THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS
IN THREE VOLUMES
By EUGENE SUE
THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS
The surprised lapidary rose and opened the door. Two men entered the garret. One of them was tall and thin, with a face mean and pimpled, surrounded by thick, grayish whiskers; he held in his hand a stout loaded cane, and wore a shapeless hat and a large green greatcoat, covered with mud, and buttoned close up to the neck; the black velvet collar, much worn, exposed to view his long, bare, red throat, which resembled a vulture's. This man was one Malicorne. The other was short and thick-set, his countenance equally mean, and his hair red. He was dressed with an attempt at finery, quite ridiculous. Bright studs fastened the front of his shirt, whose cleanliness was more than doubtful; a long gold chain, passed across his second-hand plaid stuff waistcoat, was left to view by a velveteen jacket, of a yellowish-gray color. This man's name was Bourdin.
"Oh, what a stink of misery and death is here!" said Malicorne, stopping at the threshold.
"The fact is, it does not smell of musk. What habits!" repeated Bourdin, turning up his nose in disgust and disdain. He then advanced toward the artisan, who looked at him with mingled surprise and indignation.
Through the half-open door was seen Hoppy's evil, watchful, and cunning face, who, having followed the strangers, unknown to them, was narrowly watching and listening attentively.
"What do you want?" challenged the lapidary, roughly, disgusted with the rudeness of the two men.
"Jerome Morel," responded Bourdin.
"I am he."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Once more, I am that person; you annoy me—what do you want? Explain, or leave the room!"
"Oh, you are coming the bounce, are you? I say, Malicorne," said this man, turning toward his companion, "there is no catch here; it is not like the haul at Viscount de Saint-Remy's."
"No, but when there is much, the door is shut against you, as we found in the Rue de—-. The bird had watched the net, and would not be taken; while such vermin as these stick to their cribs like a snail to his shell."
"It is my opinion that they only require to be jugged to cram themselves."
"Still the costs will be more than ever the creditor wolf will get here; however, that's his look-out."
"Hold!" said Morel with indignation; "if you were not drunk, as you surely are, I should be very angry. Instantly leave my room!"
"How very sharp you are this morning, old lopsides!" cried Malicorne, insultingly alluding to the deformity in the lapidary's person.
"Do you hear, Malicorne?—he has the impudence to call this place a room—a hole where I would not put my dog."
"For heaven's sake!" cried Madeleine, so alarmed, that till then she had not spoken a word, "call for assistance; perhaps they are thieves. Take care of the diamonds!"
In truth, seeing these two strangers, of doubtful appearance, approach nearer and nearer to the bench on which lay the jewels, Morel, fearing some evil intention, ran forward, and with both hands covered the precious stones.
Hoppy, always on the watch, and listening, hearing Madeleine's words, and seeing the movement of the artisan, said to himself; "They say he is a cutter of false stones; if so, he would not fear their being stolen. Just as well to know that. I take! Then again, Mother Mathieu, who comes here so often, is a dealer in real; and those she has in her casket are real diamonds. I will put the Owl up to this!" added Red Arm's son.
"If you do not leave this room instantly, I will call the police," said Morel.
The children, frightened at this scene, began to cry, while the old idiot started upright in her bed.
"If any one has a right to call the police, we're the men. Do you hear, Mister Sideways?" said Bourdin.
"You'll see the police lend a hand to take you, if you don't go quietly," added Malicorne; "we have not the magistrate with us, it is true; but if you wish to enjoy his society, you shall have a taste of one, just out of his bed, quite hot and heavy. Bourdin will go and fetch him."
"To prison! Me?" cried the astounded Morel.
"Yes, to Clichy."
"To Clichy!" repeated the artisan, with a wild look.
"Is he hard of hearing?" asked Malicorne.
"Well, then, to the debtor's prison, if you like that better," explained Bourdin.
"You—you—are—can it be?—the lawyer! Oh, my God!"
The artisan, pale as death, fell back on his stool, unable to utter another word.
"We are the officers who are to take you, if we can; do you understand now, old fellow?"
"Morel, it is for the bill in the hands of Louise's master! We are all lost!" said Madeleine, with a sorrowful voice.
"This is the warrant," said Malicorne, taking from his dirty pocket-book a stamped writ.
After having mumbled over in the usual way a part of this document, in a voice hardly intelligible, he pronounced distinctly the last words, unfortunately too well understood by the artisan.—
"As final judgment, the court condemns Jerome Morel to pay to Pierre Petit-Jean, merchant,[Footnote: The crafty notary incompetent to proceed in his own name, had got from the unfortunate Morel a blank acceptance, and had introduced a third party's name.] by all his goods, and even with his body, the sum of thirteen hundred francs, with lawful interest, dated from the day of the protest; and he is besides condemned to pay all other and extra costs. Given and judged at Paris, the 30th of September," etc., etc.
"And Louise, then? Louise!" cried Morel, almost distracted, without appearing to have heard what had just been read. "Where is she? She must have left the lawyer, since he sends me to prison. Louise! my child! what has become of her?"
"Who is this Louise?" said Bourdin.
"Let him alone," said Malicorne. "Don't you see he's coming the artful?" Then, approaching Morel, he added: "Come, to the right-about-face, march; I want to breathe the air, I am poisoned here!"
"Morel, do not go!" said Madeleine, wildly. "Kill them, the thieves! Oh, you are a coward! You will let them take you, and abandon us to our fate."
"Act as though you were at home, madame," said Bourdin, sarcastically; "but if your husband lifts his hand against me, I will give him something to remember it by," continued he, twisting his loaded stick round and round.
Occupied solely with thoughts of Louise, Morel heard nothing of what was said. Suddenly, an expression of bitter joy lighting up his face, he cried out, "Louise has quitted the lawyer's house. I shall go to prison with a light heart!" But then, glancing round him, he exclaimed, "But my wife, and her mother, and my poor children—who will support them? They will not trust me with stones to cut in prison; for it will be supposed that my own misconduct has sent me there. Does this lawyer desire the death of all of us?"
"Once for all, let us be off!" said Bourdin; "I am sick of all this. Come, dress yourself and march."
"My good gentleman, forgive what I have just said to you," cried Madeleine, still in bed; "you will not have the cruelty to take away Morel; what do you think will become of me, with my five children, and my idiot mother? There she is, huddled up on her mattress. She is foolish, my good gentlemen; she is quite out of her mind."
"The old woman that is shorn?"
"Sure enough she is shaved," said Malicorne; "I thought she had on a white scull-cap."
"My dear children, throw yourselves at the feet of these two gentlemen," said Madeleine, hoping, by a last effort, to soften the bailiffs, "entreat them not to take away your poor father—our only hope." But in spite of the order of their mother, the children, frightened and crying, dared not leave their beds.
At the unusual noise, and the sight of the two bailiffs, whom she did not know, the idiot began to utter deafening howls, crouching herself against the wall. Morel appeared careless to all that was passing around him; the blow was so frightful, so unexpected, the consequences of this arrest appeared so terrible, that he could scarcely believe in its reality. Already weakened by privations of every description, his strength failed him; he remained pale and haggard, seated on his stool, as though incapable of speech or motion, his head drooping on his breast, and his arms hanging listlessly down.
"Confound it! when will all this end?" cried Malicorne; "think you that we come here for fun? Off with you, or I shall make you!" So saying, the bailiff put his hand on the artisan's shoulder, and shook him roughly. The threat and action alarmed the children; the three little boys left their mattress half naked, and came, in a flood of tears, to throw themselves at the feet of the bailiffs, and, with clasped hands, cried, in tones of touching earnestness, "Pray, pray do not kill father."
At sight of these unhappy children, shivering with cold and fear, Bourdin, in spite of his natural callousness, and the constant sight of scenes like the present, felt something akin to compassion; his companion, unpitying, brutally disengaged his leg from the grasp of the kneeling supplicants.
"Hands off, you young ragamuffins! A pretty business ours would be truly, if we had always to do with such beggars!"
A fearful addition was made to the horrors of this scene. The elder of the little girls, who had remained in the straw with her sick sister, cried out, "Oh, mother, mother! I do not know what is the matter with Adele! She is quite cold, and she stares so at me and she don't breathe!"
The poor consumptive child had just quietly expired, without a murmur, her looks resting on her sister, whom she tenderly loved.
No language can describe the heart-rending cry of anguish uttered by the diamond-cutter's wife at this frightful announcement, for she understood it all. It was one of those stifling, convulsive screams, torn from the depth of a mother's heart.
"My sister seems as though she were dead!" continued the child. "Oh, how she frightens me! She still looks at me, but how cold her face is!" Saying this, the poor child suddenly rose from the side of her dead sister, and, running terrified, threw herself into the arms of her mother; while the distracted parent, forgetful that her paralyzed limbs were incapable of sustaining her, made a violent effort to rise, and ran toward the corpse; but her strength failed her, and she fell on the floor, uttering a last cry of despair. That cry found an echo in Morel's heart, and roused him from his stupor; with one step he reached the bed's side, snatching from it his child, four years old. She was dead! Cold and want had hastened her end, although her complaint, brought on by the want of common necessaries, was beyond cure. Her poor little limbs were already cold and stiff. Morel, his gray hair almost standing on end with despair and fright, remained motionless, holding his dead child in his arms, whom he contemplated with fixed, tearless eyes, bloodshot with agony.
