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Archive for the ‘19th Century literature’ Category

Bianchon, a physician to whom science owes a fine system of
theoretical physiology, and who, while still young, made himself
a celebrity in the medical school of Paris, that central luminary
to which European doctors do homage, practised surgery for a long
time before he took up medicine. His earliest studies were guided
by one of the greatest of French surgeons, the illustrious
Desplein, who flashed across science like a meteor. By the
consensus even of his enemies, he took with him to the tomb an
incommunicable method. Like all men of genius, he had no heirs;
he carried everything in him, and carried it away with him. The
glory of a surgeon is like that of an actor: they live only so
long as they are alive, and their talent leaves no trace when
they are gone. Actors and surgeons, like great singers too, like
the executants who by their performance increase the power of
music tenfold, are all the heroes of a moment.

Desplein is a case in proof of this resemblance in the destinies
of such transient genius. His name, yesterday so famous, to-day
almost forgotten, will survive in his special department without
crossing its limits. For must there not be some extraordinary
circumstances to exalt the name of a professor from the history
of Science to the general history of the human race? Had Desplein
that universal command of knowledge which makes a man the living
word, the great figure of his age? Desplein had a godlike eye; he
saw into the sufferer and his malady by an intuition, natural or
acquired, which enabled him to grasp the diagnostics peculiar to
the individual, to determine the very time, the hour, the minute
when an operation should be performed, making due allowance for
atmospheric conditions and peculiarities of individual
temperament. To proceed thus, hand in hand with nature, had he
then studied the constant assimilation by living beings, of the
elements contained in the atmosphere, or yielded by the earth to
man who absorbs them, deriving from them a particular expression
of life? Did he work it all out by the power of deduction and
analogy, to which we owe the genius of Cuvier? Be this as it may,
this man was in all the secrets of the human frame; he knew it in
the past and in the future, emphasizing the present.

But did he epitomize all science in his own person as Hippocrates
did and Galen and Aristotle? Did he guide a whole school towards
new worlds? No. Though it is impossible to deny that this
persistent observer of human chemistry possessed that antique
science of the Mages, that is to say, knowledge of the elements
in fusion, the causes of life, life antecedent to life, and what
it must be in its incubation or ever it IS, it must be confessed
that, unfortunately, everything in him was purely personal.
Isolated during his life by his egoism, that egoism is now
suicidal of his glory. On his tomb there is no proclaiming statue
to repeat to posterity the mysteries which genius seeks out at
its own cost.

But perhaps Desplein’s genius was answerable for his beliefs, and
for that reason mortal. To him the terrestrial atmosphere was a
generative envelope; he saw the earth as an egg within its shell;
and not being able to determine whether the egg or the hen first
was, he would not recognize either the cock or the egg. He
believed neither in the antecedent animal nor the surviving
spirit of man. Desplein had no doubts; he was positive. His bold
and unqualified atheism was like that of many scientific men, the
best men in the world, but invincible atheists–atheists such as
religious people declare to be impossible. This opinion could
scarcely exist otherwise in a man who was accustomed from his
youth to dissect the creature above all others–before, during,
and after life; to hunt through all his organs without ever
finding the individual soul, which is indispensable to religious
theory. When he detected a cerebral centre, a nervous centre, and
a centre for aerating the blood–the first two so perfectly
complementary that in the latter years of his life he came to a
conviction that the sense of hearing is not absolutely necessary
for hearing, nor the sense of sight for seeing, and that the
solar plexus could supply their place without any possibility of
doubt–Desplein, thus finding two souls in man, confirmed his
atheism by this fact, though it is no evidence against God. This
man died, it is said, in final impenitence, as do, unfortunately,
many noble geniuses, whom God may forgive.

The life of this man, great as he was, was marred by many
meannesses, to use the expression employed by his enemies, who
were anxious to diminish his glory, but which it would be more
proper to call apparent contradictions. Envious people and fools,
having no knowledge of the determinations by which superior
spirits are moved, seize at once on superficial inconsistencies,
to formulate an accusation and so to pass sentence on them. If,
subsequently, the proceedings thus attacked are crowned with
success, showing the correlations of the preliminaries and the
results, a few of the vanguard of calumnies always survive. In
our day, for instance, Napoleon was condemned by our
contemporaries when he spread his eagle’s wings to alight in
England: only 1822 could explain 1804 and the flatboats at
Boulogne.

As, in Desplein, his glory and science were invulnerable, his
enemies attacked  his odd moods and his temper, whereas, in fact,
he was simply characterized by what the English call
eccentricity. Sometimes very handsomely dressed, like Crebillon
the tragical, he would suddenly affect extreme indifference as to
what he wore; he was sometimes seen in a carriage, and sometimes
on foot. By turns rough and kind, harsh and covetous on the
surface, but capable of offering his whole fortune to his exiled
masters–who did him the honor of accepting it for a few days–no
man ever gave rise to such contradictory judgements. Although to
obtain a black ribbon, which physicians ought not to intrigue
for, he was capable of dropping a prayer-book out of his pocket
at Court, in his heart he mocked at everything; he had a deep
contempt for men, after studying them from above and below, after
detecting their genuine expression when performing the most
solemn and the meanest acts of their lives.

The qualities of a great man are often federative. If among these
colossal spirits one has more talent than wit, his wit is still
superior to that of a man of whom it is simply stated that “he is
witty.” Genius always presupposes moral insight. This insight may
be applied to a special subject; but he who can see a flower must
be able to see the sun. The man who on hearing a diplomate he has
saved ask, “How is the Emperor?” could say, “The courtier is
alive; the man will follow!”–that man is not merely a surgeon or
a physician, he is prodigiously witty also. Hence a patient and
diligent student of human nature will admit Desplein’s exorbitant
pretensions, and believe–as he himself believed–that he might
have been no less great as a minister than he was as a surgeon.

Among the riddles which Desplein’s life presents to many of his
contemporaries, we have chosen one of the most interesting,
because the answer is to be found at the end of the narrative,
and will avenge him for some foolish charges.

Of all the students in Desplein’s hospital, Horace Bianchon was
one of those to whom he most warmly attached himself. Before
being a house surgeon at the Hotel-Dieu, Horace Bianchon had been
a medical student lodging in a squalid boarding house in the
Quartier Latin, known as the Maison Vauquer. This poor young man
had felt there the gnawing of that burning poverty which is a
sort of crucible from which great talents are to emerge as pure
and incorruptible as diamonds, which may be subjected to any
shock without being crushed. In the fierce fire of their
unbridled passions they acquire the most impeccable honesty, and
get into the habit of fighting the battles which await genius
with the constant work by which they coerce their cheated
appetites.

Horace was an upright young fellow, incapable of tergiversation
on a matter of honor, going to the point without waste of words,
and as ready to pledge his cloak for a friend as to give him his
time and his night hours. Horace, in short, was one of those
friends who are never anxious as to what they may get in return
for what they give, feeling sure that they will in their turn get
more than they give. Most of his friends felt for him that
deeply-seated respect which is inspired by unostentatious virtue,
and many of them dreaded his censure. But Horace made no pedantic
display of his qualities. He was neither a puritan nor a
preacher; he could swear with a grace as he gave his advice, and
was always ready for a jollification when occasion offered. A
jolly companion, not more prudish than a trooper, as frank and
outspoken–not as a sailor, for nowadays sailors are wily
diplomates–but as an honest man who has nothing in his life to
hide, he walked with his head erect, and a mind content. In
short, to put the facts into a word, Horace was the Pylades of
more than one Orestes–creditors being regarded as the nearest
modern equivalent to the Furies of the ancients.

He carried his poverty with the cheerfulness which is perhaps one
of the chief elements of courage, and, like all people who have
nothing, he made very few debts. As sober as a camel and active
as a stag, he was steadfast in his ideas and his conduct.

The happy phase of Bianchon’s life began on the day when the
famous surgeon had proof of the qualities and the defects which,
these no less than those, make Doctor Horace Bianchon doubly dear
to his friends. When a leading clinical practitioner takes a
young man to his bosom, that young man has, as they say, his foot
in the stirrup. Desplein did not fail to take Bianchon as his
assistant to wealthy houses, where some complimentary fee almost
always found its way into the student’s pocket, and where the
mysteries of Paris life were insensibly revealed to the young
provincial; he kept him at his side when a consultation was to be
held, and gave him occupation; sometimes he would send him to a
watering-place with a rich patient; in fact, he was making a
practice for him. The consequence was that in the course of time
the Tyrant of surgery had a devoted ally. These two men–one at
the summit of honor and of his science, enjoying an immense
fortune and an immense reputation; the other a humble Omega,
having neither fortune nor fame–became intimate friends.

The great Desplein told his house surgeon everything; the
disciple knew whether such or such a woman had sat on a chair
near the master, or on the famous couch in Desplein’s surgery, on
which he slept. Bianchon knew the mysteries of that temperament,
a compound of the lion and the bull, which at last expanded and
enlarged beyond measure the great man’s torso, and caused his
death by degeneration of the heart. He studied the eccentricities
of that busy life, the schemes of that sordid avarice, the hopes
of the politician who lurked behind the man of science; he was
able to foresee the mortifications that awaited the only
sentiment that lay hid in a heart that was steeled, but not of
steel.

One day Bianchon spoke to Desplein of a poor water-carrier of the
Saint-Jacques district, who had a horrible disease caused by
fatigue and want; this wretched Auvergnat had had nothing but
potatoes to eat during the dreadful winter of 1821. Desplein left
all his visits, and at the risk of killing his horse, he rushed
off, followed by Bianchon, to the poor man’s dwelling, and saw,
himself, to his being removed to a sick house, founded by the
famous Dubois in the Faubourg Saint-Denis. Then he went to attend
the man, and when he had cured him he gave him the necessary sum
to buy a horse and a water-barrel. This Auvergnat distinguished
himself by an amusing action. One of his friends fell ill, and he
took him at once to Desplein, saying to his benefactor, “I could
not have borne to let him go to any one else!”

Rough customer as he was, Desplein grasped the water-carrier’s
hand, and said, “Bring them all to me.”

He got the native of Cantal into the Hotel-Dieu, where he took
the greatest care of him. Bianchon had already observed in his
chief a predilection for Auvergnats, and especially for water
carriers; but as Desplein took a sort of pride in his cures at
the Hotel-Dieu, the pupil saw nothing very strange in that.

One day, as he crossed the Place Saint-Sulpice, Bianchon caught
sight of his master going into the church at about nine in the
morning. Desplein, who at that time never went a step without his
cab, was on foot, and slipped in by the door in the Rue du Petit-
Lion, as if he were stealing into some house of ill fame. The
house surgeon, naturally possessed by curiosity, knowing his
master’s opinions, and being himself a rabid follower of Cabanis
(Cabaniste en dyable, with the y, which in Rabelais seems to
convey an intensity of devilry)–Bianchon stole into the church,
and was not a little astonished to see the great Desplein, the
atheist, who had no mercy on the angels–who give no work to the
lancet, and cannot suffer from fistula or gastritis–in short,
this audacious scoffer kneeling humbly, and where? In the Lady
Chapel, where he remained through the mass, giving alms for the
expenses of the service, alms for the poor, and looking as
serious as though he were superintending an operation.

“He has certainly not come here to clear up the question of the
Virgin’s delivery,” said Bianchon to himself, astonished beyond
measure. “If I had caught him holding one of the ropes of the
canopy on Corpus Christi day, it would be a thing to laugh at;
but at this hour, alone, with no one to see–it is surely a thing
to marvel at!”

Bianchon did not wish to seem as though he were spying the head
surgeon of the Hotel-Dieu; he went away. As it happened, Desplein
asked him to dine with him that day, not at his own house, but at
a restaurant. At dessert Bianchon skilfully contrived to talk of
the mass, speaking of it as mummery and a farce.

“A farce,” said Desplein, “which has cost Christendom more blood
than all Napoleon’s battles and all Broussais’ leeches. The mass
is  a papal invention, not older than the sixth century, and
based on the Hoc est corpus. What floods of blood were shed to
establish the Fete-Dieu, the Festival of Corpus Christi–the
institution by which Rome established her triumph in the question
of the Real Presence, a schism which rent the Church during three
centuries! The wars of the Count of Toulouse against the
Albigenses were the tail end of that dispute. The Vaudois and the
Albigenses refused to recognize this innovation.”

In short, Desplein was delighted to disport himself in his most
atheistical vein; a flow of Voltairean satire, or, to be
accurate, a vile imitation of the Citateur.

“Hallo! where is my worshiper of this morning?” said Bianchon to
himself.

He said nothing; he began to doubt whether he had really seen his
chief at Saint-Sulpice. Desplein would not have troubled himself
to tell Bianchon a lie, they knew each other too well; they had
already exchanged thoughts on quite equally serious subjects, and
discussed systems de natura rerum, probing or dissecting them
with the knife and scalpel of incredulity.

Three months went by. Bianchon did not attempt to follow the
matter up, though it remained stamped on his memory. One day that
year, one of the physicians of the Hotel-Dieu took Desplein by
the arm, as if to question him, in Bianchon’s presence.

“What were you doing at Saint-Sulpice, my dear master?” said he.

“I went to see a priest who has a diseased knee-bone, and to whom
the Duchesse d’Angouleme did me the honor to recommend me,” said
Desplein.

The questioner took this defeat for an answer; not so Bianchon.

“Oh, he goes to see damaged knees in church!–He went to mass,”
said the young man to himself.

Bianchon resolved to watch Desplein. He remembered the day and
hour when he had detected him going into Saint-Sulpice, and
resolved to be there again next year on the same day and at the
same hour, to see if he should find him there again. In that case
the periodicity of his devotion would justify a scientific
investigation; for in such a man there ought to be no direct
antagonism of thought and action.

Next year, on the said day and hour, Bianchon, who had already
ceased to be Desplein’s house surgeon, saw the great man’s cab
standing at the corner of the Rue de Tournon and the Rue du
Petit-Lion, whence his friend jesuitically crept along by the
wall of Saint-Sulpice, and once more attended mass in front of
the Virgin’s altar. It was Desplein, sure enough! The master-
surgeon, the atheist at heart, the worshiper by chance. The
mystery was greater than ever; the regularity of the phenomenon
complicated it. When Desplein had left, Bianchon went to the
sacristan, who took charge of the chapel, and asked him whether
the gentleman were a constant worshiper.

“For twenty years that I have been here,” replied the man, “M.
Desplein has come four times a year to attend this mass. He
founded it.”

“A mass founded by him!” said Bianchon, as he went away. “This is
as great a mystery as the Immaculate Conception–an article which
alone is enough to make a physician an unbeliever.”

Some time elapsed before Doctor Bianchon, though so much his
friend, found an opportunity of speaking to Desplein of this
incident of his life. Though they met in consultation, or in
society, it was difficult to find an hour of confidential
solitude when, sitting with their feet on the fire-dogs and their
head resting on the back of an armchair, two men tell each other
their secrets. At last, seven years later, after the Revolution
of 1830, when the mob invaded the Archbishop’s residence, when
Republican agitators spurred them on to destroy the gilt crosses
which flashed like streaks of lightning in the immensity of the
ocean of houses; when Incredulity flaunted itself in the streets,
side by side with Rebellion, Bianchon once more detected Desplein
going into Saint-Sulpice. The doctor followed him, and knelt down
by him without the slightest notice or demonstration of surprise
from his friend. They both attended this mass of his founding.

