Émile Gaboriau.

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this. I shall owe to him the pleasure of seeing you again. Confide in
him as you would in your best and most devoted friend; and, I beseech
you, do not hesitate to follow his advice literally.

"Henrietta."


Daniel turned deadly pale, and tottered. This unexpected, intense
happiness overcame him.

"Then - it is true - she is alive?" he stammered.

"She is at my sister's house, safe from all danger."

"And you, sir, you have rescued her?"

"I did!"

Prompt like thought, Daniel seized the man's hands, and, pressing them
vehemently, exclaimed with a penetrating voice, -

"Never, sir, never, whatever may happen, can I thank you enough. But
remember, I pray you, under all circumstances, and for all times, you
can count upon Lieut. Champcey."

A strange smile played on the man's lips; and, shaking his head, he
said, "I shall before long remind you of your promise, lieutenant."

Standing between the two men, the captain of "The Saint Louis" was
looking alternately at the one and the other with an astonished air,
listening without comprehending, and imagining marvellous things. The
only point he understood was this, that his presence was, to say the
least, not useful.

"If that is so," he said to Daniel, "we cannot blame this gentleman for
the ugly trick he has played us."

"Blame him? Oh, certainly not!"

"Then I'll leave you. I believe I have treated the sailor who brought
him on board a little roughly; but I am going to order him a glass of
brandy, which will set him right again."

Thereupon the captain discreetly withdrew; while Papa Ravinet
continued, -

"You will tell me, M. Champcey, that it would have been simpler to wait
for you in port, and hand you my letter of introduction there. That
would have been grievous imprudence. If I heard at the navy department
of your arrival, others may have learned it as well. As soon, therefore,
as 'The Saint Louis' was telegraphed in town, you may be sure a spy was
sent to the wharf, who is going to follow you, never losing sight of
you, and who will report all your goings and your doings."

"What does it matter?"

"Ah! do not say so, sir! If our enemies hear of our meeting, you see,
if they only find out that we have conversed together, all is lost. They
would see the danger that threatens them, and they would escape."

Daniel could hardly trust his ears.

"Our enemies?" he asked, emphasizing the word "our."

"Yes: I mean _our_ enemies, - Sarah Brandon, Countess Ville-Handry,
Maxime de Brevan, Thomas Elgin, and Mrs. Brian."

"You hate them?"

"If I hate them! I tell you for five years I have lived only on the hope
of being able to avenge myself on them. Yes, it is five years now, that,
lost in the crowd, I have followed them with the perseverance of an
Indian, - five years that I have patiently, incessantly, inch by inch,
undermined the ground beneath their steps. And they suspect nothing. I
doubt whether they are aware of my existence. No, not even - What would
it be to them, besides? They have pushed me so far down into the mud,
that they cannot imagine my ever rising again up to their level. They
triumph with impunity; they boast of their unpunished wickedness, and
think they are strong, and safe from all attacks, because they have the
prestige and the power of gold. And yet their hour is coming. I, the
wretched man, who have been compelled to hide, and to live on my daily
labor, - I have attained my end. Every thing is ready; and I have only to
touch the proud fabric of their crimes to make it come down upon them,
and crush them all under the ruins. Ah! if I could see them only suffer
one-fourth of what they have made me suffer, I should die content."

Papa Ravinet seemed to have grown a foot; his hatred convulsed his
placid face; his voice trembled with rage; and his yellow eyes shone
with ill-subdued passion.

Daniel wondered, and asked himself what the people who had sworn to ruin
him and Henrietta could have done to this man, who looked so inoffensive
with his bright-flowered waistcoat and his coat with the high collar.

"But who are you, sir?" he asked.

"Who am I?" exclaimed the man, - "who am I?"

But he paused; and, after waiting a little while, he sunk his head, and
said, -

"I am Anthony Ravinet, dealer in curiosities."

The clipper was in the meantime making way rapidly. Already the white
country houses appeared on the high bluffs amid the pine-groves; and the
outlines of the Castle of If were clearly penned on the deep blue of the
sky.

"But we are getting near," exclaimed Papa Ravinet; "and I must get back
into my boat. I did not come out so far, that they might see me enter on
board 'The Saint Louis.'"

