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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 20/113 -
hypocrisy of M. Ferrand."
"And you did not at once unmask the scoundrel?" said Rudolph.
"I was terrified, my head turned; I dared not, I could not pronounce a word, yet I wished to speak, to defend myself. 'But, sir'--I cried. 'Not a word more, unworthy creature!' said M. Ferrand, interrupting me. 'You have heard the worthy priest: pity would be weakness. In an hour, you leave my house!' Then, without giving me time to answer, he led the priest into another room.
"After the departure of M. Ferrand," continued Louise, "I was for a moment, as it were, delirious. I saw myself driven from his house, not able to get another place, on account of my situation and the bad character my master would give me. I did not doubt but that in his anger he would imprison my father; I did not know what would become of me. I went for refuge and to weep, to my chamber. At the end of two hours M. Ferrand appeared. 'Is your trunk ready?' said he. 'Have mercy!' I cried, falling at his feet 'Do not send me away in the state in which I am; what will become of me? I can find no other place.' 'So much the better; God will thus punish your conduct and your lies.' 'You dare to say that I lie!' cried I indignantly; 'you dare to say you are not the cause of my ruin?' 'Leave my house at once, you infamous creature, since you persist in your calumnies!' cried he, in a terrible voice. 'And to punish you, to-morrow I will imprison your father.' 'Well--no, no!' said I, aghast; 'I will accuse you no longer, sir--I promise it; but do not drive me away--have pity on my father; the little that I earn here supports my family. Keep me here--I will say nothing--I will conceal everything as long as I can, and then--you can send me away.'
"After renewed supplications, M. Ferrand consented to my prayers: I regarded it as a great favor, so frightful was my condition. Yet, for the five months which followed this cruel scene, I was very unhappy, very cruelly treated. Sometimes only M. Germain, whom I saw but seldom, interrogated me with kindness on the subject of my sorrows; but shame forbade my confession."
"Is it not about this time that he came to live here?"
"Yes, sir. He wished for a room near the Temple or the Arsenal; there was one to be let here, it suited him."
"And you never thought of confiding your sorrows to M. Germain?" asked Rudolph.
"No, sir; he was also a dupe of M. Ferrand's; he said he was hard and exacting, but he thought him the most honest man in the world. I passed these five months in tears, in continual agony. With care, I had concealed my situation from all eyes, but I could hope to do so no longer. The future was for me most dreadful; M. Ferrand had declared he would not keep me any longer with him. I was thus about to be deprived of the small resource that aided our family to live. Cursed, driven away by my father--for, after the falsehoods that I had told him to dissipate his suspicions, he would not believe me to be the victim of M. Ferrand--what was to become of me? where was I to fly? where to find a refuge? I had then a very wicked idea. I confess this, sir, because I wish to conceal nothing, even that which may cast suspicion on me, and also to show you to what an extremity I was reduced by the cruelty of M. Ferrand. If I had yielded to a fatal thought, would he not have been an accomplice of my crime?"
After a moment's silence, Louise resumed, with an effort, and in a trembling voice, "I had heard from the portress that a quack lived in the house--and--" She could not finish.
Rudolph remembered that at his first call on Mrs. Pipelet he had received from the postman, in her absence, a letter written on coarse paper, in a disguised hand, and on which he had remarked the traces of tears. "And you did write him, unhappy child, three days since? On this letter you have wept; your writing was disguised."
Louise looked at Rudolph with affright. "How do you know, sir?"
"Calm yourself. I was alone in the lodge of Mrs. Pipelet when this letter was handed in, and it was my chance to receive it."
"Yes, sir; in this letter, without signature, I wrote to M. Bradamanti, that, not daring to come to him, I begged he would meet me that evening near the Château dead. I was half crazy. I wished to ask his fearful advice. I left my master's house to meet him; but my reason returned. I regained the house; I did not see him. Thus the scene took place, from the consequences of which I am now suffering-- M. Ferrand believing me gone out for two hours, while after a very short time I returned."
"In pacing before the little door of the garden, to my great astonishment I saw it open. I entered that way, and I carried the key to the cabinet of M. Ferrand, where it was ordinarily kept. This was, next to his bed-chamber, the most retired place in the house: it was there he gave his secret audiences. You will see, sir, why I give you these details. Knowing all the ways of the house very well, after having crossed the dining-room, which was lighted, I entered into the saloon in the dark, then to the cabinet, as I said before. The door of his chamber opened at the moment I placed the key on the table. Hardly had my master perceived me by the light which was burning in his chamber, than he closed the door quickly on a person whom I could not see. Then he threw himself on me, seized me by the throat as if he wished to strangle me, and said to me in a low tone, at once furious and alarmed, 'You were spying; you listened at the door; what did you hear? Answer, answer! or I'll strangle you.' But changing his mind, without giving me time to say a word, he pushed me backward into the dining-room. The office was open; he threw me into it brutally, and locked the door."
