Part 9 out of 12
Angers, like a real 'wehr-wolf' as they say, with what remains of his
eighty thousand francs, well curtailed, as you may suppose, by his
race after this Pole. At Angers he sees no one, except the wife and
daughter of his relation, M. de Fermont, who has been dead for some
years. And, besides, it would seem as if this was an unfortunate
family, for the brother of Madame de Fermont blew his brains out a few
weeks since, it is said."
"And the viscount's mother?"
"He lost her a long time since. It is on that account that my lord, on
his coming of age, has enjoyed the fortune of his mother. So you
plainly see, my dear Edward, that as regards inheritance, my lord has
nothing, or almost nothing, to expect from his father."
"Who besides must detest him?"
"He would never see him after the fatal discovery, persuaded that he
is the son of the Pole."
The conversation of the two personages was interrupted by a footman of
gigantic size, carefully powdered, although it was hardly eleven
"His lordship has rung twice," said the giant.
Boyer appeared distressed at this neglect; he arose precipitately, and
followed the servant with as much eagerness and respect as if he had
not been the proprietor of the mansion of his master.
THE OLD COUNT DE SAINT REMY.
Two hours had passed since Boyer had gone to attend the viscount, when
the father of the last mentioned knocked at the gate of the house in
the Rue de Chaillot.
The Count de Saint Remy was a man of tall stature, still active and
vigorous, notwithstanding his age; the almost copper color of his skin
contrasted strangely with the silvery whiteness of his beard and hair;
his heavy, still black eyebrows overshadowed piercing but sunken eyes.
Although, from a kind of misanthropy, he wore clothes quite rusty,
there was in his whole appearance that which commanded respect. The
door of his son's house flew open, and he entered. A porter in a grand
livery of brown and silver, profusely powdered, and wearing silk
stockings, appeared on the threshold of an elegant lodge, which had as
much resemblance to the smoky den of the Pipelets as a cobbler's stall
could have to the sumptuous shop of a fashionable "emporium."
"M. de Saint Remy?" demanded the viscount, in a low tone.
The porter, instead of replying, examined with much contempt the white
beard, the threadbare coat, and the old hat of the stranger, who held
in his hand a large cane.
"M. de Saint Remy?" repeated the count, impatiently, shocked at the
impertinent examination of the porter.
"Not at home." So saying, Pipelet's rival drew the cord, and with a
significant gesture, invited the unknown to retire.
"I will wait," said the count, and he passed on.
"Stay, friend! one does not enter that way into houses!" cried the
porter, running after and taking him by the arm.
"How, scoundrel!" answered the old man, raising his cane; "you dare to
"I will dare something else, if you do not walk out at once. I have
told you that my lord was out, so walk off."
At this moment, Boyer, attracted by the sound of voices, made his
appearance. "What is the matter?" demanded he.
"M. Boyer, this man will absolutely enter, although I have told him
that my lord is out."
"Let us put a stop to this," replied the count, addressing Boyer; "I
wish to see my son---if he has gone out, I will wait."
We have said that Boyer was ignorant neither of the existence nor of
the misanthropy of the father, and sufficiently a physiognomist, he
did not for a moment doubt the identity of the count, but bowed low to
him, and answered, "If your lordship will be so good as to follow me,
I am at his orders."
"Go on," said Saint Remy, who accompanied Boyer, to the profound
dismay of the porter.
Preceded by the valet, the count arrived on the first story, and still
following his guide, was ushered into a little saloon, situated
immediately over the boudoir of the ground floor.
"My lord has been obliged to go out this morning," said Boyer, "and if
your lordship will have the kindness to wait, it will not be long
before he returns." And the valet disappeared.
Remaining alone, the count looked around him with indifference, until
suddenly he discovered the picture of his wife, the mother of
Florestan de Saint Remy. He folded his arms on his heart, held down
his head, as if to avoid the sight of this victim, and walked about
with rapid steps.
"And yet I am not certain---he may be my son---sometimes this doubt is
frightful to me. If he is my son, then my abandoning him, my refusal
ever to see him, are unpardonable. And then to think my name--of which
I have ever been so proud--belongs to the son of a man whose heart I
could have torn out! Oh! I do not know why I am not bereft of my
senses when I think of it." Saint Remy, continuing to walk with
agitation, raised mechanically the curtain which separated the saloon
from Florestan's study and entered the apartment.
He had hardly disappeared for a moment, than a small door, concealed
by the tapestry, opened softly, and Madame de Lucenay, wrapped in a
shawl of green Cashmere, and wearing a very plain black velvet bonnet,
entered the saloon which the count had just left. The duchess, as we
have said before, had a key to the little private garden-door; not
finding Florestan in the apartments below, she had supposed that,
perhaps, he was in his study, and without any fear had come up by a
small staircase which led from the boudoir to the first story.
Unfortunately, a very threatening visit from M. Badinot had obliged
him to go out precipitately.
Madame de Lucenay, seeing no one, was about to enter the cabinet, when
the curtains were thrown back, and she found herself face to face with
the father of Florestan. She could not restrain a cry of alarm.
"Clotilde!" cried the count, stupefied.
The duchess remained immovable, contemplating with surprise the old
white-bearded man, so badly clothed, whose features did not appear
"You, Clotilde!" repeated the count, in a tone of sorrowful reproach,
"you here--in my son's house?"
These last words decided Madame de Lucenay; she at length recognized
the father of Florestan, and cried, "M. de Saint Remy!" Her position
was so plain and significant, that the duchess disdained to have
recourse to a falsehood to explain the motive of her presence in this
house; counting on the paternal affection which the count had formerly
shown her, she extended her hand, and said, with an air--gracious,
cordial, and fearless--which belonged only to her, "Come, do not
scold! you are my oldest friend! Do you remember, more than twenty
years ago, you called me your dear Clotilde?"
"Yes, I called you thus, but--"
"I know in advance all that you will say to me; you know my motto;
_What is, is; what shall be, shall be._"
"Spare me your reproaches; let me rather speak to you of my joy at
seeing you! your presence recalls so many things; my poor father, in
the first place; and then my fifteenth year. Ah! fifteen--sweet
"It was because your father was my friend, that--"
"Oh, yes!" answered the duchess, interrupting him, "he loved you so
much! Do you remember he called you, laughingly 'Green Ribbon.' You
always said to him, 'You will spoil Clotilde; take care!' and he would
answer, embracing me, 'I believe I spoil her; and I must hurry and
spoil her more, for soon fashion will carry her off, and spoil her in
its turn.' Excellent father that I lost!"
A tear glistened in the fine eyes of Madame de Lucenay, and giving her
hand to Saint Remy, she said to him, in an agitated voice, "True, I am
happy, very happy to see you again; you awaken souvenirs so precious,
so dear to my heart! If you have been in Paris for any time,"
continued Madame de Lucenay, "it was very unkind in you not to come to
see me; we should have talked so much of the past; for you know I
begin to arrive at the age when there is a great charm in talking to
Perhaps the duchess could not have spoken with more nonchalance if she
had been receiving a visit at Lucenay House.
Saint Remy could not refrain from saying, earnestly, "Instead of
talking of the past, let us talk of the present. My son may come in at
any moment, and--"
"No!" said Clotilde, interrupting him, "I have the key of the private
door, and his arrival is always announced by a bell when he comes in
by the gate; at this noise I shall disappear as mysteriously as I
came, and leave you alone. What a sweet surprise you are going to
cause him! you, who have for so long a time abandoned him!"
"Hold! I have reproaches to make you."
"To me, to me?"
"Certainly! What guide, what assistance had I on entering into
society? and, for a thousand things, the counsels of a father are
indispensable. Thus, frankly, it has been very wrong in you to--"
Here Madame de Lucenay, giving way to the peculiarity of her
character, could not prevent herself from laughing heartily, and
saying to the count: "You must avow that the position is at least
singular, and that it is very piquant that I should preach to you!"
"It is rather strange; but I deserve neither your sermons nor your
praises. I come to my son; but it is not on account of my son. At his
age he can no longer need my counsels."
"What do you mean?"
"You must know for what reasons I detest society and hold Paris in
horror!" said the count. "Nothing but circumstances of the last
importance could have induced me to leave Angers, and, above all, to
come here--in this house! But I have conquered my repugnance, and have
recourse to every one who can aid me in researches of great interest
"Oh! then," said Madame de Lucenay, with most affectionate eagerness,
"I beg you dispose of me, if I can be of any use to you. Is there need
of any applications? M. de Lucenay ought to have a certain influence:
for, on the days when I go to dine with my great Aunt de Montbrison,
he gives a dinner at home to some deputies; this is not done without
some motive; this inconvenience must be paid for by some probable
advantage. Once more, if we can serve you, command us. There is my
young cousin, Duke de Montbrison, connected with all the nobility,
perhaps he could do something? In this case, I offer him to you. In a
word, dispose of me and mine: you know if I can call myself a devoted
"I know it; and I do not refuse your assistance; although, however--"
"Come, my dear _Alceste_, we are people of the world, let us act
like such, whether we are here or elsewhere, it is of no import, I
suppose, to the affair which interests you, and which now interests me
extremely, since it is yours. Let us speak of this, and sincerely; I
Thus saying, the duchess approached the fireplace, and, leaning
against it, she put out the prettiest little foot in the world to warm
With perfect tact, Madame de Lucenay seized the occasion to speak no
more of the viscount, and to converse with M. de Saint Remy on a
subject to which he attached much importance.
