Part 7 out of 9
Since Rudolph had informed her of the murder of Fleur-de-Marie, Countess
Sarah M'Gregor, overwhelmed by this revelation, which ruined all her hopes,
tortured by deep remorse, had been attacked by violent nervous spasms, and
a frightful delirium; her wound, hardly healed, reopened, and a fainting
fit of long duration had caused her attendants to suppose her dead.
However, from the strength of her constitution, she did not sink under this
severe attack; a new glimmering of life once more reanimated her. Seated in
an arm-chair, in order to relieve the oppression which suffocated her,
Sarah, almost regretting the death from which she had just escaped, was
occupied with bitter thoughts. Suddenly Thomas Seyton entered the chamber
of the countess; he with difficulty restrained some internal agitation; at
a sign from him her two women withdrew.
"How are you now?" said he to his sister.
"In the same state--I am very weak, and from time to time almost
suffocated. Why did not heaven take me away from this world during my last
"Sarah," said Thomas Seyton, after a pause, "you are between life and
death--a violent emotion might kill you, as it might save you."
"I have now no more emotions to experience, my brother."
"The death of Rudolph would find me indifferent; the ghost of my drowned
daughter--drowned by my fault--is there--always there, before me. It is not
an emotion--it is incessant remorse. I am really a mother now, since I no
longer have a child."
"I would prefer to find in you that cold ambition which made you regard
your daughter as a means to realize the dream of your life."
"The frightful reproaches of the prince have killed this ambition; the
maternal sentiment is awakened in me at the picture of the extreme misery
of my daughter."
"And," said Seyton, hesitating and weighing each word, "if by
chance-supposing an impossible thing--a miracle--you were informed that
your daughter still lived--how would you support such a discovery?"
"I should die with shame and despair at the sight of her."
"Do not believe that--you would be too much elated with the triumph of your
ambition; for, if your daughter had lived, the prince would have married
you--he told you so."
"In admitting this mad supposition, it seems to me that I should not have a
right to live. After having received the hand of the prince, my duty would
be to deliver him of an unworthy wife--my daughter of an unnatural mother."
The embarrassment of Thomas Seyton increased every moment. Charged by
Rudolph, who was in an adjoining room, to inform Sarah that Fleur-de-Marie
was alive, he did not know how to accomplish it. The state of the countess
was so critical that she might expire from one moment to another; there
was, then, no time to be lost in celebrating the marriage _in extremis_
which was to legitimate the birth of Fleur-de-Marie. For this sad ceremony,
the prince had brought with him a clergyman, with Murphy and Baron de Graun
as witnesses; the Duke de Lucenay and Lord Douglas, notified in haste by
Seyton, were to serve as witnesses for the countess, and had just arrived.
Time was pressing; but remorse, feelings of maternal tenderness, which
replaced, in Sarah's heart, her merciless ambition, rendered the task of
Seyton still more difficult. All his hope was that his sister deceived him
or deceived herself, and that her pride would be awakened, as soon as she
had gained this crown, so long and ambitiously coveted.
"Sister," said Thomas Seyton, "I am in a terrible perplexity; one word from
me, perhaps, will restore you to life--perhaps will send you to your tomb."
"I have already told you that I have no more emotions to dread."
"One alone, however--"
"If it concerned your child?"
"My child is dead."
"If she were not?"
"We have exhausted this supposition already. Enough, brother, my remorse
"But if it were not a supposition? if by chance--an incredible chance--your
daughter had been rescued from death; if she lived?"
"You alarm me; do not talk thus."
"Well, then, may God pardon me and judge you! she lives still."
"She lives, I tell you. The prince is here with a clergyman. I have sent
for two of your friends for witnesses; the wish of your life is at length
realized--the prediction is fulfilled--you are a sovereign."
Thomas Seyton pronounced these words while fixing on his sister a look of
anguish, watching for each sign of emotion. To his great astonishment, the
features of Sarah remained almost impassible; she placed her hand upon her
heart, and falling back in her chair, suppressed a slight cry, which
appeared to have been caused by some sudden and excruciating pain, after
which her face became composed and calm.
"What is the matter, sister?"
"Nothing--surprise--unhoped-for joy. At length my wishes are crowned."
"I was not deceived," thought Thomas Seyton. "Ambition rules--she is
saved." Then, addressing his sister, he said, "What did I tell you?"
"You were right," replied she, with a bitter smile, divining her brother's
thoughts; "ambition has once more stifled maternity within me."
"You will live; and will love your daughter?"
"I do not doubt it--I shall live--see how calm I am. Where is the prince?"
"He is here."
"I wish to see him before the ceremony. My daughter is here also, without
"No; you will see her afterward."
"Now that I have the time, ask, I pray you, the prince to come."
"My sister, I do not know why--but your manner is strange."
"Would you have me laugh? Do you think satisfied ambition has a soft and
tender expression? Let the prince come!"
In spite of himself, Seyton was uneasy at Sarah's calmness. For a moment he
thought he saw in her eyes restrained tears; after a little longer
hesitation, he opened a door, which he left open, and went out.
"Now," said Sarah, "let me but see and embrace my child, I shall be
satisfied. It will be very difficult to be obtained: Rudolph, to punish me,
will refuse; but I will succeed."
Rudolph entered and closed the door.
"Your brother has told you all?" demanded the prince, coldly.
"Your ambition is satisfied?"
"It is satisfied."
"The clergyman and the witnesses are here."
"I know it. One word, my lord."
"I wish to see my daughter."
"It is impossible."
"I tell your highness that I wish to see my child."
"She is hardly convalescent--she has been quite ill this morning; this
interview might be fatal to her."
"But at least she will embrace her mother."
"For what purpose? You are now a sovereign."
"I am not yet, and I will not be until I have embraced my child."
Rudolph looked at the countess with profound astonishment. "How!" he cried,
"you subject the satisfaction of your pride--"
"To the satisfaction of my maternal tenderness; that surprises your
"Shall I see my child?"
"Take care, my lord; my moments are perhaps counted. As my brother said,
this crisis may save or kill me. At this moment I collect all my strength,
all my energy, and I need them much to struggle against the shock of such a
discovery. I wish to see my child, or I refuse your hand; and if I die, her
birth is not legitimate."
"Fleur-de-Marie is not here; I should have to send for her at my house."
"Send for her at once, and I consent to all. As my moments, perhaps, are
counted, I have said it. The marriage can take place while some one goes
"Although this feeling astonishes me, it is too praiseworthy to be
disregarded. You shall see Fleur-de-Marie; I will write to her."
"There, on the desk where I was wounded." While Rudolph hastily wrote a few
lines, the countess wiped away the icy sweat which stood upon her brow; her
features now betrayed violent and concealed suffering.
His note being written, Rudolph arose and said to the lady, "I will send
this to my daughter by one of my aids-de-camp. She will be here in half an
hour. Shall I bring with me, on my return, the clergyman and witnesses?"
"You can, or, rather, I beg you will do so. Ring--do not leave me alone!"
Rudolph rang the bell, and requested the servant who answered the summons
to desire Sir Walter Murphy to come to him.
"This union is sad, Rudolph," said the countess, bitterly; "sad for me. For
you it will be happy, for I shall not survive it."
At this moment Murphy entered.
"My friend," said Rudolph, "send this letter immediately by the colonel; he
will bring my daughter back with him in the carriage. Beg the clergyman and
witnesses to walk into the next room."
"Oh, heaven!" cried Sarah, in a supplicating tone, when the squire had
departed, "grant me strength enough to see her--let me not die before she
"Oh, why have you not always been as good a mother?"
"Thanks to you, at least, I know repentance--devotion--self-denial. Yes,
just now, when my brother said our child lived--let me say _our_
child--I felt that I was stricken unto death. I did not tell him, but I was
happy. The birth of our child will be legitimatized and I should die
"Do not speak thus!"
"Oh! this time I do not deceive you--you will see."
"And no vestige remains of that implacable ambition which has ruined you!
Why has fate willed that your repentance should be so late?"
"It is late, but profound--sincere; I swear it to you. At this solemn
moment, if I thank heaven to take me from the world, it is because my life
has been to you a horrible burden."
"Sarah, in mercy--"
"Rudolph, a last prayer--your hand."
The prince, turning away his eyes, gave his hand to the countess, who
placed it between her own.
"Oh! your hands are icy cold," cried Rudolph with affright.
"Yes, I am dying. Perhaps for a last punishment, heaven does not will that
I should embrace my child."
"Oh! yes, yes, it will be moved by your remorse."
"And you, my friend, are you touched? do you pardon me? Oh! in mercy, say
it. Directly, when our child shall be here--if she comes in time--you
cannot pardon me before her; that would be to teach her how guilty I have
been, and that you would not like. When I am once dead, what matters it to
you if she love me?"
"Be comforted; she shall know nothing."
"Rudolph, pardon! oh! pardon! Will you be without pity! Am I not
"Well, may heaven pardon the evil you have done to your child, as I pardon
what you have done to me, unhappy woman."
"You pardon me--from the bottom of your heart?"
"From the bottom of my heart," replied the prince.
The lady pressed the hand of Rudolph to her dying lips in an ecstasy of joy
and gratitude, and said, "Let the clergyman come in, my friend, and tell
him that afterward he must stay. I feel myself very weak."
This scene was heart-rending; Rudolph opened the folding-doors, and the
clergyman entered, followed by the witnesses. All the actors in this sad
scene were grave and sad; M. de Lucenay himself had forgotten his habitual
frivolity. The contract of marriage between the most illustrious and very
puissant prince, His Serene Highness, Gustavus Rudolph V., reigning Grand
Duke of Gerolstein, and Sarah Seyton of Halsbury, Countess M'Gregor, had
been prepared by the care of Baron de Graun: it was read by him, and signed
by the bride and groom and their witnesses. Notwithstanding the repentance
of the countess, when the clergyman said, with a solemn voice, to Rudolph,
"Does your royal highness consent to take for wife Madame Sarah Seyton of
Halsbury, Countess M'Gregor?" and the prince had answered "YES!" with a
loud and firm voice, the deathlike countenance of the lady brightened; a
rapid and transitory expression of triumphant pride passed over her livid
features; it was the last flash of the ambition which died with her. During
this sad and imposing ceremony, not a word was uttered by the witnesses.
