you were also affected, in a partial and
momentary manner, with paralysis. If it were only for this fact, your
disease had a right to all my attention; you presented to me a
magnificent study; for, frankly, my dear friend, all I desire in this
world is to come across just such another fine case--but one has no
such luck twice."

[Illustration: FEELING FOR THE BEATING OF THE PULSE]

The count shrugged his shoulders impatiently. It was at this moment
that Martial descended, leaning on the arm of La Louve, who had, as
the reader knows, thrown over her wet clothes a plaid cloak belonging
to Calabash.

Struck with the pale looks of the lover of La Louve, and remarking his
hands covered with coagulated blood, the count cried, "Who is this
man?"

"_My husband!_" answered La Louve, looking at Martial with an
expression of happiness and noble pride impossible to describe.

"You have a good intrepid wife, sir," said the count to him. "I saw
her save this unfortunate child with rare courage."

"Oh, yes, sir; good and intrepid is _my wife!_" answered Martial,
dwelling on the last words, and looking at La Louve in his turn with
an air at once tender and affectionate. "Yes, intrepid; for she also
saved my life!"

"Yours!" said the astonished count.

"See his hands, his poor hands!" said La Louve, wiping the tears which
softened the indignant sparkling of her eyes.

"Oh, this is horrible!" cried the count. "This poor fellow has had his
hands literally chopped up. Look, doctor!"

Turning his head slightly, and looking over his shoulder at the
numerous wounds which Calabash had made, the doctor said, "Open and
shut your hand."

Martial executed this movement with much pain.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders, continued to occupy himself with
Fleur-de-Marie, and said disdainfully, and as if with regret, "Those
wounds are absolutely nothing serious. None of the tendons are
injured; in a week the subject can use his hands."

"Then, sir, my husband will not be a cripple?" cried La Louve with
gratitude.

The doctor shook his head.

"And La Goualeuse will live, will she not?" asked La Louve. "Oh, she
must live, my husband and I owe her so much!" Then turning toward
Martial, "Poor little thing! There is she of whom I spoke--she who
perhaps will be the cause of our happiness--she who gave me the idea
of telling you all I have said. See what chance has done, that I
should save her--and here too!"

"She is our Providence!" said Martial, struck with the beauty of La
Goualeuse. "What an angelic face! Oh, she will live! will she not,
doctor?"

"I don't know," answered the physician; "but, in the first place, she
ought to remain here. Can she have the necessary attentions?"

"Here!" cried La Louve. "Why, they murder here!"

"Hush, hush!" said Martial.

The count and doctor looked at La Louve with surprise.

"This house has a bad reputation; it surprises me the less," whispered
the physician to Saint Remy.

"You have, then, been the victim of violence?" asked the count. "Who
wounded you in this manner?" "It is nothing, sir. I had a dispute
here, a fight ensued, and I have been wounded. But this girl cannot
remain in the house," added he, in a gloomy manner. "I shall not
remain myself, neither my wife nor my brother, nor my sister. We leave
the island never to return."

"Oh, what joy!" cried both the children.

"Then what must we do?" said the doctor, regarding Fleur-de-Marie. "It
is impossible to think of transporting this subject in this state of
prostration. Yet, happily, my house is close at hand, and my
gardener's wife and daughter will make excellent nurses. Since this
asphyxia from submersion interests you, you can overlook her
attendants, my dear Saint Remy, and I will come and see her every
day."

"And you play the part of a hard-hearted, unmerciful man," cried the
count, "when you have a most generous heart, as this proposition
proves."

"If the subject sinks, as is possible, there will be a most
interesting autopsy, which will allow me to confirm once more the
assertions of Goodwin."

"What you say is frightful!" said the count.

"For him who knows how to read it, the human body is a book where one
learns to save the life of the sick," said Dr. Griffon, stoically.

"However, you do good," said Saint Remy, bitterly; "that is the
important thing. What matters the cause, as long as the benefit
exists! Poor child, the more I look at her, the more she interests
me."

"And she deserves it, sir," cried La Louve, passionately, drawing
near.

"You know her?" said the count.

"Know her, sir? To her I owe the happiness of my life; in saving her I
have not done as much for her as she has done for me."

"And who is she?" asked the count.

"An angel, sir; all that is good in the world. Yes, although she is
dressed as a peasant girl there is not a grand lady who can talk as
well as she can, with her soft little voice, just like music. She is a
noble girl, and courageous and good."

"How did she fall in the water?"

"I do not know, sir."

"She is not a peasant girl, then?" asked the count.

"A peasant girl! Look at her small white hands, sir!"

"It is true," said Saint Remy. "What a singular mystery! But her name,
her family?"

"Come," said the doctor, interrupting the conversation, "the subject
must be carried to the boat."

Half an hour afterward, Fleur-de-Marie, who had not yet recovered her
senses, was taken to the physician's house, placed in a warm bed, and
maternally watched by the gardener's wife, assisted by La Louve. The
doctor promised Saint Remy, who was more and more interested in La
Goualeuse, to return the same evening to visit her.

Martial went to Paris with Francois, and Amandine, La Louve not being
willing to leave Fleur-de-Marie until she was out of danger.

The island remained deserted. We shall soon meet with its wretched
occupants at Bras-Rouge's, where they had agreed to meet La Chouette,
to murder the diamond dealer.

In the meanwhile we would conduct the reader to the appointment that
Tom, the brother of the Countess Macgregor, had made with the horrible
old woman, the Schoolmaster's accomplice.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE LIKENESS.


Thomas Seyton walked impatiently up and down on one of the boulevards,
near the Observatory, till he saw La Chouette appear.

The old wretch had on a white cap, and was wrapped up in a large red
plaid shawl; the point of a very sharp dagger stuck through the bottom
of the straw basket which she carried on her arm; but Tom did not
perceive it.

"Three o'clock is striking from the Luxembourg," said the old woman.
"I am punctual, I think?"

"Come," answered Seyton; and walking before her, he crossed some waste
ground, entered a deserted street situated near the Rue Cassini,
stopped about the middle of the passage, where it was obstructed by a
turnstile, opened a small gate, made a sign for La Chouette to follow
him, and, after having taken a few steps in an alley shaded with large
trees, said, "Wait here," and disappeared.

"I hope he won't make me lose too much time," said La Chouette; "I
must be at Bras-Rouge's at five, to settle the broker. Ah! speaking of
that, my scoundrelly needle has his nose out of the window," added the
old woman, seeing the point of the dagger sticking through the basket.
"So much for not having put on his cap." And taking it from the
basket, she placed it in such a manner that it was completely
concealed.

"It is a tool of my man's," said she. "Did he not ask me for it to
kill the rats, which come and laugh at him in his cellar? Poor
beasts!--not for him. They have only the old blind man to divert them,
and keep them company! The least they can do is to nibble him a
little. Hence I don't wish him to do any harm to the small deer, and I
keep the tickler. Besides, I shall soon want it for the broker,
perhaps. Thirty thousand francs' worth of diamonds--a treasure for
each of us! A good day's work; not like the other day. That fool of a
notary whom I wanted to pluck--I did threaten him, if he would not
give me money, to inform that it was his housekeeper who gave me La
Goualeuse, through Tournemine, when she was quite small; but nothing
frightens him. He called me an old liar, and turned me out of doors.
Good, good--I will have a letter written to those people at the farm,
where Pegriotte was sent, and inform them it was the notary who
abandoned her. They know, perhaps, her family, and when she leaves
Saint Lazare, it will be hot work for this hound of a Ferrand. But
some one comes--a little pale lady whom I have seen before," added La
Chouette, seeing Sarah appear at the other end of the alley. "Some
more business to be done; it must be on account of this little lady
that we carried La Goualeuse away from the farm. If she pays well for
anything new, I'm on it, safe!"

On approaching La Chouette, whom she saw for the first time since a
previous meeting, the countenance of Sarah expressed that disdain
which people of a certain class feel when they are obliged to come in
contact with wretches whom they use as instruments or accomplices.

Seyton, who until now had actively assisted the criminal machinations
of his sister, considering them useless, had refused to continue this
miserable game, consenting, nevertheless, to grant his sister, for the
last time, an interview with La Chouette, without wishing to take part
in any new schemes.

Having been unable to bring Rudolph back to her by breaking the ties
which she thought dear to him, the countess hoped, as we have said, to
render him the dupe of an infamous trick, the success of which might
realize the dream of this opinionated, ambitious, and cruel woman. It
was in contemplation to persuade Rudolph that the daughter, whom he
had supposed dead, was alive, and to substitute some orphan in the
place of his daughter.

The reader knows that Jacques Ferrand, having formally refused to
enter into this plot, in spite of Sarah's threats, had resolved to
make away with Fleur-de-Marie, as much from dread of the revelations
of La Chouette, as from fear of the countess. But she had not
renounced her designs, for she was almost certain of corrupting or
intimidating the notary, when she had secured a girl capable of
playing the part designed for her.

After a moment's silence, Sarah said to La Chouette, "Are you adroit,
discreet, and resolute?"

"Adroit as a monkey, resolute as a dog, dumb as a fish; there's La
Chouette, just as the devil has made her, ready to serve you if she is
capable--and she is rather," answered the hag in a lively manner. "I
hope we have famously decoyed the young country girl, who is safely
fastened up in Saint Lazare for two good months."

"The question is no longer of her, but of other things."

"As you wish, my little lady. As long as there is money at the end of
what you are about to propose, we shall be like two fingers of a
hand."

Sarah could not suppress a movement of disgust. "You must know," said
she, "some common people--some unfortunate family."

"There are more of them than millionaires; plenty to pick from; there
is a rich misery in Paris."

"You must find for me a young orphan girl, one who lost her parents
very early. She must be of an agreeable face, of a sweet temper, and
not more than seventeen."

La Chouette looked at Sarah with astonishment.

"Such an orphan cannot be difficult to find," resumed the countess;
"there are so many foundlings."

"My little lady, have you not forgotten La Goualeuse? Just what you
want."

"Whom do you mean by La Goualeuse?"

"The young person whom we carried off from Bouqueval."

"I tell you, we have nothing to do with her!"

"But listen to me, then; and above all, reward me with good advice;
you wish an orphan, as gentle as a lamb, beautiful as day, and not
seventeen."

"Without doubt."

"Well, then, take La Goualeuse when she comes out of Saint Lazare;
just what you want--as if made to order; for she was only six years
old when Jacques Ferrand (about ten years ago) gave her to me, with a
thousand francs, to get rid of her. It was a man named Tournemine, now
in the galleys at Rochefort, who brought her to me, saying, that she
was doubtless a child they wanted to get rid of, or pass for dead."

"Jacques Ferrand, say you!" cried Sarah, in a voice so changed that La
Chouette stepped back with alarm. "The notary, Jacques Ferrand,"
repeated she, "gave you this child, and"--she could not finish. Her
emotion was too violent; with her hands stretched toward La Chouette,
trembling violently, surprise and joy were expressed on her
countenance.

"But I did not know you were going to fire up in this manner, my
little lady," said the old woman. "Yet it is very plain. Ten years
ago, an old acquaintance, Toarnemine, said to me, 'Do you wish to take
charge of a little girl that some one wants to get rid of? If she
lives or dies, all the same there is a thousand francs to gain; you
may do with the child what you please.'"

"Ten years ago?" cried Sarah.

"Ten years."

"Fair?"

"Fair."

"With blue eyes?"

"With blue eyes, blue as bluebells."

"And it is she who, at the farm--"

"We packed up for Saint Lazare. I must say that I did not expect to
find her there."

"Oh! heaven!" cried Sarah, falling on her knees, and raising her hands
and eyes toward heaven; "your ways are impenetrable. I bow before
mysterious Providence. Oh! if such happiness were possible--but no, I
cannot believe it; it would be too much--no!" Then, suddenly rising,
she said to La Chouette, who looked at her with amazement, "Come."

She walked before the hag with hurried steps. At the end of the alley,
she ascended some steps leading to the glass door of a cabinet,
sumptuously furnished.

At the moment when La Chouette was about to enter, Sarah made her a
sign to remain without. Then she rung the bell violently. A servant
appeared.

"I am not at home to any one--let no one in, do you understand?
absolutely no one."

The domestic retired, and to be more secure the lady locked the door.

La Chouette heard the orders given to the servant, and saw Sarah lock
the door. The countess, turning to her, said, "Come in quickly, and
shut the door."

La Chouette obeyed. Hastily opening a secretary, Sarah took from it an
ebony casket, which she placed on a desk in the middle of the room,
and made a sign for La Chouette to come near her. The casket contained
many jewel-boxes placed one on the other, inclosing magnificent
ornaments.

Sarah was so impatient to reach the bottom of the casket, that she
threw out on the table the boxes, splendidly furnished with necklaces,
bracelets, and diadems, where rubies, emeralds, and diamonds sparkled
with a thousand fires. La Chouette was astonished. She was armed, she
was shut up alone with the countess, her flight was easy, secure. An
infernal idea crossed the mind of this monster. But to execute this
new misdeed, she had to get her poniard from the basket, and draw near
to Sarah, without exciting her suspicions. With the cunning of a
tiger-cat, who crawls treacherously on its prey, the old woman
profited by the pre-occupation of the countess to steal round the
bureau which separated her from her victim. She had already commenced
this treacherous evolution, when she was obliged to stop suddenly.
Sarah drew a medallion from the bottom of the box, leaned on the
table, handed it to La Chouette with a trembling hand, and said, "Look
at this portrait."

"It is La Pegriotte!" cried La Chouette, struck with the great
likeness; "the little girl who was given to me; I see her as she was
when Tournemine brought her to me. There is her thick curly hair which
I cut off at once, and sold well, ma foi!"

"You recognize her? Oh! I conjure you do not deceive me!"

