Part 8 out of 12
"Perhaps formerly there was a burying-ground there?"
"Must think so; but, then, why did mother say she would whip me again
if I spoke of it to Martial? I tell you what, it is likely some one
has been killed in a dispute, and been buried there so it should not
be known." "You are right! for, do you remember, such a thing once
liked to have happened?"
"When was that?"
"You know the time that Barbillon struck the man with the knife--the
tall man, who is so thin--so thin that he shows himself for money?"
"Ah! yes, the Living Skeleton, as they call him; mother came and
separated them, otherwise Barbillon would, perhaps, have killed the
great skeleton! Did you see how he foamed, and how his eyes stuck out
of his head?"
"Oh! he is not afraid to stick a knife into one for nothing."
"He is a madcap!"
"Oh! yes, so young, and so wicked, Francois!"
"Tortillard is much younger; and he would be quite as bad, if he had
"Oh! yes, he is very bad. The other day he struck me because I would
not play with him."
"He struck you? good--the next time he comes--"
"No, no, Francois, it was only in fun."
"You are sure?"
"Yes, very sure."
"Very well--or--but I do not know where he gets so much money from;
when he came here with La Chouette, he showed us some gold pieces of
"How impudent he looked when he told us, 'You could have just the
same, if you were not little duffers.'"
"Yes, that means stupid fools."
"Oh, yes! true."
"Forty francs--in gold--how many fine things I would buy with that!
And you, Amandine?"
"Oh! I likewise."
"And what would you buy?"
"Let me see," said the child, in a meditative manner; "in the first
place I would get a warm coat for brother Martial, so that he should
not be cold in his boat."
"But for yourself--for yourself?"
"I would like an infant Saviour, in wax, with his lamb and cross, like
the image-man had on Sunday, you know, at the door of the church of
"I hope no one will tell mother Calabash that they saw us at church."
"True, she has so often forbidden us to enter one. It is a pity, for a
church is very nice inside, is it not, Francois?"
"Yes, what fine candlesticks!"
"And the picture of the Holy Virgin! how good she looks!"
"And the lamps; and the fine cloth on the table at the end, where the
priest said mass, with his two friends dressed like himself, who gave
him water and wine."
"Say, Francois, do you recollect last year, the Fete-Dieu, when we saw
from here all the little communicants, in their white veils, pass over
"What handsome flowers they had!"
"How they sung, and held the ribbons of their banners!"
"And how the silver fringes of the banners glistened in the sun! That
must have cost a deal of money!"
"Goodness--how handsome it was, Francois!"
"I believe you, and the communicants with their badges of white satin
on the arm, and wax candles with velvet and gold handles."
"The little boys had banners also, had they not, Francois?"
"Oh! was I not whipped that day because I asked mother why we did not
walk in the procession, like other children!"
"Then it was that she told us never to enter a church, unless it was
to steal the money-box for the poor, 'or from the pockets of people
listening to mass,' added Calabash, laughing and showing her old,
"Bad creature, she is!"
"Oh, before I would steal in a church, they should kill me! Don't you
say so, Francois?"
"There, or elsewhere--what is the difference when one has decided?"
"I do not know, but I should have more fear; I never could."
"On account of the priests?"
"No, perhaps on account of the picture of the Holy Virgin, who looks
so good and kind."
"What of that?--the picture can't eat you, little fool!"
"True; but I could not; it is not my fault."
"Speaking of priests, Amandine, do you remember the day when Nicholas
struck me so hard, because he saw me bow to the cure who was passing
on the shore? I had seen him saluted--I did the same; I did not think
there was any harm."
"Yes; but that time Martial said just the same as Nicholas--that we
had no need to make a salute to a priest."
At this moment Francois and Amandine heard some one walk in the
Martial reached his chamber without any further trouble, after his
conversation with the widow, believing Nicholas locked up until the
next morning. Seeing a ray of light issuing from the door of the
children's room, he went in. They both ran to him and embraced him
"Not yet gone to bed, little chatterers?"
"No, brother; we waited for you to come and say good-night," said
"And, besides, some one was talking very loud downstairs, as if it was
a quarrel," added Francois.
"Yes," said Martial, "I had a dispute with Nicholas, but it is
nothing. I am glad to find you up; I have some good news to tell you."
"Would you like to go with me away from here--far away?"
"Oh yes, brother!"
"Well, in two or three days all three of us leave the island."
"How glad I am!" cried Amandine, clapping her hands.
"But where shall we go to?" asked Francois.
"You shall see, inquisitive; but never mind, wherever we go, you shall
learn a good trade, which will make you able to earn your living, that
"Shall I not go any more fishing with you, brother?"
"No, my boy; you shall go as an apprentice to a cabinet-maker or a
locksmith. You are strong and active; with courage, and by working
hard, at the end of a year you will be able to earn something. Oh,
come now, what is the matter? You do not appear to be pleased."
"Because, brother, I--"
"Well, go on."
"Would rather remain with you, fish, mend your nets, than learn a
"To be shut up in a shop all day is so gloomy; and to be an apprentice
is so tiresome." Martial shrugged his shoulders.
"You would rather be idle, a vagabond, a rover," said he severely,
"before becoming a robber?"
"No, brother; but I would rather live here with you, as we live here--
"Yes, that's it--to eat, drink, sleep, and amuse yourself with
fishing, like a lazybones."
"I like that better."
"It is very probable; but you must like something else. Look here, my
poor Francois, it is high time that I take you from this place;
without knowing it, you will become as bad as the others. Mother was
right--I am afraid you are rather vicious. But you, Amandine, wish to
learn a trade?"
"Oh, yes, brother; I would rather learn one than stay here. I shall be
so glad to go away with you and Francois?"
"But what have you got on your head?" said Martial, remarking the
triumphant head-dress of Amandine.
"A handkerchief which Nicholas gave me."
"He gave me one also," said Francois proudly.
"And where did they come from? It would surprise me if Nicholas should
have bought them for you."
The children hung their heads, without replying. After a moment's
pause, Francois said resolutely, "Nicholas gave them to us; we don't
know where they came from, do we, Amandine?"
"No, no, brother," answered she, stammering and blushing, and not
daring to raise her eyes."
"Do not tell a lie!" said Martial sweetly.
"We do not lie!" added Francois, boldly.
"Amandine, my child, tell the truth," said Martial, gently.
"Well, to tell the whole truth," answered Amandine, timidly, "they
came from a box of goods which Nicholas brought to-night in his boat."
"I think so, brother, from a barge."
"You see, Francois, you told a lie!" said Martial. The boy held down
his head, without answering.
"Give me the handkerchief, Amandine; give me yours, also, Francois."
The little girl took off her head-dress, took a last look at the
enormous rosette, and gave it to Martial, stifling a sigh of regret.
Francois drew his slowly from his pocket, and, like his sister,
returned it to Martial.
"To-morrow morning," said he, "I will give these to Nicholas. You
should not have taken them, my children; to profit by a theft is the
same as to be the thief."
"It's a pity--they are so handsome!" said Francois.
"When you have learned a trade, and earn money, you can buy some quite
as handsome. Come, go to bed; it is late, children."
"You are not angry, brother?" said Amandine timidly.
"No, no, my girl; it is not your fault. You live with rogues--you do
as they do without knowing it. When you are with honest people, you
will do as they do; and you soon shall be there--or deuce take me!
"Good-night, brother;" and, embracing them both, Martial departed.
"What is the matter, Francois? you look so sad!" said Amandine.
"Brother has taken my handkerchief; and, besides, did you not hear?"
"He wants to make us apprentices."
"Are you not glad?"
"You would rather remain here, and be beaten every day?"
"I am beaten; but I don't have to work. I am all day in the boat, or
fishing or playing, or serving the company, who sometimes give me
something for drink, as the lame man did; it is much more amusing than
to be shut up from morning till night in a shop, to work like a dog."
"But did you not hear brother say, if we remained here any longer we
would become bad?"
"All the same to me, since other children call us already little
thieves. Work is too tiresome."
"But here they always beat us!"
"They beat us because we listen more to Martial than to them."
"He is so good to us."
"He is good, he is good, I do not deny; so I love him well. They do
not dare to harm us before him. He takes us out to walk, it is truer
but that is all; he never gives us anything."
