List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V8, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

said, by an impertinently aggressive manner, which had before now
occasioned a good number of duels.  At sight of Rodin, his countenance at
once assumed a harsh and insolent expression; resting his elbow on the
chimney-piece, and conversing with Adrienne, he looked disdainfully over
his shoulder, without taking the least notice of the Jesuit's low bow.
On the other hand, at sight of this man, Mdlle. de Cardoville almost felt
surprise, that she should experience no movement of anger or hatred.  The
brilliant flame which burned in her heart, purified it from every
vindictive sentiment.  She smiled, on the contrary; for, glancing with
gentle pride at the Indian Bacchus, and then at herself, she asked
herself what two beings, so young, and fair, and free, and loving, could
have to fear from this old, sordid man, with his ignoble and base
countenance, now advancing towards her with the writhing of a reptile.
In a word, far from feeling anger or aversion with regard to Rodin, the
young lady seemed full of the spirit of mocking gayety, and her large
eyes, already lighted up with happiness, now sparkled with irony and
mischief.  Rodin felt himself ill at ease.  People of his stamp greatly
prefer violent to mocking enemies.  They can encounter bursts of rage--
sometimes by falling on their knees, weeping, groaning, and beating their
breasts--sometimes by turning on their adversary, armed and implacable.
But they are easily disconcerted by biting raillery; and thus it was with
Rodin.  He saw that between Adrienne de Cardoville and M. de Montbron, he
was about to be placed in what is vulgarly termed a "regular fix."

The count opened the fire; still glancing over his shoulder, he said to
Rodin: `Ah! you are here, my benevolent gentleman!"

"Pray, sir, draw a little nearer," said Adrienne, with a mocking smile.
"Best of friends and model of philosophers--as well as declared enemy of
all fraud and falsehood--I have to pay you a thousand compliments."

"I accent anything from you, my dear young lady, even though undeserved,"
said the Jesuit, trying to smile, and thus exposing his vile yellow
teeth; "but may I be informed how I have earned these compliments?"

"Your penetration, sir, which is rare--" replied Adrienne.

"And your veracity, sir," said the count, "which is perhaps no less rare--"

"In what have I exhibited my penetration, my dear young lady?" said
Rodin, coldly.  "In what my veracity?" added he, turning towards M. de

"In what, sir?" said Adrienne.  "Why, you have guessed a secret
surrounded by difficulties and mystery.  In a word, you have known how to
read the depths of a woman's heart."

"I, my dear young lady?"

"You, sir! rejoice at it, for your penetration has had the most fortunate

"And your veracity has worked wonders," added the count.

"It is pleasant to do good, even without knowing it," said Rodin, still
acting on the defensive, and throwing side glances by turns on the count
and Adrienne; "but will you inform me what it is that deserves this

"Gratitude obliges me to inform you of it," said Adrienne, maliciously;
"you have discovered, and told Prince Djalma, that I was passionately in
love.  Well! I admire your penetration; it was true."

"You have also discovered, and told this lady, that Prince Djalma was
passionately in love," resumed the count.  "Well! I admire your
penetration, my dear sir; it was true."

Rodin looked confused, and at a loss for a reply.

"The person that I loved so passionately," said Adrienne, "was the

"The person that the prince loved so passionately," resumed the count,
"was this lady."

These revelations, so sudden and alarming, almost stunned Rodin; he
remained mute and terrified, thinking of the future.

"Do you understand now, sir, the extent of our gratitude towards you?"
resumed Adrienne, in a still more mocking tone.  "Thanks to your
sagacity, thanks to the touching interest you take in us, the prince and
I are indebted to you for the knowledge of our mutual sentiments."

The Jesuit had now gradually recovered his presence of mind, and his
apparent calmness greatly irritated M. de Montbron, who, but for
Adrienne's presence, would have assumed another tone than jests.

"There is some mistake," said Rodin, "in what you have done me the honor
to tell me, my dear young lady.  I have never in my life spoken of the
sentiments, however worthy and respectable, that you may entertain for
Prince Djalma--"

"That is true," replied Adrienne; "with scrupulous and exquisite
discretion, whenever you spoke to me of the deep love felt by Prince
Djalma, you carried your reserve and delicacy so far as to inform me that
it was not I whom he loved."

"And the same scruple induced you to tell the prince that Mdlle. de
Cardoville loved some one passionately--but that he was not the person,"
added the count.

