Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Ferragus by Honore de Balzac

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

of arms, you must, to be consistent, leave the garrets at the tops of
the houses, and the grisettes in the streets, abandon garrets,
grisettes, umbrellas, and overshoes to men who pay for their dinners
with tickets; and you must also comprehend Love to be a principle
which develops in all its grace only on Savonnerie carpets, beneath
the opal gleams of an alabaster lamp, between guarded walls silk-hung,
before gilded hearths in chambers deadened to all outward sounds by
shutters and billowy curtains. Mirrors must be there to show the play
of form and repeat the woman we would multiply as love itself
multiplies and magnifies her; next low divans, and a bed which, like a
secret, is divined, not shown. In this coquettish chamber are fur-
lined slippers for pretty feet, wax-candles under glass with muslin
draperies, by which to read at all hours of the night, and flowers,
not those oppressive to the head, and linen, the fineness of which
might have satisfied Anne of Austria.

Madame Jules had realized this charming programme, but that was
nothing. All women of taste can do as much, though there is always in
the arrangement of these details a stamp of personality which gives to
this decoration or that detail a character that cannot be imitated.
To-day, more than ever, reigns the fanaticism of individuality. The
more our laws tend to an impossible equality, the more we shall get
away from it in our manners and customs. Thus, rich people are
beginning, in France, to become more exclusive in their tastes and
their belongings, than they have been for the last thirty years.
Madame Jules knew very well how to carry out this programme; and
everything about her was arranged in harmony with a luxury that suits
so well with love. Love in a cottage, or "Fifteen hundred francs and
my Sophy," is the dream of starvelings to whom black bread suffices in
their present state; but when love really comes, they grow fastidious
and end by craving the luxuries of gastronomy. Love holds toil and
poverty in horror. It would rather die than merely live on from hand
to mouth.

Many women, returning from a ball, impatient for their beds, throw off
their gowns, their faded flowers, their bouquets, the fragrance of
which has now departed. They leave their little shoes beneath a chair,
the white strings trailing; they take out their combs and let their
hair roll down as it will. Little they care if their husbands see the
puffs, the hairpins, the artful props which supported the elegant
edifices of the hair, and the garlands or the jewels that adorned it.
No more mysteries! all is over for the husband; no more painting or
decoration for him. The corset--half the time it is a corset of a
reparative kind--lies where it is thrown, if the maid is too sleepy to
take it away with her. The whalebone bustle, the oiled-silk
protections round the sleeves, the pads, the hair bought from a
coiffeur, all the false woman is there, scattered about in open sight.
/Disjecta membra poetae/, the artificial poesy, so much admired by
those for whom it is conceived and elaborated, the fragments of a
pretty woman, litter every corner of the room. To the love of a
yawning husband, the actual presents herself, also yawning, in a
dishabille without elegance, and a tumbled night-cap, that of last
night and that of to-morrow night also,--"For really, monsieur, if you
want a pretty cap to rumple every night, increase my pin-money."

There's life as it is! A woman makes herself old and unpleasing to her
husband; but dainty and elegant and adorned for others, for the rival
of all husbands,--for that world which calumniates and tears to shreds
her sex.

Inspired by true love, for Love has, like other creations, its
instinct of preservation, Madame Jules did very differently; she found
in the constant blessing of her love the necessary impulse to fulfil
all those minute personal cares which ought never to be relaxed,
because they perpetuate love. Besides, such personal cares and duties
proceed from a personal dignity which becomes all women, and are among
the sweetest of flatteries, for is it not respecting in themselves the
man they love?

So Madame Jules denied to her husband all access to her dressing-room,
where she left the accessories of her toilet, and whence she issued
mysteriously adorned for the mysterious fetes of her heart. Entering
their chamber, which was always graceful and elegant, Jules found a
woman coquettishly wrapped in a charming /peignoir/, her hair simply
wound in heavy coils around her head; a woman always more simple, more
beautiful there than she was before the world; a woman just refreshed
in water, whose only artifice consisted in being whiter than her
muslins, sweeter than all perfumes, more seductive than any siren,
always loving and therefore always loved. This admirable understanding
of a wife's business was the secret of Josephine's charm for Napoleon,
as in former times it was that of Caesonia for Caius Caligula, of
Diane de Poitiers for Henri II. If it was largely productive to women
of seven or eight lustres what a weapon is it in the hands of young
women! A husband gathers with delight the rewards of his fidelity.

Returning home after the conversation which had chilled her with fear,
and still gave her the keenest anxiety, Madame Jules took particular
pains with her toilet for the night. She wanted to make herself, and
she did make herself enchanting. She belted the cambric of her
dressing-gown round her waist, defining the lines of her bust; she
allowed her hair to fall upon her beautifully modelled shoulders. A
perfumed bath had given her a delightful fragrance, and her little
bare feet were in velvet slippers. Strong in a sense of her advantages
she came in stepping softly, and put her hands over her husband's
eyes. She thought him pensive; he was standing in his dressing-gown
before the fire, his elbow on the mantel and one foot on the fender.
She said in his ear, warming it with her breath, and nibbling the tip
of it with her teeth:--

"What are you thinking about, monsieur?"

Then she pressed him in her arms as if to tear him away from all evil
thoughts. The woman who loves has a full knowledge of her power; the
more virtuous she is, the more effectual her coquetry.

"About you," he answered.

"Only about me?"


"Ah! that's a very doubtful 'yes.'"

They went to bed. As she fell asleep, Madame Jules said to herself:--

"Monsieur de Maulincour will certainly cause some evil. Jules' mind is
preoccupied, disturbed; he is nursing thoughts he does not tell me."

It was three in the morning when Madame Jules was awakened by a
presentiment which struck her heart as she slept. She had a sense both
physical and moral of her husband's absence. She did not feel the arm
Jules passed beneath her head,--that arm in which she had slept,
peacefully and happy, for five years; an arm she had never wearied. A
voice said to her, "Jules suffers, Jules is weeping." She raised her
head, and then sat up; felt that her husband's place was cold, and saw
him sitting before the fire, his feet on the fender, his head resting
against the back of an arm-chair. Tears were on his cheeks. The poor
woman threw herself hastily from her bed and sprang at a bound to her
husband's knees.

"Jules! what is it? Are you ill? Speak, tell me! Speak to me, if you
love me!" and she poured out a hundred words expressing the deepest

Jules knelt at her feet, kissed her hands and knees, and answered with
fresh tears:--

"Dear Clemence, I am most unhappy! It is not loving to distrust the
one we love. I adore you and suspect you. The words that man said to
me to-night have struck to my heart; they stay there in spite of
myself, and confound me. There is some mystery here. In short, and I
blush to say it, your explanations do not satisfy me. My reason casts
gleams into my soul which my love rejects. It is an awful combat.
Could I stay there, holding your head, and suspecting thoughts within
it to me unknown? Oh! I believe in you, I believe in you!" he cried,
seeing her smile sadly and open her mouth as if to speak. "Say
nothing; do not reproach me. Besides, could you say anything I have
not said myself for the last three hours? Yes, for three hours, I have
been here, watching you as you slept, so beautiful! admiring that
pure, peaceful brow. Yes, yes! you have always told me your thoughts,
have you not? I alone am in that soul. While I look at you, while my
eyes can plunge into yours I see all plainly. Your life is as pure as
your glance is clear. No, there is no secret behind those transparent
eyes." He rose and kissed their lids. "Let me avow to you, dearest
soul," he said, "that for the last five years each day has increased
my happiness, through the knowledge that you are all mine, and that no
natural affection even can take any of your love. Having no sister, no
father, no mother, no companion, I am neither above nor below any
living being in your heart; I am alone there. Clemence, repeat to me
those sweet things of the spirit you have so often said to me; do not
blame me; comfort me, I am so unhappy. I have an odious suspicion on
my conscience, and you have nothing in your heart to sear it. My
beloved, tell me, could I stay there beside you? Could two heads
united as ours have been lie on the same pillow when one was suffering
and the other tranquil? What are you thinking of?" he cried abruptly,
observing that Clemence was anxious, confused, and seemed unable to
restrain her tears.

"I am thinking of my mother," she answered, in a grave voice. "You
will never know, Jules, what I suffer in remembering my mother's dying
farewell, said in a voice sweeter than all music, and in feeling the
solemn touch of her icy hand at a moment when you overwhelm me with
those assurances of your precious love."

She raised her husband, strained him to her with a nervous force
greater than that of men, and kissed his hair, covering it with tears.

"Ah! I would be hacked in pieces for you! Tell me that I make you
happy; that I am to you the most beautiful of women--a thousand women
to you. Oh! you are loved as no other man ever was or will be. I don't
know the meaning of those words 'duty,' 'virtue.' Jules, I love you
for yourself; I am happy in loving you; I shall love you more and more
to my dying day. I have pride in my love; I feel it is my destiny to
have one sole emotion in my life. What I shall tell you now is
dreadful, I know--but I am glad to have no child; I do not wish for
any. I feel I am more wife than mother. Well, then, can you fear?
Listen to me, my own beloved, promise to forget, not this hour of
mingled tenderness and doubt, but the words of that madman. Jules, you
/must/. Promise me not to see him, not to go to him. I have a deep
conviction that if you set one foot in that maze we shall both roll
down a precipice where I shall perish--but with your name upon my
lips, your heart in my heart. Why hold me so high in that heart and
yet so low in reality? What! you who give credit to so many as to
money, can you not give me the charity of faith? And on the first
occasion in our lives when you might prove to me your boundless trust,
do you cast me from my throne in your heart? Between a madman and me,
it is the madman whom you choose to believe? oh, Jules!" She stopped,
threw back the hair that fell about her brow and neck, and then, in a
heart-rending tone, she added: "I have said too much; one word should
suffice. If your soul and your forehead still keep this cloud, however
light it be, I tell you now that I shall die of it."

She could not repress a shudder, and turned pale.

"Oh! I will kill that man," thought Jules, as he lifted his wife in
his arms and carried her to her bed.

"Let us sleep in peace, my angel," he said. "I have forgotten all, I
swear it!"

Clemence fell asleep to the music of those sweet words, softly
repeated. Jules, as he watched her sleeping, said in his heart:--

"She is right; when love is so pure, suspicion blights it. To that
young soul, that tender flower, a blight--yes, a blight means death."

