Part 9 out of 31
"Oh!" said M. d'Aigrigny, in a bass voice.
"Ah!" said the baron, in a treble key.
"Oh!" muttered the doctor, with a deep sigh.
On hearing these lamentable exclamations, Adrienne seemed about to speak,
perhaps to justify herself; but her lip speedily assumed a curl of
contempt, which showed that she disdained to stoop to any explanation.
"So it is true," said the princess. "Oh, wretched girl, you had
accustomed me to be astonished at nothing; but, nevertheless, I doubted
the possibility of such conduct. It required your impudent and audacious
reply to convince the of the fact."
"Madame, lying has always appeared to be more impudent than to speak the
"And where had you been, madame? and for what?"
"Madame," said Adrienne, interrupting her aunt, "I never speak false--but
neither do I speak more than I choose; and then again, it were cowardice
to defend myself from a revolting accusation. Let us say no more about
it: your importunities on this head will be altogether vain. To resume:
you wish to impose upon me a harsh and humiliating restraint; I wish to
quit the house I inhabit, to go and live where I please, at my own fancy.
Which of us two will yield, remains to be seen. Now for another matter:
this mansion belongs to me! As I am about to leave it, I am indifferent
whether you continue to live here or not; but the ground floor is
uninhabited. It contains, besides the reception-rooms, two complete sets
of apartments; I have let them for some time."
"Indeed!" said the princess, looking at D'Aigrigny with intense surprise.
"And to whom," she added ironically, "have you disposed of them?"
"To three members of my family."
"What does all this mean?" said Mme. de Saint-Dizier, more and more
"It means, madame, that I wish to offer a generous hospitality to a young
Indian prince, my kinsman on my mother's side. He will arrive in two or
three days, and I wish to have the rooms ready to receive him."
"You hear, gentlemen?" said D'Aigrigny to the doctor and Tripeaud, with
an affectation of profound stupor.
"It surpasses all one could imagine!" exclaimed the baron.
"Alas!" observed the doctor, benignantly, "the impulse is generous in
itself--but the mad little head crops out?"
"Excellent!" said the princes. "I cannot prevent you madame, from
announcing the most extravagant designs but it is presumable that you
will not stop short in so fair a path. Is that all?"
"Not quite, your highness. I learned this morning, that two of my female
relations, also on my mother's side--poor children of fifteen--orphan
daughters of Marshal Simon arrived yesterday from a long journey, and are
now with the wife of the brave soldier who brought them to France from
the depths of Siberia."
At these words from Adrienne, D'Aigrigny and the princess could not help
starting suddenly, and staring at each other with affright, so far were
they from expecting that Mdlle. de Cardoville was informed of the coming
of Marshal Simon's daughters. This discovery was like a thunder-clap to
"You are no doubt astonished at seeing me so well informed," said
Adrienne; "fortunately, before I have done, I hope to astonish you still
more. But to return to these daughters of Marshal Simon: your highness
will understand, that it is impossible for me to leave them in charge of
the good people who have afforded them a temporary asylum. Though this
family is honest, and hard-working, it is not the place for them. I
shall go and fetch them hither, and lodge them in apartments on the
ground-floor, along with the soldier's wife, who will do very well to
take care of them."
Upon these words, D'Aigrigny and the baron looked at each other, and the
baron exclaimed: "Decidedly, she's out of her head."
Without a word to Tripeaud, Adrienne continued: "Marshal Simon cannot
fail to arrive at Paris shortly. Your highness perceives how pleasant it
will he, to be able to present his daughters to him, and prove that they
have been treated as they deserve. To-morrow morning I shall send for
milliners and mantua makers, so that they may want for nothing. I desire
their surprised father, on his return, to find them every way beautiful.
They are pretty, I am told, as angels--but I will endeavor to make little
Cupids of them."
"At last, madame, you must have finished?" said the princess, in a
sardonic and deeply irritated tone, whilst D'Aigrigny, calm and cold in
appearance, could hardly dissemble his mental anguish.
"Try again!" continued the princess, addressing Adrienne. "Are there no
more relations that you wish to add to this interesting family-group?
Really a queen could not act with more magnificence."
"Right! I wish to give my family a royal reception--such as is due to the
son of a king, and the daughters of the Duke de Ligny. It is well to
unite other luxuries of life with the luxury of the hospitable heart."
"The maxim is assuredly generous," said the princess, becoming more and
more agitated; "it is only a pity that you do not possess the mines of El
Dorado to make it practicable."
"It was on the subject of a mine, said to be a rich one, that I also
wished to speak to your highness. Could I find a better opportunity?
Though my fortune is already considerable, it is nothing to what may come
to our family at any moment. You will perhaps excuse, therefore, what
you are pleased to call my royal prodigalities."
D'Aigrigny's dilemma became momentarily more and more thorny. The affair
of the medals was so important, that he had concealed it even from Dr.
Baleinier, though he had called in his services to forward immense
interests. Neither had Tripeaud been informed of it, for the princess
believed that she had destroyed every vestige of those papers of
Adrienne's father, which might have put him on the scent of this
discovery. The abbe, therefore was not only greatly alarmed that Mdlle.
de Cardoville might be informed of this secret, but he trembled lest she
should divulge it.
The princess, sharing the alarms of D'Aigrigny, interrupted her niece by
exclaiming: "Madame, there are certain family affairs which ought to be
kept secret, and, without exactly understanding to what you allude, I
must request you to change the subject."
"What, madame! are we not here a family party? Is that not sufficiently
evident by the somewhat ungracious things that have been here said?"
"No matter, madame! when affairs of interest are concerned, which are
more or less disputable, it is perfectly useless to speak of them without
the documents laid before every one."
"And of what have we been speaking this hour, madame, if not of affairs
of interest? I really do not understand your surprise and
"I am neither surprised nor embarrassed, madame; but for the last two
hours, you have obliged me to listen to so many new and extravagant
things, that a little amaze is very permissible."
"I beg your highness's pardon, but you are very much embarrassed," said
Adrienne, looking fixedly at her aunt, "and M. d'Aigrigny also--which
confirms certain suspicions that I have not had the time to clear up.
Have I then guessed rightly?" she added, after a pause. "We will see--"
"Madame, I command you to be silent," cried the princess, no longer
mistress of herself.
"Oh, madame!" said Adrienne, "for a person who has in general so much
command of her feelings, you compromise yourself strangely."
Providence (as some will have it) came to the aid of the princess and the
Abbe d'Aigrigny at this critical juncture. A valet entered the room; his
countenance bore such marks of fright and agitation, that the princess
exclaimed as soon as she saw him: "Why, Dubois! what is the matter?"
"I have to beg pardon, your highness, for interrupting you against your
express orders, but a police inspector demands to speak with you
instantly. He is below stairs, and the yard is full of policemen and
Notwithstanding the profound surprise which this new incident occasioned
her, the princess, determining to profit by the opportunity thus
afforded, to concert prompt measures with D'Aigrigny on the subject of
Adrienne's threatened revelations, rose, and said to the abbe: "Will you
be so obliging as to accompany me, M. d'Aigrigny, for I do not know what
the presence of this commissary of police may signify."
D'Aigrigny followed the speaker into the next room.
The Princess de Saint-Dizier, accompanied by D'Aigrigny, and followed by
the servants, stopped short in the next room to that in which had
remained Adrienne, Tripeaud and the doctor.
"Where is the commissary?" asked the princess of the servant, who had
just before announced to her the arrival of that magistrate."
"In the blue saloon, madame."
"My compliments, and beg him to wait for me a few moments."
The man bowed and withdrew. As soon as he was gone Madame de Saint-
Dizier approached hastily M. d'Aigrigny, whose countenance, usually firm
and haughty, was now pale and agitated.
"You see," cried the princess in a hurried voice, "Adrienne knows all.
What shall we do?--what?"
"I cannot tell," said the abbe, with a fixed and absent look. "This
disclosure is a terrible blow to us."
"Is all, then, lost?"
"There is only one means of safety," said M. d'Aigrigny;--"the doctor."
"But how?" cried the princess. "So, sudden? this very day?"
"Two hours hence, it will be too late; ere then, this infernal girl will
have seen Marshal Simon's daughters."
"But--Frederick!--it is impossible! M. Baleinier will never consent. I
ought to have been prepared before hand as we intended, after to-day's
"No matter," replied the abbe, quickly; "the doctor must try at any
"But under what pretext?"
"I will try and find one."
"Suppose you were to find a pretext, Frederick, and we could act
immediately--nothing would be ready down there."
"Be satisfied: they are always ready there, by habitual foresight."
"How instruct the doctor on the instant?" resumed the princess.
"To send for him would be to rouse the suspicions of your niece," said M.
d'Aigrigny, thoughtfully; "and we must avoid that before everything."
"Of course," answered the princess; "her confidence in the doctor is one
of our greatest resources."
"There is a way," said the abbe quickly; "I will write a few words in
haste to Baleinier: one of your people can take the note to him, as if it
came from without--from a patient dangerously ill."
"An excellent idea!" cried the princess. "You are right. Here--upon
this table--there is everything necessary for writing. Quick! quick--But
will the doctor succeed?"
"In truth, I scarcely dare to hope it," said the marquis, sitting down at
the table with repressed rage. "Thanks to this examination, going beyond
our hopes, which our man, hidden behind the curtain, has faithfully taken
down in shorthand--thanks to the violent scenes, which would necessarily
have occurred to-morrow and the day after--the doctor, by fencing himself
round with all sorts of clever precautions, would have been able to act
with the most complete certainty. But to ask this of him to-day, on the
instant!--Herminia--it is folly to think of!"--The marquis threw down the
pen which he held in his hand; then he added, in a tone of bitter and
profound irritation: "At the very moment of success--to see all our hopes
destroyed!--Oh, the consequences of all this are incalculable. Your
niece will be the cause of the greatest mischief--oh! the greatest injury
It is impossible to describe the expression of deep rage and implacable
hatred with which D'Aigrigny uttered these last words.
"Frederick," cried the princess with anxiety, as she clasped her hands
strongly around the abbe's, "I conjure you, do not despair!--The doctor
is fertile in resources, and he is so devoted to us. Let us at least,
make the attempt."
"Well--it is at least a chance," said the abbe, taking up the pen again.
"Should it come to the worst." said the princess, "and Adrienne go this
evening to fetch General Simon's daughters, she may perhaps no longer
"We cannot hope for that. It is impossible that Rodin's orders should
have been so quickly executed. We should have been informed of it."
