"And justice shall be done, I swear!" broke in the old surgeon, who looked upon the cause of his patient with as much interest as if it were his own. "Our lucky star has sent us a lawyer who is no trifler, and who, if I am not very much mistaken, would like very much to leave Saigon with a loud blast of trumpets."
He remained buried in thought for a while, watching his patient out of the corner of his eye, and then said suddenly,—
"Now I think of it, why could you not see the lawyer? He is all anxiety to examine you. Consider, lieutenant, do you feel strong enough to see him?"
"Let him come," cried Daniel, "let him come! Pray, doctor, go for him at once!"
"I shall do my best, my dear Champcey. I will go at once, and leave you to finish your correspondence."
He left the room with these words; and Daniel turned to the letters, which were still lying on his bed. There were seven of them,—four from the Countess Sarah, and three from Maxime. But what could they tell him now? What did he care for the falsehoods and the calumnies they contained? He ran over them, however.
Faithful to her system, Sarah wrote volumes; and from line to line, in some way or other, her real or feigned love for Daniel broke forth more freely, and no longer was veiled and hidden under timid reserve and long-winded paraphrases. She gave herself up, whether her prudence had forsaken her, or whether she felt quite sure that her letters could never reach Count Ville-Handry. It sounded like an intense, irresistible passion, escaping from the control of the owner, and breaking forth terribly, like a long smouldering fire. Of Henrietta she said but little,—enough, however, to terrify Daniel, if he had not known the truth.
"That unfortunate, wayward girl," she wrote, "has just caused her aged father such cruel and unexpected grief, that he was on the brink of the grave. Weary of the control which her indiscretions rendered indispensable, she has fled, we know not with whom; and all our efforts to find her have so far been unsuccessful."
On the other hand, M. de Brevan wrote, "Deaf to my counsel and prayers even, Miss Ville-Handry has carried out the project of leaving her paternal home. Suspected of having favored her escape, I have been called out by Sir Thorn, and had to fight a duel with him. A paper which I enclose will give you the details of our meeting, and tell you that I was lucky enough to wound that gentleman of little honor, but of great skill with the pistol.
"Alas! my poor, excellent Daniel, why should I be compelled by the duties of friendship to confess to you that it was not for the purpose of remaining faithful to you, that Miss Henrietta was so anxious to be free? Do not desire to return, my poor friend! You would suffer too much in finding her whom you have loved so dearly unworthy of an honest man, unworthy of you. Believe me, I did all I could to prevent her irregularities, which now have become public. I only drew her hatred upon me, and I should not be surprised if she did all she could to make us all cut our throats."
This impudence was bold enough to confound anybody's mind, and to make one doubt one's own good sense. Still he found the newspaper, which had been sent to him with the letter, and in it the account of the duel between M. de Brevan and M. Thomas Elgin. What did that signify? He once more read over, more attentively than at first, the letters of Maxime and the Countess Sarah; and, by comparing them with each other, he thought he noticed in them some traces of a beginning disagreement.
"It may be that there is discord among my enemies," he said to himself, "and that they do no longer agree, now that, in their view, the moment approaches when they are to divide the proceeds of their crimes. Or did they never agree, and am I the victim of a double plot? Or is the whole merely a comedy for the purpose of deceiving me, and keeping me here, until the murderer has done his work?"
He was not allowed to torture his mind long with efforts to seek the solution of this riddle. The old doctor came back with the lawyer, and for more than half an hour he had to answer an avalanche of questions. But the investigation had been carried on with such rare sagacity, that Daniel could furnish the prosecution only a single new fact,—the surrender of his entire fortune into the hands of M. de Brevan.
And even this fact must needs, on account of its extreme improbability, remain untold in an investigation which was based upon logic alone. Daniel very naturally, somewhat ashamed of his imprudence, tried to excuse himself; and, when he had concluded his explanations, the lawyer said,—
"Now, one more question: would you recognize the man who attempted to drown you in the Dong-Nai in a boat which he had offered to you, and which he upset evidently on purpose?"
"Ah! that is a pity. That man was Crochard, I am sure; but he will deny it; and the prosecution will have nothing but probabilities to oppose to his denial, unless I can find the place where he changed his clothes."
"Excuse me, there is a way to ascertain his identity."
"The voice of the wretch is so deeply engraven on my mind, that even at this moment, while I am speaking to you, I think I can hear it in my ear; and I would recognize it among a thousand."
The lawyer made no reply, weighing, no doubt, in his mind the chances of a confrontation. Then he made up his mind, and said,—
"It is worth trying."
And handing his clerk, who had been a silent witness of this scene, an order to have the accused brought to the hospital, he said,—
"Take this to the jail, and let them make haste."
It was a month now since Crochard had been arrested; and his imprisonment, so far from discouraging him, had raised his spirits. At first, his arrest and the examination had frightened him; but, as the days went by, he recovered his insolence.
"They are evidently looking for evidence," he said; "but, as they cannot find any, they will have to let me go."
He looked, therefore, as self-assured as ever when he came into Daniel's room, and exclaimed, while still in the door, with an air of intolerable arrogance,—
"Well? I ask for justice; I am tired of jail. If I am guilty, let them cut my throat; if I am innocent"—
But Daniel did not let him finish.
"That is the man!" he exclaimed; "I am ready to swear to it, that is the man!"
Great as was the impudence of Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, he was astonished, and looked with rapid, restless eyes at the chief surgeon, at the magistrate, and last at Lefloch, who stood immovable at the foot of the bed of his lieutenant. He had too much experience of legal forms not to know that he had given way to absurd illusions,—and that his position was far more dangerous than he had imagined. But what was their purpose? what had they found out? and what did they know positively? The effort he made to guess all this gave to his face an atrocious expression.
"Did you hear that, Crochard?" asked the lawyer.
But the accused had recovered his self-control by a great effort; and he replied,—
"I am not deaf." And there was in his voice the unmistakable accent of the former vagabond of Paris. "I hear perfectly well; only I don't understand."
The magistrate, finding that, where he was seated, he could not very well observe Crochard, had quietly gotten up, and was now standing near the mantle-piece, against which he rested.
"On the contrary," he said severely, "you understand but too well Lieut. Champcey says you are the man who tried to drown him in the Dong-Nai. He recognizes you."
"That's impossible!" exclaimed the accused. "That's impossible; for"—
But the rest of the phrase remained in his throat. A sudden reflection had shown him the trap in which he had been caught,—a trap quite familiar to examining lawyers, and terrible by its very simplicity. But for that reflection, he would have gone on thus,—
"That's impossible; for the night was too dark to distinguish a man's features."
And that would have been equivalent to a confession; and he would have had nothing to answer the magistrate, if the latter had asked at once,—
"How do you know that the darkness was so great on the banks of the Dong-Nai? It seems you were there, eh?"
Quite pallid with fright, the accused simply said,—
"The officer must be mistaken."
"I think not," replied the magistrate.
Turning to Daniel, he asked him,—
"Do you persist in your declaration, lieutenant?"
"More than ever, sir; I declare upon honor that I recognize the man's voice. When he offered me a boat, he spoke a kind of almost unintelligible jargon, a mixture of English and Spanish words; but he did not think of changing his intonation and his accent."
Affecting an assurance which he was far from really feeling, Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, shrugged his shoulders carelessly, and said,—
"Do I know any English? Do I know any Spanish?"
"No, very likely not; but like all Frenchmen who live in this colony, and like all the marines, you no doubt know a certain number of words of these two languages."
To the great surprise of the doctor and of Daniel, the prisoner did not deny it; it looked as if he felt that he was on dangerous ground.
"Never mind!" he exclaimed in the most arrogant manner. "It is anyhow pretty hard to accuse an honest man of a crime, because his voice resembles the voice of a rascal."
The magistrate gently shook his head. He said,—
"Do you pretend being an honest man?"
"What! I pretend? Let them send for my employers."
"That is not necessary. I know your antecedents, from the first petty theft that procured you four months' imprisonment, to the aggravated robbery for which you were sent to the penitentiary, when you were in the army."
Profound stupor lengthened all of Crochard's features; but he was not the man to give up a game in which his head was at stake, without fighting for it.
"Well, there you are mistaken," he said very coolly. "I have been condemned to ten years, that is true, when I was a soldier; but it was for having struck an officer who had punished me unjustly."
"You lie. A former soldier of your regiment, who is now in garrison here in Saigon, will prove it."
For the first time the accused seemed to be really troubled. He saw all of a sudden his past rising before him, which until now he had thought unknown or forgotten; and he knew full well the weight which antecedents like his would have in the scales of justice. So he changed his tactics; and, assuming an abject humility, he said,—
"One may have committed a fault, and still be incapable of murdering a man."
"That is not your case."
"Oh! how can you say such a thing?—I who would not harm a fly. Unlucky gun! Must I needs have such a mishap?"
The magistrate had for some time been looking at the accused with an air of the most profound disgust. He interrupted him rudely now, and said,—
"Look here, my man! Spare us those useless denials. Justice knows everything it wants to know. That shot was the third attempt you made to murder a man."
Crochard drew back. He looked livid. But he had still the strength to say in a half-strangled voice,—
"That is false!"
But the magistrate had too great an abundance of evidence to allow the examination to continue. He said simply,—
"Who, then, threw, during the voyage, an enormous block at M. Champcey's head? Come, don't deny it. The emigrant who was near you, who saw you, and who promised he would not report you at that time, has spoken. Do you want to see him?"
Once more Crochard opened his lips to protest his innocence; but he could not utter a sound. He was crushed, annihilated; he trembled in all his limbs; and his teeth rattled in his mouth. In less than no time, his features had sunk in, as it were, till he looked like a man at the foot of the scaffold. It may be, that, feeling he was irretrievably lost, he had had a vision of the fatal instrument.
"Believe me," continued the lawyer, "do not insist upon the impossible; you had better tell the truth."
For another minute yet, the miserable man hesitated. Then, seeing no other chance of safety, except the mercy of the judges, he fell heavily on his knees, and stammered out,—
"I am a wretched man."
At the same instant a cry of astonishment burst from the doctor, from Daniel, and the worthy Lefloch. But the man of law was not surprised. He knew in advance that the first victory would be easily won, and that the real difficulty would be to induce the prisoner to confess the name of his principal. Without giving him, therefore time to recover, he said,—
"Now, what reasons had you for persecuting M. Champcey in this way?"
The accused rose again; and, making an effort, he said slowly,—
"I hated him. Once during the voyage he had threatened to have me put in irons."
"The man lies!" said Daniel.
"Do you hear?" asked the lawyer. "So you will not tell the truth? Well, I will tell it for you. They had hired you to kill Lieut. Champcey, and you wanted to earn your money. You got a certain sum of money in advance; and you were to receive a larger sum after his death."
"Don't swear! The sum in your possession, which you cannot account for, is positive proof of what I say."
"Alas! I possess nothing. You may inquire. You may order a search."
Under the impassive mask of the lawyer, a certain degree of excitement could at this moment be easily discerned. The time had come to strike a decisive blow, and to judge of the value of his system of induction. Instead, therefore, of replying to the prisoner, he turned to the gendarmes who were present and said to them,—
"Take the prisoner into the next room. Strip him, and examine all his clothes carefully: see to it that there is nothing hid in the lining."
The gendarmes advanced to seize the prisoner, when he suddenly jumped up, and said in a tone of ill-constrained rage,—
"No need for that! I have three one thousand-franc-notes sewn into the lining of my trousers."
This time the pride of success got completely the better of the imperturbable coldness of the magistrate. He uttered a low cry of satisfaction, and could not refrain from casting a look of triumph at Daniel and the doctor, which said clearly,—
"Well? What did I tell you?"
It was for a second only; the next instant his features resumed their icy immobility; and, turning to the accused, he said in a tone of command,—
"Hand me the notes!"
Crochard did not stir; but his livid countenance betrayed the fierce suffering he endured. Certainly, at this moment, he did not play a part. To take from him his three thousand francs, the price of the meanest and most execrable crime; the three thousand francs for the sake of which he had risked the scaffold,—this was like tearing his entrails from him.
Like an enraged brute who sees that the enemy is all-powerful, he gathered all his strength, and, with a furious look, glanced around the room to see if he could escape anywhere, asking himself, perhaps, upon which of the men he ought to throw himself for the purpose.
"The notes!" repeated the inexorable lawyer. "Must I order force to be used?"
Convinced of the uselessness of resistance, and of the folly of any attempt at escape, the wretch hung his head.
"But I cannot undo the seams of my trousers with my nails," he said. "Let them give me a knife or a pair of scissors."
They were careful not to do so. But, at a sign given by the magistrate, one of the gendarmes approached, and, drawing a penknife from his pocket, ripped the seam at the place which the prisoner pointed out. A genuine convulsion of rage seized the assassin, when a little paper parcel appeared, folded up, and compressed to the smallest possible size. By a very curious phenomenon, which is, however, quite frequently observed in criminals, he was far more concerned about his money than about his life, which was in such imminent danger.
"That is my money!" he raged. "No one has a right to take it from me. It is infamous to ill use a man who has been unfortunate, and to rob him."
The magistrate, no doubt quite accustomed to such scenes, did not even listen to Crochard, but carefully opened the packet. It contained three notes of a thousand francs each, wrapped up in a sheet of letter-paper, which was all greasy, and worn out in the folds. The bank-notes had nothing peculiar; but on the sheet of paper, traces could be made out of lines of writing; and at least two words were distinctly legible,—University and Street.
"What paper is this, Crochard?" asked the lawyer.
"I don't know. I suppose I picked it up somewhere."
"What? Are you going to lie again? What is the use? Here is evidently the address of some one who lives in University Street."
Daniel was trembling on his bed.
"Ah, sir!" he exclaimed, "I used to live in University Street, Paris."
A slight blush passed over the lawyer's face, a sign of unequivocal satisfaction in him. He uttered half loud, as if replying to certain objections in his own mind,—
"Everything is becoming clear."
And yet, to the great surprise of his listeners, he abandoned this point; and, returning to the prisoner, he asked him,—
"So you acknowledge having received money for the murder of Lieut. Champcey?"
"I never said so."
"No; but the three thousand francs found concealed on your person say so very clearly. From whom did you receive this money?"
"From nobody. They are my savings."
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders; and, looking very sternly at Crochard, he said,—
"I have before compelled you to make a certain confession. I mean to do so again and again. You will gain nothing, believe me, by struggling against justice; and you cannot save the wretches who tempted you to commit this crime. There is only one way left to you, if you wish for mercy; and that is frankness. Do not forget that!"
The assassin was, perhaps, better able to appreciate the importance of such advice than anybody else there present. Still he remained silent for more than a minute, shaken by a kind of nervous tremor, as if a terrible struggle was going on in his heart. He was heard to mutter,—
"I do not denounce anybody. A bargain is a bargain. I am not a tell- tale."
Then, all of a sudden, making up his mind, and showing himself just the man the magistrate had expected to find, he said with a cynic laugh,—
"Upon my word, so much the worse for them! Since I am in the trap, let the others be caught as well! Besides, who would have gotten the big prize, if I had succeeded? Not I, most assuredly; and yet it was I who risked most. Well, then, the man who hired me to 'do the lieutenant's business' is a certain Justin Chevassat."
The most intense disappointment seized both Daniel and the surgeon. This was not the name they had been looking for with such deep anxiety.
"Don't you deceive me, Crochard?" asked the lawyer, who alone had been able to conceal all he felt.
"You may take my head if I lie!"
Did he tell the truth? The lawyer thought he did; for, turning to Daniel, he asked,—
"Do you know anybody by the name of Chevassat, M. Champcey?"
"No. It is the first time in my life I hear that name."
"Perhaps that Chevassat was only an agent," suggested the doctor.
"Yes, that may be," replied the lawyer; "although, in such matters, people generally do their own work."
And, continuing his examination, he asked the accused,—
"Who is this Justin Chevassat?"
"One of my friends."
"A friend richer than yourself, I should think?"
"As to that—why, yes; since he has always plenty of money in his pockets, dresses in the last fashion, and drives his carriage."
"What is he doing? What is his profession?"
"Ah! as to that, I know nothing about it. I never asked him, and he never told me. I once said to him, 'Do you know you look like a prodigiously lucky fellow?' And he replied, 'Oh, not as much so as you think;' but that is all."
"Where does he live?"
"In Paris, Rue Louis, 39."
"Do you write to him there? For I dare say you have written to him since you have been in Saigon."
"I send my letters to M. X. O. X. 88."
It became evident now, that, so far from endeavoring to save his accomplices, Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, would do all he could to aid justice in discovering them. He began to show the system which the wretch was about to adopt,—to throw all the responsibility and all the odium of the crime on the man who had hired him, and to appear the poor devil, succumbing to destitution when he was tempted and dazzled by such magnificent promises, that he had not the strength to resist. The lawyer continued,—
"Where and how did you make the acquaintance of this Justin Chevassat?"
"I made his acquaintance at the galleys."
"Ah! that is becoming interesting. And do you know for what crime he had been condemned?"
"For forgery, I believe, and also for theft."
"And what was he doing before he was condemned?"
"He was employed by a banker, or perhaps as cashier in some large establishment. At all events, he had money to handle; and it stuck to his fingers."
"I am surprised, as you are so well informed with regard to this man's antecedents, that you should know nothing of his present means of existence."
"He has money, plenty of money; that is all I know."
"Have you lost sight of him?"
"Why, yes. Chevassat was set free long before I was. I believe he was pardoned; and I had not met him for more than fifteen years."
"How did you find him again?"
"Oh! by the merest chance, and a very bad chance for me; since, but for him, I would not be here."
Never would a stranger who should have suddenly come into Daniel's chamber, upon seeing Crochard's attitude, have imagined that the wretch was accused of a capital crime, and was standing there before a magistrate, in presence of the man whom he had tried three times to assassinate.
Quite at home in the law, as far as it was studied at the galleys, he had instantly recognized that his situation was by no means so desperate as he had at first supposed; that, if the jury rendered a verdict of guilty of death, it would be against the instigator of the crime, and that he would probably get off with a few years' penal servitude.
Hence he had made up his mind about his situation with that almost bestial indifference which characterizes people who are ready for everything, and prepared for everything. He had recovered from that stupor which the discovery of his crime had produced in him, and from the rage in which he had been thrown by the loss of his bank-notes. Now there appeared, under the odious personage of the murderer, the pretentious and ridiculous orator of the streets and prisons, who is accustomed to make himself heard, and displays his eloquence with great pride.
He assumed a studied position; and it was evident that he was preparing himself for his speech, although, afterwards, a good many words escaped him which are found in no dictionary, but belong to the jargon of the lowest classes, and serve to express the vilest sentiments.
"It was," he began, "a Friday, an unlucky day,—a week, about, before 'The Conquest' sailed. It might have been two o'clock. I had eaten nothing; I had not a cent in my pockets and I was walking along the boulevards, loafing, and thinking how I could procure some money.
"I had crossed several streets, when a carriage stopped close to me; and I saw a very fine gentleman step out, a cigar in his mouth, a gold chain across his waistcoat, and a flower in his buttonhole. He entered a glove-shop.
"At once I said to myself, 'Curious! I have seen that head somewhere.'
"Thereupon, I go to work, and remain fixed to the front of the shop, a little at the side, though, you know, at a place where, without being seen myself, I could very well watch my individual, who laughed and talked, showing his white teeth, while a pretty girl was trying on a pair of gloves. The more I looked at him, the more I thought, 'Positively, Bagnolet, although that sweet soul don't look as if he were a member of your society, you know him.'
"However, as I could not put a name to that figure, I was going on my way, when suddenly my memory came back to me, and I said, 'Cretonne, it is an old comrade. I shall get my dinner.'
"After all, I was not positively sure; because why? Fifteen years make a difference in a man, especially when he does not particularly care to be recognized. But I had a little way of my own to make the thing sure.
"I waited, therefore, for my man; and, at the moment when he crossed the sidewalk to get into his carriage, I stepped up, and cried out, though not very loud, 'Eh, Chevassat!'
"The scamp! They might have fired a cannon at his ear, and he would not have jumped as he did when I spoke to him. And white he was,—as white as his collar. But, nevertheless, he was not without his compass, the screw. He puts up his eyeglass, and looks at me up and down; and then he says in his finest manner, 'What is it, my good fellow? Do you want to speak to me?'
"Thereupon, quite sure of my business now, I say, 'Yes, to you, Justin Chevassat. Don't you recall me? Evariste Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet; eh? Do you recollect now?' However, the gentleman continued to hold his head high, and to look at me. At last he says, 'If you do not clear out, I will call a policeman.' Well, the mustard got into my nose, and I began to cry, to annoy him, so as to collect a crowd,—
"'What, what! Policemen, just call them, please do! They will take us before a magistrate. If I am mistaken, they won't hang me; but, if I am not mistaken, they will laugh prodigiously. What have I to risk? Nothing at all; for I have nothing.'
"I must tell you, that, while I said all this, I looked at him fixedly with the air of a man who has nothing in his stomach, and who is bent upon putting something into it. He also looked at me fixedly; and, if his eyes had been pistols—but they were not. And, when he saw I was determined, the fine gentleman softened down.
"'Make no noise,' he whispered, looking with a frightened air at all the idlers who commenced to crowd around us. And pretending to laugh very merrily,—for the benefit of the spectators, you know,—he said, speaking very low and very rapidly,—
"'In the costume that you have on, I cannot ask you to get into my carriage; that would only compromise us both uselessly. I shall send my coachman back, and walk home. You can follow quietly; and, when we get into a quiet street, we will take a cab, and talk.'
"As I was sure I could catch him again, if he should try to escape, I approved the idea. 'All right. I understand.'"
The magistrate suddenly interrupted the accused. He thought it of great importance that Crochard's evidence should be written down, word for word; and he saw, that, for some little while, the clerk had been unable to follow.
"Rest a moment, Crochard," he said.
And when the clerk had filled up what was wanting, and the magistrate had looked it over, he said to the prisoner,—
"Now you can go on, but speak more slowly."
The wretch smiled, well pleased. This permission gave him more time to select his words, and this flattered his vanity; for even the lowest of these criminals have their weak point, in which their vanity is engaged.
"Don't let your soup get cold," he continued. "Chevassat said a few words to his coachman, who whipped the horse, and there he was, promenading down the boulevard, turning his cane this way, puffing out big clouds of smoke, as if he had not the colic at the thought that his friend Bagnolet was following on his heels.
"I ought to say that he had lots of friends, very genteel friends, who wished him good-evening as they passed him. There were some even who stopped him, shook hands with him, and offered to treat him; but he left them all promptly, saying, 'Excuse me, pray, I am in a hurry.'
"Why, yes, he was in a hurry; and I who was behind him, and saw and heard it all, I laughed in my sleeve most heartily."
Whatever advantage there may be in not interrupting a great talker, who warms up as he talks, and consequently forgets himself, the magistrate became impatient.
"Spare us your impressions," he said peremptorily.
This was not what Crochard expected. He looked hurt, and went on angrily,—
"In fine, my individual goes down the boulevard as far as the opera, turns to the right, crosses the open square, and goes down the first street to the left. Here a cab passes; he hails it; orders the driver to take us to Vincennes. We get in; and his first care is to let down the curtains. Then he looks at me with a smile, holds out his hand, and says, 'Well, old man! how are you?'
"At first, when I saw myself so well received, I was quite overcome. Then reflecting, I thought, 'It is not natural for him to be so soft. He is getting ready for some trick. Keep your eyes open, Bagnolet.'
"'Then you are not angry that I spoke to you; eh?' He laughs, and says, 'No.'
"Then I, 'However, you hadn't exactly a wedding-air when I spoke to you, and I thought you were looking for a way to get rid of me unceremoniously.' But he said very seriously, 'Look here, I am going to talk to you quite openly! For a moment I was surprised; but I was not annoyed. I have long foreseen something of the kind would happen; and I know that every time I go out I run the risk of meeting a former comrade. You are not the first who has recognized me, and I am prepared to save myself all annoyance. If I wanted to get rid of you, this very evening you would have lost all trace of me, thanks to a little contrivance I have arranged. Besides, as you are in Paris without leave, before twenty-four hours are over, you would be in jail.' He told me all this so calmly, that I felt it was so, and that the scamp had some special trick.
"'Then,' I said, 'you rather like meeting an old friend, eh?'
"He looked me straight in the face and replied, 'Yes; and the proof of it is, that if you were not here, sitting at my side, and if I had known where to find you, I should have gone in search of you. I have something to do for you.'"
Henceforth Bagnolet had reason to be satisfied.
Although the magistrate preserved his impassive appearance, Daniel and the chief surgeon listened with breathless attention, feeling that the prisoner had come to the really important part of his confession, from which, no doubt, much light would be obtained. Lefloch himself listened with open mouth; and one could follow on his ingenuous countenance all the emotions produced by the recital of the criminal, who, but for him, would probably have escaped justice.
"Naturally," continued Crochard, "when he talked of something to do, I opened my ears wide. 'Why,' I said, 'I thought you had retired from business.' And I really thought he had. 'You are mistaken,' he replied. 'Since I left that place you know of, I have been living nicely. But I have not put anything aside; and if an accident should happen to me, which I have reason to fear, I would be destitute.'
"I should have liked very much to know more; but he would not tell me anything else concerning himself; and I had to give him my whole history since my release. Oh! that was soon done. I told him how nothing I had undertaken had ever succeeded; that, finally, I had been a waiter in a drinking-shop; that they had turned me out; and that for a month now I had been walking the streets, having not a cent, no clothes, no lodgings, and no bed but the quarries.
"'Since that is so,' he said, 'you shall see what a comrade is.' I ought to say that the cab had been going all the time we were talking, and that we were out in the suburbs now. My Chevassat raised the blind to look out; and, as soon as he saw a clothing store, he ordered the driver to stop there. The driver did so; and then Chevassat said to me, 'Come, old man, we'll begin by dressing you up decently.' So we get out; and upon my word, he buys me a shirt, trousers, a coat, and everything else that was needful; he pays for a silk hat, and a pair of varnished boots. Farther down the street was a watchmaker. I declare he makes me a present of a gold watch, which I still have, and which they seized when they put me in jail. Finally, he has spent his five hundred francs, and gives me eighty francs to boot, to play the gentleman.
"You need not ask if I thanked him, when we got back into the cab. After such misery as I had endured, my morals came back with my clothes. I would have jumped into the fire for Chevassat. Alas! I would not have been so delighted, if I had known what I should have to pay for all this; for in the first place"—
"Oh, go on!" broke in the lawyer; "go on!"
Not without some disappointment, Crochard had to acknowledge that everything purely personal did not seem to excite the deepest interest. He made a face, full of spite, and then went on, speaking more rapidly,—
"All these purchases had taken some time; so that it was six o'clock, and almost dark, when we reached Vincennes. A little before we got into the town, Chevassat stopped the cab, paid the driver, sends him back, and, taking me by the arm, says, 'You must be hungry: let us dine.'
"So we first absorb a glass of absinthe; then he carries me straight to the best restaurant, asks for a private room, and orders a dinner. Ah, but a dinner! Merely to hear it ordered from the bill of fare made my mouth water.
"We sit down; and I, fearing nothing, would not have changed places with the pope. And I talked, and I ate, and I drank; I drank, perhaps, most; for I had not had anything to drink for a long time; and, finally, I was rather excited. Chevassat seemed to have unbuttoned, and told me lots of funny things which set me a-laughing heartily. But when the coffee had been brought, with liquors in abundance, and cigars at ten cents apiece, my individual rises, and pushes the latch in the door; for there was a latch.
"Then he comes back, and sits down right in front of me, with his elbows on the table. 'Now, old man,' he says, 'we have had enough laughing and talking. I am a good fellow, you know; but you understand that I am not treating you for the sake of your pretty face alone. I want a good stout fellow; and I thought you might be the man.'
"Upon my word, he told me that in such a peculiar way, that I felt as if somebody had kicked me in the stomach; and I began to be afraid of him. Still I concealed my fears, and said, 'Well, let us see; go it! What's the row?'
"At once he replies, 'As I told you before, I have not laid up a cent. But if anything should happen to a certain person whom I think of, I should be rich; and you—why, you might be rich too, if you were willing to give him a little push with the elbow, so that the thing might happen to him a little sooner.'"
Earnestly bent upon the part which he had to play for the sake of carrying out his system of defence, the prisoner assumed more and more hypocritical repentance, an effort which gave to his wicked face a peculiarly repulsive expression.
The magistrate, however, though no doubt thoroughly disgusted with this absurd comedy, did not move a muscle of his face, nor make a gesture, anxious, as he was, not to break the thread of this important deposition.
"Ah, sir!" exclaimed Crochard, his hand upon his heart, "when I heard Chevassat talk that way, my heart turned within me, and I said, 'Unfortunate man, what do you mean? I should commit a murder? Never! I'd rather die first!' He laughed, and replied, 'Don't be a fool; who talks to you of murder? I spoke of an accident. Besides, you would not risk anything. The thing would happen to him abroad.' I continued, however, to refuse, and I spoke even of going away; when Chevassat seized a big knife, and said, now that I had his secret, I was bound to go on. If not!—he looked at me with such a terrible air, that, upon my word, I was frightened, and sat down again.
"Then, all at once, he became as jolly again as before; and, whilst he kept pouring the brandy into my glass, he explained to me that I would be a fool to hesitate; that I could never in all my life find such a chance again of making a fortune; that I would most certainly succeed; and that then I would have an income, keep a carriage as he did, wear fine clothes, and have every day a dinner like the one we had just been enjoying together.
"I became more and more excited. This lot of gold which he held up before my mind's eyes dazzled me; and the strong drink I had been taking incessantly got into my head. Then he flourished again the big knife before my face; and finally I did not know what I was saying or doing. I got up; and, striking the table with my fist, I cried out, 'I am your man!'"
Although, probably, the whole scene never took place, except in the prisoner's imagination, Daniel could not help trembling under his cover, at the thought of these two wretches arranging for his death, while they were there, half drunk, glass in hand, and their elbows resting on a table covered with wine-stains. Lefloch, on his part, stood grasping the bedstead so hard with his hand, that the wood cracked. Perhaps he dreamed he held in his grasp the neck of the man who was talking so coolly of murdering his lieutenant. The lawyer and the doctor thought of nothing but of watching the contortions of the accused. He had drawn a handkerchief from his pocket, and rubbed his eyes hard, as if he hoped thus to bring forth a few tears.
"Come, come!" said the magistrate. "No scene!"
Crochard sighed deeply, and then continued in a tearful tone,—
"They might cut me to pieces, and I would not be able to say what happened after that. I was dead drunk, and do not recollect a thing any more. From what Chevassat afterwards told me, I had to be carried to the carriage; and he took me to a hotel in the suburb, where he hired a lodging for me. When I woke the next day, a little before noon, my head was as heavy as lead; and I tried to recall what had happened at the restaurant, and if it was not perhaps merely the bad wine that had given me the nightmare.
"Unfortunately, it was no dream; and I soon found that out, when a waiter came up and brought me a letter. Chevassat wrote me to come to his house, and to breakfast with him for the purpose of talking business.
"Of course I went. I asked the concierge where M. Justin Chevassat lives in the house; and he directs me to go to the second floor, on the right hand. I go up, ring the bell; a servant opens the door; I enter, and find, in an elegant apartment, my brigand in a dressing-gown, stretched out on a sofa. On the way I had made up my mind to tell him positively that he need not count upon me; that the thing was a horror to me; and that I retracted all I had said. But, as soon as I began, he became perfectly furious, calling me a coward and a traitor, and telling me that I had no choice but to make my fortune, or to receive a blow with the big knife between my shoulders. At the same time he spread out before me a great heap of gold. Then, yes, then I was weak. I felt I was caught. Chevassat frightened me; the gold intoxicated me. I pledged my word; and the bargain was made."
As he said this, Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, sighed deeply and noisily, like a man whose heart has been relieved of a grievous burden. He really felt prodigiously relieved. To have to confess everything on the spot, without a moment's respite to combine a plan of apology, was a hard task. Now, the wretch had stood this delicate and dangerous trial pretty well, and thought he had managed cleverly enough to prepare for the day of his trial a number of extenuating circumstances. But the magistrate hardly gave him time to breathe.
"Not so fast," he said: "we are not done yet. What were the conditions which you and Chevassat agreed upon?"
"Oh! very simple, sir. I, for my part, said yes to everything he proposed. He magnetized me, I tell you, that man! We agreed, therefore, that he would pay me four thousand francs in advance, and that, after the accident, he would give me six thousand certain, and a portion of the sum which he would secure."
"Thus you undertook, for ten thousand francs, to murder a man?"
"That sum is very far from those fabulous amounts by which you said you had been blinded and carried away."
"Pardon me! There was that share in the great fortune."
"Ah! You knew very well that Chevassat would never have paid you anything."
Crochard's hands twitched nervously. He cried out,—
"Chevassat cheat me! cochonnere! I would have—but no; he knows me; he would never have dared"—
The magistrate had caught the prisoner's eye, and, fixing him sternly, he said good-naturedly,—
"Why did you tell me, then, that that man magnetized you, and frightened you out of your wits?"
The wretch had gone into the snare, and, instead of answering, hung his head, and tried to sob.
"Repentance is all very well," said the lawyer, who did not seem to be in the least touched; "but just now it would be better for you to explain how your trip to Cochin China was arranged. Come, collect yourself, and give us the details."
"As to that," he resumed his account, "you see Chevassat explained to me everything at breakfast; and the very same day he gave me the address which you found on the paper in which the bank-notes were wrapped up."
"What did he give you M. Champcey's address for?"
"So that I might know him personally."
"Well, go on."
"At first, when I heard he was a lieutenant in the navy, I said I must give it up, knowing as I did that with such men there is no trifling. But Chevassat scolded me so terribly, and called me such hard names, that I finally got mad, and promised everything.
"'Besides,' he said to me, 'listen to my plan. The navy department wants mechanics to go to Saigon. They have not gotten their full number yet: so you go and offer yourself. They will accept you, and even pay your journey to Rochefort: a boat will carry you out to the roadstead on board the frigate "Conquest." Do you know whom you will find on board? Our man, Lieut. Champcey. Well, now, I tell you! that if any accident should happen to him, either during the voyage, or at Saigon, that accident will pass unnoticed, as a letter passes through the post-office.'
"Yes, that's what he told me, every word of it; and I think I hear him now. And I—I was so completely bewildered, that I had nothing to say in return. However, there was one thing which troubled me; and I thought, 'Well, after all, they won't accept me at the navy department, with my antecedents.'
"But, when I mentioned the difficulty to Chevassat, he laughed. Oh, but he laughed! it made me mad.
"'You are surely more of a fool than I thought,' he said. 'Are your condemnations written on your face? No, I should say. Well, as you will exhibit your papers in excellent order, they will take you.'
"I opened my eyes wide, and said, 'That's all very pretty, what you say; but the mischief is, that, as I have not worked at my profession for more than fifteen years, I have no papers at all.' He shrugs his shoulders, and says, 'You shall have your papers.' That worries me; and I reply, 'If I have to steal somebody's papers, and change my name, I won't do it.' But the brigand had his notions. 'You shall keep your name,' he said, touching me on the shoulder. 'You shall always remain Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet; and you shall have your papers as engraver on metal as perfect as anybody can have them.'
"And, to be sure, the second day after that he gave me a set of papers, signatures, seals, all in perfect order."
"The papers found in your room, you mean?" asked the lawyer.
"Where did Chevassat get them?"
"Get them? Why, he had made them himself. He can do anything he chooses with his pen, the scamp! If he takes it into his head to imitate your own handwriting, you would never suspect it."
Daniel and the old surgeon exchanged glances. This was a strong and very important point in connection with the forged letter that had been sent to the navy department, and claimed to be signed by Daniel himself. The magistrate was as much struck by the fact as they were; but his features remained unchanged; and, pursuing his plan in spite of all the incidents of the examination, he asked,—
"These papers caused no suspicion?"
"None whatever. I had only to show them, and they accepted me. Besides, Chevassat said he would enlist some people in my behalf; perhaps I had been specially recommended."
"And thus you sailed?"
"Yes. They gave me my ticket, some money for travelling expenses; and, five days after my meeting with Chevassat, I was on board 'The Conquest.' Lieut. Champcey was not there. Ah! I began to hope he would not go out on the expedition at all. Unfortunately, he arrived forty- eight hours afterwards, and we sailed at once."
The marvellous coolness of the wretch showed clearly under his affected trouble; and, while it confounded Daniel and the old surgeon, it filled the faithful Lefloch with growing indignation. He spoke of this abominable plot, of this assassination which had been so carefully plotted, and of the price agreed upon, and partly paid in advance, as if the whole had been a fair commercial operation.
"Now, Crochard," said the lawyer, "I cannot impress it too strongly on your mind, how important it is for your own interests that you should tell the truth. Remember, all your statements will be verified. Do you know whether Chevassat lives in Paris under an assumed name?"
"No, sir! I have always heard him called Chevassat by everybody."
"What? By everybody?"
"Well, I mean his concierge, his servants."
The magistrate seemed for a moment to consider how he should frame his next question; and then he asked, all of a sudden,—
"Suppose that the—accident, as you call it, had succeeded, you would have taken ship; you would have arrived in France; you reach Paris; how would you have found Chevassat to claim your six thousand francs?"
"I should have gone to his house, where I breakfasted with him; and, if he had left, the concierge would have told me where he lived now."
"Then you really think you saw him at his own rooms? Consider. If you left him only for a couple of hours, between the time when you first met him and the visit you paid him afterwards, he might very well have improvised a new domicile for himself."
"Ah! I did not lie, sir. When dinner was over, I had lost my consciousness, and I did not get wide awake again till noon on the next day. Chevassat had the whole night and next morning."
Then, as a suspicion suddenly flashed through Crochard's mind, he exclaimed,—
"Ah, the brigand! Why did he urge me never to write to him otherwise than 'to be called for'?"
The magistrate had turned to his clerk.
"Go down," he said, "and see if any of the merchants in town have a Paris Directory."
The clerk went off like an arrow, and appeared promptly back again with the volume in question. The magistrate hastened to look up the address given by the prisoner, and found it entered thus: "Langlois, sumptuous apartments for families and single persons. Superior attendance."
"I was almost sure of it," he said to himself.
Then handing Daniel the paper on which the words "University" and "Street" could be deciphered, he asked,—
"Do you know that handwriting, M. Champcey?"
Too full of the lawyer's shrewd surmises to express any surprise, Daniel looked at the words, and said coolly,—
"That is Maxime de Brevan's handwriting."
A rush of blood colored instantly the pale face of Crochard. He was furious at the idea of having been duped by his accomplice, by the instigator of the crime he had committed, and for which he would probably never have received the promised reward.
"Ah, the brigand!" he exclaimed. "And I, who was very near not denouncing him at all!"
A slight smile passed over the lawyer's face. His end had been attained. He had foreseen this wrath on the part of the prisoner; he had prepared it carefully, and caused it to break out fully; for he knew it would bring him full light on the whole subject.
"To cheat me, me!" Crochard went on with extraordinary vehemence,—"to cheat a friend, an old comrade! Ah the rascal! But he sha'n't go to paradise, if I can help it! Let them cut my throat, I don't mind it; I shall be quite content even, provided I see his throat cut first."
"He has not even been arrested yet."
"But nothing is easier than to catch him, sir. He must be uneasy at not hearing from me; and I am sure he is going every day to the post-office to inquire if there are no letters yet for M. X. O. X. 88. I can write to him. Do you want me to write to him? I can tell him that I have once more missed it, and that I have been caught even, but that the police have found out nothing, and that they have set me free again. I am sure, after that, the scamp will keep quiet; and the police will have nothing to do but to take the omnibus, and arrest him at his lodgings."
The magistrate had allowed the prisoner to give free vent to his fury, knowing full well by experience how intensely criminals hate those of their accomplices by whom they find themselves betrayed. And he was in hopes that the rage of this man might suggest a new idea, or furnish him with new facts. When he saw he was not likely to gain much, he said,—
"Justice cannot stoop to such expedients." Then he added, seeing how disappointed Crochard looked,—
"You had better try and recollect all you can. Have you forgotten or concealed nothing that might assist us in carrying out this examination?"
"No; I think I have told you every thing."
"You cannot furnish any additional evidence of the complicity of Justin Chevassat, of his efforts to tempt you to commit this crime, or of the forgery he committed in getting up a false set of papers for you?"
"No! Ah, he is a clever one, and leaves no trace behind him that could convict him. But, strong as he is, if we could be confronted in court, I'd undertake, just by looking at him, to get the truth out of him somehow."
"You shall be confronted, I promise you."
The prisoner seemed to be amazed.
"Are you going to send for Chevassat?" he asked.
"No. You will be sent home, to be tried there."
A flash of joy shone in the eyes of the wretch. He knew the voyage would not be a pleasant one; but the prospect of being tried in France was as good as an escape from capital punishment to his mind. Besides, he delighted in advance in the idea of seeing Chevassat in court, seated by his side as a fellow-prisoner.
"Then," he asked again, "they will send me home?"
"On the first national vessel that leaves Saigon."
The magistrate went and sat down at the table where the clerk was writing, and rapidly ran his eye over the long examination, seeing if anything had been overlooked. When he had done, he said,—
"Now give me as accurate a description of Justin Chevassat as you can."
Crochard passed his hand repeatedly over his forehead; and then, his eyes staring at empty space, and his neck stretched out, as if he saw a phantom which he had suddenly called up, he said,—
"Chevassat is a man of my age; but he does not look more than twenty seven or eight. That is what made me hesitate at first, when I met him on the boulevard. He is a handsome fellow, very well made, and wears all his beard. He looks clever, with soft eyes; and his face inspires confidence at once."
"Ah! that is Maxime all over," broke in Daniel.
And, suddenly remembering something, he called Lefloch. The sailor started, and almost mechanically assumed the respectful position of a sailor standing before his officer.
"Lieutenant?" he said.
"Since I have been sick, they have brought part of my baggage here; have they not?"
"Yes, lieutenant, all of it."
"Well. Go and look for a big red book with silver clasps. You have no doubt seen me look at it often."
"Yes, lieutenant; and I know where it is."
And he immediately opened one of the trunks that were piled up in a corner of the room, and took from it a photograph album, which, upon a sign from Daniel, he handed to the lawyer.
"Will you please," said Daniel at the same time, "ask the prisoner, if, among the sixty or seventy portraits in that book, he knows any one?"
The album was handed to Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet, who turned over leaf after leaf, till all of a sudden, and almost beside himself, he cried out,—
"Here he is, Justin Chevassat! Oh! that's he, no doubt about it."
Daniel could, from his bed, see the photograph, and said,—
"That is Maxime's portrait."
After this decisive evidence, there could be no longer any doubt that Justin Chevassat and Maxime de Brevan were one and the same person. The investigation was complete, as far as it could be carried on in Saigon; the remaining evidence had to be collected in Paris. The magistrate directed, therefore, the clerk to read the deposition; and Crochard followed it without making a single objection. But when he had signed it, and the gendarmes were about to carry him off again, and to put on the handcuffs, he asked leave to make an addition. The magistrate assented; and Crochard said,—
"I do not want to excuse myself, nor to make myself out innocent; but I do not like, on the other hand, to seem worse than I am."
He had assumed a very decided position, and evidently aimed at giving to his words an expression of coarse but perfect frankness.
"The thing which I had undertaken to do, it was not in my power to do. It has never entered my head to kill a man treacherously. If I had been a brute, such as these are, the lieutenant would not be there, wounded to be sure, but alive. Ten times I might have done his business most effectively; but I did not care. I tried in vain to think of Chevassat's big promises; at the last moment, my heart always failed me. The thing was too much for me. And the proof of it is, that I missed him at ten yards' distance. The only time when I tried it really in earnest was in the little boat, because there, I ran some risk; it was like a duel, since my life was as much at stake as the lieutenant's. I can swim as well as anybody, to be sure; but in a river like the Dong-Nai, at night, and with a current like that, no swimmer can hold his own. The lieutenant got out of it; but I was very near being drowned. I could not get on land again until I had been carried down two miles or more; and, when I did get on shore, I sank in the mud up to my hips. Now, I humbly beg the lieutenant's pardon; and you shall see if I am going to let Chevassat escape."
Thereupon he held out his hands for the handcuffs, with a theatrical gesture, and left the room.
In the meantime, the long, trying scene had exhausted Daniel; and he lay there, panting, on his bed. The surgeon and the lawyer withdrew, to let him have some rest.
He certainly needed it; but how could he sleep with the fearful idea of his Henrietta—she whom he loved with his whole heart—being in the hands of this Justin Chevassat, a forger, a former galley-slave, the accomplice and friend of Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet?
"And I myself handed her over to him!" he repeated for the thousandth time,—"I, her only friend upon earth! And her confidence in me was so great, that, if she had any presentiment, she suppressed it for my sake."
Daniel had, to be sure, a certain assurance now, that Maxime de Brevan would not be able to escape from justice. But what did it profit him to be avenged, when it was too late, long after Henrietta should have been forced to seek in suicide the only refuge from Brevan's persecution? Now it seemed to him as if the magistrate was far more anxiously concerned for the punishment of the guilty than for the safety of the victims. Blinded by passion, so as to ask for impossibilities, Daniel would have had this lawyer, who was so clever in unearthing crimes committed in Saigon, find means rather to prevent the atrocious crime which was now going on in France. On his part, he had done the only thing that could be done.
At the first glimpse of reason that had appeared after his terrible sufferings, he had hastened to write to Henrietta, begging her to take courage, and promising her that he would soon be near her. In this letter he had enclosed the sum of four thousand francs.
This letter was gone. But how long would it take before it could reach her? Three or four months, perhaps even more.
Would it reach her in time? Might it not be intercepted, like the others? All these anxieties made a bed of burning coals of the couch of the poor wounded man. He twisted and turned restlessly from side to side, and felt as if he were once more going to lose his senses. And still, by a prodigious effort of his will, his convalescence pursued its normal, steady way in spite of so many contrary influences.
A fortnight after Crochard's confession, Daniel could get up; he spent the afternoon in an arm-chair, and was even able to take a few steps in his chamber. The next week he was able to get down into the garden of the hospital, and to walk about there, leaning on the arm of his faithful Lefloch. And with his strength and his health, hope, also, began to come back; when, all of a sudden, two letters from Henrietta rekindled the fever.
In one the poor girl told him how she had lived so far on the money obtained from the sale of the little jewelry she had taken with her, but added that she was shamefully cheated, and would soon be compelled to seek employment of some sort in order to support herself.
"I am quite sure," she said, with a kind of heartrending cheerfulness, "that I can earn my forty cents a day; and with that, my friend, I shall be as happy as a queen, and wait for your return, free from want."
In the other she wrote,—
"None of my efforts to procure work has so far succeeded. The future is getting darker and darker. Soon I shall be without bread. I shall struggle on to the last extremity, were it only not to give my enemies the joy of seeing me dead. But, Daniel, if you wish to see your Henrietta again, come back; oh, come back!"
Daniel had not suffered half as much the day when the assassin's ball ploughed through his chest. He was evidently reading one of those last cries which precede agony. After these two fearful letters, he could only expect a last one from Henrietta,—a letter in which she would tell him, "All is over. I am dying. Farewell!"
He sent for the chief surgeon, and said, as soon as he entered,—
"I must go!"
The good doctor frowned, and replied rudely,—
"Are you mad? Do you know that you cannot stand up fifteen minutes?"
"I can lie down in my berth."
"You would kill yourself."
"What of that? I would rather suffer death than what I now endure. Besides, I have made up my mind irrevocably! Read this, and you will see yourself that I cannot do otherwise."
The chief surgeon took in Henrietta's last letter almost at a single glance; but he held it in his hand for some time, pretending to read it, but in reality meditating.
"I am sure," the excellent man thought in his heart, "I am sure, in this man's place, I should do the same. But would this imprudence be of any use to him? No; for he could not reach the mouth of the Dong-Nai alive. Therefore it is my duty to keep him here: and that can be done, since he is as yet unable to go out alone; and Lefloch will obey me, I am sure, when I tell him that his master's life depends upon his obedience."
Too wise to meet so decided a determination as Daniel's was by a flat refusal, he said,—
"Very well, then; be it as you choose!"
Only he came in again the same evening, and, with an air of disappointment, said to Daniel,—
"To go is all very well; but there is one difficulty in the way, of which neither you nor I have thought."
"And what is that?"
"There is no vessel going home."
"Ah! my dear friend," replied the excellent man boldly, "do you think I could deceive you?"
Evidently Daniel thought him quite capable of doing so; but he took good care not to show his suspicions, reserving to himself the right of making direct inquiries as soon as the opportunity should offer. It came the very next morning. Two friends of his called to see him. He sent Lefloch out of the room on some pretext, and then begged them to go down to the port, and to engage a passage for him,—no, not for him, but for his man, whom urgent business recalled to France.
In the most eager manner the two gentlemen disappeared. They stayed away three hours; and, when they came back, their answer was the same as the doctor's. They declared they had made inquiries on all sides; but they were quite sure that there was not a single vessel in Saigon ready to sail for home. Ten other persons whom Daniel asked to do the same thing brought him the same answer. And yet, that very week, two ships sailed,—one for Havre, the other for Bordeaux. But the concierge of the hospital, and Lefloch, were so well drilled, that no visitor reached Daniel before having learned his lesson thoroughly.
Thus they succeeded in keeping Daniel quiet for a fortnight; but, at the end of that time, he declared that he felt quite well enough to look out for a ship himself; and that, if he could do no better, he meant to sail for Singapore, where he would be sure to procure a passage home. It would, of course, have been simple folly to try and keep a man back who was so much bent upon his purpose; and, as his first visit to the port would have revealed to him the true state of things, the old surgeon preferred to make a clean breast of it. When he learned that he had missed two ships, Daniel was at first naturally very much incensed.
"That was not right, doctor, to treat me thus," he exclaimed. "It was wrong; for you know what sacred duties call me home."
But the surgeon was prepared for his justification. He replied with a certain solemnity which he rarely assumed,—
"I have only obeyed my conscience. If I had let you set sail in the condition in which you were, I should have virtually sent you to your grave, and thus have deprived your betrothed, Miss Ville-Handry, of her last and only chance of salvation."
Daniel shook his head sadly, and said,—
"But if I get there too late, too late; by a week, a day, do you think, doctor, I shall not curse your prudence? And who knows, now, when a ship will leave?"
"When? On Sunday, in five days; and that ship is 'The Saint Louis' a famous clipper, and so good a sailor, that you will easily overtake the two big three-masters that have sailed before you."
Offering his hand to Daniel, he added,—
"Come, my dear Champcey; don't blame an old friend who has done what he thought was his duty to do."
Daniel was too painfully affected to pay much attention to the conclusive and sensible reasons alleged by the chief surgeon; he saw nothing but that his friends had taken advantage of his condition to keep him in the dark. Still he also felt that it would have been black ingratitude and stupid obstinacy to preserve in his heart a shadow of resentment. He therefore, took the hand that was offered him, and, pressing it warmly, replied in a tone of deep emotion,—
"Whatever the future may have in store for me, doctor, I shall never forget that I owe my life to your devotion."
As usually, when he felt that excitement was overcoming him,—a very rare event, to tell the truth,—the old surgeon fell back into his rough and abrupt manner.
"I have attended you as I would have attended any one: that is my duty, and you need not trouble yourself about your gratitude. If any one owes me thanks, it is Miss Ville-Handry; and I beg you will remind her of it when she is your wife. And now you will be good enough to dismiss all those dismal ideas, and remember that you have only five days longer to tremble with impatience in this abominable country."
He spoke easily enough of it,—five days! It was an eternity for a man in Daniel's state of mind. In three hours he had made all his preparations for his departure, arranged his business matters, and obtained a furlough for Lefloch, who was to go with him. At noon, therefore, he asked himself with terror, how he was to employ his time till night, when they came, and asked if he would please come over to the courthouse, to see the magistrate.
He went at once, and found the lawyer, but so changed, that he hardly recognized him at first. The last mail had brought him the news of his appointment to a judgeship, which he had long anxiously desired, and which would enable him to return, not only to France, but to his native province. He meant to sail in a frigate which was to leave towards the end of the month, and in which Crochard, also, was to be sent home.
"In this way," he said, "I shall arrive at the same time as the accused, and very soon after the papers, which were sent home last week; and I trust and hope I shall be allowed to conduct the trial of an affair, which, so far, has gone smoothly enough in my hands."
His impassive air was gone; and that official mask was laid aside, which might have been looked upon as much a part of his official costume as the black gown which was lying upon one of his trunks. He laughed, he rubbed his hands, and said,—
"I should take pleasure in having him in my court, this Justin Chevassat, alias Maxime de Brevan. He must be a cool swindler, brimful of cunning and astuteness, familiar with all the tricks of criminal courts, and not so easily overcome. It will be no child's play, I am sure, to prove that he was the instigator of Crochard's crimes, and that he has hired him with his own money. Ah! There will be lively discussions and curious incidents."
Daniel listened, quite bewildered.
"He, too," he thought. "Professional enthusiasm carries him away; and here he is, troubling himself about the discussions in court, neither less nor more than Crochard, surnamed Bagnolet. He thinks only of the honor he will reap for having handed over to the jury such a formidable rascal as"—
But the lawyer had not sent for Daniel to speak to him of his plans and his hopes. Having learned from the chief surgeon that Lieut. Champcey was on the point of sailing, he wished to tell him that he would receive a very important packet, which he was desired to hand to the court as soon as he reached Paris.
"This is, you understand," he concluded, "an additional precaution which we take to prevent Maxime de Brevan from escaping us."
It was five o'clock when Daniel left the court-house; and on the little square before it he found the old surgeon, waiting to carry him off to dinner, and a game of whist in the evening. So, when he undressed at night, he said to himself,—
"After all, the day has not been so very long!"
But to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow, and the next days!
He tried in vain to get rid of the fixed idea which filled his mind,—a mechanical instinct, so to say, which was stronger than his will, and drove him incessantly to the wharf where "The Saint Louis" was lying. Sitting on some bags of rice, he spent hour after hour in watching the cargo as it was put on board. Never had the Annamites and the Chinamen, who in Saigon act as stevedores, appeared to him so lazy, so intolerable. Sometimes he felt as if, seeing or guessing his impatience, they were trying to irritate him by moving the bales with the utmost slowness, and walking with unbearable laziness around with the windlass.
Then, when he could no longer bear the sight, he went to the cafe on the wharf, where the captain of "The Saint Louis" was generally to be found.
"Your men will never finish, captain," he said. "You will never be ready by Sunday."
To which the captain invariably replied in his fierce Marseilles accent,—
"Don't be afraid, lieutenant. 'The Saint Louis,' I tell you, beats the Indian mail in punctuality."
And really, on Saturday, when he saw his passenger come as usual to the cafe, the captain exclaimed,—
"Well, what did I tell you? We are all ready. At five o'clock I get my mail at the post-office; and to-morrow morning we are off. I was just going to send you word that you had better sleep on board."
That evening the officers of "The Conquest," gave Daniel a farewell dinner; and it was nearly midnight, when, after having once more shaken hands most cordially with the old chief surgeon, he took possession of his state-room, one of the largest on board ship, in which they had put up two berths, so that, in case of need, Lefloch might be at hand to attend his master.
Then at last, towards four o'clock in the morning, Daniel was aroused by the clanking of chains, accompanied by the singing of the sailors. He hastened on deck. They were getting up anchors; and, an hour after that, "The Saint Louis" went down the Dong-Nai, aided by a current, rushing along "like lightning."
"And now," said Daniel to Lefloch, "I shall judge, by the time it will take us to get home, if fortune is on my side."
Yes, fate, at last, declared for him. Never had the most extraordinarily favorable winds hastened a ship home as in this case. "The Saint Louis" was a first-class sailer; and the captain, stimulated by the presence of a navy lieutenant, always exacted the utmost from his ship; so that on the seventeenth day after they had left Saigon, on a fine winter afternoon, Daniel could see the hills above Marseilles rise from the blue waters of the Mediterranean. He was drawing near the end of the voyage and of his renewed anxieties. Two days more, and he would be in Paris, and his fate would be irrevocably fixed.
But would they let him go on shore that evening? He trembled as he thought of all the formalities which have to be observed when a ship arrives. The quarantine authorities might raise difficulties, and cause a delay.
Standing by the side of the captain, he was watching the masts, which looked as if they were loaded down with all the sails they could carry, when a cry from the lookout in the bow of the vessel attracted his attention. That man reported, at two ship's lengths on starboard, a small boat, like a pilot-boat, making signs of distress. The captain and Daniel exchanged looks of disappointment. The slightest delay in the position in which they were, and at a season when night falls so suddenly, deprived them of all hope of going on shore that night. And who could tell how long it would take them to go to the rescue of that boat?
"Well, never mind!" said Daniel. "We have to do it."
"I wish they were in paradise!" swore the captain.
Nevertheless, he ordered all that was necessary to slacken speed, and then to tack so as to come close upon the little boat.
It was a difficult and tedious manoeuvre; but at last, after half an hour's work, they could throw a rope into the boat.
There were two men in it, who hastened to come on the deck of the clipper. One was a sailor of about twenty, the other a man of perhaps fifty, who looked like a country gentleman, appeared ill at ease, and cast about him restless glances in all directions. But, whilst they were hoisting themselves up by the man-rope; the captain of "The Saint Louis" had had time to examine their boat, and to ascertain that it was in good condition, and every thing in it in perfect order.
Crimson with wrath, he now seized the young sailor by his collar; and, shaking him so roughly as nearly to disjoint his neck, he said with a formidable oath,—
"Are you making fun of me? What wretched joke have you been playing?"
Like their captain, the men on board, also, had discovered the perfect uselessness of the signals of distress which had excited their sympathy; and their indignation was great at what they considered a stupid mystification. They surrounded the sailor with a threatening air, while he struggled in the captain's hand, and cried in his Marseilles jargon,—
"Let go! You are smothering me! It is not my fault. It was the gentleman there, who hired my boat for a sail. I, I would not make the signal; but"—
Nevertheless, the poor fellow would probably have experienced some very rough treatment, if the "gentleman" had not come running up, and covered him with his own body, exclaiming,—
"Let that poor boy go! I am the only one to blame!"
The captain, in a great rage, pushed him back, and, looking at him savagely, said,—
"Ah! so it is you who have dared"—
"Yes, I did it. But I had my reasons. This is surely 'The Saint Louis,' eh, coming from Saigon?"
"Yes. What next?"
"You have on board Lieut. Champcey of the navy?"
Daniel, who had been a silent witness of the scene, now stepped forward, very much puzzled.
"I am Lieut. Champcey, sir," he said. "What do you desire?"
But, instead of replying, the "gentleman" raised his hands to heaven in a perfect ecstasy of joy, and said in an undertone,—
"We triumph at last!"
Then, turning to Daniel and the captain, he said,—
"But come, gentlemen, come! I must explain my conduct; and we must be alone for what I have to tell you."
Pale, and with every sign of seasickness in his face, when he had first appeared on deck, the man now seemed to have recovered, and, in spite of the rolling of the vessel, followed the captain and Daniel with a firm step to the quarter-deck. As soon as they were alone, he said,—
"Could I be here, if I had not used a stratagem? Evidently not. And yet I had the most powerful interest in boarding 'The Saint Louis' before she should enter port; therefore I did not hesitate."
He drew from his pocket a sheet of paper, simply folded twice, and said,—
"Here is my apology, Lieut. Champcey; see if it is sufficient."
Utterly amazed, the young officer read,—
"I am saved, Daniel; and I owe my life to the man who will hand you this. I shall owe to him the pleasure of seeing you again. Confide in him as you would in your best and most devoted friend; and, I beseech you, do not hesitate to follow his advice literally.
Daniel turned deadly pale, and tottered. This unexpected, intense happiness overcame him.
"Then—it is true—she is alive?" he stammered.
"She is at my sister's house, safe from all danger."
"And you, sir, you have rescued her?"
Prompt like thought, Daniel seized the man's hands, and, pressing them vehemently, exclaimed with a penetrating voice,—
"Never, sir, never, whatever may happen, can I thank you enough. But remember, I pray you, under all circumstances, and for all times, you can count upon Lieut. Champcey."
A strange smile played on the man's lips; and, shaking his head, he said, "I shall before long remind you of your promise, lieutenant."
Standing between the two men, the captain of "The Saint Louis" was looking alternately at the one and the other with an astonished air, listening without comprehending, and imagining marvellous things. The only point he understood was this, that his presence was, to say the least, not useful.
"If that is so," he said to Daniel, "we cannot blame this gentleman for the ugly trick he has played us."
"Blame him? Oh, certainly not!"
"Then I'll leave you. I believe I have treated the sailor who brought him on board a little roughly; but I am going to order him a glass of brandy, which will set him right again."
Thereupon the captain discreetly withdrew; while Papa Ravinet continued,—
"You will tell me, M. Champcey, that it would have been simpler to wait for you in port, and hand you my letter of introduction there. That would have been grievous imprudence. If I heard at the navy department of your arrival, others may have learned it as well. As soon, therefore, as 'The Saint Louis' was telegraphed in town, you may be sure a spy was sent to the wharf, who is going to follow you, never losing sight of you, and who will report all your goings and your doings."
"What does it matter?"
"Ah! do not say so, sir! If our enemies hear of our meeting, you see, if they only find out that we have conversed together, all is lost. They would see the danger that threatens them, and they would escape."
Daniel could hardly trust his ears.
"Our enemies?" he asked, emphasizing the word "our."
"Yes: I mean our enemies,—Sarah Brandon, Countess Ville-Handry, Maxime de Brevan, Thomas Elgin, and Mrs. Brian."
"You hate them?"
"If I hate them! I tell you for five years I have lived only on the hope of being able to avenge myself on them. Yes, it is five years now, that, lost in the crowd, I have followed them with the perseverance of an Indian,—five years that I have patiently, incessantly, inch by inch, undermined the ground beneath their steps. And they suspect nothing. I doubt whether they are aware of my existence. No, not even—What would it be to them, besides? They have pushed me so far down into the mud, that they cannot imagine my ever rising again up to their level. They triumph with impunity; they boast of their unpunished wickedness, and think they are strong, and safe from all attacks, because they have the prestige and the power of gold. And yet their hour is coming. I, the wretched man, who have been compelled to hide, and to live on my daily labor,—I have attained my end. Every thing is ready; and I have only to touch the proud fabric of their crimes to make it come down upon them, and crush them all under the ruins. Ah! if I could see them only suffer one-fourth of what they have made me suffer, I should die content."
Papa Ravinet seemed to have grown a foot; his hatred convulsed his placid face; his voice trembled with rage; and his yellow eyes shone with ill-subdued passion.
Daniel wondered, and asked himself what the people who had sworn to ruin him and Henrietta could have done to this man, who looked so inoffensive with his bright-flowered waistcoat and his coat with the high collar.
"But who are you, sir?" he asked.
"Who am I?" exclaimed the man,—"who am I?"
But he paused; and, after waiting a little while, he sunk his head, and said,—
"I am Anthony Ravinet, dealer in curiosities."
The clipper was in the meantime making way rapidly. Already the white country houses appeared on the high bluffs amid the pine-groves; and the outlines of the Castle of If were clearly penned on the deep blue of the sky.
"But we are getting near," exclaimed Papa Ravinet; "and I must get back into my boat. I did not come out so far, that they might see me enter on board 'The Saint Louis.'"
And when Daniel offered him his state-room, where he might remain in concealment, he replied,—
"No, no! We shall have time enough to come to an understanding about what is to be done in Paris; and I must go back by rail to-night; I came down for the sole purpose of telling you this. Miss Henrietta is at my sister's house; but you must take care not to come there. Neither Sarah nor Brevan know what has become of her; they think she has thrown herself into the river; and this conviction is our safety and our strength. As they will most assuredly have you watched, the slightest imprudence might betray us."
"But I must see Henrietta, sir."
"Certainly; and I have found the means for it. Instead of going to your former lodgings, go to the Hotel du Louvre. I will see to it that my sister and Miss Ville-Handry shall have taken rooms there before you reach Paris; and you may be sure, that, in less than a quarter of an hour after your arrival, you will hear news. But, heavens, how near we are! I must make haste."
Upon Daniel's request, the ship lay by long enough to allow Papa Ravinet and his sailor to get back again into their boat without danger. When they were safely stowed away in it, and at the moment when they cast off the man-rope, Papa Ravinet called to Daniel,—
"We shall soon see you! Rely upon me! Tonight Miss Henrietta shall have a telegram from us."
At the same hour when Papa Ravinet, on the deck of "The Saint Louis," was pressing Daniel's hand, and bidding him farewell, there were in Paris two poor women, who prayed and watched with breathless anxiety,—the sister of the old dealer, Mrs. Bertolle, the widow; and Henrietta, the daughter of Count Ville-Handry. When Papa Ravinet had appeared the evening before, with his carpet-bag in his hand, his hurry had been so extraordinary, and his excitement so great, that one might have doubted his sanity. He had peremptorily asked his sister for two thousand francs; had made Henrietta write in all haste a letter of introduction to Daniel; and had rushed out again like a tempest, as he had come in, without saying more than this,—
"M. Champcey will arrive, or perhaps has already arrived, in Marseilles, on board a merchant vessel, 'The Saint Louis.' I have been told so at the navy department. It is all important that I should see him before anybody else. I take the express train of quarter past seven. To-morrow, I'll send you a telegram."
The two ladies asked for something more, a hope, a word; but no, nothing more! The old dealer had jumped into the carriage that had brought him, before they had recovered from their surprise; and they remained there, sitting before the fire, silent, their heads in their hands, each lost in conjectures. When the clock struck seven, the good widow was aroused from her grave thoughts, which seemed so different from her usual cheerful temper.
"Come, come, Miss Henrietta," she said with somewhat forced gayety, "my brother's departure does not condemn us, as far as I know, to starve ourselves to death."
She had gotten up as she said this. She set the table, and then sat down opposite to Henrietta, to their modest dinner. Modest it was, indeed, and still too abundant. They were both too much overcome to be able to eat; and yet both handled knife and fork, trying to deceive one another. Their thoughts were far away, in spite of all their efforts to keep them at home, and followed the traveller.
"Now he has left," whispered Henrietta as it struck eight.
"He is on his way already," replied the old lady.
But neither of them knew anything of the journey from Paris to Marseilles. They were ignorant of the distances, the names of the stations, and even of the large cities through which the railroad passes.
"We must try and get a railway guide," said the good widow. And, quite proud of her happy thought, she went out instantly, hurried to the nearest bookstore, and soon reappeared, flourishing triumphantly a yellow pamphlet, and saying,—
"Now we shall see it all, my dear child."
Then, placing the guide on the tablecloth between them, they looked for the page containing the railway from Paris to Lyons and Marseilles, then the train which Papa Ravinet was to have taken; and they delighted in counting up how swiftly the "express" went, and all the stations where it stopped.
Then, when the table was cleared, instead of going industriously to work, as usually, they kept constantly looking at the clock, and, after consulting the book, said to each other,—
"He is at Montereau now; he must be beyond Sens; he will soon be at Tonnerre."
A childish satisfaction, no doubt, and very idle. But who of us has not, at least once in his life, derived a wonderful pleasure, or perhaps unspeakable relief from impatience, or even grief, from following thus across space a beloved one who was going away, or coming home? Towards midnight, however, the old lady remarked that it was getting late, and that it would be wise to go to bed.
"You think you will sleep, madam?" asked Henrietta, surprised.
"No, my child; but"—
"Oh! I, for my part,—I could not sleep. This work on which we are busy is very pressing, you say; why could we not finish it?"
"Well, let us sit up then," said the good widow.
The poor women, reduced as they were to conjectures by Papa Ravinet's laconic answers, nevertheless knew full well that some great event was in preparation, something unexpected, and yet decisive. What it was, they did not know; but they understood, or rather felt, that Daniel's return would and must totally change the aspect of affairs. But would Daniel really come?
"If he does come," said Henrietta, "why did they only the other day tell me, at the navy department, that he was not coming? Then, again, why should he come home in a merchant vessel, and not on board his frigate?"
"Your letters have probably reached him at last," explained the old lady; "and, as soon as he received them, he came home."
Gradually, however, after having exhausted all conjectures, and after having discussed all contingencies, Henrietta became silent. When it struck half-past three, she said once more,—
"Ah! M. Ravinet is at the Lyons station now."
Then her hand became less and less active in drawing the worsted, her head oscillated from side to side, and her eyelids closed unconsciously. Her old friend advised her to retire; and this time she did not refuse.
It was past ten o'clock when she awoke; and upon entering, fully dressed, into the sitting-room, Mrs. Bertolle greeted her with the exclamation:—
"At this moment my brother reaches Marseilles!"
"Ah! then it will not be long before we shall have news," replied Henrietta.
But there are moments in which we think electricity the slowest of messengers. At two o'clock nothing had come; and the poor women began to accuse the old dealer of having forgotten them, when, at last, the bell was rung.
It was really the telegraph messenger, with his black leather pouch. The old lady signed her receipt with marvellous promptness; and, tearing the envelope hastily open, she read,—
Marseilles, 12.40 a.m.
"Saint Louis" signalled by telegraph this morning. Will be in to-night. I hire boat to go and meet her, provided Champcey is on board. This evening telegram.
"But this does not tell us any thing," said Henrietta, terribly disappointed. "Just see, madam, your brother is not even sure whether M. Champcey is on board 'The Saint Louis.'"
Perhaps Mrs. Bertolle, also, was a little disappointed; but she was not the person to let it be seen.
"But what did you expect, dear child? Anthony has not been an hour in Marseilles; how do you think he can know? We must wait till the evening. It is only a matter of a few hours."
She said this very quietly; but all who have ever undergone the anguish of expectation will know how it becomes more and more intolerable as the moment approaches that is to bring the decision. However the old lady endeavored to control her excitement, the calm and dignified woman could not long conceal the nervous fever that was raging within her. Ten times during the afternoon she opened the window, to look for—what? She could not have told it herself, as she well knew nothing could come as yet. At night she could not stay in any one place. She tried in vain to work on her embroidery; her fingers refused their service.
At last, at ten minutes past nine, the telegraph man appeared, as impassive as ever.
This time it was Henrietta who had taken the despatch; and, before opening it, she had half a minute's fearful suspense, as if the paper had contained the secret of her fate. Then, by a sudden impulse, tearing the envelope, she read, almost at a glance,—
Marseilles, 6.45 p.m.
I have seen Champcey. All well; devoted to Henrietta. Return this evening. Will be in Paris tomorrow evening at seven o'clock. Prepare your trunks as if you were to start on a month's journey immediately after my return. All is going well.
Pale as death, and trembling like a leaf, but with open lips and bright eyes, Henrietta had sunk into a chair. Up to this moment she had doubted every thing. Up to this hour, until she held the proof in her hand, she had not allowed herself to hope. Such great happiness does not seem to the unhappy to be intended for them. But now she stammered out,—
"Daniel is in France! Daniel! Nothing more to fear; the future is ours. I am safe now."
But people do not die of joy; and, when she had recovered her equanimity, Henrietta understood how cruel she had been in the incoherent phrases that had escaped her in her excitement. She rose with a start, and, seizing Mrs. Bertolle's hands, said to her,—
"Great God! what am I saying! Ah, you will pardon me, madam, I am sure; but I feel as if I did not know what I am doing. Safe! I owe it to you and your brother, if I am safe. Without you Daniel would find nothing of me but a cross at the cemetery, and a name stained and destroyed by infamous calumnies."
The old lady did not hear a word. She had picked up the despatch, had read it; and, overcome by its contents, had sat down near the fireplace, utterly insensible to the outside world. The most fearful hatred convulsed her ordinarily calm and gentle features; and pale, with closed teeth, and in a hoarse voice, she said over and over again,—
"We shall be avenged."
Most assuredly Henrietta did not find out only now that the old dealer and his sister hated her enemies, Sarah Brandon and Maxime de Brevan, mortally; but she had never seen that hatred break out so terribly as to-night. What had brought it about? This she could not fathom. Papa Ravinet, it was evident, was not a nobody. Ill-bred and coarse in Water Street, amid the thousand articles of his trade, he became a very different man as soon as he reached his sister's house. As to the Widow Bertolle, she was evidently a woman of superior intellect and education.
How had they both been reduced to this more than modest condition? By reverses of fortune. That accounts for everything, but explains nothing.
Such were Henrietta's thoughts, when the old lady roused her from her meditations.
"You saw, my dear child," she began saying, "that my brother desires us to be ready to set out on a long journey as soon as he comes home."
"Yes, madam; and I am quite astonished."
"I understand; but, although I know no more than you do of my brother's intentions, I know that he does nothing without a purpose. We ought, therefore, in prudence, comply with his wishes."
They agreed, therefore, at once on their arrangements; and the next day Mrs. Bertolle went out to purchase whatever might be necessary,—ready-made dresses for Henrietta, shoes, and linen. Towards five o'clock in the afternoon, all the preparations of the old lady and the young girl had been made; and all their things were carefully stowed away in three large trunks. According to Papa Ravinet's despatch, they had only about two hours more to wait, three hours at the worst. Still they were out of their reckoning. It was half-past eight before the good man arrived, evidently broken down by the long and rapid journey which he had just made.
"At last!" exclaimed Mrs. Bertolle. "We hardly expected you any longer to-night."
But he interrupted her, saying,—
"Oh, my dear sister! don't you think I suffered when I thought of your impatience? But it was absolutely necessary I should show myself in Water Street."
"You have seen Mrs. Chevassat?"
"I come from her just now. She is quite at her ease. I am sure she has not the slightest doubt that Miss Ville-Handry has killed herself; and she goes religiously every morning to the Morgue."
"And M. de Brevan?" she asked.
Papa Ravinet looked troubled.
"Ah, I don't feel so safe there," he replied. "The man I had left in charge of him has foolishly lost sight of him."
Then noticing the trunks, he said,—
"But I am talking, and time flies. You are ready, I see. Let us go. I have a carriage at the door. We can talk on the way."
When he noticed some reluctance in Henrietta's face, he added with a kindly smile,—
"You need not fear anything, Miss Henrietta; we are not going away from M. Champcey, very far from it. Here, you see, he could not have come twice without betraying the secret of your existence."
"But where are we going?" asked Mrs. Bertolle.
"To the Hotel du Louvre, dear sister, where you will take rooms for Mrs. and Miss Bertolle. Be calm; my plans are laid."
Thereupon, he ran out on the staircase to call the concierge to help him in taking down the trunks.
Although the manoeuvres required by Papa Ravinet's appearance on board "The Saint Louis" had taken but little time, the delay had been long enough to prevent the ship from going through all the formalities that same evening. She had, therefore, to drop anchor at some distance from the harbor, to the great disgust of the crew, who saw Marseilles all ablaze before them, and who could count the wineshops, and hear the songs of the half-drunken people as they walked down the wharves in merry bands.
The least unhappy of them all was, for once, Daniel. The terrible excitement he had undergone had given way to utter prostration. His nerves, strained to the utmost, relaxed; and he felt the delight of a man who can at last throw down a heavy burden which he has long borne on his shoulders. Papa Ravinet had given him no details; but he did not regret it, he hardly noticed it. He knew positively that his Henrietta was alive; that she was in safety; and that she still loved him. That was enough.
"Well, lieutenant," said Lefloch, delighted at his master's joy, "did I not tell you? Good wind during the passage always brings good news upon landing."
That night, while "The Saint Louis" was rocking lazily over her anchors, was the first night, since Daniel had heard of Count Ville-Handry's marriage, that he slept with that sweet sleep given by hope. He was only aroused by the noise of the people who came in the quarantine boat; and, when he came on deck, he found that there was nothing any longer to prevent his going on shore. The men had been actively engaged ever since early in the morning, to set things right aloft and below, so as to "dress" "The Saint Louis;" for every ship, when it enters port, is decked out gayly, and carefully conceals all traces of injuries she has suffered, like the carrier-pigeon, which, upon returning to his nest after a storm, dries and smooths his feathers in the sun.
Soon the anchors were got up again; and the great clock on the wharf struck twelve, when Daniel jumped on the wharf at Marseilles, followed by his faithful man, and dazzled by the most brilliant sunlight. Ah! when he felt his foot once more standing on the soil of France, whence a vile plot had driven him long ago, his eyes flashed, and a threatening gesture boded ill to his enemies. It looked as if he were saying to them,—