Twenty-four hours after Daniel had
thus left Count Ville-Handry’s palace, pale
and staggering, he had not yet entirely recovered from
this last blow. He had made a mortal enemy of
the man whom it was his greatest interest to manage;
and this man, who of his own accord would have parted
with him only regretfully, had now turned him disgracefully
out of his house.
He could hardly account to himself
for the way in which this had come about. Nay,
more; retracing step by step, his conduct during the
last few days, it appeared to him pitiful, absurd.
And then all that had happened seemed to have turned
He accused Fate, that blind goddess,
who is always blamed by those who have not the courage
to blame themselves. He was in this state of mind
when there came to him, to his great surprise, a letter
from Henrietta. Thus it was she who anticipated
him, and who, sure that he would be desperate, had
the feminine delicacy to write to him almost cheerfully.
“Immediately after your departure,
my dear Daniel, father ordered me up stairs, and decided
that I should stay there till I should become more
reasonable. I know I shall stay here a long time.”
She concluded thus, —
“What we want most of all, oh,
my only friend! is courage. Will you have as
much as your Henrietta?”
“Oh, certainly, certainly!
I shall have all that is needed,” exclaimed
Daniel, moved to tears.
And he vowed to himself that he would
devote himself, heart and soul, to his work, and there
find, if not forgetfulness, at least peace. He
found, however, that to swear was easier than to do.
In spite of all his efforts, he could not fix his
thoughts upon any thing else but his misfortunes.
The studies which he had formerly pursued with delight
now filled him with disgust. The balance of his
whole life was so completely destroyed, that he was
not able to restore it.
The existence which he now led was
that of a desperate man. As soon as he had risen,
he hurried to M. de Brevan, and remained in his company
as long as he could. Left alone, he wandered at
haphazard along the Boulevards, or up the Champs Elysees.
He dined early, hurried home again, and, putting on
a rough overcoat which he had worn on board ship,
he went to roam around the palace of his beloved.
There, behind those heavy, beautifully
carved gates, which were open to all comers but to
him, lived she who was more to him than his life.
If he had struck the flagstones of the sidewalk with
the heel of his boots, she would have heard the sound.
He could hear the music of her piano; and yet the
will of one man placed an abyss between them.
He was dying of inaction. It
seemed to him atrocious, humiliating, intolerable,
to be thus reduced to expecting good or evil fortune
from fate, passively, without making an effort, like
a man, who having taken a ticket in a lottery, and
is all anxiety to obtain a large fortune, crosses
his arms and waits for the drawing.
He was suffering thus for six days,
and saw no end of it; when one morning, just as he
was going out, his bell rang. He went to open
It was a lady, who, without saying
a word, swiftly walked in, and as promptly shut the
door behind her.
Although she was wrapped up in a huge
cloak which completely hid her figure, in spite of
the very thick veil before her face, Daniel recognized
her at once.
“Miss Brandon!” he exclaimed.
In the meantime she had raised her
veil, “Yes, it is I,” she replied, “risking
another calumny in addition to all the others that
have been raised against me, Daniel.”
Amazed at a step which seemed to him
the height of imprudence, he remained standing in
the anteroom, and did not even think of inviting Miss
Brandon to go into the next room, his study.
She went in of her own accord, quite
aloof; and, when he had followed her, she said to
“I came, sir, to ask you what
you have done with that promise you gave me the other
night at my house?”
She waited a moment; and, as he did
not reply, she went on, —
“Come, I see you are like all
men, if they pledge their word to another man, who
is a match for them, they consider it a point of honor
to keep it, but if it is a woman, then they do not
keep it, and boast of it!”
Daniel was furious; but she pretended
not to see it, and said more coldly, —
“I — I have a better
memory than you, sir; and I mean to prove it to you.
I know what has happened at Count Ville-Handry’s
house; he has told me all. You have allowed yourself
to be carried away so far as to threaten him, to raise
your hand against him.”
“He was going to strike his
daughter, and I held his arm.”
“No, sir! my dear count is incapable
of such violence; and yet his own daughter had dared
to taunt him with his weakness, pretending that he
had been induced by me to establish a new industrial
Daniel said nothing.
“And you,” continued Miss
Brandon, — “you allowed Miss Henrietta
to say all these offensive and absurd things.
I should induce the count to engage in an enterprise
where money might be lost! Why? What interest
could I have?”
