Mademoiselle de Scudéri completed what Seron had begun, by letting the gentle rays of hope stream into the girl’s heart; till at length a violent flood of tears, which started to her eyes, brought her relief, and she was able to tell her story, with only occasional interruptions when the overmastering might of her sorrow turned her words into sobbing.
She had been awakened at midnight by a soft knocking at her door, and had recognised the voice of Olivier, imploring her to get up at once, as her father lay dying. She sprang up, terrified, and opened the door. Olivier, pale, strained and bathed in perspiration, led the way, with tottering steps, to the workshop; she followed. There was her father lying with his eyes glazed, and the death-rattle in his throat. She threw herself upon him, weeping wildly, and then observed that his shirt was covered with blood. Olivier gently lifted her away, and busied himself in bathing a wound on her father’s left breast with balsam, and bandaging it. As he was doing so, her father’s consciousness came back; the rattle in his throat ceased and, looking first on her and then on Olivier with most expressive glances, he took her hand and placed it in Olivier’s, pressing them both together. The pair of them were kneeling beside her father’s bed when he raised himself with a piercing cry, but immediately fell back again, and with a deep sigh departed this life. On this they both wept and lamented.
Olivier told her how her father had been murdered in his presence during an expedition on which he had accompanied him that night by his order, and how he had with the utmost difficulty carried him home, not supposing him to be mortally wounded. As soon as it was day, the people of the house – who had heard the sounds of their footsteps and of the weeping and lamenting during the night – came up, and found them still kneeling, inconsolable by the goldsmith’s body. Then an uproar began, the Marechaussée broke in, and Olivier was taken to prison as her father’s murderer. Madelon added the most touching account of Olivier’s virtues, goodness, piety and sincerity, telling how he had honoured his master as if he had been his own father, and how the latter returned his affection in the fullest measure, choosing him for his son-in-law in spite of his poverty, because his skill and fidelity were equal to the nobility of his heart. All this Madelon saw out of the fulness of her love, and added that if Olivier had thrust a dagger into her father’s heart before her very eyes, she would rather have thought it a delusion of Satan’s than have believed Olivier capable of such a terrible crime.
Most deeply touched by Madelon’s unspeakable sufferings, and quite disposed to believe in poor Olivier’s innocence, Mademoiselle de Scudéri made inquiries, and found everything confirmed which Madelon had said as to the domestic relations between the master and his workman. The people of the house and the neighbours all spoke of Olivier as the very model of good, steady, exemplary behaviour. No one knew anything whatever against him, and yet, when the crime was alluded to, every one shrugged his shoulders, and thought there was something incomprehensible about it.
Olivier, brought before the Chambre Ardente, most steadfastly denied – as Mademoiselle de Scudéri learned – the crime of which he was accused. Over and over again Mademoiselle de Scudéri had the very minutest circumstances of the awful event related to her. But the more enthusiastically Madelon spoke of the peaceful home-life which the three had led together, united in the most sincere affection, the more did every vestige of suspicion against Olivier disappear from her mind. Closely examining and considering everything, Mademoiselle de Scudéri could find, in all the realm of possibility, no motive for the terrible deed. With the firmest conviction of his innocence, Mademoiselle de Scudéri resolved to save Olivier at whatever cost.
It seemed to her most advisable, before perhaps appealing to the King in person, to go to the President La Regnie, point out for his consideration all the circumstances which made for Olivier’s innocence.
La Regnie received her with all the consideration and listened in silence to all she had to say concerning Olivier’s circumstances, relationships and character; and also concerning the crime itself. When at length Mademoiselle de Scudéri concluded, quite exhausted and wiping the tears from her cheeks, La Regnie began:
“It is quite characteristic of your excellent heart, Mademoiselle,” he said, that, moved by the tears of a young girl in love, you should credit all she says. But by you, Mademoiselle, I would not be looked upon as a monster of severity and barbarism; therefore, permit me briefly to present to you the evidence of this young criminal’s guilt. “Eh bien! this morning René Cardillac is found murdered by a dagger thrust, no one is by him except his workman, Olivier Brusson, and the daughter. In Olivier’s room there is found, amongst other things, a dagger covered with fresh blood which exactly fits into the wound. Olivier says, ‘Cardillac was attacked in the street before my eyes’ ‘Was the intention to rob him?’ ‘I do not know.’ ‘You were walking with him and you could not drive off the murderer or detain him?’ ‘My master was walking fifteen or perhaps sixteen paces in front of me; I was following him.’ ‘Why, in all the world, so far behind?’ ‘My master wished it so.’ ‘And what had Master Cardillac to do in the streets so late?’ ‘That I cannot say.’ ‘But he was never in the habit of being out after nine o’clock at other times, was he?’ At this Olivier hesitates, becomes confused, sighs, sheds tears, vows by all that is sacred that Cardillac did go out that night, and met with his death.
“Now observe, Mademoiselle, it is proved with the most absolute certainty that Cardillac did not leave the house that night; consequently Olivier’s assertion that he went with him is a barefaced falsehood. The street door of the house fastens with a heavy lock, which makes a piercing noise in opening and closing, so that, as experiments have proved, the noise is heard quite distinctly in the upper stories of the house. Now, there lives in the lower story, that is to say, close to the street door, old Maître Claude Patru with his housekeeper, a person of nearly eighty years of age, but still hale and active. Both of them heard Cardillac come downstairs at nine o”clock exactly, according to his usual custom, close and bolt the door with a great deal of noise, go upstairs again, read the evening prayer, and then (as was to be presumed by the shutting of the door) go into his bedroom.
“Maître Claude suffers from sleeplessness like many other old people; and on the night in question he could not close an eye. Therefore, about half-past nine the housekeeper struck a light in the kitchen, which she reached by crossing the passage, and sat down at the table beside her master with an old chronicle-book, from which she read aloud. All was silence in the house till nearly midnight; but then they heard overhead rapid footsteps, a heavy fall, as of something on to the floor, and immediately after that a hollow groaning. They were both struck by a peculiar alarm and anxiety, the horror of the terrible deed which had just been committed seemed to sweep over them. When day came what had been done in the darkness was brought clearly to light.”
“But, in the name of all the Saints,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “considering all the circumstances which I have told you at such length, can you think of any motive for this diabolical deed?”
“Hm!” answered La Regnie. “Cardillac was anything but a poor man. He had valuable jewels in his possession.”
“But all he had would go to the daughter! You forget that Olivier was to be Cardillac’s son-in-law.”
“Perhaps he was compelled to share with others,” said La Regnie, “or to do the deed wholly for them!”
“Share! – murder for others,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in utter amazement.
