Part 7 out of 12
voice, with an accent which denoted the speaker to be one of the
lowest order. Madame Mathieu was a diamond broker living in this
house, who employed Morel.
This voice, singularly accented, awakened some vague recollections in
the mind of Rudolph. Wishing to enlighten them, he went and opened the
door. He found himself face to face with a fellow whom he recognized
at once, so fully and plainly was the stamp of crime marked on his
youthful and besotted face.
Either this wretch had forgotten the features of Rudolph, whom he had
seen only once, or the change of dress prevented him from recognizing
him, for he manifested no astonishment at his appearance.
"What do you want?" said Rudolph.
"Here is a letter for Madame Mathieu. I must give it into her own
hands," answered the man.
"She does not live here: inquire opposite," said Rudolph.
"Thank you, friend; they told me it was the door to the left; I am
Rudolph did not know the name of the diamond broker; he had therefore
no motive to interest himself about the woman to whom the rogue came
as a messenger. Nevertheless, although he was ignorant of the crimes
of this bandit, his face had such a guilty look of perversity, that he
remained on the threshold of the door, curious to see the person to
whom he brought this letter. Hardly had the man knocked at the
opposite door when it was opened, and the broker, a large woman of
about fifty years of age, appeared, holding a candle in her hand.
"Madame Mathieu?" said the messenger.
"That's my name."
"Here is a letter; I want an answer." He made a step in advance, as if
to enter the room; but she made a motion for him not to advance,
unsealed the letter, read it, and answered, with a satisfied air:
"You will say it is all right, my lad; I will bring what they wish; I
will go to-morrow at the same time as before. Give my compliments to
"Yes, ma'am. Don't forget the messenger."
"Go ask those who sent you; they are richer than I am;" and she closed
Rudolph re-entered Germain's room, seeing the messenger rapidly
descending the staircase.
The latter met on the boulevard a man of a villainous and ferocious
appearance, who waited for him before a shop. Although several persons
might have heard him, but not understood him, it is true, he appeared
so much pleased that he could not help saying to his companion, "Come,
toss off your tipple, Nick! the old girl's toddled into the trap;
she'll meet Screech Owl; Mother Martial will give us a lift in
squeezing the sparklers out of her, and then we will carry the cold
meat away in your boat."
"Look sharp, then; I must be at Asnieres early; I am afraid my brother
Martial will suspect something." And the rogues, after having held
this conversation, quite unintelligible to those who might have heard
it, directed their steps toward the Rue Saint Denis.
A few moments after, Rigolette and Rudolph left the abode of Germain,
got into the carriage, and drove to the Rue du Temple. When the
carriage stopped, and the portress came to open the door, Rudolph saw
by the street light a friend of his, who was waiting for him at the
That presence announced some great event, or, at least, something
unexpected, for he alone knew where to find the prince.
"What is the matter, Murphy?" said Rudolph, quickly, while Rigolette
collected the papers in the vehicle.
"A great misfortune, your highness!"
"Speak, for Heaven's sake!"
"The Marquis d'Harville."
"You alarm me!"
"He gave a breakfast this morning to several of his friends.
Everything was going off well; he, above all, had never been more gay,
when a fatal imprudence--"
"Go on, go on!"
"In playing with a pistol which he did not know was loaded--"
"He has wounded himself?"
"Something very terrible!"
"What do you say?"
"He is dead!"
"D'Harville! oh, this is frightful!" cried Rudolph in such a heart-rending
tone, that Rigolette, who had just descended from the carriage
with her bundles, said: "What is the matter, M. Rudolph?"
"Some very bad news that I have just told my friend, mademoiselle,"
said Murphy to the girl, for the prince was so much affected that he
could not answer.
"Is it some really great misfortune?" asked Rigolette, tremblingly.
"A very great misfortune," answered the other.
"Oh! this is frightful!" said Rudolph, after a silence of some
moments; then, recollecting Rigolette, he said to her: "Pardon me, my
child, if I do not go with you to your room; to-morrow I will send you
my address, and a permit to go to Germain's prison. I will soon see
"Oh! M. Rudolph, I assure you I am very sorry for the bad news you
have heard. I thank you for having accompanied me to-night. Good-bye."
The prince and Murphy got into the coach, which took them to the Rue
Immediately Rudolph wrote to Clemence the following note:
"Madame,--I learn this moment the unexpected blow which has
overwhelmed you, and takes from me one of my best friends: I shall not
endeavor to describe my sorrow.
"Yet I must inform you of things foreign to this cruel event. I have
just learned that your step-mother, who has been for some days in
Paris, without doubt, leaves to-night for Normandy, taking with her
Polidori, alias Bradamanti. This will tell you of the dangers your
father is threatened with, and allow me to give you some advice. After
the frightful affair of this morning, your desire to leave Paris will
be nothing extraordinary. So set off at once for Aubiers, to arrive
there, if not before, at least as soon as your step-mother. Be
assured, madame, far or near, I shall still watch over you; the
abominable projects of your step-mother shall be baffled.
"Adieu, madame: I write this in haste. My heart is almost broken when
I think of last evening, when I left him more tranquil, more happy,
than he had been for a long time.
"Believe me, madame, in my profound and sincere devotion.
Following this advice, Madame d'Harville, three hours after the
receipt of this letter, was on the road to Normandy. A post-chaise,
which left Rudolph's, followed the same route.
Unfortunately, from the trouble into which she was plunged by this
complication of events, and the precipitation of her departure,
Clemence forgot to acquaint the prince that she had met Fleur-de-Marie
at Saint Lazare.
It will be remembered, perhaps, that the evening previous, La Chouette
had threatened Mrs. Seraphin to disclose the fact of the existence of
La Goualeuse, affirming that she knew (and she told the truth) where
the young girl then was. It will also be remembered that after this
conversation Jacques Ferrand, fearing the revelation of his criminal
misdeeds, had determined that it was for his interest to put the
Goualeuse out of the way, whose existence, once known, might
compromise him dangerously. He had, therefore, caused to be written to
Bradamanti a note to summon him to come and hatch some new schemes, of
which Fleur-de-Marie was to be the victim.
Bradamanti, occupied with the interests, not less pressing, of the
stepmother of Madame d'Harville, who had her own reasons for
conducting the quack to the bedside of M. d'Orbigny, doubtless finding
it more to his advantage to serve his old friend, paid no attention to
the invitation of the notary, and set out for Normandy without seeing
The storm gathered around Jacques Ferrand; in the course of the day La
Chouette had returned to reiterate her threats, and, to prove that
they were not in vain, she had declared to the notary that the little
girl, formerly abandoned by Mrs. Seraphin, was then a prisoner at
Saint Lazare, under the name of La Goualeuse, and that if they did not
give her ten thousand francs in three days, this girl should receive
some papers which would inform her that she had been in her infancy
confided to the care of Jacques Ferrand.
According to his custom, the notary denied all this with audacity, and
drove off La Chouette as an impudent liar, although he was convinced
and frightened by her threats.
In the course of the day the notary found means to assure himself that
the Goualeuse was a prisoner at Saint Lazare, and so noted for her
good conduct that her release was expected soon.
Furnished with this information, Jacques Ferrand, having arranged a
most diabolical scheme, felt that, to execute it, the assistance of
Bradamanti was more and more indispensable; hence the frequent
attempts of Mrs. Seraphin to see the quack. Learning the same evening
of his departure, forced to act by the imminence of his fears and
danger, he remembered the Martial family--those river pirates
established near Asnieres Bridge, to whom Bradamanti had proposed to
send Louise Morel, in order to get rid of her with impunity.
Having absolutely need of an accomplice, to carry out his wicked
designs against Fleur-de-Marie, the notary took every precaution, in
the case a new crime should be committed; and the next morning, after
the departure of Bradamanti for Normandy, Mrs. Seraphin went in great
haste to see the Martials.
THE RIVER PIRATE'S HAUNT.
The following scenes took place on the evening of the day that Mrs.
Seraphin had, according to the notary's orders, paid a visit to the
Martials, established on the point of a small island, not far from
Asnieres Bridge. Martial, the father, who had died on the scaffold
like his own father, left a widow, four sons, and two daughters. The
second of these sons was already condemned to the galleys for life. Of
this numerous family there remained on the island the mother; three
sons; the eldest (the lover of La Louve) twenty-five, the other
twenty, the youngest twelve; two daughters; one eighteen, the second
nine. Instances of such families, wherein is perpetuated a kind of
frightful inheritance in crime, are but too frequent. This must be so,
because society thinks only of punishing, never of preventing the
The gloomy picture which follows, of the river pirates, has for its
object to show what, in a family, inheritance of evil may be, when
society either legally or kindly does not interfere to preserve the
unfortunate, orphaned by the law, from the terrible consequences of
the judgment visited on their father.
The head of the Martial family, who had first settled on this little
island, was a dredger (_ravageur_).
They, as well as the _debardeurs_, and the _dechireurs_ of
boats, remain almost the entire day plunged in the water to their
waists, to follow their trade.
The _debardeurs_ bring to land floating wood.