When it was finished, they all came forward, profoundly saluted the prince,
"Brother," said Sarah in a low tone, "beg the clergyman to have the
goodness to wait a moment in the adjoining room."
"How do you feel now, my sister? you are very pale."
"I am sure to live now--am I not the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein?" added
she, with a bitter smile.
Remaining alone with Rudolph, Sarah murmured, in an exhausted voice, while
her features changed in an alarming manner, "My strength is gone. I feel
that I am dying--I shall never see her."
"Yes, yes, calm yourself, Sarah--you will see her."
"I have no more hope--this delay--oh! it needs a strength superhuman. My
sight fails already."
"Sarah!" said the prince, approaching, and taking her hands within his own,
"she will come--now she cannot delay."
"God has not willed this last consolation."
"Sarah, listen--listen. I hear a carriage--yes--it is she; here is your
"Rudolph, you will not tell her that I was a bad mother?" articulated the
countess, slowly. The noise of a carriage resounded on the pavement of the
court. The countess could not hear it. Her words were more and more
incoherent. Rudolph leaned over her with anxiety; he saw her eyes covered
with a film.
"Pardon--my child--see, my child--pardon--at least--after my death--the
honors--of--my--rank----" These were her last intelligible words. The
fixed, predominating thought of her whole life returned again,
notwithstanding her sincere repentance. At this moment Murphy entered the
"Your highness, the Princess Marie----"
"No," cried Rudolph, quickly, "let her not enter. Tell Seyton to bring the
clergyman." Then, pointing to Sarah, who was gradually expiring, Rudolph
added, "Heaven refuses her the last consolation of embracing her child."
Half an hour afterward, the Countess M'Gregor had ceased to exist.
Fifteen days had passed since Rudolph, by marrying the Countess M'Gregor
_in extremis_, had legitimatized the birth of Fleur-de-Marie. It was
Mid-Lent. This date being established, we will conduct the reader to
Bicetre. This immense establishment, founded for the treatment of the
insane, serves also as a place of refuge for seven or eight hundred poor
old men, who are admitted when they have reached the age of seventy, or are
afflicted with any very serious infirmity. On arriving at Bicetre, the
visitor enters at first a vast court planted with large trees, and divided
into grass plots, ornamented in summer with flower borders. Nothing could
be more cheerful, more peaceful, or more salubrious than this promenade,
which was specially designed for the indigent old men of whom we have
spoken. It surrounds the buildings, in which, on the first floor, are found
the spacious sleeping apartments; and on the ground floor, the dining
halls, kept in admirable order, where the pensioners of Bicetre eat, in
common, most excellent food, prepared with great care, thanks to the
paternal solicitude of the directors of this establishment. To enumerate
completely the different purposes for which this institution is designed,
we mention that, at the time of which we speak, the condemned prisoners
were brought here after their sentence. It was in one of the cells of this
house that Widow Martial and her daughter Calabash awaited the moment of
their execution, which was fixed for the next day. Nicholas, Skeleton, and
several other scoundrels, had succeeded in making their escape from La
We have already said that nothing could be more cheerful than the approach
to this edifice, when, on coming from Paris, one entered it by the
poorhouse yard. Thanks to a forward spring, the elms and the lindens were
already beginning to shoot forth their leaves; the large plots of grass
were of a luxuriant growth; here and there the flower beds were enameled
with crocuses, primroses, and auriculas. The sun was shining brightly, and
the old pensioners, dressed in gray coats, were walking up and down, or
seated on the benches; their placid countenances expressed calmness, or a
kind of tranquil indifference. Eleven o'clock had just struck, when two
carriages stopped before the outer gate: from the first descended Madame
George, Germain, and Rigolette; from the second, Louise Morel and her
mother. Germain and Rigolette had been married a fortnight. We will leave
the reader to imagine the saucy gayety, the lively happiness, which shone
in the blooming visage of the grisette, whose rosy lips were only opened to
smile or embrace Madame George, whom she called her mother. The features of
Germain expressed a felicity more calm, more reflecting, more grave; there
was mingled with it a feeling of profound gratitude, almost of respect,
toward this noble and excellent girl, who had offered him in prison
consolations so sustaining and delightful, which Rigolette did not seem to
recollect the least in the world; thus, as soon as Germain turned the
conversation on this subject, she spoke of something else, saying these
recollections made her sad. Although she had become Madame Germain, and
Rudolph had settled on her forty thousand francs, Rigolette had not been
willing (and her husband was of the same opinion) to change her grisette
cap for a hat. Certainly, never had humility served better an innocent
coquetry; for nothing could be more becoming, more elegant, than her little
cap, ornamented on each side with orange bows, which contrasted well with
her shining black hair, now worn in long ringlets, since she had _time_ to
put them in paper; around her charming neck she wore a richly-embroidered
collar and a scarf of French cashmere of the same shade as the ribbons of
her cap, which half concealed her fine person; and although she wore no
corset, according to her usual custom, her dress showed not the slightest
wrinkle on her slender figure. Madame George contemplated her son and
Rigolette with quiet happiness.
Louise Morel, after a rigid examination and autopsy of her child, had been
set at liberty; the beautiful features of the daughter of the lapidary
expressed a kind of sad and melancholy resignation. Thanks to the
generosity of Rudolph, and the care and attention which he had caused to be
shown her, the mother of Louise Morel, who accompanied her, had recovered
her health. The porter at the gate had asked Madame George whom she desired
to see; she replied that one of the physicians of the asylum for the insane
had made an appointment with her and her friends at eleven o'clock. Madame
George had the option either to wait for the doctor in an office which was
pointed out to her, or in the court of which we have spoken. She chose the
latter; leaning on the arm of her son, and continuing to converse with the
wife of the lapidary, she walked in the garden, Louise and Rigolette
following at a short distance.
"How happy I am to see you, dear Louise!" said the grisette. "Just now when
we went to seek you in the Rue du Temple on our arrival from Bouqueval, I
wished to go up and see you; but my husband did not wish it, saying it was
high up; I waited in the cab. Your vehicle followed ours, so that I now see
you for the first time since---"
"Since you came to see me in prison. Ah! Miss Rigolette," cried Louise,
"what a kind heart! what--"
"In the first place, my good Louise," said the grisette, interrupting gayly
the daughter of the lapidary, in order to escape her thanks, "I am no more
Miss Rigolette, but Madame Germain. I do not know if you are aware of it,
and I am proud of it!"
"Yes, I knew you were married. But let me thank you again--"
"That of which you are most completely ignorant, my good Louise," replied
Madame Germain, again interrupting the daughter of Morel, in order to
change the course of her ideas: "that of which you are ignorant is, that I
am married, thanks to the generosity of him who has been our
Providence--mine as well as yours!"
"M. Rudolph! Oh! we bless him every day! When I came out of prison, the
lawyer whom he sent to see me told me that (owing to M. Rudolph, who had
already done so much for us) M. Ferrand," the poor creature shuddered, "M.
Ferrand, to make amends for his cruelties, had settled some money on my
father and me--my poor father, who is still here, but who, thanks to God,
gets better and better."
"And who will return with us to-day to Paris, if the hopes of the worthy
doctor are realized."
"May heaven grant it!"
"It will grant it. Your father is so good and honest! I am sure that we
will take him back with us. The doctor thinks that now a great effort must
be made, and that the unexpected presence of several persons whom your
father was accustomed to see almost daily before he lost his reason may
effect a cure. As for me, in my poor judgment, it appears certain."
"I dare hardly believe it, Miss--"
"Mrs. Germain--Mrs. Germain, if it is all the same to you, my good Louise.
But to return to what I was speaking about: you do not know who M. Rudolph
"He is the Providence of the unfortunate!"
"It is true; and what then? you do not know. Well, I am going to tell you."
Then, addressing her husband, who was walking near her, Rigolette cried,
"Do not go so fast, my dear!--you fatigue our good mother; and, besides, I
prefer to have you nearer to me."
Germain turned round, lessening his pace a little, and smiled on Rigolette
who playfully threw him a kiss.
"How genteel my little Germain is! is he not, Louise? With that air so
stylish! such a fine figure! was I not right when I found him more to my
liking than M. Girandeau, the traveling clerk, or M. Cabrion? Oh! speaking
of Cabrion--M. Pipelet and his wife? where are they? The doctor said they
ought to come also, because your father often pronounces their names."
"They will not long delay. When I left the house, they had been gone for a
"Oh! then they will not fail to be here; for M. Pipelet is as punctual as a
clock. But let us return to my marriage and to M. Rudolph. Only think,
Louise, it was he who sent me with the order for Germain's release. You can
imagine our joy on leaving that dreadful prison! We reached my room, and
there, aided by Germain, I arranged a slight repast, but a repast for real
gourmands. It is true, it was of no great use to us, for when we had
finished, we had neither of us eaten anything--we were too happy. At eleven
o'clock, Germain went away; we agreed to meet the next morning. At five
o'clock I was up and at work, for I was two days behindhand. At eight
o'clock some one knocked; I opened; who should come in but M. Rudolph. At
once I began to thank him from the bottom of my heart for what he had done
for Germain; he would not let me finish. 'My neighbor,' said he to me,
'Germain will soon be here; give him this letter. You and he will take a
cab, and go at once to a little village called Bouqueval, near Ecouen, on
the St. Denis Road. Once there, you will ask for Madame George; and I wish
you much pleasure.' 'M. Rudolph, I am going to tell you it will be another
day lost, and, without any reproach, this will make three.' 'Reassure
yourself, my neighbor; there is some work for you at Madame George's, whom
you will find an excellent customer.' 'If that is so, very good, M.
Rudolph.' 'Adieu, neighbor.' 'Adieu, and thank you, neighbor.' He went, and
Germain arrived. I told him what had occurred; M. Rudolph could not deceive
us; we got into a carriage, as frolicsome as children--we, who were so sad
the day previous. Well! we arrive. Oh! my good Louise--hold! in spite of
myself the tears will come to my eyes. This Madame George whom you see
before us is the mother of Germain."
