"You will stay, monsieur," said the Duchess. "The public prosecutor is coming, I hope, in time."
"When the public prosecutor arrives," little Mme. Camusot said, with some heat, "he must find all over.—Yes, my dear, yes," she added, looking full at her amazed husband.—"Ah! old hypocrite of a President, you are setting your wits against us; you shall remember it! You have a mind to help us to a dish of your own making, you shall have two served up to you by your humble servant Cecile Amelie Thirion!—Poor old Blondet! It is lucky for him that the President has taken this journey to turn us out, for now that great oaf of a Joseph Blondet will marry Mlle. Blandureau. I will let Father Blondet have some seeds in return.—As for you, Camusot, go to M. Michu's, while Mme. la Duchesse and I will go to find old Blondet. You must expect to hear it said all over the town to-morrow that I took a walk with a lover this morning."
Mme. Camusot took the Duchess' arm, and they went through the town by deserted streets to avoid any unpleasant adventure on the way to the old Vice-President's house. Chesnel meanwhile conferred with the young Count in prison; Camusot had arranged a stolen interview. Cook-maids, servants, and the other early risers of a country town, seeing Mme. Camusot and the Duchess taking their way through the back streets, took the young gentleman for an adorer from Paris. That evening, as Cecile Amelie had said, the news of her behavior was circulated about the town, and more than one scandalous rumor was occasioned thereby. Mme. Camusot and her supposed lover found old Blondet in his greenhouse. He greeted his colleague's wife and her companion, and gave the charming young man a keen, uneasy glance.
"I have the honor to introduce one of my husband's cousins," said Mme. Camusot, bringing forward the Duchess; "he is one of the most distinguished horticulturists in Paris; and as he cannot spend more than one day with us, on his way back from Brittany, and has heard of your flowers and plants, I have taken the liberty of coming early."
"Oh, the gentleman is a horticulturist, is he?" said the old Blondet.
The Duchess bowed.
"This is my coffee-plant," said Blondet, "and here is a tea-plant."
"What can have taken M. le President away from home?" put in Mme. Camusot. "I will wager that his absence concerns M. Camusot."
"Exactly.—This, monsieur, is the queerest of all cactuses," he continued, producing a flower-pot which appeared to contain a piece of mildewed rattan; "it comes from Australia. You are very young, sir, to be a horticulturist."
"Dear M. Blondet, never mind your flowers," said Mme. Camusot. "You are concerned, you and your hopes, and your son's marriage with Mlle. Blandureau. You are duped by the President."
"Bah!" said old Blondet, with an incredulous air.
"Yes," retorted she. "If you cultivated people a little more and your flowers a little less, you would know that the dowry and the hopes you have sown, and watered, and tilled, and weeded are on the point of being gathered now by cunning hands."
"Oh, nobody in the town will have the courage to fly in the President's face and warn you. I, however, do not belong to the town, and, thanks to this obliging young man, I shall soon be going back to Paris; so I can inform you that Chesnel's successor has made formal proposals for Mlle. Claire Blandureau's hand on behalf of young du Ronceret, who is to have fifty thousand crowns from his parents. As for Fabien, he has made up his mind to receive a call to the bar, so as to gain an appointment as judge."
Old Blondet dropped the flower-pot which he had brought out for the Duchess to see.
"Oh, my cactus! Oh, my son! and Mlle. Blandureau!... Look here! the cactus flower is broken to pieces."
"No," Mme. Camusot answered, laughing; "everything can be put right. If you have a mind to see your son a judge in another month, we will tell you how you must set to work——"
"Step this way, sir, and you will see my pelargoniums, an enchanting sight while they are in flower——" Then he added to Mme. Camusot, "Why did you speak of these matters while your cousin was present."
"All depends upon him," riposted Mme. Camusot. "Your son's appointment is lost for ever if you let fall a word about this young man."
"The young man is a flower——"
"He is the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, sent here by His Majesty to save young d'Esgrignon, whom they arrested yesterday on a charge of forgery brought against him by du Croisier. Mme. la Duchesse has authority from the Keeper of the Seals; he will ratify any promises that she makes to us——"
"My cactus is all right!" exclaimed Blondet, peering at his precious plant.—"Go on, I am listening."
"Take counsel with Camusot and Michu to hush up the affair as soon as possible, and your son will get the appointment. It will come in time enough to baffle du Ronceret's underhand dealings with the Blandureaus. Your son will be something better than assistant judge; he will have M. Camusot's post within the year. The public prosecutor will be here to-day. M. Sauvager will be obliged to resign, I expect, after his conduct in this affair. At the court my husband will show you documents which completely exonerate the Count and prove that the forgery was a trap of du Croisier's own setting."
Old Blondet went into the Olympic circus where his six thousand pelargoniums stood, and made his bow to the Duchess.
"Monsieur," said he, "if your wishes do not exceed the law, this thing may be done."
"Monsieur," returned the Duchess, "send in your resignation to M. Chesnel to-morrow, and I will promise you that your son shall be appointed within the week; but you must not resign until you have had confirmation of my promise from the public prosecutor. You men of law will come to a better understanding among yourselves. Only let him know that the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse had pledged her word to you. And not a word as to my journey hither," she added.
The old judge kissed her hand and began recklessly to gather his best flowers for her.
"Can you think of it? Give them to madame," said the Duchess. "A young man should not have flowers about him when he has a pretty woman on his arm."
"Before you go down to the court," added Mme. Camusot, "ask Chesnel's successor about those proposals that he made in the name of M. and Mme. du Ronceret."
Old Blondet, quite overcome by this revelation of the President's duplicity, stood planted on his feet by the wicket gate, looking after the two women as they hurried away through by-streets home again. The edifice raised so painfully during ten years for his beloved son was crumbling visibly before his eyes. Was it possible? He suspected some trick, and hurried away to Chesnel's successor.
At half-past nine, before the court was sitting, Vice-President Blondet, Camusot, and Michu met with remarkable punctuality in the council chamber. Blondet locked the door with some precautions when Camusot and Michu came in together.
"Well, Mr. Vice-President," began Michu, "M. Sauvager, without consulting the public prosecutor, has issued a warrant for the apprehension of one Comte d'Esgrignon, in order to serve a grudge borne against him by one du Croisier, an enemy of the King's government. It is a regular topsy-turvy affair. The President, for his part, goes away, and thereby puts a stop to the preliminary examination! And we know nothing of the matter. Do they, by any chance, mean to force our hand?"
"This is the first word I have heard of it," said the Vice-President. He was furious with the President for stealing a march on him with the Blandureaus. Chesnel's successor, the du Roncerets' man, had just fallen into a snare set by the old judge; the truth was out, he knew the secret.
"It is lucky that we spoke to you about the matter, my dear master," said Camusot, "or you might have given up all hope of seating your son on the bench or of marrying him to Mlle. Blandureau."
"But it is no question of my son, nor of his marriage," said the Vice-President; "we are talking of young Comte d'Esgrignon. Is he or is he not guilty?"
"It seems that Chesnel deposited the amount to meet the bill with Mme. du Croisier," said Michu, "and a crime has been made of a mere irregularity. According to the charge, the Count made use of the lower half of a letter bearing du Croisier's signature as a draft which he cashed at the Kellers'."
"An imprudent thing to do," was Camusot's comment.
"But why is du Croisier proceeding against him if the amount was paid in beforehand?" asked Vice-President Blondet.
"He does not know that the money was deposited with his wife; or he pretends that he does not know," said Camusot.
"It is a piece of provincial spite," said Michu.
"Still it looks like a forgery to me," said old Blondet. No passion could obscure judicial clear-sightedness in him.
"Do you think so?" returned Camusot. "But, at the outset, supposing that the Count had no business to draw upon du Croisier, there would still be no forgery of the signature; and the Count believed that he had a right to draw on Croisier when Chesnel advised him that the money had been placed to his credit."
"Well, then, where is the forgery?" asked Blondet. "It is the intent to defraud which constitutes forgery in a civil action."
"Oh, it is clear, if you take du Croisier's version for truth, that the signature was diverted from its purpose to obtain a sum of money in spite of du Croisier's contrary injunction to his bankers," Camusot answered.
"Gentlemen," said Blondet, "this seems to me to be a mere trifle, a quibble.—Suppose you had the money, I ought perhaps to have waited until I had your authorization; but I, Comte d'Esgrignon, was pressed for money, so I—— Come, come, your prosecution is a piece of revengeful spite. Forgery is defined by the law as an attempt to obtain any advantage which rightfully belongs to another. There is no forgery here, according to the letter of the Roman law, nor according to the spirit of modern jurisprudence (always from the point of a civil action, for we are not here concerned with the falsification of public or authentic documents). Between private individuals the essence of a forgery is the intent to defraud; where is it in this case? In what times are we living, gentlemen? Here is the President going away to balk a preliminary examination which ought to be over by this time! Until to-day I did not know M. le President, but he shall have the benefit of arrears; from this time forth he shall draft his decisions himself. You must set about this affair with all possible speed, M. Camusot."
"Yes," said Michu. "In my opinion, instead of letting the young man out on bail, we ought to pull him out of this mess at once. Everything turns on the examination of du Croisier and his wife. You might summons them to appear while the court is sitting, M. Camusot; take down their depositions before four o'clock, send in your report to-night, and we will give our decision in the morning before the court sits."
"We will settle what course to pursue while the barristers are pleading," said Vice-President Blondet, addressing Camusot.
And with that the three judges put on their robes and went into court.
At noon Mlle. Armande and the Bishop reached the Hotel d'Esgrignon; Chesnel and M. Couturier were there to meet them. There was a sufficiently short conference between the prelate and Mme. du Croisier's director, and the latter set out at once to visit his charge.
At eleven o'clock that morning du Croisier received a summons to appear in the examining magistrate's office between one and two in the afternoon. Thither he betook himself, consumed by well-founded suspicions. It was impossible that the President should have foreseen the arrival of the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse upon the scene, the return of the public prosecutor, and the hasty confabulation of his learned brethren; so he had omitted to trace out a plan for du Croisier's guidance in the event of the preliminary examination taking place. Neither of the pair imagined that the proceedings would be hurried on in this way. Du Croisier obeyed the summons at once; he wanted to know how M. Camusot was disposed to act. So he was compelled to answer the questions put to him. Camusot addressed him in summary fashion with the six following inquiries:—
"Was the signature on the bill alleged to be a forgery in your handwriting?—Had you previously done business with M. le Comte d'Esgrignon?—Was not M. le Comte d'Esgrignon in the habit of drawing upon you, with or without advice?—Did you not write a letter authorizing M. d'Esgrignon to rely upon you at any time?—Had not Chesnel squared the account not once, but many times already?—Were you not away from home when this took place?"
All these questions the banker answered in the affirmative. In spite of wordy explanations, the magistrate always brought him back to a "Yes" or "No." When the questions and answers alike had been resumed in the proces-verbal, the examining magistrate brought out a final thunderbolt.
"Was du Croisier aware that the money destined to meet the bill had been deposited with him, du Croisier, according to Chesnel's declaration, and a letter of advice sent by the said Chesnel to the Comte d'Esgrignon, five days before the date of the bill?"
That last question frightened du Croisier. He asked what was meant by it, and whether he was supposed to be the defendant and M. le Comte d'Esgrignon the plaintiff? He called the magistrate's attention to the fact that if the money had been deposited with him, there was no ground for the action.
"Justice is seeking information," said the magistrate, as he dismissed the witness, but not before he had taken down du Croisier's last observation.
"But the money, sir——"
"The money is at your house."
Chesnel, likewise summoned, came forward to explain the matter. The truth of his assertions was borne out by Mme. du Croisier's deposition. The Count had already been examined. Prompted by Chesnel, he produced du Croisier's first letter, in which he begged the Count to draw upon him without the insulting formality of depositing the amount beforehand. The Comte d'Esgrignon next brought out a letter in Chesnel's handwriting, by which the notary advised him of the deposit of a hundred thousand crowns with M. du Croisier. With such primary facts as these to bring forward as evidence, the young Count's innocence was bound to emerge triumphantly from a court of law.
Du Croisier went home from the court, his face white with rage, and the foam of repressed fury on his lips. His wife was sitting by the fireside in the drawing-room at work upon a pair of slippers for him. She trembled when she looked into his face, but her mind was made up.
"Madame," he stammered out, "what deposition is this that you made before the magistrate? You have dishonored, ruined, and betrayed me!"
"I have saved you, monsieur," answered she. "If some day you will have the honor of connecting yourself with the d'Esgrignons by marrying your niece to the Count, it will be entirely owing to my conduct to-day."
"A miracle!" cried he. "Balaam's ass has spoken. Nothing will astonish me after this. And where are the hundred thousand crowns which (so M. Camusot tells me) are here in my house?"
"Here they are," said she, pulling out a bundle of banknotes from beneath the cushions of her settee. "I have not committed mortal sin by declaring that M. Chesnel gave them into my keeping."
"While I was away?"
"You were not here."
"Will you swear that to me on your salvation?"
"I swear it," she said composedly.
"Then why did you say nothing to me about it?" demanded he.
"I was wrong there," said his wife, "but my mistake was all for your good. Your niece will be Marquise d'Esgrignon some of these days, and you will perhaps be a deputy, if you behave well in this deplorable business. You have gone too far; you must find out how to get back again."
Du Croisier, under stress of painful agitation, strode up and down his drawing-room; while his wife, in no less agitation, awaited the result of this exercise. Du Croisier at length rang the bell.
"I am not at home to any one to-night," he said, when the man appeared; "shut the gates; and if any one calls, tell them that your mistress and I have gone into the country. We shall start directly after dinner, and dinner must be half an hour earlier than usual."
The great news was discussed that evening in every drawing-room; little shopkeepers, working folk, beggars, the noblesse, the merchant class—the whole town, in short, was talking of the Comte d'Esgrignon's arrest on a charge of forgery. The Comte d'Esgrignon would be tried in the Assize Court; he would be condemned and branded. Most of those who cared for the honor of the family denied the fact. At nightfall Chesnel went to Mme. Camusot and escorted the stranger to the Hotel d'Esgrignon. Poor Mlle. Armande was expecting him; she led the fair Duchess to her own room, which she had given up to her, for his lordship the Bishop occupied Victurnien's chamber; and, left alone with her guest, the noble woman glanced at the Duchess with most piteous eyes.
"You owed help, indeed, madame, to the poor boy who ruined himself for your sake," she said, "the boy to whom we are all of us sacrificing ourselves."
The Duchess had already made a woman's survey of Mlle. d'Esgrignon's room; the cold, bare, comfortless chamber, that might have been a nun's cell, was like a picture of the life of the heroic woman before her. The Duchess saw it all—past, present, and future—with rising emotion, felt the incongruity of her presence, and could not keep back the falling tears that made answer for her.
But in Mlle. Armande the Christian overcame Victurnien's aunt. "Ah, I was wrong; forgive me, Mme. la Duchesse; you did not know how poor we were, and my nephew was incapable of the admission. And besides, now that I see you, I can understand all—even the crime!"
And Mlle. Armande, withered and thin and white, but beautiful as those tall austere slender figures which German art alone can paint, had tears too in her eyes.
"Do not fear, dear angel," the Duchess said at last; "he is safe."
"Yes, but honor?—and his career? Chesnel told me; the King knows the truth."
"We will think of a way of repairing the evil," said the Duchess.
Mlle. Armande went downstairs to the salon, and found the Collection of Antiquities complete to a man. Every one of them had come, partly to do honor to the Bishop, partly to rally round the Marquis; but Chesnel, posted in the antechamber, warned each new arrival to say no word of the affair, that the aged Marquis might never know that such a thing had been. The loyal Frank was quite capable of killing his son or du Croisier; for either the one or the other must have been guilty of death in his eyes. It chanced, strangely enough, that he talked more of Victurnien than usual; he was glad that his son had gone back to Paris. The King would give Victurnien a place before very long; the King was interesting himself at last in the d'Esgrignons. And his friends, their hearts dead within them, praised Victurnien's conduct to the skies. Mlle. Armande prepared the way for her nephew's sudden appearance among them by remarking to her brother that Victurnien would be sure to come to see them, and that he must be even then on his way.
"Bah!" said the Marquis, standing with his back to the hearth, "if he is doing well where he is, he ought to stay there, and not be thinking of the joy it would give his old father to see him again. The King's service has the first claim."
Scarcely one of those present heard the words without a shudder. Justice might give over a d'Esgrignon to the executioner's branding iron. There was a dreadful pause. The old Marquise de Casteran could not keep back a tear that stole down over her rouge, and turned her head away to hide it.
Next day at noon, in the sunny weather, a whole excited population was dispersed in groups along the high street, which ran through the heart of the town, and nothing was talked of but the great affair. Was the Count in prison or was he not?—All at once the Comte d'Esgrignon's well-known tilbury was seen driving down the Rue Saint-Blaise; it had evidently come from the Prefecture, the Count himself was on the box seat, and by his side sat a charming young man, whom nobody recognized. The pair were laughing and talking and in great spirits. They wore Bengal roses in their button-holes. Altogether, it was a theatrical surprise which words fail to describe.
At ten o'clock the court had decided to dismiss the charge, stating their very sufficient reasons for setting the Count at liberty, in a document which contained a thunderbolt for du Croisier, in the shape of an inasmuch that gave the Count the right to institute proceedings for libel. Old Chesnel was walking up the Grand Rue, as if by accident, telling all who cared to hear him that du Croisier had set the most shameful of snares for the d'Esgrignons' honor, and that it was entirely owing to the forbearance and magnanimity of the family that he was not prosecuted for slander.
On the evening of that famous day, after the Marquis d'Esgrignon had gone to bed, the Count, Mlle. Armande, and the Chevalier were left with the handsome young page, now about to return to Paris. The charming cavalier's sex could not be hidden from the Chevalier, and he alone, besides the three officials and Mme. Camusot, knew that the Duchess had been among them.
"The house is saved," began Chesnel, "but after this shock it will take a hundred years to rise again. The debts must be paid now; you must marry an heiress, M. le Comte, there is nothing left for you to do."
"And take her where you may find her," said the Duchess.
"A second mesalliance!" exclaimed Mlle. Armande.
The Duchess began to laugh.
"It is better to marry than to die," she said. As she spoke she drew from her waistcoat pocket a tiny crystal phial that came from the court apothecary.
Mlle. Armande shrank away in horror. Old Chesnel took the fair Maufrigneuse's hand, and kissed it without permission.
"Are you all out of your minds here?" continued the Duchess. "Do you really expect to live in the fifteenth century when the rest of the world has reached the nineteenth? My dear children, there is no noblesse nowadays; there is no aristocracy left! Napoleon's Code Civil made an end of the parchments, exactly as cannon made an end of feudal castles. When you have some money, you will be very much more of nobles than you are now. Marry anybody you please, Victurnien, you will raise your wife to your rank; that is the most substantial privilege left to the French noblesse. Did not M. de Talleyrand marry Mme. Grandt without compromising his position? Remember that Louis XIV. took the Widow Scarron for his wife."
"He did not marry her for her money," interposed Mlle. Armande.
"If the Comtesse d'Esgrignon were one du Croisier's niece, for instance, would you receive her?" asked Chesnel.
"Perhaps," replied the Duchess; "but the King, beyond all doubt, would be very glad to see her.—So you do not know what is going on in the world?" continued she, seeing the amazement in their faces. "Victurnien has been in Paris; he knows how things go there. We had more influence under Napoleon. Marry Mlle. Duval, Victurnien; she will be just as much Marquise d'Esgrignon as I am Duchesse de Maufrigneuse."
"All is lost—even honor!" said the Chevalier, with a wave of the hand.
"Good-bye, Victurnien," said the Duchess, kissing her lover on the forehead; "we shall not see each other again. Live on your lands; that is the best thing for you to do; the air of Paris is not at all good for you."
"Diane!" the young Count cried despairingly.
"Monsieur, you forget yourself strangely," the Duchess retorted coolly, as she laid aside her role of man and mistress, and became not merely an angel again, but a duchess, and not only a duchess, but Moliere's Celimene.
The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse made a stately bow to these four personages, and drew from the Chevalier his last tear of admiration at the service of le beau sexe.
"How like she is to the Princess Goritza!" he exclaimed in a low voice.
Diane had disappeared. The crack of the postilion's whip told Victurnien that the fair romance of his first love was over. While peril lasted, Diane could still see her lover in the young Count; but out of danger, she despised him for the weakling that he was.
Six months afterwards, Camusot received the appointment of assistant judge at Paris, and later he became an examining magistrate. Goodman Blondet was made a councillor to the Royal-Court; he held the post just long enough to secure a retiring pension, and then went back to live in his pretty little house. Joseph Blondet sat in his father's seat at the court till the end of his days; there was not the faintest chance of promotion for him, but he became Mlle. Blandereau's husband; and she, no doubt, is leading to-day, in the little flower-covered brick house, as dull a life as any carp in a marble basin. Michu and Camusot also received the Cross of the Legion of Honor, while Blondet became an Officer. As for M. Sauvager, deputy public prosecutor, he was sent to Corsica, to du Croisier's great relief; he had decidedly no mind to bestow his niece upon that functionary.
Du Croisier himself, urged by President du Ronceret, appealed from the finding of the Tribunal to the Court-Royal, and lost his cause. The Liberals throughout the department held that little d'Esgrignon was guilty; while the Royalists, on the other hand, told frightful stories of plots woven by "that abominable du Croisier" to compass his revenge. A duel was fought indeed; the hazard of arms favored du Croisier, the young Count was dangerously wounded, and his antagonist maintained his words. This affair embittered the strife between the two parties; the Liberals brought it forward on all occasions. Meanwhile du Croisier never could carry his election, and saw no hope of marrying his niece to the Count, especially after the duel.
A month after the decision of the Tribunal was confirmed in the Court-Royal, Chesnel died, exhausted by the dreadful strain, which had weakened and shaken him mentally and physically. He died in the hour of victory, like some old faithful hound that has brought the boar to bay, and gets his death on the tusks. He died as happily as might be, seeing that he left the great House all but ruined, and the heir in penury, bored to death by an idle life, and without a hope of establishing himself. That bitter thought and his own exhaustion, no doubt, hastened the old man's end. One great comfort came to him as he lay amid the wreck of so many hopes, sinking under the burden of so many cares—the old Marquis, at his sister's entreaty, gave him back all the old friendship. The great lord came to the little house in the Rue du Bercail, and sat by his old servant's bedside, all unaware how much that servant had done and sacrificed for him. Chesnel sat upright, and repeated Simeon's cry.—The Marquis allowed them to bury Chesnel in the castle chapel; they laid him crosswise at the foot of the tomb which was waiting for the Marquis himself, the last, in a sense, of the d'Esgrignons.
And so died one of the last representatives of that great and beautiful thing, Service; giving to that often discredited word its original meaning, the relation between feudal lord and servitor. That relation, only to be found in some out-of-the-way province, or among a few old servants of the King, did honor alike to a noblesse that could call forth such affection, and to a bourgeoisie that could conceive it. Such noble and magnificent devotion is no longer possible among us. Noble houses have no servitors left; even as France has no longer a King, nor an hereditary peerage, nor lands that are bound irrevocably to an historic house, that the glorious names of the nation may be perpetuated. Chesnel was not merely one of the obscure great men of private life; he was something more—he was a great fact. In his sustained self-devotion is there not something indefinably solemn and sublime, something that rises above the one beneficent deed, or the heroic height which is reached by a moment's supreme effort? Chesnel's virtues belong essentially to the classes which stand between the poverty of the people on the one hand, and the greatness of the aristocracy on the other; for these can combine homely burgher virtues with the heroic ideals of the noble, enlightening both by a solid education.
Victurnien was not well looked upon at Court; there was no more chance of a great match for him, nor a place. His Majesty steadily refused to raise the d'Esgrignons to the peerage, the one royal favor which could rescue Victurnien from his wretched position. It was impossible that he should marry a bourgeoise heiress in his father's lifetime, so he was bound to live on shabbily under the paternal roof with memories of his two years of splendor in Paris, and the lost love of a great lady to bear him company. He grew moody and depressed, vegetating at home with a careworn aunt and a half heart-broken father, who attributed his son's condition to a wasting malady. Chesnel was no longer there.
The Marquis died in 1830. The great d'Esgrignon, with a following of all the less infirm noblesse from the Collection of Antiquities, went to wait upon Charles X. at Nonancourt; he paid his respects to his sovereign, and swelled the meagre train of the fallen king. It was an act of courage which seems simple enough to-day, but, in that time of enthusiastic revolt, it was heroism.
"The Gaul has conquered!" These were the Marquis' last words.
By that time du Croisier's victory was complete. The new Marquis d'Esgrignon accepted Mlle. Duval as his wife a week after his old father's death. His bride brought him three millions of francs for du Croisier and his wife settled the reversion of their fortunes upon her in the marriage-contract. Du Croisier took occasion to say during the ceremony that the d'Esgrignon family was the most honorable of all the ancient houses in France.
Some day the present Marquis d'Esgrignon will have an income of more than a hundred thousand crowns. You may see him in Paris, for he comes to town every winter and leads a jolly bachelor life, while he treats his wife with something more than the indifference of the grand seigneur of olden times; he takes no thought whatever for her.
"As for Mlle. d'Esgrignon," said Emile Blondet, to whom all the detail of the story is due, "if she is no longer like the divinely fair woman whom I saw by glimpses in my childhood, she is decidedly, at the age of sixty-seven, the most pathetic and interesting figure in the Collection of Antiquities. She queens it among them still. I saw her when I made my last journey to my native place in search of the necessary papers for my marriage. When my father knew who it was that I had married, he was struck dumb with amazement; he had not a word to say until I told him that I was a prefect.
"'You were born to it,' he said, with a smile.
"As I took a walk around the town, I met Mlle. Armande. She looked taller than ever. I looked at her, and thought of Marius among the ruins of Carthage. Had she not outlived her creed, and the beliefs that had been destroyed? She is a sad and silent woman, with nothing of her old beauty left except the eyes, that shine with an unearthly light. I watched her on her way to mass, with her book in her hand, and could not help thinking that she prayed to God to take her out of the world."
LES JARDIES, July 1837.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
Note: The Old Maid is a companion piece to The Collection of Antiquities. In other Addendum appearances they are combined under the title of The Jealousies of a Country Town.
Blondet (Judge) Beatrix
Blondet, Emile A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Modeste Mignon Another Study of Woman The Secrets of a Princess A Daughter of Eve The Firm of Nucingen The Peasantry
Blondet, Virginie The Secrets of a Princess The Peasantry A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Another Study of Woman The Member for Arcis A Daughter of Eve
Bousquier, Du (or Du Croisier or Du Bourguier) The Old Maid The Middle Classes
Bousquier, Madame du (or du Croisier) The Old Maid
Camusot de Marville Cousin Pons The Commission in Lunacy Scenes from a Cuortesan's Life
Camusot de Marville, Madame The Vendetta Cesar Birotteau Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Cousin Pons
Cardot (Parisian notary) The Muse of the Department A Man of Business Pierre Grassou The Middle Classes Cousin Pons
Casteran, De The Chouans The Seamy Side of History The Old Maid Beatrix The Peasantry
Chesnel (or Choisnel) The Seamy Side of History The Old Maid
Coudrai, Du The Old Maid
Esgrignon, Charles-Marie-Victor-Ange-Carol, Marquis d' (or Des Grignons) The Chouans The Old Maid
Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d') Letters of Two Brides A Man of Business The Secrets of a Princess Cousin Betty
Esgrignon, Marie-Armande-Claire d' The Old Maid
Herouville, Duc d' The Hated Son Modeste Mignon Cousin Betty
Lenoncourt, Duc de The Lily of the Valley Cesar Birotteau The Old Maid The Gondreville Mystery Beatrix
Leroi, Pierre The Chouans The Seamy Side of History
Marsay, Henri de The Thirteen The Unconscious Humorists Another Study of Woman The Lily of the Valley Father Goriot Ursule Mirouet A Marriage Settlement Lost Illusions A Distinguished Provincial at Paris Letters of Two Brides The Ball at Sceaux Modest Mignon The Secrets of a Princess The Gondreville Mystery A Daughter of Eve
Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de The Secrets of a Princess Modeste Mignon The Muse of the Department Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Letters of Two Brides Another Study of Woman The Gondreville Mystery The Member for Arcis
Michu, Francois The Gondreville Mystery The Member for Arcis
Pamiers, Vidame de The Thirteen
Ronceret, Du The Old Maid Beatrix
Ronceret, Madame du The Old Maid
Ronceret, Fabien-Felicien du (or Duronceret) Beatrix Gaudissart II
Scherbelloff, Princesse (or Scherbellof or Sherbelloff) The Peasantry
Thirion The Vendetta Cesar Birotteau
Troisville, Guibelin, Vicomte de The Seamy Side of History The Chouans The Old Maid The Peasantry
Valois, Chevalier de The Chouans The Old Maid
Verneuil, Duc de The Chouans The Old Maid