Part 3 out of 12
than usual; he looked at me fixedly for a long time, as if he wished
to read my thoughts. I cast down my eyes. 'You appear very ill,' said
he. 'Yes, sir,' I answered, astonished that he did not address me
familiarly as usual. 'It is very plain,' added he, 'it is in
consequence of your situation; but notwithstanding your lies, your bad
conduct, and your indiscretion of yesterday,' added he, in a softened
tone, 'I have pity on you. Although I have treated you as you deserved
before the cure of the parish, such an affair as this will be a
scandal to my house; and, moreover, your family will be in despair. I
consent, under these circumstances to come to your assistance.' 'Ah,
sir,' I cried, 'these words of kindness on your part make me forget
all.' 'Forget what?' asked he sharply. 'Nothing, nothing; pardon me,
sir,' answered I, fearing to irritate him, and believing in his
professions of pity. 'Listen to me,' said he; 'you will go to see your
father to-day; you will announce to him that I am going to send you
for two or three months in the country to take charge of a house I
have just bought; during your absence I will send him your wages.
To-morrow you will leave Paris; I will give you a letter of
recommendation for Mrs. Martial, the mother of a family of honest
fishermen who live near Asnieres. You will require to say you came
from the country, nothing more. Later you will know the object of this
letter, all for your interest. Mrs. Martial will treat you as her
child; a physician, a friend of mine, Dr. Vincent, will take you under
his charge. You see how good I am for you!'"
"What a horrible plot!" cried Rudolph. "Now I comprehend all.
Believing that the evening previous you had become possessed of a
secret of great importance to him, he wished to get rid of you. He had
probably some interest in deceiving his accomplice, in representing
you as a girl from the country. What must have been your affright at
"It was a great blow. I was completely bewildered; I knew not what to
answer; I looked at M. Ferrand with affright; my mind wandered. I was
about, perhaps, to risk my life in telling him that I had overheard
his projects in the morning, when, happily, I recollected the new
dangers to which this would expose me. 'You do not comprehend me,
then?' asked he, with impatience. 'Yes, sir, but,' said I, trembling,
'I prefer not to go to the country.' 'Why not? You will be perfectly
well taken care of where I shall send you. 'No, no, I will not go; I
prefer to remain in Paris, near my family; I had rather confess all,
die with shame, if it is necessary.' 'You refuse me!' said M. Ferrand,
restraining his anger, and looking at me with attention. 'Why have you
changed your mind so quickly? Just now you accepted.' I saw that if he
suspected me I was lost; I answered that I did not think that he meant
me to leave Paris and my family. 'But you will dishonor your family,
wretch,' cried he; and not being able any longer to contain himself,
he seized me by the arm, and pushed me so violently that I fell. 'I
give you until after to-morrow,' cried he; 'to-morrow you shall leave
this to go to the Martials, or to tell your father I have sent you
away, and that he goes the same day to prison.' I remained alone,
stretched on the earth; I had not the strength to get up. Mrs.
Seraphin came, and with her assistance I regained my chamber. I threw
myself on my bed; I remained there until night."
* * * * * * *
"Amid the horrors of this frightful, solitary night, I had a moment of
bitter joy: it was when I pressed my child in my arms." And the voice
of Louise was suffocated with her tears.
Morel had listened to the story of his daughter with an apathy and
indifference which alarmed Rudolph. Yet, seeing her in tears, he
looked fixedly at her and said: "She weeps--she weeps; why, then, does
she weep? Oh, yes; I know, I know--the notary. Continue, my poor
Louise; you are my child. I love you still--just now I did not know
you; my tears obscured my sight. Oh, my head--my head--it gives me
"You see I am not culpable; is it not so, father?"
"It is a great sorrow--but I feared the notary so much!"
"The notary? Oh! I believe you--he is so bad--so wicked!"
"You pardon me now?"
"Yes, truly. Oh, I love you still--go--although--I cannot--say--do you
see--because--oh! my head! my bead!"
Louise looked at Rudolph with alarm.
"He suffers; let him compose himself. Continue."
"I pressed my child to my heart. I was astonished not to hear it
breathe, but I said to myself, the respiration of so young a child can
hardly be heard; and yet it seemed to me that it was very cold. I had
no light. I waited until dawn, trying to warm it as well as I could,
At daylight I found it was stiff--icy. I placed my hand on its heart;
it did not beat--it was dead."
And Louise burst into bitter sobs.
"Oh! at this moment," continued she, "thoughts passed impossible to
describe, I remember it confusedly as a dream; it was at once despair,
terror, anger, and, above all, I was seized with another alarm; I no
longer dreaded that Ferrand would strangle me, but I feared that if my
child was found dead at my side I should be accused of having killed
it. Then I had but one thought, that of concealing it from all eyes;
in that way my dishonor would not be known; I would no longer have to
dread the anger of my father; I should escape the vengeance of
Ferrand; then I could leave his house, procure another place, and
continue to earn something toward the support of my family. Alas! sir,
such are the reasons which induced me to acknowledge nothing, to
conceal the body of my child from all eyes. It was wrong, certainly;
but the position I was in, overwhelmed on all sides, crushed by long
sufferings, almost delirious, I did not reflect to what I exposed
myself if I was discovered."
"What tortures! what tortures!" said Rudolph, overcome.
"Daylight increased," continued Louise, "in a short time every one
would be awake in the house. I hesitated no longer. I wrapped up my
child as well as I could; I descended very softly; I went to the end
of the garden to make a hole in the ground to bury it, but it had
frozen all night--the earth was too hard. Then I hid the body at the
bottom of a kind of cellar where no one entered in winter. I covered
it with an empty flower-box, and I returned to my room without seeing
any one. Of all I tell you, sir, I have but a confused idea. Feeble as
I was, I can as yet hardly comprehend how I had the nerve to do all
this. At nine o'clock, Mrs. Seraphin came to know why I was not yet
up. I said that I was so ill, that I begged her to let me remain in
bed all day; the next day I would quit the house, since M. Ferrand
sent me away. At the end of one hour he came himself. 'You are worse;
this is the consequence of your self-will,' said he. 'If you had
profited by my offers, to-day you would have been established with
kind people, who would have taken every care of you; however, I will
not be so inhuman as to let you suffer; to-night Dr. Vincent will come
to see you.' At this threat I shuddered with fear. I answered that I
was wrong the night before to refuse his offers; that I accepted them;
but that, as yet being too ill to leave, I would go the next day but
one to the Martials; and that it was useless to send for Dr. Vincent.
I only wished to gain time; I was decided to leave the house, and to
go to my father. I hoped in this manner he would be ignorant of all.
But, deceived by my promise, M. Ferrand was almost affectionate toward
me, and recommended me, for the first time in his life, to the care of
"I passed the day in mental agony, trembling at each moment that
chance would cause a discovery of the body of my child. I only desired
one thing--that the cold might cease, so that I might be able to dig a
grave. It snowed--that gave me hopes. I remained all day in bed. The
night being come, I waited until every one was asleep. I had strength
to get up to go to the wood pile to look for a hatchet to cut some
wood to make a hole in the frozen ground. After infinite trouble I at
last succeeded; then I took the body, I wept over it again, and I
buried it as I could in the little flower-box. I did not know the
prayer for the dead; I said a pater and an ave, praying God to receive
it. I thought my courage would have failed me when I covered it with
the earth. A mother interring her child! At length I succeeded. Oh!
what it cost me! I placed the snow over the grave, so that nothing
should be seen. The moon gave me light. When all was finished, I could
not make up my mind to come away. Poor little thing! in the frozen
ground--under the snow. Although it was dead, it seemed to me that it
must feel the cold. At length I returned to my chamber. I went to my
bed with a violent fever. In the morning M. Ferrand sent to know how I
was. I answered that I felt rather better, and that I should certainly
be ready to leave for the country the next day. I remained all this
day still in bed, in order to gain strength. In the evening I arose. I
went to the kitchen to warm myself. I remained late, all alone. I went
to the garden to say a last prayer. At the moment I ascended toward my
chamber, I met M. Germain on the landing-place of the cabinet, where
he sometimes worked; he was very pale. He said to me, quickly, placing
a rouleau in my hand, 'Your father will be arrested early to-morrow
morning; here is the money; as soon as it is day run to his house. It
is only to-day I have found out Ferrand; he is a bad man; I will
unmask him. Do not, above all, say that you have this money from me.'
And M. Germain, not giving me time to thank him, descended the stairs
Louise continued: "This morning, before any one was up, I came here
with the money, but it was not sufficient; and, without your
generosity, he would not have escaped the bailiffs. Probably, after my
departure, some one had gone to my room and discovered some traces
which had led to this discovery. A last service I ask of you, sir,"
said Louise, drawing out the rouleau of gold from her pocket; "will
you hand this money to M. Germain? I promised him not to tell any one
that he was employed at Ferrand's; but since you know it, I have not
been indiscreet. Now, sir, I repeat, before God, who hears me, and
before you, I have not said a word that is not true. I have not sought
to "--but, interrupting herself suddenly, Louise, much alarmed, cried,
"Oh, sir! look at my father! look at him! What is the matter with
Morel had listened to the last part of this narrative with somber
indifference, which Rudolph had explained to himself by attributing it
to the overwhelming grief of this unhappy man. After so many violent
shocks, so oft repeated, his tears were dried up, his sensibility
blunted--he has not even strength enough left to vent his indignation,
He was mistaken. Like the flickering light of a lamp about to expire,
the reason of Morel, already strongly shaken, vacillated for some
time, showed forth now and then some last rays of intelligence, and
then suddenly became obscured.
