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use in murdering the Councillor of State; but we can’t take you up for that–plenty of intention, but no witnesses. You managed, I don’t know how, to stupefy Violette, and you and your wife and that young rascal of yours spent the night out of doors to warn Mademoiselle de Cinq- Cygne and save her cousins, whom you are hiding here,–though I don’t as yet know where. Your son or your wife threw the corporal off his horse cleverly enough. Well, you’ve got the better of us just now; you’re a devil of a fellow. But the end is not yet, and you won’t have the last word. Hadn’t you better compromise? your masters would be the better for it.”

“Come this way, where we can talk without being overheard,” said Michu, leading the way through the park to the pond.

When Corentin saw the water he looked fixedly at Michu, who was no doubt reckoning on his physical strength to fling the spy into seven feet of mud below three feet of water. Michu replied with a look that was not less fixed. The scene was absolutely as if a cold and flabby boa constrictor had defied one of those tawny, fierce leopards of Brazil.

“I am not thirsty,” said Corentin, stopping short at the edge of the field and putting his hand into his pocket to feel for his dagger.

“We shall never come to terms,” said Michu, coldly.

“Mind what you’re about, my good fellow; the law has its eye upon you.”

“If the law can’t see any clearer than you, there’s danger to every one,” said the bailiff.

“Do you refuse?” said Corentin, in a significant tone.

“I’d rather have my head cut off a thousand times, if that could be done, than come to an agreement with such a villain as you.”

Corentin got into his vehicle hastily, after one more comprehensive look at Michu, the lodge, and Couraut, who barked at him. He gave certain orders in passing through Troyes, and then returned to Paris. All the brigades of gendarmerie in the neighborhood received secret instructions and special orders.

During the months of December, January, and February the search was active and incessant, even in remote villages. Spies were in all the taverns. Corentin learned some important facts: a horse like that of Michu had been found dead in the neighborhood of Lagny; the five horses burned in the forest of Nodesme had been sold, for five hundred francs each, by farmers and millers to a man who answered to the description of Michu. When the decree against the accomplices and harborers of Georges was put in force Corentin confined his search to the forest of Nodesme. After Moreau, the royalists, and Pichegru were arrested no strangers were ever seen about the place.

Michu lost his situation at that time; the notary of Arcis brought him a letter in which Malin, now made senator, requested Grevin to settle all accounts with the bailiff and dismiss him. Michu asked and obtained a formal discharge and became a free man. To the great astonishment of the neighborhood he went to live at Cinq-Cygne, where Laurence made him the farmer of all the reserved land about the chateau. The day of his installation as farmer coincided with the fatal day of the death of the Duc d’Enghien, when nearly the whole of France heard at the same time of the arrest, trial, condemnation, and death of the prince,–terrible reprisals, which preceded the trial of Polignac, Riviere, and Moreau.

PART II

CHAPTER X

ONE AND THE SAME, YET A TWO-FOLD LOVE

While the new farm-house was being built Michu the Judas, so-called, and his family occupied the rooms over the stables at Cinq-Cygne on the side of the chateau next to the famous breach. He bought two horses, one for himself and one for Francois, and they both joined Gothard in accompanying Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne in her many rides, which had for their object, as may well be imagined, the feeding of the four gentlemen and perpetual watching that they were still in safety. Francois and Gothard, assisted by Couraut and the countess’s dogs, went in front and beat the woods all around the hiding-place to make sure that there was no one within sight. Laurence and Michu carried the provisions which Marthe, her mother, and Catherine prepared, unknown to the other servants of the household so as to restrict the secret to themselves, for all were sure that there were spies in the village. These expeditions were never made oftener than twice a week and on different days and at different hours, sometimes by day, sometimes by night.

These precautions lasted until the trial of Riviere, Polignac, and Moreau ended. When the senatus-consultum, which called the dynasty of Bonaparte to the throne and nominated Napoleon as Emperor of the French, was submitted to the French people for acceptance Monsieur d’Hauteserre signed the paper Goulard brought him. When it was made known that the Pope would come to France to crown the Emperor, Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne no longer opposed the general desire that her cousins and the young d’Hauteserres should petition to have their names struck off the list of /emigres/, and be themselves reinstated in their rights as citizens. On this, old d’Hauteserre went to Paris and consulted the ci-devant Marquis de Chargeboeuf who knew Talleyrand. That minister, then in favor, conveyed the petition to Josephine, and Josephine gave it to her husband, who was addressed as Emperor, Majesty, Sire, before the result of the popular vote was known. Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, Monsieur d’Hauteserre, and the Abbe Goujet, who also went to Paris, obtained an interview with Talleyrand, who promised them his support. Napoleon had already pardoned several of the principal actors in the great royalist conspiracy; and yet, though the four gentlemen were merely suspected of complicity, the Emperor, after a meeting of the Council of State, called the senator Malin, Fouche, Talleyrand, Cambaceres, Lebrun, and Dubois, prefect of police, into his cabinet.

“Gentlemen,” said the future Emperor, who still wore the dress of the First Consul, “we have received from the Sieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre, officers in the army of the Prince de Conde, a request to be allowed to re-enter France.”

“They are here now,” said Fouche.

“Like many others whom I meet in Paris,” remarked Talleyrand.

“I think you have not met these gentlemen,” said Malin, “for they are hidden in the forest of Nodesme, where they consider themselves at home.”

He was careful not to tell the First Consul and Fouche how he himself had given them warning, by talking with Grevin within hearing of Michu, but he made the most of Corentin’s reports and convinced Napoleon that the four gentlemen were sharers in the plot of Riviere and Polignac, with Michu for an accomplice. The prefect of police confirmed these assertions.

“But how could that bailiff know that the conspiracy was discovered?” said the prefect, “for the Emperor and the council and I were the only persons in the secret.”

No one paid attention to this remark.

“If they have been hidden in that forest for the last seven months and you have not been able to find them,” said the Emperor to Fouche, “they have expiated their misdeeds.”

“Since they are my enemies as well,” said Malin, frightened by the Emperor’s clear-sightedness, “I desire to follow the magnanimous example of your Majesty; I therefore make myself their advocate and ask that their names be stricken from the list of /emigres/.”

“They will be less dangerous to you here than if they are exiled; for they will now have to swear allegiance to the Empire and the laws,” said Fouche, looking at Malin fixedly.

“In what way are they dangerous to the senator?” asked Napoleon.

Talleyrand spoke to the Emperor for some minutes in a low voice. The reinstatement of the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre appeared to be granted.

“Sire,” said Fouche, “rely upon it, you will hear of those men again.”

Talleyrand, who had been urged by the Duc de Grandlieu, gave the Emperor pledges in the name of the young men on their honor as gentlemen (a term which had great fascination for Napoleon), to abstain from all attacks upon his Majesty and to submit themselves to his government in good faith.

“Messieurs d’Hauteserre and de Simeuse are not willing to bear arms against France, now that events have taken their present course,” he said, aloud; “they have little sympathy, it is true, with the Imperial government, but they are just the men that your Majesty ought to conciliate. They will be satisfied to live on French soil and obey the laws.”

Then he laid before the Emperor a letter he had received from the brothers in which these sentiments were expressed.

“Anything so frank is likely to be sincere,” said the Emperor, returning the letter and looking at Lebrun and Cambaceres. “Have you any further suggestions?” he asked of Fouche.

“In your Majesty’s interests,” replied the future minister of police, “I ask to be allowed to inform these gentlemen of their reinstatement –when it is /really granted/,” he added, in a louder tone.

“Very well,” said Napoleon, noticing an anxious look on Fouche’s face.

The matter did not seem positively decided when the Council rose; but it had the effect of putting into Napoleon’s mind a vague distrust of the four young men. Monsieur d’Hauteserre, believing that all was gained, wrote a letter announcing the good news. The family at Cinq- Cygne were therefore not surprised when, a few days later, Goulard came to inform the countess and Madame d’Hauteserre that they were to send the four gentlemen to Troyes, where the prefect would show them the decree reinstating them in their rights and administer to them the oath of allegiance to the Empire and the laws. Laurence replied that she would send the notification to her cousins and the Messieurs d’Hauteserre.

“Then they are not here?” said Goulard.

Madame d’Hauteserre looked anxiously after Laurence, who left the room to consult Michu. Michu saw no reason why the young men should not be released at once from their hiding-place. Laurence, Michu, his son, and Gothard therefore started as soon as possible for the forest, taking an extra horse, for the countess resolved to accompany her cousins to Troyes and return with them. The whole household, made aware of the good news, gathered on the lawn to witness the departure of the happy cavalcade. The four young men issued from their long confinement, mounted their horses, and took the road to Troyes, accompanied by Mademoiselle Cinq-Cygne. Michu, with the help of his son and Gothard, closed the entrance to the cellar, and started to return home on foot. On the way he recollected that he had left the forks and spoons and a silver cup, which the young men had been using, in the cave, and he went back for them alone. When he reached the edge of the pond he heard voices, and went straight to the entrance of the cave through the brushwood.

“Have you come for your silver?” said Peyrade, showing his big red nose through the branches.

Without knowing why, for at any rate his young masters were safe, Michu felt a sharp agony in all his joints, so keen was the sense of vague, indefinable coming evil which took possession of him; but he went forward at once, and found Corentin on the stairs with a taper in his hand.

“We are not very harsh,” he said to Michu; “we might have seized your ci-devants any day for the last week; but we knew they were reinstated –You’re a tough fellow to deal with, and you gave us too much trouble not to make us anxious to satisfy our curiosity about this hiding- place of yours.”

“I’d give something,” cried Michu, “to know how and by whom we have been sold.”

“If that puzzles you, old fellow,” said Peyrade, laughing, “look at your horses’ shoes, and you’ll see that you betrayed yourselves.”

“Well, there need be no rancor!” said Corentin, whistling for the captain of gendarmerie and their horses.

“So that rascally Parisian blacksmith who shoed the horses in the English fashion and left Cinq-Cygne only the other day was their spy!” thought Michu. “They must have followed our tracks when the ground was damp. Well, we’re quits now!”

Michu consoled himself by thinking that the discovery was of no consequence, as the young men were now safe, Frenchmen once more, and at liberty. Yet his first presentiment was a true one. The police, like the Jesuits, have the one virtue of never abandoning their friends or their enemies.

Old d’Hauteserre returned from Paris and was more than surprised not to be the first to bring the news. Durieu prepared a succulent dinner, the servants donned their best clothes, and the household impatiently awaited the exiles, who arrived about four o’clock, happy,–and yet humiliated, for they found they were to be under police surveillance for two years, obliged to present themselves at the prefecture every month and ordered to remain in the commune of Cinq-Cygne during the said two years. “I’ll send you the papers for signature,” the prefect said to them. “Then, in the course of a few months, you can ask to be relieved of these conditions, which are imposed on all of Pichegru’s accomplices. I will back your request.”

These restrictions, fairly deserved, rather dispirited the young men, but Laurence laughed at them.

“The Emperor of the French,” she said, “was badly brought up; he has not yet acquired the habit of bestowing favors graciously.”

The party found all the inhabitants of the chateau at the gates, and a goodly proportion of the people of the village waiting on the road to see the young men, whose adventures had made them famous throughout the department. Madame d’Hauteserre held her sons to her breast for a long time, her face covered with tears; she was unable to speak and remained silent, though happy, through a part of the evening. No sooner had the Simeuse twins dismounted than a cry of surprise arose on all sides, caused by their amazing resemblance,–the same look, the same voice, the same actions. They both had the same movement in rising from their saddles, in throwing their leg over the crupper of their horses when dismounting, in flinging the reins upon the animal’s neck. Their dress, precisely the same, contributed to this likeness. They wore boots /a la/ Suwaroff, made to fit the instep, tight trousers of white leather, green hunting-jackets with metal buttons, black cravats, and buckskin gloves. The two young men, just thirty-one years of age, were–to use a term in vogue in those days–charming cavaliers, of medium height but well set up, brilliant eyes with long lashes, floating in liquid like those of children, black hair, noble brows, and olive skin. Their speech, gentle as that of a woman, fell graciously from their fresh red lips; their manners, more elegant and polished than those of the provincial gentlemen, showed that knowledge of men and things had given them that supplementary education which makes its possessor a man of the world.

Not lacking money, thanks to Michu, during their emigration, they had been able to travel and be received at foreign courts. Old d’Hauteserre and the abbe thought them rather haughty; but in their present position this may have been the sign of nobility of character. They possessed all the eminent little marks of a careful education, to which they added a wonderful dexterity in bodily exercises. Their only dissimilarity was in the region of ideas. The youngest charmed others by his gaiety, the eldest by his melancholy; but the contrast, which was purely spiritual, was not at first observable.

“Ah, wife,” whispered Michu in Marthe’s ear, “how could one help devoting one’s self to those young fellows?”

Marthe, who admired them as a wife and mother, nodded her head prettily and pressed her husband’s hand. The servants were allowed to kiss their new masters.

During their seven months’ seclusion in the forest (which the young men had brought upon themselves) they had several times committed the imprudence of taking walks about their hiding-place, carefully guarded by Michu, his son, and Gothard. During these walks, taken usually on starlit nights, Laurence, reuniting the thread of their past and present lives, felt the utter impossibility of choosing between the brothers. A pure and equal love for each divided her heart. She fancied indeed that she had two hearts. On their side, the brothers dared not speak to themselves of their impending rivalry. Perhaps all three were trusting to time and accident. The condition of her mind on this subject acted no doubt upon Laurence as they entered the house, for she hesitated a moment, and then took an arm of each as she entered the salon followed by Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, who were occupied with their sons. Just then a cheer burst from the servants, “Long live the Cinq-Cygne and the Simeuse families!” Laurence turned round, still between the brothers, and made a charming gesture of acknowledgement

When these nine persons came to actually observe each other,–for in all meetings, even in the bosom of families, there comes a moment when friends observe those from whom they have been long parted,–the first glance which Adrien d’Hauteserre cast upon Laurence seemed to his mother and to the abbe to betray love. Adrien, the youngest of the d’Hauteserres, had a sweet and tender soul; his heart had remained adolescent in spite of the catastrophes which had nerved the man. Like many young heroes, kept virgin in spirit by perpetual peril, he was daunted by the timidities of youth. In this he was very different from his brother, a man of rough manners, a great hunter, an intrepid soldier, full of resolution, but coarse in fibre and without activity of mind or delicacy in matters of the heart. One was all soul, the other all action; and yet they both possessed in the same degree that sense of honor which is the vital essence of a gentleman. Dark, short, slim and wiry, Adrien d’Hauteserre gave an impression of strength; whereas Robert, who was tall, pale and fair, seemed weakly. Adrien, nervous in temperament, was stronger in soul; while his brother though lymphatic, was fonder of bodily exercise. Families often present these singularities of contrast, the causes of which it might be interesting to examine; but they are mentioned here merely to explain how it was that Adrien was not likely to find a rival in his brother. Robert’s affection for Laurence was that of a relation, the respect of a noble for a girl of his own caste. In matters of sentiment the elder d’Hauteserre belonged to the class of men who consider woman as an appendage to man, limiting her sphere to the physical duties of maternity; demanding perfection in that respect, but regarding her mentally as of no account. To such men the admittance of woman as an actual sharer in society, in the body politic, in the family, meant the subversion of the social system. In these days we are so far removed from this theory of primitive people that almost all women, even those who do not desire the fatal emancipation offered by the new sects, will be shocked in merely hearing of it; but it must be owned that Robert d’Hauteserre had the misfortune to think in that way. Robert was a man of the middle-ages, Adrien a man of to-day. These differences instead of hindering their affection had drawn its bonds the closer. On the first evening after the return of the young men these shades of character were caught and understood by the abbe, Mademoiselle Goujet, and Madame d’Hauteserre, who, while playing their boston, were secretly foreseeing the difficulties of the future.

At twenty-three years of age, having passed through the many reflections of a long solitude and the anguish of a defeated enterprise, Laurence had become a woman, and felt within her an absorbing desire for affection. She now put forth all her graces of her mind and was charming; she revealed the hidden beauties of her tender heart with the simple candor of a child. For the last thirteen years she had been a woman only through suffering; she longed to obtain amends for it, and she showed herself as loving and winning as she had been, up to this time, strong and great.

The four elders, who were the last to leave the salon that night, admitted to each other that they felt uneasy at the new position of this charming girl. What power might not passion have on a young woman of her character and with her nobility of soul? The twin brothers loved her with one and the same love and a blind devotion; which of the two would Laurence choose? To choose one was to kill the other. Countess in her own right, she could bring her husband a title and certain prerogatives, together with a long lineage. Perhaps in thinking of these advantages the elder of the twins, the Marquis de Simeuse, would sacrifice himself to give Laurence to his brother, who, according to the old laws, was poor and without a title. But would the younger brother deprive the elder of the happiness of having Laurence for a wife? At a distance, this strife of love and generosity might do no harm,–in fact, so long as the brothers were facing danger the chances of war might end the difficulty; but what would be the result of this reunion? When Marie-Paul and Paul-Marie reached the age when passions rise to their greatest height could they share, as now, the looks and words and attentions of their cousin? must there not inevitably arise a jealousy between them the consequences of which might be horrible? What would then become of the unity of those beautiful lives, one in heart though twain in body? To these questionings, passed from one to another as they finished their game, Madame d’Hauteserre replied that in her opinion Laurence would not marry either of her cousins. The poor lady had experienced that evening one of those inexplicable presentiments which are secrets between the mother’s heart and God.

Laurence, in her inward consciousness, was not less alarmed at finding herself tete-a-tete with her cousins. To the active drama of conspiracy, to the dangers which the brothers had incurred, to the pain and penalties of their exile, was now succeeding another sort of drama, of which she had never thought. This noble girl could not resort to the violent means of refusing to marry either of the twins; and she was too honest a woman to marry one and keep an irresistible passion for the other in her heart. To remain unmarried, to weary her cousins’ love by no decision, and then to take the one who was faithful to her in spite of her caprices, was a solution of the difficulty not so much sought for by her as vaguely admitted. As she fell asleep that night she told herself the wisest course to follow was to let things take their chance. Chance is, in love, the providence of women.

The next morning Michu went to Paris, whence he returned a few days later with four fine horses for his new masters. In six weeks’ time the hunting would begin, and the young countess sagely reflected that the violent excitements of that exercise would be a help against the tete-a-tetes of the chateau. At first, however, an unexpected result surprised the spectators of these strange loves and roused their admiration. Without any premeditated agreement the brothers rivalled each other in attentions to Laurence, with a sense of pleasure in so doing which appeared to suffice them. The relation between themselves and Laurence was just as fraternal as that between themselves. What could be more natural? After so long an absence they felt the necessity of studying her, of knowing her well and letting her know them, leaving to her the right of choice. They were sustained in this first trial by the mutual affection which made their double life one and the same life.

Love, like their own mother, was unable to distinguish between the brothers. Laurence was obliged (in order to know them apart and make no mistakes) to give them different cravats–to the elder a white one, to the younger black. Without this perfect resemblance, this identity of life, which misled all about them, such a situation would be justly thought impossible. It can, indeed, be explained only by the fact itself, which is one of those which men do not believe in unless they see them; and then the mind is more bewildered by having to explain them than by the actual sight which caused belief. If Laurence spoke, her voice echoed in two hearts equally faithful and loving with one tone. Did she give utterance to an intelligent, or witty, or noble thought, her glance encountered the delight expressed in two glances which followed her every movement, interpreted her slightest wish, and beamed upon her ever with a new expression, gaiety in the one, tender melancholy in the other. In any matter that concerned their mistress the brothers showed an admirable quick-wittedness of heart coupled with instant action which (to use the abbe’s own expression) approached the sublime. Often, if something had to be fetched, if it was a question of some little attention which men delight to pay to a beloved woman, the elder would leave that pleasure to the younger with a look at Laurence that was proud and tender. The younger, on the other hand, put all his own pride into paying such debts. This rivalry of noble natures in a feeling which leads men often to the jealous ferocity of the beasts amazed the old people who were watching it, and bewildered their ideas.

Such little details often drew tears to the eyes of the countess. A single sensation, which is perhaps all-powerful in some rare organizations, will give an idea of Laurence’s emotions; it may be perceived by recalling the perfect unison of two fine voices (like those of Malibran and Sontag) in some harmonious /duo/, or the blending of two instruments touched by the hand of genius, their melodious tones entering the soul like the passionate sighing of one heart. Sometimes, seeing the Marquis de Simeuse buried in an arm-chair and glancing from time to time with deepest melancholy at his brother and Laurence who were talking and laughing, the abbe believed him capable of making the great sacrifice; presently, however, the priest would see in the young man’s eyes the flash of an unconquerable passion. Whenever either of the brothers found himself alone with Laurence he might reasonably suppose himself the one preferred.

