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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 13
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Night And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 13 Post by :markwar Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2830

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Night And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 13

BOOK III CHAPTER XIII

GUIOMAR.
"Speak! What are you?"

RUTILIO.
"Gracious woman, hear me. I am a stranger:
And in that I answer all your demands."
Custom of the Country.


Eugenie replaced the curtain. And scarcely had she done so ere the steps in the outer room entered the chamber where she stood. Her servant was accompanied by two officers of the police.

"Pardon, madame," said one of the latter; "but we are in pursuit of a criminal. We think he must have entered this house through a window above while your servant was in the street. Permit us to search?"

"Without doubt," answered Eugenie, seating herself. "If he has entered, look in the other apartments. I have not quitted this room."

"You are right. Accept our apologies."

And the officers turned back to examine every corner where the fugitive was not. For in that, the scouts of Justice resembled their mistress: when does man's justice look to the right place?

The servant lingered to repeat the tale he had heard--the sight he had seen. When, at that instant, he saw the curtain of the alcove slightly stirred. He uttered an exclamation-sprung to the bed--his hand touched the curtain--Eugenie seized his arm. She did not speak; but as he turned his eyes to her, astonished, he saw that she trembled, and that her cheek was as white as marble.

"Madame," he said, hesitating, "there is some one hid in the recess."

"There is! Be silent!"

A suspicion flashed across the servant's mind. The pure, the proud, the immaculate Eugenie!

"There is!--and in madame's chamber!" he faltered unconsciously.

Eugenie's quick apprehensions seized the foul thought. Her eyes flashed--her cheek crimsoned. But her lofty and generous nature conquered even the indignant and scornful burst that rushed to her lips. The truth!--could she trust the man? A doubt--and the charge of the human life rendered to her might be betrayed. Her colour fell--tears gushed to her eyes.

"I have been kind to you, Francois. Not a word."

"Madame confides in me--it is enough," said the Frenchman, bowing, with a slight smile on his lips; and he drew back respectfully.

One of the police officers re-entered.

"We have done, madame; he is not here. Aha! that curtain!"

"It is madame's bed," said Francois. "But I have looked behind."

"I am most sorry to have disarranged you," said the policeman, satisfied with the answer; "but we shall have him yet." And he retired.

The last footsteps died away, the last door of the apartments closed behind the officers, and Eugenie and her servant stood alone gazing on each other.

"You may retire," said she at last; and taking her purse from the table, she placed it in his hands.

The man took it, with a significant look. "Madame may depend on my discretion."

Eugenie was alone again. Those words rang in her ear,--Eugenie de Merville dependent on the discretion of her lackey! She sunk into her chair, and, her excitement succeeded by exhaustion, leaned her face on her hands, and burst into tears. She was aroused by a low voice; she looked up, and the young man was kneeling at her feet.

"Go--go!" she said: "I have done for you all I can."

"You heard--you heard--my own hireling, too! At the hazard of my own good name you are saved. Go!"

"Of your good name!"--for Eugenie forgot that it was looks, not words, that had so wrung her pride--"Your good name," he repeated: and glancing round the room--the toilette, the curtain, the recess he had quitted--all that bespoke that chastest sanctuary of a chaste woman, which for a stranger to enter is, as it were, to profane--her meaning broke on him. "Your good name--your hireling! No, madame,--no!" And as he spoke, he rose to his feet. "Not for me, that sacrifice! Your humanity shall not cost you so dear. Ho, there! I am the man you seek." And he strode to the door.

Eugenie was penetrated with the answer. She sprung to him--she grasped his garments.

"Hush! hush!--for mercy's sake! What would you do? Think you I could ever be happy again, if the confidence you placed in me were betrayed? Be calm--be still. I knew not what I said. It will be easy to undeceive the man--later--when you are saved. And you are innocent,--are you not?"

"Oh, madame," said Morton, "from my soul I say it, I am innocent--not of poverty--wretchedness--error--shame; I am innocent of crime. May Heaven bless you!"

And as he reverently kissed the hand laid on his arm, there was something in his voice so touching, in his manner something so above his fortunes, that Eugenie was lost in her feelings of compassion, surprise, and something, it might be, of admiration in her wonder.

