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- Mysteries of Paris, V3 - 1/89 -
MYSTERIES OF PARIS
By EUGENE SUE
[Illustration: THE RECITATION]
IN THE NOTARY'S OFFICE.
Brain, or heart of the land, which you will, as large cities are, Paris may claim to have nerves, muscles, and arteries centering in it, which but few capitals, by right of size, passions, horrors, loves, charms, mysteries, in a word, can reveal. To trace its emotions, impulses, secrets, wounds, cankers, joys, the following pages are devoted.
We must begin by taking up the further ends of threads which will soon lead us deep into its labyrinths, not without events on the way, only surpassed by those we shall meet in the mazes themselves.
In the year 1819, a singular project, incited by the current stories of left-handed marriages and loving episodes, as in the case of the Prince of Capua and Miss Penelope Smith, was put into operation by one Sarah Seyton, widow of the Earl of M'Gregor. Her brother, the Honorable Tom Seyton, assisted her to the utmost, fully prepared to aid his sister in matrimonially entangling any crown-wearer whomsoever; he was perfectly willing to participate with her in all the schemes and intrigues that might be useful toward the success of her endeavor to become the wife of a sovereign, however humble in possessions and power; but he would far rather have killed the sister whom he so devotedly loved, than he would have seen her become the mistress of a prince, even with the certainty of a subsequent marriage in reparation.
The matrimonial inventory drawn up by Tom, with the aid of the _Almanach de Gotha_, had a very satisfactory aspect. The Germanic Confederation, especially, furnished a numerous contingency of young presumptive sovereigns, the first to whom the adventurers meant to pay attention being thus designated in the diplomatic and infallible Almanac of Gotha for the year of 1819:
_Genealogy of the Sovereigns of Europe and their Families._
Grand-Duke MAXIMILIAN RUDOLPH, born December 10th, 1764. Succeeded his father, CHARLES FREDERIC RUDOLPH, April 21st 1785. Widower January, 1808, of Louisa, daughter of Prince JOHN AUGUSTUS of Burglen.
GUSTAVUS RUDOLPH, born April 17th, 1803.
Grand-Duchess JUDITH, dowager widow of the Grand-Duke
CHARLES FREDERIC RUDOLPH, April 21st, 1785.
Tom had sense enough to inscribe first on his list the youngest of the princes whom he desired for his brother-in-law, thinking that extreme youth was more easily seduced than riper age.
The Countes M'Gregor was not only favored with the introduction of the Marquis d'Harville (a friend of the grand-duke, to whom he had rendered great services in 1815, and a little of a suitor of the lady's while she was in Paris) and of the British Ambassador in Paris, but with that of her own personal appearance. To rare beauty and a singular aptitude of acquiring various accomplishments, was added a seductiveness all the more dangerous, because she possessed a mind unbending and calculating, a disposition cunning and selfish, a deep hypocrisy, a stubborn and despotic will--all hidden under the specious gloss of a generous, warm, and impassioned nature. Physically her organization was as deceptive as it was morally. Her large black eyes--which, by turns languished and beamed with beauty beneath their ebon lashes--could feign to admiration all the kindling fires of voluptuousness. And yet, the burning impulses of love beat not in her frozen bosom; never could a surprise of either the heart or the senses disturb the stern and pitiless schemes of this intriguing, egotistical, and ambitious girl.
Fortunately for her, her plans were assisted by one Dr. Polidori, a learned but hypocritical man, who hoped to be the future Richelieu over the puppet he trusted to convert Prince Rudolph into. The lady and her brother combined with Polidori against the youthful prince, whose only ally was his true friend, an English baronet, Sir Walter Murphy.
The Countess M'Gregor drove things to the end, and, during a brief absence of the grand-duke, was secretly married to Prince Rudolph. In time, about to become a mother, the artful woman began to clamor for an acknowledgment of the union. She braved exposure, hoping to force the prince into giving her the station she sought. All was discovered, easily, therefore. But the old duke was all-powerful within his realm: the clandestine union was pronounced null and void, and the countess expelled. Her latest act of vengeance was to inform Rudolph that their child had died. This was in 1827. But this assurance was on a par with her former falseness: the child, a girl, was handed over to Jacques Ferrand, a miserly notary in Paris, whose housekeeper got rid of it to a rogue known as Pierre Tournemine. When he at last ran to the end of his tether, and was sentenced to imprisonment in the Rochefort-hulks for forgery, he induced a woman called Gervais, but nicknamed the Screech-Owl (Chouette), to take the girl, now five or six years old, who brought the little creature up in the midst of as much cruelty as degradation.
