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Title: Mlle de Scuderi
Author: E. T. A. Hoffman
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605821.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Mlle de Scuderi
E. T. A. Hoffman


A TALE OF THE TIMES OF LOUIS THE FOURTEENTH


Magdaleine de Scudéri, so famous for her charming poetical and other
writings, lived in a small mansion in the Rue St. Honoré, by favour of
Louis the XIVth and Madame de Maintenon.

Late one night--about midnight--in the autumn of the year 1680, there
came a knocking at the door of this house, so loud and violent that it
shook the very ground. Baptiste, who filled the offices of cook,
butler and doorkeeper in the lady's modest establishment, had gone, by
her leave, to the country to his sister's wedding, so that La
Martinière, the femme de chambre, was the only person still awake in
the house. She heard this knocking, which went on without ceasing
almost, and she remembered that, as Baptiste was away, she and her
mistress were alone and unprotected. She thought of the
housebreakings, robberies and murders which were so frequent in Paris
at that time, and felt convinced that some of the numerous bands of
malefactors, knowing the defenceless state of the house that night,
were raising this alarm at the door, and would commit some outrage if
it were opened; so she remained in her room, trembling and terrified,
anathematising Baptiste, and his sister's marriage into the bargain.

Meantime the thundering knocking went on at the door, and she thought
she heard a voice calling in the intervals, "Open, for the love of
Christ Open!--open!" At last, her alarm increasing, she took her
candle and ran out on to the landing, where she distinctly heard the
voice crying, "Open the door, for the love of Christ!"

"After all," she said to herself, "one knows that a robber would not
be crying out in that way. Perhaps it is somebody who is being pursued
and is come to my lady for refuge. She is known to be always ready to
do a kind action--but we must be very careful!"

She opened a window and called down into the street, asking who it was
who was making such a tremendous thundering at the door at that time
of the night, rousing everybody from their sleep. This she did in a
voice which she tried to make as like a man's as she could. By the
glimmer of the moon, which was beginning to break through dark clouds,
she could make out a tall figure in a long grey cloak, with a broad
hat drawn down over his forehead.

Then she cried, in a loud voice, so that this person in the street
should hear, "Baptiste! Claude! Pierre! Get up, and see who this
rascal is who is trying to get in at this time of night."

But a gentle, entreating voice spoke from beneath, saying, "Ah, La
Martinière, I know it is you, you kind soul, though you are trying to
alter your voice; and I know well enough that Baptiste is away in the
country, and that there is nobody in the house but your mistress and
yourself. Let me in. I must speak with your lady this instant."

"Do you imagine," asked La Martinière, "that my lady is going to speak
to you in the middle of the night? Can't you understand that she has
been in bed ever so long, and that it is as much as my place is worth
to awaken her out of her first sweet sleep, which is so precious to a
person at her time of life?"

"I know," answered the person beneath, "that she has just this moment
put away the manuscript of the novel Clelia, at which she is working
so hard, and is writing some verses which she means to read tomorrow
at Madame de Maintenon's. I implore you, Madame La Martinière, be so
compassionate as to open the door. Upon your doing so depends the
escape of an unfortunate creature from destruction. Nay, honour,
freedom, a human life, depend on this moment in which I must speak
with your lady. Remember, her anger will rest upon you for ever when
she comes to know that it was you who cruelly drove away from her door
the unfortunate wretch who came to beg for her help."

"But why should you come for her help at such an extraordinary time of
the night?" asked La Martinière. "Come back in the morning at a
reasonable hour." But the reply came up, "Does destiny, when it
strikes like the destroying lightning, consider hours and times? When
there is but one moment when rescue is possible, is help to be put
off? Open the door to me. Have no fear of a wretched being who is
without defence, hunted, hard pressed by a terrible fate, and flies to
your lady for succour from the most imminent peril."

La Martinière heard the stranger moaning and groaning as he uttered
those words in the deepest sorrow. The tone of his voice was that of a
youth, soft and gentle, and most touching to the heart; and so, deeply
moved. she went without much more hesitation and fetched the key.

As soon as she opened the door, the form shrouded in the mantle burst
violently in and, passing La Martinière, cried in a wild voice, "Take
me to your lady!" La Martinière held up the light which she was
carrying, and the glimmer fell on the face of a very young man,
distorted and frightfully drawn, and as pale as death. She almost fell
down on the landing for terror when he opened his cloak and showed the
glittering hilt of a stiletto sticking out of his doublet. He flashed
his gleaming eyes at her, and cried, more wildly than before, "Take me
to your lady, I tell you."

La Martinière saw that her mistress was in the utmost danger. All her
affection for her, who was to her as the kindest of mothers, flamed up
and created a courage which she herself would scarcely have thought
herself capable of. She quickly closed the door of her room, moved
rapidly in front of it, and said in a brave, firm voice, "Your furious
behaviour, now that you have got into the house, is very different
from what I should have expected from the way you spoke down in the
street. I see now that I had pity on you a little too easily. You
shall not see or speak with my lady at this hour. If you have no bad
designs, and are not afraid to show yourself in daylight, come and
tell her your business tomorrow; but take yourself off out of this
house now."

He heaved a hollow sigh, glared at La Martinière with a terrible
expression, and grasped his dagger. She silently commended her soul to
God, but stood firm and looked him straight in the face, pressing
herself more firmly against the door through which he would have to
pass in order to reach her mistress.

"Let me get to your lady, I tell you!" he cried once more.

"Do what you will," said La Martinière, "I shall not move from this
spot. Complete the crime which you have begun. A shameful death on the
Place de la Grève will overtake you, as it has your accursed comrades
in wickedness."

"Ha! you are right, La Martinière," he cried. "I am armed, and I look
as if I were an accursed robber and murderer. But my comrades are not
executed--are not executed," and he drew his dagger, advancing with
poisonous looks towards the terrified woman.

"Jesus!" she cried, expecting her death-wound; but at that moment
there came up from the street below the clatter and the ring of arms,
and the hoof-tread of horses.

"La Marechausée! La Marechausée! Help! help!" she cried.

"Wretched woman, you will be my destruction," he cried. "All is over
now--all over! Here, take it; take it. Give this to your lady now, or
tomorrow if you like it better." As he said this in a whisper, he took
the candelabra from her, blew out the tapers, and placed a casket in
her hands. "As you prize your eternal salvation," he cried, "give this
to your lady." He dashed out of the door, and was gone.

La Martinière had sunk to the floor. She raised herself with
difficulty, and groped her way back in the darkness to her room, where
she fell into an arm-chair, wholly overcome and unable to utter a
sound. Presently she heard the rattling of the bolts, which she had
left unfastened when she closed the house door. The house was
therefore now shut up, and soft unsteady steps were approaching her
room. Like one under a spell, unable to move, she was preparing for
the very worst, when to her inexpressible joy the door opened, and by
the pale light of the night-lamp she saw it was Baptiste. He was
deadly pale, and much upset.

"For the love of all the saints," he exclaimed, "tell me what has
happened! Oh, what a state I am in. Something--don't know what it
was--told me to come away from the wedding yesterday--forced me to
come away. So when I got to this street, I thought, Madame Martinière
isn't a heavy sleeper; she'll hear me if I knock quietly at the door,
and let me in. Then up came a strong patrol, horsemen and foot, armed
to the teeth. They stopped me, and wouldn't let me go. Luckily
Desgrais was there, the lieutenant of the Marechaussée. He knows me,
and as they were holding their lanterns under my nose, he said, 'Ho,
Baptiste! How come you here in the streets at this time of the night?
You ought to be at home, taking care of the house. This is not a very
safe spot just at this moment. We're expecting to make a fine haul,
and important arrest, tonight.' You can't think, Madame La Martinière,
how I felt when he said that. And when I got to the door, lo! and
behold! a man in a cloak comes bursting out with a drawn dagger in his
hand, dodges me, and makes off. The door was open, the keys in the
lock. What, in the name of all that's holy, is the meaning of it all?"

La Martinière, relieved from her alarm, told him all that had
happened, and both she and he went back to the hall; and there they
found the candelabra on the floor, where the stranger had thrown it on
taking his flight. "There can't be the slightest doubt that our
mistress was within an ace of being robbed, and murdered too very
likely," Baptiste said. "According to what you say, the scoundrel knew
well enough that there was nobody in the house but her and you, and
even that she was still sitting up at her writing. Of course he was
one of those infernal blackguards who pry into folks' houses and spy
out everything that can be of use to them in their devilish designs.
And the little casket, Madame Martinière, that I think we'll throw
into the Seine where it's deepest. Who shall be our warrant that some
monster or other isn't lying in wait for our mistress's life? Very
likely, if she opens the casket, she may tumble down dead, as the old
Marquis de Tournay did when he opened a letter which came to him, he
didn't know where from."

After a long consultation, they came to the conclusion that next
morning they would tell their lady everything that had happened, and
even hand her the mysterious casket, which might, perhaps, be opened
if proper precautions were taken. On carefully weighing all the
circumstances connected with the appearance of the stranger, they
thought that there must be some special secret or mystery involved in
the affair, which they were not in a position to unravel, but must
leave to be elucidated by their superiors.

There were good grounds for Baptiste's fears. Paris, at the time in
question, was the scene of atrocious deeds of violence, and that just
at a period when the most diabolical inventions of hell provided the
most facile means for their execution.

Glaser, a German apothecary, the most learned chemist of his day,
occupied himself--as people who cultivate his science often do--with
alchemical researches and experiments. He had set himself the task of
discovering the philosopher's stone. An Italian of the name of Exili
associated himself with him; but to him the art of goldmaking formed a
mere pretext. What he aimed at mastering was the blending,
preparation, and sublimation of the various poisonous substances which
Glaser hoped would give him the results he was in search of; and at
length Exili discovered how to prepare that delicate poison which has
no odour nor taste, and which, killing either slowly or in a moment,
leaves not the slightest trace in the human organism, and baffles the
utmost skill of the physician who, not suspecting poison as the means
of death, ascribes it to natural causes. But cautiously as Exili went
about this, he fell under suspicion of dealing with poisons, and was
thrown into the Bastille.

In the same cell with him there was presently quartered an officer of
the name of Godin de Sainte-Croix, who had long lived in relations
with the Marquise de Brinvilliers; which brought shame upon all her
family, till at length, as her husband cared nothing about her
conduct, her father (Dreux d'Aubray, Civil Lieutenant of Paris) had to
part the guilty pair by means of a lettre de cachet against Sainte-
Croix. The captain was a passionate man without character or religion,
a hypocrite given to all manner of vice from his youth. What is more,
he was addicted to the most furious jealousy and envy. So nothing
could be more welcome to him than Exili's devilish secret, which gave
him the power of destroying all his enemies. He became Exili's
assiduous pupil, and soon equalled his instructor; so that when he was
released from prison he was in a position to carry on operations by
himself on his own account.

La Brinvilliers was a depraved woman, and Sainte-Croix made her a
monster. She managed, by degrees, to poison first her own father (with
whom she was living in the hypocritical presence of taking care of him
in his declining years), next her two brothers, and then her sister;
the father out of revenge, and the others for their fortunes. The
histories of more than one poisoner bear terrible evidence that crimes
of this description assume the form of an irresistible passion. Just
as a chemist makes experiments for the pleasure and the interest of
watching them, poisoners have often, without the smallest ulterior
object, killed persons whose living or dying was to them a matter of
complete indifference. The sudden deaths of a number of paupers,
patients at the Hôtel Dieu, a little time after the events just
alluded to, led to suspicion that the bread which La Brinvilliers was
in the habit of giving them every week (so as to appear a model of
piety and benevolence) was poisoned. And it is certain that she
poisoned pigeon pasties which were served up to her own invited
guests. The Chevalier du Guet, and many more, were the victims of
those diabolical entertainments. Sainte-Croix, his accomplice La
Chaussée, and La Brinvilliers, managed to hide their crimes for a long
while under a veil of impenetrable secrecy. But, however the wicked
may brazen matters out, there comes a time when the Eternal Power of
Heaven punishes the criminal, even here on earth.

The poisons which Sainte-Croix prepared were so marvellously delicate
that if the powder (which the Parisians appositely named "poudre de
succession") were uncovered while being made, a single inhalation of
it was sufficient to cause immediate death. Therefore Sainte-Croix
always wore a glass mask when at work. This mask fell off one day just
as he was shaking a finished powder into a phial, and, having inhaled
some of the powder, he fell dead in an instant. As he had no heirs,
the law courts at once placed his property under seal, when the whole
diabolical arsenal of murder which had been at the villain's disposal
was discovered, and also the letters of Madame de Brinvilliers, which
left no doubt as to her crimes. She fled to a convent at Liège.
Desgrais, an officer of the Marechaussée, was sent after her.
Disguised as a priest, he got admitted into the convent, and succeeded
in involving the terrible woman in a love-affair, and in getting her
to grant him a clandestine meeting in a sequestered garden outside the
town. When she arrived there she found herself surrounded by Desgrais'
myrmidons; and her ecclesiastical gallant speedily transformed himself
into the officer of the Marechaussée. He compelled her to get into the
carriage which was waiting outside the garden, and drove straight away
to Paris, surrounded by an ample guard. La Chaussée had been beheaded
previously to this, and La Brinvilliers suffered the same death. Her
body was burnt, and its ashes scattered to the winds.

The Parisians breathed freely again when the world was freed from the
presence of this monster, who had so long wielded with impunity the
weapon of secret murder against friend and foe. But it soon became
bruited abroad that the terrible art of the accursed La Croix had
been, somehow, handed down to a successor, who was carrying it on
triumphantly. Murder came gliding like an invisible, capricious
spectre into the narrowest and most intimate circles of relationship,
love and friendship, pouncing securely and swiftly upon its unhappy
victims. Men who today, were seen in robust health, were tottering
about on the morrow feeble and sick; and no skill of physicians could
restore them. Wealth, a good appointment or office, a nice-looking
wife, perhaps a little too young for her husband, were ample reasons
for a man's being dogged to death. The most frightful mistrust snapped
the most sacred ties. The husband trembled before his wife; the father
dreaded the son; the sister the brother. When your friend asked you to
dinner, you carefully avoided tasting the dishes and wines which he
set before you; and where joy and merriment used to reign, there were
now nothing but wild looks, watching to detect the secret murderer.
Fathers of families were to be seen with anxious faces, buying
supplies of food in out-of-the-way places where they were not known,
and cooking them themselves in dirty cook-shops, for dread of treason
in their own homes. And yet often the most careful and ingenious
precautions were unavailing.

For the repression of this ever-increasing disorder the King
constituted a fresh tribunal, to which he entrusted the special
investigation and punishment of those secret crimes. This was the
Chambre Ardente, which held its sittings near the Bastille. La Regnie
was its president. For a considerable time La Regnie's efforts,
assiduous as they were, were unsuccessful, and it was the lot of the
much overworked Desgrais to discover the most secret den of that foul
crime.

In the Faubourg Saint-Germain there lived an old woman, named La
Voisin, who followed the calling of teller of fortunes and summoner of
spirits, and she, assisted by her accomplices Le Sage and Le
Vigoureux, managed to alarm and astonish people who were by no means
to be considered weak or superstitious. But she did more than this.
She was, like La Croix, a pupil of Exili's and, like him, prepared the
delicate, traceless poison, which helped wicked sons to speedy
inheritances and unprincipled wives to other, younger husbands.
Desgrais fathomed her secrets; she made full confession; the Chambre
Ardente sentenced her to be burned, and the sentence was carried out
on the Place de la Grève. Amongst her effects was found a list of
those who had availed themselves of her services; whence it followed,
not only that execution succeeded execution, but that strong suspicion
fell on persons in important positions. Thus it was believed that
Cardinal Bonzy had obtained from La Voisin the means of
disembarrassing himself of all the persons to whom, in his capacity of
Archbishop of Narbonne, he was bound to pay pensions. Similarly, the
Duchess de Bouillon and the Countess de Soissons (their names having
been found in La Voisin's list) were accused of having had relations
with her; and even François Henri de Montmorenci-Boudebelle, Duc de
Luxembourg, Peer and Marshal of the realm, did not escape arraignment
before the Chambre Ardente. He surrendered himself to imprisonment in
the Bastille, where the hatred of Louvois and La Regnie immured him in
a cell only six feet long. Months elapsed before it was proved that
his offences did not deserve so severe a punishment. He had once gone
to La Voisin to have his horoscope drawn.

What is certain is that an excess of inconsiderate zeal led President
La Regnie into violently illegal and barbarous measures. His Court
assumed the character of the Inquisition. The very slightest suspicion
rendered any one liable to severe imprisonment, and the establishment
of the innocence of a person tried for his life was often only a
matter of the merest chance. Besides, La Regnie was repulsive to
behold, and of malicious disposition, so that he excited the hatred of
those whose avenger or protector he was called upon to be. When he
asked the Duchess de Bouillon if she had ever seen the devil, she
answered, "I think I see him at this moment."

Whilst now, on the Place de la Grève, the blood of the guilty and of
the merely suspected was flowing in streams, and secret deaths by
poison were, at last, becoming more and more rare, a trouble of
another description showed itself, spreading abroad fresh
consternation. It seemed that a gang of robbers had made up their
minds to possess themselves of all the jewels in the city. Whenever a
valuable set of ornaments was bought, it disappeared in an
inexplicable manner, however carefully preserved and protected. And
everybody who dared to wear precious stones in the evening was certain
to be robbed, either in the public streets or in the dark passages of
houses. Very often they were not only robbed, but murdered. Such of
them as escaped with their lives said they had been felled by the blow
of a clenched fist on the head, which came on them like a thunderbolt.
And when they recovered their senses they found that they had been
robbed, and were in a totally different place from where they had been
knocked down.

Those who were murdered--and they were found nearly every morning
lying in the streets or in houses--had all the selfsame mortal wound--
a dagger-thrust, right through the heart, which the surgeons said must
have been delivered with such swiftness and certainty that the victim
would have fallen dead without the power of uttering a sound. Now who,
in all the luxurious Court of Louis Quatorze, was there who was not
implicated in some secret love-affair and, consequently, often gliding
about the streets late at night with valuable presents in his pockets?
Just as if this robber-gang were in intercourse with spirits, they
always knew perfectly well when anything of this kind was going on.
Often the fortunate lover wouldn't reach the house where his lady was
expecting him; often he would fall at her threshold, at her very door,
where, to her horror, she would discover his bleeding body lying.

It was in vain that Argenson, the Minister of Police, arrested every
individual, in all Paris, who seemed to be touched by the very
faintest suspicion; in vain La Regnie raged, striving to compel
confession; in vain were guards and patrols reinforced. Not a trace of
the perpetrators of those outrages was to be discovered. The only
thing which was of a certain degree of use was to go about armed to
the teeth, and have a light carried before you; and yet there were
cases in which the servant who carried the light had his attention
occupied by having stones thrown at him, whilst at that very instant
his master was being robbed and murdered.

It was a remarkable feature of this business that, notwithstanding all
search and investigation in every quarter where there seemed to be any
chance of dealing in jewels going on, not a trace of even the smallest
of the plundered precious stones ever came to light.

Desgrais foamed in fury that even his acumen and skill were powerless
to prevent the escape of those scoundrels. Whatever part of the town
he happened to be in was let alone for the time, whilst in some other
quarter robbery and murder were lying in wait for their rich prey.

Desgrais hit upon the clever idea of setting several facsimiles of
himself on foot--various Desgrais, exactly alike in gait, speech,
figure, face, etc.; so that his own men could not tell the one of them
from the other, or say which was the real Desgrais. Meanwhile, at the
risk of his life, he watched alone in the most secret hiding-places,
and followed, at a distance, this or the other person who seemed, by
the looks of him, to be likely to have jewels about him. But those
whom he was watching were unharmed, so that this artifice of his was
as well known to the culprits as everything else seemed to be.
Desgrais was in utter despair.

One morning he came to President La Regnie, pale, strained, almost out
of his mind.

"What is it--what news? Have you come upon the clue?" the President
cried to him as he came in.

"Ah, Monsieur!" said Desgrais, stammering in fury, "last night, near
the Louvre, the Marquis de la Fare was set upon under my very nose!"

"Heaven and earth!" cried La Regnie, overjoyed, "we have got them!"

"Wait a moment, listen," said Desgrais, with a bitter smile. "I was
standing near the Louvre, watching and waiting, with hell itself in my
heart, for those devils who have been baffling me for such a length of
time. There came a figure close by me--not seeing me--with uncertain
steps, always looking behind him. By the moonlight I recognised the
Marquis de la Fare. I expected that he would be passing. I knew where
he was gliding to. Scarcely had he got ten or twelve paces beyond me
when, out of the ground apparently, springs a figure, dashes the
Marquis to the ground, falls down upon him. Losing my self-control at
this occurrence, which seemed to be likely to deliver the murderer
into my hands, I cried out aloud, and meant to spring from my hiding-
place with a great bound and seize hold of him. But I tripped up on my
cloak and fell down. I saw the fellow flee away as if on the wings of
the wind. I picked myself up, and made off after him as fast as I
could. As I ran, I sounded my horn. Out of the distance the whistles
of my men answered me. Things grew lively--clatter of arms, tramp of
horses on all sides. 'Here!--come to me!--Desgrais!' I cried, till the
streets re-echoed. All the time I saw the man before me in the bright
moonlight, turning off right--left--to get away from me. We came to
the Rue Niçaise. There his strength seemed to begin to fail. I
gathered mine up. He was not more than fifteen paces ahead of me."

"You got hold of him!--your men came up!" cried La Regnie, with
flashing eyes, grasping Desgrais by the arm as if he were the fleeing
murderer himself.

"Fifteen paces ahead of me," said Desgrais, in a hollow voice, and
drawing his breath hard, "this fellow, before my eyes, dodged to one
side, and vanished through the wall."

"Vanished!--through the wall! Are you out of your senses?" La Regnie
cried, taking three steps backwards, and striking his hands together.

"Call me as great a madman as you please, Monsieur," said Desgrais,
rubbing his forehead like one tortured by evil thoughts. "Call me a
madman, or a fool that sees spooks; but what I have told you is the
literal truth. I stood staring at the wall, while several of my men
came up out of breath, and with them the Marquis de la Fare (who had
picked himself up), with his drawn sword in his hand. We lighted
torches, we examined the wall all over. There was not the trace of a
door, a window, any opening. It is the strong stone wall of a
courtyard, belonging to a house in which people are living--against
whom there is not the slightest suspicion. I have looked into the
whole thing again this morning in broad daylight. It must be the very
devil himself who is at work befooling us in the matter."

This story got bruited abroad through Paris, where all heads were full
of the sorceries, callings up of spirits and pacts with the devil
indulged in by La Voisin, Le Vigoureux, and the wicked priest Le Sage;
and as it lies in our eternal nature that the bent towards the
supernatural and the marvellous overpasses all reason, people soon
positively believed what Desgrais had only said in his impatience--
that the very devil himself must protect the rascals, and that they
had sold their souls to him. We can readily understand that Desgrais'
story soon received many absurd embellishments. It was printed, and
hawked about the town, with a woodcut at the top representing a
horrible figure of the devil sinking into the ground before the
terrified Desgrais. Quite enough to frighten the people, and so
terrify Desgrais' men that they lost all courage, and went about the
streets behung with amulets, and sprinkled with holy water.

Seeing that the Chambre Ardente was unsuccessful, Argenson applied to
the King to constitute--with special reference to this novel
description of crime a tribunal armed with greater powers for tracking
and punishing offenders. The King, thinking he had already given too
ample powers to the Chambre Ardente, and shocked at the horrors of the
numberless executions carried out by the bloodthirsty La Regnie,
refused.

Then another method of influencing His Majesty was devised.

In the apartments of Madame de Maintenon--where the King was in the
habit of spending much of his time in the afternoons--and also, very
often, would be at work with his Ministers till late at night--a
poetical petition was laid before him, on the part of the "Endangered
Lovers," who complained that when "galanterie" rendered it incumbent
on them to be the bearers of some valuable present to the ladies of
their hearts, they had always to do it at the risk of their lives.
They said that, of course, it was honour and delight to pour out their
blood for the lady of their heart in knightly encounter, but that the
treacherous attack of the assassin, against which it was impossible to
guard, was quite a different matter. They expressed their hope that
Louis, the bright pole-star of love and gallantry, might deign--
arising end staining in fullest splendour--to dispel the darkness of
night, and thus reveal the black mysteries hidden thereby; that the
God-like hero, who had hurled his foes to the dust, would now once
more wave his flashing falchion and, as did Hercules in the case of
the Laernean Hydra, and Theseus in that of the Minotaur, vanquish the
threatening monster who was consuming all the delights of love, and
darkening all joy into deep sorrow and inconsolable mourning.

Serious as the subject was, this poem was not deficient in most
wittily-turned phrases, particularly where it described the state of
watchful anxiety in which lovers had to glide to their mistresses, and
how this mental strain necessarily destroyed all the delights of love,
and nipped all adventures of "galanterie" in the very bud. And, as it
wound up with a high-flown panegyric of Louis XIV, the King could not
but read it with visible satisfaction. When he had perused it, he
turned to Madame de Maintenon--without taking his eyes from it--read
it again--aloud this time--and then asked, with a pleased smile, what
she thought of the petition of the "Endangered Lovers."

Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her serious turn, and ever wearing
the garb of a certain piousness, answered that secret and forbidden
practices did not deserve much in the form of protection, but that the
criminals probably did require special laws for their punishment. The
King, not satisfied with this answer, folded the paper up, and was
going back to the Secretary of State, who was at work in the ante-
room, when, happening to glance sideways, his eyes rested on
Mademoiselle de Scudéri who was present, seated in a little arm-chair.
He went straight to her and the pleased smile which had at first been
playing about his mouth and cheeks--but had disappeared--resumed the
ascendency again. Standing close before her, with his face unwrinkling
itself, he said--

"The Marquise does not know, and has no desire to learn, anything
about the 'galanteries' of our enamoured gentlemen, and evades the
subject in ways which are nothing less than forbidden. But,
Mademoiselle, what do you think of this poetical petition?"

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose from her chair; a transient blush, like
the purple of the evening sky, passed across her pale cheeks and,
gently bending forward, she answered with downcast eyes:

"Un amant qui craint les voleurs

N'est point digne d'amour."

The King, surprised, and struck with admiration at the chivalrous
spirit of those few words--which completely took the wind out of the
sails of the poem, with all its lengthy tirades--cried, with flashing
eyes: "By Saint Denis, you are right, Mademoiselle! No blind laws,
touching the innocent and the guilty alike, shall shelter cowardice.
Argenson and La Regnie must do their best."

Next morning La Martinière enlarged upon the terrors of the time,
painting them in glowing colours to her lady, when she told her all
that had happened the previous night, and handed her the mysterious
casket, with much fear and trembling. Both she and Baptiste (who stood
in the corner as white as a sheet, kneading his cap in his hand from
agitation and anxiety) implored her, in the name of all the saints, to
take the greatest precautions in opening it.

Weighing and examining the unopened mystery in her hand, she said with
a smile, "You are a couple of bogies! The wicked scoundrels outside
who, as you say yourselves, spy out all that goes on in every house
know, no doubt, quite as well as you and I do, that I am not rich, and
that there are no treasures in this house worth committing a murder
for. Is my life in danger, do you think? Who could have any interest
in the death of an old woman of seventy-three, who never persecuted
any evildoers except those in her own novels; who writes mediocre
poetry, incapable of exciting anyone's envy; who has nothing to leave
behind her but the belongings of an old maid who sometimes goes to
Court, and two or three dozen handsomely-bound books with gilt edges.
And, alarming as your account is, La Martinière, of this man's
appearance, I cannot believe that he meant me any harm, so ____"

La Martinière sprang three paces backwards, and Baptiste fell on one
knee with a hollow, "Ah!" as Mademoiselle de Scudéri pressed a
projecting steel knob, and the lid of the casket flew open with a
certain amount of noise.

Great was her surprise to see that it contained a pair of bracelets,
and a necklace richly set in jewels. She took them out and, as she
spoke in admiration of the marvellous workmanship of the necklace, La
Martinière cast glances of wonder at the bracelets, and cried, again
and again, that Madame de Montespan herself did not possess such
jewellery.

"But why is it brought to me?" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. "What
can this mean?" She saw, however, a little folded note at the bottom
of the casket, and in this she rightly thought she would find the key
to the mystery. When she had read what was written in the note, it
fell from her trembling hands; she raised an appealing look to heaven,
and then sank down half fainting in her chair. Baptiste and La
Martinière hurried to her, in alarm.

"Oh!" she cried, in a voice stifled by tears, "the mortification! The
deep humiliation! Has it been reserved for me to undergo this in my
old age? Have I ever been frivolous, like some of the foolish young
creatures; are words, spoken half in jest, to be found capable of such
a terrible interpretation? Am I, who have been faithful to all that is
pure and good from my childhood, to be made virtually an accomplice in
the crimes of this terrible confederation ."

She held her handkerchief to her eyes, so that Baptiste and La
Martinière, altogether at sea in their anxious conjectures, felt
powerless to set about helping her who was so dear to them, as the
best and kindest of mistresses, in her bitter affliction.

La Martinière picked up the paper from the floor. On it was written:

"'Un amant qui craint les voleurs

N'est point digne d'amour.'

"Your brilliant intellect, most honoured lady, has delivered us, who
exercise on weakness and cowardice the rights of the stronger, and
possess ourselves of treasures which would otherwise be unworthily
wasted, from much bitter persecution. As a proof of our gratitude, be
pleased kindly to accept this set of ornaments. It is the most
valuable that we have been enabled to lay hands on for many a day.
Although far more beautiful and precious jewels should adorn you, yet
we pray you not to deprive us of your future protection and
remembrance.--THE INVISIBLES."

"Is it possible," cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had
partially recovered herself, "that shameless wickedness and abandoned
insult can be carried further by human beings?"