“Will you tell me, my dear fellow,” said Bianchon, as they left
the church, “the reason for your fit of monkishness? I have
caught you three times going to mass—- You! You must account to
me for this mystery, explain such a flagrant disagreement between
your opinions and your conduct. You do not believe in God, and
yet you attend mass? My dear master, you are bound to give me an
answer.”

I am like a great many devout people, men who on the surface are
deeply religious, but quite as much atheists as you or I can be.”

And he poured out a torrent of epigrams on certain political
personages, of whom the best known gives us, in this century, a
new edition of Moliere’s Tartufe.

“All that has nothing to do with my question,” retorted Bianchon.
“I want to know the reason for what you have just been doing, and
why you founded this mass.”

Faith! my dear boy,” said Desplein, “I am on the verge of the
tomb; I may safely tell you about the beginning of my life.”

At this moment Bianchon and the great man were in the Rue des
Quatre-Vents, one of the worst streets in Paris. Desplein pointed
to the sixth floor of one of the houses looking like obelisks, of
which the narrow door opens into a passage with a winding
staircase at the end, with windows appropriately termed “borrowed
lights”–or, in French, jours de souffrance. It was a greenish
structure; the ground floor occupied by a furniture-dealer, while
each floor seemed to shelter a different and independent form of
misery. Throwing up his arm with a vehement gesture, Desplein
exclaimed:

“I lived up there for two years.”

“I know; Arthez lived there; I went up there almost every day
during my first youth; we used to call it then the pickle-jar of
great men! What then?”

“The mass I have just attended is connected with some events
which took place at the time when I lived in the garret where you
say Arthez lived; the one with the window where the clothes line
is hanging with linen over a pot of flowers. My early life was so
hard, my dear Bianchon, that I may dispute the palm of Paris
suffering with any man living. I have endured everything: hunger
and thirst, want of money, want of clothes, of shoes, of linen,
every cruelty that penury can inflict. I have blown on my frozen
fingers in that PICKLE-JAR OF GREAT MEN, which I should like to
see again, now, with you. I worked through a whole winter, seeing
my head steam, and perceiving the atmosphere of my own moisture
as we see that of horses on a frosty day. I do not know where a
man finds the fulcrum that enables him to hold out against such a
life.

“I was alone, with no one to help me, no money to buy books or to
pay the expenses of my medical training; I had not a friend; my
irascible, touchy, restless temper was against me. No one
understood that this irritability was the distress and toil of a
man who, at the bottom of the social scale, is struggling to
reach the surface. Still, I had, as I may say to you, before whom
I need wear no draperies, I had that ground-bed of good feeling
and keen sensitiveness which must always be the birthright of any
man who is strong enough to climb to any height whatever, after
having long trampled in the bogs of poverty. I could obtain
nothing from my family, nor from my home, beyond my inadequate
allowance. In short, at that time, I breakfasted off a roll which
the baker in the Rue du Petit-Lion sold me cheap because it was
left from yesterday or the day before, and I crumbled it into
milk; thus my morning meal cost me but two sous. I dined only
every other day in a boarding-house where the meal cost me
sixteen sous. You know as well as I what care I must have taken
of my clothes and shoes. I hardly know whether in later life we
feel grief so deep when a colleague plays us false as we have
known, you and I, on detecting the mocking smile of a gaping seam
in a shoe, or hearing the armhole of a coat split, I drank
nothing but water; I regarded a cafe with distant respect.
Zoppi’s seemed to me a promised land where none but the Lucullus
of the pays Latin had a right of entry. ‘Shall I ever take a cup
of coffee there with milk in it?’ said I to myself, ‘or play a
game of dominoes?’

“I threw into my work the fury I felt at my misery. I tried to
master positive knowledge so as to acquire the greatest personal
value, and merit the position I should hold as soon as I could
escape from nothingness. I consumed more oil than bread; the
light I burned during these endless nights cost me more than
food. It was a long duel, obstinate, with no sort of consolation.
I found no sympathy anywhere. To have friends, must we not form
connections with young men, have a few sous so as to be able to
go tippling with them, and meet them where students congregate?
And I had nothing! And no one in Paris can understand that
nothing means NOTHING. When I even thought of revealing my
beggary, I had that nervous contraction of the throat which makes
a sick man believe that a ball rises up from the oesophagus into
the larynx.

“In later life I have met people born to wealth who, never having
wanted for anything, had never even heard this problem in the
rule of three: A young man is to crime as a five-franc piece is
to X.–These gilded idiots say to me, ‘Why did you get into debt?
Why did you involve yourself in such onerous obligations?’ They
remind me of the princess who, on hearing that the people lacked
bread, said, ‘Why do not they buy cakes?’ I should like to see
one of these rich men, who complain that I charge too much for an
operation,–yes, I should like to see him alone in Paris without
a sou, without a friend, without credit, and forced to work with
his five fingers to live at all! What would he do? Where would he
go to satisfy his hunger?

“Bianchon, if you have sometimes seen me hard and bitter, it was
because I was adding my early sufferings on to the insensibility,
the selfishness of which I have seen thousands of instances in
the highest circles; or, perhaps, I was thinking of the obstacles
which hatred, envy, jealousy, and calumny raised up between me
and success. In Paris, when certain people see you ready to set
your foot in the stirrup, some pull your coat-tails, others
loosen the buckle of the strap that you may fall and crack your
skull; one wrenches off your horse’s shoes, another steals your
whip, and the least treacherous of them all is the man whom you
see coming to fire his pistol at you point blank.

“You yourself, my dear boy, are clever enough to make
acquaintance before long with the odious and incessant warfare
waged by mediocrity against the superior man. If you should drop
five-and-twenty louis one day, you will be accused of gambling on
the next, and your best friends will report that you have lost
twenty-five thousand. If you have a headache, you will be
considered mad. If you are a little hasty, no one can live with
you. If, to make a stand against this armament of pigmies, you
collect your best powers, your best friends will cry out that you
want to have everything, that you aim at domineering, at tyranny.
In short, your good points will become your faults, your faults
will be vices, and your virtues crime.

“If you save a man, you will be said to have killed him; if he
reappears on the scene, it will be positive that you have secured
the present at the cost of the future. If he is not dead, he will
die. Stumble, and you fall! Invent anything of any kind and claim
your rights, you will be crotchety, cunning, ill-disposed to
rising younger men.

“So, you see, my dear fellow, if I do not believe in God, I
believe still less in man. But do not you know in me another
Desplein, altogether different from the Desplein whom every one
abuses?–However, we will not stir that mud-heap.

“Well, I was living in that house, I was working hard to pass my
first examination, and I had no money at all. You know. I had
come to one of those moments of extremity when a man says, ‘I
will enlist.’ I had one hope. I expected from my home a box full
of linen, a present from one of those old aunts who, knowing
nothing of Paris, think of your shirts, while they imagine that
their nephew with thirty francs a month is eating ortolans. The
box arrived while I was at the schools; it had cost forty francs
for carriage. The porter, a German shoemaker living in a loft,
had paid the money and kept the box. I walked up and down the Rue
des Fosses-Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Rue de l’Ecole de
Medecine without hitting on any scheme which would release my
trunk without the payment of the forty francs, which of course I
could pay as soon as I should have sold the linen. My stupidity
proved to me that surgery was my only vocation. My good fellow,
refined souls, whose powers move in a lofty atmosphere, have none
of that spirit of intrigue that is fertile in resource and
device; their good genius is chance; they do not invent, things
come to them.

“At night I went home, at the very moment when my fellow lodger
also came in–a water-carrier named Bourgeat, a native of Saint-
Flour. We knew each other as two lodgers do who have rooms off
the same landing, and who hear each other sleeping, coughing,
dressing, and so at last become used to one another. My neighbor
informed me that the landlord, to whom I owed three quarters’
rent, had turned me out; I must clear out next morning. He
himself was also turned out on account of his occupation. I spent
the most miserable night of my life. Where was I to get a
messenger who could carry my few chattels and my books? How could
I pay him and the porter? Where was I to go? I repeated these
unanswerable questions again and again, in tears, as madmen
repeat their tunes. I fell asleep; poverty has for its friends
heavenly slumbers full of beautiful dreams.

“Next morning, just as I was swallowing my little bowl of bread
soaked in milk, Bourgeat came in and said to me in his vile
Auvergne accent:

” ‘Mouchieur l’Etudiant, I am a poor man, a foundling from the
hospital at Saint-Flour, without either father or mother, and not
rich enough to marry. You are not fertile in relations either,
nor well supplied with the ready? Listen, I have a hand-cart
downstairs which I have hired for two sous an hour; it will hold
all our goods; if you like, we will try to find lodgings
together, since we are both turned out of this. It is not the
earthly paradise, when all is said and done.’

” ‘I know that, my good Bourgeat,’ said I. ‘But I am in a great
fix. I have a trunk downstairs with a hundred francs’ worth of
linen in it, out of which I could pay the landlord and all I owe
to the porter, and I have not a hundred sous.’

” ‘Pooh! I have a few dibs,’ replied Bourgeat joyfully, and he
pulled out a greasy old leather purse. ‘Keep your linen.’

“Bourgeat paid up my arrears and his own, and settled with the
porter. Then he put our furniture and my box of linen in his
cart, and pulled it along the street, stopping in front of every
house where there was a notice board. I went up to see whether
the rooms to let would suit us. At midday we were still wandering
about the neighborhood without having found anything. The price
was the great difficulty. Bourgeat proposed that we should eat at
a wine shop, leaving the cart at the door. Towards evening I
discovered, in the Cour de Rohan, Passage du Commerce, at the
very top of a house next the roof, two rooms with a staircase
between them. Each of us was to pay sixty francs a year. So there
we were housed, my humble friend and I. We dined together.
Bourgeat, who earned about fifty sous a day, had saved a hundred
crowns or so; he would soon be able to gratify his ambition by
buying a barrel and a horse. On learning of my situation–for he
extracted my secrets with a quiet craftiness and good nature, of
which the remembrance touches my heart to this day, he gave up
for a time the ambition of his whole life; for twenty-two years
he had been carrying water in the street, and he now devoted his
hundred crowns to my future prospects.”

Desplein at these words clutched Bianchon’s arm tightly. “He gave
me the money for my examination fees! That man, my friend,
understood that I had a mission, that the needs of my intellect
were greater than his. He looked after me, he called me his boy,
he lent me money to buy books, he would come in softly sometimes
to watch me at work, and took a mother’s care in seeing that I
had wholesome and abundant food, instead of the bad and
insufficient nourishment I had been condemned to. Bourgeat, a man
of about forty, had a homely, mediaeval type of face, a prominent
forehead, a head that a painter might have chosen as a model for
that of Lycurgus. The poor man’s heart was big with affections
seeking an object; he had never been loved but by a poodle that
had died some time since, of which he would talk to me, asking
whether I thought the Church would allow masses to be said for
the repose of its soul. His dog, said he, had been a good
Christian, who for twelve years had accompanied him to church,
never barking, listening to the organ without opening his mouth,
and crouching beside him in a way that made it seem as though he
were praying too.

“This man centered all his affections in me; he looked upon me as
a forlorn and suffering creature, and he became, to me, the most
thoughtful mother, the most considerate benefactor, the ideal of
the virtue which rejoices in its own work. When I met him in the
street, he would throw me a glance of intelligence full of
unutterable dignity; he would affect to walk as though he carried
no weight, and seemed happy in seeing me in good health and well
dressed. It was, in fact, the devoted affection of the lower
classes, the love of a girl of the people transferred to a
loftier level. Bourgeat did all my errands, woke me at night at
any fixed hour, trimmed my lamp, cleaned our landing; as good as
a servant as he was as a father, and as clean as an English girl.
He did all the housework. Like Philopoemen, he sawed our wood,
and gave to all he did the grace of simplicity while preserving
his dignity, for he seemed to understand that the end ennobles
every act.

“When I left this good fellow, to be house surgeon at the Hotel-
Dieu, I felt an indescribable, dull painknowing that he could
no longer live with me; but he comforted himself with the
prospect of saving up money enough for me to take my degree, and
he made me promise to go to see him whenever I had a day out:
Bourgeat was proud of me. He loved me for my own sake, and for
his own. If you look up my thesis, you will see that I dedicated
it to him.

“During the last year of my residence as house surgeon I earned
enough to repay all I owed to this worthy Auvergnat by buying him
a barrel and a horse. He was furious with rage at learning that I
had been depriving myself of spending my money, and yet he was
delighted to see his wishes fulfilled; he laughed and scolded, he
looked at his barrel, at his horse, and wiped away a tear, as he
said, ‘It is too bad. What a splendid barrel! You really ought
not. Why, that horse is as strong as an Auvergnat!’

“I never saw a more touching scene. Bourgeat insisted on buying
for me the case of instruments mounted in silver which you have
seen in my room, and which is to me the most precious thing
there. Though enchanted with my first success, never did the
least sign, the least word, escape him which might imply, ‘This
man owes all to me!’ And yet, but for him, I should have died of
want; he had eaten bread rubbed with garlic that I might have
coffee to enable me to sit up at night.

“He fell ill. As you may suppose, I passed my nights by his
bedside, and the first time I pulled him through; but two years
after he had a relapse; in spite of the utmost care, in spite of
the greatest exertions of science, he succumbed. No king was ever
nursed as he was. Yes, Bianchon, to snatch that man from death I
tried unheard-of things. I wanted him to live long enough to show
him his work accomplished, to realize all his hopes, to give
expression to the only need for gratitude that ever filled my
heart, to quench a fire that burns in me to this day.

“Bourgeat, my second father, died in my arms,” Desplein went on,
after a pause, visibly moved. “He left me everything he possessed
by a will he had had made by a public scrivener, dating from the
year when we had gone to live in the Cour de Rohan.

“This man’s faith was perfect; he loved the Holy Virgin as he
might have loved his wife. He was an ardent Catholic, but never
said a word to me about my want of religion. When he was dying he
entreated me to spare no expense that he might have every
possible benefit of clergy. I had a mass said for him every day.
Often, in the night, he would tell me of his fears as to his
future fate; he feared his life had not been saintly enough. Poor
man! he was at work from morning till night. For whom, then, is
Paradise–if there be a Paradise? He received the last sacrament
like the saint that he was, and his death was worthy of his life.

“I alone followed him to the grave. When I had laid my only
benefactor to rest, I looked about to see how I could pay my debt
to him; I found he had neither family nor friends, neither wife
nor child. But he believed. He had a religious conviction; had I
any right to dispute it? He had spoken to me timidly of masses
said for the repose of the dead; he would not impress it on me as
a duty, thinking that it would be a form of repayment for his
services. As soon as I had money enough I paid to Saint-Sulpice
the requisite sum for four masses every year. As the only thing I
can do for Bourgeat is thus to satisfy his pious wishes, on the
days when that mass is said, at the beginning of each season of
the year, I go for his sake and say the required prayers; and I
say with the good faith of a sceptic–‘Great God, if there is a
sphere which Thou hast appointed after death for those who have
been perfect, remember good Bourgeat; and if he should have
anything to suffer, let me suffer it for him, that he may enter
all the sooner into what is called Paradise.’

