Part 2 out of 8
while, and then there got spread about all our neighborhood a
report that he had fallen in love, as the saying is, with his
young sister's governess, and that his mind was made up to marry
her. What! you're at it again, Mr. Artist! You want to know her
name, don't you? What do you think of Smith?
Speaking as a lawyer, I consider report, in a general way, to be
a fool and a liar. But in this case report turned out to be
something very different. Mr. Frank told me he was really in
love, and said upon his honor (an absurd expression which young
chaps of his age are always using) he was determined to marry
Smith, the governess--the sweet, darling girl, as _he_ called
her; but I'm not sentimental, and _I_ call her Smith, the
governess. Well, Mr. Frank's father, being as proud as Lucifer,
said "No," as to marrying the governess, when Mr. Frank wanted
him to say "Yes." He was a man of business, was old Gatliffe, and
he took the proper business course. He sent the governess away
with a first-rate character and a spanking present, and then he,
looked about him to get something for Mr. Frank to do. While he
was looking about, Mr. Frank bolted to London after the
governess, who had nobody alive belonging to her to go to but an
aunt--her father's sister. The aunt refuses to let Mr. Frank in
without the squire's permission. Mr. Frank writes to his father,
and says he will marry the girl as soon as he is of age, or shoot
himself. Up to town comes the squire and his wife and his
daughter, and a lot of sentimentality, not in the slightest
degree material to the present statement, takes places among
them; and the upshot of it is that old Gatliffe is forced into
withdrawing the word No, and substituting the word Yes.
I don't believe he would ever have done it, though, but for one
lucky peculiarity in the case. The governess's father was a man
of good family--pretty nigh as good as Gatliffe's own. He had
been in the army; had sold out; set up as a
wine-merchant--failed--died; ditto his wife, as to the dying part
of it. No relation, in fact, left for the squire to make
inquiries about but the father's sister--who had behaved, as old
Gatliffe said, like a thorough-bred gentlewoman in shutting the
door against Mr. Frank in the first instance. So, to cut the
matter short, things were at last made up pleasant enough. The
time was fixed for the wedding, and an announcement about
it--Marriage in High Life and all that--put into the county
paper. There was a regular biography, besides, of the governess's
father, so as to stop people from talking--a great flourish about
his pedigree, and a long account of his services in the army; but
not a word, mind ye, of his having turned wine-merchant
afterward. Oh, no--not a word about that!
I knew it, though, for Mr. Frank told me. He hadn't a bit of
pride about him. He introduced me to his future wife one day when
I met him out walking, and asked me if I did not think he was a
lucky fellow. I don't mind admitting that I did, and that I told
him so. Ah! but she was one of my sort, was that governess.
Stood, to the best of my recollection, five foot four. Good
lissom figure, that looked as if it had never been boxed up in a
pair of stays. Eyes that made me feel as if I was under a pretty
stiff cross-examination the moment she looked at me. Fine red,
kiss-and-come-again sort of lips. Cheeks and complexion-- No,
Mr. Artist, you wouldn't identify her by her cheeks and
complexion, if I drew you a picture of them this very moment. She
has had a family of children since the time I'm talking of; and
her cheeks are a trifle fatter, and her complexion is a shade or
two redder now, than when I first met her out walking with Mr.
The marriage was to take place on a Wednesday. I decline
mentioning the year or the month. I had started as an attorney on
my own account--say six weeks, more or less, and was sitting
alone in my office on the Monday morning before the wedding-day,
trying to see my way clear before me and not succeeding
particularly well, when Mr. Frank suddenly bursts in, as white as
any ghost that ever was painted, and says he's got the most
dreadful case for me to advise on, and not an hour to lose in
acting on my advice.
"Is this in the way of business, Mr. Frank?" says I, stopping him
just as he was beginning to get sentimental. "Yes or no, Mr.
Frank?" rapping my new office paper-knife on the table, to pull
him up short all the sooner.
"My dear fellow"--he was always familiar with me--"it's in the
way of business, certainly; but friendship--"
I was obliged to pull him up short again, and regularly examine
him as if he had been in the witness-box, or he would have kept
me talking to no purpose half the day.
"Now, Mr Frank," says I, "I can't have any sentimentality mixed
up with business matters. You please to stop talking, and let me
ask questions. Answer in the fewest words you can use. Nod when
nodding will do instead of words."
I fixed him with my eye for about three seconds, as he sat
groaning and wriggling in his chair. When I'd done fixing him, I
gave another rap with my paper-knife on the table to startle him
up a bit. Then I went on.
"From what you have been stating up to the present time," says I,
"I gather that you are in a scrape which is likely to interfere
seriously with your marriage on Wednesday?"
(He nodded, and I cut in again before he could say a word):
"The scrape affects your young lady, and goes back to the period
of a transaction in which her late father was engaged, doesn't
(He nods, and I cut in once more):
"There is a party, who turned up after seeing the announcement of
your marriage in the paper, who is cognizant of what he oughtn't
to know, and who is prepared to use his knowledge of the same to
the prejudice of the young lady and of your marriage, unless he
receives a sum of money to quiet him? Very well. Now, first of
all, Mr. Frank, state what you have been told by the young lady
herself about the transaction of her late father. How did you
first come to have any knowledge of it?"
"She was talking to me about her father one day so tenderly and
prettily, that she quite excited my interest about him," begins
Mr. Frank; "and I asked her, among other things, what had
occasioned his death. She said she believed it was distress of
mind in the first instance; and added that this distress was
connected with a shocking secret, which she and her mother had
kept from everybody, but which she could not keep from me,
because she was determined to begin her married life by having no
secrets from her husband." Here Mr. Frank began to get
sentimental again, and I pulled him up short once more with the
"She told me," Mr. Frank went on, "that the great mistake of her
father's life was his selling out of the army and taking to the
wine trade. He had no talent for business; things went wrong with
him from the first. His clerk, it was strongly suspected, cheated
"Stop a bit," says I. "What was that suspected clerk's name?"
"Davager," says he.
"Davager," says I, making a note of it. "Go on, Mr. Frank."
"His affairs got more and more entangled," says Mr. Frank; "he
was pressed for money in all directions; bankruptcy, and
consequent dishonor (as he considered it) stared him in the face.
His mind was so affected by his troubles that both his wife and
daughter, toward the last, considered him to be hardly
responsible for his own acts. In this state of desperation and
misery, he--" Here Mr. Frank began to hesitate.
We have two ways in the law of drawing evidence off nice and
clear from an unwilling client or witness. We give him a fright,
or we treat him to a joke. I treated Mr. Frank to a joke.
"Ah!" says I, "I know what he did. He had a signature to write;
and, by the most natural mistake in the world, he wrote another
gentleman's name instead of his own--eh?"
"It was to a bill," says Mr. Frank, looking very crestfallen,
instead of taking the joke. "His principal creditor wouldn't wait
till he could raise the money, or the greater part of it. But he
was resolved, if he sold off everything, to get the amount and
"Of course," says I, "drop that. The forgery was discovered.
"Before even the first attempt was made to negotiate the bill. He
had done the whole thing in the most absurdly and innocently
wrong way. The person whose name he had used was a stanch friend
of his, and a relation of his wife's--a good man as well as a
rich one. He had influence with the chief creditor, and he used
it nobly. He had a real affection for the unfortunate man's wife,
and he proved it generously."
"Come to the point," says I. "What did he do? In a business way,
what did he do?"
"He put the false bill into the fire, drew a bill of his own to
replace it, and then--only then--told my dear girl and her mother
all that had happened. Can you imagine anything nobler?" asks Mr.
"Speaking in my professional capacity, I can't imagine anything
greener," says I. "Where was the father? Off, I suppose?"
"Ill in bed," says Mr. Frank, coloring. "But he mustered strength
enough to write a contrite and grateful letter the same day,
promising to prove himself worthy of the noble moderation and
forgiveness extended to him, by selling off everything he
possessed to repay his money debt. He did sell off everything,
down to some old family pictures that were heirlooms; down to the
little plate he had; down to the very tables and chairs that
furnished his drawing-room. Every farthing of the debt was paid;
and he was left to begin the world again, with the kindest
promises of help from the generous man who had forgiven him. It
was too late. His crime of one rash moment--atoned for tho ugh it
had been--preyed upon his mind. He became possessed with the idea
that he had lowered himself forever in the estimation of his wife
and daughter, and--"
"He died," I cut in. "Yes, yes, we know that. Let's go back for a
minute to the contrite and grateful letter that he wrote. My
experience in the law, Mr. Frank, has convinced me that if
everybody burned everybody else's letters, half the courts of
justice in this country might shut up shop. Do you happen to know
whether the letter we are now speaking of contained anything like
an avowal or confession of the forgery?"
"Of course it did," says he. "Could the writer express his
contrition properly without making some such confession?"
"Quite easy, if he had been a lawyer," says I. "But never mind
that; I'm going to make a guess--a desperate guess, mind. Should
I be altogether in error if I thought that this letter had been
stolen; and that the fingers of Mr. Davager, of suspicious
commercial celebrity, might possibly be the fingers which took
"That is exactly what I wanted to make you understand," cried Mr.
"How did he communicate the interesting fact of the theft to
"He has not ventured into my presence. The scoundrel actually had
"Aha!" says I. "The young lady herself! Sharp practitioner, Mr.
"Early this morning, when she was walking alone in the
shrubbery," Mr. Frank goes on, "he had the assurance to approach
her, and to say that he had been watching his opportunity of
getting a private interview for days past. He then showed
her--actually showed her--her unfortunate father's letter; put
into her hands another letter directed to me; bowed, and walked
off; leaving her half dead with astonishment and terror. If I had
only happened to be there at the time!" says Mr. Frank, shaking
his fist murderously in the air, by way of a finish.
"It's the greatest luck in the world that you were not," says I.
"Have you got that other letter?"
He handed it to me. It was so remarkably humorous and short, that
I remember every word of it at this distance of time. It began in
_"To Francis Gatliffe, Esq., Jun._
"SIR--I have an extremely curious autograph letter to sell. The
price is a five-hundred-pound note. The young lady to whom you
are to be married on Wednesday will inform you of the nature of
the letter, and the genuineness of the autograph. If you refuse
to deal, I shall send a copy to the local paper, and shall wait
on your highly-respected father with the original curiosity, on
the afternoon of Tuesday next. Having come down here on family
business, I have put up at the family hotel--being to be heard of
at the Gatliffe Arms. Your very obedient servant, ALFRED
"A clever fellow that," says I, putting the letter into my
"Clever!" cries Mr. Frank, "he ought to be horsewhipped within an
inch of his life. I would have done it myself; but she made me
promise, before she told me a word of the matter, to come
straight to you."
