Графични страници
PDF файл





STOLE AWAY! WHILE Rachel was sadly meditating on the danger to which Walter was exposed, she heard Monsieur Perrotin at the door.

Nature had not gifted him with an ear for music, neither had he profited by his acquaintance with Monsieur Cantagrel to acquire the slightest rudiments of harmonious utterance, but there were moments, notwithstanding, when it behoved the Teacher of Languages to lift up his voice in song. It was not his habit to do this convivially, or in any way coram publico, but when quite alone and with some secret cause for rejoicing, he would privately indulge in melody-after his own peculiar fashion. It is true his répertoire was not extensive, being limited, in fact, to the first verse of “ Malbrouk;" but for a man who does not sing much, who happens to be a Frenchman, and is not very particular as to what he sings, “ Malbrouk” is enough. So, with a light heart and nobody near, Monsieur Perrotin came quavering along the Chemin aux Bæufs, and thus signalled his approach to his wife. The refrain was on his lips as he entered, but he did not complete it, for the tears that stood in Rachel's eyes changed the current of his thoughts directly.

“My dear wife," he said, hastening towards her-"you cry! What have you

?" “Oh, Pascal,” she replied, “I have some dreadful news to tell.”

“ Mon Dieu !” he exclaimed, “there is arrived no misfortune to that dear child ?”

“No, Pascal, no! Not yet! But it may happen at any time. He is pot safe for a moment."

Monsieur Perrotin looked bewildered. “ Tell to me what is this !” he said.

“ There has been a person here," answered Rachel, “who brought me a letter from Mrs. Scrope.”

6 And then ?"

“She claims Walter. We are ordered to give him up—he is to bem to be taken"

Her sobs prevented her from going on.
Monsieur Perrotin sat down beside his wife.

“Rachel," he said, soothingly, “cry not. That does to me harm. It is very painful, I know, for you, and also for me, to think of to part from Walterre, but if Madame Scrop command it, then should we be glad that at last she has good intentions.”

“Ah, Pascal, I cannot bring myself to believe that she means kindness. Judge for yourself!"


[ocr errors]

So saying, she gave her husband Mrs. Scrope's letter. He also grew pale, and his hand trembled while he read it.

Certainly,” he said, when he had ended, “love for our boy is not there written.”

“ Neither is it in her heart!" cried Rachel. “The past speaks for itself, and now these threats !

Oh, if

you had only seen the man who came for Walter !"

“ Is he the servant to Madame Scrop ?".

“When she wants him ; yes! He is the one I told you of that was brought down with his wife to look after Miss Edith before Walter was born. For all the evil those two did, God forgive them! He told me,” continued Rachel, speaking with difficulty—“he told me, Miss Edith was dead! Oh, Pascal, what are we to do ?”

“My love," said Monsieur Perrotin, pressing his wife's hand tenderly, “ perhaps we have in our power something. A quarter of an hour ago I was of a gay humour-you hear me sing in my walking ?”

Rachel smiled faintly.
“Yes--that is always a good sign with you.".
- You have reason.
What for I was gay to-day I tell you.

It came of Monsieur Vermeil, who, since the people are talking of the escapade of Jules—the reason why he jump himself into the river—is a greatly changed person. You know, my dear wife, that in France the ridicule kills. For a sword or a pistol-bah-it is nothing ! But to mock him, no one can endure that! Therefore, in the first place, Monsieur Vermeil break all to pieces that famous work which we inaugurate. I pass by his shop this morning. The · Récompense de la Vertu' is no longer in the window: all is emptiness. I

go in to ask how that is. I see Monsieur Vermeil. “My friend,' he say, you are the person I want. Come with me! He take me into a back room, where I find sitting Madame Vermeil. They have much to speak about.”

We will relieve Monsieur Perrotin of the task of telling his story in broken English, by speaking for him ourselves.

