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