Part 4 out of 9
"I think so," said Pique-Vinaigre; "you do not know all you are going to
lose; the most charming part of my story is about to commence."
"Do not listen to it, then," said Skeleton, with difficulty restraining his
rage; "he is not in the vein to-day: I find his story abominably stupid."
"My story stupid?" cried Pique-Vinaigre, his vanity wounded; "well, keeper,
I beg you, I supplicate you, to remain to the end. I have only enough to
fill a good quarter of an hour; besides, your soup is cold. Now what do you
risk? I will hasten on with my story, so that you may still have the time
to go and eat before we go to our beds."
"Well, then, I remain, but make haste," said the keeper, drawing near.
"And you are right to remain, for, without boasting, you have never heard
anything like it--above all, the conclusion; there is the triumph of the
ape and of Gringalet, escorted by all the little beast conductors and
inhabitants of Little Poland. My word of honor I do not say it from vanity,
but it is first-class."
"Then go on, my boy," said the keeper, coming close to the stove.
The Skeleton trembled with rage. He almost despaired of accomplishing his
crime. Once the hour of repose arrived, Germain was saved; for he did not
sleep in the same ward with his implacable enemy, and the next day, as we
have said, he was to occupy one of the vacant cells. And, moreover,
Skeleton saw, from the interruptions of several of the prisoners, that they
found themselves, thanks to the story of Pique-Vinaigre, filled with ideas
that softened their hearts; perhaps, then, they would not assist, with
savage indifference, the accomplishment of a frightful murder, of which
their presence would make them accomplices. He could prevent the patterer
from finishing his story, but then his last hope vanished of seeing the
keeper retire before the hour in which Germain would be in safety.
"Oh! stupid, is it?" said Pique-Vinaigre. "Well, the honorable society
shall be the judge.
"There was not then an animal more wicked than the large ape Gargousse,
which was, above all, as savage as his master toward children. What did
Cut-in-half do to punish Gringalet for wishing to run away? That you shall
know directly; in the mean time, he caught the child, shut him up in the
garret, saying to him, 'To-morrow morning, when all your comrades are gone,
I will take hold of you, and you shall see what I do to those who wish to
run away from here.'
"I leave you to imagine what a horrible night Gringalet passed. He hardly
closed his eyes; he wondered what Cut-in-half would do. At length he fell
asleep. But what a sleep! Then there was a dream, a frightful dream--that
is to say, the beginning--you will see. He dreamed that he was one of those
poor flies which he had so often saved from the spider's web, and that he,
in his turn, fell into a large and strong web, where he struggled with all
his strength without being able to escape; then he saw coming toward him
softly, cautiously, a kind of monster, which had the face of his master, on
a spider's body. My poor Gringalet began again to struggle, as you may
imagine; but the more efforts he made, the more he was entangled in the
toils, just like the poor flies. At length the spider approached--touched
him--and he felt the large, cold, and hairy paws of the monster encircle
him. He thought himself dead, but suddenly he heard a kind of humming
noise, clear and acute, and saw a little golden gnat, which had a kind of
sting as fine and brilliant as a diamond needle, flying round the spider in
a furious manner, and a voice (when I say voice, just imagine the voice of
a gnat!)-a voice said to him, 'Poor little fly! you have saved flies; the
spider shall not---'
"Unfortunately, Gringalet awoke with a start, and he saw not the end of the
dream; nevertheless, he was a little comforted, saying to himself, 'Perhaps
the golden gnat with the diamond sting would have killed the spider if I
had seen the end of the dream.'
"But Gringalet had need of all this to console himself, for, as the night
advanced, his fear returned so strongly that in the end he forgot his
dream, or rather, he only remembered the frightful part of it; the great
web where he had been entangled, and the spider with the padrone's face.
You can judge what shiverings of alarm he must have had. Bless me! judge
then, alone--all alone--with no one to take his part!
"In the morning, when he saw the light appear little by little through the
garret-window, his alarm redoubled; the moment was drawing near when he
would be left all alone with Cut-in-half. Then he threw himself on his
knees in the middle of the garret, and weeping hot tears, he begged his
companions to ask his pardon from Cut-in-half, or to assist him to escape
if there was any way. Oh, yes! some from fear of the master, others from
caring nothing about it, others from cruelty, refused the service which
poor Gringalet demanded."
"Wicked scrubs," said the prisoner in the blue cap, "they had neither body
"It is true," said another; "it is vexing to see this want of feeling."
"And, alone, and without defense," resumed Blue Cap; "for one who cannot
stretch out his neck without wincing, it is always a pity. When one has
teeth to bite, then it is different. You have tusks? Well, show them, and
look for tail, my cadet."
"That is true!" said several of the prisoners.
"Come!" cried Skeleton, no longer able to restrain his rage, and addressing
Blue Cap, "will you shut up? Have I not already said, 'Silence in the
band'? Am I, or am I not, the ruler here?"
For sole answer, Blue Cap looked him in the face, and then made a gesture,
perfectly well known to street arabs, which consists in placing on the tip
of the nose the thumb of the right hand, opened, and touching with the
little finger the thumb of the left, also spread out like a fan. Blue Cap
accompanied this mute answer with an expression so grotesque that several
of the prisoners shouted with laughter, while some of the others, on the
contrary, remained stupefied at the audacity of the new prisoner. Skeleton
shook his fist at Blue Cap, and said, grinding his teeth, "We'll settle
"And I will make the addition on your hide. I'll set down seventeen and
For fear the keeper should find a new reason for remaining in order to
prevent a possible quarrel, Skeleton answered calmly:
"That is not the question. I have the ruling of the hall, and I must be
obeyed; is it not so, keeper?"
"It is true," said the officer. "Do not interrupt. And you, Pique-Vinaigre,
go on; but make haste, my boy."
"Then," resumed Pique-Vinaigre, continuing his story, "Gringalet, seeing
himself abandoned, gave himself up to his unhappy fate. Broad daylight
came, and all the children prepared to depart with their beasts.
Cut-in-half opened the trap and called the roll, in order to give each one
his piece of bread; all descended the ladder, and Gringalet, more dead than
alive, crouching in a corner of the garret, moved no more than it did; he
saw his companions going off one after the other; he would have given
anything to do as they did. Finally, they were all gone. The heart of the
poor child beat strongly; he hoped that, perhaps, his master would forget
him. Ah, well, he heard Cut-in-half at the foot of the ladder, cry in a
harsh voice: 'Gringalet! Gringalet!' 'Here I am, master.'
"'Come down at once, or I'll fetch you,' answered Cut-in-half. Gringalet
thought his last day was come.
"'I must,' he said to himself, trembling in every limb, and remembering his
dream, 'now you _are_ in for it, little fly: the spider is going to eat
"After having placed his turtle softly on the ground, he bade him good-bye,
for he had become attached to the creature, and approached the trap-door.
He placed his foot on the ladder to descend, when Cut-in-half, taking him
by his poor little leg, as slender as a spindle, drew him so strongly, so
harshly, that Gringalet tumbled down, and polished his face against the
whole length of the ladder."
"What a pity that the Alderman had not been there--what a fine dance for
Cut-in-half," said Blue Cap; "it is in such times as these that it is good
to be strong."
"Yes, my son; but, unfortunately, the Alderman was not there! Cut-in-half
took the child by the seat of his trousers, and carried him into his den,
where he kept his big ape tied to the foot of his bed. On seeing the child,
the beast began to leap and grind his teeth like a mad thing, and to spring
the whole length of his chain, as if he wished to devour him."
"Poor Gringalet, how did he ever get out of this?"
"Why, if he had fallen into the clutches of the ape, he would have been
strangled at once."
"Thunder! it makes me half dead," said Blue Cap: "as for me at this moment,
I could not harm a mouse--what do you say, mate?"
"Nor I either."
At this moment the clock struck three-quarters past three. Skeleton,
fearing more and more that time would be wanting, cried, furious at these
interruptions, which seemed to indicate that several of the prisoners were
becoming softened, "Silence in the crowd! He will never finish, if you
jabber as much as he does."
Pique-Vinaigre continued: "When one reflects that Gringalet had had all the
trouble in the world to become accustomed to his turtle, and that the most
courageous of his comrades trembled at the name alone of Gargousse, let him
imagine his terror when he saw himself carried by his master near to this
fiend of an ape. 'Pardon, master,' he cried, his teeth chattering as if he
had an ague,--'pardon, master! I'll never do it again, I promise you.'
"The poor little fellow cried, 'I will never do it again,' without knowing
why he said so, for he had nothing to reproach himself with; but
Cut-in-half laughed at that. In spite of the cries of the child, who
struggled hard, he placed him within reach of Gargousse, and the beast
sprung upon him and clutched him!"
A shudder passed through the audience, who were more and more attentive.
"How stupid I should have been to go away," said the keeper, approaching
"And this is nothing yet; the finest has to come," answered Pique-Vinaigre.
"As soon as Gringalet felt the cold and hairy paws of the great ape, which
seized him by the throat and by the head, he thought himself devoured,
became, as it were, off his nut, and began to cry with groans which would
have softened a tiger.
"' The spider of my dream, good Lord! the spider of my dream--little golden
gnat, help, help!'
"'Will you hush? will you hush?' said Cut-in-half, giving him heavy kicks,
for he was afraid that his cries would be heard; but at the end of a moment
there was no more danger: poor Gringalet cried no more, struggled no more;
on his knees, as white as a sheet, he shut his eyes and shivered as if it
had been January. Meantime the ape beat him, pulled his hair, and scratched
him; and from time to time, the wicked beast stopped to look at his master,
absolutely as if they understood each other. As for Cut-in-half, he laughed
so loud, that if Gringalet had cried, the shouts of his master would have
drowned his cries. It would seem as if this encouraged Gargousse, for he
was more and more cruel to the child."
"Oh! you sanguinary ape," cried Blue Cap. "If I had hold of you by the
tail, I would spin you round like a mill--just like a sling, and I would
crack your conk on the pavement."
"Rascally ape! he was as wicked as a man!"
"There are no men so wicked as that!"
"Not so wicked?" answered Pique-Vinaigre. "You forget old Cut-in-half!
Judge of it--this is what he did afterward: he unfastened the chain (which
was very long) from the bed, took the child, more dead than alive, from the
paws of Gargousse, and fastened him at one end of it, with Gargousse at the
other. There was an idea!"
