Part 4 out of 11
"If I have been the dupe of Miss Brandon, my dear Maxime, you see, at
last, that I am so no longer."
"No, not in the least. And that, thanks to her; for she herself has
destroyed my illusions."
"Unconsciously, of course, having ran away from her like a fool, I was
wandering about in the streets near her house, when I saw her come out
in her /coupe/."
"I saw her as distinctly as I see you. It was four o'clock in the
"Is it possible? And what did you do?"
"I followed her."
M. de Brevan nearly let the brush fall, with which he was polishing
his finger-nails; but he mastered his confusion so promptly, that
Daniel did not perceive it.
"Ah! you followed her," he said in a voice which all his efforts could
not steady entirely. "Then, of course, you know where she went."
"Alas, no! She drove so fast, that, quick as I am, I could not follow
her, and lost sight of her."
Certainly M. de Brevan was breathing more freely, and said in an easy
"That is provoking, and you have lost a fine opportunity. I am,
however, by no means astonished that you are at last enlightened."
"Oh! I am so; you may believe me. And yet"--
Daniel hesitated, for fear of seeing another sardonic smile appear on
Maxime's lips. Still making an effort, he replied,--
"Well, I am asking myself whether all that Miss Brandon states about
her childhood, her family, and her fortune, might not, after all, be
Maxime looked like a sensible man who is forced to listen to the
absurd nonsense of an insane person.
"You think I am absurd," said Daniel. "Perhaps I am; but, then, do me
the favor to explain to me how Miss Brandon, anxious as she must be to
conceal her past, could herself point out to me the means to ascertain
every thing about her, and even to learn the precise amount of her
income? America is not so far off!"
M. de Brevan's face no longer expressed astonishment; he looked
"What!" he cried out, "could you seriously think of undertaking a trip
"To be sure, my dear friend, you are, in all sincerity, too naive for
our age. What! have you not yet been able to divine Miss Brandon's
plan? And yet it is patent enough. When she saw you, and had taken
your measure, she said to herself, 'Here is an excellent young man who
is in my way, excessively in my way; he must go and breathe a better
air a few thousand miles off.' And thereupon she suggested to you that
pleasant trip to America."
After what Daniel had learned about Miss Brandon's character, this
explanation sounded by no means improbable. Nevertheless, he was not
quite satisfied. He objected to it thus:--
"Whether I go or stay, the wedding will still take place.
Consequently, she has no interest in my being abroad. Believe me,
Maxime, there is something else underneath. Outside of this marriage,
Miss Brandon must be pursuing some other plan."
"Ah! That is what I cannot find out, to save my life. But you may be
sure that I am not mistaken. I want no better evidence of it than the
fact that she wrote to me this morning."
M. de Brevan jumped up, and said,--
"What! She has written to you?"
"Yes; it is that accursed letter, more than any thing else, that
brings me here. Here it is, just read it; and, if you can understand
it, you are more fortunate than I am."
At one glance M. de Brevan had read the five lines which Miss Brandon
had written; and, turning deadly pale, he said,--
"This is incomprehensible. A note, and such an indiscreet note, from
her who never writes!"
He looked upon Daniel as if he wished to penetrate his innermost
thoughts, and then asked him, weighing his words with the utmost
"If she should really love you, what would you say?"
Daniel looked disgusted. He replied,--"It is hardly generous in you to
make sport of me, Maxime. I may be a fool; but I am not an idiot, to
be conceited to that degree."
"That is no answer to my question," said Brevan; "and I repeat my
question. What would you say?"
"I would say that I execrate her!"
"Oh! if you hate her so bitterly, you are very near loving her."
"I despise her; and without esteem"--
"That is an old story. That is no impediment."
"Finally, you know how dearly, how ardently, I love Miss Ville-
"Of course; but that is not the same thing."
M. de Brevan had at last finished his careful toilet. He put on a
dressing-gown; and, carrying Daniel with him into the small room which
he used as a dressing-room, he asked,--
"And what have you said in reply to that note?"
M. de Brevan had thrown himself into a comfortable chair, and assumed
the careful air of a physician who has been consulted. He nodded, and
"You have done well, and for the future I advise you to pursue the
same plan. Don't say a word. Can you do any thing to prevent Miss
Brandon from carrying out her purposes? No! Let her go on, then."
"Let me finish. It is not only your own interest to act thus, but also
Miss Henrietta's interest. The day on which they part you, you will be
inconsolable; but you will also be free to act. She, on the other
hand, will be forced to live under the same roof with Miss Brandon;
and you do not know what a stepmother can do to torture the child of
Daniel trembled. He had already thought of that; and the idea had made
him shudder. Brevan continued,--
"For the present, the most important thing is to find out how your
flight has been explained. We may be able to draw our conclusions from
what has been said on the subject."
"I'll go at once and try to find out," said Daniel.
And, after having affectionately shaken hands with Maxime, he hurried
down to his carriage and drove as fast as he could to Count Ville-
Handry's palace. The count was at home and alone, walking up and down
in the most excited manner. And certainly he had enough to excite and
preoccupy him just now. It was nearly noon; and he had not yet been in
the hands of his valet. When he saw Daniel, he paused for a moment,
and, crossing his arms on his breast, he said, in a terrible tone,--
"Ah! here you are, M. Champcey. Well, you are doing nice things!"
"I, count? How so?"
"How so? Who else has overwhelmed poor Miss Sarah with insults at the
very time when she was trying to explain every thing to you? Who else,
ashamed of his scandalous conduct, has run away, never daring to
reappear at her house?"
What had the count been told? Certainly not the truth. He went on,--
"And do you know, M. Champcey, what has been the effect of your
brutality? Miss Brandon has been seized with such a terrible nervous
attack, that they had to send the carriage for a doctor. You unlucky
man, you might have killed her! They would, of course, never have
allowed me to enter her own room; but from the reception-room I could
at times hear her painful cries and sobs. It was only after eight
o'clock this morning that she could get any rest; and then Mrs. Brian,
taking pity on /my/ great grief, granted me the favor to see her,
sleeping like an infant."
Daniel listened, stupefied by amazement, utterly confounded by the
impudence of Sir Thorn and Mrs. Brian, and hardly able to understand
the count's astonishing credulity. He thought to himself,--
"This is abominable! Here I am an accomplice of this Miss Brandon.
Must I actually aid her in obtaining possession of this unlucky man?"
But what could he do? Should he speak? Should he tell Count Ville-
Handry, that if he really heard cries of pain, and sobs, they were
certainly not uttered by Miss Brandon? Should he tell him, that, while
he was dying with anxiety, his beloved was driving about Paris, Heaven
knows where and with whom.
The thought of doing so occurred to Daniel. But what would have been
the good of it? Would the count believe him? Most probably not. And
thus he would only add new difficulties to his position, which was
already complicated enough. Finally, he saw very, clearly that he
would never dare tell the whole truth, or show that letter which he
had in his pocket. Still he tried to excuse himself, and began,--
"I am too much of a gentleman to insult a woman."
The count interrupted him rudely, saying,--
"Spare me, I pray, a rigmarole which cannot affect me. Besides, I do
not blame you particularly. I know the heart of man too well not to be
sure, that, in acting thus, you have followed much less the
inspirations of your own heart than the suggestions made by my
It might have been very dangerous for Henrietta to allow the count to
cherish such thoughts. Daniel, therefore, tried once more to explain.
"I assure you, count"--
But the count interrupted him fiercely, stamping with his foot.
"No more! I mean to make an end to this absurd opposition, and to
break it forever. Do they not know that I am master in my own house?
and do they propose to treat me like a servant, and to laugh at me,
into the bargain? I shall make you aware who is master."
He checked himself for an instant, and then continued,--
"Ah, M. Champcey! I did not expect that from you. Poor Sarah! To think
that I could not spare her such a humiliation! But it is the last; and
this very morning, as soon as she wakes, she shall know that all is
ended. I have just sent for my daughter to tell her that the day for
the wedding is fixed. All the formalities are fulfilled. We have the
He paused, for Henrietta came in.
"You wish to speak to me, papa?" she said as she entered the room.
Greeting Daniel with a sweet glance of her eyes, Henrietta walked up
to the count, and offered him her forehead to kiss; but he pushed her
back rudely, and said, assuming an air of supreme solemnity,--
"I have sent for you, my daughter, to inform you that to-morrow
fortnight I shall marry Miss Brandon."
