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know what to do, and did not hear what was said to her.
But Monsieur de Noirmont, who retained all his presence
of mind, called Comtois, and, with his assistance, carried
his wife to her room and laid her on her bed.

After some time, Madame de Noirmont came to her-
self; but there was a look of gloom and anxiety in her
eyes, which indicated that the cause of her trouble still
existed. She turned her eyes slowly on her husband and
her daughter; then, as she caught sight of Louise, who
was a little farther away and who seemed to share the
general anxiety, she closed her eyes and let her head fall
back on the pillow.

" Mamma, dear mamma, how do you feel now ? " cried
Ernestine, squeezing her mother's hand.

" Better, my dear, I feel better."

" What was the cause of your sudden illness, ma-
dame ? " asked Monsieur de Noirmont with interest.
" You gave us a terrible fright."

" Why, I have no idea, monsieur. I had a sudden feel-
ing of suffocation; then a cold perspiration broke out
all over me, and I lost the use of my senses."

" You didn't feel well this morning, you had a head-
ache," said Ernestine.

" Yes, that is true," replied Madame de Noirmont
hastily. " I felt poorly this morning, and that is the cause,
no doubt "


" And then Louise's story must have grieved you, made
your heart ache. That probably made you worse."

" Do you wish me to send for the doctor, madame ? "

" No, monsieur, it is not necessary ; I need nothing
but rest and quiet and a little sleep, perhaps."

" We will leave you, then."

" But I shall be close by," said Ernestine, " and I will
come at the slightest sound."

Madame de Noirmont seemed most desirous to be left
alone. All the others went away, Ernestine still deeply
moved because she had seen her mother in a swoon,
and Louise very much cast down because she feared that
the story of her misfortunes had touched her mistress too

Madame de Noirmont passed the rest of the day in her
room ; she kept her bed and expressed a wish to be alone.
The next day passed in the same way; and for several
days she did not leave her bed.

She refused to see a doctor, however, and declared that
her trouble required no other remedy than rest.

But from the first moment of her illness, it was evi-
dent that Madame de Noirmont's humor had changed:
she hardly spoke; sometimes her daughter's presence
seemed irksome to her; she answered her curtly and
received her caresses without warmth. As for Louise,
while her mistress kept her room, she persistently de-
clined her services on the pretext that she did not require

Poor Louise was greatly distressed.

" Madame your mother," she said to Ernestine, " will
not let me wait on her, or even go into her room. I am
afraid that I have displeased her, mademoiselle; per-
haps she does not like to have in her house a girl whose
parents are not known."


Ernestine tried to comfort her, saying:

" You are wrong. Why should you think that mamma
has anything against you ? No, it is this trouble of hers,
it's her nerves that make her depressed and irritable.
Why, she even pushes me away now when I kiss her,
and she doesn't kiss me; that makes me unhappy too,
but I am sure that mamma still loves me."

As she spoke, the sweet child shed tears, and Louise
mingled hers with them, for she could think of no other
consolation to give her.

Madame de Noirmont made up her mind at last to
leave her room, and she went down to the salon. The
first time that Louise saw her, she longed to ask about
her health, but she dared not ; her mistress's eyes seemed
to avoid hers, and she did not display her former kindli-
ness to her. For the merest trifle, Madame de Noirmont
lost patience, scolded and became angry; sometimes she
gave Louise ten contradictory orders in the same minute.
The poor girl lost her head, was bewildered, did not
know what to do, while Ernestine gazed at her mother
with a surprised and grieved expression, when she saw
her treat her protegee so harshly.

Sometimes, however, a violent change seemed to take
place in that strange creature ; after speaking sharply and
severely to Louise, Madame de Noirmont, remarking the
poor girl's heartbroken expression, would suddenly
change her tone; her eyes would fill with tears and fol-
low Louise's every movement; then she would call her
in a gentle, affectionate, even tender voice, and the girl
would return instantly, joyous and eager; but her mis-
tress's face would already have resumed its stern ex-
pression, and she would motion her away, muttering
curtly :

" What do you want ? I didn't call you."


Several weeks passed in this way. One morning, Ma-
dame de Noirmont, who seemed even more thoughtful
than usual, said to her daughter when she came to kiss

" Really, I don't propose to keep your maid ; the girl-
is good for nothing; we must dismiss her. We will
pay her two or three months' wages more than is due her.
Tell her, and advise her to return to her village ; I think
that she made a great mistake in coming to Paris to seek
employment. Do not try to change my decision, it would
do no good."