“That, my dear fellow, is as much as a man who holds my opinions
can allow himself. But God must be a good fellow; He cannot owe
me any grudge. I swear to you, I would give my whole fortune if
faith such as Bourgeat’s could enter my brain.”

Bianchon, who was with Desplein all through his last illness,
dares not affirm to this day that the great surgeon died an
atheist. Will not those who believe like to fancy that the humble
Auvergnat came to open the gate of Heaven to his friend, as he
did that of the earthly temple on whose pediment we read the
words–“A grateful country to its great men.”

PARIS, January 1836.(tr.Clara Bell)

Ack: Encyclopedia of the Self by Mark Zimmerman

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I had entered, in an idle mood, the shop of one of those curiosity
venders who are called _marchands de bric-à-brac_ in that Parisian
_argot_ which is so perfectly unintelligible elsewhere in France.

You have doubtless glanced occasionally through the windows of some of
these shops, which have become so numerous now that it is fashionable
to buy antiquated furniture, and that every petty stockbroker thinks he
must have his _chambre au moyen âge_.

There is one thing there which clings alike to the shop of the dealer
in old iron, the ware-room of the tapestry maker, the laboratory of the
chemist, and the studio of the painter: in all those gloomy dens where
a furtive daylight filters in through the window-shutters the most
manifestly ancient thing is dust. The cobwebs are more authentic
than the gimp laces, and the old pear-tree furniture on exhibition is
actually younger than the mahogany which arrived but yesterday from
America.

The warehouse of my bric-à-brac dealer was a veritable Capharnaum. All
ages and all nations seemed to have made their rendezvous there. An
Etruscan lamp of red clay stood upon a Boule cabinet, with ebony panels,
brightly striped by lines of inlaid brass; a duchess of the court of
Louis xv. nonchalantly extended her fawn-like feet under a massive
table of the time of Louis xiii., with heavy spiral supports of oak, and
carven designs of chimeras and foliage intermingled.

Upon the denticulated shelves of several sideboards glittered immense
Japanese dishes with red and blue designs relieved by gilded hatching,
side by side with enamelled works by Bernard Palissy, representing
serpents, frogs, and lizards in relief.

From disembowelled cabinets escaped cascades of silver-lustrous Chinese
silks and waves of tinsel, which an oblique sunbeam shot through with
luminous beads, while portraits of every era, in frames more or less
tarnished, smiled through their yellow varnish.

The striped breastplate of a damascened suit of Milanese armour
glittered in one corner; loves and nymphs of porcelain, Chinese
grotesques, vases of _céladon_ and crackleware, Saxon and old Sèvres
cups encumbered the shelves and nooks of the apartment.

The dealer followed me closely through the tortuous way contrived
between the piles of furniture, warding off with his hand the hazardous
sweep of my coat-skirts, watching my elbows with the uneasy attention of
an antiquarian and a usurer.

It was a singular face, that of the merchant; an immense skull, polished
like a knee, and surrounded by a thin aureole of white hair, which
brought out the clear salmon tint of his complexion all the more
strikingly, lent him a false aspect of patriarchal _bonhomie_,
counteracted, however, by the scintillation of two little yellow eyes
which trembled in their orbits like two louis-d'or upon quicksilver. The
curve of his nose presented an aquiline silhouette, which suggested the
Oriental or Jewish type. His hands--thin, slender, full of nerves which
projected like strings upon the finger-board of a violin, and armed with
claws like those on the terminations of bats' wings--shook with senile
trembling; but those convulsively agitated hands became firmer
than steel pincers or lobsters' claws when they lifted any precious
article--an onyx cup, a Venetian glass, or a dish of Bohemian crystal.
This strange old man had an aspect so thoroughly rabbinical and
cabalistic that he would have been burnt on the mere testimony of his
face three centuries ago.

'Will you not buy something from me to-day, sir? Here is a Malay kreese
with a blade undulating like flame. Look at those grooves contrived for
the blood to run along, those teeth set backward so as to tear out the
entrails in withdrawing the weapon. It is a fine character of ferocious
arm, and will look well in your collection. This two-handed sword
is very beautiful. It is the work of Josepe de la Hera; and this
_colichemarde_ with its fenestrated guard--what a superb specimen of
handicraft!'

'No; I have quite enough weapons and instruments of carnage. I want a
small figure,--something which will suit me as a paper-weight, for I
cannot endure those trumpery bronzes which the stationers sell, and
which may be found on everybody's desk.'

The old gnome foraged among his ancient wares, and finally arranged
before me some antique bronzes, so-called at least; fragments of
malachite, little Hindoo or Chinese idols, a kind of poussah-toys in
jade-stone, representing the incarnations of Brahma or Vishnoo, and
wonderfully appropriate to the very undivine office of holding papers
and letters in place.

I was hesitating between a porcelain dragon, all constellated with
warts, its mouth formidable with bristling tusks and ranges of
teeth, and an abominable little Mexican fetich, representing the god
Vitziliputzili _au naturel_, when I caught sight of a charming foot,
which I at first took for a fragment of some antique Venus.

It had those beautiful ruddy and tawny tints that lend to Florentine
bronze that warm living look so much preferable to the gray-green aspect
of common bronzes, which might easily be mistaken for statues in a state
of putrefaction. Satiny gleams played over its rounded forms, doubtless
polished by the amorous kisses of twenty centuries, for it seemed a
Corinthian bronze, a work of the best era of art, perhaps moulded by
Lysippus himself.

'That foot will be my choice,' said to the merchant, who regarded me
with an ironical and saturnine air, and held out the object desired that
I might examine it more fully.

I was surprised at its lightness. It was not a foot of metal, but in
sooth a foot of flesh, an embalmed foot, a mummy's foot. On examining
it still more closely the very grain of the skin, and the almost
imperceptible lines impressed upon it by the texture of the bandages,
became perceptible. The toes were slender and delicate, and terminated
by perfectly formed nails, pure and transparent as agates. The great
toe, slightly separated from the rest, afforded a happy contrast, in the
antique style, to the position of the other toes, and lent it an aerial
lightness--the grace of a bird's foot. The sole, scarcely streaked by
a few almost imperceptible cross lines, afforded evidence that it had
never touched the bare ground, and had only come in contact with the
finest matting of Nile rushes and the softest carpets of panther skin.

'Ha, ha, you want the foot of the Princess Hermonthis!' exclaimed the
merchant, with a strange giggle, fixing his owlish eyes upon me. 'Ha,
ha, ha! For a paper-weight! An original idea!--artistic idea!-Old
Pharaoh would certainly have been surprised had some one told him that
the foot of his adored daughter would be used for a paper-weight after
he had had a mountain of granite hollowed out as a receptacle for
the triple coffin, painted and gilded, covered with hieroglyphics and
beautiful paintings of the Judgment of Souls,' continued the queer
little merchant, half audibly, as though talking to himself.

'How much will you charge me for this mummy fragment?'

'Ah, the highest price I can get, for it is a superb piece. If I had the
match of it you could not have it for less than five hundred francs. The
daughter of a Pharaoh! Nothing is more rare.'

'Assuredly that is not a common article, but still, how much do you
want? In the first place let me warn you that all my wealth consists of
just five louis. I can buy anything that costs five louis, but nothing
dearer. You might search my vest pockets and most secret drawers without
even finding one poor five-franc piece more.'

'Five louis for the foot of the Princess Hermonthis! That is very
little, very little indeed. 'Tis an authentic foot,' muttered the
merchant, shaking his head, and imparting a peculiar rotary motion to
his eyes. 'Well, take it, and I will give you the bandages into the
bargain,' he added, wrapping the foot in an ancient damask rag. 'Very
fine? Real damask--Indian damask which has never been redyed. It is
strong, and yet it is soft,' he mumbled, stroking the frayed tissue with
his fingers, through the trade-acquired habit which moved him to praise
even an object of such little value that he himself deemed it only worth
the giving away.

He poured the gold coins into a sort of mediaeval alms-purse hanging at
his belt, repeating:

'The foot of the Princess Hermonthis to be used for a paper-weight!'

Then turning his phosphorescent eyes upon me, he exclaimed in a voice
strident as the crying of a cat which has swallowed a fish-bone:

'Old Pharaoh will not be well pleased. He loved his daughter, the dear
man!'

'You speak as if you were a contemporary of his. You are old enough,
goodness knows! but you do not date back to the Pyramids of Egypt,' I
answered, laughingly, from the threshold.

I went home, delighted with my acquisition.

With the idea of putting it to profitable use as soon as possible, I
placed the foot of the divine Princess Hermonthis upon a heap of papers
scribbled over with verses, in themselves an undecipherable mosaic work
of erasures; articles freshly begun; letters forgotten, and posted
in the table drawer instead of the letter-box, an error to which
absent-minded people are peculiarly liable. The effect was charming,
_bizarre_, and romantic.

Well satisfied with this embellishment, I went out with the gravity and
pride becoming one who feels that he has the ineffable advantage over
all the passers-by whom he elbows, of possessing a piece of the Princess
Hermonthis, daughter of Pharaoh.

I looked upon all who did not possess, like myself, a paper-weight so
authentically Egyptian as very ridiculous people, and it seemed to me
that the proper occupation of every sensible man should consist in the
mere fact of having a mummy's foot upon his desk.

Happily I met some friends, whose presence distracted me in my
infatuation with this new acquisition. I went to dinner with them, for I
could not very well have dined with myself.

When I came back that evening, with my brain slightly confused by a few
glasses of wine, a vague whiff of Oriental perfume delicately titillated
my olfactory nerves. The heat of the room had warmed the natron,
bitumen, and myrrh in which the _paraschistes_, who cut open the bodies
of the dead, had bathed the corpse of the princess. It was a perfume at
once sweet and penetrating, a perfume that four thousand years had not
been able to dissipate.

The Dream of Egypt was Eternity. Her odours have the solidity of granite
and endure as long.

I soon drank deeply from the black cup of sleep. For a few hours all
remained opaque to me. Oblivion and nothingness inundated me with their
sombre waves.

Yet light gradually dawned upon the darkness of my mind. Dreams
commenced to touch me softly in their silent flight.

The eyes of my soul were opened, and I beheld my chamber as it actually
was. I might have believed myself awake but for a vague consciousness
which assured me that I slept, and that something fantastic was about to
take place.

The odour of the myrrh had augmented in intensity, and I felt a slight
headache, which I very naturally attributed to several glasses of
champagne that we had drunk to the unknown gods and our future fortunes.

I peered through my room with a feeling of expectation which I saw
nothing to justify. Every article of furniture was in its proper place.
The lamp, softly shaded by its globe of ground crystal, burned upon its
bracket; the water-colour sketches shone under their Bohemian glass;
the curtains hung down languidly; everything wore an aspect of tranquil
slumber.

After a few moments, however, all this calm interior appeared to become
disturbed. The woodwork cracked stealthily, the ash-covered log suddenly
emitted a jet of blue flame, and the discs of the pateras seemed like
great metallic eyes, watching, like myself, for the things which were
about to happen.

My eyes accidentally fell upon the desk where I had placed the foot of
the Princess Hermonthis.

Instead of remaining quiet, as behoved a foot which had been embalmed
for four thousand years, it commenced to act in a nervous manner,
contracted itself, and leaped over the papers like a startled frog. One
would have imagined that it had suddenly been brought into contact with
a galvanic battery. I could distinctly hear the dry sound made by its
little heel, hard as the hoof of a gazelle.

I became rather discontented with my acquisition, inasmuch as I wished
my paper-weights to be of a sedentary disposition, and thought it very
unnatural that feet should walk about without legs, and I commenced to
experience a feeling closely akin to fear.

Suddenly I saw the folds of my bed-curtain stir, and heard a bumping
sound, like that caused by some person hopping on one foot across the
floor. I must confess I became alternately hot and cold, that I felt a
strange wind chill my back, and that my suddenly rising hair caused my
night-cap to execute a leap of several yards.

The bed-curtains opened and I beheld the strangest figure imaginable
before me.

It was a young girl of a very deep coffee-brown complexion, like the
bayadère Amani, and possessing the purest Egyptian type of perfect
beauty. Her eyes were almond shaped and oblique, with eyebrows so black
that they seemed blue; her nose was exquisitely chiselled, almost Greek
in its delicacy of outline; and she might indeed have been taken for a
Corinthian statue of bronze but for the prominence of her cheek-bones
and the slightly African fulness of her lips, which compelled one to
recognise her as belonging beyond all doubt to the hieroglyphic race
which dwelt upon the banks of the Nile.

Her arms, slender and spindle-shaped like those of very young girls,
were encircled by a peculiar kind of metal bands and bracelets of glass
beads; her hair was all twisted into little cords, and she wore upon
her bosom a little idol-figure of green paste, bearing a whip with seven
lashes, which proved it to be an image of Isis; her brow was adorned
with a shining plate of gold, and a few traces of paint relieved the
coppery tint of her cheeks.

As for her costume, it was very odd indeed.

Fancy a _pagne_, or skirt, all formed of little strips of material
bedizened with red and black hieroglyphics, stiffened with bitumen, and
apparently belonging to a freshly unbandaged mummy.

In one of those sudden flights of thought so common in dreams I
heard the hoarse falsetto of the bric-à-brac dealer, repeating like
a monotonous refrain the phrase he had uttered in his shop with so
enigmatical an intonation:

'Old Pharaoh will not be well pleased He loved his daughter, the dear
man!'

One strange circumstance, which was not at all calculated to restore
my equanimity, was that the apparition had but one foot; the other was
broken off at the ankle!

She approached the table where the foot was starting and fidgeting about
more than ever, and there supported herself upon the edge of the desk. I
saw her eyes fill with pearly gleaming tears.

Although she had not as yet spoken, I fully comprehended the thoughts
which agitated her. She looked at her foot--for it was indeed her
own--with an exquisitely graceful expression of coquettish sadness, but
the foot leaped and ran hither and thither, as though impelled on steel
springs.

Twice or thrice she extended her hand to seize it, but could not
succeed.

Then commenced between the Princess Hermonthis and her foot--which
appeared to be endowed with a special life of its own--a very fantastic
dialogue in a most ancient Coptic tongue, such as might have been spoken
thirty centuries ago in the syrinxes of the land of Ser. Luckily I
understood Coptic perfectly well that night.

The Princess Hermonthis cried, in a voice sweet and vibrant as the tones
of a crystal bell:

'Well, my dear little foot, you always flee from me, yet I always
took good care of you. I bathed you with perfumed water in a bowl of
alabaster; I smoothed your heel with pumice-stone mixed with
palm-oil; your nails were cut with golden scissors and polished with a
hippopotamus tooth; I was careful to select _tatbebs_ for you, painted
and embroidered and turned up at the toes, which were the envy of all
the young girls in Egypt. You wore on your great toe rings bearing the
device of the sacred Scarabseus, and you supported one of the lightest
bodies that a lazy foot could sustain.'

The foot replied in a pouting and chagrined tone:

'You know well that I do not belong to myself any longer. I have been
bought and paid for. The old merchant knew what he was about. He bore
you a grudge for having refused to espouse him. This is an ill turn
which he has done you. The Arab who violated your royal coffin in the
subterranean pits of the necropolis of Thebes was sent thither by him.
He desired to prevent you from being present at the reunion of the
shadowy nations in the cities below. Have you five pieces of gold for my
ransom?'

'Alas, no! My jewels, my rings, my purses of gold and silver were all
stolen from me,' answered the Princess Hermonthis with a sob.

'Princess,' I then exclaimed, 'I never retained anybody's foot unjustly.
Even though you have not got the five louis which it cost me, I present
it to you gladly. I should feel unutterably wretched to think that I
were the cause of so amiable a person as the Princess Hermonthis being
lame.'

I delivered this discourse in a royally gallant, troubadour tone which
must have astonished the beautiful Egyptian girl.

She turned a look of deepest gratitude upon me, and her eyes shone with
bluish gleams of light.

She took her foot, which surrendered itself willingly this time, like a
woman about to put on her little shoe, and adjusted it to her leg with
much skill.

This operation over, she took a few steps about the room, as though to
assure herself that she was really no longer lame.

'Ah, how pleased my father will be! He who was so unhappy because of my
mutilation, and who from the moment of my birth set a whole nation at
work to hollow me out a tomb so deep that he might preserve me intact
until that last day when souls must be weighed in the balance of
Amenthi! Come with me to my father. He will receive you kindly, for you
have given me back my foot.'

I thought this proposition natural enough. I arrayed myself in a
dressing-gown of large-flowered pattern, which lent me a very Pharaonic
aspect, hurriedly put on a pair of Turkish slippers, and informed the
Princess Hermonthis that I was ready to follow her.

Before starting, Hermonthis took from her neck the little idol of green
paste, and laid it on the scattered sheets of paper which covered the
table.

'It is only fair,' she observed, smilingly, 'that I should replace your
paper-weight.'

She gave me her hand, which felt soft and cold, like the skin of a
serpent, and we departed.

We passed for some time with the velocity of an arrow through a fluid
and grayish expanse, in which half-formed silhouettes flitted swiftly by
us, to right and left.

For an instant we saw only sky and sea.

A few moments later obelisks commenced to tower in the distance; pylons
and vast flights of steps guarded by sphinxes became clearly outlined
against the horizon.

We had reached our destination.

The princess conducted me to a mountain of rose-coloured granite, in the
face of which appeared an opening so narrow and low that it would have
been difficult to distinguish it from the fissures in the rock, had not
its location been marked by two stelae wrought with sculptures.

Hermonthis kindled a torch and led the way before me.

We traversed corridors hewn through the living rock. Their walls,
covered with hieroglyphics and paintings of allegorical processions,
might well have occupied thousands of arms for thousands of years in
their formation. These corridors of interminable length opened into
square chambers, in the midst of which pits had been contrived, through
which we descended by cramp-irons or spiral stairways. These pits again
conducted us into other chambers, opening into other corridors, likewise
decorated with painted sparrow-hawks, serpents coiled in circles, the
symbols of the _tau_ and _pedum_--prodigious works of art which no
living eye can ever examine--interminable legends of granite which only
the dead have time to read through all eternity.

At last we found ourselves in a hall so vast, so enormous, so
immeasurable, that the eye could not reach its limits. Files of
monstrous columns stretched far out of sight on every side, between
which twinkled livid stars of yellowish flame; points of light which
revealed further depths incalculable in the darkness beyond.

The Princess Hermonthis still held my hand, and graciously saluted the
mummies of her acquaintance.

My eyes became accustomed to the dim twilight, and objects became
discernible.

I beheld the kings of the subterranean races seated upon thrones--grand
old men, though dry, withered, wrinkled like parchment, and blackened
with naphtha and bitumen--all wearing _pshents_ of gold, and
breastplates and gorgets glittering with precious stones, their eyes
immovably fixed like the eyes of sphinxes, and their long beards
whitened by the snow of centuries. Behind them stood their peoples,
in the stiff and constrained posture enjoined by Egyptian art, all
eternally preserving the attitude prescribed by the hieratic code.
Behind these nations, the cats, ibixes, and crocodiles contemporary
with them--rendered monstrous of aspect by their swathing bands--mewed,
flapped their wings, or extended their jaws in a saurian giggle.

All the Pharaohs were there--Cheops, Chephrenes, Psammetichus,
Sesostris, Amenotaph--all the dark rulers of the pyramids and syrinxes.
On yet higher thrones sat Chronos and Xixouthros, who was contemporary
with the deluge, and Tubal Cain, who reigned before it.

The beard of King Xixouthros had grown seven times around the granite
table upon which he leaned, lost in deep reverie, and buried in dreams.

Further back, through a dusty cloud, I beheld dimly the seventy-two
pre-adamite kings, with their seventy-two peoples, for ever passed away.

After permitting me to gaze upon this bewildering spectacle a few
moments, the Princess Hermonthis presented me to her father Pharaoh, who
favoured me with a most gracious nod.

'I have found my foot again! I have found my foot!' cried the princess,
clapping her little hands together with every sign of frantic joy. 'It
was this gentleman who restored it to me.'

The races of Kemi, the races of Nahasi--all the black, bronzed, and
copper-coloured nations repeated in chorus:

'The Princess Hermonthis has found her foot again!'

Even Xixouthros himself was visibly affected.

He raised his heavy eyelids, stroked his moustache with his fingers, and
turned upon me a glance weighty with centuries.

'By Oms, the dog of Hell, and Tmei, daughter of the Sun and of Truth,
this is a brave and worthy lad!' exclaimed Pharaoh, pointing to me with
his sceptre, which was terminated with a lotus-flower.

'What recompense do you desire?'

Filled with that daring inspired by dreams in which nothing seems
impossible, I asked him for the hand of the Princess Hermonthis. The
hand seemed to me a very proper antithetic recompense for the foot.

Pharaoh opened wide his great eyes of glass in astonishment at my witty
request.

'What country do you come from, and what is your age?'

'I am a Frenchman, and I am twenty-seven years old venerable Pharaoh.'

'Twenty-seven years old, and he wishes to espouse the Princess
Hermonthis who is thirty centuries old!' cried out at once all the
Thrones and all the Circles of Nations.

Only Hermonthis herself did not seem to think my request unreasonable.

'If you were even only two thousand years old,' replied the ancient
king, 'I would willingly give you the princess, but the disproportion
is too great; and, besides, we must give our daughters husbands who will
last well. You do not know how to preserve yourselves any longer. Even
those who died only fifteen centuries ago are already no more than a
handful of dust. Behold, my flesh is solid as basalt, my bones are bars
of steel!

'I will be present on the last day of the world with the same body and
the same features which I had during my lifetime. My daughter Hermonthis
will last longer than a statue of bronze.

'Then the last particles of your dust will have been scattered abroad
by the winds, and even Isis herself, who was able to find the atoms of
Osiris, would scarce be able to recompose your being.

'See how vigorous I yet remain, and how mighty is my grasp,' he added,
shaking my hand in the English fashion with a strength that buried my
rings in the flesh of my fingers.

He squeezed me so hard that I awoke, and found my friend Alfred shaking
me by the arm to make me get up.

'Oh, you everlasting sleeper! Must I have you carried out into the
middle of the street, and fireworks exploded in your ears? It is
afternoon. Don't you recollect your promise to take me with you to see
M. Aguado's Spanish pictures?'

'God! I forgot all, all about it,' I answered, dressing myself
hurriedly. 'We will go there at once. I have the permit lying there on
my desk.'

I started to find it, but fancy my astonishment when I beheld, instead
of the mummy's foot I had purchased the evening before, the little green
paste idol left in its place by the Princess Hermonthis!

(ack: tr. Lafcadio Hearn/1908 the Mummy's Foot/Gautier-the Gutenberg Project)



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What a strange idea it was for me to choose Mademoiselle Pearl for queen that evening!

Every year I celebrate Twelfth Night with my old friend Chantal. My father, who was his most intimate friend, used to take me round there when I was a child. I continued the custom, and I doubtless shall continue it as long as I live and as long as there is a Chantal in this world.
The Chantals lead a peculiar existence; they live in Paris as though they were in Grasse, Evetot, or Pont-a-Mousson.
They have a house with a little garden near the observatory. They live there as though they were in the country. Of Paris, the real Paris, they know nothing at all, they suspect nothing; they are so far, so far away! However, from time to time, they take a trip into it. Mademoiselle Chantal goes to lay in her provisions, as it is called in the family. This is how they go to purchase their provisions:
Mademoiselle Pearl, who has the keys to the kitchen closet (for the linen closets are administered by the mistress herself), Mademoiselle Pearl gives warning that the supply of sugar is low, that the preserves are giving out, that there is not much left in the bottom of the coffee bag. Thus warned against famine, Mademoiselle Chantal passes everything in review, taking notes on a pad. Then she puts down a lot of figures and goes through lengthy calculations and long discussions with Mademoiselle Pearl. At last they manage to agree, and they decide upon the quantity of each thing of which they will lay in a three months’ provision; sugar, rice, prunes, coffee, preserves, cans of peas, beans, lobster, salt or smoked fish, etc., etc. After which the day for the purchasing is determined on and they go in a cab with a railing round the top and drive to a large grocery store on the other side of the river in the new sections of the town.
Madame Chantal and Mademoiselle Pearl make this trip together, mysteriously, and only return at dinner time, tired out, although still excited, and shaken up by the cab, the roof of which is covered with bundles and bags, like an express wagon.
For the Chantals all that part of Paris situated on the other side of the Seine constitutes the new quarter, a section inhabited by a strange, noisy population, which cares little for honor, spends its days in dissipation, its nights in revelry, and which throws money out of the windows. From time to time, however, the young girls are taken to the Opera-Comique or the Theatre Francais, when the play is recommended by the paper which is read by M. Chantal.
At present the young ladies are respectively nineteen and seventeen. They are two pretty girls, tall and fresh, very well brought up, in fact, too well brought up, so much so that they pass by unperceived like two pretty dolls. Never would the idea come to me to pay the slightest attention or to pay court to one of the young Chantal ladies; they are so immaculate that one hardly dares speak to them; one almost feels indecent when bowing to them.
As for the father, he is a charming man, well educated, frank, cordial, but he likes calm and quiet above all else, and has thus contributed greatly to the mummifying of his family in order to live as he pleased in stagnant quiescence. He reads a lot, loves to talk and is readily affected. Lack of contact and of elbowing with the world has made his moral skin very tender and sensitive. The slightest thing moves him, excites him, and makes him suffer.
The Chantals have limited connections carefully chosen in the neighborhood. They also exchange two or three yearly visits with relatives who live in the distance.
As for me, I take dinner with them on the fifteenth of August and on Twelfth Night. That is as much one of my duties as Easter communion is for a Catholic.
On the fifteenth of August a few friends are invited, but on Twelfth Night I am the only stranger.
Well, this year, as every former year, I went to the Chantals’ for my Epiphany dinner.
According to my usual custom, I kissed M. Chantal, Madame Chantal and Mademoiselle Pearl, and I made a deep bow to the Misses Louise and Pauline. I was questioned about a thousand and one things, about what had happened on the boulevards, about politics, about how matters stood in Tong-King, and about our representatives in Parliament. Madame Chantal, a fat lady, whose ideas always gave me the impression of being carved out square like building stones, was accustomed to exclaiming at the end of every political discussion: “All that is seed which does not promise much for the future!” Why have I always imagined that Madame Chantal’s ideas are square? I don’t know; but everything that she says takes that shape in my head: a big square, with four symmetrical angles. There are other people whose ideas always strike me as being round and rolling like a hoop. As soon as they begin a sentence on any subject it rolls on and on, coming out in ten, twenty, fifty round ideas, large and small, which I see rolling along, one behind the other, to the end of the horizon. Other people have pointed ideas–but enough of this.
We sat down as usual and finished our dinner without anything out of the ordinary being said. At dessert the Twelfth Night cake was brought on. Now, M. Chantal had been king every year. I don’t know whether this was the result of continued chance or a family convention, but he unfailingly found the bean in his piece of cake, and he would proclaim Madame Chantal to be queen. Therefore, I was greatly surprised to find something very hard, which almost made me break a tooth, in a mouthful of cake. Gently I took this thing from my mouth and I saw that it was a little porcelain doll, no bigger than a bean. Surprise caused me to exclaim:
“Ah!” All looked at me, and Chantal clapped his hands and cried: “It’s Gaston! It’s Gaston! Long live the king! Long live the king!”
All took up the chorus: “Long live the king!” And I blushed to the tip of my ears, as one often does, without any reason at all, in situations which are a little foolish. I sat there looking at my plate, with this absurd little bit of pottery in my fingers, forcing myself to laugh and not knowing what to do or say, when Chantal once more cried out: “Now, you must choose a queen!”
Then I was thunderstruck. In a second a thousand thoughts and suppositions flashed through my mind. Did they expect me to pick out one of the young Chantal ladies? Was that a trick to make me say which one I prefer? Was it a gentle, light, direct hint of the parents toward a possible marriage? The idea of marriage roams continually in houses with grown-up girls, and takes every shape and disguise, and employs every subterfuge. A dread of compromising myself took hold of me as well as an extreme timidity before the obstinately correct and reserved attitude of the Misses Louise and Pauline. To choose one of them in preference to the other seemed to me as difficult as choosing between two drops of water; and then the fear of launching myself into an affair which might, in spite of me, lead me gently into matrimonial ties, by means as wary and imperceptible and as calm as this insignificant royalty–the fear of all this haunted me.
Suddenly I had an inspiration, and I held out to Mademoiselle Pearl the symbolical emblem. At first every one was surprised, then they doubtless appreciated my delicacy and discretion, for they applauded furiously. Everybody was crying: “Long live the queen! Long live the queen!”
As for herself, poor old maid, she was so amazed that she completely lost control of herself; she was trembling and stammering: “No–no–oh! no– not me–please–not me–I beg of you—-“
Then for the first time in my life I looked at Mademoiselle Pearl and wondered what she was.
I was accustomed to seeing her in this house, just as one sees old upholstered armchairs on which one has been sitting since childhood without ever noticing them. One day, with no reason at all, because a ray of sunshine happens to strike the seat, you suddenly think: “Why, that chair is very curious”; and then you discover that the wood has been worked by a real artist and that the material is remarkable. I had never taken any notice of Mademoiselle Pearl.
She was a part of the Chantal family, that was all. But how? By what right? She was a tall, thin person who tried to remain in the background, but who was by no means insignificant. She was treated in a friendly manner, better than a housekeeper, not so well as a relative. I suddenly observed several shades of distinction which I had never noticed before. Madame Chantal said: “Pearl.” The young ladies: “Mademoiselle Pearl,” and Chantal only addressed her as “Mademoiselle,” with an air of greater respect, perhaps.
I began to observe her. How old could she be? Forty? Yes, forty. She was not old, she made herself old. I was suddenly struck by this fact. She fixed her hair and dressed in a ridiculous manner, and, notwithstanding all that, she was not in the least ridiculous, she had such simple, natural gracefulness, veiled and hidden. Truly, what a strange creature! How was it I had never observed her before? She dressed her hair in a grotesque manner with little old maid curls, most absurd; but beneath this one could see a large, calm brow, cut by two deep lines, two wrinkles of long sadness, then two blue eyes, large and tender, so timid, so bashful, so humble, two beautiful eyes which had kept the expression of naive wonder of a young girl, of youthful sensations, and also of sorrow, which had softened without spoiling them.
Her whole face was refined and discreet, a face the expression of which seemed to have gone out without being used up or faded by the fatigues and great emotions of life.
What a dainty mouth! and such pretty teeth! But one would have thought that she did not dare smile.
Suddenly I compared her to Madame Chantal! Undoubtedly Mademoiselle Pearl was the better of the two, a hundred times better, daintier, prouder, more noble. I was surprised at my observation. They were pouring out champagne. I held my glass up to the queen and, with a well- turned compliment, I drank to her health. I could see that she felt inclined to hide her head in her napkin. Then, as she was dipping her lips in the clear wine, everybody cried: “The queen drinks! the queen drinks!” She almost turned purple and choked. Everybody was laughing; but I could see that all loved her.
As soon as dinner was over Chantal took me by the arm. It was time for his cigar, a sacred hour. When alone he would smoke it out in the street; when guests came to dinner he would take them to the billiard room and smoke while playing. That evening they had built a fire to celebrate Twelfth Night; my old friend took his cue, a very fine one, and chalked it with great care; then he said:
“You break, my boy!”
He called me “my boy,” although I was twenty-five, but he had known me as a young child.
I started the game and made a few carroms. I missed some others, but as the thought of Mademoiselle Pearl kept returning to my mind, I suddenly asked:
“By the way, Monsieur Chantal, is Mademoiselle Pearl a relative of yours?”
Greatly surprised, he stopped playing and looked at me:
“What! Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard about Mademoiselle Pearl?”
“No.”
“Didn’t your father ever tell you?”
“No.”
“Well, well, that’s funny! That certainly is funny! Why, it’s a regular romance!”
He paused, and then continued:
“And if you only knew how peculiar it is that you should ask me that to- day, on Twelfth Night!”
“Why?”
“Why? Well, listen. Forty-one years ago to day, the day of the Epiphany, the following events occurred: We were then living at Roiiy-le-Tors, on the ramparts; but in order that you may understand, I must first explain the house. Roily is built on a hill, or, rather, on a mound which overlooks a great stretch of prairie. We had a house there with a beautiful hanging garden supported by the old battlemented wall; so that the house was in the town on the streets, while the garden overlooked the plain. There was a door leading from the garden to the open country, at the bottom of a secret stairway in the thick wall–the kind you read about in novels. A road passed in front of this door, which was provided with a big bell; for the peasants, in order to avoid the roundabout way, would bring their provisions up this way.
“You now understand the place, don’t you? Well, this year, at Epiphany, it had been snowing for a week. One might have thought that the world was coming to an end. When we went to the ramparts to look over the plain, this immense white, frozen country, which shone like varnish, would chill our very souls. One might have thought that the Lord had packed the world in cotton to put it away in the storeroom for old worlds. I can assure you that it was dreary looking.
“We were a very numerous family at that time my father, my mother, my uncle and aunt, my two brothers and four cousins; they were pretty little girls; I married the youngest. Of all that crowd, there are only three of us left: my wife, I, and my sister-in-law, who lives in Marseilles. Zounds! how quickly a family like that dwindles away! I tremble when I think of it! I was fifteen years old then, since I am fifty-six now.
“We were going to celebrate the Epiphany, and we were all happy, very happy! Everybody was in the parlor, awaiting dinner, and my oldest brother, Jacques, said: ‘There has been a dog howling out in the plain for about ten minutes; the poor beast must be lost.’
“He had hardly stopped talking when the garden bell began to ring. It had the deep sound of a church bell, which made one think of death. A shiver ran through everybody. My father called the servant and told him to go outside and look. We waited in complete silence; we were thinking of the snow which covered the ground. When the man returned he declared that he had seen nothing. The dog kept up its ceaseless howling, and always from the same spot.
“We sat down to dinner; but we were all uneasy, especially the young people. Everything went well up to the roast, then the bell began to ring again, three times in succession, three heavy, long strokes which vibrated to the tips of our fingers and which stopped our conversation short. We sat there looking at each other, fork in the air, still listening, and shaken by a kind of supernatural fear.
“At last my mother spoke: ‘It’s surprising that they should have waited so long to come back. Do not go alone, Baptiste; one of these gentlemen will accompany you.’
“My Uncle Francois arose. He was a kind of Hercules, very proud of his strength, and feared nothing in the world. My father said to him: ‘Take a gun. There is no telling what it might be.’
“But my uncle only took a cane and went out with the servant.
“We others remained there trembling with fear and apprehension, without eating or speaking. My father tried to reassure us: ‘Just wait and see,’ he said; ‘it will be some beggar or some traveller lost in the snow. After ringing once, seeing that the door was not immediately opened, he attempted again to find his way, and being unable to, he has returned to our door.’
“Our uncle seemed to stay away an hour. At last he came back, furious, swearing: ‘Nothing at all; it’s some practical joker! There is nothing but that damned dog howling away at about a hundred yards from the walls. If I had taken a gun I would have killed him to make him keep quiet.’
“We sat down to dinner again, but every one was excited; we felt that all was not over, that something was going to happen, that the bell would soon ring again.
“It rang just as the Twelfth Night cake was being cut. All the men jumped up together. My Uncle, Francois, who had been drinking champagne, swore so furiously that he would murder it, whatever it might be, that my mother and my aunt threw themselves on him to prevent his going. My father, although very calm and a little helpless (he limped ever since he had broken his leg when thrown by a horse), declared, in turn, that he wished to find out what was the matter and that he was going. My brothers, aged eighteen and twenty, ran to get their guns; and as no one was paying any attention to me I snatched up a little rifle that was used in the garden and got ready to accompany the expedition.
“It started out immediately. My father and uncle were walking ahead with Baptiste, who was carrying a lantern. My brothers, Jacques and Paul, followed, and I trailed on behind in spite of the prayers of my mother, who stood in front of the house with her sister and my cousins.
“It had been snowing again for the last hour, and the trees were weighted down. The pines were bending under this heavy, white garment, and looked like white pyramids or enormous sugar cones, and through the gray curtains of small hurrying flakes could be seen the lighter bushes which stood out pale in the shadow. The snow was falling so thick that we could hardly see ten feet ahead of us. But the lantern threw a bright light around us. When we began to go down the winding stairway in the wall I really grew frightened. I felt as though some one were walking behind me, were going to grab me by the shoulders and carry me away, and I felt a strong desire to return; but, as I would have had to cross the garden all alone, I did not dare. I heard some one opening the door leading to the plain; my uncle began to swear again, exclaiming: ‘By —! He has gone again! If I can catch sight of even his shadow, I’ll take care not to miss him, the swine!’
“It was a discouraging thing to see this great expanse of plain, or, rather, to feel it before us, for we could not see it; we could only see a thick, endless veil of snow, above, below, opposite us, to the right, to the left, everywhere. My uncle continued:
‘Listen! There is the dog howling again; I will teach him how I shoot. That will be something gained, anyhow.’
“But my father, who was kind-hearted, went on:
‘It will be much better to go on and get the poor animal, who is crying for hunger. The poor fellow is barking for help; he is calling like a man in distress. Let us go to him.’
“So we started out through this mist, through this thick continuous fall of snow, which filled the air, which moved, floated, fell, and chilled the skin with a burning sensation like a sharp, rapid pain as each flake melted. We were sinking in up to our knees in this soft, cold mass, and we had to lift our feet very high in order to walk. As we advanced the dog’s voice became clearer and stronger. My uncle cried: ‘Here he is!’ We stopped to observe him as one does when he meets an enemy at night.
“I could see nothing, so I ran up to the others, and I caught sight of him; he was frightful and weird-looking; he was a big black shepherd’s dog with long hair and a wolf’s head, standing just within the gleam of light cast by our lantern on the snow. He did not move; he was silently watching us.
“My uncle said: ‘That’s peculiar, he is neither advancing nor retreating. I feel like taking a shot at him.’
“My father answered in a firm voice: ‘No, we must capture him.’
“Then my brother Jacques added: ‘But he is not alone. There is something behind him.”
“There was indeed something behind him, something gray, impossible to distinguish. We started out again cautiously. When he saw us approaching the dog sat down. He did not look wicked. Instead, he seemed pleased at having been able to attract the attention of some one.
“My father went straight to him and petted him. The dog licked his hands. We saw that he was tied to the wheel of a little carriage, a sort of toy carriage entirely wrapped up in three or four woolen blankets. We carefully took off these coverings, and as Baptiste approached his lantern to the front of this little vehicle, which looked like a rolling kennel, we saw in it a little baby sleeping peacefully.
“We were so astonished that we couldn’t speak.
My father was the first to collect his wits, and as he had a warm heart and a broad mind, he stretched his hand over the roof of the carriage and said: ‘Poor little waif, you shall be one of us!’ And he ordered my brother Jacques to roll the foundling ahead of us. Thinking out loud, my father continued:
“‘Some child of love whose poor mother rang at my door on this night of Epiphany in memory of the Child of God.’
“He once more stopped and called at the top of his lungs through the night to the four corners of the heavens: ‘We have found it!’ Then, putting his hand on his brother’s shoulder, he murmured: ‘What if you had shot the dog, Francois?’
“My uncle did not answer, but in the darkness he crossed himself, for, notwithstanding his blustering manner, he was very religious.
“The dog, which had been untied, was following us.
“Ah! But you should have seen us when we got to the house! At first we had a lot of trouble in getting the carriage up through the winding stairway; but we succeeded and even rolled it into the vestibule.
“How funny mamma was! How happy and astonished! And my four little cousins (the youngest was only six), they looked like four chickens around a nest. At last we took the child from the carriage. It was still sleeping. It was a girl about six weeks old. In its clothes we found ten thousand francs in gold, yes, my boy, ten thousand francs!– which papa saved for her dowry. Therefore, it was not a child of poor people, but, perhaps, the child of some nobleman and a little bourgeoise of the town–or again–we made a thousand suppositions, but we never found out anything-never the slightest clue. The dog himself was recognized by no one. He was a stranger in the country. At any rate, the person who rang three times at our door must have known my parents well, to have chosen them thus.
“That is how, at the age of six weeks, Mademoiselle Pearl entered the Chantal household.
“It was not until later that she was called Mademoiselle Pearl. She was at first baptized ‘Marie Simonne Claire,’ Claire being intended, for her family name.
“I can assure you that our return to the diningroom was amusing, with this baby now awake and looking round her at these people and these lights with her vague blue questioning eyes.
“We sat down to dinner again and the cake was cut. I was king, and for queen I took Mademoiselle Pearl, just as you did to-day. On that day she did not appreciate the honor that was being shown her.
“Well, the child was adopted and brought up in the family. She grew, and the years flew by. She was so gentle and loving and minded so well that every one would have spoiled her abominably had not my mother prevented it.
“My mother was an orderly woman with a great respect for class distinctions. She consented to treat little Claire as she did her own sons, but, nevertheless, she wished the distance which separated us to be well marked, and our positions well established. Therefore, as soon as the child could understand, she acquainted her with her story and gently, even tenderly, impressed on the little one’s mind that, for the Chantals, she was an adopted daughter, taken in, but, nevertheless, a stranger. Claire understood the situation with peculiar intelligence and with surprising instinct; she knew how to take the place which was allotted her, and to keep it with so much tact, gracefulness and gentleness that she often brought tears to my father’s eyes. My mother herself was often moved by the passionate gratitude and timid devotion of this dainty and loving little creature that she began calling her: ‘My daughter.’ At times, when the little one had done something kind and good, my mother would raise her spectacles on her forehead, a thing which always indicated emotion with her, and she would repeat: ‘This child is a pearl, a perfect pearl!’ This name stuck to the little Claire, who became and remained for us Mademoiselle Pearl.”
II
M. Chantal stopped. He was sitting on the edge of the billiard table, his feet hanging, and was playing with a ball with his left hand, while with his right he crumpled a rag which served to rub the chalk marks from the slate. A little red in the face, his voice thick, he was talking away to himself now, lost in his memories, gently drifting through the old scenes and events which awoke in his mind, just as we walk through old family gardens where we were brought up and where each tree, each walk, each hedge reminds us of some occurrence.
I stood opposite him leaning against the wall, my hands resting on my idle cue.
After a slight pause he continued:
“By Jove! She was pretty at eighteen–and graceful–and perfect. Ah! She was so sweet–and good and true–and charming! She had such eyes- blue-transparent–clear–such eyes as I have never seen since!”
He was once more silent. I asked: “Why did she never marry?”
He answered, not to me, but to the word “marry” which had caught his ear: “Why? why? She never would–she never would! She had a dowry of thirty thousand francs, and she received several offers–but she never would! She seemed sad at that time. That was when I married my cousin, little Charlotte, my wife, to whom I had been engaged for six years.”
I looked at M. Chantal, and it seemed to me that I was looking into his very soul, and I was suddenly witnessing one of those humble and cruel tragedies of honest, straightforward, blameless hearts, one of those secret tragedies known to no one, not even the silent and resigned victims. A rash curiosity suddenly impelled me to exclaim:
“You should have married her, Monsieur Chantal!”
He started, looked at me, and said:
“I? Marry whom?”
“Mademoiselle Pearl.”
“Why?”
“Because you loved her more than your cousin.”
He stared at me with strange, round, bewildered eyes and stammered:
“I loved her–I? How? Who told you that?”
“Why, anyone can see that–and it’s even on account of her that you delayed for so long your marriage to your cousin who had been waiting for you for six years.”
He dropped the ball which he was holding in his left hand, and, seizing the chalk rag in both hands, he buried his face in it and began to sob. He was weeping with his eyes, nose and mouth in a heartbreaking yet ridiculous manner, like a sponge which one squeezes. He was coughing, spitting and blowing his nose in the chalk rag, wiping his eyes and sneezing; then the tears would again begin to flow down the wrinkles on his face and he would make a strange gurgling noise in his throat. I felt bewildered, ashamed; I wanted to run away, and I no longer knew what to say, do, or attempt.
Suddenly Madame Chantal’s voice sounded on the stairs. “Haven’t you men almost finished smoking your cigars?”
I opened the door and cried: “Yes, madame, we are coming right down.”
Then I rushed to her husband, and, seizing him by the shoulders, I cried: “Monsieur Chantal, my friend Chantal, listen to me; your wife is calling; pull yourself together, we must go downstairs.”
He stammered: “Yes–yes–I am coming–poor girl! I am coming–tell her that I am coming.”
He began conscientiously to wipe his face on the cloth which, for the last two or three years, had been used for marking off the chalk from the slate; then he appeared, half white and half red, his forehead, nose, cheeks and chin covered with chalk, and his eyes swollen, still full of tears.
I caught him by the hands and dragged him into his bedroom, muttering: “I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, Monsieur Chantal, for having caused you such sorrow–but–I did not know–you–you understand.”
He squeezed my hand, saying: “Yes–yes–there are difficult moments.”
Then he plunged his face into a bowl of water. When he emerged from it he did not yet seem to me to be presentable; but I thought of a little stratagem. As he was growing worried, looking at himself in the mirror, I said to him: “All you have to do is to say that a little dust flew into your eye and you can cry before everybody to your heart’s content.”
He went downstairs rubbing his eyes with his handkerchief. All were worried; each one wished to look for the speck, which could not be found; and stories were told of similar cases where it had been necessary to call in a physician.
I went over to Mademoiselle Pearl and watched her, tormented by an ardent curiosity, which was turning to positive suffering. She must indeed have been pretty, with her gentle, calm eyes, so large that it looked as though she never closed them like other mortals. Her gown was a little ridiculous, a real old maid’s gown, which was unbecoming without appearing clumsy.
It seemed to me as though I were looking into her soul, just as I had into Monsieur Chantal’s; that I was looking right from one end to the other of this humble life, so simple and devoted. I felt an irresistible longing to question her, to find out whether she, too, had loved him; whether she also had suffered, as he had, from this long, secret, poignant grief, which one cannot see, know, or guess, but which breaks forth at night in the loneliness of the dark room. I was watching her, and I could observe her heart beating under her waist, and I wondered whether this sweet, candid face had wept on the soft pillow and she had sobbed, her whole body shaken by the violence of her anguish.
I said to her in a low voice, like a child who is breaking a toy to see what is inside: “If you could have seen Monsieur Chantal crying a while ago it would have moved you.”
She started, asking: “What? He was weeping?”
“Ah, yes, he was indeed weeping!”
“Why?”
She seemed deeply moved. I answered:
“On your account.”
“On my account?”
“Yes. He was telling me how much he had loved you in the days gone by; and what a pang it had given him to marry his cousin instead of you.”
Her pale face seemed to grow a little longer; her calm eyes, which always remained open, suddenly closed so quickly that they seemed shut forever. She slipped from her chair to the floor, and slowly, gently sank down as would a fallen garment.
I cried: “Help! help! Mademoiselle Pearl is ill.”
Madame Chantal and her daughters rushed forward, and while they were looking for towels, water and vinegar, I grabbed my hat and ran away.
I walked away with rapid strides, my heart heavy, my mind full of remorse and regret. And yet sometimes I felt pleased; I felt as though I had done a praiseworthy and necessary act. I was asking myself: “Did I do wrong or right?” They had that shut up in their hearts, just as some people carry a bullet in a closed wound. Will they not be happier now? It was too late for their torture to begin over again and early enough for them to remember it with tenderness.
And perhaps some evening next spring, moved by a beam of moonlight falling through the branches on the grass at their feet, they will join and press their hands in memory of all this cruel and suppressed suffering; and, perhaps, also this short embrace may infuse in their veins a little of this thrill which they would not have known without it, and will give to those two dead souls, brought to life in a second, the rapid and divine sensation of this intoxication, of this madness which gives to lovers more happiness in an instant than other men can gather during a whole lifetime!

