Part 7 out of 11
inaptness of Clameran.
Why did he not use entreaties instead of threats?
When Louis spoke of Raoul, she could scarcely conceal her emotion; her
maternal heart yearned toward the innocent child who was expiating his
A chill of horror passed over her at the idea of his enduring the
pangs of hunger.
Her child wanting bread, when she, his mother, was rolling in wealth!
Ah, why could she not lay all her possessions at his feet? With what
delight would she undergo the greatest privations for his sake! If she
could but send him enough money to support him comfortably!
But no; she could not take this step without compromising herself and
Prudence forbade her acceptance of the intervention of Louis de
To confide in him, was placing herself, and all she held dear, at his
mercy--at the mercy of a man who inspired her with instinctive terror.
Then she began to ask herself if he had spoken the truth, or had
trumped up this story to frighten her?
In thinking over Louis's story, it seemed improbable and disconnected.
If Gaston had been living in Paris, in the poverty described by his
brother, why had he not demanded of the married woman the deposit
intrusted to the maiden?
Why, when anxious about the future of their child, had he not come to
her, if he had such confidence in her generosity? If he intrusted her
on his death-bed, why had he not shown this trust while living?
A thousand vague apprehensions beset her mind; she felt suspicion and
distrust of everyone and everything.
She was aware that the time had come for her to take a decisive step,
and upon this step depended her whole future peace and happiness. If
she once yielded, what would not be exacted of her in the future? She
would certainly be made to suffer if she refused to yield. If she had
only some wise friend to advise her!
For a moment she thought of throwing herself at her husband's feet and
Unfortunately, she thrust aside this means of salvation. She pictured
to herself the mortification and sorrow that her noble-hearted husband
would suffer upon discovering, after a lapse of twenty years, how
shamefully he had been deceived, how his confidence and love had been
Having been once deceived, would he ever trust her again? Would he
believe in her fidelity as a wife, when he discovered that she had
uttered her marriage vows to love and honor him, when her heart was
already given to another?
She knew Andre was too magnanimous to ever allude to her horrible
fault, and would use every means to conceal it. But his domestic
happiness would be gone forever. His chair at the fireside would be
left empty; his sons would shun her presence, and every family bond
would be severed.
Then again, would peace be preserved by her silence? Would not
Clameran end by betraying her to Andre?
She thought of ending her doubts by suicide; but her death would not
silence her implacable enemy, who, not being able to disgrace her
while alive, would dishonor her memory.
Fortunately, the banker was still absent; and, during the two days
succeeding Louis's visit, Mme. Fauvel could keep her room under
pretence of sickness.
But Madeleine, with her feminine instinct, saw that her aunt was
troubled by something worse than nervous headache, for which the
physician was prescribing all sorts of remedies, with no beneficial
She remembered that this sudden illness dated from the visit of the
melancholy looking stranger, who had been closeted for a long time
with her aunt.
Madeleine supposed something was weighing upon the miserable woman's
mind, and the second day of her sickness ventured to say:
"What makes you so sad, dear aunt? If you will not tell me, do let me
bring our good cure to see you."
With a sharpness foreign to her nature, which was gentleness itself,
Mme. Fauvel refused to assent to her niece's proposition.
What Louis calculated upon happened.
After long reflection, not seeing any issue to her deplorable
situation, Mme. Fauvel determined to yield.
By consenting to everything demanded of her, she had a chance of
saving her husband from suffering and disgrace.
She well knew that to act thus was to prepare a life of torture for
herself; but she alone would be the victim, and, at any rate, she
would be gaining time. Heaven might at last interpose, and save her
In the meantime, M. Fauvel had returned home, and Valentine resumed
her accustomed duties.
But she was no longer the happy mother and devoted wife, whose smiling
presence was wont to fill the house with sunshine and comfort. She was
melancholy, anxious, and at times irritable.
Hearing nothing of Clameran, she expected to see him appear at any
moment; trembling at every knock, and turning pale when a strange step
was heard to enter, she dared not leave the house, for fear he should
come during her absence.
Her agony was like that of a condemned man, who, each day as he wakes
from his uneasy slumber, asks himself, "Am I to die to-day?"
Clameran did not come; he wrote, or rather, as he was too prudent to
furnish arms which could be used against him, he had a note written,
which Mme. Fauvel alone might understand, in which he said that he was
quite ill, and unable to call upon her; and hoped she would be so good
as to come to his room the next day; she had only to ask for 317,
Hotel du Louvre.
The letter was almost a relief for Mme. Fauvel. Anything was
preferable to suspense. She was ready to consent to everything.
She burned the letter, and said, "I shall go."
The next day at the appointed hour, she dressed herself in a plain
black silk, a large bonnet which concealed her face, and, putting a
thick veil in her pocket to be used if she found it necessary, started
After hurriedly walking several squares, she thought she might,
without fear of being recognized, call a coach. In a few minutes she
was set down at the Hotel du Louvre. Here her uneasiness increased.
Her circle of acquaintances being large, she was in terror of being
recognized. What would her friends think if they saw her at the Hotel
du Louvre disguised in this old dress?
Anyone would naturally suspect an intrigue, a rendezvous; and her
character would be ruined forever.
This was the first time since her marriage that she had had occasion
for mystery; and her efforts to escape notice were in every way
calculated to attract attention.
The porter said that the Marquis of Clameran's rooms were on the third
She hurried up the stairs, glad to escape the scrutinizing glances of
several men standing near; but, in spite of the minute directions
given by the porter, she lost her way in one of the long corridors of
Finally, after wandering about for some time, she found a door bearing
the number sought--317.
She stood leaning against the wall with her hand pressed to her
throbbing heart, which seemed bursting.
Now, at the moment of risking this decisive step, she felt paralyzed
with fright. She would have given all she possessed to find herself
safe in her own home.
The sight of a stranger entering the corridor ended her hesitation.
With a trembling hand she knocked at the door.
"Come in," said a voice from within.
She entered the room.
It was not the Marquis of Clameran who stood in the middle of the
room, but a young man, almost a youth, who bowed to Mme. Fauvel with a
singular expression on his handsome face.
Mme. Fauvel thought that she had mistaken the room.
"Excuse me, monsieur," she said, blushing deeply. "I thought that this
was the Marquis of Clameran's room."
"It is his room, madame," replied the young man; then, seeing she was
silent and about to leave, he added:
"I presume I have the honor of addressing Mme. Fauvel?"
She bowed affirmatively, shuddering at the sound of her own name,
frightened at this proof of Clameran's betrayal of her secret to a
With visible anxiety she awaited an explanation.
"Reassure yourself, madame," said the young man: "you are as safe here
as if you were in your own house. M. de Clameran desired me to make
his excuses; he will not have the honor of seeing you to-day."
"But, monsieur, from an urgent letter sent by him yesterday, I was led
to suppose--to infer--that he----"
"When he wrote to you, madame, he had projects in view which he has
Mme. Fauvel was too agitated and troubled to think clearly. Beyond the
present she could see nothing.
"Do you mean," she asked with distrust, "that he has changed his
The young man's face was expressive of sad compassion, as if he shared
the sufferings of the unhappy woman before him.
"The marquis has renounced," he said, in a melancholy tone, "what he
wrongly considered a sacred duty. Believe me, he hesitated a long time
before he could decide to apply to you on a subject painful to you
both. When he began to explain his apparent intrusion upon your
private affairs, you refused to hear him, and dismissed him with
indignant contempt. He knew not what imperious reasons dictated your
conduct. Blinded by unjust anger, he swore to obtain by threats what
you refused to give voluntarily. Resolved to attack your domestic
happiness, he had collected overwhelming proofs against you. Pardon
him: an oath given to his dying brother bound him.
"These convincing proofs," he continued, as he tapped his finger on a
bundle of papers which he had taken from the mantel, "this evidence
that cannot be denied, I now hold in my hand. This is the certificate
of the Rev. Dr. Sedley; this is the declaration of Mrs. Dobbin, the
farmer's wife; and these others are the statements of the physician
and of several persons of high social position who were acquainted
with Mme. de la Verberie during her stay in London. Not a single link
is missing. I had great difficulty in getting these papers away from
M. de Clameran. Had he anticipated my intention of thus disposing of
them, they would never have been surrendered to my keeping."
As he finished speaking, the young man threw the bundle of papers into
the fire where they blazed up; and in a moment nothing remained of
them but a little heap of ashes.
"All is now destroyed, madame," he said, with a satisfied air. "The
past, if you desire it, is as completely annihilated as those papers.
If anyone, thereafter, dares accuse you of having had a son before
your marriage, treat him as a vile calumniator. No proof against you
can be produced; none exists. You are free."
Mme. Fauvel began to understand the sense of this scene; the truth
dawned upon her bewildered mind.
This noble youth, who protected her from the anger of De Clameran, who
restored her peace of mind and the exercise of her own free will, by
destroying all proofs of her past, was, must be, the child whom she
had abandoned: Valentin-Raoul.