Henrietta must have been prepared for something of the kind, for she
did not move. She turned slightly pale; and a ray of wrath shot from
her eyes. The count went on,--
"Under these circumstances, it is not proper, it is hardly decent,
that you should not know her who is to be your mother hereafter. I
shall therefore present you to her this very day, in the afternoon."
The young girl shook her head gently, and then she said,--
Count Ville-Handry had become very red. He exclaimed,--
"What! You dare! What would you say if I threatened to carry you
forcibly to Miss Brandon's house?"
"I, should say, father, that that is the only way to make me go
Her attitude was firm, though not defiant. She spoke in a calm, gentle
voice, but betrayed in every thing a resolution firmly formed, and not
to be shaken by any thing. The count seemed to be perfectly amazed at
this audacity shown by a girl who was usually so timid. He said,--
"Then you detest, you envy, this Miss Brandon?"
"I, father? Why should I? Great God! I only know that she cannot
become the Countess Ville-Handry,--she who has filled all Paris with
"Who has told you so? No doubt, M. Champcey."
"Everybody has told me, father."
"So, because she has been slandered, the poor girl"--
"I am willing to think she is innocent; but the Countess Ville-Handry
must not be a slandered woman."
She raised herself to her full height, and added in a higher voice,--
"You are master here, father; you can do as you choose. But I--I owe
it to myself and to the sacred memory of my mother, to protest by all
the means in my power; and I shall protest."
The count stammered and stared. The blood rose to his head. He cried
"At last I know you, Henrietta, and I understand you. /I/ was not
mistaken. It was you who sent M. Daniel Champcey to Miss Brandon, to
insult her at her own house."
"Sir!" interrupted M. Daniel in a threatening tone.
But the count could not be restrained; and, with his eyes almost
starting from their sockets, he continued,--
"Yes, I read your innermost heart, Henrietta. You are afraid of losing
a part of your inheritance."
Stung by this insult, Henrietta had stepped up close to her father,--
"But don't you see, father, that it is this woman who wants your
fortune, and that she does not like us, and cannot like us?"
"Why, if you please?"
Once before, Count Ville-Handry had asked this question of his
daughter in almost the same words. Then she had not dared answer him;
but now, carried away by her bitterness at being insulted by a woman
whom she despised, she forgot every thing. She seized her father's
hand, and, carrying him to a mirror, she said in a hoarse voice,--
"'Why?'--you ask. Well, look there! look at yourself!"
If Count Ville-Handry had trusted nature, he would have looked like a
man of barely sixty, still quite robust and active. But he had allowed
art to spoil every thing. And this morning, with his few hairs, half
white, half dyed, with the rouge and the white paint of yesterday
cracked, and fallen away in places, he looked as if he had lived a few
Did he see himself as he really was,--hideous?
He certainly became livid; and coldly, for his excessive rage gave him
the appearance of composure, he said,--
"You are a wretch, Henrietta!"
And as she broke out in sobs, terrified by his words, he said,--
"Oh, don't play comedy! Presently, at four o'clock precisely, I shall
call for you. If I find you dressed, and ready to accompany me to Miss
Brandon's house, all right. If not M. Champcey has been here for the
last time in his life; and you will never--do you hear?--never be his
wife. Now I leave you alone; you can reflect!"
And he went out, closing the door so violently, that the whole house
seemed to shake.
"All is over!"
Both Henrietta and Daniel were crushed by this certain conviction.
The crisis could no longer be postponed. A few hours more, and the
mischief would be done. Daniel was the first to shake off the stupor
of despair; and, taking Henrietta's hand, he asked her,--
"You have heard what your father said. What will you do?"
"What I said I would do, whatever it may cost me."
"But could you yield?"
"Yield?" exclaimed the young girl.
And, looking at Daniel with grieved surprise, she added,--
"Would you really dare give me that advice,--you who had only to look
at Miss Brandon to lose your self-control so far as to overwhelm her
"Henrietta, I swear"--
"And this to such an extent, that father accused you of having done so
at my bidding. Ah, you have been very imprudent, Daniel!"
The unhappy man wrung his hands with despair. What punishment he had
to endure for a moment's forgetfulness! He felt as if he had rendered
himself guilty already by not revealing the mean conduct of M. Elgin
and Mrs. Brian while Miss Brandon was driving about Paris. And now, at
this very hour, he was put into a still more difficult position,
because he could not even give a glimpse of the true state of things.
He said nothing; and Henrietta gloried in his silence.
"You see," she said, "that if your heart condemns me, your reason and
your conscience approve of my decision."
He made no reply, but, rising suddenly, he began to walk up and down
in the room like a wild beast searching for some outlet from the cage
in which it has been imprisoned. He felt he was caught, hemmed in on
all sides, and he could do nothing, nothing at all.
"Ah, we must surrender!" he exclaimed at last, overcome with grief;
"we must do it; we are almost helpless. Let us give up the struggle;
reason demands it. We have done enough; we have done our duty."
All trembling with passion, he spoke on for some time, bringing up the
most conclusive arguments, one by one; while his love lent him all its
persuasive power. And at last it looked as if Henrietta's
determination were giving way, and she began to hesitate. It was so;
but she was still struggling against her own emotion, and said in a
"No doubt, Daniel, you think I am not yet wretched enough."
And then, fixing upon him a long, anxious glance, she added,--
"Say no more, or I shall begin to fear that you are dreading the time
which has still to elapse till we can be united, and that you doubt me
He blushed, finding himself thus half detected; but, given up entirely
to sinister presentiments, he insisted,--
"No, I do not doubt; but I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that
you are going to live under the same roof with Miss Brandon, M. Elgin,
and Mrs. Brian. Since this abominable adventuress must triumph, let us
flee. I have in Anjou an old respectable kinswoman, who will be very
proud to offer you her hospitality."
Henrietta stopped him by a gesture. Then she said,--
"In other words, I who risk my happiness in order to avoid a blot upon
the name of Ville-Handry, I should tarnish it in an almost
ineffaceable manner. That cannot be."
"No more. I stand upon a post of honor which I shall not abandon. The
more formidable Miss Brandon is, the more it becomes my duty to remain
here in order to watch over my father."
He remembered suddenly what M. de Brevan had told him of the means
employed by Miss Brandon for the purpose of getting rid of troublesome
people. Did Henrietta's instincts make her anticipate a crime? No, not
such a crime, at least.
"You will understand my decision all the better," she continued, "if I
tell you what a strange discovery I have made. This morning a
gentleman called here, who said he was a business-man, and had an
appointment with Count Ville-Handry which was of the utmost
"The servants had told him that their master was out. He became angry,
and began to talk so loud, that I came to see what was the matter.
When he saw me, and found out who I was, he at once became very quiet,
and begged me to take charge of a rough copy of a legal paper, which
he had been directed to prepare secretly, and which he desired me to
hand to my father.
"I promised to do so; but, as I was carrying the paper up stairs to
put it upon my father's bureau, I happened to look at it. Do you know
what it was? The statutes of a new society, of which father was to be
"Great God! Is it possible?"
"Most assuredly, unfortunately. I saw on the top of the paper, 'Count
Ville-Handry, director in chief' and after the name followed all his
titles, the high offices he has filled, and the French and foreign
decorations which he has received."
Daniel could no longer doubt. He said,--
"We knew that they would try to obtain possession of your father's
fortune, and now we have the proof of it. But what can we ever do,
Henrietta, against the cunning manoeuvres of people like these?"
She bowed her head, and answered in a tone of resignation,--
"I have heard it said that often the mere presence of an inoffensive
child is sufficient to intimidate and frighten away the boldest
criminals. If God wills it so, I will be that child."
Daniel tried once more to insist; but she cut him short, saying,--
"You forget, my dear friend, that this is, perhaps for many years, the
last time we shall ever be alone together. Let us think of the future.
I have secured the confidence of one of my waiting-women, and to her
you must direct your letters. Her name is Clarissa Pontois. If any
grave and unforeseen necessity should arise, and it becomes absolutely
necessary for me to see you, Clarissa will bring you the key of the
little garden-gate, and you will come."
Both of them had their eyes filled with tears; and their hearts felt
increasing anguish as the hand on the dial advanced. They knew they
would have to part. Could they hope ever to meet again?
It struck four o'clock. Count Ville-Handry reappeared. Stung to the
quick by what he called the insulting remarks of his daughter, he had
stimulated the zeal of his valet; and that artist had evidently
surpassed himself in the arrangement of the hair, and especially in
"Well, Henrietta?" he asked.