"Brother, he has nothing; what he earns he gives to our mother for
"Nicholas has something. I am sure that if we were to listen to him
and mother, he would not treat us so; he would give us fine things,
like to-day; he would no longer suspect us; we should have money, like
"But we should have to steal, and that would cause brother Martial so
"Can't help that!"
"Oh, Francois! Besides, if they caught us, we should go to prison."
"In prison, or shut up all day in a shop, is the same thing. Besides,
the lame man said they amused them--selves so much in prison."
"But the sorrow we would cause to Martial--don't you think of that? It
is on our account he came back here, and now remains; alone, he could
easily get along: he could return and poach in the woods he likes so
"Well! let him take us in the woods with him," said Francois: "that
would be best of all; I would be with him I love so much, and I should
not have to work at a trade I cannot bear."
The conversation of Francois and Amandine was interrupted. Their door
locked on the outside with a double turn.
"We are shut up!" cried Francois.
"Oh! what for, brother? What are they going to do with us?"
"Perhaps it is Martial."
"Listen, listen, his dog barks!" said Amandine.
"It sounds to me as if they were hammering something," said Francois;
"perhaps they are trying to break open Martial's door!"
"Yes, yes, his dog barks all the time."
"Listen, Francois! now it sounds like driving nails. Oh, dear, I am
afraid. What could brother have done? now hear how his dog howls!"
"Amandine, I hear nothing now," said Francois, approaching the door.
The two children, holding their breath, listened with anxiety.
"Now they return," said Francois, in a low tone, "I hear them walking
in the corridor."
"Let us jump into bed; mother would kill us if she found us up," said
"No!" answered Francois, still listening: "they have just passed our
door; they are running downstairs; now they open the kitchen door."
"You think so?"
"Yes, yes; I know the noise it makes."
"Martial's dog keeps on howling," said Amandine; then suddenly she
cried, "Francois, brother calls us."
"Yes, don't you hear him?" And, notwithstanding the thickness of the
two closed doors, the stentorian voice of Martial, calling to the
children, could be heard. "We cannot go to him--we are locked up,"
said Amandine: "they wish to do him some harm, for he calls to us."
"Oh, if I could," cried Francois, resolutely, "I would prevent them,
if they were to cut me to pieces! But brother does not know that we
are locked up; he will think that we will not help him."
"Call to him, Francois, that we are shut up."
He was about to follow the advice of his sister, when a violent blow
shook the blind on the outside of the little window of their room.
"They are coming that way to kill us!" cried Amandine, and, in her
fright, she threw herself on the bed, and covered her face with her
Francois remained immovable, although he partook of the alarm of his
sister. Yet, after the violent blow of which we have spoken, the blind
was not opened; the most profound silence reigned throughout the
Martial had ceased to call the children.
Somewhat recovered and excited by deep curiosity, Francois ventured to
half open the window, and tried to see without through the slats of
"Take care, brother," whispered Amandine, who, hearing Francois open
the window had partly raised herself up. "Do you see anything?"
"No; the night is too dark."
"Do you hear nothing?"
"No; the wind blows too hard."
"Come back, come back then!"
"Ah! now I see something."
"The light of a lantern; it comes and goes."
"Who carries it?"
"I only see the light."
"Oh! now it comes nearer; some one speaks."
"Who is that?"
"Listen, listen! it is Calabash."
"What does she say?"
"She tells them to hold the foot of the ladder steady."
"Oh! do you see, it was in taking away the long ladder which was
against our window that they made such a noise just now."
"I hear nothing more."
"What are they doing with the ladder now?"
"I can't see anything more."
"Do you hear nothing?"
"Oh, Francois, it is, perhaps, to get into brother Martial's room by
the window that they have taken the ladder?"
"That may be."
"If you would open the shutter a little to see--"
"I dare not."
"Only a little."
"Oh! no, no. If mother should see it--"
"It is so dark there is no danger."
Francois, yielding to the entreaties of his sister, opened the blinds
and looked out.
"Well, brother?" said Amandine, overcoming her fears, and approaching
Francois on tiptoe.
"By the light of the lantern," said he; "I see Calabash holding the
foot of the ladder, placed against Martial's window."
"Nicholas goes up the ladder; he has his hatchet in his hands; I see
"Hullo, you are not gone to bed! you are spying us!" cried the widow
suddenly, calling to Francois and his sister. Just as she was going
into the kitchen she saw the light from the half-opened window. The
unfortunate children had neglected to extinguish their light. "I am
coming up," added the widow, in a terrible voice; "I am coining to
you, little spies."
Such are the events which took place at the Ravageur's Island, the
evening before Mrs. Seraphin was to conduct thither Fleur-de-Marie.
Brasserie passage, a dark and gloomy passage, but little known,
although situated in the center of Paris, extended on one side from
the Rue Traversiere Saint Honore to the Cour Saint Guillaume on the
other. About the middle of this wet, muddy, dark, and gloomy street,
where the sun scarcely ever penetrates, stood a furnished house.
On a rascally-looking sign was to be seen, "_Furnished Rooms_;"
on the right of an obscure alley opened the door of a shop not less
obscure, where the proprietor was generally to be found. This man,
whose name has been several times mentioned on Ravageur's Island, was
Micou; openly a seller of old iron; but secretly he bought and sold
stolen metal, such as iron, lead, copper, and tin. To say that Micou
was in business and friendly relations with the Martials, is
sufficiently to appreciate his morality.
Micou was a corpulent man of about fifty years of age, with a low,
cunning look, a pimply nose, and bloated cheeks; he wore an otter-skin
cap, and was wrapped up in an old green garrick. Over the little iron
stove near which he was warming himself, a board with numbers painted
on it was nailed against the wall; there were suspended the keys of
the rooms whose lodgers were absent. The window looking into the
street was soaped in such a manner that those without could not see
what was going on within the shop; this window was heavily barred with
iron. Throughout this large shop reigned great obscurity: on the damp
and blackish walls were suspended rusty chains of all sorts and sizes;
the floor was nearly covered with fragments and clippings of iron and
lead. Three peculiar knocks at the door attracted the attention of
"Come in!" cried he, and Nicholas appeared. He was very pale; his face
seemed still more sinister-looking than the evening previous, and yet
it will be seen he feigned a kind of noisy gayety during the following
conversation. This scene took place the morning after his quarrel with
his brother Martial.
"Oh! here you are, good fellow!" said the lodging-house keeper,
"Yes, Daddy Micou; I come to have some business with you."
"Shut the door."
"My dog and little cart are there--with the swag."
"What do you bring me? folded tripe (stolen sheet-lead)?"
"It is not dredge, you are too cunning now; you are no longer a
_ravageur_; perhaps it is iron?"
"No, Micou; it is copper. There must be at least one hundred and fifty
pounds; my dog has as much as he can draw."
"Go and bring the stuff; we will weigh it."
"You must help me, Micou; I have a lame arm."
"What is the matter with your arm?"
"You must make some iron red hot, put it into some water, and bathe
your arm in this almost boiling water; it is a dealer-in-old-iron's
remedy, but it is excellent."
"Thank you, Daddy Micou."
"Come, let us bring in the metal: I will help you, lazybones!"
The copper was then brought in from a little cart drawn by an enormous
dog, and placed in the shop.
"That barrow is a good idea," said Micou, adjusting the scales.
"Yes; when I have anything to bring, I put my dog and cart into my
boat, and I harness him when I land. A jarvey might blab: my dog
"All well at home?" demanded the receiver, weighing the copper: "your
mother and sister are in good health?"
"The children also?"
"The children also."
"And your nephew Andre, where is he?"
"Don't speak of it! he was in luck yesterday. Barbillon and the Big
Cripple took him away; he only came back this morning; he is already
gone on an errand to the post-office, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau."
"And your brother Martial, is still savage?"
"I do not know anything about him."
"You don't know anything about him?"
"No," said Nicholas, affecting an indifferent manner; "for two days we
have not seen him; perhaps he has returned to his old trade of a
poacher--unless his boat, which was very old, has sunk in the river,
and he with--"
"That don't give you much concern, good-for-nothing, for you can't
feel it much!"
"It is true, one has his own ideas. How many pounds of copper are
"You made a good guess--one hundred and forty-eight pounds, my boy."
"And you will owe me--"
"Exactly thirty francs."
"Thirty francs, when copper is a franc a pound? Thirty francs!"
"We will say thirty-five, and don't turn up your nose, or I will send
you to the devil--you, copper, dog and cart."
"But, Micou you cheat me too much! there's no sense in it."