"You are ignorant, perhaps, Clotilde," said the count, "that for a
long time past I have lived at Angers?"
"No--I knew it."
"Notwithstanding the isolated state I sought, I had chosen this city,
because one of my relations dwelt there, M. de Fermont, who, during my
troubles, acted as a brother toward me, having acted as a second in a
"Yes, a terrible duel; my father told me of it," said Madame de
Lucenay, sadly; "but happily, Florestan is ignorant of this duel, and
also of the cause that led to it."
"I was willing to let him respect his mother," answered the count,
and, suppressing a sigh, he continued, and related to Madame de
Lucenay the history of Madame de Fermont up to the time of her leaving
Angers for Paris.
That history, if the old count had known and related it all, would
have run thus. Baron de Ferment's brother, ruined by concealed
speculations, had left three hundred thousand francs with Jacques
Ferrand. But when the baroness, upon her brother's suicide in
desperation, and her husband's death, had claimed it from that
honorable man, the notary had challenged her to produce proofs, of
which she had not one, and had, moreover, met her with a demand for
two thousand francs, a debt of the baron's to the notary. So she began
to suffer every hardship from this abuse of trust. Presuming this, we
let the count proceed:
"At the end of some time," said he, "I learned that the furniture of
the house which she occupied at Angers was sold by her orders, and
that this sum had been employed to pay some debts left by Madame de
Fermont. Uneasy at this circumstance, I inquired, and learned vaguely
that this unfortunate woman and her daughter were in distress--the
victims, doubtless, of a bankruptcy. If Madame de Fermont could, in
such an extremity, count on any one, it was on me. Yet I received no
news from her. You cannot imagine my sufferings--my inquietude. It was
absolutely necessary that I should find them, to know why they did not
apply to me, poor as I was. I set out for Paris, leaving a person at
Angers, who, if by chance any information was obtained, was to advise
"Yesterday I had a letter from Angers; nothing was known. On arriving
here I commenced my researches. I went first to the former residence
of the brother of Madame de Fermont. Here they told me she lived by
the Canal Saint Martin."
"Had been her lodgings; but she had left, and they were ignorant of
her new abode. Since then all my inquiries have been useless; and I
have come here, in hopes that she may have applied to the son of her
old friend. I am afraid that even this will be in vain."
For some minutes Madame de Lucenay had listened to the count with
redoubled attention; suddenly she said, "Truly, it would be singular
if these should be the same as those Madame d'Harville is so much
"Who?" asked the count.
"The widow of whom you speak is still young, and of a noble presence?"
"She is so. But how do you know?"
"Her daughter handsome as an angel, and about sixteen?"
"And is named Claire?"
"Oh, in mercy, speak! where are they?"
"Alas, I know not!"
"You do not know?"
"A lady of my acquaintance, Madame d'Harville, came to me to ask if I
know a widow who had a daughter named Claire, and whose brother
committed suicide. Madame d'Harville came to me because she had seen
these words, 'Write to Madame de Lucenay,' traced on the fragment of a
letter which this unhappy woman had written to a person unknown, whose
aid she entreated."
"She intended to write to you! Why?"
"I am ignorant; I do not know her."
"But she knew you!" cried Saint Remy, struck with a sudden idea.
"What do you say?"
"A hundred times she has heard me speak of your father, of you, of
your generous and excellent heart. In her trouble, she must have
thought of you."
"This can be thus explained."
"And how did Madame d'Harville get possession of this letter?"
"I am ignorant; all I know is, that, without knowing where this poor
mother and child had taken refuge, she was, I believe, on their
"Then I count upon you, Clotilde, to introduce me to Madame
d'Harville; I must see her to-day."
"Impossible. Her husband has just fallen a victim to a frightful
accident. A gun, which he did not know was loaded, went off while in
his hands, and killed him on the spot."
"Oh, this is horrible!"
"She departed immediately, to pass her first mourning at her father's
"Clotilde, I conjure you to write to her to-day; ask for whatever
information she may possess. Since she interests herself for these
poor women, tell her she cannot have a warmer auxiliary than me; my
sole desire is to find the widow of my friend, and to partake with her
and her daughter the little I possess. It is now my sole family."
"Always the same---always generous and devoted! Count on me; I will
write to-day to Madame d'Harville. Where shall I send her answer?"
"To Asnieres, poste restante."
"What eccentricity! Why do you lodge there and not at Paris?"
"I hate Paris, on account of the souvenirs it awakens," answered Saint
Remy, with a gloomy air. "My old physician, Dr. Griffin, has a small
country-house on the banks of the Seine, near Asnieres; he does not
live there in winter, and offered it to me; it is almost a suburb of
Paris; I could, after my researches, find there the solitude which
pleases me; I have accepted."
"I will write you, then, at Asnieres; I can, besides, give you now
some information which may perhaps serve you, which I received from
Madame d'Harville. The ruin of Madame de Fermont has been caused by
the roguery of the notary who had the charge of her fortune. He denies
"The scoundrel! What is the fellow's name?"
"Jacques Ferrand," said the duchess, without being able to conceal her
desire to laugh.
"What a strange being you are, Clotilde! There is nothing in all this
but what is serious and sad, yet you laugh!" said the count, surprised
"Pardon me, my friend," answered the duchess; "the notary is such a
singular man, and they tell such strange things of him. But,
seriously, if his reputation as an honest man is no more merited than
his reputation as a pious man (and I declare this usurped), he is a
"And he lives---"
"Rue du Gentier."
"He shall have a visit from me. What you have told me coincides with
"From what I can learn respecting the death of the brother of my poor
friend, I am almost led to believe that this unfortunate man, instead
of committing suicide, has been the victim of an assassination."
"Goodness! what makes you suppose this?"
"Several reasons, too long to tell you. I leave you now."
"You leave without seeing Florestan?"
"This interview would be too painful for me--you must comprehend. I
only braved it in the hopes of obtaining some information about Madame
de Fermont, wishing to neglect no means to find her. Now adieu!"
"Oh, you are without pity!"
"Do you not know?"
"I know that your son has never had more need of your counsels."
"Is he not rich--happy?"
"Yes; but he does not know mankind. Blindly prodigal, because he is
confiding and generous--in everything, everywhere, and always truly
noble. I fear he is abused. If you knew what a noble heart he has! I
have never dared to lecture him on the subject of his expense and
extravagance; in the first place, because I am at least as foolish as
he is; and then for other reasons; but you on the contrary could--"
Madame de Lucenay did not finish; suddenly she heard the voice of
Florestan de Saint Remy. He entered precipitately into the cabinet
adjoining the saloon. After having quickly shut the door, he said, in
an agitated voice, to some one who accompanied him, "But it is
"But I repeat to you," answered the clear and piercing voice of M.
Badinot, "I repeat to you, that, without this, in four hours you will
be arrested. For if he has not this money, our man will go and make a
complaint to the attorney-general, and you know the penalty of a
forgery like this--the galleys, my poor lord!"
It is impossible to describe the look which Madame de Lucenay and the
father of Florestan exchanged on hearing these terrible words.
FATHER AND SON.
On hearing these fearful words addressed to his son by Badinot, the
count changed color, and clung to a chair for support. His venerable
and respected name dishonored by a man whom he had reason to doubt was
his son? His first feeling overcome, the angry looks of the old man,
and a threatening gesture which he made as he advanced toward the
study revealed a resolution so alarming that Madame de Lucenay caught
him by the hand, stopped him, and said, in a low tone, with the most
profound conviction, "He is innocent; I swear to you! Listen in
The count stood still; he wished to believe what the duchess had said
She, on her part, was persuaded of his honesty. To obtain new
sacrifices from this woman, so blindly generous--sacrifices which
alone had saved him from the threats of Jacques Ferrand--the viscount
had sworn to Madame de Lucenay, that, dupe of a scoundrel from whom he
had received in payment the forged bill, he ran the risk of being
regarded as an accomplice of the forger, having himself put it in
Madame de Lucenay knew that the viscount was imprudent, prodigal, and
careless; but never for a moment had she supposed him capable of an
infamous action, not even the slightest indiscretion.
By twice lending him considerable sums under very peculiar
circumstances, she had wished to render him a friendly service, the
viscount only accepting this money on the express condition of
returning it; for there was due to him, he said, more than twice this
His apparent luxurious manner of living allowed her to believe it.
Besides, Madame de Lucenay, yielding to her natural kind impulses, had
only thought of being useful to Florestan, without any care whether he
could repay or not. He affirmed it, and she did not doubt. In
answering for the viscount's honor, in supplicating the old count to
listen to the conversation of his son, the duchess thought that he was
going to speak of the abuse of confidence of which he had been a
victim, and that he would be thus entirely exculpated in the eyes of
"Once more," continued Florestan, in an agitated voice, "I say this
Petit Jean is a scoundrel; he assured me that he had no other bills
than those I withdrew yesterday, and three days ago. I thought this
one was in circulation: it was payable three months after date, at
Adams & Co., London?"