"It is true. Write then to the doctor; I will send you Dubois, to carry
your letter. Courage, Frederick! we shall yet be too much for that
ungovernable girl." Madame de Saint-Dizier added, with concentrated
rage: "Oh, Adrienne! Adrienne! you shall pay dearly for your insolent
sarcasms, and the anxiety you have caused us."
As she went out, the princess turned towards M. d'Aigrigny, and said to
him: "Wait for me here. I will tell you the meaning of this visit of the
police, and we will go in together."
The princess disappeared. D'Aigrigny dashed off a few words, with a
After the departure of Madame de Saint-Dizier and the marquis, Adrienne
had remained in her aunt's apartment with M. Baleinier and Baron
On hearing of the commissary's arrival, Mdlle. de Cardoville had felt
considerable uneasiness; for there could be no doubt that, as Agricola
had apprehended, this magistrate was come to search the hotel and
extension, in order to find the smith, whom he believed to be concealed
Though she looked upon Agricola's hiding-place as a very safe one,
Adrienne was not quite tranquil on his account; so in the event of any
unfortunate accident, she thought it a good opportunity to recommend the
refugee to the doctor, an intimate friend, as we have said, of one of the
most influential ministers of the day. So, drawing near to the
physician, who was conversing in a low voice with the baron, she said to
him in her softest and most coaxing manner: "My good M. Baleinier, I wish
to speak a few words with you." She pointed to the deep recess of one of
"I am at your orders, madame," answered the doctor, as he rose to follow
Adrienne to the recess.
M. Tripeaud, who, no longer sustained by the abbe's presence, dreaded the
young lady as he did fire, was not sorry for this diversion. To keep up
appearances, he stationed himself before one of the sacred pictures, and
began again to contemplate it, as if there were no bounds to his
When Mdlle. de Cardoville was far enough from the baron, not to be
overheard by him, she said to the physician, who, all smiles and
benevolence, waited for her to explain: "My good doctor, you are my
friend, as you were my father's. Just now, notwithstanding the
difficulty of your position, you had the courage to show yourself my only
"Not at all, madame; do not go and say such things!" cried the doctor,
affecting a pleasant kind of anger. "Plague on't! you would get me into
a pretty scrape; so pray be silent on that subject. Vade retro Satanas!-
-which means: Get thee behind me, charming little demon that you are!"
"Do not be afraid," answered Adrienne, with a smile; "I will not
compromise you. Only allow me to remind you, that you have often made me
offers of service, and spoken to me of your devotion."
"Put me to the test--and you will see if I do not keep my promises."
"Well, then! give me a proof on the instant," said Adrienne, quickly.
"Capital! this is how I like to be taken at my word. What can I do for
"Are you still very intimate with your friend the minister?"
"Yes; I am just treating him for a loss of voice, which he always has,
the day they put questions to him in the house. He likes it better."
"I want you to obtain from him something very important for me."
"For you? pray, what is it?"
At this instant, the valet entered the room, delivered a letter to M.
Baleinier, and said to him: "A footman has just brought this letter for
you, sir; it is very pressing."
The physician took the letter, and the servant went out.
"This is one of the inconveniences of merit," said Adrienne, smiling;
"they do not leave you a moment's rest, my poor doctor."
"Do not speak of it, madame," said the physician, who could not conceal a
start of amazement, as he recognized the writing of D'Aigrigny; "these
patients think we are made of iron, and have monopolized the health which
they so much need. They have really no mercy. With your permission,
madame," added M. Baleinier, looking at Adrienne before he unsealed the
Mdlle. de Cardoville answered by a graceful nod. Marquis d'Aigrigny's
letter was not long; the doctor read it at a single glance, and,
notwithstanding his habitual prudence, he shrugged his shoulders, and
said hastily: "Today! why, it's impossible. He is mad."
"You speak no doubt of some poor patient, who has placed all his hopes in
you--who waits and calls for you at this moment. Come, my dear M.
Baleinier, do not reject his prayer. It is so sweet to justify the
confidence we inspire."
There was at once so much analogy, and such contradiction, between the
object of this letter, written just before by Adrienne's most implacable
enemy, and these words of commiseration which she spoke in a touching
voice, that Dr. Baleinier himself could not help being struck with it.
He looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with an almost embarrassed air, as he
replied: "I am indeed speaking of one of my patients, who counts much
upon me--a great deal too much--for he asks me to do an impossibility.
But why do you feel so interested in an unknown person?"
"If he is unfortunate, I know enough to interest me. The person for whom
I ask your assistance with the minister, was quite as little known to me;
and now I take the deepest interest in him. I must tell you, that he is
the son of the worthy soldier who brought Marshal Simon's daughters from
the heart of Siberia."
"What! he is--"
"An honest workman, the support of his family; but I must tell you all
about it--this is how the affair took place."
The confidential communication which Adrienne was going to make to the
doctor, was cut short by Madame Saint-Dizier, who, followed by M.
d'Aigrigny, opened abruptly the door. An expression of infernal joy,
hardly concealed beneath a semblance of extreme indignation, was visible
in her countenance.
M. d'Aigrigny threw rapidly, as he entered the apartment, an inquiring
and anxious glance at M. Baleinier. The doctor answered by a shake of
the head. The abbe bit his lips with silent rage; he had built his last
hopes upon the doctor, and his projects seemed now forever annihilated,
notwithstanding the new blow which the princess had in reserve for
"Gentlemen," said Madame de Saint-Dizier, in a sharp, hurried voice, for
she was nearly choking with wicked pleasure, "gentlemen, pray be seated!
I have some new and curious things to tell you, on the subject of this
young lady." She pointed to her niece, with a look of ineffable hatred
"My poor child, what is the matter now?" said M. Baleinier, in a soft,
wheedling tone, before he left the window where he was standing with
Adrienne. "Whatever happens, count upon me!"--And the physician went to
seat himself between M. d'Aigrigny and M. Tripeaud.
At her aunt's insolent address, Mdlle. de Cardoville had proudly lined
her head. The blood rushed to her face, and irritated at the new attacks
with which she was menaced, she advanced to the table where the princess
was seated, and said in an agitated voice to M. Baleinier: "I shall
expect you to call on me as soon as possible, my dear doctor. You know
that I wish particularly to speak with you."
Adrienne made one step towards the arm-chair, on which she had left her
hat. The princess rose abruptly, and exclaimed: "What are you doing,
"I am about to retire. Your highness has expressed to me your will, and
I have told you mine. It is enough."
She took her hat. Madame de Saint-Dizier, seeing her prey about to
escape, hastened towards her niece, and, in defiance of all propriety,
seized her violently by the arm with a convulsive grasp, and bade her,
"Fie, madame!" exclaimed Adrienne, with an accent of painful contempt,
"have we sunk so low?"
"You wish to escape--you are afraid!" resumed Madame de Saint-Dizier,
looking at her disdainfully from head to foot.
With these words "you are afraid," you could have made Adrienne de
Cardoville walk into a fiery furnace. Disengaging her arm from her
aunt's grasp, with a gesture full of nobleness and pride, she threw down
the hat upon the chair, and returning to the table, said imperiously to
the princess: "There is something even stronger than the disgust with
which all this inspires me--the fear of being accused of cowardice. Go
on, madame! I am listening!"
With her head raised, her color somewhat heightened, her glance half
veiled by a tear of indignation, her arms folded over her bosom, which
heaved in spite of herself with deep emotion, and her little foot beating
convulsively on the carpet, Adrienne looked steadily at her aunt. The
princess wished to infuse drop by drop, the poison with which she was
swelling, and make her victim suffer as long as possible, feeling certain
that she could not escape. "Gentlemen," said Madame de Saint-Dizier, in
a forced voice, "this has occurred: I was told that the commissary of
police wished to speak with me: I went to receive this magistrate; he
excused himself, with a troubled air, for the nature of the duty he had
to perform. A man, against whom a warrant was out, had been seen to
enter the garden-house."
Adrienne started, there could be no doubt that Agricola was meant. But
she recovered her tranquillity, when she thought of the security of the
hiding-place she had given him.
"The magistrate," continued the princess, "asked my consent to search the
hotel and extension, to discover this man. It was his right. I begged
him to commence with the garden-house, and accompanied him.
Notwithstanding the improper conduct of Mademoiselle, it never, I
confess, entered my head for a moment, that she was in any way mixed up
with this police business. I was deceived."
"What do you mean, madame?" cried Adrienne.
"You shall know all, madame," said the princess, with a triumphant air,
"in good time. You were in rather too great a hurry just now, to show
yourself so proud and satirical. Well! I accompanied the commissary in
his search; we came to the summer-house; I leave you to imagine the
stupor and astonishment of the magistrate, on seeing three creatures
dressed up like actresses. At my request, the fact was noted in the
official report; for it is well to reveal such extravagances to all whom
it may concern."
"The princess acted very wisely," said Tripeaud, bowing; "it is well that
the authorities should be informed of such matters."
Adrienne, too much interested in the fate of the workman to think of
answering Tripeaud or the princess, listened in silence, and strove to
conceal her uneasiness.
"The magistrate," resumed Madame de Saint-Dizier, "began by a severe
examination of these young girls; to learn if any man had, with their
knowledge, been introduced into the house; with incredible effrontery,
they answered that they had seen nobody enter."
"The true-hearted, honest girls!" thought Mademoiselle de Cardoville,
full of joy; "the poor workman is safe! the protection of Dr. Baleinier
will do the rest."
"Fortunately," continued the princess, "one of my women, Mrs. Grivois,
had accompanied me. This excellent person, remembering to have seen
Mademoiselle return home at eight o'clock in the morning, remarked with
much simplicity to the magistrate, that the man, whom they sought, might
probably have entered by the little garden gate, left open, accidentally,
"It would have been well, madame," said Tripeaud, "to have caused to be
noted also in the report, that Mademoiselle had returned home at eight
o'clock in the morning."
"I do not see the necessity for this," said the doctor, faithful to his
part: "it would have been quite foreign to the search carried on by the
"But, doctor," said Tripeaud.
"But, baron," resumed M. Baleinier, in a firm voice, "that is my
"It was not mine, doctor," said the princess; "like M. Tripeaud, I
considered it important to establish the fact by an entry in the report,
and I saw, by the confused and troubled countenance of the magistrate,
how painful it was to register the scandalous conduct of a young person
placed in so high a position in society."
"Certainly, madame," said Adrienne, losing patience, "I believe your
modesty to be about equal to that of this candid commissary of police;
but it seems to me, that your mutual innocence was alarmed a little too
soon. You might, and ought to have reflected, that there was nothing
extraordinary in my coming home at eight o'clock, if I had gone out at
"The excuse, though somewhat tardy, is at least cunning," said the
"I do not excuse myself, madame," said Adrienne; "but as M. Baleinier has
been kind enough to speak a word in my favor, I give the possible
interpretation of a fact, which it would not become me to explain in your
"The fact will stand, however, in the report," said Tripeaud, "until the
explanation is given."