"I tell you, my little lady, that it is La Pegriotte; it is as if I
could see her before me," said La Chouette, trying to approach Sarah
without being remarked; "even now she looks like this portrait. If you
saw her, you would be struck with it."

Sarah had experienced no sorrow, no fright on learning that her child
had, during ten years, lived miserable and abandoned. No remorse on
thinking that she herself had torn her from the peaceful retreat where
Rudolph had placed her. This unnatural mother did not at once
interrogate La Chouette with terrible anxiety as to the past life of
her child. No; ambition with Sarah had for a long time stifled
maternal tenderness.

It was not joy at finding her daughter which transported her, it was
the certain hope of seeing realized the proud dream of all her life.
Rudolph was interested for this unfortunate creature, had protected
without knowing her, what would be his joy when he discovered her to
be his child! He was single, the countess a widow--Sarah already saw
glisten before her eyes a sovereign's crown. La Chouette, still
advancing with cautious steps, had already reached one end of the
table, and placed her dagger perpendicularly in her basket, the handle
close to the opening, quite ready. She was only a few steps from the
countess, when the latter suddenly said, "Do you know how to write?"
And pushing back with her hand the boxes and jewels, she opened a
blotter placed before an inkstand.

"No, madame, I cannot write," answered La Chouette at all hazard.

"I am going to write then, from your dictation. Tell me all the
circumstances attending the abandonment of this little girl." And
Sarah, seating herself in an armchair before the desk, took a pen and
made a motion for the old woman to draw near to her.

The eyes of La Chouette twinkled. At length she was standing erect
alongside of Sarah's seat. She, bending over the table, prepared to
write.

"I will read aloud slowly," said the countess, "you will correct my
mistakes."

"Yes, madame," answered La Chouette, watching every movement.

Then she slipped her right hand into her basket, so as to take hold of
the dagger without being seen. The lady began to write, "I declare
that--"

But interrupting herself, and turning toward La Chouette, who already
had hold of the handle of her dagger, Sarah added, "At what time was
this child delivered to you?"

"In the month of February, 1827."

"By whom?" asked Sarah, with her face still turned toward La Chouette.

"By Pierre Tournemine, now in the galleys at Rochefort. Mrs. Seraphin,
housekeeper of the notary, gave the little girl to him."

The countess turned to write and read in a loud voice: "I declare that
in the month of February, 1827, a man named--"

La Chouette had drawn out her dagger. Already she raised it to strike
her victim between the shoulders. Sarah again turned.

La Chouette, not to be discovered, placed her right arm on the back of
the chair, and leaned toward her to answer her new question.

"I have forgotten the name of the man who confided the child to you."

"Pierre Tournemine," answered La Chouette.

"Pierre Tournemine," repeated Sarah, continuing to write--"now in the
galleys at Rochefort, placed in my hands a child who had been confided
to him by the housekeeper of--"

The countess could not finish. La Chouette, after having softly
disencumbered herself of the basket by dropping it on the ground, had
thrown herself on the countess with as much rapidity as fury; with her
left hand she caught her by the throat, and holding her face down to
the table, she had, with her right hand, planted the dagger between
the shoulders.

This horrible deed was executed so quickly that the countess did not
utter a single cry or groan. Still seated, she remained with her face
on the table. The pen had fallen from her hand.

"The same blow as Fourline gave the little old man in the Rue du
Roule," said the monster. "Another one who will talk no more--her
account is made."

And gathering in haste the jewels, which she threw into her basket,
she did not perceive that her victim still breathed.

The murder and robbery accomplished, the horrible old woman opened the
glass-door, disappeared rapidly in the green alley, went out by the
small door, and reached the waste ground. Near the Observatory, she
took a cab, which conveyed her to Bras-Rouge's. Widow Martial,
Nicholas, Calabash, and Barbillon had, as the reader knows, made an
appointment to meet La Chouette in this den, to rob and kill the
diamond broker.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE DETECTIVE.


The "Bleeding Heart Tavern" was situated on the Champs Elysees, near
the Cours la Reine, in one of the vast moats which bounded this
promenade some years since. The inhabitants of the island had not yet
appeared. Since the departure of Bradamanti, who had accompanied the
step-mother of Madame d'Harville to Normandy, Tortillard had returned
to his father's house.

Placed as lookout on the top of the staircase leading down to the inn,
the little cripple was to notify the arrival of the Martials by a
concerted signal, Bras-Rouge being then in secret conference with
Narcisse Borel, a police-officer.

This man, about forty years, strong and thickset, had his skin
stained, a sharp and piercing eye, and face completely shaved, so as
to be able to assume the different disguises necessary to his
dangerous expeditions; for it was often necessary for him to unite the
sudden transformations of a comedian with the energy and courage of
the soldier, to surprise certain bandits whom he was obliged to match
in courage and determination. Narcisse Borel was, in a word, one of
the most useful, the most active instruments of the providence, on a
small scale, modestly and vulgarly called the police.

Let us return to the interview between Borel and Bras-Rouge. Their
conversation seemed very animated.

"Yes," said the plain-clothes constable, "you are accused of profiting
by your position in a double manner, by taking part with impunity in
the robberies of a band of very dangerous malefactors, and of giving
false information concerning them to the police. Take care, Bras-Rouge;
if this should be proved, they would have no mercy on you."

"Alas! I know I am accused of this; and it is afflicting, my good M.
Narcisse," replied Bras-Rouge, giving to his weasel face an expression
of hypocritical sorrow. "But I hope that to-day they will render me
justice, and that my good faith will be certainly acknowledged."

"We shall see."

"How can I be suspected? Have I not given proofs? Was it not I--yes or
no--who, in time past secured you Ambrose Martial, one of the most
dangerous malefactors in Paris? For, as it is said, that runs in his
race, and the Martials come from below, where they will soon return."

"All this is very fine; but Ambrose was informed that he was about to
be arrested; if I had not advanced the hour indicated by you, he would
have escaped."

"Do you believe me capable, M. Narcisse, of having secretly given him
information of your intentions?"

"All I know is, that I received a pistol shot from the rascal, which,
very fortunately, only went through my arm."

"Marry! M. Narcisse, it is very certain that in your calling one is
exposed to such mistakes."

"Oh! you call that a mistake?"

"Certainly; for doubtless the scoundrel wanted to plant the ball in
your body."

"In the arms, body, or head, no matter; it is not of that I complain;
every trade has its offsets."

"And its pleasures also, M. Narcisse; and its pleasures! For instance,
when a man as cunning, as adroit, as courageous as you are, is for a
long time on the tracks of a nest of robbers; follows them from place
to place--from house to house, with a good bloodhound like your
servant Bras-Rouge, and he succeeds in getting them into a trap from
which not one can escape, acknowledge, M. Narcisse, that there is
great pleasure in it--a huntsman's joy--without counting the service
rendered to justice," added the landlord of the "Bleeding Heart."

"I should be of your opinion, if the bloodhound was faithful, but I am
afraid he is not."

"Oh! M. Narcisse, can you think--"

"I think that instead of putting us on the scent, you amuse yourself
by deceiving us, and you abuse the confidence placed in you. Every day
you promise to aid us to place our hands on the band; that day never
comes."

"What if this day comes to-day, M. Narcisse, as I am sure it will; and
if I let you pick up Barbillon, Nicholas Martial, the widow, her
daughter, and La Chouette, will it be a good haul or not? Will you
still suspect me?"

"No; and you will have rendered real service; for we have against this
band strong presumptions, almost certain suspicions, but,
unfortunately, no proofs."

"Hold a moment--caught in the very act, allowing you to nab them so,
will aid furiously to display their cards, M. Narcisse?"

"Doubtless; and you assure me you are not in the plan they have on
hand?"

"No, on my honor. It is La Chouette who came and proposed to me to
entice the broker here, when she learned through my son, that Morel,
the lapidary, who lived in the Rue du Temple, cut real instead of
false stones, and that Mother Mathieu had often about her jewels of
value. I accepted the affair, proposing for La Chouette to add
Barbillon and the Martials, so as to have the whole gang in hand."

"And what of the Schoolmaster, this man so dangerous, so strong, and
so ferocious, who was always with La Chouette? one of the old hands of
the Lapin Blanc?"

"The Schoolmaster?" said Bras-Rouge, feigning astonishment.

"Yes, a galley-slave escaped from Rochefort, named Anselme Duresnel,
condemned for life. He has disfigured himself so as not to be
recognized. Have you no information of him?"

"None," answered Bras-Rouge, intrepidly, who had his reasons for this
falsehood, for the Schoolmaster was then shut up in one of the cellars
of the tavern.

"There is every reason to believe that the Schoolmaster is the author
of some late murders. It would be an important capture. For six weeks
past, no one knows what has become of him."

"Thus we are reproached for having lost sight of him. Always
reproaches, M. Narcisse! always."

"Not without reason. How's your smuggling?"

"Must I not know all sorts of folks, smugglers as well as anybody
else, to put you on the scent? I informed you of the pipe which,
beginning outside of the Barriere du Trone, ended in a house in the
street, to introduce untaxed liquor."

"I know all that," said Narcisse, interrupting Bras-Rouge; but for one
you denounce, you let, perhaps, ten escape, and you continue your
trade with impunity. I am sure you feed out of two mangers, as the
saying is."

"Oh! M. Narcisse, I am incapable of such dishonest hunger."

"And this is not all. In the Rue du Temple, No. 17, lives one Burette,
pawnbroker, who is accused of being your private receiver."

"What would you have me do, M. Borel? one says so many things, the
world is so wicked. Once more I say, I must mix with the greatest
number of scoundrels possible. I must even do as they do, worse than
they, to avoid suspicions; but it cuts me to the heart to imitate
them--to the heart--I must be well devoted to the service to follow
such a trade."

"Poor dear man! I pity you with all my heart."

"You laugh, M. Borel. But if all these stories are believed, why do
they not pay Mother Burette and myself a visit?"

"You know well why--not to startle these bandits whom you have for so
long a time promised to deliver to us."

"And I am going to deliver them to you, M. Narcisse; in one hour's
time you shall have them bound, and without much trouble, for there
are three women. Barbillon and Nicholas Martial are as ferocious as
tigers, but cowardly as chickens."

"Tigers or chickens," said Borel, opening his long riding coat and
showing the butt-ends of two pistols, which stuck out of his trousers
pockets, "I have something here to serve them."

"You will do well to take two of your men with you, M. Borel; when
they find themselves cornered, the greatest cowards become sometimes
tigers."

"I will place two of my men in the little lower room, alongside of the
one where you will put the broker. At the first cry, I will appear at
one door, my two men at the other."

"You must make haste, for the band may arrive any moment, M. Borel."

"So be it; I go to place my men. I hope it will not be for nothing
this time."

The conversation was interrupted by the concerted signal. Bras-Rouge
looked out of a window to see whom Tortillard announced.

"Look! here is La Chouette, already! Well! do you believe me now, M.
Narcisse?"

"This is something, but not all; we shall see. I go to place my men."

The detective disappeared through a side door.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

SCREECH-OWL.


Her rapidity of step, the ferocious ardor of a desire for rapine and
murder which she still possessed, had flushed her hideous visage; her
one green eye sparkled with savage joy.

Tortillard followed her, jumping and limping. Just as she was
descending the last steps of the stairs, the son of Bras-Rouge,
through a wicked frolic, placed his foot on the trailing folds of La
Chouette's dress. This caused the old woman to stumble; not being able
to catch hold of the balusters, she fell on her knees, her hands both
stretched out, abandoning her precious basket, from whence escaped a
golden bracelet set with diamonds and fine pearls. La Chouette,
having, in her fall, excoriated her fingers a little, picked up the
bracelet, which had not escaped the quick eyesight of Tortillard, rose
and threw herself furiously on the little cripple, who approached her
with a hypocritical air, saying, "Oh! bless us! your foot slipped!"

Without answering, La Chouette seized him by the hair, and, stooping
down, bit him in the cheek; the blood spurted from the wound. Strange
as it may appear, Tortillard, notwithstanding his wickedness, and the
great pain he endured, uttered not a complaint nor cry. He wiped his
bleeding face, and said, with a forced laugh:

"I would rather you would not kiss me so hard another time, La
Chouette."

"Wicked little devil, why did you step on my gown to make me fall?"

"I? Oh, now! I swear to you that I did not do it on purpose, my good
Chouette; as if your little Tortillard would wish to hurt you; he
loves you too well for that. You did well to beat him, affront him,
bite him; he is attached to you like a poor little dog to his master,"
said the child in a caressing and coaxing voice.

Deceived by the hypocrisy, La Chouette answered, "Very well! if I have
bitten you wrongfully, it shall be punishment for some other time,
when you have deserved it. Come, to-day I bear no malice. Where is
your cheat of a father?"

"In the house; shall I call him?"

"No; have the Martials come yet?"

"Not yet."

"Then I have time to go and see my man; I want to speak to old
No-eyes."

"Are you going to the cellar?" asked Tortillard, hardly concealing his
diabolical joy.

"What is that to you?"

"To me?"

"Yes; you asked me that in such a droll way."

"Because I thought of something funny."

"What?"

"That you must have brought a pack of cards along to amuse him,"
answered Tortillard, in a cunning manner; "it will be a little change
for him; he only plays at biting with the rats; in that game he always
wins, and in the end it tires him."

La Chouette laughed violently at this witticism, and said to the
little cripple, "Mamma's little monkey. I do not know a blackguard
that is more wicked than you are. You little rogue, go, get me a
candle; you shall light me down, help me to open his door; you know
that I can't move it alone."

"Oh, no, it is too dark in the cellar," said Tortillard, shaking his
head.

"How? you, as wicked as the devil, a coward; I would like to see that!
Come, go quick, and say to your father, I will soon return; that I am
with my pet; that we are talking about the publication of our bans of
marriage," added the monster, chuckling. "Come, make haste, you shall
be groomsman, and if you are a good boy, you shall have my garter."

