Part 11 out of 12
"I am punctual, I think?"
"Come," answered Seyton; and walking before her, he crossed some waste
ground, entered a deserted street situated near the Rue Cassini,
stopped about the middle of the passage, where it was obstructed by a
turnstile, opened a small gate, made a sign for La Chouette to follow
him, and, after having taken a few steps in an alley shaded with large
trees, said, "Wait here," and disappeared.
"I hope he won't make me lose too much time," said La Chouette; "I
must be at Bras-Rouge's at five, to settle the broker. Ah! speaking of
that, my scoundrelly needle has his nose out of the window," added the
old woman, seeing the point of the dagger sticking through the basket.
"So much for not having put on his cap." And taking it from the
basket, she placed it in such a manner that it was completely
"It is a tool of my man's," said she. "Did he not ask me for it to
kill the rats, which come and laugh at him in his cellar? Poor
beasts!--not for him. They have only the old blind man to divert them,
and keep them company! The least they can do is to nibble him a
little. Hence I don't wish him to do any harm to the small deer, and I
keep the tickler. Besides, I shall soon want it for the broker,
perhaps. Thirty thousand francs' worth of diamonds--a treasure for
each of us! A good day's work; not like the other day. That fool of a
notary whom I wanted to pluck--I did threaten him, if he would not
give me money, to inform that it was his housekeeper who gave me La
Goualeuse, through Tournemine, when she was quite small; but nothing
frightens him. He called me an old liar, and turned me out of doors.
Good, good--I will have a letter written to those people at the farm,
where Pegriotte was sent, and inform them it was the notary who
abandoned her. They know, perhaps, her family, and when she leaves
Saint Lazare, it will be hot work for this hound of a Ferrand. But
some one comes--a little pale lady whom I have seen before," added La
Chouette, seeing Sarah appear at the other end of the alley. "Some
more business to be done; it must be on account of this little lady
that we carried La Goualeuse away from the farm. If she pays well for
anything new, I'm on it, safe!"
On approaching La Chouette, whom she saw for the first time since a
previous meeting, the countenance of Sarah expressed that disdain
which people of a certain class feel when they are obliged to come in
contact with wretches whom they use as instruments or accomplices.
Seyton, who until now had actively assisted the criminal machinations
of his sister, considering them useless, had refused to continue this
miserable game, consenting, nevertheless, to grant his sister, for the
last time, an interview with La Chouette, without wishing to take part
in any new schemes.
Having been unable to bring Rudolph back to her by breaking the ties
which she thought dear to him, the countess hoped, as we have said, to
render him the dupe of an infamous trick, the success of which might
realize the dream of this opinionated, ambitious, and cruel woman. It
was in contemplation to persuade Rudolph that the daughter, whom he
had supposed dead, was alive, and to substitute some orphan in the
place of his daughter.
The reader knows that Jacques Ferrand, having formally refused to
enter into this plot, in spite of Sarah's threats, had resolved to
make away with Fleur-de-Marie, as much from dread of the revelations
of La Chouette, as from fear of the countess. But she had not
renounced her designs, for she was almost certain of corrupting or
intimidating the notary, when she had secured a girl capable of
playing the part designed for her.
After a moment's silence, Sarah said to La Chouette, "Are you adroit,
discreet, and resolute?"
"Adroit as a monkey, resolute as a dog, dumb as a fish; there's La
Chouette, just as the devil has made her, ready to serve you if she is
capable--and she is rather," answered the hag in a lively manner. "I
hope we have famously decoyed the young country girl, who is safely
fastened up in Saint Lazare for two good months."
"The question is no longer of her, but of other things."
"As you wish, my little lady. As long as there is money at the end of
what you are about to propose, we shall be like two fingers of a
Sarah could not suppress a movement of disgust. "You must know," said
she, "some common people--some unfortunate family."
"There are more of them than millionaires; plenty to pick from; there
is a rich misery in Paris."
"You must find for me a young orphan girl, one who lost her parents
very early. She must be of an agreeable face, of a sweet temper, and
not more than seventeen."
La Chouette looked at Sarah with astonishment.
"Such an orphan cannot be difficult to find," resumed the countess;
"there are so many foundlings."
"My little lady, have you not forgotten La Goualeuse? Just what you
"Whom do you mean by La Goualeuse?"
"The young person whom we carried off from Bouqueval."
"I tell you, we have nothing to do with her!"
"But listen to me, then; and above all, reward me with good advice;
you wish an orphan, as gentle as a lamb, beautiful as day, and not
"Well, then, take La Goualeuse when she comes out of Saint Lazare;
just what you want--as if made to order; for she was only six years
old when Jacques Ferrand (about ten years ago) gave her to me, with a
thousand francs, to get rid of her. It was a man named Tournemine, now
in the galleys at Rochefort, who brought her to me, saying, that she
was doubtless a child they wanted to get rid of, or pass for dead."
"Jacques Ferrand, say you!" cried Sarah, in a voice so changed that La
Chouette stepped back with alarm. "The notary, Jacques Ferrand,"
repeated she, "gave you this child, and"--she could not finish. Her
emotion was too violent; with her hands stretched toward La Chouette,
trembling violently, surprise and joy were expressed on her
"But I did not know you were going to fire up in this manner, my
little lady," said the old woman. "Yet it is very plain. Ten years
ago, an old acquaintance, Toarnemine, said to me, 'Do you wish to take
charge of a little girl that some one wants to get rid of? If she
lives or dies, all the same there is a thousand francs to gain; you
may do with the child what you please.'"
"Ten years ago?" cried Sarah.
"With blue eyes?"
"With blue eyes, blue as bluebells."
"And it is she who, at the farm--"
"We packed up for Saint Lazare. I must say that I did not expect to
find her there."
"Oh! heaven!" cried Sarah, falling on her knees, and raising her hands
and eyes toward heaven; "your ways are impenetrable. I bow before
mysterious Providence. Oh! if such happiness were possible--but no, I
cannot believe it; it would be too much--no!" Then, suddenly rising,
she said to La Chouette, who looked at her with amazement, "Come."
She walked before the hag with hurried steps. At the end of the alley,
she ascended some steps leading to the glass door of a cabinet,
At the moment when La Chouette was about to enter, Sarah made her a
sign to remain without. Then she rung the bell violently. A servant
"I am not at home to any one--let no one in, do you understand?
absolutely no one."
The domestic retired, and to be more secure the lady locked the door.
La Chouette heard the orders given to the servant, and saw Sarah lock
the door. The countess, turning to her, said, "Come in quickly, and
shut the door."
La Chouette obeyed. Hastily opening a secretary, Sarah took from it an
ebony casket, which she placed on a desk in the middle of the room,
and made a sign for La Chouette to come near her. The casket contained
many jewel-boxes placed one on the other, inclosing magnificent
Sarah was so impatient to reach the bottom of the casket, that she
threw out on the table the boxes, splendidly furnished with necklaces,
bracelets, and diadems, where rubies, emeralds, and diamonds sparkled
with a thousand fires. La Chouette was astonished. She was armed, she
was shut up alone with the countess, her flight was easy, secure. An
infernal idea crossed the mind of this monster. But to execute this
new misdeed, she had to get her poniard from the basket, and draw near
to Sarah, without exciting her suspicions. With the cunning of a
tiger-cat, who crawls treacherously on its prey, the old woman
profited by the pre-occupation of the countess to steal round the
bureau which separated her from her victim. She had already commenced
this treacherous evolution, when she was obliged to stop suddenly.
Sarah drew a medallion from the bottom of the box, leaned on the
table, handed it to La Chouette with a trembling hand, and said, "Look
at this portrait."
"It is La Pegriotte!" cried La Chouette, struck with the great
likeness; "the little girl who was given to me; I see her as she was
when Tournemine brought her to me. There is her thick curly hair which
I cut off at once, and sold well, ma foi!"
"You recognize her? Oh! I conjure you do not deceive me!"
"I tell you, my little lady, that it is La Pegriotte; it is as if I
could see her before me," said La Chouette, trying to approach Sarah
without being remarked; "even now she looks like this portrait. If you
saw her, you would be struck with it."
Sarah had experienced no sorrow, no fright on learning that her child
had, during ten years, lived miserable and abandoned. No remorse on
thinking that she herself had torn her from the peaceful retreat where
Rudolph had placed her. This unnatural mother did not at once
interrogate La Chouette with terrible anxiety as to the past life of
her child. No; ambition with Sarah had for a long time stifled
It was not joy at finding her daughter which transported her, it was
the certain hope of seeing realized the proud dream of all her life.
Rudolph was interested for this unfortunate creature, had protected
without knowing her, what would be his joy when he discovered her to
be his child! He was single, the countess a widow--Sarah already saw
glisten before her eyes a sovereign's crown. La Chouette, still
advancing with cautious steps, had already reached one end of the
table, and placed her dagger perpendicularly in her basket, the handle
close to the opening, quite ready. She was only a few steps from the
countess, when the latter suddenly said, "Do you know how to write?"
And pushing back with her hand the boxes and jewels, she opened a
blotter placed before an inkstand.
"No, madame, I cannot write," answered La Chouette at all hazard.
"I am going to write then, from your dictation. Tell me all the
circumstances attending the abandonment of this little girl." And
Sarah, seating herself in an armchair before the desk, took a pen and
made a motion for the old woman to draw near to her.
The eyes of La Chouette twinkled. At length she was standing erect
alongside of Sarah's seat. She, bending over the table, prepared to
"I will read aloud slowly," said the countess, "you will correct my
"Yes, madame," answered La Chouette, watching every movement.
Then she slipped her right hand into her basket, so as to take hold of
the dagger without being seen. The lady began to write, "I declare
But interrupting herself, and turning toward La Chouette, who already
had hold of the handle of her dagger, Sarah added, "At what time was
this child delivered to you?"
"In the month of February, 1827."
"By whom?" asked Sarah, with her face still turned toward La Chouette.
"By Pierre Tournemine, now in the galleys at Rochefort. Mrs. Seraphin,
housekeeper of the notary, gave the little girl to him."