Absolutely a stranger to what was said, to what passed around him, for
some moments the artisan had become mad!
Although his wheel was placed the other side of his work-table, and he
had in his hands neither diamonds nor tools, the artisan, attentively
occupied, imitated his ordinary occupations. He accompanied this
pantomime with a clacking noise with his tongue, like the wheel when
"Oh, sir!" said Louise, with increased alarm; "look at my father!"
Then, approaching him, she said, "Father! father!"
Morel looked at his daughter with that vacant stare peculiar to
lunatics. Without ceasing for a moment his imaginary occupation, he
answered, in a soft and mournful voice, "I owe thirteen hundred francs
to the notary, the price of Louise's blood. I must work, work, work!
Oh! I will pay, pay, pay!"
"This is not possible! This cannot last! He is not altogether mad is
he?" cried Louise, in a heart-rending tone, "He will come to himself--
it is only momentary----"
"Morel, my friend," said Rudolph, "we are here. Your daughter is
alongside of you; she is innocent."
"Thirteen hundred francs," said the artisan, without looking at
Rudolph, and continuing his imaginary occupation.
"Father," cried Louise, throwing herself at his feet, and taking hold
of his hands, "it is I, Louise!"
"Thirteen hundred francs," repeated he, endeavoring to disengage
himself from Louise; "thirteen hundred francs, or else," added he, in
a low and confidential tone, "or else Louise is guillotined," and he
began to turn his wheel.
Louise uttered a piercing cry. "He is mad," cried she, "he is mad! and
it is I--I--who am the cause. Oh, yet it Is not my fault; I did not
wish to do wrong; it is this monster!"
"Come, poor child, courage!" said Rudolph, "let us hope. This madness
will be but momentary. Your father has suffered too much, his reason
has become weakened, he will get better."
"But my mother--my grandmother--my brothers and sister! what will
become of them?" cried Louise. "See, they are deprived of both my
father and myself. They will die with hunger, with poverty, and
"Am I not here? Be calm, they shall want for nothing. Courage, I pray
you: your revelation will cause the punishment of a great criminal.
You have convinced me of your innocence; it shall certainly be known
"Oh, sir, you see dishonor--madness--death; these are the evils he has
caused--this man; nothing can be done to him--nothing. Ah, this
thought completes all my troubles!"
"Far from that; let a contrary thought aid you in supporting them."
"What do you say, sir?"
"Carry with you the certainty that you shall be avenged."
"Yes, I swear to you," answered Rudolph, with solemnity, that, his
crimes proved, this man shall severely expiate the dishonor, madness,
and death he has caused. If the laws are powerless, if his cunning and
address equal his misdeeds, to his cunning shall be opposed cunning--
to his misdeeds, misdeeds--but which shall be to them what the just
and avenging punishment, inflicted on the culpable by an inexorable
hand, is to the cowardly and concealed murder."
"Ah, sir, may God hear you! It is not myself I wish to revenge, it is
my crazy father; it is"--then, turning to her father, she cried,
"Father, farewell. They take me to prison--I shall never see you more;
it is your Louise who bids you farewell--father, father, father!"
At this touching appeal nothing responded; nothing responded in this
poor annihilated mind--nothing. The paternal cords, always the last
broken, vibrated no more.
The garret door opened, and the officer entered.
"My time is up, sir," said he to Rudolph. "I declare to you, with
regret, that it is impossible for me to wait any longer."
"The conversation is terminated, sir," answered Rudolph bitterly,
pointing to the artisan. "Louise has nothing more to say to her
father; he has nothing more to hear from his daughter--he is mad."
"Good God! just what I feared. Ah, it is frightful," cried the
magistrate; and approaching quickly to the artisan, after a moment's
examination he was convinced of the sad reality. "Ah, sir," said he,
sadly, to Rudolph, "I have already made sincere wishes that the
innocence of this young girl may be proved; but now I will not confine
myself to wishes--no, no, I will tell of this last dreadful blow; and,
do not doubt it, the judges will have a motive the more to find her
"Well, well, sir," said Rudolph, "in acting thus, it is not only your
duty you fulfill, but you are performing a worthy part."
"Believe me, sir, some of our missions are so painful, that it is with
happiness, with gratitude, that we interest ourselves in what is good
"One word more, sir. The revelations of Louise Morel have evidently
proved to me her innocence. Can you inform me how her pretended crime
has been discovered, or rather denounced?"
"This morning," said the magistrate, "a woman in the employ of M.
Ferrand, notary, came and declared to me that, after the precipitate
flight of Louise Morel, who she knew was _enceinte_, she had gone
up into the chamber of this young girl, and that she had there found
traces of a clandestine accouchement; after some investigations, some
footsteps in the snow had led to the discovery of a newborn child
interred in the garden. On the relation of this woman, I went to the
Rue du Sentier. I found M. Jacques Ferrand very indignant that such a
thing should have occurred in his house. The priest of Bonne Nouvelle
Church, whom he had sent for, also declared to me that the girl Morel
had acknowledged her fault before him one day; that she had implored
the pity and indulgence of her master, and that, still more, he had
often heard M. Ferrand give Louise Morel the most severe reprimands,
predicting that, sooner or later, she would be ruined. 'A prediction
which had just been realized so unfortunately,' added the priest. The
indignation of M. Ferrand," continued the magistrate, "appeared to me
so real, that I partook of it. He told me that, without doubt, Louise
Morel had taken refuge at her father's. I came here at once; the crime
being flagrant, I had the right to proceed to an immediate arrest."
Rudolph restrained himself in hearing the indignation of M. Ferrand
spoken of. He said to the magistrate, "I thank you a thousand times,
sir, for your kindness and for the assistance you tender Louise. I
shall conduct this unfortunate man to a lunatic hospital, as well as
the mother of his wife." Then, addressing Louise, who yet kneeled
before her father, trying in vain to restore him to reason, "Be
resigned, my child, to go without embracing your mother; spare her
this touching farewell. Be assured as to her welfare--nothing shall
henceforth be wanting. I will find a woman who will take care of your
mother, and your brothers and sisters, under the superintendence of
your good neighbor, Miss Dimpleton. As to your father, nothing shall
be spared, that his cure shall be rapid and complete. Courage, then;
believe me, virtuous people are often harshly tried by misfortunes,
but they always come out of these struggles purer, stronger, and more
* * * * * * *
Two hours after the arrest of Louise, the artisan and the old idiot
were, by the orders of Rudolph, conducted to Charenton; they were to
have chamber treatment, and receive particular care and attention.
Morel left the house without assistance; indifferent, he went where
they took him; his madness was inoffensive and sad. The grand mother
had hunger; they showed her food; she followed this food.
The diamonds and rubies confided to the wife of the artisan were the
same day given to Mrs. Mathieu, the broker, who came to get them.
Unfortunately, this woman was watched and followed by Tortillard, who
knew the value of the pretended false jewels, from a conversation he
had overheard when Morel was arrested by the bailiffs. The son of
Bras-Rouge (Red Arm) ascertained that she lived at No. 11 Boulevard
Miss Dimpleton informed Mrs. Morel, with much tact, of the lunacy of
her husband and the imprisonment of Louise. At first she wept much,
uttering sorrowful cries. Then, the first spasms of grief over, the
poor creature, weak and unsettled, consoled herself by degrees in
seeing herself and children surrounded by comforts which they owed to
the generosity of their benefactor.
Rudolph's thoughts were bitter in thinking of the revelations of
At the time when the events passed which we relate, at one of the
extremities of the Rue du Sentier could have been seen a long wall,
much cracked, and covered with a coating of plaster, the top protected
with pieces of broken glass. This wall, forming the boundary on this
side of the garden of Jacques Ferrand, the notary, extended to a
building situated on the street, of only one story and a garret. Two
large brass plates, the sign of the notary's office, flanked the
worm-eaten gate, the primitive appearance of which was no longer to be
distinguished under the mud which covered it. This door led to a
covered passage; on the right was the lodge of an old porter, half
deaf, who was to the fraternity of tailors what Pipelet was to the
boot-maker; on the left a stable, which served the purposes of a
cellar, wash-house, wood-house, and of a growing colony of rabbits,
lodged in a manger by the porter, who consoled himself from the pangs
of a recent bereavement, in the death of his wife, by raising these
Alongside the lodge was the crooked, narrow, and obscure staircase,
leading to the office, as the clients were informed by a hand painted
black, the forefinger pointing to these words on the wall "Office--
Second Floor." On one side of a large paved court, overgrown with
grass, were to be seen the unoccupied carriage-houses, on the other, a
rusty iron railing, which inclosed the garden; at the end the
pavillion, where the notary alone dwelt.