"My decision remains unchanged, father."
The count was probably prepared for this answer; for he succeeded in
controlling his fury.
"Once more, Henrietta," he said, "consider! Do not decide rashly,
relying simply upon odious slanders."
He drew from his pocket a photograph, looked at it lovingly, and,
handing it to his daughter, he added,--
"Here is Miss Brandon's portrait. Look at it, and see if she to whom
God has given such a charming face, such sublime eyes, can have a bad
For more than a minute Henrietta examined the likeness; and then,
returning it to her father, she said coldly,--
"This woman is beautiful beyond all conception. Now I can explain to
myself that new society of which you are going to be director-
Count Ville-Handry turned pale under this "juncture," and cried in a
"Unhappy child! Unhappy child! You dare insult an angel?"
Maddened with rage, he had lifted up his hand, and was about to strike
his daughter, when Daniel seized his wrist in his iron grasp, and
threateningly, as if he himself was about to strike, he said,--
"Ah, sir, have a care! have a care!"
The count cast upon him a look of concentrated hatred; but, regaining
his self-control, he freed himself, and, pointing at the door, he said
"M. Champcey, I order you to leave this house instantly; and I forbid
your ever coming back to it again. My servants will be informed, that,
if any one of them ever allows you to cross the threshold of this
house, he will be instantly dismissed. Go, sir!"
Twenty-four hours after Daniel had thus left Count Ville-Handry's
palace, pale and staggering, he had not yet entirely recovered from
this last blow. He had made a mortal enemy of the man whom it was his
greatest interest to manage; and this man, who of his own accord would
have parted with him only regretfully, had now turned him
disgracefully out of his house.
He could hardly account to himself for the way in which this had come
about. Nay, more; retracing step by step, his conduct during the last
few days, it appeared to him pitiful, absurd. And then all that had
happened seemed to have turned against him.
He accused Fate, that blind goddess, who is always blamed by those who
have not the courage to blame themselves. He was in this state of mind
when there came to him, to his great surprise, a letter from
Henrietta. Thus it was she who anticipated him, and who, sure that he
would be desperate, had the feminine delicacy to write to him almost
"Immediately after your departure, my dear Daniel, father ordered
me up stairs, and decided that I should stay there till I should
become more reasonable. I know I shall stay here a long time."
She concluded thus,--
"What we want most of all, oh, my only friend! is courage. Will you
have as much as your Henrietta?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly! I shall have all that is needed," exclaimed
Daniel, moved to tears.
And he vowed to himself that he would devote himself, heart and soul,
to his work, and there find, if not forgetfulness, at least peace. He
found, however, that to swear was easier than to do. In spite of all
his efforts, he could not fix his thoughts upon any thing else but his
misfortunes. The studies which he had formerly pursued with delight
now filled him with disgust. The balance of his whole life was so
completely destroyed, that he was not able to restore it.
The existence which he now led was that of a desperate man. As soon as
he had risen, he hurried to M. de Brevan, and remained in his company
as long as he could. Left alone, he wandered at haphazard along the
Boulevards, or up the Champs Elysees. He dined early, hurried home
again, and, putting on a rough overcoat which he had worn on board
ship, he went to roam around the palace of his beloved.
There, behind those heavy, beautifully carved gates, which were open
to all comers but to him, lived she who was more to him than his life.
If he had struck the flagstones of the sidewalk with the heel of his
boots, she would have heard the sound. He could hear the music of her
piano; and yet the will of one man placed an abyss between them.
He was dying of inaction. It seemed to him atrocious, humiliating,
intolerable, to be thus reduced to expecting good or evil fortune from
fate, passively, without making an effort, like a man, who having
taken a ticket in a lottery, and is all anxiety to obtain a large
fortune, crosses his arms and waits for the drawing.
He was suffering thus for six days, and saw no end of it; when one
morning, just as he was going out, his bell rang. He went to open the
It was a lady, who, without saying a word, swiftly walked in, and as
promptly shut the door behind her.
Although she was wrapped up in a huge cloak which completely hid her
figure, in spite of the very thick veil before her face, Daniel
recognized her at once.
"Miss Brandon!" he exclaimed.
In the meantime she had raised her veil, "Yes, it is I," she replied,
"risking another calumny in addition to all the others that have been
raised against me, Daniel."
Amazed at a step which seemed to him the height of imprudence, he
remained standing in the anteroom, and did not even think of inviting
Miss Brandon to go into the next room, his study.
She went in of her own accord, quite aloof; and, when he had followed
her, she said to him,--
"I came, sir, to ask you what you have done with that promise you gave
me the other night at my house?"
She waited a moment; and, as he did not reply, she went on,--
"Come, I see you are like all men, if they pledge their word to
another man, who is a match for them, they consider it a point of
honor to keep it, but if it is a woman, then they do not keep it, and
boast of it!"
Daniel was furious; but she pretended not to see it, and said more
"I--I have a better memory than you, sir; and I mean to prove it to
you. I know what has happened at Count Ville-Handry's house; he has
told me all. You have allowed yourself to be carried away so far as to
threaten him, to raise your hand against him."
"He was going to strike his daughter, and I held his arm."
"No, sir! my dear count is incapable of such violence; and yet his own
daughter had dared to taunt him with his weakness, pretending that he
had been induced by me to establish a new industrial company."
Daniel said nothing.
"And you," continued Miss Brandon,--"you allowed Miss Henrietta to say
all these offensive and absurd things. I should induce the count to
engage in an enterprise where money might be lost! Why? What interest
could I have?"
Her voice began to tremble; and her beautiful eyes filled with tears.
"Interest!" she went on to say, "money! The world can think of no
other motive nowadays. Money! I have enough of it. If I marry the
count, you know why I do it,--you! And you also know that it depended,
and perhaps, at this moment, still depends upon one single man,
whether I shall break off that match this very day, now."
As she said this, she looked at him in a manner which would have
caused a statue to tremble on its marble pedestal.
But he, with his heart full of hatred, remained icy, enjoying the
revenge which was thus presented to him.
"I will believe whatever you wish to say," he answered in a mocking
tone, "if you will answer me a single question."
"The other night, when I had left you, where did you go in your
He expected to see her confused, turning pale, stammer. Not at all.
"What, you know that?" she said, with an accent of admirable candor.
"Ah! I committed an act of almost as great imprudence as I now do. If
some fool should see me leave your rooms?"
"Pardon me, Miss Brandon, that is no answer to my question. Where did
And as she kept silent, surprised by Daniel's firmness, he said
"Then you confess that it would be madness to believe you? Let us
break off here, and pray to God that I may be able to forget all the
wrong you have done me."
Miss Brandon's beautiful eyes filled with tears of grief or of rage.
She folded her hands, and said in a suppliant tone,--
"I conjure you, M. Champcey, grant me only five minutes. I must speak
to you. If you knew"--
He could not turn her out; he bowed profoundly before her, and
withdrew into his bedroom, closing the door behind him. But he
immediately applied his eye to the keyhole, and saw Miss Brandon, her
features convulsed with rage, threaten him with her closed hand, and
leave the room hastily.
"She was going to dig another pit for me," thought Daniel.
And the idea that he had avoided it made him, for a part of that day
at least, forget his sorrow. But on the following day he found, when
he returned home, a formidable document from the navy department, and
inside two letters.
One informed him that he had been promoted to be a lieutenant.
The other ordered him to report four days hence at Rochefort, on board
the frigate "Conquest," which was lying in the roadstead waiting for
two battalions of marines to be transferred to Cochin China.
Daniel had for long years, and with all the eager ambition of a young
man, desired the promotion which he now obtained. That rank had been
the supreme goal of all his dreams since the day on which he learned
at the navy school the rudiments of his perilous vocation. How often,
as he stood leaning against the monkey-railing, and saw boats passing
by which carried officers, had he said to himself,--
"When I am a navy lieutenant!"
Well, now he was a lieutenant. But alas! his wishes, thus realized,
filled him only with disgust and bitterness, like those golden apples,
which, at a distance, shine brightly in the branches of magic trees,
and under the touch of the hand turn into dust and ashes.
For with the news of his promotion came also the fatal order to a
distant shore. Why did they send such an order to him, who had at the
department an office in which he could render valuable services, while
so many of his comrades, waiting idly in port, watched anxiously, and
with almost feverish impatience, for a chance to go into active
"Ah!" he said to himself, his heart filled with rage, "how could I
fail to recognize in this abominable treachery Miss Brandon's cunning
First she had closed against him the gates of Count Ville-Handry's
palace, and thus separated him from his beloved Henrietta, so that
they could not meet nor speak to each other.