"Morel! Morel! give my Adele to me!" shrieked the unhappy mother, holding out her arms toward her husband; "it is not true that she is dead: you shall see—I will warm her in my arms!"
The idiot's curiosity was excited by the haste with which the two bailiffs approached the lapidary, who would not part with the body of his infant. The old woman ceased to howl, rose from her bed, slowly approached Morel, and passing her hideous and stupid face over his shoulder, gazed vacantly on the corpse of her grandchild. The features of the idiot retained their usual expression of ferocity. After a little time, she uttered a sort of hoarse, hollow groan, like a hungry beast, and returning to her bed, she threw herself upon it, crying out, "I am hungry! I am hungry!"
"You see, gentlemen, this poor little girl, just four years old— Adele; yes, she was named Adele. Only last night, she fondly returned my caresses—and now—look at her! You will, perhaps, say that I have one less to feed, and that I ought not to murmur," said the artisan, with a haggard look.
The poor man's reason began to totter under so many repeated shocks.
"Morel, I want my child; I will have her!" said Madeleine.
"True, true," replied the lapidary, "each in turn, that is but fair!" He went and laid the child in the arms of his wife. Then, hiding his face between his hands, he groaned bitterly. Madeleine, almost as frenzied as her husband, laid the child in the straw of her couch, and watched it with a sort of savage jealousy; while the other children were kneeling round in tears.
The bailiffs, for a moment softened by the death of the child, soon returned to their accustomed brutality of conduct. "Oh, look here, my friend," said Malicorne to the lapidary, "your child is dead; it is unfortunate, but we are all mortal; we cannot help it, nor can you, so there's an end of it. We have an extra job to do to-day—a swell to grab."
Morel did not hear the man. Completely lost in mournful contemplation, the artisan said to himself, in a hollow and broken voice: "It will be necessary to bury my poor little girl—to watch her here till they come to carry her away. But how?—we have nothing! And the coffin!— who will give us credit? Oh, a little coffin for a child of four years old ought not to cost much! And then we shall want no bearers! One can take it under his arm. Ha! ha! ha!" added he, with a frightful burst of laughter, "how lucky I am! She might perhaps have lived to be eighteen, Louise's age, and no one would have given me credit for a large coffin!"
"Egad! this chap seems as though he would lose his senses!" said Bourdin to Malicorne. "Look at him; he quite frightens me! and how the old idiot howls with hunger! What a queer lot!"
"We must, however, make a finish; although the arrest of this beggar is only for seventy-six francs, seventy-five centimes, it is only right that we should swell the costs to two hundred and forty or fifty francs. It is the wolf who pays."
"You mean who has to fork out—for this poor devil here will have to pay the fiddler, since it is he that must dance."
"By the time he has paid his creditor two thousand five hundred francs, for principal, interest, costs, and all, he will be warm."
"It will not be then as now, for it freezes," said the bailiff, blowing his fingers. "Come, old fellow, pack up and let us be off; you can blubber as you go along. Who the devil can help the youngun's kicking the bucket!"
"Besides, when people are so poor, they have no right to have children."
"A good idea!" said Malicorne. Then slapping Morel on the shoulder, he continued: "Come, come, old boy, we can wait no longer; since you cannot pay, off to prison with you!"
"Prison!" said a pure, youthful voice; "Morel to prison!" A young, bright, rosy brunette suddenly entered the garret.
"Oh, Miss Dimpleton!" said one of the children, crying; "you are so good; save papa! they want to take him to prison, and little sister is dead."
"Adele dead!" exclaimed the girl, whose large, brilliant black eyes were veiled in tears. "Your father to prison? This cannot be." Stupefied by surprise, she looked alternately at the lapidary, his wife, and the bailiffs.
"My pretty girl," said Bourdin approaching Miss Dimpleton, "you're cool, you must try to make this poor man listen to reason; his little girl is dead, but nevertheless he must come with us to Clichy—to the debtors' prison. We are sheriffs' officers."
"It is, then, all true," said the girl.
"Quite true. The mother has the little one in her bed—they cannot take it from her; and while she is hugging it there, the father ought to take the opportunity of slipping out."
"My God! my God! what misery," said Miss Dimpleton. "What is to be done?"
"Pay, or go to prison! there is no other way, unless you have notes for two or three thousand francs to lend them," said Malicorne, in a careless tone; "if you have them, shell out, and we will cut, devilish glad to get away."
"Oh, this is dreadful!" said Miss Dimpleton, with indignation; "daring to jest with such dreadful misfortunes."
"Well then, joking aside," replied the other bailiff, "if you would do some good, endeavor to prevent the woman from seeing us take away her husband. You will thus save each of them a very disagreeable quarter of an hour."
The advice was good, though coarsely given, and Miss Dimpleton, following it, approached Madeleine, who, distracted with grief, did not appear to notice the young girl, as she knelt down beside the bed with the children.
Meanwhile, Morel had only recovered from his temporary delirium to sink under the most painful reflections. Having become calm, he could view far too clearly the horror of his situation. The notary must be pitiless, since he had gone to such extremity; the bailiffs did but do their duty. The artisan was therefore resigned.
"Come, come, let's be marching some time to-day," said Bourdin to him.
"I cannot leave these diamonds here, my wife is half mad," said Morel, pointing to the stones scattered upon the bench; "the person for whom I work will come for them this morning, or in the course of the day. Their amount is considerable."
"Good!" said Hoppy, who still remained near the half-open door: "good, good! Screech-Owl shall know that."
"Grant me only till to-morrow," urged Morel, "that I may restore the diamonds."
"Impossible! We must go immediately."
"But I cannot, by leaving the diamonds here, run the risk of their being lost."
"Take them with you, a coach waits at the door, which you will have to pay for, with the other expenses. We can call on the owner of the stones; if he is not at home you can place them in the registry at Clichy; they will be as safe there as in the bank. Come, make haste; we will slip away before your wife or children are aware of it."
"Grant me only till to-morrow, that I may bury my child!" entreated Morel, with a supplicating voice, half stifled with the sobs he endeavored to restrain.
"No! we have already lost more than an hour waiting here."
"This burying still worries you, then?" added Malicorne.
"Oh! yes, it makes me sad," said Morel, with bitterness; "you so much fear to grieve people. Well, then, a last farewell!"
"There, again! confound you, make haste!" said Malicorne, with brutal impatience.
"How long have you had the order to arrest me?"
"The judgment was signed four months since; but it was only yesterday that our officer received instructions from the lawyer to put it in execution."
"Yesterday only. Why was it delayed so long?"
"How can I tell? Come, pack up."
"Yesterday! and Louise not yet here! Where can she be? what has become of her?" said the lapidary, taking from the bench a card-box filled with cotton, in which he arranged the jewels. "But never mind that; in prison I shall have plenty of time for thinking."
"Come, pack up the duds to take with you, and make haste and dress yourself."
"I have no clothes to pack up: I have only these diamonds to take away, and place in the prison registry."
"Well, then, dress yourself."
"I have no other clothes than these."
"Going out in these rags?" said Bourdin.
"You will be ashamed of me, doubtless," said the lapidary, bitterly.
"No, it is of no consequence, since we go in your coach," answered Malicorne.
"Father, father! mother is calling you," said one of the children.
"You hear?" muttered Morel, rapidly, appealing to one of the bailiffs; "do not be inhuman; grant me a last favor. I have not the courage to say farewell to my wife and children; it would break my heart. If they see you take me away they will run after me, and I would avoid that. I therefore beg of you to say aloud that you will return in three or four days, and pretend to go away; you can wait for me on the landing below; I will come to you in less than five minutes. That will spare me the pain of saying farewell. I will no longer resist, I promise you. I shall go stark mad; I was nearly so just now."
"Not so green!—you want to give us the slip!" said Malicorne, "want to bolt, old son!"
"Oh, God! God!" cried Morel, with mournful indignation.
"I don't think he intends to chouse us," said Bourdin, in a low tone to his companion; "let us do as he wishes, or we'll never get away. I will wait outside the door, there is no other outlet from the garret— he cannot escape us."
"Very well; but he needn't be so particular about leaving the mucky crib!" Then, addressing Morel in a low voice, he said: "Now then, look sharp, and we will wait for you below. Make haste, and offer some pretense for our going."
"I thank you," said Morel.
"Very well, it shall be so," said Bourdin, in a loud voice, and looking significantly at the artisan; "in such case, as you promise to pay in a short time, we will leave you for the present, and call again in four or five days; but then you must be punctual."
"Yes, gentlemen, I trust I shall then be able to pay you."
The bailiffs left the room; while Hoppy, for fear of being seen, had disappeared down the staircase at the same time the bailiffs quitted the garret.
"Madame Morel, do you hear?" said Miss Dimpleton, trying to withdraw the attention of the mother from her melancholy abstraction; "they will not take away your husband—the two men are gone."
"Mother, don't you hear? they will not take father away," said the eldest of the boys.
"Morel, listen to me," murmured Madeleine, in a state of delirium. "Take one of the large diamonds and sell it—no one will know it, and we shall be saved. Our Adele will no longer feel cold; she will not be dead."