Tortillard went to get a light, and La Chouette, elated with the
success of her robbery, amused herself while he was gone in handling
the precious jewels in her basket. It was to conceal temporarily this
treasure that she wished to visit the Schoolmaster in his cellar, and
not to torment, as was her usual custom, her victim. We will mention
presently why, with the consent of Bras-Rouge, La Chouette had
confined the Schoolmaster in the subterranean hole.

Tortillard, holding a light, reappeared at the cellar door. La
Chouette followed him to the lower room, into which opened the large
trap-door already described.

The son of Bras-Rouge, protecting his light with the hollow of his
hand, and preceding the old woman, descended slowly a flight of steep
stone steps, leading to the entrance of the cellar.

Arrived at the foot, Tortillard appeared to hesitate about following
La Chouette.

"Well! lazybones, go on," said she, turning round.

"It is so dark, and besides, you go so fast, La Chouette; I'd rather
go back, and leave you the candle."

"And the door, imbecile? Can I open it alone! Will you go on?"

"No, I am too much afraid."

"If I come to you, take care."

"Oh, now you threaten me, I'll go back."

And he retreated a few steps.

"Well! listen; be a good boy," answered La Chouette, restraining her
anger, "I will give you something."

"Very well," said the boy, drawing near, "speak so to me, and you will
make me do all you can wish, Mother Chouette."

"Look alive, I am in a hurry."

"Yes, but promise that you will let me torment the Schoolmaster."

"Some other day; now I have no time."

"Only a little; just to make him foam."

"Some other time, I say; I must return at once."

"Why, then, do you open the door of his prison?"

"None of your business. Come, now, will you finish? The Martials,
perhaps, are already above; I want to speak to them. Be a good boy,
and you sha'n't be sorry; go on."

"I must love you well, La Chouette, for you can make me do just as you
please," said Tortillard, advancing slowly. The trembling, sickly
light of the candle, only made darkness visible in this gloomy
passage, reflecting the black shadow of the hideous boy on the green
and crumbling walls streaming with humidity.

At the end of the passage, through the obscurity, could be perceived
the low, broken arch of the entrance to the cellar, its heavy door
secured with bands of iron, and contrasting strongly in the shade with
the plaid shawl and white bonnet of La Chouette.

With their united efforts, the door opened, creaking, on its rusty
hinges. A puff of humid vapor escaped from this hole, which was as
dark as night.

The candle, placed on the ground, cast a ray of light on the first
steps of the stone staircase, while the lower part was lost in total
obscurity.

A cry, or rather a savage howl, came up from the depths of the cellar.

"Oh, there is my darling, who says 'good-day' to his mamma," said La
Chouette, ironically; and she descended a few steps to conceal her
prize in some corner.

"I am hungry!" cried the Schoolmaster, in a voice trembling with rage;
"do you mean I am to die here like a mad beast?"

"You are hungry, poor puss!" said La Chouette, shouting with laughter.
"Well, suck your thumb!"

The noise of a chain shaken violently was heard; then a sigh of
restrained rage.

"Take care! take care! you will hurt your leg, poor dear papa!" said
Tortillard.

"The child is right; keep quiet, old pal," said the old woman; "the
chain and rings are strong, old No-eyes; they come from old Micou, who
only sells first rate articles. It is your own fault; for why did you
allow yourself to be tied when you were asleep? Afterward there was
nothing to be done, but to slip on the chain, and bring you down here,
in this nice cool place, to preserve you, my sweet!"

"It's a shame--he'll grow mouldy," said Tortillard.

The chains were heard rattling anew.

"Oh, oh! he jumps like a ladybird, tied by the paw," cried the old
woman. "I think I can see him."

"Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home! your house is on fire, and the
Schoolmaster is burning!" chanted Tortillard.

This variation augmented the hilarity of La Chouette. Having placed
her basket in a hole under one of the steps, she said, "Look here, my
man."

"He does not see," answered Tortillard.

"The boy is right. Ah, well! Do you hear? You should not have hindered
me, when we returned from the farm, from washing Pegriotte's face with
vitriol. You should not have played the good dog, simpleton. And then,
to talk of your conscience, which was becoming prudish. I saw that
your cake was all dough; that some day or other you might peach,
Mister Eyeless, and then--"

"Old No-eyes will nip you, Screech-Owl, for he is hungry," cried
Tortillard, suddenly, pushing, with all his strength, the old woman by
the back.

La Chouette fell forward, uttering a dreadful imprecation, and rolled
to the foot of the steps.

"Lick 'em, Towser! La Chouette is yours! Jump on her, old man," added
Tortillard.

Then, seizing hold of the basket, which he had seen the old woman
hide, he ran up the stairs precipitately, crying with savage joy,
"There is a push worth double what I gave you a while ago, La
Chouette! This time you can't bite me. Oh! you thought I didn't care;
thank you, I bleed still."

"I have her, oh, I have her!" cried the Schoolmaster from the depths
of the cellar.

"If you have her, old man, fair play," said the boy, chuckling, as he
stopped on the top step of the staircase.

"Help!" cried La Chouette, in a strangled voice.

"Thank you, Tortillard," answered the Schoolmaster; "thank you," and he
uttered an aspiration of fearful joy.

"Oh! I pardon you the harm you have done me, and to reward you, you
shall hear La Chouette sing! Listen to the bird of death--'

"Bravo, bravo! here am I in the dress circle, private box," said
Tortillard, seating himself at the top of the stairs. He raised the
light to endeavor to see what was going on in the cellar, but the
darkness was too great; so faint a light could not dissipate it.
Bras-Rouge's hopeful could distinguish nothing. The struggle between
the Schoolmaster and La Chouette was silent and furious, without a
word, without a cry. Only, from time to time, could be heard a hard
breathing or suffocating respiration, which always accompanies violent
and continued struggles.

Tortillard, seated on the stone step, began to stamp his feet in the
manner peculiar to spectators anxious for the commencement of a play;
then he uttered the familiar cry of the "gods" in the penny-gaffs.
"Hoist that rag! trot 'em out! Begin, begin! Music, music!"

"Oh, I have you as I wish," murmured the Schoolmaster from the bottom
of the cellar, "and you shall--"

A desperate movement of La Chouette interrupted him. She struggled
with that energy which is caused by the fear of death.

"Speak up, we can't hear," cried Tortillard.

"You have a fine chance in my hand. I have you as I wish to have you,"
continued the Schoolmaster. Then, having doubtless succeeded in
holding La Chouette, he added, "That's it. Now listen--"

"Tortillard, call your father!" cried La Chouette, in a breathless,
exhausted tone. "Help, help!"

"Turn out that old woman! turn her out! We can't hear," said the
little cripple, screaming with laughter. "Silence! out with her!"

The cries of La Chouette could not reach the upper apartments. The
wretch, seeing she had no aid to expect from the son of Bras-Rouge,
tried a last effort.

"Tortillard, go for help; and I will give you my basket, it is full of
jewels. It is there under a stone."

"How generous you are! Thank you, ma'am! Don't you know that I have
your swag? Hold, don't you hear it jingle?" said Tortillard shaking
it. "But give me two sous to buy some hot cake and I'll go seek papa."

"Have pity on me, and I--" La Chouette could not proceed. Again there
was a pause.

The little cripple recommenced the stamping of his feet, and cried,
"Why don't you begin? Up with the curtain! Go ahead, will you, now?
Music, music!"

"La Chouette, you can no longer deafen me with your cries," said the
Schoolmaster, after some minutes, during which he had succeeded in
gagging the old woman. "You know well," resumed he, in a slow and
hollow tone, "that I do not wish to finish you at once. Torture for
torture. You have made me suffer enough. I must talk to you a long
time before I kill you--yes, a long time. It will be frightful for
you! What agony!"

"Come, none of your nonsense, old man," cried Tortillard, half rising.
"Correct her; but do not hurt her. You speak of killing her; it's only
a joke, is it not! I like my Chouette. I have lent her to you, but you
must return her to me. Don't damage her. I will not have any one harm
my Chouette, or I will go and call papa."

"Be not alarmed; she shall only have what she deserves--a profitable
lesson," said the robber, to reassure Tortillard, fearing that the
cripple would go for help.

"Very good! bravo! Now the play begins," said the boy, who did not
believe that the Schoolmaster seriously meditated to destroy La
Chouette.

"Let us talk a little," resumed the Schoolmaster, in a calm voice, to
the old woman. "In the first place, since a dream I had at the farm of
Bouqueval, which brought before my eyes all our crimes, which almost
made me mad, which will make me mad--for in the solitude and profound
state of isolation in which I live, all my thoughts, in spite of
myself, tend toward this dream--a strange change has taken place
within me. Yes, I have thought with horror of my past wickedness. In
the first place, I did not allow you to disfigure the Goualeuse. That
was nothing. By chaining me here in this cave, by making me suffer
cold and hunger, but by delivering me from your provocation, you have
left me alone to all the horrors of my thoughts. Oh! you do not know
what it is to be alone, always alone, with a black veil over the eyes,
as the implacable man said who punished me." (This was Rudolph who had
had him blinded.) "It is fearful! See now! In this cellar I wished to
kill him, but this cellar is the place of my punishment. It will be
perhaps my grave!

"I repeat to you, this is frightful. All that man predicted is
realized. He told me: 'You have abused your strength: you shall be the
plaything of the weakest.' This has been. He told me: 'Henceforth,
separated from the exterior world, face to face with the eternal
remembrance of your crimes, one day you will repent them.' That day
has arrived; solitude has confirmed it. I could not have thought it
possible. Another proof that I am, perhaps, less wicked than formerly,
is, that I experience an indescribable joy in holding you there,
monster, not to avenge myself, but to avenge our victims. Yes, I shall
have accomplished a duty, when, with my own hand, I shall have
punished my accomplice. A voice tells me, that if you had fallen
sooner into my power, much blood might have been spared. I feel now a
horror of my past murders, and yet, strange! it is without fear, it is
with security that I intend to execute on you a frightful murder, with
horrible refinement of cruelty. Speak, speak! can you realize this?"

"Bravo, bravo! well played, first old man. You warm up," cried
Tortillard, applauding. "This is only a joke, though?"

"Only a joke?" answered the Schoolmaster, in a hollow voice. "Be
still, La Chouette; I must finish explaining to you how, little by
little, I came to repent. This revelation will be odious to you, heart
of iron, and it will also prove to you how merciless I ought to be in
the vengeance I wish to exercise on you in the name of our victims. I
must hurry on. The joy of having you thus makes my blood run wild, my
head throb with violence, as when I think of my dream. My mind
wanders; perhaps one of my attacks is coming on; but I shall have time
to render the approaches of death more frightful, in forcing you to
hear me."

"Bold, La Chouette!" cried Tortillard; "be bold with your answer.
Don't you know your part? Come, tell the devil to prompt you, my old
dear."

"Oh! you do well to struggle and bite," said the Schoolmaster, after a
pause; "you shall not escape; you have cut my ringers to the bone, but
I will tear your tongue out if you stir. Let us continue to converse.

"On finding myself alone--constantly alone in obscurity and silence--I
began to have fits of furious rage; powerless, for the first time I
lost my senses, my head wandered. Yes, although awake, I have dreamed
the dream you know: the dream of the old man in the Rue de Roule--the
woman drowned--the drover--all murdered! and you, soaring above all
these phantoms! I tell you, it is frightful. I am blind; yet my
thoughts assume a form, a body, and represent continually to me in a
visible manner, almost palpable, the features of my victims.

"I should not have this fearful dream, but that my mind, continually
absorbed by the recollection of my past crimes, is troubled with the
same visions.

"Doubtless, when one is deprived of sight, besetting ideas trace
themselves almost materially on the brain. Yet, sometimes, by force of
contemplating them with resigned alarm, it seems to me that these
menacing specters have pity on me; they grow dim, fade away, and
disappear. Then I think I awake from a vivid dream; but I feel myself
weak, exhausted, broken, and will you believe it--oh! how you will
laugh, La Chouette--I weep--do you hear? I weep. You do not laugh? But
laugh! I say, laugh!" La Chouette uttered a stifled groan.

"Louder," cried Tortillard; "we can't hear."

"Yes," continued the Schoolmaster, "I wept, for I suffered, and rage
is fruitless. I say to myself, to-morrow, and to-morrow, forever I
shall be a prey to the same delirium, the same mournful desolation.
What a life! oh, what a life! Better I had chosen death, than to be
interred alive in this abyss, which incessantly racks my thoughts!
Blind, solitary, and a prisoner! what can distract my thoughts?
Nothing--nothing.

"When the phantoms cease for a moment to pass and repass on the black
veil which I have before my eyes, there are other tortures--there are
overwhelming comparisons. I say to myself, 'if I had remained an
honest man, at this moment I should be free, tranquil, happy, loved,
and honored by mine own, instead of being blind and chained in this
dungeon, at the mercy of my accomplices.'

"Alas! the regret of happiness, lost by crime, is the first step
toward repentance. And when to this repentance is added an expiation
of frightful severity--an expiation which changes life into a long
sleep filled with avenging hallucinations of desperate reflections,
perhaps then the pardon of man will follow remorse and expiation."

"Take care, old man!" cried Tortillard; "you are cutting into the
parson's part! Found out, found out!"

The Schoolmaster paid no attention. "Does it astonish you to hear me
talk thus, La Chouette? If I had continued to harden myself, either by
other bloody misdeeds, or by the savage drunkenness of a galley-slave's
life, this salutary change in me had never taken place, I know
well. But alone--blind--and tortured with a visible remorse, what
could I think of? New crimes--how commit them? An escape--how escape?
And if I escaped, where should I go--what should I do with my liberty?
No; I must henceforth live in eternal night, between the anguish of
repentance, and the alarm of horrifying apparitions by which I am
pursued. Yet sometimes a feeble ray of hope shines in the midst of the
gloom--a moment of calm succeeds to my torments: yes, for sometimes I
succeed in conjuring the specters which besiege me, by opposing to
them the recollections of a past life, honest and peaceful--by
carrying back my thoughts to the days of my childhood.