Abbe d'Aigrigny, his forehead resting on his hand, remained as if a
stranger to this scene; he was too much occupied with his fears at the
consequences of the approaching interview between Mdlle. de Cardoville
and Marshal Simon's daughters--for there seemed no possibility of using
force to prevent Adrienne from going out that evening.
Madame de Saint-Dizier went on: "The fact which so greatly scandalized
the commissary is nothing compared to what I yet have to tell you,
gentlemen. We had searched all parts of the pavilion without finding any
one, and were just about to quit the bed-chamber, for we had taken this
room the last, when Mrs. Grivois pointed out to us that one of the golden
mouldings of a panel did not appear to come quite home to the wall. We
drew the attention of the magistrate to this circumstance; his men
examined, touched, felt--the panel flew open!--and then--can you guess
what we discovered? But, no! it is too odious, too revolting; I dare not
"Then I dare, madame," said Adrienne, resolutely, though she saw with the
utmost grief the retreat of Agricola was discovered; "I will spare your
highness's candor the recital of this new scandal, and yet what I am
about to say is in nowise intended as a justification."
"It requires one, however," said Madame de Saint-Dizier, with a
disdainful smile; "a man concealed by you in your own bedroom."
"A man concealed in her bedroom!" cried the Marquis d'Aigrigny, raising
his head with apparent indignation, which only covered a cruel joy.
"A man! in the bedroom of Mademoiselle!" added Baron Tripeaud. "I hope
this also was inserted in the report."
"Yes, yes, baron," said the princess with a triumphant air.
"But this man," said the doctor, in a hypocritical tone, "must have been
a robber? Any other supposition would be in the highest degree
improbable. This explains itself."
"Your indulgence deceives you, M. Baleinier," answered the princess,
"We knew the sort of thieves," said Tripeaud; "they are generally young
men, handsome, and very rich."
"You are wrong, sir," resumed Madame de Saint-Dizier. "Mademoiselle does
not raise her views so high. She proves that a dereliction from duty may
be ignoble as well as criminal. I am no longer astonished at the
sympathy which was just now professed for the lower orders. It is the
more touching and affecting, as the man concealed by her was dressed in a
"A blouse!" cried the baron, with an air of extreme disgust; "then he is
one of the common people? It really makes one's hair stand on end."
"The man is a working smith--he confessed it," said the princess; "but
not to be unjust--he is really a good-looking fellow. It was doubtless
that singular worship which Mademoiselle pays to the beautiful--"
"Enough, madame, enough!" said Adrienne suddenly, for, hitherto
disdaining to answer, she had listened to her aunt with growing and
painful indignation; "I was just now on the point of defending myself
against one of your odious insinuations--but I will not a second time
descend to any such weakness. One word only, madame; has this honest and
worthy artisan been arrested?"
"To be sure, he has been arrested and taken to prison, under a strong
escort. Does not that pierce your heart?" sneered the princess, with a
triumphant air. "Your tender pity for this interesting smith must indeed
be very great, since it deprives you of your sarcastic assurance."
"Yes, madame; for I have something better to do than to satirize that
which is utterly odious and ridiculous," replied Adrienne, whose eyes
grew dim with tears at the thought of the cruel hurt to Agricola's
family. Then, putting her hat on, and tying the strings, she said to the
doctor: "M. Baleinier, I asked you just now for your interest with the
"Yes, madame; and it will give me great pleasure to act on your behalf."
"Is your carriage below?"
"Yes, madame," said the doctor, much surprised.
"You will be good enough to accompany me immediately to the minister's.
Introduced by you, he will not refuse me the favor, or rather the act of
justice, that I have to solicit."
"What, mademoiselle," said the princess; "do you dare take such a course,
without my orders, after what has just passed? It is really quite
"It confounds one," added Tripeaud; "but we must not be surprised at
The moment Adrienne asked the doctor if his carriage was below,
D'Aigrigny started. A look of intense satisfaction flashed across his
countenance, and he could hardly repress the violence of his delight,
when, darting, a rapid and significant glance at the doctor, he saw the
latter respond to it by trace closing his eyelids in token of
comprehension and assent.
When therefore the princess resumed, in an angry tone, addressing herself
to Adrienne: "Madame, I forbid you leaving the house!"--D'Aigrigny said
to the speaker, with a peculiar inflection of the voice: "I think, your
highness, we may trust the lady to the doctor's care."
The marquis pronounced these words in so significant a manner, that the
princess, having looked by turns at the physician and D'Aigrigny,
understood it all, and her countenance grew radiant with joy.
Not only did this pass with extreme rapidity, but the night was already
almost come, so that Adrienne, absorbed in painful thoughts with regard
to Agricola, did not perceive the different signals exchanged between the
princess, the doctor, and the abbe. Even had she done so, they would
have been incomprehensible to her.
Not wishing to have the appearance of yielding too readily, to the
suggestion of the marquis, Madame de Saint-Dizier resumed: "Though the
doctor seems to me to be far too indulgent to mademoiselle, I might not
see any great objection to trusting her with him; but that I do not wish
to establish such a precedent, for hence forward she must have no will
"Madame," said the physician gravely, feigning to be somewhat shocked by
the words of the Princess de Saint-Dizier, "I do not think I have been
too indulgent to mademoiselle--but only just. I am at her orders, to
take her to the minister if she wishes it. I do not know what she
intends to solicit, but I believe her incapable of abusing the confidence
I repose in her, or making me support a recommendation undeserved."
Adrienne, much moved, extended her hand cordially to the doctor, and said
to him: "Rest assured, my excellent friend, that you will thank me for
the step I am taking, for you will assist in a noble action."
Tripeaud, who was not in the secret of the new plans of the doctor and
the abbe in a low voice faltered to the latter, with a stupefied air,
"What! will you let her go?"
"Yes, yes," answered D'Aigrigny abruptly, making a sign that he should
listen to the princess, who was about to speak. Advancing towards her
niece, she said to her in a slow and measured tone, laying a peculiar
emphasis on every word: "One moment more, mademoiselle--one last word in
presence of these gentlemen. Answer me! Notwithstanding the heavy
charges impending over you, are you still determined to resist my formal
"Notwithstanding the scandalous exposure which has just taken place, you
still persist in withdrawing yourself from my authority?"
"You refuse positively to submit to the regular and decent mode of life
which I would impose upon you?"
"I have already told you, madame, that I am about to quit this dwelling
in order to live alone and after my own fashion."
"Is that your final decision?"
"It is my last word."
"Reflect! the matter is serious. Beware!"
"I have given your highness my last word, and I never speak it twice."
"Gentlemen, you hear all this?" resumed the princess; "I have tried in
vain all that was possible to conciliate. Mademoiselle will have only
herself to thank for the measures to which this audacious revolt will
oblige me to have recourse."
"Be it so, madame," replied Adrienne. Then, addressing M. Baleinier, she
said quickly to him: "Come, my dear doctor; I am dying with impatience.
Let us set out immediately. Every minute lost may occasion bitter tears
to an honest family."
So saying, Adrienne left the room precipitately with the physician. One
of the servants called for M. Baleinier's carriage. Assisted by the
doctor, Adrienne mounted the step, without perceiving that he said
something in a low whisper to the footman that opened the coach-door.
When, however, he was seated by the side of Mdlle. de Cardoville, and the
door was closed upon them, he waited for about a second, and then called
out in a loud voice to the coachman: "To the house of the minister, by
the private entrance!" The horses started at a gallop.
A FALSE FRIEND.
Night had set in dark and cold. The sky, which had been clear till the
sun went down, was now covered with gray and lurid clouds; a strong wind
raised here and there, in circling eddies, the snow that was beginning to
fall thick and fast.
The lamps threw a dubious light into the interior of Dr. Baleinier's
carriage, in which he was seated alone with Adrienne de Cardoville. The
charming countenance of the latter, faintly illumined by the lamps
beneath the shade of her little gray hat, looked doubly white and pure in
contrast with the dark lining of the carriage, which was now filled with
that, sweet, delicious, and almost voluptuous perfume which hangs about
the garments of young women of taste. The attitude of the girl, seated
next to the doctor, was full of grace. Her slight and elegant figure,
imprisoned in her high-necked dress of blue cloth, imprinted its wavy
outline on the soft cushion against which she leaned; her little feet,
crossed one upon the other, and stretched rather forward, rested upon a
thick bear-skin, which carpeted the bottom of the carriage. In her hand,
which was ungloved and dazzlingly white, she held a magnificently
embroidered handkerchief, with which, to the great astonishment of M.
Baleinier, she dried her eyes, now filled with tears.
Yes; Adrienne wept, for she now felt the reaction from the painful scenes
through which she had passed at Saint-Dizier House; to the feverish and
nervous excitement, which had till then sustained her, had succeeded a
sorrowful dejection. Resolute in her independence, proud in her disdain,
implacable in her irony, audacious in her resistance to unjust
oppression, Adrienne was yet endowed with the most acute sensibility,
which she always dissembled, however, in the presence of her aunt and
those who surrounded her.
Notwithstanding her courage, no one could have been less masculine, less
of a virago, than Mdlle. Cardoville. She was essentially womanly, but as
a woman, she knew how to exercise great empire over herself, the moment
that the least mark of weakness on her part would have rejoiced or
emboldened her enemies.
The carriage had rolled onwards for some minutes; but Adrienne, drying
her tears in silence, to the doctor's great astonishment, had not yet
uttered a word.
"What, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne?" said M. Baleinier, truly surprised at
her emotion; "what! you, that were just now so courageous, weeping?"
"Yes," answered Adrienne, in an agitated voice; "I weep in presence of a
friend; but, before my aunt--oh! never."
"And yet, in that long interview, your stinging replies--"
"Ah me! do you think that I resigned myself with pleasure to that war of
sarcasm? Nothing is more painful to me than such combats of bitter
irony, to which I am forced by the necessity of defending myself from
this woman and her friends. You speak of my courage: it does not
consist, I assure you, in the display of wicked feelings--but in the
power to repress and hide all that I suffer, when I hear myself treated
so grossly--in the presence, too, of people that I hate and despise--
when, after all, I have never done them any harm, and have only asked to
be allowed to live alone, freely and quietly, and see those about me
"That's where it is: they envy your happiness, and that which you bestow
"And it is my aunt," cried Adrienne, with indignation, "my aunt, whose
whole life has been one long scandal that accuses me in this revolting
manner!--as if she did not know me proud and honest enough never to make
a choice of which I should be ashamed! Oh! if I ever love, I shall
proclaim it, I shall be proud of it: for love, as I understand it, is the
most glorious feeling in the world. But, alas!" continued Adrienne, with
redoubled bitterness, "of what use are truth and honor, if they do not
secure you from suspicions, which are as absurd as they are odious?" So
saying, she again pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.
