Part 10 out of 11
Prompt like thought, Daniel seized the man's hands, and, pressing them
vehemently, exclaimed with a penetrating voice,--
"Never, sir, never, whatever may happen, can I thank you enough. But
remember, I pray you, under all circumstances, and for all times, you
can count upon Lieut. Champcey."
A strange smile played on the man's lips; and, shaking his head, he
said, "I shall before long remind you of your promise, lieutenant."
Standing between the two men, the captain of "The Saint Louis" was
looking alternately at the one and the other with an astonished air,
listening without comprehending, and imagining marvellous things. The
only point he understood was this, that his presence was, to say the
least, not useful.
"If that is so," he said to Daniel, "we cannot blame this gentleman
for the ugly trick he has played us."
"Blame him? Oh, certainly not!"
"Then I'll leave you. I believe I have treated the sailor who brought
him on board a little roughly; but I am going to order him a glass of
brandy, which will set him right again."
Thereupon the captain discreetly withdrew; while Papa Ravinet
"You will tell me, M. Champcey, that it would have been simpler to
wait for you in port, and hand you my letter of introduction there.
That would have been grievous imprudence. If I heard at the navy
department of your arrival, others may have learned it as well. As
soon, therefore, as 'The Saint Louis' was telegraphed in town, you may
be sure a spy was sent to the wharf, who is going to follow you, never
losing sight of you, and who will report all your goings and your
"What does it matter?"
"Ah! do not say so, sir! If our enemies hear of our meeting, you see,
if they only find out that we have conversed together, all is lost.
They would see the danger that threatens them, and they would escape."
Daniel could hardly trust his ears.
"Our enemies?" he asked, emphasizing the word "our."
"Yes: I mean /our/ enemies,--Sarah Brandon, Countess Ville-Handry,
Maxime de Brevan, Thomas Elgin, and Mrs. Brian."
"You hate them?"
"If I hate them! I tell you for five years I have lived only on the
hope of being able to avenge myself on them. Yes, it is five years
now, that, lost in the crowd, I have followed them with the
perseverance of an Indian,--five years that I have patiently,
incessantly, inch by inch, undermined the ground beneath their steps.
And they suspect nothing. I doubt whether they are aware of my
existence. No, not even-- What would it be to them, besides? They have
pushed me so far down into the mud, that they cannot imagine my ever
rising again up to their level. They triumph with impunity; they boast
of their unpunished wickedness, and think they are strong, and safe
from all attacks, because they have the prestige and the power of
gold. And yet their hour is coming. I, the wretched man, who have been
compelled to hide, and to live on my daily labor,--I have attained my
end. Every thing is ready; and I have only to touch the proud fabric
of their crimes to make it come down upon them, and crush them all
under the ruins. Ah! if I could see them only suffer one-fourth of
what they have made me suffer, I should die content."
Papa Ravinet seemed to have grown a foot; his hatred convulsed his
placid face; his voice trembled with rage; and his yellow eyes shone
with ill-subdued passion.
Daniel wondered, and asked himself what the people who had sworn to
ruin him and Henrietta could have done to this man, who looked so
inoffensive with his bright-flowered waistcoat and his coat with the
"But who are you, sir?" he asked.
"Who am I?" exclaimed the man,--"who am I?"
But he paused; and, after waiting a little while, he sunk his head,
"I am Anthony Ravinet, dealer in curiosities."
The clipper was in the meantime making way rapidly. Already the white
country houses appeared on the high bluffs amid the pine-groves; and
the outlines of the Castle of If were clearly penned on the deep blue
of the sky.
"But we are getting near," exclaimed Papa Ravinet; "and I must get
back into my boat. I did not come out so far, that they might see me
enter on board 'The Saint Louis.'"
And when Daniel offered him his state-room, where he might remain in
concealment, he replied,--
"No, no! We shall have time enough to come to an understanding about
what is to be done in Paris; and I must go back by rail to-night; I
came down for the sole purpose of telling you this. Miss Henrietta is
at my sister's house; but you must take care not to come there.
Neither Sarah nor Brevan know what has become of her; they think she
has thrown herself into the river; and this conviction is our safety
and our strength. As they will most assuredly have you watched, the
slightest imprudence might betray us."
"But I must see Henrietta, sir."
"Certainly; and I have found the means for it. Instead of going to
your former lodgings, go to the Hotel du Louvre. I will see to it that
my sister and Miss Ville-Handry shall have taken rooms there before
you reach Paris; and you may be sure, that, in less than a quarter of
an hour after your arrival, you will hear news. But, heavens, how near
we are! I must make haste."
Upon Daniel's request, the ship lay by long enough to allow Papa
Ravinet and his sailor to get back again into their boat without
danger. When they were safely stowed away in it, and at the moment
when they cast off the man-rope, Papa Ravinet called to Daniel,--
"We shall soon see you! Rely upon me! Tonight Miss Henrietta shall
have a telegram from us."
At the same hour when Papa Ravinet, on the deck of "The Saint Louis,"
was pressing Daniel's hand, and bidding him farewell, there were in
Paris two poor women, who prayed and watched with breathless
anxiety,--the sister of the old dealer, Mrs. Bertolle, the widow; and
Henrietta, the daughter of Count Ville-Handry. When Papa Ravinet had
appeared the evening before, with his carpet-bag in his hand, his
hurry had been so extraordinary, and his excitement so great, that one
might have doubted his sanity. He had peremptorily asked his sister
for two thousand francs; had made Henrietta write in all haste a
letter of introduction to Daniel; and had rushed out again like a
tempest, as he had come in, without saying more than this,--
"M. Champcey will arrive, or perhaps has already arrived, in
Marseilles, on board a merchant vessel, 'The Saint Louis.' I have been
told so at the navy department. It is all important that I should see
him before anybody else. I take the express train of quarter past
seven. To-morrow, I'll send you a telegram."
The two ladies asked for something more, a hope, a word; but no,
nothing more! The old dealer had jumped into the carriage that had
brought him, before they had recovered from their surprise; and they
remained there, sitting before the fire, silent, their heads in their
hands, each lost in conjectures. When the clock struck seven, the good
widow was aroused from her grave thoughts, which seemed so different
from her usual cheerful temper.
"Come, come, Miss Henrietta," she said with somewhat forced gayety,
"my brother's departure does not condemn us, as far as I know, to
starve ourselves to death."
She had gotten up as she said this. She set the table, and then sat
down opposite to Henrietta, to their modest dinner. Modest it was,
indeed, and still too abundant. They were both too much overcome to be
able to eat; and yet both handled knife and fork, trying to deceive
one another. Their thoughts were far away, in spite of all their
efforts to keep them at home, and followed the traveller.
"Now he has left," whispered Henrietta as it struck eight.
"He is on his way already," replied the old lady.
But neither of them knew anything of the journey from Paris to
Marseilles. They were ignorant of the distances, the names of the
stations, and even of the large cities through which the railroad
"We must try and get a railway guide," said the good widow. And, quite
proud of her happy thought, she went out instantly, hurried to the
nearest bookstore, and soon reappeared, flourishing triumphantly a
yellow pamphlet, and saying,--
"Now we shall see it all, my dear child."
Then, placing the guide on the tablecloth between them, they looked
for the page containing the railway from Paris to Lyons and
Marseilles, then the train which Papa Ravinet was to have taken; and
they delighted in counting up how swiftly the "express" went, and all
the stations where it stopped.
Then, when the table was cleared, instead of going industriously to
work, as usually, they kept constantly looking at the clock, and,
after consulting the book, said to each other,--
"He is at Montereau now; he must be beyond Sens; he will soon be at
A childish satisfaction, no doubt, and very idle. But who of us has
not, at least once in his life, derived a wonderful pleasure, or
perhaps unspeakable relief from impatience, or even grief, from
following thus across space a beloved one who was going away, or
coming home? Towards midnight, however, the old lady remarked that it
was getting late, and that it would be wise to go to bed.
"You think you will sleep, madam?" asked Henrietta, surprised.
"No, my child; but"--
"Oh! I, for my part,--/I/ could not sleep. This work on which we are
busy is very pressing, you say; why could we not finish it?"
"Well, let us sit up then," said the good widow.
The poor women, reduced as they were to conjectures by Papa Ravinet's
laconic answers, nevertheless knew full well that some great event was
in preparation, something unexpected, and yet decisive. What it was,
they did not know; but they understood, or rather felt, that Daniel's
return would and must totally change the aspect of affairs. But would
Daniel really come?
"If he does come," said Henrietta, "why did they only the other day
tell me, at the navy department, that he was not coming? Then, again,
why should he come home in a merchant vessel, and not on board his
"Your letters have probably reached him at last," explained the old
lady; "and, as soon as he received them, he came home."
Gradually, however, after having exhausted all conjectures, and after
having discussed all contingencies, Henrietta became silent. When it
struck half-past three, she said once more,--
"Ah! M. Ravinet is at the Lyons station now."
Then her hand became less and less active in drawing the worsted, her
head oscillated from side to side, and her eyelids closed
unconsciously. Her old friend advised her to retire; and this time she
did not refuse.
It was past ten o'clock when she awoke; and upon entering, fully
dressed, into the sitting-room, Mrs. Bertolle greeted her with the
"At this moment my brother reaches Marseilles!"
"Ah! then it will not be long before we shall have news," replied
But there are moments in which we think electricity the slowest of
messengers. At two o'clock nothing had come; and the poor women began
to accuse the old dealer of having forgotten them, when, at last, the
bell was rung.
It was really the telegraph messenger, with his black leather pouch.
The old lady signed her receipt with marvellous promptness; and,
tearing the envelope hastily open, she read,--
Marseilles, 12.40 a.m.
"Saint Louis" signalled by telegraph this morning. Will be in
to-night. I hire boat to go and meet her, provided Champcey is on
board. This evening telegram.