When a cloud comes between two beings filled with affection for each
other and whose lives are in absolute unison, that cloud, though it
may disperse, leaves in those souls a trace of its passage. Either
love gains a stronger life, as the earth after rain, or the shock
still echoes like distant thunder through a cloudless sky. It is
impossible to recover absolutely the former life; love will either
increase or diminish.

At breakfast, Monsieur and Madame Jules showed to each other those
particular attentions in which there is always something of
affectation. There were glances of forced gaiety, which seemed the
efforts of persons endeavoring to deceive themselves. Jules had
involuntary doubts, his wife had positive fears. Still, sure of each
other, they had slept. Was this strained condition the effect of a
want of faith, or was it only a memory of their nocturnal scene? They
did not know themselves. But they loved each other so purely that the
impression of that scene, both cruel and beneficent, could not fail to
leave its traces in their souls; both were eager to make those traces
disappear, each striving to be the first to return to the other, and
thus they could not fail to think of the cause of their first
variance. To loving souls, this is not grief; pain is still far-off;
but it is a sort of mourning, which is difficult to depict. If there
are, indeed, relations between colors and the emotions of the soul,
if, as Locke's blind man said, scarlet produces on the sight the
effect produced upon the hearing by a blast of trumpets, it is
permissible to compare this reaction of melancholy to mourning tones
of gray.

But even so, love saddened, love in which remains a true sentiment of
its happiness, momentarily troubled though it be, gives enjoyments
derived from pain and pleasure both, which are all novel. Jules
studied his wife's voice; he watched her glances with the freshness of
feeling that inspired him in the earliest days of his passion for her.
The memory of five absolutely happy years, her beauty, the candor of
her love, quickly effaced in her husband's mind the last vestiges of
an intolerable pain.

The day was Sunday,--a day on which there was no Bourse and no
business to be done. The reunited pair passed the whole day together,
getting farther into each other's hearts than they ever yet had done,
like two children who in a moment of fear, hold each other closely and
cling together, united by an instinct. There are in this life of two-
in-one completely happy days, the gift of chance, ephemeral flowers,
born neither of yesterday nor belonging to the morrow. Jules and
Clemence now enjoyed this day as though they forboded it to be the
last of their loving life. What name shall we give to that mysterious
power which hastens the steps of travellers before the storm is
visible; which makes the life and beauty of the dying so resplendent,
and fills the parting soul with joyous projects for days before death
comes; which tells the midnight student to fill his lamp when it
shines brightest; and makes the mother fear the thoughtful look cast
upon her infant by an observing man? We all are affected by this
influence in the great catastrophes of life; but it has never yet been
named or studied; it is something more than presentiment, but not as
yet clear vision.

All went well till the following day. On Monday, Jules Desmarets,
obliged to go to the Bourse on his usual business, asked his wife, as
usual, if she would take advantage of his carriage and let him drive
her anywhere.

"No," she said, "the day is too unpleasant to go out."

It was raining in torrents. At half-past two o'clock Monsieur
Desmarets reached the Treasury. At four o'clock, as he left the
Bourse, he came face to face with Monsieur de Maulincour, who was
waiting for him with the nervous pertinacity of hatred and vengeance.

"Monsieur," he said, taking Monsieur Desmarets by the arm, "I have
important information to give you. Listen to me. I am too loyal a man
to have recourse to anonymous letters with which to trouble your peace
of mind; I prefer to speak to you in person. Believe me, if my very
life were not concerned, I should not meddle with the private affairs
of any household, even if I thought I had the right to do so."

"If what you have to say to me concerns Madame Desmarets," replied
Jules, "I request you to be silent, monsieur."

"If I am silent, monsieur, you may before long see Madame Jules on the
prisoner's bench at the court of assizes beside a convict. Now, do you
wish me to be silent?"

Jules turned pale; but his noble face instantly resumed its calmness,
though it was now a false calmness. Drawing the baron under one of the
temporary sheds of the Bourse, near which they were standing, he said
to him in a voice which concealed his intense inward emotion:--

"Monsieur, I will listen to you; but there will be a duel to the death
between us if--"

"Oh, to that I consent!" cried Monsieur de Maulincour. "I have the
greatest esteem for your character. You speak of death. You are
unaware that your wife may have assisted in poisoning me last Saturday
night. Yes, monsieur, since then some extraordinary evil has developed
in me. My hair appears to distil an inward fever and a deadly languor
through my skull; I know who clutched my hair at that ball."

Monsieur de Maulincour then related, without omitting a single fact,
his platonic love for Madame Jules, and the details of the affair in
the rue Soly which began this narrative. Any one would have listened
to him with attention; but Madame Jules' husband had good reason to be
more amazed than any other human being. Here his character displayed
itself; he was more amazed than overcome. Made a judge, and the judge
of an adored woman, he found in his soul the equity of a judge as well
as the inflexibility. A lover still, he thought less of his own
shattered life than of his wife's life; he listened, not to his own
anguish, but to some far-off voice that cried to him, "Clemence cannot
lie! Why should she betray you?"

"Monsieur," said the baron, as he ended, "being absolutely certain of
having recognized in Monsieur de Funcal the same Ferragus whom the
police declared dead, I have put upon his traces an intelligent man.
As I returned that night I remembered, by a fortunate chance, the name
of Madame Meynardie, mentioned in that letter of Ida, the presumed
mistress of my persecutor. Supplied with this clue, my emissary will
soon get to the bottom of this horrible affair; for he is far more
able to discover the truth than the police themselves."

"Monsieur," replied Desmarets, "I know not how to thank you for this
confidence. You say that you can obtain proofs and witnesses; I shall
await them. I shall seek the truth of this strange affair
courageously; but you must permit me to doubt everything until the
evidence of the facts you state is proved to me. In any case you shall
have satisfaction, for, as you will certainly understand, we both
require it."

Jules returned home.

"What is the matter, Jules?" asked his wife, when she saw him. "You
look so pale you frighten me!"

"The day is cold," he answered, walking with slow steps across the
room where all things spoke to him of love and happiness,--that room
so calm and peaceful where a deadly storm was gathering.

"Did you go out to-day?" he asked, as though mechanically.

He was impelled to ask the question by the last of a myriad of
thoughts which had gathered themselves together into a lucid
meditation, though jealousy was actively prompting them.

"No," she answered, in a tone that was falsely candid.

At that instant Jules saw through the open door of the dressing-room
the velvet bonnet which his wife wore in the mornings; on it were
drops of rain. Jules was a passionate man, but he was also full of
delicacy. It was repugnant to him to bring his wife face to face with
a lie. When such a situation occurs, all has come to an end forever
between certain beings. And yet those drops of rain were like a flash
tearing through his brain.

He left the room, went down to the porter's lodge, and said to the
porter, after making sure that they were alone:--

"Fouguereau, a hundred crowns if you tell me the truth; dismissal if
you deceive me; and nothing at all if you ever speak of my question
and your answer."

He stopped to examine the man's face, leading him under the window.
Then he continued:--

"Did madame go out this morning?"

"Madame went out at a quarter to three, and I think I saw her come in
about half an hour ago."

"That is true, upon your honor?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"You will have the money; but if you speak of this, remember, you will
lose all."

Jules returned to his wife.

"Clemence," he said, "I find I must put my accounts in order. Do not
be offended at the inquiry I am going to make. Have I not given you
forty thousand francs since the beginning of the year?"

"More," she said,--"forty-seven."

"Have you spent them?"

"Nearly," she replied. "In the first place, I had to pay several of
our last year's bills--"

"I shall never find out anything in this way," thought Jules. "I am
not taking the best course."

At this moment Jules' own valet entered the room with a letter for his
master, who opened it indifferently, but as soon as his eyes had
lighted on the signature he read it eagerly. The letter was as

Monsieur,--For the sake of your peace of mind as well as ours, I
take the course of writing you this letter without possessing the
advantage of being known to you; but my position, my age, and the
fear of some misfortune compel me to entreat you to show
indulgence in the trying circumstances under which our afflicted
family is placed. Monsieur Auguste de Maulincour has for the last
few days shown signs of mental derangement, and we fear that he
may trouble your happiness by fancies which he confided to
Monsieur le Vidame de Pamiers and myself during his first attack
of frenzy. We think it right, therefore, to warn you of his
malady, which is, we hope, curable; but it will have such serious
and important effects on the honor of our family and the career of
my grandson that we must rely, monsieur, on your entire

If Monsieur le Vidame or I could have gone to see you we would not
have written. But I make no doubt that you will regard this prayer
of a mother, who begs you to destroy this letter.

Accept the assurance of my perfect consideration.

Baronne de Maulincour, /nee/ de Rieux.

"Oh! what torture!" cried Jules.

"What is it? what is in your mind?" asked his wife, exhibiting the
deepest anxiety.

"I have come," he answered, slowly, as he threw her the letter, "to
ask myself whether it can be you who have sent me that to avert my
suspicions. Judge, therefore, what I suffer."

"Unhappy man!" said Madame Jules, letting fall the paper. "I pity him;
though he has done me great harm."

"Are you aware that he has spoken to me?"

"Oh! have you been to see him, in spite of your promise?" she cried in

"Clemence, our love is in danger of perishing; we stand outside of the
ordinary rules of life; let us lay aside all petty considerations in
presence of this great peril. Explain to me why you went out this
morning. Women think they have the right to tell us little falsehoods.
Sometimes they like to hide a pleasure they are preparing for us. Just
now you said a word to me, by mistake, no doubt, a no for a yes."

He went into the dressing-room and brought out the bonnet.

"See," he said, "your bonnet has betrayed you; these spots are
raindrops. You must, therefore, have gone out in a street cab, and
these drops fell upon it as you went to find one, or as you entered or
left the house where you went. But a woman can leave her own home for
many innocent purposes, even after she has told her husband that she
did not mean to go out. There are so many reasons for changing our
plans! Caprices, whims, are they not your right? Women are not
required to be consistent with themselves. You had forgotten
something,--a service to render, a visit, some kind action. But
nothing hinders a woman from telling her husband what she does. Can we
ever blush on the breast of a friend? It is not a jealous husband who
speaks to you, my Clemence; it is your lover, your friend, your
brother." He flung himself passionately at her feet. "Speak, not to
justify yourself, but to calm my horrible sufferings. I know that you
went out. Well--what did you do? where did you go?"

