Between midnight and one o’clock, the Knights of Idleness began their gratuitous distribution of comestibles to the dogs of the town. This memorable expedition was not over till three in the morning, the hour at which these reprobates went to sup at Cognette’s. At half-past four, in the early dawn, they crept home. Just as Max turned the corner of the rue l’Avenier into the Grande rue, Fario, who stood ambushed in a recess, struck a knife at his heart, drew out the blade, and escaped by the moat towards Vilatte, wiping the blade of his knife on his handkerchief. The Spaniard washed the handkerchief in the Riviere forcee, and returned quietly to his lodgings at Saint–Paterne, where he got in by a window he had left open, and went to bed: later, he was awakened by his new watchman, who found him fast asleep.
As he fell, Max uttered a fearful cry which no one could mistake. Lousteau–Prangin, son of a judge, a distant relation to the family of the sub-delegate, and young Goddet, who lived at the lower end of the Grande rue, ran at full speed up the street, calling to each other —
“They are killing Max! Help! help!”
But not a dog barked; and all the town, accustomed to the false alarms of these nightly prowlers, stayed quietly in their beds. When his two comrades reached him, Max had fainted. It was necessary to rouse Monsieur Goddet, the surgeon. Max had recognized Fario; but when he came to his senses, with several persons about him, and felt that his wound was not mortal, it suddenly occurred to him to make capital out of the attack, and he said, in a faint voice —
“I think I recognized that cursed painter!”
Thereupon Lousteau–Prangin ran off to his father, the judge. Max was carried home by Cognette, young Goddet, and two other persons. Mere Cognette and Monsieur Goddet walked beside the stretcher. Those who carried the wounded man naturally looked across at Monsieur Hochon’s door while waiting for Kouski to let them in, and saw Monsieur Hochon’s servant sweeping the steps. At the old miser’s, as everywhere else in the provinces, the household was early astir. The few words uttered by Max had roused the suspicions of Monsieur Goddet, and he called to the woman —
“Gritte, is Monsieur Joseph Bridau in bed?”
“Bless me!” she said, “he went out at half-past four. I don’t know what ailed him; he walked up and down his room all night.”
This simple answer drew forth such exclamations of horror that the woman came over, curious to know what they were carrying to old Rouget’s house.
“A precious fellow he is, that painter of yours!” they said to her. And the procession entered the house, leaving Gritte open-mouthed with amazement at the sight of Max in his bloody shirt, stretched half-fainting on a mattress.
Artists will readily guess what ailed Joseph, and kept him restless all night. He imagined the tale the bourgeoisie of Issoudun would tell of him. They would say he had fleeced his uncle; that he was everything but what he had tried to be — a loyal fellow and an honest artist! Ah! he would have given his great picture to have flown like a swallow to Paris, and thrown his uncle’s paintings at Max’s nose. To be the one robbed, and to be thought the robber! — what irony! So at the earliest dawn, he had started for the poplar avenue which led to Tivoli, to give free course to his agitation.
While the innocent fellow was vowing, by way of consolation, never to return to Issoudun, Max was preparing a horrible outrage for his sensitive spirit. When Monsieur Goddet had probed the wound and discovered that the knife, turned aside by a little pocket-book, had happily spared Max’s life (though making a serious wound), he did as all doctors, and particularly country surgeons, do; he paved the way for his own credit by “not answering for the patient’s life”; and then, after dressing the soldier’s wound, and stating the verdict of science to the Rabouilleuse, Jean–Jacques Rouget, Kouski, and the Vedie, he left the house. The Rabouilleuse came in tears to her dear Max, while Kouski and the Vedie told the assembled crowd that the captain was in a fair way to die. The news brought nearly two hundred persons in groups about the place Saint–Jean and the two Narettes.
“I sha’n’t be a month in bed; and I know who struck the blow,” whispered Max to Flore. “But we’ll profit by it to get rid of the Parisians. I have said I thought I recognized the painter; so pretend that I am expected to die, and try to have Joseph Bridau arrested. Let him taste a prison for a couple of days, and I know well enough the mother will be off in a jiffy for Paris when she gets him out. And then we needn’t fear the priests they talk of setting on the old fool.”
