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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 60/113 -
recompense the rare and charming qualities which he had discovered in her, he wished to follow her to the end of this new and interesting trial. At the end of an hour the carriage, on its return from her Rue Saint Honore, stopped on the Boulevard Saint Denis, No. 11, before a house of modest appearance.
Rudolph assisted Rigolette to alight; she entered the porter's lodge and communicated to him the intentions of Germain, without forgetting the promised gratuity. From his amenity of disposition, the clerk was everywhere loved. The _confrere_ of Pipelet was much concerned to learn that the house should lose so honest and quiet a lodger: such were his expressions. The grisette, furnished with a light, rejoined her companion; the porter was to follow, after a little while, to receive instructions. The chamber of Germain was on the fourth story. On arriving at the door, Rigolette said to Rudolph, giving him the key, "Here, neighbor, open--my hand trembles too much. You will laugh at me; but, in thinking that poor Germain will never return here, it seems to me I am about to enter a chamber of the dead."
"Come, be reasonable now, neighbor--have no such ideas!"
"I was wrong, but it was stronger than I;" and she wiped away a tear.
Without being as much moved as his companion, Rudolph nevertheless experienced a painful impression on entering the modest apartment. He knew that the unfortunate young man must have passed many sad hours in this solitude. Rigolette placed the light on a table. Nothing could be more plain than the furniture of this sleeping-room, composed of a bed, a chest of drawers, a secretary of black walnut, four straw-bottomed chairs, and a table; white cotton curtains covered the windows and the bed recess; the only ornaments on the mantelpiece were a decanter and a glass. From the appearance of the bed, which was made, it could be seen that Germain had thrown himself upon it without taking off his clothes the night preceding his arrest.
"Poor fellow," said Rigolette, sadly, examining, with interest, the interior of the chamber: "it is easy to see that lie no longer has me for a neighbor. It is in order, but not neat; there is dust everywhere, the curtains are smoked, the windows are dirty, the floor is not washed. Oh! what a difference! Rue du Temple was not handsome, but it was more gay, because everything shone with neatness, like my own room."
"It was because you were there, to give your advice."
"But see, now," cried Rigolette, showing the bed, "he did not go to rest the other night, so much was he disturbed. Look here! his handkerchief, which he has left, has been steeped in tears. That is plain to be seen;" and she took it, adding, "Germain has kept a little orange silk cravat of mine, which I gave him when we were happy; I am sure he will not be angry."
"On the contrary, he will be very happy at this proof of your affection."
"Now let us think of serious matters; I will make a package of linen, which I shall find in the drawers, to take to him in prison; Mother Bouvard, whom I shall send here to-morrow, will manage the rest. First, however, I'll open the secretary and take out the papers and money which M. Germain begged me keep for him."
"But while I think of it," said Rudolph, "Louise Morel gave me, yesterday, one thousand three hundred francs in gold, which Germain had given her to pay the debt of her father, which I had already done; I have this money; it belongs to Germain, since he has paid back the notary; I will give it to you; you can add it to the rest."
"As you please, M. Rudolph; yet I would rather not have so large a sum with me at home, there are so many robbers nowadays. Papers are very well--there is nothing to fear; but money is dangerous."
"Perhaps you are right, neighbor; shall I take charge of this sum? If Germain has need of anything, you must let me know at once. I will leave you my address, and I will send you what he wants."
"I should not have dared to ask this service from you; it will be much better, neighbor. I will give you also the money I shall receive from the sale of his effects. Let us see the papers," said the girl, opening the secretary and several drawers. "Ah, it is probably this. Here is a large envelope. Oh, my gracious! look here, M. Rudolph, how sad it is what's written on this." And she read, in a faltering tone:
"In case I should die a violent death, or otherwise, I beg the person who should open this secretary to carry these papers to Mlle. Rigolette, seamstress, Rue du Temple, No. 17."
"Can I break the seal, M. Rudolph?"
"Doubtless; does he not say that among these papers there is one particularly addressed to you?"
The girl broke the seal. Several papers were inclosed; one of them, bearing the superscription, "_To Mademoiselle Rigolette_" contained these words: "Mademoiselle--When you read this letter, I shall no longer exist. If, as I fear, I die a violent death, in falling a victim to willful murder, some information, under the title of _Notes of my Life_ may give a clew to my assassins."