Taking advantage of a moment when none belonging to him were observing his actions, the lapidary cautiously left the room. The bailiff was waiting for him upon a sort of little landing, covered also by the roof. Upon this landing, opened the door of a loft, which had formerly been part of the garret occupied by the Morels, and in which Pipelet kept his stock of leather; and the worthy porter called this place his box at the play, because, by means of a hole made in the wall between two laths, he was sometimes a witness to the sad scenes that passed in the Morels' room. The bailiff noticed the door of the loft; in a moment he thought that most likely his prisoner had reckoned upon that outlet for escape, or to hide himself.
"Come, march, old fellow!" said he, beginning to descend the stair, and making a sign to the lapidary to follow.
"One minute more, I beseech!" said Morel; and he fell on his knees upon the floor. Through a chink in the door, he threw a last look upon his family, and clasping his hands, he uttered, in a low, heart-rending voice, while tears flowed down his haggard cheeks: "Farewell, my dear children—my poor wife! may heaven preserve you all! Farewell!"
"Make haste and cut that sermon," said Bourdin, brutally, "Malicorne is quite right; you needn't make so much fuss about leaving the stinking kennel. What a hole! what a hole!"
Morel rose to follow the bailiff, when the words "Father! father!" sounded on the staircase.
"Louise!" exclaimed the lapidary, raising his hands toward heaven; "I can then clasp you to my breast before I go!"
"I thank thee, God, I am in time!" said the voice, approaching nearer and nearer, and light steps were heard rapidly ascending the stairs.
"Be calm, my dear," said a third voice, sharp, asthmatic, and out of breath, coming from a lower part of the house;
"I will lay in wait, if I must, in the alley, with my broom and my old darling, and they sha'n't leave here till you have spoken to them, the contemptible beggars!"
The reader has doubtless recognized Mrs. Pipelet, who, less nimble than Louise, followed her slowly. An instant after, the lapidary's daughter was in her father's arms.
"It is indeed you, Louise, my darling Louise!" said Morel, crying; "but how pale you are! For mercy's sake what ails you?"
"Nothing, nothing, father," stammered Louise. "I have run so fast. Here is the money!"
"How is this?"
"You are free!"
"So you know?"
"Yes, yes! Here, sir, take the money," said the young girl, giving a rouleau of gold to Malicorne.
"But this money, Louise—this money?"
"You shall know all presently; don't be uneasy. Come and comfort dear mother."
"No, not now!" exclaimed Morel, placing himself before the door, remembering that Louise was still in ignorance of the death of the little girl; "wait, I must speak to you. Now, about this money?"
"Stay!" said Malicorne, as he finished counting the gold, and while putting it in his pocket; "sixty-four, sixty-five—that will just make thirteen hundred francs. Have you no more than that, my little dear?"
"Why, you only owe thirteen hundred francs?" said Louise, addressing her father, with a stupefied air.
"Yes," said the lapidary.
"Stop!" rejoined the catchpole; "the bill is for thirteen hundred francs. Well, the bill is paid; but the expenses? Without the execution, they are already eleven hundred and forty francs." [Footnote: We append some curious facts about imprisonment for debt, taken from "Le Pauvre Jacques," a paper published by the Society of Christian Morality Prison Committee:—
"A protest and a warrant is legally set down as at 4 francs 35 centimes for the first, and 4 francs 70 centimes for the other, but is generally increased by the warrant-officers to 10fr. 40c., and 16fr. 40c. respectively. Thus 26fr. 80c. illegally obtained for what should have been but 9fr. 50c. The law sets down bailiff fees thus:—Stamp and registry, 3fr. 50c.; hackney-coach, 5fr.; arresting and imprisonment, 60fr. 25c.; turnkey's fee, 8fr. Total 76fr. 75c. One bill of charges taken as the average of those sent in by sheriffs' officers, swells the above to 240 francs!"
In the same paper is this paragraph:—
"M—-, bailiff, has written to desire correction of the article on the Hanged Woman. He did not kill her, he says. We did not say that he did kill that unfortunate woman. We reprint that article:—
"M—-, bailiff, having writ out for a cabinet-maker in the Rue de la Lune, was seen by the latter from the house windows. He called out to his wife.—'I am lost, for there they come to arrest me!' His wife heard this, and fastened the door, while her husband hid him self in the loft. The bailiff called in a locksmith. The wife's room door was forced, and they found the woman had hanged herself! The sight of the corpse did not delay or prevent the officer hunting for the husband. 'I arrest you.' 'I have no money.' 'To prison, then.' 'Very well, let me give my wife good-bye.' 'That be hanged, like she is herself. She's dead.' What can you complain of, M—-? we only print your own words, which minutely and blackly paint this frightful picture."
This same paper quotes three or four hundred facts, of which the following is a fair sample:—
"On collection of a 300 franc debt a warrant-officer charged 964 francs! The debtor, a workman with five children, lay seven months in prison."
For two reasons, the present writer quotes from "Le Pauvre Jacques," firstly, to show that the chapter just read falls below reality; and again, to prove that, if merely in a philanthropic point of view, the maintenance of such a state of things (the exorbitance of extras, illegally extorted by public servants,) often paralyzes the most generous intentions. For instance, with 1,000 francs there might be three or four honest though unfortunate workmen restored to their families from a prison whither petty debts of 250 or 500 francs had driven them; but these sums being tripled by a shameful exaggeration of costs, the most charitable persons often recoil from doing a good deed at the thought of two-thirds of their bounty merely going to sheriffs and their officers. And yet, there are few hardships more worthy of relief than those befalling such unfortunate people as we speak of.]
"Gracious heaven!" cried Louise; "I thought it was only thirteen hundred francs in all! But, sir, we will very soon pay you the remainder; this is a pretty good sum on account—is it not, father?"
"Soon!—very well; bring the money to the office, and we will then let your father go. Come, let's be off."
"You will take him away?"
"At once. This is on account. When the rest is paid, he will be free. Go on, Bourdin; let us get out of this."
"Mercy! mercy!" shrieked Louise.
"Oh, what a row! here it is—the old game over again: it is enough to make one sweat in the depth of winter—on my honor!" said the bailiff, in a brutal tone. Then advancing toward Morel, he continued: "If you don't come along at once, I will take you by the collar, and bundle you down. This wind-up is beastly!"
"Oh, poor father! when I had hoped to save you!" said Louise, overwhelmed.
"No, no! hope nothing for me! Heaven is not just!" cried the lapidary, in a voice of deep despair, and stamping his feet with rage.
"Peace! heaven is just! There is Providence for honest men!" said a soft, yet manly voice.
The same instant Rudolph appeared at the door of the little recess, from whence he had, unseen, witnessed the greater part of the scenes we have just related. He was very pale, and deeply moved. At this sudden interposition, the bailiffs drew back with surprise; while Morel and his daughter stared at the prince vacantly. Taking from his pocket a small parcel of folded bank notes, Rudolph selected three, and giving them to Malicorne, said to him: "Here are two thousand five hundred francs; give back to this girl the money you have just received from her."
More and more surprised, the bailiff took the notes hesitatingly, examined them very suspiciously, turning them over and over, and finally pocketed them. But as his alarm and surprise began to subside, so did his natural coarseness return, and eying Rudolph from head to foot with an impertinent stare, he exclaimed, "Your notes are good; but how came the likes of you with so large a sum? I hope, at least, it is your own!" added he.
Rudolph was very humbly dressed, and covered with dust—thanks to his stay in Pipelet's loft.
"I have bidden you restore that gold to the young girl," answered Rudolph, in a sharp, stern voice.
"Bid me! Who gives you the right to order me?" cried the bailiff, advancing toward Rudolph, in a threatening manner.
"The gold! the gold!" said the prince, seizing the fellow's wrist so violently that he winced under the iron hold, and cried out,
"Oh, you hurt me! Hands off!"
"Restore the gold! you are paid. Take yourself off, without further insolence, or I will kick you to the foot of the stairs."
"Very well; here is the gold," said Malicorne, giving it to the girl; "but mind what you are about, young man—don't fancy you are going to do as you like with me, because you happen to be the strongest."
"That's right. Who are you, to give yourself such airs?" said Bourdin, sheltering himself behind his companion. "Who are you?"
"Who is he? He is my tenant, the king of tenants, you foul-mouthed wretches!" cried Mrs. Pipelet, who appeared at last, quite out of breath, still wearing the Brutus wig. In her hand she held an earthen pot filled with boiling soup, which she was kindly taking to the Morels.
"What does this old polecat want?" said Bourdin.
"If you dare to pass any of your blackguard remarks upon me, I'll make you feel my nails—and my teeth too, if necessary!" screamed Mrs. Pipelet: "and more than that, my lodger, my prince of lodgers, will pitch you from the top to the bottom of the staircase, as he says! And I will sweep you away like a heap of rubbish, as you are!"
"This old woman will rouse all the people in the house against us. We are paid, and our expenses also; let us be off!" said Bourdin to Malicorne.
"Here are your documents," said the last-named individual, throwing a bundle of papers at Morel's feet.
"Pick them up, and deliver them properly! You are paid for being civil," said Rudolph, seizing the bailiff with his vigorous hand, while the other he pointed to the papers.
