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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 11. My Scheme
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 11. My Scheme Post by :mobiaus Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :2556

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 11. My Scheme

PART II CHAPTER XI. MY SCHEME

Next morning I said to my wife--"We cannot stay here. Our next year must be spent in travelling in foreign parts, and we shall start for Paris in three days. You had better make arrangements accordingly."

"My arrangements are made, for I have not unpacked my things yet. So everything is at your command," was her answer.

I left her, and drove over to the county town to my solicitor, and told him to borrow as much money on my property as he could possibly get from the financial institutions. As a pretext I told him that I had the intention of buying lands. He advised me to wait, for he had learned for certain that in a year's time Siegfried would have to sell out. His estates were mortgaged over and over, and matters were going very ill with him. If, then, I should add to the million my wife had brought me, the money I had and the money I could at any moment raise on my property, I should be able to purchase the Vernoeczy estates.

This was a revelation that for a moment made me hold my breath. It would be something to tear that water-nymph on the Vernoeczy crest from over the portals of the chateau into the mire, and erect the Dumany crest on the front of the proud old castle. But that feeling passed, and with it the temptation. It would be no revenge on her to let her live as mistress on the estates of her forefathers, and, first of all, I craved revenge on her. More than that scoundrel who had betrayed her and then flung her to me, I hated her, Lilith, the tempting devil in the guise of a seraph! But I said to the lawyer, "Very well"--that I would consider about it, and not buy anything at present; but that he should raise the money, all the same, and send it for me to Paris, as well as the funds I had inherited. Perhaps I might have use for the money there--at any rate, he must send it. Then I took the rosewood chest with my wife's dowry, and sent it by mail, and under the usual guarantee, to a well-known banking firm in Brussels as a deposit.

Three days after, we were on our journey to Paris. I had taken the Swiss route, for in those days it was the safest way to escape the obstacles and annoyances which on the road through Germany were thrown in the way of travellers to France. War was, so to speak, floating in the air, and was each moment expected to break upon the two leading nations of the Continent. At such a time the railroad termini are naturally the centres of exciting scenes and noisy demonstrations; but the Swiss republic was neutral, and the southern part of France was quiet. So we arrived in Paris unmolested; and the great crowds in the boulevards, and the multitude of detectives among the people, gave us the first notion that something extraordinary was occurring.

At first the demonstrations were all in favour of peace. Labourers in blue blouses were marching up in compact masses on the Place de la Concorde, carrying white flags and signs with the inscriptions "_A bas la guerre_" and "_Vive la paix_!" Public speakers delivered long orations on the horrors of war, and protested against the ambitious, fame-hunting tyrants who drove their innocent, peace-loving subjects into bloody combats to feed their own greed for glory and power. But their speeches were all blown to the winds. Bellona is a fair woman, and the more she is slandered to her admirers the more ardent and impassioned is their love for her. In vain did the orators protest that France was all for peace, and would not be dragged into the perils of war. The soil was thirsting for blood, and the day after our arrival in Paris the declaration of war which Napoleon had issued against Prussia was publicly announced.

I had been informed of these events long before they happened, and on them my whole scheme was built. When the public enthusiasm was highest, and the shouts "_A Berlin_!" loudest, when throngs of people crowded through the streets, singing the "_Marseillaise_" and "_Le Depart_," I mingled with them, bent on business.

During our journey I had shown my wife all those polite little attentions which are due to a bride on her wedding tour from her husband. Now I was looking for a residence for her. I found a handsome, palatial-looking house, exquisitely furnished, which had been hastily abandoned by a German diplomat at the first rumour of the war, and was now in the market, with its carriages and horses, servants, and everything. The bargain was made, and, as I took my wife to her temporary home, she seemed to be struck with the delicate consideration which I showed her. I saw by her face that she wished to protest against this excess of luxury, which was not in keeping with our means. But perhaps something in the expression of my face warned her to be silent; perhaps it occurred to her that as she had given me full power to do what I pleased with her dowry, I had acquired the right to squander it--if it suited my whims--on herself.

When she was comfortably established I said to her--"I have offered my services as an army physician to the French Government, and they have been accepted. I have received my commission from the Duke of Palikao, and shall start this evening for my destination."

"If it is your wish, I cannot oppose it," was her answer. What a meek, obedient wife she was! Whatever I said or did, it was, "Pray please yourself. Whatever you think best will satisfy me." She never showed the slightest increase of temper, never offered the least resistance to my arrangements. She was the same quiet, pale, silent, sylph-like being as she had been when I first knew her, and I wondered that she had not changed. We had been married only two weeks, but to me it seemed as if seven hard winters and seven fierce tropical summers had passed since that time, and had taken the marrow from my bones and every spark of hope and brightness from my soul.

"I have left you forty thousand francs in the safe; they will last you until the time of my return. You need not deny yourself anything you wish," I said.

"Thank you. I shall manage the money carefully, and shall not spend more than is strictly necessary. I am of a saving disposition."

These were our parting words, and we exchanged no others. I went to H----'s banking-house to draw the money my solicitor had sent me, and when they inquired whether I wanted checks or bills of exchange, I asked for the latter, because, as I said, in time of war the Government might bring in a _moratorium_.(4) "What," they laughed, "the Napoleonic Government bring in _moratorium_? _Tete carree_!" The latter was meant as a compliment for me.

(Footnote 4: A governmental act of mercy in regard to the payment of debts.)

By the next express train I went to Brussels, and then straight to the banker to whom I had sent Flamma's million. I opened the chest in his presence, and convinced him that it actually contained good security--bonds and deeds for the sum of one million and twenty-five thousand florins par--and asked him for an advance. The banker put seventy-five per cent of the nominal value at my disposal, and I handed him the power of attorney from my wife, and a written authorisation permitting him to sell the securities without notice in the event of my failure to repay the loan at a certain date.

This money, with a part of the funds which my solicitor had sent me, amounted to two millions of francs. With this sum I went to a well-known and trustworthy stockbroker, and instructed him to speculate with the whole amount in French Government bonds for a fall.

"Do you intend to throw this money in the gutter?" said the man, eyeing me critically.

"That is my own business, I presume," said I, calmly.

"Have you ever speculated on the Exchange before? Are you versed in these manipulations?"

"No! Never!"

"Do you know the situation of the Money Market at present?"

"No."

"Then grant me leave to inform you by giving you a few data. All French securities are rising in value. Paris is enthusiastic for the war. The money-chests of the financial ring are open to the Government. The French military force is fully equipped, ready to begin hostilities, and stationed at the Rhone, whereas the Prussians are caught unprepared. Bavaria will remain neutral, and the Danes are preparing to break into Schleswig-Holstein. The sequel of the war can be foretold with such certainty that a Paris financier offers, to any one who will accept it, a wager of two hundred thousand francs against one hundred thousand that on August 15 the French will march into Berlin."

"Well, you may take up that wager, also, for me."

The agent shrugged his shoulders, and accepted my offer for a bear speculation. We agreed that from time to time we should communicate with each other in cipher. Telegrams were to be forwarded through H----'s Bank.

From Brussels I returned to Paris, and procured all the necessary surgical instruments at my own expense. Next I bought three waggons with strong Trakene horses for my own transport and that of the invalids, furnished myself with all utensils requisite for camp hospitals, and then, under the protecting ensign of the Geneva Cross, I joined the regiment of the French army in which I had enlisted as volunteer camp-surgeon. My scheme was clear now. I was a dead man. I was seeking Death in his own realm, where he reigned supreme, and it was impossible not to find him there, if one really sought him. So I should die, but not the death of a suicide, despised, misjudged, forgotten, but a death on the field of honour and glory, as a hero and a martyr of science and philanthropy. And that accursed money which was given me as a fee for my disgrace would be blown to naught, as my body would be by a merciful Krupp shell. When the news of my death reaches that woman in Paris, she will try hard to discover what I have done with her fortune--and mine! But let her search ever so thoroughly, she would find--nothing! I had left no trace of my operations, nothing from which she could regain one penny. Then she would be compelled to come down from her height, return to Hungary, and live a lonely, miserable, poverty-stricken existence on my Slav kingdom, which I had mortgaged and ruined. She would have to struggle against poverty and want, and, by daily care and close economy, would have to pay from her scanty crops the heavy debts I had incurred. All day she would pine and toil, all night she would sigh and grieve. And in her dreams she would call me back, and ask me where I had buried the treasures. Her priests would fail to console her, and she would become superstitious, and resort to clairvoyants and mediums for the solution of the torturing mystery. But no prayer or curse will reach me, no incantation of conjurers or spirit-rappers will call me back. The dead do not return, either for promised kisses or for promised bites.

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