The countess turned to write and read in a loud voice: "I declare that
in the month of February, 1827, a man named--"
La Chouette had drawn out her dagger. Already she raised it to strike
her victim between the shoulders. Sarah again turned.
La Chouette, not to be discovered, placed her right arm on the back of
the chair, and leaned toward her to answer her new question.
"I have forgotten the name of the man who confided the child to you."
"Pierre Tournemine," answered La Chouette.
"Pierre Tournemine," repeated Sarah, continuing to write--"now in the
galleys at Rochefort, placed in my hands a child who had been confided
to him by the housekeeper of--"
The countess could not finish. La Chouette, after having softly
disencumbered herself of the basket by dropping it on the ground, had
thrown herself on the countess with as much rapidity as fury; with her
left hand she caught her by the throat, and holding her face down to
the table, she had, with her right hand, planted the dagger between
This horrible deed was executed so quickly that the countess did not
utter a single cry or groan. Still seated, she remained with her face
on the table. The pen had fallen from her hand.
"The same blow as Fourline gave the little old man in the Rue du
Roule," said the monster. "Another one who will talk no more--her
account is made."
And gathering in haste the jewels, which she threw into her basket,
she did not perceive that her victim still breathed.
The murder and robbery accomplished, the horrible old woman opened the
glass-door, disappeared rapidly in the green alley, went out by the
small door, and reached the waste ground. Near the Observatory, she
took a cab, which conveyed her to Bras-Rouge's. Widow Martial,
Nicholas, Calabash, and Barbillon had, as the reader knows, made an
appointment to meet La Chouette in this den, to rob and kill the
The "Bleeding Heart Tavern" was situated on the Champs Elysees, near
the Cours la Reine, in one of the vast moats which bounded this
promenade some years since. The inhabitants of the island had not yet
appeared. Since the departure of Bradamanti, who had accompanied the
step-mother of Madame d'Harville to Normandy, Tortillard had returned
to his father's house.
Placed as lookout on the top of the staircase leading down to the inn,
the little cripple was to notify the arrival of the Martials by a
concerted signal, Bras-Rouge being then in secret conference with
Narcisse Borel, a police-officer.
This man, about forty years, strong and thickset, had his skin
stained, a sharp and piercing eye, and face completely shaved, so as
to be able to assume the different disguises necessary to his
dangerous expeditions; for it was often necessary for him to unite the
sudden transformations of a comedian with the energy and courage of
the soldier, to surprise certain bandits whom he was obliged to match
in courage and determination. Narcisse Borel was, in a word, one of
the most useful, the most active instruments of the providence, on a
small scale, modestly and vulgarly called the police.
Let us return to the interview between Borel and Bras-Rouge. Their
conversation seemed very animated.
"Yes," said the plain-clothes constable, "you are accused of profiting
by your position in a double manner, by taking part with impunity in
the robberies of a band of very dangerous malefactors, and of giving
false information concerning them to the police. Take care, Bras-Rouge;
if this should be proved, they would have no mercy on you."
"Alas! I know I am accused of this; and it is afflicting, my good M.
Narcisse," replied Bras-Rouge, giving to his weasel face an expression
of hypocritical sorrow. "But I hope that to-day they will render me
justice, and that my good faith will be certainly acknowledged."
"We shall see."
"How can I be suspected? Have I not given proofs? Was it not I--yes or
no--who, in time past secured you Ambrose Martial, one of the most
dangerous malefactors in Paris? For, as it is said, that runs in his
race, and the Martials come from below, where they will soon return."
"All this is very fine; but Ambrose was informed that he was about to
be arrested; if I had not advanced the hour indicated by you, he would
"Do you believe me capable, M. Narcisse, of having secretly given him
information of your intentions?"
"All I know is, that I received a pistol shot from the rascal, which,
very fortunately, only went through my arm."
"Marry! M. Narcisse, it is very certain that in your calling one is
exposed to such mistakes."
"Oh! you call that a mistake?"
"Certainly; for doubtless the scoundrel wanted to plant the ball in
"In the arms, body, or head, no matter; it is not of that I complain;
every trade has its offsets."
"And its pleasures also, M. Narcisse; and its pleasures! For instance,
when a man as cunning, as adroit, as courageous as you are, is for a
long time on the tracks of a nest of robbers; follows them from place
to place--from house to house, with a good bloodhound like your
servant Bras-Rouge, and he succeeds in getting them into a trap from
which not one can escape, acknowledge, M. Narcisse, that there is
great pleasure in it--a huntsman's joy--without counting the service
rendered to justice," added the landlord of the "Bleeding Heart."
"I should be of your opinion, if the bloodhound was faithful, but I am
afraid he is not."
"Oh! M. Narcisse, can you think--"
"I think that instead of putting us on the scent, you amuse yourself
by deceiving us, and you abuse the confidence placed in you. Every day
you promise to aid us to place our hands on the band; that day never
"What if this day comes to-day, M. Narcisse, as I am sure it will; and
if I let you pick up Barbillon, Nicholas Martial, the widow, her
daughter, and La Chouette, will it be a good haul or not? Will you
still suspect me?"
"No; and you will have rendered real service; for we have against this
band strong presumptions, almost certain suspicions, but,
unfortunately, no proofs."
"Hold a moment--caught in the very act, allowing you to nab them so,
will aid furiously to display their cards, M. Narcisse?"
"Doubtless; and you assure me you are not in the plan they have on
"No, on my honor. It is La Chouette who came and proposed to me to
entice the broker here, when she learned through my son, that Morel,
the lapidary, who lived in the Rue du Temple, cut real instead of
false stones, and that Mother Mathieu had often about her jewels of
value. I accepted the affair, proposing for La Chouette to add
Barbillon and the Martials, so as to have the whole gang in hand."
"And what of the Schoolmaster, this man so dangerous, so strong, and
so ferocious, who was always with La Chouette? one of the old hands of
the Lapin Blanc?"
"The Schoolmaster?" said Bras-Rouge, feigning astonishment.
"Yes, a galley-slave escaped from Rochefort, named Anselme Duresnel,
condemned for life. He has disfigured himself so as not to be
recognized. Have you no information of him?"
"None," answered Bras-Rouge, intrepidly, who had his reasons for this
falsehood, for the Schoolmaster was then shut up in one of the cellars
of the tavern.
"There is every reason to believe that the Schoolmaster is the author
of some late murders. It would be an important capture. For six weeks
past, no one knows what has become of him."
"Thus we are reproached for having lost sight of him. Always
reproaches, M. Narcisse! always."
"Not without reason. How's your smuggling?"
"Must I not know all sorts of folks, smugglers as well as anybody
else, to put you on the scent? I informed you of the pipe which,
beginning outside of the Barriere du Trone, ended in a house in the
street, to introduce untaxed liquor."
"I know all that," said Narcisse, interrupting Bras-Rouge; but for one
you denounce, you let, perhaps, ten escape, and you continue your
trade with impunity. I am sure you feed out of two mangers, as the
"Oh! M. Narcisse, I am incapable of such dishonest hunger."
"And this is not all. In the Rue du Temple, No. 17, lives one Burette,
pawnbroker, who is accused of being your private receiver."
"What would you have me do, M. Borel? one says so many things, the
world is so wicked. Once more I say, I must mix with the greatest
number of scoundrels possible. I must even do as they do, worse than
they, to avoid suspicions; but it cuts me to the heart to imitate
them--to the heart--I must be well devoted to the service to follow
such a trade."
"Poor dear man! I pity you with all my heart."
"You laugh, M. Borel. But if all these stories are believed, why do
they not pay Mother Burette and myself a visit?"
"You know well why--not to startle these bandits whom you have for so
long a time promised to deliver to us."
"And I am going to deliver them to you, M. Narcisse; in one hour's
time you shall have them bound, and without much trouble, for there
are three women. Barbillon and Nicholas Martial are as ferocious as
tigers, but cowardly as chickens."
"Tigers or chickens," said Borel, opening his long riding coat and
showing the butt-ends of two pistols, which stuck out of his trousers
pockets, "I have something here to serve them."
"You will do well to take two of your men with you, M. Borel; when
they find themselves cornered, the greatest cowards become sometimes
"I will place two of my men in the little lower room, alongside of the
one where you will put the broker. At the first cry, I will appear at
one door, my two men at the other."
"You must make haste, for the band may arrive any moment, M. Borel."
"So be it; I go to place my men. I hope it will not be for nothing
The conversation was interrupted by the concerted signal. Bras-Rouge
looked out of a window to see whom Tortillard announced.
"Look! here is La Chouette, already! Well! do you believe me now, M.
"This is something, but not all; we shall see. I go to place my men."
The detective disappeared through a side door.
Her rapidity of step, the ferocious ardor of a desire for rapine and
murder which she still possessed, had flushed her hideous visage; her
one green eye sparkled with savage joy.
Tortillard followed her, jumping and limping. Just as she was
descending the last steps of the stairs, the son of Bras-Rouge,
through a wicked frolic, placed his foot on the trailing folds of La
Chouette's dress. This caused the old woman to stumble; not being able
to catch hold of the balusters, she fell on her knees, her hands both
stretched out, abandoning her precious basket, from whence escaped a
golden bracelet set with diamonds and fine pearls. La Chouette,
having, in her fall, excoriated her fingers a little, picked up the
bracelet, which had not escaped the quick eyesight of Tortillard, rose
and threw herself furiously on the little cripple, who approached her
with a hypocritical air, saying, "Oh! bless us! your foot slipped!"
Without answering, La Chouette seized him by the hair, and, stooping
down, bit him in the cheek; the blood spurted from the wound. Strange
as it may appear, Tortillard, notwithstanding his wickedness, and the
great pain he endured, uttered not a complaint nor cry. He wiped his
bleeding face, and said, with a forced laugh:
"I would rather you would not kiss me so hard another time, La
"Wicked little devil, why did you step on my gown to make me fall?"