And when Daniel offered him his state-room, where he might remain in
concealment, he replied, -

"No, no! We shall have time enough to come to an understanding about
what is to be done in Paris; and I must go back by rail to-night; I came
down for the sole purpose of telling you this. Miss Henrietta is at my
sister's house; but you must take care not to come there. Neither
Sarah nor Brevan know what has become of her; they think she has thrown
herself into the river; and this conviction is our safety and our
strength. As they will most assuredly have you watched, the slightest
imprudence might betray us."

"But I must see Henrietta, sir."

"Certainly; and I have found the means for it. Instead of going to your
former lodgings, go to the Hotel du Louvre. I will see to it that my
sister and Miss Ville-Handry shall have taken rooms there before you
reach Paris; and you may be sure, that, in less than a quarter of an
hour after your arrival, you will hear news. But, heavens, how near we
are! I must make haste."

Upon Daniel's request, the ship lay by long enough to allow Papa Ravinet
and his sailor to get back again into their boat without danger. When
they were safely stowed away in it, and at the moment when they cast off
the man-rope, Papa Ravinet called to Daniel, -

"We shall soon see you! Rely upon me! Tonight Miss Henrietta shall have
a telegram from us."




XXVIII.

At the same hour when Papa Ravinet, on the deck of "The Saint Louis,"
was pressing Daniel's hand, and bidding him farewell, there were
in Paris two poor women, who prayed and watched with breathless
anxiety, - the sister of the old dealer, Mrs. Bertolle, the widow; and
Henrietta, the daughter of Count Ville-Handry. When Papa Ravinet had
appeared the evening before, with his carpet-bag in his hand, his hurry
had been so extraordinary, and his excitement so great, that one might
have doubted his sanity. He had peremptorily asked his sister for two
thousand francs; had made Henrietta write in all haste a letter of
introduction to Daniel; and had rushed out again like a tempest, as he
had come in, without saying more than this, -

"M. Champcey will arrive, or perhaps has already arrived, in Marseilles,
on board a merchant vessel, 'The Saint Louis.' I have been told so at
the navy department. It is all important that I should see him before
anybody else. I take the express train of quarter past seven. To-morrow,
I'll send you a telegram."

The two ladies asked for something more, a hope, a word; but no, nothing
more! The old dealer had jumped into the carriage that had brought him,
before they had recovered from their surprise; and they remained there,
sitting before the fire, silent, their heads in their hands, each lost
in conjectures. When the clock struck seven, the good widow was aroused
from her grave thoughts, which seemed so different from her usual
cheerful temper.

"Come, come, Miss Henrietta," she said with somewhat forced gayety, "my
brother's departure does not condemn us, as far as I know, to starve
ourselves to death."

She had gotten up as she said this. She set the table, and then sat down
opposite to Henrietta, to their modest dinner. Modest it was, indeed,
and still too abundant. They were both too much overcome to be able to
eat; and yet both handled knife and fork, trying to deceive one another.
Their thoughts were far away, in spite of all their efforts to keep them
at home, and followed the traveller.

"Now he has left," whispered Henrietta as it struck eight.

"He is on his way already," replied the old lady.

But neither of them knew anything of the journey from Paris to
Marseilles. They were ignorant of the distances, the names of the
stations, and even of the large cities through which the railroad
passes.

"We must try and get a railway guide," said the good widow. And, quite
proud of her happy thought, she went out instantly, hurried to the
nearest bookstore, and soon reappeared, flourishing triumphantly a
yellow pamphlet, and saying, -

"Now we shall see it all, my dear child."

Then, placing the guide on the tablecloth between them, they looked for
the page containing the railway from Paris to Lyons and Marseilles, then
the train which Papa Ravinet was to have taken; and they delighted in
counting up how swiftly the "express" went, and all the stations where
it stopped.

Then, when the table was cleared, instead of going industriously to
work, as usually, they kept constantly looking at the clock, and, after
consulting the book, said to each other, -

"He is at Montereau now; he must be beyond Sens; he will soon be at
Tonnerre."

A childish satisfaction, no doubt, and very idle. But who of us has
not, at least once in his life, derived a wonderful pleasure, or perhaps
unspeakable relief from impatience, or even grief, from following thus
across space a beloved one who was going away, or coming home? Towards
midnight, however, the old lady remarked that it was getting late, and
that it would be wise to go to bed.

"You think you will sleep, madam?" asked Henrietta, surprised.