"But this does not tell us any thing," said Henrietta, terribly
disappointed. "Just see, madam, /your/ brother is not even sure
whether M. Champcey is on board 'The Saint Louis.'"
Perhaps Mrs. Bertolle, also, was a little disappointed; but she was
not the person to let it be seen.
"But what did you expect, dear child? Anthony has not been an hour in
Marseilles; how do you think he can know? We must wait till the
evening. It is only a matter of a few hours."
She said this very quietly; but all who have ever undergone the
anguish of expectation will know how it becomes more and more
intolerable as the moment approaches that is to bring the decision.
However the old lady endeavored to control her excitement, the calm
and dignified woman could not long conceal the nervous fever that was
raging within her. Ten times during the afternoon she opened the
window, to look for--what? She could not have told it herself, as she
well knew nothing could come as yet. At night she could not stay in
any one place. She tried in vain to work on her embroidery; her
fingers refused their service.
At last, at ten minutes past nine, the telegraph man appeared, as
impassive as ever.
This time it was Henrietta who had taken the despatch; and, before
opening it, she had half a minute's fearful suspense, as if the paper
had contained the secret of her fate. Then, by a sudden impulse,
tearing the envelope, she read, almost at a glance,--
Marseilles, 6.45 p.m.
I have seen Champcey. All well; devoted to Henrietta. Return this
evening. Will be in Paris tomorrow evening at seven o'clock.
Prepare your trunks as if you were to start on a month's journey
immediately after my return. All is going well.
Pale as death, and trembling like a leaf, but with open lips and
bright eyes, Henrietta had sunk into a chair. Up to this moment she
had doubted every thing. Up to this hour, until she held the proof in
her hand, she had not allowed herself to hope. Such great happiness
does not seem to the unhappy to be intended for them. But now she
"Daniel is in France! Daniel! Nothing more to fear; the future is
ours. I am safe now."
But people do not die of joy; and, when she had recovered her
equanimity, Henrietta understood how cruel she had been in the
incoherent phrases that had escaped her in her excitement. She rose
with a start, and, seizing Mrs. Bertolle's hands, said to her,--
"Great God! what am I saying! Ah, you will pardon me, madam, I am
sure; but I feel as if I did not know what I am doing. Safe! I owe it
to you and your brother, if I am safe. Without you Daniel would find
nothing of me but a cross at the cemetery, and a name stained and
destroyed by infamous calumnies."
The old lady did not hear a word. She had picked up the despatch, had
read it; and, overcome by its contents, had sat down near the
fireplace, utterly insensible to the outside world. The most fearful
hatred convulsed her ordinarily calm and gentle features; and pale,
with closed teeth, and in a hoarse voice, she said over and over
"We shall be avenged."
Most assuredly Henrietta did not find out only now that the old dealer
and his sister hated her enemies, Sarah Brandon and Maxime de Brevan,
mortally; but she had never seen that hatred break out so terribly as
to-night. What had brought it about? This she could not fathom. Papa
Ravinet, it was evident, was not a nobody. Ill-bred and coarse in
Water Street, amid the thousand articles of his trade, he became a
very different man as soon as he reached his sister's house. As to the
Widow Bertolle, she was evidently a woman of superior intellect and
How had they both been reduced to this more than modest condition? By
reverses of fortune. That accounts for everything, but explains
Such were Henrietta's thoughts, when the old lady roused her from her
"You saw, my dear child," she began saying, "that my brother desires
us to be ready to set out on a long journey as soon as he comes home."
"Yes, madam; and I am quite astonished."
"I understand; but, although I know no more than you do of my
brother's intentions, I know that he does nothing without a purpose.
We ought, therefore, in prudence, comply with his wishes."
They agreed, therefore, at once on their arrangements; and the next
day Mrs. Bertolle went out to purchase whatever might be necessary,--
ready-made dresses for Henrietta, shoes, and linen. Towards five
o'clock in the afternoon, all the preparations of the old lady and the
young girl had been made; and all their things were carefully stowed
away in three large trunks. According to Papa Ravinet's despatch, they
had only about two hours more to wait, three hours at the worst. Still
they were out of their reckoning. It was half-past eight before the
good man arrived, evidently broken down by the long and rapid journey
which he had just made.
"At last!" exclaimed Mrs. Bertolle. "We hardly expected you any longer
But he interrupted her, saying,--
"Oh, my dear sister! don't you think I suffered when I thought of your
impatience? But it was absolutely necessary I should show myself in
"You have seen Mrs. Chevassat?"
"I come from her just now. She is quite at her ease. I am sure she has
not the slightest doubt that Miss Ville-Handry has killed herself; and
she goes religiously every morning to the Morgue."
"And M. de Brevan?" she asked.
Papa Ravinet looked troubled.
"Ah, I don't feel so safe there," he replied. "The man I had left in
charge of him has foolishly lost sight of him."
Then noticing the trunks, he said,--
"But I am talking, and time flies. You are ready, I see. Let us go. I
have a carriage at the door. We can talk on the way."
When he noticed some reluctance in Henrietta's face, he added with a
"You need not fear anything, Miss Henrietta; we are not going away
from M. Champcey, very far from it. Here, you see, he could not have
come twice without betraying the secret of your existence."
"But where are we going?" asked Mrs. Bertolle.
"To the Hotel du Louvre, dear sister, where you will take rooms for
Mrs. and Miss Bertolle. Be calm; my plans are laid."
Thereupon, he ran out on the staircase to call the concierge to help
him in taking down the trunks.
Although the manoeuvres required by Papa Ravinet's appearance on board
"The Saint Louis" had taken but little time, the delay had been long
enough to prevent the ship from going through all the formalities that
same evening. She had, therefore, to drop anchor at some distance from
the harbor, to the great disgust of the crew, who saw Marseilles all
ablaze before them, and who could count the wineshops, and hear the
songs of the half-drunken people as they walked down the wharves in
The least unhappy of them all was, for once, Daniel. The terrible
excitement he had undergone had given way to utter prostration. His
nerves, strained to the utmost, relaxed; and he felt the delight of a
man who can at last throw down a heavy burden which he has long borne
on his shoulders. Papa Ravinet had given him no details; but he did
not regret it, he hardly noticed it. He knew positively that his
Henrietta was alive; that she was in safety; and that she still loved
him. That was enough.
"Well, lieutenant," said Lefloch, delighted at his master's joy, "did
I not tell you? Good wind during the passage always brings good news
That night, while "The Saint Louis" was rocking lazily over her
anchors, was the first night, since Daniel had heard of Count Ville-
Handry's marriage, that he slept with that sweet sleep given by hope.
He was only aroused by the noise of the people who came in the
quarantine boat; and, when he came on deck, he found that there was
nothing any longer to prevent his going on shore. The men had been
actively engaged ever since early in the morning, to set things right
aloft and below, so as to "dress" "The Saint Louis;" for every ship,
when it enters port, is decked out gayly, and carefully conceals all
traces of injuries she has suffered, like the carrier-pigeon, which,
upon returning to his nest after a storm, dries and smooths his
feathers in the sun.
Soon the anchors were got up again; and the great clock on the wharf
struck twelve, when Daniel jumped on the wharf at Marseilles, followed
by his faithful man, and dazzled by the most brilliant sunlight. Ah!
when he felt his foot once more standing on the soil of France, whence
a vile plot had driven him long ago, his eyes flashed, and a
threatening gesture boded ill to his enemies. It looked as if he were
saying to them,--
"Here I am, and my vengeance will be terrible!"
Neither his joy nor his excitement, however, could make him forget the
apprehensions of Papa Ravinet, although he thought they were
eccentric, and very much exaggerated. That a spy should be waiting for
him in the harbor, concealed in this busy, noisy crowd, to follow his
track, and report his minutest actions,--this seemed to him, if not
impossible, at least very improbable.
Nevertheless, he determined to ascertain the fact. Instead, therefore,
of simply following the wharf, of going up Canebiere Street, and
turning to the right on his way to the Hotel du Luxembourg, he went
through several narrow streets, turning purposely every now and then.
When he reached the hotel, he was compelled to acknowledge that the
old dealer had acted wisely.
A big fellow, dark complexioned, and wicked looking, had followed the
same route as he, always keeping some thirty yards behind him. The man
who thus watched him, with his nose in the air and his hands in his
pockets, hardly suspected the danger which he ran by practising his
profession within reach of Lefloch. The idea of being tracked put the
worthy sailor into a red-hot fury; and he proposed nothing less than
to "run foul" of the spy, and make an end of him for good.
"I can do it in a second," he assured his master. "I just go up to
him, without making him aware of my presence. /I/ seize him by his
cravat; I give him two turns, like that--and good-night. He won't
track anybody again."
Daniel had to use all his authority to keep him back, and found it
still harder to convince him of the necessity to let the scamp not
know that he had been discovered.
"Besides," he added, "it is not proved yet that we are really watched;
it may be merely a curious coincidence."
"That may be so," growled Lefloch.
But they could no longer doubt, when, just before dinner, as they
looked out of the window, they saw the same man pass the hotel. At
night they saw him again at the depot; and he took the same express
train of 9.45 for Paris, in which they went. They recognized him in
the refreshment-room at Lyons. And the first person they saw as they
got out at Paris was the same man.
But Daniel did not mind the spy. He had long since forgotten him. He
thought of nothing but the one fact that he was in the same town now
with Henrietta. Too impatient to wait for his trunks, he left Lefloch
in charge, and jumped into a cab, promising the driver two dollars if
he would go as fast as he could to the Hotel du Louvre. For such pay,
the lean horses of any cab become equal to English thoroughbreds; and
in three-quarters of an hour Daniel was installed in his room at the
hotel, and waited with anxiety the return of the waiter. Now that he
was really here, a thousand doubts assailed him: "Had he understood
Papa Ravinet correctly? Had the good old man given him the right
directions? Might they not, excited as they both were, have easily
made a mistake?"
"In less than a quarter of an hour after your arrival," Papa Ravinet
had said to Daniel, "you shall have news."