"I? Oh, now! I swear to you that I did not do it on purpose, my good
Chouette; as if your little Tortillard would wish to hurt you; he
loves you too well for that. You did well to beat him, affront him,
bite him; he is attached to you like a poor little dog to his master,"
said the child in a caressing and coaxing voice.
Deceived by the hypocrisy, La Chouette answered, "Very well! if I have
bitten you wrongfully, it shall be punishment for some other time,
when you have deserved it. Come, to-day I bear no malice. Where is
your cheat of a father?"
"In the house; shall I call him?"
"No; have the Martials come yet?"
"Then I have time to go and see my man; I want to speak to old
"Are you going to the cellar?" asked Tortillard, hardly concealing his
"What is that to you?"
"Yes; you asked me that in such a droll way."
"Because I thought of something funny."
"That you must have brought a pack of cards along to amuse him,"
answered Tortillard, in a cunning manner; "it will be a little change
for him; he only plays at biting with the rats; in that game he always
wins, and in the end it tires him."
La Chouette laughed violently at this witticism, and said to the
little cripple, "Mamma's little monkey. I do not know a blackguard
that is more wicked than you are. You little rogue, go, get me a
candle; you shall light me down, help me to open his door; you know
that I can't move it alone."
"Oh, no, it is too dark in the cellar," said Tortillard, shaking his
"How? you, as wicked as the devil, a coward; I would like to see that!
Come, go quick, and say to your father, I will soon return; that I am
with my pet; that we are talking about the publication of our bans of
marriage," added the monster, chuckling. "Come, make haste, you shall
be groomsman, and if you are a good boy, you shall have my garter."
Tortillard went to get a light, and La Chouette, elated with the
success of her robbery, amused herself while he was gone in handling
the precious jewels in her basket. It was to conceal temporarily this
treasure that she wished to visit the Schoolmaster in his cellar, and
not to torment, as was her usual custom, her victim. We will mention
presently why, with the consent of Bras-Rouge, La Chouette had
confined the Schoolmaster in the subterranean hole.
Tortillard, holding a light, reappeared at the cellar door. La
Chouette followed him to the lower room, into which opened the large
trap-door already described.
The son of Bras-Rouge, protecting his light with the hollow of his
hand, and preceding the old woman, descended slowly a flight of steep
stone steps, leading to the entrance of the cellar.
Arrived at the foot, Tortillard appeared to hesitate about following
"Well! lazybones, go on," said she, turning round.
"It is so dark, and besides, you go so fast, La Chouette; I'd rather
go back, and leave you the candle."
"And the door, imbecile? Can I open it alone! Will you go on?"
"No, I am too much afraid."
"If I come to you, take care."
"Oh, now you threaten me, I'll go back."
And he retreated a few steps.
"Well! listen; be a good boy," answered La Chouette, restraining her
anger, "I will give you something."
"Very well," said the boy, drawing near, "speak so to me, and you will
make me do all you can wish, Mother Chouette."
"Look alive, I am in a hurry."
"Yes, but promise that you will let me torment the Schoolmaster."
"Some other day; now I have no time."
"Only a little; just to make him foam."
"Some other time, I say; I must return at once."
"Why, then, do you open the door of his prison?"
"None of your business. Come, now, will you finish? The Martials,
perhaps, are already above; I want to speak to them. Be a good boy,
and you sha'n't be sorry; go on."
"I must love you well, La Chouette, for you can make me do just as you
please," said Tortillard, advancing slowly. The trembling, sickly
light of the candle, only made darkness visible in this gloomy
passage, reflecting the black shadow of the hideous boy on the green
and crumbling walls streaming with humidity.
At the end of the passage, through the obscurity, could be perceived
the low, broken arch of the entrance to the cellar, its heavy door
secured with bands of iron, and contrasting strongly in the shade with
the plaid shawl and white bonnet of La Chouette.
With their united efforts, the door opened, creaking, on its rusty
hinges. A puff of humid vapor escaped from this hole, which was as
dark as night.
The candle, placed on the ground, cast a ray of light on the first
steps of the stone staircase, while the lower part was lost in total
A cry, or rather a savage howl, came up from the depths of the cellar.
"Oh, there is my darling, who says 'good-day' to his mamma," said La
Chouette, ironically; and she descended a few steps to conceal her
prize in some corner.
"I am hungry!" cried the Schoolmaster, in a voice trembling with rage;
"do you mean I am to die here like a mad beast?"
"You are hungry, poor puss!" said La Chouette, shouting with laughter.
"Well, suck your thumb!"
The noise of a chain shaken violently was heard; then a sigh of
"Take care! take care! you will hurt your leg, poor dear papa!" said
"The child is right; keep quiet, old pal," said the old woman; "the
chain and rings are strong, old No-eyes; they come from old Micou, who
only sells first rate articles. It is your own fault; for why did you
allow yourself to be tied when you were asleep? Afterward there was
nothing to be done, but to slip on the chain, and bring you down here,
in this nice cool place, to preserve you, my sweet!"
"It's a shame--he'll grow mouldy," said Tortillard.
The chains were heard rattling anew.
"Oh, oh! he jumps like a ladybird, tied by the paw," cried the old
woman. "I think I can see him."
"Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home! your house is on fire, and the
Schoolmaster is burning!" chanted Tortillard.
This variation augmented the hilarity of La Chouette. Having placed
her basket in a hole under one of the steps, she said, "Look here, my
"He does not see," answered Tortillard.
"The boy is right. Ah, well! Do you hear? You should not have hindered
me, when we returned from the farm, from washing Pegriotte's face with
vitriol. You should not have played the good dog, simpleton. And then,
to talk of your conscience, which was becoming prudish. I saw that
your cake was all dough; that some day or other you might peach,
Mister Eyeless, and then--"
"Old No-eyes will nip you, Screech-Owl, for he is hungry," cried
Tortillard, suddenly, pushing, with all his strength, the old woman by
La Chouette fell forward, uttering a dreadful imprecation, and rolled
to the foot of the steps.
"Lick 'em, Towser! La Chouette is yours! Jump on her, old man," added
Then, seizing hold of the basket, which he had seen the old woman
hide, he ran up the stairs precipitately, crying with savage joy,
"There is a push worth double what I gave you a while ago, La
Chouette! This time you can't bite me. Oh! you thought I didn't care;
thank you, I bleed still."
"I have her, oh, I have her!" cried the Schoolmaster from the depths
of the cellar.
"If you have her, old man, fair play," said the boy, chuckling, as he
stopped on the top step of the staircase.
"Help!" cried La Chouette, in a strangled voice.
"Thank you, Tortillard," answered the Schoolmaster; "thank you," and he
uttered an aspiration of fearful joy.
"Oh! I pardon you the harm you have done me, and to reward you, you
shall hear La Chouette sing! Listen to the bird of death--'
"Bravo, bravo! here am I in the dress circle, private box," said
Tortillard, seating himself at the top of the stairs. He raised the
light to endeavor to see what was going on in the cellar, but the
darkness was too great; so faint a light could not dissipate it.
Bras-Rouge's hopeful could distinguish nothing. The struggle between
the Schoolmaster and La Chouette was silent and furious, without a
word, without a cry. Only, from time to time, could be heard a hard
breathing or suffocating respiration, which always accompanies violent
and continued struggles.
Tortillard, seated on the stone step, began to stamp his feet in the
manner peculiar to spectators anxious for the commencement of a play;
then he uttered the familiar cry of the "gods" in the penny-gaffs.
"Hoist that rag! trot 'em out! Begin, begin! Music, music!"
"Oh, I have you as I wish," murmured the Schoolmaster from the bottom
of the cellar, "and you shall--"
A desperate movement of La Chouette interrupted him. She struggled
with that energy which is caused by the fear of death.
"Speak up, we can't hear," cried Tortillard.
"You have a fine chance in my hand. I have you as I wish to have you,"
continued the Schoolmaster. Then, having doubtless succeeded in
holding La Chouette, he added, "That's it. Now listen--"
"Tortillard, call your father!" cried La Chouette, in a breathless,
exhausted tone. "Help, help!"
"Turn out that old woman! turn her out! We can't hear," said the
little cripple, screaming with laughter. "Silence! out with her!"
The cries of La Chouette could not reach the upper apartments. The
wretch, seeing she had no aid to expect from the son of Bras-Rouge,
tried a last effort.
"Tortillard, go for help; and I will give you my basket, it is full of
jewels. It is there under a stone."
"How generous you are! Thank you, ma'am! Don't you know that I have
your swag? Hold, don't you hear it jingle?" said Tortillard shaking
it. "But give me two sous to buy some hot cake and I'll go seek papa."
"Have pity on me, and I--" La Chouette could not proceed. Again there
was a pause.
The little cripple recommenced the stamping of his feet, and cried,
"Why don't you begin? Up with the curtain! Go ahead, will you, now?
"La Chouette, you can no longer deafen me with your cries," said the
Schoolmaster, after some minutes, during which he had succeeded in
gagging the old woman. "You know well," resumed he, in a slow and
hollow tone, "that I do not wish to finish you at once. Torture for
torture. You have made me suffer enough. I must talk to you a long
time before I kill you--yes, a long time. It will be frightful for
you! What agony!"
"Come, none of your nonsense, old man," cried Tortillard, half rising.
"Correct her; but do not hurt her. You speak of killing her; it's only
a joke, is it not! I like my Chouette. I have lent her to you, but you
must return her to me. Don't damage her. I will not have any one harm
my Chouette, or I will go and call papa."
"Be not alarmed; she shall only have what she deserves--a profitable
lesson," said the robber, to reassure Tortillard, fearing that the
cripple would go for help.
