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The Complete Celebrated Crimes by Alexander Dumas, Pere

Part 32 out of 33

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Ivan, the coachman, who after having been executioner had become
surgeon, had applied compresses of salt and water to heal up the
scarred shoulders of his victim. Gregory had remained three days in
the infirmary, and during this time he had turned over in his mind
every possible means of vengeance. Then at the end of three days,
being healed, he had returned to his duty, and soon everyone except
he had forgotten the punishment. If Gregory had been a real Russian,
he would soon have forgotten it all; for this punishment is too
familiar to the rough Muscovite for him to remember it long and with
rancour. Gregory, as we have said, had Greek blood in his veins; he
dissembled and remembered. Although Gregory was a serf, his duties
had little by little brought him into greater familiarity with the
general than any of the other servants. Besides, in every country in
the world barbers have great licence with those they shave; this is
perhaps due to the fact that a man is instinctively more gracious to
another who for ten minutes every day holds his life in his hands.
Gregory rejoiced in the immunity of his profession, and it nearly
always happened that the barber's daily operation on the general's
chin passed in conversation, of which he bore the chief part.

One day the general had to attend a review: he sent for Gregory
before daybreak, and as the barber was passing the razor as gently as
possible over his master's cheek, the conversation fell, or more
likely was led, on Foedor. The barber praised him highly, and this
naturally caused his master to ask him, remembering the correction
the young aide-decamp had superintended, if he could not find some
fault in this model of perfection that might counterbalance so many
good qualities. Gregory replied that with the exception of pride he
thought Foedor irreproachable.

"Pride?" asked the astonished general. "That is a failing from which
I should have thought him most free."

"Perhaps I should have said ambition," replied Gregory.

"Ambition!" said the general. "It does not seem to me that he has
given much proof of ambition in entering my service; for after his
achievements in the last campaign he might easily have aspired to the
honour of a place in the emperor's household."

"Oh yes, he is ambitious," said Gregory, smiling. "One man's
ambition is for high position, another's an illustrious alliance: the
former will owe everything to himself, the latter will make a
stepping-stone of his wife, then they raise their eyes higher than
they should."

"What do you mean to suggest?" said the general, beginning to see
what Gregory was aiming at.

"I mean, your excellency," replied Gregory, "there are many men who,
owing to the kindness shown them by others, forget their position and
aspire to a more exalted one; having already been placed so high,
their heads are turned."

"Gregory," cried the general, "believe me, you are getting into a
scrape; for you are making an accusation, and if I take any notice of
it, you will have to prove your words."

"By St. Basilius, general, it is no scrape when you have truth on
your side; for I have said nothing I am not ready to prove."

"Then," said the general, "you persist in declaring that Foedor loves
my daughter?"

"Ah! I have not said that: it is your excellency. I have not named
the lady Vaninka," said Gregory, with the duplicity of his nation.

"But you meant it, did you not? Come, contrary to your custom, reply
frankly."

"It is true, your excellency; it is what I meant."

"And, according to you, my daughter reciprocates the passion, no
doubt?"

"I fear so, your excellency."

"And what makes you think this, say?"

"First, Mr. Foedor never misses a chance of speaking to the lady
Vaninka."

"He is in the same house with her, would you have him avoid her?"

"When the lady Vaninka returns late, and when perchance Mr. Foedor
has not accompanied you, whatever the hour Mr. Foedor is there,
ready, to help her out of the carriage."

"Foedor attends me, it is his duty," said the general, beginning to
believe that the serf's suspicions were founded on slight grounds.
"He waits for me," he, continued, "because when I return, at any hour
of the day or night, I may have orders to give him."

"Not a day passes without Mr. Foedor going into my lady Vaninka's
room, although such a favour is not usually granted to a young man in
a house like that of your excellency."

"Usually it is I who send him to her," said the general.

"Yes, in the daytime," replied Gregory, "but at night?"

"At night!" cried the general, rising to his feet, and turning so
pale that, after a moment, he was forced to lean for support on a
table.

"Yes, at night, your excellency," answered Gregory quietly; "and
since, as you say, I have begun to mix myself up in a bad business, I
must go on with it; besides, even if there were to result from it
another punishment for me, even more terrible than that I have
already endured, I should not allow so good, a master to be deceived
any longer."

"Be very careful about what you are going to say, slave; for I know
the men of your nation. Take care, if the accusation you are making
by way of revenge is not supported by visible, palpable, and positive
proofs, you shall be punished as an infamous slanderer."

"To that I agree," said Gregory.

"Do you affirm that you have seen Foedor enter my daughter's chamber
at night?"

"I do not say that I have seen him enter it, your excellency. I say
that I have seen him come out."

"When was that?"

"A quarter of an hour ago, when I was on my way to your excellency."

"You lie!" said the general, raising his fist.

"This is not our agreement, your excellency," said the slave, drawing
back. "I am only to be punished if I fail to give proofs."

"But what are your proofs?"

"I have told you."

"And do you expect me to believe your word alone?"

"No; but I expect you to believe your own eyes."

"How?"

"The first time that Mr. Foedor is in my lady Vaninka's room after
midnight, I shall come to find your excellency, and then you can
judge for yourself if I lie; but up to the present, your excellency,
all the conditions of the service I wish to render you are to my
disadvantage."

"In what way?"

"Well, if I fail to give proofs, I am to be treated as an infamous
slanderer; but if I give them, what advantage shall I gain?"

"A thousand roubles and your freedom."

"That is a bargain, then, your excellency," replied Gregory quietly,
replacing the razors on the general's toilet-table, "and I hope that
before a week has passed you will be more just to me than you are
now."

With these words the slave left the room, leaving the general
convinced by his confidence that some dreadful misfortune threatened
him.

From this time onward, as might be expected, the general weighed
every word and noticed every gesture which passed between Vaninka and
Foedor in his presence; but he saw nothing to confirm his suspicions
on the part of the aide-de-camp or of his daughter; on the contrary,
Vaninka seemed colder and more reserved than ever.

A week passed in this way. About two o'clock in the morning of the
ninth day, someone knocked at the general's door. It was Gregory.

"If your excellency will go into your daughter's room," said Gregory,
"you will find Mr. Foedor there."

The general turned pale, dressed himself without uttering a word, and
followed the slave to the door of Vaninka's room. Having arrived
there, with a motion of his hand he dismissed the informer, who,
instead of retiring in obedience to this mute command, hid himself in
the corner of the corridor.

When the general believed himself to be alone, he knocked once; but
all was silent. This silence, however, proved nothing; for Vaninka
might be asleep. He knocked a second time, and the young girl, in a
perfectly calm voice, asked, "Who is there?"

"It is I," said the general, in a voice trembling with emotion.

"Annouschka!" said the girl to her foster-sister, who slept in the
adjoining room, "open the door to my father. Forgive me, father,"
she continued; "but Annouschka is dressing, and will be with you in a
moment."

The general waited patiently, for he could discover no trace of
emotion in his daughter's voice, and he hoped that Gregory had been
mistaken.

In a few moments the door opened, and the general went in, and cast a
long look around him; there was no one in this first apartment.

Vaninka was in bed, paler perhaps than usual, but quite calm, with
the loving smile on her lips with which she always welcomed her
father.

"To what fortunate circumstance," asked the young girl in her softest
tones, "do I owe the pleasure of seeing you at so late an hour?"

"I wished to speak to you about a very important matter," said the
general, "and however late it was, I thought you would forgive me for
disturbing you."

"My father will always be welcome in his daughter's room, at whatever
hour of the day or night he presents himself there."

The general cast another searching look round, and was convinced that
it was impossible for a man to be concealed in the first room--but
the second still remained.

"I am listening," said Vaninka, after a moment of silence.

"Yes, but we are not alone," replied the general, "and it is
important that no other ears should hear what I have to say to you."

"Annauschka, as you know, is my foster-sister," said Vaninka.

"That makes no difference," said the general, going candle in hand
into the next room, which was somewhat smaller than his daughter's.
"Annouschka," said he, "watch in the corridor and see that no one
overhears us."

As he spoke these words, the general threw the same scrutinizing
glance all round the room, but with the exception of the young girl
there was no one there.

Annouschka obeyed, and the general followed her out, and, looking
eagerly round for the last time, re-entered his daughter's room, and
seated himself on the foot of her bed. Annouschka, at a sign from
her mistress, left her alone with her father. The general held out
his hand to Vaninka, and she took it without hesitation.

"My child," said the general, "I have to speak to you about a very
important matter."

"What is it, father?" said Vaninka.

"You will soon be eighteen," continued the general, "and that is the
age at which the daughters of the Russian nobility usually marry."
The general paused for a moment to watch the effect of these words
upon Vaninka, but her hand rested motionless in his. "For the last
year your hand has been engaged by me," continued the general.

"May I know to whom?" asked Vaninka coldly.

"To the son of the Councillor-in-Ordinary," replied the general.
"What is your opinion of him?"

"He is a worthy and noble young man, I am told, but I can have formed
no opinion except from hearsay. Has he not been in garrison at
Moscow for the last three months?"

"Yes," said the general, "but in three months' time he should
return."

Vaninka remained silent.

"Have you nothing to say in reply?" asked the general.

"Nothing, father; but I have a favour to ask of you."

"What is it?"

"I do not wish to marry until I am twenty years old."

"Why not?"

"I have taken a vow to that effect."

"But if circumstances demanded the breaking of this vow, and made the
celebration of this marriage imperatively necessary?"

"What circumstances?" asked Vaninka.

"Foedor loves you," said the general, looking steadily at Vaninka.

"I know that," said Vaninka, with as little emotion as if the
question did not concern her.

"You know that!" cried the general.

"Yes; he has told me so."

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"And you replied--?"

"That he must leave here at once."

"And he consented?"

"Yes, father."

"When does he go?"

"He has gone."

