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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 14. Home! Sweet Home!
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 14. Home! Sweet Home! Post by :mobiaus Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :2480

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 14. Home! Sweet Home!


It was damp, disagreeable, dirty weather when I arrived in Paris. It had rained for the last few days, for usually after great battles stormy weather sets in. The poets will have it that heaven washes away with tears the blood spilt by man. Scientists say that the gas freed by the combustion of so much gunpowder, together with the detonations at the explosions, brings on the rain. The fact is that after all great battles rain is sure to follow.

As I alighted from the one-horsed vehicle that had brought me to the door of my residence, my own porter asked me whom I was looking for at this house? I answered "Myself," but found it difficult to convince him that I was his master. At last he let me in, and rang the bell three times as a signal that the master of the house had arrived.

The valet met me at the ante-chamber, and stared at me with mouth and eyes wide open; but no wonder. I must have cut a handsome figure, with, that torn and perforated red kepi on my head, and the dirty, blood-smeared cotton handkerchief around my forehead. My face was blackened by exposure to the sun and wind, and had a grizzly beard of three months' growth upon it. My uniform was dirty and torn, and above it was a rubber cloak with a hood, while on my feet were a pair of rough, high top-boots, with spurs. By my side I had a sabre, a revolver, and a bag for bread and bacon--not a very gentlemanly appearance, by any means.

"Is madame at home?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. Madame is in her boudoir."

"Then tell her, monsieur has come home, and afterward see that a fire is kindled in my room. I am cold and damp."

The valet was a very humane and obliging fellow. He asked me to step into the _salon_, where a fire was burning already. I was forcibly struck by this proof of democratic condescension. Fancy his allowing a fellow with such a robber's look, who had unexpectedly intruded into the house, to enter the luxurious, polished, gilded _salon of--his own wife!

The fire was burning in the grate, and I went up to it to warm myself, when the door opened, and, with quick steps, there entered--my wife. She had entered hastily, but, on seeing me she faltered, and stood motionless at the door.

Well might she start at my strange appearance; but, if I looked dreadful to her, her appearance was positively loathsome to me. I had not seen her for three months, and she had visibly changed since then.

To another man his wife looks charming in that condition, but to me my wife seemed perfectly disgusting, horrid, abominable! I cannot find a phrase to express the detestation that filled me as I looked at her.

"You have come away from the camp?" she asked, in a low tone.

"I have been discharged," I answered.

"You? How could that be?"

"They believed me to be a Prussian spy."

"Nonsense! I have read so much of your courage and daring, of the self-sacrifice which made you risk your own life to save that of others. The papers were full of praise of your magnanimous conduct."

"That's it exactly. They think a respectable surgeon has no business to risk his hide or exhibit sentiment. So they told me to pack off."

"But you are wounded!" she cried out, as I took off my kepi.

"A mere scratch, and already closed. It's nothing." And, throwing the rubber cloak from my shoulders, I stepped nearer to the gate.

"You have been decorated!" she said, pointing to the "_legion d'honneur_" on my breast.

"Trash!" I said, tearing it off, and with an angry gesture throwing it almost into the fire.

She ran up to me, and held my hand. "No! no!" she said: "I shall not let you! Leave it on your breast!" and, snatching it out of my hand, she pinned it in its place again.

"Well, let it be," I thought. At least there would be one spot on my body that was honourable. But it was time to change the subject. For a soldier coming home from the gory field of honour might speak to his wife of his wounds and his deserts, but I? As I was no real soldier, so my wound was no real wound, this badge of merit not really merited, and--my wife--was not really my wife. So I changed the subject, and, like a conscientious family physician, I questioned her about her health. My questions were purely professional, and she gave her answers in confidence, as patients usually answer the questions of their _ordinarius_. I advised her as to the best way of avoiding inconveniences connected with her present condition, and so on. After the consultation was over, I asked her if no letters had arrived for me during my absence.

"Only one--in the last day or two, and that has been opened."

"By whom?"

"By the police, I think. For a short time back all letters coming from foreign parts are opened by the police."

"Have you also read the letter?"

"I looked into it certainly; but I have not read it. It is written in cipher."

"Ah!" I thought, "the communication from my agent to say that the millions have disappeared." But I did not show any impatience to get at the contents of the letter. I listened politely as she related to me the events of her life in my absence.

After a while the valet announced that my room was ready for me, and then she asked if I would not dine with her? "No, thank you!" said I, with an inward shudder; "I am quite unfamiliar with your civilised customs, and will thank you if you will permit me to retire to my room."

In my room I found the letter upon my writing-desk. As I had expected, it came from my agent in Brussels. The key to the cipher code was in my pocket, rolled up in a cigarette; so that in case of my death on the battle-field some soldier or nurse might smoke the cigarette and unwittingly destroy this last clue to the mystery which surrounded my money transactions. The letter ran as follows:--

"SIR,--The two millions which you entrusted to my care have doubled themselves, and I hold four millions of francs for you. The decline is continuous, and will hold good for a considerable time to come. The Paris Bourse created an enormous rise by fictitious reports of victories; but the decline was all the sharper in consequence. The French are beaten everywhere, and if you will consent to let me continue in the present course, I shall double your money again on short sales."

Camp life had taught me to swear, and I was furious. Fate was mocking me, tantalising me. Instead of taking from me the accursed money which I had received in exchange for my life, my soul's salvation, and my honour, it doubled that money, and threw it back at me. But I would see if I could not get the better of blind fortune. I did not want that money, and would have none of it.

I sat down and wrote an answer on the spot I gave the agent fixed instructions to speculate with the whole amount for a rise, and that immediately. As soon as I had translated this into cipher, I gave it to the valet to be posted.

Then I took out the rough fare I had been accustomed to during my camp life, the rye bread and bacon, and, slicing it up, I toasted it at the grate fire. Surely a man who had thrown four millions out at the window a few minutes before had a right to indulge in such luxuries.

But the cognac which I had been used to drink I could not relish at home. For three months I had drunk nothing but cognac. It is a powerful stimulant, good for fever and ague, hunger and thirst, influenza-cold, and, yes, the tremor before a battle. But here, at home, I wanted something I could not get there--a glass of clear, fresh water.

Oh, how I enjoyed it! How deliciously refreshing it was after so long a craving! Home had still a great treasure to offer me--a glass of clear, fresh water.

What a precious, sweet, home it was!

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