"Very good! bravo! Now the play begins," said the boy, who did not
believe that the Schoolmaster seriously meditated to destroy La
"Let us talk a little," resumed the Schoolmaster, in a calm voice, to
the old woman. "In the first place, since a dream I had at the farm of
Bouqueval, which brought before my eyes all our crimes, which almost
made me mad, which will make me mad--for in the solitude and profound
state of isolation in which I live, all my thoughts, in spite of
myself, tend toward this dream--a strange change has taken place
within me. Yes, I have thought with horror of my past wickedness. In
the first place, I did not allow you to disfigure the Goualeuse. That
was nothing. By chaining me here in this cave, by making me suffer
cold and hunger, but by delivering me from your provocation, you have
left me alone to all the horrors of my thoughts. Oh! you do not know
what it is to be alone, always alone, with a black veil over the eyes,
as the implacable man said who punished me." (This was Rudolph who had
had him blinded.) "It is fearful! See now! In this cellar I wished to
kill him, but this cellar is the place of my punishment. It will be
perhaps my grave!
"I repeat to you, this is frightful. All that man predicted is
realized. He told me: 'You have abused your strength: you shall be the
plaything of the weakest.' This has been. He told me: 'Henceforth,
separated from the exterior world, face to face with the eternal
remembrance of your crimes, one day you will repent them.' That day
has arrived; solitude has confirmed it. I could not have thought it
possible. Another proof that I am, perhaps, less wicked than formerly,
is, that I experience an indescribable joy in holding you there,
monster, not to avenge myself, but to avenge our victims. Yes, I shall
have accomplished a duty, when, with my own hand, I shall have
punished my accomplice. A voice tells me, that if you had fallen
sooner into my power, much blood might have been spared. I feel now a
horror of my past murders, and yet, strange! it is without fear, it is
with security that I intend to execute on you a frightful murder, with
horrible refinement of cruelty. Speak, speak! can you realize this?"
"Bravo, bravo! well played, first old man. You warm up," cried
Tortillard, applauding. "This is only a joke, though?"
"Only a joke?" answered the Schoolmaster, in a hollow voice. "Be
still, La Chouette; I must finish explaining to you how, little by
little, I came to repent. This revelation will be odious to you, heart
of iron, and it will also prove to you how merciless I ought to be in
the vengeance I wish to exercise on you in the name of our victims. I
must hurry on. The joy of having you thus makes my blood run wild, my
head throb with violence, as when I think of my dream. My mind
wanders; perhaps one of my attacks is coming on; but I shall have time
to render the approaches of death more frightful, in forcing you to
"Bold, La Chouette!" cried Tortillard; "be bold with your answer.
Don't you know your part? Come, tell the devil to prompt you, my old
"Oh! you do well to struggle and bite," said the Schoolmaster, after a
pause; "you shall not escape; you have cut my ringers to the bone, but
I will tear your tongue out if you stir. Let us continue to converse.
"On finding myself alone--constantly alone in obscurity and silence--I
began to have fits of furious rage; powerless, for the first time I
lost my senses, my head wandered. Yes, although awake, I have dreamed
the dream you know: the dream of the old man in the Rue de Roule--the
woman drowned--the drover--all murdered! and you, soaring above all
these phantoms! I tell you, it is frightful. I am blind; yet my
thoughts assume a form, a body, and represent continually to me in a
visible manner, almost palpable, the features of my victims.
"I should not have this fearful dream, but that my mind, continually
absorbed by the recollection of my past crimes, is troubled with the
"Doubtless, when one is deprived of sight, besetting ideas trace
themselves almost materially on the brain. Yet, sometimes, by force of
contemplating them with resigned alarm, it seems to me that these
menacing specters have pity on me; they grow dim, fade away, and
disappear. Then I think I awake from a vivid dream; but I feel myself
weak, exhausted, broken, and will you believe it--oh! how you will
laugh, La Chouette--I weep--do you hear? I weep. You do not laugh? But
laugh! I say, laugh!" La Chouette uttered a stifled groan.
"Louder," cried Tortillard; "we can't hear."
"Yes," continued the Schoolmaster, "I wept, for I suffered, and rage
is fruitless. I say to myself, to-morrow, and to-morrow, forever I
shall be a prey to the same delirium, the same mournful desolation.
What a life! oh, what a life! Better I had chosen death, than to be
interred alive in this abyss, which incessantly racks my thoughts!
Blind, solitary, and a prisoner! what can distract my thoughts?
"When the phantoms cease for a moment to pass and repass on the black
veil which I have before my eyes, there are other tortures--there are
overwhelming comparisons. I say to myself, 'if I had remained an
honest man, at this moment I should be free, tranquil, happy, loved,
and honored by mine own, instead of being blind and chained in this
dungeon, at the mercy of my accomplices.'
"Alas! the regret of happiness, lost by crime, is the first step
toward repentance. And when to this repentance is added an expiation
of frightful severity--an expiation which changes life into a long
sleep filled with avenging hallucinations of desperate reflections,
perhaps then the pardon of man will follow remorse and expiation."
"Take care, old man!" cried Tortillard; "you are cutting into the
parson's part! Found out, found out!"
The Schoolmaster paid no attention. "Does it astonish you to hear me
talk thus, La Chouette? If I had continued to harden myself, either by
other bloody misdeeds, or by the savage drunkenness of a galley-slave's
life, this salutary change in me had never taken place, I know
well. But alone--blind--and tortured with a visible remorse, what
could I think of? New crimes--how commit them? An escape--how escape?
And if I escaped, where should I go--what should I do with my liberty?
No; I must henceforth live in eternal night, between the anguish of
repentance, and the alarm of horrifying apparitions by which I am
pursued. Yet sometimes a feeble ray of hope shines in the midst of the
gloom--a moment of calm succeeds to my torments: yes, for sometimes I
succeed in conjuring the specters which besiege me, by opposing to
them the recollections of a past life, honest and peaceful--by
carrying back my thoughts to the days of my childhood.
"Happily, you see the blackest villains have had, at least, some years
of peace and innocence to offer in opposition to their long years of
crime and blood. We are not born wicked.
"The most perverse have had the amiable simplicity of childhood--have
known the sweet joys of that charming age. So, I repeat, sometimes I
feel a bitter consolation in saying, 'Though I am at this moment the
object of universal execration, there was a time when I was beloved
and cherished, because I was inoffensive and good.'
"Alas! I must take refuge in the past, when I can; there alone can I
find any repose."
On pronouncing these last words, the voice of the Schoolmaster had
lost its roughness; the formidable man seemed profoundly affected; he
went on: "Now, you see, the salutary influence of these thoughts is
such that my rage is appeased; courage, strength, the will, all fail
me to punish you; no, it is not for me to shed your blood."
"Bravo, old one! Now you see, La Chouette, that it was only a joke,"
cried Tortillard, applauding.
"No, it is not for me to shed your blood," resumed the Schoolmaster;
"it would be a murder--excusable, perhaps, but still a murder; and I
have enough with three specters! And then, who knows, you, even you!
will repent some day."
Speaking thus, he mechanically relaxed his grasp.
La Chouette profited by it to seize hold of the dagger, which she had
placed in her bosom, after the murder of the countess, and to strike a
violent blow with it in order to disembarrass herself of him
He uttered a cry of great anguish. The savage frenzy of his rage,
vengeance, and hatred, his sanguinary instincts suddenly aroused, and
exasperated at this attack, made an unexpected and terrible explosion,
under which his reason sunk, already much shattered by so many trials.
"Ah! viper, I felt your tooth!" cried he, in a voice trembling with
rage, and tightly grasping La Chouette, who had thought to escape.
"You crawl in the cellar," added he, more and more wandering, "but I
am going to crush you, Screech-Owl. You waited, doubtless, the coming
of the phantoms; my ears tingle, my head turns, as when they are about
to come. Yes, I am not deceived. Oh! there they are; out of the
darkness they approach--they approach! How pale they are, yet their
blood, how it flows, red and smoking. They frighten you--you struggle.
Oh, well! be tranquil, you shall not see them; I have pity on you; I
shall make you blind. You shall be like me, without eyes!" Here he
[Illustration: THE COUNTESS SARAH HAS JUST BEEN ASSASSINATED]
La Chouette uttered a yell so horrible that Tortillard, alarmed,
jumped from his seat, and stood erect.
The frightful screams of La Chouette seemed to increase the insanity
of the Schoolmaster.
"Sing," said he, in a low voice, "sing, La Chouette, sing your song of
death. You are happy; you will never more see the phantoms of our
victims; the old man of the Rue de la Roule, the drowned woman, the
drover. But I see them, they come; they touch me. Oh! how cold they
The last spark of intelligence in this poor wretch was extinguished in
this cry of horror. Then he reasoned no more, spoke not; he behaved
and roared like a wild beast: he only obeyed the savage instinct of
destruction for destruction's sake. Horrible, frightful events took
place in the gloom of the cellar.
A quick, rapid tramping was heard, interrupted at frequent intervals
by a dull sound, like that of a bag of bones which rebounded on a
stone against which one wished to break it. Acute moans, and bursts of
infernal laughter, accompanied each of these blows. Then there was a
death-rattle of agony. Then nothing could be heard but the furious
trampling; nothing but the heavy and rebounding blows, which still
Soon a distant noise of footsteps and voices reached even to the
depths of the cellar. Numerous lights appeared at the extremity of the
subterranean passage. Tortillard, frozen with terror by the frightful
tragedy which he had heard, but not seen, perceived several persons
rapidly descend the staircase. In a moment, the cellar was invaded by
several police officers, at the head of whom was Narcisse Borel;
municipal guards closed the march. Tortillard was seized on the upper
steps of the cellar, holding still in his hand La Chouette's basket.
Narcisse Borel, followed by some of his men, descended into the
cellar. All stopped, struck with such a horrible spectacle. Chained by
the leg to an enormous stone placed in the middle of the dungeon, the
Schoolmaster, horrible, monstrous, his hair knotted, his beard long,
his mouth foaming, clothed with bloody rags, turned like a wild beast
around his dungeon, dragging after him, by the feet, the corpse of La
Chouette, whose head was horribly mutilated, broken, and crushed. It
needed a violent struggle to take from him the bleeding remains of his
accomplice, and to secure him.