Less than a quarter of an hour! It seemed to Daniel as if he had been
an eternity in this room. Thinking that Henrietta might possibly
occupy a room on the same floor with him, on the same side of the
house, that he might even be separated from her only by a partition-
wall, he felt like cursing Papa Ravinet, when there came a knock at
"Come in!" he cried.
A waiter appeared, and handed him a visiting-card, on which was
written, "Mrs. Bertolle, third story. No. 5."
As the waiter did not instantly disappear, Daniel said almost
"Did I not tell you it was all right?"
He did not want the man to see his excitement, the most intense
excitement he had ever experienced in all his life. His hands shook;
he felt a burning sensation in his throat; his knees gave way under
him. He looked at himself in the glass, and was startled; he looked
"Am I going to be ill? " he thought.
On the table stood a carafe with water. He filled a large glass, and
drank it at one draught; this made him feel better, and he went out.
But, once outside, he was so overcome, that he lost his way in the
long passages and interminable staircases, in spite of the directions
hung up at every turn, and had finally to ask a waiter, who pointed
out a door which he had passed half a dozen times, and said,--
"That is No. 5."
He knocked gently, and the door opened instantly, as if somebody had
been standing behind it, ready to open it promptly. As he entered, he
tottered, and, almost in a mist, saw on his right side Papa Ravinet
and an old lady, then, farther back, near the window, Henrietta.
He uttered a cry, and went forward. But as quickly she bounded to meet
him, casting both arms around his neck, and leaning upon his bosom,
sobbing and stammering,--
"Daniel, Daniel! At last!"
It was exactly two years since Daniel and Henrietta had been parted by
the foulest treachery,--two years since that fatal evening when the
stupidly ironical voice of Count Ville-Handry had suddenly made itself
heard near them under the old trees of the garden of the palace.
What had not happened since then? What unheard-of, most improbable
events; what trials, what tribulations, what sufferings! They had
endured all that the human heart can endure. There was not a day, so
to say, in these two years, that had not brought them its share of
grief and sorrow. How often both of them had despaired of the future!
How many times they had sighed for death!
And yet, after all these storms, here they were reunited once more, in
unspeakable happiness, forgetting every thing,--their enemies and the
whole world, the anxieties of the past, and the uncertainty of the
They remained thus for a long time, holding each other closely,
overcome with happiness, unable, as yet, to believe in the reality for
which they had sighed so long, unable to utter a word, laughing and
weeping in one breath.
Now and then they would move apart a little, throwing back the head in
order the better to look at each other; then swiftly they would fold
each other again closely in their arms, as if they were afraid they
might be separated anew.
"How they love each other!" whispered Mrs. Bertolle in her brother's
ear,--"the poor young people!"
And big tears rolled down her cheeks, while the old dealer, not less
touched, but showing his emotion differently, closed his hands
fiercely, and said,--
"All right, all right! They will have to pay for everything."
Daniel, in the meantime, was recovering himself gradually; and reason
once more got the better of his feelings. He led Henrietta to an arm-
chair at the corner of the fireplace, and sitting down in front of
her, after having taken her hands in his own, he asked her to give him
a faithful account of the two terrible years that had just come to an
She had to tell him everything,--her humiliations in her father's
house, the insults she had endured, the wicked slanders by which her
honor had been tainted, the incomprehensible blindness of the count,
the surly provocations of her step-mother, the horrible attentions of
Sir Thorn; in fine, the whole abominable plot which had been formed,
as she found out too late, for the purpose of driving her to seek
safety in flight, and to give herself up to Maxime de Brevan.
Trembling with rage, livid, his eyes bloodshot, Daniel suddenly let go
Henrietta's hands, and exclaimed in a half-smothered voice,--
"Ah, Henrietta! your father deserved-- Wretched old man! to abandon
his child to the mercy of such miserable wretches!"
And, when the poor girl looked at him imploringly, he replied,--
"Be it so! I will say nothing more of the count. He is your father,
and that is enough."
Then he added coldly,--
"But that M. Thomas Elgin, I swear by God he shall die by my hand; and
as to Sarah Brandon"--
He was interrupted by the old dealer, who tapped him lightly on the
shoulder, and said with an indescribable smile,--
"You shall not do that honor to the Hon. M. Elgin, M. Champcey. People
like him do not die by the sword of honest men."
In the meantime Henrietta had resumed her history, and spoke of her
surprise and amazement when she reached that bare room in Water
Street, with its scanty second-hand furniture.
"And yet, Henrietta," here broke in Daniel, "I had handed that man all
my money to be placed at your disposal in case of any accident."
"What!" exclaimed the old dealer, "you had"--
He did not finish, but looked at the young officer with an utterly
amazed air, as if he were an improbable phenomenon, never seen before.
Daniel shook his head sadly.
"Yes," he said, "I know it was an insane thing. But it was less insane
than to intrust my betrothed to his care. I believed in the friendship
of that man."
"And besides," remarked Mrs. Bertolle, "how could you suppose such
atrocious treachery? There are crimes which honest hearts never even
Henrietta continued, describing her sensations when she found herself
for the first time in her life harassed by want, destitution, hunger.
But, when she came to the disgusting ill-treatment she received at the
hands of the concierge's wife, Daniel cried out,--
And, fearfully excited, he asked her,--
"Did I hear right? Did you say the concierge of that house in Water
Street, and his wife, were called Chevassat?"
"Because Maxime de Brevan's real name is Justin Chevassat."
Papa Ravinet started up as if he had been shot.
"What," he said, "you know that?"
"I learned it three months ago. I also know that my friend, the proud
nobleman, Maxime de Brevan, who has been received in the most
aristocratic /salons/ of Paris, has been a galley-slave, condemned for
Henrietta had risen, filled with terror.
"Then," she stammered, "this wretched man was"--
"Chevassat's son; yes, madam," replied Mrs. Bertolle.
"Oh!" exclaimed the poor girl, "oh!"
And she fell heavily back into her chair, overcome by this discovery.
The old dealer alone preserved his calm appearance.
"How did you learn that?" he asked Daniel.
"Through the man whom my friend Maxime had hired to murder me."
Positively this threatened to be too much for Henrietta's mind.
"Ah! I thought the mean coward would try to get you out of the way,
Daniel. I wrote to you to be careful."
"And I received your letter, my darling, but too late. After having
missed me twice, the assassin fired at me; and I was in my bed, a ball
in my chest, dying."
"What has become of the murderer?" asked Papa Ravinet.
"He was arrested."
"Then he confessed?"
"Yes, thanks to the astonishing cleverness of the magistrate who
carried on the investigation."
"What has become of him?"
"He has left Saigon by this time. They have sent him home to be tried
"I am surprised he has not yet been arrested. The papers in the case
were sent to Paris by a vessel which left a fortnight before I left.
To be sure, 'The Saint Louis' may have gotten ahead of her. At all
events, I have in my keeping a letter to the court."
Papa Ravinet seemed to be almost delirious with joy. He gesticulated
like a madman; he laughed nervously, and almost frightfully, till his
sides shook; and at last he said,--
"I shall see Brevan on the scaffold! Yes, I shall!"
But from that moment there was an end of that logical order which the
old gentleman had so far kept up. As it always happens with people who
are under the influence of some passion, eager to learn what they do
not know, and little disposed to tell what they do know, confusion
prevailed soon. Questions crossed each other, and followed, without
order or connection. Answers came at haphazard. Each wanted to be
heard; and all were speaking at once. Thus the explanations, which, by
a little management, might have been given in twenty minutes, took
them more than two hours.
At last, after the lapse of this time, and by dint of great efforts,
it became possible to ascertain the sum total of the information given
by Papa Ravinet, Daniel, and Henrietta. The truth began to show itself
in the midst of this chaos; and the plot of Sarah Brandon and her
accomplices appeared in all its hideous outlines. A plan of striking
simplicity, the success of which seemed to have hung upon a hair. If
the old dealer, instead of going down by the backstairs, had taken the
front staircase, he would never have heard Henrietta's agony, and the
poor child would have been lost.
If Crochard's ball had been a few lines nearer the heart, Daniel would
have been killed.
And still the old dealer was not quite satisfied. He hung his lip, and
winked with his yellow eyes, as if he wished it to be understood that
he was by no means fully convinced, and that there were certain points
which required fuller explanation.
"Look here, M. Champcey," he began at last, "the more I think of it,
the more /I/ am convinced that Sarah Brandon had nothing to do with
these attempts at assassination, which so nearly made an end of you.
She is too strong in her perversity to stoop to such coarse means,
which always leave traces behind, and finally lead to a court of
justice. She always acts alone, when her mind is made up; and her
accomplices aid her only unconsciously, so that they can never betray
Daniel had been thoughtful.
"What you tell me," he answered, "I was told before by M. de Brevan."
The old gentleman did not seem to hear him, so intensely did he apply
all the faculties of his mind to the problem before him.
"Still," he continued, "there is no doubt about the manner in which
Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, was employed. Could Brevan have done so
without Sarah's knowledge, and perhaps even contrary to her wishes?"
"That is quite possible; but then why should he have done so?"
"To secure to himself the fortune which M. Champcey had so imprudently
intrusted to him," said Henrietta.
But Papa Ravinet shook his head, looking very wise, and said,--
"That is one explanation. I do not say no to it; but it is not the
true one yet. Murder is so dangerous an expedient, that even the
boldest criminals only resort to it in the last extremity, and
generally very much against their inclination. Could not Brevan have
possessed himself of M. Champcey's property without a murder? Of
course, he could.
"Then we must look for another motive. You may say, it was fear which
drove him to it. No; for at the time when he engaged Crochard, he
could not foresee the atrocious outrages of which he would have become
guilty during the succeeding year. Believe my experience; I discern in
the whole affair a hurry and an awkwardness which betray a passion, a
violent hatred, or, perhaps"--
He stopped suddenly, and seemed to reflect and deliberate, while he
was mechanically stroking his chin. Then all of a sudden, looking
strangely at Daniel, he asked him,--
"Could the Countess Sarah be in love with you, M. Champcey?"
