Infomotions, Inc.Ursula / é de, 1799-1850



Author: é de, 1799-1850
Title: Ursula
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): minoret; ursula; savinien; bongrand; goupil; portenduere; nemours; massin; abbe; monsieur bongrand; monsieur; doctor; madame; doctor minoret; madame minoret; madame massin; abbe chaperon; madame cremiere; thousand francs; heirs; old minoret; ursula miroue
Contributor(s): Wormeley, Katharine Prescott, 1830-1908 [Translator]
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Identifier: etext1223
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Title: Ursula

Author: Honore de Balzac

Translator: Katharine Prescott Wormeley

Release Date: October 20, 2005 [EBook #1223]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK URSULA ***




Produced by John Bickers, Bonnie Sala, and Dagny





                               URSULA

                                 BY

                          HONORE DE BALZAC



                           Translated by
                    Katharine Prescott Wormeley




                             DEDICATION

  To Mademoiselle Sophie Surville,

  It is a true pleasure, my dear niece, to dedicate to you this
  book, the subject and details of which have won the
  approbation, so difficult to win, of a young girl to whom the
  world is still unknown, and who has compromised with none of
  the lofty principles of a saintly education. Young girls are
  indeed a formidable public, for they ought not to be allowed
  to read books less pure than the purity of their souls; they
  are forbidden certain reading, just as they are carefully
  prevented from seeing social life as it is. Must it not
  therefore be a source of pride to a writer to find that he has
  pleased you?

  God grant that your affection for me has not misled you. Who can tell?
  --the future; which you, I hope, will see, though not, perhaps.

  Your uncle,
  De Balzac.




                               URSULA



                             CHAPTER I

                        THE FRIGHTENED HEIRS

Entering Nemours by the road to Paris, we cross the canal du Loing,
the steep banks of which serve the double purpose of ramparts to the
fields and of picturesque promenades for the inhabitants of that
pretty little town. Since 1830 several houses had unfortunately been
built on the farther side of the bridge. If this sort of suburb
increases, the place will lose its present aspect of graceful
originality.

In 1829, however, both sides of the road were clear, and the master of
the post route, a tall, stout man about sixty years of age, sitting
one fine autumn morning at the highest part of the bridge, could take
in at a glance the whole of what is called in his business a "ruban de
queue." The month of September was displaying its treasures; the
atmosphere glowed above the grass and the pebbles; no cloud dimmed the
blue of the sky, the purity of which in all parts, even close to the
horizon, showed the extreme rarefaction of the air. So Minoret-Levrault
(for that was the post master's name) was obliged to shade his eyes
with one hand to keep them from being dazzled. With the air of a man
who was tired of waiting, he looked first to the charming meadows
which lay to the right of the road where the aftermath was springing
up, then to the hill-slopes covered with copses which extend, on the
left, from Nemours to Bouron. He could hear in the valley of the Loing,
where the sounds on the road were echoed back from the hills, the trot
of his own horses and the crack of his postilion's whip.

None but a post master could feel impatient within sight of such
meadows, filled with cattle worthy of Paul Potter and glowing beneath
a Raffaelle sky, and beside a canal shaded with trees after Hobbema.
Whoever knows Nemours knows that nature is there as beautiful as art,
whose mission is to spiritualize it; there, the landscape has ideas
and creates thought. But, on catching sight of Minoret-Levrault an
artist would very likely have left the view to sketch the man, so
original was his in his native commonness. Unite in a human being all
the conditions of the brute and you have a Caliban, who is certainly a
great thing. Wherever form rules, sentiment disappears. The post
master, a living proof of that axiom, presented a physiognomy in which
an observer could with difficulty trace, beneath the vivid carnation
of its coarsely developed flesh, the semblance of a soul. His cap of
blue cloth, with a small peak, and sides fluted like a melon, outlined
a head of vast dimensions, showing that Gall's science has not yet
produced its chapter of exceptions. The gray and rather shiny hair
which appeared below the cap showed that other causes than mental toil
or grief had whitened it. Large ears stood out from the head, their
edges scarred with the eruptions of his over-abundant blood, which
seemed ready to gush at the least exertion. His skin was crimson under
an outside layer of brown, due to the habit of standing in the sun.
The roving gray eyes, deep-sunken, and hidden by bushy black brows,
were like those of the Kalmucks who entered France in 1815; if they
ever sparkled it was only under the influence of a covetous thought.
His broad pug nose was flattened at the base. Thick lips, in keeping
with a repulsive double chin, the beard of which, rarely cleaned more
than once a week, was encircled with a dirty silk handkerchief twisted
to a cord; a short neck, rolling in fat, and heavy cheeks completed
the characteristics of brute force which sculptors give to their
caryatids. Minoret-Levrault was like those statues, with this
difference, that whereas they supported an edifice, he had more than
he could well do to support himself. You will meet many such Atlases
in the world. The man's torso was a block; it was like that of a bull
standing on his hind-legs. His vigorous arms ended in a pair of thick,
hard hands, broad and strong and well able to handle whip, reins, and
pitchfork; hands which his postilions never attempted to trifle with.
The enormous stomach of this giant rested on thighs which were as
large as the body of an ordinary adult, and feet like those of an
elephant. Anger was a rare thing with him, but it was terrible,
apoplectic, when it did burst forth. Though violent and quite
incapable of reflection, the man had never done anything that
justified the sinister suggestions of his bodily presence. To all
those who felt afraid of him his postilions would reply, "Oh! he's not
bad."

The master of Nemours, to use the common abbreviation of the country,
wore a velveteen shooting-jacket of bottle-green, trousers of green
linen with great stripes, and an ample yellow waistcoat of goat's
skin, in the pocket of which might be discerned the round outline of a
monstrous snuff-box. A snuff-box to a pug nose is a law without
exception.

A son of the Revolution and a spectator of the Empire, Minoret-Levrault
did not meddle with politics; as to his religious opinions, he had
never set foot in a church except to be married; as to his private
principles, he kept them within the civil code; all that the law did
not forbid or could not prevent he considered right. He never read
anything but the journal of the department of the Seine-et-Oise,
and a few printed instructions relating to his business. He was
considered a clever agriculturist; but his knowledge was only
practical. In him the moral being did not belie the physical. He
seldom spoke, and before speaking he always took a pinch of snuff to
give himself time, not to find ideas, but words. If he had been a
talker you would have felt that he was out of keeping with himself.
Reflecting that this elephant minus a trumpet and without a mind was
called Minoret-Levrault, we are compelled to agree with Sterne as to
the occult power of names, which sometimes ridicule and sometimes
foretell characters.

In spite of his visible incapacity he had acquired during the last
thirty-six years (the Revolution helping him) an income of thirty
thousand francs, derived from farm lands, woods and meadows. If
Minoret, being master of the coach-lines of Nemours and those of the
Gatinais to Paris, still worked at his business, it was less from
habit than for the sake of an only son, to whom he was anxious to give
a fine career. This son, who was now (to use an expression of the
peasantry) a "monsieur," had just completed his legal studies and was
about to take his degree as licentiate, preparatory to being called to
the Bar. Monsieur and Madame Minoret-Levrault--for behind our colossus
every one will perceive a woman without whom this signal good-fortune
would have been impossible--left their son free to choose his own
career; he might be a notary in Paris, king's-attorney in some
district, collector of customs no matter where, broker, or post
master, as he pleased. What fancy of his could they ever refuse him?
to what position of life might he not aspire as the son of a man about
whom the whole countryside, from Montargis to Essonne, was in the
habit of saying, "Pere Minoret doesn't even know how rich he is"?

This saying had obtained fresh force about four years before this
history begins, when Minoret, after selling his inn, built stables and
a splendid dwelling, and removed the post-house from the Grand'Rue to
the wharf. The new establishment cost two hundred thousand francs,
which the gossip of thirty miles in circumference more than doubled.
The Nemours mail-coach service requires a large number of horses. It
goes to Fontainebleau on the road to Paris, and from there diverges to
Montargis and also to Montereau. The relays are long, and the sandy
soil of the Montargis road calls for the mythical third horse, always
paid for but never seen. A man of Minoret's build, and Minoret's
wealth, at the head of such an establishment might well be called,
without contradiction, the master of Nemours. Though he never thought
of God or devil, being a practical materialist, just as he was a
practical agriculturist, a practical egoist, and a practical miser,
Minoret had enjoyed up to this time a life of unmixed happiness,--if
we can call pure materialism happiness. A physiologist, observing the
rolls of flesh which covered the last vertebrae and pressed upon the
giant's cerebellum, and, above all, hearing the shrill, sharp voice
which contrasted so absurdly with his huge body, would have understood
why this ponderous, coarse being adored his only son, and why he had
so long expected him,--a fact proved by the name, Desire, which was
given to the child.

The mother, whom the boy fortunately resembled, rivaled the father in
spoiling him. No child could long have resisted the effects of such
idolatry. As soon as Desire knew the extent of his power he milked his
mother's coffer and dipped into his father's purse, making each author
of his being believe that he, or she, alone was petitioned. Desire,
who played a part in Nemours far beyond that of a prince royal in his
father's capital, chose to gratify his fancies in Paris just as he had
gratified them in his native town; he had therefore spent a yearly sum
of not less than twelve thousand francs during the time of his legal
studies. But for that money he had certainly acquired ideas that would
never had come to him in Nemours; he had stripped off the provincial
skin, learned the power of money and seen in the magistracy a means of
advancement which he fancied. During the last year he had spent an
extra sum of ten thousand francs in the company of artists,
journalists, and their mistresses. A confidential and rather
disquieting letter from his son, asking for his consent to a marriage,
explains the watch which the post master was now keeping on the
bridge; for Madame Minoret-Levrault, busy in preparing a sumptuous
breakfast to celebrate the triumphal return of the licentiate, had
sent her husband to the mail road, advising him to take a horse and
ride out if he saw nothing of the diligence. The coach which was
conveying the precious son usually arrived at five in the morning and
it was now nine! What could be the meaning of such delay? Was the
coach overturned? Could Desire be dead? Or was it nothing worse than a
broken leg?

Three distinct volleys of cracking whips rent the air like a discharge
of musketry; the red waistcoats of the postilions dawned in sight, ten
horses neighed. The master pulled off his cap and waved it; he was
seen. The best mounted postilion, who was returning with two gray
carriage-horses, set spurs to his beast and came on in advance of the
five diligence horses and the three other carriage-horses, and soon
reached his master.

"Have you seen the 'Ducler'?"

On the great mail routes names, often fantastic, are given to the
different coaches; such, for instance, as the "Caillard," the "Ducler"
(the coach between Nemours and Paris), the "Grand Bureau." Every new
enterprise is called the "Competition." In the days of the Lecompte
company their coaches were called the "Countess."--"'Caillard' could
not overtake the 'Countess'; but 'Grand Bureau' caught up with her
finely," you will hear the men say. If you see a postilion pressing
his horses and refusing a glass of wine, question the conductor and he
will tell you, snuffing the air while his eye gazes far into space,
"The 'Competition' is ahead."--"We can't get in sight of her," cries
the postilion; "the vixen! she wouldn't stop to let her passengers
dine."--"The question is, has she got any?" responds the conductor.
"Give it to Polignac!" All lazy and bad horses are called Polignac.
Such are the jokes and the basis of conversation between postilions
and conductors on the roofs of the coaches. Each profession, each
calling in France has its slang.

"Have you seen the 'Ducler'?" asked Minoret.

"Monsieur Desire?" said the postilion, interrupting his master. "Hey!
you must have heard us, didn't our whips tell you? we felt you were
somewhere along the road."

Just then a woman dressed in her Sunday clothes,--for the bells were
pealing from the clock tower and calling the inhabitants to mass,--a
woman about thirty-six years of age came up to the post master.

"Well, cousin," she said, "you wouldn't believe me-- Uncle is with
Ursula in the Grand'Rue, and they are going to mass."

In spite of the modern poetic canons as to local color, it is quite
impossible to push realism so far as to repeat the horrible blasphemy
mingled with oaths which this news, apparently so unexciting, brought
from the huge mouth of Minoret-Levrault; his shrill voice grew
sibilant, and his face took on the appearance of what people oddly
enough call a sunstroke.

"Is that true?" he asked, after the first explosion of his wrath was
over.

The postilions bowed to their master as they and their horses passed
him, but he seemed to neither see nor hear them. Instead of waiting
for his son, Minoret-Levrault hurried up to the Grand'Rue with his
cousin.

"Didn't I always tell you so?" she resumed. "When Doctor Minoret goes
out of his head that demure little hypocrite will drag him into
religion; whoever lays hold of the mind gets hold of the purse, and
she'll have our inheritance."

"But, Madame Massin--" said the post master, dumbfounded.

"There now!" exclaimed Madame Massin, interrupting her cousin. "You
are going to say, just as Massin does, that a little girl of fifteen
can't invent such plans and carry them out, or make an old man of
eighty-three, who has never set foot in a church except to be married,
change his opinions,--now don't tell me he has such a horror of
priests that he wouldn't even go with the girl to the parish church
when she made her first communion. I'd like to know why, if Doctor
Minoret hates priests, he has spent nearly every evening for the last
fifteen years of his life with the Abbe Chaperon. The old hypocrite
never fails to give Ursula twenty francs for wax tapers every time she
takes the sacrament. Have you forgotten the gift Ursula made to the
church in gratitude to the cure for preparing her for her first
communion? She spent all her money on it, and her godfather returned
it to her doubled. You men! you don't pay attention to things. When I
heard that, I said to myself, 'Farewell baskets, the vintage is done!'
A rich uncle doesn't behave that way to a little brat picked up in the
streets without some good reason."

"Pooh, cousin; I dare say the good man is only taking her to the door
of the church," replied the post master. "It is a fine day, and he is
out for a walk."

"I tell you he is holding a prayer-book, and looks sanctimonious
--you'll see him."

"They hide their game pretty well," said Minoret, "La Bougival told me
there was never any talk of religion between the doctor and the abbe.
Besides, the abbe is one of the most honest men on the face of the
globe; he'd give the shirt off his back to a poor man; he is incapable
of a base action, and to cheat a family out of their inheritance is--"

"Theft," said Madame Massin.

"Worse!" cried Minoret-Levrault, exasperated by the tongue of his
gossiping neighbour.

"Of course I know," said Madame Massin, "that the Abbe Chaperon is an
honest man; but he is capable of anything for the sake of his poor. He
must have mined and undermined uncle, and the old man has just tumbled
into piety. We did nothing, and here he is perverted! A man who never
believed in anything, and had principles of his own! Well! we're done
for. My husband is absolutely beside himself."

Madame Massin, whose sentences were so many arrows stinging her fat
cousin, made him walk as fast as herself, in spite of his obesity and
to the great astonishment of the church-goers, who were on their way
to mass. She was determined to overtake this uncle and show him to the
post master.

Nemours is commanded on the Gatinais side by a hill, at the foot of
which runs the road to Montargis and the Loing. The church, on the
stones of which time has cast a rich discolored mantle (it was rebuilt
in the fourteenth century by the Guises, for whom Nemours was raised
to a peerage-duchy), stands at the end of the little town close to a
great arch which frames it. For buildings, as for men, position does
everything. Shaded by a few trees, and thrown into relief by a neatly
kept square, this solitary church produces a really grandiose effect.
As the post master of Nemours entered the open space, he beheld his
uncle with the young girl called Ursula on his arm, both carrying
prayer-books and just entering the church. The old man took off his
hat in the porch, and his head, which was white as a hill-top covered
with snow, shone among the shadows of the portal.

"Well, Minoret, what do you say to the conversion of your uncle?"
cried the tax-collector of Nemours, named Cremiere.

"What do you expect me to say?" replied the post master, offering him
a pinch of snuff.

"Well answered, Pere Levrault. You can't say what you think, if it is
true, as an illustrious author says it is, that a man must think his
words before he speaks his thoughts," cried a young man, standing
near, who played the part of Mephistopheles in the little town.

This ill-conditioned youth, named Goupil, was head clerk to Monsieur
Cremiere-Dionis, the Nemours notary. Notwithstanding a past conduct
that was almost debauched, Dionis had taken Goupil into his office
when a career in Paris--where the clerk had wasted all the money he
inherited from his father, a well-to-do farmer, who educated him for a
notary--was brought to a close by his absolute pauperism. The mere
sight of Goupil told an observer that he had made haste to enjoy life,
and had paid dear for his enjoyments. Though very short, his chest and
shoulders were developed at twenty-seven years of age like those of a
man of forty. Legs small and weak, and a broad face, with a cloudy
complexion like the sky before a storm, surmounted by a bald forehead,
brought out still further the oddity of his conformation. His face
seemed as though it belonged to a hunchback whose hunch was inside of
him. One singularity of that pale and sour visage confirmed the
impression of an invisible gobbosity; the nose, crooked and out of
shape like those of many deformed persons, turned from right to left
of the face instead of dividing it down the middle. The mouth,
contracted at the corners, like that of a Sardinian, was always on the
qui vive of irony. His hair, thin and reddish, fell straight, and
showed the skull in many places. His hands, coarse and ill-joined at
the wrists to arms that were far too long, were quick-fingered and
seldom clean. Goupil wore boots only fit for the dust-heap, and raw
silk stockings now of a russet black; his coat and trousers, all
black, and threadbare and greasy with dirt, his pitiful waistcoat with
half the button-moulds gone, an old silk handkerchief which served as
a cravat--in short, all his clothing revealed the cynical poverty to
which his passions had reduced him. This combination of disreputable
signs was guarded by a pair of eyes with yellow circles round the
pupils, like those of a goat, both lascivious and cowardly. No one in
Nemours was more feared nor, in a way, more deferred to than Goupil.
Strong in the claims made for him by his very ugliness, he had the
odious style of wit peculiar to men who allow themselves all license,
and he used it to gratify the bitterness of his life-long envy. He
wrote the satirical couplets sung during the carnival, organized
charivaris, and was himself a "little journal" of the gossip of the
town. Dionis, who was clever and insincere, and for that reason timid,
kept Goupil as much through fear as for his keen mind and thorough
knowledge of all the interests of the town. But the master so
distrusted his clerk that he himself kept the accounts, refused to let
him live in his house, held him at arm's length, and never confided
any secret or delicate affair to his keeping. In return the clerk
fawned upon the notary, hiding his resentment at this conduct, and
watching Madame Dionis in the hope that he might get his revenge
there. Gifted with a ready mind and quick comprehension he found work
easy.

"You!" exclaimed the post master to the clerk, who stood rubbing his
hands, "making game of our misfortunes already?"

As Goupil was known to have pandered to Dionis' passions for the last
five years, the post master treated him cavalierly, without suspecting
the hoard of ill-feeling he was piling up in Goupil's heart with every
fresh insult. The clerk, convinced that money was more necessary to
him than it was to others, and knowing himself superior in mind to the
whole bourgeoisie of Nemours, was now counting on his intimacy with
Minoret's son Desire to obtain the means of buying one or the other of
three town offices,--that of clerk of the court, or the legal practice
of one of the sheriffs, or that of Dionis himself. For this reason he
put up with the affronts of the post master and the contempt of Madame
Minoret-Levrault, and played a contemptible part towards Desire,
consoling the fair victims whom that youth left behind him after each
vacation,--devouring the crumbs of the loaves he had kneaded.

"If I were the nephew of a rich old fellow, he never would have given
God to ME for a co-heir," retorted Goupil, with a hideous grin which
exhibited his teeth--few, black, and menacing.

Just then Massin-Levrault, junior, the clerk of the court, joined his
wife, bringing with him Madame Cremiere, the wife of the tax-collector
of Nemours. This man, one of the hardest natures of the little town,
had the physical characteristics of a Tartar: eyes small and round as
sloes beneath a retreating brow, crimped hair, an oily skin, huge ears
without any rim, a mouth almost without lips, and a scanty beard. He
spoke like a man who was losing his voice. To exhibit him thoroughly
it is enough to say that he employed his wife and eldest daughter to
serve his legal notices.

Madame Cremiere was a stout woman, with a fair complexion injured by
red blotches, always too tightly laced, intimate with Madame Dionis,
and supposed to be educated because she read novels. Full of
pretensions to wit and elegance, she was awaiting her uncle's money to
"take a certain stand," decorate her salon, and receive the
bourgeoisie. At present her husband denied her Carcel lamps,
lithographs, and all the other trifles the notary's wife possessed.
She was excessively afraid of Goupil, who caught up and retailed her
"slapsus-linquies" as she called them. One day Madame Dionis chanced
to ask what "Eau" she thought best for the teeth.

"Try opium," she replied.

Nearly all the collateral heirs of old Doctor Minoret were now
assembled in the square; the importance of the event which brought
them was so generally felt that even groups of peasants, armed with
their scarlet umbrellas and dressed in those brilliant colors which
make them so picturesque on Sundays and fete-days, stood by, with
their eyes fixed on the frightened heirs. In all little towns which
are midway between large villages and cities those who do not go to
mass stand about in the square or market-place. Business is talked
over. In Nemours the hour of church service was a weekly exchange, to
which the owners of property scattered over a radius of some miles
resorted.

"Well, how would you have prevented it?" said the post master to
Goupil in reply to his remark.

"I should have made myself as important to him as the air he breathes.
But from the very first you failed to get hold of him. The inheritance
of a rich uncle should be watched as carefully as a pretty woman--for
want of proper care they'll both escape you. If Madame Dionis were
here she could tell you how true that comparison is."

"But Monsieur Bongrand has just told me there is nothing to worry
about," said Massin.

"Oh! there are plenty of ways of saying that!" cried Goupil,
laughing. "I would like to have heard your sly justice of the peace
say it. If there is nothing to be done, if he, being intimate with
your uncle, knows that all is lost, the proper thing for him to say to
you is, 'Don't be worried.'"

As Goupil spoke, a satirical smile overspread his face, and gave such
meaning to his words that the other heirs began to feel that Massin
had let Bongrand deceive him. The tax-collector, a fat little man, as
insignificant as a tax-collector should be, and as much of a cipher as
a clever woman could wish, hereupon annihilated his co-heir, Massin,
with the words:--"Didn't I tell you so?"

Tricky people always attribute trickiness to others. Massin therefore
looked askance at Monsieur Bongrand, the justice of the peace, who was
at that moment talking near the door of the church with the Marquis du
Rouvre, a former client.

"If I were sure of it!" he said.

"You could neutralize the protection he is now giving to the Marquis
du Rouvre, who is threatened with arrest. Don't you see how Bongrand
is sprinkling him with advice?" said Goupil, slipping an idea of
retaliation into Massin's mind. "But you had better go easy with your
chief; he's a clever old fellow; he might use his influence with your
uncle and persuade him not to leave everything to the church."

"Pooh! we sha'n't die of it," said Minoret-Levrault, opening his
enormous snuff-box.

"You won't live of it, either," said Goupil, making the two women
tremble. More quick-witted than their husbands, they saw the
privations this loss of inheritance (so long counted on for many
comforts) would be to them. "However," added Goupil, "we'll drown this
little grief in floods of champagne in honor of Desire!--sha'n't we,
old fellow?" he cried, tapping the stomach of the giant, and inviting
himself to the feast for fear he should be left out.



                             CHAPTER II

                           THE RICH UNCLE

Before proceeding further, persons of an exact turn of mind may like
to read a species of family inventory, so as to understand the degrees
of relationship which connected the old man thus suddenly converted to
religion with these three heads of families or their wives. This
cross-breeding of families in the remote provinces might be made the
subject of many instructive reflections.

There are but three or four houses of the lesser nobility in Nemours;
among them, at the period of which we write, that of the family of
Portenduere was the most important. These exclusives visited none but
nobles who possessed lands or chateaus in the neighbourhood; of the
latter we may mention the d'Aiglemonts, owners of the beautiful estate
of Saint-Lange, and the Marquis du Rouvre, whose property, crippled by
mortgages, was closely watched by the bourgeoisie. The nobles of the
town had no money. Madame de Portenduere's sole possessions were a
farm which brought a rental of forty-seven hundred francs, and her
town house.

In opposition to this very insignificant Faubourg St. Germain was a
group of a dozen rich families, those of retired millers, or former
merchants; in short a miniature bourgeoisie; below which, again, lived
and moved the retail shopkeepers, the proletaries and the peasantry.
The bourgeoisie presented (like that of the Swiss cantons and of other
small countries) the curious spectacle of the ramifications of certain
autochthonous families, old-fashioned and unpolished perhaps, but who
rule a whole region and pervade it, until nearly all its inhabitants
are cousins. Under Louis XI., an epoch at which the commons first made
real names of their surnames (some of which are united with those of
feudalism) the bourgeoisie of Nemours was made up of Minorets,
Massins, Levraults and Cremieres. Under Louis XIII. these four
families had already produced the Massin-Cremieres, the
Levrault-Massins, the Massin-Minorets, the Minoret-Minorets, the
Cremiere-Levraults, the Levrault-Minoret-Massins, Massin-Levraults,
Minoret-Massins, Massin-Massins, and Cremiere-Massins,--all these
varied with juniors and diversified with the names of eldest sons, as
for instance, Cremiere-Francois, Levrault-Jacques, Jean-Minoret--enough
to drive a Pere Anselme of the People frantic,--if the people should
ever want a genealogist.

The variations of this family kaleidoscope of four branches was now so
complicated by births and marriages that the genealogical tree of the
bourgeoisie of Nemours would have puzzled the Benedictines of the
Almanach of Gotha, in spite of the atomic science with which they
arrange those zigzags of German alliances. For a long time the
Minorets occupied the tanneries, the Cremieres kept the mills, the
Massins were in trade, and the Levraults continued farmers.
Fortunately for the neighbourhood these four stocks threw out suckers
instead of depending only on their tap-roots; they scattered cuttings
by the expatriation of sons who sought their fortune elsewhere; for
instance, there are Minorets who are cutlers at Melun; Levraults at
Montargis; Massins at Orleans; and Cremieres of some importance in
Paris. Divers are the destinies of these bees from the parent hive.
Rich Massins employ, of course, the poor working Massins--just as
Austria and Prussia take the German princes into their service. It may
happen that a public office is managed by a Minoret millionaire and
guarded by a Minoret sentinel. Full of the same blood and called by
the same name (for sole likeness), these four roots had ceaselessly
woven a human network of which each thread was delicate or strong,
fine or coarse, as the case might be. The same blood was in the head
and in the feet and in the heart, in the working hands, in the weakly
lungs, in the forehead big with genius.

The chiefs of the clan were faithful to the little town, where the
ties of family were relaxed or tightened according to the events which
happened under this curious cognomenism. In whatever part of France
you may be, you will find the same thing under changed names, but
without the poetic charm which feudalism gave to it, and which Walter
Scott's genius reproduced so faithfully. Let us look a little higher
and examine humanity as it appears in history. All the noble families
of the eleventh century, most of them (except the royal race of Capet)
extinct to-day, will be found to have contributed to the birth of the
Rohans, Montmorencys, Beauffremonts, and Mortemarts of our time,--in
fact they will all be found in the blood of the last gentleman who is
indeed a gentleman. In other words, every bourgeois is cousin to a
bourgeois, and every noble is cousin to a noble. A splendid page of
biblical genealogy shows that in one thousand years three families,
Shem, Ham, and Japhet, peopled the globe. One family may become a
nation; unfortunately, a nation may become one family. To prove this
we need only search back through our ancestors and see their
accumulation, which time increases into a retrograde geometric
progression, which multiplies of itself; reminding us of the
calculation of the wise man who, being told to choose a reward from
the king of Persia for inventing chess, asked for one ear of wheat for
the first move on the board, the reward to be doubled for each
succeeding move; when it was found that the kingdom was not large
enough to pay it. The net-work of the nobility, hemmed in by the
net-work of the bourgeoisie,--the antagonism of two protected races,
one protected by fixed institutions, the other by the active patience
of labor and the shrewdness of commerce,--produced the revolution of
1789. The two races almost reunited are to-day face to face with
collaterals without a heritage. What are they to do? Our political
future is big with the answer.

The family of the man who under Louis XV. was simply called Minoret
was so numerous that one of the five children (the Minoret whose
entrance into the parish church caused such interest) went to Paris to
seek his fortune, and seldom returned to his native town, until he
came to receive his share of the inheritance of his grandfather. After
suffering many things, like all young men of firm will who struggle
for a place in the brilliant world of Paris, this son of the Minorets
reached a nobler destiny than he had, perhaps, dreamed of at the
start. He devoted himself, in the first instance, to medicine, a
profession which demands both talent and a cheerful nature, but the
latter qualification even more than talent. Backed by Dupont de
Nemours, connected by a lucky chance with the Abbe Morellet (whom
Voltaire nicknamed Mords-les), and protected by the Encyclopedists,
Doctor Minoret attached himself as liegeman to the famous Doctor
Bordeu, the friend of Diderot, D'Alembert, Helvetius, the Baron
d'Holbach and Grimm, in whose presence he felt himself a mere boy.
These men, influenced by Bordeu's example, became interested in
Minoret, who, about the year 1777, found himself with a very good
practice among deists, encyclopedists, sensualists, materialists, or
whatever you are pleased to call the rich philosophers of that period.

Though Minoret was very little of a humbug, he invented the famous
balm of Lelievre, so much extolled by the "Mercure de France," the
weekly organ of the Encyclopedists, in whose columns it was
permanently advertised. The apothecary Lelievre, a clever man, saw a
stroke of business where Minoret had only seen a new preparation for
the dispensary, and he loyally shared his profits with the doctor, who
was a pupil of Rouelle in chemistry as well as of Bordeu in medicine.
Less than that would make a man a materialist.

The doctor married for love in 1778, during the reign of the "Nouvelle
Heloise," when persons did occasionally marry for that reason. His
wife was a daughter of the famous harpsichordist Valentin Mirouet, a
celebrated musician, frail and delicate, whom the Revolution slew.
Minoret knew Robespierre intimately, for he had once been instrumental
in awarding him a gold medal for a dissertation on the following
subject: "What is the origin of the opinion that covers a whole family
with the shame attaching to the public punishment of a guilty member
of it? Is that opinion more harmful than useful? If yes, in what way
can the harm be warded off." The Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences at
Metz, to which Minoret belonged, must possess this dissertation in the
original. Though, thanks to this friendship, the Doctor's wife need
have had no fear, she was so in dread of going to the scaffold that
her terror increased a disposition to heart disease caused by the
over-sensitiveness of her nature. In spite of all the precautions
taken by the man who idolized her, Ursula unfortunately met the
tumbril of victims among whom was Madame Roland, and the shock caused
her death. Minoret, who in tenderness to his wife had refused her
nothing, and had given her a life of luxury, found himself after her
death almost a poor man. Robespierre gave him an appointment as
surgeon-in-charge of a hospital.

Though the name of Minoret obtained during the lively debates to which
mesmerism gave rise a certain celebrity which occasionally recalled
him to the minds of his relatives, still the Revolution was so great a
destroyer of family relations that in 1813 Nemours knew little of
Doctor Minoret, who was induced to think of returning there to die,
like the hare to its form, by a circumstance that was wholly
accidental.

Who has not felt in traveling through France, where the eye is often
wearied by the monotony of plains, the charming sensation of coming
suddenly, when the eye is prepared for a barren landscape, upon a
fresh cool valley, watered by a river, with a little town sheltering
beneath a cliff like a swarm of bees in the hollow of an old willow?
Wakened by the "hu! hu!" of the postilion as he walks beside his
horses, we shake off sleep and admire, like a dream within a dream,
the beautiful scene which is to the traveler what a noble passage in a
book is to a reader,--a brilliant thought of Nature. Such is the
sensation caused by a first sight of Nemours as we approach it from
Burgundy. We see it encircled with bare rocks, gray, black, white,
fantastic in shape like those we find in the forest of Fontainebleau;
from them spring scattered trees, clearly defined against the sky,
which give to this particular rock formation the dilapidated look of a
crumbling wall. Here ends the long wooded hill which creeps from
Nemours to Bouron, skirting the road. At the bottom of this irregular
ampitheater lie meadow-lands through which flows the Loing, forming
sheets of water with many falls. This delightful landscape, which
continues the whole way to Montargis, is like an opera scene, for its
effects really seem to have been studied.

One morning Doctor Minoret, who had been summoned into Burgundy by a
rich patient, was returning in all haste to Paris. Not having
mentioned at the last relay the route he intended to take, he was
brought without his knowledge through Nemours, and beheld once more,
on waking from a nap, the scenery in which his childhood had been
passed. He had lately lost many of his old friends. The votary of the
Encyclopedists had witnessed the conversion of La Harpe; he had buried
Lebrun-Pindare and Marie-Joseph de Chenier, and Morellet, and Madame
Helvetius. He assisted at the quasi-fall of Voltaire when assailed by
Geoffroy, the continuator of Freton. For some time past he had thought
of retiring, and so, when his post chaise stopped at the head of the
Grand'Rue of Nemours, his heart prompted him to inquire for his
family. Minoret-Levrault, the post master, came forward himself to see
the doctor, who discovered him to be the son of his eldest brother.
The nephew presented the doctor to his wife, the only daughter of the
late Levrault-Cremiere, who had died twelve years earlier, leaving him
the post business and the finest inn in Nemours.

"Well, nephew," said the doctor, "have I any other relatives?"

"My aunt Minoret, your sister, married a Massin-Massin--"

"Yes, I know, the bailiff of Saint-Lange."

"She died a widow leaving an only daughter, who has lately married a
Cremiere-Cremiere, a fine young fellow, still without a place."

"Ah! she is my own niece. Now, as my brother, the sailor, died a
bachelor, and Captain Minoret was killed at Monte-Legino, and here I
am, that ends the paternal line. Have I any relations on the maternal
side? My mother was a Jean-Massin-Levrault."

"Of the Jean-Massin-Levrault's there's only one left," answered
Minoret-Levrault, "namely, Jean-Massin, who married Monsieur
Cremiere-Levrault-Dionis, a purveyor of forage, who perished on the
scaffold. His wife died of despair and without a penny, leaving one
daughter, married to a Levrault-Minoret, a farmer at Montereau, who is
doing well; their daughter has just married a Massin-Levrault,
notary's clerk at Montargis, where his father is a locksmith."

"So I've plenty of heirs," said the doctor gayly, immediately
proposing to take a walk through Nemours accompanied by his nephew.

The Loing runs through the town in a waving line, banked by terraced
gardens and neat houses, the aspect of which makes one fancy that
happiness must abide there sooner than elsewhere. When the doctor
turned into the Rue des Bourgeois, Minoret-Levrault pointed out the
property of Levrault-Levrault, a rich iron merchant in Paris who, he
said, had just died.

"The place is for sale, uncle, and a very pretty house it is; there's
a charming garden running down to the river."

"Let us go in," said the doctor, seeing, at the farther end of a small
paved courtyard, a house standing between the walls of the two
neighbouring houses which were masked by clumps of trees and
climbing-plants.

"It is built over a cellar," said the doctor, going up the steps of a
high portico adorned with vases of blue and white pottery in which
geraniums were growing.

Cut in two, like the majority of provincial houses, by a long passage
which led from the courtyard to the garden, the house had only one
room to the right, a salon lighted by four windows, two on the
courtyard and two on the garden; but Levrault-Levrault had used one of
these windows to make an entrance to a long greenhouse built of brick
which extended from the salon towards the river, ending in a horrible
Chinese pagoda.

"Good! by building a roof to that greenhouse and laying a floor," said
old Minoret, "I could put my book there and make a very comfortable
study of that extraordinary bit of architecture at the end."

On the other side of the passage, toward the garden, was the
dining-room, decorated in imitation of black lacquer with green and
gold flowers; this was separated from the kitchen by the well of the
staircase. Communication with the kitchen was had through a little
pantry built behind the staircase, the kitchen itself looking into the
courtyard through windows with iron railings. There were two chambers
on the next floor, and above them, attic rooms sheathed in wood, which
were fairly habitable. After examining the house rapidly, and
observing that it was covered with trellises from top to bottom, on
the side of the courtyard as well as on that to the garden,--which
ended in a terrace overlooking the river and adorned with pottery
vases,--the doctor remarked:--

"Levrault-Levrault must have spend a good deal of money here."

"Ho! I should think so," answered Minoret-Levrault. "He liked flowers
--nonsense! 'What do they bring in?' says my wife. You saw inside
there how an artist came from Paris to paint flowers in fresco in the
corridor. He put those enormous mirrors everywhere. The ceilings were
all re-made with cornices which cost six francs a foot. The
dining-room floor is in marquetry--perfect folly! The house won't sell
for a penny the more."

"Well, nephew, buy it for me: let me know what you do about it; here's
my address. The rest I leave to my notary. Who lives opposite?" he
asked, as they left the house.

"Emigres," answered the post master, "named Portenduere."

The house once bought, the illustrious doctor, instead of leaving
there, wrote to his nephew to let it. The Folie-Levraught was
therefore occupied by the notary of Nemours, who about that time sold
his practice to Dionis, his head-clerk, and died two years later,
leaving the house on the doctor's hands, just at the time when the
fate of Napoleon was being decided in the neighbourhood. The doctor's
heirs, at first misled, had by this time decided that his thought of
returning to his native place was merely a rich man's fancy, and that
probably he had some tie in Paris which would keep him there and cheat
them of their hoped-for inheritance. However, Minoret-Levrault's wife
seized the occasion to write him a letter. The old man replied that as
soon as peace was signed, the roads cleared of soldiers, and safe
communications established, he meant to go and live at Nemours. He
did, in fact, put in an appearance with two of his clients, the
architect of his hospital and an upholsterer, who took charge of the
repairs, the indoor arrangements, and the transportation of the
furniture. Madame Minoret-Levrault proposed the cook of the late
notary as caretaker, and the woman was accepted.

When the heirs heard that their uncle and great-uncle Minoret was
really coming to live in Nemours, they were seized (in spite of the
political events which were just then weighing so heavily on Brie and
on the Gatinais) with a devouring curiosity, which was not surprising.
Was he rich? Economical or spendthrift? Would he leave a fine fortune
or nothing? Was his property in annuities? In the end they found out
what follows, but only by taking infinite pains and employing much
subterraneous spying.

After the death of his wife, Ursula Mirouet, and between the years
1789 and 1813, the doctor (who had been appointed consulting physician
to the Emperor in 1805) must have made a good deal of money; but no
one knew how much. He lived simply, without other extravagancies than
a carriage by the year and a sumptuous apartment. He received no
guests, and dined out almost every day. His housekeeper, furious at
not being allowed to go with him to Nemours, told Zelie Levrault, the
post master's wife, that she knew the doctor had fourteen thousand
francs a year on the "grand-livre." Now, after twenty years' exercise
of a profession which his position as head of a hospital, physician to
the Emperor, and member of the Institute, rendered lucrative, these
fourteen thousand francs a year showed only one hundred and sixty
thousand francs laid by. To have saved only eight thousand francs a
year the doctor must have had either many vices or many virtues to
gratify. But neither his housekeeper nor Zelie nor any one else could
discover the reason for such moderate means. Minoret, who when he left
it was much regretted in the quarter of Paris where he had lived, was
one of the most benevolent of men, and, like Larrey, kept his kind
deeds a profound secret.

The heirs watched the arrival of their uncle's fine furniture and
large library with complacency, and looked forward to his own coming,
he being now an officer of the Legion of honor, and lately appointed
by the king a chevalier of the order of Saint-Michel--perhaps on
account of his retirement, which left a vacancy for some favorite. But
when the architect and painter and upholsterer had arranged everything
in the most comfortable manner, the doctor did not come. Madame
Minoret-Levrault, who kept an eye on the upholsterer and architect as
if her own property was concerned, found out, through the indiscretion
of a young man sent to arrange the books, that the doctor was taking
care of a little orphan named Ursula. The news flew like wild-fire
through the town. At last, however, towards the middle of the month of
January, 1815, the old man actually arrived, installing himself
quietly, almost slyly, with a little girl about ten months old, and a
nurse.

"The child can't be his daughter," said the terrified heirs; "he is
seventy-one years old."

"Whoever she is," remarked Madame Massin, "she'll give us plenty of
tintouin" (a word peculiar to Nemours, meaning uneasiness, anxiety, or
more literally, tingling in the ears).

The doctor received his great-niece on the mother's side somewhat
coldly; her husband had just bought the place of clerk of the court,
and the pair began at once to tell him of their difficulties. Neither
Massin nor his wife were rich. Massin's father, a locksmith at
Montargis, had been obliged to compromise with his creditors, and was
now, at sixty-seven years of age, working like a young man, and had
nothing to leave behind him. Madame Massin's father, Levrault-Minoret,
had just died at Montereau after the battle, in despair at seeing his
farm burned, his fields ruined, his cattle slaughtered.

"We'll get nothing out of your great-uncle," said Massin to his wife,
now pregnant with her second child, after the interview.

The doctor, however, gave them privately ten thousand francs, with
which Massin, who was a great friend of the notary and of the sheriff,
began the business of money-lending, and carried matters so briskly
with the peasantry that by the time of which we are now writing Goupil
knew him to hold at least eighty thousand francs on their property.

As to his other niece, the doctor obtained for her husband, through
his influence in Paris, the collectorship of Nemours, and became his
bondsman. Though Minoret-Levrault needed no assistance, Zelie, his
wife, being jealous of the uncle's liberality to his two nieces, took
her ten-year old son to see him, and talked of the expense he would be
to them at a school in Paris, where, she said, education costs so
much. The doctor obtained a half-scholarship for his great-nephew at
the school of Louis-le-Grand, where Desire was put into the fourth
class.

Cremiere, Massin, and Minoret-Levrault, extremely common persons, were
"rated without appeal" by the doctor within two months of his arrival
in Nemours, during which time they courted, less their uncle than his
property. Persons who are led by instinct have one great disadvantage
against others with ideas. They are quickly found out; the suggestions
of instinct are too natural, too open to the eye not to be seen at a
glance; whereas, the conceptions of the mind require an equal amount
of intellect to discover them. After buying the gratitude of his
heirs, and thus, as it were, shutting their mouths, the wily doctor
made a pretext of his occupations, his habits, and the care of the
little Ursula to avoid receiving his relatives without exactly closing
his doors to them. He liked to dine alone; he went to bed late and he
got up late; he had returned to his native place for the very purpose
of finding rest in solitude. These whims of an old man seemed to be
natural, and his relatives contented themselves with paying him weekly
visits on Sundays from one to four o'clock, to which, however, he
tried to put a stop by saying: "Don't come and see me unless you want
something."

The doctor, while not refusing to be called in consultation over
serious cases, especially if the patients were indigent, would not
serve as a physician in the little hospital of Nemours, and declared
that he no longer practiced his profession.

"I've killed enough people," he said, laughing, to the Abbe Chaperon,
who, knowing his benevolence, would often get him to attend the poor.

"He's an original!" These words, said of Doctor Minoret, were the
harmless revenge of various wounded vanities; for a doctor collects
about him a society of persons who have many of the characteristics of
a set of heirs. Those of the bourgeoisie who thought themselves
entitled to visit this distinguished physician kept up a ferment of
jealousy against the few privileged friends whom he did admit to his
intimacy, which had in the long run some unfortunate results.



                            CHAPTER III

                       THE DOCTOR'S FRIENDS

Curiously enough, though it explains the old proverb that "extremes
meet," the materialistic doctor and the cure of Nemours were soon
friends. The old man loved backgammon, a favorite game of the
priesthood, and the Abbe Chaperon played it with about as much skill
as he himself. The game was the first tie between them. Then Minoret
was charitable, and the abbe was the Fenelon of the Gatinais. Both had
had a wide and varied education; the man of God was the only person in
all Nemours who was fully capable of understanding the atheist. To be
able to argue, men must first understand each other. What pleasure is
there in saying sharp words to one who can't feel them? The doctor and
the priest had far too much taste and had seen too much of good
society not to practice its precepts; they were thus well-fitted for
the little warfare so essential to conversation. They hated each
other's opinions, but they valued each other's character. If such
conflicts and such sympathies are not true elements of intimacy we
must surely despair of society, which, especially in France, requires
some form of antagonism. It is from the shock of characters, and not
from the struggle of opinions, that antipathies are generated.

The Abbe Chaperon became, therefore, the doctor's chief friend. This
excellent ecclesiastic, then sixty years of age, had been curate of
Nemours ever since the re-establishment of Catholic worship. Out of
attachment to his flock he had refused the vicariat of the diocese. If
those who were indifferent to religion thought well of him for so
doing, the faithful loved him the more for it. So, revered by his
sheep, respected by the inhabitants at large, the abbe did good
without inquiring into the religious opinions of those he benefited.
His parsonage, with scarcely furniture enough for the common needs of
life, was cold and shabby, like the lodging of a miser. Charity and
avarice manifest themselves in the same way; charity lays up a
treasure in heaven which avarice lays up on earth. The Abbe Chaperon
argued with his servant over expenses even more sharply than Gobseck
with his--if indeed that famous Jew kept a servant at all. The good
priest often sold the buckles off his shoes and his breeches to give
their value to some poor person who appealed to him at a moment when
he had not a penny. When he was seen coming out of church with the
straps of his breeches tied into the button-holes, devout women would
redeem the buckles from the clock-maker and jeweler of the town and
return them to their pastor with a lecture. He never bought himself
any clothes or linen, and wore his garments till they scarcely held
together. His linen, thick with darns, rubbed his skin like a hair
shirt. Madame de Portenduere, and other good souls, had an agreement
with his housekeeper to replace the old clothes with new ones after he
went to sleep, and the abbe did not always find out the difference. He
ate his food off pewter with iron forks and spoons. When he received
his assistants and sub-curates on days of high solemnity (an expense
obligatory on the heads of parishes) he borrowed linen and silver from
his friend the atheist.

"My silver is his salvation," the doctor would say.

These noble deeds, always accompanied by spiritual encouragement, were
done with a beautiful naivete. Such a life was all the more
meritorious because the abbe was possessed of an erudition that was
vast and varied, and of great and precious faculties. Delicacy and
grace, the inseparable accompaniments of simplicity, lent charm to an
elocution that was worthy of a prelate. His manners, his character,
and his habits gave to his intercourse with others the most exquisite
savor of all that is most spiritual, most sincere in the human mind. A
lover of gayety, he was never priest in a salon. Until Doctor
Minoret's arrival, the good man kept his light under a bushel without
regret. Owning a rather fine library and an income of two thousand
francs when he came to Nemours, he now possessed, in 1829, nothing at
all, except his stipend as parish priest, nearly the whole of which he
gave away during the year. The giver of excellent counsel in delicate
matters or in great misfortunes, many persons who never went to church
to obtain consolation went to the parsonage to get advice. One little
anecdote will suffice to complete his portrait. Sometimes the
peasants,--rarely, it is true, but occasionally,--unprincipled men,
would tell him they were sued for debt, or would get themselves
threatened fictitiously to stimulate the abbe's benevolence. They
would even deceive their wives, who, believing their chattels were
threatened with an execution and their cows seized, deceived in their
turn the poor priest with their innocent tears. He would then manage
with great difficulty to provide the seven or eight hundred francs
demanded of him--with which the peasant bought himself a morsel of
land. When pious persons and vestrymen denounced the fraud, begging
the abbe to consult them in future before lending himself to such
cupidity, he would say:--

"But suppose they had done something wrong to obtain their bit of
land? Isn't it doing good when we prevent evil?"

Some persons may wish for a sketch of this figure, remarkable for the
fact that science and literature had filled the heart and passed
through the strong head without corrupting either. At sixty years of
age the abbe's hair was white as snow, so keenly did he feel the
sorrows of others, and so heavily had the events of the Revolution
weighed upon him. Twice incarcerated for refusing to take the oath he
had twice, as he used to say, uttered in "In manus." He was of medium
height, neither stout nor thin. His face, much wrinkled and hollowed
and quite colorless, attracted immediate attention by the absolute
tranquillity expressed in its shape, and by the purity of its outline,
which seemed to be edged with light. The face of a chaste man has an
unspeakable radiance. Brown eyes with lively pupils brightened the
irregular features, which were surmounted by a broad forehead. His
glance wielded a power which came of a gentleness that was not devoid
of strength. The arches of his brow formed caverns shaded by huge gray
eyebrows which alarmed no one. As most of his teeth were gone his
mouth had lost its shape and his cheeks had fallen in; but this
physical destruction was not without charm; even the wrinkles, full of
pleasantness, seemed to smile on others. Without being gouty his feet
were tender; and he walked with so much difficulty that he wore shoes
made of calf's skin all the year round. He thought the fashion of
trousers unsuitable for priests, and he always appeared in stockings
of coarse black yarn, knit by his housekeeper, and cloth breeches. He
never went out in his cassock, but wore a brown overcoat, and still
retained the three-cornered hat he had worn so courageously in times
of danger. This noble and beautiful old man, whose face was glorified
by the serenity of a soul above reproach, will be found to have so
great an influence upon the men and things of this history, that it
was proper to show the sources of his authority and power.