"Yes, yes," said the clear and sharp voice of Badinot. "I know, my
dear viscount, that you have adroitly managed your affairs; your
forgeries were not to be discovered until you were far away. But you
have been caught by those more cunning than yourself."
"Oh! it is very well to tell me this now, wretch that you are!" cried
Florestan, furiously; "did you not yourself introduce this person to
me, who has negotiated the paper?"
"Come, my dear aristocrat," answered Badinot, coldly, "be calm! You
are very skillful in counterfeiting commercial signatures; it is
really wonderful; but that is no reason why you should treat your
friends with disagreeable familiarity. If you go on in this way--I
leave you to arrange as you please."
"Do you think one can preserve calmness in such a position? If what
you tell me is true--if this complaint is lodged against me to-day, I
"It is exactly as I tell you, unless you should have recourse again to
your charming providence with the blue eyes."
"That is impossible."
"Then be resigned. It is a pity it was the last note! for twenty-five
thousand paltry francs, to go and take the air of the south at Toulon--it
is ridiculous, absurd, stupid! How could a cunning man like you
suffer yourself to be thus cornered?"
"What is to be done? what is to be done? nothing here belongs to me; I
have not twenty louis of my own."
"Oh! I owe to all who could lend me; do you think me such a fool as to
have waited until to-day to ask them?"
"That is true; pardon me--come, let us talk tranquilly, it is the best
way to arrive at a reasonable solution. Just now I wanted to tell you
how you were attacked by those who were more cunning than yourself.
You did not listen to me."
"Well, speak, if it can be of any use."
"Let us recapitulate: you said to me about two months since, 'I have
about one hundred and thirteen thousand francs in bills on different
banking-houses, which have some time to run; can you find means to
negotiate them for me, my dear Badinot--'"
"Well! what next?"
"Stop! I asked to see them. Something told me that the bills were
forgeries, although perfectly well done. I did not suspect that you,
it is true, possessed a caligraphic talent so far advanced; but having
the charge of your fortunes, ever since you had no more fortune, I
knew you were completely ruined. I had drawn up the deed by which your
horses, your carriages, the furniture of this hotel, belonged to Boyer
and Patterson. It was not wonderful for me to be astonished at seeing
you possess commercial securities of so much value, was it?"
"Do me the favor to spare me your astonishment and let us arrive at
"Here they are. I had not enough experience or timidity to care to
meddle directly in affairs of that description; I recommended a third
person to you, who, not less sharp-sighted than I am, suspected the
game you wished to play."
"That is impossible-he would not have discounted these bills if he had
thought them false."
"How much money did he give you for the one hundred and thirteen
"Twenty-five thousand francs cash, and the remainder in debts to be
"And how much did you ever recover from these?"
"Nothing, you know well enough; they were imaginary; but he certainly
risked twenty-five thousand francs."
"How unfledged you are, my dear lord! Having my commission of a
hundred louis to receive, I took good care not to tell this third
person the real state of your affairs. He thought you still quite
rich, and he knew, besides, that you were adored by a great lady, who
was very rich, and who would never have you in embarrassment; he was
then pretty sure to get back what he advanced; he ran some risk, to be
sure; but he also had a chance of making a great deal of money, and
his calculation was a good one; for, the other day you paid him one
hundred thousand francs to withdraw the forgery of fifty-eight
thousand francs, and yesterday thirty thousand francs for the second;
for this last, he had been contented with receiving its real value.
How you procured these thirty thousand francs yesterday may the devil
run away with me if I know! for you are a man unique. So you see that
at the end of the account, if Petit Jean forces you to pay the last
draft for twenty-five thousand francs, he will have received from you
one hundred and fifty-five thousand francs for twenty-five thousand
francs which he paid you; now, I had reason to say that you were in
the hands of those more cunning than yourself."
"But why did he tell me that this last bill, which he presented to-day,
"Not to alarm you; he also had told you that, with the exception of
the fifty-eight thousand francs, the others were in circulation; the
first, once paid, yesterday came the second, and to-day the third."
"Listen to me, then: every one for himself, as a celebrated lawyer
said, and I like the maxim. But let us talk coolly: this proves to you
that Petit Jean (and, between us, I should not be surprised if,
notwithstanding his holy reputation, Jacques Ferrand was half
concerned in these speculations), this proves to you, I say, that
Petit Jean, allured by your first payments, speculates on this last
bill, quite sure that your friends will not allow you to be dragged
before the judges. It is for you to see if these friends are so well
used, so drained, that not another golden drop can be squeezed from
them, for, if in three hours you have not the twenty-five thousand
francs, my noble lord, you are caged."
"If you were to repeat this to me forever--"
"Perhaps you would consent to pluck a last feather from the wing of
that generous duchess."
"I repeat to you, it must not be thought of. To find in three hours
twenty-five thousand francs more, after all the sacrifices she has
already made--it would be madness to think of it."
"To please you, fortunate mortal, one would try an impossibility."
"Oh! she has already tried it: this was to borrow one hundred thousand
francs from her husband, and she succeeded; but these are experiments
that cannot be tried twice. Let us see, my dear Badinot, until now you
have never had any reason to complain of me. I have always been
generous; try to obtain some delay from this miserable Petit Jean. You
know I always can find means to recompense those who serve me; this
last affair once hushed, I will take a new flight--you shall be
content with me."
"Petit Jean is as inflexible as you are unreasonable."
"Try only to interest once more your generous friend in your sad fate.
The devil! Tell her right out the truth; not as you have already said,
that you are the dupe, but that you are the forger himself."
"No, never will I make such an acknowledgment; it would be shame
without any advantage."
"Do you prefer that she should learn it to-morrow by the 'Police
"I have three hours left--I can fly."
"Where will you go without money? Judge now! on the contrary, this
last forgery taken up, you will find yourself in a superb position;
you would have no more debts. Come, come, promise me to speak once
more to the duchess. You are such a rake, you know how to make
yourself so interesting in spite of your faults; at the very worst,
perhaps, you will be esteemed the less, or even no more, but you will
be lifted out of this scrape. Come, promise me to see your friend, and
I will run to Petit Jean, and do my best to obtain an hour or two
"Hell! must I drink of shame to the very dregs?"
"Come now! good luck--be tender, charming, fond; I run to Petit Jean:
you will find me here until three o'clock; later it will no longer be
in time: the public prosecutor's office is closed after four o'clock."
Badinot took his departure.
When the door was closed, Florestan was heard to cry, in profound
During this conversation, which unmasked to the count the infamy of
his son, and to Madame de Lucenay the infamy of the man whom she had
so blindly loved, both remained immovable, scarcely breathing, under
the weight of this frightful revelation.
It would be impossible to describe the mute eloquence of the sorrowful
scene which passed between this young woman and the count, when there
was no longer any doubt of the crime of Florestan. Extending his arm
toward the room where his son remained, the old man smiled with bitter
irony, cast a withering look on Madame de Lucenay, and seemed to say
"Behold him for whom you have braved all shame, made every sacrifice!
Behold him you have reproached me for abandoning!"
The duchess understood the look; for a moment she hung her head under
the weight of her shame. The lesson was terrible.
Then by degrees, to the cruel anxiety which had contracted the
features of Madame de Lucenay succeeded a kind of noble indignation.
The inexcusable faults of this woman were at least palliated by the
fidelity of her love, by the boldness of her devotion, by the grandeur
of her generosity, by the frankness of her character, and by her
inexorable aversion for everything that was cowardly and dishonest.
Still too young, too handsome, too much sought after, to experience
the humility of having been made use of, this proud and decided woman,
once the illusion of love having vanished, felt neither hatred nor
anger; instantaneously, without any transition, a mortal disgust, an
icy disdain, killed her affection, until then so lively; it was no
longer a woman deceived by her lover, but it was the lady of fashion
discovering that a man of her society was a cheat and a forger.
In supposing even that some circumstances might have extenuated the
ignominy of Florestan, Madame de Lucenay would not have admitted them;
according to her views, the man who overstepped certain limits of
honor, either through vice or weakness, no longer existed in her eyes,
honor being for her a question of existence or non-existence. The only
sorrowful feeling experienced by the duchess, was excited by the
terrible effect which this unexpected revelation produced on the
count, her old friend. For some moments he appeared not to see nor
hear; his eyes were fixed, his head hung down, his arms suspended, his
paleness livid, and from time to time a convulsive sigh escaped from
his bosom. With a man as resolute as he was energetic, such a state of
dejection was more alarming than the most furious bursts of rage.
Madame de Lucenay looked at him with much anxiety. "Courage, my
friend," said she to him, in a low tone, "for you, for me, for this
man--I know what remains for me to do."
The old man looked at her fixedly; then, as if he had been aroused
from his stupor by some violent shock, he raised his head, his
features assumed a threatening appearance, and, forgetting that his
son might hear him, he cried: "And I, also, for you, for me, for this
man--I know what I have to do."
"Who is there?" cried Florestan, surprised.
Madame de Lucenay, fearing to meet the viscount, disappeared through
the small door, and descended the private staircase.
Florestan, having again demanded who was there, and receiving no
answer, entered the saloon.