Daniel's face turned crimson. He had not forgotten that fatal evening,
when, in the house in Circus Street, he had held Sarah Brandon in his
arms; and the intoxicating delirium of that moment had left in his
heart a bitter and undying pang of remorse. He had never dared confess
to Henrietta that Sarah had actually come to his rooms alone. And even
to-night, while giving very fully all the details of his passage out,
and his residence in Saigon, he had not said a word of the letters
which had been addressed to him by the countess.
"Sarah Brandon in love with me?" he stammered. "What an idea!"
But he could not tell a falsehood; and Henrietta would not have been a
woman, if she had not noticed his embarrassment.
"Why not?" she asked.
And, looking fixedly at Daniel, she went on,--
"That wretched woman impudently boasted to my face that she loved you;
more than that, she swore that you, also, had loved her, and were
still in love with her. She laughed at me contemptuously, telling me
that she had it in her power to make you do anything she chose, and
offering to show me your letters"--
She paused a moment, turned her head aside, and said with a visible
"Finally, M. Thomas Elgin assured me that Sarah Brandon had been your
mistress, and that the marriage with my father took place only in
consequence of a quarrel between you."
Daniel had listened to her, trembling with indignation. He now cried
"And you could believe these false calumnies! Oh, no, no! tell me that
there is no need for me to justify myself to"--
Then turning to Papa Ravinet, he said,--
"Suppose, we admit, for a moment, that she might have been in love, as
you say, what would that prove?"
The cunning old dealer remained apparently unmoved for a time; but his
small eyes were sparkling with malicious delight and satisfaction.
"Ah! you would not talk so, if you knew Sarah Brandon's antecedents as
well as I do. Ask my sister about her and Maxime de Brevan, and she
will tell you why I look upon that apparently trifling circumstance as
so very important."
Mrs. Bertolle made a sign that she assented; and he, sure, henceforth,
that his sagacity had not been at fault, continued,--
"Pardon me, M. Champcey, if I insist, and especially if I do so in
Miss Henrietta's presence; but our interest, I might almost say our
safety, requires it. Maxime de Brevan is caught, to be sure; but he is
only a vulgar criminal; and we have, as yet, neither Thomas Elgin, nor
Mrs. Brian, who are far more formidable, nor, above all, Sarah
Brandon, who is a thousand times more wicked, and more guilty, than
all the rest. You will tell me that we have ninety-nine chances out of
a hundred on our side; maybe! Only a single, slight mistake may lead
us altogether astray; and then there is an end to all our hopes, and
these rascals triumph after all!"
He was but too right. Daniel felt it; and hence he said, without
hesitating any longer, but looking stealthily at Henrietta's face,--
"Since that is so, I will not conceal from you that the Countess Sarah
has written me a dozen letters of at least extraordinary nature."
"You have kept them, I hope?"
"Yes; they are all in one of my trunks."
Papa Ravinet was evidently much embarrassed; but at last he said,--
"Ah! if I might dare? But no; it would be asking too much, perhaps, to
beg you to let me see them?"
He did not know how ready Daniel was to grant the request. Ready as he
was, to tell Henrietta everything, he could not but wish that she
should read these letters, as she would see from them, that, if the
countess had written to him, he had never returned an answer.
"You can never ask too much, M. Ravinet," he replied. "Lefloch, my
servant, must have come up by this time with the trunks; and, if you
give me time to go down to my room, you shall have the letters at
He was on the point of leaving the room, when the old dealer held him
back, and said,--
"Sir, you forget the man who has been following you all the way from
Marseilles. Wait till my sister has made sure that there is nobody
Mrs. Bertolle at once went out; but she noticed nothing suspicious,
and found all the passages silent and deserted. The spy had probably
gone to make his report to his employers. Daniel went down promptly;
and, when he came back, he held in his hand a bundle of faded and
crumpled papers, which he handed to Papa Ravinet, with the words,--
"Here they are!"
Strange as it may seem, when the old gentleman touched these letters,
impregnated with the peculiar perfume affected by Sarah Brandon, he
trembled and turned pale. Immediately, however, perhaps in order to
conceal his embarrassment, or to be the better able to reflect, he
took a candlestick from the mantlepiece, and sat down aside, at one of
the small tables. Mrs. Bertolle, Daniel, and Henrietta were silent;
and nothing broke the stillness but the rustling of the paper, and the
old gentleman's voice as he muttered,--
"This is fabulous,--Sarah writing such things! She did not even
disguise her handwriting,--she who never committed an imprudence in
her life; she ruins herself. And she signs her name!"
But he had seen enough. He folded up the letters, and, rising again,
said to Champcey,--
"No doubt now! Sarah loves you madly, insanely. Ah! how she does love!
Well, well, all heartless women love thus when a sudden passion
conquers them, setting their brains and their senses on fire, and"--
Daniel noticed in Henrietta's face a sign of concern; and, quite
distressed, he beckoned to the old gentleman to say nothing more. But
he saw nothing, full as he was of his notion, and went on,--
"Now I understand. Sarah Brandon has not been able to keep her secret;
and Brevan, seeing her love, and furious with jealousy, did not
consider that to hire an assassin was to ruin himself."
The indignation he felt had restored the blood to his face; and, as he
struck the packet of letters with the palm of his hand, he
"Yes, all is clear now; and by this correspondence, Sarah Brandon, you
What could be the plan of Papa Ravinet? Did he expect to use these
letters as weapons against her? or did he propose to send them to
Count Ville-Handry in order to open his eyes? Daniel trembled at the
idea; for his loyalty rebelled against such a vengeance; he felt as if
he would have become a traitor.
"You see, to use a woman's correspondence, however odious and
contemptible she may be, would always be very repugnant to me."
"I had no idea of asking such a thing of you," replied the old dealer.
"No; it is something very different I want you to do."
And, when Daniel still seemed to be embarrassed, he added,--
"You ought not to give way to such exaggerated delicacy, M. Champcey.
All weapons are fair when we are called upon to defend our lives and
our honor against rascals; and that is where we are. If we do not
hasten to strike Sarah Brandon, she will anticipate us; and then"--
He had been leaning against the mantlepiece, close to Mrs. Bertolle,
who sat there silent and immovable; and now he raised his head, and,
looking attentively at Henrietta and Daniel by turns, he added,--
"Perhaps you are both not exactly conscious of the position in which
you stand. Having been reunited to-night, after such terrible trials,
and having, both of you, escaped, almost by a miracle, from death, you
feel, no doubt, as if all trouble was at an end, and the future was
yours. I must undeceive you. You are precisely where you were the day
before M. Champcey left France. You cannot any more now than at that
time marry without Count Ville-Handry's consent. Will he give it? You
know very well that the Countess Sarah will not let him. Will you defy
prejudices, and proudly avow your love? Ah, have a care! If you sin
against social conventionalities, you risk your whole happiness of
life. Will you hide yourself, on the other hand? However careful you
may be, the world will find you out; and fools and hypocrites will
overwhelm you with slander. And Miss Henrietta has been too much
To soar in the azure air, and suddenly to fall back into the mud on
earth; to indulge in the sweetest of dreams, and all at once to be
recalled to stern reality,--this is what Daniel and Henrietta endured
at that moment. The calm, collected voice of the old dealer sounded
cruel to them. Still he was but a sincere friend, who did his painful
duty in awakening them from such deceptive illusions.
"Now," he went on, "mind that I take everything at the best; and even
suppose the case, that Count Ville-Handry leaves his daughter free to
choose: would that be enough? Evidently not; for the moment Sarah
Brandon hears that Miss Henrietta has not committed suicide, but is,
instead, at the Hotel du Louvre, within easy reach of M. Daniel
Champcey, she will prevail on her husband to shut his daughter up in a
convent. For another year, Miss Henrietta is yet under paternal
control; that is, in this case, at the mercy of a revengeful step-
mother, who looks upon her as a successful rival."
At this idea, that Henrietta might be once more taken from him, Daniel
felt his blood chill off in his veins; and he exclaimed,--
"Ah, and I never dreamed of any of these things! I was mad! Joy had
blinded my eyes completely."
But the old gentleman beckoned to him to say nothing, and with an
almost imperious gesture went on,--
"Oh, wait! I have not yet shown you the most urgent danger: Count
Ville-Handry, who, when you knew him, had, I know not how many
millions, is completely ruined. Of all he once owned, of his lands,
forests, castles, deeds, and bonds, there is nothing left. His last
cent, his last rod of land, has been taken from him. You left him
living like a prince in his forefathers' palace: you will find him
vegetating in the fourth story of a lodging-house. You know, that,
being poor, he is deemed guilty. The day is drawing near when Sarah
Brandon will get rid of him, as she has gotten rid of Kergrist, of
Malgat the poor cashier, and others. The means are at hand. Already
the name of Count Ville-Handry is seriously compromised. The company
which he has established is breaking to pieces; and the papers hold
him up to public contempt. If he cannot pay to-day, he will be
to-morrow accused of fraudulent bankruptcy. Now, I ask you, is the
count a man who will survive such a disgrace?"
For some time Henrietta had been unable to suppress her sobs; under
this terrible threat she broke out in loud weeping.
"Ah, sir!" she said, "you have misled me. You assured me that my
father's life was in no danger."
"And I promise you still, it is not in danger. Would I be here, if I
did not think that Sarah was not quite ready yet?"
Daniel, also, had suffered terribly during this discussion; and he now
"Would it not be a crime for us to think, to wait, and to calculate,
when such great dangers are impending? Come, sir, let us go"--
"Ah, how do I know? Into court, to the count, to a lawyer who can
advise us. There must be something that can be done."
The old dealer did not stir.