“You must learn, Mademoiselle,” continued La Regnie, “that Olivier’s blood would have been flowing on the Place de la Grève before this time, but that his crime is connected with that deeply-hidden mystery which has so long brooded over Paris. It is clear that Olivier belongs to that infamous band.
And most conclusive of all since Olivier’s arrest, the robberies and murders have ceased, the streets are as safe by night as by day. Proof enough that Olivier was most probably the chief of the band. As yet he will not confess, but there are means of making him speak against his will.”
“And Madelon!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “that truthful innocent creature.”
“Ah!” cried La Regnie, with one of his venomous smiles, “who will answer to me that she is not in the plot, too? She does not care so very much about her father. Her tears are all for the young murderer ”
“What?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “not for her father? – that girl – impossible!”
“Oh!” continued La Regnie, “remember la Brinvilliers! You must pardon me, if by-and-by I have to carry off your protégée, and put her in the Conciergerie.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered at this grisly notion. It seemed to her that no truth or virtue could endure before this terrible man.
As she was just going to descend the stairs, to which the President had attended her with ceremonious courtesy, a strange idea came to her – she knew not how.
“Might I be allowed to see this unfortunate Olivier Brusson?” she inquired, turning round sharply.
He scrutinised her face thoughtfully, and then distorted his features into the repulsive smile which was characteristic of him.
“Doubtless, Mademoiselle,” he said, your idea is that, trusting your own feelings — the inward voice more than what happened before our eyes, you would like to examine into Olivier’s guilt or innocence for yourself. Olivier, whose fate excites your sympathy, shall be brought to you.”
In truth, Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not bring herself to believe in Olivier’s guilt. Everything spoke against him. She thought she would hear Olivier’s narrative of the events of that night of mystery, which the judges, perhaps, did not see into, because they thought it unworthy of investigation.
Arrived at the Conciergerie, she was taken into a large, well-lighted room. Presently she heard the ring of fetters. Olivier Brusson was brought in; but as soon as she saw him she fell down fainting. When she recovered, he was gone. She demanded impetuously to be taken to her carriage; Alas! at the first glance she had recognised in Olivier Brusson the young man who had thrown the letter into her carriage on the Pont Neuf, and who had brought her the casket with the jewels. Now all doubt was gone, La Regnie’s terrible suspicions completely justified. Olivier belonged to the atrocious band, and had, doubtless, murdered his master!
And Madelon! Never before so bitterly deceived by her kind feelings, Mademoiselle de Scudéri, as she weighed and considered all the circumstances of the crime along with Madelon’s behaviour, she found a very great deal to nourish suspicion.
With a resolve at once to cast away the serpent she had been cherishing, Mademoiselle de Scudéri alighted from her carriage. Madelon threw herself at her feet. Controlling herself with difficulty and speaking with as much calmness and gravity as she could, Mademoiselle de Scudéri said, “Go! go! – be thankful that the murderer awaits the just punishment of his crime. With a bitter cry of “Alas! then all is over!” Madelon fell fainting to the ground. Mademoiselle de Scudéri left her to the care of La Martinière and went to another room.
Much distressed and estranged from all earthly things, she longed to depart from a world filled with diabolical treachery and falsehood. She heard Madelon, as La Martinière was leading her away, murmur in broken accents, “Her, too, have the terrible men deceived. Ah! wretched me! – miserable Olivier!” The tones of her voice went to her heart, and again there dawned within her a belief in the existence of some mystery, in Olivier’s innocence. Torn by the most contradictory feelings, she cried, “What spirit of the pit has mixed me up in this terrible story, which will be my very death!”
At this moment Baptiste came in, pale and terrified, to say that Desgrais was at the door. Since the dreadful La Voisin trial the appearance of Desgrais in a house was the sure precursor of some criminal accusation. Hence Baptiste’s terror, as to which his mistress asked him with a gentle smile, “What is the matter, Baptiste? Has the name of Scudéri been found in La Voisin’s lists?”
“Ah! For Christ’s sake,” cried Baptiste, trembling in every limb, ” Desgrais – the horrible Desgrais – is looking so mysterious, and is so insistent – he seems hardly able to wait till he can see you.”
“Well. Baptiste,” she said, “bring him in at once, this gentleman who so frightens you. To me, at all events, he can cause no anxiety.”
“President La Regnie sends me to you, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, when he entered, “with a request which he scarce would dare to make if the last hope of bringing to light an atrocious deed of blood did not lie in your hands. Since he saw you, Olivier Brusson has been almost out of his mind. To you alone will he divulge everything. Vouchsafe then, Mademoiselle, to listen to Brusson’s confession.”
“What?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in indignation, “I become an organ of the criminal court, and abuse the confidence of this unfortunate fellow to bring him to the scaffold! No, Desgrais! I will have nothing to do with his avowal. If I did, it would be locked up in my heart, as if made to a priest under the seal of the confessional.”
“Perhaps, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, with a subtle smile, “you might alter your opinion after hearing Brusson.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered involuntarily.
“Understand, Mademoiselle,” he continued, ” Olivier would be brought to your own house, in the night, like a free man; He could thus tell you freely and unconstrainedly all he had to say. Moreover, it would rest with you entirely to repeat as much or as little as you pleased of what Brusson confessed to you?”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri sat with eyes fixed on the ground, in deep reflection. Coming to a rapid decision, she solemnly replied, “God will give me self-command and firm resolution. Bring Brusson here; I will see him.”
So now at midnight there came a knocking at the door. Baptiste, duly instructed, opened. Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s blood ran cold when she heard the heavy tread of the guards who had brought Brusson stationing themselves about the passages.
At length the door opened, Desgrais came in, and after him Olivier Brusson, without irons, and respectably dressed.
“Here is Brusson, Mademoiselle,” said Desgrais, bowing courteously; he then departed at once.
Brusson sank down on both knees before Mademoiselle de Scudéri. She said: “Now, Brusson, what have you to say to me?”
He – still on his knees – sighed deeply, from profound sorrow, and then said: “Oh, Mademoiselle, you whom I so honour and worship, is there no trace of recollection of me left in your mind?”
Still looking at him attentively, she answered that she had certainly detected in his face a likeness to someone whom she had held in affection. Brusson rose quickly, and stepped backwards a pace, with his gloomy glance fixed on the ground.
Then, in a hollow voice, he said: “Have you quite forgotten Anne Guiot? Her son, Olivier, the boy whom you used to dandle on your knee, is he who is now before you.”