But this was not enough for the accursed adventuress. She wanted to
raise a barrier between them which should be more than a mere moral
and social obstacle, one of those difficulties which no human power,
no lover's ingenuity, could overcome,--the ocean and thousands of
"Oh, no!" he cried in his anguish, "a thousand times no! Rather give
up my career, rather send in my resignation."
Hence, the very next day, he put on his uniform, determined to lay the
matter, first before that officer who was his immediate superior, but
resolved, if he should not succeed there, to go up to the minister
He had never worn that uniform since the night of a large court-ball,
where he had danced with Henrietta. It was nearly a year ago, a few
weeks before the death of the Countess Ville-Handry. As he compared
his happiness in those days with his present desperate condition, he
was deeply moved; and his eyes were still brimful of tears when he
reached the navy department, towards ten o'clock in the morning.
The officer whom he called upon was an old captain, an excellent man,
who had practised the appearance of a grim, stern official so long,
that he had finally become in reality what he only wished to appear.
Seeing Daniel enter his office, he thought he came to inform him of
his promotion, and made a great effort to smile as he hailed him with
"Well, Lieut. Champcey, we are satisfied, I hope?"
And, perceiving that Daniel did not wear the epaulets of his new rank,
"But how is that, lieutenant? Perhaps you have not heard yet?"
"I beg your pardon, captain."
"Why on earth, then, have you no epaulets?"
And he began to frown terribly, considering that such carelessness
augured ill for the service. Daniel excused himself as well as he
could, which was very little, and then boldly approached the purpose
of his call.
"I have received an order for active service."
"I know,--on board 'The Conquest,' in the roadstead at Rochefort, for
"I have to be at my post in four days."
"And you think the time too short? It is short. But impossible to
grant you ten minutes more."
"I do not ask for leave of absence, captain; I want the favor--to be
allowed to keep my place here."
The old officer could hardly keep his seat.
"You would prefer not going on board ship," he exclaimed, "the very
day after your promotion? Ah, come, you are mad!"
Daniel shook his head sadly.
"Believe me, captain," he replied, "I obey the most imperative duty."
Leaning back in his chair, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, the captain
seemed to look for such a duty; then he asked suddenly,--
"Is it your family that keeps you?"
"If my place can really not be filled by one of my comrades, I shall
be compelled to send in my resignation."
The old sailor bounded as he heard that word, and said furiously,--
"I told you you were a fool!"
In spite of his determination, Daniel was too much troubled not to
commit a blunder. He insisted,--
"It is a matter of life and death with me, captain. And if you only
knew my reasons; if I could tell them"--
"Reasons which cannot be told are always bad reasons, sir. I insist
upon what I have told you."
"Then, captain, I shall be compelled, to my infinite sorrow, to insist
upon offering my resignation."
The old sailor's brow became darker and darker. He growled.
"Your resignation, your resignation! You talk of it very lightly. It
remains to be seen whether it will be accepted. 'The Conquest' does
not sail on a pleasure-party; she is sent out on a serious campaign,
and will probably be absent for some time. We have unpleasant
complications down there and are sending out reinforcements. You are
still in France; but you are actually under orders to meet the enemy;
Men do not resign in the face of the enemy, Lieut. Champcey!"
Daniel had turned very pale.
"You are severe, captain," he said.
"I have no idea, I assure you, of being gentle; and, if that can
induce you to change your mind"--
"Unfortunately, I cannot alter my decision."
The old sailor rose violently, and walked up and down the room several
times, giving vent to his anger in oaths of various kinds; then he
returned to Daniel, and said in his driest tone,--
"If that is so, the case is serious; I must report it to the secretary
of the navy. What time is it? Eleven o'clock. Come here again at half-
past twelve. I shall have settled the matter then."
Quite certain that his superior would say nothing in his favor, Daniel
retired, walking hurriedly through the narrow passages, when a joyous
voice hailed him, calling out, "Champcey!"
He turned, and found himself face to face with two of his comrades,
with whom he had been most intimate at school. They said eagerly,--
"So you are our superior now?"
And, with the utmost sincerity, they began to congratulate him,
delighted, as they said, that such good luck should have fallen upon a
man like him, whom everybody thought worthy of the distinction, and
who reflected honor upon the service. No enemy could have inflicted
such suffering upon Daniel as these two friends did. There was not one
of their good wishes which did not amount to a bitter sarcasm; every
word they said told upon him.
"You must confess, however," they continued, "that you are a lucky
man, like no other. One day you are made a lieutenant; and the next
day they offer you active service. The next time we meet, you will be
a captain in command of a frigate."
"I am not going out," replied Daniel, fiercely. "I have handed in my
And, leaving his two friends looking utterly amazed, he went away at a
Certainly, he had not foreseen all these difficulties; and in his
blind wrath he charged his chief with injustice and tyranny. He
"I must stay in Paris; and I will stay."
Reflection, far from calming him, only excited him the more. Having
left home with the intention of offering his resignation only in an
extreme case, he was now determined to adhere to his plan, even if
they should offer him full satisfaction. Had he not an ample income of
his own? and could he not always find an honorable occupation? That
would be far better than to continue in a profession where one is
never his own master, but lives eternally under the dread of some
order that may send him, at a moment's warning, to heaven knows what
part of the world.
That was the way he reasoned with himself while breakfasting at a
tavern not far off; and when he returned to the department, a little
after twelve, he looked upon himself as already no longer belonging to
the navy, and in his imagination caring little for the final decision.
It was the hour for receptions, when everybody who had any business at
the department came to look after his interests; and the anteroom was
filled with officers of every grade, some in uniform, others in
The conversation was very animated; for Daniel heard the sounds from
the outer passage.
He entered; and there was silence,--sudden, deep, chilling silence.
Evidently they had been talking about him.
Even if he could have doubted it for a moment, he read it in the faces
turned aside, the forced smiles, and the cautious glances with which
he was received. He thought, very much troubled,--
"What can this mean?"
In the meantime a young man in citizen's dress, whom he did not know,
called out from one side of the room to the other, to an old officer
in a seedy uniform, with blackened epaulets (a real sea-dog), lean,
bronzed, wrinkled, and with eyes bearing the traces of recent
"Why do you stop, lieutenant? We were much interested, I assure you."
The lieutenant seemed to hesitate, as if he were making up his mind to
do a disagreeable thing, which still did not depend on his choice; and
then he resumed his account,--
"Well, we got there, convinced that we had taken all the necessary
precautions, and that there was, consequently, nothing to fear,--fine
precautions they turned out to be! In the course of a week the whole
crew was laid up; and as to the staff, little Bertram and I were the
only officers able to appear on deck. Moreover, my eyes were in a
state. You see what they say now. The captain was the first to die;
the same evening five sailors followed suit, and seven the next day;
the day after the first lieutenant and two of the noncommissioned
officers. The like was never seen before."
Daniel turned to his neighbor.
"Who is that officer?" he asked.
"Lieut. Dutac of 'The Valorous,' just returned from Cochin China."
Light broke upon Daniel's mind; it was a painful light.
"When did 'The Valorous' come in?" he asked again.
"Six days ago she made the harbor of Brest."
The other man went on,--
"And thus, you see, we left a goodly portion of our crew out there.
That is a campaign! As to my own notions, this is what I think,--a
nasty country, a wretched climate, a people fit for the gallows."
"Certainly," said the young man in citizen's dress, "things are not
pleasant in Cochin China."
"Ah, but still"--
"What if you were ordered back?"
"I would go, of course. Somebody must go, you know, and carry
reinforcements there; but I should not care if somebody else"--
He shrugged his shoulders, and said stoically,--
"And besides, since we navy men must be eaten by the fish some time or
other, it does not matter very much when that takes place."
Was not that, in a trivial, but terribly impressive manner, precisely
the same thing that Daniel had been told by his captain? People do not
resign when they face the enemy.
It was very evident that the officers who were there assembled doubted
his courage, and were discussing the fact when he entered. It was
clear that they attributed his resignation to fear.
At this idea, that he might be suspected of cowardice, Daniel trembled
all over. What could he do to prove that he was not a coward? Should
he challenge every one of these men, and fight one, two, ten duels?
Would that prove that he had not shrunk from the unknown perils of a
new country, from the dangers of an armed invasion, and a fatal
climate? No; unless he was willing to remain a marked man for life, he
must go; yes, go, since out there dangers awaited him of which he was
held to be afraid.
He went up, therefore, to the old lieutenant, and said, in a voice
loud enough to be heard by every one in the room,--
"My good comrade, I had just been ordered to the place you come from,
and I had sent in my resignation; but after what you have said,--
things I knew nothing of,--I shall go."
There was a murmur of approbation. And one voice said, "Ah! I was sure
of it!" and that was all. But it was quite enough to prove to Daniel
that he had chosen the only way to save his honor, which had been in
imminent peril. But, simple as the whole scene was in itself, it was
very extraordinary, in view of the usual reserve which prevails among
sailors. And, besides, does it not happen almost every day, that an
officer ordered to some station requests and obtains leave to exchange
with some one else, and nothing is said?
Daniel felt that underneath the whole affair there was some diabolic
intrigue. If Miss Brandon had really procured this order to active
service, was it not likely that she would have taken her measures, so
that he could not possibly avoid going? Were all these men in
citizen's dress whom he saw there really navy officers? The young man
who had asked Lieut. Dutac to go on in his story had disappeared.
Daniel went from one to the other, inquiring who that clever young man
was, but in vain. Soon a summons came for him to appear in the
superior's office. He hastened there; and, as he opened the door, he
"I'll follow your advice, captain. In three days I shall be on board
The captain's stern face cleared up, and he said approvingly,--
"All right! You did well to change your mind; for your business began
to look very ugly. The minister is very angry with you."
"The minister? And why?"
"/Primo/, he had charged you with a very important duty."
"To be sure," stammered Daniel, hanging his head; "but I have been so
The fact is, he had totally forgotten that unlucky work.
"/Secundo/," continued the old officer, "he was doubtful whether you
were in your right senses, and I agree with him, since he has told me
that you yourself have solicited this appointment on foreign service
in the most urgent terms."
Daniel was stunned, and stammered out,--
"His Excellency is mistaken."
"Ah! I beg your pardon, M. Champcey; I have myself seen your letter."
But already a sudden inspiration had, like a flash of lightning,
cleared up the mystery in Daniel's mind.
"Ah! I wish I could see it too! Captain, I beseech you show me that
The old officer began almost to think that Champcey was really not in
his right mind. He answered,--
"I do not have it; but it is among your papers in the bureau for
In a minute Daniel was in the office where those papers were kept, and
obtained, not without much trouble, and under certain conditions only,
leave to look at his papers. He opened the parcel with feverish haste;
and the very first paper that fell in his hands was a letter, dated
the day before, in which he urgently requested the minister to grant
him the special favor of being sent out with the expedition to Cochin
China on board the frigate "Conquest."
Daniel was, of course, perfectly sure that he had written no such
But the handwriting was so precisely like his own, letter for letter,
and even his signature was so admirably imitated, that he felt for a
moment utterly bewildered, mistrusting, for a second, his own eyes,
his own reason. The whole was done so exceedingly well, that if the
matter had been one of ordinary importance, and the date of the letter
had gone back to a fortnight or so ago, he would certainly have
suspected his memory rather than the letter before him.
Overcome by the atrocity of such a trick, he exclaimed,--
"It is almost incredible!"
It was, however, only too certain, too indisputable, that the letter
could not have been dictated by any one but Miss Brandon. No doubt,
one of her accomplices, perhaps the great Sir Thorn himself, had
written it. Ah! now Daniel understood the insolent assurance of Miss
Brandon, when she insisted upon his taking poor Malgat's letters, and
repeatedly said, "Go and show them to the clerks who have known that
unhappy man for long years, and they will tell you if they are his
own." Most assuredly he would have met with no one bold enough to say
the contrary, if Malgat's handwriting had been copied with the same
distressing perfection as his own.
Still he might, perhaps, profit by this strange event; but how?
Ought he to mention his discovery? What would have been the use? Would
they believe him, if he accused her of forgery, of a trick unsurpassed
in boldness and wickedness? Would they even consent to an
investigation; and, if they instituted one, what would be the result?
Where would they find an expert ready to swear that this letter was
not written by him, when he himself, if each line had been presented
to him separately, would have felt bound to acknowledge it as his own?
Was it not far more probable, on the contrary, that, after what he had
done in the morning, they would have ascribed his charges to a
mistake, or seen in them a weak invention in order to cover his
retreat? Therefore it was a thousand times better to keep silence, to
be resigned to postpone to another day every attempt to avenge himself
in a manner corresponding to the injury he had suffered, and all the
more effectively, as his vengeance would have been carefully matured.
But he did not wish that false letter, which might become a formidable
piece of evidence against him, to remain among his papers; no doubt
Miss Brandon would soon find an opportunity of having it withdrawn. He
asked, therefore, for leave to copy it, obtained permission, went to
work, and succeeded, without being seen by anybody, in substituting
his copy for the original.
When this was done, knowing that he had not a minute to lose, he
instantly left the department, and, jumping into a carriage, drove to
M. de Brevan.
Like all energetic natures, Daniel felt a wonderful relief as soon as
he had formed an irrevocable decision. He would even have enjoyed the
peace that had once more returned to his mind, but for the savage
hatred which had accumulated in his heart, and which confused his
thoughts whenever he remembered Miss Brandon.
Providentially, it seemed to him, Maxime had not gone out, or, rather,
having been to breakfast at the English cafe with some of his friends,
he had just returned.
In ten words Daniel had told him every thing, and even shown him that
masterpiece of forgery, which he attributed to Miss Brandon's mind,
and M. Elgin's skill. Then, without heeding Maxime's exclamations of
wonder and indignation, loud and deep as they were, he continued,--
"Now, my dear Maxime, listen to me. It may be my last will which I am
going to give in your charge."
And, when his friend tried to remonstrate, he insisted,--
"I know what I am saying. I am sure I hope I shall not be buried out
there; but the climate is murderous, and I may encounter a cannon-
ball. It is always better to be prepared."
He paused a moment to collect his thoughts; and then he went on.
"You alone, in this world, Maxime, know all my private affairs. I have
no secret from you. I have friends whom I have known longer than you;
but I have none in whom I feel more confidence. Besides, my old
friends are all sailors,--men, who, like myself, may at any moment be
sent, Heaven knows where. Now I want a reliable, safe, and experienced
man, possessed of prudence and energy, and sure not to leave Paris.
Will you be that man, Maxime?"
M. de Brevan, who had remained in his chair, rose, and, putting his
hand on his heart, said,--
"Between us, Daniel, oaths are useless; don't you think so? I say,
therefore, simply, you may count upon me."
"And I do count upon you," exclaimed Daniel,--"yes, blindly and
absolutely; and I am going to give you a striking proof of it."
For a few moments it looked as if he were trying to find some brief
and yet impressive form for his communication; and then he said,
speaking very rapidly,--
"If I leave in despair, it is because I leave Henrietta in the hands
of the enemy. What persecution she will have to endure! My heart
bleeds at the mere thought. Miss Brandon must be meditating some
terrible blow, or she would not have been so anxious to keep me at a
He sobbed almost, so great was his excitement; but he instantly became
master again of his emotion, and continued,--
"Well, Maxime, I shall ask you to watch over Henrietta. I intrust her
to you as I would intrust her to my brother, if I had one."
M. de Brevan was about to state some objections; but Daniel cut him
"I will tell you how and in what manner you can watch over Miss Ville-
Handry. To-morrow evening I shall see her, and tell her the new
misfortune which has befallen us. I shall take leave of her then. I
know she will be terrified; but then, to reassure her, I shall explain
to her that I leave her a friend, another myself, ready, like myself,
to assist her at her first summons, and ready, like myself, to run any
danger in order to succor her. I shall tell her to appeal to you as if
it were to myself; to write to you as she used to write to me; to keep
you informed of all they may attempt to do; to consult and to obey you
"As to what you will have to do, Maxime, I cannot tell you that, even
in a general way, as I know nothing of Miss Brandon's plans. I rely
upon your experience to do what is most expedient. Still there are two
alternatives which I can foresee. It may be that her father's house
becomes impossible for Henrietta, and that she should wish to leave
it. It may also be, that, under certain circumstances, you may think
it inexpedient for her to remain there, and that you have to advise
her to escape. In either case, you will take Henrietta to an old lady,
a relative of mine, who lives at the Rosiers, a little village in the
department of Maine-et-Loire, and whose address I will give you, while
I will inform her beforehand of what may happen."