"It is true, there are men more cruel than the most cruel beasts."
"When Cut-in-half had done this, he said to his ape, which appeared to
"'Attention, Gargousse! they have led and shown you, now in your turn you
shall show Gringalet; he shall be your ape. Come, hop, stand up, Gringalet,
or I say to Gargousse, 'Speak to him, fellow!'"
"The poor child had fallen on his knees, his hands clasped, but not able to
speak; his teeth chattered in his head.
"'There! make him walk, Gargousse,' said Cut-in-half to his ape; 'and if he
is sulky, do as I do.'
"And at the same time he gave the child a torrent of blows with a switch,
and afterward handed it to the ape. You know how these animals imitate by
nature, but Gargousse in this respect excelled; so he took the rod in his
hand and fell upon Gringalet, who was obliged to get up. Once on his legs
he was about the same size as the ape; then Cut-in-half went out of his
room and descended the staircase, calling Gargousse, and Gargousse followed
him, driving Gringalet before him with blows from the rod. They reached
thus the little court of the building. There Cut-in-half counted on amusing
himself; he shut the door leading into the lane, and signed to Gargousse to
make the child run before him around the court, by striking him with the
switch. The ape obeyed, and began to chase Gringalet in this manner, while
Cut-in-half held his sides with laughter. You think that this wickedness
was enough? Oh! yes, but it was nothing as yet. Up to this time, Gringalet
would have escaped with a few scratches, lashes, and horrible fear. Now
this is what Cut-in-half did: to make the ape furious against the child,
who, panting and out of breath, was more dead than alive, he took Gringalet
by the hair, pretending to belabor him with blows, and then he handed him
back to Gargousse, crying, 'Speak to him, speak to him!' and then he showed
him a piece of sheep's heart, as much as to say to him, 'This shall be your
reward!' Oh! then, my friends, truly it was a dreadful sight. Imagine a
great red ape with a black snout, grinding his teeth like a madman, and
throwing himself furiously on this poor little unfortunate, who, not being
able to defend himself, had been thrown down at the first blow, and lay
with his face to the ground, in order to protect it. Seeing this,
Gargousse, his master setting him at the child continually, mounted on his
back, took him by the neck, and fell to biting him, until he made the blood
come. 'Oh! the spider of my dream--the spider!' cried Gringalet in a
stifled voice, believing now that he was going to be killed. Suddenly there
was a knock at the door!"
"Ah! the Alderman!" cried the prisoners with joy.
"Yes, this time it was he, my friends; he called through the door, 'Will
you open, Cut-in-half? will you open? Do not sham deaf; for I see you
through the keyhole!"
"Cut-in-half, forced to reply, went grumbling to open the door for the
Alderman, who was a rough, as solid as a bridge, in spite of his fifty
years, and with whom it was worth no one's while to joke when he was angry.
"'What do you want with me?' said Cut-in-half to him, half opening the
door. 'I want to speak to you,' said the Alderman, who entered almost by
force into the little yard; then, seeing the ape still savage after
Gringalet, he ran, caught Gargousse by the nape of his neck, and tried to
take the child away from under him; but he only then saw that the child was
chained to the ape. Seeing this, he looked at Cut-in-half in a terrible
manner, and cried, 'Come, then, at once, and unchain this poor boy!' You
can judge of the joy and surprise of Gringalet, who, half dead with fright,
found himself saved as it were by a miracle. Then he could not but think of
the golden gnat of his dream, although the Alderman did not look much like
a gnat, the big buffer."
"Ah," said the keeper, making a step toward the door; "now Gringalet is
saved, I'll go to eat my soup."
"Saved?" cried Pique-Vinaigre, "oh yes, saved! but not yet at the end of
his troubles, poor Gringalet."
"Really?" said several of the prisoners, with interest.
"But what is going to happen to him now?" asked the keeper, drawing near.
"Remain, and you shall know," answered the patterer.
"Cunning Pique-Vinaigre, he does with one just as he pleases," said the
keeper; "I will remain a little longer."
Skeleton, mute, foamed with rage. Pique-Vinaigre continued:
"Cut-in-half, who feared the Alderman as he did fire, had grumblingly
loosened the child from the chain; when that was done, the Alderman threw
Gargousse into the air, received him on the end of a most magnificent kick,
and sent him sprawling ten feet off. The ape cried like a burned child,
gnashed his teeth, but fled quickly, and went to take refuge on the top of
a shed, where he shook his fist at the Alderman. 'Why do you beat my ape?'
said Cut-in-half to the Alderman. 'You ought rather to ask me, why I do not
beat you, to cause this child such suffering! You are drunk pretty early
this morning!' 'I am no more drunk than you are; I was teaching a trick to
my ape; I wish to give a representation where he and Gringalet will appear
together; I am following my business--why do you meddle with it?' 'I meddle
with what concerns me. This morning, not seeing Gringalet pass before my
door with the other children, I asked them where he was; they did not
answer--they looked embarrassed. I know you. I thought you were after no
good, and I was not wrong. Listen to me: every time I do not see Gringalet
pass before my door with the others in the morning, I will be here at once,
and you must show him to me, or I'll knock you down.' 'I will do as I
please; I have no orders to receive from you,' answered Cut-in-half, riled
at this threat. You shall not knock me down; and if you do not take
yourself off from this, or if you return, I---' Flip flap! went the
Alderman, interrupting Cut-in-half by a duet of blows enough to silence a
rhinoceros: 'There is what you get for answering to the Alderman of Little
"Two blows! it was too little," said Blue Cap; "in his place, I should have
given him a bigger dose."
"And he should not have had it too hastily," added a prisoner.
"The Alderman," replied Pique-Vinaigre, "could have eaten ten like
Cut-in-half. So he was obliged to put these blows in his pocket; but he was
none the less furious at being struck, and above all, before Gringalet. So
at this very moment he promised to avenge himself, and an idea occurred to
him which could only have occurred to a demon of wickedness like himself.
While he was ruminating on this diabolical idea, the Alderman said:
'Remember, that if you attempt to injure this child again, I will force you
to clear out from Little Poland, you and your beasts; otherwise I will stir
up the neighborhood against you; you know they hate you here, so you will
have a passport which your back will remember, I promise you.' Traitor as
he was, in order to be able to execute his wicked idea, instead of
continuing to be angry against the Alderman, Cut-in-half cringed like a
dog, and said: 'Faith of a man! you were wrong to strike me, Alderman, and
to think that I wished any harm to Gringalet; on the contrary, I repeat to
you that I was teaching a new trick to my ape; he is not sweet-tempered
when he is angry, and if, in the scuffle, the little one was bitten, I am
sorry for it. 'Hum!' said the Alderman, looking at him out of the corner of
his eye, 'is this really true, what you tell me? If you wish to teach a
trick to your ape, why did you fasten him to Gringalet?' 'Because Gringalet
must also know it. This is what I wish to do; I will dress Gargousse in a
red coat and a cap with feathers; I will seat Gringalet in a child's chair;
then I will put a towel around his neck, and the ape, with a large wooden
razor will pretend to shave him.'
"The Alderman could not keep from laughing at this idea. 'Is it not
comical?' said Cut-in-half, with a smirking look. 'In truth, it is,' said
the Alderman, 'so much the more as they say your ape is sufficiently
cunning and knowing to play such a part.
"'I think so. When he has seen me five or six times pretend to shave
Gringalet, he will imitate me with his large wooden razor; but on that
account, as the child must become used to him, I have tied them together.'
"'But why have you chosen Gringalet rather than any other?'
"'Because he is the smallest of all, and, being seated, Gargousse will be
larger than he is; besides, I intended to give half the profits to
"'If this is so,' said the Alderman, reassured by the hypocrisy of the
owner of the beasts, 'I regret the dose I gave you; consider it as an
advance against the next time you do wrong.'
"While his master spoke with the Alderman, Gringalet dared not breathe; he
trembled like a leaf, and longed to throw himself at the Alderman's feet,
and beg to be taken away; but his courage failed him, and he began again to
despair, saying to himself, 'I shall be like the poor fly of my dream--the
spider will devour me; I was wrong to believe that the golden gnat would
"'Look here, my boy; since Daddy Cut-'em-in-half gives you half of the
money, that ought to encourage you to accustom yourself to the ape. Bah!
bah! you will do it; and if the profits are large, you will have no cause
"'He complain! Have you any reason to complain?' asked his master, giving
him a side look so terrible that the child wished he was a hundred feet
"'No, no, master!' he stammered.
"'You see, Alderman,' said Cut-in-half, 'he never has complained. I only
wish for his welfare, after all. If Gargousse scratched him the first time,
it shall not happen again, I promise you. I will watch.'
"'Very well! Thus every one will be content.'
"'Gringalet the most,' said Cut-in-half; 'is it not so?'
"'Yes, yes, master,' said the trembling child.
"'And to console you for your scratches, I will give you part of a good
breakfast; for the Alderman is going to send a plate of cutlets and
pickles, four bottles of wine, and a gallon of brandy.'
"'At your service, Cut-in-half, my cellar and my kitchen are open for the
"At heart the Alderman was a good man, but he was not very wise, and he
liked to sell his wine, and cutlets also. The rascal knew it well; you see
that he sent him off contented at having sold some eatables and drinkables,
and reassured as to the fate of Gringalet. So now, here is the poor little
fellow fallen again into the power of his master. The moment the Alderman
had turned on his heels, Cut-in-half showed the staircase to his victim,
and ordered him to mount at once to his garret; the child did not allow him
to say it twice, but went, very much alarmed.
"'Oh, Lord! I am lost,' he cried, throwing himself upon the straw beside
his turtle, and weeping bitterly. He was there for a good hour sobbing,
when he heard Cut-in-half's coarse voice calling him. What increased the
fear of Gringalet was, that it seemed to him the voice of his master had a
"'Will you come down at once?' said the owner of the beasts, with a horrid
"The child quickly descended the stairs. Hardly had he put his foot on the
ground, when his master seized him, and carried him to his chamber,
staggering at each step, for Cut-in-half had drunk so much that he was as
tipsy as a sow, and could hardly keep his legs; his body swayed backward
and forward, and he looked at Gringalet, rolling his eyes in a most
ferocious manner, but without speaking. He had too thick a tongue. Never
had the child been more afraid of him.