When Flore Brazier came downstairs, she found the assembled crowd quite prepared to take the impression she meant to give them. She went out with tears in her eyes, and related, sobbing, how the painter, “who had just the face for that sort of thing,” had been angry with Max the night before about some pictures he had “wormed out” of Pere Rouget.
“That brigand — for you’ve only got to look at him to see what he is — thinks that if Max were dead, his uncle would leave him his fortune; as if,” she cried, “a brother were not more to him than a nephew! Max is Doctor Rouget’s son. The old one told me so before he died!”
“Ah! he meant to do the deed just before he left Issoudun; he chose his time, for he was going away today,” said one of the Knights of Idleness.
“Max hasn’t an enemy in Issoudun,” said another.
“Besides, Max recognized the painter,” said the Rabouilleuse.
“Where’s that cursed Parisian? Let us find him!” they all cried.
“Find him?” was the answer, “why, he left Monsieur Hochon’s at daybreak.”
A Knight of Idleness ran off at once to Monsieur Mouilleron. The crowd increased; and the tumult became threatening. Excited groups filled up the whole of the Grande–Narette. Others stationed themselves before the church of Saint–Jean. An assemblage gathered at the porte Vilatte, which is at the farther end of the Petite–Narette. Monsieur Lousteau–Prangin and Monsieur Mouilleron, the commissary of police, the lieutenant of gendarmes, and two of his men, had some difficulty in reaching the place Saint–Jean through two hedges of people, whose cries and exclamations could and did prejudice them against the Parisian; who was, it is needless to say, unjustly accused, although, it is true, circumstances told against him.
After a conference between Max and the magistrates, Monsieur Mouilleron sent the commissary of police and a sergeant with one gendarme to examine what, in the language of the ministry of the interior, is called “the theatre of the crime.” Then Messieurs Mouilleron and Lousteau–Prangin, accompanied by the lieutenant of gendarmes crossed over to the Hochon house, which was now guarded by two gendarmes in the garden and two at the front door. The crowd was still increasing. The whole town was surging in the Grande rue.
Gritte had rushed terrified to her master, crying out: “Monsieur, we shall be pillaged! the town is in revolt; Monsieur Maxence Gilet has been assassinated; he is dying! and they say it is Monsieur Joseph who has done it!”
Monsieur Hochon dressed quickly, and came downstairs; but seeing the angry populace, he hastily retreated within the house, and bolted the door. On questioning Gritte, he learned that his guest had left the house at daybreak, after walking the floor all night in great agitation, and had not yet come in. Much alarmed, he went to find Madame Hochon, who was already awakened by the noise, and to whom he told the frightful news which, true or false, was causing almost a riot in Issoudun.
“He is innocent, of course,” said Madame Hochon.
“Before his innocence can be proved, the crowd may get in here and pillage us,” said Monsieur Hochon, livid with fear, for he had gold in his cellar.
“Where is Agathe?”
“Ah! so much the better,” said Madame Hochon. “I wish she may sleep on till the matter is cleared up. Such a shock might kill the poor child.”
But Agathe woke up and came down half-dressed; for the evasive answers of Gritte, whom she questioned, had disturbed both her head and heart. She found Madame Hochon, looking very pale, with her eyes full of tears, at one of the windows of the salon beside her husband.
“Courage, my child. God sends us our afflictions,” said the old lady. “Joseph is accused —”
“Of a bad action which he could never have committed,” answered Madame Hochon.
Hearing the words, and seeing the lieutenant of gendarmes, who at this moment entered the room accompanied by the two gentlemen, Agathe fainted away.
“There now!” said Monsieur Hochon to his wife and Gritte, “carry off Madame Bridau; women are only in the way at these times. Take her to her room and stay there, both of you. Sit down, gentlemen,” continued the old man. “The mistake to which we owe your visit will soon, I hope, be cleared up.”
“Even if it should be a mistake,” said Monsieur Mouilleron, “the excitement of the crowd is so great, and their minds are so exasperated, that I fear for the safety of the accused. I should like to get him arrested, and that might satisfy these people.”