Minoret took three newspapers,--one liberal, one ministerial, one
ultra,--a few periodicals, and certain scientific journals, the
accumulation of which swelled his library. The newspapers,
encyclopaedias, and books were an attraction to a retired captain of
the Royal-Swedish regiment, named Monsieur de Jordy, a Voltairean
nobleman and an old bachelor, who lived on sixteen hundred francs of
pension and annuity combined. Having read the gazettes for several
days, by favor of the abbe, Monsieur de Jordy thought it proper to
call and thank the doctor in person. At this first visit the old
captain, formerly a professor at the Military Academy, won the
doctor's heart, who returned the call with alacrity. Monsieur de
Jordy, a spare little man much troubled by his blood, though his face
was very pale, attracted attention by the resemblance of his handsome
brow to that of Charles XII.; above it he kept his hair cropped short,
like that of the soldier-king. His blue eyes seemed to say that "Love
had passed that way," so mournful were they; revealing memories about
which he kept such utter silence that his old friends never detected
even an allusion to his past life, nor a single exclamation drawn
forth by similarity of circumstances. He hid the painful mystery of
his past beneath a philosophic gayety, but when he thought himself
alone his motions, stiffened by a slowness which was more a matter of
choice than the result of old age, betrayed the constant presence of
distressful thoughts. The Abbe Chaperon called him a Christian
ignorant of his Christianity. Dressed always in blue cloth, his rather
rigid demeanor and his clothes bespoke the old habits of military
discipline. His sweet and harmonious voice stirred the soul. His
beautiful hands and the general cut of his figure, recalling that of
the Comte d'Artois, showed how charming he must have been in his
youth, and made the mystery of his life still more mysterious. An
observer asked involuntarily what misfortune had blighted such beauty,
courage, grace, accomplishment, and all the precious qualities of the
heart once united in his person. Monsieur de Jordy shuddered if
Robespierre's name were uttered before him. He took much snuff, but,
strange to say, he gave up the habit to please little Ursula, who at
first showed a dislike to him on that account. As soon as he saw the
little girl the captain fastened his eyes upon her with a look that
was almost passionate. He loved her play so extravagantly and took
such interest in all she did that the tie between himself and the
doctor grew closer every day, though the latter never dared to say to
him, "You, too, have you lost children?" There are beings, kind and
patient as old Jordy, who pass through life with a bitter thought in
their heart and a tender but sorrowful smile on their lips, carrying
with them to the grave the secret of their lives; letting no one guess
it,--through pride, through disdain, possibly through revenge;
confiding in none but God, without other consolation than his.

Monsieur de Jordy, like the doctor, had come to die in Nemours, but he
knew no one except the abbe, who was always at the beck and call of
his parishioners, and Madame de Portenduere, who went to bed at nine
o'clock. So, much against his will, he too had taken to going to bed
early, in spite of the thorns that beset his pillow. It was therefore
a great piece of good fortune for him (as well as for the doctor) when
he encountered a man who had known the same world and spoken the same
language as himself; with whom he could exchange ideas, and who went
to bed late. After Monsieur de Jordy, the Abbe Chaperon, and Minoret
had passed one evening together they found so much pleasure in it that
the priest and soldier returned every night regularly at nine o'clock,
the hour at which, little Ursula having gone to bed, the doctor was
free. All three would then sit up till midnight or one o'clock.

After a time this trio became a quartette. Another man to whom life
was known, and who owed to his practical training as a lawyer, the
indulgence, knowledge, observation, shrewdness, and talent for
conversation which the soldier, doctor, and priest owed to their
practical dealings with the souls, diseases, and education of men, was
added to the number. Monsieur Bongrand, the justice of peace, heard of
the pleasure of these evenings and sought admittance to the doctor's
society. Before becoming justice of peace at Nemours he had been for
ten years a solicitor at Melun, where he conducted his own cases,
according to the custom of small towns, where there are no barristers.
He became a widower at forty-five years of age, but felt himself still
too active to lead an idle life; he therefore sought and obtained the
position of justice of peace at Nemours, which became vacant a few
months before the arrival of Doctor Minoret. Monsieur Bongrand lived
modestly on his salary of fifteen hundred francs, in order that he
might devote his private income to his son, who was studying law in
Paris under the famous Derville. He bore some resemblance to a retired
chief of a civil service office; he had the peculiar face of a
bureaucrat, less sallow than pallid, on which public business,
vexations, and disgust leave their imprint,--a face lined by thought,
and also by the continual restraints familiar to those who are trained
not to speak their minds freely. It was often illumined by smiles
characteristic of men who alternately believe all and believe nothing,
who are accustomed to see and hear all without being startled, and to
fathom the abysses which self-interest hollows in the depths of the
human heart.

Below the hair, which was less white than discolored, and worn
flattened to the head, was a fine, sagacious forehead, the yellow
tones of which harmonized well with the scanty tufts of thin hair. His
face, with the features set close together, bore some likeness to that
of a fox, all the more because his nose was short and pointed. In
speaking, he spluttered at the mouth, which was broad like that of
most great talkers,--a habit which led Goupil to say, ill-naturedly,
"An umbrella would be useful when listening to him," or, "The justice
rains verdicts." His eyes looked keen behind his spectacles, but if he
took the glasses off his dulled glance seemed almost vacant. Though he
was naturally gay, even jovial, he was apt to give himself too
important and pompous an air. He usually kept his hands in the pockets
of his trousers, and only took them out to settle his eye-glasses on
his nose, with a movement that was half comic, and which announced the
coming of a keen observation or some victorious argument. His
gestures, his loquacity, his innocent self-assertion, proclaimed the
provincial lawyer. These slight defects were, however, superficial; he
redeemed them by an exquisite kind-heartedness which a rigid moralist
might call the indulgence natural to superiority. He looked a little
like a fox, and he was thought to be very wily, but never false or
dishonest. His wiliness was perspicacity; and consisted in foreseeing
results and protecting himself and others from the traps set for them.
He loved whist, a game known to the captain and the doctor, and which
the abbe learned to play in a very short time.

This little circle of friends made for itself an oasis in Mironet's
salon. The doctor of Nemours, who was not without education and
knowledge of the world, and who greatly respected Minoret as an honor
to the profession, came there sometimes; but his duties and also his
fatigue (which obliged him to go to bed early and to be up early)
prevented his being as assiduously present as the three other friends.
This intercourse of five superior men, the only ones in Nemours who
had sufficiently wide knowledge to understand each other, explains old
Minoret's aversion to his relatives; if he were compelled to leave
them his money, at least he need not admit them to his society.
Whether the post master, the sheriff, and the collector understood
this distinction, or whether they were reassured by the evident
loyalty and benefactions of their uncle, certain it is that they
ceased, to his great satisfaction, to see much of him. So, about eight
months after the arrival of the doctor these four players of whist and
backgammon made a solid and exclusive little world which was to each a
fraternal aftermath, an unlooked for fine season, the gentle pleasures
of which were the more enjoyed. This little circle of choice spirits
closed round Ursula, a child whom each adopted according to his
individual tendencies; the abbe thought of her soul, the judge
imagined himself her guardian, the soldier intended to be her teacher,
and as for Minoret, he was father, mother, and physician, all in one.

After he became acclimated old Minoret settled into certain habits of
life, under fixed rules, after the manner of the provinces. On
Ursula's account he received no visitors in the morning, and never
gave dinners, but his friends were at liberty to come to his house at
six o'clock and stay till midnight. The first-comers found the
newspapers on the table and read them while awaiting the rest; or they
sometimes sallied forth to meet the doctor if he were out for a walk.
This tranquil life was not a mere necessity of old age, it was the
wise and careful scheme of a man of the world to keep his happiness
untroubled by the curiosity of his heirs and the gossip of a little
town. He yielded nothing to that capricious goddess, public opinion,
whose tyranny (one of the present great evils of France) was just
beginning to establish its power and to make the whole nation a mere
province. So, as soon as the child was weaned and could walk alone,
the doctor sent away the housekeeper whom his niece, Madame
Minoret-Levrault had chosen for him, having discovered that she told
her patroness everything that happened in his household.

Ursula's nurse, the widow of a poor workman (who possessed no name but
a baptismal one, and who came from Bougival) had lost her last child,
aged six months, just as the doctor, who knew her to be a good and
honest creature, engaged her as wetnurse for Ursula. Antoinette Patris
(her maiden name), widow of Pierre, called Le Bougival, attached
herself naturally to Ursula, as wetmaids do to their nurslings. This
blind maternal affection was accompanied in this instance by household
devotion. Told of the doctor's intention to send away his housekeeper,
La Bougival secretly learned to cook, became neat and handy, and
discovered the old man's ways. She took the utmost care of the house
and furniture; in short she was indefatigable. Not only did the doctor
wish to keep his private life within four walls, as the saying is, but
he also had certain reasons for hiding a knowledge of his business
affairs from his relatives. At the end of the second year after his
arrival La Bougival was the only servant in the house; on her
discretion he knew he could count, and he disguised his real purposes
by the all-powerful open reason of a necessary economy. To the great
satisfaction of his heirs he became a miser. Without fawning or
wheedling, solely by the influence of her devotion and solicitude, La
Bougival, who was forty-three years old at the time this tale begins,
was the housekeeper of the doctor and his protegee, the pivot on which
the whole house turned, in short, the confidential servant. She was
called La Bougival from the admitted impossibility of applying to her
person the name that actually belonged to her, Antoinette--for names
and forms do obey the laws of harmony.

The doctor's miserliness was not mere talk; it was real, and it had an
object. From the year 1817 he cut off two of his newspapers and ceased
subscribing to periodicals. His annual expenses, which all Nemours
could estimate, did not exceed eighteen hundred francs a year. Like
most old men his wants in linen, boots, and clothing, were very few.
Every six months he went to Paris, no doubt to draw and reinvest his
income. In fifteen years he never said a single word to any one in
relation to his affairs. His confidence in Bongrand was of slow
growth; it was not until after the revolution of 1830 that he told him
of his projects. Nothing further was known of the doctor's life either
by the bourgeoisie at large or by his heirs. As for his political
opinions, he did not meddle in public matters seeing that he paid less
than a hundred francs a year in taxes, and refused, impartially, to
subscribe to either royalist or liberal demands. His known horror for
the priesthood, and his deism were so little obtrusive that he turned
out of his house a commercial runner sent by his great-nephew Desire
to ask a subscription to the "Cure Meslier" and the "Discours du
General Foy." Such tolerance seemed inexplicable to the liberals of
Nemours.

The doctor's three collateral heirs, Minoret-Levrault and his wife,
Monsieur and Madame Massin-Levrault, junior, Monsieur and Madame
Cremiere-Cremiere--whom we shall in future call simply Cremiere,
Massin, and Minoret, because these distinctions among homonyms is
quite unnecessary out of the Gatinais--met together as people do in
little towns. The post master gave a grand dinner on his son's
birthday, a ball during the carnival, another on the anniversary of
his marriage, to all of which he invited the whole bourgeoisie of
Nemours. The collector received his relations and friends twice a
year. The clerk of the court, too poor, he said, to fling himself into
such extravagance, lived in a small way in a house standing half-way
down the Grand'Rue, the ground-floor of which was let to his sister,
the letter-postmistress of Nemours, a situation she owed to the
doctor's kind offices. Nevertheless, in the course of the year these
three families did meet together frequently, in the houses of friends,
in the public promenades, at the market, on their doorsteps, or, of a
Sunday in the square, as on this occasion; so that one way and another
they met nearly every day. For the last three years the doctor's age,
his economies, and his probable wealth had led to allusions, or frank
remarks, among the townspeople as to the disposition of his property,
a topic which made the doctor and his heirs of deep interest to the
little town. For the last six months not a day passed that friends and
neighbours did not speak to the heirs, with secret envy, of the day
the good man's eyes would shut and the coffers open.

"Doctor Minoret may be an able physician, on good terms with death,
but none but God is eternal," said one.

"Pooh, he'll bury us all; his health is better than ours," replied an
heir, hypocritically.

"Well, if you don't get the money yourselves, your children will,
unless that little Ursula--"

"He won't leave it all to her."

Ursula, as Madame Massin had predicted, was the bete noire of the
relations, their sword of Damocles; and Madame Cremiere's favorite
saying, "Well, whoever lives will know," shows that they wished at any
rate more harm to her than good.

The collector and the clerk of the court, poor in comparison with the
post master, had often estimated, by way of conversation, the doctor's
property. If they met their uncle walking on the banks of the canal or
along the road they would look at each other piteously.

"He must have got hold of some elixir of life," said one.

"He has made a bargain with the devil," replied the other.

"He ought to give us the bulk of it; that fat Minoret doesn't need
anything," said Massin.

"Ah! but Minoret has a son who'll waste his substance," answered
Cremiere.

"How much do you really think the doctor has?"

"At the end of twelve years, say twelve thousand francs saved each
year, that would give one hundred and forty-four thousand francs, and
the interest brings in at least one hundred thousand more. But as he
must, if he consults a notary in Paris, have made some good strokes of
business, and we know that up to 1822 he could get seven or eight per
cent from the State, he must now have at least four hundred thousand
francs, without counting the capital of his fourteen thousand a year
from the five per cents. If he were to die to-morrow without leaving
anything to Ursula we should get at least seven or eight hundred
thousand francs, besides the house and furniture."

"Well, a hundred thousand to Minoret, and three hundred thousand
apiece to you and me, that would be fair."

"Ha, that would make us comfortable!"

"If he did that," said Massin, "I should sell my situation in court
and buy an estate; I'd try to be judge at Fontainebleau, and get
myself elected deputy."

"As for me I should buy a brokerage business," said the collector.

"Unluckily, that girl he has on his arm and the abbe have got round
him. I don't believe we can do anything with him."

"Still, we know very well he will never leave anything to the Church."



                             CHAPTER IV

                               ZELIE

The fright of the heirs at beholding their uncle on his way to mass
will now be understood. The dullest persons have mind enough to
foresee a danger to self-interests. Self-interest constitutes the mind
of the peasant as well as that of the diplomatist, and on that ground
the stupidest of men is sometimes the most powerful. So the fatal
reasoning, "If that little Ursula has influence enough to drag her
godfather into the pale of the Church she will certainly have enough
to make him leave her his property," was now stamped in letters of
fire on the brains of the most obtuse heir. The post master had
forgotten about his son in his hurry to reach the square; for if the
doctor were really in the church hearing mass it was a question of
losing two hundred and fifty thousand francs. It must be admitted that
the fears of these relations came from the strongest and most
legitimate of social feelings, family interests.

"Well, Monsieur Minoret," said the mayor (formerly a miller who had
now become royalist, named Levrault-Cremiere), "when the devil gets
old the devil a monk would be. Your uncle, they say, is one of us."

"Better late than never, cousin," responded the post master, trying to
conceal his annoyance.

"How that fellow will grin if we are defrauded! He is capable of
marrying his son to that damned girl--may the devil get her!" cried
Cremiere, shaking his fists at the mayor as he entered the porch.

"What's Cremiere grumbling about?" said the butcher of the town, a
Levrault-Levrault the elder. "Isn't he pleased to see his uncle on the
road to paradise?"

"Who would ever have believed it!" ejaculated Massin.

"Ha! one should never say, 'Fountain, I'll not drink of your water,'"
remarked the notary, who, seeing the group from afar, had left his
wife to go to church without him.

"Come, Monsieur Dionis," said Cremiere, taking the notary by the arm,
"what do you advise me to do under the circumstances?"

"I advise you," said the notary, addressing the heirs collectively,
"to go to bed and get up at your usual hour; to eat your soup before
it gets cold; to put your feet in your shoes and your hats on your
heads; in short, to continue your ways of life precisely as if nothing
had happened."

"You are not consoling," said Massin.

In spite of his squat, dumpy figure and heavy face, Cremiere-Dionis
was really as keen as a blade. In pursuit of usurious fortune he did
business secretly with Massin, to whom he no doubt pointed out such
peasants as were hampered in means, and such pieces of land as could
be bought for a song. The two men were in a position to choose their
opportunities; none that were good escaped them, and they shared the
profits of mortgage-usury, which retards, though it does not prevent,
the acquirement of the soil by the peasantry. So Dionis took a lively
interest in the doctor's inheritance, not so much for the post master
and the collector as for his friend the clerk of the court; sooner or
later Massin's share in the doctor's money would swell the capital
with which these secret associates worked the canton.

"We must try to find out through Monsieur Bongrand where the influence
comes from," said the notary in a low voice, with a sign to Massin to
keep quiet.

"What are you about, Minoret?" cried a little woman, suddenly
descending upon the group in the middle of which stood the post
master, as tall and round as a tower. "You don't know where Desire is
and there you are, planted on your two legs, gossiping about nothing,
when I thought you on horseback!--Oh, good morning, Messieurs and
Mesdames."

This little woman, thin, pale, and fair, dressed in a gown of white
cotton with pattern of large, chocolate-colored flowers, a cap trimmed
with ribbon and frilled with lace, and wearing a small green shawl on
her flat shoulders, was Minoret's wife, the terror of postilions,
servants, and carters; who kept the accounts and managed the
establishment "with finger and eye" as they say in those parts. Like
the true housekeeper that she was, she wore no ornaments. She did not
give in (to use her own expression) to gew-gaws and trumpery; she held
to the solid and the substantial, and wore, even on Sundays, a black
apron, in the pocket of which she jingled her household keys. Her
screeching voice was agony to the drums of all ears. Her rigid glance,
conflicting with the soft blue of her eyes, was in visible harmony
with the thin lips of a pinched mouth and a high, projecting, and very
imperious forehead. Sharp was the glance, sharper still both gesture
and speech. "Zelie being obliged to have a will for two, had it for
three," said Goupil, who pointed out the successive reigns of three
young postilions, of neat appearance, who had been set up in life by
Zelie, each after seven years' service. The malicious clerk named them
Postilion I., Postilion II., Postilion III. But the little influence
these young men had in the establishment, and their perfect obedience
proved that Zelie was merely interested in worthy helpers.

This attempt at scandal was against probabilities. Since the birth of
her son (nursed by her without any evidence of how it was possible for
her to do so) Madame Minoret had thought only of increasing the family
fortune and was wholly given up to the management of their immense
establishment. To steal a bale of hay or a bushel of oats or get the
better of Zelie in even the most complicated accounts was a thing
impossible, though she scribbled hardly better than a cat, and knew
nothing of arithmetic but addition and subtraction. She never took a
walk except to look at the hay, the oats, or the second crops. She
sent "her man" to the mowing, and the postilions to tie the bales,
telling them the quantity, within a hundred pounds, each field should
bear. Though she was the soul of that great body called Minoret-Levrault
and led him about by his pug nose, she was made to feel the fears which
occasionally (we are told) assail all tamers of wild beasts. She
therefore made it a rule to get into a rage before he did; the
postilions knew very well when his wife had been quarreling with him,
for his anger ricocheted on them. Madame Minoret was as clever as she
was grasping; and it was a favorite remark in the whole town, "Where
would Minoret-Levrault be without his wife?"

"When you know what has happened," replied the post master, "you'll be
over the traces yourself."

"What is it?"

"Ursula has taken the doctor to mass."

Zelie's pupils dilated; she stood for a moment yellow with anger,
then, crying out, "I'll see it before I believe it!" she rushed into
the church. The service had reached the Elevation. The stillness of
the worshippers enabled her to look along each row of chairs and
benches as she went up the aisle beside the chapels to Ursula's place,
where she saw old Minoret standing with bared head.

If you recall the heads of Barbe-Marbois, Boissy d'Anglas, Morellet,
Helvetius, or Frederick the Great, you will see the exact image of
Doctor Minoret, whose green old age resembled that of those celebrated
personages. Their heads coined in the same mint (for each had the
characteristics of a medal) showed a stern and quasi-puritan profile,
cold tones, a mathematical brain, a certain narrowness about the
features, shrewd eyes, grave lips, and a something that was surely
aristocratic--less perhaps in sentiment than in habit, more in the
ideas than in the character. All men of this stamp have high brows
retreating at the summit, the sigh of a tendency to materialism. You
will find these leading characteristics of the head and these points
of the face in all the Encyclopedists, in the orators of the Gironde,
in the men of a period when religious ideas were almost dead, men who
called themselves deists and were atheists. The deist is an atheist
lucky in classification.

Minoret had a forehead of this description, furrowed with wrinkles,
which recovered in his old age a sort of artless candor from the
manner in which the silvery hair, brushed back like that of a woman
when making her toilet, curled in light flakes upon the blackness of
his coat. He persisted in dressing, as in his youth, in black silk
stockings, shoes with gold buckles, breeches of black poult-de-soie,
and a black coat, adorned with the red rosette. This head, so firmly
characterized, the cold whiteness of which was softened by the
yellowing tones of old age, happened to be, just then, in the full
light of a window. As Madame Minoret came in sight of him the doctor's
blue eyes with their reddened lids were raised to heaven; a new
conviction had given them a new expression. His spectacles lay in his
prayer-book and marked the place where he had ceased to pray. The tall
and spare old man, his arms crossed on his breast, stood erect in an
attitude which bespoke the full strength of his faculties and the
unshakable assurance of his faith. He gazed at the altar humbly with a
look of renewed hope, and took no notice of his nephew's wife, who
planted herself almost in front of him as if to reproach him for
coming back to God.

Zelie, seeing all eyes turned upon her, made haste to leave the church
and returned to the square less hurriedly than she had left it. She
had reckoned on the doctor's money, and possession was becoming
problematical. She found the clerk of the court, the collector, and
their wives in greater consternation than ever. Goupil was taking
pleasure in tormenting them.

"It is not in the public square and before the whole town that we
ought to talk of our affairs," said Zelie; "come home with me. You
too, Monsieur Dionis," she added to the notary; "you'll not be in the
way."

Thus the probable disinheritance of Massin, Cremiere, and the post
master was the news of the day.

Just as the heirs and the notary were crossing the square to go to the
post house the noise of the diligence rattling up to the office, which
was only a few steps from the church, at the top of the Grand'Rue,
made its usual racket.

"Goodness! I'm like you, Minoret; I forgot all about Desire," said
Zelie. "Let us go and see him get down. He is almost a lawyer; and his
interests are mixed up in this matter."

The arrival of the diligence is always an amusement, but when it comes
in late some unusual event is expected. The crowd now moved towards
the "Ducler."

"Here's Desire!" was the general cry.

The tyrant, and yet the life and soul of Nemours, Desire always put
the town in a ferment when he came. Loved by the young men, with whom
he was invariably generous, he stimulated them by his very presence.
But his methods of amusement were so dreaded by older persons that
more than one family was very thankful to have him complete his
studies and study law in Paris. Desire Minoret, a slight youth,
slender and fair like his mother, from whom he obtained his blue eyes
and pale skin, smiled from the window on the crowd, and jumped lightly
down to kiss his mother. A short sketch of the young fellow will show
how proud Zelie felt when she saw him.

He wore very elegant boots, trousers of white English drilling held
under his feet by straps of varnished leather, a rich cravat,
admirably put on and still more admirably fastened, a pretty fancy
waistcoat, in the pocket of said waistcoat a flat watch, the chain of
which hung down; and, finally, a short frock-coat of blue cloth, and a
gray hat,--but his lack of the manner-born was shown in the gilt
buttons of the waistcoat and the ring worn outside of his purple kid
glove. He carried a cane with a chased gold head.

"You are losing your watch," said his mother, kissing him.

"No, it is worn that way," he replied, letting his father hug him.

"Well, cousin, so we shall soon see you a lawyer?" said Massin.

"I shall take the oaths at the beginning of next term," said Desire,
returning the friendly nods he was receiving on all sides.

"Now we shall have some fun," said Goupil, shaking him by the hand.

"Ha! my old wag, so here you are!" replied Desire.

"You take your law license for all license," said Goupil, affronted by
being treated so cavalierly in presence of others.

"You know my luggage," cried Desire to the red-faced old conductor of
the diligence; "have it taken to the house."

"The sweat is rolling off your horses," said Zelie sharply to the
conductor; "you haven't common-sense to drive them in that way. You
are stupider than your own beasts."

"But Monsieur Desire was in a hurry to get here to save you from
anxiety," explained Cabirolle.

"But if there was no accident why risk killing the horses?" she
retorted.

The greetings of friends and acquaintances, the crowding of the young
men around Desire, and the relating of the incidents of the journey
took enough time for the mass to be concluded and the worshippers to
issue from the church. By mere chance (which manages many things)
Desire saw Ursula on the porch as he passed along, and he stopped
short amazed at her beauty. His action also stopped the advance of the
relations who accompanied him.

In giving her arm to her godfather, Ursula was obliged to hold her
prayer-book in one hand and her parasol in the other; and this she did
with the innate grace which graceful women put into the awkward or
difficult things of their charming craft of womanhood. If mind does
truly reveal itself in all things, we may be permitted to say that
Ursula's attitude and bearing suggested divine simplicity. She was
dressed in a white cambric gown made like a wrapper, trimmed here and
there with knots of blue ribbon. The pelerine, edged with the same
ribbon run through a broad hem and tied with bows like those on the
dress, showed the great beauty of her shape. Her throat, of a pure
white, was charming in tone against the blue,--the right color for a
fair skin. A long blue sash with floating ends defined a slender waist
which seemed flexible,--a most seductive charm in women. She wore a
rice-straw bonnet, modestly trimmed with ribbons like those of the
gown, the strings of which were tied under her chin, setting off the
whiteness of the straw and doing no despite to that of her beautiful
complexion. Ursula dressed her own hair naturally (a la Berthe, as it
was then called) in heavy braids of fine, fair hair, laid flat on
either side of the head, each little strand reflecting the light as
she walked. Her gray eyes, soft and proud at the same time, were in
harmony with a finely modeled brow. A rosy tinge, suffusing her
cheeks like a cloud, brightened a face which was regular without being
insipid; for nature had given her, by some rare privilege, extreme
purity of form combined with strength of countenance. The nobility of
her life was manifest in the general expression of her person, which
might have served as a model for a type of trustfulness, or of
modesty. Her health, though brilliant, was not coarsely apparent; in
fact, her whole air was distinguished. Beneath the little gloves of a
light color it was easy to imagine her pretty hands. The arched and
slender feet were delicately shod in bronzed kid boots trimmed with a
brown silk fringe. Her blue sash holding at the waist a small flat
watch and a blue purse with gilt tassels attracted the eyes of every
woman she met.

"He has given her a new watch!" said Madame Cremiere, pinching her
husband's arm.

"Heavens! is that Ursula?" cried Desire; "I didn't recognize her."

"Well, my dear uncle," said the post master, addressing the doctor and
pointing to the whole population drawn up in parallel hedges to let
the doctor pass, "everybody wants to see you."

"Was it the Abbe Chaperon or Mademoiselle Ursula who converted you,
uncle," said Massin, bowing to the doctor and his protegee, with
Jesuitical humility.

"Ursula," replied the doctor, laconically, continuing to walk on as if
annoyed.

The night before, as the old man finished his game of whist with
Ursula, the Nemours doctor, and Bongrand, he remarked, "I intend to go
to church to-morrow."

"Then," said Bongrand, "your heirs won't get another night's rest."

The speech was superfluous, however, for a single glance sufficed the
sagacious and clear-sighted doctor to read the minds of his heirs by
the expression of their faces. Zelie's irruption into the church, her
glance, which the doctor intercepted, this meeting of all the
expectant ones in the public square, and the expression in their eyes
as they turned them on Ursula, all proved to him their hatred, now
freshly awakened, and their sordid fears.

"It is a feather in your cap, Mademoiselle," said Madame Cremiere,
putting in her word with a humble bow,--"a miracle which will not cost
you much."

"It is God's doing, madame," replied Ursula.

"God!" exclaimed Minoret-Levrault; "my father-in-law used to say he
served to blanket many horses."

"Your father-in-law had the mind of a jockey," said the doctor
severely.

"Come," said Minoret to his wife and son, "why don't you bow to my
uncle?"

"I shouldn't be mistress of myself before that little hypocrite,"
cried Zelie, carrying off her son.

"I advise you, uncle, not to go to mass without a velvet cap," said
Madame Massin; "the church is very damp."

"Pooh, niece," said the doctor, looking round on the assembly, "the
sooner I'm put to bed the sooner you'll flourish."

He walked on quickly, drawing Ursula with him, and seemed in such a
hurry that the others dropped behind.

"Why do you say such harsh things to them? it isn't right," said
Ursula, shaking his arm in a coaxing way.

"I shall always hate hypocrites, as much after as before I became
religious. I have done good to them all, and I asked no gratitude; but
not one of my relatives sent you a flower on your birthday, which they
know is the only day I celebrate."

At some distance behind the doctor and Ursula came Madame de
Portenduere, dragging herself along as if overcome with trouble. She
belonged to the class of old women whose dress recalls the style of
the last century. They wear puce-colored gowns with flat sleeves, the
cut of which can be seen in the portraits of Madame Lebrun; they all
have black lace mantles and bonnets of a shape gone by, in keeping
with their slow and dignified deportment; one might almost fancy that
they still wore paniers under their petticoats or felt them there, as
persons who have lost a leg are said to fancy that the foot is moving.
They swathe their heads in old lace which declines to drape gracefully
about their cheeks. Their wan and elongated faces, their haggard eyes
and faded brows, are not without a certain melancholy grace, in spite
of the false fronts with flattened curls to which they cling,--and yet
these ruins are all subordinate to an unspeakable dignity of look and
manner.

The red and wrinkled eyes of this old lady showed plainly that she had
been crying during the service. She walked like a person in trouble,
seemed to be expecting some one, and looked behind her from time to
time. Now, the fact of Madame de Portenduere looking behind her was
really as remarkable in its way as the conversion of Doctor Minoret.

"Who can Madame de Portenduere be looking for?" said Madame Massin,
rejoining the other heirs, who were for the moment struck dumb by the
doctor's answer.

"For the cure," said Dionis, the notary, suddenly striking his
forehead as if some forgotten thought or memory had occurred to him.
"I have an idea! I'll save your inheritance! Let us go and breakfast
gayly with Madame Minoret."

We can well imagine the alacrity with which the heirs followed the
notary to the post house. Goupil, who accompanied his friend Desire,
locked arm in arm with him, whispered something in the youth's ear
with an odious smile.

"What do I care?" answered the son of the house, shrugging his
shoulders. "I am madly in love with Florine, the most celestial
creature in the world."

"Florine! and who may she be?" demanded Goupil. "I'm too fond of you
to let you make a goose of yourself wish such creatures."

"Florine is the idol of the famous Nathan; my passion is wasted, I
know that. She has positively refused to marry me."

"Sometimes those girls who are fools with their bodies are wise with
their heads," responded Goupil.

"If you could but see her--only once," said Desire, lackadaisically,
"you wouldn't say such things."

"If I saw you throwing away your whole future for nothing better than
a fancy," said Goupil, with a warmth which might even have deceived
his master, "I would break your doll as Varney served Amy Robsart in
'Kenilworth.' Your wife must be a d'Aiglement or a Mademoiselle du
Rouvre, and get you made a deputy. My future depends on yours, and I
sha'n't let you commit any follies."

"I am rich enough to care only for happiness," replied Desire.

"What are you two plotting together?" cried Zelie, beckoning to the
two friends, who were standing in the middle of the courtyard, to come
into the house.

The doctor disappeared into the Rue des Bourgeois with the activity of
a young man, and soon reached his own house, where strange events had
lately taken place, the visible results of which now filled the minds
of the whole community of Nemours. A few explanations are needed to
make this history and the notary's remark to the heirs perfectly
intelligible to the reader.



                             CHAPTER V

                               URSULA

The father-in-law of Doctor Minoret, the famous harpsichordist and
maker of instruments, Valentin Mirouet, also one of our most
celebrated organists, died in 1785 leaving a natural son, the child of
his old age, whom he acknowledged and called by his own name, but who
turned out a worthless fellow. He was deprived on his death bed of the
comfort of seeing this petted son. Joseph Mirouet, a singer and
composer, having made his debut at the Italian opera under a feigned
name, ran away with a young lady in Germany. The dying father
commended the young man, who was really full of talent, to his
son-in-law, proving to him, at the same time, that he had refused to
marry the mother that he might not injure Madame Minoret. The doctor
promised to give the unfortunate Joseph half of whatever his wife
inherited from her father, whose business was purchased by the Erards.
He made due search for his illegitimate brother-in-law; but Grimm
informed him one day that after enlisting in a Prussian regiment
Joseph had deserted and taken a false name and that all efforts to
find him would be frustrated.

Joseph Mirouet, gifted by nature with a delightful voice, a fine
figure, a handsome face, and being moreover a composer of great taste
and much brilliancy, led for over fifteen years the Bohemian life
which Hoffman has so well described. So, by the time he was forty, he
was reduced to such depths of poverty that he took advantage of the
events of 1806 to make himself once more a Frenchman. He settled in
Hamburg, where he married the daughter of a bourgeois, a girl devoted
to music, who fell in love with the singer (whose fame was ever
prospective) and chose to devote her life to him. But after fifteen
years of Bohemia, Joseph Mirouet was unable to bear prosperity; he was
naturally a spendthrift, and though kind to his wife, he wasted her
fortune in a very few years. The household must have dragged on a
wretched existence before Joseph Mirouet reached the point of
enlisting as a musician in a French regiment. In 1813 the
surgeon-major of the regiment, by the merest chance, heard the name of
Mirouet, was struck by it, and wrote to Doctor Minoret, to whom he was
under obligations.

The answer was not long in coming. As a result, in 1814, before the
allied occupation, Joseph Mirouet had a home in Paris, where his wife
died giving birth to a little girl, whom the doctor desired should be
called Ursula after his wife. The father did not long survive the
mother, worn out, as she was, by hardship and poverty. When dying the
unfortunate musician bequeathed his daughter to the doctor, who was
already her godfather, in spite of his repugnance for what he called
the mummeries of the Church. Having seen his own children die in
succession either in dangerous confinements or during the first year
of their lives, the doctor had awaited with anxiety the result of a
last hope. When a nervous, delicate, and sickly woman begins with a
miscarriage it is not unusual to see her go through a series of such
pregnancies as Ursula Minoret did, in spite of the care and
watchfulness and science of her husband. The poor man often blamed
himself for their mutual persistence in desiring children. The last
child, born after a rest of nearly two years, died in 1792, a victim
of its mother's nervous condition--if we listen to physiologists, who
tell us that in the inexplicable phenomenon of generation the child
derives from the father by blood and from the mother in its nervous
system.

Compelled to renounce the joys of a feeling all powerful within him,
the doctor turned to benevolence as a substitute for his denied
paternity. During his married life, thus cruelly disappointed, he had
longed more especially for a fair little daughter, a flower to bring
joy to the house; he therefore gladly accepted Joseph Mirouet's
legacy, and gave to the orphan all the hopes of his vanished dreams.
For two years he took part, as Cato for Pompey, in the most minute
particulars of Ursula's life; he would not allow the nurse to suckle
her or to take her up or put her to bed without him. His medical
science and his experience were all put to use in her service. After
going through many trials, alternations of hope and fear, and the joys
and labors of a mother, he had the happiness of seeing this child of
the fair German woman and the French singer a creature of vigorous
health and profound sensibility.

With all the eager feelings of a mother the happy old man watched the
growth of the pretty hair, first down, then silk, at last hair, fine
and soft and clinging to the fingers that caressed it. He often kissed
the little naked feet the toes of which, covered with a pellicle
through which the blood was seen, were like rosebuds. He was
passionately fond of the child. When she tried to speak, or when she
fixed her beautiful blue eyes upon some object with that serious,
reflective look which seems the dawn of thought, and which she ended
with a laugh, he would stay by her side for hours, seeking, with
Jordy's help, to understand the reasons (which most people call
caprices) underlying the phenomena of this delicious phase of life,
when childhood is both flower and fruit, a confused intelligence, a
perpetual movement, a powerful desire.

Ursula's beauty and gentleness made her so dear to the doctor that he
would have liked to change the laws of nature in her behalf. He
declared to old Jordy that his teeth ached when Ursula was cutting
hers. When old men love children there is no limit to their passion
--they worship them. For these little beings they silence their own
manias or recall a whole past in their service. Experience, patience,
sympathy, the acquisitions of life, treasures laboriously amassed, all
are spent upon that young life in which they live again; their
intelligence does actually take the place of motherhood. Their wisdom,
ever on the alert, is equal to the intuition of a mother; they
remember the delicate perceptions which in their own mother were
divinations, and import them into the exercise of a compassion which
is carried to an extreme in their minds by a sense of the child's
unutterable weakness. The slowness of their movements takes the place
of maternal gentleness. In them, as in children, life is reduced to
its simplest expression; if maternal sentiment makes the mother a
slave, the abandonment of self allows an old man to devote himself
utterly. For these reasons it is not unusual to see children in close
intimacy with old persons. The old soldier, the old abbe, the old
doctor, happy in the kisses and cajoleries of little Ursula, were
never weary of answering her talk and playing with her. Far from
making them impatient her petulances charmed them; and they gratified
all her wishes, making each the ground of some little training.

The child grew up surrounded by old men, who smiled at her and made
themselves mothers for her sake, all three equally attentive and
provident. Thanks to this wise education, Ursula's soul developed in a
sphere that suited it. This rare plant found its special soil; it
breathed the elements of its true life and assimilated the sun rays
that belonged to it.

"In what faith do you intend to bring up the little one?" asked the
abbe of the doctor, when Ursula was six years old.

"In yours," answered Minoret.

An atheist after the manner of Monsieur Wolmar in the "Nouvelle
Heloise" he did not claim the right to deprive Ursula of the benefits
offered by the Catholic religion. The doctor, sitting at the moment on
a bench outside the Chinese pagoda, felt the pressure of the abbe's
hand on his.

"Yes, abbe, every time she talks to me of God I shall send her to her
friend 'Shapron,'" he said, imitating Ursula's infant speech, "I wish
to see whether religious sentiment is inborn or not. Therefore I shall
do nothing either for or against the tendencies of that young soul;
but in my heart I have appointed you her spiritual guardian."

"God will reward you, I hope," replied the abbe, gently joining his
hands and raising them towards heaven as if he were making a brief
mental prayer.

So, from the time she was six years old the little orphan lived under
the religious influence of the abbe, just as she had already come
under the educational training of her friend Jordy.

The captain, formerly a professor in a military academy, having a
taste for grammar and for the differences among European languages,
had studied the problem of a universal tongue. This learned man,
patient as most old scholars are, delighted in teaching Ursula to read
and write. He taught her also the French language and all she needed
to know of arithmetic. The doctor's library afforded a choice of books
which could be read by a child for amusement as well as instruction.

The abbe and the soldier allowed the young mind to enrich itself with
the freedom and comfort which the doctor gave to the body. Ursula
learned as she played. Religion was given with due reflection. Left to
follow the divine training of a nature that was led into regions of
purity by these judicious educators, Ursula inclined more to sentiment
than to duty; she took as her rule of conduct the voice of her own
conscience rather than the demands of social law. In her, nobility of
feeling and action would ever be spontaneous; her judgment would
confirm the impulse of her heart. She was destined to do right as a
pleasure before doing it as an obligation. This distinction is the
peculiar sign of Christian education. These principles, altogether
different from those that are taught to men, were suitable for a
woman,--the spirit and the conscience of the home, the beautifier of
domestic life, the queen of her household. All three of these old
preceptors followed the same method with Ursula. Instead of recoiling
before the bold questions of innocence, they explained to her the
reasons of things and the best means of action, taking care to give
her none but correct ideas. When, apropos of a flower, a star, a blade
of grass, her thoughts went straight to God, the doctor and the
professor told her that the priest alone could answer her. None of
them intruded on the territory of the others; the doctor took charge
of her material well-being and the things of life; Jordy's department
was instruction; moral and spiritual questions and the ideas
appertaining to the higher life belonged to the abbe. This noble
education was not, as it often is, counteracted by injudicious
servants. La Bougival, having been lectured on the subject, and being,
moreover, too simple in mind and character to interfere, did nothing
to injure the work of these great minds. Ursula, a privileged being,
grew up with good geniuses round her; and her naturally fine
disposition made the task of each a sweet and easy one. Such manly
tenderness, such gravity lighted by smiles, such liberty without
danger, such perpetual care of soul and body made little Ursula, when
nine years of age, a well-trained child and delightful to behold.

Unhappily, this paternal trinity was broken up. The old captain died
the following year, leaving the abbe and the doctor to finish his
work, of which, however, he had accomplished the most difficult part.
Flowers will bloom of themselves if grown in a soil thus prepared. The
old gentleman had laid by for ten years past one thousand francs a
year, that he might leave ten thousand to his little Ursula, and keep
a place in her memory during her whole life. In his will, the wording
of which was very touching, he begged his legatee to spend the four or
five hundred francs that came of her little capital exclusively on her
dress. When the justice of the peace applied the seals to the effects
of his old friend, they found in a small room, which the captain had
allowed no one to enter, a quantity of toys, many of them broken,
while all had been used,--toys of a past generation, reverently
preserved, which Monsieur Bongrand was, according to the captain's
last wishes, to burn with his own hands.

About this time it was that Ursula made her first communion. The abbe
employed one whole year in duly instructing the young girl, whose mind
and heart, each well developed, yet judiciously balancing one another,
needed a special spiritual nourishment. The initiation into a
knowledge of divine things which he gave her was such that Ursula grew
into the pious and mystical young girl whose character rose above all
vicissitudes, and whose heart was enabled to conquer adversity. Then
began a secret struggle between the old man wedded to unbelief and the
young girl full of faith,--long unsuspected by her who incited it,
--the result of which had now stirred the whole town, and was destined
to have great influence on Ursula's future by rousing against her the
antagonism of the doctor's heirs.

During the first six months of the year 1824 Ursula spent all her
mornings at the parsonage. The old doctor guessed the abbe's secret
hope. He meant to make Ursula an unanswerable argument against him.
The old unbeliever, loved by his godchild as though she were his own
daughter, would surely believe in such artless candor; he could not
fail to be persuaded by the beautiful effects of religion on the soul
of a child, where love was like those trees of Eastern climes, bearing
both flowers and fruit, always fragrant, always fertile. A beautiful
life is more powerful than the strongest argument. It is impossible to
resist the charms of certain sights. The doctor's eyes were wet, he
knew not how or why, when he saw the child of his heart starting for
the church, wearing a frock of white crape, and shoes of white satin;
her hair bound with a fillet fastened at the side with a knot of white
ribbon, and rippling upon her shoulders; her eyes lighted by the star
of a first hope; hurrying, tall and beautiful, to a first union, and
loving her godfather better since her soul had risen towards God. When
the doctor perceived that the thought of immortality was nourishing
that spirit (until then within the confines of childhood) as the sun
gives life to the earth without knowing why, he felt sorry that he
remained at home alone.

Sitting on the steps of his portico he kept his eyes fixed on the iron
railing of the gate through which the child had disappeared, saying as
she left him: "Why won't you come, godfather? how can I be happy
without you?" Though shaken to his very center, the pride of the
Encyclopedist did not as yet give way. He walked slowly in a direction
from which he could see the procession of communicants, and
distinguish his little Ursula brilliant with exaltation beneath her
veil. She gave him an inspired look, which knocked, in the stony
regions of his heart, on the corner closed to God. But still the old
deist held firm. He said to himself: "Mummeries! if there be a maker
of worlds, imagine the organizer of infinitude concerning himself with
such trifles!" He laughed as he continued his walk along the heights
which look down upon the road to the Gatinais, where the bells were
ringing a joyous peal that told of the joy of families.

The noise of backgammon is intolerable to persons who do not know the
game, which is really one of the most difficult that was ever
invented. Not to annoy his godchild, the extreme delicacy of whose
organs and nerves could not bear, he thought, without injury the noise
and the exclamations she did not know the meaning of, the abbe, old
Jordy while living, and the doctor always waited till their child was
in bed before they began their favorite game. Sometimes the visitors
came early when she was out for a walk, and the game would be going on
when she returned; then she resigned herself with infinite grace and
took her seat at the window with her work. She had a repugnance to the
game, which is really in the beginning very hard and unconquerable to
some minds, so that unless it be learned in youth it is almost
impossible to take it up in after life.

The night of her first communion, when Ursula came into the salon
where her godfather was sitting alone, she put the backgammon-board
before him.

"Whose throw shall it be?" she asked.

"Ursula," said the doctor, "isn't it a sin to make fun of your
godfather the day of your first communion?"

"I am not making fun of you," she said, sitting down. "I want to give
you some pleasure--you who are always on the look-out for mine. When
Monsieur Chaperon was pleased with me he gave me a lesson in
backgammon, and he has given me so many that now I am quite strong
enough to beat you--you shall not deprive yourself any longer for me.
I have conquered all difficulties, and now I like the noise of the
game."

Ursula won. The abbe had slipped in to enjoy his triumph. The next
day Minoret, who had always refused to let Ursula learn music, sent to
Paris for a piano, made arrangements at Fontainebleau for a teacher,
and submitted to the annoyance that her constant practicing was to
him. One of poor Jordy's predictions was fulfilled,--the girl became
an excellent musician. The doctor, proud of her talent, had lately
sent to Paris for a master, an old German named Schmucke, a
distinguished professor who came once a week; the doctor willingly
paying for an art which he had formerly declared to be useless in a
household. Unbelievers do not like music--a celestial language,
developed by Catholicism, which has taken the names of the seven notes
from one of the church hymns; every note being the first syllable of
the seven first lines in the hymn to Saint John.

The impression produced on the doctor by Ursula's first communion
though keen was not lasting. The calm and sweet contentment which
prayer and the exercise of resolution produced in that young soul had
not their due influence upon him. Having no reasons for remorse or
repentance himself, he enjoyed a serene peace. Doing his own
benefactions without hope of a celestial harvest, he thought himself
on a nobler plane than religious men whom he always accused for
making, as he called it, terms with God.

"But," the abbe would say to him, "if all men would be so, you must
admit that society would be regenerated; there would be no more
misery. To be benevolent after your fashion one must needs be a great
philosopher; you rise to your principles through reason, you are a
social exception; whereas it suffices to be a Christian to make us
benevolent in ours. With you, it is an effort; with us, it comes
naturally."

"In other words, abbe, I think, and you feel,--that's the whole of
it."

However, at twelve years of age, Ursula, whose quickness and natural
feminine perceptions were trained by her superior education, and whose
intelligence in its dawn was enlightened by a religious spirit (of all
spirits the most refined), came to understand that her godfather did
not believe in a future life, nor in the immortality of the soul, nor
in providence, nor in God. Pressed with questions by the innocent
creature, the doctor was unable to hide the fatal secret. Ursula's
artless consternation made him smile, but when he saw her depressed
and sad he felt how deep an affection her sadness revealed. Absolute
devotion has a horror of every sort of disagreement, even in ideas
which it does not share. Sometimes the doctor accepted his darling's
reasonings as he would her kisses, said as they were in the sweetest
of voices with the purest and most fervent feeling. Believers and
unbelievers speak different languages and cannot understand each
other. The young girl pleading God's cause was unreasonable with the
old man, as a spoilt child sometimes maltreats its mother. The abbe
rebuked her gently, telling her that God had power to humiliate proud
spirits. Ursula replied that David had overcome Goliath.

This religious difference, these complaints of the child who wished to
drag her godfather to God, were the only troubles of this happy life,
so peaceful, yet so full, and wholly withdrawn from the inquisitive
eyes of the little town. Ursula grew and developed, and became in time
the modest and religiously trained young woman whom Desire admired as
she left the church. The cultivation of flowers in the garden, her
music, the pleasures of her godfather, and all the little cares she
was able to give him (for she had eased La Bougival's labors by doing
everything for him),--these things filled the hours, the days, the
months of her calm life. Nevertheless, for about a year the doctor had
felt uneasy about his Ursula, and watched her health with the utmost
care. Sagacious and profoundly practical observer that he was, he
thought he perceived some commotion in her moral being. He watched her
like a mother, but seeing no one about her who was worthy of inspiring
love, his uneasiness on the subject at length passed away.