"That was one of the wisest promises you ever made," says I. "We
can't afford to bully this fellow, whatever else we may do with
him. Do you think I am saying anything libelous against your
excellent father's character when I assert that if he saw the
letter he would certainly insist on your marriage being put off,
at the very least?"
"Feeling as my father does about my marriage, he would insist on
its being dropped altogether, if he saw this letter," says Mr.
Frank, with a groan. "But even that is not the worst of it. The
generous, noble girl herself says that if the letter appears in
the paper, with all the unanswerable comments this scoundrel
would be sure to add to it, she would rather die than hold me to
my engagement, even if my father would let me keep it."
As he said this his eyes began to water. He was a weak young
fellow, and ridiculously fond of her. I brought him back to
business with another rap of the paper-knife.
"Hold up, Mr. Frank," says I. "I have a question or two more. Did
you think of asking the young lady whether, to the best of her
knowledge, this infernal letter was the only written evidence of
the forgery now in existence?"
"Yes, I did think directly of asking her that," says he; "and she
told me she was quite certain that there was no written evidence
of the forgery except that one letter."
"Will you give Mr. Davager his price for it?" says I.
"Yes," says Mr. Frank, quite peevish with me for asking him such
a question. He was an easy young chap in money matters, and
talked of hundreds as most men talk of sixpences.
"Mr. Frank," says I, "you came here to get my help and advice in
this extremely ticklish business, and you are ready, as I know
without asking, to remunerate me for all and any of my services
at the usual professional rate. Now, I've made up my mind to act
boldly--desperately, if you like--on the hit or miss, win all or
lose all principle--in dealing with this matter. Here is my
proposal. I'm going to try if I can't do Mr. Davager out of his
letter. If I don't succeed before to-morrow afternoon, you hand
him the money, and I charge you nothing for professional
services. If I do succeed, I hand you the letter instead of Mr.
Davager, and you give me the money instead of giving it to him.
It's a precious risk for me, but I'm ready to run it. You must
pay your five hundred any way. What do you say to my plan? Is it
Yes, Mr. Frank, or No?"
"Hang your questions!" cries Mr. Frank, jumping up; "you know
it's Yes ten thousand times over. Only you earn the money and--"
"And you will be too glad to give it to me. Very good. Now go
home. Comfort the young lady--don't let Mr. Davager so much as
set eyes on you--keep quiet--leave everything to me--and feel as
certain as you please that all the letters in the world can't
stop your being married on Wednesday." With these words I hustled
him off out of the office, for I wanted to be left alone to make
my mind up about what I should do.
The first thing, of course, was to have a look at the enemy. I
wrote to Mr. Davager, telling him that I was privately appointed
to arrange the little business matter between himself and
"another party" (no names!) on friendly terms; and begging him to
call on me at his earliest convenience. At the very beginning of
the case, Mr. Davager bothered me. His answer was, that it would
not be convenient to him to call till between six and seven in
the evening. In this way, you see, he contrived to make me lose
several precious hours, at a time when minutes almost were of
importance. I had nothing for it but to be patient, and to give
certain instructions, before Mr. Davager came, to my boy Tom.
There never was such a sharp boy of fourteen before, and there
never will be again, as my boy Tom. A spy to look after Mr.
Davager was, of course, the first requisite in a case of this
kind; and Tom was the smallest, quickest, quietest, sharpest,
stealthiest little snake of a chap that ever dogged a gentleman's
steps and kept cleverly out of range of a gentleman's eyes. I
settled it with the boy that he was not to show at all when Mr.
Davager came; and that he was to wait to hear me ring the bell
when Mr. Davager left. If I rang twice, he was to show the
gentleman out. If I rang once, he was to keep out of the way, and
follow the gentleman whereever he went till he got back to the
inn. Those were the only preparations I could make to begin with;
being obliged to wait, and let myself be guided by what turned
About a quarter to seven my gentleman came.
In the profession of the law we get somehow quite remarkably
mixed up with ugly people, blackguard people, and dirty people.
But far away the ugliest and dirtiest blackguard I ever saw in my
life was Mr. Alfred Davager. He had greasy white hair and a
mottled face. He was low in the forehead, fat in the stomach,
hoarse in the voice, and weak in the legs. Both his eyes were
bloodshot, and one was fixed in his head. He smelled of spirits,
and carried a toothpick in his mouth. "How are you? I've just
done dinner," says he; and he lights a cigar, sits down with his
legs crossed, and winks at me.
I tried at first to take the measure of him i n a wheedling,
confidential way; but it was no good. I asked him, in a
facetious, smiling manner, how he had got hold of the letter. He
only told me in answer that he had been in the confidential
employment of the writer of it, and that he had always been
famous since infancy for a sharp eye to his own interests. I paid
him some compliments; but he was not to be flattered. I tried to
make him lose his temper; but he kept it in spite of me. It ended
in his driving me to my last resource--I made an attempt to
"Before we say a word about the money," I began, "let me put a
case, Mr. Davager. The pull you have on Mr. Francis Gatliffe is,
that you can hinder his marriage on Wednesday. Now, suppose I
have got a magistrate's warrant to apprehend you in my pocket?
Suppose I have a constable to execute it in the next room?
Suppose I bring you up to-morrow--the day before the
marriage--charge you only generally with an attempt to extort
money, and apply for a day's remand to complete the case?
Suppose, as a suspicious stranger, you can't get bail in this
"Stop a bit," says Mr. Davager. "Suppose I should not be the
greenest fool that ever stood in shoes? Suppose I should not
carry the letter about me? Suppose I should have given a certain
envelope to a certain friend of mine in a certain place in this
town? Suppose the letter should be inside that envelope, directed
to old Gatliffe, side by side with a copy of the letter directed
to the editor of the local paper? Suppose my friend should be
instructed to open the envelope, and take the letters to their
right address, if I don't appear to claim them from him this
evening? In short, my dear sir, suppose you were born yesterday,
and suppose I wasn't?" says Mr. Davager, and winks at me again.
He didn't take me by surprise, for I never expected that he had
the letter about him. I made a pretense of being very much taken
aback, and of being quite ready to give in. We settled our
business about delivering the letter, and handing over the money,
in no time. I was to draw out a document, which he was to sign.
He knew the document was stuff and nonsense, just as well as I
did, and told me I was only proposing it to swell my client's
bill. Sharp as he was, he was wrong there. The document was not
to be drawn out to gain money from Mr. Frank, but to gain time
from Mr. Davager. It served me as an excuse to put off the
payment of the five hundred pounds till three o'clock on the
Tuesday afternoon. The Tuesday morning Mr. Davager said he should
devote to his amusement, and asked me what sights were to be seen
in the neighborhood of the town. When I had told him, he pitched
his toothpick into my grate, yawned, and went out.
I rang the bell once--waited till he had passed the window--and
then looked after Tom. There was my jewel of a boy on the
opposite side of the street, just setting his top going in the
most playful manner possible. Mr. Davager walked away up the
street toward the market-place. Tom whipped his top up the street
toward the market-place, too.
In a quarter of an hour he came back, with all his evidence
collected in a beautifully clear and compact state. Mr. Davager
had walked to a public-house just outside the town, in a lane
leading to the highroad. On a bench outside the public-house
there sat a man smoking. He said "All right?" and gave a letter
to Mr. Davager, who answered "All right!" and walked back to the
inn. In the hall he ordered hot rum-and-water, cigars, slippers,
and a fire to be lit in his room. After that he went upstairs,
and Tom came away.
I now saw my road clear before me--not very far on, but still
clear. I had housed the letter, in all probability for that
night, at the Gatliffe Arms. After tipping Tom, I gave him
directions to play about the door of the inn, and refresh himself
when he was tired at the tart-shop opposite, eating as much as he
pleased, on the understanding that he crammed all the time with
his eye on the window. If Mr. Davager went out, or Mr. Davager's
friend called on him, Tom was to let me know. He was also to take
a little note from me to the head chambermaid--an old friend of
mine--asking her to step over to my office, on a private matter
of business, as soon as her work was done for that night. After
settling these little matters, having half an hour to spare, I
turned to and did myself a bloater at the office fire, and had a
drop of gin-and-water hot, and felt comparatively happy.
When the head chambermaid came, it turned out, as good luck would
have it, that Mr. Davager had drawn her attention rather too
closely to his ugliness, by offering her a testimony of his
regard in the shape of a kiss. I no sooner mentioned him than she
flew into a passion; and when I added, by way of clinching the
matter, that I was retained to defend the interests of a very
beautiful and deserving young lady (name not referred to, of
course) against the most cruel underhand treachery on the part of
Mr. Davager, the head chambermaid was ready to go any lengths
that she could safely to serve my cause. In a few words I
discovered that Boots was to call Mr. Davager at eight the next
morning, and was to take his clothes downstairs to brush as
usual. If Mr. D------ had not emptied his own pockets overnight,
we arranged that Boots was to forget to empty them for him, and
was to bring the clothes downstairs just as he found them. If Mr.
D------'s pockets were emptied, then, of course, it would be
necessary to transfer the searching process to Mr. D------'s
room. Under any circumstances, I was certain of the head
chambermaid; and under any circumstances, also, the head
chambermaid was certain of Boots.
I waited till Tom came home, looking very puffy and bilious about
the face; but as to his intellects, if anything, rather sharper
than ever. His report was uncommonly short and pleasant. The inn
was shutting up; Mr. Davager was going to bed in rather a drunken
condition; Mr. Davager's friend had never appeared. I sent Tom
(properly instructed about keeping our man in view all the next
morning) to his shake-down behind the office-desk, where I heard
him hiccoughing half the night, as even the best boys will, when
over-excited and too full of tarts.
At half-past seven next morning, I slipped quietly into Boots's
Down came the clothes. No pockets in trousers. Waistcoat-pockets
empty. Coat-pockets with something in them. First, handkerchief;
secondly, bunch of keys; thirdly, cigar-case; fourthly,
pocketbook. Of course I wasn't such a fool as to expect to find
the letter there, but I opened the pocketbook with a certain
Nothing in the two pockets of the book but some old
advertisements cut out of newspapers, a lock of hair tied round
with a dirty bit of ribbon, a circular letter about a loan
society, and some copies of verses not likely to suit any company
that was not of an extremely free-and-easy description. On the
leaves of the pocketbook, people's addresses scrawled in pencil,
and bets jotted down in red ink. On one leaf, by itself, this
"MEM. 5 ALONG. 4 ACROSS."