The long beard of the old man changed him so much, he was so poorly
dressed, that his son, who had not seen him for many years, did not at
first recognize him; he advanced rapidly toward him with a menacing
air, and said, "Who are you? What do you want here?"
"I am the husband of that woman!" answered the count, showing the
portrait of Madame de Saint Remy.
"My father!" cried Florestan, retreating in alarm; and he endeavored
to recall to mind the features so long forgotten. Erect, formidable,
his looks irritated, his face purple with rage, his white hair thrown
back, his arms crossed on his breast, the count, over-awed, confounded
his son, who, with his head down, dared not to raise his eyes upon
him. Yet Saint Remy, from some secret motive, made a violent effort to
remain calm and to conceal his feelings of resentment.
"Father!" said Florestan, in a faltering voice, "you were there!" "I
"You have heard--"
"Oh!" cried the viscount, mournfully, concealing his face in his
There was a moment's pause. Florestan, at first as much astonished as
vexed at the unexpected apparition of his father, soon began to think
what he could make out of this incident. "All is not lost," said he to
himself; "the presence of my father is a stroke of fate. He knows all;
he will not have his name dishonored; he is not rich, but be must have
more than twenty-five thousand francs. Let us play close--address,
emotion, and a little tenderness. I will let the duchess alone, and I
Then, giving to his charming features an expression of mournful
dejection, moistening his eyes with the tears of repentance, assuming
his most thrilling tones, his most pathetic manner, he cried, joining
his hands with a gesture of despair: "Oh, my father: I am very
unhappy! after so many years--to see you again, and at such a moment!
I must appear so culpable to you! But deign to listen to me, I entreat
you--I supplicate you; permit me, not to justify myself, but to
explain to you my conduct; will you, my father?"
Old Saint Remy answered not a word: his features remained immovable:
he seated himself, and with his chin resting on the palm of his hand,
looked at his son in silence.
If Florestan had known the thoughts which filled the mind of his
father with hatred, fury, and vengeance, alarmed at the apparent
calmness of the count, he would not have tried to dupe him.
But, ignorant of the suspicions attached to his birth, ignorant of the
fault of his mother, Florestan doubted not the success of his trick,
believing he had only to soften a father who, at once a misanthrope
and very proud of his name, would be capable, rather than see his name
dishonored, to decide on any sacrifice.
"My father," he resumed timidly, "permit me to try, not to exculpate
myself, but to tell you how, from involuntary misleadings, I have
reached, almost in spite of myself, actions--infamous--I acknowledge."
The viscount took the silence of his father for a tacit consent, and
"When I had the misfortune to lose my mother--my poor mother, who
loved me so well--I was not twenty. I found myself alone, without
counsel, without protection. Master of a considerable fortune,
accustomed to luxury from my childhood, I had made it a habit, a want.
Ignorant of the difficulty of earning money, I lavished it without
measure. Unfortunately--and I say unfortunately, because this ruined
me--my expenses, foolish as they were, by their elegance were
remarkable. By good taste I eclipsed people who were ten times richer
than I was. This first success intoxicated me. I became a man of
luxury as one becomes a warrior or a statesman; yes, I loved luxury,
not from vulgar ostentation, but I loved it as the painter loves a
picture, as the poet loves poetry; like every other artist, I was
jealous of my work; and my work was my luxury. I sacrificed everything
to its perfection. I wished it fine, grand, complete, splendidly
harmonious in everything, from my stables to my table, from my dress
to my house. I wished in everything to be a model of taste and
elegance. As an artist, in fine, I was greedy of the applause of the
crowd, and of the admiration of people of fashion; this success, so
rare, I obtained."
In speaking thus, the features of Florestan lost by degrees their
hypocritical expression; his eyes shone with a kind of enthusiasm; he
told the truth; he had been at first reduced by this rather uncommon
manner of understanding luxury. He looked inquiringly at his father;
he thought he appeared rather softened.
He resumed, with growing warmth: "Oracle and regulator of the
fashions, my praise or censure made the law; I was quoted, copied,
extolled, admired, and that by the best company in Paris, that is to
say, Europe, the world. The women partook of the general infatuation;
the most charming disputed for the pleasure of coming to some very
select fetes which I gave; and everywhere, and always, nothing was
heard but of the incomparable elegance and exquisite taste of these
fetes, which the millionaires could neither equal nor eclipse; in
fine, I was the Glass of Fashion. This word will tell you all, my
father, if you understand it."
"I understand it, and I am sure that at the galleys you will invent
some refined elegance in the manner of carrying your chain, that will
become the fashion in the yard, and will be called a la Saint Remy,"
said the old man, with bitter irony; then he added, "and Saint Remy is
It caused Florestan to exercise much control over himself to conceal
the wound caused by this sarcasm.
He continued, in a more humble tone: "Alas! my father, it is not from
pride that I recall the fact of this success; for, I repeat to you,
this success ruined me. Sought after, envied, flattered, praised, not
by interested parasites, but by people whose position much surpassed
mine, and over whom I only had the advantage derived from elegance--
which is to luxury what taste is to the arts--my head was turned; I
did not calculate that my fortune must be spent in a few years; little
did I heed it. Could I renounce this feverish, dazzling life, in which
pleasure succeeded to pleasure, enjoyments to enjoyments, fetes to
fetes, intoxications of all sorts to enchantments of all sorts? Oh, if
you knew, my father, what it is to be everywhere noticed as the hero
of the day; to hear the whisperings which announce your entrance into
a saloon; to hear the women say, 'It is he!--there he is!' Oh! if you
"I know," said the old man, interrupting his son, and without changing
his position; "I know. Yes, the other day, in a public square, there
was a crowd, suddenly I heard a noise, like that with which you are
received when you go anywhere; then the looks of all, the women
especially, were fixed on a very handsome young man, just as they are
fixed on you, and they pointed him out, just as they do you, saying,
'It is he! there he is!' just exactly as they say of you."
"But this man, my father?"
"Was a forger they were placing in the pillory."
"Ah!" exclaimed Florestan, with suppressed rage; then, feigning
profound affliction, he added: "My father, have you no pity--what can
I say to you now? I do not seek to deny my faults--I only wish to
explain to you the fatal cause of them. Ah, well! yes, should you
again overwhelm me with cruel sarcasms, I will try to go to the end of
this confession--I will try to make you understand this feverish
vanity which has ruined me, because then, perhaps, you will pity me.
Yes, for one pities a fool--and I was a fool. Shutting my eyes, I
abandoned myself to the dazzling vortex, into which I dragged along
with me the most charming women, the most amiable men. Stop myself--
could I do it? As well say to the poet who exhausts himself, and whose
genius is consuming his health, 'Pause in the midst of the inspiration
which carries you away!' No! I could not; I--I! abdicate this royalty
which I exercised, and return, ruined, ashamed, mocked, to the state
of a plebeian--unknown; give this triumph to my rivals, whom I had
until then defied, ruled, crushed! No, no, I could not! not
voluntarily, at least. The fatal day came, when, for the first time,
my money was wanting. I was as surprised as if this moment never could
happen. Yet I had still my horses, my carriages, and the furniture of
this house. My debts paid, I should still have sixty thousand francs--
perhaps--what should I do with this trifle? Then, my father, I took
the first step in infamy. I was still honest. I had only spent what
belonged to me; but then I began to contract debts which I could not
pay. I sold all I possessed to two of my people, in order to settle
with them, and to be able, for six months longer, to enjoy this luxury
which intoxicated me, in spite of my creditors. To provide for my
wants at play and foolish expenses, I borrowed, in the first place,
from the Jews; then, to pay the Jews, from my friends. These resources
exhausted, commenced a new era of my life. From an honest man I had
become a chevalier d'industrie, but I was not yet criminal. However, I
hesitated. I wished to take a violent resolution. I had proved in
several duels that I was not afraid of death. I thought I would kill
"Indeed?" said the count, ironically.
"You do not believe me, my father?"
"It was too soon, or too late!" added the old man, quite immovable,
and in the same attitude.
Florestan, thinking he had alarmed his father in speaking to him of
his project of suicide, thought it necessary to get up the scene again
for a little stage effect. He opened a closet and took from it a
little green crystal vial, and said to the count, placing it on the
mantelpiece: "An Italian quack sold me this poison."
"And--it was for yourself?" said the old man, still leaning on his
Florestan understood the bearing of his father's words. His face now
expressed real indignation, for he spoke the truth. One day, he had
had the idea of killing himself--an ephemeral fantasy; people of his
stamp are too cowardly to resolve coldly and without witnesses upon
death, which they will boldly meet in a duel through a point of honor.
He cried, then, in a tone of truth, "I have fallen very low, but at
least not so low as that, my father! It was for myself I reserved the
"And you were afraid?" said the count, without change of position.
"I confess it, I recoiled before this dreadful extremity; nothing was
yet desperate, the persons whom I owed were rich, and could wait. At
my age, with my relations, I hoped for a moment, if not to repair my
fortune, at least to assure myself an honorable independent position
in its place. Several of my friends, perhaps, less capable than myself
had made rapid strides in diplomacy. I had a velleity of ambition. I
had only to request, and I was attached to the legation of Gerolstein.