At this conjuncture, one month before the day when this drama begins,
the doctor's intellectual life was invaded by one of those events
which plough to the very depths of a man's convictions and turn them
over. But this event needs a succinct narrative of certain
circumstances in his medical career, which will give, perhaps, fresh
interest to the story.



                             CHAPTER VI

                      A TREATISE ON MESMERISM

Towards the end of the eighteenth century science was sundered as
widely by the apparition of Mesmer as art had been by that of Gluck.
After re-discovering magnetism Mesmer came to France, where, from time
immemorial, inventors have flocked to obtain recognition for their
discoveries. France, thanks to her lucid language, is in some sense
the clarion of the world.

"If homoeopathy gets to Paris it is saved," said Hahnemann, recently.

"Go to France," said Monsieur de Metternich to Gall, "and if they
laugh at your bumps you will be famous."

Mesmer had disciples and antagonists as ardent for and against his
theories as the Piccinists and the Gluckists for theirs. Scientific
France was stirred to its center; a solemn conclave was opened. Before
judgment was rendered, the medical faculty proscribed, in a body,
Mesmer's so-called charlatanism, his tub, his conducting wires, and
his theory. But let us at once admit that the German, unfortunately,
compromised his splendid discovery by enormous pecuniary claims.
Mesmer was defeated by the doubtfulness of facts, by universal
ignorance of the part played in nature by imponderable fluids then
unobserved, and by his own inability to study on all sides a science
possessing a triple front. Magnetism has many applications; in
Mesmer's hands it was, in its relation to the future, merely what
cause is to effect. But, if the discoverer lacked genius, it is a sad
thing both for France and for human reason to have to say that a
science contemporaneous with civilization, cultivated by Egypt and
Chaldea, by Greece and India, met in Paris in the eighteenth century
the fate that Truth in the person of Galileo found in the sixteenth;
and that magnetism was rejected and cast out by the combined attacks
of science and religion, alarmed for their own positions. Magnetism,
the favorite science of Jesus Christ and one of the divine powers
which he gave to his disciples, was no better apprehended by the
Church than by the disciples of Jean-Jacques, Voltaire, Locke, and
Condillac. The Encyclopedists and the clergy were equally averse to
the old human power which they took to be new. The miracles of the
convulsionaries, suppressed by the Church and smothered by the
indifference of scientific men (in spite of the precious writings of
the Councilor, Carre de Montgeron) were the first summons to make
experiments with those human fluids which give power to employ certain
inward forces to neutralize the sufferings caused by outward agents.
But to do this it was necessary to admit the existence of fluids
intangible, invisible, imponderable, three negative terms in which the
science of that day chose to see a definition of the void. In modern
philosophy there is no void. Ten feet of void and the world crumbles
away! To materialists especially the world is full, all things hang
together, are linked, related, organized. "The world as the result of
chance," said Diderot, "is more explicable than God. The multiplicity
of causes, the incalculable number of issues presupposed by chance,
explain creation. Take the Eneid and all the letters composing it; if
you allow me time and space, I can, by continuing to cast the letters,
arrive at last at the Eneid combination."

Those foolish persons who deify all rather than admit a God recoil
before the infinite divisibility of matter which is in the nature of
imponderable forces. Locke and Condillac retarded by fifty years the
immense progress which natural science is now making under the great
principle of unity due to Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire. Some intelligent
persons, without any system, convinced by facts conscientiously
studied, still hold to Mesmer's doctrine, which recognizes the
existence of a penetrative influence acting from man to man, put in
motion by the will, curative by the abundance of the fluid, the
working of which is in fact a duel between two forces, between an ill
to be cured and the will to cure it.

The phenomena of somnambulism, hardly perceived by Mesmer, were
revealed by du Puysegur and Deleuze; but the Revolution put a stop to
their discoveries and played into the hands of the scientists and
scoffers. Among the small number of believers were a few physicians.
They were persecuted by their brethren as long as they lived. The
respectable body of Parisian doctors displayed all the bitterness of
religious warfare against the Mesmerists, and were as cruel in their
hatred as it was possible to be in those days of Voltairean tolerance.
The orthodox physician refused to consult with those who adopted the
Mesmerian heresy. In 1820 these heretics were still proscribed. The
miseries and sorrows of the Revolution had not quenched the scientific
hatred. It is only priests, magistrates, and physicians who can hate
in that way. The official robe is terrible! But ideas are even more
implacable than things.

Doctor Bouvard, one of Minoret's friends, believed in the new faith,
and persevered to the day of his death in studying a science to which
he sacrificed the peace of his life, for he was one of the chief
"betes noires" of the Parisian faculty. Minoret, a valiant supporter
of the Encyclopedists, and a formidable adversary of Desion, Mesmer's
assistant, whose pen had great weight in the controversy, quarreled
with his old friend, and not only that, but he persecuted him. His
conduct to Bouvard must have caused him the only remorse which
troubled the serenity of his declining years. Since his retirement to
Nemours the science of imponderable fluids (the only name suitable for
magnetism, which, by the nature of its phenomena, is closely allied to
light and electricity) had made immense progress, in spite of the
ridicule of Parisian scientists. Phrenology and physiognomy, the
departments of Gall and Lavater (which are in fact twins, for one is
to the other as cause is to effect), proved to the minds of more than
one physiologist the existence of an intangible fluid which is the
basis of the phenomena of the human will, and from which result
passions, habits, the shape of faces and of skulls. Magnetic facts,
the miracles of somnambulism, those of divination and ecstasy, which
open a way to the spiritual world, were fast accumulating. The strange
tale of the apparitions of the farmer Martin, so clearly proved, and
his interview with Louis XVIII.; a knowledge of the intercourse of
Swedenborg with the departed, carefully investigated in Germany; the
tales of Walter Scott on the effects of "second sight"; the
extraordinary faculties of some fortune-tellers, who practice as a
single science chiromancy, cartomancy, and the horoscope; the facts of
catalepsy, and those of the action of certain morbid affections on the
properties of the diaphragm,--all such phenomena, curious, to say the
least, each emanating from the same source, were now undermining many
scepticisms and leading even the most indifferent minds to the plane
of experiments. Minoret, buried in Nemours, was ignorant of this
movement of minds, strong in the north of Europe but still weak in
France where, however, many facts called marvelous by superficial
observers, were happening, but falling, alas! like stones to the
bottom of the sea, in the vortex of Parisian excitements.

At the bottom of the present year the doctor's tranquillity was shaken
by the following letter:--


My old comrade,--All friendship, even if lost, as rights which it
is difficult to set aside. I know that you are still living, and I
remember far less our enmity than our happy days in that old hovel
of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre.

At a time when I expect to soon leave the world I have it on my
heart to prove to you that magnetism is about to become one of the
most important of the sciences--if indeed all science is not _one_.
I can overcome your incredulity by proof. Perhaps I shall owe to
your curiosity the happiness of taking you once more by the hand
--as in the days before Mesmer.         Always yours,

Bouvard.


Stung like a lion by a gadfly the old scientist rushed to Paris and
left his card on Bouvard, who lived in the Rue Ferou near
Saint-Sulpice. Bouvard sent a card to his hotel on which was written
"To-morrow; nine o'clock, Rue Saint-Honore, opposite the Assumption."

Minoret, who seemed to have renewed his youth, could not sleep. He
went to see some of his friends among the faculty to inquire if the
world were turned upside down, if the science of medicine still had a
school, if the four faculties any longer existed. The doctors
reassured him, declaring that the old spirit of opposition was as
strong as ever, only, instead of persecuting as heretofore, the
Academies of Medicine and of Sciences rang with laughter as they
classed magnetic facts with the tricks of Comus and Comte and Bosco,
with jugglery and prestidigitation and all that now went by the name
of "amusing physics."

This assurance did not prevent old Minoret from keeping the
appointment made for him by Bouvard. After an enmity of forty-four
years the two antagonists met beneath a porte-cochere in the Rue
Saint-Honore. Frenchmen have too many distractions of mind to hate
each other long. In Paris especially, politics, literature, and
science render life so vast that every man can find new worlds to
conquer where all pretensions may live at ease. Hatred requires too
many forces fully armed. None but public bodies can keep alive the
sentiment. Robespierre and Danton would have fallen into each other's
arms at the end of forty-four years. However, the two doctors each
withheld his hand and did not offer it. Bouvard spoke first:--

"You seem wonderfully well."

"Yes, I am--and you?" said Minoret, feeling that the ice was now
broken.

"As you see."

"Does magnetism prevent people from dying?" asked Minoret in a joking
tone, but without sharpness.

"No, but it almost prevented me from living."

"Then you are not rich?" exclaimed Minoret.

"Pooh!" said Bouvard.

"But I am!" cried the other.

"It is not your money but your convictions that I want. Come," replied
Bouvard.

"Oh! you obstinate fellow!" said Minoret.

The Mesmerist led his sceptic, with some precaution, up a dingy
staircase to the fourth floor.

At this particular time an extraordinary man had appeared in Paris,
endowed by faith with incalculable power, and controlling magnetic
forces in all their applications. Not only did this great unknown (who
still lives) heal from a distance the worst and most inveterate
diseases, suddenly and radically, as the Savior of men did formerly,
but he was also able to call forth instantaneously the most remarkable
phenomena of somnambulism and conquer the most rebellious will. The
countenance of this mysterious being, who claims to be responsible to
God alone and to communicate, like Swedenborg, with angels, resembles
that of a lion; concentrated, irresistible energy shines in it. His
features, singularly contorted, have a terrible and even blasting
aspect. His voice, which comes from the depths of his being, seems
charged with some magnetic fluid; it penetrates the hearer at every
pore. Disgusted by the ingratitude of the public after his many cures,
he has now returned to an impenetrable solitude, a voluntary
nothingness. His all-powerful hand, which has restored a dying
daughter to her mother, fathers to their grief-stricken children,
adored mistresses to lovers frenzied with love, cured the sick given
over by physicians, soothed the sufferings of the dying when life
became impossible, wrung psalms of thanksgiving in synagogues,
temples, and churches from the lips of priests recalled to the one God
by the same miracle,--that sovereign hand, a sun of life dazzling the
closed eyes of the somnambulist, has never been raised again even to
save the heir-apparent of a kingdom. Wrapped in the memory of his past
mercies as in a luminous shroud, he denies himself to the world and
lives for heaven.

But, at the dawn of his reign, surprised by his own gift, this man,
whose generosity equaled his power, allowed a few interested persons
to witness his miracles. The fame of his work, which was mighty, and
could easily be revived to-morrow, reached Dr. Bouvard, who was then
on the verge of the grave. The persecuted mesmerist was at last
enabled to witness the startling phenomena of a science he had long
treasured in his heart. The sacrifices of the old man touched the
heart of the mysterious stranger, who accorded him certain privileges.
As Bouvard now went up the staircase he listened to the twittings of
his old antagonist with malicious delight, answering only, "You shall
see, you shall see!" with the emphatic little nods of a man who is
sure of his facts.

The two physicians entered a suite of rooms that were more than
modest. Bouvard went alone into a bedroom which adjoined the salon
where he left Minoret, whose distrust was instantly awakened; but
Bouvard returned at once and took him into the bedroom, where he saw
the mysterious Swedenborgian, and also a woman sitting in an armchair.
The woman did not rise, and seemed not to notice the entrance of the
two old men.

"What! no tub?" cried Minoret, smiling.

"Nothing but the power of God," answered the Swedenborgian gravely. He
seemed to Minoret to be about fifty years of age.

The three men sat down and the mysterious stranger talked of the rain
and the coming fine weather, to the great astonishment of Minoret, who
thought he was being hoaxed. The Swedenborgian soon began, however, to
question his visitor on his scientific opinions, and seemed evidently
to be taking time to examine him.

"You have come here solely from curiosity, monsieur," he said at last.
"It is not my habit to prostitute a power which, according to my
conviction, emanates from God; if I made a frivolous or unworthy use
of it, it would be taken from me. Nevertheless, there is some hope,
Monsieur Bouvard tells me, of changing the opinions of one who has
opposed us, of enlightening a scientific man whose mind is candid; I
have therefore determined to satisfy you. That woman whom you see
there," he continued, pointing to her, "is now in a somnambulic sleep.
The statements and manifestations of somnambulists declare that this
state is a delightful other life, during which the inner being, freed
from the trammels laid upon the exercise of our faculties by the
visible world, moves in a world which we mistakenly term invisible.
Sight and hearing are then exercised in a manner far more perfect than
any we know of here, possibly without the help of the organs we now
employ, which are the scabbard of the luminous blades called sight and
hearing. To a person in that state, distance and material obstacles do
not exist, or they can be traversed by a life within us for which our
body is a mere receptacle, a necessary shelter, a casing. Terms fail
to describe effects that have lately been rediscovered, for to-day the
words imponderable, intangible, invisible have no meaning to the fluid
whose action is demonstrated by magnetism. Light is ponderable by its
heat, which, by penetrating bodies, increases their volume; and
certainly electricity is only too tangible. We have condemned things
themselves instead of blaming the imperfection of our instruments."

"She sleeps," said Minoret, examining the woman, who seemed to him to
belong to an inferior class.

"Her body is for the time being in abeyance," said the Swedenborgian.
"Ignorant persons suppose that condition to be sleep. But she will
prove to you that there is a spiritual universe, and that the mind
when there does not obey the laws of this material universe. I will
send her wherever you wish to go,--a hundred miles from here or to
China, as you will. She will tell you what is happening there."

"Send her to my house in Nemours, Rue des Bourgeois; that will do,"
said Minoret.

He took Minoret's hand, which the doctor let him take, and held it for
a moment seeming to collect himself; then with his other hand he took
that of the woman sitting in the arm-chair and placed the hand of the
doctor in it, making a sign to the old sceptic to seat himself beside
this oracle without a tripod. Minoret observed a slight tremor on the
absolutely calm features of the woman when their hands were thus
united by the Swedenborgian, but the action, though marvelous in its
effects, was very simply done.

"Obey him," said the unknown personage, extending his hand above the
head of the sleeping woman, who seemed to imbibe both light and life
from him, "and remember that what you do for him will please me.--You
can now speak to her," he added, addressing Minoret.

"Go to Nemours, to my house, Rue des Bourgeois," said the doctor.

"Give her time; put your hand in hers until she proves to you by what
she tells you that she is where you wish her to be," said Bouvard to
his old friend.

"I see a river," said the woman in a feeble voice, seeming to look
within herself with deep attention, notwithstanding her closed
eyelids. "I see a pretty garden--"

"Why do you enter by the river and the garden?" said Minoret.

"Because they are there."

"Who?"

"The young girl and her nurse, whom you are thinking of."

"What is the garden like?" said Minoret.

"Entering by the steps which go down to the river, there is the right,
a long brick gallery, in which I see books; it ends in a singular
building,--there are wooden bells, and a pattern of red eggs. To the
left, the wall is covered with climbing plants, wild grapes, Virginia
jessamine. In the middle is a sun-dial. There are many plants in pots.
Your child is looking at the flowers. She shows them to her nurse--she
is making holes in the earth with her trowel, and planting seeds. The
nurse is raking the path. The young girl is pure as an angel, but the
beginning of love is there, faint as the dawn--"

"Love for whom?" asked the doctor, who, until now, would have listened
to no word said to him by somnambulists. He considered it all
jugglery.

"You know nothing--though you have lately been uneasy about her
health," answered the woman. "Her heart has followed the dictates of
nature."

"A woman of the people to talk like this!" cried the doctor.

"In the state she is in all persons speak with extraordinary
perception," said Bouvard.

"But who is it that Ursula loves?"

"Ursula does not know that she loves," said the woman with a shake of
the head; "she is too angelic to know what love is; but her mind is
occupied by him; she thinks of him; she tries to escape the thought;
but she returns to it in spite of her will to abstain.--She is at the
piano--"

"But who is he?"

"The son of a lady who lives opposite."

"Madame de Portenduere?"

"Portenduere, did you say?" replied the sleeper. "Perhaps so. But
there's no danger; he is not in the neighbourhood."

"Have they spoken to each other?" asked the doctor.

"Never. They have looked at one another. She thinks him charming. He
is, in fact, a fine man; he has a good heart. She sees him from her
window; they see each other in church. But the young man no longer
thinks of her."

"His name?"

"Ah! to tell you that I must read it, or hear it. He is named
Savinien; she has just spoken his name; she thinks it sweet to say;
she has looked in the almanac for his fete-day and marked a red dot
against it,--child's play, that. Ah! she will love well, with as much
strength as purity; she is not a girl to love twice; love will so dye
her soul and fill it that she will reject all other sentiments."

"Where do you see that?"

"In her. She will know how to suffer; she inherits that; her father
and her mother suffered much."

The last words overcame the doctor, who felt less shaken than
surprised. It is proper to state that between her sentences the woman
paused for several minutes, during which time her attention became
more and more concentrated. She was seen to see; her forehead had a
singular aspect; an inward effort appeared there; it seemed to clear
or cloud by some mysterious power, the effects of which Minoret had
seen in dying persons at moments when they appeared to have the gift
of prophecy. Several times she made gestures which resembled those of
Ursula.

"Question her," said the mysterious stranger, to Minoret, "she will
tell you secrets you alone can know."

"Does Ursula love me?" asked Minoret.

"Almost as much as she loves God," was the answer. "But she is very
unhappy at your unbelief. You do not believe in God; as if you could
prevent his existence! His word fills the universe. You are the cause
of her only sorrow.--Hear! she is playing scales; she longs to be a
better musician than she is; she is provoked with herself. She is
thinking, 'If I could sing, if my voice were fine, it would reach his
ear when he is with his mother.'"

Doctor Minoret took out his pocket-book and noted the hour.

"Tell me what seeds she planted?"

"Mignonette, sweet-peas, balsams--"

"And what else?"

"Larkspur."

"Where is my money?"

"With your notary; but you invest it so as not to lose the interest of
a single day."

"Yes, but where is the money that I keep for my monthly expenses?"

"You put it in a large book bound in red, entitled 'Pandects of
Justinian, Vol. II.' between the last two leaves; the book is on the
shelf of folios above the glass buffet. You have a whole row of them.
Your money is in the last volume next to the salon-- See! Vol. III. is
before Vol. II.--but you have no money, it is all in--"

"--thousand-franc notes," said the doctor.

"I cannot see, they are folded. No, there are two notes of five
hundred francs."

"You see them?"

"Yes."

"How do they look?"

"One is old and yellow, the other white and new."

This last phase of the inquiry petrified the doctor. He looked at
Bouvard with a bewildered air; but Bouvard and the Swedenborgian, who
were accustomed to the amazement of sceptics, were speaking together
in a low voice and appeared not to notice him. Minoret begged them to
allow him to return after dinner. The old philosopher wished to
compose his mind and shake off this terror, so as to put this vast
power to some new test, to subject it to more decisive experiments and
obtain answers to certain questions, the truth of which should do away
with every sort of doubt.

"Be here at nine o'clock this evening," said the stranger. "I will
return to meet you."

Doctor Minoret was in so convulsed a state that he left the room
without bowing, followed by Bouvard, who called to him from behind.
"Well, what do you say? what do you say?"

"I think I am mad, Bouvard," answered Minoret from the steps of the
porte-cochere. "If that woman tells the truth about Ursula,--and none
but Ursula can know the things that sorceress has told me,--I shall
say that _you are right_. I wish I had wings to fly to Nemours this
minute and verify her words. But I shall hire a carriage and start at
ten o'clock to-night. Ah! am I losing my senses?"

"What would you say if you knew of a life-long incurable disease
healed in a moment; if you saw that great magnetizer bring sweat in
torrents from an herpetic patient, or make a paralyzed woman walk?"

"Come and dine, Bouvard; stay with me till nine o'clock. I must find
some decisive, undeniable test!"

"So be it, old comrade," answered the other.

The reconciled enemies dined in the Palais-Royal. After a lively
conversation, which helped Minoret to evade the fever of the ideas
which were ravaging his brain, Bouvard said to him:--

"If you admit in that woman the faculty of annihilating or of
traversing space, if you obtain a certainty that here, in Paris, she
sees and hears what is said and done in Nemours, you must admit all
other magnetic facts; they are not more incredible than these. Ask her
for some one proof which you know will satisfy you--for you might
suppose that we obtained information to deceive you; but we cannot
know, for instance, what will happen at nine o'clock in your
goddaughter's bedroom. Remember, or write down, what the sleeper will
see and hear, and then go home. Your little Ursula, whom I do not
know, is not our accomplice, and if she tells you that she has said
and done what you have written down--lower thy head, proud Hun!"

The two friends returned to the house opposite to the Assumption and
found the somnambulist, who in her waking state did not recognize
Doctor Minoret. The eyes of this woman closed gently before the hand
of the Swedenborgian, which was stretched towards her at a little
distance, and she took the attitude in which Minoret had first seen
her. When her hand and that of the doctor were again joined, he asked
her to tell him what was happening in his house at Nemours at that
instant. "What is Ursula doing?" he said.

"She is undressed; she has just curled her hair; she is kneeling on
her prie-Dieu, before an ivory crucifix fastened to a red velvet
background."

"What is she saying?"

"Her evening prayers; she is commending herself to God; she implores
him to save her soul from evil thoughts; she examines her conscience
and recalls what she has done during the day; that she may know if she
has failed to obey his commands and those of the church--poor dear
little soul, she lays bare her breast!" Tears were in the sleeper's
eyes. "She has done no sin, but she blames herself for thinking too
much of Savinien. She stops to wonder what he is doing in Paris; she
prays to God to make him happy. She speaks of you; she is praying
aloud."

"Tell me her words." Minoret took his pencil and wrote, as the sleeper
uttered it, the following prayer, evidently composed by the Abbe
Chaperon.

  "My God, if thou art content with thine handmaid, who worships
  thee and prays to thee with a love that is equal to her devotion,
  who strives not to wander from thy sacred paths, who would gladly
  die as thy Son died to glorify thy name, who desires to live in
  the shadow of thy will--O God, who knoweth the heart, open the
  eyes of my godfather, lead him in the way of salvation, grant him
  thy Divine grace, that he may live for thee in his last days; save
  him from evil, and let me suffer in his stead. Kind Saint Ursula,
  dear protectress, and you, Mother of God, queen of heaven,
  archangels, and saints in Paradise, hear me! join your
  intercessions to mine and have mercy upon us."

The sleeper imitated so perfectly the artless gestures and the
inspired manner of his child that Doctor Minoret's eyes were filled
with tears.

"Does she say more?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Repeat it."

"'My dear godfather; I wonder who plays backgammon with him in Paris.'
She has blown out the light--her head is on the pillow--she turns to
sleep! Ah! she is off! How pretty she looks in her little night-cap."

Minoret bowed to the great Unknown, wrung Bouvard by the hand, ran
downstairs and hastened to a cab-stand which at that time was near the
gates of a house since pulled down to make room for the Rue d'Alger.
There he found a coachman who was willing to start immediately for
Fontainebleau. The moment the price was agreed on, the old man, who
seemed to have renewed his youth, jumped into the carriage and
started. According to agreement, he stopped to rest the horse at
Essonne, but arrived at Fontainebleau in time for the diligence to
Nemours, on which he secured a seat, and dismissed his coachman. He
reached home at five in the morning, and went to bed, with his
life-long ideas of physiology, nature, and metaphysics in ruins about
him, and slept till nine o'clock, so wearied was he with the events of
his journey.



                            CHAPTER VII

                       A TWO-FOLD CONVERSION

On rising, the doctor, sure that no one had crossed the threshold of
his house since he re-entered it, proceeded (but not without extreme
trepidation) to verify his facts. He was himself ignorant of any
difference in the bank-notes and also of the misplacement of the
Pandect volumes. The somnambulist was right. The doctor rang for La
Bougival.

"Tell Ursula to come and speak to me," he said, seating himself in the
center of his library.

The girl came; she ran up to him and kissed him. The doctor took her
on his knee, where she sat contentedly, mingling her soft fair curls
with the white hair of her old friend.

"Do you want something, godfather?"

"Yes; but promise me, on your salvation, to answer frankly, without
evasion, the questions that I shall put to you."

Ursula colored to the temples.

"Oh! I'll ask nothing that you cannot speak of," he said, noticing how
the bashfulness of young love clouded the hitherto childlike purity of
the girl's blue eyes.

"Ask me, godfather."

"What thought was in your mind when you ended your prayers last
evening, and what time was it when you said them."

"It was a quarter-past or half-past nine."

"Well, repeat your last prayer."

The girl fancied that her voice might convey her faith to the sceptic;
she slid from his knee and knelt down, clasping her hands fervently; a
brilliant light illumined her face as she turned it on the old man and
said:--

"What I asked of God last night I asked again this morning, and I
shall ask it till he vouchsafes to grant it."

Then she repeated her prayer with new and still more powerful
expression. To her great astonishment her godfather took the last
words from her mouth and finished the prayer.

"Good, Ursula," said the doctor, taking her again on his knee. "When
you laid your head on the pillow and went to sleep did you think to
yourself, 'That dear godfather; I wonder who is playing backgammon
with him in Paris'?"

Ursula sprang up as if the last trumpet had sounded in her ears. She
gave a cry of terror; her eyes, wide open, gazed at the old man with
awful fixity.

"Who are you, godfather? From whom do you get such power?" she asked,
imagining that in his desire to deny God he had made some compact with
the devil.

"What seeds did you plant yesterday in the garden?"

"Mignonette, sweet-peas, balsams--"

"And the last were larkspur?"

She fell on her knees.

"Do not terrify me!" she exclaimed. "Oh you must have been here--you
were here, were you not?"

"Am I not always with you?" replied the doctor, evading her question,
to save the strain on the young girl's mind. "Let us go to your room."

"Your legs are trembling," she said.

"Yes, I am confounded, as it were."

"Can it be that you believe in God?" she cried, with artless joy,
letting fall the tears that gathered in her eyes.

The old man looked round the simple but dainty little room he had
given to his Ursula. On the floor was a plain green carpet, very
inexpensive, which she herself kept exquisitely clean; the walls were
hung with a gray paper strewn with roses and green leaves; at the
windows, which looked to the court, were calico curtains edged with a
band of some pink material; between the windows and beneath a tall
mirror was a pier-table topped with marble, on which stood a Sevres
vase in which she put her nosegays; opposite the chimney was a little
bureau-desk of charming marquetry. The bed, of chintz, with chintz
curtains lined with pink, was one of those duchess beds so common in
the eighteenth century, which had a tuft of carved feathers at the top
of each of the four posts, which were fluted on the sides. An old
clock, inclosed in a sort of monument made of tortoise-shell inlaid
with arabesques of ivory, decorated the mantelpiece, the marble shelf
of which, with the candlesticks and the mirror in a frame painted in
cameo on a gray ground, presented a remarkable harmony of color, tone,
and style. A large wardrobe, the doors of which were inlaid with
landscapes in different woods (some having a green tint which are no
longer to be found for sale) contained, no doubt, her linen and her
dresses. The air of the room was redolent of heaven. The precise
arrangement of everything showed a sense of order, a feeling for
harmony, which would certainly have influenced any one, even a
Minoret-Levrault. It was plain that the things about her were dear to
Ursula, and that she loved a room which contained, as it were, her
childhood and the whole of her girlish life.

Looking the room well over that he might seem to have a reason for his
visit, the doctor saw at once how the windows looked into those of
Madame de Portenduere. During the night he had meditated as to the
course he ought to pursue with Ursula about his discovery of this
dawning passion. To question her now would commit him to some course.
He must either approve or disapprove of her love; in either case his
position would be a false one. He therefore resolved to watch and
examine into the state of things between the two young people, and
learn whether it were his duty to check the inclination before it was
irresistible. None but an old man could have shown such deliberate
wisdom. Still panting from the discovery of the truth of these
magnetic facts, he turned about and looked at all the various little
things around the room; he wished to examine the almanac which was
hanging at a corner of the chimney-piece.

"These ugly things are too heavy for your little hands," he said,
taking up the marble candlesticks which were partly covered with
leather.

He weighed them in his hand; then he looked at the almanac and took
it, saying, "This is ugly too. Why do you keep such a common thing in
your pretty room?"

"Oh, please let me have it, godfather."

"No, no, you shall have another to-morrow."

So saying he carried off this possible proof, shut himself up in his
study, looked for Saint Savinien and found, as the somnambulist had
told him, a little red dot at the 19th of October; he also saw another
before his own saint's day, Saint Denis, and a third before Saint
John, the abbe's patron. This little dot, no larger than a pin's head,
had been seen by the sleeping woman in spite of distance and other
obstacles! The old man thought till evening of these events, more
momentous for him than for others. He was forced to yield to evidence.
A strong wall, as it were, crumbled within him; for his life had
rested on two bases,--indifference in matters of religion and a firm
disbelief in magnetism. When it was proved to him that the senses
--faculties purely physical, organs, the effects of which could be
explained--attained to some of the attributes of the infinite,
magnetism upset, or at least it seemed to him to upset, the powerful
arguments of Spinoza. The finite and the infinite, two incompatible
elements according to that remarkable man, were here united, the one
in the other. No matter what power he gave to the divisibility and
mobility of matter he could not help recognizing that it possessed
qualities that were almost divine.

He was too old now to connect those phenomena to a system, and compare
them with those of sleep, of vision, of light. His whole scientific
belief, based on the assertions of the school of Locke and Condillac,
was in ruins. Seeing his hollow ideas in pieces, his scepticism
staggered. Thus the advantage in this struggle between the Catholic
child and the Voltairean old man was on Ursula's side. In the
dismantled fortress, above these ruins, shone a light; from the center
of these ashes issued the path of prayer! Nevertheless, the obstinate
old scientist fought his doubts. Though struck to the heart, he would
not decide, he struggled on against God.

But he was no longer the same man; his mind showed its vacillation. He
became unnaturally dreamy; he read Pascal, and Bossuet's sublime
"History of Species"; he read Bonald, he read Saint-Augustine; he
determined also to read the works of Swedenborg, and the late
Saint-Martin, which the mysterious stranger had mentioned to him. The
edifice within him was cracking on all sides; it needed but one more
shake, and then, his heart being ripe for God, he was destined to fall
into the celestial vineyard as fall the fruits. Often of an evening,
when playing with the abbe, his goddaughter sitting by, he would put
questions bearing on his opinions which seemed singular to the priest,
who was ignorant of the inward workings by which God was remaking that
fine conscience.

"Do you believe in apparitions?" asked the sceptic of the pastor,
stopping short in the game.

"Cardan, a great philosopher of the sixteenth century said he had seen
some," replied the abbe.

"I know all those that scholars have discussed, for I have just reread
Plotinus. I am questioning you as a Catholic might, and I ask if you
think that dead men can return to the living."

"Jesus reappeared to his disciples after his death," said the abbe.
"The Church ought to have faith in the apparitions of the Savior. As
for miracles, they are not lacking," he continued, smiling. "Shall I
tell you the last? It took place in the eighteenth century."

"Pooh!" said the doctor.

"Yes, the blessed Marie-Alphonse of Ligouri, being very far from Rome,
knew of the death of the Pope at the very moment the Holy Father
expired; there were numerous witnesses of this miracle. The sainted
bishop being in ecstasy, heard the last words of the sovereign pontiff
and repeated them at the time to those about him. The courier who
brought the announcement of the death did not arrive till thirty hours
later."

"Jesuit!" exclaimed old Minoret, laughing, "I did not ask you for
proofs; I asked you if you believed in apparitions."

"I think an apparition depends a good deal on who sees it," said the
abbe, still fencing with his sceptic.

"My friend," said the doctor, seriously, "I am not setting a trap for
you. What do you really believe about it?"

"I believe that the power of God is infinite," replied the abbe.

"When I am dead, if I am reconciled to God, I will ask Him to let me
appear to you," said the doctor, smiling.

"That's exactly the agreement Cardan made with his friend," answered
the priest.

"Ursula," said Minoret, "if danger ever threatens you, call me, and I
will come."

"You have put into one sentence that beautiful elegy of 'Neere' by
Andre Chenier," said the abbe. "Poets are sublime because they clothe
both facts and feelings with ever-living images."

"Why do you speak of your death, dear godfather?" said Ursula in a
grieved tone. "We Christians do not die; the grave is the cradle of
our souls."

"Well," said the doctor, smiling, "we must go out of the world, and
when I am no longer here you will be astonished at your fortune."

"When you are here no longer, my kind friend, my only consolation will
be to consecrate my life to you."

"To me, dead?"

"Yes. All the good works that I can do will be done in your name to
redeem your sins. I will pray God every day for his infinite mercy,
that he may not punish eternally the errors of a day. I know he will
summon among the righteous a soul so pure, so beautiful, as yours."

That answer, said with angelic candor, in a tone of absolute
certainty, confounded error and converted Denis Minoret as God
converted Saul. A ray of inward light overawed him; the knowledge of
this tenderness, covering his years to come, brought tears to his
eyes. This sudden effect of grace had something that seemed electrical
about it. The abbe clasped his hands and rose, troubled, from his
seat. The girl, astonished at her triumph, wept. The old man stood up
as if a voice had called him, looking into space as though his eyes
beheld the dawn; then he bent his knee upon his chair, clasped his
hands, and lowered his eyes to the ground as one humiliated.

"My God," he said in a trembling voice, raising his head, "if any one
can obtain my pardon and lead me to thee, surely it is this spotless
creature. Have mercy on the repentant old age that this pure child
presents to thee!"

He lifted his soul to God; mentally praying for the light of divine
knowledge after the gift of divine grace; then he turned to the abbe
and held out his hand.

"My dear pastor," he said, "I am become as a little child. I belong to
you; I give my soul to your care."

Ursula kissed his hands and bathed them with her tears. The old man
took her on his knee and called her gayly his godmother. The abbe,
deeply moved, recited the "Veni Creator" in a species of religious
ecstasy. The hymn served as the evening prayer of the three Christians
kneeling together for the first time.

"What has happened?" asked La Bougival, amazed at the sight.

"My godfather believes in God at last!" replied Ursula.

"Ah! so much the better; he only needed that to make him perfect,"
cried the old woman, crossing herself with artless gravity.

"Dear doctor," said the good priest, "you will soon comprehend the
grandeur of religion and the value of its practices; you will find its
philosophy in human aspects far higher than that of the boldest
sceptics."

The abbe, who showed a joy that was almost infantine, agreed to
catechize the old man and confer with him twice a week. Thus the
conversion attributed to Ursula and to a spirit of sordid calculation,
was the spontaneous act of the doctor himself. The abbe, who for
fourteen years had abstained from touching the wounds of that heart,
though all the while deploring them, was now asked for help, as a
surgeon is called to an injured man. Ever since this scene Ursula's
evening prayers had been said in common with her godfather. Day after
day the old man grew more conscious of the peace within him that
succeeded all his conflicts. Having, as he said, God as the
responsible editor of things inexplicable, his mind was at ease. His
dear child told him that he might know by how far he had advanced
already in God's kingdom. During the mass which we have seen him
attend, he had read the prayers and applied his own intelligence to
them; from the first, he had risen to the divine idea of the communion
of the faithful. The old neophyte understood the eternal symbol
attached to that sacred nourishment, which faith renders needful to
the soul after conveying to it her own profound and radiant essence.
When on leaving the church he had seemed in a hurry to get home, it
was merely that he might once more thank his dear child for having led
him to "enter religion,"--the beautiful expression of former days. He
was holding her on his knee in the salon and kissing her forehead
sacredly at the very moment when his relatives were degrading that
saintly influence with their shameless fears, and casting their vulgar
insults upon Ursula. His haste to return home, his assumed disdain for
their company, his sharp replies as he left the church were naturally
attributed by all the heirs to the hatred Ursula had excited against
them in the old man's mind.



                            CHAPTER VIII

                           THE CONFERENCE

While Ursula was playing variations on Weber's "Last Thought" to her
godfather, a plot was hatching in the Minoret-Levraults' dining-room
which was destined to have a lasting effect on the events of this
drama. The breakfast, noisy as all provincial breakfasts are, and
enlivened by excellent wines brought to Nemours by the canal either
from Burgundy or Touraine, lasted more than two hours. Zelie had sent
for oysters, salt-water fish, and other gastronomical delicacies to do
honor to Desire's return. The dining-room, in the center of which a
round table offered a most appetizing sight, was like the hall of an
inn. Content with the size of her kitchens and offices, Zelie had
built a pavilion for the family between the vast courtyard and a
garden planted with vegetables and full of fruit-trees. Everything
about the premises was solid and plain. The example of
Levrault-Levrault had been a warning to the town. Zelie forbade her
builder to lead her into such follies. The dining-room was, therefore,
hung with varnished paper and furnished with walnut chairs and
sideboards, a porcelain stove, a tall clock, and a barometer. Though
the plates and dishes were of common white china, the table shone with
handsome linen and abundant silverware. After Zelie had served the
coffee, coming and going herself like shot in a decanter,--for she kept
but one servant, --and when Desire, the budding lawyer, had been told
of the event of the morning and its probably consequences, the door was
closed, and the notary Dionis was called upon to speak. By the silence
in the room and the looks that were cast on that authoritative face, it
was easy to see the power that such men exercise over families.

"My dear children," said he, "your uncle having been born in 1746, is
eighty-three years old at the present time; now, old men are given to
folly, and that little--"

"Viper!" cried Madame Massin.

"Hussy!" said Zelie.

"Let us call her by her own name," said Dionis.

"Well, she's a thief," said Madame Cremiere.

"A pretty thief," remarked Desire.

"That little Ursula," went on Dionis, "has managed to get hold of his
heart. I have been thinking of your interests, and I did not wait
until now before making certain inquiries; now this is what I have
discovered about that young--"

"Marauder," said the collector.

"Inveigler," said the clerk of the court.

"Hold your tongue, friends," said the notary, "or I'll take my hat and
be off."

"Come, come, papa," cried Minoret, pouring out a little glass of rum
and offering it to the notary; "here, drink this, it comes from Rome
itself; and now go on."

"Ursula is, it is true, the legitimate daughter of Joseph Mirouet; but
her father was the natural son of Valentin Mirouet, your uncle's
father-in-law. Being therefore an illegitimate niece, any will the
doctor might make in her favor could probably be contested; and if he
leaves her his fortune in that way you could bring a suit against
Ursula. This, however, might turn out ill for you, in case the court
took the view that there was no relationship between Ursula and the
doctor. Still, the suit would frighten an unprotected girl, and bring
about a compromise--"

"The law is so rigid as to the rights of natural children," said the
newly fledged licentiate, eager to parade his knowledge, "that by the
judgment of the court of appeals dated July 7, 1817, a natural child
can claim nothing from his natural grandfather, not even a
maintenance. So you see the illegitimate parentage is made
retrospective. The law pursues the natural child even to its
legitimate descent, on the ground that benefactions done to
grandchildren reach the natural son through that medium. This is shown
by articles 757, 908, and 911 of the civil Code. The royal court of
Paris, by a decision of the 26th of January of last year, cut off a
legacy made to the legitimate child of a natural son by his
grandfather, who, as grandfather, was as distant to a natural grandson
as the doctor, being an uncle, is to Ursula."

"All that," said Goupil, "seems to me to relate only to the bequests
made by grandfathers to natural descendants. Ursula is not a blood
relation of Doctor Minoret. I remember a decision of the royal court
at Colmar, rendered in 1825, just before I took my degree, which
declared that after the decease of a natural child his descendants
could no longer be prohibited from inheriting. Now, Ursula's father is
dead."

Goupil's argument produced what journalists who report the sittings of
legislative assemblies are wont to call "profound sensation."

"What does that signify?" cried Dionis. "The actual case of the
bequest of an uncle to an illegitimate child may not yet have been
presented for trial; but when it is, the sternness of French law
against such children will be all the more firmly applied because we
live in times when religion is honored. I'll answer for it that out of
such a suit as I propose you could get a compromise,--especially if
they see you are determined to carry Ursula to a court of appeals."

Here the joy of the heirs already fingering their gold was made
manifest in smiles, shrugs, and gestures round the table, and
prevented all notice of Goupil's dissent. This elation, however, was
succeeded by deep silence and uneasiness when the notary uttered his
next word, a terrible "But!"

As if he had pulled the string of a puppet-show, starting the little
people in jerks by means of machinery, Dionis beheld all eyes turned
on him and all faces rigid in one and the same pose.

"_But_ no law prevents your uncle from adopting or marrying Ursula," he
continued. "As for adoption, that could be contested, and you would, I
think, have equity on your side. The royal courts would never trifle
with questions of adoptions; you would get a hearing there. It is true
the doctor is an officer of the Legion of honor, and was formerly
surgeon to the ex-emperor; but, nevertheless, he would get the worst
of it. Moreover, you would have due warning in case of adoption--but
how about marriage? Old Minoret is shrewd enough to go to Paris and
marry her after a year's domicile, and give her a million by the
marriage contract. The only thing, therefore, that really puts your
property in danger is your uncle's marriage with the girl."

Here the notary paused.

"There's another danger," said Goupil, with a knowing air,--"that of a
will made in favor of a third person, old Bongrand for instance, who
will hold the property in trust for Mademoiselle Ursula--"

"If you tease your uncle," continued Dionis, cutting short his
head-clerk, "if you are not all of you very polite to Ursula, you will
drive him into either a marriage or into making that private trust
which Goupil speaks of,--though I don't think him capable of that; it
is a dangerous thing. As for marriage, that is easy to prevent. Desire
there has only got to hold out a finger to the girl; she's sure to
prefer a handsome young man, cock of the walk in Nemours, to an old
one."

"Mother," said Desire to Zelie's ear, as much allured by the millions
as by Ursula's beauty, "If I married her we should get the whole
property."

"Are you crazy?--you, who'll some day have fifty thousand francs a
year and be made a deputy! As long as I live you never shall cut your
throat by a foolish marriage. Seven hundred thousand francs, indeed!
Why, the mayor's only daughter will have fifty thousand a year, and
they have already proposed her to me--"

This reply, the first rough speech his mother had ever made to him,
extinguished in Desire's breast all desire for a marriage with the
beautiful Ursula; for his father and he never got the better of any
decision once written in the terrible blue eyes of Zelie Minoret.

"Yes, but see here, Monsieur Dionis," cried Cremiere, whose wife had
been nudging him, "if the good man took the thing seriously and
married his goddaughter to Desire, giving her the reversion of all the
property, good-by to our share in it; if he lives five years longer
uncle may be worth a million."

"Never!" cried Zelie, "never in my life shall Desire marry the
daughter of a bastard, a girl picked up in the streets out of charity.
My son will represent the Minorets after the death of his uncle, and
the Minorets have five hundred years of good bourgeoisie behind them.
That's equal to the nobility. Don't be uneasy, any of you; Desire will
marry when we find a chance to put him in the Chamber of deputies."

This lofty declaration was backed by Goupil, who said:--

"Desire, with an allowance of twenty-four thousand francs a year, will
be president of a royal court or solicitor-general; either office
leads to the peerage. A foolish marriage would ruin him."

The heirs were now all talking at once; but they suddenly held their
tongues when Minoret rapped on the table with his fist to keep silence
for the notary.

"Your uncle is a worthy man," continued Dionis. "He believes he's
immortal; and, like most clever men, he'll let death overtake him
before he has made a will. My advice therefore is to induce him to
invest his capital in a way that will make it difficult for him to
disinherit you, and I know of an opportunity, made to hand. That
little Portenduere is in Saint-Pelagie, locked-up for one hundred and
some odd thousand francs' worth of debt. His old mother knows he is in
prison; she is crying like a Magdalen. The abbe is to dine with her;
no doubt she wants to talk to him about her troubles. Well, I'll go
and see your uncle to-night and persuade him to sell his five per cent
consols, which are now at 118, and lend Madame de Portenduere, on the
security of her farm at Bordieres and her house here, enough to pay
the debts of the prodigal son. I have a right as notary to speak to
him in behalf of young Portenduere; and it is quite natural that I
should wish to make him change his investments; I get deeds and
commissions out of the business. If I become his adviser I'll propose
to him other land investments for his surplus capital; I have some
excellent ones now in my office. If his fortune were once invested in
landed estate or in mortgage notes in this neighbourhood, it could not
take wings to itself very easily. It is easy to make difficulties
between the wish to realize and the realization."

The heirs, struck with the truth of this argument (much cleverer than
that of Monsieur Josse), murmured approval.

"You must be careful," said the notary in conclusion, "to keep your
uncle in Nemours, where his habits are known, and where you can watch
him. Find him a lover for the girl and you'll prevent his marrying her
himself."

"Suppose she married the lover?" said Goupil, seized by an ambitious
desire.

"That wouldn't be a bad thing; then you could figure up the loss; the
old man would have to say how much he gives her," replied the notary.
"But if you set Desire at her he could keep the girl dangling on till
the old man died. Marriages are made and unmade."

"The shortest way," said Goupil, "if the doctor is likely to live much
longer, is to marry her to some worthy young man who will get her out
of your way by settling at Sens, or Montargis, or Orleans with a
hundred thousand francs in hand."

Dionis, Massin, Zelie, and Goupil, the only intelligent heads in the
company, exchanged four thoughtful smiles.

"He'd be a worm at the core," whispered Zelie to Massin.

"How did he get here?" returned the clerk.

"That will just suit you!" cried Desire to Goupil. "But do you think
you can behave decently enough to satisfy the old man and the girl?"

"In these days," whispered Zelie again in Massin's year, "notaries
look out for no interests but their own. Suppose Dionis went over to
Ursula just to get the old man's business?"

"I am sure of him," said the clerk of the court, giving her a sly look
out of his spiteful little eyes. He was just going to add, "because I
hold something over him," but he withheld the words.

"I am quite of Dionis's opinion," he said aloud.

"So am I," cried Zelie, who now suspected the notary of collusion with
the clerk.

"My wife has voted!" said the post master, sipping his brandy, though
his face was already purple from digesting his meal and absorbing a
notable quantity of liquids.

"And very properly," remarked the collector.

"I shall go and see the doctor after dinner," said Dionis.

"If Monsieur Dionis's advice is good," said Madame Cremiere to Madame
Massin, "we had better go and call on our uncle, as we used to do,
every Sunday evening, and behave exactly as Monsieur Dionis has told
us."

"Yes, and be received as he received us!" cried Zelie. "Minoret and I
have more than forty thousand francs a year, and yet he refused our
invitations! We are quite his equals. If I don't know how to write
prescriptions I know how to paddle my boat as well as he--I can tell
him that!"

"As I am far from having forty thousand francs a year," said Madame
Massin, rather piqued, "I don't want to lose ten thousand."

"We are his nieces; we ought to take care of him, and then besides we
shall see how things are going," said Madame Cremiere; "you'll thank
us some day, cousin."

"Treat Ursula kindly," said the notary, lifting his right forefinger
to the level of his lips; "remember old Jordy left her his savings."

"You have managed those fools as well as Desroches, the best lawyer in
Paris, could have done," said Goupil to his patron as they left the
post-house.

"And now they are quarreling over my fee," replied the notary, smiling
bitterly.

The heirs, after parting with Dionis and his clerk, met again in the
square, with face rather flushed from their breakfast, just as vespers
were over. As the notary predicted, the Abbe Chaperon had Madame de
Portenduere on his arm.

"She dragged him to vespers, see!" cried Madame Massin to Madame
Cremiere, pointing to Ursula and the doctor, who were leaving the
church.

"Let us go and speak to him," said Madame Cremiere, approaching the
old man.

The change in the faces of his relatives (produced by the conference)
did not escape Doctor Minoret. He tried to guess the reason of this
sudden amiability, and out of sheer curiosity encouraged Ursula to
stop and speak to the two women, who were eager to greet her with
exaggerated affection and forced smiles.

"Uncle, will you permit me to come and see you to-night?" said Madame
Cremiere. "We feared sometimes we were in your way--but it is such a
long time since our children have paid you their respects; our girls
are old enough now to make dear Ursula's acquaintance."

"Ursula is a little bear, like her name," replied the doctor.

"Let us tame her," said Madame Massin. "And besides, uncle," added the
good housewife, trying to hide her real motive under a mask of
economy, "they tell us the dear girl has such talent for the forte
that we are very anxious to hear her. Madame Cremiere and I are
inclined to take her music-master for our children. If there were six
or eight scholars in a class it would bring the price of his lessons
within our means."

"Certainly," said the old man, "and it will be all the better for me
because I want to give Ursula a singing-master."

"Well, to-night then, uncle. We will bring your great-nephew Desire to
see you; he is now a lawyer."

"Yes, to-night," echoed Minoret, meaning to fathom the motives of
these petty souls.