"And, oh!" he said, passionately, gazing on her with his dark, brilliant eyes, liquid with emotion, "you have made my life sweet in saving it. You--you--of whom, ever since the first time, almost the sole time, I beheld you--I have so often mused and dreamed. Henceforth, whatever befall me, there will be some recollections that will--that--"

He stopped short, for his heart was too full for words; and the silence said more to Eugenie than if all the eloquence of Rousseau had glowed upon his tongue.

"And who, and what are you?" she asked, after a pause.

"An exile--an orphan--an outcast! I have no name! Farewell!"

"No--stay yet--the danger is not past. Wait till my servant is gone to rest; I hear him yet. Sit down--sit down. And whither would you go?"

"I know not."

"Have you no friends?"

"Gone."

"No home?"

"None."

"And the police of Paris so vigilant!" cried Eugenie, wringing her hands. "What is to be done? I shall have saved you in vain--you will be discovered! Of what do they charge you? Not robbery--not--"

And she, too, stopped short, for she did not dare to breathe the black word, "Murder!"

"I know not," said Morton, putting his hand to his forehead, "except of being friends with the only man who befriended me--and they have killed him!"

"Another time you shall tell me all."

"Another time!" he exclaimed, eagerly--"shall I see you again?"

Eugenie blushed beneath the gaze and the voice of joy. "Yes," she said; "yes. But I must reflect. Be calm be silent. Ah!--a happy thought!"

She sat down, wrote a hasty line, sealed, and gave it to Morton.

"Take this note, as addressed, to Madame Dufour; it will provide you with a safe lodging. She is a person I can depend on--an old servant who lived with my mother, and to whom I have given a small pension. She has a lodging--it is lately vacant--I promised to procure her a tenant--go--say nothing of what has passed. I will see her, and arrange all. Wait!--hark!--all is still. I will go first, and see that no one watches you. Stop," (and she threw open the window, and looked into the court.) "The porter's door is open--that is fortunate! Hurry on, and God be with you!"

In a few minutes Morton was in the streets. It was still early--the thoroughfares deserted-none of the shops yet open. The address on the note was to a street at some distance, on the other side of the Seine. He passed along the same Quai which he had trodden but a few hours since--he passed the same splendid bridge on which he had stood despairing, to quit it revived--he gained the Rue Faubourg St. Honore. A young man in a cabriolet, on whose fair cheek burned the hectic of late vigils and lavish dissipation, was rolling leisurely home from the gaming-house, at which he had been more than usually fortunate--his pockets were laden with notes and gold. He bent forwards as Morton passed him. Philip, absorbed in his reverie, perceived him not, and continued his way. The gentleman turned down one of the streets to the left, stopped, and called to the servant dozing behind his cabriolet.

"Follow that passenger! quietly--see where he lodges; be sure to find out and let me know. I shall go home with out you." With that he drove on.

Philip, unconscious of the espionage, arrived at a small house in a quiet but respectable street, and rang the bell several times before at last he was admitted by Madame Dufour herself, in her nightcap. The old woman looked askant and alarmed at the unexpected apparition. But the note seemed at once to satisfy her. She conducted him to an apartment on the first floor, small, but neatly and even elegantly furnished, consisting of a sitting-room and a bedchamber, and said, quietly,--

"Will they suit monsieur?"

To monsieur they seemed a palace. Morton nodded assent.

"And will monsieur sleep for a short time?"

"Yes."

"The bed is well aired. The rooms have only been vacant three days since. Can I get you anything till your luggage arrives?"

"No."

The woman left him. He threw off his clothes--flung himself on the bed--and did not wake till noon.

When his eyes unclosed--when they rested on that calm chamber, with its air of health, and cleanliness, and comfort, it was long before he could convince himself that he was yet awake. He missed the loud, deep voice of Gawtrey--the smoke of the dead man's meerschaum--the gloomy garret--the distained walls--the stealthy whisper of the loathed Birnie; slowly the life led and the life gone within the last twelve hours grew upon his struggling memory. He groaned, and turned uneasily round, when the door slightly opened, and he sprung up fiercely,--

"Who is there?"

"It is only I, sir," answered Madame Dufour. "I have been in three times to see if you were stirring. There is a letter I believe for you, sir; though there is no name to it," and she laid the letter on the chair beside him. Did it come from her--the saving angel? He seized it. The cover was blank; it was sealed with a small device, as of a ring seal. He tore it open, and found four billets de banque for 1,000 francs each,--a sum equivalent in our money to about L160.