Convinced by this new and formidable grasp that he could not struggle against so powerful an adversary, the bailiff stooped down grumbling, picked up the bundle of papers, and gave them to Morel, who took them mechanically. The lapidary believed himself under the influence of a dream.
"Mind, young fellow, although you have an arm as strong as a porter's, never come under our lash!" said Malicorne. Shaking his fist at Rudolph, he nimbly jumped down the stairs, followed by his companion, who looked behind him with fear.
Mrs. Pipelet, burning for revenge on the bailiffs, for the insults offered to Rudolph, looked at her saucepan with an air of inspiration, and cried out, heroically: "Morel's debts are paid; they will now have plenty to eat, and no longer stand in need of my soup—heads!" Leaning over the banisters, the old woman emptied the contents of her saucepan on the backs of the bailiffs, who had just arrived at the first-floor landing.
"Oh, you are caught, I see!" added the portress. "They are soaked through like two sops! He! he! this is capital!"
"A thousand million thunders!" cried Malicorne, wet through with Mrs. Pipelet's culinary preparation. "Will you take care what you are about up there, you old baggage!"
"Alfred!" retorted Mrs. Pipelet, bawling in a voice sharp enough to split the tympanum of a deaf man. "Alfred! have at 'em, old darling! They wanted to behave improperly to thy 'Stasie! (Anastasia). Those rascals would take liberties with me! Pitch into them with your broom! call the oyster-woman and the potboy next door to help you. Quick!— quick!—after them! Murder! police! thieves! Hish!—hish!—hish! bravo! Halloo! go it, old darling! Broom!—broom!" By way of a formidable finish to these hootings, which she had accompanied with a violent stamping of her feet, Mrs. Pipelet, carried away by the intoxication of her victory, hurled from the top to the bottom of the staircase her earthenware saucepan, which, breaking with a loud, crashing noise, the very moment the bailiffs, stunned by the frightful cries, were taking the stairs four at a time, added greatly to their fears.
"Ha! ha! I rayther think you have got enough for once!" cried Anastasia laughing loudly, and folding her arms in an attitude of triumph.
While Mrs. Pipelet was thus venting her rage upon the bailiffs, Morel, overcome with gratitude, had thrown himself at Rudolph's feet.
"Ah, sir, you have saved our lives! To whom do we owe this unlooked-for succor?"
"'To HIM who watches over and protects honest men,' as our immortal Beranger says."
Louise, the lapidary's daughter, was possessed of remarkable loveliness; tall and graceful, she resembled the classic Juno for regularity of features, and the huntress Diana for the finish of her tall figure. In spite of her sunburned complexion, her rough and freckled hands, beautifully formed, but hardened by domestic labor; in spite of her humble garments, this girl possessed a nobility of exterior.
We will not attempt to describe the gratitude and surprise of this family, so abruptly snatched from a fearful fate; in the first burst of happiness, even the death of the little girl was forgotten. Rudolph alone remarked the extreme paleness of Louise, and the utter abstraction with which she seemed oppressed, in spite of her father's deliverance. Wishing to completely satisfy the Morels as to apprehensions about the future, and to explain a liberality which might otherwise betray suspicions as to the character he thought proper to assume, Rudolph said to the lapidary, whom he took to the landing (while Miss Dimpleton broke to Louise the news of her sister's death):
"Yesterday morning a young lady came to see you."
"Yes, sir, and appeared much distressed at the situation in which she found us."
"It is to her you must return thanks, and not to me."
"Is it indeed true, sir? That young lady—"
"Is your benefactress. I have often waited upon her with goods from our warehouse. The day before yesterday, while I was here engaging an apartment on the fourth story, I learned from the portress your cruel position. Knowing this lady's charity, I went to her. She came, so that she might herself judge of the extent of your misfortunes, with which she was painfully moved; but as your situation might be the result of misconduct, she begged of me as soon as possible, to make some inquiries respecting you, as she was desirous of apportioning her benefits according to your deserts."
"Good and excellent lady! I had reason to say—"
"As you observed to Madeleine: 'If the rich knew,' is it not so?"
"How, sir!—you know the name of my wife! Who told you that?"
"Since six o' clock this morning," said Rudolph, interrupting Morel, "I have been concealed in the little loft which adjoins your garret."
"Yes, and I have heard all that passed, my honest man."
"Oh, sir! but why were you there?"
"I could employ no better means of getting at your real character and sentiments. I wished to see and hear all, without your knowledge. The porter had spoken to me of this little nook, and offered it to me that I might keep my wood in it. This morning I requested him to permit me to visit it; I remained there an hour, and I feel convinced that there does not exist a character more worthy, noble, and courageously resigned than yours."
"Nay, sir, indeed I cannot see much merit in my conduct; I was born honest, and cannot act otherwise than I have done."
"I know it; and for that reason I do not praise your conduct but appreciate it. I had quitted the loft to release you from the bailiffs when I heard your daughter's voice. I wished to leave her the pleasure of saving you; unhappily the rapacity of the bailiffs prevented poor Louise from enjoying so sweet a delight. I then made my appearance. Fortunately, I yesterday recovered several sums of money that were due to me, and I was able to give an advance to your benefactress by paying for you this unfortunate debt. But your misfortunes are so great, so unmerited, so nobly sustained, that the interest felt for you and deserved, will not stop here. I can, in the name of your preserving angel, assure you of future repose with happiness to you and yours."
"Is it possible? But at least tell me her name, sir—the name of this preserving angel, as you have called her."
"Yes, she is an angel; and you have still reason to say that the great and the lowly have their troubles."
"Is this lady, then, unhappy?"
"Who is there without their sorrows? But I see no cause to withhold her name. This lady is called—"
Remembering that Mrs. Pipelet knew that Lady d'Harville had come to her house to inquire for the Commander, Rudolph, hearing the indiscreet gossiping of the portress, said after a moment's reflection: "I will tell you the name of this lady on one condition—"
"Oh, pray, speak, sir!"
"It is, that you will repeat it to no one. You understand!—to no one."
"Oh, I will solemnly promise that to you. But cannot I at least offer my thanks to this savior of the unhappy?"
"I will ask Lady d'Harville, and I doubt not she will give her consent."
"Then this lady is—"
"The Marchioness d'Harville."
"Oh, I shall never forget that name! It shall be my saint, my adoration! To think that, thanks to her, my wife and children are saved! saved!—no, not all, not all, my poor little Adele, we shall never see her again. Alas! but it is necessary to remember that any day we might have lost her, for she was doomed." Here the poor lapidary brushed the tears from his eyes.
"As regards the last sad duties to be performed for this little one," said Rudolph, "trust to my advice; this is what must be done: I do not yet occupy my room, which is large, wholesome, and well aired. There is already a bed in it; we will convey thither all that is necessary for yourself and family to be established there till Lady d'Harville has arranged where to lodge you suitably. Your child's body will remain in the garret, where it shall to-night, as is customary, be attended and watched by a priest. I will go and request M. Pipelet to undertake the management of these sad duties."
"But, sir, it is not necessary to deprive you of your room. Now that we are in peace, and I no longer fear being taken to prison, our humble apartment appears to me a palace, particularly if my dear Louise remains with us, to attend to the family as formerly."
"Your Louise will not again leave you. You said not long ago it would be a luxury to have her always with you; as some recompense for your past sufferings, she shall never leave you again."
"Oh, sir, can it be possible? It surely cannot be a reality! My senses seem lulled in a sweet dream. I have never thought much of religion, but this sudden change from so much misery to so much happiness shows the hand of an overruling Providence."
"And if a father's grief could be assuaged by promises of reward or recompense," said Rudolph, "I should remind you, that although the Almighty hand has removed one of your daughters from you, He has mercifully restored another."
"True, true, sir. Henceforth we shall have our dear Louise to content us for the loss of poor little Adele."
"You will accept my chamber, will you not? If you refuse, how can you manage the mournful duties toward the poor child that is gone? Think also of your wife, whose mind is already so distracted—to leave her for four-and-twenty hours with such an afflicting spectacle before her eyes!"
"You think of everything—of all! How kind you are, sir!"
"It is your benefactress you must thank, for her goodness inspires me. I say to you as she would say, and I am sure she would approve of all; so it is agreed that you will accept the offer of my room. Now tell me, this Jacques Ferrand—"
A dark frown passed across Morel's face.
"This Jacques Ferrand," continued Rudolph, "is the same lawyer who resides in the Rue du Sentier?"
"Yes, sir; do you know him?" Then, his fears newly awakened on the subject of Louise, Morel exclaimed: "Since you have heard all that passed, sir, say, say—have I not a right to hate this man? And who knows, if my child, my Louise—"
He could not proceed; he hid his face with his hands. Rudolph understood his fears.
"The lawyer's proceedings," said he to him, "ought to reassure you, as he doubtless ordered your arrest to be revenged for the scorn of your daughter; I have good reason, too, to believe that he is a dishonest man. If he is so," resumed Rudolph, after a moment's silence, "let us believe that Providence will punish him. If the justice of Heaven often appears to slumber it awakens some time or other."
"He is very rich, and very hypocritical, sir."
"In your deepest despair, a guardian angel came to your assistance, and plucked you from inevitable ruin; so, at a moment when least expected, the Almighty Avenger may call upon the lawyer to atone for his past crimes if he be guilty."
