Part 11 out of 11
to be useless? Was he to be shipwrecked before ever seeing even the
"Nevertheless, he returned to Paris, faced the storm, passed through
the crisis, and resumed his miserable life, associating with another
adventurer like himself, and succeeding thus, by immensely hard work,
in maintaining his existence and his assumed name. Ah! if our honest
friends could but know what misery, what humiliations and anxieties
are hid beneath that false splendor of high life, which they often
envy, they would think themselves fully avenged.
"It is certain that Maxime de Brevan found times hard in those days,
and actually more than once regretted that he had not remained a
stupid, honest man. He thought that was so simple, and so clever.
"Thus it came about, that, two years later, he had not yet been
reconciled to Sarah's absence. Often and often, in his hours of
distress, he recalled her parting promise, 'You shall see me again
when our fortune is made.' He knew she was quite capable of amassing
millions; but, when she had them, would she still think of him? Where
was she? What could have become of her?
"Sarah was at that time in America.
"That tall, light-haired gentleman, that eminently respectable lady,
who had carried her off, were M. Thomas Elgin and Mrs. Brian. Who were
these people? I have had no time to trace out their antecedents. All I
know is, that they belonged to that class of adventurers whom one sees
at all the watering-places and gambling-resorts,--at Nice, at Monaco,
and during the winter in Italy; swindlers of the highest class, who
unite consummate skill with excessive caution; who are occasionally
suspected, but never found out; and who are frequently indebted to
their art of making themselves agreeable, and even useful to others,
to the carelessness of travellers, and their thorough knowledge of
life, for the acquaintance, or even friendship, of people whom one is
astonished to find in such company.
"Sir Thorn and Mrs. Brian were both English, and, so far, they had
managed to live very pleasantly. But old age was approaching; and they
began to be fearful about the future, when they fell in with Sarah.
They divined her, as she had divined Maxime; and they saw in her an
admirable means to secure a fortune. They did not hesitate, therefore,
to offer her a compact by which she was to be a full partner, although
they themselves had to risk all they possessed,--a capital of some
twenty thousand dollars. You have seen what these respectable people
proposed to make of her,--a snare and a pitfall. They knew very well
that her matchless beauty would catch fools innumerable, and bring in
a rich harvest of thousand-franc-notes.
"The idea was by no means new, M. Champcey, as you seem to think; nor
is the case a rare one.
"In almost all the capitals of Europe, you will find even now some of
these almost sublimely beautiful creatures, who are exhibited in the
great world by cosmopolitan adventurers. They have six or seven years,
--from eighteen to twenty-five,--during which, their beauty and their
tact may secure an immense fortune to themselves and their comrades;
and according to chance, to their skill, or the whims or the folly of
men, they end by marrying some great personage in high life, or by
keeping a wretched gambling hell in the suburbs. They may fall upon
the velvet cushions of a princely carriage, or sink, step by step, to
the lowest depths of society.
"M. Elgin and Mrs. Brian had agreed that they would exhibit Sarah in
Paris; that she was to marry a duke with any number of millions; and
that they should be paid for their trouble by receiving an annual
allowance of some ten thousand dollars. But, in order to undertake the
adventure with a good chance of success, it was indispensable that
Sarah should lose her nationality as a Parisian; that she should rise
anew, as an unknown star; and, above all, that she should be trained
and schooled for the profession she was to practise.
"Hence the trip to America, and her long residence there.
"Chance had helped the wretches. They had hardly landed, when they
found that they could easily introduce the girl as the daughter of
Gen. Brandon, just as Justin Chevassat had managed to become Maxime de
Brevan. In this way, Ernestine Bergot appeared at once in the best
society of Philadelphia as Sarah Brandon. Not less prudent than
Maxime, M. Elgin also purchased, in spite of his limited means, for a
thousand dollars, vast tracts of land in the western part of the
State, where there was no trace of oil-wells, but where there might
very well be a good many, and had them entered upon the name of his
"Of all these measures, I have the evidence in hand, and can produce
it at any moment."
For some time already, Daniel and Henrietta had looked at each other
with utter amazement. They were almost dumfounded by the prodigious
sagacity, the cunning, patience, and labor which the old dealer must
have employed to collect this vast mass of information. But he
continued, after a short pause,--
"Sir Thorn and Mrs. Brian found out in a few days how well they had
been served by their instincts in taking hold of Sarah. In less than
six months, this wonderful girl, whose education they had undertaken,
spoke English as well as they did, and had become their master,
controlling them by the very superiority of her wickedness. From the
day on which Mrs. Brian explained to her the part she was expected to
play, she had assumed it so naturally and so perfectly, that all
traces of art disappeared at once. She had instinctively appreciated
the immense advantage she would derive from personifying a young
American girl, and the irresistible effect she might easily produce by
her freedom of movement and her bold ingenuousness. Finally, at the
end of eighteen months' residence in America, M. Elgin declared that
the moment had come when Sarah might appear on the stage.
"It was, therefore, twenty-eight months after their parting in
Homburg, that M. de Brevan received, one morning, the following
"'Come to-night, at nine o'clock, to M. Thomas Elgin's house in Circus
Street, and be prepared for a surprise.'
"He went there. A tall man opened the door of the sitting-room; and,
at the sight of a young lady who sat before the fire, he could not
help exclaiming, 'Ernestine, is that you?'
"But she interrupted him at once, saying, 'You are mistaken: Ernestine
Bergot is dead, and buried by the side of Justin Chevassat, my dear M.
de Brevan. Come, lay aside that amazed air, and kiss Miss Sarah
"It was heaven opening for Maxime. She had at last come back to him,--
this woman, who had come across his life like a tempest, and whose
memory he had retained in his heart, as a dagger remains in the wound
it has made. She had come back, more beautiful than ever, irresistible
in her matchless charms; and he fancied it was love which had brought
"His vanity led him astray. Sarah Brandon had long since ceased to
admire him. Familiar as she was with the life of adventurers in high
life, she had soon learned to appreciate M. de Brevan at his just
value. She saw him now as he really was,--timid, overcautious, petty,
incapable of conceiving bold combinations, scarcely good enough for
the smallest of plots, ridiculous, in fine, as all needy scamps are.
"Nevertheless, Sarah wanted him, although she despised him. On the
point of entering upon a most dangerous game, she felt the necessity
of having one accomplice, at least, in whom she could trust blindly.