"Dear me! yes, his own mother, from whom her child had been carried off
when quite young, and whom she had no hope of ever seeing again. You can
imagine their happiness. After Madame George had wept much, and embraced
her son, it was my turn. M. Rudolph had written many fine things about me,
for she told me, as she held me in her arms, that she knew of my conduct
toward her son. 'And if you wish, mother,' said Germain, 'Rigolette shall
be your daughter also.' 'If I wish it, my children? with all my heart. I
know you will never find a better or nicer little wife.' Behold me, then,
installed in a fine farm with Germain, his mother, and my birds, which I
sent for, poor little things, so that they should be of the party. Although
I do not like the country, the days passed so quickly, that it was like a
dream; I only worked for my pleasure; I assisted Madame George, I walked
with Germain, I sung, I jumped; it was enough to make one crazy. At length
our marriage was fixed for two weeks ago yesterday. Two days previous, who
should arrive in a fine carriage but a stout, bald gentleman, with a very
good-natured look, who brought me from M. Rudolph a wedding gift. Just
imagine, Louise, a large rosewood box, with these words written in gold on
a plate of blue enamel: 'Industry and Virtue, Love and Happiness.' I opened
the box; what did I find? some small lace caps like the one I have on,
dress patterns, jewels, gloves, this scarf, a beautiful shawl; in fine, it
was like a real fairy tale."
"It is true, it is like a real fairy tale; but, do you see, to have been so
good, so industrious, has brought you happiness."
"As to being good and industrious, my dear Louise, I have not been so
purposely; it has so happened: so much the better for me. But this is not
all: at the bottom of the box I discovered a handsome portfolio, with these
words, 'Neighbor to Neighbor.' I opened it: there were two packages, one
for Germain, the other for me; in Germain's I found a paper, which named
him director of a Bank for the Poor, with a salary of 4,000 francs; in the
envelope directed to me, there was a check for 40,000 francs on the--on the
Treasury; yes, that is it; this was my marriage portion. I wished to refuse
it, but Madame George, who had talked with the tall, bald gentleman and
with Germain, said to me, 'My child, you can, and ought to accept it; it is
the recompense of your virtue, your industry, and of your devotion to those
who suffer; for it is only by depriving yourself of your usual hours of
repose, at the risk of making yourself sick, and thus losing your sole
means of subsistence, that you have been able to go and console your
"Oh! that is very true," cried Louise; "there is no one else like you, at
least, Miss--Mrs. Germain."
"Very good! I told the bald gentleman that what I had done was my pleasure;
he answered, 'No matter! M. Rudolph is immensely rich; your marriage
portion on his part is a testimony of esteem and friendship; your refusal
would cause him great sorrow; he will be present at your marriage, and will
force you to accept.' What happiness that so much wealth should be in the
possession of a person as charitable as M. Rudolph!"
"Doubtless he is very rich, but if that were all--"
"Oh! my good Louise, if you only knew who M. Rudolph is! and I made him
carry my bundles! But patience! you shall see. The evening before the
marriage, very late, the bald gentleman arrived, having traveled post. M.
Rudolph could not come; he was indisposed; but the tall gentleman came in
his place It is only then, my good Louise, that we were informed that your
benefactor, that ours, was--guess what? a prince!"
"What do I say, a prince? a royal highness, a reigning grand duke, a king
on a small scale. Germain explained this to me."
"My poor Louise, yes! And I had asked him to help me wax my floor!"
"A prince--almost a king. That is the reason he has so much power to do
"You comprehend my embarrassment, my good Louise. Thus, seeing that he was
almost a king, I did not dare refuse my marriage portion. We were married.
Eight days afterward, M. Rudolph sent word to us, and Madame George, that
he would be very happy, if we would make him a bridal visit; we went. You
comprehend, my heart beat fast; we arrived at the Rue Plumet; we entered a
palace; we passed through parlors filled with servants in livery, gentlemen
in black, wearing silver chains around their necks and words at their
sides, and officers in uniform; and then gildings everywhere, almost enough
to blind you. At length we found the bald gentleman in a saloon with some
other gentlemen, all laced over with embroidery; he introduced us into a
large room, where we found M. Rudolph--that is to say, the prince, dressed
very plainly, and looking so kind, so frank, so little proud--in fine, he
looked so much like the M. Rudolph of old, that I felt myself at once at my
ease, recalling to my mind that I had made him fasten my shawl, mend my
pens, and give me his arm in the streets."
"You were no longer afraid? Oh! how I should have trembled!"
"Not I, after having received Madame George with great kindness, and
offered his hand to Germain, the prince said to me, smiling, 'Well, my
neighbor, how are _Papa Cretu_ and _Ramonette?_" (those are the names of my
birds; how kind in him to remember them). 'I am sure,' he added, 'that now
you and Germain rival with your joyous songs those of your little birds?'
'Yes, your highness!' (Madame George had taught us to say that while we
were on the road)--'Yes, your highness, our happiness is great, and it
seems to us more sweet because we owe it to you.' 'It is not to me you owe
it, my child, but to your excellent qualities and to those of Germain,' and
so forth, and so forth: I pass over the rest of his compliments. Finally,
we left this good nobleman with our hearts rather full, for we shall see
him no more. He told us that he would return to Germany in a few days;
perhaps he has already gone; but gone or not, we shall always remember
"Since he has subjects, they must be very happy!"
"Judge! he has done so much good to us, who are nothing to him. I forgot to
tell you that it was at this farm where we lived that one of my old prison
companions resided, a very good little girl, who, to her happiness, had
also met M. Rudolph; but Madame George had recommended me not to speak
about it to the prince; I do not know wherefore; doubtless because he does
not like that any one should speak to him of the good he does. What is
certain is, that it appears this dear Goualeuse has found her parents, who
have taken her with them, very far away: all I regret is, not having
embraced her before her departure."
"So much the better," said Louise, bitterly; "she is happy also--she--"
"My good Louise, pardon me--I am selfish; I only speak to you of happiness,
and you have yet so many reasons for sorrow."
"If my child had lived," said Louise, sadly, "that would have consoled me;
for now where is the virtuous man who would have me, although I have
"On the contrary, Louise, I say that none but a virtuous man can comprehend
your position; yes, when he knows all, when he shall know you, he can but
pity you, esteem you; and he will be sure to have in you a good and worthy
"You say that to console me."
"No, I say that because it is true."
"Well, true or not, it does me good, and I thank you. But who comes here?
Hold! it is M. Pipelet and his wife! Goodness! how pleased he is! he who
formerly was always so miserable on account of the jokes of M. Cabrion."
The Pipelets came forward joyfully; Alfred, wearing his irremovable hat,
had on a magnificent coat of grass green in all its pristine luster; his
cravat, with embroidered corners, just allowed room for a formidable shirt
collar, which concealed half of his cheeks, a large waistcoat, of a
deep-yellow ground, with brown stripes; black breeches, rather short;
stockings of dazzling whiteness, and well-brushed shoes, completed his
attire. Anastasia strutted in a robe of amaranth-colored merino, over which
showed to great advantage a shawl of deep blue. She proudly displayed to
all eyes her wig, freshly curled, and had her cap suspended from her arm
by strings of green ribbon, like a reticule. The physiognomy of Alfred,
ordinarily so grave, so collected, and latterly so much cast down, was
beaming, rejoicing, sparkling; as soon as he saw Louise and Rigolette at a
distance, he ran toward them, crying in his bass voice, "Delivered--gone!"
"Oh! M. Pipelet," said Rigolette, "how very gay you look! what is the
"Gone, miss, or, rather, madame, do I, can I, ought I to say, for now you
are exactly like Anastasia, thanks to the conjugal! just as your husband,
M. Germain, is exactly like me."
"You are very kind, M. Pipelet," said Rigolette, smiling; "but who has
"Cabrion!!!" cried M. Pipelet, respiring and inhaling the air with
inexpressible satisfaction, as if he had been relieved from an enormous
weight. "He leaves France forever--forever--for perpetuity--in fine, he is
"You are very sure of it?"
"I have seen him, with my own eyes, get into a diligence for Strasbourg--he
and his trunks, and all his effects--that is, to say, a hatbox, a
maulstick, and a box of colors."
"What is he singing about there, the old darling?" said Anastasia, arriving
out of breath, for she had with difficulty followed the quick movements of
Alfred. "I bet he is talking to you of Cabrion! he has done nothing but
repeat it over and over again all along the way."
"That is to say, Anastasia, that I could hardly keep on the ground. Before,
it seemed to me that my hat was lined with lead; now, one would say that
the air raised me toward the firmament! gone--at last--gone!!! and he will
never return more!"
"Most happily, the blackguard!"
"Anastasia, spare the absent; happiness renders me merciful; I will simply
say that he was an unworthy blackguard."
"And how did you know that he had gone to Germany?" asked Rigolette.
"By a friend of my prince of lodgers. Apropos of this dear man, do you not
know that, thanks to his good recommendations, Alfred is appointed porter
of a Pawn Office and Bank for the Poor, established in our house by a good
soul that I cannot help thinking must be the person for whom M. Rudolph was
the traveling clerk in good actions!"
"That happens very well," said Rigolette: "my husband is the director of
this bank, for which he is also indebted to the recommendation of M.
"Hooraw!" cried Madame Pipelet, gayly; "so much the better; so much the
better! old faces are preferable to new ones. But to return to Cabrion:
just imagine, that a tall bald gentleman, on coming to inform us of
Alfred's appointment as porter, asked us if a painter of much talent, named
Cabrion had not lived with us. At the name of Cabrion, there was my old
darling lifting his boot in the air, and already half dead. Happily, the
great fat bald man added, 'This young painter is about to start for
Germany; a wealthy person sends him there for some work which will employ
him for several years; perhaps he may always remain there.' As a proof of
what he had said, the individual gave to my old darling the date of the
intended departure of Cabrion and the address of the stage-coach office,
and I had the unhoped-for happiness to read on the register, 'M. Cabrion,
painter, leaves for Strasbourg.' The departure was fixed for this morning."
"I went to the office with my wife."
"We saw the knave mount on the imperial, alongside of the conductor."
"And just at the moment the diligence started, Cabrion perceived me,
recognized me, turned round, and cried, 'I go forever--yours for life!'
Happily, the trumpet of the conductor almost drowned these last words and
the indecent familiarity of his address, which I despise; for, at last,
Heaven be praised, he is gone."