"Gargousse was chained to the foot of the bed. In the middle of the room
was a chair with a cord hanging on the back.
"'Si--(hic!)--sit down there,'" continued Pique-Vinaigre, imitating, to the
end of his story, the stammering of a drunken man, whenever he related what
"Gringalet seated himself trembling. Then Cut-in-half, without saying a
word, wound the cord around him, and tied him to the chair, and that not
easily; for although the owner of the beasts could still see a little, and
knew what he was about, you may imagine he made granny's knots. At length
Gringalet is firmly fastened in the chair. 'Oh, dear,' he murmured, 'this
time no one will come to deliver me.'
"Poor little fellow, he was right; no one could--no one did come, as you
will see. The Alderman had gone, and Cut-in-half had double-locked the door
of the court on the inside, and drawn the bolt; no one could come there to
the aid of Gringalet."
"Oh! this time," said several of the prisoners, much interested in the
story, "Gringalet, you are lost!"
"Poor little fellow!"---"What a pity!"
"If twenty sous would save him, I would give them."
"Rascal of a Cut-in-half! Whatever is he going to do?"
Pique-Vinaigre continued: "When Gringalet was tied to the chair, his master
said to him, 'You young rascal, it is you who have been the cause that--I
have been beaten by the Alderman--you--are--go-o-o-ing to die!' And he drew
from his pocket a large razor, newly sharpened, opened it, and took with
one hand Gringalet by the hair."
A murmur of indignation and horror circulated among the prisoners, and
interrupted for a moment Pique-Vinaigre, who resumed:
"At sight of the razor the child began to cry, 'Pardon! master, pardon! do
not kill me! 'C-r-r-r-y, c-r-r-y, b-o-o-y--you will not (hic!) cry long,'
"'Golden gnat! golden gnat! help!' cried poor Gringalet, almost delirious,
recalling to his mind his dream; 'here is the spider going to kill me!'
"'Ah! you call--me--a-a-a (hic!) spider!' said Cut-in-half; 'on
account--o-of--that--and other things you--are--go-o-o-ing to (hic!)
die--do you hear-r-r?--but--not by my (hic!) hand--because, besides, they
will guillotine me-e-e. I will say--and--prove--that it was--the a-a-pe--I
have prepared--but no matter!' said Cut-in-half, hardly able to stand;
then, calling his ape, which, at the end of his chain, ground his teeth,
and looked alternately at his master and the child:
"'Look here, Gargousse,' he said showing him the razor and Gringalet, whom
he held by the hair, 'you must do so to him; do you (hic!) see?'
"And passing the back of the razor several times over the throat of
Gringalet, he pretended to cut it. The confounded ape was such a good
imitator, so wicked, and so malicious, that he comprehended what his master
wished; and, to prove it to him, shook his chain with the left paw, threw
his head back, and pretended to cut his throat. 'That's it, Gargousse--
that's it,' said Cut-in-half stammering, shutting his eyes, and reeling so
much that he came near, falling with Gringalet and the chair. 'Yes, that's
it; I'll unfasten your chain--cut his whistle--that's it; hey, Gargousse?'
"The ape cried and chattered, as if to say yes, and put out his paw to take
the razor, which was held toward him.
"'Golden gnat, help!' murmured Gringalet, in a crying tone, certain now
that his hour was come. For, alas! he called the golden gnat to his
assistance, without any hope that he would come; but he said that as one
says 'Oh, Lord!' when one is drowning. Just at this moment, Gringalet saw
come in at the window one of those small flies, green and gold, which are
so common; one would have called it a spark of fire which flew, and just at
the moment Cut-in-half gave the razor to Gargousse, the golden gnat flew
straight into the eye of the wicked wretch. A fly in the eye is no great
thing; but, for a moment, it stings like a prick with a needle; so
Cut-in-half, who could hardly stand, fell on the floor and rolled like a
log to the foot of the bed where Gargousse was chained.
"'Golden gnat, I thank you; you have saved me!' cried Gringalet; for, still
seated, and tied on the chair, he had seen everything."
"It is true enough, the golden gnat prevented his throat from being cut,"
cried the prisoners, transported with joy.
"Hooray for the golden gnat!" cried Blue Cap.
"Yes, long live the golden gnat!" repeated several voices.
"Bravo, Pique-Vinaigre and his stories!" said another.
"Stop, then," resumed the patterer, "here's the finest and most terrible
part of the story that I had promised you. Cut-in-half had fallen on the
ground like lead; he was so drunk that he stirred no more than a log; he
was dead drunk, and knew nothing; but, in falling, he came near crushing
Gargousse, and had almost broken one of his hind paws. You know how wicked
this villainous beast was--rancorous and malicious. He held on to the razor
which his master had given him to cut the throat of Gringalet. What does my
lovely ape do when he sees his master stretched on his back, immovable as a
fried carp, and much at his ease? He sprung upon him, crouched on his
breast, with one of his paws stretched the skin of his throat, and with the
other--click! he cut his windpipe in a moment, exactly as Cut-in-half had
shown him how to operate on Gringalet."
"Long live Gargousse!"
"The little golden gnat forever!"
"Hooray, Gargousse!" cried the prisoners with enthusiasm.
"Well, my friends!" cried Pique-Vinaigre, enchanted at the success of his
story, "what you have just cried, all Little Poland cried an hour later."
"How is that--how?"
"I told you that, to do this bloody deed quite at his ease, Cut-in-half had
locked his door on the inside. In the evening, the children returned, one
after the other, with their beasts; the first knocked--no answer; at
length, when they were all assembled, they knocked again--no reply; one of
them went after the Alderman, and told him that they had knocked, and that
their master did not open the door. 'The fellow is as drunk as a Dutchman,'
said he. 'I sent him some wine just now; we must break open the door; the
children cannot remain all night out of doors.'
"They break open the doors, they enter, they mount the stairs, they reach
the chamber, and what do they see? Gargousse, chained and crouching on the
body of his master, and playing with the razor; poor Gringalet, happily out
of his reach, still seated, and tied on the chair, not daring to cast his
eyes on the dead body, and looking at--guess what? The little golden fly,
which, after having fluttered around the child, as if to felicitate him,
had finally come and seated itself on his little hand. Gringalet related
all to the Alderman, and the crowd who followed him; this appeared truly,
as they said, an act of Providence; then the Alderman said, 'A triumph to
Gringalet; a triumph to Gargousse, who has killed this bad Cut-in-half. He
cut others; it was his turn to be cut!'
"'Yes, yes!' said the crowd, for the defunct was detested by everybody, 'a
triumph for Gargousse! a triumph for Gringalet.'
"It was night; they lighted wisps of straw, they tied Gargousse on a bench,
which four boys carried on their shoulders; the sweet pet of an ape did not
appear to dislike this, and assumed the airs of a conqueror, showing his
teeth to the crowd. After the ape came the Alderman, carrying Gringalet in
his arms: all the little boys, each with his beast, surrounded the
Alderman; one carrying his fox, another his marmoset, another his
guinea-pig: those who played on the hurdygurdy, played on the hurdygurdy;
there were chimney-sweeps, with their bagpipes, who also played; it was an
uproar of joy, which cannot be imagined! Behind the musicians came all the
inhabitants of Little Poland, men, women, and children; they all held
torches, and shouted like madmen, 'Hooray, Gringalet!' 'Gargousse forever!'
The cortège in this order marched round the house of Cut-in-half. It was a
droll spectacle; the old buildings and all the figures illuminated by the
red light of the straw fires, which flickered, and sparkled, and blazed up!
As to Gringalet, the first thing he did, once at liberty, was to place the
little golden fly in a paper box; and he kept repeating, during his
triumph, 'Little golden gnat, I did well to hinder the spiders from eating
The recital of Pique-Vinaigre was interrupted.
"Roussel, ahoy!" cried a voice from without; "come then, and eat your soup;
four o'clock will strike in ten minutes."
"All right! the story is about finished. I'll go. Thank you, my boy, you
have amused me finely; you may be proud of it," said the keeper to
Pique-Vinaigre, going toward the door. Then, stopping, "Be good boys!" he
added, to the prisoners, turning around.
"We are going to hear the end of the story," said Skeleton, almost bursting
with restrained rage. Then he whispered to the Big Cripple, "Go to the
door, look after the keeper, and when you have seen him go out of the
court, cry 'Gargousse!' and the spy is dead."
"Just so," said the Cripple, who accompanied the keeper, and remained
standing near the door, watching him.
"I told you, then," said Pique-Vinaigre, "that Gringalet, all the time of
his triumph, said to himself, 'Little gnat, I have---'"
"Gargousse!" cried the cripple.
"Mine! Gringalet, I will be your spider!" shouted Skeleton, throwing
himself on Germain so that he could neither make a movement nor utter a
cry. His voice died under the formidable grasp of the long iron fingers.
AN UNEXPECTED FRIEND.
"If you are the spider, I will be the golden gnat, Skeleton of evil!" cried
a voice, at the moment when Germain, surprised by the violence and sudden
attack of his implacable enemy, fell backward on his bench, at the mercy of
the ruffian, who, with one knee on his breast, held him by the throat.
"Yes, I will be the gnat, and, what is more, a famous gnat!" repeated the
man in the blue cap, of whom we have spoken; then, with a furious bound,
overturning three or four prisoners who separated him from Germain, he
sprung upon Skeleton, and struck him on his head, between the eyes, such a
torrent of blows with his fists that the sound was like a hammer upon an
The man in the blue cap (who was no other than the Chourineur) added, as he
redoubled the rapidity of his hammering on the head of the Skeleton, "It is
the hail-storm of fisticuffs which M. Rudolph planted on my skull. I have
learned the trick."
At this unexpected assault, the prisoners were struck with surprise, taking
no part for or against the Chourineur. Many of them, still under the
salutary impression of the story of Pique-Vinaigre, were even satisfied at
this incident, which might save Germain. Skeleton, at first stunned,
staggered like an ox under the butcher's ax, extended his hand mechanically
to ward off the blows of his enemy. Germain was enabled to disengage
himself from the mortal grip, and half arose.
"But what is all this? who is this bruiser?" cried the Cripple; and
springing upon the Chourineur, he tried to seize his arms from behind,
while the latter endeavored to hold down Skeleton on the bench.