The _dechireurs_ knock to pieces the rafts which bring down the
wood. Quite as aquatic as the preceding operatives, the labor of
_ravageurs_ has a very different object. Advancing in the water
as far as they can, they are enabled, by means of long rakes, to drag
the mud and sand from the bed of the river; then, collecting this in
large wooden bowls, they wash it, and thus collect a large quantity of
pieces of metal of all kinds, iron, copper, lead, and brass.
Often they find in the sand fragments of gold or silver jewels,
carried into the Seine either by the gutters or from the masses of
snow and ice collected in the streets in winter and thrown into the
river. We do not know by virtue of what tradition, or by what usage,
these industrious people, generally honest, peaceable, and laborious,
are so formidably named.
Old Martial first inhabitant of the island, being a ravageur (a sorry
exception), the people living on the banks of the river called it the
The dwelling of the river pirates is situated at the south end of the
isle. On a sign which hangs near the door can be seen:
"THE DREDGERS' ARMS.
Good Wines, Fish fried and boiled.
Boats to Let."
It will be seen that to his other business the head of this family
had added an innkeeper's, fisherman's, and the keeping of boats for
hire. The widow of this executed criminal continued to keep the house.
Vagabonds, wandering quacks, and itinerate keepers of animals came to
pass Sundays and other non-working days in parties of pleasure.
Martial (the lover of La Louve), the eldest son of the family, least
vicious of all, fished by stealth, and, for pay, took the part of the
weak against the strong.
One of his brothers, Nicholas, the future accomplice of Barbillon in
the murder of the diamond broker, was apparently a ravageur, but in
fact a pirate along the Seine and its banks. Finally, Francois, the
youngest son, took care of those who wished to go boating.
We will just mention Ambrose Martial, imprisoned for life for robbery
and attempt at murder The eldest girl, nicknamed Calabash, assisted
her mother in the kitchen and to wait upon the guests; her sister,
Amandine, aged nine years, gave what aid she could to them.
On this night, thick, heavy clouds, driven by the winds, obscured the
sky; hardly one star could be seen through the increasing gloom. The
house, with its irregular gables, was completely buried in darkness,
except the two windows of the ground-floor, from which streamed a red
light, reflected like long trains of fire on the troubled waters near
the landing-place, close to the house. The chains of the boats moored
there mingled their rattling with the mournful sighing of the wind
through the poplars, and the heavy splashing of the water on the
shore. Part of the family was assembled in the kitchen, a large, low
room; opposite the door were two windows, between which was a large
dresser; on the left, a high fireplace; to the right, a staircase
which led to the upper story; at the side of this, the entrance to a
large room, furnished with several tables, destined for the guests.
The light of a lamp, joined to the flames of the hearth, shone on a
number of saucepans and other cooking utensils of copper, hung on the
walls, or arranged on shelves with crockery; a large table stood in
the center of the kitchen. The widow was seated by the fire with her
three children. Tall and thin, she appeared to be about forty-five
years of age. She was dressed in black; a mourning kerchief, tied
round her head with two loose ear-like ends, concealed her hair, and
almost covered her pale, wrinkled forehead; her nose was long,
straight, and pointed; her cheek-bones prominent, and cheeks fallen
in; her yellow, sickly-looking skin was deeply marked with the small-pox;
the corner of her mouth, always drawn down, rendered still harsher
the expression of her cold, stern, sinister-looking face, immovable
as a mask of marble. Her dull blue eyes were surmounted by gray
brows. She and her two daughters were occupied with some sewing.
The eldest resembled her mother--the same cold, calm, wicked look; her
thin nose, mouth, and pale look. Only her earthy skin, yellow as
saffron, gave her the nickname of Calabash. She wore no mourning: her
dress was brown; her black lace cap displayed two bands of uncommonly
light flaxen hair, with no luster. Francois, the youngest son, was
seated on a bench, mending a small mesh, a very destructive sort of
fishing net, strictly forbidden use on the Seine. Notwithstanding his
sunburned appearance, his skin was fair; red hair covered his head;
his features were well turned, his lips thick, his forehead
projecting, his eyes sharp and piercing: there was no resemblance to
his mother or eldest sister. His expression was timid yet cunning;
from time to time, through, the kind of mane which fell over his face,
he cast obliquely on his mother a look of defiance, or exchanged with
his sister Amandine a glance of intelligence and affection.
She, seated by his side, was occupied, not in marking, but in
unmarking some linen stolen the night previous. She was nine years
old, and resembled her brother as much as her sister did her mother;
her features, without being any more regular, were less coarse than
Francois'; although covered with freckles, her skin was of dazzling
purity; her lips were thick, but vermilion, her hair red, but fine,
silky, and brilliant; her eyes small, but soft and expressive.
When they exchanged looks, Amandine pointed to the door; at the sign
Francois answered by a sigh; then, calling the attention of his sister
by a rapid gesture, he counted distinctly from the end of his netting
needle ten threads of the net. This meant, in their own symbolical
language, that their brother Martial would not return before ten
On seeing these two quiet, wicked-looking women, and these two poor,
restless, mute, trembling little children, one could easily guess they
were two tormentors and two victims.
Calabash, noticing that Amandine had ceased a moment from work, said
to her, in a harsh voice, "Will you soon have done with that chemise?"
The child held down her head without replying; with fingers and
scissors, she quickly finished picking out the marks made with red
cotton, and then handing the work to her mother, said timidly, "Mamma,
I have finished it."
Without making any reply, the widow threw her another piece of linen.
The child could not catch it in time, and let it fall. Her sister gave
her, with her iron hand, a heavy slap on the arm, saying "Little
Amandine resumed her work, after having exchanged a hasty glance with
her brother; a tear glistened in her eye. The same silence continued
to reign in the kitchen. The wind howled without, and the sign creaked
mournfully on its hinges. The only sounds within were the bubbling of
a saucepan placed before the fire. The two children observed with
secret alarm that their mother did not speak. Although she was
habitually very quiet, this complete taciturnity and certain
contractions of her lips announced that the widow was in that which
they called her white rage, that is to say, a prey to some
The fire appeared to be going out from want of fuel.
"Francois, a stick of wood!" said Calabash.
The young net-mender looked behind the chimney-piece, and answered,
"There is no more there."
"Go to the wood-pile," said Calabash.
Francois murmured some unintelligible words, but did not stir.
"Francois, did you hear me?" said Calabash sharply.
The widow placed on her knees a napkin, which she was unmarking, and
looked at her son.
He had his head down, but he thought he felt the terrible look of his
mother was upon him. Fearing to meet her formidable face, the child
"Are you deaf, Francois'?" resumed Calabash, much irritated.
"Mother--do you see?"
Amandine, without being perceived, nudged her brother to urge him
tacitly to obey Calabash. Francois did not stir. The eldest sister
looked at her mother, as if to demand the punishment of the offender.
The widow understood her, and pointed with her long, bony finger to a
long willow switch, which stood in the corner.
Calabash leaned back, took this instrument of correction, and handed
it to her mother.
Francois had perfectly understood the gesture of his mother; he jumped
up quickly, and with one bound was out of his mother's reach.
"You want mother to beat you soundly?" cried Calabash, "do you?"
The widow, holding the rod in her hand, bit her lips, and looked at
Francois with a steady eye, without pronouncing a word. From the
slight agitation of Amandine's hands, who sat with her head down,
while her neck was suffused with red, it could be seen that the child,
although accustomed to such scenes, was alarmed at the fate which
awaited her brother, who, having taken refuge in a corner of the
kitchen, seemed alarmed and yet rebellious.
"Take care of yourself; mother will get up, and then it will be too
late," said Calabash.
"All the same to me," answered Francois, turning pale. "I prefer to be
beaten, as I was yesterday, to going to the wood-pile at night."
"And why?" said Calabash, impatiently.
"I am afraid of the wood-pile!" answered Francois, shuddering in spite
"You are afraid, fool! of what?"
Francois hung his head without answering.
"Will you speak? What are you afraid of?"
"I don't know; but I'm afraid."
"You have been there a hundred times, and even last night?"
"I don't want to go there any more."
"There's mother; she's getting up."
"So much the worse for me," cried the child. "Let her beat me; let her
kill me; but I will not go to the wood-pile--at night, above all."
"But, once more, I ask you, why not?" said Calabash.
"Well, because there's some one--"
"Buried there," murmured the trembling boy.
The widow, notwithstanding her impassibility, could not repress a
slight shudder; her daughter imitated her; one would have said that
the two had received an electric shock.
"Some one buried in the wood-house!" said Calabash, shrugging her
"Yes," said Francois, in a voice so low that he could hardly be heard.
"Liar!" cried Calabash.
"I tell you that not long ago, while piling the wood, I saw, in a dark
corner of the wood-house, a dead man's bone; it stuck out of the
ground, which was damp round about," replied Francois.
"Do you hear him, mother? Is he not a fool?" said Calabash, making a
significant sign to the widow. "They are some mutton bones I threw
"It was not a mutton bone," answered the child; "it was bones buried--
dead men's bones: a foot which stuck out of the ground. I saw it."