"Poor, honest young man!" he said with an accent of bitter irony. "And
what could we tell the lawyer? That Sarah Brandon has made an old man,
the Count Ville-Handry, fall madly in love with her? That is no crime.
That she has made him marry her? That was her right. That the count
has launched forth in speculations? She opposed it. That he understood
nothing of business? She could not help that. That he has been duped,
cheated, and finally ruined in two short years? Apparently she is as
much ruined as he is. That, in order to delay the catastrophe, he has
resorted to illegal means? She is sorry for it. That he will not
survive the taint on his ancient name? What can she do? Sarah, who was
able to clear herself the day after Malgat's disappearance, will not
be at a loss now to establish her innocence."
"But the count, sir, the count! Can we not go to him?"
"Count Ville-Handry would say to you-- But you shall hear to-morrow
what he will tell you."
Daniel began to feel utterly dismayed.
"What can be done, then? " he asked.
"We must wait till we have sufficient evidence in hand to crush at one
blow Sarah Brandon, Thorn, and Mrs. Brian."
"Well; but how shall we get such evidence?"
The old gentleman cast a look of intelligence at his sister, smiled,
and said with a strange accent in his voice,--
"I have collected some. As to the rest" --
"Well, my dear M. Champcey, I am no longer troubled about getting
more, since I have found out that the Countess Sarah is in love with
Now Daniel began to understand the part Papa Ravinet expected him to
play. Still he did not object; he bowed his head under the clear eye
of Henrietta, and said in a low voice,--
"I will do what you wish me to do, sir."
The old gentleman uttered a low cry of delight, as if he had been
relieved of an overwhelming anxiety.
"Then," he said, "we will begin the campaign tomorrow morning. But we
must know exactly who the enemies are whom we have to meet. Listen,
It struck midnight; but the poor people in the little parlor in the
Hotel du Louvre hardly thought of sleep. How could they have become
aware of the flight of time, as long as all their faculties were bent
upon the immense interests that were at stake? On the struggle which
they were about to undertake depended Count Ville-Handry's life and
honor, and the happiness and whole future life of Daniel and
And Papa Ravinet and his sister had said,--"As for us, even more than
that depends upon it." The old dealer, therefore, drew up an easy-
chair, sat down, and began in a somewhat husky voice,--
"The Countess Sarah is not Sarah Brandon, and is not an American. Her
real name, by which she was known up to her sixteenth year, is
Ernestine Bergot; and she was born in Paris, in the suburb of Saint
Martin, just on the line of the corporation. To tell you in detail
what the first years of Sarah were like would be difficult indeed.
There are things of that kind which do not bear being mentioned. Her
childhood might be her excuse, if she could be excused at all.
"Her mother was one of those unfortunate women of whom Paris devours
every year several thousands; who come from the provinces in wooden
shoes, and are seen, six months later, dressed in all the fashion; and
who live a short, gay life, which invariably ends in the hospital.
"Her mother was neither better nor worse than the rest. When her
daughter came, she had neither the sense to part with her, nor the
courage--perhaps (who knows?) she had not the means--to mend her ways.
Thus the little one grew up by God's mercy, but at the Devil's
bidding, living by chance, now stuffed with sweet things, and now
half-killed by blows, fed by the charity of neighbors, while her
mother remained for weeks absent from her lodgings.
"Four years old, she wandered through the neighborhood dressed in
fragments of silk or velvet, with a faded ribbon in her hair, but with
bare feet in her torn shoes, hoarse, and shivering with severe colds,
--very much after the fashion of lost dogs, who rove around open-air
cooking-shops,--and looking in the gutters for cents with which to buy
fried potatoes or spoilt fruit.
"At a later time she extended the circle of her excursions, and
wandered all over Paris, in company of other children like herself,
stopping on the boulevards, before the brilliant shops or performing
jugglers, trying to learn how to steal from open stalls, and at night
asking in a plaintive voice for alms in behalf of her poor sick
father. When twelve years old she was as thin as a plank, and as green
as a June apple, with sharp elbows and long red hands. But she had
beautiful light hair, teeth like a young dog's, and large, impudent
eyes. Merely upon seeing her go along, her head high with an air of
saucy indifference, coquettish under her rags, and walking with
elastic steps, you would have guessed in her the young Parisian girl,
the sister of the poor 'gamin,' a thousand times more wicked than her
brothers, and far more dangerous to society. She was as depraved as
the worst of sinners, fearing neither God nor the Devil, nor man, nor
"However, she did fear the police.
"For from them she derived the only notions of morality she ever
possessed; otherwise, it would have been love's labor lost to talk to
her of virtue or of duty. These words would have conveyed no meaning
to her imagination; she knew no more about them than about the
abstract ideas which they represent.
"One day, however, her mother, who had virtually made a servant of
her, had a praiseworthy inspiration. Finding that she had some money,
she dressed her anew from head to foot, bought her a kind of outfit,
and bound her as an apprentice to a dressmaker.
"But it came too late.
"Every kind of restraint was naturally intolerable to such a vagabond
nature. The order and the regularity of the house in which she lived
were a horror to her. To sit still all day long, a needle in her hand,
appeared to her harder than death itself. The very comforts around her
embarrassed her, and she felt as a savage would feel in tight boots.
At the end of the first week, therefore, she ran away from the
dressmaker, stealing a hundred francs. As long as these lasted, she
roved over Paris. When they were spent, and she was hungry, she came
back to her mother.
"But her mother had moved away, and no one knew what had become of
her. She was inquired after, but never found. Any other person would
have been in despair. Not she. The same day she entered as waiter in a
cheap coffee-house. Turned out there, she found employment in a low
restaurant, where she had to wash up the dishes and plates. Sent away
here, also, she became a servant in two or three other places of still
lower character; then, at last, utterly disgusted, she determined to
do nothing at all.
"She was sinking into the gutter, she was on the point of being lost
before she had reached womanhood, like fruit which spoils before it is
ripe, when a man turned up who was fated to arm her for life's
Struggle, and to change the vulgar thief into the accomplished monster
of perversity whom you know."
Here Papa Ravinet suddenly paused, and, looking at Daniel, said,--
"You must not believe, M. Champcey, that these details are imaginary.
I have spent five years of my life in tracing out Sarah's early life,
--five years, during which I have been going from door to door, ever
in search of information. A dealer in second-hand goods enters
everywhere without exciting suspicion. And then I have witnesses to
prove everything I have told you so far,--witnesses whom I shall
summon, and who will speak whenever the necessity arises to establish
the identity of the Countess Sarah."
Daniel made no reply.
Like Henrietta, even like Mrs. Bertolle, at this moment he was
completely fascinated by the old gentleman's manner and tone. The
latter, after having rested for a few minutes, went on,--
"The man who picked up Sarah was an old German artist, painter and
musician both, of rare genius, but a maniac, as they called him. At
all events, he was a good, an excellent man.
"One winter morning, as he was at work in his studio, he was struck by
the strange ring in a woman's voice, which recited in the court-yard
below a popular song. He went to the window, and beckoned the singer
to come up. It was Sarah; and she came. The good German used often to
speak of the deep compassion which seized him as he saw this tall girl
of fourteen come into his studio,--a child, stained by vice already,
thin like hunger itself, and shivering in her thin calico dress. But
he was at the same time almost dazzled by the rich promises of beauty
in her face, the pure notes of her superb voice, which had withstood
so far, and the surprising intelligence beaming in her features.
"He guessed what there was in her; he saw her, in his mind's eye, such
as she was to be at twenty.
"Then he asked her how she had come to be reduced to such misery, who
she was, where her parents lived, and what they did for a living. When
she had told him that she stood quite alone, and was dependent on no
one, he said to her,--
"'Well, if you will stay with me, I will adopt you; you shall be my
daughter; and I will make you an eminent artist.'
"The studio was warm, and it was bitterly cold outside. Sarah had no
roof over her head, and had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. She
"She accepted, be it understood, not doubting, in her perversity, but
that this kind old man had other intentions besides those he mentioned
in offering her a home. She was mistaken. He recognized in her
marvellous talents, and thought of nothing but of making of her a true
marvel, which should astonish the world. He devoted himself heart and
soul to his new favorite, with all the enthusiastic ardor of an
artist, and all the jealous passion of an amateur.
"It was a hard task, however, which he had undertaken. Sarah could not
even read. She knew nothing, except sin.
"How the old German went to work to keep this untamable vagabond at
home, how he made her bend to his will, and submit to his lessons, no
one will ever be able to tell. It was long a problem for me also. Some
of the neighbors told me that he treated her harshly, beating her
often brutally; but neither threats nor blows were apt to make an
impression on Sarah Brandon. A friend of the old man's thought he had
guessed the riddle: he thought the old artist had succeeded in
arousing Sarah's pride. He had kindled in her a boundless ambition and
the most passionate covetousness. He intoxicated her with fairylike
"'Follow my counsels,' he used to say to her, 'and at twenty you will
be a queen,--a queen of beauty, of wit, and of genius. Study, and the
day will come when you will travel through Europe, a renowned artist,
welcomed in every capital, /feted/ everywhere, honored, and glorified.
Work, and wealth will come with fame,--immense, boundless wealth,
surpassing all your dreams. You will have the finest carriages, the
most magnificent diamonds; you will draw from inexhaustible purses;
the whole world will be at your feet; and the women will turn pale
with envy and jealousy when they see you. Among men there will be none
so noble, none so great, none so rich, but he will beg for one of your
looks; and they will fight for one of your smiles. Only work and
"At all events, Sarah did work, and studied with a steady perseverance
which spoke of her faith in the promises of her old master, and of the
influence he had obtained over her through her vanity. At first she
had been deterred by the extreme difficulties which beset so late a
beginning; but her amazing natural gifts had soon begun to show
themselves, and in a short time her progress was almost miraculous.
"It is true that her innate sagacity had made her soon find out how
ignorant she was of the world. She saw that society did not
exclusively consist, as she had heretofore imagined, of people like
those she had known. She felt, for instance, what she had never
suspected before, that her unfortunate mother, with all her friends
and companions, were only the rare exceptions, laid under the ban by
the immense majority.