"No, my child; but" -

"Oh! I, for my part, - _I_ could not sleep. This work on which we are
busy is very pressing, you say; why could we not finish it?"

"Well, let us sit up then," said the good widow.

The poor women, reduced as they were to conjectures by Papa Ravinet's
laconic answers, nevertheless knew full well that some great event was
in preparation, something unexpected, and yet decisive. What it was,
they did not know; but they understood, or rather felt, that Daniel's
return would and must totally change the aspect of affairs. But would
Daniel really come?

"If he does come," said Henrietta, "why did they only the other day tell
me, at the navy department, that he was not coming? Then, again, why
should he come home in a merchant vessel, and not on board his frigate?"

"Your letters have probably reached him at last," explained the old
lady; "and, as soon as he received them, he came home."

Gradually, however, after having exhausted all conjectures, and after
having discussed all contingencies, Henrietta became silent. When it
struck half-past three, she said once more, -

"Ah! M. Ravinet is at the Lyons station now."

Then her hand became less and less active in drawing the worsted, her
head oscillated from side to side, and her eyelids closed unconsciously.
Her old friend advised her to retire; and this time she did not refuse.

It was past ten o'clock when she awoke; and upon entering, fully
dressed, into the sitting-room, Mrs. Bertolle greeted her with the
exclamation: -

"At this moment my brother reaches Marseilles!"

"Ah! then it will not be long before we shall have news," replied
Henrietta.

But there are moments in which we think electricity the slowest of
messengers. At two o'clock nothing had come; and the poor women began to
accuse the old dealer of having forgotten them, when, at last, the bell
was rung.

It was really the telegraph messenger, with his black leather pouch. The
old lady signed her receipt with marvellous promptness; and, tearing the
envelope hastily open, she read, -


Marseilles, 12.40 a.m.

"Saint Louis" signalled by telegraph this morning. Will be in to-night.
I hire boat to go and meet her, provided Champcey is on board. This
evening telegram.

Ravinet.


"But this does not tell us any thing," said Henrietta, terribly
disappointed. "Just see, madam, _your_ brother is not even sure whether
M. Champcey is on board 'The Saint Louis.'"

Perhaps Mrs. Bertolle, also, was a little disappointed; but she was not
the person to let it be seen.

"But what did you expect, dear child? Anthony has not been an hour in
Marseilles; how do you think he can know? We must wait till the evening.
It is only a matter of a few hours."

She said this very quietly; but all who have ever undergone the anguish
of expectation will know how it becomes more and more intolerable as the
moment approaches that is to bring the decision. However the old lady
endeavored to control her excitement, the calm and dignified woman could
not long conceal the nervous fever that was raging within her. Ten times
during the afternoon she opened the window, to look for - what? She could
not have told it herself, as she well knew nothing could come as yet. At
night she could not stay in any one place. She tried in vain to work on
her embroidery; her fingers refused their service.

At last, at ten minutes past nine, the telegraph man appeared, as
impassive as ever.

This time it was Henrietta who had taken the despatch; and, before
opening it, she had half a minute's fearful suspense, as if the paper
had contained the secret of her fate. Then, by a sudden impulse, tearing
the envelope, she read, almost at a glance, -


Marseilles, 6.45 p.m.

I have seen Champcey. All well; devoted to Henrietta. Return this
evening. Will be in Paris tomorrow evening at seven o'clock. Prepare
your trunks as if you were to start on a month's journey immediately
after my return. All is going well.


Pale as death, and trembling like a leaf, but with open lips and bright
eyes, Henrietta had sunk into a chair. Up to this moment she had doubted
every thing. Up to this hour, until she held the proof in her hand, she
had not allowed herself to hope. Such great happiness does not seem to
the unhappy to be intended for them. But now she stammered out, -

"Daniel is in France! Daniel! Nothing more to fear; the future is ours.
I am safe now."

But people do not die of joy; and, when she had recovered her
equanimity, Henrietta understood how cruel she had been in the
incoherent phrases that had escaped her in her excitement. She rose with
a start, and, seizing Mrs. Bertolle's hands, said to her, -

"Great God! what am I saying! Ah, you will pardon me, madam, I am sure;
but I feel as if I did not know what I am doing. Safe! I owe it to you
and your brother, if I am safe. Without you Daniel would find nothing
of me but a cross at the cemetery, and a name stained and destroyed by
infamous calumnies."

