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As for Monsieur de Noirmont, content to be obeyed,
he turned his attention to his guests and did not observe
his wife's pallor.

The subject of conversation soon changed however,
and Madame de Noirmont was able to breathe a little
more freely.

Louise performed her duty as well as she could,
lowering her eyes when she passed her mistress, not
daring to look at her, and taking care never to stand
opposite her.

But suddenly Cherubin's name fell on the girl's ear.
Monsieur Trichet, speaking of a reception at the Com-
tesse de Valdieri's, observed:

" The young Marquis de Grandvilain was not there.
I have noticed too that he doesn't go to Madame Celival's
any more. That seems strange to me, for everybody
knows that the little marquis was making love to those
ladies; he is still too new at the game to conceal his
feelings; he used to stare at them too much it was


At that moment Louise had in her hands a plate of
chicken with olives, which she had been told to carry to
the advocate's tall wife. But when she heard Cherubin's
name, Louise forgot what she was doing; she dropped
the plate on the pretentious lady's shoulder, and a large
portion of chicken with olives fell on that lady's dress.

" What a stupid idiot you are ! " cried the tall lady,
with a savage glance at Louise. " If you don't know
how to pass a plate, you should stay in your kitchen."

Louise stood like a statue, confused and distressed.
The men, thinking her prettier than ever, tried to excuse
her; Ernestine rose hastily and wiped the lady's dress,
which it did not even occur to Louise to do. As for
Madame de Noirmont, when she heard Louise called
stupid and an idiot, her eyebrows contracted and her
eyes shot fire for an instant; she half rose, then fell
back in her chair, as if she were dead. Monsieur Trichet,
who was beside her, exclaimed:

" Madame de Noirmont is certainly ill. Do you feel
ill, madame ? "

" It is nothing, I hope," said Madame de Noirmont,
rising ; " just an ill turn ; I will go and take a breath of

Ernestine was already beside her mother; she sup-
ported her, gave her her arm, and they left the dining-
room together.

This episode caused Louise's awkwardness to be for-
gotten, although the tall lady continued to grumble about
her dress; but nobody seemed to listen to her. After
ten minutes Madame de Noirmont returned to the table.
She was still very pale, but she insisted that she no longer
suffered. The dinner came to an end dismally enough;
the accident that had happened to the mistress of the
house had dispelled all merriment.


They returned to the salon. The men conversed
among themselves, and the tall lady thought of nothing
but her damaged gown. Madame de Noirmont forced
herself to smile as she listened to Monsieur Trichet;
Ernestine kept her eyes on her mother, and the young
men looked frequently toward the door, disappointed
that the pretty lady's maid did not appear again. A
game of whist was organized, but it was not kept up
very long, and the guests took their leave well before
midnight, because Madame de Noirmont was ill and
must need rest.

It was two hours after midnight. All the members
of Monsieur de Noirmont's household had long since
withdrawn to their apartments, and should have been
buried in slumber. Louise, still excited by the emotions
of the day, had just closed her eyes, thinking of Cheru-
bin, who was said to have been in love with two

Suddenly someone opened the door of her room, and
entered cautiously, holding a light. Louise opened her
eyes and recognized Madame de Noirmont, in her night
dress, as pale as she had been at dinner; she walked to
the bed after pausing to listen and make sure that no
one was following her.

" Mon Dieu ! is it you, madame ? " cried Louise ;
" can it be that you are ill ? that you need my services ?
I will get up at once."

" Stay where you are, and listen to me."

As she spoke, Madame de Noirmont went to the door
and closed it, then returned to the bed, sat down beside
it, took Louise's hand and pressed it in both of hers,
saying in a broken voice:

" Louise, you must leave this house, unless you want
me to die to die of grief. Oh ! my suffering has been


horrible! and I feel that I shall not have the strength
to endure it any longer."

" What ! can it be that I am the cause of your suffer-
ing, madame ? Indeed I will go ; yes, be sure of it. Mon
Dieu ! if I had known it sooner, I would have gone long
ago and spared you much annoyance. Forgive me ; for,
far from seeking to make you unhappy, I would give my
life to prove my zealous attachment to you. But no
matter I will go."

" Poor Louise ! then you do not hate me me who
have treated you so harshly, who have never said a kind
or gentle word to you ? "

" Hate you, madame ? Oh ! that doesn't seem possible
to me; it seems to me that it is my duty to love you.
Oh ! pardon I forget that I am only a poor servant."