In an instant, all was forgotten save the present. Maternal
tenderness, so long restrained, now welled up and overflowed as with
intense emotion she murmured:
At this name, uttered in so thrilling a tone, the youth started and
tottered, as if overcome by an unhoped-for happiness.
"Yes, Raoul," he cried, "Raoul, who would a thousand times rather die
than cause his mother a moment's pain; Raoul, who would shed his
life's blood to spare her one tear."
She made no attempt to struggle against nature's yearnings; her
longing to clasp to her heart this long-pined-for first-born must be
gratified at all costs.
She opened her arms, and Raoul sprang forward with a cry of joy:
"Mother! my blessed mother! Thanks be to God for this first kiss!"
Alas! this was the sad truth. The deserted child had never been blest
by a mother's kiss. This dear son whom she had never seen before, had
been taken from her, despite her prayers and tears, without a mother's
blessing, a mother's embrace. After twenty years waiting, should it be
denied him now?
But joy so great, following upon so many contending emotions, was more
than the excited mother could bear; she sank back in her chair almost
fainting, and with distended eyes gazed in a bewildered, eager way
upon her long-lost son, who was now kneeling at her feet.
With tenderness she stroked the soft chestnut curls, and drank in the
tenderness of his soft dark eyes, and expressive mouth, as he murmured
words of filial affection in her craving ear.
"Oh, mother!" he said, "words cannot describe my feelings of pain and
anguish upon hearing that my uncle had dared to threaten you. He
threaten you! He repents already of his cruelty; he did not know you
as I do. Yes, my mother, I have known you for a long, long time. Often
have my father and I hovered around your happy home to catch a glimpse
of you through the window. When you passed by in your carriage, he
would say to me, 'There is your mother, Raoul!' To look upon you was
our greatest joy. When we knew you were going to a ball, we would wait
near the door to see you enter, in your satin and diamonds. How often
have I followed your fast horses to see you descend from the carriage
and enter wealthy doors, which I could never hope to penetrate! And
how my noble father loved you always! When he told his brother to
apply to you in my behalf, he was unconscious of what he said; his
mind was wandering."
Tears, the sweetest tears she had ever shed, coursed down Mme.
Fauvel's cheeks, as she listened to the musical tones of Raoul's
This voice was so like Gaston's, that she seemed once more to be
listening to the lover of her almost forgotten youth.
She was living over again those stolen meetings, those long hours of
bliss, when Gaston was at her side, as they sat and watched the river
rippling beneath the trees.
It seemed only yesterday that Gaston had pressed her to his faithful
heart; she saw him still saying gently:
"In three years, Valentine! Wait for me!"
Andre, her two sons, Madeleine, all were forgotten in this new-found
Raoul continued in tender tones:
"Only yesterday I discovered that my uncle had been to demand for me a
few crumbs of your wealth. Why did he take such a step? I am poor, it
is true, very poor; but I am too familiar with poverty to bemoan it. I
have a clear brain and willing hands: that is fortune enough for a
young man. You are very rich. What is that to me? Keep all your
fortune, my beloved mother; but do not repel my affection; let me love
you. Promise me that this first kiss shall not be the last. No one
will ever know of my new-found happiness; not by word or deed will I
do aught to let the world suspect that I possess this great joy."
And Mme. Fauvel had dreaded this son! Ah, how bitterly did she now
reproach herself for not having flown to meet him the instant she
heard that he was living!
She questioned him regarding the past; she wished to know how he had
lived, what he had been doing.
He replied that he had nothing to conceal; his existence had been that
of every poor boy, who had nothing to look forward to but a life of
labor and privation.
The farmer's wife who had brought him up was a kind-hearted woman, and
had always treated him with affection. She had even given him an
education superior to his condition in life, because, as she always
said, he would make himself a great name, and attain to wealth, if he
When about sixteen years of age, she procured him a situation in a
banking-house; and he was getting a salary, which, though small, was
enough to support him and supply a few luxuries for his adopted
One day a stranger came to him and said:
"I am your father: come with me."
Since then nothing was wanting to his happiness, save a mother's
tenderness. He had suffered but one great sorrow, and that was the day
when Gaston de Clameran, his father, had died in his arms.
"But now," he said, "all is forgotten, that one sorrow is forgotten in
my present happiness. Now that I see you and possess your love, I
forget the past, and ask for nothing more."
Mme. Fauvel was oblivious of the lapse of time, and was startled when
"Why, it is seven o'clock!"
Seven o'clock! What would her family think of this long absence? Her
husband must be even now awaiting dinner.
"Shall I see you again, mother?" asked Raoul in a beseeching tone, as
they were about to separate.
"Oh, yes!" she replied, fondly, "yes, often; every day, to-morrow."
But now, for the first time since her marriage, Mme. Fauvel perceived
that she was not mistress of her actions. Never before had she had
occasion to wish for uncontrolled liberty.
She left her heart and soul behind her in the Hotel du Louvre, where
she had just found her son. She was compelled to leave him, to undergo
the intolerable agony of composing her face to conceal this great
happiness, which had changed her whole life and being. She was angry
with fate because she could not remain with her first-born son.
Having some difficulty in procuring a carriage, it was half-past seven
before she reached the Rue de Provence, when she found the family
waiting for her.
She thought her husband silly, and even vulgar, when he joked her upon
letting her poor children starve to death, while she was promenading
So strange are the sudden effects of a new passion, that she regarded
almost with contempt this unbounded confidence reposed in her.
She replied to his jest with a forced calmness, as if her mind were
really as free and undisturbed as it had been before Clameran's visit.
So intoxicated had been her sensations while with Raoul, that in her
joy she was incapable of desiring anything else, of dreaming of aught
save the renewal of these delightful emotions.
No longer was she a devoted wife, an affectionate mother to this
household which looked up to her as though she were a superior being.
She took no interest in the two sons who were a short while since her
chief pride and joy. They had always been petted and indulged in every
way; they had a father, they were rich; whist the other, the other!
oh, how much reparation was due to him!
She almost regarded her family as responsible for Raoul's sufferings,
so blinded was she in her devotion to her martyr, as she called him.
Her folly was complete. No remorse for the past, no apprehensions for
the future, disturbed the satisfied present. To her the future was
to-morrow; eternity was the sixteen hours which must elapse before
She seemed to think that Gaston's death absolved the past, and changed
Her sole regret was her marriage. Free, with no family ties, she could
have consecrated herself exclusively to Raoul. How gladly would she
have sacrificed her affluence to enjoy poverty with him!
She felt no fear that her husband and sons would suspect the thoughts
which absorbed her mind; but she dreaded her niece.
She imagined that Madeleine looked at her strangely on her return from
the Hotel du Louvre. She must suspect something; but did she suspect
For several days she asked embarrassing questions, as to where her
aunt went, and with whom she had been during these long absences from
This disquietude and seeming curiosity changed the affection which
Mme. Fauvel had hitherto felt for her adopted daughter into positive
She regretted having placed over herself a vigilant spy from whom she
could not escape. She pondered what means she could take to avoid the
penetrating watchfulness of a girl who was accustomed to read in her
face every thought that crossed her mind.
With unspeakable satisfaction she solved the difficulty in a way which
she thought would please all parties.
During the last two years the banker's cashier and /protege/, Prosper
Bertomy, had been devoted in his attentions to Madeleine. Mme. Fauvel
decided to do all in her power to hasten matters, so that, Madeleine
once married and out of the house, there would be no one to criticise
her own movements. She could then spend most of her time with Raoul
without fear of detection.
That evening, with a duplicity of which she would have been incapable
a few weeks before, she began to question Madeleine about her
sentiments toward Prosper:
"Ah, ha, mademoiselle," she said, gayly, "I have discovered your
secret. You are going on at a pretty rate! The idea of your choosing a
husband without my permission!"
"Why, aunt! I thought you----"
"Yes, I know; you thought I had suspected the true state of affairs!
That is precisely what I have done."
Then, in a serious tone, she said:
"Therefore nothing remains to be done except to obtain the consent of
Master Prosper. Do you think he will grant it?"
"Oh, Aunt Valentine! he would be too happy."
"Ah, indeed! you seem to know all about it; perhaps you do not care
for any assistance in carrying out your wishes?"
Madeleine, blushing and confused, hung her head, and said nothing.
Mme. Fauvel drew her toward her, and continued affectionately:
"My dear child, do not be distressed: you have done nothing wrong, and
need fear no opposition to your wishes. Is it possible that a person
of your penetration supposed us to be in ignorance of your secret? Did
you think that Prosper would have been so warmly welcomed by your
uncle and myself, had we not approved of him in every respect?"
Madeleine threw her arms around her aunt's neck, and said:
"Oh, my dear aunt, you make me so happy! I am very grateful for your
love and kindness. I am very glad that you are pleased with my
Mme. Fauvel said to herself:
"I will make Andre speak to Prosper, and before two months are over
the marriage must take place. Madeleine once married, I shall have
nothing to fear."