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One September night a family had gathered round their hearth, and piled it high with the driftwood of mountain streams, the dry cones of the pine, and the splintered ruins of great trees that had come crashing down the precipice. Up the chimney roared the fire, and brightened the room with its broad blaze. The faces of the father and mother had a sober gladness; the children laughed; the eldest daughter was the image of Happiness at seventeen; and the aged grandmother, who sat knitting in the warmest place, was the image of Happiness grown old. They had found the “herb, heart’s-ease,” in the bleakest spot of all New England. This family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills, where the wind was sharp throughout the year, and pitilessly cold in the winter–giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it descended on the valley of the Saco. They dwelt in a cold spot and a dangerous one; for a mountain towered above their heads, so steep, that the stones would often rumble down its sides and startle them at midnight.

The daughter had just uttered some simple jest that filled them all with mirth, when the wind came through the Notch and seemed to pause before their cottage–rattling the door, with a sound of wailing and lamentation, before it passed into the valley. For a moment it saddened them, though there was nothing unusual in the tones. But the family were glad again when they perceived that the latch was lifted by some traveller, whose footsteps had been unheard amid the dreary blast which heralded his approach, and wailed as he was entering, and went moaning away from the door.
Though they dwelt in such a solitude, these people held daily converse with the world. The romantic pass of the Notch is a great artery, through which the life-blood of internal commerce is continually throbbing between Maine, on one side, and the Green Mountains and the shores of the St. Lawrence, on the other. The stage-coach always drew up before the door of the cottage. The way-farer, with no companion but his staff, paused here to exchange a word, that the sense of loneliness might not utterly overcome him ere he could pass through the cleft of the mountain, or reach the first house in the valley. And here the teamster, on his way to Portland market, would put up for the night; and, if a bachelor, might sit an hour beyond the usual bedtime, and steal a kiss from the mountain maid at parting. It was one of those primitive taverns where the traveller pays only for food and lodging, but meets with a homely kindness beyond all price. When the footsteps were heard, therefore, between the outer door and the inner one, the whole family rose up, grandmother, children, and all, as if about to welcome someone who belonged to them, and whose fate was linked with theirs.
The door was opened by a young man. His face at first wore the melancholy expression, almost despondency, of one who travels a wild and bleak road, at nightfall and alone, but soon brightened up when he saw the kindly warmth of his reception. He felt his heart spring forward to meet them all, from the old woman, who wiped a chair with her apron, to the little child that held out its arms to him. One glance and smile placed the stranger on a footing of innocent familiarity with the eldest daughter.
“Ah, this fire is the right thing!” cried he; “especially when there is such a pleasant circle round it. I am quite benumbed; for the Notch is just like the pipe of a great pair of bellows; it has blown a terrible blast in my face all the way from Bartlett.”
“Then you are going towards Vermont?” said the master of the house, as he helped to take a light knapsack off the young man’s shoulders.
“Yes; to Burlington, and far enough beyond,” replied he. “I meant to have been at Ethan Crawford’s tonight; but a pedestrian lingers along such a road as this. It is no matter; for, when I saw this good fire, and all your cheerful faces, I felt as if you had kindled it on purpose for me, and were waiting my arrival. So I shall sit down among you, and make myself at home.”
The frank-hearted stranger had just drawn his chair to the fire when something like a heavy footstep was heard without, rushing down the steep side of the mountain, as with long and rapid strides, and taking such a leap in passing the cottage as to strike the opposite precipice. The family held their breath, because they knew the sound, and their guest held his by instinct.
“The old mountain has thrown a stone at us, for fear we should forget him,” said the landlord, recovering himself. “He sometimes nods his head and threatens to come down; but we are old neighbors, and agree together pretty well upon the whole. Besides we have a sure place of refuge hard by if he should be coming in good earnest.”
Let us now suppose the stranger to have finished his supper of bear’s meat; and, by his natural felicity of manner, to have placed himself on a footing of kindness with the whole family, so that they talked as freely together as if he belonged to their mountain brood. He was of a proud, yet gentle spirit–haughty and reserved among the rich and great; but ever ready to stoop his head to the lowly cottage door, and be like a brother or a son at the poor man’s fireside. In the household of the Notch he found warmth and simplicity of feeling, the pervading intelligence of New England, and a poetry of native growth, which they had gathered when they little thought of it from the mountain peaks and chasms, and at the very threshold of their romantic and dangerous abode. He had travelled far and alone; his whole life, indeed, had been a solitary path; for, with the lofty caution of his nature, he had kept himself apart from those who might otherwise have been his companions. The family, too, though so kind and hospitable, had that consciousness of unity among themselves, and separation from the world at large, which, in every domestic circle, should still keep a holy place where no stranger may intrude. But this evening a prophetic sympathy impelled the refined and educated youth to pour out his heart before the simple mountaineers, and constrained them to answer him with the same free confidence. And thus it should have been. Is not the kindred of a common fate a closer tie than that of birth?
The secret of the young man’s character was a high and abstracted ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life, but not to be forgotten in the grave. Yearning desire had been transformed to hope; and hope, long cherished, had become like certainty, that, obscurely as he journeyed now, a glory was to beam on all his pathway-though not, perhaps, while he was treading it. But when posterity should gaze back into the gloom of what was now the present, they would trace the brightness of his footsteps, brightening as meaner glories faded, and confess that a gifted one had passed from his cradle to his tomb with none to recognize him.
“As yet,” cried the stranger–his cheek glowing and his eye flashing with enthusiasm–“as yet, I have done nothing. Were I to vanish from the earth tomorrow, none would know so much of me as you: that a nameless youth came up at nightfall from the valley of the Saco, and opened his heart to you in the evening, and passed through the Notch by sunrise, and was seen no more. Not a soul would ask, ‘Who was he? Whither did the wanderer go?’ But I cannot die till I have achieved my destiny. Then, let Death come! I shall have built my monument!”
There was a continual flow of natural emotion, gushing forth amid abstracted reverie, which enabled the family to understand this young man’s sentiments, though so foreign from their own. With quick sensibility of the ludicrous, he blushed at the ardor into which he had been betrayed.
“You laugh at me,” said he, taking the eldest daughter’s hand, and laughing himself. “You think my ambition as nonsensical as if I were to freeze myself to death on the top of Mount Washington, only that people might spy at me from the country round about. And, truly, that would be a noble pedestal for a man’s statue!”
“It is better to sit here by this fire,” answered the girl, blushing, “and be comfortable and contented, though nobody thinks about us.”
“I suppose,” said her father, after a fit of musing, “there is something natural in what the young man says; and if my mind had been turned that way, I might have felt just the same. It is strange, wife, how his talk has set my head running on things that are pretty certain never to come to pass.”
“Perhaps they may,” observed the wife. “Is the man thinking what he will do when he is a widower?”
“No, no!” cried he, repelling the idea with reproachful kindness. “When I think of your death, Esther, I think of mine, too. But I was wishing we had a good farm in Bartlett, or Bethlehem, or Littleton, or some other township round the White Mountains; but not where they could tumble on our heads. I should want to stand well with my neighbors and be called Squire, and sent to General Court for a term or two; for a plain, honest man may do as much good there as a lawyer. And when I should be grown quite an old man, and you an old woman, so as not to be long apart, I might die happy enough in my bed, and leave you all crying around me. A slate gravestone would suit me as well as a marble one–with just my name and age, and a verse of a hymn, and something to let people know that I lived an honest man and died a Christian.”
“There now!” exclaimed the stranger; “it is our nature to desire a monument, be it slate or marble, or a pillar of granite, or a glorious memory in the universal heart of man.”
“We’re in a strange way, tonight,” said the wife, with tears in her eyes. “They say it’s a sign of something, when folks’ minds go a-wandering so. Hark to the children!”
They listened accordingly. The younger children had been put to bed in another room, but with an open door between, so that they could be heard talking busily among themselves. One and all seemed to have caught the infection from the fireside circle, and were outvying each other in wild wishes, and childish projects, of what they would do when they came to be men and women. At length a little boy, instead of addressing his brothers and sisters, called out to his mother.
“I’ll tell you what I wish, mother,” cried he. “I want you and father and grandma’m, and all of us, and the stranger too, to start right away, and go and take a drink out of the basin of the Flume!”
Nobody could help laughing at the child’s notion of leaving a warm bed, and dragging them from a cheerful fire, to visit the basin of the Flume–a brook, which tumbles over the precipice, deep within the Notch. The boy had hardly spoken when a wagon rattled along the road, and stopped a moment before the door. It appeared to contain two or three men, who were cheering their hearts with the rough chorus of a song, which resounded, in broken notes, between the cliffs, while the singers hesitated whether to continue their journey or put up here for the night.
“Father,” said the girl, “they are calling you by name.”
But the good man doubted whether they had really called him, and was unwilling to show himself too solicitous of gain by inviting people to patronize his house. He therefore did not hurry to the door; and the lash being soon applied, the travellers plunged into the Notch, still singing and laughing, though their music and mirth came back drearily from the heart of the mountain.
“There, mother!” cried the boy, again. “They’d have given us a ride to the Flume.”
Again they laughed at the child’s pertinacious fancy for a night ramble. But it happened that a light cloud passed over the daughter’s spirit; she looked gravely into the fire, and drew a breath that was almost a sigh. It forced its way, in spite of a little struggle to repress it. Then starting and blushing, she looked quickly round the circle, as if they had caught a glimpse into her bosom. The stranger asked what she had been thinking of.
“Nothing,” answered she, with a downcast smile. “Only I felt lonesome just then.”
“Oh, I have always had a gift of feeling what is in other people’s hearts,” said he, half seriously. “Shall I tell the secrets of yours? For I know what to think when a young girl shivers by a warm hearth, and complains of lonesomeness at her mother’s side. Shall I put these feelings into words?”
“They would not be a girl’s feelings any longer if they could be put into words,” replied the mountain nymph, laughing, but avoiding his eye.
All this was said apart. Perhaps a germ of love was springing in their hearts, so pure that it might blossom in Paradise, since it could not be matured on earth; for women worship such gentle dignity as his; and the proud, contemplative, yet kindly soul is oftenest captivated by simplicity like hers. But while they spoke softly, and he was watching the happy sadness, the lightsome shadows, the shy yearnings of a maiden’s nature, the wind through the Notch took a deeper and drearier sound. It seemed, as the fanciful stranger said, like the choral strain of the spirits of the blast, who in old Indian times had their dwelling among these mountains, and made their heights and recesses a sacred region.
There was a wail along the road, as if a funeral were passing. To chase away the gloom, the family threw pine branches on their fire, till the dry leaves crackled and the flame arose, discovering once again a scene of peace and humble happiness. The light hovered about them fondly, and caressed them all. There were the little faces of the children, peeping from their bed apart, and here the father’s frame of strength, the mother’s subdued and careful mien, the high-browed youth, the budding girl, and the good old grandam, still knitting in the warmest place. The aged woman looked up from her task, and, with fingers ever busy, was the next to speak.
“Old folks have their notions,” said she, “as well as young ones. You’ve been wishing and planning; and letting your heads run on one thing and another, till you’ve set my mind a-wandering too. Now what should an old woman wish for, when she can go but a step or two before she comes to her grave? Children, it will haunt me night and day till I tell you.”
“What is it, mother?” cried the husband and wife at once.
Then the old woman, with an air of mystery which drew the circle closer round the fire, informed them that she had provided her grave-clothes some years before–a nice linen shroud, a cap with a muslin ruff, and everything of a finer sort than she had worn since her wedding day. But this evening an old superstition had strangely recurred to her. It used to be said, in her younger days, that if anything were amiss with a corpse, if only the ruff were not smooth, or the cap did not set right, the corpse in the coffin and beneath the clods would strive to put up its cold hands and arrange it. The bare thought made her nervous.
“Don’t talk so, grandmother!” said the girl, shuddering.
“Now,” continued the old woman, with singular earnestness, yet smiling strangely at her own folly, “I want one of you, my children- when your mother is dressed and in the coffin–I want one of you to hold a looking-glass over my face. Who knows but I may take a glimpse at myself, and see whether all’s right?”
“Old and young, we dream of graves and monuments,” murmured the stranger youth. “I wonder how mariners feel when the ship is sinking, and they, unknown and undistinguished, are to be buried together in the ocean–that wide and nameless sepulchre?”
For a moment, the old woman’s ghastly conception so engrossed the minds of her hearers that a sound abroad in the night, rising like the roar of a blast, had grown broad, deep, and terrible, before the fated group were conscious of it. The house and all within it trembled; the foundations of the earth seemed to be shaken, as if this awful sound were the peal of the last trump. Young and old exchanged one wild glance, and remained an instant, pale, affrighted, without utterance, or power to move. Then the same shriek burst simultaneously from all their lips.
“The Slide! The Slide!”
The simplest words must intimate, but not portray, the unutterable horror of the catastrophe. The victims rushed from their cottage, and sought refuge in what they deemed a safer spot–where, in contemplation of such an emergency, a sort of barrier had been reared. Alas! they had quitted their security, and fled right into the pathway of destruction. Down came the whole side of the mountain, in a cataract of ruin. Just before it reached the house, the stream broke into two branches–shivered not a window there, but overwhelmed the whole vicinity, blocked up the road, and annihilated everything in its dreadful course. Long ere the thunder of the great Slide had ceased to roar among the mountains, the mortal agony had been endured, and the victims were at peace. Their bodies were never found.
The next morning, the light smoke was seen stealing from the cottage chimney up the mountain side. Within, the fire was yet smouldering on the hearth, and the chairs in a circle round it, as if the inhabitants had but gone forth to view the devastation of the Slide, and would shortly return, to thank Heaven for their miraculous escape. All had left separate tokens, by which those who had known the family were made to shed a tear for each. Who has not heard their name? The story has been told far and wide, and will forever be a legend of these mountains. Poets have sung their fate.
There were circumstances which led some to suppose that a stranger had been received into the cottage on this awful night, and had shared the catastrophe of all its inmates. Others denied that there were sufficient grounds for such a conjecture. Wo for the high-souled youth, with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt! Whose was the agony of that death moment?
The end

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THE TRIPLE WARNING –ARTHUR SCHNITZLER

 

IN the morning mist, shot through with the blue of the heavens, a

youth was making his way toward the beckoning mountains. His heart

thrilled to the rhythmical beat of all the world. Without a care or worry

he went on for hours over the level country when, on reaching the

edge of a forest, a voice rang out, sounding at once near at hand and

far-off, and very mysterious:

“Go not through this forest, youth, unless thou wouldst commit

murder.”