I understood everything but those words and figures, so of course
I copied them out into my own book.
Then I waited in the pantry till Boots had brushed the clothes,
and had taken them upstairs. His report when he came down was,
that Mr. D------ had asked if it was a fine morning. Being told
that it was, he had ordered breakfast at nine, and a saddle-horse
to be at the door at ten, to take him to Grimwith Abbey--one of
the sights in our neighborhood which I had told him of the
"I'll be here, coming in by the back way, at half-past ten," says
I to the head chambermaid.
"What for?" says she.
"To take the responsibility of making Mr. Davager's bed off your
hands for this morning only," says I.
"Any more orders?" says she.
"One more," says I. "I want to hire Sam for the morning. Put it
down in the order-book that he's to be brought round to my office
In case you should think Sam was a man, I'd better perhaps tell
you he was a pony. I'd made up my mind that it would be
beneficial to Tom's health, after the
tarts, if he took a constitutional airing on a nice hard saddle
in the direction of Grimwith Abbey.
"Anything else?" says the head chambermaid.
"Only one more favor," says I. "Would my boy Tom be very much in
the way if he came, from now till ten, to help with the boots and
shoes, and stood at his work close by this window which looks out
on the staircase?"
"Not a bit," says the head chambermaid.
"Thank you," says I; and stepped back to my office directly.
When I had sent Tom off to help with the boots and shoes, I
reviewed the whole case exactly as it stood at that time.
There were three things Mr. Davager might do with the letter. He
might give it to his friend again before ten--in which case Tom
would most likely see the said friend on the stairs. He might
take it to his friend, or to some other friend, after ten--in
which case Tom was ready to follow him on Sam the pony. And,
lastly, he might leave it hidden somewhere in his room at the
inn--in which case I was all ready for him with a search-warrant
of my own granting, under favor always of my friend the head
chambermaid. So far I had my business arrangements all gathered
up nice and compact in my own hands. Only two things bothered me;
the terrible shortness of the time at my disposal, in case I
failed in my first experiments, for getting hold of the letter,
and that queer inscription which I had copied out of the
"MEM. 5 ALONG. 4 ACROSS."
It was the measurement most likely of something, and he was
afraid of forgetting it; therefore it was something important.
Query--something about himself? Say "5" (inches) "along"--he
doesn't wear a wig. Say "5" (feet) "along"--it can't be coat,
waistcoat, trousers, or underclothing. Say "5" (yards)
"along"--it can't be anything about himself, unless he wears
round his body the rope that he's sure to be hanged with one of
these days. Then it is _not_ something about himself. What do I
know of that is important to him besides? I know of nothing but
the Letter. Can the memorandum be connected with that? Say, yes.
What do "5 along" and "4 across" mean, then? The measurement of
something he carries about with him? or the measurement of
something in his room? I could get pretty satisfactorily to
myself as far as that; but I could get no further.
Tom came back to the office, and reported him mounted for his
ride. His friend had never appeared. I sent the boy off, with his
proper instructions, on Sam's back--wrote an encouraging letter
to Mr. Frank to keep him quiet--then slipped into the inn by the
back way a little before half-past ten. The head chambermaid gave
me a signal when the landing was clear. I got into his room
without a soul but her seeing me, and locked the door
The case was, to a certain extent, simplified now. Either Mr.
Davager had ridden out with the letter about him, or he had left
it in some safe hiding-place in his room. I suspected it to be in
his room, for a reason that will a little astonish you--his
trunk, his dressing-case, and all the drawers and cupboards, were
left open. I knew my customer, and I thought this extraordinary
carelessness on his part rather suspicious.
Mr. Davager had taken one of the best bedrooms at the Gatliffe
Arms. Floor carpeted all over, walls beautifully papered,
four-poster, and general furniture first-rate. I searched, to
begin with, on the usual plan, examining everything in every
possible way, and taking more than an hour about it. No
discovery. Then I pulled out a carpenter's rule which I had
brought with me. Was there anything in the room which--either in
inches, feet, or yards--answered to "5 along" and "4 across"?
Nothing. I put the rule back in my pocket--measurement was no
good, evidently. Was there anything in the room that would count
up to 5 one way and 4 another, seeing that nothing would measure
up to it? I had got obstinately persuaded by this time that the
letter must be in the room--principally because of the trouble I
had had in looking after it. And persuading myself of that, I
took it into my head next, just as obstinately, that "5 along"
and "4 across" must be the right clew to find the letter
by--principally because I hadn't left myself, after all my
searching and thinking, even so much as the ghost of another
guide to go by. "Five along"--where could I count five along the
room, in any part of it?
Not on the paper. The pattern there was pillars of trellis-work
and flowers, inclosing a plain green ground--only four pillars
along the wall and only two across. The furniture? There were not
five chairs or five separate pieces of any furniture in the room
altogether. The fringes that hung from the cornice of the bed?
Plenty of them, at any rate! Up I jumped on the counterpane, with
my pen-knife in my hand. Every way that "5 along" and "4 across"
could be reckoned on those unlucky fringes I reckoned on
them--probed with my penknife--scratched with my nails--crunched
with my fingers. No use; not a sign of a letter; and the time was
getting on--oh, Lord! how the time did get on in Mr. Davager's
room that morning.
I jumped down from the bed, so desperate at my ill luck that I
hardly cared whether anybody heard me or not. Quite a little
cloud of dust rose at my feet as they thumped on the carpet.
"Hullo!" thought I, "my friend the head chambermaid takes it easy
here. Nice state for a carpet to be in, in one of the best
bedrooms at the Gatliffe Arms." Carpet! I had been jumping up on
the bed, and staring up at the walls, but I had never so much as
given a glance down at the carpet. Think of me pretending to be a
lawyer, and not knowing how to look low enough!
The carpet! It had been a stout article in its time, had
evidently began in a drawing-room; then descended to a
coffee-room; then gone upstairs altogether to a bedroom. The
ground was brown, and the pattern was bunches of leaves and roses
speckled over the ground at regular distances. I reckoned up the
bunches. Ten along the room--eight across it. When I had stepped
out five one way and four the other, and was down on my knees on
the center bunch, as true as I sit on this chair I could hear my
own heart beating so loud that it quite frightened me.
I looked narrowly all over the bunch, and I felt all over it with
the ends of my fingers, and nothing came of that. Then I scraped
it over slowly and gently with my nails. My second finger-nail
stuck a little at one place. I parted the pile of the carpet over
that place, and saw a thin slit which had been hidden by the pile
being smoothed over it--a slit about half an inch long, with a
little end of brown thread, exactly the color of the carpet
ground, sticking out about a quarter of an inch from the middle
of it. Just as I laid hold of the thread gently, I heard a
footstep outside the door.
It was only the head chamber-maid. "Haven't you done yet?" she
"Give me two minutes," says I, "and don't let anybody come near
the door--whatever you do, don't let anybody startle me again by
coming near the door."
I took a little pull at the thread, and heard something rustle. I
took a longer pull, and out came a piece of paper, rolled up
tight like those candle-lighters that the ladies make. I unrolled
it--and, by George! there was the letter!
The original letter! I knew it by the color of the ink. The
letter that was worth five hundred pounds to me! It was all that
I could do to keep myself at first from throwing my hat into the
air, and hurrahing like mad. I had to take a chair and sit quiet
in it for a minute or two, before I could cool myself down to my
proper business level. I knew that I was safely down again when I
found myself pondering how to let Mr. Davager know that he had
been done by the innocent country attorney, after all.
It was not long before a nice little irritating plan occurred to
me. I tore a blank leaf out of my pocketbook, wrote on it with my
pencil, "Change for a five-hundred-pound note," folded up the
paper, tied the thread to it, poked it back into the
hiding-place, smoothed over the pile of the carpet, and then
bolted off to Mr. Frank. He in his turn bolted off to show the
letter to the young lady, who first certified to its genuineness,
then dropped it into the fire, and then took the initiative for
the first time since her marriage engagement, by flinging her
arms round his neck, kissing him with all her might, and going
into hysterics in his arms. So at least Mr. Frank told me, but
that's not evidence. It is evidence, however, that I saw them
married with my own eyes on the Wednesday; and that while they
went off in a carriage-and-four to spend the honeymoon, I went
off on my own legs to open a credit at the Town and County Bank
with a five-hundred-pound note in my pocket.
As to Mr. Davager, I can tell you nothing more about him, except
what is derived from hearsay evidence, which is always
unsatisfactory evidence, even in a lawyer's mouth.
My inestimable boy, Tom, although twice kicked off by Sam the
pony, never lost hold of the bridle, and kept his man in sight
from first to last. He had nothing particular to report except
that on the way out to the Abbey Mr. Davager had stopped at the
public-house, had spoken a word or two to his friend of the night
before, and had handed him what looked like a bit of paper. This
was no doubt a clew to the thread that held the letter, to be
used in case of accidents. In every other respect Mr. D. had
ridden out and ridden in like an ordinary sightseer. Tom reported
him to me as having dismounted at the hotel about two. At
half-past I locked my office door, nailed a card under the
knocker with "not at home till to-morrow" written on it, and
retired to a friend's house a mile or so out of the town for the
rest of the day.
Mr. Davager, I have been since given to understand, left the
Gatliffe Arms that same night with his best clothes on his back,
and with all the valuable contents of his dressing-case in his
pockets. I am not in a condition to state whether he ever went
through the form of asking for his bill or not; but I can
positively testify that he never paid it, and that the effects
left in his bedroom did not pay it either. When I add to these
fragments of evidence that he and I have never met (luckily for
me, you will say) since I jockeyed him out of his banknote, I
have about fulfilled my implied contract as maker of a statement
with you, sir, as hearer of a statement. Observe the expression,
will you? I said it was a Statement before I began; and I say
it's a Statement now I've done. I defy you to prove it's a Story!
How are you getting on with my portrait? I like you very well,
Mr. Artist; but if you have been taking advantage of my talking
to shirk your work, as sure as you're alive I'll split upon you
to the Town Council!
I attended a great many times at my queer sitter's house before
his likeness was completed. To the last he was dissatisfied with
the progress I made. Fortunately for me, the Town Council
approved of the portrait when it was done. Mr. Boxsious, however,
objected to them as being much too easy to please. He did not
dispute the fidelity of the likeness, but he asserted that I had
not covered the canvas with half paint enough for my money. To
this day (for he is still alive), he describes me to all
inquiring friends as "The Painter-Man who jockeyed the Town
PROLOGUE TO THE THIRD STORY.