"And you instantly told this to your brother, your good friend
Martial--did you not?" said Calabash. Francois did not answer.
"Wicked little spy!" cried Calabash, furiously. "Because he is as
cowardly as a cow, he will get us guillotined, as father was."
"Since you call me a spy," cried Francois, exasperated, "I shall tell
everything to Martial. I have not told him yet, for I have not seen
him since; but when he returns to-night, I--"
The child dared not finish, for his mother advanced toward him, calm
but inexorable. Although she habitually held herself much bent over,
her size was very large for a woman. Holding the switch in one hand,
with the other the widow took her son by the arm, and, in spite of the
alarm, resistance, prayers, and tears of the child, dragging him after
her, she compelled him to mount the stairs. In a moment was heard the
sound of heavy blows, mingled with cries and sobs. When this noise
ceased, a door was shut violently, and the widow descended. She placed
the whip in its place, seated herself alongside of the fire, and
resumed her work without saying a word.
After a few moments' silence, the widow said to her daughter, "Go and
get some wood; we will arrange the woodhouse to-night, on the return
of Nicholas and Martial."
"Martial! Will you also tell him that?"
"Some wood," repeated the widow, interrupting her daughter.
She, accustomed to this iron will, lighted a lantern and went out. At
the moment she opened the door it could be seen that the night was
very dark, and one could hear the whistling of the wind through the
poplars, the clanging of the chains which held the boats, and the wash
of the river. These noises were profoundly sad.
During the preceding scene, Amandine, painfully affected at the fate
of Francois, whom she loved tenderly, had dared neither to raise her
eyes nor wipe her tears, which fell drop by drop obscuring her sight.
In her haste to finish the work which was given her, she had wounded
her hand with the scissors; the blood flowed freely, but the poor
child thought less of the pain than the punishment which she might
expect for having stained the linen with her blood. Happily, the
widow, absorbed in profound thought, perceived nothing. Calabash
returned bringing a basket filled with wood. At a look from her
mother, she answered by a nod, intended to say that the dead man's
foot did appear above the earth.
The widow bit her lip and continued to work, but she appeared to
handle the needle more quickly. Calabash replenished the fire, and
resumed her seat alongside of her mother.
"Nicholas does not come," said she. "I hope the old woman who was here
this morning, in giving him a rendezvous with Bradamanti, has not got
him into some bad scrape. She had such a queer air; she would not
explain or tell her name, or where she came from." The widow shrugged
"You think there is no danger for Nicholas, mother? After all,
perhaps, you are right. The old woman said he must be on the Quai de
Billy at seven in the evening, opposite the dock, where he would find
a man who wished to speak to him, and who would say 'Bradamanti' for
password. Really, that does not seem so very dangerous. If Nicholas is
late, it is, perhaps, because he has found something on the way, as he
did yesterday--this linen, boned from a washing-boat;" and she showed
one of the pieces of linen which Amandine was unmarking; then,
speaking to the child, she said, "What does boning mean?"
"This means to take," answered the child, without raising her eyes.
"It means to steal, little fool; do you hear, to steal?"
"And when one knows how to bone like Nicholas there is always
something to gain. The linen he picked up yesterday has only cost us
the trouble of picking out the marks--eh, mother?" said Calabash, with
a burst of laughter which displayed her decayed teeth, as yellow as
her skin. The widow did not laugh.
"_Apropos_ of getting things gratis," continued Calabash, "we
can, perhaps, furnish ourselves from another shop. You know that an
old man, two or three days since, came to live in the country-house of
M. Griffion, the physician of the Paris Hospital--the lonely house a
few steps from the river, opposite the plaster quarry?" The widow
bowed her head.
"Nicholas said yesterday that now there was, perhaps, a good job to be
done there. And I know, since this morning, that there is some booty
there for certain. I must send Amandine to wander around the house;
they will pay no attention to her; she will pretend to be playing,
will look well about her, and then come and let us know what she has
seen. Do you hear what I say?"
"Yes, sister, I will go," answered the trembling child.
"You always say 'I will' but you never do it, you sly puss. The time I
told you to take the five francs from the counter of the grocer at
Asnieres, while I kept him busy at the other end of his shop--it was
very easy; no one suspects a child--why didn't you obey?"
"Sister, my heart failed me: I did not dare."
"The other day you dared to steal a handkerchief from the peddler's
pack while he was selling at the tavern. Did he find it out, fool?"
"Sister, you forced me--it was for you; and, besides, it was not
"What of that?"
"To take a handkerchief is not so bad as to take money."
"On my word! Martial teaches you these whims doesn't he?" said
Calabash, in an ironical manner. "You'll go and tell him everything,
little spy! Do you think we are afraid that he'll eat us?" Then,
addressing the widow, Calabash added, "Mother, this will end badly for
him; he wants to lay down the law here. Nicholas is furious against
him; so am I. He sets Amandine and Francois against us, against you.
Can it be borne?"
"No!" said the mother, in a short, harsh voice.
"It is especially since his Louve was Saint-Lazared that he has gone
on like a madman. Is it our fault that she is in prison? When she is
once out of prison, let her come here, and I will serve her out--good
measure--though she is strong."
The widow, after a moment's pause, said to her daughter, "You think
there is something to be done with the old man who lives in the
"He looks like a beggar."
"That doesn't prevent his being a noble."
"Yes; or that he should have gold in his purse, although he goes to
Paris on foot every day, and returns in the same manner, with his
heavy stick for his carriage."
"How do you know that he has gold?"
"The other day I was at the post-office, to see if there were any
letters from Toulon."
At these words, which brought to her mind her son at the galleys, the
widow knit her brows and suppressed a sigh.
Calabash continued: "I awaited my turn, when the old man we speak of
came in. I twigged him at once by his beard, as white as his hair, and
his black eyebrows. In spite of his hair, he must be a determined old
man. He said, 'Have you any letters from Angers for the Count of Saint
Remy?' 'Yes,' was the answer, 'here is one.' 'It is for me,' said he;
'here is my passport.' While the postmaster examined it, the old man
drew out his purse to pay the postage. At one end I saw the gold
glittering through the meshes, at least forty or fifty louis," cried
Calabash, her eyes twinkling, "and yet he is dressed like a beggar. He
is one of those old misers who are stuffed with gold. Come, mother, we
know his name; it may serve us to get into the crib when Amandine
finds out if he has any servants."
A violent barking of the dogs interrupted Calabash. "Oh, the dogs
bark," said she; "they hear a boat. It is either Martial or Nicholas."
After a few moments the door opened, and Nicholas Martial made his
appearance. His face was ignoble and ferocious; small, thin, pitiful,
it could hardly be imagined that he followed so dangerous a calling;
but an indomitable energy supplied the place of the physical strength
which was wanting. Over his blue slop he wore a great-coat, without
sleeves, made of goat-skin with long hair. On entering he threw on the
ground a roll of copper which he had on his shoulder.
"Good-night, and good booty, mother," cried he, in a cracked voice;
"there are three more rolls in my boat, a bundle of clothes, and a box
filled with I don't know what, for I have not amused myself by opening
it. Perhaps I am sold--we shall see."
"And what about the man at the Quai de Billy?" asked Calabash, while
the widow looked at her son without saying a word.
He, for sole answer, put his hand in his pocket and jingled together a
number of pieces of silver.
"You took all that from him?" cried Calabash.
"No, he shelled out himself two hundred francs, and he will come down
with eight hundred more when I shall have--but enough; let us unload
the boat; we can jaw afterward. Isn't Martial here?"
"No," said the sister.
"So much the better; we will lock up the booty without him; just as
well he shouldn't know."
"You are afraid of him, coward!" said Calabash, crossly.
"Afraid of him? me!" He shrugged his shoulders. "I am afraid he'll
sell us, that's all. As to the fear, my sticker has too sharp a
"Oh, when he is not here, you brag; let him but come, that shuts your
Nicholas appeared insensible to this reproach, and said, "Come, quick!
quick! to the boat. Where is Francois, mother? He could help us."
"Mother has shut him upstairs, after having dressed him nicely; he
goes to bed without supper," said Calabash.
"Good; but let him come and help us unload the boat all the same--eh,
mother? Calabash, him, and me, in a twist, will have all housed."
The widow pointed upward. Calabash understood, and went to look for
The gloomy visage of Mother Martial had become slightly relaxed since
the arrival of Nicholas; she liked him better than Calabash, but not
as well as she did her Toulon son, as she called him; for the maternal
love of this ferocious creature increased in proportion to the
criminality of her offspring. This perverse preference sufficiently
explains the dislike of the widow to her youngest children, who
displayed no bad tendencies, and her profound hatred for Martial, her
eldest son, who, without leading a blameless life, might have passed
for a very honest man if he had been compared to Nicholas, Calabash,
or his brother, the galley--slave at Toulon.
[Illustration: THE PILLAGE ]
"Where have you been plundering to-night?" asked the widow.
