Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/The two fingers
THE TWO FINGERS.
BY MISS PARDOE.
At the extremity of a little country town at no great distance from Tours, on the high coach-road from Paris to Bordeaux, there stood about thirty years ago a pretty wayside inn with white walls, and a swinging sign bearing the effigy of Le Grand Roi, otherwise Henry IV. On either side, and to the rear of the buildings, extended spacious gardens, which were carefully tended; and where trellised arbours, bowery trees, and beds of flowers framed it so charmingly that it would have looked, had its sign been removed, rather like the villa, or château, of some wealthy landholder, than a mere house of public entertainment.
Under these circumstances it is scarcely wonderful that it should have been the favourite halting-place of travellers, postillions, and merchants; and it was rarely indeed that Le Grand Roi was without other inmates than its own actual inhabitants. The interior of the establishment was, moreover, no less inviting than its exterior; for the white walls and green shutters without, were no whit more promising of comfort and cleanliness than the well-arranged and lightsome chambers within. On the ground floor there was a vast entrance-hall, from which opened on the right hand a dining-room; and, on the left, a spacious kitchen, where the cooking-utensils gleamed brightly in the light of a large fire that blazed within the ample chimney, and whence the savoury steam of many a well-cooked dish came temptingly to the craving appetite of the hungry wayfarer. Order and cleanliness were perceptible everywhere—strange features of a French roadside inn; not a broken pane of glass, not a loosened hinge, not an armful of decayed vegetables, either in front of the building or beside it; everything was swept, garnished, and arranged as though dirt and neglect had never been heard of in the district.
It was during a November evening, in the year 1818, when the wind was sighing and surging without, and the rain plashing down with uncompromising resolution, that the worthy landlord of Le Grand Roi, the honest but somewhat imperious M. Ebrard, his three children, and one of his neighbours, who had taken shelter from the inclemency of the weather at his comfortable hearth, were seated round an enormous fire of pine logs, talking over the local gossip, and enjoying themselves as those only can do who feel a sensation of security from the inflictions of such a storm.
“Just hear the rain!” exclaimed M. Ebrard, after an instant, during which all the party had been silenced by a louder and wilder blast than any by which it had been preceded. “This is the third day that it has been pouring down, without a prospect of any change for the better. I was looking at the clouds to-night before I fastened up the house, and I might as well have looked at the crown of my hat, for they were just as black and as unpromising. Even the wind has no power over it; all is as dark as the chimney-back. As to travelling in such a deluge, no one would be mad enough to attempt it; so, neighbour, it seems to me that we shall be wise to turn our feet to the warm ashes, and to make a night of it. Marie,” he pursued, addressing a young girl who was seated near him. “Go, and fetch two bottles of my best wine. You know where to find it; on the left hand, at the far-end of the cellar.”
At these words, uttered in a harsh and imperative tone, the young girl started as if awakened out of a dream; and, as it seemed, instinctively threw back upon the speaker a haughty and indignant glance; but she recovered herself in an instant, and lighting a small hand-lamp, she left the room without remonstrance or remark.
“Ah!” ejaculated the landlord, with a low, hoarse, chuckling laugh, as she disappeared. “Mademoiselle Marie is somewhat of a grande dame, you know, mon voisin; but as pride and poverty pull badly in the same team, she knows that when I command she has only to obey; so that it matters little after all.”
“Elle est belle fille!” said his friend admiringly.
“She might be; she might be, if she had any blood in her veins;” was the cold rejoinder: “but she is not to my taste, though she may suit yours. However, what can’t be mended must be borne: we all know that.”
Whoever could have looked on that young girl as she lighted her lamp, and then returned from the cellar with the wine in her hand, must have been struck by the immobility of her features, and the excessive pallor of her complexion; for no marble statue could have been colder and more impassive in appearance. Beautiful she was in no ordinary degree, and both her face and figure were perfect, but it was a beauty and a perfection which were unearthly in character, and altogether incompatible with the scenes and persons with which she was associated. She was not the daughter of M. Ebrard. Nature could not so far have belied herself. She was the only child of one who had been a merchant of great wealth and high standing, but who, having ruined himself by injudicious speculations, and not being possessed of sufficient moral courage to face his reverses, had terminated his own existence, leaving his penniless widow and helpless orphan to battle with a world by which he, the strong man, had been worsted. Strange cowardice, but not so singular as strange.