She had, to be sure, Mrs. Brian and Sir Thorn, as he began to be
called now; but she mistrusted them. They held her, and she had no
hold on them. On the other hand, Maxime de Brevan was entirely hers,
dependent on her pleasure, as the lump of clay in the hands of the
"It is true that Maxime appeared almost distressed when he heard that
that immense fortune which he coveted with all his might was still to
be made, and that Sarah was no farther advanced now than she was on
the day of their separation. She might even have said that she was
less so; for the two years and more which had just elapsed had made a
large inroad upon the savings of M. Elgin and Mrs. Brian. When they
had paid for their establishment in Circus Street, when they had
advanced the hire of a /coupe/, a landau, and two saddle-horses, they
had hardly four thousand dollars left in all.
"They knew, therefore, that they must succeed or sink in the coming
year. And, thus driven to bay, they were doubly to be feared. They
were determined to fall furiously upon the first victim that should
pass within reach, when chance brought to them the unlucky cashier of
the Mutual Discount Society, Malgat."
For a few moments the fatigue of the old dealer seemed to have
disappeared. He was sitting up straight, with tremulous lips, with
flashing eyes, and continued in a strangely strident voice,--
"Fools alone attach no weight to trifling occurrences. And still it is
those that appear most insignificant which we ought to fear most,
because they alone determine our fate, precisely as an atom of sand
dismembers the most powerful engine.
"It was on a fine afternoon in the month of October when Sarah Brandon
appeared for the first time before the eyes of Malgat. He was at that
time a man of forty, sprung from an old and respectable though modest
family, content with his lot in life, and rather simple, as most men
are who have always lived far from the intrigues of society. He had
one passion, however,--he filled the five rooms of his lodgings with
curiosities of every kind, happy for a week to come, if he had
discovered a piece of old china, or a curious piece of furniture,
which he could purchase cheap. He was not rich, his whole patrimony
having been long since spent on his collections; but he had a place
that brought him some three thousand dollars; and he was sure of an
ample pension in his old age.
"He was honest in the highest sense of the word; his honesty being
instinctive, so to say, never reasoning, never hesitating. For fifteen
years now, he had been cashier; and hundreds of millions had passed
through his hands without arousing in him a shadow of covetousness. He
handled the gold in the bags, and the notes in the portfolios, with as
much indifference as if they had been pebbles and dry leaves. His
employers, besides, felt for him more than ordinary esteem: it was
true and devoted friendship. Their confidence in him was so great,
that they would have laughed in the face of any one who should have
come and told them, 'Malgat is a thief!'
"Such he was, when, that morning, he was standing near his safe, and
saw a gentleman come to his window who had just cashed a check drawn
by the Central Bank of Philadelphia upon the Mutual Discount Bank.
This gentleman, who was M. Elgin, spoke such imperfect French, that
Malgat asked him, for convenience sake, to step inside the railing. He
came in, and behind him Sarah Brandon.
"How can I describe to you the sensations of the poor cashier as he
beheld this amazing beauty! He could hardly stammer out a few
incoherent words; and the gentleman and the young lady had long since
left, when he was still lost in a kind of idiotic delight. He had been
overtaken by one of those overwhelming passions which sometimes felled
to the ground the strongest and simplest of men at the age of forty.
"Alas! Sarah had but too keenly noticed the impression she had
produced. To be sure, Malgat was very far from that ideal of a
millionaire husband of whom these adventurers dreamed; but, after all,
he held the keys of a safe in which lay millions. One might always get
something out of him wherewith to wait for better things to come.
Their plan was soon formed.
"The very next day M. Elgin presented himself alone at the office to
ask for some information. He returned three days after with another
draft. By the end of the week, he had furnished Malgat with an
opportunity to render him some trifling service. Thus relations began
to exist between them; and, at the end of a fortnight, Sir Thorn
could, with all propriety, ask the cashier to dine with him in Circus
Street. A voice from within--one of those presentiments to which we
ought always to listen--warned Malgat not to accept the invitation;
but he was already no longer his own master.
"He went to dinner in Circus Street, and he left it madly in love.
"He had felt as if Sarah Brandon's eyes had been all the time upon
him,--those strange, sublimely beautiful eyes, which upset our very
being within us, weakening the most powerful energy, troubling the
senses, and leading reason astray--eyes which dazzle, enchant, and
"The commonest politeness required that Malgat should call upon Mrs.
Brian and M. Elgin. This call was followed by many others. A man less
blinded by passion might have become suspicious at the eagerness with
which these wretches, driven by necessity, carried on their intrigue.
Six weeks after their first meeting, Malgat fancied that Sarah was
wildly in love with him. It was absurd, most assuredly; it was
foolish, insane. Nevertheless, he believed it. He thought those
rapturous glances were genuine; he believed in the truthfulness of
that intoxicating sweetness of her voice, and those enchanting
blushes, which his coming never failed to call forth.
"Now began the second act of the hideous comedy. Mrs. Brian appeared
one day, all of a sudden, to notice something, and promptly requested
Malgat never to put foot again within that house. She accused him of
an attempt to seduce Sarah Brandon. I dare say, you can imagine, the
fool! how he protested, affirming the purity of his intentions, and
swearing that he would be the happiest of mortals if they would
condescend to grant him the hand of her niece. But Sir Thorn, in the
haughtiest tone possible, asked him how he could dare think of such a
thing, and presume that he could ever be a fit match for a young lady
who had a dower of two hundred thousand dollars.
"Malgat left with tottering steps, despair in his heart, and resolved
to kill himself. When he returned home, he actually went to look among
his curiosities for an old flint-lock pistol, and began to load it.
"Ah! why did he not kill himself then? He would have carried his
deceptive illusions and his unstained honor with him to the grave.
"He was just about to make his will when they brought him a letter
from Sarah. She wrote thus:--
"'When a girl like myself loves, she loves for life, and she is his
whom she loves, or she is nobody's. If your love is true, if dangers
and difficulties terrify you no more than they terrify me, knock
to-morrow night, at ten o'clock, at the gate of the court. I will
"Mad with joy and hope, Malgat went to the fatal meeting. Do you know
what happened? Sarah fell around his neck, and said,--
"'I love you. Let us run away.'
"Ah! if he had taken her at her word, and answered her, offering her
"'Yes, let us flee,' the plot might have been defeated, and he might
have been saved; for she would certainly not have gone with him.
