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out of its path, and in a few moments the steamer floated freely on the powerful river, dividing the waters with its paddles, so that they bounded high and foaming against the bow; and the wherries rocked backwards and forwards in the waves raised by the gigantic paddles.
But who comes running up the Levee, waving handkerchief and cap, and yelling and shouting, to the no small amusement of the bystanders, calls till he can no longer utter a sound, waves his cap till he has no strength left to lift an arm, and then seats himself—when he sees that the vessel is going further and further from him, and all his haste, trouble, and fear were in vain, desperately wringing his hands—upon the ballast that is piled upon the Levee ?
It is a poor German, who arrived only three days before from his fatherland, who intends to go up to Missouri, and his whole family—a wife, three young children, and an aged mother, who would not be left alone in the old home-are on the vessel that is gradually disappearing in the misty distance. Many ask him what is the matter, many laugh at him, some pity him—he himself sits unsympathizing, and with his eyes fixed on the river. He understands no English, and, consequently, does not comprehend their questions, their ridicule, or their pity; but all he understands is, that he is alone, destitute, in a foreign city, and will never, never again see those who belong to him, and to whom his heart cleaves.
The poor fellow's wife scarce perceives that the boat has started, and knows her husband is on shore, than she rushes with flying hair, forgetting all else, to beg them to wait for him who may be nought to all the world, but is all the world to her. Poor woman! 'Tis the first time she has travelled in an American steamer: and the belief that anything would be done out of charity may be forgiven hershe knows no better!
“Don't understand !" is the reply she receives to her entreaties, accompanied, probably, by an oath, as she is in the way of those drawing in the cable. A German sailor, at length, hears her complaints, and runs to the mate, to represent the poor woman's situation to him.
“Go to the captain. I've something else to do. Why wasn't the German fool on board ?" is the reply he receives. He runs to the captain, and tells him the story in a few words.
“Too late too late !" says the latter, shrugging his shoulders. “The man had time enough to come on board."
“But, captain, his wife and children are alone on board, and don't speak any English. They have no one, therefore, to protect them.”
“It's very bad ; but I cannot help them. I cannot turn back five or six miles to pick up a 'tween-deck passenger, who neglected to come on board betimes."
I. In the little drawing-room of a rustic cottage, from which the Seine and the low hills of Meudon could be descried, an extremely animated dialogue was being maintained between two individuals of a different sex-one was a man, about fifty-five years of age, endowed with an open, kindly cast of features, and dressed in one of those loose costumes which many people adopt with the approach of advanced years, as if they were thus preparing for increased corporeal dimensions. The other was a lady, some two lustres younger, of a full-blown, flaunting maturity, and whose pretentious toilette announced the existence of a coquettish disposition, in better preservation than her personal attractions.
"But, my dear sister! But, Mademoiselle Bailleul! But, dear sister 1" exclaimed the male personage in a doleful tone,
** Your dear sister, indeed! That is not the question, Yes or no-Will you do what I request ?"
* But, my dear sister, it is impossible !" "Nothing is impossible !"
" But you won't see that it is a question of a sacred promise, of an engagement of honour, of a clause in a marriage-settlement."
"Nonsense! In family matters, such strict notions are not at all proper."
“But permit me to observe, it is anything but nonsense--it is a very serious affair. When your niece, Adolphine, married Chaudieu, I settled on her a marriage-portion of 40,000 francs, payable three months after the signature of the marriage-contract. Eight months have passed already, and Chaudieu has not touched a single sou."
- What a terrible calamity! Is not Adolphine your only child? And will not All you have go to her after your death ?"
" After my death! How you talk ! I, for one, must frankly confess that I am not impatient for that consummation to be brought about. Anyhow, it is quite clear that I owe 40,000 francs to my son-in-law; and it is an exceedingly painful reflection to me that I did not discharge that obligation the day it was due. Poor Chaudieu says nothing, but I am not at all sure he would be sorry to see the colour of my money. This house has cost him a large sum, and he has spent a great deal of money in furnishing it, and on the wedding-presents. A married life does not end on the bridal-day; and perhaps he is reckoning on this money to cover a part of his expenses."
* How fond you are of contemplating bugbears! I think, sir, that people in our position might be considered safe for 40,000 francs !"
" Precisely-you are quite right," answered M. Bailleul in a dignified tone.
* And that, failing M. Benoit Chaudieu, Adolphine might have secured a husband !"
** Undoubtedly. But he ought to have received this money two months ago ; and it would be exceedingly disagreeable if he were to ask me for it some fine morning, and I were not in a position to comply with his demand."
" Indeed, I should like to catch him doing anything of the kind !" replied Mademoiselle Bailleul, with a contemptuous curl of her lip. “I should teach him how to conduct himself towards people of our position. But you are giving yourself a great deal of uneasiness without any cause. Chaudieu is not a man to forget the respect due to us—I must say that for him.”.
“It is precisely because poor Benoit is such an innocent lamb that I am scrupulous - "
“ If he were a wolf, your scruples would, I believe, be still greater ; but I wish to put an end to this discussion. Of the 40,000 francs you have agreed to give with Adolphine, you have handed over 10,000, three months since, to M. Laboissière, to invest in his inexplosible-ship speculation, which he guarantees will yield you ten per cent. at the least. And now M. Laboissière requests, on the same terms, a second investment of 10,000 francs. You surely don't ask me to break my promise ?"
"Most assuredly not, my dear sister !" replied M. Bailleul, awed by the glance, of his imperial relative. “I am always only too glad to comply with your wishes. But it is on Chaudieu's account that I am embarrassed."
“Everything embarrasses you! One would suppose you were asked to swallow the sea at a gulp. Just understand what you are required to do. Instead of giving 40,000 francs to Chaudieu, you will pay him by yearly instalments of 2,000 francs. Your money, invested at ten per cent. in M. Laboissière's project, will yield this sum. Consequently, you will get rid of your debt without opening your purse; and you will gain 20,000 francs to boot. That is quite clear, I believe."
“Undoubtedly. But I don't like to propose this arrangement to my son-in-law." “Then leave the matter to me." " And as to these inexplosible ships, are they safe ?" “Safe! When they cannot be wrecked !" “The ships-yes! But the money of the shareholders ?"
"Ah! that's quite another thing! Do you consider M. Laboissière an honest man ?"
“Oh! certainly !"
"Black, because I say white; that's your way. I believe that you would positively become ill if you were but once to agree with me."
" At any rate, I fancy that I always end by agreeing with you," exclaimed the brother with a sigh.
“In that case, why don't we commence with the end? It would save us a great deal of tiresome argument. I hope, however, that this last is quite exhausted, and that it is agreed you will hand over the 10,000 francs to M. Laboissière. By the way, he will be here soon, and all you'll have to do will be to give him a line to your lawyer.”
M. Bailleul took several turns up and down the apartment with the air of a whipped spaniel. Presently he stopped, and, turning upon his sister with a suspicious look
“ Laboissière dines here again to-day, then ?” he said in a low voice.
“That displeases you ?” replied Mademoiselle Bailleul sharply.
“I did'nt say that. Laboissière is a very agreeable fellow-one I am always glad to meet; but, between ourselves, I should be better pleased if his visits to this house were less frequent."
"Why, pray ?"
“Now, am I in the habit of losing my temper?" answered the lady, in a voice which rose a note at each reply.
“I didn't say that."
As she uttered these words, Mademoiselle Bailleul blushed slightly—a strange proceeding on the part of a female of her age and temperament.
The brother did not observe this embarrassment, completely occupied as he was in preparing a speech which should not create a storm.
“Personally, I haven't the slightest objection to M. Laboissière," he said, " not the shadow of an objection. This I have proved by consenting to place, at your wish, another ten thousand francs in his hands. I have not a single word to say against him myself, but— but you surely must be able to guess what I am going to say. It is on Adolphine's account.”
"Oh, if that's all — "
"Now there's not a grain of common sense in your remarks. I grant you that, before her marriage, M. Laboissière's visits to your house were mainly on Adolphine's account, and that he appeared anxious to become her husband."
"That reminds me it might have been the case had you desired it.”
“I know what I am saying," replied the old man in a firmer tone than was usual with him. “You are feared, matters are hidden from you, consequently you remark nothing ; but as for me, I am looked upon as an amiable being, who sees no further than the end of his own nose ; and it is only when your back is turned that any constraint is deemed necessary."
Mademoiselle Bailleul's features underwent a sudden change, and the contemptuous irony of her smile gave place to a violent agitation. Her cheeks fushed, her eyes sparkled, and the veins in her neck swelled till that particular portion of her figure resembled the head of a double bass. Perceiving the terrible effect of his words, M. Bailleul recoiled several paces.
"Explain yourself. Speak! What have you seen ?" demanded his sister, in a voice broken with emotion.
“But, first of all, my dear sister, don't allow yourself to be so overcome by your feelings. It is only natural that you should love your niece, but Adolphine is not a child. And, besides "
“Speak, then !" replied Mademoiselle Bailleul with redoubled energy.
"But what do you wish me to say ?" stammered out M. Bailleul, whose hesitation was increased by the agitation of his sister. “Well, I have seen, or, rather, I believe I have seen, that Laboissière, instead of thinking no longer about my daughter, as you imagine, thinks all the more about her. Now this is exceedingly unfortunate, especially for poor Chaudieu, who is honesty and goodness personified. In a word, Madame Adolphine flirts rather too much with Laboissière. I have been almost on the point of telling her so."
“That is not your business; this concerns only me," interrupted Mademoiselle Bailleul with a gloomy air.
“I am glad to hear you say so. You can't fail to see how awkward it would be for me to speak on the subject with Adolphine, while the only lady in the house, her aunt, seemed totally unconscious — ".
“I repeat, this is not your business !" replied the tempestuous lady, in a voice sɔ loud that M. Bailleul appeared desirous of subsiding into the arm-chair whereon he was seated.
An interval of silence ensued. The easy brother durst not breathe a syllable lest he should draw down upon his head the lightning he saw sparkling in his sister's eyes; the latter was rendered mute by an indignation which aunts rarely experience, towards even the most unpardonable faults of their nieces. At length, unable to overcome her emotion, Mademoiselle Bailleul rushed to the window, as if choking for want of air.
At this moment the sound of coach-wheels was heard, and almost at the same instant the bell announced a visitor. Hidden by the window-blinds, Mademoiselle Bailleul could perceive all that took place outside without being seen herself. The gate opened ; an elegant cabriolet immediately drove into the courtyard. The proprietor of this spruce equipage was a young man about thirty years of age, of sinall stature, but very well made, and with an erect carriage. The expression of his face was bold, not to say insolent; a bantering smile played about his lips, and his least gesture announced an assurance bordering on presumption. The slightly reddish tint of his hair and moustache assisted in giving boldness to a cast of features with which also the style of his dress and his coat, decorated with gilt buttons, and cut in the martial style of the days of the empire, harmonized completely.
After stepping from the cabriolet, this deliberate individual handed the reins to à servant not less resplendent than himself, who drove the vehicle out of the courtyard with the ease of one perfectly acquainted with the spot. Having crossed the garden, and reached the porch of the cottage, the visitor made a smiling salute to some person who was not Mademoiselle Bailleul. The latter, slightly drawing back the curtain, perceived, at the parlour window, her niece, who, however, withdrew immediately, without being aware of the espionage of which she was the object. Mademoiselle Bailleul herself made a sudden movement in retreat from the window, and knocked against her brother, who had silently placed himself behind her, and had lost nothing of the scene.
“Well, have I been deceived ?" he said, wagging his head mysteriously. “She waits for him at the window, so as to see him first. She hardly allows him to leave his cab before she salutes him. We need not fear that they will come here, for she knows where we are."
“Will she dare to receive him?" replied Mademoiselle Bailleul in an ominous tone.
"I didn't say that ; but the garden has some pretty walks." " Is not Chaudieu there?" "He is in the kitchen-garden, absorbed in painting his trellis. Poor fellow !