The subject of discussion was Jules. His father had formed the resolve of removing him from Rouen, but could not decide where to send him. It was a question whether he should go to London or Paris, and Monsieur Perrotin's advice was asked, with a special proposition annexed. Although Monsieur Vermeil's artistic triumph had been brief, the affection for Walter, generated by its cause, was enduring; he was, indeed, the enfant gâté of the confectioner and his wife—the chosen friend of Jules, and the hero of Mademoiselle Cécile. With what Monsieur Vermeil had to say about his son he also associated Walter. The confectioner had driven too brisk a trade for the last twenty years to be other than a rich man, and he knew, as well as the Teacher of Languages himself, that Monsieur and Madame Perrotin were poor; but that difference, to a delicate mind, made all the difficulty. "Monsieur Vermeil's motives, of course, were mixed ones—it is difficult to meet with any that are not-but as the friendship between the two boys was strong, he based his proposition on their mutual regard: it was to the effect that Walter should accompany Jules--and that all the expenses attendant upon their residence elsewhere should be defrayed by the too grateful confectioner. Monsieur Perrotin was taken by surprise, and knew not what to reply; indeed, it was not possible for him to give an answer at once, as Rachel must first be con

sulted. But he did not throw cold water on the scheme, because it struck him that the change would be advantageous to Walter. He had given the boy the best education his means afforded, but he felt that something more was necessary than either himself, the Abbé Ramier, or Monsieur Cantagrel could teach. Amongst them they had made Walter a perfect French scholar, his general acquirements were good, and if, in addition, he could have the advantage of two or three years at a college in Paris, he would be qualified then for any pursuit, should he eventually be compelled to seek his own living. As far as Walter was concerned, England was out of the question, and partially entertaining the confectioner's proposition, he easily persuaded him to throw London overboard, Madame Vermeil herself being all in favour of Paris. Monsieur Perrotin could not absolutely promise what was asked, but he bade his friend be of good cheer, and they parted, each in a happier frame of mind than when they met. It was the cheerful complexion of his thoughts which had stimulated his vocal organs as the Teacher of Languages wended homewards.

“ You see then, my dear wife,” said he, in conclusion—you see how an opportunity arises for placing Walterre beyond the reach of this terrible man! In Paris he should neverre be found !"

“ It was my own idea to fly with Walter,” replied Rachel, “ to leave him in safety somewhere, and never rest, myself, till I had discovered Miss Edith and told her all his story. But if she is dead, what will become of the darling child !"

Although the reverse of suspicious, Monsieur Perrotin was not deficient in penetration, and readily conjectured that Yates might have coined a lie for the occasion.

“ If I believe him or not,” he said, “ that makes nothing. First we shall prevent Walterre to fall in his hands; afterwards we think upon what is to be done. When comes this person again ?”

Rachel told him that Yates had promised to wait till the next morning, when, in case Walter were not given up, he had threatened to denounce them to the police. As matters stood, she thankfully accepted the kind offer of Monsieur Vermeil. Was it not possible, she asked, to hurry the departure of Jules ? Monsieur Perrotin replied that he would see about that immediately, and lost no time in returning to the Rue des Carmes, where, closeted once more with Monsieur Vermeil

, he did not hesitate to explain how Rachel and himself were situated, and the worthy confectioner, delighted to be of more use than he had imagined, assured Monsieur Perrotin that Jules could set out at a moment's notice, if necessary; It was finally agreed that all should be ready on both sides for leaving Rouen that night : Monsieur Vermeil would accompany his son to Paris, and take charge of Rachel and Walter. To keep their departure secret, it was settled that the travellers should meet at the railway.

While Monsieur Perrotin was absent making this arrangement, Walter came in from the Maitrise. Rachel addressed him with as cheerful an air as she could put on:

“How should you like, Walter,” she said, “to go to Paris ?” His eyes sparkled.

“ To Paris? Oh, of all things in the world! No-not that exactly; I would rather return to England. But still I should like very much to see Paris; I have heard so much said of it. What do you mean?”

"I mean, Walter, that you and I are going."

[ocr errors]

An expe

And Monsieur Perrotin ?" “ He remains here—for the present.”. “ For the present! Then, are we going to stay long ?”

Perhaps we may, Walter." " And when is it to be?” “What do you think of our being off before to-morrow?" “How very sudden! I never heard you talk of going before.” “ There are reasons for it, Walter-strong ones.

“ Rachel, dear, you look pale. Are you ill? Has anything vexed you? It isn't me? I wouldn't vex you for ever so much. Tell me, Rachel !"

He looked her anxiously in the face as he spoke. She threw her arms round his neck and kissed him. “Oh, no, no, dearest boy; you never vexed me in your

life.” “Something is the matter, though,” he said—“something that you don't like to mention."

Rachel hesitated. She was at a loss what reply to make. Again she was tempted to reveal his whole history, but a moment's reflection satisfied her that this, at any rate, was not the time for doing so. dient suggested itself that approached near enough to the truth to meet the necessity of the case.

