Part 5 out of 6
the table, and raise the shade by lowering it toward her in such a way as
to form a reflector that threw the light on him. At the same time he
received a bright ray full on his face.
Madame Dammauville uttered a small, stifled cry.
Balzajette stopped; then his astonished eyes went from Madame Dammauville
to Saniel, and front Saniel to Madame Dammauville.
"Are you suffering?" he asked.
"Not at all."
What, then, was the matter? But it was seldom that he asked for an
explanation of a thing that astonished him, preferring to divine and to
explain it himself.
"Ah! I understand it," he said with a satisfied smile.
"The youth of my young 'confrere' astonishes you. It is his fault. Why
the devil did he have his long hair and his light curled beard cut?"
If Madame Dammauville had not released the lampshade, she would have seen
Saniel turned pale and his lips quiver.
"Mais voila!" continued Balzajette. "He made this sacrifice to his new
functions; the student has disappeared before the professor."
He might have continued along time. Neither Madame Dammauville nor
Saniel listened to him; but, thinking of his dinner, he was not going to
launch into a discourse that at any other moment he would not have failed
to undertake. He rose to go.
As Saniel bowed, Madame Dammauville stopped him with a movement of her
"Did you not know this unfortunate who was assassinated opposite?" she
asked, pointing to the windows.
So serious as was an acknowledgment, Saniel could not answer in the
"I was called in to prove his death," he said.
And he took several steps toward the door, but she stopped him again.
"Had you business with him?" she asked.
"I saw him several times."
Balzajette cut short this conversation, which was idle talk to him.
"Good evening, dear Madame. I will see you tomorrow, but not in the
morning, for I go to the country at six o'clock, and shall not return
"Did you observe how I cut the conversation short?" Balzajette said, as
they went down-stairs. "If you listen to women they will never let you
go. I cannot imagine why she spoke to you of this assassinated man, can
"I believe that this assassination has affected her brain to a certain
point. In any case, it has given her a horror of this house."
He continued thus without Saniel listening to what he said. On reaching
the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, Balzajette hailed a passing cab.
"You have had the kindness not to delay me," he said, pressing the hand
of his young 'confrere', "but I feel that I must hurry. 'Au revoir'."
A good riddance! This babbling gave Saniel the vertigo.
He must recover himself, look the situation in the face, and consider
that which might, which must, happen.
The situation was plain; Madame Dammauville's cry revealed it. When the
lamplight struck him full in the face, she found in him the man whom she
had seen draw Caffies curtains. If, in her amazement, she at first
refused to believe it, her questions regarding Caffie, and Balzajette's
explanations about his hair and beard, destroyed her hesitation and
replaced doubt by the horror of certainty. He was the assassin; she knew
it, she had seen him. And such as she revealed herself to him, it seemed
that she was not the woman to challenge the testimony of her eyes, and to
let the strength of her memory be shaken by simple denials, supported by
With a vivid clearness he saw to the bottom of the abyss open before him;
but what he did not see was in what way she would push him into this
giddy whirlpool, that is, to whom she would reveal the discovery that she
had made. To Phillis, to Balzajette, or to the judge?
It was almost a relief to think that for this evening, at least, it would
not be to Phillis, for at this moment she would be at his rooms,
anxiously awaiting his return. He felt a sadness and a revulsion at the
thought that she might be the first to learn the truth. He did not wish
that, and he would prevent it.
This preoccupation gave him an object; he reached the Rue Louis-le-Grand
thinking more of Phillis than of himself. What distress when she should
know all! How could she support this blow, and with what sentiments
would it inspire her, with what judgment for the man whom she loved?
Poor girl! He grew tender at the thought. As for him, he was lost, and
it was his fault; he bore the penalty of his own stupidity. But Phillis
--it would be a blow to her love that she must bear. And what a blow to
this sensitive heart, to this proud and noble soul!
Perhaps he would now see her for the last time, for this one hour, and
never again. Then he would be kind to her, and leave her a memory that,
later, would be an alleviation to her sorrow, a warm, bright ray in her
time of mourning. During these last few days he had been hard, brutal,
irritable, strange, and with her habitual serenity she had overlooked it
all. When he pushed her from him with his heavy hand, she had kissed
this hand, fastening on him her beautiful, tender eyes, full of
passionate caresses. He must make her forget that, and she must carry
from their last interview a tender impression that would sustain her.
What could he do for her? He remembered how happy she had been at their
impromptu dinners six months before, and he would give her this same
pleasure. He would see her happy again, and near her, under her glance,
perhaps he would forget tomorrow.
He went to the caterer who furnished him with breakfast, and ordered two
dinners to be sent to his rooms immediately.
Before he could put the key in the lock, his door was opened by Phillis,
who recognized his step on the landing.
"Your brother is saved."
"Madame Dammauville will go to court?"
"I promise you that he is saved."
"Yes, by me--exactly."
In her access of joy, she did not notice the accent on these last words.
"Then you forgive me?"
He took her in his arms, and kissing her with deep emotion said:
"With all my heart, I swear it!"
"You see it was written that you should see Madame Dammauville, in spite
of yourself, in spite of all; it was providential."
"It is certain that your friend Providence could not interfere more
opportunely in my affairs."
This time she was struck by the tone of his voice; but she imagined that
it was only this allusion to superior intervention that had vexed him.
"It was of ourselves that I thought," she said, "not of you."
"I understood. But do not let us talk of that; you are happy, and I do
not wish to shadow your joy. On the contrary, I thought to associate
myself with it by giving you a surprise: we are going to dine together."
"Oh, dearest!" she exclaimed, trembling, "how-good you are! I will set
the table," she added joyously, "and you light the fire; for we must have
a bright fire to enliven us and to keep our dinner warm. What have you
"I do not know; two dinners."
"So much the better! We will have surprises. We will leave the dishes
covered before the fire, and we will take them anyhow. Perhaps we shall
eat the roast before the entree, but that will be all the more funny."
Light, quick, busy, graceful, and charming, she came and went around the
When the dinner came, the table was ready, and they sat down opposite to
"What happiness to be alone!" she said. "To be able to talk and to look
at each other freely!"
He looked at her with a tenderness in his eyes that she had never before
seen, with a depth of serious contemplation that overwhelmed her. From
time to time little cries of happiness escaped her.
"Oh! Dearest, dearest!" she murmured.
Yet she knew him too well not to see that a cloud of sadness often veiled
these eyes full of love, and that also they were often without any
expression, as if they looked within. Suddenly she became quiet; but she
could not long remain silent when she was uneasy. Why this melancholy at
such a moment?
"What a difference between this dinner," she said, "and those of the end
of October! At that time you were harassed by the most trying
difficulties, at war with creditors, menaced on all sides, without hope;
and now all is smooth. No more creditors, no more struggles. The cares
that I brought you are nearly at an end. Life opens easy and glorious.
The end that you pursued is reached; you have only to walk straight
before you, boldly and proudly. Yet there is a sadness in your face that
torments me. What is the matter? Speak, I beg you! To whom should you
confess, if not to the woman who adores you?"
He looked at her a long time without replying, asking himself if, for the
peace of his own heart, this confession would not be better than silence;
but courage failed him, pride closed his lips.
"What should be the matter?" he said. "If my face is sad, it does not
indicate faithfully what I feel; for what I feel at this moment is an
ineffable sentiment of tenderness for you, an inexpressible gratitude for
your love, and for the happiness that you have given me. If I have been
happy in my rough and struggling life, it is through you. What I have
had of joy, confidence, hope, memories, I owe to you; and if we had not
met I should have the right to say that I have been the most miserable
among the miserable. Whatever happens to us, remember these words, my
darling, and bury them in the depths of your heart, where you will find
them some day when you would judge me."
"To judge you--I!"
"You love me, therefore you do not know me. But the hour will come when
you will wish to know exactly the man whom you have loved; when that time
comes remember this evening."
"It is too radiant for me to forget it."
"Whatever it may be, remember it. Life is so fragile and so ephemeral a
thing, that it is beautiful to be able to concentrate it, to sum it up by
remembrance, in one hour that marks it and gives it its scope. Such an
hour is this one, which passes while I speak to you with deep sincerity."
Phillis was not accustomed to these 'elanas', for, in the rare effusions
to which he sometimes abandoned himself, Saniel always observed a certain
reserve, as if he feared to commit himself, and to let her read his whole
nature. Many times he rallied her when she became sentimental, as he
said, and "chantait sa romance;" and now he himself sang it--this romance
Great as was her happiness to listen to him, she could not help feeling
an uneasy astonishment, and asked herself under what melancholy
impression he found himself at this moment.