"But with that clear perception which was a perfect marvel in her, and
looked like the gift of second sight, she had taken the measure of the
cashier, and exposed herself to the danger, well-knowing that he would
shrink from doing what she asked.
"He did shrink, the idiot! he was afraid. He said to himself that it
would be a mean thing to abuse the attachment of this pure and
trustful girl, to separate her from her family, and to ruin her
"He did have this wonderful power of self-denial to dissuade her from
taking such a step, and to induce her to be patient, giving time an
opportunity of coming to their assistance, while he would do all he
could to overcome the obstacles in the way.
"For hours after he had left Sarah Brandon, Malgat had not recovered
from the excitement; and he would have thought the whole a dream, but
for the penetrating perfume which his clothes still retained where she
had rested her beautiful head. But, when he at last began to examine
his position, he came to the conclusion that he had indulged in
childish illusions, and that he could never hope to satisfy the
demands made by M. Elgin and Mrs. Brian. There /was/ but one way, a
single way, by which he could ever hope to obtain possession of this
woman whom he worshipped; and that was the one she had herself
proposed,--an abduction. To determine upon such a step, however, was
for Malgat to end his peaceful life forever, to lose his place, to
abandon the past, and to venture upon an unknown future. But how could
he reason at a moment when his whole mind was filled with thoughts of
the most amazing happiness that ever was enjoyed by mortal being?
"Whenever he thought of flight, there arose before him one obstacle
which he could not overcome. He had no money. How could he expose this
rich heiress, who left all for his sake, this beautiful girl, who was
accustomed to every imaginable luxury, to want and humiliation? No;
that he could never dare. And yet his whole available capital did not
amount to three thousand dollars. His fortune was invested in those
curiosities that were piled up all over his rooms,--beautiful objects
to his eyes in former days, but now hateful, and annoying to behold.
He knew they represented a large sum, quite a respectable fortune; but
such collections cannot be sold overnight; and time was pressing.
"He had seen Sarah several times secretly; and each time she had
appeared to him more mournful and dejected. She could bring him
nothing but most distressing news. Mrs. Brian spoke of giving her in
marriage to a friend of hers. M. Elgin proposed to take her abroad.
And, with such troubles filling his head, the poor cashier had to
attend to his daily duties, and from morning till night receive tens
and hundreds of thousands; and never yet, I swear it, the thought
occurred to him of taking a small fraction of these treasures.
"He had determined to sell all his collections as a whole, at any
price he could get, when one day, a few moments before the office
closed, a lady appeared, whose ample dress concealed her figure, while
a thick veil completely shrouded her features.
"This lady raised her veil. It was she. It was Sarah Brandon.
"Malgat begged her to enter. He was overcome. What new misfortune had
happened to induce her to take such a step? She told him in a few
"Sir Thorn had found out their secret meetings: he had told her to be
ready to start for Philadelphia the next morning.
"The crisis had come. They must choose now between two things,--either
to flee that very day, or be separated forever.
"Ah! never had Sarah been so beautiful as at this moment, when she
seemed to be maddened by grief; never had her whole personal beauty
exhaled such powerful, such irresistible charms. Her breath went and
came, causing her almost to sob at every respiration; and big tears,
like scattered beads from a chaplet of pearls, rolled down her pale
"Malgat stood a moment before her, stunned by the blow; and the
imminence of the danger extorted from him a confession of the reasons
that had made him hesitate so long. He told her, cruelly humiliated by
the avowal, that he had no money.
"But she rose when she heard it, as if she had been stung by an
insult, and repeated with crushing irony,--
"'No money? No money?'
"And when Malgat, more heartily ashamed of his poverty than he could
have been of a crime, blushed to the roots of his hair, she pointed at
the immense safe, which overflowed with gold and bank-notes, and
'"And what is all that?'
"Malgat jumped up, and stood before the safe, his arms far
outstretched, as if to defend it, and said in an accent of ineffable
"'What are you thinking of? And my honor?'
"This was to be his last effort to preserve his honor. Sarah looked
him straight in the face, and said slowly,--
"'And my honor! My honor is nothing to you? Do I not give myself? Do
you mean to drive a bargain?'
"Great God! She said this with an accent and with a look which would
have tempted an angel. Malgat fell helpless into a chair.
"Then she came close up to him, and, casting upon him those burning
glances which blazed with superhuman audacity, she sighed,--
"'If you loved me really! Ah, if you really loved me!'
"And she bent over him, tremulous with passion, watching his features
so closely, that their lips nearly touched.
"'If you loved me as I love you,' she whispered again.
"It was all over; Malgat was lost. He drew Sarah towards him, and
said, kissing her,--
"'Very well then. Yes!'
"She immediately disengaged herself, and with eager hands seized one
parcel of bank-notes after another, pushing them into a little morocco
bag which she held in her hand. And, when the bag was full, she
"'Now we are safe. To-night at ten o'clock, at the gate of the court-
yard, with a carriage. To-morrow, at daybreak, we shall be out of
France, and free. Now we are bound to each other forever,--and I love
"And she went away. And he let her go away."
The old gentleman had become ghastly white, his few hairs seemed to
stand on end, and large drops of perspiration inundated his face as he
swallowed at a gulp a cup of tea, and then went on, laughing
"You suppose, no doubt, that, /when/ Sarah had left him, Malgat came
to himself? By no means. It seemed as if, with that kiss, with which
she had paid him for his crime, the infamous creature had inspired him
with the same genius for evil that was in her.
"Far from repenting, he rejoiced at what had been done; and when he
learned, that, on the following day, the board of directors were to
meet to examine the books, he laughed at the faces they would make;
for I told you he was mad. With all the coolness of a hardened thief,
he calculated the total amount of what had been abstracted: it was
four hundred thousand francs. Immediately, in order to conceal the
true state of things, he took his books, and, with almost diabolic
skill, altered the figures, and changed the entries, so as to make it
appear that the defalcation was of long date, and that various sums
had been abstracted for several months. When he had finished his
fearful task, he wrote to the board a hypocritical letter, in which he
stated that he had robbed the safe in order to pay his differences on
'Change, and that now, when he could no longer conceal his crime, he
was going to commit suicide. When this was done, he left his office,
as if nothing had happened.
"The proof that he acted under the incomprehensible influence of a
kind of hallucination is this, that he felt neither remorse nor fear.
As he was resolved not to return to his house, nor to encumber himself
with luggage, he dined at a restaurant, spent a few minutes at a
theatre, and then posted his letter to the board of directors, so that
it might reach them early in the morning.
"At ten o'clock he knocked at the gate of the house in Circus Street.
A servant came and opened, saying in a mysterious manner,--
"'Please go up. The young lady is waiting.'
"A terrible presentiment seized him at that moment, and chilled him to
the marrow in his bones. In the parlor Sarah was sitting on a sofa,
and Maxime de Brevan by her side. They were laughing so loud, that he
heard them in the anteroom. When Malgat entered, she raised her head
with a dissatisfied air, and said rudely,--
"'Ah! It is you. What do you want now?'
"Surely, such a reception ought to have disabused the unfortunate man.
But no! When he began to stammer some explanations, she interrupted
"'Let us speak frankly. You come to run away with me, don't you? Well,
that is simply nonsense. Look at yourself, my good friend, and tell me
if a girl such as I am can be in love with a man like you. As to that
small loan, it does not pay me, I assure you, by half, for the sublime
little comedy which I have had to play. Believe me, at all events,
when I tell you that I have taken all my precautions so as not to be
troubled by anything you may say or do. And now, sir, I wish you good-
evening; or must I go?'
"Ah! she might have spoken a long time yet, and Malgat would not have
thought of interrupting her. The fearful truth broke all of a sudden
upon him; and he felt as if the whole world were going to pieces. He
understood the enormity of the crime; he discerned the fatal
consequences, and knew he was ruined. A thousand voices arose from his
conscience, telling him, 'You are a thief! You are a forger! You are
"But, when he saw Sarah Brandon get up to leave the room, he was
seized with an attack of furious rage, and threw himself upon her,
"'Yes, I am lost; but you shall die, Sarah Brandon!'
"Poor fool! who did not know that these wretches had, of course,
foreseen his wrath, and prepared for the emergency. Supple, like one
of those lost children of the gutter among whom she had lived once
upon a time, Sarah Brandon escaped from Malgat's grasp, and by a
clever trick threw him upon an arm-chair. Before he could rise again,
he was held fast by Maxime de Brevan, and by M. Elgin, who had heard
the noise, and rushed in from the adjoining room.
"The poor man did not attempt to resist. Why should he? Within him,
moreover, a faint hope began to rise. It seemed to him impossible that
such a monstrous wrong could be carried out, and that he would have
only to proclaim the wickedness of these wretches to have them in his
"'Let me go!' he said. 'I must go!'
"But they did not allow him to go as yet. They guessed what was going
on in his mind. Sir Thorn asked him coolly,--
"'Where do you think of going? Do you mean to denounce us? Have a
care! You would only sacrifice yourself, without doing us any harm. If
you think you can use Sarah's letter, in which she appoints a meeting,
as a weapon against us, you are mistaken. She did not write that
letter; and, moreover, she can prove an alibi. You see we have
prepared everything for this business during the last three months;
and nothing has been left to chance. Do not forget that I have
commissioned you twenty times to buy or sell for me on 'Change, and
that it was always done in your name, at my request. How can you say
you did not speculate on 'Change?'
"The poor cashier's heart sank within him. Had he not himself, for
fear lest a suspicion should fall upon Sarah Brandon, told the board
of directors in his letter that he had been tempted by unlucky
speculations? Had he not altered the entries in the books in order to
prove this assertion? Would they believe him if he were to tell the
truth? Whom could he ever hope to persuade that what was probable was
false, and that the improbable was true? Sir Thorn continued with his
"'Have you forgotten the letters which you wrote me for the purpose of
borrowing money from me, and in which you confess your defalcations?
Here they are. You can read them.'
"These letters, M. Champcey, are those which Sarah showed you; and
Malgat was frightened out of his senses. He had never written such
letters; and yet there was his handwriting, imitated with such amazing
perfection, that he began to doubt his own senses and his own reason.
He only saw clearly that no one would look upon them as forgeries.
"Ah! Maxime de Brevan is an artist. His letter to the navy department
has, no doubt, proved it to you.
"Seeing Malgat thus stupefied, Sarah took the word, and said,--
"'Look here, my dear; I'll give you some advice. Here are ten thousand
francs: take them, and run for your life. It is time yet to take the
train for Brussels.'
"But he rose, and said,--
"'No! There is nothing left for me but to die. May my blood come upon
"And he rushed out, pursued by the insulting laugh of the wretches."
Amazed at the inconceivable boldness of this atrocious plot, Daniel
and Henrietta were shuddering with horror. As to Mrs. Bertolle, she
had sunk into a chair, trembling in all her limbs. The old gentleman,
however, continued with evident haste,--
"Whether Malgat did, or did not, commit suicide, he was never heard of
again. The trial came on, and he was condemned /in contumaciam/ to ten
years' penal servitude. Sarah, also, was examined by a magistrate; but
she made it a success.
"And that was all. And this crime, one of the most atrocious ever
conceived by human wickedness, went to swell the long list of
unpunished outrages. The robbers triumphed impudently in broad
daylight. They had four hundred thousand francs. They could retire
"No, indeed! Twenty thousand francs a year was far too little for
their immoderate desires! They accepted this fortune as an installment
on account on the future, and used it to wait patiently for new
victims to be stripped.
"Unfortunately, such victims would not show themselves. The house was
mounted upon a most expensive footing. M. de Brevan had, of course,
claimed his share; Sir Thorn was a gambler; Sarah loved diamonds; and
grim Mrs. Brian had her own vices. In short, the hour came when danger
was approaching; but, just at that moment, Sarah, looking around, met
with the unlucky victim she needed.
"This one was a handsome young man, almost a child yet, kind,
generous, and chivalrous. He was an orphan, and came up from his
province, his heart full of illusions, and in his pockets his entire
fortune,--a sum of five hundred thousand francs. His name was Charles
"Maxime managed to bring him to the house in Circus Street. He saw
Sarah, and was dazzled. He loved her, and was lost.
"Ah! The poor fellow did not last long. At the end of five months, his
half million was in the hands of Sarah. And, when he had not a cent
left, she well-nigh forced him to write her three forged drafts,
swearing, that, on the day on which they became due, she would take
them up herself. But when the day came, and he called in Circus
Street, he was received as Malgat had been received. They told him
that the forgery had been discovered: that suit had been brought; that
he was ruined. They offered him, also, money to flee.