The defender of Germain answered the attack by a kick so violent, that he
sent the Cripple rolling to the extremity of the circle formed by the
prisoners. Germain, of a livid paleness, half suffocated, kneeling beside
the bench, did not appear to have any consciousness of what was passing
around him. The strangulation had been so violent and painful he hardly
breathed. After he had recovered a little, Skeleton, by a desperate effort,
succeeded in shaking off the Chourineur, and getting upon his feet.
Panting, drunk with rage and hatred, he was frightful. His cadaverous face
streamed with blood, his upper lip, drawn back like a mad wolfs, displayed
his teeth closely set against each other. At length he cried, in a voice
breathless with anger and fatigue, for his struggle with the Chourineur had
been violent, "Cut him down, the turncoat, cowards! who let me be attacked
traitorously, or the spy will escape."
During this kind of truce, the Chourineur, raising up the half-fainting
Germain, had skillfully managed to approach by degrees an angle of the
wall, where he placed him. Profiting by this excellent position of defense,
the Chourineur could then, without fear of being attacked from behind, hold
out a long time against the prisoners, on whom the courage and Herculean
strength which he had just displayed made a powerful impression.
Pique-Vinaigre, alarmed, had disappeared during the tumult, without any one
remarking his absence.
Seeing the hesitation of the greater part of the prisoners, Skeleton said,
"Come on, then, let us do the job for both of them, the big 'un and the
"Not too fast!" answered the Chourineur, preparing for the combat; "look
out for yourself, Bones! If you wish to play Cut-in-half, I will play
Gargousse--I'll cut your weasand."
"Why don't you jump on him?" cried the Cripple. "Why does this madman
defend the spy? Death to the spy, and him also! If he defends Germain, he
is a traitor."
"Death to the betrayers!"
"Yes; death to the traitor who defends him!"
Such were the cries of several of the prisoners. A part of them, more
merciful, cried, "Not before he speaks!"
"Yes, let him explain!"
"A man must not be killed without a hearing!"
"And without defense!"
"One would be a regular Cut-in-half!"
"So much the better!" answered the Cripple and the partisans of Skeleton.
"One cannot do too much to a spy!"
"Death to him!"
"Fall upon him!"
"Let us support Skeleton!"
"Yes, yes! down with the Blue Cap!"
"No; let us sustain the Blue Cap! hang the Skeleton!" answered the party of
"No; down with the Blue Cap!"
"Down with Skeleton!"
"That's the ticket, pals!" cried the Chourineur, addressing those prisoners
who ranged themselves on his side; "you have hearts; you will not see a man
murdered who is half dead; only cowards are capable of such conduct.
Skeleton is no bad joker; he is condemned in advance; that is the reason
why he urges you on. But if you aid him to kill Germain, you will be
roughly treated. Besides, I have a proposition to make. Skeleton wants to
finish this young man. Well! let him come and take him, if he can: it will
be a match between ourselves; we will walk into each other, and you will
see; but he dares not--he is like Cut-in-half, strong among the kids."
The vigor, energy, and hardy aspect of the Chourineur had a powerful effect
on the prisoners; a considerable number ranged themselves on his side, and
surrounded Germain; Skeleton's party were grouped around that ruffian. A
bloody affray was about to take place, when the quick and measured step of
a guard of infantry was heard in the court. Pique-Vinaigre, profiting by
the noise and general commotion, had gained the court and knocked at the
wicket, in order to inform the keepers of what was going on in the hall.
The arrival of the soldiers put an end to the scene. Germain, Skeleton, and
the Chourineur were conducted to the governor's presence; the first to
lodge his complaint, the others to answer the charge of a fight in the
The alarm and sufferings of Germain were so intense, his weakness so great,
that he was obliged to lean on two of the keepers to reach the governor's
room. There he became quite faint; his excoriated throat bore the livid and
bloody marks of the Skeleton's iron fingers. A few seconds more, and the
betrothed of Rigolette would have been strangled. The keeper charged with
the hall watch, who, as we have said, was much interested for Germain, gave
him every assistance. When he came to himself, when reflection succeeded
the rapid and terrible emotions that had hardly left him the exercise of
his reason, his first thought was for his deliverer.
"Thank you for your attentions, sir," he said to the keeper; "but for that
courageous man, I was lost."
"How are you now?"
"Better. Ah! all that has passed seems to me like a horrid dream!"
"And my savior, where is he?"
"In the governor's room. He is telling how the affray occurred. It appears
that without him----"
"I should have been murdered, sir. Oh! tell me his name--who is he?"
"His name I do not know; he is nicknamed the Slasher; he was once in the
"And the crime which brought him here, perhaps, is not serious?"
"Very serious--burglary," said the keeper. "He will probably have the same
dose as Pique-Vinaigre; fifteen or twenty years of hard labor, and the
pillory, as he is an old offender."
Germain shuddered; he would have preferred to be bound by the ties of
gratitude to one less criminal.
"Oh! it is frightful," he said; "and yet this man, without knowing me, took
my part. So much courage, so much generosity."
"What would you have, sir? Sometimes there is some good left in these
people. The most important fact is, that you are saved; to-morrow you will
have your own cell, and for to-night you will sleep in the infirmary,
according to orders. Come, courage, sir! The worst is over; when your
pretty little visitor comes to see you, you can reassure her; for, once in
your own cell, you will have nothing more to fear."
"Oh! no, I will not speak to her about it; but I wish to thank my defender.
However culpable he may be in the eyes of the law, he has none the less
saved my life."
"I hear him leaving the governor's room. Skeleton is now to be examined; I
will take them back together, Skeleton to the dungeon, and the Slasher to
the Lions' Den. He will, besides, be a little recompensed for what he has
done for you; for as he is a bold and determined fellow, such as one should
be to lead others, it is probable that he will take the place of Skeleton
The Slasher having crossed a little lobby, on which opened the governor's
room, entered the apartment where Germain was seated.
"Wait for me here," said the keeper to the Slasher; "I am going to learn
what the governor decides to do with the Skeleton, and I will return
directly for you. There is our young man quite recovered; he wishes to
thank you, and he has reason too, for without you all had been finished for
him." The keeper retired. Slasher's features were radiant with delight. He
advanced joyfully, saying:
"Thunder! how happy I am at saving you!" And he extended his hand to
He, from a feeling of involuntary repulsion, at first drew back slightly,
instead of taking the hand offered by the Slasher; then, recollecting that,
after all, he owed his life to this man, he wished to make amends for this
first movement of repugnance. But the Slasher had perceived it; a gloom
spread over his face, and drawing back in his turn, he said, with much
bitterness, "Ah! it is right. Pardon me, sir."
"No, it is I who should ask your pardon. Am I not a prisoner like you? I
should only think of the service you have rendered me--you have saved my
life. Your hand, friend, I entreat you. I pray you, your hand."
"Thank you; now it is useless. The first movement is everything. If you had
at first given me your hand, that would have given me pleasure; but, on
reflection, it is I who do not wish it. Not because I am a prisoner, like
you, but," he added, in a hesitating and gloomy manner, "because, before I
was here, I was--"
"The keeper has told me all," replied Germain, interrupting him; "but you
have none the less saved my life."
"I have done but my duty and pleasure, for I know who you are, M. Germain."
"You know me?"
"A little, my boy; I talk to you like a father," said the Slasher, resuming
his tone of habitual carelessness; "and you would be very wrong to place my
arrival at La Force on the back of chance. If I had not known you, I should
not have been here."
Germain looked at the Slasher with the utmost surprise.
"How, because you knew me---"
"I am here a prisoner in La Force."
"I wish to believe you, but---"
"But you do not believe me."
"I wish to say that it is impossible for me to comprehend how it can be
that I have anything to do with your imprisonment."
"Have anything to do? You have everything."
"I have this misfortune!"
"A misfortune! On the contrary, it is I who am indebted to you; and very
much, that is more."
"To me--you indebted to me!"
"Yes, for having procured me the advantage of making a call at La Force."
"Truly," said Germain, passing his hand over his face, "I do not know
whether the terrible shock I received has impaired my reason, but it is
impossible for me to understand you. The keeper has just told me that you
were accused of--of--" And Germain hesitated.
"Of robbery, I dare say? Yes, burglary, and at night, into the bargain!
Everything under full sail," cried the Slasher, shouting with laughter.
"Nothing was wanting--my robbery had all the modern improvements to make it
a bang-up work."
Germain, painfully affected by the audacious boldness of the Slasher, could
not help saying, "How, you, so brave, so generous, talk thus? Do you not
know the terrible punishment that awaits you?"
"Twenty years in the galleys, and the pillory! I am a headstrong scoundrel,
to take it so coolly? But what would you have when one is in for it? And
yet to think that it is you, M. Germain," added the Slasher, uttering a
heavy sigh, in a manner jokingly contrite, "who are the cause of my
"When you explain yourself more clearly, I shall understand you. Joke as
much as you please, my gratitude for the service you have rendered me will
be none the less," said Germain, sadly.
"I ask your pardon, M. Germain," answered the Slasher, becoming more
serious; "you do not like to see me laugh at this; let us speak no more
about it. I must have a little explanation with you, and force you,
perhaps, once more to offer me your hand."
"I do not doubt it; for, notwithstanding the crime of which you are
accused, and of which you accuse yourself, everything in you announces
courage and frankness. I am sure you are unjustly suspected; appearances,
perhaps, compromise you."
"Oh! as to that, you are wrong, M. Germain," said the Slasher, so seriously
this time, and with such an accent of sincerity, that Germain was forced to
believe him. "As true as that I have a protector" (the Slasher took off his
cap), "who is for me what the Judge above is for the good priests, I robbed
at night, by breaking in at a window; I was caught in the fact, and
secured, with the stolen goods in my possession."
"But want, hunger, drove you, then, to this extremity?"
"Hunger? I had a hundred and twenty francs when they arrested me--the
change of a thousand-franc note, without counting that the protector of
whom I have spoken, who does not know that I am here, will never let me
want anything. But since I have spoken to you of my protector, you ought to
believe that I am speaking the truth, because before him it is like going
down on your knees. The torrent of blows I rained down on Bones is a
fashion of his, which I copied after nature. The idea of the robbery, on
account of him, came into my head. In fine, if you are here, instead of
being strangled by Skeleton, thanks to him."
"But this protector?"
"Is yours also."