The old lady did not hear a word. She had picked up the despatch, had
read it; and, overcome by its contents, had sat down near the fireplace,
utterly insensible to the outside world. The most fearful hatred
convulsed her ordinarily calm and gentle features; and pale, with closed
teeth, and in a hoarse voice, she said over and over again, -

"We shall be avenged."

Most assuredly Henrietta did not find out only now that the old dealer
and his sister hated her enemies, Sarah Brandon and Maxime de Brevan,
mortally; but she had never seen that hatred break out so terribly as
to-night. What had brought it about? This she could not fathom. Papa
Ravinet, it was evident, was not a nobody. Ill-bred and coarse in
Water Street, amid the thousand articles of his trade, he became a very
different man as soon as he reached his sister's house. As to the Widow
Bertolle, she was evidently a woman of superior intellect and education.

How had they both been reduced to this more than modest condition? By
reverses of fortune. That accounts for everything, but explains nothing.

Such were Henrietta's thoughts, when the old lady roused her from her
meditations.

"You saw, my dear child," she began saying, "that my brother desires us
to be ready to set out on a long journey as soon as he comes home."

"Yes, madam; and I am quite astonished."

"I understand; but, although I know no more than you do of my brother's
intentions, I know that he does nothing without a purpose. We ought,
therefore, in prudence, comply with his wishes."

They agreed, therefore, at once on their arrangements; and the next
day Mrs. Bertolle went out to purchase whatever might be
necessary, - ready-made dresses for Henrietta, shoes, and linen. Towards
five o'clock in the afternoon, all the preparations of the old lady and
the young girl had been made; and all their things were carefully stowed
away in three large trunks. According to Papa Ravinet's despatch, they
had only about two hours more to wait, three hours at the worst. Still
they were out of their reckoning. It was half-past eight before the good
man arrived, evidently broken down by the long and rapid journey which
he had just made.

"At last!" exclaimed Mrs. Bertolle. "We hardly expected you any longer
to-night."

But he interrupted her, saying, -

"Oh, my dear sister! don't you think I suffered when I thought of your
impatience? But it was absolutely necessary I should show myself in
Water Street."

"You have seen Mrs. Chevassat?"

"I come from her just now. She is quite at her ease. I am sure she has
not the slightest doubt that Miss Ville-Handry has killed herself; and
she goes religiously every morning to the Morgue."

Henrietta shuddered.

"And M. de Brevan?" she asked.

Papa Ravinet looked troubled.

"Ah, I don't feel so safe there," he replied. "The man I had left in
charge of him has foolishly lost sight of him."

Then noticing the trunks, he said, -

"But I am talking, and time flies. You are ready, I see. Let us go. I
have a carriage at the door. We can talk on the way."

When he noticed some reluctance in Henrietta's face, he added with a
kindly smile, -

"You need not fear anything, Miss Henrietta; we are not going away from
M. Champcey, very far from it. Here, you see, he could not have come
twice without betraying the secret of your existence."

"But where are we going?" asked Mrs. Bertolle.

"To the Hotel du Louvre, dear sister, where you will take rooms for Mrs.
and Miss Bertolle. Be calm; my plans are laid."

Thereupon, he ran out on the staircase to call the concierge to help him
in taking down the trunks.

Although the manoeuvres required by Papa Ravinet's appearance on board
"The Saint Louis" had taken but little time, the delay had been long
enough to prevent the ship from going through all the formalities that
same evening. She had, therefore, to drop anchor at some distance from
the harbor, to the great disgust of the crew, who saw Marseilles all
ablaze before them, and who could count the wineshops, and hear the
songs of the half-drunken people as they walked down the wharves in
merry bands.

The least unhappy of them all was, for once, Daniel. The terrible
excitement he had undergone had given way to utter prostration. His
nerves, strained to the utmost, relaxed; and he felt the delight of a
man who can at last throw down a heavy burden which he has long borne
on his shoulders. Papa Ravinet had given him no details; but he did not
regret it, he hardly noticed it. He knew positively that his Henrietta
was alive; that she was in safety; and that she still loved him. That
was enough.

"Well, lieutenant," said Lefloch, delighted at his master's joy, "did I
not tell you? Good wind during the passage always brings good news upon
landing."