Madame Delfour, habituated not only to comfort, but to every luxury of life, and still young and beautiful, was so terrified at the beggary which stared her in the face, that when, after the first few months which followed her husband’s cowardly suicide, she found her remaining francs were rapidly dwindling into sous, she was, after a sharp struggle, prevailed upon to give her hand to the landlord of Le Grand Roi, in order to secure bread for herself and her child; but the sacrifice was too great. Every habit and every association of her youth were opposed to the strange sphere in which she found herself; and although she still clung with almost frantic tenderness to the infant Marie, even a mother’s love failed to counteract the misery and mortification of her new life. She pined and died, and the poor girl was left alone to expiate a father’s crime.
M. Ebrard soon forgot his ailing and melancholy wife, and replaced her by another less beautiful but more congenial to his habits, and better suited to her position; a good, homely, buxom, stirring femme de ménage, almost a match for himself in energy and thrift; but he was fated to be unfortunate in his matrimonial speculations; as, after making him the father of two boys, she too left him a widower; upon which M. Ebrard, who considered himself extremely aggrieved by destiny, and who, moreover, remembered that Marie Delfour was rapidly attaining to a serviceable age, resolved thenceforward to suffice to himself, and to continue the Alpha and Omega of his comfortable establishment.
“I have tried both extremes,” he argued with himself; “I have indulged in the luxury of a dame comme il faut without a penny, who had visited her Paris every year, and had the fashions at her fingers’ ends as I have my wine-merchant’s accounts, and who wound up by dying and leaving me with a child that was not my own; and what profit was she to me? I felt every hour in the day that she was ashamed of me; that she blushed for me; that I could neither talk nor act as she thought right; and that she was too proud to blame me, while she was not too haughty to despise me. Well, and what was the end of that? I found myself a widower, with Marie left upon my hands, who, in a year or two, began to cry if a traveller ventured to tell her that she was pretty, or a more adventurous admirer to talk to her of love. What could I do? Of course I tried again, and this time I did better, for I was not afraid to be master of my own house; but here I am, en garçon once more, with two boys—my own, this time, I suppose—and I may as well not run the risk of increasing the family. I am sick of women; when they are useless they worry out a man’s heart, and when you can turn them to some account, they die.”
M. Ebrard could not be branded as a sentimentalist.
“Come, come, Marie!” he shouted as she returned to the kitchen; “do you want to spend the night in the cellar? You must bestir yourself a little more, for I can’t afford to keep you to be looked at; and if I could, you would not do me any credit, with a face as white as unbaked paste, and your great black eyes staring as though you saw a ghost from morning till night. Did you ever see such a girl?” he continued, turning towards his companion, “wouldn’t you think that she had all the troubles of the world on her back to look at her!—Now then, why don’t you bring the glasses? Do you imagine that we are going to drink out of the palms of our hands?”
“Your health, neighbour,” said the visitor, as he poured out a tumbler-full of wine from the bottle before him, when Marie had silently obeyed. And still the wind roared in the wide chimney, and the rain plashed against the windows, as unremittingly as though the storm had only just commenced, and had, as yet, had no time to exhaust itself. The two boys huddled together in a corner, half-frightened and half-amused by the elemental uproar without, while the pale beautiful girl resumed her seat and her knitting, and fell into another deep fit of abstraction.
Suddenly two distinct blows were heard on the house-door, given apparently with the handle of a riding-whip, and the men removed their pipes from their mouths and listened; the boys sprang up from the floor, and Marie started like a person suddenly awakened from a heavy sleep.
“Who on earth can this be!” exclaimed the landlord, “it can’t be a traveller, unless the diligence is behind its time; and besides——”
Again two loud knocks echoed through the kitchen; and M. Ebrard, somewhat reluctantly, took up the lamp, traversed the wide passage which led to the outer door, and then, without attempting to open it, he demanded, in a harsh impatient voice, who was there?
“A traveller,” was the reply; “are you going to keep me in the rain for another hour?”
“What do you want?” was the next interrogation.
“What do I want? Why, some supper and a bed, of course, if I am not quite drowned before you let me in.”
“There, don’t be angry, Monsieur, whoever you are;” grumbled the host, as he drew back the ponderous bolt and turned the large key in the lock. “Walk in, and remember you have arrived at such an unusual hour, that, when our part of the country is known to be swarming with robbers, a man who has anything to lose had need be careful not to open his door to one of the band.”
As he spoke he raised his lamp to a level with the stranger’s face. The investigation apparently terminated satisfactorily, for his manner changed at once; he bowed respectfully, shouldered a trunk which stood upon the threshold, re-closed the door, and preceded the new-comer to the kitchen.
