JUL-AUG 2019

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Fiction

inSerial: part ten
The Mysteries of Paris

19. The Nurse

Snatched from certain death by Chourineur and transported to the house in the Allée des Veuves that had been explored by the Owl prior to the Schoolmaster’s attempted robbery, Rodolphe lay in a comfortably furnished room. A blazing fire burned in the hearth and a lamp placed on the dresser cast a bright light throughout the apartment. Rodolphe’s bed, surrounded by thick curtains of green damask, remained in darkness.

A negro of average size, whose hair and brows were white, carefully attired and wearing an orange and green ribbon in the buttonhole of his blue suit, held a gold watch in his left hand, which he appeared to consult while counting Rodolphe’s pulse with his right. The man was sad, pensive; he looked at the sleeping Rodolphe with an expression of tender concern. Chourineur, dressed in rags, spattered with mud, stood motionless at the foot of the bed, his arms by his side and his hands crossed before him. His beard was long and red and his thick, blond hair was wet. The man’s features were hard and tanned. Yet, beneath the harsh, unprepossessing exterior, an ineffable expression of pity and concern broke through. Barely daring to breath, his large chest heaved as if against his will. Uneasy because of the negro doctor’s meditative silence, and fearing an unpleasant diagnosis, in a low voice he risked a philosophical reflection upon contemplating Rodolphe:

“Who would believe, seeing him like this, that this was the man who beat me so soundly? It won’t be long before he get’s his strength back, will it doctor? I swear, I’d prefer it if he took his convalescence out on my back. That would help him, wouldn’t it doctor?”

The negro did not respond but made an almost imperceptible sign with his hand. Chourineur remained silent.

“The potion?” he asked.

Chourineur, who had respectfully left his hobnailed boots at the door, tiptoed to the dresser as quietly as possible but with a contortion of legs, balancing of arms, and reconfiguring of back and shoulders that, under any other circumstances, would have appeared quite humorous. The poor devil looked as if he wanted to consolidate all his weight into that part of himself that did not touch the floor, which, in spite of the carpet, did nothing to prevent the parquet from groaning beneath Chourineur’s weighty presence. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to help and his fear of letting the diaphanous cargo he bore preciously before him escape, he squeezed the neck so tightly in his large hand that the vial broke and the liquid splashed to the floor. Upon seeing this, Chourineur stood still, one of his large legs suspended, his toes nervously contracted, and looked alternately and with confusion from the doctor to the vial, which remained in his hand.

“You clumsy fool!” cried the doctor with impatience.

“A damned idiot!” Chourineur cried, castigating himself.

“Ahh,” resumed the bedside Aesculapius looking toward the dresser, “fortunately you made a mistake, it was the other vial I wanted.”

“The little red one?” said the unlucky nurse in a low voice.

“Obviously, since it’s the only one left.”

Turning on his heels like the soldier he once was, Chourineur crushed the remains of the vial underfoot. Softer feet would have been cruelly torn, but the ex-longshoreman owed to his profession a pair of natural soles as hard as any horse’s hoof.

“Be careful, you’re going to cut yourself!” exclaimed the doctor.

Chourineur paid not the least attention to this advice. Deeply preoccupied with his new mission, which he hoped to accomplish with sufficient glory to overshadow his initial ineptitude, the delicacy, gentleness, and attentiveness with which he placed his two fat fingers on the thin crystal had to be seen to be believed. The doctor shuddered at the thought of a new accident brought on by an excess of precaution. Fortunately, it was a pitfall to which the potion did not succumb. Chourineur approached the bed, once more crushing the broken bottle underfoot.

“You oaf, are you trying to maim yourself?” asked the doctor in a low voice.

Chourineur gazed at him in surprise.

“Maim myself how, Monsieur Doctor?”

“That’s twice you’ve walked on broken glass.”

“Oh, if that’s your concern, pay no mind. The soles of my feet are lined with bark.”

“A small spoon,” the doctor said.

Chourineur resumed his sylph-like movements and returned with the implement. Rodolphe, having swallowed a few spoonfuls of the potion, made a movement and began to weakly agitate his hands.