IT was a sad day for me when Mr. Lanfray, of Rockleigh Place,
discovering that his youngest daughter's health required a warm
climate, removed from his English establishment to the South of
France. Roving from place to place, as I am obliged to do, though
I make many acquaintances, I keep but few friends. The nature of
my calling is, I am quite aware, mainly answerable for this.
People cannot be blamed for forgetting a man who, on leaving
their houses, never can tell them for certain when he is likely
to be in their neighborhood again.
Mr. Lanfray was one of the few exceptional persons who always
remembered me. I have proofs of his friendly interest in my
welfare in the shape of letters which I treasure with grateful
care. The last of these is an invitation to his house in the
South of France. There is little chance at present of my being
able to profit by his kindness; but I like to read his invitation
from time to time, for it makes me fancy, in my happier moments,
that I may one day really be able to accept it.
My introduction to this gentleman, in my capacity of
portrait-painter, did not promise much for me in a professional
point of view. I was invited to Rockleigh--or to "The Place," as
it was more frequently called among the people of the county--to
take a likeness in water-colors, on a small scale, of the French
governess who lived with Mr. Lanfray's daughters. My first idea
on hearing of this was, that the governess was about to leave her
situation, and that her pupils wished to have a memorial of her
in the shape of a portrait. Subsequent inquiry, however, informed
me that I was in error. It was the eldest of Mr. Lanfray's
daughters, who was on the point of leaving the house to accompany
her husband to India; and it was for her that the portrait had
been ordered as a home remembrance of her best and dearest
friend. Besides these particulars, I discovered that the
governess, though still called "mademoiselle," was an old lady;
that Mr. Lanfray had been introduced to her many years since in
France, after the death of his wife; that she was absolute
mistress in the house; and that her three pupils had always
looked up to her as a second mother, from the time when their
father first placed them under her charge.
These scraps of information made me rather anxious to see
Mademoiselle Clairfait, the governess.
On the day appointed for my attendance at the comfortable country
house of Rockleigh, I was detained on the road, and did not
arrive at my destination until late in the evening. The welcome
accorded to me by Mr. Lanfray gave an earnest of the unvarying
kindness that I was to experience at his hands in after-life. I
was received at once on equal terms, as if I had been a friend of
the family, and was presented the same evening to my host's
daughters. They were not merely three elegant and attractive
young women, but--what means much more than that--three admirable
subjects for pictures, the bride particularly. Her young husband
did not strike me much at first sight; he seemed rather shy and
silent. After I had been introduced to him, I looked round for
Mademoiselle Clairfait, but she was not present; and I was soon
afterward informed by Mr. Lanfray that she always spent the
latter part of the evening in her own room.
At the breakfast-table the next morning, I again looked for my
sitter, and once more in vain. "Mamma, as we call her," said one
of the ladies, "is dressing expressly for her picture, Mr. Kerby.
I hope you are not above painting silk, lace, and jewelry. The
dear old lady, who is perfection in everything else, is
perfection also in dress, and is bent on being painted in all her
This explanation prepared me for something extraordinary; but I
found that my anticipations had fallen far below the reality when
Mademoiselle Clairfait at last made her appearance, and announced
that she was ready to sit for her portrait.
Never before or since have I seen such perfect dressing and such
active old age in combination. "Mademoiselle" was short and thin;
her face was perfectly white all over, the skin being puckered up
in an infinite variety of the smallest possible wrinkles. Her
bright black eyes were perfect marvels of youthfulness and
vivacity. They sparkled, and beamed, and ogled, and moved about
over everybody and everything at such a rate, that the plain gray
hair above them looked unnaturally venerable, and the wrinkles
below an artful piece of masquerade to represent old age. As for
her dress, I remember few harder pieces of work than the painting
of it. She wore a silver-gray silk gown that seemed always
flashing out into some new light whenever she moved. It was as
stiff as a board, and rustled like the wind. Her head, neck, and
bosom were enveloped in clouds of the airiest-looking lace I ever
saw, disposed about each part of her with the most exquisite
grace and propriety, and glistening at all sorts of unexpected
places with little fairy-like toys in go ld and precious stones.
On her right wrist she wore three small bracelets, with the hair
of her three pupils worked into them; and on her left, one large
bracelet with a miniature let in over the clasp. She had a dark
crimson and gold scarf thrown coquettishly over her shoulders,
and held a lovely little feather-fan in her hand. When she first
presented herself before me in this costume, with a brisk
courtesy and a bright smile, filling the room with perfume, and
gracefully flirting the feather-fan, I lost all confidence in my
powers as a portrait-painter immediately. The brightest colors in
my box looked dowdy and dim, and I myself felt like an unwashed,
unbrushed, unpresentable sloven.
"Tell me, my angels," said mademoiselle, apostrophizing her
pupils in the prettiest foreign English, "am I the cream of all
creams this morning? Do I carry my sixty years resplendently?
Will the savages in India, when my own love exhibits my picture
among them, say, 'Ah! smart! smart! this was a great dandy?' And
the gentleman, the skillful artist, whom it is even more an honor
than a happiness to meet, does he approve of me for a model? Does
he find me pretty and paintable from top to toe?" Here she
dropped me another brisk courtesy, placed herself in a
languishing position in the sitter's chair, and asked us all if
she looked like a shepherdess in Dresden china.
The young ladies burst out laughing, and mademoiselle, as gay as
any of them and a great deal shriller, joined in the merriment.
Never before had I contended with any sitter half as restless as
that wonderful old lady. No sooner had I begun than she jumped
out of the chair, and exclaiming, "_Grand Dieu!_ I have forgotten
to embrace my angels this morning," ran up to her pupils, raised
herself on tiptoe before them in quick succession, put the two
first fingers of each hand under their ears, kissed them lightly
on both cheeks, and was back again in the chair before an English
governess could have said, "Good-morning, my dears, I hope you
all slept well last night."
I began again. Up jumped mademoiselle for the second time, and
tripped across the room to a cheval-glass. "No!" I heard her say
to herself, "I have not discomposed my head in kissing my angels.
I may come back and pose for my picture."
Back she came. I worked from her for five minutes at the most.
"Stop!" cries mademoiselle, jumping up for the third time; "I
must see how this skillful artist is getting on. _Grand Dieu!_!
why he has done nothing!"
For the fourth time I began, and for the fourth time the old lady
started out of her chair. "Now I must repose myself," said
mademoiselle, walking lightly from end to end of the room, and
humming a French air, by way of taking a rest.
I was at my wit's end, and the young ladies saw it. They all
surrounded my unmanageable sitter, and appealed to her compassion
for me. "Certainly!" said mademoiselle, expressing astonishment
by flinging up both her hands with all the fingers spread out in
the air. "But why apostrophize me thus? I am here, I am ready, I
am at the service of this skillful artist. Why apostrophize me?"
A fortunate chance question of mine steadied her for some time. I
inquired if I was expected to draw the whole of my sitter's
figure as well as her face. Mademoiselle replied by a comic
scream of indignation. If I was the brave and gifted man for whom
she took me, I ought to be ready to perish rather than leave out
an inch of her anywhere. Dress was her passion, and it would be
an outrage on her sentiments if I did not do full justice to
everything she had on--to her robe, to her lace, to her scarf, to
her fan, to her rings, her jewels, and, above all, to her
bracelets. I groaned in spirit at the task before me, but made my
best bow of acquiescence. Mademoiselle was not to be satisfied by
a mere bow; she desired the pleasure of specially directing my
attention, if I would be so amiable as to get up and approach
her, to one of her bracelets in particular--the bracelet with the
miniature, on her left wrist. It had been the gift of the dearest
friend she ever had, and the miniature represented that friend's
beloved and beautiful face. Could I make a tiny, tiny copy of
that likeness in my drawing! Would I only be so obliging as to
approach for one little moment, and see if such a thing were
I obeyed unwillingly enough, expecting, from mademoiselle's
expression, to see a commonplace portrait of some unfortunate
admirer whom she had treated with unmerited severity in the days
of her youth. To my astonishment, I found that the miniature,
which was very beautifully painted, represented a woman's face--a
young woman with kind, sad eyes, pale, delicate cheeks, light
hair, and such a pure, tender, lovely expressions that I thought
of Raphael's Madonnas the moment I looked at her portrait.
The old lady observed the impression which the miniature produced
on me, and nodded her head in silence. "What a beautiful,
innocent, pure face!" I said.
Mademoiselle Clairfait gently brushed a particle of dust from the
miniature with her handkerchief, and kissed it. "I have three
angels still left," she said, looking at her pupils. "They
console me for the fourth, who has gone to heaven."
She patted the face on the miniature gently with her little,
withered, white fingers, as if it had been a living thing.
_"Sister Rose!"_ she sighed to herself; then, looking up again at
me, said, "I should like it put into my portrait, sir, because I
have always worn it since I was a young woman, for 'Sister
The sudden change in her manner, from the extreme of flighty
gayety to the extreme of quiet sadness, would have looked
theatrical in a woman of any other nation. It seemed, however,
perfectly natural and appropriate in her. I went back to my
drawing, rather perplexed. Who was "Sister Rose"? Not one of the
Lanfray family, apparently. The composure of the young ladies
when the name was mentioned showed plainly enough that the
original of the miniature had been no relation of theirs.
I tried to stifle my curiosity on the subject of Sister Rose, by
giving myself entirely to my work. For a full half-hour,
Mademoiselle Clairfait sat quietly before me, with her hands
crossed on her lap, and her eyes fixed on the bracelet. This
happy alteration enabled me to do something toward completing the
outline of her face and figure. I might even, under fortunate
circumstances, have vanquished the preliminary difficulties of my
task at one effort; but the fates were against me that day. While
I was still working rapidly and to my satisfaction, a servant
knocked at the door to announce luncheon, and mademoiselle
lightly roused herself from her serious reflection and her quiet
position in a moment.
"Ah me!" she said, turning the miniature round on her wrist till
it was out of sight. "What animals we are, after all! The
spiritual part of us is at the mercy of the stomach. My heart is
absorbed by tender thoughts, yet I am not the less ready for
luncheon! Come, my children and fellow-mortals. _Allons cultiver
With this quotation from "Candide," plaintively delivered, the
old lady led the way out of the room, and was followed by her
younger pupils. The eldest sister remained behind for a moment,
and reminded me that the lunch was ready.
