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the morning, cards in the evening, and through the day, the entire idleness of Oriental life.
Taking every thing into consideration, thought he, after having had a taste of this pleasing manner of life, I should have done wrong, if I had blown my brains out.
Deslandes had never until now seen any other prison than that of D***, where his official duty had more than once led him, and the dismal aspect of which was in perfect harmony with the degraded malefactors for whom it was destined. On entering the elegant house, appropriated to the use of persons confined for debt, he felt a surprise which changed into a species of stupefaction, when, at the end of the corridor on the second story, the turnkey who conducted him, opened the door where Blondel was to be seen. The substitute expected to find a prison nothing more than a place deprived of air, as well as light, and having no furniture but a bundle of straw, accompanied by a jug of water. He knew very well that those picturesque accessories, which formerly rendered captivity poetical no longer suit the citizen tastes of the present day, but his ideas were so influenced by his office of magistrate, that he took for serious the punishment imposed by law on insolvent debtors, and he had never supposed that a prison could become, in any case, a real abode of pleasure. He remained therefore motionless at the picture which presented itself to his view.
In the middle of a room of moderate size, but much better furnished than the one in which he himself lodged, on each side of a small table, where still figured the smoking remains of a delicious breakfast, Blondel and Mad. Marmancourt were seated, one with a cigar in his mouth, the other with a glass of champagne in her hand. The sun which smiled on them through the half drawn curtains, cast a mild light on the prisoner and his fair comforter, who were bidding defiance to adverse fortune, and accompanied each libation, with a toast addressed collectively to the whole race of creditors. At the noise which was made by opening the door, the two companions turned round, and shared the surprise which kept Deslandes standing on the threshold. There was a moment of silence, and mutual examination, during which the turnkey went out and shut the door. While the substitute cast an astonished glance on the empty bottles, and on the plentiful relics of the breakfast, and while Mad. Marmancourt drew herself up on her chair in a majestic position, Blondel, with a desperate effort, got the better of the embarrassment, which for a moment had deprived him of his usual impudence.
My friend," cried he, with a broken voice, throwing himself upon Deslandes, whom he pressed in his arms.
The substitute gave a cry, for his wounded hand received the first shock of this embrace.
"I have given you pain?" asked Gustavus, affecting a tender uneasiness, "pardon me, I am so happy to see you, that I could not restrain my first emotion. Oh! I was very sure you would come."
"You might well expect a visit from me," said the substitute, with a
severe air, attempting to put a stop to the pathetic embraces to which he was subjected.
"I am sure I expected you!" replied Blondel, with new fervor; "ask Madame, ask Theodosia,-and why should I longer conceal from you our happiness. We were this moment speaking of you. I said to her, Deslandes will certainly come to see me, for he is not one of those false friends, who keep away in the day of misfortune; he is a noble heart, a generous and devoted spirit. Yes, I have no doubt of it; he will come, and I was right when I said so, for you have come. thank you, Victor! oh, I thank you. The sweetness of such a moment compensates for many hours of bitterness."
Blondel seized again the hand of the substitute, and pressed it convulsively, in spite of his resistance.
"The motive which brings me here," said Deslandes, without being mollified
"First of all, have you breakfasted," interrupted the prisoner. "We have not finished, and if necessary, I can begin again, to keep you company."
"This is not to the purpose," said Deslandes, impatiently. "I wish to have an interview with you without a witness."
Mad. Marmancourt rose, with the air of a tragedy queen.
"It appears, sir," said she to the substitute, "that the lesson you have lately received, has not improved your politeness."
"Theodosia-Victor"-cried Blondel, placing himself between them with animation, "are you going to renew that fatal dispute which has already caused such precious blood to flow? I supplicate you, in the name of the attachment which I flatter myself I have inspired in each of you, let no more be said of the past. Do not poison the happiness I feel in seeing near me the two beings whom I love best in the world. Madame, I will be the guarantee for Deslandes ; I am sure that he has never intended to offend you, therefore do not refuse him your pardon. Come Deslandes, you see she is smiling, and is willing to take you again into her good graces. If I were in your place, I should be on my knees."
Notwithstanding his ill humor, the substitute, who piqued himself on an unalterable gallantry, could not avoid carrying to his lips, the hand which Madame held out to him. Having fulfilled this duty with a cold and ceremonious air, he turned to Blondel:
"Now," said he, "will you permit me to explain to you the object of my visit?"
"Do you think then I have not already divined it ?" said the prisoner, with an affected smile. "Go to;-hearts which are in the right place do not need words to explain themselves."
"What do you comprehend then," asked Deslandes, to whom the inexplicable tenderness expressed in the countenance of his debtor, was a riddle.
"Good Victor!" replied Blondel, whose emotion seemed to redouble, "you have a beautiful part to play, but you are so worthy of filling it, that I feel at this moment neither envy nor humiliation. And
why should I blush to accept assistance from a friend like yourself? A service, a benefaction even, has nothing humiliating when the hand which offers is worthy of the hand which receives it. You see that we understand each other."
"Not the least in the world," interrupted the substitute, "you have not said a single word to me yet, of the deposite which I entrusted to your care, and this is for me the essential thing. I want money."
Blondel stepped back as if some venomous reptile suddenly sprung from the floor, had darted towards him his poisonous tongue.
"And you also, Deslandes!" cried he, with the accent of grief, "you, whom I have known from infancy, you, my college friend, you, whom I set aside from all the rest, you see me in misfortune, and instead of stretching out to me a hand, you complete my ruin."
"All this does not inform me what has become of the eighteen thousand francs you owe me," replied the substitute, with an accent in which the harshness of the creditor still stifled the compassion of the friend.
"You shall not lose a sous," replied Blondel, with magnificent impudence." The embarrassment under which I am suffering is only temporary, and I only ask for time."
"Time," repeated Deslandes, with a dogged tone," you talk very much at your ease. I have a pressing want of money, and I do not know what to do to get it. You have basely abused my confidence; for the largest part of the sum you had of me was not a loan, it was a deposite, a sacred, inviolable thing. What have you done with this. deposite? You have been gambling with it, is it not true? You have lost it at bouillotte or roulette, wretched man!"
"Strike me, overpower me," replied Gustavus, with a submissive voice; "attribute to irregularity and misconduct, a disaster which was only caused by an unlucky speculation, I will not try to prove to you the injustice of such a supposition. I owe you money, it is impossible for me to pay it; you have then all possible rights over me, even that of being cruel and pitiless. I expected, however, better things of you. This is the way with men," continued Blondel, turning towards Mad. Marmancourt; "my good Theodosia, how does the trial I am suffering, enhance the beauty of your noble conduct. You see how I am treated by him, whom I thought my best friend, and you are about to sell your diamonds to take me out of prison. What a contrast! Show him your diamonds-for he will not believe me."
Mad. Marmancourt drew from her pocket several little cases, really destined to the charitable work of which the prisoner spoke, with a voice of emotion. Instead of showing them to the substitute, she selected a little oval box which appeared to contain a medallion; she opened it, and without permitting the two gentlemen to approach her, she looked at the inside of the box for a moment with a mysterious and wicked smile.
"How much does Gustavus owe you?" said she suddenly, to the substitute.
Eighteen thousand francs, Madame," replied the latter, who was a little surprised at the suddenness of this question.
"I do not think that you have seriously any expectation of being paid at this moment," replied Theodosia, with a calm and rallying tone; "we have to pay claims a little more pressing than yours. Besides, notwithstanding your attempts to play the part of the pitiless creditor, you have a good heart, and you would be incapable of doing harm to Gustavus, even if you could. You must therefore have patience with regard to your money; all that I can do for you, is to give you as a pledge, until the day of payment, what I hold in my hand.
Some ornament which is worth perhaps a hundred crowns, thought Deslandes; I am much the better for that.
"Promise me not to torment Gustavus until he is able to pay you the money, and this medallion is yours. Do not pretend to despise it, it is a real talisman."
"I guess," cried Blondel, in a loud tone, "Deslandes, believe me, take it with both hands. Your fortune is in that little box. If you have any conscience, you will own that you ought to pay for it in return, and you will lend me two thousand francs more, to make an even
"Let us see your talisman," said the substitute, holding out his hand with a sort of curiosity.
"Are my conditions accepted," asked Theodosia, who continued to smile with a gloomy air.
"Undoubtedly," said Deslandes, as if speaking to himself, "since he has no money, I must wait till he has. If I should pursue him, to what would it lead ?"
"You speak like a reasonable man," resumed Mad. Marmancourt; 66 open then your eyes and admire. Just now, to kiss my hand, you did not do me the honor to fall on your knees; I think this time, you will not wait to be told to do so."
By a sudden but graceful movement, she turned round the hand in which she held the medallion, and showed suddenly to the astonished vision of Deslandes, the miniature of Mad. Piard.
"Isaura!" cried he, seizing hastily the miniature.
Isaura," repeated Mad. Marmancourt, exchanging with Blondel a glance of mockery; "truly he must like this odious name, he ргоnounces it with so much feeling."
"How did this picture come into your possession ?" asked the substitute, after having contemplated a long time the medallion, without daring to believe his eyes.
"I will tell you," replied Theodosia, with an accent, the biting irony of which told of one of those mortal resentments, which revenge alone can satisfy.
Until the Polish subscription ball, Mad. de Marmancourt had felt for Mad. Piard nothing more than the usual antipathy which women of equivocal virtue feel toward those whose conduct is irreproachable. The humiliation which she suffered during that memorable night, metamorphosed that vulgar sentiment into the most lively hatred, in which the counsellor of state and Deslandes were included. These three personages, the husband, the wife, and he whom it would be calumnious to call the lover, became the object of a hatred, which awaited only favorable circumstances to cause it to break out. At this moment Theodosia thought the hour had come, and without pity or remorse, she took upon herself the part which malevolent fairies in nursery tales take, when they are not invited to the baptism of the new born prince. By the help of a miniature likeness of Isaura, which had fallen into her hands by a still more mysterious circumstance, she sowed discord, that she might reap vengeance.
"It is an old story," said she, looking to the substitute, with a treacherous smile, "I can tell it to you before Gustavus, for he is not jealous. At that time M. Piard would have dressed himself like a postilion, if I had ordered him to do so. One day he showed me this miniature, which he was taking to a jeweller to have the setting changed; by a fancy which I do not seek to justify (you know women are privileged to be capricious) I took this picture, and, notwithstanding the prayers of M. Piard, I refused to give it back to him, and while he treated me with propriety, he had no cause to regret it. I know that he settled the affair with his wife, by pretending that the miniature was lost. But now, if he could see it again, I am sure he would give his salary for six months."
"He would give a whole year's salary," interrupted Blondel, with animation; "but," continued he, addressing the substitute, "what is worth fifteen thousand francs to a husband, is certainly worth eighteen to a lover. By this reckoning, we are even, but we are not Jews, we will not exact too much from you, we will give you the miniature for the interest of your debt, until the day of repayment, which will not be long delayed. You may believe me, do you comprehend now what a golden bargain you have just concluded ?"
“What shall I do with this picture?" said Deslandes, with an affected coldness.
"At this moment you are Cromwell," cried Blondel, with an air of triumphant sagacity, "but I am not a child, and Theodosia still less one. You can give it to Mad. Piard, and if in return you do not receive a diploma of master of requests, you are unworthy of fortune, who opens her arms to you, and of the destinies which await you.”
What the prisoner expressed with a burlesque emphasis, Mad. Marmancourt approved by a smile of hatred.
It is certain, thought Deslandes, pressing the picture in his hand,