"Happily, you see the blackest villains have had, at least, some years
of peace and innocence to offer in opposition to their long years of
crime and blood. We are not born wicked.

"The most perverse have had the amiable simplicity of childhood--have
known the sweet joys of that charming age. So, I repeat, sometimes I
feel a bitter consolation in saying, 'Though I am at this moment the
object of universal execration, there was a time when I was beloved
and cherished, because I was inoffensive and good.'

"Alas! I must take refuge in the past, when I can; there alone can I
find any repose."

On pronouncing these last words, the voice of the Schoolmaster had
lost its roughness; the formidable man seemed profoundly affected; he
went on: "Now, you see, the salutary influence of these thoughts is
such that my rage is appeased; courage, strength, the will, all fail
me to punish you; no, it is not for me to shed your blood."

"Bravo, old one! Now you see, La Chouette, that it was only a joke,"
cried Tortillard, applauding.

"No, it is not for me to shed your blood," resumed the Schoolmaster;
"it would be a murder--excusable, perhaps, but still a murder; and I
have enough with three specters! And then, who knows, you, even you!
will repent some day."

Speaking thus, he mechanically relaxed his grasp.

La Chouette profited by it to seize hold of the dagger, which she had
placed in her bosom, after the murder of the countess, and to strike a
violent blow with it in order to disembarrass herself of him
altogether.

He uttered a cry of great anguish. The savage frenzy of his rage,
vengeance, and hatred, his sanguinary instincts suddenly aroused, and
exasperated at this attack, made an unexpected and terrible explosion,
under which his reason sunk, already much shattered by so many trials.

"Ah! viper, I felt your tooth!" cried he, in a voice trembling with
rage, and tightly grasping La Chouette, who had thought to escape.
"You crawl in the cellar," added he, more and more wandering, "but I
am going to crush you, Screech-Owl. You waited, doubtless, the coming
of the phantoms; my ears tingle, my head turns, as when they are about
to come. Yes, I am not deceived. Oh! there they are; out of the
darkness they approach--they approach! How pale they are, yet their
blood, how it flows, red and smoking. They frighten you--you struggle.
Oh, well! be tranquil, you shall not see them; I have pity on you; I
shall make you blind. You shall be like me, without eyes!" Here he
paused.

[Illustration: THE COUNTESS SARAH HAS JUST BEEN ASSASSINATED]

La Chouette uttered a yell so horrible that Tortillard, alarmed,
jumped from his seat, and stood erect.

The frightful screams of La Chouette seemed to increase the insanity
of the Schoolmaster.

"Sing," said he, in a low voice, "sing, La Chouette, sing your song of
death. You are happy; you will never more see the phantoms of our
victims; the old man of the Rue de la Roule, the drowned woman, the
drover. But I see them, they come; they touch me. Oh! how cold they
are, oh!"

The last spark of intelligence in this poor wretch was extinguished in
this cry of horror. Then he reasoned no more, spoke not; he behaved
and roared like a wild beast: he only obeyed the savage instinct of
destruction for destruction's sake. Horrible, frightful events took
place in the gloom of the cellar.

A quick, rapid tramping was heard, interrupted at frequent intervals
by a dull sound, like that of a bag of bones which rebounded on a
stone against which one wished to break it. Acute moans, and bursts of
infernal laughter, accompanied each of these blows. Then there was a
death-rattle of agony. Then nothing could be heard but the furious
trampling; nothing but the heavy and rebounding blows, which still
continued.

Soon a distant noise of footsteps and voices reached even to the
depths of the cellar. Numerous lights appeared at the extremity of the
subterranean passage. Tortillard, frozen with terror by the frightful
tragedy which he had heard, but not seen, perceived several persons
rapidly descend the staircase. In a moment, the cellar was invaded by
several police officers, at the head of whom was Narcisse Borel;
municipal guards closed the march. Tortillard was seized on the upper
steps of the cellar, holding still in his hand La Chouette's basket.

Narcisse Borel, followed by some of his men, descended into the
cellar. All stopped, struck with such a horrible spectacle. Chained by
the leg to an enormous stone placed in the middle of the dungeon, the
Schoolmaster, horrible, monstrous, his hair knotted, his beard long,
his mouth foaming, clothed with bloody rags, turned like a wild beast
around his dungeon, dragging after him, by the feet, the corpse of La
Chouette, whose head was horribly mutilated, broken, and crushed. It
needed a violent struggle to take from him the bleeding remains of his
accomplice, and to secure him.

After a vigorous resistance, they succeeded in transporting him to the
lower room of the tavern, a dull, gloomy apartment, lighted by a
single window. There were found, handcuffed and guarded, Barbillon,
Nicholas Martial, his mother and sister. They had been arrested just
at the moment they were dragging off the diamond broker to murder her.
She was recovering in another room. Stretched on the ground, and held,
with great difficulty, by two officers, the Schoolmaster, slightly
wounded in the arm by La Chouette, but completely insensible, roared
and bellowed like a baited bull. At times he almost raised himself
from the earth by his convulsive movements.

Barbillon, with lowered head, livid face, discolored lips, fixed and
savage eye, his long black hair falling on the collar of his blouse,
torn in the struggle, was seated on a bench; his arms, confined by
handcuffs, rested on his knees. The juvenile appearance of this
scoundrel (he was hardly eighteen), and the regularity of his
features, rendered still more deplorable the hideous stamp with which
debauchery and crime had marked his countenance. Unmoved, he said not
a word. This apparent insensibility was due to stupidity or to a
frigid energy; his breathing was rapid, and from time to time, with
his shackled hands, he wiped the sweat from his pale forehead.

Alongside of him was placed Calabash; her cap had been torn, her
yellowish hair, tied behind with a string, hung down her back in many
tangled and disordered tresses. More enraged than dispirited, her thin
and jaundiced cheeks somewhat colored, she regarded with disdain the
affliction of her brother Nicholas, placed on a chair opposite.

Foreseeing the fate which awaited him, this bandit, sinking within
himself, his head hanging, his knees trembling, was almost dead with
affright; his teeth chattered convulsively, and he uttered low and
mournful groans. Alone, among all, the widow, standing with her back
to the wail, had lost nothing of her audacity. With her head erect,
she cast a firm look around her. Her mask of bronze betrayed not the
slightest emotion. Yet, at the sight of Bras-Rouge, who was brought
into the lower room, after having assisted in the minute search which
the commissary had just made throughout the whole house--yet, at the
sight of Bras-Rouge, we repeat, the features of the widow contracted
in spite of herself; her small eyes, ordinarily dull, sparkled with
rage; her compressed lips became bloodless: she stiffened her manacled
hands. Then, as if she had regretted this mute manifestation of rage
and impotent hatred, she conquered her emotion, and became of icy
calmness.

While the commissary drew up his report, Narcisse Borel, rubbing his
hands, cast a complacent look on the important capture he had just
made, which delivered Paris from a band of dangerous criminals; but
feeling of what utility Bras-Rouge had been in this expedition, he
could not help expressing to him by a glance his gratitude.

The father of Tortillard was obliged to partake, until after their
judgment, the prison and fate of those whom he had denounced; like
them, he wore handcuffs; still more than them, he had a trembling,
alarmed air, uttering sorrowful groans, and giving to his weasel face
every expression of terror. He embraced Tortillard, as if he sought
some consolation in these paternal caresses.

The little cripple showed but little sensibility at these proofs of
tenderness; he had just learned that, until further orders, he was to
be sent to the prison for young offenders.

"What a misfortune to part with my darling son!" cried Bras-Rouge,
feigning to weep; "it is we who are the most unfortunate, Ma'am
Martial, for they separate us from our children."

The widow could no longer contain herself; not doubting the treason of
Bras-Rouge, which she had prophesied, she cried, "I was sure that you
sold my son who is at Toulon. There, Judas!" and she spat in his face.
"You sell our heads; so be it; they will see handsome corpses-corpses
of the real Martials!"

"Yes; we will not budge before the scaffold," added Calabash, with
savage pride.

The widow, pointing to Nicholas with a withering glance of contempt,
said to her daughter, "This coward will dishonor us on the scaffold!"

Some moments afterward, the widow and Calabash, accompanied by two
police, were placed in a cab and sent to Saint Lazare. The three men
were conducted to La Force. The Schoolmaster was transported to the
depot of the Conciergerie, where there are cells destined to receive
temporarily the insane.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE INTRODUCTION.


Some days after the murder of Mrs. Seraphin, the death of La Chouette,
and the arrest of the band of malefactors surprised at Bras-Rouge's,
Rudolph repaired to the house in the Rue du Temple.

We have said that--intending to overcome cunning by cunning, and to
expose the concealed crimes of Jacques Ferrand to the punishment they
merited, notwithstanding the address and hypocrisy with which he
disguised them--Rudolph had caused to be brought from her prison in
Germany a girl named Cecily.

She was a very beautiful quadroon, whose story ran briefly thus: Owned
by a Louisiana planter, he had refused permission for her to marry
another of his slaves, known as David, because he had, sultan-like,
set his own choice upon her. David, by intelligence, and a long stay
in France, had attained the position of surgeon on the plantation, and
resisted his master with all the strength of his love for the girl. He
was flogged, and Cecily locked up. At this juncture, Rudolph's yacht
was off the plantation. He heard the story, and, landing in the night
with a boat's crew, carried off David and Cecily in the planter's
teeth, leaving him a large sum in indemnification. The slaves were
wedded in France, but David won no happiness. He became Rudolph's
physician-in-chief, worthily filling the post; but Cecily's
three-part-white blood revolted at her union with a negro, and she
flung herself into the first arms open to her. Her life was a series
of scandals, so that David would have killed her; but Rudolph induced
him to prefer her life imprisonment in Germany. Thence she is now
brought.

Having arrived the evening previous, this creature, as handsome as she
was perverted, as enchanting as she was dangerous, had received
detailed instructions from Baron de Graun.

It will be remembered that after the last interview between Rudolph
and Mrs. Pipelet, the latter having adroitly proposed Cecily to Mrs.
Seraphin to replace Louise Morel as servant to the notary, the
housekeeper had willingly received her overtures, and promised to
speak on the subject to Jacques Ferrand, which she had done in terms
the most favorable to Cecily, the very same morning of the day on
which she (Mrs. Seraphin) had been drowned at Ravageurs' Island.

Rudolph went to learn the result of Cecily's offer. To his great
astonishment, on entering the lodge, he found, although it was eleven
o'clock in the morning, Pipelet in bed, and Anastasia standing beside
him, offering him drink.

Alfred, whose forehead and eyes disappeared under a formidable cotton
cap, not answering Anastasia, she concluded he was asleep, and closed
the curtains of his bed. On turning she saw Rudolph. Immediately she
carried, according to custom, the back of her open left hand against
her wig.

"Your servant, my prince of lodgers. You find me overturned, amazed,
grown thin! There are famous doings in the house, without counting
that Alfred has been in bed since yesterday."

"And what is the matter?"

"Why ask?"

"Why not?"

"Always the same. The monster yearns more and more after Alfred; he
alarms me so that I do not know what more to do."

"Cabrion again?"

"Again."

"He is the devil, then!"

"I shall begin to think so, M. Rudolph; for the blackguard always
guesses when I am out. Hardly do I turn on my heels than he is here on
the back of my darling, who does not know how to defend himself any
more than a child. Yesterday again, while I was gone to M. Ferrand's,
the notary's--there is the place to hear news--"

"And Cecily?" said Rudolph hastily. "I came to know--"

"Stop, my prince of lodgers; do not fluster me. I have so many things
to tell you that I shall lose myself if you break my thread."

"Well, I listen."

"In the first place, as concerns this house; just imagine that
yesterday they came and arrested Mother Burette."

"The pawnbroker on the second floor?"

"Yes. It appears that she had many droll trades besides that of a
pawnbroker! She was a fencess, melter-downess, shoplifteress,
smasheress, forgeress, coineress, everything that rhymes with
dishonestness. The worst of all is, that her old beau, Bras-Rouge, is
also arrested. I told you there was a real earthquake in the house."

"What! Bras-Rouge also arrested?"

"Yes; in his tavern on the Champs-Elysees. All are boxed, even to his
son Tortillard, the wicked little cripple. They say there has been a
whole heap of murderers there; that they were a band of assassins;
that La Chouette, one of the friends of old Burette, has been
strangled; and that if help had not arrived in time, Mathieu the
diamond broker would have been murdered. Ain't this news?"

"Bras-Rouge arrested! La Chouette dead!" said Rudolph to himself, with
astonishment. "Poor Fleur-de-Marie is avenged."

"So much for this. Without excepting the new infamy of Cabrion, I am
going at once to finish with that brigand. You will see what
impudence! When old Burette was arrested, and we knew that Bras-Rouge,
our landlord, was trapped, I said to my old darling, 'You must trot
right off to the proprietor, and tell him that Bras-Rouge is locked
up.' Alfred set out. At the end of two hours he came back to me, in
such a state--white as a sheet, and blowing like an ox!"

"What was the matter?"