"Ah! M. Rudolph," said Rigolette, "I am no longer astonished that he was so sad. Poor Germain! always pursued by such ideas!"
"Yes; he must have been much afflicted. But his worst days are over, believe me."
"I hope so, M. Rudolph. But, however, to be in prison, accused of robbery!"
"Be comforted. Once his innocence recognized, instead of falling into an isolated state, he will find friends. You, in the first place; then a beloved mother, from whom he has been separated since his childhood."
"His mother! He has still a mother?"
"Yes. She thinks him lost to her. Judge of her joy when she will see him again. Do not speak to him of his mother. I confide this secret to you, because you interest yourself so generously in his favor."
"I thank you, M. Rudolph; you may be assured I will keep your secret," and Rigolette continued the reading of the letter:
"If you will, mademoiselle, look over these notes, you will see that I have been all my life very unhappy, except during the time I passed with you. What I should never have dared to tell you, you will find written here, entitled '_My sole days of happiness._'
"Almost every evening, on leaving you, I thus poured out the consoling thoughts that your affection inspired, and which alone tempered the bitterness of my life. What was friendship when with you, became love when absent from you. I have concealed this until this moment, when I shall be no more for you than perhaps a sad souvenir. My destiny was so unhappy, that I should never have spoken to you of this sentiment; although sincere and profound, it would only have made you unhappy.
"One wish alone remains to be fulfilled, and I hope that you will accomplish it. I have seen with what admirable courage you work, and how much method and economy was necessary for you to live on the small amount you earn so industriously. Often, without telling, you, I have trembled in thinking that a malady, caused, perhaps, by excess of labor, might reduce you to a situation so frightful that I could not even think of it without alarm. It is very grateful to me to think that I can at least spare you the horrors, and, perhaps, in a great degree, the miseries, which you, in the thoughtlessness of youth, do not foresee, happily."
"What does he mean, M. Rudolph?" said Rigolette, astonished.
"Continue, we shall see."
"I know on how little you can live, and what a resource the smallest sum would be to you in a time of difficulty. I am very poor, but, by economy, I have set aside one thousand five hundred francs, deposited at a banker's; it is all that I possess. By my will, which you will find here, I bequeath it to you; accept it from a friend, a good brother, who is no more."
"Oh! M. Rudolph," said Rigolette, bursting into tears, and giving the letter to the prince, "this gives me too much pain. Good Germain, thus to think of me! Oh! what a heart! what an excellent heart!"
"Worthy and good young man!" replied Rudolph, with emotion. "But calm yourself, my child. Germain is not dead; this anticipation will only serve as a witness of his love for you."
"It is true. To be beloved by so good a young man is very flattering, is it not, M. Rudolph?"
"And some day, perhaps, you will participate in this love?"
"M. Rudolph, it is very trying; poor Germain is so much to be pitied! I'll put myself in his place--if at the moment when I thought myself abandoned, despised by all the world, a person, a good friend, came to me, still more kind than I could hope for--I should be so happy!" After a moment's pause, Rigolette resumed with a sigh, "On the other hand, we are both so poor, that perhaps it would not be reasonable. Look here, M. Rudolph, I do not wish to think of that; perhaps I am mistaken; but I will do all I can for Germain, as long as he remains in prison. Once free, it will always be time enough to see if it is love or friendship I feel for him; then if it is love, neighbor, it will be love. But it grows late, M. Rudolph; will you collect these papers, while I make up a bundle of linen? Oh! I forgot the sachet inclosing the little orange cravat, which I have given him. It is in this drawer, without a doubt. Oh! see how pretty it is, all embroidered! Poor Germain has guarded it like a relic! I well remember the last time I wore it, and when I gave it to him. He was so happy, so happy."
At this moment some one knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" demanded Rudolph.
"I want to speak to Madame Mathieu," answered a hoarse and husky voice, with an accent which denoted the speaker to be one of the lowest order. Madame Mathieu was a diamond broker living in this house, who employed Morel.
This voice, singularly accented, awakened some vague recollections in the mind of Rudolph. Wishing to enlighten them, he went and opened the door. He found himself face to face with a fellow whom he recognized at once, so fully and plainly was the stamp of crime marked on his
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