Part 2 out of 11
stammered out at last. "I am old; I may die; we have no near
relations; what would become of you without a friend?"
She blushed crimson; but she said timidly,--
"But, papa, there is M. Daniel Champcey."
The count's eyes shone with delight as he saw that she was falling
into the pit he had dug for her. The poor girl went on,--
"I thought--I had hoped--poor mamma had told me--in fact, since you
had allowed M. Daniel to come here"--
"You thought I intended to make him my son-in-law?"
She made no answer.
"That was in fact the idea your mother had. She had certainly very odd
notions, against which I had to use the whole strength of my firm
will. A sailor is a sorry kind of husband, my dear child; a word from
his minister may part him for years from his wife."
Henrietta remained silent. She began to understand the nature of the
bargain which her father proposed to her, and it made her indignant.
He thought he had said enough for this time, and left her with these
"Consider, my child; for my part, I will also think of it."
What should she do? There were a hundred ways; but which to choose?
Finding herself alone, she took a pen, and for the first time in her
life she wrote to Daniel:--
"I must speak to you /instantly/. Pray come.
She gave the letter to a servant, ordering him to carry it at once to
its address; and then she waited in a state of feverish anxiety,
counting the minutes.
Daniel Champcey had, in a house not far from the university, three
rooms, the windows of which looked out upon the gardens of an
adjoining mansion, where the flowers bloomed brilliantly, and the
birds sang joyously. There he spent almost all the time which was not
required by his official duties. A walk in company with his friend,
Maxime de Brevan; a visit to the theatre, when a particularly fine
piece was to be given; and two or three calls a week at Count Ville-
Handry's house,--these were his sole and certainly very harmless
"A genuine old maid, that sailor is," said the concierge of the house.
The truth is, that, if Daniel's natural refinement had not kept him
from contact with what Parisians call "pleasure," his ardent love for
Henrietta would have prevented his falling into bad company. A pure,
noble love, such as his, based upon perfect confidence in her to whom
it is given, is quite sufficient to fill up a life; for it makes the
present delightful, and paints the distant horizon of the future in
all the bright colors of the rainbow.
But, the more he loved Henrietta, the more he felt bound to be worthy
of her, and to deserve her affections. He was not ambitious. He had
chosen a profession which he loved. He had a considerable fortune of
his own, and was thus, by his private income and his pay as an
officer, secured against want. What more could he desire? Nothing for
But Henrietta belonged to a great house; she was the daughter of a man
who had filled a high position; she was immensely rich; and, even if
he had married her only with her own fortune, she would have brought
him ten times as much as he had. Daniel did not want Henrietta, on the
blessed day when she should become his own, to have any thing to wish
for or to regret. Hence he worked incessantly, indefatigably, waking
up every morning anew with the determination to make himself one of
those names which weigh more than the oldest parchments, and to win
one of those positions which make a wife as proud as she is fond of
her husband. Fortunately, the times were favorable to his ambition.
The French navy was in a state of transformation; but the marine was
as yet unreformed, waiting, apparently, for the hand of a man of
And why might not he be that man? Supported by his love, he saw
nothing impossible in that thought, and fancied he could overcome all
"Do you see that d---- little fellow, there, with his quiet ways?"
said Admiral Penhoel to his young officers. "Well, look at him; he'll
checkmate you all."
Daniel was busy in his study, finishing a paper for the minister, when
the count's servant came and brought him Henrietta's letter. He knew
that something extraordinary must have happened to induce Henrietta,
with her usual reserve, to take such a step, and, above all, to write
to him in such brief but urgent terms.
"Has any thing happened at the house?" he asked the servant.
"No, sir, not that I know."
"The count is not sick?"
"And Miss Henrietta?"
"My mistress is perfectly well."
Daniel breathed more freely.
"Tell Miss Henrietta I am coming at once; and make haste, or I shall
be there before you."
As soon as the servant had left, Daniel dressed, and a moment later he
was out of the house. As he walked rapidly up the street in which the
count lived, he thought,--
"I have no doubt taken the alarm too soon; perhaps she has only some
commission for me."
But he was beset with dark presentiments, and had to tell himself that
that was not likely to be the case. He felt worse than ever, when,
upon being shown into the drawing-room, he saw Henrietta sitting by
the fire, deadly pale, with her eyes all red and inflamed from
"What is the matter with you?" he cried, without waiting for the door
to be closed behind him. "What has happened?"
"Something terrible, M. Daniel."
"Tell me, pray, what. You frighten me."
"My father is going to marry again."
At first Daniel was amazed. Then, recalling at once the gradual
transformation of the count, he said,--
"Oh, oh, oh! That explains every thing."
But Henrietta interrupted him; and, making a great effort, she
repeated to him in a half-stifled voice almost literally her
conversation with her father. When she had ended, Daniel said,--
"You have guessed right, Miss Henrietta. Your father evidently does
propose to you a bargain."
"Ah! but that is horrible."
"He wanted you to understand, that, if you would consent to his
marriage, he would consent"--
Shocked at what he was going to add, he stopped; but Henrietta said
"To ours, you mean,--to ours? Yes, so I understood it; and that was my
reason for sending for you to advise me."
Poor fellow! She was asking him to seal his fate.
"I think you ought to consent!" he stammered out.
She rose, trembling with indignation, and replied,--
Daniel was overcome by this sudden shock. Never. He saw all his hopes
dashed in an instant, his life's happiness destroyed forever,
Henrietta lost to him. But the very imminence of the danger restored
to him his energy. He mastered his grief, and said in an almost calm
"I beseech you, let me explain to you why I advised you so. Believe
me, your father does not want your consent at all. You cannot do
without his consent; but he can marry without asking you for yours.
There is no law which authorizes children to oppose the follies of
their parents. What your father wants is your silent approval, the
certainty that his new wife will be kindly received. If you refuse, he
will go on, nevertheless, and not mind your objections."
"I am, unfortunately, but too sure of that. If he spoke to you of his
plans, you may be sure he had made up his mind. Your resistance will
lead only to our separation. He might possibly forgive you; but she--
Don't you think she should avail herself to the utmost of her
influence over him? Who can foresee to what extremities she might be
led by her hatred against you? And she must be a dangerous woman,
Henrietta, a woman who is capable of any thing."
He hesitated for a moment, not daring to speak out fully what he
thought; and at last he said slowly, as if weighing his words,--
"Because, because this marriage cannot be any thing else but a
barefaced speculation. Your father is immensely rich; she wants his
Daniel's reasoning was so sensible, and he pleaded his cause with such
eagerness, that Henrietta's resolution was evidently shaken.
"You want me to yield?" she asked.
"I beseech you to do it."
She shook her head sadly, and said in a tone of utter dejection,--
"Very well. It shall be done as you wish it. I shall not object to
this profanation. But you may be sure, my weakness will do us no
It struck ten. She rose, offered her hand to Daniel, and said,--
"I will see you to-morrow evening. By that time I shall know, and I
will tell you, the name of the woman whom father is going to marry;
for I shall ask him who she is."
She was spared that trouble. Next morning, the first words of the
"Well, have you thought it over?"
She looked at him till he felt compelled to turn his head away; and
then she replied in a tone of resignation,--
"Father, you are master here. I should not tell you the truth, if I
said I was not going to suffer cruelly at the idea of a stranger
coming here to-- But I shall receive her with all due respect."
Ah! The count was not prepared for such a speedy consent.
"Do not speak of respect," he said. "Tell me that you will be tender,
affectionate, and kind. Ah, if you knew her, Henrietta! She is an
"What is her age?"
The count read in his daughter's face that she thought his new wife
much too young for him; and therefore he added, quickly,--
"Your mother was two years younger when I married her."
That was so; but he forgot that that was twenty years ago.
"However," he added, "you will see her; I shall ask her to let me
present you to her. She /is/ a foreigner, of excellent family, very
rich, marvellously clever and beautiful; and her name is Sarah
That evening, when Henrietta told Daniel the name of her future
mother-in-law, he started with an air of utter despair, and said,--
"Great God! If Maxime de Brevan is not mistaken, that is worse than
any thing we could possibly anticipate."
When Henrietta saw how the young officer was overcome by the mere
mention of that name, Sarah Brandon, she felt the blood turn to ice in
her veins. She knew perfectly well that a man like Daniel was not
likely to be so utterly overwhelmed unless there was something
fearful, unheard of, in the matter.
"Do you know the woman, Daniel?"
But he, regretting his want of self-possession, was already thinking
how he could make amends for his imprudence.
"I swear to you," he began.
"Oh, don't swear! I see you know who she is."
"I know nothing about her."
"It is true I have heard people talk of her once, a /long time ago/."
"One of my friends, Maxime de Brevan, a fine, noble fellow."
"What sort of a woman is she?"
"Ah, me! that I cannot tell you. Maxime happened to mention her just
in passing; and I never thought that one of these days I should-- If I
seemed to be so very much surprised just now, it was because I
remembered, all of a sudden, a very ugly story in which Maxime said
she had been involved, and then"--
He was ridiculous in his inability to tell a fib; so, when he found
that he was talking nonsense, he turned his head away to avoid
Henrietta's eyes. She interrupted him, and said reproachfully,--
"Do you really think I am not strong enough to hear the truth?"