After a vigorous resistance, they succeeded in transporting him to the
lower room of the tavern, a dull, gloomy apartment, lighted by a
single window. There were found, handcuffed and guarded, Barbillon,
Nicholas Martial, his mother and sister. They had been arrested just
at the moment they were dragging off the diamond broker to murder her.
She was recovering in another room. Stretched on the ground, and held,
with great difficulty, by two officers, the Schoolmaster, slightly
wounded in the arm by La Chouette, but completely insensible, roared
and bellowed like a baited bull. At times he almost raised himself
from the earth by his convulsive movements.
Barbillon, with lowered head, livid face, discolored lips, fixed and
savage eye, his long black hair falling on the collar of his blouse,
torn in the struggle, was seated on a bench; his arms, confined by
handcuffs, rested on his knees. The juvenile appearance of this
scoundrel (he was hardly eighteen), and the regularity of his
features, rendered still more deplorable the hideous stamp with which
debauchery and crime had marked his countenance. Unmoved, he said not
a word. This apparent insensibility was due to stupidity or to a
frigid energy; his breathing was rapid, and from time to time, with
his shackled hands, he wiped the sweat from his pale forehead.
Alongside of him was placed Calabash; her cap had been torn, her
yellowish hair, tied behind with a string, hung down her back in many
tangled and disordered tresses. More enraged than dispirited, her thin
and jaundiced cheeks somewhat colored, she regarded with disdain the
affliction of her brother Nicholas, placed on a chair opposite.
Foreseeing the fate which awaited him, this bandit, sinking within
himself, his head hanging, his knees trembling, was almost dead with
affright; his teeth chattered convulsively, and he uttered low and
mournful groans. Alone, among all, the widow, standing with her back
to the wail, had lost nothing of her audacity. With her head erect,
she cast a firm look around her. Her mask of bronze betrayed not the
slightest emotion. Yet, at the sight of Bras-Rouge, who was brought
into the lower room, after having assisted in the minute search which
the commissary had just made throughout the whole house--yet, at the
sight of Bras-Rouge, we repeat, the features of the widow contracted
in spite of herself; her small eyes, ordinarily dull, sparkled with
rage; her compressed lips became bloodless: she stiffened her manacled
hands. Then, as if she had regretted this mute manifestation of rage
and impotent hatred, she conquered her emotion, and became of icy
While the commissary drew up his report, Narcisse Borel, rubbing his
hands, cast a complacent look on the important capture he had just
made, which delivered Paris from a band of dangerous criminals; but
feeling of what utility Bras-Rouge had been in this expedition, he
could not help expressing to him by a glance his gratitude.
The father of Tortillard was obliged to partake, until after their
judgment, the prison and fate of those whom he had denounced; like
them, he wore handcuffs; still more than them, he had a trembling,
alarmed air, uttering sorrowful groans, and giving to his weasel face
every expression of terror. He embraced Tortillard, as if he sought
some consolation in these paternal caresses.
The little cripple showed but little sensibility at these proofs of
tenderness; he had just learned that, until further orders, he was to
be sent to the prison for young offenders.
"What a misfortune to part with my darling son!" cried Bras-Rouge,
feigning to weep; "it is we who are the most unfortunate, Ma'am
Martial, for they separate us from our children."
The widow could no longer contain herself; not doubting the treason of
Bras-Rouge, which she had prophesied, she cried, "I was sure that you
sold my son who is at Toulon. There, Judas!" and she spat in his face.
"You sell our heads; so be it; they will see handsome corpses-corpses
of the real Martials!"
"Yes; we will not budge before the scaffold," added Calabash, with
The widow, pointing to Nicholas with a withering glance of contempt,
said to her daughter, "This coward will dishonor us on the scaffold!"
Some moments afterward, the widow and Calabash, accompanied by two
police, were placed in a cab and sent to Saint Lazare. The three men
were conducted to La Force. The Schoolmaster was transported to the
depot of the Conciergerie, where there are cells destined to receive
temporarily the insane.
Some days after the murder of Mrs. Seraphin, the death of La Chouette,
and the arrest of the band of malefactors surprised at Bras-Rouge's,
Rudolph repaired to the house in the Rue du Temple.
We have said that--intending to overcome cunning by cunning, and to
expose the concealed crimes of Jacques Ferrand to the punishment they
merited, notwithstanding the address and hypocrisy with which he
disguised them--Rudolph had caused to be brought from her prison in
Germany a girl named Cecily.
She was a very beautiful quadroon, whose story ran briefly thus: Owned
by a Louisiana planter, he had refused permission for her to marry
another of his slaves, known as David, because he had, sultan-like,
set his own choice upon her. David, by intelligence, and a long stay
in France, had attained the position of surgeon on the plantation, and
resisted his master with all the strength of his love for the girl. He
was flogged, and Cecily locked up. At this juncture, Rudolph's yacht
was off the plantation. He heard the story, and, landing in the night
with a boat's crew, carried off David and Cecily in the planter's
teeth, leaving him a large sum in indemnification. The slaves were
wedded in France, but David won no happiness. He became Rudolph's
physician-in-chief, worthily filling the post; but Cecily's
three-part-white blood revolted at her union with a negro, and she
flung herself into the first arms open to her. Her life was a series
of scandals, so that David would have killed her; but Rudolph induced
him to prefer her life imprisonment in Germany. Thence she is now
Having arrived the evening previous, this creature, as handsome as she
was perverted, as enchanting as she was dangerous, had received
detailed instructions from Baron de Graun.
It will be remembered that after the last interview between Rudolph
and Mrs. Pipelet, the latter having adroitly proposed Cecily to Mrs.
Seraphin to replace Louise Morel as servant to the notary, the
housekeeper had willingly received her overtures, and promised to
speak on the subject to Jacques Ferrand, which she had done in terms
the most favorable to Cecily, the very same morning of the day on
which she (Mrs. Seraphin) had been drowned at Ravageurs' Island.
Rudolph went to learn the result of Cecily's offer. To his great
astonishment, on entering the lodge, he found, although it was eleven
o'clock in the morning, Pipelet in bed, and Anastasia standing beside
him, offering him drink.
Alfred, whose forehead and eyes disappeared under a formidable cotton
cap, not answering Anastasia, she concluded he was asleep, and closed
the curtains of his bed. On turning she saw Rudolph. Immediately she
carried, according to custom, the back of her open left hand against
"Your servant, my prince of lodgers. You find me overturned, amazed,
grown thin! There are famous doings in the house, without counting
that Alfred has been in bed since yesterday."
"And what is the matter?"
"Always the same. The monster yearns more and more after Alfred; he
alarms me so that I do not know what more to do."
"He is the devil, then!"
"I shall begin to think so, M. Rudolph; for the blackguard always
guesses when I am out. Hardly do I turn on my heels than he is here on
the back of my darling, who does not know how to defend himself any
more than a child. Yesterday again, while I was gone to M. Ferrand's,
the notary's--there is the place to hear news--"
"And Cecily?" said Rudolph hastily. "I came to know--"
"Stop, my prince of lodgers; do not fluster me. I have so many things
to tell you that I shall lose myself if you break my thread."
"Well, I listen."
"In the first place, as concerns this house; just imagine that
yesterday they came and arrested Mother Burette."
"The pawnbroker on the second floor?"
"Yes. It appears that she had many droll trades besides that of a
pawnbroker! She was a fencess, melter-downess, shoplifteress,
smasheress, forgeress, coineress, everything that rhymes with
dishonestness. The worst of all is, that her old beau, Bras-Rouge, is
also arrested. I told you there was a real earthquake in the house."
"What! Bras-Rouge also arrested?"
"Yes; in his tavern on the Champs-Elysees. All are boxed, even to his
son Tortillard, the wicked little cripple. They say there has been a
whole heap of murderers there; that they were a band of assassins;
that La Chouette, one of the friends of old Burette, has been
strangled; and that if help had not arrived in time, Mathieu the
diamond broker would have been murdered. Ain't this news?"
"Bras-Rouge arrested! La Chouette dead!" said Rudolph to himself, with
astonishment. "Poor Fleur-de-Marie is avenged."
"So much for this. Without excepting the new infamy of Cabrion, I am
going at once to finish with that brigand. You will see what
impudence! When old Burette was arrested, and we knew that Bras-Rouge,
our landlord, was trapped, I said to my old darling, 'You must trot
right off to the proprietor, and tell him that Bras-Rouge is locked
up.' Alfred set out. At the end of two hours he came back to me, in
such a state--white as a sheet, and blowing like an ox!"
"What was the matter?"
"You shall see, M. Rudolph. Only fancy, that six steps from here is a
large white wall; my darling, on leaving the house, looked by chance
on this wall; what does he see written there with charcoal, in large
letters? 'Pipelet & Cabrion!'--the two names joined by a short
_and_. This mark of union with this scoundrel sticks in his
stomach the most. That began to upset him; ten steps further, what
does he see on the great door of the Temple? 'Pipelet & Cabrion!'
always with the sign of union. On he goes; at each step, M. Rudolph,
he saw written these cursed names on the walls of the houses, on the
doors, everywhere, 'Pipelet & Cabrion.' He began to see stars; he
thought every one was looking at him; he pulled his hat down to his
nose, he was so much ashamed. He went on the boulevard, thinking that
Cabrion had confined his indecencies to the Rue du Temple. All along
the boulevard, on each place where there was room to write, always
'Pipelet & Cabrion,' to the death! Finally, the poor dear man arrived
at the proprietor's so bewildered, that, after having stuttered and
stammered for a quarter of an hour, he could not understand one word
of all that Alfred said; so he sent him back, calling him an old
imbecile, and told him to send me to explain the thing. Alfred
retired, coming back by another route, in order to avoid the names he
had seen written on the walls. But--"
"Pipelet and Cabrion that road too?"