"Come, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne," said M. Baleinier, in a voice full of
the softest unction, "becalm--it is all over now. You have in me a
devoted friend." As he pronounced these last words, he blushed in spite
of his diabolical craft.
"I know you are my friend," said Adrienne: "I shall never forget that, by
taking my part to-day, you exposed yourself to the resentment of my aunt-
-for I am not ignorant of her power, which is very great, alas! for
"As for that," said the doctor, affecting a profound indifference, "we
medical men are pretty safe from personal enmities."
"Nay, my dear M. Baleinier! Mme. de Saint-Dizier and her friends never
forgive," said the young girl, with a shudder. "It needed all my
invincible aversion, my innate horror for all that is base, cowardly, and
perfidious, to induce me to break so openly with her. But if death
itself were the penalty, I could not hesitate and yet," she added, with
one of those graceful smiles which gave such a charm to her beautiful
countenance, "yet I am fond of life: if I have to reproach myself with
anything, it is that I would have it too bright, too fair, too
harmonious; but then, you know, I am resigned to my faults."
"Well, come, I am more tranquil," said the doctor, gayly; "for you smile-
-that is a good sign."
"It is often the wisest course; and yet, ought I smile, after the threats
that my aunt has held out to me? Still, what can she do? what is the
meaning of this kind of family council? Did she seriously think that the
advice of a M. D'Aigrigny or a M. Tripeaud could have influenced me? And
then she talked of rigorous measures. What measures can she take; do you
"I think, between ourselves, that the princess only wished to frighten
you, and hopes to succeed by persuasion. She has the misfortune to fancy
herself a mother of the Church, and dreams of your conversion," said the
doctor, maliciously, for he now wished to tranquillize Adrienne at any
cost; "but let us think no more about it. Your fire eyes must shine with
all their lustre, to fascinate the minister that we are going to see."
"You are right, dear doctor; we ought always avoid grief, for it has the
disadvantage of making us forget the sorrows of others. But here am I,
availing myself of your kindness, without even telling you what I
"Luckily, we shall have plenty of time to talk over it, for our statesman
lives at some distance."
"In two words, here's the mystery," answered Adrienne. "I told you what
reasons I had to interest myself in that honest workman. This morning he
came to me in great grief, to inform me that he was compromised by some
songs he had written (for he is a poet), and that, though innocent, he
was threatened with an arrest; and if they put him into prison, his
family, whose sole support he is, would die of hunger. Therefore he came
to beg me to procure bail for him, so that he might be left at liberty to
work: I promised immediately, thinking of your interest with the
minister; for, as they were already in pursuit of the poor lad, I chose
to conceal him in my residence, and you know how my aunt has twisted that
action. Now tell me, do you think, that, by means of your
recommendation, the minister will grant me the freedom of this workman,
bail being given for the same?"
"No doubt of it. There will not be the shadow of a difficulty--
especially when you have explained the facts to him, with that eloquence
of the heart which you possess in perfection."
"Do you know, my dear Dr. Baleinier, why I have taken the resolution
(which is perhaps a strange one) to ask you to accompany me to the
"Why, doubtless, to recommend your friend in a more effective manner."
"Yes--but also to put an end, by a decisive step, to the calumnies which
my aunt will be sure to spread with regard to me, and which she has
already, you know, had inserted in the report of the commissary of
police. I have preferred to address myself at once, frankly and openly,
to a man placed in a high social position. I will explain all to him,
who will believe me, because truth has an accent of its own."
"All this, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne, is wisely planned. You will, as the
saw says, kill two birds with one stone--or rather, you will obtain by
one act of kindness two acts of justice; you will destroy a dangerous
calumny, and restore a worthy youth to liberty."
"Come," said Adrienne, laughing, "thanks to this pleasing prospect, my
light heart has returned."
"How true that in life," said the doctor, philosophically, "everything
depends on the point of view."
Adrienne was so completely ignorant of the forms of a constitutional
government, and had so blind a confidence in the doctor, that she did not
doubt for an instant what he told her. She therefore resumed with joy:
"What happiness it will be! when I go to fetch the daughters of Marshal
Simon, to be able to console this workman's mother, who is now perhaps in
a state of cruel anxiety, at not seeing her son return home!"
"Yes, you will have this pleasure," said M. Baleinier, with a smile; "for
we will solicit and intrigue to such purpose, that the good, mother may
learn from you the release of her son before she even knows that he has
"How kind, how obliging you are!" said Adrienne. "Really, if the motive
were not so serious, I should he ashamed of making you lose so much
precious time, my dear M. Baleinier. But I know your heart."
"I have no other wish, than to prove to you my profound devotion, my
sincere attachment," said the doctor inhaling a pinch of snuff. But at
the same time, he cast an uneasy glance through the window, for the
carriage was just crossing the Place de l'Odeon, and in spite of the
snow, he could see the front of the Odeon theatre brilliantly
illuminated. Now Adrienne, who had just turned her head towards that
side, might perhaps be astonished at the singular road they were taking.
In order to draw off her attention by a skillful diversion, the doctor
exclaimed suddenly: "Bless me! I had almost forgotten."
"What is the matter, M. Baleinier?" said Adrienne, turning hastily
"I had forgotten a thing of the highest importance, in regard to the
success of our petition."
"What is it, please?" asked the young girl, anxiously.
M. Baleinier gave a cunning smile. "Every man," said he, "has his
weakness--ministers even more than others. The one we are going to visit
has the folly to attach the utmost importance to his title, and the first
impression would be unfavorable, if you did not lay great stress on the
"Is that all, my dear M. Baleinier?" said Adrienne, smiling in her turn.
"I will even go so far as Your Excellency, which is, I believe, one of
his adopted titles."
"Not now--but that is no matter; if you could even slide in a My Lord or
two, our business would be done at once."
"Be satisfied! since there are upstart ministers as well as City-turned
gentlemen, I will remember Moliere's M. Jourdain, and feed full the
gluttonous vanity of your friend."
"I give him up to you, for I know he will be in good hands," replied the
physician, who rejoiced to see that the carriage had now entered those
dark streets which lead from the Place de l'Odeon to the Pantheon
district; "I do not wish to find fault with the minister for being proud,
since his pride may be of service to us on this occasion."
"These petty devices are innocent enough," said Mdlle. de Cardoville,
"and I confess that I do not scruple to have recourse to them." Then,
leaning towards the door-sash, she added: "Gracious! how sad and dark are
these streets. What wind! what snow! In which quarter are we?"
"What! are you so ungrateful, that you do not recognize by the absence of
shops, your dear quarter of the Faubourg Saint Germain?"
"I imagine we had quitted it long ago."
"I thought so too," said the physician, leaning forward as if to
ascertain where they were, "but we are still there. My poor coachman,
blinded by the snow, which is beating against his face, must have gone
wrong just now--but we are all right again. Yes, I perceive we are in
the Rue Saint Guillaume--not the gayest of streets by the way--but, in
ten minutes, we shall arrive at the minister's private entrance, for
intimate friends like myself enjoy the privilege of escaping the honors
of a grand reception."
Mdlle. de Cardoville, like most carriage-people, was so little acquainted
with certain streets of Paris, as well as with the customs of men in
office, that she did not doubt for a moment the statements of Baleinier,
in whom she reposed the utmost confidence.
When they left the Saint-Dizier House, the doctor had upon his lips a
question which he hesitated to put, for fear of endangering himself in
the eyes of Adrienne. The latter had spoken of important interests, the
existence of which had been concealed from her. The doctor, who was an
acute and skillful observer, had quite clearly remarked the embarrassment
and anxiety of the princess and D'Aigrigny. He no longer doubted, that
the plot directed against Adrienne--one in which he was the blind agent,
in submission to the will of the Order--related to interests which had
been concealed from him, and which, for that very reason, he burned to
discover; for every member of the dark conspiracy to which he belonged
had necessarily acquired the odious vices inherent to spies and
informers--envy, suspicion, and jealous curiosity.
It is easy to understand, therefore, that Dr. Baleinier, though quite
determined to serve the projects of D'Aigrigny, was yet very anxious to
learn what had been kept from him. Conquering his irresolution, and
finding the opportunity favorable, and no time to be lost, he said to
Adrienne, after a moment's silence: "I am going perhaps to ask you a very
indiscreet question. If you think it such, pray do not answer."
"Nay--go on, I entreat you."
"Just now--a few minutes before the arrival of the commissary of police
was announced to your aunt--you spoke, I think, of some great interests,
which had hitherto been concealed from you."
"Yes, I did so."
"These words," continued M. Baleinier, speaking slowly and emphatically,
"appeared to make a deep impression on the princess."
"An impression so deep," said Adrienne, "that sundry suspicions of mine
were changed to certainty."
"I need not tell you, my charming friend," resumed M. Baleinier, in a
bland tone, "that if I remind you of this circumstance, it is only to
offer you my services, in case they should be required. If not--and
there is the shadow of impropriety in letting me know more--forget that I
have said a word."
Adrienne became serious and pensive, and, after a silence of some
moments, she thus answered Dr. Baleinier: "On this subject, there are
some things that I do not know--others that I may tell you--others again
that I must keep from you: but you are so kind to-day, that I am happy to
be able to give you a new mark of confidence."
"Then I wish to know nothing," said the doctor, with an air of humble
deprecation, "for I should have the appearance of accepting a kind of
reward; whilst I am paid a thousand times over, by the pleasure I feel in
"Listen," said Adrienne, without attending to the delicate scruples of
Dr. Baleinier; "I have powerful reasons for believing that an immense
inheritance must, at no very distant period, be divided between the
members of my family, all of whom I do not know--for, after the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, those from whom we are descended were
dispersed in foreign countries, and experienced a great variety of
"Really!" cried the doctor, becoming extremely interested. "Where is
this inheritance, in whose hands?"
"I do not know."
"Now how will you assert your rights?"
"That I shall learn soon."
"Who will inform you of it?"
"That I may not tell you."
"But how did you find out the existence of this inheritance?"
"That also I may not tell you," returned Adrienne, in a soft and
melancholy tone, which remarkably contrasted with the habitual vivacity
of her conversation. "It is a secret--a strange secret--and in those
moments of excitement, in which you have sometimes surprised me, I have
been thinking of extraordinary circumstances connected with this secret,
which awakened within me lofty and magnificent ideas."