At first he did not reply. Overcome by the strange position in which
he found himself, he looked for a way to escape, and found none. At
last he said,--
"Miss Henrietta, you must give me time before I tell you any more. I
know nothing positive; and I dare say I am unnecessarily alarmed. I
will tell you all as soon as I am better informed."
"When will that be?"
"To-night, if I can find Maxime de Brevan at home, as I hope I shall
do; if I miss him, you must wait till to-morrow."
"And if your suspicions turn out to be well founded; if what you fear,
and hide from me now, is really so,--what must I do then?"
Without a moment's hesitation, he rose and said in a solemn voice,--
"I am not going to tell you again how I love you, Henrietta; I am not
going to tell you that to lose you would be death to me, and that in
our family we do not value life very highly; you know that, don't you?
But, in spite of all that, if my fears should be well founded, as I
apprehend they are, I should not hesitate to say to you, whatever
might be the consequences, Henrietta, and even if we should have to
part forever, we must try our utmost, we must employ all possible
means in our power, to prevent a marriage between Count Ville-Handry
and Sarah Brandon."
In spite of all her sufferings, Henrietta felt her heart bounding with
unspeakable happiness and joy. Ah! he deserved to be loved,--this man
whom her heart had freely chosen among them all,--this man who gave
her such an overwhelming proof of his love. She offered him her hand;
and, with her eyes beaming with enthusiasm and tenderness, she said,--
"And I, I swear by the sacred memory of my mother, that whatever may
happen, and whatever force they may choose to employ, I shall never
belong to any one but to you."
Daniel had seized her hand, and held it for some time pressed to his
lips. At last, when his rapture gave way to calmer thoughts, he
"I must leave you at once, Henrietta, if I want to catch Maxime."
As he left, his head was in a whirl, his thoughts in a maze. His life
and his happiness were at stake; and a single word would decide his
fate in spite of all he could do.
A cab was passing; he hailed it, jumped in, and cried to the driver,--
"Go quick, I say! You shall have five francs! No. 61 Rue Laffitte!"
That was the house where Maxime de Brevan lived.
He was a man of thirty or thirty-five years, remarkably well made,
light-haired, wearing a full beard, with a bright eye, and pleasing
face. Mixing on intimate terms with the men who make up what is called
high life, and with whom pleasure is the only occupation, he was very
popular with them all. They said he was a man that could always be
relied upon, at all times ready to render you a service when it was in
his power, a pleasant companion, and an excellent second whenever a
friend had to fight a duel.
In fine, neither slander nor calumny had ever attacked his reputation.
And yet, far from following the advice of the philosopher, who tells
us to keep our life from the eye of the public, Maxime de Brevan
seemed to take pains to let everybody into his secrets. He was so
anxious to tell everybody where he had been, and what he had been
doing, that you might have imagined he was always preparing to prove
Thus he told the whole world that the Brevans came originally from the
province of Maine, and that he was the last, the sole representative,
of that old family. Not that he prided himself particularly on his
ancestors; he acknowledged frankly that there was very little left of
their ancient splendor; in fact, nothing but a bare support. But he
never said what this "support" amounted to; his most intimate friends
could not tell whether he had one thousand or ten thousand a year. So
much only was certain, that, to his great honor and glory, he had
solved the great problem of preserving his independence and his
dignity while associating, a comparatively poor man, with the richest
young men of Paris.
His rooms were simple and unpretending; and he kept but a single
servant--his carriage he hired by the month.
How had Maxime Brevan become Daniel's friend? In the simplest possible
way. They had been introduced to each other at a great ball by a
common friend of theirs, a lieutenant in the navy. About one o'clock
in the morning they had gone home together; and as the moon was
shining brightly, the weather was mild, and the walking excellent,
they had loitered about the Place de la Concorde while smoking their
Had Maxime really felt such warm sympathy for his friend? Perhaps so.
At all events, Daniel had been irresistibly attracted by the peculiar
ways of Maxime, and especially by the cool stoicism with which he
spoke of his genteel poverty. Then they had met again, and finally
Brevan was just dressing for the opera when Daniel entered his room.
He uttered a cry of delight when he saw him, as he always did.
"What!" he said, "the hermit student from the other side of the river
in this worldly region, and at this hour? What good wind blows you
Then, suddenly noticing Daniel's terrified appearance, he added,--
"But what am I talking about? You look frightened out of your wits.
What's the matter?"
"A great misfortune, I fear," replied Daniel.
"How so? What is it?"
"And I want you to help me."
"Don't you know that I am at your service?"
Daniel certainly thought so.
"I thank you in advance, my dear Maxime; but I do not wish to give you
too much trouble. I have a long story to tell you, and you are just
But Brevan interrupted him, shaking his head kindly, and saying,--
"I was only going out for want of something better to do, upon my
word! So sit down, and tell me all."
Daniel had been so overcome by terror, and the fear that he might
possibly lose Henrietta, that he had run to his friend without
considering what he was going to tell him. Now, when the moment came
to speak, he was silent. The thought had just occurred to him, that
Count Ville-Handry's secret was not his own, and that he was in duty
bound not to betray it, if possible, even if he could have absolutely
relied upon his friend's discretion.
He did not reply, therefore, but walked up and down the room, seeking
in vain some plausible excuse, and suffering perfect agony. This
continued so long, that Maxime, who had of late heard much of diseases
of the brain, asked himself if Daniel could possibly have lost his
No; for suddenly his friend stopped before him, and said in a short,
"First of all, Maxime, swear that you will never, under any
circumstances, say to any human being a word of what I am going to
Thoroughly mystified, Brevan raised his hand, and said,--
"I pledge my word of honor!"
This promise seemed to re-assure Daniel; and, when he thought he had
recovered sufficient control over himself, he said,--
"Some months ago, my dear friend, I heard you telling somebody a
horrible story concerning a certain Mrs. Sarah Brandon"--
"Miss, if you please, not Mrs."
"Well, it does not matter. You know her?"
"Certainly. Everybody knows her."
Daniel did not notice the extreme self-conceit with which these words
"All right, then. Now, Maxime, I conjure you, by our friendship, tell
me frankly what you think of her. What kind of a woman is this Miss
His features, as well as his voice, betrayed such extreme excitement,
that Brevan was almost stunned. At last he said,--
"But, my dear fellow, you ask me that in a manner"--
"I must know the truth, I tell you. It is of the utmost importance to
Brevan, struck by a sudden thought, touched his forehead, and
"Oh, I see! You are in love with Sarah!"
Daniel would never have thought of such a subterfuge in order to avoid
mentioning the name of Count Ville-Handry; but, seeing it thus offered
to him, he determined to profit by the opportunity.
"Well, yes, suppose it is so," he said with a sigh.
Maxime raised his hands to heaven, and said in a tone of painful
"In that case you are right. You ought to inquire; for you may be
close upon a terrible misfortune."
"Ah, is she really so formidable?"
Maxime shrugged his shoulders, as if he were impatient at being called
upon to prove a well-known fact, and said,--
"I should think so."
There seemed to be no reason why Daniel should persist in his
questions after that. Those words ought to have been explanation
enough. Nevertheless he said in a subdued voice,--
"Pray explain, Maxime! Don't you know, that, as I lead a very quiet
life, I know nothing?"
Brevan, looking more serious than he had ever done, rose and replied,
leaning against the mantlepiece,--
"What would you have me tell you? It is only fools who call out to
lovers to beware; and to warn a man who will not be warned, is
useless. Are you really in love with Miss Sarah, or are you not? If
you are, nothing that I could say would change your mind. Suppose I
were to tell you that this Sarah is a wretched creature, an infamous
forger, who has already the death of three poor devils on her
conscience, who loved her as you do? Suppose I told you worse things
than these, and could prove them? Do you know what would happen? You
would press my hand with effusion. You would overwhelm me with thanks,
tears in your eye. You would vow, in the candor of your heart, that
you are forever cured, and, when you leave me"--
"You would rush to your beloved, tell her all I said, and beseech her
to clear herself of all these charges."
"I beg your pardon; I am not one of those men who"--
But Brevan was getting more and more excited. He interrupted his
friend, and said,--
"Nonsense! You are a man like all other men. Passion does not reason,
does not calculate; and that is the secret of its strength. As long as
we have a spark of commonsense left, we are not really in love. That
is so, I tell you; and no will, no amount of energy, can do any thing
with it. There are people who tell you soberly that they have been in
love without losing their senses, and reproach you for not keeping
cool. Bosh! Those people remind me of still champagne blaming
sparkling champagne for popping off the cork. And now, my dear fellow,
have the kindness to accept this cigar, and let us take a walk."
Was that really so as Brevan said? Was it true that real love destroys
in us the faculty of reasoning, and of distinguishing truth from
falsehood? Did he really not love Henrietta truly, because he was on
the point of giving her up for the sake of doing his duty?
