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that the law of those days defined as a crime, an offense that was like
to bring her to the scaffold. The public prosecutor, moreover, said, in
a low voice, that they must hush the matter up, and try to save the
unfortunate lady from the abyss toward which she was hastening.

"If you spread reports about," he added, "I shall be obliged to take
cognizance of the matter, and to search the house, and then!..."

He said no more, but everyone understood what was left unsaid.

The Countess's real friends were so much alarmed for her, that on the
morning of the third day the _Procureur Syndic_ of the commune made his
wife write a few lines to persuade Mme. de Dey to hold her reception as
usual that evening. The old merchant took a bolder step. He called that
morning upon the lady. Strong in the thought of the service he meant to
do her, he insisted that he must see Mme. de Dey, and was amazed beyond
expression to find her out in the garden, busy gathering the last
autumn flowers in her borders to fill the vases.

"She has given refuge to her lover, no doubt," thought the old man,
struck with pity for the charming woman before him.

The Countess's face wore a strange look, that confirmed his suspicions.
Deeply moved by the devotion so natural to women, but that always
touches us, because all men are flattered by the sacrifices that any
woman makes for any one of them, the merchant told the Countess of the
gossip that was circulating in the town, and showed her the danger that
she was running. He wound up at last with saying that "if there are
some of our public functionaries who are sufficiently ready to pardon a
piece of heroism on your part so long as it is a priest that you wish
to save, no one will show you any mercy if it is discovered that you
are sacrificing yourself to the dictates of your heart."

At these words Mme. de Dey gazed at her visitor with a wild excitement
in her manner that made him tremble, old though he was.

"Come in," she said, taking him by the hand to bring him to her room,
and as soon as she had assured herself that they were alone, she drew a
soiled, torn letter from her bodice. - "Read it!" she cried, with a
violent effort to pronounce the words.

She dropped as if exhausted into her armchair. While the old merchant
looked for his spectacles and wiped them, she raised her eyes, and for
the first time looked at him with curiosity; then, in an uncertain
voice, "I trust in you," she said softly.

"Why did I come but to share in your crime?" the old merchant said
simply.

She trembled. For the first time since she had come to the little town
her soul found sympathy in another soul. A sudden light dawned meantime
on the old merchant; he understood the Countess's joy and her
prostration.

Her son had taken part in the Granville expedition; he wrote to his
mother from his prison, and the letter brought her a sad, sweet hope.
Feeling no doubts as to his means of escape, he wrote that within three
days he was sure to reach her, disguised. The same letter that brought
these weighty tidings was full of heartrending farewells in case the
writer should not be in Carentan by the evening of the third day, and
he implored his mother to send a considerable sum of money by the
bearer, who had gone through dangers innumerable to deliver it. The
paper shook in the old man's hands.

"And to-day is the third day!" cried Mme. de Dey. She sprang to her
feet, took back the letter, and walked up and down.

"You have set to work imprudently," the merchant remarked, addressing
her. "Why did you buy provisions?"

"Why, he may come in dying of hunger, worn out with fatigue, and - " She
broke off.

"I am sure of my brother," the old merchant went on; "I will engage him
in your interests."

The merchant in this crisis recovered his old business shrewdness, and
the advice that he gave Mme. de Dey was full of prudence and wisdom.
After the two had agreed together as to what they were to do and say,
the old merchant went on various ingenious pretexts to pay visits to
the principal houses of Carentan, announcing wherever he went that he
had just been to see Mme. de Dey, and that, in spite of her
indisposition, she would receive that evening. Matching his shrewdness
against Norman wits in the cross-examination he underwent in every
family as to the Countess's complaint, he succeeded in putting almost
everyone who took an interest in the mysterious affair upon the wrong
scent.

His very first call worked wonders. He told, in the hearing of a gouty
old lady, how that Mme. de Dey had all but died of an attack of gout in
the stomach; how that the illustrious Tronchin had recommended her in
such a case to put the skin from a live hare on her chest, to stop in
bed, and keep perfectly still. The Countess, he said, had lain in
danger of her life for the past two days; but after carefully following
out Tronchin's singular prescription, she was now sufficiently
recovered to receive visitors that evening.

This tale had an immense success in Carentan. The local doctor, a
Royalist _in petto_, added to its effect by gravely discussing the
specific. Suspicion, nevertheless, had taken too deep root in a few
perverse or philosophical minds to be entirely dissipated; so it fell
out that those who had the right of entry into Mme. de Dey's
drawing-room hurried thither at an early hour, some to watch her face,
some out of friendship, but the more part attracted by the fame of the
marvelous cure.

They found the Countess seated in a corner of the great chimney-piece
in her room, which was almost as modestly furnished as similar
apartments in Carentan; for she had given up the enjoyment of luxuries
to which she had formerly been accustomed, for fear of offending the
narrow prejudices of her guests, and she had made no changes in her
house. The floor was not even polished. She had left the old somber
hangings on the walls, had kept the old-fashioned country furniture,
burned tallow candles, had fallen in with the ways of the place and
adopted provincial life without flinching before its cast-iron
narrowness, its most disagreeable hardships; but knowing that her
guests would forgive her for any prodigality that conduced to their
comfort, she left nothing undone where their personal enjoyment was
concerned; her dinners, for instance, were excellent. She even went so
far as to affect avarice to recommend herself to these sordid natures;
and had the ingenuity to make it appear that certain concessions to
luxury had been made at the instance of others, to whom she had
graciously yielded.

Toward seven o'clock that evening, therefore, the nearest approach to
polite society that Carentan could boast was assembled in Mme. de Dey's
drawing-room, in a wide circle, about the fire. The old merchant's
sympathetic glances sustained the mistress of the house through this
ordeal; with wonderful strength of mind, she underwent the curious
scrutiny of her guests, and bore with their trivial prosings. Every
time there was a knock at the door, at every sound of footsteps in the
street, she hid her agitation by raising questions of absorbing
interest to the countryside. She led the conversation on to the burning
topic of the quality of various ciders, and was so well seconded by her
friend who shared her secret, that her guests almost forgot to watch
her, and her face wore its wonted look; her self-possession was
unshaken. The public prosecutor and one of the judges of the
Revolutionary Tribunal kept silence, however; noting the slightest
change that flickered over her features, listening through the noisy
talk to every sound in the house. Several times they put awkward
questions, which the Countess answered with wonderful presence of mind.
So brave is a mother's heart!

Mme. de Dey had drawn her visitors into little groups, had made parties
of whist, boston, or reversis, and sat talking with some of the young
people; she seemed to be living completely in the present moment, and
played her part like a consummate actress. She elicited a suggestion of
loto, and saying that no one else knew where to find the game, she left
the room.

"My good Brigitte, I cannot breathe down there!" she cried, brushing
away the tears that sprang to her eyes that glittered with fever,
sorrow, and impatience. - She had gone up to her son's room, and was
looking round it. "He does not come," she said. "Here I can breathe and
live. A few minutes more, and he will be here, for he is alive, I am
sure that he is alive! my heart tells me so. Do you hear nothing,
Brigitte? Oh! I would give the rest of my life to know whether he is
still in prison or tramping across the country. I would rather not
think."

Once more she looked to see that everything was in order. A bright fire
blazed on the hearth, the shutters were carefully closed, the furniture
shone with cleanliness, the bed had been made after a fashion that
showed that Brigitte and the Countess had given their minds to every
trifling detail. It was impossible not to read her hopes in the dainty
and thoughtful preparations about the room; love and a mother's
tenderest caresses seemed to pervade the air in the scent of flowers.
None but a mother could have foreseen the requirements of a soldier and
arranged so completely for their satisfaction. A dainty meal, the best
of wine, clean linen, slippers - no necessary, no comfort, was lacking
for the weary traveler, and all the delights of home heaped upon him
should reveal his mother's love.

"Oh, Brigitte!..." cried the Countess, with a heart-rending inflection
in her voice. She drew a chair to the table as if to strengthen her
illusions and realize her longings.

"Ah! madame, he is coming. He is not far off.... I haven't a doubt that
he is living and on his way," Brigitte answered. "I put a key in the
Bible and held it on my fingers while Cottin read the Gospel of St.
John, and the key did not turn, madame."

"Is that a certain sign?" the Countess asked.

"Why, yes, madame! everybody knows that. He is still alive; I would
stake my salvation on it; God cannot be mistaken."

"If only I could see him here in the house, in spite of the danger."

"Poor Monsieur Auguste!" cried Brigitte; "I expect he is tramping along
the lanes!"

"And that is eight o'clock striking now!" cried the Countess in terror.

She was afraid that she had been too long in the room where she felt
sure that her son was alive; all those preparations made for him meant
that he was alive. She went down, but she lingered a moment in the
peristyle for any sound that might waken the sleeping echoes of the
town. She smiled at Brigitte's husband, who was standing there on
guard; the man's eyes looked stupid with the strain of listening to the
faint sounds of the night. She stared into the darkness, seeing her son
in every shadow everywhere; but it was only for a moment. Then she went
back to the drawing-room with an assumption of high spirits, and began
to play at loto with the little girls. But from time to time she
complained of feeling unwell, and went to sit in her great chair by the
fireside. So things went in Mme. de Dey's house and in the minds of
those beneath her roof.

Meanwhile, on the road from Paris to Cherbourg, a young man, dressed in
the inevitable brown _carmagnole_ of those days, was plodding his way
toward Carentan. When the first levies were made, there was little or
no discipline kept up. The exigencies of the moment scarcely admitted
of soldiers being equipped at once, and it was no uncommon thing to see
the roads thronged with conscripts in their ordinary clothes. The young
fellows went ahead of their company to the next halting place, or
lagged behind it; it depended upon their fitness to bear the fatigues
of a long march. This particular wayfarer was some considerable way in
advance of a company of conscripts on the way to Cherbourg, whom the
mayor was expecting to arrive every hour, for it was his duty to
distribute their billets. The young man's footsteps were still firm as
he trudged along, and his bearing seemed to indicate that he was no
stranger to the rough life of a soldier. The moon shone on the pasture
land about Carentan, but he had noticed great masses of white cloud
that were about to scatter showers of snow over the country, and
doubtless the fear of being overtaken by a storm had quickened his pace
in spite of his weariness.

The wallet on his back was almost empty, and he carried a stick in his
hand, cut from one of the high, thick box hedges that surround most of
the farms in Lower Normandy. As the solitary wayfarer came into
Carentan, the gleaming moonlit outlines of its towers stood out for a
moment with ghostly effect against the sky. He met no one in the silent
streets that rang with the echoes of his own footsteps, and was obliged
to ask the way to the mayor's house of a weaver who was working late.
The magistrate was not far to seek, and in a few minutes the conscript
was sitting on a stone bench in the mayor's porch waiting for his
billet. He was sent for, however, and confronted with that functionary,
who scrutinized him closely. The foot soldier was a good-looking young
man, who appeared to be of gentle birth. There was something
aristocratic in his bearing, and signs in his face of intelligence
developed by a good education.

"What is your name?" asked the mayor, eying him shrewdly.

"Julien Jussieu," answered the conscript.

"From - ?" queried the official, and an incredulous smile stole over his
features.

"From Paris."

"Your comrades must be a good way behind?" remarked the Norman in
sarcastic tones.

"I am three leagues ahead of the battalion."

"Some sentiment attracts you to Carentan, of course,
citizen-conscript," said the mayor astutely. "All right, all right!" he
added, with a wave of the hand, seeing that the young man was about to
speak. "We know where to send you. There, off with you, _Citizen
Jussieu_," and he handed over the billet.

There was a tinge of irony in the stress the magistrate laid on the two
last words while he held out a billet on Mme. de Dey. The conscript
read the direction curiously.

"He knows quite well that he has not far to go, and when he gets
outside he will very soon cross the marketplace," said the mayor to
himself, as the other went out. "He is uncommonly bold! God guide
him!... He has an answer ready for everything. Yes, but if somebody
else had asked to see his papers it would have been all up with him!"

The clocks in Carentan struck half-past nine as he spoke. Lanterns were
being lit in Mme. de Dey's antechamber, servants were helping their
masters and mistresses into sabots, greatcoats, and calashes. The card
players settled their accounts, and everybody went out together, after
the fashion of all little country towns.

"It looks as if the prosecutor meant to stop," said a lady, who noticed
that that important personage was not in the group in the market-place,
where they all took leave of one another before going their separate
ways home. And, as a matter of fact, that redoubtable functionary was
alone with the Countess, who waited trembling till he should go. There
was something appalling in their long silence.

"Citoyenne," said he at last, "I am here to see that the laws of the
Republic are carried out - "

Mme. de Dey shuddered.

"Have you nothing to tell me?"

"Nothing!" she answered, in amazement.

"Ah! madame," cried the prosecutor, sitting down beside her and
changing his tone. "At this moment, for lack of a word, one of us - you
or I - may carry our heads to the scaffold. I have watched your
character, your soul, your manner, too closely to share the error into
which you have managed to lead your visitors to-night. You are
expecting your son, I could not doubt it."

The Countess made an involuntary sign of denial, but her face had grown
white and drawn with the struggle to maintain the composure that she
did not feel, and no tremor was lost on the merciless prosecutor.

"Very well," the Revolutionary official went on, "receive him; but do
not let him stay under your roof after seven o'clock to-morrow morning;
for to-morrow, as soon as it is light, I shall come with a denunciation
that I will have made out, and - "

She looked at him, and the dull misery in her eyes would have softened
a tiger.

"I will make it clear that the denunciation was false by making a
thorough search," he went on in a gentle voice; "my report shall be
such that you will be safe from any subsequent suspicion. I shall make
mention of your patriotic gifts, your civism, and _all_ of us will be
safe."

Mme. de Dey, fearful of a trap, sat motionless, her face afire, her
tongue frozen. A knock at the door rang through the house.

"Oh!..." cried the terrified mother, falling upon her knees; "save him!
save him!"

"Yes, let us save him!" returned the public prosecutor, and his eyes
grew bright as he looked at her, "if it costs _us_ our lives!"

"Lost!" she wailed. The prosecutor raised her politely.

"Madame," said he with a flourish of eloquence, "to your own free will
alone would I owe - "

"Madame, he is - " cried Brigitte, thinking that her mistress was alone.
At the sight of the public prosecutor, the old servant's joy-flushed
countenance became haggard and impassive.

"Who is it, Brigitte?" the prosecutor asked kindly, as if he too were
in the secret of the household.

"A conscript that the mayor has sent here for a night's lodging," the
woman replied, holding out the billet.

"So it is," said the prosecutor, when he had read the slip of paper. "A
battalion is coming here to-night."

And he went.

The Countess's need to believe in the faith of her sometime attorney
was so great, that she dared not entertain any suspicion of him. She
fled upstairs; she felt scarcely strength enough to stand; she opened
the door, and sprang, half dead with fear, into her son's arms.

"Oh! my child! my child!" she sobbed, covering him with almost frenzied
kisses.

"Madame!..." said a stranger's voice.

"Oh! it is not he!" she cried, shrinking away in terror, and she stood
face to face with the conscript, gazing at him with haggard eyes.

"_O saint bon Dieu!_ how like he is!" cried Brigitte.

There was silence for a moment; even the stranger trembled at the sight
of Mme. de Dey's face.

"Ah! monsieur," she said, leaning on the arm of Brigitte's husband,
feeling for the first time the full extent of a sorrow that had all but
killed her at its first threatening; "ah! monsieur, I cannot stay to
see you any longer ... permit my servants to supply my place, and to
see that you have all that you want."

She went down to her own room, Brigitte and the old serving-man half
carrying her between them. The housekeeper set her mistress in a chair,
and broke out:

"What, madame! is that man to sleep in Monsieur Auguste's bed, and wear
Monsieur Auguste's slippers, and eat the pasty that I made for Monsieur
Auguste? Why, if they were to guillotine me for it, I - "

"Brigitte!" cried Mme. de Dey.

Brigitte said no more.

"Hold your tongue, chatterbox," said her husband, in a low voice; "do
you want to kill madame?"

A sound came from the conscript's room as he drew his chair to the
table.

"I shall not stay here," cried Mme. de Dey; "I shall go into the
conservatory; I shall hear better there if anyone passes in the night."

She still wavered between the fear that she had lost her son and the
hope of seeing him once more. That night was hideously silent. Once,
for the Countess, there was an awful interval, when the battalion of
conscripts entered the town, and the men went by, one by one, to their
lodgings. Every footfall, every sound in the street, raised hopes to be
disappointed; but it was not for long, the dreadful quiet succeeded
again. Toward morning the Countess was forced to return to her room.
Brigitte, ever keeping watch over her mistress's movements, did not see
her come out again; and when she went, she found the Countess lying
there dead.

"I expect she heard that conscript," cried Brigitte, "walking about
Monsieur Auguste's room, whistling that accursed _Marseillaise_ of
theirs while he dressed, as if he had been in a stable! That must have
killed her."

But it was a deeper and a more solemn emotion, and doubtless some
dreadful vision, that had caused Mme. de Dey's death; for at the very
hour when she died at Carentan, her son was shot in le Morbihan.

* * * * *

This tragical story may be added to all the instances on record of the
workings of sympathies uncontrolled by the laws of time and space.
These observations, collected with scientific curiosity by a few
isolated individuals, will one day serve as documents on which to base
the foundations of a new science which hitherto has lacked its man of
genius.




_Introduction to Zadig the Babylonian_

_A work (says the author) which performs more than it promises._


Voltaire never heard of a "detective story"; and yet he wrote the first
in modern literature, so clever as to be a model for all the others
that followed.

He describes his hero Zadig thus: "His chief talent consisted in
discovering the truth," - in making swift, yet marvelous deductions,
worthy of Sherlock Holmes or any other of the ingenious modern
"thinking machines."

But no one would be more surprised than Voltaire to behold the part
that Zadig now "performs." The amusing Babylonian, now regarded as the
aristocratic ancestor of modern story-detectives, was created as a
chief mocker in a satire on eighteenth-century manners, morals, and
metaphysics.

Voltaire breathed his dazzling brilliance into "Zadig" as he did into a
hundred other characters - for a political purpose. Their veiled and
bitter satire was to make Europe think - to sting reason into action - to
ridicule out of existence a humbugging System of special privileges. It
did, _via_ the French Revolution and the resulting upheavals. His prose
romances are the most perfect of Voltaire's manifold expressions to
this end, which mark him the most powerful literary man of the century.

But the arch-wit of his age outdid his brilliant self in "Zadig." So
surpassingly sharp and quick was this finished sleuth that his methods
far outlived his satirical mission. His razor-mind was reincarnated a
century later as the fascinator of nations - M. Dupin. And from Poe's
wizard up to Sherlock Holmes, no one of the thousand "detectives,"
drawn in a myriad scenes that thrill the world of readers, but owes his
outlines, at least, to "Zadig."

"Don't use your reason - act like your friends - respect conventionalities
- otherwise the world will absolutely refuse to let you be happy." This
sums up the theory of life that Zadig satires. His comical troubles
proceed entirely from his use of independent reason as opposed to the
customs of his times.

The satire fitted ancient Babylonia - it fitted eighteenth-century
France - and perhaps the reader of these volumes can find some points of
contact with his own surroundings.

It is still piquant, however, to remember Zadig's original _raison
d'être_. He happened to be cast in the part of what we now know as "a
detective," merely because Voltaire had been reading stories in the
"Arabian Nights" whose heroes get out of scrapes by marvelous
deductions from simple signs. (See Vol. VI.)

Voltaire must have grinned at the delicious human interest, the subtle
irony to pierce complacent humbugs, that lurked behind these Oriental
situations. He made the most of his chance for a quaint parable,
applicable to the courts, the church and science of Europe. As the
story runs on, midst many and sudden adventures, the Babylonian reads
causes from events in guileless fashion, enthusiastic as Sherlock
Holmes, and no less efficient - and all the while, behind this innocent
mask, Voltaire is insinuating a comparison between the practical
results of Zadig's common sense and the futile mental cobwebs spun by
the alleged thought of the time.

Especially did "Zadig" caricature orthodox science, and the metaphysicians,
whose solemn searches after final causes, after the reality behind the
appearance of things, mostly wandered into hopeless tangles, and thus
formed a great weapon of political oppression, by postponing the age
of reason and independent thought. Zadig "did not employ himself in
calculating how many inches of water flow in a second of time under the
arches of a bridge, or whether there fell a cube line of rain in the
month of the Mouse more than in the month of the Sheep. He never
dreamed of making silk of cobwebs, or porcelain of broken bottles; but


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