"Yes, I went out, Jules," she answered in a strained voice, though her
face was calm. "But ask me nothing more. Wait; have confidence;
without which you will lay up for yourself terrible remorse. Jules, my
Jules, trust is the virtue of love. I owe to you that I am at this
moment too troubled to answer you: but I am not a false woman; I love
you, and you know it."

"In the midst of all that can shake the faith of man and rouse his
jealousy, for I see I am not first in your heart, I am no longer thine
own self--well, Clemence, even so, I prefer to believe you, to believe
that voice, to believe those eyes. If you deceive me, you deserve--"

"Ten thousand deaths!" she cried, interrupting him.

"I have never hidden a thought from you, but you--"

"Hush!" she said, "our happiness depends upon our mutual silence."

"Ha! I /will/ know all!" he exclaimed, with sudden violence.

At that moment the cries of a woman were heard,--the yelping of a
shrill little voice came from the antechamber.

"I tell you I will go in!" it cried. "Yes, I shall go in; I will see
her! I shall see her!"

Jules and Clemence both ran to the salon as the door from the
antechamber was violently burst open. A young woman entered hastily,
followed by two servants, who said to their master:--

"Monsieur, this person would come in in spite of us. We told her that
madame was not at home. She answered that she knew very well madame
had been out, but she saw her come in. She threatened to stay at the
door of the house till she could speak to madame."

"You can go," said Monsieur Desmarets to the two men. "What do you
want, mademoiselle?" he added, turning to the strange woman.

This "demoiselle" was the type of a woman who is never to be met with
except in Paris. She is made in Paris, like the mud, like the
pavement, like the water of the Seine, such as it becomes in Paris
before human industry filters it ten times ere it enters the cut-glass
decanters and sparkles pure and bright from the filth it has been. She
is therefore a being who is truly original. Depicted scores of times
by the painter's brush, the pencil of the caricaturist, the charcoal
of the etcher, she still escapes analysis, because she cannot be
caught and rendered in all her moods, like Nature, like this fantastic
Paris itself. She holds to vice by one thread only, and she breaks
away from it at a thousand other points of the social circumference.
Besides, she lets only one trait of her character be known, and that
the only one which renders her blamable; her noble virtues are hidden;
she prefers to glory in her naive libertinism. Most incompletely
rendered in dramas and tales where she is put upon the scene with all
her poesy, she is nowhere really true but in her garret; elsewhere she
is invariably calumniated or over-praised. Rich, she deteriorates;
poor, she is misunderstood. She has too many vices, and too many good
qualities; she is too near to pathetic asphyxiation or to a dissolute
laugh; too beautiful and too hideous. She personifies Paris, to which,
in the long run, she supplies the toothless portresses, washerwomen,
street-sweepers, beggars, occasionally insolent countesses, admired
actresses, applauded singers; she has even given, in the olden time,
two quasi-queens to the monarchy. Who can grasp such a Proteus? She is
all woman, less than woman, more than woman. From this vast portrait
the painter of manners and morals can take but a feature here and
there; the /ensemble/ is infinite.

She was a grisette of Paris; a grisette in all her glory; a grisette
in a hackney-coach,--happy, young, handsome, fresh, but a grisette; a
grisette with claws, scissors, impudent as a Spanish woman, snarling
as a prudish English woman proclaiming her conjugal rights, coquettish
as a great lady, though more frank, and ready for everything; a
perfect /lionne/ in her way; issuing from the little apartment of
which she had dreamed so often, with its red-calico curtains, its
Utrecht velvet furniture, its tea-table, the cabinet of china with
painted designs, the sofa, the little moquette carpet, the alabaster
clock and candlesticks (under glass cases), the yellow bedroom, the
eider-down quilt,--in short, all the domestic joys of a grisette's
life; and in addition, the woman-of-all-work (a former grisette
herself, now the owner of a moustache), theatre-parties, unlimited
bonbons, silk dresses, bonnets to spoil,--in fact, all the felicities
coveted by the grisette heart except a carriage, which only enters her
imagination as a marshal's baton into the dreams of a soldier. Yes,
this grisette had all these things in return for a true affection, or
in spite of a true affection, as some others obtain it for an hour a
day,--a sort of tax carelessly paid under the claws of an old man.

The young woman who now entered the presence of Monsieur and Madame
Jules had a pair of feet so little covered by her shoes that only a
slim black line was visible between the carpet and her white
stockings. This peculiar foot-gear, which Parisian caricaturists have
well-rendered, is a special attribute of the grisette of Paris; but
she is even more distinctive to the eyes of an observer by the care
with which her garments are made to adhere to her form, which they
clearly define. On this occasion she was trigly dressed in a green
gown, with a white chemisette, which allowed the beauty of her bust to
be seen; her shawl, of Ternaux cashmere, had fallen from her
shoulders, and was held by its two corners, which were twisted round
her wrists. She had a delicate face, rosy cheeks, a white skin,
sparkling gray eyes, a round, very promising forehead, hair carefully
smoothed beneath her little bonnet, and heavy curls upon her neck.

"My name is Ida," she said, "and if that's Madame Jules to whom I have
the advantage of speaking, I've come to tell her all I have in my
heart against her. It is very wrong, when a woman is set up and in her
furniture, as you are here, to come and take from a poor girl a man
with whom I'm as good as married, morally, and who did talk of making
it right by marrying me before the municipality. There's plenty of
handsome young men in the world--ain't there, monsieur?--to take your
fancy, without going after a man of middle age, who makes my
happiness. Yah! I haven't got a fine hotel like this, but I've got my
love, I have. I hate handsome men and money; I'm all heart, and--"

Madame Jules turned to her husband.

"You will allow me, monsieur, to hear no more of all this," she said,
retreating to her bedroom.

"If the lady lives with you, I've made a mess of it; but I can't help
that," resumed Ida. "Why does she come after Monsieur Ferragus every

"You are mistaken, mademoiselle," said Jules, stupefied; "my wife is

"Ha! so you're married, you two," said the grisette showing some
surprise. "Then it's very wrong, monsieur,--isn't it?--for a woman who
has the happiness of being married in legal marriage to have relations
with a man like Henri--"

"Henri! who is Henri?" said Jules, taking Ida by the arm and pulling
her into an adjoining room that his wife might hear no more.

"Why, Monsieur Ferragus."

"But he is dead," said Jules.

"Nonsense; I went to Franconi's with him last night, and he brought me
home--as he ought. Besides, your wife can tell you about him; didn't
she go there this very afternoon at three o'clock? I know she did, for
I waited in the street, and saw her,--all because that good-natured
fellow, Monsieur Justin, whom you know perhaps,--a little old man with
jewelry who wears corsets,--told me that Madame Jules was my rival.
That name, monsieur, sounds mighty like a feigned one; but if it is
yours, excuse me. But this I say, if Madame Jules was a court duchess,
Henri is rich enough to satisfy all her fancies, and it is my business
to protect my property; I've a right to, for I love him, that I do. He
is my /first/ inclination; my happiness and all my future fate depends
on it. I fear nothing, monsieur; I am honest; I never lied, or stole
the property of any living soul, no matter who. If an empress was my
rival, I'd go straight to her, empress as she was; because all pretty
women are equals, monsieur--"

"Enough! enough!" said Jules. "Where do you live?"

"Rue de la Corderie-du-Temple, number 14, monsieur,--Ida Gruget,
corset-maker, at your service,--for we make lots of corsets for men."

"Where does the man whom you call Ferragus live?"

"Monsieur," she said, pursing up her lips, "in the first place, he's
not a man; he is a rich monsieur, much richer, perhaps, than you are.
But why do you ask me his address when your wife knows it? He told me
not to give it. Am I obliged to answer you? I'm not, thank God, in a
confessional or a police-court; I'm responsible only to myself."

"If I were to offer you ten thousand francs to tell me where Monsieur
Ferragus lives, how then?"

"Ha! n, o, /no/, my little friend, and that ends the matter," she
said, emphasizing this singular reply with a popular gesture. "There's
no sum in the world could make me tell you. I have the honor to bid
you good-day. How do I get out of here?"

Jules, horror-struck, allowed her to go without further notice. The
whole world seemed to crumble beneath his feet, and above him the
heavens were falling with a crash.

"Monsieur is served," said his valet.

The valet and the footman waited in the dining-room a quarter of an
hour without seeing master or mistress.

"Madame will not dine to-day," said the waiting-maid, coming in.

"What's the matter, Josephine?" asked the valet.

"I don't know," she answered. "Madame is crying, and is going to bed.
Monsieur has no doubt got some love-affair on hand, and it has been
discovered at a very bad time. I wouldn't answer for madame's life.
Men are so clumsy; they'll make you scenes without any precaution."

"That's not so," said the valet, in a low voice. "On the contrary,
madame is the one who--you understand? What times does monsieur have
to go after pleasures, he, who hasn't slept out of madame's room for
five years, who goes to his study at ten and never leaves it till
breakfast, at twelve. His life is all known, it is regular; whereas
madame goes out nearly every day at three o'clock, Heaven knows

"And monsieur too," said the maid, taking her mistress's part.

"Yes, but he goes straight to the Bourse. I told him three times that
dinner was ready," continued the valet, after a pause. "You might as
well talk to a post."

Monsieur Jules entered the dining-room.

"Where is madame?" he said.

"Madame is going to bed; her head aches," replied the maid, assuming
an air of importance.

Monsieur Jules then said to the footmen composedly: "You can take
away; I shall go and sit with madame."

He went to his wife's room and found her weeping, but endeavoring to
smother her sobs with her handkerchief.

"Why do you weep?" said Jules; "you need expect no violence and no
reproaches from me. Why should I avenge myself? If you have not been
faithful to my love, it is that you were never worthy of it."

"Not worthy?" The words were repeated amid her sobs and the accent in
which they were said would have moved any other man than Jules.

"To kill you, I must love more than perhaps I do love you," he
continued. "But I should never have the courage; I would rather kill
myself, leaving you to your--happiness, and with--whom!--"

He did not end his sentence.

"Kill yourself!" she cried, flinging herself at his feet and clasping

But he, wishing to escape the embrace, tried to shake her off,
dragging her in so doing toward the bed.

"Let me alone," he said.

"No, no, Jules!" she cried. "If you love me no longer I shall die. Do
you wish to know all?"


He took her, grasped her violently, and sat down on the edge of the
bed, holding her between his legs. Then, looking at that beautiful
face now red as fire and furrowed with tears,--

"Speak," he said.

