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LEBLANC




THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



-2-3



THE EYES OF INNOCENCE




There was a faint sound behind her.



(Page 159)



THE
EYES OF INNOCENCE



BY

MAURICE LEBLANC

Author of "Arsene Lupin," "The Golden Triangle,"

"The Woman of Mystery," "The

Secret of Sarek," etc.



TRANSLATED BY
ALEXANDER TE1XEIRA DE MATTOS



NEW YORK

THE MACAULAY COMPANY
1920



Copyright, 1920, by
THE MACAULAY COMPANY



PRINTED IN THE U. 8. A.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I GILBERTS .11

II THE SOLITARY 24

III THE UNKNOWN 39

IV AN EVENING AT MME. DE LA VAUDRAYE'S 52

V THE SUITORS 68

VI A NEW FRIEND 85

VII GILBERTE'S Two FRIENDS 103

VIII THE APPOINTMENT 119

IX AFFIANCED 137

X THE DESERTED HOUSE 150

XI GILBERTE'S NAME 165







THE EYES OF INNOCENCE



THE EYES OF INNOCENCE



GILBERTE

"WOULD you please give your name,
madam?" asked the waiter.

And he handed the elder of the two travel-
lers a sheet of paper headed, "Villa-pension
des Deux Mondes, Dieppe"

"Write down the name, Gilberte," she
said. "I am so tired."

Gilberte took the pen and wrote :

"Mme. Armand and daughter, from Lon-
don, bound for. . . . Now that I think of it,
where are we going next, mother?"

"I don't know yet."

"Oh, that doesn't matter!" said the waiter.

And he took the paper and left the room.

"Yes, Mr. Waiter," cried the young girl,

with a laugh. "Mme. Armand and her

11



daughter, arriving from England, from Ger-
many, from Russia, coming to France and
delighted, especially Mile. Armand, who
does not yet know her own country!"

"Will you find happiness here?" mur-
mured her mother, sadly, drawing her daugh-
ter to her. "There is none left for me, since
your poor father is dead; but you, my pet,
my dear, loving Gilberte, what has the fu-
ture in store for you?"

"Why, joys, mother darling, nothing but
the greatest joys: haven't I you with me?"

They exchanged a long embrace. Then
Mme. Armand said:

"Gilberte, the crossing has upset me; I
feel I must lie down for a while. Go and
sit on the terrace and come back in an hour.
Then we will unpack our trunks and go to
the post-office."

"Are you expecting a letter?"

"Yes."

"From whom?"

"How inquisitive you are!"



GILBERTS 13

"Oh, mummy, you're always saying that!
But are you sure that it's not you who are a
little what shall I say mysterious? You
never answer even my simplest questions."

"I shall answer them one day, child, but
not before I have to ... not before I have
to."

Gilberte saw her mother's face wrung
with such anguish that she was silent and
fondly kissed her hand. Mme. Armand
went on :

"Yes, you are right. I am a little myste-
rious, very mysterious even ; but if you only
know how it hurts me to be so ! Still, I will
answer you this time, dear: the letter I am
expecting is from your nurse."

"From my nurse? Then I was brought
up in France? But where?"

Mme. Armand was silent. Gilberte
waited a few moments, then put on her hat
and cloak and said :

"Go and lie down, mother. You poor
dear, you look as you do on your bad



14 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

days. . . . There, I'll leave you in peace."

"You won't go out, will you, dear?"

"Go out? I, who have never left your
side? Why, I should be afraid to walk
down the street all by myself I I shall be
back soon, dearest."

She opened the door and went downstairs.
Above the reception-rooms, which occupied
a wing consisting of a single floor, to the
right of the garden, was a terrace covered
with tents and wicker chairs. She sat down
there.

It was a mild and balmy October day.
The wide, deserted beach was bright with
sunshine. The sea was very calm and edged
with a narrow fringe of foam.

An hour passed.

"I will go in," she said, "when that little
boat disappears behind the jetty."

The boat disappeared and she rose to her
feet. As she went up the stairs, a childish
idea came into her head, an idea which she
was destined long to remember, together



GILBERTS 15

with the smallest details of that terrible min-
ute:

"If mother is still asleep," she thought, "I
will blow on her forehead to wake her."

She listened at the door. Not a sound.
She laughed roguishly. Then, slowly, cau-
tiously, she opened the door. Mme. Ar-
mand lay stretched on the bed. Gilberte
went up to her. For some indefinable rea-
son, she forgot her intended joke and simply
kissed her mother on the forehead.

A cry escaped her lips. Terror-stricken,
she flung herself upon her mother, caught
her desperately in her arms and fell faint-
ing beside the bed.

Mme. Armand was dead.

* * *

A room in which she sobs for hours on end,
heedless of all things, huddled in a little
chair, or on her knees before a white-cur-
tained bed ; people who come and go ; a doc-
tor who certifies the cause of death ; aneurism
of the heart, beyond a doubt ; the lady of the



16 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

house, who tries to comfort her; a commis-
sary of police who puts questions which she
is unable to answer and who makes her look
in her mother's trunks for papers that are
not there : these are Gilberte's lasting memo-
ries of those two dreadful days.

Then came the singing in the church, a
long road between bare, wind-stripped trees,
the graveyard and the final and irrevocable
parting from her who, until now, was all her
life, her soul, her light. . . .

Oh, the first night spent in solitude and
those first meals taken with no one opposite
her and those long interminable days during
which she never stopped weeping the big
tears that come welling up from the heart
as from a spring which nothing can dry up !
Alone, knowing nobody, what was she to
do? Where could she go? To whom could
she turn?

"The important thing," insisted the lady
of the house, who sometimes came to see her
in her room, "the most important thing is



GILBERTE 17

that you should have a solicitor. Mine is
prepared to come whenever you please. I
spoke to him about you; and it seems that
there are formalities. Remember what the
commissary said about the papers. . . ."

Gilberte remembered nothing, for she had
listened to nothing. Nevertheless, the per-
sistency of this advice, repeated daily and
with such conviction, ended by persuading
her; and, one morning, she sent to ask
Maitre Duforneril to be good enough to call
on her.

Maitre Duforneril had one of those placid
and good-natured faces the sight of which
seems to soothe you at once. He gave the
impression of attaching so much importance
to the business in hand that it would have
been impossible not to take at least some
interest in it one's self. Gilberte, therefore,
was obliged to reflect, to tax her memory, in
short, to reply.

"From what I have learnt, mademoiselle,
it is evident that no papers have been found



18 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

enabling us to establish your mother's iden-
tity and your own. The commissary, how-
ever, told me of an envelope containing secu-
rities which he advised you to lock up care-
fully. Is it still in your possession?"

"I don't know. . . . Mother never told
me. ... Is this what you mean?" she
asked.

The solicitor took two fat, leather port-
folios from the mantelpiece and opened
them. He was astounded at what he saw:

"And do you leave this lying about? . . .
Bonds payable to bearer?"

Gilberte blushed, feeling as if she had
committed some enormous crime. He
counted the sheets, made a rapid addition
and said:

"You are very well off, mademoiselle."

"Really?" she said, absent-mindedly.
"Yes . . . mother said something . . ."

After a peace during which he watched
her with increasing surprise, he asked:



GILBERTK 19

"And have you your mother's papers,
your father's papers?"

"What papers?"

"Why, their birth-certificates, your own,
their marriage-certificate, in fact, everything
that established their position and now estab-
lishes yours."

"I haven't them."

"But they must be somewhere. . . .
Can you give me no clue as to where they
are?"

"No. . . . But I seem to remember
once hearing them talk of papers that had
been lost ... or rather burnt in a fire
... or else ... in fact, I can't say for cer-
tain." . . .

"Come, come!" cried Maitre Duforneril.
"We are on the wrong track altogether!
Let us start from the beginning. Where
were you born?"

"I don't know."

"How do you mean, you don't know?"



20 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

"Mother would never tell me exactly."

"But where was she born? And your
father?"

"I don't know that either."

The solicitor looked up. Was she laugh-
ing at him? But, at the sight of her sad
face and candid eyes, he was silent for a
moment and then went on:

"You have come from London?"

"Yes."

"Did you have friends over there,
acquaintances?"

"No, we lived quite alone."

"Never mind: if you give me the address
of the house you lived in, we shall easily
find traces of Mme. Armand."

"Mother was not called Mme. Armand in
London ; she was called Aubert."

"But Armand is your real name?"

"I don't think so. At Liverpool, where
we lived for three years and where father
died, last year, after making such a lot of
money, we were known by the name of Kill-



GILBERTS 21

ner. Before that, at Berlin, it was Dumas.
. . And, at Moscow" . . .

"You don't know the reason why your
parents used to change their name like
that?"

"No, I do not."

"You saw nothing in your parents' char-
acter to explain it?"

"No, nothing."

"Were they on good terms?"

"Oh, yes! They were so fond of each
other! And mother was so happy!"