The youth stood still in astonishment, looked in every direction, and

seeing nowhere any sign of a living being, concluded that it was a spirit

that had addressed him. But his innate courage would not permit him

to heed the strange call, and reducing his gait only a little, he proceeded

on his way without misgiving, his senses keenly alert, in order that

he might be prepared for a meeting with the unknown enemy that had

warned him. But he met no one, nor heard any suspicious sound as, un-

challenged, he emerged out of the deep shadows of the trees into the

open. Under the last wide boughs he sank down for a short rest, allowing

his eyes to wander out across a wide meadow toward the mountains, from

among which one peak rose aloft, naked and sharply outlined. This was

his ultimate goal.

 

But scarcely had he arisen again when for the second time the myste-

rious voice was heard, sounding at once near at hand and far-off,

mysteriously, but more earnestly than before:

“Go not through this meadow, youth, unless thou wouldst bring ruin

to thy Fatherland.”

 

The youth’s pride this time forbade his taking heed; he even smiled

at the rigmarole, which was delivered with the air as of one concealing

something very important, and hurried on, not knowing whether im-

patience or unrest hastened his steps. The damp mist of evening descended

upon the plain as he at last stood facing the rocky wall below his goal.

Hardly had he set foot upon the bare surface of the stone, when the

voice rang out again, near at hand and far-off, mysteriously, but more

threateningly than before:

“No farther, youth, else wilt thou suffer death.”

 

The youth laughed loudly and, without haste or hesitation, went on

his way. And the less clear the ascending path became, the more did his

chest expand, and finally on the bravely conquered peak his head was

illumined by the last light of day.

 

“Here I am!” he called out in a tone of triumph. “If this was a

test, O good or evil spirit, then have I won! No murder weighs on

my conscience, unharmed slumbers my Fatherland below, and I still live.

Whosoever thou art, I am stronger than thou, for I did not believe thee,

and I did right.”

 

Whereupon came a great sound as of thunder from the mountain

sides, and at the same time exceeding close at hand:

“Youth, thou errest!” And the overpowering weight of the words

felled the wanderer.

He stretched himself out on the edge of rock as

though he intended to rest there, and with an ironical curl of the lips

he said half to himself:

“So it appears that I have committed murder without knowing it!”

“Thy careless foot has crushed a worm,” the answer thundered back.

And the youth answered with indifference:

 

“I see: neither a good nor an evil spirit spoke to me, but a spirit with

a sense of humor. I was not aware that such hovered about among us

mortals.” And again the voice resounded in the fading twilight of the heights:

“Art thou then no longer the same youth whose heart only this morn-

ing thrilled to the rhythmical beat of all the world? Is thy soul so dead

that thou art untouched by the happiness and sorrow of even a worm?”

“Is that thy meaning?” replied the youth, wrinkling his forehead.

“In that event am I a hundred a thousand times guilty, like other

mortals, whose careless steps have innocently destroyed tiny creatures

without number.”

“Against this particular thing wast thou warned. Dost thou know to

what purpose this worm was destined in the eternal scheme of things?”

 

With sunken head the youth made answer:

“Since I neither knew nor could know that, thou must humbly confess

that in my wandering through the forest I have committed precisely

the one of many possible murders that it was thy will to prevent. But

how I have contrived in my way over the fields to bring ruin to my

Fatherland, I am really most curious to learn.”

“Sawest thou, youth, the bright-colored butterfly,” came the whispered

answer, “that fluttered once to the right of thee?”

“Many butterflies did I see, as well as the one thou mentionest.”

“Many butterflies! Ah, many did the breath from thy lips drive far

from their way; but the one I speak of was driven off to the east, wing-

ing its way far and wide until it flew over the golden fence that encloses

the royal park. From that butterfly will be born the caterpillar

which next year, one hot summer afternoon, will crawl over the white

neck of the young queen, awakening her so suddenly from her sleep

that her heart will stand still in her breast, and the fruit of her womb

languish and die. Thus the king’s brother will inherit the kingdom in-

stead of the rightful heir, whom thou wilt have cheated of his life;

vicious, malicious, and cruel, he will so rule as to bring his people to

despair, madness, and finally, in a frantic effort to save himself, he will

plunge his country into a terrible war, and thus bring thy dear Fatherland

to ruin. And on no one but thou rests the blame for all this, thou whose

breath drove the colored butterfly eastwards across the meadow until

it flew over the golden fence of the king’s park.”

The youth shrugged his shoulders: “How, O invisible spirit, can I deny that all this that thou prophesiest will come to pass, since on earth one thing always follows from another, and often the most terrible events are caused by the most trivial things,

and the most trivial events by the most terrible things? And why should I

believe this particular prophecy, since the other, threatening me with

death should I mount these steps, has not come to pass?”

“He who mounts those steps,” rang out the terrible voice, “must turn

back and descend them, if he wishes to mix with mankind again. Hast

thou pondered that?”

 

The youth stopped suddenly and for a moment it seemed as though

he would take the safe path downwards, but fearing the impene-

trable night that encircled him, he clearly perceived that for so hazardous

an enterprise he would require the light of day, and in order to make

sure that he would have all his wits at his command on the morrow, he

lay down again on the narrow ledge, longing ardently for the sleep

that strengthens. As he lay there motionless, his thoughts keeping him

awake, he opened his tired eyelids, while anxious shudders ran through

his heart and veins. The dizzy precipice was ever before his eyes: that

way lay the only road back to life. He who until then had been always

sure of his path, now felt in his soul a doubt he had never before ex-

perienced, that deepened and caused him ever greater agony, until he

could no longer bear it. He therefore decided rather to attempt forthwith

what could not be avoided than to await the light in a torment of in-

certitude. Again he arose, ready for the venture without the blessed light

of day, to conquer with faltering steps the dangerous path. But hardly

had he set foot into the darkness when he realized as though condemned

by an irrevocable judgment, that his fate was to be fulfilled without

delay. He called out into the emptiness in anger and sorrow:

“O Invisible Spirit, who hast three times warned me and whom I

have thrice refused to believe, O Spirit to whom I now bow down as

to one stronger than I, tell me, ere thou destroyest me, who thou art?”

Again the voice rang out, stiflingly dose at hand and immeasurably

far away:

“No mortal hath yet known me. Many names have I: the superstitious

call me Destiny, fools call me Luck, and the pious call me God. To

those who deem themselves wise I am that Power which was in the Be-

ginning and continues without end through all Eternity.”

“Then I curse thee in this my last moment,” shouted the youth with

die bitterness of death in his heart. “If thou art indeed the Power that

was in the Beginning and continues without end through all Eternity,

then was it fated that all should happen as it did that I should go

through the forest and commit murder, that I should cross the meadow

and bring ruin upon my Fatherland, that I should climb this rock and

here find death all this despite thy warning. But why was I condemned

to hear thee speak to me thrice, if thy warning was not to help me? And

why, oh, irony of ironies! must I in this my last moment whimper my

feeble question to thee?”

An answer was made to the youth, stern and terrible, in a peal of

mysterious laughter that echoed to the utmost confines of the invisible

heavens. As he tried to catch the words the earth moved and sank from

under his feet. He fell, deeper than a million bottomless pits, amid all the

lurking nights of time, that have been and will be, from the Beginning

to the End of all things.

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Last Installment

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

 

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II

Seeing that the Chambre Ardente was unsuccessful, Argenson applied to the King to constitute with greater powers for tracking and punishing offenders. The King, thinking he had already given too ample powers to the Chambre Ardente, and shocked at the horrors of the numberless executions carried out by the bloodthirsty La Regnie, refused.

Then another method of influencing His Majesty was devised.

In the apartments of Madame de Maintenon — where the King was in the habit of spending much of his time in the afternoons — and also, very often, would be at work with his Ministers till late at night — a poetical petition was laid before him, on the part of the “Endangered Lovers,” who complained that when “galanterie” rendered it incumbent on them to be the bearers of some valuable present to the ladies of their hearts, they had always to do it at the risk of their lives. The king turned to Madame de Maintenon – without taking his eyes from it – read it again – aloud this time – and then asked, with a pleased smile, what she thought of the petition of the “Endangered Lovers.”

Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her serious turn, and ever wearing the garb of a certain piousness, answered that secret and forbidden practices did not deserve much in the form of protection, but that the criminals probably did require special laws for their punishment. The King, not satisfied with this answer, folded the paper up, and was going back to the Secretary of State, who was at work in the ante-room, when, happening to glance sideways, his eyes rested on Mademoiselle de Scudéri who was present, seated in a little arm-chair. Standing close before her, with his face unwrinkling itself, he said –

“The Marquise does not know, and has no desire to learn, anything about the ‘galanteries’ of our enamoured gentlemen, and evades the subject in ways which are nothing less than forbidden. But, Mademoiselle, what do you think of this poetical petition?”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose from her chair; a transient blush, like the purple of the evening sky, passed across her pale cheeks and, gently bending forward, she answered with downcast eyes:

 

  • “Un amant qui craint les voleurs
  • N’est point digne d’amour.”
  • (A lover who takes to heels at sight
  • Of trouble, how I despise the wight!)( free translation by b)

 

The King, surprised, and struck with admiration at the chivalrous spirit of those few words – which completely took the wind out of the sails of the poem, with all its lengthy tirades – cried, with flashing eyes: “By Saint Denis, you are right, Mademoiselle! No blind laws, touching the innocent and the guilty alike, shall shelter cowardice. Argenson and La Regnie must do their best.”

Next morning La Martinière told her all that had happened the previous night, and handed her the mysterious casket, with much fear and trembling. Both she and Baptiste (who stood in the corner as white as a sheet, kneading his cap in his hand from agitation and anxiety) implored her, in the name of all the saints, to take the greatest precautions in opening it.

Weighing and examining the unopened mystery in her hand, she said with a smile, “You are a couple of bogies! The wicked scoundrels outside who, as you say yourselves, spy out all that goes on in every house know, no doubt, quite as well as you and I do, that I am not rich, and that there are no treasures in this house worth committing a murder for. Is my life in danger, do you think? Who could have any interest in the death of an old woman of seventy-three, who never persecuted any evildoers except those in her own novels; who writes mediocre poetry, incapable of exciting anyone’s envy; who has nothing to leave behind her but the belongings of an old maid who sometimes goes to Court, and two or three dozen handsomely-bound books with gilt edges. And, alarming as your account is, La Martinière, of this man’s appearance, I cannot believe that he meant me any harm, so ____”

La Martinière sprang three paces backwards, and Baptiste fell on one knee with a hollow, “Ah!” as Mademoiselle de Scudéri pressed a projecting steel knob, and the lid of the casket flew open with a certain amount of noise.

Great was her surprise to see that it contained a pair of bracelets, and a necklace richly set in jewels. She took them out and, as she spoke in admiration of the marvellous workmanship of the necklace, La Martinière cast glances of wonder at the bracelets, and cried, again and again, that Madame de Montespan herself did not possess such jewellery.

“But why is it brought to me?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. “What can this mean?” She saw, however, a little folded note at the bottom of the casket, and in this she rightly thought she would find the key to the mystery. When she had read what was written in the note, it fell from her trembling hands; she raised an appealing look to heaven, and then sank down half fainting in her chair. Baptiste and La Martinière hurried to her, in alarm.

“Oh!” she cried, in a voice stifled by tears, “the mortification! The deep humiliation! Has it been reserved for me to undergo this in my old age? Have I ever been frivolous, like some of the foolish young creatures; are words, spoken half in jest, to be found capable of such a terrible interpretation? Am I, who have been faithful to all that is pure and good from my childhood, to be made virtually an accomplice in the crimes of this terrible confederation .”

She held her handkerchief to her eyes, so that Baptiste and La Martinière, altogether at sea in their anxious conjectures, felt powerless to set about helping her who was so dear to them, as the best and kindest of mistresses, in her bitter affliction.

La Martinière picked up the paper from the floor. On it was written:

 

  • “‘Un amant qui craint les voleurs
  • N’est point digne d’amour.’

 

“Your brilliant intellect, most honoured lady, has delivered us, who exercise on weakness and cowardice the rights of the stronger, and possess ourselves of treasures which would otherwise be unworthily wasted, from much bitter persecution. As a proof of our gratitude, be pleased kindly to accept this set of ornaments. It is the most valuable that we have been enabled to lay hands on for many a day. Although far more beautiful and precious jewels should adorn you, yet we pray you not to deprive us of your future protection and remembrance. – THE INVISIBLES.”

“Is it possible,” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had partially recovered herself, “that shameless wickedness and abandoned insult can be carried further by human beings?”

The sun was shining brightly through the window curtains of crimson silk, and consequently the brilliants, which were lying on the table beside the open casket, were flashing a rosy radiance. Looking at them, Mademoiselle de Scudéri covered her face in horror, and ordered La Martinière instantly to take those terrible jewels away, steeped, as they seemed to be, in the blood of the murdered. La Martinière, having at once put the necklace and bracelets back into their case, thought the best thing to do would be to give them to the Minister of Police, and tell him all that had happened.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose, and walked up and down slowly and in silence, as if considering what it was best to do. Then she told Baptiste to bring a sedan chair, and La Martinière to dress her, as she was going straight to the Marquise de Maintenon.