Her sobs began again.

"No; it is a secret of life and death. If I tell it, I--No, I cannot.
Have mercy, Jules!"

"You have betrayed me--"

"Ah! Jules, you think so now, but soon you will know all."

"But this Ferragus, this convict whom you go to see, a man enriched by
crime, if he does not belong to you, if you do not belong to him--"

"Oh, Jules!"

"Speak! Is he your mysterious benefactor?--the man to whom we owe our
fortune, as persons have said already?"

"Who said that?"

"A man whom I killed in a duel."

"Oh, God! one death already!"

"If he is not your protector, if he does not give you money, if it is
you, on the contrary, who carry money to him, tell me, is he your

"What if he were?" she said.

Monsieur Desmarets crossed his arms.

"Why should that have been concealed from me?" he said. "Then you and
your mother have both deceived me? Besides, does a woman go to see her
brother every day, or nearly every day?"

His wife had fainted at his feet.

"Dead," he said. "And suppose I am mistaken?"

He sprang to the bell-rope; called Josephine, and lifted Clemence to
the bed.

"I shall die of this," said Madame Jules, recovering consciousness.

"Josephine," cried Monsieur Desmarets. "Send for Monsieur Desplein;
send also to my brother and ask him to come here immediately."

"Why your brother?" asked Clemence.

But Jules had already left the room.



For the first time in five years Madame Jules slept alone in her bed,
and was compelled to admit a physician into that sacred chamber. These
in themselves were two keen pangs. Desplein found Madame Jules very
ill. Never was a violent emotion more untimely. He would say nothing
definite, and postponed till the morrow giving any opinion, after
leaving a few directions, which were not executed, the emotions of the
heart causing all bodily cares to be forgotten.

When morning dawned, Clemence had not yet slept. Her mind was absorbed
in the low murmur of a conversation which lasted several hours between
the brothers; but the thickness of the walls allowed no word which
could betray the object of this long conference to reach her ears.
Monsieur Desmarets, the notary, went away at last. The stillness of
the night, and the singular activity of the senses given by powerful
emotion, enabled Clemence to distinguish the scratching of a pen and
the involuntary movements of a person engaged in writing. Those who
are habitually up at night, and who observe the different acoustic
effects produced in absolute silence, know that a slight echo can be
readily perceived in the very places where louder but more equable and
continued murmurs are not distinct. At four o'clock the sound ceased.
Clemence rose, anxious and trembling. Then, with bare feet and without
a wrapper, forgetting her illness and her moist condition, the poor
woman opened the door softly without noise and looked into the next
room. She saw her husband sitting, with a pen in his hand, asleep in
his arm-chair. The candles had burned to the sockets. She slowly
advanced and read on an envelope, already sealed, the words, "This is
my will."

She knelt down as if before an open grave and kissed her husband's
hand. He woke instantly.

"Jules, my friend, they grant some days to criminals condemned to
death," she said, looking at him with eyes that blazed with fever and
with love. "Your innocent wife asks only two. Leave me free for two
days, and--wait! After that, I shall die happy--at least, you will
regret me."

"Clemence, I grant them."

Then, as she kissed her husband's hands in the tender transport of her
heart, Jules, under the spell of that cry of innocence, took her in
his arms and kissed her forehead, though ashamed to feel himself still
under subjection to the power of that noble beauty.

On the morrow, after taking a few hours' rest, Jules entered his
wife's room, obeying mechanically his invariable custom of not leaving
the house without a word to her. Clemence was sleeping. A ray of light
passing through a chink in the upper blind of a window fell across the
face of the dejected woman. Already suffering had impaired her
forehead and the freshness of her lips. A lover's eye could not fail
to notice the appearance of dark blotches, and a sickly pallor in
place of the uniform tone of the cheeks and the pure ivory whiteness
of the skin,--two points at which the sentiments of her noble soul
were artlessly wont to show themselves.

"She suffers," thought Jules. "Poor Clemence! May God protect us!"

He kissed her very softly on the forehead. She woke, saw her husband,
and remembered all. Unable to speak, she took his hand, her eyes
filling with tears.

"I am innocent," she said, ending her dream.

"You will not go out to-day, will you?" asked Jules.

"No, I feel too weak to leave my bed."

"If you should change your mind, wait till I return," said Jules.

Then he went down to the porter's lodge.

"Fouguereau, you will watch the door yourself to-day. I wish to know
exactly who comes to the house, and who leaves it."

Then he threw himself into a hackney-coach, and was driven to the
hotel de Maulincour, where he asked for the baron.

"Monsieur is ill," they told him.

Jules insisted on entering, and gave his name. If he could not see the
baron, he wished to see the vidame or the dowager. He waited some time
in the salon, where Madame de Maulincour finally came to him and told
him that her grandson was much too ill to receive him.

"I know, madame, the nature of his illness from the letter you did me
the honor to write, and I beg you to believe--"

"A letter to you, monsieur, written by me!" cried the dowager,
interrupting him. "I have written you no letter. What was I made to
say in that letter, monsieur?"

"Madame," replied Jules, "intending to see Monsieur de Maulincour
to-day, I thought it best to preserve the letter in spite of its
injunction to destroy it. There it is."

Madame de Maulincour put on her spectacles, and the moment she cast
her eyes on the paper she showed the utmost surprise.

"Monsieur," she said, "my writing is so perfectly imitated that, if
the matter were not so recent, I might be deceived myself. My grandson
is ill, it is true; but his reason has never for a moment been
affected. We are the puppets of some evil-minded person or persons;
and yet I cannot imagine the object of a trick like this. You shall
see my grandson, monsieur, and you will at once perceive that he is
perfectly sound in mind."

She rang the bell, and sent to ask if the baron felt able to receive
Monsieur Desmarets. The servant returned with an affirmative answer.
Jules went to the baron's room, where he found him in an arm-chair
near the fire. Too feeble to move, the unfortunate man merely bowed
his head with a melancholy gesture. The Vidame de Pamiers was sitting
with him.

"Monsieur le baron," said Jules, "I have something to say which makes
it desirable that I should see you alone."

"Monsieur," replied Auguste, "Monsieur le vidame knows about this
affair; you can speak fearlessly before him."

"Monsieur le baron," said Jules, in a grave voice, "you have troubled
and well-nigh destroyed my happiness without having any right to do
so. Until the moment when we can see clearly which of us should
demand, or grant, reparation to the other, you are bound to help me in
following the dark and mysterious path into which you have flung me. I
have now come to ascertain from you the present residence of the
extraordinary being who exercises such a baneful effect on your life
and mine. On my return home yesterday, after listening to your
avowals, I received that letter."

Jules gave him the forged letter.

"This Ferragus, this Bourignard, or this Monsieur de Funcal, is a
demon!" cried Maulincour, after having read it. "Oh, what a frightful
maze I put my foot into when I meddled in this matter! Where am I
going? I did wrong, monsieur," he continued, looking at Jules; "but
death is the greatest of all expiations, and my death is now
approaching. You can ask me whatever you like; I am at your orders."

"Monsieur, you know, of course, where this man is living, and I must
know it if it costs me all my fortune to penetrate this mystery. In
presence of so cruel an enemy every moment is precious."

"Justin shall tell you all," replied the baron.

At these words the vidame fidgeted on his chair. Auguste rang the

"Justin is not in the house!" cried the vidame, in a hasty manner that
told much.

"Well, then," said Auguste, excitedly, "the other servants must know
where he is; send a man on horseback to fetch him. Your valet is in
Paris, isn't he? He can be found."

The vidame was visibly distressed.

"Justin can't come, my dear boy," said the old man; "he is dead. I
wanted to conceal the accident from you, but--"

"Dead!" cried Monsieur de Maulincour,--"dead! When and how?"

"Last night. He had been supping with some old friends, and, I dare
say, was drunk; his friends--no doubt they were drunk, too--left him
lying in the street, and a heavy vehicle ran over him."

"The convict did not miss /him/; at the first stroke he killed," said
Auguste. "He has had less luck with me; it has taken four blows to put
me out of the way."

Jules was gloomy and thoughtful.

"Am I to know nothing, then?" he cried, after a long pause. "Your
valet seems to have been justly punished. Did he not exceed your
orders in calumniating Madame Desmarets to a person named Ida, whose
jealousy he roused in order to turn her vindictiveness upon us?"

"Ah, monsieur! in my anger I informed him about Madame Jules," said

"Monsieur!" cried the husband, keenly irritated.

"Oh, monsieur!" replied the baron, claiming silence by a gesture, "I
am prepared for all. You cannot tell me anything my own conscience has
not already told me. I am now expecting the most celebrated of all
professors of toxicology, in order to learn my fate. If I am destined
to intolerable suffering, my resolution is taken. I shall blow my
brains out."

"You talk like a child!" cried the vidame, horrified by the coolness
with which the baron said these words. "Your grandmother would die of

"Then, monsieur," said Jules, "am I to understand that there exist no
means of discovering in what part of Paris this extraordinary man

"I think, monsieur," said the old vidame, "from what I have heard poor
Justin say, that Monsieur de Funcal lives at either the Portuguese or
the Brazilian embassy. Monsieur de Funcal is a nobleman belonging to
both those countries. As for the convict, he is dead and buried. Your
persecutor, whoever he is, seems to me so powerful that it would be
well to take no decisive measures until you are sure of some way of
confounding and crushing him. Act prudently and with caution, my dear
monsieur. Had Monsieur de Maulincour followed my advice, nothing of
all this would have happened."

Jules coldly but politely withdrew. He was now at a total loss to know
how to reach Ferragus. As he passed into his own house, the porter
told him that Madame had just been out to throw a letter into the post
box at the head of the rue de Menars. Jules felt humiliated by this
proof of the insight with which the porter espoused his cause, and the
cleverness by which he guessed the way to serve him. The eagerness of
servants, and their shrewdness in compromising masters who compromised
themselves, was known to him, and he fully appreciated the danger of
having them as accomplices, no matter for what purpose. But he could
not think of his personal dignity until the moment when he found
himself thus suddenly degraded. What a triumph for the slave who could
not raise himself to his master, to compel his master to come down to
his level! Jules was harsh and hard to him. Another fault. But he
suffered so deeply! His life till then so upright, so pure, was
becoming crafty; he was to scheme and lie. Clemence was scheming and
lying. This to him was a moment of horrible disgust. Lost in a flood
of bitter feelings, Jules stood motionless at the door of his house.
Yielding to despair, he thought of fleeing, of leaving France forever,
carrying with him the illusions of uncertainty. Then, again, not
doubting that the letter Clemence had just posted was addressed to
Ferragus, his mind searched for a means of obtaining the answer that
mysterious being was certain to send. Then his thoughts began to
analyze the singular good fortune of his life since his marriage, and
he asked himself whether the calumny for which he had taken such
signal vengeance was not a truth. Finally, reverting to the coming
answer, he said to himself:--

"But this man, so profoundly capable, so logical in his every act, who
sees and foresees, who calculates, and even divines, our very
thoughts, is he likely to make an answer? Will he not employ some
other means more in keeping with his power? He may send his answer by
some beggar; or in a carton brought by an honest man, who does not
suspect what he brings; or in some parcel of shoes, which a shop-girl
may innocently deliver to my wife. If Clemence and he have agreed upon
such means--"

He distrusted all things; his mind ran over vast tracts and shoreless
oceans of conjecture. Then, after floating for a time among a thousand
contradictory ideas, he felt he was strongest in his own house, and he
resolved to watch it as the ant-lion watches his sandy labyrinth.

"Fouguereau," he said to the porter, "I am not at home to any one who
comes to see me. If any one calls to see madame, or brings her
anything, ring twice. Bring all letters addressed here to me, no
matter for whom they are intended."

"Thus," thought he, as he entered his study, which was in the
entresol, "I forestall the schemes of this Ferragus. If he sends some
one to ask for me so as to find out if Clemence is alone, at least I
shall not be tricked like a fool."

He stood by the window of his study, which looked upon the street, and
then a final scheme, inspired by jealousy, came into his mind. He
resolved to send his head-clerk in his own carriage to the Bourse with
a letter to another broker, explaining his sales and purchases and
requesting him to do his business for that day. He postponed his more
delicate transactions till the morrow, indifferent to the fall or rise
of stocks or the debts of all Europe. High privilege of love!--it
crushes all things, all interests fall before it: altar, throne,

At half-past three, just the hour at which the Bourse is in full blast
of reports, monthly settlements, premiums, etc., Fouguereau entered
the study, quite radiant with his news.

"Monsieur, an old woman has come, but very cautiously; I think she's a
sly one. She asked for monsieur, and seemed much annoyed when I told
her he was out; then she gave me a letter for madame, and here it is."

Fevered with anxiety, Jules opened the letter; then he dropped into a
chair, exhausted. The letter was mere nonsense throughout, and needed
a key. It was virtually in cipher.

"Go away, Fouguereau." The porter left him. "It is a mystery deeper
than the sea below the plummet line! Ah! it must be love; love only is
so sagacious, so inventive as this. Ah! I shall kill her."

At this moment an idea flashed through his brain with such force that
he felt almost physically illuminated by it. In the days of his
toilsome poverty before his marriage, Jules had made for himself a
true friend. The extreme delicacy with which he had managed the
susceptibilities of a man both poor and modest; the respect with which
he had surrounded him; the ingenious cleverness he had employed to
nobly compel him to share his opulence without permitting it to make
him blush, increased their friendship. Jacquet continued faithful to
Desmarets in spite of his wealth.

Jacquet, a nobly upright man, a toiler, austere in his morals, had
slowly made his way in that particular ministry which develops both
honesty and knavery at the same time. A clerk in the ministry of
Foreign Affairs, he had charge of the most delicate division of its
archives. Jacquet in that office was like a glow-worm, casting his
light upon those secret correspondences, deciphering and classifying
despatches. Ranking higher than a mere /bourgeois/, his position at
the ministry was superior to that of the other subalterns. He lived
obscurely, glad to feel that such obscurity sheltered him from
reverses and disappointments, and was satisfied to humbly pay in the
lowest coin his debt to the country. Thanks to Jules, his position had
been much ameliorated by a worthy marriage. An unrecognized patriot, a
minister in actual fact, he contented himself with groaning in his
chimney-corner at the course of the government. In his own home,
Jacquet was an easy-going king,--an umbrella-man, as they say, who
hired a carriage for his wife which he never entered himself. In
short, to end this sketch of a philosopher unknown to himself, he had
never suspected and never in all his life would suspect the advantages
he might have drawn from his position,--that of having for his
intimate friend a broker, and of knowing every morning all the secrets
of the State. This man, sublime after the manner of that nameless
soldier who died in saving Napoleon by a "qui vive," lived at the

In ten minutes Jules was in his friend's office. Jacquet gave him a
chair, laid aside methodically his green silk eye-shade, rubbed his
hands, picked up his snuff-box, rose, stretched himself till his
shoulder-blades cracked, swelled out his chest, and said:--

"What brings you here, Monsieur Desmarets? What do you want with me?"

"Jacquet, I want you to decipher a secret,--a secret of life and

"It doesn't concern politics?"

"If it did, I shouldn't come to you for information," said Jules. "No,
it is a family matter, about which I require you to be absolutely

"Claude-Joseph Jacquet, dumb by profession. Don't you know me by this
time?" he said, laughing. "Discretion is my lot."

Jules showed him the letter.

"You must read me this letter, addressed to my wife."

"The deuce! the deuce! a bad business!" said Jacquet, examining the
letter as a usurer examines a note to be negotiated. "Ha! that's a
gridiron letter! Wait a minute."

He left Jules alone for a moment, but returned immediately.

"Easy enough to read, my friend! It is written on the gridiron plan,
used by the Portuguese minister under Monsieur de Choiseul, at the
time of the dismissal of the Jesuits. Here, see!"

Jacquet placed upon the writing a piece of paper cut out in regular
squares, like the paper laces which confectioners wrap round their
sugarplums; and Jules then read with perfect ease the words that were
visible in the interstices. They were as follows:--

"Don't be uneasy, my dear Clemence; our happiness cannot again be
troubled; and your husband will soon lay aside his suspicions.
However ill you may be, you must have the courage to come here
to-morrow; find strength in your love for me. Mine for you has
induced me to submit to a cruel operation, and I cannot leave my
bed. I have had the actual cautery applied to my back, and it was
necessary to burn it in a long time; you understand me? But I
thought of you, and I did not suffer.

"To baffle Maulincour (who will not persecute us much longer), I
have left the protecting roof of the embassy, and am now safe from
all inquiry in the rue des Enfants-Rouges, number 12, with an old
woman, Madame Etienne Gruget, mother of that Ida, who shall pay
dear for her folly. Come to-morrow, at nine in the morning. I am
in a room which is reached only by an interior staircase. Ask for
Monsieur Camuset. Adieu; I kiss your forehead, my darling."

Jacquet looked at Jules with a sort of honest terror, the sign of a
true compassion, as he made his favorite exclamation in two separate
and distinct tones,--

"The deuce! the deuce!"

"That seems clear to you, doesn't it?" said Jules. "Well, in the
depths of my heart there is a voice that pleads for my wife, and makes
itself heard above the pangs of jealousy. I must endure the worst of
all agony until to-morrow; but to-morrow, between nine and ten I shall
know all; I shall be happy or wretched for all my life. Think of me
then, Jacquet."

"I shall be at your house to-morrow at eight o'clock. We will go
together; I'll wait for you, if you like, in the street. You may run
some danger, and you ought to have near you some devoted person who'll
understand a mere sign, and whom you can safely trust. Count on me."

"Even to help me in killing some one?"

"The deuce! the deuce!" said Jacquet, repeating, as it were, the same
musical note. "I have two children and a wife."

Jules pressed his friend's hand and went away; but returned

"I forgot the letter," he said. "But that's not all, I must reseal

"The deuce! the deuce! you opened it without saving the seal; however,
it is still possible to restore it. Leave it with me and I'll bring it
to you /secundum scripturam/."

"At what time?"

"Half-past five."

"If I am not yet in, give it to the porter and tell him to send it up
to madame."

"Do you want me to-morrow?"

"No. Adieu."

Jules drove at once to the place de la Rotonde du Temple, where he
left his cabriolet and went on foot to the rue des Enfants-Rouges. He
found the house of Madame Etienne Gruget and examined it. There, the
mystery on which depended the fate of so many persons would be cleared
up; there, at this moment, was Ferragus, and to Ferragus all the
threads of this strange plot led. The Gordian knot of the drama,
already so bloody, was surely in a meeting between Madame Jules, her
husband, and that man; and a blade able to cut the closest of such
knots would not be wanting.

The house was one of those which belong to the class called
/cabajoutis/. This significant name is given by the populace of Paris
to houses which are built, as it were, piecemeal. They are nearly
always composed of buildings originally separate but afterwards united
according to the fancy of the various proprietors who successively
enlarge them; or else they are houses begun, left unfinished, again
built upon, and completed,--unfortunate structures which have passed,
like certain peoples, under many dynasties of capricious masters.
Neither the floors nor the windows have an /ensemble/,--to borrow one
of the most picturesque terms of the art of painting; all is discord,
even the external decoration. The /cabajoutis/ is to Parisian
architecture what the /capharnaum/ is to the apartment,--a poke-hole,
where the most heterogeneous articles are flung pell-mell.

"Madame Etienne?" asked Jules of the portress.

This portress had her lodge under the main entrance, in a sort of
chicken coop, or wooden house on rollers, not unlike those sentry-
boxes which the police have lately set up by the stands of hackney-

"Hein?" said the portress, without laying down the stocking she was

In Paris the various component parts which make up the physiognomy of
any given portion of the monstrous city, are admirably in keeping with
its general character. Thus porter, concierge, or Suisse, whatever
name may be given to that essential muscle of the Parisian monster, is
always in conformity with the neighborhood of which he is a part; in
fact, he is often an epitome of it. The lazy porter of the faubourg
Saint-Germain, with lace on every seam of his coat, dabbles in stocks;
he of the Chaussee d'Antin takes his ease, reads the money-articles in
the newspapers, and has a business of his own in the faubourg
Montmartre. The portress in the quarter of prostitution was formerly a
prostitute; in the Marais, she has morals, is cross-grained, and full
of crotchets.

On seeing Monsieur Jules this particular portress, holding her
knitting in one hand, took a knife and stirred the half-extinguished
peat in her foot-warmer; then she said:--

"You want Madame Etienne; do you mean Madame Etienne Gruget?"

"Yes," said Jules, assuming a vexed air.

"Who makes trimmings?"


"Well, then, monsieur," she said, issuing from her cage, and laying
her hand on Jules' arm and leading him to the end of a long passage-
way, vaulted like a cellar, "go up the second staircase at the end of
the court-yard--where you will see the windows with the pots of pinks;
that's where Madame Etienne lives."

"Thank you, madame. Do you think she is alone?"

"Why shouldn't she be alone? she's a widow."

Jules hastened up a dark stairway, the steps of which were knobby with
hardened mud left by the feet of those who came and went. On the
second floor he saw three doors but no signs of pinks. Fortunately, on
one of the doors, the oiliest and darkest of the three, he read these
words, chalked on a panel: "Ida will come to-night at nine o'clock."

"This is the place," thought Jules.

He pulled an old bellrope, black with age, and heard the smothered
sound of a cracked bell and the barking of an asthmatic little dog. By
the way the sounds echoed from the interior he knew that the rooms
were encumbered with articles which left no space for reverberation,--
a characteristic feature of the homes of workmen and humble
households, where space and air are always lacking.

Jules looked out mechanically for the pinks, and found them on the
outer sill of a sash window between two filthy drain-pipes. So here
were flowers; here, a garden, two yards long and six inches wide;
here, a wheat-ear; here, a whole life epitomized; but here, too, all
the miseries of that life. A ray of light falling from heaven as if by
special favor on those puny flowers and the vigorous wheat-ear brought
out in full relief the dust, the grease, and that nameless color,
peculiar to Parisian squalor, made of dirt, which crusted and spotted
the damp walls, the worm-eaten balusters, the disjointed window-
casings, and the door originally red. Presently the cough of an old
woman, and a heavy female step, shuffling painfully in list slippers,
announced the coming of the mother of Ida Gruget. The creature opened
the door and came out upon the landing, looked up, and said:--

"Ah! is this Monsieur Bocquillon? Why, no? But perhaps you're his
brother. What can I do for you? Come in, monsieur."

Jules followed her into the first room, where he saw, huddled
together, cages, household utensils, ovens, furniture, little
earthenware dishes full of food or water for the dog and the cats, a
wooden clock, bed-quilts, engravings of Eisen, heaps of old iron, all
these things mingled and massed together in a way that produced a most
grotesque effect,--a true Parisian dusthole, in which were not lacking
a few old numbers of the "Constitutionel."

Jules, impelled by a sense of prudence, paid no attention to the
widow's invitation when she said civilly, showing him an inner room:--

"Come in here, monsieur, and warm yourself."

Fearing to be overheard by Ferragus, Jules asked himself whether it
were not wisest to conclude the arrangement he had come to make with
the old woman in the crowded antechamber. A hen, which descended
cackling from a loft, roused him from this inward meditation. He came
to a resolution, and followed Ida's mother into the inner room,
whither they were accompanied by the wheezy pug, a personage otherwise
mute, who jumped upon a stool. Madame Gruget showed the assumption of
semi-pauperism when she invited her visitor to warm himself. Her fire-
pot contained, or rather concealed two bits of sticks, which lay
apart: the grating was on the ground, its handle in the ashes. The
mantel-shelf, adorned with a little wax Jesus under a shade of squares
of glass held together with blue paper, was piled with wools, bobbins,
and tools used in the making of gimps and trimmings. Jules examined
everything in the room with a curiosity that was full of interest, and
showed, in spite of himself, an inward satisfaction.

"Well, monsieur, tell me, do you want to buy any of my things?" said
the old woman, seating herself in a cane arm-chair, which appeared to
be her headquarters. In it she kept her handkerchief, snuffbox,
knitting, half-peeled vegetables, spectacles, calendar, a bit of
livery gold lace just begun, a greasy pack of cards, and two volumes
of novels, all stuck into the hollow of the back. This article of
furniture, in which the old creature was floating down the river of
life, was not unlike the encyclopedic bag which a woman carries with
her when she travels; in which may be found a compendium of her
household belongings, from the portrait of her husband to /eau de
Melisse/ for faintness, sugarplums for the children, and English
court-plaster in case of cuts.

Jules studied all. He looked attentively at Madame Gruget's yellow
visage, at her gray eyes without either brows or lashes, her toothless
mouth, her wrinkles marked in black, her rusty cap, her still more
rusty ruffles, her cotton petticoat full of holes, her worn-out
slippers, her disabled fire-pot, her table heaped with dishes and
silks and work begun or finished, in wool or cotton, in the midst of
which stood a bottle of wine. Then he said to himself: "This old woman
has some passion, some strong liking or vice; I can make her do my

"Madame," he said aloud, with a private sign of intelligence, "I have
come to order some livery trimmings." Then he lowered his voice. "I
know," he continued, "that you have a lodger who has taken the name of
Camuset." The old woman looked at him suddenly, but without any sign
of astonishment. "Now, tell me, can we come to an understanding? This
is a question which means fortune for you."

"Monsieur," she replied, "speak out, and don't be afraid. There's no
one here. But if I had any one above, it would be impossible for him
to hear you."

"Ha! the sly old creature, she answers like a Norman," thought Jules,
"We shall agree. Do not give yourself the trouble to tell falsehoods,
madame," he resumed, "In the first place, let me tell you that I mean
no harm either to you or to your lodger who is suffering from cautery,
or to your daughter Ida, a stay-maker, the friend of Ferragus. You
see, I know all your affairs. Do not be uneasy; I am not a detective
policeman, nor do I desire anything that can hurt your conscience. A
young lady will come here to-morrow-morning at half-past nine o'clock,
to talk with this lover of your daughter. I want to be where I can see
all and hear all, without being seen or heard by them. If you will
furnish me with the means of doing so, I will reward that service with
the gift of two thousand francs and a yearly stipend of six hundred.
My notary shall prepare a deed before you this evening, and I will
give him the money to hold; he will pay the two thousand to you
to-morrow after the conference at which I desire to be present, as you
will then have given proofs of your good faith."

"Will it injure my daughter, my good monsieur?" she asked, casting a
cat-like glance of doubt and uneasiness upon him.

"In no way, madame. But, in any case, it seems to me that your
daughter does not treat you well. A girl who is loved by so rich a man
as Ferragus ought to make you more comfortable than you seem to be."

"Ah, my dear monsieur, just think, not so much as one poor ticket to
the Ambigu, or the Gaiete, where she can go as much as she likes. It's
shameful! A girl for whom I sold my silver forks and spoons! and now I
eat, at my age, with German metal,--and all to pay for her
apprenticeship, and give her a trade, where she could coin money if
she chose. As for that, she's like me, clever as a witch; I must do
her that justice. But, I will say, she might give me her old silk
gowns,--I, who am so fond of wearing silk. But no! Monsieur, she dines
at the Cadran-Bleu at fifty francs a head, and rolls in her carriage
as if she were a princess, and despises her mother for a Colin-Lampon.
Heavens and earth! what heedless young ones we've brought into the
world; we have nothing to boast of there. A mother, monsieur, can't be
anything else but a good mother; and I've concealed that girl's ways,
and kept her in my bosom, to take the bread out of my mouth and cram
everything into her own. Well, well! and now she comes and fondles one
a little, and says, 'How d'ye do, mother?' And that's all the duty she
thinks of paying. But she'll have children one of these days, and then
she'll find out what it is to have such baggage,--which one can't help
loving all the same."

"Do you mean that she does nothing for you?"

"Ah, nothing? No, monsieur, I didn't say that; if she did nothing,
that would be a little too much. She gives me my rent and thirty-six
francs a month. But, monsieur, at my age,--and I'm fifty-two years
old, with eyes that feel the strain at night,--ought I to be working
in this way? Besides, why won't she have me to live with her? I should
shame her, should I? Then let her say so. Faith, one ought to be
buried out of the way of such dogs of children, who forget you before
they've even shut the door."

She pulled her handkerchief from her pocket, and with it a lottery
ticket that dropped on the floor; but she hastily picked it up,
saying, "Hi! that's the receipt for my taxes."

Jules at once perceived the reason of the sagacious parsimony of which
the mother complained; and he was the more certain that the widow
Gruget would agree to the proposed bargain.

"Well, then, madame," he said, "accept what I offer you."

"Did you say two thousand francs in ready money, and six hundred
annuity, monsieur?"

"Madame, I've changed my mind; I will promise you only three hundred
annuity. This way seems more to my own interests. But I will give you
five thousand francs in ready money. Wouldn't you like that as well?"

"Bless me, yes, monsieur!"

"You'll get more comfort out of it; and you can go to the Ambigu and
Franconi's at your ease in a coach."

"As for Franconi, I don't like that, for they don't talk there.
Monsieur, if I accept, it is because it will be very advantageous for
my child. I sha'n't be a drag on her any longer. Poor little thing!
I'm glad she has her pleasures, after all. Ah, monsieur, youth must be
amused! And so, if you assure me that no harm will come to anybody--"

"Not to anybody," replied Jules. "But now, how will you manage it?"

"Well, monsieur, if I give Monsieur Ferragus a little tea made of
poppy-heads to-night, he'll sleep sound, the dear man; and he needs
it, too, because of his sufferings, for he does suffer, I can tell
you, and more's the pity. But I'd like to know what a healthy man like
him wants to burn his back for, just to get rid of a tic douleureux
which troubles him once in two years. However, to come back to our
business. I have my neighbor's key; her lodging is just above mine,
and in it there's a room adjoining the one where Monsieur Ferragus is,
with only a partition between them. My neighbor is away in the country
for ten days. Therefore, if I make a hole to-night while Monsieur
Ferragus is sound asleep, you can see and hear them to-morrow at your
ease. I'm on good terms with a locksmith,--a very friendly man, who
talks like an angel, and he'll do the work for me and say nothing
about it."

"Then here's a hundred francs for him. Come to-night to Monsieur
Desmaret's office; he's a notary, and here's his address. At nine
o'clock the deed will be ready, but--silence!"

"Enough, monsieur; as you say--silence! Au revoir, monsieur."

Jules went home, almost calmed by the certainty that he should know
the truth on the morrow. As he entered the house, the porter gave him
the letter properly resealed.

"How do you feel now?" he said to his wife, in spite of the coldness
that separated them.

"Pretty well, Jules," she answered in a coaxing voice, "do come and
dine beside me."

"Very good," he said, giving her the letter. "Here is something
Fouguereau gave me for you."

Clemence, who was very pale, colored high when she saw the letter, and
that sudden redness was a fresh blow to her husband.

"Is that joy," he said, laughing, "or the effect of expectation?"

"Oh, of many things!" she said, examining the seal.

"I leave you now for a few moments."

He went down to his study, and wrote to his brother, giving him
directions about the payment to the widow Gruget. When he returned, he
found his dinner served on a little table by his wife's bedside, and
Josephine ready to wait on him.

"If I were up how I should like to serve you myself," said Clemence,
when Josephine had left them. "Oh, yes, on my knees!" she added,
passing her white hands through her husband's hair. "Dear, noble
heart, you were very kind and gracious to me just now. You did me more
good by showing me such confidence than all the doctors on earth could
do me with their prescriptions. That feminine delicacy of yours--for
you do know how to love like a woman--well, it has shed a balm into my
heart which has almost cured me. There's truce between us, Jules;
lower your head, that I may kiss it."

Jules could not deny himself the pleasure of that embrace. But it was
not without a feeling of remorse in his heart; he felt himself small
before this woman whom he was still tempted to think innocent. A sort
of melancholy joy possessed him. A tender hope shone on her features
in spite of their grieved expression. They both were equally unhappy
in deceiving each other; another caress, and, unable to resist their
suffering, all would then have been avowed.

"To-morrow evening, Clemence."

"No, no; to-morrow morning, by twelve o'clock, you will know all, and
you'll kneel down before your wife--Oh, no! you shall not be
humiliated; you are all forgiven now; you have done no wrong. Listen,
Jules; yesterday you did crush me--harshly; but perhaps my life would
not have been complete without that agony; it may be a shadow that
will make our coming days celestial."

"You lay a spell upon me," cried Jules; "you fill me with remorse."

"Poor love! destiny is stronger than we, and I am not the accomplice
of mine. I shall go out to-morrow."

"At what hour?" asked Jules.

"At half-past nine."

"Clemence," he said, "take every precaution; consult Doctor Desplein
and old Haudry."

"I shall consult nothing but my heart and my courage."

"I shall leave you free; you will not see me till twelve o'clock."

"Won't you keep me company this evening? I feel so much better."

After attending to some business, Jules returned to his wife,--
recalled by her invincible attraction. His passion was stronger than
his anguish.

The next day, at nine o'clock Jules left home, hurried to the rue des
Enfants-Rouges, went upstairs, and rang the bell of the widow Gruget's

"Ah! you've kept your word, as true as the dawn. Come in, monsieur,"
said the old woman when she saw him. "I've made you a cup of coffee
with cream," she added, when the door was closed. "Oh! real cream; I
saw it milked myself at the dairy we have in this very street."

"Thank you, no, madame, nothing. Take me at once--"

"Very good, monsieur. Follow me, this way."

She led him up into the room above her own, where she showed him,
triumphantly, an opening about the size of a two-franc piece, made
during the night, in a place, which, in each room, was above a
wardrobe. In order to look through it, Jules was forced to maintain
himself in rather a fatiguing attitude, by standing on a step-ladder
which the widow had been careful to place there.

"There's a gentleman with him," she whispered, as she retired.

Jules then beheld a man employed in dressing a number of wounds on the
shoulders of Ferragus, whose head he recognized from the description
given to him by Monsieur de Maulincour.

"When do you think those wounds will heal?" asked Ferragus.

"I don't know," said the other man. "The doctors say those wounds will
require seven or eight more dressings."

"Well, then, good-bye until to-night," said Ferragus, holding out his
hand to the man, who had just replaced the bandage.

"Yes, to-night," said the other, pressing his hand cordially. "I wish
I could see you past your sufferings."

"To-morrow Monsieur de Funcal's papers will be delivered to us, and
Henri Bourignard will be dead forever," said Ferragus. "Those fatal
marks which have cost us so dear no longer exist. I shall become once
more a social being, a man among men, and more of a man than the
sailor whom the fishes are eating. God knows it is not for my own sake
I have made myself a Portuguese count!"

"Poor Gratien!--you, the wisest of us all, our beloved brother, the
Benjamin of the band; as you very well know."

"Adieu; keep an eye on Maulincour."

"You can rest easy on that score."

"Ho! stay, marquis," cried the convict.

"What is it?"

"Ida is capable of everything after the scene of last night. If she
should throw herself into the river, I would not fish her out. She
knows the secret of my name, and she'll keep it better there. But
still, look after her; for she is, in her way, a good girl."

"Very well."

The stranger departed. Ten minutes later Jules heard, with a feverish
shudder, the rustle of a silk gown, and almost recognized by their
sound the steps of his wife.

"Well, father," said Clemence, "my poor father, are you better? What
courage you have shown!"

"Come here, my child," replied Ferragus, holding out his hand to her.

Clemence held her forehead to him and he kissed it.

"Now tell me, what is the matter, my little girl? What are these new

"Troubles, father! it concerns the life or death of the daughter you
have loved so much. Indeed you must, as I wrote you yesterday, you
/must/ find a way to see my poor Jules to-day. If you knew how good he
has been to me, in spite of all suspicions apparently so legitimate.
Father, my love is my very life. Would you see me die? Ah! I have
suffered so much that my life, I feel it! is in danger."

"And all because of the curiosity of that miserable Parisian?" cried
Ferragus. "I'd burn Paris down if I lost you, my daughter. Ha! you may
know what a lover is, but you don't yet know what a father can do."

"Father, you frighten me when you look at me in that way. Don't weigh
such different feelings in the same scales. I had a husband before I
knew that my father was living--"

"If your husband was the first to lay kisses on your forehead, I was
the first to drop tears upon it," replied Ferragus. "But don't feel
frightened, Clemence, speak to me frankly. I love you enough to
rejoice in the knowledge that you are happy, though I, your father,
may have little place in your heart, while you fill the whole of

"Ah! what good such words do me! You make me love you more and more,
though I seem to rob something from my Jules. But, my kind father,
think what his sufferings are. What may I tell him to-day?"

"My child, do you think I waited for your letter to save you from this
threatened danger? Do you know what will become of those who venture
to touch your happiness, or come between us? Have you never been aware
that a second providence was guarding your life? Twelve men of power
and intellect form a phalanx round your love and your existence,--
ready to do all things to protect you. Think of your father, who has
risked death to meet you in the public promenades, or see you asleep
in your little bed in your mother's home, during the night-time. Could
such a father, to whom your innocent caresses give strength to live
when a man of honor ought to have died to escape his infamy, could
/I/, in short, I who breathe through your lips, and see with your
eyes, and feel with your heart, could I fail to defend with the claws
of a lion and the soul of a father, my only blessing, my life, my
daughter? Since the death of that angel, your mother, I have dreamed
but of one thing,--the happiness of pressing you to my heart in the
face of the whole earth, of burying the convict,--" He paused a
moment, and then added: "--of giving you a father, a father who could
press without shame your husband's hand, who could live without fear
in both your hearts, who could say to all the world, 'This is my
daughter,'--in short, to be a happy father."

"Oh, father! father!"

"After infinite difficulty, after searching the whole globe,"
continued Ferragus, "my friends have found me the skin of a dead man
in which to take my place once more in social life. A few days hence,
I shall be Monsieur de Funcal, a Portuguese count. Ah! my dear child,
there are few men of my age who would have had the patience to learn
Portuguese and English, which were spoken fluently by that devil of a
sailor, who was drowned at sea."

"But, my dear father--"

"All has been foreseen, and prepared. A few days hence, his Majesty
John VI., King of Portugal will be my accomplice. My child, you must
have a little patience where your father has had so much. But ah! what
would I not do to reward your devotion for the last three years,--
coming religiously to comfort your old father, at the risk of your own

"Father!" cried Clemence, taking his hands and kissing them.

"Come, my child, have courage still; keep my fatal secret a few days
longer, till the end is reached. Jules is not an ordinary man, I know;
but are we sure that his lofty character and his noble love may not
impel him to dislike the daughter of a--"

"Oh!" cried Clemence, "you have read my heart; I have no other fear
than that. The very thought turns me to ice," she added, in a heart-
rending tone. "But, father, think that I have promised him the truth
in two hours."

"If so, my daughter, tell him to go to the Portuguese embassy and see
the Comte de Funcal, your father. I will be there."

"But Monsieur de Maulincour has told him of Ferragus. Oh, father, what
torture, to deceive, deceive, deceive!"

"Need you say that to me? But only a few days more, and no living man
will be able to expose me. Besides, Monsieur de Maulincour is beyond
the faculty of remembering. Come, dry your tears, my silly child, and

At this instant a terrible cry rang from the room in which Jules
Desmarets was stationed.

The clamor was heard by Madame Jules and Ferragus through the opening
of the wall, and struck them with terror.

"Go and see what it means, Clemence," said her father.

Clemence ran rapidly down the little staircase, found the door into
Madame Gruget's apartment wide open, heard the cries which echoed from
the upper floor, went up the stairs, guided by the noise of sobs, and
caught these words before she entered the fatal chamber:--

"You, monsieur, you, with your horrid inventions,--you are the cause
of her death!"

"Hush, miserable woman!" replied Jules, putting his handkerchief on
the mouth of the old woman, who began at once to cry out, "Murder!

At this instant Clemence entered, saw her husband, uttered a cry, and
fled away.

"Who will save my child?" cried the widow Gruget. "You have murdered

"How?" asked Jules, mechanically, for he was horror-struck at being
seen by his wife.

"Read that," said the old woman, giving him a letter. "Can money or
annuities console me for that?"

Farewell, mother! I bequeeth you what I have. I beg your pardon
for my forlts, and the last greef to which I put you by ending my
life in the river. Henry, who I love more than myself, says I have
made his misfortune, and as he has drifen me away, and I have lost
all my hops of merrying him, I am going to droun myself. I shall
go abov Neuilly, so that they can't put me in the Morg. If Henry
does not hate me anny more after I am ded, ask him to berry a pore
girl whose hart beet for him only, and to forgif me, for I did
rong to meddle in what didn't consern me. Tak care of his wounds.
How much he sufered, pore fellow! I shall have as much corage to
kill myself as he had to burn his bak. Carry home the corsets I
have finished. And pray God for your daughter.