"How can that be?" said the general: "he only left me at ten
o'clock."

"And he left me at midnight," said Vaninka.

"Ah!" said the general, drawing a deep breath of relief, "you are a
noble girl, Vaninka, and I grant you what you ask-two years more.
But remember it is the emperor who has decided upon this marriage."

"My father will do me the justice to believe that I am too submissive
a daughter to be a rebellious subject."

"Excellent, Vaninka, excellent," said the general. "So, then, poor
Foedor has told you all?"

"Yes," said Vaninka.

"You knew that he addressed himself to me first?"

"I knew it."

"Then it was from him that you heard that your hand was engaged?"

"It was from him."

"And he consented to leave you? He is a good and noble young man,
who shall always be under my protection wherever he goes. Oh, if my
word had not been given, I love him so much that, supposing you did
not dislike him, I should have given him your hand."

"And you cannot recall your promise?" asked Vaninka.

"Impossible," said the general.

"Well, then, I submit to my father's will," said Vaninka.

"That is spoken like my daughter," said the general, embracing her.
"Farewell, Vaninka; I do not ask if you love him. You have both
done your duty, and I have nothing more to exact."

With these words, he rose and left the room. Annouschka was in the
corridor; the general signed to her that she might go in again, and
went on his way. At the door of his room he found Gregory waiting
for him.

"Well, your excellency?" he asked.

"Well," said the general, "you are both right and wrong. Foedor
loves my daughter, but my daughter does not love him. He went into
my daughter's room at eleven o'clock, but at midnight he left her for
ever. No matter, come to me tomorrow, and you shall have your
thousand roubles and your liberty."

Gregory went off, dumb with astonishment.

Meanwhile, Annouschka had re-entered her mistress's room, as she had
been ordered, and closed the door carefully behind her.

Vaninka immediately sprang out of bed and went to the door, listening
to the retreating footsteps of the general. When they had ceased to
be heard, she rushed into Annouschka's room, and both began to pull
aside a bundle of linen, thrown down, as if by accident, into the
embrasure of a window. Under the linen was a large chest with a
spring lock. Annouschka pressed a button, Vaninka raised the lid.
The two women uttered a loud cry: the chest was now a coffin; the
young officer, stifled for want of air, lay dead within.

For a long time the two women hoped it was only a swoon. Annouschka
sprinkled his face with water; Vaninka put salts to his nose. All
was in vain. During the long conversation which the general had had
with his daughter, and which had lasted more than half an hour,
Foedor, unable to get out of the chest, as the lid was closed by a
spring, had died for want of air. The position of the two girls shut
up with a corpse was frightful. Annouschka saw Siberia close at
hand; Vaninka, to do her justice, thought of nothing but Foedor.
Both were in despair. However, as the despair of the maid was more
selfish than that of her mistress, it was Annouschka who first
thought of a plan of escaping from the situation in which they were
placed.

"My lady," she cried suddenly, "we are saved." Vaninka raised her
head and looked at her attendant with her eyes bathed in tears.

"Saved?" said she, "saved? We are, perhaps, but Foedor!"

"Listen now," said Annouschka: "your position is terrible, I grant
that, and your grief is great; but your grief could be greater and
your position more terrible still. If the general knew this."

"What difference would it make to me?" said Vaninka. "I shall weep
for him before the whole world."

"Yes, but you will be dishonoured before the whole world! To-morrow
your slaves, and the day after all St. Petersburg, will know that a
man died of suffocation while concealed in your chamber. Reflect, my
lady: your honour is the honour of your father, the honour of your
family."

"You are right," said Vaninka, shaking her head, as if to disperse
the gloomy thoughts that burdened her brain,--"you are right, but
what must we do?"

"Does my lady know my brother Ivan?"

"Yes."

"We must tell him all."

"Of what are you thinking?" cried Vaninka. "To confide in a man? A
man, do I say? A serf! a slave!"

"The lower the position of the serf and slave, the safer will our
secret be, since he will have everything to gain by keeping faith
with us."

"Your brother is a drunkard," said Vaninka, with mingled fear and
disgust.

"That is true," said Annouschka; "but where will you find a slave
who is not? My brother gets drunk less than most, and is therefore
more to be trusted than the others. Besides, in the position in
which we are we must risk something."

"You are right," said Vaninka, recovering her usual resolution, which
always grew in the presence of danger. "Go and seek your brother."

"We can do nothing this morning," said Annouschka, drawing back the
window curtains. "Look, the dawn is breaking."

"But what can we do with the body of this unhappy man?" cried
Vaninka.

"It must remain hidden where it is all day, and this evening, while
you are at the Court entertainment, my brother shall remove it."

"True," murmured Vaninka in a strange tone, "I must go to Court this
evening; to stay away would arouse suspicion. Oh, my God! my God!"

"Help me, my lady," said Annouschka; "I am not strong enough alone."

Vaninka turned deadly pale, but, spurred on by the danger, she went
resolutely up to the body of her lover; then, lifting it by the
shoulders, while her maid raised it by the legs, she laid it once
more in the chest. Then Annouschka shut down the lid, locked the
chest, and put the key into her breast. Then both threw back the
linen which had hidden it from the eyes of the general. Day dawned,
as might be expected, ere sleep visited the eyes of Vaninka.

She went down, however, at the breakfast hour; for she did not wish
to arouse the slightest suspicion in her father's mind. Only it
might have been thought from her pallor that she had risen from the
grave, but the general attributed this to the nocturnal disturbance
of which he had been the cause.

Luck had served Vaninka wonderfully in prompting her to say that
Foedor had already gone; for not only did the general feel no
surprise when he did not appear, but his very absence was a proof of
his daughter's innocence. The general gave a pretext for his aide-
de-camp's absence by saying that he had sent him on a mission. As
for Vaninka, she remained out of her room till it was time to dress.
A week before, she had been at the Court entertainment with Foedor.

Vaninka might have excused herself from accompanying her father by
feigning some slight indisposition, but two considerations made her
fear to act thus: the first was the fear of making the general
anxious, and perhaps of making him remain at home himself, which
would make the removal of the corpse more difficult; the second was
the fear of meeting Ivan and having to blush before a slave. She
preferred, therefore, to make a superhuman effort to control herself;
and, going up again into her room, accompanied by her faithful
Annouschka, she began to dress with as much care as if her heart were
full of joy. When this cruel business was finished, she ordered
Annouschka to shut the door; for she wished to see Foedor once more,
and to bid a last farewell to him who had been her lover. Annouschka
obeyed; and Vaninka, with flowers in her hair and her breast covered
with jewels, glided like a phantom into her servant's room.

Annouschka again opened the chest, and Vaninka, without shedding a
tear, without breathing a sigh, with the profound and death-like calm
of despair, leant down towards Foedor and took off a plain ring which
the young man had on his finger, placed it on her own, between two
magnificent rings, then kissing him on the brow, she said, "Goodbye,
my betrothed."

At this moment she heard steps approaching. It was a groom of the
chambers coming from the general to ask if she were ready.
Annouschka let the lid of the chest fall, and Vaninka going herself
to open the door, followed the messenger, who walked before her,
lighting the way.

Such was her trust in her foster-sister that she left her to
accomplish the dark and terrible task with which she had burdened
herself.

A minute later, Annouschka saw the carriage containing the general
and his daughter leave by the main gate of the hotel.

She let half an hour go by, and then went down to look for Ivan. She
found him drinking with Gregory, with whom the general had kept his
word, and who had received the same day one thousand roubles and his
liberty. Fortunately, the revellers were only beginning their
rejoicings, and Ivan in consequence was sober enough for his sister
to entrust her secret to him without hesitation.

Ivan followed Annouschka into the chamber of her mistress. There she
reminded him of all that Vaninka, haughty but generous, had allowed
his sister to do for him. The, few glasses of brandy Ivan had
already swallowed had predisposed him to gratitude (the drunkenness
of the Russian is essentially tender). Ivan protested his devotion
so warmly that Annouschka hesitated no longer, and, raising the lid
of the chest, showed him the corpse of Foedor. At this terrible
sight Ivan remained an instant motionless, but he soon began to
calculate how much money and how many benefits the possession of such
a secret would bring him. He swore by the most solemn oaths never to
betray his mistress, and offered, as Annouschka had hoped, to dispose
of the body of the unfortunate aide-decamp.

The thing was easily done. Instead of returning to drink with
Gregory and his comrades, Ivan went to prepare a sledge, filled it
with straw, and hid at the bottom an iron crowbar. He brought this
to the outside gate, and assuring himself he was not being spied
upon, he raised the body of the dead man in his arms, hid it under
the straw, and sat down above it. He had the gate of the hotel
opened, followed Niewski Street as far as the Zunamenie Church,
passed through the shops in the Rejestwenskoi district, drove the
sledge out on to the frozen Neva, and halted in the middle of the
river, in front of the deserted church of Ste. Madeleine. There,
protected by the solitude and darkness, hidden behind the black mass
of his sledge, he began to break the ice, which was fifteen inches
thick, with his pick. When he had made a large enough hole, he
searched the body of Foedor, took all the money he had about him, and
slipped the body head foremost through the opening he had made. He
then made his way back to the hotel, while the imprisoned current of
the Neva bore away the corpse towards the Gulf of Finland. An hour
after, a new crust of ice had formed, and not even a trace of the
opening made by Ivan remained.

