But these were transient moments of a better light. As meteors, darting across the sky, illumine for a few seconds the dark vault of heaven, and in the sudden exit of their brilliant flash seem to leave greater darkness in the night, thus the impulses of grace shot across the soul of Cassier; he struggled in the grasp of an unseen power, but suddenly lapsed into the awful callousness which characterizes the relapses of confirmed guilt; he pretended to smile at his weakness, and found a sorry relief in cursing and scoffing at everything the virtuous love. Yet he offered immense rewards for information that would bring him in presence of the boy whose form he loved, but whose virtue he despised. Like the pagan persecutors of old, he vainly hoped, by fear or the tinsel of gold, to win back to the world and sin the magnanimous youth who had broken through the stronger argument of a mother's tears. Messengers were dispatched in every direction; the police scoured the roads for miles outside the city; friends and acquaintances were warned not to harbor the truant. A week passed, and no cheerful tidings came to lessen the gloom of bereavement. That Providence which made Louis a vessel of election had covered him with its protective shield, and bore him like a vessel under propitious winds to the port of his destination. In all the soft tenderness of girlhood the two sisters lamented their absconding brother. They, too, had been unkind to him. The sweet, patient smile that ever met their taunts, the mild reproof when they concealed his beads or prayer-book, his willingness to oblige on all occasions, were remembered with tears. When sitting by the mother's bed, the conversation invariably turned on Louis. In cruel fancy they deepened the real sorrow of separation by casting imaginary misfortunes on the track of the absent boy. One would sigh with the ominous PERHAPS. "Poor Louis is now hungry!" "Perhaps he is now lying sick and footsore on the side of some highway, without a friend, without money." "Perhaps he has fallen in with robbers and is stripped of the few articles of dress he took with him." "Perhaps he is now sorry for leaving us," sighed the tender-hearted Aloysia, "and would give the world to kiss again his poor sick mamma!" But futile tears flowed with each surmise. No welcome messenger returned to bring tidings of the missing youth. 'Tis thus we love virtue; we sigh over departed worth when its brilliancy has faded from our sight. Chapter VIII. Madeleine's Happy Death. Troubles, like migratory birds, never travel alone. As heavier billows cling together and roll in rapid succession and in thundering force on the rock-built barriers of nature, so the waves of trial and misfortune break on frail humanity in crushing proximity. The second and third billows of misfortune are fast undulating on the tide of time, and will sweep over the home of Cassier, leaving it a miserable wreck, a theme for the sympathy and the moral of a historian's pen. The weakened, consumptive frame of Madeleine did not long survive the blow that Louis had prepared for her--not, indeed, in the sense of a guilty and blood-stained hand, but with the merit of an Abraham who, at the command of Heaven, prepared a funeral pyre for his child. Madeleine could scarcely weep; the grief of nature was calmed by the impulses of grace, and she felt in her heart a holy joy in the sublime destinies of her son. Could we, in the face of the holy teachings of the Church, institute a comparison between the mother of the soldier and the mother of a priest? Amidst sighs that were but the convulsive throes of a heart's emotion, she breathed often and aloud the "Deo gratias" of the faithful soul. But like certain forces in nature that require but the slightest shock to give them irresistible power, by which they burst through their confining cells and set themselves free, the immortal spirit of Madeleine burst its prison cell and soared to its home beyond the skies. We need not tarry over the painful, touching scene oft-told, and felt sooner or later in every home. Like snow disappearing under the sunshine, the life of Madeleine was fast melting away. At length, as if she knew when the absorbing heat would melt the last crystal of the vital principle, she summoned her family around her to wish them that last thrilling farewell which is never erased from the tablet of memory. In the farewell of the emigrant, torn by cruel fate from country and friends, hope smiles in his tears; the fortune that drives away can bring back; but the farewell of death leaves no fissure in its cloud for the gleam of hope--it is final, terrible, and, on this side the grave, irrevocable. With faltering voice she doled out the last terrible warning that speaks so eloquently from the bed of death. Whilst the aged priest recited the Litanies she raised her last, dying looks towards heaven, and whispered loud enough to be heard, "O Mary! pray for my children." Madeleine was