Ernestine was in despair; she was very fond of
Louise, and it would be a real sorrow to her to part with
her; but her mother had spoken in such a stern and de-
cided tone that the poor child dared not reply. She said
nothing, but lowered her eyes with a sigh, and left the
room to perform the distressing duty with which her
mother had entrusted her. As she left her mother's
apartment, Ernestine met Monsieur de Noirmont, who
came up to her and kissed her, and said, observing her
sorrowful air:

" What is it, my child ? You look as if you had been
crying ! "

" It's nothing, papa."

" You know, Ernestine, that I do not like evasions or
mysteries; I insist upon knowing at once what makes
you unhappy this morning."

" Well, papa, it's because mamma is going to send
Louise away, poor Louise, our maid, who is so sweet, and
whom I love so dearly. But mamma doesn't like her
any more ; she says that Louise isn't good for anything ;
but Louise works just as much as she ever did, and she
sews like an angel. But as mamma insists, I am going to
tell Louise, so that she "


" Don't go to her, my child, it is not necessary ; Louise
will stay in this house."

" But, papa, when mamma told me "

" I tell you the opposite, my child, and I am the only
master here."

Ernestine said no more, for her father had assumed
a severe expression which in him denoted that he had
formed a resolution which no one could change. Mon-
sieur de Noirmont then went to his wife and said to her
in a cold and impressive tone :

" Your humor is very capricious, madame, as anyone
may see by the way in which you treat your daughter
sometimes ; but you extend it to defenceless servants also,
and that is what I cannot endure. This young Louise,
who came here to wait upon Ernestine, is honest and
virtuous ; her appearance is as becoming as her manners ;
I think that it would be difficult to find another so satis-
factory; and yet you propose to dismiss her, madame
you expect me to turn a good girl out of my house, be-
cause, for some unknown reason, she has ceased to please
you ; because your fanciful humor makes you more diffi-
cult than ever to serve ! No, madame, that shall not be ;
I propose to be just before everything, and this girl shall
remain in my house, because it would be unjust to send
her away."

Madame de Noirmont had not a word to say in reply ;
she hung her head and seemed completely crushed.




Cherubin did not see Darena for a week; he fretted
and fumed with impatience, fearing that his intrigue with
the pretty Pole had fallen through altogether; and, as is
always the case, he became immeasurably more enamored
of the object of his passion as his fear of not possessing
her increased. It was for the purpose of giving him time
to reach that climax of passion, that Darena, who was
thoroughly acquainted with the human heart, had allowed
several days to elapse without going to see him.

At last Darena appeared at the hotel de Grandvilain
one morning, hurried and breathless, like a man who had
galloped twelve leagues without a halt. He pushed old
Jasmin aside and almost knocked him down, when that
worthy retainer attempted to tell him that he did not
know whether he could see his master, who had not yet

" I don't care whether he's up or in bed, he is always
visible to me," replied Darena imperiously. " Learn, you
old donkey of a valet, to know the persons whom your
master is always delighted to receive."

As he spoke, Darena rushed into the young marquis's
bedroom, leaving Jasmin propped against the wall, mut-
tering in a voice that trembled with wrath:


" Old donkey ! he called me an old donkey ! He's an
impertinent knave. The Grandvilains, father or son,
never called me that. He's not a donkey, but I have an
idea that he's a much more dangerous animal ! "

Darena reached Cherubin's bedside and pulled the cur-
tains aside, crying:

" Up, Joconde ! up, Lovelace, Richelieu, Rochester !
The moment of triumph has arrived at last ! Sapristi !
I can fairly say, my dear fellow, that I have made my-
self ill for you ! Ouf ! I can do no more ! "

And Darena threw himself on a couch, and mopped
his face with his handkerchief.

" But what has become of you during these eight long
days that I have not once seen you, and have not known
what to think of your silence ? " asked Cherubin, looking
closely at his friend. " I thought that you had forgotten

" Ah ! that is just like a man a young man ! Because
things are not done on the instant, you think that you
are forgotten. Do I ever forget my friends? Am I not
absolutely devoted to you? If you have not heard from
me for a week, it is because I had nothing to tell you;
but I have been on the lookout, watching and waiting
for the moment to act. It has come at last; I have acted,
and the fair Globeska is in our power."