"On returning from the Quai de Billy, I cast a sheep's-eye upon a
barge fastened to the quay near the Invalides Bridge. It was dark; I
said, no light in the cabin--the sailors are on shore--I'll go on
board; if I meet any one, I'll ask for a piece of seizing to mend my
oar. I went into the cabin--nobody; then I took what I could, some
clothes, a large box, and, on the deck, four rolls of copper; for I
returned twice. The barge was loaded with copper and iron. But here
come Francois and Calabash. Quick, to the boat! Come, be moving--you,
too, Amandine. You can carry the clothes. A dog learns to carry before
he is taught hunting."
Left alone, the widow busied herself in preparing the supper for the
family, placing on the table glasses, bottles, plates, and silver
forks and spoons. Just as she finished her preparation, her children
returned heavily laden. The weight of the two rolls, which he carried
on his shoulders, seemed almost to crush Francois. Amandine was hardly
visible under the bundle of clothes which she carried on her head.
Nicholas and Calabash carried between them a deal box, on the top of
which was placed the fourth roll of copper.
"The box, the box!" cried Calabash, with impatience. "Let us air the
case!" The copper was thrown on the ground. Nicholas, armed with a
hatchet, endeavored to get it under the cover, so as to force it up.
The red flickering light from the earth illuminated this scene of
pillage; without, the wind howled with renewed violence. Nicholas,
kneeling before the box, tried to break it, and uttered the most
horrible oaths on seeing his efforts useless. Her eyes glistening with
cupidity, her cheeks flushing, Calabash kneeled on the box, and
assisted Nicholas with all her strength. The widow, separated from the
group by the table, where she stood at full length, also had her eager
gaze fixed on the stolen object.
Finally, a thing, alas! too human, the two children, whose good
natural instincts had so often triumphed over the cursed influence of
this abominable domestic corruption, forgetting their scruples and
their fears, gave way to the attractions of a fatal curiosity. Leaning
against one another, their eyes sparkling, their breathing oppressed,
Francois and Amandine were not less anxious to know the contents of
the box than their brother or sister. At length the top was forced
"Ah!" cried the family, in a joyful tone. And all, from the mother to
the little girl, crowded around the stolen case. Without doubt,
consigned by some Paris merchant to some of his country customers, it
contained a large quantity of articles for women's use.
"Nicholas is not sold!" cried Calabash, unrolling a piece of muslin de
"No," answered the pirate, shaking out a package of foulards; "no, I
have paid my expenses."
"Levantine! that will sell like bread," said the widow, putting her
hand in the box. "The Bras-Rouge's fence, who lives in the Rue du
Temple, will buy the stuffs, and Daddy Micou, who keeps furnished
lodgings in the Quartier Saint Honore, will arrange for the copper."
"Amandine!" whispered Francois to his little sister; "what a pretty
cravat this would make."
"Yes, and it would make a very fine scarf," answered the child, with
admiration. "I must say you had some luck, getting on board the
barge," said Calabash; "look here, famous shawls; three real silk! Do
"Burette will give at least five hundred francs for the whole," said
the widow, after a close examination.
"Then it must be worth at least fifteen hundred francs," said
Nicholas, "but a receiver is as bad as a thief! Bah! I do not know how
to cheat. I shall be soft enough this time again to do just as Burette
wishes, and Micou also; but he is a friend."
"Never mind; the seller of old iron is a robber, just like the rest,
but these rascally receivers know one has need of them," said
Calabash, trying on one of the shawls, "and they abuse it."
"There's nothing more," said Nicholas, reaching the bottom of the box.
"Now all must be repacked," said the widow.
"I'll keep this shawl," said Calabash.
"You'll keep it!" cried Nicholas, brutally, "if I give it to you. You
are always taking--you--Miss Free-and-easy."
"Oh! you then refrain from taking?"
"I? I nail at the risk of my skin. It's not you who'd have been jugged
if they'd caught me on the barge."
"Well, there's your shawl! I don't care about it," said Calabash,
sharply throwing it back into the case.
"It is not on account of the shawl that I speak; I am not mean enough
to value a shawl; for one, more or less, old Burette will not change
her price; she buys in a lump," said Nicholas. "But instead of saying
that you'd take the shawl you might ask if I would give it you. Come,
keep it--keep it, I tell you; or if you won't, I'll pitch it into the
fire to make the pot boil."
These words soothed Calabash's bad temper, and she took the shawl.
Nicholas was, doubtless, in a generous mood; for, tearing off with his
teeth two of the handsomest handkerchiefs, he threw them to Francois
"That's for you, my kids, to put you in the notion to go on the lay.
Appetite comes with eating. Now go to bed; I want to talk with mother.
Your supper shall be brought upstairs." The children clapped their
hands, and waved triumphantly the stolen handkerchiefs which had just
been given them.
"Well, you little blockheads!" said Calabash, "will you listen any
more to Martial? Has he ever given you such handsome things?" Francois
and Amandine looked at each other; then hung their heads without
"Speak!" said Calabash, harshly; "has he ever made you presents?"
"Well, no; he never has," said Francois, looking at his red
handkerchief with delight. Amandine said, in a very low tone, "Brother
Martial does not make us presents, because he hasn't the means."
"If he would steal, he'd have them," said Nicholas; "eh, Francois?"
"Yes, brother," answered Francois. Then he added: "Oh, the beautiful
silk! What a fine cravat for Sunday?"
"What a fine head-dress!" said Amandine.
"Not to say how wild the children of the lime-burner will be when they
see you pass," said Calabash, looking at the children to see if they
comprehended the bearing of the words. The abominable creature thus
called vanity to her assistance to stifle the last scruples of
conscience. "The beggars will burst with envy: while you, with your
fine silk, will look like little gentry."
"That's true," answered Francois. "I am much more content with my fine
cravat, since the little lime-burners will be so jealous; ain't you,
"I am content with my fine kerchief."
"You'll never be anything but a noodle!" said Calabash, disdainfully;
and taking from the table a piece of bread and cheese, she gave it to
the children and said, "Go upstairs to bed. Here is a lantern. Take
care of the fire, and put out the light before you go to sleep."
"And," added Nicholas, "remember, if you say a word to Martial about
the box, or the copper, or the clothes, you shall have a dance, so
that you'll take fire; not to say taking away the silks."
After the departure of the children, Nicholas and his sister hid the
stolen articles in a little cellar under the kitchen.
"Mother! some drink, and let it be choice," cried the robber. "I have
well earned my day. Serve supper, Calabash; Martial shall gnaw our
bones--good enough for him. Now let us talk of the customer, 'Quai de
Billy,' for to-morrow or next day that must come off, if I wish to
pocket the money he promised. I am going to tell you, mother; but some
drink--thunder! let's have some drink. I'll stand some."
Nicholas rattled the money which he had in his pocket anew; then,
throwing off his goatskin jacket and his black woolen cap, he seated
himself at table before a ragout of mutton, a piece of cold veal, and
When Calabash had brought some wine and brandy, the widow seated
herself at the table, having Nicholas on her right and Calabash on her
left; opposite were the unoccupied places of Martial and the two
children. The thief drew from his pocket a long, broad knife, with a
horn handle and sharp blade. Looking at this murderous weapon with a
kind of ferocious satisfaction, he said to the widow, "My rib-tickler
still cuts well! Pass me the bread, mother!"
"Speaking of knives," said Calabash, "Francois saw something in the
"What?" said Nicholas, not understanding her.
"He saw one of the trotters--"
"Of the man?" cried Nicholas.
"Yes," said the widow, putting a slice of meat on the plate of her
"That's queer, for the hole was very deep," said the brigand, "but
since that time should have been heaped up."
"We must throw the lot into the river to-night," said the widow."
"It is more sure," answered Nicholas.
"We can tie a stone to it with a piece of old chain," added Calabash.
"Not so foolish!" said Nicholas, pouring out drink; "come, drink with
us, mother; it will make you more lively."
The widow shook her head, drew back her glass, and said to her son,
"And the man at the Quai de Billy?"
"Well," said Nicholas, continuing to eat and drink. "On arriving at
the wharf, I tied up my boat, and mounted on the wharf; seven o'clock
struck at the military bakehouse of Chaillot; I could hardly see my
hand before my face. I walked up and down for about fifteen minutes,
when I heard some one walk softly behind me. I stopped; a man wrapped
in a cloak approached, coughing; he halted. All that I know of his
face is, that his cloak hid his nose, and his hat covered his eyes."
(This mysterious personage was Jacques Ferrand, who, wishing to make
away with Fleur-de-Marie, had that morning dispatched Mrs. Seraphin to
the Martials, whom he hoped to make his instruments in this new
"'Bradamanti,' said the tax-payer," continued Nicholas; "the password
agreed upon with the old woman. 'Ravageur,' I replied. 'Is your name
Martial?' said he to me. 'Rather!' 'A woman came to your island this
morning; what did she say?' 'That you had something to say to me from
M. Bradamanti.' 'Do you wish to gain some money?' 'Yes, much.' 'Have
you a boat?' 'Four! it is our business; boatmen and ravageurs from
father to son, at your service.' 'I'll tell you what is to be done--if
you are not afraid--' 'Afraid--of what?' 'To see some one _drowned
by accident_; only it is necessary to assist the _accident_.