"I am afraid you have found the dear old soul rather an unruly
sitter," she said, noticing the look of dissatisfaction with
which I was regarding my drawing. "But she will improve as you go
on. She has done better already for the last half-hour, has she
"Much better," I answered. "My admiration of the miniature on the
bracelet seemed--I suppose, by calling up some old
associations--to have a strangely soothing effect on Mademoiselle
"Ah yes! only remind her of the original of that portrait, and
you change her directly, whatever she may have been saying or
doing the moment before. Sometimes she talks of _Sister Rose,_
and of all that she went through in the time of the French
Revolution, by the hour together. It is wonderfully
interesting--at least we all think so. "
"I presume that the lady described as 'Sister Rose' was a
"No, only a very dear friend. Mademoiselle Clairfait is the
daughter of a silk-mercer, once established at Chalons-sur-Marne.
Her father happened to give an asylum in his office to a lonely
old man, to whom 'Sister Rose' and her brother had been greatly
indebted in the revolutionary time; and out of a train of
circumstances connected with that, the first acquaintance between
mademoiselle and the friend whose portrait she wears, arose.
After the time of her father's bankruptcy, and for many years
before we were placed under her charge, our good old governess
lived entirely with 'Sister Rose' and her brother. She must then
have heard all the interesting things that she has since often
repeated to my sisters and myself."
"Might I suggest," said I, after an instant's consideration,
"that the best way to give me a fair chance of studying
Mademoiselle Clairfait's face at the next sitting, would be to
lead her thoughts again to that quieting subject of the
miniature, and to the events which the portrait recalls? It is
really the only plan, after what I have observed this morning,
that I can think of for enabling me to do myself and my sitter
"I am delighted to hear you say so," replied the lady; "for the
execution of your plan, by me or by my sisters, will be the
easiest thing in the world. A word from us at any time will set
mademoiselle thinking, and talking too, of the friend of her
youthful days. Depend on our assistance so far. And now let me
show you the way to the luncheon-table."
Two good results followed the ready rendering of the help I had
asked from my host's daughters. I succeeded with my portrait of
Mademoiselle Clairfait, and I heard the story which occupies the
In the case of the preceding narratives, I have repeated what was
related to me, as nearly as possible in the very words of my
sitters. In the case of this third story, it is impossible for me
to proceed upon the same plan. The circumstances of "Sister
Rose's" eventful history were narrated to me at different times,
and in the most fragmentary and discursive manner. Mademoiselle
Clairfait characteristically mixed up with the direct interest of
her story, not only references to places and people which had no
recognizable connection with it, but outbursts of passionate
political declamation, on the extreme liberal side--to say
nothing of little tender apostrophes to her beloved friend, which
sounded very prettily as she spoke them, but which would lose
their effect altogether by being transferred to paper. Under
these circumstances, I have thought it best to tell the story in
my own way--rigidly adhering to the events of it exactly as they
were related; and never interfering on my own responsibility
except to keep order in the march of the incidents, and to
present them, to the best of my ability, variously as well as
interestingly to the reader.
THE FRENCH GOVERNESS'S STORY
"WELL, Monsieur Guillaume, what is the news this evening?"
"None that I know of, Monsieur Justin, except that Mademoiselle
Rose is to be married tomorrow. "
"Much obliged, my respectable old friend, for so interesting and
unexpected a reply to my question. Considering that I am the
valet of Monsieur Danville, who plays the distinguished part of
bridegroom in the little wedding comedy to which you refer, I
think I may assure you, without offense, that your news is, so
far as I am concerned, of the stalest possible kind. Take a pinch
of snuff, Monsieur Guillaume, and excuse me if I inform you that
my question referred to public news, and not to the private
affairs of the two families whose household interests we have the
pleasure of promoting."
"I don't understand what you mean by such a phrase as promoting
household interests, Monsieur Justin. I am the servant of
Monsieur Louis Trudaine, who lives here with his sister,
Mademoiselle Rose. You are the servant of Monsieur Danville,
whose excellent mother has made up the match for him with my
young lady. As servants, both of us, the pleasantest news we can
have any concern with is news that is connected with the
happiness of our masters. I have nothing to do with public
affairs; and, being one of the old school, I make it my main
object in life to mind my own business. If our homely domestic
politics have no interests for you, allow me to express my
regret, and to wish you a very good-evening."
"Pardon me, my dear sir, I have not the slightest respect for the
old school, or the least sympathy with people who only mind their
own business. However, I accept your expressions of regret; I
reciprocate your 'Good-evening'; and I trust to find you improved
in temper, dress, manners, and appearance the next time I have
the honor of meeting you. Adieu, Monsieur Guillaume, and! _Vive
These scraps of dialogue were interchanged on a lovely summer
evening in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-nine, before the
back door of a small house which stood on the banks of the Seine,
about three miles westward of the city of Rouen. The one speaker
was lean, old, crabbed and slovenly; the other was plump, young,
oily-mannered and dressed in the most gorgeous livery costume of
the period. The last days of genuine dandyism were then rapidly
approaching all over the civilized world; and Monsieur Justin
was, in his own way, dressed to perfection, as a living
illustration of the expiring glories of his epoch.
After the old servant had left him, he occupied himself for a few
minutes in contemplating, superciliously enough, the back view of
the little house before which he stood. Judging by the windows,
it did not contain more than six or eight rooms in all. Instead
of stables and outhouses, there was a conservatory attached to
the building on one side, and a low, long room, built of wood,
gayly painted, on the other. One of the windows of this room was
left uncurtained and through it could be seen, on a sort of
dresser inside, bottles filled with strangely-colored liquids
oddly-shaped utensils of brass and copper, one end of a large
furnace, and other objects, which plainly proclaimed that the
apartment was used as a chemical laboratory.
"Think of our bride's brother amusing himself in such a place as
that with cooking drugs in saucepans," muttered Monsieur Justin,
peeping into the room. "I am the least particular man in the
universe, but I must say I wish we were not going to be connected
by marriage with an amateur apothecary. Pah! I can smell the
place through the window."
With these words Monsieur Justin turned his back on the
laboratory in disgust, and sauntered toward the cliffs
overhanging the river.
Leaving the garden attached to the house, he ascended some gently
rising ground by a winding path. Arrived at the summit, the whole
view of the Seine, with its lovely green islands, its banks
fringed with trees, its gliding boats, and little scattered
water-side cottages, opened before him. Westward, where the level
country appeared beyond the further bank of the river, the
landscape was all aglow with the crimson of the setting sun.
Eastward, the long shadows and mellow intervening lights, the red
glory that quivered on the rippling water, the steady ruby fire
glowing on cottage windows that reflected the level sunlight, led
the eye onward and onward, along the windings of the Seine, until
it rested upon the spires, towers, and broadly-massed houses of
Rouen, with the wooded hills rising beyond them for background.
Lovely to look on at any time, the view was almost supernaturally
beautiful now under the gorgeous evening light that glowed up in
it. All its attractions, however, were lost on the valet; he
stood yawning with his hands in his pockets, looking neither to
the right nor to the left, but staring straight before him at a
little hollow, beyond which the ground sloped away smoothly to
the brink of the cliff. A bench was placed here, and three
persons--an old lady, a gentleman, and a young girl--were seated
on it, watching the sunset, and by consequence turning their
backs on Monsieur Justin. Near them stood two gentlemen, also
looking toward th e liver and the distant view. These five
figures attracted the valet's attention, to the exclusion of
every other object around him.
"There they are still," he said to himself, discontentedly.
"Madame Danville in the same place on the seat; my master, the
bridegroom, dutifully next to her; Mademoiselle Rose, the bride,
bashfully next to him; Monsieur Trudaine, the amateur apothecary
brother, affectionately next to her; and Monsieur Lomaque, our
queer land-steward, officially in waiting on the whole party.
There they all are indeed, incomprehensibly wasting their time
still in looking at nothing! Yes," continued Monsieur Justin,
lifting his eyes wearily, and staring hard, first up the river at
Rouen, then down the river at the setting sun; "yes, plague take
them! looking at nothing, absolutely and positively at nothing,
all this while."
Here Monsieur Justin yawned again, and, returning to the garden,
sat himself down in an arbor and resignedly went to sleep.
If the valet had ventured near the five persons whom he had been
apostrophizing from a distance, and if he had been possessed of
some little refinement of observation, he could hardly have
failed to remark that the bride and bridegroom of the morrow, and
their companions on either side, were all, in a greater or less
degree, under the influence of some secret restraint, which
affected their conversation, their gestures, and even the
expression of their faces. Madame Danville--a handsome,
richly-dressed old lady, with very bright eyes, and a quick,
suspicious manner--looked composedly and happily enough, as long
as her attention was fixed on her son. But when she turned from
him toward the bride, a hardly perceptible uneasiness passed over
her face--an uneasiness which only deepened to positive distrust
and dissatisfaction whenever she looked toward Mademoiselle
Trudaine's brother. In the same way, her son, who was all smiles
and happiness while he was speaking with his future wife, altered
visibly in manner and look exactly as his mother altered,
whenever the presence of Monsieur Trudaine specially impressed
itself on his attention. Then, again, Lomaque, the
land-steward--quiet, sharp, skinny Lomaque, with the submissive
manner, and the red-rimmed eyes--never looked up at his master's
future brother-in-law without looking away again rather uneasily,
and thoughtfully drilling holes in the grass with his long
sharp-pointed cane. Even the bride herself--the pretty, innocent
girl, with her childish shyness of manner--seemed to be affected
like the others. Doubt, if not distress, overshadowed her face
from time to time, and the hand which her lover held trembled a
little, and grew restless, when she accidentally caught her
Strangely enough there was nothing to repel, but, on the
contrary, everything to attract in the look and manner of the
person whose mere presence seemed to exercise such a curiously
constraining influence over the wedding- party. Louis Trudaine
was a remarkably handsome man. His expression was singularly kind
and gentle; his manner irresistibly winning in its frank, manly
firmness and composure. His words, when he occasionally spoke,
seemed as unlikely to give offense as his looks; for he only
opened his lips in courteous reply to questions directly
addressed to him. Judging by a latent mournfulness in the tones
of his voice, and by the sorrowful tenderness which clouded his
kind, earnest eyes whenever they rested on his sister, his
thoughts were certainly not of the happy or the hopeful kind. But
he gave them no direct expression; he intruded his secret
sadness, whatever it might be, on no one of his companions.
Nevertheless, modest and self-restrained as he was, there was
evidently some reproving or saddening influence in his presence
which affected the spirits of every one near him, and darkened
the eve of the wedding to bride and bridegroom alike.
As the sun slowly sank in the heavens, the conversation flagged
more and more. After a long silence, the bridegroom was the first
to start a new subject.