A flight of eight or ten steps of tottering, disjointed stones,
covered with moss and worn by time, led to this house, composed of a
kitchen, and other offices under ground, two floors and an attic,
where Louise had slept.
This pavilion appeared also in a great state of decay; immense cracks
were to be seen in the walls; the windows and blinds, once painted
gray, had become with age almost black; the six windows of the first
story, looking upon the court, had no curtains; the glasses were
almost incrusted with dirt; on the ground floor they were rather
cleaner, and were hung with faded yellow curtains, red-flowered. On
the side toward the garden the pavilion had but four windows; two were
This garden, overgrown with wild briers, seemed abandoned; not a
single border, not a bed; a cluster of elms, five or six large trees,
some acacias and alders, a yellow grass-plot, walks encumbered with
brambles, and bounded by a high wall. Such was the sad aspect of the
garden and habitation.
To this appearance, or rather to this reality, Ferrand attached great
importance. To vulgar eyes, a carelessness of comfort and prosperity
passes almost always for disinterestedness; uncleanliness for
Comparing the grand financial luxury of some notaries, or the reported
toilets of their wives, to the gloomy mansion of M. Ferrand, so
contemptuous of elegance and splendor, the clients felt a kind of
respect, or, rather, of blind confidence for this man, who, from the
number of his employers and the fortune he was supposed to possess,
could have said, like many of his brethren, "My equipage, my
country-house, my opera-box," etc., and who, far from that, lived with
great economy; thus deposits, legacies on trust, investments, all those
affairs in fine which depend upon the most tried integrity, or the
most perfect good faith, flowed into the hands of Ferrand. In living
as he did, the notary consulted his taste. He detested society, pomp,
pleasures dearly bought; had it been otherwise, he would have, without
hesitation, sacrificed his most lively wishes to the appearances which
it was important to give himself. Some words on the character of this
man. He was a son of the grand family of misers. Avarice is, above
all, a negative, passive passion. Yet Jacques Ferrand risked, and
He counted on his cunning--it was extreme; on his hypocrisy--it was
profound; on his understanding--it was fertile and pliable; on his
audacity--it was infernal--to assure impunity to his crimes, and they
were already numerous.
One single passion, or rather appetite, but most disgraceful, ignoble,
shameful, but almost ferocious, raised him often to frenzy--lust.
Save this weakness, Jacques Ferrand loved but gold He loved gold for
the sake of gold.
Not for the enjoyments it procured; he was stoical.
Notwithstanding his great cunning, this man had committed two or three
errors which the most crafty criminals hardly ever escape from.
Forced by circumstances, it is true, he had two accomplices: this
great fault, as he said himself, had been repaired in part; neither of
his accomplices could betray him without betraying themselves; nor
could any advantage be derived from their denouncing the notary and
themselves to public vindictiveness. He was therefore on this head
quite at rest.
Some words now on the personal appearance of Ferrand, and we will
introduce the reader into the notary's study, where he will find out
the principal personages. Ferrand had passed his fiftieth year. He did
not appear more than forty; he was of medium size, round-shouldered,
square-built, strong, thick-set, red-haired, shaggy as a bear. His
hair lay smooth on his temples, the top of his head was bald, his
eyebrows hardly to be perceived; his bilious-looking skin was covered
with large freckles; but when any lively emotion agitated it, this
yellow, clayey visage filled with blood, and became a livid red.
His face was as flat as a death's-head, his nose crushed down, his
lips so thin, so imperceptible, that his mouth seemed cut in his face;
when he smiled in a wicked and sinister manner, the ends of his teeth
could be seen, black and decayed. Closely shaved to his temples, this
man's countenance had an expression austere, sanctified, impassible,
rigid, cold and reflecting; his little black eyes--quick, piercing,
restless,--were hidden by large green spectacles.
Jacques Ferrand had excellent sight, but under the shelter of his
spectacles he had great advantages, observing without being observed;
he knew how much a glance of the eye is often and involuntarily
significant. In spite of his imperturbable audacity, he had
encountered, two or three times in his life, certain powerful looks,
before which he had been forced to quail. Now, in some circumstances,
it is fatal to cast down your eye before the man who interrogates,
accuses, or judges you. The large spectacles of Ferrand were therefore
a kind of covered breastwork, from whence he could attentively examine
the maneuvers of the enemy; for many such he had to encounter, because
many found themselves more or less his dupes.
He affected in his dress a negligence which reached to uncleanliness,
or, rather, it was naturally rusty and mean. His face, shaved but once
in two or three days, his dirty bald head, his black nails, old
snuff-colored-coats, greasy hats, threadbare cravats, black woolen hose,
and coarse shoes, recommended him singularly to his clients, by giving him
an air of detachment from the world, and a perfume of practical
philosophy, which charmed them. "To what pleasures--what passions--
could the notary," said they, "sacrifice the confidence which was
shown him? He gained, perhaps, sixty thousand francs a year, and his
household was composed of a servant and an old housekeeper; his sole
pleasure was to go every Sunday to mass and vespers; he knew no opera
comparable to the solemn sounds of the organ, no company which could
equal an evening passed at his fireside with the parish priest, after
a frugal dinner. Finally, he placed his delight in his probity, his
pride in his honor, his happiness in his religion."
Such was the opinion of many concerning Jacques Ferrand, this good and
His office resembled all offices, his clerks all other clerks. It was
reached by an ante-chamber, furnished with four old chairs. In the
office, properly so called, surrounded by shelves furnished with paper
boxes, containing documents belonging to the clients of the notary,
five young men, bending over desks of black wood, laughed, talked, or
scribbled incessantly. An adjoining room, in which usually remained
the head clerk, then an empty room, which, for the sake of secrecy,
separated the notary's sanctum from the other offices, such was this
laboratory of all kinds and sorts. Two o'clock had just struck by an
old cuckoo clock, placed between the two windows of the office;
agitation seemed to reign among the clerks, which some fragments of
their conversation will explain.
"Certainly, if any one had told me that Francois Germain was a thief,"
said one of the young men, "I should have answered, `You are a liar!'"
"And I also!"
"I! It produced such an effect on me to see him arrested and taken
away by the guard that I could not eat my breakfast. I was
recompensed, however, for it spared me from eating the daily mess of
"Seventeen thousand francs--it is a sum!"
"A famous sum!"
"And to think that for seventeen months, since he has been cashier, he
never has been wanting a centime in his cash account!"
"As for me, I think master was wrong to arrest Germain, since the poor
fellow swore that he had only taken thirteen hundred francs in gold."
"Yes. And so much the more, that he brought back the amount this
morning at the moment the master had sent for the guard!"
"That is the consequence of being of such a rigid probity as master.
Such people are always without pity."
"Never mind; one ought always to think twice before ruining a poor
young man who always conducted himself well until now."
"M. Ferrand would reply to that, 'It was for the sake of example.'"
"Example of what? It is of no use to those who are honest; and those
who are not, know well enough that they are likely to be discovered if
"This house is, however, a good customer for the officer."
"Why, this morning poor Louise; just now Germain."
"As for me, the affair of Germain don't appear too clear."
"But he has acknowledged it!"
"He confessed that he had taken thirteen hundred francs--yes; but he
maintained that he had not taken the remaining fifteen thousand francs
in bank bills, and the remaining seven hundred francs that were
"Exactly; since he acknowledged one thing, why not the other?"
"It is true, one is as much punished for five hundred as for fifteen
"Yes; but one keeps the fifteen thousand francs, and on coming out of
prison, that makes a nice little establishment, a rogue would say."
"Not so bad."
"One may well say there is something in that."
"And Germain, who always defended master when we called him a Jesuit!"
"It is nevertheless true. 'Why hasn't master a right to go to mass?'
he would say: 'you have the right to stay away.'"
"Stop, here is Chalomel; now he will be astonished!"
"About what! what! My good fellow, is there anything new concerning
"You would have known, lazybones, if you hadn't been absent so long."
"Hold; you think it is only a hop, skip, and a jump from here to the
Rue de Chaillot."
"Well; this famous Viscount de Saint Remy?"
"Has he not come yet?"
"His carriage was all ready, and his valet told me that he would come
at once; but he did not appear pleased, the domestic said. Oh! that is
a fine hotel; one might say it had belonged to the lords of the olden
time, as are spoken of in Faublas. Oh! Faublas! he is my hero, my
model!" said Chalomel, putting away his umbrella and taking off his
"I believe that this viscount is in debt, and there are writs out
"A writ for thirty-four thousand francs, which has been sent here,
since it is here he must come to pay it; the creditor prefers it, why,
I know not."
"He must be able to pay it now, because he returned last night from
the country, where he has been concealed for three days to escape the
"But why did they not levy on his furniture?"
