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Novels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) online

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returned with a radiant face to inform his young master
that his dear friend had risen, that she was as lovely and
fresh as a rose, and that anyone could see that she had
slept soundly all night.

Cherubin smiled at Jasmin's perspicacity, and went
down at once to Louise.

The girl wept and hid her face on her lover's breast;
but Cherubin said to her in the tone which speaks true
love and which reaches a woman's heart so quickly:

" Why should you regret having made me happy, when
I propose to employ my whole life hereafter to make you
happy ? We will never part, you will be my faithful com-
panion, my beloved wife."


" No," replied Louise, weeping, " you are rich and of
noble birth, and you cannot marry a poor girl without
father or mother. I shall love you as long as I live,
but I cannot be your wife; for perhaps a day would
come when you would be sorry that you had given me
that title, and then I should be too wretched."

" Never ! and it is very wicked of you to have any
such idea ! But there's the letter that you are to deliver
to Monfreville that should inform you who your parents
are. I will throw myself at their feet, and they will
have to consent to my becoming your husband."

Louise sighed and hung her head.

" But am I worthy now to find my parents ? " she re-
plied. " It seems to me that I no longer dare to deliver
the letter to that gentleman ; perhaps I should do better
to destroy it."

Cherubin succeeded in allaying her fears; he decided
to write to his friend and to send him the letter that the
young woman dared not carry to him. So he at once
wrote Monfreville the following letter:

" My dear friend :

" I have found my Louise ; she is an angel who will
embellish my life. She cannot be another's now, for
she is mine. O my dear Monfreville, I am the happiest
of men, and I was not frightened this time. But then,
I have never loved other women, and I adore this one.

" Madame de Noirmont gave my Louise a letter for
you, and told her that you could tell her who her father
was; and it was while she was looking for your house
that she fell in with that villainous Darena, who took her
to his petite maison, making her think that she was in
your house. Luckily, I arrived in time ! I send you this
letter, my friend; come to us quickly, and tell us what


you know. But if Louise's parents would try to part
us, do not make them known to her; for henceforth we
cannot exist without each other."

Cherubin signed this letter, enclosed with it the one
that was given to Louise, and sent them both to his
friend early in the morning.

Monfreville was alone when Cherubin's letter was
brought to him, and he lost no time in reading it. When
he saw Madame de Noirmont's name and learned what
she had said to Louise, he trembled and turned pale, and
his eyes instantly rested on the enclosure ; he glanced at
the superscription and exclaimed:

" Yes, she has written to me ; I recognize that writing,
although it is a long while since my eyes last rested on
it. Great God! what can have induced her to write to
me, after swearing that she would never look upon me
except as a stranger, that she would wipe the whole past
from her memory? And this girl that she sent to me
Ah ! if I dared to hope ! "

Monfreville broke the seal of Madame de Noirmont's
letter. Before reading it, he was obliged to pause again,
for he was so excited that his eyes had difficulty in dis-
tinguishing the letters. At last he made an effort to re-
cover himself, and read:

" Monsieur :

" When, disregarding your oaths, you left me to
lament by my child's cradle a fault which you made no
motion to repair, I swore that you should never know
that child. And more than that, I confess that I included
her in the hatred which filled my heart thenceforth for my
seducer; I abandoned my child to the village people in
whose care I had placed her, and I determined never to


see her again. Later, my position made it my duty to
keep that oath. My father, who, thank heaven, never
knew of his daughter's wrongdoing, disposed of my
hand ; married, a mother, and the wife of a man no less
severe on the question of honor than jealous of his
reputation, I should have wrecked my daughter's hap-
piness, Monsieur de Noirmont's, and my own, if, by a
single imprudent step, I had exposed myself to the sus-
picion of a youthful indiscretion. To tell you that I was
happy would be to deceive you ; can a mother be happy,
when she has spurned one of her children from her arms ?
I often blamed myself for the caresses that I gave my
daughter ; for I said to myself, in the depths of my heart,
that I had another daughter who had an equal claim to
my affection, and that I had cast her out! My remorse
was not sufficient, evidently, and Heaven had a more
terrible punishment in store for me ! A few months ago,
while I was out of town, a young woman was taken into
my household as lady's maid. Her sweet disposition, the
charm that emanated from her whole person, soon won
all hearts. I myself felt drawn toward her. But con-
ceive my situation when I discovered that that girl,
brought up in the village of Gagny, by the good-nature
of a peasant-woman named Nicole, was the same child
whom I had abandoned to that woman's tender mercies
years ago! My daughter under my roof in a servile
capacity ! a servant in her mother's house ! Ah ! mon-
sieur, could I endure that ghastly position of affairs?
Constantly tempted to throw myself into Louise's arms,
to strain her to my heart; then, remembering my hus-
band, my other daughter, the honor of a whole family
I felt that I must find a way out of that situation or die.
At last I went to Louise; I could not force myself to
confess that I was her mother, but I implored her


to leave the house, and the poor child yielded to my en-
treaties. But, deeply touched by the attachment to me
which she has manifested, I have determined to give
her a father. That child, whom, on your return to
France, you vainly implored me to make known to you,
is Louise, the lovely and virtuous maid who will hand
you this letter. Give her a father, monsieur; as for her
mother, you must not mention her name to her, but her
heart will doubtless lead her to divine who she is.


When he had finished reading this letter, Monfreville
abandoned himself to the wildest delight; he ran his
eyes over Madame de Noirmont's missive again, for he
feared that he was the plaything of a delusion; he was
too happy to think that Louise, whose beauty and virtue
and sweet temper everyone joined in extolling, was the
daughter whom he was ardently desirous to find. But
soon he recalled something that moderated the exuberance
of his joy; he remembered Cherubin's letter, took it up
and read it again, and a melancholy expression stole over
his face.

" Heaven did not choose that my happiness should be
without alloy," he murmured, with a sigh ; " doubtless it
is to make me expiate my sin; but after being so guilty
myself, there is nothing left for me to do but to forgive."

Louise and Cherubin were still together; they were
impatiently awaiting Monfreville's arrival, and their im-
patience was blended with a secret fear which they could
not clearly define.

At last, Jasmin announced : " Monsieur de Monfre-

Louise, deeply agitated, lowered her eyes ; Cherubin
ran to meet his friend, but stopped short when he saw


his serious, even stern, expression, and faltered, offering
him his hand :

" Haven't you received my letter, my friend ? "

Monfreville did not touch the hand that Cherubin of-
fered him; he turned his eyes on the girl who stood,
trembling, at the farther end of the room; and, as he
gazed at her, he felt that his eyes filled with tears. But,
struggling to conceal the emotion that he felt, he seated
himself a few steps from Louise, who still kept her eyes
on the floor, and motioned Cherubin to sit, saying:

" Yes, I have received your letter ; and I have read the
one from Madame de Noirmont, who tells me that ma-
demoiselle was adopted by the same good woman who
nursed you."

" Well, my friend, is it true that you know Louise's
father, that you can help her to find him? But do you
think he will make her happy, that he will not put any
obstacles in the way of our love ? "

Monfreville glanced at the girl again and said in a
faltering voice :

" Yes, I know mademoiselle's father."

Louise raised her eyes at that, and looked at Mon-
freville with a thrill of hope and of filial affection, crying :

" You know my father ? Oh ! if it should be true,
monsieur, that he would deign to love me to "

She could not finish the sentence; her voice trembled
and the words died on her lips.

" Before answering your questions," Monfreville con-
tinued, after a moment, " it is necessary that I should tell
you an anecdote of my youth. Please give me your at-
tention. I was just twenty-two years old; I was inde-
pendently rich, absolutely master of my actions and with
very little control over my passions. I loved a young
lady belonging to an honorable family. She had no


mother to watch over her, and during her father's ab-
sence, my love succeeded in triumphing over her virtue.
Believe me, it is very wrong to abuse a sentiment you
have aroused, in order to induce the person you love to
forget her duties; and it rarely happens that one is not
punished for it ! "

Here Cherubin lost countenance and dared not look at
Monfreville, while Louise, pale and trembling, felt the
tears falling from her eyes.

" Soon after," continued Monfreville, " being obliged
to visit England on business, I went away, promising
the victim of my seduction that I would soon return to
ask her father for her hand. But when I was away from
her, inconstancy, too natural in a young man, led me to
forget my promise. But I received a letter in which she
told me that she was about to become a mother, and that
I must hasten back to her, if I wished to save her honor
and repair the wrong I had done. Well ! I left that letter
unanswered ; I had another intrigue on hand ! Two
years passed. I returned to France, and, remembering
the woman whom I had abandoned in such dastardly
fashion, and the child who did not know its father, I
resolved to offer my name and my hand to her to whom
my conduct had been so blameworthy. But it was too
late she was married! As she was married to a man
of honorable position, I felt sure that she had succeeded
in concealing her weakness from all eyes ; but I was wild
to know what had become of my child. After many fruit-
less attempts, I succeeded at last in obtaining a secret in-
terview with the woman who had loved me so well ; but
I found only an embittered, implacable woman, who, to all
my entreaties, made no other answer than this : * You
abandoned me when I implored you to come home and
make me your wife and give your child a father. I no


longer know you! I desire to forget a sin for which I
blush; and, as for your daughter, all your prayers will
be wasted, you shall never know what has become of
her.' This decree, pronounced by an outraged woman,
was only too strictly executed. Sixteen years passed. I
renewed my prayers at intervals, but in vain : they were
left unanswered. And now, Cherubin, you know the
cause of the fits of melancholy which sometimes assailed
me in the gayest circles ; of that instability of temper for
which I am noted ; sometimes, amid the noisy amuse-
ments of society, the thought of my child would come
to my mind, and the wealth that people envied, the good-
fortune that I seemed to enjoy ah! I would willingly
have sacrificed them to hold my daughter in my arms just
once! But to-day my desires are granted; to-day, a
friend of her whom I once loved so dearly, has deigned
to restore my child to me at last ! But O my God ! when
I should be so happy to recover her, must I needs learn
at the same time that she is guilty ? that seduction, which
wrecked her mother's happiness, is the lot of my child

Monfreville had not finished when Louise and Cheru-
bin threw themselves at his feet. With their faces bathed
in tears, they kissed his knees, and Louise held out her
arms, murmuring tremulously:

" Forgive me, father forgive us ! Alas ! I did not
know my parents, and Cherubin was everything to me ! "

Monfreville opened his arms and the lovers threw
themselves upon his heart.

" Yes," he said, as he embraced them, " yes, I must for-
give you, for henceforth I shall have two children instead
of one."




Some time after that day which restored a father to
Louise, Monsieur de Monfreville, who had publicly
acknowledged her as his daughter, bestowed her hand on
Marquis Cherubin de Grandvilain.

And on the wedding-day, Nicole came to Paris, doubly
happy to be present at the ceremony which sealed the
happiness of him whom she still called her fieu, and of
the child to whom she had, for a long time, been a mother.

And Jasmin, who seemed to have recovered all his
youthful vigor, absolutely insisted upon discharging fire-
works in the courtyard for his master's nuptials; but
stout Turlurette opposed it, recalling the accidents that
had happened at the time of Cherubin's birth. So that
Jasmin confined himself to firing a few rockets, with
which he burned off what little hair he had left.

As for Monsieur Gerondif, Cherubin, after bestowing
a tidy little sum upon him, requested him to seek other
pupils. The tutor, finding himself possessed of a round
sum, determined to make a name for himself in Paris;
he founded a Latin journal, wrote a tragedy, gave a
course of lectures on universal knowledge, and tried to
compel ladies to dress without corsets. After some time,
having succeeded only in squandering his capital, he was
very glad to return to Gagny and resume his post as


As the result of his fall among plates and glasses,
Darena was permanently disfigured, so that he dared not
show himself in respectable society; he abandoned him-
self more freely than ever to his taste for debauchery,
and after a wild orgy and a night passed at play with
some low wretches, whose money he had won, he was
found in the street, dead and stripped clean.

Thus ended a man born in good society, brought up
in opulence, and well educated, but reduced to the lowest
social level by his vices.

After losing his intimate friend, Monsieur Poterne be-
came a dealer in return checks at the doors of theatres,
and in that occupation he received several beatings be-
cause one could never get into the theatre with the
checks that he sold.

Little Bruno took advantage of the advice and the
money that Cherubin gave him ; abandoning the practice
of stealing dogs to sell, he set up a little shop, did a
good business and became an honest man; he often said
that it was easier than to be a knave.

Louise was a happy wife and a happy daughter. Mon-
freville never told her her mother's name; but when
she went into society, where she was warmly greeted as
young Marquis Cherubin's wife, she sometimes met the
Noirmont family. It was with the keenest pleasure that
she embraced Ernestine, who always manifested a warm
affection for her. Then her eyes would seek Madame
de Noirmont's, who, on her side, was always on the
watch; and when, concealed behind the throng, their
eyes met, their glances were eloquent with all the love
that a mother's and a daughter's hearts can contain.

As for Cherubin, he became a model husband; it is
even said that he was faithful to his wife; that young
man was always different from other people.

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