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loving her godfather better since her soul had risen towards God. When the doctor perceived that the thought of immortality was nourishing that spirit (until then within the confines of childhood) as the sun gives life to the earth without knowing why, he felt sorry that he remained at home alone.

Sitting on the steps of his portico he kept his eyes fixed on the iron railing of the gate through which the child had disappeared, saying as she left him: “Why won’t you come, godfather? how can I be happy without you?” Though shaken to his very center, the pride of the Encyclopedist did not as yet give way. He walked slowly in a direction from which he could see the procession of communicants, and distinguish his little Ursula brilliant with exaltation beneath her veil. She gave him an inspired look, which knocked, in the stony regions of his heart, on the corner closed to God. But still the old deist held firm. He said to himself: “Mummeries! if there be a maker of worlds, imagine the organizer of infinitude concerning himself with such trifles!” He laughed as he continued his walk along the heights which look down upon the road to the Gatinais, where the bells were ringing a joyous peal that told of the joy of families.

The noise of backgammon is intolerable to persons who do not know the game, which is really one of the most difficult that was ever invented. Not to annoy his godchild, the extreme delicacy of whose organs and nerves could not bear, he thought, without injury the noise and the exclamations she did not know the meaning of, the abbe, old Jordy while living, and the doctor always waited till their child was in bed before they began their favorite game. Sometimes the visitors came early when she was out for a walk, and the game would be going on when she returned; then she resigned herself with infinite grace and took her seat at the window with her work. She had a repugnance to the game, which is really in the beginning very hard and unconquerable to some minds, so that unless it be learned in youth it is almost impossible to take it up in after life.

The night of her first communion, when Ursula came into the salon where her godfather was sitting alone, she put the backgammon-board before him.

“Whose throw shall it be?” she asked.

“Ursula,” said the doctor, “isn’t it a sin to make fun of your godfather the day of your first communion?”

“I am not making fun of you,” she said, sitting down. “I want to give you some pleasure–you who are always on the look-out for mine. When Monsieur Chaperon was pleased with me he gave me a lesson in backgammon, and he has given me so many that now I am quite strong enough to beat you–you shall not deprive yourself any longer for me. I have conquered all difficulties, and now I like the noise of the game.”

Ursula won. The abbe had slipped in to enjoy his triumph. The next day Minoret, who had always refused to let Ursula learn music, sent to Paris for a piano, made arrangements at Fontainebleau for a teacher, and submitted to the annoyance that her constant practicing was to him. One of poor Jordy’s predictions was fulfilled,–the girl became an excellent musician. The doctor, proud of her talent, had lately sent to Paris for a master, an old German named Schmucke, a distinguished professor who came once a week; the doctor willingly paying for an art which he had formerly declared to be useless in a household. Unbelievers do not like music–a celestial language, developed by Catholicism, which has taken the names of the seven notes from one of the church hymns; every note being the first syllable of the seven first lines in the hymn to Saint John.

The impression produced on the doctor by Ursula’s first communion though keen was not lasting. The calm and sweet contentment which prayer and the exercise of resolution produced in that young soul had not their due influence upon him. Having no reasons for remorse or repentance himself, he enjoyed a serene peace. Doing his own benefactions without hope of a celestial harvest, he thought himself on a nobler plane than religious men whom he always accused for making, as he called it, terms with God.

“But,” the abbe would say to him, “if all men would be so, you must admit that society would be regenerated; there would be no more misery. To be benevolent after your fashion one must needs be a great philosopher; you rise to your principles through reason, you are a social exception; whereas it suffices to be a Christian to make us benevolent in ours. With you, it is an effort; with us, it comes naturally.”

“In other words, abbe, I think, and you feel,–that’s the whole of it.”

However, at twelve years of age, Ursula, whose quickness and natural feminine perceptions were trained by her superior education, and whose intelligence in its dawn was enlightened by a religious spirit (of all spirits the most refined), came to understand that her godfather did not believe in a future life, nor in the immortality of the soul, nor in providence, nor in God. Pressed with questions by the innocent creature, the doctor was unable to hide the fatal secret. Ursula’s artless consternation made him smile, but when he saw her depressed and sad he felt how deep an affection her sadness revealed. Absolute devotion has a horror of every sort of disagreement, even in ideas which it does not share. Sometimes the doctor accepted his darling’s reasonings as he would her kisses, said as they were in the sweetest of voices with the purest and most fervent feeling. Believers and unbelievers speak different languages and cannot understand each other. The young girl pleading God’s cause was unreasonable with the old man, as a spoilt child sometimes maltreats its mother. The abbe rebuked her gently, telling her that God had power to humiliate proud spirits. Ursula replied that David had overcome Goliath.

This religious difference, these complaints of the child who wished to drag her godfather to God, were the only troubles of this happy life, so peaceful, yet so full, and wholly withdrawn from the inquisitive eyes of the little town. Ursula grew and developed, and became in time the modest and religiously trained young woman whom Desire admired as she left the church. The cultivation of flowers in the garden, her music, the pleasures of her godfather, and all the little cares she was able to give him (for she had eased La Bougival’s labors by doing everything for him),–these things filled the hours, the days, the months of her calm life. Nevertheless, for about a year the doctor had felt uneasy about his Ursula, and watched her health with the utmost care. Sagacious and profoundly practical observer that he was, he thought he perceived some commotion in her moral being. He watched her like a mother, but seeing no one about her who was worthy of inspiring love, his uneasiness on the subject at length passed away.

At this conjuncture, one month before the day when this drama begins, the doctor’s intellectual life was invaded by one of those events which plough to the very depths of a man’s convictions and turn them over. But this event needs a succinct narrative of certain circumstances in his medical career, which will give, perhaps, fresh interest to the story.

CHAPTER VI

A TREATISE ON MESMERISM

Towards the end of the eighteenth century science was sundered as widely by the apparition of Mesmer as art had been by that of Gluck. After re-discovering magnetism Mesmer came to France, where, from time immemorial, inventors have flocked to obtain recognition for their discoveries. France, thanks to her lucid language, is in some sense the clarion of the world.

“If homoeopathy gets to Paris it is saved,” said Hahnemann, recently.

“Go to France,” said Monsieur de Metternich to Gall, “and if they laugh at your bumps you will be famous.”

Mesmer had disciples and antagonists as ardent for and against his theories as the Piccinists and the Gluckists for theirs. Scientific France was stirred to its center; a solemn conclave was opened. Before judgment was rendered, the medical faculty proscribed, in a body, Mesmer’s so-called charlatanism, his tub, his conducting wires, and his theory. But let us at once admit that the German, unfortunately, compromised his splendid discovery by enormous pecuniary claims. Mesmer was defeated by the doubtfulness of facts, by universal ignorance of the part played in nature by imponderable fluids then unobserved, and by his own inability to study on all sides a science possessing a triple front. Magnetism has many applications; in Mesmer’s hands it was, in its relation to the future, merely what cause is to effect. But, if the discoverer lacked genius, it is a sad thing both for France and for human reason to have to say that a science contemporaneous with civilization, cultivated by Egypt and Chaldea, by Greece and India, met in Paris in the eighteenth century the fate that Truth in the person of Galileo found in the sixteenth; and that magnetism was rejected and cast out by the combined attacks of science and religion, alarmed for their own positions. Magnetism, the favorite science of Jesus Christ and one of the divine powers which he gave to his disciples, was no better apprehended by the Church than by the disciples of Jean-Jacques, Voltaire, Locke, and Condillac. The Encyclopedists and the clergy were equally averse to the old human power which they took to be new. The miracles of the convulsionaries, suppressed by the Church and smothered by the indifference of scientific men (in spite of the precious writings of the Councilor, Carre de Montgeron) were the first summons to make experiments with those human fluids which give power to employ certain inward forces to neutralize the sufferings caused by outward agents. But to do this it was necessary to admit the existence of fluids intangible, invisible, imponderable, three negative terms in which the science of that day chose to see a definition of the void. In modern philosophy there is no void. Ten feet of void and the world crumbles away! To materialists especially the world is full, all things hang together, are linked, related, organized. “The world as the result of chance,” said Diderot, “is more explicable than God. The multiplicity of causes, the incalculable number of issues presupposed by chance, explain creation. Take the Eneid and all the letters composing it; if you allow me time and space, I can, by continuing to cast the letters, arrive at last at the Eneid combination.”

Those foolish persons who deify all rather than admit a God recoil before the infinite divisibility of matter which is in the nature of imponderable forces. Locke and Condillac retarded by fifty years the immense progress which natural science is now making under the great principle of unity due to Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire. Some intelligent persons, without any system, convinced by facts conscientiously studied, still hold to Mesmer’s doctrine, which recognizes the existence of a penetrative influence acting from man to man, put in motion by the will, curative by the abundance of the fluid, the working of which is in fact a duel between two forces, between an ill to be cured and the will to cure it.

The phenomena of somnambulism, hardly perceived by Mesmer, were revealed by du Puysegur and Deleuze; but the Revolution put a stop to their discoveries and played into the hands of the scientists and scoffers. Among the small number of believers were a few physicians. They were persecuted by their brethren as long as they lived. The respectable body of Parisian doctors displayed all the bitterness of religious warfare against the Mesmerists, and were as cruel in their hatred as it was possible to be in those days of Voltairean tolerance. The orthodox physician refused to consult with those who adopted the Mesmerian heresy. In 1820 these heretics were still proscribed. The miseries and sorrows of the Revolution had not quenched the scientific hatred. It is only priests, magistrates, and physicians who can hate in that way. The official robe is terrible! But ideas are even more implacable than things.

Doctor Bouvard, one of Minoret’s friends, believed in the new faith, and persevered to the day of his death in studying a science to which he sacrificed the peace of his life, for he was one of the chief “betes noires” of the Parisian faculty. Minoret, a valiant supporter of the Encyclopedists, and a formidable adversary of Desion, Mesmer’s assistant, whose pen had great weight in the controversy, quarreled with his old friend, and not only that, but he persecuted him. His conduct to Bouvard must have caused him the only remorse which troubled the serenity of his declining years. Since his retirement to Nemours the science of imponderable fluids (the only name suitable for magnetism, which, by the nature of its phenomena, is closely allied to light and electricity) had made immense progress, in spite of the ridicule of Parisian scientists. Phrenology and physiognomy, the departments of Gall and Lavater (which are in fact twins, for one is to the other as cause is to effect), proved to the minds of more than one physiologist the existence of an intangible fluid which is the basis of the phenomena of the human will, and from which result passions, habits, the shape of faces and of skulls. Magnetic facts, the miracles of somnambulism, those of divination and ecstasy, which open a way to the spiritual world, were fast accumulating. The strange tale of the apparitions of the farmer Martin, so clearly proved, and his interview with Louis XVIII.; a knowledge of the intercourse of Swedenborg with the departed, carefully investigated in Germany; the tales of Walter Scott on the effects of “second sight”; the extraordinary faculties of some fortune-tellers, who practice as a single science chiromancy, cartomancy, and the horoscope; the facts of catalepsy, and those of the action of certain morbid affections on the properties of the diaphragm,–all such phenomena, curious, to say the least, each emanating from the same source, were now undermining many scepticisms and leading even the most indifferent minds to the plane of experiments. Minoret, buried in Nemours, was ignorant of this movement of minds, strong in the north of Europe but still weak in France where, however, many facts called marvelous by superficial observers, were happening, but falling, alas! like stones to the bottom of the sea, in the vortex of Parisian excitements.

At the bottom of the present year the doctor’s tranquillity was shaken by the following letter:–

My old comrade,–All friendship, even if lost, as rights which it is difficult to set aside. I know that you are still living, and I remember far less our enmity than our happy days in that old hovel of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre.

At a time when I expect to soon leave the world I have it on my heart to prove to you that magnetism is about to become one of the most important of the sciences–if indeed all science is not ONE. I can overcome your incredulity by proof. Perhaps I shall owe to your curiosity the happiness of taking you once more by the hand– as in the days before Mesmer. Always yours,

Bouvard.

Stung like a lion by a gadfly the old scientist rushed to Paris and left his card on Bouvard, who lived in the Rue Ferou near Saint- Sulpice. Bouvard sent a card to his hotel on which was written “To- morrow; nine o’clock, Rue Saint-Honore, opposite the Assumption.”

Minoret, who seemed to have renewed his youth, could not sleep. He went to see some of his friends among the faculty to inquire if the world were turned upside down, if the science of medicine still had a school, if the four faculties any longer existed. The doctors reassured him, declaring that the old spirit of opposition was as strong as ever, only, instead of persecuting as heretofore, the Academies of Medicine and of Sciences rang with laughter as they classed magnetic facts with the tricks of Comus and Comte and Bosco, with jugglery and prestidigitation and all that now went by the name of “amusing physics.”

This assurance did not prevent old Minoret from keeping the appointment made for him by Bouvard. After an enmity of forty-four years the two antagonists met beneath a porte-cochere in the Rue Saint-Honore. Frenchmen have too many distractions of mind to hate each other long. In Paris especially, politics, literature, and science render life so vast that every man can find new worlds to conquer where all pretensions may live at ease. Hatred requires too many forces fully armed. None but public bodies can keep alive the sentiment. Robespierre and Danton would have fallen into each other’s arms at the end of forty-four years. However, the two doctors each withheld his hand and did not offer it. Bouvard spoke first:–

“You seem wonderfully well.”

“Yes, I am–and you?” said Minoret, feeling that the ice was now broken.

“As you see.”

“Does magnetism prevent people from dying?” asked Minoret in a joking tone, but without sharpness.

“No, but it almost prevented me from living.”

“Then you are not rich?” exclaimed Minoret.

“Pooh!” said Bouvard.

“But I am!” cried the other.

“It is not your money but your convictions that I want. Come,” replied Bouvard.

“Oh! you obstinate fellow!” said Minoret.

The Mesmerist led his sceptic, with some precaution, up a dingy staircase to the fourth floor.

At this particular time an extraordinary man had appeared in Paris, endowed by faith with incalculable power, and controlling magnetic forces in all their applications. Not only did this great unknown (who still lives) heal from a distance the worst and most inveterate diseases, suddenly and radically, as the Savior of men did formerly, but he was also able to call forth instantaneously the most remarkable phenomena of somnambulism and conquer the most rebellious will. The countenance of this mysterious being, who claims to be responsible to God alone and to communicate, like Swedenborg, with angels, resembles that of a lion; concentrated, irresistible energy shines in it. His features, singularly contorted, have a terrible and even blasting aspect. His voice, which comes from the depths of his being, seems charged with some magnetic fluid; it penetrates the hearer at every pore. Disgusted by the ingratitude of the public after his many cures, he has now returned to an impenetrable solitude, a voluntary nothingness. His all-powerful hand, which has restored a dying daughter to her mother, fathers to their grief-stricken children, adored mistresses to lovers frenzied with love, cured the sick given over by physicians, soothed the sufferings of the dying when life became impossible, wrung psalms of thanksgiving in synagogues, temples, and churches from the lips of priests recalled to the one God by the same miracle,–that sovereign hand, a sun of life dazzling the closed eyes of the somnambulist, has never been raised again even to save the heir-apparent of a kingdom. Wrapped in the memory of his past mercies as in a luminous shroud, he denies himself to the world and lives for heaven.

But, at the dawn of his reign, surprised by his own gift, this man, whose generosity equaled his power, allowed a few interested persons to witness his miracles. The fame of his work, which was mighty, and could easily be revived to-morrow, reached Dr. Bouvard, who was then on the verge of the grave. The persecuted mesmerist was at last enabled to witness the startling phenomena of a science he had long treasured in his heart. The sacrifices of the old man touched the heart of the mysterious stranger, who accorded him certain privileges. As Bouvard now went up the staircase he listened to the twittings of his old antagonist with malicious delight, answering only, “You shall see, you shall see!” with the emphatic little nods of a man who is sure of his facts.

The two physicians entered a suite of rooms that were more than modest. Bouvard went alone into a bedroom which adjoined the salon where he left Minoret, whose distrust was instantly awakened; but Bouvard returned at once and took him into the bedroom, where he saw the mysterious Swedenborgian, and also a woman sitting in an armchair. The woman did not rise, and seemed not to notice the entrance of the two old men.

“What! no tub?” cried Minoret, smiling.

“Nothing but the power of God,” answered the Swedenborgian gravely. He seemed to Minoret to be about fifty years of age.

The three men sat down and the mysterious stranger talked of the rain and the coming fine weather, to the great astonishment of Minoret, who thought he was being hoaxed. The Swedenborgian soon began, however, to question his visitor on his scientific opinions, and seemed evidently to be taking time to examine him.

“You have come here solely from curiosity, monsieur,” he said at last. “It is not my habit to prostitute a power which, according to my conviction, emanates from God; if I made a frivolous or unworthy use of it, it would be taken from me. Nevertheless, there is some hope, Monsieur Bouvard tells me, of changing the opinions of one who has opposed us, of enlightening a scientific man whose mind is candid; I have therefore determined to satisfy you. That woman whom you see there,” he continued, pointing to her, “is now in a somnambulic sleep. The statements and manifestations of somnambulists declare that this state is a delightful other life, during which the inner being, freed from the trammels laid upon the exercise of our faculties by the visible world, moves in a world which we mistakenly term invisible. Sight and hearing are then exercised in a manner far more perfect than any we know of here, possibly without the help of the organs we now employ, which are the scabbard of the luminous blades called sight and hearing. To a person in that state, distance and material obstacles do not exist, or they can be traversed by a life within us for which our body is a mere receptacle, a necessary shelter, a casing. Terms fail to describe effects that have lately been rediscovered, for to-day the words imponderable, intangible, invisible have no meaning to the fluid whose action is demonstrated by magnetism. Light is ponderable by its heat, which, by penetrating bodies, increases their volume; and certainly electricity is only too tangible. We have condemned things themselves instead of blaming the imperfection of our instruments.”

“She sleeps,” said Minoret, examining the woman, who seemed to him to belong to an inferior class.

“Her body is for the time being in abeyance,” said the Swedenborgian. “Ignorant persons suppose that condition to be sleep. But she will prove to you that there is a spiritual universe, and that the mind when there does not obey the laws of this material universe. I will send her wherever you wish to go,–a hundred miles from here or to China, as you will. She will tell you what is happening there.”

“Send her to my house in Nemours, Rue des Bourgeois; that will do,” said Minoret.

He took Minoret’s hand, which the doctor let him take, and held it for a moment seeming to collect himself; then with his other hand he took that of the woman sitting in the arm-chair and placed the hand of the doctor in it, making a sign to the old sceptic to seat himself beside this oracle without a tripod. Minoret observed a slight tremor on the absolutely calm features of the woman when their hands were thus united by the Swedenborgian, but the action, though marvelous in its effects, was very simply done.

“Obey him,” said the unknown personage, extending his hand above the head of the sleeping woman, who seemed to imbibe both light and life from him, “and remember that what you do for him will please me.–You can now speak to her,” he added, addressing Minoret.

“Go to Nemours, to my house, Rue des Bourgeois,” said the doctor.

“Give her time; put your hand in hers until she proves to you by what she tells you that she is where you wish her to be,” said Bouvard to his old friend.

“I see a river,” said the woman in a feeble voice, seeming to look within herself with deep attention, notwithstanding her closed eyelids. “I see a pretty garden–“

“Why do you enter by the river and the garden?” said Minoret.

“Because they are there.”

“Who?”

“The young girl and her nurse, whom you are thinking of.”

“What is the garden like?” said Minoret.

“Entering by the steps which go down to the river, there is the right, a long brick gallery, in which I see books; it ends in a singular building,–there are wooden bells, and a pattern of red eggs. To the left, the wall is covered with climbing plants, wild grapes, Virginia jessamine. In the middle is a sun-dial. There are many plants in pots. Your child is looking at the flowers. She shows them to her nurse–she is making holes in the earth with her trowel, and planting seeds. The nurse is raking the path. The young girl is pure as an angel, but the beginning of love is there, faint as the dawn–“

“Love for whom?” asked the doctor, who, until now, would have listened to no word said to him by somnambulists. He considered it all jugglery.

“You know nothing–though you have lately been uneasy about her health,” answered the woman. “Her heart has followed the dictates of nature.”

“A woman of the people to talk like this!” cried the doctor.

“In the state she is in all persons speak with extraordinary perception,” said Bouvard.

“But who is it that Ursula loves?”

“Ursula does not know that she loves,” said the woman with a shake of the head; “she is too angelic to know what love is; but her mind is occupied by him; she thinks of him; she tries to escape the thought; but she returns to it in spite of her will to abstain.–She is at the piano–“

“But who is he?”

“The son of a lady who lives opposite.”

“Madame de Portenduere?”

“Portenduere, did you say?” replied the sleeper. “Perhaps so. But there’s no danger; he is not in the neighbourhood.”

“Have they spoken to each other?” asked the doctor.

“Never. They have looked at one another. She thinks him charming. He is, in fact, a fine man; he has a good heart. She sees him from her window; they see each other in church. But the young man no longer thinks of her.”

“His name?”

“Ah! to tell you that I must read it, or hear it. He is named Savinien; she has just spoken his name; she thinks it sweet to say; she has looked in the almanac for his fete-day and marked a red dot against it,–child’s play, that. Ah! she will love well, with as much strength as purity; she is not a girl to love twice; love will so dye her soul and fill it that she will reject all other sentiments.”

“Where do you see that?”

“In her. She will know how to suffer; she inherits that; her father and her mother suffered much.”

The last words overcame the doctor, who felt less shaken than surprised. It is proper to state that between her sentences the woman paused for several minutes, during which time her attention became more and more concentrated. She was seen to see; her forehead had a singular aspect; an inward effort appeared there; it seemed to clear or cloud by some mysterious power, the effects of which Minoret had seen in dying persons at moments when they appeared to have the gift of prophecy. Several times she made gestures which resembled those of Ursula.

“Question her,” said the mysterious stranger, to Minoret, “she will tell you secrets you alone can know.”

“Does Ursula love me?” asked Minoret.

“Almost as much as she loves God,” was the answer. “But she is very unhappy at your unbelief. You do not believe in God; as if you could prevent his existence! His word fills the universe. You are the cause of her only sorrow.–Hear! she is playing scales; she longs to be a better musician than she is; she is provoked with herself. She is thinking, ‘If I could sing, if my voice were fine, it would reach his ear when he is with his mother.'”

Doctor Minoret took out his pocket-book and noted the hour.

“Tell me what seeds she planted?”

“Mignonette, sweet-peas, balsams–“

“And what else?”

“Larkspur.”

“Where is my money?”

“With your notary; but you invest it so as not to lose the interest of a single day.”

“Yes, but where is the money that I keep for my monthly expenses?”

“You put it in a large book bound in red, entitled ‘Pandects of Justinian, Vol. II.’ between the last two leaves; the book is on the shelf of folios above the glass buffet. You have a whole row of them. Your money is in the last volume next to the salon– See! Vol. III. is before Vol. II.–but you have no money, it is all in–“

“–thousand-franc notes,” said the doctor.

“I cannot see, they are folded. No, there are two notes of five hundred francs.”

“You see them?”

“Yes.”

“How do they look?”

“One is old and yellow, the other white and new.”

This last phase of the inquiry petrified the doctor. He looked at Bouvard with a bewildered air; but Bouvard and the Swedenborgian, who were accustomed to the amazement of sceptics, were speaking together in a low voice and appeared not to notice him. Minoret begged them to allow him to return after dinner. The old philosopher wished to compose his mind and shake off this terror, so as to put this vast power to some new test, to subject it to more decisive experiments and obtain answers to certain questions, the truth of which should do away with every sort of doubt.

“Be here at nine o’clock this evening,” said the stranger. “I will return to meet you.”

Doctor Minoret was in so convulsed a state that he left the room without bowing, followed by Bouvard, who called to him from behind. “Well, what do you say? what do you say?”

“I think I am mad, Bouvard,” answered Minoret from the steps of the porte-cochere. “If that woman tells the truth about Ursula,–and none but Ursula can know the things that sorceress has told me,–I shall say that YOU ARE RIGHT. I wish I had wings to fly to Nemours this minute and verify her words. But I shall hire a carriage and start at ten o’clock to-night. Ah! am I losing my senses?”

“What would you say if you knew of a life-long incurable disease healed in a moment; if you saw that great magnetizer bring sweat in torrents from an herpetic patient, or make a paralyzed woman walk?”

“Come and dine, Bouvard; stay with me till nine o’clock. I must find some decisive, undeniable test!”

“So be it, old comrade,” answered the other.

The reconciled enemies dined in the Palais-Royal. After a lively conversation, which helped Minoret to evade the fever of the ideas which were ravaging his brain, Bouvard said to him:–

“If you admit in that woman the faculty of annihilating or of traversing space, if you obtain a certainty that here, in Paris, she sees and hears what is said and done in Nemours, you must admit all other magnetic facts; they are not more incredible than these. Ask her for some one proof which you know will satisfy you–for you might suppose that we obtained information to deceive you; but we cannot know, for instance, what will happen at nine o’clock in your goddaughter’s bedroom. Remember, or write down, what the sleeper will see and hear, and then go home. Your little Ursula, whom I do not know, is not our accomplice, and if she tells you that she has said and done what you have written down–lower thy head, proud Hun!”

The two friends returned to the house opposite to the Assumption and found the somnambulist, who in her waking state did not recognize Doctor Minoret. The eyes of this woman closed gently before the hand of the Swedenborgian, which was stretched towards her at a little distance, and she took the attitude in which Minoret had first seen her. When her hand and that of the doctor were again joined, he asked her to tell him what was happening in his house at Nemours at that instant. “What is Ursula doing?” he said.

“She is undressed; she has just curled her hair; she is kneeling on her prie-Dieu, before an ivory crucifix fastened to a red velvet background.”

“What is she saying?”

“Her evening prayers; she is commending herself to God; she implores him to save her soul from evil thoughts; she examines her conscience and recalls what she has done during the day; that she may know if she has failed to obey his commands and those of the church–poor dear little soul, she lays bare her breast!” Tears were in the sleeper’s eyes. “She has done no sin, but she blames herself for thinking too much of Savinien. She stops to wonder what he is doing in Paris; she prays to God to make him happy. She speaks of you; she is praying aloud.”

“Tell me her words.” Minoret took his pencil and wrote, as the sleeper uttered it, the following prayer, evidently composed by the Abbe Chaperon.

“My God, if thou art content with thine handmaid, who worships thee and prays to thee with a love that is equal to her devotion, who strives not to wander from thy sacred paths, who would gladly die as thy Son died to glorify thy name, who desires to live in the shadow of thy will–O God, who knoweth the heart, open the eyes of my godfather, lead him in the way of salvation, grant him thy Divine grace, that he may live for thee in his last days; save him from evil, and let me suffer in his stead. Kind Saint Ursula, dear protectress, and you, Mother of God, queen of heaven, archangels, and saints in Paradise, hear me! join your intercessions to mine and have mercy upon us.”

The sleeper imitated so perfectly the artless gestures and the inspired manner of his child that Doctor Minoret’s eyes were filled with tears.

“Does she say more?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Repeat it.”

“‘My dear godfather; I wonder who plays backgammon with him in Paris.’ She has blown out the light–her head is on the pillow–she turns to sleep! Ah! she is off! How pretty she looks in her little night-cap.”

Minoret bowed to the great Unknown, wrung Bouvard by the hand, ran downstairs and hastened to a cab-stand which at that time was near the gates of a house since pulled down to make room for the Rue d’Alger. There he found a coachman who was willing to start immediately for Fontainebleau. The moment the price was agreed on, the old man, who seemed to have renewed his youth, jumped into the carriage and started. According to agreement, he stopped to rest the horse at Essonne, but arrived at Fontainebleau in time for the diligence to Nemours, on which he secured a seat, and dismissed his coachman. He reached home at five in the morning, and went to bed, with his life- long ideas of physiology, nature, and metaphysics in ruins about him, and slept till nine o’clock, so wearied was he with the events of his journey.

CHAPTER VII

A TWO-FOLD CONVERSION

On rising, the doctor, sure that no one had crossed the threshold of his house since he re-entered it, proceeded (but not without extreme trepidation) to verify his facts. He was himself ignorant of any difference in the bank-notes and also of the misplacement of the Pandect volumes. The somnambulist was right. The doctor rang for La Bougival.

“Tell Ursula to come and speak to me,” he said, seating himself in the center of his library.

The girl came; she ran up to him and kissed him. The doctor took her on his knee, where she sat contentedly, mingling her soft fair curls with the white hair of her old friend.

“Do you want something, godfather?”

“Yes; but promise me, on your salvation, to answer frankly, without evasion, the questions that I shall put to you.”

Ursula colored to the temples.

“Oh! I’ll ask nothing that you cannot speak of,” he said, noticing how the bashfulness of young love clouded the hitherto childlike purity of the girl’s blue eyes.

“Ask me, godfather.”

“What thought was in your mind when you ended your prayers last evening, and what time was it when you said them.”

“It was a quarter-past or half-past nine.”

“Well, repeat your last prayer.”

The girl fancied that her voice might convey her faith to the sceptic; she slid from his knee and knelt down, clasping her hands fervently; a brilliant light illumined her face as she turned it on the old man and said:–

“What I asked of God last night I asked again this morning, and I shall ask it till he vouchsafes to grant it.”

Then she repeated her prayer with new and still more powerful expression. To her great astonishment her godfather took the last words from her mouth and finished the prayer.

“Good, Ursula,” said the doctor, taking her again on his knee. “When you laid your head on the pillow and went to sleep did you think to yourself, ‘That dear godfather; I wonder who is playing backgammon with him in Paris’?”

Ursula sprang up as if the last trumpet had sounded in her ears. She gave a cry of terror; her eyes, wide open, gazed at the old man with awful fixity.

“Who are you, godfather? From whom do you get such power?” she asked, imagining that in his desire to deny God he had made some compact with the devil.

“What seeds did you plant yesterday in the garden?”

“Mignonette, sweet-peas, balsams–“

“And the last were larkspur?”

She fell on her knees.

“Do not terrify me!” she exclaimed. “Oh you must have been here–you were here, were you not?”

“Am I not always with you?” replied the doctor, evading her question, to save the strain on the young girl’s mind. “Let us go to your room.”

“Your legs are trembling,” she said.

“Yes, I am confounded, as it were.”

“Can it be that you believe in God?” she cried, with artless joy, letting fall the tears that gathered in her eyes.

The old man looked round the simple but dainty little room he had given to his Ursula. On the floor was a plain green carpet, very inexpensive, which she herself kept exquisitely clean; the walls were hung with a gray paper strewn with roses and green leaves; at the windows, which looked to the court, were calico curtains edged with a band of some pink material; between the windows and beneath a tall mirror was a pier-table topped with marble, on which stood a Sevres vase in which she put her nosegays; opposite the chimney was a little bureau-desk of charming marquetry. The bed, of chintz, with chintz curtains lined with pink, was one of those duchess beds so common in the eighteenth century, which had a tuft of carved feathers at the top of each of the four posts, which were fluted on the sides. An old clock, inclosed in a sort of monument made of tortoise-shell inlaid with arabesques of ivory, decorated the mantelpiece, the marble shelf of which, with the candlesticks and the mirror in a frame painted in cameo on a gray ground, presented a remarkable harmony of color, tone, and style. A large wardrobe, the doors of which were inlaid with landscapes in different woods (some having a green tint which are no longer to be found for sale) contained, no doubt, her linen and her dresses. The air of the room was redolent of heaven. The precise arrangement of everything showed a sense of order, a feeling for harmony, which would certainly have influenced any one, even a Minoret-Levrault. It was plain that the things about her were dear to Ursula, and that she loved a room which contained, as it were, her childhood and the whole of her girlish life.

Looking the room well over that he might seem to have a reason for his visit, the doctor saw at once how the windows looked into those of Madame de Portenduere. During the night he had meditated as to the course he ought to pursue with Ursula about his discovery of this dawning passion. To question her now would commit him to some course. He must either approve or disapprove of her love; in either case his position would be a false one. He therefore resolved to watch and examine into the state of things between the two young people, and learn whether it were his duty to check the inclination before it was irresistible. None but an old man could have shown such deliberate wisdom. Still panting from the discovery of the truth of these magnetic facts, he turned about and looked at all the various little things around the room; he wished to examine the almanac which was hanging at a corner of the chimney-piece.

“These ugly things are too heavy for your little hands,” he said, taking up the marble candlesticks which were partly covered with leather.

He weighed them in his hand; then he looked at the almanac and took it, saying, “This is ugly too. Why do you keep such a common thing in your pretty room?”

“Oh, please let me have it, godfather.”

“No, no, you shall have another to-morrow.”

So saying he carried off this possible proof, shut himself up in his study, looked for Saint Savinien and found, as the somnambulist had told him, a little red dot at the 19th of October; he also saw another before his own saint’s day, Saint Denis, and a third before Saint John, the abbe’s patron. This little dot, no larger than a pin’s head, had been seen by the sleeping woman in spite of distance and other obstacles! The old man thought till evening of these events, more momentous for him than for others. He was forced to yield to evidence. A strong wall, as it were, crumbled within him; for his life had rested on two bases,–indifference in matters of religion and a firm disbelief in magnetism. When it was proved to him that the senses– faculties purely physical, organs, the effects of which could be explained–attained to some of the attributes of the infinite, magnetism upset, or at least it seemed to him to upset, the powerful arguments of Spinoza. The finite and the infinite, two incompatible elements according to that remarkable man, were here united, the one in the other. No matter what power he gave to the divisibility and mobility of matter he could not help recognizing that it possessed qualities that were almost divine.

He was too old now to connect those phenomena to a system, and compare them with those of sleep, of vision, of light. His whole scientific belief, based on the assertions of the school of Locke and Condillac, was in ruins. Seeing his hollow ideas in pieces, his scepticism staggered. Thus the advantage in this struggle between the Catholic child and the Voltairean old man was on Ursula’s side. In the dismantled fortress, above these ruins, shone a light; from the center of these ashes issued the path of prayer! Nevertheless, the obstinate old scientist fought his doubts. Though struck to the heart, he would not decide, he struggled on against God.

But he was no longer the same man; his mind showed its vacillation. He became unnaturally dreamy; he read Pascal, and Bossuet’s sublime “History of Species”; he read Bonald, he read Saint-Augustine; he determined also to read the works of Swedenborg, and the late Saint- Martin, which the mysterious stranger had mentioned to him. The edifice within him was cracking on all sides; it needed but one more shake, and then, his heart being ripe for God, he was destined to fall into the celestial vineyard as fall the fruits. Often of an evening, when playing with the abbe, his goddaughter sitting by, he would put questions bearing on his opinions which seemed singular to the priest, who was ignorant of the inward workings by which God was remaking that fine conscience.

“Do you believe in apparitions?” asked the sceptic of the pastor, stopping short in the game.

“Cardan, a great philosopher of the sixteenth century said he had seen some,” replied the abbe.

“I know all those that scholars have discussed, for I have just reread Plotinus. I am questioning you as a Catholic might, and I ask if you think that dead men can return to the living.”

“Jesus reappeared to his disciples after his death,” said the abbe. “The Church ought to have faith in the apparitions of the Savior. As for miracles, they are not lacking,” he continued, smiling. “Shall I tell you the last? It took place in the eighteenth century.”

“Pooh!” said the doctor.

“Yes, the blessed Marie-Alphonse of Ligouri, being very far from Rome, knew of the death of the Pope at the very moment the Holy Father expired; there were numerous witnesses of this miracle. The sainted bishop being in ecstasy, heard the last words of the sovereign pontiff and repeated them at the time to those about him. The courier who brought the announcement of the death did not arrive till thirty hours later.”

“Jesuit!” exclaimed old Minoret, laughing, “I did not ask you for proofs; I asked you if you believed in apparitions.”

“I think an apparition depends a good deal on who sees it,” said the abbe, still fencing with his sceptic.

“My friend,” said the doctor, seriously, “I am not setting a trap for you. What do you really believe about it?”

“I believe that the power of God is infinite,” replied the abbe.

“When I am dead, if I am reconciled to God, I will ask Him to let me appear to you,” said the doctor, smiling.

“That’s exactly the agreement Cardan made with his friend,” answered the priest.

“Ursula,” said Minoret, “if danger ever threatens you, call me, and I will come.”

“You have put into one sentence that beautiful elegy of ‘Neere’ by Andre Chenier,” said the abbe. “Poets are sublime because they clothe both facts and feelings with ever-living images.”

“Why do you speak of your death, dear godfather?” said Ursula in a grieved tone. “We Christians do not die; the grave is the cradle of our souls.”

“Well,” said the doctor, smiling, “we must go out of the world, and when I am no longer here you will be astonished at your fortune.”

“When you are here no longer, my kind friend, my only consolation will be to consecrate my life to you.”

“To me, dead?”

“Yes. All the good works that I can do will be done in your name to redeem your sins. I will pray God every day for his infinite mercy, that he may not punish eternally the errors of a day. I know he will summon among the righteous a soul so pure, so beautiful, as yours.”

That answer, said with angelic candor, in a tone of absolute certainty, confounded error and converted Denis Minoret as God converted Saul. A ray of inward light overawed him; the knowledge of this tenderness, covering his years to come, brought tears to his eyes. This sudden effect of grace had something that seemed electrical about it. The abbe clasped his hands and rose, troubled, from his seat. The girl, astonished at her triumph, wept. The old man stood up as if a voice had called him, looking into space as though his eyes beheld the dawn; then he bent his knee upon his chair, clasped his hands, and lowered his eyes to the ground as one humiliated.

“My God,” he said in a trembling voice, raising his head, “if any one can obtain my pardon and lead me to thee, surely it is this spotless creature. Have mercy on the repentant old age that this pure child presents to thee!”

He lifted his soul to God; mentally praying for the light of divine knowledge after the gift of divine grace; then he turned to the abbe and held out his hand.

“My dear pastor,” he said, “I am become as a little child. I belong to you; I give my soul to your care.”

Ursula kissed his hands and bathed them with her tears. The old man took her on his knee and called her gayly his godmother. The abbe, deeply moved, recited the “Veni Creator” in a species of religious ecstasy. The hymn served as the evening prayer of the three Christians kneeling together for the first time.

“What has happened?” asked La Bougival, amazed at the sight.

“My godfather believes in God at last!” replied Ursula.

“Ah! so much the better; he only needed that to make him perfect,” cried the old woman, crossing herself with artless gravity.

“Dear doctor,” said the good priest, “you will soon comprehend the grandeur of religion and the value of its practices; you will find its philosophy in human aspects far higher than that of the boldest sceptics.”

The abbe, who showed a joy that was almost infantine, agreed to catechize the old man and confer with him twice a week. Thus the conversion attributed to Ursula and to a spirit of sordid calculation, was the spontaneous act of the doctor himself. The abbe, who for fourteen years had abstained from touching the wounds of that heart, though all the while deploring them, was now asked for help, as a surgeon is called to an injured man. Ever since this scene Ursula’s evening prayers had been said in common with her godfather. Day after day the old man grew more conscious of the peace within him that succeeded all his conflicts. Having, as he said, God as the responsible editor of things inexplicable, his mind was at ease. His dear child told him that he might know by how far he had advanced already in God’s kingdom. During the mass which we have seen him attend, he had read the prayers and applied his own intelligence to them; from the first, he had risen to the divine idea of the communion of the faithful. The old neophyte understood the eternal symbol attached to that sacred nourishment, which faith renders needful to the soul after conveying to it her own profound and radiant essence. When on leaving the church he had seemed in a hurry to get home, it was merely that he might once more thank his dear child for having led him to “enter religion,”–the beautiful expression of former days. He was holding her on his knee in the salon and kissing her forehead sacredly at the very moment when his relatives were degrading that saintly influence with their shameless fears, and casting their vulgar insults upon Ursula. His haste to return home, his assumed disdain for their company, his sharp replies as he left the church were naturally attributed by all the heirs to the hatred Ursula had excited against them in the old man’s mind.

CHAPTER VIII

THE CONFERENCE

While Ursula was playing variations on Weber’s “Last Thought” to her godfather, a plot was hatching in the Minoret-Levraults’ dining-room which was destined to have a lasting effect on the events of this drama. The breakfast, noisy as all provincial breakfasts are, and enlivened by excellent wines brought to Nemours by the canal either from Burgundy or Touraine, lasted more than two hours. Zelie had sent for oysters, salt-water fish, and other gastronomical delicacies to do honor to Desire’s return. The dining-room, in the center of which a round table offered a most appetizing sight, was like the hall of an inn. Content with the size of her kitchens and offices, Zelie had built a pavilion for the family between the vast courtyard and a garden planted with vegetables and full of fruit-trees. Everything about the premises was solid and plain. The example of Levrault- Levrault had been a warning to the town. Zelie forbade her builder to lead her into such follies. The dining-room was, therefore, hung with varnished paper and furnished with walnut chairs and sideboards, a porcelain stove, a tall clock, and a barometer. Though the plates and dishes were of common white china, the table shone with handsome linen and abundant silverware. After Zelie had served the coffee, coming and going herself like shot in a decanter,–for she kept but one servant, –and when Desire, the budding lawyer, had been told of the event of the morning and its probably consequences, the door was closed, and the notary Dionis was called upon to speak. By the silence in the room and the looks that were cast on that authoritative face, it was easy to see the power that such men exercise over families.

“My dear children,” said he, “your uncle having been born in 1746, is eighty-three years old at the present time; now, old men are given to folly, and that little–“

“Viper!” cried Madame Massin.

“Hussy!” said Zelie.

“Let us call her by her own name,” said Dionis.

“Well, she’s a thief,” said Madame Cremiere.

“A pretty thief,” remarked Desire.

“That little Ursula,” went on Dionis, “has managed to get hold of his heart. I have been thinking of your interests, and I did not wait until now before making certain inquiries; now this is what I have discovered about that young–“

“Marauder,” said the collector.

“Inveigler,” said the clerk of the court.

“Hold your tongue, friends,” said the notary, “or I’ll take my hat and be off.”

“Come, come, papa,” cried Minoret, pouring out a little glass of rum and offering it to the notary; “here, drink this, it comes from Rome itself; and now go on.”

“Ursula is, it is true, the legitimate daughter of Joseph Mirouet; but her father was the natural son of Valentin Mirouet, your uncle’s father-in-law. Being therefore an illegitimate niece, any will the doctor might make in her favor could probably be contested; and if he leaves her his fortune in that way you could bring a suit against Ursula. This, however, might turn out ill for you, in case the court took the view that there was no relationship between Ursula and the doctor. Still, the suit would frighten an unprotected girl, and bring about a compromise–“

“The law is so rigid as to the rights of natural children,” said the newly fledged licentiate, eager to parade his knowledge, “that by the judgment of the court of appeals dated July 7, 1817, a natural child can claim nothing from his natural grandfather, not even a maintenance. So you see the illegitimate parentage is made retrospective. The law pursues the natural child even to its legitimate descent, on the ground that benefactions done to grandchildren reach the natural son through that medium. This is shown by articles 757, 908, and 911 of the civil Code. The royal court of Paris, by a decision of the 26th of January of last year, cut off a legacy made to the legitimate child of a natural son by his grandfather, who, as grandfather, was as distant to a natural grandson as the doctor, being an uncle, is to Ursula.”

“All that,” said Goupil, “seems to me to relate only to the bequests made by grandfathers to natural descendants. Ursula is not a blood relation of Doctor Minoret. I remember a decision of the royal court at Colmar, rendered in 1825, just before I took my degree, which declared that after the decease of a natural child his descendants could no longer be prohibited from inheriting. Now, Ursula’s father is dead.”

Goupil’s argument produced what journalists who report the sittings of legislative assemblies are wont to call “profound sensation.”

“What does that signify?” cried Dionis. “The actual case of the bequest of an uncle to an illegitimate child may not yet have been presented for trial; but when it is, the sternness of French law against such children will be all the more firmly applied because we live in times when religion is honored. I’ll answer for it that out of such a suit as I propose you could get a compromise,–especially if they see you are determined to carry Ursula to a court of appeals.”

Here the joy of the heirs already fingering their gold was made manifest in smiles, shrugs, and gestures round the table, and prevented all notice of Goupil’s dissent. This elation, however, was succeeded by deep silence and uneasiness when the notary uttered his next word, a terrible “But!”

As if he had pulled the string of a puppet-show, starting the little people in jerks by means of machinery, Dionis beheld all eyes turned on him and all faces rigid in one and the same pose.

“BUT no law prevents your uncle from adopting or marrying Ursula,” he continued. “As for adoption, that could be contested, and you would, I think, have equity on your side. The royal courts would never trifle with questions of adoptions; you would get a hearing there. It is true the doctor is an officer of the Legion of honor, and was formerly surgeon to the ex-emperor; but, nevertheless, he would get the worst of it. Moreover, you would have due warning in case of adoption–but how about marriage? Old Minoret is shrewd enough to go to Paris and marry her after a year’s domicile, and give her a million by the marriage contract. The only thing, therefore, that really puts your property in danger is your uncle’s marriage with the girl.”

Here the notary paused.

“There’s another danger,” said Goupil, with a knowing air,–“that of a will made in favor of a third person, old Bongrand for instance, who will hold the property in trust for Mademoiselle Ursula–“

“If you tease your uncle,” continued Dionis, cutting short his head- clerk, “if you are not all of you very polite to Ursula, you will drive him into either a marriage or into making that private trust which Goupil speaks of,–though I don’t think him capable of that; it is a dangerous thing. As for marriage, that is easy to prevent. Desire there has only got to hold out a finger to the girl; she’s sure to prefer a handsome young man, cock of the walk in Nemours, to an old one.”

“Mother,” said Desire to Zelie’s ear, as much allured by the millions as by Ursula’s beauty, “If I married her we should get the whole property.”

“Are you crazy?–you, who’ll some day have fifty thousand francs a year and be made a deputy! As long as I live you never shall cut your throat by a foolish marriage. Seven hundred thousand francs, indeed! Why, the mayor’s only daughter will have fifty thousand a year, and they have already proposed her to me–“

This reply, the first rough speech his mother had ever made to him, extinguished in Desire’s breast all desire for a marriage with the beautiful Ursula; for his father and he never got the better of any decision once written in the terrible blue eyes of Zelie Minoret.

“Yes, but see here, Monsieur Dionis,” cried Cremiere, whose wife had been nudging him, “if the good man took the thing seriously and married his goddaughter to Desire, giving her the reversion of all the property, good-by to our share in it; if he lives five years longer uncle may be worth a million.”

“Never!” cried Zelie, “never in my life shall Desire marry the daughter of a bastard, a girl picked up in the streets out of charity. My son will represent the Minorets after the death of his uncle, and the Minorets have five hundred years of good bourgeoisie behind them. That’s equal to the nobility. Don’t be uneasy, any of you; Desire will marry when we find a chance to put him in the Chamber of deputies.”

This lofty declaration was backed by Goupil, who said:–

“Desire, with an allowance of twenty-four thousand francs a year, will be president of a royal court or solicitor-general; either office leads to the peerage. A foolish marriage would ruin him.”

The heirs were now all talking at once; but they suddenly held their tongues when Minoret rapped on the table with his fist to keep silence for the notary.

“Your uncle is a worthy man,” continued Dionis. “He believes he’s immortal; and, like most clever men, he’ll let death overtake him before he has made a will. My advice therefore is to induce him to invest his capital in a way that will make it difficult for him to disinherit you, and I know of an opportunity, made to hand. That little Portenduere is in Saint-Pelagie, locked-up for one hundred and some odd thousand francs’ worth of debt. His old mother knows he is in prison; she is crying like a Magdalen. The abbe is to dine with her; no doubt she wants to talk to him about her troubles. Well, I’ll go and see your uncle to-night and persuade him to sell his five per cent consols, which are now at 118, and lend Madame de Portenduere, on the security of her farm at Bordieres and her house here, enough to pay the debts of the prodigal son. I have a right as notary to speak to him in behalf of young Portenduere; and it is quite natural that I should wish to make him change his investments; I get deeds and commissions out of the business. If I become his adviser I’ll propose to him other land investments for his surplus capital; I have some excellent ones now in my office. If his fortune were once invested in landed estate or in mortgage notes in this neighbourhood, it could not take wings to itself very easily. It is easy to make difficulties between the wish to realize and the realization.”

The heirs, struck with the truth of this argument (much cleverer than that of Monsieur Josse), murmured approval.

“You must be careful,” said the notary in conclusion, “to keep your uncle in Nemours, where his habits are known, and where you can watch him. Find him a lover for the girl and you’ll prevent his marrying her himself.”

“Suppose she married the lover?” said Goupil, seized by an ambitious desire.

“That wouldn’t be a bad thing; then you could figure up the loss; the old man would have to say how much he gives her,” replied the notary. “But if you set Desire at her he could keep the girl dangling on till the old man died. Marriages are made and unmade.”

“The shortest way,” said Goupil, “if the doctor is likely to live much longer, is to marry her to some worthy young man who will get her out of your way by settling at Sens, or Montargis, or Orleans with a hundred thousand francs in hand.”

Dionis, Massin, Zelie, and Goupil, the only intelligent heads in the company, exchanged four thoughtful smiles.

“He’d be a worm at the core,” whispered Zelie to Massin.

“How did he get here?” returned the clerk.

“That will just suit you!” cried Desire to Goupil. “But do you think you can behave decently enough to satisfy the old man and the girl?”

“In these days,” whispered Zelie again in Massin’s year, “notaries look out for no interests but their own. Suppose Dionis went over to Ursula just to get the old man’s business?”

“I am sure of him,” said the clerk of the court, giving her a sly look out of his spiteful little eyes. He was just going to add, “because I hold something over him,” but he withheld the words.

“I am quite of Dionis’s opinion,” he said aloud.

“So am I,” cried Zelie, who now suspected the notary of collusion with the clerk.

“My wife has voted!” said the post master, sipping his brandy, though his face was already purple from digesting his meal and absorbing a notable quantity of liquids.

“And very properly,” remarked the collector.

“I shall go and see the doctor after dinner,” said Dionis.

“If Monsieur Dionis’s advice is good,” said Madame Cremiere to Madame Massin, “we had better go and call on our uncle, as we used to do, every Sunday evening, and behave exactly as Monsieur Dionis has told us.”

“Yes, and be received as he received us!” cried Zelie. “Minoret and I have more than forty thousand francs a year, and yet he refused our invitations! We are quite his equals. If I don’t know how to write prescriptions I know how to paddle my boat as well as he–I can tell him that!”

“As I am far from having forty thousand francs a year,” said Madame Massin, rather piqued, “I don’t want to lose ten thousand.”

“We are his nieces; we ought to take care of him, and then besides we shall see how things are going,” said Madame Cremiere; “you’ll thank us some day, cousin.”

“Treat Ursula kindly,” said the notary, lifting his right forefinger to the level of his lips; “remember old Jordy left her his savings.”

“You have managed those fools as well as Desroches, the best lawyer in Paris, could have done,” said Goupil to his patron as they left the post-house.

“And now they are quarreling over my fee,” replied the notary, smiling bitterly.

The heirs, after parting with Dionis and his clerk, met again in the square, with face rather flushed from their breakfast, just as vespers were over. As the notary predicted, the Abbe Chaperon had Madame de Portenduere on his arm.

“She dragged him to vespers, see!” cried Madame Massin to Madame Cremiere, pointing to Ursula and the doctor, who were leaving the church.

“Let us go and speak to him,” said Madame Cremiere, approaching the old man.

The change in the faces of his relatives (produced by the conference) did not escape Doctor Minoret. He tried to guess the reason of this sudden amiability, and out of sheer curiosity encouraged Ursula to stop and speak to the two women, who were eager to greet her with exaggerated affection and forced smiles.

“Uncle, will you permit me to come and see you to-night?” said Madame Cremiere. “We feared sometimes we were in your way–but it is such a long time since our children have paid you their respects; our girls are old enough now to make dear Ursula’s acquaintance.”

“Ursula is a little bear, like her name,” replied the doctor.

“Let us tame her,” said Madame Massin. “And besides, uncle,” added the good housewife, trying to hide her real motive under a mask of economy, “they tell us the dear girl has such talent for the forte that we are very anxious to hear her. Madame Cremiere and I are inclined to take her music-master for our children. If there were six or eight scholars in a class it would bring the price of his lessons within our means.”

“Certainly,” said the old man, “and it will be all the better for me because I want to give Ursula a singing-master.”

“Well, to-night then, uncle. We will bring your great-nephew Desire to see you; he is now a lawyer.”

“Yes, to-night,” echoed Minoret, meaning to fathom the motives of these petty souls.

The two nieces pressed Ursula’s hand, saying, with affected eagerness, “Au revoir.”

“Oh, godfather, you have read my heart!” cried Ursula, giving him a grateful look.

“You are going to have a voice,” he said; “and I shall give you masters of drawing and Italian also. A woman,” added the doctor, looking at Ursula as he unfastened the gate of his house, “ought to be educated to the height of every position in which her marriage may place her.”

Ursula grew red as a cherry; her godfather’s thoughts evidently turned in the same direction as her own. Feeling that she was too near confessing to the doctor the involuntary attraction which led her to think about Savinien and to center all her ideas of affection upon him, she turned aside and sat down in front of a great cluster of climbing plants, on the dark background of which she looked at a distance like a blue and white flower.

“Now you see, godfather, that your nieces were very kind to me; yes, they were very kind,” she repeated as he approached her, to change the thoughts that made him pensive.

“Poor little girl!” cried the old man.

He laid Ursula’s hand upon his arm, tapping it gently, and took her to the terraces beside the river, where no one could hear them.

“Why do you say, ‘Poor little girl’?”

“Don’t you see how they fear you?”

“Fear me,–why?”

“My next of kin are very uneasy about my conversion. They no doubt attribute it to your influence over me; they fancy I deprive them of their inheritance to enrich you.”

“But you won’t do that?” said Ursula naively, looking up at him.

“Oh, divine consolation of my old age!” said the doctor, taking his godchild in his arms and kissing her on both cheeks. “It was for her and not for myself, oh God! that I besought thee just now to let me live until the day I give her to some good being who is worthy of her! –You will see comedies, my little angel, comedies which the Minorets and Cremieres and Massins will come and play here. You want to brighten and prolong my life; they are longing for my death.”

“God forbids us to hate any one, but if that is– Ah! I despise them!” exclaimed Ursula.

“Dinner is ready!” called La Bougival from the portico, which, on the garden side, was at the end of the corridor.

CHAPTER IX

A FIRST CONFIDENCE

Ursula and her godfather were sitting at dessert in the pretty dining- room decorated with Chinese designs in black and gold lacquer (the folly of Levrault-Levrault) when the justice of peace arrived. The doctor offered him (and this was a great mark of intimacy) a cup of his coffee, a mixture of Mocha with Bourbon and Martinique, roasted, ground, and made by himself in a silver apparatus called a Chaptal.

“Well,” said Bongrand, pushing up his glasses and looking slyly at the old man, “the town is in commotion; your appearance in church has put your relatives beside themselves. You have left your fortune to the priests, to the poor. You have roused the families, and they are bestirring themselves. Ha! ha! I saw their first irruption into the square; they were as busy as ants who have lost their eggs.”

“What did I tell you, Ursula?” cried the doctor. “At the risk of grieving you, my child, I must teach you to know the world and put you on your guard against undeserved enmity.”

“I should like to say a word to you on this subject,” said Bongrand, seizing the occasion to speak to his old friend of Ursula’s future.

The doctor put a black velvet cap on his white head, the justice of peace wore his hat to protect him from the night air, and they walked up and down the terrace discussing the means of securing to Ursula what her godfather intended to bequeath her. Bongrand knew Dionis’s opinion as to the invalidity of a will made by the doctor in favor of Ursula; for Nemours was so preoccupied with the Minoret affairs that the matter had been much discussed among the lawyers of the little town. Bongrand considered that Ursula was not a relative of Doctor Minoret, but he felt that the whole spirit of legislation was against the foisting into families of illegitimate off-shoots. The makers of the Code had foreseen only the weakness of fathers and mothers for their natural children, without considering that uncles and aunts might have a like tenderness and a desire to provide for such children. Evidently there was a gap in the law.

“In all other countries,” he said, ending an explanation of the legal points which Dionis, Goupil, and Desire had just explained to the heirs, “Ursula would have nothing to fear; she is a legitimate child, and the disability of her father ought only to affect the inheritance from Valentine Mirouet, her grandfather. But in France the magistracy is unfortunately overwise and very consequential; it inquires into the spirit of the law. Some lawyers talk morality, and might try to show that this hiatus in the Code came from the simple-mindedness of the legislators, who did not foresee the case, though, none the less, they established a principle. To bring a suit would be long and expensive. Zelie would carry it to the court of appeals, and I might not be alive when the case was tried.”

“The best of cases is often worthless,” cried the doctor. “Here’s the question the lawyers will put, ‘To what degree of relationship ought the disability of natural children in matters of inheritance to extend?’ and the credit of a good lawyer will lie in gaining a bad cause.”

“Faith!” said Bongrand, “I dare not take upon myself to affirm that the judges wouldn’t interpret the meaning of the law as increasing the protection given to marriage, the eternal base of society.”

Without explaining his intentions, the doctor rejected the idea of a trust. When Bongrand suggested to him a marriage with Ursula as the surest means of securing his property to her, he exclaimed, “Poor little girl! I might live fifteen years; what a fate for her!”

“Well, what will you do, then?” asked Bongrand.

“We’ll think about it–I’ll see,” said the old man, evidently at a loss for a reply.

Just then Ursula came to say that Monsieur Dionis wished to speak to the doctor.

“Already!” cried Minoret, looking at Bongrand. “Yes,” he said to Ursula, “send him here.”

“I’ll bet my spectacles to a bunch of matches that he is the advance- guard of your heirs,” said Bongrand. “They breakfasted together at the post house, and something is being engineered.”

The notary, conducted by Ursula, came to the lower end of the garden. After the usual greetings and a few insignificant remarks, Dionis asked for a private interview; Ursula and Bongrand retired to the salon.

The distrust which superior men excite in men of business is very remarkable. The latter deny them the “lesser” powers while recognizing their possession of the “higher.” It is, perhaps, a tribute to them. Seeing them always on the higher plane of human things, men of business believe them incapable of descending to the infinitely petty details which (like the dividends of finance and the microscopic facts of science) go to equalize capital and to form the worlds. They are mistaken! The man of honor and of genius sees all. Bongrand, piqued by the doctor’s silence, but impelled by a sense of Ursula’s interests which he thought endangered, resolved to defend her against the heirs. He was wretched at not knowing what was taking place between the old man and Dionis.

“No matter how pure and innocent Ursula may be,” he thought as he looked at her, “there is a point on which young girls do make their own law and their own morality. I’ll test here. The Minoret- Levraults,” he began, settling his spectacles, “might possibly ask you in marriage for their son.”

The poor child turned pale. She was too well trained, and had too much delicacy to listen to what Dionis was saying to her uncle; but after a moment’s inward deliberation, she thought she might show herself, and then, if she was in the way, her godfather would let her know it. The Chinese pagoda which the doctor made his study had outside blinds to the glass doors; Ursula invented the excuse of shutting them. She begged Monsieur Bongrand’s pardon for leaving him alone in the salon, but he smiled at her and said, “Go! go!”

Ursula went down the steps of the portico which led to the pagoda at the foot of the garden. She stood for some minutes slowly arranging the blinds and watching the sunset. The doctor and notary were at the end of the terrace, but as they turned she heard the doctor make an answer which reached the pagoda where she was.

“My heirs would be delighted to see me invest my property in real estate or mortgages; they imagine it would be safer there. I know exactly what they are saying; perhaps you come from them. Let me tell you, my good sir, that my disposition of my property is irrevocably made. My heirs will have the capital I brought here with me; I wish them to know that, and to let me alone. If any one of them attempts to interfere with what I think proper to do for that young girl (pointing to Ursula) I shall come back from the other world and torment him. So, Monsieur Savinien de Portenduere will stay in prison if they count on me to get him out. I shall not sell my property in the Funds.”

Hearing this last fragment of the sentence Ursula experienced the first and only pain which so far had ever touched her. She laid her head against the blind to steady herself.

“Good God, what is the matter with her?” thought the old doctor. “She has no color; such an emotion after dinner might kill her.”

He went to her with open arms, and she fell into them almost fainting.

“Adieu, Monsieur,” he said to the notary, “please leave us.”

He carried his child to an immense Louis XV. sofa which was in his study, looked for a phial of hartshorn among his remedies, and made her inhale it.

“Take my place,” said the doctor to Bongrand, who was terrified; “I must be alone with her.”

The justice of peace accompanied the notary to the gate, asking him, but without showing any eagerness, what was the matter with Ursula.

“I don’t know,” replied Dionis. “She was standing by the pagoda, listening to us, and just as her uncle (so-called) refused to lend some money at my request to young de Portenduere who is in prison for debt,–for he has not had, like Monsieur du Rouvre, a Monsieur Bongrand to defend him,–she turned pale and staggered. Can she love him? Is there anything between them?”

“At fifteen years of age? pooh!” replied Bongrand.

“She was born in February, 1813; she’ll be sixteen in four months.”

“I don’t believe she ever saw him,” said the judge. “No, it is only a nervous attack.”

“Attack of the heart, more likely,” said the notary.

Dionis was delighted with this discovery, which would prevent the marriage “in extremis” which they dreaded,–the only sure means by which the doctor could defraud his relatives. Bongrand, on the other hand, saw a private castle of his own demolished; he had long thought of marrying his son to Ursula.

“If the poor girl loves that youth it will be a misfortune for her,” replied Bongrand after a pause. “Madame de Portenduere is a Breton and infatuated with her noble blood.”

“Luckily–I mean for the honor of the Portendueres,” replied the notary, on the point of betraying himself.

Let us do the faithful and upright Bongrand the justice to say that before he re-entered the salon he had abandoned, not without deep regret for his son, the hope he had cherished of some day calling Ursula his daughter. He meant to give his son six thousand francs a year the day he was appointed substitute, and if the doctor would give Ursula a hundred thousand francs what a pearl of a home the pair would make! His Eugene was so loyal and charming a fellow! Perhaps he had praised his Eugene too often, and that had made the doctor distrustful.

“I shall have to come down to the mayor’s daughter,” he thought. “But Ursula without any money is worth more than Mademoiselle Levrault- Cremiere with a million. However, the thing to be done is to manoeuvre the marriage with this little Portenduere–if she really loves him.”

The doctor, after closing the door to the library and that to the garden, took his goddaughter to the window which opened upon the river.

“What ails you, my child?” he said. “Your life is my life. Without your smiles what would become of me?”

“Savinien in prison!” she said.

With these words a shower of tears fell from her eyes and she began to sob.

“Saved!” thought the doctor, who was holding her pulse with great anxiety. “Alas! she has all the sensitiveness of my poor wife,” he thought, fetching a stethoscope which he put to Ursula’s heart, applying his ear to it. “Ah, that’s all right,” he said to himself. “I did not know, my darling, that you loved any one as yet,” he added, looking at her; “but think out loud to me as you think to yourself; tell me all that has passed between you.”

“I do not love him, godfather; we have never spoken to each other,” she answered, sobbing. “But to hear that he is in prison, and to know that you–harshly–refused to get him out–you, so good!”

“Ursula, my dear little good angel, if you do not love him why did you put that little red dot against Saint Savinien’s day just as you put one before that of Saint Denis? Come, tell me everything about your little love-affair.”

Ursula blushed, swallowed a few tears, and for a moment there was silence between them.

“Surely you are not afraid of your father, your friend, mother, doctor, and godfather, whose heart is now more tender than it ever has been.”

“No, no, dear godfather,” she said. “I will open my heart to you. Last May, Monsieur Savinien came to see his mother. Until then I had never taken notice of him. When he left home to live in Paris I was a child, and I did not see any difference between him and–all of you–except perhaps that I loved you, and never thought of loving any one else. Monsieur Savinien came by the mail-post the night before his mother’s fete-day; but we did not know it. At seven the next morning, after I had said my prayers, I opened the window to air my room and I saw the windows in Monsieur Savinien’s room open; and Monsieur Savinien was there, in a dressing gown, arranging his beard; in all his movements there was such grace–I mean, he seemed to me so charming. He combed his black moustache and the little tuft on his chin, and I saw his white throat–so round!–must I tell you all? I noticed that his throat and face and that beautiful black hair were all so different from yours when I watch you arranging your beard. There came–I don’t know how–a sort of glow into my heart, and up into my throat, my head; it came so violently that I sat down–I couldn’t stand, I trembled so. But I longed to see him again, and presently I got up; he saw me then, and, just for play, he sent me a kiss from the tips of his fingers and–“

“And?”

“And then,” she continued, “I hid myself–I was ashamed, but happy– why should I be ashamed of being happy? That feeling–it dazzled my soul and gave it some power, but I don’t know what–it came again each time I saw within me the same young face. I loved this feeling, violent as it was. Going to mass, some unconquerable power made me look at Monsieur Savinien with his mother on his arm; his walk, his clothes, even the tap of his boots on the pavement, seemed to me so charming. The least little thing about him–his hand with the delicate glove–acted like a spell upon me; and yet I had strength enough not to think of him during mass. When the service was over I stayed in the church to let Madame de Portenduere go first, and then I walked behind him. I couldn’t tell you how these little things excited me. When I reached home, I turned round to fasten the iron gate–“

“Where was La Bougival?” asked the doctor.

“Oh, I let her go to the kitchen,” said Ursula simply. “Then I saw Monsieur Savinien standing quite still and looking at me. Oh! godfather, I was so proud, for I thought I saw a look in his eyes of surprise and admiration–I don’t know what I would not do to make him look at me again like that. It seemed to me I ought to think of nothing forevermore but pleasing him. That glance is now the best reward I have for any good I do. From that moment I have thought of him incessantly, in spite of myself. Monsieur Savinien went back to Paris that evening, and I have not seen him since. The street seems empty; he took my heart away with him–but he does not know it.”

“Is that all?” asked the old man.

“All, dear godfather,” she said, with a sigh of regret that there was not more to tell.

“My little girl,” said the doctor, putting her on his knee; “you are nearly sixteen and your womanhood is beginning. You are now between your blessed childhood, which is ending, and the emotions of love, which will make your life a tumultuous one; for you have a nervous system of exquisite sensibility. What has happened to you, my child, is love,” said the old man with an expression of deepest sadness,– “love in its holy simplicity; love as it ought to be; involuntary, sudden, coming like a thief who takes all–yes, all! I expected it. I have studied women; many need proofs and miracles of affection before love conquers them; but others there are, under the influence of sympathies explainable to-day by magnetic fluids, who are possessed by it in an instant. To you I can now tell all–as soon as I saw the charming woman whose name you bear, I felt that I should love her forever, solely and faithfully, without knowing whether our characters or persons suited each other. Is there a second-sight in love? What answer can I give to that, I who have seen so many unions formed under celestial auspices only to be ruptured later, giving rise to hatreds that are well-nigh eternal, to repugnances that are unconquerable. The senses sometimes harmonize while ideas are at variance; and some persons live more by their minds than by their bodies. The contrary is also true; often minds agree and persons displease. These phenomena, the varying and secret cause of many sorrows, show the wisdom of laws which give parents supreme power over the marriages of their children; for a young girl is often duped by one or other of these hallucinations. Therefore I do not blame you. The sensations you feel, the rush of sensibility which has come from its hidden source upon your heart and upon your mind, the happiness with which you think of Savinien, are all natural. But, my darling child, society demands, as our good abbe has told us, the sacrifice of many natural inclinations. The destinies of men and women differ. I was able to choose Ursula Mirouet for my wife; I could go to her and say that I loved her; but a young girl is false to herself if she asks the love of the man she loves. A woman has not the right which men have to seek the accomplishment of her hopes in open day. Modesty is to her–above all to you, my Ursula,–the insurmountable barrier which protects the secrets of her heart. Your hesitation in confiding to me these first emotions shows me you would suffer cruel torture rather than admit to Savinien–“

“Oh, yes!” she said.

“But, my child, you must do more. You must repress these feelings; you must forget them.”

“Why?”

“Because, my darling, you must love only the man you marry; and, even if Monsieur Savinien de Portenduere loved you–“

“I never thought of it.”

“But listen: even if he loved you, even if his mother asked me to give him your hand, I should not consent to the marriage until I had subjected him to a long and thorough probation. His conduct has been such as to make families distrust him and to put obstacles between himself and heiresses which cannot be easily overcome.”

A soft smile came in place of tears on Ursula’s sweet face as she said, “Then poverty is good sometimes.”

The doctor could find no answer to such innocence.

“What has he done, godfather?” she asked.

“In two years, my treasure, he has incurred one hundred and twenty thousand francs of debt. He has had the folly to get himself locked up in Saint-Pelagie, the debtor’s prison; an impropriety which will always be, in these days, a discredit to him. A spendthrift who is willing to plunge his poor mother into poverty and distress might cause his wife, as your poor father did, to die of despair.”

“Don’t you think he will do better?” she asked.

“If his mother pays his debts he will be penniless, and I don’t know a worse punishment than to be a nobleman without means.”

This answer made Ursula thoughtful; she dried her tears, and said:–

“If you can save him, save him, godfather; that service will give you a right to advise him; you can remonstrate–“

“Yes,” said the doctor, imitating her, “and then he can come here, and the old lady will come here, and we shall see them, and–“

“I was thinking only of him,” said Ursula, blushing.

“Don’t think of him, my child; it would be folly,” said the doctor gravely. “Madame de Portenduere, who was a Kergarouet, would never consent, even if she had to live on three hundred francs a year, to the marriage of her son, the Vicomte Savinien de Portenduere, with whom?–with Ursula Mirouet, daughter of a bandsman in a regiment, without money, and whose father–alas! I must now tell you all–was the bastard son of an organist, my father-in-law.”

“O godfather! you are right; we are equal only in the sight of God. I will not think of him again–except in my prayers,” she said, amid the sobs which this painful revelation excited. “Give him what you meant to give me–what can a poor girl like me want?–ah, in prison, he!–“

“Offer to God your disappointments, and perhaps he will help us.”

There was silence for some minutes. When Ursula, who at first did not dare to look at her godfather, raised her eyes, her heart was deeply moved to see the tears which were rolling down his withered cheeks. The tears of old men are as terrible as those of children are natural.

“Oh what is it?” cried Ursula, flinging herself at his feet and kissing his hands. “Are you not sure of me?”

“I, who longed to gratify all your wishes, it is I who am obliged to cause the first great sorrow of your life!” he said. “I suffer as much as you. I never wept before, except when I lost my children–and, Ursula– Yes,” he cried suddenly, “I will do all you desire!”

Ursula gave him, through her tears a look that was vivid as lightning. She smiled.

“Let us go into the salon, darling,” said the doctor. “Try to keep the secret of all this to yourself,” he added, leaving her alone for a moment in his study.

He felt himself so weak before that heavenly smile that he feared he might say a word of hope and thus mislead her.

CHAPTER X

THE FAMILY OF PORTENDUERE

Madame de Portenduere was at this moment alone with the abbe in her frigid little salon on the ground floor, having finished the recital of her troubles to the good priest, her only friend. She held in her hand some letters which he had just returned to her after reading them; these letters had brought her troubles to a climax. Seated on her sofa beside a square table covered with the remains of a dessert, the old lady was looking at the abbe, who sat on the other side of the table, doubled up in his armchair and stroking his chin with the gesture common to valets on the stage, mathematicians, and priests,–a sign of profound meditation on a problem that was difficult to solve.

This little salon, lighted by two windows on the street and finished with a wainscot painted gray, was so damp that the lower panels showed the geometrical cracks of rotten wood when the paint no longer binds it. The red-tiled floor, polished by the old lady’s one servant, required, for comfort’s sake, before each seat small round mats of brown straw, on one of which the abbe was now resting his feet. The old damask curtains of light green with green flowers were drawn, and the outside blinds had been closed. Two wax candles lighted the table, leaving the rest of the room in semi-obscurity. Is it necessary to say that between the two windows was a fine pastel by Latour representing the famous Admiral de Portenduere, the rival of the Suffren, Guichen, Kergarouet and Simeuse naval heroes? On the paneled wall opposite to the fireplace were portraits of the Vicomte de Portenduere and of the mother of the old lady, a Kergarouet-Ploegat. Savinien’s great-uncle was therefore the Vice-admiral de Kergarouet, and his cousin was the Comte de Portenduere, grandson of the admiral,–both of them very rich.

The Vice-admiral de Kergarouet lived in Paris and the Comte de Portenduere at the chateau of that name in Dauphine. The count represented the elder branch, and Savinien was the only scion of the younger. The count, who was over forty years of age and married to a rich wife, had three children. His fortune, increased by various legacies, amounted, it was said, to sixty thousand francs a year. As deputy from Isere he passed his winters in Paris, where he had bought the hotel de Portenduere with the indemnities he obtained under the Villele law. The vice-admiral had recently married his niece by marriage, for the sole purpose of securing his money to her.

The faults of the young viscount were therefore likely to cost him the favor of two powerful protectors. If Savinien had entered the navy, young and handsome as he was, with a famous name, and backed by the influence of an admiral and a deputy, he might, at twenty-three years of age, been a lieutenant; but his mother, unwilling that her only son should go into either naval or military service, had kept him at Nemours under the tutelage of one of the Abbe Chaperon’s assistants, hoping that she could keep him near her until her death. She meant to marry him to a demoiselle d’Aiglemont with a fortune of twelve thousand francs a year; to whose hand the name of Portenduere and the farm at Bordieres enabled him to pretend. This narrow but judicious plan, which would have carried the family to a second generation, was already balked by events. The d’Aiglemonts were ruined, and one of the daughters, Helene, had disappeared, and the mystery of her disappearance was never solved.

The weariness of a life without atmosphere, without prospects, without action, without other nourishment than the love of a son for his mother, so worked upon Savinien that he burst his chains, gentle as they were, and swore that he would never live in the provinces– comprehending, rather late, that his future fate was not to be in the Rue des Bourgeois. At twenty-one years of age he left his mother’s house to make acquaintance with his relations, and try his luck in Paris. The contrast between life in Paris and life in Nemours was likely to be fatal to a young man of twenty-one, free, with no one to say him nay, naturally eager for pleasure, and for whom his name and his connections opened the doors of all the salons. Quite convinced that his mother had the savings of many years in her strong-box, Savinien soon spent the six thousand francs which she had given him to see Paris. That sum did not defray his expenses for six months, and he soon owed double that sum to his hotel, his tailor, his boot maker, to the man from whom he hired his carriages and horses, to a jeweler,– in short, to all those traders and shopkeepers who contribute to the luxury of young men.

He had only just succeeded in making himself known, and had scarcely learned how to converse, how to present himself in a salon, how to wear his waistcoats and choose them and to order his coats and tie his cravat, before he found himself in debt for over thirty thousand francs, while still seeking the right phrases in which to declare his love for the sister of the Marquis de Ronquerolles, the elegant Madame de Serizy, whose youth had been at its climax during the Empire.

“How is that you all manage?” asked Savinien one day, at the end of a gay breakfast with a knot of young dandies, with whom he was intimate as the young men of the present day are intimate with each other, all aiming for the same thing and all claiming an impossible equality. “You were no richer than I and yet you get along without anxiety; you contrive to maintain yourselves, while as for me I make nothing but debts.”

“We all began that way,” answered Rastignac, laughing, and the laugh was echoed by Lucien de Rubempre, Maxime de Trailles, Emile Blondet, and others of the fashionable young men of the day.

“Though de Marsay was rich when he started in life he was an exception,” said the host, a parvenu named Finot, ambitious of seeming intimate with these young men. “Any one but he,” added Finot bowing to that personage, “would have been ruined by it.”

“A true remark,” said Maxime de Trailles.

“And a true idea,” added Rastignac.

“My dear fellow,” said de Marsay, gravely, to Savinien; “debts are the capital stock of experience. A good university education with tutors for all branches, who don’t teach you anything, costs sixty thousand francs. If the education of the world does cost double, at least it teaches you to understand life, politics, men,–and sometimes women.”

Blondet concluded the lesson by a paraphrase from La Fontaine: “The world sells dearly what we think it gives.”

Instead of laying to heart the sensible advice which the cleverest pilots of the Parisian archipelago gave him, Savinien took it all as a joke.

“Take care, my dear fellow,” said de Marsay one day. “You have a great name; if you don’t obtain the fortune that name requires you’ll end your days in the uniform of a cavalry-sergeant. ‘We have seen the fall of nobler heads,'” he added, declaiming the line of Corneille as he took Savinien’s arm. “About six years ago,” he continued, “a young Comte d’Esgrignon came among us; but he did not stay two years in the paradise of the great world. Alas! he lived and moved like a rocket. He rose to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and fell to his native town, where he is now expiating his faults with a wheezy old father and a game of whist at two sous a point. Tell Madame de Serizy your situation, candidly, without shame; she will understand it and be very useful to you. Whereas, if you play the charade of first love with her she will pose as a Raffaelle Madonna, practice all the little games of innocence upon you, and take you journeying at enormous cost through the Land of Sentiment.”

Savinien, still too young and too pure in honor, dared not confess his position as to money to Madame de Serizy. At a moment when he knew not which way to turn he had written his mother an appealing letter, to which she replied by sending him the sum of twenty thousand francs, which was all she possessed. This assistance brought him to the close of the first year. During the second, being harnessed to the chariot of Madame de Serizy, who was seriously taken with him, and who was, as the saying is, forming him, he had recourse to the dangerous expedient of borrowing. One of his friends, a deputy and the friend of his cousin the Comte de Portenduere, advised him in his distress to go to Gobseck or Gigonnet or Palma, who, if duly informed as to his mother’s means, would give him an easy discount. Usury and the deceptive help of renewals enabled him to lead a happy life for nearly eighteen months. Without daring to leave Madame de Serizy the poor boy had fallen madly in love with the beautiful Comtesse de Kergarouet, a prude after the fashion of young women who are awaiting the death of an old husband and making capital of their virtue in the interests of a second marriage. Quite incapable of understanding that calculating virtue is invulnerable, Savinien paid court to Emilie de Kergarouet in all the splendor of a rich man. He never missed either ball or theater at which she was present.

“You haven’t powder enough, my boy, to blow up that rock,” said de Marsay, laughing.

That young king of fashion, who did, out of commiseration for the lad, endeavor to explain to him the nature of Emilie de Fontaine, merely wasted his words; the gloomy lights of misfortune and the twilight of a prison were needed to convince Savinien.

A note, imprudently given to a jeweler in collusion with the money- lenders, who did not wish to have the odium of arresting the young man, was the means of sending Savinien de Portenduere, in default of one hundred and seventeen thousand francs and without the knowledge of his friends, to the debtor’s prison at Sainte-Pelagie. So soon as the fact was known Rastignac, de Marsay, and Lucien de Rubempre went to see him, and each offered him a banknote of a thousand francs when they found how really destitute he was. Everything belonging to him had been seized except the clothes and the few jewels he wore. The three young men (who brought an excellent dinner with them) discussed Savinien’s situation while drinking de Marsay’s wine, ostensibly to arrange for his future but really, no doubt, to judge of him.

“When a man is named Savinien de Portenduere,” cried Rastignac, “and has a future peer of France for a cousin and Admiral Kergarouet for a great-uncle, and commits the enormous blunder of allowing himself to be put in Sainte-Pelagie, it is very certain that he must not stay there, my good fellow.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” cried de Marsay. “You could have had my traveling-carriage, ten thousand francs, and letters of introduction for Germany. We know Gobseck and Gigonnet and the other crocodiles; we could have made them capitulate. But tell me, in the first place, what ass ever led you to drink of that cursed spring.”

“Des Lupeaulx.”