"You shall see, M. Rudolph. Only fancy, that six steps from here is a
large white wall; my darling, on leaving the house, looked by chance
on this wall; what does he see written there with charcoal, in large
letters? 'Pipelet & Cabrion!'--the two names joined by a short
_and_. This mark of union with this scoundrel sticks in his
stomach the most. That began to upset him; ten steps further, what
does he see on the great door of the Temple? 'Pipelet & Cabrion!'
always with the sign of union. On he goes; at each step, M. Rudolph,
he saw written these cursed names on the walls of the houses, on the
doors, everywhere, 'Pipelet & Cabrion.' He began to see stars; he
thought every one was looking at him; he pulled his hat down to his
nose, he was so much ashamed. He went on the boulevard, thinking that
Cabrion had confined his indecencies to the Rue du Temple. All along
the boulevard, on each place where there was room to write, always
'Pipelet & Cabrion,' to the death! Finally, the poor dear man arrived
at the proprietor's so bewildered, that, after having stuttered and
stammered for a quarter of an hour, he could not understand one word
of all that Alfred said; so he sent him back, calling him an old
imbecile, and told him to send me to explain the thing. Alfred
retired, coming back by another route, in order to avoid the names he
had seen written on the walls. But--"

"Pipelet and Cabrion that road too?"

"As you say, my prince of lodgers. In this way the poor dear man
arrived, stupefied, amazed, wishing to exile himself. He told me his
story; I calmed him as well as I could. I left him, and went with
Cecily to the notary's. You think this is all? Oh, no! Hardly was my
back turned than Cabrion, who had watched my departure, had the
impudence to send here two great hussies who attacked Alfred. My hair
stands on an end. I will tell you all this directly. Let us finish
with the notary. I set out, then, in a coach with Cecily, as you are
advised. She wore her pretty German peasant's costume, 'as she had
just arrived, and had not time to change it,' as I was to tell M.
Ferrand. You will believe me, if you please, my prince of lodgers, I
have seen many pretty girls; I have seen myself in my springtime; but
never have I seen (myself included) a young person who could hold a
candle to Cecily. She has, above all, in the look of her large,
wicked, black eyes, something--I don't know what; but, for sure, there
is something striking. What eyes!

"Alfred is not tender, but the first time that she looked at him be
became as red as a carrot; for nothing in the world would he have
looked a second time--he wriggled on his chair for an hour afterward
as if he had been seated on a thorn; he told me afterward that the
look had recalled to his mind all the histories of that impudent
Bradamanti about the savagesses, which made him blush so much, my old
prude of an Alfred."

"But the notary? the notary?"

"Yes, M. Rudolph. It was about seven in the evening when we reached M.
Ferrand's; I told the porter to tell his master that Mrs. Pipelet was
there with the servant whom old Seraphin had spoken about, and told me
to bring. Hereupon the porter uttered a sigh, and asked me if I knew
what had happened to Mrs. Seraphin. I said no. Oh, M. Rudolph, here is
another earthquake!"

"What now?"

"Old Seraphin was drowned in an excursion to the country which she had
made with one of her relations."

"Drowned! A party to the country in winter?" said Rudolph, surprised.

"Yes, M. Rudolph, drowned. It astonishes me more than it grieves me;
for since the misfortune of poor Louise, whom she denounced, I hated
Seraphin. I said to myself, 'She is drowned, is she; after all, it
won't kill me.' That's my character."

"And M. Ferrand?"

"The porter at first said he thought I could not see his master, and
begged me to wait in the lodge, but at the end of a moment he returned
for me; we crossed the court, and entered a chamber. There was only a
single candle burning. The notary was seated at the chimney-corner,
where smoked the remains of a firebrand. What a hovel! I have never
seen M. Ferrand. Isn't he horrid? Here is another one who might in
vain have offered me the throne of Araby to prove false to Alfred."

"And did he appear struck with the beauty of Cecily?"

"Can any one know, with his green spectacles? such an old sacristan
ought to be no judge of women. Yet when we both entered, he made a
kind of start from his chair; it was, doubtless, astonishment at
seeing the Alsatian costume of Cecily; for she had (only ten million
times better) the air of one of those little broom girls, with her
short petticoats, and her pretty legs in blue stockings with red
clocks! my eye, what calves! and such slender ankles! and the little
foot! the notary was bewildered at seeing her."

"It was doubtless the strange costume which astonished him."

"Must think so; but the funny moment drew near. Happily I remembered
the maxim you taught me, M. Rudolph; it was my salvation."

"What maxim?"

"You know: 'Hide your desire if you want it granted.' Then I said to
myself, I must rid my prince of lodgers of his German, by placing her
with the master of Louise; and I said to the notary, without giving
him time to draw breath: 'Pardon me, sir, if my niece comes dressed in
the costume of her country; but she has just arrived: she has no other
clothes than these, and I have no means of getting her others, as it
would hardly be worth while; for we came only to thank you for having
said to Mrs. Seraphin that you would consent to see Cecily, from the
good recommendations I had given her: yet I do not think she can suit,
sir.'"

"Very well, Mrs. Pipelet."

"'Why will your niece not suit me?' said the notary, who, seated in
the chimney-corner, seemed to look at us from under his spectacles.
'Because Cecily begins to be home-sick, sir. She has only been here
three days, yet she wishes to return, even if she has to beg her way
back, and sell brooms like her countrywomen.' 'But you, her relation,
will not suffer this?' 'I am her relation, it is true; but she is an
orphan; she is twenty years old, and she is mistress of her own
actions.' 'Bah! bah! mistress of her own actions; at her age she
should obey her relation,' answered he, roughly.

"Hereupon Cecily began to cry and tremble, pressing against me; the
notary made her afraid, very likely."

"And Ferrand?"

"He grumbled and muttered: 'To abandon a girl at her age is to ruin
her. To return to Germany as a beggar, it is fine! Do you, her aunt,
allow such conduct?' 'Well, well,' said I to myself, 'you're right.
I'll place Cecily with you, or I'll lose my name.' 'I am her aunt, it
is true,' answered I, 'but it is a very unfortunate relationship for
me; I have enough on my hands; I would be just as well pleased to have
my niece go away as to have her on my hands. May Old Nick run away
with such relations who send you such great girls as this without
paying the postage.' To crown all, there was Cecily, who seemed to be
up to trap, bursting into tears. Thereupon the notary assumed a
sniveling tone, like a preacher, and said to me: 'You will have to
account above for the trust that Providence has placed in your hands;
it would be a crime to expose this young girl to perdition. I consent
to aid you in your charitable work, if your niece promises me to be
industrious, honest, and pious; and above all, never to go out. I will
have pity on her, and take her in my service.' 'No, no, I would rather
go back to my country,' said Cecily, still weeping."

"Her dangerous duplicity did not fail her," thought Rudolph; "the
diabolical creature has, I see, perfectly comprised the orders of
Baron de Graun."

Then the prince said aloud, "Did Ferrand appear vexed at the
perverseness of Cecily?"

"Yes, M. Rudolph; he muttered between his teeth, and said to her
hastily, 'It is not a question, mademoiselle, of what you prefer, but
of what is suitable and decent Heaven will not abandon you, if you
lead an honest life and fulfill your religious duties. You will be
here in a house as strict as holy; if your aunt really loves you, she
will profit by my offer; at first you will have but small wages, but
if by your conduct and zeal you deserve more, perhaps I will increase
them."

"Good! thought I to myself; the notary is caught! here is Cecily fixed
at your house, you heartless old miser. Seraphin was in your service
for many years, and you have not even the appearance of remembering
that she was drowned the day before yesterday. And I said aloud:
'Doubtless, sir, the place is advantageous, but if the young woman is
homesick?' 'That will pass away,' answered the notary; 'come, do you
decide--yes or no? If you consent, bring your niece to-morrow night at
this hour, and she can enter at once into my service--my porter will
instruct her. As to wages, I commence by giving her twenty francs a
month and board and lodging.' 'Oh, sir, you'll add five francs more?'
'No, by and by--if I am content--we shall see. But I must inform you,
that your niece must never go out, and must have no one to come and
see her.' 'Oh, sir, who would come to see her? She knows no one but me
in Paris, and I have my own door to take care of; it has incommoded me
enough to come with her to-day-you will never see me again-she will be
as much of a stranger as if she had never come out of her own country.
As to her not going out, there is a very simple way--let her wear her
own costume; she would never dare go out in the street dressed in that
outdacious manner.' 'You are right,' said the notary; 'it is, besides,
respectable to dress in the costume of one's country. She may, then,
remain in her Alsatian dress. 'Come,' said I to Cecily, who, with her
head down, wept continually; 'you must decide, my child; a good place,
in an honest house, is not to be found every day; besides, if you
refuse, you must make your own arrangements; I'll have no more to do
with them.' Then Cecily answered sighing, 'that she consented to
remain; but on condition that if in a fortnight her homesickness
troubled her too much, she might go away.' 'I do not wish to keep you
by force,' said the notary; 'and I am not embarrassed to find
servants. Here is your handsel; your aunt will only have to bring you
to-morrow night.' Cecily had not ceased to weep. I accepted for her
the advance of forty sous from the old screw, and we returned here."

"Very well, Mrs. Pipelet; I do not forget my promise. Here is what I
promised if you should succeed in getting a situation for this girl,
who embarrassed me."

"Wait until to-morrow, my prince of lodgers," said Mrs. Pipelet,
refusing the money; "for, perhaps, he will change his mind when I take
Cecily to him this evening."

"I do not think he will change his mind; but where is she?"

"In the cabinet belonging to M. Robert's apartments; in obedience to
your orders she does not stir from them; she seems as resigned as a
lamb, although she has eyes--oh! what eyes! But, apropos of M. Robert,
isn't he an intriguer? When he came himself to superintend the packing
of his furniture, did he not tell me that if there came any letters
here addressed to Madame Vincent, they were for him, and to send them
to No. 5 Rue Mondovi. He to be addressed under the name of a woman,
the beautiful bird! how cunning it is! But this is not all; did he not
have the impudence to ask me what had become of his wood? 'Your wood!
why not your forest at once?' I answered. Now it is true, for two mean
cart-loads of nothing at all--one of drift and the other new wood, for
he did not buy all new wood--the save-penny made a fuss! His wood? 'I
burned all your wood,' said I, 'to save your furniture from the damp;
otherwise mushrooms would have sprung up on your embroidered cap, and
on your glowworm robe de chambre that you wore so often while you were
waiting for the little lady who quizzed you."

A heavy plaintive groan from Alfred interrupted. "There is my beauty
dreaming, he is going to wake up; you will allow me, my prince of
lodgers?"

"Certainly; I have, besides, some more questions to ask."

"Well! my sweet, how do you feel?" said Mrs. Pipelet to her husband,
opening the curtains; "here is M. Rudolph! he knows the new infamy of
Cabrion: he pities you with all his heart."

"Oh, sir!" said Alfred, turning his head in a languishing manner
toward Rudolph; "this time I shall not get over it; the monster has
stabbed me to the heart. I am the subject of the placards of the
capital; my name can be read on all the walls side by side with this
scoundrel's. 'Pipelet & Cabrion,' with an enormous _and_! I!
united to this infernal blackguard in the eyes of the capital of
Europe!"

"M. Rudolph knows it; but what he does not know is your adventure of
last night with those two strapping women."

"Oh! sir, he kept his most monstrous infamy for the last; this passed
all bounds," said Alfred, in a mournful tone.

"Come, my dear M. Pipelet, relate to me this new misfortune."

"All he had done previously was nothing to this, sir. He succeeded in
his object--thanks to proceedings the most shameful. I do not know if
I have the strength to relate it! confusion and shame will impede me
at each step."

Pipelet being painfully raised in the bed, modestly buttoned up his
flannel waistcoat, and commenced in these terms: "My wide had just
gone out; absorbed in the bitterness caused by the prostitution of my
name written on all the walls of the capital, I sought to distract
myself by endeavoring to sole a boot, twenty times taken up and twenty
times abandoned, thanks to the obstinate persecutions of my tormentor.
I was seated before a table when I saw the door of my lodge open, and
a woman enter. This woman was wrapped in a cloak, with a hood; I arose
politely from my seat, and touched my hat. At this moment, a second
woman, also enveloped in a cloak with a hood, entered my lodge, and
locked the door inside.

"Although astonished at the familiarity of this procedure, and the
silence which the two women preserved, I again rose from my chair, and
again carried my hand to my hat. Then, sir; no, no, I never can--my
modesty revolts."

"Come, Old Modesty, you are among men; go on then!"

"Then," resumed Alfred, becoming crimson, "the mantles fell, and what
did I see? Two species of sirens or nymphs, with no other clothing
than a tunic of leaves, the head also crowned with foliage; I was
petrified. Then they both advanced toward me, extending their arms, if
to invite me to precipitate myself into them."

"The hussies!" said Anastasia.

"The advances of these barefaced individuals revolted me," resumed
Alfred, animated by chaste indignation; "and, following habit, which
never abandons me in the most critical circumstances of my life, I
remained completely immovable on my chair; when, profiting by my
stupor, the two sirens approached me by a kind of slow whirl, spinning
round on their legs, and moving their arms. I became more and more
immovable. They reached me, they twisted their arms around me."

"Twisted their arms around an aged married man! Oh, if I had been
there with my broomstick," cried Anastasia, "I'd have given a cadence,
and spinning of legs to some purpose."

"When I felt myself embraced," continued Alfred, "my blood made one
rush--I was half dead. Then one of the sirens--the boldest, a large,
tall blonde--leaned on my shoulder, raised my hat, and uncovered my
head, all to music, spinning on her legs and moving her arms; then her
accomplice drew a pair of scissors from among the leaves, collected
together an enormous lock of all the hair that remained behind my
head, and cut it off. All, sir, all; always with the spinning around
on her legs; then she said to me, singing, 'It is for Cabrion!' and
the other impudence repeated in chorus, 'It is for Cabrion! It is for
Cabrion!'"