"Prove to me this copper belongs to you, and I will give you fifteen
sous a pound for it."
"Always the same song. You are all alike; get out, you nest of
thieves! Can one gouge a friend in such style? But this is not all. If
I take your merchandise in exchange, you should give me good measure
"Just so! What do you want? chains or hooks for your boat?"
"No; I want four or five iron plates, very strong, such as would
answer to line window-shutters with."
"I have just what you want--the third of an inch thick; a pistol ball
could not go through."
"Just the thing!"
"In all, seven or eight feet square."
"Good! what else do you want?"
"Three iron bars, three to four feet long, and two inches square."
"I tore down the other day some grating from a window; that will suit
you like a glove. What next?"
"Two strong hinges and a latch; to fix and shut at will, a wicket two
"A trap, you mean to say?"
"No; a wicket."
"I cannot comprehend what you can want with it?"
"That is possible, but I can."
"Very well, you have only to choose; there are the hinges. What else
do you need?"
"It is not much."
"Get my goods ready at once, Daddy Micou, I will take them as I pass;
I have some more errands to do."
"With your cart? I say, I saw a bale of goods in the bottom; is it
something more that you have taken from everybody's cupboard, little
"As you say, Daddy Micou: but you don't eat this; don't make me wait
for my iron, for I must be back to the island by twelve o'clock."
"Don't be uneasy, it is eight o'clock; if you are not going far, in an
hour you can return, all will be ready, Will you take a drop?"
"To be sure; you can well afford to pay it!"
Daddy Micou took out of an old chest a bottle of brandy, a cracked
glass, a cup without a handle, and poured out the liquor.
"Your health, old 'un!"
"Yours, my boy, and the ladies' at home!"
"Thank you; and your lodgings come on well?"
"So, so. I have always some lodgers for whom I fear the visits of the
grabs; but they pay more in consequence."
"How stupid you are! Sometimes I lodge as I buy; to such I no more ask
for their passports than I ask you for an invoice."
"Understood! but to those you let as dear as you buy of me cheap."
"Must take care of one's self. I have a cousin who keeps a fine hotel
in the Rue Saint Honore, while his wife is a mantua-maker, who employs
as many as twenty assistants, either at her shop, or at their own
"Say now, old obstinacy, there must be some pretty ones there?"
"I guess so! there are two or three that I have seen sometimes
bringing in their work. Crimini! ain't they nice! One little puss, who
works at home, always laughing, called Rigolette. Oh, my lark! what a
pity I ain't twenty!"
"Come, come, papa, put yourself out, or I'll cry fire!"
"But she is virtuous, my boy; she is virtuous."
"Get out! and you say that your cousin--"
"Keeps a very good house, and, as she is of the same number as little
"She will not have lodgers without passports or papers; but if any
present themselves, knowing I am not very particular, she sends them
"And they pay in consequence?"
"But are they all friends of the family, those who have no papers?"
"No. Ah, now, speaking of that, my cousin sent me, a few days ago, a
customer. May the devil burn me, if I can understand it! Come, another
"Agreed; the liquor is good. Your health, Micou!"
"Yours, lad! I say, then, that the other day my cousin sent me a
customer whom I cannot make out. Just imagine a mother and her
daughter, who had a very seedy look, it is true; they carried their
luggage in a handkerchief. Well, although they must, of course, be
nobody, since they had no papers, and they lodge by the fortnight;
since they have been here they do not stir out; no one comes to see
them, my pal--no one! and yet, if they were not so thin and so pale,
they'd be two fine women, the little one above all. She is not more
than fifteen at least; she is as white as a white rabbit, with large
black eyes--large as that! What eyes! what eyes!"
"You'll get on fire again; I'll call the engines! What do these women
do for a living?"
"I tell you I comprehend nothing about it; they must be virtuous, and
yet no papers; without counting that they receive letters without
address, their name must be bad to write."
"How is that?"
"They sent, this morning, my nephew Andre to the office of the letters
to be called for, to reclaim a letter addressed to Madame X. Z. The
letter was to come from Normandy, from a place called Aubiers. They
wrote that on a piece of paper, so that Andre might get the letter.
You see they can be no great things, women who take the name of X and
"They will never pay you."
"It is not for an old ape like me to learn to make faces. They have
taken a room without a fireplace, for which I make them pay twenty
francs a fortnight, and in advance. They are, perhaps, sick; for two
days they have not come down. It certainly is not from indigestion;
for I do not think they have cooked anything since they have been
"If you had only such lodgers as they, Micou--"
"That comes and goes. If I lodge people without passports, I lodge
great folks also; I have at this moment two traveling clerks, a
post-office carrier, the leader of the orchestra of the Cafe des Aveugles,
and an independent lady, all very genteel people. They save the
reputation of the house, if the police wish to examine too closely;
they are not lodgers by night, not they; they are lodgers in the full
light of the sun."
"Whenever it shines in your passage, Daddy--"
"Joker, one more turn."
"And the last, for I must take my hook. By-the-bye, does Robin, the
big lame man, lodge here yet?"
"Upstairs, next door to the mother and daughter. He has consumed all
his prison money, and I believe he has none left."
"I say, look out; he's broke his ticket-of-leave."
"I know it well; but I can't get rid of him. I believe he is after
something. Little Tortillard, the son of Bras-Rouge, came here the
other night with Barbillon, to look for him. I am afraid he will do
some harm to my good lodgers that damnable Robin. As soon as his term
is up, I shall put him out, telling him his room is engaged by an
embassador, or by the husband of Madame de Saint Ildefonso?"
"I should think so! Three rooms and a cabinet on the front, nearly
furnished, without counting a garret for her female servant, eighty
francs a month, and paid in advance by her uncle, to whom she gives
one of her rooms as a stopping-place when he comes from the country.
After all, I believe his country house is the Rue Vivienne, Rue Saint
Honore, or in the environs of those places."
"Understood! she is an independent lady, because the old one pays her
"Hush, here is her maid."
A woman rather advanced in life, wearing a white apron of doubtful
purity, entered the shop. "What can I do for you, Madame Charles?"
"Daddy Micou, your nephew is not here?"
"He has gone on an errand to the post-office; he will soon return."
"M. Badinot wishes he would take this letter to its address; there is
no answer, but it is very urgent."
"In a quarter of an hour it shall be on the way."
"Let him hurry."
"Be easy." The maid retired.
"That's the servant of one of your lodgers, Micou?"
"Madame Saint Ildefonso's. But M. Badinot is her uncle; he came
yesterday from the country, "answered Micou. "But see, now, what fine
acquaintances they have! I told you they were people of style; he
writes to a viscount."
"Well, look: 'To his Lordship the Viscount of Saint Remy, Rue de
Chaillot. Haste, haste! (_Private_).' I hope that when one lodges
people who have uncles who write to viscounts, one can very well
overlook a poor devil in the fourth story who has no passport!"
"I think so. Well, good-bye for the present, Micou; I am going to
fasten my dog and cart to your door; I will carry what I have to carry
myself. Have my goods and money ready on my return."
"All shall be ready. But, I say, before you go I must tell you, since
you have been here, I have watched you."
"I don't know, but you seem to have something the matter with you."
"You are a fool. I am hungry."
"Hungry! it is possible, but I should say that you wish to appear
lively, but at the bottom there is something that bites and pinches
you--conscience, as they say; and to trouble you it must bite hard,
for you are no prude."
"I tell you, you are crazy, Micou," said Nicholas, shuddering in spite
"One would say that you tremble."
"My arm pains me."
"Then don't forget my recipe: it will cure you."
"Thank you, Father Micou. Good-bye," said Nicholas, taking his
The receiver, after having concealed the copper, busied himself in
collecting the different articles for Nicholas, when a new personage
entered the shop. He was a man of about fifty, with a knowing face,
heavy gray whiskers, and gold spectacles; he was dressed with some
care; the large sleeves of his brown paletot, with velvet cuffs,
displayed his straw-colored gloves; his boots undoubtedly the evening
previous had been brilliantly polished.
Such was M. Badinot, the uncle of Madame de Saint Ildefonso, whose
social position was the pride and security of Micou the Fence.