Unfortunately, some days after this nomination, a gambling debt
contracted with a man I hated placed me in the most cruel
embarrassment. I had exhausted every resource. A fatal idea occurred
to me. Believing myself certain of impunity, I committed an infamous
action. You see, my father, I conceal nothing from you. I confess the
ignominy of my conduct. I seek to extenuate nothing. One of two
resolutions remains for me to take, and I have now to decide which.
The first is to kill myself, and to leave your name dishonored, for if
I do not pay to-day even the twenty-five thousand francs, the
complaint is made, the affair known, and, dead or living, I am ruined.
The second means is to throw myself in the hands of my father, to say
to you, save your son, save your name from infamy, and I swear to
leave to-morrow for Africa, to enlist as a soldier, and either to be
killed or to return some day honorably reinstated. What I now tell
you, my father, is true. In face of the extremity which overwhelms me,
I have no other way. Decide; either I die covered with shame, or
thanks to you, I will live to repair my faults. These are not the
threats and words of a young man, my father. I am now twenty-five; I
bear your name; I have courage enough either to kill myself, or to
become a soldier, for I will not go to the galleys."
The count arose.
"I will not have my name dishonored," said he coldly to Florestan.
"Oh, my father! my savior!" cried the viscount, warmly; and he was
about to throw himself into the arms of his father, when he, with an
icy gesture, checked the impulse.
"They wait for you until three o'clock, at the house of this man who
has the forgery?"
"Yes, my father; and it is now two o'clock."
"Let us pass into your cabinet--give me something to write with."
"Here, my father." The count seated himself before the desk of his
son, and wrote with a firm hand:
"I engage to pay this night, at ten o'clock, the 25,000 francs which
are owed by my son.
"COUNT DE SAINT REMY."
"Your creditor insists upon having the money; notwithstanding his
threats, this engagement of mine will make him consent to a new delay;
he can go to Mr. Dupont, banker, in the Rue de Richelieu, No. 7, who
will inform him of the value of this note."
"Oh, father! however can--"
"You may expect me to-night; at ten o'clock. I will bring you the
money. Let your creditor be here."
"Yes, father, and after to-morrow, I start for Africa. You shall see
if I am ungrateful. Then, perhaps, when I have reinstated myself, you
will accept my thanks."
"You owe me nothing; I have said my name shall be no further
dishonored; it shall not be," said M. de Saint Remy, calmly; and
taking his cane, which he had placed on the bureau, he turned toward
"Father, your hand at least!" said Florestan, in a supplicating tone.
"Here, to-night, at ten-o'clock," replied the count, refusing his
hand. And he departed.
"Saved!" cried Florestan, joyfully, "saved!" then, after a moment's
reflection, he added, "saved! almost. No matter; so far good. Perhaps
to-night I will acknowledge the other thing; he is in train; he will
not stop halfway and let his sacrifice be useless, because he refuses
a second. Yet why tell him? Who will know it? Never mind; if nothing
is discovered, I will keep the money that he will give me to pay this
last debt. I had a great deal of trouble to move him, this devil of a
man! The bitterness of his sarcasms made me doubt my success; but my
threat of suicide, the fear of having his name dishonored, decided
him; that was the lucky stroke. He is, doubtless, not so poor as he
pretends to be, if he possesses a hundred thousand francs. He must
have saved money, living as he does. Once more, I say his coming was a
lucky chance. He has a cross look, but, at the bottom, I think he is a
good fellow; but I must hasten to this bailiff." He rang the bell.
"Why did you not inform me that my father was here? you are very
"Twice I endeavored to speak to you when you came through the garden
with M. Badinot; but, probably, preoccupied by your conversation with
M. Badinot, you made a motion with the hand not to be interrupted. I
did not permit myself to insist. I should be deeply wounded if my lord
could believe me guilty of negligence."
"Very well; tell Edward to harness immediately Orion--no--Plower, to
Boyer bowed respectfully; as he was about to retire, some one knocked
at the door.
"Come in!" said Florestan.
A second valet appeared, holding in his hand a small salver. Boyer
took hold of the salver with a kind of jealous officiousness, and came
and presented it to the viscount, who took from it a rather voluminous
envelope, sealed with black wax. The valets retired ceremoniously. The
viscount opened the package. It contained twenty-five thousand francs,
in treasury notes; with no other information.
"Decidedly," cried he, with joy, "the day is lucky--sacred! this time,
completely saved. I shall go to the jeweler's--and yet--perhaps--no,
let us wait--they can have no suspicion of me--twenty-five thousand
francs are good to keep; pardieu! I was a fool ever to doubt my star;
at the moment it seems most obscured does it not appear more brilliant
than ever? But where does this money come from? the writing of the
address is unknown to me; let me look at the seal--the cipher; yes,
yes, I am not mistaken--an N and an L--it is Clotilde! How has she
known?--and not a word--it is strange! How apropos! Oh I reflect--I
made a rendezvous for this morning--these threats of Badinot upset me.
I had forgotten Clotilde--after having waited some time, she has gone.
Doubtless, this is sent as a delicate hint that she fears I shall
forget her on account of my monetary embarrassments. Yes, it is an
indirect reproach for not addressing myself to her as usual. Good
Clotilde--always the same!--generous as a queen! What a pity to come
again from her--still so handsome! Sometimes I regret it; but I have
never asked her until, at the last extremity, I have been forced to
"The cabriolet is ready," said Boyer.
"Who brought this letter?"
"I am uninformed, my lord."
"Exactly--I will ask at the door; but tell me, is there no one below?"
added the viscount, looking at Boyer in a significant manner.
"There is no longer any one, my lord."
"I was not deceived," thought Florestan. "Clotilde has waited for me,
and has gone away."
"Will my lord have the goodness to grant me two minutes?" said Boyer.
"Speak, but make haste."
"Mr. Patterson and I have understood that his Grace the Duke of
Montbrison was about to establish himself; if your lordship would have
the goodness to propose to let him have his house all furnished, as
well as the stables, it would be a good occasion for us to dispose of
all; and, perhaps, might also suit my lord."
"You are right, Boyer! I should much prefer it. I will see Montbrison,
and will speak to him about it. What are your conditions?"
"Your lordship understands that we ought to try to profit as much as
we can by his generosity."
"And gain by your bargain? nothing can be plainer! Come, what is the
"For the whole, two hundred and sixty thousand francs, my lord."
"How much do you and Patterson make?"
"About forty thousand francs, my lord."
"Very pretty! However, so much the better; for, after all, I am
satisfied with you, and if I had had a will to make, I should have
left this sum to you and Patterson." The viscount went out to go, in
the first place, to his creditor and Madame de Lucenay, whom he did
not suspect of having overheard his conversation with Badinot.
Lucenay House was one of those princely habitations of the Faubourg
Saint Germain which the unobstructed view renders so magnificent. A
modern house could have been placed with ease in the space occupied by
the staircase of one of these palaces; and an entire ward on the
ground they covered.
Toward nine o'clock in the evening of this same day, the enormous
gateway was opened to a glittering carriage, which, after having
described a scientific curve in the immense court stopped before a
covered porch, which led to an antechamber.
While the stampings of the two vigorous and mettlesome horses
resounded on the pavement, a gigantic footman opened the emblazoned
door, and a young man descended slowly from this brilliant vehicle,
and not less slowly mounted the five or six steps of the porch.
This was the Viscount de Saint Remy.
On leaving his creditor, who, satisfied with the engagement made by
the Count de Saint Remy, had granted the delay asked, and agreed to
come to Rue Chaillot at ten o'clock, Florestan was come to thank
Madame de Lucenay for the new service she had rendered; but, not
having met the duchess in the morning, he came in great spirits,
certain to find her at the hour she habitually reserved for him.
From the obsequiousness of the two footmen in the antechamber who ran
to open the door as soon as they recognized the carriage; from the
profoundly respectful air with which the rest of the liveried servants
spontaneously arose as the viscount passed, one could easily see that
he was looked upon as the second, if not the real master of the
When the Duke de Lucenay entered his house, his umbrella in his hand,
and his feet in huge overshoes (he detested riding in the daytime),
the same domestic evolutions were repeated, and always respectfully;
yet to the eyes of an observer, there was a great difference of
expression between the reception given to the husband, and that which
was reserved for the _cicisbeo_.
The same respectful eagerness was manifested in the saloon of the
valets when Florestan entered there; in a moment, one of them preceded
him, to announce him to Madame de Lucenay.
Never had Florestan been more conceited; never did he feel more easy,
more sure of himself, more irresistible. The victory which he had
gained in the morning over his father; the new proof of attachment
from Madame de Lucenay; the joy at having so miraculously escaped from
so cruel a position; his renewed confidence in his star, gave to his
handsome face an expression of boldness and good humor which rendered
him still more seducing. In fine, he never was more pleased with
himself; and he had reason.
A last glance in a mirror completed the excellent opinion that
Florestan had of himself.
The valet opened the folding doors of the saloon, and announced, "His
lordship the Viscount de Saint Remy."
The astonishment and indignation of the duchess were indescribable.
She thought the count must have told his son that she also had
We have said before, that, on learning the infamy of Florestan, the
love of Madame de Lucenay was at once changed into utter disdain.