"Rose, love," he said, "that magnificent sunset is a good omen
for our marriage; it promises another lovely day to-morrow."
The bride laughed and blushed.
"Do you really believe in omens, Charles?" she said.
"My dear," interposed the old lady, before her son could answer,
"if Charles does believe in omens, it is nothing to laugh at. You
will soon know better, when you are his wife, than to confound
him, even in the slightest things, with the common herd of
people. All his convictions are well founded--so well, that if I
thought he really did believe in omens, I should most assuredly
make up my mind to believe in them too."
"I beg your pardon, madame," Rose began, tremulously, "I only
"My dear child, have you so little knowledge of the world as to
suppose that I could be offended--"
"Let Rose speak," said the young man.
He turned round petulantly, almost with the air of a spoiled
child, to his mother, as he said those words. She had been
looking fondly and proudly on him the moment before. Now her eyes
wandered disconcertedly from his face; she hesitated an instant
with a sudden confusion which seemed quite foreign to her
character, then whispered in his ear,
"Am I to blame, Charles, for trying to make her worthy of you?"
Her son took no notice of the question. He only reiterated
sharply, "Let Rose speak."
"I really had nothing to say," faltered the young girl, growing
more and more confused.
"Oh, but you had!"
There was such an ungracious sharpness in his voice, such an
outburst of petulance in his manner as he spoke, that his mother
gave him a warning touch on the arm, and whispered "Hush!"
Monsieur Lomaque, the land-steward, and Monsieur Trudaine, the
brother, both glanced searchingly at the bride, as the words
passed the bridegroom's lips. She seemed to be frightened and
astonished, rather than irritated or hurt. A curious smile
puckered up Lomaque's lean face, as he looked demurely down on
the ground, and began drilling a fresh hole in the turf with the
sharp point of his cane. Trudaine turned aside quickly, and,
sighing, walked away a few paces; then came back, and seemed
about to speak, but Danville interrupted him.
"Pardon me, Rose," he said; "I am so jealous of even the
appearance of any want of attention toward you, that I was nearly
allowing myself to be irritated about nothing."
He kissed her hand very gracefully and tenderly as he made his
excuse; but there was a latent expression in his eye which was at
variance with the apparent spirit of his action. It was noticed
by nobody but observant and submissive Monsieur Lomaque, who
smiled to himself again, and drilled harder than ever at his hole
in the grass.
"I think Monsieur Trudaine was about to speak," said Madame
Danville. "Perhaps he will have no objection to let us hear what
he was going to say."
"None, madame," replied Trudaine, politely. "I was about to take
upon myself the blame of Rose's want of respect for believers in
omens, by confessing that I have always encouraged her to laugh
at superstitions of every kind."
"You a ridiculer of superstitions?" said Danville, turning
quickly on him. "You, who have built a laboratory; you, who are
an amateur professor of the occult arts of chemistry--a seeker
after the Elixir of Life. On my word of honor, you astonish me!"
There was an ironical politeness in his voice, look, and manner
as he said this, which his mother and his land-steward, Monsieur
Lomaque, evidently knew how to interpret. The first touched his
arm again and whispered, "Be careful!" the second suddenly grew
serious, and left off drilling his hole in the grass. Rose
neither heard the warning of Madame Danville, nor noticed the
alteration in Lomaque. She was looking round at her brother, and
was waiting with a bright, affectionate smile to hear his answer.
He nodded, as if to reassure her, before he spoke again to
"You have rather romantic ideas about experiments in chemistry,"
he said, quietly. "Mine have so little connection with what you
call the occult arts that all the world might see them, if all
the world thought it worth while. The only Elixirs of Life that I
know of are a quiet heart and a contented mind. Both those I
found, years and years ago, when Rose and I first came to live
together in the house yonder."
He spoke with a quiet sadness in his voice, which meant far more
to his sister than the simple words he uttered. Her eyes filled
with tears; she turned for a moment from her lover, and took her
brother's hand. "Don't talk, Louis, as if you thought you were
going to lose your sister, because--" Her lips began to tremble,
and she stopped suddenly.
"More jealous than ever of your taking her away from him!"
whispered Madame Danville in her son's ear. "Hush! don't, for
God's sake, take any notice of it," she added, hurriedly, as he
rose from the seat and faced Trudaine with undisguised irritation
and impatience in his manner. Before he could speak, the old
servant Guillaume made his appearance, and announced that coffee
was ready. Madame Danville again said "Hush!" and quickly took
one of his arms, while he offered the other to Rose. "Charles,"
said the young girl, amazedly, "how flushed your face is, and how
your arm trembles!"
He controlled himself in a moment, smiled, and said to her:
"Can't you guess why, Rose? I am thinking of to-morrow." While he
was speaking, he passed close by the land-steward, on his way
back to the house with the ladies. The smile returned to Monsieur
Lomaque's lean face, and a curious light twinkled in his
red-rimmed eyes as he began a fresh hole in the grass.
"Won't you go indoors, and take some coffee?" asked Trudaine,
touching the land-steward on the arm.
Monsieur Lomaque started a little and left his cane sticking in
the ground. "A thousand thanks, monsieur," he said; "may I be
allowed to follow you?"
"I confess the beauty of the evening makes me a little unwilling
to leave this place just yet."
"Ah! the beauties of Nature--I feel them with you, Monsieur
Trudaine; I feel them here." Saying this, Lomaque laid one hand
on his heart, and with the other pulled his stick out of the
grass. He had looked as little at the landscape or the setting
sun as Monsieur Justin himself.
They sat down, side by side, on the empty bench; and then there
followed an awkward pause. Submissive Lomaque was too discreet to
forget his place, and venture on starting a new topic. Trudaine
was preoccupied, and disinclined to talk. It was necessary,
however, in common politeness, to say something. Hardly attending
himself to his own words, he began with a commonplace phrase: "I
regret, Monsieur Lomaque, that we have not had more opportunities
of bettering our acquaintance."
"I feel deeply indebted," rejoined the land-steward, "to the
admirable Madame Danville for having chosen me as her escort
hither from her son's estate near Lyons, and having thereby
procured for me the honor of this introduction." Both Monsieur
Lomaque's red-rimmed eyes were seized with a sudden fit of
winking, as he made this polite speech. His enemies were
accustomed to say that, whenever he was particularly insincere,
or particularly deceitful, he always took refuge in the weakness
of his eyes, and so evaded the trying ordeal of being obliged to
look steadily at the person whom he was speaking with.
"I was pleased to hear you mention my late father's name, at
dinner, in terms of high respect," continued Trudaine, resolutely
keeping up the conversation. "Did you know him?"
"I am indirectly indebted to your excellent father," answered the
land-steward, "for the very situation which I now hold. At a time
when the good word of a man of substance and reputation was
needed to save me from poverty and ruin, your father spoke that
word. Since then I have, in my own very small way, succeeded in
life, until I have risen to the honor of superintending the
estate of Monsieur Danville."
"Excuse me, but your way of speaking of your present situation
rather surprises me. Your father, I believe, was a merchant, just
as Danville's father was a merchant; the only difference between
them was that one failed and the other realized a large fortune.
Why should you speak of yourself as honored by holding your
"Have you never heard?" exclaimed Lomaque, with an appearance of
great astonishment, "or can you have heard, and forgotten, that
Madame Danville is descended from one of the noble houses of
France? Has she never told you, as she has often told me, that
she condescended when she married her late husband; and that her
great object in life is to get the title of her family (years
since extinct in the male line) settled on her son?"
"Yes," replied Trudaine; "I remember to have heard something of
this, and to have paid no great attention to it at the time,
having little sympathy with such aspirations as you describe. You
have lived many years in Danville's service, Monsieur Lomaque;
have you"--he hesitated for a moment, then continued, looking the
land-steward full in the face--"have you found him a good and
Lomaque's thin lips seemed to close instinctively at the
question, as if he were never going to speak again. He
bowed--Trudaine waited--he only bowed again. Trudaine waited a
third time. Lomaque looked at his host with perfect steadiness
for an instant, then his eyes began to get weak again. "You seem
to have some special interest," he quietly remarked, "if I may
say so without offense, in asking me that question."
"I deal frankly, at all hazards, with every one," returned
Trudaine; "and stranger as you are, I will deal frankly with you.
I acknowledge that I have an interest in asking that
question--the dearest, the tenderest of all interests." At those
last words, his voice trembled for a moment, but he went on
firmly; "from the beginning of my sister's engagement with
Danville, I made it my duty not to conceal my own feelings; my
conscience and my affection for Rose counseled me to be candid to
the last, even though my candor should distress or offend others.
When we first made the acquaintance of Madame Danville, and when
I first discovered that her son's attentions to Rose were not
unfavorably received, I felt astonished, and, though it cost me a
hard effort, I did not conceal that astonishment from my
Lomaque, who had hitherto been all attention, started here, and
threw up his hands in amazement. "Astonished, did I hear you say?
Astonished, Monsieur Trudaine, that the attentions of a young
gentleman, possessed of all the graces and accomplishments of a
highly-bred Frenchman, should be favorably received by a young
lady! Astonished that such a dancer, such a singer, such a
talker, such a notoriously fascinating ladies' man as Monsieur
Danville, should, by dint of respectful assiduity, succeed in
making some impression on the heart of Mademoiselle Rose! Oh,
Monsieur Trudaine, venerated Monsieur Trudaine, this is almost
too much to credit!"
Lomaque's eyes grew weaker than ever, and winked incessantly as
he uttered this apostrophe. At the end, he threw up his hands
again, and blinked inquiringly all round him, in mute appeal to
"When, in the course of time, matters were further advanced,"
continued Trudaine, without paying any attention to the
interruption; "when the offer of marriage was made, and when I
knew that Rose had in her own heart accepted it, I objected, and
I did not conceal my objections--"
"Heavens!" interposed Lomaque again, clasping his hands this time
with a look of bewilderment; "what objections, what possible
objections to a man young and well-bred, with an immense fortune
and an uncompromised character? I have heard of these objections;
I know they have made bad blood; and I ask myself again and
again, what can they be?"
"God knows I have often tried to dismiss them from my mind as
fanciful and absurd," said Trudaine, "and I have always failed.