Badinot, formerly a lawyer, but struck off the rolls, and now a
chevalier d'industrie, and agent of equivocal affairs, served as a spy
for the Baron de GraŁn (Rudolph's friend), and gave the diplomatist a
great deal of information concerning several characters of this
"Madame Charles has just given you a letter?" said Badinot to the
"Yes, sir; my nephew will soon return; in a moment he will be off
"No, give me the letter; I have changed my mind; I will go myself to
the Viscount de Saint Remy," said Badinot, emphasizing purposely the
"Here is the letter, sir; have you no other commission?"
"No, friend Micou," said Badinot, with a patronizing air; "but I have
reproaches to make to you."
"To me, sir?"
"Very grave reproaches."
"Certainly Madame de Saint Ildefonso pays very dear for your first
floor. My niece is one of those lodgers to whom one should pay the
greatest respect; she came with confidence to this house, disliking
the noise of the large streets; she hoped she would be here as in the
"And she is; just like a village. You ought to find it so, sir, who
live in the country--it is just like a real village here."
"A village? Very fine--always the most infernal noise."
"Yet it is impossible to find a more quiet house. Over madame, there
is the leader of the orchestra of the Cafe des Aveugles and a
traveling clerk; over them another clerk; over him again, there is--"
"It is not of these persons I complain; they are very quiet; my niece
finds no inconvenience from them; but in the fourth story there is a
lame man, whom Madame de Saint Ildefonso met yesterday drunk on the
staircase; he uttered horrible, savage cries; she almost fainted, she
was so much alarmed. If you think with such occupants your house
resembles a village--"
"I swear to you, sir, that I only wait an opportunity to put this lame
man out of doors; he has paid me his term in advance, otherwise he
would have been already shown how to get out."
"You should not have taken him for a lodger."
"But I hope madame has no other cause of complaint? There is a
postman, who is the very cream of honest people! and over him,
alongside of the lame man, a woman and her daughter, who keep as close
"I repeat, Madame de Saint Iledefonso only complains of the lame man;
he is the nightmare of the whole house, that knave! and I warn you, if
you keep him, he will cause all the respectable people to leave."
"I will send him off, be assured--I do not hold to him."
"And you will do well, for they will not remain."
"Which would not answer my purpose. So, sir, you may regard the lame
man as off, for he only has four days to remain here."
"That is too many; however, it is your business. At the very first
insult my niece leaves the house."
"All this is for your interest; profit by it, for I only speak once,"
said Badinot, in a patronizing manner, as he left the shop.
Is it not needless for us to say that this woman and girl who lived so
solitary, were victims of the cupidity of the notary? We will conduct
the reader into the miserable room they occupied.
THE VICTIMS OF AN ABUSE OF TRUST.
Let the reader imagine a closet situated on the fourth story of the
house. A pale, gloomy light hardly penetrated this narrow apartment,
through a little window of cracked, dirty glass, with a single
shutter; a yellowish, dilapidated paper covered the walls; from the
broken ceiling hung long spider-webs. The floor, broken in several
places, showed the beams and laths of the room below. A deal table, a
chair, an old trunk without a lock, and a flock bed with coarse sheets
and an old woolen covering--such was the furniture. On the chair was
seated the Baroness de Fermont. In the bed reposed Claire de Fermont
(such were the names of the two victims of Jacques Ferrand).
Possessing but one narrow bed, the mother and daughter slept by turns,
dividing thus the hours of the night. The mother had too much anguish,
too many inquietudes, to get much repose; but the daughter found some
moments of rest and forgetfulness.
She was now asleep. Nothing could be more touching, more sorrowful,
than the sight of this misery, imposed by the cupidity of the notary
on two women, until then accustomed to the sweet enjoyments of a life
of ease, and surrounded in their native town with that consideration
which an honorable and honored family always inspire.
The Baroness de Fermont was about thirty-six years of age; her
countenance at once expresses mildness and excellence; her features,
formerly of remarkable beauty, are now sadly changed; her black hair,
divided on her forehead and confined behind her head, already shows
some tresses of silver. Clothed in a dress of mourning, tattered in
several places, the Baroness de Fermont, with her hand supporting her
head, leaned against the wretched bed of her child, and regarded her
with inexpressible anguish.
Claire was only sixteen; her complexion had lost its dazzling purity;
her beautiful dark eyelashes reached to her hollow cheeks. Once humid
and rosy, but now dry and pale, her lips, half-opened, displayed the
enamel of her teeth; the rude contact of the bedclothes had given a
red appearance in several places to the delicate neck, arms, and
shoulders of the young girl. From time to time a slight shudder passed
over her, as if she had some painful dream. For a long period the
Baroness de Fermont had not wept; she looked on her daughter with a
dry and inflamed eye, consumed by a slow fever, which was undermining
her. Each day she found herself weaker; but fearing to alarm Claire,
and not willing, we may say, to alarm herself, she struggled with all
her strength against the first symptoms of her sickness. Through
motives of similar generosity, the daughter endeavored to conceal her
sufferings. These two unhappy creatures, afflicted with the same
griefs, were yet to be afflicted with the same disease.
In misfortunes there are often moments when the future prospect is so
frightful, that the most energetic minds dare not look it in the face,
but shut their eyes, and endeavor to deceive themselves by mad
illusions. Such was the position of the Fermonts. To express the
tortures of this woman, during the long hours when she was thus
contemplating her sleeping child, thinking of the past, the present,
and the future, would be to describe what, in the holy and sacred
griefs of a mother, there is the most poignant, the most desperate,
the most insane; enchanting recollections, sinister fears, terrible
foresights, bitter regrets, extreme dejectedness, ejaculations of
powerless rage against the author of so much misery, vain
supplications, violent prayers, and, finally, frightful doubts of the
all-powerful justice of Him who remains inexorable to this cry,
dragged from the bottom of the maternal heart--to this sacred cry, of
which the echo ought to reach Heaven, "Pity for my child!"
"How cold she is now!" said the poor mother, touching lightly the icy
hand and arm of her daughter. "She is very cold; one hour ago she was
burning; it is fever; happily, she does not know she has it. How cold
she is! this covering is so thin! I would put my old shawl on the bed;
but if I take it from the door, where I have hung it, some of those
drunken men will come and look through the cracks, as they did
yesterday. What a horrible house! If I had known what kind of place it
was before I paid in advance, we should not have stayed here; but I
did not know--when one has no papers--could I think that I should ever
have need of a passport? When I left Angers in my own carriage, could
I have thought--but this infamous--because the notary has pleased to
rob me, I am reduced to the most frightful extremity, and against him
I can do nothing. Oh, the notary, he does not know the frightful
consequences of his robbery!
"Alas! yes, I never dare tell my child my fears--not to grieve her;
but I suffer; I have fever; I can hardly sustain myself; I feel within
me the germs of a malady--dangerous, perhaps--my bosom is on fire; my
heart throbs. Oh, if I should fall sick--if I should die! No, no! I
will not--I cannot die--leave Claire--alone, abandoned in Paris--can
it be possible? No! I am not sick, after all--what do I feel? A little
heat, a heaviness about the head, caused, no doubt, from my
uneasiness--from cold--oh, it is nothing serious!
"Come, come, no more of such weakness. It is by cherishing such ideas,
it is in listening thus, that one falls really sick. And I have the
time, truly! Must I not occupy myself in finding some work for Claire
and myself, since this man, who gave us engravings to color--"
Then, after a pause, she added, with indignation, "Oh! this is
abominable, to offer this work at the price of Claire's--to take from
us this miserable means of existence, because I would not allow my
child to go and work at his rooms! Perhaps we may find work elsewhere;
but when one knows nobody, it is so difficult! When one is so
miserably lodged they inspire no confidence; and yet, the small sum
that remains once gone, what shall we do? what will become of us?
"If the laws leave this crime unpunished, I will not--for, if fate
pushes me to the end--if I do not find the means to emerge from the
atrocious position in which this wretch has placed me and my child, I
do not know what I shall do--I shall be capable of killing him--I--
this man--then they can do what they will with me. Yes--but my child?
"To leave her alone, abandoned--ah! no, I do not wish to die! for
this, I cannot kill this man. What would become of her? She, at
sixteen--she is young, and pure as an angel; but she is handsome--but
misery, hunger, abandonment--what may they not cause? and then--and
then--into what abyss may she not fall?
"Oh! it is frightful--poverty! frightful enough for any one; but
perhaps more so for those who have always lived in opulence. I cannot
beg--I must absolutely see my child starve before I can beg! What a
Two or three violent knocks at the door made her tremble, and awoke
her daughter with a start.