“Oh! For the love of all the Saints!” she cried, covering her face with both hands and sinking back in her chair. She had reason for being thus horrified. Anne Guiot, the daughter of a citizen who had fallen into poverty, had lived with Mademoiselle de Scudéri from her childhood; she had brought her up like a daughter, with all affection and care. When she grew up, a handsome, well-conducted young man named Claude Bresson fell in love with her. Being a first-rate workman at his trade of a watchmaker, sure to make a capital living in Paris and Anne being very fond of him, Mademoiselle de Scudéri saw no reason to object to their marrying. They set up house accordingly, lived a most quiet and happy domestic life, and the bond between them was knitted more closely still by the birth of a most beautiful boy, the image of his pretty mother.
Mademoiselle de Scudéri made an idol of little Olivier, whom she would take away from his mother for hours and days, to pet him and kiss him. Hence he attached himself to her, and was as pleased to be with her as with his mother. When three years had passed, the depressed state of Brusson’s trade brought it about that job-work was scarcer every day. In addition to this came home-sickness for his beautiful native Geneva so the little household went there, in spite of Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s dissuasions and promises of all needful assistance. Anne wrote once or twice to her foster-mother, and then ceased; so that Mademoiselle de Scudéri thought she was forgotten in the happiness of the Brussons’ life.
It was now just three and twenty years since the Brussons had left Paris for Geneva.
“Horrible!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had to some extent recovered herself, “You, Olivier! the son of my Anne! And now!”
“Mademoiselle!” said Olivier, quietly and composedly, ” I am completely innocent! Not by my hand – not by any crime of my committing, was it that the unfortunate Cardillac came to his end.”
As he said this, Olivier began to tremble and shake so, that Mademoiselle de Scudéri motioned him to a little seat which was near him.
“I have had sufficient time,” he went on, “to prepare myself for this interview with you – which I look upon as the last favour of a merciful Heaven Ah! would to Heaven my poor father had never left Paris! As far as my recollections of Geneva carry me, my father was deceived in all his expectations; bowed down and broken with sorrow, he died, just when he had managed to place me as apprentice with a goldsmith. My mother spoke much of you; she longed to tell you all her misfortunes, but the despondency which springs from poverty prevented her. She followed my father to the grave a few months after his death.”
“Poor Anne! Poor Anne!” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, overwhelmed by sorrow.
Outside there was a sudden agitation; a sound of people moving about made itself heard. “Ho, ho!” said he, with a bitter laugh, “Desgrais is waking up his people, as if I could possibly escape. But, let me go on. My master treated me harshly, though I was very soon one of the best of workmen and, indeed, much better than himself. Once a stranger came to our workshop to buy some of our work.
“When he saw a necklace of my making, he patted my shoulder in a kind way, and said, looking at the necklace with admiration, ‘Ah, ha! my young friend, this is really first-class work. I don’t know anybody who could beat it but René Cardillac, who is the greatest of all goldsmiths, of course. You ought to go to him.’
“The words of this stranger sunk deep into my heart. There was no more peace for me Geneva. I was powerfully impelled to leave it, and at length I succeeded in getting free from my master. I came to Paris, where René Cardillac received me coldly and harshly. But I stuck to my point. He was obliged to give me something to try my hand at, however trifling. So I got a ring to finish. When I took it back to him finished, he gazed at me with those sparkling eyes of his, as if he would look me through and through. Then he said, ‘You are a first-rate man – a splendid fellow; you may come and work with me. I’ll pay you well; you’ll be satisfied with me.’ And he kept his word. I had been several weeks with him before I saw Madelon who, I think, had been visiting an aunt of his in the country. At last she came home. O eternal power of Heaven, how was it with me when I saw that angelic creature! Has ever a man so loved as I! And now! Oh Madelon!”
Olivier could speak no more for sorrow. He held both hands over his face, and sobbed violently. At last he conquered the wild pain with a mighty effort, and went on:
“Madelon looked on me with favour, and came oftener and oftener into the workshop. Her father watched closely but many a stolen hand-clasp marked our covenant. Cardillac did not seem to notice. My idea was, that if I could gain his good-will and attain Master’s rank, I should ask his consent to our marriage. One morning, when I was going in to begin work, he came to me with anger and contempt in his face.
“‘I don’t want any more of your work,’ he said. ‘Get out of this house, and don’t let my eyes ever rest on you again. I have no need to tell you the reason. The dainty fruit you are trying to gather is beyond the reach of a beggar like you!’
“I tried to speak, but he seized me and pitched me out of the door with such violence that I fell, and hurt my head and my arm. Furious, and smarting with the pain, I went off, and at last found a kindhearted acquaintance in the Faubourg St. Germain, who gave me quarters in his garret. I had no peace nor rest. At night I wandered round Cardillac’s house, hoping that Madelon would hear my sighs and lamentations, and perhaps manage to speak to me at the window, undiscovered. All sorts of desperate plans, to which I thought I might persuade her, jostled each other in my brain. Cardillac’s house in the Rue Niçaise abuts on to a high wall with niches, containing old, partly-broken statues.
“One night I was standing close to one of those figures, looking up at the windows of the house which open on the courtyard which the wall encloses. Suddenly I saw a light in Cardillac’s workshop. It was midnight, and he was never awake at that time, as he always went to bed exactly at nine. My heart beat anxiously: I thought something might be going on. I pressed myself closely into the niche, and against the statue; but I started back in alarm, feeling a return of my pressure, as if the statue had come to life. In the faint moonlight I saw that the stone was slowly turning, and behind it appeared a dark form, which crept softly out and went down the street with stealthy tread. I sprang to the statue: it was standing close to the wall again, as before. Involuntarily, as if impelled by some power within me, I followed the receding dark figure. In passing an image of the Virgin, this figure looked round, the light of the lamp before the image falling upon his face. It was Cardillac! An indescribable fear fell upon me; an eerie shudder came over me.
“As if driven by some spell, I felt I must follow this spectre-like sleep-walker – for that was what I thought my master was, though it was not full moon, the time when that kind of impulse falls upon sleepers. At length Cardillac disappeared in a deep shadow; but by a certain easily distinguishable sound I knew that he had gone into the entry of a house. What was the meaning of this? I asked myself in amazement; what was he going to do? I pressed myself close to the wall. Presently there came up a gentleman, trilling and singing, with a white plume distinct in the darkness, and clanking spurs. Cardillac darted out upon him from the darkness, like a tiger on his prey; the man fell to the ground gasping. I rushed up with a cry of terror. Cardillac was leaning over him as he lay on the ground.
“‘Master Cardillac, what are you about?’ I cried aloud. ‘Curses upon you!’ he cried and, running by me with lightning speed, disappeared. Quite out of my senses – scarcely able to walk a step – I went up to the gentleman on the ground, and knelt down beside him, thinking it might still be possible to save him. But there was no trace of life left in him. In my alarm I scarcely noticed that the Marechaussée had come up and surrounded me.