“Good, good, he’s coming out of it,” said the doctor. “Bleeding has given him some relief and he’ll soon be out of danger.”

“Saved! Bravo! Long live the Charter!” shouted Chourineur in a burst of joy.

“Will you please be quiet!”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“His pulse is stabilizing. Excellent! Excellent!”

“And Monsieur Rodolphe’s poor friend. Confound it, when he finds out! Fortunately . . .”

“Silence!”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“Sit down.”

“But, Monsieur!”

“Sit down! Stop hovering over me like that, you’re distracting me. Come, sit down.”

“Monsieur, I’m dirtier than a floating log about to be brought ashore. I’ll soil the furniture.”

“Then sit on the floor.”

“I’ll soil the rug.”

“Do what you like, but in heaven’s name, please be still,” said the doctor with impatience and, burying himself in an armchair, he buried his head in his hands. After a moment of deep thought, Chourineur, less out of the need for repose than to obey the doctor, took a chair and with the utmost precaution turned it upside-down, its cushion facing the floor, with the commendable intention of seating himself, modestly and properly, upon the front rung of the chair. Which he did with numerous delicate maneuverings. In so doing he hoped to avoid soiling the furniture. Unfortunately, Chourineur had little knowledge of the laws of leverage or equilibrium. The chair tilted. The unlucky fellow made an involuntary movement and thrust his arms before him, knocking over a pedestal table bearing a tray, a cup, and a teapot.

With this, the doctor raised his head and jumped out of his chair. Rodolphe, awakened with a start, sat upright, looked around anxiously, collected his thoughts, and cried out: “Murph! Where’s Murph?”

“Rest assured, Your Highness,” the doctor replied respectfully, “there is much to hope for.”

“Has he been hurt?”

“Unfortunately, yes, Highness.”

“Where is he? I wish to see him.”

Rodolphe tried to rise but fell backward, overcome by the pain of his bruises.

“Take me to him at once, for I cannot walk!” he ordered.

“Your Highness, he’s resting. At this time, exposure to any heightened emotion would be dangerous for him.”

“You’re trying to deceive me. He’s dead! Murdered! And I’m the reason for his death!” cried Rodolphe in despair, raising his arms heavenward.

“Your Highness knows I am incapable of falsehood. I give you my word that Murph is alive, although badly wounded. But his chances of recovery are good.”

“You’re saying that because you wish to prepare me for the bad news. I’m sure his situation is desperate.”

“Your Highness!”

“I’m certain you’re deceiving me. I wish to be brought to him this instant. The sight of a friend is always beneficial.”

“Please, Your Highness. You have my word of honor that, barring any unforeseen accident, Murph will be convalescing soon.”

“Is it true? David is this really true?”

“It’s true, Your Highness.”

“Listen carefully. You know I hold you in the highest esteem. Ever since you joined my household, I have always had confidence in you. Never have I questioned your skill. But, for the love of God, if another opinion is needed…”

“That was my first thought, Highness. But for now, such a visit would be useless, trust me. Besides, I did not wish to introduce any strangers here until I had learned if your previous orders…”

“But how did I get here?” asked Rodolphe, interrupting the doctor. “Who pulled me from the cellar? My mind is confused, but I have a vague memory of Chourineur’s voice. Am I wrong?”

“No. But he can explain everything, Your Highness. He was responsible for your rescue.”

“But where is he? Where is he?”

The doctor looked toward their temporary nurse, who, dazed from his fall, had taken refuge behind the bed curtains.

“He’s there,” the doctor replied, “looking a bit embarrassed.”

“Come forward, my good man,” said Rodolphe, extending his hand toward his savior.



20. Chourineur’s Tale

Chourineur’s confusion deepened when he heard the doctor address Rodolphe several times as “Your Highness.”

“Come. Come forward and give me your hand,” said Rodolphe.

“Forgive me, Monsieur. Excuse me, I meant to say Your Highness.”

“Please call me Monsieur Rodolphe, as always. I prefer it.”