Her voice began to tremble; and her
beautiful eyes filled with tears.
“Interest!” she went on
to say, “money! The world can think of no
other motive nowadays. Money! I have enough
of it. If I marry the count, you know why I do
it, — you! And you also know that it
depended, and perhaps, at this moment, still depends
upon one single man, whether I shall break off that
match this very day, now.”
As she said this, she looked at him
in a manner which would have caused a statue to tremble
on its marble pedestal.
But he, with his heart full of hatred,
remained icy, enjoying the revenge which was thus
presented to him.
“I will believe whatever you
wish to say,” he answered in a mocking tone,
“if you will answer me a single question.”
“The other night, when I had
left you, where did you go in your carriage?”
He expected to see her confused, turning
pale, stammer. Not at all.
“What, you know that?”
she said, with an accent of admirable candor.
“Ah! I committed an act of almost as great
imprudence as I now do. If some fool should see
me leave your rooms?”
“Pardon me, Miss Brandon, that
is no answer to my question. Where did you go?”
And as she kept silent, surprised
by Daniel’s firmness, he said sneeringly, —
“Then you confess that it would
be madness to believe you? Let us break off here,
and pray to God that I may be able to forget all the
wrong you have done me.”
Miss Brandon’s beautiful eyes
filled with tears of grief or of rage. She folded
her hands, and said in a suppliant tone, —
“I conjure you, M. Champcey,
grant me only five minutes. I must speak to you.
If you knew” —
He could not turn her out; he bowed
profoundly before her, and withdrew into his bedroom,
closing the door behind him. But he immediately
applied his eye to the keyhole, and saw Miss Brandon,
her features convulsed with rage, threaten him with
her closed hand, and leave the room hastily.
“She was going to dig another
pit for me,” thought Daniel.
And the idea that he had avoided it
made him, for a part of that day at least, forget
his sorrow. But on the following day he found,
when he returned home, a formidable document from
the navy department, and inside two letters.
One informed him that he had been
promoted to be a lieutenant.
The other ordered him to report four
days hence at Rochefort, on board the frigate “Conquest,”
which was lying in the roadstead waiting for two battalions
of marines to be transferred to Cochin China.
Daniel had for long years, and with
all the eager ambition of a young man, desired the
promotion which he now obtained. That rank had
been the supreme goal of all his dreams since the
day on which he learned at the navy school the rudiments
of his perilous vocation. How often, as he stood
leaning against the monkey-railing, and saw boats passing
by which carried officers, had he said to himself, —
“When I am a navy lieutenant!”
Well, now he was a lieutenant.
But alas! his wishes, thus realized, filled him only
with disgust and bitterness, like those golden apples,
which, at a distance, shine brightly in the branches
of magic trees, and under the touch of the hand turn
into dust and ashes.
For with the news of his promotion
came also the fatal order to a distant shore.
Why did they send such an order to him, who had at
the department an office in which he could render
valuable services, while so many of his comrades,
waiting idly in port, watched anxiously, and with
almost feverish impatience, for a chance to go into
“Ah!” he said to himself,
his heart filled with rage, “how could I fail
to recognize in this abominable treachery Miss Brandon’s
First she had closed against him the
gates of Count Ville-Handry’s palace, and thus
separated him from his beloved Henrietta, so that they
could not meet nor speak to each other.
But this was not enough for the accursed
adventuress. She wanted to raise a barrier between
them which should be more than a mere moral and social
obstacle, one of those difficulties which no human
power, no lover’s ingenuity, could overcome, — the
ocean and thousands of miles.
“Oh, no!” he cried in
his anguish, “a thousand times no! Rather
give up my career, rather send in my resignation.”
Hence, the very next day, he put on
his uniform, determined to lay the matter, first before
that officer who was his immediate superior, but resolved,
if he should not succeed there, to go up to the minister
He had never worn that uniform since
the night of a large court-ball, where he had danced
with Henrietta. It was nearly a year ago, a few
weeks before the death of the Countess Ville-Handry.