The two nieces pressed Ursula's hand, saying, with affected eagerness,
"Au revoir."

"Oh, godfather, you have read my heart!" cried Ursula, giving him a
grateful look.

"You are going to have a voice," he said; "and I shall give you
masters of drawing and Italian also. A woman," added the doctor,
looking at Ursula as he unfastened the gate of his house, "ought to be
educated to the height of every position in which her marriage may
place her."

Ursula grew red as a cherry; her godfather's thoughts evidently turned
in the same direction as her own. Feeling that she was too near
confessing to the doctor the involuntary attraction which led her to
think about Savinien and to center all her ideas of affection upon
him, she turned aside and sat down in front of a great cluster of
climbing plants, on the dark background of which she looked at a
distance like a blue and white flower.

"Now you see, godfather, that your nieces were very kind to me; yes,
they were very kind," she repeated as he approached her, to change the
thoughts that made him pensive.

"Poor little girl!" cried the old man.

He laid Ursula's hand upon his arm, tapping it gently, and took her to
the terraces beside the river, where no one could hear them.

"Why do you say, 'Poor little girl'?"

"Don't you see how they fear you?"

"Fear me,--why?"

"My next of kin are very uneasy about my conversion. They no doubt
attribute it to your influence over me; they fancy I deprive them of
their inheritance to enrich you."

"But you won't do that?" said Ursula naively, looking up at him.

"Oh, divine consolation of my old age!" said the doctor, taking his
godchild in his arms and kissing her on both cheeks. "It was for her
and not for myself, oh God! that I besought thee just now to let me
live until the day I give her to some good being who is worthy of her!
--You will see comedies, my little angel, comedies which the Minorets
and Cremieres and Massins will come and play here. You want to
brighten and prolong my life; they are longing for my death."

"God forbids us to hate any one, but if that is-- Ah! I despise them!"
exclaimed Ursula.

"Dinner is ready!" called La Bougival from the portico, which, on the
garden side, was at the end of the corridor.



                             CHAPTER IX

                         A FIRST CONFIDENCE

Ursula and her godfather were sitting at dessert in the pretty
dining-room decorated with Chinese designs in black and gold lacquer
(the folly of Levrault-Levrault) when the justice of peace arrived. The
doctor offered him (and this was a great mark of intimacy) a cup of
his coffee, a mixture of Mocha with Bourbon and Martinique, roasted,
ground, and made by himself in a silver apparatus called a Chaptal.

"Well," said Bongrand, pushing up his glasses and looking slyly at the
old man, "the town is in commotion; your appearance in church has put
your relatives beside themselves. You have left your fortune to the
priests, to the poor. You have roused the families, and they are
bestirring themselves. Ha! ha! I saw their first irruption into the
square; they were as busy as ants who have lost their eggs."

"What did I tell you, Ursula?" cried the doctor. "At the risk of
grieving you, my child, I must teach you to know the world and put you
on your guard against undeserved enmity."

"I should like to say a word to you on this subject," said Bongrand,
seizing the occasion to speak to his old friend of Ursula's future.

The doctor put a black velvet cap on his white head, the justice of
peace wore his hat to protect him from the night air, and they walked
up and down the terrace discussing the means of securing to Ursula
what her godfather intended to bequeath her. Bongrand knew Dionis's
opinion as to the invalidity of a will made by the doctor in favor of
Ursula; for Nemours was so preoccupied with the Minoret affairs that
the matter had been much discussed among the lawyers of the little
town. Bongrand considered that Ursula was not a relative of Doctor
Minoret, but he felt that the whole spirit of legislation was against
the foisting into families of illegitimate off-shoots. The makers of
the Code had foreseen only the weakness of fathers and mothers for
their natural children, without considering that uncles and aunts
might have a like tenderness and a desire to provide for such
children. Evidently there was a gap in the law.

"In all other countries," he said, ending an explanation of the legal
points which Dionis, Goupil, and Desire had just explained to the
heirs, "Ursula would have nothing to fear; she is a legitimate child,
and the disability of her father ought only to affect the inheritance
from Valentine Mirouet, her grandfather. But in France the magistracy
is unfortunately overwise and very consequential; it inquires into the
spirit of the law. Some lawyers talk morality, and might try to show
that this hiatus in the Code came from the simple-mindedness of the
legislators, who did not foresee the case, though, none the less, they
established a principle. To bring a suit would be long and expensive.
Zelie would carry it to the court of appeals, and I might not be alive
when the case was tried."

"The best of cases is often worthless," cried the doctor. "Here's the
question the lawyers will put, 'To what degree of relationship ought
the disability of natural children in matters of inheritance to
extend?' and the credit of a good lawyer will lie in gaining a bad
cause."

"Faith!" said Bongrand, "I dare not take upon myself to affirm that
the judges wouldn't interpret the meaning of the law as increasing the
protection given to marriage, the eternal base of society."

Without explaining his intentions, the doctor rejected the idea of a
trust. When Bongrand suggested to him a marriage with Ursula as the
surest means of securing his property to her, he exclaimed, "Poor
little girl! I might live fifteen years; what a fate for her!"

"Well, what will you do, then?" asked Bongrand.

"We'll think about it--I'll see," said the old man, evidently at a
loss for a reply.

Just then Ursula came to say that Monsieur Dionis wished to speak to
the doctor.

"Already!" cried Minoret, looking at Bongrand. "Yes," he said to
Ursula, "send him here."

"I'll bet my spectacles to a bunch of matches that he is the
advance-guard of your heirs," said Bongrand. "They breakfasted
together at the post house, and something is being engineered."

The notary, conducted by Ursula, came to the lower end of the garden.
After the usual greetings and a few insignificant remarks, Dionis
asked for a private interview; Ursula and Bongrand retired to the
salon.

The distrust which superior men excite in men of business is very
remarkable. The latter deny them the "lesser" powers while recognizing
their possession of the "higher." It is, perhaps, a tribute to them.
Seeing them always on the higher plane of human things, men of
business believe them incapable of descending to the infinitely petty
details which (like the dividends of finance and the microscopic facts
of science) go to equalize capital and to form the worlds. They are
mistaken! The man of honor and of genius sees all. Bongrand, piqued by
the doctor's silence, but impelled by a sense of Ursula's interests
which he thought endangered, resolved to defend her against the heirs.
He was wretched at not knowing what was taking place between the old
man and Dionis.

"No matter how pure and innocent Ursula may be," he thought as he
looked at her, "there is a point on which young girls do make their
own law and their own morality. I'll test here. The Minoret-Levraults,"
he began, settling his spectacles, "might possibly ask you in marriage
for their son."

The poor child turned pale. She was too well trained, and had too much
delicacy to listen to what Dionis was saying to her uncle; but after a
moment's inward deliberation, she thought she might show herself, and
then, if she was in the way, her godfather would let her know it. The
Chinese pagoda which the doctor made his study had outside blinds to
the glass doors; Ursula invented the excuse of shutting them. She
begged Monsieur Bongrand's pardon for leaving him alone in the salon,
but he smiled at her and said, "Go! go!"

Ursula went down the steps of the portico which led to the pagoda at
the foot of the garden. She stood for some minutes slowly arranging
the blinds and watching the sunset. The doctor and notary were at the
end of the terrace, but as they turned she heard the doctor make an
answer which reached the pagoda where she was.

"My heirs would be delighted to see me invest my property in real
estate or mortgages; they imagine it would be safer there. I know
exactly what they are saying; perhaps you come from them. Let me tell
you, my good sir, that my disposition of my property is irrevocably
made. My heirs will have the capital I brought here with me; I wish
them to know that, and to let me alone. If any one of them attempts to
interfere with what I think proper to do for that young girl (pointing
to Ursula) I shall come back from the other world and torment him. So,
Monsieur Savinien de Portenduere will stay in prison if they count on
me to get him out. I shall not sell my property in the Funds."

Hearing this last fragment of the sentence Ursula experienced the
first and only pain which so far had ever touched her. She laid her
head against the blind to steady herself.

"Good God, what is the matter with her?" thought the old doctor. "She
has no color; such an emotion after dinner might kill her."

He went to her with open arms, and she fell into them almost fainting.

"Adieu, Monsieur," he said to the notary, "please leave us."

He carried his child to an immense Louis XV. sofa which was in his
study, looked for a phial of hartshorn among his remedies, and made
her inhale it.

"Take my place," said the doctor to Bongrand, who was terrified; "I
must be alone with her."

The justice of peace accompanied the notary to the gate, asking him,
but without showing any eagerness, what was the matter with Ursula.

"I don't know," replied Dionis. "She was standing by the pagoda,
listening to us, and just as her uncle (so-called) refused to lend
some money at my request to young de Portenduere who is in prison for
debt,--for he has not had, like Monsieur du Rouvre, a Monsieur
Bongrand to defend him,--she turned pale and staggered. Can she love
him? Is there anything between them?"

"At fifteen years of age? pooh!" replied Bongrand.

"She was born in February, 1813; she'll be sixteen in four months."

"I don't believe she ever saw him," said the judge. "No, it is only a
nervous attack."

"Attack of the heart, more likely," said the notary.

Dionis was delighted with this discovery, which would prevent the
marriage "in extremis" which they dreaded,--the only sure means by
which the doctor could defraud his relatives. Bongrand, on the other
hand, saw a private castle of his own demolished; he had long thought
of marrying his son to Ursula.

"If the poor girl loves that youth it will be a misfortune for her,"
replied Bongrand after a pause. "Madame de Portenduere is a Breton and
infatuated with her noble blood."

"Luckily--I mean for the honor of the Portendueres," replied the
notary, on the point of betraying himself.

Let us do the faithful and upright Bongrand the justice to say that
before he re-entered the salon he had abandoned, not without deep
regret for his son, the hope he had cherished of some day calling
Ursula his daughter. He meant to give his son six thousand francs a
year the day he was appointed substitute, and if the doctor would give
Ursula a hundred thousand francs what a pearl of a home the pair would
make! His Eugene was so loyal and charming a fellow! Perhaps he had
praised his Eugene too often, and that had made the doctor
distrustful.

"I shall have to come down to the mayor's daughter," he thought.
"But Ursula without any money is worth more than Mademoiselle
Levrault-Cremiere with a million. However, the thing to be done is
to manoeuvre the marriage with this little Portenduere--if she really
loves him."

The doctor, after closing the door to the library and that to the
garden, took his goddaughter to the window which opened upon the
river.

"What ails you, my child?" he said. "Your life is my life. Without
your smiles what would become of me?"

"Savinien in prison!" she said.

With these words a shower of tears fell from her eyes and she began to
sob.

"Saved!" thought the doctor, who was holding her pulse with great
anxiety. "Alas! she has all the sensitiveness of my poor wife," he
thought, fetching a stethoscope which he put to Ursula's heart,
applying his ear to it. "Ah, that's all right," he said to himself. "I
did not know, my darling, that you loved any one as yet," he added,
looking at her; "but think out loud to me as you think to yourself;
tell me all that has passed between you."

"I do not love him, godfather; we have never spoken to each other,"
she answered, sobbing. "But to hear that he is in prison, and to know
that you--harshly--refused to get him out--you, so good!"

"Ursula, my dear little good angel, if you do not love him why did you
put that little red dot against Saint Savinien's day just as you put
one before that of Saint Denis? Come, tell me everything about your
little love-affair."

Ursula blushed, swallowed a few tears, and for a moment there was
silence between them.

"Surely you are not afraid of your father, your friend, mother,
doctor, and godfather, whose heart is now more tender than it ever has
been."

"No, no, dear godfather," she said. "I will open my heart to you. Last
May, Monsieur Savinien came to see his mother. Until then I had never
taken notice of him. When he left home to live in Paris I was a child,
and I did not see any difference between him and--all of you--except
perhaps that I loved you, and never thought of loving any one else.
Monsieur Savinien came by the mail-post the night before his mother's
fete-day; but we did not know it. At seven the next morning, after I
had said my prayers, I opened the window to air my room and I saw the
windows in Monsieur Savinien's room open; and Monsieur Savinien was
there, in a dressing gown, arranging his beard; in all his movements
there was such grace--I mean, he seemed to me so charming. He combed
his black moustache and the little tuft on his chin, and I saw his
white throat--so round!--must I tell you all? I noticed that his
throat and face and that beautiful black hair were all so different
from yours when I watch you arranging your beard. There came--I don't
know how--a sort of glow into my heart, and up into my throat, my
head; it came so violently that I sat down--I couldn't stand, I
trembled so. But I longed to see him again, and presently I got up; he
saw me then, and, just for play, he sent me a kiss from the tips of
his fingers and--"

"And?"

"And then," she continued, "I hid myself--I was ashamed, but happy
--why should I be ashamed of being happy? That feeling--it dazzled my
soul and gave it some power, but I don't know what--it came again each
time I saw within me the same young face. I loved this feeling,
violent as it was. Going to mass, some unconquerable power made me
look at Monsieur Savinien with his mother on his arm; his walk, his
clothes, even the tap of his boots on the pavement, seemed to me so
charming. The least little thing about him--his hand with the delicate
glove--acted like a spell upon me; and yet I had strength enough not
to think of him during mass. When the service was over I stayed in the
church to let Madame de Portenduere go first, and then I walked behind
him. I couldn't tell you how these little things excited me. When I
reached home, I turned round to fasten the iron gate--"

"Where was La Bougival?" asked the doctor.

"Oh, I let her go to the kitchen," said Ursula simply. "Then I saw
Monsieur Savinien standing quite still and looking at me. Oh!
godfather, I was so proud, for I thought I saw a look in his eyes of
surprise and admiration--I don't know what I would not do to make him
look at me again like that. It seemed to me I ought to think of
nothing forevermore but pleasing him. That glance is now the best
reward I have for any good I do. From that moment I have thought of
him incessantly, in spite of myself. Monsieur Savinien went back to
Paris that evening, and I have not seen him since. The street seems
empty; he took my heart away with him--but he does not know it."

"Is that all?" asked the old man.

"All, dear godfather," she said, with a sigh of regret that there was
not more to tell.

"My little girl," said the doctor, putting her on his knee; "you are
nearly sixteen and your womanhood is beginning. You are now between
your blessed childhood, which is ending, and the emotions of love,
which will make your life a tumultuous one; for you have a nervous
system of exquisite sensibility. What has happened to you, my child,
is love," said the old man with an expression of deepest sadness,
--"love in its holy simplicity; love as it ought to be; involuntary,
sudden, coming like a thief who takes all--yes, all! I expected it. I
have studied women; many need proofs and miracles of affection before
love conquers them; but others there are, under the influence of
sympathies explainable to-day by magnetic fluids, who are possessed by
it in an instant. To you I can now tell all--as soon as I saw the
charming woman whose name you bear, I felt that I should love her
forever, solely and faithfully, without knowing whether our characters
or persons suited each other. Is there a second-sight in love? What
answer can I give to that, I who have seen so many unions formed under
celestial auspices only to be ruptured later, giving rise to hatreds
that are well-nigh eternal, to repugnances that are unconquerable. The
senses sometimes harmonize while ideas are at variance; and some
persons live more by their minds than by their bodies. The contrary is
also true; often minds agree and persons displease. These phenomena,
the varying and secret cause of many sorrows, show the wisdom of laws
which give parents supreme power over the marriages of their children;
for a young girl is often duped by one or other of these
hallucinations. Therefore I do not blame you. The sensations you feel,
the rush of sensibility which has come from its hidden source upon
your heart and upon your mind, the happiness with which you think of
Savinien, are all natural. But, my darling child, society demands, as
our good abbe has told us, the sacrifice of many natural inclinations.
The destinies of men and women differ. I was able to choose Ursula
Mirouet for my wife; I could go to her and say that I loved her; but a
young girl is false to herself if she asks the love of the man she
loves. A woman has not the right which men have to seek the
accomplishment of her hopes in open day. Modesty is to her--above all
to you, my Ursula,--the insurmountable barrier which protects the
secrets of her heart. Your hesitation in confiding to me these first
emotions shows me you would suffer cruel torture rather than admit to
Savinien--"

"Oh, yes!" she said.

"But, my child, you must do more. You must repress these feelings; you
must forget them."

"Why?"

"Because, my darling, you must love only the man you marry; and, even
if Monsieur Savinien de Portenduere loved you--"

"I never thought of it."

"But listen: even if he loved you, even if his mother asked me to give
him your hand, I should not consent to the marriage until I had
subjected him to a long and thorough probation. His conduct has been
such as to make families distrust him and to put obstacles between
himself and heiresses which cannot be easily overcome."

A soft smile came in place of tears on Ursula's sweet face as she
said, "Then poverty is good sometimes."

The doctor could find no answer to such innocence.

"What has he done, godfather?" she asked.

"In two years, my treasure, he has incurred one hundred and twenty
thousand francs of debt. He has had the folly to get himself locked up
in Saint-Pelagie, the debtor's prison; an impropriety which will
always be, in these days, a discredit to him. A spendthrift who is
willing to plunge his poor mother into poverty and distress might
cause his wife, as your poor father did, to die of despair."

"Don't you think he will do better?" she asked.

"If his mother pays his debts he will be penniless, and I don't know a
worse punishment than to be a nobleman without means."

This answer made Ursula thoughtful; she dried her tears, and said:--

"If you can save him, save him, godfather; that service will give you
a right to advise him; you can remonstrate--"

"Yes," said the doctor, imitating her, "and then he can come here, and
the old lady will come here, and we shall see them, and--"

"I was thinking only of him," said Ursula, blushing.

"Don't think of him, my child; it would be folly," said the doctor
gravely. "Madame de Portenduere, who was a Kergarouet, would never
consent, even if she had to live on three hundred francs a year, to
the marriage of her son, the Vicomte Savinien de Portenduere, with
whom?--with Ursula Mirouet, daughter of a bandsman in a regiment,
without money, and whose father--alas! I must now tell you all--was
the bastard son of an organist, my father-in-law."

"O godfather! you are right; we are equal only in the sight of God. I
will not think of him again--except in my prayers," she said, amid the
sobs which this painful revelation excited. "Give him what you meant
to give me--what can a poor girl like me want?--ah, in prison, he!--"

"Offer to God your disappointments, and perhaps he will help us."

There was silence for some minutes. When Ursula, who at first did not
dare to look at her godfather, raised her eyes, her heart was deeply
moved to see the tears which were rolling down his withered cheeks.
The tears of old men are as terrible as those of children are natural.

"Oh what is it?" cried Ursula, flinging herself at his feet and
kissing his hands. "Are you not sure of me?"

"I, who longed to gratify all your wishes, it is I who am obliged to
cause the first great sorrow of your life!" he said. "I suffer as much
as you. I never wept before, except when I lost my children--and,
Ursula-- Yes," he cried suddenly, "I will do all you desire!"

Ursula gave him, through her tears a look that was vivid as lightning.
She smiled.

"Let us go into the salon, darling," said the doctor. "Try to keep the
secret of all this to yourself," he added, leaving her alone for a
moment in his study.

He felt himself so weak before that heavenly smile that he feared he
might say a word of hope and thus mislead her.



                             CHAPTER X

                     THE FAMILY OF PORTENDUERE

Madame de Portenduere was at this moment alone with the abbe in her
frigid little salon on the ground floor, having finished the recital
of her troubles to the good priest, her only friend. She held in her
hand some letters which he had just returned to her after reading
them; these letters had brought her troubles to a climax. Seated on
her sofa beside a square table covered with the remains of a dessert,
the old lady was looking at the abbe, who sat on the other side of the
table, doubled up in his armchair and stroking his chin with the
gesture common to valets on the stage, mathematicians, and priests,--a
sign of profound meditation on a problem that was difficult to solve.

This little salon, lighted by two windows on the street and finished
with a wainscot painted gray, was so damp that the lower panels showed
the geometrical cracks of rotten wood when the paint no longer binds
it. The red-tiled floor, polished by the old lady's one servant,
required, for comfort's sake, before each seat small round mats of
brown straw, on one of which the abbe was now resting his feet. The
old damask curtains of light green with green flowers were drawn, and
the outside blinds had been closed. Two wax candles lighted the table,
leaving the rest of the room in semi-obscurity. Is it necessary to say
that between the two windows was a fine pastel by Latour representing
the famous Admiral de Portenduere, the rival of the Suffren, Guichen,
Kergarouet and Simeuse naval heroes? On the paneled wall opposite to
the fireplace were portraits of the Vicomte de Portenduere and of the
mother of the old lady, a Kergarouet-Ploegat. Savinien's great-uncle
was therefore the Vice-admiral de Kergarouet, and his cousin was the
Comte de Portenduere, grandson of the admiral,--both of them very
rich.

The Vice-admiral de Kergarouet lived in Paris and the Comte de
Portenduere at the chateau of that name in Dauphine. The count
represented the elder branch, and Savinien was the only scion of the
younger. The count, who was over forty years of age and married to a
rich wife, had three children. His fortune, increased by various
legacies, amounted, it was said, to sixty thousand francs a year. As
deputy from Isere he passed his winters in Paris, where he had bought
the hotel de Portenduere with the indemnities he obtained under the
Villele law. The vice-admiral had recently married his niece by
marriage, for the sole purpose of securing his money to her.

The faults of the young viscount were therefore likely to cost him the
favor of two powerful protectors. If Savinien had entered the navy,
young and handsome as he was, with a famous name, and backed by the
influence of an admiral and a deputy, he might, at twenty-three years
of age, been a lieutenant; but his mother, unwilling that her only son
should go into either naval or military service, had kept him at
Nemours under the tutelage of one of the Abbe Chaperon's assistants,
hoping that she could keep him near her until her death. She meant to
marry him to a demoiselle d'Aiglemont with a fortune of twelve
thousand francs a year; to whose hand the name of Portenduere and the
farm at Bordieres enabled him to pretend. This narrow but judicious
plan, which would have carried the family to a second generation, was
already balked by events. The d'Aiglemonts were ruined, and one of the
daughters, Helene, had disappeared, and the mystery of her
disappearance was never solved.

The weariness of a life without atmosphere, without prospects, without
action, without other nourishment than the love of a son for his
mother, so worked upon Savinien that he burst his chains, gentle as
they were, and swore that he would never live in the provinces
--comprehending, rather late, that his future fate was not to be in the
Rue des Bourgeois. At twenty-one years of age he left his mother's
house to make acquaintance with his relations, and try his luck in
Paris. The contrast between life in Paris and life in Nemours was
likely to be fatal to a young man of twenty-one, free, with no one to
say him nay, naturally eager for pleasure, and for whom his name and
his connections opened the doors of all the salons. Quite convinced
that his mother had the savings of many years in her strong-box,
Savinien soon spent the six thousand francs which she had given him to
see Paris. That sum did not defray his expenses for six months, and he
soon owed double that sum to his hotel, his tailor, his boot maker, to
the man from whom he hired his carriages and horses, to a jeweler,
--in short, to all those traders and shopkeepers who contribute to the
luxury of young men.

He had only just succeeded in making himself known, and had scarcely
learned how to converse, how to present himself in a salon, how to
wear his waistcoats and choose them and to order his coats and tie his
cravat, before he found himself in debt for over thirty thousand
francs, while still seeking the right phrases in which to declare his
love for the sister of the Marquis de Ronquerolles, the elegant Madame
de Serizy, whose youth had been at its climax during the Empire.

"How is that you all manage?" asked Savinien one day, at the end of a
gay breakfast with a knot of young dandies, with whom he was intimate
as the young men of the present day are intimate with each other, all
aiming for the same thing and all claiming an impossible equality.
"You were no richer than I and yet you get along without anxiety; you
contrive to maintain yourselves, while as for me I make nothing but
debts."

"We all began that way," answered Rastignac, laughing, and the laugh
was echoed by Lucien de Rubempre, Maxime de Trailles, Emile Blondet,
and others of the fashionable young men of the day.

"Though de Marsay was rich when he started in life he was an
exception," said the host, a parvenu named Finot, ambitious of seeming
intimate with these young men. "Any one but he," added Finot bowing to
that personage, "would have been ruined by it."

"A true remark," said Maxime de Trailles.

"And a true idea," added Rastignac.

"My dear fellow," said de Marsay, gravely, to Savinien; "debts are the
capital stock of experience. A good university education with tutors
for all branches, who don't teach you anything, costs sixty thousand
francs. If the education of the world does cost double, at least it
teaches you to understand life, politics, men,--and sometimes women."

Blondet concluded the lesson by a paraphrase from La Fontaine: "The
world sells dearly what we think it gives."

Instead of laying to heart the sensible advice which the cleverest
pilots of the Parisian archipelago gave him, Savinien took it all as a
joke.

"Take care, my dear fellow," said de Marsay one day. "You have a great
name; if you don't obtain the fortune that name requires you'll end
your days in the uniform of a cavalry-sergeant. 'We have seen the fall
of nobler heads,'" he added, declaiming the line of Corneille as he
took Savinien's arm. "About six years ago," he continued, "a young
Comte d'Esgrignon came among us; but he did not stay two years in the
paradise of the great world. Alas! he lived and moved like a rocket.
He rose to the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and fell to his native town,
where he is now expiating his faults with a wheezy old father and a
game of whist at two sous a point. Tell Madame de Serizy your
situation, candidly, without shame; she will understand it and be very
useful to you. Whereas, if you play the charade of first love with her
she will pose as a Raffaelle Madonna, practice all the little games of
innocence upon you, and take you journeying at enormous cost through
the Land of Sentiment."

Savinien, still too young and too pure in honor, dared not confess his
position as to money to Madame de Serizy. At a moment when he knew not
which way to turn he had written his mother an appealing letter, to
which she replied by sending him the sum of twenty thousand francs,
which was all she possessed. This assistance brought him to the close
of the first year. During the second, being harnessed to the chariot
of Madame de Serizy, who was seriously taken with him, and who was, as
the saying is, forming him, he had recourse to the dangerous expedient
of borrowing. One of his friends, a deputy and the friend of his
cousin the Comte de Portenduere, advised him in his distress to go to
Gobseck or Gigonnet or Palma, who, if duly informed as to his mother's
means, would give him an easy discount. Usury and the deceptive help
of renewals enabled him to lead a happy life for nearly eighteen
months. Without daring to leave Madame de Serizy the poor boy had
fallen madly in love with the beautiful Comtesse de Kergarouet, a
prude after the fashion of young women who are awaiting the death of
an old husband and making capital of their virtue in the interests of
a second marriage. Quite incapable of understanding that calculating
virtue is invulnerable, Savinien paid court to Emilie de Kergarouet in
all the splendor of a rich man. He never missed either ball or theater
at which she was present.

"You haven't powder enough, my boy, to blow up that rock," said de
Marsay, laughing.

That young king of fashion, who did, out of commiseration for the lad,
endeavor to explain to him the nature of Emilie de Fontaine, merely
wasted his words; the gloomy lights of misfortune and the twilight of
a prison were needed to convince Savinien.

A note, imprudently given to a jeweler in collusion with the
money-lenders, who did not wish to have the odium of arresting the
young man, was the means of sending Savinien de Portenduere, in default
of one hundred and seventeen thousand francs and without the knowledge
of his friends, to the debtor's prison at Sainte-Pelagie. So soon as
the fact was known Rastignac, de Marsay, and Lucien de Rubempre went to
see him, and each offered him a banknote of a thousand francs when
they found how really destitute he was. Everything belonging to him
had been seized except the clothes and the few jewels he wore. The
three young men (who brought an excellent dinner with them) discussed
Savinien's situation while drinking de Marsay's wine, ostensibly to
arrange for his future but really, no doubt, to judge of him.

"When a man is named Savinien de Portenduere," cried Rastignac, "and
has a future peer of France for a cousin and Admiral Kergarouet for a
great-uncle, and commits the enormous blunder of allowing himself to
be put in Sainte-Pelagie, it is very certain that he must not stay
there, my good fellow."

"Why didn't you tell me?" cried de Marsay. "You could have had my
traveling-carriage, ten thousand francs, and letters of introduction
for Germany. We know Gobseck and Gigonnet and the other crocodiles; we
could have made them capitulate. But tell me, in the first place, what
ass ever led you to drink of that cursed spring."

"Des Lupeaulx."

The three young men looked at each other with one and the same thought
and suspicion, but they did not utter it.

"Explain all your resources; show us your hand," said de Marsay.

When Savinien had told of his mother and her old-fashioned ways, and
the little house with three windows in the Rue des Bourgeois, without
other grounds than a court for the well and a shed for the wood; when
he had valued the house, built of sandstone and pointed in reddish
cement, and put a price on the farm at Bordieres, the three dandies
looked at each other, and all three said with a solemn air the word of
the abbe in Alfred de Musset's "Marrons du feu" (which had then just
appeared),--"Sad!"

"Your mother will pay if you write a clever letter," said Rastignac.

"Yes, but afterwards?" cried de Marsay.

"If you had merely been put in the fiacre," said Lucien, "the
government would find you a place in diplomacy, but Saint-Pelagie
isn't the antechamber of an embassy."

"You are not strong enough for Parisian life," said Rastignac.

"Let us consider the matter," said de Marsay, looking Savinien over as
a jockey examines a horse. "You have fine blue eyes, well opened, a
white forehead well shaped, magnificent black hair, a little moustache
which suits those pale cheeks, and a slim figure; you've a foot that
tells race, shoulders and chest not quite those of a porter, but
solid. You are what I call an elegant male brunette. Your face is of
the style Louis XII., hardly any color, well-formed nose; and you have
the thing that pleases women, a something, I don't know what it is,
which men take no account of themselves; it is in the air, the manner,
the tone of the voice, the dart of the eye, the gesture,--in short, in
a number of little things which women see and to which they attach a
meaning which escapes us. You don't know your merits, my dear fellow.
Take a certain tone and style and in six months you'll captivate an
English-woman with a hundred thousand pounds; but you must call
yourself viscount, a title which belongs to you. My charming
step-mother, Lady Dudley, who has not her equal for matching two hearts,
will find you some such woman in the fens of Great Britain. What you
must now do is to get the payment of your debts postponed for ninety
days. Why didn't you tell us about them? The money-lenders at Baden
would have spared you--served you perhaps; but now, after you have
once been in prison, they'll despise you. A money-lender is, like
society, like the masses, down on his knees before the man who is
strong enough to trick him, and pitiless to the lambs. To the eyes of
some persons Sainte-Pelagie is a she-devil who burns the souls of
young men. Do you want my candid advice? I shall tell you as I told
that little d'Esgrignon: 'Arrange to pay your debts leisurely; keep
enough to live on for three years, and marry some girl in the
provinces who can bring you an income of thirty thousand francs.' In
the course of three years you can surely find some virtuous heiress
who is willing to call herself Madame la Vicomtesse de Portenduere.
Such is virtue,--let's drink to it. I give you a toast: 'The girl with
money!"

The young men did not leave their ex-friend till the official hour for
parting. The gate was no sooner closed behind them than they said to
each other: "He's not strong enough!" "He's quite crushed." "I don't
believe he'll pull through it?"

The next day Savinien wrote his mother a confession in twenty-two
pages. Madame de Portenduere, after weeping for one whole day, wrote
first to her son, promising to get him out of prison, and then to the
Comte de Portenduere and to Admiral Kergarouet.

The letters the abbe had just read and which the poor mother was
holding in her hand and moistening with tears, were the answers to her
appeal, which had arrived that morning, and had almost broken her
heart.


Paris, September, 1829.

To Madame de Portenduere:

Madame,--You cannot doubt the interest which the admiral and I
both feel in your troubles. What you ask of Monsieur de
Kergarouet grieves me all the more because our house was a home to
your son; we were proud of him. If Savinien had had more
confidence in the admiral we could have taken him to live with us,
and he would already have obtained some good situation. But,
unfortunately, he told us nothing; he ran into debt of his own
accord, and even involved himself for me, who knew nothing of his
pecuniary position. It is all the more to be regretted because
Savinien has, for the moment, tied our hands by allowing the
authorities to arrest him.

If my nephew had not shown a foolish passion for me and sacrificed
our relationship to the vanity of a lover, we could have sent him
to travel in Germany while his affairs were being settled here.
Monsieur de Kergarouet intended to get him a place in the War
office; but this imprisonment for debt will paralyze such efforts.
You must pay his debts; let him enter the navy; he will make his
way like the true Portenduere that he is; he has the fire of the
family in his beautiful black eyes, and we will all help him.

Do not be disheartened, madame; you have many friends, among whom
I beg you to consider me as one of the most sincere; I send you our
best wishes, with the respects of

Your very affectionate servant,
Emilie de Kergarouet.


The second letter was as follows:--


Portenduere, August, 1829.

To Madame de Portenduere:

My dear aunt,--I am more annoyed than surprised at Savinien's
pranks. As I am married and the father of two sons and one
daughter, my fortune, already too small for my position and
prospects, cannot be lessened to ransom a Portenduere from the
hands of the Jews. Sell your farm, pay his debts, and come and
live with us at Portenduere. You shall receive the welcome we owe
you, even though our views may not be entirely in accordance with
yours. You shall be made happy, and we will manage to marry
Savinien, whom my wife thinks charming. This little outbreak is
nothing; do not make yourself unhappy; it will never be known in
this part of the country, where there are a number of rich girls
who would be delighted to enter our family.

My wife joins me in assuring you of the happiness you would give
us, and I beg you to accept her wishes for the realization of this
plan, together with my affectionate respects.

Luc-Savinien, Comte de Portenduere.


"What letters for a Kergarouet to receive!" cried the old Breton lady,
wiping her eyes.

"The admiral does not know his nephew is in prison," said the Abbe
Chaperon at last; "the countess alone read your letter, and has
answered it for him. But you must decide at once on some course," he
added after a pause, "and this is what I have the honor to advise. Do
not sell your farm. The lease is just out, having lasted twenty-four
years; in a few months you can raise the rent to six thousand francs
and get a premium for double that amount. Borrow what you need of some
honest man,--not from the townspeople who make a business of
mortgages. Your neighbour here is a most worthy man; a man of good
society, who knew it as it was before the Revolution, who was once an
atheist, and is now an earnest Catholic. Do not let your feelings
debar you from going to his house this very evening; he will fully
understand the step you take; forget for a moment that you are a
Kergarouet."

"Never!" said the old mother, in a sharp voice.

"Well, then, be an amiable Kergarouet; come when he is alone. He will
lend you the money at three and a half per cent, perhaps even at three
per cent, and will do you this service delicately; you will be pleased
with him. He can go to Paris and release Savinien himself,--for he
will have to go there to sell out his funds,--and he can bring the lad
back to you."

"Are you speaking of that little Minoret?"

"That little Minoret is eighty-three years old," said the abbe,
smiling. "My dear lady, do have a little Christian charity; don't
wound him,--he might be useful to you in other ways."

"What ways?"

"He has an angel in his house; a precious young girl--"

"Oh! that little Ursula. What of that?"

The poor abbe did not pursue the subject after these significant
words, the laconic sharpness of which cut through the proposition he
was about to make.

"I think Doctor Minoret is very rich," he said.

"So much the better for him."

"You have indirectly caused your son's misfortunes by refusing to give
him a profession; beware for the future," said the abbe sternly. "Am I
to tell Doctor Minoret that you are coming?"

"Why cannot he come to me if he knows I want him?" she replied.

"Ah, madame, if you go to him you will pay him three per cent; if he
comes to you you will pay him five," said the abbe, inventing this
reason to influence the old lady. "And if you are forced to sell your
farm by Dionis the notary, or by Massin the clerk (who would refuse to
lend you the money, knowing it was more their interest to buy), you
would lose half its value. I have not the slightest influence on the
Dionis, Massins, or Levraults, or any of those rich men who covet your
farm and know that your son is in prison."

"They know it! oh, do they know it?" she exclaimed, throwing up her
arms. "There! my poor abbe, you have let your coffee get cold!
Tiennette, Tiennette!"

Tiennette, an old Breton servant sixty years of age, wearing a short
gown and a Breton cap, came quickly in and took the abbe's coffee to
warm it.

"Let be, Monsieur le recteur," she said, seeing that the abbe meant to
drink it, "I'll just put it into the bain-marie, it won't spoil it."

"Well," said the abbe to Madame de Portenduere in his most insinuating
voice, "I shall go and tell the doctor of your visit, and you will
come--"

The old mother did not yield till after an hour's discussion, during
which the abbe was forced to repeat his arguments at least ten times.
And even then the proud Kergarouet was not vanquished until he used
the words, "Savinien would go."

"It is better that I should go than he," she said.



                             CHAPTER XI

                           SAVINIEN SAVED

The clock was striking nine when the little door made in the large
door of Madame de Portenduere's house closed on the abbe, who
immediately crossed the road and hastily rang the bell at the doctor's
gate. He fell from Tiennette to La Bougival; the one said to him, "Why
do you come so late, Monsieur l'abbe?" as the other had said, "Why do
you leave Madame so early when she is in trouble?"

The abbe found a numerous company assembled in the green and brown
salon; for Dionis had stopped at Massin's on his way home to re-assure
the heirs by repeating their uncle's words.

"I believe Ursula has a love-affair," said he, "which will be nothing
but pain and trouble to her; she seems romantic" (extreme sensibility
is so called by notaries), "and, you'll see, she won't marry soon.
Therefore, don't show her any distrust; be very attentive to her and
very respectful to your uncle, for he is slyer than fifty Goupils,"
added the notary--without being aware that Goupil is a corruption of
the word vulpes, a fox.

So Mesdames Massin and Cremiere with their husbands, the post master
and Desire, together with the Nemours doctor and Bongrand, made an
unusual and noisy party in the doctor's salon. As the abbe entered he
heard the sound of the piano. Poor Ursula was just finishing a sonata
of Beethoven's. With girlish mischief she had chosen that grand music,
which must be studied to be understood, for the purpose of disgusting
these women with the thing they coveted. The finer the music the less
ignorant persons like it. So, when the door opened and the abbe's
venerable head appeared they all cried out: "Ah! here's Monsieur
l'abbe!" in a tone of relief, delighted to jump up and put an end to
their torture.

The exclamation was echoed at the card-table, where Bongrand, the
Nemours doctor, and old Minoret were victims to the presumption with
which the collector, in order to propitiate his great-uncle, had
proposed to take the fourth hand at whist. Ursula left the piano. The
doctor rose as if to receive the abbe, but really to put an end to the
game. After many compliments to their uncle on the wonderful
proficiency of his goddaughter, the heirs made their bow and retired.

"Good-night, my friends," cried the doctor as the iron gate clanged.

"Ah! that's where the money goes," said Madame Cremiere to Madame
Massin, as they walked on.

"God forbid that I should spend money to teach my little Aline to make
such a din as that!" cried Madame Massin.

"She said it was Beethoven, who is thought to be fine musician," said
the collector; "he has quite a reputation."

"Not in Nemours, I'm sure of that," said Madame Cremiere.

"I believe uncle made her play it expressly to drive us away," said
Massin; "for I saw him give that little minx a wink as she opened the
music-book."

"If that's the sort of charivari they like," said the post master,
"they are quite right to keep it to themselves."

"Monsieur Bongrand must be fond of whist to stand such a dreadful
racket," said Madame Cremiere.

"I shall never be able to play before persons who don't understand
music," Ursula was saying as she sat down beside the whist-table.

"In natures richly organized," said the abbe, "sentiments can be
developed only in a congenial atmosphere. Just as a priest is unable
to give the blessing in presence of an evil spirit, or as a
chestnut-tree dies in a clay soil, so a musician's genius has a mental
eclipse when he is surrounded by ignorant persons. In all the arts we
must receive from the souls who make the environment of our souls as
much intensity as we convey to them. This axiom, which rules the human
mind, has been made into proverbs: 'Howl with the wolves'; 'Like meets
like.' But the suffering you felt, Ursula, affects delicate and tender
natures only."

"And so, friends," said the doctor, "a thing which would merely give
pain to most women might kill my Ursula. Ah! when I am no longer here,
I charge you to see that the hedge of which Catullus spoke,--'Ut
flos,' etc.,--a protecting hedge is raised between this cherished
flower and the world."

"And yet those ladies flattered you, Ursula," said Monsieur Bongrand,
smiling.

"Flattered her grossly," remarked the Nemours doctor.

"I have always noticed how vulgar forced flattery is," said old
Minoret. "Why is that?"

"A true thought has its own delicacy," said the abbe.

"Did you dine with Madame de Portenduere?" asked Ursula, with a look
of anxious curiosity.

"Yes; the poor lady is terribly distressed. It is possible she may
come to see you this evening, Monsieur Minoret."

Ursula pressed her godfather's hand under the table.

"Her son," said Bongrand, "was rather too simple-minded to live in
Paris without a mentor. When I heard that inquiries were being made
here about the property of the old lady I feared he was discounting
her death."

"Is it possible you think him capable of it?" said Ursula, with such a
terrible glance at Monsieur Bongrand that he said to himself rather
sadly, "Alas! yes, she loves him."

"Yes and no," said the Nemours doctor, replying to Ursula's question.
"There is a great deal of good in Savinien, and that is why he is now
in prison; a scamp wouldn't have got there."

"Don't let us talk about it any more," said old Minoret. "The poor
mother must not be allowed to weep if there's a way to dry her tears."

The four friends rose and went out; Ursula accompanied them to the
gate, saw her godfather and the abbe knock at the opposite door, and
as soon as Tiennette admitted them she sat down on the outer wall with
La Bougival beside her.

"Madame la vicomtesse," said the abbe, who entered first into the
little salon, "Monsieur le docteur Minoret was not willing that you
should have the trouble of coming to him--"

"I am too much of the old school, madame," interrupted the doctor,
"not to know what a man owes to a woman of your rank, and I am very
glad to be able, as Monsieur l'abbe tells me, to be of service to
you."

Madame de Portenduere, who disliked the step the abbe had advised so
much that she had almost decided, after he left her, to apply to the
notary instead, was surprised by Minoret's attention to such a degree
that she rose to receive him and signed to him to take a chair.

"Be seated, monsieur," she said with a regal air. "Our dear abbe has
told you that the viscount is in prison on account of some youthful
debts,--a hundred thousand francs or so. If you could lend them to him
I would secure you on my farm at Bordieres."

"We will talk of that, madame, when I have brought your son back to
you--if you will allow me to be your emissary in the matter."

"Very good, monsieur," she said, bowing her head and looking at the
abbe as if to say, "You were right; he really is a man of good
society."

"You see, madame," said the abbe, "that my friend the doctor is full
of devotion to your family."

"We shall be grateful, monsieur," said Madame de Portenduere, making a
visible effort; "a journey to Paris, at your age, in quest of a
prodigal, is--"

"Madame, I had the honor to meet, in '65, the illustrious Admiral de
Portenduere in the house of that excellent Monsieur de Malesherbes,
and also in that of Monsieur le Comte de Buffon, who was anxious to
question him on some curious results of his voyages. Possibly Monsieur
de Portenduere, your late husband, was present. Those were the
glorious days of the French navy; it bore comparison with that of
Great Britain, and its officers had their full quota of courage. With
what impatience we awaited in '83 and '84 the news from St. Roch. I
came very near serving as surgeon in the king's service. Your
great-uncle, who is still living, Admiral Kergarouet, fought his
splendid battle at that time in the 'Belle-Poule.'"

"Ah! if he did but know his great-nephew is in prison!"

"He would not leave him there a day," said old Minoret, rising.

He held out his hand to take that of the old lady, which she allowed
him to do; then he kissed it respectfully, bowed profoundly, and left
the room; but returned immediately to say:--

"My dear abbe, may I ask you to engage a place in the diligence for me
to-morrow?"

The abbe stayed behind for half an hour to sing the praises of his
friend, who meant to win and had succeeded in winning the good graces
of the old lady.

"He is an astonishing man for his age," she said. "He talks of going
to Paris and attending to my son's affairs as if he were only
twenty-five. He has certainly seen good society."

"The very best, madame; and to-day more than one son of a peer of
France would be glad to marry his goddaughter with a million. Ah! if
that idea should come into Savinien's head!--times are so changed that
the objections would not come from your side, especially after his
late conduct--"

The amazement into which the speech threw the old lady alone enabled
him to finish it.

"You have lost your senses," she said at last.

"Think it over, madame; God grant that your son may conduct himself in
future in a manner to win that old man's respect."

"If it were not you, Monsieur l'abbe," said Madame de Portenduere, "if
it were any one else who spoke to me in that way--"

"You would not see him again," said the abbe, smiling. "Let us hope
that your dear son will enlighten you as to what occurs in Paris in
these days as to marriages. You will think only of Savinien's good; as
you really have helped to compromise his future you will not stand in
the way of his making himself another position."

"And it is you who say that to me?"

"If I did not say it to you, who would?" cried the abbe rising and
making a hasty retreat.

As he left the house he saw Ursula and her godfather standing in their
courtyard. The weak doctor had been so entreated by Ursula that he had
just yielded to her. She wanted to go with him to Paris, and gave a
thousand reasons. He called to the abbe and begged him to engage the
whole coupe for him that very evening if the booking-office were still
open.

The next day at half-past six o'clock the old man and the young girl
reached Paris, and the doctor went at once to consult his notary.
Political events were then very threatening. Monsieur Bongrand had
remarked in the course of the preceding evening that a man must be a
fool to keep a penny in the public funds so long as the quarrel
between the press and the court was not made up. Minoret's notary now
indirectly approved of this opinion. The doctor therefore took
advantage of his journey to sell out his manufacturing stocks and his
shares in the Funds, all of which were then at a high value,
depositing the proceeds in the Bank of France. The notary also advised
his client to sell the stocks left to Ursula by Monsieur de Jordy. He
promised to employ an extremely clever broker to treat with Savinien's
creditors; but said that in order to succeed it would be necessary for
the young man to stay several days longer in prison.

"Haste in such matters always means the loss of at least fifteen per
cent," said the notary. "Besides, you can't get your money under seven
or eight days."

When Ursula heard that Savinien would have to say at least a week
longer in jail she begged her godfather to let her go there, if only
once. Old Minoret refused. The uncle and niece were staying at a hotel
in the Rue Croix des Petits-Champs where the doctor had taken a very
suitable apartment. Knowing the scrupulous honor and propriety of his
goddaughter he made her promise not to go out while he was away; at
other times he took her to see the arcades, the shops, the boulevards;
but nothing seemed to amuse or interest her.

"What do you want to do?" asked the old man.

"See Saint-Pelagie," she answered obstinately.

Minoret called a hackney-coach and took her to the Rue de la Clef,
where the carriage drew up before the shabby front of an old convent
then transformed into a prison. The sight of those high gray walls,
with every window barred, of the wicket through which none can enter
without stooping (horrible lesson!), of the whole gloomy structure in
a quarter full of wretchedness, where it rises amid squalid streets
like a supreme misery,--this assemblage of dismal things so oppressed
Ursula's heart that she burst into tears.

"Oh!" she said, "to imprison young men in this dreadful place for
money! How can a debt to a money-lender have a power the king has not?
_He_ there!" she cried. "Where, godfather?" she added, looking from
window to window.

"Ursula," said the old man, "you are making me commit great follies.
This is not forgetting him as you promised."

"But," she argued, "if I must renounce him must I also cease to feel
an interest in him? I can love him and not marry at all."

"Ah!" cried the doctor, "there is so much reason in your
unreasonableness that I am sorry I brought you."

Three days later the worthy man had all the receipts signed, and the
legal papers ready for Savinien's release. The payings, including the
notaries' fees, amounted to eighty thousand francs. The doctor went
himself to see Savinien released on Saturday at two o'clock. The young
viscount, already informed of what had happened by his mother, thanked
his liberator with sincere warmth of heart.

"You must return at once to see your mother," the old doctor said to
him.

Savinien answered in a sort of confusion that he had contracted
certain debts of honor while in prison, and related the visit of his
friends.

"I suspected there was some personal debt," cried the doctor, smiling.
"Your mother borrowed a hundred thousand francs of me, but I have paid
out only eighty thousand. Here is the rest; be careful how you spend
it, monsieur; consider what you have left of it as your stake on the
green cloth of fortune."

During the last eight days Savinien had made many reflections on the
present conditions of life. Competition in everything necessitated
hard work on the part of whoever sought a fortune. Illegal methods and
underhand dealing demanded more talent than open efforts in face of
day. Success in society, far from giving a man position, wasted his
time and required an immense deal of money. The name of Portenduere,
which his mother considered all-powerful, had no power at all in
Paris. His cousin the deputy, Comte de Portenduere, cut a very poor
figure in the Elective Chamber in presence of the peerage and the
court; and had none too much credit personally. Admiral Kergarouet
existed only as the husband of his wife. Savinien admitted to himself
that he had seen orators, men from the middle classes, or lesser
noblemen, become influential personages. Money was the pivot, the sole
means, the only mechanism of a society which Louis XVIII. had tried to
create in the likeness of that of England.

