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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 15. Vox Populi
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 15. Vox Populi Post by :mobiaus Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :2567

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 15. Vox Populi


The street was very noisy, and a tumult of loud voices, shouts, etc., penetrated through the blinds, shutters, and doors into the room in which I sat. I took that to be the normal condition of a Paris street, for in large cities there is always some spectacle afoot to set the mob shouting. But I was mistaken. The valet, whom I had sent to the post-office to mail my letter to the broker at Brussels, entered hastily, his face livid with fear.

"Monsieur, save yourself!" he cried. "The mob is coming."

"Coming where?"

"To this hotel. A German diplomat lived here before you, and the people think this is his house still. Someone has given them a hint, and they have taken it up, and they are coming to storm and plunder the house. The residences of two bankers have been demolished in this way, only because their names had a German sound."

"Let them alone," I said; "I will talk with their leaders. Now go to madame, and tell her I beg she will retire to the winter-garden, and not come out of it in any case or for any noise."

The valet obeyed, and I girded on my sword again, put on my kepi, and went downstairs.

The porter had locked the entrance, but a loud muttering and battering noise was heard from the outside.

"Open the door!" I said to the porter, and, sword in hand, I stepped out What I beheld was the usual spectacle upon such occasions. A mob of all classes; labourers in blouses, dandies in tall hats, college youths, street boys, market women, and veiled "ladies" in flashy dresses and with painted cheeks, all huddled pell-mell in picturesque disorder.

The man who was battering at the door was a gigantic locksmith, with hammer in hand, and I believe that the only object he had in his battering operations was to make use of his hammer. As I appeared, those who were near the door, retreated a little, and some of them called out, "See, see! An officer of the army."

"_Citoyens_!" said I, in a loud voice, "in this house there is a sick woman, and whoever tries to break into this house will have his skull split in two."

Most of the _gommeux retreated at these words, but the locksmith seemed to think resistance a provocation to an attack. "Ho, ho!" said he, beating his breast and swinging his hammer, inviting me to try the edge of my sword on his skull, while around him sticks and umbrellas were upraised against me with threatening gestures of all sorts of people, male and female.

I had to make an end of this, and that was only possible by showing them that I was not afraid of them, and, first of all, I had to silence that burly smith by a smart cut on the hand that held the hammer. I had just lifted my arm with the sword, when someone caught it from behind, seizing tight hold of both hand and sword.

It was Flamma.

"What do you want here? Why did you come out?" I asked her.

She stepped close to my side, and addressed the people. I could never have believed that that tiny, silent, shell-mouth of hers could be capable of such eloquence. "_Citoyens_!" she said, with a perfectly dramatic intonation and gesture, "you are mistaken in this house and in us. We are no Germans, no enemies, but Hungarians, and friends to the French. Look at my husband! He has just arrived from the battlefield, where he has served the French army. He has repeatedly risked his own life to save that of your brethren. Look at his forehead! That wound upon it he received in the service of your country! Look at his breast! It is decorated with the star of the Legion of Honour! He--"

I was furious. What business had this woman, who, in her heart of hearts, despised me as an abject, greedy, dishonourable coward, a base wretch, who had accepted the most degrading position on earth for a money consideration--what business, said I, had she to speak fair of me before this crowd?

"Madame," I shouted, "go into the house! I do not want your speeches! Let go my hand, I say! I want to drive this rabble away!" But she clung tightly to me, and, seeing that I could not free myself of her, I caught her up in my arms, and carried her to her room. There I threw her upon her couch and said--"Don't move from this bed. You are trifling with your life!"

"Then stay here with me," she said, beseechingly; "don't go back among them!"

"Nonsense, I am able to protect and save you from a drunken mob, but from an attack of convulsions I could not save you! This might cost you your life."

At this word I fancied I saw a smile of contempt on her lips, and it occurred to me that she thought I feared for her life, because, in case of her death, I should have to return her money. "I wish they would come and tear me to pieces in her very presence," I thought, in the bitterness of my heart; but, to my surprise, no one came. The next minute or two furnished an explanation. I heard the sound of a bugle, then the clatter of horse-hoofs; the Imperial Guard itself had cleared the street of the mob. In a few minutes the shouts and threats were silenced, and the crowd had moved on to other quarters. Immediately afterward I heard voices in the _salon_, and, telling the woman to keep quiet and not stir, I entered the _salon_.

A police officer was talking with the valet. I thanked him for ridding me of my unpleasant visitors, who would undoubtedly have done harm to the furniture of the house, if not to our persons.

"Oh, that is past," said he, "but there is something else amiss; and I may tell you at once, sir, something that is very serious!"

"Serious to me?" I asked.

"Yes, the police have certain knowledge of the fact that you keep up a cipher correspondence with somebody in Brussels. You have received a letter a day or two ago."

"I know it. The letter had been opened by the police."

"Exactly. You have answered that letter, also in cipher, and the letter was posted not quite an hour ago."

"And the contents of this letter are already in the hands of the police?"

"Yes. Will you have the kindness to give me the key to the cipher?"

"Sir," said I, "you know well that every correspondence has secrets which cannot be disclosed to a stranger!"

"I assure you that the Police Department is just as silent with respect to the secrets that are entrusted to it, as the tongueless stone lions on St. Mark's Square in Venice."

"And what will be the consequence if I refuse to give you the key?"

"If they offer to shoot me," I thought, "I will not tell."

"If you refuse, you will be conducted to the Belgian frontier without a moment's delay."

"No, thank you," I thought; "I'll have none of that."

So I invited him into my room, and together we solved the contents of both letters.

The first was that of the agent, the second was my answer, which consisted of the following words:--

"The French will be victorious; invest my whole fortune, all the money you hold of mine, in buying for a rise."

The tears rushed down the cheeks of the police officer. That a foreigner had so much confidence in the French cause as to stake his whole fortune on it was completely overpowering to him. He pressed my hands in silent acknowledgment, when I could have laughed in his face, and was silently applauding myself on the comedy I had played.

"It is all right, sir," said he, taking his leave; "but since you are a true friend of the French, let me give you a bit of honest advice. Don't stay in Paris beyond to-day at the utmost. To-day we command; to-morrow, God knows who may fill our place. Go to-day, while you are free to go; to-morrow it is possible that I shall follow your example."

I thanked him heartily, and gave him my passport for revision. In an hour the passport was returned to me in proper order, and at daybreak we were sitting in a railway carriage. My wife confessed that she felt very happy in being able to leave Paris; she had been very uncomfortable and ill at ease there.

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