Do you comprehend?' 'Oh, you want to make some cove drink of the Seine
by chance! that suits me; but, as it is rather a delicate draught, the
seasoning will cost rather dear.' 'How much for two?' 'For two! will
there be two persons to make soup of in the river?' 'Yes.' 'Five
hundred francs a-head, and not dear.' 'Agreed for a thousand francs.'
'Pay in advance?' 'Two hundred in advance, the remainder afterward.'
'You are afraid to trust me?' 'No, you can pocket my two hundred
francs without fulfilling our agreement.' 'And you, old friend, once
the affair finished, when I ask you for the remainder, can answer me--
go to the deuce!' 'You must run your chance; does this suit you, yes
or no? Two hundred francs down, and the night after to-morrow, here,
at nine o'clock, I will give you eight hundred francs.' 'And who shall
tell you that I have made these two persons drink?' 'I shall know it:
that's my affair! Is it a bargain?' 'It is.' 'Here's your money. Now
listen to me; you will know the old woman again who came to see you
this morning?' 'Yes.' 'To-morrow, or the day after at furthest, you
will see her arrive, about four o'clock in the afternoon, on the shore
opposite your island with a young girl; the old woman will make you a
signal by waving her handkerchief.' 'Yes.' 'How long does it take to
go from the shore to your island?' 'Twenty good minutes.' 'Your boats
have flat bottoms.' 'Flat as your hand.' 'You must make a hole in the
bottom of one of your boats, so as to be able, by opening it, to make
it sink in a twinkling; do you comprehend?' 'Very well; you are the
devil! I have an old boat that I was about to break up; it will just
answer for this last voyage.' 'You set out, then, from your island
with this boat; a good boat follows you, conducted by some one of your
family. You land; you take the old woman and the young girl on board
your boat, and you set off for the island; but, at a reasonable
distance from the shore, you feign to stoop to fix something; you open
the hole, and you jump lightly into the other boat, while the old
woman and the young girl--' 'Drink out of the same cup--that's it.'
'But are you sure of not being disturbed should there be any guests at
your tavern?' 'No fear, at this time, in winter, above all, no one
comes; it is our dead season; and if any one should come, they would
not be in the way; on the contrary--all tried friends.' 'Very well!
Besides, you will not be at all compromised; the boat will sink
through age, and the old woman with it. In fine, to be well assured
that both of them are drowned (remember, by accident), you should, if
they appear again, or if they cling to the boat, appear to do all in
your power to assist them, and--' 'Aid them--to dive again! Good
again.' 'It is better that the job take place after sunset, so that it
be dark when they fall into the water.' 'No, for if one cannot see
clear, how can they know whether the two women have drunk their fill,
or want some more?' 'That is true; then the accident must happen
before dark.' 'Very good; but does the old woman suspect anything?'
'No. On arriving she will whisper in your ear: We must drown the girl;
a short time before you sink the boat, make me a sign, so that I can
escape with you. You must answer in such a manner as to calm any
suspicions.' 'So that she thinks to lead the girl to drink?' 'And she
will drink with her.' 'It is wisely arranged.' 'Above all, let the old
woman suspect nothing.' 'Be easy; she shall swallow it like honey.'
'Well, good luck! If I am pleased, perhaps I shall employ you again.'
'At your service.' Thereupon," said the brigand, ending his story, "I
left the man in the cloak, got into my boat, and, passing by the
barge, I picked up the booty you have seen."
It will be seen from this recital, that the notary wished, by a double
crime, to get rid of Fleur-de-Marie and of Mrs. Seraphin at the same
time, by making the latter fall into the snare she believed only laid
for La Goualeuse. The reasons for putting the latter out of the way
are known to the reader; and in sacrificing Mrs. Seraphin, he silenced
one of his accomplices (Bradamanti was the other), who could at any
time ruin him by ruining themselves, it is true; but Jacques Ferrand
thought his secrets better guarded by the tomb than by personal
interest. The widow and Calabash had attentively listened to Nicholas,
who had only interrupted himself to drink to excess. For this reason
he began to talk with singular warmth.
"That's not all; I have managed another affair with La Chouette and
Barbillon, of the Rue aux Feves. It is a famous plant, knowingly got
up, and if we don't fail, there'll be something to try, I tell you. It
is in contemplation to rob a diamond broker, who has sometimes as much
as fifty thousand francs' value in her box."
"Fifty thousand francs!" cried mother and daughter, their eyes
sparkling with cupidity.
"Yes, that's all! Bras-Rouge is in the game. Yesterday he decoyed the
broker by a letter which Barbillon and I took to her on the Boulevard
Saint Denis. Brass-Rouge is a famous fellow! No one suspects him. To
make her bite, he has already sold her a diamond for four hundred
francs. She will not fail to come, at dusk, to his tavern in the
Champs Elysees. We will be there concealed. Calabash may come also, to
take care of my boat. If it is necessary to pack up the broker, dead
or alive, this will be a nice carriage, and leave no traces behind.
There's a plan for you! Rouge of a Bras-Rouge, what a college-bred
"I am always suspicious of Bras-Rouge," said the widow. "After the
affair of the Rue Montmartre, your brother Ambrose was sent to Toulon,
and Bras-Rouge was released."
"Because there was no proof against him, he is so cunning! But betray
The widow shook her head, as if she had been only half convinced of
the probity of Bras-Rouge. "I prefer," said she, "the affair of the
Quai de Billy--the women-drowning. But Martial will be in the way, as
he always is."
"The devil's thunder will not rid us of him then?" cried Nicholas,
half drunk, sticking his long knife with fury in the table.
"I told mother that we had had enough of him; that it could not last,"
said Calabash; "as long as he is here, we can make nothing out of the
"I tell you he is capable of denouncing us any day, the sneak," said
Nicholas. "Do you see, mother; if you'd have agreed," added he, in a
ferocious manner, looking at the widow, "all would have been settled."
"There are other means."
"This is the best."
"At present, no," answered the widow, with a tone so absolute that
Nicholas was quiet, ruled by her influence. She added, "To-morrow
morning he leaves the island forever."
"How?" said Calabash and Nicholas in a breath.
"He will soon come in; seek a quarrel--boldly--as you have never dared
to do. Come to blows, if needs be. He is strong, but you will be two,
and I will help you. Above all, no knives--no blood; let him be
beaten, not wounded."
"And what then?" asked Nicholas.
"We'll have an explanation; we will tell him to leave the island to-morrow,
otherwise we'll repeat this again to-morrow night; such continual
quarrels will disgust him, I know; we have let him be too quiet."
"But he is stubborn as a mule; he'll remain on account of the
children," said Calabash.
"He is dead beat, but an attack will not scare him," added Nicholas.
"Oh, yes," said the widow; "but every day, every day is too much; he
will give up."
"And if he will not?"
"Then I have another plan to force him to leave tonight, or to-morrow
morning at latest," answered the widow, with a strange smile.
"Yes; but I would rather frighten him by quarreling and fighting; if I
do not then succeed, I'll try the other way."
"And if the other way don't answer, mother?" said Nicholas.
"There is still another, which always does," replied the widow.
Suddenly the door opened and Martial entered. It blew so hard outside
that they had not heard the barking of the dogs announcing the arrival
of the gallows widow's first-born.
MOTHER AND SON.
Ignorant of these evil designs, Martial slowly entered into the
A few words of La Louve, in her conversation with Fleur-de-Marie, have
already informed us of the singular life of this man. Endowed with
good natural instincts, incapable of an action positively bad or
wicked, Martial did not conduct himself as he should have done. He
fished contrary to law, and his strength and audacity inspired so much
terror in the river-keepers, that they shut their eyes on his
The lover of La Louve resembled Francois and Amandine very much; he
was of middling stature, but robust and broad-shouldered; his thick,
red hair, cut short, laid in points on his open forehead; his thick,
heavy beard, his large cheeks, square nose, bold blue eyes, gave to
him a singularly resolute expression.
He wore an old tarpaulin glazed hat; and, notwithstanding the cold,
had nothing on but a wretched blouse over his well-worn vest and
coarse velveteen trousers. He held in his hand an enormous knotty
stick, which he placed alongside of him on the table.
A large dog, with crooked legs, came in with Martial; but he remained
near the door, not daring to approach the fire, or the people at the
table; experience had proved to old Miraut, that he was, as well as
his master, not in very good odor with the family.
"Where are the children?" were the first words of Martial, as he took
his seat at the table.
"They are where they are," answered Calabash, sharply.
"Where are the children, mother?" repeated Martial, without paying any
attention to his sister.
"Gone to bed," answered the widow, dryly.
"Have they supped, mother?"
"What's that to you?" cried Nicholas, brutally, after having swallowed
a large glass of wine, to augment his audacity.
Martial as indifferent to the attacks of Nicholas as he was to
Calabash's, said to his mother, "I am sorry the children have already
gone to bed, for I like to have them alongside of me when I sup."