"And you heard nothing of his conversation?"
"Nothing, sir: if I had known he had anybody in the room, I should have taken care not to have entered the cabinet; he forbade even Mrs. Seraphin to do so."
"And when you came out of the office, what did he say to you?"
"It was the housekeeper who came to conduct me, and I did not see him again that night. The alarm I had experienced had made me very ill. The next morning, as I came downstairs, I met M. Ferrand. I shuddered in thinking of his threats of the evening previous; what was my surprise when he said to me, almost calmly, 'You know I forbid any one to come into my cabinet when I have some one in my chamber; but for the short time that you have to remain here, it is useless to scold any more,' and he passed into his office. This moderation surprised me, after the violence of the previous evening. I went on with my usual duties; I went to put in order his sleeping apartment. In arranging some clothes in a dark closet near the alcove, I was suddenly taken very ill; I felt that I was about to faint. In falling, I grasped at a cloak which was hanging against the wall. I dragged it along with me; it covered me completely as I lay upon the floor. When I came to myself, the glass door of this closet was shut. I heard the voice of M. Ferrand. He spoke very loud. Recollecting the scene of the previous evening, I thought myself killed if I stirred. I supposed that, concealed under the mantle which had fallen on me, my master, in shutting the door, had not perceived me. If he discovered me, how could I make him believe that my presence was accidental? I held my breath, and, in spite of myself, I heard the end of this conversation, which doubtless had been commenced for some time."
"Who was the person who was talking with him?" asked Rudolph.
"I am ignorant, sir; I did not know the voice."
"And what did they say?"
"The conversation had lasted for some time, doubtless, for this is all I heard. 'Nothing can be plainer,' said this unknown voice. 'A queer fish, called Bras-Rouge (Red-Arm), a determined smuggler, has brought me, for the affair I have just spoken about, in connection with a family of fresh-water pirates, who are established at the point of a little island near Aspires. They are the greatest bandits in the land; the father and grandfather have both been guillotined, two of the sons are to the galleys for life; but the mother, three sons, and two daughters are left, all as great villains one as the other. It is said that at night, to rob on both sides of the Seine, they come down in their boats sometimes as far as Barky. They are folks who will kill the first comer for a crown; but we have no need of them; it suffices if they will give hospitality to your country lady. The Martial (the name of my pirates) will pass in her eyes for an honest family of fishermen. I will go on your account, and make two or three visits to your young lady; I will order her certain potions, and at the end of eight days she will make acquaintance with Aspires Cemetery. In the villages, a death passes like a letter through the post-office, while at Paris they scrutinize too closely. But when will you send your country girl to the island, so that I can advise the Martial what part they have to play?' 'She will arrive to-morrow, and the day after she will be there,' answered Ferrand; 'and I will inform her that the Doctor Vincent will take care of her on my account.' 'Agreed for the name of Vincent,' said the voice; 'I like that as well as any other.'"
"What is this new mystery of crime and infamy?" said Rudolph, more and more surprised.
"New? no, sir; you will see that it has reference to a crime that you do know," answered Louise; and she continued, "I heard the movement of chairs; the conversation was at an end. 'I do not ask you to be secret,' said M. Ferrand; 'you hold me as I hold you.' 'That proves that we can serve, but never injure one another,' answered the voice; 'see my zeal. I received your letter last night at ten o'clock; this morning I am here. Farewell, accomplice; do not forget the Island of Asnieres, the fisher Martial, and Dr. Vincent. Thanks to these three magical words, your country girl has only eight days left.' 'Stop,' said M. Ferrand, 'while I go and unbolt the door of my cabinet, and see if there is any one in the ante-chamber, that you may go out by the garden, as you came in.' M. Ferrand went out a moment, and then returned, and finally I heard him go off with the unknown person. You may imagine my alarm, sir, during this conversation, and my horror at knowing such a secret. Two hours after this conversation, Mrs. Seraphin came to seek me in my chamber, where I had gone more trembling and sick than I had yet been. 'M. Ferrand wants you,' said she; 'you have more good luck than you deserve; come, descend. You are very pale; what you are going to learn will give you more color.'
"I followed Mrs. Seraphin; M. Ferrand was in his cabinet. At seeing him, I shuddered in spite of myself; yet he had a less wicked look than usual; he looked at me fixedly for a long time, as if he wished to read my thoughts. I cast down my eyes. 'You appear very ill,' said he. 'Yes, sir,' I answered, astonished that he did not address me familiarly as usual. 'It is very plain,' added he, 'it is in consequence of your situation; but notwithstanding your lies, your bad conduct, and your indiscretion of yesterday,' added he, in a softened tone, 'I have pity on you. Although I have treated you as you deserved before the cure of the parish, such an affair as this will be a
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