"Poor Kergrist! They had not miscalculated. Descended from a family in
which a keen sense of honor had been hereditary for many generations,
he did not hesitate. As soon as he left the house, he hanged himself
on Sarah's window, thinking that he would thus hold up to public
censure the infamous creature who had led him to commit a crime.
"Poor child! They had deceived him. He was not ruined. The forgery had
never been discovered; the drafts had never been used at all. A
careful investigation revealed nothing against Sarah Brandon; but the
scandals of the suicide diminished her prestige. She felt it; and,
giving up her dreams of greatness, she thought of marrying a fool who
was immensely wealthy, M. Wilkie Gordon, when Sir Thorn spoke to her
of Count Ville-Handry.
"In fortune, name, and age, the count was exactly what Sarah had
dreamed of so often. She threw herself upon him.
"How the old gentleman was drawn to Circus Street; how he was
surrounded, insnared, intoxicated, and finally made a husband--all
that you know but too well, M. Champcey. But what you do not know is
the fact that this marriage brought discord into the camp. M. de
Brevan would not hear of it; and it was the hope he had of breaking it
up, which made him speak to you so frankly of Sarah Brandon. When you
went to ask his advice, he was on bad terms with her: she had turned
him off, and refused to pay him any money. And he was so mortally
offended, that he would have betrayed her to the courts even, if he
had known how to do it without inculpating himself.
"You were the very person to reconcile them again, inasmuch as you
gave Maxime an opportunity of rendering Sarah Brandon a great service.
"He did not then anticipate that she would ever fall in love with you,
and that she, in her turn, would have to succumb to one of those
desperate passions which she had so often kindled in others, and used
for her own advantage. This discovery made him furious; and Sarah's
love, and Maxime's rage, will explain to you the double plot by which
you were victimized. Sarah, who loved you, wanted to get rid of
Henrietta, who was your betrothed: Maxime, stung by jealousy, wanted
you to die."
Visibly overcome by fatigue, Papa Ravinet fell back in his chair, and
remained silent for more than five minutes. Then he seemed to make one
more effort, and went on,--
"Now, let us sum up the whole. I know how Sarah, Sir Thorn, and Mrs.
Brian have gone to work to rob Count Ville-Handry, and to ruin him. I
know what they have done with the millions which they report were lost
in speculations; and I have the evidence in my hand. Therefore, I can
ruin them, without reference to their other crimes. Crochard's
affidavit alone suffices to ruin M. de Brevan. The two Chevassats,
husband and wife, have caught themselves by keeping the four thousand
francs you sent to Miss Henrietta. We have them safe, the wretches!
The hour of vengeance has come at last."
Henrietta did not let him conclude: she interrupted him, saying,--
"And my father, sir, my father?"
"M. Champcey will save him, madam."
Daniel had risen, deeply moved, and now asked,--
"What am I to do?"
"You must call on the Countess Sarah, and look as if you had forgotten
all that has happened,--as far as she is concerned, Miss Henrietta."
The young officer blushed all over, and stammered painfully,--
"Ah, I cannot play that part! I would not be able."
But Henrietta stopped him. Laying her hand on his shoulder, and
looking deep into the eyes of her betrothed, as if to search the very
depths of his conscience, she said,--
"Have you reasons for hesitating?"
He hung his head, and said,--
"I shall go."
It struck two when Daniel jumped out of a carriage before No. 79 in
Peletier Street, where the offices of the Pennsylvania Petroleum
Company were now, and where Count Ville-Handry lived at present.
Never in his life had he felt so embarrassed, or so dissatisfied with
himself. In vain had Papa Ravinet and Mrs. Bertolle brought up all
possible arguments to convince him, that, with a woman like Sarah
Brandon, all reprisals were fair; he would not be convinced.
Unfortunately, he could not refuse to go without risking the peace of
his Henrietta, her confidence, and her whole happiness; so he went as
bravely as he could.
A clerk whom he asked told him that the president was in his rooms,--
in the third story on the left. He went up. The maid who came to open
the door recognized him. It was the same Clarissa who had betrayed
him. When he asked for the count she invited him in. She took him
through an anteroom, dark, and fragrant with odors from the kitchen;
and then, opening a door, she said;--
"Please walk in!"
Before an immense table, covered with papers, sat Count Ville-Handry.
He had grown sadly old. His lower lip hung down, giving him a painful
expression of weakness of mind; and his watery eyes looked almost
senile. Still his efforts to look young had not been abandoned. He was
rouged and dyed as carefully as ever. When he recognized Daniel, he
pushed back his papers; and offering him his hand, as if they had
parted the day before, he said,--
"Ah, here you are back again among us! Upon my word, I am very glad to
see you! We know what you have been doing out there; for my wife sent
me again and again to the navy department to see if there were any
news of you. And you have become an officer of the Legion of Honor!
You ought to be pleased."
"Fortune has favored, me, count."
"Alas! I am sorry I cannot say as much for myself," replied the latter
with a sigh.
"You must be surprised," he continued, "to find me living in such a
dog's kennel, I who formerly-- But so it goes. 'The ups and downs of
speculations,' says Sir Thorn. Look here, my dear Daniel, let me give
you a piece of advice: never speculate in industrial enterprises!
Nowadays it is mere gambling, furious gambling; and everybody cheats.
If you stake a dollar, you are in for everything. That is my story,
and I thought I would enrich my country by a new source of revenue.
From the first day on which I emitted shares, speculators have gotten
hold of them, and have crushed me, till my whole fortune has been
spent in useless efforts to keep them up. And yet Sir Thorn says I
have fought as bravely on this slippery ground as my ancestors did in
Every now and then the poor old man passed his hand over his face as
if trying to drive away painful thoughts; and then he went on in a
different tone of voice,--
"And yet I am far from complaining. My misfortunes have been the
source of the purest and highest happiness for me. It is to them I owe
the knowledge of the boundless devotion of a beloved wife; they have
taught me how dearly Sarah loves me. I alone can tell what treasures
are hid in that angelic heart, which they dared to calumniate. Ah! I
think I can hear her now, when I told her one evening how embarrassed
I had become in my finances.
"'To have concealed that from me!' she exclaimed,--'from me, your
wife: that was wrong!' And the very next day she showed her sublime
courage. She sold her diamonds to bring me the proceeds, and gave up
to me her whole fortune. And, since we are living here, she goes out
on foot, like a simple citizen's wife; and more than once I have
caught her preparing our modest meals with her own hands."