"Sir," answered Rodin, dryly, "I need hardly tell you that I have no
desire to mix myself up with amorous intrigues."

"Come! this is either pride or modesty," said the count, insolently.
"For your own interest, pray do not advance such things; for, if we took
you at your word, and it became known, it might injure some of the nice
little trades that you carry on."

"There is one at least," said Rodin, drawing himself up as proudly as
M. de Montbron, "whose rude apprenticeship I shall owe to you.  It is the
wearisome one of listening to your discourse."

"I tell you what, my good sir!" replied the count, disdainfully: "you
force me to remind you that there are more ways than one of chastising
impudent rogues."

"My dear count!" said Adrienne to M. de Montbron, with an air of

With perfect coolness, Rodin replied: "I do not exactly see, sir, first,
what courage is shown by threatening a poor old man like myself, and,

"M. Rodin," said the count, interrupting the Jesuit, "first, a poor old
man like you, who does evil under the shelter of the age he dishonors,
is both cowardly and wicked, and deserves a double chastisement;
secondly, with regard to this question of age, I am not aware that
gamekeepers and policemen bow down respectfully to the gray coats of old
wolves, and the gray hairs of old thieves.  What do you think, my good

Still impassible, Rodin raised his flabby eyelids, fixed for hardly a
second his little reptile eye upon the count, and darted at him one of
his rapid, cold, and piercing glances--and then the livid eyelid again
covered the dull eye of that corpse-like face.

"Not having the disadvantage of being an old wolf, and still less an old
thief," said Rodin, quietly, "you will permit me, sir, to take no account
of the pursuit of hunters and police.  As for the reproaches made me, I
have a very simple method of answering--I do not say of justifying
myself--I never justify myself--"

"You don't say!" said the count.

"Never," resumed Rodin coolly; "my acts are sufficient for that.  I will
then simply answer that seeing the deep, violent, almost fearful
impression made by this lady on the prince--"

"Let this assurance which you give me of the prince's love," said
Adrienne interrupting Rodin with an enchanting smile, "absolve you of all
the evil you wished to do me.  The sight of our happiness be your only

"It may be that I need neither absolution nor punishment, for, as I have
already had the honor to observe to the count, my dear young lady, the
future will justify my acts.  Yes; it was my duty to tell the prince that
you loved another than himself, and to tell you that he loved another
than yourself--all in your mutual interest.  That my attachment for you
may have misled me, is possible--I am not infallible; but, after my past
conduct towards you, my dear young lady, I have, perhaps, some right to
be astonished at seeing myself thus treated.  This is not a complaint.
If I never justify myself, I never complain either."

"Now really, there is something heroic in all this, my good sir," said
the count.  "You do not condescend to complain or justify yourself, with
regard to the evil you have done."

"The evil I have done?" said Rodin, looking fixedly at the count.  "Are
we playing at enigmas?"

"What, sir!" cried the count, with indignation: "is it nothing, by your
falsehoods, to have plunged the prince into so frightful a state of
despair, that he has twice attempted his life?  Is it nothing, by similar
falsehoods, to have induced this lady to believe so cruel and complete an
error, that but for the resolution I have to-day taken, it might have led
to the most fatal consequences?"

"And will you do me the honor to tell me, sir, what interest I could have
in all this despair and error, admitting even that I had wished to
produce them?"

"Some great interest no doubt," said the count, bluntly; "the more
dangerous that it is concealed.  You are one of those, I see, to whom the
woes of others are pleasure and profit."

"That is really too much, sir," said Rodin, bowing; "I should be quite
contented with the profit."

"Your impudent coolness will not deceive me; this is a serious matter,"
said the count.  "It is impossible that so perfidious a piece of roguery
can be an isolated act.  Who knows but this may still be one of the
fruits of Madame de Saint-Dizier's hatred for Mdlle. de Cardoville?"

Adrienne had listened to the preceding discussion with deep attention.
Suddenly she started, as if struck by a sudden revelation.

After a moment's silence, she said to Rodin, without anger, without
bitterness, but with an expression of gentle and serene calmness: "We are
told, sir, that happy love works miracles.  I should be tempted to
believe it; for, after some minutes' reflection, and when I recall
certain circumstances, your conduct appears to me in quite a new light."

"And what may this new perspective be, my dear young lady?"

