List Of Contents | Contents of Alvira- The Heroine of Vesuvius
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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

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

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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