"He is not such an ass! The house is not his; the furniture is in the
name of his valet, who is looked upon as hiring him furnished
lodgings, in the same way that his horses and carriages are in the
name of his coachman, who says he lets them out to the viscount at so
much per month. Oh! he is cunning, this Viscount de Saint Remy. But
what is that you were talking about? Has anything new happened here?"
"Just imagine--about two hours since, master came in here like a
madman: 'Germain is not here?' cried he. 'No, sir.' 'Well! the
scoundrel has robbed me, last night, of seventeen thousand francs!'
continued the governor."
"Germain steal! Come, come, draw it mild."
"You shall see. 'How sir! are you sure? It is not possible!' we all
"'I tell you, gentlemen, that I put yesterday in the desk where he
works fifteen notes of a thousand francs, besides two thousand francs
in gold in a small box; all has disappeared.' At this moment Marriton,
the porter, came in and said, 'The guard is coming.'"
"Stop a moment. The governor said to the porter. 'As soon as Germain
comes, send him here, without telling him anything. I wish to confound
him before you, gentlemen,' continued the governor. At the end of
fifteen minutes poor Germain arrived, as if nothing was the matter.
Mother Seraphin came to bring us our breakfast; she saluted the
governor, and said good-day to us very tranquilly. 'Germain, do you
not breakfast?' said M. Ferrand. 'No, sir, I am not hungry, I thank
you.' 'You come very late!' 'Yes, sir, I have been to Belleville this
morning.' 'To conceal, doubtless the money you have stolen from me,'
cried M. Ferrand with a terrible voice."
"Oh! the poor boy became as pale as death, stammering, 'Sir, I beg
you, do not ruin me."
"He had stolen?"
"Now, do wait, Chalomel. 'Do not ruin me,' said he to the governor.
'You acknowledge then, wretch?' 'Yes, sir; but here is the money that
is wanting. I thought I should be able to return it this morning
before you were up; unfortunately, a friend, who had a small sum of
mine, and whom I thought to find at home last night, had been at
Belleville for two days. I was obliged to go there this morning, which
has caused my delay. Pardon me, sir, do not ruin me! In taking this
money, I knew I could return it this morning. Here are the thirteen
hundred francs in gold.' 'You have robbed me of fifteen notes of one
thousand francs each, that were in a green book, and two thousand
francs in gold!' 'I! never!' cried poor Germain. 'I took the thirteen
hundred francs, but not one penny more. I have seen no pocket-book in
the drawer; there was only two thousand francs in gold in a box.' 'Oh!
the infamous liar!' cried the master. 'You have stolen thirteen
hundred francs, you could well steal more; justice will decide. Oh! I
shall be without pity for such a frightful breach of confidence. It
will be an example.' Finally, the guard arrived with an officer to
make out a commitment; they carried him off, and that's all!"
"Can it be possible? Germain, the cream of honest people!"
"It has appeared to us quite as singular."
"After all, it must be confessed, Germain was reserved; he never would
tell where he lived."
"That is true."
"He always had a mysterious air"
"That's no reason why he should steal the money."
"Doubtless. It is a remark I make."
"Ah! well, this is news! It is as if some one had given me a stunner
on the head--Germain--who looked so honest; who would have died
"One would have said that he had a presentiment of his misfortune."
"For some time past he looked as if something troubled him."
"It was, perhaps, concerning Louise."
"Oh! I only repeat what Mother Seraphin said this morning,"
"That he was the lover of Louise, and the--"
"Oh! the cunning fellow."
"Stop, stop, stop!"
"It is not true!"
"How do you know that, Chalomel?"
"It is not two weeks since, that Germain told me, in confidence, that
he was dead in love with a little sewing girl, whom he had known in
the house where he lived; he had tears in his eyes when he spoke to me
"He says that Faublas is his hero, and yet he is simple enough, stupid
enough, not to comprehend that one can be in love with one and the
love of another."
"I tell you that Germain spoke seriously."
At this moment the chief clerk entered the office.
"Well," said he. "Chalomel, have you finished all your errands?"
"Yes, M. Dubois, I have been to M. de Saint Remy: he will be here
shortly to pay."
"And to Countess M'Gregor?"
"Likewise; here is the answer."
"And to Countess d'Orbigny?"
"She is much obliged; she arrived yesterday from Normandy, she did not
expect an answer so soon; here is her letter. I have also been to the
Marquis d'Harville's steward, as he required, for the charges of the
contract I signed the other day at the hotel."
"You told him that it was not pressing?"
"Yes, but he would pay it. There is the money. Ah! I forgot that this
card was here, below, at the porter's; the words in pencil written
underneath by the porter; this gentleman asked for M. Ferrand; he left
"'WALTER MURPHY,'" read the chief clerk; and then in pencil, "'_Will
return at three o'clock on important business_.' I do not know this
"Oh! I forgot," continued Chalomel; "M. Badinot said it was all right,
that M. Ferrand should do as he pleased; that would be always right."
"He did not give a written answer?"
"No, sir, he said he hadn't time."
"M. Charles Robert will also come in the course of the day to speak to
the governor; it appears he fought a duel yesterday with the Duke of
"Is he wounded?"
"I believe not, or they would have told me of it at his house."
"Look! here is a carriage stopping."
"Oh! the fine horses, are they not mettlesome."
"And the fat English coachman, with his white wig and brown livery,
with silver lace and epaulets like a colonel!"
"An embassador, surely."
"And the chasseur, has not he enough silver lace?"
"And grand mustachios."
"Hold!" said Chalomel, "it is the carriage of the Viscount de Saint
"Ain't it stylish? Whew!"
Soon afterward Saint Remy entered the office. We have described the
charming face, the exquisite elegance, the ravishing bearing of Saint
Remy, arrived the previous evening from Arnouville Farm, belonging to
the Duchess Lucenay, where he had found a refuge from the bailiffs.
Saint Remy entered the office hastily, his hat on, his manner haughty
and proud, his eyes half closed, asking, in a very impertinent way,
without looking at any one, "The notary? where is he?"
"M. Ferrand is busy in his private office," answered the head clerk;
"if you will wait a moment, sir, he will receive you."
"There are no 'but, sirs'; go and tell him that M. de Saint Remy is
here. I find it very singular that this notary makes me wait in his
antechamber; it smells of the stove."
"Please to pass into the next room, sir," said the clerk; "I will go
at once and inform M. Ferrand."
Saint Remy shrugged his shoulders, and followed the head clerk. At the
end of a quarter of an hour, which seemed to him very long, and
changed his contempt into rage, Saint Remy was introduced into the
cabinet of the notary. Nothing could be more curious than the contrast
of these two men, both profound physiognomists, and generally
accustomed to judge at a first glance with whom they had to deal.
Saint Remy saw Jacques Ferrand for the first time. He was struck with
the characteristics of this wan, rigid, impassible face; the
expression concealed by the large green spectacles, the head
half-hidden in an old black silk cap.
The notary was seated before his desk in a leathern arm-chair, beside
a broken-down fireplace, filled with ashes, in which were smoking two
black stumps. Curtains of green muslin, almost in tatters, suspended
from iron rods, concealed the lower part of the windows, and cast into
this cabinet, already dark enough, a dull and disagreeable light.
Shelves of black wood, filled with labeled boxes; some chairs of
cherry wood, covered with yellow Utrecht velvet; a mahogany clock; a
yellow, moist, and slippery floor; a ceiling filled with cracks, and,
ornamented with garlands of spider-webs; such was the sanctum
sanctorum of Jacques Ferrand.
The viscount had not advanced two steps, had not said a single word,
before the notary who knew him by reputation, hated him already. In
the first place, he saw in him, so to speak, a rival in knavery; and,
although Ferrand was of a mean and ignoble appearance himself, he did
not the less detest in others elegance, grace, and youth; above all
when an air deeply insolent accompanied these advantages.
The notary ordinarily affected a sort of rudeness, almost gross,
toward his clients, who only felt more esteem for him for these
boorish manners. He promised himself to redouble this brutality toward
He, knowing M. Ferrand only by reputation, expected to find in him a
kind of scrivener, good-natured or ridiculous, the viscount figuring
to himself always that men of proverbial probity must be simpletons.
Far from this, the other's looks imposed on the viscount an
undefinable feeling, half fear, half hatred, although he had no
serious reason to fear or hate him. Thus, in consequence of his
resolute character, Saint Remy increased his insolence and habitual
foppery of manner. The notary kept his cap upon his head; the viscount
retained his hat, and cried from the door in a loud, sharp voice:
"It is, by Jove! very strange, that you give me the trouble to come
here, instead of sending to me for the money for the bills I have
indorsed for this Badinot, for which the fellow has sued me. You
should not expose me to wait a quarter of an hour in your antechamber;
that is not so polite as it might be."
Ferrand, without paying the least attention, finished a calculation he
was making, wiped his pen methodically on the sponge which lay near
his ink-stand, and raised toward the viscount his cold, unearthly,
flattened face, encumbered with the green spectacles.