"Yes! M. Rudolph protects you; when I say Monsieur, it is his highness that
I ought to say, for he is a prince; but I am accustomed to call him M.
Rudolph, and he allows it."
"You mistake," said Germain, more and more surprise; "I do not know any
"Yes, but he knows you; you do not doubt it? It is possible--it is his way.
He hears there is a good man in trouble--slap! the good man is relieved,
and he is neither seen nor known. I perplex you; for him happiness falls
from the clouds like a tile on the head. Thus, patience! some day or other
you will receive your tile."
"Truly, what you say confounds me."
"You will have a great deal more of the same! To return to my protector:
some time since, after a service which he pretended I had rendered him, he
procured me a slap-up situation. I have no need to tell you what--it would
be too long; in a word, he sent me to Marseilles, to embark for my place. I
left Paris contented as a beggar! Good! But soon that changed. A
supposition: let us say that I left on a fine sunny day. Well! the next day
is cloudy; the day after very cloudy, and every succeeding day more and
more so, until, at length, it became as black as the devil. Do you
"Well, let us see. Did you ever keep a pup?"
"What a singular question!"
"Have you had a dog that loved you well, and that was lost?"
"Then I will tell you at once, that when at a distance from M. Rudolph, I
was restless, uneasy, alarmed, like a dog that had lost his master. It was
brutish, but the dogs also are brutes, and this does not prevent them from
being attached to their masters, and remembering quite as much the good
mouthfuls as the kickings they are accustomed to receive; and M. Rudolph
had given me better than good mouthfuls, for, do you see, for me M. Rudolph
is all in all. From a wicked, brutal, savage, and riotous rascal, he made
me a kind of honest man, by saying only two words to me; but those words
were like magic."
"And those words, what are they? What did he say to you?"
"He told me that I had still a 'heart' and 'honor,' although I had been to
the hulks--not for having robbed, it is true. Oh! that, never, but for what
is worse, perhaps--for having killed. Yes," said the Slasher, in a sad
tone, "yes, killed in a moment of anger, because from my childhood, brought
up like a brute, without father or mother, abandoned in the streets of
Paris, I knew neither God nor the devil, nor good nor evil, nor strong nor
weak. Sometimes the blood rushed to my eyes, I saw red, and if I had a
knife in my hand, I stabbed--I stabbed! I was like a wolf; I could not
frequent any other places than those where I met beggars and ruffians; I
did not put crape on my hat for that. I was obliged to live in the mire; I
did not even know I was there. But, when M. Rudolph told me that since in
spite of the contempt of the world and misery, instead of stealing, as
others did, I had preferred to work as much as I could, and at what I
could, that showed I had a heart and honor. Thunder! those two words had
the same effect upon me as if some one had caught me by the hair, and
raised me a thousand feet in the air above the beggars with whom I lived,
and showed me in what mire I wallowed. Then, of course, I said, 'Thank you,
I have enough.' Then my heart beat with something besides anger, and I
swore to myself always to preserve this honor of which M. Rudolph had
spoken. You see, M. Germain, by telling me with kindness that I was not as
bad as I thought, M. Rudolph encouraged me, and, thanks to him, I have
become better than I was."
On hearing this language, Germain comprehended still less how the Slasher
could have committed the robbery of which he accused himself.
"No," thought Germain, "it is impossible; this man, who suffers himself to
be thus carried away by the simple words honor and heart, cannot have
committed this robbery of which he speaks with such ease."
The Slasher continued, without remarking the astonishment of Germain:
"Finally, the reason why I am to M. Rudolph like a dog to his master, is
that he has raised me in my own estimation. Before I knew him, I was only
sensible to the touch; but he made me feel within, and deep down, I bet
you. Once separated from him and the place where he dwelt, I found myself
like a body without a soul. As I traveled on, I said to myself, 'He leads
such a queer life! he mingles with such great scoundrels (I know something
about it), that he will risk his bones twenty times a day,' and it is under
these circumstances that I could play the dog for him, and defend my
master; for I have good teeth. But, on the other hand, he had told me, 'You
must, my friend, make yourself useful to others; go, then, where you may be
of some good.' I had a great desire to answer him, 'For me, there is no one
to serve, but you, M. Rudolph.' But I did not dare. He had told me to 'Go.'
I went; and I have obeyed him as well as I was able. But, thunder! when the
time came to get into the tub, leave France, and place the sea between M.
Rudolph and me, without the hope of ever seeing him again, in truth, I had
not the courage. He told his correspondent to give me a heap of money as
heavy as I am when I should embark. I went to see the gentleman. I told
him, 'It is impossible just now; I prefer the solid ground. Give me enough
to get back to Paris on foot. I have good legs. I cannot embark. M. Rudolph
may say what he pleases; he will be angry, he will not see me any more.
Possibly I shall see him; I shall be where he is; and if he continues the
life he leads, sooner or later, I shall arrive in time, perhaps, to put
myself between a knife and him.' And, besides, I cannot live so far away
from him. At length they gave me enough for my journey. I arrived at Paris.
I do not fear trifles: but once back fear seized me. What could I say to M.
Rudolph to excuse myself for having returned without his permission? Bah!
after all, he will not eat me. What is to be will be. I will go to find his
friend a bald man--another trump, this one. Thunder! when M. Murphy came
in, I said, 'My fate will be decided.' I felt my throat dry--my heart beat
a tattoo. I expected to be scolded soundly. The worthy man received me as
as if he had left me the evening previous. He told me that M. Rudolph, far
from being angry, wished to see me at once. In short, he took me to my
protector. Thunder! when I found myself again face to face with him, who
has such an open hand and so good a heart, terrible as a lion, and gentle
as a child, a prince, who has worn a blouse like me--to have the
opportunity (which I bless) of punching my eye. Faith, M. Germain, on
thinking of all these fascinations which he possesses, I felt myself done
up. I wept like a doe. Well! instead of laughing--for imagine my mug when I
weep--M. Rudolph said to me, seriously:
"'So you are back again, my good fellow?'
"'Yes, M. Rudolph, pardon me if I am wrong, but I could not go. Make me a
little nest in the corner of your court, give me my food, or let me earn it
here; that is all I ask from you; and, above all, do not be angry because I
"'I am so far from that, my good friend, that you have returned just in
time to render me a service.'
"'I, M. Rudolph! Can it be possible! Well, do you see, it must be, as you
told me, that there is Something upstairs; otherwise, how explain that I
arrive here just at the moment when you have need of me? What is it, then,
I can, do for you, M. Rudolph--jump from the top of the towers of
"'Less than that, my man. An honest, excellent young man, in whom I am as
much interested as if he were my son, is unjustly accused of robbery, and
confined in La Force; he is called Germain, and is of a mild and gentle
disposition; the scoundrels with whom he is imprisoned have taken an
aversion to him; he may be in great danger; you, who have unfortunately the
experience of a prison life, and know a great number of prisoners, could
you not, in case some of your old comrades should be at La Force, could you
not go and see them, and, by promises of money which shall be faithfully
kept, engage them to protect this unhappy young man?'"
"But who, then, is this generous and unknown man, who takes so much
interest in my fate?" said Germain, more and more surprised.
"You will know, perhaps; as for me, I am ignorant. To return to my
conversation with M. Rudolph: while he was talking an idea struck me, but
an idea so laughable, that I could not keep from laughing before him. 'What
is the matter?' said he.
"'M. Rudolph, I laugh, because I am content, and I am content because I
have the means of placing your M. Germain out of all dangers, by giving him
a protector who will defend him bravely; for, once the young man is under
the wing of the fellow of whom I speak, there is not one of them will dare
to come and look under his nose.'
"' Very well, my friend; it is doubtless one of your old companions?'
"' Exactly, M. Rudolph; he entered La Force some days ago; I learned this
on my arrival; but we must have some money.'
"'A thousand francs.'
"'Here they are.'
"'Thank you, M. Rudolph; in two days you shall hear from me; your servant,
sirs.' Thunder! the king was not my master: I could render a service to M.
Rudolph by joining you; it was that which was famous."
"I begin to understand, or rather, I tremble to understand," cried Germain;
"such fidelity cannot be possible! to come to protect me, defend me in this
prison, you have, perhaps, committed a robbery? oh! this would be the
sorrow of my whole life."
"Stop a bit! M. Rudolph had told me that I had a heart and honor; these
words are my law, do you see; and he can tell me so yet; for if I am no
better than formerly, at least I am no worse."
"But this robbery? this robbery? If you have not committed it, how are you
"Stop a moment. Here is the plant; with my thousand francs I went and
bought a black wig; I shaved off my whiskers; I put on blue spectacles; I
stuck a pillow on my back, and made up a hump. I began at once to look for
one or two rooms on a ground floor in a retired street. I found my affair
in the Rue du Provence; I paid my rent in advance under the name of
Grégoire. The next day I went to the Temple to buy furniture for my two
rooms, always wearing my black wig, hump, and blue barnacles, so that I
might be well known. I sent the things to the Rue du Provence, and six
silver spoons and forks which I bought on the Boulevard Saint Denis, still
in my disguise as a hunchback. I returned to put all these in order in my
domicile, I said to the porter that I should not sleep there for two days,
and I carried away my key. The windows of the two rooms were fastened by
strong shutters. Before I went away, I left one unfastened on the inside.
At night I took off my wig, goggles, and hump, with which I had been to
make my purchases and hired my rooms. I put this disguise in a trunk, which
I sent to the address of M. Murphy, the friend of M. Rudolph, begging him
to take care of it. I bought this blouse and blue cap, and a jimmy, and at
one o'clock in the morning I came to the Rue du Provence to hang about my
lodgings waiting until the patrol should pass, to commence my robbery, my
burglary, in order to be copped!"
The Slasher was unable to suppress a hearty fit of laughter. "Oh! I
comprehend," cried Germain.
"But you will see if I had not ill-luck: no police passed. I could have
robbed myself twenty times at my ease. At length, about two o'clock, I
heard the snails at the end of the street; I opened my window, and broke
two or three panes of glass to make a devil of a noise; I dashed in the
window, jumped into the room, and seized the money box and some clothes.
Happily, the patrol had heard the jingling of the glass just as I got out
of the window. I was nabbed by the guard, who, at the noise of breaking
glass, had come to see what was the matter. They knocked at the door; the
porter opened it; they sent for the commissary; he came; the porter said
that the rooms had been taken the evening previous by a gentleman with a
hunchback, with black hair and blue spectacles, and who was named Grégoire.