“ You remember the way, Walter, in which you left Yorkshire ?" “ To be sure I do,” he answered, laughing. “I took French leave of Mr. Binks. I shall never forget how we tumbled the bag of flour into the beck."

“Suppose Mr. Binks had sent for you at last ?”

“He might send till he was tired; he would never get me back again. You wouldn't let me go,


Rachel ?" “Never, dear Walter! There is no fear of that. But we must leave Rouen as quickly as possible, for somebody did come here to fetch you this morning, and the same person means to return to-morrow.”

“But why should we run away? Mr. Binks has no right to me; I'll never live with anybody but you.

I'll tell the fellow so to his face!” “ You had better not see his face, Walter. It is one that people remember to their sorrow. No, my dear child, it must be as I have said. We cannot stay here.”

“Very well, Rachel. If you say so, that's enough for me. But I shall have a good deal to do. I'must go and say good-by' to the Vermeils, and the Abbé, and Monsieur Cantagrel, and I don't know how many people, besides all the fellows at the Maîtrise, not forgetting Madame Gembloux. I shall be sorry, though, to part with Jules.”

“ I think it very likely there will be no occasion for that. But here comes my

husband; he will tell us all about it.” It was a great delight to Walter to find that Monsieur Vermeil and Jules were to be his companions, and a pleasure to know that Madame Vermeil and Cécile would be at the station to take leave, as he had a great regard for them all. But he was disappointed at being told that he could not make the various adieux he had proposed, it being desirable to let as few persons as possible know of the journey. If it reached the ears of Madame Gembloux that they were going, all Rouen would hear of it before night. Walter was obliged, therefore, to content himself with writing farewell letters to the Abbé Ramier and his preceptor, which

Monsieur Perrotin promised faithfully to deliver, with many personal remembrances.

With this and with other preparations the rest of the day was consumed. It was an anxious one for Rachel, who dreaded lest her obnoxious visitor should take it into his head to return before the time he had named. No impediment, however, arose to prevent the execution of her project, and at the hour appointed the respective families met in the waiting-room of the station. To judge by the apparel of Monsieur Vermeil and Jules, it might have been supposed that, instead of midsummer, it was the depth of winter, and the scene not France but Lapland, so ample and heavy were the cloaks that swathed them, so resolutely were their sealskin caps tied over their ears, so completely were they muffled in suffocating comforters. The comestibles, too, which Madame Vermeil's care had provided, would have sufficed them for a journey to the other end of Europe. And then the counsel she


for avoiding the insidious night air, for the security of their persons and baggage, for the prevention of every sort of accident. Finally, the leave-takings, the multiplied embraces, the unrestricted application of pocket-handkerchiefs, the more last words:

“Adieu, mon mari !” “Adieu, ma femme !" “Adieu, mon père !” “Adieu, ma seur !" “Tu m'écriras, n'est-ce-pas ?” “Que je t'embrasse encore !” “ Finisses donc !” “Mon Dieu, est-il possible! Tu

“Ah, ça, rappelle-toi, mon ami, il y a une langue fumée dans le panier." “Je m'en garderai bien de l'oublier." “ Oh, que c'est navrant de te voir partir!" voyage;

Madame Perrotin !" " Bon voyage, Walterre!''

“Dis donc 'adieu,' Cécile!” “Ah, maman, jene-peux-pas,-ah,-ah-ah!

These last ejaculations were the sobs of Mademoiselle Cécile, whose grief was the loudest of all the party.

It is so sad to lose one's father and brother! But there is something more heartrending still—when one is not yet sixteen!

It was a very pretty little purse that some one pressed into Walter's hand at the very last moment. I wonder who gave it him !

He had not time to thank the giver, for the train was already in motion, bound for that "pleasant place of all festivity” which, in the opinion of every Frenchman, has no parallel in the universe.

pars !”

« Bon


HOW MR. YATES MADE SOME VALUABLE ACQUAINTANCE AT ROUEN. After leaving the Chemin aux Bæufs, Mr. Yates, satisfied that he had effectually wrought on Rachel's fears, and never doubting that Walter would be given up to him on the morrow, began to cast about for the means of amusing himself during the remainder of the day. Having no taste for antiquities or Gothic architecture, and the beauties of nature being entirely thrown away upon him, his time might have hung heavily on his hands if he had not remembered Monsieur Dufourmantelle's promise to procure a ticket of admission to the public maison de santé.

On arriving at the Hôtel de l'Europe he found the smiling commissioner in attendance, provided with the necessary order, and at the dig

« ПредишнаНапред »