A fine-looking young man threw off his large wrapping-cloak, which was dripping with mud and rain, made one bound towards the blazing fire, and seated himself upon the bench opposite to Marie, saying, in a clear, joyous voice as he did so; “This is charming, this is delicious, mine host! Had you expected me, I could not have wished a pleasanter welcome. And now I must ask you to hasten my supper, for I want to get off by the patache to —— to-morrow at daybreak; I should like to go to bed as early as I can.”
“All will be ready in ten minutes,” said Ebrard. “But you will excuse me if I venture to remind you that you might have gone on there by the diligence, as it passes through the town, instead of stopping here only to start again at dawn.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the stranger; “you are either very curious or very timid, Monsieur mon hôte, for you have not as yet got rid of your distrust. In order to tranquillise you, therefore, I will explain thus much. My family reside in a country house at a short distance from the town, and by continuing my journey in the diligence I should have arrived in the middle of the night—an arrangement which I was particularly anxious to avoid: whereas, by taking the boat at six o’clock to-morrow morning, I shall reach home by dinner-time. Have I now succeeded in satisfying you as to my honesty of purpose?”
“Oh, Monsieur!” was the somewhat embarrassed reply of the landlord, as he met the sly smile of the young man; “you have quite misunderstood me. One look into your frank and handsome face was enough; although, to be sure, I was puzzled a little to guess what caused you to stop here when you could have gone on without a halt to your journey’s end.”
During this brief dialogue the eyes of Marie and the stranger met more than once; and while he examined her with undisguised admiration and astonishment, she, on her side, was for the first time aroused into something like interest in what was passing around her: the pale cheek flushed to the tint of a hedge-rose, and the curved and fiexile lips quivered with a nervous movement; while her head drooped upon her bosom, bowed down by a new and vague emotion, to which she could have given no name. A ray of light had mysteriously penetrated the darkness and desolation of her spirit; for the first time since her mother’s death she felt as though she were no longer alone.
She turned one hurried look on the friend of her stepfather—the heavy, soulless peasant who sought to make her his wife, and her heart swelled with indignation and loathing; the glance wandered back, and it rested for an instant upon the high fair brow, the waving curls, and the beaming countenance of the young traveller—the guest of a few brief hours. Poor Marie! at that moment she fully appreciated all the bitterness of her position. What could she appear in the eyes of such a being as he who was before her, but a menial! a creature to come and go at the bidding of every one who could repay her services with money? While he—The poor girl shuddered, and choked back her tears; she was not free even to weep over herself.
The supper was served, and in less than twenty minutes had disappeared; and then her step-father once more aroused her by harshly desiring that she would light a candle, and conduct Monsieur to his chamber.
The poor girl passively obeyed, and led the way to a large and cheerful room on the first story.
“You cannot be the daughter of the landlord?” said Adolphe de Rosval, as she placed the light upon a table.
“I am not, Monsieur,” replied Marie; and a vivid blush overspread her cheeks.
“I thought so. Those white and delicate hands, and that crimson brow, are evidence to the contrary at this moment. Have you many travellers in the house to-night?”
“You are the only one.”
“I am glad of it, for your sake. What is your name, Mademoiselle?”
“The sweetest of all names! It becomes you well.”
“Does Monsieur require anything more?” asked the girl timidly.
“Nothing,” said the young man, bowing as courteously as though she had been some high-born dame. “Good night.”
The salutation was returned, the door of the chamber closed, and Marie descended the stairs, stumbling at every step.
Adolphe could not recover his astonishment. Who could this young girl be? Was he the victim of a mystification? No; that was impossible; for even his own family were not aware that he had obtained a month’s leave of absence from Saint Cyr, in order that he might receive the congratulations of his friends on his promotion to a sub-lieutenancy. What, then, could it mean? That she was not the daughter of his coarse and ungenial host, she had herself admitted: that she was a mere menial, was an idea to be scouted ere it was formed: and yet that this was her home was nevertheless evident. The bouquet of roses upon his dressing-table attested it; it had been arranged by no vulgar or servile hand. The graceful grouping of the somewhat scanty furniture, and the very sweep of the snowy draperies that depended from the windows and the bed, spoke of her care and taste. Who could she be?
As he reached this point of his reverie a log from the summit of the fire, fell noisily on the hearth. It was necessary to replace it, and this little domestic care sufficed to break the spell. After all, what was it to him? He was travel-worn and weary: and so M. le Sous-Lieutenant Adolphe de Rosval hastily divested himself of his clothes, and, without extinguishing his light, threw himself on his bed.