Unfortunately, Mme. Fauvel was so engrossed by her new passion that
she put off from day to day her project of hastening the marriage,
until it was too late. Spending a portion of each day at the Hotel du
Louvre with Raoul, and, when separated from him, devoting her thoughts
to insuring him an independent fortune and a good position, she could
think of nothing else.
She had not yet spoken to him of money or business.
She imagined that she had discovered in him his father's noble
qualities; that the sensitiveness which is so easily wounded was
expressed in his every word and action.
She anxiously wondered if he would ever accept the least assistance
from her. The Marquis of Clameran quieted her doubts on this point.
She had frequently met him since the day on which he had so frightened
her, and to her first aversion had succeeded a secret sympathy. She
felt kindly toward him for the affection he lavished on her son.
If Raoul, with the heedlessness of youth, mocked at the future, Louis,
the man of the world, looked upon it with different eyes. He was
anxious for the welfare of his nephew, and constantly complained of
the idle life he was now leading.
One day, after praising the attractive qualities of Raoul, he said:
"This pleasant life is very well, as long as it lasts; but people
cannot live upon air, and, as my handsome nephew has no fortune, it
would be only prudent for us to procure him some employment."
"Ah, my dear uncle, do let me enjoy my present happiness. What is the
use of any change? What do I want?"
"You want for nothing at present, Raoul; but when your resources are
exhausted, and mine, too--which will be in a short time--what will
become of you?"
"/Bast!/ I will enter the army. All the Clamerans are born soldiers;
and if a war comes----"
Mme. Fauvel laid her hand upon his lips, and said in a tone of
"Cruel boy, become a soldier? would you, then, deprive me of the joy
of seeing you?"
"No, my mother; no."
"You must agree to whatever plans we make for your good," said Louis;
"and not be talking of any wild schemes of your own."
"I am ready to obey; but not yet. One of these days I will go to work,
and make a fortune."
"How, poor, foolish boy? What can you do?"
"/Dame!/ I don't know now; but set your mind at rest, I will find a
Finding it impossible to make this self-sufficient youth listen to
reason, Louis and Mme. Fauvel, after discussing the matter fully,
decided that assistance must be forced upon him, and his path in life
marked out for him.
It was difficult, however, to choose a profession; and Clameran
thought it prudent to wait awhile, and study the bent of the young
man's mind. In the meanwhile it was decided that Mme. Fauvel should
place funds at Clameran's disposal for Raoul's support.
Regarding Gaston's brother in the light of a father to her child, Mme.
Fauvel soon found him indispensable. She continually longed to see
him, either to consult him concerning some step to be taken for
Raoul's benefit, or to impress upon him some good advice to be given.
Thus she was well pleased, when one day he requested the honor of
being allowed to call upon her at her own house.
Nothing was easier than to introduce the Marquis of Clameran to her
husband as an old friend of her family; and, after once being
admitted, he might come as often as he chose.
Mme. Fauvel congratulated herself upon this arrangement.
Afraid to go to Raoul every day, and in constant terror lest her
letters to him should be discovered, and his replies fall into her
husband's hands, she was delighted at the prospect of having news of
him from Clameran.
For a month, things went on very smoothly, when one day the marquis
confessed that Raoul was giving him a great deal of trouble. His
hesitating, embarrassed manner frightened Mme. Fauvel. She thought
something dreadful had happened, and that he was trying to break the
bad news gently.
"What is the matter?" she said, turning pale.
"I am sorry to say," replied Clameran, "that this young man has
inherited all the pride and passions of his ancestors. He is one of
those natures who stop at nothing, who only find incitement in
opposition; and I can think of no way of checking him in his mad
"Merciful Heaven! what has he been doing?"
"Nothing especially censurable; that is, nothing irreparable, thus
far; but I am afraid of the future. He is unaware of the liberal
allowance which you have placed in my hands for his benefit; and,
although he thinks that I support him, there is not a single
indulgence which he denies himself; he throws away money as if he were
the son of a millionaire."
Like all mothers, Mme. Fauvel attempted to excuse her son.
"Perhaps you are a little severe," she said. "Poor child, he has
suffered so much! He has undergone so many privations during his
childhood, that this sudden happiness and wealth has turned his head;
he seizes it as a starving man seizes a piece of bread. Is it
surprising that he should refuse to listen to reason until hungry
nature shall have been gratified? Ah, only have patience, and he will
soon return to the path of sober duty. He has too noble a heart to do
anything really wrong."
"He has suffered so much!" was Mme. Fauvel's constant excuse for
Raoul. This was her invariable reply to M. de Clameran's complaints of
his nephew's conduct.
And, having once commenced, he was now constant in his accusations
"Nothing restrains his extravagance and dissipation," Louis would say
in a mournful voice; "the instant a piece of folly enters his head, it
is carried out, no matter at what cost."
Mme. Fauvel saw no reason why her son should be thus harshly judged.
"You must remember," she said in an aggrieved tone, "that from infancy
he has been left to his own unguided impulses. The unfortunate boy
never had a mother to tend and counsel him. You must remember, too,
that he has never known a father's guidance."
"There is some excuse for him, to be sure; but nevertheless he must
change his present course. Could you not speak seriously to him,
madame? You have more influence over him than I."
She promised, but forgot her good resolution when with Raoul. She had
so little time to devote to him, that it seemed cruel to spend it in
reprimands. Sometimes she would hurry from home for the purpose of
following the marquis's advice; but, the instant she saw Raoul, her
courage failed; a pleading look from his soft, dark eyes silenced the
rebuke upon her lips; the sound of his voice banished every anxious
thought, and lulled her mind to the present happiness.
But Clameran was not a man to lose sight of the main object, in what
he considered a sentimental wasting of time. He would have no
compromise of duty.
His brother had bequeathed to him, as a precious trust, his son Raoul;
he regarded himself, he said, as his guardian, and would be held
responsible in another world for his welfare.
He entreated Mme. Fauvel to use her influence, when he found himself
powerless in trying to check the heedless youth in his headlong
career. She ought, for the sake of her child, to see more of him,
study his disposition, and daily admonish him in his duty to himself
and to her.
"Alas," the poor woman replied, "that would be my heart's desire. But
how can I do it? Have I the right to ruin myself? I have other
children, for whom I must be careful of my reputation."
This answer appeared to astonish Clameran. A fortnight before, Mme.
Fauvel would not have alluded to her other sons.
"I will think the matter over," said Louis, "And perhaps when I see
you next I shall be able to submit to you a plan which will reconcile
The reflections of a man of so much experience could not be fruitless.
He had a relieved, satisfied look, when he called to see Mme. Fauvel
on the following week.
"I think I have solved the problem," he said.
"The means of saving Raoul."
He explained himself by saying, that as Mme. Fauvel could not, without
arousing her husband's suspicions, continue her daily visits to Raoul,
she must receive him at her own house.
This proposition shocked Mme. Fauvel; for though she had been
imprudent, even culpable, she was the soul of honor, and naturally
shrank from the idea of introducing Raoul into the midst of her
family, and seeing him welcomed by her husband, and perhaps become the
friend of his sons. Her instinctive sense of justice made her declare
that she would never consent to such an infamous step.
"Yes," said the marquis, thoughtfully, "there is some risk; but then,
it is the only chance of saving your child."
She resisted with so much firmness and indignation that Louis was
astonished, and for a time nonplussed; though he by no means let the
subject drop, but seized every opportunity of impressing upon her
tortured mind that Raoul's salvation depended entirely upon her.
"No," she would always reply, "no! Never will I be so base and
perfidious to my husband!"
Unfortunate woman! little did she know of the pitfalls which stand
ever ready to swallow up wanderers from the path of virtue.
Before a week had passed, she listened to this project, which at first
had filled her with horror, with a willing ear, and even began to
devise means for its speedy execution.
Yes, after a cruel struggle, she finally yielded to the pressure of
Clameran's politely uttered threats and Raoul's wheedling entreaties.
"But how," she asked, "upon what pretext can I receive Raoul?"
"It would be the easiest thing in the world," replied Clameran, "to
admit him as an ordinary acquaintance, and, indeed, to place him on
the same footing which I myself occupy--that of an intimate friend and
habitue of your drawing-rooms. But Raoul must have more than this; he
needs your constant care."
After torturing Mme. Fauvel for a long time, he finally revealed his
"We have in our hands," he said, "the solution of this problem, which
may be so easily reached that I regard it as an inspiration."
Mme. Fauvel eagerly scanned his face as she listened with the pitiable
resignation of a martyr.
"Have you not a cousin, a widow lady, who had two daughters, living at
St. Remy?" asked Louis.
"Yes, Mme. de Lagors."
"Precisely so. What fortune has she?"
"She is poor, monsieur, very poor."
"And, but for the assistance you render her secretly, she would be
thrown upon the charity of the world."