She repaired thither at the hour when she knew Madame de Maintenon would be alone, taking the casket and jewels with her.

Madame de Maintenon might well wonder to see this dear old lady (who was always kindness, sweetness and amiability personified), pale, distressed, upset, coming in with uncertain steps. “In heaven’s name, what has happened to you?” she cried to her visitor, who was scarcely able to stand upright, striving to reach the chair which the Marquise drew forward for her. At last, when she could find words, she told her what a deep, irremediable insult and outrage the thoughtless speech which she had made in reply to the King had brought upon her.

Madame de Maintenon, when she had heard the whole affair properly related, thought Mademoiselle de Scudéri was taking it far too much to heart, strange as the occurrence was – that the insult of a pack of wretched rabble could not hurt an upright, noble heart; and finally begged that she might see the ornaments.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri handed her the open casket, and when she saw the splendid and valuable stones and the workmanship of them she could not repress a loud expression of admiration. She took the bracelets and necklace to the window, letting the sunlight play on the jewels, and holding the beautiful goldsmith’s work close to her eyes so as to see with what wonderful skill each little link of the chains was formed.

She turned suddenly to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, and cried, “Do you know, there is only one man who can have done this work – and that is René Cardillac.”

René Cardillac was then the cleverest worker in gold in all Paris, one of the most artistic, and at the same time extraordinary men of his day. Short rather than tall, but broad-shouldered and of strong and muscular build, Cardillac, now over fifty, had still the strength and activity of a youth. But then, it was hardly possible to get the finished work out of his hands. He would put the customer off from one week to another by a thousand excuses – even from month to month. He might be offered twice the price he had agreed upon, but it was useless; he would take no more; and when, ultimately, he was obliged to yield to the customer’s remonstrances, and deliver the work, he could not conceal the vexation – nay, the rage – which seethed within him. When someone come running up behind him, crying, “René Cardillac, would you be so kind as to make me a beautiful necklace for the lady I am going to marry?” or “a pair of bracelets for my girl?” or the like, he would stop in a moment, flash his small eyes upon the speaker, and say, “Let me see what you have got.” The latter would take out a little case and say “Here are jewels; they are not worth much; only every-day affairs, but in your hands ” Cardillac would interrupt him, snatch the casket from his hands, take out the stones (really not very valuable) hold them up to the light, and cry, “Ho! ho! common stones, you say! Nothing of the kind! – very fine, splendid stones! Just see what I shall make of them; and if a handful of Louis are no object to you, I will put two or three others along with them which will shine in your eyes like the sun himself!” The customer would say: “I leave the matter entirely in your hands, Master René; make what change you please.” Whether the customer were a rich burgher or a gallant of quality, Cardillac would then throw himself violently on his neck, embrace him and kiss him, and say he was perfectly happy again, and that the work would be ready in eight days’ time. Then he would run home as fast as he could to his workshop, where he would set to work hammering away; and in eight days’ time there would be a masterpiece ready.

But as soon as the customer arrived, glad to pay the moderate price demanded and take away his prize, Cardillac would become morose, ill-tempered, rude and insolent. “But consider, Master Cardillac,” the customer would say, “tomorrow is my wedding-day.” “What do I care?, Cardillac would answer; “what is your wedding-day to me? Come back in a fortnight.” “But it is finished! – here is the money; I must have it.” “And I tell you that there are many alterations which I must make before I let it leave my hands, and I am not going to let you have it today.” “And I tell you, that if you don’t give me my jewels – which I am ready to pay you for – quietly, you will see me come back with a file of D’Argenson’s men.” “Now, may the devil seize you with a hundred red-hot pincers, and hang three hundredweight on to the necklace, that it may throttle your bride!” With which he would cram the work into the customer’s breast-pocket, seize him by the arm, push him out of the door, so that he would go stumbling all the way downstairs. Then he would laugh like a fiend, out of the window, when he saw the poor wretch go limping out, holding his handkerchief to his bleeding nose. It was not easy to explain either why, when Cardillac had undertaken a commission with alacrity and enthusiasm, he would sometimes suddenly implore the customer, with every sign of the deepest emotion – with the most moving adjurations, even with sobs and tears – not to ask him to go on with it. Many persons, amongst those most highly considered by the King and nation, had in vain offered large sums for the smallest specimen of Cardillac’s work. He threw himself at the King’s feet, and begged him, of his mercy, not to command him to work for him; and he declined all orders of Madame de Maintenon’s; “I would wager, therefore,” said Madame de Maintenon, “that even if I were to send for Cardillac, to find out, at least, for whom he had made those ornaments, he would somehow avoid coming, for fear that I should give him an order; nothing will induce him to work for me.”

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, who was exceedingly anxious that the jewels which came into her possession in such an extraordinary manner should be restored to their owner as speedily as possible, thought that this wondrous René Cardillac should be informed at once that no work was required of him, but simply his opinion as to certain stones. The Marquise agreed to this; he was sent for, and he came into the room in a very brief space, almost as if he had been on the way when sent for.

When he saw Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he appeared perplexed, like one confronted with the unexpected, who for the time loses sight of the demands of courtesy; he first of all made a profound reverence to her, and then turned, in the second place, to the Marquise. Madame de Maintenon impetuously asked him if the jewelled ornaments – to which she pointed as they lay sparkling on the dark-green cover of the table – were of his workmanship. Cardillac scarcely glanced at them but, fixedly staring in her face, he hastily packed the necklace and bracelets into their case, and shoved them away with some violence.

Then with an evil smile gleaming on his red face, he said, “The truth is, Madame la Marquise, that one must know René Cardillac’s handiwork very little to suppose, even for a moment, that any other goldsmith in the world made those. Of course, I made them.”

“Then,” continued the Marquise, “say whom you made them for.”

“For myself alone,” he answered. “You may think this strange,” he continued, as they both gazed at him with amazement, Madame de Maintenon incredulous, and Mademoiselle de Scudéri all anxiety as to how the matter was going to turn out, “but I tell you the truth, Madame la Marquise. Merely for the sake of the beauty of the work, I collected some of my finest stones together, and those ornaments disappeared from my workshop a short time since, in an incomprehensible manner.”

“Heaven be thanked!” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her eyes sparkling with joy. With a smile she sprang up from her seat and, going up to Cardillac quickly and actively as a young girl, she laid her hands on his shoulder, saying, “Take back your treasure, Master René, which the villains have robbed you of!” And she circumstantially related how the ornaments had come into her possession.

Cardillac listened in silence, with downcast eyes, merely from time to time uttering a scarcely audible “Hm! Indeed! Ah! Ho, ho!”, sometimes placing his hands behind his back, or again stroking his chin and cheeks. When she had ended, he appeared to be struggling with strange thoughts which had come to him during her story, and seemed unable to come to any decision satisfactory to himself. He rubbed his brow, sighed, passed his hand over his eyes – perhaps to keep back tears. At last he seized the casket (which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had been holding out to him), sank slowly on one knee, and said: “Esteemed lady! Fate destined this casket for you; and I now feel, for the first time, that I was thinking of you when I was at work upon it – nay, was making it expressly for you. Do not disdain to accept this work, and to wear it; it is the best I have done for a very long time.”

“Ah! Master René,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, jesting pleasantly, “how think you it would become me at my age to bedeck myself with those beautiful jewels? – and what should put it in your mind to make me such a valuable present? Come, come! What have my withered arms, and my wrinkled neck, to do with all that splendour?”

Cardillac had risen, and said with wild looks, like a man beside himself, still holding the casket out towards her, “Do me the kindness to take it, Mademoiselle!”

As Mademoiselle de Scudéri was still hesitating, Madame de Maintenon took the casket from Cardillac’s hands, saying, “Now, by heaven, Mademoiselle, do not hesitate to accept good Master René’s present, which thousands of others could not obtain for money or entreaty.”

As she spoke she continued to press the casket on Mademoiselle de Scudéri; and now Cardillac sank again on his knees, kissed her dress, her hands, sighed, wept, sobbed, sprang up, and ran off in frantic haste, upsetting chairs and tables, so that the glass and porcelain crashed and clattered together.

“In the name of all the saints, what is the matter with the man?” cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri in great alarm.

But the Marquise, in particularly happy temper, laughed aloud, saying, “What is it, Mademoiselle? That Master René is over head and ears in love with you and, according to the laws of galanterie, begins to lay siege to your heart with a valuable present.”

She carried this jest further, begging Mademoiselle de Scudéri not to be too obdurate towards this despairing lover of hers; But, notwithstanding all the jesting and the laughter, when Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose to depart, she became very grave again as her hand rested upon the jewel casket. “Whatever happens,” she said, “I shall never be able to bring myself to wear these ornaments. They have, in any event, been in the hands of one of those diabolical men, who rob and slay with the audacity of the evil one himself and are very probably in league with him. I shudder at the thought of the blood which seems to cling to those glittering stones – even Cardillac’s behaviour had something about it which struck me as singularly wild and strange. I never can wear those jewels ”

The Marquise considered that this was carrying scruples rather too far; yet, when Mademoiselle de Scudéri asked her to say, on her honour, what she would do in her place, she replied, firmly and earnestly, “Far rather throw them into the Seine than ever put them on.”

The scene with Master René inspired Mademoiselle de Scudéri to write some pleasant verses, which she read to the King the following evening at Madame de Maintenon’s. De Scudéri’s poem was reckoned the very wittiest that ever was written.

 

Several months had elapsed, when chance so willed it that Mademoiselle de Scudéri was crossing the Pont Neuf in the glass coach of the Duchesse de Montpensier. The invention of those delightful glass coaches was then so recent that the people came together in crowds whenever one of them made its appearance in the streets. Consequently a gaping crowd gathered about the Duchesse’s carriage on the Pont Neuf, so that the horses could hardly make their way along. Suddenly Mademoiselle de Scudéri heard a sound of quarrelling and curses, and saw a man making a way for himself through the crowd, by means of fisticuffs and blows in the ribs; and as he came near they were struck by the piercing eyes of a young face, deadly pale, and drawn by sorrow. This young man, gazing fixedly upon them, vigorously fought his way to them by help of fists and elbows, till he reached the carriage door, threw it open with much violence, and flung a note into Mademoiselle de Scudéri’s lap; after which, he disappeared as he had come, distributing and receiving blows and fisticuffs.

La Martinière, who was with her mistress, fell back fainting in the carriage with a shriek of terror, as soon as she saw the young man. In vain Mademoiselle de Scudéri pulled the string, and called out to the driver. Mademoiselle de Scudéri emptied the contents of her smelling-bottle over the fainting La Martinière, who at last opened her eyes and, shuddering and quaking, clinging convulsively to her mistress, with fear and horror in her pale face, groaned out with difficulty, “For the love of the Virgin, what did that terrible man want? It was he who brought you the jewels on that awful night.” Mademoiselle de Scudéri calmed her, pointing out that nothing very dreadful had happened after all, and that the immediate business in hand was to ascertain the contents of the letter. She opened it, and read as follows:

“A dark and cruel fatality, which you could dispel, is driving me into an abyss. I conjure you – as a son would a mother, in the glow of filial affection – to send the necklace and bracelets to Master René Cardillac, on some pretence or other – say, to have something altered or improved. Your welfare, your very life – depend on your doing this. If you do not comply before the day after tomorrow, I will force my way into your house, and kill myself before your eyes.”

“Thus much is certain, at all events,” said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had read this letter, “whether this mysterious man belongs to be band of robbers and murderers or not, he has no very evil designs against me. I certainly shall do, were it only to be rid of those fatal jewels, which seem to me as if they must be some diabolical talisman of the Prince of Darkness’s very own. Cardillac is not very likely to let them out of his hands again, if once he gets hold of them.”

She intended to take them to him next day.

When high noon arrived, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had to go to Madame de Montansier; so the visit to René Cardillac had to be put off till the following day.

But the young man was always present to her mind, and a species of dim remembrance seemed to be trying to arise in the depths of her being that she had, somehow and at some time, seen that face and those features before.

As soon as it was fairly light, she had herself dressed and set off to the goldsmith’s with the jewels in her hand.

A crowd was streaming towards the Rue Niçaise (where Cardillac lived), trooping together at the door, shouting, raging, surging, striving to storm into the house, kept back with difficulty by the Marechaussée, who were guarding the place. Amid the wild distracted uproar, voices were heard crying, “Tear him in pieces! Drag him limb from limb, the accursed murderer!” At length Desgrais came up, with a number of his men, and formed a lane through the thickest of the crowd. The door flew open, and a man loaded with irons was brought out, and marched off amid the most frightful imprecations of the raging populace. At the moment when Mademoiselle de Scudéri, half dead with terror and gloomy foreboding, caught sight of him, a piercing shriek of lamentation struck upon her ears.

“Go forward!” she cried to the coachman and, with a clever, rapid turn of his horses, he scattered the thick masses of the crowd aside, and pulled up close to René Cardillac’s door. Desgrais was there, and at his feet a young girl, beautiful as the day, half-dressed, with her hair dishevelled and wild inconsolable despair in her face, clinging to his knees, and crying in tones of the bitterest and profoundest anguish, “He is innocent! He is innocent!”

Desgrais and his men tried in vain to shake her off and raise her from the ground, till at length a rough, powerful fellow, gripping her arms with his strong hands, dragged her away from Desgrais by sheer force. Stumbling awkwardly, he let the girl go, and she went rolling down the stone steps, and lay like one dead on the pavement.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri could contain herself no longer. “In Christ’s name!” she cried, “what has happened? What is going forward here?” She hastily opened the carriage-door and stepped out. The crowd made way for her deferentially; and when she saw that one or two compassionate women had lifted the girl up, laid her on the steps, and were rubbing her brow with strong waters, she went up to Desgrais, and angrily repeated her question.

“A terrible thing has happened,” said Desgrais. “René Cardillac was found this morning, killed by a dagger-thrust. His journeyman, Olivier, is the murderer, and has just been taken to prison.”

“And the girl- ”

“Is Madelon,” interrupted Desgrais, “Cardillac’s daughter. The wretched culprit was her sweetheart, and now she is crying and howling, and screaming over and over again that Olivier is innocent – quite innocent; but she knows all about this crime, and I must have her taken to prison too.”

As he spoke he cast one of his baleful, malignant looks at the girl, which made Mademoiselle de Scudéri shudder. The girl was now beginning to revive, and breathe again faintly, though still incapable of speech or motion. There she lay with closed eyes, and people did not know what to do, whether to take her indoors, or leave her where she was a little longer till she recovered. Deeply moved, Mademoiselle de Scudéri looked upon this innocent creature, with tears in her eyes. She felt a horror of Desgrais and his men. Presently heavy footsteps came downstairs, those of the men bearing Cardillac’s body.

Coming to a rapid decision, Mademoiselle de Scudéri cried out, “I shall take this girl home with me. What you do next is up to you, Desgrais.”

A murmur of approval ran through the crowd. The women raised the girl; everyone crowded up; a hundred hands were proffered to help, and she was borne lightly to the carriage, whilst from every lip broke blessings on the kind lady who had saved her from arrest and criminal trial.

Madelon lay for many hours in a deep swoon, but at length the efforts of Seron – then the most celebrated physician in Paris – were successful in restoring her. (To be concluded)

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