" A servant you ! Ah ! that is what is killing me, that
is what I cannot endure! You, a servant in my house!

my God ! I was very guilty, I know, since Thou hast
inflicted this punishment on me; but to-day it was too
heavy. Great heaven! what am I saying? I am losing
my wits. Louise, my poor child, you have believed that

1 detested you, that that was the reason why I was con-
stantly trying to keep you away from me, have you not?
Ah ! if you could have read in the depths of my

" Is it possible, madame, that you do not dislike me ?
Oh ! I am so glad ! "

" Listen to me, Louise. You ought not to be a servant ;
you ought to be rich and happy, poor girl! You have
suffered enough for faults committed by others ; your
lot will soon be changed. Here, take this letter which
I have just written, and hand it to the person whose
name is on the envelope, to whom you will go at once
on leaving here. I do not know where the the person


to whom I am sending you lives now, but you can learn
by going to Monsieur Cherubin de Grandvilain's house;
he is his friend, and he will tell you at once where he
lives. You know Monsieur Cherubin's house, do you

" Oh, yes ! I have been there twice, madame. And
the person to whom I am to give this letter ? "

" That person will at least, I think so restore you
to your father."

" To my father ! O my God ! What, madame ! I
shall find my parents ? Do you know them, madame ? "

" Ask me nothing more, Louise ; what I am doing now
is a great deal. I swore that I would never write to this
person; but since I have seen you, I have felt that it
was wicked, very wicked, to deprive you of your father's
caresses ; for he will be happy to recover you ! Oh, yes !
I am sure that he will surround you with love and care."

"And my mother, madame you say nothing of her?
Shall I not see her too ? Oh ! it would be so sweet to me
to hold her in my arms ! "

" Your mother ? Oh, no ! that is impossible ; your
father will conceal her name from you he must. If,
however, he should disclose it, remember that a heedless
word would kill her! But I have said enough. To-
morrow, at daybreak, before anyone in the house is up,
you will go away; you promise me that, Louise?"

" Yes, madame, I promise."

" That is well ; and now, kiss me."

"May I?"

Madame de Noirmont's only reply was to put her arms
about Louise's waist, strain her to her heart, and hold
her so a long time, covering her with kisses. The poor
girl was so happy that she thought that she was dream-
ing, and she prayed heaven not to wake her.


But Madame de Noirmont, whose jeyes were filled with
tears, made a superhuman effort, and extricating herself
from the arms that enlaced her, deposited one more kiss
on the girl's forehead and hurriedly left the room, say-
ing in a voice overflowing with affection:

" Do not forget anything of all that I have said to

Louise lay in a sort of trance; the kisses she had
received had made her know such unalloyed happiness
that she tried to prolong it ; she dared not reflect, or seek
to solve the mystery of Madame de Noirmont's conduct;
but she repeated again and again:

" She loves me ! oh, yes ! she loves me, for she held
me to her heart a long while, and she said : ' Don't forget
anything that I said to you ! ' Ah ! I shall never forget
those words; I shall remember them all my life."

Louise did not close her eyes during the rest of the
night. As soon as the day began to break, she rose,
dressed hastily, made a bundle of her clothes, placed in
her bosom the letter that Madame de Noirmont had given
her, and, softly opening the door, left her room, stole
noiselessly through several rooms to the staircase, and so
down to the courtyard; she knocked on the concierge's
window, he opened the gate, and at daybreak she stood
in the street.




Since his adventure with Chichette Chichemann, Che-
rubin had been less quick to take fire ; or, rather, he had
begun to understand that what he had taken for love
was simply those desires which the sight of a pretty
woman arouses in a man's heart; desires which are cer-
tain to be renewed often in a wholly inexperienced
heart, whose sensations have the charm of novelty.

But the checks he had met with in his amorous essays
had made Cherubin even more shy and timid ; instead of
taking advantage of the lessons that he had received to
bear himself more gallantly in a tete-a-tete, poor Cheru-
bin was so afraid of being unfortunate or awkward again,
that the bare idea of an assignation almost made him
tremble. On the other hand, as love, at his age, is the
first joy of life, the young marquis, not knowing how
he could procure that joy, became sad and melancholy.
At twenty years of age, with a noble name, a handsome
fortune, with good looks and a fine figure; in a word,
possessed of everything that is supposed to make a man
happy, Cherubin was not happy; he lost his good spirits
and even his fresh coloring. He no longer had that
bright, ruddy complexion which people used to admire
in him; for it is useless to try to conceal the fact that,
while excessive dissipation sometimes destroys the health,
excessive virtue may produce the same result; excess
in anything is to be deplored.