Mme. Fauvel was bewildered at finding the marquis so well informed of
her private affairs.
"How could you have discovered this?" she asked.
"Oh, I know all about this affair, and many others besides. I know,
for example, that your husband has never met any of your relatives,
and that he is not even aware of the existence of your cousin De
Lagors. Do you begin to comprehend my plan?"
She not only understood it, but also knew that she would end by being
a party to it.
"All will succeed if you follow my instructions," said Louis.
"To-morrow or next day, you will receive a letter from your cousin at
St. Remy, telling you that she has sent her son to Paris on a visit,
and begs you to receive and watch over him. Naturally you show this
letter to your husband; and a few days afterward he warmly welcomes
your nephew, Raoul de Lagors, a handsome, rich, attractive young man,
who does everything he can to please you both."
"Monsieur," replied Mme. Fauvel, "my cousin is a pious, honorable
woman, and nothing would induce her to countenance so shameful a
The marquis smiled scornfully, and said:
"Who told you that I intended to confide in her?"
"But you would be obliged to do so! How else?"
"You are very simple, madame. The letter which you will receive, and
show to your husband, will be dictated by me, and posted at St. Remy
by a friend of mine. If I spoke of the obligations under which you
have placed your cousin, it was merely to show you that, in case of
accident, her own interest would make her serve you. Do you see any
obstacle to this plan, madame?"
Mme. Fauvel's eyes flashed with indignation.
"Is my will of no account?" she exclaimed. "You seem to have made your
arrangements without consulting me at all."
"Excuse me," said the marquis, with ironical politeness, "but I knew
that you would take the same view of the matter as myself. Your good
sense would convince you of the necessity of using every possible
means of rescuing your child from destruction."
"But it is a crime, monsieur, that you propose--an abominable crime!
My mind revolts at the very idea of it!"
This speech seemed to arouse all the bad passions slumbering in
Clameran's bosom; and his pale face had a fiendish expression as he
"We had better end this humbuggery, and come to a clear understanding
at once. Before you begin to talk about crime, think over your past
life. You were not so timid and scrupulous when you gave yourself up
to your lover; neither did you hesitate to faithlessly refuse to share
his exile, although for your sake he had just jeopardized his life by
killing two men. You felt no scruples at abandoning your child in
London; although rolling in wealth, you never even inquired if this
poor waif had bread to eat. You felt no scruples about marrying M.
Fauvel. Did you tell your confiding husband of the lines of shame
concealed beneath that orange wreath? Did you hesitate to confirm and
strengthen his happy delusion, that his lips had pressed the first
kiss upon your brow? No! All these crimes you indulged in; and, when
in Gaston's name I demand reparation, you indignantly refuse. But,
mark my words, madame, it is too late! You ruined the father; but you
shall save the son, or, by all the saints in heaven, I swear you shall
no longer cheat the world of its esteem."
"I will obey you, monsieur," murmured the trembling, frightened woman.
The following week Raoul, now Raoul de Lagors, was seated at the
banker's dinner-table, between Mme. Fauvel and Madeleine.
It was not without the most painful suffering and self-condemnation
that Mme. Fauvel submitted to the will of the pitiless Marquis of
She had used every argument and entreaty to soften him; but he merely
looked upon her with a triumphant, sneering smile, when she knelt at
his feet, implored him to be merciful and spare her the shame and
remorse of committing another crime. Spare her this torture, and she
would grant anything else he wished, give Raoul all she possessed
while alive, and insure him a handsome competency after her death.
Alas! neither tears nor prayers moved him. Disappointed, and almost
desperate, she sought the intercession of her son.
Raoul was in a state of furious indignation at the sight of his
mother's distress, and hastened to demand an apology from Clameran.
But he had reckoned without his host. He soon returned with downcast
eyes, and moodily angry at his own powerlessness, declaring that
safety demanded a complete surrender to the tyrant.
Now only did the wretched woman fully fathom the abyss into which she
was being dragged, and clearly see the labyrinth of crime of which she
was becoming the victim.
And all this suffering was the consequence of a fault, an interview
granted to Gaston. Ever since that fatal day she had been vainly
struggling against the implacable logic of events. Her life had been
spent in trying to overcome the past, and now it had risen to crush
The hardest thing of all to do, the act that most wrung her heart, was
showing to her husband the forged letter from St. Remy, and saying
that she expected to see her rich young nephew in a day or two. 'Tis
hard to deceive those who trust and love us.
But words cannot paint the torture she endured on the evening that she
introduced Raoul to her family, and saw the honest banker cordially
shake hands with this nephew of whom he had never heard before, and
affectionately say to him:
"I am not surprised that a rich young fellow like yourself should
prefer Paris to St. Remy, and nothing will give me more pleasure than
your visit; for I seldom have an opportunity of welcoming a relative
of my dear wife, for whose sake I take an interest in everyone coming
from St. Remy."
Raoul exerted his utmost to deserve this warm reception.
If his early education had been neglected, and he lacked those
delicate refinements of manner and conversation which home influence
imparts, his superior tact concealed these defects.
He possessed the happy faculty of reading characters, and adapting his
conversation to the minds of his listeners.
Before a week had gone by, he was a favorite with M. Fauvel, intimate
with Abel and Lucien, and inseparable from Prosper Bertomy, the
cashier, who spent all his evenings with the banker's family.
Charmed at the favorable impression made by Raoul, Mme. Fauvel
recovered comparative ease of mind, and at times almost congratulated
herself upon having obeyed the marquis, as she saw all around her
contented and happy. Once more she began to hope that peace had not
deserted her, that God had forgiven her.
Alas! she rejoiced too soon.
Raoul's intimacy with his cousins threw him among a set of rich young
men, whose extravagance he not only imitated, but surpassed. He daily
grew more dissipated and reckless. Gambling, racing, expensive
suppers, made money slip through his fingers like grains of sand.
This proud young man, whose sensitive delicacy not long since made him
refuse to accept aught save affection from his mother, now never
approached her without demanding large sums of money.
At first she gave with pleasure, not stopping to count the rolls of
notes she would eagerly run to bring him. But as he each time
increased his demands, until they finally reached a sum far larger
than she could bestow, her eyes were opened to the ruinous effects of
her lavish generosity.
This rich woman, whose magnificent diamonds, elegant toilets, and
superb equipages were the admiration and envy of Paris, now suffered
the keenest torture. She had no more money to give her son; and what
so pains the female heart as being unable to gratify the wishes of a
Her husband never thought of giving her a fixed sum for the year's
expenses, or of asking how she disposed of her money. The day after
the wedding he gave her a key to his secretary, and told her, that
what was his was hers, to use as she thought best. And, ever since,
she had been in the habit of freely taking all the money necessary for
keeping up the hospitable, elegant house over which she so gracefully
presided; for her own dress, and many charitable purposes that the
world never knew of.
But the fact of her having always been so modest in her personal
expenses that her husband used to jestingly say that he was afraid she
would end by being a miser; and her judicious, well-regulated
management of household expenditures, causing her to spend much the
same amount each year--prevented her now being able to dispose of
large sums, without giving rise to embarrassing questions.
M. Fauvel, the most generous of millionaires, delighted to see his
wife indulge in any extravagance, no matter how foolish; but he would
naturally expect to see traces of the money spent, something to show
The banker might suddenly discover that double the usual amount of
money was used in the house; and, if he should ask the cause of this
astonishing outlay, what answer could she give?
In three months, Raoul had squandered a little fortune. In the first
place, he was obliged to have bachelor's apartments, prettily
furnished, and a handsome outfit from a fashionable tailor, besides
the thousand little things indispensable to a society man; he must
have a blooded horse and a coupe. His doting mother felt it her duty
to give him these luxuries, when her other sons were enjoying
everything of the sort, besides many other advantages of which her
poor Raoul was deprived. But each day the extravagance of his fancies
increased, and Mme. Fauvel began to be alarmed when his demands far
exceeded her ability to gratify them.
When she would gently remonstrate, Raoul's beautiful eyes would fill
with tears, and in a sad, humble tone he would say:
"Alas! you are right to refuse me this gratification. What claim have
I? I must not forget that I am only the poor son of Valentine, not the
rich banker's child!"
This touching repentance wrung her heart, so that she always ended by
granting him more than he had asked for. The poor boy had suffered so
much that it was her duty to console him, and atone for her past
She soon discovered that he was jealous and envious of his two
brothers--for, after all, they were his brothers--Abel and Lucien.
"You never refuse them anything," he would resentfully say: "they were
fortunate enough to enter life by the golden gate. Their every wish is
gratified; they enjoy wealth, position, home affection, and have a
splendid future awaiting them."
"But what is lacking to your happiness, my son? Have you not
everything that money can give? and are you not first in my
affections?" asked his distressed mother.
"What do I want? Apparently nothing, in reality everything. Do I
possess anything legitimately? What right have I to your affection, to
the comforts and luxuries you heap upon me, to the name I bear? Is not
my life an extortion, my very birth a fraud?"
