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- Mysteries of Paris, V3 - 40/89 -
emphasizing, as it were, each phrase by an ironical glance at Jacques Ferrand--"imagine that my friend found in his new servant, who, as I have already told you, was called Cecily, the best qualities, great modesty, angelic sweetness, and above all, much piety. This is not all; Jacques, you know, owes to his long practice in business affairs an extreme penetration; he soon saw that this young woman, for she was young and very pretty, M. l'Abbé--that this young and pretty woman was not made for a servant, and that, to principles most virtuously austere, she added solid accomplishments very diversified."
"Ah, indeed, this is strange," said the abbé, 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'Abbé," 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 curé, much affected. "M. l'Abbé," 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'Abbé, 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'Abbé."
"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'Abbé, 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 abbé, "I am certain that he stands very high in the esteem of M. Ferrand."
"This honest man is indeed, M. l'Abbé, placed very high in my esteem," answered the notary, with a bitterness badly disguised.
"And this is not all, M. l'Abbé," 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'Abbé," 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'Abbé, 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'Abbé, 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 abbé, "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'Abbé."
"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'Abbé," answered Jacques Ferrand.
"Now," said Polidori, "you are going to see, M. l'Abbé, 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'Abbé. 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 abbé. "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'Abbé, 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'Abbé, 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 abbé 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
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