Oh, no, no! Brevan had been speaking of another kind of love,--a love
neither pure nor chaste. He spoke of those passions which suddenly
strike us down like lightning; which confound our senses, and mislead
our judgment; which destroy every thing, as fire does, and leave
nothing behind but disaster and disgrace and remorse.
But all the more painful became Daniel's thoughts as he remembered
that Count Ville-Handry was overcome by one of these terrible passions
for a worthless creature. He could not accept Maxime's offer.
"One word, I pray you," he said. "Suppose I lose my free will, and
surrender absolutely; what will become of me?"
Brevan looked at him with an air of pity, and said,--
"Not much will happen to you; only"--
And then he added with almost sternness, mixed with bitter sarcasm,--
"You ask me for your horoscope? Be it so. Have you a large fortune?"
"About fifty thousand dollars."
"Well, in six months they will be gone; in a year you will be
overwhelmed with debts, and at your wits' end; in less than a year and
a half, you will have become a forger."
"Ah! You asked me to tell you the truth. Then, as to your social
position. Now it is excellent; you have been promoted as rapidly as
merit could claim, everybody says. You will be an admiral one of these
days. But in six months you will be nothing at all; you will have
resigned your commission, or you will have been dismissed."
"No. You are an honest man, the most honorable man I know; after six
months' acquaintance with Sarah Brandon, you will have lost your self-
respect so completely, that you will have become a drunkard. There is
your picture. 'It's not flattered!' you will say. But you wanted to
have it. And now let us go."
This time he was determined; and Daniel saw that he would not obtain
another word from him, unless he changed his tactics. He held him
back, therefore, a moment; and, as he opened the door, he said,--
"Maxime, you must pardon me a very innocent deception, which was
suggested by your own words. It is not I who am in love with Miss
Brevan was so much surprised, he could not stir.
"Who is it, then?" he asked.
"One of my friends."
"I wish you would render the service I ask of you doubly valuable by
not asking me that question,--at least, not to-day."
Daniel spoke with such an accent of truth, that not a shadow of doubt
remained on Maxime's mind. It was not Daniel who had fallen in love
with Sarah Brandon. Brevan did not doubt that for a moment. But he
could not conceal his trouble, and his disappointment even, as he
"Well done, Daniel! Tell me that your ingenuous people cannot deceive
However, he said nothing more about it; and, while Daniel was pouring
out his excuses, he quietly went back to the fire, and sat down. After
a moment's silence, he began again,--
"Let us assume, then, that it is one of your friends who is
"And the matter is--serious?"
"Alas! He talks of marrying that woman."
Maxime shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, and said,--
"As to that, console yourself. Sarah will never consent."
"So far from that, she herself has made the suggestion."
This time, Maxime raised his head suddenly, and looked stupefied.
"Then your friend must be very rich."
"He is immensely rich."
"He bears a great name, and holds a high position?"
"His name is one of the oldest and noblest in the province of Anjou."
"And he is a very old man?"
"He is sixty-five."
Brevan struck the marble slab of the mantlepiece with his fist so that
it shook, and exclaimed,--
"Ah, she told me she would succeed!"
And then he added in a very low tone of voice, as if speaking to
himself with an indescribable accent of mingled admiration and
"What a woman! Oh, what a woman!"
Daniel, who was himself greatly excited, and far too busy with his own
thoughts to observe what was going on, did not notice the excitement
of his friend; he continued quietly,--
"Now you will understand my great curiosity. In order to prevent the
scandal of such a marriage, my friend's family would do every thing in
the world. But how can you attack a woman of whose antecedents and
mode of life nothing is known?"
"Yes, I understand," said Brevan,--"I understand."
His features betrayed that he was making a great mental effort. He
remained for some time absorbed in his thoughts; and at last he said,
as if coming to a decision,--
"No, I do not see any way to prevent this marriage; none at all."
"Still, from what you told me"--
"About the cupidity of this woman."
"If she were offered a large sum, some eighty or a hundred thousand
Maxime laughed out loud; but there was not the true ring in his
"You might offer her two hundred thousand, and she would laugh at you.
Do you think she would be fool enough to content herself with a
fraction of a fortune, if she can have the whole, with a great name
and a high position into the bargain?"
Daniel opened his lips to present another suggestion; but Maxime,
laying aside his usual half-dreamy, mocking manner, said, as if roused
by a matter of great personal interest,--
"You do not understand me, my dear friend. Miss Brandon is not one of
those vulgar hawks, who, in broad daylight, seize upon a poor pigeon,
pluck it alive, and cast it aside, still living, and bleeding all
"Then, Maxime, she must be"--
"Well, I tell you you misapprehend her. Miss Brandon"--
He stopped suddenly, and looking at Daniel with a glance with which a
judge examines the features of a criminal, he added in an almost
"By telling you what little I know about her, Daniel, I give you the
highest proof of confidence which one man can give to another. I love
you too dearly to exact your promise to be discreet. If you ever
mention my name in connection with this affair, if you ever let any
one suspect that you learned what I am going to tell you from me, you
will dishonor yourself."
Daniel, deeply moved, seized his friend's hand, and, pressing it most
"Ah, you know Daniel Champcey is to be relied upon."
Maxime knew it; for he continued,--
"Miss Sarah Brandon is one of those female cosmopolitan adventurers,
whom steam brings nowadays to us from all the four quarters of the
world. Like so many others, she, also, has come to Paris to spread her
net, and catch her birds, But she is made of finer stuff than most of
them, and more clever. Her ambition soars higher; and she possesses a
real genius for intrigues. She means to have a fortune, and is willing
to pay any price for it; but she is also desirous to be respected in
"I should not be surprised if anybody told me Miss Sarah was born
within ten miles of Paris; but she calls herself an American. The fact
is, she speaks English like an Englishwoman, and knows a great deal
more of America than you know of Paris. I have heard her tell the
story of her family to a large and attentive audience; but I do not
say that I believed it.
"According to her own account, M. Brandon, her father, a thoroughbred
Yankee, was a man of great enterprise and energy, who was ten times
rich, and as often wretchedly poor again in his life, but died leaving
several millions. This Brandon, she says, was a banker and broker in
New York when the civil war broke out. He entered the army, and in
less than six months, thanks to his marvellous energy, he rose to be a
general. When peace came, he was without occupation, and did not know
what on earth to do with himself. Fortunately, his good star led him
into a region where large tracts of land happened to be for sale. He
bought them for a few thousand dollars, and soon after discovered on
his purchase the most productive oil-wells in all America. He was just
about to be another Peabody when a fearful accident suddenly ended his
life; he was burnt in an enormous fire that destroyed one of his
"As to her mother, Miss Sarah says she lost her when she was quite
young, in a most romantic, though horrible manner"--
"What!" broke in Daniel, "has nobody taken the trouble to ascertain if
all these statements are true?"
"I am sure I do not know. This much is certain, that sometimes curious
facts leak out. For instance, I have fallen in with Americans who have
known a broker Brandon, a Gen. Brandon, a Petroleum Brandon."
"He may have borrowed the name."
"Certainly, especially when the original man is said to have died in
America. However, Miss Brandon has been living now for five years in
Paris. She came here accompanied by a Mrs. Brian, a relative of hers,
who is the dryest, boniest person you can imagine, but at the same
time the slyest woman I have ever seen. She also brought with her a
kind of protector, a Mr. Thomas Elgin, also a relation of hers, a most
extraordinary man, stiff like a poker, but evidently a dangerous man,
who never opens his mouth except when he eats. He is a famous hand at
small-swords, however, and snuffs his candle, nine times out of ten,
at a distance of thirty yards. This Mr. Thomas Elgin, whom the world
calls familiarly Sir Thorn, and Mrs. Brian, always stay with Miss
"When she first arrived, Miss Sarah established herself in a house
near the Champs Elysees, which she furnished most sumptuously. Sir
Thorn, who is a jockey of the first water, had discovered a pair of
gray horses for her which made a sensation at the Bois de Boulogne,
and drew everybody's attention to their fair owner. Heaven knows how
she had managed to get a number of letters of introduction. But
certainly two or three of the most influential members of the American
colony here received her at their houses. After that, all was made
easy. Gradually she crept into society; and now she is welcome almost
everywhere, and visits, not only at the best houses, but even in
certain families which have a reputation of being quite exclusive.
"In fine, if she has enemies, she has also fanatic partisans. If some
people say she is a wretch, others--and they are by no means the least
clever--tell you that she is an angel, only wanting wings to fly away
from this wicked world. They talk of her as of a poor little orphan-
girl, whom people slander atrociously because they envy her youth, her
beauty, her splendor."
"Ah, is she so rich?"
"Miss Brandon spends at least twenty thousand dollars a year."
"And no one inquires where they come from?"
"From her sainted father's petroleum-wells, my dear fellow. Petroleum
Brevan seemed to feel a kind of savage delight in seeing Daniel's
despair, and in explaining to him most minutely how solidly, and how
skilfully Miss Sarah Brandon's position in the world had been
established. Had he any expectation to prevent a struggle with her by
exaggerating her strength? Or rather, knowing Daniel as he did,--far
better, unfortunately, than he was known by him,--was he trying to
irritate him more and more against this formidable adversary?