"That you may see it from my point of view, sir, allow me to remind you
of a few facts.  That sewing-girl was generously devoted to me; she had
given me unquestionable proofs of her attachment.  Her mind was equal to
her noble heart; but she had an invincible dislike to you.  All on a
sudden she disappears mysteriously from my house, and you do your best to
cast upon her odious suspicions.  M. de Montbron has a paternal affection
for me; but, as I must confess, little sympathy for you; and you have
always tried to produce a coldness between us.  Finally, Prince Djalma
has a deep affection for me, and you employ the most perfidious treachery
to kill that sentiment within him.  For what end do you act thus?  I do
not know; but certainly with some hostile design."

"It appears to me, madame," said Rodin, severely, "that you have
forgotten services performed."

"I do not deny, sir, that you took me from the house of Dr. Baleinier;
but, a few days sooner or later, I must infallibly have been released by
M. de Montbron."

"You are right, my dear child," said the count; "it may be that your
enemies wished to claim the merit of what must necessarily have happened
through the exertions of your friends."

"You are drowning, and I save you--it is all a mistake to feel grateful,"
said Rodin, bitterly; "some one else would no doubt have saved you a
little later."

"The comparison is wanting in exactness," said Adrienne, with a smile; "a
lunatic asylum is not a river, and though, from what I see, I think you
quite capable of diving, you have had no occasion to swim on this
occasion.  You merely opened a door for me, which would have opened of
itself a little later."

"Very good, my dear child!" said the count, laughing heartily at
Adrienne's reply.

"I know, sir, that your care did not extend to me only.  The daughters of
Marshal Simon were brought back by you; but we may imagine that the claim
of the Duke de Ligny to the possession of his daughters would not have
been in vain.  You returned to an old soldier his imperial cross, which
he held to be a sacred relic; it is a very touching incident.  Finally,
you unmasked the Abbe d'Aigrigny and Dr. Baleinier: but I had already
made up my mind to unmask then.  However, all this proves that you are a
very clever man--"

"Oh, madame!" said Rodin, humbly.

"Full of resources and invention--"

"Oh, madame!"

"It is not my fault if, in our long interview at Dr. Baleinier's, you
betrayed that superiority of mind which struck me so forcibly, and which
seems to embarrass you so much at present.  What would you have, sir?--
great minds like yours find it difficult to maintain their incognito.
Yet, as by different ways--oh! very different," added the young lady,
maliciously, "we are tending to the same end (still keeping in view our
conversation at Dr. Baleinier's), I wish, for the sake of our future
communion, as you call it, to give you a piece of advice, and speak
frankly to you."

Rodin had listened to Mdlle. de Cardoville with apparent impassibility,
holding his hat under his arm, and twirling his thumbs, whilst his hands
were crossed upon his waistcoat.  The only external mark of the intense
agitation into which he was thrown by the calm words of Adrienne, was
that the livid eyelids of the Jesuit, which had been hypocritically
closed, became gradually red, as the blood flowed into them.
Nevertheless, he answered Mdlle. de Cardoville in a firm voice, and with
a low bow: "Good advice and frankness are always excellent things."

"You see, sir," resumed Adrienne, with some excitement, "happy love
bestows such penetration, such energy, such courage, as enables one to
laugh at perils, to detect stratagems, and to defy hatred.  Believe me,
the divine light which surrounds two loving hearts will be sufficient to
disperse all darkness, and reveal every snare.  You see, in India--excuse
my weakness, but I like to talk of India," added the young girl, with a
smile of indescribable grace and meaning--"in India, when travellers
sleep at night, they kindle great fires round their ajoupa (excuse this
touch of local coloring), and far as extends the luminous circle, it puts
to flight by its mere brilliancy, all the impure and venomous reptiles
that shun the day and live only in darkness."

"The meaning of this comparison has quite escaped me," said Rodin,
continuing to twirl his thumbs, and half raising his eyelids, which were
getting redder and redder.

"I will speak more plainly," said Adrienne, with a smile.  "Suppose, sir,
that the last is a service which you have rendered me and the prince--for
you only proceed by way of services--that, I acknowledge, is novel and

"Bravo, my dear child!" said the count, joyfully.  "The execution will be

"Oh! this is meant for an execution?" said Rodin, still impassible.

"No, sir," answered Adrienne, with a smile; "it is a simple conversation
between a poor young girl and an old philosopher, the friend of humanity.
Suppose, then, that these frequent services that you have rendered to me
and mine have suddenly opened my eyes; or, rather," added the young girl,
in a serious tone, "suppose that heaven, who gives to the mother the
instinct to defend her child, has given me, along with happiness, the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: