La Goualeuse remained seated on the overturned tree trunk. Suddenly, a man rose from the bottom of the ditch, shook the bedding beneath which he had been sleeping, and exploded with laughter. La Goualeuse turned and shrieked with fright. It was Chourineur.
The farm to which Rodolphe led Fleur-de-Marie was located just outside and at the end of the village of Bouqueval, a small solitary parish, unnoticed, buried deep in the countryside, and roughly two leagues from Écouen. The carriage, following Rodolphe's directions, descended a steep road and entered a long avenue bordered with cherry and apple trees.
Rodolphe headed toward the courtyard, where he found the tall man who, the evening before, disguised as a coal porter, had come to warn him of the arrival of Tom and Sarah. Murph, for that is his name, was about fifty years old. A few silvery strands highlighted two small tufts of bright blond hair that stuck out on either side of his otherwise bald head.
One month had passed since the events we last spoke of. The readers attention is now drawn to the small village of LÎle-Adam, which occupies a delightful vantage point along the Oise river, at the edge of a forest. Here, in the countryside, the smallest events assume importance. And that morning the idlers of LÎle-Adam, as they strolled across the square before the church, were greatly occupied with the arrival of the new owner of the towns finest butcher shop, recently sold by the Widow Dumont.
Through the attentions of Murph and Rodolphe, who with some difficulty managed to calm his agitation, Chourineur returned fully to his senses after a long crisis. He found himself alone with Rodolphe in one of the rooms on the first floor of the butcher shop.
Eugène Sue owed his immense popularity to the series of sensational novels of Parisian low life, which he began in 1842 with Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris). The book appeared as a serial novel, or feuilleton, in the conservative newspaper Le Journal des Débats. The Mysteries of Paris provided its readers with an examination of working-class and criminal Paris that no novel had until then portrayed. Sues book, with its portraits of prostitutes, criminals, and villains of all stripes, who speak in their own language and move about in their own milieu, caused a scandal upon its release. Unlike his contemporaries, in The Mysteries of Paris Sue abandoned the drawing rooms of the beau monde for the dive bars and cabarets of central Paris, Ile de la Cité, where the story is set.
The reader may recall the two patrons in the bar who were under close observation by a third person who had arrived sometime after them. As mentioned, one of the two men wore a Greek cap, kept his left hand hidden, and had, upon entering the premises, inquired of the Abbess regarding the arrival of the Schoolmaster.
It was midday and the rain fell in torrents. The Seine, swollen by the continuous downpour, had risen to a dangerous height and flooded part of the wharf. From time to time, Rodolphe glanced impatiently at the toll gate. Finally, in the distance, he saw a man and woman advance behind the shelter of an umbrella. He recognized the Schoolmaster and the Owl.
After responding to the Schoolmasters signal, the host of the Coeur-Saignant advanced with civility to the doorway. The man, whom Rodolphe had searched for in La Cité, and whose real name he did not yet know, was Bras-Rouge. Small, thin, stunted, and weak, the man looked to be about fifty.
The following scene transpired in a brilliantly lit salon draped entirely in red. Rodolphe, dressed in a long dressing gown of black velvet, which further augmented his paleness, was seated before a large table covered with a rug.
Baron de Graün continued: About 18 months ago, a young man by the name of François Germain arrived in Paris from Nantes, where he had been employed by the banking firm of Noël & Company. Based on statements made by the Schoolmaster and several letters found on him, it appears that the scoundrel to whom he had entrusted his son for the sole purpose of corrupting him, so he might one day be of use to his criminal activities, revealed the terrible plot to the young man when he suggested that he assist them in an attempted robbery and forgery at the firm of Noël & Company, where François Germain worked.
he Schoolmaster and the Owl, lurking in an alley just opposite the bar, watched as Chourineur walked down the street alongside a house that was being demolished. Soon, his steps, made heavy by the evening’s abundant libations, were lost in the howling wind and the splattering of the rain against the walls. Tom and Sarah left the tavern in spite of the storm and headed in the direction away from Chourineur.
At that moment Rodolphe instructed the driver, who had passed the village of Sarcelles, to take the first road on the right, cross Villiers-le-Bel, and then turn left, heading straight. Turning to La Goualeuse, he said “Now that you’re satisfied with me, we can amuse ourselves with building castles in Spain. It doesn’t cost much, so you can’t reproach me for the expense.”
A blazing fire burned in the hearth and a lamp placed on the dresser cast a bright light throughout the apartment. Rodolphes bed, surrounded by thick curtains of green damask, remained in darkness.
It had just struck ten in the morning. In the middle of a large room on the ground floor, located next to Rodolphes office, Murph sat at a desk sealing messages. An usher, dressed in black and wearing a silver chain around his neck, opened the two leaves of the door to the waiting room and announced: His Excellency, Baron Graün.