"And we, as they trouble us, packed them off," cried Nicholas; "if it
don't please you, go and look for them!"
Martial, much surprised, looked fixedly at his brother. Then, as if
reflecting on the folly of a quarrel, he shrugged his shoulders, cut a
piece of bread with his knife, and helped himself to a slice of meat.
The terrier had drawn nearer to Nicholas, although still at a very
respectful distance; the bandit, irritated at the contemptuous
indifference of his brother, and hoping to make him lose his patience
by striking the dog, gave Miraut a furious kick, which made him howl
piteously. Martial became purple, pressed in his contracted hands the
knife which he held, and struck violently on the table; but, still
containing himself, he called his dog, and said gently, "Here,
Miraut." The terrier came and laid down at his master's feet. This
moderation defeated the projects of Nicholas, who wished to push his
brother to extremities to bring about a rupture. So he added, "I don't
like dogs--I won't have your dog here." For answer, Martial poured out
a glass of wine, and drank it slowly.
Exchanging a rapid glance with Nicholas, the widow encouraged him by a
sign to continue his hostilities, hoping that a violent quarrel would
bring about a rupture and a complete separation.
Nicholas went and took the willow switch which stood in the corner,
and, approaching the terrier, struck him, crying, "Get out of this,
Miraut!" Up to this time, Nicholas had often shown his animosity
toward Martial, but never before had he dared to provoke him with so
much audacity and perseverance. At the yelp from his dog, Martial
rose, opened the door, put the terrier outside, and returned to
continue his supper. This incredible patience, little in harmony with
the ordinary character of Martial, confounded his aggressors. They
looked at each other, very much surprised. He, appearing completely a
stranger to what was passing, ate heartily, and kept profound silence.
"Calabash, take away the wine," said the widow to her daughter. She
hastened to obey, when Martial said, "Stop! I have not finished my
"So much the worse!" said the widow, taking away the bottle.
"Ah! as you like," answered he, and pouring out a large glass of
water, he drank it, and smacking his lips, cried, "That's famous
water!" This imperturbable coolness still more irritated Nicholas,
already much excited by his frequent libations; nevertheless, he
recoiled before a direct attack, knowing the superior strength of his
brother; suddenly he cried:
"You have done well to knock under, with your dog, Martial; it is a
good habit to get into; for you must expect to see La Louve kicked
out, just as we have kicked out your dog."
"Oh, yes--for if she has the misfortune to come to the island when she
comes out of prison," said Calabash, comprehending the intention of
Nicholas, "I will box her soundly."
"And I'll give her a ducking in the mud, near the hovel at the other
end of the island," added Nicholas; "and if she comes up again, I'll
put her under again with a kick--the hussy."
This insult, addressed to La Louvs whom he loved with unqualified
passion, triumphed over the pacific resolutions of Martial; he knit
his brows, his blood rushed to his face, the veins on his forehead and
neck swelled like ropes; yet he still had command over himself to say
to Nicholas, in a voice altered by suppressed rage. "Take care--you
seek a quarrel, and you will find a new trick that you do not look
"A trick--to me?"
"Yes, better than the last."
"How? Nicholas," said Calabash, with well-feigned attachment, "has
Martial beat you? I say, mother, do you hear? I am no more astonished
that Nicholas is afraid of him."
"He whipped me, because he took me unawares," cried Nicholas, becoming
pale with rage.
"You lie! You attacked me slyly, I kicked you, and I took pity on you,
but if you undertake to speak again of La Louve--understand well, of
my Louve--then I'll have no mercy--you shall carry my marks for a long
"And if I wish to speak of La Louve, I?" said Calabash.
"I will give you a couple of boxes just to warm you; and if you go on,
I'll go on to warm you."
"And if I speak of her?" said the widow, slowly.
"You?" said Martial, making a violent effort to contain himself,
"You will beat me also, is it not so?"
"No! but if you speak of La Louve I'll thrash Nicholas; now go on, it
is your affair, and his also."
"You," cried the enraged bandit, raising his dangerous knife, "you
"Nicholas, no knife!" cried the widow, endeavoring to seize the arm of
her son. But he, drunk with wine and anger, pushed his mother rudely
on one side, and rushed at his brother. Martial fell back quickly,
seized his heavy knotted stick, and put himself on the defensive.
"Nicholas, no knife!" repeated the widow.
"Let him alone!" cried Calabash, arming herself with a hatchet.
Nicholas, brandishing his formidable knife, watched a favorable moment
to throw himself on his brother. "I tell you," he cried, "that I'll
crush you and your Louve, both. Now, mother--now, Calabash! let us
cool him; this has lasted too long!" And, believing the time favorable
for his attack, the brigand rushed toward his brother with his knife
Martial, very expert with a club, retreated quickly, lifted his stick,
made a quick turn with it in the air, describing the figure eight, and
let it fall heavily on the arm of Nicholas, who, hurt severely,
dropped his knife. "Brigand, you have broken my arm!" cried he, taking
hold of his arm with his left hand.
"No, I felt my club rebound," answered Martial, kicking the knife
under the table. Then, profiting by the situation of Nicholas, he took
him by the collar, pushed him roughly backward toward the door of the
little cellar, opened it with one hand, and with the other threw him
in and shut the door.
Returning afterward to the two women, he took Calabash by the
shoulders, and, in spite of her resistance, her cries, and a blow from
the hatchet which wounded him slightly in the hand, he locked her in
the lower room of the tavern, which was adjoining the kitchen; then,
addressing the widow, still stupefied at this maneuver, as skillful as
it was unexpected, he said, coldly, "Now, mother, for us two."
"Well! yes; for us two," cried the widow, and her stoical face became
animated, her wan complexion became suffused, her eyes sparkled, anger
and hatred gave a terrible character to her features. "Yes; now for us
two!" said she, in a threatening tone; "I expected this moment--you
shall know at last what I have on my heart."
"And I also will tell you."
"If you live a hundred years you shall recollect this night."
"I shall remember it! My brother and sister wished to murder me; you
did nothing to prevent it. But come, speak: what have you against me?"
"What's my grudge?"
"Since the death of your father, you have done nothing but cowardly
"Yes, coward! Instead of staying with us to sustain us, you fled to
Rambouillet, to poach in the woods with the game-peddler you knew at
"If I remained here, I should now have been at the galleys, like
Ambrose, or fit to go, like Nicholas; I did not wish to be a robber
like the others. Hence your hatred."
"And what was your trade? You stole game; you stole fish; no danger in
"Fish, as well as game, belong to no one; to-day in one place, to-morrow
in another; it is for who can get it. I do not steal; as for being a
"You fight for money men who are weaker than you are!"
"Because they have beaten those who are weaker than they are!"
"Trade of a coward! Trade of a coward!"
"There are more honest, it is true; it is not for you to tell me of
"Why have you not followed these honest callings, instead of lounging
here and living at my expense?"
"I give you the first fish I take, and what money I have--it is not
much, but it is enough. I cost you nothing. I have tried to be a
locksmith, to gain more; but when one from his infancy has idled on
the river and in the woods, one can't do anything else; it is done for
life. And besides, I have always preferred to live alone, on the river
or in the woods; there no one questions me. Instead of that, in other
places, if any one should ask me of my father, must I not answer--
guillotined! of my brother--galley-slave! of my sister--thief!"
"And of your mother, what would you say!"
"I'd say she was dead."
"And you would do well; it is all as--I disown you, coward! Your
brother is at the galleys. Your grandfather and father have bravely
finished on the scaffold, in defying the priest and the executioner.
Instead of avenging them, you tremble!"
"Yes, to show yourself a real Martial, spit on the knife of Jack Ketch
and his red cap, and finish like father and mother, brother and
Habituated as Martial was to the ferocious bombast of his mother, he
could not refrain from shuddering.
She resumed, with increasing fury, "Oh! coward, still more 'creatur'
than coward! You wish to be honest. Honest? is it that you shall not
always be despised, as the son of a murderer, brother of a galley-slave;
but you, instead of hugging vengeance, you are afraid; instead
of biting, you fly; when they cut off your father's head, you left us,
coward! And you knew we could not leave the island without being
hunted and howled after like mad dogs. Oh, they shall pay for it, they
shall pay for it!"
"One man--ten men can't make me afraid! but to be pointed at by
everybody as the son and brother of condemned criminals--well, no! I
could not stand it. I preferred to go and poach with Pierre the
"Why did you not remain in your woods?"
"I came back on account of my affair with the guard, and above all, on
account of the children, because they were of an age to be ruined by
"What is that to you?"
"To me? because I do not wish to see them become like Ambrose,
Nicholas, and Calabash."
"And alone with you all, they would not have failed, I made myself an
apprentice to try to earn something, to take them with me, and leave
the island; but at Paris every one knew it; it was always son of the
guillotined, brother of the galley slave. I had continual fights. It
"And that did not tire you to be honest; that succeeded so well,
instead of having the heart to return to us, to do as we do--as the
children shall do in spite of you--yes, in spite of you. You think you
will stuff them with your preachings, but we are here. Francois
already belongs to us nearly--the first occasion, and he shall be of
"I tell you no."