Meanwhile the countess nursed the idea of wedding Prince Rudolph in a more secure manner. When, in time, he became grand-duke, she was more eager than ever to enjoy what she considered her own. Though he had married, she hoped; and, the second wife having died childless, the Countess M'Gregor followed Rudolph into Prance, where he traveled _incognito_ as Count Duren. As a last resort to force the grand-duke into her ambitious aims, she sought for a girl of the age that her own would have been, to pass it off as their child. By chance, the woman to whom she applied was La Chouette, and hardly had she spoken of the likeness which the counterfeit would have to bear to the supposed _suppressed_ child, than the woman recognized the very girl whom she had kept for years by her, or in view.
Yes, the offspring of Prince Rudolph and the countess was a common girl of the town, known as Fleur-de-Marie (the Virgin's Flower), for her touching religious beauty, as La Goualeuse (the Songstress), for her vocal ability, and La Pegriotte (Little Thief), out of La Chouette's anger that she would not be what she styled her.
She had long shunned her sad sisters in shame, and, indeed, in all her life had known but one friend. This was a sewing-girl known as Rigolette, or Miss Dimpleton, from her continual smiles; a maid with no strong ideas of virtue, but preserved from the miry path which poor Fleur-de-Marie had been forced to use, merely by being too hard-worked to have leisure to be bad.
Prince Rudolph entertained the most profound aversion for the mother of his child, yet for the latter he mourned still, fifteen or eighteen years after her reported decease. Weary of life, save for doing good, he took a deep liking for playing the part of a minor providence, be it said in all reverence.
Known to society as the grand-duke, otherwise Count Duren, he had humble lodgings in No. 7, Rue du Temple, as a fan-painter, plain M. Rudolph. To mask the large sums which on occasion he dispensed in charity, he was wont to give out that he was the agent of wealthy persons who trusted him in their alms-giving.
Events brought him into immediate contact with Fleur-de-Marie, and Rigolette (who lived in his own house in the Rue du Temple).
The former he had rescued from her wretchedness and provided with a home on a farm at Bouqueval, whence she had been abducted by Chouette and comrades of hers, by orders of Jacques Ferrand, who wanted her put out of the way.
The wretches who had undertaken to drown the girl with Ferrand's housekeeper (become dangerous to him, as one aware of too many of his secrets) murdered the latter, but the former, swept from their sight by the Seine's current, had been saved by a former prison-mate of hers, a girl of twenty, so wild in manner as to have won the nickname of Louve (Wolf).
Snatched from death, the exhausted girl now lay, but a little this side of life's confines, in the house of Dr. Griffon, at Asnières, under his care and that of the Count of St. Rémy, two gentlemen who had seen her escape.
Rudolph was seeking her all this while, yet not so busily that he forgot his avenger's course. Chief among social oppressors, whose cunning baffled the law, and verified the old saying of "what is everybody's business is nobody's business," Jacques Ferrand stood.
He withheld a large sum of money, intrusted _verbally_ to him, from its owner, the Baroness Fermont, and impoverished her and her daughter; he had seduced his servant Louise Morel, caused her imprisonment on a charge of child-murder, driving her father, a working jeweler, insane, and menacing the destruction of the whole family--but Rudolph was at hand to support them.
His cashier, François Germain, also was in prison, thanks to him. The youth--who had saved some money, and deposited it with a banker out of town--had no sooner heard that Louise Morel's father was in debt (a means of Ferrand's triumph over the girl), than he gave her some of his employer's money, thinking to replace it with his own immediately after. But while he was away to draw the deficit from his banker's, the notary discovered the loss, and had him arrested as a thief.
The notary, whose cunning had earned him a high reputation for honesty, strictness, and parsimony, was, at this moment, therefore, at the climax of inward delight. His chief accomplice removed (his only other being the Dr. Polidori already mentioned) he believed he had nothing to fear. Louise Morel had been replaced by a new servant, much more tempting to a man of the notary's sensual cravings than that first poor victim had been.
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