Tears were flowing down the furrowed cheeks, leaving ghastly lines on
the rouged and whitened surface.
"And I," he resumed in an accent of deepest despair,--"I could not
reward her for such love and so many sacrifices. How did I compensate
her for being my only consolation, my joy, my sole happiness in life!
I ruined her; I impoverished her! If I were to die to-morrow, she
would be penniless."
"Ah, count," he exclaimed, "don't speak of dying! People like you live
a hundred years."
But the old man lowered his voice, and said,--
"You see, I have not told you all yet. But you are my friend; and I
know I can open my heart to you. /I/ did not have the--the--
cleverness to overcome all the restrictions which hamper this kind of
business. I was imprudent, in spite of all Sir Thorn's warnings.
To-morrow there will be a meeting of the stockholders; and, if they do
not grant me what I shall have to ask of them, I may be in trouble.
And, when a man calls himself Count Ville-Handry, rather than appear
in a police-court--you know what I mean!"
He was interrupted by one of the clerks, who brought him a letter. He
read it, and said,--
"Tell them I am coming."
Then, turning again to Daniel, he added,--
"I must leave you; but the countess is at home, and she would never
forgive me if I did not take you in to present your respects to her.
Come! But be careful and don't say a word of my troubles. It would
And, before Daniel could recover from his bewilderment, the count had
opened a door, and pushed him into the room, saying,--
"Sarah, M. Champcey."
Sarah started up as if she had received an electric shock. Her husband
had left them; but, even if he had been still in the room, she would
probably not have been any more able to control herself.
"You!" she cried, "Daniel, my Daniel!"
And turning to Mrs. Brian, who was sitting by the window, she said,--
"Your conduct is perfectly shocking, Sarah!" began the grim lady. But
Sarah, as harshly as if she had been speaking to a servant, cut her
"You are in the way, and I beg you will leave the room."
Mrs. Brian did so without saying a word; and the countess sank into an
arm-chair, as if overcome by a sudden good fortune which she was not
able to endure, looking intensely at Daniel, who stood in the centre
of the room like a statue.
She had on a simple black merino dress; she wore no jewelry; but her
marvellous, fatal beauty seemed to be all the more dazzling. The years
had passed over her without leaving any more traces on her than the
spring breeze leaves on a half-opened rose. Her hair still shone with
its golden flashes; her rosy lips smiled sweetly; and her velvet eyes
caressed you still, till hot fire seemed to run in your veins.
Once before Daniel had been thus alone with her; and, as the
sensations he then felt rose in his mind, he began to tremble
violently. Then, thinking of his purpose in coming here, and the
treacherous part he was about to act, he felt a desire to escape.
It was she who broke the charm. She began, saying,--
"You know, I presume, the misfortunes that have befallen us. Your
betrothed, Henrietta? Has the count told you?"
Daniel had taken a chair. He replied,--
"The count has said nothing about his daughter."
"Well, then, my saddest presentiments have been fulfilled. Unhappy
girl! I did what I could to keep her in the right way. But she fell,
step by step, and finally so low, that one day, when a ray of sense
fell upon her mind, she went and killed herself."
It was done. Sarah had overcome the last hesitation which Daniel still
felt. Now he was in the right temper to meet cunning with cunning. He
answered in an admirably-feigned tone of indifference,--
Then, encouraged by the joyous surprise he read in Sarah's face, he
"This expedition has cost me dear. Count Ville-Handry has just
informed me that he has lost his whole fortune. I am in the same
"What! You are"--
"Ruined. Yes; that is to say, I have been robbed,--robbed of every
cent I ever had. On the eve of my departure, I intrusted a hundred
thousand dollars, all I ever possessed, to M. de Brevan, with orders
to hold it at Miss Henrietta's disposal. He found it easier to
appropriate the whole to himself. So, you see, I am reduced to my
pittance of pay as a lieutenant. That is not much."
Sarah looked at Daniel with perfect amazement. In any other man, this
prodigious confidence in a friend would have appeared to her the
extreme of human folly; in Daniel, she thought it was sublime.
"Is that the reason why they have arrested M. de Brevan?" she asked.
Daniel had not heard of his arrest.
"What!" he said. "Maxime"--
"Was arrested last night, and is kept in close confinement."
However well prepared Daniel was by Papa Ravinet's account, he could
never have hoped to manage the conversation as well as chance did. He
"It cannot be for having robbed me. M. de Brevan must have been
arrested for having attempted to murder me."
The lioness who has just been robbed of her whelps does not rise with
greater fury in her eyes than Sarah did when she heard these words.
"What!" she cried aloud. "He has dared touch you!"
"Not personally; oh, no! But he hired for the base purpose a wretched
felon, who was caught, and has confessed everything. I see that the
order to apprehend my friend Maxime must have reached here before me,
although it left Saigon some time later than I did."
Might not M. de Brevan be as cowardly as Crochard when he saw that all
was lost? This idea, one would think, would have made Sarah tremble.
But it never occurred to her.
"Ah, the wretch!" she repeated. "The scoundrel, the rascal!"
And, sitting down by Daniel, she asked him to tell her all the details
of these attempted assassinations, from which he had escaped only by a
The Countess Sarah, in fact, never doubted for a moment but that
Daniel was as madly in love with her as Planix, as Malgat, and
Kergrist, and all the others, had been, she had become so accustomed
to find her beauty irresistible and all powerful. How could it ever
have occurred to her, that this man, the very first whom she loved
sincerely, should also be the first and the only one to escape from
her snares? She was taken in, besides, by the double mirage of love
and of absence.
During the last two years she had so often evoked the image of Daniel,
she had so constantly lived with him in her thoughts, that she mistook
the illusion of her desires for the reality, and was no longer able to
distinguish between the phantom of her dreams and the real person.
In the meantime he entertained her by describing to her his actual
position, lamenting over the treachery by which he had been ruined,
and adding how hard he would find it at thirty to begin the world
And she, generally, so clearsighted, was not surprised to find that
this man, who had been disinterestedness itself, should all of a
sudden deplore his losses so bitterly, and value money so highly.
"Why do you not marry a rich woman?" she suddenly asked him.
He replied with a perfection of affected candor which he would not
have suspected to be in his power the day before,--
"What? Do you--you, Sarah--give me such advice?"
He said it so naturally, and with such an air of aggrieved surprise,
that she was delighted and carried away by it, as if he had made her
the most passionate avowal.