After a pause, accompanied by a grievous sigh, Alfred went on with his
story:

"During this scandalous spoliation, I raised my eyes, and saw looking
through the window of the lodge the infernal face of Cabrion, with his
beard and pointed hat. He laughed, he was hideous! To escape this
odious vision, I shut my eyes. When I opened them again, all had
disappeared. I found myself on my chair, my head uncovered, and
completely devastated! You see, sir, Cabrion has gained his end by
force of cunning, audacity, and obstinacy; and by what means! He
wished to make me pass for his friend; he began by putting up a notice
here that we would carry on a friendly trade together. Not content
with that, at this very moment my name is connected with his on all
the walls of the capital. There is not, at this moment, an inhabitant
of Paris who can have any doubt of my intimacy with this wretch; he
wished some of my hair, he has it; all thanks to the impudent
exactions of these brazen sirens. Now, sir, you must see, there only
remains for me a flight from France--ma belle France! where I thought
to live and die."

Alfred threw himself backward on his bed, and clasped his hands.

"But just the contrary, old darling; now that he has your hair, he
will leave you quiet."

"Leave me quiet!" cried Pipelet, with a convulsive start; "but you do
not know him; he is insatiable. Now who knows what he will next want
from me?"

Rigolette, appearing at the entrance of the lodge, put an end to the
lamentations.

"Do not enter, mademoiselle!" cried Pipelet, faithful to his habits of
chaste susceptibility. "I am in bed." So saying, he drew one of the
sheets to his chin. Rigolette stopped discreetly at the threshold.

"I was just going to see you, neighbor," said Rudolph to her. "Will
you wait one moment?" Then, addressing Anastasia, "Do not forget to
conduct Cecily to-night to M. Ferrand's."

"Be tranquil, my prince of lodgers; at seven o'clock she shall be
installed there. Now that Madame Morel can walk, I will ask her to
stay in the lodge, for Alfred would not, for an empire, remain alone."

The rosy cheeks of Rigolette had become paler and paler; her charming
face, until now so fresh, so round, had lengthened a little; her
piquant countenance, ordinarily so animated and lively, was become
serious and still more sad since the last interview between the
grisette and Fleur-de-Marie at the gate of the prison of Saint Lazare.

"How happy I am to see you, neighbor," said she to Rudolph, when he
came out of the lodge. "I have many things to tell you."

"In the first place, how do you do? Let me look at your pretty face.
Is it still gay and rosy? Alas! no; I find you pale. I am sure you
work too much."

"Oh! no, M. Rudolph; I assure you I am now used to this little
increase of work. What changes me is grief. Every time I see poor
Germain I become still more sad."

"He is then very much depressed?"

"More than ever, M. Rudolph; and what is annoying is, that everything
that I do to console him increases his despondency; it is like a
spell." A tear obscured her large black eyes.

"Explain this to me."

"For instance, yesterday I went to see him to take a book he wished to
have, because it was a romance that we used to read together in our
happy days. At the sight of this book, he burst into tears, which did
not surprise me, it was very natural. Dear memento of our evenings, so
quiet, so pleasant, seated by my stove, in my snug little room, to
compare with this frightful life in prison. Poor Germain! it is very
cruel!"

"Be comforted," said Rudolph to the young girl. "When Germain gets out
of prison, and his innocence is acknowledged, be will find his mother
and friends, and he will soon forget, in their society and yours, the
terrible moments of trial."

"Yes, but until then, M. Rudolph, he is going to be still more
tormented. And besides, this is not all."

"What is there besides?"

"As he is the only honest man among all these bandits, they are
prejudiced against him, because he cannot agree with them. A turnkey,
a very good man, told me to advise Germain, for his own sake, to be
less proud, to try to be a little more familiar with the men; but he
cannot. They are stronger than he is, and I fear that some day they
will injure him." Then, suddenly, interrupting herself, she said,
drying her tears, "But see now, I only think of myself, and forget to
speak to you about La Goualeuse."

"La Goualeuse?" said Rudolph, with surprise.

"The day before yesterday, on going to see Louise at Saint Lazare, I
met her."

"The Goualeuse?"

"Yes, M. Rudolph."

"In Saint Lazare?"

"She came out with an old lady."

"It is impossible!" cried Rudolph, astonished.

"I assure you it was she, neighbor."

"You must be mistaken."

"No, no; although she was dressed as a peasant girl, I knew her at
once. She is still very handsome, although pale; and she has the same
soft, melancholy manner as formerly."

"Come to Paris without my knowledge! I cannot believe it. What was she
doing at Saint Lazare?"

"The same as I was; visiting a prisoner, doubtless. I had no time to
ask more questions; the old woman who accompanied her had such a cross
look, and was in such a hurry. So you know La Goualeuse also, M.
Rudolph?"

"Certainly."

"Then, there is no more doubt that it is you of whom she spoke."

"Of me?"

"Yes. I related to her the misfortunes of Louise and Germain, both so
good, so virtuous, and so persecuted by that villain Jacques Ferrand,
taking care not to tell what you forbid, that you interested yourself
in them; then La Goualeuse told me that if a generous person whom she
knew was informed of the unhappy and undeserved fate of my poor
prisoners, he would certainly come to their assistance. I asked the
name of this person, and she named you, M. Rudolph."

"It is she, it is she!"

"You may suppose that we were both much astonished at this discovery,
or resemblance of names. We promised to write if our Rudolph was the
same person. And it appears that you are the same, M. Rudolph."

"Yes. I have also interested myself for this poor child. But what you
have told me of her presence in Paris surprises me so much that if you
had not given me so many details of your interview with her, I should
have persisted in believing that you were mistaken. But, adieu,
neighbor; what you have just told me about La Goualeuse obliges me to
leave you. Remain still reserved toward Louise and Germain as regards
the protection of unknown friends. This secrecy is more necessary than
ever. Apropos, how are the Morel family?"

"Better and better, M. Rudolph. The mother is on her feet again; the
children improve daily. All owe their life to you--their happiness.
You are so generous to them!"

"And how is poor Morel?"

"Better. I had news from him yesterday. He seems occasionally to have
some lucid moments; there is great hope of restoring him to reason."

"Come, courage: I shall soon see you again. Have you need of anything?
Do you still earn enough to support yourself?"

"Oh, yes, M. Rudolph; I take a little from my hours of rest, and it is
not much damage for I hardly sleep now."

"Alas! my poor little neighbor, I much fear that Papa Cretu and
Ramonette will not sing much more if they wait for you to begin."

"You are not mistaken, M. Rudolph; my birds and I sing no more, for--
now you are going to laugh! well, it seems to me that they comprehend
that I am sad; yes, instead of warbling gayly when I arrive, they
utter such low, plaintive notes, that they appear to wish to console
me. I am foolish to believe this, am I not, M. Rudolph?"

"Not at all: I am sure that your good friends, the birds, love you too
much not to perceive your sorrow."

"Really, the poor little things are so intelligent!" said Rigolette,
naively, much satisfied at being assured of the sagacity of the
companions of her solitude.

"Without doubt, nothing is more intelligent than gratitude. Come, once
more, adieu. Soon, neighbor, I hope your pretty eyes will become
sparkling, your cheeks very rosy, and your songs so gay--so gay--that
Papa Cretu and Ramonette will hardly be able to follow you."

"May what you have said be true, M. Rudolph," answered Rigolette, with
a heavy sigh. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye, for the present!"

Rudolph could not comprehend how Madame George had, without advising
him, sent or brought Fleur-de-Marie to Paris; he returned home, to
send an express to the farm at Bouqueval. The moment he entered the
Rue de Plumet, he saw a postchaise stop before the door of the hotel;
it was Murphy, who had just returned from Normandy. The squire had
gone there, as we have stated, to unmask the sinister projects of the
step-mother of Madame d'Harville, and Bradamanti, her accomplice.



CHAPTER XL.

MURPHY AND POLIDORI.


Radiant with joy was the face of Sir Walter Murphy. On descending from
the carriage, he handed to one of the servants a pair of pistols, took
off his long riding, coat, and, without losing time to change his
dress, he followed Rudolph, who, very impatient, had preceded him to
his apartment.

"Good news, your highness, good news!" cried the squire, when he found
himself alone with Rudolph. "The wretches are unmasked! Lord d'Orbigny
is saved! You sent me off in time; one hour later, a new crime would
have been committed."

"And Madame d'Harville?"

"She is overjoyed at regaining her father's affection, and at having
arrived in time, thanks in your advice, to save him from certain
death."

"Polidori?"

"Was once more the worthy accomplice of the stepmother of Madame
d'Harville. But what a monster is this step-mother! what audacity! And
Polidori! Oh, my lord, you have often been pleased to thank me for
what you call the proofs of my devotedness."

"I have always had proofs of your friendship, my good Sir Walter."

"Well, never, your highness, never--no, never has this friendship been
put to a severer test than in this affair," said the squire, in a half
joking manner.

"How is that?"

"Disguises as coalheavers, and so on, were nothing, absolutely
nothing, compared to the journey I have just made with this infernal
Polidori."

"What do you say? Polidori--"

"I have brought him with me."

"With you?"

"With me. Judge what a companion! during twelve hours, side by side
with the man I despise and hate the most in the world! I would as soon
travel with a serpent; my antipathy--"

"And where is Polidori now?"

"In the house of the Allee des Veuves, under good, sure guard."

"Did he make no resistance to following you?"

"None. I left him the choice of being arrested on the spot by the
French authorities, or being my prisoner in the Allee des Veuves. He
did not hesitate."

"You were right; it is better to have him thus in our own hands. You
are a man of gold, my friend; but relate to me your journey; I am
impatient to know how this unworthy woman and her depraved accomplice
have been unmasked."

"Nothing could be plainer. I had only to follow your instructions to
the letter to terrify and crush these wretches. In this case, your
highness has saved, as usual, people of worth, and punished the
wicked; noble Providence that you are!"

"Sir Walter, Sir Walter, do you remember the flatteries of Baron de
Graun?" said Rudolph, smiling.

"Well, let it pass. I will commence then; or, rather, you will first
please to read this letter, from Madame d'Harville, which will inform
you of all that occurred previous to my arrival."

"A letter? give it to me quickly."

Murphy, handing Rudolph the letter, added, "As it was agreed upon,
instead of accompanying the lady to her father's I alighted at an inn,
a short distance from the chateau, where I was to stay until her
ladyship sent for me."

Rudolph read what follows, with tender and impatient solicitude:

"YOUR HIGHNESS,--To all I owe you already, I add the life of my
father!

"I shall let facts speak for themselves; they will tell you better
than I can, what new treasures of gratitude toward you I have
collected in my heart.

"Comprehending all the importance of the counsels which you gave me
through Sir Walter Murphy, who rejoined me on the road to Normandy,
just as I left Paris, I arrived in all haste at the Chateau des
Aubiers.

"I do not know why, but the features of the servants who received me
appeared sinister; I did not see among them any of the old servitors
of our house; no one knew me; I was obliged to announce myself. I
learned that, some days before, my father was quite ill, and my
stepmother had just returned from Paris with a physician. No more
doubt--it was Dr. Polidori!

"Wishing to be conducted at once to my father, I asked where an old
valet was, to whom he was much attached. This man had left the chateau
some time before; this information was given me by a butler, who had
conducted me to my apartments, saying 'that he would go and inform my
step-mother of my arrival.'

"Was it an illusion or prejudice? it seemed to me that my arrival was
disagreeable even to the servants. Everything in the chateau seemed
mournful and sad. In the disposition of mind in which I found myself,
one seeks to draw conclusions from the merest trifles. I remarked
everywhere traces of disorder, of negligence, as if it had been
thought useless to take care of a dwelling so soon to be abandoned.

"My anxiety increased each moment. After having settled my daughter
and her governess in my apartment, I was about to go to my father when
my step-mother entered. Notwithstanding her duplicity and the command
which she ordinarily has over herself, she appeared uneasy at my
arrival.

"M. d'Orbigny did not expect your visit, madame," said she to me. "He
is so ill, that such a surprise might be fatal. I think it, then,
suitable to leave him in ignorance of your presence; he cannot, in any
way--" I did not allow her to finish.

"A great misfortune has happened, madame," said I; 'M. d'Harville is
dead! victim of a fatal imprudence! After such a deplorable event, I
cannot remain in Paris, and I have come to pass at my father's my
mourning."

"You are a widow! Oh! what overpowering good fortune!' cried my
step-mother, in a rage. From what you know of the unhappy marriage,
which this woman schemed for me, your highness will comprehend the
atrocity of her exclamation.

"It is because I feared that you would be also as overpoweringly
fortunate as I am, madame, that I came here," said I, perhaps
imprudently; "I wish to see my father."

"Your unexpected appearance may do your father much harm," cried she,
placing herself before me, to bar the passage. 'I will not allow you
to enter his chamber until I have informed him of your return, with
all the precautions his situation requires.'

"I was in a state of cruel perplexity. A sudden surprise might,
indeed, prove dangerous to my father; but this woman, ordinarily so
cold, so much the mistress of herself, seemed so alarmed at my
presence; I had so many reasons to doubt the sincerity of her
solicitude for the health of him whom she had married from cupidity;
finally, the presence of Dr. Polidori, my mother's murderer, caused a
terror so great that, believing the life of my father to be
threatened, I did not hesitate between the hope of saving him and the
fear of causing him any serious emotions.

"'I will see my father at once,' said I to my stepmother.

"And although she caught me by the arms, I passed out.

"Losing her self-possession completely, this woman again endeavored to
stop me. This incredible resistance redoubled my alarm. I disengaged
myself from her hands. Knowing the apartment of my father, I ran
thither rapidly; I entered. Oh, your highness! on my life, I shall
never forget the scene presented to my view. My father, almost
unrecognizable, pale, thin, suffering painted on every feature, with
his head leaning on a pillow, was stretched out in a large arm-chair.

