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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 113/113 -

"Come, my lord, our game is won."

"I hope so; a ferocious cupidity and a savage thirst have led the executioner of Louise Morel to the most frightful misdeeds. It is in them that he will find the punishment of his crimes. A punishment which will not be barren for his victims; for you see the aim of all the efforts of the Creole."

"Cecily! Never did greater depravity, never a more dangerous corruption, never a blacker soul serve to the accomplishment of a project of higher morality, or of a more equitable end; and David, my lord?"

"He approves of all. With all the contempt and horror which he has for this creature, he only sees in her the instrument of a just vengeance. 'If this cursed woman can ever merit any compassion after all the injury she has done me,' said he to me, 'it will be in devoting herself to the punishment of this scoundrel, for whom she must be an exterminating demon.'" A servant having tapped at the door, Murphy went out, and returned, bringing in two letters, one of which seemed intended for Rudolph.

"It is a line from Madame George!" cried he, reading it rapidly.

"Well, Goualeuse?"

"No more doubt," cried Rudolph, after having read the letter; "another mysterious plot. The same evening on which the poor child disappeared, at the moment Madame George was about to inform me of the event, a man, whom she did not know, arrived express on horseback, came to her, as from me, to reassure her, saying I was informed of the sudden departure of Fleur-de-Marie, and that some day I would bring her back to the farm. Notwithstanding this notice, Madame George, uneasy at my silence respecting her _protegee_ cannot, she writes me, resist her desire to have some news of her cherished daughter, as she calls the poor child."

"This is strange, my lord."

"For what end should she have been carried off?"

"My lord," said Murphy, suddenly, "the Countess M'Gregor is no stranger to this affair."

"Sarah? What makes you think so?"

"Compare this with her denunciations to Madame d'Harville."

"You are right," cried Rudolph, a new light bursting upon him; it's evident: I comprehend now; yes, always the same calculation. The countess persists in believing, that by succeeding in breaking every tie of affection, she will make me feel the want of her. This is as odious as useless. Yet such an unworthy prosecution must have an end. It is not only against me, but against all who merit respect, interest, and pity, that this woman directs her attacks. You will send M. de Graun at once, officially, to the countess; he will declare to her that I am advised of the part she has taken in the abduction of Fleur-de-Marie, and that if she does not give me the necessary information, so that I can recover this unhappy child, I shall act without pity, and then it is to justice M. de Graun must address himself."

"From the letter of Madame d'Harville, the Goualeuse must be confined at Saint Lazare."

"Yes, but Rigolette affirms that she saw her free, coming out of this prison. There is a mystery to be cleared up."

"I will go at once and give your highness's orders to Baron de Graun; but allow me to open this letter; it is from my correspondent at Marseilles, to whom I recommended the Chourineur, to facilitate the passage of the poor fellow to Algiers."

"Well! has he gone?"

"Here is something singular."

"What is it?"

"After having waited at Marseilles a long time for a vessel to depart for Algiers, the Chourineur, who seemed every day more sad and thoughtful, suddenly declared, the day being fixed for his departure, that he preferred to return to Paris."

"How singular!"

"Although my correspondent had, as was agreed upon, placed a considerable sum of money at the disposal of the Chourineur, he only took what was absolutely necessary for him to return to Paris, where he will soon arrive, as they write me."

"Then he will explain to us himself why he has changed his mind, but send De Graun at once to the Countess M'Gregor, and go yourself to Saint Lazare to gain some information concerning Fleur-de-Marie." In an hour's time the Baron de Graun returned from the countess's.

Notwithstanding his habitual and official _sang froid_, the diplomatist seemed troubled; hardly had the usher announced him, than Rudolph remarked his paleness. "Well! De Graun, what is the matter? have you seen her?"

"Oh! my lord."

"What is it?"

"Will your royal highness pardon me for informing you so suddenly of an event so fatal, so unlooked for, so--

"The countess is dead?"

"No, my lord, but her life is despaired of; she has been stabbed with a dagger."

"Oh! it is frightful!" cried Rudolph, touched with pity, notwithstanding his aversion to Sarah. "Who has committed this crime?"

"No one knows, my lord; the murder was accompanied by robbery; some one entered the apartment and carried off a large quantity of jewels."

"And how is she now?"

"Her life is almost despaired of, my lord; she has not yet recovered her consciousness. Her brother is in a state of distraction."

"You must go every day to inquire after her, my dear De Graun."

At this moment Murphy returned from Saint Lazare.

"Learn sad news!" said Rudolph to him; "the countess has been wounded! her life is in great danger."

"Oh! my lord; although she is very culpable, yet I cannot but pity her."

"Yes; such an end would be frightful! And the Goualeuse?"

"Set at liberty yesterday, my lord, supposed by the intervention of Madame d'Harville."

"But it is impossible! Madame d'Harville begs me, on the contrary, to make the necessary arrangements to get her out of prison."

"Doubtless; and yet, an aged woman, of respectable, appearance, came to Saint Lazare, bringing the order to set Fleur-de-Marie at liberty. Both have left the prison."

"This is what Rigolette told me; but this aged woman, who is she? where have they gone to? what is this new mystery? The countess alone can enlighten us; and she is in a state to give us no information. May she not carry this secret with her to the grave?"

"But her brother, Thomas Seyton, could certainly throw some light upon the affair. He has always been her adviser."

"His sister is dying; some new plot is on foot; he will not speak; but," said Rudolph, reflecting, "we must find out the name of the person who applied for her release; thus we can learn something."

"Yes, my lord."

"Try, then, to know and see this person as soon as possible, my dear De Graun; if you do not succeed, put your M. Badinot on the trail; spare nothing to discover the poor child."

"Your highness may count on my zeal."

"My lord," said Murphy, "it is, perhaps, as well that the Chourineur returns; we may need his services for these researches."

"You are right; and now I am impatient to see arrive at Paris my brave deliverer, the gallant, 'Slasher,' for I shall never forget that to him I owe my life."

* * * * * * *

Forced to extend the unfoldings of the evil and good machinations of the Grand-Duke Rudolph and his enemies into another volume, we do so, promising that even more singular characters, even more striking actions and engaging scenes, will be found in "Part Third: Night."


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