The sun was shining brightly through the window curtains of crimson
silk, and consequently the brilliants, which were lying on the table
beside the open casket, were flashing a rosy radiance. Looking at
them, Mademoiselle de Scudéri covered her face in horror, and ordered
La Martinière instantly to take those terrible jewels away, steeped,
as they seemed to be, in the blood of the murdered. La Martinière,
having at once put the necklace and bracelets back into their case,
thought the best thing to do would be to give them to the Minister of
Police, and tell him all that had happened.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose, and walked up and down slowly and in
silence, as if considering what it was best to do. Then she told
Baptiste to bring a sedan chair, and La Martinière to dress her, as
she was going straight to the Marquise de Maintenon.

She repaired thither at the hour when she knew Madame de Maintenon
would be alone, taking the casket and jewels with her.

Madame de Maintenon might well wonder to see this dear old lady (who
was always kindness, sweetness and amiability personified), pale,
distressed, upset, coming in with uncertain steps. "In heaven's name,
what has happened to you?" she cried to her visitor, who was scarcely
able to stand upright, striving to reach the chair which the Marquise
drew forward for her. At last, when she could find words, she told her
what a deep, irremediable insult and outrage the thoughtless speech
which she had made in reply to the King had brought upon her.

Madame de Maintenon, when she had heard the whole affair properly
related, thought Mademoiselle de Scudéri was taking it far too much to
heart, strange as the occurrence was--that the insult of a pack of
wretched rabble could not hurt an upright, noble heart; and finally
begged that she might see the ornaments.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri handed her the open casket, and when she saw
the splendid and valuable stones and the workmanship of them she could
not repress a loud expression of admiration. She took the bracelets
and necklace to the window, letting the sunlight play on the jewels,
and holding the beautiful goldsmith's work close to her eyes so as to
see with what wonderful skill each little link of the chains was
formed.

She turned suddenly to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, and cried, "Do you
know, there is only one man who can have done this work--and that is
René Cardillac."

René Cardillac was then the cleverest worker in gold in all Paris, one
of the most artistic, and at the same time extraordinary men of his
day. Short rather than tall, but broad-shouldered and of strong and
muscular build, Cardillac, now over fifty, had still the strength and
activity of a youth. To this vigour, which was to be called unusual,
testified also his thick, curling, reddish hair and his massive,
shining face. Had he not been known to be the most upright and
honourable of men, unselfish, open, without reserve, always ready to
help, his altogether peculiar glance out of his grimly sparkling eyes
might have brought him under suspicion of being secretly ill-tempered
and wicked. In his art he was the most skilful worker, not only in
Paris, but probably in the world at that time. Intimately acquainted
with every kind of precious stones, versed in all their special
peculiarities, he could so handle and treat them that ornaments which
at a first glance promised to be poor and insignificant, came from his
workshop brilliant and splendid. He accepted every commission with
burning eagerness, and charged prices so moderate as to seem out of
all proportion to the work. And the work left him no rest. Day and
night he was to be heard hammering in his shop; and often, when a job
was nearly finished, he would suddenly be dissatisfied with the form--
would have doubts whether some of the settings were delicate enough;
some little link would not be quite to his mind--in fine, the whole
affair would be thrown into the melting-pot, and begun all over again.
Thus every one of his works was a real, unsurpassable chef-d'oeuvre,
which sent the person who had ordered it into amazement.

But then, it was hardly possible to get the finished work out of his
hands. He would put the customer off from one week to another by a
thousand excuses--even from month to month. He might be offered twice
the price he had agreed upon, but it was useless; he would take no
more; and when, ultimately, he was obliged to yield to the customer's
remonstrances, and deliver the work, he could not conceal the
vexation--nay, the rage--which seethed within him. If he had to
deliver some specially valuable and unusually rich piece of
workmanship, worth perhaps several thousand francs, he would get into
such a condition that he ran up and down like one demented, cursing
himself, his work, and every thing and person about him; but should,
then, someone come running up behind him, crying, "René Cardillac,
would you be so kind as to make me a beautiful necklace for the lady I
am going to marry?" or "a pair of bracelets for my girl?" or the like,
he would stop in a moment, flash his small eyes upon the speaker, and
say, "Let me see what you have got." The latter would take out a
little case and say "Here are jewels; they are not worth much; only
every-day affairs, but in your hands" Cardillac would interrupt him,
snatch the casket from his hands, take out the stones (really not very
valuable) hold them up to the light, and cry, "Ho! ho! common stones,
you say! Nothing of the kind!--very fine, splendid stones! Just see
what I shall make of them; and if a handful of Louis are no object to
you, I will put two or three others along with them which will shine
in your eyes like the sun himself!" The customer would say: "I leave
the matter entirely in your hands, Master René; make what change you
please." Whether the customer were a rich burgher or a gallant of
quality, Cardillac would then throw himself violently on his neck,
embrace him and kiss him, and say he was perfectly happy again, and
that the work would be ready in eight days' time. Then he would run
home as fast as he could to his workshop, where he would set to work
hammering away; and in eight days' time there would be a masterpiece
ready.

But as soon as the customer arrived, glad to pay the moderate price
demanded and take away his prize, Cardillac would become morose, ill-
tempered, rude and insolent. "But consider, Master Cardillac," the
customer would say, "tomorrow is my wedding-day." "What do I care?,
Cardillac would answer; "what is your wedding-day to me? Come back in
a fortnight." "But it is finished!--here is the money; I must have
it." "And I tell you that there are many alterations which I must make
before I let it leave my hands, and I am not going to let you have it
today." "And I tell you, that if you don't give me my jewels--which I
am ready to pay you for--quietly, you will see me come back with a
file of D'Argenson's men." "Now, may the devil seize you with a
hundred red-hot pincers, and hang three hundredweight on to the
necklace, that it may throttle your bride!" With which he would cram
the work into the customer's breast-pocket, seize him by the arm, push
him out of the door, so that he would go stumbling all the way
downstairs. Then he would laugh like a fiend, out of the window, when
he saw the poor wretch go limping out, holding his handkerchief to his
bleeding nose. It was not easy to explain either why, when Cardillac
had undertaken a commission with alacrity and enthusiasm, he would
sometimes suddenly implore the customer, with every sign of the
deepest emotion--with the most moving adjurations, even with sobs and
tears--not to ask him to go on with it. Many persons, amongst those
most highly considered by the King and nation, had in vain offered
large sums for the smallest specimen of Cardillac's work. He threw
himself at the King's feet, and begged him, of his mercy, not to
command him to work for him; and he declined all orders of Madame de
Maintenon's; once, when she wished him to make a little ring, with
emblems of the arts on it, which she wanted to give to Racine, he
refused with expressions of abhorrence and terror.

"I would wager, therefore," said Madame de Maintenon, "that even if I
were to send for Cardillac, to find out, at least, for whom he had
made those ornaments, he would somehow avoid coming, for fear that I
should give him an order; nothing will induce him to work for me. Yet
he does seem to have been rather less obstinate of late, for I hear he
is working more than ever, and allows his customers to take away their
jewellery at once, though he does so with deep annoyance, and turns
away his face when he hands them over."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, who was exceedingly anxious that the jewels
which came into her possession in such an extraordinary manner should
be restored to their owner as speedily as possible, thought that this
wondrous René Cardillac should be informed at once that no work was
required of him, but simply his opinion as to certain stones. The
Marquise agreed to this; he was sent for, and he came into the room in
a very brief space, almost as if he had been on the way when sent for.

When he saw Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he appeared perplexed, like one
confronted with the unexpected, who for the time loses sight of the
demands of courtesy; he first of all made a profound reverence to her,
and then turned, in the second place, to the Marquise. Madame de
Maintenon impetuously asked him if the jewelled ornaments--to which
she pointed as they lay sparkling on the dark-green cover of the
table--were of his workmanship. Cardillac scarcely glanced at them
but, fixedly staring in her face, he hastily packed the necklace and
bracelets into their case, and shoved them away with some violence.

Then with an evil smile gleaming on his red face, he said, "The truth
is, Madame la Marquise, that one must know René Cardillac's handiwork
very little to suppose, even for a moment, that any other goldsmith in
the world made those. Of course, I made them."

"Then," continued the Marquise, "say whom you made them for."

"For myself alone," he answered. "You may think this strange," he
continued, as they both gazed at him with amazement, Madame de
Maintenon incredulous, and Mademoiselle de Scudéri all anxiety as to
how the matter was going to turn out, "but I tell you the truth,
Madame la Marquise. Merely for the sake of the beauty of the work, I
collected some of my finest stones together, and worked for the
enjoyment of so doing, more carefully and diligently than usual. Those
ornaments disappeared from my workshop a short time since, in an
incomprehensible manner."

"Heaven be thanked!" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her eyes sparkling
with joy. With a smile she sprang up from her seat and, going up to
Cardillac quickly and actively as a young girl, she laid her hands on
his shoulder, saying, "Take back your treasure, Master René, which the
villains have robbed you of!" And she circumstantially related how the
ornaments had come into her possession.

Cardillac listened in silence, with downcast eyes, merely from time to
time uttering a scarcely audible "Hm! Indeed! Ah! Ho, ho!", sometimes
placing his hands behind his back, or again stroking his chin and
cheeks. When she had ended, he appeared to be struggling with strange
thoughts which had come to him during her story, and seemed unable to
come to any decision satisfactory to himself. He rubbed his brow,
sighed, passed his hand over his eyes--perhaps to keep back tears. At
last he seized the casket (which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had been
holding out to him), sank slowly on one knee, and said: "Esteemed
lady! Fate destined this casket for you; and I now feel, for the first
time, that I was thinking of you when I was at work upon it--nay, was
making it expressly for you. Do not disdain to accept this work, and
to wear it; it is the best I have done for a very long time."

"Ah! Master René," said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, jesting pleasantly,
"how think you it would become me at my age to bedeck myself with
those beautiful jewels?--and what should put it in your mind to make
me such a valuable present? Come, come! If I were as beautiful and as
rich as the Marquise de Fontange, I should certainly not let them out
of my hands. But what have my withered arms, and my wrinkled neck, to
do with all that splendour?"

Cardillac had risen, and said with wild looks, like a man beside
himself, still holding the casket out towards her, "Do me the kindness
to take it, Mademoiselle! You have no notion how profound a reverence
I bear in my heart for your virtues and your high deserts. Do but
accept my little offering, as an attempt, on my part, to prove to you
the warmth of my regard."

As Mademoiselle de Scudéri was still hesitating, Madame de Maintenon
took the casket from Cardillac's hands, saying, "Now, by heaven,
Mademoiselle, you are always talking of your great age What have you
and I to do with years and their burden? You are like some bashful
young thing who would gladly reach out for forbidden fruit, if she
could gather it without hands or fingers. Do not hesitate to accept
good Master René's present, which thousands of others could not obtain
for money or entreaty."

As she spoke she continued to press the casket on Mademoiselle de
Scudéri; and now Cardillac sank again on his knees, kissed her dress,
her hands, sighed, wept, sobbed, sprang up, and ran off in frantic
haste, upsetting chairs and tables, so that the glass and porcelain
crashed and clattered together.

"In the name of all the saints, what is the matter with the man?"
cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri in great alarm.

But the Marquise, in particularly happy temper, laughed aloud, saying,
"What is it, Mademoiselle? That Master René is over head and ears in
love with you and, according to the laws of galanterie, begins to lay
siege to your heart with a valuable present."

She carried this jest further, begging Mademoiselle de Scudéri not to
be too obdurate towards this despairing lover of hers; and
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in her turn, borne away on a current of merry
fancies, said that if it were so, she would not be able to refrain
from delighting the world with the unprecedented spectacle of a
goldsmith's bride of three-and-seventy summers and unexceptionable
descent. Madame de Maintenon offered to twine the bridal wreath
herself, and give her a few hints as to the duties of a housewife, a
subject on which such a poor inexperienced little chit could not be
expected to know very much.

But, notwithstanding all the jesting and the laughter, when
Mademoiselle de Scudéri rose to depart, she became very grave again as
her hand rested upon the jewel casket. "Whatever happens," she said,
"I shall never be able to bring myself to wear these ornaments. They
have, in any event, been in the hands of one of those diabolical men,
who rob and slay with the audacity of the evil one himself and are
very probably in league with him. I shudder at the thought of the
blood which seems to cling to those glittering stones--even
Cardillac's behaviour had something about it which struck me as
singularly wild and strange. I cannot drive away from me a gloomy
foreboding that there is some terrible and frightful mystery hidden
behind all this; and yet, when I bring the whole affair, with all the
circumstances of it, as clearly as I can before my mental vision, I
cannot form the slightest idea what that mystery can be--and, above
all, how the good, honourable Master René--the very model of all a
good, well-behaved citizen ought to be--can have anything to do with
what is wicked or guilty. But at all events, I distinctly feel that I
never can wear those jewels."

The Marquise considered that this was carrying scruples rather too
far; yet, when Mademoiselle de Scudéri asked her to say, on her
honour, what she would do in her place, she replied, firmly and
earnestly, "Far rather throw them into the Seine than ever put them
on."

The scene with Master René inspired Mademoiselle de Scudéri to write
some pleasant verses, which she read to the King the following evening
at Madame de Maintenon's. Perhaps it was the thought of Master René
carrying off a bride of seventy-three of unimpeachable quarterings--
that enabled her to conquer her evil forebodings; but conquer them she
did, completely--and the King laughed with all his heart, vowing that
Boileau Despreaux had met with his master. So de Scudéri's poem was
reckoned the very wittiest that ever was written.

Several months had elapsed, when chance so willed it that Mademoiselle
de Scudéri was crossing the Pont Neuf in the glass coach of the
Duchesse de Montpensier. The invention of those delightful glass
coaches was then so recent that the people came together in crowds
whenever one of them made its appearance in the streets. Consequently
a gaping crowd gathered about the Duchesse's carriage on the Pont
Neuf, so that the horses could hardly make their way along. Suddenly
Mademoiselle de Scudéri heard a sound of quarrelling and curses, and
saw a man making a way for himself through the crowd, by means of
fisticuffs and blows in the ribs; and as he came near they were struck
by the piercing eyes of a young face, deadly pale, and drawn by
sorrow. This young man, gazing fixedly upon them, vigorously fought
his way to them by help of fists and elbows, till he reached the
carriage door, threw it open with much violence, and flung a note into
Mademoiselle de Scudéri's lap; after which, he disappeared as he had
come, distributing and receiving blows and fisticuffs.

La Martinière, who was with her mistress, fell back fainting in the
carriage with a shriek of terror, as soon as she saw the young man. In
vain Mademoiselle de Scudéri pulled the string, and called out to the
driver. As if urged by the foul fiend, he kept lashing his horses
till, scattering the foam from their nostrils, they kicked, plunged
and reared, finally thundering over the bridge at a rapid trot.
Mademoiselle de Scudéri emptied the contents of her smelling-bottle
over the fainting La Martinière, who at last opened her eyes and,
shuddering and quaking, clinging convulsively to her mistress, with
fear and horror in her pale face, groaned out with difficulty, "For
the love of the Virgin, what did that terrible man want? It was he who
brought you the jewels on that awful night." Mademoiselle de Scudéri
calmed her, pointing out that nothing very dreadful had happened after
all, and that the immediate business in hand was to ascertain the
contents of the letter. She opened it, and read as follows:

"A dark and cruel fatality, which you could dispel, is driving me into
an abyss. I conjure you--as a son would a mother, in the glow of
filial affection--to send the necklace and bracelets to Master René
Cardillac, on some pretence or other--say, to have something altered
or improved. Your welfare, your very life--depend on your doing this.
If you do not comply before the day after tomorrow, I will force my
way into your house, and kill myself before your eyes."

"Thus much is certain, at all events," said Mademoiselle de Scudéri,
when she had read this letter, "whether this mysterious man belongs to
be band of robbers and murderers or not, he has no very evil designs
against me. If he had been able to see me and speak to me on that
night, who knows what strange events, what dark concatenation of
circumstances, would have been made known to me, of which, at present,
I seek, in my soul, the very faintest inkling in vain. But, be the
matter as it may, that which I am enjoined in this letter to do, I
certainly shall do, were it only to be rid of those fatal jewels,
which seem to me as if they must be some diabolical talisman of the
Prince of Darkness's very own. Cardillac is not very likely to let
them out of his hands again, if once he gets hold of them."

She intended to take them to him next day; but it seemed as if all the
beaux esprits of Paris had entered into a league to assail and besiege
her with verses, dramas and anecdotes. Scarce had La Chapelle finished
reading the scenes of a tragedy, and declared that he considered he
had now vanquished Racine, when the latter himself came in, and
discomfited him with the pathetic speech of one of his kings, until
Boileau sent some of his fireballs soaring up into the dark sky of the
tragedies, by way of changing the subject from that eternal one of the
colonnade of the Louvre, to which the architectural Dr. Perrault was
shackling him.

When high noon arrived, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had to go to Madame de
Montansier; so the visit to René Cardillac had to be put off till the
following day.

But the young man was always present to her mind, and a species of dim
remembrance seemed to be trying to arise in the depths of her being
that she had, somehow and at some time, seen that face and those
features before. Troubled dreams disturbed her broken slumbers. It
seemed to her that she had acted thoughtlessly, and was to blame for
her delay in grasping the hands which the unfortunate man was holding
out to her for help. She felt, in fact, as if it had depended on her
to prevent some atrocious crime. As soon as it was fairly light, she
had herself dressed and set off to the goldsmith's with the jewels in
her hand.

A crowd was streaming towards the Rue Niçaise (where Cardillac lived),
trooping together at the door, shouting, raging, surging, striving to
storm into the house, kept back with difficulty by the Marechaussée,
who were guarding the place. Amid the wild distracted uproar, voices
were heard crying, "Tear him in pieces! Drag him limb from limb, the
accursed murderer!" At length Desgrais came up, with a number of his
men, and formed a lane through the thickest of the crowd. The door
flew open, and a man loaded with irons was brought out, and marched
off amid the most frightful imprecations of the raging populace. At
the moment when Mademoiselle de Scudéri, half dead with terror and
gloomy foreboding, caught sight of him, a piercing shriek of
lamentation struck upon her ears.

"Go forward!" she cried to the coachman and, with a clever, rapid turn
of his horses, he scattered the thick masses of the crowd aside, and
pulled up close to René Cardillac's door. Desgrais was there, and at
his feet a young girl, beautiful as the day, half-dressed, with her
hair dishevelled and wild inconsolable despair in her face, clinging
to his knees, and crying in tones of the bitterest and profoundest
anguish, "He is innocent! He is innocent!"

Desgrais and his men tried in vain to shake her off and raise her from
the ground, till at length a rough, powerful fellow, gripping her arms
with his strong hands, dragged her away from Desgrais by sheer force.
Stumbling awkwardly, he let the girl go, and she went rolling down the
stone steps, and lay like one dead on the pavement.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri could contain herself no longer. "In Christ's
name!" she cried, "what has happened? What is going forward here?" She
hastily opened the carriage-door and stepped out. The crowd made way
for her deferentially; and when she saw that one or two compassionate
women had lifted the girl up, laid her on the steps, and were rubbing
her brow with strong waters, she went up to Desgrais, and angrily
repeated her question.

"A terrible thing has happened," said Desgrais. "René Cardillac was
found this morning, killed by a dagger-thrust. His journeyman,
Olivier, is the murderer, and has just been taken to prison."

"And the girl--"

"Is Madelon," interrupted Desgrais, "Cardillac's daughter. The
wretched culprit was her sweetheart, and now she is crying and
howling, and screaming over and over again that Olivier is innocent--
quite innocent; but she knows all about this crime, and I must have
her taken to prison too."

As he spoke he cast one of his baleful, malignant looks at the girl,
which made Mademoiselle de Scudéri shudder. The girl was now beginning
to revive, and breathe again faintly, though still incapable of speech
or motion. There she lay with closed eyes, and people did not know
what to do, whether to take her indoors, or leave her where she was a
little longer till she recovered. Deeply moved, Mademoiselle de
Scudéri looked upon this innocent creature, with tears in her eyes.
She felt a horror of Desgrais and his men. Presently heavy footsteps
came downstairs, those of the men bearing Cardillac's body.

Coming to a rapid decision, Mademoiselle de Scudéri cried out, "I
shall take this girl home with me. What you do next is up to you,
Desgrais."

A murmur of approval ran through the crowd. The women raised the girl;
everyone crowded up; a hundred hands were proffered to help, and she
was borne lightly to the carriage, whilst from every lip broke
blessings on the kind lady who had saved her from arrest and criminal
trial.

Madelon lay for many hours in a deep swoon, but at length the efforts
of Seron--then the most celebrated physician in Paris--were successful
in restoring her. Mademoiselle de Scudéri completed what Seron had
begun, by letting the gentle rays of hope stream into the girl's
heart; till at length a violent flood of tears, which started to her
eyes, brought her relief, and she was able to tell her story, with
only occasional interruptions when the overmastering might of her
sorrow turned her words into sobbing.

She had been awakened at midnight by a soft knocking at her door, and
had recognised the voice of Olivier, imploring her to get up at once,
as her father lay dying. She sprang up, terrified, and opened the
door. Olivier, pale, strained and bathed in perspiration, led the way,
with tottering steps, to the workshop; she followed. There was her
father lying with his eyes glazed, and the death-rattle in his throat.
She threw herself upon him, weeping wildly, and then observed that his
shirt was covered with blood. Olivier gently lifted her away, and
busied himself in bathing a wound on her father's left breast with
balsam, and bandaging it. As he was doing so, her father's
consciousness came back; the rattle in his throat ceased and, looking
first on her and then on Olivier with most expressive glances, he took
her hand and placed it in Olivier's, pressing them both together. The
pair of them were kneeling beside her father's bed when he raised
himself with a piercing cry, but immediately fell back again, and with
a deep sigh departed this life. On this they both wept and lamented.

Olivier told her how her father had been murdered in his presence
during an expedition on which he had accompanied him that night by his
order, and how he had with the utmost difficulty carried him home, not
supposing him to be mortally wounded. As soon as it was day, the
people of the house--who had heard the sounds of their footsteps and
of the weeping and lamenting during the night--came up, and found them
still kneeling, inconsolable by the goldsmith's body. Then an uproar
began, the Marechaussée broke in, and Olivier was taken to prison as
her father's murderer. Madelon added the most touching account of
Olivier's virtues, goodness, piety and sincerity, telling how he had
honoured his master as if he had been his own father, and how the
latter returned his affection in the fullest measure, choosing him for
his son-in-law in spite of his poverty, because his skill and fidelity
were equal to the nobility of his heart. All this Madelon saw out of
the fulness of her love, and added that if Olivier had thrust a dagger
into her father's heart before her very eyes, she would rather have
thought it a delusion of Satan's than have believed Olivier capable of
such a terrible crime.

Most deeply touched by Madelon's unspeakable sufferings, and quite
disposed to believe in poor Olivier's innocence, Mademoiselle de
Scudéri made inquiries, and found everything confirmed which Madelon
had said as to the domestic relations between the master and his
workman. The people of the house and the neighbours all spoke of
Olivier as the very model of good, steady, exemplary behaviour. No one
knew anything whatever against him, and yet, when the crime was
alluded to, every one shrugged his shoulders, and thought there was
something incomprehensible about it.

Olivier, brought before the Chambre Ardente, most steadfastly denied--
as Mademoiselle de Scudéri learned--the crime of which he was accused,
and maintained that his master had been attacked in the street in his
presence, and borne down, and that he had carried him home still
alive, although he did not long survive. This agreed with Madelon's
statement.

Over and over again Mademoiselle de Scudéri had the very minutest
circumstances of the awful event related to her. She specially
inquired if there had ever been any quarrel between Olivier and the
father, whether Olivier was altogether exempt from that propensity to
hastiness which often attacks the best tempered people like a blind
madness, and leads them to commit deeds which seem to exclude all
freewill; but the more enthusiastically Madelon spoke of the peaceful
home-life which the three had led together, united in the most sincere
affection, the more did every vestige of suspicion against Olivier
disappear from her mind. Closely examining and considering everything,
starting from the assumption that, notwithstanding all that spoke so
loudly for his innocence, Olivier yet had been Cardillac's murderer,
Mademoiselle de Scudéri could find, in all the realm of possibility,
no motive for the terrible deed, which, in any case, was bound to
destroy his happiness. Poor though skilful, he succeeds in gaining the
good will of the most renowned of masters; he loves the daughter--his
master favours his love. Happiness, good fortune for the rest of his
life are laid open before him. Supposing, then, that--God knows on
what impulse--in an outburst of anger, he should have made this
murderous attack on his master, what diabolical hypocrisy it required
to behave as he had done after the deed! With the firmest conviction
of his innocence, Mademoiselle de Scudéri resolved to save Olivier at
whatever cost.

It seemed to her most advisable, before perhaps appealing to the King
in person, to go to the President La Regnie, point out for his
consideration all the circumstances which made for Olivier's
innocence, and so, perhaps, kindle in his mind a conviction favourable
to the accused, which might communicate itself beneficially to the
judges.

La Regnie received her with all the consideration which was the due of
a lady of her worth, held in high esteem by His Majesty himself. He
listened in silence to all she had to say concerning Olivier's
circumstances, relationships and character; and also concerning the
crime itself. A delicate, almost malignant, smile, however, was all
the token he gave that her adjurations, her reminders (accompanied by
plentiful tears) that a judge ought to be, not the enemy of the
accused, but ready to listen, also, to whatever spoke in his favour,
were not falling upon deaf ears. When at length Mademoiselle de
Scudéri concluded, quite exhausted and wiping the tears from her
cheeks, La Regnie began:

"It is quite characteristic of your excellent heart, Mademoiselle," he
said, that, moved by the tears of a young girl in love, you should
credit all she says; nay, be incapable of grasping the idea of a
fearful crime such as this. But it is otherwise with the Judge, who is
accustomed to tear off the mask from vile and unblushing hypocrisy and
deception. It is, of course, not incumbent on me to disclose the
course of a criminal trial to everyone who chooses to inquire. I do my
duty, Mademoiselle! The world's opinion troubles me not at all.
Evildoers should tremble before the Chambre Ardente, which knows no
punishments save blood and fire. But by you, Mademoiselle, I would not
be looked upon as a monster of severity and barbarism; therefore,
permit me briefly to present to you the evidence of this young
criminal's guilt. Heaven be thanked that vengeance has fallen upon
him. With your acute intelligence, you will then disown your kindly
and generous feelings, which do honour to you, but in me would be out
of place.

"Eh bien! this morning René Cardillac is found murdered by a dagger
thrust, no one is by him except his workman, Olivier Brusson, and the
daughter. In Olivier's room there is found, amongst other things, a
dagger covered with fresh blood which exactly fits into the wound.
Olivier says, 'Cardillac was attacked in the street before my eyes'
'Was the intention to rob him?' 'I do not know.' 'You were walking
with him and you could not drive off the murderer or detain him?' 'My
master was walking fifteen or perhaps sixteen paces in front of me; I
was following him.' 'Why, in all the world, so far behind?' 'My master
wished it so.' 'And what had Master Cardillac to do in the streets so
late?' 'That I cannot say.' 'But he was never in the habit of being
out after nine o'clock at other times, was he?' At this Olivier
hesitates, becomes confused, sighs, sheds tears, vows by all that is
sacred that Cardillac did go out that night, and met with his death.

"Now observe, Mademoiselle, it is proved with the most absolute
certainty that Cardillac did not leave the house that night;
consequently Olivier's assertion that he went with him is a barefaced
falsehood. The street door of the house fastens with a heavy lock,
which makes a piercing noise in opening and closing, also the door
itself creaks and groans on its hinges, so that, as experiments have
proved, the noise is heard quite distinctly in the upper stories of
the house. Now, there lives in the lower story, that is to say, close
to the street door, old Maître Claude Patru with his housekeeper, a
person of nearly eighty years of age, but still hale and active. Both
of them heard Cardillac come downstairs at nine o'clock exactly,
according to his usual custom, close and bolt the door with a great
deal of noise, go upstairs again, read the evening prayer, and then
(as was to be presumed by the shutting of the door) go into his
bedroom.

"Maître Claude suffers from sleeplessness like many other old people;
and on the night in question he could not close an eye. Therefore,
about half-past nine the housekeeper struck a light in the kitchen,
which she reached by crossing the passage, and sat down at the table
beside her master with an old chronicle-book, from which she read
aloud, whilst the old man, fixing his thoughts on the reading,
sometimes sat in his arm-chair, sometimes walked slowly up and down
the room to try and bring on sleepiness. All was silence in the house
till nearly midnight; but then they heard overhead rapid footsteps, a
heavy fall, as of something on to the floor, and immediately after
that a hollow groaning. They were both struck by a peculiar alarm and
anxiety, the horror of the terrible deed which had just been committed
seemed to sweep over them. When day came what had been done in the
darkness was brought clearly to light."

"But, in the name of all the Saints," cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri,
"considering all the circumstances which I have told you at such
length, can you think of any motive for this diabolical deed?"

"Hm!" answered La Regnie. "Cardillac was anything but a poor man. He
had valuable jewels in his possession."

"But all he had would go to the daughter! You forget that Olivier was
to be Cardillac's son-in-law."

"Perhaps he was compelled to share with others," said La Regnie, "or
to do the deed wholly for them!"

"Share!--murder for others," cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in utter
amazement.

"You must learn, Mademoiselle," continued La Regnie, "that Olivier's
blood would have been flowing on the Place de la Grève before this
time, but that his crime is connected with that deeply-hidden mystery
which has so long brooded over Paris. It is clear that Olivier belongs
to that infamous band which, baffling all our attempts at observation
or discovery, carries on its nefarious practices with perfect
immunity. Through him everything will, must be, discovered.
Cardillac's wound is precisely the same as those of all the persons
who have been robbed and murdered in the streets and houses; and most
conclusive of all since Olivier's arrest, the robberies and murders
have ceased, the streets are as safe by night as by day. Proof enough
that Olivier was most probably the chief of the band. As yet he will
not confess, but there are means of making him speak against his
will."

"And Madelon!" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, "that truthful innocent
creature."

"Ah!" cried La Regnie, with one of his venomous smiles, "who will
answer to me that she is not in the plot, too? She does not care so
very much about her father. Her tears are all for the young murderer."

"What?" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, "not for her father?--that
girl--impossible!"

"Oh!" continued La Regnie, "remember la Brinvilliers! You must pardon
me, if by-and-by I have to carry off your protégée, and put her in the
Conciergerie."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered at this grisly notion. It seemed to
her that no truth or virtue could endure before this terrible man; as
if he spied out murder and dark-guilt in the deepest and most hidden
thoughts of people's hearts. She rose. "Be human!" was all that she
was able, with difficulty, to say in her state of anxiety and
oppression. As she was just going to descend the stairs, to which the
President had attended her with ceremonious courtesy, a strange idea
came to her--she knew not how.

"Might I be allowed to see this unfortunate Olivier Brusson?" she
inquired, turning round sharply.

He scrutinised her face thoughtfully, and then distorted his features
into the repulsive smile which was characteristic of him.

"Doubtless, Mademoiselle," he said, "your idea is that, trusting your
own feelings--the inward voice more than what happened before our
eyes, you would like to examine into Olivier's guilt or innocence for
yourself. If you do not fear that gloomy abode of crime if it is not
hateful to you to see those types of depravity in all their
gradations--the doors of the Conciergerie shall be opened to you in
two hours time. Olivier, whose fate excites your sympathy, shall be
brought to you."

In truth, Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not bring herself to believe
in Olivier's guilt. Everything spoke against him. Indeed, no judge in
the world would have thought otherwise than La Regnie, in the face of
what had happened. But the picture of domestic happiness which Madelon
had called before her eyes in such vivid colours, outweighed and
outshone all suspicion, so that she preferred to adopt the hypothesis
of some inscrutable mystery rather than believe what her whole nature
revolted against.

She thought she would hear Olivier's narrative of the events of that
night of mystery, and in this manner, possibly, penetrate farther into
a secret which the judges, perhaps, did not see into, because they
thought it unworthy of investigation.

Arrived at the Conciergerie, she was taken into a large, well-lighted
room. Presently she heard the ring of fetters. Olivier Brusson was
brought in; but as soon as she saw him she fell down fainting. When
she recovered, he was gone. She demanded impetuously to be taken to
her carriage; she would not remain another moment in that place of
crime and wickedness. Alas! at the first glance she had recognised in
Olivier Brusson the young man who had thrown the letter into her
carriage on the Pont Neuf, and who had brought her the casket with the
jewels. Now all doubt was gone, La Regnie's terrible suspicions
completely justified. Olivier belonged to the atrocious band, and had,
doubtless, murdered his master!

And Madelon! Never before so bitterly deceived by her kind feelings,
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, under this deadly attack upon her by the
power of the evil one here below--in whose very existence she had not
believed--doubted if there was such a thing as truth. She gave
admittance to the fearful suspicion that Madelon, too, was forsworn,
and might have had a hand in the bloody deed. And as it is the nature
of the human mind that, when an idea has dawned upon it, it eagerly
seeks, and finds, colours in which to paint that idea more and more
vividly; as she weighed and considered all the circumstances of the
crime along with Madelon's behaviour, she found a very great deal to
nourish suspicion. Many things which had hitherto been considered
proofs of innocence and purity now became evidences of studied
hypocrisy and deep, corrupt wickedness. Those heartrending cries of
sorrow and bitter tears might well have been caused by the deathly
dread of her lover's bleeding--nay, of her own falling into the
executioner's hands.

With a resolve at once to cast away the serpent she had been
cherishing, Mademoiselle de Scudéri alighted from her carriage.
Madelon threw herself at her feet Her heavenly eyes--as candid as an
angel's--raised to her, her hands pressed to her heaving breast, she
wept, imploring help and consolation. Controlling herself with
difficulty and speaking with as much calmness and gravity as she
could, Mademoiselle de Scudéri said, "Go! go!--be thankful that the
murderer awaits the just punishment of his crime. May the Holy Virgin
grant that guilt does not weigh heavily on your own head also." With a
bitter cry of "Alas! then all is over!" Madelon fell fainting to the
ground. Mademoiselle de Scudéri left her to the care of La Martinière
and went to another room.

Much distressed and estranged from all earthly things, she longed to
depart from a world filled with diabolical treachery and falsehood.
She complained of the destiny which had granted her so many years in
which to strengthen her belief in truth and virtue, only to shatter in
her old age the beautiful fancies which had illumined her path.

She heard Madelon, as La Martinière was leading her away, murmur in
broken accents, "Her, too, have the terrible men deceived. Ah!
wretched me!--miserable Olivier!" The tones of her voice went to her
heart, and again there dawned within her a belief in the existence of
some mystery, in Olivier's innocence. Torn by the most contradictory
feelings, she cried, "What spirit of the pit has mixed me up in this
terrible story, which will be my very death!"

At this moment Baptiste came in, pale and terrified, to say that
Desgrais was at the door. Since the dreadful La Voisin trial the
appearance of Desgrais in a house was the sure precursor of some
criminal accusation. Hence Baptiste's terror, as to which his mistress
asked him with a gentle smile, "What is the matter, Baptiste? Has the
name of Scudéri been found in La Voisin's lists?"

"Ah! For Christ's sake," cried Baptiste, trembling in every limb, "how
can you say such a thing? But Desgrais--the horrible Desgrais--is
looking so mysterious, and is so insistent--he seems hardly able to
wait till he can see you."

"Well. Baptiste," she said, "bring him in at once, this gentleman who
so frightens you. To me, at all events, he can cause no anxiety."

"President La Regnie sends me to you, Mademoiselle," said Desgrais,
when he entered, "with a request which he scarce would dare to make if
he did not know your goodness and bravery, and if the last hope of
bringing to light an atrocious deed of blood did not lie in your
hands; had you not already taken such interest (as well as bearing a
part) in this case, which is keeping the Chambre Ardente, and all of
us, in a state of such breathless suspense. Since he saw you, Olivier
Brusson has been almost out of his mind. He still swears by all that
is sacred, that he is completely innocent of René Cardillac's death,
though he is ready to suffer the punishment he has deserved. Observe,
Mademoiselle, that the latter admission clearly refers to other crimes
of which he has been guilty. But all attempts to get him to utter
anything further have been vain. He begs and implores to be allowed to
have an interview with you. To you alone will he divulge everything.
Vouchsafe then, Mademoiselle, to listen to Brusson's confession."

"What?" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in indignation, "I become an
organ of the criminal court, and abuse the confidence of this
unfortunate fellow to bring him to the scaffold! No, Desgrais! Ruffian
and murderer though he may be, I could never deceive and betray him
thus villainously. I will have nothing to do with his avowal. If I
did, it would be locked up in my heart, as if made to a priest under
the seal of the confessional."

"Perhaps, Mademoiselle," said Desgrais, with a subtle smile, "you
might alter your opinion after hearing Brusson. Did you not beg the
President to be human? This he is, in yielding to Brusson's foolish
desire, and thus trying one more expedient--the last--before resorting
to the rack, for which Brusson is long since ripe."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri shuddered involuntarily.

"Understand, Mademoiselle," he continued, "you would by no means be
expected to revisit those gloomy dungeons, which lately inspired you
with such horror and loathing. Olivier would be brought to your own
house, in the night, like a free man; what he should say would not be
listened to; though, of course, there would be a proper guard with
him. He could thus tell you freely and unconstrainedly all he had to
say. As regards any risk which you might run in seeing the wretched
being, my life shall answer for that. He speaks of you with the
deepest veneration; he vows that it is the dark mystery that prevented
him seeing you earlier which has brought him to destruction. Moreover,
it would rest with you entirely to repeat as much or as little as you
pleased of what Brusson confessed to you. How could you be constrained
to more?"

Mademoiselle de Scudéri sat with eyes fixed on the ground, in deep
reflection. It seemed to her that she could not but obey that Higher
Power which demanded of her the clearing up of this mystery--as if
there were no escape for her from the wondrous toils in which she had
become enmeshed against her will.

Coming to a rapid decision, she solemnly replied, "God will give me
self-command and firm resolution. Bring Brusson here; I will see him."

As on the night when the jewel-casket had been brought, so now at
midnight there came a knocking at the door. Baptiste, duly instructed,
opened. Mademoiselle de Scudéri's blood ran cold when she heard the
heavy tread of the guards who had brought Brusson stationing
themselves about the passages.

At length the door opened, Desgrais came in, and after him Olivier
Brusson, without irons, and respectably dressed.

"Here is Brusson, Mademoiselle," said Desgrais, bowing courteously; he
then departed at once.

Brusson sank down on both knees before Mademoiselle de Scudéri. The
pure, clear expression of a most truthful soul beamed from his face,
though it was drawn and distorted by terror and bitter pain. The
longer she looked at him, the more vivid became a remembrance of some
well-loved person--she could not say whom. When the first feeling of
shuddering left her, she forgot that Cardillac's murderer was kneeling
before her and, speaking in the pleasant tone of quiet goodwill which
was natural to her, said: "Now, Brusson, what have you to say to me?"

He--still on his knees--sighed deeply, from profound sorrow, and then
said: "Oh, Mademoiselle, you whom I so honour and worship, is there no
trace of recollection of me left in your mind?"

Still looking at him attentively, she answered that she had certainly
detected in his face a likeness to someone whom she had held in
affection, and it was to this that he owed it that she had overcome
her profound horror of a murderer so far as to be able to listen to
him quietly. Much pained by her words, Brusson rose quickly, and
stepped backwards a pace, with his gloomy glance fixed on the ground.

Then, in a hollow voice, he said: "Have you quite forgotten Anne
Guiot? Her son, Olivier, the boy whom you used to dandle on your knee,
is he who is now before you."

"Oh! For the love of all the Saints!" she cried, covering her face
with both hands and sinking back in her chair. She had reason for
being thus horrified. Anne Guiot, the daughter of a citizen who had
fallen into poverty, had lived with Mademoiselle de Scudéri from her
childhood; she had brought her up like a daughter, with all affection
and care. When she grew up, a handsome, well-conducted young man named
Claude Bresson fell in love with her. Being a first-rate workman at
his trade of a watchmaker, sure to make a capital living in Paris and
Anne being very fond of him, Mademoiselle de Scudéri saw no reason to
object to their marrying. They set up house accordingly, lived a most
quiet and happy domestic life, and the bond between them was knitted
more closely still by the birth of a most beautiful boy, the image of
his pretty mother.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri made an idol of little Olivier, whom she would
take away from his mother for hours and days, to pet him and kiss him.
Hence he attached himself to her, and was as pleased to be with her as
with his mother. When three years had passed, the depressed state of
Brusson's trade brought it about that job-work was scarcer every day,
so that at last it was all he could do to get bread to eat. In
addition to this came home-sickness for his beautiful native Geneva so
the little household went there, in spite of Mademoiselle de Scudéri's
dissuasions and promises of all needful assistance. Anne wrote once or
twice to her foster-mother, and then ceased; so that Mademoiselle de
Scudéri thought she was forgotten in the happiness of the Brussons'
life.

It was now just three and twenty years since the Brussons had left
Paris for Geneva.

"Horrible!" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, when she had to some extent
recovered herself, "You, Olivier! the son of my Anne! And now!"

"Mademoiselle!" said Olivier, quietly and composedly, "doubtless you
never thought that the boy whom you cherished like the tenderest of
mothers, whom you dandled on your knee, and to whom you gave
sweetmeats, would when grown to manhood stand before you accused of a
terrible murder. I am completely innocent! The Chambre Ardente charges
me with a crime; but, as I hope to die a Christian's death, though it
may be by the executioner's hand--I am free from all guilt. Not by my
hand--not by any crime of my committing, was it that the unfortunate
Cardillac came to his end."

As he said this, Olivier began to tremble and shake so, that
Mademoiselle de Scudéri motioned him to a little seat which was near
him.

"I have had sufficient time," he went on, "to prepare myself for this
interview with you--which I look upon as the last favour of a merciful
Heaven--and to acquire as much calmness and self-control as are
necessary to tell you the story of my terrible, unheard-of
misfortunes. Be so compassionate as to listen to me calmly, whatever
may be your horror at the disclosure of a mystery of which you
certainly have not the smallest inkling. Ah! would to Heaven my poor
father had never left Paris! As far as my recollections of Geneva
carry me, I remember only the tears of my inconsolable parents and my
own tears at the sight of their lamentations, which I was unable to
understand. Later, there came to me a clear sense a full
comprehension--of the bitterest and most grinding poverty, want and
privation in which they were living. My father was deceived in all his
expectations; bowed down and broken with sorrow, he died, just when he
had managed to place me as apprentice with a goldsmith. My mother
spoke much of you; she longed to tell you all her misfortunes, but the
despondency which springs from poverty prevented her. That, and also,
no doubt, false modesty, which often gnaws at a mortally wounded
heart, kept her from carrying out her idea. She followed my father to
the grave a few months after his death."

"Poor Anne! Poor Anne!" said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, overwhelmed by
sorrow.

"I thank and praise the Eternal Power that she has gone where she
cannot see her beloved son fall, branded with disgrace, by the hand of
the executioner," cried Olivier loudly, raising a wild and terrible
glance to the skies. Outside there was a sudden agitation; a sound of
people moving about made itself heard. "Ho, ho!" said he, with a
bitter laugh, "Desgrais is waking up his people, as if I could
possibly escape. But, let me go on. My master treated me harshly,
though I was very soon one of the best of workmen and, indeed, much
better than himself. Once a stranger came to our workshop to buy some
of our work.

"When he saw a necklace of my making, he patted my shoulder in a kind
way, and said, looking at the necklace with admiration, 'Ah, ha! my
young friend, this is really first-class work. I don't know anybody
who could beat it but René Cardillac, who is the greatest of all
goldsmiths, of course. You ought to go to him; he would be delighted
to get hold of you, for there's nobody but yourself who would be of
such use to him; and again, there's nobody but he who can teach you
anything.'

"The words of this stranger sunk deep into my heart. There was no more
peace for me Geneva. I was powerfully impelled to leave it, and at
length I succeeded in getting free from my master. I came to Paris,
where René Cardillac received me coldly and harshly. But I stuck to my
point. He was obliged to give me something to try my hand at, however
trifling. So I got a ring to finish. When I took it back to him
finished, he gazed at me with those sparkling eyes of his, as if he
would look me through and through. Then he said, 'You are a first-rate
man--a splendid fellow; you may come and work with me. I'll pay you
well; you'll be satisfied with me.' And he kept his word. I had been
several weeks with him before I saw Madelon who, I think, had been
visiting an aunt of his in the country. At last she came home. O
eternal power of Heaven, how was it with me when I saw that angelic
creature! Has ever a man so loved as I! And now! Oh Madelon!"

Olivier could speak no more for sorrow. He held both hands over his
face, and sobbed violently. At last he conquered the wild pain with a
mighty effort, and went on:

"Madelon looked on me with favour, and came oftener and oftener into
the workshop. Her father watched closely but many a stolen hand-clasp
marked our covenant. Cardillac did not seem to notice. My idea was,
that if I could gain his good-will and attain Master's rank, I should
ask his consent to our marriage. One morning, when I was going in to
begin work, he came to me with anger and contempt in his face.

"'I don't want any more of your work,' he said. 'Get out of this
house, and don't let my eyes ever rest on you again. I have no need to
tell you the reason. The dainty fruit you are trying to gather is
beyond the reach of a beggar like you!'

"I tried to speak, but he seized me and pitched me out of the door
with such violence that I fell, and hurt my head and my arm. Furious,
and smarting with the pain, I went off, and at last found a
kindhearted acquaintance in the Faubourg St. Germain, who gave me
quarters in his garret. I had no peace nor rest. At night I wandered
round Cardillac's house, hoping that Madelon would hear my sighs and
lamentations, and perhaps manage to speak to me at the window,
undiscovered. All sorts of desperate plans, to which I thought I might
persuade her, jostled each other in my brain. Cardillac's house in the
Rue Niçaise abuts on to a high wall with niches, containing old,
partly-broken statues.

"One night I was standing close to one of those figures, looking up at
the windows of the house which open on the courtyard which the wall
encloses. Suddenly I saw a light in Cardillac's workshop. It was
midnight, and he was never awake at that time, as he always went to
bed exactly at nine. My heart beat anxiously: I thought something
might be going on which would let me get into the house. But the light
disappeared again immediately. I pressed myself closely into the
niche, and against the statue; but I started back in alarm, feeling a
return of my pressure, as if the statue had come to life. In the faint
moonlight I saw that the stone was slowly turning, and behind it
appeared a dark form, which crept softly out and went down the street
with stealthy tread. I sprang to the statue: it was standing close to
the wall again, as before. Involuntarily, as if impelled by some power
within me, I followed the receding dark figure. In passing an image of
the Virgin, this figure looked round, the light of the lamp before the
image falling upon his face. It was Cardillac! An indescribable fear
fell upon me; an eerie shudder came over me.

"As if driven by some spell, I felt I must follow this spectre-like
sleep-walker--for that was what I thought my master was, though it was
not full moon, the time when that kind of impulse falls upon sleepers.
At length Cardillac disappeared in a deep shadow; but by a certain
easily distinguishable sound I knew that he had gone into the entry of
a house. What was the meaning of this? I asked myself in amazement;
what was he going to do? I pressed myself close to the wall. Presently
there came up a gentleman, trilling and singing, with a white plume
distinct in the darkness, and clanking spurs. Cardillac darted out
upon him from the darkness, like a tiger on his prey; the man fell to
the ground gasping. I rushed up with a cry of terror. Cardillac was
leaning over him as he lay on the ground.

"'Master Cardillac, what are you about?' I cried aloud. 'Curses upon
you!' he cried and, running by me with lightning speed, disappeared.
Quite out of my senses--scarcely able to walk a step--I went up to the
gentleman on the ground, and knelt down beside him, thinking it might
still be possible to save him. But there was no trace of life left in
him. In my alarm I scarcely noticed that the Marechaussée had come up
and surrounded me.

"'Another one laid low by the demons!' they cried, all speaking at
once. 'Ah! ha! youngster! what are you doing here?--are you one of the
band?' and they seized me. I stammered out in the best way I could
that I was incapable of such a terrible deed, and that they must let
me go. Then one of them held a lantern to my face, and said, with a
laugh: 'This is Olivier Brusson; the goldsmith who works with our
worthy Master René Cardillac. He murder folks in the street!--very
likely story! Who ever heard of a murderer lamenting over the body,
and letting himself be nabbed? Tell us all about it, my lad; out with
it straight.'

"'Right before my eyes,' I said, 'someone sprang out upon this man,
stabbed him and ran off like lightning. I cried as loud as I could. I
tried to see if he could be saved.'

"'No, my son,' cried one of those who had lifted up the body, 'he's
done for!--the dagger-stab right through his heart, as usual.' 'The
deuce!' said another; 'just too late again, as we were the day before
yesterday.' And they went away with the body.

"What I thought of all this I really cannot tell you. I pinched
myself, to see if I were not in some horrible dream. I felt as if I
must wake up directly, and marvel at the absurdity of what I had been
dreaming. Cardillac--my Madelon's father--an atrocious murderer! I had
sunk down powerless on the stone steps of a house; the daylight was
growing brighter and brighter. An officer's hat with a fine plume was
lying before me on the pavement. Cardillac's deed of blood, committed
on the spot, came clearly back to my mental vision. I ran away in
horror.

"With my mind in a whirl, almost unconscious, I was sitting in my
garret, when the door opened, and René Cardillac came in. 'For
Christ's sake! what do you want?' I cried. Paying no heed to this,
however, he came up smiling with a calmness and urbanity which
increased my inward horror. He drew forward an old rickety stool, and
sat down beside me; for I was unable to rise from my straw bed, where
I had thrown myself. 'Well, Olivier,' he began, 'how is it with you,
my poor boy? I really was too hasty in turning you out of doors. I
miss you at every turn. Just now I nave a job in hand which I shall
never be able to finish without you; won't you come back and work with
me? You don't answer. Yes, I know very well I insulted you. I won't
pretend that I was not angry about your making up to my Madelon; but I
have been thinking matters well over, and I see that I couldn't have a
better son-in-law than you, with your abilities, your skill, diligence
and trustworthiness. Come back with me, and see how soon you and
Madelon can make a match of it.'

"His words pierced my heart; I shuddered at his wickedness; I could
not utter a syllable.

"'You hesitate,' he said sharply, while his sparkling eyes transfixed
me. 'Perhaps you can't come today. You have other things to do.
Perhaps you want to go and see Desgrais, or have an interview with
D'Argenson or La Regnie. Take care, my boy, that the talons you are
thinking of calling down on others, don't tear you.' At this my sorely
tried spirit found vent.

"'Those,' I said, 'who are conscious of horrible crimes may dread the
names which you have mentioned, but I do not. I have nothing to do
with them.'

"'Remember, Olivier,' he resumed, 'that it is an honour to you to work
with me--the most renowned Master of his time everywhere highly
esteemed for his truth and goodness; any foul calumny would fall back
on the head of its originator. As to Madelon, I must tell you that it
is her alone whom you have to thank for my yielding. She loves you
with a devotion that I should never have believed her capable of. As
soon as you were gone, she fell at my feet, clasped my knees and vowed
with copious tears, that she could never live without you. I thought
this was mere imagination, for those young things always think they're
going to die of love whenever a young wheyface looks at them a little
kindly. But my Madelon really did fall quite sick and ill; and when I
tried to talk her out of the silly nonsense, she called out your name
a thousand times. Last evening I told her I gave in and agreed to
everything, and would go to fetch you today; so this morning she is
blooming again like any rose, and waiting for you, quite beside
herself with longing.'

"May the eternal power of Heaven forgive me, but--I don't know how it
came about--I suddenly found myself in Cardillac's house, where
Madelon, with loud cries of 'Olivier!--my Olivier!--my beloved! my
husband!' clasped both her arms about me, and pressed me to her heart;
whilst I, in the plenitude of my bliss, swore by the Virgin and all
the Saints never, never to leave her."

Overcome by the remembrance of this decisive moment, Olivier was
obliged to pause. Horrified at the crime of a man whom she had looked
on as the incarnation of probity and goodness, Mademoiselle de Scudéri
cried: "Dreadful!--René Cardillac a member of that band of murderers
who have so long made Paris into a robbers' den!"

"A member of the band, do you say, Mademoiselle?" said Olivier. "There
never was any band; it was René Cardillac alone who sought and found
his victims with such diabolical ingenuity and activity. It was in the
fact of his being alone that his impunity lay--the practical
impossibility of coming upon the murderer's track. But let me go on.
What is coming will clear up the mystery, and reveal the secrets of
the wickedest and at the same time most wretched of all mankind. You
at once see the position in which I now stood towards my master. The
step was taken, and I could not go back. At times it seemed to me that
I had rendered myself Cardillac's accomplice in murder, and it was
only in Madelon's love that I temporarily forgot the inward pain which
tortured me; only in her society could I drive away all outward traces
of the nameless horror. When I was at work with the old man in the
workshop, I could not look him in the face could--scarcely speak a
word--for the horror which pervaded me in the presence of this
terrible being, who fulfilled all the duties of the tender father and
the good citizen, while the night shrouded his atrocities. Madelon,
pure and pious as an angel, hung upon him with the most idolatrous
affection. It pierced my heart when I thought that, if ever vengeance
should overtake this masked criminal she would be the victim of the
most terrible despair. That, of itself closed my lips, though the
consequence of my silence should be a criminal's death for myself.
Although much was to be gathered from what the Marechaussée had said,
still Cardillac's crimes, their motive and the manner in which he
carried them out, were a riddle to me. The solution of it soon came."

"One day Cardillac--who usually excited my horror by laughing and
jesting during our work, in the highest of spirits--was very grave and
thoughtful. Suddenly he threw the piece of work he was engaged on
aside, so that the pearls and other stones rolled about the floor,
started to his feet, and said: 'Olivier! things cannot go on between
us like this; the situation is unendurable What the ablest and most
ingenious efforts of Desgrais and his myrmidons failed to find out,
chance has thrown into your hands. You saw me at my nocturnal work, to
which my Evil Star compels me, so that no resistance is possible for
me; and it was your own Evil Star, moreover which led you to follow
me; which wrapped and hid you in an impenetrable mantle; which gave
that lightness to your footfall that enabled you to move along with
the noiselessness of the smaller animals, so that I--who see clear by
night, as doth the tiger, and hear the smallest sound, the humming of
the gnats, streets away--did not observe you. Your Evil Star brought
you to me, my comrade--my accomplice! You see, now, that you can't
betray me; therefore you shall know all."

"I would have cried out: 'Never, never shall I be your comrade your
accomplice, you atrocious miscreant.' But the inward horror which I
felt at his words paralysed my tongue. Instead of words I could only
utter an unintelligible noise. Cardillac sat down in his working chair
again, wiped the perspiration from his brow, and seemed to find it
difficult to pull himself together, hard beset by the recollection of
the past. At length he began: 'Wise men have much to say of the
strange impulses which come to women when they are enceinte, and the
strange influence which those vivid, involuntary impulses exercise
upon the child. A wonderful tale is told of my mother. When she was a
month gone with me she was looking on, with other women, at a court
pageant at the Trianon, and saw a certain cavalier in Spanish dress,
with a glittering chain of jewels about his neck, from which she could
not remove her eyes. Her whole being longed for those sparkling
stones, which seemed to her more than earthly. This same cavalier had
at a previous time, before my mother was married, had designs on her
virtue, which she rejected with indignation. She recognised him, but
now, irradiated by the light of the gems, he seemed to her a creature
of a higher sphere, the very incarnation of beauty. The cavalier
noticed the longing, fiery looks which she was bending on him, and
thought he was in better luck now than of old.

"'He managed to get near her, to separate her from her companions, and
entice her to a lonely place. There he clasped her eagerly in his
arms. My mother grasped at the beautiful chain; but at that moment he
fell down, dragging her with him. Whether it was apoplexy, or what, I
do not know; but he was dead. My mother struggled in vain to free
herself from the clasp of the arms, stiffened as they were in death.
With the hollow eyes, whence vision had departed, fixed on her, the
corpse rolled with her to the ground. Her shrieks at length reached
people who were passing at some distance; they hastened to her, and
rescued her from the embrace of this gruesome lover.

"'Her fright laid her on a bed of dangerous sickness. Her life was
despaired of as well as mine; but she recovered, and her confinement
was more prosperous than had been thought possible. But the terrors of
that awful moment had set their mark on me. My Evil Star had risen,
and darted into me those rays which kindled in me one of the strangest
and most fatal of passions. Even in my earliest childhood I thought
there was nothing to compare with glittering diamonds in golden
settings. This was looked upon as a childish fancy; but it was
otherwise, for as a boy I stole gold and jewels wherever I could lay
hands on them, and I knew the difference between good ones and bad,
instinctively, like the most accomplished connoisseur. Only the pure
and valuable attracted me; I would not touch alloyed or coined gold.
Those inborn cravings were kept in check by my father's severe
chastisements; but, so that I might always have to do with gold and
precious stones, I took up the goldsmith's calling. I worked at it
with passion, and soon became the first living master of that art.
Then began a period when the natural bent within me, so long
restrained, shot forth in power, and waxed with might, bearing
everything away before it. As soon as I finished a piece of work and
delivered it, I fell into a state of restlessness and disconsolateness
which prevented my sleeping, ruined my health, and left me no
enjoyment in my life. The person for whom I made the work haunted me
day and night like a spectre. I saw that person continually before my
mental vision, with my beautiful jewels on, and a voice kept
whispering to me: "They belong to you! take them; what's the use of
diamonds to the dead?" At last I betook myself to thieving. I had
access to the houses of the great; I took advantage quickly of every
opportunity. No locks withstood my skill, and I soon had my work back
in my hands again. But this was not enough to calm my unrest. That
mysterious voice made itself heard again, jeering at me, and saying:
"Ho, ho! one of the dead is wearing your jewels." I did not know
whence it came, but I had an indescribable hatred for all those for
whom I made jewellery. More than that, in the depths of my heart I
began to long to kill them; this frightened me. Just then I bought
this house. I had concluded the bargain with the owner: here in this
very room we were sitting, drinking a bottle of wine in honour of the
transaction.'"

"'Night had come on, he was going to leave when he said to me: "Look
here, Maître René before I go I must let you into a secret about this
house." He opened that cupboard, which is built into the wall there,
and pushed the back of it in; this let him into a little closet, where
he bowed down and raised a trap-door. This showed us a steep, narrow
stair, which we went down, and at the bottom of it was a little narrow
door, which let us out into the open courtyard. There he went up to
the wall, pushed a piece of iron which projected a very little, and
immediately a piece of the wall turned round, so that a person could
get out through the opening into the street. You must see this
contrivance sometime, Olivier; the sly old monks of the convent, which
this house once was, must have had it made so as to be able to slip in
and out secretly. It is wood but covered with lime and mortar on the
outside, and to the outer side of it is fitted a statue, also of wood,
through looking exactly like stone, which turns on wooden hinges. When
I saw this arrangement, dark ideas surged up in my mind; it seemed to
me that deeds, as yet mysterious to myself, were here prearranged for.

