Mysteries of Paris, V3
Part 5 out of 9
action, the founder has wished that the greatest number possible of his
brothers should participate in the succor offered. He addresses himself, in
the first place, to honest, industrious workmen, with families, whom the
want of work often reduces to the most cruel extremities. It is not a
degrading alms which he gives to his brothers but a gratuitous loan which
he offers. May this loan, as he hopes, prevent them often from resorting to
those cruel pledges which they are forced to make (while awaiting the
return of work), for the purpose of sustaining a family of which they are
the sole support. The only guarantee for this loan which he demands from
his brothers is their oath and honor. It has a revenue of twelve thousand
francs, which will be loaned without interest to workmen with families and
out of work, in sums of twenty to forty francs. These loans shall only be
made to working men or women who shall bring a certificate of good conduct
from their last employer, stating the cause and date of the suspension of
employment. These loans will be repaid monthly by sixths or twelfths, at
the choice of the borrower, commencing from the day on which he finds
employment. He will subscribe a simple engagement of honor to reimburse the
loan at stated periods. To this will be added, as indorsers, the names of
two of his companions. The workman who shall not reimburse the amount
borrowed by him, cannot, he or his indorsers, have any claims for a new
loan; or he will have forfeited a sacred engagement, and, above all,
deprived several of his brothers of the advantages which he has enjoyed.
The sums loaned, on the contrary, being scrupulously repaid, the same
benefit can be bestowed on others. Not to degrade man by alms. Not to
encourage idleness by a fruitless charity. To stimulate sentiments of honor
and innate probity among the laboring classes. To come in a brotherly
manner to the aid of the workman, who, living already with difficulty from
day to day, cannot, when no work can be procured, _suspend_ his wants
or those of his family, because his work is suspended. Such are the
thoughts which have given rise to this institution. May He who has said,
'Love ye one another,' be glorified."
"Oh! sir," cried the abbé, with religious admiration, "what a charitable
idea! how easily I can comprehend your emotion on reading these lines of
such touching simplicity."
In truth, while finishing this reading, the voice of Jacques Ferrand was
broken, his impatience and temper were at an end; but, watched by Polidori,
he dared not, could not trangress the least orders of Rudolph. Let his rage
be imagined at being forced to dispose so liberally of his fortune in favor
of a class whom he had so unmercifully persecuted in the person of Morel
"Is not the idea excellent, M. l'Abbé?" asked Polidori.
"Oh, sir, I, who am acquainted with all kinds of poverty, can comprehend,
better than any one, of what importance this loan would be to poor and
honest workmen without employ. Indigence without employment never finds
credit, or, if obtainable, it is at a most usurious rate; they will lend
thirty sous at eight days, and then forty must be returned; and even these
loans are very difficult to be obtained; those from the pawnbrokers cost
often near three hundred per cent. The artisan without work often pledges
for forty sous the only covering which, during the nights of winter,
defends him and his from the rigor of the cold. But," added the abbé, with
enthusiasm, "a loan of thirty or forty francs without interest, and
reimbursable by twelfths, when work returns-for honest workmen, it is their
safety, it is hope, it is life. And with what fidelity they would pay it
back! It is a sacred debt, which they have contracted to give bread to
their wives and children!"
"How precious the eulogiums of M. l'Abbé must be to you, Jacques," said
Polidori; "and how many more will he pronounce when he hears of your
establishment of a Feeless Pawnbroker's."
"Certainly, M. l'Abbé, Jacques has not forgotten this; it is a kind of
appendage to his Bank for the Poor."
"Can it be true?" cried the priest, clasping his hands with admiration.
"Continue, Jacques," said Polidori.
The notary proceeded to read with a rapid voice, for the whole scene was
odious and hateful to him.
"These loans have for their object the remedy for one of the gravest
incidents in the life of a laborer--intermission of work. They shall
therefore be granted only to those out of employment. But it remains to
provide for the other cruel embarrassments which reach even those with
employment. Often, the loss of one or two days, caused sometimes by
fatigue, by the attention necessary to bestow on a wife or sick child,
deprives the workman of his daily resources. Then he has recourse to the
pawnbroker's, or to unlawful lenders of money, at an enormous rate of
interest. Wishing, as much as possible, to lighten the burden of his
brothers, the founder of the Bank of the Poor sets apart an income of
twenty-five thousand francs a year, for the purpose of lending on pledges,
not to exceed the amount of ten francs for each loan. The borrowers will
pay neither cost nor interest, but they must prove that they follow an
honorable profession, and produce a declaration from their employers which
will prove their morality. At the end of two years, the articles which have
not been redeemed will be sold, without costs; the proceeds arising from
the surplus of this sale shall be placed, at five per cent. interest, to
the profit of the owners. At the end of five years, if this sum shall not
be reclaimed, it shall be added to the Bank of the Poor. The administration
and the office of said bank shall be placed in the Rue du Temple, No. 17,
in a house bought for this purpose, in the center of that most populous
quarter. A revenue of ten thousand francs shall be appropriated to the
expenses and to the administration of the Bank of the Poor, of which the
director for life shall be---"
Polidori interrupted the notary, and said to the priest, "You will see, M.
l'Abbé, by the choice of the director of this establishment, whether
Jacques knows how to repair the wrong which he has involuntarily done. You
know that by an error which he deplores, he had falsely accused his cashier
of taking a sum which he afterward discovered."
"Well! it is to this honest young man, François Germain, that Jacques
assigns the life governorship of this bank, with a salary of four thousand
francs. Is it not admirable, M. l'Abbé?"
"Nothing astonishes me now, or, rather, nothing has astonished me," said
the priest. "The fervent piety, the virtues of our worthy friend, could
hardly fail of such a result. To consecrate all his fortune to such an
institution--ah! it is admirable!"
"More than a million, M. l'Abbé," said Polidori, "more than a million,
amassed by dint of order, economy, and probity; and yet there are those who
accuse Jacques of avarice! How, said they, his office brings him in fifty
or sixty thousand francs a year, and he lives like a miser!"
"To such as these," replied the abbé, with enthusiasm, "I would answer:
During fifteen years he has lived like a poor man, in order to be able at
the present time magnificently to solace the poor."
"Be, then, at least proud and joyous at the good you have done," cried
Polidori, addressing Jacques Ferrand, who, gloomy and cast down, seemed
absorbed in profound meditation.
"Alas!" said the abbé, sadly, "it is not in this world that one receives
the recompense of so many virtues; he has a more exalted ambition."
"Jacques," said Polidori, touching the notary lightly on the shoulder,
"finish your reading." The notary started, passed his hand over his face,
and said to the priest:
"Pardon, M. l'Abbé, but I was thinking--I was thinking of the immense
extension that this bank for the poor might have from the returned loans.
If the loans of each year were regularly repaid at the end of four years,
it would have already loaned about fifty thousand crowns on pledge or
gratuitously. It is enormous--enormous; and I felicitate myself on it," he
added, thinking of the value of the sacrifice imposed upon him. He resumed:
"I was, I believe, at--"
"At the nomination of François Germain for director of the bank," said
Polidori. Jacques Ferrand continued.
"A revenue often thousand francs shall be set aside for the expenses and
administration of the Bank of the Poor without work, of which the perpetual
director shall be François Germain, and the porter and keeper shall be the
present porter of the house, named Pipelet.
"M. l'Abbé Dumont, with whom the funds necessary for this undertaking shall
be deposited, will form a superior council of supervision, composed of the
mayor and the justice of the peace of the ward, who will add to their
number the persons whose assistance they shall consider useful to the
extension of the Bank for the Poor; for the founder will esteem himself a
thousand times paid for the little that he has done if some charitable
person will aid in the work.
"The opening of this bank will be announced by every means of publicity
possible. The founder repeats, in conclusion, that he takes no credit for
what he has done for his brothers. His sole thought is but the echo of this
Divine command: 'Love ye one another.'"
"And your place above shall be assigned to you beside Him who hath
pronounced th immortal words," cried the abbé, pressing with much warmth
the hands of Jacques Ferrand in his own.
The notary was overpowered. Without replying to the encomiums of the abbé
he hastened to give him in treasury bonds the considerable sum necessary
for the establishment of this institution and for the annuity of Morel the
"I dare hope, M. l'Abbé," at length said Jacques Ferrand, "that you will
not refuse this new mission confided to your charitable care. Besides, a
stranger, called Sir Walter Murphy, who has given me some advice about the
drawing up of this project, will partake of your labor, and will visit you
today to converse with you on the practicability of the plan, and to place
himself at your service, if he can be of any use. Except with him, I pray
you to preserve the most profound secrecy, M. l'Abbé."
"You are right. God knows what you are doing for your poor brothers. What
matters the rest? All my regret is that I have nothing but my zeal to
contribute in aid of this most noble institution; it will be, at least, as
ardent as your charity is untiring. But what is the matter? You turn pale.
Do you suffer?"
"A little, M. l'Abbé. This long reading, the emotions caused by your kind
words, the indisposition from which I am suffering. Pardon my weakness,"
said Jacques Ferrand, seating himself as if in pain; "there is nothing
serious in it, but I am exhausted."
"Perhaps you had better go to bed," said the priest, with an air of lively
interest, "and send for your physician?"
"I am a physician, M. l'Abbé," said Polidori. "The situation of Ferrand
demands great care; I will give him all my attention."
The notary shuddered.
"A little repose will relieve you, I hope," said the cure. "I leave you;
but before I go, I wish to give you a receipt for this money. Come, take
courage, be of good cheer!" said the priest, handing the receipt, which he
wrote at the desk, to Jacques Ferrand. "Farewell; tomorrow I will call and
see you again. Adieu, sir--adieu, my friend, my worthy, pious friend!"
The priest went out, and Jacques Ferrand and Polidori remained alone.
Hardly had the abbé gone than Jacques Ferrand uttered a terrible
imprecation. His despair and rage, so long restrained, burst forth with
fury; breathless, his face convulsed, his eyes rolling in their sockets, he
walked up and down in the cabinet like a wild beast confined by a chain.
Polidori, presenting the greatest composure, observed the notary
"Thunder and blood!" cried Jacques, in a voice choked with rage; "my
fortune entirely swallowed up in these stupid good works! I, who despise
and execrate men; I, who have only lived to deceive and despoil them; I
found philanthropic establishments--to be forced to do it by infernal
means! But is it the devil, then, who is your master?" he cried, with fury,
stopping abruptly before Polidori.
"I have no master," he answered, coldly. "Like you, I have a judge!"
"To obey like a fool the orders of this man!" said Jacques Ferrand, with
renewed rage. "And this priest, whom I have so often laughed at, because he
was the dupe of my hypocrisy; every one of the praises he gave me was like
a thrust with a dagger. And to be compelled--"
"Or the scaffold, as an alternative."
"Oh! not to be able to escape this fatal power! There is more than a
million that I have given up. If I have left, with this house a hundred
thousand francs, it is the very outside. What more do they want?"
"You are not at the end yet. The prince knows, through Badinot, that your
man of straw, Petit Jean, was only a name borrowed by you for the purpose
of making the usurious loans to the Viscount de Saint Rémy. The sums which
Saint Rémy repaid you were loaned to him by a great lady; probably another
restitution awaits you: but it stands adjourned. Doubtless because it is a
more delicate affair."
"Chained, chained here!"
"As securely as with an iron cable."
"What would you have? According to the system of the prince, nothing more
logical; he punishes crime by crime, accomplice by accomplice."
"Oh! rage! madness!"
"Oh! unfortunately, powerless rage, for, as long as I am not told, 'Jacques
Ferrand is free to quit this house,' I will remain like your shadow.
Listen, then: as well as you, I merit the scaffold. If I fail to execute
the orders given to me, my head falls. You cannot, then, have a more
incorruptible guardian. As for flying, both of us--impossible: we could not
take a step outside of this house without falling into the hands of those
who are watching it night and day."
"Death and fury, I know it!"
"Be resigned, then, for this flight is impossible; even should we succeed
in escaping, it would only make our situation more precarious, for they
would send the police in search of us. On the contrary, you in obeying, and
I, in watching the accuracy of your obedience, we are certain of not having
our throats cut. Once more, I say, let us be resigned."
"Do not exasperate me by this indifference, or---"
"Or what? I do not fear you: I am on my guard, I am armed; and even if you
were to find the poisoned dagger of Cecily to kill me---"--"Be quiet!"
"It would be of no use; you know that every two hours I am obliged to give
a bulletin of your precious health, an indirect way of hearing from us
both. On not seeing me appear, they will suspect you of the murder; you
will be arrested. And--But hold. I do you an injury in supposing you
capable of this crime. You have sacrificed a million to save your life, and
you would not risk your head for the foolish and fruitless vengeance of
killing me! Come, come, you are not fool enough for that."
"It is because you know I cannot kill you that you increase my torments by
"Your position is so original, you do not see it yourself; but, on my
honor, it is enjoyable!"
"Oh, misfortune! misfortune irretrievable! On whatever side I turn, it is
death! And what I most dread now is destruction! Curses on myself, on you,
on the whole world!"
"Your misanthropy is more extensive than your philanthropy! The former
embraces the whole world; the latter but one of the wards of Paris."
"Go on--rail, monster!"
"Would you prefer that I should crush you with reproaches?"
"Whose fault is it that we are reduced to this position?"
"Yours. Why preserve around your neck, suspended as a relic, that letter of
mine relative to the murder which was worth a hundred thousand crowns to
you--the murder which we had so adroitly passed off as a suicide?"
"Why? wretch! Did I not give you fifty thousand francs for your
co-operation in the crime, and for this letter, which I required that I
might have a guarantee against your denouncing me? My life and fortune
were, then, dependent on its possession; that is the reason why I always
wore it around my neck."
"It is true, it was cunning on your part, for I would gain nothing by
denouncing you except the pleasure of going to the scaffold side by side
with you. And yet your cunning has ruined us, while mine would have assured
impunity for the crime to the present moment."
"Who could foresee what has come to pass? But, in the ordinary march of
events, our crime would have been unpunished, thanks to me."
"Thanks to you?"
"Yes; when we had blown this man's brains out, you wished simply to
counterfeit his signature, and to write his sister that, ruined completely,
he had killed himself from despair. You thought that you would make a great
stroke of policy by not speaking in this letter of the deposit he had
confided to you. It was absurd. This deposit being known to his sister, she
would have unquestionably reclaimed it. It was necessary, then, on the
contrary, to mention it as we did, in order that, if there were any
suspicions of the reality of the suicide, you might be the last person to
be suspected. Then what happened? The suicide was believed; from your
reputation for probity, you were enabled to deny the deposit, and it was
thought that the brother killed himself after having dissipated the fortune
of his sister."
"But what matters all this at present? The crime is discovered."
"And thanks to whom? Was it my fault if my letter was a double-edged sword,
cutting both ways? How could you be so weak, so stupid, as to deliver such
a terrible weapon to this infernal Cecily?"
"Hush--do not pronounce that name!" cried Jacques Ferrand, with a frightful
"So be it; I do not wish to make you epileptic. You will see that, in
guarding against ordinary justice, our mutual precautions were sufficient;
but the extraordinary justice of him who holds us both in his power defied
"Oh! I know it but too well."
"He believes that to cut off the head of a criminal does not sufficiently
repair the evil he has done. With the proofs which he holds, if he were to
deliver us to the tribunals, what would be the result? Two corpses, at the
most only good to fatten the graveyard."
"Oh! yes--it is tears, and anguish, and tortures which this prince
demands--this demon. But I do not know him, I have never done him any harm.
Why does he pursue me thus?"
"In the first place he pretends to reward the good, and punish the evil
done to others; and, besides, he knows those whom you have injured, and he
punishes you in his own way."
"But by what right?"
"Come, come, Jacques, between us, do not speak of right; he had the power
to have your head taken off in a judicial manner. What would have been the
result? Your relations are all dead--the state would have profited by your
fortune instead of those whom you have despoiled. On the contrary, in
redeeming your life at the price of your money all your victims will be
remunerated for their sufferings, in the manner already decided upon. So in
this point of view, we can confess to each other that if society should
have gained nothing by your death, it gains much by your living."
"And it is this which causes my rage--and this is not my only torture."
"The prince knows it well. Now what will he decide to do with us? I am
ignorant. He has promised to spare us our lives if we faithfully obey his
orders. He will keep his promise. But if he does not believe our crimes
sufficiently expiated he will know how to make us prefer death a thousand
times to the life he grants us. You do not know him. Besides, he has more
than one devil in his service--for this Cecily--whom may the thunder
"Once more, be still--not that name--not that name!"
"Yes, yes! may the thunder blast her who bears that name! It is she who has
ruined all. Our heads would now be in security on our shoulders but for
your silly love for this creature."
Instead of storming with rage, Jacques Ferrand answered with a deep sigh,
"Do you know this woman? Speak. Have you ever seen her?"
"Never. They say she is beautiful."
"Beautiful!" answered the notary, shrugging his shoulders. "Hold!" he added
with a kind of bitter desperation; "be still! Do not speak of what you do
not know. Do not accuse me! What I have done you would have done in my
"I place my life at the mercy of a woman!"
"Of that one--yes--and I would do it again."
"By Jove, he is still under the charm," cried Polidori amazed.
"Listen," answered the notary, in a low, calm voice, "listen: you know if I
love gold? You know what I have braved to acquire it? To reckon up the sums
I possessed, to see them doubled by my avarice, to endure every privation,
and know myself the master of a treasure--it was my joy, my happiness. Yes,
to possess, not to enjoy, but to theorize, was my life. One month since, if
they had said to me, 'Between your fortune and your head choose,' I would
have given up my head."
"But of what use to have money when one dies?"
"Ask me, then, 'Of what use to possess it, when one makes no use of what
one possesses?' I, a millionaire, did I lead the life of a millionaire? No:
I lived like a poor beggar. I loved, then, to possess, for possession's
"But once more I ask you, of what use is it when one dies?"
"To the possessing! Yes, to enjoy that even to the last moment for which
you have braved privations, infamy, the scaffold; yes, to say once more,
the head under the ax, 'I possess!' Oh! do you see, death is sweet compared
to the torments that are endured on seeing one's self during life
dispossessed, as I am, of all that I have amassed at the price of so much
pain, so much danger! Oh! to say, at each moment of the day, 'I, who had
more than a million--I, who have endured every privation to preserve it--I,
who in ten years would have doubled it, tripled it--I have no longer
anything. It is cruel! it is to die, not each day, but each moment of the
day. Yes, to this horrible agony, which may endure for years, perhaps, I
would have preferred death a thousand times. Once more, I could have said
in dying, 'I possess.'"
Polidori looked at his accomplice with profound astonishment.
"I cannot comprehend you. Then why have you obeyed the commands of him who
might have caused your head to roll from the scaffold? Why have you
preferred life, without your treasure, if this life seems so horrible to
"It is, do you see," answered the notary, in a voice sunk to a whisper, "it
is not the thought of death--it is annihilation. And Cecily!"
"And you hope!" cried Polidori, astonished.
"I hope not; I possess---"
"But you will never see her again; she has delivered up your head!"
"But I love her still, and more madly than ever," cried Jacques Ferrand,
with an explosion of tears, of sobs, which strangely contrasted with the
calmness of his last words. "Yes, I love her always, and I do not wish to
die, so that I can plunge myself deeper and deeper with wild delight into
this furnace where I am consumed by inches. For you do not know--that
night--that night in which I saw her so beautiful--that night is always
present to my thoughts--that picture of voluptuousness is there,
there--always there--before my eyes. Let them be open or shut, in feverish
weakness or burning watchfulness, I see her black eyes and inflaming
glances, which boil the marrow of my bones. I feel her breath upon my
face--I hear her voice."
"But these are frightful torments!"
"Frightful! ay, frightful! But death! but annihilation! but to lose forever
this remembrance, as vivid as reality; but to renounce these recollections,
which torture me, devour me, and consume me! No! no! no! Live! live--poor,
despised, scorned--live in the galleys, but live! so that thought
remains--since this infernal creature has all my thought--is all my
"Jacques," said Polidori, in a grave tone, which strangely contrasted with
his habitual bitter irony, "I have seen much suffering, but never tortures
that approach yours. He who holds us in his power could not have been more
unmerciful. He has condemned you to live--to await death in terrible
agonies--for this avowal explains to me the alarming symptoms which every
day develop in you, and of which I sought in vain the cause."
"But these symptoms are nothing serious! It is exhaustion; it is the
reaction of my sorrows! I am not in danger. Is it not so?"
"No, no; but your position is a critical one; you must not make it worse.
Certain thoughts must be driven away, otherwise you run great risk."
"I will do what you wish so I may live, for I do not wish to die. Oh! the
priests talk of the damned! never could one imagine for them a punishment
equal to mine. Tortured by passion and avarice, I have two bleeding wounds
instead of one, and I feel both of them equally. The loss of my gold is
frightful to me, but death would be more frightful still. I wish to live;
my life may be a torture without end, and I dare not call upon death, for
death annihilates my fatal happiness, this phantom of my thoughts, in which
Cecily constantly appears."
"You have at least the consolation," said Polidori, resuming his usual
calmness, "of thinking upon the good that you have done in expiation of
"Yes, rail--you are right; turn me over on the burning coals. You know
well, wretch, that I hate humanity; you know well that these expiations
which are imposed upon me, only inspire me with hatred against those who
oblige me to act thus, and against those who profit by it. Thunder and
blood! To think that, while I drag along a frightful life, these men whom I
execrate have their misery solaced; that this widow and her daughter will
thank God for the fortune I restore them--that this Morel and his daughter
will live in ease and comfort--that this Germain will have an honorable
situation assured to him for life! And this priest! this priest, who
blessed me when my heart was swimming in gall and blood--I could have
stabbed him! Oh! it is too much! No! no!" he cried, covering his face with
his hands: "my head bursts--my ideas are confused--I cannot resist such
attacks of impotent rage! And all this for you! Cecily! Cecily! do you know
how much I suffer? do you know, Cecily--demon--brought up from below!"
Ferrand, exhausted by this frightful raving, fell back foaming on his
chair, and threw his arms wildly about, uttering hollow and inarticulate
sounds. This fit of convulsive and despairing rage by no means astonished
Polidori. Possessing a consummate medical experience, he at once saw that
Ferrand's anguish at seeing himself dispossessed of his fortune, joined to
his passion for Cecily, had lighted up the flames of a devouring fever.
Suddenly some one knocked hurriedly at the door of the cabinet.
"Jacques!" said Polidori, to the notary; "Jacques! recover yourself; here
is some one."
The notary did not hear him. Half lying on his desk, be writhed with
convulsive spasms. Polidori went to open the door, and saw the head clerk,
who, pale and alarmed, cried, "I must speak at once to M. Ferrand."
"Silence! he is at this moment lying ill; he cannot understand you," said
Polidori, in a whisper; and coming out from the cabinet, he closed the door
"Oh! sir," cried the clerk, "you are the best friend of M. Ferrand; come to
his assistance; there is not a moment to be lost."
"What do you mean?"
"I went, according to the orders of M. Ferrand, to tell the Countess
M'Gregor that he could not visit her to-day as she desired."
"This lady, who appears to be now out of danger, made me come into her
room. She cried, in a threatening tone, 'Return, and tell M. Ferrand that
if he is not here in an hour he shall be arrested for forgery, for the
child which he pretended was dead is yet alive. I know to whom he delivered
her--I know where she is.'"
[Footnote: The reader will remember that the countess thought
Fleur-de-Marit was still at Saint Lazare, according to La Chouette's
"The woman is crazy," answered Polidori, coldly, shrugging his shoulders.
"You think so, sir."
"I am sure of it."
"I thought so at first; but the assertions of her ladyship."
"Her head, doubtless, has been weakened by illness, and visionaries always
believe in their visions."
"I ought to tell you also, sir, that at the moment when I left the chamber
of the countess, one of her women, entered precipitately, saying, 'His
highness will be here in an hour!'"
"It is the prince!" thought Polidori. "He at the house of the Countess
Sarah, whom he was never to see again! I do not know wherefore, but I do
not like this meeting; it may make our position worse." Then, turning to
the clerk, he said, "Once more I repeat that this is nothing. I will,
however, inform M. Ferrand of what you have just related to me."
RUDOLPH AND SARAH.
We will conduct the reader to the countess's, whom a salutary crisis had
snatched from the delirium and sufferings which, during several days, had
caused the most serious fears for her life. The day began to close. Sarah,
seated in a large arm-chair, and supported by her brother, Thomas Seyton,
was attentively surveying herself in a mirror, which was held by one of her
women kneeling before her. This scene passed in the saloon where La
Chouette had made her murderous attempt. The countess was as pale as
marble, which gave a bolder relief to her dark eyes and hair; an ample
white muslin wrapper completely concealed her form.
"Give me the coral coronet," she said to one of her women, in a weak but
"Betty will fasten it," said Thomas Seyton; "you will fatigue yourself; you
are already so imprudent."
"The coral!" repeated she, impatiently, as she took the jewel and placed it
on her brow. "Now fasten it, and leave me," she added, to her women.
As they were retiring, she said,
"Let them show M. Ferrand into the little blue saloon; and," she continued,
with an expression of ill-concealed pride, "as soon as his Serene Highness
the Grand Duke of Gerolstein arrives, he must be ushered in here. At
length," said Sarah, throwing herself back in her chair as soon as she was
alone with her brother, "at length I touch this crown--the dream of my
life! The prediction is about to be accomplished!"
"Sarah, calm your emotion," said her brother, earnestly. "Yesterday they
still despaired of your life; disappointment now might cause a relapse."
"You are right, Tom. The fall would be dreadful, for my hopes have never
been nearer being realized than now! I am certain that what has prevented
me from sinking under my sufferings has been my constant hope to profit by
the important revelation which this woman made me at the moment when she
"Even during your delirium you constantly referred to this idea."
"Because this idea alone sustained my flickering life. What a hope!
Sovereign princess! almost a queen," she added, with rapture.
"Once more, Sarah; no mad dreams; the awakening will be terrible!"
"Mad dreams? How! when Rudolph shall know that this young girl, now a
prisoner at Saint Lazare, is our child, do you think that---"
Seyton interrupted his sister.
"I believe," he replied, with bitterness, "that princes place reasons of
state and political proprieties before natural ties."
"Do you count so little on my address?"
"The prince is not the same fond and enamored youth whom you seduced in
days gone by."
"Do you know why I have wished to ornament my hair with this band of coral?
and why I have put on this white robe? It is because, the first time
Rudolph saw me at the court of Gerolstein, I was dressed in white, and I
wore the same band of coral in my hair."
"How?" said Thomas Seyton, looking at his sister with surprise: "you wish
to evoke these memories; do you not, on the contrary, dread their
"I know Rudolph better than you. Doubtless, my features, now changed by age
and sufferings, are no longer those of the young girl of sixteen he so
wildly loved--whom he has alone loved--for I was his first love. And this
love, unique in the life of man, leaves always in his heart ineffaceable
traces. Believe me, brother, the sight of this ornament will awaken in
Rudolph, not only the memories of his love, but also those of his youth;
and to men the recollection of their first emotions is always sweet and
"But to these soft memories are joined others of terrible import. Do you
forget the fatal termination of your love? The conduct of the prince's
father toward you? Your obstinate silence when Rudolph, after your marriage
with Earl M'Gregor, demanded your child, then quite an infant? your
daughter, of whose death, ten years before, you informed him in a cold
letter? Do you forget that since that time the prince has only felt for you
"Pity has taken the place of hatred. Since he has known that I was in a
dying state, each day has he sent Baron de Graun to make inquiries."
"Just now he answered my note; said that he would come here. This
concession is immense, my brother."
"He believes you dying. He supposes that he is coming to take a last
farewell. You were wrong not to write to him what you are now about to
[Illustration: THE LITTLE MENDICANT]
"I know why I act thus. This revelation will fill him with surprise and
joy, and I shall be present to profit by his first burst of tenderness.
To-day, or never, he shall say to me, 'A marriage would make the birth of
our child legitimate.' If he says so, his word is sacred, and the hope of
all my life will at length be realized."
"If he makes you this promise--yes."
At this moment was heard the noise of a carriage, which entered the
court-yard. "It is he--it is Rudolph!" cried Sarah.
"Yes, it is the prince, he is getting out of the carriage."
"Leave me alone--this is the decisive moment," said Sarah, with immovable
self-control; for a towering ambition and unbounded selfishness had always
been and still were the ruling motives of this woman.
After a momentary hesitation, Thomas Seyton drew near to his sister and
said, "It is I who will inform the prince how your daughter has been saved;
this interview will be too dangerous for you; a violent emotion would kill
"Your hand, my brother," said Sarah.
Then, placing on her impassable heart the hand of Seyton, she added, with a
forced and icy smile, "Am I agitated?"
"No, in truth, not at all," said Seyton, with surprise; "I know what
command you have over yourself. But at such a moment--where for you will be
decided--a crown--or death--your calmness absolutely confounds me."
"Why this astonishment, my brother? did you not know that nothing--no,
nothing has ever caused this marble heart to quicken its pulsations? It
will only palpitate when I shall feel placed on my brow the sovereign
crown. I hear Rudolph--leave me."
"Leave me!" cried Sarah, in a tone so imperious, so resolute, that her
brother left the apartment some moments before the prince was introduced.
When Rudolph entered the saloon, his countenance expressed pity; but seeing
the countess seated in the chair decked with her jewels, he drew back with
surprise, and his physiognomy became immediately somber and suspicious.
The countess, divining his thoughts, said to him in a soft and feeble
voice, "You thought to find me dying; you came to receive my last
"I have always regarded as sacred the last wishes of the dying, but it
appears I have been deceived."
"Reassure yourself," said Sarah, interrupting Rudolph. "I have not deceived
you; there remain for me but a few hours to live. Pardon me a last act of
coquetry; I wished to spare you the usual attendants of a death-bed. I
wished to die dressed as I was the first time I saw you. Alas! after ten
years of separation, I see you again! Thanks--oh, thanks! But in your
turn, render thanks to heaven for having moved you to come to listen to my
last prayer. If you had refused me, I had carried with me to the tomb a
secret which is going to make the joy, the happiness of your life. Joy
mixed with some tears, like all other human felicity; but this felicity!
you would buy it at the price of half the remaining days of your life!"
"What do you mean to say?" demanded the prince, with surprise.
"Yes, Rudolph, if you had not come, this secret would have followed me to
the tomb--it had been my sole vengeance; and yet--no, no, I should not have
had this terrible courage. Although you would have caused me much
suffering, I should have divided with you this supreme happiness, which,
more fortunate than I, you will a long time enjoy."
"But, once more, madame, what means all this?"
"When you know it, you will comprehend my delay in informing you, for you
will regard this revelation as a miracle from heaven. But, strange
thought--I, who with one word can cause you the greatest happiness that you
have ever experienced--I feel, although now the minutes of my life are
counted--I feel an indescribable satisfaction in prolonging your suspense;
and, besides, I know your heart, and, in spite of the firmness of your
character, I should fear to announce to you, without preparation, a
discovery so incredible. The emotions of sudden joy have also their
"Your pallor increases--you with difficulty restrain a violent agitation,"
said Rudolph; "all this proves that something grave and important----"
"Grave and important!" repeated Sarah, in a faltering voice, for,
notwithstanding her habitual immobility, in reflecting upon the immense
importance of the revelation she was about to make to Rudolph, she felt
herself more agitated than she could have thought possible. After a
moment's silence, Sarah, no longer able to restrain herself, cried,
"Rudolph, our child is not dead."
"I tell you she lives!" These words, the accent of truth with which they
were pronounced, moved the prince to the very bottom of his heart.
"Our child!" he repeated, advancing hastily toward Sarah; "our child! my
"She is not dead; I have certain proofs; I know where she is--to-morrow you
shall see her."
"My daughter! my child!" repeated Rudolph, as if in a dream; "can it be
possible? is she alive?"
Then, suddenly reflecting on the great improbability of this relation, and
fearing to be the dupe of Sarah, he cried, "No, no; it is a dream! it is
impossible, you deceive me; it is some unworthy deceit!"
"Rudolph, listen to me!"
"No, I know your ambition--I know of what you are capable; I can fathom the
object of this fabrication!"
"Well! you speak the truth. I am capable of everything. Yes, I did wish to
deceive you. Yes, some days before I received my mortal wound I did wish to
find a young girl, whom I would have presented to you in the place of our
child whom you regret so bitterly."
"Enough--oh! enough, madame."
"After this confession you will believe me, perhaps; or, rather, you will
be forced to give credence to the proofs."
"To the proofs?"
"Yes, Rudolph; I repeat it, I have wished to deceive you, to substitute an
obscure girl in the place of her we mourn; but Heaven willed that, at the
moment when I was about to carry the project into execution, I should be
"You! at this moment!"
"Heaven has also willed that they should propose to me to play this
part--do you know whom? our daughter."
"Are you delirious? In the name of heaven---"
"I am not delirious, Rudolph. In this casket, among some papers and a
portrait, which will prove to you the truth of what I say, you will find a
paper stained with my blood."
"With your blood?"
"The woman who informed me that our child was still living dictated to me
this revelation--then I was stabbed by a poniard."
"And who was she? how did she know?"
"It was to her our child was delivered--quite an infant--after having
falsely reported her death."
"But this woman--her name? can she be believed? where did you become
acquainted with her?"
"I tell you, Rudolph, that all this is fate--providential. Some months
since, you rescued a poor girl from poverty, to send her to the country--is
it not so?"
"Yes, to Bouqueval."
"Jealousy and hatred drove me wild. I caused this young girl to be carried
off by the woman of whom I have spoken."
"And she took the unhappy child to Saint Lazare?"
"Where she yet is."
"She is there no longer. Ah! you do not know, madame, the frightful evil
you have caused by tearing this poor child from the retreat where I had
placed her; but--"
"The girl no longer at Saint Lazare?" cried the lady in alarm; "and you
speak of a frightful evil!"
"A monster of cupidity had an interest in her death. They have drowned her,
madame; but answer, you say--"
"My daughter!" cried Sarah, interrupting Rudolph, and rising on her feet,
immovable as a marble statue.
"What does she say? good heavens!" cried Rudolph.
"My child!" repeated Sarah, whose face became livid and frightful from
despair; "they have killed my child!"
"The Goualeuse your child!" repeated Rudolph, recoiling with horror.
"The Goualeuse! yes! that is the name the woman mentioned--this woman
called La Chouette. Dead--dead!" cried Sarah, still motionless, her eyes
fixed and glaring; "they have killed her!"
"Sarah!" replied Rudolph, as pale and alarmed as she, "calm yourself--
answer me--La Goualeuse--this girl whom you caused to be carried off by
La Chouette from Bouqueval, was--"
"And they have killed her."
"Oh!--no, no--you rave--this cannot be. You know not, no, you know not how
frightful this is. Sarah! compose yourself; speak to me tranquilly. Seat
yourself--calm yourself. Often there are appearances--resemblances which
deceive; one is inclined to believe what one desires. It is not a reproach
I make you; but explain to me well--tell me all the reasons you have to
credit this, for it cannot be--no, no; it must not be!--it is not so!"
After a moment's pause, the countess collected her thoughts, and said to
Rudolph in an expiring voice, "Hearing of your marriage, thinking to be
married myself, I could not keep our daughter with me; she was then four
"But at this epoch I asked you for her with prayers," cried Rudolph, in a
heartrending tone, "and my letters remained unanswered. The only one you
wrote me announced her death."
"I wished to avenge myself for your contempt by refusing you your child.
That was unworthy; but listen to me: I feel it--my life is drawing to a
close; this last blow has overwhelmed me."
"No, no! I do not believe you--I do not wish to believe you! La Goualeuse
my child! Oh, you would not have this so!"
"Listen to me, I say. When she was four years old my brother commissioned
Madame Séraphin, widow of one of his old servants, to bring up the child
until she was old enough to be placed at school. The sum destined for her
future support was placed by my brother with a notary renowned for his
probity. The letters of this man, and of Madame Séraphin, addressed at this
period to me and my brother, are there, in that casket. At the end of a
year they wrote me that the health of my child failed; eight months after,
that she was dead; and they sent me the official notification of her
decease. At this time, Madame Séraphin entered the service of Jacques
Ferrand, after having delivered our child to La Chouette by the hands of a
wretch now in the galleys at Rochefort. I began to write this confession of
La Chouette when she wounded me. This paper is there, with a portrait of
our daughter at the age of four years. Examine all--letters, confessions,
portrait--and you, who have seen her--this unfortunate child--judge."
At these words, which exhausted her strength, Sarah fell back almost
lifeless in her chair. Rudolph was thunderstruck at this revelation. There
are some misfortunes so unlooked for, so horrible, that we are unwilling to
believe them until compelled by overwhelming evidence. Rudolph, persuaded
of the death of Fleur-de-Marie, had but one hope left, which was to
convince himself that she was not his child. With a frightful calmness,
which alarmed Sarah, he approached the table, opened the casket, and fell
to reading the letters one by one, and examining, with scrupulous
attention, the papers which accompanied them. These letters, stamped at the
post-office, written to Sarah and her brother by the notary and by Madame
Séraphin, related to the childhood of Fleur-de-Marie, and to the investment
of the funds destined for her support. Rudolph could not doubt the
authenticity of this correspondence. The confession of La Chouette was
confirmed by the information obtained (of which we have spoken at the
commencement of this story) by order of Rudolph, which pointed out a man
named Pierre Tournemine, a prisoner at Rochefort, as the man who had
received Fleur-de-Marie from Madame Séraphin to deliver her to La
Chouette--to La Chouette, whom the unfortunate child herself had recognized
before Rudolph, at the tapis-franc of the Ogress. Rudolph could no longer
doubt the identity of these persons and of the Goualeuse. The official
notice concerning her death appeared in conformity to law; but Ferrand had
himself acknowledged to Cecily that this forged notice had served for the
spoliation of a considerable sum formerly settled as an annuity on the girl
whom he had caused to be drowned by Nicholas Martial, by the Ravageurs'
It was, then, with growing and alarming anguish that Rudolph acquired, in
spite of himself, the terrible conviction that the Goualeuse was his
daughter, and that she was dead. Unfortunately for him, all seemed to
confirm this belief. Before condemning Jacques Ferrand on the proofs given
by the notary himself to Cecily, the prince, his deep interest for the
Goualeuse, having caused inquiries to be made at Asnières, had learned
that, in fact, two women, one old and the other young, and dressed in a
peasant's costume, had been drowned in going to Ravageurs' Island, and that
rumor accused the Martials of this new crime. Here we must state that, in
spite of the attention of Dr. Griffon, of the Count de Saint Rémy, and of
La Louve, Fleur-de-Marie, for a long time in a desperate situation, had
hardly become convalescent, and that her weakness, mental and physical, was
such, that she had not been able up to this time to inform Madame George or
Rudolph of her position. This concourse of circumstances could not leave
the slightest hope to the prince. A last proof was reserved for him. At
length he cast his eyes on the miniature, which he had almost feared to
look at. The blow was frightful. In this infantine and charming face,
already radiant with that divine beauty which belongs to the cherubim, he
recognized in a striking manner the features of Fleur-de-Marie; her Grecian
nose, her noble forehead, her little mouth; already slightly serious. For,
said Madame Séraphin to Sarah, in one of her letters which Rudolph had just
read, "The child asks always for its mother, and is very sad."
There were her large blue eyes, of a blue so pure and soft--the bluebell's
blue, as La Chouette had said to Sarah on recognizing in this miniature the
features of the unfortunate child whom she had persecuted, in her infancy,
under the name of LaPegriotte, and as a young girl under the name of La
At the sight of this miniature, Rudolph's tumultuous and violent feelings
were stifled by his tears. He fell back, heartbroken, on a chair, and
concealed his face in his hands, sobbing convulsively.
While Rudolph wept bitterly, the features of Sarah changed perceptibly. At
the moment when she thought she was about to realize the dream of her
ambitious life, the last hope, which had until now sustained her, was
crushed forever. This dreadful disappointment could not fail to have on her
health, momentarily ameliorated, a mortal reaction. Fallen back in her
chair, trembling with a feverish agitation, her hands crossed and clasped
on her knees, her eyes fixed, the countess awaited with alarm the first
word from Rudolph. Knowing the impetuous character of the prince, she
feared that the sad grief, which drew so many tears from this inflexible
and resolute man, would be succeeded by some terrible transports of
passion. Suddenly Rudolph raised his head, wiped away his tears, arose, and
approached Sarah, his arms crossed on his bosom, his manner menacing and
without pity. He looked at her for some moments in silence; then he said,
in a hollow voice: "This ought to be. I have drawn the sword against my
father; I am stricken in my child. Just punishment of the parricide. Listen
to me, madame---"
"Parricide! you! Oh, fatal day! of what are you going to inform me?"
"It is necessary that you should know, in this awful moment, all the evils
caused by your implacable ambition, by your unbounded selfishness. Do you
understand me, woman without heart and without conscience? Do you hear me,
"Oh, have pity, Rudolph!"
"No pardon for you, who formerly, without pity for a sincere love, coldly
trifled, in the furtherance of your execrable pride, with a generous and
devoted passion, of which you feigned to partake. No mercy for you, who
armed the son against the father! No grace for you, who, instead of
watching piously over your child, abandoned her to mercenary hands, in
order to satisfy your cupidity by a rich marriage, as you had already
served your mad ambition by inciting me to marry you. No mercy for you who,
after having refused me my child, have now caused her death by your unholy
deceptions! Maledictions on you--my evil genius, and my family's!"
"Oh! he is without pity! leave me! leave me!"
"You must hear me, I tell you! Do you remember the last day I saw you--it
is seventeen years since--you could no longer conceal the fruits of our
secret union, which, like you, I believed indissoluble. I knew the
inflexible character of my father. I knew what political marriage he
projected for me. Braving his indignation, I declared to him that you were
my wife before God and before man--that in a short time I should become a
father. His anger was terrible; he would not give credence to my
marriage--so much deception seemed impossible to him. He threatened me with
his displeasure if I allowed myself to speak before him again of such
folly. Then I loved you like a madman, dupe of your seductions. I thought
that your rigid heart of brass had beaten for me. I answered to my father
that I would never have any wife but you. At these words, his anger had no
bounds; he called you the most outrageous names; swore that our marriage
was null; and that, in order to punish your presumption, he would place you
in the pillory. Yielding to my mad passion, to the violence of my temper, I
dared to forbid my father, my sovereign, to speak thus of my wife. I dared
to threaten him. Exasperated at this insult, my father struck me; rage
blinded me. I drew my sword. I threw myself upon him. Except for Sir Walter
Murphy, who turned aside the blow, I had been a parricide in reality, as I
was in intention! Do you hear? parricide! And to defend you--you!"
"Alas! I was ignorant of all this."
"In vain I have thought my crime expiated; the blow I have received today
is my punishment."
"But have I not also suffered from the obduracy of your father, who broke
our marriage? Why accuse me of not having loved you, when--"
"Why?" cried Rudolph, interrupting Sarah, and casting upon her a glance of
withering scorn. "Know it then, and be no more surprised at the horror with
which you inspire me. After this fatal scene, in which I had threatened the
life of my father, I gave up my sword. I was imprisoned with the greatest
secrecy. Polidori, through whom our marriage had been concluded, was
arrested. He proved that this union was null; that the clergyman was only a
mock one; and that you, your brother, and myself had all been deceived. To
disarm my father's anger against him, Polidori did more; he gave him one of
your letters to your brother, which he had intercepted."
"Heavens! can it be possible?"
"Is my contempt for you explained now?"
"Oh! enough, enough!"
"In this letter you unfolded your ambitious projects with revolting
coldness. You treated me with an icy disdain; you sacrificed me to your
infernal pride; I was only the instrument by whose means you were to obtain
the fulfillment of your destiny. You found that my father lived a very long
"Unfortunate that I am! Now I understand all."
"And to defend you, I had threatened the life of my father. When, on the
morrow, without addressing me a word of reproach, he showed me this
letter--this letter, which in every line revealed the blackness of your
heart, I could only fall on my knees and ask for pardon. Since that day I
have been pursued by unceasing remorse. Soon I left Germany on a long
journey; then commenced the penance which I imposed upon myself. It will
only finish with my life. To recompense the good, punish the bad, solace
those who suffer, probe all the wounds of humanity, to endeavor to snatch
souls from perdition--such is the noble task that I have imposed upon
"It is noble and holy; it is worthy of you."
"If I speak of this vow," replied Rudolph, with as much disdain as
bitterness; "of this vow, which I have fulfilled, according to my power,
wherever I have been, it is not to be praised by you. Listen to me, then.
Not long since I arrived in France; my sojourn in this country was not to
be lost to the expiation. In wishing to assist honest unfortunates, I also
wished to know those classes whom poverty crushes, hardens, and depraves,
knowing that timely succor and kind words have often saved many a poor
wretch from the abyss of despair. In order to be my own judge, I assumed
the disguise and language of the people whom I wished to observe. It was on
one of these excursions that, for the first time, I--I met--" Then, as if
he recoiled from this terrible revelation, Rudolph added, "No, no, I have
not the courage."
"What have you still to inform me?"
"You will only know it too soon; but," said he, with irony, "you feel so
lively an interest in the past that I ought to speak to you of events which
preceded my return to France. After a long journey, I returned to Germany;
I married a Prussian princess. During my absence, you had been driven away
from the grand duchy. Learning that you were married to Earl M'Gregor, I
wrote to entreat you to send me my child; you did not reply. In spite of
all my efforts, I could never find out where you had sent this unfortunate
child. Ten years ago only, a letter from you informed me that our child was
dead. Alas! would to God that she had then been dead; I should not have
known the incurable grief which henceforth will imbitter my life."
"Now," said Sarah, in a feeble voice, "I am no more astonished at the
aversion with which I have inspired you, since you have read this letter. I
feel it, I shall not survive this last blow. Ah, well! yes; pride and
ambition have ruined me! Under the appearance of passion, I concealed a
frozen heart. Not knowing what good reason you had to despise and hate me,
my foolish hopes were renewed. Since we were both free again, I again
believed in this prediction which promised me a crown; and when chance
discovered my daughter, I seemed to see in this unhoped-for fortune a
providential design! Yes; I went so far as to think that your aversion for
me would yield to your love for your child; and that you would give me your
hand in order to restore her to the rank which was her due."
"Well! let your execrable ambition be then satisfied and punished! Yes,
notwithstanding the horror you inspired me with; yes, from attachment--what
do I say! from respect for the frightful misfortunes of my child, I should
have, although decided to live afterward separated from you--I should have,
by a marriage which would legitimatize my child, rendered her position as
dazzling, as lofty as it had been miserable!"
"I was not deceived, then! Woe! it is too late!"
"Oh! I know it; it is not for the death of your child you weep; it is the
loss of that rank which you have pursued with untiring pertinacity! Well!
may these infamous regrets be your last punishment!"
"The last; for I shall not survive!"
"But, before you die, you shall know what has been the existence of your
child since you abandoned her."
"Poor child! very miserable, perhaps!"
"Do you recollect," said Rudolph, with terrible calmness, "that night when
you and your brother followed me to the city?"
"I do recollect; but why this question? your look freezes me."
"On coming from this den, you saw, did you not, at the corner of the
wretched streets, some unhappy creatures, who--but, no, no--I dare not,"
said Rudolph, concealing his face in his hands, "I dare not; my words alarm
"Me also--they alarm me; what is it now?"
"You have seen them?" resumed Rudolph, with an effort. "You have seen those
women, the shame of their sex? Well! among them did you remark a young girl
of sixteen? beautiful, oh! beautiful as an angel; a poor child, who, in the
midst of the degradation in which she had been plunged, preserved an
expression so pure, so virginal, that the robbers and assassins among whom
she lived, madame, had given her the name of Fleur-de-Marie; did you remark
this young girl? speak, speak, tender mother."
"No, I did not notice her," said Sarah, almost mechanically.
"Really?" cried Rudolph, with a burst of sardonic laughter. "It is strange.
I remarked her on the occasion; listen, well, during one of the excursions
of which I have spoken just now, and which then had a double object, I
found myself in the city; not far from the den whither you followed me, a
man wished to beat one of these unfortunate creatures; I defended her
against his brutality. You cannot guess who was this creature; speak, good
and provident mother, speak! You do not guess?"
"No, I do not guess. Oh! leave me, leave me!"
"The 'unfortunate' was Fleur-de-Marie."
"Oh! merciful powers!"
"And you do not guess who was Fleur-de-Marie, irreproachable mother?"
"Kill me! oh! kill me!"
"She was La Goualeuse--your daughter!" cried Rudolph, with a heartrending
emotion. "Yes, this unfortunate, whom I had rescued from the violence of a
liberated galley-slave, was my own child--mine--Rudolph of Gerolstein's!
Oh! there was something in this encounter with my child, whom I saved
without knowing her, something terrible, providential; a recompense for the
man who seeks to succor his fellow-men, a punishment for the parricide."
"I die cursed and condemned," murmured Sarah, falling back in her chair and
concealing her face in her hands.
"Then," continued Rudolph, with difficulty restraining his feelings, and
wishing, in vain, to suppress his sobs, which almost choked him, "when I
had rescued her from the hands of her assailant, struck with the
inexpressible sweetness of her voice, the angelic expression of her
features, it had been impossible not to have become interested in her. With
what profound emotion have I listened to the touching recital of her life
of abandonment, of sorrow, and misery; for, do you see, there have been
frightful passages in the life of your daughter, madame. Oh! you must know
the tortures that your child suffered; yes, my lady, while in the midst of
your opulence you were dreaming of a crown, your child--your own little
child, covered with rags, went at night to beg in the streets, suffering
with cold and hunger. During the winter nights, she shivered on a little
straw in the corner of a garret, and then, when the horrible woman who
abused her was tired of beating the poor little thing, only thinking how
she could torture her, do you know what she did, madame? She drew out some
of her teeth!"
"Oh! would that I could die! this is bitter agony!"
"Listen again. Escaping at length from the hands of La Chouette, wandering
without bread, without shelter, hardly eight years of age, she was arrested
as a vagabond, and put in prison. Oh! these were the happiest days of your
daughter, madame. Yes, in the prison-house, each night she thanked God that
she suffered no more from cold and hunger, and was beaten no more. And it
was in a prison that she spent the most precious years of a young girl's
life, those years which a tender mother always surrounds with so jealous
and pious a solicitude; yes, instead of being protected with maternal care,
your daughter has only known the brutal indifference of jailers; and then
one day, society, in its cruel carelessness, cast her, innocent and pure,
beautiful and ingenuous, into the filth and mire of this great city.
Unhappy child, abandoned, without support, without advice, delivered to all
the chances of misery and vice! Oh!" cried Rudolph, giving free vent to the
sobs which overpowered him; "your heart is hardened, your selfishness
cruel, but you would have wept--yes, _you_ would have wept, on hearing
the touching story of your child. Poor girl! sullied, but not corrupted,
still chaste in the midst of this horrible degradation, which was for her a
frightful dream; for each word told her horror for the life to which she
was so fatally enchained! Oh! if you knew how at each moment were revealed
the most adorable instincts--how much goodness--how much touching charity;
yes, for it was to relieve an unfortunate more wretched than herself, the
poor little thing had spent the little money she had, and which then
separated her from the abyss of infamy into which she was plunged. Yes! for
the day came--a frightful day--when, without work, without bread, without
shelter--horrible women met her, exhausted from weakness--from
Rudolph could not finish, but cried in a heartrending voice:
"And this was my daughter! my child!"
"Imprecations on my head!" murmured Sarah, concealing her face in her
hands, as if she had feared the light of day.
"Yes," cried Rudolph, "imprecations on you! for it is your abandonment of
this child which has caused all these horrors. Maledictions on you! for
when, rescuing her from this filth, I had placed her in a peaceable
retreat, you had her torn away by your miserable accomplices. Maledictions
on you! for this again placed her in the power of Jacques Ferrand."
At this name, Rudolph stopped suddenly. He shuddered as if he had
pronounced it for the first time. It was because he now pronounced this
name for the first time since he had known that his daughter was the victim
of that monster. The features of the prince assumed then a frightful
expression of rage and hatred. Silent, immovable, he remained, as it were,
crushed by this thought--that the murderer of his child still lived. Sarah,
notwithstanding her increasing weakness, was struck by his sinister look;
she feared for herself.
"Alas! what is the matter with you?" she murmured, in a trembling voice.
"Is it not enough of suffering?"
"No; it is not enough!" cried Rudolph, responding to his own thoughts. "I
have never before experienced--never! such a desire for vengeance--a thirst
for blood--a calm, reflecting rage! When I did not know that one of the
victims of the monster was my own child, I said to myself, the death of
this man will be sterile, while his life will be fertile, if, to redeem it,
he accept the conditions which I impose. To condemn him to be charitable,
to expiate his crimes, appeared to me just; and then, life without gold,
life without sensuality, would be for him a long and double torture. But it
is my child whom he has delivered to all the horrors of infamy and misery!
but it is my daughter whom he has murdered! I will kill this man!"
And the prince sprung toward the door.
"Where are you going? Do not abandon me!" cried Sarah, half rising, and
extending toward Rudolph her supplicating hands. "Do not leave me alone! I
"Alone! no! no! I leave you with the specter of your daughter, whose death
you have caused!"
Sarah, frantic, threw herself on her knees, uttering a cry of affright, as
if an alarming phantom had appeared to her. "Pity! I die!"
"Die, then, accursed!" answered Rudolph, frightful with rage. "Now I must
have the life of your accomplice, for it is you who delivered your daughter
to her executioner!"
And Rudolph ordered his coach to be rapidly driven to the house of Jacques
Night closed in while Rudolph was on his way to the notary's. The pavilion
occupied by Jacques Ferrand was buried in profound obscurity. The wind
howled, the rain fell as during that gloomy night when Cecily fled forever
from the notary's house. Extended on a bed in his sleeping apartment,
feebly lighted by a lamp, Jacques Ferrand was dressed in black trousers and
vest; one of the sleeves of his shirt was turned back, and a ligature
around his attenuated arm announced that he had just been bled. Polidori
was standing near the bed, with one hand on the bolster, and appeared to
regard the features of his accomplice with inquietude.
Nothing could be more hideously frightful than the face of Ferrand, who was
then plunged into that torpor which ordinarily succeeds violent attacks. Of
a mortal pallor, strongly relieved by the shadows of the alcove, his face,
streaming with a cold sweat, announced the last stage of consumption; his
closed eyelids were so swollen and injected with blood, that they appeared
like two reddish lobes in the middle of this visage of cadaverous lividity.
"One more attack like the last, and all is over," said Polidori, in a low
tone, and, retiring from the bed, he commenced walking slowly up and down
"Just now," he resumed, "during the attack which nearly proved fatal, I
thought myself in a dream, as I heard him describe all the monstrous
hallucinations which I crossed his brain. His sense of hearing was of a
sensibility so incredibly painful that, although I spoke to him as low as
possible, yet it seemed to him, he said, that his head was a bell, and that
an enormous clapper of brass, set in motion by the least sound, struck
against it from time to time with a deafening and horrid noise."
Polidori again drew near the bed, and remained in a contemplative attitude.
The tempest raged without; it soon burst forth in violent gusts of wind and
rain, which shook all the windows of the dilapidated mansion.
Notwithstanding his audacious wickedness, Polidori was superstitious; dark
presentiments agitated him; he felt an indefinable uneasiness; the howlings
of the storm, which alone disturbed the mournful silence of the night,
inspired him with an alarm against which he struggled in vain. To drive
away these gloomy thoughts, he again examined the features of his
"Now," said he, leaning over him, "his eyelids fill with blood. What
sufferings! how protracted! and under what varied forms! Oh!" added he,
with a bitter smile, "when nature becomes cruel, and plays the part of
tormentor, she defies the most ferocious combinations of men. Oh! this face
is frightful. These frequent convulsions which overspread it contract it,
and at times render it fearful." Without, the tempest redoubled its fury.
"What a storm!" said Polidori, throwing himself into a chair, and leaning
his face on his hands. "What a night! what a night! Nothing could be more
fatal for the situation of Jacques."
After a long silence, Polidori resumed, "When I think of the past, when I
think of the ambitious projects which, in concert with Sarah, I founded on
the youth and inexperience of the prince--how many events! by what degrees
have I fallen into the state of criminal degradation in which I live! I,
who had thought to effeminate this prince, and make him the docile
instrument of the advancement of which I had dreamed! From preceptor I
expected to become minister. And notwithstanding my learning, my mind, from
misdeed to misdeed I have attained the last degree of infamy. Behold me, in
fine, the jailer of my accomplice. Oh, yes! the prince is without pity.
Better a thousand times for Jacques Ferrand to have placed his head on the
block; better a thousand times the wheel, fire, the molten lead which burns
and sinks into the flesh, than the torments this wretch endures. As I see
him suffer, I begin to be alarmed for my own fate. What will they do with
me--what is reserved for me, the accomplice of Jacques? To be his jailer
will not suffice for the vengeance of the prince. He has not saved me from
the scaffold to let me live. Perhaps an eternal prison awaits me in
Germany. Better that than death. I can only place myself blindly at the
discretion of the prince; it is my sole chance of safety."
At this moment the storm was at its height; a chimney, blown down by the
violence of the wind, fell on the roof and into the court with a noise like
thunder. Jacques Ferrand, suddenly aroused from his state of torpor, moved
on the bed. A hollow groan attracted the attention of Polidori.
"He is awaking from his stupor," said he, approaching him slowly.
"Polidori," murmured Jacques Ferrand, still stretched on the bed, and with
his eyes closed. "Polidori, what noise was that?"
"A chimney has fallen down," answered Polidori, in a low tone; "a frightful
hurricane shakes the house to its foundations. The night is horrible,
The notary did not hear, and half turning his head, whispered, "Polidori,
are you there?"
"Yes, yes, I am here," said Polidori, in a louder voice; "but I answered
softly, fearing to affect your hearing, as I did a few moments ago."
"No, now your voice reaches my ear without causing me those painful
sufferings; for it seemed to me, at the least noise, as if a thunderbolt
had broken in my head. And yet, in the midst of all this noise, of these
sufferings without name, I distinguished the voice of Cecily calling me."
"Always this infernal woman--always. But drive away these thoughts, they
will kill you."
"Drive them away!" cried Jacques Ferrand; "oh! never, never!"
"What mad fury! It alarms me."
"Hold, now," said the notary, in a husky voice, with his eyes fixed on an
obscure corner of the alcove. "I see already--like a living thing--a shape
And he pointed with his bony finger in the direction of the vision.
"Hush, be quiet, unhappy man!"
"Oh! there, there!"
"Jacques, it is death."
"Oh! I see her," added Ferrand, his teeth set. "There she is! how handsome
she is; how handsome! See her long black hair; it floats in disorder upon
her shoulders! And her small teeth, which are seen through her half-opened
lips: her lips so red and humid! What pearls! Oh! her large eyes seem in
turn to sparkle and die. Cecily! Cecily! I adore you!"
"Jacques," cried Polidori, alarmed, "do not excite yourself by these
"It is not a phantom."
"Take care; a short time ago, you know, you imagined also that you heard
the songs of this woman, and your hearing was suddenly affected by fearful
"Leave me," cried the notary, with impatience, "leave me! Of what use is
hearing, except to listen to her?--sight, except to see her?"
"But the tortures which ensue, miserable fool!"
The notary did not finish. He uttered a sharp cry of pain, throwing himself
backward on the bed.
"What is the matter?" asked Polidori, with astonishment.
"Put out that light; its glare is too vivid. I cannot support it; it blinds
"How?" said Polidori, more and more surprised.
"There is but one lamp with a shade, and its light is very feeble."
"I tell you that the light increases here. Hold! more! more! Oh! it is too
much! it becomes intolerable!" raved on Jacques Ferrand, shutting his eyes
with an expression of increasing pain.
"You are mad! This chamber is hardly light, I tell you. I have just turned
down the lamps; open your eyes, you will see."
"Open my eyes! But I shall be blinded by the torrents of dazzling light
which flood this apartment. Here, there, everywhere, sheets of
fire--thousands of shining atoms," cried the notary, raising himself; then,
uttering a cry of pain, he placed his hands on his eyes. "But I am blinded!
the burning light pierces my eyelids! it consumes me! Put out that light!
it casts an infernal flame."
"No more doubt," said Polidori; "his sight is stricken in the same manner
as his hearing was just now. He is lost! To bleed him anew in this state
would be fatal. He is lost!"
Another sharp, terrible yell from Jacques Ferrand resounded throughout the
"Executioner! put out the lamp! Its burning splendor penetrates through my
hands; they are transparent! I see the blood! it circulates in my veins! I
did well to close my eyelids! this fiery lava would have entered! Oh, what
torture! It is as if my eyes were pierced with red-hot needles! Help!
help!" cried he, struggling in his bed, a prey to horrible convulsions.
Polidori, alarmed at the violence of this attack, extinguished the light.
And both were left in utter darkness. At this moment was heard the noise of
a carriage, which stopped at the street door. When the chamber became
darkened, Ferrand's agony ceased by degrees, and he said to Polidori, "Why
did you wait so long before you put out this lamp? Was it to make me endure
all the torments of the damned? Oh, what I have suffered! Oh, heaven! how I
"Now do you suffer less?"
"I still experience a violent irritation, but it is nothing to what I felt
just now. I cling to life because the memory of Cecily is all my life."
"But this memory kills, exhausts, consumes you." The notary did not hear
his accomplice, who foresaw a new hallucination. In effect, Ferrand
resumed, with a burst of convulsive and sardonic laughter:
"To take Cecily from me! But they do not know that, by concentrating all
the power of one's faculties on a single object, the impracticable is
gained. Thus, directly, I am going to the chamber of Cecily, where I have
not dared to go since her departure. Oh, to see, to touch the vestments
which have belonged to her; the glass before which she dressed--it will be
to see herself! Yes; by fixing my eyes on this glass, soon shall I see
Cecily appear. It will not be an illusion--a mist; it will be she; I shall
find her there, as the sculptor finds the statue in the block of marble."
"Where are you going to?" said Polidori, hearing Jacques Ferrand getting up
from his bed, for the most profound obscurity still reigned in the
"I go to find Cecily."
"You shall not go. The sight of her chamber will kill you."
"Cecily awaits me there."
"You shall not go--I hold you," said Polidori, seizing the notary by the
Jacques Ferrand, arrived at the last stage of weakness, could not struggle
against Polidori, who held him with a vigorous hand.
"You wish to prevent me from going to find Cecily?"
"Yes; and, besides, there is a lamp lighted in the next room; you know what
effect the light produced just now upon your sight!"
"Cecily is there; she awaits me. I would traverse a blazing furnace to join
her. Let me go. She told me I was her old tiger. Take care, my claws are
"You shall not go. I will rather tie you on your bed as a madman."
"Polidori, listen; I am not mad--I have all my reason. I know very well
that Cecily is not materially there; but for me, the phantoms of my
imagination are worth more than realities."
"Silence!" cried Polidori, suddenly, listening; "just now I thought I heard
a carriage stop at the door. I was not mistaken. I hear now the sound of
voices in the court."
"You wish to distract my thoughts. The trick is too plain."
"I hear some one speak, I tell you, and I think I recognize---"
"You wish to deceive me," said Ferrand, interrupting Polidori; "I am not
"But, wretch, listen then--listen. Ah! do you not hear?"
"Let me go--Cecily is there--she calls me. Do not make me angry, in my
turn, I tell you. Take care--do you understand? take care."
"You shall not go out."
"You shall not go out from here; it is my interest that you should remain."
"You prevent me from going to find Cecily; my interest wills that you
should die. Hold then!" said the notary, in a hollow voice.
Polidori uttered a cry.
"Scoundrel! you have stabbed me in the arm; but the wound is slight; you
shall not escape me."
"Your wound is mortal. It is the poisoned dagger of Cecily which has
stabbed you; I always carried it about me; await the effects of the poison.
Ah! you loosen your grasp; you are going to die. You should not have
hindered me from going to find Cecily," added Jacques Ferrand, feeling in
the dark for the door.
"Oh!" murmured Polidori, "my arm stiffens--a mortal coldness seizes me--my
knees tremble under me--my blood thickens in my veins--my head turns.
Help!" cried the accomplice of Ferrand, collecting all his strength for a
last cry; "help! I die!"
And he sunk under his own weight upon the floor. The crash of a glass door,
opened with so much violence that several panes were broken to pieces, the
ringing voice of Rudolph, and a noise of hasty footsteps, seemed to respond
to Polidori's cry of anguish. Jacques Ferrand, having at length found the
lock in the dark, opened the door leading into an adjoining apartment, and
rushed into it, his dangerous weapon in his hand. At the same moment,
threatening and formidable as the genius of vengeance, the prince entered
the room from the opposite side.
"Monster!" cried Rudolph, advancing toward Jacques Ferrand, "it is my
daughter whom you have killed! You are going--"
The prince did not finish; he recoiled alarmed. One would have said that
his words had pierced Jacques Ferrand. Throwing his poniard aside, and
placing both his hands before his eyes, the wretch fell with his face to
the floor, uttering a howl that was anything but human. In consequence of
the phenomenon of which we have spoken, of which a profound darkness had
suspended the action, when Jacques Ferrand entered this chamber brilliantly
lighted, he was struck with a vertigo, similar to that which we have
already described, more intolerable than if he had been exposed to a
torrent of light as incandescent as that of the disk of the sun. And the
agony of this man was a fearful spectacle; he writhed in frightful
convulsions, tearing the floor with his nails, as if he wished to dig a
hole to escape from the horrible tortures caused by this glaring light.
Rudolph, one of his servants, and the porter of the house, who had been
compelled to conduct the prince to this apartment, were transfixed with
horror. Notwithstanding his just horror, Rudolph felt an emotion of pity
for the unheard-of suffering of Jacques Ferrand; he ordered him to be laid
on a sofa. This was not done without difficulty; for, fearing to be
submitted again to the direct action of the light, the notary struggled
violently, but when it streamed in his face he uttered another yell, which
filled Rudolph with terror. After protracted torments, these attacks
ceased, exhausted by their own violence. Arrived at the mortal period of
his delirium, he remembered still the words of Cecily, who had called him
her tiger; by degrees, his mind again wandered; he imagined himself a
tiger! Crouched in one of the corners of the room, as in his den, his
hoarse, furious cries, the grinding of his teeth, the spasmodic contortions
of the muscles of his forehead and face, his glaring look, gave him a vague
and frightful resemblance to this ferocious beast.
"Tiger--tiger--tiger I am," said he, in a broken voice, gathering himself
up in a heap; "yes, tiger. How much blood! In my lair--corpses--torn to
pieces! La Goualeuse--the brother of this widow--the child of Louise--here
are corpses; my tigress Cecily shall take her share." Then looking at his
bony fingers, of which the nails had grown very long during his illness, he
added these words: "Oh! my sharp nails: an old tiger I am, but more active,
and strong, and bold. No one shall dare dispute my tigress, Cecily. Ah! she
calls! she calls!" said he, looking around, and seeming to listen. After a
moment's pause, he groped his way along the wall, saying, "No; I thought I
heard her; she is not there, but I see her, oh! always, always! Oh! there
she is! She calls me--she roars--she roars there! I come, I come."
And Jacques Ferrand dragged himself toward the middle of the chamber on his
hands and knees. Although his strength was exhausted, from time to time he
advanced by a convulsive spring: then he would pause, seeming to listen
"Where is she? where is she? I approach, she flies. Ah! there; oh! she
awaits me; go; go, Cecily, your old tiger is yours," cried he.
And with a desperate effort he succeeded in getting on his knees. But,
suddenly, falling backward with alarm, his body crouched on his heels, his
hair standing on end, his look wild, his mouth distorted with terror, his
hands stretched out, he seemed to struggle with age against an invisible
object, and cried, in a broken voice, "What a bite--help--my arms break--I
cannot take it off--sharp teeth. No, no, oh! not the eyes--help--a black
serpent--oh! its flat head--its burning eyeballs. It looks at me--it is
the devil. Ah! he knows me--Jacques Ferrand--at the church--holy
man--always at the church-avaunt!" And the notary, raising himself a little
and sustaining himself with one hand on the floor, tried with the other to
make the sign of the cross.
His livid face was covered with sweat, and all the symptoms of approaching
death were manifested. He fell immediately backward, stiff and inanimate;
his eyes seemed to start from their sockets; horrible convulsions stamped
his features with unearthly contortions, like those forced from dead bodies
by a galvanic battery; a bloody foam inundated his lips, and the life of
this monster became extinct in the midst of one of his horrid visions, for
he muttered these words: "Night--dark! dark specters--brazen skeletons--
red-hot--twine around me their burning fingers--my flesh smokes--specter--
bloody--no! no--Cecily--fire--Cecily!" Such were the last words of Jacques
It will be remembered that Fleur-de-Marie, saved by La Louve, had been
conveyed to the country house of Dr. Griffon, [Footnote: The name which I
have the honor to bear, which my father, grandfather, grand-uncle, and
great grandfather--one of the most learned men of the seventeenth
century--have rendered celebrated by works on theoretical and practical
medicine, would forbid me from any attack, or hasty reflection, concerning
physicians; even though the gravity of the subject upon which I treat, and
the just and deserved celebrity of the French Medical School, did not
prevent me. In Dr. Griffon I have only wished to personify one, otherwise
respectable, who allows himself to be carried away the ardor of art, and
led to make experiments which are a serious abuse medical power (if I may
express myself in this manner), forgetting that there is something more
sacred than Science--Humanity.] not far from Ravageurs' Island. The worthy
doctor, one of the physicians of the City Hospital where we shall conduct
our readers, who had obtained this situation through a powerful interest,
regarded his ward as a sort of place where he experimented on the poor the
treatment which he applied afterward to his rich patients, never hazarding
on the last any new cures before having first tried and retried the
application _in anima vili_, as he said, with that kind of passionless
barbarity which a blind love for science produces. Thus, if the doctor
wished to convince himself of the comparative effect of some new and
hazardous treatment, in order to be able to deduce consequences favorable
to such or such system, he took a certain number of patients, treated some
according to the new system, others by the ancient method. Under some
circumstances, be abandoned others to the care of nature. After which he
counted the survivors. These terrible experiments were, truly, a human
sacrifice on the altar of science. Dr. Griffon did not seem to think of
this. In the eyes of this prince of science (as they phrase it) the
patients of his hospital were only subjects for study and experiment; and
as, after all, there resulted sometimes from these essays _in anima
vili_ a fact or discovery useful to science, the doctor showed himself
as entirely satisfied and triumphant as a general after a victory
sufficiently costly in soldiers.
Homeopathy had never a more violent adversary than Dr. Griffon. He look
upon this method as absurd and homicidal; thus, strong in his convictions,
and wishing, as he said, to drive the homeopathists to the wall, he offered
to abandon to their care a certain number of patients, on whom they might
experiment to their liking. But he affirmed in advance, sure of not being
contradicted by the result, that, out of twenty patients submitted to this
treatment, not over five, at the outside would survive. The homeopathists
gave the go-by to this proposition, to the great chagrin of the doctor, who
regretted the loss of this occasion to prove, by figures, the vanity of
homeopathic practice. Dr. Griffon would have been stupefied if any one had
said to him, in reference to this free and autocratic disposition of his
"Such a state of things would cause the barbarism of those days to be
regretted when condemned criminals were exposed to undergo newly-discovered
surgical operations; operations which they dared not practice on the
uncondemned. If it were successful, the condemned was pardoned. Compared
to what you do, sir, this barbarity was charity. After all, a chance for
life was thus given to a poor creature for whom the executioner was
waiting, and an experiment was rendered possible which might be useful
to all. But to try your hazardous medicaments on unfortunate artisans,
for whom the hospital is the sole refuge when sickness overtakes them;
to try a treatment, perhaps fatal, on people whom poverty confides to
you, trusting and powerless; to you, their only hope; to you, who will
only answer for their life to God--do you know that this is to push the
love of science to inhumanity, sir? How! the poorer classes already
people the workshops, the field, the army; in this world they only know
misery and privations; and when, at the end of their sufferings and
fatigues, they fall exhausted--half-dead--sickness even does not preserve
them from a last and sacrilegious "experiment!" I ask your heart, sir,
would not this be unjust and cruel?"
Alas! Dr. Griffon would have been touched, perhaps, by these severe words,
but not convinced. Man is made the creature of circumstances. The captain
thus accustoms himself to consider his soldiers as nothing more than the
pawns of the bloody game called battle. And it is because man is thus made,
that society ought to protect those whom fate exposes to the action of
these "humane necessities." Now the character of Dr. Griffon once admitted
(and it can be admitted without much hyperbole), the inmates of this
hospital had then no guarantee, no recourse against the scientific
barbarity of his experiments; for there exists a grievous hiatus in the
organization of the civil hospitals. We will point it out here, so that we
may be understood. Military hospitals are each day visited by a superior
officer charged to receive the complaints of the sick soldiers, and to
attend to them if they appear reasonable. This oversight completely
distinct from the government of the hospital, is excellent--it has always
produced the best results. It is, besides, impossible to see establishments
better kept than the military hospitals; the soldiers are nursed with much
care, and treated, we would say, almost with respectful commiseration. Why
not have a similar superintendence established in the civil hospitals, by
men completely independent of the government and medical faculty? The
complaints of the poor (if they were well founded) would thus have an
impartial organ, while at present this organ is absolutely wanting. Thus
the doors of the hospital of Dr. Griffon once shut on a patient, he
belonged body and soul to science. No friendly or disinterested ear can
hear his grief. He is told plainly that, being admitted out of charity, he
becomes henceforth a part of the experimental domain of the doctor, and
that patient and malady must serve as subjects of study and observation,
analysis, or instruction, to the young students who accompany assiduously
the visits of M. Griffon. In effect, the subject soon had to answer to
interrogations often the most painful, the most sorrowful; and that, not to
the doctor alone, who like the priest, fulfills a duty, and has the right
to know everything--no, he must reply in a loud voice before a curious and
greedy crowd of students. Yes, in this pandemonium of science, old or
young, maid or wife, were obliged to abjure every feeling or sentiment of
shame, and to make the most confidential communications, submit to the most
material investigations, before a numerous public; and almost always these
cruel formalities aggravated their disease. And this is neither humane nor
just; it is because the poor enter the hospital in the holy name of
charity, that they should be treated with compassion and with respect, for
misfortune has its dignity.
On reading the following lines, it will be perceived why we have caused
them to be preceded by these reflections. Nothing could be more sad than
the nocturnal aspect of the vast ward of the hospital, where we will
introduce our readers. Along the whole length of its gloomy walls were
ranged two parallel rows of beds, vaguely lighted by the sepulchral
glimmering of a lamp suspended from the ceiling; the narrow windows were
barred with iron, like a prison's. The atmosphere is so sickening, so
filled with disease, that the new patients did not often become acclimated
without danger: this increase of suffering is a kind of premium which every
new-comer inevitably pays for a hospital residence. The air of this immense
hall is, then, heavy and corrupted. At intervals, the silence of night is
interrupted, now by plaintive moans, now by profound sighs, uttered by the
feverish sleepers; then all is quiet, and naught is heard but the regular
and monotonous tickings of a large clock, which strikes the hours, so long
for sleepless suffering. One of the extremities of this hall was almost
plunged into obscurity. Suddenly was heard a great stir, and the noise of
rapid footsteps; a door was opened and shut several times; a sister of
charity, whose large white cap and black dress were visible from the light
which she carried in her hand, approached one of the last beds on the right
side of the hall. Some of the patients, awaking with a start, sat up in
bed, attentive to what was passing. Soon the folding doors were opened. A
priest entered, bearing a crucifix--the two sisters knelt. By the pale
light which shone like a glory around this bed, while the other parts of
the hall remained in obscurity, the almoner of the hospital was seen
leaning over this couch of misery, pronouncing some words, the slow sounds
of which were lost in the silence of night. At the end of a quarter of an
hour the priest took a sheet, which he threw over the bed.
Then he retired. One of the kneeling sisters arose, closed the curtains,
and returned to her prayers alongside of her companion. Then everything
became once more silent. One of the patients had just died. Among the women
who did not sleep, and who had witnessed this mute scene, were three
persons whose names have already been mentioned in the course of this
history: Mademoiselle de Fermont, daughter of the unhappy widow ruined by
the cupidity of Jacques Ferrand; La Lorraine, a poor washer-woman, to whom
Fleur-de-Marie had formerly given what money she had left; and Jeanne
Duport, sister of Pique-Vinaigre, the patterer of La Force. We know
Mademoiselle de Fermont and the juggler's sister. La Lorraine was a woman
of about twenty, with a sweet face, but extremely pale and thin: she was in
the last stage of consumption; there was no hope of saving her; she knew
it, and was wasting away slowly. The distance was not so great between the
beds of these two women but they could speak in a low tone, and not be
overheard by the sisters.
"There is another one gone," whispered La Lorraine, thinking of the dead,
and speaking to herself. "She will not suffer more--she is very happy."
"She is very happy, if she has left no children," added Jeanne.
"Oh! you are not asleep, neighbor," said La Lorraine, to her. "How do you
get on, for your first night here? Last night, as soon as you were brought
in, you were placed in bed, and I did not dare to speak to you; I heard you
"Oh! yes; I have wept much."
"You are, then, in much pain?"
"Yes, but I am used to pain; it is from sorrow I weep. At length I fell
asleep; I was still sleeping when the noise of the doors awoke me. When the
priest came in, and the good sisters knelt, I soon saw it was a woman who
was dying; then I said to myself a pater and an ave for her."
"I also; and, as I have the same complaint, as this woman had, who is just
dead, I could not prevent myself from saying, 'Here is another whose
sufferings are ended; she is very happy!'"
"Yes, as I told you, if she had no children."
"You have children, then?"
"Three," said the sister of Pique-Vinaigre, with a sigh,
"I had a little girl, but I did not keep her long. I am a washer-woman at
the boats; I worked as long as I could. But everything has an end; when my
strength failed me, my bread failed me also. They turned me oat of my
lodgings; I do not know what would have become of me, except for a poor
woman who gave me shelter in a cellar, where she had concealed herself to
escape from her husband, who wished to kill her. There I was confined on
the straw; but, happily, this good woman knew a young girl, beautiful and
charitable as an angel from heaven: this young girl had a little money; she
took me from the cellar, and placed me in a furnished room, paying the rent
in advance, giving me, besides, a willow cradle for my child, and forty
francs for myself, with some clothes."
"Good little girl! I also have met, by chance, with one who may be called
her equal, a young dressmaker, very obliging. I had gone to see my poor
brother, who is a prisoner," said Jeanne, after a moment of hesitation;
"and I met in the visitors' room this young girl of whom I speak; having
heard me say to my brother that I was not happy, she came to me, much
embarrassed, to offer what services were in her power."
"How kind that was in her!"
"I accepted; she gave me her address, and, two days after, this dear little
Rigolette--that's her dear name--gave me employment."
"Rigolette!" cried La Lorraine.
"You know her?"
"No; but the young girl who was so generous to me, several times mentioned
the name of Rigolette: they were friends together."
"Well!" said Jeanne, smiling sadly, "since we are neighbors in sickness, we
should be friends like our two benefactresses."
"Willingly: my name is Annette Gerbier, otherwise La Lorraine,
"And mine, Jeanne Duport, fringe-maker. Ah! it is so good, at the hospital,
to find some one who is not altogether a stranger, above all, when you come
for the first time, and you have many troubles! But I do not wish to think
of this. Tell me, La Lorraine, what was the name of the young girl who has
been so kind to you?"
"She was called La Goualeuse. All my sorrow is that I have not seen her for
a long time. She was as beautiful as the Holy Virgin, with fine flaxen hair
and blue eyes, so sweet--so sweet! Unfortunately, notwithstanding her
assistance, my poor child died at two months," and Lorraine wiped away a
"I regret, my child, for myself, not for her, poor little dear! She would
have too much to struggle with, for she soon would have been an orphan. I
have not a long time to live."
"You should not have such ideas at your age. Have you been sick for a long
"It will soon be three months. Bless me! when I had to work for myself and
my child, I increased my labor; the winter was cold, I caught a cold on my
chest; at this time I lost my little girl. In watching her I forgot myself.
To that add sorrow, and I am what you see me, consumptive, doomed--as was
the actress who has just died."
"At your age there is always hope."
"The actress was only two years older, and you see---"
"She whom the good sisters are watching now, was she an actress?"
"Oh, yes--what a fate! She had been beautiful as the day. She had plenty of
money, equipages, diamonds, but, unfortunately, the small-pox disfigured
her; then want came, then poverty--behold her dead in the hospital. Yet,
she was not proud; on the contrary, she was kind and gentle to everybody;
she told us that she had written to a gentleman whom she had known in her
prosperity, who had loved her; she wrote to him to come and reclaim her
body, because it hurt her feelings to think she would be dissected--cut in
"And this gentleman has come?"
"Oh! that is very cruel."
"At each moment the poor woman asked for him, saying continually, 'Oh! he
will come! oh! he will surely come;' and yet she died, and he had not
"Her end must have been so much the more painful."
"Oh, Lord, yes; for she dreaded so much what they would do to her body."
"After having been rich and happy, to die here is sad! For us, it is only a
change of misery."
"Speaking of that," resumed La Lorraine, after a moment's hesitation, "I
wish you would render me a service."
"If I should die, as is probable, before you leave this, I wish you would
claim my body--I have the same dread as the actress; and I have put aside
the small amount of money I have left, so that I can be buried."
"Do not have such ideas."
"Never mind--do you promise me?"
"Yes! but Lord be praised, that will not happen."
"But, if it does happen, I shall not have, thanks to you, the same
misfortune as the actress."
"Poor lady, after having been rich, to end thus!"
"The actress was not the only one in this room who has been rich, Madame
"Call me Jeanne, as I call you La Lorraine."
"You are very kind."
"Who is it that has been rich besides?"
"A young person not over fifteen, who was brought here last night, before
you came. She was so weak that they were obliged to carry her. The sister
said that this young girl and her mother were very respectable people, who
had been ruined."
"Her mother is also here?"
"No: the mother was so very sick, that she could not be moved. The poor
child would not leave her, and they profited by a fainting fit to bring her
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