At midnight Vaninka returned with her father. A hidden fever had
been consuming her all the evening: never had she looked so lovely,
and she had been overwhelmed by the homage of the most distinguished
nobles and courtiers. When she returned, she found Annouschka in the
vestibule waiting to take her cloak. As she gave it to her, Vaninka
sent her one of those questioning glances that seem to express so
much. "It is done," said the girl in a low voice. Vaninka breathed
a sigh of relief, as if a mountain had been removed from her breast.
Great as was her self-control, she could no longer bear her father's
presence, and excused herself from remaining to supper with him, on
the plea of the fatigues of the evening. Vaninka was no sooner in
her room, with the door once closed, than she tore the flowers from
her hair, the necklace from her throat, cut with scissors the corsets
which suffocated her, and then, throwing herself on her bed, she gave
way to her grief. Annouschka thanked God for this outburst; her
mistress's calmness had frightened her more than her despair. The
first crisis over, Vaninka was able to pray. She spent an hour on
her knees, then, yielding to the entreaties of her faithful
attendant, went to bed. Annouschka sat down at the foot of the bed.

Neither slept, but when day came the tears which Vaninka had shed had
calmed her.

Annouschka was instructed to reward her brother. Too large a sum
given to a slave at once might have aroused suspicion, therefore
Annouschka contented herself with telling Ivan that when he had need
of money he had only to ask her for it.

Gregory, profiting by his liberty and wishing to make use of his
thousand roubles, bought a little tavern on the outskirts of the
town, where, thanks to his address and to the acquaintances he had
among the servants in the great households of St. Petersburg, he
began to develop an excellent business, so that in a short time the
Red House (which was the name and colour of Gregory's establishment)
had a great reputation. Another man took over his duties about the
person of the general, and but for Foedor's absence everything
returned to its usual routine in the house of Count Tchermayloff.

Two months went by in this way, without anybody having the least
suspicion of what had happened, when one morning before the usual
breakfast-hour the general begged his daughter to come down to his
room. Vaninka trembled with fear, for since that fatal night
everything terrified her. She obeyed her father, and collecting all
her strength, made her way to his chamber, The count was alone, but
at the first glance Vaninka saw she had nothing to fear from this
interview: the general was waiting for her with that paternal smile
which was the usual expression of his countenance when in his
daughter's presence.

She approached, therefore, with her usual calmness, and, stooping
down towards the general, gave him her forehead to kiss.

He motioned to her to sit down, and gave her an open letter. Vaninka
looked at him for a moment in surprise, then turned her eyes to the
letter.

It contained the news of the death of the man to whom her hand had
been promised: he had been killed in a duel.

The general watched the effect of the letter on his daughter's face,
and great as was Vaninka's self-control, so many different thoughts,
such bitter regret, such poignant remorse assailed her when she
learnt that she was now free again, that she could not entirely
conceal her emotion. The general noticed it, and attributed it to
the love which he had for a long time suspected his daughter felt for
the young aide-de-camp.

"Well," he said, smiling, "I see it is all for the best."

"How is that, father?" asked Vaninka.

"Doubtless," said the general. "Did not Foedor leave because he
loved you?"

"Yes," murmured the young girl.

"Well, now he may return," said the general.

Vaninka remained silent, her eyes fixed, her lips trembling.

"Return!" she said, after a moment's silence.

"Yes, certainly return. We shall be most unfortunate," continued the
general, smiling, "if we cannot find someone in the house who knows
where he is. Come, Vaninka, tell me the place of his exile, and I
will undertake the rest."

"Nobody knows where Foedor is," murmured Vaninka in a hollow voice;
"nobody but God, nobody!"

"What!" said the general, "he has sent you no news since the day he
left?"

Vaninka shook her head in denial. She was so heart-broken that she
could not speak.

The general in his turn became gloomy. "Do you fear some misfortune,
then?" said he.

"I fear that I shall never be happy again on earth," cried Vaninka,
giving way under the pressure of her grief; then she continued at
once, "Let me retire, father; I am ashamed of what I have said."

The general, who saw nothing in this exclamation beyond regret for
having allowed the confession of her love to escape her, kissed his
daughter on the brow and allowed her to retire. He hoped that, in
spite of the mournful way in which Vaninka had spoken of Foedor, that
it would be possible to find him. The same day he went to the
emperor and told him of the love of Foedor for his daughter, and
requested, since death had freed her from her first engagement, that
he might dispose of her hand. The emperor consented, and the general
then solicited a further favour. Paul was in one of his kindly
moods, and showed himself disposed to grant it. The general told him
that Foedor had disappeared for two months; that everyone, even his
daughter, was ignorant of his whereabouts, and begged him to have
inquiries made. The emperor immediately sent for the chief of
police, and gave him the necessary orders.

Six weeks went by without any result. Vaninka, since the day when
the letter came, was sadder and more melancholy than ever. Vainly
from time to time the general tried to make her more hopeful.
Vaninka only shook her head and withdrew. The general ceased to
speak, of Foedor.

But it was not the same among the household. The young aide-de-camp
had been popular with the servants, and, with the exception of
Gregory, there was not a soul who wished him harm, so that, when it
became known that he had not been sent on a mission, but had
disappeared, the matter became the constant subject of conversation
in the antechamber, the kitchen, and the stables. There was another
place where people busied themselves about it a great deal--this was
the Red House.

From the day when he heard of Foedor's mysterious departure Gregory
had his suspicions. He was sure that he had seen Foedor enter
Vaninka's room, and unless he had gone out while he was going to seek
the general, he did not understand why the latter had not found him
in his daughter's room. Another thing occupied his mind, which it
seemed to him might perhaps have some connection with this event--the
amount of money Ivan had been spending since that time, a very
extraordinary amount for a slave. This slave, however, was the
brother of Vaninka's cherished foster-sister, so that, without being
sure, Gregory already suspected the source from whence this money
came. Another thing confirmed him in his suspicions, which was that
Ivan, who had not only remained his most faithful friend, but had
become one of his best customers, never spoke of Foedor, held his
tongue if he were mentioned in his presence, and to all questions,
however pressing they were, made but one answer: "Let us speak of
something else."

In the meantime the Feast of Kings arrived. This is a great day in
St. Petersburg, for it is also the day for blessing the waters.

As Vaninka had been present at the ceremony, and was fatigued after
standing for two hours on the Neva, the general did not go out that
evening, and gave Ivan leave to do so. Ivan profited by the
permission to go to the Red House.

There was a numerous company there, and Ivan was welcomed; for it was
known that he generally came with full pockets. This time he did not
belie his reputation, and had scarcely arrived before he made the
sorok-kopecks ring, to the great envy of his companions.

At this warning sound Gregory hastened up with all possible
deference, a bottle of brandy in each hand; for he knew that when
Ivan summoned him he gained in two ways, as innkeeper and as boon
companion. Ivan did not disappoint these hopes, and Gregory was
invited to share in the entertainment. The conversation turned on
slavery, and some of the unhappy men, who had only four days in the
year of respite from their eternal labour, talked loudly of the
happiness Gregory had enjoyed since he had obtained his freedom.

"Bah!" said Ivan, on whom the brandy had begun to take effect, "there
are some slaves who are freer than their masters."

"What do you mean?" said Gregory, pouring him out another glass of
brandy.

"I meant to say happier," said Ivan quickly.

"It is difficult to prove that," said Gregory doubtingly.

"Why difficult? Our masters, the moment they are born, are put into
the hands of two or three pedants, one French, another German, and a
third English, and whether they like them or not, they must be
content with their society till they are seventeen, and whether they
wish to or not, must learn three barbarous languages, at the expense
of our noble Russian tongue, which they have sometimes completely
forgotten by the time the others are acquired. Again, if one of them
wishes for some career, he must become a soldier: if he is a
sublieutenant, he is the slave of the lieutenant; if he is a
lieutenant, he is the slave of the captain, and the captain of the
major, and so on up to the emperor, who is nobody's slave, but who
one fine day is surprised at the table, while walking, or in his bed,
and is poisoned, stabbed, or strangled. If he chooses a civil
career, it is much the same. He marries a wife, and does not love
her; children come to him he knows not how, whom he has to provide
for; he must struggle incessantly to provide for his family if he is
poor, and if he is rich to prevent himself being robbed by his
steward and cheated by his tenants. Is this life? While we,
gentlemen, we are born, and that is the only pain we cost our
mothers--all the rest is the master's concern. He provides for us,
he chooses our calling, always easy enough to learn if we are not
quite idiots. Are we ill? His doctor attends us gratis; it is a
loss to him if we die. Are we well? We have our four certain meals
a day, and a good stove to sleep near at night. Do we fall in love?
There is never any hindrance to our marriage, if the woman loves us;
the master himself asks us to hasten our marriage, for he wishes us
to have as many children as possible. And when the children are
born, he does for them in their turn all he has done for us. Can you
find me many great lords as happy as their slaves?"

"All this is true," said Gregory, pouring him out another glass of
brandy; "but, after all, you are not free."

"Free to do what?" asked Ivan.

"Free to go where you will and when you will."

"I am as free as the air," replied Ivan.

"Nonsense!" said Gregory.

"Free as air, I tell you; for I have good masters, and above all a
good mistress," continued Ivan, with a significant smile, "and I have
only to ask and it is done."

"What! if after having got drunk here to-day, you asked to come back
to-morrow to get drunk again?" said Gregory, who in his challenge to
Ivan did not forget his own interests,--"if you asked that?"

"I should come back again," said Ivan.

"To-morrow?" said Gregory.

"To-morrow, the day after, every day if I liked...."

"The fact is, Ivan is our young lady's favourite," said another of
the count's slaves who was present, profiting by his comrade Ivan's
liberality.

"It is all the same," said Gregory; "for supposing such permission
were given you, money would soon run short."

"Never!" said Ivan, swallowing another glass of brandy, "never will
Ivan want for money as long as there is a kopeck in my lady's purse."

"I did not find her so liberal," said Gregory bitterly.

"Oh, you forget, my friend; you know well she does not reckon with
her friends: remember the strokes of the knout."

"I have no wish to speak about that," said Gregory. "I know that she
is generous with blows, but her money is another thing. I have never
seen the colour of that."