"As you say, my prince of lodgers. In this way the poor dear man
arrived, stupefied, amazed, wishing to exile himself. He told me his
story; I calmed him as well as I could. I left him, and went with
Cecily to the notary's. You think this is all? Oh, no! Hardly was my
back turned than Cabrion, who had watched my departure, had the
impudence to send here two great hussies who attacked Alfred. My hair
stands on an end. I will tell you all this directly. Let us finish
with the notary. I set out, then, in a coach with Cecily, as you are
advised. She wore her pretty German peasant's costume, 'as she had
just arrived, and had not time to change it,' as I was to tell M.
Ferrand. You will believe me, if you please, my prince of lodgers, I
have seen many pretty girls; I have seen myself in my springtime; but
never have I seen (myself included) a young person who could hold a
candle to Cecily. She has, above all, in the look of her large,
wicked, black eyes, something--I don't know what; but, for sure, there
is something striking. What eyes!
"Alfred is not tender, but the first time that she looked at him be
became as red as a carrot; for nothing in the world would he have
looked a second time--he wriggled on his chair for an hour afterward
as if he had been seated on a thorn; he told me afterward that the
look had recalled to his mind all the histories of that impudent
Bradamanti about the savagesses, which made him blush so much, my old
prude of an Alfred."
"But the notary? the notary?"
"Yes, M. Rudolph. It was about seven in the evening when we reached M.
Ferrand's; I told the porter to tell his master that Mrs. Pipelet was
there with the servant whom old Seraphin had spoken about, and told me
to bring. Hereupon the porter uttered a sigh, and asked me if I knew
what had happened to Mrs. Seraphin. I said no. Oh, M. Rudolph, here is
"Old Seraphin was drowned in an excursion to the country which she had
made with one of her relations."
"Drowned! A party to the country in winter?" said Rudolph, surprised.
"Yes, M. Rudolph, drowned. It astonishes me more than it grieves me;
for since the misfortune of poor Louise, whom she denounced, I hated
Seraphin. I said to myself, 'She is drowned, is she; after all, it
won't kill me.' That's my character."
"And M. Ferrand?"
"The porter at first said he thought I could not see his master, and
begged me to wait in the lodge, but at the end of a moment he returned
for me; we crossed the court, and entered a chamber. There was only a
single candle burning. The notary was seated at the chimney-corner,
where smoked the remains of a firebrand. What a hovel! I have never
seen M. Ferrand. Isn't he horrid? Here is another one who might in
vain have offered me the throne of Araby to prove false to Alfred."
"And did he appear struck with the beauty of Cecily?"
"Can any one know, with his green spectacles? such an old sacristan
ought to be no judge of women. Yet when we both entered, he made a
kind of start from his chair; it was, doubtless, astonishment at
seeing the Alsatian costume of Cecily; for she had (only ten million
times better) the air of one of those little broom girls, with her
short petticoats, and her pretty legs in blue stockings with red
clocks! my eye, what calves! and such slender ankles! and the little
foot! the notary was bewildered at seeing her."
"It was doubtless the strange costume which astonished him."
"Must think so; but the funny moment drew near. Happily I remembered
the maxim you taught me, M. Rudolph; it was my salvation."
"You know: 'Hide your desire if you want it granted.' Then I said to
myself, I must rid my prince of lodgers of his German, by placing her
with the master of Louise; and I said to the notary, without giving
him time to draw breath: 'Pardon me, sir, if my niece comes dressed in
the costume of her country; but she has just arrived: she has no other
clothes than these, and I have no means of getting her others, as it
would hardly be worth while; for we came only to thank you for having
said to Mrs. Seraphin that you would consent to see Cecily, from the
good recommendations I had given her: yet I do not think she can suit,
"Very well, Mrs. Pipelet."
"'Why will your niece not suit me?' said the notary, who, seated in
the chimney-corner, seemed to look at us from under his spectacles.
'Because Cecily begins to be home-sick, sir. She has only been here
three days, yet she wishes to return, even if she has to beg her way
back, and sell brooms like her countrywomen.' 'But you, her relation,
will not suffer this?' 'I am her relation, it is true; but she is an
orphan; she is twenty years old, and she is mistress of her own
actions.' 'Bah! bah! mistress of her own actions; at her age she
should obey her relation,' answered he, roughly.
"Hereupon Cecily began to cry and tremble, pressing against me; the
notary made her afraid, very likely."
"He grumbled and muttered: 'To abandon a girl at her age is to ruin
her. To return to Germany as a beggar, it is fine! Do you, her aunt,
allow such conduct?' 'Well, well,' said I to myself, 'you're right.
I'll place Cecily with you, or I'll lose my name.' 'I am her aunt, it
is true,' answered I, 'but it is a very unfortunate relationship for
me; I have enough on my hands; I would be just as well pleased to have
my niece go away as to have her on my hands. May Old Nick run away
with such relations who send you such great girls as this without
paying the postage.' To crown all, there was Cecily, who seemed to be
up to trap, bursting into tears. Thereupon the notary assumed a
sniveling tone, like a preacher, and said to me: 'You will have to
account above for the trust that Providence has placed in your hands;
it would be a crime to expose this young girl to perdition. I consent
to aid you in your charitable work, if your niece promises me to be
industrious, honest, and pious; and above all, never to go out. I will
have pity on her, and take her in my service.' 'No, no, I would rather
go back to my country,' said Cecily, still weeping."
"Her dangerous duplicity did not fail her," thought Rudolph; "the
diabolical creature has, I see, perfectly comprised the orders of
Baron de Graun."
Then the prince said aloud, "Did Ferrand appear vexed at the
perverseness of Cecily?"
"Yes, M. Rudolph; he muttered between his teeth, and said to her
hastily, 'It is not a question, mademoiselle, of what you prefer, but
of what is suitable and decent Heaven will not abandon you, if you
lead an honest life and fulfill your religious duties. You will be
here in a house as strict as holy; if your aunt really loves you, she
will profit by my offer; at first you will have but small wages, but
if by your conduct and zeal you deserve more, perhaps I will increase
"Good! thought I to myself; the notary is caught! here is Cecily fixed
at your house, you heartless old miser. Seraphin was in your service
for many years, and you have not even the appearance of remembering
that she was drowned the day before yesterday. And I said aloud:
'Doubtless, sir, the place is advantageous, but if the young woman is
homesick?' 'That will pass away,' answered the notary; 'come, do you
decide--yes or no? If you consent, bring your niece to-morrow night at
this hour, and she can enter at once into my service--my porter will
instruct her. As to wages, I commence by giving her twenty francs a
month and board and lodging.' 'Oh, sir, you'll add five francs more?'
'No, by and by--if I am content--we shall see. But I must inform you,
that your niece must never go out, and must have no one to come and
see her.' 'Oh, sir, who would come to see her? She knows no one but me
in Paris, and I have my own door to take care of; it has incommoded me
enough to come with her to-day-you will never see me again-she will be
as much of a stranger as if she had never come out of her own country.
As to her not going out, there is a very simple way--let her wear her
own costume; she would never dare go out in the street dressed in that
outdacious manner.' 'You are right,' said the notary; 'it is, besides,
respectable to dress in the costume of one's country. She may, then,
remain in her Alsatian dress. 'Come,' said I to Cecily, who, with her
head down, wept continually; 'you must decide, my child; a good place,
in an honest house, is not to be found every day; besides, if you
refuse, you must make your own arrangements; I'll have no more to do
with them.' Then Cecily answered sighing, 'that she consented to
remain; but on condition that if in a fortnight her homesickness
troubled her too much, she might go away.' 'I do not wish to keep you
by force,' said the notary; 'and I am not embarrassed to find
servants. Here is your handsel; your aunt will only have to bring you
to-morrow night.' Cecily had not ceased to weep. I accepted for her
the advance of forty sous from the old screw, and we returned here."
"Very well, Mrs. Pipelet; I do not forget my promise. Here is what I
promised if you should succeed in getting a situation for this girl,
who embarrassed me."
"Wait until to-morrow, my prince of lodgers," said Mrs. Pipelet,
refusing the money; "for, perhaps, he will change his mind when I take
Cecily to him this evening."
"I do not think he will change his mind; but where is she?"
"In the cabinet belonging to M. Robert's apartments; in obedience to
your orders she does not stir from them; she seems as resigned as a
lamb, although she has eyes--oh! what eyes! But, apropos of M. Robert,
isn't he an intriguer? When he came himself to superintend the packing
of his furniture, did he not tell me that if there came any letters
here addressed to Madame Vincent, they were for him, and to send them
to No. 5 Rue Mondovi. He to be addressed under the name of a woman,
the beautiful bird! how cunning it is! But this is not all; did he not
have the impudence to ask me what had become of his wood? 'Your wood!
why not your forest at once?' I answered. Now it is true, for two mean
cart-loads of nothing at all--one of drift and the other new wood, for
he did not buy all new wood--the save-penny made a fuss! His wood? 'I
burned all your wood,' said I, 'to save your furniture from the damp;
otherwise mushrooms would have sprung up on your embroidered cap, and
on your glowworm robe de chambre that you wore so often while you were
waiting for the little lady who quizzed you."
A heavy plaintive groan from Alfred interrupted. "There is my beauty
dreaming, he is going to wake up; you will allow me, my prince of
"Certainly; I have, besides, some more questions to ask."
"Well! my sweet, how do you feel?" said Mrs. Pipelet to her husband,
opening the curtains; "here is M. Rudolph! he knows the new infamy of
Cabrion: he pities you with all his heart."
"Oh, sir!" said Alfred, turning his head in a languishing manner
toward Rudolph; "this time I shall not get over it; the monster has
stabbed me to the heart. I am the subject of the placards of the
capital; my name can be read on all the walls side by side with this
scoundrel's. 'Pipelet & Cabrion,' with an enormous _and_! I!
united to this infernal blackguard in the eyes of the capital of
"M. Rudolph knows it; but what he does not know is your adventure of
last night with those two strapping women."
"Oh! sir, he kept his most monstrous infamy for the last; this passed
all bounds," said Alfred, in a mournful tone.
"Come, my dear M. Pipelet, relate to me this new misfortune."
"All he had done previously was nothing to this, sir. He succeeded in
his object--thanks to proceedings the most shameful. I do not know if
I have the strength to relate it! confusion and shame will impede me
at each step."