Adrienne paused and was silent, absorbed in her own reflections.
Baleinier did not seek to disturb her. In the first place, Mdlle. de
Cardoville did not perceive the direction the coach was taking; secondly,
the doctor was not sorry to ponder over what he had just heard. With his
usual perspicuity, he saw that the Abbe d'Aigrigny was concerned in this
inheritance, and he resolved instantly to make a secret report on the
subject; either M. d'Aigrigny was acting under the instructions of the
Order, or by his own impulse; in the one event, the report of the doctor
would confirm a fact; in the other, it would reveal one.
For some time, therefore, the lady and Dr. Baleinier remained perfectly
silent, no longer even disturbed by the noise of the wheels, for the
carriage now rolled over a thick carpet of snow, and the streets had
become more and more deserted. Notwithstanding his crafty treachery,
notwithstanding his audacity and the blindness of his dupe, the doctor
was not quite tranquil as to the result of his machinations. The
critical moment approached, and the least suspicion roused in the mind of
Adrienne by any inadvertence on his part, might ruin all his projects.
Adrienne, already fatigued by the painful emotions of the day, shuddered
from time to time, as the cold became more and more piercing; in her
haste to accompany Dr. Baleinier, she had neglected to take either shawl
For some minutes the coach had followed the line of a very high wall,
which, seen through the snow, looked white against a black sky. The
silence was deep and mournful. Suddenly the carriage stopped, and the
footman went to knock at a large gateway; he first gave two rapid knocks,
and then one other at a long interval. Adrienne did not notice the
circumstance, for the noise was not loud, and the doctor had immediately
begun to speak, to drown with his voice this species of signal.
"Here we are at last," said he gayly to Adrienne; "you must be very
winning--that is, you must be yourself."
"Be sure I will do my best," replied Adrienne, with a smile; then she
added, shivering in spite of herself: "How dreadfully cold it is! I must
confess, my dear Dr. Baleinier, that when I have been to fetch my poor
little relations from the house of our workman's mother, I shall be truly
glad to find myself once more in the warmth and light of my own
cheerful rooms, for you know my aversion to cold and darkness."
"It is quite natural," said the doctor, gallantly; "the most charming
flowers require the most light and heat."
Whilst the doctor and Mdlle. de Cardoville exchanged these few words, a
heavy gate had turned creaking upon its hinges, and the carriage had
entered a court-yard. The physician got down first, to offer his arm to
THE MINISTER'S CABINET.
The carriage had stopped before some steps covered with snow, which led
to a vestibule lighted by a lamp. The better to ascend the steps, which
were somewhat slippery, Adrienne leaned upon the doctor's arm.
"Dear me! how you tremble," said he.
"Yes," replied she, shuddering, "I feel deadly cold. In my haste, I came
out without a shawl. But how gloomy this house appears," she added,
pointing to the entrance.
"It is what you call the minister's private house, the sanctum sanctorum,
whither our statesman retires far from the sound of the profane," said
Dr. Baleinier, with a smile. "Pray come in!" and he pushed open the door
of a large hall, completely empty.
"They are right in saying," resumed Dr. Baleinier, who covered his secret
agitation with an appearance of gayety, "that a minister's house is like
nobody else's. Not a footman--not a page, I should say--to be found in
the antechamber. Luckily," added he, opening the door of a room which
communicated with the vestibule,
"'In this seraglio reared, I know the secret ways.'"
Mdlle. de Cardoville was now introduced into an apartment hung with green
embossed paper, and very simply furnished with mahogany chairs, covered
with yellow velvet; the floor was carefully polished, and a globe lamp,
which gave at most a third of its proper light, was suspended (at a much
greater height than usual) from the ceiling. Finding the appearance of
this habitation singularly plain for the dwelling of a minister,
Adrienne, though she had no suspicion, could not suppress a movement of
surprise and paused a moment on the threshold of the door. M. Baleinier,
by whose arm she held, guessed the cause of her astonishment, and said to
her with a smile:
"This place appears to you very paltry for 'his excellency,' does it not?
If you knew what a thing constitutional economy is!--Moreover, you will
see a 'my lord,' who has almost as little pretension as his furniture.
But please to wait for me an instant. I will go and inform the minister
you are here, and return immediately."
Gently disengaging himself from the grasp of Adrienne, who had
involuntarily pressed close to him, the physician opened a small side-
door, by which he instantly disappeared. Adrienne de Cardoville was left
Though she could not have explained the cause of her impression, there
was something awe-inspiring to the young lady in this large, cold, naked,
curtainless room; and as, by degrees, she noticed certain peculiarities
in the furniture, which she had not at first perceived, she was seized
with an indefinable feeling of uneasiness.
Approaching the cheerless hearth, she perceived with surprise that an
iron grating completely enclosed the opening of the chimney, and that the
tongs and shovel were fastened with iron chains. Already astonished by
this singularity, she was about mechanically to draw towards her an
armchair placed against the wall, when she found that it remained
motionless. She then discovered that the back of this piece of
furniture, as well as that of all the other chairs, was fastened to the
wainscoting by iron clamps. Unable to repress a smile, she exclaimed:
"Have they so little confidence in the statesman in whose house I am,
that they are obliged to fasten the furniture to the walls?"
Adrienne had recourse to this somewhat forced pleasantry as a kind of
effort to resist the painful feeling of apprehension that was gradually
creeping over her; for the most profound and mournful silence reigned in
this habitation, where nothing indicated the life, the movement and the
activity, which usually surround a great centre of business. Only, from
time to time, the young lady heard the violent gusts of wind from
More than a quarter of an hour had elapsed, and M. Baleinier did not
return. In her impatient anxiety, Adrienne wished to call some one to
inquire about the doctor and the minister. She raised her eyes to look
for a bell-rope by the side of the chimney-glass; she found none, but she
perceived, that what she had hitherto taken for a glass, thanks to the
half obscurity of the room, was in reality a large sheet of shining tin.
Drawing nearer to it, she accidentally touched a bronzed candlestick; and
this, as well as a clock, was fixed to the marble of the chimney-piece.
In certain dispositions of mind, the most insignificant circumstances
often assume terrific proportions. This immovable candlestick, this
furniture fastened to the wainscot, this glass replaced by a tin sheet,
this profound silence, and the prolonged absence of M. Baleinier, had
such an effect upon Adrienne, that she was struck with a vague terror.
Yet such was her implicit confidence in the doctor, that she reproached
herself with her own fears, persuading herself that the causes of them
were after all of no real importance, and that it was unreasonable to
feel uneasy at such trifles.
Still, though she thus strove to regain courage, her anxiety induced her
to do what otherwise she would never have attempted. She approached the
little door by which the doctor had disappeared, and applied her ear to
it. She held her breath, and listened, but heard nothing.
Suddenly, a dull, heavy sound, like that of a falling body, was audible
just above her head; she thought she could even distinguish a stifled
moaning. Raising her eyes, hastily, she saw some particles of the
plaster fall from the ceiling, loosened, no doubt, by the shaking of the
No longer able to resist the feeling of terror, Adrienne ran to the door
by which she had entered with the doctor, in order to call some one. To
her great surprise, she found it was fastened on the outside. Yet, since
her arrival, she had heard no sound of a key turning in the lock.
More and more alarmed, the young girl flew to the little door by which
the physician had disappeared, and at which she had just been listening.
This door also was fastened on the outside.
Still, wishing to struggle with the terror which was gaining invincibly
upon her, Adrienne called to her aid all the firmness of her character,
and tried to argue away her fears.
"I must have been deceived." she said; "it was only a fall that I heard.
The moaning had no existence, except in my imagination. There are a
thousand reasons for believing that it was not a person who fell down.
But, then, these locked doors? They, perhaps, do not know that I am
here; they may have thought that there was nobody in this room."
As she uttered these words, Adrienne looked round with anxiety; then she
added, in a firm voice: "No weakness! it is useless to try to blind
myself to my real situation. On the contrary, I must look it well in the
face. It is evident that I am not here at a minister's house; no end of
reasons prove it beyond a doubt; M. Baleinier has therefore deceived me.
But for what end? Why has he brought me hither? Where am I?"
The last two questions appeared to Adrienne both equally insoluble. It
only remained clear, that she was the victim of M. Baleinier's perfidy.
But this certainly seemed so horrible to the young girl's truthful and
generous soul, that she still tried to combat the idea by the
recollection of the confiding friendship which she had always shown this
man. She said to herself with bitterness: "See how weakness and fear may
lead one to unjust and odious suspicions! Yes; for until the last
extremity, it is not justifiable to believe in so infernal a deception--
and then only upon the clearest evidence. I will call some one: it is
the only way of completely satisfying these doubts." Then, remembering
that there was no bell, she added: "No matter; I will knock, and some one
will doubtless answer." With her little, delicate hand, Adrienne struck
the door several times.
The dull, heavy sound which came from the door showed that it was very
thick. No answer was returned to the young girl. She ran to the other
door. There was the same appeal on her part, the same profound silence
without--only interrupted from time to time by the howling of the wind.
"I am not more timid than other people," said Adrienne, shuddering; "I do
not know if it is the excessive cold, but I tremble in spite of myself.
I endeavor to guard against all weakness; yet I think that any one in my
position would find all this very strange and frightful."
At this instant, loud cries, or rather savage and dreadful howls, burst
furiously from the room just above, and soon after a sort of stamping of
feet, like the noise of a violent struggle, shook the ceiling of the
apartment. Struck with consternation, Adrienne uttered a loud cry of
terror became deadly pale, stood for a moment motionless with affright,
and then rushed to one of the windows, and abruptly threw it open.
A violent gust of wind, mixed with melted snow, beat against Adrienne's
face, swept roughly into the room, and soon extinguished the flickering
and smoky light of the lamp. Thus, plunged in profound darkness, with
her hands clinging to the bars that were placed across the window, Mdlle.
de Cardoville yielded at length to the full influence of her fears, so
long restrained, and was about to call aloud for help, when an unexpected
apparition rendered her for some minutes absolutely mute with terror.
Another wing of the building, opposite to that in which she was, stood at
no great distance. Through the midst of the black darkness, which filled
the space between, one large, lighted window was distinctly visible.
Through the curtainless panes, Adrienne perceived a white figure, gaunt
and ghastly, dragging after it a sort of shroud, and passing and
repassing continually before the window, with an abrupt and restless
motion. Her eyes fixed upon this window, shining through the darkness,
Adrienne remained as if fascinated by that fatal vision: and, as the
spectacle filled up the measure of her fears, she called for help with
all her might, without quitting the bars of the window to which she
clung. After a few seconds, whilst she was thus crying out, two tall
women entered the room in silence, unperceived by Mdlle. de Cardoville,
who was still clinging to the window.