“‘Another one laid low by the demons!’ they cried, all speaking at once. ‘Ah! ha! youngster! what are you doing here? – are you one of the band?’ and they seized me. I stammered out in the best way I could that I was incapable of such a terrible deed, and that they must let me go. Then one of them held a lantern to my face, and said, with a laugh: ‘This is Olivier Brusson; the goldsmith who works with our worthy Master René Cardillac. He murder folks in the street! – very likely story! Who ever heard of a murderer lamenting over the body, and letting himself be nabbed? Tell us all about it, my lad; out with it straight.’
“‘Right before my eyes,’ I said, ‘someone sprang out upon this man, stabbed him and ran off like lightning. I cried as loud as I could. I tried to see if he could be saved.’
“‘No, my son,’ cried one of those who had lifted up the body, ‘he’s done for! – the dagger-stab right through his heart, as usual.’ ‘The deuce!’ said another; ‘just too late again, as we were the day before yesterday.’ And they went away with the body.
“What I thought of all this I really cannot tell you. I pinched myself, to see if I were not in some horrible dream. Cardillac – my Madelon’s father – an atrocious murderer! I had sunk down powerless on the stone steps of a house; the daylight was growing brighter and brighter. An officer’s hat with a fine plume was lying before me on the pavement. Cardillac’s deed of blood, committed on the spot, came clearly back to my mental vision. I ran away in horror.
“With my mind in a whirl, almost unconscious, I was sitting in my garret, when the door opened, and René Cardillac came in. ‘For Christ’s sake! what do you want?’ I cried. Paying no heed to this, however, he came up smiling with a calmness and urbanity which increased my inward horror. He drew forward an old rickety stool, and sat down beside me; for I was unable to rise from my straw bed, where I had thrown myself. ‘Well, Olivier,’ he began, ‘how is it with you, my poor boy? I really was too hasty in turning you out of doors. Yes, I know very well I insulted you. I won’t pretend that I was not angry about your making up to my Madelon; but I have been thinking matters well over, and I see that I couldn’t have a better son-in-law than you, with your abilities, your skill, diligence and trustworthiness. Come back with me, and see how soon you and Madelon can make a match of it.’
“His words pierced my heart; I shuddered at his wickedness; I could not utter a syllable.
“‘You hesitate,’ he said sharply, while his sparkling eyes transfixed me. ‘Perhaps you can’t come today. You have other things to do. Perhaps you want to go and see Desgrais, or have an interview with D’Argenson or La Regnie. ‘ At this my sorely tried spirit found vent.
“‘Those,’ I said, ‘who are conscious of horrible crimes may dread the names which you have mentioned, but I do not. I have nothing to do with them.’
“‘Remember, Olivier,’ he resumed, ‘that it is an honour to you to work with . As to Madelon, I must tell you that it is her alone whom you have to thank for my yielding. She loves you with a devotion- as soon as you were gone, she fell at my feet, clasped my knees and vowed with copious tears, that she could never live without you. My Madelon really did fall quite sick and ill; and when I tried to talk her out of the silly nonsense, she called out your name a thousand times. Last evening I told her I gave in and agreed to everything, and would go to fetch you today; so this morning she is blooming again like any rose, and waiting for you, quite beside herself with longing.’
“May the eternal power of Heaven forgive me, but – I don’t know how it came about – I suddenly found myself in Cardillac’s house, where Madelon, with loud cries of ‘Olivier! – my Olivier! – my beloved! my husband!’ clasped both her arms about me, and pressed me to her heart and swore by the Virgin and all the Saints never, never to leave her.”
Overcome by the remembrance of this decisive moment, Olivier was obliged to pause. Horrified at the crime of a man Mademoiselle de Scudéri cried: “Dreadful! – René Cardillac a member of that band of murderers who have so long made Paris into a robbers’ den!”
“A member of the band, do you say, Mademoiselle?” said Olivier. “There never was any band; it was René Cardillac alone who sought and found his victims with such diabolical ingenuity and activity”.
I had rendered myself Cardillac’s accomplice in murder, and it was only in Madelon’s love that I temporarily forgot the inward pain which tortured me; only in her society could I drive away all outward traces of the nameless horror. Although much was to be gathered from what the Marechaussée had said, still Cardillac’s crimes, their motive and the manner in which he carried them out, were a riddle to me. The solution of it soon came.
One day Cardillac – who usually excited my horror by laughing and jesting during our work, in the highest of spirits – was very grave and thoughtful. Suddenly he threw the piece of work he was engaged on aside, so that the pearls and other stones rolled about the floor, started to his feet, and said: ‘Olivier! things cannot go on between us like this; the situation is unendurable What the ablest and most ingenious efforts of Desgrais and his myrmidons failed to find out, chance has thrown into your hands. You saw me at my nocturnal work, to which my Evil Star compels me, so that no resistance is possible for me; and it was your own Evil Star, moreover which led you to follow me; Your Evil Star brought you to me, my comrade – my accomplice! You see, now, that you can’t betray me; therefore you shall know all.”
“I would have cried out: ‘Never, never shall I be your comrade your accomplice, you atrocious miscreant.’ But the inward horror which I felt at his words paralysed my tongue. Instead of words I could only utter an unintelligible noise. Cardillac sat down in his working chair again, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and at length he began: ‘Wise men have much to say of the strange impulses which come to women when they are enceinte, and the strange influence which those vivid, involuntary impulses exercise upon the child. A wonderful tale is told of my mother. When she was a month gone with me she was looking on, with other women, at a court pageant at the Trianon, and saw a certain cavalier in Spanish dress, with a glittering chain of jewels about his neck, from which she could not remove her eyes. Her whole being longed for those sparkling stones, which seemed to her more than earthly. This same cavalier had at a previous time, before my mother was married, had designs on her virtue, which she rejected with indignation. She recognised him, but now, irradiated by the light of the gems, he seemed to her a creature of a higher sphere, the very incarnation of beauty. The cavalier noticed the longing, fiery looks which she was bending on him, and thought he was in better luck now than of old.
“‘He managed to get near her, to separate her from her companions, and entice her to a lonely place. There he clasped her eagerly in his arms. My mother grasped at the beautiful chain; but at that moment he fell down, dragging her with him. Whether it was apoplexy, or what, I do not know; but he was dead. My mother struggled in vain to free herself from the clasp of the arms, stiffened as they were in death. With the hollow eyes, whence vision had departed, fixed on her, the corpse rolled with her to the ground. Her shrieks at length reached people who were passing at some distance; they hastened to her, and rescued her from the embrace of this gruesome lover.