At this moment Miss Dimpleton came from the garret, wiping her eyes. Rudolph said to the young girl, "Will it not, my good neighbor, be better that M. Morel should occupy my room, with his family, until his benefactress, whose agent I am, shall have provided a suitable lodging?"
Miss Dimpleton regarded Rudolph with a look of unfeigned surprise. "Oh, sir! are you really in earnest when you make so generous an offer?"
"Yes, but on one condition, which will depend on yourself."
"Oh, depend upon all that is in my power!"
"I had some accounts required in haste, to arrange for my employers; they will come for them soon. Now, if you will be so neighborly as to permit me to work in your room, on a corner of your table, I should not disturb your work in the least, and the Morel family can, with the assistance of M. and Mrs. Pipelet, immediately be settled in my room."
"Oh, if it be only that, sir, most willingly; neighbors ought to assist each other. You have set so good an example by what you have done for that poor Morel, that I am at your service, sir."
"No, no, call me neighbor. If you use any ceremony toward me, I shall not have courage to intrude on you," said Rudolph.
"Well, then, it shall be so, I will call you 'neighbor,' because you really are so."
"Father, father!" cried one of Morel's little boys, coming out of the garret, "mother is calling you; come directly, pray do." The lapidary hastily entered the room.
"Now, neighbor," said Rudolph to Miss Dimpleton, "you must render me a still further service."
"With all my heart, if it be in my power."
"You are, I am sure, an excellent little housewife. It is necessary to purchase immediately all that is wanted for Morel's family to be properly clothed, bedded, and settled in my room, for there is only sufficient for myself as a bachelor, that was brought yesterday. How can we manage to procure instantly all I wish for the Morels?"
Miss Dimpleton thought for a moment, and answered: "In a couple of hours you can have all your want; good clothes ready-made, warm and neat, with good clean linen for all the family: two little beds for the children, and one for the grandmother—in short, all that is necessary; but it will cost a great deal of money."
"You don't say so! How much?"
"Oh, at least—at the very least—five or six hundred francs."
"Yes, it is a great sum of money, you see," said Miss Dimpleton opening her large eyes, and shaking her bead.
"And we can procure all these things—"
"In two hours."
"You must be a fairy, neighbor."
"Oh, no, it is quite easy. The Temple is only two steps from here, where you will find all of which you are in want." "The Temple?"
"Yes, the Temple."
"What place is that?"
"Don't know the Temple, neighbor?"
"It is, nevertheless, here where people like you and I furnish our rooms, and clothe ourselves, when we would be economical. Things are cheaper there than elsewhere, and quite as good."
"I assure you. Come, now, I suppose—But what did you pay for this great-coat?"
"I do not know exactly."
"What, neighbor, can't tell how much your great-coat cost you?"
"I acknowledge to you in confidence," said Rudolph, smiling, "that I owe for it; now do you understand that I cannot know?"
"Oh, neighbor, neighbor, I fear you are a spendthrift!"
"You must alter in that respect, if you wish us to be good friends; and I already see that we shall be such, you appear so kind! You shall see that you will be glad to have me for a neighbor; for on that account we can assist each other. I will take care of your linen, and you will help me clean my room. I rise very early, and will call you, so that you may not be late at your shop. I'll knock at the wall until you say to me: 'Good-morning, neighbor.'"
"It is agreed; you shall wake me, take care of my linen, and I will clean your room."
"And you will be very neat?"
"And when you wish to make any purchase, you will go to the Temple, because here is an example; your greatcoat cost, I suppose, eighty francs; very well, you could have had it at the Temple for thirty."
"Why, that is marvelous! Then you think that with five or six hundred francs, these poor Morels—"
"Will be stocked with everything, first-class, for a long time to come."
"Neighbor, an idea has just struck me."
"Well, what is it about?"
"Do you understand household affairs—are you clever at making purchases?"
"Yes—rather so," said Miss Dimpleton, with a look of simplicity.
"Take my arm, and let us go to the Temple and buy wherewith to clothe the Morels; will that suit you?"
"Oh, what happiness! Poor creatures!—but where's the money?"
"I have sufficient."
"Five hundred francs?"
"The benefactress of the Morels has given me carte blanche; nothing is to be spared that these poor people require. Is there even a place where better things are to be had than at the Temple?"
"You will find nowhere better; then there is everything, and all ready-made—little frocks for the children, and dresses for their mother."
"Then let us go at once to the Temple, neighbor."
"Nothing; but you see, my time is everything to me; and I am already a little behindhand, in occasionally nursing the poor woman Morel; and you may imagine that an hour in one way and an hour in another makes in time a day; a day brings thirty sous, and if we earn nothing one must still live all the same. But, pshaw! never mind; I must spare from my nights; and then, again, parties of pleasure are rare, and I will make this a joyful day; it will seem to me that I am rich, and that it is with my own money I am buying such good things for these poor Morels. Very well, as soon as I have put on my shawl and cap, I shall be at your service, neighbor."
"Suppose, during the time, I bring my papers to your room?"
"Willingly, and then you will see my apartment," said Miss Dimpleton, with pride; "for it is already put in order, and that will prove to you that I am an early riser, and that if you are sleepy and idle so much the worse for you, for I shall be a troublesome neighbor."
So saying, light as a bird, she flew down the stairs, followed by Rudolph, who went to his room to brush off the dust he had carried away from Pipelet's loft. We will hereafter disclose to the reader how Rudolph was not yet informed of the abduction of Fleur-de-Marie from Bouqueval farm, and why he had not visited the Morels the day after the conversation with Lady d'Harville.
Rudolph, for the sake of appearances, furnished himself with a large roll of papers, which he carried into Miss Dimpleton's room.
Miss Dimpleton was nearly of the same age as Goualeuse, her former prison-friend. There was between these girls the same difference that exists between laughter and tears; between joyful carelessness and melancholy reverie; between daring improvidence and serious, incessant anticipation of the future: between a nature exquisitely delicate, elevated, poetic, morbidly sensitive, incurably wounded by remorse, and a disposition gay, lively, happy, unreflective, although good and compassionate; for, far from being selfish, Miss Dimpleton only cared for the griefs of others; with them she sympathized entirely, devoting herself, soul and body, to those who suffered; but, to use a common expression, her back turned on them, she thought no more about them. Often she interrupted a lively laugh to weep passionately, and checked her tears to laugh again. A real child of Paris, Miss Dimpleton preferred tumult to quiet, bustle to repose, the sharp, ringing harmony of the orchestra at the balls of the Chartreuse and the Colysee, to the soft murmur of wind, water, and trees; the deafening tumult of the streets of Paris, to the silence of the country; the dazzling of the fireworks, the glittering of the flowers, the crash of the rockets, to the serenity of a lovely night—starlit, clear, and still. Alas! yes, this good girl preferred the black mud of the streets of the capital to the verdure of its flowery meadows; its pavements miry or tortuous, to the fresh and velvet moss of the paths in the woods, perfumed by violets; the suffocating dust at the City gates, or the Boulevards, to the waving of the golden ears of corn, enameled by the scarlet of the wild poppy and the azure of the bluebell.
Miss Dimpleton never left home but on Sundays, and every morning laid in her provisions of chick-weed, bread, hempseed, and milk for her birds and herself, as Mrs. Pipelet observed. But she lived in Paris for the sake of Paris; she would have been miserable elsewhere than in the capital.
After a few words upon the personal appearance of the grisette, we will introduce Rudolph into his neighbor's apartment.
Miss Dimpleton had scarcely attained her eighteenth year; rather below the middle size, her figure was so gracefully formed and voluptuously rounded, harmonizing so well with a sprightly and elastic step, that an inch more in height would have spoiled the graceful symmetry that distinguished her. The movement of her pretty little feet, incased in faultless boots of black cloth, with a rather stout sole, reminded you of the quick, pretty, and cautious tread of the quail or wagtail. She did not seem to walk, but to pass over the pavement as if she were gliding over its surface. This step, so peculiar to grisettes, at once nimble, attractive, and as if somewhat alarmed, may be attributed to three causes; their desire to be thought pretty, their fear of a too-plainly expressed admiration, and the desire they always have not to lose a minute in their peregrinations.
Rudolph had never seen Miss Dimpleton but by the somber light in Morel's garret, or on the landing, equally obscure; he was therefore dazzled by the brilliant freshness of the girl, when he entered silently her room, lit by two large windows. He remained for an instant motionless, struck by the charming picture before him. Standing before a glass, placed over the chimney-piece, Miss Dimpleton had just finished tying under her chin the strings of a small cap of bordered tulle, trimmed with cherry-colored ribbons. The cap, which fitted tightly, was placed far back on her head, and thus revealed two large thick braids of glossy hair, shining like jet, and falling very low in front. Her eyebrows, well-defined, seemed as if traced in ink, and were arched above large black eyes, full of vivacity and expression; her firm and downy cheeks were tinted with a lovely bloom, like a ripe peach sprinkled with the dew of morning. Her small, upturned, and saucy nose would have made the fortune of a Lisette or Marton; her mouth, rather large, with rosy lips and small white teeth, was full of laughter and sport; her cheeks were dimpled and also her chin, not far from which was a little speck of beauty, a dark mole, killingly placed at the corner of her mouth. Between a very low worked collar and the border of the little cap, gathered in by a cherry-colored ribbon, was seen beautiful hair, so carefully twisted and turned up, that its roots were as clear and as black as if they had been painted on the ivory of that tempting neck. A plum-colored merino dress, with a plain back and tight sleeves, skillfully made by herself, covered a bust so dainty and supple, that the young girl never wore a corset—for economy's sake. An ease and unusual freedom in the smallest action of the shoulders and body, resembling the facile, undulating motions of a cat, evinced this peculiarity. Imagine a gown fitting tightly to a form rounded and polished as marble, and we must agree that Miss Dimpleton could easily dispense with the accessory to the dress of which we have spoken. The band of a small apron of dark green levantine formed a girdle round a waist which might have been spanned with your two hands.
Supposing herself to be quite alone (for Rudolph still remained at the door motionless and unperceived), Miss Dimpleton, after having smoothed the bands of her hair with her small white hand, placed her little foot upon a chair, and stooped down to tighten her boot-lace. This attitude disclosed to Rudolph a snow-white cotton stocking, and half of a beautifully formed leg.
After this detailed account we may conclude that Miss Dimpleton had put on her prettiest cap and apron, to do honor to her neighbor on their visit to the Temple. The person of the pretended merchant's clerk was quite to her taste: his face, benevolent, proud, and noble, pleased her greatly: and then he had shown so much compassion toward the poor Morels, in giving up his room to them, that, thanks to his kindness of heart, and perhaps also to his good looks, Rudolph had made great steps in the confidence of the grisette, who, according to her ideas of the necessity of reciprocal obligations imposed on neighbors, esteemed herself fortunate that Rudolph had succeeded the commission-traveler, Cabrion, and Francois Germain; for she had begun to feel that the next room had been too long empty, and she feared, above all, that it would not be agreeably occupied.
Rudolph took advantage of his being unperceived, to throw a curious look around this room, which he found deserved more praise than Mrs. Pipelet had given to the extreme neatness of Miss Dimpleton's humble home. Nothing could be gayer or better arranged than this little room. A gray paper, with green flowers, covered the walls; the red-waxed floor shone like a mirror; a saucepan of white earthenware was on the hob, where was also arranged a small quantity of wood, cut so fine and small that you could well compare each piece to a large match. Upon the stone mantelpiece, representing gray marble, were placed for ornament two common flower-pots, painted an emerald green; a little wooden stand held a silver watch, which served in lieu of a clock. On one side shone a brass candle-stick, bright as gold, ornamented with an end of wax candle; on the other side, was one of those lamps formed of a cylinder, with a tin reflector, mounted upon a steel stem, with a leaden stand. A tolerably large glass, in a frame of black wood, surmounted the mantel.
Curtains of green and gray chintz, bordered with worsted galloon, cut out and arranged by Miss Dimpleton, and placed on slight rods of black iron, draperied the windows; and the bed was covered with a quilt of the same make and material. Two glass-fronted cupboards, painted white and varnished, were placed each side of the recess; no doubt containing the household utensils—the portable stove, the broom, etc., etc.; for none of these necessaries destroyed the harmonious arrangement of the room.
A walnut chest of drawers, beautifully grained and well polished, four chairs of the same wood, a large table with one of those green cloth covers sometimes seen in country cottages, a straw-bottom armchair, with a footstool—such was the unpretending furniture. There was, too, in the recess in one of the windows, the cage of the two canaries, faithful companions of Miss Dimpleton. By one of those notable inventions which arise only in the minds of poor people, the cage was set in the middle of a large chest, a foot in depth, upon the table: this chest, which Miss Dimpleton called the garden of her birds, was filled with earth, covered with moss during the winter, and in the spring with turf and flowers. Rudolph gazed into this apartment with interest and curiosity; he perfectly comprehended the joyous humor of this young girl; he pictured the silence disturbed by the warbling birds, and the singing of Miss Dimpleton. In the summer, doubtless, she worked near the open window, half hidden by a verdant curtain of sweet pea, nasturtium, and blue and white morning-glories; in the winter, she sat by the side of the stove, enlivened by the soft light of her lamp.
* * * * * * *
Rudolph was thus far in these reflections, when, looking mechanically at the door, he noticed a strong bolt—a bolt that would not have been out of place on the door of a prison. This bolt caused him to reflect. It had two meanings, two distinct uses: to shut the door upon lovers within—to shut the door against lovers without. One of these uses would utterly contradict the assertions of Mrs. Pipelet— the other would confirm them. Rudolph had just arrived at these conclusions, when Miss Dimpleton, turning her head, perceived him, and, without changing her position, said: "What, neighbor! there you are then!" Instantly the pretty leg disappeared under the ample skirt of the currant-colored gown, and Miss Dimpleton added: "Caught you, Cunning!"
"I am here, admiring in silence."
"And what do you admire, neighbor?"
"This pretty little room, for you are lodged like a queen."
"Nay, you see, this is my enjoyment. I seldom go out; so at least I may please myself at home."
"But I do not find fault. What tasteful curtains! and the drawers—as good as mahogany. You must have spent heaps of money here."
"Oh, pray don't remind me of it! I had four hundred and twenty-six francs when I left prison, and almost all is gone."
"When you left prison?"
"Yes; it is quite a story. But you do not, I hope, think I was in prison for any crime?"
"Certainly not; but how was it?"
"After the cholera, I found myself alone in the world; I was then, I believe, about ten years of age."
"Until that time, who had taken care of you?"
"Oh, very good people; but they died of the cholera (here the large black eyes became tearful); the little they left was sold to discharge two or three small debts, and I found that no one would shelter me. Not knowing what to do I went to the guard-house, opposite where I had resided, and said to the sentinel: 'Soldier, my parents are dead, and I do not know where to go. What must I do?' The sub-officer came and took me to the magistrate, who sent me to prison as a vagabond, which I was allowed to quit at sixteen years of age."
"But your parents?"
"I do not know who was my father; I was six years old when I lost my mother, who had taken me from the Foundling Hospital, where she had been compelled at first to place me. The kind people of whom I have spoken lived in our house; they had no children, and seeing me an orphan, took care of me."
"And how did they live? What was their condition in life?"
"Papa Cretu, so I always called him, was a house-painter, and the female who lived with him worked at her needle."
"Then they were tolerably well off?"
"Oh, as well off as most people in their station. Though not married, they called each other husband and wife. They had their ups and downs; to-day in abundance, if there was plenty of work; to-morrow straitened, if there was not any; but that did not prevent them from being contented and gay (at this remembrance Miss Dimpleton's face brightened). There was nowhere near a house like it—always cheerful, always singing; and with all that, good and kind beyond belief! What was theirs, was for others also. Mamma Cretu was a plump body of thirty, clean as a new penny, lively as an eel, merry as a finch. Her husband was a regular jolly old King Cole; he had a large nose, a large mouth, always a paper cap on his head, and a face so droll—oh, so droll, that you could not look at him without laughing! When he returned home after work he did nothing but sing, make faces, and gambol like a child. He made me dance, and jump upon his knees; he played with me as if he were my own age, and his wife entirely spoilt me. Both required of me but one thing—to be good-humored; and in that, thank God! I never disappointed them; so they baptized me, Dimpleton (not Simpleton, neighbor!) and the cap fitted. As to gayety, they set me the example: never did I see them sad. If they uttered reproaches at all, it was the wife said to her husband: 'Stop, Cretu, you make me laugh too much!' or he said to her 'Hold your tongue, Ramonette (I do not know why he called her Ramonette), you will make me ill, you are so funny!' And as for me, I laughed to see them laugh. That's how I was brought up, and how my character was formed; I trust I have profited by it!"
"To perfection, neighbor! Then they never quarreled?"
"Never; oh, the biggest kind of never! Sunday, Monday, sometimes Tuesday, they had, as they called it, an outing, and took me always with them. Papa Cretu was a very good workman; when employed, he could earn what he pleased, and so could his wife too. As soon as they had sufficient for the Sunday and Monday, and could live till then, well or ill, they were satisfied. After that if they were on short allowance, they were still contented. I remember that when we had only bread and water, Papa Cretu used to take out of his library—"
"He had a library?"
"So he called a little chest, where he put his collections of new songs: for he bought all the new songs, and knew them all. When there was nothing in the house but bread, he would take from his library an old cookery-book, and say to us: 'Let us see what we will have to eat today—this or that?' and he would read to us a list of many good things. Each chose their dish. Papa Cretu would then take an empty stewpan, and with the drollest manner, and the funniest jests in the world, pretend to put in all the ingredients necessary to make a good stew, and seemed to pour it into a plate, also empty, which he would place on the table, always with grimaces that made us hold our sides, then taking his book again, he would read, for example, the receipt for a good fricassee of chicken that we had chosen, and that made our mouths water; we then eat our bread (while he read) laughing like so many mad things."
"And were they in debt?"
"Not at all! As long as they had money they feasted: when they had none they dined on water-color as Papa Cretu called it."
"And did they not think of the future?"
"Oh, yes, they thought of it; but then our present and future were like Sunday and Monday—summer we spent gayly and happily outside the City, the winter we got over at home."
