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- Within an Inch of His Life - 70/111 -
And, sitting down so as to face the advocate, he said,--
"I stayed away rather long; but I did not lose any time. In the first place, I procured a month's leave of absence; then I put my hand upon the very man whom I wanted to send after Sir Burnett and Miss Suky. He is a good fellow, called Barousse, fine like a needle, and speaks English like a native. He demands twenty-five francs a day, his travelling-expenses, and a gratuity of fifteen hundred francs if he succeeds. I have agreed to meet him at six to give him a definite answer. If you accept the conditions, he will leave for England to-night, well drilled by me."
Instead of any answer, M. Folgat drew from his pocket-book a thousand- franc note, and said,--
"Here is something to begin with."
Goudar had finished his beer, and said,--
"Well, then, I must leave you. I am going to hang abut M. de Tassar's house, and make my inquiries. Perhaps I may pick up something there. To-morrow I shall spend my day in searching the house in Vine Street and in questioning all the tradesmen on your list. The day after to-morrow I shall probably have finished here. So that in four or five days there will arrive in Sauveterre a somebody, who will be myself." And as he got up, he added,--
"For I must save M. de Boiscoran. I will and I must do it. He has too nice a house. Well, we shall see each other at Sauveterre."
It struck four o'clock. M. Folgat left the café immediately after Goudar, and went down the river to University Street. He was anxious to see the marquis and the marchioness.
"The marchioness is resting," said the valet; "but the marquis is in his cabinet."
M. Folgat was shown in, and found him still under the effects of the terrible scene he had undergone in the morning. He had said nothing to his wife that he did not really think; but he was distressed at having said it under such circumstances. And yet he felt a kind of relief; for, to tell the truth, he felt as if the horrible doubts which he had kept secret so many years had vanished as soon as they were spoken out. When he saw M. Folgat, he asked in a sadly-changed voice,--
The young advocate repeated in detail the account given by the marchioness; but he added what the latter had not been able to mention, because she did not know it, the desperate resolution which Jacques had formed. At this revelation the marquis looked utterly overcome.
"The unhappy man!" he cried. "And I accused him of-- He thought of killing himself!"
"And we had a great trouble, M. Magloire, and myself," added M. Folgat, "to overcome his resolution, great trouble to make him understand, that never, under any circumstances, ought an innocent man to think of committing suicide."
A big tear rolled down the furrowed cheek of the old gentleman; and he murmured,--
"Ah! I have been cruelly unjust. Poor, unhappy child!"
Then he added aloud,--
"But I shall see him. I have determined to accompany the marchioness to Sauveterre. When will you leave?"
"Nothing keeps me here in Paris. I have done all that could be done, and I might return this evening. But I am really too tired. I think I shall to-morrow take the train at 10.45."
"If you do so, we shall travel in company; you understand? To-morrow at ten o'clock at the Orleans station. We shall reach Sauveterre by midnight."
When the Marchioness de Boiscoran, on the day of her departure for Paris, had gone to see her son, Dionysia had asked her to let her go with her. She resisted, and the young girl did not insist.
"I see they are trying to conceal something from me," she said simply; "but it does not matter."
And she had taken refuge in the sitting-room; and there, taking her usual seat, as in the happy days when Jacques spent all his evenings by her side, she had remained long hours immovable, looking as if, with her mind's eye, she was following invisible scenes far away.
Grandpapa Chandore and the two aunts were indescribably anxious. They knew their Dionysia, their darling child, better than she knew herself, having nursed and watched her for twenty years. They knew every expression of her face, every gesture, every intonation of voice, and could almost read her thoughts in her features.
"Most assuredly Dionysia is meditating upon something very serious," they said. "She is evidently calculating and preparing for a great resolution."
The old gentleman thought so too, and asked her repeatedly,--
"What are you thinking of, dear child?"
"Of nothing, dear papa," she replied.
"You are sadder than usual: why are you so?"
"Alas! How do I know? Does anybody know why one day we have sunshine in our hearts, and another day dismal clouds?"
But the next day she insisted upon being taken to her seamstresses, and finding Mechinet, the clerk, there, she remained a full half-hour in conference with him. Then, in the evening, when Dr. Seignebos, after a short visit, was leaving the room, she lay in wait for him, and kept him talking a long time at the door. Finally, the day after, she asked once more to be allowed to go and see Jacques. They could no longer refuse her this sad satisfaction; and it was agreed that the older of the two Misses Lavarande, Miss Adelaide, should accompany her.
About two o'clock on that day they knocked at the prison-door, and asked the jailer, who had come to open the door, to let them see Jacques.
"I'll go for him at once, madam," replied Blangin. "In the meantime pray step in here: the parlor is rather damp, and the less you stay in it, the better it will be."
Dionysia did so, or rather, she did a great deal more; for, leaving her aunt down stairs, she drew Mrs. Blangin to the upper room, having something to say to her, as she pretended.
When they came down again, Blangin told them that M. de Boiscoran was waiting for them.
"Come!" said the young girl to her aunt.
But she had not taken ten steps in the long narrow passage which led to the parlor, when she stopped. The damp which fell from the vaulted ceiling like a pall upon her, and the emotions which were agitating her heart, combined to overwhelm her. She tottered, and had to lean against the wall, reeking as it was with wet and with saltpetre.
"O Lord, you are ill!" cried Miss Adelaide.
Dionysia beckoned to her to be silent.
"Oh, it is nothing!" she said. "Be quiet!"
And gathering up all her strength, and putting her little hand upon the old lady's shoulder, she said,--
"My darling aunty, you must render us an immense service. It is all important that I should speak to Jacques alone. It would be very dangerous for us to be overheard. I know they often set spies to listen to prisoners' talk. Do please, dear aunt, remain here in the passage, and give us warning, if anybody should come."
"You do not think of it, dear child. Would it be proper?"
The young girl stopped her again.
"Was it proper when I came and spent a night here? Alas! in our position, every thing is proper that may be useful."
And, as Aunt Lavarande made no reply, she felt sure of her perfect submission, and went on towards the parlor.
"Dionysia!" cried Jacques as soon as she entered,--"Dionysia!"
He was standing in the centre of this mournful hall, looking whiter than the whitewash on the wall, but apparently calm, and almost smiling. The violence with which he controlled himself was horrible. But how could he allow his betrothed to see his despair? Ought he not, on the contrary, do every thing to reassure her?
He came up to her, took her hands in his, and said,--
"Ah, it is so kind in you to come! and yet I have looked for you ever since the morning. I have been watching and waiting, and trembling at every noise. But will you ever forgive me for having made you come to a place like this, untidy and ugly, without the fatal poetry of horror even?"
She looked at him with such obstinate fixedness, that the words expired on his lips.
"Why will you tell me a falsehood?" she said sadly.
"I tell you a falsehood!"
"Yes. Why do you affect this gayety and tranquillity, which are so far from your heart? Have you no longer confidence in me? Do you think I
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