List Of Contents | Contents of Derues, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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daylight which now appears, and make room for other phantoms which
rend their shrouds and issue from the tomb demanding vengeance.

Derues was now soon to have a chance of obtaining immortality.
Hitherto his blows had been struck by chance, henceforth he uses all
the resources of his infernal imagination; he concentrates all his
strength on one point--conceives and executes his crowning piece of
wickedness.  He employs for two years all his science as cheat,
forger, and poisoner in extending the net which was to entangle a
whole family; and, taken in his own snare, he struggles in vain; in
vain does he seek to gnaw through the meshes which confine him.  The
foot placed on the last rung of this ladder of crime, stands also on
the first step by which he mounts the scaffold.

About a mile from Villeneuve-le-Roi-les-Sens, there stood in 1775 a
handsome house, overlooking the windings of the Yonne on one side,
and on the other a garden and park belonging to the estate of
Buisson-Souef.  It was a large property, admirably situated, and
containing productive fields, wood, and water; but not everywhere
kept in good order, and showing something of the embarrassed fortune
of its owner.  During some years the only repairs had been those
necessary in the house itself and its immediate vicinity.  Here and
there pieces of dilapidated wall threatened to fall altogether, and
enormous stems of ivy had invaded and stifled vigorous trees; in the
remoter portions of the park briers barred the road and made walking
almost impossible.  This disorder was not destitute of charm, and at
an epoch when landscape gardening consisted chiefly in straight
alleys, and in giving to nature a cold and monotonous symmetry, one's
eye rested with pleasure on these neglected clumps, on these waters
which had taken a different course to that which art had assigned to
them, on these unexpected and picturesque scenes.

A wide terrace, overlooking the winding river, extended along the
front of the house.  Three men were walking on it-two priests, and
the owner of Buisson-Souef, Monsieur de Saint-Faust de Lamotte.  One
priest was the cure of Villeneuve-le-Roi-lez-Sens, the other was a
Camaldulian monk, who had come to see the cure about a clerical
matter, and who was spending some days at the presbytery.  The
conversation did not appear to be lively.  Every now and then
Monsieur de Lamotte stood still, and, shading his eyes with his hand
from the brilliant sunlight which flooded the plain, and was strongly
reflected from the water, endeavoured to see if some new object had
not appeared on the horizon, then slowly resumed his walk with a
movement of uneasy impatience.  The tower clock struck with a noisy

"Six o'clock already!" he exclaimed.  "They will assuredly not arrive

"Why despair?" said the cure.  "Your servant has gone to meet them;
we might see their boat any moment."

"But, my father," returned Monsieur de Lamotte, "the long days are
already past.  In another hour the mist will rise, and then they
would not venture on the river."

"Well, if that happens, we shall have to be patient; they will stay
all night at some little distance, and you will see them to-morrow

"My brother is right," said the other priest.  "Come, monsieur; do
not be anxious."

"You both speak with the indifference of persons to whom family
troubles are unknown."

"What!" said the cure, "do you really think that because our sacred
profession condemns us both to celibacy, we are therefore unable to
comprehend an affection such as yours, on which I myself pronounced
the hallowing benediction of the Church--if you remember--nearly
fifteen years ago?"

"Is it perhaps intentionally, my father, that you recall the date of
my marriage?  I readily admit that the love of one's neighbour may
enlighten you as to another love to which you have yourself been a
stranger.  I daresay it seems odd to you that a man of my age should
be anxious about so little, as though he were a love-sick youth; but
for some time past I have had presentiments of evil, and I am really
becoming superstitious!"

He again stood still, gazing up the river, and, seeing nothing,
resumed his place between the two priests, who had continued their

"Yes," he continued, "I have presentiments which refuse to be shaken
off.  I am not so old that age can have weakened my powers and
reduced me to childishness, I cannot even say what I am afraid of,
but separation is painful and causes an involuntary terror.  Strange,
is it not?  Formerly, I used to leave my wife for months together,
when she was young and my son only, an infant; I loved her
passionately, yet I could go with pleasure.  Why, I wonder, is it so
different now?  Why should a journey to Paris on business, and a few
hours' delay, make, me so terribly uneasy?  Do you remember, my
father," he resumed, after a pause, turning to the cure," do you
remember how lovely Marie looked on our wedding-day?  Do you remember
her dazzling complexion and the innocent candour of her expression?-
-the sure token of the most truthful and purest of minds!  That is
why I love her so much now; we do not now sigh for one another, but
the second love is stronger than the first, for it is founded on
recollection, and is tranquil and confident in friendship .  .  .  .
It is strange that they have not returned; something must have
happened!  If they do not return this evening, and I do not now think
it possible, I shall go to Paris myself to-morrow."