So happy ! How positively Gilberte was
able to say that! Happy indeed beside her
husband, under his eyes, with her hand in
his. But why was she so often caught cry-
ing? Why those hours of gloomy melan-
choly, of inexplicable depression? Why
had she one day drawn her daughter to her,
stammering :

"Ah, my child; my child! Never do any-
thing that you have to hide: it is too pain-
ful!"



22 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

Gilberte was on the point of speaking.
A vague sense of shame prevented her.
Besides, Maitre Duforneril, who had taken
down a few notes in his pocket-book, was
beginning again:

"Give me all the particulars that can help
us, mademoiselle. The smallest details are
of importance."

She mentioned the towns in which they
had lived : Vienna, Trieste, Milan, with their
memories of a secluded life, easy of late, but
so hard and difficult at first; and then, fur-
ther back, Barcelona, where they had been
very unhappy; and then came memories,
more and more indistinct, of poverty, hun-
ger, cold. . . .

"We shall find out, mademoiselle,"
declared the solicitor. "It won't be an easy
business, for we have to do with a combina-
tion of abnormal circumstances which baffle
me a little, I admit. But, after all, it is
inconceivable that we should not find out.
You have to know, you must know who you



GILBERTE 23

are and what name you are entitled to bear.
Will you trust your interests to me?"

"Yes."

"Well, first of all, you must leave this
bundle of securities in my hands : I will give
you a receipt for it. I will cash the coupons
as they fall due and send you the proceeds
when you need money. Where were you
going with your mother?"

"She was expecting a letter."

"A letter? That is one clue."

"But the letter was addressed to the pdste
restante; and I don't know in what name or
initials."

"True. . . Then what do you intend to
do?"

"I intend to go somewhere at random. I
have heard mother speak of Chartres, Sau-
mer, Domfront. I shall choose one of those
towns, the quietest ... no matter where
... as long as I can weep undisturbed."

"Poor child 1" murmured Maitre Dufor-
neril.



II

THE SOLITARY

"OF the fortress built, in 1011, by Guil-
laume de Belleme, on the summit of the rock
at Domfront, at 300 feet above the little
River Varenne, all that is now left standing
is two great strips of wall, flanked by pictur-
esque buttresses and pierced with wide
arches, the remains of the ancient keep.
Round about are a few traces of ramparts
and remnants of underground passages, all
arranged in the form of a square and in a
perfect state of preservation."

The guide-books, however, for some rea-
son, fail to mention the manor-house built,
in the seventeenth century, by Pierre de
Donnadieu, Governor of Anjou, on the site
and with the materials of the outbuildings
of the old fortress. The logis, as this sort of

24



THE SOLITARY 25

dwelling is called in Lower Normandy, is
intact and wholly charming. Four slender,
tapering turrets grace the corners. An
enormous roof, decked with two monu-
mental chimneys, seems to top it with a fool's
cap, too large for its little granite forehead
lined with two rows of bricks. The entrance
is through the square, but the main front
overlooks the precipice and a garden stag-
gers down the steep slope to the river that
winds through the pretty Valdes Rochers.

Fourteen years earlier, M. and Mme. de la
Vaudraye, one of the leading families of the
neighborhood, had ruined themselves in
unfortunate speculations. M. de la Vaud-
raye died of grief and shame. His widow,
in order to pay for the education of her ten-
year-old son, let the manor-house, which
formed part of her dowry and which had
been in the possession of her family for
nearly two hundred years. It was taken,
for a time, by one of the garrison officers, but
was now once more untenanted.



26 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

Here Gilberte sought refuge like a poor
wounded animal. The very sleepiness of
Domfront had attracted her, its look as of
some vanquished city, wearied of a valorous
past and taking its just and honourable
repose. Strolling through the ruins, she
saw, on the door of the Logis, a notice,
"To LET." She went in search of the
owner.

Mme. de la Vaudraye, a tall, thin, hard-
eyed woman, expressed herself in affected
sentences of which her lips formed the syl-
lables carefully, one by one, as though they
were things of price that must be carried to
the highest pitch of perfection.

"I can see from your attitude, madame,"
she said, "that you have been struck by
the unimpeachable condition of my house.
Woodwork, mirrors, curtains, furniture:
everything is in perfect repair. And yet the
Logis is one of the most historic abodes in
the district" . . .

Gilberte was no longer listening. She



THE SOLITARY 27

had been called, "Madame." It had seemed
natural then to address her like that? If
so, could she pass as married, in spite of her
age? The thought surprised her. And
yet, she reflected, how could any one suppose
that a young girl would come by herself to
treat for the manor-house and live in it by
herself?