As he compared his happiness in those days with his
present desperate condition, he was deeply moved;
and his eyes were still brimful of tears when he reached
the navy department, towards ten o’clock in the
The officer whom he called upon was
an old captain, an excellent man, who had practised
the appearance of a grim, stern official so long, that
he had finally become in reality what he only wished
Seeing Daniel enter his office, he
thought he came to inform him of his promotion, and
made a great effort to smile as he hailed him with
the words, —
“Well, Lieut. Champcey, we are satisfied,
And, perceiving that Daniel did not
wear the epaulets of his new rank, he added, —
“But how is that, lieutenant?
Perhaps you have not heard yet?”
“I beg your pardon, captain.”
“Why on earth, then, have you no epaulets?”
And he began to frown terribly, considering
that such carelessness augured ill for the service.
Daniel excused himself as well as he could, which
was very little, and then boldly approached the purpose
of his call.
“I have received an order for active service.”
“I know, — on board
‘The Conquest,’ in the roadstead at Rochefort,
for Cochin China.”
“I have to be at my post in four days.”
“And you think the time too
short? It is short. But impossible to grant
you ten minutes more.”
“I do not ask for leave of absence,
captain; I want the favor — to be allowed
to keep my place here.”
The old officer could hardly keep his seat.
“You would prefer not going
on board ship,” he exclaimed, “the very
day after your promotion? Ah, come, you are mad!”
Daniel shook his head sadly.
“Believe me, captain,” he replied, “I
obey the most imperative duty.”
Leaning back in his chair, his eyes
fixed on the ceiling, the captain seemed to look for
such a duty; then he asked suddenly, —
“Is it your family that keeps you?”
“If my place can really not
be filled by one of my comrades, I shall be compelled
to send in my resignation.”
The old sailor bounded as he heard that word, and
said furiously, —
“I told you you were a fool!”
In spite of his determination, Daniel
was too much troubled not to commit a blunder.
He insisted, —
“It is a matter of life and
death with me, captain. And if you only knew
my reasons; if I could tell them” —
“Reasons which cannot be told
are always bad reasons, sir. I insist upon what
I have told you.”
“Then, captain, I shall be compelled,
to my infinite sorrow, to insist upon offering my
The old sailor’s brow became
darker and darker. He growled.
“Your resignation, your resignation!
You talk of it very lightly. It remains to be
seen whether it will be accepted. ‘The Conquest’
does not sail on a pleasure-party; she is sent out
on a serious campaign, and will probably be absent
for some time. We have unpleasant complications
down there and are sending out reinforcements.
You are still in France; but you are actually under
orders to meet the enemy; Men do not resign in the
face of the enemy, Lieut. Champcey!”
Daniel had turned very pale.
“You are severe, captain,” he said.
“I have no idea, I assure you,
of being gentle; and, if that can induce you to change
your mind” —
“Unfortunately, I cannot alter my decision.”
The old sailor rose violently, and
walked up and down the room several times, giving
vent to his anger in oaths of various kinds; then he
returned to Daniel, and said in his driest tone, —
“If that is so, the case is
serious; I must report it to the secretary of the
navy. What time is it? Eleven o’clock.
Come here again at half-past twelve. I shall
have settled the matter then.”
Quite certain that his superior would
say nothing in his favor, Daniel retired, walking
hurriedly through the narrow passages, when a joyous
voice hailed him, calling out, “Champcey!”
He turned, and found himself face
to face with two of his comrades, with whom he had
been most intimate at school. They said eagerly, —
“So you are our superior now?”
And, with the utmost sincerity, they
began to congratulate him, delighted, as they said,
that such good luck should have fallen upon a man
like him, whom everybody thought worthy of the distinction,
and who reflected honor upon the service. No
enemy could have inflicted such suffering upon Daniel
as these two friends did. There was not one of
their good wishes which did not amount to a bitter
sarcasm; every word they said told upon him.
“You must confess, however,”
they continued, “that you are a lucky man, like
no other. One day you are made a lieutenant; and
the next day they offer you active service. The
next time we meet, you will be a captain in command
of a frigate.”
“I am not going out,”
replied Daniel, fiercely. “I have handed
in my resignation.”
And, leaving his two friends looking
utterly amazed, he went away at a rapid pace.
Certainly, he had not foreseen all
these difficulties; and in his blind wrath he charged
his chief with injustice and tyranny. He said, —
“I must stay in Paris; and I will stay.”
Reflection, far from calming him,
only excited him the more. Having left home with
the intention of offering his resignation only in an
extreme case, he was now determined to adhere to his
plan, even if they should offer him full satisfaction.