“I fancy then that there is but one of them,” explained the countess to the abbe when he questioned her. That answer showed the priest her total want of coquetry. Laurence did not conceive that she was loved by two men.

“But, my dear child,” said Madame d’Hauteserre one evening (her own son silently dying of love for Laurence), “you must choose!”

“Oh, let us be happy,” she replied; “God will save us from ourselves.”

Adrien d’Hauteserre buried within his breast the jealousy that was consuming him; he kept the secret of his torture, aware of how little he could hope. He tried to be content with the happiness of seeing the charming woman who during the few months this struggle lasted shone in all her brilliancy. In one sense Laurence had become coquettish, taking that dainty care of her person which women who are loved delight in. She followed the fashions, and went more than once to Paris to deck her beauty with /chiffons/ or some choice novelty. Desirous of giving her cousins a sense of home and its every enjoyment, from which they had so long been severed, she made her chateau, in spite of the remonstrances of her late guardian, the most completely comfortable house in Champagne.

Robert d’Hauteserre saw nothing of this hidden drama; he never noticed his brother’s love for Laurence. As to the girl herself, he liked to tease her about her coquetry,–for he confounded that odious defect with the natural desire to please; he was always mistaken in matters of feeling, taste, and the higher ethics. So, whenever this man of the middle-ages appeared on the scene, Laurence immediately made him, unknown to himself, the clown of the play; she amused her cousins by arguing with Robert, and leading him, step by step, into some bog of ignorance and stupidity. She excelled in such clever mischief, which, to be really successful, must leave the victim content with himself. And yet, though his nature was a coarse one, Robert never, during those delightful months (the only happy period in the lives of the three young people) said one virile word which might have brought matters to a crisis between Laurence and her cousins. He was struck with the sincerity of the brothers; he saw how the one could be glad at the happiness of the other and yet suffer anguish in the depths of his heart, and he did perceive how a woman might shrink from showing tenderness to one which would grieve the other. This perception on Robert’s part was a just one; it explains a situation which, in times of faith, when the sovereign pontiff had power to intervene and cut the Gordian knot of such phenomena (allied to the deepest and most impenetrable mysteries), would have found its solution. The Revolution had deepened the Catholic faith in these young hearts, and religion now rendered this crisis in their lives the more severe, because nobility of character is ever heightened by the grandeur of circumstances. A sense of this truth kept Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and the abbe from the slightest fear of any unworthy result on the part of the brothers or of Laurence.

This private drama, secretly developing within the limits of the family life where each member watched it silently, ran its course so rapidly and withal so slowly, it carried with it so many unhoped-for pleasures, trifling jars, frustrated fancies, hopes reversed, anxious waitings, delayed explanations and mute avowals that the dwellers at Cinq-Cygne paid no attention to the public drama of the Emperor’s coronation. At times these passions made a truce and sought distraction in the violent enjoyment of hunting, when weariness of body took from the soul all occasions to wander in the dangerous meadows of reverie. Neither Laurence nor her cousins had a thought now for public affairs; each day brought its palpitating and absorbing interests for their hearts.

“Really,” said Mademoiselle Goujet one evening, “I don’t know which of all the lovers loves the most.”

Adrien, who happened to be alone in the salon with the four card- players, raised his eyes and turned pale. For the last few days his only hold on life had been the pleasure of seeing Laurence and of listening to her.

“I think,” said the abbe, “that the countess, being a woman, loves with the greater abandonment to love.”

Laurence, the twins, and Robert entered the room soon after. The newspapers had just arrived. England, seeing the failure of all conspiracies attempted within the borders of France, was now arming all Europe against their common enemy. The disaster at Trafalgar had overthrown one of the most amazing plans which human genius ever conceived; by which, if it had succeeded, the Emperor would have paid the nation for his election by the ruin of the British power. The camp at Boulogne had just been raised. Napoleon, whose solders were, as always, inferior in numbers to the enemy, was about to carry the war into parts of Europe where he had not before waged it. The whole world was breathless, awaiting the results of the campaign.

“He’ll surely be defeated this time,” said Robert, laying down the paper.

“The armies of Austria and of Russia are before him,” said Marie-Paul.

“He has never fought in Germany,” added Paul-Marie.

“Of whom are you speaking?” asked Laurence.

“The Emperor,” answered the three gentlemen.

The jealous girl threw a disdainful look at her twin lovers, which humiliated them while it rejoiced the heart of Adrien, who made a gesture of admiration and gave her one proud look, which said plainly that /he/ thought only of her,–of Laurence.

“I told you,” said the abbe in a low voice, “that love would some day cause her to forget her animosity.”

It was the first, last, and only reproach the brothers ever received from her; but certainly at that moment their love, which could still be distracted by national events, was inferior to that of Laurence, which, absorbed her mind so completely that she only knew of the amazing triumph at Austerlitz by overhearing a discussion between Monsieur d’Hauteserre and his sons.

Faithful to his ideas of submission, the old man wished both Robert and Adrien to re-enter the French army and apply for service; they could, he thought, be reinstated in their rank and soon find an opening to military honors. But royalist opinions were now all- powerful at Cinq-Cygne. The four young men and Laurence laughed at their prudent elder, who seemed to foresee a coming evil. Possibly, prudence is less virtue than the exercise of some instinct, or /sense/ of the mind (if it is allowable to couple those two words). A day will come, no doubt, when physiologists and philosophers will both admit that the senses are, in some way, the sheath or vehicle of a keen and penetrative active power which issues from the mind.

CHAPTER XI

WISE COUNSEL

After peace was concluded between France and Austria, towards the end of the month of February, 1806, a relative, whose influence had been employed for the reinstatement of the Simeuse brothers, and who was destined later to give them signal proofs of family attachment, the ci-devant Marquis de Chargeboeuf, whose estates extended from the department of the Seine-et-Marne to that of the Aube, arrived one morning at Cinq-Cygne in a species of caleche which was then named in derision a /berlingot/. When this shabby carriage was driven past the windows the inhabitants of the chateau, who were at breakfast, were convulsed with laughter; but when the bald head of the old man was seen issuing from behind the leather curtain of the vehicle Monsieur d’Hauteserre told his name, and all present rose instantly to receive and do honor to the head of the house of Chargeboeuf.

“We have done wrong to let him come to us,” said the Marquis de Simeuse to his brother and the d’Hauteserres; “we ought to have gone to him and made our acknowledgements.”

A servant, dressed as a peasant, who drove the horses from a seat on a level with the body of the carriage, slipped his cartman’s whip into a coarse leather socket, and got down from the box to assist the marquis from the carriage; but Adrien and the younger de Simeuse prevented him, unbuttoned the leather apron, and helped the old man out in spite of his protestations. This gentleman of the old school chose to consider his yellow /berlingot/ with its leather curtains a most convenient and excellent equipage. The servant, assisted by Gothard, unharnessed the stout horses with shining flanks, accustomed no doubt to do as much duty at the plough as in a carriage.

“In spite of this cold weather! Why, you are a knight of the olden time,” said Laurence, to her visitor, taking his arm and leading him into the salon.

“What has he come for?” thought old d’Hauteserre.

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, a handsome old gentleman of sixty-six, in light-colored breeches, his small weak legs encased in colored stockings, wore powder, pigeon-wings and a queue. His green cloth hunting-coat with gold buttons was braided and frogged with gold. His white waistcoat glittered with gold embroidery. This apparel, still in vogue among old people, became his face, which was not unlike that of Frederick the Great. He never put on his three-cornered hat lest he should destroy the effect of the half-moon traced upon his cranium by a layer of powder. His right hand, resting on a hooked cane, held both cane and hat in a manner worthy of Louis XIV. The fine old gentleman took off his wadded silk pelisse and seated himself in an armchair, holding the three-cornered hat and the cane between his knees in an attitude the secret of which has never been grasped by any but the roues of Louis XV.’s court, an attitude which left the hands free to play with a snuff-box, always a precious trinket. Accordingly the marquis drew from the pocket of his waistcoat, which was closed by a flap embroidered in gold arabesques, a sumptuous snuff-box. While fingering his own pinch and offering the box around him with another charming gesture accompanied with kindly smiles, he noticed the pleasure which his visit gave. He seemed then to comprehend why these young /emigres/ had been remiss in their duty towards him, and to be saying to himself, “When we are making love we can’t make visits.”

“You will stay with us some days?” said Laurence.

“Impossible,” he replied. “If we were not so separated by events (for as to distance, you go farther than that which lies between us) you would know, my dear child, that I have daughters, daughters-in-law, and grand-children. All these dear creatures would be very uneasy if I did not return to them to-night, and I have forty-five miles to go.”

“Your horses are in good condition,” said the Marquis de Simeuse.

“Oh! I am just from Troyes, where I had business yesterday.”

After the customary polite inquiries for the Marquise de Chargeboeuf and other matters really uninteresting but about which politeness assumes that we are keenly interested, it dawned on Monsieur d’Hauteserre that the old gentleman had come to warn his young relatives against imprudence. He remarked that times were changed and no one could tell what the Emperor might now become.

“Oh!” said Laurence, “he’ll make himself God.”

The Marquis spoke of the wisdom of concession. When he stated, with more emphasis and authority than he put into his other remarks, the necessity of submission, Monsieur d’Hauteserre looked at his sons with an almost supplicating air.

“Would you serve that man?” asked the Marquis de Simeuse.

“Yes, I would, if the interests of my family required it,” replied Monsieur de Chargeboeuf.

Gradually the old man made them aware, though vaguely, of some threatened danger. When Laurence begged him to explain the nature of it, he advised the four young men to refrain from hunting and to keep themselves as much in retirement as possible.

