Part 10 out of 12
"Love you, La Goualeuse! But, do you not recollect what you told the
others, to prevent them from beating me? 'It is not her alone you
beat, it is also her child.' Well! for the same reason, I do not love
you for myself alone, but also for my child."
"Thank you, thank you, Mont Saint Jean; you give me pleasure to hear
you say that."
At this moment, Madame Armand, the inspectress, entered the court.
After having sought for Fleur-de-Marie with her eyes, she came to her
with a satisfied and smiling air. "Good news, my child!"
"What do you say, madame?" cried La Goualeuse, rising.
"Your friends have not forgotten you; they have obtained your liberty.
The director has just received the notice."
"Can it be possible, madame! Oh! what happiness!" The emotion of
Fleur-de-Marie was so violent, that she turned pale, put her hand to
her heart, which beat violently, and fell back on her seat.
"Calm yourself, my child," said Madame Armand, kindly: "happily, such
shocks are without danger."
"Ah, madame, how grateful I ought to be!"
"It is, doubtless, Madame d'Harville who has obtained your liberty.
There is an old lady here who is charged to conduct you to your
friends. Wait for me; I will return for you; I have a few words to say
in the workroom." It would be difficult to describe the expression of
deep grief which spread over the features of Mont Saint Jean on
learning that her good angel was to leave Saint Lazare.
The grief of this woman was caused less by the fear of a renewal of
her torments, than by the sorrow at parting from the sole being who
had ever evinced any interest for her. Still seated at the foot of the
bench, she took bold of the two tufts of tangled hair which escaped
from under her old black cap, as if to tear them out; then, this
violent affliction giving way to dejection, she let her head fall, and
remained dumb and immovable, with her face buried in her hands.
Notwithstanding her joy at leaving the prison, Fleur-de-Marie could
not prevent a shudder at the remembrance of La Chouette and the Maître
d'Ecole; recollecting that these two monsters had made her swear not
to inform her benefactors of her sad fate.
But these sad thoughts were soon dispelled at the hope of seeing
Bouqueval, Madame George, and Rudolph again; to the latter she wished
to recommend La Louve and Martial; it even seemed to her that the
sentiment which she reproached herself for having felt towards her
benefactor, being no longer nourished by sorrow and by solitude, would
be calmed and modified as soon as she should resume the rustic
occupations which she loved so much to partake with the good and
honest inhabitants of the farm.
Astonished at the silence of her companion, of which she did not
suspect the cause, she touched her slightly on the shoulder, and said,
"Mont Saint Jean, since I am now free, can I be of any service to
On feeling the hand of La Goualeuse, the prisoner shuddered, let her
arms fall, and turned toward the young girl, her face streaming with
"Listen to me, Mont Saint Jean," said Fleur-de Marie, touched at the
affection of this poor creature. "I can promise you nothing for
yourself, although I know some very charitable people; but for your
child it is different; it is innocent of every evil; he, and the
persons of whom I speak, would, perhaps, take the charge of it when
you can part with it."
"Part from it--never, oh, never!" cried Mont Saint Jean, with warmth.
"What would become of me then, now that I have counted on him?"
"But how will you support it? son or daughter, it must be honest, and
"It must eat honest bread, is it not so, La Goualeuse? I think so; it
is my ambition. I say it to myself every day, thus: on leaving here I
shall not let the grass grow under my feet. I will become a rag-picker,
a crossing-sweeper, but I'll be correct; one owes that, if not
to one's self, at least to one's children, when one has the honor of
having any," said she with a kind of pride. "And who will take care of
your child while you work?" answered La Goualeuse; "would it not be
better, if that is possible, as I hope it is, to place it in the
country with some good people, who would make it a good farmer's girl
or a plowboy? You can come from time to time to see it, and some day,
perhaps, you would find the means to remain altogether--in the country
it costs so little to live."
"But to part with it, to part with it! All my joy is in it. I, who
have no one to love me!" "You must think more for it than for
yourself, my poor Mont Saint Jean; in two or three days I will write
to Madame Armand, and if the demand I mean to make in favor of your
child succeeds, you will never have occasion to say again, what you
said just now, 'Alas! what will become of it?'"
The inspectress, Madame Armand, interrupted this conversation; she
came to seek Fleur-de-Marie.
After having again burst into sobs, and bathed with tears of despair
the hands of the girl, Mont Saint Jean fell back on the bench quite
overcome with sorrow, not even thinking of the promise just made to
her by Fleur-de-Marie.
"Poor creature!" said Madame Armand, leaving the yard, followed by La
Goualeuse; "poor creature, her gratitude toward you gives me a better
opinion of her."
On learning that Fleur-de-Marie was pardoned, the other prisoners,
instead of being jealous, expressed their joy; some of them surrounded
her, and bade her farewell in a cordial manner, congratulating her
frankly on her quick deliverance from prison.
"All the same," said one of them, "she has made us do some good; it
was when we collected for Mont Saint Jean. This will be remembered in
When Fleur-de-Marie had left the prison buildings under the conduct of
the inspectress, the latter said to her, "Now, my child, go to the
wardrobe, where you will leave your prison garments, and resume the
peasant's costume, which, from its rustic simplicity, becomes you so
well; adieu. You go to be happy, for you go under the protection of
worthy people, and you leave this house never to return. But--hold--I
am not unreasonable," said Madame Armand, whose eyes were bathed in
tears, "it is impossible for me to conceal from you how much I am
already attached to you, poor child!" Then, seeing Fleur-de-Marie much
affected, she added, "You do not wish me thus to sadden your
"Ah! madame, is it not to your recommendation that this young lady, to
whom I owe my liberty, interested herself in my fate?"
"Yes, and I am happy at what I have done; my presentiments have not
deceived me." At this moment a bell rang. "Ah! this is the signal for
them to resume their work; I must go in. Adieu! once more adieu, my
And Madame Armand, quite as much affected as Fleur-de-Marie, embraced
her tenderly; she then said to one of the attendants, "Conduct her to
A quarter of an hour afterward, Fleur-de-Marie, clothed as a peasant,
entered the office where Mrs. Seraphin awaited her. This woman,
housekeeper of Jacques Ferrand, came to take the unfortunate child to
Jacque Ferrand had easily and promptly obtained the liberty of
Instructed by La Chouette of the sojourn of La Goualeuse in Saint
Lazare, he had immediately addressed himself to one of his clients, an
influential man, telling him that a girl, led astray but sincerely
repentant, and recently confined in Saint Lazare, ran the risk, from
contact with the other prisoners, of having her good resolutions
weakened. This girl had been strongly recommended to him by some
respectable people, who would take charge of her as soon as she left
the prison. Jacques Ferrand had added, he begged his all-powerful
client, in the name of morality, of religion, and of the future
rehabilitation of this unfortunate, to solicit her discharge. Finally,
the notary, so as to completely conceal his part in the transaction,
particularly requested his client not to name him in the
accomplishment of this good work; this wish, attributed to the
philanthropic modesty of Jacques Ferrand, was scrupulously observed;
the release of Fleur-de-Marie was demanded and obtained solely in the
name of the client, who, as soon as it was received, sent it to
Jacques Ferrand that he might address it to the protectors of the
Mrs. Seraphin, on giving this order to the directors of the prison,
added that she was charged to conduct La Goualeuse to her friends.
From the excellent account given by the inspectress to Madame
d'Harville, no one doubted that she owed her freedom to the
intervention of the marchioness. Thus the notary's housekeeper could
in no way excite the suspicions of her victim.
Mrs. Seraphin had, as occasion required, the air of a good soul; it
required very close observation to remark something insidious, false
and cruel in her crafty look, her hypocritical smile.
In spite of her profound wickedness, which had made her the accomplice
or confidante of her master's crimes, Mrs. Seraphin could not help
being struck with the touching beauty of this girl, delivered by
herself when quite a child to La Chouette, whom she was then about to
conduct to certain death.
"Well, my dear," said she, in honeyed tones, "you must be delighted to
get out of prison."
"Oh! yes, ma'am; and, doubtless, I owe my deliverance to the
protection of Madame d'Harville, who has been so kind to me?"
"You are not mistaken. But come, we are rather late, and we have got a
long road to travel."
"We are going to Bouqueval Farm, to Madame George, ma'am?" cried La
"Yes, certainly, we are going to the country--to Madame George," said
the housekeeper, to drive away every suspicion from the mind of
Fleur-de-Marie; then she added, with malicious good nature, "But this is
not all; before you see Madame George, a little surprise awaits you.
Come, come, our hack is below. What delight you must feel at leaving
this place, dear. Come, let us go. Your servant, sirs." And Mrs. Seraphin,
after having exchanged salutations with the warders, descended with La
Goualeuse, followed by an officer to open the doors. The last one was
closed on the two females, and they found themselves under the large
porch which faces the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, when they met a
girl who was coming, doubtless, to visit a prisoner. It was Rigolette,
ever neat and coquettish. A little plain cap, very clean, and trimmed
with cherry-colored ribbons, which harmonized wonderfully with her
jet-black hair, surrounded her pretty face; a very white collar was
turned over her long brown tartan. She carried on her arm a straw
basket, and, thanks to her neat and graceful manner of walking, her
thick-soled boots were of marvelous cleanliness, although she came,
alas, very far.
"Rigolette!" cried Fleur-de-Marie, at once recognizing her.
"La Goualeuse!" exclaimed the grisette in her turn. And the girls
threw themselves into each other's arms. Nothing could be more
enchanting than the contrast between these young creatures of sixteen,
tenderly embracing, both so charming, and yet so different in
expression and beauty. The one fair, with large, blue, melancholy
eyes, and a profile of angelic pureness; the other a lively brunette,
with round and rosy cheeks, pretty black eyes, a charming picture of
youth and gayety, a rare and touching example of happiness in
indigence, of virtue in destitution, and of joy in industry.
When Fleur-de-Marie, dragged up, rather than brought up, had run away
from a hag known as Old One-eye, she had been arrested and committed
to prison for eight years. Taught sewing there, she had saved up some
three hundred francs. Ignorant, childishly fond of flowers and the
open air of the country, she had made Rigolette's acquaintance, with
hardly a deeper object than to have a companion in her jaunts. Her
money spent, Fleur-de-Marie had fallen in with the Ogress, the keeper
of the Lapin Blanc Tavern, who had kept her for the sinful purposes
which had blemished all her life.
After an exchange of their mutual caresses, the girls looked at each
other. Rigolette was joyful at the encounter, Fleur-de-Marie confused.
The sight of her friend recalled to her mind the few days of calm
enjoyment which had preceded her first degradation. "It is you--what
happiness!" said the grisette.
"Goodness me! what a delightful surprise, it is so long since we have
seen one another," answered La Goualeuse.
"Oh! now I am no longer astonished at not having met you for six
months," remarked Rigolette, observing the rustic clothes of La
Goualeuse; "you live in the country?"
"Yes, since some time," said Fleur-de-Marie, casting down her eyes.
"And you come, like me, to see some one in prison?"
"Yes--I came--I came to see some one," answered Fleur-de-Marie,
stammering and blushing with shame.
"And you are returning home, far from Paris, without doubt. Dear
little Goualeuse, always good, I recognize you there. Do you remember
the poor woman to whom you gave your mattress, linen, and the small
amount of money you had, which we were about to spend in the country?
for then you were crazy after the country, you little village girl!"
"And you did not like it much, Rigolette. How kind you were, for it
was on my account you went."
"And for mine also; for you, who were always a little serious, became
so contented, gay, and lively, once in the midst of the fields or
woods; if it were only to see you there, it was pleasure to me. But
let me look at you again! How this little round cap becomes you! how
pretty you look. Decidedly, it was your vocation to wear a peasant's
cap, as it was mine to wear the grisette's. Now you are according to
your wishes, you must be happy, it does not surprise me. When I did
not see you any more, I said to myself, 'Good little Goualeuse is not
made for Paris; she is a real flower of the forest, as the song says,
and these flowers cannot live in the capital; the air is not good
enough for them. La Goualeuse has got a place with some good people in
the country.' This is what you have done, is it not?"
"Yes," said Fleur-de-Marie, blushing.
"Only I have a reproach to make you."
"You should have advised me; one does not leave in this way, at least,
without sending some word."
"I--I left Paris so quick," said Fleur-de-Marie, more and more
confused, "that I could not."
"Oh! I did not wish it; I am too happy to see you again. In truth, you
did right to leave Paris, it is so difficult to live here quietly,
without reckoning that a poor girl, isolated as we are, might turn to
evil without wishing it. When one has nobody to advise with, one has
so few means of defense; the men make such fine promises; and then,
sometimes poverty is so hard. Do you remember little Julie, who was so
pretty? and Rosine, the blonde with black eyes?"
"Yes, I recollect them."
"Well! my poor Goualeuse, they have both been deceived, then
abandoned, and, finally, from misfortune, to misfortune, they have
fallen to be such wretched women as are shut up here."
"Oh!" cried Fleur-de-Marie, who held down her head and became purple
Rigolette, deceived in the sense of the exclamation of her friend,
resumed: "Don't be as sad as me, don't cry."
"You have sorrows?"
"I? Oh, you know me, a regular Roger Bontemps. I am not changed, but,
unfortunately, everybody is not like me; and as others have their
troubles, that causes me to have some."
"Now just imagine, I came here for a poor girl--a neighbor--a very
lamb, who is accused wrongfully, and much to be pitied; she is Louise
Morel, daughter of an honest workman who has become crazy from his
misfortunes." At the name of Louise Morel, one of the victims of the
notary, Mrs. Seraphin shuddered and looked at Rigolette attentively.
The face of the grisette was absolutely unknown to her; nevertheless,
from that moment she paid great attention to the conversation.
"Poor thing," replied the songstress, "how happy she must be at your
not forgetting her in her trouble."
"This is not all--it is a fatality, just as you met me, I came a great
distance--and from another prison--a prison for men."
"Oh! yes, I have there another very sad friend. You see my basket"
(and she showed it) "is divided in two; each one has a side; to-day I
bring Louise a little linen, and just now I carried something to poor
Germain; my prisoner is called Germain. I cannot think of what has
just passed between us without having a desire to weep; it is foolish--I
know it is of no use, but indeed, it is my nature."
"And why do you feel like weeping?"
"Only think, Germain is so unfortunate as to be associated with all
the prison rogues; it quite overcomes him; he has a taste for nothing,
eats nothing, and is growing thinner every day. I saw that, and I said
to myself, 'He is not hungry; I will make him a nice little dainty
bit, which he liked so much when he was my neighbor; that will give
him an appetite.' When I say a dainty bit, just understand me, it was
just some nice potatoes, mashed up with a little milk and sugar; I
filled a pretty cup with it, and just now I took it to him in prison,
telling him that I had prepared this myself, just as I used to do in
our happy days--you understand; I thought, perhaps, I could thus
induce him to eat, but it caused him to weep; when he saw the cup in
which I had so often taken my milk before him, he burst into tears;
and, more than the bargain, I finished by doing as he did, although I
tried all I could to prevent it; you see my luck. I thought I was
doing good--consoling him, and I made him more sad than before."
"Yes, but those tears must have been so sweet to him?"
"All the same, I should have preferred to console him differently; but
I speak of him without telling you who he is; he was an old neighbor
of mine, the most honest lad in the world, as gentle and timid as a
young girl, and whom I loved as a companion, as a brother."
"Oh! then I can imagine how his sorrows are yours."
"But you will see what a good heart he has. When I left him, I asked
him, as I always do, for his commissions, saying to him with a laugh,
just to raise his spirits a little, that I was his little housekeeper,
and that I should be very exact, very active, to keep his custom. Then
he, trying to smile, asked me to bring him one of the romances of
Walter Scott, which he used to read to me in the evenings when I
worked. This romance is called 'Ivan--Ivanhoe:' yes, that is the name.
I liked this book so much, that he read it to me twice. He begged me
to go to the same library, not to hire, but to buy the volumes we used
to read together--yes, to buy them--and you may judge it is a
sacrifice for him, for he is as poor as we are."
"Excellent heart!" said Goualeuse, quite affected.
"There! you are as much moved as I was, when he gave me this
commission, my good little Goualeuse; but you comprehend, the more I
felt a desire to weep, the more I tried to laugh; for to weep twice in
a visit made expressly to enliven him was too much. So to drive this
gloom away, I recalled to his mind the comic story of a Jew, one of
the characters of this romance, which formerly had so much amused us.
But the more I talked, the more he looked at me with the big, big
tears in his eyes. It touched my heart. I had restrained my tears for
a quarter of an hour; I ended by doing as he did. When I left him he
was sobbing; and I said to myself, furious at my stupidity, 'If this
is the way I cheer and console him, it is hardly worth while to go and
see him; I, who promised myself to make him laugh! It is astonishing
how I have succeeded!'"
At the name of Francois Germain, Mrs. Seraphin redoubled her
"And what has this young man done to be in prison?" asked
"He!" cried Rigolette, whose compassion gave place to indignation; "he
is persecuted by an old monster of a notary, who is also the denouncer
"Of Louise, whom you came here to see?"
"The same. She was the servant of the notary, and Germain was his
cashier. It would be too long a story to tell you of what they
unjustly accuse this poor boy. But what is quite sure is, that this
bad man is very angry with these two unfortunates, who have never
injured him. But patience--patience; every dog has his day."
Rigolette pronounced these last words with an expression which made
Mrs. Seraphin uneasy. Engaging in the conversation, instead of
remaining quiet, she said to Fleur-de-Marie in a wheedling manner, "My
dear child, it is late; we must go; we are waited for. I can well
comprehend that what your friend says interests you, for I, who do not
know this young girl and this young man, am much affected. Is it
possible people can be so wicked! And what is the name of this bad
notary of whom you speak, please?"
Rigolette had no reason to be suspicious of Mrs. Seraphin;
nevertheless, remembering the recommendations of Rudolph, who had
enjoined on her the greatest reserve on the subject of the secret
protection which he extended to Germain and Louise, she regretted she
had suffered herself to say, "Patience--every dog has his day."