"I think;" said the other priest, "that at twenty you must indeed
have been excitable, a veritable tinder-box, to have retained so much
energy!  Come, monsieur, try to calm yourself and have patience: you
yourself admit it can only be a few hours' delay."

"But my son accompanied his mother, and he is our only one, and so
delicate!  He alone remains of our three children, and you do not
realise how the affection of parents who feel age approaching is
concentrated on an only child!  If I lost Edouard I should die!"

"I suppose, then, as you let him go, his presence at Paris was

"No; his mother went to obtain a loan which is needed for the
improvements required on the estate."

"Why, then, did you let him go?"

"I would willingly have kept him here, but his mother wished to take
him.  A separation is as trying to her as to me, and we all but
quarrelled over it.  I gave way."

"There was one way of satisfying all three--you might have gone

"Yes, but Monsieur le cure will tell you that a fortnight ago I was
chained to my arm-chair, swearing under my breath like a pagan, and
cursing the follies of my youth!--Forgive me, my father; I mean that
I had the gout, and I forgot that I am not the only sufferer, and
that it racks the old age of the philosopher quite as much as that of
the courtier."

The fresh wind which often rises just at sunset was already rustling
in the leaves; long shadows darkened the course of the Yonne and
stretched across the plain; the water, slightly troubled, reflected a
confused outline of its banks and the clouded blue of the sky.  The
three gentlemen stopped at the end of the terrace and gazed into the
already fading distance.  A black spot, which they had just observed
in the middle of the river, caught a gleam of light in passing a low
meadow between two hills, and for a moment took shape as a barge,
then was lost again, and could not be distinguished from the water.
Another moment, and it reappeared more distinctly; it was indeed a
barge, and now the horse could be seen towing it against the current.
Again it was lost at a bend of the river shaded by willows, and they
had to resign themselves to incertitude for several minutes.  Then a
white handkerchief was waved on the prow of the boat, and Monsieur de
Lamotte uttered a joyful exclamation.

"It is indeed they!" he cried.  "Do you see them, Monsieur le cure?
I see my boy; he is waving the handkerchief, and his mother is with
him.  But I think there is a third person--yes, there is a man, is
there not?  Look well."

"Indeed," said the cure, "if my bad sight does not deceive me, I
should say there was someone seated near the rudder; but it looks
like a child."

"Probably someone from the neighbourhood, who has profited by the
chance of a lift home."

The boat was advancing rapidly; they could now hear the cracking of
the whip with which the servant urged on the tow-horse.  And now it
stopped, at an easy landing-place, barely fifty paces from the
terrace.  Madame de Lamotte landed with her son and the stranger, and
her husband descended from the terrace to meet her.  Long before he
arrived at the garden gate, his son's arms were around his neck.

"Are you quite well, Edouard ?"

"Oh yes, perfectly."

"And your mother?"

"Quite well too.  She is behind, in as great a hurry to meet you as I
am.  But she can't run as I do, and you must go half-way."

"Whom have you brought with you?"

"A gentleman from Paris."

"From Paris?"

"Yes, a Monsieur Derues.  But mamma will tell you all about that.
Here she is."

The cure and the monk arrived just as Monsieur de Lamotte folded his
wife in his arms.  Although she had passed her fortieth year, she was
still beautiful enough to justify her husband's eulogism.  A moderate
plumpness had preserved the freshness and softness of her skin; her
smile was charming, and her large blue eyes expressed both gentleness
and goodness.  Seen beside this smiling and serene countenance, the
appearance of the stranger was downright repulsive, and Monsieur de
Lamotte could hardly repress a start of disagreeable surprise at the
pitiful and sordid aspect of this diminutive person, who stood apart,
looking overwhelmed by conscious inferiority.  He was still more
astonished when he saw his son take him by the hand with friendly
kindness, and heard him say--

"Will you come with me, my friend?  We will follow my father and

Madame de Lamotte, having greeted the cure, looked at the monk, who
was a stranger to her.  A word or two explained matters, and she took

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