"And gone forever, believe it, M. Pipelet," said Rigolette, restraining a
violent desire to laugh. "But what you do not know, and what will astonish
you very much is, that M. Rudolph was--"
"A prince in disguise--a royal highness."
"Come, get along--what a sell!" said Anastasia.
"I swear it to you by my husband," said Rigolette, very seriously.
"My prince of lodgers, a royal highness!" cried Anastasia. "Get along! And
I asked him to take care of my lodge! Pardon--pardon--pardon." And she
mechanically put on her cap, as if this head-dress were more suitable when
she was speaking of a prince.
By a manifestation, diametrically opposed as to form, but quite similar as
to the reality, Alfred, contrary to his habit, uncovered his head entirely,
and saluted the air profoundly, crying, "A prince! a highness in our lodge!
And he has seen me between the sheets when I was in bed, in consequence of
the indignities of Cabrion!" At this moment Madame George turned round, and
said to her son and to Rigolette, "My children, here is the doctor."
Dr. Herbin, a man of ripe age, had a physiognomy very intellectual and
lofty, a look of remarkable sagacity and depth of thought, and a smile of
extreme goodness. His naturally harmonious voice became full of kindness
when he spoke to the lunatics; thus the suavity of his tone and the
benevolence of his words seemed oft to calm the natural irritability of
these unfortunate people. He was among the first to substitute, in his
treatment for madness, commiseration and benevolence for the terrible
coercive means employed formerly; no more chains, no more blows, no more
shower-baths; above all (save in some few cases), no more solitary
confinement. His lofty understanding had comprehended that monomania,
insanity, and madness were increased by confinement and abusive treatment;
that, on the contrary, by allowing the patients to live together, a
thousand distractions, a thousand incidents occurring at each moment,
prevented them from being absorbed in a fixed idea, so much the more fatal
as it is more concentrated by solitude and intimidation. Thus experience
proves that solitary confinement is as fatal to lunatics as it is salutary
to criminals; the mental perturbation of the former increases in solitude,
while the perturbation, or, rather, moral corruption of the latter, is
augmented and becomes incurable by the society of their brothers in crime.
Doubtless, some years hence, the penitentiary system, with its prisons in
common (true schools of infamy), with its galleys, its chains, its
pillories, and its scaffolds, will appear as corrupt, as savage, as
atrocious as the old method of treatment for the insane appears to us of
the present day.
"Doctor," said Madame George to M. Herbin, "I thought I might be allowed to
accompany my son and daughter-in-law, although I do not know M. Morel. The
situation of this excellent man appeared to me so interesting that I have
not been able to conquer my desire to assist with my children in attempting
his complete restoration to reason, which, you hope (so we have been told),
will be accomplished by the means you are about using."
"I count much, madame, on the favorable impression which the presence of
his daughter and persons whom he has been accustomed to see will produce
"When they came to arrest my husband," said the wife of Morel, with
emotion, showing Rigolette to the doctor, "our good little neighbor was
occupied in assisting me and my children."
"My father also well knew M. Germain, who has always been very kind to us,"
added Louise. Then, noticing Alfred and Anastasia, she added, "These are
the porters of our house; they have also assisted us as much as they could
in our misfortunes."
"I thank you, sir," said the doctor to Alfred, "for having inconvenienced
yourself by coming here; but, from what I have been told, I see this visit
has not cost you a great deal."
"Sir," said M. Pipelet, with a grave nod, "man should assist his fellow-man
here below; he is a brother, without counting that Morel was the cream of
honest men, before he lost his reason, in consequence of his arrest and his
"And over and above all," said Anastasia, "I always regret that the
porringer full of scalding soup which I threw on the backs of the two
bailiffs had not been melted lead."
"It is true; and I ought to render this just homage to the affection which
my wife has avowed to the Morels."
"If you do not fear, madame," said Doctor Herbin, to the mother of Germain,
"the sight of the lunatics, we will pass through several courts in order to
reach the exterior building, where I have had Morel conducted; for I have
given orders this morning that he should not be led to the farm as usual."
"To the farm, sir?" said Madame George, "is there a farm here?"
"Does that surprise you, madame? I can conceive it. Yes, we have here a
farm cultivated by the lunatics, and its produce is very valuable to the
"Do they work there without restraint, sir?"
"Yes; and the labor, the quiet of the fields, the sight of nature, are
among the best of our remedies. A single keeper conducts them thither, and
there is hardly an instance of escape; they go with evident satisfaction,
and their slight earning; serve to ameliorate their condition. But here we
are at the door of one of the courts." Then, seeing a slight shade of
apprehension on the face of Madame George, the doctor added, "Fear nothing,
madame; in a few moments you will feel as secure as I do."
"I follow you, sir. Come, my children."
"Anastasia," whispered M. Pipelet, who was behind with his wife, "when I
think that if the infernal conduct of M. Cabrion had lasted, your Alfred
would have become mad, and, as such, would have been confined among these
unfortunates whom we are going to see, clothed in costumes the most
singular, chained by the middle of their bodies, or shut up in cages like
the wild beasts of the Garden of Plants!"
"Do not speak of it, old darling! It is said that those who are mad for
love are like real apes when they see a woman: they throw themselves
against the bars of their cages, uttering the most frightful cooings. Their
keepers are obliged to soothe them with great blows from a whip, and
letting fall on their heads immense quantities of water, which drops from a
hundred feet high, and that is not a bit too much to refresh them."
"Anastasia, do not approach too near to the cages of these madmen," said
Alfred, gravely: "an accident happens so quickly!"
"Yes, not to say a word of how ungenerous it would be on my part to have
the appearance of defying them; for, after all," added Anastasia, with a
melancholy sigh, "it is our attractions which make them distracted. Hold! I
shudder, my Alfred, when I think that, if I had refused you your happiness,
you would be at this moment crazy from love, like some of these madmen;
that you would cling to the bars of your cage the moment you saw a woman,
and roar afterward, poor old darling! you who, on the contrary, run away as
soon as they attempt to allure you."
"My modesty is suspicious, it is true; but, Anastasia, the door opens--I
shudder. We are going to see abominable figures, hear the noise of chains
and grinding of teeth."
Mr and Mrs. Pipelet, not having heard the conversation of Doctor Herbin,
partook of the popular prejudice which still exists on the subject of
insane hospitals; prejudices which forty years ago were not without
foundation. The door of the court was opened. This court, forming a long
parallelogram, was planted with trees and furnished with benches; a gallery
of elegant construction extended on each side; cells, well ventilated,
opened on this gallery; some fifty men, uniformly clothed in gray, were
walking, talking, or sitting silent and contemplative in the sun.
On the arrival of Dr. Herbin, a large number of lunatics pressed around
him, extending their hands to him with a touching expression of confidence
and gratitude, to which he cordially replied, saying to them, "Good-day,
good-day, my children."
Some of these unfortunate beings, at too great a distance from the doctor
for him to take their hand, came and offered it with a kind of hesitation
to the persons who accompanied him.
"Good-day, my friends," said Germain, kindly, shaking hands in a manner
which seemed to delight them.
"Sir," said Madame George to the doctor, "are these lunatics?"
"These are about the most dangerous in the house," said the doctor,
smiling. "We leave them together in the daytime, but at night they are
locked up in the cells, of which you see the doors open."
"How? these people are completely mad? But are they ever furious?"
"At first--at the commencement of their malady, when they are brought here;
then, by degrees, the treatment begins to produce its effect, and the sight
of their companions calms them and distracts their attention; gentle usage
appeases them, and their violent attacks, at first frequent, become more
and more rare. Hold! here is one of the most violent."
This was a robust and powerful man of about forty years of age, with long,
black hair, high forehead, sallow complexion; intellectual expression, and
most intelligent countenance, He approached the doctor, and said to him, in
a tone of exquisite politeness, although slightly constrained, "Doctor, I
ought, in my turn, to have the right of conversing and walking with the
blind man; I have the honor of observing to you that there is a flagrant
injustice in depriving this unfortunate man of my conversation, to deliver
him" (and the madman smiled with bitter disdain) "to the stupid
incoherences of an idiot, who is completely a stranger (I hazard nothing in
saying it)--completely a stranger to the least notions of any science
whatever, while my conversation might divert the attention of the blind
man. Thus," added he, with extreme volubility, "I would have told him my
opinion on the isothermal and orthogonal superficies, causing him to
observe that the equations of partial differences, of which the geometrical
explanation is summed up in two orthogonal superficies, cannot generally be
integral on account of their complication. I should have proved to him that
the united superficies are all necessarily isothermal, and together we
would have sought what superficies are capable of composing a trebly
isothermal system. If I do not deceive myself, sir, compare this recreation
with the stupid nonsense with which they entertain this blind man," added
the lunatic, taking breath, "and tell me, is it not a pity to deprive him
of my conversation?"
"Do not take what he has just said, madame, for the wanderings of a
madman," whispered the doctor; "he handles in this way sometimes the most
difficult questions of geometry or astronomy, with an acuteness which would
do honor to the most illustrious learned men. His knowledge is great. He
speaks all the living languages, but he is, alas! a martyr to his thirst
for erudition and pride of learning. He imagines that he has absorbed all
human knowledge, and that, by retaining him here, humanity is thrown back
into the darkness of the most profound ignorance."
The doctor replied aloud to the lunatic, who seemed to await his reply with
a respectful anxiety, "My dear M. Charles, your complaint appears to me
very just, and this poor blind man, who, I believe, is dumb, but, happily,
is not deaf, will have great delight in the conversation of a man as
learned as you are. I will see that you have justice done you."
"Besides, by retaining me here, you deprive the universe of all human
knowledge, which I have appropriated to myself by assimilation," said the
madman, becoming animated by degrees, and commencing to gesticulate with
"Come, come, calm yourself, my good M. Charles; happily the world has not
yet discovered its deficiencies; as soon as it shall have become
enlightened in this respect, we shall endeavor to supply its wants; and in
that case, a man of your capacity, of your learning, can always render
"But I am for science what Noah's ark was for physical nature," cried he,
grinding his teeth, his eye looking very wild.
"I know it, my dear friend."
"You wish to put the light under the bushel!" cried he, clinching his
fists. "But then I will break you like glass," added he, with a threatening
air, his face purple with anger, and the veins swelling like cords.