It looked like a death's head, whose eyes had been replaced by great,
fixed, glassy sockets. After having looked at him for a moment in
silence, he said to the viscount, in a rough, short tone, "Where is
Such coolness exasperated Saint Remy.
He-he! the idol of the women, the envy of men, the paragon of the best
company in Paris, the renowned duelist, not to produce more effect on
a miserable notary! It was odious; although he was _tete-a-tete_
with Jacques Ferrand, his self-pride revolted.
"Where are the bills?"
With the ends of his fingers, hard as iron, and covered with red hair,
the notary, without answering, struck on a large portfolio of leather
placed near him.
Decided to be equally laconic, although bursting with rage, the
viscount took from the pocket of his coat a small book of Russian
leather, clasped with golden hasps, drew out forty-one thousand franc
notes and showed them to the notary.
"How much?" asked he.
"Forty thousand francs."
"Give them to me."
"Here, and let us finish quickly, sir; do your business, pay yourself,
hand me back the papers," said the viscount, throwing the packet
impatiently on the table.
The notary took them, arose and examined them near the window, turning
them over one by one with an attention so scrupulous and so insulting
to Saint Remy, that he grew pale with rage.
The notary, as if he had suspected the thoughts which agitated the
viscount, shook his head, half turned toward him, and said, in an
undefinable tone, "There are such things as--"
For a moment astonished, Saint Remy replied, dryly, "What?"
"Counterfeits," answered the notary, continuing to examine those he
"For what purpose do you make this remark to me, Sir?"
Jacques Ferrand stopped a moment, looked steadily at the viscount
through his glasses; then, shrugging his shoulders, he turned again to
counting and examining the bills.
"By George, Master Notary, you must know, when I ask a question, I am
always answered!" cried Saint Remy, irritated beyond measure at the
calmness of Jacques Ferrand.
"_These_ are good," said the notary, turning toward his bureau,
whence he took a bundle of stamped papers, to which were annexed two
bills of exchange; he afterward placed one of the notes for a thousand
francs and three rouleaux of one hundred francs on the back of the
papers; then he said to Saint Remy, pointing his finger to the money
and bills, "There is what is to come to you from the forty thousand
francs; my client has ordered me to collect the bill of costs."
The viscount had with great difficulty contained himself while Jacques
Ferrand arranged his accounts. Instead of answering him and taking the
money, he cried, in a voice trembling with anger, "I ask you, sir, why
you said to me, respecting the bank bills that I have just given you,
_that there were such things as forged notes?_"
"Because I have sent for you here concerning a forgery." The notary
turned his green glasses full on the viscount.
"How does this forgery affect me?"
After a moment's pause Ferrand said, with a severe tone, "Are you
acquainted, sir, with the duties of a notary?"
"The duties are perfectly clear to me, sir. I had just now forty
thousand francs; I have now remaining but thirteen hundred."
"You are very jocose, sir. I will tell you, that a notary is to
temporal affairs what a confessor is to spiritual ones; from his
profession he often knows ignoble secrets."
"What next, sir?"
"He is often obliged to be in relations with rogues."
"What after this, sir?"
"He ought, as much as in his power, to prevent an honorable name from
being dragged in the mire."
"What have I in common with all this?"
"Your father has left you a respected name, which you dishoner, sir!"
"What do you dare to say?"
"But for the interest that this name inspires to all honest people,
instead of being cited here before me, you would have been at this
moment before the police."
"I do not comprehend you."
"About two months since, you discounted, through the agency of a
broker, a bill for fifty-eight thousand francs, drawn by the house of
Meulaert and Co., of Hamburgh, in favor of one William Smith, and
payable in three months, at Grimaldi's, banker, in Paris."
"That bill is a forgery."
"That is not true."
"This bill is a forgery! the house of Meulaert has never contracted
any engagement with William Smith; they do not know him."
"Can it be true!" cried Saint Remy, with as much surprise as
indignation, "but then I have been horribly deceived, sir, for I
received this bill as ready money."
"From William Smith himself; the house of Meulaert is so well known, I
knew so well myself the probity of Smith, that I accepted this bill in
payment of a debt he owed me."
"William Smith has never existed; it is an imaginary person."
"Sir, you insult me!"
"His signature is as false as the others."
"I tell you, sir, that William Smith does exist; but I have, without
doubt, been the dupe of a horrible breach of confidence."
"Poor young man!"
"Explain yourself!" cried Saint Remy, whose anxiety and humiliation
were increased by this ironical pity.
"In a word, the actual holder of the bill is convinced that you have
committed the forgery."
"He pretends to have the proof; two days ago he came to me to beg me
to send for you here, and to propose to return you this forged note,
under an arrangement. So far, all was right; this is not; and I only
tell you for information. He asks one hundred thousand francs. Today
even, or to-morrow at noon, the forgery will be made known to the
"This is indignity!"
"And what is more, absurdity. You are ruined. You were prosecuted for
a sum that you have just paid me, from some resource I do not know of:
this is what I told to this third party. He answered, 'That a certain
great lady, who is very rich, would not leave you in this
"Enough, sir, enough!"
"Another indignity! another absurdity! we agree."
"In short, sir, what do they want?"
"Unworthily to take advantage of an unworthy action. I have consented
to make this proposition known to you, in branding it as an honest man
ought to brand it. Now it is your affair. If you are guilty, choose
between the court of assize or the terms proposed. My part is
altogether professional. I will have nothing more to do with so dirty
a business. The third party's name is M. Petit Jean, oil merchant; he
lives on the banks of the Seine, No. 10, Quai de Billy. Settle with
him. You are worthy of each other, if you are a forger, as he
Saint Remy had entered the notary's with an insolent voice and lofty
head. Although he had committed in his life some disgraceful actions,
there remained in him still a certain pride of lineage--a natural
courage which had never failed him. At the commencement of this
conversation, regarding the notary as an adversary quite unworthy of
him, he treated him with contempt.
When Jacques Ferrand spoke of forgery, the viscount felt himself
crushed. He found the notary had the advantage in his turn. Except for
his great self-command, he could not have concealed the great
impression made upon him by this unexpected accusation, for the
consequences might be most fatal to him, of which even the notary had
After a moment's reflection and silence, he determined--though so
proud, so irritable, so vain of his bravery--to throw himself on the
mercy of this vulgar man, who had so roughly spoken the austere
language of probity. "Sir, you give me a proof of interest for which I
thank you; I regret the harshness of my opening words," said Saint
Remy, in a cordial manner.
"I do not interest myself in you at all," answered the notary,
brutally. "Your father was honor itself; I did not wish to see his
name in the court of assizes, that's all."
"I repeat to yon, sir, that I am incapable of the infamy of which I am
"You can tell that to M. Petit Jean."
"But I avow that the absence of Mr. Smith, who has so unworthily taken
advantage of my good faith--"
"The absence of Mr. Smith places me in a cruel position; I am
innocent; let them accuse me, I will prove it, but such an accusation
always injures a gallant man."
"Be generous enough to use the sum I have just paid you to quiet, in
part, this third person."
"This money belongs to my client--it is sacred."
"But in two or three days I will repay you."
"You cannot do it."
"I have resources."
"None available, at least. Your furniture, your horses, no longer
belong to you, as you may say; which to me has the appearance of
"You are very hard, sir. But admitting this, will I not turn
everything into money, in a situation so desperate? Only as it is
impossible for me to procure between this and to-morrow one hundred
thousand francs, I conjure you, employ this money to withdraw this
unhappy draught. Or you, who are so rich, make me an advance; do not
leave me in such a position."
"I make myself responsible for a hundred thousand francs for you!
Really, are you a fool?"
"Sir, I supplicate you, in the name of my father, of whom you have
spoken, be so kind as to--"
"I am kind for those who deserve it," said the notary, rudely; "an
honest man; I hate sharpers; and I should not be sorry to see one of
you fine gentlemen, who are without law or gospel, impious and
debauched, some fine day, standing in the pillory as an example for
others. But, I hear, your horses are very restless, sir viscount,"
said the notary, smiling, and showing his black teeth.
At this moment some one knocked at the door. "Who is it?" asked
"Her ladyship the Countess d'Orbigny," said the clerk.
"Beg her to wait a moment."
"It is the step-mother of the Marquise d'Harville," cried Saint Remy.
"Yes, sir. She has an appointment with me; so, good-morning."
"Not a word of this, sir," said Saint Remy, in a threatening tone.
"I have told you, sir, that a notary was as discreet as a confessor."
Jacques Ferrand rang the bell, and the clerk appeared.
"Show in her ladyship." Then, addressing the viscount, he added, "Take
these thirteen hundred francs, sir; it will be so much on account with
M. Petit Jean."
Lady d'Orbigny (formerly Madame Roland) entered as the viscount went
out, his features contracted with rage for having uselessly humiliated
himself before the notary.
"Oh, good-morning, Saint Remy!" said the countess; "it is a long time
since I have seen you."