" Is it possible ? Oh ! do tell me how you did it, my
dear Darena ? "

" Parbleu ! by my ordinary method : I scattered money
about. I know no other way, especially as it always suc-
ceeds. Dress, and meanwhile I will tell you how it all
came about; but don't call your valet; you will under-
stand that I can't talk about it before a witness. I have
already compromised myself enough but damn the


Cherubin rose and began to dress, saying :
" Go on, I am listening ; I shall not lose a word."
" You know that the pretty Pole lived with her hus-
band in furnished lodgings in the Marais; I succeeded
in effecting the delivery of your billet-doux by bribing
a lady's maid and two concierges. The Comtesse de
Globeska replied that she was mad over you and asked
nothing better than to leave her tyrant. That was all
very well, but how were we to abduct the young woman
from a man who left her no more than her shadow?
It was very difficult. Seven days passed thus ; Monsieur
de Globeski did not leave his wife for an instant. At
last, yesterday, I learned from a concierge, by a further
use of money, that the Polish count had decided to leave
Paris, and that he was going to take his wife to Norway ;
of course, if we had had to pursue our conquest to Nor-
way, it would have taken us too far. I instantly formed
my resolution, saying to myself : ' He shall not take her ! '
" I learned still by the lavish use of money that the
post-chaise was to call for our Poles at eight in the even-
ing. I arrived just before the hour; the carriage came
and stopped in front of the house, and I went boldly
up to the postilion and led him aside.

" ' I adore the woman who is going with you,' I said.
' I am going to follow with two friends to a lonely place
on the road, one or two leagues from Paris ; we shall
pretend to attack you, and fire a few shots with pistols
loaded with powder only. You will stop; we will open
the carriage door and seize the young woman; then you
will start off at full speed with the old gentleman, and
if he shouts to you to stop, you will pay no attention until
you have galloped at least two solid hours.'

" You will understand, my dear Cherubin, that I
should not dare to make such a proposition as that to a


postilion, without supporting it by convincing arguments.
I handed him a thousand- franc note, and he turned his
back, saying:

" ' What do you take me for ? '

" I added five hundred francs. He remarked that it
was a very ticklish business! I added another five hun-
dred. He agreed to everything. That's the way things
are done in Paris. I went off to choose two rascals on
whom I could rely, in consideration of five hundred
francs, which I gave to each. I also hired a post-chaise.
When the Comte de Globeski started off with his wife,
we followed ; and, about two leagues from here, between
Sevres and Chaville, in a place where nothing grows but
melons, we discharged our pistols. The bribed postilion
stopped. It was dark, and everything went off as I had
arranged. We kidnapped the young woman. The old
Pole defended her like a genuine demon ; indeed, he
inflicted a slight dagger wound on one of our men in
the scuffle, which forced me to disburse three hundred
francs more. However, we captured the divine Globeska,
and I took her to the house I have hired, where she
passed the night and is now awaiting you."

" Oh ! what a series of events, my dear Darena ! But
great heaven ! this stealing a woman from her husband,
and by force! Suppose it should be known? Isn't it a
crime ? "

" Bah ! are you going to have scruples now ? At all
events, there was no other way, and then, if worse comes
to worst, I am the only one compromised ; but my friend-
ship is of the sort that defies danger."

" And the pretty Pole where have you taken her ? "

" To a little house that stands all by itself near Bar-
riere de la Chopinette ; I could find nothing better. And
then I considered that to go into the country, at a


distance from Paris, would incommode you too much.
The house I have hired is in a spot where very few people
pass; the outlook is not very cheerful, but what do you
care for that? You aren't going to shut yourself up
with a woman, to look out of the windows at people
passing, are you ? Isn't one always happy when with the
person one loves ? "

" Oh, yes ! of course ; but in what quarter is this
Barriere de la Chopinette ? "

" In the quarter of La Poudrette, and of lonely prom-
enades, in the direction of Menilmontant. However, we
can go there in a cab. Remember, my dear fellow, that
your charmer is waiting for you ; I told the concierge of
the house to order as toothsome a breakfast as he can
procure in that quarter, and some superfine wines. Make
haste and finish dressing put on your best clothes, per-
fume yourself "

" Perfume myself ? Indeed, I shall not ; perfumery
makes me sick."