Being engaged out that evening, she was, although without diamonds,
dressed with her usual taste and magnificence: this splendid toilet;
the rouge which she wore boldly; her beauty, quite striking at night;
her figure of "the goddess sailing on clouds," rendered still more
striking a dignity, which no one possessed more than she did, and
which she pushed, when it was necessary, to a most superlative
The proud, determined character of the duchess is known to the reader;
let him imagine her look, when the viscount, smiling, advanced toward
her, and said in loving tones, "My dear Clotilde, how kind you are!
how much you----" The viscount could not finish.
The duchess was seated, and had not stirred; but her actions, the
glance of her eye, revealed a contempt at once so calm and so
withering, that Florestan stopped short. He could not say a word, or
make a step in advance. Never had Madame de Lucenay conducted herself
thus toward him. He could not believe it to be the same woman whom he
had always found so tender and affectionate. His first surprise over,
Florestan was ashamed of his weakness; he resumed his habitual
audacity; making a step toward Madame de Lucenay to take her hand, he
said to her in the most caressing manner, "Clotilde, how is this? I
have never seen you so handsome, and yet--"
"Oh! this is too impudent!" cried the duchess, recoiling with such
unequivocal disgust and pride, that Florestan once more was surprised
However, assuming a little assurance, he said to her: "You will inform
me, at least, Clotilde, the cause of this sudden change? What have I
done? What do you wish?"
Without replying to him, Madame de Lucenay looked at him from head to
foot, with an expression so insulting that Florestan felt the flush of
resentment mount to his forehead, and he cried, "I know, madame, you
are habitually very hasty in your ruptures. Is it a rupture you wish?"
"The pretension is curious!" said Madame de Lucenay, with a burst of
sardonic laughter. "Know that when a lackey robs me--I do not break
with him--I turn him out."
"Let us put a stop to this," said the duchess, in a decided and
haughty tone. "Your presence is repugnant to me! What do you want
here? Have you not got your money?"
"I was right then. I guessed it was you. These twenty-five thousand
"Your last forgery is withdrawn, is it not? The honor of your family
name is saved. It is saved. Go away. Ah! believe--I much regret this
money--it would have succored so many honest people; but it was
necessary to think of your father's shame and of mine."
"Then, Clotilde, you know all! Oh! look you now; nothing remains for
me but to die," cried Florestan in the most pathetic and despairing
A burst of indignant laughter from the duchess replied to this
tragical exclamation, and she added, between two fits of hilarity, "I
never could have thought that infamy could make itself so ridiculous!"
"Madame!" cried Florestan, almost blind with rage.
The folding doors were thrown open suddenly, and a valet announced,
"His Grace the Duke de Montbrison!"
Notwithstanding his habitual self-command, Florestan could hardly
restrain himself, which a man more accustomed to society than the duke
would certainly have remarked. Montbrison was scarcely eighteen.
Let the reader imagine the charming face of a young girl, fair, white,
and red, whose rosy lips and smooth chin shall be slightly shaded with
an incipient beard; add to this, large brown eyes, still slightly
timid, a figure as graceful as that of the duchess, and he will have,
perhaps, an idea of the appearance of this young duke, the most ideal
Cherubino that a Countess and a Susanna had ever put on a woman's cap,
after admiring the whiteness of his ivory neck.
The viscount had the weakness or the audacity to remain.
"How kind you are, Conrad, to have thought of me tonight!" said Madame
de Lucenay in the most affectionate tone, extending her beautiful hand
to the young duke who hastened to shake hands with his cousin; but
Clotilde shrugged her shoulders, and said to him gayly, "You may kiss
them, cousin: you wear your gloves."
"Pardon me, cousin," said the youth; and he pressed his lips on the
charming hand she presented him.
"What are you going to do this evening, Conrad?" demanded the duchess,
without taking the least notice of Florestan.
"Nothing, cousin; when I leave here, I am going to my club."
"Not at all: you shall accompany M. de Lucenay and me to Madame de
Senneval's; it is her night; she has already asked me several times to
"Cousin, I shall be too happy to place myself under your orders."
"And besides, frankly, I do not like to see you so soon accustom
yourself to this taste for clubs; you have every requisite to be
perfectly well received and even sought after in society. So you must
"And as I am with you pretty much on the footing of a grandmother, my
dear Conrad, I am disposed to be very maternal. You are emancipated it
is true; but still I think you will have need for a long time of a
tutor. And you must absolutely accept of me."
"With joy, with delight, my cousin!" said the young duke with
It is impossible to describe the mute rage of Florestan, who remained
standing, leaning against the chimney-piece.
Neither the duke nor Clotilde paid any attention to him. Knowing how
quickly Madame de Lucenay decided on anything, he imagined that she
pushed her audacity and contempt so far that she wished to play the
coquette openly and before him with the young duke.
It was not so; the duchess felt for her young cousin an affection
quite maternal. But the young duke was so handsome, he seemed so happy
at the gracious reception of his young cousin, that Florestan was
exasperated by jealousy, or rather by pride; his heart writhed under
the cruel stings of envy, inspired by Conrad de Montbrison, who, rich
and charming, entered so splendidly this life of pleasures, which he
was leaving--he, ruined, despised, disgraced.
Saint Remy was brave--with the bravery of the head, if we may so
express it, which, through anger or vanity, causes one to face a duel;
but vile and corrupted, he had not that courage of the heart which
triumphs over evil propensities, or which at least gives one the
energy to escape infamy by a voluntary death.
Furious at the sovereign contempt of the duchess, thinking he saw a
successor in the young duke, Saint Remy resolved to match the
insolence of Clotilde, and, if it was necessary, to select a quarrel
with Conrad. The duchess, irritated at the audacity of Florestan, did
not look at him; and Montbrison, in his attraction toward his cousin,
forgetting the usages of society, had neither bowed nor said a word to
the viscount, whom he knew perfectly.
He advanced toward Conrad, whose back was turned toward him, touched
his arm lightly, and said, in an ironical and dry tone, "Good-evening,
your grace; a thousand pardons for not having perceived you before."
Montbrison, feeling that he had been wanting in politeness, turned
quickly, and said, cordially, "Sir, I am confused, truly, but I dare
hope that my cousin, who has caused my want of attention, will be
pleased to make my excuses, and--"
"Conrad!" said the duchess, incensed at the impudence of Florestan,
who persisted in remaining and braving her; "Conrad, it is right; no
excuses; it is not worth the trouble."
Montbrison, believing that his cousin reproached him in a playful
manner for being too formal, said gayly to the viscount, who was white
with rage, "I shall not insist, sir, since my cousin forbids. You see
her tutelage commences."
"And this tutelage will not stop there, my dear sir, be quite assured.
Thus, in this view of the case (which her grace the duchess will
readily approve, I do not doubt), an idea has just struck me to make
you a proposition."
"Me, sir?" said Conrad, beginning to dislike the sneering tone of
"You. I leave in some days for Gerolstein. I wish to dispose of my
house, all furnished, and my stables; you also should make _an
arrangement_." The viscount emphasized these last words, looking at
Madame de Lucenay. "It would be very piquant, would it not, your
"I do not comprehend you, sir," said Montbrison, more and more
"I will tell you, Conrad, why you cannot accept the offer which has
been made you," said Clotilde.
"And why cannot his grace accept my offer, madame?"
"My dear Conrad, that which is proposed to be sold to you is already
sold to others. You comprehend? You would have the inconvenience of
being robbed as on the highway."
Florestan bit his lips with rage. "Take care, madame," cried he.
"How? threats here?" said Conrad.
"Come now, Conrad, pay no attention," said Madame de Lucenay, eating a
bonbon imperturbably. "A man of honor ought not, nor may not, commit
himself with this gentleman. If he insists, I will tell you
A terrible scene was perhaps about to take place, when the doors were
again thrown open, and the Duke de Lucenay entered, and, according to
custom, with much noise and disturbance.
"How, my dear! not ready?" said he to his wife. "Why, it is
astonishing--surprising! Good-evening, Saint Remy; good-evening,
Conrad. Oh, you see before you the most despairing of men--that is to
say, I cannot sleep; I cannot eat; I am stupefied; I cannot get used
to it. Poor D'Harville, what an event!" And M. de Lucenay, throwing
himself backward on a sofa, threw his hat from him with a gesture of
despair, and, crossing his left leg over the right knee, he took his
foot in his hand, continuing to utter exclamations of grief.
The emotions of Conrad and Florestan had time to be subdued before M.
de Lucenay, the least observing man in the world, had perceived
Madame de Lucenay, not from embarrassment--she was not a woman to be
untimely embarrassed--but the presence of Florestan was repugnant and
unsupportable, said to the duke, "When you are ready, we will go. I am
to present Conrad to Madame de Senneval."
"No!" said the duke; and, throwing down a cushion, he arose quickly,
and began to walk about, violently gesticulating. "I cannot help but
think of poor D'Harville; can you, Saint Remy?"
"Truly, a frightful event!" said the viscount, who, with hatred and
rage in his heart, sought the looks of Montbrison; but he, after the
last words of his cousin, not from want of courage, but from pride,
turned away from a man so terribly debased.
"Pray, my lord," said the duchess to her husband, "do not regret M.
d'Harville in a manner so noisy, and, above all, so singularly. Ring,
if you please, for my servants."