At all events, he continued in that icy tone which gives to sarcasm
its greatest bitterness,--
"Besides, my dear Daniel, if you are ever introduced at Miss
Brandon's,--and I pray you will believe me, people are not so easily
introduced there,--you will be dumfounded at first by the tone that
prevails in that house. The air is filled with a perfume of hypocrisy
which would rejoice the stiffest of Quakers. Cant rules supreme there,
putting a lock to the mouth, and a check to the eyes."
Daniel began evidently to be utterly bewildered.
"But how, how can you reconcile that," he said, "with the thoroughly
worldly life of Miss Brandon?"
"Oh, very easily, my dear fellow! and there you see the sublime policy
of the three rogues. To the outer world, Miss Brandon is all levity,
indiscretion, coquettishness, and even worse. She drives herself,
shortens her petticoats, and cuts down her dress-bodies atrociously.
She says she has a right to do as she pleases, according to the code
of laws which govern American young ladies. But at home she bows to
the taste and the wishes of her relative, Mrs. Brian, who displays all
the extreme prudishness of the austerest Puritan. Then she has that
stiff, tall Sir Thorn ever at her side, who never jokes. Oh! they
understand each other perfectly; the parts are carefully distributed,
Daniel showed that he was utterly discouraged.
"There is no way, then, of getting hold of this woman?" he asked.
"I think not."
"But that adventure of which you spoke some time ago?"
"Which? That with poor Kergrist?"
"How do I know which? It was a fearful story; that is all I remember.
What did I, at that time, care for Miss Brandon? Now, to be sure"--
Brevan shook his head, and said,--
"Now, you think that story might become a weapon in your hands? No,
Daniel. Still it is not a very long one; and I can now tell it to you
more in detail than I could before.
"About fifteen months ago, there arrived in Paris a nice young man
called Charles de Kergrist. He had lost as yet none of his illusions,
being barely twenty-five years old, and having something like a
hundred thousand dollars of his own. He saw Miss Brandon, and
instantly 'took fire.' He fell desperately in love with her. What his
relations were with her, no one can tell positively,--I mean with
sufficient evidence to carry conviction to others,--for the young man
was a model of discretion. But what became only too well known was the
fact, that, about eight months later, the people living near Miss
Brandon's house saw one morning, when the shutters were opened, a
corpse dangling at a distance of a few feet above the ground from the
iron fastenings of the lady's window. Upon inspection, the dead man
proved to be that unlucky Kergrist. In the pocket of his overcoat a
letter was found, in which he declared that he committed suicide
because an unreturned affection had made life unbearable to him. Now,
this letter--mark the fact--was open; that is to say, it had been
sealed, and the seal was broken."
"Let me finish. The accident, as you may imagine, made a tremendous
noise. The family took it up. An inquest was held; and it was found
that the hundred thousand dollars which Kergrist had brought with him
had utterly disappeared."
"And Miss Brandon's reputation was not ruined?"
Maxime replied with a bitter, ironical smile,--
"You know very well that she was not. On the contrary, the hanging was
turned by her partisans into an occasion for praising her marvellous
virtuousness. 'If she had been weak,' they said, 'Kergrist would not
have hanged himself. Besides,' they added, 'how can a girl, be she
ever so pure and innocent, prevent her lovers from hanging themselves
at her windows? As to the money,' they said, 'it had been lost at the
gaming-table.' Kergrist was reported to have been seen at Baden-Baden
and at Homburg; no doubt he played."
"And the world was content with such an explanation?"
"Yes; why not? To be sure, some sceptical persons told the whole story
very differently. According, to their account, Miss Sarah had been the
mistress of M. de Kergrist, and, seeing him utterly ruined, had sent
him off one fine morning. They stated, that, the evening before the
accident, he had come to the house at the usual hour, and, finding it
closed, had begged, and even wept, and finally threatened to kill
himself; that, thereupon, he had really killed himself; (poor fool
that he was!) that Miss Brandon, concealed behind the blinds, had
watched all his preparations for the fearful act; that she had seen
him fasten the rope to the outside hinges of her window, put the noose
around his neck, and then swing off into eternity; that she had
watched him closely during his agony, and stood there till the last
convulsions had passed away."
"Horrible!" whispered Daniel,--"too horrible!"
But Maxime seized him by the arm, and pressing it so as almost to hurt
him, said in a low, hoarse voice,--
"That is not the worst yet. As soon as she saw that Kergrist was
surely dead, she slipped down stairs like a cat, opened the house-door
noiselessly, and, gliding stealthily along the wall till she reached
the body, she actually searched the still quivering corpse to assure
herself that there was nothing in the pockets that could possibly
compromise her. Finding the last letter of Kergrist, she took it away
with her, broke the seal, and read it; and, having found that her name
was not mentioned in it, she had the amazing audacity to return to the
body, and to put the letter back where she had found it. Then only she
breathed freely. She had gotten rid of a man whom she feared. She went
to bed, and slept soundly."
Daniel had become livid.
"That woman is a monster!" he exclaimed.
Brevan said nothing. His eyes shone with intense hatred; his lips were
quivering with indignation. He no longer thought of discretion, of
caution. He forgot himself, and gave himself up to his feelings.
"But I have not done yet, Daniel," he said, after a pause. "There is
another crime on record, of older date. The first appearance of Miss
Brandon in Paris society. You ought to know that also.
"One evening, about four years ago, the president of the Mutual
Discount Society came into the cashier's room to tell him, that, on
the following day, the board of directors would examine his books. The
cashier, an unfortunate man by the name of Malgat, replied that every
thing was ready; but, the moment the president had turned his back, he
took a sheet of paper, and wrote something like this:--
"'Forgive me, I have been an honest man forty years long; now a
fatal passion has made me mad. I have drawn money from the bank
which was intrusted to my care; and, in order to screen my
defalcations, I have forged several notes. I cannot conceal my
crime any longer. The first defalcation is only six months old.
The whole amount is about four hundred thousand francs. I cannot
bear the disgrace which I have incurred; in an hour I shall have
ceased to live.'
"Malgat put this letter in a prominent place on his desk, and then
rushed out, without a cent in his pocket, to throw himself into the
canal. But when he reached the bank, and saw the foul, black water, he
was frightened. For hours and hours he walked up and down, asking God
in his madness for courage. He never found that courage.
"But what was he to do? He could not flee, having no money; and where
should he hide? He could not return to his bank; for there, by this
time, his crime must have become known. In his despair he ran as far
as the Champs Elysees, and late in the night he knocked at the door of
Miss Brandon's house.
"They did not know yet what had happened, and he was admitted. Then,
in his wild despair, he told them all, begging them to give him a
couple of hundreds only of the four hundred thousand which he had
stolen in order to give them to Miss Brandon,--a hundred only, to
enable him to escape to Belgium.
"They refused. And when he begged and prayed, falling on his knees
before Miss Sarah, Sir Thorn seized him by the shoulders, and turned
him out of the house."
Maxime, overcome by his intense excitement, fell into an easy-chair,
and remained there for a considerable time, his eyes fixed, his brow
darkened, repenting himself, no doubt, of his candor, his wrath, and
his forgetfulness of all he owed to himself and to others.
But, when he rose again, his rare strength of will enabled him to
assume his usual phlegmatic manner; and he continued in a mocking
"I see in your face, Daniel, that you think the story is monstrous,
improbable, almost impossible. Nevertheless, four years ago, it was
believed all over Paris, and set off by a number of hideous details
which I will spare you. If you care to look at the papers of that
year, you will find it everywhere. But four years are four centuries
in Paris. To say nothing of the many similar stories that have
Daniel said nothing, he only bowed his head sadly. He felt a kind of
painful emotion, such as he had never before experienced in his life.
"It is not so much the story itself," he said at last, "that overcomes
me so completely. What I cannot comprehend is, how this woman could
refuse the man whose accomplice she had been the small pittance he
required in order to evade justice, and to escape to Belgium."
"Nevertheless, that was so," repeated M. de Brevan; and then he added
emphatically, "at least, they say so."
Daniel did not notice this attempt to become more cautious again. He
"Is it not very improbable that Miss Brandon should not have been
afraid to exasperate the unfortunate man, and to drive him to
desperate measures? In his furious rage, he might have left the house,
rushed to a police-officer, and confessed to him every thing, laying
the evidence he had in his hands before a magistrate, and"--
"You say," replied Brevan, interrupting him with a dry, sardonic
laugh, "precisely what all the advocates of the fair American said at
that time. But I tell you, that her peculiarity is exactly the daring
with which she ventures upon the most dangerous steps. She does not
pretend to avoid difficulties; she crushes them. Her prudence consists
in carrying imprudence to the farthest limits."
"You ought to credit her, besides, with sufficient astuteness and
experience to know that she had taken the most careful precautions,
having destroyed every evidence of her own complicity, and feeling
quite safe in that direction. Moreover, she had studied Malgat's
character, as she studied afterwards Kergrist's. She was quite sure
that neither of them would accuse her, even at the moment of death.
And yet, in the case of this Mutual Discount Society, her calculations
did not prove absolutely correct."