She remembered a piece of advice which
the solicitor had given her :

"If you wish to lead a quiet life, not a
word about the past before we have shed a
full light upon it."

Yes, but how much easier it would be to
veil the past under that name of "madame" !
And how much better that title would pro-
tect her! As a girl, living alone, she must
needs be the object of curiosity, the victim of
any amount of gossip. As a married woman,
she would be in a normal position; her
solitary existence would cause no surprise;
she could keep off intruders, go about as
she pleased, or stay indoors and weep, with



28 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

none to spy upon the secret of her tears.

"In what name shall I make out the agree-
ment?" asked Mme. de la Vaudraye, when
everything was settled: settled to the great
advantage of the owner, who had increased
her rent by one-half.

"Why, in my own name: Mme. Armand!"
said Gilberte, without foreseeing the conse-
quences which this decision involved.

Mme. de la Vaudraye hesitated :

"But . . . perhaps we shall want . . .
M. Armand' s signature" . . .

"I am a widow."

"Oh, I beg your pardon ! I ought to have
known. I see you are in mourning" . . .

Mme. Armand moved into the Logis that
same evening. At Mme. de la Vaudraye's
express recommendation, she engaged as a
servant the wife of the keeper of the ruins,
Adele, a big, fat, talkative woman, with hair
on her upper lip, a stealthy eye and quick,
blunt manners. Bouquetot, her husband,
was to sleep at the manor-house; and their



THE SOLITARY 29

son, Antoine, who had just left his regiment,
would do the heavy work and attend to the

garden.

* * *

And life began, the hard, cruel, despairing
life of those who have no one to love them
and no one whom they can love.

There was no consolation for Gilberte,
after her mother's death. What saved her
was the necessity to act, to act continually,
to make decisions, to give orders, in short, to
exercise her will. She had to shake off her
natural inclination for dreaming and listless-
ness, to break herself of the passive habits
due to the existence which she had led till
then. Things went so badly at the manor-
house until she realized the task that lay
before her, the domestic duties were so irreg-
ularly performed, there was so much fuss
and disorder, that she was compelled to look
after her own housekeeping.

She found it difficult indeed to word the
first reprimand:



30 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

"Adele, I do wish you would serve lunch
punctually !"

And she added, immediately:

"Of course, I mean, when possible."

As ill-luck would have it, it was not "pos-
sible" for three days running; and Gilberte
had to resolve to speak seriously. On the
fourth day, she went down to the kitchen,
very quickly, so as not to let her indignation
cool on the stairs :

"Adele! It's one o'clock and" . . .

"Well, what of it?" the fat woman broke
in.

Gilberte stopped short, hesitated, blushed
and stammered:

"I should so much like to have luncheon
served at half -past twelve exactly!"

From that day forward, the meals were
punctually prepared.

Her victory gave her self-assurance. She
had the accounts brought to her daily,
although her inspection was confined to



THE SOLITARY 31

ascertaining the cost of things and checking
the additions.

With Gilberte's affection and open na-
ture, however, it was difficult for her to
live absolutely cut off from her fellow-crea-
tures, as she had first intended. True, she
refused to make acquaintances ; and her shy-
ness was such that, after three months, she
had not yet set foot in the streets of Dom-
front. But those who have been stricken
by fate have a natural company of friends
in the poor, the wretched, the destitute, the
outcast; and her heart could not avoid the
sort of friendship built upon adversity.

Between Gilberte and the first beggar who
crossed the threshold of the Logis there was
more than an alms and a thank-you: there
was the delight of giving on one side and,
on the other, gratitude for the smile and the
good grace of her who gave. Nor could
it be otherwise. Even if Gilberte had not
had that pretty, fair hair which frolicked



32 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

around her face like little flickering flames,
nor those gentle lips, nor those pink cheeks
which gave her face the freshness of a flower,
she would still have been bewitchingly beau-
tiful, thanks to her blue eyes, which were
always a little dewy, as though tears were
playing in them, and always smiling, even at
the times of her deepest sadness. And her
look, her figure, all her delicate and attrac-
tive personality breathed such touching pur-
ity that the most indifferent were lapped in
it as in the soft caresses of a balmy breeze.

Her charm was made up of goodness, sim-
plicity and, above all, innocence, that inno-
cence which is unaware of its own existence,
which knows nothing of life, which suspects
no evil and which does not see the traps laid
for it, nor the hypocrisy that surrounds it,
nor the envy which it inspires.