“Who would ever have believed that Monsieur Maxence Gilet had inspired so much affection in this town?” asked Lousteau–Prangin.
“One of my men says there’s a crowd of twelve hundred more just coming in from the faubourg de Rome,” said the lieutenant of gendarmes, “and they are threatening death to the assassin.”
“Where is your guest?” said Monsieur Mouilleron to Monsieur Hochon.
“He has gone to walk in the country, I believe.”
“Call Gritte,” said the judge gravely. “I was in hopes he had not left the house. You are aware that the crime was committed not far from here, at daybreak.”
While Monsieur Hochon went to find Gritte, the three functionaries looked at each other significantly.
“I never liked that painter’s face,” said the lieutenant to Monsieur Mouilleron.
“My good woman,” said the judge to Gritte, when she appeared, “they say you saw Monsieur Joseph Bridau leave the house this morning?”
“Yes, monsieur,” she answered, trembling like a leaf.
“At what hour?”
“Just as I was getting up: he walked about his room all night, and was dressed when I came downstairs.”
“Was it daylight?”
“Did he seem excited?”
“Yes, he was all of a twitter.”
“Send one of your men for my clerk,” said Lousteau–Prangin to the lieutenant, “and tell him to bring warrants with him —”
“Good God! don’t be in such a hurry,” cried Monsieur Hochon. “The young man’s agitation may have been caused by something besides the premeditation of this crime. He meant to return to Paris today, to attend to a matter in which Gilet and Mademoiselle Brazier had doubted his honor.”
“Yes, the affair of the pictures,” said Monsieur Mouilleron. “Those pictures caused a very hot quarrel between them yesterday, and it is a word and a blow with artists, they tell me.”
“Who is there in Issoudun who had any object in killing Gilet?” said Lousteau. “No one — neither a jealous husband nor anybody else; for the fellow has never harmed a soul.”
“But what was Monsieur Gilet doing in the streets at four in the morning?” remarked Monsieur Hochon.
“Now, Monsieur Hochon, you must allow us to manage this affair in our own way,” answered Mouilleron; “you don’t know all: Gilet recognized your painter.”
At this instant a clamor was heard from the other end of the town, growing louder and louder, like the roll of thunder, as it followed the course of the Grande–Narette.
“Here he is! here he is! — he’s arrested!”
These words rose distinctly on the ear above the hoarse roar of the populace. Poor Joseph, returning quietly past the mill at Landrole intending to get home in time for breakfast, was spied by the various groups of people, as soon as he reached the place Misere. Happily for him, a couple of gendarmes arrived on a run in time to snatch him from the inhabitants of the faubourg de Rome, who had already pinioned him by the arms and were threatening him with death.
“Give way! give way!” cried the gendarmes, calling to some of their comrades to help them, and putting themselves one before and the other behind Bridau.
“You see, monsieur,” said the one who held the painter, “it concerns our skin as well as yours at this moment. Innocent or guilty, we must protect you against the tumult raised by the murder of Captain Gilet. And the crowd is not satisfied with suspecting you; they declare, hard as iron, that you are the murderer. Monsieur Gilet is adored by all the people, who — look at them! — want to take justice into their own hands. Ah! didn’t we see them, in 1830, dusting the jackets of the tax-gatherers? whose life isn’t a bed of roses, anyway!”
Joseph Bridau grew pale as death, and collected all his strength to walk onward.
“After all,” he said, “I am innocent. Go on!”
Poor artist! he was forced to bear his cross. Amid the hooting and insults and threats from the mob, he made the dreadful transit from the place Misere to the place Saint–Jean. The gendarmes were obliged to draw their sabres on the furious mob, which pelted them with stones. One of the officers was wounded, and Joseph received several of the missiles on his legs, and shoulders, and hat.
“Here we are!” said one of the gendarmes, as they entered Monsieur Hochon’s hall, “and not without difficulty, lieutenant.”
“We must now manage to disperse the crowd; and I see but one way, gentlemen,” said the lieutenant to the magistrates. “We must take Monsieur Bridau to the Palais accompanied by all of you; I and my gendarmes will make a circle round you. One can’t answer for anything in presence of a furious crowd of six thousand —”
“You are right,” said Monsieur Hochon, who was trembling all the while for his gold.
“If that’s your only way to protect innocence in Issoudun,” said Joseph, “I congratulate you. I came near being stoned —”
“Do you wish your friend’s house to be taken by assault and pillaged?” asked the lieutenant. “Could we beat back with our sabres a crowd of people who are pushed from behind by an angry populace that knows nothing of the forms of justice?”
“That will do, gentlemen, let us go; we can come to explanations later,” said Joseph, who had recovered his self-possession.
“Give way, friends!” said the lieutenant to the crowd; “He is arrested, and we are taking him to the Palais.”
“Respect the law, friends!” said Monsieur Mouilleron.
“Wouldn’t you prefer to see him guillotined?” said one of the gendarmes to an angry group.
“Yes, yes, they shall guillotine him!” shouted one madman.
“They are going to guillotine him!” cried the women.
By the time they reached the end of the Grande–Narette the crowd were shouting: “They are taking him to the guillotine!” “They found the knife upon him!” “That’s what Parisians are!” “He carries crime on his face!”
Though all Joseph’s blood had flown to his head, he walked the distance from the place Saint–Jean to the Palais with remarkable calmness and self-possession. Nevertheless, he was very glad to find himself in the private office of Monsieur Lousteau–Prangin.
“I need hardly tell you, gentlemen, that I am innocent,” said Joseph, addressing Monsieur Mouilleron, Monsieur Lousteau–Prangin, and the clerk. “I can only beg you to assist me in proving my innocence. I know nothing of this affair.”
When the judge had stated all the suspicious facts which were against him, ending with Max’s declaration, Joseph was astounded.
“But,” said he, “it was past five o’clock when I left the house. I went up the Grande rue, and at half-past five I was standing looking up at the facade of the parish church of Saint–Cyr. I talked there with the sexton, who came to ring the angelus, and asked him for information about the building, which seems to me fantastic and incomplete. Then I passed through the vegetable-market, where some women had already assembled. From there, crossing the place Misere, I went as far as the mill of Landrole by the Pont aux Anes, where I watched the ducks for five or six minutes, and the miller’s men must have noticed me. I saw the women going to wash; they are probably still there. They made a little fun of me, and declared that I was not handsome; I told them it was not all gold that glittered. From there, I followed the long avenue to Tivoli, where I talked with the gardener. Pray have these facts verified; and do not even arrest me, for I give you my word of honor that I will stay quietly in this office till you are convinced of my innocence.”
These sensible words, said without the least hesitation, and with the ease of a man who is perfectly sure of his facts, made some impression on the magistrates.
“Yes, we must find all these persons and summon them,” said Monsieur Mouilleron; “but it is more than the affair of a day. Make up your mind, therefore, in your own interests, to be imprisoned in the Palais.”
“Provided I can write to my mother, so as to reassure her, poor woman — oh! you can read the letter,” he added.
This request was too just not to be granted, and Joseph wrote the following letter:—
“Do not be uneasy, dear mother; the mistake of which I am a victim can easily be rectified; I have already given them the means of doing so. To-morrow, or perhaps this evening, I shall be at liberty. I kiss you, and beg you to say to Monsieur and Madame Hochon how grieved I am at this affair; in which, however, I have had no hand — it is the result of some chance which, as yet, I do not understand.”
When the note reached Madame Bridau, she was suffering from a nervous attack, and the potions which Monsieur Goddet was trying to make her swallow were powerless to soothe her. The reading of the letter acted like balm; after a few quiverings, Agathe subsided into the depression which always follows such attacks. Later, when Monsieur Goddet returned to his patient he found her regretting that she had ever quitted Paris.
“Well,” said Madame Hochon to Monsieur Goddet, “how is Monsieur Gilet?”
“His wound, though serious, is not mortal,” replied the doctor. “With a month’s nursing he will be all right. I left him writing to Monsieur Mouilleron to request him to set your son at liberty, madame,” he added, turning to Agathe. “Oh! Max is a fine fellow. I told him what a state you were in, and he then remembered a circumstance which goes to prove that the assassin was not your son; the man wore list shoes, whereas it is certain that Monsieur Joseph left the house in his boots —”
“Ah! God forgive him the harm he has done me —”
The fact was, a man had left a note for Max, after dark, written in type-letters, which ran as follows:—
“Captain Gilet ought not to let an innocent man suffer. He who struck the blow promises not to strike again if Monsieur Gilet will have Monsieur Joseph Bridau set at liberty, without naming the man who did it.”
After reading this letter and burning it, Max wrote to Monsieur Mouilleron stating the circumstance of the list shoes, as reported by Monsieur Goddet, begging him to set Joseph at liberty, and to come and see him that he might explain the matter more at length.
By the time this letter was received, Monsieur Lousteau–Prangin had verified, by the testimony of the bell-ringer, the market-women and washerwomen, and the miller’s men, the truth of Joseph’s explanation. Max’s letter made his innocence only the more certain, and Monsieur Mouilleron himself escorted him back to the Hochons’. Joseph was greeted with such overflowing tenderness by his mother that the poor misunderstood son gave thanks to ill-luck — like the husband to the thief, in La Fontaine’s fable — for a mishap which brought him such proofs of affection.
“Oh,” said Monsieur Mouilleron, with a self-satisfied air, “I knew at once by the way you looked at the angry crowd that you were innocent; but whatever I may have thought, any one who knows Issoudun must also know that the only way to protect you was to make the arrest as we did. Ah! you carried your head high.”
“I was thinking of something else,” said the artist simply. “An officer in the army told me that he was once stopped in Dalmatia under similar circumstances by an excited populace, in the early morning as he was returning from a walk. This recollection came into my mind, and I looked at all those heads with the idea of painting a revolt of the year 1793. Besides, I kept saying to myself: Blackguard that I am! I have only got my deserts for coming here to look after an inheritance, instead of painting in my studio.”
“If you will allow me to offer you a piece of advice,” said the procureur du roi, “you will take a carriage to-night, which the postmaster will lend you, and return to Paris by the diligence from Bourges.”
“That is my advice also,” said Monsieur Hochon, who was burning with a desire for the departure of his guests.
“My most earnest wish is to get away from Issoudun, though I leave my only friend here,” said Agathe, kissing Madame Hochon’s hand. “When shall I see you again?”
“Ah! my dear, never until we meet above. We have suffered enough here below,” she added in a low voice, “for God to take pity upon us.”
Shortly after, while Monsieur Mouilleron had gone across the way to talk with Max, Gritte greatly astonished Monsieur and Madame Hochon, Agathe, Joseph, and Adolphine by announcing the visit of Monsieur Rouget. Jean–Jacques came to bid his sister good-by, and to offer her his caleche for the drive to Bourges.
“Ah! your pictures have been a great evil to us,” said Agathe.
“Keep them, my sister,” said the old man, who did not even now believe in their value.
“Neighbor,” remarked Monsieur Hochon, “our best friends, our surest defenders, are our own relations; above all, when they are such as your sister Agathe, and your nephew Joseph.”
“Perhaps so,” said old Rouget in his dull way.
“We ought all to think of ending our days in a Christian manner,” said Madame Hochon.
“Ah! Jean–Jacques,” said Agathe, “what a day this has been!”
“Will you accept my carriage?” asked Rouget.
“No, brother,” answered Madame Bridau, “I thank you, and wish you health and comfort.”
Rouget let his sister and nephew kiss him, and then he went away without manifesting any feeling himself. Baruch, at a hint from his grandfather, had been to see the postmaster. At eleven o’clock that night, the two Parisians, ensconced in a wicker cabriolet drawn by one horse and ridden by a postilion, quitted Issoudun. Adolphine and Madame Hochon parted from them with tears in their eyes; they alone regretted Joseph and Agathe.
“They are gone!” said Francois Hochon, going, with the Rabouilleuse, into Max’s bedroom.
“Well done! the trick succeeded,” answered Max, who was now tired and feverish.
“But what did you say to old Mouilleron?” asked Francois.
“I told him that I had given my assassin some cause to waylay me; that he was a dangerous man and likely, if I followed up the affair, to kill me like a dog before he could be captured. Consequently, I begged Mouilleron and Prangin to make the most active search ostensibly, but really to let the assassin go in peace, unless they wished to see me a dead man.”
“I do hope, Max,” said Flore, “that you will be quiet at night for some time to come.”
“At any rate, we are delivered from the Parisians!” cried Max. “The fellow who stabbed me had no idea what a service he was doing us.”
The next day, the departure of the Parisians was celebrated as a victory of the provinces over Paris by every one in Issoudun, except the more sober and staid inhabitants, who shared the opinions of Monsieur and Madame Hochon. A few of Max’s friends spoke very harshly of the Bridaus.
“Do those Parisians fancy we are all idiots,” cried one, “and think they have only got to hold their hats and catch legacies?”
“They came to fleece, but they have got shorn themselves,” said another; “the nephew is not to the uncle’s taste.”
“And, if you please, they actually consulted a lawyer in Paris —”
“Ah! had they really a plan?”
“Why, of course — a plan to get possession of old Rouget. But the Parisians were not clever enough; that lawyer can’t crow over us Berrichons!”
“That’s Paris for you!”
“The Rabouilleuse knew they came to attack her, and she defended herself.”
“She did gloriously right!”
To the townspeople at large the Bridaus were Parisians and foreigners; they preferred Max and Flore.
We can imagine the satisfaction with which, after this campaign, Joseph and Agathe re-entered their little lodging in the rue Mazarin. On the journey, the artist recovered his spirits, which had, not unnaturally, been put to flight by his arrest and twenty-four hours’ confinement; but he could not cheer up his mother. The Court of Peers was about to begin the trial of the military conspirators, and that was sufficient to keep Agathe from recovering her peace of mind. Philippe’s conduct, in spite of the clever defender whom Desroches recommended to him, roused suspicions that were unfavorable to his character. In view of this, Joseph, as soon as he had put Desroches in possession of all that was going on at Issoudun, started with Mistigris for the chateau of the Comte de Serizy, to escape hearing about the trial of the conspirators, which lasted for twenty days.
It is useless to record facts that may be found in contemporaneous histories. Whether it were that he played a part previously agreed upon, or that he was really an informer, Philippe was condemned to five years’ surveillance by the police department, and ordered to leave Paris the same day for Autun, the town which the director-general of police selected as the place of his exile for five years. This punishment resembled the detention of prisoners on parole who have a town for a prison. Learning that the Comte de Serizy, one of the peers appointed by the Chamber on the court-martial, was employing Joseph to decorate his chateau at Presles, Desroches begged the minister to grant him an audience, and found Monsieur de Serizy most amiably disposed toward Joseph, with whom he had happened to make personal acquaintance. Desroches explained the financial condition of the two brothers, recalling the services of the father, and the neglect shown to them under the Restoration.
“Such injustice, monseigneur,” said the lawyer, “is a lasting cause of irritation and discontent. You knew the father; give the sons a chance, at least, of making a fortune —”
And he drew a succinct picture of the situation of the family affairs at Issoudun, begging the all-powerful vice-president of the Council of State to take steps to induce the director-general of police to change Philippe’s place of residence from Autun to Issoudun. He also spoke of Philippe’s extreme poverty, and asked a dole of sixty francs a month, which the minister of war ought, he said, for mere shame’s sake, to grant to a former lieutenant-colonel.
“I will obtain all you ask of me, for I think it just,” replied the count.
Three days later, Desroches, furnished with the necessary authority, fetched Philippe from the prison of the Court of Peers, and took him to his own house, rue de Bethizy. Once there, the young barrister read the miserable vagabond one of those unanswerable lectures in which lawyers rate things at their actual value; using plain terms to qualify the conduct, and to analyze and reduce to their simplest meaning the sentiments and ideas of clients toward whom they feel enough interest to speak plainly. After humbling the Emperor’s staff-officer by reproaching him with his reckless dissipations, his mother’s misfortunes, and the death of Madame Descoings, he went on to tell him the state of things at Issoudun, explaining it according to his lights, and probing both the scheme and the character of Maxence Gilet and the Rabouilleuse to their depths. Philippe, who was gifted with a keen comprehension in such directions, listened with much more interest to this part of Desroches’s lecture than to what had gone before.
“Under these circumstances,” continued the lawyer, “you can repair the injury you have done to your estimable family — so far at least as it is reparable; for you cannot restore life to the poor mother you have all but killed. But you alone can —”
“What can I do?” asked Philippe.
“I have obtained a change of residence for you from Autun to Issoudun. —”
Philippe’s sunken face, which had grown almost sinister in expression and was furrowed with sufferings and privation, instantly lighted up with a flash of joy.
“And, as I was saying, you alone can recover the inheritance of old Rouget’s property; half of which may by this time be in the jaws of the wolf named Gilet,” replied Desroches. “You now know all the particulars, and it is for you to act accordingly. I suggest no plan; I have no ideas at all as to that; besides, everything will depend on local circumstances. You have to deal with a strong force; that fellow is very astute. The way he attempted to get back the pictures your uncle had given to Joseph, the audacity with which he laid a crime on your poor brother’s shoulders, all go to prove that the adversary is capable of everything. Therefore, be prudent; and try to behave properly out of policy, if you can’t do so out of decency. Without telling Joseph, whose artist’s pride would be up in arms, I have sent the pictures to Monsieur Hochon, telling him to give them up to no one but you. By the way, Maxence Gilet is a brave man.”
“So much the better,” said Philippe; “I count on his courage for success; a coward would leave Issoudun.”
“Well — think of your mother who has been so devoted to you, and of your brother, whom you made your milch cow.”
“Ah! did he tell you that nonsense?” cried Philippe.
“Am I not the friend of the family, and don’t I know much more about you than they do?” asked Desroches.
“What do you know?” said Philippe.
“That you betrayed your comrades.”
“I!” exclaimed Philippe. “I! a staff-officer of the Emperor! Absurd! Why, we fooled the Chamber of Peers, the lawyers, the government, and the whole of the damned concern. The king’s people were completely hood-winked.”
“That’s all very well, if it was so,” answered the lawyer. “But, don’t you see, the Bourbons can’t be overthrown; all Europe is backing them; and you ought to try to make your peace with the war department — you could do that readily enough if you were rich. To get rich, you and your brother, you must lay hold of your uncle. If you will take the trouble to manage an affair which needs great cleverness, patience, and caution, you have enough work before you to occupy your five years.”
“No, no,” cried Philippe, “I must take the bull by the horns at once. This Maxence may alter the investment of the property and put it in that woman’s name; and then all would be lost.”
“Monsieur Hochon is a good adviser, and sees clearly; consult him. You have your orders from the police; I have taken your place in the Orleans diligence for half-past seven o’clock this evening. I suppose your trunk is ready; so, now come and dine.”
“I own nothing but what I have got on my back,” said Philippe, opening his horrible blue overcoat; “but I only need three things, which you must tell Giroudeau, the uncle of Finot, to send me — my sabre, my sword, and my pistols.”
“You need more than that,” said the lawyer, shuddering as he looked at his client. “You will receive a quarterly stipend which will clothe you decently.”
“Bless me! are you here, Godeschal?” cried Philippe, recognizing in Desroches’s head-clerk, as they passed out, the brother of Mariette.
“Yes, I have been with Monsieur Desroches for the last two months.”
“And he will stay with me, I hope, till he gets a business of his own,” said Desroches.
“How is Mariette?” asked Philippe, moved at his recollections.
“She is getting ready for the opening of the new theatre.”
“It would cost her little trouble to get my sentence remitted,” said Philippe. “However, as she chooses!”
After a meagre dinner, given by Desroches who boarded his head-clerk, the two lawyers put the political convict in the diligence, and wished him good luck.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51