When Marie returned to the kitchen she found that her peasant-lover had availed himself of a sudden change in the weather to wend his way homeward, and that the two boys had retired to their bed in the grenier; but her father was not alone. A second traveller had taken up his rest at Le Grand Roi, and she examined him with a sudden and inexplicable feeling of curiosity. He was a man of between forty and fifty years of age, tall and powerful, with broad shoulders and ample chest; his grizzled hair was brushed low upon his forehead, and there was a sinister expression in his eyes; but his features were well-formed, and his manner self-possessed and easy. It was at once evident to her that his appearance had greatly impressed her step-father, who was waiting upon him with the utmost obsequiousness.
“I imagine,” he said, just as she entered, “that I must be your only pratique to-night, for the weather will have kept all comfort-loving people under their own roofs.”
“Pardon me, monsieur,” was the reply; “the room next to your own is already occupied by a young man who arrived little more than an hour ago; but there is no fear that he will disturb you, for he appears to be a perfect gentleman, and is moreover so tired, and so anxious to get on, that he leaves us at daybreak tomorrow.”
The brow of the stranger darkened, and he made no reply.
“Be careful,” he said, a few minutes after wards; “to call me in the morning at seven o’clock, for I must be at Tours by mid-day. Ah! by the bye, I shall require a saddle-horse—let one be ready for me, as my time is precious.”
“My neighbour Marie-Joseph Carnac,” responded the landlord, “has the best roadster in the district; he can be here by half-past six.”
“Good,” said the guest; “then I will follow the example of your other inmate, and betake myself to rest.”
“Marie, a light!” cried Ebrard; and the young girl once more ascended the stairs to marshal the new-comer to his room.
Adolphe was, as we have stated, already in bed, with the candle still burning upon his table. He had, as yet, been unable to sleep; his brain was too busy. His newly-acquired rank; the anticipated meeting with his parents and his sisters; and, mingled with these proud and happy thoughts, the mystery attached to Marie, had made him wakeful; so that when he heard the heavy tread of a man’s foot traversing the passage, and passing the door of his room, he was conscious of every sound. Suddenly a thought struck him; and, springing to the floor, he took a key from his waistcoat-pocket, opened his trunk, and seizing his uniform sword which lay upon the top, placed it under his pillow.
Midnight struck from the old clock in the kitchen, and all was profoundly silent in the house, but still Adolphe remained sleepless; when suddenly he was startled by a sound, which appeared to him like that of a key slowly turned in the lock. He listened attentively; but, as it was not repeated, he concluded that he had been the sport of his own over-excited nerves, and drawing the bed-clothes closer about him, he determined to profit by the few hours which were left, and to endeavour to obtain some rest. He had scarcely begun to sleep, however, when he was a second time disturbed, and on this occasion he was at once convinced that he had made no mistake. Some one was endeavouring to enter his room. The candle had burnt out; but, grasping his sword, he noiselessly groped his way to the door, and stood motionless beside it. About five minutes afterwards the noise ceased, and he began to hope that the would-be intruder had abandoned all hope of invading his privacy, whatever might have been his motive for seeking to do so. He had carefully locked the door of his room, and had little fear that the fastening could be forced; but, accidentally casting his eyes on the floor, he saw by the light of the moon which gleamed full upon the window of his room, and which, rendered more vivid by its contrast from the subsided storm, was pouring out its chastened radiance from a now cloudless sky, that a hand had been introduced between the boards of his chamber and the bottom of the door, and was seeking to lift it from its hinges. This was too much: and steadily raising his sword above his head, he struck downwards with all his force upon the hand thus traitorously employed. A smothered groan fell upon his ear, and then a half-articulated curse. These were succeeded by a sound of stealthy steps retreating along the passage, and ere long all was still—but two bleeding fingers remained lying upon the floor!
Adolphe rushed to the fireplace; a few warm fragments of wood enabled him to light a second candle which stood upon the chimney-piece, and he then proceeded to examine the hideous trophy of his victory. For a moment he shrank from touching the first “fleshing” of his maiden sword, but he rapidly overcame the weakness, and picking up the severed fingers, he carefully washed away the blood, and folded them up in his handkerchief.
“On the honour of a sous-lieutenant,” he murmured to himself, “that was a lucky stroke, and really, for a robber, the fingers are passably slender, and the nails tolerably clean. Well, I suppose that all is over for to-night; so, as I am shivering with cold, I had better go to my bed again.”