“You treat the domain of Gondreville as if it were your own,” he said to the Messieurs de Simeuse, “and you are keeping alive a deadly hatred. I see, by the surprise upon your faces, that you are quite unaware of the ill-will against you at Troyes, where your late brave conduct is remembered. They tell of how you foiled the police of the Empire; some praise you for it, but others regard you as enemies of the Emperor; partisans declare that Napoleon’s clemency is inexplicable. That, however, is nothing. The real danger lies here; you foiled men who thought themselves cleverer than you; and low-bred men never forgive. Sooner or later justice, which in your department emanates from your enemy, Senator Malin (who has his henchmen everywhere, even in the ministerial offices),–/his/ justice will rejoice to see you involved in some annoying scrape. A peasant, for instance, will quarrel with you for riding over his field; your guns are in your hands, you are hot-tempered, and something happens. In your position it is absolutely essential that you should not put yourselves in the wrong. I do not speak to you thus without good reason. The police keep this arrondissement under strict surveillance; they have an agent in that little hole of Arcis expressly to protect the Imperial senator Malin against your attacks. He is afraid of you, and says so openly.”

“It is a calumny!” cried the younger Simeuse.

“A calumny,–I am sure of it myself, but will the public believe it? Michu certainly did aim at the senator, who does not forget the danger he was in; and since your return the countess has taken Michu into her service. To many persons, in fact to the majority, Malin will seem to be in the right. You do not understand how delicate the position of an /emigre/ is towards those who are now in possession of his property. The prefect, a very intelligent man, dropped a word to me yesterday about you which has made me uneasy. In short, I sincerely wish you would not remain here.”

This speech was received in dumb amazement. Marie-Paul rang the bell.

“Gothard,” he said, to the little page, “send Michu here.”

“Michu, my friend,” said the Marquis de Simeuse when the man appeared, “is it true that you intended to kill Malin?”

“Yes, Monsieur le marquis; and when he comes here again I shall lie in wait for him.”

“Do you know that we are suspected of instigating it, and that our cousin, by taking you as her farmer is supposed to be furthering your scheme?”

“Good God!” cried Michu, “am I accursed? Shall I never be able to rid you of that villain?”

“No, my man, no!” said Paul-Marie. “But we will always take care of you, though you will have to leave our service and the country too. Sell your property here; we will send you to Trieste to a friend of ours who has immense business connections, and he’ll employ you until things are better in this country for all of us.”

Tears came into Michu’s eyes; he stood rooted to the floor.

“Were there any witnesses when you aimed at Malin?” asked the Marquis de Chargeboeuf.

“Grevin the notary was talking with him, and that prevented my killing him–very fortunately, as Madame la Comtesse knows,” said Michu, looking at his mistress.

“Grevin is not the only one who knows it?” said Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, who seemed annoyed at what was said, though none but the family were present.

“That police spy who came here to trap my masters, he knew it too,” said Michu.

Monsieur de Chargeboeuf rose as if to look at the gardens, and said, “You have made the most of Cinq-Cygne.” Then he left the house, followed by the two brothers and Laurence, who now saw the meaning of his visit.

“You are frank and generous, but most imprudent,” said the old man. “It was natural enough that I should warn you of a rumor which was certain to be a slander; but what have you done now? you have let such weak persons as Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre and their sons see that there was truth in it. Oh, young men! young men! You ought to keep Michu here and go away yourselves. But if you persist in remaining, at least write a letter to the senator and tell him that having heard the rumors about Michu you have dismissed him from your employ.”

“We!” exclaimed the brothers; “what, write to Malin,–to the murderer of our father and our mother, to the insolent plunderer of our property!”

“All true; but he is one of the chief personages at the Imperial court, and the king of your department.”

“He, who voted for the death of Louis XVI. in case the army of Conde entered France!” cried Laurence.

“He, who probably advised the murder of the Duc d’Enghien!” exclaimed Paul-Marie.

“Well, well, if you want to recapitulate his titles of nobility,” cried Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, “say he who pulled Robespierre by the skirts of his coat to make him fall when he saw that his enemies were stronger than he; he who would have shot Bonaparte if the 18th Brumaire had missed fire; he who manoeuvres now to bring back the Bourbons if Napoleon totters; he whom the strong will ever find on their side to handle either sword or pistol and put an end to an adversary whom they fear! But–all that is only reason the more for what I urge upon you.”

“We have fallen very low,” said Laurence.

“Children,” said the old marquis, taking them by the hand and going to the lawn, then covered by a slight fall of snow; “you will be angry at the prudent advice of an old man, but I am bound to give it, and here it is: If I were you I would employ as go-between some trustworthy old fellow–like myself, for instance; I would commission him to ask Malin for a million of francs for the title-deeds of Gondreville; he would gladly consent if the matter were kept secret. You will then have capital in hand, an income of a hundred thousand francs, and you can buy a fine estate in another part of France. As for Cinq-Cygne, it can safely be left to the management of Monsieur d’Hauteserre, and you can draw lots as to which of you shall win the hand of this dear heiress– But ah! I know the words of an old man in the ears of the young are like the words of the young in the ears of the old, a sound without meaning.”

The old marquis signed to his three relatives that he wished no answer, and returned to the salon, where, during their absence, the abbe and his sister had arrived.

The proposal to draw lots for their cousin’s hand had offended the brothers, while Laurence revolted in her soul at the bitterness of the remedy the old marquis counselled. All three were now less gracious to him, though they did not cease to be polite. The warmth of their feeling was chilled. Monsieur de Chargeboeuf, who felt the change, cast frequent looks of kindly compassion on these charming young people. The conversation became general, but the old marquis still dwelt on the necessity of submitting to events, and he applauded Monsieur d’Hauteserre for his persistence in urging his sons to take service under the Empire.

“Bonaparte,” he said, “makes dukes. He has created Imperial fiefs, he will therefore make counts. Malin is determined to be Comte de Gondreville. That is a fancy,” he added, looking at the Simeuse brothers, “which might be profitable to you–“

“Or fatal,” said Laurence.

As soon as the horses were put-to the marquis took leave, accompanied to the door by the whole party. When fairly in the carriage he made a sign to Laurence to come and speak to him, and she sprang upon the foot-board with the lightness of a swallow.

“You are not an ordinary woman, and you ought to understand me,” he said in her ear. “Malin’s conscience will never allow him to leave you in peace; he will set some trap to injure you. I implore you to be careful of all your actions, even the most unimportant. Compromise, negotiate; those are my last words.”

The brothers stood motionless behind their cousin and watched the /berlingot/ as it turned through the iron gates and took the road to Troyes. Laurence repeated the old man’s last words. But sage experience should not present itself to the eyes of youth in a /berlingot/, colored stockings, and a queue. These ardent young hearts had no conception of the change that had passed over France; indignation crisped their nerves, honor boiled with their noble blood through every vein.

“He, the head of the house of Chargeboeuf!” said the Marquis de Simeuse. “A man who bears the motto /Adsit fortior/, the noblest of warcries!”

“We are no longer in the days of Saint-Louis,” said the younger Simeuse.

“But ‘We die singing,'” said the countess. “The cry of the five young girls of my house is mine!”

“And ours, ‘Cy meurs,'” said the elder Simeuse. “Therefore, no quarter, I say; for, on reflection, we shall find that our relative had pondered well what he told us–Gondreville to be the title of a Malin!”

“And his seat!” said the younger.

“Mansart designed it for noble stock, and the populace will get their children in it!” exclaimed the elder.

“If that were to come to pass, I’d rather see Gondreville in ashes!” cried Mademoiselle Cinq-Cygne.

One of the villagers, who had entered the grounds to examine a calf Monsieur d’Hauteserre was trying to sell him, overheard these words as he came from the cow-sheds.

“Let us go in,” said Laurence, laughing; “this is very imprudent; we are giving the old marquis a right to blame us. My poor Michu,” she added, as she entered the salon, “I had forgotten your adventure; as we are not in the odor of sanctity in these parts you must be careful not to compromise us in future. Have you any other peccadilloes on your conscience?”

“I blame myself for not having killed the murderer of my old masters before I came to the rescue of my present ones–“

“Michu!” said the abbe in a warning tone.

“But I’ll not leave the country,” Michu continued, paying no heed to the abbe’s exclamation, “till I am certain you are safe. I see fellows roaming about here whom I distrust. The last time we hunted in the forest, that keeper who took my place at Gondreville came to me and asked if we supposed we were on our own property. ‘Ho! my lad,’ I said, ‘we can’t get rid in two weeks of ideas we’ve had for centuries.'”

“You did wrong, Michu,” said the Marquis de Simeuse, smiling with satisfaction.

“What answer did he make?” asked Monsieur d’Hauteserre.

“He said he would inform the senator of our claims,” replied Michu.

“Comte de Gondreville!” repeated the elder Simeuse; “what a masquerade! But after all, they say ‘your Majesty’ to Bonaparte!”

“And to the Grand Duc de Berg, ‘your Highness!'” said the abbe.

“Who is he?” asked the Marquis de Simeuse.

“Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law,” replied old d’Hauteserre.

“Delightful!” remarked Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. “Do they also say ‘your Majesty’ to the widow of Beauharnais?”

“Yes, mademoiselle,” said the abbe.

“We ought to go to Paris and see it all,” cried Laurence.

“Alas, mademoiselle,” said Michu, “I was there to put Francois at school, and I swear to you there’s no joking with what they call the Imperial Guard. If the rest of the army are like them, the thing may last longer than we.”

“They say many of the noble families are taking service,” said Monsieur d’Hauteserre.

“According to the present law,” added the abbe, “you will be compelled to serve. The conscription makes no distinction of ranks or names.”

“That man is doing us more harm with his court than the Revolution did with its axe!” cried Laurence.

“The Church prays for him,” said the abbe.

These remarks, made rapidly one after another, were so many commentaries on the wise counsel of the old Marquis de Chargeboeuf; but the young people had too much faith, too much honor, to dream of resorting to a compromise. They told themselves, as all vanquished parties in all times have declared, that the luck of the conquerors would soon be at an end, that the Emperor had no support but that of the army, that the power /de facto/ must sooner or later give way to the Divine Right, etc. So, in spite of the wise counsel given to them, they fell into the pitfall, which others, like old d’Hauteserre, more prudent and more amenable to reason, would have been able to avoid. If men were frank they might perhaps admit that misfortunes never overtake them until after they have received either an actual or an occult warning. Many do not perceive the deep meaning of such visible or invisible signs until after the disaster is upon them.

“In any case, Madame la comtesse knows that I cannot leave the country until I have given up a certain trust,” said Michu in a low voice to Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.

For all answer she made him a sign of acquiescence, and he left the room.

CHAPTER XII

THE FACTS OF A MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR

Michu sold his farm at once to Beauvisage, a farmer at Bellache, but he was not to receive the money for twenty days. A month after the Marquis de Chargeboeuf’s visit, Laurence, who had told her cousins of their buried fortune, proposed to them to take the day of the Mi-careme to disinter it. The unusual quantity of snow which fell that winter had hitherto prevented Michu from obtaining the treasure, and it now gave him pleasure to undertake the operation with his masters. He was determined to leave the neighborhood as soon as it was over, for he feared himself.

“Malin has suddenly arrived at Gondreville, and no one knows why,” he said to his mistress. “I shall never be able to resist putting the property into the market by the death of its owner. I feel I am guilty in not following my inspirations.”

“Why should he leave Paris at this season?” said the countess.

“All Arcis is talking about it,” replied Michu; “he has left his family in Paris, and no one is with him but his valet. Monsieur Grevin, the notary of Arcis, Madame Marion, the wife of the receiver- general, and her sister-in-law are staying at Gondreville.”

Laurence had chosen the mid-lent day for their purpose because it enabled her to give her servants a holiday and so get them out of the way. The usual masquerade drew the peasantry to the town and no one was at work in the fields. Chance made its calculations with as much cleverness as Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne made hers. The uneasiness of Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre at the idea of keeping eleven hundred thousand francs in gold in a lonely chateau on the borders of a forest was likely to be so great that their sons advised they should know nothing about it. The secret of the expedition was therefore confined to Gothard, Michu, Laurence, and the four gentlemen.

After much consultation it seemed possible to put forty-eight thousand francs in a long sack on the crupper of each of their horses. Three trips would therefore bring the whole. It was agreed to send all the servants, whose curiosity might be troublesome, to Troyes to see the shows. Catherine, Marthe, and Durieu, who could be relied on, stayed at home in charge of the house. The other servants were glad of their holiday and started by daybreak. Gothard, assisted by Michu, saddled the horses as soon as they were gone, and the party started by way of the gardens to reach the forest. Just as they were mounting–for the park gate was so low on the garden side that they led their horses until they were through it–old Beauvisage, the farmer at Bellache, happened to pass.

“There!” cried Gothard, “I hear some one.”

“Oh, it is only I,” said the worthy man, coming toward them. “Your servant, gentleman; are you off hunting, in spite of the new decrees? /I/ don’t complain of you; but do take care! though you have friends you have also enemies.”

“Oh, as for that,” said the elder Hauteserre, smiling, “God grant that our hunt may be lucky to-day,–if so, you will get your masters back again.”

These words, to which events were destined to give a totally different meaning, earned a severe look from Laurence. The elder Simeuse was confident that Malin would restore Gondreville for an indemnity. These rash youths were determined to do exactly the contrary of what the Marquis de Chargeboeuf had advised. Robert, who shared these hopes, was thinking of them when he gave utterance to the fatal words.

“Not a word of this, old friend,” said Michu to Beauvisage, waiting behind the others to lock the gate.

It was one of those fine mornings in March when the air is dry, the earth pure, the sky clear, and the atmosphere a contradiction to the leafless trees; the season was so mild that the eye caught glimpses here and there of verdure.

“We are seeking treasure when all the while you are the real treasure of our house, cousin,” said the elder Simeuse, gaily.

Laurence was in front, with a cousin on each side of her. The d’Hauteserres were behind, followed by Michu. Gothard had gone forward to clear the way.

“Now that our fortune is restored, you must marry my brother,” said the younger in a low voice. “He adores you; together you will be as rich as nobles ought to be in these days.”

“No, give the whole fortune to him and I will marry you,” said Laurence; “I am rich enough for two.”

“So be it,” cried the Marquis; “I will leave you, and find a wife worthy to be your sister.”

“So you really love me less than I thought you did?” said Laurence looking at him with a sort of jealousy.

“No; I love you better than either of you love me,” replied the marquis.

“And therefore you would sacrifice yourself?” asked Laurence with a glance full of momentary preference.

The marquis was silent.

“Well, then, I shall think only of you, and that will be intolerable to my husband,” exclaimed Laurence, impatient at his silence.

“How could I live without you?” said the younger twin to his brother.

“But, after all, you can’t marry us both,” said the marquis, replying to Laurence; “and the time has come,” he continued, in the brusque tone of a man who is struck to the heart, “to make your decision.”

He urged his horse in advance so that the d’Hauteserres might not overhear them. His brother’s horse and Laurence’s followed him. When they had put some distance between themselves and the rest of the party Laurence attempted to speak, but tears were at first her only language.

“I will enter a cloister,” she said at last.

“And let the race of Cinq-Cygne end?” said the younger brother. “Instead of one unhappy man, would you make two? No, whichever of us must be your brother only, will resign himself to that fate. It is the knowledge that we are no longer poor that has brought us to explain ourselves,” he added, glancing at the marquis. “If I am the one preferred, all this money is my brother’s. If I am rejected, he will give it to me with the title of de Simeuse, for he must then take the name and title of Cinq-Cygne. Whichever way it ends, the loser will have a chance of recovery–but if he feels he must die of grief, he can enter the army and die in battle, not to sadden the happy household.”

“We are true knights of the olden time, worthy of our fathers,” cried the elder. “Speak, Laurence; decide between us.”

“We cannot continue as we are,” said the younger.

“Do not think, Laurence, that self-denial is without its joys,” said the elder.

“My dear loved ones,” said the girl, “I am unable to decide. I love you both as though you were one being–as your mother loved you. God will help us. I cannot choose. Let us put it to chance–but I make one condition.”

“What is it?”

“Whichever one of you becomes my brother must stay with me until I suffer him to leave me. I wish to be sole judge of when to part.”

“Yes, yes,” said the brothers, without explaining to themselves her meaning.

“The first of you to whom Madame d’Hauteserre speaks to-night at table after the Benedicite, shall be my husband. But neither of you must practise fraud or induce her to answer a question.”

“We will play fair,” said the younger, smiling.

Each kissed her hand. The certainty of some decision which both could fancy favorable made them gay.

“Either way, dear Laurence, you create a Comte de Cinq-Cygne–“

“I believe,” thought Michu, riding behind them, “that mademoiselle will not long be unmarried. How gay my masters are! If my mistress makes her choice I shall not leave; I must stay and see that wedding.”

Just then a magpie flew suddenly before his face. Michu, superstitious like all primitive beings, fancied he heard the muffled tones of a death-knell. The day, however, began brightly enough for lovers, who rarely see magpies when together in the woods. Michu, armed with his plan, verified the spots; each gentleman had brought a pickaxe, and the money was soon found. The part of the forest where it was buried was quite wild, far from all paths or habitations, so that the cavalcade bearing the gold returned unseen. This proved to be a great misfortune. On their way from Cinq-Cygne to fetch the last two hundred thousand francs, the party, emboldened by success, took a more direct way than on their other trips. The path passed an opening from which the park of Gondreville could be seen.

“What is that?” cried Laurence, pointing to a column of blue flame.

“A bonfire, I think,” replied Michu.

Laurence, who knew all the by-ways of the forest, left the rest of the party and galloped towards the pavilion, Michu’s old home. Though the building was closed and deserted, the iron gates were open, and traces of the recent passage of several horses struck Laurence instantly. The column of blue smoke was rising from a field in what was called the English park, where, as she supposed, they were burning brush.

“Ah! so you are concerned in it, too, are you, mademoiselle?” cried Violette, who came out of the park at top speed on his pony, and pulled up to meet Laurence. “But, of course, it is only a carnival joke? They surely won’t kill him?”

“Who?”

“Your cousins wouldn’t put him to death?”

“Death! whose death?”

“The senator’s.”

“You are crazy, Violette!”

“Well, what are you doing here, then?” he demanded.

At the idea of a danger which was threatening her cousins, Laurence turned her horse and galloped back to them, reaching the ground as the last sacks were filled.

“Quick, quick!” she cried. “I don’t know what is going on, but let us get back to Cinq-Cygne.”

While the happy party were employed in recovering the fortune saved by the old marquis, and guarded for so many years by Michu, an extraordinary scene was taking place in the chateau of Gondreville.

About two o’clock in the afternoon Malin and his friend Grevin were playing chess before the fire in the great salon on the ground-floor. Madame Grevin and Madame Marion were sitting on a sofa and talking together at a corner of the fireplace. All the servants had gone to see the masquerade, which had long been announced in the arrondissement. The family of the bailiff who had replaced Michu had gone too. The senator’s valet and Violette were the only persons beside the family at the chateau. The porter, two gardeners, and their wives were on the place, but their lodge was at the entrance of the courtyards at the farther end of the avenue to Arcis, and the distance from there to the chateau is beyond the sound of a pistol-shot. Violette was waiting in the antechamber until the senator and Grevin could see him on business, to arrange a matter relating to his lease. At that moment five men, masked and gloved, who in height, manner, and bearing strongly resembled the Simeuse and d’Hauteserre brothers and Michu, rushed into the antechamber, seized and gagged the valet and Violette, and fastened them to their chairs in a side room. In spite of the rapidity with which this was done, Violette and the servant had time to utter one cry. It was heard in the salon. The two ladies thought it a cry of fear.

“Listen!” said Madame Grevin, “can there be robbers?”

“No, nonsense!” said Grevin, “only carnival cries; the masqueraders must be coming to pay us a visit.”

This discussion gave time for the four strangers to close the doors towards the courtyards and to lock up Violette and the valet. Madame Grevin, who was rather obstinate, insisted on knowing what the noise meant. She rose, left the room, and came face to face with the five masked men, who treated her as they had treated the farmer and the valet. Then they rushed into the salon, where the two strongest seized and gagged Malin, and carried him off into the park, while the three others remained behind to gag Madame Marion and Grevin and lash them to their armchairs. The whole affair did not take more than half an hour. The three unknown men, who were quickly rejoined by the two who had carried off the senator, then proceeded to ransack the chateau from cellar to garret. They opened all closets and doors, and sounded the walls; until five o’clock they were absolute masters of the place. By that time the valet had managed to loosen with his teeth the rope that bound Violette. Violette, able then to get the gag from his mouth, began to shout for help. Hearing the shouts the five men withdrew to the gardens, where they mounted horses closely resembling those at Cinq-Cygne and rode away, but not so rapidly that Violette was unable to catch sight of them. After releasing the valet, the two ladies, and the notary, Violette mounted his pony and rode after help. When he reached the pavilion he was amazed to see the gates open and Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne apparently on the watch.

Directly after the young countess had ridden off, Violette was overtaken by Grevin and the forester of the township of Gondreville, who had taken horses from the stables at the chateau. The porter’s wife was on her way to summon the gendarmerie from Arcis. Violette at once informed Grevin of his meeting with Laurence and the sudden flight of the daring girl, whose strong and decided character was known to all of them.

“She was keeping watch,” said Violette.

“Is it possible that those Cinq-Cygne people have done this thing?” cried Grevin.

“Do you mean to say you didn’t recognize that stout Michu?” exclaimed Violette. “It was he who attacked me; I knew his fist. Besides, they rode the Cinq-Cygne horses.”

Noticing the hoof-marks on the sand of the /rond-point/ and along the park road the notary stationed the forester at the gateway to see to the preservation of these precious traces until the justice of peace of Arcis (for whom he now sent Violette) could take note of them. He himself returned hastily to the chateau, where the lieutenant and sub- lieutenant of the Imperial gendarmerie at Arcis had arrived, accompanied by four men and a corporal. The lieutenant was the same man whose head Francois Michu had broken two years earlier, and who had heard from Corentin the name of his mischievous assailant. This man, whose name was Giguet (his brother was in the army, and became one of the finest colonels of artillery), was an extremely able officer of gendarmerie. Later he commanded the squadron of the Aube. The sub-lieutenant, named Welff, had formerly driven Corentin from Cinq-Cygne to the pavilion, and from the pavilion to Troyes. On the way, the spy had fully informed him as to what he called the trickery of Laurence and Michu. The two officers were therefore well inclined to show, and did show, great eagerness against the family at Cinq- Cygne.

CHAPTER XIII

THE CODE OF BRUMAIRE, YEAR IV.

Malin and Grevin had both, the latter working for the former, taken part in the construction of the Code called that of Brumaire, year IV., the judicial work of the National Convention, so-called, and promulgated by the Directory. Grevin knew its provisions thoroughly, and was able to apply them in this affair with terrible celerity, under a theory, now converted into a certainty, of the guilt of Michu and the Messieurs de Simeuse and d’Hauteserre. No one in these days, unless it be some antiquated magistrates, will remember this system of justice, which Napoleon was even then overthrowing by the promulgation of his own Codes, and by the institution of his magistracy under the form in which it now rules France.

The Code of Brumaire, year IV., gave to the director of the jury of the department the duty of discovering, indicting, and prosecuting the persons guilty of the delinquency committed at Gondreville. Remark, by the way, that the Convention had eliminated from its judicial vocabulary the word “crime”; /delinquencies/ and /misdemeanors/ were alone admitted; and these were punished with fines, imprisonment, and penalties “afflictive or infamous.” Death was an afflictive punishment. But the penalty of death was to be done away with after the restoration of peace, and twenty-four years of hard labor were to take its place. Thus the Convention estimated twenty-four years of hard labor as the equivalent of death. What therefore can be said for a code which inflicts the punishment of hard labor for life? The system then in process of preparation by the Napoleonic Council of State suppressed the function of the directors of juries, which united many enormous powers. In relation to the discovery of delinquencies and their prosecution the director of the jury was, in fact, agent of police, public prosecutor, municipal judge, and the court itself. His proceedings and his indictments were, however, submitted for signature to a commissioner of the executive power and to the verdict of eight jurymen, before whom he laid the facts of the case, and who examined the witnesses and the accused and rendered the preliminary verdict, called the indictment. The director was, however, in a position to exercise such influence over the jurymen, who met in his private office, that they could not well avoid agreeing with him. These jurymen were called the jury of indictment. There were others who formed the juries of the criminal tribunals whose duty it was to judge the accused; these were called, in contradistinction to the jury of indictment, the judgment jury. The criminal tribunal, to which Napoleon afterwards gave the name of criminal court, was composed of one President or chief justice, four judges, the public prosecutor, and a government commissioner.

Nevertheless, from 1799 to 1806 there were special courts (so-called) which judged without juries certain misdemeanors in certain departments; these were composed of judges taken from the civil courts and formed into a special court. This conflict of special justice and criminal justice gave rise to questions of competence which came before the courts of appeal. If the department of the Aube had had a special court, the verdict on the outrage committed on a senator of the Empire would no doubt have been referred to it; but this tranquil department had never needed unusual jurisdiction. Grevin therefore despatched the sub-lieutenant to Troyes to bring the director of the jury of that town. The emissary went at full gallop, and soon returned in a post-carriage with the all-powerful magistrate.

The director of the Troyes jury was formerly secretary of one of the committees of the Convention, a friend of Malin, to whom he owed his present place. This magistrate, named Lechesneau, had helped Malin, as Grevin had done, in his work on the Code during the Convention. Malin in return recommended him to Cambaceres, who appointed him attorney- general for Italy. Unfortunately for him, Lechesneau had a liaison with a great lady in Turin, and Napoleon removed him to avoid a criminal trial threatened by the husband. Lechesneau, bound in gratitude to Malin, felt the importance of this attack upon his patron, and brought with him a captain of gendarmerie and twelve men.

Before starting he laid his plans with the prefect, who was unable at that late hour, it being after dark, to use the telegraph. They therefore sent a mounted messenger to Paris to notify the minister of police, the chief justice and the Emperor of this extraordinary crime. In the salon of Gondreville, Lechesneau found Mesdames Marion and Grevin, Violette, the senator’s valet, and the justice of peace with his clerk. The chateau had already been examined; the justice, assisted by Grevin, had carefully collected the first testimony. The first thing that struck him was the obvious intention shown in the choice of the day and hour for the attack. The hour prevented an immediate search for proofs and traces. At this season it was nearly dark by half-past five, the hour at which Violette gave the alarm, and darkness often means impunity to evil-doers. The choice of a holiday, when most persons had gone to the masquerade at Arcis, and the senator was comparatively alone in the house, showed an obvious intention to get rid of witnesses.

“Let us do justice to the intelligence of the prefecture of police,” said Lechesneau; “they have never ceased to warn us to be on our guard against the nobles at Cinq-Cygne; they have always declared that sooner or later those people would play us some dangerous trick.”

Sure of the active co-operation of the prefect of the Aube, who sent messengers to all the surrounding prefectures asking them to search for the five abductors and the senator, Lechesneau began his work by verifying the first facts. This was soon done by the help of two such legal heads as those of Grevin and the justice of peace. The latter, named Pigoult, formerly head-clerk in the office where Malin and Grevin had first studied law in Paris, was soon after appointed judge of the municipal court at Arcis. In relation to Michu, Lechesneau knew of the threats the man had made about the sale of Gondreville to Marion, and the danger Malin had escaped in his own park from Michu’s gun. These two facts, one being the consequence of the other, were no doubt the precursors of the present successful attack, and they pointed so obviously to the late bailiff as the instigator of the outrage that Grevin, his wife, Violette, and Madame Marion declared that they had recognized among the five masked men one who exactly resembled Michu. The color of the hair and whiskers and the thick-set figure of the man made the mask he wore useless. Besides, who but Michu could have opened the iron gates of the park with a key? The present bailiff and his wife, now returned from the masquerade, deposed to have locked both gates before leaving the pavilion. The gates when examined showed no sign of being forced.

“When we turned him off he must have taken some duplicate keys with him,” remarked Grevin. “No doubt he has been meditating a desperate step, for he has lately sold his whole property, and he received the money for it in my office day before yesterday.”

“The others have followed his lead!” exclaimed Lechesneau, struck with the circumstances. “He has been their evil genius.”

Moreover, who could know as well as the Messieurs de Simeuse the ins and outs of the chateau. None of the assailants seemed to have blundered in their search; they had gone through the house in a confident way which showed that they knew what they wanted to find and where to find it. The locks of none of the opened closets had been forced; therefore the delinquents had keys. Strange to say, however, nothing had been taken; the motive, therefore, was not robbery. More than all, when Violette had followed the tracks of the horses as far as the /rond-point/, he had found the countess, evidently on guard, at the pavilion. From such a combination of facts and depositions arose a presumption as to the guilt of the Messieurs de Simeuse, d’Hauteserre, and Michu, which would have been strong to unprejudiced minds, and to the director of the jury had the force of certainty. What were they likely to do to the future Comte de Gondreville? Did they mean to force him to make over the estate for which Michu declared in 1799 he had the money to pay?

But there was another aspect of the cast to the knowing criminal lawyer. He asked himself what could be the object of the careful search made of the chateau. If revenge were at the bottom of the matter, the assailants would have killed the senator. Perhaps he had been killed and buried. The abduction, however, seemed to point to imprisonment. But why keep their victim imprisoned after searching the castle? It was folly to suppose that the abduction of a dignitary of the Empire could long remain secret. The publicity of the matter would prevent any benefit from it.

To these suggestions Pigoult replied that justice was never able to make out all the motives of scoundrels. In every criminal case there were obscurities, he said, between the judge and the guilty person; conscience had depths into which no human mind could enter unless by the confession of the criminal.

Grevin and Lechesneau nodded their assent, without, however, relaxing their determination to see to the bottom of the present mystery.

“The Emperor pardoned those young men,” said Pigoult to Grevin. “He removed their names from the list of /emigres/, though they certainly took part in that last conspiracy against him.”

Lechesneau make no delay in sending his whole force of gendarmerie to the forest and to the valley of Cinq-Cygne; telling Giguet to take with him the justice of peace, who, according to the terms of the Code, would then become an auxiliary police-officer. He ordered them to make all preliminary inquiries in the township of Cinq-Cygne, and to take testimony if necessary; and to save time, he dictated and signed a warrant for the arrest of Michu, against whom the charge was evident on the positive testimony of Violette. After the departure of the gendarmes Lechesneau returned to the important question of issuing warrants for the arrest of the Simeuse and d’Hauteserre brothers. According to the Code these warrants would have to contain the charges against the delinquents.

Giguet and the justice of peace rode so rapidly to Cinq-Cygne that they met Laurence’s servants returning from the festivities at Troyes. Stopped, and taken before the mayor where they were interrogated, they all stated, being ignorant of the importance of the answer, that their mistress had given them permission to spend the whole day at Troyes. To a question put by the justice of the peace, each replied that Mademoiselle had offered them the amusement which they had not thought of asking for. This testimony seemed so important to the justice of the peace that he sent back a messenger to Gondreville to advise Lechesneau to proceed himself to Cinq-Cygne and arrest the four gentlemen, while he went to Michu’s farm, so that the five arrests might be made simultaneously.

This new element was so convincing that Lechesneau started at once for Cinq-Cygne. He knew well what pleasure would be felt in Troyes at such proceedings against the old nobles, the enemies of the people, now become the enemies of the Emperor. In such circumstances a magistrate is very apt to take mere presumptive evidence for actual proof. Nevertheless, on his way from Gondreville to Cinq-Cygne, in the senator’s own carriage, it did occur to Lechesneau (who would certainly have made a fine magistrate had it not been for his love- affair, and the Emperor’s sudden morality to which he owed his disgrace) to think the audacity of the young men and Michu a piece of folly which was not in keeping with what he knew of the judgment and character of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne. He imagined in his own mind some other motives for the deed than the restitution of Gondreville. In all things, even in the magistracy, there is what may be called the conscience of a calling. Lechesneau’s perplexities came from this conscience, which all men put into the proper performance of the duties they like–scientific men into science, artists into art, judges into the rendering of justice. Perhaps for this reason judges are really greater safeguards for persons accused of wrong-doing than are juries. A magistrate relies only on reason and its laws; juries are floated to and fro by the waves of sentiment. The director of the jury accordingly set several questions before his mind, resolving to find in their solution satisfactory reasons for making the arrests.

Though the news of the abduction was already agitating the town of Troyes, it was still unknown at Arcis, where the inhabitants were supping when the messenger arrived to summon the gendarmes. No one, of course, knew it in the village of Cinq-Cygne, the valley and the chateau of which were now, for the second time, encircled by gendarmes.

Laurence had only to tell Marthe, Catherine, and the Durieus not to leave the chateau, to be strictly obeyed. After each trip to fetch the gold, the horses were fastened in the covered way opposite to the breach in the moat, and from there Robert and Michu, the strongest of the party, carried the sacks through the breach to a cellar under the staircase in the tower called Mademoiselle’s. Reaching the chateau with the last load about half-past five o’clock, the four gentlemen and Michu proceeded to bury the treasure in the floor of the cellar and then to wall up the entrance. Michu took charge of the matter with Gothard to help him; the lad was sent to the farm for some sacks of plaster left over when the new buildings were put up, and Marthe went with him to show him where they were. Michu, very hungry, made such haste that by half-past seven o’clock the work was done; and he started for home at a quick pace to stop Gothard, who had been sent for another sack of plaster which he thought he might want. The farm was already watched by the forester of Cinq-Cygne, the justice of peace, his clerk and four gendarmes who, however, kept out of sight and allowed him to enter the house without seeing them.

Michu saw Gothard with the sack on his shoulder and called to him from a distance: “It is all finished, my lad; take that back and stay and dine with us.”

Michu, his face perspiring, his clothes soiled with plaster and covered with fragments of muddy stone from the breach, reached home joyfully and entered the kitchen where Marthe and her mother were serving the soup in expectation of his coming.

Just as Michu was turning the faucet of the water-pipe intending to wash his hands, the justice of peace entered the house accompanied by his clerk and the forester.

“What have you come for, Monsieur Pigoult?” asked Michu.

“In the name of the Emperor and the laws, I arrest you,” replied the justice.

The three gendarmes entered the kitchen leading Gothard. Seeing the silver lace on their hats Marthe and her mother looked at each other in terror.

“Pooh! why?” asked Michu, who sat down at the table and called to his wife, “Give me something to eat; I’m famished.”

“You know why as well as we do,” said the justice, making a sign to his clerk to begin the /proces-verbal/ and exhibiting the warrant of arrest.

“Well, well, Gothard, you needn’t stare so,” said Michu. “Do you want some dinner, yes or no? Let them write down their nonsense.”

“You admit, of course, the condition of your clothes?” said the justice of peace; “and you can’t deny the words you said just now to Gothard?”

Michu, supplied with food by his wife, who was amazed at his coolness, was eating with the avidity of a hungry man. He made no answer to the justice, for his mouth was full and his heart innocent. Gothard’s appetite was destroyed by fear.

“Look here,” said the forester, going up to Michu and whispering in his ear: “What have you done with the senator? You had better make a clean breast of it, for if we are to believe these people it is a matter of life or death to you.”

“Good God!” cried Marthe, who overheard the last words and fell into a chair as if annihilated.

“Violette must have played us some infamous trick,” cried Michu, recollecting what Laurence had said in the forest.

“Ha! so you do know that Violette saw you?” said the justice of peace.

Michu bit his lips and resolved to say no more. Gothard imitated him. Seeing the uselessness of all attempts to make them talk, and knowing what the neighborhood chose to call Michu’s perversity, the justice ordered the gendarmes to bind his hands and those of Gothard, and take them both to the chateau, whither he now went himself to rejoin the director of the jury.

CHAPTER XIV

THE ARRESTS

The four young men and Laurence were so hungry and the dinner so acceptable that they would not delay it by changing their dress. They entered the salon, she in her riding-habit, they in their white leather breeches, high-top boots and green-cloth jackets, where they found Monsieur d’Hauteserre and his wife, not a little uneasy at their long absence. The goodman had noticed their goings and comings, and, above all, their evident distrust of him, for Laurence had been unable to get rid of him as she had of her servants. Once when his own sons evidently avoided making any reply to his questions, he went to his wife and said, “I am afraid that Laurence may still get us into trouble!”

“What sort of game did you hunt to-day?” said Madame d’Hauteserre to Laurence.

“Ah!” replied the young girl, laughing, “you’ll hear some day what a strange hunt your sons have joined in to-day.”

Though said in jest the words made the old lady tremble. Catherine entered to announce dinner. Laurence took Monsieur d’Hauteserre’s arm, smiling for a moment at the necessity she thus forced upon her cousins to offer an arm to Madame d’Hauteserre, who, according to agreement, was now to be the arbiter of their fate.

The Marquis de Simeuse took in Madame d’Hauteserre. The situation was so momentous that after the Benedicite was said Laurence and the young men trembled from the violent palpitation of their hearts. Madame d’Hauteserre, who carved, was struck by the anxiety on the faces of the Simeuse brothers and the great alteration that was noticeable in Laurence’s lamb-like features.

“Something extraordinary is going on, I am sure of it!” she exclaimed, looking at all of them.

“To whom are you speaking?” asked Laurence.

“To all of you,” said the old lady.

“As for me, mother,” said Robert, “I am frightfully hungry, and that is not extraordinary.”

Madame d’Hauteserre, still troubled, offered the Marquis de Simeuse a plate intended for his brother.

“I am like your mother,” she said. “I don’t know you apart even by your cravats. I thought I was helping your brother.”

“You have helped me better than you thought for,” said the youngest, turning pale; “you have made him Comte de Cinq-Cygne.”

“What! do you mean to tell me the countess has made her choice?” cried Madame d’Hauteserre.

“No,” said Laurence; “we left the decision to fate and you are its instrument.”

She told of the agreement made that morning. The elder Simeuse, watching the increasing pallor of his brother’s face, was momentarily on the point of crying out, “Marry her; I will go away and die!” Just then, as the dessert was being served, all present heard raps upon the window of the dining-room on the garden side. The eldest d’Hauteserre opened it and gave entrance to the abbe, whose breeches were torn in climbing over the walls of the park.

“Fly! they are coming to arrest you,” he cried.

“Why?”

“I don’t know yet; but there’s a warrant against you.”

The words were greeted with general laughter.

“We are innocent,” said the young men.

“Innocent or guilty,” said the abbe, “mount your horses and make for the frontier. There you can prove your innocence. You could overcome a sentence by default; you will never overcome a sentence rendered by popular passion and instigated by prejudice. Remember the words of President de Harlay, ‘If I were accused of carrying off the towers of Notre-Dame the first thing I should do would be to run away.'”

“To run away would be to admit we were guilty,” said the Marquis de Simeuse.

“Don’t do it!” cried Laurence.

“Always the same sublime folly!” exclaimed the abbe, in despair. “If I had the power of God I would carry you away. But if I am found here in this state they will turn my visit against you, and against me too; therefore I leave you by the way I came. Consider my advice; you have still time. The gendarmes have not yet thought of the wall which adjoins the parsonage; but you are hemmed in on the other sides.”

The sound of many feet and the jangle of the sabres of the gendarmerie echoed through the courtyard and reached the dining-room a few moments after the departure of the poor abbe, whose advice had met the same fate as that of the Marquis de Chargeboeuf.

“Our twin existence,” said the younger Simeuse, speaking to Laurence, “is an anomaly–our love for you is anomalous; it is that very quality which was won your heart. Possibly, the reason why all twins known to us in history have been unfortunate is that the laws of nature are subverted in them. In our case, see how persistently an evil fate follows us! your decision is now postponed.”

Laurence was stupefied; the fatal words of the director of the jury hummed in her ears:–“In the name of the Emperor and the laws, I arrest the Sieurs Paul-Marie and Marie-Paul Simeuse, Adrien and Robert d’Hauteserre–These gentlemen,” he added, addressing the men who accompanied him and pointing to the mud on the clothing of the prisoners, “cannot deny that they have spent the greater part of this day on horseback.”

“Of what are they accused?” asked Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, haughtily.

“Don’t you mean to arrest Mademoiselle?” said Giguet.

“I shall leave her at liberty under bail, until I can carefully examine the charges against her,” replied the director.

The mayor offered bail, asking the countess to merely give her word of honor that she would not escape. Laurence blasted him with a look which made him a mortal enemy; a tear started from her eyes, one of those tears of rage which reveal a hell of suffering. The four gentlemen exchanged a terrible look, but remained motionless. Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, dreading lest the young people had practised some deceit, were in a state of indescribable stupefaction. Clinging to their chairs these unfortunate parents, finding their sons torn from them after so many fears and their late hopes of safety, sat gazing before them without seeing, listening without hearing.

“Must I ask you to bail me, Monsieur d’Hauteserre?” cried Laurence to her former guardian, who was roused by the cry, clear and agonizing to his ear as the sound of the last trumpet.

He tried to wipe the tears which sprang to his eyes; he now understood what was passing, and said to his young relation in a quivering voice, “Forgive me, countess; you know that I am yours, body and soul.”

Lechesneau, who at first was much struck by the evident tranquillity in which the whole party were dining, now returned to his former opinion of their guilt as he noticed the stupefaction of the old people and the evident anxiety of Laurence, who was seeking to discover the nature of the trap which was set for them.