I had the flaxen wool which you see; I had my eyes open like a hare in her
form; I was as straight as a Russian at the command, 'Carry arms!' They
could never take me for the hunchback, with blue spectacles and black
locks. I confessed every, thing; I was arrested; they took me to the
station--from there, here; and I arrived at a good moment, just in time to
snatch from the claws of the Skeleton the young man of whom M. Rudolph had
said, 'I am as much interested for him as for my own son.'"
"Oh! what do I not owe you for such services!" cried Germain.
"It is not me--it is to M. Rudolph you owe it.'
"But the cause of his interest for me."
"He will tell you, unless he does not choose to do so; for often he is
pleased to do good, and if you take it into your head to ask him why, he
will not mind answering, 'Mind your own business!'"
"And does M. Rudolph know that you are here?"
"Not so stupid as to tell him my idea; he would not, perhaps, have allowed
me the fun, and without bragging, it is rich."
"But the risks you have run and still run?"
"What did I risk? not to be conducted to La Force, where you were, that is
true. But I counted on the protection of M. Rudolph, to have my prison
changed and join you; a lord like him can do everything. And when I was
once shut up, he would have wished me to be of service to you."
"But when your trial comes on?"
"Well! I will beg M. Murphy to send me my trunk; I will put on before the
big wig, _my_ big wig, the blue spectacles, and the hump, and I will
become M. Grégoire again, send for the porter who let me the chamber, and
for the shopkeepers who sold me the furniture; so much for the robbed. If
they wish to see the robber again, I will throw off my disguise, and it
will be as clear as day that the robbed and the robber make the sum total
of the Slasher, neither more nor less. Then, what the devil would you have
them do to me, when it shall be proved that I have robbed myself?"
"That's true!" said Germain, more assured; "but since you felt so much
interest for me, why did you not speak to me on entering the prison?"
"I knew at once the plot which was formed against you; I could have exposed
it before Pique-Vinaigre had commenced his story: but to denounce even such
ruffians does not go down with me. I preferred to depend upon my fists to
drag you from the paws of Skeleton. And, besides, when I saw this brigand,
I said to myself, 'Here is a fine occasion to practice the boxing of M.
Rudolph, to which I am indebted for the honor of his acquaintance."
"But if all the prisoners had taken part against you, what could you have
"Then I should have screamed like an eagle, and called for help! But it
suited me to do my own cooking myself; to be able to say to M. Rudolph, 'No
one but I meddled in the affair. I have defended, and will defend, your
young man; be tranquil!'"
At this moment the keeper entered quickly.
"M. Germain, come, make haste, to the governor's room. He wishes to speak
to you at once. And you, Slasher, my boy, descend to the hall. You shall be
provost if it suits you, for you have every requisite to fill the office,
and the prisoners will not joke with a big un of your caliber."
"All the same to me-as well be captain as soldier while one is here."
"Will you still refuse my hand?" said Germain, cordially, to the Slasher.
"No, M. Germain, no; I believe that now I can allow myself this pleasure,
and I do it with all my heart."
"We shall see each other again, for I am now under your protection. I shall
have nothing more to fear, and from my cell I shall descend each day to the
"Be assured, if I wish it, they shall not speak to you except on all fours.
But, now I think of it, you know how to write; put down on paper what I
have just related to you, and send it to M. Rudolph; he will know that he
need have no more uneasiness about you, and that I am here for a good
motive; for if he should learn elsewhere that the Slasher had stolen, and
he did not know the game--thunder! that would not suit me."
"Rest satisfied: this very night I will write to my unknown protector;
to-morrow you will give me his address, and the letter shall be sent.
Adieu, once more, thank you, my good fellow."
"Adieu, M. Germain; I go to return among this band of rascals, of whom I am
provost; they will have to march pretty straight, or stand from under!"
"When I think that on my account you go to live for some time among these
"What is that to me, now that there is no risk of their contaminating me.
M. Rudolph has washed me too well. I am insured against fire."
And the Slasher followed the keeper. Germain entered the apartment of the
governor. What was his surprise--he found Rigolette there.
Rigolette, pale, with deep emotion, her eyes bathed in tears, and yet
smiling through these tears, her face expressed a sentiment of joy, of
"I have good news to tell you, sir," said the governor. "The judges have
just declared that no action lies against you, and I have the order to set
you immediately at liberty."
"What do you say, sir? Can it be possible?"
Rigolette wished to speak; her too lively emotion prevented her; she could
only make to Germain an affirmative sign with her head.
"This young lady arrived here a few moments after I had received the order
to set you at liberty," added the governor. "A letter of all-powerful
recommendation which she brought me has informed me of the touching
devotion she has shown you during your stay in prison, sir. It is, then,
with great pleasure that I have sent for you, certain that you would be
very happy to give your arm to the lady on leaving the place."
"A dream! surely it is a dream!" said Germain. "Oh, sir, what kindness!
Pardon me if surprise--joy--prevents me from thanking you as I ought."
"And I, too, M. Germain, cannot find a word to say," added Rigolette.
"Judge of my happiness: on leaving you, I found the friend of M. Rudolph
waiting for me."
"M. Rudolph again!" said the astonished Germain.
"Yes; now I can tell you all. M. Murphy said to me then, 'Germain is free;
here is a letter for the governor of the prison; before you arrive, he will
have received the order to set Germain at liberty, and you can bring him
away.' I could not believe what I heard, and yet it was true.
Quick--quick--I took a cab--I arrived--and it is now below waiting for us."
We renounce the attempt to describe the delight of the two lovers when they
left La Force; of the evening they passed in the little chamber of
Rigolette, which Germain left at eleven o'clock for a modest furnished
apartment. Let us sum up in a few words the practical or theoretical ideas
we have endeavored to place in relief in this episode of a prison life. We
shall esteem ourselves very happy if we have shown the insufficiency, the
impotency, and the danger of imprisonment in common. The disproportion
which exists between the appreciation and punishment of certain crimes, and
those of certain other offenses. And, finally, the material impossibility
for the poorer classes to enjoy the benefits of the civil laws.
We will conduct the reader again to the office of the notary, Jacques
Ferrand. Thanks to the habitual loquacity of the clerks, almost constantly
occupied with the increasing caprices of their patron, we can learn the
events that occurred since the disappearance of Cecily.
"A hundred to ten, if the present state of his health continues, before a
month the governor will be as dead as a doornail."
"The fact is, that since the servant who had the air of an Alsatian has
left the house, he has had nothing but skin on his bones."
"And what skin!"
"I'll wager he was in love with this Alsatian, for it is since her
departure that he has shriveled up so!"
"He in love? what nonsense! on the contrary, he sees the priests more than
ever; and the parish curé, a very respectable man (one must be just), went
away yesterday, saying (I overheard him) to another priest who accompanied
him,' This is admirable! M. Ferrand is the personification of Charity and
"The curé said that? of himself? without prompting?"
"Yes! I heard him."
"Then, I can't understand it at all. The curé has the reputation, and
deserves it, of being what is called a right good pastor."
"It is true; and of him we must speak seriously and with respect; he is as
good and charitable as 'Little Blue Mantle,' [Footnote: We must be allowed
to mention here, with veneration, the name of that excellent man, M.
Champion, with whom we have not the honor of a personal acquaintance, but
of whom all the poor of Paris speak with as much respect as gratitude.] and
when one says that of a man he is judged."
"Ay, that is not a little to say."
"No. For 'Little Blue Mantle,' as well as for the good priest, the poor
have only one word, and a good word it is, from the heart."
"Then I return to my idea; when the curé affirms a thing, he must be
believed, as he is incapable of telling a falsehood; and yet to think as he
does, that our master is charitable and generous--that sticks in my
"Oh! how pretty that is, Chalamel! how pretty."
"Seriously, I would just as soon believe that as I would a miracle. It
would not be more difficult."
"M. Ferrand generous! he would skin an egg!"
"And yet the forty sous for our breakfast?"
"Beautiful proof! It is like a pimple on the end of a man's nose--it is an
"Yes, but, on the other hand, the head clerk told me that three days ago he
sold out an enormous amount of treasury bonds, and that--"
"Well! speak then."
"It is a secret."
"So much the more reason for telling it."
"Your word and honor that you won't mention it?"
"On the heads of our children, we give it."
"And besides, let us remember what the great king Louis XIV. majestically
said to the Doge of Venice before his assembled court:
"'When a secret's told a clerk,
Its exposure he'll not burk!'"
"Good! there is Chalamel with his proverbs!"
"I demand the head of Chalamel!"
"Proverbs are the wisdom of nations; it is on that account I require your
"Come, none of your nonsense. I tell you the head clerk made me a promise
to speak of it to no one."
"Yes; but he did not say that you should not tell it to every one?"
"It shall not go out of the office. Go on."
"He is dying with desire to tell us the secret."
"Well! the governor is about selling his notary's business. At this present
moment, perhaps, it is done."
"Here is news!"
"Let us see, without charge, who charges himself with the charge which he
"Tush! how insupportable Chalamel is with his riddles."
"Do you think I know to whom he sells it?"
"If he sells it, it is because, perhaps, he wishes to come out, give balls,
routs, in the gay world. After all, there is something in it."
"I think so, indeed! The head clerk spoke of more than a million, including
the value of the business."
"More than a million!"
"It is said that he has been gambling in stocks secretly with Commandant
Robert, and that he has made much money."
"Not to speak of his living like a curmudgeon."
"But these misers, when once they begin to spend money, become as prodigal
as they were once mean."
"Well, I agree with Chalamel; I think that now the governor is coming out."
"And he would be most stupendously in the wrong not to bury himself in
voluptuousness, and not to plunge into the delights of Golconda, if he has
the means; for, as the misty Ossian says, in the grotto of Fingal,
"'All-Ariel is it, yet not-arial, too,
That he should still be right,
Who roseate tapestry has in open view,
And of his gold makes light.'"
"I demand the head of Chalamel!"
"It is absurd!"
"Yes, and the governor looks very much like a man who thinks of amusing
himself. He has a face that might cause the devil to appear on earth."
"And then the cure, who boasts of his charity!"
"Well-ordered charity begins at home."
