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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 90/113 -


Informed by Badinot that the viscount was closeted with his father, the magistrate at once comprehended everything, and respected his great sorrow.

"Dead," cried the count, concealing his face in his hand; "dead!" repeated he, overwhelmed. "It was right--better death than infamy, but it is frightful!"

"My lord," said the magistrate, sadly after a few moments' silence, "spare yourself a sorrowful spectacle; leave this house. Now there remains for me a duty to perform still more painful than that which brought me here."

"You are right, sir," said Saint Remy. "As to the victim of the robbery, you can tell him to call at M. Dupont's, banker."

"Rue du Richelieu. He is well known," answered the magistrate.

"At what amount are the stolen diamonds estimated?"

"At about thirty thousand francs, my lord; the person who bought them, through whom the robbery was discovered, gave that amount for them to your son."

"I can yet pay this, sir. Let the jeweler call the day after to-morrow on my banker; I will settle with him."

The commissary bowed, and the count departed. As soon as he was gone, the magistrate, profoundly touched at this unexpected scene, turned toward the saloon, the curtains of which were down. He raised them with emotion.

"Nobody!" cried he, astonished, looking round the room, and not seeing the least trace of the tragic event which was supposed to have occurred.

Then, remarking the small door in the tapestry, he ran thither. It was locked on the other side. "A trick," cried he in a rage; "he has undoubtedly made his escape in this way."

And, in fact, the viscount, before his father, pointed the pistol at his heart, but he had afterwards very dexterously discharged it under his arm, and immediately fled.

Notwithstanding the most active researches in all parts of the house, he was not to be found.

During the conversation between his father and the commissary, he had rapidly gained the boudoir, thence the conservatory, the back street and finally the Champs Elysees.

CHAPTER XXXI.

GOOD-BYE IN PRISON.

The morning after these last-mentioned events a touching scene took place in Saint Lazare, at the hour of the recreation of the prisoners.

On this day, during the promenade of her companions, Fleur-de-Marie was seated on a bench near the basin, already called hers. By a sort of tacit agreement, the prisoners abandoned this place, which she loved, for the sweet influence of the girl had much increased. Goualeuse preferred this seat near the fountain, because the moss which grew around the border of the reservoir recalled to her mind the verdure of the fields, and even the limpid water with which it was filled made her think of the little river of Bouqueval village.

To the sad gaze of a prisoner, a tuft of grass is a meadow, a flower is a garden.

Confiding in the kind promise of Madame d'Harville, Fleur-de-Marie had been expecting for two days to leave Saint Lazare. Although she had no reason for inquietude at the delay, she from her habitual misfortunes, hardly dared to hope soon for freedom.

Naturally, from the expectation of so soon seeing her friends at Bouqueval and Rudolph, Fleur-de-Marie should have been transported with joy.

It was not so. Her heart beat sadly; her thoughts returned without ceasing to the words and lofty looks of Madame d'Harville, when the poor prisoner had spoken with so much enthusiasm of her benefactor.

With singular intuition, Goualeuse had thus discovered a part of the lady's secret.

"The warmth of my gratitude for M. Rudolph has wounded this young lady, so handsome, and of a rank so elevated," thought Fleur-de-Marie. "Now I comprehend the bitterness of her words! she expressed disdainful jealousy! She, jealous of me! then she loves him, and I love him, also! My love must have betrayed itself in spite of me! To love him--I--a creature forever ruined! ungrateful, and wretch that I am! Oh! if that were so, rather death a hundred times."

Let us hasten to say, the unhappy child, who seemed doomed to every kind of martyrdom, exaggerated what she called her love. To her profound gratitude toward Rudolph was joined an involuntary admiration of the grace, strength, and beauty which distinguished him above all; nothing less material, nothing more pure than this admiration, but it existed lively and powerful, because physical beauty is always attractive.

And then, besides, the voice of blood, so often denied, mute, unknown, or disowned, sometimes makes itself heard; these bursts of passionate tenderness, which drew Fleur-de-Marie toward Rudolph, and alarmed her because in her ignorance she misconstrued their tendency, resulted from mysterious sympathies as evident, but also as inexplicable, as the resemblance of features. In a word, Fleur-de-Marie, learning that she was Rudolph's daughter, could have at once accounted for her feelings toward him; then, completely enlightened, she could admire without any scruple the beauty of her father.

Thus is explained the dejectedness of Fleur-de-Marie, although she expected at any moment to leave Saint Lazare.

Fleur-de-Marie, melancholy and pensive, was then seated on a bench near the basin, regarding with a kind of mechanical interest the gambols of two daring birds that came to sport on the curbstone. She ceased for a moment to work on a little child's frock which she was hemming. It is necessary to say that this belonged to the generous offering made to Mont Saint Jean by the prisoners, thanks to the touching intervention of Fleur-de-Marie.

The poor, deformed _protegee_ of La Goualeuse was seated at her feet; quite busy in making a little cap; from time to time she cast on her benefactress a look at once grateful, timid, and devoted--the look of a dog to his master.

The beauty, charms, and adorable sweetness of Fleur-de-Marie inspired this degraded woman with as much affection as respect.

There is always something holy and grand, even in the aspirations of a heart debased, which, for the first time, opens itself to gratitude; and, until then, no one had caused Mont Saint Jean to experience the religious ardor of a sentiment so new to her. At the end of a few moments, Fleur-de-Marie shuddered slightly, wiped away a tear, and resumed her sewing.

"You will not, then, take a little rest during the recreation, my angel?" said Mont Saint Jean to Goualeuse.

"As I have given no money to buy the lavette, I must furnish my proportion in work," answered the girl.

"Your part! why, without you, instead of this fine white linen, and warm fustian, to clothe my child, I should only have had those rags which were trampled in the mud. I am very grateful toward my companions; they have been very kind to me, it is true: but you! oh, you! How, then, shall I explain myself?" added the poor creature, hesitatingly, and very much embarrassed to express her thoughts. "Hold!" resumed she; "there is the sun, is it not? there is the sun!"

"Yes, Mont Saint Jean, I listen," answered Fleur-de-Marie, inclining her enchanting face toward the hideous visage of her companion.

"You will laugh at me," answered she, sadly; "I want to speak, and I don't know how."

"Say on, Mont Saint Jean."

"Have you not the eyes of an angel!" said the prisoner, looking at Fleur-de-Marie in a kind of ecstasy; "your beautiful eyes encourage me. Come, I will try to say what I wish. There is the sun, is it not? It is very warm, it makes our prison gay, it is pleasant to see and feel, is it not?"

"Without doubt."

"Well, let us suppose--this sun did not make itself, and if one is grateful to it, so much the more reason--"

"To be grateful toward Him who created it, you mean, Mont Saint Jean! You are right; hence, you should pray to Him, adore Him--it is God."

"That's it, there's my idea," cried the prisoner, joyfully; "that's it; I ought to be grateful to my companions, but I ought to pray to you, adore you, La Goualeuse, for it is you who have rendered them good to me, instead of being wicked as they were."

"But, if I am good, as you say, Mont Saint Jean, it is God who has made me so; it is, then, He whom you must thank."

"Ah! marry--perhaps so, then, since you say so," answered the prisoner; "if it pleases you to have it so, very well."'

"Yes, my poor Mont Saint Jean, pray to Him often. This will be the best way of proving to me that you love me a little."

"Love you, La Goualeuse! But, do you not recollect what you told the others, to prevent them from beating me? 'It is not her alone you beat, it is also her child.' Well! for the same reason, I do not love you for myself alone, but also for my child."

"Thank you, thank you, Mont Saint Jean; you give me pleasure to hear you say that."


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