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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 5
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Night And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 5 Post by :1mauigirl Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2974

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Night And Morning - Book 3 - Chapter 5

BOOK III CHAPTER V

"The cursed carle was at his wonted trade,
Still tempting heedless men into his snare,
In witching wise, as I before have said;
But when he saw, in goodly gear array'd,
The grave majestic knight approaching nigh,
His countenance fell."--THOMSON, Castle of Indolence.


The morning rose that was to unite Monsieur Goupille with Mademoiselle Adele de Courval. The ceremony was performed, and bride and bridegroom went through that trying ordeal with becoming gravity. Only the elegant Adele seemed more unaffectedly agitated than Mr. Love could well account for; she was very nervous in church, and more often turned her eyes to the door than to the altar. Perhaps she wanted to run away; but it was either too late or too early for the proceeding. The rite performed, the happy pair and their friends adjourned to the Cadran Bleu, that restaurant so celebrated in the festivities of the good citizens of Paris. Here Mr. Love had ordered, at the epicier's expense, a most tasteful entertainment.

"Sacre! but you have not played the economist, Monsieur Lofe," said Monsieur Goupille, rather querulously, as he glanced at the long room adorned with artificial flowers, and the table a cingitante couverts.

"Bah!" replied Mr. Love, "you can retrench afterwards. Think of the fortune she brought you."

"It is a pretty sum, certainly," said Monsieur Goupille, "and the notary is perfectly satisfied."

"There is not a marriage in Paris that does me more credit," said Mr. Love; and he marched off to receive the compliments and congratulations that awaited him among such of the guests as were aware of his good offices. The Vicomte de Vaudemont was of course not present. He had not been near Mr. Love since Adele had accepted the epicier. But Madame Beavor, in a white bonnet lined with lilac, was hanging, sentimentally, on the arm of the Pole, who looked very grand with his white favour; and Mr. Higgins had been introduced, by Mr. Love, to a little dark Creole, who wore paste diamonds, and had very languishing eyes; so that Mr. Love's heart might well swell with satisfaction at the prospect of the various blisses to come, which might owe their origin to his benevolence. In fact, that archpriest of the Temple of Hymen was never more great than he was that day; never did his establishment seem more solid, his reputation more popular, or his fortune more sure. He was the life of the party.

The banquet over, the revellers prepared for a dance. Monsieur Goupille, in tights, still tighter than he usually wore, and of a rich nankeen, quite new, with striped silk stockings, opened the ball with the lady of a rich patissier in the same Faubourg; Mr. Love took out the bride. The evening advanced; and after several other dances of ceremony, Monsieur Goupille conceived himself entitled to dedicate one to connubial affection. A country-dance was called, and the epicier claimed the fair hand of the gentle Adele. About this time, two persons not hitherto perceived had quietly entered the room, and, standing near the doorway, seemed examining the dancers, as if in search for some one. They bobbed their heads up and down, to and fro stopped--now stood on tiptoe. The one was a tall, large-whiskered, fair-haired man; the other, a little, thin, neatly-dressed person, who kept his hand on the arm of his companion, and whispered to him from time to time. The whiskered gentleman replied in a guttural tone, which proclaimed his origin to be German. The busy dancers did not perceive the strangers. The bystanders did, and a hum of curiosity circled round; who could they be?--who had invited them?--they were new faces in the Faubourg--perhaps relations to Adele?

In high delight the fair bride was skipping down the middle, while Monsieur Goupille, wiping his forehead with care, admired her agility; when, to and behold! the whiskered gentleman I have described abruptly advanced from his companion, and cried:

"La voila!--sacre tonnerre!"

At that voice--at that apparition, the bride halted; so suddenly indeed, that she had not time to put down both feet, but remained with one high in the air, while the other sustained itself on the light fantastic toe. The company naturally imagined this to be an operatic flourish, which called for approbation. Monsieur Love, who was thundering down behind her, cried, "Bravo!" and as the well-grown gentleman had to make a sweep to avoid disturbing her equilibrium, he came full against the whiskered stranger, and sent him off as a bat sends a ball.

"Mon Dieu!" cried Monsieur Goupille. "Ma douce amie--she has fainted away!" And, indeed, Adele had no sooner recovered her, balance, than she resigned it once more into the arms of the startled Pole, who was happily at hand.

In the meantime, the German stranger, who had saved himself from falling by coming with his full force upon the toes of Mr. Higgins, again advanced to the spot, and, rudely seizing the fair bride by the arm, exclaimed,--

"No sham if you please, madame--speak! What the devil have you done with the money?"

"Really, sir," said Monsieur Goupille, drawing tip his cravat, "this is very extraordinary conduct! What have you got to say to this lady's money?--it is my money now, sir!"

"Oho! it is, is it? We'll soon see that. Approchez donc, Monsieur Favart, faites votre devoir."

At these words the small companion of the stranger slowly sauntered to the spot, while at the sound of his name and the tread of his step, the throng gave way to the right and left. For Monsieur Favart was one of the most renowned chiefs of the great Parisian police--a man worthy to be the contemporary of the illustrious Vidocq.

"Calmez vous, messieurs; do not be alarmed, ladies," said this gentleman, in the mildest of all human voices; and certainly no oil dropped on the waters ever produced so tranquillising an effect as that small, feeble, gentle tenor. The Pole, in especial, who was holding the fair bride with both his arms, shook all over, and seemed about to let his burden gradually slide to the floor, when Monsieur Favart, looking at him with a benevolent smile, said--

"Aha, mon brave! c'est toi. Restez donc. Restez, tenant toujours la dame!"

The Pole, thus condemned, in the French idiom, "always to hold the dame," mechanically raised the arms he had previously dejected, and the police officer, with an approving nod of the head, said,--

"Bon! ne bougez point,--c'est ca!"

Monsieur Goupille, in equal surprise and indignation to see his better half thus consigned, without any care to his own marital feelings, to the arms of another, was about to snatch her from the Pole, when Monsieur Favart, touching him on the breast with his little finger, said, in the suavest manner,--

"Mon bourgeois, meddle not with what does not concern you!"

"With what does not concern me!" repeated Monsieur Goupille, drawing himself up to so great a stretch that he seemed pulling off his tights the wrong way. "Explain yourself, if you please! This lady is my wife!"

"Say that again,--that's all!" cried the whiskered stranger, in most horrible French, and with a furious grimace, as he shook both his fists just under the nose of the epicier.

"Say it again, sir," said Monsieur Goupille, by no means daunted; "and why should not I say it again? That lady is my wife!"

"You lie!--she is mine!" cried the German; and bending down, he caught the fair Adele from the Pole with as little ceremony as if she had never had a great-grandfather a marquis, and giving her a shake that might have roused the dead, thundered out,--

"Speak! Madame Bihl! Are you my wife or not?"

"Monstre!" murmured Adele, opening her eyes.

"There--you hear--she owns me!" said the German, appealing to the company with a triumphant air.

"C'est vrai!" said the soft voice of the policeman. "And now, pray don't let us disturb your amusements any longer. We have a fiacre at the door. Remove your lady, Monsieur Bihl."

"Monsieur Lofe!--Monsieur Lofe!" cried, or rather screeched the epicier, darting across the room, and seizing the chef by the tail of his coat, just as he was half way through the door, "come back! Quelle mauvaise plaisanterie me faites-vous ici? Did you not tell me that lady was single? Am I married or not: Do I stand on my head or my heels?"

"Hush-hush! mon bon bourgeois!" whispered Mr. Love; "all shall be explained to-morrow!"

"Who is this gentleman?" asked Monsieur Favart, approaching Mr. Love, who, seeing himself in for it, suddenly jerked off the epicier, thrust his hands down into his breeches' pockets, buried his chin in his cravat, elevated his eyebrows, screwed in his eyes, and puffed out his cheeks, so that the astonished Monsieur Goupille really thought himself bewitched, and literally did not recognise the face of the match-maker.

"Who is this gentleman?" repeated the little officer, standing beside, or rather below, Mr. Love, and looking so diminutive by the contras that you might have fancied that the Priest of Hymen had only to breathe to blow him away.

"Who should he be, monsieur?" cried, with great pertness, Madame Rosalie Caumartin, coming to the relief, with the generosity of her sex.--"This is Monsieur Lofe--Anglais celebre. What have you to say against him?"

"He has got five hundred francs of mine!" cried the epicier.

The policeman scanned Mr. Love, with great attention. "So you are in Paris again?--Hein!--vous jouez toujours votre role!

"Ma foi!" said Mr. Love, boldly; "I don't understand what monsieur means; my character is well known--go and inquire it in London--ask the Secretary of Foreign Affairs what is said of me--inquire of my Ambassador--demand of my--"

"Votre passeport, monsieur?"

"It is at home. A gentleman does not carry his passport in his pocket when he goes to a ball!"

"I will call and see it--au revoir! Take my advice and leave Paris; I think I have seen you somewhere!"

"Yet I have never had the honour to marry monsieur!" said Mr. Love, with a polite bow.

In return for his joke, the policeman gave Mr. Love one look-it was a quiet look, very quiet; but Mr. Love seemed uncommonly affected by it; he did not say another word, but found himself outside the house in a twinkling. Monsieur Favart turned round and saw the Pole making himself as small as possible behind the goodly proportions of Madame Beavor.

"What name does that gentleman go by?"

"So--vo--lofski, the heroic Pole," cried Madame Beavor, with sundry misgivings at the unexpected cowardice of so great a patriot.

"Hein! take care of yourselves, ladies. I have nothing against that person this time. But Monsieur Latour has served his apprenticeship at the galleys, and is no more a Pole than I am a Jew."

"And this lady's fortune!" cried Monsieur Goupitle, pathetically; "the settlements are all made--the notaries all paid. I am sure there must be some mistake."

Monsieur Bihl, who had by this time restored his lost Helen to her senses, stalked up to the epicier, dragging the lady along with him.

"Sir, there is no mistake! But, when I have got the money, if you like to have the lady you are welcome to her."

"Monstre!" again muttered the fair Adele.

"The long and the short of it," said Monsieur Favart, "is that Monsieur Bihl is a brave garcon, and has been half over the world as a courier."

"A courier!" exclaimed several voices.

"Madame was nursery-governess to an English milord. They married, and quarrelled--no harm in that, mes amis; nothing more common. Monsieur Bihl is a very faithful fellow; nursed his last master in an illness that ended fatally, because he travelled with his doctor. Milord left him a handsome legacy--he retired from service, and fell ill, perhaps from idleness or beer. Is not that the story, Monsieur Bihl?"

"He was always drunk--the wretch!" sobbed Adele. "That was to drown my domestic sorrows," said the German; "and when I was sick in my bed, madame ran off with my money. Thanks to monsieur, I have found both, and I wish you a very good night."

"Dansez-vous toujours, mes amis," said the officer, bowing. And following Adele and her spouse, the little man left the room--where he had caused, in chests so broad and limbs so doughty, much the same consternation as that which some diminutive ferret occasions in a burrow of rabbits twice his size.

Morton had outstayed Mr. Love. But he thought it unnecessary to linger long after that gentleman's departure; and, in the general hubbub that ensued, he crept out unperceived, and soon arrived at the bureau. He found Mr. Love and Mr. Birnie already engaged in packing up their effects.

"Why--when did you leave?" said Morton to Mr. Birnie.

"I saw the policeman enter."

"And why the deuce did not you tell us?" said Gawtrey.

"Every man for himself. Besides, Mr. Love was dancing," replied Mr. Birnie, with a dull glance of disdain. "Philosophy," muttered Gawtrey, thrusting his dresscoat into his trunk; then, suddenly changing his voice, "Ha! ha! it was a very good joke after all--own I did it well. Ecod! if he had not given me that look, I think I should have turned the tables on him. But those d---d fellows learn of the mad doctors how to tame us. Faith, my heart went down to my shoes--yet I'm no coward!"

"But, after all, he evidently did not know you," said Morton; "and what has he to say against you? Your trade is a strange one, but not dishonest. Why give up as if---"

"My young friend," interrupted Gawtrey, "whether the officer comes after us or not, our trade is ruined; that infernal Adele, with her fabulous grandmaman, has done for us. Goupille will blow the temple about our ears. No help for it--eh, Birnie?"

"None."

"Go to bed, Philip: we'll call thee at daybreak, for we must make clear work before our neighbours open their shutters."

Reclined, but half undressed, on his bed in the little cabinet, Morton revolved the events of the evening. The thought that he should see no more of that white hand and that lovely mouth, which still haunted his recollection as appertaining to the incognita, greatly indisposed him towards the abrupt flight intended by Gawtrey, while (so much had his faith in that person depended upon respect for his confident daring, and so thoroughly fearless was Morton's own nature) he felt himself greatly shaken in his allegiance to the chief, by recollecting the effect produced on his valour by a single glance from the instrument of law. He had not yet lived long enough to be aware that men are sometimes the Representatives of Things; that what the scytale was to the Spartan hero, a sheriff's writ often is to a Waterloo medallist: that a Bow Street runner will enter the foulest den where Murder sits with his fellows, and pick out his prey with the beck of his forefinger. That, in short, the thing called LAW, once made tangible and present, rarely fails to palsy the fierce heart of the thing called CRIME. For Law is the symbol of all mankind reared against One Foe--the Man of Crime. Not yet aware of this truth, nor, indeed, in the least suspecting Gawtrey of worse offences than those of a charlatanic and equivocal profession, the young man mused over his protector's cowardice in disdain and wonder: till, wearied with conjectures, distrust, and shame at his own strange position of obligation to one whom he could not respect, he fell asleep.

When he woke, he saw the grey light of dawn that streamed cheerlessly through his shutterless window, struggling with the faint ray of a candle that Gawtrey, shading with his hand, held over the sleeper. He started up, and, in the confusion of waking and the imperfect light by which he beheld the strong features of Gawtrey, half imagined it was a foe who stood before him.

"Take care, man," said Gawtrey, as Morton, in this belief, grasped his arm. "You have a precious rough gripe of your own. Be quiet, will you? I have a word to say to you." Here Gawtrey, placing the candle on a chair, returned to the door and closed it.

"Look you," he said in a whisper, "I have nearly run through my circle of invention, and my wit, fertile as it is, can present to me little encouragement in the future. The eyes of this Favart once on me, every disguise and every double will not long avail. I dare not return to London: I am too well known in Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna--"

"But," interrupted Morton, raising himself on his arm, and fixing his dark eyes upon his host,--"but you have told me again and again that you have committed no crime; why then be so fearful of discovery?"

"Why," repeated Gawtrey, with a slight hesitation which he instantly overcame, "why! have not you yourself learned that appearances have the effect of crimes?--were you not chased as a thief when I rescued you from your foe, the law?--are you not, though a boy in years, under an alias, and an exile from your own land? And how can you put these austere questions to me, who am growing grey in the endeavour to extract sunbeams from cucumbers--subsistence from poverty? I repeat that there are reasons why I must avoid, for the present, the great capitals. I must sink in life, and take to the provinces. Birnie is sanguine as ever; but he is a terrible sort of comforter! Enough of that. Now to yourself: our savings are less than you might expect; to be sure, Birnie has been treasurer, and I have laid by a little for Fanny, which I will rather starve than touch. There remain, however, 150 napoleons, and our effects, sold at a fourth their value, will fetch 150 more. Here is your share. I have compassion on you. I told you I would bear you harmless and innocent. Leave us while yet time."

It seemed, then, to Morton that Gawtrey had divined his thoughts of shame and escape of the previous night; perhaps Gawtrey had: and such is the human heart, that, instead of welcoming the very release he had half contemplated, now that it was offered him, Philip shrank from it as a base desertion.

"Poor Gawtrey!" said he, pushing back the canvas bag of gold held out to him, "you shall not go over the world, and feel that the orphan you fed and fostered left you to starve with your money in his pocket. When you again assure me that you have committed no crime, you again remind me that gratitude has no right to be severe upon the shifts and errors of its benefactor. If you do not conform to society, what has society done for me? No! I will not forsake you in a reverse. Fortune has given you a fall. What, then, courage, and at her again!"

These last words were said so heartily and cheerfully as Morton sprang from the bed, that they inspirited Gawtrey, who had really desponded of his lot.

"Well," said he, "I cannot reject the only friend left me; and while I live--. But I will make no professions. Quick, then, our luggage is already gone, and I hear Birnie grunting the rogue's march of retreat."

Morton's toilet was soon completed, and the three associates bade adieu to the bureau.

Birnie, who was taciturn and impenetrable as ever, walked a little before as guide. They arrived, at length, at a serrurier's shop, placed in an alley near the Porte St. Denis. The serrurier himself, a tall, begrimed, blackbearded man, was taking the shutters from his shop as they approached. He and Birnie exchanged silent nods; and the former, leaving his work, conducted them up a very filthy flight of stairs to an attic, where a bed, two stools, one table, and an old walnut-tree bureau formed the sole articles of furniture. Gawtrey looked rather ruefully round the black, low, damp walls, and said in a crestfallen tone:

"We were better off at the Temple of Hymen. But get us a bottle of wine, some eggs, and a frying-pan. By Jove, I am a capital hand at an omelet!"

The serrurier nodded again, grinned, and withdrew.

"Rest here," said Birnie, in his calm, passionless voice, that seemed to Morton, however, to assume an unwonted tone of command. "I will go and make the best bargain I can for our furniture, buy fresh clothes, and engage our places for Tours."

"For Tours?" repeated Morton.

"Yes, there are some English there; one can live wherever there are English," said Gawtrey.

"Hum!" grunted Birnie, drily, and, buttoning up his coat, he walked slowly away.

About noon he returned with a bundle of clothes, which Gawtrey, who always regained his elasticity of spirit wherever there was fair play to his talents, examined with great attention, and many exclamations of "Bon!--c'est va."

"I have done well with the Jew," said Birnie, drawing from his coat pocket two heavy bags. "One hundred and eighty napoleons. We shall commence with a good capital."

"You are right, my friend," said Gawtrey.

The serrurier was then despatched to the best restaurant in the neighbourhood, and the three adventurers made a less Socratic dinner than might have been expected.

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