Pipelet being painfully raised in the bed, modestly buttoned up his
flannel waistcoat, and commenced in these terms: "My wide had just
gone out; absorbed in the bitterness caused by the prostitution of my
name written on all the walls of the capital, I sought to distract
myself by endeavoring to sole a boot, twenty times taken up and twenty
times abandoned, thanks to the obstinate persecutions of my tormentor.
I was seated before a table when I saw the door of my lodge open, and
a woman enter. This woman was wrapped in a cloak, with a hood; I arose
politely from my seat, and touched my hat. At this moment, a second
woman, also enveloped in a cloak with a hood, entered my lodge, and
locked the door inside.
"Although astonished at the familiarity of this procedure, and the
silence which the two women preserved, I again rose from my chair, and
again carried my hand to my hat. Then, sir; no, no, I never can--my
"Come, Old Modesty, you are among men; go on then!"
"Then," resumed Alfred, becoming crimson, "the mantles fell, and what
did I see? Two species of sirens or nymphs, with no other clothing
than a tunic of leaves, the head also crowned with foliage; I was
petrified. Then they both advanced toward me, extending their arms, if
to invite me to precipitate myself into them."
"The hussies!" said Anastasia.
"The advances of these barefaced individuals revolted me," resumed
Alfred, animated by chaste indignation; "and, following habit, which
never abandons me in the most critical circumstances of my life, I
remained completely immovable on my chair; when, profiting by my
stupor, the two sirens approached me by a kind of slow whirl, spinning
round on their legs, and moving their arms. I became more and more
immovable. They reached me, they twisted their arms around me."
"Twisted their arms around an aged married man! Oh, if I had been
there with my broomstick," cried Anastasia, "I'd have given a cadence,
and spinning of legs to some purpose."
"When I felt myself embraced," continued Alfred, "my blood made one
rush--I was half dead. Then one of the sirens--the boldest, a large,
tall blonde--leaned on my shoulder, raised my hat, and uncovered my
head, all to music, spinning on her legs and moving her arms; then her
accomplice drew a pair of scissors from among the leaves, collected
together an enormous lock of all the hair that remained behind my
head, and cut it off. All, sir, all; always with the spinning around
on her legs; then she said to me, singing, 'It is for Cabrion!' and
the other impudence repeated in chorus, 'It is for Cabrion! It is for
After a pause, accompanied by a grievous sigh, Alfred went on with his
"During this scandalous spoliation, I raised my eyes, and saw looking
through the window of the lodge the infernal face of Cabrion, with his
beard and pointed hat. He laughed, he was hideous! To escape this
odious vision, I shut my eyes. When I opened them again, all had
disappeared. I found myself on my chair, my head uncovered, and
completely devastated! You see, sir, Cabrion has gained his end by
force of cunning, audacity, and obstinacy; and by what means! He
wished to make me pass for his friend; he began by putting up a notice
here that we would carry on a friendly trade together. Not content
with that, at this very moment my name is connected with his on all
the walls of the capital. There is not, at this moment, an inhabitant
of Paris who can have any doubt of my intimacy with this wretch; he
wished some of my hair, he has it; all thanks to the impudent
exactions of these brazen sirens. Now, sir, you must see, there only
remains for me a flight from France--ma belle France! where I thought
to live and die."
Alfred threw himself backward on his bed, and clasped his hands.
"But just the contrary, old darling; now that he has your hair, he
will leave you quiet."
"Leave me quiet!" cried Pipelet, with a convulsive start; "but you do
not know him; he is insatiable. Now who knows what he will next want
Rigolette, appearing at the entrance of the lodge, put an end to the
"Do not enter, mademoiselle!" cried Pipelet, faithful to his habits of
chaste susceptibility. "I am in bed." So saying, he drew one of the
sheets to his chin. Rigolette stopped discreetly at the threshold.
"I was just going to see you, neighbor," said Rudolph to her. "Will
you wait one moment?" Then, addressing Anastasia, "Do not forget to
conduct Cecily to-night to M. Ferrand's."
"Be tranquil, my prince of lodgers; at seven o'clock she shall be
installed there. Now that Madame Morel can walk, I will ask her to
stay in the lodge, for Alfred would not, for an empire, remain alone."
The rosy cheeks of Rigolette had become paler and paler; her charming
face, until now so fresh, so round, had lengthened a little; her
piquant countenance, ordinarily so animated and lively, was become
serious and still more sad since the last interview between the
grisette and Fleur-de-Marie at the gate of the prison of Saint Lazare.
"How happy I am to see you, neighbor," said she to Rudolph, when he
came out of the lodge. "I have many things to tell you."
"In the first place, how do you do? Let me look at your pretty face.
Is it still gay and rosy? Alas! no; I find you pale. I am sure you
work too much."
"Oh! no, M. Rudolph; I assure you I am now used to this little
increase of work. What changes me is grief. Every time I see poor
Germain I become still more sad."
"He is then very much depressed?"
"More than ever, M. Rudolph; and what is annoying is, that everything
that I do to console him increases his despondency; it is like a
spell." A tear obscured her large black eyes.
"Explain this to me."
"For instance, yesterday I went to see him to take a book he wished to
have, because it was a romance that we used to read together in our
happy days. At the sight of this book, he burst into tears, which did
not surprise me, it was very natural. Dear memento of our evenings, so
quiet, so pleasant, seated by my stove, in my snug little room, to
compare with this frightful life in prison. Poor Germain! it is very
"Be comforted," said Rudolph to the young girl. "When Germain gets out
of prison, and his innocence is acknowledged, be will find his mother
and friends, and he will soon forget, in their society and yours, the
terrible moments of trial."
"Yes, but until then, M. Rudolph, he is going to be still more
tormented. And besides, this is not all."
"What is there besides?"
"As he is the only honest man among all these bandits, they are
prejudiced against him, because he cannot agree with them. A turnkey,
a very good man, told me to advise Germain, for his own sake, to be
less proud, to try to be a little more familiar with the men; but he
cannot. They are stronger than he is, and I fear that some day they
will injure him." Then, suddenly, interrupting herself, she said,
drying her tears, "But see now, I only think of myself, and forget to
speak to you about La Goualeuse."
"La Goualeuse?" said Rudolph, with surprise.
"The day before yesterday, on going to see Louise at Saint Lazare, I
"Yes, M. Rudolph."
"In Saint Lazare?"
"She came out with an old lady."
"It is impossible!" cried Rudolph, astonished.
"I assure you it was she, neighbor."
"You must be mistaken."
"No, no; although she was dressed as a peasant girl, I knew her at
once. She is still very handsome, although pale; and she has the same
soft, melancholy manner as formerly."
"Come to Paris without my knowledge! I cannot believe it. What was she
doing at Saint Lazare?"
"The same as I was; visiting a prisoner, doubtless. I had no time to
ask more questions; the old woman who accompanied her had such a cross
look, and was in such a hurry. So you know La Goualeuse also, M.
"Then, there is no more doubt that it is you of whom she spoke."
"Yes. I related to her the misfortunes of Louise and Germain, both so
good, so virtuous, and so persecuted by that villain Jacques Ferrand,
taking care not to tell what you forbid, that you interested yourself
in them; then La Goualeuse told me that if a generous person whom she
knew was informed of the unhappy and undeserved fate of my poor
prisoners, he would certainly come to their assistance. I asked the
name of this person, and she named you, M. Rudolph."
"It is she, it is she!"
"You may suppose that we were both much astonished at this discovery,
or resemblance of names. We promised to write if our Rudolph was the
same person. And it appears that you are the same, M. Rudolph."
"Yes. I have also interested myself for this poor child. But what you
have told me of her presence in Paris surprises me so much that if you
had not given me so many details of your interview with her, I should
have persisted in believing that you were mistaken. But, adieu,
neighbor; what you have just told me about La Goualeuse obliges me to
leave you. Remain still reserved toward Louise and Germain as regards
the protection of unknown friends. This secrecy is more necessary than
ever. Apropos, how are the Morel family?"
"Better and better, M. Rudolph. The mother is on her feet again; the
children improve daily. All owe their life to you--their happiness.
You are so generous to them!"
"And how is poor Morel?"
"Better. I had news from him yesterday. He seems occasionally to have
some lucid moments; there is great hope of restoring him to reason."
"Come, courage: I shall soon see you again. Have you need of anything?
Do you still earn enough to support yourself?"
"Oh, yes, M. Rudolph; I take a little from my hours of rest, and it is
not much damage for I hardly sleep now."
"Alas! my poor little neighbor, I much fear that Papa Cretu and
Ramonette will not sing much more if they wait for you to begin."
"You are not mistaken, M. Rudolph; my birds and I sing no more, for--
now you are going to laugh! well, it seems to me that they comprehend
that I am sad; yes, instead of warbling gayly when I arrive, they
utter such low, plaintive notes, that they appear to wish to console
me. I am foolish to believe this, am I not, M. Rudolph?"
"Not at all: I am sure that your good friends, the birds, love you too
much not to perceive your sorrow."
"Really, the poor little things are so intelligent!" said Rigolette,
naively, much satisfied at being assured of the sagacity of the
companions of her solitude.
"Without doubt, nothing is more intelligent than gratitude. Come, once
more, adieu. Soon, neighbor, I hope your pretty eyes will become
sparkling, your cheeks very rosy, and your songs so gay--so gay--that
Papa Cretu and Ramonette will hardly be able to follow you."
"May what you have said be true, M. Rudolph," answered Rigolette, with
a heavy sigh. "Good-bye!"
"Good-bye, for the present!"
Rudolph could not comprehend how Madame George had, without advising
him, sent or brought Fleur-de-Marie to Paris; he returned home, to
send an express to the farm at Bouqueval. The moment he entered the
Rue de Plumet, he saw a postchaise stop before the door of the hotel;
it was Murphy, who had just returned from Normandy. The squire had
gone there, as we have stated, to unmask the sinister projects of the
step-mother of Madame d'Harville, and Bradamanti, her accomplice.