"Ah! M. Charles," answered the doctor, fixing on the madman a calm,
piercing, steady look, and assuming a caressing and flattering manner, "I
thought that you were the greatest professor of modern times."
"And past," cried the madman, forgetting all at once his anger in his
"You did not let me finish: that you were the greatest professor of time
past, and present--"
"And future," cried the madman, proudly.
"Oh! the great babbler, who always interrupts me," said the doctor,
smiling, and striking him amicably on the shoulder. "Can it be said that I
am ignorant of all the admiration that you inspire and deserve! Come, let
us go and see the blind man."
"Conduct me to him. Doctor, you are a good man; come, come, you will see
what he is obliged to listen to when I can tell him such fine things,"
answered the lunatic, completely calmed, walking before the doctor with a
"I confess to you, sir," said Germain, who had drawn near to his wife,
remarking her fear when the madman spoke and gesticulated so violently, "I
confess to you, for a moment I feared a crisis."
"Formerly, at the very first word of excitement, at the very first sign of
a threat, the keepers would have seized, tied, beat, and inundated him with
a shower-bath, one of the most atrocious tortures that ever were invented.
Judge of the effect of such a treatment on an energetic and irritable
temperament, whose force of expansion becomes more violent as it is more
compressed. Then he would have fallen into one of those frightful fits of
madness which defy the most powerful restraint; exasperated by their
frequency, they become almost incurable; while as you see, by not
restraining at first this momentary ebullition, or in turning it aside by
the aid of the excessive mobility of mind which is to be remarked among
many lunatics, these experimental bubblings are assuaged as soon as they
"And who is this blind man of whom he speaks? is that an illusion of his
mind?" asked Madame George.
"No, madame, it is a very strange history," answered the doctor. "This
blind man was taken in a den in the Champs Elysees, where they arrested a
band of robbers and assassins; he was found chained in the middle of a
subterranean cavern, alongside of the corpse of a woman, so horribly
mutilated that she could could not be recognized."
"Ah! it is frightful," said Madame George, shuddering, never suspecting the
"This man is frightfully ugly; his face has been burned with vitriol. Since
his arrival here, he has not spoken a single word. I do not know whether he
is really dumb, or only affects to be so. By a singular chance, the only
attacks he has had have occurred during my absence, and always at night.
Unfortunately, all the questions that have been addressed to him have been
unanswered, and it is impossible to obtain any information as to his
situation; his attacks seem to be caused by a madness of which the cause is
impenetrable, for he does not pronounce a word. The other lunatics pay him
great attention; they guide his footsteps, and they like to entertain him,
alas! according to their degree of intelligence. Hold! here he is!"
All the persons who accompanied the doctor recoiled with horror at the
sight of the Schoolmaster, for it was he. He was not mad, but he pretended
to be both mad and dumb. He had massacred La Chouette, not in a fit of
madness, but in a fit of fever, such as he had been attacked with at
Bouqueval on the night of his horrible vision. After his arrest in the
tavern of the Champs Elysees, recovering from his transient delirium, the
Schoolmaster had awoke in a cell of the Conciergerie, where the insane are
temporarily confined. Hearing every one say around him, "He is a furious
madman," he resolved to continue to play his part, and pretended dumbness
in order not to compromise himself by his answers, in case they should
suspect his feigned insanity. This stratagem succeeded. Conducted to
Bicetre, he pretended to have other attacks of madness, always taking care
to choose the night for these manifestations, in order to escape the
penetrating observation of the chief physician; the attending surgeon,
awakened in haste, never arriving until the crisis was over, or nearly at
an end. The very small number of the accomplices of the Schoolmaster, who
knew his real name and his escape from the galleys at Rohefort, were
ignorant of what had become of him, and, besides, had no interest in
denouncing him; thus his identity could not be proved. He hoped to remain
always at Bicetre, by continuing his part of a madman and mute. Yes,
always. Such was then the sole desire of this man, thanks to the inability
to do harm which paralyzed his savage instincts. Thanks to the state of
profound seclusion in which he had lived in the cellar of Bras-Rouge,
remorse had taken almost entire possession of his iron heart. By dint of
concentrating his mind upon one unceasing meditation (the recollection of
his past crimes), deprived of all communication with the exterior world,
his ideas often assumed a sort of reality, as he had told La Chouette; then
passed before him sometimes the features of his victims; but this was not
madness--it was the power of memory carried to its greatest extent. Thus
this man, still in the prime of life, of a vigorous constitution--this man,
who, without doubt, would live many long years--this man, who enjoyed all
the plenitude of his reason, was to pass these long years among madmen,
without ever exchanging a word with a human being. Otherwise, if he were
discovered, he would be led to the scaffold for his new murders, or he
would be condemned to a perpetual imprisonment among scoundrels, for whom
he felt a horror which was augmented by his repentance. The Schoolmaster
was seated on a bench; a forest of grayish hair covered his hideous and
enormous head; with his elbows on his knees, he supported his chin on his
hand. Although this frightful man was deprived of sight, two holes replaced
his nose, and his mouth was deformed, yet a withering, incurable despair
was still manifest on his horrid visage. A lunatic of a sad, benevolent,
and juvenile appearance kneeled before the Schoolmaster, held his large
hands in his own, looked at him with kindness, and, with a sweet voice,
constantly repeated, "Strawberries! strawberries! strawberries!"
"See now," said the learned madman, gravely, "the sole conversation which
this idiot can hold with the blind man. Yes, with him, the eyes of the body
closed, those of the mind are without doubt opened, and he will be pleased
if I enter into communication with him."
"I do not doubt it," said the doctor; while the poor lunatic with the
melancholy face regarded the abominable face of the Schoolmaster with
compassion, and repeated, in his soft voice, "Strawberries! strawberries!
"Since his entrance here, this poor idiot has uttered no other words than
these," said the doctor to Madame George, who looked at the Schoolmaster
with horror; "what mysterious events are connected with these words, I
"Mother," said Germain to Madame George, "how much this poor blind man
"It is true, my child," answered Madame George: "in spite of myself my
heart is oppressed! the sight of him sickens me. Oh! how sad it is to see
humanity under this dreadful aspect."
Hardly had Madame George pronounced these words, than the Schoolmaster
started; his scarred face became pale under its cicatrices; he arose, and
turned his head so quickly toward the mother of Germain, that she could not
refrain from a cry of horror, although she did not know who he was. The
Schoolmaster had recognized the voice of his wife, and the words of Madame
George told him that she had spoken to his son!
"What is the matter, mother?" cried Germain.
"Nothing, son; but the movement of this man, the expression of his
face--all this has frightened me. Pardon my weakness," added she,
addressing the doctor, "I almost regret having yielded to my curiosity in
accompanying my son."
"Oh! for once, mother--there is nothing to regret."
"Very sure am I that our good mother will never return here, nor we either,
my little Germain," said Rigolette: "it is too affecting."
"You are a little coward!" said Germain, smiling: "is not my wife a little
"I confess," answered the doctor, "that the sight of this unhappy blind and
dumb man has made a strong impression upon me--who have seen so much
"What a sight, old darling!" whispered Anastasia.
"Well! in comparison with you, all men appear to me as ugly as this
frightful madman. It is on this account that no one can boast of--you
comprehend, my Alfred?"
"Anastasia, I shall dream of that face, it is certain--I shall have the
"My friend," said the doctor to the Schoolmaster, "how do you find
yourself?" The Schoolmaster remained mute.
"Do you not hear me, then?" continued the doctor, striking him lightly on
The Schoolmaster made no reply, but bowed his head. At the end of some
moments, from his sightless eyes there fell a tear.
"He weeps," said the doctor.
"Poor man!" added Germain, with compassion.
The Schoolmaster shuddered; he heard anew the voice of his son, who evinced
for him a sentimental compassion.
"What is the matter? What afflicts you?" demanded the doctor. The
Schoolmaster buried his face in his hands.
"We shall obtain nothing," said the doctor.
"Let me try: I am going to console him," replied the learned madman. "I am
going to demonstrate that all kinds of orthogonal surfaces in which the
three systems are isothermal, are 1st, those of the superficies of the
second order; 2nd, those of the ellipsoides of revolution around the small
axis and the grand axis; 3rd, those--but no," said the madman, reflecting,
"I will commence with him on the planetary system." Then, addressing the
young lunatic, who was still kneeling before the Schoolmaster, "Take
yourself off from there with your strawberries."
"My boy," said the doctor to the young madman, "each one must have his turn
with the old man. Let your comrade take your place."
The young boy obeyed at once, arose, looked at the doctor timidly with his
large blue eyes, showed his deference by a salute, made a parting sign to
the Schoolmaster, and departed, repeating, in a plaintive voice,
The doctor, perceiving the painful effect this scene had produced upon
Madame George, said to her, "Happily, madame, we are going to find Morel,
and, if my hopes are realized, your heart will expand with joy on seeing
this excellent man restored to the tenderness of his wife and daughter."
And the physician withdrew, followed by the friends of the artisan Morel.
The Schoolmaster remained alone with the learned madman, who commenced to
explain to him, very learnedly and very eloquently, the imposing movement
of the stars, which describe their immense revolutions silently in the
heavens of which the normal state is night. But the Schoolmaster did not
listen. He thought, with profound despair, that he should never hear again
the voices of his son and wife. Confident of the just horror with which he
had inspired them, of the misfortune, the shame, the affright into which he
would have plunged them by the revelation of his name, he would have
endured rather a thousand deaths than have disclosed himself to them. One
single last consolation remained to him: for a moment he had inspired his
son with pity. And in spite of himself, he recalled to mind the works which
Rudolph had spoken to him before he had inflicted this terrible
"Each of your words is an oath; each of your words shall be a prayer. You
are audacious and cruel because you are strong; you shall be meek and
humble because you shall be weak. Your heart is closed to repentance; some
day you will weep for your victims. From a man you have made yourself a
savage beast; some day your understanding shall be restored by repentance.
You have not even spared what the wild beasts spare, the female and her
young. After a long life consecrated to the expiation of your crimes, your
last prayer shall be to supplicate God to grant you the unhoped-for
happiness of dying before your wife and your son."
* * * * *
"We are going to pass into the court of the idiots, and then we shall reach
the building where we shall find Morel," said the doctor, on leaving the
court where the Schoolmaster was.
MOREL, THE DIAMOND-CUTTER.
Notwithstanding the sadness with which the sight of the lunatics had
inspired her, Madame George could not but stop for a moment before a railed
court, where the incurable idiots were confined. Poor beings! who often
have not even the instinct of the beast, and whose origin is almost always
unknown--unknown to all as well as to themselves. Thus they pass through
life, absolute strangers to the affections, to thoughts, experiencing only
the most limited animal wants. If madness does not reveal itself at once to
a superficial observer by a single inspection of the physiognomy of the
lunatic, it is but too easy to recognize the physical character of
idiotism. Dr. Herbin had no occasion to direct the attention of Madame
George, to the expression of savage brutishness, stupid insensibility, or
imbecile amazement, which gave to the features of the unfortunate wretches
an expression at once hideous and painful to behold. Almost all were
clothed in long dirty frocks, ragged and torn; for, in spite of all
possible care, these beings, absolutely deprived of instinct and reason,
cannot be prevented from tearing and soiling their vestments, crawling and
rolling like beasts in the mire of the courts, where they remain during the
day. Some of them, crouched in the most obscure corners of a shed which
sheltered them, gathered in a heap, like animals in their dens, uttered a
kind of hollow and continual rattling noise. Others, leaning against the
wall immovable, looked fixedly at the sun. An old man, of monstrous
obesity, seated on a wooden chair, devoured his pittance with animal
voracity, casting on either side oblique angry glances. Some walked
rapidly, describing a circle, limiting themselves to a very small space.
This strange exercise would last for entire hours. Seated on the ground,
others swayed their bodies continually backward and forward, only
interrupting this movement of vertiginous monotony by shouts of
laughter--the guttural, harsh laugh of idiocy. Others, in fine, were almost
in a state of annihilation, only opening their eyes at the moment of
repast, remaining inert, inactive, deaf, dumb, blind--not a cry, not a
gesture announcing their vitality. The complete absence of verbal or
intellectual communication is one of the most gloomy characteristics of a
company of idiots, Lunatics, notwithstanding the incoherency of their words
and thoughts, at least speak, know each other, and seek each other; but
among idiots there reigns a stupid indifference, an isolated savageness.
Never do they pronounce an articulate word. Sometimes is heard among them
savage laughter, or groans and cries which resemble nothing human. Scarcely
can a few among them recognize their keepers; and yet, let us repeat it
with admiration, with reverence to the Creator, these unfortunate
creatures, who seem no longer to belong to our species, and not even to the
animal species, by the complete annihilation of their intellectual
faculties; these incurable beings, who partake more of the mollusca than
animated life, and who often thus pass through all the stages of a long
existence, are surrounded by tender cares, of which we have no idea.
Doubtless it is well to respect the principle of human dignity, even in
these unhappy beings who have only the exterior of men; but let us always
repeat, one should also think of the dignity of those who, endowed with all
their faculties, filled with zeal and activity, and the living strength of
the nation; to give them consciousness of this dignity by encouraging them,
and reward them when it is manifested by the love of industry, by
resignation, by probity; not to say, in fine, with semi-orthodox
selfishness, "Let us punish here below, God will recompense above."
"Poor people!" said Madame George, following the doctor, after having cast
a last look into the court of the idiots; "how sad it is to think there is
no remedy for their woes!"
"Alas! none, madame!" answered the doctor; "above all, when they have
reached this age; for, now, thanks to the progress of the science, idiot
children receive a kind of education which develops, at least, the atom of
imperfect intelligence with which they are sometimes endowed. We have a
school here, directed with as much perseverance as enlightened patience,
which already offers the most satisfactory results; by a very ingenious
method, the mental and physical capacities are exercised at the same time;
and many have been taught the alphabet, figures, and to distinguish colors;
they have also succeeded in teaching them to sing in chorus; and I assure
you, madame, that there is a kind of strange charm, at once sad and
touching, in hearing these plaintive, wondering voices raised toward heaven
in a chant, of which almost all the words, although in French, are to them
unknown. But here we are at the building where we shall find Morel. I have
recommended that he should be left alone this morning, that the effect
which I hope to produce upon him may have greater power."
"And what is his madness, sir?" whispered Madame George to the doctor, so
as not to be heard by Louise.
"He imagines that if he does not earn thirteen hundred francs in his day's
work, to pay a debt contracted with a notary named Jacques Ferrand, Louise
will die on the scaffold for the crime of infanticide."
"Oh! sir, that notary was a monster!" cried Madame George, informed of the
hatred of this man against Germain. "Louise Morel and her father are not
his only victims; he has persecuted my son with undying animosity."
"Louise Morel has told me all, madame," answered the doctor. "God's mercy!
this wretch has ceased to live! but be pleased to wait for a moment, with
these good people; I am going to see how poor Morel is." Then, addressing
the daughter of the lapidary, "I beg you, Louise, pay great attention! the
moment I cry, _Come!_ appear at once, but alone; when I say a second time,
_Come!_ the others will also enter."
"Oh! sir, my courage fails me," said Louise, drying her tears. "Poor
father! if this trial should be useless!"
"I hope it will save him; for a long time I have been preparing for it.
Come, compose yourself, and remember my instructions."
And the doctor, leaving the persons who accompanied him, entered into a
room of which the grated windows opened on a garden.
Thanks to repose, the salutary rules and comforts with which he was
surrounded, the features of Morel were no longer pale, ghastly, and
wrinkled by an unhealthy meagerness; his full face, slightly colored,
announced the return of health; but a melancholy smile, a certain fixed
expression, indicated that his reason was not yet completely
When the doctor entered, Morel, seated and bent over a table, imitated the
exercise of his trade of a lapidary, saying, "Thirteen hundred
francs--thirteen hundred francs, or Louise to the scaffold--thirteen
hundred francs; let us work--work--work."
This aberration, of which the attacks were becoming less and less frequent,
had always been the primordial symptom of his madness. The physician, at
first vexed to find Morel at this moment under the influence of his
monomania, soon hoped to make it serve his project; he took from his pocket
a purse containing sixty-five golden louis, which he had placed there for
the purpose, poured the gold into his hand, and said suddenly to Morel,
who, profoundly absorbed by his ideal occupation, had not perceived the
arrival of the doctor:
"My good Morel! you have worked enough; you have earned the thirteen
hundred francs which you need to save Louise--here they are." And the
doctor threw on the table his handful of gold.
"Louise saved!" cried the lapidary, clutching the gold eagerly. "I will run
to the notary;" and, rising precipitately, he rushed to the door.
"Come!" cried the doctor, with a lively anxiety, for the instantaneous cure
of the lapidary might depend upon this first impression.
Hardly had he said "Come," than Louise appeared at the door, at the moment
that her father reached it. Morel, stupefied, recoiled two steps, and
dropped the gold which he had held. For some moments, he looked at Louise
with profound amazement, not yet recognizing her. He seemed, however, to be
endeavoring to collect his thoughts; then, approaching her by degrees, he
looked at her with an uneasy and timid curiosity. Louise, trembling with
emotion, with difficulty restrained her tears, while the doctor,
recommending her, by a sign, to remain silent, watched attentively the
smallest movements of the lapidary's countenance. He, leaning toward his
daughter, began to turn pale; he passed both his hands over his forehead,
covered with sweat; then, taking a step toward her, he wished to speak, but
his voice died upon his lips, his paleness increased, and he looked around
him with surprise, as if he were just awaking from a dream.
"Well, well," whispered the doctor to Louise, "it is a good sign; when I
say 'Come,' throw yourself into his arms, calling him father."
The lapidary placed his hands on his chest, looking at himself (if we may
so express it) from head to foot, as if to convince himself of his
identity. His features expressed a sad uncertainty: instead of fixing his
eyes on his daughter, he seemed as if he wished to hide himself from her
sight. Then he said, in a low and broken voice, "No! no! a dream--where am
I? impossible--a dream--it is not she." Then, seeing the gold scattered on
the floor, "And this gold--I do not remember--am I awake? My head turns--I
dare not look--I am ashamed: it is not Louise."
"Come!" said the doctor, in a loud voice. "Father, recognize me! I am
Louise, your daughter!" cried she, bursting into tears, and throwing
herself into his arms; at the same moment, Madame Morel, Rigolette, Madame
George, Germain, and the Pipelets entered the apartment.
"Oh! heavens!" said Morel, whom Louise loaded with caresses, "where am I?
what do they want with me? what has taken place? I cannot believe." Then,
after a pause, he took suddenly the head of Louise between his two hands,
looked at her fixedly, and cried, after some moments of increasing emotion,
"He is saved," said the doctor.
"My husband! my poor Morel!" cried the wife of the lapidary, running to
"My wife!" said Morel; "my wife and child!"
"And I also, M. Morel," said Rigolette; "all your friends are collected
"All your friends! do you see, M. Morel?" added Germain.
"Miss Rigolette! M. Germain!" said the lapidary, recognizing each personage
with new astonishment.
"And your old friends of the lodge, too!" said Anastasia, approaching in
her turn, with Alfred; "here are the Pipelets--the old Pipelets--friends
till death! Daddy Morel, here is a great day."
"M. Pipelet and his wife! so many people around me! it seems to me so long
since! And, but, it is Louise, is it not?" cried he with emotion, pressing
his daughter to his heart. "It is you, Louise? very sure?"
"My poor father, yes; it is I; it is my mother: here are all your
friends--you shall leave us no more--we shall be happy now--very happy."
"Very happy. But wait until I recollect--all happy; it seems to me,
however, that they came to conduct you to prison, Louise."
"Yes, my father; but I have been acquitted--you see it--I am here--near to
"Wait still--wait--my memory returns." Then he said, with affright, "And
"Dead--he! then I believe you; we can be happy; but where am I? how am I
here? for how long a time, and why? I do not exactly recollect."
"You have been so sick, sir," said the doctor, "that you have been brought
here, into the country; you have had a fever--very violent--delirium."
"Yes, yes I recollect; the last thing--before my illness--I was talking to
my daughter, and who--who then? Oh! a very generous man, M. Rudolph,
prevented my arrest. Since then I recollect nothing."
"Your disease was attended by a loss of memory," said the doctor. "The
sight of your daughter, of your wife, of your friends, has restored it to
"And at whose house am I, then?"
"At a friend of M. Rudolph's," Germain hastened to say: "the change of air,
it was thought, would be useful to you."
"Very well," whispered the doctor; and, addressing the superintendent,
added, "Order the cab round to the garden door, so that he shall not be
obliged to pass through the courts to go out at the main entrance."
Thus, as often happens in cases of madness, Morel had no recollection or
consciousness of the alienation of mind with which he had been attacked.
What remains to be told? Some moments afterward, leaning on his wife and
daughter, and accompanied by a medical student, who, as a matter of
precaution, was to accompany them to Paris, Morel got into the carriage,
and left Bicetre, without suspecting that he had been confined there as a
"You think this man is completely cured?" said Madame George to the doctor,
who was conducting her to the principal entrance of Bicetre.
"I think so, madame, and I have expressly left him under the happy
influence of this family meeting. I should have feared to separate them. I
shall go and see him every day until his cure is perfectly established;
for, not only does he interest me very much, but he was particularly
recommended to me, on his first entrance here, by the charge d'affaires of
the Grand Duchy of Gerolstein."
Germain and his mother exchanged glances.
"I thank you, sir," said Madame George, "for the kindness with which you
have allowed me to visit this fine establishment; and I congratulate myself
at having witnessed a touching scene, which your knowledge and skill had
foreseen and predicted."
"And I, madame, doubly congratulate myself upon the success which has
restored so excellent a man to the arms of his family."
Some moments afterward, Madame George, Rigolette and Germain had left
Bicetre, as well as the Pipelets.
Just as Dr. Herbin returned to the courts, he met one of the superior
officers of the house, who said to him, "Ah! my dear M. Herbin, you cannot
imagine what a scene I have just witnessed. For an observer like you it
would have been an inexhaustible source of--"
"How then? What scene?"
"You know that we have here two women who are condemned to death--the
mother and daughter--who are to be executed to-morrow?"
"Never in my life have I seen hardihood and unconcern like this mother's:
she is an infernal woman."
"Is it not Widow Martial, who showed so much unblushing assurance at her
"And what has she done more?"
"She demanded to be confined in the same cell with her daughter until the
moment of her execution. They have granted her request. Her daughter, much
less hardened than she is, appears to be softened as the fatal moment
approaches, while the diabolical assurance of the widow augments still
more, if such a thing were possible. Just now the venerable chaplain of the
prison entered their cell to offer them the consolations of religion. The
daughter was about to accept them, when her mother, without losing for a
moment her usual coolness, attacked both her and the almoner with such
frightful remarks that the venerable priest was obliged to leave the
dungeon, after having in vain endeavored to address some holy words to this
"Upon the eve of mounting the scaffold! Such hardihood is truly infernal,"
said the doctor.
"Would not one say that this was one of the families pursued by a fatality?
The father died upon the scaffold; one son is in the galleys; another, also
condemned to death, has lately escaped. The eldest son, and two younger
children only, have escaped this frightful contagion. However, this woman
has sent for the eldest son, the sole honest man of this detestable race,
to come to-morrow morning to receive her last wishes! What an interview!"
"Are you not curious to be present?"
"Frankly, no. You know my opinion concerning punishment by death, and I
have no need of such a spectacle to confirm this opinion. If this horrible
woman carries her unwavering firmness and assurance to the scaffold, what a
sight for the people! what a deplorable example!"
"There is something singular in this double execution--the day has been
"To-day is Mid-Lent."
"To-morrow the execution takes place at seven o'clock. Now the crowd of
maskers, who will pass the night at the balls, will necessarily meet the
mournful procession on their return to Paris; without speaking of the place
of execution, the Barrière Saint Jacques, where will be heard, in the
distance, the music at the surrounding taverns; for, to celebrate the last
day of the carnival, they dance in the wine-shops until ten or eleven in
The next morning the sun rose clear and glorious. At four o'clock several
pickets of infantry and cavalry surrounded and guarded the approaches of
Bicetre. We will conduct the reader to the cell where we will find the
widow and her daughter Calabash.
At Bicetre, a gloomy corridor, lighted at intervals by grated windows, or
kind of air-holes just above the level of the courtyard, leads to the
condemned cell. This dungeon received its light only from a large wicket in
the upper part of the door, which opened into the dark passage spoken of
above. In this cell, with its damp and moldy walls, its floor paved with
stones as cold as those of the sepulcher, were confined Widow Martial and
her daughter Calabash. The sharp face of the convict's widow, stern and
immovable, stood out in bold relief, like a marble mask, from the midst of
the obscurity which existed in the dungeon.
Deprived of the use of her hands, for under her black dress she wore a
strait-jacket, she asked that her cap might be taken off, complaining of
great heat in the head. Her gray hair fell disheveled upon her shoulders.
Seated on the edge of the bed, her feet on the ground, she looked fixedly
on her daughter, Calabash, who was separated from her by the width of the
dungeon. She, half reclining, and also wearing a strait-jacket had her back
against the wall. Her head was hanging on her breast, her eyes fixed, her
respiration broken. Save a slight convulsive movement, which from time to
time agitated her under jaw, her features appeared calm, but of livid
paleness. At the further end of the dungeon, near the door, under the open
wicket, a veteran with the ribbon of the Legion of Honor, with a rough and
swarthy face, a bald head, and long gray mustachios, is seated on a chair.
He ought never to lose sight of the condemned.
"It is very cold here! and yet my eyes burn; and then I am thirsty--always
thirsty," said Calabash, at the end of a few moments. "Some water, if you
The old soldier rose and took from a bench a tin pail of water, filled a
tumbler, and gave her a drink.
After having drunk greedily, she said, "thank you, sir."
"Will you drink?" asked the soldier of the widow, who shook her head in the
"What o'clock is it, sir?" said Calabash.
"It will soon be half-past four."
"In three hours!" resumed Calabash, with a sardonic and sinister smile,
alluding to the time of her execution, "in three hours--" She dared not
The widow shrugged her shoulders. Her daughter comprehended her thoughts,
and replied, "You have more courage than I, mother, do you never falter--"
"I know it well--I see it clearly. Your face is as tranquil as if you were
seated by the fire of our kitchen, sewing. Oh! those good days are so far
"It is true; instead of resting there and thinking, without saying
anything, I would rather talk--I would rather----"
"Shake off your thoughts, coward!"
"Even if it should be so, mother, every one has not your courage. I have
done all I could to imitate you. I have not listened to the priest, because
you did not wish it. And yet I may have been wrong--for, in fine," added
the condemned girl, shuddering, "_hereafter_--who knows? and _hereafter_
will be very soon."
"In three hours."
"How coldly you say that, mother! And yet it is true; we are here, both of
us, not sick, not wishing to die, and yet in three hours----"
"In three hours you will have died like a true Martial. You will have seen
black, that's all; be bold, daughter."
"It is not right for you to talk to your daughter in that way," said the
old soldier, in a slow and grave tone; "you would have done much better to
have allowed her to speak with the ordinary."
The widow shrugged her shoulders with savage contempt, and, without turning
her head, she continued: "Courage, daughter; we will show them that women
have more firmness than these men, with their priests--the cowards!"
"Commandant Leblon was the bravest of the third regiment of Chasseurs; I
saw him covered with wounds in the breach of Saragossa, and he died making
the sign of the cross," said the veteran.
"You were his chaplain, then?" demanded the widow, with a savage burst of
"I was his soldier," answered the veteran, mildly. "It was only to let you
know that one can pray when about to die, without being a coward."
Calabash looked attentively at this man with the bronzed visage, a perfect
type of the soldier of the Empire; a deep scar furrowed his left cheek, and
was lost in his large mustache. The simple words of this veteran, whose
features, wounds, and red ribbon announced calm and tried bravery,
profoundly struck the widow's daughter.
She had refused the consolation of the priest, more from shame and fear of
her mother, than from callousness. In her restless and dying thoughts, she
compared the impious jesting of her mother with the piety of the soldier.
Strong in this testimony, she thought she could listen without cowardice to
those religious instincts which even intrepid men had obeyed.
"In truth," said she, with anguish, "why did I not wish to hear the priest?
there is no weakness in that. Besides, it would keep off my thoughts, and
then, hereafter, who knows?"
"Again!" said the widow, in a tone of withering scorn. "Time is wanting--it
is a pity--you would be religious. The arrival of your brother Martial will
finish your conversion. But he will not come; the honest man, the good
Just as the widow pronounced these last words the door of the prison
"Already!" cried Calabash with a convulsive start. "Oh! they have put the
clock ahead! They have deceived us!"
"So much the better--if the watch of the executioner is too fast--your
follies will not dishonor me."
"Madame," said the prison warder, with that kind of commiseration which
forebodes death, "your son is here; will you see him?"
"Yes," answered the widow, without turning her head.
"Enter, sir," said the warder. Martial entered.
The veteran remained in the dungeon, the door of which was left open as a
matter of precaution. Through the gloom of the corridor, half lighted by
the increasing day and by a lamp, several soldiers were seen sitting or
standing. Martial was as pale as his mother; his countenance expressed deep
and profound anguish, his knees trembled under him. In spite of the crimes
of this woman, in spite of the aversion that she had always shown for him,
he had thought it a duty to obey her last wishes. As soon as he entered the
dungeon, the widow cast on him a searching look, and said to him in a
hollow and angry voice, as if to awaken in her son a feeling of revenge,
"You see what they are going to do with your mother and your sister!"
"Ay! mother, it is frightful; but I warned you of it, alas!--I told you."
The widow bit her pale lips with rage; her son did not comprehend her; she
resumed: "They are going to kill us, as they killed your father."
"Alas! I can do nothing--it is finished. Now, what would you have me do?
Why did you not listen to me--you and sister? You would not have been
"Oh! it is so," answered the widow, with her habitual and savage irony;
"you find it all right, do you?"
"Now you are satisfied; you can say, without a lie, that your mother is
dead; you shall no longer blush for her."
"If I were a bad son," answered Martial, quickly, shocked at the unjust
harshness of his mother, "I should not be here."
"You came from curiosity."
"I come to obey you."
"Oh! if I had listened to you, Martial, instead of listening to my mother,
I should not be here," cried Calabash, in a heart-rending voice, and
yielding at length to her anguish and terror, which, until now (through the
influence of her mother), she had restrained. "It is your fault: I curse
you, my mother!"
"She repents--she curses me! you must be delighted now!" said the widow to
her son, with a burst of diabolical laughter.
Without replying to her, Martial approached Calabash, whose agony
continued, and said to her, with compassion, "Poor sister! it is too late
"Never too late to be a coward!" cried the mother, with fury. "Oh! what a
race! what a race! Happily Nicholas has escaped; happily François and
Amandine will escape you. They have already the seeds of vice: poverty will
cause them to grow!"
"Oh, Martial! watch well over them, or they will end like my mother and
myself. They will also lose their heads," cried Calabash, uttering a hollow
"He will do well to watch over them," cried the widow, vehemently; "vice
and misery will be stronger than he, and some day they will avenge father,
mother, and sister."
"Your horrible hope will not be realized, mother!" answered Martial,
indignantly. "Neither they nor I shall ever more have misery to fear. La
Louve saved the young girl whom Nicholas wished to drown, the relations of
this girl have proposed to give us plenty of money, or less money and some
lands in Algiers. We have preferred the land. There is some danger, but
that suits us. To-morrow we leave with the children, and never return."
"Is what you say true?" asked the widow, in a tone of irritated surprise.
"I never told a falsehood."
"You do now, to drive me mad."
"Why? because the welfare of your children is secured?"
"Yes; of the wolfs cubs you would make lambs. The blood of your father,
your sister, mine, will not be avenged."
"At this moment, do not talk thus."
"I have killed--they kill me. We are even."
The widow shouted with laughter.
"For thirty years I have lived in crime, and to repent for thirty years
they give me three days, and death at the end of them. Do you think I have
time? No, no; when my head falls, it will gnash its teeth with rage and
"Brother, help--take me from hence; they are coming," murmured Calabash, in
a suffocating voice, for the poor creature began to be delirious.
"Will you hush?" said the widow, exasperated by the weakness of Calabash,
"will you hush? Oh! the wretch! and she _my_ daughter! pah!"
"Mother! mother!" cried Martial, tortured by this horrible scene, "why did
you send for me?"
"Because I thought to give you a heart and revenge: but who has not the one
has not the other, coward!"
"Coward, I say!"
At this moment a tramp of footsteps was heard in the corridor. The veteran
looked at his watch, and stood up. The rising sun, dazzling and radiant,
shot suddenly a golden beam of light through the grated window of the
corridor opposite the door of the dungeon. This door was thrown open, and
two keepers appeared, bringing two chairs; then the jailer came, and said
to the widow, in an agitated voice, "Madame, it is time."
The widow stood up, impassible; Calabash uttered piercing screams. Four men
entered. Three of them, roughly clad, held in their hands small coils of
very fine but strong cord. The tallest of these four men, neatly dressed in
black, wearing a round hat and a white cravat, handed a paper to the
jailer. This man was the executioner. The paper was a receipt for two women
fit to be guillotined. The executioner took possession of these two of
God's creatures; from that time he was answerable.
To the frightful despair of Calabash had succeeded a helpless torpor. Two
of the assistants were obliged to seat her on her bed, and to sustain her.
Her jaws, clinched by convulsions, hardly allowed her to utter some
unmeaning words; she rolled around in vacancy her dull and almost sightless
eyes; her chin fell upon her breast, and without the assistance of the two
deputies, her body would have sunk to the ground like an inert mass.
Martial (after having for a long time embraced this unfortunate being)
alarmed, not daring nor able to move a step, and as if fascinated by the
scene, remained immovable. The brazen hardihood of the widow did not
forsake her; with her head erect and thrown back, she assisted to take off
the waistcoat, which impeded her movements. It fell to the ground, and she
remained in her old dress of black woolen.
"Where must I place myself?" she asked in a firm voice.
"Have the kindness to seat yourself in one of these two chairs," said the
executioner, pointing to them.
The door being left open, several of the keepers, the governor of the
prison, and some privileged persons, were seen standing in the corridor.
The widow walked with a firm and bold step to the place indicated, passing
near her daughter, when she stopped, and said in a voice slightly broken:
"Daughter, kiss me!"
At the voice, Calabash was aroused from her apathy, drew up on her seat,
and with a gesture of malediction, she cried, "If there is eternal fire,
descend into it, accursed."
"My child, embrace me!" said the widow again, making a step toward her
"Do not approach me! you have ruined me!" murmured the unfortunate,
throwing out her hands as if to repulse her mother.
"No, no!" said Calabash, in a convulsed voice; and this effort having
exhausted her strength, she fell back, almost without consciousness, into
the arms of the assistants.
A shade passed over the impassible face of the widow; for a moment her dry
and burning eyes became moistened. At this instant she met the eyes of her
son. After a moment's hesitation, and as if she yielded to the effect of an
inward struggle, she said to him, "And you?"
Martial threw himself sobbing into the arms of his mother.
"Enough!" said the widow, overcoming her emotion, and disengaging herself
from the embraces of her son. "He is waiting," she added, pointing to the
Then she walked rapidly toward the chair, where she resolutely seated
herself. The spark of maternal sensibility, which had for a moment lighted
up the dark recesses of this corrupted heart, was extinguished forever.
"Sir," said the veteran to Martial, approaching him with interest, "do not
remain here. Come, come."
Martial, stupefied, with horror and alarm, mechanically followed the
soldier. Two of the assistants had carried the wretched Calabash to the
other chair; one of them sustained the almost lifeless body, while the
other, by means of whip-cord, exceedingly fine but very strong, tied her
hands behind her back, and also fastened her feet together by the ankles,
allowing slack enough to enable her walk slowly. The executioner and his
other assistant performed the same operation on the widow, whose features
underwent no alteration; only from time to time she coughed slightly. When
the condemned were thus prevented from offering any resistance, the
executioner, drawing from his pocket a long pair of scissors, said to her
with marked politeness, "Have the goodness to bend your head."
The widow obeyed, saying: "We are good customers; you have had my husband;
now here are his wife and daughter."
Without replying, the executioner gathered in his left hand the long gray
hair of the condemned, and commenced cutting it short--very short,
particularly about the neck.
"This makes the third time that I have had my hair dressed in my lifetime,"
said the widow, with a horrible laugh: "the day of my first communion, when
they put on my veil; the day of my marriage, when they put on my orange
blossoms; and now to-day--the head-dress of death."
The executioner remained silent. The hair of the condemned being thick and
coarse, the operation was so long in being performed, that Calabash's lay
strewed upon the ground before her mother's was half finished.
"You do not know of what I am thinking?" said the widow, after having
looked at her daughter again.
The executioner continued to keep silent. Nothing could be heard but the
snipping of the scissors and the kind of rattling which from time to time
escaped from the throat of Calabash. At this moment was seen in the
corridor a priest of venerable appearance, who approached the governor, and
spoke a few words to him in a low tone. The chaplain came to make a last
effort to soften the heart of the widow.
"I think," resumed the widow at the end of some moments, and seeing that
the executioner did not reply, "I think that at five years old, my
daughter, whose head is to be cut off, was the handsomest child that I ever
saw. She had flaxen hair and rosy cheeks. Then, who would have told me
that,--" After a pause, she cried, with a burst of laughter, and an
expression impossible to be described, "What a comedy is fate!"
At this moment the last locks of the condemned fell upon her shoulders.
"It is finished, madame,' said the executioner, politely.
"Thank you. I recommend to you my son Nicholas," said the widow; "you will
dress his hair some of these days." A keeper came and whispered a few words
"No; I have already said no," answered she, roughly. The priest heard these
words, raised his eyes toward heaven, clasped his hands, and disappeared.
"Madame, we are going to set out; will you take something?" said the
"Thank you; to-night I will take a drink of sawdust."
And the widow after this new sarcasm stood up erect. Although her step was
firm and resolute, the executioner obligingly wished to assist her; she
made a gesture of impatience and said, in a harsh and imperious tone:
"Do not touch me; I have a firm step and a good eye. On the scaffold you
will see I have a good voice, and if I speak words of repentance."
And the widow, leaving the dungeon, escorted by the executioner and an
assistant, entered the corridor. The two other assistants were obliged to
carry Calabash in a chair; she was dying. After having traversed the whole
length of the corridor, the funeral procession ascended the same staircase,
which conducted to a court on the outside. The sun, with its warm and
golden light, gilded the tops of the high white walls which surrounded the
court, and strangely contrasted with the pure blue of the sky. The air was
soft and balmy; never was a spring morning more smiling, more magnificent.
In this court were seen a detachment of police, a cab, and a long, narrow
vehicle, painted yellow, drawn by three post horses, which neighed gayly,
shaking little bells on their harness. This vehicle was entered from behind
like an omnibus. This was the cause of a last joke from the widow.
"The conductor will not say full?" said she, as she mounted the step as
lightly as the cord which confined her ankles would allow.
Calabash, expiring, sustained by an assistant, was placed in the carriage
opposite her mother, and the door was closed. The hackney-coachman had
fallen asleep; the executioner shook him.
"Excuse me, citizen," said he, descending hastily from his seat; "but a
night in Mid-Lent is rough. I had just taken to Vendanges de Bourgogne a
load of maskers, who were singing, '_La mére Godichon_,' when you engaged
me by the hour. I--"
"Enough. Follow this vehicle to the Boulevard St. Jacques."
"Excuse me, citizen. An hour ago I was going to the 'Vendanges;' now to the
guillotine! That proves that, as the saying is, there are queer ups and
downs in life!"
The two vehicles, preceded and followed by the gendarmes, left Bicetre and
took the road to Paris.
* * * * *
We have presented the picture of the toilet of the condemned in all its
frightful reality, because it seems to us that we can derive from it
powerful arguments. Against punishment of death. Against the manner in
which it is applied. Against the effects which must be expected from such
an example given to the populace.
The toilet, although divested of that solemnity, at once imposing and
religious, which ought, at least to surround all the acts of the highest
punishment known to the laws, is the most impressive of all the ceremonies
attending the execution of a criminal, and yet it is concealed from the