"Yes, madame; since the marriage of D'Harville, of which I was a
witness, I have not had the honor to meet you," said Saint Remy,
bowing, and suddenly assuming a most smiling and affable expression.
"Since then, you have always remained in Normandy?"
"Dear me! yes. M. d'Orbigny cannot live now but in the country; and
where he lives, I live. Thus you see in me a true 'county lady.' I
have not been to Paris since the marriage of my dear step-daughter
with excellent D'Harville. Do you see him often?"
"D'Harville has become very savage and very morose. I meet him very
seldom in society," said Saint Remy, with a shade of impatience; for
this conversation was insupportable, both from its inopportuneness,
and because the notary seemed to be much amused. But the stepmother of
Madame d'Harville, enchanted at this meeting with a beau of society,
was not the woman to let her prey escape so easily.
"And my dear step-daughter," continued she, "is not, I hope, as savage
as her husband?"
"Madame d'Harville is very fashionable, and always much sought after,
as a pretty woman should be; but I fear, madame, I trespass on your
"Not at all, I assure you. I am quite fortunate to meet the 'mold of
form, the glass of fashion;' in ten minutes I shall know all about
Paris, as if I had never left it. And your dear friend, De Lucenay,
who was with you a witness of D'Harville's marriage?"
"More of an original than ever; he set out for the East, and he
returned just in time to receive yesterday morning a thrust from a
sword; of no great harm, however."
"The poor duke! and his wife, still beautiful and ravishing?"
"You know, madame, that I have the honor to be one of her best
friends; my testimony on this subject would be suspected. Will you,
madame, on your return to Aubiers, do me the honor to remember me to
"He will be very sensible of your kind recollections, I assure you,
for he often asks after you and your success. He says you remind him
of the Duke de Lauzun."
"This comparison alone is quite an eulogium; but, unfortunately for
me, it is much more kind than true. Adieu, madame; for I dare not hope
that you will do me the honor to receive me before your departure."
"I should be distressed if you should take the trouble to call upon
me. I am for a few days at furnished lodgings; but if, this summer or
fall, you pass our way to some of the fashionable country-seats, grant
us a few days only by way of contrast, and to rest yourself with some
poor country-folks from the giddy round of the chateau life, so
elegant and so extravagant; for it is always holidays where you go."
"I need not tell you how happy D'Orbigny and myself would be to
receive you; but adieu, sir: I fear that the benevolent humorist,"
pointing to the notary, "will become tired of our talk."
"Just the contrary, madame, just the contrary," said Ferrand, in an
accent which redoubled the restrained rage of the viscount.
"Acknowledge that M. Ferrand is a terrible man," continued Madame
d'Orbigny; "but take care, since he is, fortunately for you, charged
with your affairs, he will scold you furiously; he is without pity.
But what do I say? A man like you to have M. Ferrand for notary--it is
a sign of amendment: for every one knows he never lets his clients
commit any follies without informing them of it. Oh! he does not wish
to be the notary of every one." Then, addressing Jacques Ferrand, she
said, "Do you know, Mr. Puritan, that this is a superb conversion you
have made here--to render wise and prudent the king of fashion!"
"It is exactly a conversion, madame; M. le Vicomte leaves ray cabinet
altogether different from what he entered it."
"When I say you perform miracles, it is not astonishing: you are a
"Oh, madame, you flatter me," said Jacques Ferrand.
Saint Remy profoundly saluted Madame d'Orbigny; and at the moment of
leaving the notary, wishing to try a last effort to soften him, he
said, in a careless manner, which nevertheless disclosed profound
"Decidedly, my dear M. Ferrand, you will not grant me what I ask?"
"Some folly, without doubt! Be inexorable, my dear Puritan," cried
Madame d'Orbigny, laughing. "You hear, sir; I cannot act contrary to
the advice of so handsome a lady."
"My dear M. Ferrand, let us speak seriously of serious things, and you
know that this is so. You refuse decidedly?" asked the viscount, with
anguish he could not conceal.
The notary was cruel enough to appear to hesitate; Saint Remy had a
moment of hope.
"How, man of iron, you relent?" said the step-mother of Madame
d'Harville, laughing; "you submit also to the charms of the
"Faith, madame, I was on the point of yielding, as you say, but you
make me blush for my weakness," said Ferrand; then turning to the
viscount, with an expression of which he comprehended all the
signification, he continued, "There, seriously, it is impossible; I
will not suffer that, through caprice, you should commit such an
absurdity. M. le Vicomte, I regard myself as the mentor of my clients;
I have no other family, and I should regard myself as an accomplice of
any errors I should allow them to commit."
"Oh! the Puritan, the Puritan!" cried Madame d'Orbigny.
"Yet, see M. Petit Jean; he will think, I am sure, as I do; and, like
me, he will refuse."
Saint Remy left in a state of desperation. After a moment's thought,
he said, "It must be!" Then, addressing his footman, who held open the
door of the carriage, "To Lucenay House." While Saint Remy is on his
way to the duchess, we will be present with the reader at the
interview between Ferrand and the stepmother of Madame d'Harville.
Madame D'Orbigny was a slender blonde, with eyebrows nearly white, and
pale blue eyes, almost round; her speech honeyed, her look
hypocritical, her manners insinuating and insidious.
"What a charming young man is the Viscount de Saint Remy!" said she to
Jacques Ferrand, when the viscount had gone.
"Charming; but, madame, let us talk of business. You wrote me from
Normandy that you wished to consult me on some grave affairs."
"Have you not always been my adviser since good Dr. Polidori referred
me to you? Apropos, have you heard from him?" asked Madame d'Orbigny,
in a careless manner.
"Since his departure from Paris he has not written me once," answered
the notary, no less indifferently. We must inform the reader that
these two personages lied most boldly to each other. The notary had
seen Polidori recently (one of his two accomplices), and had proposed
to him to go to Asnieres, to the Martials, the freshwater pirates (of
whom we shall speak presently), under the name of Dr. Vincent, to
poison Louise Morel. The stepmother of Madame d'Harville came to Paris
expressly to have a conference with this scoundrel, who now went by
the name of Caesar Bradamanti.
"But it is not concerning the good doctor," said Madame d'Orbigny,
"you see me much troubled; my husband is sick--he grows worse daily.
Without causing me serious fears, his condition troubles me, or,
rather, troubles him," continued she, wiping her tearless eyes.
"What is the matter?"
"He continually speaks of his final arrangements--of his will." Here
Madame d'Orbigny hid her face in her handkerchief for some moments.
"That is sad, doubtless," said the notary; "but this precaution is not
alarming. What are his intentions, madame?"
"How can I tell? You know well, when he touches on this subject I
"But has he said nothing positive?"
"I believe," said Madaine d'Orbigny, in a most disinterested manner,
"I believe he wishes not only to give me all the law allows--but--oh!
hold, I beg you, let us not speak of this!"
"What shall we speak of?"
"Alas! you are right, relentless man; we must return to the sad
subject which brought me here. Well, D'Orbigny carries his kindness so
far as to wish to convert a part of his fortune, and give me a
"But his daughter--his daughter?" cried Ferrand, with severity. "I
ought to tell you that, for a year past, M. d'Harville has given me
charge of his affairs. I have lately bought for him a magnificent
property. You know my roughness in business. It imports little to me
that M. d'Harville is my client; that which I plead is the cause of
justice. If your husband takes toward his daughter, Madame d'Harville,
a determination which seems to me not proper, I tell you plainly he
must not count on me. Straightforward! such has always been my line of
"And mine also. Thus I repeat to my husband always just as you have
said: 'Your daughter has treated you badly; so be it; but that is no
reason to disinherit her.'"
"Very well--all right; and what did he answer?"
"He answered, 'I will leave my daughter twenty-five thousand francs a
year. She had more than a million from her mother; her husband has an
enormous income. Can I not leave the rest to you, my tender friend,
the sole support, the sole consolation of my old age, my guardian
angel?' I repeat these too flattering words," said Madame d'Orbigny,
with a modest sigh, "to show you his goodness toward me; yet I have
always refused his offers; seeing which, he decided to beg me to come
and find you."
"But I do not know M. d'Orbigny."
"But he, like every one else, knows your probity."
"But how did he address you to me?"
"To silence my scruples. He said, 'I do not ask you to consult my
notary, you will think him too much under my orders; but I will leave
it to the decision of a man whose honesty is proverbial, M. Ferrand.
If he finds your delicacy compromised by your acceptance of my offer,
we will talk no more about it; if not, you acquiesce.' 'I consent,'
said I, and in this way you have become our arbitrator. 'If he
approves,' added my husband, 'I will send him a power of attorney to
realize, in my name, my real estate and bank stock; he will keep this
sum on deposit, and, after my death, you will at least have an income
worthy of you."
Never, perhaps, had Ferrand felt more the value of his spectacles than
at this moment. Without them, Madame d'Orbigny would have seen how his
eyes sparkled at the word "deposit."
He answered, however, in a morose tone, "This is troublesome; this is
for the tenth or twelfth time that I have been chosen an arbiter,
always under pretext of my probity; that is the only word in their
mouths--my probity! my probity! Great advantage; it only gives me
"My good M. Ferrand, come, don't scold; you will write to M.
d'Orbigny; he awaits your letter, to send you his full power to
realize the sum."
"How much is it?"
"He said, I believe, that it was about four or five hundred thousand
"The amount is not so large as I thought. After all, you have devoted
yourself to M. d'Orbigny. His daughter is very rich--you have nothing;
I can approve of this. It appears to me you might accept."
"Really, you think so?" said Madame d'Orbigny, dupe, like every one
else, of the proverbial honesty of the notary, and not undeceived in
this respect by Polidori.
"You may accept," said he.
"I shall accept then," said Madame d'Orbigny, with a sigh.
The clerk knocked at the door. "Who is it?" demanded Ferrand.
"Her ladyship, the Countess M'Gregor."
"Let her wait a moment."
"I leave you, then, my dear M. Ferrand," said Madame d'Orbigny; "you
will write to my husband, since he desires it, and he will send you
full powers tomorrow."
"I will write."
"Adieu, my worthy and good counselor."
"Ah! you people of the world do not know how disagreeable it is to
take charge of such deposits--the responsibility which bears on us. I
tell you there is nothing more detestable than this fine reputation
for probity which brings one nothing but drudgery."
"And the admiration of good people."
"Praise the Lord! I place otherwise than here below the recompense I
seek for," said Ferrand, in a sanctified tone.
To Madame d'Orbigny succeeded Countess Sarah M'Gregor.
Sarah entered the cabinet of the notary with her habitual coolness and
assurance. Jacques Ferrand did not know her; he was ignorant of the
object of her visit. He observed her very closely, in the hope to make
a new dupe; and, notwithstanding the impassibility of the marble face,
he remarked a slight tremor, which appeared to him to betray concealed
The notary arose from his chair, and handed a seat to the countess,
saying, "You asked for a meeting, madame, yesterday. I was so much
occupied that I could not send you an answer until this morning; I
make you a thousand excuses."
"I desired to see you, sir, on business of the greatest importance.
Your reputation has made me hope my business with you will be
The notary bowed in his chair. "I know, sir, that your discretion is
"It is my duty, madame."
"You are, sir, a rigid and incorruptible man."
"Yet, if one should say to you, sir, it depends on you to restore
life--more than life--reason to an unhappy mother, would you have the
courage to refuse?"
"State facts, madame, I will answer."
"About fourteen years since, in December, 1824, a young man, dressed
in mourning, came to propose to you to take, for an annuity, the sum
of one hundred and fifty thousand francs, for a child of three years,
whose parents desired to remain unknown."
"Continue, madame," said the notary, avoiding a direct answer.
"You consented to receive this amount, and to assure the child an
income of eight thousand francs. The one-half of this amount was to be
added to the capital until its majority; the other half was to be paid
by you to the person who should take charge of this little girl."
"At the end of two years," said Sarah, without being able to conquer a
slight emotion, "the 28th November, 1827, this child died."
"Before continuing this conversation, madame, I shall ask you what
interest you have in this affair?"
"The mother of this little girl is my _sister_, sir; I have here,
for proof of what I advance, the publication of the death of this poor
little thing, the letters from the person who had care of her, the
receipt of one of your clients, with whom you placed the fifty
"Let me see these papers, madame."
Quite astonished not to be believed at her word, Sarah drew from a
portfolio several papers, which the notary closely examined.
"Ah, well, madame, what do you want? The notice of the death is quite
correct; the fifty thousand crowns became the property of M. Petit
Jean, my client, by the death of the child; as to the interests, they
were always punctually paid by me until its decease."
"Nothing can be more correct than your conduct in this affair; sir, I
am pleased to acknowledge it. The woman to whom the child was confided
has also a right to our gratitude; she has taken the greatest care of
my poor little niece."
"That is true, madame; I was so much pleased with her conduct, that,
after the death of the child, I took her in my service; she is still
"Mrs. Seraphin is in your service, sir?"
"For fourteen years, as housekeeper."
"Since it is thus, sir, she can be of great assistance, if you will
grant a demand which will appear strange, perhaps, even culpable at
first; but, when you shall know with what intention--"
"A culpable demand, madame; I do not think you are any more capable of
making than I am of hearing it."
"I know, sir, that you are the last person to whom one should address
such a request; but I place all my hopes--my sole hope--in your pity.
In every case I rely on your discretion."
"I continue, then. The death of this poor little girl has cast her
mother into such a state, her grief is as poignant at the present day
as it was fourteen years since; and, after having feared for her life,
to-day we fear for her reason."
"Poor mother!" said Ferrand, with a sigh.
"Oh! yes, very unfortunate mother, sir; for she could only blush at
the birth of her daughter, at the time she lost her; while now
circumstances are such, that my sister, if her child still lived,
could own her, be proud of her, never leave her. Thus, this incessant
regret, joined to other griefs, makes us fear for her reason."
"Unfortunately, nothing can be done for her."
"Suppose some one should come and say to the poor mother. 'Your child
was supposed to be dead; she is not; the woman who had care of her
infancy can affirm it.'"
"Such a falsehood would be cruel, madame. Why cause vain hopes to this
"But if this was not a falsehood, sir; or, rather, if this supposition
could be realized?"
"By a miracle! If it only needed, to obtain it, my prayers joined to
yours, I would pray from the bottom of my heart. Alas! there can be no
doubt of her death."
"I know it, alas! sir, the child is dead: and yet, if you wish it, the
evil is not irreparable."
"It is an enigma, madame."
"I will speak, then, more plainly. If my sister finds to-morrow her
child, not only will she be restored to health, but, what is more, she
is sure to marry the father of this child, now as free as she is. My
niece died at six years. Separated from her parents at this tender
age, they have no recollection of her. Suppose that a young girl of
seventeen could be found; that my sister should be told, 'Here is your
child; you have been deceived; certain interests required that she
should be thought dead. The woman who had charge of her, a respectable
notary will affirm, will prove to you that it is she--'"
Jacques Ferrand, after having allowed the countess to speak without
interrupting her, rose suddenly, and cried, in an indigant manner,
"Enough, enough, madame. Oh! this is infamous."
"To dare to propose to me--to me--to palm off a child--a criminal
action! It is the first time in my life that I have received such an
outrage, and I have not deserved it--heaven knows."
"But, who is wronged by it? My sister and the person she desires to
marry are single; both regret bitterly the child they have lost; to
deceive them is to restore to them happiness--life; it is to assure
some forsaken young girl a most happy lot: thus it is a noble,
generous action, and not a crime."
"Truly," cried the notary, with increasing indignation, "I see how the
most execrable projects can be colored with--"
"I repeat to you, madame, that it is infamous. It is a shame to see a
woman of your rank contriving such abominations, to which your sister,
I hope, is a stranger."
"Enough, madame, enough! I am not a gallant, not I. I tell you the
Sarah cast on the notary one of her dark looks, and said coldly, "You
"No new insult, madame!"
"Threats! and to prove to you that they will not be in vain, learn, in
the first place, that I have no sister."
"I am the mother of this child."
"I invented this fable to interest you. You are without pity: I raise
the mask. You want war! well, war be it."
"War! because I refuse to lend myself to a criminal act? what
"Listen to me, sir; your reputation as an honest man is great--known
far and near."
"Because it is merited. You must have lost your reason before you
would have dared to make such a proposition?"
"Better than any one, I know, sir, how much one ought to suspect these
reputations of such strict virtue, which often conceal the gallantries
of women and the scoundrelism of men."
"You dare to say this, madame?"
"Since the commencement of our conversation, I do not know wherefore,
I doubted that you deserve the consideration and esteem which you
"Truly, madame, this doubt does honor to your perspicacity."
"Does it not so? for this doubt is founded on nothing--on mere
instinct--on inexplicable presentiments; but rarely has this boding
"Let us finish this conversation, madame."
"Before we do so, know my determination. I begin by telling you, that
I am convinced of the death of my poor child; but, no matter, I will
pretend she is not dead; the most unlikely events are often brought
about. You are at this moment in such a position that you must have
many envious rivals; they will regard it as a piece of good fortune to
attack you. I will furnish means to them."
"I, in attacking you under an absurd pretext, on an irregularity in
the registry of death, let us say--no matter, I will maintain my child
is not dead. As I have the greatest interest in having it believed
that she still lives, although lost, this process will serve me in
giving much notoriety to this affair; a mother who reclaims her child
is always interesting; I shall have on my side those who are envious
of you, your enemies, and all those who are feeling and romantic."
"This is as foolish as wicked. Why should I? For what interest should
I say your child is dead, if she were not?"
"That is true, the motive is sufficiently embarrassing to find.
Happily, lawyers are plenty. But a thought! ah! an excellent one:
wishing to divide with your client the sum paid for the annuity, you
have caused the child to be carried off."
The notary, without moving a muscle of his face, shrugged his
shoulders. "If I had been criminal enough to do that, instead of
sending her off, I would have killed her!"