It is impossible, in your presence, that I can describe in detail
what my own impressions have been, from the first, of the master
whom you serve. Let it be enough if I confide to you that I
cannot, even now, persuade myself of the sincerity of his
attachment to my sister, and that I feel--in spite of myself, in
spite of my earnest desire to put the most implicit confi dence
in Rose's choice--a distrust of his character and temper, which
now, on the eve of the marriage, amounts to positive terror. Long
secret suffering, doubt, and suspense, wring this confession from
me, Monsieur Lomaque, almost unawares, in defiance of caution, in
defiance of all the conventionalities of society. You have lived
for years under the same roof with this man; you have seen him in
his most unguarded and private moments. I tempt you to betray no
confidence--I only ask you if you can make me happy by telling me
that I have been doing your master grievous injustice by my
opinion of him? I ask you to take my hand, and tell me if you
can, in all honor, that my sister is not risking the happiness of
her whole life by giving herself in marriage to Danville
He held out his hand while he spoke. By some strange chance,
Lomaque happened just at that moment to be looking away toward
those beauties of Nature which he admired so greatly. "Really,
Monsieur Trudaine, really such an appeal from you, at such a
time, amazes me." Having got so far, he stopped and said no more.
"When we first sat down together here, I had no thought of making
this appeal, no idea of talking to you as I have talked," pursued
the other. "My words have escaped me, as I told you, almost
unawares; you must make allowances for them and for me. I cannot
expect others, Monsieur Lomaque, to appreciate and understand my
feelings for Rose. We two have lived alone in the world together;
father, mother, kindred, they all died years since, and left us.
I am so much older than my sister that I have learned to feel
toward her more as a father than as a brother. All my life, all
my dearest hopes, all my highest expectations, have centered in
her. I was past the period of my boyhood when my mother put my
little child sister's hand in mine, and said to me on her
death-bed: 'Louis, be all to her that I have been, for she has no
one left to look to but you.' Since then the loves and ambitions
of other men have not been my loves or my ambitions. Sister
Rose--as we all used to call her in those past days, as I love to
call her still--Sister Rose has been the one aim, the one
happiness, the one precious trust, the one treasured reward, of
all my life. I have lived in this poor house, in this dull
retirement, as in a paradise, because Sister Rose--my innocent,
happy, bright-faced Eve--has lived here with me. Even if the
husband of her choice had been the husband of mine, the necessity
of parting with her would have been the hardest, the bitterest of
trials. As it is, thinking what I think, dreading what I dread,
judge what my feelings must be on the eve of her marriage; and
know why, and with what object, I made the appeal which surprised
you a moment since, but which cannot surprise you now. Speak if
you will--I can say no more." He sighed bitterly; his head
dropped on his breast, and the hand which he had extended to
Lomaque trembled as he withdrew it and let it fall at his side.
The land-steward was not a man accustomed to hesitate, but he
hesitated now. He was not usually at a loss for phrases in which
to express himself, but he stammered at the very outset of his
reply. "Suppose I answered," he began, slowly; "suppose I told
you that you wronged him, would my testimony really be strong
enough to shake opinions, or rather presumptions, which have been
taking firmer and firmer hold of you for months and months past?
Suppose, on the other hand, that my master had his little"
(Lomaque hesitated before he pronounced the next word)--"his
little--infirmities, let me say; but only hypothetically, mind
that--infirmities; and suppose I had observed them, and was
willing to confide them to you, what purpose would such a
confidence answer now, at the eleventh hour, with Mademoiselle
Rose's heart engaged, with the marriage fixed for tomorrow? No!
no! trust me--"
Trudaine looked up suddenly. "I thank you for reminding me,
Monsieur Lomaque, that it is too late now to make inquiries, and
by consequence too late also to trust in others. My sister has
chosen; and on the subject of that choice my lips shall be
henceforth sealed. The events of the future are with God;
whatever they may be, I hope I am strong enough to bear my part
in them with the patience and the courage of a man! I apologize,
Monsieur Lomaque, for having thoughtlessly embarrassed you by
questions which I had no right to ask. Let us return to the
house--I will show you the way."
Lomaque's lips opened, then closed again; he bowed uneasily, and
his sallow complexion whitened for a moment.
Trudaine led the way in silence back to the house; the
land-steward following slowly at a distance of several paces, and
talking in whispers to himself. "His father was the saving of
me," muttered Lomaque; "that is truth, and there is no getting
over it; his father was the saving of me; and yet here am I--no!
it's too late!--too late to speak--too late to act--too late to
Close to the house they were met by the old servant.
"My young lady has just sent me to call you in to coffee,
monsieur," said Guillaume. "She has kept a cup hot for you, and
another cup for Monsieur Lomaque."
The land-steward started--this time with genuine astonishment.
"For me!" he exclaimed. "Mademoiselle Rose has troubled herself
to keep a cup of coffee hot for me?" The old servant stared;
Trudaine stopped and looked back.
"What is there so very surprising," he asked, "in such an
ordinary act of politeness on my sister's part?"
"Excuse me, Monsieur Trudaine," answered Lomaque; "you have not
passed such an existence as mine--you are not a friendless old
man--you have a settled position in the world, and are used to be
treated with consideration. I am not. This is the first occasion
in my life on which I find myself an object for the attention of
a young lady, and it takes me by surprise. I repeat my excuses;
pray let us go in."
Trudaine made no reply to this curious explanation. He wondered
at it a little, however, and he wondered still more when, on
entering the drawing-room, he saw Lomaque walk straight up to his
sister, and--apparently not noticing that Danville was sitting at
the harpsichord and singing at the time--address her confusedly
and earnestly with a set speech of thanks for his hot cup of
coffee. Rose looked perplexed, and half inclined to laugh, as she
listened to him. Madame Danville, who sat by her side, frowned,
and tapped the land-steward contemptuously on the arm with her
"Be so good as to keep silent until my son has done singing," she
said. Lomaque made a low bow, and retiring to a table in a
corner, took up a newspaper lying on it. If Madame Danville had
seen the expression that came over his face when he turned away
from her, proud as she was, her aristocratic composure might
possibly have been a little ruffled.
Danville had finished his song, had quitted the harpsichord, and
was talking in whispers to his bride; Madame Danville was adding
a word to the conversation every now and then; Trudaine was
seated apart at the far end of the room, thoughtfully reading a
letter which he had taken from his pocket, when an exclamation
from Lomaque, who was still engaged with the newspaper, caused
all the other occupants of the apartment to suspend their
employments and look up.
"What is it?" asked Danville, impatiently.
"Shall I be interrupting if I explain?" inquired Lomaque, getting
very weak in the eyes again, as he deferentially addressed
himself to Madame Danville.
"You have already interrupted us," said the old lady, sharply;
"so you may now just as well explain."
"It is a passage from the _Scientific Intelligence_ which has
given me great delight, and which will be joyful news for every
one here." Saying this, Lomaque looked significantly at Trudaine,
and then read from the newspaper these lines:
"ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, PARIS.--The vacant sub-professorship of
chemistry has been offered, we are rejoiced to hear, to a
gentleman whose modesty has hitherto prevented his scientific
merits from becoming sufficiently prominent in the world. To the
members of the academy he has been long since known as the
originato r of some of the most remarkable improvements in
chemistry which have been made of late years--improvements, the
credit of which he has, with rare, and we were almost about to
add, culpable moderation, allowed others to profit by with
impunity. No man in any profession is more thoroughly entitled to
have a position of trust and distinction conferred on him by the
State than the gentleman to whom we refer--M. Louis Trudaine."
Before Lomaque could look up from the paper to observe the
impression which his news produced, Rose had gained her brother's
side and was kissing him in a flutter of delight.
"Dear Louis," she cried, clapping her hands, "let me be the first
to congratulate you! How proud and glad I am! You accept the
professorship, of course?"
Trudaine, who had hastily and confusedly put his letter back in
his pocket the moment Lomaque began to read, seemed at a loss for
an answer. He patted his sister's hand rather absently, and said:
"I have not made up my mind; don't ask me why, Rose--at least not
now, not just now." An expression of perplexity and distress came
over his face, as he gently motioned her to resume her chair.
"Pray, is a sub-professor of chemistry supposed to hold the rank
of a gentleman?" asked Madame Danville, without the slightest
appearance of any special interest in Lomaque's news.
"Of course not," replied her son, with a sarcastic laugh; "he is
expected to work and make himself useful. What gentleman does
"Charles!" exclaimed the old lady, reddening with anger.
"Bah!" cried Danville, turning his back on her, "enough of
chemistry. Lomaque, now you have begun reading the newspaper, try
if you can't find something interesting to read about. What are
the last accounts from Paris? Any more symptoms of a general
Lomaque turned to another part of the paper. "Bad, very bad
prospects for the restoration of tranquillity," he said. "Necker,
the people's Minister, is dismissed. Placards against popular
gatherings are posted all over Paris. The Swiss Guards have been
ordered to the Champs Elysees, with four pieces of artillery. No
more is yet known, but the worst is dreaded. The breach between
the aristocracy and the people is widening fatally almost hour by
Here he stopped and laid down the newspaper. Trudaine took it
from him, and shook his head forebodingly as he looked over the
paragraph which had just been read.
"Bah!" cried Madame Danville. "The People, indeed! Let those four
pieces of artillery be properly loaded, let the Swiss Guards do
their duty, and we shall hear no more of the People!"
"I advise you not to be sure of that," said her son, carelessly;
"there are rather too many people in Paris for the Swiss Guards
to shoot conveniently. Don't hold your head too aristocratically
high, mother, till we are quite certain which way the wind really
does blow. Who knows if I may not have to bow just as low one of
these days to King Mob as ever you courtesied in your youth to
King Louis the Fifteenth?"
He laughed complacently as he ended, and opened his snuff-box.
His mother rose from her chair, her face crimson with
"I won't hear you talk so--it shocks, it horrifies me!" she
exclaimed, with vehement gesticulation. "No, no! I decline to
hear another word. I decline to sit by patiently while my son,
whom I love, jests at the most sacred principles, and sneers at
the memory of an anointed king. This is my reward, is it, for
having yielded and having come here, against all the laws of
etiquette, the night before the marriage? I comply no longer; I
resume my own will and my own way. I order you, my son, to
accompany me back to Rouen. We are the bridegroom's party, and we
have no business overnight at the house of the bride. You meet no
more till you meet at the church. Justin, my coach! Lomaque, pick
up my hood. Monsieur Trudaine, thanks for your hospitality; I
shall hope to return it with interest the first time you are in
our neighborhood. Mademoiselle, put on your best looks tomorrow,
along with your wedding finery; remember that my son's bride must
do honor to my son's taste. Justin! my coach--drone, vagabond,
idiot, where is my coach?"
"My mother looks handsome when she is in a passion, does she not,
Rose?" said Danville, quietly putting up his snuff-box as the old
lady sailed out of the room. "Why, you seem quite frightened,
love," he added, taking her hand with his easy, graceful air;
"frightened, let me assure you, without the least cause. My
mother has but that one prejudice, and that one weak point, Rose.