“Gentlemen,” he said, politely, “you are too well-bred to make a useless resistance; follow me to the stables, where I must, in your presence, have the shoes of your horses taken off; they afford important proof of either guilt or innocence. Come, too, mademoiselle.”

The blacksmith of Cinq-Cygne and his assistant had been summoned by Lechesneau as experts. While the operation at the stable was going on the justice of peace brought in Gothard and Michu. The work of detaching the shoes of each horse, putting them together and ticketing them, so as to compare them with the hoof-prints in the park, took time. Lechesneau, notified of the arrival of Pigoult, left the prisoners with the gendarmes and returned to the dining-room to dictate the indictment. The justice of peace called his attention to the condition of Michu’s clothes and related the circumstances of his arrest.

“They must have killed the senator and plastered the body up in some wall,” said Pigoult.

“I begin to fear it,” answered Lechesneau. “Where did you carry that plaster?” he said to Gothard.

The boy began to cry.

“The law frightens him,” said Michu, whose eyes were darting flames like those of a lion in the toils.

The servants, who had been detained at the village by order of the mayor, now arrived and filled the antechamber where Catherine and Gothard were weeping. To all the questions of the director of the jury and the justice of peace Gothard replied by sobs; and by dint of weeping he brought on a species of convulsion which alarmed them so much that they let him alone. The little scamp, perceiving that he was no longer watched, looked at Michu with a grin, and Michu signified his approval by a glance. Lechesneau left the justice of peace and returned to the stables.

“Monsieur,” said Madame d’Hauteserre, at last, addressing Pigoult; “can you explain these arrests?”

“The gentlemen are accused of abducting the senator by armed force and keeping him a prisoner; for we do not think they have murdered him–in spite of appearances,” replied Pigoult.

“What penalties are attached to the crime?” asked Monsieur d’Hauteserre.

“Well, as the old law continues in force, and they are not amenable under the Code, the penalty is death,” replied the justice.

“Death!” cried Madame d’Hauteserre, fainting away.

The abbe now came in with his sister, who stopped to speak to Catherine and Madame Durieu.

“We haven’t even seen your cursed senator!” said Michu.

“Madame Marion, Madame Grevin, Monsieur Grevin, the senator’s valet, and Violette all tell another tale,” replied Pigoult, with the sour smile of magisterial conviction.

“I don’t understand a thing about it,” said Michu, dumbfounded by his reply, and beginning now to believe that his masters and himself were entangled in some plot which had been laid against them.

Just then the party from the stables returned. Laurence went up to Madame d’Hauteserre, who recovered her senses enough to say: “The penalty is death!”

“Death!” repeated Laurence, looking at the four gentlemen.

The word excited a general terror, of which Giguet, formerly instructed by Corentin, took immediate advantage.

“Everything can be arranged,” he said, drawing the Marquis de Simeuse into a corner of the dining-room. “Perhaps after all it is nothing but a joke; you’ve been a soldier and soldiers understand each other. Tell me, what have you really done with the senator? If you have killed him –why, that’s the end of it! But if you have only locked him up, release him, for you see for yourself your game is balked. Do this and I am certain the director of the jury and the senator himself will drop the matter.”

“We know absolutely nothing about it,” said the marquis.

“If you take that tone the matter is likely to go far,” replied the lieutenant.

“Dear cousin,” said the Marquis de Simeuse, “we are forced to go to prison; but do not be uneasy; we shall return in a few hours, for there is some misunderstanding in all this which can be explained.”

“I hope so, for your sakes, gentlemen,” said the magistrate, signing to the gendarmes to remove the four gentlemen, Michu, and Gothard. “Don’t take them to Troyes; keep them in your guardhouse at Arcis,” he said to the lieutenant; “they must be present to-morrow, at daybreak, when we compare the shoes of their horses with the hoof-prints in the park.”

Lechesneau and Pigoult did not follow until they had closely questioned Catherine, Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, and Laurence. The Durieus, Catherine, and Marthe declared they had only seen their masters at breakfast-time; Monsieur d’Hauteserre said he had seen them at three o’clock.

When, at midnight, Laurence found herself alone with Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, the abbe and his sister, and without the four young men who for the last eighteen months had been the life of the chateau and the love and joy of her own life, she fell into a gloomy silence which no one present dared to break. No affliction was ever deeper or more complete than hers. At last a deep sigh broke the stillness, and all eyes turned towards the sound.

Marthe, forgotten in a corner, rose, exclaiming, “Death! They will kill them in spite of their innocence!”

“Mademoiselle, what is the matter with you?” said the abbe.

Laurence left the room without replying. She needed solitude to recover strength in presence of this terrible unforeseen disaster.

CHAPTER XV

DOUBTS AND FEARS OF COUNSEL

At a distance of thirty-four years, during which three great revolutions have taken place, none but elderly persons can recall the immense excitement produced in Europe by the abduction of a senator of the French Empire. No trial, if we except that of Trumeaux, the grocer of the Place Saint-Michel, and that of the widow Morin, under the Empire; those of Fualdes and de Castaing, under the Restoration; those of Madame Lafarge and Fieschi, under the present government, ever roused so much curiosity or so deep an interest as that of the four young men accused of abducting Malin. Such an attack against a member of his Senate excited the wrath of the Emperor, who was told of the arrest of the delinquents almost at the moment when he first heard of the crime and the negative results of the inquiries. The forest, searched throughout, the department of the Aube, ransacked from end to end, gave not the slightest indication of the passage of the Comte de Gondreville nor of his imprisonment. Napoleon sent for the chief justice, who, after obtaining certain information from the ministry of police, explained to his Majesty the position of Malin in regard to the Simeuse brothers and the Gondreville estate. The Emperor, at that time pre-occupied with serious matters, considered the affair explained by these anterior facts.

“Those young men are fools,” he said. “A lawyer like Malin will escape any deed they may force him to sign under violence. Watch those nobles, and discover the means they take to set the Comte de Gondreville at liberty.”

He ordered the affair to be conducted with the utmost celerity, regarding it as an attack on his own institutions, a fatal example of resistance to the results of the Revolution, an effort to open the great question of the sales of “national property,” and a hindrance to that fusion of parties which was the constant object of his home policy. Besides all this, he thought himself tricked by these young nobles, who had given him their promise to live peaceably.

“Fouche’s prediction has come true,” he cried, remembering the words uttered two years earlier by his present minister of police, who said them under the impressions conveyed to him by Corentin’s report as to the character and designs of Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne.

It is impossible for persons living under a constitutional government, where no one really cares for that cold and thankless, blind, deaf Thing called public interest, to imagine the zeal which a mere word of the Emperor was able to inspire in his political or administrative machine. That powerful will seemed to impress itself as much upon things as upon men. His decision once uttered, the Emperor, overtaken by the coalition of 1806, forgot the whole matter. He thought only of new battles to fight, and his mind was occupied in massing his regiments to strike the great blow at the heart of the Prussian monarchy. His desire for prompt justice in the present case found powerful assistance in the great uncertainty which affected the position of all magistrates of the Empire. Just at this time Cambaceres, as arch-chancellor, and Regnier, chief justice, were preparing to organize /tribunaux de premiere instance/ (lower civil courts), imperial courts, and a court of appeal or supreme court. They were agitating the question of a legal garb or costume; to which Napoleon attached, and very justly, so much importance in all official stations; and they were also inquiring into the character of the persons composing the magistracy. Naturally, therefore, the officials of the department of the Aube considered they could have no better recommendation than to give proofs of their zeal in the matter of the abduction of the Comte de Gondreville. Napoleon’s suppositions became certainties to these courtiers and also to the populace.

Peace still reigned on the continent; admiration for the Emperor was unanimous in France; he cajoled all interests, persons, vanities, and things, in short, everything, even memories. This attack, therefore, directed against his senator, seemed in the eyes of all an assault upon the public welfare. The luckless and innocent gentlemen were the objects of general opprobrium. A few nobles living quietly on their estates deplored the affair among themselves but dared not open their lips; in fact, how was it possible for them to oppose the current of public opinion. Throughout the department the deaths of the eleven persons killed by the Simeuse brothers in 1792 from the windows of the hotel Cinq-Cygne were brought up against them. It was feared that other returned and now emboldened /emigres/ might follow this example of violence against those who had bought their estates from the “national domain,” as a method of protesting against what they might call an unjust spoliation.

The unfortunate young nobles were therefore considered as robbers, brigands, murderers; and their connection with Michu was particularly fatal to them. Michu, who was declared, either he or his father-in- law, to have cut off all the heads that fell under the Terror in that department, was made the subject of ridiculous tales. The exasperation of the public mind was all the more intense because nearly all the functionaries of the department owed their offices to Malin. No generous voice uplifted itself against the verdict of the public. Besides all this, the accused had no legal means with which to combat prejudice; for the Code of Brumaire, year IV., giving as it did both the prosecution of a charge and the verdict upon it into the hands of a jury, deprived the accused of the vast protection of an appeal against legal suspicion.

The day after the arrest all the inhabitants of the chateau of Cinq- Cygne, both masters and servants, were summoned to appear before the prosecuting jury. Cinq-Cygne was left in charge of a farmer, under the supervision of the abbe and his sister who moved into it. Mademoiselle de Cinq-Cygne, with Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, went to Troyes and occupied a small house belonging to Durieu in one of the long and wide faubourgs which lead from the little town. Laurence’s heart was wrung when she at last comprehended the temper of the populace, the malignity of the bourgeoisie, and the hostility of the administration, from the many little events which happened to them as relatives of prisoners accused of criminal wrong-doing and about to be judged in a provincial town. Instead of hearing encouraging or compassionate words they heard only speeches which called for vengeance; proofs of hatred surrounded them in place of the strict politeness or the reserve required by mere decency; but above all they were conscious of an isolation which every mind must feel, but more particularly those which are made distrustful by misfortune.

Laurence, who had recovered her vigor of mind, relied upon the innocence of the accused, and despised the community too much to be frightened by the stern and silent disapproval they met with everywhere. She sustained the courage of Monsieur and Madame d’Hauteserre, all the while thinking of the judicial struggle which was now being hurried on. She was, however, to receive a blow she little expected, which, undoubtedly, diminished her courage.

In the midst of this great disaster, at the moment when this afflicted family were made to feel themselves, as it were, in a desert, a man suddenly became exalted in Laurence’s eyes and showed the full beauty of his character. The day after the indictment was found by the jury,