"At last she actually learned to know the tree of good fruit, after
having for so many years known only the tree of forbidden fruit. She
listened with eager curiosity to all the old artist had to tell her.
And he knew much; for the eccentric old man had travelled for a long
time over the world, and observed man on every step of the social
ladder. He had been a favorite artist at the court of Vienna; he had
had several of his operas brought out in Italy; and he had been
admitted to the best society in Paris. At night, therefore, while
sipping his coffee, his feet on the andirons, and his long pipe in his
mouth, he would soon forget himself amid the recollections of his
youth. He described to her the splendor of courts, the beauty of
women, the magnificence of their toilets, and the intrigues which he
had seen going on around him. He spoke to her of the men whose
portraits he had painted, of the manners and the jealousies behind the
stage, and of the great singers who had sung in his operas.
"Thus it came about, that, two years later, no one would have
recognized the lean, wretched-looking vagabond of the suburbs in this
fresh, rosy girl, with the lustrous eyes and the modest mien, whom
they called in the house the 'pretty artist in the fifth story.'
"And yet the change was only on the surface.
"Sarah was already too thoroughly corrupted, when the good German
picked her up, to be capable of being entirely changed. He thought he
had infused his own rough honesty into her veins: he had only taught
her a new vice,--hypocrisy.
"The soul remained corrupt; and all the charms with which it was
outwardly adorned became only so many base allurements, like those
beautiful flowers which unfold their splendor on the surface of
bottomless swamps, and thus lead those whom they attract to miserable
"At that time, however, Sarah did not yet possess that marvellous
self-control which became one of her great charms hereafter; and at
the end of two years she could endure this peaceful atmosphere no
longer; she grew homesick after sin.
"As she was already a very fair musician, and her voice, trained by a
great master, possessed amazing power, she urged her old teacher to
procure her an engagement at one of the theatres. He refused in a
manner which made it clear to her that he would never change his mind
on that subject. He wanted to secure to his pupil one of those debuts
which are an apotheosis; and he had decided, as he told her, that she
should not appear in public till she had reached the full perfection
of her voice and her talent,--certainly not before her nineteenth or
"That meant she should wait three or four years longer,--a century!
"In former days Sarah would not have hesitated a moment; she would
have run away.
"But education had changed her ideas. She was quite able now to
reflect and to calculate. She asked herself where she could go, alone,
without money, without friends, and what she should do, and what would
become of her.
"She knew what destitution meant, and she was afraid of it now.
"When she thought of the life her mother had led,--a long series of
nights spent in orgies, and of days without bread; that life of
distress and disgrace, when she depended on the whims of a good-for-
nothing, or the suspicions of a police constable,--Sarah felt the cold
perspiration break out on her temples.
"She wanted her liberty; but she did not want it without money. Vice
attracted her irresistibly; but it was gorgeous vice, seated in a
carriage, and bespattering with mud the poor, honest women who had to
walk on foot, while it was envied by the crowd, and worshipped by the
foolish. She remained, therefore, and studied hard.
"Perhaps, in spite of everything, in spite of herself and her
execrable instincts, Sarah might have become a great artist, if the
old German had not been taken from her by a terrible accident.
"One fine afternoon in April, in the beginning of spring, he was
smoking his pipe at the window, when he heard a noise in the street,
and leaned over to see.
"The bar broke,--he tried in vain to hold on to the window-frame,--and
the next moment he fell from the fifth story to the ground, and was
"I have held in my own hands the police report of the accident. It
states that the fall was unavoidable; and that, if no such calamity
had occurred before, this was due to the simple fact, that, during the
bad weather, nobody had thought of looking out of the window. The
castings of the little railing in front were found to be broken in two
places, and so long ago, that a thick layer of rust had filled up the
The wooden part had become perfectly loose, as the mortar that
originally had kept it in place had been apparently eaten away by the
Daniel and Henrietta had turned very pale. It was evident that the
same terrible suspicion had flashed upon their mind.
"Ah! it was Sarah's work," they exclaimed simultaneously. "It was
Sarah who had broken the bar, and loosened the wooden rods; she had,
no doubt, been watching for months to see her benefactor fall and kill
Papa Ravinet shook his head.
"I do not say that," he said; "and, at all events, it would be
impossible to prove it at this time,--I mean, to prove it against her
denial. It is certain that no one suspected Sarah. She seemed to be in
despair; and everybody pitied her sincerely. Was she not ruined by
"The old artist had left no will. His relatives, of whom several lived
in Paris, rushed to his rooms; and their first act was to dismiss
Sarah, after having searched her trunks, and after giving her to
understand that she ought to be very grateful if she was allowed to
take away all she said she owed to the munificence of her late patron.
"Still the inheritance was by no means what the heirs had expected.
Knowing that the deceased had had ample means, and how simply he had
always lived, they expected to find in his bureau considerable
savings. There was nothing. A single bond for less than two thousand
dollars, and a small sum in cash, were all that was found.
"Ah! I have long endeavored to find out what had become of the various
bonds and the ready money of the old artist; for everybody who had
known him agreed that there must be some. Do you know what I
discovered by dint of indefatigable investigations? I procured leave
to examine the books of the savings-bank in which he invested his
earnings for the year of his death; and I found there, that on the
I7th of April, that is, five days before the poor German's fall, a
certain Ernestine Bergot had deposited a sum of fifteen hundred
"Ah, you see!" exclaimed Daniel. "Weary of the simple life with the
old man, she murdered him in order to get hold of his money."
But the old gentleman continued, as if he had heard nothing,--
"What Sarah did during the three first months of her freedom, I cannot
tell. If she went and rented furnished lodgings, she did it under a
false name. A clerk in the mayor's office, who is a great lover of
curiosities, and for whom I have procured many a good bargain, had all
the lists of lodging-houses for the four months from April to July
carefully examined; but no Ernestine Bergot could be found.
"I am quite sure, however, that she thought of the stage. One of the
former secretaries of the Lyric Theatre told me he recollected
distinctly a certain Ernestine, beautiful beyond description, who,
came several times, and requested a trial. She was, however, refused,
simply because her pretensions were almost ridiculous. And this was
quite natural; for her head was still full of all the ambitious dreams
of the old artist.
"The first positive trace I find of Sarah in that year appears towards
the end of summer. She was then living in a fashionable street with a
young painter full of talent, and very rich, called Planix. Did she
really love him? The friends of the unfortunate young man were sure
she did not. But he--he worshipped her; he loved her passionately,
madly, and was so absurdly jealous, that he became desperate if she
stayed out an hour longer than he expected. Hence she often complained
of his love, which restrained her cherished liberty; and still she
bore it patiently till fate threw in her way Maxime de Brevan."
At the name of the wretch who had been so bent upon ruining them both,
and who had been so nearly successful, Henrietta and Daniel trembled,
and looked at each other. But Papa Ravinet did not give them, time to
ask any questions, and continued, as calmly as if he had been reading
"It was several years before this, that Justin Chevassat, released
from the galleys, had made a nobleman of himself, and claimed before
all the world to be Maxime de Brevan. We need not be surprised, in
this age of ours, where impudence takes the place of everything else,
that he should have promptly succeeded in making his way into high
life, and in being admitted to many houses which were considered more
or less exclusive. In a society which seems to have adopted for its
motto the words 'Toleration and Discretion,' and where, consequently,
anybody is admitted without question, Justin Chevassat very naturally
had a great success. He had carefully prepared his way, like those
adventurers who never appear abroad without having their passports in
much better order than most honest travellers. He had learned prudence
by experience; for his antecedents were stormy enough, though less so
"Justin's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chevassat, now concierges of No. 23
Water Street, were, some thirty-eight or forty years ago, living in
the upper part of the suburb of Saint Honore. They had a very modest
little shop, partly restaurant, partly bar: their customers were
generally the servants of the neighborhood. They were people of easy
principles and loose morals,--as there are so many in our day,--honest
enough as long as there is nothing to be gained by being otherwise. As
their trade prospered, they were not dishonest; and, when any of their
customers forgot their portemonnaies at the shop, they always returned
them. The husband was twenty-four, and the wife nineteen years old,
when, to their great joy, a son was born. There was rejoicing in the
shop; and the child was christened Justin, in honor of his godfather,
who was no less a personage than the valet of the Marquis de Brevan.
"But to have a son is a small matter. To bring him up till he is seven
or eight years old, is nothing. The difficulty is to give him an
education which shall secure him a position in the world. This thought
now began to occupy the minds of his parents incessantly. These stupid
people, who had a business which supported them handsomely, and
enabled them, in the course of time, to amass a small fortune, did not
see that the best thing they could have done would have been to
enlarge it, and to leave it to their son. But no. They vowed they
would sacrifice all their savings, and deprive themselves even of the
necessaries of life, in order that their Justin might become a
"And what a gentleman! The mother dreamed of him as a rich broker, or,
at the very least, a notary's first clerk. The father preferred seeing
him a government official, holding one of those much-coveted places,
which give the owner, after twenty-five years' service, a title, and
an income of some six or seven hundred dollars.
"The result of all these speculations was, that, at the age of nine,
Master Justin was sent to a high school. He conducted himself there
just badly enough to be perpetually on the brink of being sent away,
without ever being really expelled. This made but little impression
upon the two Chevassats. They had become so accustomed to look upon
their son as a superior being, that it never entered their mind to
think he was not the first, the best, and the most remarkable pupil of
the establishment. If Justin's reports were bad,--and they were always
bad,--they accused the teachers of partiality. If he gained no prize
at the end of the year,--and he never got any,--they did not know what
to do for him to console him for having been victimized by such cruel
"The consequences of such a system need hardly be stated.