"Only to think," said M. de Lucenay, seizing hold of the bell-pull,
"three days ago he was full of life, and now, what remains of him?
Nothing, nothing, nothing!" These last three exclamations were
accompanied by three pulls of the bell so violent, that the cord broke
which he held in his hand, separated from the upper string, and fell
upon a candelabra filled with waxlights, and overturned two; one fell
upon the mantelpiece, and broke a beautiful little vase of Sevres
china; the other rolled on the ground, and set fire to a rug of
ermine, which, for a moment in a blaze, was almost immediately
extinguished by Conrad.
At the same moment, two valets, summoned by the loud ringing, arrived
in haste, and found M. de Lucenay with the bell rope in his hand, the
duchess laughing violently at this ridiculous cascade of candies, and
Montbrison partaking the hilarity of his cousin.
Saint Remy alone did not laugh.
[Illustration: CAPITAL AND LABOR IN HARMONY ]
Lucenay, quite habituated to such accidents, preserved a serious
countenance; he threw the rope to one of the servants, and said, "The
When he became a little more calm, the duchess said, "Really, sir,
there is no one else in the world but yourself who could have caused a
laugh at so lamentable an event."
"Lamentable! you may well say frightful! horrible! Now, only see,
since yesterday I have been thinking how many persons there are, even
in my own family, who I would rather should have died than poor
D'Harville. My nephew Emberval, for instance, who is so tiresome with
his stammering; or your aunt Merinville, who is always talking of her
nerves, her blues, and who swallows every day, while waiting for her
dinner, an abominable potpie, just like a bricklayer's wife! Do you
think much of your aunt Merinville?"
"Hush! your grace is crazy!" said the duchess, shrugging her
"But it is true," answered the duke; "one would give a hundred
indifferent persons for a friend. Is it not so, Saint Remy?"
"It is always that old story of the tailor. Do you know, Conrad, the
story of the tailor?"
"You will understand at once the allegory. A tailor was condemned to
be hung; there was no other tailor in the village; what do the
inhabitants do? They said to the judge, 'Your honor, we have only one
tailor, and we have three shoemakers; if it is all the same to you to
hang one of the shoemakers in the place of the tailor, we shall have
quite enough with two shoemakers.' Do you comprehend the allegory,
"And you, Saint Remy?"
"The coach," said one of the servants.
"Oh! but why do you not wear your diamonds?" said M. de Lucenay,
unexpectedly; "with this dress they would look devilish well."
Saint Remy shuddered.
"For one poor little time that we go out together," continued the
duke, "you might have honored me with your diamonds. They are really
very handsome. Have you ever seen them, Saint Remy?"
"Yes; his lordship knows them by heart," said Clotilde. "Give me your
Lucenay followed the duchess with Saint Remy, who was almost beside
himself with rage.
"Are you not coming with us to the Sennevals'?" said Lucenay to him.
"No, impossible," answered he hastily.
"By the way, Saint Remy, Madame de Senneval is another one--what do I
say, one?--two-whom I would sacrifice willingly; for her husband is
also on my list."
"Of those persons whom I would willingly see die, if poor D'Harville
could have remained."
While Montbrison was assisting his cousin with her mantle, Lucenay
said to him, "Since you are going with us, Conrad, order your carriage
to follow ours, unless you will go, Saint Remy; then you can give me a
place, and I will tell you a story worth two of the tailor's."
"I thank you," said Florestan, dryly: "I cannot accompany you."
"Then, good-bye. Have you had a dispute with my wife? See, she is
getting into the carriage without speaking to you!"
"Cousin!" said Conrad, waiting through deference for the duke.
"Get in, get in," cried he: and stopping for a moment in the porch, he
admired the viscount's equipage.
"Are these your sorrels, Saint Remy?"
"And your fat driver--what a figure! Just see how he holds his horses
in his hands! I must confess, there is no one but a Saint Remy who has
the best of everything."
"Madame de Lucenay and her cousin are waiting," said Florestan, with
"It is true; how rude I am! Soon again, Saint Remy. Oh, I forgot; if
you have nothing better to do, come and dine with us to-morrow. Lord
Dudley has sent me from Scotland some grouse and heathcocks. Just
imagine something monstrous. It is agreed, is it not?"
The duke joined his wife and Conrad. Saint Remy remained alone, and
saw the carriage depart; his own drew up, and as he took his seat he
cast a look of rage, hatred, and despair on this house, where he had
so often entered as a master, and which he now left, ignominiously
"Home," he said, roughly.
"To the hotel," said the footman to Patterson, shutting the door.
The bitter and sorrowful thoughts of Florestan on his way home can
easily be imagined. As he entered, Boyer, who was waiting for him at
the lodge, said, "My lord, the count is upstairs."
"It is well."
"There is also a man there, to whom the count has given an appointment
at ten o'clock."
"Well, well. Oh, what a day!" said Florestan, as he was going upstairs
to meet his father, whom he found in the saloon where the morning's
interview had taken place. "A thousand pardons, father, for not being
here when you arrived; but I----"
"The man who holds this forged draft is here?"
"Yes, father, below."
"Send for him to come up."
Florestan rang the bell; Boyer answered.
"Tell M. Petit Jean to come here."
"Yes, my lord;" and Boyer disappeared.
"How kind you are, father, to remember your promise!"
"I always remember what I promise."
"How grateful! How can I ever prove----"
"I will not have my name dishonored; it shall not be."
"It shall not be; no; and it shall never be more, I swear to you,
The count looked at his son in a singular manner, and repeated, "No,
it shall never be more!" Then, with a sneering laugh, he added, "You
are a conjuror!"
"I read my resolution in my heart."
The count made no reply, but walked up and down the room with his
hands in the large pockets of his overcoat.
"M. Petit Jean," said Boyer, introducing a man with a low and cunning
expression of face.
"Where is that bill?" said the count.
"Here it is, sir," said Petit Jean (a man of straw of Jacques Ferrand)
"Is that it?" said the count to his son.
The count drew from the pocket of his waistcoat twenty-five notes of
one thousand francs each, handed them to his son, and said, "Pay!"
Florestan paid, and took the draft with a profound sigh of
M. Petit Jean placed the bills carefully in an old pocket-book, and
retired. Saint Remy went with him out of the room, while Florestan
prudently tore up the note.
"At least the twenty-five thousand francs from Clotilde remain. If
nothing is discovered, it is a consolation. But how she has treated
me! Now, what can my father have to say to Petit Jean?"
The noise of a key turned in a lock made the viscount shudder.
His father re-entered; his pallor had increased.
"I thought I heard some one lock the door of my cabinet, father?"
"Yes, I locked it."
"You, father!" cried Florestan, surprised.
The count placed himself so that his son could not descend the private
stairs which led to out-doors.
Florestan, alarmed, began to remark the sinister look of his father,
and followed all his movements with anxiety. Without being able to
explain it, he felt alarmed. "Father, what is the matter?"
"This morning, on seeing me, your sole thought has been this: Father
will not have his name dishonored; he will pay, if I can manage to
make him believe in my assumed repentance."
"Oh! can you think that--"
"Do not interrupt me. I have been your dupe; you have neither shame
nor regret, nor remorse: you are rotten to the heart; you have never
had an honest sentiment; you have not robbed as long as you had enough
to satisfy your caprices; that is what is called probity by rich
people of your stamp; then followed want of decency, then baseness,
crime, and forgery. This is only the first period of your life--it is
beautiful and pure compared to that which awaits you."
"If I did not change my conduct, I acknowledge; but I will change,
father. I have sworn it to you."
"You would not change."
"You could not change! Driven from the society to which you have been
accustomed, you would soon become criminal, like the wretches with
whom you would associate: a robber inevitably, and, if necessary, an
assassin. There is your future life."
"I an assassin!"
"Yes, because you are a coward!"
"I have fought duels, and I have proved--"
"I tell you, you are a coward! You have preferred infamy to death! A
day will come when you will prefer the impunity of your new crimes to
the life of others! That cannot be; I arrive in time to save,
henceforth, at least, my name from public dishonor. It must be
"How, father, finished! what do you mean to say?" cried Florestan,
more and more alarmed at the expression of his father and his
Suddenly some one knocked violently at the door of the cabinet.
Florestan made a movement, as if to open it, but his father seized him
with an iron hand, and withheld him.
"Who knocks?" demanded the former.
"In the name of the law, open, open!" said a voice.
"This forgery was not, then, the last?" said the count, in a low
voice, looking at his son with a terrible scowl.
"Yes, father, I swear it," answered Florestan, trying in vain to
release himself from the hold.
"In the name of the law open!" repeated the voice.
"What do you want?" demanded the count.
"I am an officer of police; I come to make a search on account of a
robbery of diamonds, of which M. de Saint Remy is accused. M. Baudoin,
jeweler, has the proofs. If you do not open, sir, I shall be obliged
to break in the door."
"A robber already! I was not deceived," said the count, in a low tone.
"I came to kill you--I have delayed too long."
"To kill me!"
"My name is enough dishonored! let us finish: I have two pistols here--
you are going to blow out your brains, otherwise I will do it for
you, and I will say you killed yourself to escape shame."
And the count, with frightful _sang-froid_, drew from his pocket
a pistol, and with his disengaged hand gave it to his son, saying:
"Come, proceed, if you are not a coward."