You will find her a very dove for gentleness, as long as you do
not wound her pride of caste. Come, come, on this night, of all
others, you must not send me away with such a face as that."
He bent down and whispered to her a bridegroom's compliment,
which brought the blood back to her cheek in an instant.
"Ah, how she loves him--how dearly she loves him!" thought her
brother, watching her from his solitary corner of the room, and
seeing the smile that brightened her blushing face when Danville
kissed her hand at parting.
Lomaque, who had remained imperturbably cool during the outbreak
of the old lady's anger--Lomaque, whose observant eyes had
watched sarcastically the effect of the scene between mother and
son on Trudaine and his sister, was the last to take leave. After
he had bowed to Rose with a certain gentleness in his manner,
which contrasted strangely with his wrinkled, haggard face, he
held out his hand to her brother "I did not take your hand when
we sat together on the bench," he said; "may I take it now?"
Trudaine met his advance courteously, but in silence. "You may
alter your opinion of me one of these days." Adding those words
in a whisper, Monsieur Lomaque bowed once more to the bride and
For a few minutes after the door had closed the brother and
sister kept silence. "Our last night together at home!" That was
the thought which now filled the heart of each. Rose was the
first to speak. Hesitating a little as she approached her
brother, she said to him, anxiously:
"I am sorry for what happened with Madame Danville, Louis. Does
it make you think the worse of Charles?"
"I can make allowance for Madame Danville's anger," returned
Trudaine, evasively, "because she spoke from honest conviction."
"Honest?" echoed Rose, sadly, "honest?--ah, Louis! I know you are
thinking disparagingly of Charles's convictions, when you speak
so of his mother's."
Trudaine smiled and shook his head; but she took no notice of the
gesture of denial--only stood looking earnestly and wistfully
into his face. Her eyes began to fill; she suddenly threw her
arms round his neck, and whispered to him: "Oh, Louis, Louis! how
I wish I could teach you to see Charles with my eyes!"
He felt her tears on his cheek as she spoke, and tried to
"You shall teach me, Rose--you shall, indeed. Come, come, we must
keep up our spirits, or how are you to look your best to-morrow?"
He unclasped her arms, and led her gently to a chair. At the same
moment there was a knock at the door, and Rose's maid appeared,
anxious to consult her mistress on some of the preparations for
the wedding ceremony. No interruption could have been more
welcome just at that time. It obliged Rose to think of present
trifles, and it gave her brother an excuse for retiring to his
He sat down by his desk, doubting and heavy-hearted, and placed
the letter from the Academy of Sciences open before him.
Passing over all the complimentary expressions which it
contained, his eye rested only on these lines at the end: "During
the first three years of your professorship, you will be required
to reside in or near Paris nine months out of the year, for the
purpose of delivering lectures and superintending experiments
from time to time in the laboratories." The letter in which these
lines occurred offered him such a position as in his modest
self-distrust he had never dreamed of before; the lines
themselves contained the promise of such vast facilities for
carrying on his favorite experiments as he could never hope to
command in his own little study, with his own limited means; and
yet, there he now sat doubting whether he should accept or reject
the tempting honors and advantages that were offered to
him--doubting for his sister's sake!
"Nine months of the year in Paris," he said to himself, sadly;
"and Rose is to pass her married life at Lyons. Oh, if I could
clear my heart of its dread on her account--if I could free my
mind of its forebodings for her future--how gladly I would answer
this letter by accepting the trust it offers me!"
He paused for a few minutes, and reflected. The thoughts that
were in him marked their ominous course in the growing paleness
of his cheek, in the dimness that stole over his eyes. "If this
cleaving distrust from which I cannot free myself should be in
very truth the mute prophecy of evil to come--to come, I know not
when--if it be so (which God forbid!), how soon she may want a
friend, a protector near at hand, a ready refuge in the time of
her trouble! Where shall she then find protection or refuge? With
that passionate woman? With her husband's kindred and friends?"
He shuddered as the thought crossed his mind, and opening a blank
sheet of paper, dipped his pen in the ink. "Be all to her, Louis,
that I have been," he murmured to himself, repeating his mother's
last words, and beginning the letter while he uttered them. It
was soon completed. It expressed in the most respectful terms his
gratitude for the offer made to him, and his inability to accept
it, in consequence of domestic circumstances which it was
needless to explain. The letter was directed, sealed; it only
remained for him to place it in the post-bag, lying near at hand.
At this last decisive act he hesitated. He had told Lomaque, and
he had firmly believed himself, that he had conquered all
ambitions for his sister's sake. He knew now, for the first time,
that he had only lulled them to rest--he knew that the letter
from Paris had aroused them. His answer was written, his hand was
on the post-bag, and at that moment the whole struggle had to be
risked over again--risked when he was most unfit for it! He was
not a man under any ordinary circumstances to procrastinate, but
he procrastinated now.
"Night brings counsel; I will wait till to-morrow," he said to
himself, and put the letter of refusal in his pocket, and hastily
quitted the laboratory.
INEXORABLY the important morrow came: irretrievably, for good or
for evil, the momentous marriage-vow was pronounced. Charles
Danville and Rose Trudaine were now man and wife. The prophecy of
the magnificent sunset overnight had not proved false. It was a
cloudless day on the marriage morning. The nuptial ceremonies had
proceeded smoothly throughout, and had even satisfied Madame
Danville. She returned with the wedding-party to Trudaine's
house, all smiles and serenity. To the bride she was graciousness
itself. "Good girl," said the old lady, following Rose into a
corner, and patting her approvingly on the cheek with her fan;
"good girl, you have looked well this morning--you have done
credit to my son's taste. Indeed, you have pleased me, child! Now
go upstairs, and get on your traveling-dress, and count on my
maternal affection as long as you make Charles happy."
It had been arranged that the bride and bridegroom should pass
their honeymoon in Brittany, and then return to Danville's estate
near Lyons. The parting was hurried over, as all such partings
should be. The carriage had driven off; Trudaine, after lingering
long to look after it, had returned hastily to the house; the
very dust of the whirling wheels had all dispersed; there was
absolutely nothing to see; and yet there stood Monsieur Lomaque
at the outer gate; idly, as if he was an independent man--calmly,
as if no such responsibilities as the calling of Madame
Danville's coach, and the escorting of Madame Danville back to
Lyons, could possibly rest on his shoulders.
Idly and calmly, slowly rubbing his hands one over the other,
slowly nodding his head in the direction by which the bride and
bridegroom had departed, stood the eccentric land-steward at the
outer gate. On a sudden the sound of footsteps approaching from
the house seemed to arouse him. Once more he looked out into the
road, as if he expected still to see the carriage of the
newly-married couple. "Poor girl! ah, poor girl!" said Monsieur
Lomaque softly to himself, turning round to ascertain who was
coming from the house.
It was only the postman with a letter in his hand, and the
post-bag crumpled up under his arm.
"Any fresh news from Paris, friend?" asked Lomaque.
"Very bad, monsieur," answered the postman. "Camille Desmoulins
has appealed to the people in the Palais Royal; there are fears
of a riot."
"Only a riot!" repeated Lomaque, sarcastically. "Oh, what a brave
Government not to be afraid of anything worse! Any letters?" he
added, hastily dropping the subject.
"None _to_ the house," said the postman, "only one _from_ it,
given me by Monsieur Trudaine. Hardly worth while," he added,
twirling the letter in his hand, "to put it into the bag, is it?"
Lomaque looked over his shoulder as he spoke, and saw that the
letter was directed to the President of the Academy of Sciences,
"I wonder whether he accepts the place or refuses it?" thought
the land-steward, nodding to the postman, and continuing on his
way back to the house.
At the door he met Trudaine, who said to him, rather hastily,
"You are going back to Lyons with Madame Danville, I suppose?"
"This very day," answered Lomaque.
"If you should hear of a convenient bachelor lodging, at Lyons,
or near it," continued the other, dropping his voice and speaking
more rapidly than before, "you would be doing me a favor if you
would let me know about it."
Lomaque assented; but before he could add a question which was on
the tip of his tongue, Trudaine had vanished in the interior of
"A bachelor lodging!" repeated the land-steward, standing alone
on the doorstep. "At or near Lyons! Aha! Monsieur Trudaine, I put
your bachelor lodging and your talk to me last night together,
and I make out a sum total which is, I think, pretty near the
mark. You have refused that Paris appointment, my friend; and I
fancy I can guess why."
He paused thoughtfully, and shook his head with ominous frowns
and bitings of his lips.
"All clear enough in that sky," he continued, after a while,
looking up at the lustrous midday heaven. "All clear enough
there; but I think I see a little cloud rising in a certain
household firmament already--a little cloud which hides much, and
which I for one shall watch carefully."
FIVE years have elapsed since Monsieur Lomaque stood thoughtfully
at the gate of Trudaine's house, looking after the carriage of
the bride and bridegroom, and seriously reflecting on the events
of the future. Great changes have passed over that domestic
firmament in which he prophetically discerned the little warning
cloud. Greater changes have passed over the firmament of France.
What was revolt five years ago is Revolution now--revolution
which has ingulfed thrones, and principalities, and powers; which
has set up crownless, inhereditary kings and counselors of its
own, and has bloodily torn them down again by dozens; which has
raged and raged on unrestrainedly in fierce earnest, until but
one king can still govern and control it for a little while. That
king is named Terror, and seventeen hundred and ninety-four is
the year of his reign.
Monsieur Lomaque, land-steward no longer, sits alone in an
official-looking room in one of the official buildings of Paris.
It is another July evening, as fine as that evening when he and
Trudaine sat talking together on the bench overlooking the Seine.
The window of the room is wide open, and a faint, pleasant
breeze is beginning to flow through it. But Lomaque breathes
uneasily, as if still oppressed by the sultry midday heat; and
there are signs of perplexity and trouble in his face as he looks
down absently now and then into the street.
The times he lives in are enough of themselves to sadden any
man's face. In the Reign of Terror no living being in all the
city of Paris can rise in the morning and be certain of e scaping
the spy, the denunciation, the arrest, or the guillotine, before
night. Such times are trying enough to oppress any man's spirits;
but Lomaque is not thinking of them or caring for them now. Out
of a mass of papers which lie before him on his old
writing-table, he has just taken up and read one, which has
carried his thoughts back to the past, and to the changes which
have taken place since he stood alone on the doorstep of
Trudaine's house, pondering on what might happen.