"Well, would you like to see the colour of mine?" said Ivan, getting
more and more drunk. "See here, here are kopecks, sorok-kopecks, blue
notes worth five roubles, red notes worth twenty five roubles, and
to-morrow, if you like, I will show you white notes worth fifty
roubles. A health to my lady Vaninka!" And Ivan held out his glass
again, and Gregory filled it to the brim.

"But does money," said Gregory, pressing Ivan more and more,--"does
money make up for scorn?"

"Scorn!" said Ivan,--"scorn! Who scorns me? Do you, because you are
free? Fine freedom! I would rather be a well-fed slave than a free
man dying of hunger."

"I mean the scorn of our masters," replied Gregory.

"The scorn of our masters! Ask Alexis, ask Daniel there, if my lady
scorns me."

"The fact is," said the two slaves in reply, who both belonged to the
general's household, "Ivan must certainly have a charm; for everyone
talks to him as if to a master."

"Because he is Annouschka's brother," said Gregory, "and Annouschka
is my lady's foster-sister."

"That may be so," said the two slaves.

"For that reason or for some other," said Ivan; "but, in short, that
is the case."

"Yes; but if your sister should die?" said Gregory. "Ah!"

"If my sister should die, that would be a pity, for she is a good
girl. I drink to her health! But if she should die, that would make
no difference. I am respected for myself; they respect me because
they fear me."

"Fear my lord Ivan!" said Gregory, with a loud laugh. "It follows,
then, that if my lord Ivan were tired of receiving orders, and gave
them in his turn, my lord Ivan would be obeyed."

"Perhaps," said Ivan.

"He said 'perhaps,' repeated Gregory, laughing louder than ever,--"he
said 'perhaps.' Did you hear him?"

"Yes," said the slaves, who had drunk so much that they could only
answer in monosyllables.

"Well, I no longer say 'perhaps,' I now say 'for certain.'"

"Oh, I should like to see that," said Gregory; "I would give
something to see that."

"Well, send away these fellows, who are getting drunk like pigs, and
for nothing, you will find."

"For nothing?" said Gregory. "You are jesting. Do you think I
should give them drink for nothing?"

"Well, we shall see. How much would be their score, for your
atrocious brandy, if they drank from now till midnight, when you are
obliged to shut up your tavern?"

"Not less than twenty roubles."

"Here are thirty; turn there out, and let us remain by ourselves."

"Friends," said Gregory, taking out his watch as if to look at the
time, "it is just upon midnight; you know the governor's orders, so
you must go." The men, habituated like all Russians to passive
obedience, went without a murmur, and Gregory found himself alone
with Ivan and the two other slaves of the general.

"Well, here we are alone," said Gregory. "What do you mean to do?"

"Well, what would you say," replied Ivan, "if in spite of the late
hour and the cold, and in spite of the fact that we are only slaves,
my lady were to leave her father's house and come to drink our
healths?"

"I would say that you ought to take advantage of it," said Gregory,
shrugging his shoulders, "and tell her to bring at the same time a
bottle of brandy. There is probably better brandy in the general's
cellar than in mine."

"There is better," said Ivan, as if he was perfectly sure of it, "and
my lady shall bring you a bottle of it."

"You are mad!" said Gregory.

"He is mad!" repeated the other two slaves mechanically.

"Oh, I am mad?" said Ivan. "Well, will you take a wager?"

"What will you wager?"

"Two hundred roubles against a year of free drinking in your inn."

"Done!" said Gregory.

"Are your comrades included?" said the two moujiks.

"They are included," said Ivan, "and in consideration of them we will
reduce the time to six months. Is that agreed?"

"It is agreed," said Gregory.

The two who were making the wager shook hands, and the agreement was
perfected. Then, with an air of confidence, assumed to confound the
witnesses of this strange scene, Ivan wrapped himself in the fur coat
which, like a cautious man, he had spread on the stove, and went out.

At the end of half an hour he reappeared.

"Well!" cried Gregory and the two slaves together.

"She is following," said Ivan.

The three tipplers looked at one another in amazement, but Ivan
quietly returned to his place in the middle of them, poured out a new
bumper, and raising his glass, cried--

"To my lady's health! It is the least we can do when she is kind
enough to come and join us on so cold a night, when the snow is
falling fast."

"Annouschka," said a voice outside, "knock at this door and ask
Gregory if he has not some of our servants with him."

Gregory and the two other slaves looked at one another, stupefied:
they had recognised Vaninka's voice. As for Ivan, he flung himself
back in his chair, balancing himself with marvellous impertinence.

Annouschka opened the door, and they could see, as Ivan had said,
that the snow was falling heavily.

"Yes, madam," said the girl; "my brother is there, with Daniel and
Alexis."

Vaninka entered.

"My friends," said she, with a strange smile, "I am told that you
were drinking my health, and I have come to bring you something to
drink it again. Here is a bottle of old French brandy which I have
chosen for you from my father's cellar. Hold out your glasses."

Gregory and the slaves obeyed with the slowness and hesitation of
astonishment, while Ivan held out his glass with the utmost
effrontery.

Vaninka filled them to the brim herself, and then, as they hesitated
to drink, "Come, drink to my health, friends," said she.

"Hurrah!" cried the drinkers, reassured by the kind and familiar tone
of their noble visitor, as they emptied their glasses at a draught.

Vaninka at once poured them out another glass; then putting the
bottle on the table, "Empty the bottle, my friends," said she, "and
do not trouble about me. Annouschka and I, with the permission 2668
of the master of the house, will sit near the stove till the storm is
over."

Gregory tried to rise and place stools near the stove, but whether he
was quite drunk or whether some narcotic had been mixed with the
brandy, he fell back on his seat, trying to stammer out an excuse.

"It is all right," said Vaninka: "do not disturb yourselves; drink,
my friends, drink."

The revellers profited by this permission, and each emptied the glass
before him. Scarcely had Gregory emptied his before he fell forward
on the table.

"Good!" said Vaninka to her maid in a low voice: "the opium is taking
effect."

"What do you mean to do?" said Annouschka.

"You will soon see," was the answer.

The two moujiks followed the example of the master of the house, and
fell down side by side on the ground. Ivan was left struggling
against sleep, and trying to sing a drinking song; but soon his
tongue refused to obey him, his eyes closed in spite of him, and
seeking the tune that escaped him, and muttering words he was unable
to pronounce, he fell fast asleep near his companions.

Immediately Vaninka rose, fixed them with flashing eyes, and called
them by name one after another. There was no response.

Then she clapped her hands and cried joyfully, "The moment has come!"
Going to the back of the room, she brought thence an armful of straw,
placed it in a corner of the room, and did the same in the other
corners. She then took a flaming brand from the stove and set fire
in succession to the four corners of the room.

"What are you doing?" said Annouschka, wild with terror, trying to
stop her.

"I am going to bury our secret in the ashes of this house," answered
Vaninka.

"But my brother, my poor brother!" said the girl.

"Your brother is a wretch who has betrayed me, and we are lost if we
do not destroy him."

"Oh, my brother, my poor brother!"

"You can die with him if you like," said Vaninka, accompanying the
proposal with a smile which showed she would not have been sorry if
Annouschka had carried sisterly affection to that length.

"But look at the fire, madam--the fire!"

"Let us go, then," said Vaninka; and, dragging out the heart-broken
girl, she locked the door behind her and threw the key far away into
the snow.

"In the name of Heaven," said Annouschka, "let us go home quickly: I
cannot gaze upon this awful sight!"

"No, let us stay here!" said Vaninka, holding her back with a grasp
of almost masculine strength. "Let us stay until the house falls in
on them, so that we may be certain that not one of them escapes."

"Oh, my God!" cried Annouschka, falling on her knees, "have mercy
upon my poor brother, for death will hurry him unprepared into Thy
presence."

"Yes, yes, pray; that is right," said Vaninka. "I wish to destroy
their bodies, not their souls."

Vaninka stood motionless, her arms crossed, brilliantly lit up by the
flames, while her attendant prayed. The fire did not last long: the
house was wooden, with the crevices filled with oakum, like all those
of Russian peasants, so that the flames, creeping out at the four
corners, soon made great headway, and, fanned by the wind, spread
rapidly to all parts of the building. Vaninka followed the progress
of the fire with blazing eyes, fearing to see some half-burnt
spectral shape rush out of the flames. At last the roof fell in, and
Vaninka, relieved of all fear, then at last made her way to the
general's house, into which the two women entered without being seen,
thanks to the permission Annouschka had to go out at any hour of the
day or night.

The next morning the sole topic of conversation in St. Petersburg was
the fire at the Red House. Four half-consumed corpses were dug out
from beneath the ruins, and as three of the general's slaves were
missing, he had no doubt that the unrecognisable bodies were those of
Ivan, Daniel, and Alexis: as for the fourth, it was certainly that of
Gregory.

The cause of the fire remained a secret from everyone: the house was
solitary, and the snowstorm so violent that nobody had met the two
women on the deserted road. Vaninka was sure of her maid. Her
secret then had perished with Ivan. But now remorse took the place
of fear: the young girl who was so pitiless and inflexible in the
execution of the deed quailed at its remembrance. It seemed to her
that by revealing the secret of her crime to a priest, she would be
relieved of her terrible burden. She therefore sought a confessor
renowned for his lofty charity, and, under the seal of confession,
told him all. The priest was horrified by the story. Divine mercy
is boundless, but human forgiveness has its limits. He refused
Vaninka the absolution she asked. This refusal was terrible: it
would banish Vaninka from the Holy Table; this banishment would be
noticed, and could not fail to be attributed to some unheard-of and
secret crime. Vaninka fell at the feet of the priest, and in the
name of her father, who would be disgraced by her shame, begged him
to mitigate the rigour of this sentence.

The confessor reflected deeply, then thought he had found a way to
obviate such consequences. It was that Vaninka should approach the
Holy Table with the other young girls; the priest would stop before
her as before all the others, but only say to her, "Pray and weep";
the congregation, deceived by this, would think that she had received
the Sacrament like her companions. This was all that Vaninka could
obtain.