[Illustration: THE DUEL]
Sarah shuddered with surprise, remained silent for a moment, then
resumed with bitterness: "For a holy man, that is a thought of crime
profoundly deep! Have I touched to the quick in shooting at random?
This sets me thinking. One last word: you see what kind of a woman I
am--I crush without pity all who cross my path. Reflect well; to-morrow
you must decide! you can do with impunity what you are asked.
In his joy, the father of my child would not discuss the probability
of such a resurrection, if our falsehoods, which will render him so
happy, are adroitly combined. He has, besides, no other proofs of the
death of our child, than what I wrote to him fourteen years since; it
will be easy for me to persuade him that I deceived him on this
subject; for then I had just cause of complaint against him. I will
tell him that in my anger I wished to break, in his eyes, the last
link which still held us together. You cannot therefore in any way be
compromised; affirm only, irreproachable man, affirm that all has been
concerted between you and me and Mrs. Seraphin, and you will be
believed. As to the money placed with you, that concerns me alone; it
shall remain with your client, who must be ignorant of all this;
finally, you shall name your own recompense."
Jacques Ferrand preserved all his coolness, notwithstanding his
position, so strange and dangerous for him. The countess, believing
really in the death of her child, came to ask him to represent as
living this child, whom he had himself _passed for dead_ fourteen
years before. He was too cunning, and knew too well the perils of his
situation, not to comprehend the bearing of Sarah's threats. Although
admirably constructed, the edifice of the notary's reputation was
built on sand. The public as easily detach as they attach themselves,
and are pleased with the right to trample under foot those whom they
once had exalted to the skies. How foresee the consequences of the
first attack on the reputation of Jacques Ferrand? However ridiculous
this attack might be, its boldness alone might awaken suspicion.
The pertinacity of Sarah, and her obduracy, alarmed the notary. This
mother had not shown for a moment any feeling in speaking of her
child; she had only seemed to consider her death as the loss of a
means of action. Such dispositions are implacable in their objects,
and in their vengeance. Wishing to give himself time to seek some
means to avoid the dangerous blow, Ferrand said coldly to Sarah, "You
have asked until noon to-morrow. It is I, madame, who give you until
the next day to renounce a project, of which you know not the gravity.
If, meanwhile, I do not receive a letter from you in which you
announce that you have abandoned this foolish and criminal
undertaking, you will learn to your cost that justice knows how to
protect honest people who refuse to lend themselves to culpable acts."
"That is to say, sir, that you demand one day more to reflect on my
proposition? That is a good sign; I grant it to you. The day after
to-morrow, at this hour, I will return here, and it shall be between us
peace or war; I repeat it to you, a war to the knife, without mercy or
pity;" and Sarah disappeared.
"All goes well," said she to herself. "This miserable young girl, for
whom Rudolph was so much interested--thanks to old One Eye, who has
delivered me from her, is no longer to be feared. The skill of Rudolph
has saved Madame d'Harville from the snare I placed for her, but it is
impossible she can escape from the new plot I have contrived; she will
then be forever lost to him. Then, sad, discouraged, isolated from all
ties, will he not be in such a disposition of mind, that he will not
desire anything better than to be the dupe of a falsehood, to which,
with the aid of the notary, I can give every appearance of truth? And
the notary will assist me for I have alarmed him. I can easily find a
young orphan girl, interesting and poor who, instructed by me, will
fill the part of our child, so bitterly regretted by Rudolph. I know
the grandeur and generosity of his heart. Yes, to give a name and rank
to her whom he believes to be his daughter, until then unhappy and
abandoned, he will renew those ties which I had thought indissoluble.
The predictions of my nurse will at length be realized, and I shall
have this time surely attained the constant aim of my life--a crown."
Hardly had Sarah left the mansion of the notary, than Charles Robert
entered it, descending from an elegant cabriolet: he turned toward the
private cabinet, as one having free admission.
The new-comer entered without any ceremony the notary's office, who
was in a very thoughtful and splenetic mood, and who said to him very
roughly, "I reserve the afternoon for my clients; when you wish to
speak to me, come in the morning."
"My dear scribbler" (this was one of the pleasantries of M. Robert),
"it is concerning an important affair, in the first place, and then I
wish to assure you myself concerning the fears that you might have."
"Do you not know?"
"My duel with the Duke de Lucenay. Are you ignorant of it?"
"Why this duel?"
"Something very serious, which required blood. Just imagine that, in
the face of the whole embassy, M. de Lucenay allowed himself to say to
me, to my face, that I had a cough, a complaint that must be very
"You fought for this?"
"And what the devil would you have one to fight for? Do you think that
one could, in cold blood, hear one's self accused of having a cough?
and before a charming woman, too; what is more, before a little
marchioness, who, in brief--it could not be overlooked."
"We soldiers, you understand, we are always on the look out. My
seconds, the day before yesterday, had an interview with those of the
duke. I had the question placed very plainly; a duel or a retraction."
"A retraction of what?"
"Of the cough, by Jove, which he allowed himself to attribute to me."
The notary shrugged his shoulders.
"On their side the duke's seconds said, 'We render justice to the
honorable character of M. Charles Robert; but his grace of Lucenay
cannot, ought not, will not retract.' 'Then, gentlemen,' responded my
seconds, 'M. de Lucenay still continues to insist that M. Charles
Robert has a cough?' 'Yes, gentlemen; but he does not intend it as an
attack upon M. Robert's reputation.' 'Then let him retract.' 'No,
gentlemen; M. de Lucenay recognizes M. Robert for a gallant man, but
he insists that he has a cough.' You see there was no way of arranging
so serious an affair."
"None. You were insulted in that which a man holds to be most
"So they agreed on the day and hour of meeting, and yesterday morning
at Vincennes, all passed in the most honorable manner. I touched the
duke slightly in the arm with my sword; the seconds declared my honor
satisfied. Then the duke said, in a loud voice, 'I never retract
before an affair; afterward, it is different: it is therefore my duty
to proclaim that I falsely accused M. Charles Robert of having a
cough. Gentlemen, I confess, not only that my loyal adversary has no
cough, but I affirm that he is incapable of ever having it.' Then the
duke extended his hand to me cordially, saying, 'Are you content?
Henceforth we are friends in life until death.' I answered, that I
owed him as much. The duke has done everything that was right. He
might have said nothing at all, or contented himself with saying that
I had not the cough; but to affirm that I never could have one was a
very delicate proceeding on his part."
"This is what I call courage well employed. But what do you mean?"
"My dear banker" (another pleasantry of M. Robert), "it concerns
something of great importance to me. You know that in our agreement,
when I advanced you 350,000 francs, in order that you might finish the
purchase of your notariat, it was stipulated that, by giving you three
months' notice, I could withdraw from you this amount for which you
now pay interest."
"Well!" said M. Robert, with hesitation, "I; no, but--"
"You perceive it is pure caprice; an idea to become a landed
proprietor, my dear law-writer."
"Explain yourself; you annoy me."
"In a word, I have been offered a territorial acquisition, and, if it
is not disagreeable to you I should wish, that is to say, I should
desire, to withdraw my funds from you; and I come to give you notice,
according to our agreement."
"It does not make you angry, I hope!"
"Why should it?"
"Because you might think--"
"I may think?"
"That I am the echo of rumors."
"No, nothing; absurdities."
"But, tell me then?"
"It is no reason because there _are_ reports in circulation about
"There is not a word of truth in it--that you have been doing some bad
business; pure scandal, no doubt, like when we speculated on the
'Change together. That report soon fell to the ground; for I wish that
you and I might become----"
"Then you think your money is no longer safe with me?"
"Not so; but I prefer to have it in my hands."
"Wait a minute."
Ferrand shut the drawer of his bureau, and rose.
"Where are you going to, my dear banker?"
"To look for something to convince you of the truth of the rumors
concerning me," said the notary, ironically. And opening a little
private staircase which led to the pavilion, without going through the
office, he disappeared.
Hardly had he gone when the clerk knocked at the door. "Come in," said
"Is not M. Ferrand here?"
"No, my worthy blue-baggist."
"A veiled lady wishes to speak to master instantly, on very pressing
"Worthy fellow, your master will return directly; I will tell him. Is
"One must be a wizard to find this out; she wears a black veil, so
thick that her face cannot be seen."
"Good, good! I'll take a look at her when I go out."
The clerk left the room.
"Where the devil is he gone to?" said Charles to himself. "If these
reports are absurd, so much the better. Never mind, I prefer to have
my money. I will buy the chateau they have spoken to me of, with
Gothic towers of the time of Louis XIV.; that will give me a noble
appearance. It will not be like my affair with this prude of a Madame
d'Harville--fine game! Oh, no; I have not made my expenses, as the
stupid old portress in the Rue du Temple said, with her fantastic
periwig. This pleasantry has cost meat least a thousand crowns. It is
true, the furniture remains; and I can compromise the marquise. But
here is the scrivener."
Ferrand returned, holding in his hand some papers, which he gave to