These women, of about forty to fifty years of age, robust and masculine,
were negligently and shabbily dressed, like chambermaids of the lower
sort; over their clothes they wore large aprons of blue cotton, cut
sloping from their necks, and reaching down to their feet. One of them,
who held a lamp in her hand, had a broad, red, shining face, a large
pimpled nose, small green eyes, and tow hair, which straggled rough and
shaggy from beneath her dirty white cap. The other, sallow, withered,
and bony, wore a mourning-cap over a parchment visage, pitted with the
small-pox, and rendered still more repulsive by the thick black eyebrows,
and some long gray hairs that overshadowed the upper lip. This woman
carried, half unfolded in her hand, a garment of strange form, made of
thick gray stuff.
They both entered silently by the little door, at the moment when
Adrienne, in the excess of her terror, was grasping the bars of the
window, and crying out: "Help! help!"
Pointing out the young lady to each other, one of them went to place the
lamp on the chimney-piece, whilst the other (she who wore the mourning-
cap) approached the window, and laid her great bony hand upon Mdlle. de
Turning round, Adrienne uttered a new cry of terror at the sight of this
grim figure. Then, the first moment of stupor over, she began to feel
less afraid; hideous as was this woman, it was at least some one to speak
to; she exclaimed, therefore, in an agitated voice: "Where is M.
The two women looked at each other, exchanged a leer of mutual
intelligence, but did not answer.
"I ask you, madame," resumed Adrienne, "where is M. Baleinier, who brought
me hither? I wish to see him instantly."
"He is gone," said the big woman.
"Gone!" cried Adrienne; "gone without me!--Gracious heaven! what can be
the meaning of all this?" Then, after a moment's reflection, she
resumed, "Please to fetch me a coach."
The two women looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders. "I
entreat you, madame," continued Adrienne, with forced calmness in her
voice, "to fetch me a coach since M. Baleinier is gone without me. I
wish to leave this place."
"Come, come, madame," said the tall woman, who was called "Tomboy,"
without appearing to listen to what Adrienne asked, "it is time for you
to go to bed."
"To go to bed!" cried Mdlle. Cardoville, in alarm. "This is really
enough to drive one mad." Then, addressing the two women, she added:
"What is this house? where am I? answer!"
"You are in a house," said Tomboy, in a rough voice, "where you must not
make a row from the window, as you did just now."
"And where you must not put out the lamp as you have done," added the
other woman, who was called Gervaise, "or else we shall have a crow to
pick with you."
Adrienne, unable to utter a word, and trembling with fear, looked in a
kind of stupor from one to the other of these horrible women; her reason
strove in vain to comprehend what was passing around her. Suddenly she
thought she had guessed it, and exclaimed: "I see there is a mistake
here. I do not understand how, but there is a mistake. You take me for
some one else. Do you know who I am? My name is Adrienne de Cardoville
You see, therefore, that I am at liberty to leave this house; no one in
the world has the right to detain me. I command you, then, to fetch me a
coach immediately. If there are none in this quarter, let me have some
one to accompany me home to the Rue de Babylone, Saint-Dizier House. I
will reward such a person liberally, and you also."
"Well, have you finished?" said Tomboy. "What is the use of telling us
all this rubbish?"
"Take care," resumed Adrienne, who wished to try every means; "if you
detain me here by force, it will be very serious. You do not know to
what you expose yourselves."
"Will you come to bed; yes or no?" said Gervaise, in a tone of harsh
"Listen to me, madame," resumed Adrienne, precipitately, "let me out this
place, and I will give each of you two thousand francs. It is not
enough? I will give you ten--twenty--whatever you ask. I am rich--only
let me out for heaven's sake, let me out!--I cannot remain here--I am
afraid." As she said this, the tone of the poor girl's voice was
"Twenty thousand francs!--that's the usual figure, ain't it, Tomboy?"
"Let be, Gervaise! they all sing the same song."
"Well, then? since reasons, prayers, and menaces are all in vain," said
Adrienne gathering energy from her desperate position, "I declare to you
that I will go out and that instantly. We will see if you are bold
enough to employ force against me."
So saying, Adrienne advanced resolutely towards the door. But, at this
moment, the wild hoarse cries, which had preceded the noise of the
struggle that had so frightened her, again resounded; only, this time
they were not accompanied by the movement of feet.
"Oh! what screams!" said Adrienne, stopping short, and in her terror
drawing nigh to the two women. "Do you not hear those cries? What,
then, is this house, in which one hears such things? And over there,
too," added she almost beside herself, as she pointed to the other wing
where the lighted windows shone through the darkness, and the white
figure continued to pass and repass before it; "over there! do you see?
What is it?"
"Oh! that 'un," said Tomboy; "one of the folks who, like you, have not
"What do you say?" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, clasping her hands in
terror. "Heavens! what is this house? What do they do to them?"
"What will be done to you, if you are naughty, and refuse to come to
bed," answered Gervaise.
"They put this on them," said Tomboy, showing the garment that she had
held under her arm, "they clap 'em into the strait-waistcoast."
"Oh!" cried Adrienne, hiding her face in her hands with horror. A
terrible discovery had flashed suddenly upon her. She understood it all.
Capping the violent emotions of the day, the effect of this last blow was
dreadful. The young girl felt her strength give way. Her hands fell
powerless, her face became fearfully pale, all her limbs trembled, and
sinking upon her knees, and casting a terrified glance at the strait-
waistcoat she was just able to falter in a feeble voice, "Oh, no:--not
that--for pity's sake, madame. I will do--whatever you wish." And, her
strength quite failing, she would have fallen upon the ground if the two
women had not run towards her, and received her fainting into their arms.
"A fainting fit," said Tomboy; "that's not dangerous. Let us carry her
to bed. We can undress her, and this will be all nothing."
"Carry her, then," said Gervaise. "I will take the lamp."
The tall and robust Tomboy took up Mdlle. de Cardoville as if she had
been a sleeping child, carried her in her arms, and followed her
companion into the chamber through which M. Baleinier had made his exit.
This chamber, though perfectly clean, was cold and bare. A greenish
paper covered the walls, and a low, little iron bedstead, the head of
which formed a kind of shelf, stood in one corner; a stove, fixed in the
chimney-place, was surrounded by an iron grating, which forbade a near
approach; a table fastened to the wall, a chair placed before this table,
and also clamped to the floor, a mahogany chest of drawers, and a rush-
bottomed armchair completed the scanty furniture. The curtainless window
was furnished on the inside with an iron grating, which served to protect
the panes from being broken.
It was into this gloomy retreat, which formed so painful a contrast with
the charming little summer-house in the Rue de Babylone, that Adrienne
was carried by Tomboy, who, with the assistance of Gervaise, placed the
inanimate form on the bed. The lamp was deposited on the shelf at the
head of the couch. Whilst one of the nurses held her up, the other
unfastened and took off the cloth dress of the young girl, whose head
drooped languidly on her bosom. Though in a swoon, large tears trickled
slowly from her closed eyes, whose long black lashes threw their shadows
on the transparent whiteness of her cheeks. Over her neck and breast of
ivory flowed the golden waves of her magnificent hair, which had come
down at the time of her fall. When, as they unlaced her satin corset,
less soft, less fresh, less white than the virgin form beneath, which lay
like a statue of alabaster in its covering of lace and lawn, one of the
horrible hags felt the arms and shoulders of the young girl with her
large, red, horny, and chapped hands. Though she did not completely
recover the use of her senses, she started involuntarily from the rude
and brutal touch.
"Hasn't she little feet?" said the nurse, who, kneeling down, was
employed in drawing off Adrienne's stockings. "I could hold them both in
the hollow of my hand." In fact, a small, rosy foot, smooth as a
child's, here and there veined with azure, was soon exposed to view, as
was also a leg with pink knee and ankle, of as pure and exquisite a form
as that of Diana Huntress.
"And what hair!" said Tomboy; "so long and soft!--She might almost walk
upon it. 'Twould be a pity to cut it off, to put ice upon her skull!"
As she spoke, she gathered up Adrienne's magnificent hair, and twisted it
as well as she could behind her head. Alas! it was no longer the fair,
light hand of Georgette, Florine, or Hebe that arranged the beauteous
locks of their mistress with so much love and pride!
And as she again felt the rude touch of the nurse's hand, the young girl
was once more seized with the same nervous trembling, only more
frequently and strongly than before. And soon, whether by a sort of
instinctive repulsion, magnetically excited during her swoon, or from the
effect of the cold night air, Adrienne again started and slowly came to
It is impossible to describe her alarm, horror, and chaste indignation,
as, thrusting aside with both her hands the numerous curls that covered
her face, bathed in tears, she saw herself half-naked between these
filthy hags. At first, she uttered a cry of shame and terror; then to
escape from the looks of the women, by a movement, rapid as thought, she
drew down the lamp placed on the shelf at the head of her bed, so that it
was extinguished and broken to pieces on the floor. After which, in the
midst of the darkness, the unfortunate girl, covering herself with the
bed-clothes, burst into passionate sobs.
The nurses attributed Adrienne's cry and violent actions to a fit of
furious madness. "Oh! you begin again to break the lamps--that's your
partickler fancy, is it?" cried Tomboy, angrily, as she felt her way in
the dark. "Well! I gave you fair warning. You shall have the strait-
waistcoat on this very night, like the mad gal upstairs."
"That's it," said the other; "hold her fast, Tommy, while I go and fetch
a light. Between us, we'll soon master her."
"Make haste, for, in spite of her soft look, she must be a regular fury.
We shall have to sit up all night with her, I suppose."
Sad and painful contrast! That morning, Adrienne had risen free,
smiling, happy, in the midst of all the wonders of luxury and art, and
surrounded by the delicate attentions of the three charming girls whom
she had chosen to serve her. In her generous and fantastic mood, she had
prepared a magnificent and fairy-like surprise for the young Indian
prince, her relation; she had also taken a noble resolution with regard
to the two orphans brought home by Dagobert; in her interview with Mme.
de Saint-Dizier, she had shown herself by turns proud and sensitive,
melancholy and gay, ironical and serious, loyal and courageous; finally,
she had come to this accursed house to plead in favor of an honest and
And now, in the evening delivered over by an atrocious piece of treachery
to the ignoble hands of two coarse-minded muses in a madhouse--Mdlle. de
Cardoville felt her delicate limbs imprisoned in that abominable garment,
which is called a strait-waistcoat.