"You will see. I know it. There is vice at the bottom; but you
restrain him. Amandine, when she is once fifteen, will go alone. Ah!
they have thrown stones at us, they have hunted us like mad dogs. They
shall see what our family is--except you, coward; for you alone make
"It is a pity."
"And as you may be spoiled here with us, to-morrow you will go from
this never to return."
Martial looked at his mother with surprise; after a moment's pause he
said, "You tried to get up a quarrel at supper to arrive at this."
"Yes, to show you what you may expect if you will stay here in spite
of us--a hell--do you understand?--a hell upon earth. Every day
disputes, blows, fights; and we shall not be alone like to-night; we
will have friends to help us; you'll not hold on a week."
"You think to frighten me?"
"I tell you what will happen to you."
"No matter. I remain."
"You will remain here?"
"In spite of us?"
"In spite of you, and Calabash, and Nicholas, and all others of the
"Stop; you make me laugh."
"I tell you I'll remain here until I find the means to earn my living
elsewhere with the children; alone, I should not be embarrassed. I
should return to the woods; but, on their account, I want more time to
find out what I want. Until then I remain."
"Ah! you remain until you can take away the children?"
"As you say!"
"Take away the children?"
"When I say to them come, they will come, and running too, I answer
The widow shrugged her shoulders, and replied, "Listen to me. I told
you, just now, if you were to live a thousand years, you would
remember this night. I am going to explain to you why; but once more,
have you well decided not to go?"
"Yes! yes! a thousand times, yes!"
"Directly you will say no! a thousand times, no! Listen to me well. Do
you know what trade your brother follows?"
"I suspect, but I do not want to know."
"You shall know. He steals."
"So much the worse for him."
"And for you."
"He is a burglar, a galley affair; we receive his plunder; if it is
discovered, we shall be condemned to the same punishment as receivers,
and you also; the family will be carried off, and the children will be
turned into the streets, where they will learn the trade of your
father and grandfather quite as well as here."
"I arrested as a receiver, as your accomplice! On what proof?"
"No one knows how you live; you are a vagrant on the water--you have
the reputation of a bad man--you live with us. Who will you make
believe that you are ignorant of our doings?"
"I will prove the contrary."
"We will accuse you as our accomplice."
"Accuse me! why?"
"To reward you for remaining here in spite of us."
"Just now you wished to alarm me in one way; now it is in another;
that don't take. I shall prove that I have never stolen. I remain."
"Ah! you remain? Listen, then, once more; do you remember what
happened last Christmas night?"
"Christmas night?" said Martial, endeavoring to collect his thoughts.
"I do not recollect."
"You do not remember that Bras-Rouge brought here at night a man well
dressed, who wished to be concealed?"
"Yes, now I remember; I went upstairs to bed, and I left him at supper
with you. He passed the night here; before daylight Nicholas took him
to Saint Ouen."
"You are sure Nicholas took him to Saint Ouen."
"You told me so the next morning!"
"Christmas night you were then here?"
"On that night that man, who had much money with him, was killed in
"And robbed, and buried in the little wood-house."
"It is not true," cried Martial, becoming pale with alarm, and not
willing to believe in this new crime of his kindred. "You wish to
alarm me. Once more I say it is not true."
"Ask your pet, Francois, what he saw in the wood-house."
"Francois, what did he see?"
"One of the feet of the man sticking out of the ground. Take the
lantern; go there, and satisfy yourself."
"No," said Martial, wiping the cold sweat from his brow. "No, I do not
believe you. You tell me that to---"
"To prove to you that, if you live here in spite of us, you run the
risk every moment to be arrested as an accomplice in murder and
robbery. You were here Christmas night; we will say how you gave us
your aid; how can you prove the contrary?"
"Oh!" said Martial, hiding his face in his hands.
"Now will you go?" said the widow, with a sarcastic smile.
Martial was thunderstruck; he did not doubt the truth of what his
mother had said; the roving life he led, his residence with a family
so criminal, might cause heavy suspicions to fall upon him, and these
might be changed into certainties in the eyes of justice, if his
mother, his brother, his sister, pointed to him as their accomplice.
The widow enjoyed the situation of her son.
"You have the means to escape from this; denounce us!"
"I ought to do it, but I shall not; you know it well!"
"It is for this I have told you all. Now will you go?"
Martial tried to soften his mother; with a mellowed voice he said,
"Mother, I do not believe you capable of this murder."
"As you like, but go away."
"I will go on one condition."
"You will place the children as apprentices far from this, in the
"They shall remain here."
"Come now, mother; when you have made them like Nicholas, Ambrose,
father--what good will it do you?"
"To do some good business with their aid. We are not yet too many.
Calabash remains here with me to keep the tavern. Nicholas is alone;
once taught, Francois and Amandine will help him. They threw stones at
them also, children as they were; they must revenge themselves."
"Mother, you love Calabash and Nicholas, don't you?"
"They will go to the scaffold like father."
"What then, what then?"
"And does not their fate make you tremble?"
"Their fate shall be mine--neither better nor worse. I steal, they
steal; I kill, they kill. Who takes the mother will take the children.
We will not be separated. If our heads fall, they shall fall in the
same basket, where they will say adieu! We will not turn back; you are
the only coward in the family; we drive you away. Get out!"
"But the children--the children!"
"The children will grow up. I tell you, except for you, they would
have been already formed. Francois is almost ready; when you are gone,
Amandine shall make up for lost time."
"Mother, I entreat you, consent to send the children away as
apprentices far from here."
"How many times must I tell you that they are in apprenticeship here?"
The widow articulated these words in such a stern manner that Martial
lost all hope of softening this heart of bronze.
"Since it is thus," said he, in a resolute and brief tone, "listen to
me in your turn, mother; I remain."
"Not in this house. I should be murdered by Nicholas, or poisoned by
Calabash; but, as I have not the means to lodge elsewhere, the
children and I will live in the hovel at the other end of the island:
the door is strong; I will make it stronger. Once there, well
barricaded, with my gun, my dog, and my club, I fear no one. To-morrow
morning I will take away the children; they will come with me,
sometimes in my boat, sometimes on the mainland. At night they shall
sleep near me in the cabin; we will live on my fishing. This shall
continue until I find a place for them; and I will find one."
"Ah! is it so?"
"Neither you, nor my brother, nor Calabash can prevent it. If your
thefts and your murders are discovered while I am still on the island,
so much the worse; I must run my chance. I shall explain that I
returned: that I remained on account of the children, to prevent their
becoming rogues. They can judge. But may the thunder crush me if I
leave this island, and if the children remain one day more in this
house! Yes, I defy you--defy you and yours to drive me from the
The widow knew the resolution of Martial; the children loved their
eldest brother as much as they feared him; they would follow him,
then, without hesitation, when he wished it. As to him, well armed,
resolute, always on his guard--in his boat during the day, barricaded
during the in his cabin--he had nothing to fear from any evil designs
of his family. The project of Martial could then, on all points, be
realized. But the widow had many reasons to prevent the execution.
In the first place, like as honest artisans consider sometimes the
number of their children as riches, on account of their services, so
the widow counted on Amandine and Francois to assist her in her
crimes. Then, what she had said of her desire to avenge her husband
and her son was true. Certain beings, nursed, become aged, hardened in
crime, enter into open revolt, into a murderous warfare against
society, and believe by new acts of guilt to avenge themselves for the
just punishment which has overtaken them and theirs. And then, in
fine, the wicked designs of Nicholas against Fleur-de-Marie, and still
later against the diamond broker, might be defeated by the presence of
Martial. The widow had hoped to bring about an immediate separation
between herself and Martial, either by fomenting the quarrel with
Nicholas, or by revealing to him what risk he ran by remaining on the
island. As cunning as she was acute, the widow, perceiving that she
was mistaken, felt that it was necessary to have recourse to perfidy
to entrap her son in a bloody snare. She resumed then, after a long
silence, and with affected bitterness: "I see your plan; you do not
wish to denounce us yourself--you wish to do it through the children."
"They know now that there is a man buried here; they know that
Nicholas has stolen: once in apprenticeship, they will speak; we shall
be taken, and we shall all be executed--you, as well as we; that's
what will happen if I listen to you--if I allow you to place the
children elsewhere. And yet you say you don't wish us any harm! I do
not ask you to love me; but do not hasten the moment when we shall be
The softened tones of the widow made Martial believe that his threats
had produced a salutary effect: he fell into a frightful snare.
"I know the children," replied he. "I am sure if I tell them to say
nothing they will be quiet; besides, I shall always be with them, and
will answer for their silence."
"Can any one answer for the words of a child? at Paris, above all,
where people are so curious and talkative? It is as much to keep them
silent as to aid us that I wish to keep them here."
"Do they not go to the village and to Paris now? Who prevents them
from speaking, if they wish to speak? If they were far away from here,
so much the better: what they might say would be of no consequence."
"Far from here! and where is that?" said the widow, looking steadily
at her son.