FEAR 361

The young marquis no longer visited the Comtesse
de Valdieri, or Madame Celival, because the frigid greet-
ing he received from those ladies was equivalent to a dis-
missal ; but he sometimes met them in society. When he
did, it seemed to him that all the ladies looked at him in
a strange fashion, that they whispered together and even
went so far as to laugh when he appeared. All this tor-
mented and disturbed him; he told his troubles to his
friend Monfreville.

" Do you suppose that that little countess and Madame
Celival have been saying unkind things about me ? " he
said. " I don't know what I have done to them."

" That is just the reason ! " replied Monfreville, with
a smile. " I beg you, my young friend, do not persist in
this apathy, which is ill-suited to your years. You have
everything that a man needs, to be agreeable to the
ladies; form other connections. Have three or four
mistresses at once, deceive them all openly, and your
reputation will soon be reestablished."

" That is very easy for you to say, my dear Monfre-
ville, but, since my misadventures, I am so afraid of being
er awkward again with a woman, that it makes me
shudder beforehand. It is enough to kill one with shame
and despair! I prefer not to take the risk. And yet I
feel that I am terribly bored."

" I can well believe it to live without love, at your
age! when one has not even the memory of his follies!
that is perfectly absurd. But if you are afraid that you
are not yet sufficiently enterprising with a great lady,
why, my friend, make a beginning with grisettes and
actresses. I assure you they will train you quite as well."

" Yes, I thought of that at first ; and last week, hap-
pening to meet Malvina you know, that lively little
ballet girl?"


" Yes."

" Well, I spoke to her. At first she called me Mon-
sieur Jack Frost; but when I told her that I wasn't as
cold as she thought, she said : ' To make me believe
that, you must prove it.' And she invited me again to
breakfast with her at six o'clock in the morning and
we appointed a day."

" Good ! that is excellent ! "

" Oh, yes ! but the day came long ago, and I didn't go."

"Why not?"

" Because I reflected that I had no more love for Mal-
vina than for the others, and that I should no doubt make
as big a fool of myself with her as I had done at my
previous tete-a-tetes."

" You were altogether wrong ! your reasoning is ridic-
ulous! The idea of reflecting about an amourette, a
passing fancy ! But stay didn't you tell me once of
a grisette, a girl who worked in a linen-draper's shop near
by, and who used to ogle you? she even told you her
name, I believe."

" Yes, my friend, that was little Celanire, with the fair
hair and the nose a la Roxelane."

" Well, there's your chance ; ask Mademoiselle Cela-
nire for a rendezvous. Judging from what you have told
me, she won't refuse you."

" That is what I did, my friend. The day before yes-
terday I saw the young grisette in the street; when she
found that I was walking behind her, she pretended to
make a misstep; then she stopped and clung to me
to keep from falling."

" That was very clever."

" So I thought ; after that, we talked, and finally she
agreed to meet me that evening on Boulevard du Chateau
d'Eau, a long way from her quarter, for the express

FEAR 363

purpose of not meeting people who might recognize

" That was very prudent ; grisettes think of everything.
Well, how did matters go at that meeting? "

" Mon Dieu ! my friend, I didn't go there either. As
I was about to start, I made the same reflections that I had
made concerning the little dancer. Then I was afraid
and I stayed at home."

" Oh ! this is too much, my poor Cherubin ! If you give
way to such terrors, there is no reason why you should
not be bewildered by them all your life! In old times,
the old women would have said that someone had cast
a spell on you, and they would have sent you to see
some famous exorcist. For, in the good old days, spells
were cast and destroyed frequently; indeed, it was not
uncommon to see prosecutions based upon such affairs,
and to see the judges order an inspection, in order to
make the man prove his innocence, who attempted
to make so many honest people forfeit theirs. But those
barbarous days have passed for they really deserve to be
so called. Now, we know no better sorcerer than a pretty
woman to discover whether a man is in love or not. So
that I persist in referring you to such a one."

Monfreville's words did not console Cherubin in the
least; he continued in his state of depression and self
torment; but one morning there came to his mind a
thought that roused and revivified him: he thought of
Gagny, of young Louise, of his kindhearted nurse, who
loved him so dearly; it occurred to him to revisit his
childhood home. In his melancholy and his ennui he
remembered those who loved him ; in the whirl of dissi-
pation he had forgotten them ! Such cases are too com-
mon; they do not speak well for our hearts, but why
did Nature make us like that?


Cherubin said nothing to any of his household; he
took neither Jasmin nor Gerondif, but ordered his
cabriolet, bade his little groom climb up behind, and
started, after obtaining minute directions as to the shortest
way to Gagny.

With a good horse it is not a long drive. Cherubin
arrived at Villemonble in a short time. His heart beat
fast as he drove through the village, for he recognized the
country where his childhood had been passed, and a large
part of his adolescence. His heart was very full when
he spied the first houses of Gagny; he felt such a thrill
of pleasure, of happiness, as he had not known since he
went to Paris, and he was amazed that he could have al-
lowed so long a time to elapse without returning to the

He recognized the square, the guard house, and the
steep street leading to his nurse's house; he urged his
horse and drew rein at last in front of Nicole's door.
It was only three years since he had left it, but it seemed
to him a century, and he scrutinized everything about
him to see if anything had changed.

He alighted from his carriage, crossed the yard where
he had played so often, and hastily entered the room on
the ground floor, where the family usually sat. Nicole
was there, working, and Jacquinot asleep in a chair;
nothing was changed ; one person only was missing.

Nicole raised her eyes, then gave a shout. She gazed
earnestly at the fashionably dressed young man who had
entered the room ; she was afraid that she was mistaken,
she dared not believe that it was Cherubin. But he did
not leave her long in uncertainty ; he flew into her arms,

" My nurse ! my dear Nicole ! Ah ! how glad I am
to see you again ! "

FEAR 365

" It's him ! it's really him ! " cried the peasant woman,
who could hardly speak, she was so overcome by joy.
" He has come to see us, so he still loves me, the dear
boy! Forgive me for calling you that, monsieur le
marquis, but habit is stronger than I am."

" Call me what you used to call me, dear Nicole. Do
you suppose that that offends me? On the contrary, I
insist upon it, I demand it."

" Oh ! what joy ! Wake up, Jacquinot, my man, here's
our fieu Cherubin come back, and in our house again."

Jacquinot rubbed his eyes and recognized the young
marquis, but dared not offer him his hand. But Cheru-
bin warmly grasped the peasant's rough and calloused
hand. He, in his delight, ran off, as his custom was, to
bring wine and glasses.

Cherubin seated himself beside Nicole; he kissed her
again and again, then glanced about the room and said:

" What a pity that someone is missing ! If Louise were
here, my happiness would be complete. Is she still in
Bretagne a long way off ? Doesn't she mean to return ? "

" Oh, yes, my boy," murmured the peasant woman with
evident embarrassment. " But you do still care for us a
little bit, my dear child, although you have got used to
finer folks than we are ? "

" Do I care for you ! Indeed I do ! I understand why
you ask me that, dear Nicole ; I have been an ungrateful
wretch, I have acted very badly. To think of not coming
once to embrace you in three years ! Oh ! that was very
wicked of me. I planned to do it very often, but one has
so many things to do in Paris! Society, and all the
amusements that were so new to me it all bewildered me.
You must try to forgive me."

" Forgive him ! How handsome he is ! how handsome
he is!"


" And then, it seems to me that if you had wanted
to see me, there was nothing to prevent your coming to
Paris, to my house. You know well enough where
it is."

" Why, we did go there, my dear child, we went there
twice, Louise and I. We asked to see you, and the first
time they told us that you were travelling; the second,
that you were at some chateau and would be away a
long while."

" That is very strange ! In the first place, it isn't true ;
I have not left Paris since I first went there, I have not
travelled at all; and then, I was never told that you

" The idea ! I told the concierge to tell you."

" Ah ! I will look into this, and I will find out why
they presumed to conceal your visits from me."