La Bonne Demoiselle was the name by
which the poor called her, thus correcting,
by a sort of common instinct, the style which
circumstances had compelled her to adopt.



THE SOLITARY 33

And, in all the garrets of Domfront, in all
the cabins and cottages of the neighbourhood,
people spoke of la Bonne Demoiselle of the
Logis, of la Bonne Demoiselle who mourned
her husband's memory and smiled upon the
poor.

Her gentle smile worked many a miracle
in that little world, dispelled many a hatred,
stifled many a rebellious impulse, healed
many a sore. Men and women consulted
her, inexperienced girl that she was, and,
what was more, followed her advice.

A mother came one day, with her baby in
her arms. She told the tragedy of her life,
spoke of an elopement, a desertion. Gil-
berte understood nothing of her story. Yet
the mother, in an hour, went away consoled.

Young girls came and asked her opinion
about getting married; women came and
enlarged upon their domestic quarrels;
others came and told her things that bewil-
dered her. All these problems, all these
cases of conscience Mme. Armand, la Bonne



34 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

Demoiselle, solved with her innocence, the
innocence of a child that, knowing nothing,
knows more than they who know everything.

One evening, Adele brought her house-
keeping-book. Gilberte gravely added the
column and initialed it.

"But madame is not even looking to see
what I bought and how much I paid."

Gilberte blushed:

"You see. ... I don't know much about
it. ... So I leave it to you. . . . Besides,
I have no reason to suspect you. . . ."

There must have been something in the
tone of her words, something special in her
air and attitude ; at any rate, the old woman
was seized with extraordinary excitement,
and, flinging herself on her knees before her
mistress, cried:

"Oh, it's a shame to cheat a person like
you, ma'am ! I can have no heart at all, nor
my great rascal of a Bouquetot either I . . .
Why, you must be an angel from Heaven
not to see that everybody's robbing you: the



THE SOLITARY 35

grocer, the baker, the butcher, and I most
of all! . . . Just look at my book: a bunch
of carrots, thirty sous; a wretched chicken,
six francs fifteen sous. ..."

She emptied her purse on the table:

"There! Fifty or sixty francs I've done
you out of, all in one month! . . . But I
stopped the other day, I couldn't do it, it
broke my heart to see you like that, so trust-
ing "

"My poor Adele," whispered Gilberte,
greatly moved.

"And then . . . and then," continued the
woman, in a low voice, with bent head, "I
have something else to confess. . . . But I
dare not : it's so shameful. . . . Listen. . . .
Mme. de la Vaudraye . . . well, she put me
here to tell her all about you : what you did ;
if you received any letters ; if you talked to
gentlemen. . . . And, in the morning, when
I went to do my shopping, I used to go to
her . . . and tell her what I saw. . . . Oh,
there was nothing wrong to tell, for you are



36 THE EYES OF INNOCENCE

a real saint! . . . But, all the same. . . .
Forgive me!"

The old servant's confusion was touching.
Gilberte gently raised her from the floor and
said:

"There, we'll say no more about it. But
why is Mme. de la Vaudraye interested in
me and my doings?"

"Goodness knows! She's always poking
her nose in everywhere and wants to manage
everything at Domfront and every one to
obey her. And you don't know how they
talk about you here! There's no lack of
gossip, I can tell you!"

"About me?"

"Yes. They want to know where you
come from, who M. Armand was, all sorts of
things ! Then Mme. de la Vaudraye speech-
ifies about you in her drawing-room. Just
think, you're her tenant; and she's the only
one who has spoken to you! . . . And then
I've guessed something else. . . ."

"What's that, Adele?"



THE SOLITARY 37

"Well, you are rich and a widow; I'm sure
she's after you as a daughter-in-law. . . .
That I'd take my oath on! ... Oh, she has
her head screwed on her shoulders! A fine
lady like you for her penniless beggar of a
son, a good-for-nothing who can't put his
hand to anything! . . ."

Gilberte listened to her in utter confusion.
Wasn't it possible to remain hidden and
unknown? Were there really people who
spied on others, who tried to fathom the mys-
tery of their lives and actually plotted
against them?

But Adele said, in a big, fond voice :

"Don't you worry yourself, ma Bonne
Demoiselle. I'm here and I'll look after
you and look after your money. Oh, the
grocer and the butcher and the rest had best
mind what they're about! . . . You let me
be : you won't be overcharged any more. . . .
And then Bouquetot is there and my son
Antoine: they're decent fellows both . . .
and fell in love with you at once . . .


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