On his way from the Rue de la Clef to the Rue Croix des Petits-Champs
the young gentleman divulged the upshot of these meditations (which
were certainly in keeping with de Marsay's advice) to the old doctor.

"I ought," he said, "to go into oblivion for three or four years and
seek a career. Perhaps I could make myself a name by writing a book on
statesmanship or morals, or a treatise on some of the great questions
of the day. While I am looking out for a marriage with some young lady
who could make me eligible to the Chamber, I will work hard in silence
and in obscurity."

Studying the young fellow's face with a keen eye, the doctor saw the
serious purpose of a wounded man who was anxious to vindicate himself.
He therefore cordially approved of the scheme.

"My friend," he said, "if you strip off the skin of the old nobility
(which is no longer worn these days) I will undertake, after you have
lived for three or four years in a steady and industrious manner, to
find you a superior young girl, beautiful, amiable, pious, and
possessing from seven to eight hundred thousand francs, who will make
you happy and of whom you will have every reason to be proud,--one
whose only nobility is that of the heart!"

"Ah, doctor!" cried the young man, "there is no longer a nobility in
these days,--nothing but an aristocracy."

"Go and pay your debts of honor and come back here. I shall engage the
coupe of the diligence, for my niece is with me," said the old man.

That evening, at six o'clock, the three travelers started from the Rue
Dauphine. Ursula had put on a veil and did not say a word. Savinien,
who once, in a moment of superficial gallantry, had sent her that kiss
which invaded and conquered her soul like a love-poem, had completely
forgotten the young girl in the hell of his Parisian debts; moreover,
his hopeless love for Emilie de Kergarouet hindered him from bestowing
a thought on a few glances exchanged with a little country girl. He
did not recognize her when the doctor handed her into the coach and
then sat down beside her to separate her from the young viscount.

"I have some bills to give you," said the doctor to the young man. "I
have brought all your papers and documents."

"I came very near not getting off," said Savinien, "for I had to order
linen and clothes; the Philistines took all; I return like a true
prodigal."

However interesting were the subjects of conversation between the
young man and the old one, and however witty and clever were certain
remarks of the viscount, the young girl continued silent till after
dusk, her green veil lowered, and her hands crossed on her shawl.

"Mademoiselle does not seem to have enjoyed Paris very much," said
Savinien at last, somewhat piqued.

"I am glad to return to Nemours," she answered in a trembling voice
raising her veil.

Notwithstanding the dim light Savinien then recognized her by the
heavy braids of her hair and the brilliancy of her blue eyes.

"I, too, leave Paris to bury myself in Nemours without regret now that
I meet my charming neighbour again," he said; "I hope, Monsieur le
docteur that you will receive me in your house; I love music, and I
remember to have listened to Mademoiselle Ursula's piano."

"I do not know," replied the doctor gravely, "whether your mother
would approve of your visits to an old man whose duty it is to care
for this dear child with all the solicitude of a mother."

This reserved answer made Savinien reflect, and he then remembered the
kisses so thoughtlessly wafted. Night came; the heat was great.
Savinien and the doctor went to sleep first. Ursula, whose head was
full of projects, did not succumb till midnight. She had taken off her
straw-bonnet, and her head, covered with a little embroidered cap,
dropped upon her uncle's shoulder. When they reached Bouron at dawn,
Savinien awoke. He then saw Ursula in the slight disarray naturally
caused by the jolting of the vehicle; her cap was rumpled and half
off; the hair, unbound, had fallen each side of her face, which glowed
from the heat of the night; in this situation, dreadful for women to
whom dress is a necessary auxiliary, youth and beauty triumphed. The
sleep of innocence is always lovely. The half-opened lips showed the
pretty teeth; the shawl, unfastened, gave to view, beneath the folds
of her muslin gown and without offence to her modesty, the
gracefulness of her figure. The purity of the virgin spirit shone on
the sleeping countenance all the more plainly because no other
expression was there to interfere with it. Old Minoret, who presently
woke up, placed his child's head in the corner of the carriage that
she might be more at ease; and she let him do it unconsciously, so
deep was her sleep after the many wakeful nights she had spent in
thinking of Savinien's trouble.

"Poor little girl!" said the doctor to his neighbour, "she sleeps like
the child she is."

"You must be proud of her," replied Savinien; "for she seems as good
as she is beautiful."

"Ah! she is the joy of the house. I could not love her better if she
were my own daughter. She will be sixteen on the 5th February. God
grant that I may live long enough to marry her to a man who will make
her happy. I wanted to take her to the theater in Paris, where she was
for the first time, but she refused, the Abbe Chaperon had forbidden
it. 'But,' I said, 'when you are married your husband will want you to
go there.' 'I shall do what my husband wants,' she answered. 'If he
asks me to do evil and I am weak enough to yield, he will be
responsible before God--and so I shall have strength to refuse him,
for his own sake.'"

As the coach entered Nemours, at five in the morning, Ursula woke up,
ashamed at her rumpled condition, and confused by the look of
admiration which she encountered from Savinien. During the hour it had
taken the diligence to come from Bouron to Nemours the young man had
fallen in love with Ursula; he had studied the pure candor of her
soul, the beauty of that body, the whiteness of the skin, the delicacy
of the features; he recalled the charm of the voice which had uttered
but one expressive sentence, in which the poor child said all,
intending to say nothing. A presentiment suddenly seemed to take hold
of him; he saw in Ursula the woman the doctor had pictured to him,
framed in gold by the magic words, "Seven or eight hundred thousand
francs."

"In three of four years she will be twenty, and I shall be
twenty-seven," he thought. "The good doctor talked of probation, work,
good conduct! Sly as he is I shall make him tell me the truth."

The three neighbours parted in the street in front of their respective
homes, and Savinien put a little courting into his eyes as he gave
Ursula a parting glance.

Madame de Portenduere let her son sleep till midday; but the doctor
and Ursula, in spite of their fatiguing journey, went to high mass.
Savinien's release and his return in company with the doctor had
explained the reason of the latter's absence to the newsmongers of the
town and to the heirs, who were once more assembled in conventicle on
the square, just as they were two weeks earlier when the doctor
attended his first mass. To the great astonishment of all the groups,
Madame de Portenduere, on leaving the church, stopped old Minoret, who
offered her his arm and took her home. The old lady asked him to
dinner that evening, also asking his niece and assuring him that the
abbe would be the only other guest.

"He must have wished Ursula to see Paris," said Minoret-Levrault.

"Pest!" cried Cremiere; "he can't take a step without that girl!"

"Something must have happened to make old Portenduere accept his arm,"
said Massin.

"So none of you have guessed that your uncle has sold his Funds and
released that little Savinien?" cried Goupil. "He refused Dionis, but
he didn't refuse Madame de Portenduere-- Ha, ha! you are all done for.
The viscount will propose a marriage-contract instead of a mortgage,
and the doctor will make the husband settle on his jewel of a girl the
sum he has now paid to secure the alliance."

"It is not a bad thing to marry Ursula to Savinien," said the butcher.
"The old lady gives a dinner to-day to Monsieur Minoret. Tiennette
came early for a filet."

"Well, Dionis, here's a fine to-do!" said Massin, rushing up to the
notary, who was entering the square.

"What is? It's all going right," returned the notary. "Your uncle has
sold his Funds and Madame de Portenduere has sent for me to witness
the signing of a mortgage on her property for one hundred thousand
francs, lent to her by your uncle."

"Yes, but suppose the young people should marry?"

"That's as if you said Goupil was to be my successor."

"The two things are not so impossible," said Goupil.

On returning from mass Madame de Portenduere told Tiennette to inform
her son that she wished to see him.

The little house had three bedrooms on the first floor. That of Madame
de Portenduere and that of her late husband were separated by a large
dressing-room lighted by a skylight, and connected by a little
antechamber which opened on the staircase. The window of the other
room, occupied by Savinien, looked, like that of his late father, on
the street. The staircase went up at the back of the house, leaving
room for a little study lighted by a small round window opening on the
court. Madame de Portenduere's bedroom, the gloomiest in the house,
also looked into the court; but the widow spent all her time in the
salon on the ground floor, which communicated by a passage with the
kitchen built at the end of the court, so that this salon was made to
answer the double purpose of drawing-room and dining-room combined.

The bedroom of the late Monsieur de Portenduere remained as he had
left it on the day of his death; there was no change except that he
was absent. Madame de Portenduere had made the bed herself; laying
upon it the uniform of a naval captain, his sword, cordon, orders, and
hat. The gold snuff-box from which her late husband had taken snuff
for the last time was on the table, with his prayer-book, his watch,
and the cup from which he drank. His white hair, arranged in one
curled lock and framed, hung above a crucifix and the holy water in
the alcove. All the little ornaments he had worn, his journals, his
furniture, his Dutch spittoon, his spy-glass hanging by the mantel,
were all there. The widow had stopped the hands of the clock at the
hour of his death, to which they always pointed. The room still smelt
of the powder and the tobacco of the deceased. The hearth was as he
left it. To her, entering there, he was again visible in the many
articles which told of his daily habits. His tall cane with its gold
head was where he had last placed it, with his buckskin gloves close
by. On a table against the wall stood a gold vase, of coarse
workmanship but worth three thousand francs, a gift from Havana, which
city, at the time of the American War of Independence, he had
protected from an attack by the British, bringing his convoy safe into
port after an engagement with superior forces. To recompense this
service the King of Spain had made him a knight of his order; the same
event gave him a right to the next promotion to the rank of
vice-admiral, and he also received the red ribbing. He then married his
wife, who had a fortune of about two hundred thousand francs. But the
Revolution hindered his promotion, and Monsieur de Portenduere
emigrated.

"Where is my mother?" said Savinien to Tiennette.

"She is waiting for you in your father's room," said the old Breton
woman.

Savinien could not repress a shudder. He knew his mother's rigid
principles, her worship of honor, her loyalty, her faith in nobility,
and he foresaw a scene. He went up to the assault with his heart
beating and his face rather pale. In the dim light which filtered
through the blinds he saw his mother dressed in black, and with an air
of solemnity in keeping with that funereal room.

"Monsieur le vicomte," she said when she saw him, rising and taking
his hand to lead him to his father's bed, "there died your father,--a
man of honor; he died without reproach from his own conscience. His
spirit is there. Surely he groaned in heaven when he saw his son
degraded by imprisonment for debt. Under the old monarchy that stain
could have been spared you by obtaining a lettre de cachet and
shutting you up for a few days in a military prison.--But you are
here; you stand before your father, who hears you. You know all that
you did before you were sent to that ignoble prison. Will you swear to
me before your father's shade, and in presence of God who sees all,
that you have done no dishonorable act; that your debts are the result
of youthful folly, and that your honor is untarnished? If your
blameless father were there, sitting in that armchair, and asking an
explanation of your conduct, could he embrace you after having heard
it?"

"Yes, mother," replied the young man, with grave respect.

She opened her arms and pressed him to her heart, shedding a few
tears.

"Let us forget it all, my son," she said; "it is only a little less
money. I shall pray God to let us recover it. As you are indeed worthy
of your name, kiss me--for I have suffered much."

"I swear, mother," he said, laying his hand upon the bed, "to give you
no further unhappiness of that kind, and to do all I can to repair
these first faults."

"Come and breakfast, my child," she said, turning to leave the room.



                            CHAPTER XII

                      OBSTACLES TO YOUNG LOVE

In 1829 the old noblesse had recovered as to manners and customs
something of the prestige it had irrevocably lost in politics.
Moreover, the sentiment which governs parents and grandparents in all
that relates to matrimonial conventions is an imperishable sentiment,
closely allied to the very existence of civilized societies and
springing from the spirit of family. It rules in Geneva as in Vienna
and in Nemours, where, as we have seen, Zelie Minoret refused her
consent to a possible marriage of her son with the daughter of a
bastard. Still, all social laws have their exceptions. Savinien
thought he might bend his mother's pride before the inborn nobility of
Ursula. The struggle began at once. As soon as they were seated at
table his mother told him of the horrible letters, as she called them,
which the Kergarouets and the Portendueres had written her.

"There is no such thing as family in these days, mother," replied
Savinien, "nothing but individuals! The nobles are no longer a compact
body. No one asks or cares whether I am a Portenduere, or brave, or a
statesmen; all they ask now-a-days is, 'What taxes does he pay?'"

"But the king?" asked the old lady.

"The king is caught between the two Chambers like a man between his
wife and his mistress. So I shall have to marry some rich girl without
regard to family,--the daughter of a peasant if she has a million and
is sufficiently well brought-up--that is to say, if she has been
taught in school."

"Oh! there's no need to talk of that," said the old lady.

Savinien frowned as he heard the words. He knew the granite will,
called Breton obstinacy, that distinguished his mother, and he
resolved to know at once her opinion on this delicate matter.

"So," he went on, "if I loved a young girl,--take for instance your
neighbour's godchild, little Ursula,--would you oppose my marriage?"

"Yes, as long as I live," she replied; "and after my death you would
be responsible for the honor and the blood of the Kergarouets and the
Portendueres."

"Would you let me die of hunger and despair for the chimera of
nobility, which has no reality to-day unless it has the lustre of
great wealth?"

"You could serve France and put faith in God."

"Would you postpone my happiness till after your death?"

"It would be horrible if you took it then,--that is all I have to
say."

"Louis XIV. came very near marrying the niece of Mazarin, a parvenu."

"Mazarin himself opposed it."

"Remember the widow Scarron."

"She was a d'Aubigne. Besides, the marriage was in secret. But I am
very old, my son," she said, shaking her head. "When I am no more you
can, as you say, marry whom you please."

Savinien both loved and respected his mother; but he instantly, though
silently, set himself in opposition to her with an obstinacy equal to
her own, resolving to have no other wife than Ursula, to whom this
opposition gave, as often happens in similar circumstances, the value
of a forbidden thing.

When, after vespers, the doctor, with Ursula, who was dressed in pink
and white, entered the cold, stiff salon, the girl was seized with
nervous trembling, as though she had entered the presence of the queen
of France and had a favor to beg of her. Since her confession to the
doctor this little house had assumed the proportions of a palace in
her eyes, and the old lady herself the social value which a duchess of
the Middle Ages might have had to the daughter of a serf. Never had
Ursula measured as she did at that moment the distance which separated
Vicomte de Portenduere from the daughter of a regimental musician, a
former opera-singer and the natural son of an organist.

"What is the matter, my dear?" said the old lady, making the girl sit
down beside her.

"Madame, I am confused by the honor you have done me--"

"My little girl," said Madame de Portenduere, in her sharpest tone. "I
know how fond your uncle is of you, and I wished to be agreeable to
him, for he has brought back my prodigal son."

"But, my dear mother," said Savinien cut to the heart by seeing the
color fly into Ursula's face as she struggled to keep back her tears,
"even if we were under no obligations to Monsieur le Chevalier
Minoret, I think we should always be most grateful for the pleasure
Mademoiselle has given us by accepting your invitation."

The young man pressed the doctor's hand in a significant manner,
adding: "I see you wear, monsieur, the order of Saint-Michel, the
oldest order in France, and one which confers nobility."

Ursula's extreme beauty, to which her almost hopeless love gave a
depth which great painters have sometimes conveyed in pictures where
the soul is brought into strong relief, had struck Madame de
Portenduere suddenly, and made her suspect that the doctor's apparent
generosity masked an ambitious scheme. She had made the speech to
which Savinien replied with the intention of wounding the doctor in
that which was dearest to him; and she succeeded, though the old man
could hardly restrain a smile as he heard himself styled a
"chevalier," amused to observe how the eagerness of a lover did not
shrink from absurdity.

"The order of Saint-Michel which in former days men committed follies
to obtain," he said, "has now, Monsieur le vicomte, gone the way of
other privileges! It is given only to doctors and poor artists. The
kings have done well to join it to that of Saint-Lazare who was, I
believe, a poor devil recalled to life by a miracle. From this point
of view the order of Saint-Michel and Saint-Lazare may be, for many of
us, symbolic."

After this reply, at once sarcastic and dignified, silence reigned,
which, as no one seemed inclined to break it, was becoming awkward,
when there was a rap at the door.

"There is our dear abbe," said the old lady, who rose, leaving Ursula
alone, and advancing to meet the Abbe Chaperon,--an honor she had not
paid to the doctor and his niece.

The old man smiled to himself as he looked from his goddaughter to
Savinien. To show offence or to complain of Madame de Portenduere's
manners was a rock on which a man of small mind might have struck, but
Minoret was too accomplished in the ways of the world not to avoid it.
He began to talk to the viscount of the danger Charles X. was then
running by confiding the affairs of the nation to the Prince de
Polignac. When sufficient time had been spent on the subject to avoid
all appearance of revenging himself by so doing, he handed the old
lady, in an easy, jesting way, a packet of legal papers and receipted
bills, together with the account of his notary.

"Has my son verified them?" she said, giving Savinien a look, to which
he replied by bending his head. "Well, then the rest is my notary's
business," she added, pushing away the papers and treating the affair
with the disdain she wished to show for money.

To abase wealth was, according to Madame de Portenduere's ideas, to
elevate the nobility and rob the bourgeoisie of their importance.

A few moments later Goupil came from his employer, Dionis, to ask for
the accounts of the transaction between the doctor and Savinien.

"Why do you want them?" said the old lady.

"To put the matter in legal form; there have been no cash payments."

Ursula and Savinien, who both for the first time exchanged a glance
with offensive personage, were conscious of a sensation like that of
touching a toad, aggravated by a dark presentiment of evil. They both
had the same indefinable and confused vision into the future, which
has no name in any language, but which is capable of explanation as
the action of the inward being of which the mysterious Swedenborgian
had spoken to Doctor Minoret. The certainty that the venomous Goupil
would in some way be fatal to them made Ursula tremble; but she
controlled herself, conscious of unspeakable pleasure in seeing that
Savinien shared her emotion.

"He is not handsome, that clerk of Monsieur Dionis," said Savinien,
when Goupil had closed the door.

"What does it signify whether such persons are handsome or ugly?" said
Madame de Portenduere.

"I don't complain of his ugliness," said the abbe, "but I do of his
wickedness, which passes all bounds; he is a villain."

The doctor, in spite of his desire to be amiable, grew cold and
dignified. The lovers were embarrassed. If it had not been for the
kindly good-humor of the abbe, whose gentle gayety enlivened the
dinner, the position of the doctor and his niece would have been
almost intolerable. At dessert, seeing Ursula turn pale, he said to
her:--

"If you don't feel well, dear child, we have only the street to
cross."

"What is the matter, my dear?" said the old lady to the girl.

"Madame," said the doctor severely, "her soul is chilled, accustomed
as she is to be met by smiles."

"A very bad education, monsieur," said Madame de Portenduere. "Is it
not, Monsieur l'abbe?"

"Yes," answered Minoret, with a look at the abbe, who knew not how to
reply. "I have, it is true, rendered life unbearable to an angelic
spirit if she has to pass it in the world; but I trust I shall not die
until I place her in security, safe from coldness, indifference, and
hatred--"

"Oh, godfather--I beg of you--say no more. There is nothing the matter
with me," cried Ursula, meeting Madame de Portenduere's eyes rather
than give too much meaning to her words by looking at Savinien.

"I cannot know, madame," said Savinien to his mother, "whether
Mademoiselle Ursula suffers, but I do know that you are torturing me."

Hearing these words, dragged from the generous young man by his
mother's treatment of herself, Ursula turned pale and begged Madame de
Portenduere to excuse her; then she took her uncle's arm, bowed, left
the room, and returned home. Once there, she rushed to the salon and
sat down to the piano, put her head in her hands, and burst into
tears.

"Why don't you leave the management of your affairs to my old
experience, cruel child?" cried the doctor in despair. "Nobles never
think themselves under any obligations to the bourgeoisie. When we do
them a service they consider that we do our duty, and that's all.
Besides, the old lady saw that you looked favorably on Savinien; she
is afraid he will love you."

"At any rate he is saved!" said Ursula. "But ah! to try to humiliate a
man like you!"

"Wait till I return, my child," said the old man leaving her.

When the doctor re-entered Madame de Portenduere's salon he found
Dionis the notary, accompanied by Monsieur Bongrand and the mayor of
Nemours, witnesses required by law for the validity of deeds in all
communes where there is but one notary. Minoret took Monsieur Dionis
aside and said a word in his ear, after which the notary read the
deeds aloud officially; from which it appeared that Madame de
Portenduere gave a mortgage on all her property to secure payment of
the hundred thousand francs, the interest on which was fixed at five
per cent. At the reading of this last clause the abbe looked at
Minoret, who answered with an approving nod. The poor priest whispered
something in the old lady's ear to which she replied,--

"I will owe nothing to such persons."

"My mother leaves me the nobler part," said Savinien to the doctor;
"she will repay the money and charges me to show our gratitude."

"But you will have to pay eleven thousand francs the first year to
meet the interest and the legal costs," said the abbe.

"Monsieur," said Minoret to Dionis, "as Monsieur and Madame de
Portenduere are not in a condition to pay those costs, add them to the
amount of the mortgage and I will pay them."

Dionis made the change and the sum borrowed was fixed at one hundred
and seven thousand francs. When the papers were all signed, Minoret
made his fatigue an excuse to leave the house at the same time as the
notary and witnesses.

"Madame," said the abbe, "why did you affront the excellent Monsieur
Minoret, who saved you at least twenty-five thousand francs on those
debts in Paris, and had the delicacy to give twenty thousand to your
son for his debts of honor?"

"Your Minoret is sly," she said, taking a pinch of snuff. "He knows
what he is about."

"My mother thinks he wishes to force me into marrying his niece by
getting hold of our farm," said Savinien; "as if a Portenduere, son of
a Kergarouet, could be made to marry against his will."

An hour later, Savinien presented himself at the doctor's house, where
all the relatives had assembled, enticed by curiosity. The arrival of
the young viscount produced a lively sensation, all the more because
its effect was different on each person present. Mesdemoiselles
Cremiere and Massin whispered together and looked at Ursula, who
blushed. The mothers said to Desire that Goupil was right about the
marriage. The eyes of all present turned towards the doctor, who did
not rise to receive the young nobleman, but merely bowed his head
without laying down the dice-box, for he was playing a game of
backgammon with Monsieur Bongrand. The doctor's cold manner surprised
every one.

"Ursula, my child," he said, "give us a little music."

While the young girl, delighted to have something to do to keep her in
countenance, went to the piano and began to move the green-covered
music-books, the heirs resigned themselves, with many demonstrations
of pleasure, to the torture and the silence about to be inflicted on
them, so eager were they to find out what was going on between their
uncle and the Portendueres.

In sometimes happens that a piece of music, poor in itself, when
played by a young girl under the influence of deep feeling, makes more
impression than a fine overture played by a full orchestra. In all
music there is, besides the thought of the composer, the soul of the
performer, who, by a privilege granted to this art only, can give both
meaning and poetry to passages which are in themselves of no great
value. Chopin proves, for that unresponsive instrument the piano, the
truth of this fact, already proved by Paganini on the violin. That
fine genius is less a musician than a soul which makes itself felt,
and communicates itself through all species of music, even simple
chords. Ursula, by her exquisite and sensitive organization, belonged
to this rare class of beings, and old Schmucke, the master, who came
every Saturday and who, during Ursula's stay in Paris was with her
every day, had brought his pupil's talent to its full perfection.
"Rousseau's Dream," the piece now chosen by Ursula, composed by Herold
in his young days, is not without a certain depth which is capable of
being developed by execution. Ursula threw into it the feelings which
were agitating her being, and justified the term "caprice" given by
Herold to the fragment. With soft and dreamy touch her soul spoke to
the young man's soul and wrapped it, as in a cloud, with ideas that
were almost visible.

Sitting at the end of the piano, his elbow resting on the cover and
his head on his left hand, Savinien admired Ursula, whose eyes, fixed
on the paneling of the wall beyond him, seemed to be questioning
another world. Many a man would have fallen deeply in love for a less
reason. Genuine feelings have a magnetism of their own, and Ursula was
willing to show her soul, as a coquette her dresses to be admired.
Savinien entered that delightful kingdom, led by this pure heart,
which, to interpret its feelings, borrowed the power of the only art
that speaks to thought by thought, without the help of words, or
color, or form. Candor, openness of heart have the same power over a
man that childhood has; the same charm, the same irresistible
seductions. Ursula was never more honest and candid than at this
moment, when she was born again into a new life.

The abbe came to tear Savinien from his dream, requesting him to take
a fourth hand at whist. Ursula went on playing; the heirs departed,
all except Desire, who was resolved to find out the intentions of his
uncle and the viscount and Ursula.

"You have as much talent as soul, mademoiselle," he said, when the
young girl closed the piano and sat down beside her godfather. "Who is
your master?"

"A German, living close to the Rue Dauphine on the quai Conti," said
the doctor. "If he had not given Ursula a lesson every day during her
stay in Paris he would have been here to-day."

"He is not only a great musician," said Ursula, "but a man of adorable
simplicity of nature."

"Those lessons must cost a great deal," remarked Desire.

The players smiled ironically. When the game was over the doctor, who
had hitherto seemed anxious and pensive, turned to Savinien with the
air of a man who fulfills a duty.

"Monsieur," he said, "I am grateful for the feeling which leads you to
make me this early visit; but your mother attributes unworthy and
underhand motives to what I have done, and I should give her the right
to call them true if I did not request you to refrain from coming
here, in spite of the honor your visits are to me, and the pleasure I
should otherwise feel in cultivating your society. Tell your mother
that if I do not beg her, in my niece's name and my own, to do us the
honor of dining here next Sunday it is because I am very certain that
she would find herself indisposed on that day."

The old man held out his hand to the young viscount, who pressed it
respectfully, saying:--

"You are quite right, monsieur."

He then withdrew; but not without a bow to Ursula, in which there was
more of sadness than disappointment.

Desire left the house at the same time; but he found it impossible to
exchange even a word with the young nobleman, who rushed into his own
house precipitately.



                            CHAPTER XIII

                        BETROTHAL OF HEARTS

This rupture between the Portendueres and Doctor Minoret gave talk
among the heirs for a week; they did homage to the genius of Dionis,
and regarded their inheritance as rescued.

So, in an age when ranks are leveled, when the mania for equality
puts everybody on one footing and threatens to destroy all bulwarks,
even military subordination,--that last refuge of power in France,
where passions have now no other obstacles to overcome than personal
antipathies, or differences of fortune,--the obstinacy of an
old-fashioned Breton woman and the dignity of Doctor Minoret created
a barrier between these lovers, which was to end, as such obstacles
often do, not in destroying but in strengthening love. To an ardent
man a woman's value is that which she costs him; Savinien foresaw a
struggle, great efforts, many uncertainties, and already the young
girl was rendered dearer to him; he was resolved to win her. Perhaps
our feelings obey the laws of nature as to the lastingness of her
creations; to a long life a long childhood.

The next morning, when they woke, Ursula and Savinien had the same
thought. An intimate understanding of this kind would create love if
it were not already its most precious proof. When the young girl
parted her curtains just far enough to let her eyes take in Savinien's
window, she saw the face of her lover above the fastening of his. When
one reflects on the immense services that windows render to lovers it
seems natural and right that a tax should be levied on them. Having
thus protested against her godfather's harshness, Ursula dropped the
curtain and opened her window to close the outer blinds, through which
she could continue to see without being seen herself. Seven or eight
times during the day she went up to her room, always to find the young
viscount writing, tearing up what he had written, and then writing
again--to her, no doubt!

The next morning when she woke La Bougival gave her the following
letter:--


To Mademoiselle Ursula:

Mademoiselle,--I do not conceal from myself the distrust a young
man inspires when he has placed himself in the position from which
your godfather's kindness released me. I know that I must in
future give greater guarantees of good conduct than other men;
therefore, mademoiselle, it is with deep humility that I place
myself at your feet and ask you to consider my love. This
declaration is not dictated by passion; it comes from an inward
certainty which involves the whole of life. A foolish infatuation
for my young aunt, Madame de Kergarouet, was the cause of my going
to prison; will you not regard as a proof of my sincere love the
total disappearance of those wishes, of that image, now effaced
from my heart by yours? No sooner did I see you, asleep and so
engaging in your childlike slumber at Bouron, than you occupied my
soul as a queen takes possession of her empire. I will have no
other wife than you. You have every qualification I desire in her
who is to bear my name. The education you have received and the
dignity of your own mind, place you on the level of the highest
positions. But I doubt myself too much to dare describe you to
yourself; I can only love you. After listening to you yesterday I
recalled certain words which seem as though written for you;
suffer me to transcribe them:--

"Made to draw all hearts and charm all eyes, gentle and
intelligent, spiritual yet able to reason, courteous as though she
had passed her life at court, simple as the hermit who had never
known the world, the fire of her soul is tempered in her eyes by
sacred modesty."

I feel the value of the noble soul revealed in you by many, even
the most trifling, things. This it is which gives me the courage
to ask you, provided you love no one else, to let me prove to you
by my conduct and my devotion that I am not unworthy of you. It
concerns my very life; you cannot doubt that all my powers will be
employed, not only in trying to please you, but in deserving your
esteem, which is more precious to me than any other upon earth.
With this hope, Ursula--if you will suffer me so to call you in my
heart--Nemours will be to me a paradise, the hardest tasks will
bring me joys derived through you, as life itself is derived from
God. Tell me that I may call myself

Your Savinien.


Ursula kissed the letter; then, having re-read it and clasped it with
passionate motions, she dressed herself eagerly to carry it to her
uncle.

"Ah, my God! I nearly forgot to say my prayers!" she exclaimed,
turning back to kneel on her prie-Dieu.

A few moments later she went down to the garden, where she found her
godfather and made him read the letter. They both sat down on a bench
under the arch of climbing plants opposite to the Chinese pagoda.
Ursula awaited the old man's words, and the old man reflected long,
too long for the impatient young girl. At last, the result of their
secret interview appeared in the following answer, part of which the
doctor undoubtedly dictated.


To Monsieur le Vicomte Savinien de Portenduere:

Monsieur,--I cannot be otherwise than greatly honored by the
letter in which you offer me your hand; but, at my age, and
according to the rules of my education, I have felt bound to
communicate it to my godfather, who is all I have, and whom I love
as a father and also as a friend. I must now tell you the painful
objections which he has made to me, and which must be to you my
answer.

Monsieur le vicomte, I am a poor girl, whose fortune depends
entirely, not only on my godfather's good-will, but also on the
doubtful success of the measures he may take to elude the schemes
of his relatives against me. Though I am the legitimate daughter
of Joseph Mirouet, band-master of the 45th regiment of infantry,
my father himself was my godfather's natural half-brother; and
therefore these relatives may, though without reason, being a suit
against a young girl who would be defenceless. You see, monsieur,
that the smallness of my fortune is not my greatest misfortune. I
have many things to make me humble. It is for your sake, and not
for my own, that I lay before you these facts, which to loving and
devoted hearts are sometimes of little weight. But I beg you to
consider, monsieur, that if I did not submit them to you, I might
be suspected of leading your tenderness to overlook obstacles
which the world, and more especially your mother, regard as
insuperable.

I shall be sixteen in four months. Perhaps you will admit that we
are both too young and too inexperienced to understand the
miseries of a life entered upon without other fortune than that I
have received from the kindness of the late Monsieur de Jordy. My
godfather desires, moreover, not to marry me until I am twenty.
Who knows what fate may have in store for you in four years, the
finest years of your life? do not sacrifice them to a poor girl.

Having thus explained to you, monsieur, the opinions of my dear
godfather, who, far from opposing my happiness, seeks to
contribute to it in every way, and earnestly desires that his
protection, which must soon fail me, may be replaced by a
tenderness equal to his own; there remains only to tell you how
touched I am by your offer and by the compliments which accompany
it. The prudence which dictates my letter is that of an old man to
whom life is well-known; but the gratitude I express is that of a
young girl, in whose soul no other sentiment has arisen.

Therefore, monsieur, I can sign myself, in all sincerity,

Your servant,
Ursula Mirouet.


Savinien made no reply. Was he trying to soften his mother? Had this
letter put an end to his love? Many such questions, all insoluble,
tormented poor Ursula, and, by repercussion, the doctor too, who
suffered from every agitation of his darling child. Ursula went often
to her chamber to look at Savinien, whom she usually found sitting
pensively before his table with his eyes turned towards her window. At
the end of the week, but no sooner, she received a letter from him;
the delay was explained by his increasing love.

  To Mademoiselle Ursula Mirouet:

Dear Ursula,--I am a Breton, and when my mind is once made up
nothing can change me. Your godfather, whom may God preserve to
us, is right; but does it follow that I am wrong in loving you?
Therefore, all I want to know from you is whether you could love
me. Tell me this, if only by a sign, and then the next four years
will be the finest of my life.

A friend of mine has delivered to my great-uncle, Vice-admiral
Kergarouet, a letter in which I asked his help to enter the navy.
The kind old man, grieved at my misfortune, replies that even the
king's favor would be thwarted by the rules of the service in case
I wanted a certain rank. Nevertheless, if I study three months at
Toulon, the minister of war can send me to sea as master's mate;
then after a cruise against the Algerines, with whom we are now at
war, I can go through an examination and become a midshipman.
Moreover, if I distinguish myself in an expedition they are
fitting out against Algiers, I shall certainly be made ensign--but
how soon? that no one can tell. Only, they will make the rules as
elastic as possible to have the name of Portenduere again in the navy.

I see very plainly that I can only hope to obtain you from your
godfather; and your respect for him makes you still dearer to me.
Before replying to the admiral, I must have an interview with the
doctor; on his reply my whole future will depend. Whatever comes
of it, know this, that rich or poor, the daughter of a band master
or the daughter of a king, you are the woman whom the voice of my
heart points out to me. Dear Ursula, we live in times when
prejudices which might once have separated us have no power to
prevent our marriage. To you, then, I offer the feelings of my
heart, to your uncle the guarantees which secure to him your
happiness. He has not seen that I, in a few hours, came to love
you more than he has loved you in fifteen years.

Until this evening.
Savinien.


"Here, godfather," said Ursula, holding the letter out to him with a
proud gesture.

"Ah, my child!" cried the doctor when he had read it, "I am happier
than even you. He repairs all his faults by this resolution."

After dinner Savinien presented himself, and found the doctor walking
with Ursula by the balustrade of the terrace overlooking the river.
The viscount had received his clothes from Paris, and had not missed
heightening his natural advantages by a careful toilet, as elegant as
though he were striving to please the proud and beautiful Comtesse de
Kergarouet. Seeing him approach her from the portico, the poor girl
clung to her uncle's arm as though she were saving herself from a fall
over a precipice, and the doctor heard the beating of her heart, which
made him shudder.

"Leave us, my child," he said to the girl, who went to the pagoda and
sat upon the steps, after allowing Savinien to take her hand and kiss
it respectfully.

"Monsieur, will you give this dear hand to a naval captain?" he said
to the doctor in a low voice.

"No," said Minoret, smiling; "we might have to wait too long, but--I
will give her to a lieutenant."

Tears of joy filled the young man's eyes as he pressed the doctor's
hand affectionately.

"I am about to leave," he said, "to study hard and try to learn in six
months what the pupils of the Naval School take six years to acquire."

"You are going?" said Ursula, springing towards them from the
pavilion.

"Yes, mademoiselle, to deserve you. Therefore the more eager I am to
go, the more I prove to you my affection."

"This is the 3rd of October," she said, looking at him with infinite
tenderness; "do not go till after the 19th."

"Yes," said the old man, "we will celebrate Saint-Savinien's day."

"Good-by, then," cried the young man. "I must spend this week in
Paris, to take the preliminary steps, buy books and mathematical
instruments, and try to conciliate the minister and get the best terms
that I can for myself."

Ursula and her godfather accompanied Savinien to the gate. Soon after
he entered his mother's house they saw him come out again, followed by
Tiennette carrying his valise.

"If you are rich," said Ursula to her uncle, "why do you make him
serve in the navy?"

"Presently it will be I who incurred his debts," said the doctor,
smiling. "I don't oblige him to do anything; but the uniform, my dear,
and the cross of the Legion of honor, won in battle, will wipe out
many stains. Before six years are over he may be in command of a ship,
and that's all I ask of him."

"But he may be killed," she said, turning a pale face upon the doctor.

"Lovers, like drunkards, have a providence of their own," he said,
laughing.

That night the poor child, with La Bougival's help, cut off a
sufficient quantity of her long and beautiful blond hair to make a
chain; and the next day she persuaded old Schmucke, the music-master,
to take it to Paris and have the chain made and returned by the
following Sunday. When Savinien got back he informed the doctor and
Ursula that he had signed his articles and was to be at Brest on the
25th. The doctor asked him to dinner on the 18th, and he passed nearly
two whole days in the old man's house. Notwithstanding much sage
advice and many resolutions, the lovers could not help betraying their
secret understanding to the watchful eyes of the abbe, Monsieur
Bongrand, the Nemours doctor, and La Bougival.

"Children," said the old man, "you are risking your happiness by not
keeping it to yourselves."

On the fete-day, after mass, during which several glances had been
exchanged, Savinien, watched by Ursula, crossed the road and entered
the little garden where the pair were practically alone; for the kind
old man, by way of indulgence, was reading his newspapers in the
pagoda.

"Dear Ursula," said Savinien; "will you make a gift greater than my
mother could make me even if--"

"I know what you wish to ask me," she said, interrupting him. "See,
here is my answer," she added, taking from the pocket of her apron the
box containing the chain made of her hair, and offering it to him with
a nervous tremor which testified to her illimitable happiness. "Wear
it," she said, "for love of me. May it shield you from all dangers by
reminding you that my life depends on yours."

"Naughty little thing! she is giving him a chain of her hair," said
the doctor to himself. "How did she manage to get it? what a pity to
cut those beautiful fair tresses; she will be giving him my life's
blood next."

"You will not blame me if I ask you to give me, now that I am leaving
you, a formal promise to have no other husband than me," said
Savinien, kissing the chain and looking at Ursula with tears in his
eyes.

"Have I not said so too often--I who went to see the walls of
Sainte-Pelagie when you were behind them?--" she replied, blushing. "I
repeat it, Savinien; I shall never love any one but you, and I will be
yours alone."

Seeing that Ursula was half-hidden by the creepers, the young man
could not deny himself the happiness of pressing her to his heart and
kissing her forehead; but she gave a feeble cry and dropped upon the
bench, and when Savinien sat beside her, entreating pardon, he saw the
doctor standing before them.

"My friend," said the old man, "Ursula is a born sensitive; too rough
a word might kill her. For her sake you must moderate the enthusiasm
of your love--Ah! if you had loved her for sixteen years as I have,
you would have been satisfied with her word of promise," he added, to
revenge himself for the last sentence in Savinien's second letter.

Two days later the young man departed. In spite of the letters which
he wrote regularly to Ursula, she fell a prey to an illness without
apparent cause. Like a fine fruit with a worm at the core, a single
thought gnawed her heart. She lost both appetite and color. The first
time her godfather asked her what she felt, she replied:--

"I want to see the ocean."

"It is difficult to take you to a sea-port in the depth of winter,"
answered the old man.

"Shall I really go?" she said.

If the wind was high, Ursula was inwardly convulsed, certain, in spite
of the learned assurances of the doctor and the abbe, that Savinien
was being tossed about in a whirlwind. Monsieur Bongrand made her
happy for days with the gift of an engraving representing a midshipman
in uniform. She read the newspapers, imagining that they would give
news of the cruiser on which her lover sailed. She devoured Cooper's
sea-tales and learned to use sea-terms. Such proofs of concentration
of feeling, often assumed by other women, were so genuine in Ursula
that she saw in dreams the coming of Savinien's letters, and never
failed to announce them, relating the dream as a forerunner.

"Now," she said to the doctor the fourth time that this happened, "I
am easy; wherever Savinien may be, if he is wounded I shall know it
instantly."

The old doctor thought over this remark so anxiously that the abbe and
Monsieur Bongrand were troubled by the sorrowful expression of his
face.

"What pains you?" they said, when Ursula had left them.

"Will she live?" replied the doctor. "Can so tender and delicate a
flower endure the trials of the heart?"

Nevertheless, the "little dreamer," as the abbe called her, was
working hard. She understood the importance of a fine education to a
woman of the world, and all the time she did not give to her singing
and to the study of harmony and composition she spent in reading the
books chosen for her by the abbe from her godfather's rich library.
And yet while leading this busy life she suffered, though without
complaint. Sometimes she would sit for hours looking at Savinien's
window. On Sundays she would leave the church behind Madame de
Portenduere and watch her tenderly; for, in spite of the old lady's
harshness, she loved her as Savinien's mother. Her piety increased;
she went to mass every morning, for she firmly believed that her
dreams were the gift of God.

At last her godfather, frightened by the effects produced by this
nostalgia of love, promised on her birthday to take her to Toulon to
see the departure of the fleet for Algiers. Savinien's ship formed
part of it, but he was not to be informed beforehand of their
intention. The abbe and Monsieur Bongrand kept secret the object of
this journey, said to be for Ursula's health, which disturbed and
greatly puzzled the relations. After beholding Savinien in his naval
uniform, and going on board the fine flag-ship of the admiral, to whom
the minister had given young Portenduere a special recommendation,
Ursula, at her lover's entreaty, went with her godfather to Nice, and
along the shores of the Mediterranean to Genoa, where she heard of the
safe arrival of the fleet at Algiers and the landing of the troops.
The doctor would have liked to continue the journey through Italy, as
much to distract Ursula's mind as to finish, in some sense, her
education, by enlarging her ideas through comparison with other
manners and customs and countries, and by the fascination of a land
where the masterpieces of art can still be seen, and where so many
civilizations have left their brilliant traces. But the tidings of the
opposition by the throne to the newly elected Chamber of 1830 obliged
the doctor to return to France, bringing back his treasure in a
flourishing state of health and possessed of a charming little model
of the ship on which Savinien was serving.

The elections of 1830 united into an active body the various Minoret
relations,--Desire and Goupil having formed a committee in Nemours by
whose efforts a liberal candidate was put in nomination at
Fontainebleau. Massin, as collector of taxes, exercised an enormous
influence over the country electors. Five of the post master's farmers
were electors. Dionis represented eleven votes. After a few meetings
at the notary's, Cremiere, Massin, the post master, and their
adherents took a habit of assembling there. By the time the doctor
returned, Dionis's office and salon were the camp of his heirs. The
justice of peace and the mayor, who had formed an alliance, backed by
the nobility in the neighbouring castles, to resist the liberals of
Nemours, now worsted in their efforts, were more closely united than
ever by their defeat.

By the time Bongrand and the Abbe Chaperon were able to tell the
doctor by word of mouth the result of the antagonism, which was
defined for the first time, between the two classes in Nemours (giving
incidentally such importance to his heirs) Charles X. had left
Rambouillet for Cherbourg. Desire Minoret, whose opinions were those
of the Paris bar, sent for fifteen of his friends, commanded by Goupil
and mounted on horses from his father's stable, who arrived in Paris
on the night of the 28th. With this troop Goupil and Desire took part
in the capture of the Hotel-de-Veille. Desire was decorated with the
Legion of honor and appointed deputy procureur du roi at
Fontainebleau. Goupil received the July cross. Dionis was elected
mayor of Nemours, and the city council was composed of the post master
(now assistant-mayor), Massin, Cremiere, and all the adherents of the
family faction. Bongrand retained his place only through the influence
of his son, procureur du roi at Melun, whose marriage with
Mademoiselle Levrault was then on the tapis.

Seeing the three-per-cents quoted at forty-five, the doctor started by
post for Paris, and invested five hundred and forty thousand francs
in shares to bearer. The rest of his fortune which amounted to about
two hundred and seventy thousand francs, standing in his own name in
the same funds, gave him ostensibly an income of fifteen thousand
francs a year. He made the same disposition of Ursula's little capital
bequeathed to her by de Jordy, together with the accrued interest
thereon, which gave her about fourteen hundred francs a year in her
own right. La Bougival, who had laid by some five thousand francs of
her savings, did the same by the doctor's advice, receiving in future
three hundred and fifty francs a year in dividends. These judicious
transactions, agreed on between the doctor and Monsieur Bongrand, were
carried out in perfect secrecy, thanks to the political troubles of
the time.

When quiet was again restored the doctor bought the little house which
adjoined his own and pulled it down so as to build a coach-house and
stables on its side. To employ a capital which would have given him a
thousand francs a year on outbuildings seemed actual folly to the
Minoret heirs. This folly, if it were one, was the beginning of a new
era in the doctor's existence, for he now (at a period when horses and
carriages were almost given away) brought back from Paris three fine
horses and a caleche.

When, in the early part of November, 1830, the old man came to church
on a rainy day in the new carriage, and gave his hand to Ursula to
help her out, all the inhabitants flocked to the square,--as much to
see the caleche and question the coachman, as to criticize the
goddaughter, to whose excessive pride and ambition Massin, Cremiere,
the post master, and their wives attributed this extravagant folly of
the old man.

"A caleche! Hey, Massin!" cried Goupil. "Your inheritance will go at
top speed now!"

"You ought to be getting good wages, Cabirolle," said the post master
to the son of one of his conductors, who stood by the horses; "for it
is to be supposed an old man of eighty-four won't use up many
horse-shoes. What did those horses cost?"

"Four thousand francs. The caleche, though second-hand, was two
thousand; but it's a fine one, the wheels are patent."

"Yes, it's a good carriage," said Cremiere; "and a man must be rich to
buy that style of thing."

"Ursula means to go at a good pace," said Goupil. "She's right; she's
showing you how to enjoy life. Why don't you have fine carriages and
horses, papa Minoret? I wouldn't let myself be humiliated if I were
you--I'd buy a carriage fit for a prince."

"Come, Cabirolle, tell us," said Massin, "is it the girl who drives
our uncle into such luxury?"

"I don't know," said Cabirolle; "but she is almost mistress of the
house. There are masters upon masters down from Paris. They say now
she is going to study painting."

"Then I shall seize the occasion to have my portrait drawn," said
Madame Cremiere.

In the provinces they always say a picture is drawn, not painted.

"The old German is not dismissed, is he?" said Madame Massin.

"He was there yesterday," replied Cabirolle.

"Now," said Goupil, "you may as well give up counting on your
inheritance. Ursula is seventeen years old, and she is prettier than
ever. Travel forms young people, and the little minx has got your
uncle in the toils. Five or six parcels come down for her by the
diligence every week, and the dressmakers and milliners come too, to
try on her gowns and all the rest of it. Madame Dionis is furious.
Watch for Ursula as she comes out of church and look at the little
scarf she is wearing round her neck,--real cashmere, and it cost six
hundred francs!"

If a thunderbolt had fallen in the midst of the heirs the effect would
have been less than that of Goupil's last words; the mischief-maker
stood by rubbing his hands.

The doctor's old green salon had been renovated by a Parisian
upholsterer. Judged by the luxury displayed, he was sometimes accused
of hoarding immense wealth, sometimes of spending his capital on
Ursula. The heirs called him in turn a miser and a spendthrift, but
the saying, "He's an old fool!" summed upon, on the whole, the verdict
of the neighbourhood. These mistaken judgments of the little town had
the one advantage of misleading the heirs, who never suspected the
love between Savinien and Ursula, which was the secret reason of the
doctor's expenditure. The old man took the greatest delights in
accustoming his godchild to her future station in the world.
Possessing an income of over fifty thousand francs a year, it gave him
pleasure to adorn his idol.

In the month of February, 1832, the day when Ursula was eighteen, her
eyes beheld Savinien in the uniform of an ensign as she looked from
her window when she rose in the morning.

"Why didn't I know he was coming?" she said to herself.

After the taking of Algiers, Savinien had distinguished himself by an
act of courage which won him the cross. The corvette on which he was
serving was many months at sea without his being able to communicate
with the doctor; and he did not wish to leave the service without
consulting him. Desirous of retaining in the navy a name already
illustrious in its service, the new government had profited by a
general change of officers to make Savinien an ensign. Having obtained
leave of absence for fifteen days, the new officer arrived from Toulon
by the mail, in time for Ursula's fete, intending to consult the
doctor at the same time.

"He has come!" cried Ursula rushing into her godfather's bedroom.

"Very good," he answered; "I can guess what brings him, and he may now
stay in Nemours."