"At the chimney-corner, standing near him, was Dr. Polidori, prepared
to pour in a cup, which a nurse presented to him, some drops of a
liquid contained in a little glass bottle which he held in his hand.

"His long red beard gave a still more sinister expression to his face.
I entered so precipitately, that he made a gesture of surprise,
exchanged a look of intelligence with my step-mother, who followed in
haste, and instead of giving my father the potion which he had
prepared for him, he quickly placed it on the chimney-piece.

"Guided by an instinct which I cannot yet account for, my first
movement was to seize the vial.

"Remarking the surprise and alarm of my step-mother and Polidori, I
felicitated myself on my action. My father, stupefied, seemed
irritated, at seeing me, as I expected. Polidori cast a ferocious
glance at me; notwithstanding the presence of my father and that of
the nurse, I feared that this wretch, seeing his crime almost
discovered, would carry matters to extremities.

"I felt the need of help at this decisive moment; I rang the bell; one
of the servants appeared; I begged him to say to my valet (who had his
instructions) to go and bring some things I had left at the inn; Sir
Walter Murphy knew that, not to arouse the suspicions of my
stepmother, I would employ this subterfuge to bring him to me.

"The surprise of my father and my step-mother was such that the
servant retired before they could say a word; I was reassured; in a
few moments Sir Walter would be near me.

"'What does this mean?' said my father, at length, in a feeble but
imperious and angry tone, 'You here, Clemence, without being sent for?
And then, hardly arrived, you take possession of the vial which
contains the potion that the doctor was about to give me; will you
explain this folly?'

"'Leave the room,' said my step-mother to the nurse. 'Calm yourself,
dear,' said she, addressing my father; 'you know the least emotion may
injure you. Since your daughter comes here in spite of you, and her
presence is disagreeable, give me your arm, I will conduct you to the
little saloon; and leave our good doctor to make Madame d'Harville
understand the imprudence (not to say anything worse) of her conduct.'

"And she cast a significant look at her accomplice. I comprehended the
design of my step-mother. She wished to lead my father away, and leave
me alone with Polidori, who, in this extreme case, would have
doubtless employed violence to force from me the vial, which might
furnish evident proof of his designs. 'You are right,' said my father;
'since she comes and persecutes me even in my own room, without any
respect for my wishes, I will leave the place free to her
importunacy.' And rising with an effort, he accepted the offered arm,
and made some steps toward the small saloon. At this moment, Polidori
advancing toward me, I drew nearer my father and said, 'I will explain
to you the cause of my unexpected arrival, and what is strange in my
conduct. I am a widow. I know your days are threatened, father.'

"He walked painfully, with his body bent. At these words, he stopped,
stood erect, and looking at me with profound astonishment, cried, 'You
are a widow? my days threatened? What does all this mean?'

"'And who dares to threaten the days of M. d'Orbigny, madame?'
audaciously asked my step-mother. 'Who threatens them?' added
Polidori.

"'You, sir; you, madame,' I answered. 'What an insult!' cried my
step-mother, advancing toward me. 'What I say, I will prove, madame.'
'Such an accusation is frightful!' said my father.

"'I shall leave this house at once, since in it I am exposed to such
atrocious calumnies!' said Dr. Polidori, with the assumed indignation
of a man whose honor was outraged. Beginning to feel the danger of his
position, he doubtless wished to fly. As he opened the door, he found
himself face to face with Sir Walter Murphy."

Rudolph, stopping a moment, extended his hand to the squire, and said:
"Very timely, my old friend; your presence must have been like a
thunderbolt to this Wretch." "That is the word, your highness; he
became livid, and retreated two steps, looking at me in a kind of
stupor; he seemed astounded. To meet me in Normandy at such a moment!
he thought it was a dream. But continue, my lord; you will see that
this infernal Countess d'Orbigny had also her turn of a thunderbolt,
thanks to what you told me of her visit to the quack Bradamanti
Polidori in the house of the Rue du Temple; for, after all, it is you
who act; or, rather, I was only the instrument of your thought."

Rudolph smiled, and went on with the perusal of the letter of Madame
d'Harville.

"At the sight of Sir Walter, Polidori was petrified; my step-mother
fell from one surprise into another; my father, alarmed at this scene,
and weakened by sickness, was obliged to seat himself in a chair. Sir
Walter double-locked the door by which he entered; and, placing
himself before the one which opened into another apartment, so that
the doctor could not escape, he said to my father, with the most
profound respect:

"'I ask a thousand pardons, my lord, for the liberty I take; but
imperious necessity, dictated solely by you? interest (as you will
soon acknowledge) obliges me to act thus. My name is Sir Walter
Murphy, as this wretch can testify, who, at my sight, trembles with
fear; I am the confidential adviser of his Royal Highness, the
Grand-Duke of Gerolstein.'

"'It is true,' said Dr. Polidori, confusedly, quite beside himself
with alarm. 'But, sir, what do you come here for? What do you want?'

"'Sir Walter Murphy,' said I, addressing my father, 'comes to aid me
in unmasking these wretches, to whose machinations you were near
falling a victim.' Then, handing to Sir Walter the vial, I added, 'I
have had the good fortune to become possessed of this at the moment
Dr. Polidori was about administering to my father its contents.'

"'A chemist from the neighboring town shall analyze before you the
contents of this bottle, which I am going to place in your lordship's
hands, and if it be proved that it contains a slow poison,' said Sir
Walter to my father, 'there can remain no more doubt of the danger you
have run, which the affection of your daughter has happily prevented.'

"My poor father looked at his wife, Dr. Polidori, Sir Walter, and
myself in a bewildered manner; his features expressed deep agony, I
read upon his careworn face the violent struggle which tore his heart.
Without doubt he was resisting with all his strength growing and
terrible suspicions, fearing to be obliged to recognize the guilt of
my step-mother; at length, concealing his face in his hands, he cried,
'Oh! all this is horrible--impossible! Is this, then, a dream?'

"'No, it is not a dream!' cried my step-mother, audaciously: 'nothing
is more real than this atrocious calumny, previously concocted, to
ruin an unhappy woman, whose sole crime has been consecrating her life
to you. Come, come, my friend, let us not remain a second longer
here!' added she, addressing herself to my father; 'perhaps your
daughter will not have the insolence to detain you in spite of
yourself.'

"'Yes, yes, let us go,' said my father, almost wild; 'this is not
true--cannot be true; I wish to hear nothing further; my reason would
give way; frightful suspicions would arise in my mind, empoison the
few days remaining for me to live, and nothing could console me for
such an abominable discovery!'

"My father seemed so suffering, so despairing, that at any sacrifice,
I would have put a stop to a scene so cruel for him. Sir Walter
divined my thoughts; but, wishing to do full and entire justice, he
answered my father.

"'Yet a few words, my lord; you are about to experience the
affliction, doubtless very painful, of discovering that a woman whom
you believe attached to you by gratitude, has always been a monstrous
hypocrite; but you will find certain consolation in the affection of
your daughter, who has always been true."

"'This passes all bounds!' cried my step-mother, in a rage; 'by what
right, sir, on what proofs, dare you utter such frightful calumnies?
You say the vial contains poison. I deny it, sir; and I will deny it
until you prove the contrary; and even if Dr. Polidori might have by
accident mistaken one medicine for another, is that a reason to dare
to accuse me of having wished, with him as an accomplice--oh! no, no,
I cannot finish--an idea so horrible is already a crime. Once more,
sir, I defy you to say on what proofs you and madame dare to sustain
this frightful calumny,' said my step-mother, with incredible
audacity. 'Yes, on what proofs?' cried my unfortunate father. 'The
torture I suffer must be brought to a close.'

"'I have not come here without proofs, my lord,' said Sir Walter. 'And
these proofs the answers of this wretch will furnish directly.' Then
Sir Walter spoke to Dr. Polidori in German, who seemed to have
recovered a little assurance, but lost it immediately."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"What did you say to him?" demanded Rudolph, laying aside the letter
for a moment.

"Some significant words to this effect: 'You escaped by flight the
sentence pronounced against you in the grand duchy; you live in the
Rue du Temple, under the false name of Bradamanti; your present
occupation is unknown; you poisoned the count's first wife; three days
ago Madame d'Orbigny came to bring you here to poison her husband. His
serene highness is in Paris, and has the proofs of all I advance. If
you confess the truth, so as to convict this miserable woman, you may
hope, not pardon, but some mitigation of the punishment you deserve;
you must follow me to Paris, where I will place you in security, until
his royal highness decides your fate. Otherwise two things; one, the
prince will demand you from the government, or this moment I will send
to the neighboring town for a magistrate; this vial containing poison,
shall be placed in his hands; you will be arrested at once, your
lodgings in the Rue du Temple searched; you know how much that will
compromise you, and French justice shall follow its course. Choose
then.' These revelations, accusations, and threats, that he knew
well-founded, succeeding one another so rapidly, confounded this
miscreant, who did not expect to find me so well informed. In the hope of
lessening the punishment which awaited him, he did not hesitate to
sacrifice his accomplice, and answered, 'Interrogate me--I will tell
the truth concerning this woman.'"

"Well, well, my worthy friend, I expected no less from you."

"During my interview with Polidori, the features of Madame d'Orbigny
changed their expression of assurance alarmingly, although she did not
understand German. She saw, from the increasing dejection of her
confederate, from his supplicating attitude, that I had him in my
power. In great anxiety, she endeavored to catch the eye of Polidori,
in order to give him courage or to implore his discretion, but he
avoided her glances."

"And the count?"

"His emotion was indescribable; with his contracted fingers he
clutched, convulsively, the arm of his chair, the perspiration
standing on his forehead: he hardly breathed; his burning and glazed
eyes were fixed on mine; his agony equaled that of his wife. The
continuation of the letter of Madame d'Harville will instruct your
highness as to the end of this painful scene."

Rudolph resumed the perusal of the letter. "After a conversation in
German, which lasted for some moments, Sir Walter said to Polidori,
'Now answer, was it not madame,' and he pointed at my step-mother,
'who, at the time of the illness of my lord's first wife, introduced
you in the house as a physician?' 'Yes, it was she,' answered
Polidori.

"'In order to serve the fearful projects of madame, have you not been
criminal enough to render mortal (by your homicidal prescriptions) the
slight illness of the Countess d'Orbigny?' 'Yes,' said Polidori.

"My father uttered a heart-rending sigh, raised his two hands toward
heaven, and let them fall, quite overwhelmed. 'Falsehoods and infamy!'
cried my stepmother; 'all this is false; they conspire to ruin me!'
'Silence, madame!' said Sir Walter, in an imposing voice; then,
continuing to question Polidori:

"'Is it true, that three days ago, madame went to seek you at No. 17
Rue du Temple, where you reside, concealed under the false name of
Bradamanti?'

"'That is true.'

"'Did not madame propose to you to come here to murder the Count
d'Orbigny, as you had murdered his wife?'

"'Alas! I cannot deny it,' said Polidori. "'At this overwhelming
revelation, my father arose on his feet; he showed the door to my
step-mother; then, extending his arms toward me, he cried, in a broken
voice, 'In the name of your unfortunate mother, pardon me, pardon me!
I have caused you much suffering; but I swear to you I was a stranger
to the crime which has conducted her to the tomb.'

"And before I could prevent him, he fell at my feet.

"When Sir Walter and myself raised him, he had fainted. I rang for the
servants. Sir Walter took the doctor by the arm, and went out with
him, saying to my step-mother, 'Believe me, madame, you had better
leave this house before an hour, or I will deliver you up to justice.'

"The wretched woman left the room in a state of alarm and rage which
your highness will easily conceive.

"When my father recovered his senses, all that had taken place
appeared like a horrid dream. I was under the sad necessity of
relating to him my first suspicions concerning the premature death of
my mother--suspicions which your highness's knowledge of the previous
crimes of Dr. Polidori changed into certainty.

"I was obliged, also, to tell my father how my stepmother had carried
her hatred even to my marriage, and what had been her object in
causing me to marry M. d'Harville.

"As much as my father had shown himself weak and blind respecting this
woman, just so much he wished to treat her without mercy; he accused
himself, with despair, of having been the accomplice of this monster,
in giving her his hand after the death of my mother. He wished to give
her up to justice; I represented to him the odious notoriety of such
proceedings. I engaged him to drive her away forever from his
presence, allowing her just enough for her support, since she bore his
name.

"I had great trouble in procuring my father's consent to this; he
wished me to turn her out of the house. This mission would be doubly
painful; I thought that Sir Walter, perhaps, would act for me. He
consented."

"And I consented with joy," said Murphy to Rudolph; "nothing pleases
me more than to give to the wicked this kind of extreme unction."

"And what did this woman say?"

"Madame d'Harville had carried her goodness so far as to ask from her
father a pension of one hundred louis for this creature. This appeared
to me not goodness, but weakness; it was bad enough to rob justice of
such a dangerous woman. I went to find the count; he coincided
entirely with me; it was agreed that we should give, in all, twenty-five
louis to the infamous wretch, so that she might subsist until she
found employment. 'And what kind of employment can the Countess
d'Orbigny find?' demanded she, insolently. 'That's your business; you
might be something like a nurse or housekeeper; but, believe me, seek
the most humble and obscure calling; for if you have the audacity to
tell your title, which you owe to a crime, people will be astonished
to see the Countess d'Orbigny reduced to such a condition; they will
inquire, and you can judge of the consequences, if you are fool enough
to noise abroad the past. Conceal yourself in some distant place;
cause yourself to be forgotten; become Madame Pier re or Madame
Jacques, and repent--if you can.' 'And do you think, sir,' said she to
me, 'that I shall not claim the advantages secured to me by my
marriage contract?' 'Certainly, madame, nothing can be more just; it
would be unworthy of M. d'Orbigny not to execute his promises, and not
to recognize all that you have done for him, and all you would have
done. Sue, sue; address yourself to justice; I have no doubt the
decision will be against your husband. A quarter of an hour after our
conversation, the creature was on the road to the neighboring town."