"It became known that she had received Malgat two or three times
secretly, for he did not openly enter her house; and the penny papers
had it, that 'the fair stranger was no stranger to small peculations.'
Public opinion was veering around, when it was reported that she had
been summoned to appear before a magistrate. That, however, was
fortunate for her; she came out from the trial whiter and purer than
"And so perfectly cleared, that, when the whole matter was brought up
in court, she was not even summoned as a witness."
Daniel started up, and exclaimed,--
"What! Malgat had the sublime self-abnegation to undergo the agonies
of a trial, and the infamy of a condemnation, without allowing a word
"No. For the simple reason that Malgat was sentenced /in contumaciam/
to ten years in the penitentiary."
"And what has become of the poor wretch?"
"Who knows? They say he killed himself. Two months later, a half
decomposed body was found in the forest of Saint Germain, which people
declared to be Malgat. However"--
He had become livid, in his turn; but he continued in an almost
inaudible voice, as if to meet Daniel's objections before they were
"However, somebody who used to be intimate with Malgat has assured me
that he met him one day in Dronot Street, before the great auction-
mart. The man said he recognized him, although he seemed to be most
artistically disguised. This is what has set me thinking more than
once, that, if people were not mistaken, a day might, after all, yet
come, when Miss Sarah would have a terrible bill to settle with her
He passed his hand across his brow as if to drive away such
uncomfortable thoughts, and then said with a forced laugh,--
"Now, my dear fellow, I have come to the end of my budget. The details
were all given me by Miss Sarah's friends as well as by her enemies.
Some you may read of in the papers; but most I know from my own long
and patient observation. And, if you ask me what interest I could have
in knowing such a woman, I will tell you frankly, that you see before
you one of her victims; for my dear Daniel, I have to confess it, I
also have been in love with her; and how! But I was too small a
personage, and too poor a devil, to be worth a serious thought of Miss
Brandon. As soon as she felt sure that her abominable tricks had set
my head on fire, and that I had become an idiot, a madman, a stupid
fool--on that very day she laughed in my face. Ah! I tell you, she
played with me as if I had been a child, and then she sent me off as
if I had been a lackey. And now I hate her mortally, as I loved her
almost criminally. Therefore, if I can help you, in secret, without
becoming known, you may count upon me."
Why should Daniel have doubted the truthfulness of his friend's
statements? Had he not himself, and quite voluntarily, confessed his
own folly, his own love, anticipating all questions, and making a
clean breast of the whole matter?
Not a doubt, therefore, arose in Daniel's mind. On the contrary, he
thanked God for having sent him such an ally, such a friend, who had
lived long enough amid all these intrigues of Parisian high life to
know all its secret springs, and to guide him safely. He took Maxime's
hand in his own, and said with deep feeling,--
"Now, my friend, we are bound to each other for life."
Brevan seemed deeply touched; he raised his hand as if to wipe a tear
from his eyes. But he was not a man to give way to tender feelings. He
"But how about your friend? How can we prevent his marrying Miss
Sarah? Does any way occur to you? No? Ah! you see, it will be hard
He seemed to meditate deeply for a few moments; then uttering his
words slowly and emphatically, as if to lend them their full weight,
and impress them forcibly on Daniel's mind, he resumed,--
"We must attack Miss Brandon herself, if we want to master the
situation. If we could once know who she really is, all would be safe.
Fortunately there is no difficulty in Paris in finding spies, if you
have money enough."
As the clock on the mantlepiece struck half-past ten, he started and
stopped. He jumped up as if suddenly inspired by a bright idea, and
"But now I think of it, Daniel, you do not know Miss Brandon; you have
never even seen her!"
"Well, that's a pity. We must know our enemies; how else can we even
smile at them? I want you to see Miss Sarah."
"But who will point her out to me? where? when?"
"I will do it to-night, at the opera. I bet she will be there!"
Daniel was in evening costume, having called upon Henrietta, and then
he was all ready.
"Very well," he said, "I am willing."
Without losing a moment, they went out, and reached the theatre just
as the curtain rose on the fourth act of Don Giovanni. They were,
fortunately, able to secure two orchestra-chairs. The stage was
gorgeous; but what did they care for the singer on the boards, or the
divine music of Mozart? Brevan took his opera-glasses out, and rapidly
surveying the house, he had soon found what he was looking for. He
touched Daniel with his elbow, and, handing him the glasses, whispered
in his ear,--
"Look there, in the third box from the stage; look, there she is!"
Daniel looked up. In the box which Maxime had pointed out to him he
saw a girl of such rare and dazzling beauty, that he could hardly
retain a cry of admiration. She was leaning forward, resting on the
velvet cushion of her box, in order to hear better.
Her hair, perfectly overwhelming in its richness, was so carelessly
arranged, that no one could doubt it was all her own; it was almost
golden, but with such a bright sheen, that at every motion sparks
seemed to start from its dark masses. Her large, soft eyes were
overshadowed by long lashes; and as she now opened them wide, and now
half closed them again, they changed from the darkest to the lightest
Her lips smiled in all the freshness and innocence of merry youth,
displaying now and then two rows of teeth, matchless in their beauty
"Can that be," said Daniel to himself, "the wretched creature whose
portrait Maxime has just given me?"
A little behind her, and half-hid in the shade of the box, appeared a
large bony head, adorned with an absurd bunch of feathers. Her eyes
flashed indignation; and her narrow lips seemed to say perpetually,
"Shocking!" That was Mrs. Brian.
Still farther back, barely discernible after long examination, arose a
tall, stiff figure, a bald, shining head, two dark, deep-sunk eyes, a
hooked nose, and a pair of immense streaming whiskers. That was the
Hon. Thomas Elgin, commonly known as Sir Thorn.
As Daniel was persistently examining the box, with the smiling girl,
the stern old woman, and the placid old man in the background, he felt
doubts of all kinds creeping into his mind.
Might not Maxime be mistaken? Did he not merely repeat the atrocious
slanders of the envious world?
These thoughts troubled Daniel; and he would have mentioned his doubts
to Maxime; but his neighbors were enthusiasts about music, and, as
soon as he bent over to whisper into his friend's ear, they growled,
and, if he ventured to utter a word, they forced him to be silent. At
last the curtain fell. Many left the house; others simply rose to look
around; but Maxime and Daniel remained in their seats. Their whole
attention was concentrated upon Miss Brandon's box, when they saw the
door open, and a gentleman enter, who, at the distance at which they
sat, looked like a very young man. His complexion was brilliantly
fair, his beard jet black, and his curly hair most carefully arranged.
He had his opera-hat under his arm, a camellia in his button-hole; and
his light-yellow kid gloves were so tight, that it looked as if they
must inevitably burst the instant he used his hands.
"Count Ville-Handry!" said Daniel to himself.
Somebody touched his shoulder slightly; and, as he turned round, he
found it was Maxime, who said with friendly irony,--
"Your old friend, is it not? The happy lover of Miss Brandon?"
"Yes, it is so. I have to confess it."
He was just in the act of explaining the reasons for his silence, when
M. de Brevan interrupted him, saying,--
"Just look, Daniel; just look!"
The count had taken a seat in the front part of the box, by Miss
Brandon's side, and was talking to her with studied affectation,
bending over her, gesticulating violently, and laughing till he showed
every one of the long yellow teeth which were left him. He was
evidently on exhibition, and desired to be seen by everybody.
Suddenly, however, after Miss Brandon had said a few words to him, he
rose, and went out.
The bell behind the scenes was ringing, and the curtain was about to
"Let us /go/," said Daniel to M. de Brevan: "I am suffering."
He was really suffering, mortified by the ridiculous scene which
Henrietta's father was playing. But he entertained no longer any
doubts; he had clearly seen how the adventuress was spurring on the
old man, and fanning his feeble flame.
"Ah! it will be hard work to rescue the count from the wiles of this
witch," said Maxime.
Having left the house, they were just turning into the narrow street
which leads to the boulevards, when they saw a tall man, wrapped up in
a huge cloak, coming towards them, and behind him a servant with a
whole armful of magnificent roses. It was Count Ville-Handry. Coming
suddenly face to face upon Daniel, he seemed at first very much
embarrassed; then, recovering himself, he said,--
"Why, is this you? Where on earth do you come from?"
"From the theatre."
"And you run away before the fifth act? That is a crime against the
majesty of Mozart. Come, go back with me, and I promise you a pleasant
Brevan came up close to Daniel, and whispered to him,--
"Go; here is the opportunity I was wishing for."
Then he lifted his hat and went his way. Daniel, taken rather by
surprise, accompanied the count till he saw him stop near a huge
landau, open in spite of the cold weather, but guarded by three
servants in gorgeous livery. When they saw the count, they all three
uncovered respectfully; but he, without taking any notice of them,
turned to the porter who had the flowers, and said,--
"Scatter all these roses in this carriage."
The man hesitated. He was the servant of a famous florist, and had
often seen people pay forty or fifty dollars for such bouquets. He
thought the joke was carried too far. However, the count insisted. The
roses were piled up in the bottom of the carriage; and, when he had
done, he received a handsome fee for his trouble.