"Take this letter to Monsieur de Funcal, who is upstairs," said Jules.
"He alone can save your daughter, if there is still time."

So saying he disappeared, running like a man who has committed a
crime. His legs trembled. The hot blood poured into his swelling heart
in torrents greater than at any other moment of his life, and left it
again with untold violence. Conflicting thoughts struggled in his
mind, and yet one thought predominated,--he had not been loyal to the
being he loved most. It was impossible for him to argue with his
conscience, whose voice, rising high with conviction, came like an
echo of those inward cries of his love during the cruel hours of doubt
he had lately lived through.

He spent the greater part of the day wandering about Paris, for he
dared not go home. This man of integrity and honor feared to meet the
spotless brow of the woman he had misjudged. We estimate wrongdoing in
proportion to the purity of our conscience; the deed which is scarcely
a fault in some hearts, takes the proportions of a crime in certain
unsullied souls. The slightest stain on the white garment of a virgin
makes it a thing ignoble as the rags of a mendicant. Between the two
the difference lies in the misfortune of the one, the wrong-doing of
the other. God never measures repentance; he never apportions it. As
much is needed to efface a spot as to obliterate the crimes of a
lifetime. These reflections fell with all their weight on Jules;
passions, like human laws, will not pardon, and their reasoning is
more just; for are they not based upon a conscience of their own as
infallible as an instinct?

Jules finally came home pale, despondent, crushed beneath a sense of
his wrong-doing, and yet expressing in spite of himself the joy his
wife's innocence had given him. He entered her room all throbbing with
emotion; she was in bed with a high fever. He took her hand, kissed
it, and covered it with tears.

"Dear angel," he said, when they were alone, "it is repentance."

"And for what?" she answered.

As she made that reply, she laid her head back upon the pillow, closed
her eyes, and remained motionless, keeping the secret of her
sufferings that she might not frighten her husband,--the tenderness of
a mother, the delicacy of an angel! All the woman was in her answer.

The silence lasted long. Jules, thinking her asleep, went to question
Josephine as to her mistress's condition.

"Madame came home half-dead, monsieur. We sent at once for Monsieur

"Did he come? What did he say?"

"He said nothing, monsieur. He did not seem satisfied; gave orders
that no one should go near madame except the nurse, and said he should
come back this evening."

Jules returned softly to his wife's room and sat down in a chair
before the bed. There he remained, motionless, with his eyes fixed on
those of Clemence. When she raised her eyelids she saw him, and
through those lids passed a tender glance, full of passionate love,
free from reproach and bitterness,--a look which fell like a flame of
fire upon the heart of that husband, nobly absolved and forever loved
by the being whom he had killed. The presentiment of death struck both
their minds with equal force. Their looks were blended in one anguish,
as their hearts had long been blended in one love, felt equally by
both, and shared equally. No questions were uttered; a horrible
certainty was there,--in the wife an absolute generosity; in the
husband an awful remorse; then, in both souls the same vision of the
end, the same conviction of fatality.

There came a moment when, thinking his wife asleep, Jules kissed her
softly on the forehead; then after long contemplation of that
cherished face, he said:--

"Oh God! leave me this angel still a little while that I may blot out
my wrong by love and adoration. As a daughter, she is sublime; as a
wife, what word can express her?"

Clemence raised her eyes; they were full of tears.

"You pain me," she said, in a feeble voice.

It was getting late; Doctor Haudry came, and requested the husband to
withdraw during his visit. When the doctor left the sick-room Jules
asked him no question; one gesture was enough.

"Call in consultation any physician in whom you place confidence; I
may be wrong."

"Doctor, tell me the truth. I am a man, and I can bear it. Besides, I
have the deepest interest in knowing it; I have certain affairs to

"Madame Jules is dying," said the physician. "There is some moral
malady which has made great progress, and it has complicated her
physical condition, which was already dangerous, and made still more
so by her great imprudence. To walk about barefooted at night! to go
out when I forbade it! on foot yesterday in the rain, to-day in a
carriage! She must have meant to kill herself. But still, my judgment
is not final; she has youth, and a most amazing nervous strength. It
may be best to risk all to win all by employing some violent reagent.
But I will not take upon myself to order it; nor will I advise it; in
consultation I shall oppose it."

Jules returned to his wife. For eleven days and eleven nights he
remained beside her bed, taking no sleep during the day when he laid
his head upon the foot of the bed. No man ever pushed the jealousy of
care and the craving for devotion to such an extreme as he. He could
not endure that the slightest service should be done by others for his
wife. There were days of uncertainty, false hopes, now a little
better, then a crisis,--in short, all the horrible mutations of death
as it wavers, hesitates, and finally strikes. Madame Jules always
found strength to smile at her husband. She pitied him, knowing that
soon he would be alone. It was a double death,--that of life, that of
love; but life grew feebler, and love grew mightier. One frightful
night there was, when Clemence passed through that delirium which
precedes the death of youth. She talked of her happy love, she talked
of her father; she related her mother's revelations on her death-bed,
and the obligations that mother had laid upon her. She struggled, not
for life, but for her love which she could not leave.

"Grant, O God!" she said, "that he may not know I want him to die with

Jules, unable to bear the scene, was at that moment in the adjoining
room, and did not hear the prayer, which he would doubtless have

When this crisis was over, Madame Jules recovered some strength. The
next day she was beautiful and tranquil; hope seemed to come to her;
she adorned herself, as the dying often do. Then she asked to be alone
all day, and sent away her husband with one of those entreaties made
so earnestly that they are granted as we grant the prayer of a little

Jules, indeed, had need of this day. He went to Monsieur de Maulincour
to demand the satisfaction agreed upon between them. It was not
without great difficulty that he succeeded in reaching the presence of
the author of these misfortunes; but the vidame, when he learned that
the visit related to an affair of honor, obeyed the precepts of his
whole life, and himself took Jules into the baron's chamber.

Monsieur Desmarets looked about him in search of his antagonist.

"Yes! that is really he," said the vidame, motioning to a man who was
sitting in an arm-chair beside the fire.

"Who is it? Jules?" said the dying man in a broken voice.

Auguste had lost the only faculty that makes us live--memory. Jules
Desmarets recoiled with horror at this sight. He could not even
recognize the elegant young man in that thing without--as Bossuet
said--a name in any language. It was, in truth, a corpse with whitened
hair, its bones scarce covered with a wrinkled, blighted, withered
skin,--a corpse with white eyes motionless, mouth hideously gaping,
like those of idiots or vicious men killed by excesses. No trace of
intelligence remained upon that brow, nor in any feature; nor was
there in that flabby flesh either color or the faintest appearance of
circulating blood. Here was a shrunken, withered creature brought to
the state of those monsters we see preserved in museums, floating in
alchohol. Jules fancied that he saw above that face the terrible head
of Ferragus, and his own anger was silenced by such a vengeance. The
husband found pity in his heart for the vacant wreck of what was once
a man.

"The duel has taken place," said the vidame.

"But he has killed many," answered Jules, sorrowfully.

"And many dear ones," added the old man. "His grandmother is dying;
and I shall follow her soon into the grave."

On the morrow of this day, Madame Jules grew worse from hour to hour.
She used a moment's strength to take a letter from beneath her pillow,
and gave it eagerly to her husband with a sign that was easy to
understand,--she wished to give him, in a kiss, her last breath. He
took it, and she died. Jules fell half-dead himself and was taken to
his brother's house. There, as he deplored in tears his absence of the
day before, his brother told him that this separation was eagerly
desired by Clemence, who wished to spare him the sight of the
religious paraphernalia, so terrible to tender imaginations, which the
Church displays when conferring the last sacraments upon the dying.

"You could not have borne it," said his brother. "I could hardly bear
the sight myself, and all the servants wept. Clemence was like a
saint. She gathered strength to bid us all good-bye, and that voice,
heard for the last time, rent our hearts. When she asked pardon for
the pain she might unwillingly have caused her servants, there were
cries and sobs and--"

"Enough! enough!" said Jules.

He wanted to be alone, that he might read the last words of the woman
whom all had loved, and who had passed away like a flower.

"My beloved, this is my last will. Why should we not make wills
for the treasures of our hearts, as for our worldly property? Was
not my love my property, my all? I mean here to dispose of my
love: it was the only fortune of your Clemence, and it is all that
she can leave you in dying. Jules, you love me still, and I die
happy. The doctors may explain my death as they think best; I
alone know the true cause. I shall tell it to you, whatever pain
it may cause you. I cannot carry with me, in a heart all yours, a
secret which you do not share, although I die the victim of an
enforced silence.

"Jules, I was nurtured and brought up in the deepest solitude, far
from the vices and the falsehoods of the world, by the loving
woman whom you knew. Society did justice to her conventional
charm, for that is what pleases society; but I knew secretly her
precious soul, I could cherish the mother who made my childhood a
joy without bitterness, and I knew why I cherished her. Was not
that to love doubly? Yes, I loved her, I feared her, I respected
her; yet nothing oppressed my heart, neither fear nor respect. I
was all in all to her; she was all in all to me. For nineteen
happy years, without a care, my soul, solitary amid the world
which muttered round me, reflected only her pure image; my heart
beat for her and through her. I was scrupulously pious; I found
pleasure in being innocent before God. My mother cultivated all
noble and self-respecting sentiments in me. Ah! it gives me
happiness to tell you, Jules, that I now know I was indeed a young
girl, and that I came to you virgin in heart.

"When I left that absolute solitude, when, for the first time, I
braided my hair and crowned it with almond blossoms, when I added,
with delight, a few satin knots to my white dress, thinking of the
world I was to see, and which I was curious to see--Jules, that
innocent and modest coquetry was done for you! Yes, as I entered
the world, I saw /you/ first of all. Your face, I remarked it; it
stood out from the rest; your person pleased me; your voice, your
manners all inspired me with pleasant presentiments. When you came
up, when you spoke to me, the color on your forehead, the tremble
in your voice,--that moment gave me memories with which I throb as
I now write to you, as I now, for the last time, think of them.
Our love was at first the keenest of sympathies, but it was soon
discovered by each of us and then, as speedily, shared; just as,
in after times, we have both equally felt and shared innumerable
happinesses. From that moment my mother was only second in my
heart. Next, I was yours, all yours. There is my life, and all my
life, dear husband.

"And here is what remains for me to tell you. One evening, a few
days before my mother's death, she revealed to me the secret of

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest