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do not wish to go to him to ask for shelter, I presume ? "

" Oh 1 no, monsieur ! "

" To return to Gagny and then come here again would
be a waste of time; besides, if you travel alone, you
expose yourself to a thousand encounters that are most
annoying to a young lady. It seems to me, therefore,


that the best thing for you to do, in view of your posi-
tion, is to wait here until Monfreville returns."

" Here, monsieur ! alone in this house, with nobody
but the little boy I saw downstairs," replied Louise, with
a shudder of dismay ; " oh ! I should not dare."

"Alone, my child? no, indeed. If that were the case
I would not make the suggestion ; but there is a concierge
here, Monfreville's confidential servant, a most respect-
able person. That little fellow is her nephew ; she prob-
ably is not far away, and he is watching the house during
her absence."

" Oh ! that is a very different matter ! If there is a
respectable woman here, and she is willing to look after
me until Monsieur de Monfreville returns "

" Wait ; I will go down and see what has become of

Darena hurried downstairs and said to Poterne:

" You will send this little rascal away instantly and
find a woman between forty and sixty years of age, who
has a face that is somewhere near respectable; that will
give the girl confidence, and she will stay here. I am not
sorry to get rid of Monsieur Bruno anyway, after he
admitted so readily those people who ruined our last

" A respectable woman," said Poterne " I don't know
any such. How in the devil do you expect me to find any-
thing of the kind at La Courtille ? "

" Where you choose nonsense a dealer in old
clothes a fortune-teller a charwoman and teach her
her lesson."

Darena returned to keep Louise company and told her
that the concierge had gone to the central market, be-
cause there was no market in that quarter, but that she
would soon return.


Meanwhile Poterne began by discharging Monsieur
Bruno, who was much displeased to be turned out-of-
doors, and who ventured to indulge in some far from
respectful gestures as he withdrew. But Poterne did
not amuse himself watching Bruno's antics; he went
about to the neighboring wine-shops, and from house to
house, inquiring for what he wanted. At last, after two
hours'. search, he found it. He returned to the house
with a woman of about fifty years, tall as a grenadier,
with a cap on her head which certainly had not been
washed for a year, and a dress the color of which was
no longer distinguishable; a pimply face, blear-eyes and
a nose smeared with snuff completed her portrait.

" This is Madame Ratouille, Monsieur de Monfreville's
confidential servant," said Poterne, presenting his com-

Madame Ratouille, to whom Poterne had given care-
ful instructions, curtsied very low to Darena and greeted
Louise most affably, assuring her that the house was at
her disposal, and that her master, Monsieur de Monfre-
ville, would approve of her having urged the young lady
to wait for him. Madame Ratouille, being extremely
loquacious and anxious to play her part well, because
she had been promised six francs a day and all that she
wanted to eat, lost herself in a sea of words intended to
prove to Louise that she would be out of reach of insult
in that house. The girl, feeling certain that Madame de
Noirmont could not have sent her to any but respectable
persons, thanked Madame Ratouille warmly, and con-
sented to await Monsieur de Monfreville's return under
her care.

Darena passed some time with Louise; Poterne seized
the opportunity to show the new concierge over the house,
where she was supposed to have lived for a long while.


He urged her not to talk too much, for fear of making
some slip, and above all things not to allow anyone
to have access to the girl who was placed in her charge ;
then he went away with Darena, who bade Louise
adieu, informing her that he would come the next day
to find out whether his friend Monfreville had returned,
and whether she had everything that she needed.

When they had left the house, Poterne said:

" This girl has fallen into our hands to make up to us
for the Polish intrigue. She is a fascinating creature!
It is impossible that young Cherubin should not adore
her; indeed, you have often told me how much he used
to talk about his little playmate a proof that he hasn't
forgotten her, as she thinks; but we mustn't let him
have her except for her weight in gold."

Darena made no reply; he seemed to be thinking
deeply, and Poterne did not dare to disturb him ; he pro-
posed to have the management of the affair in his own

The next day Darena made a careful toilet and went
with Poterne to the little house. While he talked with
Louise, Poterne remained below, talking with Madame
Ratouille, who assured him "that the girl had not had a
moment of ennui as she had played cards with her all

Darena remained with Louise until nightfall ; when he
went away with Poterne, he was as silent as on the day

The following day passed in the same way; but Po-
terne observed that his dear friend was becoming more
and more coquettish in his attire. Madame Ratouille con-
tinued to play cards with Louise, who thought that Mon-
sieur de Monfreville was very slow about returning. But
Darena said to her every day :


" Be patient ; he must return at last, and as you have
waited for him so long, it would be absurd to go away
just at the moment of his return."

But Louise was beginning to be disturbed; it seemed
to her that the gentleman who came every day to keep
her company, no longer addressed her with the same
respect or kept so far away from her; she considered
that he gazed at her too often and too long; and she
had observed some things in Madame Ratouille's manners
and speech which materially diminished her confidence in
that woman.

On the sixth day, when they left the house, where they
had remained later than usual, Poterne, surprised to
find that affairs were still at the same point, said to his
companion :

" I say ! what's your plan ? When shall you see the
young marquis? What fairy tale do you propose to tell
him on the subject of the girl ? "

Darena puffed himself up and replied in a fatuous tone :

" I have changed my mind ! This girl is decidedly too
pretty to turn over to another man; she pleases me.
I had forgotten what love was, and she has revived that
sentiment in my dilapidated heart! Louise shall be my
mistress; and then, later, when I am tired of her, we
will see."

" That's a fine idea ! " cried Poterne. " Is that the way
you hope to earn money? Fall in love you! why it's
pitiful ! just because you have a few gold pieces in hand,
and because you have been lucky at play these last few-
days. But it will soon be spent; and if you miss this
opportunity "

" Poterne, if you don't stop annoying me, I'll break
this stick over your back ! I mean to possess that child ;
perhaps it is only a whim, but it suits me to gratify it.


She's a little jewel, is this Louise, not a false one, like
the one you sold to Cherubin. To-morrow, you will
order a delectable repast, with wines which you will be
kind enough not to purchase at La Courtille; you will
order it sent to my villa near Barriere de la Chopinette;
I will dine with Louise, and I will sleep there. As to
you, if Madame Ratouille tempts you, I turn her over
to you."

" Sapristi ! I should prefer five years at Toulon ! "
" You heard me, Poterne : a dainty feast at the little
house to-morrow."

" And you think that this young Louise will consent

" Why not, when I have induced her to drink a few
glasses of champagne ? And if she doesn't consent, why,
I will do without her permission. For six days now I
have been darting burning glances at her, and if she
hasn't understood them, so much the worse for her!
it isn't my fault, and I have no desire to take it out in

" Well," thought Poterne, as he followed Darena,
" he has taken it into his head, and anything that I could
say would do no good."

While all this was taking place, Cherubin and Monfre-
ville were searching Paris, making inquiries, asking in
all directions if anything had been seen of a young
woman, of whom they gave an exact description. All
of Cherubin's servants too had taken the field ; Monsieur
Gerondif started out as soon as he had breakfasted and
did not return until dinner-time, swearing that he had
travelled twelve leagues during the day in search of
Louise. Jasmin had gone to Gagny to inquire whether
by any chance Louise had returned there; but the girl
had not been seen, and Nicole, when she learned that


the whereabouts of her adopted child were unknown,
shed tears, cursed the tutor, who was responsible for
Louise's going to Paris, and swore that she would find
him and beat him if her child was not found.

Two days passed and no trace of her had been dis-
covered; toward the end of the third day, Cherubin had
just left Monfreville, to return home, in despair over
the non-success of his search, when, as he crossed the
Pont Neuf, his eyes happened to fall on a small boy.
leading an ugly dog, which he offered for sale to the

The young dog fancier's face bore altogether too
noticeable an expression of craft and mischief not to
attract the attention of a person who had seen it before.
Cherubin instantly recognized the little scamp who was
watching the house to which Darena had taken the so-
called Comtesse de Globeska; and, without any very
clear idea in what way that encounter might be of service
to him, he walked toward Monsieur Bruno, who recog-
nized him and seemed delighted to see him.

" Ah ! it's you, is it, monsieur ? I recognize you ! " said
Bruno, staring impudently at the young man ; " you're
the man they tried to gull with a German woman who
made believe she was a Pole ! Don't you want to buy my
dog? It's a terrier; he'll bring things back better'n I
do, for I never bring anything back at all. Six francs!
that's not a high price. I found him yesterday and I'm
selling him to-day ; we're both hungry, and that's why
I'll let you have him so cheap."

" Ah ! so you sell dogs now, eh ? " said Cherubin.

" Well ! I've got to do something, as those fellows
turned me out-of-doors. You know who I mean your
friend that's such a bully, and that old thief of a Poterne.
You see they've taken another girl to the little house


yonder, but she's a very different kind from the Alsatian ;
she's a mighty sight prettier."

A sudden thought flashed through Cherubin's mind;
he led Bruno aside, put twenty francs in his hand, and
said to him:

" Here, that's for you ; and ten times as much more
if you will help me to find the woman I am looking for."

" Twenty francs ! My eyes ! what luck ! I never had
so much money at once. The dog's yours."

" Now answer my questions. Darena and Poterne, you
say, have taken a young girl to the house outside the
barrier ? "

" Yes, in a carriage, an old cab."

" How long since ? do you know ? "

" Pardi, yes! I was there when they brought her.
It was let me see a week ago to-day."

"A week and we have been looking for her three
days ; oh ! it must be she ! Is this young lady pretty ? "

" Lovely, and she don't look like a country wench like
the other. They made her believe that she was at a
Monsieur de Monfreville's house; then that old vaga-
bond of a Poterne went off and found, I don't know
where, an old woman to play concierge ; and they kicked
me out."

" Did they call her by name before you ? "

" Wait a minute I remember now that, when they
arrived, Monsieur Darena said, as he brought the girl
into the house :

" ' This is my friend Marquis Cherubin's foster-
sister.' "

" It is she ! Ah ! the villains ! I'll make them give her
back to me ! Poor Louise ! in that infamous Darena's
hands for a week! God grant that I may arrive in


" Take me with you. If you appear at the door, they
won't let you in."

" I'll break the door down."

"Oh! it's too strong; but I promise you that I'll find
a way to make them open it."

" Come, then, come ; I will double the reward I prom-
ised you, if Louise is under my protection soon."

" Ah ! a fine trick ! They'll kick me out, will they ?
Thanks! I guess I'll have a little revenge. Go on,
Boudin, I give you your liberty go find a dinner."

Bruno released his dog. Cherubin hesitated a mo-
ment, uncertain whether he should inform Monfreville
of his discovery; but every instant's delay made him
more and more fearful that Louise would fall a victim
to some plot, and he felt that he had sufficient resolu-
tion and courage to rescue her, single-handed, from the
dangers that threatened her. He took a cab with Bruno,
and was driven first to his house, which was not far
away; he took a pair of pistols, determined to make use
of them, if necessary to rescue Louise; then, without a
word to any of his people, he returned to the cab, which
conveyed him and Bruno to Barriere de la Chopinette.

It was dark when they reached the outer boulevard.
Cherubin quivered with impatience, rage, and fear of not
finding Louise. Little Bruno, who thought of every-
thing, said to him :

" Have the cab stop before we're very near the house.
If they should hear it, it would put them on their guard."

Cherubin realized the wisdom of that advice; he
alighted with Bruno, ordered the driver to wait for him,
and walked toward the house with his little companion.
The shutters were closed on the ground floor and first
floor ; but through the poorly joined boards it was easy to
see that there were lights on both floors.


" There's somebody there ! " said Cherubin, his heart
beating violently.

" Yes. Now is when we need to be cunning, in order
to get in. Wait, and don't breathe. Have your pistols
all ready to frighten them when the door is open. You'll
see how I pull the wool over their eyes."

And Bruno knocked on the door, beginning at the
same time to whistle and hum his favorite tune : Tu tu tu
tu r'lu tu tu tu.

Poterne was at table with Madame Ratouille, on the
ground floor; Darena had gone upstairs, where he had
ordered Louise's dinner to be served, announcing his
purpose to dine with her. He had just declared his love
to Louise, who, terrified and trembling, began to under-
stand that she had fallen into a trap, and implored heaven
to come to her aid.

On the ground floor, where there was no talk of love,
they ate much and drank even more. Madame Ratouille's
eyes had grown so small that they were invisible, and
Monsieur Poterne's tongue was beginning to thicken,
when Bruno knocked on the door.

For some time no one answered; at last Poterne's
voice inquired:

"Who's there?"

" It's me, Pere Poterne ; it's your little monkey, Bruno ;
please let me in."

" What do you want, you scalawag ? what have you
come here for? We are not in need of you. Away you

" I came to get a Greek cap that I forgot to take ; I'm
sure I can find it, for I know just where I put it. Let
me get my cap and I'll go right away."

" You annoy us. Go somewhere else and get a cap.
Leave us in peace."


" If you don't let me get my cap, which is in your
house, I'll knock on the door all night, and I'll make row
enough to bring the watch here."

That threat convinced Poterne; he opened the door,
grumbling :

" Well, come in and find your Greek cap ; and make
haste to clear out."

But instead of the small boy whom he expected to see,
Cherubin darted into the house, with a pistol in his hand,
the barrel of which he held against Poterne's chest, saying
in a low voice, but with fire flashing from his eyes :

" If you make a sound, I'll kill you ! Where is

Poterne was so frightened that he could barely mur-

" Upstairs with Darena."

Cherubin asked no more questions ; he darted forward,
rushed upstairs, and with a kick forced the door of the
apartment on the first floor. He was no longer the weak,
timid young man, who could neither speak nor act, but a
Hercules whom nothing could withstand. As he entered
the room he saw Louise struggling and doing her utmost
to repel Darena, who was trying to take her in his arms.
Cherubin rushed upon the man who sought to outrage
Louise, and seizing him about the middle of the body,
lifted him up and threw him violently across the room,
against the table on which the dinner was served.

Darena had no time to grasp what had happened, or to
defend himself; his head struck the corner of the table,
his chin broke a plate which cut his face, and he fell,
murmuring Cherubin 's name.

" Cherubin ! " cried Louise, staring at her rescuer,
afraid to believe her eyes, but shedding tears of joy. " Is
it possible ? It is he ! it is you ! "


" Yes, Louise, it is I, Cherubin, your friend, your
brother so overjoyed to find you! But come, come!
Do not stay any longer in this infamous house! As for
you, villain, if there is any heart left in your body, and if
you wish to have the honor of dying by my hand, come
to my house, and you will find that the young man whom
you believed to be so shy and timid, knows how to use a
sword and a pistol."

Darena could not reply, for he was unconscious.

Cherubin took Louise's hand and led her away ; on the
lower floor they found Madame Ratouille still at table,
while Poterne was trying to hide in a butter firkin, and
Bruno stood guard at the door. Cherubin did not stay an
instant with Darena's confederate ; he led Louise from the
house, and told Bruno to call the cab to the door; he
did so, and they entered. But, before they drove away,
Cherubin took a handful of gold pieces from his pocket
and gave them to Bruno, saying:

" Take this ; you have earned it by doing a good deed ;
I hope that it will bring you luck, and that you will try
to become an honest man."

The cab drove off. Cherubin held both of Louise's
hands in his; and for some time those two, who had
not met for three years, were so pleased and happy to be
together again, their hearts were so full, their emotion so
intense, that they could exchange only incoherent words
and broken sentences.

" It is really you, Cherubin, who saved me," said
Louise. " So you did still think of me ? "

" Why, Louise, I have been searching Paris for three
days, looking everywhere for you, ever since I learned
that you had disappeared from Madame de Noirmont's.
I have not lived, I have not had a moment's peace of


" Can it be true? Then you still love me, Cherubin? "

" Love you, my Louise ! Ah ! more than I ever did
I realize it now ! I let a long while go by without going
to see you, it is true; you must have thought me in-
different or ungrateful; but I always intended to go to
see you, if Monsieur Gerondif had not told me that you
were in Bretagne, where you were so happy that you did
not mean to return to Gagny."

" Oh ! the liar ! And it was he who drove me to de-
spair by telling me that you never gave a thought to your
old playmate, that you had no desire to see her again."

" The miserable villain ! why, that was perfectly hor-

" And it was not true, and you do still love your poor
Louise ? Oh ! how happy I am ! "

This time the drive from the barrier to his house
seemed very short to Cherubin. He alighted, led Louise
into the house, and took her up to his own apartment.
She followed him trustfully; she was with the man she
loved that was the only thought in her mind.

Jasmin, who had come up to his master's apartment
with a light, uttered a cry of joy when he saw the girl,
and Cherubin briefly explained to him how he had found

" So it was that blackguard Poterne again the pre-
served turnips fellow ! " cried Jasmin ; " and his master
another rascal ! Do you know, monsieur, it has oc-
curred to me several times that they were mixed up in

" Louise will remain here. I do not propose that she
shall leave me," said Cherubin ; " I am too much afraid
of losing her again. She will have apartments in this
house; but meanwhile she will occupy mine to-night.
Jasmin, you will have a room prepared for me upstairs."


" Yes, my dear master."

Louise tried to object to that arrangement; she dis-
liked to disturb Cherubin and said that the smallest room
in the house would suffice for her ; but Cherubin paid no
heed to her, and Jasmin went to carry out his orders.

The young people were left alone. It seemed that
Cherubin would never tire of gazing in admiration at
Louise. She was so lovely, so charming, so fascinating,
in his eyes, that he cried:

" And I forgot you for all those creatures that I thought
that I loved. Ah! Louise, there is not a single one of
them who can be compared with you ! "

The girl told her friend all that she had done since she
left the village; she concealed from him none of her
thoughts; she had no secrets from him. When she
reached the time of her entering Madame de Noirmont's
service, she told him of all the incidents that had marked
her life there; then, suddenly putting her hand to her
breast, she made sure that she still had the letter which
she was to deliver to Monsieur de Monfreville, and
which Darena was trying to make her give up to him
when Cherubin arrived so opportunely to rescue her.

" I will take you to Monfreville to-morrow," said
Cherubin, " for it is too late to-night to send for him to
come here. Madame de Noirmont told you that he would
tell you who your father is; but, my dear Louise, let us
swear that, whatever happens, we will never part again.
If you have no parents, I will take the place of them both ;
I will be your protector, your friend, your "

Cherubin did not know how to finish, but he took
Louise's hand and covered it with kisses. The girl was
so happy to find that her old playmate still loved her, that
she gladly took the oath that he requested. They did
not weary of telling each other of their love, and of


swearing that they would love each other always. Then
they recalled their childish delights, their first games,
the happy moments that they had passed together, those
days, so brief and so blissful, which they might perhaps
know again.

To two people who love each other sincerely and who
have not seen each other for a long time, the hours pass
rapidly and unnoticed. Jasmin had long since come to
inform his master that a room had been prepared on the
upper floor, and Cherubin had dismissed him, making
ready at the same time to follow him. But he resumed his
conversation with Louise, he let his eyes rest in unalloyed
delight upon hers, which were filled with emotion and
love. They exchanged more oaths of never-ending love
and thought no more about parting.

Suddenly a neighboring clock struck two.

" Mon Dieu ! it is very late ! " said Louise ; " two
o'clock! I would not have believed it! My dear, I am
keeping you from sleeping; we must say good-night,
but only till to-morrow."

" Very well," said Cherubin, " I will leave you to sleep,
Louise. Good-night since it must be."

And the young man gazed lovingly at the girl and
did not go away. At last he added with some embarrass-

" Louise, before we part, won't you let me kiss you ?
I have not dared to do it since I found you; and yet,
in the village, we used to kiss very often."

The girl saw no reason why she should deny the friend
of her childhood the sweet privilege which she used to
accord him, and her only reply was to walk toward him.
Cherubin threw his arms about her and pressed her to
his heart ; but his kiss was no longer the kiss of a child.
Louise realized her imprudence too late; how can one


shun a danger which one does not anticipate ? And then
there are sins which it is so pleasant to commit, and
Cherubin swore so earnestly that he would always love
her! He had ceased to be bashful!



Daybreak found Cherubin still in Louise's arms; the
apartment made ready on the floor above had not been re-
quired. But when morning came, the young man crept
softly upstairs, so that his servants might think that
he had passed the night there. About nine o'clock he
rang for Jasmin and bade him go down and see if Made-
moiselle Louise had risen and could receive him.

The old servant eagerly performed his errand and

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Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 26 of 27)