"This bad man is one M. Ferrand, madame," answered Rigolette; adding
very adroitly, to repair her slight indiscretion, "and it is so much
the more wicked in him to persecute Louise and Germain thus, as they
have no one to interest themselves in their behalf except me, who can
be of no use to them."
"What a pity!" said Mrs. Seraphin. "I had hoped the contrary when you
said 'But patience.' I thought that you reckoned on some protector to
sustain these two unfortunates against this wicked notary."
"Alas! no, madame," answered Rigolette, in order to completely lull
the suspicions of Mrs. Seraphin. "Who would be generous enough to take
the part of these two poor young folks against a rich and powerful man
like M. Ferrand?"
"Oh, there are hearts generous enough for that!" cried Fleur-de-Marie,
after a moment's reflection, and with constrained warmth.
"I know some one who makes it a duty to protect those who suffer, and
defend them, for he of whom I speak is as charitable to honest people,
as he is formidable to the wicked."
Rigolette looked at Goualeuse with astonishment, and was on the point
of saying (thinking of Rudolph) that she also knew some one who
courageously took the part of the weak against the strong; but, still
faithful to the requests of her neighbor, she answered Fleur-de-Marie,
"Really! you do know some one generous enough to come to the aid of
"Yes. And although I have already implored his pity, his benevolence
for other persons, I am sure if he knew the unmerited misfortunes of
Louise and M. Germain, he would save them and punish their persecutor;
for his justice and goodness are almost as inexhaustible as God's."
Mrs. Seraphin looked at her victim with surprise.
"This little girl would be still more dangerous than we thought," said
she to herself. "If I had taken pity on her, what she has just said
would render the accident inevitable which will rid us of her."
"My good little Goualeuse, since you have such a good acquaintance, I
beg you will recommend my Louise and my Germain to him, for they do
not deserve their fate," said Rigolette, thinking that her friends
might gain by having two defenders instead of one.
"Be tranquil; I promise you to do what I can for your _proteges_
with M. Rudolph," said Fleur-de-Marie.
"M. Rudolph!" cried Rigolette, strangely surprised.
"Certainly," said La Goauleuse.
"M. Rudolph, a traveling clerk?"
"I do not know what he is. But why this astonishment?"
"Because I know a M. Rudolph also."
"Perhaps it is not the same."
"Let us see; what does he look like?"
"A face full of nobleness and goodness?"
"That's it; just like mine!" said Rigolette, more and more surprised;
and she added, "Is he dark? Has he small mustaches?"
"Is he tall and slender, fine figure, and an air too stylish for a
traveling clerk? Does yours look just so?"
"Without a doubt it is he," answered Fleur-de-Marie; "only, what is
strange is, that you think him a traveling clerk."
"As to that, I am sure of it; he told me so."
"You know him?"
"I know him. He is my neighbor!"
"He has a chamber on the fourth floor, alongside of mine."
"What is so astonishing in all this? It is very simple: he only earns
fifteen or eighteen hundred francs a year; he can only hire a modest
room, although he has very little regularity about him, for he does
not know what his clothes cost him, my dear."
"No, no; it is not the same," said Fleur-de-Marie, reflecting.
"Yours, then, is a phoenix for order?"
"He of whom I speak, Rigolette," said Fleur-de-Marie, with enthusiasm,
"is all-powerful; his name is only pronounced with love and
veneration, his appearance is imposing, and one is almost tempted to
kneel before his grandeur and his goodness."
"Then I am at fault, my poor Goualeuse; I say as you do, it is not the
same; for mine is neither all-powerful nor imposing. He is a very good
sort, very lively, and no one kneels before him--just the contrary;
for he has promised to help me wax my floor, and take me a walk on
Sunday. You see he is no great lord. But what am I thinking about? I
have truly the heart for a walk! And Louise and my poor Germain, as
long as they are in prison, there can be no pleasure for me."
For some moments, Fleur-de-Marie reflected profoundly; she recalled to
her mind that when she first saw Rudolph he had the appearance and
language of the guests of the Ogress, her keeper. Might he not play
the part of a traveling clerk with Rigolette? What could be the object
of this new transformation? The grisette, seeing the pensive air of
"There is no use of cracking your head on this account, my good
Goualeuse, we shall soon find out if we know the same M. Rudolph; when
you see yours, speak to him of me; when I see mine, I will speak to
him of you. In this way we can satisfy ourselves at once."
"And where do you live, Rigolette?"
"Rue du Temple, No. 17."
"Now this is strange, and worth remembering," said Madame Seraphin to
herself, having attentively listened to this conversation. "This M.
Rudolph, a mysterious and all-powerful personage, who doubtless makes
himself pass for a clerk, occupies a room adjoining that of this
little sewing-girl, who knows more than she chooses to say. Good,
good; if the grisette and the pretended clerk meddle with what does
not concern them, we know where to find them."
"When I have spoken to M. Rudolph I will write you,'" said La
Goualeuse; "and I will give you my address, so that you can answer:
but repeat your address, for fear I should forget it."
"Here, I have one of my cards that I leave at my customers';" and she
gave Fleur-de-Marie a little card, on which was written, in
magnificent italics, "Mademoiselle Rigolette, Dressmaker, 17, Rue du
"It is just as if it were printed, is it not?" added the grisette.
"It was poor Germain who wrote them for me--he was so kind, so
thoughtful. Now, look you, it seems as if it were done purposely; one
would say I never found out his good qualities until he was
unfortunate, and now I am always reproaching myself for having put off
so long loving him."
"You love him, then?"
"Oh, dear, yes. I must have a pretext to go and see him in prison.
Confess that I am a strange girl!" said Rigolette, stifling a sigh,
and laughing through her tears, as the poets say.
"You are as good and generous as ever," said Fleur-de-Marie, pressing
tenderly the hands of her friend.
Old Seraphin had doubtless heard enough of the conversation of the
young girl, for she said, almost roughly, to Fleur-de-Marie, "Come,
come, my dear, let us go; it is late; here is a quarter of an hour
"What a surly look this old woman has! I don't like her face,"
whispered Rigolette to Fleur-de-Marie. Then she added, aloud, "When
you come to Paris, my good Goualeuse, do not forget me; your visit
will give me so much pleasure. I shall be so happy to pass a day with
you, to show you my housekeeping, my room, my birds! I have birds--it
is my luxury."
"I will try to come and see you, but I will certainly write. Good-bye,
Rigolette, good-bye. If you knew how happy I am to have met you!"
"And I too! But this shall not be the last time, I hope; and then I am
so impatient to know if your M. Rudolph is the same as mine. Write me
soon on this subject, I entreat you!"
"Yes, yes. Adieu, Rigolette."
"Adieu, my good little Goualeuse;" and the two girls embraced each
other tenderly, concealing their emotion. Rigolette entered the prison
to see Louise, and Fleur-de-Marie got into a hackney-coach with old
Seraphin, who ordered the coachman to go to Batignolles, and to stop
at the city gate.
A cross-road led from this place almost in a straight line to the
banks of the Seine, not far from the Ravageurs' Island. Fleur-de-Marie,
being unacquainted with Paris, did not perceive that the carriage was
driven on a different road from that to Saint Denis. It was only when the
vehicle stopped at Batignolles that she said to Mrs. Seraphin, who
invited her to get out--
"But it seems to me, madame, that this is not the road to Bouqueval;
and then, how can we go from hence to the farm on foot?"
'"All I can say to you, my dear," answered the housekeeper, "is, that
I execute the orders of your benefactors, and that you would cause
them much trouble if you hesitate to follow me."
"Oh! madame, do not think it," cried Fleur-de-Marie; "you are sent by
them--I have no question to ask--I follow you blindly; only tell me if
Madame George is well!"
"She is perfectly so."
"Perfectly well also."
"You know him, then, ma'am? Yet just now, when I spoke of him with
Rigolette, you said nothing."
"Because I must say nothing--I have my orders."
"Did he give them to you?"
"Isn't she curious, the dear; isn't she curious?" said the
"You are right; pardon my questions, ma'am. Since we go on foot to the
place to which you conduct me," added Fleur-de-Marie, sweetly, "I
shall know what I so much desire to know."
"In fact, my dear, before a quarter of an hour we shall have arrived."
The housekeeper, having left behind her the last houses of Batignolles
followed, with Fleur-de-Marie, a grassy footpath. The day was calm and
beautiful, the sky toward the west half concealed by red and purple
clouds; the sun, beginning to decline, cast his oblique rays on the
heights of Colombe, on the other side of the Seine. As Fleur-de-Marie
drew near the banks of the river, her pale cheeks became slightly
colored; she inhaled with delight the sharp, pure air of the country,
and cried, in a burst of artless joy, "Oh! there in the middle of the
river, do you see that pretty little island covered with willows and
poplars, with the white house on the shore? How charming this
habitation must be in summer, when all the trees are covered with
leaves! What repose, what refreshing air must be found there."
"Verily!" said Mrs. Seraphin with a strange smile, "I am delighted
that you find the island pretty."
"Because we are going there."
"To that island?"
"Yes; does it surprise you?"
"A little, ma'am."
"And if you should find your friends there?"
"What do you say?"