"Ah! that's my birthday present--it is all in that sentence," she
said, kissing him.

On a sign, which she ran up to make from her window, Savinien came
over at once; she longed to admire him, for he seemed to her so
changed for the better. Military service does, in fact, give a certain
grave decision to the air and carriage and gestures of a man, and an
erect bearing which enables the most superficial observer to recognize
a military man even in plain clothes. The habit of command produces
this result. Ursula loved Savinien the better for it, and took a
childlike pleasure in walking round the garden with him, taking his
arm, and hearing him relate the part he played (as midshipman) in the
taking of Algiers. Evidently Savinien had taken the city. The doctor,
who had been watching them from his window as he dressed, soon came
down. Without telling the viscount everything, he did say that, in
case Madame de Portenduere consented to his marriage with Ursula, the
fortune of his godchild would make his naval pay superfluous.

"Alas!" said Savinien. "It will take a great deal of time to overcome
my mother's opposition. Before I left her to enter the navy she was
placed between two alternatives,--either to consent to my marrying
Ursula or else to see me only from time to time and to know me exposed
to the dangers of the profession; and you see she chose to let me go."

"But, Savinien, we shall be together," said Ursula, taking his hand
and shaking it with a sort of impatience.

To see each other and not to part,--that was the all of love to her;
she saw nothing beyond it; and her pretty gesture and the petulant
tone of her voice expressed such innocence that Savinien and the
doctor were both moved by it. The resignation was written and
despatched, and Ursula's fete received full glory from the presence of
her betrothed. A few months later, towards the month of May, the
home-life of the doctor's household had resumed the quite tenor of its
way but with one welcome visitor the more. The attentions of the young
viscount were soon interpreted in the town as those of a future
husband,--all the more because his manners and those of Ursula,
whether in church, or on the promenade, though dignified and reserved,
betrayed the understanding of their hearts. Dionis pointed out to the
heirs that the doctor had never asked Madame de Portenduere for the
interest of his money, three years of which was now due.

"She'll be forced to yield, and consent to this derogatory marriage of
her son," said the notary. "If such a misfortune happens it is
probable that the greater part of your uncle's fortune will serve for
what Basile calls 'an irresistible argument.'"



                            CHAPTER XIV

                       URSULA AGAIN ORPHANED

The irritation of the heirs, when convinced that their uncle loved
Ursula too well not to secure her happiness at their expense, became
as underhand as it was bitter. Meeting in Dionis's salon (as they had
done every evening since the revolution of 1830) they inveighed
against the lovers, and seldom separated without discussing some way
of circumventing the old man. Zelie, who had doubtless profited by the
fall in the Funds, as the doctor had done, to invest some, at least,
of her enormous gains, was bitterest of them all against the orphan
girl and the Portendueres. One evening, when Goupil, who usually
avoided the dullness of these meetings, had come in to learn something
of the affairs of the town which were under discussion, Zelie's hatred
was freshly excited; she had seen the doctor, Ursula, and Savinien
returning in the caleche from a country drive, with an air of intimacy
that told all.

"I'd give thirty thousand francs if God would call uncle to himself
before the marriage of young Portenduere with that affected minx can
take place," she said.

Goupil accompanied Monsieur and Madame Minoret to the middle of their
great courtyard, and there said, looking round to see if they were
quite alone:

"Will you give me the means of buying Dionis's practice? If you will,
I will break off the marriage between Portenduere and Ursula."

"How?" asked the colossus.

"Do you think I am such a fool as to tell you my plan?" said the
notary's head clerk.

"Well, my lad, separate them, and we'll see what we can do," said
Zelie.

"I don't embark in any such business on a 'we'll see.' The young man
is a fire-eater who might kill me; I ought to be rough-shod and as
good a hand with a sword or a pistol as he is. Set me up in business,
and I'll keep my word."

"Prevent the marriage and I will set you up," said the post master.

"It is nine months since you have been thinking of lending me a paltry
fifteen thousand francs to buy Lecoeur's practice, and you expect me
to trust you now! Nonsense; you'll lose your uncle's property, and
serve you right."

"It if were only a matter of fifteen thousand francs and Lecoeur's
practice, that might be managed," said Zelie; "but to give security
for you in a hundred and fifty thousand is another thing."

"But I'll do my part," said Goupil, flinging a seductive look at
Zelie, which encountered the imperious glance of the post mistress.

The effect was that of venom on steel.

"We can wait," said Zelie.

"The devil's own spirit is in you," thought Goupil. "If I ever catch
that pair in my power," he said to himself as he left the yard, "I'll
squeeze them like lemons."

By cultivating the society of the doctor, the abbe, and Monsieur
Bongrand, Savinien proved the excellence of his character. The love of
this young man for Ursula, so devoid of self-interest, and so
persistent, interested the three friends deeply, and they now never
separated the lovers in their thoughts. Soon the monotony of this
patriarchal life, and the certainty of a future before them, gave to
their affection a fraternal character. The doctor often left the pair
alone together. He judged the young man rightly; he saw him kiss her
hand on arriving, but he knew he would ask no kiss when alone with
her, so deeply did the lover respect the innocence, the frankness of
the young girl, whose excessive sensibility, often tried, taught him
that a harsh word, a cold look, or the alternations of gentleness and
roughness might kill her. The only freedom between the two took place
before the eyes of the old man in the evenings.

Two years, full of secret happiness, passed thus,--without other
events than the fruitless efforts made by the young man to obtain from
his mother her consent to his marriage. He talked to her sometimes for
hours together. She listened and made no answer to his entreaties,
other than by Breton silence or a positive denial.

At nineteen years of age Ursula, elegant in appearance, a fine
musician, and well brought up, had nothing more to learn; she was
perfected. The fame of her beauty and grace and education spread far.
The doctor was called upon to decline the overtures of Madame
d'Aiglemont, who was thinking of Ursula for her eldest son. Six months
later, in spite of the secrecy the doctor and Ursula maintained on
this subject, Savinien heard of it. Touched by so much delicacy, he
made use of the incident in another attempt to vanquish his mother's
obstinacy; but she merely replied:--

"If the d'Aiglemonts choose to ally themselves ill, is that any reason
why we should do so?"

In December, 1834, the kind and now truly pious old doctor, then
eighty-eight years old, declined visibly. When seen out of doors, his
face pinched and wan and his eyes pale, all the town talked of his
approaching death. "You'll soon know results," said the community to
the heirs. In truth the old man's death had all the attraction of a
problem. But the doctor himself did not know he was ill; he had his
illusions, and neither poor Ursula nor Savinien nor Bongrand nor the
abbe were willing to enlighten him as to his condition. The Nemours
doctor who came to see him every day did not venture to prescribe. Old
Minoret felt no pain; his lamp of life was gently going it. His mind
continued firm and clear and powerful. In old men thus constituted the
soul governs the body, and gives it strength to die erect. The abbe,
anxious not to hasten the fatal end, released his parishioner from the
duty of hearing mass in church, and allowed him to read the services
at home, for the doctor faithfully attended to all his religious
duties. The nearer he came to the grave the more he loved God; the
lights eternal shone upon all difficulties and explained them more and
more clearly to his mind. Early in the year Ursula persuaded him to
sell the carriage and horses and dismiss Cabirolle. Monsieur Bongrand,
whose uneasiness about Ursula's future was far from quieted by the
doctor's half-confidence, boldly opened the subject one evening and
showed his old friend the importance of making Ursula legally of age.
Still the old man, though he had often consulted the justice of peace,
would not reveal to him the secret of his provision for Ursula, though
he agreed to the necessity of securing her independence by majority.
The more Monsieur Bongrand persisted in his efforts to discover the
means selected by his old friend to provide for his darling the more
wary the doctor became.

"Why not secure the thing," said Bongrand, "why run any risks?"

"When you are between two risks," replied the doctor, "avoid the most
risky."

Bongrand carried through the business of making Ursula of age so
promptly that the papers were ready by the day she was twenty. That
anniversary was the last pleasure of the old doctor who, seized
perhaps with a presentiment of his end, gave a little ball, to which
he invited all the young people in the families of Dionis, Cremiere,
Minoret, and Massin. Savinien, Bongrand, the abbe and his two
assistant priests, the Nemours doctor, and Mesdames Zelie Minoret,
Massin, and Cremiere, together with old Schmucke, were the guests at a
grand dinner which preceded the ball.

"I feel I am going," said the old man to the notary towards the close
of the evening. "I beg you to come to-morrow and draw up my
guardianship account with Ursula, so as not to complicate my property
after my death. Thank God! I have not withdrawn one penny from my
heirs,--I have disposed of nothing but my income. Messieurs Cremiere,
Massin, and Minoret my nephew are members of the family council
appointed for Ursula, and I wish them to be present at the rendering
of my account."

These words, heard by Massin and quickly passed from one to another
round the ball-room, poured balm into the minds of the three families,
who had lived in perpetual alternations of hope and fear, sometimes
thinking they were certain of wealth, oftener that they were
disinherited.

When, about two in the morning, the guests were all gone and no one
remained in the salon but Savinien, Bongrand, and the abbe, the old
doctor said, pointing to Ursula, who was charming in her ball dress;
"To you, my friends, I confide her! A few days more, and I shall be
here no longer to protect her. Put yourselves between her and the
world until she is married,--I fear for her."

The words made a painful impression. The guardian's account, rendered
a day or two later in presence of the family council, showed that
Doctor Minoret owed a balance to his ward of ten thousand six hundred
francs from the bequest of Monsieur de Jordy, and also from a little
capital of gifts made by the doctor himself to Ursula during the last
fifteen years, on birthdays and other anniversaries.

This formal rendering of the account was insisted on by the justice of
the peace, who feared (unhappily, with too much reason) the results of
Doctor Minoret's death.

The following day the old man was seized with a weakness which
compelled him to keep his bed. In spite of the reserve which always
surrounded the doctor's house and kept it from observation, the news
of his approaching death spread through the town, and the heirs began
to run hither and thither through the streets, like the pearls of a
chaplet when the string is broken. Massin called at the house to learn
the truth, and was told by Ursula herself that the doctor was in bed.
The Nemours doctor had remarked that whenever old Minoret took to his
bed he would die; and therefore in spite of the cold, the heirs took
their stand in the street, on the square, at their own doorsteps,
talking of the event so long looked for, and watching for the moment
when the priests should appear, bearing the sacrament, with all the
paraphernalia customary in the provinces, to the dying man.
Accordingly, two days later, when the Abbe Chaperon, with an assistant
and the choir-boys, preceded by the sacristan bearing the cross,
passed along the Grand'Rue, all the heirs joined the procession, to
get an entrance to the house and see that nothing was abstracted, and
lay their eager hands upon its coveted treasures at the earliest
moment.

When the doctor saw, behind the clergy, the row of kneeling heirs, who
instead of praying were looking at him with eyes that were brighter
than the tapers, he could not restrain a smile. The abbe turned round,
saw them, and continued to say the prayers slowly. The post master was
the first to abandon the kneeling posture; his wife followed him.
Massin, fearing that Zelie and her husband might lay hands on some
ornament, joined them in the salon, where all the heirs were presently
assembled one by one.

"He is too honest a man to steal extreme unction," said Cremiere; "we
may be sure of his death now."

"Yes, we shall each get about twenty thousand francs a year," replied
Madame Massin.

"I have an idea," said Zelie, "that for the last three years he hasn't
invested anything--he grew fond of hoarding."

"Perhaps the money is in the cellar," whispered Massin to Cremiere.

"I hope we shall be able to find it," said Minoret-Levrault.

"But after what he said at the ball we can't have any doubt," cried
Madame Massin.

"In any case," began Cremiere, "how shall we manage? Shall we divide;
shall we go to law; or could we draw lots? We are adults, you know--"

A discussion, which soon became angry, now arose as to the method of
procedure. At the end of half an hour a perfect uproar of voices,
Zelie's screeching organ detaching itself from the rest, resounded in
the courtyard and even in the street.

The noise reached the doctor's ears; he heard the words, "The house
--the house is worth thirty thousand francs. I'll take it at that,"
said, or rather bellowed by Cremiere.

"Well, we'll take what it's worth," said Zelie, sharply.

"Monsieur l'abbe," said the old man to the priest, who remained beside
his friend after administering the communion, "help me to die in
peace. My heirs, like those of Cardinal Ximenes, are capable of
pillaging the house before my death, and I have no monkey to revive
me. Go and tell them I will have none of them in my house."

The priest and the doctor of the town went downstairs and repeated the
message of the dying man, adding, in their indignation, strong words
of their own.

"Madame Bougival," said the doctor, "close the iron gate and allow no
one to enter; even the dying, it seems, can have no peace. Prepare
mustard poultices and apply them to the soles of Monsieur's feet."

"Your uncle is not dead," said the abbe, "and he may live some time
longer. He wishes for absolute silence, and no one beside him but his
niece. What a difference between the conduct of that young girl and
yours!"

"Old hypocrite!" exclaimed Cremiere. "I shall keep watch of him. It is
possible he's plotting something against our interests."

The post master had already disappeared into the garden, intending to
watch there and wait his chance to be admitted to the house as an
assistant. He now returned to it very softly, his boots making no
noise, for there were carpets on the stairs and corridors. He was able
to reach the door of his uncle's room without being heard. The abbe
and the doctor had left the house; La Bougival was making the
poultices.

"Are we quite alone?" said the old man to his godchild.

Ursula stood on tiptoe and looked into the courtyard.

"Yes," she said; "the abbe has just closed the gate after him."

"My darling child," said the dying man, "my hours, my minutes even,
are counted. I have not been a doctor for nothing; I shall not last
till evening. Do not cry, my Ursula," he said, fearing to be
interrupted by the child's weeping, "but listen to me carefully; it
concerns your marriage to Savinien. As soon as La Bougival comes back
go down to the pagoda,--here is the key,--lift the marble top of the
Boule buffet and you will find a letter beneath it, sealed and
addressed to you; take it and come back here, for I cannot die easy
unless I see it in your hands. When I am dead do not let any one know
of it immediately, but send for Monsieur de Portenduere; read the
letter together; swear to me now, in his name and your own, that you
will carry out my last wishes. When Savinien has obeyed me, then
announce my death, but not till then. The comedy of the heirs will
begin. God grant those monsters may not ill-treat you."

"Yes godfather."

The post master did not listen to the end of this scene; he slipped
away on tip-toe, remembering that the lock of the study was on the
library side of the door. He had been present in former days at an
argument between the architect and a locksmith, the latter declaring
that if the pagoda were entered by the window on the river it would be
much safer to put the lock of the door opening into the library on the
library side. Dazzled by his hopes, and his ears flushed with blood,
Minoret sprang the lock with the point of his knife as rapidly as a
burglar could have done it. He entered the study, followed the
doctor's directions, took the package of papers without opening it,
relocked the door, put everything in order, and went into the
dining-room and sat down, waiting till La Bougival had gone upstairs
with the poultice before he ventured to leave the house. He then made
his escape,--all the more easily because poor Ursula lingered to see
that La Bougival applied the poultice properly.

"The letter! the letter!" cried the old man, in a dying voice. "Obey
me; take the key. I must see you with that letter in your hand."

The words were said with so wild a look that La Bougival exclaimed to
Ursula:--

"Do what he asks at once or you will kill him."

She kissed his forehead, took the key and went down. A moment later,
recalled by a cry from La Bougival, she ran back. The old man looked
at her eagerly. Seeing her hands empty, he rose in his bed, tried to
speak, and died with a horrible gasp, his eyes haggard with fear. The
poor girl, who saw death for the first time, fell on her knees and
burst into tears. La Bougival closed the old man's eyes and
straightened him on the bed; then she ran to call Savinien; but the
heirs, who stood at the corner of the street, like crows watching till
a horse is buried before they scratch at the ground and turn it over
with beak and claw, flocked in with the celerity of birds of prey.



                             CHAPTER XV

                         THE DOCTOR'S WILL

While these events were taking place the post master had hurried home
to open the mysterious package and know its contents.


To my dear Ursula Mirouet, daughter of my natural half-brother,
Joseph Mirouet, and Dinah Grollman:--

My dear Angel,--The fatherly affection I bear you--and which you
have so fully justified--came not only from the promise I gave
your father to take his place, but also from your resemblance to
my wife, Ursula Mirouet, whose grace, intelligence, frankness, and
charm you constantly recall to my mind. Your position as the
daughter of a natural son of my father-in-law might invalidate all
testamentary bequests made by me in your favor--

"The old rascal!" cried the post master.

Had I adopted you the result might also have been a lawsuit, and I
shrank from the idea of transmitting my fortune to you by
marriage, for I might live years and thus interfere with your
happiness, which is now delayed only by Madame de Portenduere.
Having weighted these difficulties carefully, and wishing to leave
you enough money to secure to you a prosperous existence--

"The scoundrel, he has thought of everything!"

  --without injuring my heirs--

"The Jesuit! as if he did not owe us every penny of his money!"

--I intend you to have the savings from my income which I have for
the last eighteen years steadily invested, by the help of my
notary, seeking to make you thereby as happy as any one can be
made by riches. Without means, your education and your lofty ideas
would cause you unhappiness. Besides, you ought to bring a liberal
dowry to the fine young man who loves you. You will therefore find
in the middle of the third volume of Pandects, folio, bound in red
morocco (the last volume on the first shelf above the little table
in the library, on the side of the room next the salon), three
certificates of Funds in the three-per-cents, made out to bearer,
each amounting to twelve thousand francs a year--

"What depths of wickedness!" screamed the post master. "Ah! God would
not permit me to be so defrauded."

Take these at once, and also some uninvested savings made to this
date, which you will find in the preceding volume. Remember, my
darling child, that you must obey a wish that has made the
happiness of my whole life; a wish that will force me to ask the
intervention of God should you disobey me. But, to guard against
all scruples in your dear conscience--for I well know how ready it
is to torture you--you will find herewith a will in due form
bequeathing these certificates to Monsieur Savinien de Portenduere.
So, whether you possess them in your own name, or whether they come
to you from him you love, they will be, in every sense, your
legitimate property.

Your godfather,
Denis Minoret.


To this letter was annexed the following paper written on a sheet of
stamped paper.


This is my will: I, Denis Minoret, doctor of medicine, settled in
Nemours, being of sound mind and body, as the date of this
document will show, do bequeath my soul to God, imploring him to
pardon my errors in view of my sincere repentance. Next, having
found in Monsieur le Vicomte Savinien de Portenduere a true and
honest affection for me, I bequeath to him the sum of thirty-six
thousand francs a year from the Funds, at three per cent, the said
bequest to take precedence of all inheritance accruing to my
heirs.

Written by my own hand, at Nemours, on the 11th of January, 1831.

Denis Minoret.


Without an instant's hesitation the post master, who had locked
himself into his wife's bedroom to insure being alone, looked about
for the tinder-box, and received two warnings from heaven by the
extinction of two matches which obstinately refused to light. The
third took fire. He burned the letter and the will on the hearth and
buried the vestiges of paper and sealing-wax in the ashes by way of
superfluous caution. Then, allured by the thought of possessing
thirty-six thousand francs a year of which his wife knew nothing, he
returned at full speed to his uncle's house, spurred by the only idea,
a clear-cut, simple idea, which was able to piece and penetrate his
dull brain. Finding the house invaded by the three families, now
masters of the place, he trembled lest he should be unable to
accomplish a project to which he gave no reflection whatever, except
so far as to fear the obstacles.

"What are you doing here?" he said to Massin and Cremiere. "We can't
leave the house and the property to be pillaged. We are the heirs, but
we can't camp here. You, Cremiere, go to Dionis at once and tell him
to come and certify to the death; I can't draw up the mortuary
certificate for an uncle, though I am assistant-mayor. You, Massin, go
and ask old Bongrand to attach the seals. As for you, ladies," he
added, turning to his wife and Mesdames Cremiere and Massin, "go and
look after Ursula; then nothing can be stolen. Above all, close the
iron gate and don't let any one leave the house."

The women, who felt the justice of this remark, ran to Ursula's
bedroom, where they found the noble girl, so cruelly suspected, on her
knees before God, her face covered with tears. Minoret, suspecting
that the women would not long remain with Ursula, went at once to the
library, found the volume, opened it, took the three certificates, and
found in the other volume about thirty bank notes. In spite of his
brutal nature the colossus felt as though a peal of bells were ringing
in each ear. The blood whistled in his temples as he committed the
theft; cold as the weather was, his shirt was wet on his back; his
legs gave way under him and he fell into a chair in the salon as if an
axe had fallen on his head.

"How the inheritance of money loosens a man's tongue! Did you hear
Minoret?" said Massin to Cremiere as they hurried through the town.
"'Go here, go there,' just as if he knew everything."

"Yes, for a dull beast like him he had a certain air of--"

"Stop!" said Massin, alarmed at a sudden thought. "His wife is there;
they've got some plan! Do you do both errands; I'll go back."

Just as the post master fell into the chair he saw at the gate the
heated face of the clerk of the court who returned to the house of
death with the celerity of a weasel.

"Well, what is it now?" asked the post master, unlocking the gate for
his co-heir.

"Nothing; I have come back to be present at the sealing," answered
Massin, giving him a savage look.

"I wish those seals were already on, so that we could go home," said
Minoret.

"We shall have to put a watcher over them," said Massin. "La Bougival
is capable of anything in the interests of that minx. We'll put Goupil
there."

"Goupil!" said the post master; "put a rat in the meal!"

"Well, let's consider," returned Massin. "To-night they'll watch the
body; the seals can be affixed in an hour; our wives could look after
them. To-morrow we'll have the funeral at twelve o'clock. But the
inventory can't be made under a week."

"Let's get rid of that girl at once," said the colossus; "then we can
safely leave the watchman of the town-hall to look after the house and
the seals."

"Good," cried Massin. "You are the head of the Minoret family."

"Ladies," said Minoret, "be good enough to stay in the salon; we can't
think of our dinner to-day; the seals must be put on at once for the
security of all interests."

He took his wife apart and told her Massin's proposition about Ursula.
The women, whose hearts were full of vengeance against the minx, as
they called her, hailed the idea of turning her out. Bongrand arrived
with his assistants to apply the seals, and was indignant when the
request was made to him, by Zelie and Madame Massin, as a near friend
of the deceased, to tell Ursula to leave the house.

"Go and turn her out of her father's house, her benefactor's house
yourselves," he cried. "Go! you who owe your inheritance to the
generosity of her soul; take her by the shoulders and fling her into
the street before the eyes of the whole town! You think her capable of
robbing you? Well, appoint a watcher of the seals; you have a right to
do that. But I tell you at once I shall put no seals on Ursula's room;
she has a right to that room, and everything in it is her own
property. I shall tell her what her rights are, and tell her too to
put everything that belongs to her in this house in that room-- Oh! in
your presence," he said, hearing a growl of dissatisfaction among the
heirs.

"What do you think of that?" said the collector to the post master and
the women, who seemed stupefied by the angry address of Bongrand.

"Call _him_ a magistrate!" cried the post master.

Ursula meanwhile was sitting on her little sofa in a half-fainting
condition, her head thrown back, her braids unfastened, while every
now and then her sobs broke forth. Her eyes were dim and their lids
swollen; she was, in fact, in a state of moral and physical
prostration which might have softened the hardest hearts--except those
of the heirs.

"Ah! Monsieur Bongrand, after my happy birthday comes death and
mourning," she said, with the poetry natural to her. "You know, _you_,
what he was. In twenty years he never said an impatient word to me. I
believed he would live a hundred years. He has been my mother," she
cried, "my good, kind mother."

These simple thoughts brought torrents of tears from her eyes,
interrupted by sobs; then she fell back exhausted.

"My child," said the justice of peace, hearing the heirs on the
staircase. "You have a lifetime before you in which to weep, but you
have now only a moment to attend to your interests. Gather everything
that belongs to you in this house and put it into your own room at
once. The heirs insist on my affixing the seals."

"Ah! his heirs may take everything if they choose," cried Ursula,
sitting upright under an impulse of savage indignation. "I have
something here," she added, striking her breast, "which is far more
precious--"

"What is it?" said the post master, who with Massin at his heels now
showed his brutal face.

"The remembrances of his virtues, of his life, of his words--an image
of his celestial soul," she said, her eyes and face glowing as she
raised her hand with a glorious gesture.

"And a key!" cried Massin, creeping up to her like a cat and seizing a
key which fell from the bosom of her dress in her sudden movement.

"Yes," she said, blushing, "that is the key of his study; he sent me
there at the moment he was dying."

The two men glanced at each other with horrid smiles, and then at
Monsieur Bongrand, with a meaning look of degrading suspicion. Ursula
who intercepted it, rose to her feet, pale as if the blood had left
her body. Her eyes sent forth the lightnings that perhaps can issue
only at some cost of life, as she said in a choking voice:--

"Monsieur Bongrand, everything in this room is mine through the
kindness of my godfather; they may have it all; I have nothing on me
but the clothes I wear. I shall leave the house and never return to
it."

She went to her godfather's room, and no entreaties could make her
leave it,--the heirs, who now began to be slightly ashamed of their
conduct, endeavoring to persuade her. She requested Monsieur Bongrand
to engage two rooms for her at the "Vieille Poste" inn until she could
find some lodging in town where she could live with La Bougival. She
returned to her own room for her prayer-book, and spent the night,
with the abbe, his assistant, and Savinien, in weeping and praying
beside her uncle's body. Savinien came, after his mother had gone to
bed, and knelt, without a word, beside his Ursula. She smiled at him
sadly, and thanked him for coming faithfully to share her troubles.

"My child," said Monsieur Bongrand, bring her a large package, "one of
your uncle's heirs has taken these necessary articles from your
drawers, for the seals cannot be opened for several days; after that
you will recover everything that belongs to you. I have, for your own
sake, placed the seals on your room."

"Thank you," she replied, pressing his hand. "Look at him again,--he
seems to sleep, does he not?"

The old man's face wore that flower of fleeting beauty which rests
upon the features of the dead who die a painless death; light appeared
to radiate from it.

"Did he give you anything secretly before he died?" whispered M.
Bongrand.

"Nothing," she said; "he spoke only of a letter."

"Good! it will certainly be found," said Bongrand. "How fortunate for
you that the heirs demanded the sealing."

At daybreak Ursula bade adieu to the house where her happy youth was
passed; more particularly, to the modest chamber in which her love
began. So dear to her was it that even in this hour of darkest grief
tears of regret rolled down her face for the dear and peaceful haven.
With one last glance at Savinien's windows she left the room and the
house, and went to the inn accompanied by La Bougival, who carried the
package, by Monsieur Bongrand, who gave her his arm, and by Savinien,
her true protector.

Thus it happened that in spite of all his efforts and cautions the
worst fears of the justice of peace were realized; he was now to see
Ursula without means and at the mercy of her benefactor's heirs.

The next afternoon the whole town attended the doctor's funeral. When
the conduct of the heirs to his adopted daughter was publicly known, a
vast majority of the people thought it natural and necessary. An
inheritance was involved; the good man was known to have hoarded;
Ursula might think she had rights; the heirs were only defending their
property; she had humbled them enough during their uncle's lifetime,
for he had treated them like dogs and sent them about their business.

Desire Minoret, who was not going to do wonders in life (so said those
who envied his father), came down for the funeral. Ursula was unable
to be present, for she was in bed with a nervous fever, caused partly
by the insults of the heirs and partly by her heavy affliction.

"Look at that hypocrite weeping," said some of the heirs, pointing to
Savinien, who was deeply affected by the doctor's death.

"The question is," said Goupil, "has he any good grounds for weeping.
Don't laugh too soon, my friends; the seals are not yet removed."

"Pooh!" said Minoret, who had good reason to know the truth, "you are
always frightening us about nothing."

As the funeral procession left the church to proceed to the cemetery,
a bitter mortification was inflicted on Goupil; he tried to take
Desire's arm, but the latter withdrew it and turned away from his
former comrade in presence of all Nemours.

"I won't be angry, or I couldn't get revenge," thought the notary's
clerk, whose dry heart swelled in his bosom like a sponge.

Before breaking the seals and making the inventory, it took some time
for the procureur du roi, who is the legal guardian of orphans, to
commission Monsieur Bongrand to act in his place. After that was done
the settlement of the Minoret inheritance (nothing else being talked
of in the town for ten days) began with all the legal formalities.
Dionis had his pickings; Goupil enjoyed some mischief-making; and as
the business was profitable the sessions were many. After the first of
these sessions all parties breakfasted together; notary, clerk, heirs,
and witnesses drank the best wines in the doctor's cellar.

In the provinces, and especially in little towns where every one lives
in his own house, it is sometimes very difficult to find a lodging.
When a man buys a business of any kind the dwelling-house is almost
always included in the purchase. Monsieur Bongrand saw no other way of
removing Ursula from the village inn than to buy a small house on the
Grand'Rue at the corner of the bridge over the Loing. The little
building had a front door opening on a corridor, and one room on the
ground-floor with two windows on the street; behind this came the
kitchen, with a glass door opening to an inner courtyard about thirty
feet square. A small staircase, lighted on the side towards the river
by small windows, led to the first floor where there were three
chambers, and above these were two attic rooms. Monsieur Bongrand
borrowed two thousand francs from La Bougival's savings to pay the
first instalment of the price,--six thousand francs,--and obtained
good terms for payment of the rest. As Ursula wished to buy her
uncle's books, Bongrand knocked down the partition between two rooms
on the bedroom floor, finding that their united length was the same as
that of the doctor's library, and gave room for his bookshelves.

Savinien and Bongrand urged on the workmen who were cleaning,
painting, and otherwise renewing the tiny place, so that before the
end of March Ursula was able to leave the inn and take up her abode in
the ugly house; where, however, she found a bedroom exactly like the
one she had left; for it was filled with all her furniture, claimed by
the justice of peace when the seals were removed. La Bougival,
sleeping in the attic, could be summoned by a bell placed near the
head of the young girl's bed. The room intended for the books, the
salon on the ground-floor and the kitchen, though still unfurnished,
had been hung with fresh papers and repainted, and only awaited the
purchases which the young girl hoped to make when her godfather's
effects were sold.

Though the strength of Ursula's character was well known to the abbe
and Monsieur Bongrand, they both feared the sudden change from the
comfort and elegancies to which her uncle had accustomed her to this
barren and denuded life. As for Savinien he wept over it. He did, in
fact, make private payments to the workman and to the upholsterer, so
that Ursula should perceive no difference between the new chamber and
the old one. But the young girl herself, whose happiness now lay in
Savinien's own eyes, showed the gentlest resignation, which endeared
her more and more to her two old friends, and proved to them for the
hundredth time that no troubles but those of the heart could make her
suffer. The grief she felt for the loss of her godfather was far too
deep to let her even feel the bitterness of her change of fortune,
though it added fresh obstacles to her marriage. Savinien's distress
in seeing her thus reduced did her so much harm that she whispered to
him, as they came from mass on the morning on the day when she first
went to live in her new house:

"Love could not exist without patience; let us wait."

As soon as the form of the inventory was drawn up, Massin, advised by
Goupil (who turned to him under the influence of his secret hatred to
the post master), summoned Monsieur and Madame de Portenduere to pay
off the mortgage which had now elapsed, together with the interest
accruing thereon. The old lady was bewildered at a summons to pay one
hundred and twenty-nine thousand five hundred and seventeen francs
within twenty-four hours under pain of execution on her house. It was
impossible for her to borrow the money. Savinien went to
Fontainebleau to consult a lawyer.

"You are dealing with a bad set of people who will not compromise,"
was the lawyer's opinion. "They intend to sue in the matter and get
your farm at Bordieres. The best way for you would be to make a
voluntary sale of it and so escape costs."

This dreadful news broke down the old lady. Her son very gently
pointed out to her that had she consented to his marriage in Minoret's
life-time, the doctor would have left his property to Ursula's husband
and they would to-day have been opulent instead of being, as they now
were, in the depths of poverty. Though said without reproach, this
argument annihilated the poor woman even more than the thought of her
coming ejectment. When Ursula heard of this catastrophe she was
stupefied with grief, having scarcely recovered from her fever, and
the blow which the heirs had already dealt her. To love and be unable
to succor the man she loves,--that is one of the most dreadful of all
sufferings to the soul of a noble and sensitive woman.

"I wished to buy my uncle's house," she said, "now I will buy your
mother's."

"Can you?" said Savinien. "You are a minor, and you cannot sell out
your Funds without formalities to which the procureur du roi, now your
legal guardian, would not agree. We shall not resist. The whole town
will be glad to see the discomfiture of a noble family. These
bourgeois are like hounds after a quarry. Fortunately, I still have
ten thousand francs left, on which I can support my mother till this
deplorable matter is settled. Besides, the inventory of your
godfather's property is not yet finished; Monsieur Bongrand still
thinks he shall find something for you. He is as much astonished as I
am that you seem to be left without fortune. The doctor so often spoke
both to him and to me of the future he had prepared for you that
neither of us can understand this conclusion."

"Pooh!" she said; "so long as I can buy my godfather's books and
furniture and prevent their being dispersed, I am content."

"But who knows the price these infamous creatures will set on anything
you want?"

Nothing was talked of from Montargis to Fontainebleau but the million
for which the Minoret heirs were searching. But the most minute search
made in every corner of the house after the seals were removed,
brought no discovery. The one hundred and twenty-nine thousand francs
of the Portenduere debt, the capital of the fifteen thousand a year in
the three per cents (then quoted at 76), the house, valued at forty
thousand francs, and its handsome furniture, produced a total of about
six hundred thousand francs, which to most persons seemed a comforting
sum. But what had become of the money the doctor must have saved?

Minoret began to have gnawing anxieties. La Bougival and Savinien, who
persisted in believing, as did the justice of peace, in the existence
of a will, came every day at the close of each session to find out
from Bongrand the results of the day's search. The latter would
sometimes exclaim, before the agents and the heirs were fairly out of
hearing, "I can't understand the thing!" Bongrand, Savinien, and the
abbe often declared to each other that the doctor, who received no
interest from the Portenduere loan, could not have kept his house as
he did on fifteen thousand francs a year. This opinion, openly
expressed, made the post master turn livid more than once.

"Yet they and I have rummaged everywhere," said Bongrand,--"they to
find money, and I to find a will in favor of Monsieur de Portenduere.
They have sifted the ashes, lifted the marbles, felt of the slippers,
bored into the wood-work of the beds, emptied the mattresses, ripped
up the quilts, turned his eider-down inside-out, examined every inch
of paper piece by piece, searched the drawers, dug up the cellar floor
--and I have urged on their devastations."

"What do you think about it?" said the abbe.

"The will has been suppressed by one of the heirs."

"But where's the property?"

"We may whistle for it!"

"Perhaps the will is hidden in the library," said Savinien.

"Yes, and for that reason I don't dissuade Ursula from buying it. If
it were not for that, it would be absurd to let her put every penny of
her ready money into books she will never open."

At first the whole town believed the doctor's niece had got possession
of the unfound capital; but when it was known positively that fourteen
hundred francs a year and her gifts constituted her whole fortune the
search of the doctor's house and furniture excited a more wide-spread
curiosity than before. Some said the money would be found in bank
bills hidden away in the furniture, others that the old man had
slipped them into his books. The sale of the effects exhibited a
spectacle of the most extraordinary precautions on the part of the
heirs. Dionis, who was doing duty as auctioneeer, declared, as each
lot was cried out, that the heirs only sold the article (whatever it
was) and not what it might contain; then, before allowing it to be
taken away it was subjected to a final investigation, being thumped
and sounded; and when at last it left the house the sellers followed
with the looks a father might cast upon a son who was starting for
India.

"Ah, mademoiselle," cried La Bougival, returning from the first
session in despair, "I shall not go again. Monsieur Bongrand is right,
you could never bear the sight. Everything is ticketed. All the town
is coming and going just as in the street; the handsome furniture is
being ruined, they even stand upon it; the whole place is such a
muddle that a hen couldn't find her chicks. You'd think there had been
a fire. Lots of things are in the courtyard; the closets are all open,
and nothing in them. Oh! the poor dear man, it's well he died, the
sight would have killed him."

Bongrand, who bought for Ursula certain articles which her uncle
cherished, and which were suitable for her little house, did not
appear at the sale of the library. Shrewder than the heirs, whose
cupidity might have run up the price of the books had they known he
was buying them for Ursula, he commissioned a dealer in old books
living in Melun to buy them for him. As a result of the heir's anxiety
the whole library was sold book by book. Three thousand volumes were
examined, one by one, held by the two sides of the binding and shaken
so that loose papers would infallibly fall out. The whole amount of
the purchases on Ursula's account amounted to six thousand five
hundred francs or thereabouts. The book-cases were not allowed to
leave the premises until carefully examined by a cabinet-maker,
brought down from Paris to search for secret drawers. When at last
Monsieur Bongrand gave orders to take the books and the bookcases to
Mademoiselle Mirouet's house the heirs were tortured with vague fears,
not dissipated until in course of time they saw how poorly she lived.

Minoret bought up his uncle's house, the value of which his co-heirs
ran up to fifty thousand francs, imagining that the post master
expected to find a treasure in the walls; in fact the house was sold
with a reservation on this subject. Two weeks later Minoret disposed
of his post establishment, with all the coaches and horses, to the son
of a rich farmer, and went to live in his uncle's house, where he
spent considerable sums in repairing and refurnishing the rooms. By
making this move he thoughtlessly condemned himself to live within
sight of Ursula.

"I hope," he said to Dionis the day when Madame de Portenduere was
summoned to pay her debt, "that we shall soon be rid of those nobles;
after they are gone we'll drive out the rest."

"That old woman with fourteen quarterings," said Goupil, "won't want
to witness her own disaster; she'll go and die in Brittany, where she
can manage to find a wife for her son."

"No," said the notary, who had that morning drawn out a deed of sale
at Bongrand's request. "Ursula has just bought the house she is living
in."

"That cursed fool does everything she can to annoy me!" cried the post
master imprudently.

"What does it signify to you whether she lives in Nemours or not?"
asked Goupil, surprised at the annoyance which the colossus betrayed.

"Don't you know," answered Minoret, turning as red as a poppy, "that
my son is fool enough to be in love with her? I'd give five hundred
francs if I could get Ursula out of this town."



                            CHAPTER XVI

                        THE TWO ADVERSARIES

Perhaps the foregoing conduct on the part of the post master will have
shown already that Ursula, poor and resigned, was destined to be a
thorn in the side of the rich Minoret. The bustle attending the
settlement of an estate, the sale of the property, the going and
coming necessitated by such unusual business, his discussions with his
wife about the most trifling details, the purchase of the doctor's
house, where Zelie wished to live in bourgeois style to advance her
son's interests,--all this hurly-burly, contrasting with his usually
tranquil life hindered the huge Minoret from thinking of his victim.
But about the middle of May, a few days after his installation in the
doctor's house, as he was coming home from a walk, he heard the sound
of a piano, saw La Bougival sitting at a window, like a dragon
guarding a treasure, and suddenly became aware of an importunate voice
within him.

To explain why to a man of Minoret's nature the sight of Ursula, who
had no suspicion of the theft committed upon her, now became
intolerable; why the spectacle of so much fortitude under misfortune
impelled him to a desire to drive the girl out of town; and how and
why it was that this desire took the form of hatred and revenge, would
require a whole treatise on moral philosophy. Perhaps he felt he was
not the real possessor of thirty-six thousand francs a year so long as
she to whom they really belonged lived near him. Perhaps he fancied
some mere chance might betray his theft if the person despoiled was
not got rid of. Perhaps to a nature in some sort primitive, almost
uncivilized, and whose owner up to that time had never done anything
illegal, the presence of Ursula awakened remorse. Possibly this
remorse goaded him the more because he had received his share of the
property legitimately acquired. In his own mind he no doubt attributed
these stirrings of his conscience to the fact of Ursula's presence,
imagining that if she were removed all his uncomfortable feelings
would disappear with her. But still, after all, perhaps crime has its
own doctrine of perfection. A beginning of evil demands its end; a
first stab must be followed by the blow that kills. Perhaps robbery is
doomed to lead to murder. Minoret had committed the crime without the
slightest reflection, so rapidly had the events taken place;
reflection came later. Now, if you have thoroughly possessed yourself
of this man's nature and bodily presence you will understand the
mighty effect produced on him by a thought. Remorse is more than a
thought; it comes from a feeling which can no more be hidden than
love; like love, it has its own tyranny. But, just as Minoret had
committed the crime against Ursula without the slightest reflection,
so he now blindly longed to drive her from Nemours when he felt
himself disturbed by the sight of that wronged innocence. Being, in a
sense, imbecile, he never thought of the consequences; he went from
danger to danger, driven by a selfish instinct, like a wild animal
which does not foresee the huntsman's skill, and relies on its own
rapidity or strength. Before long the rich bourgeois, who still met in
Dionis's salon, noticed a great change in the manners and behavior of
the man who had hitherto been so free of care.

"I don't know what has come to Minoret, he is all _no how_," said his
wife, from whom he was resolved to hide his daring deed.

Everybody explained his condition as being, neither more nor less,
ennui (in fact the thought now expressed on his face did resemble
ennui), caused, they said, by the sudden cessation of business and the
change from an active life to one of well-to-do leisure.

While Minoret was thinking only of destroying Ursula's life in
Nemours, La Bougival never let a day go by without torturing her
foster child with some allusion to the fortune she ought to have had,
or without comparing her miserable lot with the prospects the doctor
had promised, and of which he had often spoken to her, La Bougival.

"It is not for myself I speak," she said, "but is it likely that
monsieur, good and kind as he was, would have died without leaving me
the merest trifle?--"

"Am I not here?" replied Ursula, forbidding La Bougival to say another
word on the subject.

She could not endure to soil the dear and tender memories that
surrounded that noble head--a sketch of which in black and white hung
in her little salon--with thoughts of selfish interest. To her fresh
and beautiful imagination that sketch sufficed to make her _see_ her
godfather, on whom her thoughts continually dwelt, all the more
because surrounded with the things he loved and used,--his large
duchess-sofa, the furniture from his study, his backgammon-table, and
the piano he had chosen for her. The two old friends who still
remained to her, the Abbe Chaperon and Monsieur Bongrand, the only
visitors whom she received, were, in the midst of these inanimate
objects representative of the past, like two living memories of her
former life to which she attached her present by the love her
godfather had blessed.

After a while the sadness of her thoughts, softening gradually, gave
tone to the general tenor of her life and united all its parts in an
indefinable harmony, expressed by the exquisite neatness, the exact
symmetry of her room, the few flowers sent by Savinien, the dainty
nothings of a young girl's life, the tranquillity which her quiet
habits diffused about her, giving peace and composure to the little
home. After breakfast and after mass she continued her studies and
practiced; then she took her embroidery and sat at the window looking
on the street. At four o'clock Savinien, returning from a walk (which
he took in all weathers), finding the window open, would sit upon the
outer casing and talk with her for half an hour. In the evening the
abbe and Monsieur Bongrand came to see her, but she never allowed
Savinien to accompany them. Neither did she accept Madame de
Portenduere's proposition, which Savinien had induced his mother to
make, that she should visit there.

Ursula and La Bougival lived, moreover, with the strictest economy;
they did not spend, counting everything, more than sixty francs a
month. The old nurse was indefatigable; she washed and ironed; cooked
only twice a week,--mistress and maid eating their food cold on other
days; for Ursula was determined to save the seven hundred francs still
due on the purchase of the house. This rigid conduct, together with
her modesty and her resignation to a life of poverty after the
enjoyment of luxury and the fond indulgence of all her wishes, deeply
impressed certain persons. Ursula won the respect of others, and no
voice was raised against her. Even the heirs, once satisfied, did her
justice. Savinien admired the strength of character of so young a
girl. From time to time Madame de Portenduere, when they met in
church, would address a few kind words to her, and twice she insisted
on her coming to dinner and fetched her herself. If all this was not
happiness it was at least tranquillity. But a benefit which came to
Ursula through the legal care and ability of Bongrand started the
smouldering persecution which up to this time had laid in Minoret's
breast as a dumb desire.

As soon as the legal settlement of the doctor's estate was finished,
the justice of peace, urged by Ursula, took the cause of the
Portendueres in hand and promised her to get them out of their
trouble. In dealing with the old lady, whose opposition to Ursula's
happiness made him furious, he did not allow her to be ignorant of the
fact that his devotion to her service was solely to give pleasure to
Mademoiselle Mirouet. He chose one of his former clerks to act for the
Portendueres at Fontainebleau, and himself put in a motion for a stay
of proceedings. He intended to profit by the interval which must
elapse between the stoppage of the present suit and some new step on
the part of Massin to renew the lease at six thousand francs, get a
premium from the present tenants and the payment in full of the rent
of the current year.

At this time, when these matters had to be discussed, the former
whist-parties were again organized in Madame de Portenduere's salon,
between himself, the abbe, Savinien, and Ursula, whom the abbe and he
escorted there and back every evening. In June, Bongrand succeeded in
quashing the proceedings; whereupon the new lease was signed; he
obtained a premium of thirty-two thousand francs from the farmer and a
rent of six thousand a year for eighteen years. The evening of the day
on which this was finally settled he went to see Zelie, whom he knew
to be puzzled as to how to invest her money, and proposed to sell her
the farm at Bordieres for two hundred and twenty thousand francs.

"I'd buy it at once," said Minoret, "if I were sure the Portendueres
would go and live somewhere else."

"Why?" said the justice of peace.

"We want to get rid of the nobles in Nemours."

"I did hear the old lady say that if she could settle her affairs she
should go and live in Brittany, as she would not have means enough
left to live her. She is thinking of selling her house."

"Well, sell it to me," said Minoret.

"To you?" said Zelie. "You talk as if you were master of everything.
What do you want with two houses in Nemours?"

"If I don't settle this matter of the farm with you to-night," said
Bongrand, "our lease will get known, Massin will put in a fresh claim,
and I shall lose this chance of liquidation which I am anxious to
make. So if you don't take my offer I shall go at once to Melun, where
some farmers I know are ready to buy the farm with their eyes shut."

"Why did you come to us, then?" said Zelie.

"Because you can pay me in cash, and my other clients would make me
wait some time for the money. I don't want difficulties."

"Get _her_ out of Nemours and I'll pay it," exclaimed Minoret.

"You understand that I cannot answer for Madame de Portenduere's
actions," said Bongrand. "I can only repeat what I heard her say, but
I feel certain they will not remain in Nemours."

On this assurance, enforced by a nudge from Zelie, Minoret agreed to
the purchase, and furnished the funds to pay off the mortgage due to
the doctor's estate. The deed of sale was immediately drawn up by
Dionis. Towards the end of June Bongrand brought the balance of the
purchase money to Madame de Portenduere, advising her to invest it in
the Funds, where, joined to Savinien's ten thousand, it would give
her, at five per cent, an income of six thousand francs. Thus, so far
from losing her resources, the old lady actually gained by the
transaction. But she did not leave Nemours. Minoret thought he had
been tricked,--as though Bongrand had had an idea that Ursula's
presence was intolerable to him; and he felt a keen resentment which
embittered his hatred to his victim. Then began a secret drama which
was terrible in its effects,--the struggle of two determinations; one
which impelled Minoret to drive his victim from Nemours, the other
which gave Ursula the strength to bear persecution, the cause of which
was for a certain length of time undiscoverable. The situation was a
strange and even unnatural one, and yet it was led up to by all the
preceding events, which served as a preface to what was now to occur.

Madame Minoret, to whom her husband had given a handsome silver
service costing twenty thousand francs, gave a magnificent dinner
every Sunday, the day on which her son, the deputy procureur, came
from Fontainebleau, bringing with him certain of his friends. On these
occasions Zelie sent to Paris for delicacies--obliging Dionis the
notary to emulate her display. Goupil, whom the Minorets endeavored to
ignore as a questionable person who might tarnish their splendor, was
not invited until the end of July. The clerk, who was fully aware of
this intended neglect, was forced to be respectful to Desire, who,
since his entrance into office, had assumed a haughty and dignified
air, even in his own family.

"You must have forgotten Esther," Goupil said to him, "as you are so
much in love with Mademoiselle Mirouet."

"In the first place, Esther is dead, monsieur; and in the next I have
never even thought of Ursula," said the new magistrate.

"Why, what did you tell me, papa Minoret?" cried Goupil, insolently.

Minoret, caught in a lie by a man whom he feared, would have lost
countenance if it had not been for a project in his head, which was,
in fact, the reason why Goupil was invited to dinner,--Minoret having
remembered the proposition the clerk had once made to prevent the
marriage between Savinien and Ursula. For all answer, he led Goupil
hurriedly to the end of the garden.