"You love me? Do you really, really love me?"
The sound of a key turning in the door interrupted them.
And in an undertone, speaking passionately, she said,--
"Go now! You shall know by to-morrow who she is whom I have chosen for
you. Come and breakfast with us at eleven o'clock. Go now."
And, kissing him on his lips till they burnt with unholy fire, she
pushed him out of the room.
The poor man staggered like a drunken man, as he went down the stairs.
"I am playing an abominable game," he said to himself. "She does love
me! What a woman!"
It required nothing less to rouse him from his stupor than the sight
of Papa Ravinet, who was waiting for him below, hid in a corner of his
"Is it you?" he said.
"Yes, myself. And it seems it was well I came. But for me, the count
would have kept you; but I came to your rescue by sending him up a
letter. Now, tell me all."
Daniel reported to him briefly, while they were driving along, his
conversation with the count and with Sarah. When he had concluded, the
old dealer exclaimed,--
"We have the whole matter in our hands now. But there is not a minute
to lose. Do you go back to the hotel, and wait for me there. I must go
to the court."
At the hotel Daniel found Henrietta dying with anxiety. Still she only
asked after her father. Was it pride, or was it prudence? She did not
mention Sarah's name. They had, however, not much time for
conversation. Papa Ravinet came back sooner than they expected, all
busy and excited. He drew Daniel aside to give him his last
directions, and did not leave him till midnight, when he went away,
"The ground is burning under our feet; be punctual to-morrow."
At the precise hour Daniel presented himself in Peletier Street, where
the count received him with a delighted air.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "you come just in time. Brian is away; Sir Thorn
is out on business; and I shall have to leave you directly after
breakfast. You must keep the countess company. Come, Sarah, let us
It was an ill-omened breakfast.
Under the thick layers of rouge, the count showed his livid pallor;
and every moment nervous tremblings shook him from head to foot. The
countess affected childish happiness; but her sharp and sudden
movements betrayed the storm that was raging in her heart. Daniel
noticed that she incessantly filled the count's glass,--a strong wine
it was too,--and that, in order to make him take more, she drank
herself an unusual quantity.
It struck twelve, and Count Ville-Handry got up.
"Well," he said with the air and the voice of a man who braces himself
to mount the scaffold, "it must be done; they are waiting for me."
And, after having kissed his wife with passionate tenderness, he shook
hands with Daniel, and went out hurriedly.
Crimson and breathless, Sarah also had risen, and was listening
attentively. And, when she was quite sure that the count had gone
downstairs, she said,--
"Now, Daniel, look at me! Need I tell you who the woman is whom I have
chosen for you? It is--the Countess Ville-Handry."
He shook and trembled; but he controlled himself by a supreme effort,
and calmly smiling, in a half tender, half ironical tone, he
"Why, oh, why! do you speak to me of unattainable happiness? Are you
"I may be a widow."
These words from her lips had a fearful meaning. But Daniel was
prepared for them, and said,--
"To be sure you may. But, unfortunately, you, also, are ruined. You
are as poor as I am; and we are too clever to think of joining poverty
She looked at him with a strange, sinister smile. She was evidently
hesitating. A last ray of reason lighted up the abyss at her feet. But
she was drunk with pride and passion; she had taken a good deal of
wine; and her usually cool head was in a state of delirium.
"And if I were not ruined?" she said at last in a hoarse voice; "what
would you say then?"
"I should say that you are the very woman of whom an ambitious man of
thirty might dream in his most glorious visions."
She believed him. Yes, she was capable of believing that what he said
was true; and, throwing aside all restraint, she went on,--
"Well, then, I will tell you. I am rich,--immensely rich. That entire
fortune which once belonged to Count Ville-Handry, and which he thinks
has been lost in unlucky speculations,--the whole of it is in my
hands. Ah! I have suffered horribly, to have to play for two long
years the loving wife to this decrepit old man. But I thought of you,
my much beloved, my Daniel; and that thought sustained me. I knew you
would come back; and I wanted to have royal treasures to give you. And
I have them. These much coveted millions are mine, and you are here;
and now I can say to you, 'Take them, they are yours; I give them to
you as I give myself to you.'"
She had drawn herself up to her full height as she said this; and she
looked splendid and fearful at the same time, in her matchless beauty,
diffusing energy and immodesty around her, and shaking her head
defiantly, till the waves of golden hair flowed over her shoulders.
The untamed vagabond of the gutter reappeared all of a sudden,
breathless and trembling, hoarse, lusting.
Daniel felt as if his reason was giving way. Still he had the strength
"But unfortunately you are not a widow."
She drew close up to him, and said in a strident voice,--
"Not a widow? Do you know what Count Ville-Handry is doing at this
moment? He is beseeching his stockholders to relieve him from the
effects of his mismanagement. If they refuse him, he will be brought
up in court, and tried as a defaulter. Well, I tell you! they will
refuse him; for among the largest stockholders there are three who
belong to me: I have bribed them to refuse. What do you think the
count will do when he finds himself dishonored and disgraced? I will
tell you again; for I have seen him write his will, and load his
But the door of the outer room was opened. She turned as pale as death
itself, and, seizing Daniel's arm violently, she whispered,--
Heavy steps were heard in the adjoining room, then--nothing more!
"It is he!" she whispered again. "Our fate is hanging in the scales"--
A shot was heard, which made the window-panes rattle, and cut her
short. She was seized with spasms from head to foot, but, making a
great effort, she cried out,--
"Free at last, Daniel; we are free!"
And, rushing to the door, she opened it.
She opened it, but instantly shut it again violently, and uttered a
On the threshold stood Count Ville-Handry, his features terribly
distorted, a smoking revolver in his hand.
"No," he said, "Sarah, no, you are not free!"
Livid, and with eyeballs starting from their sockets, the wretched
woman had shrunk back to a door which opened from the dining-room
directly into her chamber.
She was not despairing yet.
It was evident she was looking for one of those almost incredible
excuses which are sometimes accepted by credulous old men when violent
passions seize them in their dotage.
She abandoned the thought, however, when the count stepped forward,
and thus allowed Papa Ravinet to be seen behind him.
"Malgat!" she cried,--"Malgat!"
She held out her hands before her as if to push aside a spectre that
had suddenly risen from the grave, and was now opening its arms to
seize her, and carry her off.
In the meantime Malgat came forward, with Henrietta leaning on Mrs.