"Your friends collected there, to celebrate your deliverance from
prison! would you not be more agreeably surprised?"
"Can it be possible: M. Rudolph? Ah! is it true I go to see Madame
George? I cannot believe it."
"Yet a little patience--in fifteen minutes you will see her, and then
you will believe."
"What I cannot comprehend," added Fleur-de-Marie, thoughtfully, "is
that Madame George awaits me there, instead of at the farm."
"Always so curious, the dear--always so curious!"
"How indiscreet I am, ma'am!" said Fleur-de-Marie, smiling.
"To punish you, I have a mind to tell you of a surprise that your
friends intend for you."
"A surprise? for me, madame?"
"Hold, leave me alone, little spy--you will make me speak in spite of
We will leave Mrs. Seraphin and her victim on the road which led to
the river. We will precede them both for some moments to the island.
ON THE BOAT.
At night, the appearance of the island inhabited by the Martial family
was gloomy, but in the brilliant sunlight nothing could be more
charming and cheerful than the cursed dwelling-place.
Bordered by willows and poplars and almost entirely covered with thick
grass, intersected with winding paths of yellow gravel, the island
contained a small vegetable garden and a number of fruit trees. In
this orchard was situated the thatched roof dwelling where Martial had
wished to retire, with Francois and Amandine. From this place the
island terminated at its point by a breakwater, formed of large piles,
to prevent the washing away of the earth.
Before the house was an arbor of green trellis work, reaching quite to
the landing-place, destined to support during the summer the hop-vine
and honeysuckle under whose shade were arranged the seats and tables
of the guests.
At one of the extremities of the main building, painted white and
covered with tiles, a woodhouse, surmounted by a granary, formed a
wing, much lower than the principal edifice. Immediately over this
wing was a window with shutters covered with plates of iron, and
fastened exteriorly by two bars of the same material.
Three boats were lying at the landing-place, and at the bottom of one
of them Nicholas was trying how the trap worked which he had arranged.
Mounted on a bench outside of the arbor, Calabash, with her eyes
shaded with her hand, was looking in the direction where she expected
Seraphin and Fleur-de-Marie to appear.
"No one yet, neither old nor young," said Calabash, descending from
her bench, and addressing Nicholas; "it will be as yesterday! Like
poor fellows waiting for their ship to come in! If these women don't
come before a half hour, we must go: the affair of Bras-Rouge is
better worth our while; he is waiting for us. The broker is to be at
his house in the Champs Elysees at five-o'clock--we must be there
before him. This very morning La Chouette repeated it to us."
"You are right," answered Nicholas, leaving his boat. "May the thunder
crush this old woman, who physics us for no purpose! The trap works
like a charm--of the two jobs perhaps we shall have neither."
"Besides, Bras-Rouge and Barbillon have need of us--of themselves they
can do nothing."
"It is true; for while one does the business, Red-Arm must remain
outside his tavern to watch, and Barbillon is not strong enough to
drag the broker into the cellar alone; this old woman will kick."
"Did not La Chouette tell us, laughingly, that she kept the Maitre
d'Ecole as a boarder in this cellar?"
"Not in this one; in another which is much deeper, and inundated when
the river is high."
"Mustn't he vegetate there, in that cellar! To be there all alone and
blind as he is, after the accident to him!"
"He will see clear there, if he sees nowhere else: the cellar is as
dark as a furnace."
"All the same; when he has sung all the songs he knows to amuse
himself, the time must appear devilishly long to him."
"La Chouette says that he amuses himself in hunting rats, and that
this cellar is very full of game."
"I say, Nicholas, speaking of individuals who must be rather wearied,
fatigued," said Calabash with a ferocious smile, pointing with her
finger to the window just described, "there is one there who must be
sucking his own blood."
"Bah! he is asleep. Since this morning he has made no noise; and his
dog is silent."
"Perhaps he has strangled it for food; these two days past they must
have been almost mad with hunger up there."
"It is their business. Martial may endure all this as long as he
pleases, if it amuses him; when he has finished, we will say that he
died from a severe illness; there will be no difficulty."
"You think so?"
"Most surely. On going this morning to Asnieres, mother met Ferot, the
fisherman; as he expressed his surprise at not having seen his friend
Martial for two days, she told him that Martial did not leave his bed,
he was so ill, and his life was despaired of. He swallowed all that
just like honey; he will tell it to others--and when the affair
happens it will seem all natural."
"Yes, but he will not die at once; it takes a long time in this way."
"There is no other way to manage it. This madman, Martial, when he has
a mind, is as wicked as the devil, and as strong as a bull in the
bargain; had he suspected us, we could not have approached him without
danger; while with his door once well nailed up on the outside, what
can he do? His window was already ironed."
"He could loosen the bars by breaking away the plaster with his knife,
which he would have done, if, mounted on a ladder, I had not mangled
his hands with the hatchet every time he commenced his work!"
"What a duty!" said the other, chuckling; "how much you must have been
"I had to give you time to arrive with the iron plate and bars which
you went to Micou's for."
"How he must have foamed. Dear brother!"
"He ground his teeth like a madman; two or three times he tried to
push me off with blows from his club, but then, having but one hand
free, he could not work at the grating."
"Fortunately, there is no fireplace in the room!"
"Yes, and the door is strong and his hands wounded! but for this he
would be capable of making a hole through the plank."
"No, no, there is no danger that he can escape. His bier is more solid
than if it were made of oak and lead."
"I say--when La Louve gets out of prison, and comes here to seek her
man, as she calls him?"
"Well! we will tell her to look for him."
"Apropos, do you know that if mother had not shut up these scamps of
children, they would have been capable of gnawing the door like rats,
to deliver Martial! That little scoundrel, Francois, is a real devil
since he suspects that we have shut up our big brother."
"But are you going to leave them in the room upstairs while we are
away from the island? Their window is not grated--they have only to
descend from the outside."
At this moment cries and sobs in the house attracted the attention of
Nicholas and Calabash. They saw the opened door of the ground-floor
shut violently: a moment after the pale and sinister face of the widow
appeared at the kitchen-window. With her long, bony arm she beckoned
her children to come to the house.
"Come, there is a squabble! I bet it is Francois who kicks," said
"Scoundrel of a Martial! except for him the boy would have been all
alone. Watch well, and if you see the two females coming, call me."
While Calabash, mounted on the bench, awaited their approach, Nicholas
entered the house. Little Amandine, kneeling in the middle of the
kitchen, wept, and asked pardon for her brother Francois. He,
irritated and threatening, stood in one of the corners of the room,
brandishing a hatchet. He seemed this time to make a desperate
resistance to the wishes of his mother.
As usual, quiet and calm, she pointed to the half-open door leading to
the cellar, and made a sign to her son that she wished Francois shut
"I will not go there!" cried the determined child, whose eyes sparkled
like those of a wild cat; "you wish to let us die with hunger, like
"Mamma, for the love of God, leave us upstairs in our own room, as you
did yesterday," asked the little girl in a supplicating tone, clasping
her hands; "in the dark cellar we shall be so much afraid!"
The widow looked at Nicholas in an impatient manner, as if to reproach
him for not having executed her orders, and she again pointed to
Seeing his brother approach, the young boy brandished his hatchet in a
desperate manner, and cried, "If you want to shut me up there, whether
it is brother, mother, or Calabash--I strike, and the hatchet cuts!"
Both Nicholas and the widow felt the necessity of preventing the two
children from going to the assistance of Martial during their absence,
and also to conceal from them what was about to take place on the
river. But Nicholas, as cowardly as he was ferocious, and not caring
to receive a blow from the dangerous hatchet with which his brother
was armed, hesitated to approach him.
The widow, vexed at the hesitation of her eldest son, pushed him
roughly by the shoulder toward Francois.
But Nicholas, again drawing back, cried, "If he wounds me, what shall
I do, mother? You know well enough I am about to need the use of both
my arms, and I still feel the blow that Martial has given me."
The widow shrugged her shoulders with contempt, and made a step toward
"Do not come near me, mother!" cried the enraged boy, "or you shall be
paid for all the blows you have given me and Amandine."
"Brother, rather let yourself be locked up. Oh! do not strike our
mother!" cried Amandine, terrified.
At this moment Nicholas saw on a chair a large woolen coverlet, which
was used for the ironing-table; he seized it, and adroitly threw it
over the head of Francois, who, in spite of all his efforts, finding
himself entangled in its thick folds, could make no use of his arms.
Then Nicholas threw himself upon him, and, with the aid of his mother,
carried him into the cellar. Amandine had remained kneeling in the
middle of the kitchen. As soon as she saw the fate of her brother, she
arose quickly, and, notwithstanding her alarm, went of her own accord
to join him in his gloomy prison. The door was double-locked on the
brother and sister.
"It is the fault of Martial, if these children are like unchained
devils against us," cried Nicholas.
"Nothing has been heard in his chamber since this morning," said the
widow, in a thoughtful manner, and she shuddered; "nothing."
"That proves, mother, that you did well to say to Ferot, the fisherman
of Asnieres, that Martial was sick in bed, and like to die. In this
way, when all is over, no one will be astonished." After a moment's
pause, as if she wished to escape a horrible thought, the widow said,
roughly, "Did La Chouette come here while I was at Asnieres?"