Adolphe was young and fearless; and in a quarter of an hour he was sound asleep.
Day was breaking when the landlord awoke our hero, who accepted, with considerable satisfaction, a cup of excellent coffee prepared by the delicate hands of Marie. As he did so he instinctively cast a glance at those of M. Ebrard, and had no sooner ascertained that they were intact than he began to relate to him his nocturnal adventure, and to point to the blood upon the floor of the chamber, and to the ghastly parcel upon the chair. The honest landlord turned ashy white as he listened, and clung to the arm of Adolphe for support; but he had no sooner rallied than he rushed towards the room of his elder guest. The door was open, he drew back the curtains of the bed, and found it empty; traces of blood were distinguishable in the direction of the window, which was also open; he looked out; the heavy impress of a man’s foot was visible on the soft soil of the garden which abutted on the high road; and thus M. Ebrard, excited as he was, soon convinced himself that the mutilated robber could be no other than the stately traveller who had honoured his poor house on the preceding night.
His indignation and horror were extreme; and he had no sooner seen Adolphe depart than he hurried off to acquaint the police with what had occurred; not forgetting to relieve his mind by the way, by communicating to every acquaintance whom he met the particulars of the tragedy which had desecrated the hitherto respectable auberge of Le Grand Roi.
Adolphe de Rosval reached his home about mid-day; as he was not expected, and accompanied his first greetings with the welcome intelligence of his new honours, his appearance was hailed with the most vehement joy. His fond mother wept as she held him to her heart, and his sisters clung to him with mingled tenderness and pride.
“Only think, mamma, he is an officer already! Is it not charming? What will papa say?”
“But where is my father?” asked the young man—“his welcome is still wanting.”
“You know he is often from home,” said Madame de Rosval; “and we are as little as ever in his confidence. He left us three days ago, but we expect him home to-day.”
“And is he still as low-spirited and as silent as when I saw him last?” inquired Adolphe.
“Unfortunately, yes,” replied the gentle matron. “I fear that he has involved himself in speculations beyond our means; and that the idea of having compromised the future welfare of his children presses heavily upon him; but your unlooked-for return, Adolphe, and your happy tidings will, I trust, restore him to cheerfulness.”
As soon as the family circle had become somewhat more composed, and that one person was at length permitted to speak at a time, Adolphe was overwhelmed with questions, every member of the party being anxious to learn all that he had done since their last parting.
“It is, at all events, a blessing,” said his mother, as she fondly passed her hand over his hair, “that you have performed your journey without any accident, my son, however monotonous you may have found it.”
“Nay, ma bonne mère,” smiled Adolphe; “it was not altogether so monotonous as you may imagine; for I at least met with one adventure strange enough to bear telling.”
“An adventure, and a strange one?” exclaimed his sisters simultaneously; “Oh, Adolphe, let us hear it.”
He complied with their request, and no cheek around him grew paler than his own as he recalled the extraordinary event of the previous night.
“And, by the bye,” he added, when he had brought his narrative to a close, “I must not forget to tell you that I carried away with me the undeniable proofs of my victory—here they are;” and as he spoke he drew a handkerchief from his pocket in which something was evidently folded.
At that very instant the door of the room opened, and a man entered, large in stature, but pale and weak, and with his clothes saturated with rain. He could scarcely stagger to a chair before he sank down like one whose vital powers were utterly exhausted; and in a moment the whole family were crowded about him.
“My father! my dear father!” exclaimed Adolphe; “weary as you evidently are, how thankful I am that you have returned; I have news for you that will, I know, be welcome.”
As he spoke the young man extended his hand, but the action met with no response; and as he glanced towards that which was so strangely withheld, he remarked that it was enveloped in a blood-stained linen.
“What!” he asked anxiously, “are you suffering from more than fatigue? Have you been wounded?”
“Yes,” was the faint reply; “as I was coming through the forest, four leagues from this, I was attacked by brigands. I had heard that they were in the neighbourhood, but I believed it to be an idle rumour. I endeavoured to defend myself; and in the fray one of the ruffians struck off two of my fingers. I am faint from loss of blood; give me some wine, and I shall soon be better.”