This confession took place about seven o'clock in the evening, and
the solitude of the church, added to the darkness of night, had given
it a still more awful character. The confessor returned home, pale
and trembling. His wife Elizabeth was waiting for him alone. She
had just put her little daughter Arina, who was eight years old, to
bed in an adjoining room. When she saw her husband, she uttered a
cry of terror, so changed and haggard was his appearance. The
confessor tried to reassure her, but his trembling voice only
increased her alarm. She asked the cause of his agitation; the
confessor refused to tell her. Elizabeth had heard the evening
before that her mother was ill; she thought that her husband had
received some bad news. The day was Monday, which is considered an
unlucky day among the Russians, and, going out that day, Elizabeth
had met a man in mourning; these omens were too numerous and too
strong not to portend misfortune.

Elizabeth burst into tears, and cried out, "My mother is dead!"

The priest in vain tried to reassure her by telling her that his
agitation was not due to that. The poor woman, dominated by one
idea, made no response to his protestations but this everlasting cry,
"My mother is dead!"

Then, to bring her to reason, the confessor told her that his emotion
was due to the avowal of a crime which he had just heard in the
confessional. But Elizabeth shook her head: it was a trick, she
said, to hide from her the sorrow which had fallen upon her. Her
agony, instead of calming, became more violent; her tears ceased to
flow, and were followed by hysterics. The priest then made her swear
to keep the secret, and the sanctity of the confession was betrayed.

Little Arina had awakened at Elizabeth's cries, and being disturbed
and at the same time curious as to what her parents were doing, she
got up, went to listen at the door, and heard all.

The day for the Communion came; the church of St. Simeon was crowded.
Vaninka came to kneel at the railing of the choir. Behind her was
her father and his aides-de-camp, and behind them their servants.

Arina was also in the church with her mother. The inquisitive child
wished to see Vaninka, whose name she had heard pronounced that
terrible night, when her father had failed in the first and most
sacred of the duties imposed on a priest. While her mother was
praying, she left her chair and glided among the worshippers, nearly
as far as the railing.

But when she had arrived there, she was stopped by the group of the
general's servants. But Arina had not come so far to be, stopped so
easily: she tried to push between them, but they opposed her; she
persisted, and one of them pushed her roughly back. The child fell,
struck her head against a seat, and got up bleeding and crying, "You
are very proud for a slave. Is it because you belong to the great
lady who burnt the Red House?"

These words, uttered in a loud voice, in the midst of the silence
which preceded, the sacred ceremony, were heard by everyone. They
were answered by a shriek. Vaninka had fainted. The next day the
general, at the feet of Paul, recounted to him, as his sovereign and
judge, the whole terrible story, which Vaninka, crushed by her long
struggle, had at last revealed to him, at night, after the scene in
the church.

The emperor remained for a moment in thought at the end of this
strange confession; then, getting up from the chair where he had been
sitting while the miserable father told his story, he went to a
bureau, and wrote on a sheet of paper the following sentence:

"The priest having violated what should have been inviolable, the
secrets of the confessional, is exiled to Siberia and deprived of his
priestly office. His wife will follow him: she is to be blamed for
not having respected his character as a minister of the altar. The
little girl will not leave her parents.

"Annouschka, the attendant, will also go to Siberia for not having
made known to her master his daughter's conduct.

"I preserve all my esteem for the general, and I mourn with him for
the deadly blow which has struck him.

"As for Vaninka, I know of no punishment which can be inflicted upon
her. I only see in her the daughter of a brave soldier, whose whole
life has been devoted to the service of his country. Besides, the
extraordinary way in which the crime was discovered, seems to place
the culprit beyond the limits of my severity. I leave her punishment
in her own hands. If I understand her character, if any feeling of
dignity remains to her, her heart and her remorse will show her the
path she ought to follow."

Paul handed the paper open to the general, ordering him to take it to
Count Pahlen, the governor of St. Petersburg.

On the following day the emperor's orders were carried out.

Vaninka went into a convent, where towards the end of the same year
she died of shame and grief.

The general found the death he sought on the field of Austerlitz.

CELEBRATED CRIMES VOLUME 8 (of 8), Part 3

By Alexander Dumas, Pere

THE MARQUISE DE GANGES

Toward the close of the year 1657, a very plain carriage, with no
arms painted on it, stopped, about eight o'clock one evening, before
the door of a house in the rue Hautefeuille, at which two other
coaches were already standing. A lackey at once got down to open the
carriage door; but a sweet, though rather tremulous voice stopped
him, saying, "Wait, while I see whether this is the place."

Then a head, muffled so closely in a black satin mantle that no
feature could be distinguished, was thrust from one of the carriage
windows, and looking around, seemed to seek for some decisive sign on
the house front. The unknown lady appeared to be satisfied by her
inspection, for she turned back to her companion.

"It is here," said she. "There is the sign."

As a result of this certainty, the carriage door was opened, the two
women alighted, and after having once more raised their eyes to a
strip of wood, some six or eight feet long by two broad, which was
nailed above the windows of the second storey, and bore the
inscription, "Madame Voison, midwife," stole quickly into a passage,
the door of which was unfastened, and in which there was just so much
light as enabled persons passing in or out to find their way along
the narrow winding stair that led from the ground floor to the fifth
storey.
The two strangers, one of whom appeared to be of far higher rank than
the other, did not stop, as might have been expected, at the door
corresponding with the inscription that had guided them, but, on the
contrary, went on to the next floor.

Here, upon the landing, was a kind of dwarf, oddly dressed after the
fashion of sixteenth-century Venetian buffoons, who, when he saw the
two women coming, stretched out a wand, as though to prevent them
from going farther, and asked what they wanted.

"To consult the spirit," replied the woman of the sweet and tremulous
voice.

"Come in and wait," returned the dwarf, lifting a panel of tapestry
and ushering the two women into a waiting-room.

The women obeyed, and remained for about half an hour, seeing and
hearing nothing. At last a door, concealed by the tapestry, was
suddenly opened; a voice uttered the word "Enter," and the two women
were introduced into a second room, hung with black, and lighted
solely by a three-branched lamp that hung from the ceiling. The door
closed behind them, and the clients found themselves face to face
with the sibyl.

She was a woman of about twenty-five or twenty-six, who, unlike other
women, evidently desired to appear older than she was. She was
dressed in black; her hair hung in plaits; her neck, arms, and feet
were bare; the belt at her waist was clasped by a large garnet which
threw out sombre fires. In her hand she held a wand, and she was
raised on a sort of platform which stood for the tripod of the
ancients, and from which came acrid and penetrating fumes; she was,
moreover, fairly handsome, although her features were common, the
eyes only excepted, and these, by some trick of the toilet, no doubt,
looked inordinately large, and, like the garnet in her belt, emitted
strange lights.

When the two visitors came in, they found the soothsayer leaning her
forehead on her hand, as though absorbed in thought. Fearing to
rouse her from her ecstasy, they waited in silence until it should
please her to change her position. At the end of ten minutes she
raised her head, and seemed only now to become aware that two persons
were standing before her.

"What is wanted of me again?" she asked, "and shall I have rest only
in the grave?"

"Forgive me, madame," said the sweet-voiced unknown, "but I am
wishing to know----"

"Silence!" said the sibyl, in a solemn voice. "I will not know your
affairs. It is to the spirit that you must address yourself; he is a
jealous spirit, who forbids his secrets to be shared; I can but pray
to him for you, and obey his will."

At these words, she left her tripod, passed into an adjoining room,
and soon returned, looking even paler and more anxious than before,
and carrying in one hand a burning chafing dish, in the other a red
paper. The three flames of the lamp grew fainter at the same moment,
and the room was left lighted up only by the chafing dish; every
object now assumed a fantastic air that did not fail to disquiet the
two visitors, but it was too late to draw back.

The soothsayer placed the chafing dish in the middle of the room,
presented the paper to the young woman who had spoken, and said to
her--

"Write down what you wish to know."

The woman took the paper with a steadier hand than might have been
expected, seated herself at a table, and wrote:--

"Am I young? Am I beautiful? Am I maid, wife, or widow? This is
for the past.

"Shall I marry, or marry again? Shall I live long, or shall I die
young? This is for the future."

Then, stretching out her hand to the soothsayer, she asked--

"What am I to do now with this?"

"Roll that letter around this ball," answered the other, handing to
the unknown a little ball of virgin wax. "Both ball and letter will
be consumed in the flame before your eyes; the spirit knows your
secrets already. In three days you will have the answer."

The unknown did as the sibyl bade her; then the latter took from her
hands the ball and the paper in which it was wrapped, and went and
threw both into the chafing pan.

" And now all is done as it should be," said the soothsayer.
"Comus!"

The dwarf came in.

"See the lady to her coach."

The stranger left a purse upon the table, and followed Comus. He
conducted her and her companion, who was only a confidential maid,
down a back staircase, used as an exit, and leading into a different
street from that by which the two women had come in; but the
coachman, who had been told beforehand of this circumstance, was
awaiting them at the door, and they had only to step into their
carriage, which bore them rapidly away in the direction of the rue
Dauphine.

Three days later, according to the promise given her, the fair
unknown, when she awakened, found on the table beside her a letter in
an unfamiliar handwriting; it was addressed "To the beautiful
Provencale," and contained these words--

"You are young; you are beautiful; you are a widow. This is for the
present.

"You will marry again; you will die young, and by a violent death.
This is for the future.
THE SPIRIT."

The answer was written upon a paper like that upon which the
questions had been set down.

The marquise turned pale and uttered a faint cry of terror; the
answer was so perfectly correct in regard to the past as to call up a
fear that it might be equally accurate in regard to the future.