Then the count returned to the opera-house, Daniel following him,
filled with amazement. Evidently love had made the count young again,
and now gave wings to his steps. He ran up the steps of the great
porch of the opera-house, and in a few moments he was once more in
Miss Brandon's box. At once he took Daniel by the hand; and, drawing
him into the box close to the lady, he said to the young girl,--
"Permit me to present to you M. Daniel Champcey, one of our most
distinguished naval officers."
Daniel bowed, first to her, and then solemnly to Mrs. Brian, and long,
stiff Sir Thorn.
"I need not tell you, my dear count," said Miss Sarah, "that your
friends are always welcome here."
Then, turning to Daniel, she added,--
"Besides, I have long since known you."
"Yes, sir. And I even know that you are one of the most frequent
visitors at Count Ville-Handry's house."
She looked at Daniel with a kind of malicious simplicity, and then
"/I/ do not mean to say that the count would not be wrong if he
attributed your frequent visits exclusively to his own merits. I have
heard something of a certain young lady"--
"Sarah," here broke in Mrs. Brian, "what you say there is highly
improper." This reproof, so far from checking Miss Sarah's merriment,
only seemed to increase it. Without losing sight of Daniel, she turned
to her aunt, and said,--
"Since the count is not opposed to this gentleman's paying his
attentions to his daughter, I think I may safely speak of them. It
would be such an extraordinary thing, if any thing should happen to
interfere with his hopes!"
Daniel, who had blushed all over, suddenly became deadly pale. After
all that he had been told, these words sounded to him, in spite of the
loud laugh that accompanied them, like a warning and a threat. But he
was not allowed the time to reflect. The piece was coming to an end;
Miss Brandon was drawing a fur cloak over her shoulders, and left on
the count's arm; while he had to escort Mrs. Brian, being closely
followed by tall, stiff Sir Thorn. The landau was at the door. The
servants had let down the steps; and Miss Sarah was just getting in.
Suddenly, as her foot touched the bottom of the carriage, she drew
back, and cried out,--
"What is that? What is in there?"
The count came forward, looking visibly embarrassed.
"You are fond of roses," he said, "and I have ordered a few."
With these words he took up some of the leaves, and showed them to
her. But immediately Miss Brandon's terror was changed into wrath.
"You certainly are bent upon making me angry," she said. "You want
people to say everywhere that I make you commit all kinds of follies.
What a glorious thing to waste fifty dollars on flowers, when one has
I know not how many millions!"
Then, seeing by the light of the street-lamp that the count's face
showed deep disappointment, she said in a tone to make him lose the
little reason that was left him,--
"You would have been more welcome if you had brought me a cent's worth
In the mean time Mrs. Brian had taken her seat by Miss Brandon's side;
Sir Thorn had gotten in; and it was now the count's turn. At the
moment when the servant was closing the door, Miss Sarah bent forward
toward Daniel, and said,--
"I hope I shall have the pleasure of soon seeing you again. Our dear
count will give you my address, and tell you my reception-days. I must
tell you that we American girls dote upon naval officers, and that
The remainder was lost in the noise of the wheels. The carriage which
took Miss Brandon and Count Ville-Handry away was already at some
distance, before Daniel could recover from his amazement, his utter
All these strange events, coming upon him one by one, in the course of
a few hours, and breaking suddenly in upon so calm and quiet a life,
overwhelmed him to such a degree, that he was not quite sure whether
he was dreaming or awake.
Alas! he was not dreaming. This Miss Sarah Brandon, who had just
passed away from him like a glorious vision from on high, was only too
real; and there, on the muddy pavement, a handful of rose-leaves bore
witness of the power of her charms, and the folly of her aged lover.
"Ah, we are lost!" exclaimed Daniel, in so loud a voice, that some of
the passers-by stopped, expecting one of those street-dramas which
read so strikingly in the local columns of our papers. They were
disappointed, however. Noticing that he attracted attention, Daniel
shrugged his shoulders, and quickly walked off towards the boulevards.
He had promised Henrietta to be sure to tell her that very evening, if
possible, what he had found out; but it was too late now; midnight was
"I'll go to-morrow," he said to himself.
Whilst lounging leisurely down the boulevards, still brilliantly
lighted up, and crowded with people, he strained all his faculties for
the purpose of examining his situation coolly and calmly. At first he
had imagined he should only have to do with one of those common
/intriguantes/ who want to secure themselves a quiet old age, and
clumsily spread their nets to catch an old or a young man; and who can
always easily be gotten rid of by paying them a more or less
considerable sum of money, provided the police does not get hold of
them. In such a case he would have had some hope.
But here he saw himself suddenly confronted by one of those formidable
adventuresses in high life, who either save appearances altogether,
or, at worst, are only compromised far enough to give additional zest
and an air of mystery to their relations. How could he hope to compete
with such a woman? and with what weapons could he attack her? How
should he reach her? and how attack her?
Was it not pure folly to think even of making her give up the
magnificent fortune which she seemed already to have in her hands,
Heaven knows by what means? She evidently looked upon it as her own
already, and enjoyed its charms in anticipation.
"Great God!" said Daniel, "send me some inspiration."
But no inspiration came; and in vain did he torture his mind; he was
unable to think.
When he reached home, he went to bed as usual; but the consciousness
of his misfortunes kept him awake. At nine o'clock in the morning,
having never closed his eyes, and feeling utterly overcome by
sleeplessness and fatigue, he was just about to get up, when some one
knocked at his door. He rose hastily, put on his clothes, and went to
open the door. It was M. de Brevan, who came to hear all about his new
acquaintance of last night, and whose first word was,--
"Alas!" replied Daniel, "I think the wisest plan would be to give it
"Upon my word, you are in great haste to surrender."
"And what would you do in my place, eh? That woman has beauty enough
to drive any one mad; and the count is a lost man."
And, before Maxime had time to reply, Daniel told him simply and
frankly all about his love for Miss Ville-Handry, the hopes he had
been encouraged to cherish, and the dangers that threatened his
happiness in life.
"For I can no longer deceive myself, Maxime," he concluded with a tone
of utter despair. "I foresee, I know, what is going to happen.
Henrietta will obstinately, and at any risk, do every thing in the
world to prevent her father's marriage with Miss Brandon; she will
struggle to the bitter end. Ought I, or ought I not, to help her?
Certainly. Can we succeed? No! But we shall have a mortal enemy in
Miss Brandon; and, on the morning after her wedding, her first thought
will be how to avenge herself, and how to separate Henrietta and
Little as Brevan was generally given to show his feelings, he was
evidently deeply touched by his friend's despair.
"In short, my dear fellow, you have reached the point at which we no
longer know what to do. All the more reason, then, that you should
listen to the calm advice of a friend. You must have yourself
presented at Miss Brandon's house."
"She has invited me."
"Well, then, do not hesitate, but go there."
"Not for much. You will pay some compliments to Miss Sarah; you will
be all attention to Mrs. Brian; and you will try to win over the Hon.
Thomas Elgin. Finally, and above all, you will be all ears and all
"I am sorry to say I do not understand you yet."
"What? Don't you see that the position of these daring adventurers,
however secure it may appear, may, after all, hang on a single thread?
and that nothing is wanting in order to cut that thread but an
opportunity? And when you may expect, at any moment, any thing and
every thing, what is to be done but to wait and watch?"
Daniel did not seem to be convinced. He added,--
"Miss Sarah will talk to me about her marriage."
"Certainly she will."
"What can I say?"
"Nothing,--neither yes nor no,--but smile, or run away; at all events,
you gain time."
He was interrupted by Daniel's servant, who came in, holding a card in
his hand, and said,--
"Sir, there is a gentleman down stairs in a carriage, who wants to
know if he would interrupt you if he came up to see you."
"What is the gentleman's name?"
"Count Ville-Handry. Here is his card."
"Be quick!" said Daniel, "run down and ask him, would he please come
M. de Brevan had started up, and was standing, with his hat on, near
the door. As the servant left, he said,--
"I am running away."
"Because the count must not find me here. You would be compelled to
introduce me to him; he might remember my name; and, if he were to
tell Miss Sarah that I am your friend, all would be lost."
Thereupon he turned to go; but at the same moment the outer door was
opened, and he said,--
"There is the count! I am caught."
But Daniel opened promptly the door to his bedroom, pushed him in, and
shut the door. It was high time; the same moment the count entered.
The count must have risen early that day. Although it was not yet ten
o'clock, he was already brilliant, rouged, dyed, and frizzed. Of
course all these results had not been the work of an hour. As he
entered, he drew a long breath, and said,--
"Ah! You live pretty high up, my dear Daniel."
Poor fellow! He forgot that he was playing the young man. But he
recalled himself at once, and added, full of vivacity,--
"Not that I complain of it; oh, no! A few stories to climb--what is
that to me?"
At the same time he stretched out his leg, and caressed his calf, as
if to exhibit its vigor and its suppleness. In the meantime, Daniel,
full of respect for his future father-in-law, had drawn forward his
easiest arm-chair. The count took it, and in an airy manner, which
contrasted ill with his evident embarrassment, he said,--
"I am sure, my dear Daniel, you must be very much surprised and
puzzled to see me here; are you not?"
"I confess, sir, I am. If you wished to speak to me, you had only to
drop me a line, and I should have waited upon you at once."
"I am sure you would! But that is not necessary. In fact, I have
nothing to say to you. I should not have come to see you, if I had not
missed an appointment. I was to meet one of my fellow members of the
assembly, and he did not come to the place where we were to meet. On
my return home, I happened to pass your house; and I said to myself,
'Why not go up and see my sailor friend? I might ask him what he
thinks of a certain young lady to whom he had, last night, the honor
of being presented.'"
Now or never was the favorable moment for following Maxime's advice;
hence Daniel, instead of replying, simply smiled as pleasantly as he
But that did not satisfy the count; so he repeated the question more
directly, and said,--
"Come, tell us frankly, what do you think of Miss Brandon?"
"She is one of the greatest beauties I have ever seen in my life."
Count Ville-Handry's eyes beamed with delight and with pride as he
heard these words. He exclaimed,--
"Say she is the greatest beauty, the most marvellous and transcendent
beauty, you ever saw. And that, M. Daniel Champcey, is her smallest
attraction. When she opens her lips, the charms of her mind, beauty
and her mind, and remember her admirable ingenuousness, her naive
freshness, and all the treasures of her chaste and pure soul."
This excessive, almost idiotic admiration, this implicit, absurd faith
in his beloved, gave the painted face of the count a strange, almost
ecstatic expression. He said to himself, but loud enough to be
"And to think that chance alone has led me to meet this angel!"
A sudden start, involuntary on the part of Daniel, seemed to disturb
him; for he resumed his speech, laying great stress upon his words,--
"Yes, chance alone; and I can prove it to you."
He settled down in his chair like a man who is going to speak for some
length of time; and, in that emphatic manner which so well expressed
the high opinion he had of himself, he continued,--
"You know, my friend, how deeply I was affected by the death of the
Countess Ville-Handry. It is true she was not exactly the companion a
statesman of my rank would have chosen. Her whole capacity rarely rose
beyond the effort to distinguish a ball-dress from a dinner-dress. But
she was a good woman, attentive, discreet, and devoted to me; an
excellent manager, economical, and yet always sure to do honor to the
high reputation of my house."
Thus, in all sincerity, the count spoke of her who had literally made
him, and who, for sixteen long years, had galvanized his empty head.
"In short," he continued, "the loss of my wife so completely upset me,
that I lost all taste for the occupations which had so far been dear
to me; and I set about to find distractions elsewhere. Soon after I
had gotten into the habit of going frequently to my club, I fell in
with M. Thomas Elgin, and, although we never became intimate, we
always exchanged a friendly greeting, and occasionally a cigar.
"Sir Thorn, as they call him, is an excellent horseman, you know, and
used to ride out every morning at an early hour; and as the physicians
had recommended to me horseback exercise, and as I like it, because I
excel in riding, as in every thing else, we often met in the Bois de
Boulogne. We wished each other good-day; and sometimes we galloped a
little while side by side. I am rather reserved; but Sir Thorn is even
more so, and thus it did not seem that our acquaintance was ever to
ripen into any thing better, till an accident brought us together.
"One morning we were returning slowly from a long ride, when Sir
Thorn's mare, a foolish brute, suddenly shied, and jumped so high,
that he was thrown. I jumped down instantly to help him up again; but
he could not rise. You know nothing ordinarily hurts these Americans.
But it seems, as we found out afterwards, that he had sprained an
ankle, and dislocated a knee. There was no one near the place; and I
began to be seriously embarrassed, when fortunately two soldiers
appeared. I called to them, and sent one on my horse to the nearest
hack-stand to bring a carriage. As soon as it came, we raised the
invalid, and put him in as well as we could; I got on the box to show
the man the way to Sir Thorn's house. When we arrived there, I rang
the bell, and told the servants to come down to their master. They got
him, with some difficulty, out of the hack; and there they were,
carrying him painfully up the stairs, and he groaning feebly, for he
"I was going up before them; and, as I reached the second story, a
door suddenly opened, and a young girl was standing right before me.
"She was evidently dressing, when the noise which we made startled
her; and she came running out. She had only taken time to throw a
loose wrapper around her shoulders; and her dishevelled hair streamed
out from under a kind of coquettish morning-cap.
"When she saw her kinsman in the arms of the servants, she imagined he
was dangerously wounded, perhaps even-- She turned as pale as death,
and, uttering a loud cry, she tottered.
"She would have fallen down the steps, head foremost, if I had not
caught her in my arms. She had fainted. And there I held her, leaning
on my shoulder, so close that I became aware of the warmth of her
lovely body, and actually felt her heart beat against mine. Her cap
had become unfastened; and her hair fell in golden floods all over me,
and down to the floor. But all this lasted only a few seconds.
"When she recovered, and found herself in the arms of a man, she rose
with an air of extreme distress, and, slipping away, disappeared in
At the mere description of this scene, the count turned pale under his
rouge; and his voice forsook him. Nor did he in any way attempt to
conceal his emotion.
"I am a poor old fellow," he said; "and between you and me, my dear
Daniel, I will tell you that the women--well--the women have not been
--exactly cruel to me. In fact, I thought I had outlived all the
emotions which they can possibly give us.
"Well, I was mistaken. Never in my life, I assure you, have I felt
such a deep sensation as when Miss Brandon was lying in my arms."
While saying this, he had pulled out his handkerchief, saturated with
a strong perfume, and was wiping his forehead, though very gently, and
with infinite precautions, so as not to spoil the artistic work of his
"You will know Miss Brandon," he went on, "I hope soon. Once having
seen her, one wants to see her again. I was lucky enough to have a
pretext for coming again; and the very next day I was at her door,
inquiring after M. Thomas Elgin. They showed me into the room of that
excellent gentleman, where I found him stretched out on an invalid's
chair, with his legs all bandaged up. By his side sat a venerable
lady, to whom he presented me, and who was no other than Mrs. Brian.
"They received me very kindly, although with some little reserve under
all their politeness; but I staid and staid in vain beyond the proper
time; Miss Sarah did not appear.
"Nor did I see her upon subsequent occasions, when I repeated my
visits, until at last I came to the conclusion that she avoided me
"Upon my word, I believed it. But one day Sir Thorn, who was improving
very rapidly, expressed a desire to walk out a few steps in the Champs
Elysees. I offered him my arm; he accepted it; and, when we came back,
he asked me if I would be kind enough to take pot-luck with him."
However important these communications were for Daniel, he was for
some time already listening but very inattentively to the count's
recital, for he had heard a strange, faint noise, which he could not
by any means explain to himself. At last, looking all around, he
discovered the cause.
The door to his bedroom, which he was sure he had closed himself, was
now standing partly open. No doubt M. de Brevan, weary of his
confinement and excited by curiosity, had chosen this way to see and
to listen. Of all this, however, Count Ville-Handry saw nothing, and
"Thus," he continued, "I was at last to see Miss Sarah again. Upon my
word, I was less excited, I think, the day I made my first speech. But
you know I have some power over myself; and I had recovered my
calmness, when Sir Thorn confessed to me that he would have invited me
long since, but for the fear of offending his young relative, who had
declared she would never meet me again. I was grieved, and asked how I
had offended her. And then Sir Thorn, with that marvellous composure
which never leaves him, said, 'It is not you she blames, but herself,
on account of that ridiculous scene the other day.'
"Do you hear, Daniel, he called that adorable scene which I have just
described to you, ridiculous! It is only Americans who can commit such
"I have since found out that they had almost to force Miss Brandon to
receive me; but she had tact enough not to let me see it, when I was
formally presented to her, just before going to dinner. It is true,
she blushed deeply; but she took my hand with the utmost cordiality,
and cut me short when I was trying to pay her some compliment,
"'You are Thorn's friend; I am sure we shall be friends also.'
"Ah, Daniel! you admired Miss Brandon at the theatre; but you ought to
see her at her house. Abroad she sacrifices herself in order to pay
proper regard to the world; but at home she can venture to be herself.
"We soon became friends, as she had foretold, so soon, in fact, that I
was quite surprised when I found her addressing me like an old
acquaintance. I soon discovered how that came about.
"Our young girls here in France, my dear Daniel, are charming, no
doubt, but generally ill taught, frivolous, and caring for nothing but
balls, novels, or dress. The Americans are very different. Their
serious minds are occupied with the same subjects which fill their
parents' minds,--with politics, industry, discussions in the assembly,
discoveries in science, &c. A man like myself, known abroad and at
home during a long political career of some distinction, could not be
a stranger to Miss Brandon. My earnestness in defending those causes
which I considered just had often filled her with enthusiasm. Deeply
moved by my speeches, which she was in the habit of reading, she had
often thought of the speaker. I think I can hear her now say with that
beautiful voice of hers, which has the clear ring of pure crystal,--
"'Oh, yes! I knew you, count; I knew you long ago. And there was many
a day when I wished I were a friend of yours, so that I might say to
you, "Well done, sir! what you are doing is grand, is noble!"'