no more. Her last sigh was a prayer that went like lightning to the throne of God from a repentant, reconciled spirit; at the same moment her liberated soul had travelled the vast gulf between time and eternity, and there, in the books held by the guardian angels of her children, she saw registered the answer to her prayer. Madeleine was laid in a marble tomb amongst the first occupants of Pere la Chaise. A small but artistic monument, still extant, and not far from the famous tomb of Abelard and Eloise, would point out to the curious or interested where sleeps among the great of the past the much-loved Madeleine Cassier. "God's peace be with her!" they did say, And laughed at their next breath. O busy world! how poor is thy display Of sympathy with death. Chapter IX. One Abyss Invokes Another. In times gone by, in the so-called darkness of the Middle Ages, there were certain countries in Europe that believed in the existence of a fiend or ghoul that inhabited lonely places and unfrequented woods, and tore to pieces the imprudent traveller that ventured on its path. This fiend of the desert and lonely wood was at best but a fabrication of an excited fancy; it has long since passed away with the myths of the past, and exists only in the nursery rhymes of our literature. Yet in its place a malignant spirit of evil revels in the ruin of the human race; it delights in the crowd; it loves the gaslight, the lascivious song and wanton dance; it presides over our convivial banquets with brow crowned with ivy and faded roses; whilst all the unholy delights of earth sacrifice to it, in return it scatters amongst its adorers all the ills and sorrows that flow from the curse of Eden, making a libation to the infernal gods of the honor, the fortune, and the lives of men. The ghoul or fiend of modern society is the demon of alcohol. History records a remarkable victim in the ill fated Cassier. When grief falls on the irreligious soul, it seeks relief in crime. The shadow of death that fell on his family circle, and the flight of his son in daring forgetfulness of his parental authority, which he had overrated, broke the last link of Christian forbearance in his unbelieving heart; when wearied of blaspheming the providence of God, he quaffed the fatal cup which hell gives as a balm to its sorrow- stricken votaries. A cloud of oblivion must hide from the tender gaze of the young and the innocent the harrowing scenes that brought misery on his home, ruin on his financial condition, and a deeper hue to the moral depravity of his blighted character. One look of sympathy at our young heroines, and we will pass on to the thrilling course of events. Like beautiful yachts on a stormy lake, without pilot, without hands to steady the white sail to catch the favorable wind, Alvira and Aloysia were tossed on a sea of trial which cast a baneful shadow over their future destinies. Tears had cast the halo of their own peculiar beauty over their delicate features; mourning and sombre costume wrapt around them the gravity of sorrow and the adulation of a universal sympathy, pretended or real, supplied the attentions that flattered and pleased when they led the giddy world of fashion. The silence of grief hung around the magnificent saloons, once so gay; the wardrobe that contained the costly apparel, the casket that treasured the pearls of Ceylon and gems of Golconda, were all closed and neglected. The treatment of their father was an agony of domestic trouble, in which they were tried as in a furnace. A few weeks, however, and the darkest hour of the storm had passed. Moments of relaxation brought beams of sunlight through the dissolving beams of sunlight through the dissolving clouds; drives, walks, and even visits were gradually resumed. A fit of illness brought Cassier to his senses. A forced abstinence for a few weeks saved him from the last and most terrible lot of confirmed drunkenness; but ruin was written with his own hand on the firm that made him wealthy. Quick-footed rumor, that hates the well- being of man, was abroad at its deadly work; public confidence in the bank began to wane, and each depositor lent the weight of his individual interest to accelerate the financial crash. The stone set in motion down the mountain assumes a force that no power could stay; on it will go until it rests in the plain From the eminence of his boasted wealth the usurer found this turn come to whirl around on the wheel of fortune and yield to some other mortal, who is the toy of fortune, to grasp for a moment the golden key of avarice and ambition. At length the crash has come. One of the largest depositors sends notice that in a week he will withdraw his funds. Cassier saw ruin staring him in the face; when this sum was paid he would be a pauper. He would not dig, and in the pride of his heart he would not beg. Conscience, long seared in the path of impiety, has no voice to warn, no staff to strike. Cassier, wise in his generation of