Project Gutenberg's The Mysteries of Paris, Volume 2 of 6, by Eugène Sue

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Title: The Mysteries of Paris, Volume 2 of 6

Author: Eugène Sue

Illustrators: G. Mercier
              Léon Poiteau
              Adrian Marcel

Release Date: September 22, 2010 [EBook #33801]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by David Edwards, Christine Aldridge and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
(Stanford University, SUL Books in the Public Domain)

"He Took from the Bed a Large Plaid Shawl"
Etching by Adrian Marcel, after the drawing by Frank T. Merrill "He Took from the Bed a Large Plaid Shawl"
Etching by Adrian Marcel, after the drawing by Frank T. Merrill

The Mysteries of Paris.






Limited to One Thousand Copies.



I.The Ball11
II.The Rendezvous36
III.An Idyl61
IV.The Ambuscade74
V.The Rectory-house88
VI.The Rencounter99
VII.An Evening at the Farm105
VIII.The Dream150
IX.The Letter159
X.The Hollow Way195
XI.Clémence d'Harville201
XIII.Judgment and Execution286


"He took from the bed a large plaid shawl"Frontispiece
"At length alighted on her shoulder"66
"'So I have brought Turk with me'"97
"'You must give me leave'"208

[Pg 11]




Belonging to one of the first families in France, still young, and with a face that would have been agreeable had it not been for the almost ridiculous and disproportionate length of his nose, M. de Lucenay joined to a restless love of constant motion the habit of talking and laughing fearfully loud upon subjects quite at variance with good taste or polished manners, and throwing himself into attitudes so abrupt and awkward that it was only by recalling who he was, that his being found in the midst of the most distinguished societies in Paris could be accounted for, or a reason assigned for tolerating his gestures and language; for both of which he had now, by dint of long practice and adherence, acquired a sort of free license or impunity. He was shunned like the plague, although not deficient in a certain description of wit, which told here and there amid the indescribable confusion of remarkable phraseology which he allowed himself the use of; in fact, he was one of those unintentional instruments of vengeance one would always like to employ in the wholesale chastisement of persons who have rendered themselves either ridiculous or abhorrent.

The Duchess de Lucenay, one of the most agreeable,[Pg 12] and, at the same time, most fashionable women in Paris (spite of her having numbered thirty summers), had more than once furnished matter of conversation among the scandal-dealers of Paris; but her errors, whatever they were supposed to be, were pardoned, in consideration of the heavy drawback of such a partner as M. de Lucenay.

Another feature in the character of this latter-named individual was a singular affectation of the most absurd and unknown expressions, relative to imaginary complaints and ridiculous infirmities he amused himself in supposing you suffered from, and concerning which he would make earnest inquiries, in a loud voice, and in the immediate presence of a hundred persons. But possessed of first-rate courage, and always ready to take the consequences of his disagreeable jokes, M. de Lucenay had been concerned in various affairs of honour arising out of them, with varied success; coming off sometimes victor, sometimes vanquished, without being in any way cured of his unpleasant and annoying tricks.

All this premised, we will ask the reader to imagine the loud, harsh voice of the personage we have been describing, shouting from the distance at which he first recognised Madame d'Harville and Sarah:

"Holla! holla! who is that out there? Come, who is it? Let's see. What! the prettiest woman at the ball sitting out here, away from everybody! I can't have this; it is high time I returned from the other end of the world to put a stop to such doings as this. I tell you what, marquise, if you persist in thus concealing yourself from general view, and cheating people from looking at you, I will set up a cry of fire! fire! that shall bring every one out of the ballroom, around you."

And then, by way of terminating his discourse, M. de Lucenay threw himself almost on his back beside the two ladies, crossed his left leg over his right thigh, and held his foot in his hand.[Pg 13]

"You have soon returned from Constantinople, my lord," observed Madame d'Harville, fancying it was necessary to say something, and, at the same time, drawing away from her unpleasant neighbour with ill-concealed impatience.

"Ah, that is just what my wife said! 'Already back, my lord?' exclaimed she, when she saw me alight from my travelling-carriage; 'Why, bless me, I did not expect you so soon!' And, do you know, instead of flying to my arms, as if the surprise had delighted her, she turned quite sulky, and refused to appear with me at this, my first ball since my return! And, upon my soul, I declare her staying away has caused a far greater sensation than my presence,—droll, isn't it? 'Pon my life, I declare I can't make it out. When she is with me, nobody pays the least attention to me; but when I entered the room alone to-night, such a crowd came humming and buzzing around me, all calling out at once, 'Where is Madame de Lucenay? Is not she coming this evening? Oh, dear, what a disappointment! How vexatious! How disagreeable!' etc., etc. And then, marquise, when I come where you are, and expect, after returning all the way from Constantinople, you will be overjoyed to see me, you look upon me as if I were a dog running amidst an interesting game of ninepins; and yet, for all I see, I am just as agreeable as other people."

"And it would have been so easy for you to have continued agreeable—in the East," added Madame d'Harville, slightly smiling.

"Stop abroad, you mean, I suppose; yes, I dare say. I tell you I could not, and I would not; and it is not quite what I like, to hear you say so!" exclaimed M. de Lucenay, uncrossing his legs, and beating the crown of his hat after the fashion of a tambourine.

"Well, for heaven's sake, my lord, be still, and do not call out so very loudly," said Madame d'Harville,[Pg 14] angrily, "or really you will compel me to change my place."

"Change your place! Ah, to be sure! You want to take my arm, and walk about the gallery a little; come along, then, I'm ready."

"Walk with you! Certainly not! And pray let me beg of you not to meddle with that bouquet—and have the goodness not to touch the fan either; you will only break it, as you always do."

"Oh, bless you! talking of breaking fans, I am unlucky. Did my wife ever show you a magnificent Chinese fan, given to her by Madame de Vaudémont? Well, I broke that!" And, having delivered himself of these comforting words, M. de Lucenay again threw himself back on the divan he had been lounging on, but, with his accustomed gaucherie, contrived to pitch himself over the back of it, on to the ground, grasping in his hand a quantity of the floating wreaths of climbing plants which depended from the boughs of the trees under which the party was sitting, and which he had been, for some time, amusing himself with essaying to catch, as, moved by the light breeze admitted into the place, they undulated gracefully over his head. The suddenness of his fall brought down, not only those he held, but the parent stems belonging to them; and poor De Lucenay was so covered by the mass of foliage thus unexpectedly obtained, that, ere he could thoroughly disengage himself from their circling tendrils, he presented the appearance of some monarch of May-day crowned with his leafy diadem. So whimsical an appearance as he presented drew down roars of deafening, stunning laughter; much to the annoyance of Madame d'Harville, who would quickly have got out of the vicinity of so awkward and unpleasant a person had she not perceived M. Charles Robert (the commandant of Madame Pipelet's accounts) advancing from the other end of the gallery; and, unwilling to appear as though going to meet[Pg 15] him, she once more resumed her seat beside M. de Lucenay.

"I say, Lady Macgregor," vociferated the incorrigible De Lucenay, "didn't I look preciously like a wild man of the woods, or the god Pan, or a sylvan, or a naiad, or some of those savage creatures, with that green wreath round my head? Oh, but talking of savages," added he, abruptly approaching Sarah, "Lady Macgregor, I must tell you a most outrageously indecent story. Just imagine that at Otaheite—"

"My lord duke—" interrupted Sarah, in a tone of freezing rebuke.

"Just as you like,—you are not obliged to hear my story if you don't like it; you are the loser, that's all. Ah! I see Madame de Fonbonne out there; I shall keep it for her; she is a dear, kind creature, and will be delighted to hear it; so I'll save it for her."

Madame de Fonbonne was a fat little woman, of about fifty years of age, very pretending, and very ridiculous. Her fat double chin rested on her equally fat throat; and she was continually talking, with upturned eyes, of her tender, her sensitive soul; the languor of her soul; the craving of her soul; the aspirations of her soul. To these disadvantages, she added the additional one of being particularly ill-dressed, upon the present occasion, in a horrible-looking copper-coloured turban, with a sprinkling of green flowers over it.

"Yes," again asserted De Lucenay, in his loudest voice, "that charming anecdote shall be told to Madame de Fonbonne."

"May I be permitted, my lord duke, to inquire the subject of your conversation?" said the lady thus apostrophised, who, hearing her name mentioned, immediately commenced her usual mincing, bridling attempts to draw up her chubby self, but, failing in the effort, fell back upon the easier manœuvre of "rolling up the whites of her eyes," as it is commonly called.[Pg 16]

"It refers, madame, to a most horribly indecent, revolting, and strange story."

"Heaven bless me! and who dares—oh, dear me, who would venture—"

"I would, madame. I can answer for the truth of the anecdote, and that it would make a stick or a stone blush to hear it; but, as I am aware how dearly you love such stories, I will relate it to you. You must know, then, that in Otaheite—"

"My lord," exclaimed the indignant lady, turning up her eyes with indignant horror, "it really is surprising you can allow yourself to—"

"Now for those unkind looks you shall not hear my pretty story either, though I had been reserving it for you. And, now I look at you, I can but wonder that you, so celebrated for the taste and good style of your dress, should have put that wretched thing on your head for a turban, but which looks more like an old copper baking-dish spotted all over with verdigris." So saying, the duke, as if charmed with his own wit, burst into a loud and long peal of laughter.

"If, my lord," exclaimed the enraged lady, "you merely returned from the East to resume your offensive jokes, which are tolerated because you are supposed to be only half in your senses, all who know you are bound to hope you intend to return as quickly as you came;" saying which she arose, and majestically waddled away.

"I tell you what, Lady Macgregor, if I don't take devilish good care, I shall let fly at that stupid old prude and pull her old stew-pan off her head," said M. de Lucenay, thrusting his hands deep down into his pockets as if to prevent their committing the retaliating mischief he contemplated. "But no," said he, after a pause, "I won't hurt the 'sensitive soul,' poor innocent thing! Ha! ha! ha! Besides, think of her being an orphan at her tender age!" And renewed peals of laughter announced that the imagination of the duke had again[Pg 17] found a fresh fund of amusement in some reminiscence of Madame de Fonbonne; which, however, soon gave place to an expression of surprise, as the figure of the commandant, sauntering towards them, caught his eye.

"Holla!" cried he, "there's M. Charles Robert. I met him last summer at the German baths; he is a deuced fine fellow,—sings like a swan. Now, marquise, I'll show you some fun,—just see how I'll bother him. Would you like me to introduce him to you?"

"Be quiet, if you can," said Sarah, turning her back most unceremoniously upon M. de Lucenay, "and let us alone, I beg."

As M. Charles Robert, while affecting to be solely occupied in admiring the rare plants on either side of him, continued to advance, M. de Lucenay had cleverly contrived to get possession of Sarah's flacon d'esprit, and was deeply and silently engaged in the interesting employment of demolishing the stopper of the trinket.

Still M. Charles Robert kept on his gradual approach to the party he was, in reality, making the object of his visit. His figure was tall and finely proportioned; his features boasted the most faultless regularity; his dress was in the first style of modern elegance; yet his countenance, his whole person, were destitute of grace, or that distingué air which is more to be coveted than mere beauty, whether of face or figure; his movements were stiff and constrained, and his hands and feet large and coarse. As he approached Madame d'Harville his insipid and insignificant countenance assumed, all at once, an expression of the deepest melancholy, too sudden to be genuine; nevertheless he acted the part as closely to nature as might be. M. Robert had the air of a man so thoroughly wretched, so oppressed by a multitude of sorrows, that as he came up to Madame d'Harville she could not help recalling to mind the fearful mention made by Sarah touching the violence to which grief such as his might drive him.[Pg 18]

"How are you? How are you, my dear sir?" exclaimed the Duke de Lucenay, interrupting the further approach of the commandant. "I have not had the pleasure of seeing you since we met at the spas of ——. But what the devil ails you,—are you ill?"

Hereupon M. Charles Robert assumed a languid and sentimental air, and, casting a melancholy look towards Madame d'Harville, replied, in a tone of deep depression:

"Indeed, my lord, I am very far from being well."

"God bless me! Why, what is the matter with you? Ah! I suppose that confounded plaguy cough still sticks to you," said M. de Lucenay, with an appearance of the most serious interest in the inquiry.

At this ridiculous question, M. Charles Robert stood for a moment as though struck dumb with astonishment, but, quickly recovering himself, said, while his face crimsoned, and his voice trembled with rage, in a short, firm voice, to M. de Lucenay:

"Since you express so much uneasiness respecting my health, my lord, I trust you will not fail calling to-morrow to know how I am."

"Upon my life and soul, my dear sir, I—but most certainly I will send," said the duke, with a haughty bow to M. Charles Robert, who, coolly returning it, walked away.

"The best of the joke is," said M. de Lucenay, throwing himself again by the side of Sarah, "that our tall friend there had no more of a spitting complaint than the great Turk himself,—unless, indeed, I stumbled upon the truth without knowing it. Well, he might have that complaint for anything I know or care. What do you think, Lady Macgregor,—did that great, tall fellow look, to you, as though he were suffering from la pituite?"[1]

[1] A sort of viscous, phlegmy complaint.

Sarah's only reply was an indignant rising from her[Pg 19] seat, and hasty removal from the vicinage of the annoying Duke de Lucenay.

All this had passed with the rapidity of thought. Sarah had experienced considerable difficulty in restraining her inclination to indulge in a hearty fit of laughter at the absurd question put by the Duke de Lucenay to the commandant; but Madame d'Harville had painfully sympathised with the feelings of a man so ridiculously interrogated in the presence of the woman he loved. Then, horror-struck as the probable consequences of the duke's jest rose to her mind, led away by her dread of the duel which might arise out of it, and still further instigated by a feeling of deep pity for one who seemed to her misled imagination as marked out for every venomed shaft of envy, malice, and revenge, Clémence rose abruptly from her seat, took the arm of Sarah, overtook M. Charles Robert, who was boiling over with rage, and whispered to him, as she passed:

"To-morrow, at one o'clock, I will be there."

Then, regaining the gallery with the countess, she immediately quitted the ball.

Rodolph, in appearing at this fête, besides fulfilling a duty imposed on him by his exalted rank and place in society, was further influenced by the earnest desire to ascertain how far his suspicions, as regarded Madame d'Harville, were well founded, and if she were, indeed, the heroine of Madame Pipelet's account. After quitting the winter garden with the Countess de ——, he had, in vain, traversed the various salons in the hopes of meeting Madame d'Harville alone. He was returning to the hothouse when, being momentarily delayed at the top of the stairs, he was witness to the rapid scene between Madame d'Harville and M. Charles Robert after the joke played off by the Duke de Lucenay. The significant glances exchanged between Clémence and the commandant struck Rodolph powerfully, and impressed him with the firm conviction that this tall[Pg 20] and prepossessing individual was the mysterious lodger of the Rue du Temple. Wishing for still further confirmation of the idea, he returned to the gallery. A waltz was about to commence, and in the course of a few minutes he saw M. Charles Robert standing in the doorway, evidently revelling in the satisfaction of his own ideas; enjoying, in the first place, the recollection of his own retort to M. de Lucenay (for M. Charles Robert, spite of his egregious folly and vanity, was by no means destitute of bravery), and, secondly, revelling in the triumph of thus obtaining a voluntary assignation with Madame d'Harville for the morrow; and something assured him that this time she would be punctual. Rodolph sought for Murphy.

"Do you see that fair young man," said he, "standing in the midst of that group out there?"

"You mean the tall individual who seems so much amused with his own thoughts, do you not? Yes, yes, I see him."

"Endeavour to get sufficiently near to him to be enabled to whisper, so that he alone can catch the words, while you carefully avoid allowing him to see the person who utters them, this sentence, 'You are late, my angel!'"

The squire gazed at Rodolph with a perplexed air.

"My lord, do you seriously wish me to do this?"

"Seriously, my dear Murphy, I do; and should he hastily turn around when you have spoken, assume that incomparable air of perfect nonchalance for which you are so justly celebrated, so as to prevent his being able to fix upon you as the person who has spoken."

"Depend upon my perfect obedience, my lord, although I am far from having the slightest idea of your intention in assigning to me such a task."

Before the conclusion of the waltz, the worthy Murphy had contrived to place himself immediately behind M. Charles Robert, while Rodolph, posted in a[Pg 21] situation most advantageous for watching the effect of this experiment, carefully observed Murphy's movements. In a minute, M. Charles Robert turned suddenly around, as though struck with astonishment and wonder. The immovable squire stirred not a feature; and certainly Murphy's tall, portly figure, bald head, and grave, composed countenance, appeared the least likely of any in the room to be those of a man taking part in such a trick; and, indeed, it was evident, from the continued gaze of the commandant in every other part of the space they stood in, that M. Charles Robert was far from suspecting his respectable, middle-aged neighbour of giving utterance to a phrase so disagreeably recalling the quid pro quo of which Madame Pipelet had been alike the cause and the heroine. The waltz concluded, Murphy rejoined Rodolph.

"Well, my lord," said he, "that smart young gentleman jumped as though he had trodden on a hornet's nest. The words I uttered appeared to have the effect of magic on him."

"They were so far magical, my dear Murphy, as they assisted me to discover a circumstance I was most anxious to find out."

Conviction thus painfully obtained, Rodolph could only deplore the dangerous position in which Madame d'Harville had placed herself, and which seemed to him fraught with fresh evils, from a vague presentiment of Sarah's being either a sharer or a confidant in the transaction, and with this discovery came the fresh pain of believing that he had now found out the source of M. d'Harville's secret sorrow; the man he so highly esteemed, and for whom he felt a brother's regard, was pining in silence over the misconduct of a wife he so tenderly loved, yet who, in spite of her many charming qualities, could sacrifice her own and her husband's happiness for the sake of an object so every way unworthy. Master of so important a secret, yet incapable[Pg 22] of betraying it, unable to devise any plan to open the eyes of Madame d'Harville, who seemed rather to yield to than resist her unlicensed passion for her lover, Rodolph found himself obliged to remain a passive witness to the utter ruin of a woman he had so passionately adored with as much silence as devotion; nay, whom, spite of his best efforts, he still loved. He was roused from these reflections by M. de Graün.

"If your royal highness," said the baron, bowing, "will deign to grant me a brief interview in one of the lower rooms, which is now quite devoid of company, I shall have the honour to lay before you the particulars you desired me to collect."

Rodolph signed to M. de Graün to conduct him to the place named, when the baron proceeded with his recital, as follows:

"The only duchess to whose name the initials 'N.' and 'L.' can possibly belong is Madame de Lucenay, whose maiden name was Normant. Her grace is not here this evening. I have just seen M. de Lucenay, her husband, who, it seems, left Paris five months ago, with the expressed intention of travelling in the East during the next year or two, but has unexpectedly returned within the last day or two."

It may be recollected that, during Rodolph's visit to the Rue du Temple, he picked up, on the landing-place adjoining the door of the charlatan dentist's apartments, a cambric handkerchief, richly embroidered and trimmed with costly lace, and bearing in the corner a ducal coronet with the initials "N. L." It will also be borne in mind that this elegant indication of high rank was wetted with the bitter tears of its noble owner. In pursuance of his instructions, but in total ignorance of the circumstances suggesting them, M. de Graün had inquired the name of every duchess then in Paris, and gleaned the information now repeated to Rodolph, and which the latter perfectly comprehended. He had no reason for interesting[Pg 23] himself in the fate of Madame de Lucenay; but he could not reflect without a shudder that, if it were really she who visited the pretended doctor (but who, he felt assured, was no other than the infamous Polidori), this wretch, having possessed himself of her real name and address through the agency of Tortillard, might make a fearful use of a secret which placed the duchess so completely in his power.

"Chance is a strange thing, my lord, is it not?" resumed M. de Graün.

"It is; but how does it apply to the present case?"

"Why, at the very instant that M. de Grangeneuve was giving me these facts concerning M. and Madame de Lucenay, and was adding, rather ill-naturedly, that the unlooked-for return of the duke must have proved particularly disagreeable, not only to the duchess but to the Viscount de Saint-Remy, one of the most elegant and fashionable men in Paris, his excellency the ambassador came up and inquired whether your royal highness would permit him to present the viscount to you, as, having just been appointed on the legation to Gerolstein, he would be happy to avail himself of the present opportunity of paying his court to your highness."

An expression of impatience escaped Rodolph, who exclaimed:

"Nothing could have been less agreeable to me. However, it is impossible to refuse. Let the count know, therefore, that I am ready to receive M. de Saint-Remy."

Rodolph knew too well how to support his princely dignity to allow his feelings to interfere with the courtesy and affability required on the present occasion; added to which, the world gave M. de Saint-Remy as a favoured lover to the Duchess de Lucenay, and this circumstance greatly excited the curiosity of Rodolph.

The Viscount de Saint-Remy, conducted by the Count de ——, now approached. He was an exceedingly handsome[Pg 24] young man, of about twenty-five years of age, tall and slender, with the most distingué air and prepossessing physiognomy; his olive complexion had that rich, soft glow of amber cast over its transparent surface, so remarkable in the paintings of Murillo; his glossy black hair, parted over his left temple, was worn smooth over his forehead, and fell in light and easy curls down the sides of his face, almost concealing the pale, well-shaped ear. The deep, dark eyelash contrasted well with the clear eye it shaded, the crystal of which was tinged with that blue cast which bestows so much and such charming expression to the Indian eye. By a singular caprice of nature, the thick, silky moustache which graced his lip was the only ornament of a similar description visible on his countenance, the chin and cheeks being smooth as those of a young maiden. Perhaps it might be vanity which dictated the narrow black satin cravat placed so low as to reveal the perfect contour of a throat which, for whiteness and symmetrical roundness, might have furnished a model for the artist's studio. The long ends of his cravat were confined by a single pearl, inestimable for its size, the beauty of its shape, and the splendour of its colour,—so vivid, that an opal could scarcely have rivalled its continued prismatic changes. The perfect taste, and exquisite style of M. de Saint-Remy harmonised well with the magnificent simplicity of this jewel.

Once seen, the face and figure of M. de Saint-Remy was never forgotten, so entirely did it differ from the usual style of élégants. He spared no expense in procuring the most faultless turnout, and his carriages and horses were everywhere cited as models of taste and correct judgment. He played high, but skilfully; while the annual amount of his betting-book was never less than from two to three thousand louis. The costly elegance of his mansion, in the Rue de Chaillot, was everywhere spoken of and admired. There he gave the most exquisite[Pg 25] dinner-parties. The highest play followed, and the hospitable host would lose large and heavy sums with the most perfect indifference, though it was known that his fortune had been dissipated long ago. All the viscount's property had been derived from his mother; while his father lived in utter seclusion in the wilds of Anjou, upon an income of the most slender description.

By way of accounting for the unbounded expenditure of M. de Saint-Remy, many among the envious or ill-natured referred, as Sarah had done, to the large fortune of the Duchess de Lucenay; but they forgot that, setting aside the infamy of the idea, M. de Lucenay would naturally direct the disposal of his wife's property, and that M. de Saint-Remy's annual expenses were at least two hundred thousand francs. Suspicions were entertained of his being deeply indebted to imprudent money-lenders; for Saint-Remy had no further inheritance to look forward to. Others, again, spoke of his great successes on the turf, and hinted, in an undertone, dark stories of training-grounds, and jockeys bribed by him to make the horses against which he had betted largely lose; but by far the greater number of the crowd by which Saint-Remy was surrounded was content to eat his dinners, and occasionally to win his rouleaux, without troubling themselves with conjectures as to how the one was provided, and where the other came from.

By birth and education he was fully entitled to the rank he occupied in the fashionable world; he was lively, witty, brave, a most amusing companion, obliging and complaisant to the wishes of others; he gave first-rate bachelor dinners, and afterwards took every bet that was offered him. What more was required to secure his popularity? He was an universal favourite with the fair sex, and could boast the most unvaried success in all his love affairs; he was young, handsome, gallant, and unsparingly munificent upon all occasions[Pg 26] where opportunities occurred of marking his devotion towards the high-bred females with whom he associated in the grande monde; in a word, thanks to the general infatuation he excited, the air of mystery thrown over the source of the Pactolus from which he derived his golden supplies rather embellished him with a certain mysterious charm, which seemed but to add to his attractions. Sometimes it would be said, with a careless smile, "What a fellow that Saint-Remy is: he must have discovered the philosopher's stone to be able to go the pace he does." And when it was known that he had caused himself to be attached to the legation of France to the court of Gerolstein, there were not wanting voices to assert that it was a "devilish good way of making an honourable retreat." Such was M. de Saint-Remy.

"Allow me," said the Count de ——, presenting M. de Saint-Remy, "to introduce to your royal highness the Viscount de Saint-Remy, attached to the embassy of Gerolstein."

The viscount bowed profoundly, saying:

"May I trust your royal highness will deign to pardon my impatience in requesting the honour of this introduction during the present evening? I am, perhaps, unduly hasty in my wishes to secure a gratification I have so long aspired to."

"It will give me much pleasure, my lord, to welcome you to Gerolstein. Do you propose going thither immediately?"

"Your royal highness being in Paris diminishes very materially my desire to do so."

"I fear the peaceful contrast of our German courts will scarcely assort with a life of Parisian fashion, such as you have always been accustomed to."

"Permit me to assure your royal highness that the gracious kindness you have now shown me, and which it shall be my study to merit a continuance of in Gerolstein,[Pg 27] would of itself far outweigh any attractions Paris may have had for me."

"It will not be my fault, my lord, should you see cause to alter your sentiments when at Gerolstein."

A slight inclination of Rodolph's head announced that the presentation was concluded, upon which the viscount bowed and retired. The prince, a practised physiognomist, was subject to involuntary likes and dislikes upon the first interview with an individual, and these impulses were in his case almost invariably borne out by after-circumstances. His first sensation after the exchange of the very few words we have related between himself and Saint-Remy was an unaccountable feeling of repugnance and aversion for the gay and fascinating young man; to his eye, the handsome features wore a sinister look, and danger seemed to lurk even in his honeyed words and smooth, polished manner.

We shall hereafter meet M. de Saint-Remy under circumstances differing widely and fearfully from the splendour of the position he occupied at his first interview with Rodolph. It will then be seen how far these presentiments were ill or well founded.

The presentation over, Rodolph, in deep meditation upon the singular rencontres effected by the hand of chance, bent his steps towards the winter garden. It was now the hour of supper, and the rooms were nearly deserted. The most retired spot in the hothouse was at the end of a clump of trees placed against the corner of a wall, and an enormous banana, covered with climbing plants, effectually concealed a small side door, masked by the trellis, and conducting to the banquetting-hall by a long corridor. This door, which was scarcely a yard distant from the tree above mentioned, had been left temporarily ajar. Sheltered by this verdant screen, Rodolph seated himself, and was soon lost in a profound reverie, when the sound of a well-known voice, pronouncing his name, made Rodolph start. It was Sarah, who,[Pg 28] seated with her brother Tom on the other side of the clump of trees which effectually hid Rodolph from their view, was conversing with him in the English language. The prince listened attentively, and the following dialogue ensued:

"The marquise has just gone to show herself for a few minutes at Baron de Nerval's ball," said Sarah; "she has luckily quitted this place without once having an opportunity of exchanging a word with Rodolph, who has been looking everywhere for her. I still dread the influence he possesses over her, even unknown to herself,—an influence it has cost me so much labour and difficulty to combat, and partly to destroy. However, to-morrow will rid me of any further fears of a rival who, if not effectually destroyed, might so powerfully derange and overthrow my plans. Listen to me, brother, for it is of serious matters I would speak to you. To-morrow witnesses the eternal ruin of my hated rival."

"You are mistaken, Sarah," answered Tom's well-remembered voice; "Rodolph never loved the marquise; of that I am certain; your jealous fears mislead you."

"It is time," returned Sarah, "that I enlightened you on this subject. Many things occurred during your last journey, and as it is necessary to take decisive steps even earlier than I had expected,—nay, this very night,—so soon as we quit this place, it becomes indispensably necessary we should take serious counsel together. Happily we are now quite alone, for the gay butterflies of the night have found fresh attraction around the supper-tables. Now, then, brother, give your close and undivided attention to what I am about to say."

"Proceed, I am all impatience."

"Well, before Clémence d'Harville met Rodolph, I feel assured the passion of love was wholly unknown to her, for what reason I have never been able to discover. She entertains the most invincible repugnance and aversion towards her husband, who perfectly adores her.[Pg 29] There is some deep mystery in this part of the business I have never succeeded in fathoming. A thousand new and delightful emotions sprang up in the breast of Clémence after she became acquainted with Rodolph; but I stifled her growing love by the most frightful disclosures, or rather ingeniously invented calumnies, concerning the prince. Still, the void in her heart required an object to fill it, and chance having thrown M. Charles Robert in her way during a morning call she was making at my house, she appeared struck with his appearance, much after the manner in which we are attracted by a fine picture. Unfortunately, however, this man is as silly as he is handsome, though he certainly has a very prepossessing tout ensemble. I praised him enthusiastically to Madame d'Harville, exalted the nobleness of his sentiments, the elevation of his mind, and, as I knew her weak side, I worked upon her sympathy and pity, by representing him as loaded with every trouble and affliction unrelenting fate could heap upon a devoted but most innocent head. I directed M. Robert to assume a melancholy and sentimental air; to utter only deep sighs, and to preserve a gloomy and unbroken silence in the presence of Madame d'Harville. He carefully pursued the path marked out by me, and, thanks to his vocal skill, his fine person and the constant expression of silent suffering, so far engaged the interest of Madame d'Harville, that, ere long, she transferred to my handsome friend the warm and sympathising regard Rodolph had first awakened. Do you comprehend me thus far?"

"Perfectly; proceed."

"Madame d'Harville and Robert met only upon terms of intimacy at my house; to draw them more effectually together I projected devoting three mornings in the week to music, and my mournful ally sighed softly as the breath of evening while turning over the leaves of the music, ventured to utter a few impassioned words, and even to slip two or three billets among the pieces he[Pg 30] copied out for the marquise to practise at home. I own I was more fearful of his epistolary efforts than even his powers of speech; but a woman always looks indulgently upon the first declaration of love she receives; so far, therefore, the written nonsense of my silly pupil did no harm, for, in obedience to my advice, his billets doux were very laconic. The great point was to obtain a rendezvous, and this was no easy matter, for Clémence's principles were stronger than her love; or, rather, her passion was not sufficiently deep to induce her to sacrifice those principles. Unknown, even to herself, the image of Rodolph still filled her heart, and seemed in a manner to preserve her from yielding to her weak fancy for M. Charles Robert,—a fancy, as I well knew, far more imaginary than real; but, led on by my continual and exaggerated praises of this brainless Apollo, whom I persisted in describing as suffering under the daily increase of every imaginary evil I could invent, Clémence, vanquished by the deep despair of her dejected adorer, consented one day, more from pity than love, to grant him the rendezvous so long desired."

"Did she, then, make you her confidant?"

"She confessed to me her regard for M. Charles Robert,—nothing more; neither did I seek to learn more; it would have annoyed and vexed her. But, as for him, boiling over with love, or, rather, intoxicated with pride, he came voluntarily to impart his good fortune, without, however, entrusting me either with the time or place of the intended meeting."

"How, then, did you know it?"

"Why, Karl, by my order, hovered about the door of M. Robert during the following day from an early hour; nothing, however, transpired till the next day, when our love-stricken youth proceeded in a fiacre to an obscure part of the town, and finally alighted before a mean-looking house in the Rue du Temple; there he remained for an hour and a half, when he came out and walked[Pg 31] away. Karl waited a long while to see whether any person followed M. Charles Robert out of the house; but no one came. The marquise had evidently failed in her appointment. This was confirmed to me on the morrow, when the lover came to pour out all his rage and disappointment. I advised him to assume even an increase of wretchedness and despair. The plan succeeded; the pity of Clémence was again excited; a fresh assignation was wrung from her, but which she failed to keep equally with the former; the third and last rendezvous, however, produced more decided effects, Madame d'Harville positively going as far as the door of the house I have specified as the appointed place; then, repenting so rash a step, returned home without having even quitted the humble fiacre in which she rode. You may judge by all these capricious changes of purpose how this woman struggles to be free. And wherefore? Why, because (and hence arises my bitter, deadly hatred to Clémence d'Harville) because the recollection of Rodolph still lingers in her heart, and, with pertinacious love she shrinks from aught that she fancies breathes of preference for another; thus shielding herself from harm or danger beneath his worshipped image. Now this very night the marquise has made a fresh assignation with M. Charles Robert for to-morrow, and this time I doubt not her punctuality; the Duke de Lucenay has so grossly ridiculed this young man that, carried away by pity for the humiliation of her admirer, the marquise has granted that to compassion he would not else have obtained. But this time, I feel persuaded she will keep her word, and be punctual to the appointed time and hour."

"And how do you propose to act?"

"M. Charles Robert is so perfectly unable to comprehend the delicacy of feeling which this evening dictated the marquise's resolution of meeting him, that he is safe to rush with vulgar eagerness to the rendezvous, and this[Pg 32] will effectually ruin his plans, for pity alone has instigated Clémence to take this compromising step. No love,—no infatuation has hurried her into a measure so fatal to her future resolution. I know every turn of her mind; and I am confident she will keep her appointment solely from a courageous idea of generous devotion, but with a firm resolve not for one instant to forget her duties as a wife and mother. Now the coarse, vulgar mind of M. Charles Robert is sure to take the fullest advantage of the marquise's concession in his favour. Clémence will detest him from that instant; and the illusion once destroyed which has bound herself and Charles Robert in bonds of imaginary sympathy, she will fall again beneath the influence of her love for Rodolph, which I am certain still nestles in her heart."


"Well! I would have her for ever lost to Rodolph, whose high sense of honour and deep friendship for M. d'Harville I feel perfectly sure would not have proved equal to preventing his returning the love of Clémence; but I will so manage things that he shall henceforward look upon her with loathing and disgust, as the guilty partner in a crime committed without his participation. No, no! I know my man. He might pardon the offence, but never the being excluded from his share in it."

"Then do you propose apprising the husband of all that is going on, so that the prince should learn the disgraceful circumstances from the publicity the affair would obtain?"

"I do. And the thing is so much the easier to accomplish as, from what fell from Clémence to-night, I can learn that the marquis has vague and undefined suspicions, without knowing on whom to fix them. It is now midnight; we shall almost directly leave the ball, I will set you down at the first café we meet with, whence[Pg 33] you shall write M. d'Harville a minute account of his wife's love affair, with the projected assignation of to-morrow, with the time and place where it is arranged to take place. Oh! but I forgot, I didn't state that the place of meeting is No. 17 Rue du Temple. And the time, to-morrow at one o'clock. The marquis is already jealous of Clémence; well, he will by this information surprise her under most suspicious circumstances; the rest follows as a matter of course."

"But this is a most abominable mode of action," said Seyton, coldly.

"What! my trusty and well-behaved brother and colleague growing scrupulous?" said Sarah, sarcastically. "This will never do; suppose my modes of action are odious,—so be it. I trample on all and every thing that interferes with my designs,—agreed. I do—I shall, till I have secured my purpose. But let me ask you, Who thought of scruples when my destruction was aimed at? Who thought of me or my feelings, let me ask you? How have I been treated?"

"Say no more, sister,—say no more,—here is my hand, and you may safely reckon upon my firm participation in all that concerns you, even to writing the letter to M. d'Harville. But still I say, and repeat, such conduct is horrible!"

"Never mind sermonising, but say, do you consent fully and entirely to what I wish you, or do you not? Ay, or nay?"

"Since it must be so, M. d'Harville shall this night be fully instructed as to all his wife's proceedings,—but—what is that? I fancied I heard some one on the other side of this thicket,—there was a rustling of leaves and branches," said Seyton, interrupting himself, and speaking to Sarah in a low and suppressed voice.

"For heaven's sake," cried Sarah, uneasily, "don't stop to talk about it, but quick! and examine the other side of this place!"[Pg 34]

Seyton rose,—made the tour of the clump of trees,—but saw no one.

Rodolph had just disappeared by the side door, of which we have before spoken.

"I must have made a mistake," said Seyton, returning; "there is no appearance of any persons but ourselves being in this place."

"I thought there could not possibly be."

"Now, then, Sarah, hear what I have got to say on the subject of Madame d'Harville, who, I feel quite satisfied, you make an object of unnecessary apprehension, as far as it would be possible for her to interfere with your schemes. The prince, moreover, has certain principles nothing would induce him to infringe. I am infinitely more alarmed, and with greater justice, too, as to what can have been his intentions in conducting that young girl to his farm at Bouqueval, five or six weeks ago. He is constant in his superintendence of her health and comfort; is having her well educated, and, moreover, has been several times to see her. Now we are altogether ignorant who she is or where she came from; she seems, however, to belong only to the humbler ranks of society; still, the exquisite style of her beauty, the fact of the prince having worn the disguise he did when escorting her to the farm, the increasing interest he seems to take in her welfare, all go to prove that his regard for her is of no common description. I have, therefore, in this affair anticipated your wishes; but to remove this greater, and, as I believe, more serious obstacle to our plans, the utmost circumspection was requisite to obtain information respecting the lives and habits of these mysterious occupants of the farm, and particularly concerning the girl herself. I have been fortunate enough to learn nearly sufficient to point out what is to be done the moment for action has arrived. A most singular chance threw that horrid old woman in my[Pg 35] way, to whom, as you remember, I once gave my address, which she it seems has carefully preserved. Her connection with such persons as the robber who attacked us during our late visit to the Cité will powerfully assist us. All is provided for and preconsidered,—there can be no proof against us,—and, besides, if, as seems evident, this young creature belongs to the humblest class of society it is not very probable she will hesitate between our offers and the splendid prospect she may, perchance, picture to herself, for the prince, I have ascertained, has preserved a strict incognito towards her. But to-morrow shall decide the question otherwise,—we shall see,—we shall see."

"And these two obstacles overcome, then, Tom, for our grand project."

"There are many, and serious obstacles in the way; still, they may be overcome."

"And would it not be a lucky chance if we should bring it to pass at the very moment when Rodolph would be writhing under the double misery occasioned by the disclosure of Madame d'Harville's conduct, and the disappearance of the creature for whom he chooses to evince so deep an interest? Would not that be an auspicious moment to persuade him that the daughter, whose loss he daily more and more deplores, still lives? And then—"

"Silence, sister," interrupted Seyton, "I hear the steps of the guests from the supper-table, returning to resume the ball. Since you deem it expedient to apprise the Marquis d'Harville of the morrow's rendezvous, let us depart; it is past midnight."

"The lateness of the hour in which the anonymous information will reach M. d'Harville, will but tend still more to impress him with an idea of its importance."

And with these words Tom and Sarah quitted the splendid ball of the ambassadress of the court of ——.

[Pg 36]



Determined at all risks to warn Madame d'Harville of the danger she was incurring, Rodolph had quitted the winter garden without waiting to hear the remainder of the conversation between Sarah and her brother, thus remaining ignorant of their designs against Fleur-de-Marie, and of the extreme peril which threatened the poor girl. But, spite of his earnest desire to apprise the marquise of the plot laid against her peace and honour, he was unable to carry his design into execution, for Madame d'Harville, unable to bear up longer after the trying events of the evening, had abandoned her original intention of visiting the entertainment given by Madame de Nerval and gone direct home.

This contretemps ruined his hopes. Nearly the whole of the company present at the ambassadress's ball had been invited to that of Madame de Nerval's, and Rodolph drove rapidly thither, taking with him M. de Graün, to whom he gave instructions to look for Madame d'Harville among the guests, and to acquaint her that the prince, having something of the utmost consequence to communicate to her without the least delay, would walk onwards to the Hôtel d'Harville, and await her return home, when he would say a few words at the carriage-door while her servants were attending to the opening of the entrance-gates.

After much time spent in fruitless endeavours to find Madame d'Harville, De Graün was compelled to return[Pg 37] with the account of his ill success. This failure made Rodolph despair of being able, now, to save the marquise from impending ruin; his first thought had been to warn her of the treachery intended, and so prevent the statement of Sarah, which he had no means of keeping from the hands of M. d'Harville, from obtaining the slightest credence. Alas! it was now too late. The infamous epistle dictated by the Countess Macgregor had reached the Marquis d'Harville shortly after midnight on the night in question.

It was morning; and M. d'Harville continued slowly to pace his sleeping-apartment, the bed of which gave no indication of having been used during the night, though the silken counterpane hung in fragments, evidently proving that some powerful and devastating storm had possessed the mind of its owner.

The chamber in question was furnished with elegant simplicity, its only ornaments consisting of a stand of modern arms and a range of shelves furnished with a well-chosen collection of books. Yet a sudden frenzy, or the hand of ungovernable rage, had reduced the quiet elegance which ordinarily reigned to a scene of frantic disorder. Chairs, tables, broken and overset; the carpet strewed with fragments of the crystal lamp kept burning through the night; the wax-lights and gilded chandelier which had contained them, lying around, gave manifest evidence of a fearful scene.

M. d'Harville was about thirty years of age, with a fine, manly countenance, whose usual expression was mild and prepossessing, but now contracted, haggard, and livid. He had not changed his dress since the preceding evening; his throat was bare, his waistcoat thrown open, and on the torn and rumpled cambric of his shirt-front were drops of blood. His rich, dark hair, which generally fell in curls around his face, now hung in tangled wildness over his pale countenance. Wholly buried[Pg 38] in the misery of his own thoughts, with folded arms, drooping head, and fixed, bloodshot eyes, M. d'Harville continued to pace his chamber; then, stopping opposite his fireplace, in which, spite of the almost unendurable severity of the frost of the past night, the fire had been allowed to expire, he took from the marble mantelpiece the following brief note, which he continued to read over and over with the most eager attention by the wan, pale light of the cold glimmer of an early winter morning:

"To-morrow, at one o'clock, your wife has appointed to meet her favoured lover. Go to the Rue du Temple, No. 17, and you will obtain every requisite confirmation of this intelligence.

"From one who pities you."

Whilst reading these words, perused, with such deep anguish and sickness of heart, so many times through the long midnight hours, the blue, cold lips of M. d'Harville appeared convulsively to spell each syllable of this fatal billet.

At this moment the chamber door opened and a servant entered; the man who now made his appearance was old, even gray-headed, but the expression of his countenance was frank and honest. The noise of the man entering disturbed not the marquis from his bitter contemplations; he merely turned his head without altering his position, but still grasped the letter in his clenched hands.

"What do you want?" inquired he, sternly, of the servant.

The man, instead of answering, continued to gaze with an air of painful surprise at the disordered state of the room; then, regarding his master more attentively, exclaimed:

"Blood on your clothes! My lord, my lord! How is this? You have hurt yourself,—and all alone, too; why, my lord, did you not summon me, as of old, when these attacks came on?"[Pg 39]


"I entreat your lordship's pardon, but your fire is out,—the cold is intense,—indeed, I must remind your lordship that after your late—your—"

"Will you be silent? Leave me I say!"

"Pray do not be angry, my lord," replied the trembling valet; "but, if your lordship pleases to recollect, you appointed M. Doublet to be here to-day at half past ten, and he is now waiting with the notary."

"Quite proper," said the marquis, with a bitter smile; "when a man is rich he ought, he should look carefully to his affairs. Fortune is a fine thing,—a very fine thing; or would be if it could but purchase happiness." Then, resuming a cold and collected manner, he added:

"Show M. Doublet into my study."

"I have done so, my lord marquis."

"Then give me my clothes,—quick, I am in haste; I shall be going out shortly. I—"

"But if your lordship would only—"

"Do as I desire you, Joseph," said M. d'Harville, in a more gentle tone; then added, "Is your lady stirring yet?"

"I have not yet heard her ladyship's bell, my lord marquis."

"Let me know when she rings."

"I will, my lord."

"Heaven and earth, man, how slow you are!" exclaimed M. d'Harville, whose raging thoughts almost chafed him into madness; "summon Philip to assist you; you will keep me all day."

"My lord, please to allow me to set matters a little straight first," replied Joseph, sorrowfully; "I would much rather no one but myself witnessed the state of your chamber, or they would wonder, and talk about it, because they could not understand what had taken place during the night, my lord."

"And if they were to find out, it would be a most[Pg 40] shocking affair,—would it not?" asked M. d'Harville, in a tone of gloomy irony.

"Thank God, my lord, not a soul in the house has the least suspicion of it!"

"No one suspects it," repeated M. d'Harville, despondingly; "no one,—that's well, for her at least; well, let us hope to keep the secret."

And, while Joseph was occupying himself in repairing the havoc in his master's apartment, D'Harville walked up to the stage of arms we before mentioned, examined them with an expression of deep interest, then, turning towards Joseph, with a sinister smile, said:

"I hope you have not omitted to clean the guns which are placed at the top of the stand,—I mean those in my hunting-case."

"I had not your lordship's orders to do so," replied the astonished servant.

"You had, sir, and have neglected them!"

"I humbly assure you, my lord—"

"They must be in a fine state!"

"Your lordship will please to bear in mind that it is scarcely a month since they were regularly repaired and put in order for use by the gunsmith."

"Never mind! As soon as I am dressed reach down my shooting-case; I will examine the guns myself. I may very possibly go out shooting either to-morrow or next day."

"I will reach them down directly, my lord."

The chamber being by this time replaced in its ordinary state, a second valet de chambre was summoned to assist Joseph.

His toilet concluded, M. d'Harville repaired to his study, where the steward (M. Doublet) and his lawyer's clerk were awaiting him.

"We have brought the agreement that my lord marquis may hear it read over," said the bowing clerk; "my lord will then only have to sign it, and the affair is concluded."[Pg 41]

"Have you perused it, M. Doublet?"

"I have, my lord, attentively."

"In that case I will affix my signature at once."

The necessary forms completed, the clerk withdrew, when M. Doublet, rubbing his hands, and looking triumphantly, exclaimed:

"Now, then, by this last addition to your lordship's estates, your manorial property cannot be less than a hundred and twenty-six thousand francs per annum, in round numbers. And permit me to say, my lord marquis, that a rent-roll of a hundred and twenty-six thousand francs per annum is of no common occurrence nowadays."

"I am a happy man, am I not, M. Doublet? A hundred and twenty-six thousand livres per annum! Surely the man owning such an income must be blessed indeed,—sorrow or care cannot reach him through so golden a shield!"

"And that is wholly independent of my lord's funded property, amounting at least to two millions more; or reckoning—"

"Exactly; I know what you would say; without reckoning my other blessings and comforts."

"Why, heaven be praised, your lordship is as rich in all earthly blessings as in revenue. Not a precious gift but it has been largely bestowed upon you; ay, and such as even money will not buy: youth, uninterrupted health, the power of enjoying every happiness, amongst which, or, rather, at the head of which," said M. Doublet, gracefully smiling, and gallantly bowing, "place that of being the husband of so sweet a lady as Madame la Marquise, and the parent of a lovely little girl, who might be mistaken for a cherubim."

M. d'Harville cast a look of gloomy mistrust on the poor steward; who, revelling in his own ecstasy at seeing the princely rent-roll committed to his charge, exceeding all others in magnificent amount, was far from[Pg 42] perceiving the scowling brow of his master, thus congratulated on being the happiest man alive, when, to his own view, a verier wretch, or more complete bankrupt in happiness existed not. Striking M. Doublet familiarly on the shoulder, and breaking into a wild, ironical laugh, M. d'Harville rejoined:

"Then you think that with an income of two hundred and sixty thousand livres, a wife like mine, and a daughter resembling a cherubim, a man has nothing more to wish for?"

"Nay, my lord," replied the steward, with honest zeal, "you have still to wish for the blessing of lengthened days, that you may be spared to see mademoiselle married as happily as yourself. Ah, my lord, I may not hope to see it, but I should be thankful to witness you and my honoured lady surrounded by your grandchildren,—ay, and great-grandchildren too,—why not?"

"Excellent, M. Doublet! A regular Baucis and Philemon idea. You have always a capital illustration to your ideas."

"You are too good to me, my lord. Has your lordship any further orders for me?"

"None. Stay, though; what cash have you in hand?"

"Twenty-nine thousand three hundred and odd francs for current expenses, my lord marquis; but there is a heavy sum at the bank belonging to this quarter's income."

"Well, bring me twenty thousand francs in gold, and, should I have gone out, give them to Joseph for me."

"Does your lordship wish for them this morning?"

"I do."

"Within an hour the gold shall be here. You have nothing else to say to me, my lord?"

"No, M. Doublet."

"A hundred and twenty-six thousand francs per[Pg 43] annum, wholly unincumbered," repeated the steward, as he was about to quit the room; "this is a glorious day for me to see; I almost feared at one time that we should not secure this desirable property. Your lordship's most humble servant, I take my leave."

"Good morning, M. Doublet."

As the door closed upon the steward, M. d'Harville, overcome with the mental agony he had repressed thus far, threw himself into an armchair, leaned his elbows on the desk before which he sat, and covering his face with his hands, for the first time since receiving the fatal billet, gave vent to a flood of hot, burning tears.

"Cruel mockery of fate!" cried he, at length, "to have made me rich, but to have given me only shame and dishonour to place within the gilded frame: the perjury of Clémence, the disgrace which will descend upon my innocent child. Can I suffer this? Or shall I for the sake of her unoffending offspring spare the guilty mother from the opprobrium of an exposure?" Then rising suddenly from his seat, with sparkling eyes and clenched teeth he cried, in a deep, determined voice, "No, no! Blood, blood! The fearful protection from laughter and derision. Ah, full well I can now comprehend her coldness, her antipathy, wretched, wretched woman!" Then, stopping all at once, as though melted by some tender recollection, he resumed, in a hoarse tone, "Aversion! Alas! too well I know its cause. I inspire her with loathing, with disgust!" Then, after a lengthened silence, he cried, in a voice broken by sighs, "Yet, was it my fault or my misfortune? Should she have wronged me thus for a calamity beyond my power to avert? Surely I am a more fitting object for her pity than scorn and hatred." Again rekindling into his excited feelings, he reiterated, "Nothing but blood—the blood of both—can wash out this guilty stain! Doubtless he, the[Pg 44] favoured lover, has been informed why she flies her husband's arms."

This latter thought redoubled the fury of the marquis. He elevated his tightly compressed hands towards heaven, as though invoking its vengeance; then, passing his burning fingers over his eyes as he recollected the necessity that existed for concealing his emotion from the servants of his establishment, he returned to his sleeping-apartment with an appearance of perfect tranquillity. There he found Joseph.

"Well, in what state are the guns?"

"In perfect order. Please to examine them, my lord."

"I came for the purpose of so doing. Has your lady yet rung?"

"I do not know, my lord."

"Then inquire."

Directly the servant had quitted the room, M. d'Harville hastily took from the gun-case a small powder-flask, some balls and caps; then, locking the case, put the key in his pocket. Then going to the stand of arms, he took from it a pair of moderate-sized Manton's pistols, loaded them, and placed them without difficulty in the pockets of his morning wrapper. Joseph returned with the intimation that Madame d'Harville was in her dressing-room.

"Has your lady ordered her carriage?"

"My lord, I heard Mlle. Juliette say to the head-coachman, when he came to inquire her ladyship's orders for the day, that, 'as it was cold, dry walking, if her ladyship went out at all, she would prefer going on foot.'"

"Very well. Stay,—I forgot. I shall not go out hunting before to-morrow, or probably, next day. Desire Williams to look the small travelling-britcska carefully over. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, my lord; it shall be attended to. Will not your lordship require a stick?"[Pg 45]

"No. Pray tell me, is there not a hackney coach-stand near here?"

"Quite close, my lord,—in the Rue de Lille."

After a moment's hesitation, the marquis continued: "Go and inquire of Mlle. Juliette whether Madame d'Harville can see me for a few minutes." Joseph obeyed.

"Yes," murmured the marquis, "I will see the cause of all my misery,—my disgrace. I will contemplate the guilty mask beneath which the impure heart conceals its adulterous designs. I will listen to the false lips that speak the words of innocence, while deep dishonour lurks in the candid smile,—a smile that seemed to me as that of an angel. Yet 'tis an appalling spectacle to watch the words, the looks, of one who, breathing only the sentiments of a chaste wife and mother, is about to sully your name with one of those deep, deadly stains which can only be washed out in blood. Fool that I am to give her the chance of again bewildering my senses! She will look at me with her accustomed sweetness and candour; greet me (all guilty as she is) with the same pure smile she bestows upon her child, as, kneeling at her lap, it lisps its early prayer. That look,—those eyes, mirrors of the soul,—the more modest and pure the glance" (D'Harville shuddered with contempt) "the greater must be the innate corruption and falsehood! Alas! she has proved herself a consummate dissembler; and I—I—have been the veriest dupe! Only let me consider with what sentiments must that woman look upon me, if just previous to her meeting with her favoured lover I pay her my accustomed visit, and express my usual devotion and love for her,—the young, the virtuous wife, the tender, sensible, and devoted mother, as until this wretched moment I would have died to prove her. Can I, dare I, trust myself in her presence, with the knowledge of her being but too impatient for the arrival of that blessed hour which conveys her to her guilty[Pg 46] rendezvous and infamous paramour? Oh, Clémence, Clémence, you in whom all my hopes and fondest affections were placed, is this a just return? No! no! no!" again repeated M. d'Harville, with rapidly returning excitement. "False, treacherous woman! I will not see you! I will not trust my ears to your feigned words! Nor you, my child. At the sight of your innocent countenance I should unman myself, and compromise my just revenge."

Quitting his apartment, M. d'Harville, instead of repairing to those of the marquise, contented himself with leaving a message for her through Mlle. Juliette, to the effect that he wished a short conversation with Madame d'Harville, but that being obliged to go out just then, he should be glad, if it assorted with Madame la Marquise's perfect convenience, to breakfast with her at twelve o'clock.

"And so," said the unhappy M. d'Harville, "fancying that after twelve o'clock I shall be safe at home, she will consider herself more at liberty to follow out her own plans."

He then repaired to the coach-stand contiguous to his mansion, and summoned a vehicle from the ranks.

"Now, coachee," said he, affecting to disguise his rank, "what's o'clock?"

"All right, master," said the man, drawing up to the side of the footway, "where am I to drive to? Let's have a right understanding, and a look at the clock. Why, it's as close on half-after eleven as may be."

"Now, then, drive to the corner of the Rue St. Dominique, and wait at the end of the garden wall which runs along there; do you understand?"

"Yes, yes,—I know."

M. d'Harville then drew down the blinds of the fiacre; the coachman drove on, and soon arrived opposite the Hôtel d'Harville, from which point of observation it was impossible for any person to enter or quit the house[Pg 47] without the marquis having a full view of them. One o'clock was the hour fixed in the note; and with his eyes riveted on the entrance-gates of the mansion, the marquis waited in painful suspense, absorbed in a whirl of fearful thoughts and maddening conjectures. Time stole on imperceptibly; twelve o'clock reverberated from the dome of St. Thomas Aquinas, when the door opened slowly at the Hôtel d'Harville, and Madame d'Harville herself came timidly forth.

"Already?" exclaimed the unhappy husband; "how punctual she is! She fears to keep him waiting," cried the marquis, with a mixture of irony and savage rage.

The cold was excessive; the pavement hard and dry. Clémence was dressed in a black velvet bonnet, covered with a veil of the same colour, and a thickly wadded pelisse of dark ruby satin, a large shawl of dark blue cashmere fell to the very hem of her pelisse, which she lightly and gracefully held up while crossing the street. Thanks to this movement, the taper foot and graceful ankle of Madame d'Harville, cased in an exquisitely fitting boot of black satin, were exposed to view.

It was strange, that amid the painful and bewildering ideas that crowded the brain of D'Harville, he should have found one thought to waste upon the beauty of his wife's foot; but so it was; and at the moment that was about to separate them for ever, to his eager gaze that fairy foot and well-turned ankle had never looked so charming; and then, as by a rapid train of thought he recalled the matchless loveliness of his wife, and, as he had ever believed till now, her purity, her mental graces, he groaned aloud as he remembered that another was preferred to him, and that the light figure that glided on before his fixed gaze, was but the hollow spectre of fallen goodness, a lost, degraded creature, hastening to steep her husband and infant in irremediable disgrace, for the indulging of a base and guilty passion. Even in that wretched moment he felt how dearly, how[Pg 48] exclusively he had loved her; and for the first time during the blow which had fallen on him, he knew that he mourned the lovely woman almost equally with the virtuous mother and chaste wife. A cry of rage and mingled fury escaped him, as he pictured the rapture of her meeting with the lover of her choice; and a sharp, darting pain quivered through his heart as he remembered that Clémence, with all her youth and beauty, her countless charms, both of body and mind, was lost to him for ever.

Hitherto his passionate grief had been unmixed by any alloy of self. He had bewailed the sanctity of the marriage-vow trampled under foot, the abandonment of all sworn and sacred duties; but his sufferings of rage, jealousy, and regret almost overpowered him, and with much difficulty was he able to command his voice sufficiently to say to the coachman, while partially drawing up the blind:

"Do you see that lady in the blue shawl and black bonnet walking along by the wall?"

"Yes, yes! I see her safe enough."

"Well, then, go slowly along, and keep up with her. Should she go to the coach-stand I had you from, pull up; and when she has got into a fiacre, follow it wherever it goes."

"All right,—I understand! Now this is what I call a good joke!"

M. d'Harville had conjectured rightly. Madame d'Harville repaired directly to the coach-stand, and beckoning a fiacre off the stand, instantly got in, and drove off, closely followed by the vehicle containing her husband.

They had proceeded but a very short distance, when the coachman took the road to the church of St. Thomas Aquinas, and, to the surprise of M. d'Harville, pulled up directly in front.

"What is this for? What are you about?"[Pg 49]

"Why, master, the lady you told me to follow has just alighted here, and a smart, tidy leg and foot of her own she has got. Her dress somehow caught; so, you see, I couldn't help having a peep, nohow. This is downright good fun though, this is!"

A thousand varied thoughts agitated M. d'Harville. One minute he fancied that his wife, fearing pursuit, had taken this step to escape detection; then hope whispered that the letter which had given him so much uneasiness, might after all be only an infamous calumny; for if guilty, what could be gained by this false assumption of piety? Would it not be a species of sacrilegious mockery? At this suggestion a bright ray of hope shot across the troubled mind of M. d'Harville, arising from the striking contrast between Clémence's present occupation and the crime alleged as her motive for quitting her home. Alas! this consolatory illusion was speedily destroyed. Leaning in at the open window the coachman observed:

"I say, master, that nice little woman you are after has got back into her coach."

"Then follow quickly."

"I'm off! Now this is what I call downright good fun. Capital; hang me if it ain't!"

The vehicle reached the Quais, the Hôtel de Ville, the Rue St. Avoye, and, at last, Rue du Temple.

"I say," said the coachman, turning round to speak to M. d'Harville from his seat, "master, just look. My mate, there, has stopped at No. 17; we are about at 13. Shall I stop here or go on to 17?"

"Stop here."

"I say,—look'ee,—you'll lose your pretty lady. She has gone into the alley leading to No. 17."

"Open the door."

"I'm coming, sir."

And quickly following the steps of his wife, M. d'Harville entered the obscure passage up which she[Pg 50] had disappeared. Madame d'Harville, however, had so far the start as to have entered the house previously.

Attracted by the most devouring curiosity, Madame Pipelet, with her melancholy Alfred and her friend the oyster-woman, were huddled close together on the sill at the lodge door. The staircase was so dark that a person just emerging from the daylight into the gloom of the passage could not discern a single step of it; and Madame d'Harville, agitated and almost sinking with apprehension, found herself constrained to apply to Madame Pipelet for further advice how to proceed, saying, in a low, tremulous voice:

"Which way must I turn, madame, to find the staircase of the house?"

"Stop, if you please. Pray, whom do you want?"

"I wish to go to the apartments of M. Charles, madame."

"Monsieur who?" repeated the old woman, feigning not to have heard her, but in reality to afford sufficient leisure to her husband and her friend thoroughly to scrutinise the unhappy woman's countenance, even through the folds of her thick veil.

"M. Charles, madame," repeated Clémence, in a low, trembling tone, and bending down her head, so as to escape the rude and insolent examination to which her features were subjected.

"Ah! M. Charles; very well; you should have spoken so that one could hear you. Well, my pretty dear, if you want M. Charles,—and a good-looking fellow he is as ever won a woman's heart,—go straight on, and the door will stare you in the face. Eh! eh! eh!" laughed out the old woman, shaking her fat sides with spiteful glee, "it seems he has not waited for nothing this time. Success to love and love-makings, and a merry end to it!"

The marquise, ready to sink with confusion, began slowly to grope her way up the dingy staircase.[Pg 51]

"I say," bawled out the old shell-fish woman, "our commandant knows what he is about, don't he? Leave him alone to choose a pretty girl. His marm is a regular swell, ain't she?"

Had it not been requisite for her to run the gauntlet of the trio who occupied the entrance-door, Madame d'Harville, ready to sink with shame and terror, would gladly have retraced her steps. She made another effort, and at last reached the landing-place, where, to her unutterable consternation and surprise, she saw Rodolph waiting, impatiently, her arrival. Instantly flying to meet her, he hastily placed a purse in her hand, saying, in a hurried manner:

"Your husband knows all, and is now following your very steps."

At this instant, the sharp tones of Madame Pipelet were heard crying out, "Where are you going to, sir?"

"'Tis he!" exclaimed Rodolph, and then, almost forcing Madame d'Harville up the second staircase, he added, in a rapid manner, "make all haste to the very top of the house; on the fifth floor you will find a wretched family, named Morel. Remember your sole business in coming hither was to relieve their distress."

"I tell you, sir," screamed Madame Pipelet, "that unless you tell me your name, you shall trample over me, as they walked over our brave men at Waterloo, before I let you pass."

Having, from the entrance to the alley, observed Madame d'Harville stop to speak to the porteress, the marquis had likewise prepared himself to pass through some sort of questioning.

"I belong to the lady who just now entered," said the marquis.

"Bless me!" exclaimed Madame Pipelet, looking the picture of wonderment, "why, that, of course, is a satisfactory answer. You can pass on, if you please."

Hearing an unusual stir, M. Charles Robert had set[Pg 52] the door of his apartments ajar, and Rodolph, unwilling to be recognised by M. d'Harville, whose quick, searching eye might have detected him, spite of the murkiness of the staircase, hearing him rapidly ascending the stairs, just as he reached the landing-place, dashed into the chamber of the astonished commandant, locking the door after him. M. Charles Robert, magnificently attired in his robe de chambre of scarlet damask with orange-coloured stripes, and Greek cap of embroidered velvet, was struck with astonishment at the unexpected appearance of Rodolph, whom he had not seen the preceding evening at the embassy, and who was upon the present occasion very plainly dressed.

"What is the meaning of this intrusion?" asked he at length, assuming a tone of killing haughtiness.

"Be silent!" replied Rodolph; and there was that in his voice and manner that Charles Robert obeyed, even in spite of his own determination to strike terror into the bold invader of his private moments.

A violent and continued noise, as of some heavy substance falling from one stair to the other, resounded through the dull silence of the gloomy staircase.

"Unhappy man! He has murdered her!" exclaimed Rodolph.

"Murdered!" ejaculated M. Charles Robert, turning very pale; "for the love of Heaven, what is all this about?"

But, without heeding his inquiry, Rodolph partially opened the door, and discovered little Tortillard half rolling, half limping, down the stairs, holding in his hand the red silk purse Rodolph had just given to Madame d'Harville. Tortillard, with another scrambling shuffle, disappeared at the bottom of the last flight of stairs. The light step of Madame d'Harville, and the heavier tread of her husband, as he continued his pursuit of her from one story to another, could be distinctly heard. Somewhat relieved of his worst fears,[Pg 53] yet unable to make out by what chance the purse so recently committed to Madame d'Harville's hands should have been transferred to those of Tortillard, Rodolph said, authoritatively, to M. Robert:

"Do not think of quitting your apartments for the next hour, I request!"

"Upon my life and soul, that is a pretty thing to say to a gentleman in his own house," replied M. Robert in an impatient and wrathful tone. "I ask you, again, what is the meaning of all this? Who the devil are you, sir? And how dare you dictate to me, a gentleman?"

"M. d'Harville is informed of everything,—has followed his wife to your very door,—and is now pursuing her to the upper part of the house."

"God bless me! Here's a situation!" exclaimed Charles Robert, with an appearance of utter consternation. "But what is to be done? What is the use of her going up-stairs? And how will she manage to get down again unobserved?"

"Remain where you are, neither speak nor move until the porteress comes to you," rejoined Rodolph, who hastened to give his final instructions to Madame Pipelet, leaving the commandant a prey to the most alarming apprehensions.

"Well! well!" cried Madame Pipelet, her face radiant with chuckling exultation; "there's rare sport going on! The lady who came to visit my fine gentleman on the first floor has been followed by another gentleman, who seems rather in a passion,—the husband of that silly young creature, I make no doubt. Directly the truth flashed across me, I tells him to go straight up; for, thinks I, he'll be sure to murder our commandant. That'll make a deal of talk in the neighbourhood; and folks will come crowding to see the house, just as they did at No. 36 after the man was killed there. Lord! I wonder the fighting has not[Pg 54] begun yet. I have been listening to hear them set to; but I can't catch the least sound."

"My dear Madame Pipelet, will you do me a great favour?" said Rodolph, putting five louis into her hand. "When this lady comes down-stairs, ask her how she found the poor Morels. Tell her she has performed an act of real charity in coming to see them, according to her promise, the last time she called to inquire respecting them."

Madame Pipelet looked first at the money and then at Rodolph, with an air of petrified astonishment.

"What am I to do with this money?" inquired she, at length; "do you give it to me? Ah, I see! This handsome lady, then, does not come altogether for the commandant?"

"The gentleman who followed her was her husband, as you justly supposed; but, being warned in time, the poor lady went straight on to the Morels, as though her only business here was to afford them succour. Now do you understand!"

"I should think I did,—clear as noonday. 'A nod is as good as a wink,' as the old woman said. I know! You want me to help you cheat the husband? Lord bless you! I'm up to all those things,—quick as lightning, silent as the grave! Go along with you! I'm a regular good hand at keeping husbands in the dark; you might fancy I'd been used to it all my life. But tell me—"

The huge hat of M. Pipelet was here observed sending its dark shadow across the floor of the lodge.

"Anastasie," said Alfred, gravely, "you are like M. César Bradamanti; you have no respect for anything or anybody. And let me tell you that there are subjects that should never be made the subject of a jest, even amongst the most familiar acquaintances."

"Nonsense, my old darling. Don't stand there rolling up your eyes, and looking about as wise as a pig in a[Pg 55] pound. You know well enough I was only joking; you know well enough that no living soul beneath the canopy of heaven can ever say I gave him a liberty. But that'll do; so let's talk of this good gentleman's business. Suppose I do go out of my usual way to save this young lady, I'm sure I do it solely to oblige our new lodger, who, for his generosity, may well deserve to be called the king of lodgers." Then, turning towards Rodolph, she added, "You shall see how cleverly I will go to work. Just hide yourself there in that corner behind the curtain. Quick,—quick! I hear them coming."

Rodolph had scarcely time to conceal himself ere M. and Madame d'Harville descended the stairs. The features of the marquis shone with happiness, mingled with a confused and astonished expression, while the countenance of his wife, as she hung on his arm, looked calm but pale.

"Well, my good lady," cried Madame Pipelet, going out of her lodge to address her, as she descended the last stair, "how did you find the poor creatures,—I mean the Morels? Ah, I doubt not, such a sight made your heart ache? God knows your charity was well bestowed! I told you the other day, when you called to inquire about them, what a state of starvation and misery they were in. Be assured, kind lady, these poor things are fit objects of your bounty; you will never have to regret coming to this out-of-the-way place to examine into their case. They really are deserving all your kindness,—don't you think so, Alfred?"

Alfred, the strictness of whose ideas touching a due regard for all conjugal duties made him revolt at the thoughts of helping to deceive a husband, replied only by a sort of grumbling sound, as vague as discordant.

"Please to excuse my husband, madame," resumed Madame Pipelet; "he has got the cramp in his stomach, and cannot speak loud enough to be understood, or[Pg 56] he would tell you as well as myself that the poor people you have so fortunately relieved will pray of the Almighty, night and day, to bless and reward you, my worthy lady."

M. d'Harville gazed on his wife with feelings approaching to adoration, as he exclaimed, "Angel of goodness, how has base slander dared to disturb your heavenly work!"

"An angel!" repeated Madame Pipelet; "that she is, and one of the very best heaven could send. There is not a better."

"Let us return home, I entreat!" said Madame d'Harville, who was suffering acutely under the restraint she had put upon herself since entering the house, and, now that the necessity for exertion was over, found her strength rapidly forsaking her.

"Instantly," replied the marquis.

At the instant of their emerging into the open air from the obscurity of the alley, M. d'Harville, observing the pale looks of his wife, said, tenderly:

"Ah, Clémence, I have deep cause to solicit your pity and forgiveness."

"Alas! my lord," said the marquise, sighing deeply, "which of us has not need of pardon?"

Rodolph quitted his hiding-place, deeply ruminating upon so terrible a scene, thus intermingled with absurdity and coarseness, and pondering over the curious termination to a drama, the commencement of which had called forth such different passions.

"Well, now," exclaimed Madame Pipelet, "you must say I played my part well. Didn't I send that donkey of a husband home with longer ears than he came out with? Lord bless you! he'll put his wife under a glass case, and worship her from this day forward. Poor, dear gentleman! I really could not help feeling sorry for him. Oh! but about your furniture, M. Rodolph; it has not come yet."[Pg 57]

"I am now going to see about it. By the by, you had better go and inform the commandant that he may venture out."

"True; I'll go and let the caged bird out. But what stuff and nonsense for him to hire apartments of no more use to him than they are to the King of Prussia! He is a fine fellow, he is, with his paltry twelve francs a month. This is the fourth time he has been made a fool of."

Rodolph quitted the house, and Madame Pipelet, turning to her husband, said, with a chuckling laugh, "Now, Alfred, the commandant's turn has come; now for it! I mean to have a jolly good laugh at my gentleman,—up and dressed for nothing."

Arrived at the apartments of M. Charles Robert, the porteress rang the bell; the door was opened by the commandant himself.

"Commandant," said Anastasie, giving him a military salute, by placing the back of her little fat hand against the front of her wig, "I have come to set you free. Your friends have gone away arm in arm, happy as doves, under your very nose. Well, you are out of a nice mess, thanks to M. Rodolph. You ought to stand something very handsome to him for all he has done upon the present occasion."

"Then this slim individual with the moustachios is called M. Rodolph, is he?"

"Exactly so; neither more nor less."

"And who and what is the fellow?"

"Fellow, indeed!" cried Madame Pipelet, in a wrathful voice; "he is as good as other men,—better than some I could mention. Why, he is a travelling clerk, but the very king of lodgers; for, though he has only one room, he does not haggle and beat folks down,—not he. Why, he gave me six francs for doing for him,—six francs, mind, I say, without a word. Think of that!—without ever offering me a sou less. Oh,[Pg 58] he is a lodger! I wish other people were at all like him!"

"There, there, that's enough; take the key."

"Shall I light the fire to-morrow, commandant?"


"Next day?"

"No, no! Don't bother me."

"I say, commandant, if you recollect, I warned you that you would have your trouble for your pains."

M. Charles Robert threw a glance at his grinning tormentor that spoke of annihilation at least, and, dashing furiously by her, quitted the house, wondering much how a mere clerk should have become acquainted with his assignation with the Marquise d'Harville.

As the commandant left the alley, Tortillard came hobbling along.

"Well, what do you want?" said Madame Pipelet.

"Has the Borgnesse been to call upon me?" asked the young scamp, without attending to the porteress's question.

"The Chouette? No, you ugly monster! What should she come for?"

"Why, to take me with her into the country, to be sure," said Tortillard, swinging on the lodge gate.

"And what does your master say to it?"

"Oh, father managed all that. He sent this morning to M. Bradamanti, to ask him to give me leave to go in the country,—the country,—the country," sang or rather screamed the amiable scion of M. Bras Rouge, beating time most melodiously on the window-panes.

"Will you leave off, you young rascal, or are you going to break my window? Oh, here comes a coach!"

"Oh! oh! oh!" shrieked the urchin; "it is my dear Chouette! Oh, how nice the ride in a coach!"

And, looking through the window, they saw reflected[Pg 59] upon the red blind of the opposite glass the hideous profile of the Borgnesse. She beckoned to Tortillard, who ran out to her. The coachman descended from his box, and opened the door; Tortillard sprang into the vehicle, which instantly drove off.

Another person beside the Chouette was in the carriage. In the farther corner, and wrapped in an old cloak with a furred collar, his features shrouded by a black silk cap pulled down over his brows, sat the Schoolmaster. His inflamed lids formed a horrible contrast with the white globeless space beneath; and this fearful spectacle was rendered still more hideous by the action of the severe cold upon his seamed and frightful countenance.

"Now, small boy, squat yourself down on the pins of my man; you'll serve to keep him warm," said the Borgnesse to Tortillard, who crouched like a dog close to the feet of the Schoolmaster and the Chouette.

"Now, then, my coves," said the driver, "on we go to the 'ken' at Bouqueval, don't we, La Chouette? You shall see whether I can 'tool a drag' or not."

"And keep your pads on the move, my fine fellow; for we must get hold of the girl to-night."

"All right, my blind un; we'll go the pace."

"Shall I give you a hint?" said the Schoolmaster.

"What about?"

"Why, cut it fine as you pass by the 'nabs' at the barrier; the meeting might lead to disagreeable recollections. It is not every old acquaintance it is worth while to renew our friendship with. You have been wanted at the barriers for some time."

"I'll keep my weather-eye open," replied the driver, getting on his box.

It needs scarcely be told, after this specimen of slang, that the coachman was a robber, one of the Schoolmaster's worthy associates. The vehicle then quitted the Rue du Temple.[Pg 60]

Two hours afterwards, towards the closing of a winter's day, the vehicle containing the Chouette, the Schoolmaster, and Tortillard, stopped before a wooden cross, marking out the sunken and lonely road which conducted to the farm at Bouqueval, where the Goualeuse remained under the kind protection of Madame Georges.

[Pg 61]



The hour of five had just struck from the church clock of the little village of Bouqueval; the cold was intense, the sky clear, the sun, sinking slowly behind the vast leafless woods which crowned the heights of Ecouen, cast a purple hue over the horizon, and sent its faint, sloping rays across the extensive plains, white and hard with winter's frost.

In the country each season has its own distinctive features, its own peculiar charm; at times the dazzling snow changes the whole scene into immense landscapes of purest alabaster, exhibiting their spotless beauties to the reddish gray of the sky. Then may be seen in the glimmer of twilight, either ascending or descending the hill, a benighted farmer returning to his habitation; his horse, cloak, and hat, are covered with the falling snow. Bitter is the cold, biting the north wind, dark and gloomy the approaching night; but what cares he? There, amid those leafless trees, he sees the bright taper burning in the window of his cheerful home; while from the tall chimney a column of dark smoke rolls upwards through the flaky shower that descends, and speaks to the toil-worn farmer of a blazing hearth and humble meal prepared by kind affection to welcome him after the fatigues of his journey. Then the rustic gossip by the fireside, on which the fagot burns and crackles, and a peaceful, comfortable night's rest, amid the whistling of the winds, and the barking of the various dogs at the[Pg 62] different farms scattered around, with the answering cry from the distant watch-dog.

Daylight opens upon a scene of fairy-land. Surely the tiny elves have been celebrating some grand fête, and have left some of their adornments behind them, for on each branch hang long spiracles of crystal, glittering in the rays of a winter's sun with all the prismatic brilliancy of the diamond. The damp, rich soil of the arable land is laid down in furrows, where hides the timid hare in her form, or the speckled partridge runs merrily. Here and there is heard the melancholy tinkling of the sheep-bell hanging from the neck of some important leader of the numerous flocks scattered over the verdant heights and turfy valleys of the neighbourhood; while, carefully wrapped in his dark gray cloak, the shepherd, seated under shelter of those knotted trunks and interlaced branches, chants his cheerful lay, while his fingers are busily employed weaving a basket of rushes.

Occasionally a more animated scene presents itself; distant echo gives out the faint sound of the hunting-horn, and the cry of hounds; suddenly a frightened deer bursts from the neighbouring forest, stands for a few seconds in terrified alarm upon the frozen plain, then darts onward, and is quickly lost amid the thickets on the opposite side. The trampling of horses, the barking of dogs, are rapidly brought nearer by the breeze; and now, in their turn, a pack of dogs with brown and tawny-spotted skins issue from the brushwood from which the frightened deer but just now came; they run eagerly over the sterile ground, the fallow fields, with noses closely pointed to the ground they pursue with loud cries the traces left by the flying deer. At their heels come the hunters in their scarlet coats, bending over the necks of their swift steeds; they encourage their dogs by their voices mingled with the notes of the horn. Swift as lightning the brilliant cortège passes on; the noise[Pg 63] decreases; by degrees all is still; dogs, horses, and huntsmen are lost in the tangled mazes of the forest, where the frightened stag had sought and found a hiding-place. Then peace and calm resumed their reign; and the profound stillness of these vast plains was interrupted only by the monotonous song of the shepherd.

These sights,—these rustic views abounded in the environs of the village of Bouqueval, which, spite of its proximity to Paris, was situated in a sort of desert, to which there was no approach except by cross-roads. Concealed during the summer among the trees, like a nest amid the sheltering foliage, the farm which had become the home of the poor Goualeuse was now utterly bereft of its leafy screen, and entirely exposed to view. The course of the little river, now quite frozen over, resembled a long silver riband stretched along the ever verdant meadows, through which a number of fine cows were leisurely wending their way to their stable. Brought home by the approach of night, flocks of pigeons were successively arriving, and perching on the peaked roof of the dove-house; while the immense walnut-tree, that during the summer afforded an umbrageous screen both to the farmhouse and its numerous out-buildings, stripped of its rich foliage, exhibited only bare branches, through which could plainly be discerned the tiled roof of the one, and the thatched tops of the others, overgrown with patches of moss of mingled green and dingy brown.

A heavy cart, drawn by three strong, sturdy horses, with long, thick manes and shining coats, with blue collars ornamented with bells and tassels of red worsted, was bringing in a load of wheat from a neighbouring rick. This ponderous machine entered the courtyard by the large gate, while immense flocks of sheep were pressing eagerly round the side entrances; both men and beasts appeared impatient to escape from the severity of the cold, and to enjoy the comfort of repose. The[Pg 64] horses neighed joyously at the sight of their stable, the sheep bleated their satisfaction at returning to their warm folds, while the hungry labourers cast a longing look towards the kitchen windows, from which streamed forth pleasant promise of a warm and savoury meal.

The whole of the exterior arrangements of the farm were indicative of the most scrupulous order, neatness, and exactitude. Instead of being covered with dirt and dust, scattered about, and exposed to the inclemency of the season, the carts, rollers, harrows, etc., with every agricultural implement (and some were of the last and best invention), were placed, well cleaned and painted, under a vast shed, where the carters were accustomed to arrange their cart-harness with the most symmetrical attention to order and method. Large, clean, and well laid out, the court-yard had none of those huge dung-heaps, those stagnant pools of filthy water, which deface the finest establishments of La Beauce or La Brie.

The poultry-yard, surrounded by a green trellising, received and shut in all the feathered tribe, who after wandering in the fields all day, returned home by a small door left open till all were collected, when it was carefully closed and secured. Without dwelling too minutely upon every detail, we shall merely observe, that in all respects this farm passed most justly in the environs for a model farm, as much for the excellency of the method by which it was conducted, and the abundant crops it produced, as for the respectability and correct mode of life which distinguished the various labourers employed there, who were soon ranked among the most creditable and efficient workmen of the place.

The cause of all this prosperity shall be spoken of hereafter. Meanwhile we will conduct the reader to the trellised gate of the poultry-yard, which, for the rustic elegance of its perches and poultry-houses, was noways inferior to the farm itself; while through the centre flowed a small stream of clear, limpid water, the bed of[Pg 65] which was laid down with smooth pebbles, carefully cleansed from any obstructing substance.

A sudden stir arose among the winged inhabitants of this charming spot; the fowls flew fluttering and cackling from their perches, the turkeys gabbled, the guinea-fowls screamed, and the pigeons, forsaking their elevated position on the summit of the dove-house, descended to the sandy surface of the yard, and stood cooing and caressing each other with every manifestation of joy. The arrival of Fleur-de-Marie had occasioned all these ecstatic delights.

A more charming model than the Goualeuse could not have been desired by Greuze or Watteau, had her cheeks possessed a little more rondeur or been visited by a brighter tinge; but, spite of their delicate paleness, the expression of her features, the tout ensemble of her figure, and the gracefulness of her attitude would have rendered her worthy of exercising the crayons of even the celebrated artists we have alluded to.

The small round cap of Fleur-de-Marie displayed her fair forehead and light, braided hair, in common with all the young girls in the environs of Paris; above this cap, but still exposing the crown and ears, she wore a large red cotton handkerchief, folded smoothly, and pinned behind her head; while the long ends waving gracefully over her shoulders formed a costume which, for graceful effect, might be envied by the tasteful coiffeurs of Italy or Switzerland. A handkerchief of snow-white linen, crossed over her bosom, was half concealed by the high and spreading front of her coarse cloth apron. A jacket of blue woollen cloth with tight sleeves displayed her slender figure, and descended half way down her thick skirt of dark-striped fustian; white cotton stockings and tied shoes, partly covered by sabots, furnished with a leather strap for the instep, completed this costume of rustic simplicity, to which the natural grace of Fleur-de-Marie lent an inexpressible charm.[Pg 66]

Holding in one hand the two corners of her apron, with the other she distributed handfuls of grain among the winged crowd by which she was surrounded. One beautiful pigeon of a silvery whiteness, with beak and feet of a rich purple colour, more presuming or more indulged than the rest, after having flown several times around Fleur-de-Marie, at length alighted on her shoulder; the young girl, as though well used to these familiarities, continued, wholly undisturbed, to throw out continued supplies of grain; but, half turning her head till its perfect outline alone was visible, she gently raised her head, and smilingly offered her small rosy lips to meet those of her fond, caressing friend. The last rays of the setting sun shed a pale golden light over this innocent picture.

While the Goualeuse was thus occupied with her rural cares, Madame Georges and the Abbé Laporte, curé of Bouqueval, sitting by the fireside in the neat little parlour of the farm, were conversing on the one constant theme,—Fleur-de-Marie. The old curé, with a pensive, thoughtful air, his head bent downwards, and his elbows leaning on his knees, mechanically stretched his two trembling hands before the fire. Madame Georges, laying aside the needlework on which she had been occupied, kept an anxious eye on the abbé, as though eagerly waiting for some observation from him. After a moment's silence:

"Yes," said he, "you are right, Madame Georges; it will be better for M. Rodolph to question Marie, for she is so filled with deep gratitude and devotion to him, that she will probably reveal to him what she persists in concealing from us."

"Then, since you agree with me, M. le Curé, I will write, this very evening, to the address he left with me,—the Allée des Veuves."

"Poor child," sighed the kind old man, "she ought to have been so happy here! What secret grief can thus be preying on her mind?"

"At Length Alighted on Her Shoulder"
Original Etching by L. Poiteau "At Length Alighted on Her Shoulder"
Original Etching by L. Poiteau

[Pg 67]

"Her unhappiness is too deeply fixed to be removed even by her earnest and passionate application to study."

"And yet she has made a most rapid and extraordinary progress since she has been under our care, has she not?"

"She has, indeed; already she can read and write with the utmost fluency, and is already sufficiently advanced in arithmetic to assist me in keeping my farm accounts; and then the dear child is so active and industrious, and really affords me so much assistance as both surprises me and moves me to tears. You know that, spite of my repeated remonstrances, she persisted in working so hard, that I became quite alarmed lest such toil should seriously affect her health."

"I am thankful to hear from you," resumed the worthy curé, "that your negro doctor has fully quieted your apprehensions respecting the cough your young friend suffered from; he says it is merely temporary, and gives no reason for uneasiness."

"Oh, that kind, excellent M. David! He really appeared to feel the same interest in the poor girl that we did who know her sad story. She is universally beloved and respected by all on the farm; though that is not surprising, as, thanks to the generous and elevated views of M. Rodolph, all the persons employed on it are selected for their good sense and excellent conduct, from all parts of the kingdom; but were it not so,—were they of the common herd of vulgar-minded labourers, they could not help feeling the influence of Marie's angelic sweetness, and timid, graceful manner, as though she were always deprecating anger, or beseeching pardon for some involuntary fault. Unfortunate being! as though she alone were to blame."

After remaining for several minutes buried in reflection, the abbé resumed:

"Did you not tell me that this deep dejection of Marie's might be dated from the time when Madame[Pg 68] Dubreuil, who rents under the Duke de Lucenay, paid her a visit during the feast of the Holy Ghost?"

"Yes, M. le Curé, I did. And yet Madame Dubreuil and her daughter Clara (a perfect model of candour and goodness) were as much taken with our dear child as every one else who approaches her; and both of them lavished on her every mark of the most affectionate regard. You know that we pass the Sunday alternately at each other's house; but it invariably happens that, when we return from our Sunday excursion to Arnouville, where Madame Dubreuil and her daughter reside, the melancholy of my dear Marie seems augmented, and her spirits more depressed than ever. I cannot comprehend why this should be, when Madame Dubreuil treats her like a second daughter, and the sweet Clara loves her with the tender affection of a sister."

"In truth, Madame Georges, it is a fearful mystery; what can occasion all this hidden sorrow, when here she need not have a single care? The difference between her present and past life must be as great as that which exists between heaven and the abode of the damned. Surely, hers is not an ungrateful disposition?"

"She ungrateful! Oh, no, M. le Curé! her sensitive and affectionate nature magnifies the slightest service rendered her, and she appears as though her gratitude could never be sufficiently evinced. There is, too, in her every thought an instinctive delicacy and fineness of feeling wholly incompatible with ingratitude, which could never be harboured in so noble a nature as that of my charge. Dear Marie, how anxious does she seem to earn the bread she eats, and how eagerly she strives to compensate the hospitality shown her, by every exertion she can make, or service she can render! And, then, except on Sunday, when I make it a point she should dress herself with more regard to appearance to accompany me to church, she will only wear the coarse, humble garments worn by our young peasant girls; and yet there[Pg 69] is in her such an air of native superiority, so natural a grace, that one would not desire to see her otherwise attired, would they, M. le Curé?"

"Ah, mother's pride! Beware!" said the old priest, smiling.

At these words, tears filled the eyes of Madame Georges; she thought of her long-lost child, and of his possible destiny.

"Come, come, dear friend, cheer up! Look upon our dear Marie as sent by a gracious Providence to occupy your maternal affections until the blessed moment when he shall restore you your son; and, besides, you have a sacred duty to perform towards this child of your adoption. Are you not her baptismal godmother? And, believe me, when that office is worthily discharged, it almost equals that of a mother. As for M. Rodolph, he has discharged his obligation of godfather by anticipation, for, in snatching her from the abyss of crime into which her misfortunes and her helplessness had cast her, he may be said to have caused her immortal existence to begin."

"Doubtless the poor thing has never received the sacrament of our holy church. Do you think, M. le Curé, she is now sufficiently acquainted with its sanctified purposes to be admitted to a participation of it?"

"I will take an opportunity of learning her sentiments on the subject as we walk back to the rectory. I shall then apprise her that the holy ceremony will take place probably in about a fortnight from hence."

"How gratefully she will receive such an information; her religious feelings are the strongest I have ever met with."

"Alas, poor thing! she has deep and heavy expiation to make for the errors of her past life."

"Nay, M. l'Abbé, consider. Abandoned so young, without resource, without friends, almost without a knowledge of good or evil, plunged involuntarily into the very[Pg 70] vortex of crime, what was there to prevent her from falling the bitter sacrifice she has been?"

"The clear, moral sense of right and wrong implanted by the Creator in every breast should have withheld her; and, besides, we have no evidence of her having even sought to escape from the horrible fate into which she had fallen. Is there no friendly hand to be found in Paris to listen to the cries of suffering virtue? Is charity so rare, so hard to obtain in that large city?"

"Let us hope not, M. l'Abbé; but how to discover it is the difficulty. Ere arriving at the knowledge of one kind, commiserating Christian, think of the refusals, the rebukes, the denials to be endured. And, then, in such a case as our poor Marie's, it was no passing temporary aid that could avail her, but the steady, continued patronage and support, the being placed in the way to earn an honest livelihood. Many tender and pitying mothers would have succoured her had they known her sad case, I doubt not, but it was first requisite to secure the happiness of knowing where to meet with them. Trust me, I, too, have known want and misery. But for one of those providential chances which, alas! too late, threw poor Marie in the way of M. Rodolph,—but for one of those casualties, the wretched and destitute, most commonly repulsed with rude denial on their first applications, believe pity irretrievably lost, and, pressed by hunger, fierce, clamorous hunger, often seek in vice that relief they despair to obtain from commiseration."

At this moment the Goualeuse entered the parlour.

"Where have you been, my dear child?" inquired Madame Georges, anxiously.

"Visiting the fruit-house, madame, after having shut up the hen-houses and gates of the poultry-yard. All the fruit has kept excellently,—all but those I ran away with and ate."

"Now, Marie, why take all this fatigue upon yourself?[Pg 71] You should have left all this tiring work to Claudine; I fear you have quite tired yourself."

"No, no! dear Madame Georges; I wouldn't let Claudine help me for the world. I take so much delight in my fruit-house,—the smell of the beautiful ripe fruit is so delicious."

"M. le Curé," said Madame Georges, "you must go some day and see Marie's fruit-house. You can scarcely imagine the taste with which she has arranged it; each different variety of fruit is separated by rows of grapes, and the grapes are again divided off by strips of moss."

"Oh, yes, M. le Curé; pray do come and see it," said the Goualeuse, innocently; "I am sure you would be pleased with it. You would be surprised what a pretty contrast the moss makes to the bright rosy apples or the rich golden pears. There are some such lovely waxen apples, quite a pure red and white; and really, as they lie surrounded by the soft green moss, I cannot help thinking of the heads of little cherubim just peeping out from the glorious clouds of heaven," added the delighted Goualeuse, speaking with all the enthusiasm of an artist of the work of her creation.

The curé looked at Madame Georges, then smilingly replied to Fleur-de-Marie:

"I have already admired the dairy over which you preside, my child, and can venture to declare it perfect in its way; the most particular dairy-woman might envy you the perfection to which you have brought it. Ere long, I promise myself the pleasure of visiting your fruit-house, and passing a similar compliment on your skill in arrangement. You shall then introduce me to those charming rosy apples and delicious golden pears, as well as to the little cherubim pippins so prettily peeping from their mossy beds. But see! the sun has already set; you will scarcely have sufficient time to conduct me back to the rectory-house and return before dark. Come, my child, fetch your cloak, and let us be[Pg 72] gone; or, now I think of it, do you remain at home this cold bitter night, and let one of the farm servants go home with me."

"Oh, M. le Curé," replied the kind Madame Georges, "Marie will be quite wretched if she is not allowed to accompany you; she so much enjoys the happiness of escorting you home every evening."

"Indeed, Monsieur le Curé," added the Goualeuse, timidly raising her large blue eyes to the priest's countenance, "I shall fear you are displeased with me if you do not permit me to accompany you as usual."

"Well, then, my dear child, wrap yourself up very warm, and let us go."

Fleur-de-Marie hastily threw over her shoulders a sort of cloak of coarse white cloth, edged with black velvet, and with a large hood, to be drawn at pleasure over the head. Thus equipped, she eagerly offered her arm to her venerable friend.

"Happily," said he, in taking it, "the distance is but trifling, and the road both good and safe to pass at all hours."

"As it is somewhat later to-night than usual," said Madame Georges, "will you have one of the farm-people to return with you, Marie?"

"Do you take me for a coward?" said Marie, playfully. "I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, madame. No, pray do not let any one be called away on my account. It is not a quarter of an hour's walk from here to the rectory. I shall be back long before dark."

"Well, as you like. I merely thought it would be company for you; for as to fearing, thank heaven, there is no cause. Loose vagabond people, likely to interrupt your progress, are wholly unknown here."

"And, were I not equally sure of the absence of all danger, I would not accept this dear child's arm," added the curé, "useful as, I confess, I find it."[Pg 73]

And, leaning on Fleur-de-Marie, who regulated her light step to suit the slow and laboured pace of the old man, the two friends quitted the farm.

A few minutes' walk brought the Goualeuse and the priest close to the hollow road in which the Schoolmaster, the Chouette, and Tortillard, were lying in ambush.

[Pg 74]



The church and parsonage of Bouqueval were placed on the side of a hill covered with chestnut-trees, and commanded an entire view of the village. Fleur-de-Marie and the abbé reached a winding path which led to the clergyman's home, crossing the sunken road by which the hill was intersected diagonally. The Chouette, the Schoolmaster, and Tortillard, concealed in one of the hollows of the road, saw the priest and Fleur-de-Marie descend into the ravine, and leave it again by a steep declivity. The features of the young girl being hidden under the hood of her cloak, the Chouette did not recognise her old victim.

"Silence, my old boy," said the old harridan to the Schoolmaster; "the young 'mot' and the 'black slug' are just crossing the path. I know her by the description which the tall man in black gave us; a country appearance, neither tall nor short; a petticoat shot with brown, and a woollen mantle with a black border. She walks every day with a 'devil-dodger' to his 'crib,' and returns alone. When she come back, which she will do presently by the end of the road, we must spring upon her and carry her off to the coach."

"If she cries for help," replied the Schoolmaster, "they will hear her at the farm, if, as you say, the out-buildings are visible from here; for you—you can see," he added, in a sullen tone.

"Oh, yes, we can see the buildings from here quite[Pg 75] plainly," said Tortillard. "It is only a minute ago that I climbed to the top of the bank, and, lying down on my belly, I could hear a carter who was talking to his horses in the yard there."

"I'll tell you, then, what we must do," said the Schoolmaster, after a moment's silence. "Let Tortillard have the watch at the entrance to the path. When he sees the young girl returning, let him go and meet her, saying that he is the son of a poor old woman who has hurt herself by falling down the hollow road, and beg the girl to come to her assistance."

"I'm up to you, fourline; the poor old woman is your darling Chouette. You're 'wide-awake!' My man, you are always the king of the 'downy ones' (têtards). What must I do afterwards?"

"Conceal yourself in the hollow way on the side where Barbillon is waiting with the coach. I will be at hand. When Tortillard has brought the wench to you in the middle of the ravine, leave off whimpering and spring upon her, put one 'mauley' round her 'squeeze,' and the other into her 'patter-box,' and 'grab' her 'red rag' to prevent her from squeaking."

"I know, I know, fourline; as we did with the woman at the canal of St. Martin, when we gave her cold water for supper (drowned her), after having 'prigged' her 'negress' (the parcel wrapped in black oil-skin) which she had under her arm,—the same 'dodge,' isn't it?"

"Yes, precisely. But mind, grab the girl tight whilst Tortillard comes and fetches me. We three will then bundle her up in my cloak, carry her to Barbillon's coach, from thence to the plain of St. Denis, where the man in black will await us."

"That's the way to do business, my fourline; you are without an equal! If I could, I would let off a firework on your head, and illuminate you with the colours of Saint Charlot, the patron of 'scragsmen.' Do you see, you urchin? If you would be an 'out-and-outer,' make[Pg 76] my husband your model," said the Chouette, boastingly to Tortillard. Then, addressing the Schoolmaster, "By the way, do you know that Barbillon is in an awful 'funk' (fright)? He thinks that he shall be had up before the 'beaks' on a swinging matter."


"The other day, returning from Mother Martial's, the widow of the man who was scragged, and who keeps the boozing-ken in the Ile du Ravageur, Barbillon, the Gros-Boiteux, and the Skeleton had a row with the husband of the milkwoman who comes every morning from the country in a little cart drawn by a donkey, to sell her milk in the Cité, at the corner of the Rue de la Vieille-Draperie, close to the ogress's of the 'White Rabbit,' and they 'walked into him with their slashers' (killed him with their knives)."

The son of Bras Rouge, who did not understand slang, listened to the Chouette with a sort of disappointed curiosity.

"You would like to know, little man, what we are saying, wouldn't you?"

"Yes. You were talking of Mother Martial, who is at the Ile du Ravageur, near Asnières. I know her very well, and her daughter Calebasse and François and Amandine, who are about as old as I am, and who are made to bear everybody's snubs and thumps in the house. But when you talked of 'walking into (buter) any one,' that's slang, I know."

"It is; and, if you're a very good chap, I'll teach you to 'patter flash.' You're just the age when it may be very useful to you. Would you like to learn, my precious lambkin?"

"I rather think I should, too, and no mistake; and I would rather live with you than with my old cheat of a mountebank, pounding his drugs. If I knew where he hides his 'rat-poison for men,' I'd put some in his soup, and then that would settle the quarrel between us."[Pg 77]

The Chouette laughed heartily, and said to Tortillard, drawing him towards her:

"Come, chick, and kiss his mammy. What a droll boy it is—a darling! But, my manikin, how didst know that he had 'rat-poison for men'?"

"Why, 'cause I heard him say so one day when I was hid in the cupboard in the room where he keeps his bottles, his brass machines, and where he mixes his stuffs together."

"What did you hear him say?" asked the Chouette.

"I heard him say to a gentleman that he gave a powder to, in a paper, 'When you are tired of life, take this in three doses, and you will sleep without sickness or sorrow.'"

"Who was the gentleman?" asked the Schoolmaster.

"Oh, a very handsome gentleman with black moustachios, and a face as pretty as a girl's. He came another time; and then, when he left, I followed him, by M. Bradamanti's order, to find out where he perched. The fine gentleman went into the Rue de Chaillot, and entered a very grand house. My master said to me, 'No matter where this gentleman goes, follow and wait for him at the door. If he comes out again, still keep your eye on him, until he does not come out of the place where he enters, and that will prove that he lives there. Then Tortillard, my boy, twist (tortille) yourself about to find out his name, or I will twist your ears in a way that will astonish you.'"


"Well, I did twist myself about, and found out his name."

"How did you manage it?" inquired the Schoolmaster.

"Why, so. I'm not a fool; so I went to the porter at the house in the Rue de Chaillot, where this gentleman had gone in and not come out again. The porter had his hair finely powdered, with a fine brown coat with a yellow collar trimmed with silver. So I says to him,[Pg 78] 'Good gentleman, I have come to ask for a hundred sous which the gentleman of the house has promised me for having found his dog and brought it back to him—a little black dog called Trumpet; and the gentleman with dark features, with black moustachios, a white riding-coat, and light blue pantaloons, told me he lived at No. 11 Rue de Chaillot, and that his name was Dupont.' 'The gentleman you're talking of is my master, and his name is the Viscount de St. Remy, and we have no dog here but yourself, you young scamp; so "cut your stick," or I'll make you remember coming here, and trying to do me out of a hundred sous,' says the porter to me; and he gave me a kick as he said it. But I didn't mind that," added Tortillard most philosophically, "for I found out the name of the handsome young gentleman with black moustachios, who came to my master's to buy the 'rat-poison for men' who are tired of living. He is called the Viscount de St. Remy,—my—my—St. Remy," added the son of Bras Rouge, humming the last words, as was his usual habit.

"Clever little darling—I could eat him up alive!" said the Chouette, embracing Tortillard. "Never was such a knowing fellow. He deserves that I should be his mother, the dear rascal does."

And the hag embraced Tortillard with an absurd affectation. The son of Bras Rouge, touched by this proof of affection, and desirous of showing his gratitude, eagerly answered:

"Only you tell me what to do, and you shall see how I'll do it."

"Will you, though? Well, then, you sha'n't repent doing so."

"Oh, I should like always to stay with you!"

"If you behave well, we may see about that. You sha'n't leave us if you are a good boy."

"Yes," said the Schoolmaster, "you shall lead me about like a poor blind man, and say you are my son.[Pg 79] We will get into houses in this way, and then—ten thousand slaughters!" added the assassin with enthusiasm; "the Chouette will assist us in making lucky hits. I will then teach that devil of a Rodolph, who blinded me, that I am not yet quite done for. He took away my eyesight, but he could not, did not remove my bent for mischief. I would be the head, Tortillard the eyes, and you the hand,—eh, Chouette? You will help me in this, won't you?"

"Am I not with you to gallows and rope, fourline? Didn't I, when I left the hospital, and learnt that you had sent the 'yokel' from St. Mandé to ask for me at the ogress's—didn't I run to you at the village directly, telling those chawbacons of labourers that I was your rib?"

These words of the "one-eyed's" reminded the Schoolmaster of an unpleasant affair, and, altering his tone and language with the Chouette, he said, in a surly tone:

"Yes, I was getting tired of being all by myself with these honest people. After a month I could not stand it any longer; I was frightened. So then I thought of trying to find you out; and a nice thing I did for myself," he added, in a tone of increasing anger; "for the day after you arrived I was robbed of the rest of the money which that devil in the Allée des Veuves had given me. Yes, some one stole my belt full of gold whilst I was asleep. It was only you who could have done it; and so now I am at your mercy. Whenever I think of it, I can hardly restrain myself from killing you on the spot—you cursed old robber, you!" and he stepped towards the old woman.

"Look out for yourself, if you try to do any harm to the Chouette!" cried Tortillard.

"I will smash you both—you and she—base vipers as you are!" cried the ruffian, enraged; and, hearing the boy mumbling near him, he aimed at him so violent[Pg 80] a blow with his fist, as must have killed him if it had struck him. Tortillard, as much to revenge himself as the Chouette, picked up a stone, took aim, and struck the Schoolmaster on the forehead. The blow was not dangerous, but very painful. The brigand grew furious with passion, raging like a wounded bull, and, rushing forward swiftly and at random, stumbled.

"What, break your own back?" shouted the Chouette, laughing till she cried.

Despite the bloody ties which bound her to this monster, she saw how entirely, and with a sort of savage delight, this man, formerly so dreaded, and so proud of his giant strength, was reduced to impotence. The old wretch, by these feelings, justified that cold-blooded idea of La Rochefoucauld's, that "there is something in the misfortunes of our best friends which does not displease us." The disgusting brat, with his tawny cheeks and weasel face, enjoyed and participated in the mirth of the one-eyed hag. The Schoolmaster tripped again, and the urchin exclaimed:

"Open your peepers, old fellow; look about you. You are going the wrong way. What capers you are cutting! Can't you see your way? Why don't you wipe your eye-glasses?"

Unable to seize on the boy, the athletic murderer stopped, struck his foot violently on the ground, put his enormous and hairy fists to his eyes, and then uttered a sound which resembled the hoarse scream of a muzzled tiger.

"Got a bad cough, I'm afraid, old chap!" said Bras Rouge's brat. "You're hoarse, I'm afraid? I have some capital liquorice which a gen-d'arme gave me. P'raps you'd like to try it?" and, taking up a handful of sand, he threw it in the face of the ruffian.

Struck full in his countenance by this shower of gravel, the Schoolmaster suffered still more severely by this last attack than by the blow from the stone. Become[Pg 81] pale, in spite of his livid and cicatrised features, he extended his two arms suddenly in the form of a cross, in a moment of inexpressible agony and despair, and, raising his frightful face to heaven, he cried, in a voice of deep suffering:

"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!"

This involuntary appeal to divine mercy by a man stained by every crime, a bandit in whose presence but very recently the most resolute of his fellows trembled, appeared like an interposition of Providence.

"Ha! ha! ha!" said the Chouette, in a mocking tone; "look at the thief making the crucifix! You mistake your road, my man. It is the 'old one' you should call to your help."

"A knife! Oh, for a knife to kill myself! A knife! since all the world abandons me!" shrieked the wretch, gnawing his fists for very agony and rage.

"A knife!—there's one in your pocket, cut-throat, and with an edge, too. The little old man in the Rue du Roule, you know, one moonlight night, and the cattle-dealer in the Poissy road, could tell the 'moles' all about it. But if you want it, it's here."

The Schoolmaster, when thus instructed, changed the conversation, and replied, in a surly and threatening tone:

"The Chourineur was true; he did not rob, but had pity on me."

"Why did you say that I had 'prigged your blunt'?" inquired the Chouette, hardly able to restrain her laughter.

"It was only you who came into my room," said the miscreant. "I was robbed on the night of your arrival, and who else could I suspect? Those country people could not have done such a thing."

"Why should not country people steal as well as other folks? Is it because they drink milk and gather grass for their rabbits?"[Pg 82]

"I don't know. I only know I'm robbed."

"And is that the fault of your own Chouette? What! suspect me? Do you think if I had got your belt that I should stay any longer with you. What a fool you are! Why, if I had chosen to 'pouch your blunt,' I could, of course; but, as true as I'm Chouette, you would have seen me again when the 'pewter' was spent, for I like you as well now with your eyes white, as I did—you rogue, you! Come, be decent, and leave off grinding your 'snags' in that way, or you'll break 'em."

"It's just as if he was a-cracking nuts," said Tortillard.

"Ha! ha! ha! what a droll baby it is! But quiet, now, quiet, my man of men; let him laugh, it is but an infant. You must own you have been unfair; for when the tall man in mourning, who looks like a mute at a funeral, said to me, 'A thousand francs are yours if you carry off this young girl from the farm at Bouqueval, and bring her to the spot in the Plain of St. Denis that I shall tell you,' say, cut-throat, didn't I directly tell you of the affair and agree to share with you, instead of choosing some 'pal' with his eyesight clear? Why, it's like making you a handsome present for doing nothing; for unless to bundle up the girl and carry her, with Tortillard's assistance, you would be of no more use to me than the fifth wheel to an omnibus. But never mind; for, although I could have robbed you if I would, I like, on the contrary, to do you service. I should wish you to owe everything to your darling Chouette—that's my way, that is. We must give two hundred 'bob' to Barbillon for driving the coach, and coming once before with the servant of the tall man in mourning, to look about the place and determine where we should hide ourselves whilst we waited for the young miss; and then we shall have eight hundred 'bob' between us. What do you say to that old boy? What! still angry with your old woman?"[Pg 83]

"How do I know that you will give me a 'mag' when once the thing's done? Why!—I"—said the ruffian, in a tone of gloomy distrust.

"Why, if I like, I need not give you a dump, that's true enough; for you are on my gridiron, my lad, as I once had the Goualeuse; and so I will broil you to my own taste, till the 'old one' gets the cooking of my darling—ha! ha! ha! What, still sulky with your Chouette?" added the horrible woman, patting the shoulder of the ruffian, who stood mute and motionless.

"You are right," said he, with a sigh of concentrated rage; "it is my fate—mine—mine! At the mercy of a woman and child whom but lately I could have killed with a blow. Oh, if I were not afraid of dying!" said he, falling back against the bank.

"What! a coward!—you—you a coward!" said the Chouette, contemptuously. "Why, you'll be talking next of your conscience! What a precious farce! Well, if you haven't more pluck than that, I'll 'cut' and leave you."

"And that I cannot have my revenge of the man who in thus making a martyr of me has reduced me to the wretched situation in which I am!" screamed the Schoolmaster, in a renewal of fury. "I am afraid of death—yes, I own it, I am afraid. But if I were told, 'This man Rodolph is between your arms—your two arms—and now you shall both be flung into a pit,' I would say, 'Throw us, then, at once.' Yes, for then I should be safe not to relax my clutch, till we both reached the bottom together. I would fix my teeth in his face—his throat—his heart. I would tear him to pieces with my teeth—yes, my teeth; for I should be jealous of a knife!"

"Bravo, fourline! now you are my own dear love again. Calm yourself. We will find him again, that wretch of a Rodolph, and the Chourineur too. Come,[Pg 84] pluck up, old man; we will yet work our will on them both. I say it, on both!"

"Well, then, you will not forsake me?" cried the brigand to the Chouette in a subdued tone, mingled, however, with distrust. "If you do leave me, what will become of me?"

"That's true. I say, fourline, what a joke if Tortillard and I were to 'mizzle' with the 'drag,' and leave you where you are—in the middle of the fields; and the night air begins to nip very sharp. I say, it would be a joke, old cutpurse, wouldn't it?"

At this threat the Schoolmaster shuddered, and, coming towards the Chouette, said tremulously, "No, no, you wouldn't do that, Chouette; nor you, Tortillard. It would be too bad, wouldn't it?"

"Ha! ha! ha! 'Too bad,' says he, the gentle dear! And the little old man in the Rue du Roule; and the cattle-dealer and the woman in Saint Martin's Canal; and the gentleman in the Allée des Veuves; they found you nice and amiable, I don't think—didn't they—with your 'larding-pin?' Why, then, in your turn, shouldn't you be left to such tender mercy as you have showed?"

"I'm in your power, don't abuse it," said the Schoolmaster. "Come, come, I confess I was wrong to suspect you. I was wrong to try and thump Tortillard; and, you see, I beg pardon; and of you too, Tortillard. Yes, I ask pardon of both."

"I will have you ask pardon on your knees for having tried to beat the Chouette," said Tortillard.

"You rum little beggar, how funny you are!" said the Chouette, laughing loudly; "but I should like to see what a 'guy' you will make of yourself. So on your knees, as if you were 'pattering' love to your old darling. Come, do it directly, or we will leave you; and I tell you that in half an hour it will be quite dark, though you don't look as if you thought so, old 'No-Eyes.'"[Pg 85]

"Night or day, what's that to him?" said Tortillard, saucily. "The gentleman always has his shutters closed."

"Then here, on my knees, I humbly ask your pardon, Chouette; and yours also, Tortillard! Will not that content you?" said the robber, kneeling in the middle of the highway. "And now will you leave me?"

This strange group, enclosed by the embankment of the ravine, and lighted by the red glimmer of the twilight, was hideous to behold. In the middle of the road the Schoolmaster, on his knees, extended his large and coarse hands towards the one-eyed hag; his thick and matted hair, which his fright had dishevelled, left exposed his motionless, rigid, glassy, dead eyeballs—the very glance of a corpse. Stooping deprecatingly his broad-spread shoulders, this Hercules kneels abjectly, and trembles at the feet of an old woman and a child!

The old hag herself, wrapped in a red-checked shawl, her head covered with an old cap of black lace, which allowed some locks of her grizzled hair to escape, looked down with an air of haughty contempt and domineering pride on the Schoolmaster. The bony, scorched, shrivelled, and livid countenance of the parrot-nosed old harridan expressed a savage and insulting joy; her small but fierce eye glistened like a burning coal; a sinister expression curled her lips, shaded with long straight hairs, and revealed three or four large, yellow, and decayed fangs.

Tortillard, clothed in a blouse with a leathern belt, standing on one leg, leaned on the Chouette's arm to keep himself upright. The bad expression and cunning look of this deformed imp, with a complexion as sallow as his hair, betokened at this moment his disposition—half fiend, half monkey. The shadow cast from the declivity of the ravine increased the horrid tout ensemble of the scene, which the increasing darkness half hid.

"Promise me,—oh, promise me—at least, not to[Pg 86] forsake me!" repeated the Schoolmaster, frightened by the silence of the Chouette and Tortillard, who were enjoying his dismay. "Are you not here?" added the murderer, leaning forward to listen, and advancing his arms mechanically.

"Yes, my man, we are here; don't be frightened. Forsake you! leave my love! the man of my heart! No, I'd sooner be 'scragged'! Once for all, I will tell you why I will not forsake you. Listen, and profit. I have always liked to have some one in my grip—beast or Christian. Before I had Pegriotte (oh! that the 'old one' would return her to my clutch! for I have still my idea of scaling off her beauty with my bottle of vitriol)—before Pegriotte's turn, I had a brat who froze to death under my care. For that little job, I got six years in the 'Stone Jug.' Then I used to have little birds, which I used to tame, and then pluck 'em alive. Ha! ha! but that was troublesome work, for they did not last long. When I left the 'Jug,' the Goualeuse came to hand; but the little brat ran away before I had had half my fun out of her carcass. Well, then I had a dog, who had his little troubles as well as she had; and I cut off one of his hind feet and one of his four feet; and you never saw such a rum beggar as I made of him; I almost burst my sides with laughing at him!"

"I must serve a dog I know of, who bit me one day, in the same way," said the promising Master Tortillard.

"When I fell in again with you, my darling," continued the Chouette, "I was trying what I could do that was miserable with a cat. Well, now, at this moment, you, old boy, shall be my cat, my dog, my bird, my Pegriotte; you shall be anything to worry (bête de souffrance). Do you understand, my love? Instead of having a bird or a child to make miserable, I shall have, as it were, a wolf or a tiger. I think that's rather a bright idea; isn't it?"[Pg 87]

"Hag! devil!" cried the Schoolmaster, rising in a desperate rage.

"What, my pet angry with his darling old deary? Well, if it must be so, it must. Have your own way; you have a right to it. Good night, blind sheep!"

"The field-gate is wide open, so walk alone, Mister No-eyes; and, if you toddle straight, you'll reach the right road somehow," said Tortillard, laughing heartily.

"Oh, that I could die! die! die!" said the Schoolmaster, writhing and twisting his arms about in agony.

At this moment, Tortillard, stooping to the ground, exclaimed, in a low voice:

"I hear footsteps in the path; let us hide; it is not the young miss, for they come the same way as she did."

On the instant, a stout peasant girl in the prime of youth, followed by a large shepherd's dog, carrying on her head an open basket, appeared, and followed the same path which the priest and the Goualeuse had taken. We will rejoin the two latter, leaving the three accomplices concealed in the hollow of the path.

[Pg 88]



The last rays of the sun were gradually disappearing behind the vast pile of the Château d'Ecouen and the woods which surrounded it. On all sides, until the sight lost them in the distance, were vast tracts of land lying in brown furrows hardened by the frost—an extensive desert, of which the hamlet of Bouqueval appeared to be the oasis. The sky, which was serenely glorious, was tinted by the sunset, and glowed with long lines of empurpled light, the certain token of wind and cold. These tints, which were at first of a deep red, became violet; then a bluish black, as the twilight grew more and more dark on the atmosphere. The crescent of the moon was as delicately and clearly defined as a silver ring, and began to shine beautifully in the midst of the blue and dimmed sky, where many stars already had appeared. The silence was profound; the hour most solemn. The curate stopped for a moment on the summit of the acclivity to enjoy the calm of this delicious evening. After some minutes' reflection, he extended his trembling hand towards the depths of the horizon, half veiled by the shadows of the evening, and said to Fleur-de-Marie, who was walking pensively beside him:

"Look, my child, at the vastness and extent to which we have no visible limit; we hear not the slightest sound. Say, does not this silence give us an idea of infinity and of eternity? I say this to you, Marie, because you are peculiarly sensitive of the beauties of[Pg 89] creation. I have often been struck at the admiration, alike poetical and religious, with which they inspire you,—you, a poor prisoner so long deprived of them. Are you not, as I am, struck with the solemn tranquillity of the hour?"

The Goualeuse made no reply. The curé, regarding her with astonishment, found she was weeping.

"What ails you, my child?"

"My father, I am unhappy!"

"Unhappy!—you?—still unhappy!"

"I know it is ingratitude to complain of my lot after all that has been and is done for me; and yet—"

"And yet?"

"Father, I pray of you forgive my sorrows; their expression may offend my benefactors."

"Listen, Marie. We have often asked you the cause of these sorrows with which you are depressed, and which excite in your second mother the most serious uneasiness. You have avoided all reply, and we have respected your secret whilst we have been afflicted at not being able to solace your sorrows."

"Alas; good father, I dare not tell you what is passing in my mind. I have been moved, as you have been, at the sight of this calm and saddening evening. My heart is sorely afflicted, and I have wept."

"But what ails you, Marie? You know how we love you! Come, tell me all. You should; for I must tell you that the time is very close at hand when Madame Georges and M. Rodolph will present you at the baptismal font, and take upon themselves the engagement before God to protect you all the days of your life."

"M. Rodolph—he who has saved me?" cried Fleur-de-Marie, clasping her hands; "he will deign to give me this new proof of affection! Oh, indeed, my father, I can no longer conceal from you anything, lest I should, indeed, deserve to be called and thought an ingrate."[Pg 90]

"An ingrate! How?"

"That you may understand me, I must begin and tell you of my first day at the farm."

"Then let us talk as we walk on."

"You will be indulgent to me, my father? What I shall say may perhaps be wrong."

"The Lord has shown his mercy unto you. Be of good heart."

"When," said Fleur-de-Marie, after a moment's reflection, "I knew that, on arriving here, I should not again leave the farm and Madame Georges, I believed it was all a dream. At first I felt giddy with my happiness, and thought every moment of M. Rodolph. Very often when I was alone, and in spite of myself, I raised my eyes to heaven, as if to seek him there and thank him. Afterwards—and I was wrong, father—I thought more of him than God, attributing to him what God alone could do. I was happy—as happy as a creature who had suddenly and entirely escaped from a great danger. You and Madame Georges were so kind to me, that I thought I deserved pity rather than blame."

The curé looked at the Goualeuse with an air of surprise. She continued:

"Gradually I became used to my sweet course of life. I no longer felt fear when I awoke, of finding myself at the ogress's. I seemed to sleep in full security, and all my delight was to assist Madame Georges in her work, and to apply myself to the lesson you gave me, my father, as well as to profit by your advice and exhortation. Except some moments of shame, when I reflected on the past, I thought myself equal to all the world, because all the world was so kind to me. When, one day—"

Here sobs cut short poor Fleur-de-Marie's narration.

"Come, come, my poor child, calm yourself. Courage, courage!"

The Goualeuse wiped her eyes, and resumed:[Pg 91]

"You recollect, father, during the fêtes of the Toussaints, that Madame Dubreuil, who superintends the Duke de Lucenay's farm at Arnouville, came, with her daughter, to pass some time with us?"

"I do; and I was delighted to see you form an acquaintance with Clara Dubreuil, who is a very excellent girl."

"She is an angel—an angel, father. When I knew that she was coming to stay for some days at the farm, my delight was so great that I could think of nothing else but the moment when she should arrive. At length she came. I was in my room, which she was to share with me; and, whilst I was putting it into nice order I was sent for. I went into the saloon, my heart beating excessively, when Madame Georges, presenting me to the pretty young lady, whose looks were so kind and good, said, 'Marie, here is a friend for you.' 'I hope,' added Madame Dubreuil, 'that you and my daughter will soon be like two sisters;' and hardly had her mother uttered these words, than Mademoiselle Clara came and embraced me. Then, father," continued Fleur-de-Marie, weeping, "I do not know what came over me; but, when I felt the fresh and fair face of Clara pressed against my cheek of shame, that cheek became scorching with guilt—remorse. I remembered who and what I was;—I—I—to receive the caresses of a good and virtuous girl!"

"Why, my child?"

"Ah, my father," cried Fleur-de-Marie, interrupting the curé with painful emotion, "when M. Rodolph took me away from the Cité, I began vaguely to be conscious of the depth of my degradation. But do you think that education, advice, the examples I receive from Madame Georges and yourself, have not, whilst they have enlightened my mind, made me, alas! to comprehend but too clearly that I have been more culpable than unfortunate? Before Clara's arrival, when these thoughts grew upon[Pg 92] me, I drove them away by seeking to please Madame Georges and you, father. If I blushed for the past it was only in my own presence. But the sight of this young lady of my own age, so charming, so virtuous, has conjured up the recollection of the distance that exists between us; and, for the first time, I have felt that there are wrongs which nothing can efface. From that time the thought has haunted me perpetually, and, in spite of myself, I recur to it. From that day I have not had one moment's repose." The Goualeuse again wiped her eyes, that swam in tears.

After having looked at her for some moments with a gaze of the tenderest pity, the curé replied:

"Reflect, my child, that if Madame Georges desired to see you the friend of Mademoiselle Dubreuil, it was that she felt you were worthy of such a confidence from your good conduct. Your reproaches, addressed to yourself, seem almost to impugn your second mother."

"I feel that, father, and was wrong, no doubt; but I could not subdue my shame and fear. When Clara was once settled at the farm, I was as sad as I had before thought I should be happy, when I reflected on the pleasure of having a companion of my own age. She, on the contrary, was all joy and lightness. She had a bed in my apartment; and the first evening before she went to bed she kissed me, saying that she loved me already, and felt every kind sentiment towards me. She made me to call her Clara, and she would call me Marie. Then she said her prayers, telling me that she would join my name with hers in her prayers, if I would also unite her name with mine. I did not dare to refuse; and, after talking for some time, she went to sleep. I had not got into my bed, and, approaching her bedside, I contemplated her angel face with tears in my eyes; and then, reflecting that she was sleeping in the same chamber with me—with one who had been at the ogress's, mixed up with robbers and murderers, I trembled as if I had committed[Pg 93] some crime, and a thousand nameless fears beset me. I thought that God would one day punish me. I went to sleep and had horrid dreams. I saw again those frightful objects I had nearly forgotten—the Chourineur, the Schoolmaster, the Chouette—that horrible, one-eyed woman who had tortured my earliest infancy. Oh, what a night! Mon Dieu!—what a night! What dreams!" said the Goualeuse, shuddering at their very recollection.

"Poor Marie!" said the curé with emotion. "Why did you not earlier tell me all this? I should have found comfort for you. But go on."

"I slept so late, that Mademoiselle Clara awoke me by kissing me. To overcome what she called my coldness, and show her regard, she told me a secret—that she was going to be married when she was eighteen to the son of a farmer at Goussainville, whom she loved very dearly, and the union had long been agreed upon by the two families. Then she added a few words of her past life, so simple, calm, and happy! She had never quitted her mother, and never intended to do so, for her husband was to take part in the management of the farm with M. Dubreuil. 'Now, Marie,' she said, 'you know me as well as if you were my sister. So tell me all about your early days.'

"I thought when I heard the words that I should have died of them; I blushed and stammered; I did not know what Madame Georges had said of me, and I was fearful of telling a falsehood; I answered vaguely, that I had been an orphan, educated by a very rigid person; and that I had not been happy in my infancy; and that my happiness was dated from the moment when I had come to live with Madame Georges; then Clara, as much by interest as curiosity, asked me where I had been educated, in the city or the country, my father's name, and, above all, if I remembered anything of my mother. All these questions embarrassed as much[Pg 94] as they pained me, for I was obliged to reply with falsehood, and you have taught me, father, how wicked it is to lie; but Clara did not think that I was deceiving her; she attributed the hesitation of my answers to the pain which my early sorrows renewed; she believed me and pitied me with a sincerity that cut me to the soul. Oh, father, you never can know what I suffered in this conversation, and how much it cost me only to reply in language of falsehood and hypocrisy!"

"Unfortunate girl! The anger of heaven will weigh heavily on those who, by casting you into the vile road of perdition, have compelled you to undergo all your life the sad consequences of a first fault."

"Oh, yes, they were indeed cruel, father," replied Fleur-de-Marie, bitterly, "for my shame is ineffaceable. As Clara talked to me of the happiness that awaited her,—her marriage, her peaceful joys of home, I could not help comparing my lot with hers; for, in spite of the kindness showered upon me, my fate must always be miserable. You and Madame Georges, in teaching me what virtue is, have taught me the depth of that abasement into which I had fallen; nothing can take from me the brand of having been the refuse of all that is vilest in the world. Alas! if the knowledge of good and evil was to be so sad to me, why not have abandoned me to my unhappy fate?"

"Oh, Marie, Marie!"

"Father, I speak ill, do I not? Alas! I dare not confess it; but I am at times so ungrateful as to repine at the benefits heaped upon me, and to say to myself, 'If I had not been snatched from infamy, why, wretchedness, misery, blows, would soon have ended my life; and, at least, I should have remained in ignorance of that purity which I must for ever regret.'"

"Alas! Marie, that is indeed fatal! A nature ever so nobly endowed by the Creator, though plunged but for one day in the foul mire from which you have[Pg 95] been extricated, will preserve for ever the ineffaceable stigma."

"Yes, yes, my father," cried Fleur-de-Marie, full of grief, "I must despair until I die!"

"You must despair of ever tearing out this frightful page from the book of your existence," said the priest, in a sad and serious voice; "but you must have faith in the infinite mercy of the Almighty. Here, on earth, my poor child, there are for you tears, remorse, expiation; but, one day, there,—up there," and he raised his hand to the sky, now filling with stars, "there is pardon and everlasting happiness."

"Pity, pity, mon Dieu! I am so young, and my life may still endure so long," said the Goualeuse, in a voice rent by agony, and falling at the curé's knees almost involuntarily.

The priest was standing at the top of the hill, not far from where his "modest mansion rose;" his black cassock, his venerable countenance, shaded by long white locks, lighted by the last ray of twilight, stood out from the horizon, which was of a deep transparency,—a perfect clearness: pale gold in the west, sapphire over his head. The priest again elevated towards heaven one of his tremulous hands, and gave the other to Fleur-de-Marie, who bedewed it with her tears. The hood of her gray cloak fell at this moment from her shoulders, displaying the perfect outline of her lovely profile,—her charming features full of suffering, and suffused with tears.

This simple and sublime scene offered a strange contrast,—a singular coincidence with the horrid one which, almost at the same moment, was passing in the ravine between the Schoolmaster and the Chouette. Concealed in the darkness of the sombre cleft, assailed by base fears, a fearful murderer, carrying on his person the punishment of his crimes, was also on his knees, but in the presence of an accessory, a sneering, revengeful[Pg 96] Fury, who tormented him mercilessly, and urged him on to fresh crimes,—that accomplice, the first cause of Fleur-de-Marie's misery.

Of Fleur-de-Marie, whose days and nights were embittered by never-dying remorse; whose anguish, hardly endurable, was not conceivable; surrounded from her earliest days by degraded, cruel, infamous outcasts of society; leaving the walls of a prison for the den of the ogress,—even a more horrid prison; never leaving the precincts of her gaol, or the squalid streets of the Cité; this unhappy young creature had hitherto lived in utter ignorance of the beautiful and the good, as strange to noble and religious sentiments as to the magnificent splendour of nature. Then all that was admirable in the creature and in the Creator was revealed in a moment to her astonished soul. At this striking spectacle her mind expanded, her intelligence unfolded itself, her noble instincts were awakened; and because her mind expanded, because her intelligence was unfolded, because her noble instincts were awakened, yet the very consciousness of her early degradation brings with it the feeling of horror for her past life, alike torturing and enduring,—she feels, as she had described, that, alas! there are stains which nothing can remove.

"Ah, unhappiness for me!" said the Goualeuse, in despair; "my whole life has long to run, it may be; were it as long, as pure as your own, father, it must henceforth be blighted by the knowledge and consciousness of the past; unhappiness for me for ever!"

"On the contrary, Marie, it is happiness for you,—yes, happiness for you. Your remorse, so full of bitterness, but so purifying, testifies the religious susceptibility of your mind. How many there are who, less nobly sensitive than you, would, in your place, have soon forgotten the fact, and only revelled in the delight of the present. Believe me, every pang that you now endure will tell in your favour when on high. God has left[Pg 97] you for a moment in an unrighteous path, to reserve for you the glory of repentance and the everlasting reward reserved for expiation. Has he not said himself, 'Those who fight the good fight and come to me with a smile on their lips, they are my chosen; but they who, wounded in the struggle, come to me fainting and dying, they are the chosen amongst my chosen!' Courage, then, my child! Support, help, counsel,—nothing will fail you. I am very aged, but Madame Georges and M. Rodolph have still many years before them; particularly M. Rodolph, who has taken so deep an interest in you, who watches your progress with so much anxiety."

"'So I Have Brought Turk with Me'"
Original Etching by Adrian Marcel "'So I Have Brought Turk with Me'"
Original Etching by Adrian Marcel

The Goualeuse was about to reply, when she was interrupted by the peasant girl whom we have already mentioned, who, having followed in the steps of the curé and Marie, now came up to them. She was one of the peasants of the farm.

"Beg your pardon, M. le Curé," she said to the priest, "but Madame Georges told me to bring this basket of fruit to the rectory, and then I could accompany Mlle. Marie back again, for it is getting late. So I have brought Turk with me," added the dairy-maid, patting an enormous dog of the Pyrenees, which would have mastered a bear in a struggle. "Although we never have any bad people about us here in the country, it is as well to be careful."

"You are quite right, Claudine. Here we are now at the rectory. Pray thank Madame Georges for me."

Then addressing the Goualeuse in a low tone, the curé said to her, in a grave voice:

"I must go to-morrow to the conference of the diocese, but I shall return at five o'clock. If you like, my child, I will wait for you at the rectory. I see your state of mind, and that you require a lengthened conversation with me."

"I thank you, father," replied Fleur-de-Marie. "To-morrow[Pg 98] I will come, since you are so good as to allow me to do so."

"Here we are at the garden gate," said the priest. "Leave your basket there, Claudine; my housekeeper will take it. Return quickly to the farm with Marie, for it is almost night, and the cold is increasing. To-morrow, Marie, at five o'clock."

"To-morrow, father."

The abbé went into his garden. The Goualeuse and Claudine, followed by Turk, took the road to the farm.

[Pg 99]



The night set in clear and cold. Following the advice of the Schoolmaster, the Chouette had gone to that part of the hollow way which was the most remote from the path, and nearest to the cross-road where Barbillon was waiting with the hackney-coach. Tortillard, who was posted as an advanced guard, watched for the return of Fleur-de-Marie, whom he was desirous of drawing into the trap by begging her to come to the assistance of a poor old woman. The son of Bras Rouge had advanced a few steps out of the ravine to try and discern Marie, when he heard the Goualeuse some way off speaking to the peasant girl who accompanied her. The plan had failed; and Tortillard quickly went down into the ravine to run and inform the Chouette.

"There is somebody with the young girl," said he, in a low and breathless tone.

"May the hangman squeeze her weasand, the little beggar," exclaimed the Chouette in a rage.

"Who's with her?" asked the Schoolmaster.

"Oh, no doubt, the country wench who passed along the road just now, followed by a large dog. I heard a woman's voice," said Tortillard. "Hark!—do you hear? There's the noise of their sabots," and, in the silence of the night, the wooden soles sounded clearly on the ground hardened by the frost.

"There are two of 'em. I can manage the young 'un in the gray mantle, but what can we do with t'other?[Pg 100] Fourline can't see, and Tortillard is too weak to do for the companion—devil choke her! What can be done?" asked the Chouette.

"I'm not strong, but, if you like, I'll cling to the legs of the country-woman with the dog. I'll hold on by hands and teeth, and not let her go, I can tell you. You can take away the little one in the meantime, you know, Chouette."

"If they cry or resist, they will hear them at the farm," replied the Chouette, "and come to their assistance before we can reach Barbillon's coach. It is no easy thing to carry off a woman who resists."

"And they have a large dog with them," said Tortillard.

"Bah! bah! If it was only that, I could break the brute's skull with a blow of my shoe-heel," said the Chouette.

"Here they are," replied Tortillard, who was listening still to the echo of their footsteps. "They are coming down the hollow now."

"Why don't you speak, fourline?" said the Chouette to the Schoolmaster. "What is best to be done, long-headed as you are, eh? Are you grown dumb?"

"There's nothing to be done to-day," replied the miscreant.

"And the thousand 'bob' of the man in mourning," said the Chouette; "they are gone, then? I'd sooner—Your knife—your knife, fourline! I will stick the companion, that she may be no trouble to us; and, as to the young miss, Tortillard and I can make off with her."

"But the man in mourning does not desire that we should kill any one."

"Well, then, we must put the cold meat down as an extra in his bill. He must pay, for he will be an accomplice with us."

"Here they come—down the hill," said Tortillard, softly.[Pg 101]

"Your knife, lad!" said the Chouette, in a similar tone.

"Ah, Chouette," cried Tortillard, in alarm, and extending his hands to the hag, "that is too bad—to kill. No!—oh, no!"

"Your knife, I tell you!" repeated the Chouette, in an undertone, without paying the least attention to Tortillard's supplication, and putting her shoes off hastily. "I have taken off my shoes," she added, "that I may steal on them quietly from behind. It is almost dark; but I can easily make out the little one by her cloak, and I will do for the other."

"No," said the felon; "to-day it is useless. There will be plenty of time to-morrow."

"What! you're afraid, old patterer, are you?" said the Chouette, with fierce contempt.

"Not at all," replied the Schoolmaster. "But you may fail in your blow and spoil all."

The dog which accompanied the country-woman, scenting the persons hidden in the hollow road, stopped short, and barked furiously, refusing to come to Fleur-de-Marie, who called him frequently.

"Do you hear their dog? Here they are! Your knife!—or, if not—" cried the Chouette, with a threatening air.

"Come and take it from me, then—by force," said the Schoolmaster.

"It's all over—it's too late," added the Chouette, after listening for a moment attentively; "they have gone by. You shall pay for that, gallows-bird," added she, furiously, shaking her fist at her accomplice. "A thousand francs lost by your stupidity!"

"A thousand—two thousand—perhaps three thousand gained," replied the Schoolmaster, in a tone of authority. "Listen, Chouette! Do you go back to Barbillon, and let him drive you to the place where you were to meet the man in mourning. Tell him that it was impossible[Pg 102] to do anything to-day, but that to-morrow she shall be carried off. The young girl goes every evening to walk home with the priest, and it was only a chance which to-day led her to meet with any one. To-morrow we shall have a more secure opportunity. So to-morrow do you return and be with Barbillon at the cross-road in his coach at the same hour."

"But thou—thou?"

"Tortillard shall lead me to the farm where the young girl lives. I will cook up some tale—say we have lost our road, and ask leave to pass the night at the farm in a corner of the stable. No one could refuse us that. Tortillard will examine all the doors, windows, and ins and outs of the house. There is always money to be looked for amongst these farming people. You say the farm is situated in a lone spot; and, when once we know all the ways and outlets, we need only return with some safe friends, and the thing is done as easy—"

"Always 'downy!' What a head-piece!" said the Chouette, softening. "Go on, fourline."

"To-morrow morning, instead of leaving the farm, I will complain of a pain which prevents me from walking. If they will not believe me, I'll show them the wound which I have always had since I smashed the 'loop of my darbies,' and which is always painful to me. I'll say it is a burn I had from a red-hot bar when I was a workman, and they'll believe me. I'll remain at the farm part of the day, whilst Tortillard looks about him. When the evening comes on, and the little wench goes out as usual with the priest, I'll say I'm better, and fit to go away. Tortillard and I will follow the young wench at a distance, and await your coming to us here. As she will know us already, she will have no mistrust when she sees us. We will speak to her, Tortillard and I; and, when once within reach of my arms, I will answer for the rest. She's caught safe enough, and the thousand francs are ours. That is not all. In two or three days[Pg 103] we can 'give the office' of the farm to Barbillon and some others, and share with them if they get any 'swag,' as it will be me who put them on the 'lay.'"

"Well done, No-Eyes! No one can come up to you," said the Chouette, embracing the Schoolmaster. "Your plan is capital! Tell you what, fourline, when you are done up and old, you must turn consulting 'prig'; you will earn as much money as a 'big-wig.' Come, kiss your old woman, and be off as quick as you may, for these joskins go to sleep with their poultry. I shall go to Barbillon; and to-morrow, at four o'clock, we will be at the cross-road with the 'trap,' unless he is nabbed for having assisted Gros-Boiteux and the Skeleton to 'do for' the milk-woman's husband in the Rue de la Vieille-Draperie. But if he can't come, another can, for the pretended hackney-coach belongs to the man in mourning who has used it before. A quarter of an hour after we get to the cross-road, I will be here and wait for you."

"All right! Good-by till to-morrow, Chouette."

"I had nearly forgot to give the wax to Tortillard, if there is any lock to get the print of at the farm. Here, chickabiddy, do you know how to use it?" said the one-eyed wretch to Tortillard, as she gave him a piece of wax.

"Yes, yes, my father showed me how to use it. I took for him the print of the lock of the little iron chest which my master, the quack doctor, keeps in his small closet."

"Ah, that's all right; and, that the wax may not stick, do not forget to moisten the wax after you have warmed it well in your hand."

"I know all about it," replied Tortillard.

"To-morrow, them, fourline," said the Chouette.

"To-morrow," replied the Schoolmaster.

The Chouette went towards the coach. The Schoolmaster and Tortillard quitted the hollow way, and bent[Pg 104] their steps towards the farm, the lights which shone from the windows serving to guide them on their way.

Strange fatality, which again brought Anselm Duresnel under the same roof with his wife, who had not seen him since his condemnation to hard labour for life!

[Pg 105]



Perhaps a more gratifying sight does not exist than the interior of a large farm-kitchen prepared for the evening meal, especially during the winter season. Its bright wood fire, the long table covered with the savoury, smoking dishes, the huge tankards of foaming beer or cider, with the happy countenances scattered round, speak of peaceful labour and healthful industry. The farm-kitchen of Bouqueval was a fine exemplification of this remark. Its immense open chimney, about six feet high and eight feet wide, resembled the yawning mouth of some huge oven. On the hearth blazed and sparkled enormous logs of beech or oak; and from this prodigious brazier there issued forth such a body of light, as well as heat, that the large lamp suspended from the centre beam sunk into insignificance, and was rendered nearly useless. Every variety of culinary utensils, sparkling in all the brightness of the most elaborate cleanliness, and composed invariably of copper, brass, and tin, glowed in the bright radiance of the winter fire, as they stood ranged with the utmost nicety and effect on their appropriate shelves. An old-fashioned cistern of elaborately polished copper showed its bright face, polished as a mirror; and close beside stood a highly polished bread-trough and cover, composed of walnut-tree wood, rubbed by the hand of housewifery till you could see your face in it and from which issued a most tempting smell of hot bread. A long and substantial table occupied the[Pg 106] centre of the kitchen; a tablecloth, which, though coarse in texture, vied with the falling snow for whiteness, covered its entire length; while for each expected guest was placed an earthenware plate, brown without, but white within, and by its side a knife, fork, and spoon, lustrous as silver itself. In the midst of the table, an immense tureen of vegetable soup smoked like the crater of a volcano, and diffused its savoury vapours over a dish of ham and greens, flanked by a most formidable array of mutton, most relishly stewed with onions and potatoes. Below was placed a large joint of roast veal, followed by two great plates of winter salad, supported by a couple of baskets of apples; and a similar number of cheeses completed the arrangements of the table. Three or four stone pitchers filled with sparkling cider, and a like quantity of loaves of brown bread, equal in size to the stones of a windmill, were placed at the discretionary use of the supping party.

An old, shaggy, black shepherd dog, almost toothless, the superannuated patriarch of all the canine tribe employed on the farm, was, by reason of his great age and long services, indulged with permission to enjoy the cheering warmth of the chimney-corner; but, using his privilege with the utmost modesty and discretion, this venerable servitor, who answered to the pastoral name of Lysander, lay quietly stretched out in a secure side-nook, his nose resting on his paws, watching with the deepest attention the various culinary preparations which preceded the supper.

The bill of fare thus presented to the reader, as the ordinary mode of living at the farm of Bouqueval, may strike some of our readers as unnecessarily sumptuous; but Madame Georges, faithfully following out the wishes of Rodolph, endeavoured by all possible means to improve the comforts of the labourers on the farm, who were always selected as being the most worthy and industrious individuals of their district. They were[Pg 107] well paid, liberally treated, and so kindly used that to be engaged on the Bouqueval farm was the highest ambition of all the best labourers in that part of the country—an ambition which most essentially promoted the welfare and advantage of the masters they then served; for no applicant for employment at Bouqueval could obtain a favourable hearing, unless he came provided with most satisfactory testimonials from his last employer.

Thus, though on a very small scale, had Rodolph created a species of model farm, which had for its aim not only the improvement of animals and agricultural operations, but, above all, improving the nature of man himself; and this he effected by making it worth their while to be active, honest, and intelligent.

After having completed all the preparations for supper, and placed on the table a jug of wine to accompany the dessert, the farm-cook sounded the welcome tocsin, which told all that the cheering meal was prepared, and, their evening toil concluded, they might freely enjoy the delights of wholesome and temperate refreshment. Ere the sound had ceased to vibrate on the ear, a merry, joyous throng, composed of men and maidens to the number of twelve or fifteen, crowded around the table; the men had open, manly countenances, the women looked healthy and good-humoured, while the young girls belonging to the party wore the brightest glow of youth and innocence. Every face was lighted up with frank gaiety, content, and the satisfaction arising from the consciousness of having well fulfilled one's duty. Thus happily prepared in mind and body to do justice to the excellent fare set before them, the happy party took their appointed places at table.

The upper end was occupied by an old, white-haired labourer, whose fine, bold, yet sensible expression of face, bespoke him a descendant of the ancient Gaulish mothers of the soil.[Pg 108]

Father Châtelain (for so was this Nestor called) had worked on the farm from his early childhood. When Rodolph purchased the farm, the old servant had been strongly recommended to him, and he was forthwith raised to the rank of overlooker, and, under the orders of Madame Georges, general superintendent of all outdoor work; and unbounded, indeed, was the influence possessed by Father Châtelain by virtue of his age, his knowledge, and experience.

Every one having taken their seat, Father Châtelain, having fervently invoked a blessing, then, in pursuance of an ancient and pious custom, marked one of the loaves with the figure of a cross, and cut off a large slice as the share of the Virgin or the poor, then, pouring out a glass of wine with a similar consecration to charitable purposes, he reverently placed both bread and wine on a plate placed in the centre of the table purposely to receive them. At this moment the yard dogs barked furiously; old Lysander replied by a low growl, and, curling back his upper lip, displayed two or three still formidable fangs.

"Some person is passing near the wall of the courtyard," observed Father Châtelain.

Scarcely had the words been uttered, than the bell of the great gate sounded.

"Who can this possibly be at so late an hour?" said the old labourer; "every one belonging to the place is in. Go and see who it is, Jean René."

The individual thus addressed was a stout, able-bodied young labourer on the farm, who was then busily employed blowing his scalding hot soup, with a force of lungs that Æolus himself might have envied; but, used to prompt obedience, in a moment the half-raised spoon was deposited in its place, and, half stifling a sigh of regret, he departed on his errand.

"This is the first time our good Madame Georges and Mlle. Marie have failed paying a visit to the warm[Pg 109] chimney-corner, and looking on whilst we took our supper, for this long time," said Father Châtelain. "I am hungry as a hunter, but I shall not relish my supper half so well."

"Madame Georges is in the chamber of Mlle. Marie, who found herself somewhat indisposed on her return from escorting M. le Curé to the rectory," replied Claudine, the girl who had conducted La Goualeuse back from the rectory, and thus unconsciously frustrated the evil designs of the Chouette.

"I trust Mlle. Marie is only indisposed, not seriously ill, is she, Claudine?" inquired the old man, with almost paternal anxiety.

"Oh, dear, no, Father Châtelain! God forbid! I hope and believe our dear mademoiselle is only just a little struck with the cold of the night, and her walk perhaps fatigued her. I trust she will be quite well by to-morrow; indeed Madame Georges told me as much, and said that, if she had had any fears, she should have sent to Paris for M. David, the negro doctor, who took such care of mademoiselle when she was so ill. Well, I cannot make out how any one can endure a black doctor! For my part I should not have the slightest confidence in anything he said or did. No, no! if one must have a doctor, let it be a Christian man with a white skin; but a downright blackamoor! O saints above! why, the very sight of him by my bedside would kill me!"

"But did not this Monsieur David cure Mlle. Marie from the long illness with which she suffered when she first came here?" inquired the old man.

"Yes, Father Châtelain, he certainly did."


"Ah! but for all that, Father Châtelain, a doctor with a black face is enough to terrify any one—I should scream myself into fits if he were to come rolling up the great whites of his eyes at me."

"But is not this M. David the same person who cured[Pg 110] Dame Anica of that dreadful wound in her leg, which had confined her to her bed for upwards of three years?"

"Yes, exactly so, Father Châtelain; he certainly did set old Dame Anica up again."

"Well, then, my child?"

"Nay, but only think!—a black man! and when one is ill, too! when one can so ill bear up against such horrid things. If he were only a little dark, or even deep brown, but quite, quite a black—all black—oh, Father Châtelain, I really cannot bring myself to think of it!"

"Tell me, my child, what colour is your favourite heifer Musette?"

"Oh, white—white as a swan, Father Châtelain; and such a milcher! I can say that for the poor thing without the least falsehood, a better cow we have not got on the farm."

"And your other favourite, Rosette?"

"Rosette? Oh, she is as black as a raven, not one white hair about her I should say; and, indeed, to do her justice, she is a first-rate milcher also. I hardly know which is the best, she or my pretty Musette."

"And what coloured milk does she give?"

"Why, white, of course, Father Châtelain; I really thought you knew that."

"Is her milk as white and as good as the milk of your snowy pet, Musette?"

"Every bit as good in colour and quality."

"Although Rosette is a black cow?"

"To be sure! why, Father Châtelain, what difference can it possibly make to the milk whether the cow that gives it is black, white, red, or brown?"

"How, then, my good girl, can it in any way signify whether a doctor has a black or white skin, or what his complexion may be?"

"Well," answered Claudine, fairly hunted into a corner from which no argument could rescue her,—"well,[Pg 111] as regards what makes a black doctor not so good as a white one, it is—it is, because a black skin is so very ugly to look at, and a white one is so much more agreeable to one's eyes; I'm sure I can't think of any other reason, Father Châtelain, if I try for ever; but with cows the colour of the skin makes not the very least difference, of that you may be assured; but, then, you know there's a deal of difference between a cow and a man."

These not very clear physiognomical reflections of Claudine, touching the effect of light or dark skins in the human and animal race, were interrupted by the return of Jean René, blowing his fingers with animation as he had before blown his soup.

"Oh, how cold! how cold it is this night!" exclaimed he, on entering; "it is enough to freeze one to death; it is a pretty deal more snug and comfortable in-doors than out this bitter night. Oh, how cold it is!"


'The frost that cometh from North and East
Biteth the most and ceaseth the least.'

Don't you know that, my lad?" said the old superintendent Châtelain. "But who was it that rang so late?"

"A poor blind man and a boy who leads him about, Father Châtelain."

"And what does this poor blind man want?" inquired Châtelain.

"The poor man and his son were going by the cross-road to Louvres, and have lost themselves in the snow; and as the cold is enough to turn a man into an icicle, and the night is pitch dark, the poor blind father has come to entreat permission for himself and lad to pass the night on the farm; he says he shall be for ever thankful for leave to lie on a little straw under a hovel, or in any out-building."[Pg 112]

"Oh, as for that, I am quite sure that Madame Georges, who never refuses charity to any unfortunate being, will willingly permit them to do so; but we must first acquaint her with it; go, Claudine, and tell her the whole story." Claudine disappeared.

"And where is this poor man waiting?" asked Father Châtelain.

"In the little barn just by."

"But why in the barn? why put him there?"

"Bless you, if I had left him in the yard, the dogs would have eaten him up alive! Why, Father Châtelain, it was no use for me to call out 'Quiet, Médor! come here, Turk! down, Sultan!' I never saw dogs in such a fury. And, besides, we don't use our dogs on the farm to fly at poor folks, as they are trained to do at other places."

"Well, my lads, it seems that the 'share for the poor' has not been laid aside in vain to-night. But try and sit a little closer; there, that'll do; now put two more plates and knives and forks for this blind traveller and his boy, for I feel quite certain what Madame Georges's answer will be, and that she will desire them to be housed here for the night."

"It is really a thing I can't make out," said Jean René, "about the dogs being so very violent, especially Turk, who went with Claudine this evening to the rectory. Why, when I stroked him, to try and pacify him, I felt his coat standing up on end like so many bristles of a porcupine. Now, what do you say to that, eh, Father Châtelain—you who know almost everything?"

"Why, my lad, I, 'who know everything,' say just this, that the beasts know far more than I do, and can see farther. I remember, in the autumn, when the heavy rains had so swollen the little river, I was returning with my team-horses one dark night—I was riding upon Cuckoo, the old roan horse, and deuce take me if I could make out any spot it would be safe to wade[Pg 113] through, for the night was as dark as the mouth of a pit. Well, I threw the bridle on old Cuckoo's back, and he soon found what, I'll answer for it, none of us could have discovered. Now, who taught the dumb brute to know the safe from the unsafe parts of the stream, let me ask you?"

"Ay, Father Châtelain, that's what I was waiting to ask you. Who taught the old roan to discover danger and escape from it so cleverly?"

"The same Almighty wisdom which instructs the swallow to build in our chimneys, and guides the marten to make his nest among the reeds of our banks, my lad. Well, Claudine," said the ancient oracle of the kitchen to the blooming dairymaid, who just then entered, bearing on her arms two pairs of snowy white sheets, from which an odoriferous smell of sage and thyme was wafted along,—"well, I make no doubt but Madame Georges has sent permission for these poor creatures, the blind man and his child, to sleep here, has she not?"

"These sheets are to prepare beds for them, in the little room at the end of the passage," said Claudine.

"Go and bid them come in, then, Jean René; and you, Claudine, my good girl, put a couple of chairs near the fire—they will be glad of a good warm before sitting down to table."

The furious barking of the dogs was now renewed, mingled with the voice of Jean René, who was endeavoring to pacify them; the door of the kitchen was abruptly opened, and the Schoolmaster and Tortillard entered with as much precipitation as though they feared a pursuit from some dangerous foe.

"For the love of heaven, keep off your dogs!" cried the Schoolmaster, in the utmost terror; "they have been trying to bite us!"

"They have torn a great bit out of my blouse," whined Tortillard, shivering with cold and pale with fear.[Pg 114]

"Don't be frightened, good man," said Jean René, shutting the door securely; "but I never before saw our dogs in such a perfect fury—it must be the cold makes them so spiteful; perhaps, being half frozen, they fancied biting you would serve to warm them—there is no knowing what mere animals may mean by what they do."

"Why, are you going to begin, too?" exclaimed the old farmer, as Lysander, who had hitherto lain perfectly happy in the radiance of the glowing fire, started up, and, growling fiercely, was about to fly at the strangers. "This old dog is quiet enough, but, having heard the other dogs make such a furious noise, he thinks he must do the same. Will you lie down and be quiet, you old brute? Do you hear, sir? lie down!"

At these words from Father Châtelain, accompanied by a significant motion of the foot, Lysander, with a low, deep growl of dissatisfaction, slowly returned to his favourite corner by the hearth, while the Schoolmaster and Tortillard remained trembling by the kitchen-door, as though fearful of approaching farther. The features of the ruffian were so hideous, from the frightful effects produced by the cold, that some of the servants in the kitchen shuddered with alarm, while others recoiled in disgust; this impression was not lost on Tortillard, who felt reassured by the terrors of the villagers, and even felt proud of the repulsiveness of his companion. This first confusion over, Father Châtelain, thinking only of worthily discharging the duties of hospitality, said to the Schoolmaster:

"Come, my good friend—come near the fire and warm yourself thoroughly, and then you shall have some supper with us; for you happened to come very fortunately, just as we were sitting down to table. Here, sit down, just where I have placed your chair. But what am I thinking about?" added the worthy old labourer. "I ought to have spoken to your son, not you, seeing[Pg 115] that it has pleased God to take away your eyesight—a heavy loss, a heavy loss; but let us hope all for your good, my friend, though you may not now think so. Here, my boy, lead your father to that snug place in the chimney-corner."

"Yes, kind sir," drawled out Tortillard, with a nasal twang and canting, hypocritical tone; "may God bless you for your charity to the poor blind! Here, father, take my arm; lean on my shoulder, father; take care, take care, gently;" and, with affected zeal and tenderness, the urchin guided the steps of the brigand till they reached the indicated spot. As the pair approached Lysander, he uttered a low, growling noise; but as the Schoolmaster brushed past him, and the sagacious animal had full scent of his garments, he broke out into one of those deep howls with which, it is asserted by the superstitious, dogs frequently announce an approaching death.

"What, in the devil's name, do all these cursed animals mean by their confounded noise?" said the Schoolmaster to himself. "Can they smell the blood on my clothes, I wonder? for I now recollect I wore the trousers I have on at present the night the cattle-dealer was murdered."

"Did you notice that?" inquired Jean René of Father Châtelain. "Why, I vow that, as often as old Lysander had caught scent of the wandering stranger, he actually set up a regular death-howl."

And this remark was followed up by a most singular confirmation of the fact; the cries of Lysander were so loud and mournful that the other dogs caught the sound (for the farmyard was only separated from the kitchen by a glazed window in the latter), and, according to the custom of the canine race, they each strove who should outdo the other in repeating and prolonging the funereal wail, which, according to vulgar belief, always foretells death. Though but little given to superstitious dread, the farm-people looked from one to another with a feeling[Pg 116] of wonder not unmixed with awe. Even the Schoolmaster himself, diabolically hardened as he was, felt a cold shudder steal over him at the thought that all these fatal sounds burst forth upon the approach of him—the self-convicted murderer! while Tortillard, too audacious and hardened to enter into such alarms, with all the infidelity in which he had been trained, even from his mother's arms, looked on with delighted mockery at the universal panic, and was, perhaps, the only person present devoid of an uneasy feeling; but, once freed from his apprehensions of suffering from the violence of the animals, he listened even with pleasure to the horrible discord of their long-drawn-out wailings, and felt almost tempted to pardon them the fright they had originally occasioned him, in consideration of the perfect terror they had struck into the inhabitants of the farm, and for the gratification he derived from the convulsive horror of the Schoolmaster. But after the momentary stupor had passed away Jean René again quitted the kitchen, and the loud cracking of his whip soon put an end to the prophetic howlings of Médor, Turk, and Sultan, and quickly dispersed them to their separate kennels, and as the noise ceased, the gloomy cloud passed away from the kitchen, and the peasants looked up with the same honest cheerfulness they had worn upon the entrance of the two travellers. Ere long they had left off wondering at the repulsive ugliness of the Schoolmaster, and only thought with pity of his great affliction, in being blind; they commiserated the lameness of the poor boy, admired the interesting sharpness of his countenance, the deep, cute glance of his ever-moving eye, and, above all, loaded him with praises for the extreme care and watchfulness with which he attended to his afflicted parent. The appetite of the labourers, which had been momentarily forgotten, now returned with redoubled violence, and for a time nothing could be heard but the clattering of plates and rattling of knives and forks.[Pg 117] Still, however busily employed with their suppers, the servants assembled round the table, both male and female, could not but remark, with infinite pleasure, the tender assiduity of the lad towards the blind creature who sat beside him. Nothing could exceed the devoted affection and filial care with which Tortillard prepared his meat for him, cutting both that and his bread with most accurate nicety, pouring out his drink, and never attempting even to taste a morsel himself, till his father expressed himself as having completed his supper. But, for all this dutiful attention, the young ruffian took ample and bitter revenge. Instigated as much by an innate spirit of cruelty as the desire of imitation natural to his age, Tortillard found an equal enjoyment with the Chouette in having something to torment (a bête de souffrance); and it was a matter of inexpressible exultation to his wretched mind that he, a poor, distorted, crippled, abject creature, should have it in his power to tyrannise over so powerful and ferocious a creature as the Schoolmaster,—it was like torturing a muzzled tiger. He even refined his gratification, by compelling his victim to endure all the agonies he inflicted, without wincing or exhibiting the slightest external sign of his suffering. Thus he accompanied each outward mark of devoted tenderness towards his supposed parent, by aiming a severe kick against the Schoolmaster's legs, on one of which there was (in common with many who had long worked in the galleys) a deep and severe wound, the effect of the heavy iron chain worn during the term of punishment around the right leg; and, by way of compelling the miserable sufferer to exercise a greater degree of stoical courage, the urchin always seized the moment when the object of his malice was either drinking or speaking.

"Here, dear father! here is a nice peeled nut," said Tortillard, placing on the plate of his supposed parent a nut carefully prepared.[Pg 118]

"Good boy," said old Châtelain, smiling kindly at him. Then, addressing the bandit, he added: "However great may be your affliction, my friend, so good a son is almost sufficient to make up even for the loss of sight; but Providence is so gracious, he never takes away one blessing without sending another."

"You are quite right, kind sir! My lot is a very hard one, and, but for the noble conduct of my excellent child, I—"

A sharp cry of irrepressible anguish here broke from the quivering lips of the tortured man; the son of Bras Rouge had this time aimed his blow so effectually, that the point of his heavy-nailed shoe had reached the very centre of the wound, and produced unendurable agony.

"Father! dear father! what is the matter?" exclaimed Tortillard, in a whimpering voice; then, suddenly rising, he threw both his arms round the Schoolmaster's neck, whose first impulse of rage and pain was to stifle the limping varlet in his Herculean grasp; and so powerfully did he compress the boy's chest against his own, that his impeded respiration vented itself in a low moaning sound. A few minutes, and Tortillard's last prank would have been played; but, reflecting that the lad was for the present indispensable to the furtherance of the schemes he had on hand, the Schoolmaster, by a violent effort, controlled his desire to annihilate his tormentor, and contented himself with pushing him off his shoulders back into his own chair. The sympathising group around the table were far from seeing through all this, and merely considered these close embraces as an interchange of paternal and filial tenderness, while the half suffocation and deadly pallor of Tortillard they attributed to emotion caused by the sudden illness of his beloved father.

"What ailed you just now, my good man?" inquired Father Châtelain; "only see, you have quite frightened your poor boy. Why, he looks pale as death, and can[Pg 119] scarcely breathe. Come, my little man; you must not take on so—your father is all right again."

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen all," replied the Schoolmaster, controlling himself with much difficulty, for the pain he was still enduring was most excruciating. "I am better now. I'll tell you, with your kind leaves, all about it. You see I am by trade a working locksmith, and, one day that I was employed in beating out a huge bar of red hot iron, it fell over on my two legs, and burnt them so dreadfully that it has never healed; unfortunately, just now, I happened to strike the leg that is worst against the table, and the sudden agony it occasioned me drew forth the sudden cry which so much disturbed all this good company, and for which I humbly beg pardon."

"Poor dear father!" whined out Tortillard, casting a look of fiendish malice at the shivering Schoolmaster, and wholly recovered from his late attack of excessive emotion. "Poor father! you have indeed got a bad leg nobody can cure. Ah, kind gentlemen, I hope you will never have such a shocking wound, and be obliged to hear all the doctors say it never will get well. No! never—never. Oh, my dear, dear father! how I wish I could but suffer the pain instead of you!"

At this tender, moving speech, the females present expressed the utmost admiration for the dutiful speaker, and began feeling in their vast pockets for some more substantial mark of their regard.

"It is unlucky, my honest friend," said old Châtelain, addressing the Schoolmaster, "you had not happened to come to this farm about three weeks ago, instead of to-night."

"And why so, if you please?"

"Because we had staying for a few days in the house a celebrated Paris doctor, who has an infallible remedy for all diseases of the legs. A worthy old woman, belonging to our village, had been confined to her bed[Pg 120] upwards of three years with some affection of the legs. Well, this doctor, being here, as I said, heard of the case, applied an unguent to the wounds, and now, bless you, she is as surefooted, ay, and as swift, too, as any of our young girls; and the first holiday she makes she intends walking to the house of her benefactor, in the Allée des Veuves, at Paris, to return her grateful thanks. To be sure it is a good step from hence, but then, as Mother Anica says—Why, what has come over you again, my friend? Is your leg still so painful?"

The mention of the Allée des Veuves had recalled such frightful recollections to the Schoolmaster, that, involuntarily, a cold shudder shook his frame, while a fearful spasm, by contracting his ghastly countenance, made it appear still more hideous.

"Yes," replied he, trying to conceal his emotion, "a sudden darting pain seized me, and—Pray excuse my interrupting your kind and sensible discourse, and be pleased to proceed."

"It really is a great pity," resumed the old labourer, "that this excellent doctor should not be with us at present; but I tell you what, he is as good as he is skilful, and I am quite sure if you let your little lad conduct you to his house when you return to Paris, that he will cure you. His address is not difficult to recollect, it is 17 Allée des Veuves. Even should you forget the number, it will not matter, for there are but very few doctors in the neighbourhood, and no other negro surgeon,—for, only imagine, this clever, kind, and charitable man is a black, but his heart is white and good. His name is David,—Doctor David,—you will be able to remember that name, I dare say."

The features of the Schoolmaster were so seamed and scarred that it was difficult to perceive when his colour varied. He did, however, on the present occasion, turn ghastly pale as he first heard the exact number mentioned of Rodolph's house, and afterwards the description[Pg 121] of the black doctor,—of David, the negro surgeon, who, by Rodolph's orders, had inflicted on him the fearful punishment, the terrible results of which were each hour more painfully developed. Father Châtelain, however, was too much interested in his subject to notice the deadly paleness of the Schoolmaster, and proceeded with his discourse:

"When you leave us, my poor fellow, we will be sure to write his address on a slip of paper and give it to your son, for I know that, besides putting you in a certain way to be cured of your painful wound, it would be gratifying to M. David to be able to relieve your sufferings. Oh, he is so good,—never so happy as when he has rendered any person a service. I wish he had not always that mournful and dejected look. I fear he has some heavy care near his heart; and he is so good, so full of pity for all who suffer. Well, well, Providence will bless him in another world; but come, friend, let us drink to the health and happiness of your future benefactor,—here take this mug."

"No, thank you!" returned the Schoolmaster, with a gloomy air; "none for me. I—I am not thirsty, and I never drink unless I am."

"Nay, friend, but this is good old wine I have poured out for you; not cider," said the labourer. "Many tradespeople do not drink as good. Bless your heart, this farm is not conducted as other farms are,—what do you think of our style of living, by the by? have you relished your supper?"

"All very good," responded the Schoolmaster mechanically, more and more absorbed in the painfulness of his ideas.

"Well, then, as we live one day, so we do another. We work well, we live well, we have a good conscience, and an equally good bed to rest upon after the labours of the day. Our lives roll on in peace and contentment. There are seven labourers constantly employed on the[Pg 122] farm, who are paid almost double wages to what others get; but then I can venture to assert, that if we are paid double, we do as much work among us as fourteen ordinary labourers would do. The mere husbandry servants have one hundred and fifty crowns a year, the dairy-women and other females engaged about the place sixty crowns, and a tenth share of the produce of the farm is divided among us all. You may suppose we do not idle away much time, or fail to make hay while the sun shines, for Nature is a bountiful mother, and ever returns a hundredfold to those who assiduously seek her favour; the more we give her, the more she returns."

"Your master cannot get very rich if he treats you and pays you thus liberally," said the Schoolmaster.

"Oh, our master is different to all others, and has a mode of repaying himself peculiarly his own."

"From what you say," answered the blind man, hoping by engaging in conversation to escape from the gloominess of his own thoughts, "your master must be a very extraordinary person."

"Indeed he is, my good man, a most uncommon master to meet with. Now, as chance has brought you among us, and a strange though a lucky chance for you it has proved, lying out of the highroad as this village does, it is so very seldom any stranger ever finds it out. Well, I was going to say, here you are, and no fault to find with your quarters, is there? Now, in all human probability, when you turn your back upon the place you will never return to it, but you shall not depart without hearing from me a description of our master and all he has done for the farm, upon condition that you promise to repeat it again wherever you go, and to whomsoever you may meet with. You will see, I mean, I beg pardon, you will then be able to understand."

"I listen to you," answered the Schoolmaster; "proceed."[Pg 123]

"And I can promise you you will not be throwing away your time by listening," replied the venerable Châtelain. "Now, one day our master thought all at once: 'Here am I, rich enough to eat two dinners a day if I liked, but I don't. Now, suppose I were to provide a meal for those who have none at all, and enable such as can hardly procure half a dinner to enjoy as much good food as they desired, would not that be better than over-indulging myself? So it shall be,' says he, and away he goes to work, and, first thing, he buys this farm, which was not much of a concern then, and scarcely kept a couple of ploughs at work; and, being born and bred on the place, I ought to know something about it. Next, master made considerable additions to the farm. I'll tell you all about that by and by. At the head of the farm he placed a most worthy and respectable female, who had known a great deal of trouble in her past life—master always chose out people for their goodness and their misfortunes—and, when he brought the person I am telling you of here, he said to her in my hearing, 'I wish this place to be like the Temple of our great Maker, open to the deserving and the afflicted, but closed against the wicked and hardened reprobate.' So idle beggars are always turned from the gate; but those who are able and willing to work have always the opportunity set before them: the charity of labour, our master says, is no humiliation to him who receives it, but a favour and service conferred on the person whose labour is thus done; and the rich man who does not act upon this principle but ill employs his wealth. So said our master. But he did more than talk—he acted. There was formerly a road from here to Ecouen, which cut off a good mile of distance, but, Lord love you! it was one great rutty bog, impossible to get up or down it; it was the death of every horse, and certain destruction to every vehicle that attempted to pass through it. A little labour, and a trifling amount of money from each farmer[Pg 124] in the adjoining country would soon have repaired the road; but they never could be brought to any unanimity on the subject, and, in proportion as one farmer would be anxious to contribute towards putting the road in order, the others would invariably decline sending either men or money to assist. So our master, perceiving all this, said, 'The road shall be repaired; but as those who can afford to contribute will not, and as it is more for convenience and accommodation to the rich than necessity for the poor, it shall first become useful to those who would work if they could get it to do, who have heart, and hands, and courage, but no employ. Well, this road shall be reserved as a constant occupation for persons of this description. Horsemen and carriages belonging to the rich and affluent, who care not how roads are repaired, so that they can travel at their ease, may go round by the farther side.' So, for example, whenever a strong, sturdy fellow presented himself at the farm, pleading hunger and want of work, I'd say to him, 'Here, my lad; here is a basin of warm nourishing soup—take it and welcome; then, if you wish for work, here is a pickaxe and spade; one of our people will show you the Ecouen road; make every day twelve feet of it good, by spreading and breaking the flints; and every evening, after your work is examined, you shall receive at the rate of forty sous for the quantity named; twenty sous for half as much; ten sous for a quarter; for less than that, nothing at all.' Then, towards evening, upon my return from labour, I used to go on the road, measure their work, and examine whether it was well done."

"And only to think," interposed Jean René, in a fit of virtuous indignation, "only think, now, of there coming two heartless vagabonds, who drank their soup and walked off with the pickaxe and shovel. It is enough to sicken one of doing good or trying to benefit one's fellow creatures."[Pg 125]

"Quite right, Master René," exclaimed the other labourers; "so it is."

"Come, come, lads," resumed Father Châtelain, "don't be too warm. Just see here. We might as well say it is useless to plant trees, or sow grain, because there are caterpillars, weevils, and other injurious insects that gnaw the leaves or devour the seeds put in the ground. No, no! we destroy the vermin. But God Almighty, who is no niggard, causes fresh buds to burst forth and new ears of corn to sprout; the damage is abundantly repaired, and no trace remains of the mischievous insects which have passed over our work. Am I not right, my friend?" said the old labourer, addressing the Schoolmaster.

"No doubt—no doubt," replied the latter, who had appeared for some time past lost in a train of serious meditation.

"Then, as for women and children, there is plenty of occupation for them also, according to their age and strength," added Father Châtelain.

"Yet, spite of all this," observed Claudine, joining in the conversation, "the road gets on but very slowly."

"Which only goes to prove, my good girl, that in this part of the country there is happily no scarcity of employment for the honest and industrious labourer."

"But now, as in the case of a poor, helpless, afflicted creature such as I am," said the Schoolmaster, hastily, "would not the worthy owner of the farm grant me a humble corner in it for charity's sake—a shelter and a morsel of bread for the little while I have to remain a burden to any one in this troublesome world? Oh, my worthy sir, could I but obtain such a boon I would pass the remainder of my days in praying for a blessing on my benefactor."

And these words were really pronounced in entire sincerity of meaning; not that compunction for his many crimes touched the brigand's stony heart, but he[Pg 126] contrasted the happy peacefulness of the lives of these labourers to his own wretched, stormy existence; and still further did he envy them when he reflected upon all that the Chouette might have in store for him; he shuddered as he reflected upon the future she would provide for him, and more than ever regretted, by having recalled his old accomplice, having for ever lost the means of dwelling with good and honest persons, such as those with whom the Chourineur had placed him. Father Châtelain surveyed the Schoolmaster with an air of surprise.

"My good man," said he, "I did not know you were so utterly destitute."

"Alas! yes, it is even so. I lost my sight by an accident while working at my trade. I am going to Louvres to endeavour to find a distant relation there, who, I hope, may be willing to assist me. But, you are aware, people are not always so open-hearted as they should be; they do not like distressed objects, such as myself, coming to claim kindred, and are frequently harsh and unkind," answered the Schoolmaster, sighing deeply.

"But the most selfish heart would grieve at your distress," replied the old labourer. "The most hard-hearted relative would pity a man like you—a good and honest workman overtaken by a sudden calamity, and left without hope or help. Then the moving spectacle of this young and tender child, your only friend and guide, would wring pity from the very stones. But how is it that the master for whom you worked previously to your accident has done nothing for you?"

"He is now dead," said the Schoolmaster, after a short hesitation; "and he was my only friend on earth."

"But then there is the hospital for the blind."

"I am not the right age to qualify me for admission."

"Poor man! yours is, indeed, a hard case."

"Do you think it likely that, in the event of my relation[Pg 127] at Louvres refusing to assist me, your master, whom I already respect without knowing, would take pity on me?"

"Unfortunately, you see, the farm is not a hospital. Our general rule is to grant all infirm or afflicted travellers a temporary shelter of a night or a day in the house. Then some assistance is furnished, and they are put on their road with a prayer to kind Providence to take them under its charge."

"Then you think there is no hope of interesting your master in my unhappy fate?" asked the brigand, with a sigh of regret.

"I tell you what is the general custom here, my good man; but so compassionate a person as our master might go any lengths to serve you."

"Do you really think so?" said the Schoolmaster. "Oh, if he would but permit me to remain here, I could live in any retired corner, and be happy and grateful for such a mere trifle of subsistence!"

"As I said before, our master is capable of the most generous actions. But, were he to consent to your remaining at the farm, there would be no occasion for you to hide yourself; you would fare in every respect as you have seen us treated to-day. Some occupation would be found for your son suitable to his age and strength. He would not want for good instruction or wise counsels; our venerable minister would teach him with the other children of the village, and, in the words of Scripture, he would grow in goodness and in stature beneath the pious care of our excellent curé. But the best way for you to manage this will be to lay every particular of your case and petition before our 'Lady of Ready Help,' when she comes into the kitchen, as she is sure to do before you start on your journey to-morrow morning."

"What name did you call your lady by?"

"Nay, I meant our mistress, who always goes by that[Pg 128] appellation amongst us. If she interests herself for you, your suit will be granted; for, in matters of charity, our master never opposes her smallest wish."

"Oh, then," exclaimed the Schoolmaster, in a joyous tone, already exulting in his hoped-for deliverance from the power of the Chouette, "I will thankfully follow your advice, and speak to her whenever I have the blessed opportunity!"

This hope found no echo in the mind of Tortillard, who felt not the slightest disposition to avail himself of the offers of the old labourer, and grow up in goodness under the auspices of the venerable curé. The inclinations of Bras Rouge's son were anything but rural, neither did his turn of mind incline to the pastoral. Faithful to the code of morality professed by the Chouette, and promulgated by her, he would have been severely distressed to see the Schoolmaster emancipate himself from their united tyranny; and he now thought it high time to recall the brigand from the illusory visions of flowery meads and all the et cœteras of a country life, in which his fancy seemed revelling, to the realities of his present position.

"Yes, oh, yes," repeated the Schoolmaster; "I will assuredly address my prayers to your 'Lady of Ready Help.' She will pity me and kindly—"

Tortillard here interrupted him by a vigorous and artfully managed kick, so well directed, that, as before, it took the direst effect on the most sensitive spot. The intense agony for a time quite bereft the brigand of speech or breath; but remembering the fatal consequences of giving way to the feelings which boiled within him, he struggled for self-command, and, after a pause of a few minutes, added, in a faint and suffering voice, "Yes, I venture to hope your good mistress would pity and befriend me."

"Dear father," said Tortillard, in a hypocritical tone, "you forget my poor dear aunt, Madame la Chouette,[Pg 129] who is so fond of you. Poor Aunty Chouette, she would never part with you so easily, I know. Directly she heard of your staying here, she would come along with M. Barbillon and fetch you away—that she would, I know."

"Madame la Chouette and M. Barbillon. Why this honest man seems to have relations among all the 'birds of the air and fishes of the sea,'" uttered Jean René in a voice of mirthful irony, giving his neighbour rather a vigorous poke with his elbow. "Funny, isn't it, Claudine?"

"Oh, you great unfeeling calf! How can you make a joke on these poor creatures?" replied the tender-hearted dairy-maid, returning Jean René's thrust with sufficient interest to compromise the safety of his ribs.

"Is Madame la Chouette a relation of yours?" inquired the old labourer of the Schoolmaster.

"Yes, a distant one," answered the other, with a dull, dejected manner.

"And is she the person you were going to Louvres to try and find?" asked Father Châtelain.

"She is," replied the blind man; "but I think my son overrates her zeal on my account. However, under any circumstances, I shall speak to your excellent lady to-morrow, and entreat her aid to further my request with the kind, charitable owner of this farm, but," added he, purposely to divert the conversation into another channel, and so put an end to the imprudent remarks of Tortillard, "talking of farms, you promised to explain to me the difference that exists in the management of this farm and farms in general."

"I did so," replied Father Châtelain, "and I will keep my word. Now, after having planned all I told you about the charity of labour, our master said to himself, 'There are many institutions where plans are devised, and rewards assigned, for improvements in the breed of horses, cattle, sheep, and other animals for the best constructed[Pg 130] ploughs, and other agricultural implements. And I cannot help thinking that all this time we are not going to the fountain-head, and beginning, as we ought to begin, by improving the condition of the labouring classes themselves, before we give all this heed to the beast which perisheth. Good beasts are capital things, but good men are better, and more difficult to meet with. Give your horses and cattle plenty of good food, clear running water; place them either out-of-doors in a fine, healthy atmosphere, or give them a clean, well-managed stable, with good and regular attendance, and they will thrive to your heart's content, and be capable of reaching any degree of excellence. But with men, look you, it is quite another thing. You cannot elevate a man's mind as you can fatten an ox. The animal fattens on his pasture because its taste gratifies his palate; he eats because he likes what he feeds on, and his body profits and thrives in proportion to the pleasure with which he has devoured his food. Well, then, my opinion is, that to make good advice really profitable to men, they should be enabled clearly to perceive their own personal advantage in following it.'"

"Just as the ox is profited by eating the fine grass that grows around him, Father Châtelain?" said several voices.

"Precisely the same."

"But, Father Châtelain," exclaimed another voice. "I have heard talk of a sort of farm where young thieves, who might in other respects have conducted themselves very well, are taken in, taught all sorts of farming knowledge, and fed and treated like princes."

"You have heard quite right, my good fellow, there is such an institution, and, as far as it goes, is founded on pure and just motives, and is calculated to do much good. We should never despair for the wicked, but we should also hope all things for the good. Suppose now a strong, healthy, and industrious young man, of excellent[Pg 131] character, ready and willing to work, but desirous of receiving good instruction in his way of life, were to present himself at the place you are speaking of—this farm of reclaimed thieves—well, the first question would be, 'Well, my chap, are you a rogue and a vagabond?' 'No!' 'Oh, then we can't receive you here—we've no room for honest lads.'"

"What you say, father, is right, every word of it," rejoined Jean René. "Rascals are provided for, while honest men want; and beasts are considered, and their condition continually improved, while men are passed over and left in ignorance and neglect."

"It was purposely to remedy what you complain of, my brave lad, that our master took this farm (as I was mentioning to our blind visitor). 'I know very well,' said he, 'that honest men will be rewarded on high, but then, you see, it is far and long to look forward to, and there are many (and much to be pitied are they) who can neither look to such a distance, nor wait with patience the indefinite period which bids them live on hope alone. Then how are these poor, depressed, and toil-worn creatures to find leisure thus to seek religious comfort? Rising at the first dawn of day, they toil and labour with weary limbs, till night releases them and sends them to their wretched hovels. Sunday is spent by them at the public-house, drinking to drive away the recollections both of their past and future wretchedness. Neither can these poor beings turn their very hardships to a good account by extracting a useful moral from them. After a hard day's work does their bread seem less coarse and black, their pallet less hard, their infants less sickly and meagre, their wives less worn down by giving nourishment to the feeble babes of their breast? No, no, far from it. Alas, the thin, half-starved mother is but ill calculated to nourish another, when she is obliged to yield her slender share of the family meal to still the clamours of her famishing children. Yet all[Pg 132] this might be endured, aye, even cheerfully, for use has familiarised them with hardships and privations; their bread is food, though coarse and homely, their straw bed rests their weary limbs, and their children, though stunted and sickly, live on. All these, I say, could be borne, did no comparison arise between their own poverty and the condition of others; but, when they visit the town or city on market-days, they see an abundance of good white loaves crowding the windows of the bakers' shops; warm, soft mattresses and blankets are displayed for sale to such as have the means of purchasing; children fresh and blooming as the flowers of May are playing joyously about, and even from the superabundance of their meals casting a portion to the dogs and other pet animals. Ah! human courage gives way at this reverse in the picture of human condition; and when the tired, care-worn men return to their mud hovels, their black bread and straw pallet, and are surrounded by a number of squalid, half-starved, wailing infants, to whom they would gladly have brought the share of cakes and buns thrown by the pampered children of great towns in the streets, or cast to the animals, then bitter discontent and repining take possession of their mind, and, utterly forgetting that on high is One who careth for all, they say, "Why is this difference allowed? and, if there must be both rich and poor in the world, why were not we born to riches? why should not every man have his turn in worldly prosperity? We are not justly used or fairly treated in being always poor and hard worked." Of course, all this is both sinful and unreasonable; neither does it in any manner serve to lighten their load; and yet they must go on, bending, staggering under the burden too heavy for them to bear, till they sink, utterly exhausted and worn out. They must toil, toil on, without hope, without relaxing their daily efforts, or without once daring to entertain the idea that, by a long continuance in honest, virtuous, industrious conduct, the day[Pg 133] might come when, like the great Creator of all, they might rest from their labours, and behold peaceful ease succeeding the hard-griping hand of poverty. Think of a whole life passed thus, in one continued struggle for the bare means of life, without a glimmer of hope to cheer the thorny path. What must such a life be like? Why, it would resemble one long rainy day, without a single ray of brightness from the blessed sun to help us through it. Then labour is resumed with an unwilling and dissatisfied spirit. "What does it signify to us," cry the worn-out labourers, "whether the harvest yields ill or well? Whether the ears of corn be heavy or light makes no difference to us. Why should we overwork ourselves, or trouble our heads with matters that only concern our master? It is sufficient for us to act with strict honesty. We will not commit any crime, because there are laws ready to punish such as do; but neither will we try to perform acts of goodness, because for those the laws provide no recompense." Such a mode of arguing, my boys, is as unwise as it is wrong and sinful, but, depend upon it, it is true to nature. From this indifference comes idleness, and from idleness to crime the distance is very short. Now, unfortunately, among the class I have been describing, the far greater proportion consists of those whose conduct may be considered as neither good nor bad, that is to say, without any particular leaning either way, and, consequently, a mere trifle might firmly enlist them in the service of virtue or vice. These are the very individuals,' continued our master, 'we ought to try and improve, just as we should have done had they been born to the honour of figuring as animals with hoofs, horns, or woolly coats. Let us continue to point out to them how completely it is to their interest to be active, industrious, steady, and well qualified to discharge their several duties; let us effectually convince them that, by becoming better men, they will also be much happier; let them see how closely their[Pg 134] good behaviour and prosperity are interwoven, and, that good advice may sink the deeper into their hearts, give them, as it were, such a taste of earthly comfort as shall, in a slight degree, communicate to them the hope and notion of expecting the unspeakable reward prepared by the Great Giver of all, whose dwelling is on high.'

"Having well arranged his plans, our master caused it to be made known in the environs that he wished to engage twelve farm servants, six men and six females; but that his choice would be entirely regulated by the most satisfactory certificates of good conduct obtained from the civil and religious authorities in their native place. They were to be paid like princes, fed upon the best food to their hearts' content; and further, a tenth part of the produce of the harvest was to be shared among the labourers. The engagement at the farm was to last but two years, at the end of which time they were to give place to other labourers, chosen upon the same terms; but, at the expiration of five years, the original labourers were taken on again, in the event of there being any vacancies; so that, since the establishment of this farm, it is usual for the labourers and working classes in the neighbourhood to say, 'Let us be active, honest, and industrious, so as to obtain a high character for such good qualities, and, perhaps, one day we may be fortunate to get engaged at Bouqueval Farm. There, for a couple of years, we shall lead a life of perfect happiness. We shall learn our business thoroughly; we shall save a little money, so that, when our time is up, every one will be glad to engage us, because they know that we must have had first-rate characters to have been admitted on the establishment at all.'"

"I am already bespoke by M. Dubreuil for his farm at Arnouville," said Jean René.

"And I am engaged to a first-rate service at Gonesse," chimed in another labourer.

"You see, my good friend, by this plan everybody is[Pg 135] a gainer, the neighbouring farmers particularly. There are but twelve places for servants on the farm, but there are, perhaps, fifty candidates who have all earned their right to solicit an engagement by certificates and testimonials of excellent conduct. Well, though thirty-eight out of the fifty must be disappointed, yet the good which is in them will still remain; and there are so many good and deserving characters in the environs we can safely reckon upon; for, though they have failed in this application, they still live in hopes of succeeding another time. Why, for every prize animal to which the medal is assigned, whether for swiftness, strength, or beauty, there must be a hundred or more trained to stand forward and dispute the choice; and those animals rejected do not lose any of those qualifications because they were not accepted; far from it; their value is acknowledged, and they quickly find persons desirous of possessing them. Now, friend," said Father Châtelain, having fairly talked himself out of breath, "do you not confess that I was right when I said ours was no common farm, any more than our employer was no ordinary master?"

"Indeed," said the Schoolmaster, "your account is most interesting, and fully bears out all you asserted. But, the more I hear of the exalted views and noble generosity of your master, the more earnestly do I pray he may be induced to look with pity on my wretched condition. To such a man, so filled with a desire to improve the condition of God's creatures, a charitable action more or less would make but little difference. Oh, tell me beforehand his name, and that of your kind Lady of the Ready Help, that I may already bless and thank them; for full certain am I, minds so bent upon good deeds will never turn a deaf ear to my petition."

"Now I dare say you expect to be told the high-sounding titles of some great, grand personages. But, bless you! no such thing; no more parade about their[Pg 136] names than those of the saints themselves. 'Our Lady of Help' is called Madame Georges, and our good master plain M. Rodolph."

"Merciful powers! My wife! my judge! my executioner!" faintly exclaimed the robber, struck almost speechless at this unexpected revelation. "Rodolph!—Madame Georges!"

It was wholly impossible for the Schoolmaster to entertain a doubt respecting the identity of the persons to whom those names belonged. Previously to adjudging him his fearful punishment, Rodolph had spoken of the lively interest he took in all that concerned Madame Georges. The recent visit of the negro David to this farm was another conclusive proof of there being no mistake in the matter. It seemed as though the very hand of Providence had brought about this singular rencontre, overthrowing as it so completely did his recently cherished hopes of emancipation from his present misery, through the intervention of the generosity of the proprietor of this farm. To fly was his first impulse. The very name of Rodolph inspired him with the most intense terror. Possibly he was even now in the house. Scarcely recovered from his first alarm, the brigand rose from the table, and, grasping the hand of Tortillard, exclaimed, in a wild and terrified manner:

"Let us be gone!—quick!—lead me hence. Let us go, I say."

The whole of the servants looked on with astonishment.

"Go!" said Father Châtelain, with much surprise. "Why? Wherefore should you go? What are you thinking about, my friend? Come, what fresh whim is this? Are you quite in your right senses?"

Tortillard cleverly availed himself of this last suggestion, and, uttering a deep sigh, touched his forehead significantly with his forefinger, so as to convey to the minds of the wondering labourers the impression that[Pg 137] his pretended parent was not quite right in his head. The signal elicited a corresponding gesture of pity and due comprehension.

"Come, I say, come!" persisted the Schoolmaster, endeavouring to draw the boy along with him; but, fully determined not to quit such comfortable quarters to wander about in the fields all night during the frost and snow, Tortillard began in a whimpering voice to say:

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! poor father has got one of his old fits come on again. There, there, father, sit down and keep yourself quiet. Pray do, and don't think of wandering out in the cold—it would kill you, maybe. No, not if you are ever so angry with me, will I be so wicked as to lead you out in such weather." Then, addressing himself to the labourers, he said, "Will none of you good gentlemen help me to keep my poor dear father from risking his life by going out to-night?"

"Yes, yes, my boy," answered Father Châtelain; "make yourself perfectly easy. We will not allow your father to quit the place. He shall stay here to-night, in spite of himself."

"Surely you will not keep me here against my will?" inquired the wretched Schoolmaster, in hurried accents; "and perhaps, too, I should offend your master by my presence—that Monsieur Rodolph. You told me the farm was not an hospital; once more, therefore, I ask you to let me go forth in peace on my way."

"Offend our master!—that you would not, I am quite sure. But make yourself easy on that score. I am sorry to say that he does not live here, neither do we see him half as frequently as we could wish. But, if even he had been here, your presence would have made no sort of difference to him."

"No, no," persisted the blind man with continued alarm; "I have changed my mind about applying to him. My son is right. No doubt my relation at Louvres will take care of me. I will go there at once."[Pg 138]

"All I have got to say," replied Father Châtelain, kindly conceiving that he was speaking to a man whose brain was unhappily affected, "is just this—that to attempt to proceed on your journey with this poor child to-night is wholly out of the question. Come, let me put matters to rights for you, and say no more about it."

Although now being reassured of Rodolph's not being at Bouqueval, the terrors of the Schoolmaster were by no means dissipated; and, spite of his frightfully disfigured countenance, he was in momentary dread of being recognized by his wife, who might at any moment enter the kitchen, when he was perfectly persuaded she would instantly denounce and give him into custody; his firm impression having been, from the hour of receiving his horrible punishment from the hands of Rodolph, that it was done to satisfy the hatred and vengeance of Madame Georges. But, unable to quit the farm, the ruffian found himself wholly at the mercy of Tortillard. Resigning himself, therefore, to what was unavoidable, yet anxious to escape from the eyes of his wife, he said to the venerable labourer:

"Since you kindly assure me my being here will in no way displease either your master or mistress, I will gladly accept your hospitality; but, as I am much fatigued, and must set out again at break of day, I would humbly ask permission to go at once to my bed."

"Oh, yes, to-morrow morning by all means, and as soon as you like; we are very early people here. And, for fear even that you should again wander from the right road, some one shall conduct you part of the way."

"If you have no objection," said Jean René, addressing Father Châtelain, "I will see the poor man a good step on the road; because Madame Georges said yesterday I was to take the chaise and go to the lawyer's at Villiers le Bel to fetch a large sum of money she requires of him."

"Go with the poor blind traveller by all means," replied[Pg 139] Father Châtelain; "but you must walk, mind. Madame has changed her mind about sending to Villiers del Bel, and, wisely reflecting that it was not worth while to have so large a sum of money lying useless at the farm, has determined to let it remain with the lawyer till Monday next, which will be the day she requires it."

"Of course, Father Châtelain; mistress knows best. But please to tell me why she should consider it unsafe to have money at the farm. What is she afraid of?"

"Of nothing, my lad. Thank God, there is no occasion for fear. But, for all that, I would much rather have five hundred sacks of corn on the premises than ten bags of crowns. Come," said old Châtelain, addressing himself to the brigand and Tortillard, "come, follow me, friend; and you too, my lad." Then, taking up a small lamp, he conducted his two guests to a chamber on the ground floor, first traversing a large passage into which several doors opened. Placing the light on a table, the old labourer said to the Schoolmaster, "Here is your lodging, and may God grant you a good and peaceful night's repose, my good friend. As for you, my little man, you are sure to sleep sound and well; it belongs to your happy age to do so."

The Schoolmaster, pensive and meditative, sat down by the side of the bed to which Tortillard conducted him. At the instant when Father Châtelain was quitting the room, Tortillard made him a sign indicative of his desire to speak with him alone, and hastily rejoined him in the passage.

"What is it, my boy, you have to say to me?" inquired the old man, kindly.

"Ah, my kind sir, I only wanted to say that my father is frequently seized during the night with most violent convulsion-fits, which require a much stronger person than I am to hold him; should I be obliged to call for help, is there any person near who could hear me?"[Pg 140]

"Poor child!" said the labourer, sympathisingly; "make yourself easy. There,—do you see that door beside the staircase?"

"Oh, yes, good, kind gentleman; I see it."

"Well, one of the farm labourers sleeps in that room. You will only just have to run to him. He never locks his door; and he will come to your father in an instant."

"Thank you, sir; God bless you! I will remember all your kindness when I say my prayers. But suppose, sir, the man and myself were not strong enough together to manage my poor father when these violent convulsions come on, could you, who look so good, and speak so kind—could you be kind enough to come and tell us what to do?"

"Me, my boy? Oh, I sleep, as well as all the other men servants, out of the house, in a large outbuilding in the courtyard. But make yourself quite comfortable. Jean René could manage a mad bull, he is so powerful. Besides, if you really wished any further help he would go and call up our old cook; she sleeps on the first floor, even with our mistress and young mademoiselle, and I can promise you that our old woman is a most excellent sick-nurse should your father require any one to attend to him when the fit is over."

"Thank you, kind gentleman, a thousand times. Good-night, sir. I will go now and pray of God to bless you for your kindness and pity to the poor blind."

"Good night, my lad! Let us hope both you and your father will enjoy a sound night's rest, and have no occasion to require any person's help. You had better return to your room now; your poor father may be wanting you."

"I will, sir. Good night, and thank you!"

"God preserve you both, my child!" And the old man returned to the kitchen.[Pg 141]

Scarcely had he turned his back than the limping rascal made one of those supremely insulting and derisive gestures familiar to all the blackguards of Paris, consisting in slapping the nape of the neck repeatedly with the left hand, darting the right hand quite open continually out in a straight line. With the most consummate audacity, this dangerous child had just gleaned, under the mask of guileless tenderness and apprehension for his father, information most important for the furtherance of the schemes of the Chouette and Schoolmaster. He had ascertained during the last few minutes that the part of the building where he slept was only occupied by Madame Georges, Fleur-de-Marie, an old female servant, and one of the farm-labourers. Upon his return to the room he was to share with the blind man, Tortillard carefully avoided approaching him. The former, however, heard his step, and growled out:

"Where have you been, you vagabond?"

"What! you want to know, do you, old blind 'un?"

"Oh, I'll make you pay for all you have made me suffer this evening, you wretched urchin!" exclaimed the Schoolmaster, rising furiously, and groping about in every direction after Tortillard, feeling by the walls as a guide. "I'll strangle you when I catch you, you young fiend—you infernal viper!"

"Poor, dear father! How prettily he plays at blind-man's buff with his own little boy," said Tortillard, grinning, and enjoying the ease with which he escaped from the impotent attempts of the Schoolmaster to seize him, who, though impelled to the exertion by his overboiling rage, was soon compelled to cease, and, as had been the case before, to give up all hopes of inflicting the revenge he yearned to bestow on the impish son of Bras Rouge.

Thus compelled to submit to the impudent persecution of his juvenile tormentor, and await the propitious hour[Pg 142] when all his injuries could safely be avenged, the brigand determined to reserve his powerless wrath for a fitting opportunity of paying off old scores, and, worn out in body by his futile violence, threw himself, swearing and cursing, on the bed.

"Dear father!—sweet father!—have you got the toothache that you swear so? Ah, if Monsieur le Curé heard you, what would he say to you? He would give you such penance! Oh, my!"

"That's right!—go on!" replied the ruffian, in a hollow and suppressed voice, after long enduring this entertaining vivacity on the part of the young gentleman. "Laugh at me!—mock me!—make sport of my calamity, cowardly scoundrel that you are! That is a fine, noble action, is it not? Just worthy of such a mean, ignoble, contemptible soul as dwells within that wretched, crooked body!"

"Oh, how fine we talk! How nice we preach about being generous, and all that, don't we?" cried Tortillard, bursting into peals of laughter. "I beg your pardon, dear father, but I can't possibly help thinking it so funny to hear you, whose fingers were regular fish-hooks, picking and stealing whatever came in their way; and, as for generosity, I beg you don't mention it, because, till you got your eyes poked out I don't suppose you ever thought of such a word!"

"But, at least, I never did you any harm. Why, then, torment me thus?"

"Because, in the first place, you said what I did not like to the Chouette; then you had a fancy for stopping and playing the fool among the clodhoppers here. Perhaps you mean to commence a course of asses' milk?"

"You impudent young beggar! If I had only had the opportunity of remaining at this farm—which I now wish sunk in the bottomless pit, or blasted with eternal lightning—you should not have played your tricks of devilish cruelty with me any longer!"[Pg 143]

"You to remain here! that would be a farce! Who, then, would Madame la Chouette have for her bête de souffrance? Me, perhaps, thank ye!—don't you wish you may get it?"

"Miserable abortion!"

"Abortion! ah, yes, another reason why I say, as well as Aunt Chouette, there is nothing so funny as to see you in one of your unaccountable passions—you, who could kill me with one blow of your fist; it's more funny than if you were a poor, weak creature. How very funny you were at supper to-night! Dieu de Dieu! what a lark I had all to myself! Why, it was better than a play at the Gaîté. At every kick I gave you on the sly, your passion made all the blood fly in your face, and your white eyes became red all round; they only wanted a bit of blue in the middle to have been real tri-coloured. They would have made two fine cockades for the town-sergeant, wouldn't they?"

"Come, come, you like to laugh—you are merry: bah! it's natural at your age—it's natural—I'm not angry with you," said the Schoolmaster, in an air of affected carelessness, hoping to propitiate Tortillard; "but, instead of standing there, saying saucy things, it would be much better for you to remember what the Chouette told you; you say you are very fond of her. You should examine all over the place, and get the print of the locks. Didn't you hear them say they expected to have a large sum of money here on Monday? We will be amongst them then, and have our share. I should have been foolish to have stayed here; I should have had enough of these asses of country people at the end of a week, shouldn't I, boy?" asked the ruffian, to flatter Tortillard.

"If you had stayed here I should have been very much annoyed, 'pon my word and honour," replied Bras Rouge's son, in a mocking tone.

"Yes, yes, there's a good business to be done in this[Pg 144] house; and, if there should be nothing to steal, yet I will return here with the Chouette, if only to have my revenge," said the miscreant, in a tone full of fury and malice, "for now I am sure it is my wife who excited that infernal Rodolph against me; he who, in blinding me, has put me at the mercy of all the world, of the Chouette, and a young blackguard like yourself. Well, if I cannot avenge myself on him, I will have vengeance against my wife,—yes, she shall pay me for all, even if I set fire to this accursed house and bury myself in its smouldering ruins. Yes, I will—I will have—"

"You will, you want to get hold of your wife, eh, old gentleman? She is within ten paces of you! that's vexing, ain't it? If I liked, I could lead you to the door of her room, that's what I could, for I know the room. I know it—I know it—I know it," added Tortillard, singing according to his custom.

"You know her room?" said the Schoolmaster, in an agony of fervent joy; "you know it?"

"I see you coming," said Tortillard; "come, play the pretty, and get on your hind legs like a dog when they throw him a dainty bone. Now, old Cupid!"

"You know my wife's chamber?" said the miscreant, turning to the side whence the sound of Tortillard's voice proceeded.

"Yes, I know it; and, what's still better, only one of the farm servants sleeps on the side of the house where we are. I know his door—the key is in it—click, one turn, and he's all safe and fast. Come, get up, old blind Cupid!"

"Who told you all this?" asked the blind scoundrel, rising involuntarily.

"Capital, Cupid! By the side of your wife's room sleeps an old cook—one more turn of the key, and click! we are masters of the house—masters of your wife, and the young girl with the gray mantle that you must catch hold of and carry off. Now, then, your[Pg 145] paw, old Cupid; do the pretty to your master directly."

"You lie! you lie! how could you know all this?"

"Why, I'm lame in my leg, but not in my head. Before we left the kitchen I said to the old guzzling labourer that sometimes in the night you had convulsions, and I asked him where I could get assistance if you were attacked. He said if you were attacked I might call up the man servant and the cook; and he showed me where they slept; one down, the other up stairs in the first floor, close to your wife—your wife—your wife!"

And Tortillard repeated his monotonous song. After a lengthened silence the Schoolmaster said to him, in a calm voice, but with an air of desperate determination:

"Listen, boy. I have stayed long enough. Lately—yes, yes, I confess it—I had a hope which now makes my lot appear still more frightful; the prison, the bagne, the guillotine, are nothing—nothing to what I have endured since this morning; and I shall have the same to endure always. Lead me to my wife's room; I have my knife here; I will kill her. I shall be killed afterwards; but what of that? My hatred swells till it chokes me; I shall have revenge, and that will console me. What I now suffer is too much—too much! for me, too, before whom everybody trembled. Now, lad, if you knew what I endure, even you would pity me. Even now my brain appears ready to burst; my pulse beats as if my veins would burst; my head whirls—"

"A cold in your 'knowledge-box,' old chap—that's it; sneeze—that'll cure you," said Tortillard, with a loud grin; "what say you to a pinch of snuff, old brick?"

And striking loudly on the back of his left hand, which was clenched, as if he were tapping on the lid of a snuff-box, he sang:

"J'ai du bon tabac dans ma tabatière;
J'ai du bon tabac, tu n'en auras pas."

[Pg 146]

"Oh, mon Dieu! mon Dieu! they will drive me mad!" cried the brigand, becoming really almost demented by a sort of nervous excitement arising from bloodthirsty revenge and implacable hatred, which in vain sought to satiate itself. The exuberant strength of this monster could only be equalled by the impossibility of satisfying his deadly desires. Let us imagine a hungry, furious, maddened wolf, teased during a whole day by a child through the bars of his den, and scenting within two paces of him a victim who would at once satisfy his hunger and his rage. At the last taunt of Tortillard the brigand almost lost his senses; unable to reach his victim, he desired in his frenzy to shed his own blood, for his blood was stifling him. One moment he resolved to kill himself, and, had he had a loaded pistol in his hand, he would not have hesitated; he fumbled in his pocket, and drew out a clasp-knife, opened it, and raised it to strike; but, quick as were his movements, reflection, fear, and vital instinct were still more rapid,—the murderer lacked courage,—his arm fell on his knees. Tortillard had watched all his actions with an attentive eye, and, when he saw the finale of this pseudo-tragedy, he continued, mockingly,—

"How, boys, a duel? Ah, pluck the chickens!"

The Schoolmaster, fearing that he should lose his senses if he gave way to an ineffectual burst of fury, turned a deaf ear to this fresh insult of Tortillard, who so impertinently commented on the cowardice of an assassin who recoiled from suicide. Despairing of escape from what he termed, by a sort of avenging fatality, the cruelty of his cursed child, the ruffian sought to try what could be done by assailing the avarice of the son of Bras Rouge.

"Ah," said he to him, in a tone almost supplicatory, "lead me to the door of my wife's room, and take anything you like that's in her room and run away with it! leave me to myself. You may cry out 'murder' if you[Pg 147] like; they will apprehend me—kill me on the spot—I care not, I shall die avenged, if I have not the courage to end my existence myself. Oh, lead me there—lead me there; depend on it she has gold, jewels, anything, and you may take all, all for yourself, for your own, do you mind?—your own; only lead me to the door where she is."

"Yes, I mind well enough; you want me to lead you to her door, then to her bed, and then to tell you when to strike, then to guide your hand—eh! that's it, ain't it? You want to make me a handle to your knife, old monster!" replied Tortillard, with an expression of contempt, anger, and horror, which, for the first time in his life gave an appearance of seriousness to his weasel face, usually all impertinence and insolence; "I'll be killed first, I tell you, sooner than I'll lead you to where your wife is!"

"You refuse?"

The son of Bras Rouge made no reply. He approached with bare feet and without being heard by the Schoolmaster, who, seated on the bed, still held his large knife in his hand, and then, in a moment, with marvellous quickness and dexterity, Tortillard snatched from him his weapon, and with one jump skipped to the further end of the chamber.

"My knife! my knife!" cried the brigand, extending his arms.

"No; for then you might to-morrow morning ask to speak with your wife and try to kill her, since, as you say, you have had enough of life, and are such a coward that you don't dare kill yourself."

"How he defends my wife against me!" said the bandit, whose intellect became obscure. "This little wretch is a devil! Where am I? Why does he try to save her?"

"Because I like it," said Tortillard, whose face resumed its usual appearance of sly impudence.[Pg 148]

"Ah, is that it?" murmured the Schoolmaster, whose mind was wandering; "well, then, I'll fire the house! we'll all burn—all! I prefer that furnace to the other. The candle! the candle!"

"Ah! ah! ah!" exclaimed Tortillard, bursting out again into loud laughter. "If your own candle—your 'peepers'—had not been snuffed out, and for ever, you would have known that ours had been extinguished an hour ago." And Tortillard sang:

"Ma chandelle est morte,
Je n'ai plus de feu."

The Schoolmaster gave a deep groan, stretched out his arms, and fell heavily on the floor, his face on the ground, and, struck by a rush of blood, remained motionless.

"Not to be caught, old boy," said Tortillard; "that's only a trick to make me come to you that you may serve me out! When you have been long enough on the floor you'll get up."

Bras Rouge's boy resolved not to go to sleep for fear of being surprised by the Schoolmaster, so seated himself in a chair, with his eyes fixed on the ruffian, persuaded that it was a trap laid for him, and not believing the Schoolmaster in any danger. That he might employ himself agreeably Tortillard drew silently and carefully from his pocket a little red silk purse, and counted slowly, and with looks of joy and avarice, the seventeen pieces of gold which it contained. Tortillard had acquired his ill-gotten riches thus: It may be remembered that Madame d'Harville was nearly surprised by her husband at the rendezvous which she had granted to the commandant. Rodolph, when he had given the purse to the young lady had told her to go up to the fifth story to the Morels, under the pretence of bringing them assistance. Madame d'Harville ran quickly up the staircase holding the purse in her hands. When Tortillard,[Pg 149] who was coming from the quack's, caught a glimpse of the purse, and, pretending to stumble as he passed the marquise, pushed against her, and, in the shock, slily stole the purse. Madame d'Harville, bewildered, and hearing her husband's footsteps, hurried on to the fifth story without thinking or complaining of the impudent robbery of the little cripple. After having counted and recounted his gold Tortillard cast his eyes towards the Schoolmaster who was extended still on the ground. Disquieted for a moment, he listened, and hearing the robber breathe freely he thought that he was still meditating some trick against him.

Chance saved the Schoolmaster from a congestion of the brain which else must have proved mortal. His fall had caused a salutary and abundant bleeding at the nose. He then fell into kind of a feverish torpor—half sleep, half delirium, and then had this wild, this fearful dream!

[Pg 150]



This was the Schoolmaster's dream:

He was again in Rodolph's house in the Allée des Veuves. The saloon in which the miscreant had received his appalling punishment had not undergone any alteration. Rodolph himself was sitting at the table on which were the Schoolmaster's papers and the little Saint-Esprit of lapis which he had given to the Chouette. Rodolph's countenance was grave and sad. On his right the negro David was standing motionless and silent; on his left was the Chourineur, who looked on with a bewildered mien. In his dream the Schoolmaster was no longer blind, but saw through a medium of clear blood, which filled the cavities of his eyeballs. All and everything seemed to him tinted with red. As birds of prey hover on motionless wing above the head of the victim which they fascinate before they devour, so a monstrous screech-owl (chouette), having for its head the hideous visage of the one-eyed hag, soared over the Schoolmaster, keeping fixed on him her round, glaring, and green eye. This fixed stare was upon his breast like a heavy weight. The Schoolmaster discerned a vast lake of blood separating him from the table at which Rodolph was seated. Then this inflexible judge, as well as the Chourineur and the negro, grew and grew, expanding into colossal proportions, until they touched the ceiling; and then it also became higher in proportion. The lake of blood was calm, and as unruffled as a red[Pg 151] mirror; the Schoolmaster saw his hideous countenance reflected therein. Then that was suddenly effaced by the tumult of the swelling waves. From their troubled surface there arose a vapour resembling the foul exhalation of a marsh, a livid-coloured mist of that violet hue peculiar to the lips of the dead. In proportion as this miasma rises—rises, the faces of Rodolph, the Chourineur, and the negro continue to expand and expand in an extraordinary manner, and always remain above this fearful cloud. In the midst of the awful vapour, the Schoolmaster sees the pale ghosts, and those murderous scenes in which he had been the actor. In this fantastic mirage he first sees a little bald-headed old man, clad in a long brown coat, and wearing an eye-shade of green silk. He is employing himself in a dilapidated chamber in counting and arranging pieces of gold into piles by the light of a lamp. Through the window, lighted by the dim moonlight reflected on the tops of some high trees waving in the wind, the Schoolmaster recognises his own figure. Pressing his distorted features against the glass, following every motion of the old man with glaring eyes, then breaking a pane, he opens the window itself, leaps with a bound upon his victim, and stabs him between the shoulders with his long and keen knife. The movement is so rapid, the blow so quick and sure, that the dead body of the old man remains seated in the chair.

The murderer tries to withdraw his weapon from the dead body,—he cannot! He redoubles his efforts,—in vain! He then seeks to quit the deadly steel,—impossible!

The hand of the assassin clings to the handle of the poignard, as the blade of the poignard clings to the frame of the wounded man. The murderer then hears the sound of clinking spurs and clashing swords in the adjoining room. He must escape at all risks, and attempts to carry with him the body of the feeble old[Pg 152] man, from which he cannot withdraw either his weapon or his hand.

He cannot do even this. The light and feeble carcass weighs him down like a mass of lead. Despite his herculean shoulders, his desperate efforts, the Schoolmaster cannot even stir this overwhelming weight.

The sound of echoing steps and jingling sabres comes nearer and nearer. The key turns in the lock,—the door opens. The vision disappears.

And then the screech-owl flaps her wing, and shrieks out:

"It is the old miser of the Rue de la Roule. Your maiden murder! murder! murder!"

A moment's darkness,—then the miasma which covers the lake of blood resumes its transparency, and another spectre is revealed.

The day begins to dawn,—the fog is thick and heavy. A man, clothed like a cattle-dealer, lies stretched, dead on the bank of the highroad. The trampled earth, the torn turf, proved that the victim had made a desperate resistance. The man has five bleeding wounds in his breast. He is lifeless; yet still he seems to whistle on his dogs, calling to them, "Help! help!"

But his whistling, his cries, proceed from five large and gaping wounds,—

"Each one a death in nature,"—

which move like so many complaining lips. The five calls, the five whistlings, all made and heard at once, come from the dead man by the mouths of his gushing wounds; and fearful are they to hear!

At this instant the Chouette waves her wings, and mocks the deathly groans of the victim with five bursts of laughter,—a laughter as unearthly and as horrible as the madman's mirth; and then again she shrieks:

"The cattle-dealer of Poissy. Murder! murder! murder!"[Pg 153]

Protracted and underground echoes first repeat aloud the malevolent laughter of the screech-owl. Then they seem to die away in the very bowels of the earth.

At this sound two large dogs, as black as midnight, with eyes glaring like burning coals, begin to run rapidly around—around—around the Schoolmaster, baying furiously. They almost touch him, and yet their bark appears as distant as if carried on the wind of the morning.

Gradually these spectres fade away as the previous one did, and are lost in the pale vapour which is continually ascending.

A new exhalation now arises from the lake of blood, and spreads itself on its surface. It is a sort of greenish, transparent mist; it resembles the vertical section of a canal filled with water. At first he sees the bed of the canal covered in by a thick vase formed of numberless reptiles usually imperceptible to the unassisted eye, but which, enlarged, as if viewed through a microscope, assume monstrous forms, vast proportions relatively to their actual size. It is no longer mud, but a compact, living, crawling mass,—an inextricable conglomeration which wriggles and curls; so close, so dense, that a sullen and low undulation hardly stirs the level of this vase, or rather bed of foulest animalculæ. Above trickles gently—gently, a turbid stream, thick and stagnating, which, in its dilatory flow, disturbs the filth incessantly vomited by the sewers of a great city,—fragments of all sorts, carcasses of animals, etc., etc. Suddenly the Schoolmaster hears the plash of a body, which falls heavily on the water; in its recoil the water sprinkles his very face. In the midst of the air-bubbles which rise thick and fast to the surface of the canal he sees the body of a woman, which sinks rapidly as she struggles—struggles.

Then he sees himself and the Chouette running hastily along the banks of St. Martin's Canal, carrying[Pg 154] with them a box covered with black cloth; and yet he is still present during all the variations of agony suffered by the victim whom he and the Chouette have thrown into the canal. After the first immersion the victim rises to the surface and moves her arms in violent agitation like some one who, not knowing how to swim, tries in vain to save herself. Then she utters a piercing cry,—a cry of one in the last extremity,—despairing—which ends in the sullen, stifled sound of involuntary choking; and the woman the second time sinks beneath the troubled waters.

The screech-owl, which hovers continually motionless, imitates the convulsive rattle of the drowning wretch, as she mocked the dying groans of the cattle-dealer. In the midst of bursts of deathlike laughter the screech-owl utters, "Glou! glou! glou!"

The subterranean echoes repeated the sound.

A second time submerged the woman is fast suffocating, and makes one more desperate effort for breath; but, instead of air, it is water which she inspires. Then her head falls back, her convulsed features are swollen and become livid, her neck becomes blue and tumefied, her arms stiffen, and, in a last spasmodic effort, the drowning woman in her agony moves her feet, which are resting on the vase. Then she is surrounded by a mass of black soil, which ascends with her to the surface of the water. Scarcely has the choked wretch breathed her last sigh than she is covered with myriads of the microscopic reptiles,—the greedy and horrible vermin of the mud. The carcass floats for a moment, balances for a moment, and then sinks slowly, horizontally, the feet lower than the head, and between the double waters begins to follow the current of the land. Sometimes the dead corpse turns, and its pale face is before the Schoolmaster. Then the spectre fixes on him glaringly its two blue, glassy, and opaque eyes; the livid mouth opens. The Schoolmaster is far away from the drowning[Pg 155] woman, and yet her lips murmur in his ears, "Glou! glou! glou!" accompanying these appalling syllables with that singular noise which a bottle thrust into the water makes when filling itself.

The screech-owl repeats, "Glou! glou! glou!" flapping her wings, and shrieking:

"The woman of the Canal St. Martin! Murder! murder! murder!"

The vision of the drowned woman disappears. The lake of blood, through which the Schoolmaster still constantly beholds Rodolph, becomes of a bronzed, black colour, then red again, and then changes instantaneously into a liquid, furnace-like, molten metal. Then that lake of fire rises—rises—rises towards the sky like an immense whirlpool. There is now a fiery horizon like iron at a white heat. This immense, boundless horizon dazzles and scorches the very eyes of the Schoolmaster, who, fascinated, fastened to the spot, cannot turn away his gaze. Then, at the bottom of this burning lava, whose reflection seems to consume him, he sees pass and repass, one by one, the black and giant spectres of his victims.

"The magic-lanthorn of remorse! remorse! remorse!" shrieks the night-bird, flapping her hideous wings, and laughing mockingly.

Notwithstanding the intolerable anguish which his impatient gaze creates, the Schoolmaster has his eyes fixed on the grisly phantoms which move in the blazing sheet. Then an indefinable horror steals over him. Passing through every step of indescribable torture, by dint of contemplating this blazing sight, he feels his eyeballs—which have replaced the blood with which his orbits were filled at the commencement of his dream—he feels his eyeballs grow hot, burning, and melt in this furnace—to smoke and bubble—and at last to become calcined in their cavities like two crucibles filled with red fire. By a fearful power, after having seen as[Pg 156] well as felt the successive transformations of his eyeballs into ashes, he falls into the darkness of his actual blindness.

But now, suddenly, his intolerable agonies are assuaged as though by enchantment. An odorous air of delicious freshness passes over his burning eyeballs. This air is a lovely admixture of the scents of springtime, which exhale from flowers bathed in evening dew. The Schoolmaster hears all about him a gentle murmur, like that of the breeze which just stirs the leaves—like that of a brook of running waters, which rushes and murmurs on its bed of stone and moss "in the leafy month of June." Thousands of birds warble the most enchanting melodies. They are stilled, and the voices of children, of angelic tone, sing strange, unknown words—words that are "winged" (if we may use the expression), and which the Schoolmaster hears mount to heaven with gentle motion. A feeling of moral health, of tranquillity, of undefined languor, creeps over him by degrees. It is an expansion of the heart, an elevation of the mind, an effort of the soul, of which no physical feeling, how delicious soever it may be, can impart the least idea. He feels himself softly soaring in a heavenly sphere; he seems to rise to an immeasurable height.


After having for some moments revelled in this unspeakable felicity he again finds himself in the dark abyss of his habitual thoughts. His dream continues; but he is again but the muzzled miscreant who blasphemes and curses in the paroxysm of his impotent rage. A voice is heard—sonorous—solemn. It is Rodolph's. The Schoolmaster starts "like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons." He has the vague consciousness of a dream; but the alarm with which Rodolph inspires him is so great that he tries, but vainly, to escape from this fresh vision. The voice[Pg 157] speaks—he listens. The tone of Rodolph is not severe; it is "rather in sorrow than in anger."

"Unhappy man," he says to the Schoolmaster, "the hour of your repentance has not yet sounded. God only knows when it will strike. The punishment of your crimes is still incomplete; you have suffered, but not expiated. Destiny follows out its work of full justice. Your accomplices have become your tormentors. A woman, a child, tame, subdue, conquer you. When I sentenced you to a terrible punishment for your crimes I said—do you remember my words?—'You have wickedly abused the great bodily strength bestowed upon you; I will paralyse that strength. The strongest have trembled before you; I will make you henceforward shrink in the presence of the weakest of beings.' You have left the obscure retreat in which you might have dwelt for repentance and expiation. You were afraid of silence and solitude. You sought to drown remembrance by new crimes. Just now, in a fearful and bloodthirsty access of passion, you have wished to kill your wife. She is here under the same roof as yourself. She sleeps without defence. You have a knife. Her apartment is close at hand. There was nothing to prevent you from reaching her. Nothing could have protected her from your rage—nothing but your impotence. The dream you have had, and in which you are still bound, may teach you much, may save you. The mysterious phantoms of this dream bear with them a most pregnant meaning. The lake of blood, in which your victims have appeared, is the blood you have shed. The molten lava which replaced it is the gnawing, eating remorse, which must consume you before one day, that the Almighty, having mercy on your protracted tortures, shall call you to himself, and let you taste the ineffable sweetness of his gracious forgiveness. But this will not be. No, no! these warnings will be useless. Far from repenting, you regret every day, with horrid[Pg 158] blasphemies, the time when you could commit such atrocities. Alas! from this continual struggle between your bloodthirsty desires and the impossibility of satisfying them,—between your habits of fierce oppression and the compulsion of submitting to beings as weak as they are depraved,—there will result to you a fate so fearful, so appalling. Ah, unhappy wretch!"

Rodolph's voice faltered, and for a moment he was silent, as if emotion and horror had hindered him from proceeding. The Schoolmaster's hair bristled on his brow. What could be—would be—that fate, which even his executioner pitied?

"The fate that awaits you is so horrible," resumed Rodolph, "that, if the Almighty, in his inexorable and all-powerful vengeance, would make you in your person expiate all the crimes of all mankind, he could not devise a more fearful punishment! Ah, woe for you! woe for you!"

At this moment the Schoolmaster uttered a piercing shriek, and awoke with a bound at this horrid, frightful dream.

[Pg 159]



The hour of nine had struck on the Bouqueval clock, when Madame Georges softly entered the chamber of Fleur-de-Marie. The light slumber of the young girl was quickly broken, and she awoke to find her kind friend standing by her bedside. A brilliant winter's sun darted its rays through the blinds and chintz window-curtains, the pink linings of which cast a bright glow on the pale countenance of La Goualeuse, giving it the look of health it so greatly needed.

"Well, my child," said Madame Georges, sitting down and gently kissing her forehead, "how are you this morning?"

"Much better, madame, I thank you."

"I hope you were not awoke very early this morning?"

"No, indeed, madame."

"I am glad of it; the blind man and his son, who were permitted to sleep here last night, insisted upon quitting the farm immediately it was light, and I was fearful that the noise made in opening the gates might have woke you."

"Poor things! why did they go so very early?"

"I know not. After you became more calm and comfortable last night, I went down into the kitchen for the purpose of seeing them, but they had pleaded extreme weariness, and begged permission to retire. Father Châtelain tells me the blind man does not[Pg 160] seem very right in his head; and the whole body of servants were unanimous in praising the tenderness and care with which the boy attended upon his blind parent. But now, my dear Marie, listen to me; you must not expose yourself to the risk of taking fresh cold after the attack of fever you suffered from last night, and, therefore, I recommend your keeping quite quiet all day, and not leaving the parlour at all."

"Nay, madame, I have promised M. le Curé to be at the rectory at five o'clock; pray allow me to go, as I am expected."

"Indeed I cannot, it would be very imprudent; I can perceive you have passed a very bad night, your eyes are quite heavy."

"I have not been able to rest through the most frightful dreams which pursued me whenever I tried to sleep. I fancied myself in the power of a wicked woman who used to torment me most cruelly when I was a child; and I kept starting up in dread and alarm. I am ashamed of such silly weakness as to allow dreams to frighten me, but, indeed, I suffered so much during the night that when I awoke my pillow was wetted with my tears."

"I am truly sorry for this weakness, as you justly style it, my dear child," said Madame Georges, with affectionate concern, seeing the eyes of Fleur-de-Marie again filling fast, "because I perceive the pain it occasions you."

The poor girl, overpowered by her feelings, threw her arms around the neck of her adopted mother and buried her sobs in her bosom.

"Marie, Marie! my child, you terrify me; why, why is this?"

"Pardon me, dear madame, I beseech you! Indeed, I know not myself what has come over me, but for the last two days my heart has seemed full almost to bursting. I cannot restrain my tears, though I know not[Pg 161] wherefore I weep. A fearful dread of some great evil about to befall me weighs down my spirits and resists every attempt to shake it off."

"Come! come! I shall scold you in earnest if you thus give way to imaginary terrors."

At this moment Claudine, whose previous tap at the door had been unheard, entered the room.

"What is it, Claudine?"

"Madame, Pierre has just arrived from Arnouville, in Madame Dubreuil's chaise; he brings a letter for you which he says is of great importance."

Madame Georges took the paper from Claudine's hand, opened it and read as follows:

"My Dear Madame Georges:

"You could do me a considerable favour, and assist me under very perplexing circumstances, by hastening to the farm here without delay. Pierre has orders to wait till you are ready, and will drive you back after dinner. I really am in such confusion that I hardly know what I am about. M. Dubreuil has gone to the wool-fair at Pontoise; I have, therefore, no one to turn to for advice and assistance but you and Marie. Clara sends her best love to her very dear adopted sister, and anxiously expects her arrival. Try to be with us by eleven o'clock, to luncheon.

"Ever yours most sincerely,

F. Dubreuil."

"What can possibly be the matter?" asked Madame Georges of Fleur-de-Marie; "fortunately the tone of Madame Dubreuil's letter is not calculated to cause alarm."

"Do you wish me to accompany you, madame?" asked the Goualeuse.

"Why, that would scarcely be prudent, so cold as it is. But, upon second thoughts," continued Madame Georges, "I think you may venture if you wrap yourself up very warm; it will serve to raise your spirits, and possibly the short ride may do you good."

The Goualeuse did not immediately reply, but, after a few minutes' consideration, she ventured to say:[Pg 162]

"But, madame, M. le Curé expects me this evening, at five o'clock, at the rectory."

"But I promise you to be back in good time for you to keep your engagement; now will you go?"

"Oh, thank you, madame! Indeed, I shall be so delighted to see Mlle. Clara."

"What! again?" uttered Madame Georges, in a tone of gentle reproach. "Mlle. Clara? She does not speak so distantly to you when she addresses you."

"Oh, no, madame!" replied the poor girl, casting down her eyes, while a bright flush rose even to her temples; "but there is so great a difference between us that—"

"Dear Marie! you are cruel and unkind thus needlessly to torment yourself. Have you so soon forgotten how I chided you but just now for the very same fault? There, drive away all such foolish thoughts! dress yourself as quickly as you can, and pray wrap up very carefully. If we are quick, we may reach Arnouville before eleven o'clock."

Then, leaving Fleur-de-Marie to perform the duties of her simple toilet, Madame Georges retired to her own chamber, first dismissing Claudine with an intimation to Pierre that herself and niece would be ready to start almost immediately.

Half an hour afterwards, Madame Georges and Marie were on their way to Arnouville, in one of those large, roomy cabriolets, in use among the rich farmers in the environs of Paris; and briskly did their comfortable vehicle, drawn by a stout Norman horse, roll over the grassy road which led from Bouqueval to Arnouville. The extensive buildings and numerous appendages to the farm, tenanted by M. Dubreuil in the latter village, bore testimony to the wealth and importance of the property bestowed as a marriage-portion on Mlle. Césarine de Noirmont upon her union with the Duke de Lucenay.

The loud crack of Pierre's whip apprised Madame[Pg 163] Dubreuil of the arrival of her friend, Madame Georges, with Fleur-de-Marie, who were most affectionately greeted by Clara and her mother. Madame Dubreuil was a good-looking woman of middle age, with a countenance expressive of extreme gentleness and kindness; while her daughter Clara was a handsome brunette, with rich hazel eyes, and a happy, innocent expression for ever resting on her full, rosy lips, which seemed never to open but to utter words of sweetness and amiability. As Clara eagerly threw her arms around her friend's neck as she descended the vehicle, the Goualeuse saw with extreme surprise that the kind-hearted girl had laid aside her more fashionable attire, and was habited as a simple country maiden.

"Why, Clara!" said Madame Georges, affectionately returning her embrace, "what is the meaning of this strange costume?"

"It is done in imitation and admiration of her sister Marie," answered Madame Dubreuil; "I assure you she let me have no peace till I had procured her a woollen bodice, and a fustian skirt exactly resembling your Marie's. But, now we are talking of whims and caprices, just come this way with me," added Madame Dubreuil, drawing a deep sigh, "while I explain to you my present difficulty, as well as the cause of my so abruptly summoning you hither; but you are so kind, I feel assured you will not only forgive it, but also render me all the assistance I require."

Following Madame Georges and her mother to their sitting-room, Clara lovingly conducted the Goualeuse also thither, placing her in the warmest corner of the fireside, and tenderly chafing her hands to prevent the cold from affecting her; then fondly caressing her, and styling her again and again her very dear sister Marie, she playfully reproached her for allowing so long an interval to pass away without paying her a visit. After the recent conversation which passed between the poor[Pg 164] Goualeuse and the curé (no doubt fresh in the reader's memory), it will easily be believed that these tender marks of affection inspired the unfortunate girl with feelings of deep humility, combined with a timid joy.

"Now, then, dear Madame Dubreuil," said Madame Georges, when they were comfortably seated, "do pray tell me what has happened, and in what manner I can be serviceable to you."

"Oh, in several ways! I will tell you exactly how. In the first place, I believe you are not aware that this farm is the private property of the Duchesse de Lucenay, and that we are accountable to her alone, having nothing whatever to do with the duke or his steward."

"No, indeed, I never heard that before."

"Neither should I have troubled you with so unimportant a matter now, but that it forms a necessary part of the explanation I am about to give you of my present pressing need of your kind services. You must know, then, that we consider ourselves as the tenants of Madame de Lucenay, and always pay our rent either to herself or to Madame Simon, her head femme de chambre; and, really, spite of some little impetuosity of temper, Madame la Duchesse is so amiable that it is delightful to have business with her. Dubreuil and I would go through fire and water to serve her: but, la! that is only natural, considering we have known her from her very cradle, and were accustomed to see her playing about as a child during the visits she used annually to pay to the estate during the lifetime of her late father, the Prince de Noirmont. Latterly she has asked for her rent in advance. Forty thousand francs is not 'picked up by the roadside,' as the old proverb says; but happily we had laid that sum by as Clara's dowry, and the very next morning after the request reached us we carried madame her money in bright, shining, golden louis. These great ladies spend so much, you see, in luxuries such as you and I have no idea of. Yet it is[Pg 165] only within the last twelvemonth Madame de Lucenay has wished to be paid beforehand, she used always to seem as though she had plenty of money; but things are very different now."

"Still, my dear Madame Dubreuil, I do not yet perceive in what way I can possibly assist you."

"Don't be in a hurry! I am just coming to that part of my story; but I was obliged to tell you all this that you might be able to understand the entire confidence Madame la Duchesse places in us. To be sure, she showed her great regard for us by becoming, when only thirteen years of age, Clara's godmother, her noble father standing as the other sponsor; and, ever since, Madame de Lucenay has loaded her godchild with presents and kind attentions. But I must not keep you—I see you are impatient; so I will at once proceed with the business part of my tale. You must know, then, that last night I received by express the following letter from Madame de Lucenay:

"My Dear Madame Dubreuil:

"'You must prepare the small pavilion in the orchard for occupation by to-morrow evening. Send there all the requisite furniture, such as carpets, curtains, etc., etc. Let nothing be wanted to render it, in every respect, as comfortable as possible.'

"Do you mark the word 'comfortable,' Madame Georges?" inquired Madame Dubreuil, pausing in the midst of her reading; "it is even underlined." Then looking up at her friend with a thoughtful, puzzled expression of countenance, and receiving no answer, she continued the perusal of her letter:

"'It is so long since the pavilion has been used that it will require large and constant fires both night and day to remove the dampness from the walls. I wish you to behave in every respect to the person who will occupy the apartments as you would do to myself. And you will receive by the hands of the new visitant a letter from me explanatory of all I expect from your well-known zeal and attachment. I depend entirely on you and[Pg 166] feel every assurance that I may safely reckon on your fidelity and desire to serve me. Adieu, my dear Madame Dubreuil; remember me most kindly to my pretty goddaughter; and believe me ever,

"'Yours, sincerely and truly,

"'Noirmont de Lucenay.

"'P.S. The person whom I so strongly recommend to your best care and attention will arrive the day after to-morrow, about dusk. Pray do your very utmost to render the pavilion as comfortable as you possibly can.'

"Comfortable again, you see, and underlined as before," said Madame Dubreuil, returning the letter of Madame de Lucenay to her pocket.

"Well," replied Madame Georges, "all this is simple enough!"

"How do you mean, simple enough? you cannot have heard me read the letter. Madame la Duchesse wishes particularly 'that the pavilion should be rendered as comfortable as possible.' Now that is the very reason of my asking you to come to me to-day; Clara and I have been knocking our heads together in vain to discover what 'comfortable' can possibly mean, but without being able to find it out. Yet it seems odd, too, that Clara should not know its meaning, for she was several years at school at Villiers le Bel, and gained a quantity of prizes for history and geography; however, she knows as little as I do about that outlandish word. I dare say it is only known at court, or in the fashionable world. However, be that as it may, Madame la Duchesse has thrown me into a pretty fuss by making use of it; she says, and you see twice repeats the words, and even underlines it, 'that she requests I will furnish the pavilion as comfortably as possible.' Now what are we to do when we have not the slightest notion of the meaning of that word?"

"Well, heaven be praised, then, that I can relieve your perplexity by solving this grand mystery!" said Madame Georges, smiling. "Upon the present occasion[Pg 167] the word comfortable merely means an assemblage of neat, well-chosen, well-arranged, and convenient furniture, so placed, in apartments well warmed and protected from cold or damp, that the occupant shall find every thing that is necessary combined with articles that to some might seem superfluities."

"Thank you. I perfectly understand what comfortable means as regards furnishing apartments; but your explanation only increases my difficulties."

"How so?"

"Madame la Duchesse speaks of carpets, furniture, and many et cœteras; now we have no carpets here, and our furniture is of the most homely description. Neither can I make out by the letter whether the person I am to expect is a male or female; and yet every thing must be prepared by to-morrow evening. What shall I do? What can I do? I can get nothing here. Really, Madame Georges, it is enough to drive one wild to be placed in such an awkward situation."

"But, mother," said Clara, "suppose you take the furniture out of my room, and whilst you are refurnishing it I will go and pass a few days with dear Marie at Bouqueval."

"My dear child, what nonsense you talk! as if the humble fittings-up of your chamber could equal what Madame la Duchesse means by the word 'comfortable,'" returned Madame Dubreuil, with a disconsolate shrug of the shoulders. "Lord! Lord! why will fine ladies puzzle poor folks like me by going out of their way to find such expressions as comfortable?"

"Then I presume the pavilion in question is ordinarily uninhabited?" said Madame Georges.

"Oh, yes! There, you see that small white building at the end of the orchard—that is it. The late Prince de Noirmont, father of Madame la Duchesse, caused it to be built for his daughter when, in her youthful days, she was accustomed to visit the farm, and she then[Pg 168] occupied it. There are three pretty chambers in it, and a beautiful little Swiss dairy at the end of the garden, where, in her childish days, Madame la Duchesse used to divert herself with feigning to manage. Since her marriage, she has only been twice at the farm, but each time she passed several hours in the pavilion. The first time was about six years ago, and then she came on horseback with—" Then, as though the presence of Clara and Fleur-de-Marie prevented her from saying more, Madame Dubreuil interrupted herself by saying, "But I am talking instead of doing; and that is not the way to get out of my present difficulty. Come, dear, good Madame Georges, and help a poor bewildered creature like myself!"

"In the first place," answered Madame Georges, "tell me how is this pavilion furnished at the present moment."

"Oh, scarcely at all! In the principal apartment there is a straw matting on the centre of the floor; a sofa, and a few arm-chairs composed of rushes, a table, and some chairs, comprise all the inventory, which, I think you will allow, falls far short of the word comfortable."

"Well, I tell you what I should do in your place. Let me see; it is eleven o'clock. I should send a person on whom you can depend to Paris."

"Our overseer![2] There cannot be a more active, intelligent person."

[2] A species of overseer employed in most of the large farming establishments in the environs of Paris.

"Exactly! just the right sort of messenger. Well, in two hours at the utmost, he may be in Paris. Let him go to some upholsterer in the Chaussée d'Antin—never mind which—and give him the list I will draw out, after I have seen what is wanting for the pavilion; and let him be directed to say that, let the expense be what it may—"

[Pg 169]

"I don't care about expense, if I can but satisfy the duchess."

"The upholsterer, then, must be told that, at any cost, he must see that every article named in the list be sent here either this evening or before daybreak to-morrow, with three or four of his most clever and active workmen to arrange them as quickly as possible."

"They might come by the Gonesse diligence, which leaves Paris at eight o'clock every evening."

"And as they would only have to place the furniture, lay down carpets, and put up curtains, all that could easily be done by to-morrow evening."

"Oh, my dear Madame Georges, what a load you have taken off my mind! I should never have thought of this simple yet proper manner of proceeding. You are the saving of me! Now, may I ask you to be so kind as to draw me out the list of articles necessary to render the pavilion—what is that hard word? I never can recollect it."

"Comfortable! Yes, I will at once set about it, and with pleasure."

"Dear me! here is another difficulty. Don't you see we are not told whether to expect a lady or a gentleman? Madame de Lucenay, in her letter, only says 'a person.' It is very perplexing, isn't it?"

"Then make your preparations as if for a lady, my dear Madame Dubreuil; and, should it turn out a gentleman, why he will only have better reason to be pleased with his accommodations."

"Quite right; right again, as you always are."

A servant here announced that breakfast was ready.

"Let breakfast wait a little," said Madame Georges. "And, while I draw out the necessary list, send some person you can depend upon to take the exact height and width of the three rooms, that the curtains and carpets may more easily be prepared."[Pg 170]

"Thank you. I will set our overseer to work out this commission."

"Madame," continued the servant, speaking to her mistress, "the new dairy-woman from Stains is here with her few goods in a small cart drawn by a donkey. The beast has not a heavy load to complain of, for the poor body's luggage seems but very trifling."

"Poor woman!" said Madame Dubreuil, kindly.

"What woman is it?" inquired Madame Georges.

"A poor creature from Stains, who once had four cows of her own, and used to go every morning to Paris to sell her milk. Her husband was a blacksmith, and one day accompanied her to Paris to purchase some iron he required for his work, agreeing to rejoin her at the corner of the street where she was accustomed to sell her milk. Unhappily, as it afterwards turned out, the poor woman had selected a very bad part of Paris; for, when her husband returned, he found her in the midst of a set of wicked, drunken fellows, who had, for mere mischief's sake, upset all her milk into the gutter. The poor blacksmith tried to reason with them upon the score of their unfair conduct, but that only made matters worse; they all fell on the husband, who sought in vain to defend himself from their violence. The end of the story is, that, in the scuffle which ensued, the man received a stab with a knife, which stretched him a corpse before the eyes of his distracted wife."

"Dreadful, indeed!" ejaculated Madame Georges. "But, at least, the murderer was apprehended?"

"Alas, no! He managed to make his escape during the confusion which ensued, though the unfortunate widow asserts she should recognise him at any minute she might meet him, having repeatedly seen him in company with his associates, inhabitants of that neighbourhood. However, up to the present hour all attempts to discover him have been useless. But, to end my tale, I must tell you that, in consequence of the death of her[Pg 171] husband, the poor widow was compelled, in order to pay various debts he had contracted, to sell not only her cows but some little land he possessed. The bailiff of the château at Stains recommended the poor creature to me as a most excellent and honest woman, as deserving as she was unfortunate, having three children to provide for, the eldest not yet twelve years of age. I happened, just then, to be in want of a first-rate dairy-woman, therefore offered her the place, which she gladly accepted, and she has now come to take up her abode on the farm."

"This act of real kindness on your part, my dear Madame Dubreuil, does not surprise me, knowing you as well as I do."

"Here, Clara," said Madame Dubreuil, as though seeking to escape from the praises of her friend, "will you go and show this good woman the way to the lodge she is to occupy, while I hasten to explain to our overseer the necessity for his immediate departure for Paris?"

"Willingly, dear mother! Marie can come with me, can she not?"

"Of course," answered Madame Dubreuil, "if she pleases." Then added, smilingly, "I wonder whether you two girls could do one without the other!"

"And now," said Madame Georges, seating herself before a table, "I will at once begin my part of the business, that no time may be lost; for we must positively return to Bouqueval at four o'clock."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Madame Dubreuil; "how early! Why, what makes you in such a hurry?"

"Marie is obliged to be at the rectory by five o'clock."

"Oh, if her return relates to that good Abbé Laporte, I am sure it is a sacred duty with which I would not interfere for the world. Well, then, I will go and give the necessary orders for everything being punctual to[Pg 172] that hour. Those two girls have so much to say to each other that we must give them as much time as we can."

"Then we shall leave you at three o'clock, my dear Madame Dubreuil?"

"Yes; I promise not to detain you since you so positively wish it. But pray let me thank you again and again for coming. What a good thing it was I thought of sending to ask your kind assistance," rejoined Madame Dubreuil. "Now then, Clara and Marie, off with you!"

As Madame Georges settled herself to her writing, Madame Dubreuil quitted the room by a door on one side, while the young friends, in company with the servant who had announced the arrival of the milkwoman from Stains, went out by the opposite side.

"Where is the poor woman?" inquired Clara.

"There she is, mademoiselle, in the courtyard, near the barns, with her children and her little donkey-cart."

"You shall see her, dear Marie," said Clara, taking the arm of la Goualeuse. "Poor woman! she looks so pale and sad in her deep widow's mourning. The last time she came here to arrange with my mother about the place she made my heart ache. She wept bitterly as she spoke of her husband; then suddenly burst into a fit of rage as she mentioned his murderer. Really, she quite frightened me, she looked so desperate and full of fury. But, after all, her resentment was natural. Poor thing! I am sure I pity her; some people are very unfortunate, are they not, Marie?"

"Alas, yes, they are, indeed!" replied the Goualeuse, sighing deeply. "There are some persons who appear born only to trouble and sorrow, as you justly observe, Miss Clara."

"This is really very unkind of you, Marie," said Clara, colouring with impatience and displeasure. "This is the second time to-day you have called me[Pg 173] 'Miss Clara.' What can I have possibly done to offend you? For I am sure you must be angry with me, or you would not do what you know vexes me so very much."

"How is it possible that you could ever offend me?"

"Then why do you say 'miss?' You know very well that both Madame Georges and my mother have scolded you for doing it. And I give you due warning, if ever you repeat this great offence, I will have you well scolded again. Now then, will you be good or not? Speak!"

"Dear Clara, pray pardon me! Indeed, I was not thinking when I spoke."

"Not thinking!" repeated Clara, sorrowfully. "What, after eight long days' absence you cannot give me your attention even for five minutes? Not thinking! That would be bad enough; but that is not it, Marie. And I tell you what, it is my belief you are too proud to own so humble a friend as myself."

Fleur-de-Marie made no answer, but her whole countenance assumed the pallor of death.

A woman, dressed as a widow, and in deep mourning, had just caught sight of her, and uttered a cry of rage and horror which seemed to freeze the poor girl's blood. This woman was the person who supplied the Goualeuse with her daily milk, during the time the latter dwelt with the ogress at the tapis-franc.

The scene which ensued took place in one of the yards belonging to the farm, in the presence of all the labourers, both male and female, who chanced just then to be returning to the house to take their mid-day meal. Beneath a shed stood a small cart, drawn by a donkey, and containing the few household possessions of the widow; a boy of about twelve years of age, aided by two younger children, was beginning to unload the vehicle. The milk-woman herself was a woman of about forty years of age, her countenance coarse, masculine,[Pg 174] and expressive of great resolution. She was, as we before stated, attired in the deepest mourning, and her eyelids looked red and inflamed with recent weeping. Her first impulse at the sight of the Goualeuse had been terror; but quickly did that feeling change into grief and rage, while the most violent anger contracted her features. Rapidly darting towards the unhappy girl, she seized her by the arm, and, presenting her to the gaze of the farm servants, she exclaimed:

"Here is a creature who is acquainted with the assassin of my poor husband! I have seen her more than twenty times speaking to the ruffian when I was selling my milk at the corner of the Rue de la Vieille-Draperie; she used to come to buy a ha'porth every morning. She knows well enough who it was struck the blow that made me a widow, and my poor children fatherless. 'Birds of a feather flock together,' and such loose characters as she is are sure to be linked in with thieves and murderers. Oh, you shall not escape me, you abandoned wretch!" cried the milk-woman, who had now lashed herself into a perfect fury, and who, seeing poor Fleur-de-Marie confused and terror-stricken at this sudden attack, endeavouring to escape from it by flight, grasped her fiercely by the other arm also. Clara, almost speechless with surprise and alarm at this outrageous conduct, had been quite incapable of interfering; but this increased violence on the part of the widow seemed to restore her to herself, and angrily addressing the woman she said:

"What is the meaning of this improper behaviour? Are you out of your senses? Has grief turned your brain? Good woman, I pity you! But let us pass on; you are mistaken."

"Mistaken!" repeated the woman, with a bitter smile. "Me mistaken! No, no, there is no mistake! Just look at her pale, guilty looks! Hark how her very teeth rattle in her head! Ah, she knows well enough there is no[Pg 175] mistake! Ah, you may hold your wicked tongue if you like, but justice will find a way to make you speak. You shall go with me before the mayor; do you hear? Oh, it is not worth while resisting! I have good strong wrists; I can hold you. And sooner than you should escape I would carry you every step of the way."

"You good-for-nothing, insolent woman! How dare you presume to speak in this way to my dear friend and sister?"

"Your sister, Mlle. Clara! Believe me, it is you who are deceived—it is you who have lost your senses," bawled the enraged milk-woman, in a loud, coarse voice. "Your sister! A likely story a girl out of the streets, who was the companion of the very lowest wretches in the worst part of the Cité, should be a sister of yours!"

At these words the assembled labourers, who naturally enough took that part in the affair which concerned a person of their own class, and who really sympathised with the bereaved milk-woman, gave utterance to deep, threatening words, in which the name of Fleur-de-Marie was angrily mingled. The three children, hearing their mother speaking in a loud tone, and fearing they knew not what, ran to her, and, clinging to her dress, burst out into a loud fit of weeping. The sight of these poor little fatherless things, dressed also in deep mourning, increased the pity of the spectators for the unfortunate widow, while it redoubled their indignation against Fleur-de-Marie; while Clara, completely frightened by these demonstrations of approaching violence, exclaimed, in an agitated tone, to a group of farm labourers:

"Take this woman off the premises directly! Do you not perceive grief has driven her out of her senses? Marie! dear Marie! never mind what she says. She is mad, poor creature, and knows not what she does!"

The poor Goualeuse, pale, exhausted, and almost fainting, made no effort to escape from the powerful grasp of the incensed milk-woman; she hung her head, as though[Pg 176] unable or unwilling to meet the gaze of friend or foe. Clara, attributing her condition to the terror excited by so alarming a scene, renewed her commands to the labourers, "Did you not hear me desire that this mad woman might be instantly taken away from the farm? However, unless she immediately ceases her rude and insolent language, I can promise her, by way of punishment, she shall neither have the situation my mother promised her nor ever be suffered to put her foot on the premises again."

Not a person stirred to obey Clara's orders; on the contrary, one of the boldest among the party exclaimed:

"Well, but, Miss Clara, if your friend there is only a common girl out of the streets, and, as such, acquainted with the murderer of this poor woman's husband, surely she ought to go before the mayor to give an account of herself and her bad companions!"

"I tell you," repeated Clara, with indignant warmth, and addressing the milk-woman, "you shall never enter this farm again unless you this very instant, and before all these people, humbly beg pardon of Mlle. Marie for all the wicked things you have been saying about her!"

"You turn me off the premises then, mademoiselle, do you?" retorted the widow with bitterness. "Well, so be it. Come, my poor children, let us put the things back in the cart, and go and seek our bread elsewhere. God will take care of us. But, at least, when we go, we will take this abandoned young woman with us. She shall be made to tell the mayor, if she won't us, who it was that took away your dear father's life; for she knows well enough—she who was the daily companion of the worst set of ruffians who infest Paris. And you, miss," added she, looking spitefully and insolently at Clara, "you should not, because you choose to make friends with low girls out of the streets, and because you happen to be rich, be quite so hard-hearted and unfeeling to poor creatures like me!"[Pg 177]

"No more she ought," exclaimed one of the labourers; "the poor woman is right!"

"Of course she is,—she is only standing up for her own!"

"Poor thing, she has no one now to do so for her! Why, they have murdered her husband among them! I should think that might content them, without trampling the poor woman under foot."

"One comfort is, nobody can stop her from doing all in her power to bring the murderers of her husband to justice."

"It is a shame to send her away in this manner, like a dog!"

"Can she help it, poor creature, if Miss Clara thinks proper to take up with common girls and thieves, and make them her companions?"

"Infamous to turn an honest woman, a poor widow with helpless children, into the streets for such a base girl as that!"

These different speeches, uttered nearly simultaneously by the surrounding crowd, were rapidly assuming a most hostile and threatening tone, when Clara joyfully exclaimed:

"Thank God, here comes my mother!"

It was, indeed, Madame Dubreuil, who was crossing the courtyard on her return from the pavilion.

"Now, then, my children," said Madame Dubreuil, gaily approaching the assembled group, "will you come in to breakfast? I declare it is quite late! I dare say you are both hungry? Come, Marie!—Clara!"

"Mother," cried Clara, pointing to the widow, "you are fortunately just in time to save my dear sister Marie from the insults and violence of that woman. Oh, pray order her away instantly! If you only knew what she had the audacity to say to Marie!"

"Impossible, Clara!"

"Nay, but, dear mother, only look at my poor dear[Pg 178] sister! See how she trembles! She can scarcely support herself. Oh, it is a shame and disgrace such conduct should ever have been offered to a guest of ours! My dear, dear friend—Marie, dear!—look up, and say you are not angry with us. Pray tell me you will try and forget it!"

"What is the meaning of all this?" inquired Madame Dubreuil, looking around her with a disturbed and uneasy look, after having observed the despairing agony of the Goualeuse.

"Ah, now we shall have justice done the poor widow woman!" murmured the labourers. "Madame will see her righted, no doubt about it!"

"Now, then," exclaimed the milk-woman, exultingly, "here is Madame Dubreuil. Now, my fine miss," continued she, addressing Fleur-de-Marie, "you will have your turn of being turned out-of-doors!"

"Is it true, then," cried Madame Dubreuil, addressing the widow, who still kept firm hold of Fleur-de-Marie's arm, "that you have dared to insult my daughter's friend, as she asserts? Is this the way you show your gratitude for all I have done to serve you? Will you leave that young lady alone?"

"Yes, madame," replied the woman, relinquishing her grasp of Fleur-de-Marie, "at your bidding I will; for I respect you too much to disobey you. And, besides, I owe you much gratitude for all your kindness to a poor, friendless creature like myself. But, before you blame me, and drive me off the premises with my poor children, just question that wretched creature that has caused all this confusion what she knows of me. I know a pretty deal more of her than is to her credit!"

"For Heaven's sake, Marie," exclaimed Madame Dubreuil, almost petrified with astonishment, "What does this woman allude to? Do you hear what she says?"

"Are you, or are you not known by the name of the Goualeuse?" said the milk-woman to Marie.[Pg 179]

"Yes," said the wretched girl, in a low, trembling voice, and without venturing to lift up her eyes towards Madame Dubreuil,—"yes, I am called so."

"There you see!" vociferated the enraged labourers. "She owns it! she owns it!"

"What does she own?" inquired Madame Dubreuil, half frightened at the assent given by Fleur-de-Marie.

"Leave her to me, madame," resumed the widow, "and you shall hear her confess that she was living in a house of the most infamous description in the Rue-aux-Fêves in the Cité, and that she every morning purchased a half-pennyworth of milk of me. She cannot deny either having repeatedly spoken in my presence to the murderer of my poor husband. Oh, she knows him well enough, I am quite certain; a pale young man, who smoked a good deal, and always wore a cap and a blouse, and wore his hair very long; she could tell his name if she chose. Is this true, or is it a lie?" vociferously demanded the milk-woman.

"I may have spoken to the man who killed your husband," answered Fleur-de-Marie, in a faint voice; "for, unhappily, there are more than one in the Cité capable of such a crime. But, indeed, I know not of whom you are speaking!"

"What does she say?" asked Madame Dubreuil, horror-struck at her words. "She admits having possibly conversed with murderers?"

"Oh, such lost wretches as she is," replied the widow, "have no better companions!"

At first, utterly stupefied by so singular a discovery, confirmed, indeed, by Fleur-de-Marie's own admission, Madame Dubreuil seemed almost incapable of comprehending the scene before her; but quickly the whole truth presented itself to her mental vision, and shrinking from the unfortunate girl with horror and disgust, she hastily seized her daughter by the dress, as she was about to sustain the sinking form of the poor Goualeuse,[Pg 180] and, drawing her towards her with sudden violence, she exclaimed:

"Clara! For Heaven's sake approach not that vile, that abandoned young woman! Oh, dreadful, indeed, ever to have admitted her here! But how came Madame Georges to have her under her roof? And how could she so far insult me as to bring her here, and allow my daughter to—This is, indeed, disgraceful! I hardly know whether to trust the evidence of my own senses. But Madame Georges must have been as much imposed on as myself, or she never would have permitted such an indignity! No, no! She is incapable of such dishonourable conduct. It would, indeed, be a disgrace for one female so to have deceived another."

Poor Clara, terrified and almost heart-broken at this distressing scene, could scarcely believe herself awake. It seemed as though she were under the influence of a fearful dream. Her innocent and pure mind comprehended not the frightful charges brought against her friend; but she understood enough to fill her with the most poignant grief at the unfortunate position of La Goualeuse, who stood mute, passive and downcast, like a criminal in the presence of the judge.

"Come, come, my child," repeated Madame Dubreuil, "let us quit this disgraceful scene." Then, turning towards Fleur-de-Marie, she said:

"As for you, worthless girl, the Almighty will punish you as you deserve for your deceit! That my child, good and virtuous as she is, should ever have been allowed to call you sister or friend. Her sister! You—the very vilest of the vile! the outcast of the most depraved and lost wretches! What hardihood, what effrontery you must have possessed, to dare to show your face among good and honest people, when your proper place would have been along with your bad companions in a prison!"

"Ay, ay!" cried all the labourers at once; "let her[Pg 181] be sent off to prison at once. She knows the murderer! Let her be made to declare who and what he is."

"She is most likely his accomplice!"

"You see," exclaimed the widow, doubling her fist in the face of the Goualeuse, "that my words have come true. Justice will overtake you before you can commit other crimes."

"As for you, my good woman," said Madame Dubreuil to the milk-woman, "far from sending you away I shall reward you for the service you have done me in unmasking this infamous girl's real character."

"There, I told you," murmured the voices of the labourers, "our mistress always does justice to every one!"

"Come, Clara," resumed Madame Dubreuil, "let us retire and seek Madame Georges, that she may clear up her share of this disgraceful business, or she and I never meet again; for either she has herself been most dreadfully deceived, or her conduct towards us is of the very worst description."

"But, mother, only look at poor Marie!"

"Oh, never mind her! Let her die of shame, if she likes,—there will be one wicked, hardened girl less in the world. Treat her with the contempt she deserves. I will not suffer you to remain another instant where she is. It is impossible for a young person like you to notice her in any way without disgracing herself."

"My dear mother," answered Clara, resisting her mother's attempts to draw her away, "I do not understand what you mean. Marie must be wrong in some way, since you say so! But look, only look at her—she is fainting! Pity her! Oh, mother, let her be ever so guilty, pray take pity on her present distress!"

"Oh, Mlle. Clara, you are good—very, very good—to pardon me and care for me," uttered poor Fleur-de-Marie, in a faint voice, casting a look of unutterable gratitude on her young protectress. "Believe me,[Pg 182] it was sorely against my will ever to deceive you; and daily, hourly, have I reproached myself for so doing."

"Mother," exclaimed Clara, in the most piteous tones, "are you then so merciless? Can you not pity her?"

"Pity!" returned Madame Dubreuil, scornfully. "No, I waste no pity on such as she is. Come, I say! Were it not that I consider it the office of Madame Georges to clear the place of so vile a creature, I would have her spurned from the doors, as though she carried the plague about with her." So saying, the angry mother seized her daughter's hand, and, spite of all her struggles, led her away, Clara continually turning back her head, and saying:

"Marie, my sister, I know not what they accuse you of, but I am quite convinced of your innocence. Be assured of my constant love, whatever they may say or do."

"Silence! silence! I command!" cried Madame Dubreuil, placing her hand over her daughter's mouth. "Speak not another word, I insist! Fortunately, we have plenty of witnesses to testify that, after the odious discovery we have just made, you were not suffered to remain a single instant with this lost and unfortunate young woman. You can all answer for that, can you not, my good people?" continued she, speaking to the assembled labourers.

"Yes, yes, madame," replied one of them, "we all know well enough that Mlle. Clara was not allowed to stop with this bad girl a single instant after you found out her wickedness. No doubt she is a thief or she would not be so intimate with murderers."

Madame Dubreuil led Clara to the house, while the Goualeuse remained in the midst of the hostile circle which had now formed around her. Spite of the reproaches of Madame Dubreuil, her presence, and that of Clara, had, in some degree, served to allay the fears of Fleur-de-Marie as to the probable termination of the[Pg 183] scene. But, after the departure of both mother and daughter, when she found herself so entirely at the mercy of the enraged crowd, her strength seemed to forsake her, and she was obliged to keep herself from falling by leaning on the parapet of the deep watering-place where the farm cattle were accustomed to drink.

Nothing could be conceived more touching than the attitude of the unfortunate girl, nor could a more threatening appearance have been displayed than was exhibited in the words and looks of the countrymen and women who surrounded her. Seated, or rather supporting herself on the narrow margin of the wall which enclosed the drinking-place, her head hanging down, and concealed by both hands, her neck and bosom hid by the ends of the little red cotton handkerchief which was twisted around her cap, the poor Goualeuse, mute and motionless, presented a most touching picture of grief and resignation.

At some little distance from Fleur-de-Marie stood the widow of the murdered man. Triumphant in her vindictive rage, and still further excited by the indignation expressed by Madame Dubreuil, she pointed out the wretched object of her wrath to the labourers and her children, with gestures of contempt and detestation. The farm servants, who had now formed into a close circle, sought not to conceal their disgust and thirst for vengeance; their rude countenances expressed at once rage, desire for revenge, and a sort of insulting raillery. The women were even still more bitter, and bent upon mischief. Neither did the striking beauty of the Goualeuse tend to allay their wrath. But neither men nor women could pardon Fleur-de-Marie the heinous offence of having, up to that hour, been treated by their superiors as an equal; and some of the men now present, having been unsuccessful candidates for the vacant situations at Bouqueval, and attributing their failure to Madame Georges, when, in reality, their disappointment[Pg 184] arose entirely from their recommendations not being sufficiently satisfactory, determined to avail themselves of the opportunity now before them to wreak their vexation and ill-will on the head of one she was known to protect and love. The impulses of ignorant minds always lead to extremes either of good or bad. But they speedily put on a most dangerous form, when the fury of an enraged multitude is directed against those who may already have awakened their personal anger or aversion.

Although the greater number of the labourers now collected together might not have been so strictly virtuous and free from moral blame as to be justified in throwing the first stone at the trembling, fainting girl, who was the object of all their concentrated wrath, yet, on the present occasion, they unanimously spoke and acted as though her very presence was capable of contaminating them; and their delicacy and modesty alike revolted at the bare recollection of the depraved class to which she had belonged, and they shuddered to be so near one who confessed to having frequently conversed with assassins. Nothing, then, was wanting to urge on a blind and prejudiced crowd, still further instigated by the example of Madame Dubreuil.

"Take her before the mayor!" cried one.

"Ay, ay! and, if she won't walk, we'll drag her."

"And for her to have the impudence to dress herself like one of us honest girls!" said an awkward, ill-looking farm-wench.

"I'm sure," rejoined another female, with her mock-modest air, "one might have thought she would go to heaven, spite of priest or confession!"

"Why, she had the assurance even to attend mass!"

"No! Did she? Why did she not join in the communion afterwards then, I should like to know?"

"And then she must play the young lady, and hold up her head as high as our betters!"[Pg 185]

"As though we were not good company enough for her!"

"However, every dog has his day!"

"Oh, I'll make you find your tongue, and tell who it was took my husband's life!" vociferated the enraged widow, breaking out into a fresh storm, now she felt her party so strong. "You all belong to one gang; and I'm not sure but I saw you among them at the very time and place when the bloody deed was done! Come, come; don't stand there shedding your crocodile tears; you are found out, and may as well leave off shamming any more. Show your face, I say! You are a beauty, ain't you?" And the infuriated woman, suiting the action to the word, violently snatched the two hands of poor Fleur-de-Marie from the pale and grief-worn countenance they concealed, and down which tears were fast streaming.

The Goualeuse, sinking under a sense of shame, and terrified at finding herself thus at the mercy of her persecutors, joined her hands, and, turning towards the milk-woman her supplicating and timid looks, she said, in a gentle voice:

"Indeed, indeed, madam, I have been at the farm of Bouqueval these last two months. How could I, then, have been witness to the dreadful misfortune you speak of? And—"

The faint tones of Fleur-de-Marie's voice were drowned in the loud uproarious cries of the surrounding multitude.

"Let us take her before the mayor! She can speak; and she shall, too, to some purpose. March, march, my fine madam! On with you!"

So saying, the menacing crowd pressed upon the poor girl, who, mechanically crossing her hands on her bosom, looked eagerly around, as though in search of help.

"Oh," cried the milk-woman, "you need not stare about in that wild way. Mlle. Clara is not here[Pg 186] now to take your part. You don't slip through my fingers, I promise you!"

"Alas! madam," uttered Fleur-de-Marie, trembling violently, "I seek not to escape from you. Be assured, I am both ready and willing to answer all the questions put to me, if I can be of any service to you by so doing. But what harm have I done to these people, who surround and threaten me in this manner?"

"What have you done?" repeated a number of voices, "why, you have dared to stick yourself up with our betters, when we, who were worth thousands more than such as you, were made to keep our distance,—that's what you have done!"

"And what right had you to cause this poor woman to be turned away with her fatherless children?" cried another.

"Indeed, it was no fault of mine. It was Mlle. Clara, who wished—"

"That is not true!" interrupted the speaker. "You never even opened your mouth in her favour. No, not you? You were too well pleased to see her bread taken from her."

"No, no! no more she did," chimed in a burst of voices, male and female.

"She is a regular bad one!"

"A poor widow-woman, with three helpless children!"

"If I did not plead for her with Mlle. Clara, it was because I had not power to utter a word."

"You could find strength enough to talk to a set of thieves and murderers!"

And, as is frequently the case in public commotions, the country people, more ignorant than vicious, actually talked themselves into a fury, until their own words and violence excited them to fresh acts of rage and vengeance against their unhappy victim.

The menacing throng, gesticulating, and loudly threatening, advanced closer and closer towards Fleur-de-Marie,[Pg 187] while the widow appeared to have lost all command over herself. Separated from the deep pond only by the parapet on which she was leaning, the Goualeuse shuddered at the idea of their throwing her into the water; and, extending towards them her supplicating hands, she exclaimed:

"Good, kind people! what do you want with me? For pity's sake do not harm me!"

And as the milk-woman, with fierce and angry gestures, kept coming nearer and nearer, holding her clenched fist almost in the face of Fleur-de-Marie, the poor girl, drawing herself back in terror, said, in beseeching tones:

"Pray, pray, do not press so closely on me, or you will cause me to fall into the water."

These words suggested a cruel idea to the rough spectators. Intending merely one of those practical jokes which, however diverting to the projectors, are fraught with serious harm and suffering to the unfortunate object of them, one of the most violent of the number called out, "Let's give her a plunge in! Duck her! duck her!"

"Yes, yes!" chimed several voices, accompanied with brutal laughter, and noisy clapping of hands, with other tokens of unanimous approval. "Throw her in!—in with her!"

"A good dip will do her good! Water won't kill her!"

"That will teach her not to show her face among honest people again!"

"To be sure. Toss her in!—fling her over!"

"Fortunately, the ice was broken this morning!"

"And when she has had her bath she may go and tell her street companions how the folks at Arnouville farm serve such vile girls as she is!"

As these unfeeling speeches reached her ear, as she heard their barbarous jokes, and observed the exasperated[Pg 188] looks of the brutally excited individuals who approached her to carry their threat into execution, Fleur-de-Marie gave herself over for lost. But to her first horror of a violent death succeeded a sort of gloomy satisfaction. The future wore so threatening and hopeless an aspect for her that she thanked heaven for shortening her trial. Not another complaining word escaped her; but gently falling on her knees, and piously folding her hands upon her breast, she closed her eyes, and meekly resigned herself to her fate.

The labourers, surprised at the attitude and mute resignation of the Goualeuse, hesitated a moment in the accomplishment of their savage design; but, rallied on their folly and irresolution by the female part of the assemblage, they recommenced their uproarious cries, as though to inspire themselves with the necessary courage to complete their wicked purpose.

Just as two of the most furious of the party were about to seize on Fleur-de-Marie a loud, thrilling voice was heard, exclaiming:

"Stop! I command you!"

And at the very instant Madame Georges, who had forced a passage through the crowd, reached the still kneeling Goualeuse, took her in her arms, and, raising her, cried:

"Rise up, my child! Stand up, my beloved daughter! the knee should be bent to God alone!"

The expression and attitude of Madame Georges were so full of courageous firmness that the actors in this cruel scene shrunk back speechless and confounded. Indignation coloured her usually pale features, and casting on the labourers a stern look she said to them, in a loud and threatening voice:

"Wretches! Are you not ashamed of such brutal conduct to a helpless girl like this?"

"She is—"

"My daughter!" exclaimed Madame Georges, with[Pg 189] severity, and abruptly interrupting the man who was about to speak, "and, as such, both cherished and protected by our worthy curé, M. l'Abbé Laporte, whom every one venerates and loves; and those whom he loves and esteems ought to be respected by every one!"

These simple words effectually imposed silence on the crowd. The curé of Bouqueval was looked upon throughout his district almost as a saint, and many there present were well aware of the interest he took in the Goualeuse. Still a confused murmur went on, and Madame Georges, fully comprehending its import, added:

"Suppose this poor girl were the very worst of creatures—the most abandoned of her sex—your conduct is not the less disgraceful! What offence has she committed? And what right have you to punish her?—you, who call yourselves men, to exert your strength and power against one poor, feeble, unresisting female! Surely it was a cowardly action all to unite against a defenceless girl! Come, Marie! come, child of my heart! let us return home; there, at least, you are known, and justly appreciated."

Madame Georges took the arm of Fleur-de-Marie, while the labourers, ashamed of their conduct, the impropriety of which they now perceived, respectfully dispersed. The widow alone remained; and, advancing boldly to Madame Georges, she said, in a resolute tone:

"I don't care for a word you say; and, as for this girl, she does not quit this place until after she has deposed before the mayor as to all she knows of my poor husband's murder."

"My good woman!" said Madame Georges, restraining herself by a violent effort, "my daughter has no deposition to make here, but, at any future period that justice may require her testimony let her be summoned, and she shall attend with myself; until then no person has a right to question her."[Pg 190]

"But, madame, I say—"

Madame Georges prevented the milk-woman from proceeding by replying, in a severe tone:

"The severe affliction you have experienced can scarcely excuse your conduct, and you will one day regret the violence you have so improperly excited. Mlle. Marie lives with me at the Bouqueval farm; inform the judge who received your deposition of that circumstance, and say that we await his further orders."

The widow, unable to argue against words so temperately and wisely spoken, seated herself on the parapet of the drinking-place, and, embracing her children, began to weep bitterly. Almost immediately after this scene Pierre brought the chaise, into which Madame Georges and Fleur-de-Marie mounted, to return to Bouqueval.

As they passed before the farmhouse of Arnouville, the Goualeuse perceived Clara, who had hid herself behind a partly closed shutter, weeping bitterly. She was evidently watching for a last glimpse of her friend, to whom she waved her handkerchief in token of farewell.

"Ah, madame! what shame to me, and vexation to you, has arisen this morning from our visit to Arnouville!" said Fleur-de-Marie to her adopted parent, when they found themselves in the sitting-room at Bouqueval; "you have probably quarrelled for ever with Madame Dubreuil, and all on my account! Oh, I foresaw something terrible was about to happen! God has justly punished me for deceiving that good lady and her daughter! I am the unfortunate cause of perpetual disunion between yourself and your friend."

"My dear child, my friend is a warm-hearted, excellent woman, but rather weak; still I know her too well not to feel certain that by to-morrow she will regret her foolish violence of to-day."

"Alas! madame, think not that I wish to take her part in preference to yours. No, God forbid! but pardon me if I say that I fear your great kindness towards[Pg 191] me has induced you to shut your eyes to—Put yourself in the place of Madame Dubreuil—to be told that the companion of your darling daughter was—what I was—Ah, could any one blame such natural indignation?"

Unfortunately Madame Georges could not find any satisfactory reply to this question of Fleur-de-Marie's, who continued with much excitement:

"Soon will the degrading scene of yesterday be in everybody's mouth! I fear not for myself, but who can tell how far it may affect the reputation of Mlle. Clara? Who can answer for it that I may not have tarnished her fair fame for ever? for did she not, in the face of the assembled crowd, persist in calling me her friend—her sister? I ought to have obeyed my first impulse, and resisted the affection which attracted me towards Mlle. Dubreuil, and, at the risk of incurring her dislike, have refused the friendship she offered me. But I forgot the distance which separated me from her, and now, as you perceive, I am suffering the just penalty; I am punished—oh, how cruelly punished! for I have perhaps done an irreparable injury to one so virtuous and so good."

"My child," said Madame Georges, after a brief silence, "you are wrong to accuse yourself so cruelly. 'Tis true your past life has been guilty—very highly so; but are we to reckon as nothing your having, by the sincerity of your repentance, obtained the protection and favour of our excellent curé? and was it not under his auspices and mine you were introduced to Madame Dubreuil? and did not your own amiable qualities inspire her with the attachment she so voluntarily professed for you? was it not she herself who requested you to call Clara your sister? and, finally, as I told her just now, for I neither wished nor ought to conceal the whole truth from her, how could I, certain as I felt of your sincere repentance—how could I, by divulging the past, render[Pg 192] your attempts to reinstate yourself more painful and difficult, perhaps impossible, by throwing you, in despair of being again received by the good and virtuous, back upon the scorn and derision of those who, equally guilty, equally unfortunate as you have been, would not perhaps like you have preserved the secret instinct of honour and virtue? The disclosure made by the woman to-day is alike to be lamented and feared; but could I, in anticipation of an almost impossible casualty, sacrifice your present comfort and future repose?"

"Ah, madame, a convincing proof of the false and miserable position I must ever hold may be found in the fact of your being obliged to conceal the past; and that the mother of Clara despises me for that past; views me in the same contemptuous light all will henceforward behold me, for the scene at the farm of Arnouville will be quickly spread abroad,—every one will hear of it! Oh, I shall die with shame! never again can I meet the looks of any human being!"

"Not even mine, my child?" said Madame Georges, bursting into tears, and opening her arms to Fleur-de-Marie, "you will never find in my heart any other feeling than the devoted tenderness of a mother. Courage, then, dear Marie! console yourself with the knowledge of your hearty and sincere repentance; you are here surrounded with true and affectionate friends, let this home be your world. We will anticipate the exposure you dread so much; our worthy abbé shall assemble the people about the farm, who all regard you with love and respect, and he shall tell them the sad history of your past life; and, trust me, my child, told as the tale would be by him, whose word is law here, such a disclosure will but serve to increase the interest all take in your welfare."

"I would fain think so, dear madame, and I submit myself. Yesterday, when we were conversing together, M. le Curé predicted to me that I should be called upon[Pg 193] painfully to expiate my past offences; I ought not, therefore, to be astonished at their commencement. He told me also that my earthly trials would be accepted as some atonement for the great wrong I have done; I would fain hope so. Supported through these painful ordeals by you and my venerable pastor, I will not—I ought not to complain."

"You will go to his presence ere long, and never will his counsels have been more valuable to you. It is already half-past four; prepare yourself for your visit to the rectory, my child. I shall employ myself in writing to M. Rodolph an account of what occurred at the farm at Arnouville, and send my letter off by express; I will then join you at our venerable abbé's, for it is most important we should talk over matters together."

Shortly after the Goualeuse quitted the farm in order to repair to the rectory by the hollow road, where the old woman, the Schoolmaster, and Tortillard had agreed to meet.

As may have been perceived in her conversations with Madame Georges and the curé of Bouqueval, Fleur-de-Marie had so nobly profited by the example of her benefactors, so assimilated herself with their principles, that, remembering her past degradation, she daily became more hopeless of recovering the place she had lost in society. As her mind expanded so did her fine and noble instincts arrive at mature growth, and bring forth worthy fruits in the midst of the atmosphere of honour and purity in which she lived. Had she possessed a less exalted mind, a less exquisite sensibility, or an imagination of weaker quality, Fleur-de-Marie might easily have been comforted and consoled; but, unfortunately, not a single day passed in which she did not recall, and almost live over again, with an agony of horror and disgust, the disgraceful miseries of her past[Pg 194] life. Let the reader figure to himself a young creature of sixteen, candid and pure, and rejoicing in that very candour and purity, thrown, by frightful circumstances, into the infamous den of the ogress, and irrecoverably subjected to the dominion of such a fiend,—such was the reaction of the past on the present on Fleur-de-Marie's mind. Let us still further display the resentful retrospect, or, rather, the moral agony with which the Goualeuse suffered so excruciatingly, by saying that she regretted, more frequently than she had courage to own to the curé, the not having perished in the midst of the slough of wickedness by which she was encompassed.

However little a person may reflect, or however limited his knowledge of life may be, he will not refuse to assent to our remarks touching the commiseration which such a case as Fleur-de-Marie's fully called for. She was deserving of both interest and pity, not only because she had never known what it was to have her affections fairly roused, but because all her senses were torpid, and as yet unawakened by noble impulses—untaught, unaided, unadvised. Is it not wonderful that this unfortunate girl, thrown at the tender age of sixteen years in the midst of the herd of savage and demoralised beings who infest the Cité, should have viewed her degrading position with horror and disgust, and have escaped from the sink of iniquity morally pure and free from sin?

[Pg 195]



The sun was descending, and the fields were silent and deserted. Fleur-de-Marie had reached the entrance to the hollow way, which it was necessary to cross in her walk to the rectory, when she saw a little lame lad, dressed in a gray blouse and blue cap, come out of the ravine. He appeared in tears, and directly he saw the Goualeuse he ran towards her.

"Oh, good lady, have pity on me, I pray!" he exclaimed, clasping his hands with a supplicating look.

"What do you want? What is the matter with you, my poor boy?" said the Goualeuse, with an air of interest.

"Alas, good lady! my poor grandmother, who is very, very old, has fallen down in trying to climb up the ravine, and hurt herself very much. I am afraid she has broken her leg, and I am too weak to lift her up myself. Mon Dieu! what shall I do if you will not come and help me? Perhaps my poor grandmother will die!"

The Goualeuse, touched with the grief of the little cripple, replied:

"I am not very strong myself, my child; but perhaps I can help you to assist your poor grandmother. Let us go to her as quickly as we can! I live at the farm close by here; and, if the poor old woman cannot walk there with us, I will send somebody to help her!"

"Oh, good lady, le bon Dieu will bless you for your[Pg 196] kindness! It is close by here—not two steps down this hollow way, as I told you. It was in going down the slope that she fell."

"You do not belong to this part of the country?" said the Goualeuse, inquiringly following Tortillard, whom our readers have, no doubt, recognised.

"No, good lady, we came from Ecouen."

"And where are you going?"

"To a good clergyman's, who lives on the hill out there," said Bras Rouge's son, to increase Fleur-de-Marie's confidence.

"To the Abbé Laport's, perhaps?"

"Yes, good lady; to the Abbé Laport's. My poor grandmother knows him very, very well."

"And I was going there also. How strange that we should meet," said Fleur-de-Marie, advancing still farther into the hollow way.

"Grandmamma, I'm coming, I'm coming! Take courage, and I will bring you help!" cried Tortillard, to forewarn the Schoolmaster and the Chouette to prepare themselves to lay hands on their victim.

"Your grandmother, then, did not fall down far off from here?" inquired the Goualeuse.

"No, good lady; behind that large tree there, where the road turns, about twenty paces from here."

Suddenly Tortillard stopped.

The noise of a horse galloping was heard in the silence of the place.

"All is lost again!" said Tortillard to himself.

The road made a very sudden bend a few yards from the spot where Bras Rouge's son was with the Goualeuse. A horseman appeared at the angle, and when he came nigh to the young girl he stopped. And then was heard the trot of another horse; and some moments after there followed a groom in a brown coat with silver buttons, white leather breeches, and top-boots. A leathern belt secured around his waist his master's macintosh.[Pg 197] His master was dressed simply in a stout brown frock-coat, and a pair of light gray trousers, which fitted closely. He was mounted on a thoroughbred and splendid bay horse, which he sat admirably, and which, in spite of the fast gallop, had not a bead of sweat on his skin, which was as bright and brilliant as a star. The groom's gray horse, which stood motionless a few paces behind his master, was also well-bred and perfect of his kind. In the handsome dark face of the gentleman Tortillard recognised the Vicomte de Saint-Rémy, who was supposed to be the lover of the Duchesse de Lucenay.

"My pretty lass," said the viscount to the Goualeuse, whose lovely countenance struck him, "would you be so obliging as to tell me the way to the village of Arnouville?"

Fleur-de-Marie's eyes sunk before the bold and admiring look of the young man, as she replied:

"On leaving the sunken road, sir, you must take the first turning to the right, and that path will lead you to an avenue of cherry-trees, which is the straight road to Arnouville."

"A thousand thanks, my pretty lass! You tell me better than an old woman, whom I found a few yards further on stretched under a tree, for I could only get groans and moans out of her."

"My poor grandmother!" said Tortillard, in a whining tone.

"One word more," said M. de Saint-Rémy, addressing La Goualeuse. "Can you tell me if I shall easily find M. Dubreuil's farm at Arnouville?"

Goualeuse could not prevent a shudder at these words, which recalled to her the painful scene of the morning. She replied:

"The farm-buildings border the avenue which you must enter to reach Arnouville, sir."

"Once more, many thanks, my pretty dear," said M. de Saint-Rémy; and he galloped off with his groom.[Pg 198]

The handsome features of the viscount were in full animation whilst he was talking to Fleur-de-Marie, but when he was again alone they became darkened and contracted by painful uneasiness. Fleur-de-Marie, remembering the unknown person for whom they were so hastily preparing a pavilion at the farm of Arnouville by Madame de Lucenay's orders, felt convinced it was for this young and good-looking cavalier.

The sound of the horses' feet as they galloped on was heard for some time on the hard and frozen ground, and by degrees grew fainter, then were no longer heard, and all was once more hushed in silence. Tortillard breathed again. Desirous of encouraging and warning his accomplices, one of whom, the Schoolmaster, was concealed from the horsemen, Bras Rouge's son called out:

"Granny! granny! here I am! with the good lady who is coming to help you!"

"Quick, quick, my boy! The gentleman on horseback has made us lose some time," said the Goualeuse, walking at a quicker pace, that she might reach the turning into the hollow way.

She had scarcely entered it when the Chouette, who was hidden there, exclaimed:

"Now then, fourline!"

Then springing upon the Goualeuse, the one-eyed hag seized her by the neck with one hand, whilst with the other she pressed her mouth; and Tortillard, throwing himself at the young girl's feet, clung round her legs, that she might not be able to stir.

This took place so rapidly that the Chouette had no time to examine the Goualeuse's features; but during the few instants it required for the Schoolmaster to quit the hole in which he was ensconced, to grope his way along with his cloak, the beldame recognised her old victim.

"La Pegriotte!" she exclaimed, in great surprise.[Pg 199] Then adding with savage delight, "What, is it you? Ah, the baker (the devil) sends you! It is your fate, then, to fall into my clutches! I have my vitriol in the fiacre now, and your white skin shall have a touch, miss; for it makes me sick to see your fine lady countenance. Come, my man, mind she don't bite; and hold her tight whilst we bundle her up."

The Schoolmaster seized the Goualeuse in his two powerful hands, and before she could utter a cry the Chouette threw the cloak over her head, and wrapped her up in it, tightly and securely. In a moment, Fleur-de-Marie, tied and enveloped, was without any power to move or call for assistance.

"Now take up your parcel, fourline," said the Chouette. "He, he, he! This is not such a load as the 'black peter' of the woman who was drowned in the Canal of St. Martin—-is it, my man?" And as the brigand shuddered at these words, which reminded him of his fearful vision, the one-eyed hag resumed, "Well, well, what ails you, fourline? Why, you seem frozen! Ever since the morning your teeth chatter as if you had the ague; and you look in the air as if you were looking for something there!"

"Vile impostor! He is looking to see the flies," said Tortillard.

"Come, quick! Haste forward, my man! Up with Pegriotte! That's it!" said the Chouette, as she saw the ruffian lift Fleur-de-Marie in his arms as he would carry a sleeping infant. "Quick to the coach! quick,—quick!"

"But who will lead me?" inquired the Schoolmaster, in a hoarse voice, and securing his light and flexible burden in his herculean arms.

"Old wise head!—he thinks of every thing!" said the Chouette.

Then, lifting aside her shawl, she unfastened a red pocket-handkerchief which covered her skinny neck,[Pg 200] and, twisting it into its length, said to the Schoolmaster:

"Open your ivories, and take the end of this 'wipe' between them. Hold tight! Tortillard will take the other end in his hand, and you have nothing to do but to follow him. The good blind man requires a good dog! Here, brat!"

The cripple cut a caper, and made a sort of low and odd barking. Then, taking the other end of the handkerchief in his hand, he led the Schoolmaster in this way, whilst the Chouette hastened forward to apprise Barbillon. We have not attempted to paint Fleur-de-Marie's terror when she found herself in the power of the Chouette and the Schoolmaster. She felt all her strength leave her, and could not offer the slightest resistance.

Some minutes afterwards the Goualeuse was lifted into the fiacre which Barbillon drove, and although it was night they closed the window-blinds carefully; and the three accomplices went, with their almost expiring victim, towards the plain of St. Denis, where Thomas Seyton awaited them.

[Pg 201]



The reader will kindly excuse our having left one of our heroines in a most critical situation, the dénouement of which we shall state hereafter.

It will be remembered that Rodolph had preserved Madame d'Harville from an imminent danger, occasioned by the jealousy of Sarah, who had acquainted M. d'Harville with the assignation Clémence had so imprudently granted to M. Charles Robert. Deeply affected with the scene he had witnessed, the prince returned directly home after quitting the Rue du Temple, putting off till the next day the visit he purposed paying to Mlle. Rigolette and the distressed family of the unfortunate artisan, of whom we have spoken, believing them out of the reach of present want, thanks to the money he had given Madame d'Harville to convey to them, in order that her pretended charitable visit to the house might assume a more convincing appearance in the eyes of her husband.

Unfortunately, Rodolph was ignorant of Tortillard's having possessed himself of the purse, although the reader has already been told how the artful young thief contrived to effect the barefaced cheat.

About four o'clock the prince received the following letter, which was brought by an old woman, who went away the instant she had delivered it without awaiting any answer.[Pg 202]

"My Lord:

"I owe you more than life; and I would fain express my heartfelt gratitude for the invaluable service you have rendered me to-day. To-morrow shame would, perhaps, close my lips. If your royal highness will honour me with a call this evening, you will finish the day as you began it—by a generous action.

"D'Orbigny d'Harville.

"P.S. Do not, my lord, take the trouble to write an answer. I shall be at home all the evening."

However rejoiced Rodolph felt at having been the happy instrument of good to Madame d'Harville, he yet could not help regretting the sort of a forced intimacy which this circumstance all at once established between himself and the marquise. Deeply struck with the graceful vivacity and extreme beauty of Clémence, yet wholly incapable of infringing upon the friendship which existed between himself and the marquis, Rodolph, directly he became aware of the passion which was springing up in his heart for the wife of his friend, almost denied himself (after having previously devoted a whole month to the most assiduous attentions) the pleasure of beholding her. And now, too, he recollected with much emotion the conversation he had overheard at the embassy between Tom and Sarah, when the latter, by way of accounting for her hatred and jealousy, had affirmed, and not without truth, that Madame d'Harville still felt, even unknown to herself, a serious affection for Rodolph.

Sarah was too acute, too penetrating, too well versed in the knowledge of the human heart, not to be well aware that Clémence, believing herself scorned by a man who had made so deep an impression on her heart, and yielding, from the effects of her irritated feelings, to the importunities of a perfidious friend, might be induced to interest herself in the imaginary woes of M. Charles Robert, without, consequently, forgetting Rodolph. Other women, faithful to the memory of a man they[Pg 203] had once distinguished, would have remained indifferent to the melancholy looks of the commandant. Clémence d'Harville was therefore doubly blamable, although she had only yielded to the seduction of unhappiness, and, fortunately for her, had been preserved alike by a keen sense of duty and the remembrance of the prince (which still lurked in her heart, and kept faithful watch over it) from the commission of an irreparable fault.

A thousand contradictory emotions disturbed the mind of Rodolph, as he thought of his interview with Madame d'Harville. Firmly resolved to resist the predilection which attracted him to her society, sometimes he congratulated himself on being able to cast off his love for her by the recollection of her having entangled herself with such a being as Charles Robert; and the next instant he bitterly deplored seeing the flattering veil with which he had invested his idol fall to the ground.

Clémence d'Harville, on her part, awaited the approaching interview with much anxiety; but the two prevailing sentiments which pervaded her breast were painful confusion, when she remembered the interference of Rodolph, and a fixed aversion when she thought of M. Charles Robert, and many reasons were concerned in this feeling of dislike almost approaching hatred itself. A woman will risk her honour or her life for a man, but she will never pardon him for having placed her in a mortifying or a ridiculous situation.

Madame d'Harville felt her cheeks flush, and her pulse beat rapidly as she indignantly recalled the insulting looks and impertinent remarks of Madame Pipelet. Nor was this all. After receiving from Rodolph an intimation of the danger she was incurring, Clémence had proceeded rapidly towards the fifth floor, as directed, but the position of the staircase was[Pg 204] such that, as she hurried on, she perceived M. Charles Robert in his dazzling robe de chambre, at the very instant when, recognising the light step of the woman he expected, he, with a self-satisfied, confident, and triumphant look, set the door of his apartment half open. The air of insolent familiarity, expressed by the negligée toilet he had assumed, quickly enabled the marquise to perceive how entirely she had been mistaken in his character. Led away by the kindness and goodness of her heart, and the generosity of her disposition, to take a step which might for ever destroy her reputation, she had accorded this meeting, not from love, but solely from commiseration, in order to console him for the ridiculous part the bad taste of the Duke de Lucenay had made him play before her at the embassy. Words can ill describe the disgust and vexation with which Madame d'Harville beheld the slipshod déshabillé of the commandant, implying as it did his opinion how completely her ill-judged condescension had broken down the barriers of etiquette, and led him to consider no further respect towards her necessary.

The timepiece in the small salon which Madame d'Harville ordinarily occupied struck nine o'clock. Dressmakers and tavern-keepers have so much abused the style of Louis XV. and the Renaissance, that the marquise, a woman of infinite taste, had excluded from her apartments this description of ornament, now become so vulgarised, and confined it to that part of the hôtel devoted to the reception of visitors and grand entertainments. Nothing could be more elegant or more distingué than the fitting-up of the salon in which the marquise awaited Rodolph. The colour of the walls as well as the curtains (which, without either valances or draperies, were of Indian texture) was bright straw colour, on which were embroidered, in a darker shade, in unwrought silk, arabesques of the most beautiful designs and whimsical devices. Double curtains of point[Pg 205] d'Alençon entirely concealed the windows. The rosewood doors were set off with gold mouldings, most beautifully carved, surrounding in each panel an oval medallion of Sèvres china, nearly a foot in diameter, representing a numberless variety of birds and flowers of surpassing brilliancy and beauty. The frames of the looking-glasses and the cornices of the curtains were also of rosewood, ornamented with similar raised work of silver gilt. The white marble mantelpiece, with its supporting caryatides of antique beauty and exquisite grace, was from the chisel of the proud and imperious Marochetti, that great artist having consented to sculpture this delicious chef-d'œuvre in imitation of Benvenuto Cellini, who disdained not to model ewers and armour. Two candelabras, and two candlesticks of vermeil, forming groups of small figures beautifully executed, stood on either side of the timepiece, which was formed of a square block of lapis lazuli raised on a pedestal of Oriental jasper, and surmounted with a large and magnificently enamelled golden cup, richly studded with rubies and pearls, once the property of the Florentine Republic. Several excellent pictures of the Venetian school, of middle size, completed this assemblage of elegance and refined taste.

Thanks to a most charming invention but recently introduced, this splendid yet simple apartment was lighted only by the soft rays of a lamp, the unground surface of whose crystal globe was half hid among a mass of real flowers, contained in an immensely large and deep blue and gold Japan cup, suspended from the ceiling like a lustre by three chains of vermeil, around which were entwined the green stalks of several climbing plants; while some of the flexible branches, thickly laden with flowers, overhanging the edge of the cup and hanging gracefully down, formed a waving fringe of fresh verdure, beautifully contrasting with the blue and gold enamel of the purple porcelain.[Pg 206]

We have been thus precise in these details, trifling as they may seem, in order to give some idea of the exquisite taste possessed by Madame d'Harville (the almost invariable companion of an elevated mind), and also because misfortunes always strike us as more poignantly cruel when they insinuate themselves into abodes like this, the favoured possessors of which seem gifted by Providence with everything to make life happy and enviable.

Buried in the downy softness of a large armchair, totally covered by the same straw-coloured Indian silk as formed the rest of the hangings, Clémence d'Harville sat, awaiting the arrival of Rodolph. Her hair was arranged in the most simple manner. She wore a high dress of black velvet, which well displayed the beauty and admirable workmanship of her large collar and cuffs of English lace, which prevented the extreme black of the velvet from contrasting too harshly with the dazzling whiteness of her throat and hands.

In proportion as the hour approached for her interview with Rodolph, the emotion of the marquise increased; but by degrees her embarrassment ceased, and firmer resolves took possession of her mind. After a long and mature reflection she came to the determination of confiding to Rodolph a great, a cruel secret, hoping by her frankness to win back that esteem she now so highly prized. Awakened by gratitude, her pristine admiration of Rodolph returned with fresh force; one of those secret whispers, which rarely deceives the heart that loves, told her that chance alone had not brought the prince so opportunely to her succour, and that his studied avoidance of her society during the last few months had originated in anything but indifference. A vague suspicion also arose in her mind as to the reality and sincerity of the affection Sarah professed for her.

While deeply meditating on all these things, a valet de[Pg 207] chambre, having first gently tapped at the door, entered, saying:

"Will it please you, my lady, to see Madame Ashton and my young lady?"

Madame d'Harville made an affirmative gesture of assent, and a little girl slowly entered the room.

The child was about four years old, and her countenance would have been a very charming one but for its sickly pallor and extreme meagreness. Madame Ashton, the governess, held her by the hand, but, directly Claire (that was the name of the little girl) saw her mother, she opened her arms, and, spite of her feebleness, ran towards her. Her light brown hair was plaited, and tied at each side of her forehead with bows of cherry-coloured riband. Her health was so delicate that she wore a wrapping-dress of dark brown silk instead of one of those pretty little white muslin frocks trimmed with ribands of a similar colour as those in the hair, and well cut over the bosom to show the plump, pinky arms, and smooth, fair shoulders, so lovely in healthy children. So sunken were the cheeks of poor Claire that her large dark eyes looked quite enormous. But, spite of every appearance of weakness, a sweet and gentle smile lit up her small features when she was placed on the lap of her mother, whom she kissed and embraced with intense yet mournful affection.

"How has she been of late, Madame Ashton?" inquired Madame d'Harville of the governess.

"Tolerably well, madame; although at one time I feared."

"Again!" cried Clémence, pressing her daughter to her heart with a movement of involuntary horror.

"Fortunately, madame, I was mistaken," said the governess, "and the whole passed away without any further alarm; Mademoiselle Claire became composed, and merely suffered from a momentary feeling of weakness. She has not slept much this afternoon, but I[Pg 208] could not coax her to bed without allowing her the pleasure of paying a visit to you."

"Dear little angel!" cried Madame d'Harville, covering her daughter with kisses.

The interesting child repaid her mother's caresses with infantine delight, when the groom of the chambers entered and announced:

"His royal highness the Grand Duke of Gerolstein."

Claire, standing on her mother's lap, had thrown her arms about her neck, and was clasping her with all the force of which her tiny arms were capable. At the sight of Rodolph, Clémence blushed deeply, set her child gently down on the carpet, and signed to Madame Ashton to take her away; she then rose to receive her guest.

"You must give me leave," said Rodolph, smilingly, after having respectfully bowed to the marquise, "to renew my acquaintance with my little friend here, who I fear has almost forgotten me."

And, stooping down a little, he extended his hand to Claire, who, first gazing at him with her large eyes, curiously scrutinised his features, then, recognising him, she made a gentle inclination of the head, and blew him a kiss from the tips of her small, thin fingers.

"You remember my lord, then, my child?" asked Clémence of little Claire, who gave an assenting nod, and kissed her hand to Rodolph a second time.

"Her health appears to me much improved since I last saw her," said he, addressing himself with unfeigned interest to Clémence.

"Thank heaven, my lord, she is better, though still sadly delicate and suffering."

The marquise and the prince, mutually embarrassed at the thoughts of the approaching interview, would have been equally glad to defer its commencement, through the medium of Claire's presence; but, the discreet Madame Ashton having taken her away, Rodolph and Clémence were left quite alone.

"You Must Give Me Leave"
Original Etching by L. Poiteau "You Must Give Me Leave"
Original Etching by L. Poiteau

[Pg 209]

The armchair in which Madame d'Harville was reclining stood on the right hand of the chimney, and Rodolph remained without attempting to seat himself, gracefully leaning his elbow on the mantelpiece. Never had Clémence been so strongly impressed with admiration at the noble and prepossessing appearance of the prince; never had his voice sounded more gentle or sweet upon her ear. Fully understanding how painful it must be to the marquise to open the conversation, Rodolph at once proceeded to the main point by observing:

"You have been, madame, the victim of a base and treacherous action. A cowardly and dishonourable disclosure on the part of the Countess Macgregor has well-nigh effected irremediable mischief."

"Is it, indeed, so?" exclaimed Clémence, painfully surprised; "then my presentiments were not ill-founded! And by what means did your royal highness discover this?"

"Last night, at the ball given by the Countess C——, I discovered this infamous secret. I was sitting in a lone part of the 'Winter Garden,' when Countess Sarah and her brother, unconscious that a mass of verdure alone concealed me from them, while it enabled me to hear each word they spoke, began conversing freely upon their own projects, and the snare they had spread for you. Anxious to warn you of the danger with which you were threatened, I hastened to Madame de Nerval's ball, hoping to meet you there, but you did not appear. To write and direct my letter here was to incur the risk of its falling into the hands of the marquis, whose suspicions were already aroused by your treacherous friend; and I therefore preferred awaiting your arrival in the Rue du Temple, that I might unfold to you the perfidy of Countess Macgregor. Let me hope you will pardon my thus long dwelling on a subject which must be so painful to you. And, but for the few[Pg 210] lines you were kind enough to write, never would my lips have in any way reverted to it."

After a momentary silence, Madame d'Harville said to Rodolph:

"There is but one way, my lord, in which I can prove to you my gratitude for your late generous conduct. It is to confess to you that which I have never revealed to a human being. What I have to say will not exculpate me in your estimation, but it will, perhaps, enable you to make some allowances for my imprudence."

"Candidly speaking, madame," said Rodolph, smiling, "my position as regards you is a very embarrassing one."

Clémence, astonished at the almost jesting tone in which he spoke, looked at Rodolph with extreme surprise, while she said, "How so, my lord?"

"Thanks to a circumstance you are doubtless acquainted with, I am obliged to assume the grave airs of a mentor touching an incident which, since you have so happily escaped the vile snare laid for you by Countess Sarah, scarcely merits being treated with so much importance. But," continued Rodolph with a slight shade of gentle and affectionate earnestness, "your husband and myself are almost as brothers; and, before our time, our fathers had vowed the sincerest friendship for each other. I have, therefore, a double motive in most warmly congratulating you on having secured the peace and happiness of your husband!"

"And it is from my knowledge of the high regard and esteem with which you honour M. d'Harville, that I have determined upon revealing the whole truth, as well as to explain myself relative to an interest which must appear to you as ill-chosen and unworthy as it now seems to me. I wish also to clear up that part of my conduct which bears an injurious appearance against the tranquillity and honour of him your highness styles 'almost a brother.'"[Pg 211]

"Believe me, madame, I shall at all times be most proud and happy to receive the smallest proof of your confidence. Yet permit me to say, as regards the interest you speak of, that I am perfectly aware it originated as much in sincere pity as from the constant importunities of Countess Sarah Macgregor, who had her own reasons for seeking to injure you. And I also know equally well that you long hesitated ere you could make up your mind to take the step you now so much regret."

Clémence looked at the prince with surprise.

"You seem astonished. Well, that you may not fancy I dabble in witchcraft, some of these days I will tell you all about it," said Rodolph, smiling. "But your husband is perfectly tranquillised, is he not?"

"Yes, my lord," said Clémence, looking down in much confusion; "and it is most painful to me to hear him asking my pardon for having ever suspected me, and then eulogising my modest silence respecting my good deeds."

"Nay, do not chide an illusion which renders him so happy. On the contrary, endeavour to maintain the innocent deception. Were it not forbidden to treat your late adventure lightly, and had not you, madame, been so much involved in it, I would say that a woman never appears more charming in the eyes of her husband than when she has some fault to conceal. It is inconceivable how many little cajoleries, and what winning smiles, are employed to ease a troubled conscience. When I was young," added Rodolph, smiling, "I always, in spite of myself, mistrusted any unusual marks of tenderness. And, by the same rule, I can say of myself, that I never felt more disposed to appear in an amiable light than when I was conscious of requiring forgiveness. So, directly I perceived a more than ordinary anxiety to please and gratify me, I was very sure (judging by my own conduct) to ascribe it to some little peccadillo that needed overlooking and pardoning."[Pg 212]

The light tone with which Rodolph continued to discuss an affair which might have been attended with circumstances so fearful, at first excited Madame d'Harville's wonder; but she quickly perceived that the prince, beneath his outward appearance of trifling, sought to conceal, or at least lessen, the importance of the service he had rendered her. And, profoundly touched with his delicacy, she said:

"I comprehend your generous meaning, my lord; and you are fully at liberty to jest and forget as much as you like the peril from which you have preserved me. But that which I have to relate to you is of so grave, so serious, and mournful a nature, is so closely connected with the events of this morning, and your advice may so greatly benefit me, that I beseech you to remember that to you I owe both my honour and my life: yes, my lord, my life! My husband was armed; and he has owned, in the excess of his repentance, that it was his intention to have killed me, had his suspicions proved correct."

"Great God!" exclaimed Rodolph with emotion.

"And he would have been justified in so doing," rejoined Madame d'Harville, bitterly.

"I beseech you, madame," said Rodolph,—and this time he spoke with deep seriousness,—"I beseech you to be assured I am incapable of being careless or indifferent to any matter in which you are concerned. If I seemed but now to jest, it was but to make you think less of a circumstance which has already occasioned you so much pain. But now, madame, you may command my most solemn attention. Since you honour me by saying my advice may be useful, I listen most anxiously and eagerly."

"You can, indeed, counsel me most beneficially, my lord. But, before I explain to you my reasons for seeking your aid, I must say a few words concerning a period of which you are ignorant,—I mean[Pg 213] the years which preceded my marriage with M. d'Harville."

Rodolph bowed, and Clémence continued:

"At sixteen years of age I lost my mother (and here a tear stole down the fair cheek of Madame d'Harville). I cannot attempt to describe how much I adored that beloved parent. Imagine, my lord, the very personification of all earthly goodness. Her fondness for me was excessive, and appeared her only consolation amid the many bitter sorrows she had to endure. Caring but little for what is styled the world, with delicate health, and a natural predilection for sedentary occupation, her great delight had been in attending solely to my education, and her ample store of solid and varied knowledge well fitted her for the task. Conceive, my lord, her astonishment and mine when, in my sixteenth year, my dear preceptress considered my education nearly completed, my father—making the feeble health of my mother a pretext—announced to us that a young and accomplished widow, whose misfortunes rendered her justly interesting, would henceforth be charged with finishing what my dear parent had begun. My mother at first resolutely refused obedience to my father's command, while I in vain besought him not to interpose a stranger's authority between myself and my beloved mother. He was inexorable alike to our tears and prayers, and Madame Roland, who stated herself to be the widow of a colonel who had died in India, came to take up her abode with us, in the character of governess to myself."

"What! the same Madame Roland your father married almost immediately after the death of your mother?"

"The same, my lord."

"Was she, then, very beautiful?"

"Tolerably so,—nothing more."

"Clever,—witty, perhaps?"[Pg 214]

"She was a clever dissembler,—a skilful manœuvrer; her talent went no higher. She might be about five and twenty years of age, with extremely light hair and nearly white eyelashes; her eyes were large, round, and a clear blue; the expression of her countenance was humble and gentle; and while her outward manner was attentive, even to servility, her real disposition was as perfidious as it was unfeeling."

"And what were her acquirements?"

"Positively none at all, my lord; and I cannot conceive how my father, who until then had been so completely a slave to the dictates of worldly propriety, did not reflect that the utter incapacity of this woman must shamefully proclaim the real cause of her being in the house. My mother earnestly pointed out to him the extreme ignorance of Madame Roland; he, however, merely replied, in a tone which admitted of no further argument, that, competent or otherwise, the young and interesting widow should retain the situation in his establishment in which he had placed her. This I heard subsequently. From that instant my poor mother comprehended the whole affair, over which she deeply grieved; regretting less, I fancy, her husband's infidelity than the domestic unhappiness which would result from so indecorous a liaison, the account of which she feared might reach my ears."

"But, even so far as his foolish passion was concerned, it seems to me that your father acted very unwisely in introducing this woman into his house."

"And you would be still more at a loss to understand his conduct if you had but known the extreme formality and circumspection of his character. Nothing could ever have induced him thus to trample under foot all the established rules of society but the unbounded influence of Madame Roland,—an influence she exercised with so much the more certainty as she veiled her designs under the mask of the most passionate love for him."[Pg 215]

"But what was your father's age then?"

"About sixty."

"And he really credited the professions of love made by so much younger a woman?"

"My father had been in his time one of the most fashionable and admired men of the day. And Madame Roland, either following the suggestions of her own artful mind or urged on by the counsels of others, who could countenance much more—"

"Counsel such a person!"

"I will tell you, my lord. Imagining that a man whose reputation for gallantry had always stood high in the world would, as he advanced in years, be more easily delighted than another by being flattered upon his personal advantages, and more credulously receive such compliments as served to recall those days most soothing to his vanity to remember, well, my lord, incredible as it may appear, this woman began to flatter my poor misguided father upon the graceful tournure of his features and the inimitable elegance of his shape. And he in his sixtieth year! Strange as you may consider it, spite of the excellent sense with which my father was endowed, he fell blindly into the snare, coarse and vulgar as it was. Such was—such still is, I doubt not—the secret of the unbounded influence this woman obtained over him. And really, my lord, spite of my present disinclination for mirth, I can scarcely restrain a smile at the recollection of having frequently, before my marriage, heard Madame Roland assert and maintain that what she styled real maturity was the finest portion of a person's existence, and that this maturity never began until about the fifty-fifth or sixtieth year of one's age."

"I suppose that happened to be your father's age?"

"Precisely so, my lord! Then, and then only, according to Madame Roland, had the understanding,[Pg 216] combined with experience, attained their full development; then only could a man, occupying a distinguished position in the world, enjoy the consideration to which he was entitled; at that period only were the tout ensemble of his countenance, and the exquisite grace of his manners, in their highest perfection; the physiognomy offering at this delightful epoch of a man's life a heavenly mixture of winning serenity and gentle gravity. Then the slight tinge of melancholy, caused by the many recollections of the past deceit experience is fain to look back upon, completes the irresistible charm of real maturity; unappreciable (Madame Roland hastily added) except by women with head and heart sufficiently good to despise the youthful frivolity of a poor, inexperienced forty years, when the character and countenance can scarcely be called formed, and when good taste turns away from the boyish folly of such an immature season of life, and seeks the fine, majestic features impressed with the sublime and poetic expression resulting from a sixty years' study of the vast book of human existence."

Rodolph could not restrain smiling at the powerful irony with which Madame d'Harville sketched the portrait of her mother-in-law.

"There is one thing," said he to the marquise, "for which I cannot forgive ridiculous people."

"What is that, my lord?"

"The being also wicked; which prevents our being able to laugh at them as much as they deserve."

"They probably calculate upon that available advantage," replied Clémence.

"Indeed, it is very probable, though equally lamentable, for, if it were not for the recollection of all the pain Madame Roland has occasioned you, I could be highly diverted with her system of real maturity as opposed to the insipidity of mere boys of only forty years of age, who, according to her assertion, would be[Pg 217] scarcely out of their leading-strings, as our grandfathers and grandmothers would say."

"What principally excited my aversion for her was the shamefulness of her conduct towards my dear mother, and the unfortunately over-zealous part she took in my marriage," said the marquise, after a moment's pause.

Rodolph looked at her with much surprise.

"Nay, my lord," said Clémence, in a firm, though gentle tone, "I well remember that M. d'Harville is your friend and my husband. I know perfectly the grave importance of the words I have just uttered: hereafter you yourself shall admit the justice of them. But to return to Madame Roland, who was now, spite of her acknowledged incapacity, established as my instructress: my mother had a long and most painful altercation with my father on the subject, which drew down on us his extreme displeasure, and from that period my mother and myself remained secluded in our apartments, while Madame Roland, in quality of my governess, directed the whole household, and almost publicly did the honours of the mansion."

"What must your mother have suffered!"

"She did, indeed, my lord; but her sorrow was less for herself than me, whose future destiny might be so deeply affected by the introduction of this woman. Her health, always delicate, became daily weaker, and she fell seriously ill. It chanced, most unfortunately, that our family doctor, M. Sorbier, in whom she had the highest confidence, died about this period, to my mother's extreme regret. Madame Roland immediately urged my father to place my mother's case in the hands of an Italian doctor, a particular friend of her own, and whom she described as possessing a more than ordinary skill in the treatment of diseases. Thanks to her importunities, my father, who had himself consulted him in trifling maladies, and found no cause to be dissatisfied,[Pg 218] proposed him to my mother, who, alas, raised no objection. And this man it was who attended upon her during her last illness."

Tears filled the eyes of Madame d'Harville as she uttered these words.

"I am ashamed to confess my weakness, my lord," added she; "but, for the simple reason of this doctor having been appointed at the suggestion of Madame Roland, he inspired me (and at that time without any cause) with the most involuntary repugnance, and it was with the most painful misgivings I saw him established in my mother's confidence. Still, as regarded his knowledge of his profession, Doctor Polidori—"

"What do I hear?" exclaimed Rodolph.

"Are you indisposed, my lord?" inquired Clémence, struck with the sudden expression the prince's countenance had assumed.

"No, no!" said Rodolph, as though unconscious of the presence of Madame d'Harville, "no, I must be mistaken. Five or six years must have elapsed since all this occurred, while I am informed that it is not more than two years since Polidori came to Paris, and then under a feigned name. He it was I saw yesterday,—I am sure of it,—the quack dentist Bradamanti and Polidori are one and the same. Still, 'tis singular; two doctors of the same name,[3]—what a strange rencontre!"

[3] We must remind the reader that Polidori was a doctor of some eminence when he undertook the education of Rodolph.

"Madame," said Rodolph, turning to Madame d'Harville, whose astonishment at his preoccupation still increased, "we will, if you please, compare notes as to this Italian. What age was he?"

"About fifty."

"And his appearance,—his countenance?"

"Most sinister. Never shall I forget his clear, piercing, green eye, and his nose curved like the bill of an eagle."

[Pg 219]

"'Tis he,—'tis he himself!" exclaimed Rodolph. "And do you think, madame, that the Doctor Polidori you were describing is still in Paris?"

"That I cannot tell you, my lord. He quitted Paris about a year after my father's marriage. A lady of my acquaintance, who at this period also employed the Italian as her medical adviser—this lady, Madame de Lucenay—"

"The Duchess de Lucenay?" interrupted Rodolph.

"Yes, my lord. But why this surprise?"

"Permit me to be silent on that subject. But, at the time of which you speak, what did Madame de Lucenay tell you of this man?"

"She said that he travelled much after quitting Paris, and that she often received from him very clever and amusing letters, descriptive of the various places he visited. Now I recollect that, about a month ago, happening to ask Madame de Lucenay whether she had heard lately from M. Polidori, she replied, with an embarrassed manner, 'that nothing had been heard of or concerning him for some time; that no one knew what had become of him; and that by many he was supposed to be dead.'"

"Strange, indeed," said Rodolph, recalling the recent visit of Madame de Lucenay to the charlatan Bradamanti.

"You know this man, then, my lord?"

"Unfortunately for myself, I do; but let me beseech you to continue your recital; hereafter I will give you an insight into the history of this Polidori."

"Do you mean the doctor?"

"Say, rather, the wretch stained with the most atrocious crimes."

"Crimes!" cried Madame d'Harville, in alarm; "can it be possible, the man whom Madame Roland so highly extolled, and into whose hands my poor mother was delivered, was guilty of crimes? Alas, my dear parent[Pg 220] lingered but a very short time after she passed into his care! Ah, my lord, my presentiments have not deceived me!"

"Your presentiments?"

"Oh, yes! I was telling you just now of the invincible antipathy I felt for this man from the circumstance of his having been introduced among us by Madame Roland; but I did not tell you all, my lord."

"How so?"

"I was fearful lest the bitterness of my own griefs should make me guilty of injustice towards an innocent person; but now, my lord, you shall know everything. My mother had lain dangerously ill about five days; I had always watched beside her, night as well as day. One evening, that I felt much oppressed with confinement and fatigue, I went to breathe the fresh air on the terrace of the garden: after remaining about a quarter of an hour, I was returning by a long and obscure gallery; by a faint light which streamed from the apartment of Madame Roland I saw M. Polidori quit the room, accompanied by the mistress of the chamber. Being in the shadow, they did not perceive me; Madame Roland spoke some words to the doctor, but in so low a tone I could not catch them; the doctor's answer was given in a louder key, and consisted only of these words: 'The day after to-morrow;' and, when Madame Roland seemed to urge him, still in so low a voice as to prevent the words reaching me, he replied, with singular emphasis, 'The day after to-morrow, I tell you,—the day after to-morrow.'"

"What could those words mean?"

"What did they mean? Alas, alas, my lord, it was on the Wednesday evening I heard M. Polidori say 'The day after to-morrow;' on the Friday my mother was a corpse!"

"Horrible, indeed!"

"After this mournful event I was consigned to the[Pg 221] care of a relation, who, forgetful of the afflicted state of my mind, as well as tender age, told me, without reserve or consideration of the consequences, what powerful reasons there were for my hating Madame Roland, and fully enlightened me as to the ambitious projects entertained by this woman: full well I could then imagine all my poor mother must have endured. I thought my heart would break the first time I again saw my father, which was upon the occasion of his coming to fetch me from the house of my relation to take me into Normandy, where we were to pass the first months of our mourning. During the journey he informed me, without the least embarrassment, and as though it had been the most natural thing in the world, that, out of regard for himself and me, madame had kindly consented to take the command of the establishment, and to act as my guide and friend. On arriving at Aubiers (so was my father's estate called), the first object we beheld was Madame Roland, who had established herself here on the very day of my mother's death. Spite of her modest, gentle manner, her countenance betrayed an ill-disguised triumph; never shall I forget the look, at once ironical and spiteful, she cast on me as I descended from the carriage; it seemed to say, 'I am mistress here,—'tis you who are the intruder.' A fresh grief awaited me; whether from an inexcusable want of proper judgment or unpardonable assurance, this woman occupied the apartment which had been my mother's: in my just indignation I loudly complained to my father of this unpleasant forgetfulness of my rights as well as wishes. He reprimanded me severely for making any remonstrance on the subject, adding that it was needless for me either to feel or express surprise on the subject, as it was his desire I should habituate myself to consider Madame Roland in every respect as a second mother, and show her a corresponding deference. I replied that it would be a profanation[Pg 222] to that sacred name to act as he commanded; and, to his extreme wrath, I never allowed any opportunity to escape by which I could evince my deeply rooted aversion to Madame Roland. At times my father's rage knew no bounds, and bitterly would he reproach me in the presence of that woman for the coldness and ingratitude of my conduct towards an angel, as he styled her, sent by heaven for our consolation and happiness. 'Let me entreat of you to speak for yourself alone,' said I, one day, quite wearied with the hypocritical conduct of Madame Roland and my father's blind infatuation. The harshness and unreasonableness of his conduct became at last quite unendurable; while Madame Roland, with the honeyed words of feigned affection, would artfully intercede for me, because she well knew by so doing she should only increase the storm she had raised. 'You must make some allowances for Clémence,' she would say; 'the sorrow she experiences for the excellent parent we all deplore is so natural, and even praiseworthy, that you should respect her just grief, and pity her for her unfounded suspicions.' 'You hear her! you hear her!' would my father exclaim, pointing with mingled triumph and admiration to the accomplished hypocrite; 'what angelic goodness! what enchanting nobleness and generosity! Instantly entreat her pardon for the unworthiness of your conduct.' 'Never!' I used to reply; 'the spirit of my angel mother, who now beholds me, would be pained to witness such a degradation in her child;' and, bursting with grief and mortification, I would fly to my own chamber, leaving my father to dry the tears, and calm the ruffled feelings of the woman I despised and hated. You will, I hope, excuse me, my lord, for dwelling so long and so minutely on all my early troubles, but it is only by so doing I can accurately describe to you the sort of life I led at that period."[Pg 223]

"I can enter fully into the painful subject; yet how often have the same scenes been enacted in other families, and still, it is much to be feared, will they be repeated till the end of time. But in what capacity did your father introduce Madame Roland to the neighbourhood?"

"As my instructress and his friend, and she was estimated accordingly."

"I need scarcely inquire whether he shared in the solitude to which her questionable character condemned the lady?"

"With the exception of some few and unavoidable visits, she saw no one. My father, guided by his passion, or influenced by Madame Roland, threw off his mourning for my mother ere he had worn it three months, under the plea that the sable garb continually reminded him of his loss, and prevented him from regaining his lost tranquillity. His manners to me daily became colder and more estranged, while his perfect indifference concerning me allowed a degree of liberty almost incredible in a person of my age. I met him only at breakfast, after which he returned to his study with Madame Roland, who acted as his secretary, read and answered all his letters, etc.; that completed, they either walked or drove out together, returning only an hour before dinner, against which, Madame Roland would array herself in an elegant and well-chosen evening dress; while my father would make a most studiously elaborate toilet, as uncalled for as ill-adapted to his time of life. Occasionally, after dinner, he received a few persons he could not avoid asking to his house, when he would play at tric-trac with Madame Roland until ten o'clock, at which hour he would offer his arm to conduct her to my mother's apartment, and return to his guests. As for myself, I had unrestrained permission to go where I pleased throughout the whole day. Attended by a servant, I[Pg 224] used to take long rides in the extensive woods surrounding the château, and when, as occasionally happened, I felt my spirits unequal to appearing at the dinner-table, not the slightest inquiry was ever made after me, or my absence noticed."

"What singular neglect and forgetfulness!"

"Having accidentally encountered one of our neighbours during several successive days of my excursions in the woods, I gave up riding there, and confined myself entirely to the park."

"And how did this infamous woman conduct herself towards you when alone?"

"She shunned all occasions of being with me as sedulously as I avoided her; but once that we were unexpectedly tête-à-tête with each other, and that she was reproaching me for some severe words I had spoken the preceding evening, she said, coldly, 'Have a care: you cannot contend against my power; any such attempt will bring down certain ruin on your head.' 'As it did upon that of my mother,' answered I. 'It is a pity, madame, you have not M. Polidori by your side, to announce to you that your vengeance can be satisfied—the day after to-morrow."

"And what reply did she make when you thus recalled those fearful words?"

"She changed colour rapidly, her features were almost convulsed; then, by a strong effort conquering her emotion, she angrily demanded what I meant by the expression. 'Ask your own heart, madame,' answered I; 'in the solitude of your chamber inquire of yourself to what I allude: your conscience will find a ready explanation.' Shortly after that, a scene occurred which for ever sealed my destiny.

"Among a great number of family portraits, which graced the walls of the salon in which we usually spent the evening, was that of my mother. One day I observed it had been removed from its accustomed place. Two[Pg 225] neighbours had dined with us. One of them, a M. Dorval, a country lawyer, had always expressed the utmost veneration and respect for my mother. When we reached the salon after dinner, I inquired of my father what had become of my dear mother's picture. 'Cease!' cried my father, significantly pointing to our guests, as though intimating his desire that they should not hear any discussion on the subject; 'the reason of the picture being taken away is that the sight of it continually reminded me of the heavy loss I have sustained, and so prevented my regaining my usual calmness and peace of mind.' 'And where is the portrait at present?' inquired I. Turning towards Madame Roland, with an impatient and uneasy air, he said, 'Where has the picture been put?' 'In the lumber-room,' replied she, casting on me a glance of defiance, evidently under the impression that the presence of witnesses would prevent me from proceeding further in the matter. 'I can easily believe, madame,' cried I, indignantly, 'that the recollection of my mother must have been painful to you; but that was not a sufficient reason for banishing from the walls the likeness of her who, when you were in want and misery, kindly and charitably afforded you the shelter of her roof.'"

"Excellent!" exclaimed Rodolph; "yours was, indeed, a stinging and a just reproach."

"'Mademoiselle,' cried my father, 'you forget that this lady has watched, and still continues to preside, with maternal solicitude over your education; you also seem to banish from your recollection the very high esteem and respect you are aware I entertain for her; and, since you allow yourself thus to attack her before strangers, you will permit me to tell you that, in my opinion, the charge of ingratitude lies at the door of her who, overlooking the tender cares she has received, presumes to reproach a person, deserving of the utmost interest and respect, with misfortunes and calamities she[Pg 226] so nobly sustained.' 'I cannot venture to discuss the subject with you, my dear father,' said I, submissively. 'Perhaps, then, mademoiselle, you will favour me with your polite arguments in favour of rudeness and unmerited abuse,' cried Madame Roland, carried away by rage into a neglect of her usual caution and prudence; 'perhaps you will permit me to assert that, so far from owing the slightest obligation to your mother, I have nothing to remember but the constant coldness and dislike she invariably manifested towards me, fully expressive of the disgust and displeasure with which my residence in the house inspired her.' 'Forbear, madame!' exclaimed I, interrupting her. 'Out of respect for my father, if not to spare your own blushes, cease such shameful confessions as the one you have just made, or you will make even me regret having exposed you to so humiliating a disclosure.'"

"Better and better!" cried Rodolph; "this was, indeed, cutting with a two-edged sword. Pray go on. And what said this woman?"

"By a very hackneyed, though convenient expedient, Madame Roland contrived to end a scene in which she felt she was likely to have the worst. With a sudden cry she threw herself into a chair, and very naturally imitated a fainting-fit. Thanks to this incident, the two visitors quitted the room in search of restoratives; while I retired to my own apartment, leaving my father hanging in deep anxiety over the wicked cause of all this confusion."

"Doubtless your next interview with your father must have been a stormy one."

"He came to me next morning, and, without further preamble, addressed me as follows: 'In order to prevent a recurrence of the disgraceful scene of yesterday, I think proper to inform you, that, immediately that decency permits both you and myself to throw off our mourning, it is my intention to celebrate my marriage[Pg 227] with Madame Roland, which will compel you to treat her with the respect and deference due to my wife. For certain reasons, it is expedient you should marry before me. You will have as a dowry your mother's fortune, amounting to more than a million francs. From this very day, I shall take the necessary steps to form a suitable match for you, and, for that purpose, I shall accept one of the many offers I have received for your hand.' After this conversation, I lived more alone than ever, never meeting my father except at mealtimes, which generally passed off in the utmost silence. So really dull and lonely was my present existence, that I only waited for my father to propose any suitor he might approve of, to accept him with perfect willingness. Madame Roland, having relinquished all further ill-natured remarks upon the memory of my deceased parent, indemnified herself by inflicting on me the continual pain of seeing her appropriate to herself the various trifles my dear mother had exclusively made use of. Her easy chair, embroidery-frame, the books which composed her private library, even a screen I myself had embroidered for her, and in the centre of which were our united ciphers: this woman laid her sacrilegious hands on all the elegant articles with which my mother's taste and my affection had ornamented her apartments."

"I can well imagine all the horror these profanations must have caused you."

"Still, great as were my sufferings, the state of loneliness, in which I found myself, rendered them even greater."

"And you had no one, no person in whom you could confide?"

"No one; but at this time I received a touching proof of the interest my fate excited, and which might have opened my eyes to the dangers preparing for me. One of the two persons present, during the scene with[Pg 228] Madame Roland I so lately described, was a M. Dorval, a worthy old notary, to whom my mother had rendered some signal service. By my father's orders, I never since then entered the salon when strangers were there; I had never, therefore, seen M. Dorval after the eventful day when I spoke so undisguisedly to Madame Roland; great, therefore, was my surprise to see him coming towards me one day, in the park, while I was taking my accustomed walk. 'Mademoiselle,' said he to me, with a mysterious air, 'I am fearful of being observed by your father; here is a letter,—read it, and destroy it immediately,—its contents are most important to you.' So saying, he disappeared as quickly as he came. In the letter he informed me that it was in agitation to marry me to the Marquis d'Harville, and that the match appeared in every respect eligible, inasmuch as every one concurred in bearing testimony to the many excellent qualities of M. d'Harville, who was young, rich, good-looking, and highly distinguished for his talents and mental attainments; yet that the families of two young ladies, with whom he had been on the point of marriage, had abruptly broken off the matches. The notary added that, although entirely ignorant of the cause of these ruptures, he still considered it his duty to apprise me of them, without in the slightest degree insinuating that they originated in any circumstance prejudicial to the high opinion entertained of M. d'Harville. The two young ladies alluded to were, one, the daughter of M. Beauregard, a peer of France; the other, of Lord Dudley. M. Dorval concluded by saying that his motive in making the communication was because my father, in his extreme desire to conclude the marriage, did not appear to attach sufficient importance to the facts now detailed."

"Now you recall it to my recollection," said Rodolph, after some minutes spent in deep meditation on what he had just heard, "I remember that your husband, at intervals[Pg 229] of nearly twelve months, told me of two marriages which had been broken off just as they were on the point of taking place, and ascribing their abrupt termination to a difficulty in arranging matters of a mere pecuniary nature."

Madame d'Harville smiled bitterly as she replied:

"You shall know what those motives really were, my lord, very shortly. After reading the letter, so kindly intentioned on the part of the worthy notary, I felt both my uneasiness and curiosity rapidly increase. Who was D'Harville? My father had never mentioned him to me. In vain I ransacked my memory; I could not recollect ever to have heard the name. Soon, however, the current of my thoughts was directed into another channel by the abrupt departure of Madame Roland for Paris. Although the period of her absence was limited to eight days at the utmost, yet my father expressed the deepest grief at even this trifling separation from her. His temper became altogether soured, and his coldness towards me hourly increased; he even went so far as to reply, when one day I inquired after his health, 'I am ill,—and all through you.' 'Through me?' exclaimed I. 'Assuredly, through you; you know full well how indispensable to my happiness is the company of Madame Roland, yet this incomparable woman, who has been so grossly insulted by you, has left me to undertake her present journey solely on your account.' This mark of interest on the part of Madame Roland filled me with the most lively apprehensions of evil, and a vague presentiment floated across my mind that my marriage was in some way or other mixed up with it. I must leave it to your imagination, my lord, to picture the delight of my father upon the return of my future mother-in-law. The next day he sent to desire my company; I found him alone with her. 'I have, for some time,' said he, 'been thinking of establishing you in the world; in another month your mourning will[Pg 230] have expired. To-morrow I expect M. d'Harville, a young man possessed of every requisite, both as to fortune and figure, to secure any woman's approbation; he is well looked upon in society, and is capable of securing the happiness of any lady he may seek in marriage. Now, having seen you, though accidentally, his choice has fallen on you. In fact, he is most anxious to obtain your hand. Every pecuniary arrangement is concluded. It therefore remains solely with yourself to be married ere the next six weeks have elapsed. If, on the contrary, from any capricious whim impossible for me to foresee, you think fit to refuse the unlooked-for good offer now before you, it will in no respect alter my own plans, as my marriage will take place, according to my original intention, directly my mourning expires. And, in this latter case, I am bound to inform you that your presence in my house will not be agreeable to me, unless I have your promise to treat my wife with the respect and tenderness to which she is entitled.' 'I understand you,' replied I; 'whether I accept M. d'Harville or no, you will marry; and my only resource will then be to retire to the Convent of the Holy Heart?' 'It will,' answered he, coldly."

"His conduct now ceases to be classed under the term weakness," said Rodolph; "it assumes the form of positive cruelty."

"Shall I tell you, my lord, what has always prevented me from feeling the least resentment at my father's conduct? It is because I have always had a strong presentiment that he would one day pay dearly—too dearly, alas!—for his blind passion for Madame Roland. Thank Heaven, that evil day has not yet arrived!"

"And did you not mention to your father what the old notary had informed you of,—the abrupt breaking off of the two marriages M. d'Harville had been on the point of contracting?"[Pg 231]

"Indeed, I did, my lord. I signified to my father, upon the occasion of the conversation I was relating to you, a wish to speak with him alone, upon which Madame Roland abruptly rose and quitted the apartment. 'I have no objection to the union you propose with M. d'Harville,' said I; 'only, as I understand, he has twice been upon the point of marriage, and—' 'Enough—enough!' interrupted he, hastily. 'I know all about those two affairs, which were so abruptly broken off merely because matters of a pecuniary nature were not satisfactorily arranged; although, I am bound to assure you, that not the slightest shadow of blame was attributable to M. d'Harville. If that be your only objection, you may consider the match as concluded on, and yourself as married,—ay, and happily, too,—for, spite of your conduct, my first wish is for your happiness.'"

"No doubt Madame Roland was delighted with your marriage?"

"Delighted? Yes, my lord," said Clémence, with bitterness. "She was, and well might be, delighted with this union, which was, in fact, of her effecting. She it was who had first suggested it to my father; she knew full well the real occasion of breaking off the marriages so nearly completed by M. d'Harville, and hence arose her exceeding anxiety for him to become my husband."

"What motive could she possibly have had?"

"She sought to avenge herself on me by condemning me to a life of wretchedness."

"But your father—"

"Deceived by Madame Roland, he fully and implicitly believed that interested motives alone had set aside the two former marriages of M. d'Harville."

"What a horrible scheme! But what was this mysterious reason?"

"You shall know shortly. Well, M. d'Harville arrived[Pg 232] at Aubiers, and, I confess, I was much pleased with his appearance, manners, and cultivated mind. He seemed very amiable and kind, though somewhat melancholy. I remarked in him a contradiction which charmed and astonished me at the same time. His personal and mental advantages were considerable, his fortune princely, and his birth illustrious; yet, at times, the expression of his countenance would change, from a firm and manly energy and decision of purpose, to an almost timid, shrinking look, as though he feared even his own self; then an utter dejection of spirits and exhaustion would ensue. There was, at these strangely contrasted periods, such a look of deprecating humility, such an appearance of conscious wrong, as touched me deeply, and won my pity to a great extent. I admired greatly the kindness of manner he ever evinced to an old servant,—a valet de chambre who had been about him from his birth, and who alone was suffered to attend upon his master now he had reached man's estate. Shortly after M. d'Harville's arrival he remained for two days secluded in his apartment. My father wished to visit him; but the old servant alluded to objected, stating that his master had so violent a headache, he could receive no one. When M. d'Harville emerged from his chamber, he was excessively pale, and looked extremely ill. He afterwards appeared to experience a sort of impatience and uneasiness when any reference was made to his temporary indisposition. In proportion as I became better acquainted with M. d'Harville, I discovered that, on many points, a singular similarity of taste existed between us. He had so much to be proud of, and so many reasons for being happy, that his excessive and shrinking modesty struck me as something more than admirable. The day for our marriage being fixed, he seemed to delight in anticipating every wish I could form for the future, and, when sometimes I alluded to the deep melancholy which at times possessed[Pg 233] him, and begged to know the cause, he would speak of his deceased parents, and of the delight it would have afforded them to see him married, to their hearts' dearest wish, to one so justly approved both by his own judgment and affections, I could not well find fault with reasons so complimentary to myself. M. d'Harville easily guessed the terms on which I must have been living with my father and Madame Roland, although the former, delighted at my marriage, which would serve as a plea for accelerating his own, had latterly treated me with excessive tenderness. In some of our conversations, M. d'Harville, with infinite tact and good feeling, explained to me that his regard was considerably heightened by the knowledge of all I had suffered since my dear mother's death. I thought it my duty to hint to him, at such a time, that, as my father was about to marry again, it might very possibly affect the property I might be expected to inherit. He would not even permit me to proceed, but most effectually convinced me of his own utterly disinterested motives in seeking my hand. I could not but think that the families, who had so abruptly broken off his former projected alliances, must have been very unreasonable or avaricious people if they made pecuniary matters a stumbling-block with one so generous, easy, and liberal as M. d'Harville."

"And such as you describe him, so have I always found him," cried Rodolph; "all heart, disinterestedness, and delicacy! But did you never speak to him of the marriages so hastily broken off?"

"I will confess to you, my lord, that the question was several times on my lips; but, when I recollected the sensitiveness of his nature, I feared to pain him by questions which might, at any rate, have wounded his self-love, or taxed his honour to reply to truly. The nearer the day fixed for our marriage approached, the more delighted did M. d'Harville appear. Yet I several times detected him absorbed in the most perfect dejection, the[Pg 234] deepest melancholy. One day, in particular, I caught his eyes fixed on me with a settled gaze, as though resolving to confide to me some important secret he yet could not bring himself to reveal. I perceived a large tear trickle slowly down his cheek, as though wrung from his very heart. The recollection of his two former prospects of marriage, so suddenly destroyed, rose to my mind; and, I confess, I almost felt afraid to proceed. A vague presentiment whispered within me that the happiness of my whole life was at stake,—perhaps perilled for ever. But then, on the other hand, such was my eager desire to quit my father's house, that I turned a deaf ear to every suggestion of evil arising from my union with M. d'Harville."

"And did M. d'Harville make you no voluntary confession?"

"Not any. When I inquired the cause of his continual fits of melancholy, he would answer, 'Pray, do not heed it! But I am always most sad when most happy.' These words, pronounced in the kindest and most touching manner, reassured me a little. And how, indeed, was it possible, when his voice would quiver with emotion, and his eyes fill with tears, to manifest any further suspicion, by repeating my questions as to the past, when it was with the future only I had any business? The persons appointed to witness the contract on the part of M. d'Harville, M. de Lucenay and M. de Saint-Rémy, arrived at Aubiers some days previous to the marriage; my nearest relations alone were invited. Immediately after the conclusion of the ceremony, we were to depart for Paris; and it is true I felt for M. d'Harville none of that love with which a young wife ought to regard the man she vows her future life to, but I admired and respected his character and disposition, and, but for the disastrous events which followed this fatal union, a more tender feeling could doubtless soon have attached me to him. Well, we were married."[Pg 235]

At these words, Madame d'Harville turned rather pale, and her resolution appeared to forsake her. After a pause, she resumed:

"Immediately after the ceremony, my father embraced me tenderly, as did Madame Roland also. Before so many persons I could not avoid the display of this fresh exhibition of hypocrisy. With her dry and white hand she squeezed mine so hard as to pain me, and said, in a whisper, and in a tone as gentle as it was perfidious, these words, which I never can forget: 'Think of me sometimes in the midst of your bliss, for it was I who arranged your marriage.' Alas, I was far from comprehending at that moment the full force of those words! Our marriage took place at eleven o'clock, and we immediately entered our carriage, followed by my waiting-woman and the old valet de chambre of M. d'Harville's, and we travelled so rapidly that we reached Paris before ten o'clock in the evening. I should have been surprised at the silence and melancholy of M. d'Harville had I not known that he had what he termed his happy sadness. I was myself painfully disturbed; I was returning to Paris for the first time since my mother's death; I arrived there alone with my husband, whom I had hardly known more than six weeks, and who, up to the evening before, had not addressed a word to me but what was marked by respectful formality. Men, however well bred, do not think sufficiently of the fear which the sudden change in their tone and manners occasions to a young female as soon as she belongs to them; they do not reflect that a youthful maiden cannot in a few hours forget all her timidity and virgin scruples."

"Nothing is to me more barbarous than this system of carrying off a young female as soon as the wedding ceremony is over,—a ceremony which ought to consecrate the right and duty to employ still more every tenderness of love and effort to render mutual affection still stronger and more endearing."[Pg 236]

"You will imagine, monseigneur, the indefinable alarm with which I found myself in Paris,—in the city in which my mother had died hardly a year before. We reached the Hôtel d'Harville—"

The emotion of the young lady redoubled, her cheeks were flushed with scarlet, and she added, in a voice scarcely intelligible:

"You must know all; if not, I shall appear too contemptible in your eyes. Well, then," she resumed, with desperate resolution, "I was led to my apartment and left there alone; after an hour M. d'Harville joined me there. I was weeping bitterly. My husband came towards me, and was about to take my arm, when he fell at my feet in agony. He could not hear my voice, his countenance was spasmodic with fearful convulsions, his eyes rolled in their orbits with a rapidity that appalled me, his contorted mouth was filled with blood and foam, and his hand grasped me with inconceivable force. I made a desperate effort, and his stiffened fingers at length unclasped from my wrist, and I fainted at the moment when M. d'Harville was struggling in the paroxysm of this horrible attack. This was my wedding night, my lord,—this was the vengeance of Madame Roland!"

"Unhappy woman!" said Rodolph, overwhelmed. "I understand,—an epileptic. Ah, 'tis horrible!"

"And that is not all," added Clémence, in a voice almost choked by emotion; "my child, my angel girl, she has inherited this frightful malady."

"Your daughter! She! What? Her paleness—her weakness—"

"Is, I dread to believe, hereditary; and the physicians think, therefore, that it is incurable."

Madame d'Harville hid her face in her hands; overcome by this painful disclosure, she had not courage to add another word. Rodolph also remained silent. His mind recoiled affrighted from the terrible mysteries of this night. He pictured to himself the young maiden,[Pg 237] already sad, in consequence of her return to the city in which her mother had died, arriving at a strange house, alone with a man for whom she felt an interest and esteem, but not love, nor any of those sentiments which enchant the mind, none of the engrossing feeling which removes the chaste alarms of a woman in the participation of a lawful and reciprocal affection. No, no; on the contrary, Clémence arrived agitated and distressed, with depressed spirits and tearful eyes. She was, however, resolved on resignation and the fulfilment of duty, when, instead of listening to language full of devotion, love, and tenderness, which would compensate for the sorrowful feelings which were uppermost in her mind, she sees convulsed at her feet a stricken man, who twists, and foams, and shrieks, in the hideous convulsions of one of the most fearful infirmities with which a man can be incurably smitten! This is not all: his child, poor little innocent angel! is also withered from her birth. These sad and painful avowals excited bitter reflections in Rodolph's mind. "Such," said he, "is the law of the land. A young, handsome, and pure girl, the confiding and gentle victim of a shameful dissimulation, unites her destiny to that of a man tainted with an incurable malady,—a fatal inheritance which he will assuredly transmit to his children. The unhappy wife discovers this horrid mystery. What can she do? Nothing,—nothing but suffer and weep; nothing but endeavour to overcome her disgust and fright; nothing but pass her days in anguish, in indefinable and endless terror; nothing but seek, perhaps, culpable consolation without the desolate existence which has been created around her. Again," said Rodolph, "these strange laws sometimes produce horrible unions: fearful for humanity. In these laws, animals always appear superior to man in the care bestowed upon them; in the improvements that are studied for them; in the protection which encircles, the guarantees which attend them.[Pg 238] Buy an animal, and, if an infirmity decried by the law is detected after the purchase, the sale is null and void. Indeed, what a shame, what a case of public injury would it be to compel a man to keep an animal which has a cough, is lame, or has lost an eye! Why, it would be scandalous, criminal, unheard-of infamy! Only imagine being compelled to keep, and keep for ever, a mule with a cough, a horse that was blind, or an ass that was lame! What frightful consequences might not such injustice entail on the community! Therefore, no such bargains hold good, no words bind, no contract is valid: the omnipotent law unlooses all that was thus bound. But if it relates to a creature made after God's own image, if it respects a young girl who, in the full and innocent reliance on the good faith of a man, unites her lot with his, and wakes up in the company of an epileptic, an unhappy wretch stricken with a fearful malady, whose moral and physical consequences are immeasurably distressing, a malady which may throw disorder and aversion into a family, perpetuate a horrible disease, vitiate whole generations, yes, this law, so inexorable when lame, blind, or coughing animals are the consideration—this law, so singularly clear-sighted, which will not allow an unsound horse to increase the species—this law will not loosen the victim of a union such as we have described. These bonds are sacred, indissoluble: it is to offend God and man to break them. In truth," continued Rodolph, "men sometimes display a humility most shameful and an egotistical pride which is only execrable. He values himself at less than the beast which he protects by warranties which he refuses for himself; and he imposes on himself, makes sacred, and perpetuates his most distressing infirmities by putting them under the protection of the immutability of laws, human and divine." Rodolph greatly blamed M. d'Harville, but he promised to himself to excuse him in the eyes of Clémence, although[Pg 239] fully persuaded, after her sad disclosure, that the marquis was for ever alienated from her heart. One thought led to another, and Rodolph said to himself, "I have kept aloof from a woman I love, and who, perhaps, already feels a secret inclination for me. Either from an attachment of heart or friendship, she has bestowed her honour—her life—for the sake of a fool whom she thought unhappy. If, instead of leaving her, I had paid her all sorts of attentions, love, and consideration, my name would have been such that her reputation would not have received the slightest stain, the suspicions of her husband would never have been excited: whilst, now, she is all but at the mercy of such an ass as M. Charles Robert, who, I fear, will become the more indiscreet in proportion as he has the less right to be so. And then, too, who knows if, in spite of the dangers she has risked, the heart of Madame d'Harville will always remain free? Any return to her husband is henceforward impossible. Young, handsome, courted, with a disposition sympathising with all who suffer, what dangers, what shoals and quicksands, lie before her! For M. d'Harville, what anguish and what deep chagrin! At the same time jealous of and in love with his wife, who cannot subdue the disgust and fright which he excited in her on their nuptials,—what a lot is his!"

Clémence, with her forehead hidden by her hands, her eyes brimful of tears, and her cheek reddened by embarrassment, avoided Rodolph's look, such pain had the disclosure cost her.

"Ah, now," said Rodolph, after a long silence, "I can understand the cause of M. d'Harville's sadness, which I could not before account for. I can imagine his regrets—"

"His regrets!" exclaimed Clémence; "say his remorse, monseigneur, if he have any, for never was such a crime more coolly meditated."

"A crime, madame?"[Pg 240]

"What else is it, my lord, to bind to yourself in indissoluble bonds a young girl, who confides in your honour, when you are fatally stricken with a malady which inspires fear and horror? What else is it, to devote with certainty an unhappy child to similar misery? What forced M. d'Harville to make two victims? A blind, insensate passion? No; he found my birth, my fortune, and my person, to his taste. He wished to make a convenient marriage, because, doubtless, a bachelor's life wearied him."

"Madame, at least pity him."

"Pity him? If you wish pity, pray let it be bestowed on my child. Poor victim of this odious union, what nights and days have I passed near her! What tears have not her misfortunes wrung from me!"

"But her father suffers from the same unmerited afflictions."

"Yet it is that father who has condemned her to a sickly infancy, a withering youth, and, if she should survive, to a life of isolation and misery, for she will never marry. Ah, no! I love her too well to expose her to the chance of one day's weeping over her own offspring, similarly smitten, as I weep over her. I have suffered too much from treachery, to render myself guilty of, or an accomplice in, such wickedness!"

"You are right; the vengeance of your mother-in-law was really atrocious. But patience, and perhaps in your turn you will be avenged," said Rodolph, after a moment's reflection.

"What do you mean, my lord?" inquired Clémence, astonished at the change in his voice.

"I have generally had the satisfaction of seeing those whom I have known to be wicked most severely punished," he replied, in a voice that made Clémence shudder. "But the day after this unhappy event what did your husband say?"

"He confessed, with singular candour, that his two[Pg 241] former marriages had been broken off in consequence of the families becoming acquainted with the secret of his fearful malady. Thus, then, after having been twice rejected, he had the shameful, the unmanly courage, to drag a third poor victim into the abyss of misery the kind intervention of friends had preserved the others from. And this is what the world calls a gentleman and a man of honour!"

"For one so good, so full of pity to others, yours are harsh words."

"Because I feel I have been unworthily treated. M. d'Harville easily penetrated the girlish openness of my character; why, then, did he not trust to my sympathy and generosity of feeling, and tell me the whole truth?"

"Because you would have refused him."

"This very expression proves how guilty he was, and how treacherous was his conduct, if he really entertained the idea of my rejecting his hand if informed of the truth!"

"He loved you too well to incur the risk of losing you."

"No, no, my lord; had he really loved me, he would never have sacrificed me to his selfish passion. Nay, so wretched was my position at that time, and such was my desire to quit my father's roof, that, had he been candid and explicit with me, it is more than probable he would have moved me to pity the species of misery he was condemned to endure, and to sympathise with one so cut off from the tender ties which sweeten life. I really believe, at this moment, that, touched by his open, manly confession, as well as interested for one labouring under so severe an infliction of the Almighty's hand, I should scarcely have had the courage to refuse him my hand; and, once aware of all I had undertaken, nothing should have deterred me from the full and conscientious discharge of every solemn duty towards him. But to compel this pity and interest, merely because he had me[Pg 242] in his power, and to exact my consideration and sympathy, because, unhappily, I was his wife, and had sworn to obligations, the full force of which had been concealed from me, was at once the act of a coward and a wrong-judging mind. How could I hold myself bound to endure the heavy penalties of my unfortunate marriage, when my husband had trampled on every tie which binds an honourable mind? And now, my lord, you may form some little idea of my wedded life; you are now aware how shamefully I was deceived, and that, too, by the person in whose hands I unsuspectingly placed the future happiness of my whole existence. I had implicitly trusted in M. d'Harville, and he had most dishonourably and treacherously repaid my trustfulness with bitter and irremediable wrongs. The gentle, timid melancholy which had so greatly interested me in his favour, and which he attributed to pious recollections, was, in truth, only the workings of a conscience ill at ease, and the knowledge of his own incurable infirmity."

"Still, were he a stranger or an enemy, a heart so noble and generous as yours would pity such sufferings as he endures?"

"But can I calm those sufferings? If he could distinguish my voice, or if only a look of recognition answered my sorrowing glance! But no. Oh, my lord, it is impossible for such as have never seen them to form an idea of those frightful paroxysms, in which every sense is suspended, and the unfortunate sufferer merely recovers from his frenzy to fall into a sort of sullen dejection! When my dear child experiences one of these attacks, it almost breaks my heart to see her tender frame twisted, stiffened, and distorted, by the dreadful convulsions which accompany it. Still, she is my own, my beloved infant, and, when I see her bitter agonies, my hatred and aversion to her father are increased an hundredfold. But, when my poor child becomes calmer, so does my irritation against my husband[Pg 243] subside also; and then—ah, then—the natural tenderness of my heart makes my angry feelings give place to a species of sorrow and pity for him. Yet surely I did not marry at only seventeen years of age merely to experience the alternations of hatred and painful commiseration, and to weep over a frail and sickly infant, whom, after all, I may not be permitted to rear. And, as regards this beloved object of my incessant prayers, permit me, my lord, to anticipate a reproach I doubtless deserve, and which you would be unwilling to make. My daughter, young as she is, is capable of interesting my affections and fully occupying my heart; but the love she inspires is so cruelly mixed with present anguish and future apprehensions, that my tenderness for my child invariably ends in tears and bitter grief. When I am with her, my heart is torn with agony, a heavy, crushing weight presses on my heart at the thoughts of her hopeless, suffering state. Not all the fondest devices of a mother's love can overcome a malady pronounced by all our faculty as incurable. Thus, then, by way of relief and refuge from the atmosphere of wretchedness which surrounded me, I had pictured to myself the possibility of finding calm and repose for my troubled spirit in an attachment, so vain, so empty, that—But I have been deceived a second time, most unworthily deceived; and there is now nothing left for me but to resign myself to the gloom and misery of the life my husband's want of candour has entailed upon me. But tell me, my lord, is it such an existence as I was justified in expecting when I bestowed my hand on M. d'Harville? And am I alone to blame for those injuries, to avenge which my husband had this day determined to take my life? My fault was great, very great; and the more so, because the object I had selected was every way so unworthy, and leaves me the additional shame of having to blush for my choice. Happily for me, my lord, the conversation you overheard between the Countess[Pg 244] Sarah and her brother on the subject of M. Charles Robert spares me much of the humiliation I should otherwise have experienced in making this confession. I only venture to hope that, since listening to my relation, you may be induced to consider me as much an object of pity as I admit I am of blame."

"I cannot express to you, madame, how deeply your narrative has touched me. What gnawing grief, what hidden sorrows have you not been called upon to endure, from the death of your mother to the birth of your child! Who would ever believe such ills could reach one so envied, so admired, and so calculated to enjoy and impart happiness to others?"

"Oh, my lord, there are some sorrows so deep, so unapproachable, that for worlds we would not even have them suspected; and the severest increase of suffering would arise from the very doubt of our being the enviable creatures we are believed to be."

"You are right; nothing would be more painful than the question, openly expressed, 'Is she or he as happy as they seem to be?' Still, if there is any happiness in the knowledge, be assured you are not the only one who has to struggle with the fearful contrast between reality and that which the world believes."

"How so, my lord?"

"Because, in the eyes of all who know you, your husband is esteemed even happier than yourself, since he possesses one so rich in every good gift; and yet is not he also much to be pitied? Can there be a more miserable existence than the one he leads? He has acted unfairly and selfishly towards you, but has he not been bitterly punished? He loves you with a passion, deep and sincere, worthy of you to have inspired, yet he knows that your only feeling towards him is insurmountable aversion and contempt. In his feeble, suffering child he beholds a constant reproach; nor is that all he is called[Pg 245] upon to endure; jealousy also assails him with her nameless tortures."

"And how can I help that, my lord? By giving him no occasion for jealousy, you reply. And certainly you are right. But, think you, because no other person would possess my love, it would any the more be his? He knows full well it would not. Since the fearful scene I related to you, we have lived entirely apart, while in the eyes of the world I have kept up every necessary appearance of married happiness. With the exception of yourself, my lord, I have never breathed a syllable of this fatal secret to mortal ears: thus, therefore, I venture to ask advice of you I could not solicit from any human being."

"And I, madame, can with truth assure you that, if the trifling service I have rendered you be deemed worthy of notice, I hold myself a thousand times overpaid by the confidence you have reposed in me. But, since you deign to ask my advice, and permit me to speak candidly—"

"Oh, yes, my lord, I beseech you to use the frankness and sincerity you would show to a sister!"

"Then allow me to tell you that, for want of employing one of your most precious qualities, you lose vast enjoyments, which would not only fill up that void in your heart, but would distract you from your domestic sorrows and supply that need of stirring emotions, excitement, and," added the prince, smiling, "I dare almost to venture to add,—pray forgive me for having so bad an opinion of your sex,—that natural love for mystery and intrigue which exercises so powerful an empire over many, if not all, females."

"What do you mean, my lord?"

"I mean that, if you would play at the game of doing good, nothing would please or interest you more."

Madame d'Harville surveyed Rodolph with astonishment.[Pg 246]

"And understand," resumed he, "I speak not of sending large sums carelessly, almost disdainfully, to unfortunate creatures, of whom you know nothing, and who are frequently undeserving of your favour. But if you would amuse yourself, as I do, at playing, from time to time, at the game of Providence, you would acknowledge that occasionally our good deeds put on all the piquancy and charms of a romance."

"I must confess, my lord," said Clémence, with a smile, "it never occurred to me to class charity under the head of amusements."

"It is a discovery I owe to my horror of all tediums, all wearisome, long-protracted affairs,—a sort of horror which has been principally inspired by long political conferences and ministerial discussions. But to return to our game of amusing beneficence: I cannot, alas, aspire to possess that disinterested virtue which makes some people content to entrust others with the office of either ill or well distributing their bounty, and, if it merely required me to send one of my chamberlains to carry a few hundred louis to each of the divisions in and around Paris, I confess, to my shame, that the scheme would not interest me nearly as much as it does at present, while doing good, after my notions on the subject, is one of the most entertaining and exciting amusements you can imagine. I prefer the word 'amusing,' because to me it conveys the idea of all that pleases, charms, and allures us. And, really, madame, if you would only become my accomplice in a few dark intrigues of this sort, you would see that, apart from the praiseworthiness of the action, nothing is really more curious, inviting, attractive, or diverting, than these charitable adventures. And then, what mystery is requisite to conceal the benefits we render! what precautions to prevent ourselves from being discovered! what varied, yet powerful, emotions are excited at the aspect of poor but worthy people shedding tears of joy and calling down Heaven's blessing[Pg 247] on your head! Depend upon it, such a group is, after all, more gratifying than the pale, angry countenance of either a jealous or an unfaithful lover, and there are very few who do not class either under one head or the other. The emotions I describe are closely allied to those you experienced this morning while going to the Rue du Temple. Simply dressed, that you may escape observation, you go forth with a palpitating heart; you also ascend with a throbbing breast some modest fiacre, carefully drawing down the blinds to prevent yourself from being seen; then, looking cautiously from side to side that you are not observed, you quickly enter a mean-looking dwelling, just like this morning, you see, the only difference being that, whereas to-day you said, 'If I am discovered I am lost!' then you would only smile as you mentally uttered, 'If I am discovered, they will overwhelm me with praises and blessings!' Now, since you possess your many adorable qualities in all their pure modesty, you would employ the most artful schemes, the most complicated manœuvres, to prevent yourself from being known, and, consequently, wept over and blessed as an angel of goodness."

"Ah, my lord," cried Madame d'Harville, deeply moved, "you are indeed my preserver! I cannot express the new ideas, the consoling hopes, awakened within me by your words. You are quite right; to endeavour to gain the blessing and gratitude of such as are poor and in misery is almost equal to being loved even as I would wish to be; nay, it is even superior in its purity and absence of self. When I compare the existence I now venture to anticipate with the shameful and degraded lot I was preparing for myself, my own reproaches become more bitter and severe."

"I should, indeed, be grieved," said Rodolph, smiling, "were that to be the case, since all my desire is to make you forget the past, and to prove to you that there are various modes of recreating and distracting our minds;[Pg 248] the means of good and evil are very frequently nearly the same: it is the end, only, which differs. In a word, if good is as attractive, as amusing, as evil, why should we prefer the latter? I am going to use a very commonplace and hackneyed simile. Why do many women take as lovers men not nearly as worthy of that distinction as their own husbands? Because the greatest charm of love consists in the difficulties which surround it; for once deprived of the hopes, the fears, the anxieties, difficulties, mysteries, and dangers, and little or nothing would remain, merely the lover, stripped of all the prestige derivable from these causes, and a very every-day object he would appear; very much after the fashion of the individual who, when asked by a friend why he did not marry his mistress, replied, 'Why, I was thinking of it; but, if I did, where should I go to pass my evenings?'"

"Your picture is coloured after nature, my lord," said Madame d'Harville, smiling.

"Well, then, if I can find the means of enabling you to experience the fears, the anxieties, the excitement, which seem to have such charms for you, if I can render useful your natural love for mystery and romance, your inclination for dissimulation and artifice,—you see my bad opinion of your sex will peep out in spite of me," added Rodolph, gaily,—"shall I not change into fine and generous qualities instincts which otherwise are mere ungovernable and unmanageable impulses, excellent, if well employed, most fatal, if directed badly? Now, then, what do you say? Shall we get up all manner of benevolent plots and charitable dissipations? We will have our rendezvous, our correspondence, our secrets, and, above all, we will carefully conceal all our doings from the marquis, for your visit of to-day to the Morels has, in all probability, excited his suspicions. There, you see, it only requires your consent to commence a regular intrigue."[Pg 249]

"I accept with joy and gratitude the mysterious associations you propose, my lord," said Clémence; "and, by way of beginning our romance, I will return to-morrow to visit those poor creatures to whom, unfortunately, this morning I could only utter a few words of consolation; for, taking advantage of my terror and alarm, the purse you so thoughtfully supplied me with was stolen from me by a lame boy as I ascended the stairs. Ah, my lord," added Clémence (and her countenance lost the expression of gentle gaiety by which a few minutes before it was animated), "if you only knew what misery, what a picture of wretchedness—no! oh, no! I never could have believed so horrid a scene, or that such want existed; and yet I bewail my condition and complain of my severe destiny."

Rodolph, wishing to conceal from Madame d'Harville how deeply he was touched at this application of the woes of others, as teaching patience and resignation, yet fully recognising in the meek and subdued spirit the fine and noble qualities of her mind, said, gaily:

"With your permission, I shall except the Morels from your jurisdiction; you shall resign them to my care, and, above all things, promise me not again to enter that miserable place, for, to tell you the truth, I live there."

"You, my lord? What an idea!"

"Nay, but you really must believe me when I say I live there, for it is actually true. I confess mine is somewhat a humble lodging, a mere matter of eight pounds a year, in addition to which I pay the large and liberal sum of six francs a month to the porteress, Madame Pipelet, that ugly old woman you saw; but, to make up for all this, I have as my next neighbour, Mlle. Rigolette, the prettiest grisette in the Quartier du Temple. And you must allow that, for a merchant's clerk, with a salary of only seventy-two pounds a year (I pass as a clerk), such a domicile is well suited to my means."[Pg 250]

"Your unhoped-for presence in that fatal house proves to me that you are speaking seriously, my lord; some generous action leads you there, no doubt! But what good action do you reserve for me? What part do you propose for me to sustain?"

"That of an angel of consolation, and—pray excuse and allow me the word—a very demon of cunning and manœuvres! For there are some wounds so painful, as well as delicate, that the hand of a woman only can watch over and heal them. There are, also, unfortunate beings so proud, so reserved, and so hidden from observation, that it requires uncommon penetration to discover them, and an irresistible charm to win their confidence."

"And when shall I have an opportunity of displaying the penetration and skill for which you give me credit?" asked Madame d'Harville, impatiently.

"Soon, I hope, you will have to make a conquest worthy of you; but, to succeed, you must employ all your most ingenious resources."

"And when, my lord, will you confide this great secret to me?"

"Let me see! You perceive, we have already got as far as arranging our rendezvous. Could you do me the favour to grant me an audience in four days' time?"

"Dear me! so long first?" said Clémence, innocently.

"But what would become of the mystery of the affair, and all the strict forms and appearances necessary to be kept up, if we were to meet sooner? Just imagine! If our partnership were suspected, people would be on their guard, and we should seldom achieve our purpose. I may very probably have to write to you. Who was that aged female who brought me your note?"

"An old servant of my mother's, the very personification of prudence and discretion."

"I will then address my letters under cover to her,[Pg 251] and she will deliver them into your hands. If you are kind enough to return any answer, address 'To M. Rodolph, Rue Plumet,' and let your maid put your letters in the post."

"I will do that myself, my lord, when taking my usual morning's walk."

"Do you often walk out alone?"

"In fine weather nearly every day."

"That's right! It is a custom all young women should observe from the very earliest period of their marriage,—either from a good or an improper provision against future evil. The habit once established, it becomes what the lawyers style a precedent; and, in subsequent days, these habitual promenades excite no dangerous interpretations. If I had been a woman,—and, between ourselves, I fear I should have been very charitable, but equally flighty,—the very day after my marriage I should, in all possible innocence, have taken the most mysterious steps, and, with perfect simplicity, have involved myself in all manner of suspicious and compromising proceedings, for the purpose of establishing the precedent I spoke of, in order to be at liberty either to visit my poor pensioners or to meet my lover."

"But that would be downright perfidy to one's husband, would it not, my lord?" said Madame d'Harville, smiling.

"Fortunately for you, madame, you have never been driven to the necessity of admitting the utility of such provisionary measures."

Madame d'Harville's smile left her lips. She cast down her eyes, and, blushing deeply, said, in a low and sad voice, "This is not generous, my lord!"

At first Rodolph regarded the marquise with astonishment, then added, "I understand you, madame. But, once for all, let us weigh well your position as regards M. Charles Robert. I will just imagine that one of[Pg 252] your acquaintances may one day have pointed out to you one of those pitiable-looking mendicants who roll their eyes most sentimentally, and play on the clarionet with desperate energy, to awaken the sympathy of the passers-by. 'That is really and truly a genuine case of distress,' observes your friend. 'That interesting musician has at least seven children, and a wife deaf, dumb, blind,' etc. 'Ah, poor fellow!' you reply, charitably aiding him with your purse. And so, each time you meet this case of genuine distress, the clarionet-player, the moment he discerns you from afar, fixes his imploring eyes upon you, while the most touching strains of his instrument are directed to touch your charitable sympathies, and that, too, so successfully, that again your purse opens at this fresh appeal. One day, more than usually disposed to pity this very unfortunate object by the importunities of the friend who first pointed him out to you, and who is most wickedly abusing your generous heart, you resolve to visit this case of genuine distress, as your false friend terms it, and to behold the poor object of your solicitude in the midst of his misery. Well, you go. But, lo! the grief-stricken musician has vanished; and in his place you find a lively, rollicking fellow, enjoying himself over some of the good things of this world, and mirthfully carolling forth the last new alehouse catch. Then disgust succeeds to pity; for you have bestowed your sympathy and charity alike upon an impostor, neither more nor less. Is it not so?"

Madame d'Harville could not restrain a smile at this singular apologue. She, however, soon checked it, as she added:

"However grateful I may feel for this mode of justifying my great imprudence, my lord, I can but confess I dare not avail myself of so favourable a pretext as that of mistaken charity."

"Yet, after all, yours was an error based upon motives of noble and generous pity for the wounded feelings of[Pg 253] one you believed a genuine object for commiseration. Fortunately, there are so many ways left you of atoning for one indiscretion, that your regret need be but small. Shall I not have the pleasure of seeing M. d'Harville this evening?"

"No, my lord. The scene of this morning has so much affected him that he is—ill," said the marquise, in a low, tremulous tone.

"Ah," replied Rodolph, sadly, "I understand! Come, courage! you were saying that you required an aim, a motive, a means of directing your thoughts. Permit me to hope that all this will be accomplished by following out the plan I have proposed. Your heart will be then so filled with the delightful recollection of all the happiness you have caused, and all the good you have effected, that, in all probability, you will find no room for resentment against your husband. In place of angry feelings, you will regard him with the same sorrowing pity you look on your dear child. And as for the interesting little creature herself, now you have confided to me the cause of her delicate health, I almost think myself warranted in bidding you yet to entertain hopes of overcoming the fearful complaint which has hitherto affected her tender frame."

"Oh, my lord!" exclaimed Clémence, clasping her hands with eagerness, "can it be possible? How? In what manner can my child be saved?"

"I have, as physician to myself and household, a man almost unknown, though possessed of a first-rate science. Great part of his life was passed in America; and I remember his speaking to me of some marvellous cures performed by him on slaves attacked by this distressing complaint."

"And do you really think, my lord—"

"Nay, you must not allow yourself to dwell too confidently upon success; the disappointment would be so very severe. Only, do not let us wholly despair."[Pg 254]

Clémence d'Harville cast a hasty glance of unutterable gratitude over the noble features of Rodolph, the firm, unflinching friend, who reconciled her to herself with so much good sense, intelligence, and delicacy of feeling. Then she asked herself how, for one instant, she could ever have been interested in the fate of such a being as M. Charles Robert,—the very idea was hateful to her.

"What do I not owe you, my lord?" cried she, in a voice of thrilling emotion; "you console me for the past; you open to me a glimpse of hope for my child; and you place before me a plan of future occupation which shall afford me both consolation and the delight of doing my duty. Ah, was I not right when I said that, if you would come here to-night, you would finish the day as you had begun it,—by performing a good action?"

"And pray, madame, do not omit to add,—an action after my own heart, where all is pleasure and unmixed enjoyment in its performance. And now, adieu!" said Rodolph, rising as the clock struck half-past eleven.

"Adieu, my lord, and pray do not forget to send me news ere long of those poor people in the Rue du Temple."

"I will see them to-morrow, for, unfortunately, I knew not of that little limping rascal having stolen your purse; and I fear that the unhappy creatures are in the most deplorable want. Have the kindness to bear in mind that, in the course of four days, I shall come to explain to you the nature of the part you will be required to undertake. One thing I must prepare you for; and that is, the probability of its being requisite for you to assume a disguise on the occasion."

"A disguise? Oh, how charming! What sort of one, my lord?"

"I cannot tell you at present. I will leave the choice to you."

"All that is requisite," said the prince, on his return home, "to save this excellent woman from the perils of[Pg 255] another attachment, is to fill her mind with generous thoughts; and, since an invincible repugnance separates her from her husband, to employ her love for the romantic in such charitable actions as shall require being enshrouded in mystery."

[Pg 256]



The reader has probably not forgotten that the garret in the Rue du Temple was occupied by an unfortunate family, the father of whom was a working lapidary, named Morel. We shall now endeavour to describe the wretched abode of Morel and his children.

It was six o'clock in the morning; a deep silence dwelt around. The streets were still deserted, for the snow fell fast, and the cold, biting wind froze as it blew. A miserable candle, stuck upon a small block of wood, and supported by two slips of the same material, scarcely penetrated with its yellow, flickering light the misty darkness of the garret,—a narrow, low-built place, two-thirds of which was formed by the sloping roof, which communicated by a sharp angle with the wretched flooring, and freely exposed the moss-covered tiles of the outer roof. Walls covered with plaster, blackened by time, and split into countless crevices, displayed the rotten, worm-eaten laths, which formed the frail division from other chambers, while in one corner of this deplorable habitation a door off the hinges opened upon a narrow staircase. The ground, of a nameless colour, but foul, fetid, and slippery, was partly strewed with bits of dirty straw, old rags, and bones, the residue of that unwholesome and vitiated food sold by the dealers in condemned meat, and frequently bought by[Pg 257] starving wretches, for the purpose of gnawing the few cartilages that may adhere.[4]

[4] It is no uncommon thing to meet, in densely crowded parts of Paris, with persons who openly sell the flesh of animals born dead, as well as of others who have died of disease, etc.

So wretched a condition either arises from improvidence and vice, or from unavoidable misery,—misery so great, so overwhelming and paralysing, as to enfeeble every energy, and to render the unhappy object of it too hopeless, too despairing, even to attempt to extricate himself from the squalor of his utter destitution, and he crouches in his dirt and desolation like an animal in its den.

During the day, Morel's garret was lighted by a species of long, narrow skylight formed in the descending roof, framed and glazed, and made to open and shut by means of a pulley and string; but, at the hour which we are describing, a heavy fall of snow encumbered the window, and effectually prevented its affording any light. The candle placed on Morel's working-table, which stood in the centre of the chamber, diffused a kind of halo of pale, sickly beams, which, gradually diminishing, was at last lost in the dim shadow which overspread the place, in whose murky duskiness might be seen the faint outline of several white-looking masses. On the work-table, which was merely a heavy and roughly cut wooden block of unpolished oak, covered with grease and soot, lay, loosely scattered about, a handful of rubies and diamonds, of more than ordinary size and brilliancy, while, as the mean rays of the small candle were reflected on them, they glittered and sparkled like so many coruscating fires.

Morel was a worker of real stones, and not false ones, as he had given out, and as was universally believed, in the Rue du Temple. Thanks to this innocent deception, the costly jewels entrusted to him were merely supposed to be so many pieces of glass, too valueless to tempt the cupidity of any one. Such riches, confided to the care[Pg 258] of one as poor and miserably destitute as Morel, will render any reference to the honesty of his character quite unnecessary.

Seated on a high stool, and wholly overcome by fatigue, cold, and weariness, after a long winter's night, passed in unceasing labour, the poor lapidary had fallen asleep on his block, with his head upon his half-frozen arms, and his forehead resting against a small grindstone, placed horizontally on the table, and generally put in motion by a little hand-wheel, while a fine steel saw, and various other tools belonging to his trade, were lying beside him. The man himself, of whom nothing but the skull, surrounded by a fringe of gray hairs, was visible, was dressed in a shabby fustian jacket, without any species of linen or garment beneath it, and an old pair of cloth trousers, while his worn-out slippers scarcely concealed the blue, cold feet they partially covered, from resting solely on the damp, shiny floor; and so bitter, so freezing, was the sharp winter wind which freely entered into this scarcely human dwelling, that, spite of the weariness and exhaustion of the overworked artisan, his frame shuddered and shivered with involuntary frequency. The length of the wick of the unsnuffed candle bespoke the length of time even this uneasy slumber must have lasted, and no sound save his troubled and irregular breathing broke the deathlike silence that prevailed; for, alas! the other occupants of this mean abode were not so fortunate as to be able to forget their sufferings in sleep. Yet this narrow, pent-up, unwholesome spot contained no less than seven other persons,—five children, the youngest of whom was four years of age, the eldest twelve, a sick and declining wife, with an aged grandmother, the parent of Morel's wife, now in her eightieth year, and an idiot!

The cold must have been intense, indeed, when the natural warmth of so many persons, so closely packed together in so small a place, could not in any way affect[Pg 259] the freezing atmosphere; it was evident, therefore, to speak scientifically, that but little caloric was given out by the poor, weak, emaciated, shivering creatures, all suffering and almost expiring with cold and hunger, from the puny infant to the idiotic old grandmother.

With the exception of the father of the family, who had temporarily yielded to the aching of his heavy eyelids, no other creature slept,—no other; because cold, starvation, and sickness will not allow so sweet an enjoyment as the closing the eyes in peaceful rest. Little does the world believe how rarely comes that sound, healthful, and refreshing slumber to the poor man's pillow, which at once invigorates the mind and body, and sends the willing labourer back to his toil refreshed and recruited by the blessing of a beneficent Creator. To taste of nature's sweet, refreshing, balmy sleep, sickness, sorrow, poverty, and mental disquietude must not share the humble pallet.

In contrasting the deep misery of the poor artisan, with whose woes we are now occupying the reader, with the immense value of the jewelry confided to him, we are struck by one of those comparisons which afflict while they elevate the mind. With the distracting spectacle of his family's want and wretchedness, embracing a wide field from cold and hunger to drivelling idiocy, constantly before his eyes, this man, in the pursuance of his daily labour, is compelled to touch and handle and gaze upon bright and sparkling gems, the smallest of which would be a mine of wealth to him, and save those dearest to him from sufferings and privations which wring his very heart; would snatch them from the slow and lingering death which is consuming them before his eyes. Yet, amid all these trials and temptations, the artisan remains firmly, truly, and unflinchingly honest, and would no more appropriate one of the glittering stones entrusted to him than he would satisfy his hunger at the expense of his starving babes. Doubtless the man[Pg 260] but performed his duty to his employer,—his simple duty; but because it is enjoined to all to be honest and faithful in that which is committed to them, does that render the action itself less noble, magnanimous, or praiseworthy? Is not this unfortunate artisan, so courageously, so bravely upright and honest while entrusted with the property of another, the type and model of an immense class of working people, who, doomed to a life of continual poverty and privation, see, with calm, patient looks, thousands of their brethren rolling in splendour and abounding in riches, yet they toil on, resigned and unenvying, but still industriously striving for bread their hardest efforts cannot always procure? And is there not something consolatory, as well as gratifying to our feelings, to consider that it is neither force nor terror, but good natural sense and a right mind which alone restrain this formidable ocean, this heaving mass, whose bounds once broken, a moral inundation would ensue, in which society itself would be swallowed up? Shall we, then, refuse to cooperate with all the powers of our mind and body with those generous and enlightened spirits, who ask but a little sunshine for so much misfortune, courage, and resignation?

Let us now return to the, alas! too true specimen of distressing want we shall endeavour to describe in all its fearful and startling reality.

The lapidary possessed only a thin mattress and a portion of a blanket appropriated to the old grandmother, who, in her stupid and ferocious selfishness, would not allow any person to share them with her. In the beginning of the winter she had become quite violent, and had even attempted to strangle the youngest child, who had been put to sleep with her. This poor infant was a sickly little creature, of about four years old, now far gone in consumption, and who found it too cold inside the mattress, where she slept with her brothers and sisters.[Pg 261] Hereafter we shall explain this mode of sleeping so frequently employed by the very poor, in comparison with whom the very animals are treated luxuriously, for their litter is changed. Such was the picture presented in the humble garret of the poor lapidary, when the eye was enabled to pierce the gloomy penumbra caused by the flickering rays of the candle. By the side of the partition wall, not less damp and cracked than the others, was placed on the floor the mattress on which the idiot grandmother reposed; as she could not bear anything on her head, her white hair was cut very short, and revealed the shape of her head and flat forehead; while her shaggy, gray eyebrows shaded the deep orbits, from which glared a wild, savage, yet crafty look; her pale, hollow, wrinkled cheeks hung upon the bones of the face and the sharp angles of her jaws. Lying upon her side, and almost doubled up, her chin nearly touching her knees, she lay, shivering with cold, beneath the gray rug, too small to cover her all over, and which, as she drew it over her shoulders, exposed her thin, emaciated legs, as well as the wretched old petticoat in which she was clad. An odour most fetid and repulsive issued from this bed.

At a little distance from the mattress of the grandmother, and still extending along the side of the wall, was placed the paillasse which served as a sleeping-place for the five children, who were accommodated after the following manner:

An opening was made at each side of the cloth which covered the straw, and the children were inserted into this bed, or, rather, foul and noisome dunghill, the outer case serving both for sheet and counterpane. Two little girls, one of whom was extremely ill, shivered on one side, and three young boys on the other, all going to bed without undressing, if, indeed, the miserable rags they wore could be termed clothes. Masses of thick, dry, light hair, tangled, ragged, and uncombed, left uncut because their poor mother fancied it helped to keep them[Pg 262] warm, half covered their pale, thin, pinched features. One of the boys drew, with his cold, benumbed fingers, the covering over their straw bed up to his chin, in order to defend himself from the cold; while another, fearful of exposing his hands to the influence of the frost, tried to grasp the bed-covering with his teeth, which rattled and shook in his head; while a third strove to huddle up to his brothers in the hopes of gaining a little warmth. The youngest of the two girls, fatally attacked by consumption, leaned her poor little face, which already bore the hue of death, languidly against the chilly bosom of her sister, a girl just one year older, who vainly sought, by pressing her in her arms, to impart comfort and ease to the little sufferer, over whom she watched with the anxious solicitude of a parent.

On another paillasse, also placed on the ground, at the foot of that of the children, the wife of the artisan was extended, groaning in helpless exhaustion from the effects of a slow fever and an internal complaint, which had not permitted her to quit her bed for several months. Madeleine Morel was in her thirty-sixth year; a blue cotton handkerchief, tied round her low forehead, made the bilious pallor of her countenance and sharp, emaciated features still more conspicuous. A dark halo encircled her hollow, sunken eyes, while her lips were split and bleeding from the effects of the fever which consumed her; her dejected, grief-worn physiognomy, and small, insignificant features, indicated one of those gentle but weak natures, without resource or energy, which unable to struggle with misfortunes, yield at once, and know no remedy but vain and ceaseless lamentations and regrets. Weak, spiritless, and of limited capacity, she had remained honest because her husband was so; had she been left to herself, it is probable that ignorance and misfortune might have depraved her mind and driven her to any lengths. She loved her husband and her children, but she had neither the courage nor resolution to[Pg 263] restrain giving vent to loud and open complaints respecting their mutual misery; and frequently was the lapidary, whose unflinching labour alone maintained the family, obliged to quit his work to console and pacify the poor valetudinarian. Over and above an old ragged sheet of coarse brown cloth, which partially covered his wife, Morel had, in order to impart a little warmth, laid a few old clothes, so worn out, and patched and pieced, that the pawnbroker had refused to have anything to do with them.

A stove, a saucepan, a damaged earthen stewpan, two or three cracked cups, scattered about on the floor, a bucket, a board to wash on, and a large stone pitcher, placed beneath the angle of the roof near the broken door, which the wind kept continually blowing to and fro, completed the whole of the family possessions.

This picture of squalid misery and desolation was lighted up by the candle, whose flame, agitated by the cold northeasterly wind which found its way through the tiles on the roof, sometimes imparted a pale, unearthly light on the wretched scene, and then, playing on the heaps of diamonds and rubies lying beside the sleeping artisan, caused a thousand scintillating sparks to spring forth and dazzle the eye with their prismatic rays of brightness.

Although the profoundest silence reigned around, seven out of the eight unfortunate dwellers in this attic were awake; and each, from the grandmother to the youngest child, watched the sleeping lapidary with intense emotion, as their only hope, their only resource, and, in their childlike selfishness, they murmured at seeing him thus inactive and relinquishing that labour which they well knew was all they had to depend on; but with different feelings of regret and uneasiness did the lookers-on observe the slumber of the toil-worn man. The mother trembled for her children's meal; the children thought but of themselves; while the idiot neither thought of nor cared for any one. All at once she sat upright[Pg 264] in her wretched bed, crossed her long, bony arms, yellow and dry as box-wood, on her shrivelled bosom, and kept watching the candle with twinkling eyes; then, rising slowly and stealthily, she crept along, trailing after her her old ragged coverlet, which clung around her as though it had been her winding-sheet. She was above the middle height, and her hair being so closely shaven made her head appear disproportionately small; a sort of spasmodic movement kept up a constant trembling in her thick, pendulous under-lip, while her whole countenance offered the hideous model of ferocious stupidity. Slowly and cautiously the idiot approached the lapidary's work-table, like a child about to commit some forbidden act. When she reached the candle, she held her two trembling hands over the flame; and such was their skeleton-like condition, that the flickering light shone through them, imparting a pale, livid hue to her features. From her pallet Madeleine Morel watched every movement of the old woman, who, still warming herself over the candle, stooped her head, and with a silly kind of delight watched the sparkling of the diamonds and rubies, which lay glittering on the table. Wholly absorbed in the wondrous contemplation of such bright and beautiful things, the idiot allowed her hands to fall into the flame of the candle, nor did she seem to recollect where they were till the sense of burning recalled her attention, when she manifested her pain and anger by a harsh, screaming cry.

At this sound Morel started, and quickly raised his head. He was about forty years of age, with an open, intelligent, and mild expression of countenance, but yet wearing the sad, dejected look of one who had been the sport of misery and misfortune till they had planted furrows in his cheeks and crushed and broken his spirit. A gray beard of many weeks' growth covered the lower part of his face, which was deeply marked by the smallpox; premature wrinkles furrowed his already bald[Pg 265] forehead; while his red and inflamed eyelids showed the overtaxed and sleepless days and nights of toil he so courageously endured. A circumstance, but too common with such of the working class as are doomed by their occupation to remain nearly all day in one position, had warped his figure, and, acting upon a naturally feeble constitution, had produced a contraction of his whole frame. Continually obliged to stoop over his work-table and to lean to the left, in order to keep his grindstone going, the lapidary, in a manner petrified, ossified in the attitude he was frequently obliged to preserve from twelve to fifteen hours a day, had acquired an habitual stoop of the shoulders, and was completely drawn on one side. So his left arm, incessantly exercised by the difficult management of the grindstone, had acquired a considerable muscular development; whilst the right arm, always inert and leaning on the table, the better to present the faces of the diamonds to the action of the grindstone, had wasted to the most extreme attenuation; his wasted limbs, almost paralysed by complete want of exercise, could scarcely support the weary, worn-out body, as though all strength, substance, and vitality had concentrated themselves in the only part called into play when toiling for the subsistence of, with himself, eight human creatures.

And often would poor Morel touchingly observe: "It is not for myself that I care to eat, but to give strength to the arm which turns the mill."

Awaking with a sudden start, the lapidary found himself directly opposite to the poor idiot.

"What ails you? what is the matter, mother?" said Morel; and then added, in a lower tone, for fear of awaking the family, whom he hoped and believed were asleep, "Go back to bed, mother; Madeleine and the children are asleep!"

"No, father," cried the eldest of the little girls, "I am awake; I am trying to warm poor little Adèle."[Pg 266]

"And I am too hungry to go to sleep," added one of the boys; "it was not my turn to-night to have supper with Mlle. Rigolette."

"Poor things!" said Morel, sorrowfully; "I thought you were asleep—at least—"

"I was afraid of awaking you, Morel," said the wife, "or I should have begged of you to give me a drink of water; I am devoured with thirst! My feverish fit has come on again!"

"I will directly," said the lapidary; "only let me first get mother back to bed. Come! come! what are you meddling with those stones for? Let them alone, I say!" cried he to the old woman, whose whole attention seemed riveted upon a splendid ruby, the bright scintillations of which had so charmed the poor idiot that she was trying by every possible means to gain possession of it.

"There's a pretty thing! there, there!" replied the woman, pointing with vehement gestures to the prize she so ardently coveted.

"I shall be angry in a few minutes," exclaimed Morel, speaking in a loud voice to terrify his mother-in-law into submission, and gently pushing back the hand she advanced to seize her desired treasure.

"Oh, Morel! Morel!" murmured Madeleine, "I am parching, dying with thirst. How can you be so cruel as to refuse me a little water?"

"But how can I at present? I must not allow mother to meddle with these stones,—perhaps to lose me a diamond, as she did a year ago; and God alone knows the wretchedness and misery it cost us,—ay, may still occasion us. Ah, that unfortunate loss of the diamond, what have we not suffered by it!"

As the poor lapidary uttered these words, he passed his hand over his aching brow with a desponding air, and said to one of the children:

"Felix, give your mother something to drink. You are awake, and can attend to her."[Pg 267]

"No, no," exclaimed Madeleine; "he will take cold. I will wait."

"Oh, mother," said the boy, rising, "never mind me. I shall be quite as warm up as I am in this paillasse."

"Come, will you let the things alone?" cried Morel, in a threatening tone, to the idiot woman, who kept bending over the precious stones and trying to seize them, spite of all his efforts to move her from the table.

"Mother," called out Felix, "what shall I do? The water in the pitcher is frozen quite hard."

"Then break the ice," murmured Madeleine.

"It is so thick, I can't," answered the boy.

"Morel!" exclaimed Madeleine, in a querulous and impatient tone, "since there is nothing but water for me to drink, let me at least have a draught of that! You are letting me die with thirst!"

"God of heaven grant me patience!" cried the unfortunate man. "How can I leave your mother to lose and destroy these stones? Pray let me manage her first."

But the lapidary found it no easy matter to get rid of the idiot, who, beginning to feel irritated at the constant opposition she met with, gave utterance to her displeasure in a sort of hideous growl.

"Call her, wife!" said Morel. "She will attend to you sometimes."

"Mother! mother!" called Madeleine, "go to bed, and be good, and then you shall have some of that nice coffee you are so fond of!"

"I want that! and that! There! there!" replied the idiot, making a desperate effort this time to possess herself of a heap of rubies she particularly coveted. Morel firmly, but gently, repulsed her,—all in vain; with pertinacious obstinacy the old woman kept struggling to break from his grasp, and snatch the bright gems, on which she kept her eyes fixed with eager fondness.[Pg 268]

"You will never manage her," said Madeleine, "unless you frighten her with the whip; there is no other means of making her quiet."

"I am afraid not," returned Morel; "but, though she has no sense, it yet goes to my heart to be obliged to threaten an old woman, like her, with the whip."

Then, addressing the old woman, who was trying to bite him, and whom he was holding back with one hand, he said, in a loud and terrible voice: "Take care; you'll have the whip on your shoulders if you don't make haste to bed this very instant!"

These menaces were equally vain with his former efforts to subdue her. Morel then took a whip which lay beside his work-table, and, cracking it violently, said: "Get to bed with you directly! Get to bed!"

As the loud noise of the whip saluted the ear of the idiot, she hurried away from the lapidary's work-table, then, suddenly turning around, she uttered low, grumbling sounds between her clenched teeth; while she surveyed her son-in-law with looks of the deepest hatred.

"To bed! to bed, I say!" continued he, still advancing, and feigning to raise his whip with the intention of striking; while the idiot, holding her fist towards her son-in-law, retreated backwards to her wretched couch.

The lapidary, anxious to terminate this painful scene, that he might be at liberty to attend to his sick wife, kept still advancing towards the idiot woman, brandishing and cracking his whip, though without allowing it to touch the unhappy creature, repeatedly exclaiming, "To bed! to bed,—directly! Do you hear?"

The old woman, now thoroughly conquered, and fully believing in the reality of the threats held out, began to howl most hideously; and crawling into her bed, like a dog to his kennel, she kept up a continued series of cries, screams, and yells, while the frightened children, believing their poor old grandmother had actually been[Pg 269] beaten, began crying piteously, exclaiming, "Don't beat poor granny, father! Pray don't flog granny!"

It is wholly impossible to describe the fearful effect of these nocturnal horrors, in which were mingled, in one turmoil of sounds, the supplicating cries of the children, the furious yellings of the idiot, and the wailing complaints of the lapidary's sick wife.

To poor Morel such scenes as this were but too frequent. Still, upon the present occasion, his patience and courage seemed utterly to forsake him; and, throwing down the whip upon his work-table, he exclaimed, in bitter despair, "Oh, what a life! what a life!"

"Is it my fault if my mother is an idiot?" asked Madeleine, weeping.

"Is it mine, then?" replied Morel. "All I ask for is peace and quiet enough to allow me to work myself to death for you all. God knows I labour alike night and day! Yet I complain not. And, as long as my strength holds out, I will exert myself to the utmost; but it is quite impossible for me to attend to my business, and be at once a keeper to a mad woman and a nurse to sick people and young children. And Heaven is unjust to put it upon me,—yes, I say unjust! It is too much misery to heap on one man," added Morel, in a tone bordering on distraction. So saying, the heart-broken lapidary threw himself on his stool, and covered his face with his hands.

"Can I help the people at the hospital having refused to receive my mother, because she was not raving mad?" asked Madeleine, in a low, peevish, and complaining voice. "What can I do to alter it? What is the use of your grumbling to me about my mother? and, if you fret ever so much about what neither you nor I can alter, what good will that do?"

"None at all," rejoined the artisan, hastily brushing the large bitter drops despair had driven to his eyes; "none whatever,—you are right; but when everything[Pg 270] goes against you, it is difficult to know what to do or say."

"Gracious Father!" cried Madeleine; "what an agony of thirst I am enduring! My lips are parched with the fever which is consuming me, and yet I shiver as though death were on me!"

"Wait one instant, and I will give you some drink!" So saying, Morel took the pitcher which stood beneath the roof, and, after having with difficulty broken the ice which covered the water, he filled a cup with the frozen liquid, and brought it to the bedside of his wife, who stretched forth her impatient hands to receive it; but, after a moment's reflection, he said, "No, no, I must not let you have it cold as this; in your present state of fever it would be dangerous."

"So much the better if it be dangerous! Quick, quick—give it me!" cried Madeleine, with bitterness; "it will the sooner end my misery, and free you from such an incumbrance as I am; then you will only have to look after mad folks and young children,—there will be no sick-nurse to take up your time."

"Why do you say such hard words to me, Madeleine?" asked Morel, mournfully; "you know I do not deserve them. Pray do not add to my vexations, for I have scarcely strength or reason enough left to go on with my work; my head feels as though something were amiss with it, and I fear much my brain will give way,—and then what would become of you all? 'Tis for you I speak; were there only myself, I should trouble very little about to-morrow,—thank Heaven, the river flows for every one!"

"Poor Morel!" said Madeleine, deeply affected. "I was very wrong to speak so angrily to you, and to say I knew you would be glad to get rid of me. Pray forgive me, for indeed I did not mean any harm; for, after all, what use am I either to you or the children? For the last sixteen months I have kept my bed! Gracious[Pg 271] God! what I do suffer with thirst! For pity's sake, husband, give me something to moisten my burning lips!"

"You shall have it directly; I was trying to warm the cup between my hands."

"How good you are! and yet I could say such wicked things to you!"

"My poor wife, you are ill and in pain, and that makes you impatient; say anything you like to me, but pray never tell me again I wish to get rid of you!"

"But what good am I to any one? what good are our children? None whatever; on the contrary, they heap more toil upon you than you can bear."

"True; yet you see that my love for them and you has endued me with strength and resolution to work frequently twenty hours out of the twenty-four, till my body is bent and deformed by such incessant labour. Do you believe for one instant that I would thus toil and struggle on my own account? Oh, no! life has no such charms for me; and if I were the only sufferer, I would quickly put an end to it."

"And so would I," said Madeleine. "God knows, but for the children I should have said to you, long ago, 'Morel, we have had more than enough to weary us of our lives; there is nothing left but to finish our misery by the help of a pan of charcoal!' But then I recollected the poor, dear, helpless children, and my heart would not let me leave them, alone and unprotected, to starve by themselves."

"Well, then, you see, wife, that the children are, after all, of real good to us, since they prevent us giving way to despair, and serve as a motive for exerting ourselves," replied Morel, with ready ingenuity, yet perfect simplicity of tone and manner. "Now, then, take your drink, but only swallow a little at a time, for it is very cold still."

"Oh, thank you, Morel!" cried Madeleine, snatching the cup, and drinking it eagerly.[Pg 272]

"Enough! enough! no more! you shall not have any more just now, Madeleine."

"Gracious Heaven!" exclaimed Madeleine, giving back the cup, "how cold it seems now I have swallowed it,—it has brought back those dreadful shiverings!"

"Alas!" ejaculated Morel, "I told you so,—ah, now you are quite ill again!"

"I have not strength even to tremble,—I seem as though I were covered over with ice."

Morel took off his jacket, and laid it over his wife's feet, remaining quite naked down to his waist,—the unhappy man did not possess a shirt.

"But you will be frozen to death, Morel!"

"Never mind me; if I find it cold by and by, I will put my jacket on for a few minutes."

"Poor fellow!" sighed Madeleine. "Ah, as you say, Heaven is not just! What have we done to be so wretched, while so many others—"

"Every one has their troubles,—some more, some less,—the great as well as the small."

"Yes; but great people know nothing of the gnawings of hunger, or the bitter pinching of the cold. Why, when I look on those diamonds, and remember that the smallest amongst them would place us and the poor children in ease and comfort, my heart sickens, and I ask myself why it is some should have so much, and others nothing? And what good are these diamonds, after all, to their owners?"

"Why, if we were to go to the question of what half the luxuries of life are really good for, we might go a great way; for instance, what is the good of that grand gentleman Madame Pipelet calls the commandant having engaged and furnished the first floor of this house, when he seldom enters it? What use is it his having there good beds, and warm covering to them, since he never sleeps in them?"

"Very true; there is more furniture lying idle there[Pg 273] than would supply two or three poor families like ours. And then Madame Pipelet lights a fire every day, to preserve the things from the damp. Only think of so much comfortable warmth being lost, while we and the children are almost frozen to death! But then, you will say, we are not articles of value; no, indeed, we are not. Oh, these rich folks, what hard hearts they have!"

"Not harder than other people's, Madeleine; but then, you see, they do not know what misery or want are. They are born rich and happy, they live and die so. How, then, do you expect they can ever think such poor distressed beings exist in a world which to them is all happiness? No! I tell you, they have no idea of such things as fellow creatures toiling beyond their strength for food, and perishing at last with hunger! How is it possible for them to imagine privations like ours? The greater their hunger, the greater enjoyment of their abundant meal. Is the weather severe, or the cold intense, they call it a fine frost, a healthful, bracing season. If they walk out, they return to a glowing, cheerful fire, which the cold only makes them relish the more; so that they can scarcely be expected to sympathise with such as are said to suffer from cold and hunger, when those two things rather add to than diminish their pleasure."

"Ah, poor folks are better than rich, since they can feel for each other, and are always ready and willing to assist each other as much as lies in their power. Look at that kind, good Mlle. Rigolette, who has so often sat up all night, either with me or the children, during our illness. Why, last night she took Jérome and Pierre into her room, to share her supper, and it was not much, either, she had for herself,—only a cup of milk and some bread; at her age, all young people have good appetites, and she must have deprived herself to give to the children."

"Poor girl! she is indeed most kind,—and why is[Pg 274] she so? Because she knows what poverty is. As I said to you just now, if the rich only knew—"

"And then that nice-looking lady who came, seeming so frightened all the while, to ask us if we wanted anything. Well, now she knows that we do want everything, will she ever come again, think you?"

"I dare say she will; for, spite of her uneasy and terrified looks, she seemed very good and kind."

"Oh, yes; if a person be but rich, they are always right in your opinion. One might almost suppose that rich folks are made of different materials to poor creatures like us."

"Stop, wife!" said Morel, gently; "you are getting on too fast. I did not say that; on the contrary, I agree that rich people have as many faults as poor ones; all I mean is, that, unfortunately, they are not aware of the wretchedness of one-half of the world. Agents in plenty are employed to hunt out poor wretches who have committed any crime, but there are no paid agents to find out half-starving families and honest artisans, worn-out with toil and privations, who, driven to the last extremity of distress, are, for want of a little timely succour, led into sore temptation. It is quite right to punish evil-doers; it would, perhaps, be better still to prevent ill deeds. A man may have striven hard to remain honest for fifty years; but want, misery, and utter destitution put bad thoughts in his head, and one rascal more is let loose on the world; whilst there are many who, if they had but known of his distressed condition—However, it is no use talking of that,—the world is as it is: I am poor and wretched, and therefore I speak as I do; were I rich, my talk would be of fêtes, and happy days, and worldly engagements—And how do you find yourself now, wife?"

"Much the same; I seem to have lost all feeling in my limbs. But how you shiver! Here, take your[Pg 275] jacket, and pray put it on. Blow out that candle, which is burning uselessly,—see, it is nearly day!"

And, true enough, a faint, glimmering light began to struggle through the snow with which the skylight was encumbered, and cast a dismal ray on the interior of this deplorable human abode, rendering its squalidness still more apparent; the shade of night had at least concealed a part of its horrors.

"I shall wait now for the daylight before I go back to work," said the lapidary, seating himself beside his wife's paillasse, and leaning his forehead upon his two hands.

After a short interval of silence, Madeleine said:

"When is Madame Mathieu to come for the stones you are at work upon?"

"This morning. I have only the side of one false diamond to polish."

"A false diamond! How is that?—you who only make up real stones, whatever the people in the house may believe."

"Don't you know? But I forgot, you were asleep the other day when Madame Mathieu came about them. Well, then, she brought me ten false diamonds—Rhine crystals—to cut exactly to the same size and form as the like number of real diamonds she also brought. There, those are them mixed with the rubies on my table. I think I never saw more splendid stones, or of purer water, than those ten diamonds, which must, at least, be worth 60,000 francs."

"And why did she wish them imitated?"

"Because a great lady to whom they belonged—a duchess, I think she said—had given directions to M. Baudoin, the jeweller, to dispose of her set of diamonds, and to make her one of false stones to replace it. Madame Mathieu, who matches stones for M. Baudoin, explained this to me, when she gave me the real diamonds, in order that I might be quite sure to cut the[Pg 276] false ones to precisely the same size and form. Madame Mathieu gave a similar job to four other lapidaries, for there are from forty to fifty stones to cut; and I could not do them all, as they were required by this morning, because M. Baudoin must have time to set the false gems. Madame Mathieu says that grand ladies, very frequently unknown to anybody but the jeweller, sell their valuable diamonds, and replace them with Rhenish crystals."

"Why, don't you see, the mock stones look every bit as well as the real stones? Yet great ladies, who only use such things as ornaments, would never think of sacrificing one of their diamonds to relieve the distress of such unfortunate beings as we are."

"Come, come, wife! Be more reasonable than this; sorrow makes you unjust. Who do you think knows that such people as Morel and his family are in existence, still less that they are in want?"

"Oh, what a man you are, Morel! I really believe, if any one were to cut you in pieces, that, while they were doing it, you would try to say, 'Thank you!'"

Morel compassionately shrugged his shoulders.

"And how much will Madame Mathieu owe you this morning?" asked Madeleine.

"Nothing; because you know I have already had an advance of 120 francs."

"Nothing! Why, our last sou went the day before yesterday. We have not a single farthing belonging to us!"

"Alas, no!" cried Morel, with a dejected air.

"Well, then, what are we to do?"

"I know not."

"The baker refuses to let us have anything more on credit,—will he?"

"No; and I was obliged yesterday to beg Madame Pipelet to lend me part of a loaf."

"Can we borrow anything more of Mother Burette?"[Pg 277]

"She has already every article belonging to us in pledge. What have we to offer her to lend more money on,—our children?" asked Morel, with a smile of bitterness.

"But yourself, my mother, and all the children had but part of a loaf among you all yesterday. You cannot go on in this way; you will be starved to death. It is all your fault that we are not on the books of the charitable institution this year."

"They will not admit any persons without they possess furniture, or some such property; and you know we have nothing in the world. We are looked upon as though we lived in furnished apartments, and, consequently, ineligible. Just the same if we tried to get into any asylum, the children are required to have at least a blouse, while our poor things have only rags. Then, as to the charitable societies, one must go backwards and forwards twenty times before we should obtain relief; and then what would it be? Why, a loaf once a month, and half a pound of meat once a fortnight.[5] I should lose more time than it would be worth."

[5] Such is the ordinary allowance made at charitable societies, in consequence of the vast number of applicants for relief.

"But, still, what are we to do?"

"Perhaps the lady who came yesterday will not forget us!"

"Perhaps not. But don't you think Madame Mathieu would lend us four or five francs, just to keep us from starving? You have worked for her upwards of ten years; and surely she will not see an honest workman like you, burthened with a large and sickly family, perish for want of a little assistance like that?"

"I do not think it is in her power to aid us. She did all in her power when she advanced me little by little 120 francs. That is a large sum for her. Because she buys diamonds, and has sometimes 50,000 francs in her[Pg 278] reticule, she is not the more rich for that. If she gains 100 francs a month, she is well content, for she has heavy expenses,—two nieces to bring up; and five francs is as much to her as it would be to me. There are times when one does not possess that sum, you know; and being already so deeply in her debt, I could not ask her to take bread from her own mouth and that of her family to give it to me."

"This comes of working for mere agents in jewelry, instead of procuring employment from first-hand master jewellers. They are sometimes less particular. But you are such a poor, easy creature, you would almost let any one take the eyes out of your head. It is all your fault that—"

"My fault!" exclaimed the unhappy man, exasperated by this absurd reproach. "Was it or was it not your mother who occasioned all our misfortunes, by compelling me to make good the price of the diamond she lost? But for that we should be beforehand with the world; we should receive the amount of my daily earnings; we should have the 1,100 francs in our possession we were obliged to draw out of the savings-bank to put to the 1,300 francs lent us by M. Jacques Ferrand. May every curse light on him!"

"And you still persist in not asking him to help you? Certainly he is so stingy that I daresay he would do nothing for you; but then it is right to try. You cannot know without you do try."

"Ask him to help me!" cried Morel. "Ask him! I had rather be burnt before a slow fire. Hark ye, Madeleine! Unless you wish to drive me mad, mention that man's name no more to me."

As he uttered these words, the usually mild, resigned expression of the lapidary's countenance was exchanged for a look of gloomy energy, while a slight suffusion coloured the ordinarily pale features of the agitated man, as, rising abruptly from the pallet beside which he had been[Pg 279] sitting, he began to pace the miserable apartment with hurried steps; and, spite of the deformed and attenuated appearance of poor Morel, his attitude and action bespoke the noblest, purest indignation.

"I am not ill-disposed towards any man," cried he, at length, pausing of a sudden; "and never, to my knowledge, harmed a human being. But, I tell you, when I think of this notary, I wish him—ah! I wish him—as much wretchedness as he has caused me." Then pressing both hands to his forehead, he murmured, in a mournful tone: "Just God! what crime have I committed that a hard fate should deliver me and mine, tied hand and foot, into the power of such a hypocrite? Have his riches been given him only to worry, harass, and destroy those his bad passions lead him to persecute, injure, and corrupt?"

"That's right! that's right!" said Madeleine; "go on abusing him. You will have done yourself a great deal of good, shall you not, when he puts you in prison, as he can do any day, for that promissory note of 1,300 francs on which he obtained judgment against you? He holds you fast as a bird at the end of a string. I hate this notary as badly as you do; but since we are so completely in his power, why you should—"

"Let him ruin and dishonour my child, I suppose?" burst from the pale lips of the lapidary, with violent and impatient energy.

"For heaven's sake, Morel, don't speak so loud; the children are awake, and will hear you."

"Pooh, pooh!" returned Morel, with bitter irony; "it will serve as a fine example for our two little girls. It will instruct them to expect that, one of these days, some villain or other like the notary may take a fancy to them,—perhaps the same man; and then, I suppose, you would tell me, as now, to be careful how I offended him, since he had me in his power. You say, if I displease him, he can put me in prison. Now, tell the truth: you advise[Pg 280] me, then, to leave my daughter at his mercy, do you not?"

And then, passing from the extreme of rage at the idea of all the wickedness practised by the notary to tender recollections of his child, the unhappy man burst into a sort of convulsive weeping, mingled with deep and heavy sobs, for his kindly nature could not long sustain the tone of sarcastic indignation he had assumed.

"Oh, my children!" cried he, with bitter grief; "my poor children! My good, my beautiful, too—too beautiful Louise! 'Tis from those rich gifts of nature all our troubles proceeded. Had you been less lovely, that man would never have pressed his money upon me. I am honest and hard-working; and if the jeweller had given me time, I should never have been under the obligation to the old monster, of which he avails himself to seek to dishonour my child. I should not then have left her a single hour within his power; but I dare not remove her,—I dare not! For am I not at his mercy? Oh, want! oh, misery! What insults do they not make us endure!"

"But what can you do?" asked Madeleine. "You know he threatens Louise that if she quits him he will put you in prison directly."

"Oh, yes! He dares address her as though she were the very vilest of creatures."

"Well, you must not mind that; for should she leave the notary, there is no doubt he would instantly throw you into prison, and then what would become of me, with these five helpless creatures and my mother? Suppose Louise did earn twenty francs a month in another place, do you think seven persons can live on that?"

"And so that we may live, Louise is to be disgraced and left to ruin?"

"You always make things out worse than they are. It is true the notary makes offers of love to Louise; she[Pg 281] has told us so repeatedly. But then you know what a good girl she is; she would never listen to him."

"She is good, indeed; and so right-minded, active, and industrious! When, seeing how badly we were off in consequence of your long illness, she insisted upon going to service that she might not be a burthen to us, did I not say what it cost me to part with her? To think of my sweet Louise being subjected to all the harshness and humiliation of a servant's life,—she who was naturally so proud that we used jokingly—ah, we could joke then!—to call her the Princess, because she always said that, by dint of care and cleanliness, she would make our little home like a palace! Dear Louise! It would have been my greatest happiness to have kept her with me, though I had worked all day and all night too. And when I saw her blooming face, with her bright eyes glancing at me as she sat beside my work-table, my labour always seemed lightened; and when she sung like a bird those little songs she knew I liked to hear, I used to fancy myself the happiest father alive. Poor dear Louise! so hard-working, yet always so gay and lively! Why, she could even manage your mother, and make her do whatever she wished. But I defy any one to resist her sweet words or winning smile. And how she watched over and waited upon you! What pains she would take to try and divert you from thinking of what you suffered! And how tenderly she looked after her little brothers and sisters, finding time for everything! Ah, with our Louise all our joy and happiness—all—all—left us!"

"Don't go on so, Morel. Don't remind me of all these things, or you will break my heart," cried Madeleine, weeping bitterly.

"And, then, when I think that perhaps that old monster—Do you know, when that idea flashes across my brain, my senses seem disturbed, and I have but one thought, that of first killing him and then killing myself?"[Pg 282]

"What would become of all of us if you were to do so? Besides, I tell you again, you make things worse than they really are. I dare say the notary was only joking with Louise. He is such a pious man, and goes so regularly to mass every Sunday, and only keeps company with priests folks say. Why, many people think that he is safer to place money with than the bank itself."

"Well, and what does all that prove? Merely that he is a rich hypocrite, instead of a poor one. I know well enough what a good girl Louise is; but then she loves us so tenderly that it breaks her heart to see the want and wretchedness we are in. She knows well enough that if anything were to happen to me you would all perish with hunger; and by threatening to put me into prison he might work on the dear child's mind,—like a villain as he is,—and persuade her, on our account! O, God, my brain burns! I feel as though I were going mad."

"But, Morel, if ever that were the case, the notary would be sure to make her a great number of fine presents or money, and, I am sure, she would not have kept them all to herself. She would certainly have brought part to us."

"Silence, woman! Let me hear no more such words escape your lips. Louise touch the wages of infamy! My good, my virtuous girl, accept such foul gifts! Oh, wife!"

"Not for herself, certainly. But to bring to us perhaps she would—"

"Madeleine," exclaimed Morel, excited almost to frenzy, "again, I say, let me not hear such language from your lips; you make me shudder. Heaven only knows what you and the children also would become were I taken away, if such are your principles."

"Why, what harm did I say?"

"Oh, none."

"Then what makes you uneasy about Louise?"[Pg 283]

The lapidary impatiently interrupted his wife by saying:

"Because I have noticed for the last three months that, whenever Louise comes to see us, she seems embarrassed, and even confused. When I take her in my arms and embrace her, as I have been used to do from her birth, she blushes."

"Ah, that is with delight at seeing you, or from shame."

"She seems sadder and more dejected, too, each visit she pays us."

"Because she finds our misery constantly increasing. Besides, when I spoke to her concerning the notary, she told me he had quite ceased his threats of putting you in prison."

"But did she tell you the price she has paid to induce him to lay aside his threats? She did not tell you that, I dare say, did she? Ah, a father's eye is not to be deceived; and her blushes and embarrassments, when giving me her usual kiss, make me dread I know not what. Why, would it not be an atrocious thing to say to a poor girl, whose bread depended on her employer's word, 'Either sacrifice your virtuous principles, and become what I would have you, or quit my house? And if any one should inquire of me respecting the character you have with me, I shall speak of you in such terms that no one will take you into their service.' Well, then, how much worse is it to frighten a fond and affectionate child into surrendering her innocence, by threatening to put her father into prison if she refused, when the brute knows that upon the labour of that father a whole family depends? Surely the earth contains nothing more infamous, more fiendlike, than such conduct."

"Ah," replied Madeleine, "and then only to think that with the value of one, only one of those diamonds now lying on your table, we might pay the notary all we owe[Pg 284] him, and so take Louise out of his power and keep her at home with us. Don't you see, husband?"

"What is the use of your repeating the same thing over and over again? You might just as well tell me that if I were rich I should not be poor," answered Morel, with sorrowful impatience. For such was the innate and almost constitutional honesty of this man, that it never once occurred to him that his weak-minded partner, bowed down and irritated by long suffering and want, could ever have conceived the idea of tempting him to a dishonourable appropriation of that which belonged to another.

With a heavy sigh, the unfortunate man resigned himself to his hard fate. "Thrice happy those parents who can retain their innocent children beneath the paternal roof, and defend them from the thousand snares laid to entrap their unsuspecting youth. But who is there to watch over the safety of the poor girl condemned at an early age to seek employment from home? Alas, no one! Directly she is capable of adding her mite to the family earnings, she leaves her dwelling at an early hour, and repairs to the manufactory where she may happen to be engaged. Meanwhile, both father and mother are too busily employed to have leisure to attend to their daughter's comings or goings. 'Our time is our stock in trade,' cry they, 'and bread is too dear to enable us to lay aside our work while we look after our children.' And then there is an outcry raised as to the quantity of depraved females constantly to be met with, and of the impropriety of conduct among those of the lower orders, wholly forgetting that the parents have neither the means of keeping them at home, nor of watching over their morals when away from them."

Thus mentally moralised Morel. Then, speaking aloud, he added:

"After all, our greatest privation is when forced to quit our parents, wives, or children. It is to the poor[Pg 285] that family affection is most comforting and beneficial. Yet, directly our children grow up, and are capable of becoming our dearest companions, we are forced to part with them."

At this moment some one knocked loudly at the door.

[Pg 286]



The lapidary, much astonished, rose and opened the door. Two men entered the garret. One, tall, lanky, with an ill-favoured and pimply face, shaded by thick grizzly whiskers, held in his hand a thick cane, loaded at the head; he wore a battered hat, and a long-tailed and bespattered green coat, buttoned up close to his throat. Above the threadbare velvet collar was displayed his long neck, red and bald like that of a vulture. This man's name was Malicorne. The other was a shorter man, with a look as low-lived, and red, fat, puffed features, dressed with a great effort at ridiculous splendour. Shiny buttons were in the folds of the front of his shirt, whose cleanliness was most suspicious, and a long chain of mosaic gold serpentined down a faded plaid waistcoat, which was seen beneath his seedy Chesterfield, of a yellowish gray colour. This gentleman's name was Bourdin.

"How poverty-stricken this hole smells," said Malicorne, pausing on the threshold.

"Why, it does not scent of lavender-water. Confound it, but we have a lowish customer to deal with," responded Bourdin, with a gesture of disgust and contempt, and then advanced towards the artisan, who was looking at him with as much surprise as indignation.

Through the door, left a little ajar, might be seen the villainous, watchful, and cunning face of the young scamp Tortillard, who, having followed these strangers unknown[Pg 287] to them, was sneaking after, spying, and listening to them.

"What do you want?" inquired the lapidary, abruptly, disgusted at the coarseness of these fellows.

"Jérome Morel?" said Bourdin.

"I am he!"

"Working lapidary?"


"You are quite sure?"

"Quite sure. But you are troublesome, so tell me at once your business, or leave the room."

"Really, your politeness is remarkable! Much obliged! I say, Malicorne," said the man, turning to his comrade, "there's not so much fat to cut at here as there was at that 'ere Viscount de Saint-Rémy's."

"I believe you; but when there is fat, why the door's kept shut in your face, as we found in the Rue de Chaillot. The bird had hopped the twig, and precious quick, too, whilst such vermin as these hold on to their cribs like a snail to his shell."

"I believe you; well, the stone jug just suits such individuals."

"The sufferer (creditor) must be a good fellow, for it will cost him more than it's worth; but that's his lookout."

"If," said Morel, angrily, "you were not drunk, as you seem to be, I should be angry with you. Leave this apartment instantly!"

"Ha! ha! He's a fine fellow with his elegant curve," said Bourdin, making an insulting allusion to the contorted figure of the poor lapidary. "I say, Malicorne, he has cheek enough to call this an apartment,—a hole in which I would not put my dog."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" exclaimed Madeleine, who had been so frightened that she could not say a word before. "Call for assistance; perhaps they are rogues. Take care of your diamonds!"[Pg 288]

And, seeing these two ill-looking strangers come closer to his working-bench, on which his precious stones were still lying, Morel, fearful of some evil intentions, ran towards the table, and covered the jewels with his two hands.

Tortillard, still on the watch, caught at Madeleine's words, observed the movement of the artisan, and said to himself:

"Ha! ha! ha! So they said he was a lapidary of sham stones; if they were mock he would not be afraid of being robbed; this is a good thing to know. So Mother Mathieu, who comes here so often, is a matcher of real stones, after all, and has real diamonds in her basket; this is a good thing to know, and I'll tell the Chouette," added Bras Rouge's brat.

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

The children, alarmed at this scene, began to cry, and the idiotic mother sat up in her bed.

"If any one has a right to call for the guard, it is we, you Mister Twistabout," said Bourdin.

"And the guard would lend us a hand to carry you off to gaol if you resist," added Malicorne. "We have not the magistrate with us, it is true; but if you have any wish for his company, we'll find you one, just out of bed, hot and heavy; Bourdin will go and fetch him."

"To prison! me?" exclaimed Morel, struck with dismay.

"Yes, to Clichy."

"To Clichy?" repeated the artisan, with an air of despair.

"It seems a hardish pill," said Malicorne.

"Well, then, to the debtors' jail, if you like that better," said Bourdin.

"You—what—indeed—why—the notary—ah, mon Dieu!"[Pg 289]

And the workman, pale as death, fell on his stool, unable to add another word.

"We are bound bailiffs, come to lay hold of you; now are you fly?"

"Morel, it is the note of Louise's master! We are undone!" exclaimed Madeleine, in a tone of agony.

"Hear the judgment," said Malicorne, taking from his dirty and crammed pocketbook a stamped writ.

After having skimmed over, according to custom, a part of this document in an unintelligible tone, he distinctly articulated the last words, which were, unfortunately, but too important to the artisan:

"Judgment finally given. The Tribunal condemns Jérome Morel to pay to Pierre Petit-Jean, merchant,[6] by every available means, even to the arrest of body, the sum of 1,300 francs, with interest from the day of protest, and to pay all other and extra costs. Given and judged at Paris, 13 September, etc., etc."

[6] The cunning notary, unable to prosecute in his own name, had made the unfortunate Morel give a blank acceptance, and had filled up the note of hand with the name of a third party.

"And Louise! Louise!" cried Morel, almost distracted in his brain, and apparently unheeding the long preamble which had just been read. "Where is Louise, then, for, doubtless, she has quitted the notary, since he sends me to prison? My child! My Louise! What has become of you?"

"Who the devil is Louise?" asked Bourdin.

"Let him alone!" replied Malicorne, brutally; "don't you see the respectable old twaddler is not right in his nonsense-box?" Then, approaching Morel, he added: "I say, my fine fellow, right about file! March on! Let us get out of here, will you, and have a little fresh air. You stink enough to poison a cat in this here hole!"

"Morel!" shrieked Madeleine, wildly, "don't go! Kill those wretches! Oh, you coward, not to knock[Pg 290] them down! What! are you going to let them take you away? Are you going to abandon us all?"

"Pray don't put yourself out of the way, ma'am," said Bourdin, with an ironical grin. "I've only just got to remark that if your good man lays his little finger on me, why I'll make him remember it," continued he, swinging his loaded stick round and round.

Entirely occupied with thoughts of Louise, Morel scarcely heard a word of what was passing. All at once an expression of bitter satisfaction passed over his countenance, as he said:

"Louise has doubtless left the notary's house; now I shall go to prison willingly." Then, casting a troubled look around him, he exclaimed: "But my wife! Her mother! The children! Who will provide for them? No one will trust me with stones to work at in prison, for it will be supposed my bad conduct has sent me there. Does this hard-hearted notary wish the destruction of myself and all my family also?"

"Once, twice, old chap," said Bourdin, "will you stop your gammon? You are enough to bore a man to death. Come, put on your things, and let us be off."

"Good gentlemen, kind gentlemen," cried Madeleine, from her sick-bed, "pray forgive what I said just now! Surely you will not be so cruel as to take my husband away; what will become of me and my five poor children, and my old mother, who is an idiot? There she lies; you see her, poor old creature, huddled up on her mattress; she is quite out of her senses, my good gentlemen; she is, indeed, quite mad!"

"La! what, that old bald-headed thing a woman? Well, hang me if that ain't enough to astonish a man!"

"I'll be hanged if it isn't, then!" cried the other bailiff, bursting into a horse-laugh; "why, I took it for something tied up in an old sack. Look! her old head is shaved quite close; it seems as though she had got a white skull-cap on."[Pg 291]

"Go, children, and kneel down, and beg of these good gentlemen not to take away your poor father, our only support," said Madeleine, anxious by a last effort to touch the hearts of the bailiffs. But, spite of their mother's orders, the terrified children remained weeping on their miserable mattress.

At the unusual noise which prevailed, added to the aspect of two strange men in the room, the poor idiot turned herself towards the wall, as though striving to hide from them, uttering all the time the most discordant cries and moans. Morel, meanwhile, appeared unconscious of all that was going on; this last stroke of fate had been so frightful and unexpected, and the consequences of his arrest were so dreadful, that his mind seemed almost unequal to understanding its reality. Worn out by all manner of privations, and exhausted by over-toil, his strength utterly forsook him, and he remained seated on his stool, pale and haggard, and as though incapable of speech or motion, his head drooping on his breast, and his arms hanging listlessly by his side.

"Deuce take me," cried Malicorne, "if that old patterer is not going fast asleep! Why, I say, my chap, you seem to think nothing of keeping gen'l'men like us waiting; just remember, will you, our time is precious! You know this is not exactly a party of pleasure, so march, or I shall be obliged to make you."

Suiting the action to the word, the man grasped the artisan by the shoulder, and shook him roughly; which so alarmed the children, that, unable to restrain their terror, the three little boys emerged from their paillasse, and, half naked as they were, came in an agony of tears to throw themselves at the feet of the bailiffs, holding up their clasped hands, and crying, in tones of touching earnestness:

"Pray, pray don't hurt our dear father!"

At the sight of these poor, shivering, half-clad infants,[Pg 292] weeping with affright, and trembling with cold, Bourdin, spite of his natural callousness and long acquaintance with scenes of this sort, could not avoid a feeling almost resembling compassion from stealing over him, while his pitiless companion, brutally disengaging himself from the grasp of the small, weak creatures who were clinging to him, exclaimed:

"Hands off, you young ragamuffins! A devilish fine trade ours would be, if we were to allow ourselves to be mauled about by a set of beggars' brats like you!"

As though the scene were not sufficiently distressing, a fearful addition was made to its horrors. The eldest of the little girls, who had remained in the paillasse with her sick sister, suddenly exclaimed:

"Mother! mother! I don't know what's the matter with Adèle! She is so cold, and her eyes are fixed on my face, and yet she does not breathe."

The poor little child, whose consumptive appearance we have before noticed, had expired gently, and without a sigh, her looks fixed earnestly on the sister she so tenderly loved.

No language can describe the cry which burst from the lips of the lapidary's wife at these words, which at once revealed the dreadful truth; it was one of those wild, despairing, convulsive shrieks, which seem to sever the very heart-strings of a mother.

"My poor little sister looks as though she were dead!" continued the child; "she frightens me, with her eyes fixed on me, and her face so cold!"

Saying which, in an agony of terror, she leaped from beside the corpse of the infant, and ran to shelter herself in her mother's arms, while the distracted parent, forgetting that her almost paralysed limbs were incapable of supporting her, made a violent effort to rise and go to the assistance of her child, whom she could not believe was actually past recovery; but her strength failed her, and with a deep sigh of despair she sunk upon the floor.[Pg 293] That cry found an echo in the heart of Morel, and roused him from his stupor. He sprang with one bound to the paillasse, and withdrew from it the stiffened form of an infant four years old, dead and cold. Want and misery had accelerated its end, although its complaint, which had originated in the positive want of common necessaries, was beyond the reach of any human aid to remove. Its poor little limbs were already rigid with death. Morel, whose very hair seemed to stand on end with despair and terror, stood holding his dead child in his arms, motionlessly contemplating its thin features with a fixed bloodshot gaze, though no tear moistened his dry, burning eyeballs.

"Morel! Morel, give Adèle to me!" cried the unhappy mother, extending her arms towards him; "she is not dead,—it is not possible! Let me have her, and I shall be able to warm her in my arms."

The curiosity of the idiot was excited by observing the pertinacity with which the bailiffs kept close to the lapidary, who would not part with the body of his child. She ceased her yells and cries, and, rising from her mattress, approached gently, protruded her hideous, senseless countenance over Morel's shoulder, staring in vacant wonder at the pale corpse of her grandchild, the features of the idiot retaining their usual expression of stupid sullenness. At the end of a few minutes, she uttered a sort of horrible yawning noise, almost resembling the roar of a famished animal; then, hurrying back to her mattress, she threw herself upon it, exclaiming:

"Hungry! hungry! hungry!"

"Well, gentlemen," said the poor, half-crazed artisan, with haggard looks, "you see all that is left me of my poor child, my Adèle,—we called her Adèle, she was so pretty she deserved a pretty name; and she was just four years old last night. Ay, and this morning even I kissed her, and she put her little arms about my neck and embraced me,—oh, so fondly! And now, you see,[Pg 294] gentlemen, perhaps you will tell me there is one mouth less to feed, and that I am lucky to get rid of one,—you think so, don't you?"

The unfortunate man's reason was fast giving way under the many shocks he had received.

"Morel," cried Madeleine, "give me my child! I will have her!"

"To be sure," replied the lapidary; "that is only fair. Everybody ought to secure their own happiness!" So saying, he laid the child in its mother's arms, and uttering a groan, such as comes only from a breaking heart, he covered his face with his hands; while Madeleine, almost as frenzied as her husband, placed the body of her child amid the straw of her wretched bed, watching it with frantic jealousy, while the other children, kneeling around her, filled the air with their wailings.

The bailiffs, who had experienced a temporary feeling of compassion at the death of the child, soon fell back into their accustomed brutality.

"I say, friend," said Malicorne to the lapidary, "your child is dead, and there's an end of it! I dare say you think it a misfortune; but then, you see, we are all mortal, and neither we nor you can bring it back to life. So come along with us; for, to tell you the truth, we're upon the scent of a spicy one we must nab to-day. So don't delay us, that's a trump!"