“It will be easier for me too. As for my hand, forgive me, but I’ve done a lot of manual labor in my time.” He timidly extended his dirty, calloused hand. Rodolphe shook it cordially.

“Sit. Tell me everything. How’d you find the cellar? But now that I think of it, what about the Schoolmaster?”

“He’s in a safe place,” said the doctor.

“Tied as neat as two wads of tobacco, him and the Owl. I can imagine the look on their faces. I’m sure they’re not too pleased with their present circumstances.”

“And poor Murph! My God, I forgot about him. David, where was he wounded?”

“On the right side, Your Highness. Fortunately, it was near one of the false ribs.”

“My vengeance shall be terrible! David, I’m counting on you.”

“I know that, Highness. I’m with him body and soul,” the doctor responded coolly.

“But how is it that you arrived in time?” Rodolphe asked Chourineur.

“If you wish, Your . . . , excuse me, Monsieur Rodolphe, I’ll begin at the beginning.”

“Very well. I’m listening.”

“Last night, as we were returning from the countryside, where you had taken poor Goualeuse, you said to me, ‘Try to find the Schoolmaster in La Cité. Tell him you know of an easy mark but you won’t be in on it, and if he wants in, he should go to the Panier-Fleuri, near the Bercy toll house, the following day—this morning, in fact—and that he’d find the one who planned it.’”

“Very good!”

“When I left you, I hurried toward La Cité and went to find the Owl. There was no sign of the Schoolmaster. I tried Rue Saint-Éloi, Rue aux Fèves, Rue de la Vielle-Draperie. No one. Finally, I spotted him and his repulsive old hag in front of Notre-Dame, at a small tailor’s shop—a reseller, as well as a fence and a thief. They wanted to spend some of the cash they stole from the tall man in mourning clothes who was looking for you. They were buying second-hand clothes, anything that came to hand. The Owl was haggling over a red shawl. The old monster! I told the Schoolmaster what was on my mind and he said he was in and would be at the rendezvous. So, this morning, following your orders, I came here to give you his answer. You said to me, ‘My boy, be back tomorrow morning before daybreak. You’ll spend the day in the house, but at night you’ll see something that will have made it all worthwhile.’ That’s all you told me, but I figured out what was going on. I said to myself, ‘He’s planning something to catch the Schoolmaster in a trap, using this burglary as the bait. That miserable reprobate. He was the one killed the drover, I’m sure of it.’”

“I should have told you everything at the time. Had I done so, none of this would have happened.”

“That’s your affair, Monsieur. My business was to help you out, because, like I already told you, I feel like I’m your bulldog. Well, never mind. So, I said to myself, ‘Tomorrow’s the wedding, today’s my day off. Monsieur Rodolphe paid me for the two days work I lost plus two more in advance, since I haven’t showed up for work at the docks in three days and, not being a millionaire, if I don’t work, I don’t eat. But Monsieur Rodolphe is paying me for my time. That means my time is his and that’s how I’ll use it.’ That gave me an idea. The Schoolmaster is cunning and likely to suspect a trap. Monsieur is going to propose the job for tomorrow, true. But that scoundrel is capable of showing up today to reconnoiter and, if he suspects Monsieur Rodolphe, he’s liable to bring some other wag with him, or may even say to himself, ‘See you tomorrow,’ and pull the job off today for his own account.”

“Your suspicions were correct, that is precisely what happened. And as fate would have it, I owe my life to you.”

“This is all very strange, Monsieur Rodolphe. Ever since I met you, things have been happening that feel like they were being arranged upstairs. And I’ve been getting these strange ideas ever since you said I had a big heart and was an honorable man. Heart! Honor! Why, that’s the kind of talk that gets you all stirred up inside. You know, Monsieur Rodolphe, when everyone is on their guard, calling you a mad dog, and all you want to do is be with honest folk.”

“So, you’ve had some new ideas these past few days, have you?”

“Why, of course, Monsieur. Look, I said to myself, ‘I might meet someone who wants to get involved with something he shouldn’t. Drunk. Angry. Who knows?’ I’ll say to him, ‘My good fellow, you’ve done something wrong. I understand. But that’s not all you’ve done. It’s not for nothing that God made those who drown themselves, or burn in fire, or die of hunger. You’re going to do me a favor. If you make forty sous, I want you to give twenty to some poor old man or his children. To anyone who’s less fortunate than you are, who lacks strength or bread. And don’t forget that if you risk your own skin to save somebody, then you’re the one who’s being saved. If you can do that, and don’t do anything stupid again, then I’ll always be there as your friend.’ Excuse me, Monsieur, I’m babbling, and you are curious to learn what happened.”

“No, I enjoy hearing you talk like this. I’ll find out soon enough about the terrible misfortune that has befallen my poor Murph. I was certain I would never leave the Schoolmaster’s side, not for a minute, throughout this undertaking. Would that he had killed me a thousand times over rather than lay a hand on Murph. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas. Continue.”

“Wishing to spend my time in your service, Monsieur, I said to myself: ‘I’d better station myself where I can see the walls and the garden gate since that’s the only entrance. If I find a good spot, and because it’s raining, I’ll stay there all day and all night, and tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready to go.’ That was around two o’clock, at Batignolles, where I had gone to get something to eat after I left you, Monsieur Rodolphe. I returned to the Champs-Élysées and I looked for someplace to wait. What do I see? A small hole in the wall not ten steps from your door. I took a seat on the ground floor, near the window. I ordered a liter and a handful of walnuts; I said I was waiting for friends—a hunchback and a tall woman—to avoid suspicion. I sat down and there I am staring at your door. It was raining, storming; no one was in the street and night was approaching.”

“But,” asked Rodolphe, interrupting Chourineur, “why didn’t you go to my house?”

“You told me to come back the next morning, Monsieur Rodolphe. I didn’t dare return before then. I would have looked like a flunky, a bootlicker, as they say in the army. After all, I know what I am, I’m nothing but an old jailbird, and when someone like you takes a liking to someone like me, Monsieur Rodolphe, I don’t take matters into my own hands, I wait for your OK. After that, if I see a spider on your collar, I knock it off and squash it without asking your permission. Understand? So, there I was at the window, cracking my nuts and drinking my wine, when, through the fog, who do I see but the Owl with little Tortillard, Bras-Rouge’s boy.”

“Bras-Rouge! Isn’t he the one who runs the bar on the Champs-Élysées?”

“Yes, Monsieur Rodolphe, you didn’t know?”

“I thought he lived in La Cité.”

“He does. Bras-Rouge lives everywhere. He’s a fine rogue, he is, with his yellow wig and pointy nose. So, when I see the Owl and Tortillard come charging by, I say to myself, ‘Good, now we’ll see some action.’ Tortillard went to conceal himself in a ditch along the alleyway, opposite your door, as if he was trying to get out of the rain but really to serve as a lookout. As for the Owl, she takes off her bonnet, puts it in her pocket, and knocks on the door. Your friend, poor Monsieur Murph, comes to the door and opens it; and she goes running around the garden flapping her arms. I’d give my tongue to the dogs to find out what the Owl was doing there. Finally, she comes out of the house, puts her bonnet back on, says a couple of words to Tortillard, who crawls back into his hole, and off she goes. And then . . . one moment, let’s not get mixed up. Tortillard came with the Owl; the Schoolmaster and Monsieur Rodolphe are with Bras-Rouge. The Owl came to inspect the house, which means they’re going to do the job this evening. If they do it tonight, Monsieur Rodolphe, who thinks it will happen tomorrow, is in trouble. If Monsieur Rodolphe is in trouble, I’d better see what Bras-Rouge is up to. But what if the Schoolmaster shows up in the meantime? I’m about to enter the house and tell Monsieur Murph to be on guard. But that little worm Tortillard is right by the door. He’ll hear me knock, he’ll see me, and he’ll warn the Owl. And if she comes back, it’ll spoil everything, especially since Monsieur Rodolphe may have had other plans for tonight. Confound it! All those ‘yeses’ and ‘no’s’ fluttering around my head. I was stumped, confused, I didn’t know what to do. I said to myself, ‘I have to go outside. Maybe the fresh air will clear my head.’ Out I go, and I have an idea. I take off my smock and my neckerchief. I step over to the ditch and grab Tortillard by the scruff of the neck. He squirms and tries to scratch me, then he starts to cry. I wrap him up in my smock and tie the sleeves together. I use my neckerchief to tie the other end, making sure he can breathe and put the package under my arm. Nearby is a small kitchen garden surrounded by a low wall. I toss Tortillard into the carrot patch. He’s grunting and groaning like a suckling pig, but you can’t hear him when you step away. I take off, just in time! I climb one of the tall trees in the alleyway, opposite your door, just above the ditch. Ten minutes later, I hear footsteps. It’s still raining and dark, so dark the devil would have stepped on his own tail. I’m listening. It’s the Owl: ‘Tortillard! Tortillard!’ she whispers. Yes, go find your little Tortillard. ‘I guess he got tired of waiting in the rain. If I catch him, I’ll skin him alive!’ It was the Schoolmaster, and he was swearing up and down.”

“Then the Owl says: ‘Fourline, be careful, maybe he went to warn us about something. What if it’s a trap? The other one didn’t want to do it before ten.’ ‘That’s why,’ says the Schoolmaster, ‘it’s only seven. You saw the money. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Give me the pry bar and the chisel.’”

“Where did the tools come from?” Rodolphe asked.

“From Bras-Rouge. He’s got everything. It only took a minute to force the door. ‘Stay here,’ the Schoolmaster says to the Owl. ‘And be careful. Shout if you hear something.’ She replies, ‘Put your knife in the buttonhole on your waistcoat; that way you’ll be able to get at it sooner.’ The Schoolmaster goes into the garden. I say to myself, ‘Monsieur Rodolphe isn’t here. He could be dead or alive. There’s nothing I can do, but our friends’ friends are. . . Oh! Excuse me, Your Highness.”

“Go on. Go on. And then?”

“I said to myself, ‘The Schoolmaster might kill Monsieur Murph, who would be caught unprepared. I’ve got to get there first.’ So, I jump down from the tree and run right into the Owl. I punch her twice and knock her out. She goes down like a sack of bricks. I enter the garden. But Monsieur, I was too late.”

“Poor Murph.”

“When he heard a noise at the door, he must have stepped out of the vestibule. He struggled with the Schoolmaster on the landing; although he was wounded, he stood his ground and didn’t cry out for help. A courageous man. Like a faithful dog. A shot to the teeth is better than shouting, as I always say. So I jump on both of them, grabbing the Schoolmaster’s leg, which was the only piece available at the time. ‘Long live the Charter! It’s me, Chourineur! Run for it, Monsieur Murph!’ ‘You rogue, where did you come from,’ shouts the Schoolmaster, a bit stunned. ‘Take that,’ I answer, gripping one of his legs between my knees and grabbing a wing, the one with the knife, the good one. ‘Where’s Rodolphe,’ Murph shouts, coming to my assistance.”

“A brave man, an excellent man,” Rodolphe murmured with remorse.

“‘I don’t know,’ I say. ‘This riffraff may have killed him.’ And I again fall upon the Schoolmaster, who was trying to stab me with his knife. But I had my chest on his arm, and only his fist was free. ‘Are you alone?’ I say to Monsieur Murph, as we continue our struggle with the Schoolmaster. ‘There are people nearby, but they won’t be able to hear my cries.’ ‘Is it far?’ ‘Maybe ten minutes.’ ‘Let’s shout for help; if someone is around, they’ll come to our assistance.’ ‘No, we’ve got him now, we need to keep him here. But I’m getting weak. I’ve been wounded,’ Monsieur Murph says to me. ‘What! Then, run for help, if you have time. I’ll try to hold him here. Take his knife, just help me get on top of him. He’s twice as strong as I am, but I can handle him once I’ve got him where I want him.’ The Schoolmaster didn’t say a word, but was panting like an ox. What a struggle! Monsieur Murph couldn’t get the knife away from him; his fist is like a vise. Finally, putting all my weight on his right arm, I got both hands behind his neck and joined them, almost like I was going to kiss him—I had always wanted to pin him like that. I said to Monsieur Murph, ‘Hurry. I’ll wait for you. If you find someone, have them pick up the Owl; she’s behind the garden gate where I left her.’ I remained with the Schoolmaster. He knew what was in store for him.”

“But he didn’t know. Neither did you, brave friend,” said Rodolphe, darkly, his features contracted into a hard, wild expression.

Surprised, Chourineur said to Rodolphe: “The Schoolmaster must have suspected what was coming. Now, I don’t want to boast, but there was a moment when I thought I was done for. We were half on the ground, half on the last step of the landing. I had my arms around his neck, my cheek against his. I could hear him grind his teeth. It was dark, still raining, and the lamp in the vestibule continued to cast its pale light upon us. One of his legs was locked in mine, but his strength was such that he succeeded in lifting both of us a foot off the ground. He tried to bite me but was unable. I had never felt so energetic. My heart was beating, but it beat in the right place. I said to myself, ‘I feel like I’m wrestling a mad dog.’ The Schoolmaster says, ‘Release me and I won’t hurt you.’ ‘Why, you coward, I see courage isn’t your strong point. You wouldn’t have dared to murder and rob the drover from Poissy had he been as strong as me, would you!’ ‘No,’ he says, ‘but I’m going to kill you just as I killed him.’ And he raised his chest so violently, while stiffening his legs, that he threw me off. But my arms were still clenched around his head and his right arm was pinned beneath me. When his legs were free, he made good use of them, and that gave him some momentum. He flipped me half-way over. If I didn’t have his knife arm pinned, I would have been finished. At that very moment, my left wrist slipped and I had to release my grip. That made things worse. I said to myself, ‘This time, I’m on the bottom and he’s on top. He’s going to kill me. It’s just as well, I prefer my situation to his. Monsieur Rodolphe told me I had strength and honor. I feel it to be so.’ And that’s when I saw the Owl standing on the steps, with her round eye and red shawl. I thought I was having a nightmare. ‘Finette,’ shouts the Schoolmaster, ‘Get the knife. There, beneath him. Stab him in the back, between the shoulderblades.’ ‘Wait, wait, Fourline, I need to get my bearings.’ And then the Owl starts to circle around us like the bird of ill omen that she is. Finally, she sees the knife and is about to grab it, when I kicked her in the stomach and knocked her over. But she gets up and tries again. I had little strength and was still hanging on to the Schoolmaster, but he came from below and punched me so hard in the jaw that I almost let go. I started to pass out when I saw three or four armed men running down the steps with Monsieur Murph, very pale, leaning heavily on the doctor. They grabbed the Schoolmaster and the Owl and tied them up. That wasn’t all. I had to do it, Monsieur Rodolphe. I jumped on the Owl and, remembering poor Goualeuse’s tooth, I grabbed her arm and twisted. I said, ‘Where’s Monsieur Rodolphe?’ She remained silent. Another twist and she cried, ‘He’s with Bras-Rouge. In the cellar of the Coeur-Saignant.’ As I left, I grabbed Tortillard from the carrot patch; it was on my way. There was nothing but my smock. He had torn it open with his teeth. When I arrived at the Coeur-Saignant, I grabbed Bras-Rouge by the neck. ‘Where’s the young man who came here this evening with the Schoolmaster?’ ‘Not so hard! I’ll tell you. We wanted to play a trick on him and locked him in the cellar. I’ll show you.’ Down we go. No one. ‘He must have escaped when I had my back turned,’ he says. ‘You see, there’s nobody here.’ Feeling let down, I started to leave when, by the glow of the lantern, I noticed another door. I ran over to the door and pulled hard--and that’s when I got drenched. But I saw your two little arms fluttering in the air. I fished you out and carried you here on my back, as there was no one to find a carriage. That’s what happened, Monsieur Rodolphe and, I must say, without boasting, that I’m rather satisfied.”

“My boy, I owe you my life. A debt I promise to pay back, and in every way possible. You’ve got a big heart, and I’m certain you feel the same way I do. I’m deeply concerned about Murph, whom you so courageously saved. And as for those who nearly took your life and his, my vengeance shall be terrible.”

“I understand, Monsieur Rodolphe. Betraying you the way he did, throwing you into the cellar, and dragging you down to a vault so you might drown—the Schoolmaster deserves everything he gets. He admitted he had murdered the drover. I’m no innocent but this time I’ll gladly call the police and have the scoundrel arrested!”

“David, would you see how Murph is doing?” Rodolphe asked without answering Chourineur. “Then, come back here.”

The doctor left.

“Do you know where the Schoolmaster is?”

“In a low-ceilinged room with the Owl. Are you going to send for the police, Monsieur Rodolphe?”

“No.”

“You’re not going to let him go, are you? Monsieur Rodolphe, let’s not hear of such generosity. He’s a rabid dog, a menace to society.”

“I assure you, he won’t bite anyone else.”

“Are you going to lock him up somewhere?”

“No, in a half hour he shall leave these premises.”

“The Schoolmaster?”

“Yes.”

“Without the police?”

“Yes.”

“How? He’ll leave here a free man?”

“Free.”

“Alone?”

“Yes, alone.”

“But where will he go?”

“Wherever he pleases,” said Rodolphe, interrupting Chourineur with a chilling smile. The doctor returned.

“Well, David? What about Murph?”

“He’s sleeping, Your Highness,” replied the doctor disconsolately. “He’s still having difficulty breathing.”

“Still in danger?”

“His situation is very grave, Your Highness. However, there is hope.”

“Oh, Murph! Revenge! Revenge!” cried Rodolphe with cold, concentrated fury. “David, may I have a word with you?” And he whispered into the doctor’s ear. The man shuddered.

“Are you hesitating? We’ve discussed this many times. Now we must put it into practice.”

“It is not hesitation, Highness. I approve of the idea. It contains an entire system of penal reform worthy of the attention of our great criminologists, for the penalty would be simple, terrible, and just, and in this case entirely appropriate. Without enumerating the many crimes that would have put this villain in prison for good, he has committed murder and made an attempt on your life and that of Murph. It is just.”

“And before him he shall have a limitless horizon of repentance,” added Rodolphe. “Very well, David, we understand one another.”

“We are working toward the same end, Your Highness.”

After a moment’s silence, Rodolphe added, “Will five thousand francs be sufficient, David?”

“Perfectly, Your Highness.”

“My good fellow,” Rodolphe said to a shocked Chourineur, “I have something to say to monsieur. In the meanwhile, in the adjacent room you’ll find a large red portfolio on the desk. Take five thousand-franc notes and bring them to me.”

“Who for?” Chourineur added involuntarily.

“For the Schoolmaster. And while you’re there, tell them to bring him in.”


This work received support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States through their publishing assistance program.

Contributors

Eugène Sue

French author, Eugène Sue (1804 – 1857) was born near the city of Cannes in southern France and came from a distinguished family of doctors. Like his father, Sue also studied medicine. He began his career as a naval doctor but retired in 1829 to write.

In 1842 he began writing Les Mystères de Paris, a novel in parts published serially in Le Journal des Débats. It was the first time in a novel that readers had been exposed to the social agitation and mixing of classes experienced in the bars and cabarets of Paris’s dense core on Ile de la Cité.

His complete works, depending on the edition, run to 78 volumes.

Robert Bononno

ROBERT BONONNO is credited with the translation of over two dozen full-length works of fiction and nonfiction and numerous shorter pieces. These include René Crevel’s My Body and I—a finalist for the 2005 French-American Foundation Prize—Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image, and Henri Raczymo’s Swan’s Way. In 2002 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete a translation of the non-fiction work of Isabelle Eberhardt and in 2010 he received an NEA grant for the retranslation of Eugène Sue’s classic crime novel, The Mysteries of Paris. Mr. Bononno’s latest translation, Pascal Kramer’s Autopsy of a Father, was recently published by Bellevue Literary Press.

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