MURPHY AND POLIDORI.
Radiant with joy was the face of Sir Walter Murphy. On descending from
the carriage, he handed to one of the servants a pair of pistols, took
off his long riding, coat, and, without losing time to change his
dress, he followed Rudolph, who, very impatient, had preceded him to
"Good news, your highness, good news!" cried the squire, when he found
himself alone with Rudolph. "The wretches are unmasked! Lord d'Orbigny
is saved! You sent me off in time; one hour later, a new crime would
have been committed."
"And Madame d'Harville?"
"She is overjoyed at regaining her father's affection, and at having
arrived in time, thanks in your advice, to save him from certain
"Was once more the worthy accomplice of the stepmother of Madame
d'Harville. But what a monster is this step-mother! what audacity! And
Polidori! Oh, my lord, you have often been pleased to thank me for
what you call the proofs of my devotedness."
"I have always had proofs of your friendship, my good Sir Walter."
"Well, never, your highness, never--no, never has this friendship been
put to a severer test than in this affair," said the squire, in a half
"How is that?"
"Disguises as coalheavers, and so on, were nothing, absolutely
nothing, compared to the journey I have just made with this infernal
"What do you say? Polidori--"
"I have brought him with me."
"With me. Judge what a companion! during twelve hours, side by side
with the man I despise and hate the most in the world! I would as soon
travel with a serpent; my antipathy--"
"And where is Polidori now?"
"In the house of the Allee des Veuves, under good, sure guard."
"Did he make no resistance to following you?"
"None. I left him the choice of being arrested on the spot by the
French authorities, or being my prisoner in the Allee des Veuves. He
did not hesitate."
"You were right; it is better to have him thus in our own hands. You
are a man of gold, my friend; but relate to me your journey; I am
impatient to know how this unworthy woman and her depraved accomplice
have been unmasked."
"Nothing could be plainer. I had only to follow your instructions to
the letter to terrify and crush these wretches. In this case, your
highness has saved, as usual, people of worth, and punished the
wicked; noble Providence that you are!"
"Sir Walter, Sir Walter, do you remember the flatteries of Baron de
Graun?" said Rudolph, smiling.
"Well, let it pass. I will commence then; or, rather, you will first
please to read this letter, from Madame d'Harville, which will inform
you of all that occurred previous to my arrival."
"A letter? give it to me quickly."
Murphy, handing Rudolph the letter, added, "As it was agreed upon,
instead of accompanying the lady to her father's I alighted at an inn,
a short distance from the chateau, where I was to stay until her
ladyship sent for me."
Rudolph read what follows, with tender and impatient solicitude:
"YOUR HIGHNESS,--To all I owe you already, I add the life of my
"I shall let facts speak for themselves; they will tell you better
than I can, what new treasures of gratitude toward you I have
collected in my heart.
"Comprehending all the importance of the counsels which you gave me
through Sir Walter Murphy, who rejoined me on the road to Normandy,
just as I left Paris, I arrived in all haste at the Chateau des
"I do not know why, but the features of the servants who received me
appeared sinister; I did not see among them any of the old servitors
of our house; no one knew me; I was obliged to announce myself. I
learned that, some days before, my father was quite ill, and my
stepmother had just returned from Paris with a physician. No more
doubt--it was Dr. Polidori!
"Wishing to be conducted at once to my father, I asked where an old
valet was, to whom he was much attached. This man had left the chateau
some time before; this information was given me by a butler, who had
conducted me to my apartments, saying 'that he would go and inform my
step-mother of my arrival.'
"Was it an illusion or prejudice? it seemed to me that my arrival was
disagreeable even to the servants. Everything in the chateau seemed
mournful and sad. In the disposition of mind in which I found myself,
one seeks to draw conclusions from the merest trifles. I remarked
everywhere traces of disorder, of negligence, as if it had been
thought useless to take care of a dwelling so soon to be abandoned.
"My anxiety increased each moment. After having settled my daughter
and her governess in my apartment, I was about to go to my father when
my step-mother entered. Notwithstanding her duplicity and the command
which she ordinarily has over herself, she appeared uneasy at my
"M. d'Orbigny did not expect your visit, madame," said she to me. "He
is so ill, that such a surprise might be fatal. I think it, then,
suitable to leave him in ignorance of your presence; he cannot, in any
way--" I did not allow her to finish.
"A great misfortune has happened, madame," said I; 'M. d'Harville is
dead! victim of a fatal imprudence! After such a deplorable event, I
cannot remain in Paris, and I have come to pass at my father's my
"You are a widow! Oh! what overpowering good fortune!' cried my
step-mother, in a rage. From what you know of the unhappy marriage,
which this woman schemed for me, your highness will comprehend the
atrocity of her exclamation.
"It is because I feared that you would be also as overpoweringly
fortunate as I am, madame, that I came here," said I, perhaps
imprudently; "I wish to see my father."
"Your unexpected appearance may do your father much harm," cried she,
placing herself before me, to bar the passage. 'I will not allow you
to enter his chamber until I have informed him of your return, with
all the precautions his situation requires.'
"I was in a state of cruel perplexity. A sudden surprise might,
indeed, prove dangerous to my father; but this woman, ordinarily so
cold, so much the mistress of herself, seemed so alarmed at my
presence; I had so many reasons to doubt the sincerity of her
solicitude for the health of him whom she had married from cupidity;
finally, the presence of Dr. Polidori, my mother's murderer, caused a
terror so great that, believing the life of my father to be
threatened, I did not hesitate between the hope of saving him and the
fear of causing him any serious emotions.
"'I will see my father at once,' said I to my stepmother.
"And although she caught me by the arms, I passed out.
"Losing her self-possession completely, this woman again endeavored to
stop me. This incredible resistance redoubled my alarm. I disengaged
myself from her hands. Knowing the apartment of my father, I ran
thither rapidly; I entered. Oh, your highness! on my life, I shall
never forget the scene presented to my view. My father, almost
unrecognizable, pale, thin, suffering painted on every feature, with
his head leaning on a pillow, was stretched out in a large arm-chair.
"At the chimney-corner, standing near him, was Dr. Polidori, prepared
to pour in a cup, which a nurse presented to him, some drops of a
liquid contained in a little glass bottle which he held in his hand.
"His long red beard gave a still more sinister expression to his face.
I entered so precipitately, that he made a gesture of surprise,
exchanged a look of intelligence with my step-mother, who followed in
haste, and instead of giving my father the potion which he had
prepared for him, he quickly placed it on the chimney-piece.
"Guided by an instinct which I cannot yet account for, my first
movement was to seize the vial.
"Remarking the surprise and alarm of my step-mother and Polidori, I
felicitated myself on my action. My father, stupefied, seemed
irritated, at seeing me, as I expected. Polidori cast a ferocious
glance at me; notwithstanding the presence of my father and that of
the nurse, I feared that this wretch, seeing his crime almost
discovered, would carry matters to extremities.
"I felt the need of help at this decisive moment; I rang the bell; one
of the servants appeared; I begged him to say to my valet (who had his
instructions) to go and bring some things I had left at the inn; Sir
Walter Murphy knew that, not to arouse the suspicions of my
stepmother, I would employ this subterfuge to bring him to me.
"The surprise of my father and my step-mother was such that the
servant retired before they could say a word; I was reassured; in a
few moments Sir Walter would be near me.
"'What does this mean?' said my father, at length, in a feeble but
imperious and angry tone, 'You here, Clemence, without being sent for?
And then, hardly arrived, you take possession of the vial which
contains the potion that the doctor was about to give me; will you
explain this folly?'
"'Leave the room,' said my step-mother to the nurse. 'Calm yourself,
dear,' said she, addressing my father; 'you know the least emotion may
injure you. Since your daughter comes here in spite of you, and her
presence is disagreeable, give me your arm, I will conduct you to the
little saloon; and leave our good doctor to make Madame d'Harville
understand the imprudence (not to say anything worse) of her conduct.'
"And she cast a significant look at her accomplice. I comprehended the
design of my step-mother. She wished to lead my father away, and leave
me alone with Polidori, who, in this extreme case, would have
doubtless employed violence to force from me the vial, which might
furnish evident proof of his designs. 'You are right,' said my father;
'since she comes and persecutes me even in my own room, without any
respect for my wishes, I will leave the place free to her
importunacy.' And rising with an effort, he accepted the offered arm,
and made some steps toward the small saloon. At this moment, Polidori
advancing toward me, I drew nearer my father and said, 'I will explain
to you the cause of my unexpected arrival, and what is strange in my
conduct. I am a widow. I know your days are threatened, father.'
"He walked painfully, with his body bent. At these words, he stopped,
stood erect, and looking at me with profound astonishment, cried, 'You
are a widow? my days threatened? What does all this mean?'
"'And who dares to threaten the days of M. d'Orbigny, madame?'
audaciously asked my step-mother. 'Who threatens them?' added
"'You, sir; you, madame,' I answered. 'What an insult!' cried my
step-mother, advancing toward me. 'What I say, I will prove, madame.'
'Such an accusation is frightful!' said my father.
"'I shall leave this house at once, since in it I am exposed to such
atrocious calumnies!' said Dr. Polidori, with the assumed indignation
of a man whose honor was outraged. Beginning to feel the danger of his
position, he doubtless wished to fly. As he opened the door, he found
himself face to face with Sir Walter Murphy."
Rudolph, stopping a moment, extended his hand to the squire, and said:
"Very timely, my old friend; your presence must have been like a
thunderbolt to this Wretch." "That is the word, your highness; he
became livid, and retreated two steps, looking at me in a kind of
stupor; he seemed astounded. To meet me in Normandy at such a moment!
he thought it was a dream. But continue, my lord; you will see that
this infernal Countess d'Orbigny had also her turn of a thunderbolt,
thanks to what you told me of her visit to the quack Bradamanti
Polidori in the house of the Rue du Temple; for, after all, it is you
who act; or, rather, I was only the instrument of your thought."