“‘Her fright laid her on a bed of dangerous sickness. Her life was despaired of as well as mine; but she recovered, and her confinement was more prosperous than had been thought possible. But the terrors of that awful moment had set their mark on me. My Evil Star had risen, and darted into me those rays which kindled in me one of the strangest and most fatal of passions. Even in my earliest childhood I thought there was nothing to compare with glittering diamonds in golden settings. This was looked upon as a childish fancy; but it was otherwise, for as a boy I stole gold and jewels wherever I could lay hands on them, and I knew the difference between good ones and bad, instinctively, like the most accomplished connoisseur. Only the pure and valuable attracted me; I would not touch alloyed or coined gold. Those inborn cravings needed an outlet. So that I might always have to do with gold and precious stones, I took up the goldsmith’s calling. I worked at it with passion, and soon became the first living master of that art. Then began a period when the natural bent within me, so long restrained, shot forth in power, and waxed with might, bearing everything away before it. As soon as I finished a piece of work and delivered it, I fell into a state of restlessness and disconsolateness which prevented my sleeping, ruined my health, and left me no enjoyment in my life. The person for whom I made the work haunted me day and night like a spectre. I saw that person continually before my mental vision, with my beautiful jewels on, and a voice kept whispering to me: “They belong to you! take them; what’s the use of diamonds to the dead?” At last I betook myself to thieving. I had access to the houses of the great; I took advantage quickly of every opportunity. No locks withstood my skill, and I soon had my work back in my hands again. But this was not enough to calm my unrest. That mysterious voice made itself heard again, jeering at me, and saying: “Ho, ho! one of the dead is wearing your jewels.” I did not know whence it came, but I had an indescribable hatred for all those for whom I made jewellery. More than that, in the depths of my heart I began to long to kill them; this frightened me. Just then I bought this house. I had concluded the bargain with the owner: here in this very room we were sitting, drinking a bottle of wine in honour of the transaction.
“‘Night had come on, he was going to leave when he said to me: “Look here, Maître René before I go I must let you into a secret about this house.” He opened that cupboard, which is built into the wall there, and pushed the back of it in; this let him into a little closet, where he bowed down and raised a trap-door. This showed us a steep, narrow stair, which we went down, and at the bottom of it was a little narrow door, which let us out into the open courtyard. There he went up to the wall, pushed a piece of iron which projected a very little, and immediately a piece of the wall turned round, so that a person could get out through the opening into the street. You must see this contrivance sometime, Olivier. When I saw this arrangement, dark ideas surged up in my mind; it seemed to me that deeds, as yet mysterious to myself, were here prearranged for.
“‘I had just finished a splendid set of ornaments for a gentleman of the court who, I knew, was going to give them to an opera dancer. Soon my deadly torture was on me; the spectre dogged my steps, the whispering devil was at my ear. I went back into the house, bathed in a sweat of agony; I rolled about on my bed, sleepless. In my mind’s eye I saw the man riding to his dancer with my beautiful jewels. Full of fury I sprang up, threw my cloak round me, went down the secret stair, out through the wall into the Rue Niçaise. He came, I fell upon him, he cried out; but, seizing him from behind, I plunged my dagger into his heart. The jewels were mine. When this was done, I felt a peace, a contentment within me which I had never known before. The spectre had vanished – the voice of the demon was still. Now I knew what was the behest of my Evil Star, which I had to obey, or perish.
“‘You know all now, Olivier. Don’t think that, because I must do that which I cannot avoid, I have clean renounced all sense of that mercy or kindly feeling which is the portion of all humanity, and inherent in man’s nature. You know how hard I find it to let any of my work go out of my hands, many there are to whom I would not bring death, and for them nothing will induce me to work; indeed, in cases when I feel that my spectre will have to be exorcised with blood on the morrow, I settle the business that day by a smashing blow, which lays the holder of my jewels on the ground, so that I get them back into my own hands.’
“Having said all this, Cardillac took me into his secret strong-room and showed me his collection of jewels; the King does not possess its equal. To each ornament was fastened a small label stating for whom it had been made, and when taken back – by theft, robbery, or murder.
“‘On your wedding day, Olivier,’ he said, in a solemn tone, ‘you will swear me a solemn oath, with your hand on the crucifix, that as soon as I am dead you will at once convert all these treasures into dust by a process which I will tell you of. I will not have any human being, least of all Madelon and you, come into possession of those stones that have been bought with blood.’
“Shut up in this labyrinth of crime, torn in twain by love and abhorrence, I was like one of the damned to whom a glorified angel points, with gentle smile, the upward way, whilst Satan holds him down with red-hot talons; I thought of flight, even of suicide, but Madelon! Blame me, blame me, Mademoiselle, for having been too weak to overcome a passion which fettered me to my destruction. I shall be atoning for my weakness by a shameful death. One day Cardillac came in in unusually fine spirits. He kissed and caressed Madelon, cast most affectionate looks at me, drank a bottle of good wine at table, which he only did on high-days and holidays, sang and made merry. Madelon had left us and I was going to the workshop.
“‘Sit still, lad,’ cried Cardillac, ‘no more work today; let’s drink the health of the most worthy and charming lady in all Paris.’
“When we had clinked our glasses, and he had emptied a bumper, he said: ‘Tell me, Olivier, how do you like these lines?
- “Un amant qui craint les voleurs
- N’est point digne d’amour.”‘
“And he told me what had transpired between you and the King in Madame de Maintenon’s salon, adding that he had always respected you more than any other human being, and that his reverence and esteem for your qualities was such that his Evil Star paled before you,” and he would have no fear that, were you to wear the finest piece of his work that ever he made, the spectre would ever prompt him to thoughts of murder.
“‘Listen, Olivier,’ he said, ‘to what I am going to do. A considerable time ago I had to make a necklace and bracelets for Henrietta of England, supplying the stones myself. I made of this the best piece of work that ever I turned out, and it broke my heart to part with the ornaments, which had become the very treasures of my soul. You know of her unfortunate death by assassination. The things remained with me, and now I shall send them to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in the name of the dreaded band, as a token of respect and gratitude. Besides its being an unmistakable mark of her triumph, it will be a richly deserted sign of my contempt for Desgrais and his men. You shall take her the jewels.’