"You are right; it is painful to allow such a woman to escape with
impunity; but the scandal of such a trial for this old man, already so
much debilitated, is not to be thought of."

"I have easily persuaded my father to leave Les Aubiers to-day,"
resumed Rudolph, continuing to read the letter from Madame d'Harville:
"too many sad recollections attend him here; although his health is
delicate, the journey and change of air may be of service, as the
physician says who has taken the place of Dr. Polidori. My father
wished that he should analyze the contents of the vial, without
informing him of what had passed; he answered that he could only do
this at his own house, but that in two hours we should know the
result. This was, that several doses of this liquid, prepared with
infernal skill, would, in a given time, produce death, without leaving
any traces.

"In a few hours I leave with my father and daughter for Fontainebleau;
we will remain there for some time; then, according to the wish of my
father, we return to Paris, but not to my own house; it will be
impossible for me to live there after the deplorable accident which
has taken place.

"Thus, as I have said, on commencing this letter, events show all that
I owe to your highness's solicitude. Warned by you, aided by your
advice, strong in the co-operation of your excellent and courageous
Sir Walter, I have been able to snatch my father from certain death,
and I am assured of the return of his tenderness.

"Adieu! it is impossible for me to say more, my heart is too full: too
many emotions agitate it; I should badly express all that I feel.

   "D'ORBIGNY D'HARVILLE.

"I open this letter in haste, your highness, to repair a neglect of
which I am ashamed. In seeking, by your noble advice, to do some good,
I went to the prison of Saint Lazare to visit the poor prisoners. I
found there an unfortunate child in whom you are interested; Her
angelic sweetness and pious resignation are the admiration of the
matron who overlooks the inmates. To inform you where the Goualeuse
(such I believe is her name) can be found is to request you to obtain
her liberty. This unfortunate girl will relate to you by what a
concourse of sinister circumstances, carried away from the asylum
where you had placed her, she has been thrown into this prison, where
she is appreciated for the purity of her conduct. Permit me also to
recall to your highness's mind my two future _protegees_ the
unhappy mother and daughter--despoiled by the notary Ferrand, Where
are they? Have you had any information concerning them? Oh, I pray you
endeavor to discover them, so that on my return to Paris I can pay
them the debt which I have contracted toward all unfortunates!"

"Goualeuse has, then, left the farm of Bouqueval?" cried Murphy, as
much astonished as Rudolph at this new revelation.

"I heard but just now that she was seen coming out of Saint Lazare,"
answered Rudolph. "I am lost in conjecture; the silence of Madame
George confounds and distresses me. Poor little Fleur-de-Marie, what
new misfortunes have happened to you? Let a man on horseback be sent
off at once to the farm, and write to Madame George that I beg her to
come at once to Paris. Say also to M. de Graun, I wish an order to
enter Saint Lazare. From what Madame d'Harville writes, Fleur-de-Marie
is confined there; but no," said Rudolph, reflecting, "she is no
longer a prisoner, for Rigolette saw her come out in company with an
aged woman. Can it be Madame George? Otherwise, who is the woman?
Where is the Goualeuse gone to?"

"Patience, my lord; before to-night you shall know all about it.
To-morrow you will have to interrogate this scoundrel Polidori; he has,
he said, important communications to make to you, but to you alone."

"The interview will be hateful to me," said Rudolph, sadly; "for I
have never seen this man since the fatal day--when--"

Rudolph could not finish; he concealed his face in his hands.

"Why consent to what Polidori demands? Threaten him with the French
courts, or an extradition on the Government; he must resign himself to
confess to me what he is only willing to confess to you."

"You are right, my good friend; for the sight of this wretch would
render still more torturing these terrible recollections, to which are
attached so many incurable griefs; from the death of my father to that
of my poor little girl--I do not know but that the more I advance in
life, the more I feel the loss of this child. How I should have adored
her! how dear and precious to me had been this fruit of my first love,
of my first and pure belief, or, rather, my young illusions!"

"Stay, my lord; I see with pain the increasing sway which these
regrets, as fruitless as cruel, have upon your mind."

After a pause, Rudolph said to Murphy: "I can now make a confession to
you, my old friend. I love--yes, I love passionately a woman worthy of
the most noble and devoted affection. Ah! it is since my heart is
opened anew to all the delights of love, since I am predisposed to
tender emotions, that I feel more vividly the loss of my daughter."

"Nothing can be plainer, my lord; and, pardon the comparison, but, in
the same manner as certain men are joyous and benevolent in their
intoxication, you are good and generous in your love."

"Yet my hatred of the wicked is also become deep; my aversion to Sarah
increases, doubtless with my grief for the death of my child. I
imagine that this bad mother has neglected her; that her ambitious
hopes once ruined by my marriage, the countess, in her selfish
egotism, has abandoned our child to mercenary hands, and that my
daughter perhaps died from want of care. It is also my fault; I did
not then know the extent of the sacred duties of paternity. When the
true character of Sarah was suddenly revealed to me, I should have at
once taken my daughter from her, to watch over her with love and
solicitude. I ought to have foreseen that the countess could never be
more than an unnatural mother. It is my fault, my fault!"

"Grief causes your highness to err. Could you, after such a fatal
event had happened, defer for one day the long journey imposed on
you--as--"

"As an expiation! You are right, my friend," said Rudolph,
sorrowfully.

"Have you heard anything from the countess since my departure, my
lord?"

"No: since her infamous accusations, which twice came near proving the
ruin of Madame d'Harville, I have no news of her. Her presence here
annoys me; it seems that my evil spirit is near me, that some new
misfortune threatens me."

"Patience, your highness, patience. Happily, Germany is interdicted
for her, and Germany expects us."

"Yes; we will soon depart. At least, during my short stay at Paris I
shall have accomplished a sacred duty: I shall have made some steps
more in the worthy path which an august and merciful will pointed out
to me for my redemption. As soon as the son of Madame George shall be
restored to her arms, innocent and free; as soon as Jacques Ferrand
shall be convicted and punished for his crimes; as soon as I shall be
assured of the future comforts of all the honest and industrious
creatures who, by their resignation, their courage, and their probity,
have deserved my interest, we will return to Germany--my journey will
not have been fruitless."

"Above all, if you succeed in unmasking that abominable Jacques
Ferrand, the corner-stone of so many crimes."

"Although the end justifies the means, and scruples should have no
weight as regards this scoundrel, sometimes I regret having employed
Cecily in this just and avenging reparation."

"She ought to arrive soon."

"She has arrived."

"Cecily?"

"Yes; I did not wish to see her. De Graun has given her very detailed
instructions; she has promised to conform to them."

"Will she keep this promise?"

"Everything seems to promise it--the hope of a mitigation of her
punishment, and the fear of being sent immediately back to Germany;
for De Graun has her well watched; at the slightest misstep he will
demand her of the government."

"It is just. She has arrived like an escaped convict: when they know
what crimes caused her perpetual imprisonment, they would give her up
at once."

"Besides, De Graun was almost alarmed at the sagacity with which
Cecily comprehended, or rather, guessed the part, inflaming and yet
platonic, she was to play at the notary's.

"But can she be introduced to him as early as you wish, through Mrs.
Pipelet? People of the species of Jacques Ferrand are so suspicious."

"I had, with reason, counted on the appearance of Cecily to combat and
conquer this suspicion."

"Has he already seen her?"

"Yesterday. From the account given by Mrs. Pipelet, I do not doubt but
that he was fascinated by the Creole; he took her at once into his
service."

"Come, my lord, our game is won."

"I hope so; a ferocious cupidity and a savage thirst have led the
executioner of Louise Morel to the most frightful misdeeds. It is in
them that he will find the punishment of his crimes. A punishment
which will not be barren for his victims; for you see the aim of all
the efforts of the Creole."

"Cecily! Never did greater depravity, never a more dangerous
corruption, never a blacker soul serve to the accomplishment of a
project of higher morality, or of a more equitable end; and David, my
lord?"

"He approves of all. With all the contempt and horror which he has for
this creature, he only sees in her the instrument of a just vengeance.
'If this cursed woman can ever merit any compassion after all the
injury she has done me,' said he to me, 'it will be in devoting
herself to the punishment of this scoundrel, for whom she must be an
exterminating demon.'" A servant having tapped at the door, Murphy
went out, and returned, bringing in two letters, one of which seemed
intended for Rudolph.

"It is a line from Madame George!" cried he, reading it rapidly.

"Well, Goualeuse?"

"No more doubt," cried Rudolph, after having read the letter; "another
mysterious plot. The same evening on which the poor child disappeared,
at the moment Madame George was about to inform me of the event, a
man, whom she did not know, arrived express on horseback, came to her,
as from me, to reassure her, saying I was informed of the sudden
departure of Fleur-de-Marie, and that some day I would bring her back
to the farm. Notwithstanding this notice, Madame George, uneasy at my
silence respecting her _protegee_ cannot, she writes me, resist
her desire to have some news of her cherished daughter, as she calls
the poor child."

"This is strange, my lord."

"For what end should she have been carried off?"

"My lord," said Murphy, suddenly, "the Countess M'Gregor is no
stranger to this affair."

"Sarah? What makes you think so?"

"Compare this with her denunciations to Madame d'Harville."

"You are right," cried Rudolph, a new light bursting upon him; it's
evident: I comprehend now; yes, always the same calculation. The
countess persists in believing, that by succeeding in breaking every
tie of affection, she will make me feel the want of her. This is as
odious as useless. Yet such an unworthy prosecution must have an end.
It is not only against me, but against all who merit respect,
interest, and pity, that this woman directs her attacks. You will send
M. de Graun at once, officially, to the countess; he will declare to
her that I am advised of the part she has taken in the abduction of
Fleur-de-Marie, and that if she does not give me the necessary
information, so that I can recover this unhappy child, I shall act
without pity, and then it is to justice M. de Graun must address
himself."

"From the letter of Madame d'Harville, the Goualeuse must be confined
at Saint Lazare."

"Yes, but Rigolette affirms that she saw her free, coming out of this
prison. There is a mystery to be cleared up."

"I will go at once and give your highness's orders to Baron de Graun;
but allow me to open this letter; it is from my correspondent at
Marseilles, to whom I recommended the Chourineur, to facilitate the
passage of the poor fellow to Algiers."

"Well! has he gone?"

"Here is something singular."

"What is it?"

"After having waited at Marseilles a long time for a vessel to depart
for Algiers, the Chourineur, who seemed every day more sad and
thoughtful, suddenly declared, the day being fixed for his departure,
that he preferred to return to Paris."

"How singular!"

"Although my correspondent had, as was agreed upon, placed a
considerable sum of money at the disposal of the Chourineur, he only
took what was absolutely necessary for him to return to Paris, where
he will soon arrive, as they write me."

"Then he will explain to us himself why he has changed his mind, but
send De Graun at once to the Countess M'Gregor, and go yourself to
Saint Lazare to gain some information concerning Fleur-de-Marie." In
an hour's time the Baron de Graun returned from the countess's.

Notwithstanding his habitual and official _sang froid_, the
diplomatist seemed troubled; hardly had the usher announced him, than
Rudolph remarked his paleness. "Well! De Graun, what is the matter?
have you seen her?"

"Oh! my lord."

"What is it?"

"Will your royal highness pardon me for informing you so suddenly of
an event so fatal, so unlooked for, so--

"The countess is dead?"

"No, my lord, but her life is despaired of; she has been stabbed with
a dagger."

"Oh! it is frightful!" cried Rudolph, touched with pity,
notwithstanding his aversion to Sarah. "Who has committed this crime?"

"No one knows, my lord; the murder was accompanied by robbery; some
one entered the apartment and carried off a large quantity of jewels."

"And how is she now?"

"Her life is almost despaired of, my lord; she has not yet recovered
her consciousness. Her brother is in a state of distraction."

"You must go every day to inquire after her, my dear De Graun."

At this moment Murphy returned from Saint Lazare.

"Learn sad news!" said Rudolph to him; "the countess has been wounded!
her life is in great danger."

"Oh! my lord; although she is very culpable, yet I cannot but pity
her."

"Yes; such an end would be frightful! And the Goualeuse?"

"Set at liberty yesterday, my lord, supposed by the intervention of
Madame d'Harville."

"But it is impossible! Madame d'Harville begs me, on the contrary, to
make the necessary arrangements to get her out of prison."

"Doubtless; and yet, an aged woman, of respectable, appearance, came
to Saint Lazare, bringing the order to set Fleur-de-Marie at liberty.
Both have left the prison."

"This is what Rigolette told me; but this aged woman, who is she?
where have they gone to? what is this new mystery? The countess alone
can enlighten us; and she is in a state to give us no information. May
she not carry this secret with her to the grave?"

"But her brother, Thomas Seyton, could certainly throw some light upon
the affair. He has always been her adviser."

"His sister is dying; some new plot is on foot; he will not speak;
but," said Rudolph, reflecting, "we must find out the name of the
person who applied for her release; thus we can learn something."

"Yes, my lord."

"Try, then, to know and see this person as soon as possible, my dear
De Graun; if you do not succeed, put your M. Badinot on the trail;
spare nothing to discover the poor child."

"Your highness may count on my zeal."

"My lord," said Murphy, "it is, perhaps, as well that the Chourineur
returns; we may need his services for these researches."

"You are right; and now I am impatient to see arrive at Paris my brave
deliverer, the gallant, 'Slasher,' for I shall never forget that to
him I owe my life."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Forced to extend the unfoldings of the evil and good machinations of
the Grand-Duke Rudolph and his enemies into another volume, we do so,
promising that even more singular characters, even more striking
actions and engaging scenes, will be found in "Part Third: Night."



THE END.





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