"Who sent this, the--the lady from whom I brought the note?"

"Madame de Merville? certainly not, sir," said Madame Dufour, who, with the privilege of age, was now unscrupulously filling the water-jugs and settling the toilette-table. "A young man called about two hours after you had gone to bed; and, describing you, inquired if you lodged here, and what your name was. I said you had just arrived, and that I did not yet know your name. So he went away, and came again half an hour afterwards with this letter, which he charged me to deliver to you safely."

"A young man--a gentleman?"

"No, sir; he seemed a smart but common sort of lad." For the unsophisticated Madame Dufour did not discover in the plain black frock and drab gaiters of the bearer of that letter the simple livery of an English gentleman's groom.

Whom could it come from, if not from Madame de Merville? Perhaps one of Gawtrey's late friends. A suspicion of Arthur Beaufort crossed him, but he indignantly dismissed it. Men are seldom credulous of what they are unwilling to believe. What kindness had the Beauforts hitherto shown him?--Left his mother to perish broken-hearted--stolen from him his brother, and steeled, in that brother, the only heart wherein he had a right to look for gratitude and love! No, it must be Madame de Merville. He dismissed Madame Dufour for pen and paper--rose--wrote a letter to Eugenie--grateful, but proud, and inclosed the notes. He then summoned Madame Dufour, and sent her with his despatch.

"Ah, madame," said the ci-devant bonne, when she found herself in Eugenie's presence. "The poor lad! how handsome he is, and how shameful in the Vicomte to let him wear such clothes!"

"The Vicomte!"

"Oh, my dear mistress, you must not deny it. You told me, in your note, to ask him no questions, but I guessed at once. The Vicomte told me himself that he should have the young gentleman over in a few days. You need not be ashamed of him. You will see what a difference clothes will make in his appearance; and I have taken it on myself to order a tailor to go to him. The Vicomte--must pay me."

"Not a word to the Vicomte as yet. We will surprise him," said Eugenie, laughing.

Madame de Merville had been all that morning trying to invent some story to account for her interest in the lodger, and now how Fortune favoured her!

"But is that a letter for me?"

"And I had almost forgot it," said Madame Dufour, as she extended the letter.

Whatever there had hitherto been in the circumstances connected with Morton, that had roused the interest and excited the romance of Eugenie de Merville, her fancy was yet more attracted by the tone of the letter she now read. For though Morton, more accustomed to speak than to write French, expressed himself with less precision, and a less euphuistic selection of phrase, than the authors and elegans who formed her usual correspondents; there was an innate and rough nobleness--a strong and profound feeling in every line of his letter, which increased her surprise and admiration.

"All that surrounds him--all that belongs to him, is strangeness and mystery!" murmured she; and she sat down to reply.

When Madame Dufour departed with that letter, Eugenie remained silent and thoughtful for more than an hour, Morton's letter before her; and sweet, in their indistinctness, were the recollections and the images that crowded on her mind.

Morton, satisfied by the earnest and solemn assurances of Eugenie that she was not the unknown donor of the sum she reinclosed, after puzzling himself in vain to form any new conjectures as to the quarter whence it came, felt that under his present circumstances it would be an absurd Quixotism to refuse to apply what the very Providence to whom he had anew consigned himself seemed to have sent to his aid. And it placed him, too, beyond the offer of all pecuniary assistance from one from whom he could least have brooked to receive it. He consented, therefore, to all that the loquacious tailor proposed to him. And it would have been difficult to have recognised the wild and frenzied fugitive in the stately form, with its young beauty and air of well-born pride, which the next day sat by the side of Eugenie. And that day he told his sad and troubled story, and Eugenie wept: and from that day he came daily; and two weeks--happy, dreamlike, intoxicating to both--passed by; and as their last sun set, he was kneeling at her feet, and breathing to one to whom the homage of wit, and genius, and complacent wealth had hitherto been vainly proffered, the impetuous, agitated, delicious secrets of the First Love. He spoke, and rose to depart for ever--when the look and sigh detained him.

The next day, after a sleepless night, Eugenie de Merville sent for the Vicomte de Vaudemont.

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