“When he mentioned your name, Mademoiselle, dark veils seemed to be lifted, revealing the bright memory of my happy childhood, which rose again in glowing colours before me. A wonderful comfort came into my soul, a ray of hope, driving the dark shadows away. Cardillac saw the effect his words had produced upon me, and gave it his own interpretation. ‘My idea seems to please you,’ he said. ‘I must declare that a deep inward voice, very unlike that which cries for blood like a raving wild beast, commanded me to do this thing. Many times I feel the strangest ideas come into my mind – an inward fear, the dread of something terrible, that the deeds which my Evil Star has committed by means of me may be charged to the account of my immortal soul, though it has no part in them. In one of those moods I determined that I would make a beautiful diamond crown for the Virgin in the Church of St. Eustache. But the indescribable dread always came upon me, stronger than ever, when I set to work at it, so that I have abandoned it altogether. Now it seems to me that in presenting Mademoiselle de Scudéri with the finest work I have ever turned out, I am offering a humble sacrifice to goodness and virtue personified, and imploring their powerful intercession.’
“Cardillac, well acquainted with all the minutiae of your manner of life told me how and when to take the ornaments to you. My whole being rejoiced, for Heaven seemed to be showing me, through the atrocious Cardillac, the way to escape from the hell in which I was being tortured. Quite contrary to Cardillac’s wish, I resolved that I would get access to you and speak with you. As Anne Brusson’s son and your former pet, I thought I would throw myself at your feet and tell you everything. I knew that you would keep the secret, out of consideration for the unheard-of misery which its disclosure would bring upon Madelon, but that you would be sure to find means to put an end to Cardillac’s wickedness without disclosing it. Do not ask me what those means were to have been; I cannot tell. But that you would rescue Madelon and me I believed as firmly as I do in the intercession of the Holy Virgin. You know, Mademoiselle, that my intention was frustrated that night; but I did not lose hope of being more fortunate another time.
“By-and-by Cardillac suddenly lost all his good spirits; he crept moodily about, uttered unintelligible words, and worked his arms as if warding off something hostile. His mind seemed full of evil thoughts. For a whole morning he had been going on in this way. At last he sat down at the worktable, sprang up again angrily, looked out of window, and then said gravely and gloomily: ‘I wish Henrietta of England had had my jewels.’ Those words filled me with terror. I knew that his diseased mind was again possessed by a terrible lust for murder, that the voice of the demon was again loud in his ears. I saw your life threatened by that dread spirit of murder. If Cardillac could get his jewels back again into his hands you were safe. The danger grew greater every instant. I met you on the Pont Neuf, made my way to your carriage, threw you the note which implored you to give the jewels back to Cardillac immediately. You did not come. My fear became despair, when next day Cardillac spoke of nothing but the priceless jewels he had seen last night in his dreams. I could only suppose that this referred to your jewels, and I felt sure he was brooding over some murderous attack, which he had determined to carry out that night. Save you I must, should it cost Cardillac’s life.
“After the evening prayer when he had shut himself up in his room as usual, I got into the courtyard through a window, slipped out through the opening of the wall, and stationed myself close at hand, in the deepest shadow. Very soon Cardillac came out, and went gliding softly down the street. I followed him. He took the direction of the Rue St. Honoré. My heart beat fast. All at once he disappeared from me. I determined to place myself at your door. Just as fate had ordered matters on the first occasion of my witnessing one of his crimes, there came along past me an officer, trilling and singing; he did not see me. Instantly a dark form sprang out and attacked him. Cardillac! I determined to prevent this murder. I gave a loud shout, and was on the spot in a couple of paces. Not the officer, but Cardillac, fell gasping to the ground, mortally wounded. The officer let his dagger fall, drew his sword, and stood on the defensive, thinking I was the murderer’s accomplice. But he hastened away when he saw that, instead of concerning myself about him, I was examining the fallen man. Cardillac was still alive. I took up the dagger dropped by the officer, stuck it in my belt and, lifting Cardillac on to my shoulders, carried him with difficulty to the house, and up the secret stair to the workshop. The rest you know.
“You perceive, Mademoiselle, that my only crime was that I refrained from giving Madelon’s father up to justice, thereby making an end of his crimes. I am quite innocent of murder.”
Olivier ceased, and a torrent of tears fell down his cheeks. He threw himself at Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s feet, saying imploringly: “You are convinced that I am innocent; I know you are. Be merciful to me. Tell me how Madelon is faring.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri summoned La Martinière, and in a few minutes Madelon was clinging to Olivier’s neck.
“Now that you are here, all is well. I knew that this noble-hearted lady would save you,” Madelon cried over and over again; and Olivier forgot his fate, and all that threatened him.
He was free and happy. In the most touching manner they bewailed what each had suffered for the other, and embraced afresh, and wept for joy at being together again.
Had Mademoiselle de Scudéri not been convinced of Olivier’s innocence before, she must have been so when she saw those two lovers forgetting, in the rapture of the moment, the world, their sufferings and their indescribable sorrows.
“None but a guiltless heart,” she cried, “would be capable of such blissful forgetfulness.”
The morning light came breaking into the room, and Desgrais knocked gently at the door, reminding them that it was time to take Olivier away, as it could not be done later without attracting attention. The lovers had to part.
The dim anticipations which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had felt when Olivier first came in had now embodied themselves in reality – in a terrible fashion. The son of her much-loved Anne was, though innocent, implicated in a manner which apparently made it impossible to save him from a shameful death. She tortured herself with all kinds of plans and projects, which were chiefly of the most impracticable and impossible kind – rejected as soon as formed.
By way of beginning to do something, she wrote to La Regnie a long letter, in which she said that Olivier Brusson had proved to her in the most credible manner his entire innocence of Cardillac’s murder, and that nothing but a heroic resolution to carry to the grave with him a secret, the disclosure of which would bring destruction upon an innocent and virtuous person, withheld him from laying a statement before the Court. With the best eloquence at her command, she said everything she could think of which might be expected to soften La Regnie’s hard heart.
He replied to this in a few hours, saying his heroic resolution to carry to the grave with him a secret relating to the crime with which he was charged, he regretted that the Chambre Ardente could feel no admiration, but must endeavour to dispel it by powerful means. Mademoiselle de Scudéri knew well what the terrible La Regnie meant by the “powerful means,” which were to break down Olivier’s heroism. It was but too clear that the unfortunate wretch was threatened with the torture. In her mortal anxiety it at last occurred to her that, were it only to gain time, the advice of a lawyer would be of some service.
Pierre Arnaud d’Andilly was at that time the most celebrated advocate in Paris. To him she repaired, and told him the whole tale, as far as it was possible to do so without divulging Olivier’s secret. He did not believe that he – d’Andilly – could save Brusson from the rack, by the very ablest of pleading. Nobody could do that but Brusson himself, either by making the fullest confession, or by accurately relating the circumstances of Cardillac’s murder, which might lead to further discoveries.
“Then I will throw myself at the King’s feet and sue for mercy,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her voice choked by weeping.
“For Heaven’s sake, do not do that,” cried d’Andilly. “Keep that in reserve for the last extremity. If it fails you once, it is lost for ever.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not but agree with what d’Andilly’s great experience dictated. She was sitting in her room, pondering as to what – in the name of the Virgin and all the saints – she should try next to do, when La Martinière came to say that the Count de Miossens, Colonel of one of the King’s Body Guard, was most anxious to speak with her.
“Pardon me, Mademoiselle,” said the Colonel, bowing with a soldier’s courtesy, “for disturbing you, and breaking in upon you at such an hour. Two words will be sufficient excuse for me. I come about Olivier Brusson.”
“Olivier Brusson,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, eagerly anticipating what she was going to hear; “that most unfortunate of men! What have you to say of him?”
“I knew,” said Miossens, laughing again, “that your protégé’s name would ensure me a favourable hearing. Everybody is convinced of Brusson’s guilt. I know you think otherwise, and it is said your opinion rests on what he himself has told you. With me the case is different. Nobody can be more certain than I that Brusson is innocent of Cardillac’s death.”
“Speak! Oh, speak!” cried Mademoiselle Scudéri.
“I was the man who stabbed the old goldsmith in the Rue St Honoré, close to your door,” said the Colonel.
“You – you!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “In the name of all the Saints, how?”
“And I vow to you, Mademoiselle, that I am very proud of my achievement. Cardillac, I must tell you, was a most abandoned hypocritical old ruffian, who went about at night robbing and murdering people, and was never suspected of anything of the kind. I don’t myself know from whence it came that I felt a suspicion of the old scoundrel, when he seemed so distressed at handing me over some work which I had got him to do for me; when he carefully wormed out of me for whom I designed it, and cross-questioned my valet as to the times when I was in the habit of going to see a certain lady. It struck me long ago, that everyone who was murdered by these unknown hands had the selfsame wound, and I saw quite clearly that the murderer had practiced to the utmost perfection of certainty that particular thrust, which must kill instantaneously – and that he reckoned upon it; so that, if it were to fail, the fight would be fair. This led me to employ a precaution so very simple and obvious that I cannot imagine how somebody else did not think of it long ago. I wore a light breastplate of steel under my dress. Cardillac set upon me from behind. He grasped me with the strength of a giant, but his finely directed thrust glided off the steel breastplate. I then freed myself from his clutch, and planted my dagger in his heart.”
“And you have said nothing?” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “You have not told the authorities anything about this?”
“Allow me to point out to you, Mademoiselle,” said he, “that to have done that would have involved me in a most terrible legal investigation, probably ending in my ruin.”
“Impossible,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “Your rank – your position -”
“Oh!” interrupted Miossens, “remember the Maréchal de Luxembourg; he took it into his head to have his horoscope cast by Le Sage, and was suspected of poisoning, and put in the Bastille. No; by Saint Dionys! not one moment of freedom – not the tip of one of my ears, would I trust to that raging La Regnie, who would be delighted to put his knife to all our throats.”
“But this brings an innocent man to the scaffold,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri.
“Innocent, Mademoiselle!” cried Miossens. “Do you call Cardillac’s accomplice an innocent man? He who assisted him in his crimes, and has deserved death a hundred times? No, in verity; he suffers justly; although I told you the true state of the case in the hope that you might somehow make use of it in the interests of your protégé, without bringing me into the clutches of the Chambre Ardente.”
Delighted at having her conviction of Olivier’s innocence confirmed in such a decided manner, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had no hesitation in telling the Count the whole affair, since he already knew all about Cardillac’s crimes, and in begging him to go with her to d’Andilly, to whom everything should be communicated under the seal of secrecy and who should advise what was next to be done.
When Mademoiselle de Scudéri had told him at full length all the circumstances, D’Andilly inquired again into the very minutest particulars. He asked Count Miossens if he was quite positive as to its having been Cardillac who attacked him, and if he would recognise Olivier as the person who carried away the body.
“Not only,” said Miossens, “was the moon shining brightly, so that I recognised the old goldsmith perfectly well, but this morning, at La Regnie’s, I saw the dagger with which he was stabbed. It is mine; I know it by the ornamentation of the handle. And as I was within a pace of the young man, I saw his face quite distinctly, all the more because his hat had fallen off. As a matter of course I should know him in a moment.”
D’Andilly looked before him meditatively for a few moments, and said: “There is no way of getting Brusson out of the hands of justice by any ordinary means. Delay is what we must aim at. Let Count Miossens go to the Conciergerie, be confronted with Olivier, and recognise him as the person who carried off Cardillac’s body; let him then go to La Regnie and say, ‘I saw a man stabbed in the Rue St. Honoré, and was close to the body when another man darted up, bent down over it, and finding life still in it, took it on his shoulders and carried it away. I recognised Olivier Brusson as that man.’
“This will lead to a further examination of Brusson, to his being confronted with Count Miossens; the torture will be postponed, and further investigations made. Then will be the time to have recourse to the King.” Count Miossens closely followed D’Andilly’s advice, and everything fell out just as he had said it would.
It was now time to repair to the King; and this was the chief difficulty of all, as he had such an intense horror of Brusson – whom he believed to be the man who had for so long kept Paris in a state of terror – that the least allusion to him threw him at once into the most violent anger. Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her system of never mentioning unpleasant subjects to him, declined all intermediation; so that Brusson’s fate was entirely in Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s hands. After long reflection, she hit upon a scheme which she put into execution at once. She put on a heavy black silk dress, with Cardillac’s jewels, and a long black veil, and appeared at Madame de Maintenon’s at the time when she knew the King would be there. Her noble figure in this mourning garb excited the reverential respect even of those frivolous persons who pass their days in Court antechambers. They all made way for her and, when she came into the presence, the King himself rose, astonished, and came forward to meet her.
The splendid diamonds of the necklace and bracelets flashed in his eyes, and he cried: “By Heavens! Cardillac’s work!” Then, turning to Madame de Maintenon, he said, with a pleasant smile, “See, Madame la Marquise, how our fair lady mourns for her affianced husband.”
“Ah, Sire!” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, as if keeping up the jest, “it would ill become a mourning bride to wear such bravery. No; I have done with the goldsmith; nor would I remember him, but that the gruesome spectacle of his corpse carried off before my eyes keeps coming back to my memory.”
“What!” said the King, “did you actually see him, poor fellow?”
She then told him in few words (not introducing Brusson into the business at all) how chance had brought her to Cardillac’s door just when the murder had been discovered. She described Madelon’s wild terror and sorrow; the impression made upon her by the beautiful girl; how she had taken her out of Desgrais’s hands and borne her away amid the applause of the crowd. The scenes with La Regnie, with Desgrais, with Olivier Brusson himself, now followed, the interest constantly increasing. The King, carried away by the vividness with which Mademoiselle de Scudéri told the tale, did not notice that the Brusson case, which he so abominated, was in question. Mademoiselle de Scudéri was at his feet, imploring mercy for Olivier Brusson.