Mdlle. de Cardoville passed a horrible night in company with the two
hags. The next morning, at nine o'clock, what was the young lady's
stupor to see Dr. Baleinier enter the room, still smiling with an air at
once benevolent and paternal.
"Well, my dear child?" said he, in a bland, affectionate voice; "how have
we spent the night?"
The keepers, yielding to Mdlle. de Cardoville's prayers, and, above all,
to her promises of good behavior, had only left on the canvas jacket a
portion of the time. Towards morning, they had allowed her to rise and
dress herself, without interfering.
Adrienne was seated on the edge of her bed. The alteration in her
features, her dreadful paleness, the lurid fire of fever shining in her
eyes, the convulsive trembling which ever and anon shook her frame,
showed already the fatal effects of this terrible night upon a
susceptible and high-strung organization. At sight of Dr. Baleinier,
who, with a sign, made Gervaise and her mate leave the room, Adrienne
She felt a kind of giddiness at the thought of the audacity of the man,
who dared to present himself to her! But when the physician repeated, in
the softest tone of affectionate interest: "Well, my poor child! how have
we spent the night?" she pressed her hands to her burning forehead, as if
in doubt whether she was awake or sleeping. Then, staring at the doctor,
she half opened her lips; but they trembled so much that it was
impossible for her to utter a word. Anger, indignation, contempt, and,
above all, the bitter and acutely painful feeling of a generous heart,
whose confidence has been basely betrayed, so overpowered Adrienne that
she was unable to break the silence.
"Come, come! I see how it is," said the doctor, shaking his head
sorrowfully; "you are very much displeased with me--is it not so? Well!
I expected it, my dear child."
These words, pronounced with the most hypocritical effrontery, made
Adrienne start up. Her pale cheek flushed, her large eyes sparkled, she
lifted proudly her beautiful head, whilst her upper lip curled slightly
with a smile of disdainful bitterness; then, passing in angry silence
before M. Baleinier, who retained his seat, she directed her swift and
firm steps towards the door. This door, in which was a little wicket,
was fastened on the outside. Adrienne turned towards the doctor, and
said to him, with an imperious gesture; "Open that door for me!"
"Come, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne," said the physician, "be calm. Let us
talk like good friends--for you know I am your friend." And he inhaled
slowly a pinch of snuff.
"It appears, sir," said Adrienne, in a voice trembling with indignation,
"I am not to leave this place to-day?"
"Alas! no. In such a state of excitement--if you knew how inflamed your
face is, and your eyes so feverish, your pulse must be at least eighty to
the minute--I conjure you, my dear child, not to aggravate your symptoms
by this fatal agitation."
After looking fixedly at the doctor, Adrienne returned with a slow step,
and again took her seat on the edge of the bed. "That is right," resumed
M. Baleinier: only be reasonable; and, as I said before, let us talk
together like good friends."
"You say well, sir," replied Adrienne, in a collected and perfectly calm
voice; "let us talk like friends. You wish to make me pass for mad--is
it not so?"
"I wish, my dear child, that one day you may feel towards me as much
gratitude as you now do aversion. The latter I had fully foreseen--but,
however painful may be the performance of certain duties, we must resign
ourselves to it."
M. Baleinier sighed, as he said this, with such a natural air of
conviction, that for a moment Adrienne could not repress a movement of
surprise; then, while her lip curled with a bitter laugh, she answered:
"Oh, it's very clear, you have done all this for my good?"
"Really, my dear young lady--have I ever had any other design than to be
useful to you?"
"I do not know, sir, if your impudence be not still more odious than your
"Treachery!" said M. Baleinier, shrugging his shoulders with a grieved
air; "treachery, indeed! Only reflect, my poor child--do you think, if I
were not acting with good faith, conscientiously, in your interest, I
should return this morning to meet your indignation, for which I was
fully prepared? I am the head physician of this asylum, which belongs to
me--but I have two of my pupils here, doctors, like myself--and might
have left them to take care of you but, no--I could not consent to it--I
knew your character, your nature, your previous history, and (leaving out
of the question the interest I feel for you) I can treat your case better
than any one."
Adrienne had heard M. Baleinier without interrupting him; she now looked
at him fixedly, and said: "Pray, sir, how much do they pay you to make me
pass for mad?"
"Madame!" cried M. Baleinier, who felt stung in spite of, himself.
"You know I am rich," continued Adrienne, with over, whelming disdain; "I
will double the sum that they give you. Come, sir--in the name of
friendship, as you call it, let me have the pleasure of outbidding them."
"Your keepers," said M. Baleinier, recovering all his coolness, "have
informed me, in their report of the night's proceedings, that you made
similar propositions to them."
"Pardon me, sir; I offered them what might be acceptable to poor women,
without education, whom misfortune has forced to undertake a painful
employment--but to you, sir a man of the world, a man of science, a man
of great abilities--that is quite different--the pay must be a great deal
higher. There is treachery at all prices; so do not found your refusal
on the smallness of my offer to those wretched women. Tell me--how much
do you want?"
"Your keepers, in their report of the night, have also spoken of
threats," resumed M. Baleinier, with the same coolness; "have you any of
those likewise to address me? Believe me, my poor child, you will do
well to exhaust at once your attempts at corruption, and your vain
threats of vengeance. We shall then come to the true state of the case."
"So you deem my threats vain!" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, at length
giving way to the full tide of her indignation, till then restrained.
"Do you think, sir, that when I leave this place--for this outrage must
have an end--that I will not proclaim aloud your infamous treachery? Do
you think chat I will not denounce to the contempt and horror of all,
your base conspiracy with Madame de Saint-Dizier? Oh! do you think that
I will conceal the frightful treatment I have received! But, mad as I
may be, I know that there are laws in this country, by which I will
demand a full reparation for myself, and shame, disgrace, and punishment,
for you, and for those who have employed you! Henceforth, between you
and me will be hate and war to the death; and all my strength, all my
"Permit me to interrupt you, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne," said the doctor,
still perfectly calm and affectionate: "nothing can be more unfavorable
to your cure, than to cherish idle hopes: they will only tend to keep up
a state of deplorable excitement: it is best to put the facts fairly
before you, that you may understand clearly your position.
"1. It is impossible for you to leave this house. 2. You can have no
communication with any one beyond its walls. 3. No one enters here that
I cannot perfectly depend upon. 4. I am completely indifferent to your
threats of vengeance because law and reason are both in my favor."
"What! have you the right to shut me up here?"
"We should never have come to that determination, without a number of
reasons of the most serious kind."
"Oh! there are reasons for it, it seems."
"Unfortunately, too many."
"You will perhaps inform me of them?"
"Alas! they are only too conclusive; and if you should ever apply to the
protection of the laws, as you threatened me just now, we should be
obliged to state them. The fantastical eccentricity of your manner of
living, your whimsical mode of dressing up your maids, your extravagant
expenditure, the story of the Indian prince, to whom you offered a royal
hospitality, your unprecedented resolution of going to live by yourself,
like a young bachelor, the adventure of the man found concealed in your
bed-chamber; finally, the report of your yesterday's conversation, which
was faithfully taken down in shorthand, by a person employed for that
"Yesterday?" cried Adrienne, with as much indignation as surprise.
"Oh, yes! to be prepared for every event, in case you should misinterpret
the interest we take in you, we had all your answers reported by a man
who was concealed behind a curtain in the next room; and really, one day,
in a calmer state of mind, when you come to read over quietly the
particulars of what took place, you will no longer be astonished at the
resolution we have been forced to adopt."
"Go on, sir," said Adrienne, with contempt.
"The facts I have cited being thus confirmed and acknowledged, you will
understand, my dear Mdlle. Adrienne, that your friends are perfectly free
from responsibility. It was their duty to endeavor to cure this
derangement of mind, which at present only shows itself in idle whims,
but which, were it to increase, might seriously compromise the happiness
of your future life. Now, in my opinion, we may hope to see a radical
cure, by means of a treatment at once physical and moral; but the first
condition of this attempt was to remove you from the scenes which so
dangerously excited your imagination; whilst a calm retreat, the repose
of a simple and solitary life combined with my anxious, I may say,
paternal care, will gradually bring about a complete recovery--"
"So, sir," said Adrienne, with a bitter laugh, "the love of a noble
independence, generosity, the worship of the beautiful, detestation of
what is base and odious, such are the maladies of which you wish to cure
me; I fear that my case is desperate, for my aunt has long ago tried to
effect that benevolent purpose."
"Well, we may perhaps not succeed; but at least we will attempt it. You
see, then, there is a mass of serious facts, quite enough to justify the
determination come to by the family-council, which puts me completely at
my ease with regard to your menaces. It is to that I wish to return; a
man of my age and condition never acts lightly--in such circumstances,
and you can readily understand what I was saying to you just now. In a
word, do not hope to leave this place before your complete recovery, and
rest assured, that I am and shall ever be safe from your resentment.
This being once admitted, let us talk of your actual state with all the
interest that you naturally inspire."
"I think, sir, that, considering I am mad, you speak to me very
"Mad! no, thank heaven, my poor child, you are not mad yet--and I hope
that, by my care, you will never be so. It is to prevent your becoming
mad, that one must take it in time; and believe me, it is full time. You
look at me with such an air of surprise--now tell me, what interest can I
have in talking to you thus? Is it the hatred of your aunt that I wish
to favor? To what end, I would ask? What can she do for me or against
me? I think of her at this moment neither more nor less than I thought
yesterday. Is it a new language that I hold to yourself? Did I not
speak to you yesterday many times, of the dangerous excitement of mind in
which you were, and of your singular whims and fancies? It is true, I
made use of stratagem to bring you hither. No doubt, I did so. I
hastened to avail myself of the opportunity, which you yourself offered,
my poor, dear child; for you would never have come hither with your own
good will. One day or the other, we must have found some pretext to get
you here: and I said to myself; 'Her interest before all! Do your duty,
let whatever will betide!'--"
Whilst M. Baleinier was speaking, Adrienne's countenance, which had
hitherto expressed alternately indignation and disdain, assumed an
indefinable look of anguish and horror. On hearing this man talk in such
a natural manner, and with such an appearance of sincerity, justice and
reason, she felt herself more alarmed than ever. An atrocious deception,
clothed in such forms, frightened her a hundred times more than the
avowed hatred of Madame de Saint-Dizier. This audacious hypocrisy seemed
to her so monstrous, that she believed it almost impossible.
Adrienne had so little the art of hiding her emotions, that the doctor, a
skillful and profound physiognomist, instantly perceived the impression
he had produced. "Come," said he to himself, "that is a great step.