But Morel heard not a word he said. Entirely preoccupied with his own sad thoughts, the bewildered man kept up a kind of wandering delivery of his own afflicting ideas.

"My poor Adèle!" murmured he; "we must now see about laying you in the grave, and watching by her little corpse till the people come to carry it to its last home,—to lay it in the ground. But how are we to do that without a coffin,—and where shall we get one? Who will give me credit for one? Oh, a very small coffin will do,—only for a little creature of four years of age! And[Pg 295] we shall want no bearers! Oh, no, I can carry it under my arm. Ha! ha! ha!" added he, with a burst of frightful mirth; "what a good thing it is she did not live to be as old as Louise! I never could have persuaded anybody to trust me for a coffin large enough for a girl of eighteen years of age."

"I say, just look at that chap!" said Bourdin to Malicorne. "I'll be dashed if I don't think as he's a-going mad, like the old woman there! Only see how he rolls his eyes about,—enough to frighten one! Come, I say, let's make haste and be off. Only hark, how that idiot creature is a-roaring for something to eat! Well, they are rum customers, from beginning to end!"

"We must get done with them as soon as we can. Although the law only allows us seventy-six francs, seventy-five centièmes, for arresting this beggar, yet, in justice to ourselves, we must swell the costs to two hundred and forty or two hundred and fifty francs. You know the sufferer (the creditor) pays us!"

"You mean, advances the cash. Old Gaffer there will have to pay the piper, since he must dance to the music."

"Well, by the time he has paid his creditor 2,500 francs for debt, interest, and expenses, etc., he'll find it pretty warm work."

"A devilish sight more than we do our job up here! I'm a'most frost-bitten!" cried the bailiff, blowing the ends of his fingers. "Come, old fellow, make haste, will you! Just look sharp! You can snivel, you know, as we go along. Why, how the devil can we help it, if your brat has kicked the bucket?"

"These beggars always have such a lot of children, if they have nothing else!"

"Yes, so they have," responded Malicorne. Then, slapping Morel on the shoulder, he called out in a loud voice, "I tell you what it is, my friend, we're not going to be kept dawdling here all day,—our time is precious.[Pg 296] So either out with the stumpy, or march off to prison, without any more bother!"

"Prison!" exclaimed a clear, youthful voice; "take M. Morel to prison!" and a bright, beaming face appeared at the door.

"Ah, Mlle. Rigolette," cried the weeping children, as they recognised the happy, healthful countenance of their young protectress and friend, "these wicked men are going to take our poor father away, and put him in prison! And sister Adèle is just dead!"

"Dead!" cried the kind-hearted girl, her dark eyes filling with compassionating tears; "poor little thing! But it cannot be true that your father is in danger of a prison;" and, almost stupefied with surprise, she gazed alternately from the children to Morel, and from him to the bailiffs.

"I say, my girl," said Bourdin, approaching Rigolette, "as you do seem to have the use of your senses, just make this good man hear reason, will you? His child has just died. Well, that can't be helped now; but, you see, he is a-keeping of us, because we're a-waiting to take him to the debtors' prison, being sheriffs' officers, duly sworn in and appointed. Tell him so!"

"Then it is true!" exclaimed the feeling girl.

"True? I should say it was and no mistake! Now, don't you see, while the mother is busy with the dead babby—and, bless you! she's got it there, hugging it up in bed, and won't part with it!—she won't notice us? So I want the father to be off while she isn't thinking nothing about it!"

"Good God! Good God!" replied Rigolette, in deep distress; "what is to be done?"

"Done? Why, pay the money, or go to prison! There is nothing between them two ways. If you happen to have two or three thousand francs by you you can oblige him with, why, shell out, and we'll be off, and glad enough to be gone!"[Pg 297]

"How can you," cried Rigolette, "be so barbarous as to make a jest of such distress as this?"

"Well, then," rejoined the other man, "all joking apart, if you really do wish to be useful, try to prevent the woman from seeing us take her husband away. You will spare them both a very disagreeable ten minutes!"

Coarse as was this counsel, it was not destitute of good sense; and Rigolette, feeling she could do nothing else, approached the bedside of Madeleine, who, distracted by her grief, appeared unconscious of the presence of Rigolette, as, gathering the children together, she knelt with them beside their afflicted mother.

Meanwhile Morel, upon recovering from his temporary wildness, had sunk into a state of deep and bitter reflections upon his present position, which, now that his mind saw things through a calmer medium, only increased the poignancy of his sufferings. Since the notary had proceeded to such extremities, any hope from his mercy was vain. He felt there was nothing left but to submit to his fate, and let the law take its course.

"Are we ever to get off?" inquired Bourdin. "I tell you what, my man, if you are not for marching, we must make you, that's all."

"I cannot leave these diamonds about in this manner,—my wife is half distracted," cried Morel, pointing to the stones lying on his work-table. "The person for whom I am polishing them will come to fetch them away either this morning or during the day. They are of considerable value."

"Capital!" whispered Tortillard, who was still peeping in at the half closed door; "capital, capital! What will Mother Chouette say when I tell her this bit of luck?"

"Only give me till to-morrow," said Morel, beseechingly; "only till I can return these diamonds to my employer."[Pg 298]

"I tell you, the thing can't be done. So let's have no more to say about it."

"But it is impossible for me to leave diamonds of such value as these exposed, to be lost or even stolen in my absence."

"Well, then, take them along with you. We have got a coach waiting below, for which you will have to pay when you settle the costs. We will go all together to your employer's house, and, if you don't meet with him, why, then, you can deposit these jewels at the office of the prison, where they will be as safe as in the bank; only look sharp, and let's be off before your wife and children perceive us."

"Give me but till to-morrow,—only to bury my child!" implored Morel, in a supplicating voice, half stifled by the heavy sobs he strove in vain to repress.

"Nonsense, I tell you; why, we have lost an hour here already!"

"Besides, it's dull work going to berrins," chimed in Malicorne. "It would be too much for your feelings, p'raps."

"Yes," said Morel, bitterly; "it is dull work to see what we would have given our lives to save laid in the cold earth. But, as you are men, grant me that satisfaction." Then, looking up, and observing the nonchalant air with which his prayer was received, he added, "But no, persons of so much feeling as you are would fear to indulge me, lest I should find it a gloomy sight. Well, then, at least grant me one word!"

"The deuce take your last words! Why, old chap, there seems no end to them. Come, put the steam on; make haste," said Malicorne, with brutal impatience, "or we shall lose t'other gent we're after."

"When did you receive orders to arrest me?"

"Oh, why, judgment was signed four months ago! But it was only yesterday our officer got instructions to put it in execution."[Pg 299]

"Only yesterday! And why has it been delayed so long?"

"How the devil should I know? Come, look about you, and put up your things."

"Only yesterday? And during the whole day we saw nothing of Louise! Where can she be? Or what has become of her?" inquired the lapidary mentally, as he took from his table a small box filled with cotton, in which he placed his stones. "But never mind all that now. I shall have plenty of time to think about it when I am in prison."

"Come, look sharp there a bit. Tie up your things to take with you, and put your clothes on, there's a fine fellow!"

"I have no clothes to tie up, and have nothing whatever to take with me except these jewels, that I may deposit them at the office of the prison."

"Well, then, dress yourself as quick as you can."

"I have no other dress than that you now see me in."

"I say, mate," cried Bourdin, "does he really mean to be seen in our company with such rags as those on?"

"I fear, indeed, I shall shame such gentlemen as you are!" said Morel, bitterly.

"It don't much signify," replied Malicorne, "as nobody will see us in the coach."

"Father!" cried one of the children, "mother is calling for you!"

"Listen to me!" said Morel, addressing one of the men with hurried tones; "if one spark of human pity dwells within you, grant me one favour! I have not the courage to bid my wife and children farewell; it would break my heart! And if they see you take me away, they will try to follow me. I wish to spare all this. Therefore, I beseech you to say, in a loud voice, that you will come again in three or four days, and pretend to go away. You can wait for me at the next landing-place, and I will come to you in less than five minutes; that[Pg 300] will spare all the misery of taking leave. I am quite sure it would be too much for me, and that I should become mad! I was not far off it a little while ago."

"Not to be caught!" answered Malicorne; "you want to do me! But I'm up to you! You mean to give us the slip, you old chouse!"

"God of heaven!" cried Morel, with a mixture of grief and indignation, "has it come to this?"

"I don't think he means what you say," whispered Bourdin to his companion; "let us do what he asks; we shall never get away unless we do. I'll stand outside the door; there is no other way of escaping from this garret; he cannot get away from us."

"Very well. But what a dog-hole! What a place for a man to care about leaving! Why, a prison will be a palace to it!" Then, addressing Morel, he said, "Now, then, be quick, and we will wait for you on the next landing; so make up some pretence for our going."

"Well," said Bourdin in a loud voice, and bestowing a significant look on the unhappy artisan, "since things are as you say, and as you think you shall be able to pay us in a short time, why, we shall leave you for the present, and return in about four or five days; but you must not disappoint us then, remember!"

"Thank you, gentlemen. I have no doubt I shall be able to pay you then."

The bailiffs then withdrew, while Tortillard, hearing the men talk of quitting the room, had hastened down-stairs for fear of being detected listening.

"There, Madame Morel!" said Rigolette, endeavouring to draw the wife of the lapidary from the state of gloomy abstraction into which she had fallen, "do you hear that? The men have gone, and left your husband undisturbed."

"Mother! mother!" exclaimed the children, joyfully, "they have not taken father away!"

"Morel, Morel!" murmured Madeleine, her brain[Pg 301] quite turned, "take one of those diamonds—take the largest—and sell it; no one will know it, and then we shall be delivered from our misery; poor little Adèle will get warm then, and come back to us."

Taking advantage of the instant when no one was observing him, the lapidary profited by it to steal from the room. One of the men was waiting for him on the little landing-place, which was also covered only by the roof; on this small spot opened the door of a garret, which adjoined the apartment occupied by the Morels, and in which M. Pipelet kept his dépôt of leather; and, further, this little angular recess, in which a person could not stand upright, was dignified by the melancholy porter with the name of his Melodramatic Cabinet, because, by means of a hole between the lath and plaster, he frequently indulged in the luxury of woe by witnessing the many touching scenes occasioned by the distress of the wretched family who dwelt in the garret beyond it. This door had not escaped the lynx eye of the bailiff, who had, for a time, suspected his prisoner of intending either to escape or conceal himself by means of it.

"Now, then, let us make a start of it!" cried he, beginning to descend the stairs as Morel emerged from the garret. "Rather a ragged recruit to march with," added he, beckoning to the lapidary to follow him.

"Only an instant, one single instant, for the love of God!" exclaimed Morel, as, kneeling down, he cast a last look on his wife and children through a chink in the door. Then clasping his hands, he said, in a low, heart-broken voice, while bitter tears flowed down his haggard cheeks:

"Adieu, my poor children! my wife! May Heaven preserve you all! Farewell, farewell!"

"Come, don't get preaching!" said Bourdin, coarsely, "or your sermons may keep us here till night, which is what I can't stand, for I am almost froze to death as it is. Ugh! what a kennel! what a hole!"[Pg 302]

Morel rose from his knees and was about to follow the bailiff, when the words, "Father! father!" sounded up the staircase.

"Louise!" exclaimed the lapidary, raising his hands towards heaven in a transport of gratitude; "thank God I shall be able to embrace you before I go!"

"Heaven be praised, I am here in time!" cried the voice, as it rapidly approached, and quick, light steps were distinguishable, swiftly ascending the stairs.

"Don't be uneasy, my dear," said a second voice, evidently proceeding from some individual considerably behind the first speaker, but whose thick puffing and laborious breathing announced the coming of one who did not find mounting to the top of the house so easy an affair as it seemed to her light-footed companion.

The reader may, perhaps, have already guessed that the last comer was no other than Madame Pipelet, who, less agile than Louise, was compelled to advance at a much slower pace.

"Louise! Is it, indeed, you, my own, my good Louise?" said Morel, still weeping. "But how pale you look! For mercy's sake, my child, what is the matter?"

"Nothing, father, nothing, I assure you!" said Louise, in much agitation; "but I have run so fast! See, I have brought the money!"


"You are free!"

"You knew, then, that—"

"Oh, yes! Here, sir, you will find it quite right," said the poor girl, placing the rouleau of gold in the hands of Malicorne.

"But this money, Louise,—how did you become possessed of it?"

"I will tell you all about it by and by; pray do not be uneasy; let us go and comfort my mother. Come, father."

"No, not just this minute!" cried Morel, remembering[Pg 303] that, as yet, Louise was entirely ignorant of the death of her little sister; "wait an instant. I have something to say to you first. But about this money?"

"All right," said Malicorne, as, having finished counting the gold, he put it in his pocket; "precisely one thousand three hundred francs. And is that all you have got for me, my pretty dear?"

"I thought, father," said Louise, struck with alarm and surprise at the man's question, "that you only owed one thousand three hundred francs."

"Nor do I," replied Morel.

"Precisely so!" answered the bailiff; "the original debt is one thousand three hundred francs; well, that is all right now, and we may put 'settled' against that: but then, you see, there are the costs, caption, etc., amounting to eleven hundred and forty francs, still to be paid."

"Gracious heavens!" cried Louise, "I thought one thousand three hundred francs would pay everything! But, sir, we will make up the money, and bring it to you very soon; take this for the present, it is a good sum; take it as paid on account; it will go towards the debt, at least, won't it, father?"

"Very well; then all you have to do is to bring the required sum to the prison, and then, and not till then, your father—if he is your father—will be set at liberty. Come, master, we must start, or we never shall get there."

"Do you really mean to take him away?"

"Do I? Don't I? Just look here; I am ready to give you a memorandum of having received so much on account; and, whenever you bring the rest, you shall have a receipt in full, and your father along with it. There, now, that's a handsome offer, ain't it?"

"Mercy! mercy!" supplicated Louise.

"Whew!" cried the man, "here's a scene over again! My stars, I hope this one isn't a-going mad,[Pg 304] too, for the whole family seems uncommon queer about the head! Well, I declare I never see anything like it! It is enough to set a man 'prespiring' in the midst of winter!" and here the bailiff burst into a loud, coarse laugh at his own brutal wit.

"Oh, my poor, dear father!" exclaimed Louise, almost distractedly; "when I had hoped to have saved you!"

"No, no!" cried the lapidary, in a tone of utter despair, and stamping his foot in wild desperation, "hope nothing for me; God has forgotten me, and Heaven has ceased to be just to a wretch like me!"

"Calm yourself, my worthy friend," said a rich, manly voice; "there is always a kind Providence that watches over and preserves good and honest men like you."

At the same instant Rodolph appeared at the door of the small recess we have spoken of, from whence he had been an invisible spectator of much that we have related; he was pale, and extremely agitated. At this sudden apparition the bailiff drew back, with surprise; while Morel and his daughter gazed on the stranger with bewildered wonder. Taking from his waistcoat pocket a quantity of folded bank-notes, Rodolph selected three, and, presenting them to Malicorne, he said:

"Here are two thousand five hundred francs; give this young woman back the money you have just received from her."

Still more and more astonished at this singular interference, the man half hesitated to take the notes, and, when he had received them, he eyed them with the utmost suspicion, turning and twisting them about in every direction; at length, satisfied both as to their reality and genuineness, he finally deposited them in his pocketbook: but, as his surprise and alarm began to subside, so did his natural coarseness of idea return, and, eyeing Rodolph from head to foot with an impertinent stare, he exclaimed:[Pg 305]

"The notes are right enough; but pray who and what are you that go about with such sums? I should just wish to know whose it is, and how you came by it?"

Rodolph was very plainly dressed, and his appearance by no means improved by the dust and dirt his clothes had gathered during his stay in M. Pipelet's Cabinet of Melodrama.

"I desired you to give back the gold you received just now from this young person," replied Rodolph, in a severe and authoritative tone.

"You desired me! And who the devil are you, to give your orders?" answered the man, approaching Rodolph in a threatening manner.

"Give back the gold! Give it back, I say!" said the prince, grasping the wrist of Malicorne so tightly that the unhappy bailiff winced beneath his iron clutch.

"I say," bawled he, "hands off, will you? Curse me if I don't think you're old Nick himself! I am sure your fingers are cased with iron."

"Then return the money! Why, you despicable wretch! do you want to be paid twice over? Now return the gold and begone, or, if you utter one insolent word, I'll fling you over the banisters!"

"Well, don't kick up such a row! There's the girl's money," said Malicorne, giving back to Louise the rouleau he had received. "But mind what you are about, my sparky, and don't think to ill-use me because you happen to be the strongest!"

"That's right!" said Bourdin, ensconcing himself behind his taller associate. "And who are you, I should like to know, who give yourself such airs?"

"Who is he? Why, my lodger, my king of lodgers, you ill-looking, half-starved, hungry hounds! you ill-taught, dirty fellows!" exclaimed Madame Pipelet, who, puffing and panting for breath, had at last reached the landing where they stood; her head, as usual, adorned with her Brutus wig, which, during the heat and bustle she had[Pg 306] experienced in ascending the stairs, had got pushed somewhat awry, while in her hand she bore an earthen stewpan, filled with smoking-hot broth, which she was charitably conveying to the Morels.

"What the devil does this old hedgehog want?" cried Bourdin.

"If you dare make any of your saucy speeches about me," returned Madame Pipelet, "I'll make you feel my nails,—ay, and my teeth, too, if you provoke me! And, if you don't mend your manners, my lodger, my king of lodgers will pitch you over the banisters, and I will sweep you out into the street, as I would a heap of rubbish."

"This old beldam will bring the whole house about our ears," said Bourdin to Malicorne; "we've touched the blunt, our expenses and all, so I say 'Off' is a good word."

"Here, take your property," said the latter, flinging a bundle of law-papers at the feet of Morel.

"Pick them up, and deliver them decently; you have been paid as a respectable officer would have been, act like one!" cried Rodolph, seizing the bailiff vigorously with one hand, while with the other he pointed to the papers.

Fully convinced by this second powerful grip how useless any attempt at resistance would prove, the bailiff stooped down, and, mechanically picking up the papers, gave them to Morel, who, scarcely venturing to credit his senses, believed himself under the influence of a delightful dream.

"Well, young chap," grumbled out Malicorne, "although you have got a fist as strong as a drayman's, mind you, if ever you fall into my clutches, I'll make you smart for this!" So saying, he doubled his fist at Rodolph, and then scrambled down the stairs, taking four or five at a time, followed by his companion, who kept looking behind him with indescribable terror;[Pg 307] while Madame Pipelet, burning to avenge the insults offered to her king of lodgers, looked at her steaming stewpan with an air of inspiration, and heroically exclaimed:

"The debts of the Morels are paid! Henceforward they will have plenty of food, and can do without my messes! Look out there below!"

So saying, she stooped over the banisters, and poured the contents of her stewpan down the backs and shoulders of the two bailiffs, who had just reached the first floor landing.

"There goes!" screamed out the delighted porteress. "Capital! Ha, ha, ha! there they are! two regular sops, in the pan! Well, I do enjoy this!"

"What the devil is this?" exclaimed Malicorne, thoroughly soaked with the hot, greasy liquid. "I say, I wish you would mind what you are about up there, you old figure of fun!"

"Alfred!" bawled Madame Pipelet, in a tone sharp and shrill enough to have split the tympanum of a deaf man; "Alfred, my old darling, have at 'em! They wanted to behave ill to your 'Stasie (Anastasie)! The nasty fellows have been taking liberties,—quite violent! Knock them down with your broom! And call the oyster-woman, and the man at the wine-vaults, to help you! Get out, you! Get—get—get out! Cht, cht, cht! Thieves! thieves! robbers! Cht—b-r-r-r-r-r-r—hou, hou, hou! Knock them—knock them down! That's right, old dear! Pay them off! Break their bones! Serve them out! Boum, boum, boum!"

And, by way of conclusion to this concatenation of discordant noises, accompanied by a constant succession of stamping and kicking of feet, Madame Pipelet, carried away by the excitement of the moment, flung her earthen stewpan to the bottom of the staircase, which, breaking into a thousand pieces at the very instant that the two bailiffs, terrified by the yells and noises from overhead,[Pg 308] were precipitately descending the stairs with hasty strides, added not a little to their terror.

"Ah, ah, ah!" cried Anastasie, bursting into loud fits of laughter. "Now be off with you,—I think you have had enough!" Then, crossing her arms, she stood, like a triumphant Amazon, rejoicing in the victory she had achieved.

While Madame Pipelet was thus venting her rage upon the bailiffs, Morel had thrown himself, in heartfelt gratitude, at the feet of Rodolph.

"Ah, sir," exclaimed he, when at last words came to his assistance, "you have saved a whole family! To whom do we owe this unhoped-for assistance?"

"'To the God who watches over and protects all honest men,' as your immortal Béranger says."

Note.—The following are some curious particulars relative to bodily restraint, as cited in the "Pauvre Jacques," a journal published under the patronage of the "Society for the Furtherance and Protection of Christianity:"

(Prison Committee.) (Comité des Prisons.)

"A protest and intimation of bodily restraint are generally carried about by sheriffs' officers, and charged by law, the first, 4f. 35c., the second, 4f. 70c.; for these, however, the officers usually demand, for the former, 10f. 40c., for the second, 16f. 40c.; thus illegally claiming from the unfortunate victims of law 26f. 80c., for that which is fixed by that very law at 9f. 50c.

"For an arrest, the legal charge is, including stamp and registering, 3f. 50c.; coach-hire, 5f.; for arrest and entry in the prison books, 60f. 25c.; office dues, 8f. Total, 76f. 75c. A bill of the usual scale ordinarily charged by sheriffs' officers, now lying before us, shows that these allowances by law are magnified by the extortion of the officers into a sum of about 240f., instead of the 76f. they are alone entitled to claim."

The same journal says: "Sheriffs' officer —— has been to our office, requesting us to correct an article which appeared in one of our numbers, headed, 'A woman hung.' 'I did not hang the woman!' observed he, angrily. We did not assert that he did, but, to prevent any further misapprehension, content ourselves with reprinting the paragraph in question: 'A few days ago, a sheriffs' officer, named ——, went to the Rue de la Lune, to arrest a carpenter,[Pg 309] who dwelt there. The man, perceiving him from the street, rushed hastily into his house, exclaiming, "I am a ruined man! The officers are here to arrest me!" His wife, at these words, hastened to secure the door; while the carpenter ran to a room on the top of the house, to conceal himself. The officer, finding admittance refused, went and fetched a magistrate and a blacksmith; the door was forced, and, on proceeding up-stairs, the woman was found hanging in her own bedchamber. The officer did not allow himself to be diverted from the pursuit by the sight of the corpse; he continued his search, and at length discovered the husband in his hiding-place. "I arrest you!" cried the bailiff. "I have no money!" replied the man. "Then you must go to prison." "Let me at least bid my wife adieu!" "It is not worth while waiting for that,—your wife is dead! She has hung herself!"' Now, M. —— (adds the journal we have quoted), what have you to say to that? You see we have merely copied your own statement upon oath, in which you have detailed all these frightful circumstances with horrible minuteness!"

The same journal also cites two or three hundred similar facts, of which the following may serve as a specimen: "The expenses upon a note of hand for 300f. have been run up by the sheriffs' officers to 964f.; the debtor, therefore, who is a mere artisan, with a family of five children, has been detained in prison for the last seven months!"

The author of this work had a double reason for borrowing thus largely from the pages of the "Pauvre Jacques." In the first place, to show that the horrors of the last chapter are far below reality in their painful details. And secondly, to prove that, if only viewed in a philanthropic light, the allowing such a state of things to go on (namely, the exorbitant and illegal fees both demanded and exacted by certain public functionaries), frequently acts as a preventive to the exercise of benevolence, and paralyses the hand of charity. Thus, were a small capital of 1000f. collected among kind-hearted individuals, three or four honest, though unfortunate, artisans might be released from a prison and restored to their families, by employing the above-named sum in paying the debts of such as were incarcerated for amounts varying from 250 to 300f.! But when the original debt is increased threefold by the excessive and illegal expenses, even the most charitable recede from the good work of delivering a fellow creature, from the impression that two-thirds of their well-intentioned bounty would only go into the pockets of pampered sheriffs' officers and their satellites. And yet no class of unfortunate beings stand more in need of aid and charitable assistance than the unfortunate class we have just been speaking of.

[Pg 310]



Louise, the daughter of the lapidary, was possessed of more than ordinary loveliness of countenance, a fine, tall, graceful person, uniting, by the strict regularity of her faultless features and elegance of her figure, the classic beauty of Juno with the lightness and elegance assigned to the statue of the hunting Diana. Spite of the injury her complexion had received from exposure to weather, and the redness of her well-shaped hands and arms, occasioned by household labour,—despite even the humble dress she wore, the whole appearance of Louise Morel was stamped with that indescribable air of grace and superiority Nature sometimes is pleased to bestow upon the lowly-born, in preference to the descendant of high lineage.

We shall not attempt to paint the joy, the heartfelt gratitude of this family, so wondrously preserved from so severe a calamity; even the recent death of the little girl was forgotten during the first burst of happiness. Rodolph alone found leisure to remark the extreme paleness and utter abstraction of Louise, whose first ecstasy at finding her father free passed away, apparently plunged in a deep and painful reverie. Anxious to relieve the mind of Morel of any apprehensions for the future, and also to explain a liberality which might have raised suspicions as to the character he chose to assume, Rodolph drew the lapidary to the further end of the staircase,[Pg 311] leaving to Rigolette the task of acquainting Louise with the death of her little sister, and said to him:

"Did not a young lady come to visit you and your family on the morning of the day before yesterday?"

"Yes, and appeared much grieved to see the distress we were in."

"Then you must thank her,—not me."

"Can it be possible, sir? That young lady—"

"Is your benefactress. I frequently wait upon her from our warehouse; when I hired an apartment here, I learned from the porteress all the particulars of your case, and the painful situation you were placed in; relying on this lady's well-known kindness and benevolence, I hastened to acquaint her with all I had heard respecting you; and, the day before yesterday, she came herself, in order to be fully aware of the extent of your misery. The distress she witnessed deeply affected her; but as it might have been brought about by misconduct, she desired me to take upon myself the task of inquiring into every circumstance relative to your past and present condition with as little delay as possible, being desirous of regulating her benevolent aid by the good or bad accounts she might receive of your honesty and good conduct."

"Kind, excellent lady! Well might I say—"

"As you observed just now to Madeleine, 'If the rich did but know!'—was not that it?"

"Is it possible that you are acquainted with the name of my wife? Who could have told you that?"

"My worthy friend," said Rodolph, interrupting Morel, "I have been concealed in the little garret adjoining your attic since six o'clock this morning."

"Have you, indeed, sir?"

"Yes, my honest fellow, I have, and from my hiding-place heard all that passed among you."

"Oh, sir! but why did you do so?"

"I could not have employed more satisfactory means[Pg 312] of getting at your real character and sentiments; and I was desirous of seeing and hearing all you did or said without your being aware of my presence. The porter had made me acquainted with this small retreat, which he offered to me for a wood-closet. This morning, I asked his permission to visit it, and remained there more than an hour, during which time I had ample proof that a more upright, noble mind did not exist, and that the courageous resignation with which you bore your heavy trials was above all praise."

"Nay, indeed, sir, I do not merit such words as these. I was born honest, I hope, and it comes natural to me to act as I have done."

"I am quite sure of that; therefore I do not laud your conduct, I appreciate it. Just as I was about to quit my hiding-place, to relieve you of the presence of the bailiffs, I heard the voice of your daughter, and I meant to have allowed her the happiness of saving you. Unhappily, the rapacity of the men deprived poor Louise of the full completion of her pious task. I then made my appearance. Fortunately, I yesterday received several sums that were due to me, so that I was enabled to advance the money for your benefactress, and to pay off your unfortunate debt. But your distress has been so great, so unmerited, and so nobly sustained, that the well-deserved interest you have excited shall not stop here; and I take upon myself, in the name of your preserving angel, to promise you henceforward calmness, peace, and happiness, for yourself and family."

"Can it be possible? But, at least, sir, let me beseech you to tell me the name of this angel of goodness,—this heavenly preserver,—that it may dwell in our hearts and on our lips! By what name shall we bless her in our prayers?"

"Think of her and speak of her as the angel she is. Ah, you were right in saying just now that both rich and poor had their sorrows!"[Pg 313]

"And is this dear lady, then, unhappy?"

"Who is free from care and suffering in this world of trial? But I see no cause for concealing from you the name of your protectress. The lady, then, is named—"

Remembering that Madame Pipelet was aware of Madame d'Harville's having, at her first coming to the house, inquired for the commandant, and fearing her indiscreet mention of the circumstance, Rodolph resumed, after a short pause:

"I will venture to tell you this lady's name, upon one condition—"

"Pray go on, sir."

"That you never mention it again to any one,—mind, I say to any person whatever."

"I solemnly promise you never to let it pass my lips; but may I not hope to be permitted to thank this friend of the unfortunate?"

"I will let Madame d'Harville know your wish; but I scarcely think she will consent to it."

"Then this generous lady is called—"

"The Marquise d'Harville."

"Never will that name be forgotten by me! Henceforward it will be to me as that of my patron saint,—the object of my grateful worship! Oh, when I remember that, thanks to her, my wife, children,—all, are saved!—saved—no, no, not all,—my little Adèle has gone from us! We shall see her sweet face no more; but still, I know we must have parted with her sooner or later; the dear child's doom was long since decreed!"

Here the poor lapidary wiped away the tears which filled his eyes at the recollection of his lost darling.

"As for the last duties that have now to be performed for your poor child," said Rodolph, "if you will be guided by me, this is how we will arrange it. I have not yet begun to occupy my chamber; it is large, airy, and convenient. There is already one bed in it; and I will give orders to add all that may be[Pg 314] requisite for the accommodation of yourself and family, until Madame d'Harville is enabled to find an eligible abode for you. The remains of your little daughter can then be left in your attic, where, until the period of interment, they can be properly watched and guarded by a priest with all requisite attention. I will request M. Pipelet to take upon himself every necessary arrangement for the mournful office of laying the poor babe in its peaceful grave."

"Nay, sir,—but, indeed, I cannot allow you to be turned out of your apartment! Now that we are so happily freed from our misery, and that I have no longer the dread of being dragged to prison, our poor garret will seem to me like a palace,—more especially if my Louise remains to watch over the family as she used to do."

"Your daughter shall never again quit you. You said, awhile ago, that the first desire of your heart was to have Louise always with you. Well then, as a reward for your past sufferings, I promise you she shall never leave you more."

"Oh, sir, this is too much; it cannot be reality! It seems as though I were dreaming some happy dream. I fear I have never been as religious as I ought. I have, in fact, known no other religion than that of honour. But such a reverse, such a change from wretchedness to joy, would make even an atheist believe, if not in priests, at least in a gracious, interposing, and preserving Providence."

"And if," said Rodolph, sadly, "a father's sorrow for the loss of his child can be assuaged by promises of rewards or recompense, I would say that the heavenly hand which takes one child from you gives you back the other."

"True,—most true! And henceforward our dear Louise will be with us to help us to forget our poor Adèle."[Pg 315]

"Then you will accept the offer of my chamber, will you not? Or else how shall we be able to arrange for the mournful duties to the poor infant? Think of your wife, whose head is already in so weak a state. It will never do to allow her to remain with so afflicting a spectacle constantly before her eyes."

"What goodness," exclaimed the lapidary, "thus to remember all,—to think of all! Oh, you are indeed a friend! May Heaven bless and recompense you!"

"Come, you must reserve your thanks for the excellent lady you term your protecting angel. 'Tis her goodness inspires me with a desire to imitate her benevolence and charity. I feel assured I am but speaking as she would speak, were she here, and that all I do she will fully approve. So now, then, it is arranged you will occupy my room. But, just tell me, this Jacques Ferrand—"

The forehead of Morel became clouded over at the mention of this name.

"I suppose," continued Rodolph, "there is no doubt as to his being the same Jacques Ferrand who practises as a notary in the Rue du Sentier?"

"None whatever, sir," answered Morel; "but do you know him?" Then, assailed afresh by his fears for Louise, the lapidary continued: "Since you overheard all our conversation, tell me, sir,—tell me, do you not think I have just cause to hate this man, as I do? For who knows but my daughter—my Louise—"

The unhappy artisan could not proceed; he groaned with anguish, and concealed his face with his hands.

Rodolph easily divined the nature of his apprehensions.

"The very step taken by the notary ought to reassure your mind," said he, "as, there can be no doubt, he was instigated by revenge for your daughter's rejection of his improper advances to proceed to the hostile measures adopted. However, I have every reason to believe[Pg 316] he is a very bad and dangerous man; and if my suspicions respecting him are realised," said Rodolph, after a few moments' silence, "then rely on Providence to punish him. If the just vengeance of the Almighty seems occasionally to slumber, it awakens, sooner or later."

"He is both rich and hypocritical!" cried the lapidary.

"At the moment of your deepest despair, a guardian angel appeared to save you from ruin; so, at the moment when least expected, will an inexorable Avenger call upon the notary to atone for his past crimes, if he be guilty."

At this moment Rigolette came out of the miserable garret belonging to Morel; the kind-hearted girl had evidently been shedding tears, and was trying to dry her eyes before she descended the stairs. Directly Rodolph perceived her, he exclaimed:

"Tell me, my good neighbour, will it not be much better for M. Morel and his family to occupy my chamber while they are waiting till his benefactress, whose agent I am, shall have found a comfortable residence for him?"

Rigolette surveyed Rodolph with an air of unfeigned surprise.

"Really," cried she, at length, "are you in earnest in making so kind and considerate an offer?"

"Quite so, on one condition, which depends on yourself."

"Oh, all that is in my power!"

"You see, I had some rather difficult accounts to arrange for my employer, which are wanted as early as possible,—indeed, I expect they will be sent for almost directly; my papers are in my room. Now would you be neighbourly enough to let me bring my work into your apartment, and just spare a little corner of your table? I should not disturb your work the least in the[Pg 317] world, and then the whole of the Morel family, by the assistance of Madame Pipelet and her husband, may be at once established in my apartment."

"Certainly I will, and with great pleasure; neighbours should always be ready to help and oblige each other. I am sure, after all you have done for poor M. Morel, you have set a good example; so I shall be very glad to give you all the assistance in my power, monsieur."

"No, no,—don't call me monsieur! say 'my dear friend,' or 'neighbour,' whichever you prefer; unless you lay aside all ceremony, I shall not have courage to intrude myself and papers into your room," said Rodolph, smiling.

"Well, pray don't let that be any hindrance; then, if you like, I'll call you 'neighbour,' because, you know, you are so."

"Father! father!" said one of Morel's little boys, coming out of the garret, "mother is calling for you! Make haste, father,—pray do!"

The lapidary hastily followed the child back to his chamber.

"Now, then, neighbour," said Rodolph to Rigolette, "you must do me one more service."

"With all my heart, if it lies in my power to do so."

"I feel quite sure you are a clever manager and housekeeper; now we must go to work at once to provide the Morels with comfortable clothing, and such matters as may be essential for their accommodation in my apartment, which at present merely contains my slender stock of bachelor's furniture, sent in yesterday. Beds, bedding, and a great quantity of requisites will be needed for so many persons; and I want you to assist me in procuring them all the comforts I wish them to have with as little delay as possible."

Rigolette reflected a moment, and then replied:[Pg 318]

"You shall have all this before two hours have passed: good clothes, nicely made, warm and comfortable, good white linen for all the family, two small beds for the children, one for the grandmother, and, in fact, all that is required; but, I can tell you, all this will cost a great, great deal of money."

"Diable! and how much?"

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

"For everything?"

"Yes; you see it is a great sum of money," said Rigolette, opening her eyes very wide and shaking her head.

"But we could procure all this?"

"Within two hours."

"My little neighbour, you must be a fairy!"

"Oh, no! it is easy enough. The Temple is but two steps from here, and you will get there everything you require."

"The Temple?"

"Yes, the Temple."

"What place is that?"

"What, neighbour, don't you know the Temple?"

"No, neighbour."

"Yet it is the place where such persons as you and I fit themselves out in furniture and clothes, when they are economical. It is much cheaper than any other place, and the things are also good."


"I think so. Well, now, I suppose—how much did you pay for your greatcoat?"

"I cannot say precisely."

"What, neighbour! not know how much you gave for your greatcoat?"

"I will tell you, in confidence, neighbour," said Rodolph, smiling, "that I owe for it; so, you see, I cannot exactly say."[Pg 319]

"Oh, neighbour, neighbour, you do not appear to me to be very orderly in your habits!"

"Alas, neighbour, I fear not!"

"I must cure you of that, if you desire that we should continue friends; and I see already that we shall be, for you seem so kind! You will not be sorry to have me for a neighbour, I can see. You will assist me and I shall assist you,—we are neighbours, and that's why. I shall look after your linen; you will give me your help in cleaning my room. I am up very early in the morning, and will call you, that you may not be late in going to your work; I will knock against the wainscot until you say to me, 'Good morning, neighbour!'"

"That's agreed; you shall awaken me, you shall take charge of my linen, and I will clean out your room."

"Certainly. And, when you have anything to buy, you must go to the Temple; for see now, for example, your greatcoat must have cost you eighty francs, I have no doubt; well, you might have bought one just as good at the Temple for thirty francs."

"Really, that is marvellous! And so you think that for four or five hundred francs these poor Morels—"

"Will be completely set up, and very comfortable for a long while."

"Neighbour, an idea comes across me."

"Well, what is this idea?"

"Do you understand all about household affairs?"

"Yes; I should think so," said Rigolette, with a slight affectation of manner.

"Take my arm, then, and let us go to the Temple and buy all these things for the Morels; won't that be a good way?"

"Oh, how capital! Poor souls! But, then, the money?"

"I have it."

"What, five hundred francs?"

[Pg 320]

"The benefactor of the Morels has given me carte blanche; and she will spare nothing to see these poor people restored to comfort. Is there any place where we can buy better supplies than at the Temple?"

"Certainly not; you will not find better things anywhere; and then there is everything, and all ready, there; little frocks for children, and gowns for the mother."

"Well, then, neighbour, let us go at once to the Temple:"

"Ah, mon Dieu! but—"


"Nothing; only, you see, my time is everything to me, and I am already a little behindhand, through coming here to watch over poor Madame Morel; and you must know that an hour in one way, and an hour in another, that by little and little makes whole days; well, a day is thirty sous, and, whether we gain something or nothing, we must live; but bah! never mind. I will make up for that at night, and then, d'ye see, parties of pleasure are very rare, and I call this one. It will seem to me that I am rich, rich, rich, and that it is with my own money that I shall buy all these things for the Morels. So come along, neighbour, I will throw on my shawl and cap, and then I am ready."

"Suppose, whilst you are doing this, I bring my papers to your apartment?"

"Willingly; and then you will see my room," said Rigolette, with pride, "for it is all tidy, which will convince you how early I am in the morning; and that, if you are idle and a sluggard, so much the worse for you, for I shall be a troublesome neighbour."

So saying, light as a bird, Rigolette descended the staircase, followed by Rodolph, who went into his own room to brush off the dust which had settled on him in M. Pipelet's garret. We will hereafter disclose how it was that Rodolph was not informed of the carrying off of Fleur-de-Marie from the farm at Bouqueval, and[Pg 321] why he had not visited the Morels the day after his conversation with Madame d'Harville.

Rodolph, furnished, by way of saving appearances, with a thick roll of papers, entered Rigolette's chamber.

Rigolette was nearly the same age as Goualeuse, her old prison acquaintance. There was between these two young girls the same difference that there is between laughter and tears; between joyous light-heartedness and melancholy dejection; between the wildest thoughtlessness and a dark and constant reflection on the future; between a delicate, refined, elevated, poetic nature, exquisitely sensitive, and incurably wounded by remorse, and a gay, lively, happy, good, and compassionate nature. Rigolette had no sorrows but those derived from the woes of others, and with these she sympathised with all her might, devoting herself, body and soul, to any suffering fellow creature; but, her back turned on them, to use a common expression, she thought no more about them. She often checked her bursts of laughter by a flood of tears, and then checked her tears by renewing her laughter. Like a real Parisian, Rigolette preferred excitement to calm, and motion to repose; the loud and echoing harmony of the orchestra at the fête of the Chartreuse or the Colysée to the soft murmurs of the breeze, waters, and leaves; the bustling disturbance of the thoroughfares of Paris to the silent solitude of the fields; the brilliancy of fireworks, the flaring of the grand finale, the uproar of the maroons and Roman candles, to the serenity of a lovely night,—starlight, clear, and still. Alas, yes! the dear, good little girl actually preferred the pavement of the streets of the capital to the fresh moss of the shaded paths, perfumed with violets; the dust of the Boulevards to the waving of the ears of corn, mingled with the scarlet of the wild poppies and the azure of the bluebells.

Rigolette only left her chamber on Sundays, and each morning to provide her prescribed allowance of chickweed,[Pg 322] bread, milk, and millet, for herself and her two birds, as Madame Pipelet observed; but she lived in Paris for Paris, and would have been wretched to have resided anywhere but in the capital.

A few words as to the personal appearance of the grisette, and we will then introduce Rodolph into the chamber of his neighbour.

Rigolette was scarcely eighteen years of age, of middle height, rather small than large, but so gracefully formed, so admirably proportioned, so delightfully filled out, so entirely in accordance with her step, which was light and easy, that she seemed perfect of her kind. The movement of her finely formed feet, always encased in well-made boots of black cloth, with a rather thick 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 the surface. This step, so peculiar to grisettes, at once nimble, attractive, and as if somewhat alarmed, may doubtless be attributed to three causes: their desire to be thought pretty, their fear of being mistaken for what they are not, and to the desire they always have not to lose a minute in their peregrinations.

Rodolph had not seen Rigolette but by the dim light of Morel's garret, or on the landing-place, equally obscure, and he was therefore really struck by the bright and fresh countenance of the young girl when he softly entered her apartment, which was lighted up by two large windows. He remained motionless for a moment, in admiration of the striking picture before his eyes. Standing in front of a glass placed over her mantelpiece, Rigolette was tying under her chin the ribands of a small cap of bordered tulle, ornamented with a light trimming of cherry-coloured riband. The cap, which fitted tightly, was placed at the back of her head, and thus revealed two large and thick bandeaux of glossy hair, shining like jet, and falling very low in front. Her eyebrows, fine[Pg 323] and well defined, seemed as if traced in ink, and curved above two large black, piercing, and intelligent eyes; her firm and velvety cheeks were suffused with the rosy hue of health, fresh to the eye, fresh to the touch, like a ripe peach covered with the dew of dawn; her small, upturned, attractive, and saucy nose, would have been a fortune to any Lisette or Marton; her mouth, which was rather large, had rosy and moist lips, small, white, close, and pearly teeth, and was laughter-loving and sportive; three charming dimples, which gave a characteristic grace to her features, were placed, two in her cheeks, and the other in her chin, close to a beauty-spot, a small ebony speck, which was most killingly situated at the corner of her mouth. Between a worked collar, which fell very low, and the border of the little cap, gathered in by a cherry-coloured riband, was seen a forest of beautiful hair, so accurately twisted and turned up that their roots were seen as clearly and as black as if they had been painted on the ivory of that lovely neck. A plum-coloured merino gown, with a plain back and close sleeves, made skilfully by Rigolette, covered a figure so small and slender 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, which resembled the facile undulations of a cat's motions, evinced this fact. Imagine a gown fitting tightly to a form rounded and polished as marble, and we must agree that Rigolette could easily dispense with this accessory to the toilet of which we have spoken. The tie of a small apron of dark green levantine formed a girdle around a waist which might have been spanned by the ten fingers.

Believing herself to be alone (for Rodolph still remained at the door, motionless and unperceived), the grisette, having smoothed down her bandeaux with her small hand, white and delicately clean, put her small foot on a chair and stooped to tie the lace of her boot. This attitude developed to Rodolph a portion of a cotton[Pg 324] stocking, white as snow, and a well-formed ankle and leg.

After the detail we have given of this toilet, we may guess that Rigolette had selected her prettiest cap and best apron to do honour to her neighbour on their excursion to the Temple. She found the pretended tradesman's clerk very much to her taste; his face, at once kind, bold, and animated, pleased her greatly; and then he had been so kind to the Morels, by giving up his room to them; so that, thanks to this proof of goodness, and, perhaps, also to his good looks, Rodolph had unwittingly advanced into the confidence of the grisette with giant strides. She, according to her ideas, founded on the compelled intimacy and reciprocal obligation which neighbourhood invites, thought herself very fortunate in having such a neighbour as Rodolph to succeed to the travelling clerk, Cabrion, and François Germain; for she was beginning to find that the next room had remained very long empty, and was afraid that she should never again see it occupied in an agreeable manner.

Rodolph took advantage of his invisibility to cast a curious eye around him, and he found the apartment even beyond the praises which Madame Pipelet had bestowed on the extreme cleanliness of the humble home of Rigolette. Nothing could be more lively or better arranged than this apartment. A gray paper, with green garlands, covered the walls; the floor, painted of a red colour, shone like a looking-glass; a small earthenware stone was placed in the chimney, where was piled up, very symmetrically, a small store of wood, cut so short, so thin, that, without exaggeration, each piece might have been compared to a very large match. On the stone mantelpiece, painted gray marble, there were, for ornaments, two pots of common flowers, covered in with green moss; a small case of boxwood contained a silver watch instead of a pendule. On one side was a brass candlestick, shining like gold, and having in it a small[Pg 325] piece of wax-light; and, on the other side, no less resplendently, one of those lamps formed by a cylinder and a brass reflector, supported by a bar of steel, and having a base of lead. A tolerably large square glass, in a black wood frame, was over the mantelpiece. Curtains of gray and green Persian cloth, with a woollen-fringed border, cut and worked by Rigolette, and hung in light rings of black iron, decorated the windows; and the bed was covered with a counterpane of the same make and material. Two closets, with glass doors, and painted white, were in each side of the recess, enclosing, no doubt, household utensils,—the portable stove, the fountain, brooms, etc.; for none of these things spoiled the neat appearance of the chamber. A chest of drawers of well veined and shining walnut-tree; four chairs of the same wood; a large table for ironing and working, covered with one of those green woollen coverings which we sometimes see in a peasant's cottage; a straw armchair, with a stool to match, the constant seat of the workwoman,—such was the unpretending furniture. There was, too, in one of the window-seats, a cage with two canary birds, the faithful companions of Rigolette. By one of those notable ideas which occur to the poor, this cage was placed in the middle of a large wooden chest, about a foot deep, placed on a table. This chest, which Rigolette called her bird's garden, was filled with mould, covered with moss during the winter, and in spring the young girl sowed grass seeds, and planted flowers there. Rodolph examined the place with interest, and entered fully into the cheerful disposition of the grisette. He pictured to himself this solitude, enlivened by the song of the birds and of Rigolette herself. In summer, no doubt, she worked at the open window, half veiled by a verdant curtain of sweet peas, roses, nasturtiums, and blue and white convolvulus. In winter she warmed herself near her small stove, by the soft light of her lamp.[Pg 326]

Rodolph was thus reflecting, when, looking mechanically at the door, he saw there a large bolt,—a bolt which would not have been out of place on the door of a prison. This bolt made him reflect. It might have two meanings, two very distinct uses: to close the door on the lover within; to close the door on the lover without. Rodolph was aroused from his reflections by Rigolette, who, turning her head, saw him, and, without changing her attitude, said to him:

"What, neighbour, are you there?" Then the well-formed ankle instantly disappeared beneath the ample skirt of the plum-coloured gown, and Rigolette added, "Ah, Mr. Cunning!"

"I was here admiring in silence."

"Admiring what, neighbour?"

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

"Why, you must know that is my enjoyment. I never go out, and so I can do no less than make my home comfortable."

"But really I never saw anything half so nice. What pretty curtains! and the drawers as handsome as mahogany! You must have spent a great deal of money here."

"Oh, don't mention it! I had, of my own, four hundred and twenty-five francs when I left the prison, and almost all has been spent."

"When you left the prison!—you?"

"Yes, but it is a very long story. Of course, you do not suppose that I was in prison for anything wrong?"

"Of course not; but how was it?"

"After the cholera, I was quite alone in the world. I was then, I think, ten years of age."

"But who had taken care of you till then?"

"Ah, some excellent people! But they died of the cholera;" here Rigolette's large eyes became moistened. "They had sold the little they possessed to pay their small debts, and I remained without having any one who would[Pg 327] take care of me. Not knowing what to do, I went to the guard-house, opposite to our house, and said to the sentinel: 'Sir, my relations are dead, and I do not know where to go to; what must I do?' Then the officer came, and he took me to the commissary, who put me in prison as a vagabond, and I did not go out until I was sixteen years old."

"But your relations?"

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

"And what were they? What was their business or pursuit?"

"Papa Crétu, so I always called him, was a house-painter, and his wife worked at her needle."

"Then they were pretty well off?"

"Oh, like other people in their station, though they were not married; but they called each other husband and wife. They had their ups and downs; to-day plenty, if there was work to be had; to-morrow short commons, if there was none; but that did not prevent the couple from being content and always cheerful;" at this remembrance Rigolette's face brightened up. "There was not such a household in the quarter,—always merry, always singing, and, with it all, as good as they could be. What they had any one was welcome to share. Mamma Crétu was a plump body, about thirty years old, as neat as a penny, as active as an eel, as merry as a lark. Her husband was a regular good-tempered fellow, with a large nose, a wide mouth, and always a paper cap on his head, and such a funny face,—oh, so funny,—you could not look at him without laughing. When he came home after work, he did nothing but sing, and make faces, and[Pg 328] gambol like a child. He used to dance me on his knees, and play with me like a child of my own age; and his wife spoiled me, as if I had been a blessing to her. They both required only one thing from me, and that was to be in a good humour; and in that I never thwarted them, thank Heaven. So they called me Rigolette,[7] and the name has stuck to me. As to mirth, they set me the example, for I never saw them sorrowful. If ever there was a word, it was the wife who said to her husband, 'Crétu, you silly fellow, do be quiet, you make me laugh too much.' Then he said to her, 'Hold your foolish tongue, Ramonette,'—I don't know why he called her Ramonette,—'do be still, you really make my sides ache, you are so funny.' And then I laughed to see them laugh, and in this way I was brought up, and in this way they formed my disposition; and I hope I have profited by it."

[7] The French verb rigoler is "to be merry."—E. T.

"Most assuredly you have, neighbour. So there never were any disputes between them?"

"Never, oh, never! Sunday, Monday, and sometimes on Tuesday, they made holiday, or kept wedding-day, as they called it, and always took me with them. Papa Crétu was an excellent workman, and, when he chose to work, he could earn what he pleased, and so could his wife, too. If they had got enough to do for Sunday and Monday, and live on pretty comfortably, they were perfectly satisfied. If, after this, they were on short allowance for a time, they didn't mind it. I remember, when we had only bread and water, Papa Crétu took from his library—"

"He had a library, then?"

"Oh, he used to call a little box so, in which he put his collection of new songs; for he bought all the new ones, and knew them every one. When, then, there was nothing but bread in the house, he used to take an old cookery book from his library, and say to us, 'Well, now,[Pg 329] let us see, what shall we eat to-day? This, or that?' And then he used to read out a long list of good things. Each of us chose a dish, and then Papa Crétu took an empty saucepan, and, with the funniest airs and gestures in the world, pretended to put into the saucepan all the ingredients requisite for making a capital stew; and then he used to pretend to pour it all out into a dish—also empty—which he placed on the table, with still the same drolleries, which almost split our sides. Then he took up his book again, and, whilst he was reading to us, for instance, the recipe of a good fricassée of chicken, which we had chosen, and which made our mouths water, we ate our bread, all laughing like so many mad people."

"And, in this happy household, were there any debts to trouble them?"

"None whatever. So long as the money lasted, they ate, drank, and made merry, and, when it was all gone, they lived upon 'make believe,' as before."

"And did they never think of the future?"

"Oh, yes, they thought of it, of course; but what is the future to such as we? Present and future are like Sunday and Monday; the one we spend gaily and happily outside the barriers, the other is got over in the faubourgs."

"And why, since this couple seemed so well assorted, did they never marry?"

"A friend of theirs once put that very question in my presence."

"Well, and what did they say?"

"'Oh,' said they, 'if ever we have any children, it may be all very well to marry, but as far as we are concerned, we do very well as we are. And why should we make an obligation of that which we now perform willingly? Besides, getting married costs money, and we have none to spare in unnecessary expenses.' But, my goodness," added Rigolette, "how I am running on. But, really, when once I begin to talk of these kind people, who were[Pg 330] so good to me, I never know when to leave off. Here, neighbour, will you give me my shawl off the bed, and put it nicely over my shoulders, then pin it underneath the collar of my habit-shirt with this large pin, and then we will set off, for it will take us some time to select the different things you wish to buy for the poor Morels."

Rodolph readily obeyed the directions of Rigolette. First he took from the bed a large plaid shawl, which he placed with all imaginable care on the well-formed shoulders of Rigolette.

"That will do, neighbour. Now, lift up my collar, and press the shawl and dress together; then stick in the pin; but pray try not to prick me with it."

The prince executed the orders given with zealous accuracy; then observed, smilingly, to the grisette:

"Ah, Mlle. Rigolette, I should not like to be your femme de chambre; there is danger in it!"

"Yes, I know," answered Rigolette gaily; "there is great danger for me of having a pin run in by your awkwardness. But now," added she, after they had left the room, and carefully locked the door after them, "take my key; it is so large, I always expect it will burst my pocket; it is as large as a pistol," and here the light-hearted girl laughed merrily at her own conceit.

Rodolph accordingly "took charge" (that is the prescribed form of speech) of an enormous key, which might well have figured in one of those allegorical devices in which the vanquished are represented as humbly offering the keys of their lost cities to the conquerors. Although Rodolph believed himself too much changed by years to run any risk of being recognised by Polidori, he still deemed it prudent to draw up the collar of his paletot as he passed by the door of the apartments belonging to the quack, Bradamanti.

"Neighbour," said Rigolette, "don't forget to tell M.[Pg 331] Pipelet that you are about to send in some things which are to be carried at once up to your chamber."

"You are right, my good friend; let us step into the porter's lodge for an instant."

M. Pipelet, with his everlasting bell-shaped hat on his head, dressed, as usual, in the accustomed green coat, and seated before a table covered with scraps of leather and fragments of boots and shoes, was occupied in fixing a new sole on a boot, his whole look and manner impressed with the same deeply meditative air which characterised his usual proceedings. Anastasie was just then absent from the lodge.

"Well, M. Pipelet," said Rigolette, "I hope you will be pleased to hear the good news. Thanks to my good neighbour here, the poor Morels have got out of trouble. La! when one thinks of that poor man being taken off to prison—oh, those bailiffs have no hearts!"

"Nor manners either, mademoiselle," rejoined M. Pipelet, in an angry tone, wrathfully brandishing the boot then in progress of repair, and into which he had inserted his left hand and arm. "No! I have no hesitation in declaring, in the face of all mankind, that they are a set of mannerless scoundrels. Why, taking advantage of the darkness of our stairs, they actually carried their indecent violence so far as to lay their audacious fingers upon the waist of my wife. When I first heard the cries of her insulted modesty, I could not restrain myself, and, spite of all efforts to restrain myself, I yielded to the natural impetuosity of my disposition. Yes, I will frankly confess, my first impulse was to remain perfectly motionless."

"But, I suppose, afterwards," said Rigolette, who had much ado to preserve a serious air, "afterwards, M. Pipelet, you pursued them, and bestowed the punishment they so well deserved?"

"I'll tell you, mademoiselle," answered Pipelet, deliberately; "when these shameless ruffians passed before[Pg 332] my lodge, my blood boiled, and I could not prevent myself from hastily covering my face, that I might not be shocked by the sight of these luxurious malefactors; but, afterwards, I ceased to be astonished; for well I knew I might expect some sight or sound to shock my senses; full well I was prepared for some direful misfortune ere the day had passed, for I dreamed last night of Cabrion."

Rigolette smiled, while the heavy groans which broke from the oppressed mind of the porter were mingled with blows of his hammer, as he vigorously applied it to the sole of the boot he was mending.

"You wisely chose the wisest part, my dear M. Pipelet, that of despising offences, and holding it beneath you to revenge them; but try to forget these ill-conducted bailiffs, and oblige me by doing me a great favour."

"Man is born to help his fellow man," drawled out Pipelet, in a melancholy and sententious tone; "and he is still further called upon so to do when a good and worthy gentleman, moreover, a lodger in one's house, is concerned."

"What I have to request of you is to carry up to my apartments for me several things I am about to send in, and which are for the Morels."

"Make yourself easy upon that point, monsieur," replied Pipelet. "I will faithfully perform your wishes."

"And afterwards," said Rodolph, mournfully, "you must obtain a priest to watch by a little girl the Morels have lost in the night. Go and give the requisite notification of the death, and bespeak a suitable funeral."

"Make your mind easy, monsieur," replied Pipelet, more gravely even than before; "directly my wife returns, I will go to the mayor, the church, and the traiteur's: to the church, for the soul of the dead; to the traiteur's, for the body of the living," added M.[Pg 333] Pipelet, philosophically and poetically. "Consider it done in both cases; my good sir, consider it done."

At the entrance to the alley, Rodolph and Rigolette encountered Anastasie returning from market with a huge basket of provisions.

"That's right! That's right!" cried the porteress, looking at the pair with a knowing and significant air; "there you go, arm in arm already. To be sure, look and love, love and look. Young people will be young people, no doubt on't. Me and Alfred was just the same. Whoever heard of a pretty girl without a beau? So, go along, my dears, and make yourselves happy while you can." Then, after gazing after them some minutes, the old woman disappeared in the depths of the alley, crying out, "Alfred, my old darling! Don't worry yourself; 'Stasie's coming to bring you something nice,—oh, so nice!"


Transcriber's Notes:

This e-text was prepared from numbered edition 505 of the 1000 printed.

In the original text the title "The Mysteries of Paris" is printed in Bold Gothic Font.

Minor punctuation and capitalization corrections have been made without comment.

Minor typographical errors of single words, otherwise spelled correctly throughout the text have been made without comment.

Word Variations appearing in the original text which have been retained:

"box-wood" and "boxwood"
"court-yard" and "courtyard"
"dairy-maid" and "dairymaid"
"incumber" and "encumber"
"milk-woman" and "milkwoman"
"out-building" and "outbuilding"
"Saint-Remy" (16) and "Saint-Rémy" (6)
"stew-pan" and "stewpan"

Throughout the text, illustrations and their captions were placed on facing pages. For the purpose of this e-text these pages have been combined into one entry.

Footnotes, originally at the bottom of a printed page, have been placed directly below the paragraph in which their anchor symbol appears.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mysteries of Paris, Volume 2 of 6, by 
Eugène Sue


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