"You do not know your ten commandments, heathen! If the governor asks from
himself the alms of great pleasures, it is his duty to grant them."
"What astonishes me is, that this intimate friend, who seems to have
dropped from the clouds, never leaves him."
"Not to mention his ugly face."
"He is as red as a carrot."
"I am rather inclined to believe that this intruder is the fruit of a first
false step which M. Ferrand has committed in the springtime of life, for,
as the Eagle of Meaux said concerning the taking of the veil by the tender
"'Young or old, whiche'er you love,
Crows may have an offspring dove!'"
"I demand the head of Chalamel!"
"In truth, with him it is impossible to talk reason a moment."
"What stupidity! To say that this stranger is the son of the governor, when
he is the oldest, as is easy to be seen--"
"Well, what of that?"
"How? what of that? The son older than the father?"
"It is very plain; in that case, the intruder must have made the false
step, and be the father of M. Ferrand, intead of being his son."
"I demand the head of Chalamel!"
"Do not listen to him; you know, when once he is in the way of saying
stupid things, there is no end to it."
"What is certain is, that this intruder has a bad face, and does not leave
M. Ferrand for a moment."
"He is always with him in his cabinet; they eat together; one does not move
without the other."
"I think I have seen the man before."
"I think not."
"Tell me, gents, have you not also remarked that for some days past, there
comes regularly almost every two hours a man with great light mustaches and
a military air, who asks the porter for the intruder? The intruder comes
down, talks for a moment with the man with mustaches, after which the
latter makes a half turn like an automaton, to come again in two hours
"It is true; I have remarked him. It seems to me, also, that I meet some
men when I go into the street who appear to be watching the house."
"Seriously, there is something extraordinary going on here."
"Who lives long enough will see."
"On this subject the head clerk, perhaps, knows more than we do. But he
plays the diplomatist."
"Exactly; and where is he, then, for so long a time?"
"He has gone to the house of the countess who was stabbed; it appears that
she is now out of danger."
"The Countess M'Gregor?"
"Yes; this morning she sent for the governor to come at once, but he sent
the head clerk in his place."
"It is, perhaps, for a will."
"No, because she is better."
"Hasn't he work enough now, the head clerk, since he has taken Germain's
"Speaking of Germain, here is another strange thing.'"
"What is it?"
"In order to have him set at liberty, the governor has declared it was he
himself who made an error in his accounts, and that he had found the money
which he accused Germain of stealing."
"I do not find this strange, but just; you recollect I always said that
Germain was incapable of theft."
"It must, nevertheless, have been very disagreeable for him to be arrested
and confined as a thief."
"If I were in his place I would sue Jacques Ferrand for damages."
"The least he could do would be to reinstate him as cashier, in order to
prove that Germain was not culpable."
"Yes, but perhaps Germain would not be willing."
"Is he still at the farm, where he went on coming out of prison, and from
which he wrote us to announce M. Ferrand's discontinuance of the suit?"
"Probably, for yesterday I went to the place where he directed us to go;
they told me that he was still in the country, and that I could write to
him at Bouqueval, near Ecouen, at Madame George's."
"Oh! a carriage!" said Chalamel, leaning over toward the window.
"Nothing but a hackney-coach."
"And who gets out?"
"Stop a moment! Oh! a black-gown!"
"A woman! a woman! Oh! let us see."
"This gutter-jumper is indecently sensitive at his age; he only thinks of
women. We shall have to chain him up, or he will carry off the Sabines from
the streets; for, as said the Swan of Cambray in his Treatise on Education
for the Dauphin,
"'Of Gutter-jumper have a care,
Who assaults the lovely fair.'"
"I demand the head of Chalamel!"
"M. Chalamel, you said a black robe, I thought."
"It is the curé, goose! Let him be an example for you."
"The curé of the parish? The good pastor?"
"He is a worthy man!"
"He is no Jesuit, not he."
"I think not; and if all the priests were like him everybody would be
"Silence! some one opens the door."
And all the clerks, bending over their desks, began to scratch away with
apparent industry, making their pens pass rapidly over the paper. The pale
face of this priest was at once mild and grave, intelligent and venerable,
its expression full of benevolence and serenity. A small black cap
concealed his tonsure, and his long gray hair floated on the collar of his
maroon-colored coat. Let us add that, from his simple credulity, this
excellent priest had always been, and was still, the dupe of Jacques
Ferrand's deep and cunning hypocrisy.
"Your worthy master is in his cabinet, my son?" asked the curé.
"Yes, M. l'Abbé," said Chalamel, rising respectfully. And he opened for the
priest the door leading into a room adjoining the office.
Hearing some one speaking with vehemence in the cabinet of the notary, the
abbé, not wishing to hear, walked rapidly toward the door, and knocked.
"Come in," said a voice with an Italian accent, and the priest found
himself face to face with Jacques Ferrand and Polidori.
[Illustration: THE STORY IS TOLD]
It would seem that the clerks were not wrong when they prophesied the death
of their employer at no distant day. Since the flight of Cecily, the notary
was hardly to be recognized. Although his visage was of a frightful
thinness, and of a cadaverous hue, a hectic flush colored his hollow
cheeks; a nervous shivering, except when interrupted by convulsive spasms,
agitated his frame continually; his bony hands were dry and burning; his
large green spectacles concealed his bloodshot eyes, which sparkled with
the fire of a consuming fever; in a word, this sinister face betrayed the
ravages of a rapid consumption. The physiognomy of Polidori formed a
contrast with that of the notary; nothing could be more bitterly, more
coldly ironical than the expression of this scoundrel; a forest of fiery
red hair, interspersed with some silvered locks, crowned his high and
wrinkled forehead; his penetrating eyes, green as the ocean wave, were
close to his hooked nose; his mouth, with its thin lips, expressed
wickedness and sarcasm. Polidori, completely dressed in black, was seated
beside the desk of Jacques Ferrand. At the sight of the priest they both
"Well! how do you get on, my worthy M. Ferrand?" said the abbé, with
solicitude; "are you a little better?"
"I am always in the same state, M. l'Abbé; the fever does not leave me,"
answered the notary; "the want of sleep is killing me. But the will of
heaven be done!"
"See, M. l'Abbé," added Polidori, with emphasis, "what pious resignation!
My poor friend is always the same; he only finds a solace for his
sufferings in doing good."
"I do not deserve these praises, have the goodness to dispense with them,"
said the notary, dryly, with difficulty concealing his anger. "To the Lord
alone belongs the appreciation of good and evil; I am only a miserable
"We are all sinners," answered the abbé gently; "but we have not all the
charity which distinguishes you, my respected friend. There are very few
who, like you, dispossess themselves of so much of their earthly wealth to
employ it during their lifetime in a manner so Christian-like. Do you still
persist in selling your business, in order to devote yourself more entirely
to the practice of religion?"
"Since yesterday, my business is sold, M. l'Abbé; some concessions have
enabled me to realize (a rare thing) the cash down: this sum, added to
others, will enable me to found the institution of which I have spoken, and
of which I have definitively arranged the plan that I am about to submit to
"Ah! my worthy friend," said the abbé, with deep and reverential
admiration, "to do so much good--so unostentatiously--and, I may say, so
naturally! I repeat to you, people like you are rare; they will receive
"It is true that very few persons unite, like Jacques Ferrand, riches to
piety, intelligence to charity," said Polidori, with an ironical smile
which escaped the notice of the good abbé.
At this new and sarcastic eulogium the hand of the notary was clinched; he
cast from under his spectacles a look of deadly hatred on Polidori.
"You see, M. l'Abbé," the bosom friend of Jacques Ferrand hastened to say,
"he has continually these nervous spasms, and he will do nothing for them.
He worries me, he is his own executioner, my poor friend!"
At these words of Polidori, the notary shuddered still more convulsively,
but he composed himself again. A man less simple than the abbé would have
remarked, during this conversation, and, above all, during what is about to
follow, the notary's constrained manner of speaking; for it is hardly
necessary to say that a will superior to his own, the will of Rudolph, in a
word, imposed on this man words and acts diametrically opposed to his true
character. Thus sometimes, pushed to extremities, the notary appeared
reluctant to obey this all powerful and invisible authority; but a look
from Polidori put an end to his indecision. Then, constraining with a sigh
of rage his most violent feelings, Jacques Ferrand submitted to the yoke
which he could not break.
"Alas! M. l'Abbé," said Polidori, who seemed to take delight in torturing
his victim, as is said vulgarly, by pricks of a pin, "my poor friend
neglects his health too much. Tell him to be more careful of himself, if
not for his own sake, for his friends', or, at least, for the unfortunates
of whom he is the hope and support."
"Enough! enough!" murmured the notary.
"No, it is not enough," said the priest, with emotion; "we cannot repeat to
you too often that you do not belong to yourself, and that it is wrong thus
to neglect your health. In ten years that I have known you, I have never
seen you ill; but for a month past you are no longer recognizable. I am so
much the more struck with this alteration of your features, as I was for
some time without seeing you. Thus, at our first interview, I could not
conceal my surprise; but the change I have remarked in you for the last few
days is much more serious: you sink every hour, you give us much
uneasiness. I implore you, my worthy friend, take care of your health."
"I am very sensible of your solicitude, M. l'Abbé; but I assure you that my
condition is not so alarming as you think."
"Since you are so obstinate," said Polidori, "I will tell everything to the
abbé; he loves you--he esteems you--he honors you much; how much the more
will he honor you when he shall know your new merits--when he shall know
the true cause of your wasting away?"
"What is this?" asked the abbé.
"M. l'Abbé," said the notary, with impatience, "I begged you to come here
to communicate to you projects of high importance, and not to hear me
ridiculously praised by _my friend_."
"You know, Jacques, that from me you must be resigned to here everything,"
said Polidori, looking fixedly at the notary, who cast down his eyes, and
remained silent. Polidori continued: "You perhaps remarked, M. l'Abbé, that
the first symptoms of his nervous complaint appeared a short time after the
abominable scandal which Louise Morel caused in this house."
The notary shuddered.
"You know of the crime of this unhappy girl, sir?" demanded the astonished
priest; "I thought you had arrived but a few days since at Paris?"
"Without doubt, M. l'Abbé; but Jacques has related everything to me, as his
friend--as his physician; for he attributes these nervous attacks almost
entirely to the indignation which the crime of Louise Morel caused him.
This is nothing, as yet; my poor friend, alas! had new trials to endure,
which, you see, have ruined his health. An old servant, who for many years
was attached to him by the ties of gratitude--"
"Madame Séraphin?" said the curé, interrupting Polidori. "I have heard of
the death of this unfortunate, drowned by her own imprudence, and I
comprehend the grief of M. Ferrand. It is not easy to forget ten years of
faithful services; such regrets do credit to the master as well as to the
"M. l'Abbé," said the notary, "I entreat you, do not speak of my
virtues--you confuse me--it is painful."
"And who will speak of them, then--will it be yourself?" answered Polidori
affectionately; "but you will be obliged to praise him still more, M.
l'Abbé: you perhaps do not know who is the servant that took the place of
Louise Morel and Madame Séraphin. You do not know what he has done for this
poor Cecily, M. l'Abbé, for so she is named."
The notary started from his seat, his eyes sparkling under his spectacles,
a burning red diffused over his livid face.
"Hush! be silent!" he cried; "not a word more. I forbid it!"
"Come, come, calm yourself," said the abbé, smiling benevolently; "another
good action to reveal? As for myself, I strongly approve of the generous
indiscretion of your friend. I did not know this servant, for it was just
after her arrival that my worthy friend, overwhelmed with business, was
obliged momentarily, to my great regret, to interrupt our relations."
"It was to conceal from you this new good action he meditated, M. l'Abbé;
thus, although his modesty revolts at the mention of it, he must hear me,
and you shall know all," said Polidori, smiling.
Jacques Ferrand was silent; he leaned on his desk, and concealed his face
in his hands.
THE BANK FOR THE POOR.
"Imagine then, M. l'Abbé," resumed Polidori, addressing the curé, but
emphasizing, as it were, each phrase by an ironical glance at Jacques
Ferrand--"imagine that my friend found in his new servant, who, as I have
already told you, was called Cecily, the best qualities, great modesty,
angelic sweetness, and above all, much piety. This is not all; Jacques, you
know, owes to his long practice in business affairs an extreme penetration;
he soon saw that this young woman, for she was young and very pretty, M.
l'Abbé--that this young and pretty woman was not made for a servant, and
that, to principles most virtuously austere, she added solid
accomplishments very diversified."
"Ah, indeed, this is strange," said the abbé, much interested. "I was
entirely ignorant of these circumstances; but what is the matter, my good
M. Ferrand? You seem to be suffering."
"In truth," said the notary, wiping the cold sweat from his brow, "I have a
slight headache, but it will soon pass away."
Polidori shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "Observe, M. l'Abbé," he added,
"that Jacques is always thus when any one unveils his hidden charities; he
is so hypocritical on the subject of the good he does! Happily, I am here,
and justice shall be done him. Let us return to Cecily. In her turn she had
soon found out the excellence of his heart, and, when he interrogated her
as to the past, she confessed to him that, a stranger, without resources,
and reduced by the misconduct of her husband to the most humble condition,
she regarded it as a boon from heaven that she had been enabled to enter
the house of a man so venerable as M. Ferrand. At the sight of so much
misfortune, resignation, virtue, Jacques did not hesitate; he wrote to the
native country of this unfortunate, to ascertain the truth of her story:
the answer confirmed it in every particular; then, sure of not misplacing
his benefactions, Jacques blessed Cecily as a father, sent her back to her
own country with a sum of money which will enable her to wait for better
days, and the chance of improving her condition. I will not add a word of
praise for Jacques; the facts are more eloquent than my words."
"Good, very good," cried the curé, much affected. "M. l'Abbé," said Jacques
Ferrand, in a hollow voice, "I do not wish to trespass upon your precious
moments; speak no more of me, I implore you, but of the project for which I
have begged you to come here and favor me with your advice."
"I perceive that the praises of your friend wound your modesty; let us
occupy ourselves, then, with your new good deeds, and forget that you are
the author; but, first, let us speak of the business you intrusted to my
care. I have, according to your wishes, deposited in the Bank of France,
and in my name, the sum of one hundred thousand crowns, destined to the
restitution of which you are the intermediate agent and which was to pass
through my hands. You have preferred that this deposit should not remain in
your possession, although it seems to me it had been quite as secure there
as in the bank."
"In that respect, M. l'Abbé, I have conformed to the intentions of the
unknown author of this restitution. It is an affair of conscience. At his
request I have placed this sum in your hands, and begged you to remit it to
madame the widow Fermont, whose maiden name was Renneville" (the voice of
the notary trembled slightly in uttering these names), "when she should
present herself to you, and prove herself to be entitled to the same."
"I will accomplish the mission which you confided to me," said the priest.
"It is not the last, M. l'Abbé."
"So much the better, if the others resemble this; for without wishing to
seek for the motives which impel it, I am always touched by a voluntary
restitution. These lofty acts, which conscience alone dictates, are always
the indications of sincere repentance, and it is no barren expiation."
"In truth, M. l'Abbé, to restore a hundred thousand francs at once is rare;
as for me, I have been more curious than you; but what availed my curiosity
against the unshaken discretion of Jacques! Thus, I am still ignorant of
the person's name who has made this noble restitution."
"Whoever he may be," said the abbé, "I am certain that he stands very high
in the esteem of M. Ferrand."
"This honest man is indeed, M. l'Abbé, placed very high in my esteem,"
answered the notary, with a bitterness badly disguised.
"And this is not all, M. l'Abbé," said Polidori, looking at Jacques Ferrand
in a significant manner; "you will see how far these generous scruples of
this unknown extend; and, if I must speak plainly, I suspect our friend of
having contributed not a little to awaken these scruples, and of having
found the names to calm them."
"How is that?" asked the priest.
"What do you mean to say?" added the notary.
"And the Morels? this good and virtuous family."
"Ah! yes, yes; in truth, I forgot," said Jacques Ferrand, in a hollow
"Imagine, M. l'Abbé," resumed Polidori, "that the author of this
restitution, without doubt advised by Jacques Ferrand, not content with
restoring this considerable sum, wishes still--but I will leave my worthy
friend to explain; it is a pleasure of which I will not deprive him."
"I listen to you, my dear M. Ferrand," said the priest.
"You know," said Jacques Ferrand, with involuntary emotions of revolt
against the part which was imposed on him--feelings which were betrayed by
the alteration of his voice and the hesitancy of his speech; "you know, M.
l'Abbé, that the misconduct of Louise Morel was such a terrible blow for
her father, that he has become mad. The numerous family of the artisan ran
the risk of dying from want, deprived of their sole support. Happily,
Providence has come to their succor; and the person who has made the
voluntary restitution of which you are the agent, M. l'Abbé, has not
thought this a sufficient expiation for a great abuse of confidence. He
asked me if I did not know any deserving family in want of assistance. I
mentioned the Morels, and he begged me, at the same time giving me the
necessary funds, which I will hand to you presently, to request you to
settle an annuity of two thousand francs on Morel, revertible to his wife
"But, in truth," said the abbé, "in accepting this new charge, doubtless
very responsible, I am astonished that it was not bestowed on you."
"The unknown person has thought, and I coincide with him, that his good
works would acquire an additional value, would be, thus to speak,
sanctified by passing through hands as pious as yours, M. l'Abbé."
"To that I have nothing to answer; I will purchase an annuity of two
thousand francs for Morel, the worthy and unfortunate father of Louise. But
I think with your friend here that you have not been a stranger to the
resolution which has dictated this new expiatory gift."
"I have pointed out the Morel family, nothing more; I beg you to believe
me, M. l'Abbé," answered Jacques Ferrand.
"Now," said Polidori, "you are going to see, M. l'Abbé, what noble
philanthropic views my friend Jacques has concerning the charitable
establishment of which we have already had some conversation; he is going
to read to you the plan which he has definitively arranged; the money
necessary for the capital is there in the chest; but, since yesterday, he
has had some scruples, and if he does not mention them to you, I will do it
"It is useless," replied Jacques Ferrand, who sometimes chose rather to
wound his feelings by his own words than to submit in silence to the
ironical praises of his tormentor. "Here is the fact, M. l'Abbé. I have
thought that it would be more modest--more Christian-like, that this
establishment should not be instituted in my name."
"But this humility is overstrained," cried the abbé. "You can--you ought to
pride yourself on your charitable investment. It is right, almost a duty,
for you to attach your name to it."
"I prefer, M. l'Abbé, to preserve the incognito: I am resolved on it; and I
count on your kindness to make all the necessary arrangements, and select
the inferior officers of the establishment; I reserve alone for myself the
nomination of the director and porter."
"Even if it were not a real pleasure for me to assist you in your good
works, it would be my duty to accept the office."
"Now, M. l'Abbé, if you will allow it, my friend will read you the plan
"Since you are so obliging, _my friend_," said Jacques Ferrand, with
bitterness, "read it yourself. Spare me this trouble, I pray you."
"No, no," answered Polidori, casting a look at the notary which he well
understood, "it gives me great pleasure to hear from your own lips the
noble sentiments which have guided you in this work of philanthropy."
"So be it--I will read," said the notary, hastily, taking up a paper which
lay upon his desk.
Polidori, for a long time the accomplice of Jacques Ferrand, knew the
crimes and secret thoughts of the scoundrel; hence he could not suppress a
malicious smile on seeing him forced to read this paper, dictated by
Rudolph. As will be seen, the prince showed himself inexorable in the
logical manner with which he punished the notary.
Lustful--he tortured him by lust. Covetous--by covetousness. Hypocritical--
by hypocrisy. For Rudolph had chosen this venerable abbé to be the agent
for the restitutions and expiations imposed upon Jacques Fervand, because
he wished doubly to punish him for having, by his detestable hypocrisy,
obtained the esteem and affection of the good priest. Was it not, in
effect, a great punishment for this hideous impostor--this hardened
criminal, to be constrained to practice, at length, the Christian virtues
which he had so often feigned to possess, and this time _really_ to
deserve the just eulogiums of a respectable priest who had been his dupe?
Jacques Ferrand read the following note with feelings imagined.
_"Establishment of the Bank for Workmen out of Work."_
'Love ye one another.'
"These divine words contain the germ of all duties, all virtues, all
charities. They have inspired the humble founder of this Institution. To
God alone belong the benefits it may confer. Limited, as to the means of