Madame de Rosval hurried to the sideboard, and with a trembling hand and swimming eyes brought the required refreshment, while the two elder girls wound their arms about their father’s neck, and wept piteously. Adolphe stood motionless, like one in a frightful dream; but little Rosalie, the pet and plaything of the family, too young to comprehend the sorrow on which she looked, and full of curiosity to see what her soldier brother had really brought home, busied herself in unfolding the handkerchief which had fallen from his hand on the entrance of his father, and she had no sooner succeeded than, clapping her chubby hands in childish delight, she called out almost breathlessly:
“Mamma! Mamma! Adolphe has got the two fingers he cut off at the inn; give them to poor papa, and then he will be quite well again.”
In another hour M. de Rosval was in the hands of justice. The landlord of Le Grand Roi had been so active in his exertions to redeem the honour of his house, that the gensdarmes had tracked the culprit by the traces of his blood; and in the extremity of their anguish his family had forgotten to urge upon him a second flight.
On the 20th of December, the assize-court of Tours was filled to overflowing. The event was one productive of unusual excitement; the idle and the unfeeling were on the tiptoe of expectation; a drama of real life, and involving real suffering, was to be concluded before their very eyes. A father was about to be tried for the attempted murder of his son; and, moreover, the prisoner was no common criminal, but a man of old and honoured family. No wonder that the whole city was convulsed with curiosity and animation!
The court had assembled: the prisoner was ushered to his seat; the jury were duly sworn, and the proceedings commenced.
Pale, agitated, and painfully excited, Adolphe de Rosval replied to the summons of the greffier, and prepared to give his evidence. He was closely wrapped in a large military cloak, but raised his right hand steadily, and repeated the oath in a clear and audible voice.
“What is your name?” demanded the President.
“Adolphe Ernest Leon de Rosval.”
“Pupil of St. Cyr; sub-lieutenant of the —— regiment of the line.”
Then followed the whole detail of the nocturnal attempt upon his life; or, as he persisted in believing it to be, upon his property; but he was, as a necessary consequence of his position throughout the adventure, unable to establish the identity of the culprit. Not once had he ventured to turn his eyes towards the Banc d’Infamie on which his wretched father was seated between two gensdarmes; and the President, touched by the painfulness of his position, gave him permission to withdraw.
Jean Antoine Ebrard was the next witness called. He had been dead three weeks.
As the third name rang through the hall, a young girl dressed in deep mourning, and wearing a long black veil which concealed her face, was led to the witness-chair; as she took the oath she trembled violently; but when desired to say if she recognised the prisoner, she answered firmly: “No.”
Poor Marie! She had perjured herself to save the father of the youth to whom, in one short hour, she had given away her heart. Adolphe had been, as we have already said, the solitary ray of brightness which had pierced through the darkness of her lot; and in seeking to save him one bitter pang, she had perilled her own soul.
The circumstantial evidence against M. de Rosval was overwhelming, but still failed to establish the identity of the culprit. The evidence of the landlord or his step-daughter must have condemned him; but the one was dead, and the other had positively sworn that she had never seen him before.
After the counsel for the prosecution (procureur du roi) had addressed the court, the counsel for the prisoner made an able speech, in which he strenuously endeavoured to prove an alibi. He stated that it was impossible to prove that the prisoner at the bar had slept at the aubérge of Le Grand Roi on the night of the mysterious event which had led to the present trial, since the only witness now alive, who must have seen him had such been the case, had solemnly assured the court that she did not recognise him. “No, gentlemen of the jury,” he concluded, “the accused has been a victim, not an assassin. That he has been mutilated by violence is certain; but he has explained, in the clearest manner, the cause of this unfortunate coincidence; and the sword of the son is unstained by the father’s blood.”
“To prove which fact,” exclaimed a hollow and almost inarticulate voice from amidst the crowd in the body of the court, “there are the fingers which I cut off under the door of my room.” And as Adolphe ceased speaking, an officer of the court laid them upon the desk of the President.
Having silently examined them, an expression of astonishment was visible upon the countenance of the learned judge, who handed them to the procureur, by whom they were in turn transferred to the jury-box. It was at once perceived that the severed fingers thus produced in evidence had belonged to the left hand, while M. de Rosval was mutilated in the right!
Three days subsequently Adolphe had ceased to live. Mortification had supervened upon the frightful wound which he had inflicted upon himself in order to save the life of his father, and to preserve the honour of his family.
The young soldier’s career was over; his dream of fame had gone down with him to the grave. He met Marie once more: they had been self sacrificed in a common cause. Each appreciated the devotion of the other—each felt that thenceforward they had done with the world, and the world with them. Adolphe de Rosval lies in the cemetery of his native town; and Marie Delfour, after performing a penance of many years as a Sister of Charity, has found a grave in one of the West Indian Islands.