"And that was true; for she remembered a number of passages from my
speeches, even from such as I had forgotten myself; and she always
quoted them literally. At times, I was amazed at some peculiarly bold
thoughts which she uttered; and, when I complimented her upon them,
she broke out in loud laughter, and said,--
"'Why, count, these are your own ideas; I got them from you. You said
so on such and such an occasion.'
"And when I looked at night, after my return, into my papers, to
ascertain the fact, I found almost always that Miss Brandon had been
right. Need I tell you after that, that I soon became an almost daily
visitor at the house in Circus Street? Surely you take it for granted.
"But what I must tell you is, that I found there the most perfect
happiness, and the purest that I have ever known upon earth. I was
filled with respect and with admiration, when I looked at their rigid
morality, united with the heartiest cheerfulness. There I enjoyed my
happiest hours, between Mrs. Brian, the Puritan lady, so strict for
herself, so indulgent for others; and Thomas Elgin, the noblest and
best of men, who conceals under an appearance of icy coldness the
warmest and kindest of hearts."
What was Count Ville-Handry aiming at? or had he no aim at all?
Had he come merely to confide to Daniel the amazing romance of his
love? Or did he simply yield to the natural desire of all lovers, to
pour out the exuberance of their feelings, and to talk of their love,
even when they know that their indiscretion may be fatal to their
Daniel put these questions to himself; but the count did not leave him
time to reflect, and to answer them.
After a short pause, he seemed to rouse himself, and said, suddenly
changing his tone,--
"I guess what you think, my dear Daniel. You say to yourself, 'Count
Ville-Handry was in love.' Well, I assure you you are mistaken."
Daniel started from his chair; and, overcome by amazement, he
"Can it be possible?"
"Exactly so; I give you my word of honor. The feelings which attracted
me toward Miss Brandon were the same that bound me to my daughter. But
as I am a shrewd observer, and have some knowledge of the human heart,
I could not help being struck by a change in Miss Brandon's face, and
especially in her manner. After having treated me with the greatest
freedom and familiarity, she had suddenly become reserved, and almost
cold. It was evident to me that she was embarrassed in my presence.
Our constant intercourse, so far from reassuring her, seemed to
frighten her. You may guess how I interpreted this change, my dear
"But, as I have never been a conceited man, I thought I might be
mistaken. I devoted myself, therefore, to more careful observation;
and I soon became aware, that, if I loved Miss Brandon only with the
affection of a father, I had succeeded in inspiring her with a more
In any other person, this senile self-conceit would have appeared
intensely absurd to Daniel; in his Henrietta's father, it pained him
deeply. The count actually noticed his downcast look, and,
misinterpreting it, asked him,--
"Could you doubt what I say?"
"Oh, no, sir!"
"Very well, then. I can assure you, at all events, that this discovery
troubled me not a little. I was so surprised by it, that for three
days I could neither think of it coolly, nor decide on what I ought to
do. Still it was necessary I should make up my mind. I did not for a
moment think of abusing the confidence of this innocent child; and yet
I knew, I felt it, she was absolutely in my power. But no! It would
have been infamous in me to repay the hospitality of excellent Mrs.
Brian, and the kindness of noble M. Elgin, with such ingratitude. On
the other hand, must I necessarily deny myself my pleasant visits at
the house in Circus Street, and break with friends who were so dear to
me? I thought of that, also; but I had not the courage to do so."
He hesitated for a moment, trying to read in Daniel's eyes his real
opinion. After a while, he said very gravely,--
"It was then only, that the idea of marrying her occurred to me."
Daniel had been expecting the fatal word; thus, however heavy the blow
was, it found him prepared. He remained immovable.
This indifference seemed to surprise the count; for he uttered an
expression of discontent, and curtly repeated,--
"Yes, I thought of marrying her. You will say, 'That was a serious
matter.' I know that only too well; and therefore I did not decide the
question in a hurry, but weighed the reasons for and against very
carefully. I am not one of those weak men, you know, I am sure, who
can easily be hoodwinked, and who fancy they alone possess the secret
of perennial youth. No, no, I know myself, and am fully aware, better
than anybody else, that I am approaching maturer years.
"This was, in fact, the first objection that arose in my mind. But
then I answered it triumphantly by the fact that age is not a matter
to be decided by the certificate of baptism, but that we are just as
old as we appear to be. Now, thanks to an exceptionally sober and
peaceful life, of which forty years were spent in the country, to an
iron constitution, and to the extreme care I have always taken of my
health, I possess a--what shall I say?--a vigor which many young men
might envy, who can hardly drag one foot after the other."
He rose as he said this, threw out his chest, straightened his back,
and stretched out his well-shaped leg. Then, when he thought Daniel
had sufficiently admired him, he continued,--
"Now, what of Miss Brandon? You think, perhaps, she is still in her
teens? Far from that! She is at least twenty-five, my dear friend;
and, for a woman, twenty-five years are--ah, ah!"
He smiled ironically, as if to say that to him a woman of twenty-five
appeared an old, a very old woman. Then he went on,--
"Besides, I know how serious her disposition is, and her eminent good
sense. You may rely upon me, when I tell you I have studied her. A
thousand trifles, of no weight in appearance, and unnoticed by herself
in all probability, have told me that she abhors very young men. She
has learnt to appreciate the value of young husbands of thirty, who
are all fire and flame in the honeymoon, and who, six months later,
wearied with pure and tranquil happiness, seek their delights
elsewhere. It is not only of late that I have found out how truly she
values what is, after all, most desirable in this world,--a great name
worthily borne by a true man, and a reputation that would shed new
radiance upon her. How often have I heard her say to Mrs. Brian,
'Above all, aunt, I want to be proud of my husband; I want to see
everybody's eye sparkle with admiration and envy as soon as I mention
his name, which will have become mine also; I want people to whisper
around me, "Ah, how happy she is to be loved by such a man!"'"
He shook his head gravely, and said in a solemn tone,--
"I examined myself, Daniel, and found that I answered all of Miss
Brandon's expectations; and the result of my meditations was, that I
would be a madman to allow such happiness to escape me, and that I was
bound to risk every thing. I made up my mind, therefore, firmly, and
went to M. Elgin in order to make him aware of my intentions. I cannot
describe to you the amazement of that worthy gentleman.
"'You are joking,' he said at first, 'and that pains me deeply.'
"But, when he saw that I had never in my life spoken more seriously,
he, who is usually so phlegmatic, became perfectly furious. As if I
would have come to him, if, by some impossible accident, I should have
been unhappy in my choice! But I fell from the clouds when he told me
outright that he meant to do all he could do to prevent such a match.
Nor would he give up his purpose, say what I could; and I had to use
all my skill to make him change his mind. At last, after more than two
hours' discussion, all that I could obtain from him was the promise
that he would remain neutral, and that he would leave to Mrs. Brian
the responsibility of refusing or accepting my offer."
He laughed, this good Count Ville-Handry, he laughed heartily, no
doubt recalling his discussion with Sir Thorn, and his triumphant
"So," he resumed, "I went to Mrs. Brian. Ah! she did not mince
matters. At the first word, she called me--God forgive her!--an old
fool, and plainly told me that I must never show myself again in
"I insisted; but in vain. She would not even listen to me, the old
Puritan; and, when I became pressing, she dropped me a solemn curtsey,
and left me alone in the room, looking foolish enough, I am sure.
"For the time, I had nothing to do but to go away. I did so, hoping
that her interview with her niece might induce her to change her mind.
Not at all. The next morning, when I called at the house, the servants
said Sir Thorn was out, and Mrs. Brian and Miss Brandon had just left
for Fontainebleau. The day after, the same result; and for a whole
week the doors remained closed.
"I was becoming restless, when a commissionaire, one morning, brought
me a letter. It was Miss Brandon who wrote. She asked me to be that
very day, at four o'clock, in the Bois de Boulogne, near the
waterfalls; that she would ride out in the afternoon with Sir Thorn;
that she would escape from him, and meet me.
"As a matter of course, I was punctual; and it was well I was so, for,
a few minutes after I got there, I saw her--or rather I felt her--
coming towards me, riding at full speed. When she reached me, she
stopped suddenly, and, jumping from her horse, said to me,--
"'They watch me so jealously, that I could not write to you till
to-day. I am deeply wounded by this want of confidence, and I do not
think I can endure it any longer. Here I am, carry me off, let us go!'
"Never, O Daniel! never have I seen her look more marvellously
beautiful than she looked at that moment. She was flushed with
excitement and the rapid ride; her eyes shone with courage and
passion; her lips trembled; and then she said again,--
"'I know I am ruining myself; and you yourself--you will probably
despise me. But never mind! Let us be gone!'"
He paused, overcome with excitement; but, soon recovering, he
"To hear a beautiful woman tell you that! Ah, Daniel! that is an
experience which alone is worth a man's whole life. And yet I had the
courage, mad as I felt I was becoming, to speak to her words of calm
reason. Yes, I had the sublime courage, and the almost fortuitous
control over myself, to conjure her to retreat into her house.
"She began to weep, and accused me of indifference.
"But I had discovered a way out of the difficulty, and said to her,--
"'Sarah, go home. Write to me what you have just told me, and I am