He paused, trying to remember if there was any thing else, and,
recalling nothing, he said,--
"This, my dear Maxime, is all I expect you to do for me."
With open brow, a clear eye, and grave face, M. de Brevan replied in a
solemn tone of voice, speaking like a man who feels that he deserves
"Friend Daniel, you may sail without fear."
But Daniel had not done yet.
Pressing his friend's hand heartily, he thanked him, and then with a
careless air, under which he very imperfectly concealed his real
embarrassment, he said,--
"There remains only to provide the means for carrying out these
measures, and for possible contingencies. You are not rich, my dear
Maxime, I mean rich in comparison with the people who are your
friends; you have told me so more than once."
He touched a wound which was always open, and always bleeding.
"Certainly," replied M. de Brevan, "in comparison with a number of my
friends, with men like Gordon Chalusse, for instance, I am only a poor
Daniel did not notice the bitterness of this reply.
"Now," he said, "suppose, at a given moment, Miss Henrietta's safety
should make a certain sum of money necessary,--perhaps a very large
sum,--are you sure you will always have enough in your drawer, and be
able to dispose of it without inconvenience?"
"Ah! you expect too much of me; but I have friends."
"And you would ask them! you would expose yourself to the humiliation
of hearing those set excuses which serve to conceal refusals! I could
never permit that."
"I assure you"--
"Let me tell you that I have forgotten nothing. Although my means are
modest, I can, by selling out some bonds, realize enough to secure you
against any embarrassment on that score. I also own property in Anjou
which is valued at fifty or sixty thousand dollars, and I mean to sell
The other man opened his eyes wide.
"You mean," he said slowly.
"To sell it, yes. You heard right. Except, however, my home, my
father's house, with the little garden in front, the orchard, and the
meadow adjoining the house. In that house my father and my mother have
lived and died. I find them there, so to /say/, whenever I go in;
their thoughts are still filling the rooms, after so many years. The
garden and the orchard are the first little bits of land my father
bought from his earnings as ploughboy. He cultivated them in his
leisure hours, and there is literally not a foot of soil which he has
not moistened with the sweat of his brow. They are sacred to me; but
the rest--I have already given orders."
"And you expect to sell every thing in the three days before your
"Oh, no! But you are here."
"What can I do?"
"Take my place, I should think. I will leave you a power-of-attorney.
Perhaps, if you make haste, you can get fifty thousand dollars for the
property. You will invest that so as to be able to use it any moment.
And, if ever Miss Henrietta should be compelled to leave her father's
house, you will hand the money over to her."
M. de Brevan had turned very pale.
"Excuse me," he said, "excuse me."
"Well, it seems to me it would be more suitable to leave some one else
in charge of that."
"Oh! I do not know,--a more experienced man! It may be that the
property will not bring as much as you expect. Or I might invest the
money in the wrong funds. Money questions are so delicate!"
But Daniel said, shrugging his shoulders,--
"I do not understand why you should hesitate to undertake so simple a
thing, when you have already consented to render me so signal and so
difficult a service."
So simple! M. de Brevan did not look upon it in that light.
A nervous shiver, which he could hardly conceal, ran down his
backbone; drops of perspiration broke out on his temples; and he
turned deadly pale.
"Fifty thousand dollars! That is an enormous sum."
"Oh, yes!" replied Daniel in the most careless manner.
And, looking at the clock, he added,--
"Half-past three. Come, Maxime, be quick. My carriage is waiting. The
notary expects us between three and four o'clock."
This notary was an exceptional man. He took an interest in the affairs
of his clients, and sometimes even listened to hear their
explanations. When Daniel had told him what he intended doing, he
"You have nothing to do, M. Champcey, but to give M. de Brevan a
power-of-attorney in proper form."
"Would it be possible," asked Daniel, "to have it drawn up at once?"
"Why not? It can be recorded this evening; and to-morrow"--
"Well, then, lose no time."
The notary called his chief clerk, gave him briefly his instructions,
then, making a sign to Daniel, he drew him into a kind of recess
resembling an enormous cupboard, adjoining his office, in which he
"confessed" his clients, as he called it. When they were there, he
"How is it, M. Champcey, do you really owe this M. de Brevan so much
"Not a cent."
"And you leave your entire fortune thus in his hands! You must have
marvellous confidence in the man."
"As much as in myself."
"That is a good deal. And if he should, during your absence, run away
with the fifty thousand dollars?"
Daniel was a little shaken; but he remained firm.
"Oh!" he said, "there are still some honest people in the world."
"Ah?" laughed the notary.
And, from the manner in which he shook his head, it was clearly seen
that experience had made him very sceptical on that subject.
"If you would only listen to me," he resumed, "I could prove to you"--
But Daniel interrupted him, and said,--
"I have no desire, sir, to change my mind; but, even if I should wish
to do so, I cannot retract my word. There are particular circumstances
in this case which I cannot explain to you in so short a time."
The notary raised his eyes to the ceiling, and said in a tone of great
"At least, let me make him give you a deed of defeasance."
"Very well, sir."
This was done, but in such carefully guarded terms, that even the most
exquisite susceptibility on the part of Maxime could not have been
hurt. It was five o'clock, when the power-of-attorney and the deed
were signed, and the two friends left the worthy notary's office. It
was too late now for Daniel to write to Henrietta to send him for that
same evening the key to the little garden-gate; but he wrote to get it
for the next evening.
After that, having dined with M. de Brevan, he went all over Paris in
search of the thousand little things which are necessary for such a
long and perilous voyage. He came home late, and was fortunate enough
to fall asleep as soon as he had lain down. The next morning he
breakfasted in his rooms, for fear of being out of the house when they
should bring him the key.
It came towards one o'clock. It was brought by a large girl, nearly
thirty years old, with a cross expression of face, and eyes more than
modestly seeking the ground, and with narrow lips which seemed to be
perpetually engaged in reciting prayers. This was Clarissa, whom
Henrietta considered the safest of her waiting-women, and whom she had
taken into her confidence.
"Miss Henrietta," she said to Daniel, "has given me this key and this
letter for you, sir. She expects an answer."
Daniel tore the envelope, and read,--
"Take care, O my darling friend! to resort to this dangerous
expedient which we ought to reserve for the last extremity. Is
what you have to tell me really so important as you say? I can
hardly believe it; and yet I send you the key. Tell Clarissa the
precise hour at which you will be here."
Alas! the poor girl had no idea of the terrible news that was in store
"Request Miss Henrietta," said Daniel to the maid, "to expect me at
Sure now of seeing Henrietta, Daniel slipped the key in his pocket,
and hurried away. He had only a short afternoon to himself, and there
were still a thousand things to get, and countless preparations to
At his notary's, where he went first, he found the papers ready; all
the formalities had been fulfilled. But, at the moment when the deed
was placed before him, the worthy lawyer said in a prophetic voice,--
"M. Champcey, take care, reflect! I call that tempting a man pretty
strongly when you hand over to him fifty thousand dollars the day
before you start on a long and dangerous expedition."
"Ah! What matters my fortune, if I only see my Henrietta again?"
The notary looked discouraged.
"Ah! if there is a woman in the affair, I have nothing more to say."
It was as well. The next moment Daniel had forgotten him and his
Seated in M. de Brevan's little sitting-room, he was handing over his
deeds and papers to his faithful confidant, explaining to him how he
might make the most of the different parcels of land which he owned;
how certain woods might be sold together; how, on the other hand, a
large farm, now held by one tenant, might be advantageously divided
into small lots, and sold at auction.
M. de Brevan did not look so pale now. He had recovered his self-
possession, and laid aside his usual reserve in order to show himself
all eagerness for his friend.
He declared that he would see to it that his friend Daniel should not
be robbed. He intended, therefore, to go himself to Anjou to call upon
those who were likely to purchase, and to be present at the sale. In
his opinion, it would be wiser to sell piecemeal, without hurry. If
money was needed, why, one could always get it at the bank.
Daniel was deeply touched by the devotion of his friend, whose intense
selfishness he had noticed but too often. Nor was this all. Capable of
the greatest sacrifices where Daniel's interests were at stake, M. de
Brevan had formed a grand resolution. He proposed to overcome his
aversion to Miss Brandon, and to seek, immediately after her marriage,
an introduction at Count Ville-Handry's palace, for the purpose of
going there constantly. He might have to play a disagreeable part, he
admitted; but he would thus be enabled to see Miss Henrietta
frequently; he would hear every thing that happened, and be at hand
whenever she should need advice or assistance.
"Dear Maxime," repeated Daniel, "dear, excellent friend, how can I
ever thank you for all you are doing for me!"
As the day before, they dined together at one of the restaurants on
the boulevard; and after dinner M. de Brevan insisted upon
accompanying his friend back to Count Ville-Handry's house. As they
reached it long before the appointed hour, they walked up and down on
the sidewalk which runs along the wall of the immense park belonging
to the palace. It was a cold but perfectly clear night. There was not
a cloud in the sky, no mist nor haze; and the moon was shining so
brightly, that one could have read by its light.
In the meantime seven o'clock struck at a neighboring convent.
"Come, courage, my friend!" said M. de Brevan.
And, pressing his hand once more cordially, he walked off rapidly in
the direction of the Invalides.
Daniel had not answered a word. Terribly excited, he had drawn near
the small door, examining anxiously all the surroundings. The street
was deserted. But he trembled so violently, that for a moment he
thought he would never be able to turn the key in the rusty lock. At
last he succeeded in opening it, and he slipped into the garden.
No one there. He was the first on the spot.
Looking for some dark place under the tall trees, he hid himself
there, and waited. It seemed to him a century. He had counted sixty by
the beating of his pulse ever so many times, and was beginning to be
very anxious, when at last he heard some dry branches crackling under
rapid footsteps. A shadow passed between the trees. He went forward,
and Henrietta was standing before him.
"What is it now, great God!" she said anxiously. "Clarissa said you
looked so pale and undone, that I have been terribly frightened."
Daniel had come to the conclusion that the plain truth would be less
cruel than the most skilful precautions.
"I have been ordered on active service," he replied, "and I must be on
board ship the day after tomorrow."
And then, without concealing any thing, he told her all he had
suffered since the day before. Miss Ville-Handry felt as if she had
been stunned by a crushing blow. She was leaning against a tree. Did
she even hear Daniel? Yes; for, suddenly rousing herself, she said,--
"You will not obey! It is impossible for you to obey!"
"Henrietta, my honor is at stake."
"Ah, what does it matter?"
He was about to reply; but she continued in a broken voice,--
"You will certainly not go when you have heard me. You think I am
strong, brave, and capable to breast the storm? You are mistaken. I
was only drawing upon your energy, Daniel. I am a child, full of
daring as long as it rests on its mother's knee, but helpless as soon
as it feels that it is left to itself; I am only a woman, Daniel; I am
The unhappy man felt his strength leaving him; he could no longer bear
the restraint which he had imposed upon himself.
"You insist upon sending me off in utter despair?" he asked her. "Ah,
I have hardly courage enough for myself!"
She interrupted him with a nervous laugh, and said in bitter
"It would be courage to stay, to despise public opinion."
And, as any thing appeared to her preferable to such a separation, she
"Listen! If you will stay, I will yield. Let us go together to my
father, and I will tell him that I have overcome my aversion to Miss
Brandon. I will ask him to present me to her; /I/ will humble myself
"That is impossible, Henrietta."
She bent towards him, joining her hands; and in a suppliant voice she
"Stay, I beseech you, in the name of our happiness! If you have ever
loved me, if you love me now, stay!"
Daniel had foreseen this heartrending scene; but he had vowed, that,
if his heart should break, he would have the fortitude to resist
Henrietta's prayers and tears.
"If I were weak enough to give way now, Henrietta," he said, "you
would despise me before the month is over; and I, desperate at having
to drag out a life of disgrace, would blow out my brains with a curse
With her arms hanging listlessly by her side, her hands crossed behind
her, Miss Ville-Handry stood there motionless, like a statue. She felt
in her heart that Daniel's resolution was not to be shaken.
Then he said in a gentle voice,--
"I am going, Henrietta; but I leave you a friend of mine,--a true and
noble friend, who will watch over you. You have heard me speak of him
often,--Maxime de Brevan. He knows my wishes. Whatever may happen,
consult him. Ah! I should leave more cheerfully if you would promise
me to trust this faithful friend, to listen to his advice, and to
follow his directions."
"I promise you, Daniel, I will obey him."
But a rustling of the dry leaves interrupted them.
They turned round. A man was cautiously approaching them.
"My father!" cried Henrietta.
And, pushing Daniel towards the gate, she begged him to flee.
To remain would only have been to risk a painful explanation, insults,
perhaps even a personal collision. Daniel understood that but too
"Farewell," he said to Henrietta, "farewell! Tomorrow you will receive
a letter from me."
And he escaped, but not so promptly that he should not have heard the
count's angry voice, as he said,--
"Ah, ah! Is this the virtuous young lady who dares to insult Miss
As soon as Daniel had locked the door again, he listened for a moment,
hoping that he might hear something of importance. But he could only
make out a few indistinct exclamations, then nothing, nothing more.
It was all over now. He would have to sail without seeing Henrietta
again, without enjoying that bitter happiness of holding her once more
in his arms. And yet he had told her nothing of all he had to tell
her; he had not spoken to her of half his recommendations, nor given
her a thousandth part of his tender farewells.
How had they been surprised? How came it about that the count had
stayed at home, instead of hurrying off immediately after dinner, as
was his custom? Why should he have inquired after his daughter, he who
generally took no more trouble about her than if she had not existed?
"Ah, we have been betrayed!" thought the unhappy man.
By whom? By that unpleasant maid evidently, whom he had seen that
morning; by that very Clarissa in whom Henrietta put such confidence.
If that was so,--and it was but too probable,--to whom should he send
his letters hereafter? Here, again, he saw himself reduced to Maxime
de Brevan as the only one who could convey news from him to Henrietta.
Ah! he recognized but too clearly the execrable but most cunning
policy of Miss Brandon.
"The wretch!" he swore; "the infamous woman!"
Wrath, mad wrath, set his brains on fire. And he could do nothing
against that woman!
"But she does not stand alone!" he suddenly exclaimed. "There is a man
there who shelters her under his responsibility,--Sir Thorn!"
M. Elgin might be insulted; he might be struck in the face, and thus
be compelled to fight.
And, without considering this absurd plan, he hurried to Circus
Street. Although it was barely eight o'clock, Miss Brandon's house
looked as if everybody were asleep. He rang the bell, however; and,
when a servant came to the door, he inquired,--
"M. Thomas Elgin?"
"M. Elgin is absent," replied the servant.
"At what hour will he be back?"
"He is not coming home to-night."
And whether he had received special instructions, or was only acting
upon general orders, he added,--
"Mrs. Brian is at the theatre; but Miss Brandon is at home."
Daniel's wrath changed into a kind of cold fury.
"They expected me," he thought.
And he hesitated. Should he see Miss Brandon? But for what end? He was
just turning away, when a sudden thought occurred to him. Why should
he not talk with her, come to an understanding, and perhaps make a
bargain with her?
"Show me to Miss Brandon's room," he said to the servant.
She sat, as she always did when left alone in the house, in the little
boudoir, where Daniel had already once been carried by her. Dressed in
a long dressing-wrapper of pale-blue cashmere, her hair scarcely taken
up at all, she was reading, reclining on a sofa.
As the door opened, she raised herself carelessly a little, and,
without turning around, asked,--
"Who is that?"
But, when the servant announced the name of M. Champcey, she rose with
a bound, almost terrified, dropping the book which she had in her
"You!" she murmured as soon as the servant had left. "Here, and of
your own accord?"
Firmly resolved this time to remain master of his sensations, Daniel
had stopped in the middle of the room, as stiff as a statue.
"Don't you know, madam, what brings me here? All your combinations
have succeeded admirably; you triumph, and we surrender."
She looked at him in perfect amazement, stammering--
"I do not understand you. I do not know what you mean."
He shrugged his shoulders, and continued in an icy tone,--
"Do me the honor to think that I am not altogether a fool. I have seen
the letter which you have sent to the minister, signed with my name. I
have held that masterpiece of forgery in my hand and know now how you
free yourself of my presence!"
Miss Brandon interrupted him with an angry gesture,--
"Then it is really so! He has done it; he has dared do it!"
"Who is this he? M. Thomas Elgin, no doubt?"
"No, not he; another man."
She hesitated, hung her head, and then said with a great effort,--
"I knew they wished to separate us; and, without knowing precisely
what means they would employ, I suspected them. And, when I came to
you the other day, I wanted to say to you, 'Have a care!' and you, M.
Champcey, you drove me from you."
He looked upon her with such an ironical smile that she broke off, and
"Ah, he does not believe me! Tell me that you do not believe me!"
He bowed ceremoniously, and replied in his gravest manner,--
"I believe, Miss Brandon, that you desire to become Countess Ville-
Handry; and you clear everything out of your path that can hinder you
in your plans."
She was about to answer; but he did not give her time, and
"Mark, I pray, that I make no charges. Come, let us play openly. You
are too sensible and too practical to hate us--Miss Henrietta and
myself--from gratuitous and purely platonic motives. You hate us
because we are in your way. How are we in your way? Tell me; and, if
you will promise to help us, we--Henrietta and I--pledge ourselves not
to stand in your way."
Miss Brandon looked as if she could not trust her ears.
"But, sir, this is a bargain, I should say, which you propose?"
"Yes, indeed! And, that there may be no misunderstanding, I will
mention the precise terms: if you will swear to be kind to Henrietta
during my absence, to protect her against violence on the part of her
father, and never to force her to act contrary to her sentiments for
me, I will give you, in return, my word that I shall give up to you,
without dispute and without reserve, the whole immense fortune
possessed by Count Ville-Handry."
Succumbing to her grief, Miss Brandon seemed to be almost fainting;
and big tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Have I not yet been humiliated sufficiently?" she said in a low
voice. "Must you add shame to shame? Daniel, you think I am very
And, checking the sobs which impeded her words, she went on,--
"And yet I cannot blame you for it, I cannot. No, you are right! Every
thing is against me; every thing bears witness against me. Yes, I must
appear a very wicked girl in your eyes. If you knew the truth,
however, Daniel--if I could, if I dared, tell you all!"
She drew nearer to him, all trembling; and then continued in a still
lower tone of voice, as if she feared to be overheard,--
"Do you not understand yet that I am no longer my own? Unfortunate as
I am, they have taken me, bound me, fettered me. I have no longer the
right to have a will of my own. If they say, 'Do this!' I must needs
do it. What a life I lead! Great God! Ah, if you had been willing,
Daniel! If you were willing even now!"
She became excited almost to exaltation; her eyes, moist with tears,
shone with matchless splendor; passing blushes colored her face; and
her voice had strange, weird vibrations.
Was she forgetting herself? Was she really about to betray her secret?
or was she merely inventing a new falsehood? Why should he not let her
"That is no answer, Miss Brandon," at last said Daniel. "Will you
promise me to protect Henrietta?"
"Do you really love her so dearly, your Henrietta?"
"Better than life!"
Miss Brandon turned as white as the lace on her dress; a flash of
indignation shot through her eyes; and, drying her tears, she said
Then Daniel replied,--
"You will give me no answer, madam?"
And, as she persisted in her silence, he resumed,--
"Very well, then, I understand. You declare open war. Be it so! Only
listen to me carefully. I am setting out on a dangerous expedition,
and you hope I shall never return. Undeceive yourself, Miss Brandon; I
shall return. With a passion like mine, with so much love in one's
heart, and so much hatred, a man can defy every thing. The murderous
climate will not touch me; and, if I had ten rifle-balls in my body, I
should still have the strength to return, and hold you to an account
for what you have done to Henrietta. And if you have touched a hair on
her head, if you have made her shed a single tear, by all that is
holy, it will bring ill luck to you, and ill luck to others!"
He was going to leave her, when a thought struck him.
"I ought to tell you, moreover," he added, "that I leave a faithful
friend behind me; and, if the count or his daughter should die very
suddenly, the coroner will be informed. And now, madam, farewell--or,
rather, till we meet again!"
At eight o'clock on the evening of the next day, after having left in
M. de Brevan's hands a long letter for Henrietta, and after having
given him his last instructions, Daniel took his seat in the train
which was to take him to his new post.
It was a week after Daniel's departure, a Wednesday, and about half-
past eleven o'clock.
Some thirty carriages, the most elegant, by all means, that Paris
could boast of, were standing alongside of the Church of St.
Clothilda. In the pretty little square before the building, some
hundred and fifty or two hundred idlers were waiting with open mouths.
The passers-by, noticing the crowd, went up and asked,--
"What is going on?"
"A wedding," was the answer.
"And a grand wedding, apparently."
"Why, the grandest thing you ever saw. It is a nobleman, and an
immensely rich one, who is going to be married,--Count Ville-Handry.
He marries an American lady. They have been in the church now for some
time, and they will soon come out again."
Under the porch a dozen men, in the orthodox black costume, with
yellow kid gloves, and white cravats showing under their overcoats,
evidently men belonging to the wedding-party, were chatting merrily
while they were waiting for the end of the ceremony. If they were
amused, they hardly showed it; for some made an effort to hide their
yawning, while others kept up a broken conversation, when a small
/coupe/ drove up, and stopped at the gate.
"Gentlemen," said a young man, "I announce M. de Brevan."
It was he really.
He stepped leisurely out of his carriage, and came up in his usual
phlegmatic manner. He knew the majority, perhaps, of the young men in
the crowd; and so he commenced at once shaking hands all around, and
then said in an easy tone of voice,--
"Who has seen the bride?"
"I!" replied an old beau, whose perpetual smile displayed all the
thirty-two teeth he owed to the dentist.
"Well, what do you think of her?"
"She is always sublime in her beauty, my dear. When she walked up the
aisle to kneel down at the altar, a murmur of admiration followed her
all the way. Upon my word of honor, I thought they would applaud."
This was too much enthusiasm. M. de Brevan cut it short, asking,--
"And Count Ville-Handry?"
"Upon my word," replied the old beau ironically, "the good count can
boast of a valet who knows almost as much as Rachel, the famous
English enameller. At a little distance you would have sworn that he
was sixteen years old, and that he was going, not to be married, but
to be confirmed."
"And how did he look?"
"Restless, I think."
"He might well be," observed a stout, elderly gentleman, who was said
not to be very happily married.
Everybody laughed; but a very young man, a mere youth, who did not
catch the joke, said,--
A man of about thirty years, a perfect model of elegance, whom the
others called, according to the degree of intimacy which they could
claim, either "Your Grace," or "Duke" simply replied,--
"Because, my dear viscount, Miss Brandon is one of those ladies who
never are married. They are courted; they are worshipped; they make us
commit a thousand follies for their sakes; they allow us to ruin
ourselves, and, finally, to blow our brains out for them, all right!
But to bear our name, never!"
"It is true," said Brevan, "that they tell a number of stories about
her; but it is all gossip. However"--
"You certainly would not ask," replied the duke, "that I should prove
her to have been brought before a police-court, or to have escaped
from the penitentiary?"
And, without permitting himself to be interrupted, he went on,--
"Good society in France, they say, is very exclusive. It does not
deserve that reputation. Except, perhaps, a score of houses, where old
traditions are still preserved, all other houses are wide open to the
first-comer, man or woman, who drives up in a carriage. And the number
of such first-comers is prodigiously large. Where do they come from?
No one knows. From Russia, from Turkey, from America, from Hungary,
from very far, from everywhere, from below, I do not count the
impudent fellows who are still muddy from the gutter in which they
have been lying. How do all these people live? That is a mystery. But
they do live, and they live well. They have, or at least seem to have,
money; and they shine, they intrigue, they conspire, they make
believe, and they extort. So that I verily believe all this high-life
society, by dint of helping one another, of pushing and crowding in,
will, in the end, be master of all. You may say that I am not in the
crowd. Very true. I willingly shake hands with the workmen who work
for me, and who earn their living worthily; but I do not shake hands
with these ambiguous personages in yellow kids, who have no title but
their impudence, and no means of living but their underhand
He addressed himself apparently to no one, following, with his absent-
minded glance, the crowd in the garden; and yet, by his peculiar
manner, you would have known that he was speaking at some one among
However, it was evident that he had no success, and that his doctrine
seemed to be utterly out of season, and almost ridiculous. A young man
with a delicate black mustache, and extremely well dressed, even
turned to his neighbor, and asked,--
"Who is our friend, the preacher?"
"What! don't you know him?" replied the other.
"That is the Duke of Champdoce, you know, who has married a princess
of Mussidan. Quite an original."
M. de Brevan, however, had remained perfectly impassive, and now
"At all events, I suppose it was not altogether a question of interest
which made Miss Brandon marry the count."
"Because she is immensely rich."