That night, while "The Saint Louis" was rocking lazily over her anchors,
was the first night, since Daniel had heard of Count Ville-Handry's
marriage, that he slept with that sweet sleep given by hope. He was only
aroused by the noise of the people who came in the quarantine boat;
and, when he came on deck, he found that there was nothing any longer to
prevent his going on shore. The men had been actively engaged ever since
early in the morning, to set things right aloft and below, so as to
"dress" "The Saint Louis;" for every ship, when it enters port, is
decked out gayly, and carefully conceals all traces of injuries she has
suffered, like the carrier-pigeon, which, upon returning to his nest
after a storm, dries and smooths his feathers in the sun.

Soon the anchors were got up again; and the great clock on the wharf
struck twelve, when Daniel jumped on the wharf at Marseilles, followed
by his faithful man, and dazzled by the most brilliant sunlight. Ah!
when he felt his foot once more standing on the soil of France, whence
a vile plot had driven him long ago, his eyes flashed, and a threatening
gesture boded ill to his enemies. It looked as if he were saying to
them, -

"Here I am, and my vengeance will be terrible!"

Neither his joy nor his excitement, however, could make him forget the
apprehensions of Papa Ravinet, although he thought they were eccentric,
and very much exaggerated. That a spy should be waiting for him in the
harbor, concealed in this busy, noisy crowd, to follow his track, and
report his minutest actions, - this seemed to him, if not impossible, at
least very improbable.

Nevertheless, he determined to ascertain the fact. Instead, therefore,
of simply following the wharf, of going up Canebiere Street, and turning
to the right on his way to the Hotel du Luxembourg, he went through
several narrow streets, turning purposely every now and then. When he
reached the hotel, he was compelled to acknowledge that the old dealer
had acted wisely.

A big fellow, dark complexioned, and wicked looking, had followed the
same route as he, always keeping some thirty yards behind him. The man
who thus watched him, with his nose in the air and his hands in his
pockets, hardly suspected the danger which he ran by practising his
profession within reach of Lefloch. The idea of being tracked put the
worthy sailor into a red-hot fury; and he proposed nothing less than to
"run foul" of the spy, and make an end of him for good.

"I can do it in a second," he assured his master. "I just go up to him,
without making him aware of my presence. _I_ seize him by his cravat;
I give him two turns, like that - and good-night. He won't track anybody
again."

Daniel had to use all his authority to keep him back, and found it still
harder to convince him of the necessity to let the scamp not know that
he had been discovered.

"Besides," he added, "it is not proved yet that we are really watched;
it may be merely a curious coincidence."

"That may be so," growled Lefloch.

But they could no longer doubt, when, just before dinner, as they looked
out of the window, they saw the same man pass the hotel. At night they
saw him again at the depot; and he took the same express train of
9.45 for Paris, in which they went. They recognized him in the
refreshment-room at Lyons. And the first person they saw as they got out
at Paris was the same man.

But Daniel did not mind the spy. He had long since forgotten him. He
thought of nothing but the one fact that he was in the same town now
with Henrietta. Too impatient to wait for his trunks, he left Lefloch
in charge, and jumped into a cab, promising the driver two dollars if he
would go as fast as he could to the Hotel du Louvre. For such pay, the
lean horses of any cab become equal to English thoroughbreds; and in
three-quarters of an hour Daniel was installed in his room at the hotel,
and waited with anxiety the return of the waiter. Now that he was really
here, a thousand doubts assailed him: "Had he understood Papa Ravinet
correctly? Had the good old man given him the right directions? Might
they not, excited as they both were, have easily made a mistake?"

"In less than a quarter of an hour after your arrival," Papa Ravinet had
said to Daniel, "you shall have news."

Less than a quarter of an hour! It seemed to Daniel as if he had been an
eternity in this room. Thinking that Henrietta might possibly occupy a
room on the same floor with him, on the same side of the house, that he
might even be separated from her only by a partition-wall, he felt like
cursing Papa Ravinet, when there came a knock at the door.

"Come in!" he cried.

A waiter appeared, and handed him a visiting-card, on which was written,
"Mrs. Bertolle, third story. No. 5."

As the waiter did not instantly disappear, Daniel said almost
furiously, -

"Did I not tell you it was all right?"

He did not want the man to see his excitement, the most intense
excitement he had ever experienced in all his life. His hands shook; he
felt a burning sensation in his throat; his knees gave way under him. He



Online LibraryÉmile GaboriauThe Clique of Gold → online text (page 33 of 39)