"'I had just finished a splendid set of ornaments for a gentleman of
the court who, I knew, was going to give them to an opera dancer. Soon
my deadly torture was on me; the spectre dogged my steps, the
whispering devil was at my ear. I went back into the house, bathed in
a sweat of agony; I rolled about on my bed, sleepless. In my mind's
eye I saw the man riding to his dancer with my beautiful jewels. Full
of fury I sprang up, threw my cloak round me, went down the secret
stair, out through the wall into the Rue Niçaise. He came, I fell upon
him, he cried out; but, seizing him from behind, I plunged my dagger
into his heart. The jewels were mine. When this was done, I felt a
peace, a contentment within me which I had never known before. The
spectre had vanished--the voice of the demon was still. Now I knew
what was the behest of my Evil Star, which I had to obey, or perish.

"'You know all now, Olivier. Don't think that, because I must do that
which I cannot avoid, I have clean renounced all sense of that mercy
or kindly feeling which is the portion of all humanity, and inherent
in man's nature. You know how hard I find it to let any of my work go
out of my hands, many there are to whom I would not bring death, and
for them nothing will induce me to work; indeed, in cases when I feel
that my spectre will have to be exorcised with blood on the morrow, I
settle the business that day by a smashing blow, which lays the holder
of my jewels on the ground, so that I get them back into my own
hands.'

"Having said all this, Cardillac took me into his secret strong-room
and showed me his collection of jewels; the King does not possess its
equal. To each ornament was fastened a small label stating for whom it
had been made, and when taken back--by theft, robbery, or murder.

"'On your wedding day, Olivier,' he said, in a solemn tone, 'you will
swear me a solemn oath, with your hand on the crucifix, that as soon
as I am dead you will at once convert all these treasures into dust by
a process which I will tell you of. I will not have any human being,
least of all Madelon and you, come into possession of those stones
that have been bought with blood.'

"Shut up in this labyrinth of crime, torn in twain by love and
abhorrence, I was like one of the damned to whom a glorified angel
points, with gentle smile, the upward way, whilst Satan holds him down
with red-hot talons, and the angel's loving smile, reflecting all the
bliss of paradise, becomes, to him, the very keenest of his tortures I
thought of flight, even of suicide, but Madelon! Blame me, blame me,
Mademoiselle, for having been too weak to overcome a passion which
fettered me to my destruction. I shall be atoning for my weakness by a
shameful death. One day Cardillac came in in unusually fine spirits.
He kissed and caressed Madelon, cast most affectionate looks at me,
drank a bottle of good wine at table, which he only did on high-days
and holidays, sang and made merry. Madelon had left us and I was going
to the workshop.

"'Sit still, lad,' cried Cardillac, 'no more work today; let's drink
the health of the most worthy and charming lady in all Paris.'

"When we had clinked our glasses, and he had emptied a bumper, he
said: 'Tell me, Olivier, how do you like these lines?

"Un amant qui craint les voleurs

N'est point digne d'amour."'

"And he told me what had transpired between you and the King in Madame
de Maintenon's salon, adding that he had always respected you more
than any other human being, and that his reverence and esteem for your
qualities was such that his Evil Star paled before you," and he would
have no fear that, were you to wear the finest piece of his work that
ever he made, the spectre would ever prompt him to thoughts of murder.

"'Listen, Olivier,' he said, 'to what I am going to do. A considerable
time ago I had to make a necklace and bracelets for Henrietta of
England, supplying the stones myself. I made of this the best piece of
work that ever I turned out, and it broke my heart to part with the
ornaments, which had become the very treasures of my soul. You know of
her unfortunate death by assassination. The things remained with me,
and now I shall send them to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, in the name of
the dreaded band, as a token of respect and gratitude. Besides its
being an unmistakable mark of her triumph, it will be a richly
deserted sign of my contempt for Desgrais and his men. You shall take
her the jewels.'

"When he mentioned your name, Mademoiselle, dark veils seemed to be
lifted, revealing the bright memory of my happy childhood, which rose
again in glowing colours before me. A wonderful comfort came into my
soul, a ray of hope, driving the dark shadows away. Cardillac saw the
effect his words had produced upon me, and gave it his own
interpretation. 'My idea seems to please you,' he said. 'I must
declare that a deep inward voice, very unlike that which cries for
blood like a raving wild beast, commanded me to do this thing. Many
times I feel the strangest ideas come into my mind--an inward fear,
the dread of something terrible, the awe whereof seems to come
breathing into this present time from some distant other world, seizes
powerfully upon me. I even feel, at such times, that the deeds which
my Evil Star has committed by means of me may be charged to the
account of my immortal soul, though it has no part in them. In one of
those moods I determined that I would make a beautiful diamond crown
for the Virgin in the Church of St. Eustache. But the indescribable
dread always came upon me, stronger than ever, when I set to work at
it, so that I have abandoned it altogether. Now it seems to me that in
presenting Mademoiselle de Scudéri with the finest work I have ever
turned out, I am offering a humble sacrifice to goodness and virtue
personified, and imploring their powerful intercession.'

"Cardillac, well acquainted with all the minutiae of your manner of
life told me how and when to take the ornaments to you. My whole being
rejoiced, for Heaven seemed to be showing me, through the atrocious
Cardillac, the way to escape from the hell in which I was being
tortured. Quite contrary to Cardillac's wish, I resolved that I would
get access to you and speak with you. As Anne Brusson's son and your
former pet, I thought I would throw myself at your feet and tell you
everything. I knew that you would keep the secret, out of
consideration for the unheard-of misery which its disclosure would
bring upon Madelon, but that your grand and brilliant intellect would
be sure to find means to put an end to Cardillac's wickedness without
disclosing it. Do not ask me what those means were to have been; I
cannot tell. But that you would rescue Madelon and me I believed as
firmly as I do in the intercession of the Holy Virgin. You know,
Mademoiselle, that my intention was frustrated that night; but I did
not lose hope of being more fortunate another time.

"By-and-by Cardillac suddenly lost all his good spirits; he crept
moodily about, uttered unintelligible words, and worked his arms as if
warding off something hostile. His mind seemed full of evil thoughts.
For a whole morning he had been going on in this way. At last he sat
down at the worktable, sprang up again angrily, looked out of window,
and then said gravely and gloomily: 'I wish Henrietta of England had
had my jewels.' Those words filled me with terror. I knew that his
diseased mind was again possessed by a terrible lust for murder, that
the voice of the demon was again loud in his ears. I saw your life
threatened by that dread spirit of murder. If Cardillac could get his
jewels back again into his hands you were safe. The danger grew
greater every instant. I met you on the Pont Neuf, made my way to your
carriage, threw you the note which implored you to give the jewels
back to Cardillac immediately. You did not come. My fear became
despair, when next day Cardillac spoke of nothing but the priceless
jewels he had seen last night in his dreams. I could only suppose that
this referred to your jewels, and I felt sure he was brooding over
some murderous attack, which he had determined to carry out that
night. Save you I must, should it cost Cardillac's life.

"After the evening prayer when he had shut himself up in his room as
usual, I got into the courtyard through a window, slipped out through
the opening of the wall, and stationed myself close at hand, in the
deepest shadow. Very soon Cardillac came out, and went gliding softly
down the street. I followed him. He took the direction of the Rue St.
Honoré. My heart beat fast. All at once he disappeared from me. I
determined to place myself at your door. Just as fate had ordered
matters on the first occasion of my witnessing one of his crimes,
there came along past me an officer, trilling and singing; he did not
see me. Instantly a dark form sprang out and attacked him. Cardillac!
I determined to prevent this murder. I gave a loud shout, and was on
the spot in a couple of paces. Not the officer, but Cardillac, fell
gasping to the ground, mortally wounded. The officer let his dagger
fall, drew his sword, and stood on the defensive, thinking I was the
murderer's accomplice. But he hastened away when he saw that, instead
of concerning myself about him, I was examining the fallen man.
Cardillac was still alive. I took up the dagger dropped by the
officer, stuck it in my belt and, lifting Cardillac on to my
shoulders, carried him with difficulty to the house, and up the secret
stair to the workshop. The rest you know.

"You perceive, Mademoiselle, that my only crime was that I refrained
from giving Madelon's father up to justice, thereby making an end of
his crimes. I am quite innocent of murder. No torture will draw from
me the secret of Cardillac's iniquities. Not through any action of
mine shall that Eternal Power, which has for all this time hidden from
Madelon her father's gruesome crimes, break in upon her now, to her
destruction; nor shall earthly vengeance drag the corpse of Cardillac
out of the soil which covers it, and brand his mouldering bones with
infamy. No; the beloved of my soul shall mourn me as an innocent
victim. Time will mitigate her sorrow for me, but her grief for her
father's terrible crimes nothing would ever assuage."

Olivier ceased, and a torrent of tears fell down his cheeks. He threw
himself at Mademoiselle de Scudéri's feet, saying imploringly: "You
are convinced that I am innocent; I know you are. Be merciful to me.
Tell me how Madelon is faring."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri summoned La Martinière, and in a few minutes
Madelon was clinging to Olivier's neck.

"Now that you are here, all is well. I knew that this noble-hearted
lady would save you," Madelon cried over and over again; and Olivier
forgot his fate, and all that threatened him.

He was free and happy. In the most touching manner they bewailed what
each had suffered for the other, and embraced afresh, and wept for joy
at being together again.

Had Mademoiselle de Scudéri not been convinced of Olivier's innocence
before, she must have been so when she saw those two lovers
forgetting, in the rapture of the moment, the world, their sufferings
and their indescribable sorrows.

"None but a guiltless heart," she cried, "would be capable of such
blissful forgetfulness."

The morning light came breaking into the room, and Desgrais knocked
gently at the door, reminding them that it was time to take Olivier
away, as it could not be done later without attracting attention. The
lovers had to part.

The dim anticipations which Mademoiselle de Scudéri had felt when
Olivier first came in had now embodied themselves in reality--in a
terrible fashion. The son of her much-loved Anne was, though innocent,
implicated in a manner which apparently made it impossible to save him
from a shameful death. She admired his heroism, which led him to
prefer death, loaded with the imputation of guilt, to the betrayal of
a secret which would kill Madelon. In the whole realm of possibility,
she could see no mode of saving the unfortunate lad from his gruesome
prison and the dreadful trial. Yet it was firmly impressed on her mind
that she must not shrink from any sacrifice to prevent this most
crying injustice.

She tortured herself with all kinds of plans and projects, which were
chiefly of the most impracticable and impossible kind--rejected as
soon as formed. Every glimmer of hope grew fainter and fainter, and
she well-nigh despaired. But Madelon's pious, absolute, childlike
confidence, the inspired manner in which she spoke of her lover, soon
to be free and to take her to his heart as his wife, restored
Mademoiselle de Scudéri's hopes to some extent.

By way of beginning to do something, she wrote to La Regnie a long
letter, in which she said that Olivier Brusson had proved to her in
the most credible manner his entire innocence of Cardillac's murder,
and that nothing but a heroic resolution to carry to the grave with
him a secret, the disclosure of which would bring destruction upon an
innocent and virtuous person, withheld him from laying a statement
before the Court, which would completely clear him from all guilt and
show that he had never belonged to the band at all. With the best
eloquence at her command, she said everything she could think of which
might be expected to soften La Regnie's hard heart.

He replied to this in a few hours, saying he was very glad that
Olivier had so thoroughly justified himself in the eyes of his kind
patron and protector; but, as for his heroic resolution to carry to
the grave with him a secret relating to the crime with which he was
charged, he regretted that the Chambre Ardente could feel no
admiration for heroism of that description, but must endeavour to
dispel it by powerful means. In three days' time, he had little doubt,
he would be in possession of the wondrous secret, which would probably
bring many strange matters to light.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri knew well what the terrible La Regnie meant by
the "powerful means," which were to break down Olivier's heroism. It
was but too clear that the unfortunate wretch was threatened with the
torture. In her mortal anxiety it at last occurred to her that, were
it only to gain time, the advice of a lawyer would be of some service.

Pierre Arnaud d'Andilly was at that time the most celebrated advocate
in Paris. His goodness of heart and his highly honourable character
were on a par with his professional skill and his comprehensive mind.
To him she repaired, and told him the whole tale, as far as it was
possible to do so without divulging Olivier's secret. She expected
that d'Andilly would warmly espouse the cause of this innocent man,
but in this she was woefully disappointed. He listened silently to
what she had to say, and then, with a quiet smile, answered in the
words of Boileau, "Le vrai peut quelquefois n'être point
vraisemblable." He showed her that there were the most grave and
marked suspicions against Olivier; that La Regnie's action was by no
means severe or premature, but wholly regular; indeed, that to act
otherwise would be to neglect his duty as a Judge. He did not believe
that he--d'Andilly--could save Brusson from the rack, by the very
ablest of pleading. Nobody could do that but Brusson himself, either
by making the fullest confession, or by accurately relating the
circumstances of Cardillac's murder, which might lead to further
discoveries.

"Then I will throw myself at the King's feet and sue for mercy," cried
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, her voice choked by weeping.

"For Heaven's sake, do not do that," cried d'Andilly. "Keep that in
reserve for the last extremity. If it fails you once, it is lost for
ever. The King will not pardon a criminal like Brusson; the people
would justly complain of the danger to them. Possibly Brusson may
manage to dispel the suspicion against him, by revealing his secret,
or in some other way. Then would be the time to resort to the King,
who would not ask what was or was not legally proved, but be guided by
his own conviction."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri could not but agree with what d'Andilly's
great experience dictated. She was sitting in her room, pondering as
to what--in the name of the Virgin and all the saints--she should try
next to do, when La Martinière came to say that the Count de Miossens,
Colonel of one of the King's Body Guard, was most anxious to speak
with her.

"Pardon me, Mademoiselle," said the Colonel, bowing with a soldier's
courtesy, "for disturbing you, and breaking in upon you at such an
hour. Two words will be sufficient excuse for me. I come about Olivier
Brusson."

"Olivier Brusson," cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri, eagerly anticipating
what she was going to hear; "that most unfortunate of men! What have
you to say of him?"

"I knew," said Miossens, laughing again, "that your protégé's name
would ensure me a favourable hearing. Everybody is convinced of
Brusson's guilt. I know you think otherwise, and it is said your
opinion rests on what he himself has told you. With me the case is
different. Nobody can be more certain than I that Brusson is innocent
of Cardillac's death."

"Speak! Oh, speak!" cried Mademoiselle Scudéri.

"I was the man who stabbed the old goldsmith in the Rue St Honoré,
close to your door," said the Colonel.

"You--you!" cried Mademoiselle de Scudéri. "In the name of all the
Saints, how?"

"And I vow to you, Mademoiselle, that I am very proud of my
achievement. Cardillac, I must tell you, was a most abandoned
hypocritical old ruffian, who went about at night robbing and
murdering people, and was never suspected of anything of the kind. I
don't myself know from whence it came that I felt a suspicion of the
old scoundrel, when he seemed so distressed at handing me over some
work which I had got him to do for me; when he carefully wormed out of
me for whom I designed it, and cross-questioned my valet as to the
times when I was in the habit of going to see a certain lady. It
struck me long ago, that everyone who was murdered by these unknown
hands had the selfsame wound, and I saw quite clearly that the
murderer had practiced to the utmost perfection of certainty that
particular thrust, which must kill instantaneously--and that he
reckoned upon it; so that, if it were to fail, the fight would be
fair. This led me to employ a precaution so very simple and obvious
that I cannot imagine how somebody else did not think of it long ago.
I wore a light breastplate of steel under my dress. Cardillac set upon
me from behind. He grasped me with the strength of a giant, but his
finely directed thrust glided off the steel breastplate. I then freed
myself from his clutch, and planted my dagger in his heart."

"And you have said nothing?" said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. "You have
not told the authorities anything about this?"

"Allow me to point out to you, Mademoiselle," said he, "that to have
done that would have involved me in a most terrible legal
investigation, probably ending in my ruin. La Regnie, who scents out
crime everywhere, would not have been at all likely to believe me at
once, when I accused the good, respectable, exemplary Cardillac of
being an habitual murderer. The sword of Justice would, most probably,
have turned its point against me."

"Impossible," said Mademoiselle de Scudéri. "Your rank--your
position--"

"Oh!" interrupted Miossens, "remember the Maréchal de Luxembourg; he
took it into his head to have his horoscope cast by Le Sage, and was
suspected of poisoning, and put in the Bastille. No; by Saint Dionys!
not one moment of freedom--not the tip of one of my ears, would I
trust to that raging La Regnie, who would be delighted to put his
knife to all our throats."

"But this brings an innocent man to the scaffold," said Mademoiselle
de Scudéri.

"Innocent, Mademoiselle!" cried Miossens. "Do you call Cardillac's
accomplice an innocent man? He who assisted him in his crimes, and has
deserved death a hundred times? No, in verity; he suffers justly;
although I told you the true state of the case in the hope that you
might somehow make use of it in the interests of your protégé, without
bringing me into the clutches of the Chambre Ardente."

Delighted at having her conviction of Olivier's innocence confirmed in
such a decided manner, Mademoiselle de Scudéri had no hesitation in
telling the Count the whole affair, since he already knew all about
Cardillac's crimes, and in begging him to go with her to d'Andilly, to
whom everything should be communicated under the seal of secrecy and
who should advise what was next to be done.

When Mademoiselle de Scudéri had told him at full length all the
circumstances, D'Andilly inquired again into the very minutest
particulars. He asked Count Miossens if he was quite positive as to
its having been Cardillac who attacked him, and if he would recognise
Olivier as the person who carried away the body.

"Not only," said Miossens, "was the moon shining brightly, so that I
recognised the old goldsmith perfectly well, but this morning, at La
Regnie's, I saw the dagger with which he was stabbed. It is mine; I
know it by the ornamentation of the handle. And as I was within a pace
of the young man, I saw his face quite distinctly, all the more
because his hat had fallen off. As a matter of course I should know
him in a moment."

D'Andilly looked before him meditatively for a few moments, and said:
"There is no way of getting Brusson out of the hands of justice by any
ordinary means. On Madelon's account, nothing will induce him to admit
that Cardillac was a robber and a murderer. And even were he to do so,
and succeed in proving the truth of it by pointing out the secret
entrance and the collection of stolen jewels, death would be his own
lot, as an accomplice. The same consequence would follow if Count
Miossens related to the judges the adventure with Cardillac. Delay is
what we must aim at. Let Count Miossens go to the Conciergerie, be
confronted with Olivier, and recognise him as the person who carried
off Cardillac's body; let him then go to La Regnie and say, 'I saw a
man stabbed in the Rue St. Honoré, and was close to the body when
another man darted up, bent down over it, and finding life still in
it, took it on his shoulders and carried it away. I recognised Olivier
Brusson as that man.'

"This will lead to a further examination of Brusson, to his being
confronted with Count Miossens; the torture will be postponed, and
further investigations made. Then will be the time to have recourse to
the King. Your brilliant intellect, Mademoiselle, will point out the
most fitting way to do this. I think it would be best to tell His
Majesty the whole story. Count Miossens' statement will support
Olivier's. Perhaps, too, an examination of Cardillac's house would
help matters. The King might then follow the bent of his own
judgment--of his kind heart, which might pardon where justice could
only punish." Count Miossens closely followed D'Andilly's advice, and
everything fell out just as he had said it would.

It was now time to repair to the King; and this was the chief
difficulty of all, as he had such an intense horror of Brusson--whom
he believed to be the man who had for so long kept Paris in a state of
terror--that the least allusion to him threw him at once into the most
violent anger. Madame de Maintenon, faithful to her system of never
mentioning unpleasant subjects to him, declined all intermediation; so
that Brusson's fate was entirely in Mademoiselle de Scudéri's hands.
After long reflection, she hit upon a scheme which she put into
execution at once. She put on a heavy black silk dress, with
Cardillac's jewels, and a long black veil, and appeared at Madame de
Maintenon's at the time when she knew the King would be there. Her
noble figure in this mourning garb excited the reverential respect
even of those frivolous persons who pass their days in Court
antechambers. They all made way for her and, when she came into the
presence, the King himself rose, astonished, and came forward to meet
her.

The splendid diamonds of the necklace and bracelets flashed in his
eyes, and he cried: "By Heavens! Cardillac's work!" Then, turning to
Madame de Maintenon, he said, with a pleasant smile, "See, Madame la
Marquise, how our fair lady mourns for her affianced husband."

"Ah, Sire!" said Mademoiselle de Scudéri, as if keeping up the jest,
"it would ill become a mourning bride to wear such bravery. No; I have
done with the goldsmith; nor would I remember him, but that the
gruesome spectacle of his corpse carried off before my eyes keeps
coming back to my memory."

"What!" said the King, "did you actually see him, poor fellow?"

She then told him in few words (not introducing Brusson into the
business at all) how chance had brought her to Cardillac's door just
when the murder had been discovered. She described Madelon's wild
terror and sorrow; the impression made upon her by the beautiful girl;
how she had taken her out of Desgrais's hands and borne her away amid
the applause of the crowd. The scenes with La Regnie, with Desgrais,
with Olivier Brusson himself, now followed, the interest constantly
increasing. The King, carried away by the vividness with which
Mademoiselle de Scudéri told the tale, did not notice that the Brusson
case, which he so abominated, was in question, listened breathlessly,
occasionally expressing his interest by an ejaculation. And ere he was
well aware, still amazed by the marvels which he was hearing, not yet
able to arrange them all in his mind, behold! Mademoiselle de Scudéri
was at his feet, imploring mercy for Olivier Brusson.

"What are you doing?" broke out the King, seizing both her hands and
making her sit down. "This is a strange way of taking us by storm. It
is a most terrible story! Who is to answer for the truth of Brusson's
extraordinary tale?"

"Miossens' deposition proves it," she cried; "the searching of
Cardillac's house; my own firm conviction, and, ah! Madelon's pure
heart, which recognises equal purity in poor Brusson."

The King, about to say something, was interrupted by a noise in the
direction of the door. Louvois, who was at work in the next room, put
his head in with an anxious expression. The King rose, and followed
him out. Both Madame de Maintenon and Mademoiselle de Scudéri thought
this interruption of evil augury; for, though once surprised into
interest, the King might take care not to fall into the snare a second
time. But he came back in a few minuses, walked quickly up and down
the room two or three times; and then, pausing with his hands behind
his back before Mademoiselle de Scudéri, he said, in a half-whisper,
without looking at her: "I should like to see this Madelon of yours."

On this Mademoiselle de Scudéri said: "Oh! gracious Sire! what a
marvellous honour you vouchsafe to the poor unfortunate child. She
will be at your feet in an instant."

She tripped to the door as quickly as her heavy dress allowed, and
called to those in the anteroom that the King wished to see Madelon
Cardillac. She came back weeping and sobbing with delight and emotion.
Having expected this, she had brought Madelon with her, leaving her to
wait with the Marquise's maid, with a short petition in her hand drawn
up by D'Andilly. In a few moments she had prostrated herself,
speechless, at the King's feet. Awe, confusion, shyness, love and
sorrow sent the blood coursing faster and faster through her veins;
her cheeks glowed, her eyes sparkled with the bright tear-drops, which
now and again fell from her silken lashes down upon her beautiful
lily-white breast. The King was moved by the wonderful beauty of the
girl. He raised her gently, and stooped down as if about to kiss her
hand, which he had taken in his; but he let the hand go, and gazed at
her with tears in his eyes, evincing deep emotion.

Madame de Maintenon whispered to Mademoiselle de Scudéri, "Is she not
exactly like La Vallière, the little thing? The King is indulging in
the sweetest memories: you have gained the day."

Though she spoke softly, the King seemed to hear.

A blush came to his cheek; he scanned Madame de Maintenon with a
glance, and then said, gently and kindly: "I am quite sure that you,
my dear child, think your lover is innocent; but we must hear what the
Chambre Ardente has to say."

A gentle wave of his hand dismissed Madelon, bathed in tears.
Mademoiselle de Scudéri saw, to her alarm, that the resemblance to La
Vallière, advantageous as it had seemed to be at first, had
nevertheless changed the King's intention as soon as Madame de
Maintenon had spoken of it. Perhaps he felt himself somewhat ungently
reminded that he was going to sacrifice strict justice to beauty; or
he may have been like a dreamer who, when loudly addressed by his
name, finds that the beautiful, magic visions by which he thought he
was surrounded vanish away. Perhaps he no longer saw his La Vallière
before him, but thought only of Soeur Louise de la Miséricorde--La
Vallière's cloister name among the Carmelite nuns--paining him with
her piety and repentance. There was nothing for it now but to wait
patiently for the King's decision.

Meanwhile Count Miossens' statement before the Chambre Ardente had
become known; and, as often happens, popular opinion soon flew from
one extreme to the other, so that the person whom it had stigmatized
as the most atrocious of murderers, and would fain have torn in pieces
before he reached the scaffold, was now bewailed as the innocent
victim of a barbarous sacrifice. His old neighbours now only
remembered his admirable character and behaviour, his love for
Madelon, and the faithfulness and devotion of body and soul with which
he had served his master. Crowds of people, in threatening temper,
often collected before La Regnie's Palais, crying, "Give us out
Olivier Brusson!--he is innocent!", even throwing stones at the
windows, so that La Regnie had to seek the protection of the
Marechaussée.

Many days elapsed without Mademoiselle de Scudéri's hearing anything
on the subject of Olivier Brusson. In her anxiety she went to Madame
de Maintenon, who said the King was keeping silence on the subject,
and it was not advisable to remind him of it. When she then, with a
peculiar smile, asked after the "little La Vallière," Mademoiselle de
Scudéri saw that this proud lady felt, in the depths of her heart,
some slight annoyance at a matter which had the power of drawing the
fickle King into a province whose charm was beyond her own sphere.
Consequently nothing was to be hoped from Madame de Maintenon.

At length Mademoiselle de Scudéri managed to find out, with
D'Andilly's help, that the King had had a long interview with Count
Miossens; further, that Bontems, the King's confidential groom of the
chamber and secret agent, had been to the Conciergerie, and spoken
with Brusson; that, finally, the said Bontems, with several other
persons, had paid a long visit to Cardillac's house. Claude Patru, who
lived in the lower story, said he had heard banging noises above his
head in the night, and that he had recognised Olivier's voice amongst
others. So far it was certain that the King was, himself, causing the
matter to be investigated; but what was puzzling was the long delay in
coming to a decision. La Regnie was most probably trying all in his
power to prevent his prey from slipping through his fingers; and this
nipped all hope in the bud.

Nearly a month had elapsed, when Madame de Maintenon sent to tell
Mademoiselle de Scudéri that the King wished to see her that evening
in her salon. Her heart beat fast. She knew that Olivier's fate would
be decided that night. She told Madelon so, and the latter prayed to
the Virgin and all the Saints that Mademoiselle de Scudéri might
succeed in convincing the King of her lover's innocence.

And yet it appeared as if he had forgotten the whole affair, for he
passed the time in chatting pleasantly with Madame de Maintenon and
Mademoiselle de Scudéri, without a single word of poor Olivier
Brusson.

At length Bontems appeared, approached the King, and spoke a few words
so softly that the ladies could not hear them.

Mademoiselle de Scudéri trembled; but the King rose, went up to her,
and said, with beaming eyes: "I congratulate you, Mademoiselle. Your
protégé, Olivier Brusson, is free."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, with tears streaming down her cheeks, unable
to utter a word, would have cast herself at the King's feet; but he
prevented her, saying: "Come, Come! Mademoiselle, you ought to be my
Attorney-General and plead my causes, for nobody on earth can resist
your eloquence and powers of persuasion. He who is shielded by
virtue," he added more gravely, "may snap his fingers at every
accusation, by the Chambre Ardente, or any other tribunal on earth."

Mademoiselle de Scudéri, now finding words, poured forth a most
glowing tribute of gratitude. But the King interrupted her, saying
there were warmer thanks awaiting her at home than any he could expect
from her, as at that moment doubtless Olivier was embracing his
Madelon. "Bontems," added His Majesty, "will hand you a thousand
Louis, which you will give the little one from me as a wedding
portion. Let her marry her Brusson, who does not deserve such a
treasure, and then they must both leave Paris. That is my will."

La Martinière came to meet her mistress with eager steps, followed by
Baptiste, their faces beaming with joy, and both crying out: "He is
here! he is free! Oh, the dear young couple!"

The happy pair fell at Mademoiselle de Scudéri's feet, and Madelon
cried: "Ah! I knew that you, and you only, would save my husband."

"You have been my mother," cried Olivier, "my belief in you never
wavered." They kissed her hands, and shed many tears; and then they
embraced again, and vowed that the heavenly bliss of that moment was
worth all the nameless sufferings of the days that were past.

In a few days the priest pronounced his blessing upon them. Even had
it not been the King's command that they were to leave Paris, Brusson
could not have remained there, where everything reminded him of the
dreadful epoch of Cardillac's atrocities, and where any accident might
have disclosed the evil secret, already known to several persons, and
destroyed the peace of his life for ever. Immediately after the
wedding he started with his young wife for Geneva, sped on his way by
Mademoiselle de Scudéri's blessings. Handsomely provided with
Madelon's portion, his own skill at his calling, and every civic
virtue, he there led a happy life, without a care. The hopes, whose
frustration had sent the father to his grave, were fulfilled in the
son.

A year after Brusson left Paris, a public proclamation, signed by
Harloy de Chauvalon, Archbishop of Paris, and by Pierre Arnaud
D'Andilly, Advocate of the Parliament, appeared, stating that a
repentant sinner had, under seal of confession, made over to the
Church a valuable stolen treasure of gold and jewels. All those who,
up to about the end of the year 1680, had been robbed of property of
this description, particularly if by murderous attack in the street,
were directed to apply to D'Andilly, when they would receive it back,
provided that anything in the said collection agreed with the
description to be by them given, and provided that there was no doubt
of the genuineness of the application. Many whose names occurred in
Cardillac's list as having been merely stunned, not murdered, came
from time to time to D'Andilly to reclaim their property, and received
it back, to their no small surprise. The remainder became the property
of the Church of St. Eustache.



THE END



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