When Raoul talked in this strain, she would weep, and overwhelm him
with caresses and gifts, until she imagined that every jealous thought
was vanished from his mind.
As spring approached, she told Raoul she designed him to spend the
summer in the country, near her villa at St. Germain. She wanted to
have him with her all the time, and this was the only way of
gratifying her wish. She was surprised to find her proposal readily
acquiesced in. In a few days he told her he had rented a little house
at Vesinet, and intended having his furniture moved into it.
"Then, just think, dear mother, what a happy summer we will spend
together!" he said, with beaming eyes.
She was delighted for many reasons, one of which was that the expenses
of the prodigal son would necessarily be lessened. Anxiety as to the
exhausted state of her finances made her bold enough to chide him at
the dinner-table one day for having lost two thousand francs at the
races that morning.
"You are severe, my dear," said M. Fauvel with the carelessness of a
rich man, who considered this sum a mere trifle. "Mamma Lagors won't
object to footing his bills; mammas are created for the special
purpose of paying bills."
And, not observing that his wife had turned pale at these jocular
words, he turned to Raoul, and added:
"Don't disturb yourself about a small sum like this, my boy; when you
want money, come to me."
What could Mme. Fauvel say? Had she not followed Clameran's orders,
and told her husband that Raoul was wealthy? She could not go now and
tell him that he would never recover any money which he lent to a
Why had she been made to tell this unnecessary lie?
She suspected the snare laid for her; but now it was too late to
escape it: struggles would only more deeply entangle her in its
The banker's offer was soon accepted. That same week Raoul went to his
uncle's bank, and boldly borrowed ten thousand francs.
When Mme. Fauvel heard of this piece of audacity, she wrung her hands
"What can he want with so much money?" she moaned to herself: "what
wicked extravagance is it for?" For some time Clameran had kept away
from Mme. Fauvel's house. She decided to write and ask him to come and
advise her as to what steps should be taken to check Raoul.
She hoped that this energetic, determined man, who was so fully awake
to his duties as a guardian and an uncle, would make Raoul listen to
reason, and instantly refund the borrowed money.
When Clameran heard what his graceless nephew had done, his surprise
and anger were unbounded. He expressed so much indignation against
Raoul, that Mme. Fauvel was frightened at the storm she had raised,
and began to make excuses for her son.
While they were discussing the matter, Raoul came in, and a violent
altercation ensued between him and Clameran.
But the suspicions of Mme. Fauvel were aroused; she watched them, and
it seemed to her--could it be possible--that their anger was feigned;
that, although they abused and even threatened each other in the
bitterest language, their eyes twinkled with amusement.
She dared not breathe her doubts; but, like a subtle poison which
disorganizes everything with which it comes in contact, this new
suspicion filled her thoughts, and added to her already intolerable
Yet she never once thought of blaming Raoul; nor for a moment did she
feel displeased with her idolized son. She accused the marquis of
taking advantage of the youthful weakness and inexperience of his
She knew that she would have to suffer insolence and extortion from
this man who had her completely in his power; but she could not
imagine what object he now had in view, for she plainly saw that he
was aiming at something more than his nephew's success in life. He
constantly concealed some plan to benefit himself at her expense; but
assuredly her darling Raoul could not be an accomplice in any plot to
Clameran himself soon cleared her mind of all doubts.
One day, after complaining more bitterly than usual of Raoul, and
proving to Mme. Fauvel that it was impossible for this state of
affairs to continue much longer, and a catastrophe was inevitable, he
would up by saying there was one means of salvation left.
This was that he, Clameran, must marry Madeleine!
Mme. Fauvel was prepared for almost any base proposal save this one.
She knew that his cupidity and insolence stopped at nothing, but never
did she imagine he would have the wild presumption to aspire to
If she had renounced all hope of happiness for herself, if she
consented to the sacrifice of her own peace of mind, it was because
she thus hoped to insure the undisturbed felicity of her household, of
her husband, whom she had sinned against.
This unexpected declaration shocked her, and for a moment she was
"Do you suppose for an instant, monsieur," she indignantly exclaimed,
"that I will consent to any such disgraceful project? Sacrifice
Madeleine, and to you!"
"I certainly do suppose so, madame; in fact, I am certain of it," he
answered with cool insolence.
"What sort of a woman do you think I am, monsieur? Alas, I am to
eternally suffer for a fault committed twenty years ago; have I not
already been more than adequately punished? And does it become you to
be constantly reproaching me with my long-past imprudence? You have no
right to be thus harassing me, till I dare not say my life is my own!
Your power is at an end, and God only knows how deeply I regret having
been insane enough to yield to its base sway! So long as I alone was
to be the tool, you found me weak and timid; but, now that you seek
the ruin of those I love, I rebel against your usurped authority. I
have still a little conscience left, and nothing under heaven will
force me to sacrifice my gentle, pure-hearted Madeleine!"
"May I inquire, madame, why you regard Mlle. Madeleine's becoming the
Marchioness of Clameran as a disgrace and a sacrifice?"
"My niece chose, of her own free will, a husband whom she will shortly
marry. She loves M. Prosper Bertomy."
The marquis disdainfully shrugged his shoulders.
"A school-girl love-affair," said he; "she will forget all about it,
if you wish her to do so."
"I do not wish it. I wish her to marry him."
"Listen to me," he replied, in the low, suppressed tone of a man
trying to control himself: "let us not waste time in these idle
discussions. Hitherto you have always commenced by protesting against
my proposed plans, and in the end acknowledge the good sense and
justness of my arguments; now, for once why not yield without going
through with the customary preliminaries? I ask it as a favor."
"Never," said Mme. Fauvel, "never will I yield."
Clameran paid no attention to this interruption, but went on:
"I insist upon this marriage, mainly on your account, although it will
enable me to re-establish my own affairs, as well as yours and
Raoul's. Of course you see that the allowance you give your son is
insufficient for his extravagant style of living. The time approaches
when, having nothing more to give him, you will have to encroach upon
your husband's money-drawer to such an extent that longer concealment
will be impossible. When that day comes what is to be done? Perhaps
you have some feasible plan of escape?"
Mme. Fauvel shuddered. The dreadful day of discovery could not be far
off, and no earthly way was there to escape it.
The marquis went on:
"Assist me now, and, instead of having to make a shameful confession,
you will thank me for having saved you. Mlle. Madeleine is rich: her
dowry will enable me to supply the deficiency, and spare you all
further anxiety about Raoul."
"I would rather be ruined than be saved by such means."
"But I will not permit you to ruin us all. Remember, madame, that we
are associated in a common cause, the future welfare of Raoul; and,
although you have a right to rush upon destruction yourself, you
certainly shall not drag us with you."
"Cease your importunities," she said, looking him steadily in the eye.
"I have made up my mind irrevocably."
"To do everything and anything to escape your shameful persecution.
Oh! you need not smile. I shall throw myself at M. Fauvel's feet, and
confess everything. He is noble-hearted and generous, and, knowing how
I have suffered, will forgive me."
"Do you think so?" said Clameran derisively.
"You mean to say that he will be pitiless, and banish me from his
roof. So be it; it will only be what I deserve. There is no torture
that I cannot bear, after what I have suffered through you."
This inconceivable resistance so upset all the marquis's plans that he
lost all constraint, and, dropping the mask of politeness, appeared in
his true character.
"Indeed!" he said in a fierce, brutal tone, "so you have decided to
confess to your loving, magnanimous husband! A famous idea! What a
pity you did not think of it before; it is rather late to try it now.
Confessing everything the first day I called on you, you might have
been forgiven. Your husband might have pardoned a youthful fault
atoned for by twenty years of irreproachable conduct; for none can
deny that you have been a faithful wife and a good mother. But picture
the indignation of your trusting husband when you tell him that this
pretended nephew, whom you imposed upon his family circle, who sat at
his table, who borrowed his money, is your illegitimate son! M. Fauvel
is, no doubt, an excellent, kind-hearted man; but I scarcely think he
will pardon a deception of this nature, which betrays such depravity,
duplicity, and audacity."
All that the angry marquis said was horribly true; yet Mme. Fauvel
listened unflinchingly, as if the coarse cruelty of his words
strengthened her resolution to have nothing more to do with him, but
to throw herself on her husband's mercy.
"Upon my soul," he went on, "you must be very much infatuated with
this M. Bertomy! Between the honor of your husband's name, and
pleasing this love-sick cashier, you refuse to hesitate. Well, I
suppose he will console you. When M. Fauvel divorces you, and Abel and
Lucien avert their faces at your approach, and blush at being your
sons, you will be able to say, 'I have made Prosper happy!'"
"Happen what may, I shall do what is right," said Mme. Fauvel.
"You shall do what I say!" cried Clameran, threateningly. "Do you
suppose that I will allow your sentimentality to blast all my hopes? I
shall tolerate no such folly, madame, I can assure you. Your niece's
fortune is indispensable to us, and, more than that--I love the fair
Madeleine, and am determined to marry her."