"You'll soon be twenty-eight years old, my good fellow," said he, "and
I don't see that you are on the road to fortune. I wish you well, for
after all you were once my son's companion. Listen to me. If you can
persuade that little Mirouet, who possesses in her own right forty
thousand francs, to marry you, I will give you, as true as my name is
Minoret, the means to buy a notary's practice at Orleans."

"No," said Goupil, "that's too far out of the way; but Montargis--"

"No," said Minoret; "Sens."

"Very good,--Sens," replied the hideous clerk. "There's an archbishop
at Sens, and I don't object to devotion; a little hypocrisy and there
you are, on the way to fortune. Besides, the girl is pious, and she'll
succeed at Sens."

"It is to be fully understood," continued Minoret, "that I shall not
pay the money till you marry my cousin, for whom I wish to provide,
out of consideration for my deceased uncle."

"Why not for me too?" said Goupil maliciously, instantly suspecting a
secret motive in Minoret's conduct. "Isn't it through information you
got from me that you make twenty-four thousand a year from that land,
without a single enclosure, around the Chateau du Rouvre? The fields
and the mill the other side of the Loing make sixteen thousand more.
Come, old fellow, do you mean to play fair with me?"

"Yes."

"If I wanted to show my teeth I could coax Massin to buy the Rouvre
estate, park, gardens, preserves, and timber--"

"You'd better think twice before you do that," said Zelie, suddenly
intervening.

"If I choose," said Goupil, giving her a viperish look; "Massin would
buy the whole for two hundred thousand francs."

"Leave us, wife," said the colossus, taking Zelie by the arm, and
shoving her away; "I understand him. We have been so very busy," he
continued, returning to Goupil, "that we have had no time to think of
you; but I rely on your friendship to buy the Rouvre estate for me."

"It is a very ancient marquisate," said Goupil, maliciously; "which
will soon be worth in your hands fifty thousand francs a year; that
means a capital of more than two millions as money is now."

"My son could then marry the daughter of a marshal of France, or the
daughter of some old family whose influence would get him a fine place
under the government in Paris," said Minoret, opening his huge
snuff-box and offering a pinch to Goupil.

"Very good; but will you play fair?" cried Goupil, shaking his
fingers.

Minoret pressed the clerk's hands replying:--

"On my word of honor."



                            CHAPTER XVII

                 THE MALIGNITY OF PROVINCIAL MINDS

Like all crafty persons, Goupil, fortunately for Minoret, believed
that the proposed marriage with Ursula was only a pretext on the part
of the colossus and Zelie for making up with him, now that he was
opposing them with Massin.

"It isn't he," thought Goupil, "who has invented this scheme; I know
my Zelie,--she taught him his part. Bah! I'll let Massin go. In three
years time I'll be deputy from Sens." Just then he saw Bongrand on his
way to the opposite house for his whist, and he rushed hastily after
him.

"You take a great interest in Mademoiselle Mirouet, my dear Monsieur
Bongrand," he said. "I know you will not be indifferent to her future.
Her relations are considering it, and there is the programme; she
ought to marry a notary whose practice should be in the chief town of
an arrondisement. This notary, who would of course be elected deputy
in three years, should settle on a dower of a hundred thousand francs
on her."

"She can do better than that," said Bongrand coldly. "Madame de
Portenduere is greatly changed since her misfortunes; trouble is
killing her. Savinien will have six thousand francs a year, and Ursula
has a capital of forty thousand. I shall show them how to increase it
a la Massin, but honestly, and in ten years they will have a little
fortune.

"Savinien will do a foolish thing," said Goupil; "he can marry
Mademoiselle du Rouvre whenever he likes,--an only daughter to whom
the uncle and aunt intend to leave a fine property."

"Where love enters farewell prudence, as La Fontaine says-- By the
bye, who is your notary?" added Bongrand from curiosity.

"Suppose it were I?" answered Goupil.

"You!" exclaimed Bongrand, without hiding his disgust.

"Well, well!--Adieu, monsieur," replied Goupil, with a parting glance
of gall and hatred and defiance.

"Do you wish to be the wife of a notary who will settle a hundred
thousand francs on you?" cried Bongrand entering Madame de
Portenduere's little salon, where Ursula was seated beside the old
lady.

Ursula and Savinien trembled and looked at each other,--she smiling,
he not daring to show his uneasiness.

"I am not mistress of myself," said Ursula, holding out her hand to
Savinien in such a way that the old lady did not perceive the gesture.

"Well, I have refused the offer without consulting you."

"Why did you do that?" said Madame de Portenduere. "I think the
position of a notary is a very good one."

"I prefer my peaceful poverty," said Ursula, "which is really wealth
compared with what my station in life might have given me. Besides, my
old nurse spares me a great deal of care, and I shall not exchange the
present, which I like, for an unknown fate."

A few weeks later the post poured into two hearts the poison of
anonymous letters,--one addressed to Madame de Portenduere, the other
to Ursula. The following is the one to the old lady:--

  "You love your son, you wish to marry him in a manner conformable
  with the name he bears; and yet you encourage his fancy for an
  ambitious girl without money and the daughter of a regimental
  band-master, by inviting her to your house. You ought to marry him
  to Mademoiselle du Rouvre, on whom her two uncles, the Marquis de
  Ronquerolles and the Chevalier du Rouvre, who are worth money, would
  settle a handsome sum rather than leave it to that old fool the
  Marquis du Rouvre, who runs through everything. Madame de Serizy,
  aunt of Clementine du Rouvre, who has just lost her only son in the
  campaign in Algiers, will no doubt adopt her niece. A person who is
  your well-wisher assures you that Savinien will be accepted."

The letter to Ursula was as follows:--

  Dear Ursula,--There is a young man in Nemours who idolizes you. He
  cannot see you working at your window without emotions which prove
  to him that his love will last through life. This young man is
  gifted with an iron will and a spirit of perseverance which
  nothing can discourage. Receive his addresses favorably, for his
  intentions are pure, and he humbly asks your hand with a sincere
  desire to make you happy. His fortune, already suitable, is
  nothing to that which he will make for you when you are once his
  wife. You shall be received at court as the wife of a minister and
  one of the first ladies in the land.

  As he sees you every day (without your being able to see him) put
  a pot of La Bougival's pinks in your window and he will understand
  from that that he has your permission to present himself.

Ursula burned the letter and said nothing about it to Savinien. Two
days later she received another letter in the following language:--

  "You do wrong, my dear Ursula, not to answer one who loves you
  better than life itself. You think you will marry Savinien--you
  are very much mistaken. That marriage will not take place. Madame
  de Portenduere went this morning to Rouvre to ask for the hand of
  Mademoiselle Clementine for her son. Savinien will yield in the
  end. What objection can he make? The uncles of the young lady are
  willing to guarantee their fortune to her; it amounts to over
  sixty thousand francs a year."

This letter agonized Ursula's heart and afflicted her with the
tortures of jealousy, a form of suffering hitherto unknown to her, but
which to this fine organization, so sensitive to pain, threw a pall
over the present and over the future, and even over the past. From the
moment when she received this fatal paper she lay on the doctor's
sofa, her eyes fixed on space, lost in a dreadful dream. In an instant
the chill of death had come upon her warm young life. Alas, worse than
that! it was like the awful awakening of the dead to the sense that
there was no God,--the masterpiece of that strange genius called Jean
Paul. Four times La Bougival called her to breakfast. When the
faithful creature tried to remonstrate, Ursula waved her hand and
answered in one harsh word, "Hush!" said despotically, in strange
contrast to her usual gentle manner. La Bougival, watching her
mistress through the glass door, saw her alternately red with a
consuming fever, and blue as if a shudder of cold had succeeded that
unnatural heat. This condition grew worse and worse up to four
o'clock; then she rose to see if Savinien were coming, but he did not
come. Jealousy and distrust tear all reserves from love. Ursula, who
till then had never made one gesture by which her love could be
guessed, now took her hat and shawl and rushed into the passage as if
to go and meet him. But an afterthought of modesty sent her back to
her little salon, where she stayed and wept. When the abbe arrived in
the evening La Bougival met him at the door.

"Ah, monsieur!" she cried; "I don't know what's the matter with
mademoiselle; she is--"

"I know," said the abbe sadly, stopping the words of the poor nurse.

He then told Ursula (what she had not dared to verify) that Madame de
Portenduere had gone to dine at Rouvre.

"And Savinien too?" she asked.

"Yes."

Ursula was seized with a little nervous tremor which made the abbe
quiver as though a whole Leyden jar had been discharged at him; he
felt moreover a lasting commotion in his heart.

"So we shall not go there to-night," he said as gently as he could;
"and, my child, it would be better if you did not go there again. The
old lady will receive you in a way to wound your pride. Monsieur
Bongrand and I, who had succeeded in bringing her to consider your
marriage, have no idea from what quarter this new influence has come
to change her, as it were in a moment."

"I expect the worst; nothing can surprise me now," said Ursula in a
pained voice. "In such extremities it is a comfort to feel that we
have done nothing to displease God."

"Submit, dear daughter, and do not seek to fathom the ways of
Providence," said the abbe.

"I shall not unjustly distrust the character of Monsieur de
Portenduere--"

"Why do you no longer call him Savinien?" asked the priest, who
detected a slight bitterness in Ursula's tone.

"Of my dear Savinien," cried the girl, bursting into tears. "Yes, my
good friend," she said, sobbing, "a voice tells me he is as noble in
heart as he is in race. He has not only told me that he loves me
alone, but he has proved it in a hundred delicate ways, and by
restraining heroically his ardent feelings. Lately when he took the
hand I held out to him, that evening when Monsieur Bongrand proposed
to me a husband, it was the first time, I swear to you, that I had
ever given it. He began with a jest when he blew me a kiss across the
street, but since then our affection has never outwardly passed, as
you well know, the narrowest limits. But I will tell you,--you who
read my soul except in this one region where none but the angels see,
--well, I will tell you, this love has been in me the secret spring of
many seeming merits; it made me accept my poverty; it softened the
bitterness of my irreparable loss, for my mourning is more perhaps in
my clothes now than in my heart-- Oh, was I wrong? can it be that love
was stronger in me than my gratitude to my benefactor, and God has
punished me for it? But how could it be otherwise? I respected in
myself Savinien's future wife; yes, perhaps I was too proud, perhaps
it is that pride which God has humbled. God alone, as you have often
told me, should be the end and object of all our actions."

The abbe was deeply touched as he watched the tears roll down her
pallid face. The higher her sense of security had been, the lower she
was now to fall.

"But," she said, continuing, "if I return to my orphaned condition, I
shall know how to take up its feelings. After all, could I have tied a
mill-stone round the neck of him I love? What can he do here? Who am I
to bind him to me? Besides, do I not love him with a friendship so
divine that I can bear the loss of my own happiness and my hopes? You
know I have often blamed myself for letting my hopes rest upon a
grave, and for knowing they were waiting on that poor old lady's
death. If Savinien is rich and happy with another I have enough to pay
for my entrance to a convent, where I shall go at once. There can no
more be two loves in a woman's heart than there can be two masters in
heaven, and the life of a religious is attractive to me."

"He could not let his mother go alone to Rouvre," said the abbe,
gently.

"Do not let us talk of that, my dear good friend," she answered. "I
will write to-night and set him free. I am glad to have to close the
windows of this room," she continued, telling her old friend of the
anonymous letters, but declaring that she would not allow any
inquiries to be made as to who her unknown lover might be.

"Why! it was an anonymous letter that first took Madame de Portenduere
to Rouvre," cried the abbe. "You are annoyed for some object by evil
persons."

"How can that be? Neither Savinien nor I have injured any one; and I
am no longer an obstacle to the prosperity of others."

"Well, well, my child," said the abbe, quietly, "let us profit by this
tempest, which has scattered our little circle, to put the library in
order. The books are still in heaps. Bongrand and I want to get them
in order; we wish to make a search among them. Put your trust in God,
and remember also that in our good Bongrand and in me you have two
devoted friends."

"That is much, very much," she said, going with him to the threshold
of the door, where she stretched out her neck like a bird looking over
its nest, hoping against hope to see Savinien.

Just then Minoret and Goupil, returning from a walk in the meadows,
stopped as they passed, and the colossus spoke to Ursula.

"Is anything the matter, cousin; for we are still cousins, are we not?
You seem changed."

Goupil looked so ardently at Ursula that she was frightened, and went
back into the house without replying.

"She is cross," said Minoret to the abbe.

"Mademoiselle Mirouet is quite right not to talk to men on the
threshold of her door," said the abbe; "she is too young--"

"Oh!" said Goupil. "I am told she doesn't lack lovers."

The abbe bowed hurriedly and went as fast as he could to the Rue des
Bourgeois.

"Well," said Goupil to Minoret, "the thing is working. Did you notice
how pale she was. Within a fortnight she'll have left the town--you'll
see."

"Better have you for a friend than an enemy," cried Minoret,
frightened at the atrocious grin which gave to Goupil's face the
diabolical expression of the Mephistopheles of Joseph Brideau.

"I should think so!" returned Goupil. "If she doesn't marry me I'll
make her die of grief."

"Do it, my boy, and I'll GIVE you the money to buy a practice in
Paris. You can then marry a rich woman--"

"Poor Ursula! what makes you so bitter against her? what has she done
to you?" asked the clerk in surprise.

"She annoys me," said Minoret, gruffly.

"Well, wait till Monday and you shall see how I'll rasp her," said
Goupil, studying the expression of the late post master's face.

The next day La Bougival carried the following letter to Savinien.

"I don't know what the dear child has written to you," she said, "but
she is almost dead this morning."

Who, reading this letter to her lover, could fail to understand the
sufferings the poor girl had gone through during the night.

  My dear Savinien,--Your mother wishes you to marry Mademoiselle du
  Rouvre, and perhaps she is right. You are placed between a life
  that is almost poverty-stricken and a life of opulence; between
  the betrothed of your heart and a wife in conformity with the
  demands of the world; between obedience to your mother and the
  fulfilment of your own choice--for I still believe that you have
  chosen me. Savinien, if you have now to make your decision I wish
  you to do so in absolute freedom; I give you back the promise you
  made to yourself--not to me--in a moment which can never fade from
  my memory, for it was, like other days that have succeeded it, of
  angelic purity and sweetness. That memory will suffice me for my
  life. If you should persist in your pledge to me, a dark and
  terrible idea would henceforth trouble my happiness. In the midst
  of our privations--which we have hitherto accepted so gayly--you
  might reflect, too late, that life would have been to you a better
  thing had you now conformed to the laws of the world. If you were
  a man to express that thought, it would be to me the sentence of
  an agonizing death; if you did not express it, I should watch
  suspiciously every cloud upon your brow.

  Dear Savinien, I have preferred you to all else on earth. I was
  right to do so, for my godfather, though jealous of you, used to
  say to me, "Love him, my child; you will certainly belong to each
  other one of these days." When I went to Paris I loved you
  hopelessly, and the feeling contented me. I do not know if I can
  now return to it, but I shall try. What are we, after all, at this
  moment? Brother and sister. Let us stay so. Marry that happy girl
  who can have the joy of giving to your name the lustre it ought to
  have, and which your mother thinks I should diminish. You will not
  hear of me again. The world will approve of you; I shall never
  blame you--but I shall love you ever. Adieu, then!

"Wait," cried the young man. Signing to La Bougival to sit down, he
scratched off hastily the following reply:--

  My dear Ursula,--Your letter cuts me to the heart, inasmuch as you
  have needlessly felt such pain; and also because our hearts, for
  the first time, have failed to understand each other. If you are
  not my wife now, it is solely because I cannot marry without my
  mother's consent. Dear, eight thousand francs a year and a pretty
  cottage on the Loing, why, that's a fortune, is it not? You know
  we calculated that if we kept La Bougival we could lay by half our
  income every year. You allowed me that evening, in your uncle's
  garden, to consider you mine; you cannot now of yourself break
  those ties which are common to both of us.--Ursula, need I tell
  you that I yesterday informed Monsieur du Rouvre that even if I
  were free I could not receive a fortune from a young person whom I
  did not know? My mother refuses to see you again; I must therefore
  lose the happiness of our evenings; but surely you will not
  deprive me of the brief moments I can spend at your window? This
  evening, then-- Nothing can separate us.

"Take this to her, my old woman; she must not be unhappy one moment
longer."

That afternoon at four o'clock, returning from the walk which he
always took expressly to pass before Ursula's house, Savinien found
his mistress waiting for him, her face a little pallid from these
sudden changes and excitements.

"It seems to me that until now I have never known what the pleasure of
seeing you is," she said to him.

"You once said to me," replied Savinien, smiling,--"for I remember all
your words,--'Love lives by patience; we will wait!' Dear, you have
separated love from faith. Ah! this shall be the end of our quarrels;
we will never have another. You have claimed to love me better than I
love you, but--did I ever doubt you?" he said, offering her a bouquet
of wild-flowers arranged to express his thoughts.

"You have never had any reason to doubt me," she replied; "and,
besides, you don't know all," she added, in a troubled voice.

Ursula had refused to receive letters by the post. But that afternoon,
without being able even to guess at the nature of the trick, she had
found, a few moments before Savinien's arrival, a letter tossed on her
sofa which contained the words: "Tremble! a rejected lover can become
a tiger."

Withstanding Savinien's entreaties, she refused to tell him, out of
prudence, the secret of her fears. The delight of seeing him again,
after she had thought him lost to her, could alone have made her
recover from the mortal chill of terror. The expectation of indefinite
evil is torture to every one; suffering assumes the proportions of the
unknown, and the unknown is the infinite of the soul. To Ursula the
pain was exquisite. Something without her bounded at the slightest
noise; yet she was afraid of silence, and suspected even the walls of
collusion. Even her sleep was restless. Goupil, who knew nothing of
her nature, delicate as that of a flower, had found, with the instinct
of evil, the poison that could wither and destroy her.

The next day passed without a shock. Ursula sat playing on her piano
till very late; and went to bed easier in mind and very sleepy. About
midnight she was awakened by the music of a band composed of a
clarinet, hautboy, flute, cornet a piston, trombone, bassoon,
flageolet, and triangle. All the neighbours were at their windows. The
poor girl, already frightened at seeing the people in the street,
received a dreadful shock as she heard the coarse, rough voice of a
man proclaiming in loud tones: "For the beautiful Ursula Mirouet, from
her lover."

The next day, Sunday, the whole town had heard of it; and as Ursula
entered and left the church she saw the groups of people who stood
gossiping about her, and felt herself the object of their terrible
curiosity. The serenade set all tongues wagging, and conjectures were
rife on all sides. Ursula reached home more dead than alive,
determined not to leave the house again,--the abbe having advised her
to say vespers in her own room. As she entered the house she saw lying
in the passage, which was floored with brick, a letter which had
evidently been slipped under the door. She picked it up and read it,
under the idea that it would obtain an explanation. It was as
follows:--


"Resign yourself to becoming my wife, rich and idolized. I am
resolved. If you are not mine living you shall be mine dead. To
your refusal you may attribute not only your own misfortunes, but
those which will fall on others.

"He who loves you, and whose wife you will be."


Curiously enough, at the very moment that the gentle victim of this
plot was drooping like a cut flower, Mesdemoiselles Massin, Dionis,
and Cremiere were envying her lot.

"She is a lucky girl," they were saying; "people talk of her, and
court her, and quarrel about her. The serenade was charming; there was
a cornet-a-piston."

"What's a piston?"

"A new musical instrument, as big as this, see!" replied Angelique
Cremiere to Pamela Massin.

Early that morning Savinien had gone to Fontainebleau to endeavor to
find out who had engaged the musicians of the regiment then in
garrison. But as there were two men to each instrument it was
impossible to find out which of them had gone to Nemours. The colonel
forbade them to play for any private person in future without his
permission. Savinien had an interview with the procureur du roi,
Ursula's legal guardian, and explained to him the injury these scenes
would do to a young girl naturally so delicate and sensitive, begging
him to take some action to discover the author of such wrong.

Three nights later three violins, a flute, a guitar, and a hautboy
began another serenade. This time the musicians fled towards
Montargis, where there happened then to be a company of comic actors.
A loud and ringing voice called out as they left: "To the daughter of
the regimental bandsman Mirouet." By this means all Nemours came to
know the profession of Ursula's father, a secret the old doctor had
sedulously kept.

Savinien did not go to Montargis. He received in the course of the day
an anonymous letter containing a prophecy:--

  "You will never marry Ursula. If you wish her to live, give her up
  at once to a man who loves her more than you love her. He has made
  himself a musician and an artist to please her, and he would
  rather see her dead than let her be your wife."

The doctor came to Ursula three times in the course of that day, for
she was really in danger of death from the horror of this mysterious
persecution. Feeling that some infernal hand had plunged her into the
mire, the poor girl lay like a martyr; she said nothing, but lifted
her eyes to heaven, and wept no more; she seemed awaiting other blows,
and prayed fervently.

"I am glad I cannot go down into the salon," she said to Monsieur
Bongrand and the abbe, who left her as little as possible; "_He_ would
come, and I am now unworthy of the looks with which _he_ blessed me. Do
you think _he_ will suspect me?"

"If Savinien does not discover the author of these infamies he means
to get the assistance of the Paris police," said Bongrand.

"Whoever it is will know I am dying," said Ursula; "and will cease to
trouble me."

The abbe, Bongrand, and Savinien were lost in conjectures and
suspicions. Together with Tiennette, La Bougival, and two persons on
whom the abbe could rely, they kept the closest watch and were on
their guard night and day for a week; but no indiscretion could betray
Goupil, whose machinations were known to himself only. There were no
more serenades and no more letters, and little by little the watch
relaxed. Bongrand thought the author of the wrong was frightened;
Savinien believed that the procureur du roi to whom he had sent the
letters received by Ursula and himself and his mother, had taken steps
to put an end to the persecution.

The armistice was not of long duration, however. When the doctor had
checked the nervous fever from which poor Ursula was suffering, and
just as she was recovering her courage, a rope-ladder was found, early
one morning in July, attached to her window. The postilion of the
mail-post declared that as he drove past the house in the middle of
the night a small man was in the act of coming down the ladder, and
though he tried to pull up, his horses, being startled, carried him
down the hill so fast that he was out of Nemours before he stopped
them. Some of the persons who frequented Dionis's salon attributed
these manoeuvres to the Marquis du Rouvre, then much hampered in
means, for Massin held his notes to a large amount. It was said that a
prompt marriage of his daughter to Savinien would save Chateau du
Rouvre from his creditors; and Madame de Portenduere, the gossips
added, would approve of anything that would discredit and degrade
Ursula and lead to this marriage of her son.

So far from this being true, the old lady was well-nigh vanquished by
the sufferings of the innocent girl. The abbe was so painfully
overcome by this act of infernal wickedness that he fell ill himself
and was kept to the house for several days. Poor Ursula, to whom this
last insult had caused a relapse, received by post a letter from the
abbe, which was taken in by La Bougival on recognizing the
handwriting. It was as follows:--


My child,--Leave Nemours, and thus evade the malice of your
enemies. Perhaps they are seeking to endanger Savinien's life. I
will tell you more when I am able to go to you.

Your devoted friend,

Chaperon.


When Savinien, who was almost maddened by these proceedings, carried
this letter to the abbe, the poor priest read it and re-read it; so
amazed and horror-stricken was he to see the perfection with which his
own handwriting and signature were imitated. The dangerous condition
into which this last atrocity threw poor Ursula sent Savinien once
more to the procureur du roi with the forged letter.

"A murder is being committed by means that the law cannot touch," he
said, "upon an orphan whom the Code places in your care as legal
guardian. What is to be done?"

"If you can find any means of repression," said the official, "I will
adopt them; but I know of none. That infamous wretch gives the best
advice. Mademoiselle Mirouet must be sent to the sisters of the
Adoration of the Sacred Heart. Meanwhile the commissary of police at
Fontainebleau shall at my request authorize you to carry arms in your
own defence. I have been myself to Rouvre, and I found Monsieur du
Rouvre justly indignant at the suspicions some of the Nemours people
have put upon him. Minoret, the father of my assistant, is in treaty
for the purchase of the estate. Mademoiselle is to marry a rich Polish
count; and Monsieur du Rouvre himself left the neighbourhood the day I
saw him, to avoid arrest for debt."

Desire Minoret, when questioned by his chief, dared not tell his
thought. He recognized Goupil. Goupil, he fully believed, was the only
man capable of carrying a persecution to the very verge of the penal
code without infringing a hair's-breadth upon it.



                           CHAPTER XVIII

                       A TWO-FOLD VENGEANCE

Impunity, secrecy, and success increased Goupil's audacity. He made
Massin, who was completely his dupe, sue the Marquis du Rouvre for his
notes, so as to force him to sell the remainder of his property to
Minoret. Thus prepared, he opened negotiations for a practice at Sens,
and then resolved to strike a last blow to obtain Ursula. He meant to
imitate certain young men in Paris who owed their wives and their
fortunes to abduction. He knew that the services he had rendered to
Minoret, to Massin, and to Cremiere, and the protection of Dionis and
the mayor of Nemours would enable him to hush up the affair. He
resolved to throw off the mask, believing Ursula too feeble in the
condition to which he had reduced her to make any resistance. But
before risking this last throw in the game he thought it best to have
an explanation with Minoret, and he chose his opportunity at Rouvre,
where he went with his patron for the first time after the deeds were
signed.

Minoret had that morning received a confidential letter from his son
asking him for information as to what was happening in connection with
Ursula, information that he desired to obtain before going to Nemours
with the procureur du roi to place her under shelter from these
atrocities in the convent of the Adoration. Desire exhorted his
father, in case this persecution should be the work of any of their
friends, to give to whoever it might be warning and good advice; for
even if the law could not punish this crime it would certainly
discover the truth and hold it over the delinquent's head. Minoret had
now attained a great object. Owner of the chateau du Rouvre, one of
the finest estates in the Gatinais, he had also a rent-roll of some
forty odd thousand francs a year from the rich domains which
surrounded the park. He could well afford to snap his fingers at
Goupil. Besides, he intended to live on the estate, where the sight of
Ursula would no longer trouble him.

"My boy," he said to Goupil, as they walked along the terrace, "let my
young cousin alone, now."

"Pooh!" said the clerk, unable to imagine what capricious conduct
meant.

"Oh! I'm not ungrateful; you have enabled me to get this fine brick
chateau with the stone copings (which couldn't be built now for two
hundred thousand francs) and those farms and preserves and the park
and gardens and woods, all for two hundred and eighty thousand francs.
No, I'm not ungrateful; I'll give you ten per cent, twenty thousand
francs, for your services, and you can buy a sheriff's practice in
Nemours. I'll guarantee you a marriage with one of Cremiere's
daughters, the eldest."

"The one who talks piston!" cried Goupil.

"She'll have thirty thousand francs," replied Minoret. "Don't you see,
my dear boy, that you are cut out for a sheriff, just as I was to be a
post master? People should keep to their vocation."

"Very well, then," said Goupil, falling from the pinnacle of his
hopes; "here's a stamped cheque; write me an order for twenty thousand
francs; I want the money in hand at once."

Minoret had eighteen thousand francs by him at that moment of which
his wife knew nothing. He thought the best way to get rid of Goupil
was to sign the draft. The clerk, seeing the flush of seigniorial
fever on the face of the imbecile and colossal Machiavelli, threw him
an "au revoir," by way of farewell, accompanied with a glance which
would have made any one but an idiotic parvenu, lost in contemplation
of the magnificent chateau built in the style in vogue under Louis
XIII., tremble in his shoes.

"Are you not going to wait for me?" he cried, observing that Goupil
was going away on foot.

"You'll find me on our path, never fear, papa Minoret," replied
Goupil, athirst for vengeance and resolved to know the meaning of the
zigzags of Minoret's strange conduct.

Since the day when the last vile calumny had sullied her life Ursula,
a prey to one of those inexplicable maladies the seat of which is in
the soul, seemed to be rapidly nearing death. She was deathly pale,
speaking only at rare intervals and then in slow and feeble words;
everything about her, her glance of gentle indifference, even the
expression of her forehead, all revealed the presence of some
consuming thought. She was thinking how the ideal wreath of chastity,
with which throughout all ages the Peoples crowned their virgins, had
fallen from her brow. She heard in the void and in the silence the
dishonoring words, the malicious comments, the laughter of the little
town. The trial was too heavy, her innocence was too delicate to allow
her to survive the murderous blow. She complained no more; a sorrowful
smile was on her lips; her eyes appealed to heaven, to the Sovereign
of angels, against man's injustice.

When Goupil reached Nemours, Ursula had just been carried down from
her chamber to the ground-floor in the arms of La Bougival and the
doctor. A great event was about to take place. When Madame de
Portenduere became really aware that the girl was dying like an
ermine, though less injured in her honor than Clarissa Harlowe, she
resolved to go to her and comfort her. The sight of her son's anguish,
who during the whole preceding night had seemed beside himself, made
the Breton soul of the old woman yield. Moreover, it seemed worthy of
her own dignity to revive the courage of a girl so pure, and she saw
in her visit a counterpoise to all the evil done by the little town.
Her opinion, surely more powerful than that of the crowd, ought to
carry with it, she thought, the influence of race. This step, which
the abbe came to announce, made so great a change in Ursula that the
doctor, who was about to ask for a consultation of Parisian doctors,
recovered hope. They placed her on her uncle's sofa, and such was the
character of her beauty that she lay there in her mourning garments,
pale from suffering, she was more exquisitely lovely than in the
happiest hours of her life. When Savinien, with his mother on his arm,
entered the room she colored vividly.

"Do not rise, my child," said the old lady imperatively; "weak and ill
as I am myself, I wished to come and tell you my feelings about what
is happening. I respect you as the purest, the most religious and
excellent girl in the Gatinais; and I think you worthy to make the
happiness of a gentleman."

At first poor Ursula was unable to answer; she took the withered hands
of Savinien's mother and kissed them.

"Ah, madame," she said in a faltering voice, "I should never have had
the boldness to think of rising above my condition if I had not been
encouraged by promises; my only claim was that of an affection without
bounds; but now they have found the means to separate me from him I
love,--they have made me unworthy of him. Never!" she cried, with a
ring in her voice which painfully affected those about her, "never
will I consent to give to any man a degraded hand, a stained
reputation. I loved too well,--yes, I can admit it in my present
condition,--I love a creature almost as I love God, and God--"

"Hush, my child! do not calumniate God. Come, my daughter," said the
old lady, making an effort, "do not exaggerate the harm done by an
infamous joke in which no one believes. I give you my word, you will
live and you shall be happy."

"We shall be happy!" cried Savinien, kneeling beside Ursula and
kissing her hand; "my mother has called you her daughter."

"Enough, enough," said the doctor feeling his patient's pulse; "do not
kill her with joy."

At that moment Goupil, who found the street door ajar, opened that of
the little salon, and showed his hideous face blazing with thoughts of
vengeance which had crowded into his mind as he hurried along.

"Monsieur de Portenduere," he said, in a voice like the hissing of a
viper forced from its hole.

"What do you want?" said Savinien, rising from his knees.

"I have a word to say to you."

Savinien left the room, and Goupil took him into the little courtyard.

"Swear to me by Ursula's life, by your honor as a gentleman, to do by
me as if I had never told you what I am about to tell. Do this, and I
will reveal to you the cause of the persecutions directed against
Mademoiselle Mirouet."

"Can I put a stop to them?"

"Yes."

"Can I avenge them?"

"On their author, yes--on his tool, no."

"Why not?"

"Because--I am the tool."

Savinien turned pale.

"I have just seen Ursula--" said Goupil.

"Ursula?" said the lover, looking fixedly at the clerk.

"Mademoiselle Mirouet," continued Goupil, made respectful by
Savinien's tone; "and I would undo with my blood the wrong that has
been done; I repent of it. If you were to kill me, in a duel or
otherwise, what good would my blood do you? can you drink it? At this
moment it would poison you."

The cold reasoning of the man, together with a feeling of eager
curiosity, calmed Savinien's anger. He fixed his eyes on Goupil with a
look which made that moral deformity writhe.

"Who set you at this work?" said the young man.

"Will you swear?"

"What,--to do you no harm?"

"I wish that you and Mademoiselle Mirouet should not forgive me."

"She will forgive you,--I, never!"

"But at least you will forget?"

What terrible power the reason has when it is used to further
self-interest. Here were two men, longing to tear one another in
pieces, standing in that courtyard within two inches of each other,
compelled to talk together and united by a single sentiment.

"I will forgive you, but I shall not forget."

"The agreement is off," said Goupil coldly. Savinien lost patience. He
applied a blow upon the man's face which echoed through the courtyard
and nearly knocked him down, making Savinien himself stagger.

"It is only what I deserve," said Goupil, "for committing such a
folly. I thought you more noble than you are. You have abused the
advantage I gave you. You are in my power now," he added with a look
of hatred.

"You are a murderer!" said Savinien.

"No more than a dagger is a murderer."

"I beg your pardon," said Savinien.

"Are you revenged enough?" said Goupil, with ferocious irony; "will
you stop here?"

"Reciprocal pardon and forgetfulness," replied Savinien.

"Give me your hand," said the clerk, holding out his own.

"It is yours," said Savinien, swallowing the shame for Ursula's sake.
"Now speak; who made you do this thing?"

Goupil looked into the scales as it were; on one side was Savinien's
blow, on the other his hatred against Minoret. For a second he was
undecided; then a voice said to him: "You will be notary!" and he
answered:--

"Pardon and forgetfulness? Yes, on both sides, monsieur--"

"Who is persecuting Ursula?" persisted Savinien.

"Minoret. He would have liked to see her buried. Why? I can't tell you
that; but we might find out the reason. Don't mix me up in all this; I
could do nothing to help you if the others distrusted me. Instead of
annoying Ursula I will defend her; instead of serving Minoret I will
try to defeat his schemes. I live only to ruin him, to destroy him
--I'll crush him under foot, I'll dance on his carcass, I'll make his
bones into dominoes! To-morrow, every wall in Nemours and
Fontainebleau and Rouvre shall blaze with the letters, 'Minoret is a
thief!' Yes, I'll burst him like a gun--There! we're allies now by the
imprudence of that outbreak! If you choose I'll beg Mademoiselle
Mirouet's pardon and tell her I curse the madness which impelled me to
injure her. It may do her good; the abbe and the justice are both
there; but Monsieur Bongrand must promise on his honor not to injure
my career. I have a career now."

"Wait a minute;" said Savinien, bewildered by the revelation.

"Ursula, my child," he said, returning to the salon, "the author of
all your troubles is ashamed of his work; he repents and wishes to ask
your pardon in presence of these gentlemen, on condition that all be
forgotten."

"What! Goupil?" cried the abbe, the justice, and the doctor, all
together.

"Keep his secret," said Ursula, putting a finger on her lips.

Goupil heard the words, saw the gesture, and was touched.

"Mademoiselle," he said in a troubled voice, "I wish that all Nemours
could hear me tell you that a fatal passion has bewildered my brain
and led me to commit a crime punishable by the blame of honest men.
What I say now I would be willing to say everywhere, deploring the
harm done by such miserable tricks--which may have hastened your
happiness," he added, rather maliciously, "for I see that Madame de
Portenduere is with you."

"That is all very well, Goupil," said the abbe, "Mademoiselle forgives
you; but you must not forget that you came near being her murderer."

"Monsieur Bongrand," said Goupil, addressing the justice of peace. "I
shall negotiate to-night for Lecoeur's practice; I hope the reparation
I have now made will not injure me with you, and that you will back my
petition to the bar and the ministry."

Bongrand made a thoughtful inclination of his head; and Goupil left
the house to negotiate on the best terms he could for the sheriff's
practice. The others remained with Ursula and did their best to
restore the peace and tranquillity of her mind, already much relieved
by Goupil's confession.

"You see, my child, that God was not against you," said the abbe.

Minoret came home late from Rouvre. About nine o'clock he was sitting
in the Chinese pagoda digesting his dinner beside his wife, with whom
he was making plans for Desire's future. Desire had become very sedate
since entering the magistracy; he worked hard, and it was not unlikely
that he would succeed the present procureur du roi at Fontainebleau,
who, they said, was to be advanced to Melun. His parents felt that
they must find him a wife,--some poor girl belonging to an old and
noble family; he would then make his way to the magistracy of Paris.
Perhaps they could get him elected deputy from Fontainebleau, where
Zelie was proposing to pass the winter after living at Rouvre for the
summer season. Minoret, inwardly congratulating himself for having
managed his affairs so well, no longer thought or cared about Ursula,
at the very moment when the drama so heedlessly begun by him was
closing down upon him in a terrible manner.

"Monsieur de Portenduere is here and wishes to speak to you," said
Cabirolle.

"Show him in," answered Zelie.

The twilight shadows prevented Madame Minoret from noticing the sudden
pallor of her husband, who shuddered as he heard Savinien's boots on
the floor of the gallery, where the doctor's library used to be. A
vague presentiment of danger ran through the robber's veins. Savinien
entered and remaining standing, with his hat on his head, his cane in
his hand, and both hands crossed in front of him, motionless before
the husband and wife.

"I have come to ascertain, Monsieur and Madame Minoret," he said,
"your reasons for tormenting in an infamous manner a young lady who,
as the whole town knows, is to be my wife. Why have you endeavored to
tarnish her honor? why have you wished to kill her? why did you
deliver her over to Goupil's insults?--Answer!"

"How absurd you are, Monsieur Savinien," said Zelie, "to come and ask
us the meaning of a thing we think inexplicable. I bother myself as
little about Ursula as I do about the year one. Since Uncle Minoret
died I've not thought of her more than I do of my first tooth. I've
never said one word about her to Goupil, who is, moreover, a queer
rogue whom I wouldn't think of consulting about even a dog. Why don't
you speak up, Minoret? Are you going to let monsieur box your ears in
that way and accuse you of wickedness that's beneath you? As if a man
with forty-eight thousand francs a year from landed property, and a
castle fit for a prince, would stoop to such things! Get up, and don't
sit there like a wet rag!"

"I don't know what monsieur means," said Minoret in his squeaking
voice, the trembling of which was all the more noticeable because the
voice was clear. "What object could I have in persecuting the girl? I
may have said to Goupil how annoyed I was at seeing her in Nemours. My
son Desire fell in love with her, and I didn't want him to marry her,
that's all."

"Goupil has confessed everything, Monsieur Minoret."

There was a moment's silence, but it was terrible, when all three
persons examined one another. Zelie saw a nervous quiver on the heavy
face of her colossus.

"Though you are only insects," said the young nobleman, "I will make
you feel my vengeance. It is not from you, Monsieur Minoret, a man
sixty-eight years of age, but from your son that I shall seek
satisfaction for the insults offered to Mademoiselle Mirouet. The
first time he sets his foot in Nemours we shall meet. He must fight
me; he will do so, or be dishonored and never dare to show his face
again. If he does not come to Nemours I shall go to Fontainebleau, for
I will have satisfaction. It shall never be said that you were tamely
allowed to dishonor a defenceless young girl--"

"But the calumnies of a Goupil--are--not--" began Minoret.

"Do you wish me to bring him face to face with you? Believe me, you
had better hush up this affair; it lies between you and Goupil and me.
Leave it as it is; God will decide between us and when I meet your
son."

"But this sha'n't go one!" cried Zelie. "Do you suppose I'll stand by
and let Desire fight you,--a sailor whose business it is to handle
swords and guns? If you've got any cause of complaint against Minoret,
there's Minoret; take Minoret, fight Minoret! But do you think my boy,
who, by your own account, knew nothing of all this, is going to bear
the brunt of it? No, my little gentleman! somebody's teeth will pin
your legs first! Come, Minoret, don't stand staring there like a big
canary; you are in your own house, and you allow a man to keep his hat
on before your wife! I say he shall go. Now, monsieur, be off! a man's
house is his castle. I don't know what you mean with your nonsense,
but show me your heels, and if you dare touch Desire you'll have to
answer to _me_,--you and your minx Ursula."

She rang the bell violently and called to the servants.

"Remember what I have said to you," repeated Savinien to Minoret,
paying no attention to Zelie's tirade. Suspending the sword of
Damocles over their heads, he left the room.

"Now, then, Minoret," said Zelie, "you will explain to me what this
all means. A young man doesn't rush into a house and make an uproar
like that and demand the blood of a family for nothing."

"It's some mischief of that vile Goupil," said the colossus. "I
promised to help him buy a practice if he would get me the Rouvre
property cheap. I gave him ten per cent on the cost, twenty thousand
francs in a note, and I suppose he isn't satisfied."

"Yes, but why did he get up those serenades and the scandals against
Ursula?"

"He wanted to marry her."

"A girl without a penny! the sly thing! Now Minoret, you are telling
me lies, and you are too much of a fool, my son, to make me believe
them. There is something under all this, and you are going to tell me
what it is."

"There's nothing."

"Nothing? I tell you you lie, and I shall find it out."

"Do let me alone!"

"I'll turn the faucet of that fountain of venom, Goupil--whom you're
afraid of--and we'll see who gets the best of it then."

"Just as you choose."

"I know very well it will be as I choose! and what I choose first and
foremost is that no harm shall come to Desire. If anything happens to
him, mark you, I'll do something that may send me to the scaffold--and
you, you haven't any feeling about him--"

A quarrel thus begun between Minoret and his wife was sure not to
end without a long and angry strife. So at the moment of his
self-satisfaction the foolish robber found his inward struggle against
himself and against Ursula revived by his own fault, and complicated
with a new and terrible adversary. The next day, when he left the
house early to find Goupil and try to appease him with additional
money, the walls were already placarded with the words: "Minoret is a
thief." All those whom he met commiserated him and asked him who was
the author of the anonymous placard. Fortunately for him, everybody
made allowance for his equivocal replies by reflecting on his utter
stupidity; fools get more advantage from their weakness than able men
from their strength. The world looks on at a great man battling
against fate, and does not help him, but it supplies the capital of a
grocer who may fail and lose all. Why? Because men like to feel
superior in protecting an incapable, and are displeased at not feeling
themselves the equal of a man of genius. A clever man would have been
lost in public estimation had he stammered, as Minoret did, evasive
and foolish answers with a frightened air. Zelie sent her servants to
efface the vindictive words wherever they were found; but the effect
of them on Minoret's conscience still remained.

The result of his interview with his assailant was soon apparent.
Though Goupil had concluded his bargain with the sheriff the night
before, he now impudently refused to fulfil it.

"My dear Lecoeur," he said, "I am unexpectedly enabled to buy up
Monsieur Dionis's practice; I am therefore in a position to help you
to sell to others. Tear up the agreement; it's only the loss of two
stamps,--here are seventy centimes."

Lecoeur was too much afraid of Goupil to complain. All Nemours knew
before night that Minoret had given Dionis security to enable Goupil
to buy his practice. The latter wrote to Savinien denying his charges
against Minoret, and telling the young nobleman that in his new
position he was forbidden by the rules of the supreme court, and also
by his respect for law, to fight a duel. But he warned Savinien to
treat him well in future; assuring him he was a capital boxer, and
would break his leg at the first offence.

The walls of Nemours were cleared of the inscription; but the quarrel
between Minoret and his wife went on; and Savinien maintained a
threatening silence. Ten days after these events the marriage of
Mademoiselle Massin, the elder, to the future notary was bruited about
the town. Mademoiselle Massin had a dowry of eighty thousand francs
and her own peculiar ugliness; Goupil had his deformities and his
practice; the union therefore seemed suitable and probable. One
evening, towards midnight, two unknown men seized Goupil in the street
as he was leaving Massin's house, gave him a sound beating, and
disappeared. The notary kept the matter a profound secret, and even
contradicted an old woman who saw the scene from her window and
thought that she recognized him.

These great little events were carefully studied by Bongrand, who
became convinced that Goupil held some mysterious power over Minoret,
and he determined to find out its cause.



                            CHAPTER XIX

                            APPARITIONS

Though the public opinion of the little town recognized Ursula's
perfect innocence, she recovered slowly. While in a state of bodily
exhaustion, which left her mind and spirit free, she became the medium
of phenomena the effects of which were astounding, and of a nature to
challenge science, if science had been brought into contact with them.

Ten days after Madame de Portenduere's visit Ursula had a dream, with
all the characteristics of a supernatural vision, as much in its moral
aspects as in the, so to speak, physical circumstances. Her godfather
appeared to her and made a sign that she should come with him. She
dressed herself and followed him through the darkness to their former
house in the Rue des Bourgeois, where she found everything precisely
as it was on the day of her godfather's death. The old man wore the
clothes that were on him the evening before his death. His face was
pale, his movements caused no sound; nevertheless, Ursula heard his
voice distinctly, though it was feeble and as if repeated by a distant
echo. The doctor conducted his child as far as the Chinese pagoda,
where he made her lift the marble top of the little Boule cabinet just
as she had raised it on the day of his death; but instead of finding
nothing there she saw the letter her godfather had told her to fetch.
She opened it and read both the letter addressed to herself and the
will in favor of Savinien. The writing, as she afterwards told the
abbe, shone as if traced by sunbeams--"it burned my eyes," she said.
When she looked at her uncle to thank him she saw the old benevolent
smile upon his discolored lips. Then, in a feeble voice, but still
clearly, he told her to look at Minoret, who was listening in the
corridor to what he said to her; and next, slipping the lock of the
library door with his knife, and taking the papers from the study.
With his right hand the old man seized his goddaughter and obliged her
to walk at the pace of death and follow Minoret to his own house.
Ursula crossed the town, entered the post house and went into Zelie's
old room, where the spectre showed her Minoret unfolding the letters,
reading them and burning them.

"He could not," said Ursula, telling her dream to the abbe, "light the
first two matches, but the third took fire; he burned the papers and
buried their remains in the ashes. Then my godfather brought me back
to our house, and I saw Minoret-Levrault slipping into the library,
where he took from the third volume of Pandects three certificates of
twelve thousand francs each; also, from the preceding volume, a number
of banknotes. 'He is,' said my godfather, 'the cause of all the
trouble which has brought you to the verge of the tomb; but God wills
that you shall yet be happy. You will not die now; you will marry
Savinien. If you love me, and if you love Savinien, I charge you to
demand your fortune from my nephew. Swear it.'"

Resplendent as though transfigured, the spectre had so powerful an
influence on Ursula's soul that she promised all her uncle asked,
hoping to put an end to the nightmare. She woke suddenly and found
herself standing in the middle of her bedroom, facing her godfather's
portrait, which had been placed there during her illness. She went
back to bed and fell asleep after much agitation, and on waking again
she remembered all the particulars of this singular vision; but she
dared not speak of it. Her judgment and her delicacy both shrank from
revealing a dream the end and object of which was her pecuniary
benefit. She attributed the vision, not unnaturally, to remarks made
by La Bougival the preceding evening, when the old woman talked of the
doctor's intended liberality and of her own convictions on that
subject. But the dream returned, with aggravated circumstances which
made it fearful to the poor girl. On the second occasion the icy hand
of her godfather was laid upon her shoulder, causing her the most
horrible distress, an indefinable sensation. "You must obey the dead,"
he said, in a sepulchral voice. "Tears," said Ursula, relating her
dreams, "fell from his white, wide-open eyes."

The third time the vision came the dead man took her by the braids of
her long hair and showed her the post master talking with Goupil and
promising money if he would remove Ursula to Sens. Ursula then decided
to relate the three dreams to the Abbe Chaperon.

"Monsieur l'abbe," she said, "do you believe that the dead reappear?"

"My child, sacred history, profane history, and modern history, have
much testimony to that effect; but the Church has never made it an
article of faith; and as for science, in France science laughs at the
idea."

"What do _you_ believe?"

"That the power of God is infinite."

"Did my godfather ever speak to you of such matters?"

"Yes, often. He had entirely changed his views of them. His
conversion, as he told me at least twenty times, dated from the day
when a woman in Paris heard you praying for him in Nemours, and saw
the red dot you made against Saint-Savinien's day in your almanac."

Ursula uttered a piercing cry, which alarmed the priest; she
remembered the scene when, on returning to Nemours, her godfather read
her soul, and took away the almanac.

"If that is so," she said, "then my visions are possibly true. My
godfather has appeared to me, as Jesus appeared to his disciples. He
was wrapped in yellow light; he spoke to me. I beg you to say a mass
for the repose of his soul and to implore the help of God that these
visions may cease, for they are destroying me."