dishonesty, knows what he will do, and nerves himself for a desperate undertaking which leads us deeper and deeper into the history of crime, into the abysses of iniquity which invoke each other. In a few days Paris is startled. Cassier has fled, and robbed his creditors of a million francs. Chapter X. On the Trail. Evening has fallen over the city, and the busy turmoil of the streets had ceased; the laborer had repaired to his family, the wealthy had gone to their suburban villas, and licentious youth had sought the amusements over which darkness draws its veil. Politicians, newsmongers, and travellers made the cafe salons ring with their animated discussions. The policy of the Prime Minister, the probabilities of war, the royal sports of Versailles, and daring deeds of crime gathered from the police reports were inexhaustive topics for debate. In one of the popular cafes there was a small gathering of men threatening vengeance on the delinquent Cassier; they had more or less suffered from his robbery, and they listened with avidity to every rumor that might lead to the probability of his capture. Amongst them there was an aged man of grayish beard, who was particularly loud and zealous in his condemnation of the dishonest banker. He railed against the Government, which, he said, was priest-ridden under the whip of Mazarin; the imbecility of the police; and the apathy of the citizens, who bore so peaceably such glaring acts of injustice and imposition. He poured out a volume of calumny against the priesthood, and blasphemed so as to cast a chill of terror through his less impious hearers. He was suddenly stopped in his harangue by the entrance of a stranger in the coffee-room. He was a tall, thin man, wrapped in an over-cloak; he paced majestically across the room, and took a seat opposite the old man, who had suddenly become silent and was busily occupied reading the criminal bulletin. Over the edges of his paper the old man took a furtive glance at the stranger; their eyes met; a recognition followed, but as silent and as deep as with the criminal and the Masonic judge. The old man rang the bell, and called for writing materials. He hastily scribbled a few words, closed, sealed the letter, then bade the waiter take it to his eldest son, who had retired to his apartments. He immediately took his hat and went out. "Who is that old man?" asked the tall stranger, rising and advancing excitedly towards the waiter. "That's Senor Pereira from Cadiz," retorted the waiter. "Senor Pereira from Cadiz!" repeated the stranger. "No," he continued emphatically; "he is Senor Cassier from Paris." "Cassier!" was muttered by the astounded debaters who had listened to the vituperative philippics of the Portuguese merchant. "Cassier!" was echoed from the furthest end of the salon, where some quiet and peaceful citizens were sipping their coffee and rum apart from the stormy politics of the centre-table. Whilst an animated conversation was carried on two young lads came running down-stairs and rushed into the street through the front door. "Who are those young men?" asked again the stranger of the waiter. "They are the sons of Senor Pereira," was the answer. "The sons of Pereira! They are the daughters of Cassier!" said the stranger in a loud voice, who had now become the hero of the room and had penetrated a deep and clever plot. He ran to the street, but the fugitives had disappeared in the darkness; their gentle tread was not heard on the pavement, and no observer was near to indicate the course they had taken. The whole scheme of Cassier's bold disguise flashed with unerring conviction on the stranger's mind--the voice, the eye, the gait were Cassier's. He was familiar with the family, and in the hurried glance he got of the youths rushing by the saloon door he thought he recognized the contour of Alvira's beautiful face. He hastened to communicate his startling discovery to the Superintendent of the Police, and the city was once more in a state of excitement. Chapter XI. The Flight. The sensation caused by the startling failure and embezzlement of the wealthy banker had scarcely subsided when the city rang with the news of his clever disguise and daring escape. Angry Justice, foiled in her revenge, lashed herself to rage, and moaned her defeat like the forest queen robbed of her young. The Government feared the popular cry, and proved its zeal by offering immense rewards for the arrest of the delinquent banker. The country around the city was guarded, every suspicious vehicle examined, and strangers ran the risk of being mobbed before they could prove their identity. False rumors now and then ran through the city, raising and quelling the passions like a tide. At one time the culprit is caught and safely lodged in the Bastile; at another he is as free as the deer on the plains. Cassier did escape, but some incidents of the chase were perilous and exciting.
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