" As you please, but put on your armor. Lucky Cheru-
bin ! you are about to possess one of the loveliest women
I have ever seen; and her Polish accent, too, is most

" And she loves me, you say ? she has admitted it ? "

" Parbleu ! how many times must I tell you ? In fact,
I should say that her conduct was quite sufficient proof
of it."

" She didn't weep when she was kidnapped ? "

" Weep ! She danced she adores dancing, it seems.
By the way, I need not tell you that I have nothing left
of the funds you advanced me. The postilion and* my
men to pay the hire of the post-chaise and the house
and all the people I bribed. In fact, you owe me fifteen
hundred francs."


" Fifteen hundred francs ! " exclaimed Cherubin, as he
walked to his desk ; " it costs a lot to abduct a woman ! "

" To whom are you telling that ? to me, who have
abducted a hundred perhaps, in the course of my life?
Indeed it was in that way that I spent a large part of my
fortune; but it is a princely pleasure all the same, in
which everybody cannot indulge."

Cherubin handed Darena the sum that he required, and

" I am ready."

" Very good ; send out for a cab ; you will understand
that we can't go to your petite maison with your tilbury
and your groom. You should never take your servants
into the secret of a mysterious intrigue like this; such
people are too fond of talking."

" You are right. Hola ! Jasmin ! "

The old servant appeared, still with a long face, and
cast an angry glance at Darena. Cherubin ordered him
to send for a cab.

" Will not monsieur take his cabriolet ? " queried Jas-
min, with an expression of surprise.

" Evidently not ! " cried Darena, laughing at Jasmin's
face ; "as your master orders a cab, he doesn't propose
to take his cabriolet. Off with you, old ruin, and make
haste, if you possibly can."

" Old ruin ! " muttered Jasmin, as he left the room.
" Still another insult and I must swallow it all ! I am
very much afraid that this ne'er-do-well will ruin my
young master. I should like to know why he makes him
take a cab, when he has his own tilbury and cabriolet."

However, Jasmin did his errand ; the cab was sum-
moned. Cherubin went downstairs with Darena, and
they both entered the vehicle, which Jasmin looked after,
with a far from pleased expression, as it drove away.


Darena told the driver where to take them. After
quite a long drive they stopped in front of a shabby house
outside Barriere de la Chopinette, on the outer boule-

" Here we are ! " said Darena, jumping out of the cab.

Cherubin looked at the house, which had but one floor
above the ground floor, with two windows on the front.

" This isn't a very handsome house ! " he exclaimed.

" It is very fine inside," replied Darena. " The prin-
cipal thing is that it's isolated; the devil himself would
be in it if the husband should unearth you here! My
dear fellow, when you run off with a woman, you must
take the greatest precautions. And after all, what do you
care about the house? It's the woman that you come
here to see. For my part, I should have been perfectly
happy in a shepherd's hut, with the object of my love.
Send the cab away; I am going to ring."

Cherubin made haste to pay the cab-driver, who re-
turned to his box and drove away.

Darena pulled a wire beside the low door that gave
admission to the house. A little fellow of some thirteen
years, with an impudent expression, whose knavish and
insolent bearing harmonized well with a very dirty
costume, answered the bell, his cap over his ear, his
blouse flapping in the wind, and his hands black with
dirt. He bestowed a glance of intelligence on Darena,
who recognized little Bruno, the same urchin of whom
Poterne had tried to make a monkey, and who, on his
side, had conceived the idea of appropriating the skin
which he had used in studying his character. Later
Poterne had found Bruno, who had squandered his dis-
guise; the business agent took the liberty of thrashing
the boy, then forgave him, and charmed by the happy
talents which young Bruno manifested, determined to


employ him again when the opportunity should present
itself. In the scheme which had been devised to dupe
Cherubin, it was necessary to station some intelli-
gent person, who could be trusted, in the house which
had been hired. Poterne instantly thought of the urchin,
to whom he did not pay much, and who had all the
qualities essential to forward their designs.

" Ah ! this is the concierge's son," said Darena, glanc-
ing at Bruno as they entered the house, and leading
Cherubin through a sort of vestibule, toward the stair-
case. " Where's your father, my boy ? is he away ? "

" Yes, monsieur, he had to go to a place ten leagues
from here, to see my aunt, who is very sick."

" And you are keeping the house ? "

" Yes, monsieur."

" Has the lady who slept here had everything that
she wanted ? "

" Oh, yes ! monsieur ; don't you be afraid ; that lady
hasn't wanted for anything. She's upstairs. By the
way, she says that she's beginning to get tired of being
all alone."

" Patience ! monsieur here has come to keep her com-
pany. How about the breakfast ; is it ordered ? "

" Yes, monsieur ; and it will be fine, I tell you. I was
the one that went to the restaurant "

" This little rascal is overflowing with intelligence,"
said Darena, turning to Cherubin, " and I recommend
him to you in case you need anything. Well, my dear
friend, here you are with your charmer now, and I will
leave you."

" What 1 you are going to leave me ? " cried Cheru-
bin, almost in an offended tone.

" Why, I don't see that there is anything more for me
to do here; the rest is your business. You are going


to breakfast tete-a-tete with a little foreigner, who is
mad over you. Would not a third person be in the way ? "

" Oh, yes ! of course. Well, then, au revoir."

" Au revoir, my dear marquis, and may love crown you
with its sweetest favors ! "

Darena smiled, almost ironically, as he shook hands
with Cherubin; then he flashed a glance at Bruno and
left the house, closing the door behind him.

Cherubin felt intensely excited when he found him-
self in that strange house, in a quarter which was entirely
unfamiliar to him, with no other company than a boy
who stared at him with a sly expression, as he cracked
nut after nut which he took from under his blouse.

The vestibule had two doors, both of which were open,
disclosing the interior of two rooms, in one of which
the only furniture was several rickety tables, and in the
other, one table and a wretched cot bed; the windows
on the boulevard were supplied with iron bars, but en-
tirely unprovided with curtains.

Cherubin, who had seen this at a glance, reflected that
Darena had not spent much money in furnishing the
house. Then he turned to Bruno, who was still break-
ing nuts, sometimes with his teeth and sometimes with
his feet, and humming at intervals a tune of which
nothing could be heard save : tu tu tu tu tu tu r'lu tu.

" Where is madame la comtesse's apartment ? "

" Whose ? " queried the ex-bootblack, looking up with
an insolent expression.

" I ask you where the young lady is, who has been in
this house since last night ? "

The boy thrust his tongue into his cheek, a street
Arab's trick when he proposes to lie and answered :

" Oh, yes ; the young foreign lady, who was kidnapped,
and who slept here tu tu tu r'lu tu she's upstairs, on


the first floor, in the finest apartment in the house, where
she's sighing and having a stupid time tu tu tu r'lu tu! "

Cherubin asked no further questions; he went up-
stairs there was but one flight and stopped at a door,
the key of which was on the outside. His heart beat
very fast at the thought that he was about to stand in
the presence of the young Pole who had consented so
readily to leave her husband and go with him; but he
remembered how pretty she was, and he decided to

" Come in," cried a voice, " the key's in the door."

Cherubin recognized Madame de Globeska's accent;
he opened the door and found himself face to face with
the young woman.

Chichette Chichemann wore a very simple costume,
into which a few odds and ends of lace, flowers and fur
had been introduced, in an attempt to set it off ; but they
produced the contrary effect in the eyes of a good judge.
But Cherubin was not as yet an expert in such matters ;
moreover, a man in love pays no heed to such details.
What impressed him at once was Chichette's pretty face,
over which was perched the same velvet toque that she
wore at the Cirque; and as he entered the room she
greeted him with a pleasant smile, crying:

" Ah ! here you are ; that's very lucky ! for I was
beginning to be awfully bored, all alone here! "

Encouraged by this greeting, Cherubin seated himself
beside the young woman, and said to her in a very
tender tone:

" Ah ! madame, then you will pardon what my ex-
cessive love has led me to undertake? You have con-
sented to trust my honor, to fly from him who from
him who that is, from that gentleman who looked so
ugly and who assuredly is not worthy to to "


Cherubin had never said so much at one time; he
stopped, for he did not know how to finish his sentence.
But Chichette gave him no time; she instantly replied:

" Yes, yes ! I've fled from my tyrant. But let's talk
about something else."

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Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 21 of 27)