The truth is that the unknown lady wrapped in a mantle whom we have
escorted into the modern sibyl's cavern was no other than the
beautiful Marie de Rossan, who before her marriage had borne the name
of Mademoiselle de Chateaublanc, from that of an estate belonging to
her maternal grandfather, M. Joannis de Nocheres, who owned a fortune
of five to six hundred thousand livres. At the age of thirteen--that
is to say, in 1649--she had married the Marquis de Castellane, a
gentleman of very high birth, who claimed to be descended from John
of Castille, the son of Pedro the Cruel, and from Juana de Castro,
his mistress. Proud of his young wife's beauty, the Marquis de
Castellane, who was an officer of the king's galleys, had hastened to
present her at court. Louis XIV, who at the time of her presentation
was barely twenty years old, was struck by her enchanting face, and
to the great despair of the famous beauties of the day danced with
her three times in one evening. Finally, as a crowning touch to her
reputation, the famous Christina of Sweden, who was then at the
French court, said of her that she had never, in any of the kingdoms
through which she had passed, seen anything equal to "the beautiful
Provencale." This praise had been so well received, that the name of
"the beautiful Provencale" had clung to Madame de Castellane, and she
was everywhere known by it.

This favour of Louis XIV and this summing up of Christina's had been
enough to bring the Marquise de Castellane instantly into fashion;
and Mignard, who had just received a patent of nobility and been made
painter to the king, put the seal to her celebrity by asking leave to
paint her portrait. That portrait still exists, and gives a perfect
notion of the beauty which it represents; but as the portrait is far
from our readers' eyes, we will content ourselves by repeating, in
its own original words, the one given in 1667 by the author of a
pamphlet published at Rouen under the following title: True and
Principal Circumstances of the Deplorable Death of Madame the
Marquise de Ganges:

[Note: It is from this pamphlet, and from the Account of the Death of
Madame the Marquise de Ganges, formerly Marquise de Castellane, that
we have borrowed the principal circumstances of this tragic story.
To these documents we must add--that we may not be constantly
referring our readers to original sources--the Celebrated Trials by
Guyot de Pitaval, the Life of Marie de Rossan, and the Lettres
galantes of Madame Desnoyers.]

"Her complexion, which was of a dazzling whiteness, was illumined by
not too brilliant a red, and art itself could not have arranged more
skilfully the gradations by which this red joined and merged into the
whiteness of the complexion. The brilliance of her face was
heightened by the decided blackness of her hair, growing, as though
drawn by a painter of the finest taste, around a well proportioned
brow; her large, well opened eyes were of the same hue as her hair,
and shone with a soft and piercing flame that rendered it impossible
to gaze upon her steadily; the smallness, the shape, the turn of her
mouth, and, the beauty of her teeth were incomparable; the position
and the regular proportion of her nose added to her beauty such an
air of dignity, as inspired a respect for her equal to the love that
might be inspired by her beauty; the rounded contour of her face,
produced by a becoming plumpness, exhibited all the vigour and
freshness of health; to complete her charms, her glances, the
movements of her lips and of her head, appeared to be guided by the
graces; her shape corresponded to the beauty of her face; lastly, her
arms, her hands, her bearing, and her gait were such that nothing
further could be wished to complete the agreeable presentment of a
beautiful woman."

[Note: All her contemporaries, indeed, are in agreement as to her
marvellous beauty; here is a second portrait of the marquise,
delineated in a style and manner still more characteristic of that
period:--

"You will remember that she had a complexion smoother and finer than
a mirror, that her whiteness was so well commingled with the lively
blood as to produce an exact admixture never beheld elsewhere, and
imparting to her countenance the tenderest animation; her eyes and
hair were blacker than jet; her eyes, I say, of which the gaze could
scarce, from their excess of lustre, be supported, which have been
celebrated as a miracle of tenderness and sprightliness, which have
given rise, a thousand times, to the finest compliments of the day,
and have been the torment of many a rash man, must excuse me, if I do
not pause longer to praise them, in a letter; her mouth was the
feature of her face which compelled the most critical to avow that
they had seen none of equal perfection, and that, by its shape, its
smallness, and its brilliance, it might furnish a pattern for all
those others whose sweetness and charms had been so highly vaunted;
her nose conformed to the fair proportion of all her features; it
was, that is to say, the finest in the world; the whole shape of her
face was perfectly round, and of so charming a fullness that such an
assemblage of beauties was never before seen together. The
expression of this head was one of unparalleled sweetness and of a
majesty which she softened rather by disposition than by study; her
figure was opulent, her speech agreeable, her step noble, her
demeanour easy, her temper sociable, her wit devoid of malice, and
founded upon great goodness of heart."]

It is easy to understand that a woman thus endowed could not, in a
court where gallantry was more pursued than in any other spot in the
world, escape the calumnies of rivals; such calumnies, however, never
produced any result, so correctly, even in the absence of her
husband, did the marquise contrive to conduct herself; her cold and
serious conversation, rather concise than lively, rather solid than
brilliant, contrasted, indeed, with the light turn, the capricious
and fanciful expressions employed by the wits of that time; the
consequence was that those who had failed to succeed with her, tried
to spread a report that the marquise was merely a beautiful idol,
virtuous with the virtue of a statue. But though such things might
be said and repeated in the absence of the marquise, from the moment
that she appeared in a drawing-room, from the moment that her
beautiful eyes and sweet smile added their indefinable expression to
those brief, hurried, and sensible words that fell from her lips, the
most prejudiced came back to her and were forced to own that God had
never before created anything that so nearly touched perfection.

She was thus in the enjoyment of a triumph that backbiters failed to
shake, and that scandal vainly sought to tarnish, when news came of
the wreck of the French galleys in Sicilian waters, and of the death
of the Marquis de Castellane, who was in command. The marquise on
this occasion, as usual, displayed the greatest piety and propriety:
although she had no very violent passion for her husband, with whom
she had spent scarcely one of the seven years during which their
marriage had lasted, on receipt of the news she went at once into
retreat, going to live with Madame d'Ampus, her mother-in-law, and
ceasing not only to receive visitors but also to go out.

Six months after the death of her husband, the marquise received
letters from her grandfather, M. Joannis de Nocheres, begging her to
come and finish her time of mourning at Avignon. Having been
fatherless almost from childhood, Mademoiselle de Chateaublanc had
been brought up by this good old man, whom she loved dearly; she
hastened accordingly to accede to his invitation, and prepared
everything for her departure.

This was at the moment when la Voisin, still a young woman, and far
from having the reputation which she subsequently acquired, was yet
beginning to be talked of. Several friends of the Marquise de
Castellane had been to consult her, and had received strange
predictions from her, some of which, either through the art of her
who framed them, or through some odd concurrence of circumstances,
had come true. The marquise could not resist the curiosity with
which various tales that she had heard of this woman's powers had
inspired her, and some days before setting out for Avignon she made
the visit which we have narrated. What answer she received to her
questions we have seen.

The marquise was not superstitious, yet this fatal prophecy impressed
itself upon her mind and left behind a deep trace, which neither the
pleasure of revisiting her native place, nor the affection of her
grandfather, nor the fresh admiration which she did not fail to
receive, could succeed in removing; indeed, this fresh admiration was
a weariness to the marquise, and before long she begged leave of her
grandfather to retire into a convent and to spend there the last
three months of her mourning.

It was in that place, and it was with the warmth of these poor
cloistered maidens, that she heard a man spoken of for the first
time, whose reputation for beauty, as a man, was equal to her own, as
a woman. This favourite of nature was the sieur de Lenide, Marquis
de Ganges, Baron of Languedoc, and governor of Saint-Andre, in the
diocese of Uzes. The marquise heard of him so often, and it was so
frequently declared to her that nature seemed to have formed them for
each other, that she began to allow admission to a very strong desire
of seeing him. Doubtless, the sieur de Lenide, stimulated by similar
suggestions, had conceived a great wish to meet the marquise; for,
having got M. de Nocheres who no doubt regretted her prolonged
retreat--to entrust him with a commission for his granddaughter, he
came to the convent parlour and asked for the fair recluse. She,
although she had never seen him, recognised him at the first glance;
for having never seen so handsome a cavalier as he who now presented
himself before her, she thought this could be no other than the
Marquis de Ganges, of whom people had so often spoken to her.

That which was to happen, happened: the Marquise de Castellane and
the Marquis de Ganges could not look upon each other without loving.
Both were young, the marquis was noble and in a good position, the
marquise was rich; everything in the match, therefore, seemed
suitable: and indeed it was deferred only for the space of time
necessary to complete the year of mourning, and the marriage was
celebrated towards the beginning of the year 1558. The marquis was
twenty years of age, and the marquise twenty-two.

The beginnings of this union were perfectly happy; the marquis was in
love for the first time, and the marquise did not remember ever to
have been in love. A son and a daughter came to complete their
happiness. The marquise had entirely forgotten the fatal prediction,
or, if she occasionally thought of it now, it was to wonder that she
could ever have believed in it. Such happiness is not of this world,
and when by chance it lingers here a while, it seems sent rather by
the anger than by the goodness of God. Better, indeed, would it be
for him who possesses and who loses it, never to have known it.

The Marquis de Ganges was the first to weary of this happy life.
Little by little he began to miss the pleasures of a young man; he
began to draw away from the marquise and to draw nearer to his former
friends. On her part, the marquise, who for the sake of wedded
intimacy had sacrificed her habits of social life, threw herself into
society, where new triumphs awaited her. These triumphs aroused the
jealousy of the marquis; but he was too much a man of his century to
invite ridicule by any manifestation; he shut his jealousy into his
soul, and it emerged in a different form on every different occasion.
To words of love, so sweet that they seemed the speech of angels,
succeeded those bitter and biting utterances that foretell
approaching division. Before long, the marquis and the marquise only
saw each other at hours when they could not avoid meeting; then, on
the pretext of necessary journeys, and presently without any pretext
at all, the marquis would go away for three-quarters of a year, and
once more the marquise found herself widowed. Whatever contemporary
account one may consult, one finds them all agreeing to declare that
she was always the same--that is to say, full of patience, calmness,
and becoming behaviour--and it is rare to find such a unanimity of
opinion about a young and beautiful woman.

About this time the marquis, finding it unendurable to be alone with
his wife during the short spaces of time which he spent at home,
invited his two brothers, the chevalier and the abbe de Ganges, to
come and live with him. He had a third brother, who, as the second
son, bore the title of comte, and who was colonel of the Languedoc
regiment, but as this gentleman played no part in this story we shall
not concern ourselves with him.

The abbe de Ganges, who bore that title without belonging to the
Church, had assumed it in order to enjoy its privileges: he was a
kind of wit, writing madrigals and 'bouts-rimes' [Bouts-rimes are
verses written to a given set of rhymes.] on occasion, a handsome man
enough, though in moments of impatience his eyes would take a
strangely cruel expression; as dissolute and shameless to boot, as
though he had really belonged to the clergy of the period.

The chevalier de Ganges, who shared in some measure the beauty so
profusely showered upon the family, was one of those feeble men who
enjoy their own nullity, and grow on to old age inapt alike for good
and evil, unless some nature of a stronger stamp lays hold on them
and drags them like faint and pallid satellites in its wake. This
was what befell the chevalier in respect of his brother: submitted to
an influence of which he himself was not aware, and against which,
had he but suspected it, he would have rebelled with the obstinacy of
a child, he was a machine obedient to the will of another mind and to
the passions of another heart, a machine which was all the more
terrible in that no movement of instinct or of reason could, in his
case, arrest the impulse given.

Moreover, this influence which the abbe had acquired over the
chevalier extended, in some degree also, to the marquis. Having as a
younger son no fortune, having no revenue, for though he wore a
Churchman's robes he did not fulfil a Churchman's functions, he had
succeeded in persuading the marquis, who was rich, not only in the
enjoyment of his own fortune, but also in that of his wife, which was
likely to be nearly doubled at the death of M. de Nocheres, that some
zealous man was needed who would devote himself to the ordering of
his house and the management of his property; and had offered himself
for the post. The marquis had very gladly accepted, being, as we
have said, tired by this time of his solitary home life; and the abbe
had brought with him the chevalier, who followed him like his shadow,
and who was no more regarded than if he had really possessed no body.

The marquise often confessed afterwards that when she first saw these
two men, although their outward aspect was perfectly agreeable, she
felt herself seized by a painful impression, and that the fortune-
teller's prediction of a violent death, which she had so long
forgotten, gashed out like lightning before her eyes. The effect on
the two brothers was not of the same kind: the beauty of the marquise
struck them both, although in different ways. The chevalier was in
ecstasies of admiration, as though before a beautiful statue, but the
impression that she made upon him was that which would have been made
by marble, and if the chevalier had been left to himself the
consequences of this admiration would have been no less harmless.
Moreover, the chevalier did not attempt either to exaggerate or to
conceal this impression, and allowed his sister-in-law to see in what
manner she struck him. The abbe, on the contrary, was seized at
first sight with a deep and violent desire to possess this woman--the
most beautiful whom he had ever met; but being as perfectly capable
of mastering his sensations as the chevalier was incapable, he merely
allowed such words of compliment to escape him as weigh neither with
him who utters nor her who hears them; and yet, before the close of
this first interview, the abbe had decided in his irrevocable will
that this woman should be his.

As for the marquise, although the impression produced by her two
brothers-in-law could never be entirely effaced, the wit of the abbe,
to which he gave, with amazing facility, whatever turn he chose, and
the complete nullity of the chevalier brought her to certain feelings
of less repulsion towards them: for indeed the marquise had one of
those souls which never suspect evil, as long as it will take the
trouble to assume any veil at all of seeming, and which only
recognise it with regret when it resumes its true shape.

Meanwhile the arrival of these two new inmates soon spread a little
more life and gaiety through the house. Furthermore; greatly to the
astonishment of the marquise, her husband, who had so long been
indifferent to her beauty, seemed to remark afresh that she was too
charming to be despised; his words accordingly began little by little
to express an affection that had long since gradually disappeared
from them. The marquise had never ceased to love him; she had
suffered the loss of his love with resignation, she hailed its return
with joy, and three months elapsed that resembled those which had
long ceased to be more to the poor wife than a distant and half-worn-
out memory.

Thus she had, with the supreme facility of youth, always ready to be
happy, taken up her gladness again, without even asking what genius
had brought back to her the treasure which she had thought lost, when
she received an invitation from a lady of the neighbourhood to spend
some days in her country house. Her husband and her two brothers-in-
law, invited with her, were of the party, and accompanied her.
A great hunting party had been arranged beforehand, and almost
immediately upon arriving everyone began to prepare for taking part
in it.

The abbe, whose talents had made him indispensable in every company,
declared that for that day he was the marquise's cavalier, a title
which his sister-in-law, with her usual amiability, confirmed. Each
of the huntsmen, following this example, made choice of a lady to
whom to dedicate his attentions throughout the day; then, this
chivalrous arrangement being completed, all present directed their
course towards the place of meeting.

That happened which almost always happens the dogs hunted on their
own account. Two or three sportsmen only followed the dogs; the rest
got lost. The abbe, in his character of esquire to the marquise, had
not left her for a moment, and had managed so cleverly that he was
alone with her--an opportunity which he had been seeking for a month
previously with no less care--than the marquise had been using to
avoid it. No sooner, therefore, did the marquise believe herself
aware that the abbe had intentionally turned aside from the hunt than
she attempted to gallop her horse in the opposite direction from that
which she had been following; but the abbe stopped her. The marquise
neither could nor would enter upon a struggle; she resigned herself,
therefore, to hearing what the abbe had to say to her, and her face
assumed that air of haughty disdain which women so well know how to
put on when they wish a man to understand that he has nothing to hope
from them. There was an instant's silence; the abbe was the first to
break it.

"Madame," said he, "I ask your pardon for having used this means to
speak to you alone; but since, in spite of my rank of brother-in-law,
you did not seem inclined to grant me that favour if I had asked it,
I thought it would be better for me, to deprive you of the power to
refuse it me."

"If you have hesitated to ask me so simple a thing, monsieur,"
replied the marquise, "and if you have taken such precautions to
compel me to listen to you, it must, no doubt, be because you knew
beforehand that the words you had to say to me were such as I could
not hear. Have the goodness, therefore, to reflect, before you open
this conversation, that here as elsewhere I reserve the right--and I
warn you of it--to interrupt what you may say at the moment when it
may cease to seem to me befitting."

"As to that, madame," said the abbe, "I think I can answer for it
that whatever it may please me to say to you, you will hear to the
end; but indeed the matters are so simple that there is no need to
make you uneasy beforehand: I wished to ask you, madame, whether you
have perceived a change in the conduct of your husband towards you."

"Yes, monsieur," replied the marquise, "and no single day has passed
in which I have not thanked Heaven for this happiness."

"And you have been wrong, madame," returned the abbe, with one of
those smiles that were peculiar to himself; "Heaven has nothing to do
with it. Thank Heaven for having made you the most beautiful and
charming of women, and that will be enough thanksgiving without
despoiling me of such as belong to my share."

"I do not understand you, monsieur," said the marquise in an icy
tone.

"Well, I will make myself comprehensible, my dear sister-in-law. I
am the worker of the miracle for which you are thanking Heaven; to me
therefore belongs your gratitude. Heaven is rich enough not to rob
the poor."

"You are right, monsieur: if it is really to you that I owe this
return, the cause of which I did not know, I will thank you in the
first place; and then afterwards I will thank Heaven for having
inspired you with this good thought."

"Yes," answered the abbe, "but Heaven, which has inspired me with a
good thought, may equally well inspire me with a bad one, if the good
thought does not bring me what I expect from it."

"What do you mean, monsieur?"

"That there has never been more than one will in the family, and that
will is mine; that the minds of my two brothers turn according to the
fancy of that will like weathercocks before the wind, and that he who
has blown hot can blow cold."

"I am still waiting for you to explain yourself, monsieur."

"Well, then, my dear sister-in-law, since you are pleased not to
understand me, I will explain myself more clearly. My brother turned
from you through jealousy; I wished to give you an idea of my power
over him, and from extreme indifference I have brought him back, by
showing him that he suspected you wrongly, to the ardours of the
warmest love. Well, I need only tell him that I was mistaken, and
fix his wandering suspicions upon any man whatever, and I shall take
him away from you, even as I have brought him back. I need give you
no proof of what I say; you know perfectly well that I am speaking
the truth."

"And what object had you, in acting this part?"

"To prove to you, madame, that at my will I can cause you to be sad
or joyful, cherished or neglected, adored or hated. Madame, listen
to me: I love you."

"You insult me, monsieur!" cried the marquise, trying to withdraw the
bridle of her horse from the abbe's hands.

"No fine words, my dear sister-in-law; for, with me, I warn you, they
will be lost. To tell a woman one loves her is never an insult; only
there are a thousand different ways of obliging her to respond to
that love. The error is to make a mistake in the way that one
employs--that is the whole of the matter."

"And may I inquire which you have chosen?" asked the marquise, with a
crushing smile of contempt.

"The only one that could succeed with a calm, cold, strong woman like
you, the conviction that your interest requires you to respond to my
love."

"Since you profess to know me so well," answered the marquise, with
another effort, as unsuccessful as the former, to free the bridle of
her horse, "you should know how a woman like me would receive such an
overture; say to yourself what I might say to you, and above all,
what I might say to my husband."

The abbe smiled.

"Oh, as to that," he returned, "you can do as you please, madame.
Tell your husband whatever you choose; repeat our conversation word
for word; add whatever your memory may furnish, true or false, that
may be most convincing against me; then, when you have thoroughly
given him his cue, when you think yourself sure of him, I will say
two words to him, and turn him inside out like this glove. That is
what I had to say to you, madame I will not detain you longer. You
may have in me a devoted friend or a mortal enemy. Reflect."

At these words the abbe loosed his hold upon the bridle of the
marquise's horse and left her free to guide it as she would. The
marquise put her beast to a trot, so as to show neither fear nor
haste. The abbe followed her, and both rejoined the hunt.

The abbe had spoken truly. The marquise, notwithstanding the threat
which she had made, reflected upon the influence which this man had
over her husband, and of which she had often had proof she kept
silence, therefore, and hoped that he had made himself seem worse
than he was, to frighten her. On this point she was strangely
mistaken.

The abbe, however, wished to see, in the first place, whether the
marquise's refusal was due to personal antipathy or to real virtue.
The chevalier, as has been said, was handsome; he had that usage of
good society which does instead of mind, and he joined to it the
obstinacy of a stupid man; the abbe undertook to persuade him that he
was in love with the marquise. It was not a difficult matter. We
have described the impression made upon the chevalier by the first
sight of Madame de Ganges; but, owing beforehand the reputation of
austerity that his sister-in-law had acquired, he had not the
remotest idea of paying court to her. Yielding, indeed, to the
influence which she exercised upon all who came in contact with her,
the chevalier had remained her devoted servant; and the marquise,
having no reason to mistrust civilities which she took for signs of
friendliness, and considering his position as her husband's brother,
treated him with less circumspection than was her custom.

The abbe sought him out, and, having made sure they were alone, said,
"Chevalier, we both love the same woman, and that woman is our
brother's wife; do not let us thwart each other: I am master of my
passion, and can the more easily sacrifice it to you that I believe
you are the man preferred; try, therefore, to obtain some assurance
of the love which I suspect the marquise of having for you; and from
the day when you reach that point I will withdraw, but otherwise, if
you fail, give up your place civilly to me, that I may try, in my
turn, whether her heart is really impregnable, as everybody says."

The chevalier had never thought of the possibility of winning the
marquise; but from the moment in which his brother, with no apparent
motive of personal interest, aroused the idea that he might be
beloved, every spark of passion and of vanity that still existed in
this automaton took fire, and he began to be doubly assiduous and
attentive to his sister-in-law. She, who had never suspected any evil
in this quarter, treated the chevalier at first with a kindliness
that was heightened by her scorn for the abbe. But, before long, the
chevalier, misunderstanding the grounds of this kindliness, explained
himself more clearly. The marquise, amazed and at first incredulous,
allowed him to say enough to make his intentions perfectly clear;
then she stopped him, as she had done the abbe, by some of those
galling words which women derive from their indifference even more
than from their virtue.

At this check, the chevalier, who was far from possessing his
brother's strength and determination, lost all hope, and came
candidly to own to the latter the sad result of his attentions and
his love. This was what the abbe had awaited, in the first place for
the satisfaction of his own vanity, and in the second place for the
means of carrying out his schemes. He worked upon the chevalier's
humiliation until he had wrought it into a solid hatred; and then,
sure of having him for a supporter and even for an accomplice, he
began to put into execution his plan against the marquise.

The consequence was soon shown in a renewal of alienation on the part
of M. de Ganges. A young man whom the marquise sometimes met in
society, and to whom, on account of his wit, she listened perhaps a
little more willingly than to others, became, if not the cause, at
least the excuse of a fresh burst of jealousy. This jealousy was
exhibited as on previous occasions, by quarrels remote from the real
grievance; but the marquise was not deceived: she recognised in this
change the fatal hand of her brother-in-law. But this certainty,
instead of drawing her towards him, increased her repulsion; and
thenceforward she lost no opportunity of showing him not only that
repulsion but also the contempt that accompanied it.

Matters remained in this state for some months. Every day the
marquise perceived her husband growing colder, and although the spies
were invisible she felt herself surrounded by a watchfulness that
took note of the most private details of her life. As to the abbe
and the chevalier, they were as usual; only the abbe had hidden his
hate behind a smile that was habitual, and the chevalier his
resentment behind that cold and stiff dignity in which dull minds
enfold themselves when they believe themselves injured in their
vanity.

In the midst of all this, M. Joannis de Nocheres died, and added to
the already considerable fortune of his granddaughter another fortune
of from six to seven hundred thousand livres.

This additional wealth became, on accruing to the marquise, what was
then called, in countries where the Roman law prevailed, a
'paraphernal' estate that is to say that, falling in, after marriage?
it was not included in the dowry brought by the wife, and that she
could dispose freely both of the capital and the income, which might
not be administered even by her husband without a power of attorney,
and of which she could dispose at pleasure, by donation or by will.
And in fact, a few days after the marquise had entered into
possession of her grandfather's estate, her husband and his brothers
learned that she had sent for a notary in order to be instructed as
to her rights. This step betokened an intention of separating this
inheritance from the common property of the marriage; for the
behaviour of the marquis towards his wife--of which within himself he
often recognised the injustice--left him little hope of any other
explanation.

About this time a strange event happened. At a dinner given by the
marquise, a cream was served at dessert: all those who partook of
this cream were ill; the marquis and his two brothers, who had not
touched it, felt no evil effects. The remainder of this cream, which
was suspected of having caused illness to the guests, and
particularly to the marquise, who had taken of it twice, was
analysed, and the presence of arsenic in it demonstrated. Only,
having been mixed with milk, which is its antidote, the poison had
lost some of its power, and had produced but half the expected
effect. As no serious disaster had followed this occurrence, the
blame was thrown upon a servant, who was said to have mistaken
arsenic for sugar, and everybody forgot it, or appeared to forget it.

The marquis, however, seemed to be gradually and naturally drawing
nearer again to his wife; but this time Madame de Ganges was not
deceived by his returning kindness. There, as in his alienation, she
saw the selfish hand of the abbe: he had persuaded his brother that
seven hundred thousand livres more in the house would make it worth
while to overlook some levities of behaviour; and the marquis,
obeying the impulse given, was trying, by kind dealing, to oppose his
wife's still unsettled intention of making a will.

Towards the autumn there was talk of going to spend that season at
Ganges, a little town situated in Lower Languedoc, in the diocese of
Montpellier, seven leagues from that town, and nineteen from Avignon.
Although this was natural enough, since the marquis was lord of the
town and had a castle there, the marquise was seized by a strange
shudder when she heard the proposal. Remembrance of the prediction
made to her returned immediately to her mind. The recent and ill
explained attempt to poison her, too, very naturally added to her
fears.

Without directly and positively suspecting her brothers-in-law of
that crime, she knew that in them she had two implacable enemies.
This journey to a little town, this abode in a lonely castle, amid
new, unknown neighbours, seemed to her of no good omen; but open
opposition would have been ridiculous. On what grounds, indeed,
could she base resistance? The marquise could only own her terrors
by accusing her husband and her brothers-in-law. And of what could
she accuse them? The incident of the poisoned cream was not a
conclusive proof. She resolved accordingly to lock up all her fears
in her heart, and to commit herself to the hands of God.

Nevertheless, she would not leave Avignon without signing the will
which she had contemplated making ever since M. de Nocheres' death.
A notary was called in who drew up the document. The Marquise de
Ganges made her mother, Madame de Rossan, her sole inheritor, and
left in her charge the duty of choosing between the testatrix's two
children as to which of them should succeed to the estate. These two
children were, one a boy of six years old, the other a girl of five.
But this was not enough for the marquise, so deep was her impression
that she would not survive this fatal journey; she gathered together,
secretly and at night, the magistrates of Avignon and several persons
of quality, belonging to the first families of the town, and there,
before them, verbally at first, declared that, in case of her death,
she begged the honourable witnesses whom she had assembled on
purpose, not to recognise as valid, voluntary, or freely written
anything except the will which she had signed the day before, and
affirmed beforehand that any later will which might be produced would
be the effect of fraud or of violence. Then, having made this verbal
declaration, the marquise repeated it in writing, signed the paper
containing it, and gave the paper to be preserved by the honour of
those whom she constituted its guardians. Such a precaution, taken
with such minute detail, aroused the lively curiosity of her hearers.
Many pressing questions were put to the marquise, but nothing could
be extracted from her except that she had reasons for her action
which she could not declare. The cause of this assemblage remained a
secret, and every person who formed part of it promised the marquise
not to reveal it.

On the next day, which was that preceding her departure for Ganges,
the marquise visited all the charitable institutions and religious
communities in Avignon; she left liberal alms everywhere, with the
request that prayers and masses should be said for her, in order to
obtain from God's grace that she should not be suffered to die
without receiving the sacraments of the Church. In the evening, she
took leave of all her friends with the affection and the tears of a
person convinced that she was bidding them a last farewell; and
finally she spent the whole night in prayer, and the maid who came to
wake her found her kneeling in the same spot where she, had left her
the night before.

The family set out for Ganges; the journey was performed without
accident. On reaching the castle, the marquise found her mother-in-
law there; she was a woman of remarkable distinction and piety, and
her presence, although it was to be but temporary, reassured the poor
fearful marquise a little. Arrangements had been made beforehand at
the old castle, and the most convenient and elegant of the rooms had
been assigned to the marquise; it was on the first floor, and looked
out upon a courtyard shut in on all sides by stables.

On the first evening that she was to sleep here, the marquise
explored the room with the greatest attention. She inspected the
cupboards, sounded the walls, examined the tapestry, and found
nothing anywhere that could confirm her terrors, which, indeed, from
that time began to decrease. At the end of a certain time; however,
the marquis's mother left Ganges to return to Montpellier. Two, days
after her departure, the marquis talked of important business which
required him to go back to Avignon, and he too left the castle. The
marquise thus remained alone with the abbe, the chevalier, and a

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