The blow once struck, the marquis judged it prudent to await the
result. With cool politeness, he continued:
"I will leave you now, madame, to think the matter over, and you
cannot fail to view it in the same light as I do. You had better take
my advice, and consent to this sacrifice of prejudice, as it will be
the last required of you. Think of the honor of your family, and not
of your niece's love-affair. I will return in three days for your
"Your return is unnecessary, monsieur: I shall tell my husband
If Mme. Fauvel had not been so agitated herself, she would have
detected an expression of alarm upon Clameran's face.
But this uneasiness was only momentary. With a shrug, which meant,
"Just as you please," he said:
"I think you have sense enough to keep your secret."
He bowed ceremoniously, and left the room, but slammed the front door
after him so violently as to prove that his restrained anger burst
forth before leaving the house.
Clameran had cause for fear. Mme. Fauvel's determination was not
feigned. She was firm in her resolve to confess.
"Yes," she cried, with the enthusiasm of a noble resolution, "yes, I
will tell Andre everything!"
She believed herself to be alone, but turned around suddenly at the
sound of footsteps, and found herself face to face with Madeleine, who
was pale and swollen-eyed with weeping.
"You must obey this man, aunt," she quietly said.
Adjoining the parlor was a little card-room separated only by a heavy
silk curtain, instead of a door.
Madeleine was sitting in this little room when the marquis arrived,
and, as there was no egress save through the parlor, had remained, and
thus overheard the conversation.
"Good Heaven!" cried Mme. Fauvel with terror, "do you know----"
"I know everything, aunt."
"And you wish me to sacrifice you to this fiend?"
"I implore you to let me save you from misery."
"You certainly despise and hate M. de Clameran; how can you think I
would let you marry him?"
"I do despise him, aunt, and shall always regard him as the basest of
men; nevertheless I will marry him."
Mme. Fauvel was overcome by the magnitude of this devotion.
"And what is to become of Prosper, my poor child--Prosper, whom you
Madeleine stifled a sob, and said in a firm voice:
"To-morrow I will break off my engagement with M. Bertomy."
"I will never permit such a wrong," cried Mme. Fauvel. "I will not add
to my sins by suffering an innocent girl to bear their penalty."
The noble girl sadly shook her head, and replied:
"Neither will I suffer dishonor to fall upon this house, which is my
home, while I have power to prevent it. Am I not indebted to you for
more than life? What would I now be had you not taken pity on me? A
factory girl in my native village. You warmly welcomed the poor
orphan, and became a mother to her. Is it not to your husband that I
owe the fortune which excites the cupidity of this wicked Clameran?
Are not Abel and Lucien brothers to me? And now, when the happiness of
all who have been loving and generous to me is at stake, do you
suppose I would hesitate? No. I will become the wife of Clameran."
Then began a struggle of self-sacrifice between Mme. Fauvel and her
niece, as to which should be the victim; only the more sublime,
because each offered her life to the other, not from any sudden
impulse, but deliberately and willingly.
But Madeleine carried the day, fired as she was by that holy
enthusiasm of sacrifice which is the sustaining element of martyrs.
"I am responsible to none but myself," said she, well knowing this to
be the most vulnerable point she could attack; "whilst you, dear aunt,
are accountable to your husband and children. Think of the pain and
sorrow of M. Fauvel if he should learn the truth; it would kill him."
The generous girl was right. She knew her uncle's heart.
After having sacrificed her husband to her mother, Mme. Fauvel was
about to immolate her husband and children for Raoul.
As a general thing, a first fault draws many others in its train. As
an impalpable flake is the beginning of an avalanche, so an imprudence
is often the prelude to a great crime.
To false situations there is but one safe issue: truth.
Mme. Fauvel's resistance grew weaker and more faint, as her niece
pointed out the line for her to pursue: the path of wifely duty.
"But," she faintly argued, "I cannot accept your sacrifice. What sort
of a life will you lead with this man?"
"We can hope for the best," replied Madeleine with a cheerfulness she
was far from feeling; "he loves me, he says; perhaps he will be kind
"Ah, if I only knew where to obtain money! It is money that the
grasping man wants; money alone will satisfy him."
"Does he not want it for Raoul? Has not Raoul, by his extravagant
follies, dug an abyss which must be bridged over by money? If I could
only believe M. de Clameran!"
Mme. Fauvel looked at her niece with bewildered curiosity.
What! this inexperienced girl had weighed the matter in its different
lights before deciding upon a surrender; whereas, she, a wife and a
mother, had blindly yielded to the inspirations of her heart!
"What do you mean? Madeleine, what do you suspect?"
"I mean this, aunt: that I do not believe that Clameran has any
thought of his nephew's welfare. Once in possession of my fortune, he
may leave you and Raoul to your fates. And there is another dreadful
suspicion that tortures my mind."
"Yes, and I would reveal it to you, if I dared; if I did not fear that
"Speak!" insisted Mme. Fauvel. "Alas! misfortune has given me strength
to bear all things. There is nothing worse than has already happened.
I am ready to hear anything."
Madeleine hesitated; she wished to enlighten her credulous aunt, and
yet hesitated to distress her.
"I would like to be certain," she said, "that some secret
understanding between M. de Clameran and Raoul does not exist. Do you
not think they are acting a part agreed upon for the purpose of
Love is blind and deaf. Mme. Fauvel would not remember the laughing
eyes of the two men, upon the occasion of the pretended quarrel in her
presence. Infatuation had drowned suspicion. She could not, she would
not, believe in such hypocrisy. Raoul plot against the mother? Never!
"It is impossible," she said, "the marquis is really indignant and
distressed at his nephew's mode of life, and he certainly would not
countenance any disgraceful conduct. As to Raoul, he is vain,
trifling, and extravagant; but he has a good heart. Prosperity has
turned his head, but he loves me still. Ah, if you could see and hear
him, when I reproach him for his faults, your suspicions would fly to
the winds. When he tearfully promises to be more prudent, and never
again give me trouble, he means to keep his word; but perfidious
friends entice him away, and he commits some piece of folly without
thinking of the consequences."
Mothers always blame themselves and everyone else for the sins of
their sons. The innocent friends come in for the principal share of
censure, each mother's son leading the other astray.
Madeleine had not the heart to undeceive her aunt.
"God grant that what you say may be true," she said; "if so, this
marriage will not be useless. We will write to M. de Clameran
"Why to-night, Madeleine? We need not hurry so. Let us wait a little;
something else might happen to save us."
These words, this confidence in chance, in a mere nothing, revealed
Mme. Fauvel's true character, and accounted for her troubles. Timid,
hesitating, easily swayed, she never could come to a firm decision,
form a resolution, and abide by it, in spite of all arguments brought
to bear against it. In the hour of peril she would always shut her
eyes and trust to chance for a relief which never came. Never once did
she think to ward off trouble by her own exertions.
Quite different was Madeleine's character. Beneath her gentle timidity
lay a strong, self-reliant will. Once decided upon what was right and
just, nothing could change her. If it was her duty to make a
sacrifice, it was to be carried out to the letter; no hesitation and
sighs for what might have been; she shut out all deceitful illusions,
and walked straight forward without one look back.
"We had better end the matter at once, dear aunt," she said, in a
gentle, but firm tone. "Believe me, the reality of misfortune is not
as painful as its apprehension. You cannot bear the shocks of sorrow,
and delusive hopes of happiness, much longer. Do you know what anxiety
of mind has done to you? Have you looked in the mirror during the last
She led her aunt up to the glass, and said:
"Look at yourself."
Mme. Fauvel was indeed a mere shadow of her former self.
She had reached the perfidious age when a woman's beauty, like a full-
blown rose, fades in a day.
Four months of trouble had made her an old woman. Sorrow had stamped
its fatal seal upon her brow. Her fair, soft skin was wrinkled, her
golden hair was streaked with silver, and her large, soft eyes had a
painfully frightened look.
"Do you not agree with me," continued Madeleine, pityingly, "that
peace of mind is necessary to you? Do you not see that you are a wreck
of your former self? It is a miracle that M. Fauvel has not noticed
this sad change in you!"
Mme. Fauvel, who flattered herself that she had displayed wonderful
dissimulation, shook her head.
"Alas, my poor aunt! you think you concealed your secret from all: you
may have blinded my uncle, but I suspected all along that something
dreadful was breaking your heart."
"You suspected what, Madeleine? Not the truth?"
"No, I was afraid-- Oh, pardon an unjust suspicion, my dear aunt, but
I was wicked enough to suppose----"
She stopped, too distressed to finish her sentence; then, making a
painful effort, she added, as her aunt signed to her to go on:
"I was afraid that perhaps you loved another man than my uncle; it was
the only construction that I could put upon your strange conduct."
Mme. Fauvel buried her face, and groaned. Madeleine's suspicion was,
no doubt, entertained by others.
"My reputation is gone," she moaned.
"No, dear aunt, no; do not be alarmed about that. No one has had
occasion to observe you as I have; it was only a dreadful thought
which penetrated my mind in spite of my endeavors to dispel it. Have
courage: we two can fight the world and silence our enemies. You shall
be saved, aunt: only trust in me."
The Marquis of Clameran was agreeably surprised that evening by
receiving a letter from Mme. Fauvel, saying that she consented to
everything, but must have a little time to carry out the plan.
Madeleine, she said, could not break off her engagement with M.
Bertomy in a day. M. Fauvel would make objections, for he had an
affection for Prosper, and had tacitly approved of the match. It would
be wiser to leave to time the smoothing away of certain obstacles
which a sudden attack might render insurmountable.
A line from Madeleine, at the bottom of the letter, assured him that
she fully concurred with her aunt.
Poor girl! she did not spare herself. The next day she took Prosper
aside, and forced from him the fatal promise to shun her in the
future, and to take upon himself the responsibility of breaking their
He implored Madeleine to at least explain the reason of this
banishment, which destroyed all of his hopes for happiness.
She quietly replied that her peace of mind and honor depended upon his
blind obedience to her will.
He left her with death in his soul.
As he went out of the house, the marquis entered.
Yes, he had the audacity to come in person, to tell Mme. Fauvel that,
now he had the promise of herself and Madeleine, he would consent to
He himself saw the necessity of patience, knowing that he was not
liked by the banker.
Having the aunt and niece on his side, or rather in his power, he was
certain of success. He said to himself that the moment would come when
a deficit impossible to be paid would force them to hasten the
Raoul did all he could to bring matters to a crisis.
Mme. Fauvel went sooner than usual to her country seat, and Raoul at
once moved into his house at Vesinet. But living in the country did
not lessen his expenses.
Gradually he laid aside all hypocrisy, and now only came to see his
mother when he wanted money; and his demands were frequent and more
exorbitant each time.
As for the marquis, he prudently absented himself, awaiting the
At the end of three weeks he met the banker at a friend's, and was
invited to dinner the next day.
Twenty people were seated at the table; and, as the dessert was being
served, the banker suddenly turned to Clameran and said:
"I have a piece of news for you, monsieur. Have you any relatives of
"None that I know of, monsieur."
"I am surprised. About a week ago, I became acquainted with another
Marquis of Clameran."
Although so hardened by crime, impudent enough to deny anything,
Clameran was so taken aback that he sat with pale face and a blank
look, silently staring at M. Fauvel.
But he soon recovered enough self-control to say hurriedly:
"Oh, indeed! That is strange. A Clameran may exist; but I cannot
understand the title of marquis."
M. Fauvel was not sorry to have the opportunity of annoying a guest
whose aristocratic pretensions had often piqued him.
"Marquis or not," he replied, "the Clameran in question seems to be
able to do honor to the title."
"Is he rich?"
"I have reason to suppose that he is very wealthy. I have been
notified to collect for him four hundred thousand francs."
Clameran had a wonderful faculty of self-control; he had so schooled
himself that his face never betrayed what was passing in his mind. But
this news was so startling, so strange, so pregnant of danger, that
his usual assurance deserted him.
He detected a peculiar look of irony in the banker's eye.
The only persons who noticed this sudden change in the marquis's
matter were Madeleine and her aunt. They saw him turn pale, and
exchange a meaning look with Raoul.
"Then I suppose this new marquis is a merchant," said Clameran after a
"That I don't know. All that I know is, that four hundred thousand
francs are to be deposited to his account by some ship-owners at
Havre, after the sale of the cargo of a Brazilian ship."
"Then he comes from Brazil?"
"I do not know, but I can give you his Christian name."
"I would be obliged."
M. Fauvel arose from the table, and brought from the next room a
memorandum-book, and began to read over the names written in it.
"Wait a moment," he said, "let me see--the 22nd, no, it was later than
that. Ah, here it is: Clameran, Gaston. His name is Gaston, monsieur."
But this time Louis betrayed no emotion or alarm; he had had
sufficient time to recover his self-possession, and nothing could not
throw him off his guard.
"Gaston?" he queried, carelessly. "I know who he is now. He must be
the son of my father's sister, whose husband lived at Havana. I
suppose, upon his return to France, he must have taken his mother's
name, which is more sonorous than his father's, that being, if I
recollect aright, Moirot or Boirot."
The banker laid down his memorandum-book, and, resuming his seat, went
"Boirot or Clameran," said he, "I hope to have the pleasure of
inviting you to dine with him before long. Of the four hundred
thousand francs which I was ordered to collect for him, he only wishes
to draw one hundred, and tells me to keep the rest on running account.
I judge from this that he intends coming to Paris."
"I shall be delighted to make his acquaintance."
Clameran broached another topic, and seemed to have entirely forgotten
the news told him by the banker.
Although apparently engrossed in the conversation of his neighbor at
the table, he closely watched Mme. Fauvel and her niece.
He saw that they were unable to conceal their agitation, and
stealthily exchanged significant looks.
Evidently the same terrible idea had crossed their minds.
Madeleine seemed more nervous and startled than her aunt. When M.
Fauvel uttered Gaston's name, she saw Raoul begin to draw back in his
chair and glance in a frightened manner toward the window, like a
detected thief looking for means of escape.
Raoul, less experienced than his uncle, was thoroughly
discountenanced. He, the original talker, the lion of a dinner-party,
never at a loss for some witty speech, was now perfectly dumb; he sat
anxiously watching Louis.
At last the dinner ended, and as the guests passed into the drawing-
room, Clameran and Raoul managed to remain last in the dining-room.
When they were alone, they no longer attempted to conceal their
"It is he!" said Raoul.
"I have no doubt of it."
"Then all is lost; we had better make our escape."
But a bold adventurer like Clameran had no idea of giving up the ship
till forced to do so.
"Who knows what may happen?" he asked, thoughtfully. "There is hope
yet. Why did not that muddle-headed banker tell us where this Clameran
is to be found?"
Here he uttered a joyful exclamation. He saw M. Fauvel's memorandum-
book lying on the table.
"Watch!" he said to Raoul.
Seizing the note-book, he hurriedly turned over the leaves, and, in an
"Gaston, Marquis of Clameran, Oloron, Lower Pyrenees."
"Well, does finding out his address assist us?" inquired Raoul,
"It may save us: that is all. Let us return to the drawing-room; our
absence might be observed. Exert yourself to appear unconcerned and
gay. You almost betrayed us once by your agitation."
"The two women suspect something."
"Well, suppose they do?"
"The best thing that we can do is escape; the sooner we leave Paris,
"Do you think we should do any better in London? Don't be so easily
frightened. I am going to plant my batteries, and I warrant they will
They joined the other guests. But, if their conversation had not been
overheard their movements had been watched.
Madeleine looked through the half-open door, and saw Clameran
consulting her uncle's note-book, and whispering to Raoul. But what
benefit would she derive from this proof of the marquis's villany? She
knew now that he was plotting to obtain her fortune, and she would be
forced to yield it to him; that he had squandered his brother's
fortune, and was now frightened at the prospect of having to account
for it. Still this did not explain Raoul's conduct. Why did he show
Two hours later, Clameran was on the road to Vesinet with Raoul,
explaining to him his plans.
"It is my precious brother, and no mistake," he said. "But that need
not alarm you so easily, my lovely nephew."
"Merciful powers! Doesn't the banker expect to see him any day? Is he
not liable to pounce down on me to-morrow?"
"Don't be an idiot!" interrupted Clameran. "Does he know that Fauvel
is Valentine's husband? That is what we must find out. If he knows
that little fact, we must take to our heels; if he is ignorant of it,
our case is not desperate."
"How will you find out?"
"By simply asking him."
Raoul exclaimed at his ally's cunning:
"That is a dangerous thing to do," he said.
"'Tis not as dangerous as sitting down with our hands folded. And, as
to running away at the first suspicion of alarm, it would be
"Who is going to look for him?"
"Oh, oh, oh!" exclaimed Raoul in three different tones. Clameran's
audacity confounded him.
"But what am I going to do?" he inquired after a moment's silence.
"You will oblige me by remaining here and keeping quiet. I will send
you a despatch if there is danger; and then you can decamp."
As they parted at Raoul's door, Clameran said:
"Now, remember. Stay here, and during my absence be very intimate at
your devoted mother's. Be the most dutiful of sons. Abuse me as much
as you please to her; and, above all, don't indulge in any folly; make
no demands for money; keep your eyes open. Good-by. To-morrow evening
I will be at Oloron talking with this new Clameran."
After leaving Valentine de la Verberie, Gaston underwent great peril
and difficulty in effecting his escape.
But for the experienced and faithful Menoul, he never would have
succeeded in embarking.
Having left his mother's jewels with Valentine, his sole fortune
consisted of not quite a thousand francs; and with this paltry sum in
his pocket, the murderer of two men, a fugitive from justice, and with
no prospect of earning a livelihood, he took passage for Valparaiso.