" Bless me ! that made Louise and me feel very bad,
and we said : ' As long as he knows we've been to see
him but couldn't find him, and he don't come to see us,
why, we mustn't go again, because perhaps he don't like
to have us come to his house in Paris.' "

" Not like it, my dear Nicole ! The idea of thinking
that of me! And poor Louise too! But why did you
send her to Bretagne, instead of keeping her with you ? "

" Louise in Bretagne ! " exclaimed Jacquinot, who re-
turned to the room just then with a jug of wine and
glasses. " What's the sense of making up stories like
that to deceive my friend monsieur le marquis ? "

" What ! Louise is not in Bretagne ! " cried Cherubin.
" Why, Monsieur Gerondif has been telling me that for
two years. What is the meaning of that lie ? "

" Oh ! dear me, my boy ! " said Nicole, " I'll tell you the
whole story, for I don't like to lie ! And then, the more
I look at you, you look so good and gentle, I can't believe

FEAR 367

that you've got to be a rake, a seducer, as Monsieur
Gerondif told us ! "

" I, a rake, a seducer ! Why, that is not true, nurse, it
is horribly false ! On the contrary, people laugh at me in
Paris because they say I am too bashful with the ladies.
And to say that I am a rake ! That is abominable ! And
my tutor dared to say such things ? "

" My dear child, I am going to tell you the whole
truth. Monsieur Gerondif, who came to see us often
and seemed to admire Louise's beauty, came one day
about nine or ten months ago, and offered the child a
fine place in Paris, which he said that you wanted her to

"Ah! the liar!"

" Louise liked the idea of going to Paris, because she
said that that would bring her nearer to you, and she
hoped to see you once in a while."

" Dear Louise ! "

" So she accepted ; but while she was packing her
clothes, monsieur le professeur whispered to me : ' I am
taking Louise away to remove her from the designs of
my pupil, who means to make her his mistress.' '

" What an outrage ! "

" ' And if he comes here, make him believe that she's
been with a relation of yours in Bretagne a long time.' "

Cherubin rose and paced the floor; he was so suffo-
cated by wrath that he could hardly speak.

" What a shameful thing ! to say that of me ! to invent
such lies! But what could his object have been? Do
you know where he took Louise ? "

" Oh ! to some very fine folks, so he told us."

"But who are they?"

" Bless me ! I didn't ask that, my dear child, because
I had so much confidence in the schoolmaster."


" So you don't know where Louise is ? Oh ! I will
find out! I will make him tell me! I am dying with
impatience; I wish I were in Paris now. Adieu! my
dear Nicole ! adieu, Jacquinot ! "

" What, going already, my fieuf You have hardly
got here ! "

" And he hasn't drunk a single glass ! "

" I will come again, my friends, I will come again
but with Louise, whom I am wild to find! Ah! Mon-
sieur Gerondif ! you say that I am a rake ! We will
see! They have all looked upon me as a child hitherto,
but I'll show them that I am their master ! "

Cherubin embraced Nicole, shook hands with Jac-
quinot, and, turning a deaf ear to all that those good
people said to pacify him, he returned to his cabriolet,
lashed his horse and drove rapidly back to Paris.

On reaching home, he at once summoned Monsieur
Gerondif, Jasmin and the concierge. From the tone in
which he issued the order, and from the expression of
his face, the servants did not recognize their master,
ordinarily so mild and gentle. The groom went to call
the tutor, who had just finished dressing, although it was
midday. He went down to his pupil, thinking:

" Monsieur le marquis undoubtedly wishes me to teach
him something. Perhaps he wants to learn to write
poetry. Mademoiselle Turlurette tells everybody in the
house that my verses are so fine ! I will have him begin
with free verses ; they are certainly easier to write, most

But on entering the apartment of the young marquis,
whom he found pacing the floor with an impatient and
angry expression, the tutor became anxious, and began
to think that he had not been summoned to give lessons
in poetry. Jasmin, who did not know where he was, his

FEAR 369

master was scowling so at him, stood motionless in a cor-
ner, whence he dared not stir, and the concierge, who
was fully as terrified as the others, remained in the door-
way, afraid to go in.

Cherubin addressed the latter first; he bade him come
nearer, and said to him :

" A short time after I first came to this house, a
worthy countrywoman, my nurse, came to see me, with
a young girl. They came twice ; they were most anxious
to see me; and you told them, the first time, that I was
travelling, and the second time, that I was at the chateau
of one of my friends. Why did you tell that falsehood?
Who gave you leave to turn away people who are dear
to me and whom I should have been glad to see?
Answer me."

The concierge hung his head and answered :

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Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 24 of 27)