"When Justin was fourteen years old, he despised his parents
thoroughly, treated them like servants, and was so much ashamed of
them, that he would not allow his mother to come and see him in the
parlor of the college to which he had been admitted of late. When he
was at home during vacations, he would have cut his right arm off
rather than help his father, or pour out a glass of wine for a
customer. He even stayed away from the house on the plea that he could
not endure the odors from the kitchen.
"Thus he reached his seventeenth year. His course was not completed;
but, as he was tired of college-life, he declared he would not return
there, and he never did return. When his father asked him timidly what
he proposed doing, he shrugged his shoulders as his sole reply. What
did he do? Nothing. He idled about Paris.
"To dress in the height of fashion; to walk up and down before the
most renowned restaurants, with a toothpick in his mouth; to hire a
carriage, and drive it himself, having a hired groom in livery by his
side,--this was the delight of those days. At night he gambled; and,
when he lost, there was the till in his father's shop.
"His parents had rented for him, and comfortably furnished, a nice set
of rooms in their house, and tried by all manner of servility to keep
him at home, neglecting even their own business in order to be always
ready for his orders. But this did not prevent him from being
constantly away. He said he could not possibly receive his friends in
a house where his name was to be seen on the signboard of such a low
"It was his despair to be the son of a restaurant-keeper, and to be
"But greater grief was to come to him after two years' idle and
expensive life such as has been described.
"One fine morning when he needed a couple of hundred dollars, his
parents told him, with tears in their eyes, that they had not twenty
dollars in the house; that they were at the end of their resources;
that the day before a note of theirs had been protested; and that they
were at that moment on the brink of bankruptcy. They did not reproach
Justin with having spent all their savings; oh, no! On the contrary,
they humbly asked his pardon, if they were no longer able to provide
for his wants. And, with fear and trembling, they at last ventured to
suggest, that perhaps it would be well if he should seek some kind of
"He told them coolly that he would think it over, but that he must
have his two hundred dollars. And he got them. His father and mother
had still a watch and some jewelry; they pawned everything and brought
him the proceeds.
"Still he saw that the till he had considered inexhaustible was really
empty, and that henceforth his pockets also would be empty, unless he
could devise some means to fill them. He went, therefore, in search of
some employment; and his godfather, the valet, found one for him at
the house of a banker, who was in want of a reliable young man to be
trained for his business, and hereafter to be intrusted with the
management of his funds."
Papa Ravinet's voice changed so perceptibly as he uttered these last
words, that Daniel and Henrietta, with one impulse, asked him,--
"Is anything the matter, sir?"
He did not make any reply; but his sister, Mrs. Bertolle, said,--
"No, there is nothing the matter with my brother;" and she looked at
him with a nod of encouragement.
"I am all right," he said, like an echo. Then, making a great effort,
"Justin Chevassat was at twenty precisely what you know him to be as
Maxime de Brevan,--a profound dissembler, a fierce egotist devoured by
vanity, in fine, a man of ardent passions, and capable of anything to
satisfy his desires.
"The hope of getting rich at once by some great stroke was already so
deeply rooted in his mind, that it gave him the strength to change his
habits and manner of life from one day to another, and to keep up the
deceit with a perseverance unheard of at his age. This lazy,
profligate gambler rose with the day, worked ten hours a day, and
became the model of all clerks. He had resolved to win the favor of
his patron, and to be trusted. He succeeded in doing it by the most
consummate hypocrisy. So that, only two years after he had first been
admitted into the house, he had already been promoted to a place which
conferred upon him the keeping of all the valuables of the firm.
"This occurred before those accidents which have, since that time,
procured for the keepers of other people's money such a sad
reputation. Nowadays it seems almost an ordinary event to hear of some
cashier's running away with the funds intrusted to his keeping; and no
one is astonished. To create a sensation by such an occurrence, the
sum must be almost fabulous, say, two or three millions. And, even in
that case, the loser is by no means the man in whom the world is most
"At the time of which I am now speaking, defalcations were quite rare
as yet. Financial companies and brokers did not contemplate being
robbed by their own clerks as one of the ordinary risks. When they
knew the keys of their safe to be in the hands of an honest man, whose
family and mode of life were well known, they slept soundly. Justin
Chevassat's patron was thus sleeping soundly for ten months, when one
Sunday he was specially in need of certain bonds which Justin used to
keep in one of the drawers of his desk. He did not like to have his
clerk hunted up on such a day; so he simply sent for a locksmith to
open the drawer.
"The first thing he saw was a draft signed by himself; and yet he had
never put his name to such a paper. Still, most assuredly, it was his
signature; he would have sworn to it in court. And yet he was as sure
as he was standing there, that it was not he who had put his name, and
the somewhat complicated ornament belonging to it, where he saw it
"His first amazement was succeeded by grievous apprehension. He had
the other drawers opened likewise, searched them, and soon discovered
all the details of a formidable and most ingenious plan, by which he
was to be robbed at a single blow of more than a million.
"If he had slept soundly one month longer, he would have been ruined.
His favorite clerk was a wretch, a forger of matchless skill. He
instantly sent for a detective; and the next morning, when Justin
Chevassat came as usual, he was arrested. It was then thought that his
crime was confined to this abortive attempt. Not so. A minute and
careful examination of all the papers soon revealed other misdeeds.
Evidence was found, that, on the very next day after the day on which
he had been appointed confidential clerk, he had stolen a thousand
dollars, concealing his theft by a false entry. Since that time not a
week had passed without his laying hands on a more or less
considerable sum; and all these thefts had been most ingeniously
covered by such skilful imitations of other people's signatures, that
he had once been sick for a fortnight, and yet his substitute had
never become aware of anything. In fine, it appeared that the sum
total of his defalcations amounted to some eighty thousand dollars.
"What had he done with all that money? The magistrate before whom he
was brought at once asked that question. He replied that he had not a
cent left. His explanations and his excuses were the old story pleaded
by all who put their hands into their neighbors' pockets.
"To hear him, no one could be more innocent than he was, however
guilty he might appear at first sight. He was like one of those men
who allow their little finger to be caught in a machine. His only
fault was the desire to speculate on 'Change. Did not his employer
speculate himself? Having lost some money, and fearing to lose his
place if he did not pay, the fatal thought had occurred to him to
borrow from the strong box. From that moment he had only cherished one
thought,--to restore what he had taken. If he speculated anew, it was
from extreme honesty, and because he constantly hoped to gain enough
to make restitution. But most extraordinary ill luck had pursued him;
so that, seeing the deficit growing larger and larger, and overcome
with remorse and terror, he had almost gone mad, and ceased to put any
restraint upon himself.
"He laid great stress upon the fact that his whole eighty thousand
dollars had been lost on 'Change, and that he would have looked upon
himself as the meanest of rascals, if he had spent any part of it on
his personal enjoyments. Unfortunately the forged checks and drafts in
his drawer destroyed the force of this plea. Convinced that the sums
he had thus obtained were not lost, the investigating magistrate
suspected the parents of the accused. He questioned them, and obtained
sufficient evidence against them to justify their arrest. But they
could not be convicted at the trial, and had to be released. Justin
Chevassat, however, appeared at the assizes.
"Matters looked very serious for him; but he had the good luck of
falling in with a young lawyer who initiated in his case a system of
pleading which has since become very popular. He made no effort to
exculpate his client: he boldly accused the banker. 'Was it the act of
a sensible man,' he said, 'to trust so young a man with such important
sums? Was it not tempting him beyond his powers of resistance, and
almost provoking him to become dishonest? What, this banker never
examined his books for so many months? What kind of a business was it,
where a cashier could so easily take eighty thousand dollars, and
remain undiscovered? And then, what immorality in a banker to
speculate on 'Change, and thus to set so bad an example to his young,
"Justin Chevassat escaped with twenty years' penal servitude.
"What he was at the galleys, you may imagine from what you know of
him. He played the 'repentant criminal,' overflowing with professions
of sorrow for the past, and amendment in future, and cringing and
crouching at the feet of the officials of the prison. He carried on
this comedy so successfully, that, after three years and a half, he
was pardoned. But he had not lost his time in prison. The contact with
the vilest of criminals had sharpened his wits, and completed his
education in rascality. He came out of prison an accomplished felon.
And even while he still dragged the chain and ball along with him, he
was already planning and maturing new plots for the future, which he
afterwards executed with success. He conceived the idea of bursting
forth in a new shape, under which no one would ever suspect his former
"How he went about to do this, I am enabled to tell you accurately.
Through his godfather, the valet, who had died before his trial,
Justin Chevassat knew the history of the Brevan family in its minutest
details. It was a very sad story. The old marquis had died insolvent,
after having lost his five sons, who had gone abroad to make their
fortunes. The noble family had thus become extinct; but Justin
proposed to continue its lineage. He knew that the Brevans were
originally from Maine; that they had formerly owned immense estates in
the neighborhood of Mans; and that they had not been there for more
than twenty years. Would they still be remembered in a land where they
had once been all powerful? Most assuredly they would. Would people
take the trouble to inquire minutely what had become of the marquis
and his five sons? As assuredly not.
"Chevassat's plot was based upon these calculations.
"As soon as he was free once more, he devoted all his energies to the
destruction of every trace of his identity; and, when he thought he
had accomplished this, he went to Mans, assuming the name of one of
the sons of the marquis, who had been nearly of his own age. No one
doubted for a moment that he was Maxime de Brevan. Who could have
doubted it, when he purchased the old family mansion for a
considerable sum, although it only consisted of a ruinous castle, and
a small farm adjoining the house? He paid cash, moreover, proving thus
the correctness of the magistrate's suspicions as to his story about
losses on 'Change, and as to the complicity of his parents. He even
took the precaution of living on his little estate for four years,
practising the life of a country-gentleman, received with open arms by
the nobility of the neighborhood, forming friendships, gaining
supporters, and becoming more and more identified with Maxime de
"What was his aim at that time? I always thought he was looking out
for a wealthy wife, so as to consolidate his position; and he came
near realizing his hopes.