He read her too well not to divine this uneasiness. Not wishing to
betray himself, he brought a smile to his eyes, and said:
"You do not recognize me, do you? I am sure you are asking yourself if I
am not ill."
"Oh, dearest, do not jest, and do not harden yourself against the
sentiment that makes such sweet music on your lips! I am happy, so
happy, to hear you speak thus, that I would like to see your happiness
equal to mine; to dissipate the dark cloud that veils your glance. Will
you never abandon yourself? At this hour, above all, when everything
sings and laughs within us as about us! Nothing was more natural than
that you should be sad six months ago; but today what more do you want to
make you happy?"
"Nothing, it is true."
"Is not the present the radiant morning of a glorious future?"
"What will you? There are sad physiognomies as there are happy ones;
mine is not yours. But let us talk no more of that, nor of the past, nor
of the future; let us talk of the present."
He rose, and, taking her in his arms, made her sit next to him on the
The sound of the doorbell made Saniel jump as if he had received an
"You will not open the door?" Phillis said. "Do not let any one take
our evening from us."
But soon another ring, more decided, brought him to his feet.
"It is better to know," he said, and he went to open the door, leaving
Phillis in his office.
A maid handed him a lettter.
"From Madame Dammauville," she said; "there is an answer."
He left her in the vestibule, and returned to his office to read the
letter. The dream had not lasted long; reality seized him with its
pitiless hands. This letter, certainly, would announce the blow that
"If Dr. Saniel is disengaged, I beg that he will come to see me this
evening on an urgent affair; I will wait for him until ten o'clock.
If not, I count on seeing him to-morrow morning after nine o'clock.
He returned to the vestibule.
"Say to Madame. Dammauville that I shall be there in a quarter of an
When he reentered the office he found Phillis before the glass, putting
on her hat.
"I heard," she said. "What a disappointment! But I cannot wish you to
stay, since it is for Florentin that you leave me."
As she walked toward the door he stopped her.
"Embrace me once more."
Never had he pressed her in such a long and passionate embrace.
ON THE RACK
He had not a second of doubt; Madame Dammauville did not wish a
professional visit from him. She wished to speak to him of Caffie, and,
in the coming crisis, he said to himself that perhaps it was fortunate
that it was so; at least he would be first to know what she had decided
to do, and he could defend himself. Nothing is hopeless as long as a
struggle is possible.
He rang the bell with a firm hand, and the door was opened by the maid
who brought the letter. With a small lamp in her hand, she conducted him
through the dining-room and the salon to Madame Dammauville's bedroom.
At the threshold, a glance showed him that some changes had been made in
the arrangement of the furniture. The small bed where he had seen Madame
Dammauville was placed between the two windows, and she was lying in a
large bed with canopy and curtains. Near her was a table on which were a
shaded lamp, some books, a blotting-book, a teapot, and a cup; on the
white quilt rested an unusually long bellrope, so that she might pull it
without moving. The fire in the chimney was out, but the movable stove
sent out a heat that denoted it was arranged for the night.
Saniel felt the heat, and mechanically unbuttoned his overcoat.
"If the heat is uncomfortable, will you not remove your overcoat?"
Madame Dammauville said.
While he disposed of it and his hat, placing them on a chair by the
fireplace, he heard Madame Dammauville say to her maid:
"Remain in the salon, and tell the cook not to go to bed."
What did this mean? Was she afraid that he would cut her throat?
"Will you come close to my bed?" she said. "It is important that we
should talk without raising our voices."
He took a chair and seated himself at a certain distance from the bed,
and in such a way that he was beyond the circle of light thrown by the
lamp. Then he waited.
A moment of silence, which he found terribly long, slipped away before
"You know," she said at last, "how I saw, accidentally, from this place"
--she pointed to one of the windows--" the face of the assassin of my
unfortunate tenant, Monsieur Caffie."
"Mademoiselle Cormier has told me," he replied in a tone of ordinary
"Perhaps you are astonished that at such a distance I saw the face
clearly enough to recognize it after five months, as if it were still
"It is extraordinary."
"Not to those who have a memory for faces and attitudes; with me this
memory has always been strongly developed. I remember the playmates of
my childhood, and I see them as they were at six and ten years of age,
without the slightest confusion in my mind."
"The impressions of childhood are generally vivid and permanent."
"This persistency does not only apply to my childish impressions. Today,
I neither forget nor confound a physiognomy. Perhaps if I had had many
acquaintances, and if I had seen a number of persons every day, there
might be some confusion in my mind; but such is not the case. My
delicate health has obliged me to lead a very quiet life, and I remember
every one whom I have met. When I think of such a one, it is not of the
name at first, but of the physiognomy. Each time that I have been to the
Senate or to the Chamber, I did not need to ask the names of the deputies
or senators who spoke; I had seen their portraits and I recognized them.
If I go into these details it is because they are of great importance, as
you will see."
It was not necessary for her to point out their importance; he understood
her only too well.
"In fine, I am thus," she continued. "It is, therefore, not astonishing
that the physiognomy and the attitude of the man who drew the curtains in
Monsieur Caffie's office should not leave my memory. You admit this, do
"Since you consult me, I must tell you that the operations of the memory
are not so simple as people imagine. They comprise three things: the
conservation of certain states, their reproduction and localization in
the past, which should be reunited to constitute the perfect memory. Now
this reunion does not always take place, and often the third is lacking."
"I do not grasp your meaning very well. But what is the third thing?"
"Well, I can assure you that in this case it is not lacking!"
The action beginning in this way, it was of the utmost importance for
Saniel that he should throw doubts in Madame Dammauville's mind, and
should make her think that this memory of which she felt so sure was not,
perhaps, as strong or as perfect as she imagined.
"It is," he said, "exactly this third thing that is the most delicate,
the most complex of the three, since it supposes, besides the state of
consciousness, some secondary states, variable in number and in degree,
which, grouped around it, determine it."
Madame Dammauville remained silent a moment, and Saniel saw that she made
an effort to explain these obscure words to herself.
"I do not understand," she said at last.
This was exactly what he wished; yet, as it would not be wise to let her
believe that he desired to deceive or confuse her, he thought he might be
a little more precise.
"I wish to ask," he said, "if you are certain that in the mechanism of
the vision and that of the recognition, which is a vision of the past,
there is no confusion?"
She drew a long breath, evidently satisfied to get rid of these
subtleties that troubled her.
"It is exactly because I admit the possibility of this confusion, at
least in part, that I sent for you," she said, "in order that you might
Saniel appeared not to comprehend.
"Yes. When you came herewith Monsieur Balzajette a few hours ago, you
must have observed that I examined you in a way that was scarcely
natural. Before the lamps were lighted, and when you turned your back to
the daylight, I tried in vain to remember where I had seen you. I was
certain that I found in you some points of resemblance to a physiognomy
I had known, but the name attached to this physiognomy escaped me. When
you returned, and I saw you more clearly by lamplight, my recollections
became more exact; when I raised the lamp-shade the light struck you full
in the face, and then your eyes, so characteristic, and at the same time
a violent contraction of your features, made me recall the name. This
physiognomy, these eyes, this face, belonged to the man whom from this
place" she pointed to the window--"I saw draw Monsieur Caffies curtains."
Saniel did not flinch.
"This is a resemblance that would be hard for me," he said, "if your
memory were faithful."
"I tell myself that it may not be. And after the first feeling of
surprise which made me cry out, I was confirmed in this thought on
recalling the fact that you did not wear the long hair and blond beard
that the man wore who drew the curtains; but at that moment Monsieur
Balzajette spoke of the hair and beard that you had had cut. I was
prostrated. However, I had the strength to ask if you had had any
business with Monsieur Caffie. Do you remember your answer?"
"After your departure I experienced a cruel anguish. It was you whom I
had seen draw the curtains, and it could not be you. I tried to think
what I ought to do--to inform the judge or to ask you for an interview.
For a long time I wavered. At length I decided on the interview, and I
wrote to you."
"I have come at your call, but I declare that I do not know what to reply
to this strange communication. You believe that you recognize in me the
man who drew the curtains."
"I recognize you."
"Then what do you wish me to say? It is not a consultation that you ask
She believed she understood the meaning of this reply and divined its
"The question does not concern me," she said, "neither my moral nor
mental state, but yourself. My eyes, my memory, my conscience, bring a
frightful accusation against you. I cannot believe my eyes or my memory.
I challenge my conscience, and I ask you to reduce this accusation to
"And how, Madame?"
"Oh, not by protestations!"
"How can you expect that a man in my position will lower himself to
discuss accusations that rest on an hallucination?"
"Do you believe that I have hallucinations? If you do, call one of your
'confreres' to-morrow in consultation. If he believes as you do, I will
submit; if not, I shall be convinced that I saw clearly, and I shall act
"If you saw clearly, Madame, and I am ready to concede this to you, it
proves that there is some one somewhere who is my double."
"I said this to myself; and it is exactly this idea that made me write to
you. I wished to give you the opportunity of proving that you could not
be this man."
"You will agree that it is difficult for me to admit a discussion on such
"One may find one's self accused by a concourse of fatal circumstances,
and be not less innocent. Witness the unfortunate boy imprisoned for
five months for a crime of which he is not guilty. And I pass from your
innocence as from his, to ask you to prove that the charges against you
"There are no charges against me."
"There may be; that depends upon yourself. Your hair and beard may have
been cut at the time of the assassination; in that case it is quite
certain that the man I saw was not you, and that I am the victim of an
hallucination. Were they or were they not?"
"They were not; it is only a few days since I had them cut on account of
a contagious disease."
"It may be," she continued, without appearing to be impressed by this
explanation, "that the day of the assassination, at the hour when I saw
you, you were occupied somewhere in such a way that you can prove you
could not have been in the Rue Sainte-Anne, and that I was the victim of
an hallucination. And again, it may be that at the time your position
was not that of a man at the last extremity, forced to crime by misery or
ambition, and that consequently you had no interest in committing the
crime of a desperate man. What do I know? Twenty other means of defence
may be in your hands."
"You cited the example of this poor boy who is imprisoned, although
innocent. Would it not be applicable to me if you did not recognize the
error of your eyes or your memory? Would he not be condemned without
your testimony? Should I not be if I do not find one that destroys your
accusation? And I see no one from whom I can ask this testimony. Have
you thought of the infamy with which such an accusation will cover me?
If I repel it, and I shall repel it, will it not have dishonored me,
ruined me forever?"
"It is just because I thought of this that I sent for you, to the end
that by an explanation that you would give, it seemed to me, you would
prevent me from informing the judge of this suspicion. This explanation
you do not give me; I must now think only of him whose innocence is
proved for me, and take his side against him whose guilt is not less
proved. To-morrow I shall inform the judge."
"You will not do that!"
"My duty compels me to; and whatever might come, I have always done my
duty. For me, in this horrible affair, there is the cause of the
innocent and of the guilty, and I place myself on the side of the
"I can prove to you that it was an aberration of vision--"
"You will prove it to the judge; the law will appreciate it."
He rose brusquely. She put her hand on the bellcord. They looked at
each other for a moment, and what their lips did not express their eyes
"I do not fear you; my precautions are taken."
"That bell will not save you."
At last he spoke in a hoarse and quivering voice:
"To you the responsibility of whatever happens Madame."
"I accept it before God," she said, with a calm firmness. "Defend
He went to the armchair on which he had placed his coat and hat, and
bending down to take them, he noiselessly turned the draught of the
At the same time Madame Dammauville pulled the bellcord; the maid opened
the door of the salon.
"Show Doctor Saniel to the door."
A SECOND VICTIM
On returning to his room Saniel was very much cast down, and without
lighting a candle, he threw himself on the divan, where he remained
The frightful part of the affair was the rapidity with which he condemned
this poor woman to death, and without hesitation executed her. To save
himself she must die; she should die. This time the idea did not turn
and deviate as in Caffie's case. Is it not true then, that it is the
first crime that costs, and in the path that he had entered, would he go
on to the end sowing corpses behind him?
A shudder shook him from head to foot as he thought that this victim
might not be the last that his safety demanded. When she threatened to
warn the judge, he only saw a threat; if she spoke he was lost; he had
closed her mouth. But had not this mouth opened before he closed it?
Had she not already spoken? Before deciding on this interview she may
have told all to some one of her friends, who, between the time of his
departure with Balzajette and his return, might have visited her, or to
some one for whom she had sent for advice. In that case, those also were
condemned to death.
A useless crime, or a series of crimes?
The horror that rose within him was so strong that he thought of running
to the Rue Sainte-Anne; he would awake the sleeping household, open the
doors, break the windows, and save her. But between his departure and
this moment the carbonic acid and the oxide of carbon had had time to
produce asphyxiation, and certainly he would arrive after her death; or,
if he found her still living, some one would discover that the draught of
the stove had been turned, and seeing it, he would betray himself as
surely as by an avowal.
After all, the maid might have discovered that the draught was turned,
and in that case she was saved and he was lost. Chance would decide
There are moments when a shipwrecked man, tired of swimming, not knowing
to which side to direct his course, without light, without guide, at the
end of strength and hope, floats on his back and lets himself be tossed
by the waves, to rest and wait for light. This was his case; he could do
nothing but wait.
He would not commit the insane folly of wishing to see and know, as in
Caffie's case; he would know the result soon enough, too soon.
Rising, he lighted a candle, and paced up and down his apartment like a
caged animal. Then it occurred to him that those underneath would hear
his steps; doubtless they would remark this agitated march, would be
surprised, and would ask an explanation. In his position he must take
care not to give cause for any remark that could not be explained. He
took off his boots and continued his walk.
But why had she spoken to him of double weatherstrips at the doors and
windows, of hangings on the walls, of thick curtains? It was she who
thus suggested to him the idea of the draught of the stove, which would
not have come to him spontaneously.
The night passed in such agitating thoughts; at times the hours seemed to
stand still, and again they flew with astounding rapidity. One moment
the perspiration fell from his forehead on his hands; at another he felt
When his windows grew light with the dawn, he threw himself prostrated
and shuddering on the divan, and leaning on a cushion he detected the
odor of Phillis; burying his head in it he remained motionless and slept.
A ring of the bell woke him, horrified, frightened; he did not know where
he was. It was broad daylight, carriages rumbled through the street. A
second ring sounded stronger, more violent. Shivering, he went to open
the door, and recognized the maid who the previous evening brought a note
from Madame Dammauville. He did not need to question her: fate was on
his side. His eyes became dim; without seeing her he heard the maid
explain why she had come.
She had been to Monsieur Balzajette; he was in the country. Her mistress
was nearly cold in her bed; she neither spoke nor breathed, yet her face
"I will go with you."
He did not need to learn more. That rosy color, which has been observed
in those asphyxiated by oxide of carbon, decided it. However, he
questioned the maid.
Nothing had occurred; she had talked with the cook in the kitchen, who,
near midnight, went to her room in the fifth story, and then she went to
bed in a small room contiguous to that of her mistress. During the night
she heard nothing; in the morning she found her mistress in the state she
mentioned, and immediately went for Monsieur Balzajette.
Continuing his questions, Saniel asked her what Madame Dammauville did
after the consultation with Monsieur Balzajette.
"She dined as usual, but less than usual, eating almost nothing; then she
received a visit from one of her friends, who remained only a few
minutes, before starting on a voyage."
This was what he dreaded: Madame Dammauville might have told this friend.
If this were so, his crime would be of no use to him; where would it
After a few moments, and in a tone that he tried to render indifferent,
he asked the name of this friend.
"A friend of her youth, Madame Thezard, living at No. 9, in the Rue des
Capucines, the wife of a consul."
Until he reached the house in the Rue Sainte-Anne he repeated this name
and address to himself, which he could not write down, and which he must
not forget, for it was from there now that the danger would come if
Madame Dammauville had spoken.
For a long time he had been habituated to the sight of death, but when he
found himself in the presence of this woman stretched on her bed as if
she slept, a shiver seized him.
"Give me a mirror and a candle," he said to the maid and the cook who
stood at the door, not daring to enter.
While they went in search of these things he walked over to the stove;
the draught remained as he had turned it on the previous evening; he
opened it and returned to the bed.
His examination was not long; she had succumbed to asphyxiation caused by
the gas from the charcoal. Did it proceed from the construction of the
stove, or from a defect in the chimney? The inquest would decide this;
as for him, he could only prove the death.
On leaving him the evening before, Phillis, uneasy, told him that she
would come early in the morning to know what Madame Dammauville wished.
When he told her she was dead she was prostrated with despair; in that
case Florentin was lost. He tried to reassure her, but without success.
Nougarede, also, was in despair, and regretted that he had not proceeded
otherwise. And he tried to reassure Phillis; the prosecution rested on
the button and the struggle that had torn it off. Saniel would destroy
this hypothesis; he counted on him.
Saniel became, then, as he had been before the intervention of Madame
Dammauville, the only hope of Phillis and her mother, and to encourage
them he exaggerated the influence that his testimony would have.
"When I shall have demonstrated that there was no struggle, the
hypothesis of the torn button will crumble by itself."
"And if it is sustained, how and with what shall we overthrow it?"
If he had appeared as usual, she would have shared the confidence with
which he tried to inspire her; but since the death of Madame Dammauville
he was so changed, that she could not help being uneasy. Evidently it
was Madame Dammauville's death that made him so gloomy and irritable that
he would submit to no opposition. He saw the dangers of the situation
that this death created for Florentin, and with his usual generosity he
reproached himself for not having consented to take care of her sooner;
he would have saved her, certainly, as he had begun by demanding the
removal of the stove, and Florentin would have been saved also.
The day of the trial arrived without a word from Madame Thezard, which
proved that Madame Dammauville had said nothing to her friend. It was
six months since the assassination occurred, and the affair had lost all
interest for the Parisian public; in the provinces it was still spoken
of, but at Paris it was a thing of the past. There is no romance about a
clerk who cuts the throat of his employer to rob him; there is no woman
in the case, no mystery.
Saniel preferred that Phillis should remain at home with her mother, but
in spite of his wishes and prayers she insisted on going to court. She
must be there so that Florentin would see her and take courage; he would
defend himself better if she were there.
He defended himself badly, or at least indifferently, like a man who
gives up because he knows beforehand that whatever he may say will be
Until Saniel's deposition the witnesses who testified were insignificant
enough, and revealed nothing that was not already known; only Valerius,
with his pretensions to a professional secret, which he developed slowly,
amused the audience. This deposition Saniel made brief and exact,
contenting himself with repeating his report. But then Nougarede rose,
and begged the president to ask the witness to explain the struggle which
should have taken place between the victim and his assassin; and the
president, who had commenced by arguing, before the insistence of the
defence, decided to ask this question. Then Saniel slowly explained how
the position of the body in the armchair and his condition were
scientific proof that there was no struggle.
"This is an opinion," said the president dryly; "the jury will appreciate
"Perfectly," replied Nougarede, "and I intend to make the jury feel the
weight that it carries on the authority of him who formulated it."
This phrase for effect was destined to invalidate in advance the
contradictions that the prosecution would, he believed, raise against the
testimony; but nothing of the kind occurred, and Saniel could go and take
his place beside Phillis without being called to the bar to sustain his
opinion against a physician whose scientific authority would be opposed
In default of Madame Dammauville, Nougarede had summoned the concierge of
Rue Sainte-Anne, as well as the maid and the cook, who had heard their
mistress say that the man who drew Caffies curtains did not resemble
Florentin's portrait; but this was only gossip repeated by persons of no
importance, who could not produce the effect of the 'coup de theatre' on
which he had based his defence.
When the advocate-general pronounced his address, it was evident why
Saniel's opinion on the absence of a struggle was not contradicted.
Although the prosecution believed in this struggle, it wished to abandon
it a moment, having no need of this hypothesis to prove that the button
had not been torn off on falling from a ladder; it had been done in the
act of assassination, in the effort made to cut the throat of the victim
who had violently extended the right arm, and, by the shock to the
suspenders, the button was torn off. The effect of Saniel's deposition
was destroyed, and that one produced by the testimony of Madame
Dammauville's maids, far less strong, was also destroyed when the
advocate-general proved that this gossip turned against the accused.
She had seen, it was said, a man with long hair and curled beard, draw
the curtains; very well! Does this description apply to the accused?
To tell the truth, it was said that she did not recognize him in a
portrait published by an illustrated paper. Well, it was because this
portrait did not resemble him. Besides, was it possible to admit that a
woman of Madame Dammauville's character would not have informed the judge
if she believed her testimony important and decisive? The proof that she
considered it insignificant was the fact that she had kept silent.
Nougarede's eloquent appeal did not destroy these two arguments, any more
than it effaced the impression produced by the money-lender relative to
the theft of forty-five francs. The jury brought in a verdict of
"Guilty," but without premeditation, and admitting extenuating
On hearing the decree that condemned Florentin to twenty years of forced
labor, Phillis, half suffocated, clung to Saniel's arm; but he could not
give her the attention he wished, for Brigard, who came to the trial to
assist at the triumph of his disciple, accosted him.
"Receive my felicitations for your deposition, my dear friend; it is an
act of courage that does you honor. If this poor boy could have been
saved, it would have been by you; you may well say you are the man of
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
It is the first crime that costs
Repeated and explained what he had already said and explained
You love me, therefore you do not know me
By HECTOR MALOT
CONSCIENCE ASSERTS ITSELF
During the first years of his sojourn in Paris, Saniel had published in a
Latin Quarter review an article on the "Pharmacy of Shakespeare"--the
poison of Hamlet, and of Romeo and Juliet; and although since his choice
of medicine he read but little besides books of science, at that time he
was obliged to study the plays of his author. From this study there
lingered in his memory a phrase that for ten years had not risen to his
lips, and which all at once forced itself uppermost in his mind with
exasperating persistency. It was the words of Macbeth:
"Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep;
Sleep, that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds."
He also had lost it, "the innocent sleep, sore labor's bath, balm of hurt
minds." He had never been a great sleeper; at least he had accustomed
himself to the habit, hard at first, of passing only a few hours in bed.
But he employed these few hours well, sleeping as the weary sleep, hands
clenched, without dreaming, waking, or moving; and the thought that
occupied his mind in the evening was with him on waking in the morning,
not having been put to flight by others, any more than by dreams.
After Caffie's death this tranquil and refreshing sleep continued the
same; but suddenly, after Madame Dammauville's death, it became broken.
At first it did not bother him. He did not sleep, so much the better!
He would work more. But one can no more work all the time than one can
live without eating. Saniel knew better than any one that the life of
every organ is composed of alternate periods of repose and activity, and
he did not suppose that he would be able to work indefinitely without
sleep. He only hoped that after some days of twenty hours of work daily,
overcome by fatigue, he would have, in spite of everything, four hours of
solid sleep, that Shakespeare called "sore labor's bath."
He had not had these four hours, and the law that every state of
prolonged excitement brings exhaustion that should be refreshed by a
functional rest, was proved false in his case. After a hard day's work
he would go to bed at one o'clock in the morning and would go to sleep
immediately. But very soon he awoke with a start, suffocating, covered
with perspiration, in a state of extreme anxiety, his mind agitated by
hallucinations of which he could not rid himself all at once. If he did
not wake suddenly, he dreamed frightful dreams, always of Madame
Dammauville or Caffie. Was it not curious that Caffie, who until then
had been completely effaced from his memory, was resuscitated by Madame
Dammauville in the night, ghost of the darkness that the daylight
Believing that one of the causes of these dreams was the excitement of
the brain, occasioned by excessive work at the hour when he should not
exercise it, but on the contrary should allow it to rest, he decided to
change a plan which produced so little success. Instead of intellectual
work he would engage in physical exercise, which, by exhausting his
muscular functions, would procure him the sleep of the laboring class;
and as he could not roll a wheelbarrow nor chop wood, every evening after
dinner he walked seven or eight miles rapidly.
Physical work succeeded no better than intellectual; he endured the
fatigue of butchers and wood-choppers, but he did not obtain their sleep.
Decidedly, bodily fatigue was worth no more than that of the brain.
It was worth even less. At his table, plunged in his books, or in his
laboratory over his microscope, he absorbed himself in his work, and,
by the force of a will that had been long exercised and submissive to
obedience, he was able to keep his thoughts on the subject in hand,
without distraction as without dreams. Time passed. But when walking in
the streets of Paris, in the deserted roads on the outskirts, by the
Seine or Marne, his mind wandered where it would; it was the mistress,
and it always dwelt on Madame Dammauville, Caffie, and Florentin. It
seemed as if the heat of walking started his brain. When he returned in
this state, after many hours of cerebral excitability, how could he find
the tranquil and refreshing sleep, complete and profound, of the laboring
classes who work only with their muscles?
Never having been ill, he had never examined nor treated himself:
medicine was good for others but useless for him. With a machine
organized like his he need fear only accidents, and until now he had been
spared them; a true son of peasants, he victoriously resisted Paris life
as the destroyer of the intellect. But the time had come to undertake an
examination and to try a treatment that would give him rest. He was not
a sceptical doctor, and he believed that what he ordered for others was
good for himself.
The misfortune was that he could not find in himself any of the causes
which resolve into insomnia; he had neither meningitis nor brain fever,
nor anything that indicated a cerebral tumor; he was not anaemic; he ate
well; he did not suffer with neuralgia, nor with any acute or chronic
affection that generally accompanied the absence of sleep; he drank
neither tea nor alcohol; and without this state of over-excitement of the
encephalic centres, he might have said that he was in good health, a
little thin, but that was all.
It was this excitement that he must cure, and as there are many remedies
for insomnia, he tried those which, it seemed to him, were suitable to
his case; but bromide of potassium, in spite of its hypnotic properties,
produced no more effect than the over-working of the brain and body.
When he realized this he replaced it with chloral; but chloral, which
should create a desire to sleep, after several days had no more effect
than the bromide. Then he tried injections of morphine.
It was not without a certain uneasiness that he made this third trial,
the first two having met with so little success; and since it is
acknowledged that chloral produces a calmer sleep than morphine, it
seemed as if the latter would prove as useless as the former. However,
he slept without being tormented by dreams or wakings, and the next day
he still slept.
But he knew too well the effects produced by a prolonged use of these
injections to continue them beyond what was strictly indispensable; he
therefore omitted them, and sleep left him.
He tried them again; then, soon, as the small doses lost their efficacy,
he gradually increased them. At the end of a certain time what he feared
came to pass--his leanness increased; he lost his appetite, his muscular
force, and his moral energy; his pale face began to wear the
characteristic expression of the morphomaniac.
Then he stopped, frightened.
Should he continue, he would become a morphomaniac in a given time, and
the apathy into which he fell prevented him from resisting the desire to
absorb new doses of poison, a desire as imperious, as irresistible in
morphinism as that of alcohol for the alcoholic, and more terrible in its
effects--the perversion of the intellectual faculties, loss of will, of
memory, of judgment, paralysis, or the mania that leads to suicide.
If he did not continue, and these sleepless nights or the agitated sleep
which maddened him should return, and following them, this over-
excitement of the brain in troubling the nutrition of the encephalic
mass, it might be the prelude of some grave cerebral affection.
On one side the morphine habit; on the other, dementia from the constant
excitement and disorganization of the brain.
Between a fatally certain result and one that was possible he did not
hesitate. He must give up morphine, and this choice forced itself upon
him with so much more strength, because if morphine assured him sleep at
night, it by no means gave him tranquil days--quite the contrary.
He began to use this remedy at night when he fell under the influence of
certain ideas; during the day when applying himself to work, by an effort
of will he escaped from these ideas, and was the man he had always been,
master of his strength and mind. But the action of the morphine rapidly
weakened this all-powerful will, so much so, that when these ideas
crossed his mind during his working hours he had not the energy to drive
them away. He tried to shake them off, but in vain; they would not leave
his brain, to which they clung and encompassed it with increasing
Truly, those two corpses troubled him horribly. Was it not exasperating
for a man who had seen and dissected so many, that there should be always
two before his eyes, even when they were closed--that of this old rascal
and of this unfortunate woman? In order not to complicate this
impression with another that humiliated him, he got rid of the packages
of bank bills taken from Caffie, by sending them "as restitution" to the
director of public charities. But this had no appreciable effect.
The thought of Florentin troubled him also; and if he saw Caffie lying in
his chair, Madame Dammauville motionless and pink on her bed, to him it
was not less cruel to see Florentin between the decks of the vessel that
would soon carry him to New Caledonia.
The ideas on conscience that he had expressed at Crozat's, and those that
he explained to Phillis about remorse, were still his; but he was not the
less certain that these two dead persons and the condemned one weighed
upon him with a terrible weight, frightful, suffocating, like a
nightmare. It was not in accordance with his education nor with his
environment to have these corpses behind him and this victim before him.
But where his former ideas were overthrown, since these dead bodies
seized hold of his life, was in his confidence in his strength.
The strong man that he believed himself, he who follows his ambition
regardless of things and of persons, looking only before him and never
behind, master of his mind as of his heart and of his arm, was not at all
the one that reality revealed.
On the contrary, he had been weak in action and yet weaker afterward.
And it was not only humiliation in the present that he felt in
acknowledging this weakness, it was also in uneasiness for the future;
for, if he lacked this strength that he attributed to himself before
having tested it, he should, if his beliefs were true, succumb some day.
Evidently, if he were perfectly strong he would not have complicated his
life with love. The strong walk alone because they need no one. And he
needed a woman; and so great was the need that it was through her only,
near her, when he looked at her, when he listened to her, that he
experienced a little calm.
Was he weak and cowardly on account of this? Perhaps not, but only
Because he felt calm when with Phillis, Saniel wished that she might
never leave him.
But, as happy as she was in her sorrow to see that instead of avoiding
her--which a less generous man would have done, perhaps--he sought to
draw nearer each day, she could not give up her lessons and her work,
which was her daily bread, to give all her time to her love, any more
than she could leave her mother entirely alone, crushed with shame, who
had never needed so much as now to be cheered and sustained.
She did not let a day pass without going to see Saniel; but in spite of
her desire she could not remain with him as long as she wished and he
asked. When she rose to go and he detained her, she remained, but it was
only for a few minutes; they were short, and the time soon came when,
after ten attempts, she was obliged to leave him.
At all times these separations had been full of despair to her, the
apprehension of which, from the moment of her arrival, paralyzed her;
but now they were still more cruel. Formerly, on leaving him, she often
saw him deep in his work before she opened the door; now, on the
contrary, he conducted her to the vestibule, detained her, and only let
her leave him when she tore herself from his embrace, after promising and
repeating her promise to come early the next day and stay longer.
Formerly, also, she was calm when she left him, not thinking of his
health, nor asking herself how she would find him at their next meeting,
strong and powerful, as sound in body as in mind. On the contrary, now
she worried herself, wondering how she would find him on the occasion of
each visit. Would the sadness, melancholy, and dejection still remain?
Would he be thinner and paler? It was her care, her anguish, to try to
divine the causes of the change in him, which manifested itself as
strongly in his sentiments as in his person. Was it not truly
extraordinary that he was more grave and uneasy now that his life was
assured than during the hard times when he was so worried that he never
knew what the morrow would bring? He had obtained the position that his
ambition coveted; he had sufficient money for his wants; he admitted that
his experiments had succeeded beyond his expectations; the essays that he
published on his experiments were loudly discussed, praised by some,
contested by others; it seemed that he had attained his object; and he
was sad, discontented, unhappy, more tormented than when he exhausted
himself with efforts, without other support than his will. At last, when
frightened to see him thus, she questioned him as to how he felt, he
became angry, and answered brutally
"Ill? Why do you think that I am--ill? Am I not better able than any
one to know how I am? I am overworked, that is all; and as my life of
privation does not permit me to repair my forces, I have become anaemic;
it is not serious. It is strange, truly, that you ask for explanations
of what is natural. Count the teeth of the polytechnicians and look at
their hair after their examinations, and tell me what you think of them.
Why do you think anything else is the matter with me? One cannot expend
one's self with impunity; that would be too good. Everything must be
paid for in this world."
She was obliged to believe that he was right and understood his
condition; however, she could not help worrying. She knew nothing of
medicine; she did not know the meaning of the medical terms he used,
but she found that this was not sufficient to explain all--neither his
roughness of temper and excess of anger without reason, any more than his
sudden tenderness, his weakness and dejection, his preoccupation and
absence of mind.
She discovered the effect she produced on him, and how, merely by her
presence, she cheered this gloomy fancy and raised this depression by not
asking him stupid questions on certain subjects which she had not yet
determined on, but which she hoped to avoid. Also, she did not wish to
leave him, and ingeniously invented excuses to go to see him twice a day;
in the morning on going to her lessons, and in the afternoon or evening.
Late one evening she rang his bell with a hand made nervous with joy.
"I have come to stay till to-morrow," she said, in triumphant tones.
She expected that he would express his joy by an embrace, but he did
"Are you going out?"
"Not at all; I am not thinking of myself, but of your mother."
"Do you think that I would have left her alone in her weak and nervous
state? A cousin of ours arrived from the country, who will occupy my
bed, and I profited by it quick enough, saying that I would remain at the
school. And here I am."
In spite of his desire for it, he had never dared ask her to pass the
night with him. During the day he would only betray himself by his sad
or fantastic temper; but at night, with such dreams as came to him, might
not some word escape that would betray him?
However, since she was come it was impossible to send her away; he could
not do it for her nor for himself. What pretext could he find to say,
"Go! I do not want you?" He wanted her above all; he wanted to look at
her, to listen to her, to hear her voice that soothed and lulled his
anguish, to feel her near him--only to have her there, and not be face
to face with his thoughts.
She examined him secretly, asking herself the cause of this singular
reception, standing at the entrance of the office, not daring to remove
her hat. How could her arrival produce an effect so different from what
"You do not take off your hat?" he said.
"I was asking myself if you had to work."
"Why do you ask yourself that?"
"For fear of disturbing you."
"What a madness you have for always asking something!" he exclaimed
violently. "What do you expect me to say? What astonishes you? Why
should you disturb me? In what? 'Voyons', speak, explain yourself!"
The time was far distant when these explosions surprised her, though they
always pained her.
"I speak stupidly," she said. "What will you? I am stupid; forgive me."
These words, "forgive me," were more cruel than numberless reproaches,
for he well knew that he had nothing to forgive in her, since she was the
victim and he the criminal. Should he never be able to master these
explosions, as imprudent as they were unjust?
He took her in his arms and made her sit by him.
"It is for you to forgive," he said.
And he was as tender and caressing as he had been brutal. He was a fool
to imagine that she could have suspicions, and the surest way to give
birth to them was to show fear that she had them. To betray himself by
such awkwardness was as serious as to let a cry escape him while
But for this night he had a way which was in reality not difficult, that
would not expose him to the danger of talking in his sleep-he would not
sleep. After having passed so many nights without closing his eyes,
without doubt he could keep them open this entire night.
But he deceived himself; when he heard the calm and regular respiration
of Phillis with her head on his shoulder, and felt the mild warmth of her
body penetrate his, in the quiet imposed upon him, without being
conscious of it, believing himself far from sleep, and convinced that he
required no effort to keep awake, he suddenly slept. When he awoke a ray
of pale sunlight filled the room, and leaning her elbow on the bolster,
Phillis was watching him. He made a brusque movement, throwing himself
backward. "What is the matter?" he cried. "What have I said?"
Instantly his face paled, his lips quivered; he felt his heart beat
tumultuously and his throat pressed by painful constriction. "But
nothing is the matter," she answered, looking at him tenderly. "You have
said nothing." To come to the point, why should he have spoken? During
his frightful dreams, his nights of disturbed sleep, he might have cried
out, but he did not know if he had ever done so. And besides, he had not
just waked from an agitated sleep. All this passed through his mind in
an instant, in spite of his alarm. "What time is it?" he asked.
"Nearly six o'clock." "Six o'clock!" "Do you not hear the vehicles in
the street? The street-venders are calling their wares." It must have
been about one o'clock when he closed his eyes; he had then slept five
hours, profoundly, and he felt calm, rested, refreshed, his body active
and his mind tranquil, the man of former times, in the days of his happy
youth, and not the half-insane man of these last frightful months.
He breathed a sigh.
"Ah, if I could have you always!" he murmured, as much to himself as to
And he gave her a long look mingled with a sad smile; then, placing his
arm around her shoulders, he pressed her to him.
"Dear little wife!"
She had never heard so profound, so vibrating, a tenderness in his voice;
never had she been able, until hearing these words, to measure the depth
of the love that she had inspired in him; and it even seemed that this
was the declaration of a new love.
Pressing her passionately to him, he repeated:
"Dear little wife!"
Distracted, lost in her happiness, she did not reply.
All at once he held her from him gently, and looking at her with the same
"Does this word tell you nothing?"
"It tells me that you love me."
"And is that all?"
"What more can I wish? You say it, I feel it. You give me the greatest
joy of which I can dream."
"It is enough for you?"
"It would be enough if it need never be interrupted. But it is the
misfortune of our life that we are obliged to separate at the time when
the ties that unite us are the most strongly bound."
"Why should we separate?"
"Alas! Mamma? And daily bread?"
"If you did not leave your mother. If you need no longer worry about
She looked at him, not daring to question him, not betraying the
direction of her thoughts except by a trembling that she could not
control in spite of her efforts.
"I mean if you become my wife."
"Oh, my beloved!"
"Will you not?"
She threw herself in his arms, fainting; but after a moment she
"Alas! It is impossible," she murmured.
"Do not ask me; do not oblige me to say it."
"But, on the contrary, I wish you to tell me."
She turned her head away, and in a voice that was scarcely perceptible,
in a stifled sigh:
"It is greatly on account of your brother that I wish this marriage."
Then, suddenly: "Do you think me the man to submit to prejudiced
THE IMPORTANT QUESTION
Saniel had not waited until this day to acknowledge the salutary
influence that Phillis's presence exercised over him, yet the idea of
making her his wife never occurred to him. He thought himself ill-
adapted to marriage, and but little desirous of being a husband.
Until lately he had had no desire for a home.
This idea came to him suddenly and took strong hold of him; at least as
much on account of the calmness he felt in her presence, as by the charm
of her manner, her health, happiness, and gayety.
It was not only physical calm that she gave him by a mysterious affinity
concerning which his studies told him nothing, but of which he did not
the less feel all the force; it was also a moral calm.
There were duties he owed her, and terribly heavy were those he owed her
mother and Florentin.
He did all he could for Florentin, but this was not all that he owed
them. Florentin was in prison; Madame Cormier fell into a mournful
despair, growing weaker each day; and Phillis, in spite of her elasticity
and courage, bent beneath the weight of injustice.
How much the situation would be changed if he married her--for them,
and for him!
When Phillis was a little recovered from her great surprise, she asked
"When did you decide on this marriage?"
He did not wish to prevaricate, and he answered that it was at that
instant that the idea came to him, exact enough and strong enough to give
form to the ideas that had been floating in his brain for several months.
"At least, have you considered it? Have you not yielded to an impulse of
"Would it be better to yield to a long, rational calculation? I marry
you because I love you, and also because I am certain that without you
I cannot be happy. Frankly, I acknowledge that I need you, your
tenderness, your love, your strength of character, your equal temper,
your invincible faith in hope, which, for me as I am organized, is worth
the largest dot."
"It is exactly because I have no dot to bring you. When you were at the
last extremity, desperate and crushed, I might ask to become the wife of
the poor village doctor that you were going to be; but to-day, in your
position, above all in the position that you will soon occupy, is poor
little Phillis worthy of you? You give me the greatest joy that I can
ever know, of which I have only dreamed in telling myself that it would
be folly to hope to have it realized. But just that gives me the
strength to beg you to reflect, and to consider whether you will ever
regret this moment of rapture that makes me so happy."
"I have reflected, and what you say proves better than anything that I do
not deceive myself. I want a wife who loves me, and you are that wife."
"More than I can tell you at this moment, wild with happiness, but not
more than I shall prove to you in the continuance of our love."
"Besides, dearest, do not have any illusions on the splendors of this
position of which you speak; it is more than probable that they will
never be realized, for I am not a man of money, and will do nothing to
gain any. If it does not come by itself--"
"It will come."
"That is not the object for which I work. What I wish I have obtained
partly; if now I make money and obtain a rich practice, the jealousy of
my confreres will make me lose, or wait too long, for what my ambition
prefers to a fortune. For the moment this position will be modest; my
four thousand francs of salary, that which I gain at the central bureau
while waiting to have the title of hospital physician, and five hundred
francs a month more that my editor offers me for work and a review of
bacteriology, will give us nearly twelve thousand francs, and we must
content ourselves with that for some time."
"That is a fortune to me."
"To me also; but I thought I ought to tell you."
"And when do you wish our marriage to take place?"
"Immediately after the necessary legal delay, and as soon as I am settled
in a new apartment; for you could not come here as my wife, where you
have been seen so often. It would not be pleasant for you or for me."
"And we will not be so foolish as to put ourselves in the hands of an
upholsterer; the first one cost enough."
He said these last words with fierce energy, but continued immediately:
"What do we need? A parlor for the patients, if they come; an office for
me, which will do also as a laboratory; a bedroom for us, and one for
"But certainly. Do you think that I would ask you to separate from her?"
She took his hand, and kissing it with a passionate impulse: "Oh, the
dearest, the most generous of men!"
"Do not let us talk of that," he said with evident annoyance. "In your
mother's condition of mental prostration it would kill her to be left
alone; she needs you, and I promise to help you to soften her grief.
We will make her comfortable; and although my nature is not very tender,
I will try to replace him from whom she is separated. It will be a
happiness to her to see you happy."
For a long time he enlarged upon what he wished, feeling a sentiment of
satisfaction in talking of what he would do for Madame Cormier, in whom
at this time he saw the mother of Florentin more than that of Phillis.
"Do you think you can make her forget?" he asked from time to time.
"Forget? No. Neither she nor I can ever forget; but it is certain our
sorrow will be drowned in our happiness, and this happiness we shall owe
to you. Oh, how you will be adored, respected, blessed!"
Adored, respected! He repeated these words to himself. One could, then,
be happy by making others happy. He had had so little opportunity until
this time to do for others, that this was in some sort the revelation of
a sentiment that he was astonished to feel, but which, for being new, was
only the sweeter to him.
He wished to give himself the satisfaction of tasting all the sweetness.
"Where are you going this morning?" he asked.
"I return to the school to help my pupils prepare their compositions for
"Very well; while you are at the school this morning, I will go to see
your mother. The process of asking in marriage that we make use of is
perhaps original, and conforms to the laws of nature, if nature admits
marriage, which I ignore; but it certainly is not the way of those of the
world. And now I must address this request to your mother."
"What joy you will give her!"
"I hope so."
"I should like to be there to enjoy her happiness. Mamma has a mania for
marriage; she spends her time marrying the people she knows or those she
does not know. And she has felt convinced that I should die in the
yellow skin of an old maid. At last, this evening she will have the
happiness of announcing to me your visit and your request. But do not
make this visit until the afternoon, because then our cousin will be
Saniel spent his morning in looking for apartments, and found one in a
quarter of the Invalides, which he engaged.
It was nearly one o'clock when he reached Madame Cormier's. As usual,
when he called, she looked at him with anxious curiosity, thinking of
"It is not of him that I wish to speak to you to-day," he said, without
pronouncing any name, which was unnecessary. "It is of Mademoiselle
"Do you find her ill?" Madame Cormier said, who thought only of
"Not at all. It is of her and of myself that I wish to speak. Do not be
uneasy. I hope that what I am going to say will not be a cause of
sadness to you."
"Pardon me if I always see something to fear. We have been so
frightfully tried, so unjustly!"
He interrupted her, for these complaints did not please him.
"For a long time," he said quickly, "Mademoiselle Phillis has inspired me
with a deep sentiment of esteem and tenderness; I have not been able to
see her so courageous, so brave in adversity, so decided in her
character, so good to you, so charming, without loving her, and I have
come to ask you to give her to me as my wife."
At Saniel's words, Madame Cormier's hands began to tremble, and the
"Is it possible?" she murmured, beginning to cry. "So great a happiness
for my daughter! Such an honor for us, for us, for us!"
"I love her."
"Forgive me if happiness makes me forget the conventionalities, but I
lose my head. We are so unhappy that our souls are weak against joy.
Perhaps I should hide my daughter's sentiments; but I cannot help telling
you that this esteem, this tenderness of which you speak, is felt by her.
I discovered it long ago, although she did not tell me. Your request,
then, can only be received with joy by mother, as well as daughter."
This was said brokenly, evidently from an overflowing heart. But all at
once her face saddened.
"I must talk to you sincerely," she said. "You are young, I am not;
and my age makes it a duty for me not to yield to any impulse. We are
unfortunates, you are one of the happy; you will soon be rich and famous.
Is it wise to burden your life with a wife who is in my daughter's
With the exception of a few words, this was Phillis's answer. He
answered the mother as he had answered the daughter.
"It is not for you that I speak," said Madame Cormier. "I should not
permit myself to give you advice; it is in placing myself at the point of
view of my daughter that I, her mother, with the experience of my age,
should watch over her future. Is it certain that in the struggles of
life you will never suffer from this marriage, not because my daughter
will not make you happy--from this side I am easy--but because the
situation that fate has made for us will weigh on you and fetter you?
I know my daughter-her delicacy; her uneasy susceptibility, that of the
unfortunate; her pride, that of the irreproachable. It would be a wound
for her that would make happiness give way to unhappiness, for she could
not bear contempt."
"If that is in human nature, it is not in mine; I give you my word."
He explained how he meant to arrange their life, and when she understood
that she was to live with them, she clasped her hands and exclaimed
"Oh, my God, who hast taken my son, how good thou art to give me
CONCESSION TO CONSCIENCE
He asked nothing better than to be a son to this poor woman; in reality
he was worth much more than this unfortunate boy, effeminate and
incapable. What did this maternal hunger require? A son to love. She
would find one in her son-in-law. In seeing her daughter happy, how
could she help being happy herself?
Evidently they would be happy, the mother and daughter; and whatever
Phillis might think, still under the influence of the shameful blow,
they would forget. They would owe him this.
It was a long time since he had worked with so much serenity as on this
day; and when in the evening he went to bed, uneasy as usual about the
night, he slept as calmly as if Phillis were resting her charming head on
his shoulder and he breathed the perfume of it.
Decidedly, to make others happy was the best thing in the world, and as
long as one could have this satisfaction there was no fear of being
unhappy. To create an atmosphere of happiness for others is to profit by
it at the same time.
He waited for Phillis impatiently, for she would bring him an echo of her
mother's joy, and it was a recompense that she owed him.
She arrived happy, smiling, penetrated with tenderness; but he observed
that she was keeping something from him, something that embarrassed her,
and yet she would not tell him what it was.
He was not disposed to admit that she could conceal anything from him,
and he questioned her.
"What are you keeping from me?"
"How can you suppose that I should keep anything from you?"
"Well, what is the matter? You know, do you not, that I read all your
thoughts in your eyes? Very well your eyes speak when your lips are
"I have a request to make of you, a prayer."
"Why do you not tell me?"
"Because I do not dare."
"Yet it does not seem to me that I show a disposition to make you believe
that I could refuse you anything."
"It is just that which is the cause of my embarrassment and reserve; I
fear to pain you at the moment when I would show you all the gratitude
and love in my heart."
"If you are going to give me pain, it is better not to make me wait."
She hesitated; then, before an impatient gesture, she decided to speak.
"I wish to ask you how you mean to be married?"
He looked at her in surprise.
"But, like every one else!"
"Every one?" she asked, persistently.
"Is there any other way of being married?"
"I do not in the least understand this manner of asking conundrums; if
you are alluding to a fashionable custom of which I know nothing, say so
frankly. That will not wound me, since I am the first to declare that I
know nothing of it. What do you wish?"
She felt his irritation increase, and yet she could not decide to say
what she wished.
"I have begun badly," she said. "I should have told you at first that
you will always find in me a wife who will respect your ideas and
beliefs, who will never permit herself to judge you, and still less to
seek to contend with them or to modify them. That you feel, do you not,
is neither a part of my nature nor of my love?"
"Conclude!" he said impatiently.
"I think, then," she said with timid hesitation, "that you will not say
that I fail in respect to your ideas in asking that our marriage take
place in church."
"But that was my intention."
"Truly!" she exclaimed. "O dearest! And I feared to offend you!"
"Why should you think it would offend me?" he asked, smiling.
"You consent to go to confession?"
Instantly the smile in his eyes and on his lips was replaced by a gleam
"And why should I not go to confession?" he demanded.
"Do you suppose that I can be afraid to confess? Why do you suppose
that? Tell me why?"
He looked at her with eyes that pierced to her heart, as if they would
read her inmost thoughts.
Stupefied by this access of fury, which burst forth without any warning,
since he had smilingly replied to her request for a religious marriage,
she could find nothing to say, not understanding how the simple word
"confess" could so exasperate him. And yet she could not deceive
herself: is was indeed this word and no other that put him in this state.
He continued to look at her, and wishing to explain herself, she said:
"I supposed only one thing, and that is that I might offend you by asking
you to do what is contrary to your beliefs."
The mad anger that carried him away so stupidly began to lose its first
violence; another word added to what had already escaped him would be an
"Do not let us talk of it anymore," he said. "Above all, do not let us
think of it."
"Permit me to say one word," she replied. "Had I been situated like
other people I would have asked nothing; my will is yours. But for you,
for your future and your honor, you should not appear to marry in secret,
as if ashamed, with a pariah."
"Be easy. I feel as you do, more than you, the necessity of consecrated
ceremonies for us."
She understood that on this path he would go farther than she.
To destroy the impression of this unfortunate word, he proposed that they
should visit the apartment he had engaged the previous day.
For the first time they walked together boldly, with heads held high,
side by side in the streets of Paris, without fear of meeting others.
How proud she was! Her husband! It was on her husband's arm that she
leaned! When they crossed the Tuileries she was almost surprised that
people did not turn to see them pass.
In her present state of mind she could not but find the house he chose
admirable; the street was admirable, the house was admirable, the
apartment was admirable.
As it contained three bedrooms opening on a terrace, where he would keep
the animals for his experiments, Saniel wished to have her decide which
one she would choose; as she would share it with him she wished to take
the best, but he would not accept this arrangement.
"I want you to choose between the two little ones," he said. "The
largest and best must be reserved for your mother, who, not being able to
go out, needs more space, air, and light than we do."
She was transported with his kindness, delicacy, and generosity. Never
would she be able to love him enough to raise herself up to him.
Fortunately the principal rooms, the parlor and the office, were about
the same size as those in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, so there need be but
little change in furnishing; and they would bring their furniture from
the Rue des Moines.
This feminine talk, interrupted by passionate exclamations and glances,
charmed Saniel, who had forgotten the incident of the confession and his
anger, thinking only of Phillis, seeing only her, ravished by her gayety,
her vivacity, his whole being stirred by the tender caresses of her
beautiful dark eyes.
How could he not be happy with this delicious woman who held such sway
over him, and who loved him so ardently? For him a single danger
henceforth--solitude. She would preserve him from it. With her gayety,
good temper, courage, and love, she would not leave him to his thoughts;
work would do the rest.
After the question of furniture was decided, they settled that of the
marriage ceremony, and she was surprised to find that his ideas were the
same as hers.
She decided upon her toilet, a silk gown as simple as possible, and she
would make it herself, as she made all her gowns. And then they
discussed the witnesses. "We have no friends," Phillis said.
"You had some formerly; your father had friends and comrades."
"I am no longer the daughter of my father, I am the sister of my brother;
I would not dare to ask them to witness my marriage."
"It is just because you are the sister of your brother that they cannot
refuse you; it would be cruelty added to rudeness. Cruelty may be
overlooked, but rudeness! Among the men of talent, who was your father's
"Is he not a bohemian, a drunkard?"
"My father regarded him as the greatest painter of our time, the most
"It is not a question of talent, but of name; I am sure that he is not
even decorated. Your father had other friends, more successful, more
commonplace, if you wish."
"The member of the Institute?"
"Casparis, the sculptor."
"An academician, also; that is what we want, and both are 'archi-decore'.
You will write them, and tell them who I am, assistant professor of the
school of medicine, and doctor of the hospitals. I promise you they will
accept. I will ask my old master Carbonneau, president of the academy of
medicine; and Claudet, the ancient minister, who, in his quality of
deputy of my department, could not decline any more than the others.
And that will give us decorated witnesses, which will look well in the
It was not only in the newspapers they looked well, but also in the
church of Sainte-Marie des Batignolles.
"Glorient! Casparis! Carbonneau! Claudet! Art, science, and
But the beauty and charm of the bride were not eclipsed by these glorious
witnesses. She entered on Glorient's arm, proud in her modesty, radiant
While the priest celebrated mass at the altar, outside, before the door,
a man dressed in a costume of chestnut velvet, and wearing a felt hat,
walked up and down, smoking a pipe. It was the Count de Brigard, whose
principles forbade him to enter a church for either a wedding or a
funeral, and who walked up and down on the sidewalk with his disciples,
waiting to congratulate Saniel. When he appeared the Count rushed up to
him, and taking his hand pressed it warmly on separating him from his
wife, and saying:
"It is good, it is noble. Circumstances made this marriage; without them
it would not have taken place. I understand and I excuse it; I do more,
I applaud it. My dear friend, you are a man."
And as it was Wednesday, in the evening at Crozat's, he publicly
expressed his approbation, which, in the conditions in which it had been
offered, did not satisfy his conscience.
"Gentlemen, we have assisted to-day at a grand act of reparation, the
marriage of our friend Saniel to the sister of this poor boy, victim of
an injustice that cries for vengeance. One evening in this same room,
I spoke lightly of Saniel, some of you remember, perhaps, in spite of the
time that has passed. I wish to make this public reparation to him. To-
day he has shown himself a man of duty and of conscience, bravely putting
himself above social weaknesses."
"Is it not a social weakness," asked Glady, "to have chosen as witnesses
of this act of reparation persons who seem to have been selected for the
decorative side of their official positions?"
"Profound irony, on the contrary!" said Brigard. "It is a powerful and
fruitful lesson, which makes even those who are professional defenders
concur in the demolition of the prejudiced. Saniel is a man!"
PHILLIS IS SURPRISED
The Sunday following her marriage, Phillis experienced a surprise on
which she reflected a long time without finding a satisfactory
As she was dressing, Saniel entered her room.
"What are you going to do to-day?" he asked.
"That which I do every day."
"You are not going to mass?"
She looked at him astonished, not being able to control her surprise, and
as usual, when she appeared to wish to read his thoughts, he showed
"In what way is my question extraordinary?"
"Mass is not exactly the usual subject of your thoughts, it seems to me."
"It may become so, especially when I think of others, as is the case just
now. Do you not often go to mass?"
"When I can."
"Very well, you can go to-day if you wish. Listen to what I have to say
to you. I have not forgotten the promise you made to respect my ideas
and beliefs. I wish to make you the same; it is very simple."
"All that is good and generous seems simple to you."
"I will go at once."
"Now? At once? It is not eight o'clock. Go to high mass, it is more
Fashionable! What a strange word in his mouth! It was not out of
respect to fashion that she went to church, but because there was in her
a depth of religious sentiment and of piety, a little vague perhaps,
which Florentin's misfortunes had revived.
"I will go to high mass," she said, without letting it appear that this
word had suggested anything to her, and continuing her dressing.
"Are you going to wear this frock?" he asked, pointing to one that lay
on a chair.
"Yes; at least if it does not displease you."
"I find it rather simple."
In effect it was of extreme simplicity, made of some cheap stuff, its
only charm being an originality that Phillis gave it on making it
"Do not forget," he continued, "that Saint-Francois-Xavier is not a
church for working people; when a woman is as charming as you are she is
always noticed. People will ask who you are."
"You are right; I will wear the gown I wore at the distribution of the
"That is it; and your bonnet, will you not, instead of the round hat?
The first impression should be the best."
This mixture of religious and worldly things was surprising in him. Had
she not understood him, then, until now? After all, perhaps it was only
But these exactions regarding her dress were repeated. Although before
her marriage Phillis had only crossed Saniel's path, she knew him well
enough to know that he was entirely given up to work, without thought of
anything else, and she believed that after marriage he would continue to
work in the same way, not caring for amusements or society. She was
correct about his work, but not so regarding society. A short time after
their marriage the minister Claudet was cured opportunely of an attack of
facial neuralgia by Saniel, for whom he conceived a great friendship. He
invited Saniel and his wife to all his reunions and fetes, and Saniel
accepted all his invitations.
At first her wedding gown answered very well, but it would not do always.
It had to be trimmed, modified, three or four toilets made of one gown;
but, however ingenious Phillis might be in arranging several yards of
tulle or gauze, she could not make combinations indefinitely.
And besides, they did not please Saniel; they were too simple. He liked
lace, beads, flowers, something shining and glittering, such as he saw
other women wear.
How could she please him with the small resources at her disposal? In
her household expenses she was as economical as possible; Joseph was
dismissed, and replaced by a maid who did all the work; the table was
extremely simple. But these little economies, saved on one side, were
quickly spent on the other in toilets and carriages.
When she expressed a wish to work, to paint menus, he would not consent,
and when she insisted he became angry
He only permitted her to paint pictures. As she had formerly painted for
amusement in her father's studio, she might do so now. If trade were a
disgrace, art might be honorable. If she had talent he would be glad of
it; and if she should sell her pictures it would be original enough to
cause her to be talked about.
The salon was partly transformed into a studio, and Phillis painted
several little pictures, which, without having any pretensions to great
art, were pleasing and painted with a certain dash. Glorient admired
them, and made a picture-dealer buy two of them and order others, at a
small price it is true, but it was much more than she expected.
With the courage and constancy that women put into work that pleases
them, she would willingly have painted from morning till night; but the
connections that Saniel had made did not leave her this liberty. Through
Claudet they made many acquaintances and accepted invitations that placed
her under social obligations, so that almost every day she had a visit to
pay, a funeral or a marriage to attend, besides an occasional charity
fair, and her own day at home, when she listened for three hours to
feminine gossip of no interest to her.
As for him, what pleasure could he take in dressing after a hard day's
work to go to a reception? He, son of a peasant, and a peasant himself
in so many ways, who formerly understood nothing of fashionable life and
felt only contempt for it, finding it as dull as it was ridiculous.
She tried to find a cause for this change, and when lightly, in a
roundabout way, she brought him to explain himself, she could only draw
one answer from him, which was no answer to her:
"We must be of the world."
Why did he care so much about society? Was it because she was the sister
of a criminal that he wished to take her everywhere and make people
receive her? She understood this up to a certain point, although the
part he made her play was the most cruel that he could give her, and
entirely contrary to what she would have chosen if she had been free.
But this was all there was in his desire to be of the world. Because he
had married her he was not the brother of a criminal, and on close
observation it might be seen that all he desired of these persons in high
places whom he sought was their consideration, a part of their importance
and honor. But he did not need this; he was some one by himself. The
position that he had made was worthy of his merit. His name was honored.
His future was envied.
And yet, as if he did not realize this, he sought small satisfactions,
unworthy of a serious ambition. One evening she was very much surprised
when he told her that the decoration of a Spanish republic was offered to
him, and although she had formed a habit of watching over her words she
could not help exclaiming:
"What will you do with that?"
"I could not refuse it."
Not only had he not refused it, but he had accepted others, blue, green,
yellow, and tricolored; he wore them in his buttonhole, around his neck,
and on his breast. What good could those decorations do that belittled
him? And how could a man of his merit hasten to obtain the Legion of
Honor before it fell to him naturally?
All this was astonishing, mysterious, and silly, and her mind dwelt upon
it when she was alone before her easel; while near her in his laboratory,