“What are you doing?” broke out the King, seizing both her hands and making her sit down. “This is a strange way of taking us by storm. It is a most terrible story! Who is to answer for the truth of Brusson’s extraordinary tale?”
“Miossens’ deposition proves it,” she cried; “the searching of Cardillac’s house; my own firm conviction, and, ah! Madelon’s pure heart, which recognises equal purity in poor Brusson.”
The King, about to say something, was interrupted by a noise in the direction of the door. Louvois, who was at work in the next room, put his head in with an anxious expression. The King rose, and followed him out. But he came back in a few minuses, walked quickly up and down the room two or three times; and then, pausing with his hands behind his back before Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he said, in a half-whisper, without looking at her: “I should like to see this Madelon of yours.”
On this Mademoiselle de Scudéri said: “Oh! gracious Sire! what a marvellous honour you vouchsafe to the poor unfortunate child. She will be at your feet in an instant.”
She tripped to the door as quickly as her heavy dress allowed, and called to those in the anteroom that the King wished to see Madelon Cardillac. She came back weeping and sobbing with delight and emotion. Having expected this, she had brought Madelon with her, leaving her to wait with the Marquise’s maid, with a short petition in her hand drawn up by D’Andilly. In a few moments she had prostrated herself, speechless, at the King’s feet. The King was moved by the wonderful beauty of the girl. He raised her gently, and stooped down as if about to kiss her hand, which he had taken in his; but he let the hand go, and gazed at her with tears in his eyes, evincing deep emotion.
Madame de Maintenon whispered to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, “Is she not exactly like La Vallière, the little thing? The King is indulging in the sweetest memories: you have gained the day.”
Though she spoke softly, the King seemed to hear.
A blush came to his cheek; he scanned Madame de Maintenon with a glance, and then said, gently and kindly: “I am quite sure that you, my dear child, think your lover is innocent; but we must hear what the Chambre Ardente has to say.”
A gentle wave of his hand dismissed Madelon, bathed in tears.
Meanwhile Count Miossens’ statement before the Chambre Ardente had become known; and, as often happens, popular opinion soon flew from one extreme to the other, so that crowds of people, in threatening temper, often collected before La Regnie’s Palais, crying, “Give us out Olivier Brusson! – he is innocent!”, even throwing stones at the windows, so that La Regnie had to seek the protection of the Marechaussée.
Many days elapsed without Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s hearing anything on the subject of Olivier Brusson. In her anxiety she went to Madame de Maintenon, who said the King was keeping silence on the subject, and it was not advisable to remind him of it.
At length Mademoiselle de Scudéri managed to find out, with D’Andilly’s help, that the King had had a long interview with Count Miossens; further, that Bontems, the King’s confidential groom of the chamber and secret agent, had been to the Conciergerie, and spoken with Brusson; that, finally, the said Bontems, with several other persons, had paid a long visit to Cardillac’s house. Claude Patru, who lived in the lower story, said he had heard banging noises above his head in the night, and that he had recognised Olivier’s voice amongst others. So far it was certain that the King was, himself, causing the matter to be investigated; but what was puzzling was the long delay in coming to a decision. La Regnie was most probably trying all in his power to prevent his prey from slipping through his fingers; and this nipped all hope in the bud.
Nearly a month had elapsed, when Madame de Maintenon sent to tell Mademoiselle de Scudéri that the King wished to see her that evening in her salon. Her heart beat fast. She knew that Olivier’s fate would be decided that night. She told Madelon so, and the latter prayed to the Virgin and all the Saints that Mademoiselle de Scudéri might succeed in convincing the King of her lover’s innocence.
And yet it appeared as if he had forgotten the whole affair, for he passed the time in chatting pleasantly with Madame de Maintenon and Mademoiselle de Scudéri, without a single word of poor Olivier Brusson.
At length Bontems appeared, approached the King, and spoke a few words so softly that the ladies could not hear them.
Mademoiselle de Scudéri trembled; but the King rose, went up to her, and said, with beaming eyes: “I congratulate you, Mademoiselle. Your protégé, Olivier Brusson, is free.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, with tears streaming down her cheeks, unable to utter a word, would have cast herself at the King’s feet; but he prevented her, saying: “Come, Come! Mademoiselle, you ought to be my Attorney-General and plead my causes, for nobody on earth can resist your eloquence and powers of persuasion. He who is shielded by virtue,” he added more gravely, “may snap his fingers at every accusation, by the Chambre Ardente, or any other tribunal on earth.”
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, now finding words, poured forth a most glowing tribute of gratitude. But the King interrupted her, saying there were warmer thanks awaiting her at home than any he could expect from her, as at that moment doubtless Olivier was embracing his Madelon. “Bontems,” added His Majesty, “will hand you a thousand Louis, which you will give the little one from me as a wedding portion. Let her marry her Brusson, who does not deserve such a treasure, and then they must both leave Paris. That is my will.”
La Martinière came to meet her mistress with eager steps, followed by Baptiste, their faces beaming with joy, and both crying out: “He is here! he is free! Oh, the dear young couple!”
The happy pair fell at Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s feet, and Madelon cried: “Ah! I knew that you, and you only, would save my husband.”
“You have been my mother,” cried Olivier, “my belief in you never wavered.” They kissed her hands, and shed many tears; and then they embraced again, and vowed that the heavenly bliss of that moment was worth all the nameless sufferings of the days that were past.
In a few days the priest pronounced his blessing upon them. Immediately after the wedding he started with his young wife for Geneva, sped on his way by Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s blessings. Handsomely provided with Madelon’s portion, his own skill at his calling, and every civic virtue, he there led a happy life, without a care. The hopes, whose frustration had sent the father to his grave, were fulfilled in the son.
A year after Brusson left Paris, a public proclamation, signed by Harloy de Chauvalon, Archbishop of Paris, and by Pierre Arnaud D’Andilly, Advocate of the Parliament, appeared, stating that a repentant sinner had, under seal of confession, made over to the Church a valuable stolen treasure of gold and jewels. All those who, up to about the end of the year 1680, had been robbed of property of this description, particularly if by murderous attack in the street, were directed to apply to D’Andilly, when they would receive it back, provided that anything in the said collection agreed with the description to be by them given, and provided that there was no doubt of the genuineness of the application. Many whose names occurred in Cardillac’s list as having been merely stunned, not murdered, came from time to time to D’Andilly to reclaim their property, and received it back, to their no small surprise. The remainder became the property of the Church of St. Eustache.
Translation by Alexander Ewing