"He was on the point of marrying a young lady from Mans, who would
have brought him half a million in money, and the banns had already
been published, when, all of a sudden, the marriage was broken off, no
one knew why.
"This only is certain: he was so bitterly disappointed by his failure,
that he sold his property, and left the country. For the next three
years, he lived in Paris, more completely Maxime de Brevan than ever;
and then he met Sarah Brandon."
Papa Ravinet had been speaking now for nearly three hours, and he was
beginning to feel exhausted. He showed his weariness in his face; and
his voice very nearly gave out. Still it was in vain for Daniel,
Henrietta, and Mrs. Bertolle herself to unite in begging him to go and
lie down for a few moments.
"No," he replied, "I will go to the end. You do not know how important
it is that M. Champcey should be in a position to act to-morrow, or
"It was at a fancy ball," he went on, "given by M. Planix, that Sarah
Brandon, at that time still known as Ernestine Bergot, and Justin
Chevassat, now Maxime de Brevan, met for the first time. He was
completely overpowered by her marvellous beauty, and she--she was
strangely impressed by the peculiar expression in Maxime's face.
Perhaps they divined each other's character, perhaps they had an
intuitive perception of who they were. At all events, they soon became
acquainted, drawn as they were to each other by an instinctive and
irresistible attraction. They danced several times together; they sat
side by side; they talked long and intimately; and, when the ball came
to an end, they were friends already.
"They met frequently; and, if it were not profanation, I would say
they loved each other. They seemed to be made on purpose to
understand, and, so to say, compliment, each other, equally corrupt as
they were, devoured by the same sinful desires, and alike free from
all the old-fashioned prejudices, as they called it, about justice,
morals, and honor. They could hardly help coming soon to some
understanding by which they agreed to associate their ambitions and
their plans for the future.
"For in those early days, when their feelings were still undented,
they had no secrets for each other. Love had torn the mask from their
faces; and each one vied with the other in letting the foulness of
their past days be seen clearly. This, no doubt, secured, first the
constancy of their passion, and the continuation of their intimacy
long after they had ceased loving each other.
"For now they hate each other; but they are also afraid of each other.
Ten times they have tried to break off their intimacy; and as often
they have been compelled to renew it, bound as they feel they are to
each other by a chain far more oppressive and solid than the one
Justin Chevassat wore at the galleys.
"At first, however, they had to conceal their intimacy; for they had
no money. By joining what she had stolen from her benefactor, to what
she had obtained from M. Planix, Sarah could not make up more than
some forty thousand francs. 'That was not enough,' she said, 'to "set
up" the most modest establishment.' As to M. de Brevan, however
economical he had been, he had come to an end of the sums stolen from
his employer. For eight or ten months now, he had been reduced to all
kinds of dangerous expedients in order to live. He rode in his
carriage; but he had been more than once very happy when he could
extort a twenty-franc-piece from his parents. He visited them, of
course only in secret; for they had in the meantime exchanged their
shop, for the modest little box assigned to the concierge of No. 23
"Far, therefore, from being able to be useful to Sarah, he was
perfectly delighted when she brought him one fine day ten thousand
francs to alleviate his distress.
"'Ah!' she said to him on this occasion, and often thereafter, 'why
can't we have that fool's money?' meaning her friend and lover, M.
"The next step was naturally an attempt at obtaining this much coveted
treasure. To begin, Sarah induced him to make a last will, in which he
made her his residuary legatee. One would be at a loss to guess how
she could obtain this from a young, healthy man, full of life and
happiness, if it were not that love will explain everything. When this
success had been achieved, M. de Brevan undertook to introduce in the
society frequented by Sarah and M. Planix one of his friends, who was
considered, and who really was, the best swordsman in Paris, a good
fellow otherwise, honor itself, and rather patient in temper than
given to quarrelling.
"Without compromising herself, and with that abominable skill which is
peculiarly her own, Sarah, coquetted just enough with this young man,
M. de Font-Avar, to tempt him to pay her some attentions. But that
very night she complained to M. Planix of his persecution, and knew so
skilfully how to excite his jealousy, and to wound his vanity, that,
three days later, he allowed himself to be carried away by passion,
and struck M. de Font-Avar in the presence of a dozen friends.
"A duel became inevitable; and M. de Brevan, pretending to try and
reconcile the two young men, secretly fanned the flame. The duel came
off one Saturday morning, in the woods near Vincennes. They fought
with small-swords; and, after little more than a minute, M. Planix
received a stab in his breast, fell, and was dead in an instant. He
was not yet twenty-seven years old.
"Sarah's joy was almost delirious. Accomplished actress as she was,
she could hardly manage to shed a few tears for the benefit of the
public, when the body, still warm, was brought to the house. And still
she had once loved the man, whom she had now assassinated.
"Even as she knelt by the bedside, hiding her face in her
handkerchief, she was thinking only of the testament, lying safe and
snug, as she knew, in one of the drawers of that bureau, enclosed in a
large official envelope with a huge red wax seal.
"It was opened and read the same day by the justice of the peace, who
had been sent for to put the seals on the deceased man's property. And
then Sarah began to cry in good earnest. Her tears were tears of rage.
For seized by a kind of remorse, and at a moment when Sarah's absence
had rendered him very angry, M. Planix had added two lines as a
"He still said, 'I appoint Miss Ernestine Bergot my residuary
legatee'; but he had written underneath, 'on condition that she shall
pay to each of my sisters the sum of a hundred and fifty thousand
francs.' This was more than three-fourths of his whole fortune.
"When she arrived, therefore, that night, at Brevan's rooms, her first
"'We have been robbed! Planix was a wretch! We won't have a hundred
thousand francs left.'
"Maxime, however, recovered his equanimity pretty soon; for the sum
appeared to him quite large enough to pay for a crime in which they
had run no risk, and he was quite as willing as before to marry Sarah;
but she refused to listen to him, saying that a hundred thousand
francs were barely enough for a year's income, and that they must
wait. It was then that M. de Brevan became a gambler. The wretch
actually believed in the cards; he believed that fortunes could be
made by playing. He had systems of his own which could not fail, and
which he was bent upon trying.
"He proposed to Sarah to risk the hundred thousand francs, promising
to make a million out of them; and she yielded, tempted by the very
boldness of his proposition.
"They resolved they would not stop playing till they had won a
million, or lost everything. And so they went to Homburg. There they
led a mad life for a whole month, spending ten hours every day at the
gaming-table, feverish, breathless, fighting the bank with marvellous
skill and almost incredible coolness. I have met an old croupier who
recollects them even now. Twice they were on the point of staking
their last thousand-franc-note; and one lucky day they won as much as
four hundred thousand francs. That day, Maxime proposed they should
leave Homburg. Sarah, who kept the money, refused, repeating her
favorite motto, 'All, or nothing.'
"It was nothing. Victory remained, as usual, with, the 'big
battalions;' and one evening the two partners returned to their
lodgings, ruined, penniless, having not even a watch left, and owing
the hotel-keeper a considerable sum of money.
"That evening Maxime spoke of blowing his brains out. Never, on the
contrary, had Sarah been merrier.
"The next morning she dressed very early and went out, saying she had
a plan in her head, and would soon be back.
"But she did not come back; and all that day M. de Brevan, devoured by
anxiety, waited in vain for her return. At five o'clock, however, a
messenger brought him a letter. He opened it; there were three
thousand francs in it, and these words:--
"'When you receive these lines, I shall be far from Homburg. Do not
wait for me. Enclosed is enough to enable you to return to Paris.
You shall see me again when our fortune is made.
"Maxime was at first overcome with amazement. To be abandoned in this
way! To be thus unceremoniously dismissed, and by Sarah! He could not
recover from it. But anger soon roused him to fury; and at the same
time he was filled with an intense desire to avenge himself. But, in
order to avenge himself, he must first know how to find his faithless
ally. What had become of her? Where had she gone?
"By dint of meditating, and recollecting all he could gather in his
memory, M. de Brevan remembered having seen Sarah two or three times,
since fortune had forsaken them, in close conversation with a tall,
thin gentleman of about forty years, who was in the habit of wandering
through the rooms, and attracted much attention by his huge whiskers,
his stiff carriage, and his wearied expression. No doubt Sarah, being
ruined, had fallen an easy prey to this gentleman, who looked as if he
might be a millionaire.
"Where did he stay? At the Hotel of the Three Kings. Maxime went there
at once. Unfortunately, he was too late. The gentleman had left that
morning for Frankfort, by the 10.45 train, with an elderly lady, and a
remarkably pretty girl.
"Sure of his game now, M. de Brevan left immediately for Frankfort,
convinced that Sarah's brilliant beauty would guide him like a star.
But he hunted in vain all over town, inquiring at the hotels, and
bothering everybody with his questions. He found no trace of the
"When he returned to his lodgings that night, he wept.
"Never in his life had he fancied himself half so unhappy. In losing
Sarah, he thought he had lost everything. During the five months of
their intimacy, she had gained such complete ascendency over him, that
now, when he was left to his own strength, he felt like a lost child,
having no thought and no resolution.
"What was to become of him, now that this woman was no longer there to
sustain and inspire him,--that woman with the marvellous talent for
intrigue, the matchless courage that shrank from nothing, and the
energy which sufficed for everything? Sarah had, besides, filled his
imagination with such magnificent hopes, and opened before his
covetous eyes such a vast horizon of enjoyment, that he had come to
look upon things as pitiful, which would formerly have satisfied his
highest wishes. Should he, after having dreamed of those glorious
achievements by which millions are won in a day, sink back again into
the meanness of petty thefts? His heart turned from that prospect with
unspeakable loathing; and yet what was he to do?
"He knew, that, if he returned to Paris, matters would not be very
pleasant for him there. His creditors, made restless by his prolonged
absence, would fall upon him instantly. How could he induce them to
wait? Where could he get the money to pay them, at least, a percentage
of his dues? How would he support himself? Were all of his dark works