But Menoul was a bold and experienced sailor.
While Gaston remained concealed in a farm-house at Camargue, Menoul
went to Marseilles, and that very evening discovered, from some of his
sailor friends, that a three-masted American vessel was in the
roadstead, whose commander, Captain Warth, a not over-scrupulous
Yankee, would be glad to welcome on board an able-bodied man who would
be of assistance to him at sea.
After visiting the vessel, and finding, during a conversation over a
glass of rum with the captain, that he was quite willing to take a
sailor without disturbing himself about his antecedents, Menoul
returned to Gaston.
"Left to my own choice, monsieur," he said, "I should have settled
this matter on the spot; but you might object to it."
"What suits you, suits me," interrupted Gaston.
"You see, the fact is, you will be obliged to work very hard. A
sailor's life is not boy's play. You will not find much pleasure in
it. And I must confess that the ship's company is not the most moral
one I ever saw. You never would imagine yourself in a Christian
company. And the captain is a regular swaggering bully."
"I have no choice," said Gaston. "Let us go on board at once."
Old Menoul's suspicions were correct.
Before Gaston had been on board the Tom Jones forty-eight hours, he
saw that chance had cast him among a collection of the most depraved
bandits and cut-throats.
The vessel, which seemed to have recruited at all points of the
compass, possessed a crew composed of every variety of thievish
knaves; each country had contributed a specimen.
But Gaston's mind was undisturbed as to the character of the people
with whom his lot was cast for several months.
It was only his miserable wounded body, that the vessel was carrying
to a new country. His heart and soul rested in the shady park of La
Verberie, beside his lovely Valentine. He took no note of the men
around him, but lived over again those precious hours of bliss beneath
the old tree on the banks of the Rhone, where his beloved had confided
her heart to his keeping, and sworn to love him forever.
And what would become of her now, poor child, when he was no longer
there to love, console, and defend her?
Happily, he had no time for sad reflections.
His every moment was occupied in learning the rough apprenticeship of
a sailor's life. All his energies were spent in bearing up under the
heavy burden of labor allotted to him. Being totally unaccustomed to
manual work, he found it difficult to keep pace with the other
sailors, and for the first week or two he was often near fainting at
his post, from sheer fatigue; but indomitable energy kept him up.
This was his salvation. Physical suffering calmed and deadened his
mental agony. The few hours relaxation granted him were spent in heavy
sleep; the instant his weary body touched his bunk, his eyes closed,
and no moment did he have to mourn over the past.
At rare intervals, when the weather was calm, and he was relieved from
his constant occupation of trimming the sails, he would anxiously
question the future, and wonder what he should do when this irksome
voyage was ended.
He had sworn that he would return before the end of three years, rich
enough to satisfy the exactions of Mme. de la Verberie. How should he
be able to keep this boastful promise? Stern reality had convinced him
that his projects could never be realized, except by hard work and
long waiting. What he hoped to accomplish in three years was likely to
require a lifetime.
Judging from the conversation of his companions, he was not now on the
road to fortune.
The Tom Jones set sail for Valparaiso, but certainly went in a
roundabout way to reach her destination.
The real fact was, that Captain Warth proposed visiting the Gulf of
A friend of his, the "Black Prince," he said, with a loud laugh, was
waiting for him at Badagri, to exchange a cargo of "/ebony/" for some
pipes of rum, and a hundred flint-lock muskets which were on board the
Gaston soon saw that he was serving his apprenticeship on a slaver,
one of the many ships sent yearly by the free and philanthropic
Americans, who made immense fortunes by carrying on the slave-trade.
Although this discovery filled Gaston with indignation and shame, he
was prudent enough to conceal his impressions.
His remonstrances, no matter how eloquent, would have made no change
in the opinions of Captain Warth regarding a traffic which brought him
in more than a hundred per cent, in spite of the French and English
cruisers, the damages, sometimes entire loss of cargoes, and many
The crew admired Gaston when they learned that he had cut two men into
mince-meat when they were insolent to him; this was the account of
Gaston's affair, as reported to the captain by old Menoul.
Gaston wisely determined to keep on friendly terms with the villains,
as long as he was in their power. To express disapproval of their
conduct would have incurred the enmity of the whole crew, without
bettering his own situation.
He therefore kept quiet, but swore mentally that he would desert on
the first opportunity.
This opportunity, like everything impatiently longed for, came not.
By the end of three months, Gaston had become so useful and popular
that Captain Warth found him indispensable.
Seeing him so intelligent and agreeable, he liked to have him at his
own table, and would spend hours at cards with him or consulting about
his business matters. The mate of the ship dying, Gaston was chosen to
replace him. In this capacity he made two successful voyages to
Guinea, bringing back a thousand blacks, whom he superintended during
a trip of fifteen hundred leagues, and finally landed them on the
coast of Brazil.
When Gaston had been with Captain Warth about three years, the Tom
Jones stopped at Rio Janeiro for a month, to lay in supplies. He now
decided to leave the ship, although he had become somewhat attached to
the friendly captain, who was after all a worthy man, and never would
have engaged in the diabolical traffic of human beings, but for his
little angel daughter's sake. He said that his child was so good and
beautiful, that she deserved a large fortune. Each time that he sold a
black, he would quiet any faint qualms of conscience by saying, "It is
for little Mary's good."
Gaston possessed twelve thousand francs, as his share of the profits,
when he landed at Brazil.
As a proof that the slave-trade was repugnant to his nature, he left
the slaver the moment he possessed a little capital with which to
enter some honest business.
But he was no longer the high-minded, pure-hearted Gaston, who had so
devotedly loved and perilled his life for the little fairy of La
It is useless to deny that evil examples are pernicious to morals. The
most upright characters are unconsciously influenced by bad
surroundings. As the exposure to rain, sun, and sea-air first darkened
and then hardened his skin, so did wicked associates first shock and
then destroy the refinement and purity of Gaston's mind. His heart had
become as hard and coarse as his sailor hands. He still remembered
Valentine, and sighed for her presence; but she was no longer the sole
object of affection, the one woman in the world to him. Contact with
sin had lowered his standard of women.
The three years, after which he had pledged himself to return, had
passed; perhaps Valentine was expecting him. Before deciding on any
definite project, he wrote to an intimate friend at Beaucaire to learn
what had happened during his long absence. He expressed great anxiety
about his family and neighbors.
He also wrote to his father, asking why he had never answered the many
letters which he had sent to him by returning sailors, who would have
safely forwarded the replies.
At the end of a year, he received an answer from his friend.
The letter almost drove him mad.
It told him that his father was dead; that his brother had left
France, Valentine was lately married, and that he, Gaston, had been
sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for murder.
Henceforth he was alone in the world; with no country, no family, no
home, and disgraced by a public sentence.
Valentine was married, and he had no object in life! He would
hereafter have faith in no one, since she, Valentine, had cast him
off, forgotten him. What could he expect of others, when she had
broken her troth, had lacked the courage to keep her promise and wait
for him?--she, whom he had so trusted.
In his despair, he almost regretted the Tom Jones. Yes, he sighed for
the wicked slaver crew, his life of excitement and peril. The dangers
and triumphs of those bold pirates whose only care was to heap up
money would have been preferable to his present wretchedness.
But Gaston was not a man to be long cast down.
"Money is the cause of it all!" he said with rage. "If the lack of
money can bring such misery, its possession must bestow intense
happiness. Henceforth I will devote all my energies to getting money."
He set to work with a greedy activity, which increased each day. He
tried all the many speculations open to adventurers. Alternately he
traded in furs, worked in a mine, and cultivated lands.
Five times he went to bed rich, and waked up ruined; five times, with
the patience of the castor, whose hut is swept away by each returning
tide, he recommenced the foundation of his fortune.
Finally, after long weary years of toil and struggle, he was worth a
million in gold, besides immense tracts of land.
He had often said that he would never leave Brazil, that he wanted to
end his days in Rio. He had forgotten that love for his native land
never dies in the heart of a Frenchman. Now that he was rich, he
wished to die in France.
He made inquiries, and found that the law of limitations would permit
him to return without being disturbed by the authorities. He left his
property in charge of an agent, and embarked for France, taking a
large portion of his fortune with him.
Twenty-three years and four months had elapsed since he fled from
On a bright, crisp day in January, 1866, he once again stepped on
French soil. With a sad heart, he stood upon the quays at Bordeaux,
and compared the past with the present.
He had departed a young man, ambitious, hopeful, and beloved; he
returned gray-haired, disappointed, trusting no one.
Gold could not supply the place of affection. He had said that riches
would bring happiness: his wealth was immense, and he was miserable.
His health, too, began to suffer from this sudden change of climate.
Rheumatism confined him to his bed for several months. As soon as he
could sit up, the physicians sent him to the warm baths, where he
recovered his health, but not his spirits. He felt his lonely
condition more terribly in his own country than when in a foreign