"Why did she not remain and go with us to Bras-Rouge? I am suspicious
"Bah! you suspect everybody, mother: to-day it is La Chouette;
yesterday it was Bras-Rouge."
"Bras-Rouge is at liberty; my son is at Toulon; they both committed
the same robbery."
"You always repeat that old story. Bras-Rouge escaped because he is as
cunning as a steel trap, that's all. La Chouette did not remain here,
because she had an appointment at two o'clock, near the Observatory,
with the tall man in black, on whose account she carried off this girl
from the country, with the assistance of the Maitre d'Ecole and
Tortillard; and it was even Barbillon who drove the hack which this
tall man in black hired for the occasion. Come, now, mother, why
should La Chouette inform against us, since she tells us what jobs she
has in hand, and we do not tell her ours? for she knows nothing of our
proposed drowning scrape. Be tranquil, mother--dog don't eat dog. The
day's work will be a good one. When I think that the broker has often
twenty or thirty thousand francs' worth of diamonds in her bag, and
that in two hours' time we shall have her in Red Arm's cellar. Thirty
thousand francs in diamonds! only think of it."
"And while we hold the broker, Bras-Rouge remains outside?" said the
widow, with an air of suspicion.
"And where should he be? If any one should come in, must he not
answer, and prevent them approaching the place where we are doing our
"Nicholas, Nicholas!" cried Calabash, from without, "here are the two
"Quick, quick, mother! your shawl! I will row you over--it will be so
much done," said Nicholas.
The widow had replaced her morning-cap with one of black tulle. She
wrapped herself in a large shawl of white and gray tartan, locked the
kitchen door, placed the key behind one of the shutters, and followed
her son to the landing-place.
Almost in spite of herself, before she left the island, she cast a
long, lingering look at Martial's window, knit her brows, bit her
lips, then, after a sudden fit of shivering, she murmured to herself,
"It is his fault--his own fault."
"Nicholas! do you see them? there, just by that rising ground," cried
Calabash, pointing to the other side of the river, where Mrs. Seraphin
and Fleur-de-Marie appeared, descending a small path leading to the
shore, near a small elevation, on which was placed a plaster-kiln.
"Let us wait for the signal, and have no bungling," said Nicholas.
"Are you blind? Don't you recognize the fat woman who came here the
day before yesterday? Look at her orange shawl, and see what a hurry
the little peasant girl is in! poor little puss--it is plain to see
she don't know what is coming."
"Yes, I see the fat woman now. Come, it looks like work."
"The old woman is making a sign with her handkerchief," said Calabash:
"there they are on the shore."
"Come, come, step on board, mother," cried Nicholas, unfastening the
boat: "come in the boat with the hole, so that the women will not
suspect anything. And you, Calabash, jump into the other one, my girl--
row strong. Oh! hold, take my hook, put it alongside of you--it is
pointed like a lance--it may be of use--now, push ahead!" said the
bandit, placing in the boat a long boathook, one end of which
terminated with a sharp spike of iron.
In a few moments the two boats touched the shore, where Mrs. Seraphin
and Fleur-de-Marie had been waiting impatiently.
While Nicholas was tying his boat to a post, Mrs. Seraphin approached
him, and whispered, hurriedly, "Say that Madame George awaits us;"
then she said in a loud tone, "We are a little behindhand, my lad."
"Yes, my good lady; Madame George has asked for you several times."
"You see, my dear, Madame George is waiting for us," said Mrs.
Seraphin, turning toward Fleur-de-Marie, who, notwithstanding her
confidence, had felt her heart beat at the appearance of the sinister
faces of the widow, Calabash and Nicholas.
But the name of Madame George reassured her, and she answered, "I am
also very impatient to see her; happily, the passage is short."
"Won't the dear lady be happy!" said Mrs. Seraphin. Then, turning
toward Nicholas, she added: "Come, bring your boat a little nearer,
that we can embark;" and, in a low tone, she whispered, "The little
one must be drowned; if she comes up, put her under again."
"It is settled; don't you be afraid; when I make a sign, give me your
hand. She will sink all alone--all is prepared--you have nothing to
fear," answered Nicholas, in a low tone. Then, with savage
imperturbability, without being touched either with the beauty or
youth of Fleur-de-Marie, he offered her his arm.
The girl leaned lightly on him, and entered the boat. "Now your turn,
my good lady," said Nicholas to Mrs. Seraphin. And he offered to
Whether it was a presentiment, suspicion, or only a fear that she
could not jump quick enough from the boat where La Goualeuse and
Nicholas were seated when it should sink, the housekeeper of Jacques
Ferrand said to Nicholas, drawing back, "On second thoughts, I will go
in the boat of mademoiselle." And she took a seat alongside of
"Very good," said Nicholas, exchanging a glance with his sister; and,
with the end of his oar, he shoved off his boat, his sister doing the
same as soon as Mrs. Seraphin had taken her seat. Standing on the
shore, erect, immovable, indifferent to this scene, the widow, pensive
and absorbed, kept her eyes fixed on Martial's window, which could be
distinguished, through the poplar trees, from the shore.
During this time the two boats moved slowly off toward the opposite
DOES NOT A MEETING LIKE THIS MAKE AMENDS?
Before we acquaint the reader with the continuation of the drama which
passed on the boats, we will go back a little. A few moments after
Fleur-de-Marie had left Saint Lazare with Mrs. Seraphin, La Louve had
also quitted the prison.
Thanks to the recommendation of Madame Armand and of the director, who
wished to recompense her for her good action toward Mont Saint Jean,
she had been also pardoned and dismissed. A complete change had taken
place in this creature, heretofore so headstrong, vile, and corrupted.
Keeping constantly in mind the description made by Fleur-de-Marie of a
peaceful and solitary life, La Louve held in disgust her past crimes.
Confiding in the aid which Fleur-de-Marie had promised her in the name
of her unknown benefactor, La Louve determined to make this laudable
proposition to her lover, not without the bitter fear of a refusal,
for the Goualeuse, in leading her to blush for the past, had also
given her a consciousness of her position toward Martial.
Once free, La Louve only thought of seeing him. She had received no
news from him for many days. In the hope of meeting him on Ravageurs'
Island, she decided to wait there if she did not find him; she got
into a cab, and was rapidly driven to the Bridge of Asnieres, which
she crossed about fifteen minutes before Mrs. Seraphin and
Fleur-de-Marie, coming on foot, had arrived on the shore near the
As Martial did not come to take La Louve in his boat to the island,
she applied to the old fisherman named Ferot, who lived near the
At four o'clock in the afternoon, a cab stopped at the entrance of a
little street of Asnieres village. La Louve gave five francs to the
coachman. Jumped to the ground, and ran hastily to the abode of Ferot.
Having thrown off her prison dress, she wore a robe of dark green
merino, a red shawl, imitation cashmere, and a lace cap trimmed with
ribbons: her thick crispy hair was scarcely smoothed. In her
impatience to see Martial, she had dressed herself with more haste
than care. On reaching the house of the fisherman, she found him
seated at the door mending his nets.
As soon as she saw him, she cried out, "Your boat, Ferot--quick,
"Ah! is it you? Good-day, good-day. You have not been here for a long
"Yes, but your boat--quick--to the island."
"Ah, well! fate will have it so; my good girl, it is impossible to-day."
"My boy has taken my boat to go with the others to a rowing match at
Saint Ouen. There is not a single boat left on the whole shore from
this to the docks."
"Zounds!" cried La Louve, stamping and clinching her fists; "it
happens so expressly for me!"
"It's true, on my word. I am very sorry I cannot convey you to the
island, for, without doubt, he must be worse."
"Martial?" cried La Louve, seizing Ferot by the collar; "is Martial
"Did you not know it?"
"Yes, certainly; but you will tear my blouse; do be quiet."
"He is sick. Since when?"
"Two or three days ago."
"It is false; he would have written to me."
"Ah, well, yes! he is too sick to write."
"Too sick to write! And he is on the island; you are sure of that?"
"Don't get me into a scrape; this is the story: this morning I said to
the widow, 'For two days past I have not seen Martial, his boat is
there. Is he in the city?' Thereupon the widow looked at me with her
wicked eyes: 'He is sick on the island; and so sick that he will never
come off again.' I said to myself, 'How can that be? Three days ago--'
Well," said Ferot, interrupting himself, "where are you going to--
where the devil is she running to now?"
Believing the life of Martial menaced by the inhabitants of the
island, La Louve, overcome with alarm, and transported with rage,
listened no longer to the fisherman, but ran along the Seine.
Some topographical details are indispensable to understand the
The island approached nearer the left side of the river than the right
shore, from whence Fleur-de-Marie and Mrs. Seraphin had embarked. La
Louve was on the left side. Without being very steep, the hills on the
island concealed, all its length, the view of one shore from the
other. Thus, La Louve had not seen the embarkation of La Goualeusea,
and the Martial family, of course, could not see her as she ran along
the shore on the opposite side.
We recall to the reader that the country-house belonging to Doctor
Griffon, where the Count de Saint Remy temporarily dwelt, was built on
the hillside, near the shore where La Louve was wandering,
She passed, without seeing them, near two persons, who, struck with
her haggard look, turned to follow her at a distance. These two
persons were the Count de Saint Remy and Doctor Griffon.
The first impulse of La Louve, on learning the peril of her lover, had
been to run impetuously toward the place where she knew he was in
danger. But as she approached the island, she thought of the
difficulty of getting there. As the old fisherman had told her, she
could not count on any strange boat, and no one from the Martial
family would come for her.
Breathless, her face flushed, her eyes sparkling, she stopped opposite
a point of the island which, forming a curve at this place, was
nearest to the mainland. Through the leafless branches of the willows
and poplars, La Louve could see the roof of the house, where, perhaps,
Martial was dying. At this sight, uttering a fearful groan, she tore
off her shawl and cap, and slipping down her robe, keeping on her
petticoat, she threw herself into the river, and waded until she lost
her footing, when she began to swim vigorously toward the island.
It was the climax of savage energy.
At each stroke, the thick and long hair of La Louve, untied by the
violence of her movements, shook about her head like a shaggy mane of
Suddenly, from the other side of the island, resounded a cry of
distress, of terrible, desperate agony. La Louve shuddered, and
stopped short. Then, treading water, with one hand she pushed back her
thick hair, and listened. A new cry was heard, but more feeble, more
supplicating, convulsive, expiring and all relapsed into a profound
silence. "My Martial!" cried La Louve, swimming again with all her
strength. She thought she had recognized the voice of Martial.
The count and doctor had not been able to follow La Louve quick enough
to prevent what she accomplished. They arrived opposite to the island
at the moment that the two fearful screams were heard, and stopped, as
much alarmed as La Louve. Seeing her struggle intrepidly against the
current, they cried, "The poor thing will be drowned!" These fears
were vain; she swam like an otter; still a few more strokes, and she
reached the land. She was getting out of the water by the assistance
of the poles, which, as we have said, formed a breakwater at the end
of the island, when she perceived the body of a young girl, dressed as
a peasant, sustained by her clothes, floating down the current.
To grasp with one hand the poles, and with the other to seize hold of
the girl by her dress, such was the movement of La Louve, as rapid as
thought. Then she drew her so violently toward her and within the
stakes, that, for a moment, she disappeared under the water, which was
of no great depth at this place.
Endued with no common strength and address, La Louve raised up La
Goualeuse (for it was she), whom she had not yet recognized, took her
up in her robust arms, as one would have taken a child, made some
steps in the water, and, finally, laid her on the green bank of the
"Courage, courage!" cried M. de Saint Remy to her, as a witness, as
well as Dr. Griffon, of this bold act. "We are going to cross the
bridge, and will come to your aid in a boat." La Louve did not hear
these words. Let us repeat, that from the right shore of the Seine,
where Nicholas, Calabash, and their mother remained after the
consummation of their horrible crime, nothing could be seen of the
other side, owing to the height of the island. Fleur-de-Marie,
suddenly drawn within the row of piles by La Louve, having plunged for
a moment, and not reappearing to the sight of her murderers, they
believed their victim drowned and ingulfed.
Some few moments afterward, the current brought down another body, in
an eddy, which La Louve did not perceive. It was the corpse of the
notary's housekeeper. Dead--quite dead--this one.
Nicholas and Calabash had as much interest as Jacques Ferrand to get
rid of this witness, the accomplice of their new crime; so when the
boat with the hole sunk with Fleur-de-Marie, Nicholas, springing into
the boat of his sister, nearly upset it, and seizing a favorable
moment, threw the housekeeper into the river, and dispatched her with
Out of breath and exhausted, La Louve, kneeling on the ground
alongside of Fleur-de-Marie, recruited her strength, and examined the
features of her whom she had rescued from death. Let her surprise be
imagined when she recognized her companion of the prison, who had
exercised upon her destiny an influence so rapid, so ameliorating. In
her surprise, for a moment she forgot Martial.
"La Goualeuse!" cried she.
With bended body, leaning on her hands and knees, her hair disheveled,
her clothes dripping with water, she contemplated the unhappy child,
extended, almost expiring on the ground. Pale, inanimate, her eyes
half open and without expression, her beautiful flaxen hair falling
flat over her forehead, her blue lips, her small hands, already stiff
and icy--one would have thought her dead. "La Goualeuse!" repeated La
Louve, "what chance! I who came to tell my Martial the good and evil
she had done me with her words and promises; the resolution that I had
taken. Poor little thing! I find her here dead. But, no, no," cried La
Louve, approaching still nearer to Fleur-de-Marie, and feeling an
almost imperceptible breath escape from her mouth; "No! she breathes
still! I have saved her from death! that has never happened to me
before, to save any one. Ah! that does me good; it makes me warm. Yes,
but my Martial I must save also. Perhaps, at this moment, he is
expiring; his mother and brother are capable of killing him. Yet I
cannot leave this poor little thing here. I will carry her to the
widow's; she must take care of her, and show me Martial, or I will
break everything--I will kill everybody! Oh! neither mother, brother,
nor sister do I care for, when I know my Martial is there!"
And immediately getting up, La Louve carried Fleur-de-Marie in her
arms. With this light burden she ran toward the house, not doubting
but that the widow and her daughter, notwithstanding their wickedness,
would lend their assistance to Fleur-de-Marie.
When she reached the highest part of the island, whence could be seen
both shores of the Seine, Nicholas, his mother, and Calabash, were far
off, going in all haste to Bras-Rouge's tavern.
At this moment also, a man, who, concealed in the plaster-kiln, had
invisibly assisted at this horrible tragedy, disappeared, believing,
with the murderers, that the crime was executed. This man was Jacques
Ferrand. One of Nicholas's boats was tied to a pile near the place
where La Goualeuse and old Seraphin had embarked. Hardly had Jacques
Ferrand left the plaster-kiln to return to Paris, than M. de Saint
Remy and Dr. Griffon hastily crossed the Bridge of Asnieres, running
toward the island, thinking to reach it by Nicholas's boat, which they
had seen from afar.
To her great surprise, on arriving at the house of the Ravageurs, La
Louve found the door closed. Placing the still inanimate body of
Fleur-de-Marie under the arbor, she drew near the house. She knew the
window of Martial's chamber. What was her surprise, to see the
shutters covered with iron plates, and fastened with bars of the same
Suspecting partly the truth, La Louve uttered a hoarse, resounding cry
and began to call with all her strength, "Martial! my love!"
No one answered. Alarmed at this silence, La Louve began to walk
around the building like a savage beast who scents his mate, and
seeks, with roaring, the entrance of the den where he is confined.
From time to time she cried, "My man--are you there, my man?" In her
rage she shook the bars of the kitchen window--she knocked against the
wall--she kicked against the door.
All at once a hollow sound answered from the interior of the house. La
Louve shuddered--listened. The noise ceased.
"My man has heard me! I must enter, even if I have to gnaw the door
with my teeth!" And again she uttered her savage cries.
Several blows, feebly struck on the inside of the window shutters of
Martial's room, answered to her shouts.
"He is there!" cried she, stopping suddenly under her lover's window,
"he is there! If needs must, I will tear off the iron shutters with my
nails, but I will open them."
So saying, she saw a large ladder placed behind one of the blinds of
the lower rooms; in drawing this blind violently toward her, La Louve
caused the key to fall which the widow had concealed on the window
bench. "If it unlocks," said La Louve, trying the key in the lock, "I
can go up to his chamber. It opens," cried she, with joy; "my friend
Once in the kitchen, she was struck by the cries of the children, who
shut up in the cellar and hearing an extraordinary noise, called for
The widow, believing no one would come to the island or house during
her absence, had contented herself with locking Francois and Amandine
in the cellar, leaving the key in the lock.
Set at liberty by La Louve, the brother and sister rushed
precipitately from the cellar, crying, "Oh, La Louve, save brother
Martial! they wish to kill him; two days he has been walled up in his
"They have not wounded him?"
"No, no; we believe not."
"I arrive in time!" cried La Louve, rushing to the staircase: then
suddenly stopping, she said, "And La Goualeuse! whom I forgot.
Amandine, some fire at once; you and your brother, bring here, near
the chimney-place, a poor girl who was drowning. I saved her. She is
under the arbor. Francois, a pair of pincers, a hatchet, an iron bar,
so that I can break down the door of my Martial!"
"Here is an ax to split wood, but it is too heavy for you," said the
"Too heavy!" sneered La Louve, and she lifted with ease the iron mace,
which, under any other circumstances, she could hardly have raised
from the ground. Then, mounting the stairs four at a time, she
repeated to the children, "Run and bring in the girl, and place her
near the fire." In two bounds, La Louve was at the bottom of the
corridor, at Martial's door. "Courage, my friend--here is your Louve!"
cried she, and raising the ax with both hands, with a furious blow she
shook the door.
"It is nailed on the outside. Draw out the nails," cried Martial, in a
Throwing herself on her knees in the corridor, with the aid of the
pincers and of her nails, which she tore, and her fingers, which she
cut, La Louve succeeded in drawing out the spikes which fastened the
door. At length the door was opened. Martial, pale, his hands covered
with blood, fell almost lifeless into the arms of his darling.
"At length I see you! I hold you! I have you!" cried La Louve,
receiving Martial in her arms with joy and savage energy; then
sustaining him, almost carrying him, she led him to a seat placed in
During some moments Martial remained weak and feeble, endeavoring to
recover from this violent shock, which had exhausted his failing
strength. La Louve saved her lover at the moment when, in a state of
despair, he felt himself about to die, less from the want of food than
from the deprivation of air, impossible to be renewed in a small room
without a chimney, without any aperture, and hermetically closed
through the atrocious foresight of Calabash, who had stopped up with
old linen even the smallest fissures of the door and window.
Palpitating with happiness and anguish, her eyes wet with tears, La
Louve, on her knees, watched the smallest movements of Martial. By
degrees he seemed to recover, as he breathed the pure and salubrious
air. After a slight shudder, he raised his weary head, uttered a long
sigh, and opened his eyes.
"Martial, it is I! your Louve; how do you feel?"
"Better," answered he, in a feeble voice.
"What will you have? water, vinegar?"
"No, no," cried Martial, less and less oppressed. "Air! oh, some air!
nothing but air!"
La Louve, at the risk of cutting her hand, broke the glass of a window
which she could not open without moving a heavy table.
"Now I breathe! I breathe! my head is relieved," said Martial, coming
quite to himself. Then, as if for the first time recalling to mind the
services she had rendered him, he cried, in a tone of ineffable
gratitude, "Without you, I should have died, my good Louve!"
"Well, well; how are you now?"
"Better and better."
"Are you hungry?"
"No, I am too weak. I suffered most from want of air; finally, I
suffocated! it was frightful!"
"I live again! I come out from the tomb; and I come out--thanks to
"But your hands, your poor hands! these wounds? Who did this?--curse
"Nicholas and Calabash, not daring to attack me openly a second time,
shut me in my chamber, and left me to die with hunger. I tried to
prevent them from nailing up my window--my sister cut my hands with
"The monsters! they wished to have it believed that you were dead from
some sickness; your mother had already spread the report that you were
in a dying state. Your mother, my man, your mother!"
"Hold! do not speak to me of her," said Martial, bitterly; then, for
the first time, remarking the wet clothes and strange attire of La
Louve, he cried, "What has happened to you?--your hair is streaming
with water. You are without your dress."
"What matters it? You are saved--saved!"
"But explain to me why you are wet."
"I knew you were in danger--I could find no boat."
"And you swam here?"
"Yes. But your hands; let me kiss them. You suffer--the monsters! And
I was not here!"
"Oh! my brave Louve," cried Martial, with enthusiasm; "brave among all
"Did you not write here 'death to dastards'?"
And La Louve showed her arm, where these words were written in
"Intrepid! But you feel the cold, you tremble."
"It is not the cold."
"Never mind. Go in there; take Calabash's cloak to wrap yourself in."
"I wish it."
In a second, La Louve was enveloped in a plaid cloak, and returned.
"For me, to run the risk of drowning!" repeated Martial, looking at
her with pride.
"No risk! A poor girl was almost drowned. I saved her. On reaching the
"You saved her also--where is she?"
"Below with the children; they are taking care of her."
"And who is this young girl?"
"If you knew what a chance--what happy chance! She was one of my
chums in Saint Lazare--a very extraordinary girl, you be sure!"
"How is that?"
"Imagine that I loved her and hated her because--she at the same time
planted both death and happiness in my heart."
"Yes; concerning you."
"Listen, Martial." Then, interrupting herself, she added, "No, no. I
shall never dare."
"What is it then?"
"I wished to ask something of you. I came to see you on this account;
for when I left Paris I did not know that you were in danger."
"I dare not."
"You dare not--after what you have just done for me!"
"Exactly; it would seem as if I asked a recompense."
"Asked a recompense! And do I not owe you one? Did you not take care
of me, night and day, during my sickness last year?"
"Are you not my Martial?"
"Then you should speak to me frankly, because I am your Martial, and
will be always."
"Always! true as I am called Martial. For me, there shall be no other
woman in the world but you, La Louve No matter what you have been--
that's my lookout. I love you--you love me; and I owe my life to you.
But since you have been in prison, I am no longer the same; much has
happened; I have reflected; and you shall no more be what you have
"What do you mean to say?"
"I never wish to leave you again. Neither do I wish to leave Francois
"Your little brother and sister?"
"Yes; from this day I must be to them a father--you comprehend. This
gives me duties to perform, and tames me. I am obliged to take charge
of them. They wished to make finished thieves of them; to save them, I
shall take them away."
"I don't know; but certainly far from Paris."
"You? I will take you also."
"Take me also?" cried La Louve, in a joyous delirium. She could not
believe in so much happiness. "I shall not leave you?"
"No, my brave Louve, never. You shall aid me to bring up these
children. I know you. On saying to you, I wish that my poor little
Amandine should be a virtuous girl, I know what you will be for her; a
"Oh! thank you, Martial, thank you!"
"We will live as honest work-folks; be easy, we will find work; we
will toil like negroes. At least, these children shall not be gallows'
birds, like their father and mother. I shall not hear myself called
any more the son and brother of a _guillotine_; in fine, I shall
no more pass through the streets where I am known. But what is the
"Martial, I am afraid I shall become crazy."
"Crazy with joy!"
"Because this is too much."
"What you ask me. Oh! it is too much. Saving the Goualeuse, this has
brought me this happiness; it must be so."
"But once more, what is the matter?"
"What you have just said. Oh, Martial, Martial!"
"I came to ask you!"
"To leave Paris?"
"Yes," answered she, quickly; "to go with you in the woods, where we
would have a nice little house, children whom I should love; oh! how I
should love them! how your Louve would love the children of her
Martial; or, rather, if you wished it," said La Louve, trembling, "I
would call you my husband; for we shall not have the place unless you
consent to this," she hastened to add, quickly.
Martial, in his turn, looked at La Louve with astonishment, not in the
least understanding her words. "Of what place do you speak?"
"That I shall have?--and who will give it to me?"
"The protectors of the girl whom I have saved."
"Who is she, then?"
I don't know; I can't understand anything; but in my life I have never
seen, never heard anything like her; she is like a fairy to read what
one has in the heart. When I told her how much I loved you, instantly,
on that account, she became interested, not by using hard words (you
know how I would have stood that), but by speaking to me of a very
laborious, hard life, tranquilly passed with you according to your
taste, in the midst of the forest; only, according to her idea,
instead of being a poacher you were a gamekeeper, and I your wife; and
then our children were to run to meet you when you returned at night
from your rounds, with dogs, your gun on your shoulder; and then we
should sup at the door of the cabin, in the cool of the evening, under
the large trees; and then we would retire to rest so happy, so
peaceful. What shall I say? in spite of myself I listened; it was like
a charm. If you knew--she spoke so well, so well--that--all that she
said, I thought I could see; I dreamed wide awake!"
"Oh! yes; it would be a happy life," said Martial, sighing in his
turn; "without being altogether black at heart, poor Francois has
associated too much with Calabash and Nicholas; so that the good air
of the woods will be much better for him than the air of the city.
Amandine could help you in the house; I would be a good keeper, as I
was a famous poacher. I should have you for a manager, my brave Louve;
and then, as you say, with children, what should we need? When once
one is accustomed to the forest, one is quite at home; a hundred years
would pass as one day; but, see now, I am a fool. Hold! you should not
have spoken to me of this life; it only causes regrets, that's all."
"I let you go on, because you say exactly what I did to La Goualeuse."
"Yes, in listening to these fairy tales, I said to her, 'What a pity
that these castles in the air, La Goualeuse, are not the truth!' Do
you know what she answered, Martial?" said La Louve, her eyes
sparkling with joy.
"'Let Martial marry you; promise both of you to live an honest life,
and this place, which causes you so much envy, I am almost sure to
obtain for you on leaving the prison,' was her answer."
"A gamekeeper's place for me?"
"Yes, for you."
"But you are right-it is a dream. If it only were needful that I
should marry you to obtain this place, my brave Louve, it should be
done to-morrow, if I had the means; for, from to-day you are my wife--
my true wife."
"Martial, I your real wife?"
"My real, my sole wife, and I wish you to call me your husband--it is
just the same as if the mayor had joined us."
"Oh! La Goualeuse was right; it makes one so proud to say, 'My
husband!' Martial--you shall see your Louve keeping house, at work!
you shall see."
"But this place--do you believe?"
"Poor little Goualeuse, if she is deceived it is others' faults; for
she appeared to believe what she told me. Besides, just now, on
leaving the prison, the inspectress told me that the protectors of La
Goualeuse, people of high rank, had taken her from the prison this
very day: that proves that she has benefactors, and that she can do
what she has promised."
"Oh!" cried Martial, suddenly, rising from his seat, "I do not know
what we are thinking about."
"What is it?"