Fright has succeeded to disdain and anger. Doubt will come next. I
shall not leave this place, till she has said to me: 'Return soon, my
good M. Baleinier!' "With a voice of sorrowful emotion, which seemed to
come from the very depths of his heart, the doctor thus continued: "I
see, you are still suspicious of me. All I can say to you is falsehood,
fraud, hypocrisy, hate--is it not so?--Hate you? why, in heaven's name,
should I hate you? What have you done to me? or rather--you will
perhaps attach more value to this reason from a man of my sort," added M.
Baleinier, bitterly, "or rather, what interest have I to hate you?--You,
that have only been reduced to the state in which you are by an over-
abundance of the most generous instincts--you, that are suffering, as it
were, from an excess of good qualities--you can bring yourself coolly and
deliberately to accuse an honest man, who has never given you any but
marks of affection, of the basest, the blackest, the most abominable
crime, of which a human being could be guilty. Yes, I call it a crime;
because the audacious deception of which you accuse me would not deserve
any other name. Really, my poor child, it is hard--very hard--and I now
see, that an independent spirit may sometimes exhibit as much injustice
and intolerance as the most narrow mind. It does not incense me--no--it
only pains me: yes, I assure you--it pains me cruelly." And the doctor
drew his hand across his moist eyes.
It is impossible to give the accent, the look, the gesture of M.
Baleinier, as he thus expressed himself. The most able and practiced
lawyer, or the greatest actor in the world, could not have played this
scene with more effect than the doctor--or rather, no one could have
played it so well--M. Baleinier, carried away by the influence of the
situations, was himself half convinced of what he said.
In few words, he felt all the horror of his own perfidy but he felt also
that Adrienne could not believe it; for there are combinations of such
nefarious character, that pure and upright minds are unable to comprehend
them as possible. If a lofty spirit looks down into the abyss of evil,
beyond a certain depth it is seized with giddiness, and no longer able to
distinguish one object from the other.
And then the most perverse of men have a day, an hour, a moment, in which
the good instincts, planted in the heart of every creature, appear in
spite of themselves. Adrienne was too interesting, was in too cruel a
position, for the doctor mot to feel some pity for her in his heart; the
tone of sympathy, which for some time past he had been obliged to assume
towards her, and the sweet confidence of the young girl in return, had
become for this man habitual and necessary ratifications. But sympathy
and habit were now to yield to implacable necessity.
Thus the Marquis d'Aigrigny had idolized his mother; dying, she called
him to her--and he turned away from the last prayer of a parent in the
agony of death. After such an example, how could M. Baleinier hesitate
to sacrifice Adrienne? The members of the Order, of which he formed a
part, were bound to him--but he was perhaps still more strongly bound to
them, for a long partnership in evil creates terrible and indissoluble
The moment M. Baleinier finished his fervid address to Mdlle. de
Cardoville, the slide of the wicket in the door was softly pushed back,
and a pair of eyes peered attentively into the chamber, unperceived by
Adrienne could not withdraw her gaze from the physician's, which seemed
to fascinate her. Mute, overpowered, seized with a vague terror, unable
to penetrate the dark depths of this man's soul, moved in spite of
herself by the accent of sorrow, half feigned and half real--the young
lady had a momentary feeling of doubt. For the first time, it came into
her mind, that M. Baleinier might perhaps be committing a frightful
error--committing it in good faith.
Besides, the anguish of the past night, the dangers of her position, her
feverish agitation, all concurred to fill her mind with trouble and
indecision. She looked at the physician with ever increasing surprise,
and making a violent effort not to yield to a weakness, of which she
partly foresaw the dreadful consequences, she exclaimed: "No, no, sir; I
will not, I cannot believe it. You have too much skill, too much
experience, to commit such an error."
"An error!" said M. Baleinier, in a grave and sorrowful tone. "Let me
speak to you in the name of that skill and experience, which you are
pleased to ascribe to me. Hear me but for a moment, my dear child; and
then I will appeal to yourself."
"To me!" replied the young girl, in a kind of stupor; "you wish to
persuade me, that--" Then, interrupting herself, she added, with a
convulsive laugh: "This only is wanting to your triumph--to bring me to
confess that I am mad--that my proper place is here--that I owe you--"
"Gratitude. Yes, you do owe it me, even as I told you at the
commencement of this conversation. Listen to me then; my words may be
cruel, but there are wounds which can only be cured with steel and fire.
I conjure you, my dear child--reflect--throw back one impartial glance at
your past life--weigh your own thoughts--and you will be afraid of
yourself. Remember those moments of strange excitement, during which, as
you have told me, you seemed to soar above the earth--and, above all,
while it is yet time--while you preserve enough clearness of mind to
compare and judge--compare, I entreat, your manner of living with that of
other ladies of your age? Is there a single one who acts as you act? who
thinks as you think? unless, indeed, you imagine yourself so superior to
other women, that, in virtue of that supremacy, you can justify a life
and habits that have no parallel in the world."
"I have never had such stupid pride, you know it well," said Adrienne,
looking at the doctor with growing terror.
"Then, my dear child, to what are we to attribute your strange and
inexplicable mode of life? Can you even persuade yourself that it is
founded on reason? Oh, my child! take care?--As yet, you only indulge in
charming originalities of conduct, poetical eccentricities, sweet and
vague reveries--but the tendency is fatal, the downward course
irresistible. Take care, take care!--the healthful, graceful, spiritual
portion of your intelligence has yet the upper hand, and imprints its
stamp upon all your extravagances; but you do not know, believe me, with
what frightful force the insane portion of the mind, at a given moment,
develops itself and strangles up the rest. Then we have no longer
graceful eccentricities, like yours, but ridiculous, sordid, hideous
"Oh! you frighten me," said the unfortunate girl, as she passed her
trembling hands across her burning brow.
"Then," continued M. Baleinier, in an agitated voice, "then the last rays
of intelligence are extinguished; then madness--for we must pronounce the
dreaded word--gets the upper hand, and displays itself in furious and
"Like the woman upstairs," murmured Adrienne, as, with fixed and eager
look, she raised her finger towards the ceiling.
"Sometimes," continued the doctor, alarmed himself at the terrible
consequences of his own words, but yielding to the inexorable fatality of
his situation, "sometimes madness takes a stupid and brutal form; the
unfortunate creature, who is attacked by it, preserves nothing human but
the shape--has only the instincts of the lower animals--eats with
voracity, and moves ever backwards and forwards in the cell, in which
such a being is obliged to be confined. That is all its life--all."
"Like the woman yonder." cried Adrienne, with a still wilder look, as she
slowly raised her arm towards the window that was visible on the other
side of the building.
"Why--yes," said M. Baleinier. "Like you, unhappy child, those women
were young, fair, and sensible, but like you, alas! they had in them the
fatal germ of insanity, which, not having been destroyed in time, grew,
and grew, larger and ever larger, until it overspread and destroyed their
"Oh, mercy!" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, whose head was getting confused
with terror; "mercy! do not tell me such things!--I am afraid. Take me
from this place--oh! take me from this place!" she added, with a
heartrending accent; "for, if I remain here, I shall end by going mad!
No," added she, struggling with the terrible agony which assailed her,
"no, do not hope it! I shall not become mad. I have all my reason. I
am not blind enough to believe what you tell me. Doubtless, I live
differently from others; think differently from others; am shocked by
things that do not offend others; but what does all this prove? Only
that I am different from others. Have I a bad heart? Am I envious or
selfish? My ideas are singular, I knew--yes, I confess it--but then, M.
Baleinier, is not their tendency good, generous, noble!--Oh!" cried
Adrienne's supplicating voice, while her tears flowed abundantly, "I have
never in my life done one malicious action; my worst errors have arisen
from excess of generosity. Is it madness to wish to see everybody about
one too happy? And again, if you are mad, you must feel it yourself--and
I do not feel it--and yet--I scarcely know--you tell me such terrible
things of those two women! You ought to know these things better than I.
But then," added Mdlle, de Cardoville, with an accent of the deepest
despair, "something ought to have been done. Why, if you felt an
interest for me, did you wait so long? Why did you not take pity on me
sooner? But the most frightful fact is, that I do not know whether I
ought to believe you--for all this may be a snare--but no, no! you weep--
it is true, then!--you weep!" She looked anxiously at M. Baleinier, who,
notwithstanding his cynical philosophy, could not restrain his tears at
the sight of these nameless tortures.
"You weep over me," she continued; "so it is true! But (good heaven!)
must there not be something done? I will do all that you wish--all--so
that I may not be like those women. But if it should be too late? no, it
is not too late--say it is not too late, my good M. Baleinier! Oh, now I
ask your pardon for what I said when you came in--but then I did not
know, you see--I did not know!"
To these few broken words, interrupted by sobs, and rushing forth in a
sort of feverish excitement, succeeded a silence of some minutes, during
which the deeply affected physician dried his tears. His resolution had
almost failed him. Adrienne hid her face in her hands. Suddenly she
again lifted her head; her countenance was calmer than before, though
agitated by a nervous trembling.
"M. Baleinier," she resumed, with touching dignity, "I hardly know what I
said to you just now. Terror, I think, made me wander; I have again
collected myself. Hear me! I know that I am in your power; I know that
nothing can deliver me from it. Are you an implacable enemy? or are you
a friend? I am not able to determine. Do you really apprehend, as you
assure me, that what is now eccentricity will hereafter become madness--
or are you rather the accomplice in some infernal machination? You alone
can answer. In spite of my boasted courage, I confess myself conquered.
Whatever is required of me--you understand, whatever it may be, I will
subscribe to, I give you my word and you know that I hold it sacred--you
have therefore no longer any interest to keep me here. If, on the
contrary, you really think my reason in danger--and I own that you have
awakened in my mind vague, but frightful doubts--tell it me, and I will
believe you. I am alone, at your mercy, without friends, without
counsel. I trust myself blindly to you. I know not whether I address
myself to a deliverer or a destroyer--but I say to you--here is my
happiness--here is my life--take it--I have no strength to dispute it
These touching words, full of mournful resignation and almost hopeless
reliance, gave the finishing stroke to the indecision of M. Baleinier.
Already deeply moved by this scene, and without reflecting on the
consequences of what he was about to do, he determined at all events to
dissipate the terrible and unjust fears with which he had inspired
Adrienne. Sentiments of remorse and pity, which now animated the
physician, were visible in his countenance.
Alas! they were too visible. The moment he approached to take the hand
of Mdlle. de Cardoville, a low but sharp voice exclaimed from behind the
wicket: "M. Baleinier!"
"Rodin!" muttered the startled doctor to himself; "he's been spying on