"Since these poor people agreed so well together, why did they not marry?"
"One of their friends once asked the same question, before me."
"They answered: 'If we should ever have children, we will marry; but we are very well as we are. What is the good of compelling us to do that which we now do willingly? Besides, it is expensive, and we have no money to spare.' But see how I am gossiping! as I always do on the subject of those good people, who were so kind to me, for I never tire of speaking of them. Here, neighbor, be civil enough to take my shawl, which is on the bed, and fasten it under the collar of my dress with this large pin, and we will then go, for we shall be some time selecting all you wish to purchase for the Morels."
Rudolph hastened to obey the instructions; he took from the bed a large plaid shawl, and carefully arranged it on his neighbor's lovely shoulders.
"Now then, lift up the collar a little, press the dress and shawl close together and stick in the pin. Above all, take care not to prick me."
The prince executed the given instructions with zealous nicety; then he observed, smilingly, to the grisette, "Oh, Miss Dimpleton, I must not be your femme de chambre—there is danger in it!"
"Yes, yes," answer Miss Dimpleton, gayly, "there is great danger of my having a pin run into me! But now," added she, after they had left the room and locked the door after them; "here, neighbor, take the key; it is so very heavy, that I always fear it will tear my pocket. It is quite a pistol for size!" And then she laughed merrily.
Rudolph accordingly took possession of an enormous key—such a one as is sometimes seen in those allegorical representations where the vanquished offer the keys of their cities to the conquerors. Although Rudolph believed himself sufficiently changed by years not to be recognized by Polidori, he yet pulled up the collar of his coat before passing the door of the quack Bradamanti.
"Neighbor, don't forget to tell M. Pipelet that some goods will be brought here, which must be taken to your room," said Miss Dimpleton.
"You are right, neighbor; we will step into the lodge as we pass by."
Pipelet, his everlasting immense hat, as usual, on his head, dressed in his green coat, was sitting gravely before a table, on which were spread pieces of leather and fragments of old shoes; he was occupied in putting a new sole to a boot, which he did with that serious and meditative air which characterized all his doings. Anastasia was absent from the lodge.
"Well, M. Pipelet," said Miss Dimpleton, "I trust things will be better now! Thanks to my neighbor, the poor Morels were rescued from trouble just as those heartless bailiffs were about to drag the unhappy man to prison."
"Oh! these bailiffs are really without hearts, or manners either, mademoiselle," added Pipelet, in an angry voice, flourishing the boot he was repairing, in which he had thrust his left hand and arm.
"No! I do not fear to repeat, in the face of heaven and man, that they are without manners; they took advantage of the darkness of the staircase to make rude remarks on my wife's very person. On hearing the cries of her offended modesty, in spite of myself, I yielded to the impulse of my temper. I do not disguise it, my first movement was to remain perfectly motionless."
"But afterward you followed them, I hope, M. Pipelet?" said Miss Dimpleton, who had some trouble to preserve a serious air.
"I thought of it," answered Pipelet, with a deep sigh; "but when those shameless ruffians passed before my door, my blood rose, and I could not hinder myself from putting my hand before my eyes, to hide the monsters from my sight! But that does not surprise me; I knew something unfortunate would happen to me to-day, for I dreamed—last night—of Monster Cabrion!"
Miss Dimpleton smiled, as Pipelet's painful sighs were mingled with the taps of the hammer, which he vigorously applied to the sole of the old boot.
"You truly acted the part of a wise man, my dear M. Pipelet, that of despising offenses, and holding it beneath you to revenge them. But let us forget these miserable bailiffs. Will you be kind enough to do me a favor?" asked Rudolph.
"Man is born to assist his fellow-man," replied Pipelet, in a sententious and melancholy tone: "and more particularly so when his fellow-man is so good a lodger as yourself."
"It will be necessary to take up to my room different things which will be brought here presently for the Morels."
"Be assured I will take charge of them," replied Pipelet, "and faithfully carry out your wishes."
"And afterward," said Rudolph, sadly, "you must obtain a priest to watch by the little girl the Morels have lost in the night. Go and register her death, and order a decent funeral. Here is money; spare not, for Morel's benefactress, whose mere agent I am, wishes all to go well."
"Make your mind quite easy, sir," replied Pipelet; "directly my wife comes back, I will go to the mayor, the church, and the ham-and-beef shop—to the church for the soul of the dead, to the cook-shop for the body of the living," added Pipelet, philosophically and poetically. "You may consider it done—already done, in both cases, my good sir."
At the entrance, Rudolph and Miss Dimpleton found themselves face to face with Anastasia, who had returned from market, bearing a heavy basket of provisions.
"Well done!" exclaimed the portress, looking at them both with a knowing and significant air; "already arm-in-arm! That's your sort! Young people will be young people—and where's the harm? To a pretty lass, a handsome lad! If you don't enjoy yourselves while young, you will find it difficult to do so when you get old! My poor dear Alfred and I, for instance, when we were young, didn't we go the pace—But now, oh, dear! oh, dear!—Well, never mind; go along, my dears, and make yourselves happy while you can. Love forever!" The old woman disappeared in the darkness of the alley, calling out, "Alfred, do not grumble, old darling. Here is 'Stasie who brings you good things—rare dainties!"
The young couple had left the house.
* * * * * * *
To the mind of Rudolph, for Miss Dimpleton was too little prone to mournful impressions to long reflect on the matter, the troubles of the Morels had ceased; but in the grim reality, a calamity, ten fold severer than their direst poverty, was gathering and forming nearer them, ready to burst upon their heads almost before the gay young couple would return from their stroll. What this great evil was, and what fate befalls other characters yet to be introduced, will presently be revealed, in shadow and by sunshine.
The Slasher, the Schoolmaster, the Screech-Owl, Hoppy, and the other wretches whose misdeeds blacken these pages, form the foil; while Fleur-de-Marie, Clemence d'Harville, Miss Dimpleton, and Mrs. George are the gems which will be seen to shed their luster and charm over the no less interesting pages of the Second Division of this work, entitled, "Part Second: NOON."
To the snow of the past night had succeeded a very sharp wind; so that the pavement of the streets, usually muddy, was almost dry, as Rudolph and Miss Dimpleton directed their steps toward the extensive and singular bazaar called the Temple. The girl leaned without ceremony upon the arm of her cavalier, with as little restraint as though they had been intimate for a long time.
"Isn't Mrs. Pipelet funny," said the grisette to Rudolph, "with the odd remarks she makes?"
"Indeed, neighbor, I think she is quite right."
"Why when she said: 'Young people will be young people—and where's the harm?—Love forever!'"
"Well! I mean to say that I perfectly agree with her."
"Agree with her!"
"Yes, I should like nothing better than to pass my youth with you, taking 'Love forever!' for my motto."
"I believe it: you are not difficult to please."
"Where is the harm? We are neighbors."
"If we were not neighbors, I should not walk out with you in this way."
"Then allow me to hope—"
"Hope what?" "That you will learn to love me."
"I love you already."
"To be sure I do and for a very simple reason. You are good and lively; although poor yourself, you do all you can for those unfortunate Morels, in interesting rich people in their behalf; you have a face that pleases me much, and a well-turned figure, which is agreeable and flattering to me, as I shall frequently accept your arm. Here are, I think, many reasons that I should love you."
Then interrupting herself to enjoy a hearty laugh, Miss Dimpleton cried: "Look! look at that fat woman, with her old furrowed shoes; one could imagine her drawn along by two cats without tails!" And again she laughed merrily.
"I prefer looking at you, neighbor; I am so happy in thinking you already love me."
"I tell you so, because it is so; if you did not please me, I should say so all the same. I cannot reproach myself with having ever deceived or flattered any one; when people please me, I tell them so at once."
Then, interrupting herself again, to stop before a shop-window, the grisette exclaimed:
"Oh, look at that beautiful clock, and those two pretty vases! I have already saved up three francs and a half toward buying some like them. In five or six years I may be able to manage it."
"Saved up, neighbor? Then you earn—"
"At least thirty sous a day—sometimes forty, but I only reckon upon thirty; it is more prudent, and I regulate my expenses accordingly," said Miss Dimpleton, with an air as important as though it related to the transactions of a financier.
"But with thirty sous a day, how can you manage to live?"
"The reckoning is not difficult; shall I explain it to you, neighbor? You appear rather extravagant, so it may serve you as an example."
"Let's hear it."
"Thirty sous a day will make forty-five francs a month, will it not?"
"Well, then, by that account I have twelve francs for lodging, and twenty-three francs for living."
"Twenty-three francs for a month's living!"
"Yes, quite as much. I acknowledge that, for a person like myself, it is enormous; but then, you see, I refuse myself nothing."
"Oh, you little glutton!"
"Ah, but I also include food for my birds."
"Certainly, if you reckon for three, it is less extravagant. But let me hear the detail of your every-day management, that I may benefit by the instruction."
"Listen then. A pound of bread, that is four sous; milk, two sous— that makes six; four sous for vegetables in winter, or fruit and salad in summer (I dote on salad and vegetables, because they do not soil the hands)—there is already ten sous; three sous for butter or oil and vinegar, as seasoning—thirteen sous; two pailfuls of water (oh, that is my luxury!) that will make fifteen sous; add to that two sous for chickweed and hempseed for my two birds, which usually share with me my bread and milk—that is twenty-two or twenty-three francs a month, neither more nor less."