"Let me take them away; no consequence to you."
"How would you live?"
"My old master, the locksmith, is a good man. I will tell him what is
necessary, and perhaps he will lend me something on account of the
children; with that I'll go and bind them out far away from this. We
set out in two days, and you will never hear more of us."
"No; I prefer to have them with me. I shall be more sure of them."
"Then I establish myself to-morrow at the hovel, waiting for something
better. I have a head also, and you know it."
"Yes, I know it. Oh, how I wish to see you far away from this! Why did
you not stay in your woods?"
"I offer to rid you both of myself and the children."
"You would leave La Louve, then--she whom you love so well?"
"That's my business: I know what I have to do; I have a plan."
"If I let you take them away, will you never return to Paris?"
"In three days we will be off, and like the dead for you."
"I prefer to have it so, rather than you should always be here, and be
suspicious of them. Come, since it must be so, take them away, and
clear out as soon as possible, that I may never see you again."
"Is this settled?"
"It is. Give me the key of the cellar, so that I can release
"No he can sleep off his wine there."
"It is different. You can open the door after I have gone to bed; it
makes me feel bad to see her."
"Go; and may the devil confound you!"
"Is it your good-night, mother?"
"Happily, it will be the last," said Martial.
"The last," replied the widow.
Her son lighted a candle, and, opening the kitchen door, whistled to
his dog, which came bounding in, and followed his master to the upper
story of the mansion.
"Go! your account is finished," muttered the mother, shaking her fist
at her son, who had just gone upstairs, "you have brought it upon
yourself." Then, assisted by Calabash, who went to look for a bunch of
false keys, the widow picked the lock of the cellar where Nicholas was
confined, and set him at liberty.
FRANCOIS AND AMANDINE.
Francois and Amandine slept in a room situated immediately over the
kitchen, at the extremity of a corridor, into which opened several
other rooms, serving as private dining-rooms to the frequenters of the
tavern. After having partaken of their frugal supper, instead of
extinguishing their lantern, according to the orders of the widow, the
two children had watched, leaving their door open, to see Martial when
he should come to his room. Placed on a rickety stool, the lantern
shed a sickly light through the miserable room. Walls of plaster, a
cot for Francois, a child's bedstead, very old, and much too short for
Amandine, a heap of broken chairs and benches, the result of some of
the drunken brawls and turbulent conduct which had taken place at the
tavern; such was the interior of this den.
Amandine, seated on the edge of the cot, tried to dress her head with
the stolen gift of her brother Nicholas, Francois, kneeling, presented
a fragment of looking-glass to his sister, who, with her head half-turned
round, was occupied in tying the ends of the silk into a large
rosette. Very attentive, and very much struck with this coiffure,
Francois neglected for a moment to hold the glass in such a position
that his sister could see. "Raise the glass higher now--I cannot see;
there--so--good. Wait a little; now I have finished. Look! how do you
think it looks?"
"Oh, very well--very well! What a fine tie! You'll make one just like
it with my cravat, won't you?"
"Yes, directly; but let me walk a little. You go before--backward;
hold the glass up so that I can see myself as I walk." Francois
executed this difficult maneuver very well, to the great satisfaction
of Amandine, who strutted up and down triumphantly, under the rosette
and ears of her _foulard._ Very innocent under any other
circumstances, this conduct become culpable, as Francois and Amandine
both knew the prize was stolen; another proof of the frightful
facility with which children, even well endowed, are corrupted almost
without knowing it, when they are continually plunged in a criminal
And, besides, the sole mentor of these little unfortunates, their
brother Martial, was not himself irreproachable, as we have said:
incapable of committing a theft or murder, he did not the less lead an
irregular and wandering life. They refused to commit certain bad
actions, not from honesty, but to obey Martial, whom they tenderly
loved, and to disobey their mother, whom they feared and hated. It is
hard to say how much the perceptions of morality with these children
were doubtful, vacillating, precarious; with Francois particularly,
arrived at that dangerous period where the mind, hesitating, undecided
between good and evil, perhaps in one moment may be lost or saved.
"How this red becomes you, sister!" said Francois. "How pretty it is!
When we go and play on the shore in front of the plaster-kilns, you
must dress yourself so, to make the children wild, who are always
throwing stones at us and calling us little _guillotines._ I'll
put on my fine red cravat, and we will tell them, 'Never mind, you
haven't such handsome handkerchiefs as these.'"
"But I say, Francois," said Amandine, after a pause, "if they knew
that they were stolen, they would call us little thieves."
"Who cares if they do?"
"When it is not true, it's all the same; but now--"
"Since Nicholas has given us these, we have not stolen them."
"Yes, but he did; he took them from a boat; and brother Martial says
we must not steal."
"But since Nicholas has stolen them, it is none of our business."
"You think so, Francois?"
"Yes, I do."
"Yet it seems to me that I should have preferred that the person to
whom they belonged should have given them to us. Don't you think so,
"Oh, it's all the same to me. They have been given to us, and that's
"You are very sure?"
"Why, yes, yes; do be quiet."
"Then, so much the better; we have not done what brother Martial
forbids, and we have fine handkerchiefs."
"I say, Amandine, if he knew that the other day Calabash made you take
that handkerchief from the peddler's pack, when his back was turned!"
"Oh, Francois, do not speak of that!" said the poor child, whose eyes
were filled with tears: "brother Martial would love me no more. He
would leave us all alone here."
"Don't be afraid, I will not tell him," he said, laughing.
"Oh, don't laugh at that. Francois; I am sorry enough; but I had to do
it. Sister pinched me till the blood came, and then she looked at me
so--so! and yet twice my heart failed me; I thought I could never do
it. Finally, the peddler saw nothing, and sister kept the kerchief. If
he had seen me, Francois, they would have put me in prison."
"They did not see you; it is just the same as if you had not stolen."
"You think so?"
"And in prison, how unhappy one must be!"
"On the contrary."
"How, Francois, on the contrary?"
"Look here! you know the big lame man who lives at Paris with Pere
Micou; the man who sells for Nicholas; who keeps furnished lodgings,
Passage de la Brasserie?"
"A big lame man?"
"Why, yes; who came here at the end of the autumn from Pere Micou,
with a man with monkeys, and two women."
"Oh, yes, yes; the lame man who spent so much money?"
"I think so; he paid for everybody."
"Do you recollect the excursion on the water?"
[Illustration: THE BRIGAND'S ATTACK ON HIS BROTHER]
"I went with them, and the man with the monkeys took his organ on
board to have some music in the boat."
"And then, at night, what fine fireworks they had, Francois!"
"Yes; and he was no miser: he gave me ten sous! He drank nothing but
sealed wine; they had chickens at all their meals; they had at least
eighty francs' worth."
"As much as that, Francois?" "Oh, yes."
"He was very rich, then?"
"Not at all; what he spent was the money which he earned in prison,
from whence he had just come."
"He gained all that money in prison?"
"Yes; he said he had seven hundred francs left; that when all was
gone, he would do some good job, and if they took him, he didn't care,
because he would return to the prison and join his good friends
"He wasn't afraid of the prison, then, Francois?".
"Just the contrary; he told Calabash that they were all jolly
together; that he never had a better bed or better food than in
prison: good meat four times a week, fire all winter, and a good sum
when he came out, while there are so many stupid fools of honest
workmen who were starving for want of work."
"Did the lame man say that?"
"I heard him; for I was rowing in the boat while he told this to
Calabash and the two women, who said it was the same thing in the
prison for women; they had just come out."
"But, then, Francois, it can't be so wicked to steal, if one is so
well off in prison?"
"I don't know; here, there is no one but brother Martial who says it
is wrong to steal, perhaps he is mistaken."
"Never mind, we must believe him, Francois; he loves us so much!"
"He loves us, it is true! when he is here no one dares to beat us. If
he had been here to-night, mother wouldn't have whipped me. Old beast!
ain't she wicked? Oh! I hate her--hate her. How I wish I was a man, to
pay her back all the blows she has given me, and you, who can't bear
it as well as I can."
"Oh! Francois, hush, you make me afraid, to hear you say that you
would like to strike mother!" cried the poor little thing, weeping,
and throwing her arms around the neck of her brother, whom she
"No, it is true," answered Francois, repulsing his sister gently; "why
are mother and Calabash always so severe and cross to us?"
"I do not know," said Amandine, wiping her eyes; "it is, perhaps,
because they guillotined father and sent Ambrose to the galleys."
"Is that our fault?"
"If I am always to receive blows in the end, I would rather steal, as
they wish me to; what good does it do me not to steal?"
"And what would Martial say?"
"Oh! except for him I should have said 'yes' long ago, for I am tired
of being flogged; now to-night, mother never was so wicked--she was
like a fury--it was very dark, dark; she said not a word, I only felt
her cold hand, which held me by the neck, while with the other she
beat me, and I thought I saw her eyes glisten."
"Poor Francois! because you said you saw a dead man's bones in the
"Yes, a foot which stuck out of the earth," said Francois, shuddering
with affright: "I am sure of it."