Vautrin's Last Avatar/Section 14
When once he was outside, Jacques Collin had an indescribable sense of satisfaction. He felt he was free, and born to a new phase of life. He walked quickly from the Palais to the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, where mass was over. The coffin was being sprinkled with holy water, and he arrived in time thus to bid farewell, in a Christian fashion, to the mortal remains of the youth he had loved so well. Then he got into a carriage and drove after the body to the cemetery.
In Paris, unless on very exceptional occasions, or when some famous man has died a natural death, the crowd that gathers about a funeral diminishes by degrees as the procession approaches Pere-Lachaise. People make time to show themselves in church; but every one has his business to attend to, and returns to it as soon as possible. Thus of ten mourning carriages, only four were occupied. By the time they reached Pere-Lachaise there were not more than a dozen followers, among whom was Rastignac.
"That is right; it is well that you are faithful to him," said Jacques Collin to his old acquaintance.
Rastignac started with surprise at seeing Vautrin.
"Be calm," said his old fellow-boarder at Madame Vauquer's. "I am your slave, if only because I find you here. My help is not to be despised; I am, or shall be, more powerful than ever. You slipped your cable, and you did it very cleverly; but you may need me yet, and I will always be at your service.
"But what are you going to do?"
"To supply the hulks with lodgers instead of lodging there," replied Jacques Collin.
Rastignac gave a shrug of disgust.
"But if you were robbed——"
Rastignac hurried on to get away from Jacques Collin.
"You do not know what circumstances you may find yourself in."
They stood by the grave dug by the side of Esther's.
"Two beings who loved each other, and who were happy!" said Jacques Collin. "They are united.—It is some comfort to rot together. I will be buried here."
When Lucien's body was lowered into the grave, Jacques Collin fell in a dead faint. This strong man could not endure the light rattle of the spadefuls of earth thrown by the gravediggers on the coffin as a hint for their payment.
Just then two men of the corps of Public Safety came up; they recognized Jacques Collin, lifted him up, and carried him to a hackney coach.
"What is up now?" asked Jacques Collin when he recovered consciousness and had looked about him.
He saw himself between two constables, one of whom was Ruffard; and he gave him a look which pierced the murderer's soul to the very depths of la Gonore's secret.
"Why, the public prosecutor wants you," replied Ruffard, "and we have been hunting for you everywhere, and found you in the cemetery, where you had nearly taken a header into that boy's grave."
Jacques Collin was silent for a moment.
"Is it Bibi-Lupin that is after me?" he asked the other man.
"No. Monsieur Garnery sent us to find you."
"And he told you nothing?"
The two men looked at each other, holding council in expressive pantomime.
"Come, what did he say when he gave you your orders?"
"He bid us fetch you at once," said Ruffard, "and said we should find you at the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres; or, if the funeral had left the church, at the cemetery."
"The public prosecutor wants me?"
"That is it," said Jacques Collin; "he wants my assistance."
And he relapsed into silence, which greatly puzzled the two constables.
At about half-past two Jacques Collin once more went up to Monsieur de Granville's room, and found there a fresh arrival in the person of Monsieur de Granville's predecessor, the Comte Octave de Bauvan, one of the Presidents of the Court of Appeals.
"You forgot Madame de Serizy's dangerous condition, and that you had promised to save her."
"Ask these rascals in what state they found me, monsieur," said Jacques Collin, signing to the two constables to come in.
"Unconscious, monsieur, lying on the edge of the grave of the young man they were burying."
"Save Madame de Serizy," said the Comte de Bauvan, "and you shall have what you will."
"I ask for nothing," said Jacques Collin. "I surrendered at discretion, and Monsieur de Granville must have received——"
"All the letters, yes," said the magistrate. "But you promised to save Madame de Serizy's reason. Can you? Was it not a vain boast?"
"I hope I can," replied Jacques Collin modestly.
"Well, then, come with me," said Comte Octave.
"No, monsieur; I will not be seen in the same carriage by your side—I am still a convict. It is my wish to serve the Law; I will not begin by discrediting it. Go back to the Countess; I will be there soon after you. Tell her Lucien's best friend is coming to see her, the Abbe Carlos Herrera; the anticipation of my visit will make an impression on her and favor the cure. You will forgive me for assuming once more the false part of a Spanish priest; it is to do so much good!"
"I shall find you there at about four o'clock," said Monsieur de Granville, "for I have to wait on the King with the Keeper of the Seals."
Jacques Collin went off to find his aunt, who was waiting for him on the Quai aux Fleurs.
"So you have given yourself up to the authorities?" said she.
"It is a risky game."
"No; I owed that poor Theodore his life, and he is reprieved."
"I—I shall be what I ought to be. I shall always make our set shake in their shoes.—But we must get to work. Go and tell Paccard to be off as fast as he can go, and see that Europe does as I told her."
"That is a trifle; I know how to deal with la Gonore," said the terrible Jacqueline. "I have not been wasting my time here among the gilliflowers."
"Let Ginetta, the Corsican girl, be found by to-morrow," Jacques Collin went on, smiling at his aunt.
"I shall want some clue."
"You can get it through Manon la Blonde," said Jacques.
"Then we meet this evening," replied the aunt, "you are in such a deuce of a hurry. Is there a fat job on?"
"I want to begin with a stroke that will beat everything that Bibi-Lupin has ever done. I have spoken a few words to the brute who killed Lucien, and I live only for revenge! Thanks to our positions, he and I shall be equally strong, equally protected. It will take years to strike the blow, but the wretch shall have it straight in the heart."
"He must have vowed a Roland for your Oliver," said the aunt, "for he has taken charge of Peyrade's daughter, the girl who was sold to Madame Nourrisson, you know."
"Our first point must be to find him a servant."
"That will be difficult; he must be tolerably wide-awake," observed Jacqueline.
"Well, hatred keeps one alive! We must work hard."