Had he not an ample income of his own? and could he
not always find an honorable occupation? That
would be far better than to continue in a profession
where one is never his own master, but lives eternally
under the dread of some order that may send him, at
a moment’s warning, to heaven knows what part
of the world.
That was the way he reasoned with
himself while breakfasting at a tavern not far off;
and when he returned to the department, a little after
twelve, he looked upon himself as already no longer
belonging to the navy, and in his imagination caring
little for the final decision.
It was the hour for receptions, when
everybody who had any business at the department came
to look after his interests; and the anteroom was
filled with officers of every grade, some in uniform,
others in citizen’s dress.
The conversation was very animated;
for Daniel heard the sounds from the outer passage.
He entered; and there was silence, — sudden,
deep, chilling silence.
Evidently they had been talking about him.
Even if he could have doubted it for
a moment, he read it in the faces turned aside, the
forced smiles, and the cautious glances with which
he was received. He thought, very much troubled, —
“What can this mean?”
In the meantime a young man in citizen’s
dress, whom he did not know, called out from one side
of the room to the other, to an old officer in a seedy
uniform, with blackened epaulets (a real sea-dog),
lean, bronzed, wrinkled, and with eyes bearing the
traces of recent ophthalmy, —
“Why do you stop, lieutenant?
We were much interested, I assure you.”
The lieutenant seemed to hesitate,
as if he were making up his mind to do a disagreeable
thing, which still did not depend on his choice; and
then he resumed his account, —
“Well, we got there, convinced
that we had taken all the necessary precautions, and
that there was, consequently, nothing to fear, — fine
precautions they turned out to be! In the course
of a week the whole crew was laid up; and as to the
staff, little Bertram and I were the only officers
able to appear on deck. Moreover, my eyes were
in a state. You see what they say now. The
captain was the first to die; the same evening five
sailors followed suit, and seven the next day; the
day after the first lieutenant and two of the noncommissioned
officers. The like was never seen before.”
Daniel turned to his neighbor.
“Who is that officer?” he asked.
“Lieut. Dutac of ‘The Valorous,’
just returned from Cochin China.”
Light broke upon Daniel’s mind; it was a painful
“When did ‘The Valorous’ come in?”
he asked again.
“Six days ago she made the harbor of Brest.”
The other man went on, —
“And thus, you see, we left
a goodly portion of our crew out there. That
is a campaign! As to my own notions, this is what
I think, — a nasty country, a wretched climate,
a people fit for the gallows.”
“Certainly,” said the
young man in citizen’s dress, “things are
not pleasant in Cochin China.”
“Ah, but still” —
“What if you were ordered back?”
“I would go, of course.
Somebody must go, you know, and carry reinforcements
there; but I should not care if somebody else” —
He shrugged his shoulders, and said stoically, —
“And besides, since we navy
men must be eaten by the fish some time or other,
it does not matter very much when that takes place.”
Was not that, in a trivial, but terribly
impressive manner, precisely the same thing that Daniel
had been told by his captain? People do not resign
when they face the enemy.
It was very evident that the officers
who were there assembled doubted his courage, and
were discussing the fact when he entered. It was
clear that they attributed his resignation to fear.
At this idea, that he might be suspected
of cowardice, Daniel trembled all over. What
could he do to prove that he was not a coward?
Should he challenge every one of these men, and fight
one, two, ten duels? Would that prove that he
had not shrunk from the unknown perils of a new country,
from the dangers of an armed invasion, and a fatal
climate? No; unless he was willing to remain
a marked man for life, he must go; yes, go, since
out there dangers awaited him of which he was held
to be afraid.
He went up, therefore, to the old
lieutenant, and said, in a voice loud enough to be
heard by every one in the room, —
“My good comrade, I had just
been ordered to the place you come from, and I had
sent in my resignation; but after what you have said, — things
I knew nothing of, — I shall go.”
There was a murmur of approbation.
And one voice said, “Ah! I was sure of
it!” and that was all. But it was quite
enough to prove to Daniel that he had chosen the only
way to save his honor, which had been in imminent
peril. But, simple as the whole scene was in itself,
it was very extraordinary, in view of the usual reserve
which prevails among sailors. And, besides, does
it not happen almost every day, that an officer ordered
to some station requests and obtains leave to exchange
with some one else, and nothing is said?
Daniel felt that underneath the whole
affair there was some diabolic intrigue. If Miss
Brandon had really procured this order to active service,
was it not likely that she would have taken her measures,
so that he could not possibly avoid going? Were
all these men in citizen’s dress whom he saw
there really navy officers? The young man who
had asked Lieut. Dutac to go on in his story
had disappeared. Daniel went from one to the
other, inquiring who that clever young man was, but
in vain. Soon a summons came for him to appear
in the superior’s office. He hastened there;
and, as he opened the door, he said, —
“I’ll follow your advice,
captain. In three days I shall be on board ‘The
The captain’s stern face cleared
up, and he said approvingly, —
“All right! You did well
to change your mind; for your business began to look
very ugly. The minister is very angry with you.”
“The minister? And why?”
“Primo, he had charged you with a very
“To be sure,” stammered
Daniel, hanging his head; “but I have been so
The fact is, he had totally forgotten that unlucky
the old officer, “he was doubtful whether you
were in your right senses, and I agree with him, since
he has told me that you yourself have solicited this
appointment on foreign service in the most urgent
Daniel was stunned, and stammered out, —
“His Excellency is mistaken.”
“Ah! I beg your pardon, M. Champcey; I
have myself seen your letter.”
But already a sudden inspiration had,
like a flash of lightning, cleared up the mystery
in Daniel’s mind.
“Ah! I wish I could see
it too! Captain, I beseech you show me that letter!”
The old officer began almost to think
that Champcey was really not in his right mind.
He answered, —
“I do not have it; but it is
among your papers in the bureau for Personal Affairs.”
In a minute Daniel was in the office
where those papers were kept, and obtained, not without
much trouble, and under certain conditions only, leave
to look at his papers. He opened the parcel with
feverish haste; and the very first paper that fell
in his hands was a letter, dated the day before, in
which he urgently requested the minister to grant him
the special favor of being sent out with the expedition
to Cochin China on board the frigate “Conquest.”
Daniel was, of course, perfectly sure
that he had written no such letter.
But the handwriting was so precisely
like his own, letter for letter, and even his signature
was so admirably imitated, that he felt for a moment
utterly bewildered, mistrusting, for a second, his
own eyes, his own reason. The whole was done
so exceedingly well, that if the matter had been one
of ordinary importance, and the date of the letter
had gone back to a fortnight or so ago, he would certainly
have suspected his memory rather than the letter before
Overcome by the atrocity of such a trick, he exclaimed, —
“It is almost incredible!”
It was, however, only too certain,
too indisputable, that the letter could not have been
dictated by any one but Miss Brandon. No doubt,
one of her accomplices, perhaps the great Sir Thorn
himself, had written it. Ah! now Daniel understood
the insolent assurance of Miss Brandon, when she insisted
upon his taking poor Malgat’s letters, and repeatedly
said, “Go and show them to the clerks who have
known that unhappy man for long years, and they will
tell you if they are his own.” Most assuredly
he would have met with no one bold enough to say the
contrary, if Malgat’s handwriting had been copied
with the same distressing perfection as his own.
Still he might, perhaps, profit by this strange event;
Ought he to mention his discovery?
What would have been the use? Would they believe
him, if he accused her of forgery, of a trick unsurpassed
in boldness and wickedness? Would they even consent
to an investigation; and, if they instituted one,
what would be the result? Where would they find
an expert ready to swear that this letter was not written
by him, when he himself, if each line had been presented
to him separately, would have felt bound to acknowledge
it as his own?
Was it not far more probable, on the
contrary, that, after what he had done in the morning,
they would have ascribed his charges to a mistake,
or seen in them a weak invention in order to cover
his retreat? Therefore it was a thousand times
better to keep silence, to be resigned to postpone
to another day every attempt to avenge himself in a
manner corresponding to the injury he had suffered,
and all the more effectively, as his vengeance would
have been carefully matured.
But he did not wish that false letter,
which might become a formidable piece of evidence
against him, to remain among his papers; no doubt Miss
Brandon would soon find an opportunity of having it
withdrawn. He asked, therefore, for leave to
copy it, obtained permission, went to work, and succeeded,
without being seen by anybody, in substituting his
copy for the original.
When this was done, knowing that he
had not a minute to lose, he instantly left the department,
and, jumping into a carriage, drove to M. de Brevan.