"Mamma, what is that?" cried Claire, sitting up in bed; then, throwing
her arms around her mother's neck, who, very much alarmed, pressed her
child to her bosom, "Mamma, what is it?" repeated Claire.
"I do not know, my child; but do not be afraid, it is nothing: some
one knocked; it is, perhaps, the letter we expect."
At this moment the worm-eaten door shook again, under repeated blows
with the fist.
"Who is there?" said Madame de Fermont in a trembling voice.
A coarse, rough voice answered, "Are you deaf, neighbors?"
"What do you want? I do not know you," said Madame de Fermont, trying
to conceal the agitation of her voice.
"I am Robin, your neighbor; give me some fire to light my pipe: come,
"It is that lame man, who is always drunk," said the mother to her
"Are you going to give me any fire! or I'll break all open, in the
name of thunder?"
"Sir, I have no fire."
"You must have some matches, then; everybody has them; do you open--
"Sir, go away."
"You won't open?--one, two--"
"I beg you to go away, or I will call."
"Once--twice--three times--no, you won't! Then I'll break all down,
And the wretch gave such a furious kick against the door, he burst it
in, the miserable lock breaking at the first assault. The two women
screamed with alarm. Madame de Fermont, notwithstanding her weakness,
threw herself before the rough, and barred his entrance.
"This is outrageous: you shall not come in," cried the unhappy mother;
"I shall cry for help."
"For what--for what?" answered he: "mustn't we be neighborly? If you
had opened, I should not have broken in."
Then, with the stupid obstinacy of drunkenness, he added staggering,
"I wish to come in; I will come in, and I will not go out until I
light my pipe."
"I have neither fire nor matches. In the name of heaven, sir, retire."
"It's not true; you say that so I sha'n't see the little one in bed.
Yesterday you stopped up all the holes in the door. She is pretty; I
want to see her. Take care of yourself; I'll scratch your face if you
don't let me come in. I tell you that I will see the little one in
bed, and I will light my pipe, or I'll smash everything, and you along
"Help! help!" cried Madame de Fermont, who felt the door giving way
under the violent push of the lame man.
Intimidated by the cries, the man stepped backward and shook his fist
at Madame de Fermont, saying, "You shall pay me for this; I will
return to-night--I'll catch hold of your tongue, and you cannot cry."
And the Big Cripple, as they called him at Ravageurs' Island,
descended the stairs, uttering horrible oaths. Madame de Fermont,
fearing that he might return, and seeing the lock broken, drew the
table against the door to barricade it. Claire had been so alarmed at
this horrible scene that she had fallen on her cot almost without
emotion, with a violent attack of the nerves. Madame de Fermont,
forgetting her own alarm, ran to her daughter, pressed her in her
arms, made her drink a little water, and, with the most tender
caresses, succeeded in calming her.
"Be composed, my poor child--the bad man has gone away." Then the
wretched mother cried, with a touching accent, "Yet it is this notary
who is the cause of all our troubles. Compose yourself, my child,"
resumed she, tenderly embracing her daughter; "this wretch is gone."
"Oh, mamma, if he should come back again? You see you have called for
help, and no one has come. Oh! I entreat you; let us leave this house.
I shall die here with fear."
"How you tremble! you have a fever!"
"No, no," said the young girl, to pacify her mother; "it is nothing;
it is fright; it will pass over; and you, how are you? Give me your
hands. How burning hot they are! Ah! you are suffering; you wish to
conceal it from me."
"Do not think so: I am better than ever; it is the emotion which this
man has caused me which makes me thus. I slept on the chair very
soundly; I only awoke when you did."
"Yet, mamma, your poor eyes are very red, much inflamed!"
"Ah! well, my child, on a chair sleep is not so refreshing, you know!"
"Really, do you not suffer?"
"No, no, I assure you; and you?"
"Nor I; only I tremble still from fear. I entreat you, mamma, let us
leave this house."
"And where shall we go to? You know with how much trouble we found
this wretched place; and, besides, we have paid two weeks in advance;
they will not return us our money; and we have so little left--so
little, that we should manage as closely as possible."
"Perhaps some day M. de Saint Remy will answer your letter."
"I no longer hope it; it is so long since I have written."
"He might not have received your letter: why do you not write him
again? From hence to Angers is not so far; we shall soon have an
"My poor child, you know how much this has cost me already."
"What do you risk? he is so good, notwithstanding his roughness. Was
he not one of my father's old friends, and, besides, he is our
"But he is poor himself; his fortune is very small. Perhaps he does
not reply, to avoid the mortification of being obliged to refuse us."
"But if he has not received your letter, mamma?"
"And if he has received it, my child; of two things choose one: either
he is in such a situation that he cannot come to our aid, or he feels
no interest for us; then why expose ourselves to a refusal or a
"Come, courage, mamma, we have one hope left. Perhaps this morning
will bring us a happy answer."
"From Lord d'Orbigny?"
"Without doubt. This letter, of which you formerly made a draught, was
so simple, so touching--exposed so naturally our misfortunes, that he
will have pity on us. Really, I do not know what tells me you are
wrong to despair of assistance."
"He has so little reason to interest himself about us: he had, it is
true, formerly known your father, and I had often heard my brother
speak of Lord d'Orbigny as of a man with whom he had been on friendly
terms before he left Paris with his young wife."
"It is just on that account that I have hopes; he has a young wife,
she will be compassionate; and, besides, in the country one can do so
much good. He will take you, I suppose, for housekeeper; I will take
care of the linen. Since Lord d'Orbigny is very rich, in a large house
there is always employment."
"Yes; but we have so little right to his interest. We are so
"That is frequently a title in the eyes of charitable people. Let us
hope that Lord d'Orbigny and his wife are so."
"Well, in case we need expect nothing from him, I will overcome my
false shame, and will write to the Duchess de Lucenay--this lady of
whom M. de Saint Remy spoke so often, whose generosity and good heart
he so often praised. Yes, the daughter of the Prince de Noirmont. He
knew her when she was very small, and he treated her almost as his
child, for he was intimately connected with the prince. Madame de
Lucenay must have many-acquaintances; she could, perhaps, find us a
"Doubtless, mamma, but I understand your reserve; you do not know her
at all, while my poor father and uncle knew Lord d'Orbigny a little."
"Finally, in the case that Madame d'Orbigny can do nothing for us, I
will have recourse to a last resource."
"What is it, mamma?"
"It is a very weak one--a very foolish hope, perhaps; but why not try
it? the son of M. de Saint Remy is---"
"M. de Saint Remy has a son!" cried Claire, with astonishment.
"Yes, my child, he has a son."
"He never spoke of him--he never came to Angers."
"True, for reasons you cannot know. M. de Saint Remy, having left
Paris fifteen years ago, has not seen his son since."
"Fifteen years without seeing his father! can it be possible?"
"Alas! yes, you see. I tell you that the son of M. de Saint Remy,
being well known in the fashionable world, and very rich--"
"Very rich! and his father is poor?"
"All the fortune of M. de Saint Remy, the son, came from his mother."
"But no matter; how can he leave his father--"
"His father would accept nothing from him."
"Why is that?"
"This is once more a question to which I cannot reply, my dear child;
but I heard my poor brother say that the generosity of this young man
was generally praised. Young and generous, he ought to be good. Thus,
learning from me that my husband was the intimate friend of his
father, perhaps he might interest himself in procuring us some work or
employment; he has so many brilliant and numerous relations, that this
would be easy."
"And then we could find out from him, perhaps, if M. de Saint Remy,
his father, should have left Angers before you wrote to him; that
would explain his silence."
"I believe that M. de Saint Remy, my child, has no intercourse with
his father. In fine, it is only to try."
"Unless M. d'Orbigny should answer you in a favorable manner; and I
repeat it, I do not know why, but, in spite of myself, I have hope."
"But already many days have elapsed, my child, since I have written,
and nothing--nothing yet. A letter put in the office before four
o'clock in the afternoon, arrives the next morning at Aubiere; five
days have now passed since we might have received an answer."
"Perhaps he is thinking, before he writes, in what way he can be
useful to us."
"God hear you, my child!"
"It appears very plain to me, mamma, if he could do nothing for us, he
would have informed you at once."
"Unless he will do nothing at all."
"Ah, mamma, can it be possible? not deign to answer us, and leave us
to hope four days, eight days perhaps--for when one is unfortunate
they hope always."
"Alas! my child, there is sometimes so much indifference for the woes
which one does not know!"
"But your letter."
"My letter cannot give him an idea of our troubles, of our sufferings
of each moment. Can my letter picture to him our unfortunate life, our
humiliations of every description, our existence in this frightful
house, the alarm we have experienced even just now? Can my letter
describe to him the horrible future which awaits us, if--but stop, my
child, do not let us speak of this. Mon Dieu! you tremble--you are
"No, mamma; pay no attention to it; but tell me, suppose everything
fails, that the little money which remains in that trunk is spent, can
it be possible that in a rich place like Paris we should both die of
hunger and misery, for want of work, and because a bad man has taken
what you had?"
"Hush, poor child."
"But, mamma, could It be?"
"But God, who knows all, who can do all, how could He abandon us, He
whom we have not offended?"
"I entreat you, my child, do not have such gloomy ideas; I would
rather see you hope, even against hope. Come, rouse me up with your
dear illusions; but I am but too apt to be discouraged, you know
"Yes, yes; let us hope; it is better. The nephew of the porter will
soon return from the post-office with a letter. One more errand to pay
from your little treasure, and through my fault. If I had not been so
feeble to-day and yesterday, we could have gone ourselves, as we did
before, but you would not leave me alone here to go yourself."
"Could I, my child? Judge then, just now this wretch who broke in the
door, if you had been alone."
"Oh! mamma, hush; only to think of it makes me shudder."
At this moment some one knocked sharply at the door.
"Heavens, it is he," cried Madame de Fermont, and she pushed with all
her strength the table against the door. Her fears, however, ceased
when she heard the voice of Micou.
"Madame, my nephew, Andre, has come from the post-office. It is a
letter with an X and a Z for address; it comes from a distance. There
are eight sous postage and the commission--it is twenty sous."
"Mamma, a letter from the country; we are saved; it is from M. de
Saint Remy or M. d'Orbigny. Poor mother, you shall suffer no more, no
longer be uneasy about me; you shall be happy. God is just--God is
good!" cried the young girl, and a ray of hope lighted up her sweet
and charming face.
"Oh! sir, thank you; give--give me quickly," said Madame de Fermont,
pushing back the table and half opening the door.
"It is twenty sous, madame," said the fence, showing the letter so
"I am going to pay you, sir."
"Oh! madame, there is no hurry. I am going to the roof; in ten minutes
I will descend, and take the money as I pass." Micou handed the letter
to Madame de Fermont, and disappeared.
"The letter is from Normandy. On the stamp is _Aubiers_; it is
from M. d'Orbigny!" cried Madame de Fermont examining the address.
"Well, mamma, was I right?"
"Oh, how my heart beats! Our good or bad fortune is, however, here,"
said Madame de Ferment, in a faltering voice, showing the letter.
Twice her trembling hand approached the seal to break it. She had not
the courage. Can one hope to paint the terrible anguish suffered by
those who, like Madame de Fermont, await from a letter hope or
The burning and feverish emotion of a player whose last pieces of gold
are staked on a single card, and who, breathless, the eye inflamed,
awaits the decisive throw which saves or ruins him forever: this
emotion, so violent, would hardly give an idea of the terrible anguish
of which we speak. In an instant the soul is lifted up with the most
radiant hopes, or plunged into the blackest despair. The unfortunate
being passes in turn through the most contrary emotions; ineffable
feelings of happiness and gratitude toward the generous heart which
had pity on his sorrows--a sad and bitter resentment against the
selfish or indifferent.
"What weakness!" said Madame de Fermont, with a sad smile, seating
herself on the bed of her daughter: "once more, my poor Claire, our
fate is there. I burn to know it, and I dare not. If it is a refusal,
alas! it will be always soon enough."
"And if it should be a promise of succor? say, mamma; if this poor
little letter contains good and consoling words, which will assure us
as to the future, in promising us a modest employ in the house of M.
d'Orbigny, each minute we lose, is it not a moment of happiness lost?"
"Yes, my child; but if, on the contrary--"
"No, mamma; you are mistaken, I am sure of it--when I told you that M.
d'Orbigny would not have waited, so long to answer your letter, except
to give you a favorable answer. Let me look at the letter, mamma; I am
sure to guess, only from the writing, if the news is good or bad.
Hold, I am sure of it now," said Claire, taking the letter; "you have
only to look at the bold, good, and strong hand, to see that the
writer must be accustomed to give to those who suffer."
"I entreat you, Claire, no more of these foolish hopes, or I can never
open the letter."
"My God! good little mamma, without opening it I can tell you what it
contains; listen: 'Madame, your condition and that of your daughter is
so worthy of interest, that I beg you will have the goodness to come
immediately to me, in case you would like to take charge of my
"My child, once more I entreat you--no insane hopes; the reverse will
be frightful. Come, courage," said Madame de Fermont, taking the
letter from her daughter, and preparing to break the seal.
"Courage for you--very well!" said Claire, smiling, and carried away
by a feeling of confidence so natural at her age. "As for me, I have
no need of it: I am so sure of what I advance. Stop, do you wish me to
open the letter? shall I read it? give it me, timid mamma."
"Yes--I would rather--here. But no, no; it is better that I should."
Madame de Fermont broke the seal with indescribable emotion. Her
daughter, also, in spite of her apparent confidence, could hardly
"Read it aloud, mamma," said she.
"The letter is not long; it is from the Countess d'Orbigny," said
Madame de Fermont looking at the signature.
"So much the better; it is good. Do you see, mamma, this excellent
young lady has been pleased to answer you herself."
"We shall see."
"MADAME-M. le Comte d'Orbigny, very much indisposed for some time
past, could not reply to you during my absence."
"You see, mamma, it was not his fault."
"Having arrived this morning from Paris, I hasten to write to you,
madame, after having conferred on the subject of your letter with M.
d'Orbigny. He has but a faint recollection of the relation which you
suppose to have existed between him and your brother. As to the name
of your husband, madame, it is not unknown to M. d'Orbigny; but he
cannot recollect under what circumstances he heard it mentioned. The
pretended spoliation, of which so lightly you accuse M. Jacques
Ferrand, whom we have the good fortune to have for a notary, is, in
the eyes of M. d'Orbigny, a cruel calumny, of which, doubtless, you
have not counted the bearing. My husband, as well as myself, madame,
know and admire the well-known probity of the respectable and pious
man you attack so blindly. This is to inform you, madame, that M.
d'Orbigny, feeling, doubtless, for the unfortunate position in which you
are placed, and of which it is not in his province to find out the
real cause, finds it out of his power to assist you.
"Be pleased to receive, madame, with this expression of the regrets of
M. d'Orbigny the assurance of my most distinguished sentiments.
The mother and daughter looked at each other, incapable of uttering a
Micou knocked at the door and said, "Madame, can I come in for the
postage and commission? It is twenty sous."
"Oh! it is right; such good news! well worth what we spend in two days
for our living," said Madame de Fermont, with a bitter smile; and
leaving the letter on the bed, she went toward an old trunk without a
lock, stooped down, and opened it. "We are robbed!" cried the unhappy
woman, with horror. "Nothing--no more;" added she, in a mournful tone.
And powerless, she leaned on the trunk.
"What do you say, mamma? The bag of money?"
But Madame de Fermont arose quickly, went out of the chamber, and,
addressing the receiver, she said, with a sparkling eye, and cheeks
colored with indignation and alarm, "Sir, I had a bag of money in this
trunk; some one has robbed me--yesterday, doubtless, for I went out
for an hour with my daughter. This money must be found. Do you hear?
You are responsible."
"Some one robbed you! It is not true; my house is honest," said the
receiver, harshly and insolently. "You say that, so as not to pay me
the twenty sous."
"I tell you that this money, all that I possessed in the world, some
one has stolen; it must be found, or I'll make a complaint. Oh! I
shall spare nothing, respect nothing--I notify you!"
"That would be very fine of you, who have no papers; go and make your
complaint; go at once! I defy you." The unhappy woman was overcome.
She could not go out and leave her daughter alone in bed, since the
fright she had received in the morning, and, above all, after the
threats addressed to her by the receiver. He continued, "It is a
cheat; you had no more a bag of silver than a bag of gold; you don't
want to pay me the postage, hey? Good! all the same; when you pass
before my door, I will tear off your old black shawl from your
shoulders; it is very threadbare, but it is worth at least twenty
"Oh! sir," cried Madame de Fermont, bursting into tears, "have pity on
us. This small sum was all we had--my daughter and I; that stolen, we
have nothing left--nothing, do you understand? nothing-but to starve."
"What would you have me to do? If it is true that you are robbed, and
silver, too, it has been spent long since: the money--"
"The lad who stole them would not have been simple enough to mark the
money and keep it here, so that he might be caught--if it is some one
in this house, which I do not believe--for, as I said only this
morning to the uncle of the lady on the first floor, here is no place
for plunder! if you are robbed, it is your misfortune. For should you
make a hundred thousand complaints, you would not recover a sou--you
would gain nothing by it, I tell you--believe me. Well," cried the
receiver, seeing Madame de Fermont stagger, "what's the matter? You
turn pale? Take care of your mother, she is sick," added he, advancing
in time to save her from falling. The fictitious energy which had so
long sustained her gave way under this new affliction.
"Mother, what is the matter?" cried Claire, still in bed.
The receiver, yet active and strong for his age, seized with a
transitory feeling of pity, took Madame de Fermont in his arms, pushed
open the door, and entered, saying, "Mademoiselle, pardon me for
coming in while you are in bed, but I must bring in your mother; she
has fainted; it can't last."
On seeing this man enter, Claire uttered a cry of alarm, and concealed
herself as well as she could under the bedclothes. The receiver seated
Madame de Fermont on the chair near the bed, and retired, leaving the
door half-open, the Big Cripple having broken the lock.
One hour after this, the violent malady, which for so long a time had
threatened Madame de Fermont, showed itself. Attacked by a violent
fever and frightful delirium, the unfortunate woman was laid in the
bed of her child, who, alone, alarmed and almost as ill as her mother,
had neither money nor resources, and feared at any moment to see the
ruffian enter who lived upon the same floor.
IN THE RUE DE CHAILLOT.
We will precede, by some hours, M. Badinot, who had gone in haste to
the Viscount de Saint Remy. This last mentioned person lived in the
Rue de Chaillot, occupying a charming little house in this solitary
quarter, very near the Champs Elysees, the most fashionable promenade
in Paris. It is useless to enumerate the advantages which M. de Saint
Remy derived from a position so wisely chosen. We will only say, a
person could enter his house very secretly, through a little
garden-door, which opened on a small and very lonesome street.
In fine, by a miraculous chance, one of the finest horticultural
establishments in Paris had also, in this out-of-the-way passage, an
exit not much used. The mysterious visitors of Saint Remy, in case of
a surprise or unlooked-for renconter, were armed with a pretext
perfectly plausible and rural for having adventured in the lane. They
went (they might say) to choose rare flowers at a celebrated florist's
renowned for the beauty of his conservatories. These visitors,
besides, would only have told half a falsehood; the viscount, with
distinguished taste, had a charming green-house, which extended, in
part, along the little street we have spoken of; the little door
opened into this delicious winter garden, which reached a boudoir
situated on the ground-floor of the house.
Madame de Lucenay had demanded a key of this little door. The interior
of the mansion of Saint Remy presented a singular appearance; it was
divided into two establishments--the ground-floor, where he received
ladies; the first story, where he received gentlemen to dinner and
play: in fine, those he called his friends.
Thus, on the ground-floor was a room which shone with gold, mirrors,
flowers, silks, and lace; a small music-room, where were a harp and
pianos (Saint Remy was an excellent musician), a cabinet of pictures
and curiosities the boudoir communicating with the green-house, a
dining-room, a bathing-room, and a small library. It is useless to say
that all these rooms, furnished with exquisite taste, had for
ornaments some Watteaus but little known, some Bouchers unheard of,
groups of statuary in biscuit; and on their stands of jasper, a few
valuable copies, in white marble, of some of the finest groups of the
"Musee." Joined to this, in summer, for perspective, the deep shade of
a verdant green; quiet, loaded with flowers, peopled with birds,
watered by a little brook of living water, which, before it spreads
itself over the short grass, falls from a black and rustic rock,
shining like a ribbon of silver gauze, and is lost in a pearly wave,
in a limpid basin, where two fine swans show their graceful forms.
And when night came, calm and serene, how much shade, how much
perfume, what silence in sweet-scented groves, whose thick foliage
served as a canopy to the rustic sofas made of reeds and Indian mats.
In the winter, on the contrary, except the glass which opened into the
conservatory, all was closed; the transparent silk of the blinds, the
heavy mass of lace and muslin curtains, rendered the light still more
mysterious; on every disposable place large masses of exotics seemed
to spring out of vases glittering with gold and enamel.
Such was the viscount. At Athens he would have been, doubtless,
admired, exalted, deified, as the equal of Aleibiades; at the time of
which we speak, the viscount was nothing more than an unworthy forger,
a miserable cheat.
The first story had an entirely different appearance, altogether
masculine. There was nothing coquettish, nothing feminine; the
furniture was of a style simple and serene; for ornaments, fire-arms,
pictures of race-horses, which had earned for the viscount a good
number of gold and silver vases, placed on the tables; the
_tabogie_ (smoking-room) and the saloon for play joined a
lively-looking dining-room, where eight persons (the number always
strictly limited when it was a question of a choice meal) had often
appreciated the excellence of the cook, and the not less excellent merit
of the cellar, before commencing with him some games of whist for five
or six hundred louis, or to rattle the noisy dice box.
The apartments being thus thrown open to the reader, he will now
please to follow us to more familiar regions, to enter the carriage
court, and mount the little staircase which leads to the very
comfortable room of Edward Patterson, chief of the stables.
This illustrious coachman had invited to breakfast M. Boyer,
confidential valet de chambre of the viscount. A very pretty English
servant-girl having retired, after having brought in a silver teapot,
our two gentlemen were left alone.
Edward was about forty years of age; never did a more skillful or
fatter coachman cause his seat to groan under a rotundity more
imposing, nor to ornament with a powdered wig a face more rubicund,
nor to collect more elegantly, in his left hand, the quadruple ribbons
of a four-in-hand; as good a judge of horses as Tattersall of London,
having been, in his youth, as good a trainer as the celebrated elder
Chifney, the viscount had found in Edward a rare thing, an excellent
coachman and a man very capable of directing the training of some
race-horses which he had had for wagers. Edward, when he did not
display his sumptuous brown and silver livery on the emblazoned
hammer-cloth of his seat, looked very much like an honest English
farmer; it is under this guise we now shall present him to our
readers, adding, that in his broad and red face one could easily
perceive the diabolical and unmerciful cunning of a horse-jockey.
M. Boyer, his guest, the confidential valet, was a tall, slender man,
with gray hair, rather bald, and with a sly, cool, discreet, and
reserved expression; he used very choice language, had polite, easy
manners, rather literary, political opinions of the Conservative
stamp, and could creditably play his part of first violin in a quartet
of amateurs; at short intervals he took, with the best grace in the
world, a pinch of snuff from a golden box mounted with fine pearls,
after which he brushed negligently, with the back of his hand, the
folds of his fine linen shirt, quite as fine as that of his master.
"Do you know, my dear Edward," said Boyer, "that your servant, Betty,
makes quite a supportable plain cook?"
"She is a good girl," said Edward, who spoke French perfectly, "and I
shall take her with me if I should decide on housekeeping; and on this
subject, since we are here alone, my dear Boyer, let us talk business;
you understand it very well."
"Why, yes, a little," said Boyer, modestly, and taking a pinch of
snuff. "That is learned so naturally, when one occupies himself with
the affairs of others."
"I have then, very important advice to ask of you; it is on this
account that I begged the favor of your company to a cup of tea this
"Quite at your service, my dear Edward."
"You know that besides the race-horses, I had a contract with my lord
for the complete maintenance of his stables, cattle, and people; that
is to say, eight horses and five or six grooms and jockeys, for the
sum of twenty-four thousand francs a year, my wages included."
"It was reasonable."
"During four years, my lord punctually paid me; but about the middle
of last year he said to me, 'Patterson, I owe you about twenty-four
thousand francs; how much do you estimate, at the lowest price, my
horses and vehicles?' 'My lord, the eight horses would not sell for
less than three thousand francs each, one with the other, and then
they would be given away' (and it is true, Boyer, for the phaeton pair
cost five hundred guineas), 'that would make twenty-four thousand
francs for the horses. As to the carriages, there are four, say twelve
thousand francs, which, in all, would make thirty-six thousand
francs.' 'Well,' answered my lord, 'buy them all from me at this
price, on condition that, for the twelve thousand francs remaining
after your claim is paid, you will keep and leave at my disposition,
horses, servants and carriages for six months.'"
"And you wisely agreed to the bargain? It was a golden affair."
"Certainly it was; in two weeks the six months will have expired, and
I enter into possession."
"Nothing can be plainer. The papers were drawn up by M. Badinot,
the viscount's agent. In what have you need of my advice?"
"What ought I to do? Sell the establishment on account of my lord's
departure (and it will sell well), or shall I set up as a horse-dealer,
with my stable, which will make a fine beginning? What do you advise?"
"I advise you to do what I shall do myself."
"I am in the same position that you are."
"My lord detests details. When I came here I had, through economy, and
by inheritance, some sixty thousand francs. I paid the expenses of the
house, as you did the stables. About the same time that you did, I
found myself in advance some twenty thousand francs; and for those who
furnished the supplies, some sixty thousand. Then the viscount
proposed to me, as he did to you, to reimburse myself by buying of him
the furniture of the house, comprising the plate--which is fine--the
pictures, and so on, the whole estimated at the very lowest price, one
hundred and forty thousand francs. There were eighty thousand francs
to pay; with the remainder I engaged, as long as it lasted, to defray
the expenses of the table, servants, and so forth, and for nothing
else: it was a condition of the bargain."
"Because that on these expenses you would gain something more."
"Necessarily; for I have made arrangements with those who furnish the
supplies that I will not pay until after the sale," said Boyer, taking
a huge pinch of snuff, "so that at the end of this month--"
"The furniture is yours, as the horses and carriages are mine."
"Evidently. My lord has gained by this, to live as he always liked to
live, to the last moment--as a tip-top don--in the very teeth of his
creditors, for furniture, silver, horses, vehicles, all had been paid
for at his coming of age, and had become my property and yours."
"Then my lord is ruined?"
"In five years."
"And how much did he inherit?"
"Only a poor little million, cash down," said M. Boyer, quite
disdainfully, taking another pinch of snuff. "Add to this million
about two hundred thousand francs of debts, it is passable. It is
then, to tell you, my dear Edward, that I have had an idea of letting
this house, admirably furnished as it is, to some English people. Some
of your compatriots would have paid well for it."
"Without doubt. Why do you not do it?"
"Yes, but I fancy things are risky, so I have decided to sell. My lord
is so well known as a connoisseur, that everything would bring a
double price, so that I should realize a round sum. Do as I shall,
Edward; realize, realize, and do not adventure your earnings in
speculations. You chief coachman of the Viscount de Saint Remy! It
will be, who can get you. Only yesterday some one spoke to me of a
minor just of age, a cousin of the Duchess de Lucenay, young Duke de
Montbrison, arrived from Italy with his tutor, and about seeing life.
Two hundred and fifty thousand livres income, in good land; and just
entering into life--twenty years old. All the illusions of confidence--all
the infatuation of expense--prodigal as a prince. I know the
intendant. I can tell you this in confidence: he has already nearly
agreed with me as first valet de chambre. He countenances me, the
flat!" And M. Boyer shrugged his shoulders again, having recourse to
"You hope to foist him out?"
"Rather! he is imbecile or impertinent. He puts me there as if he had
no fear of me! Before two months are over I shall be in his place."
"Two hundred and fifty thousand livres income!" said Edward,
reflecting, "and a young man. It is a good seat."
"I will tell you what there is to do. I will speak for you to my
protector," said M. Boyer, ironically. "Enter there--it is a fortune
which has roots, to which one can hang on for a long time. Not this
miserable million of the viscount's--a real snowball--one ray of
Parisian sun, and all is over. I saw here that I should only be a bird
of passage: it is a pity, for this house does us honor; and up to the
last moment, I will serve my lord with the respect and esteem which
are his due."
"My dear Boyer, I thank you, and accept your proposition; but suppose
I was to propose to the young duke this stable? It is all ready; it is
known and admired by all Paris."
"Exactly so; you might make a mint."
"But why do you not propose this house to him, so admirably furnished?
What can he find better?"
"Edward, you are a man of mind; it does not surprise me, but you give
me an excellent idea. We must address ourselves to my lord, he is so
good a master that he would not refuse to speak for us to the young
duke. He can tell him that, leaving for the Legation of Gerolstein,
where he is an _attache_, he wishes to dispose of his whole
establishment. Let us see: one hundred and sixty thousand francs for
the house, all furnished, plate and pictures; fifty thousand francs
for the stables and carriages; that makes two hundred and thirty
thousand to two hundred and forty thousand francs. It is an excellent
affair for a young man who wants everything. He would spend three
times this amount before he could get anything half so elegant and
select together as this establishment; for it must be acknowledged,
Edward, there is no one can equal my lord in knowing how to live."
"And good cheer! Godefroi, his cook, leaves here a hundred times
better than when he came. My lord has given him excellent counsels--
has enormously refined him."
"Besides, they say my lord is such a good player."
"Admirable! Gaining large sums with even more indifference than he
loses; and yet I have never seen any one lose more gallantly."
"What is he going to do now?"
"Set out for Germany, in a good traveling carriage, with seven or
eight thousand francs, which he knows how to get. Oh! I feel no
embarrassment about my lord: he is one who always falls on his feet,
as they say."
"And he has no more money to inherit?"
"None; for his father has only a small competency."
"My lord's father is not dead?"
"He was not about five or six months since. We wrote to him for some
"But he never comes here?"
"For a good reason. These fifteen years he has lived in the country,
"But my lord never goes to see him?"
"Never, never--not he!"
"Have they quarreled?"
"What I am going to tell you is no secret, for I had it from the
confidential agent of the Prince de Noirmont."
"The father of Madame de Lucenay?" said Edward, with a cunning and
significant look, of which Boyer, faithful to his habits of reserve
and discretion, took no notice, but resumed, coldly:
"The Duchess de Lucenay is the daughter of the Prince de Noirmont; the
father of my lord was intimately connected with the prince. The
duchess was then very young, and Saint Remy the elder treated her as
familiarly as if she had been his own child. Notwithstanding his sixty
years, he is a man of iron character, courageous as a lion, and of a
probity that I shall permit myself to designate as marvelous. He
possessed almost nothing, and had married, from love, the mother of
the viscount, a young person rather rich, who brought a million, at
the christening of which we have just had the honor to assist," and
Boyer made a low bow. Edward did the same.
"The marriage was very happy until the moment when my lord's father
found, as was said, by chance, some devilish letters, which proved
evidently that, during an absence, some three or four years after his
marriage, his wife had had a tender weakness for a certain Polish
"That often happens to the Poles. When I lived with the Marquis de
Senneval, Madame the Marchioness--_une enragee_--"
Boyer interrupted his companion. "You should know, my dear Edward, the
alliances of our great families before you speak, otherwise you
reserve for yourself cruel mistakes."
"The Marchioness of Senneval is the sister of the Duke of Montbrison,
where you desire to engage."
"Judge of the effect if you had spoken of her in this manner before
the envious or detractors: you would not have remained twenty-four
hours in the house."
"It is true, Boyer. I will try to know the alliances."
"I resume. The father of my lord discovered, then, after twelve or
fifteen years of a marriage until then happy, that he had reason to
complain of a Polish count. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the
viscount was born nine months after his father, or rather, Saint Remy
had returned from this fatal journey, so that he could not be certain
whether it was his child or not. Nevertheless, the count separated at
once from his wife, not wishing to touch a sou of the fortune she had
brought him, and retired to the country, with about eighty thousand
francs which he possessed; but you shall see the rancor of this
diabolical character. Although the outrage was dated back fifteen
years when he discovered it, yet he set off, accompanied by M. de
Fermont, one of his relations, in pursuit of the Pole, and found him
at Venice, after having sought for him in almost all the cities of
"What an obstinate!"
"A devilish rancor, I tell you, my dear Edward! At Venice, a terrible
duel was fought, in which the Pole was killed. All was done fairly;
but, my lord's father showed, they say, such ferocious joy at seeing
the Pole mortally wounded, that his relation, M. de Fermont, was
obliged to drag him away; the count wishing to see, as he said, his
enemy expire under his eyes."
"What a man! what a man!"
"The count returned to Paris, went to the house of his wife, announced
to her that he had just returned from killing the Pole, and left her.
Since then, he has never seen her nor his son, but has lived at