After new and fruitless efforts to escape from the bands of the count,
his son fell backward, overcome with fright and pale with horror. From
the terrible and inexorable looks of his father, he saw there was no
pity to expect from him.
"Father!" he cried.
"You must die!"
"It is too late! Do you hear? they will break down the door!"
"I will expiate my faults!"
"They are going to enter! Must I, then, kill you?"
"The door will give way! You will have it so." And the count placed
the pistol against the breast of his son.
The viscount saw that he was lost. He took a sudden and desperate
resolution; no longer struggling with his father, he said, with
firmness and resignation, "You are right, my father; give me this
pistol. There is infamy enough attached to my name; the life that
awaits me is frightful, it is not worth contending for. Give me the
pistol. You shall see if I am a coward." And he extended his hand.
"But, at least, a word, one single word of consolation, of pity, of
farewell," said Florestan. His trembling lips and ashy paleness
evinced the emotion of his trying situation.
"If this should be my son!" thought the count, hesitating to give him
the instrument, "if this is my son, I ought still less to hesitate at
this sacrifice." The door of the cabinet was broken in with a
"Father--they come--oh! I feel now that death is a benefaction.
Thanks, thanks! but at least your hand, and pardon me!"
Notwithstanding his firmness, the count could not prevent a shudder,
and said, in a broken voice, "I pardon you."
"Father, the door opens; go to them; do not let them suspect you, at
least. And then, if they enter here, they will prevent me from
The footsteps of several persons were heard in the adjoining
Florestan pointed the pistol to his heart.
It was discharged at the moment when the count, to escape this
horrible scene had turned away, and rushed out of the room, the
curtains closing after him.
At the noise of the explosion, at the sight of the count, pale and
trembling, the commissary stopped suddenly at the threshold of the
door, making a sign for his officers not to advance.
Informed by Badinot that the viscount was closeted with his father,
the magistrate at once comprehended everything, and respected his
"Dead," cried the count, concealing his face in his hand; "dead!"
repeated he, overwhelmed. "It was right--better death than infamy, but
it is frightful!"
"My lord," said the magistrate, sadly after a few moments' silence,
"spare yourself a sorrowful spectacle; leave this house. Now there
remains for me a duty to perform still more painful than that which
brought me here."
"You are right, sir," said Saint Remy. "As to the victim of the
robbery, you can tell him to call at M. Dupont's, banker."
"Rue du Richelieu. He is well known," answered the magistrate.
"At what amount are the stolen diamonds estimated?"
"At about thirty thousand francs, my lord; the person who bought them,
through whom the robbery was discovered, gave that amount for them to
"I can yet pay this, sir. Let the jeweler call the day after to-morrow
on my banker; I will settle with him."
The commissary bowed, and the count departed. As soon as he was gone,
the magistrate, profoundly touched at this unexpected scene, turned
toward the saloon, the curtains of which were down. He raised them
"Nobody!" cried he, astonished, looking round the room, and not seeing
the least trace of the tragic event which was supposed to have
Then, remarking the small door in the tapestry, he ran thither. It was
locked on the other side. "A trick," cried he in a rage; "he has
undoubtedly made his escape in this way."
And, in fact, the viscount, before his father, pointed the pistol at
his heart, but he had afterwards very dexterously discharged it under
his arm, and immediately fled.
Notwithstanding the most active researches in all parts of the house,
he was not to be found.
During the conversation between his father and the commissary, he had
rapidly gained the boudoir, thence the conservatory, the back street
and finally the Champs Elysees.
GOOD-BYE IN PRISON.
The morning after these last-mentioned events a touching scene took
place in Saint Lazare, at the hour of the recreation of the prisoners.
On this day, during the promenade of her companions, Fleur-de-Marie
was seated on a bench near the basin, already called hers. By a sort
of tacit agreement, the prisoners abandoned this place, which she
loved, for the sweet influence of the girl had much increased.
Goualeuse preferred this seat near the fountain, because the moss
which grew around the border of the reservoir recalled to her mind the
verdure of the fields, and even the limpid water with which it was
filled made her think of the little river of Bouqueval village.
To the sad gaze of a prisoner, a tuft of grass is a meadow, a flower
is a garden.
Confiding in the kind promise of Madame d'Harville, Fleur-de-Marie had
been expecting for two days to leave Saint Lazare. Although she had no
reason for inquietude at the delay, she from her habitual misfortunes,
hardly dared to hope soon for freedom.
Naturally, from the expectation of so soon seeing her friends at
Bouqueval and Rudolph, Fleur-de-Marie should have been transported
It was not so. Her heart beat sadly; her thoughts returned without
ceasing to the words and lofty looks of Madame d'Harville, when the
poor prisoner had spoken with so much enthusiasm of her benefactor.
With singular intuition, Goualeuse had thus discovered a part of the
"The warmth of my gratitude for M. Rudolph has wounded this young
lady, so handsome, and of a rank so elevated," thought Fleur-de-Marie.
"Now I comprehend the bitterness of her words! she expressed
disdainful jealousy! She, jealous of me! then she loves him, and I
love him, also! My love must have betrayed itself in spite of me! To
love him--I--a creature forever ruined! ungrateful, and wretch that I
am! Oh! if that were so, rather death a hundred times."
Let us hasten to say, the unhappy child, who seemed doomed to every
kind of martyrdom, exaggerated what she called her love. To her
profound gratitude toward Rudolph was joined an involuntary admiration
of the grace, strength, and beauty which distinguished him above all;
nothing less material, nothing more pure than this admiration, but it
existed lively and powerful, because physical beauty is always
And then, besides, the voice of blood, so often denied, mute, unknown,
or disowned, sometimes makes itself heard; these bursts of passionate
tenderness, which drew Fleur-de-Marie toward Rudolph, and alarmed her
because in her ignorance she misconstrued their tendency, resulted
from mysterious sympathies as evident, but also as inexplicable, as
the resemblance of features. In a word, Fleur-de-Marie, learning that
she was Rudolph's daughter, could have at once accounted for her
feelings toward him; then, completely enlightened, she could admire
without any scruple the beauty of her father.
Thus is explained the dejectedness of Fleur-de-Marie, although she
expected at any moment to leave Saint Lazare.
Fleur-de-Marie, melancholy and pensive, was then seated on a bench
near the basin, regarding with a kind of mechanical interest the
gambols of two daring birds that came to sport on the curbstone. She
ceased for a moment to work on a little child's frock which she was
hemming. It is necessary to say that this belonged to the generous
offering made to Mont Saint Jean by the prisoners, thanks to the
touching intervention of Fleur-de-Marie.
The poor, deformed _protegee_ of La Goualeuse was seated at her
feet; quite busy in making a little cap; from time to time she cast on
her benefactress a look at once grateful, timid, and devoted--the look
of a dog to his master.
The beauty, charms, and adorable sweetness of Fleur-de-Marie inspired
this degraded woman with as much affection as respect.
There is always something holy and grand, even in the aspirations of a
heart debased, which, for the first time, opens itself to gratitude;
and, until then, no one had caused Mont Saint Jean to experience the
religious ardor of a sentiment so new to her. At the end of a few
moments, Fleur-de-Marie shuddered slightly, wiped away a tear, and
resumed her sewing.
"You will not, then, take a little rest during the recreation, my
angel?" said Mont Saint Jean to Goualeuse.
"As I have given no money to buy the lavette, I must furnish my
proportion in work," answered the girl.
"Your part! why, without you, instead of this fine white linen, and
warm fustian, to clothe my child, I should only have had those rags
which were trampled in the mud. I am very grateful toward my
companions; they have been very kind to me, it is true: but you! oh,
you! How, then, shall I explain myself?" added the poor creature,
hesitatingly, and very much embarrassed to express her thoughts.
"Hold!" resumed she; "there is the sun, is it not? there is the sun!"
"Yes, Mont Saint Jean, I listen," answered Fleur-de-Marie, inclining
her enchanting face toward the hideous visage of her companion.
"You will laugh at me," answered she, sadly; "I want to speak, and I
don't know how."
"Say on, Mont Saint Jean."
"Have you not the eyes of an angel!" said the prisoner, looking at
Fleur-de-Marie in a kind of ecstasy; "your beautiful eyes encourage
me. Come, I will try to say what I wish. There is the sun, is it not?
It is very warm, it makes our prison gay, it is pleasant to see and
feel, is it not?"
"Well, let us suppose--this sun did not make itself, and if one is
grateful to it, so much the more reason--"
"To be grateful toward Him who created it, you mean, Mont Saint Jean!
You are right; hence, you should pray to Him, adore Him--it is God."
"That's it, there's my idea," cried the prisoner, joyfully; "that's
it; I ought to be grateful to my companions, but I ought to pray to
you, adore you, La Goualeuse, for it is you who have rendered them
good to me, instead of being wicked as they were."
"But, if I am good, as you say, Mont Saint Jean, it is God who has
made me so; it is, then, He whom you must thank."
"Ah! marry--perhaps so, then, since you say so," answered the
prisoner; "if it pleases you to have it so, very well."'
"Yes, my poor Mont Saint Jean, pray to Him often. This will be the
best way of proving to me that you love me a little."