"She also," muttered Sarah,--"she too!"
The terrible truth broke at last upon her mind: she saw the snare in
which she had been caught, and felt that she was lost. Then turning to
Daniel, she said to him,--
"Poor man! Who has made you do this? It was not in your loyal heart to
plan such treachery against a woman. Are you mad? And do you not see,
that for the privilege of being loved by me as I love you, and were it
but for a day, Malgat would again rob his employers, and the count
would again give all his millions, and his honor itself?"
She said this; but at the same time she had slipped one of her hands
behind her back, and was feeling for the knob of the door. She got
hold of it, and instantly disappeared, before any one could have
prevented her escape.
"Never mind!" said Malgat. "All the outer doors are guarded."
But she had not meant to escape. There she was again, pale and cold
like marble. She looked defiantly all around her, and said in a
mocking tone of voice,--
"I have loved; and now I can die. That is just. I have loved. Ah!
Planix, Malgat, and Kergrist ought to have taught me what becomes of
people who really love."
Then looking at Daniel, she went on,--
"And you--you will know what you have lost when I am no more. I may
die; but the memory of my love will never die: it will rankle ever in
you like a wound which opens daily afresh, and becomes constantly
sorer. You triumph now, Henrietta; but remember, that between your
lips and Daniel's there will forever rise the shadow of Sarah
As she said the last words, she raised a small phial, which she held
in her hand, with an indescribably swift movement to her lips: she
drank the contents, and, sinking into a chair, said,--
"Now I defy you all!"
"Ah, she escapes after all!" exclaimed Malgat, "she escapes from
justice!" He rushed forward to assist her; but Daniel stepped between,
"Let her die."
Already horrible convulsions began to seize her; and the penetrating
smell of bitter almonds, which slowly filled the whole room, told but
too plainly that the poison which she had taken was one of those from
which there is no rescue.
She was carried to her bed; and in less than ten minutes she was dead:
she had never uttered another word.
Henrietta and Mrs. Bertolle were kneeling by the side of the bed, and
the count was sobbing in a corner of the room, when a police-sergeant
"The woman Brian is not to be found," he said; "but M. Elgin has been
arrested. Where is the Countess Ville-Handry?"
Daniel pointed at the body.
"Dead?" said the officer. "Then I have nothing more to do here."
He was going out, when Malgat stopped him.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said. "I wish to state that I am not
Ravinet, dealer in curiosities; but that my true name is Malgat,
formerly cashier of the Mutual Discount Society, sentenced /in
contumaciam/ to ten years' penal servitude. I am ready to be tried,
and place myself in your hands."
The magistrate from Saigon saw his hopes fulfilled, and, thanks to his
promotion, was commissioned to continue the trial which he had so ably
commenced. After the jury had brought in their verdict of guilty, he
sentenced Justin Chevassat, alias Maxime de Brevan, to penal servitude
Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, got off with twenty years; and the two
Chevassats escaped with ten years' solitary confinement.
The trial of Thomas Elgin, which came on during the same term,
revealed a system of swindling which was so strikingly bold and
daring, that it appeared at first sight almost incredible. It excited
especial surprise when it was found out that he had issued false
shares, which he made Count Ville-Handry buy in, so as to ruin, by the
same process, the count as an individual, and the company over which
he presided. He was sent for twenty years to the penitentiary.
These scandalous proceedings had one good result. They saved the poor
count; but they revealed, at the same time, such prodigious unfitness
for business, that people began to suspect how dependent he must have
been on his first wife, Henrietta's mother. He remained, however,
relatively poor. They had made Thomas Elgin refund, and had even
obtained possession of Sarah Brandon's fortune; but the count was
called upon to make amends for his want of business capacity. When he
had satisfied all his creditors, and handed over to his daughter a
part of her maternal inheritance, he had hardly more than six thousand
dollars a year left.
Of the whole "band," Mrs. Brian alone escaped.
Malgat, having surrendered to justice with the prescribed limits of
time to purge himself, was tried, and the whole process begun anew.
But the trial was naturally a mere form. His own lawyer had very
little to say. The state attorney himself made his defense. After
having fully explained the circumstances which had led the poor
cashier to permit a crime, rather than to commit it himself, the
attorney said to the jury,--
"Now, gentlemen, that you have learned what was the wrong of which he
is guilty, you ought also to know how he has expiated his crime.
"When he left the miserable woman who had ruined him, maddened by
grief, and determined to end his life, Malgat went home. There he
found his sister.
"She was one of those women who have religiously preserved the
domestic virtues of our forefathers, and who know of no compromise in
questions of honor.
"She had soon forced her brother to confess his fatal secret, and,
overcoming the horror she naturally felt, she found words, inspired by
her excellent heart, which moved him, and led him to reconsider his
resolve. She told him that suicide was but an additional crime, and
that he was in honor bound to live, so that he might make amends, and
restore the money he had stolen."
"Hope began to rise once more in his heart, and filled him with
unexpected energy. And yet what obstacles he had to encounter! How
could he ever hope to return four hundred thousand francs. How should
he go about to earn so much money? and where? How could he do
anything, now that he was compelled to live in concealment?
"Do you know, gentlemen, what this sister did in her almost sublime
devotion? She had a moderate income from state bonds; she sold them
all, and carried the proceeds to the president of the Mutual Discount
Society, begging him to be patient as to the remainder, and promising
that he should be repaid, capital and interest alike. She asked for
nothing but secrecy; and he pledged himself to secrecy.
"And from that day, gentlemen of the jury, the brother and the sister
have lived like the poorest laborers, working incessantly, and denying
themselves everything but what was indispensable for life itself.
"And this day, gentlemen, Malgat owes nothing to the society; he has
paid everything. He fell once; but he has risen again. And this place
in court, where he now sits as a prisoner, will become to him a place
of honor, in which he will recover his position in society, and his
Malgat was acquitted.
The marriage of Henrietta, Countess Ville-Handry, and Lieut. Daniel
Champcey, was celebrated at the Church of St. Clothilda. Daniel's
groomsmen were Malgat and the old chief surgeon of the frigate
"Conquest." Several persons noticed that the bride wore, contrary to
usage, a dress of embroidered muslin. It was the robe which Henrietta
had so often covered with her tears, at the time when, having no bread
for the morrow, she had tried to live by the work of her hands. Malgat
had hunted it up, and bought it: the precious dress was his wedding-