"This girl is below, dying, perhaps; and instead of helping her, we
"Be satisfied; Francois and Amandine are with her; they would have
called us if there had been any danger. But you are right; let us go
to her; you must see her, she to whom, perhaps, we shall owe our
happiness." And Martial, leaning on the arm of La Louve, descended the
Before they enter the kitchen, we will relate what passed since
Fleur-de-Marie had been confided to the care of the children.
Francois and Amandine had just carried Fleur-de-Marie into the kitchen
near the fire, when Saint Remy and Dr. Griffon, who had crossed over
in Nicholas's boat, entered the house. While the children stirred up
the fire and threw on some dry fagots, which, soon kindling, gave out
a cheerful blaze, Dr. Griffon exercised all his skill to restore the
"The poor child is hardly seventeen," cried the count, profoundly
affected; then, turning toward the doctor, he said, "Well, what do you
think, my friend?"
"I can hardly feel the pulse; but, what is very singular, the skin of
the face is not colored blue in this subject, as is ordinarily the
case in asphyxia from submersion," answered the doctor with
imperturbable coolness, looking at Fleur-de-Marie with an air
Dr. Griffon was a tall, thin man, very pale, and completely bald,
except two very scanty tufts of black hair, most carefully gathered
from behind, and laid flat on his forehead; his face, wrinkled and
furrowed by hard study, expressed intelligence reflection, and
Of immense knowledge, of consummate experience, a skillful and
renowned practitioner, principal physician of a large hospital, Dr.
Griffon had but one defect--that of making, if we may express it, a
complete oversight of the patient, and only attending to the disease:
young or old, male or female, rich or poor, no matter; he thought only
of the medical fact, more or less curious or interesting in a
scientific point of view, which the _subject_ offered.
For him there only existed _subjects_.
"What a charming face! How handsome she is, notwithstanding this
frightful pallor!" said Saint Remy, contemplating Fleur-de-Marie with
sadness. "Have you ever seen, my dear doctor, features more regular or
more lovely? And so young--so young!"
"The age is nothing," said the physician, roughly; "no more than the
presence of water in the lungs, which formerly was thought to be
mortal. They were most grossly deceived: the admirable experiments of
Goodwin, of the famous Goodwin, have proved it."
"But it is a fact," answered M. Griffon, absorbed by the love of his
art. "To ascertain the presence of a foreign liquid in the lungs,
Goodwin plunged some cats and dogs into a tub of ink for some seconds,
drew them out living, and dissected my gentlemen some time afterward.
Well, he convinced himself that the ink had penetrated into the lungs,
and that the presence of liquid in the organs of respiration does not
The count knew the physician to be an excellent man at heart, but that
his frenzied passion for the sciences often made him appear
hard-hearted and almost cruel.
"Have you, at least, any hope?" asked he, with impatience.
"The extremities of the subject are very cold," said the doctor;
"there is but little hope."
"Oh, to die at her age, poor child--it is frightful!"
"The pupil fixed, dilated," answered the immovable doctor, raising
with his finger the moveless eyelid of Fleur-de-Marie.
"Strange man," cried the count, almost with indignation; "one would
think you without feeling; and yet I have seen you watch by my bedside
night after night. If I had been your brother, you could not have been
The doctor, quite occupied in administering to Fleur-de-Marie,
answered the count, without looking at him, and with settled calmness,
"Do you believe that one meets every day with such a malignant fever,
so marvelously complicated, so curious to study, as the one you had?
It was admirable, my good friend, admirable! Stupor, delirium,
twitchings of the sinews, syncopes--your deadly fever united the most
varied symptoms. Your constitution was also a rare thing, very rare,
and eminently interesting; you were also affected, in a partial and
momentary manner, with paralysis. If it were only for this fact, your
disease had a right to all my attention; you presented to me a
magnificent study; for, frankly, my dear friend, all I desire in this
world is to come across just such another fine case--but one has no
such luck twice."
[Illustration: FEELING FOR THE BEATING OF THE PULSE]
The count shrugged his shoulders impatiently. It was at this moment
that Martial descended, leaning on the arm of La Louve, who had, as
the reader knows, thrown over her wet clothes a plaid cloak belonging
Struck with the pale looks of the lover of La Louve, and remarking his
hands covered with coagulated blood, the count cried, "Who is this
"_My husband!_" answered La Louve, looking at Martial with an
expression of happiness and noble pride impossible to describe.
"You have a good intrepid wife, sir," said the count to him. "I saw
her save this unfortunate child with rare courage."
"Oh, yes, sir; good and intrepid is _my wife!_" answered Martial,
dwelling on the last words, and looking at La Louve in his turn with
an air at once tender and affectionate. "Yes, intrepid; for she also
saved my life!"
"Yours!" said the astonished count.
"See his hands, his poor hands!" said La Louve, wiping the tears which
softened the indignant sparkling of her eyes.
"Oh, this is horrible!" cried the count. "This poor fellow has had his
hands literally chopped up. Look, doctor!"
Turning his head slightly, and looking over his shoulder at the
numerous wounds which Calabash had made, the doctor said, "Open and
shut your hand."
Martial executed this movement with much pain.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders, continued to occupy himself with
Fleur-de-Marie, and said disdainfully, and as if with regret, "Those
wounds are absolutely nothing serious. None of the tendons are
injured; in a week the subject can use his hands."
"Then, sir, my husband will not be a cripple?" cried La Louve with
The doctor shook his head.
"And La Goualeuse will live, will she not?" asked La Louve. "Oh, she
must live, my husband and I owe her so much!" Then turning toward
Martial, "Poor little thing! There is she of whom I spoke--she who
perhaps will be the cause of our happiness--she who gave me the idea
of telling you all I have said. See what chance has done, that I
should save her--and here too!"
"She is our Providence!" said Martial, struck with the beauty of La
Goualeuse. "What an angelic face! Oh, she will live! will she not,
"I don't know," answered the physician; "but, in the first place, she
ought to remain here. Can she have the necessary attentions?"
"Here!" cried La Louve. "Why, they murder here!"
"Hush, hush!" said Martial.
The count and doctor looked at La Louve with surprise.
"This house has a bad reputation; it surprises me the less," whispered
the physician to Saint Remy.
"You have, then, been the victim of violence?" asked the count. "Who
wounded you in this manner?" "It is nothing, sir. I had a dispute
here, a fight ensued, and I have been wounded. But this girl cannot
remain in the house," added he, in a gloomy manner. "I shall not
remain myself, neither my wife nor my brother, nor my sister. We leave
the island never to return."
"Oh, what joy!" cried both the children.
"Then what must we do?" said the doctor, regarding Fleur-de-Marie. "It
is impossible to think of transporting this subject in this state of
prostration. Yet, happily, my house is close at hand, and my
gardener's wife and daughter will make excellent nurses. Since this
asphyxia from submersion interests you, you can overlook her
attendants, my dear Saint Remy, and I will come and see her every
"And you play the part of a hard-hearted, unmerciful man," cried the
count, "when you have a most generous heart, as this proposition
"If the subject sinks, as is possible, there will be a most
interesting autopsy, which will allow me to confirm once more the
assertions of Goodwin."
"What you say is frightful!" said the count.
"For him who knows how to read it, the human body is a book where one
learns to save the life of the sick," said Dr. Griffon, stoically.
"However, you do good," said Saint Remy, bitterly; "that is the
important thing. What matters the cause, as long as the benefit
exists! Poor child, the more I look at her, the more she interests
"And she deserves it, sir," cried La Louve, passionately, drawing
"You know her?" said the count.
"Know her, sir? To her I owe the happiness of my life; in saving her I
have not done as much for her as she has done for me."
"And who is she?" asked the count.
"An angel, sir; all that is good in the world. Yes, although she is
dressed as a peasant girl there is not a grand lady who can talk as
well as she can, with her soft little voice, just like music. She is a
noble girl, and courageous and good."
"How did she fall in the water?"
"I do not know, sir."
"She is not a peasant girl, then?" asked the count.
"A peasant girl! Look at her small white hands, sir!"
"It is true," said Saint Remy. "What a singular mystery! But her name,
"Come," said the doctor, interrupting the conversation, "the subject
must be carried to the boat."
Half an hour afterward, Fleur-de-Marie, who had not yet recovered her
senses, was taken to the physician's house, placed in a warm bed, and
maternally watched by the gardener's wife, assisted by La Louve. The
doctor promised Saint Remy, who was more and more interested in La
Goualeuse, to return the same evening to visit her.
Martial went to Paris with Francois, and Amandine, La Louve not being
willing to leave Fleur-de-Marie until she was out of danger.
The island remained deserted. We shall soon meet with its wretched
occupants at Bras-Rouge's, where they had agreed to meet La Chouette,
to murder the diamond dealer.
In the meanwhile we would conduct the reader to the appointment that
Tom, the brother of the Countess Macgregor, had made with the horrible
old woman, the Schoolmaster's accomplice.
Thomas Seyton walked impatiently up and down on one of the boulevards,
near the Observatory, till he saw La Chouette appear.
The old wretch had on a white cap, and was wrapped up in a large red
plaid shawl; the point of a very sharp dagger stuck through the bottom
of the straw basket which she carried on her arm; but Tom did not
"Three o'clock is striking from the Luxembourg," said the old woman.