"And do you never eat meat?"
"Oh, Lord! Meat indeed! that costs ten to twelve sous a pound; how can I think of that? Besides, it smells of the kitchen, of the stewpan; instead of which, milk, fruit, and vegetables require no cooking. I will tell you a dish I am very fond of, not troublesome, and which I make to perfection."
"Hold up the dish!"
"I put fine potatoes in the oven of my stove; when they are done, I mash them with a little butter and milk, and a pinch of salt. It is a meal for the gods! If you are well behaved I will let you taste them some day."
"Prepared by your pretty hands, it cannot fail to be excellent. But let us see neighbor; we have already reckoned twenty-three francs for living, and twelve francs for lodging—that makes thirty-five francs a month."
"Well, then, out of the forty-five or fifty francs I earn, there remain to me ten or fifteen francs for wood and oil during winter, as well as for my dress and washing—that is to say for soap—as, excepting my sheets, I wash for myself: that is another luxury—a laundress would pretty well ruin me; and as I also iron very well, I thereby save my money. During the five winter months I burn a load and a half of wood, and four or five sous-worth of oil in the day for my lamp; that makes nearly eighteen francs a year for my light and fire."
"So that there remain to you more than a hundred francs for your clothing?"
"Yes; and it is from that I have saved the three francs and a half."
"But your dresses—your shoes and stockings—this pretty cap?"
"My caps I only wear when I go out, and that does not ruin me, for I make them myself; at home I am satisfied with my hair. As to my dresses and boots—is there not the Temple?"—"Oh, yes, that contentment, excellent Temple! Well, you buy there—"
"Very good and pretty dresses. You must know that rich ladies are accustomed to give their old dresses to their waiting maids—when I say old, I mean that maybe they have worn them in their carriages a month or two—and their servants go and sell them to people who keep shops at the Temple for almost nothing. Thus, you see, I have a nice merino dress that I bought for fifteen francs, which perhaps cost sixty; it has hardly been put on and is beautifully fine. I altered it to fit me, and I flatter myself it does me credit."
"Indeed you do it much credit! Thanks to the resources of the Temple, I begin to think you can manage to dress respectably with a hundred francs a year."
"To be sure I can. Why, I can buy charming dresses for five or six francs; and boots, the same that I have on now, and almost new, for two or three francs. Look! would not any one say that they were made for me?" said Miss Dimpleton, stooping and showing the tip of her pretty little foot, very nicely set off by the well-made and well-fitting boot.
"The foot is charming, truly; but you must find a difficulty in fitting it. After that you will doubtless tell me that they sell children's shoes at the Temple."
"You are a sad flatterer, neighbor; however, after what I have told you, you will acknowledge that a girl, quite alone and well, can live respectably on thirty sous a day? I must tell you, by-the-by, the four hundred and fifty francs which I brought from prison assisted materially in establishing me. When once known that I possessed furniture, it inspired confidence and I had work intrusted to me to take home; but it was necessary to wait a long time before I could meet with employment. Fortunately I kept sufficient money to live upon for three months, without earning anything."
"Spite of your gay, heedless manner, allow me to say that you possess a great deal of good sense, neighbor."
"Nay, when one is alone in the world, and would not be under obligation to any one, you must exercise some management to build your nest well, and take care of it when it is built, as the saying is."
"And your nest is delightful!"
"Is it not? for, as I have said, I refuse myself nothing; I consider I have a lodging above my station. Then, again, I have birds; in summer always at least two pots of flowers on the mantelpiece, besides the boxes in the windows; and then, as I told you, I had three francs or more in my money-box, toward ornaments I hoped one day to be able to purchase for the chimney-piece."
"And what became of these savings?"
"Why, latterly I have seen those poor Morels so unhappy, so very unhappy, that I said to myself: 'There is no sense in having these ugly pieces of money idling in a box, whilst poor people are perishing of hunger beside you,' so I lent them to Morel. When I say lent, I mean I told him I only lent them, in order to spare his feelings, for I assure you I gave them freely."
"Yes, neighbor, but as they are no longer in want, you surely will not refuse to allow them to repay you?"
"True, I shall not refuse it; it will be something toward the purchase of chimney-ornaments—my dream."
"And then, again, you ought to think a little of the future."
"Should you fall ill, for instance."
And, at the bare idea, Miss Dimpleton burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, so loud, that a fat man, who was walking before her, carrying a dog under his arm, turned round quite angrily, believing himself to be the butt. Miss Dimpleton, resuming her composure, made a half-courtesy to the stout person, and pointing to the animal under his arm, said: "Is your dog so very tired, sir?"
The fat man grumbled something, and continued to walk.
"Come, come, neighbor," said Rudolph; "are you losing your senses?"
"It is your fault if I am."
"Yes; because you say such silly things to me."
"What, because I tell you that you may fall ill?"
"Am I a likely-looking person to be sick then?"
"Never have I beheld a face more rosy and fresh!"
"Very well then, why do you think I shall be ill?"
"At eighteen years of age, leading the life I do, how can that be possible? I rise at five o'clock, winter and summer; I go to bed at ten or eleven; I eat to satisfy my hunger, which is not very great, it is true; I sing like a lark all day, and at night I sleep like a dormouse: I have a mind free, joyful, and contented, with the certainty of plenty of work, because my employers are pleased with what I have done. Why should I be sick! What an idea! Well, I never!"
And Miss Dimpleton again relapsed into long and hearty laughter. Rudolph, struck with this blind, yet happy confidence in the future, reproached himself with having attempted to shake it. He thought, with horror, that an illness of a month could ruin this merry, peaceful mode of existence. Miss Dimpleton's deep faith in her health and her eighteen years, her only treasures, appeared to Rudolph something akin to holiness; for, on the young girl's part, it was neither carelessness nor improvidence, but an instinctive reliance on the commiseration of Divine justice, which could not abandon an industrious and virtuous creature, whose only error was a too confident dependence on the youth and health she enjoyed. The birds, as they cleave with gay and agile wings the azure skies in spring, or skim lightly over the blooming fields, do they think of the cheerless winter?
"Then," said Rudolph to the grisette, "you are not ambitious to possess more than you have?"
"No—that is to say, I should like to have my chimney-ornaments, and I shall have them, though I do not know when; but I have it in my head to possess them, and I will, if I should have to sit up to work all night to do it."
"And besides these ornaments—"
"I want for nothing; I cannot recollect a single thing more that I care about possessing now."
"Because, if you had asked me the same question yesterday, I should have told you I was longing for a suitable neighbor; so that I could arrange with him comfortably, as I have always done, to perform little services for him, that he might return nice little attentions to me."
"Well, it is already agreed, my pretty neighbor, that you shall take charge of my linen, and that I shall clean your room—without naming your waking me early in the morning, by tapping at the wall."
"And do you think that will be all?'
"What else is there?"
"Oh, bless your heart, you have not arrived at the end of what I expect of you. Is it not necessary that on Sundays you take me for a walk on the Boulevards?—you know that is the only day I have for recreation."
"To be sure. In summer we will go into the country."
"No, I detest the country. I like no place so well as Paris. Nevertheless, I went, once upon a time, out of good nature, with a young friend of mine, who was my companion in prison, to visit Meudon and Saint-Germain. My friend was a very pleasant, good girl, whom they called Sweet-throat, because she was always singing."
"And what has become of her?"
"I do not know. She spent all the money she brought from prison, without appearing to be much amused; she was always sad, but sympathizing and charitable. When we used to go out together, I had not then any work; but when I succeeded in obtaining some, I did not stir from home. I gave her my address, but as she has not been to see me, doubtless she has also some occupation, and, like me, is too busy to get out. I only mention this to let you know, neighbor, that I love Paris above every other place. So whenever you can, on Sunday, you may take me to dine at the ordinary, sometimes to the play; or, if you have not any money, you can take me to see the fashionable shops, which will amuse me almost as much. Rest satisfied, that in our little excursions I shall not disgrace you. You will see how smart I shall look in my pretty dress of blue levantine, that I only wear on Sundays: it suits me to perfection. With that I wear a pretty little cap, trimmed with lace and orange-colored ribbon, which does not contrast badly with my black hair; satin boots, that I have made for me; an elegant shawl of silk imitation Cashmere! Indeed, I expect, neighbor, people will turn round to look after us as we pass along. Men will say: 'Really, that is a pretty little girl, upon my word!' And the women, on their part, will exclaim: 'Look at that tall young man! what an elegant shape! He has an air that is truly fashionable! and his little brown mustache becomes him exceedingly!' And I shall be of their opinion, for I adore mustaches. Unfortunately, M. Germain did not wear one, because of the situation he held. M. Cabrion did, but then it was red, like his long beard, and I do not like those great beards; besides, he made himself so ridiculously conspicuous in the streets, and teased poor M. Pipelet so much. Now, M. Giraudeau, who was my neighbor before M. Cabrion, dressed well, and altogether had a very good appearance, but he squinted. At first it annoyed me very much, because he always appeared to be looking at some one at the side of me, and without thinking, I often turned round to see who—" And again Miss Dimpleton laughed.