« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
It would seem that for some such op- meaning. But one day my father took portunity as this Antoinette had been out a purse which I remembered having waiting, for no sooner were the miller and seen in the hand of one of these travelher father seated to discuss the news over lers a short time before. I spoke of it, a chopine of wine, than, quietly stealing and he said the auberge was but a poor out of the house, she crept to a clump of thing by itself. I then understood that a trees on one side, from whence she was robbery had taken place, and I criedable to attract Monsieur de Gourville's at- bitterly. My father promised me gold tention without being overheard within. ear-rings if I would dry my tears and forHe approached her with a far quicker step get what had happened. Alas! I agreed. than a sprained ankle usually permits, and That was my first fault : others followed. observing the agitation she was in, eager- I degraded myself to wear fine clothes. ly demanded the cause. “It concerns But one thing always caused me great suryourself,” she said, “ and narrowly. I prise. After the travellers went to bed I have already warned you against my fa- saw them no more. When I asked what ther; I have more reason than ever to do had become of them, my father always so now. You recollect the letter you replied that they went away very early, gave him when you left the house ?» and I did not dare to question him further. “Certainly. What of it ?
Ah! but now it is too clear—they never “Since than I have been shut up with went at all !" him in his private room, when he com- She paused for a moment to recover pelled me, in spite of all the objections I from her emotion, while Henri remained made, to rewrite that letter. There are perfectly speechless. many acts of connivance on my part “It is,” she went on, “to save you from which I repent, though till this hour I their fate-I care not at what cost to never guessed to what they might extend. others—that I am here. My father's purAt present I tremble to think I compre- poses respecting your money being effecthend their entire wickedness. My father ed, I foresee what will follow. He will has resolved to possess himself of all the have recourse to his wine. Do not refuse money which the banker at Liége has re- what he offers. I have the means of renceived for you. He has learnt, by some dering the attempt harmless. You must means, how much that is. Three thou- feign to be overcome by that which you sand francs is the sum. My father has a shall be given to drink, but let it only apterrible power at his will. It was vain pear by very slow degrees. This will give for me to resist: I did what he command-time for what else I meditate for your resed. The letter is again written, but more cue. Whichever way we turn there is peril. briefly. It tells M. Hénaux to send by If you were to offer a show of resistance the bearer the whole of the value, naming at present, or let it appear that you enthe amount, which he had for you from tertained any suspicion, it would be fatal. Paris. But this is not all. I could read Only have courage-as I must have—and a darker
purpose in his countenance. To great courage too—for it is my father I rob you
is not- Antoinette gasped for sacrifice.” breath" is not enough!”
She hurried away, and entered the “Gracious Heavens!” exclaimed Henri, house by the side-door from whence she “what villainy! But I can resist it. had issued, leaving Henri de Gourville in Happily, at this moment, a new comer is no very enviable state of mind. A murhere, who shall aid me to arrest this misé- derer for his host, and Antoinette the rable."
daughter of such a man, not altogether “Beware of what you do!” returned guiltless; his own danger, too, so near! Antoinette, laying her hand on his arm. It was the latter circumstance, however, “That new comer is no stranger here. which roused him. He knows more, I fear, of
Apparently the conversation between crets than even I suspect. That I should Jean Duroc and his friend had not ended call him my father! Listen patiently to without a bargain, for the latter came out what more I have to say, which, indeed, of the auberge, unloaded his beast, and must be quickly said. I now perceive to carried the flour inside: there was then a what end other travellers have been stu- somewhat boisterous leave-taking at the pefied by his wine. At first I laughed at door, and the miller rode off, observing as it as a joke of which I could not guess the he did so that he should call for his sack
my father's se
on his way home that night, if he had “There is no one there,” said Jean time. Monsieur Duroc then came up to Duroc, coming away from the window. Henri, who had returned to his old place, “Ah, je me suis trompée donc,” replied and seeing him about to close his book, Antoinette, quietly, as she quitted the begged permission to see the sketch. “It was wonderful,” he said.
“It is, indeed, excellent wine,” said never could comprehend how such things Henri, setting down his glass, which he were done, but the bon Dieu bestowed had purposely filled at that moment to abilities wherever he thought fit, and it withdraw Monsieur Duroc's attention was not for man to question his will. If from his daughter. “So good, that I hope he might ask so great a favor, it would be you will presently assist me in drinking that monsieur would kindly make him a it.” copy of the drawing next day, that he "Monsieur,” replied the aubergiste, “I might hang it up in his salon as a perpet- should be the happiest person in existence ual remembrance of monsieur's visit to if I durst accept the honor I propose; but, Champlon—so fortunate for him. But he unfortunately, I am forbidden to touch came to announce that dinner was quite wine. It always causes me a rush of blood ready. Might he offer his arm across the to the head, and for three years past I road?” This politeness Henri declined, for have never tasted any thing but wateralthough he had made up his mind to fol- not even a glass of bière de Louvain.” low Antoinette's instructions as far as pos- “You will oblige me then to make a sible, he could not at once bring himself long evening over this bottle,” said Henri, to walk arm in arm with the man who, he for it certainly ought not to go away had reason to believe, intended to send empty." him out of the world that very evening. “It will do you all the good in the “He could lean upon his stick,” he said; world, monsieur,” returned the aubergiste; and notwithstanding the “désespoir” of “to-morrow you will be quite a different Monsieur Duroc, he persisted in doing so. person.”
The meal was served with even more Henri looked steadfastly at his host, but attention to Henri's comfort than on the there was not the slightest indication of previous night. “They were quite unpre- an arrière-pensée in his words. His counpared yesterday,” the aubergiste said, tenance was as calm as if he had been
for a guest of monsieur's distinction, and offering up a prayer for his guest's health. his visit to the farm that morning was Antoinette now re-entered the room to chiefly to see what he could add to the remove the remains of the dinner, and took bill of fare. Luckily he had met with some occasion to say in Henri's hearing : success, and he hoped monsieur would “I heard to-day, mon père, that the wife do justice to his efforts. Monsieur liked of François, the wood-cutter of La Fosse, the vin de Bordeaux of yesterday? It who conducted monsieur here last night, is was good, no doubt, but he had even bet- very ill. I must go and see her this eventer, which he trusted monsieur would do ing. I can have the grey horse, I suphim the honor to taste. Ah, he was pose?” charmed to think that monsieur conde- “Oh, yes, my child; there is nothing scended to praise his wine !"
to prevent that: you will be the shorter This speech was the herald of a certain time gone. If we have anything will do cobwebbed bottle which he now produced. the poor thing good, do not hesitate to Having uncorked it, he placed it on the take it with you. I would go myself, only table beside Henri, pronouncing it to be women understand each other's ailments d'un fameux crů. At that moment An- best. It is our duty, monsieur, is it not, toinette, who had followed her father into to aid the poor as far as our means permit the salon suddenly exclaimed,
us ? Le bon Dieu intended that when he “Is that the noise of horses' feet? The assigned to every one his portion." miller, perhaps, left something behind.” Having delivered himself of this pious
The aubergiste ran to the window to sentiment, the aubergiste withdrew with look out, and quick as thought Antoinette his daughter. exchanged the bottle on the table for one It was a great relief to Henri to be exactly like it which she drew from be- once more alone, that he might consider neath her apron, and with one rapid sign the danger of his position, and prepare, as to Henri turned towards the door. well as he could, to meet it. A quick
intellect is always sharpened by the de-ing himself back in his chair, he yawned mand for its exercise, and Henri was one once or twice, and remained for a few well able to comprehend à demi-mot. The minutes in an attitude of repose. He then substituted wine was the first step taken sat up and helped himself to another by Antoinette on his behalf, and he enter- glass of wine, drank part of it, and tained no doubt that the story she told presently resting his elbow on the table, about the wife of François was a part of leant his head in his hand and, after a her scheme for obtaining assistance. So pause, yawned again—this time with more he resolved to abide by his fate, reasonably demonstration than before. thinking that the more readily he seemed “Diable !” he exclaimed, loud enough to fall into the snare set for him by Mon- for the listener to hear him, “I feel unsieur Duroc, the easier would be his op- commonly sleepy this evening. I wonder portunity for defence.
what's the reason? Ah-h-h-ah-ah !" and But however disposed to follow An- he yawned a third time. He then finished toinette's counsel, some precaution was the remainder of the wine that was in his necessary, in case of the worst. To pos- glass, talking to himself all the time, but sess himself of a weapon of defence and less audibly than at first, and at broken conceal it about his person was his first intervals. Another pause, and he closed thought. He looked round the salon for his eyes for a few moments, roused himthat purpose, but nothing was available self as if endeavoring to shake off a drowthere; he then gently opened the door siness that was gradually creeping over to ascertain if possible where Monsieur him, subsided again into a leaning position, Duroc had gone. He listened for a few slipped his head from its support, remoments, and presently heard his voice covered himself, murmured something in the court-yard at the back of the house: very indistinctly, stretched out his hand he was speaking to his daughter, who to reach the bottle, missed his object and evidently had just mounted the grey suffered his hand to remain, dropped his horse on her alleged charitable mission. head still lower, started, sat staring for a There was no time to be lost: in the short time at vacancy, and finally closing kitchen opposite, the first glance he gave his eyes, yielded, in all appearance, to the showed him what he wanted. A large resistless influence of sleep, with his head dinner-knife lay on a table, and as Henri resting on his arm, and his face half quickly seized it and darted back into the averted. He might have remained about salon, he congratulated himself on the fact five minutes in this position, when the that he was in Belgium rather than in door of the salon was carefully opened, France, or the weapon would not have and obliquely glancing through his nearly been of much use to him. He thrust the closed lids, Henri saw the aubergiste peepknife into a breast-pocket under his blouse ing into the room. Slowly the whole of and resumed his seat at the table, eating his figure appeared, but he did not immehis walnuts and sipping his wine with as diately advance. Perceiving, however, much apparent unconcern as if he were that Henri did not stir, he moved a pace finishing his dessert at the Café Anglais or two forwards, and came by degrees on the Boulevard des Italiens. He felt close up to the table, where he once more that he was now on more equal terms paused and watched. He then lifted the with Monsieur Duroo.
bottle and held it up between him and He had been sitting silently for nearly the light. He set it down again and
, an hour, when he fancied he heard a smiled. slight noise beneath a window of the “More than half gone,” he said; “he salon, like a footfall on some loose stones. has a stronger head than Í thought for.” Without moving his head Henri cast his To place his hand upon the sleeper was eye in the direction of the spot from the aubergiste's next proceeding. He whence the sound proceeded, and his moved him gently, but there was no sight being remarkably acute, he instant- awakening sign: he stirred him with a ly detected the outline of a face peering stronger grasp ;-there was no resistance. cautiously through one of the lower panes. Satisfied then that the drug had fully The aubergiste had placed himself there operated, he removed from Henri's mind to watch the effect of his wine: it was anything doubtful that by chance might time, therefore, for Henri to manifest have lingered there respecting Monsieur some of the expected symptoms. Throw- Duroc's intentions,
“I am glad Antoinette is gone,” he He is not likely to wake. I must finish said, "for I need not now carry him up to him with my hands. I shall want both, bed. It will save me two journeys, and though.” He put down the candle in the be quicker over. But I must not make a window-seat, bared his wrists, and stoopmess in this place; it could not then be ing over Henri, untied his neck-handkerconcealed from her, like those that have chief and drew it from under him. Strangone before.”
gulation was the death he intended. AlHe raised Henri up in his chair to try ready his long bony fingers were within his weight.
an inch of his victim's throat, when Henri “Heavier than I supposed; but that's suddenly rose. “ Malheureux !” he exowing to his length of limb. I wish the claimed, and struck fiercely with the miller were here to help me. However, knife at the aubergiste's face. Though the other half of the job will be his. He staggered and astonished, Duroc involunwill still carry away his sack full
, and I tarily, and with military instinct, raised shall be saved a toilsome walk into the his arm and only received a slight wound forest.
A malédiction !” he shouted, He set the door wide open and left the “tu jouais donc un guet-à-pens ? Sacré salon, but only went as far as the passage, nom de Dieu !" And he made a dash at returning directly with a brouette (a long Henri to wrest the knife from him. He sort of barrow), which he brought close seized him by the wrist and effectually up to Henri's chair. To transfer him prevented him from striking again, while from thence to the brouette was no easy with his disengaged hand he tried to raise task, the counterfeit of sleep being so weil his own blouse and reach his pocket. preserved; but it was at last accom- Suspecting his object, Henri grappled plished, and Monsieur Duroc wheeled his with his antagonist, and both their arms guest away.
He conveyed his burden were locked. In this attitude they stood the whole length of the passage, and then for a moment, glaring wildly on each turned into a small room on one side, other, and then with a mutual impulse where he set down the brouette. “I must they closed. The strife was one of life fetch a light,” he muttered, “and get my and death, Both were strong-Henri knife.”
was young and active--Duroc's sinews Hitherto entirely passive, it was time were of iron, and he had the advantage, now for Henri to prepare for the impending moreover, of being firmer on his feet. struggle. Although there was no shutter With arms interlaced, and body close to to the single window of the room, it was body, they writhed like serpents in each much too dark for Henri to distinguish other's folds, now here, now there, in anything in it, but he knew by the auber- every part of the room. Suddenly they giste's retreating footsteps that he was came in contact with the brouette; it was again alone. Ignorant of the locality, unfortunately behind Henri; the aubergiste and fearing that he might stumble and saw this, and pressed him hard: the young fall if he tried to leave the place, the man fell backwards over it, with his foe only advantage he was able to take of above him. Duroc shook himself off, and Duroc's absence was to draw himself up getting on his feet fell back a pace or two, into an easier position and throw his legs and more searched beneath his over the side of the brouette, resting his blouse. He drew forth a pistol. feet on the ground, so as to be ready to bien, donc,” he cried, “faut que je te rise when he desired; at the same time finesse avec ceci !" But while he spoke he drew the knife from his breast and re- a heavy clattering was heard in the pasversed it in his grasp, concealing the blade sage, and at the next moment Antoinette in his sleeve. He waited longer than he rushed into the room, followed by two expected, listening breathlessly all the gendarmes and the wood-cutter François. while. Át length a glimmer of light ap- Duroc instinctively turned, and, perhaps, as peared, and he heard the aubergiste re-instinctively fired. Antoinette screamed turning along the passage. Henri set his and fell: a bullet had pierced her breast: teeth, clutched his weapon convulsively, with her atonement came her death. The and moved one foot still further back gendarmes rushed on the aubergiste and Duroc re-entered the room. “ Curse the made him their prisoner. knife !” he growled, “ where can it have gone? I left it on the table. No matter. At the Court of Assizo held at St. Hu
bert two months later, Duroc was found Duroc, was condemned as the aubergiste's guilty of the murder of his daughter, but accomplice in the supposed murders of under extenuating circumstances, for it numerous travellers, for in a cavern near was argued by his counsel that he had the mill, concealed in sacks marked with slain her in the attempt to shoot one of his name, were found seven headless skethe officers, and not out of revenge. The letons; as many skulls were discovered in miller, too, who had been apprehended on a cellar of the auberge, to which Jean account of some words which fell from Duroc alone had access.
A DECREPIT old woman, tempted by a havior she is a grey witch ; and her familman in black, has signed with her blood liar spirit is accordingly pronounced to be on parchment a contract to become his, black, white, or grey. body and soul; has received from him a Why are almost all witches women, and piece of money, the black king's shilling to in sooth, old women? The popular idea the new recruit; has put one hand to the of a witch coincides at this day with the sole of her foot and the other hand to the picture of her, sketched by Master Horcrown of her head; and has duly received sett a quarter a thousand years ago: a familiar in the shape of a cat or kitten, a
" An old weather-beaten crone, having her mole, a millerfly, or any other little animal
, chin and knees meeting for age, walking which is the corporate form of a demon, like a bear leaning on a staff, untoothed, subject to the will of the said woman, having her lips trembling with palsy, going lodged by her, and provided with a daily mumbling in the streets; one that hath meal of her own blood, drawn from taps forgotten her paternoster and yet a shrewd established for its use on different parts of tongue to call a drab a drab, and who her body. If any old woman has had an hath learned an old wife's rhyme ending, adventure of this kind and keeps such a pax, max, tax, for a spell.” His sagacious familiar, she is undoubtedly, in spite of all Majesty King James the First explained the lights of all the centuries, a witch. this by a theory, “For," he said, " as the But, whether any decrepit old woman ever sex is frailer than man, so it is easier to did make such a contract and rejoice in be entrapped in the gross snares of the the fulfilment of its terms, is certainly a Divell as was over well proved to be true question not worth asking, in the year one by the serpent's deceiving of Eve in the thousand eight hundred and fifty-five. beginning, and of course when the weaker However, let that pass. Grant her the sex is at its period of greatest weakness, demon, and then let us inquire, what man- when it has fallen into bodily decay and ner of witch she may be. All will depend dotage, then is the time for evil powers upon the use made of her ill-gotten pow- to make sure of catching it in traps. So er. If by it she choose to help people to of a decrepit old women, if she was poor recover stolen goods, heal sickness, and and lived a lonely life, without the aid and make herself useful to her neighbors, she comfort of a loving husband or a sturdy is a white witch. If she be malicious, a son, the presumption was fair that she must cunning thief, an afflicter of children and have been caught in the trap, and being a of cattle, she is a black witch; if she be witch ought in the name of all things holy partly white and partly black in her be- to be burnt alive. Moreover, there would