She then related the three dreams with all their details, insisting on
the truth of what she said, on her own freedom of action, on the
somnambulism of her inner being, which, she said, detached itself from
her body at the bidding of the spectre and followed him with perfect
ease. The thing that most surprised the abbe, to whom Ursula's
veracity was known, was the exact description which she gave of the
bedroom formerly occupied by Zelie at the post house, which Ursula had
never entered and about which no one had ever spoken to her.

"By what means can these singular apparitions take place?" asked
Ursula. "What did my godfather think?"

"Your godfather, my dear child, argued my hypothesis. He recognized
the possibility of a spiritual world, a world of ideas. If ideas are
of man's creation, if they subsist in a life of their own, they must
have forms which our external senses cannot grasp, but which are
perceptible to our inward senses when brought under certain
conditions. Thus your godfather's ideas might so enfold you that you
would clothe them with his bodily presence. Then, if Minoret really
committed those actions, they too resolve themselves into ideas; for
all action is the result of many ideas. Now, if ideas live and move in
a spiritual world, your spirit must be able to perceive them if it
penetrates that world. These phenomena are not more extraordinary than
those of memory; and those of memory are quite as amazing and
inexplicable as those of the perfume of plants--which are perhaps the
ideas of the plants."

"How you enlarge and magnify the world!" exclaimed Ursula. "But to
hear the dead speak, to see them walk, act--do you think it possible?"

"In Sweden," replied the abbe, "Swedenborg has proved by evidence that
he communicated with the dead. But come with me into the library and
you shall read in the life of the famous Duc de Montmorency, beheaded
at Toulouse, and who certainly was not a man to invent foolish tales,
an adventure very like yours, which happened a hundred years earlier
at Cardan."

Ursula and the abbe went upstairs, and the good man hunted up a little
edition in 12mo, printed in Paris in 1666, of the "History of Henri de
Montmorency," written by a priest of that period who had known the
prince.

"Read it," said the abbe, giving Ursula the volume, which he had
opened at the 175th page. "Your godfather often re-read that passage,
--and see! here's a little of his snuff in it."

"And he not here!" said Ursula, taking the volume to read the passage.

  "The siege of Privat was remarkable for the loss of a great number
  of officers. Two brigadier-generals died there--namely, the
  Marquis d'Uxelles, of a wound received at the outposts, and the
  Marquis de Portes, from a musket-shot through the head. The day
  the latter was killed he was to have been made a marshal of
  France. About the moment when the marquis expired the Duc de
  Montmorency, who was sleeping in his tent, was awakened by a voice
  like that of the marquis bidding him farewell. The affection he
  felt for a friend so near made him attribute the illusion of this
  dream to the force of his own imagination; and owing to the
  fatigues of the night, which he had spent, according to his
  custom, in the trenches, he fell asleep once more without any
  sense of dread. But the same voice disturbed him again, and the
  phantom obliged him to wake up and listen to the same words it had
  said as it first passed. The duke then recollected that he had
  heard the philosopher Pitrat discourse on the possibility of the
  separation of the soul from the body, and that he and the marquis
  had agreed that the first who died should bid adieu to the other.
  On which, not being able to restrain his fears as to the truth of
  this warning, he sent a servant to the marquis's quarters, which
  were distant from him. But before the man could get back, the king
  sent to inform the duke, by persons fitted to console him, of the
  great loss he had sustained.

  "I leave learned men to discuss the cause of this event, which I
  have frequently heard the Duc de Montmorency relate: I think that
  the truth and singularity of the fact itself ought to be recorded
  and preserved."

"If all this is so," said Ursula, "what ought I do do?"

"My child," said the abbe, "it concerns matters so important, and
which may prove so profitable to you, that you ought to keep
absolutely silent about it. Now that you have confided to me the
secret of these apparitions perhaps they may not return. Besides, you
are now strong enough to come to church; well, then, come to-morrow
and thank God and pray to him for the repose of your godfather's soul.
Feel quite sure that you have entrusted your secret to prudent hands."

"If you knew how afraid I am to go to sleep,--what glances my
godfather gives me! The last time he caught hold of my dress--I awoke
with my face all covered with tears."

"Be at peace; he will not come again," said the priest.

Without losing a moment the Abbe Chaperon went straight to Minoret and
asked for a few moments interview in the Chinese pagoda, requesting
that they might be entirely alone.

"Can any one hear us?" he asked.

"No one," replied Minoret.

"Monsieur, my character must be known to you," said the abbe,
fastening a gentle but attentive look on Minoret's face. "I have to
speak to you of serious and extraordinary matters, which concern you,
and about which you may be sure that I shall keep the profoundest
secrecy; but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than give you
this information. While your uncle lived, there stood there," said the
priest, pointing to a certain spot in the room, "a small buffet made
by Boule, with a marble top" (Minoret turned livid), "and beneath the
marble your uncle placed a letter for Ursula--" The abbe then went on
to relate, without omitting the smallest circumstance, Minoret's
conduct to Minoret himself. When the last post master heard the detail
of the two matches refusing to light he felt his hair begin to writhe
on his skull.

"Who invented such nonsense?" he said, in a strangled voice, when the
tale ended.

"The dead man himself."

This answer made Minoret tremble, for he himself had dreamed of the
doctor.

"God is very good, Monsieur l'abbe, to do miracles for me," he said,
danger inspiring him to make the sole jest of his life.

"All that God does is natural," replied the priest.

"Your phantoms don't frighten me," said the colossus, recovering his
coolness.

"I did not come to frighten you, for I shall never speak of this to
any one in the world," said the abbe. "You alone know the truth. The
matter is between you and God."

"Come now, Monsieur l'abbe, do you really think me capable of such a
horrible abuse of confidence?"

"I believe only in crimes which are confessed to me, and of which the
sinner repents," said the priest, in an apostolic tone.

"Crime?" cried Minoret.

"A crime frightful in its consequences."

"What consequences?"

"In the fact that it escapes human justice. The crimes which are not
expiated here below will be punished in another world. God himself
avenges innocence."

"Do you think God concerns himself with such trifles?"

"If he did not see the worlds in all their details at a glance, as you
take a landscape into your eye, he would not be God."

"Monsieur l'abbe, will you give me your word of honor that you have
had these facts from my uncle?"

"Your uncle has appeared three times to Ursula and has told them and
repeated them to her. Exhausted by such visions she revealed them to
me privately; she considers them so devoid of reason that she will
never speak of them. You may make yourself easy on that point."

"I am easy on all points, Monsieur Chaperon."

"I hope you are," said the old priest. "Even if I considered these
warnings absurd, I should still feel bound to inform you of them,
considering the singular nature of the details. You are an honest man,
and you have obtained your handsome fortune in too legal a way to wish
to add to it by theft. Besides, you are an almost primitive man, and
you would be tortured by remorse. We have within us, be we savage or
civilized, the sense of what is right, and this will not permit us to
enjoy in peace ill-gotten gains acquired against the laws of the
society in which we live,--for well-constituted societies are modeled
on the system God has ordained for the universe. In this respect
societies have a divine origin. Man does not originate ideas, he
invents no form; he answers to the eternal relations that surround him
on all sides. Therefore, see what happens! Criminals going to the
scaffold, and having it in their power to carry their secret with
them, are compelled by the force of some mysterious power to make
confessions before their heads are taken off. Therefore, Monsieur
Minoret, if your mind is at ease, I go my way satisfied."

Minoret was so stupefied that he allowed the abbe to find his own way
out. When he thought himself alone he flew into the fury of a choleric
man; the strangest blasphemies escaped his lips, in which Ursula's
name was mingled with odious language.

"Why, what has she done to you?" cried Zelie, who had slipped in on
tiptoe after seeing the abbe out of the house.

For the first and only time in his life, Minoret, drunk with anger and
driven to extremities by his wife's reiterated questions, turned upon
her and beat her so violently that he was obliged, when she fell
half-dead on the floor, to take her in his arms and put her to bed
himself, ashamed of his act. He was taken ill and the doctor bled him
twice; when he appeared again in the streets everybody noticed a great
change in him. He walked alone, and often roamed the town as though
uneasy. When any one addressed him he seemed preoccupied in his mind,
he who had never before had two ideas in his head. At last, one evening,
he went up to Monsieur Bongrand in the Grand'Rue, the latter being on his
way to take Ursula to Madame de Portenduere's, where the whist parties
had begun again.

"Monsieur Bongrand, I have something important to say to my cousin,"
he said, taking the justice by the arm, "and I am very glad you should
be present, for you can advise her."

They found Ursula studying; she rose, with a cold and dignified air,
as soon as she saw Minoret.

"My child, Monsieur Minoret wants to speak to you on a matter of
business," said Bongrand. "By the bye, don't forget to give me your
certificates; I shall go to Paris in the morning and will draw your
dividend and La Bougival's."

"Cousin," said Minoret, "our uncle accustomed you to more luxury than
you have now."

"We can be very happy with very little money," she replied.

"I thought money might help your happiness," continued Minoret, "and I
have come to offer you some, out of respect for the memory of my
uncle."

"You had a natural way of showing respect for him," said Ursula,
sternly; "you could have left his house as it was, and allowed me to
buy it; instead of that you put it at a high price, hoping to find
some hidden treasure in it."

"But," said Minoret, evidently troubled, "if you had twelve thousand
francs a year you would be in a position to marry well."

"I have not got them."

"But suppose I give them to you, on condition of your buying an estate
in Brittany near Madame de Portenduere,--you could then marry her
son."

"Monsieur Minoret," said Ursula, "I have no claim to that money, and I
cannot accept it from you. We are scarcely relations, still less are
we friends. I have suffered too much from calumny to give a handle for
evil-speaking. What have I done to deserve that money? What reason
have you to make me such a present? These questions, which I have a
right to ask, persons will answer as they see fit; some would consider
your gift the reparation of a wrong, and, as such, I choose not to
accept it. Your uncle did not bring me up to ignoble feelings. I can
accept nothing except from friends, and I have no friendship for you."

"Then you refuse?" cried the colossus, into whose head the idea had
never entered that a fortune could be rejected.

"I refuse," said Ursula.

"But what grounds have you for offering Mademoiselle Ursula such a
fortune?" asked Bongrand, looking fixedly at Minoret. "You have an
idea--have you an idea?--"

"Well, yes, the idea of getting her out of Nemours, so that my son
will leave me in peace; he is in love with her and wants to marry
her."

"Well, we'll see about it," said Bongrand, settling his spectacles.
"Give us time to think it over."

He walked home with Minoret, applauding the solicitude shown by the
father for his son's interests, and slightly blaming Ursula for her
hasty decision. As soon as Minoret was within his own gate, Bongrand
went to the post house, borrowed a horse and cabriolet, and started
for Fontainebleau, where he went to see the deputy procureur, and was
told that he was spending the evening at the house of the sub-prefect.
Bongrand, delighted, followed him there. Desire was playing whist with
the wife of the procureur du roi, the wife of the sub-prefect, and the
colonel of the regiment in garrison.

"I come to bring you some good news," said Bongrand to Desire; "you
love your cousin Ursula, and the marriage can be arranged."

"I love Ursula Mirouet!" cried Desire, laughing. "Where did you get
that idea? I do remember seeing her sometimes at the late Doctor
Minoret's; she certainly is a beauty; but she is dreadfully pious. I
certainly took notice of her charms, but I must say I never troubled
my head seriously for that rather insipid little blonde," he added,
smiling at the sub-prefect's wife (who was a piquante brunette--to use
a term of the last century). "You are dreaming, my dear Monsieur
Bongrand; I thought every one knew that my father was a lord of a
manor, with a rent roll of forty-five thousand francs a year from
lands around his chateau at Rouvre,--good reasons why I should not
love the goddaughter of my late great-uncle. If I were to marry a girl
without a penny these ladies would consider me a fool."

"Have you never tormented your father to let you marry Ursula?"

"Never."

"You hear that, monsieur?" said the justice to the procureur du roi,
who had been listening to the conversation, leading him aside into the
recess of a window, where they remained in conversation for a quarter
of an hour.

An hour later Bongrand was back in Nemours, at Ursula's house, whence
he sent La Bougival to Minoret to beg his attendance. The colossus
came at once.

"Mademoiselle--" began Bongrand, addressing Minoret as he entered the
room.

"Accepts?" cried Minoret, interrupting him.

"No, not yet," replied Bongrand, fingering his glasses. "I had
scruples as to your son's feelings; for Ursula has been much tried
lately about a supposed lover. We know the importance of tranquillity.
Can you swear to me that your son truly loves her and that you have no
other intention than to preserve our dear Ursula from any further
Goupilisms?"

"Oh, I'll swear to that," cried Minoret.

"Stop, papa Minoret," said the justice, taking one hand from the
pocket of his trousers to slap Minoret on the shoulder (the colossus
trembled); "Don't swear falsely."

"Swear falsely?"

"Yes, either you or your son, who has just sworn at Fontainebleau, in
presence of four persons and the procureur du roi, that he has never
even thought of his cousin Ursula. You have other reasons for offering
this fortune. I saw you were inventing that tale, and went myself to
Fontainebleau to question your son."

Minoret was dumbfounded at his own folly.

"But where's the harm, Monsieur Bongrand, in proposing to a young
relative to help on a marriage which seems to be for her happiness,
and to invent pretexts to conquer her reluctance to accept the money."

Minoret, whose danger suggested to him an excuse which was almost
admissible, wiped his forehead, wet with perspiration.

"You know the cause of my refusal," said Ursula; "and I request you
never to come here again. Though Monsieur de Portenduere has not told
me his reason, I know that he feels such contempt for you, such
dislike even, that I cannot receive you into my house. My happiness is
my only fortune,--I do not blush to say so; I shall not risk it.
Monsieur de Portenduere is only waiting for my majority to marry me."

"Then the old saw that 'Money does all' is a lie," said Minoret,
looking at the justice of peace, whose observing eyes annoyed him so
much.

He rose and left the house, but, once outside, he found the air as
oppressive as in the little salon.

"There must be an end put to this," he said to himself as he
re-entered his own home.

When Ursula came down, bring her certificates and those of La
Bougival, she found Monsieur Bongrand walking up and down the salon
with great strides.

"Have you no idea what the conduct of that huge idiot means?" he said.

"None that I can tell," she replied.

Bongrand looked at her with inquiring surprise.

"Then we have the same idea," he said. "Here, keep the number of your
certificates, in case I lose them; you should always take that
precaution."

Bongrand himself wrote the number of the two certificates, hers and
that of La Bougival, and gave them to her.

"Adieu, my child, I shall be gone two days, but you will see me on the
third."

That night the apparition appeared to Ursula in a singular manner. She
thought her bed was in the cemetery of Nemours, and that her uncle's
grave was at the foot of it. The white stone, on which she read the
inscription, opened, like the cover of an oblong album. She uttered a
piercing cry, but the doctor's spectre slowly rose. First she saw his
yellow head, with its fringe of white hair, which shone as if
surmounted by a halo. Beneath the bald forehead the eyes were like two
gleams of light; the dead man rose as if impelled by some superior
force or will. Ursula's body trembled; her flesh was like a burning
garment, and there was (as she subsequently said) another self moving
within her bodily presence. "Mercy!" she cried, "mercy, godfather!"
"It is too late," he said, in the voice of death,--to use the poor
girl's own expression when she related this new dream to the abbe. "He
has been warned; he has paid no heed to the warning. The days of his
son are numbered. If he does not confess all and restore what he has
taken within a certain time he must lose his son, who will die a
violent and horrible death. Let him know this." The spectre pointed to
a line of figures which gleamed upon the side of the tomb as if
written with fire, and said, "There is his doom." When her uncle lay
down again in his grave Ursula heard the sound of the stone falling
back into its place, and immediately after, in the distance, a strange
sound of horses and the cries of men.

The next day Ursula was prostrate. She could not rise, so terribly had
the dream overcome her. She begged her nurse to find the Abbe Chaperon
and bring him to her. The good priest came as soon as he had said
mass, but he was not surprised at Ursula's revelation. He believed the
robbery had been committed, and no longer tried to explain to himself
the abnormal condition of his "little dreamer." He left Ursula at once
and went directly to Minoret's.

"Monsieur l'abbe," said Zelie, "my husband's temper is so soured I
don't know what he mightn't do. Until now he's been a child; but for
the last two months he's not the same man. To get angry enough to
strike me--me, so gentle! There must be something dreadful the matter
to change him like that. You'll find him among the rocks; he spends
all his time there,--doing what, I'd like to know?"

In spite of the heat (it was then September, 1836), the abbe crossed
the canal and took a path which led to the base of one of the rocks,
where he saw Minoret.

"You are greatly troubled, Monsieur Minoret," said the priest going up
to him. "You belong to me because you suffer. Unhappily, I come to
increase your pain. Ursula had a terrible dream last night. Your uncle
lifted the stone from his grave and came forth to prophecy a great
disaster in your family. I certainly am not here to frighten you; but
you ought to know what he said--"

"I can't be easy anywhere, Monsieur Chaperon, not even among these
rocks, and I'm sure I don't want to know anything that is going on in
another world."

"Then I will leave you, monsieur; I did not take this hot walk for
pleasure," said the abbe, mopping his forehead.

"Well, what do you want to say?" demanded Minoret.

"You are threatened with the loss of your son. If the dead man told
things that you alone know, one must needs tremble when he tells
things that no one can know till they happen. Make restitution, I say,
make restitution. Don't damn your soul for a little money."

"Restitution of what?"

"The fortune the doctor intended for Ursula. You took those three
certificates--I know it now. You began by persecuting that poor girl,
and you end by offering her a fortune; you have stumbled into lies,
you have tangled yourself up in this net, and you are taking false
steps every day. You are very clumsy and unskilful; your accomplice
Goupil has served you ill; he simply laughs at you. Make haste and
clear your mind, for you are watched by intelligent and penetrating
eyes,--those of Ursula's friends. Make restitution! and if you do not
save your son (who may not really be threatened), you will save your
soul, and you will save your honor. Do you believe that in a society
like ours, in a little town like this, where everybody's eyes are
everywhere, and all things are guessed and all things are known, you
can long hide a stolen fortune? Come, my son, an innocent man wouldn't
have let me talk so long."

"Go to the devil!" cried Minoret. "I don't know what you _all_ mean by
persecuting me. I prefer these stones--they leave me in peace."

"Farewell, then; I have warned you. Neither the poor girl nor I have
said a single word about this to any living person. But take care
--there is a man who has his eye upon you. May God have pity upon you!"

The abbe departed; presently he turned back to look at Minoret. The
man was holding his head in his hands as if it troubled him; he was,
in fact, partly crazy. In the first place, he had kept the three
certificates because he did not know what to do with them. He dared
not draw the money himself for fear it should be noticed; he did not
wish to sell them, and was still trying to find some way of
transferring the certificates. In this horrible state of uncertainty
he bethought him of acknowledging all to his wife and getting her
advice. Zelie, who always managed affairs for him so well, she could
get him out of his troubles. The three-per-cent Funds were now selling
at eighty. Restitution! why, that meant, with arrearages, giving up a
million! Give up a million, when there was no one who could know that
he had taken it!--

So Minoret continued through September and a part of October
irresolute and a prey to his torturing thoughts. To the great surprise
of the little town he grew thin and haggard.



                            CHAPTER XX

                             REMORSE

An alarming circumstance hastened the confession which Minoret was
inclined to make to Zelie; the sword of Damocles began to move above
their heads. Towards the middle of October Monsieur and Madame Minoret
received from their son Desire the following letter:--

  My dear Mother,--If I have not been to see you since vacation, it
  is partly because I have been on duty during the absence of my
  chief, but also because I knew that Monsieur de Portenduere was
  waiting my arrival at Nemours, to pick a quarrel with me. Tired,
  perhaps, of seeing his vengeance on our family delayed, the
  viscount came to Fontainebleau, where he had appointed one of his
  Parisian friends to meet him, having already obtained the help of
  the Vicomte de Soulanges commanding the troop of cavalry here in
  garrison.

  He called upon me, very politely, accompanied by the two
  gentlemen, and told me that my father was undoubtedly the
  instigator of the malignant persecutions against Ursula Mirouet,
  his future wife; he gave me proofs, and told me of Goupil's
  confession before witnesses. He also told me of my father's
  conduct, first in refusing to pay Goupil the price agreed on for
  his wicked invention, and next, out of fear of Goupil's malignity,
  going security to Monsieur Dionis for the price of his practice
  which Goupil is to have.

  The viscount, not being able to fight a man sixty-seven years of
  age, and being determined to have satisfaction for the insults
  offered to Ursula, demanded it formally of me. His determination,
  having been well-weighed and considered, could not be shaken. If I
  refused, he was resolved to meet me in society before persons
  whose esteem I value, and insult me openly. In France, a coward is
  unanimously scorned. Besides, the motives for demanding reparation
  should be explained by honorable men. He said he was sorry to
  resort to such extremities. His seconds declared it would be wiser
  in me to arrange a meeting in the usual manner among men of honor,
  so that Ursula Mirouet might not be known as the cause of the
  quarrel; to avoid all scandal it was better to make a journey to
  the nearest frontier. In short, my seconds met his yesterday, and
  they unanimously agreed that I owed him reparation. A week from
  to-day I leave for Geneva with my two friends. Monsieur de
  Portenduere, Monsieur de Soulanges, and Monsieur de Trailles will
  meet me there.

  The preliminaries of the duel are settled; we shall fight with
  pistols; each fires three times, and after that, no matter what
  happens, the affair terminates. To keep this degrading matter from
  public knowledge (for I find it impossible to justify my father's
  conduct) I do not go to see you now, because I dread the violence
  of the emotion to which you would yield and which would not be
  seemly. If I am to make my way in the world I must conform to the
  rules of society. If the son of a viscount has a dozen reasons for
  fighting a duel the son of a post master has a hundred. I shall
  pass the night in Nemours on my way to Geneva, and I will bid you
  good-by then.

After the reading of this letter a scene took place between Zelie and
Minoret which ended in the latter confessing the theft and relating
all the circumstances and the strange scenes connected with it, even
Ursula's dreams. The million fascinated Zelie quite as much as it did
Minoret.

"You stay quietly here," Zelie said to her husband, without the
slightest remonstrance against his folly. "I'll manage the whole
thing. We'll keep the money, and Desire shall not fight a duel."

Madame Minoret put on her bonnet and shawl and carried her son's
letter to Ursula, whom she found alone, as it was about midday. In
spite of her assurance Zelie was discomfited by the cold look which
the young girl gave her. But she took herself to task for her
cowardice and assumed an easy air.

"Here, Mademoiselle Mirouet, do me the kindness to read that and tell
me what you think of it," she cried, giving Ursula her son's letter.

Ursula went through various conflicting emotions as she read the
letter, which showed her how truly she was loved and what care
Savinien took of the honor of the woman who was to be his wife; but
she had too much charity and true religion to be willing to be the
cause of death or suffering to her most cruel enemy.

"I promise, madame, to prevent the duel; you may feel perfectly easy,
--but I must request you to leave me this letter."

"My dear little angel, can we not come to some better arrangement.
Monsieur Minoret and I have acquired property about Rouvre,--a really
regal castle, which gives us forty-eight thousand francs a year; we
shall give Desire twenty-four thousand a year which we have in the
Funds; in all, seventy thousand francs a year. You will admit that
there are not many better matches than he. You are an ambitious girl,
--and quite right too," added Zelie, seeing Ursula's quick gesture of
denial; "I have therefore come to ask your hand for Desire. You will
bear your godfather's name, and that will honor it. Desire, as you
must have seen, is a handsome fellow; he is very much thought of at
Fontainebleau, and he will soon be procureur du roi himself. You are a
coaxing girl and can easily persuade him to live in Paris. We will
give you a fine house there; you will shine; you will play a
distinguished part; for, with seventy thousand francs a year and the
salary of an office, you and Desire can enter the highest society.
Consult your friends; you'll see what they tell you."

"I need only consult my heart, madame."

"Ta, ta, ta! now don't talk to me about that little lady-killer
Savinien. You'd pay too high a price for his name, and for that little
moustache curled up at the points like two hooks, and his black hair.
How do you expect to manage on seven thousand francs a year, with a
man who made two hundred thousand francs of debt in two years? Besides
--though this is a thing you don't know yet--all men are alike; and
without flattering myself too much, I may say that my Desire is the
equal of a king's son."

"You forget, madame, the danger your son is in at this moment; which
can, perhaps, be averted only by Monsieur de Portenduere's desire to
please me. If he knew that you had made me these unworthy proposals
that danger might not be escaped. Besides, let me tell you, madame,
that I shall be far happier in the moderate circumstances to which you
allude than I should be in the opulence with which you are trying to
dazzle me. For reasons hitherto unknown, but which will yet be made
known, Monsieur Minoret, by persecuting me in an odious manner,
strengthened the affection that exists between Monsieur de Portenduere
and myself--which I can now admit because his mother has blessed it. I
will also tell you that this affection, sanctioned and legitimate, is
life itself to me. No destiny, however brilliant, however lofty, could
make me change. I love without the possibility of changing. It would
therefore be a crime if I married a man to whom I could take nothing
but a soul that is Savinien's. But, madame, since you force me to be
explicit, I must tell you that even if I did not love Monsieur de
Portenduere I could not bring myself to bear the troubles and joys of
life in the company of your son. If Monsieur Savinien made debts, you
have often paid those of your son. Our characters have neither the
similarities nor the differences which enable two persons to live
together without bitterness. Perhaps I should not have towards him the
forbearance a wife owes to her husband; I should then be a trial to
him. Pray cease to think of an alliance of which I count myself quite
unworthy, and which I fell I can decline without pain to you; for with
the great advantages you name to me, you cannot fail to find some girl
of better station, more wealth, and more beauty than mine."

"Will you swear to me," said Zelie, "to prevent these young men from
taking that journey and fighting that duel?"

"It will be, I foresee, the greatest sacrifice that Monsieur de
Portenduere can make to me, but I shall tell him that my bridal crown
must have no blood upon it."

"Well, I thank you, cousin, and I can only hope you will be happy."

"And I, madame, sincerely wish that you may realize all your
expectations for the future of your son."

These words struck a chill to the heart of the mother, who suddenly
remembered the predictions of Ursula's last dream; she stood still,
her small eyes fixed on Ursula's face, so white, so pure, so beautiful
in her mourning dress, for Ursula had risen too to hasten her
so-called cousin's departure.

"Do you believe in dreams?" said Zelie.

"I suffer from them too much not to do so."

"But if you do--" began Zelie.

"Adieu, madame," exclaimed Ursula, bowing to Madame Minoret as she
heard the abbe's entering step.

The priest was surprised to find Madame Minoret with Ursula. The
uneasiness depicted on the thin and wrinkled face of the former post
mistress induced him to take note of the two women.

"Do you believe in spirits?" Zelie asked him.

"What do you believe in?" he answered, smiling.

"They are all sly," thought Zelie,--"every one of them! They want to
deceive us. That old priest and the old justice and that young scamp
Savinien have got some plan in their heads. Dreams! no more dreams
than there are hairs on the palm of my hand."

With two stiff, curt bows she left the room.

"I know why Savinien went to Fontainebleau," said Ursula to the abbe,
telling him about the duel and begging him to use his influence to
prevent it.

"Did Madame Minoret offer you her son's hand?" asked the abbe.

"Yes."

"Minoret has no doubt confessed his crime to her," added the priest.

Monsieur Bongrand, who came in at this moment, was told of the step
taken by Zelie, whose hatred to Ursula was well known to him. He
looked at the abbe as if to say: "Come out, I want to speak to you of
Ursula without her hearing me."

"Savinien must be told that you refused eighty thousand francs a year
and the dandy of Nemours," he said aloud.

"Is it, then, a sacrifice?" she answered, laughing. "Are there
sacrifices when one truly loves? Is it any merit to refuse the son of
a man we all despise? Others may make virtues of their dislikes, but
that ought not to be the morality of a girl brought up by a de Jordy,
and the abbe, and my dear godfather," she said, looking up at his
portrait.

Bongrand took Ursula's hand and kissed it.

"Do you know what Madame Minoret came about?" said the justice as soon
as they were in the street.

"What?" asked the priest, looking at Bongrand with an air that seemed
merely curious.

"She had some plan for restitution."

"Then you think--" began the abbe.

"I don't think, I know; I have the certainty--and see there!"

So saying, Bongrand pointed to Minoret, who was coming towards them on
his way home.

"When I was a lawyer in the criminal courts," continued Bongrand, "I
naturally had many opportunities to study remorse; but I have never
seen any to equal that of this man. What gives him that flaccidity,
that pallor of the cheeks where the skin was once as tight as a drum
and bursting with the good sound health of a man without a care? What
has put those black circles round his eyes and dulled their rustic
vivacity? Did you ever expect to see lines of care on that forehead?
Who would have supposed that the brain of that colossus could be
excited? The man has felt his heart! I am a judge of remorse, just as
you are a judge of repentance, my dear abbe. That which I have
hitherto observed has developed in men who were awaiting punishment,
or enduring it to get quits with the world; they were either resigned,
or breathing vengeance; but here is remorse without expiation, remorse
pure and simple, fastening on its prey and rending him."

The judge stopped Minoret and said: "Do you know that Mademoiselle
Mirouet has refused your son's hand?"

"But," interposed the abbe, "do not be uneasy; she will prevent the
duel."

"Ah, then my wife succeeded?" said Minoret. "I am very glad, for it
nearly killed me."

"You are, indeed, so changed that you are no longer like yourself,"
remarked Bongrand.

Minoret looked alternately at the two men to see if the priest had
betrayed the dreams; but the abbe's face was unmoved, expressing only
a calm sadness which reassured the guilty man.

"And it is the more surprising," went on Monsieur Bongrand, "because
you ought to be filled with satisfaction. You are lord of Rouvre and
all those farms and mills and meadows and--with your investments in
the Funds, you have an income of one hundred thousand francs--"

"I haven't anything in the Funds," cried Minoret, hastily.

"Pooh," said Bongrand; "this is just as it was about your son's love
for Ursula,--first he denied it, and now he asks her in marriage.
After trying to kill Ursula with sorrow you now want her for a
daughter-in-law. My good friend, you have got some secret in your
pouch."

Minoret tried to answer; he searched for words and could find nothing
better than:--

"You're very queer, monsieur. Good-day, gentlemen"; and he turned with
a slow step into the Rue des Bourgeois.

"He has stolen the fortune of our poor Ursula," said Bongrand, "but
how can we ever find the proof?"

"God may--"

"God has put into us the sentiment that is now appealing to that man;
but all that is merely what is called 'presumptive,' and human justice
requires something more."

The abbe maintained the silence of a priest. As often happens in
similar circumstances, he thought much oftener than he wished to think
of the robbery, now almost admitted by Minoret, and of Savinien's
happiness, delayed only by Ursula's loss of fortune--for the old lady
had privately owned to him that she knew she had done wrong in not
consenting to the marriage in the doctor's lifetime.



                            CHAPTER XXI

             SHOWING HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO STEAL THAT
                   WHICH SEEMS VERY EASILY STOLEN

The following day, as the abbe was leaving the altar after saying
mass, a thought struck him with such force that it seemed to him the
utterance of a voice. He made a sign to Ursula to wait for him, and
accompanied her home without having breakfasted.

"My child," he said, "I want to see the two volumes your godfather
showed you in your dreams--where he said that he placed those
certificates and banknotes."

Ursula and the abbe went up to the library and took down the third
volume of the Pandects. When the old man opened it he noticed, not
without surprise, a mark left by some enclosure upon the pages, which
still kept the outline of the certificate. In the other volume he
found a sort of hollow made by the long-continued presence of a
package, which had left its traces on the two pages next to it.

"Yes, go up, Monsieur Bongrand," La Bougival was heard to say, and the
justice of the peace came into the library just as the abbe was
putting on his spectacles to read three numbers in Doctor Minoret's
hand-writing on the fly-leaf of colored paper with which the binder
had lined the cover of the volume,--figures which Ursula had just
discovered.

"What's the meaning of those figures?" said the abbe; "our dear doctor
was too much of a bibliophile to spoil the fly-leaf of a valuable
volume. Here are three numbers written between a first number preceded
by the letter M and a last number preceded by a U."

"What are you talking of?" said Bongrand. "Let me see that. Good God!"
he cried, after a moment's examination; "it would open the eyes of an
atheist as an actual demonstration of Providence! Human justice is, I
believe, the development of the divine thought which hovers over the
worlds." He seized Ursula and kissed her forehead. "Oh! my child, you
will be rich and happy, and all through me!"

"What is it?" exclaimed the abbe.

"Oh, monsieur," cried La Bougival, catching Bongrand's blue overcoat,
"let me kiss you for what you've just said."

"Explain, explain! don't give us false hopes," said the abbe.

"If I bring trouble on others by becoming rich," said Ursula,
forseeing a criminal trial, "I--"

"Remember," said the justice, interrupting her, "the happiness you
will give to Savinien."

"Are you mad?" said the abbe.

"No, my dear friend," said Bongrand. "Listen; the certificates in the
Funds are issued in series,--as many series as there are letters in
the alphabet; and each number bears the letter of its series. But the
certificates which are made out 'to bearer' cannot have a letter; they
are not in any person's name. What you see there shows that the day
the doctor placed his money in the Funds, he noted down, first, the
number of his own certificate for fifteen thousand francs interest
which bears his initial M; next, the numbers of three inscriptions to
bearer; these are without a letter; and thirdly, the certificate of
Ursula's share in the Funds, the number of which is 23,534, and which
follows, as you see, that of the fifteen-thousand-franc certificate
with lettering. This goes far to prove that those numbers are those of
five certificates of investments made on the same day and noted down
by the doctor in case of loss. I advised him to take certificates to
bearer for Ursula's fortune, and he must have made his own investment
and that of Ursula's little property the same day. I'll go to Dionis's
office and look at the inventory. If the number of the certificate for
his own investment is 23,533, letter M, we may be sure that he
invested, through the same broker on the same day, first his own
property on a single certificate; secondly his savings in three
certificates to bearer (numbered, but without the series letter);
thirdly, Ursula's own property; the transfer books will show, of
course, undeniable proofs of this. Ha! Minoret, you deceiver, I have
you-- Motus, my children!"

Whereupon he left them abruptly to reflect with admiration on the ways
by which Providence had brought the innocent to victory.

"The finger of God is in all this," cried the abbe.

"Will they punish him?" asked Ursula.

"Ah, mademoiselle," cried La Bougival. "I'd give the rope to hang
him."

Bongrand was already at Goupil's, now the appointed successor of
Dionis, but he entered the office with a careless air. "I have a
little matter to verify about the Minoret property," he said to
Goupil.

"What is it?" asked the latter.

"The doctor left one or more certificates in the three-per-cent
Funds?"

"He left one for fifteen thousand francs a year," said Goupil; "I
recorded it myself."

"Then just look on the inventory," said Bongrand.

Goupil took down a box, hunted through it, drew out a paper, found the
place, and read:--

"'Item, one certificate'-- Here, read for yourself--under the number
23,533, letter M."

"Do me the kindness to let me have a copy of that clause within an
hour," said Bongrand.

"What good is it to you?" asked Goupil.

"Do you want to be a notary?" answered the justice of peace, looking
sternly at Dionis's proposed successor.

"Of course I do," cried Goupil. "I've swallowed too many affronts not
to succeed now. I beg you to believe, monsieur, that the miserable
creature once called Goupil has nothing in common with Maitre
Jean-Sebastien-Marie Goupil, notary of Nemours and husband of
Mademoiselle Massin. The two beings do not know each other. They are
no longer even alike. Look at me!"

Thus adjured Monsieur Bongrand took notice of Goupil's clothes. The
new notary wore a white cravat, a shirt of dazzling whiteness adorned
with ruby buttons, a waistcoat of red velvet, with trousers and coat
of handsome black broad-cloth, made in Paris. His boots were neat; his
hair, carefully combed, was perfumed--in short he was metamorphosed.

"The fact is you are another man," said Bongrand.

"Morally as well as physically. Virtue comes with practice--a
practice; besides, money is the source of cleanliness--"

"Morally as well as physically," returned Bongrand, settling his
spectacles.

"Ha! monsieur, is a man worth a hundred thousand francs a year ever a
democrat? Consider me in future as an honest man who knows what
refinement is, and who intends to love his wife," said Goupil; "and
what's more, I shall prevent my clients from ever doing dirty
actions."

"Well, make haste," said Bongrand. "Let me have that copy in an hour,
and notary Goupil will have undone some of the evil deeds of Goupil
the clerk."

After asking the Nemours doctor to lend him his horse and cabriolet,
he went back to Ursula's house for the two important volumes and for
her own certificate of Funds; then, armed with the extract from the
inventory, he drove to Fontainebleau and had an interview with the
procureur du roi. Bongrand easily convinced that official of the theft
of the three certificates by one or other of the heirs,--presumably by
Minoret.

"His conduct is explained," said the procureur.

As a measure of precaution the magistrate at once notified the
Treasury to withhold transfer of the said certificates, and told
Bongrand to go to Paris and ascertain if the shares had ever been
sold. He then wrote a polite note to Madame Minoret requesting her
presence.

Zelie, very uneasy about her son's duel, dressed herself at once, had
the horses put to her carriage and hurried to Fontainebleau. The
procureur's plan was simple enough. By separating the wife from the
husband, and bringing the terrors of the law to bear upon her, he
expected to learn the truth. Zelie found the official in his private
office and was utterly annihilated when he addressed her as follows:--

"Madame," he said; "I do not believe you are an accomplice in a theft
that has been committed upon the Minoret property, on the track of
which the law is now proceeding. But you can spare your husband the
shame of appearing in the prisoner's dock by making a full confession
of what you know about it. The punishment which your husband has
incurred is, moreover, not the only thing to be dreaded. Your son's
career is to be thought of; you must avoid destroying that. Half an
hour hence will be too late. The police are already under orders for
Nemours, the warrant is made out."

Zelie nearly fainted; when she recovered her senses she confessed
everything. After proving to her that she was in point of fact an
accomplice, the magistrate told her that if she did not wish to injure
either son or husband she must behave with the utmost prudence.

"You have now to do with me as an individual, not as a magistrate," he
said. "No complaint has been lodged by the victim, nor has any
publicity been given to the theft. But your husband has committed a
great crime, which may be brought before a judge less inclined than
myself to be considerate. In the present state of the affair I am
obliged to make you a prisoner--oh, in my own house, on parole," he
added, seeing that Zelie was about to faint. "You must remember that
my official duty would require me to issue a warrant at once and begin
an examination; but I am acting now individually, as guardian of
Mademoiselle Ursula Mirouet, and her best interests demand a
compromise."

"Ah!" exclaimed Zelie.

"Write to your husband in the following words," he continued, placing
Zelie at his desk and proceeding to dictate the letter:--

  "My Friend,--I am arrested, and I have told all. Return the
  certificates which uncle left to Monsieur de Portenduere in the
  will which you burned; for the procureur du roi has stopped
  payment at the Treasury."

"You will thus save him from the denials he would otherwise attempt to
make," said the magistrate, smiling at Zelie's orthography. "We will
see that the restitution is properly made. My wife will make your stay
in our house as agreeable as possible. I advise you to say nothing of
the matter and not to appear anxious or unhappy."

Now that Zelie had confessed and was safely immured, the magistrate
sent for Desire, told him all the particulars of his father's theft,
which was really to Ursula's injury, but, as matters stood, legally to
that of his co-heirs, and showed him the letter written by his mother.
Desire at once asked to be allowed to go to Nemours and see that his
father made immediate restitution.

"It is a very serious matter," said the magistrate. "The will having
been destroyed, if the matter gets wind, the co-heirs, Massin and
Cremiere may put in a claim. I have proof enough against your father.
I will release your mother, for I think the little ceremony that has
already taken place has been sufficient warning as to her duty. To
her, I will seem to have yielded to your entreaties in releasing her.
Take her with you to Nemours, and manage the whole matter as best you
can. Don't fear any one. Monsieur Bongrand loves Ursula Mirouet too
well to let the matter become known."

Zelie and Desire started soon after for Nemours. Three hours later the
procureur du roi received by a mounted messenger the following letter,
the orthography of which has been corrected so as not to bring
ridicule on a man crushed by affliction.


To Monsieur le procureur du roi at Fontainebleau:

Monsieur,--God is less kind to us than you; we have met with an
irreparable misfortune. When my wife and son reached the bridge at
Nemours a trace became unhooked. There was no servant behind the
carriage; the horses smelt the stable; my son, fearing their
impatience, jumped down to hook the trace rather than have the
coachman leave the box. As he turned to resume his place in the
carriage beside his mother the horses started; Desire did not step
back against the parapet in time; the step of the carriage cut
through both legs and he fell, the hind wheel passing over his
body. The messenger who goes to Paris for the best surgeon will
bring you this letter, which my son in the midst of his sufferings
desires me to write so as to let you know our entire submission to
your decisions in the matter about which he was coming to speak to me.

I shall be grateful to you to my dying day for the manner in which
you have acted, and I will deserve your goodness.

Francois Minoret.


This cruel event convulsed the whole town of Nemours. The crowds
standing about the gate of the Minoret house were the first to tell
Savinien that his vengeance had been taken by a hand more powerful
than his own. He went at once to Ursula's house, where he found both
the abbe and the young girl more distressed than surprised.

The next day, after the wounds were dressed, and the doctors and
surgeons from Paris had given their opinion that both legs must be
amputated, Minoret went, pale, humbled, and broken down, accompanied
by the abbe, to Ursula's house, where he found also Monsieur Bongrand
and Savinien.

"Mademoiselle," he said; "I am very guilty towards you; but if all the
wrongs I have done you are not wholly reparable, there are some that I
can expiate. My wife and I have made a vow to make over to you in
absolute possession our estate at Rouvre in case our son recovers, and
also in case we have the dreadful sorrow of losing him."

He burst into tears as he said the last words.

"I can assure you, my dear Ursula," said the abbe, "that you can and
that you ought to accept a part of this gift."

"Will you forgive me?" said Minoret, humbly kneeling before the
astonished girl. "The operation is about to be performed by the first
surgeon of the Hotel-Dieu; but I do not trust to human science, I rely
only on the power of God. If you will forgive us, if you ask God to
restore our son to us, he will have strength to bear the agony and we
shall have the joy of saving him."

"Let us go to the church!" cried Ursula, rising.

But as she gained her feet, a piercing cry came from her lips, and she
fell backward fainting. When her senses returned, she saw her friends
--but not Minoret who had rushed for a doctor--looking at her with
anxious eyes, seeking an explanation. As she gave it, terror filled
their hearts.

"I saw my godfather standing in the doorway," she said, "and he signed
to me that there was no hope."

The day after the operation Desire died,--carried off by the fever and
the shock to the system that succeed operations of this nature. Madame
Minoret, whose heart had no other tender feeling than maternity,
became insane after the burial of her son, and was taken by her
husband to the establishment of Doctor Blanche, where she died in
1841.

Three months after these events, in January, 1837, Ursula married
Savinien with Madame de Portenduere's consent. Minoret took part in
the marriage contract and insisted on giving Mademoiselle Mirouet his
estate at Rouvre and an income of twenty-four thousand francs from the
Funds; keeping for himself only his uncle's house and ten thousand
francs a year. He has become the most charitable of men, and the most
religious; he is churchwarden of the parish, and has made himself the
providence of the unfortunate.

"The poor take the place of my son," he said.

If you have ever noticed by the wayside, in countries where they poll
the oaks, some old tree, whitened and as if blasted, still throwing
out its twigs though its trunk is riven and seems to implore the axe,
you will have an idea of the old post master, with his white hair,
--broken, emaciated, in whom the elders of the town can see no trace
of the jovial dullard whom you first saw watching for his son at the
beginning of this history; he does not even take his snuff as he once
did; he carries something more now than the weight of his body.
Beholding him, we feel that the hand of God was laid upon that figure
to make it an awful warning. After hating so violently his uncle's
godchild the old man now, like Doctor Minoret himself, has
concentrated all his affections on her, and has made himself the
manager of her property in Nemours.

Monsieur and Madame de Portenduere pass five months of the year in
Paris, where they have bought a handsome house in the Faubourg
Saint-Germain. Madame de Portenduere the elder, after giving her house
in Nemours to the Sisters of Charity for a free school, went to live at
Rouvre, where La Bougival keeps the porter's lodge. Cabirolle, the
former conductor of the "Ducler," a man sixty years of age, has
married La Bougival and the twelve hundred francs a year which she
possesses besides the ample emoluments of her place. Young Cabirolle
is Monsieur de Portenduere's coachman.

If you happen to see in the Champs-Elysees one of those charming
little low carriages called 'escargots,' lined with gray silk and
trimmed with blue, and containing a pretty young woman whom you admire
because her face is wreathed in innumerable fair curls, her eyes
luminous as forget-me-nots and filled with love; if you see her
bending slightly towards a fine young man, and, if you are, for a
moment, conscious of envy--pause and reflect that this handsome
couple, beloved of God, have paid their quota to the sorrows of life
in times now past. These married lovers are the Vicomte de Portenduere
and his wife. There is not another such home in Paris as theirs.

"It is the sweetest happiness I have ever seen," said the Comtesse de
l'Estorade, speaking of them lately.

Bless them, therefore, and be not envious; seek an Ursula for
yourselves, a young girl brought up by three old men, and by the best
of all mothers--adversity.

Goupil, who does service to everybody and is justly considered the
wittiest man in Nemours, has won the esteem of the little town, but he
is punished in his children, who are rickety and hydrocephalous.
Dionis, his predecessor, flourishes in the Chamber of Deputies, of
which he is one of the finest ornaments, to the great satisfaction of
the king of the French, who sees Madame Dionis at all his balls.
Madame Dionis relates to the whole town of Nemours the particulars of
her receptions at the Tuileries and the splendor of the court of the
king of the French. She lords it over Nemours by means of the throne,
which therefore must be popular in the little town.

Bongrand is chief-justice of the court of appeals at Melun. His son is
in the way of becoming an honest attorney-general.

Madame Cremiere continues to make her delightful speeches. On the
occasion of her daughter's marriage, she exhorted her to be the
working caterpillar of the household, and to look into everything with
the eyes of a sphinx. Goupil is making a collection of her
"slapsus-linquies," which he calls a Cremiereana.

"We have had the great sorrow of losing our good Abbe Chaperon," said
the Vicomtesse de Portenduere this winter--having nursed him herself
during his illness. "The whole canton came to his funeral. Nemours is
very fortunate, however, for the successor of that dear saint is the
venerable cure of Saint-Lange."



ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Bouvard, Doctor
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Dionis
  The Member for Arcis

Estorade, Madame de l'
  Letters of Two Brides
  The Member for Arcis

Kergarouet, Comte de
  The Purse
  The Ball at Sceaux

Lupeaulx, Clement Chardin des
  The Muse of the Department
  Eugenie Grandet
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Government Clerks
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Marsay, Henri de
  The Thirteen
  The Unconscious Humorists
  Another Study of Woman
  The Lily of the Valley
  Father Goriot
  Jealousies of a Country Twon
  A Marriage Settlement
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Letters of Two Brides
  The Ball at Sceaux
  Modeste Mignon
  The Secrets of a Princess
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Daughter of Eve

Mirouet, Ursule (see Portenduere, Vicomtesse Savinien de)

Nathan, Madame Raoul
  The Muse of the Department
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Government Clerks
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Eugenie Grandet
  The Imaginary Mistress
  A Prince of Bohemia
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Unconscious Humorists

Portenduere, Vicomte Savinien de
  The Ball at Sceaux
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Beatrix

Portenduere, Vicomtesse Savinien de
  Another Study of Woman
  Beatrix

Ronquerolles, Marquis de
  The Imaginary Mistress
  The Peasantry
  A Woman of Thirty
  Another Study of Woman
  The Thirteen
  The Member for Arcis

Rouvre, Marquis du
  The Imaginary Mistress
  A Start in Life

Rouvre, Chevalier du
  The Imaginary Mistress

Rubempre, Lucien-Chardon de
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Government Clerks
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Schmucke, Wilhelm
  A Daughter of Eve
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Cousin Pons

Serizy, Comtesse de
  A Start in Life
  The Thirteen
  A Woman of Thirty
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Another Study of Woman
  The Imaginary Mistress

Trailles, Comte Maxime de
  Cesar Birotteau
  Father Goriot
  Gobseck
  A Man of Business
  The Member for Arcis
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Cousin Betty
  Beatrix
  The Unconscious Humorists

Vandenesse, Marquise Charles de
  Cesar Birotteau
  The Ball at Sceaux
  A Daughter of Eve





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