Whereupon he left them abruptly to reflect with admiration on the ways
by which Providence had brought the innocent to victory.
"The finger of God is in all this," cried the abbe.
"Will they punish him?" asked Ursula.
"Ah, mademoiselle," cried La Bougival. "I'd give the rope to hang
Bongrand was already at Goupil's, now the appointed successor of
Dionis, but he entered the office with a careless air. "I have a
little matter to verify about the Minoret property," he said to
"What is it?" asked the latter.
"The doctor left one or more certificates in the three-per-cent
"He left one for fifteen thousand francs a year," said Goupil; "I
recorded it myself."
"Then just look on the inventory," said Bongrand.
Goupil took down a box, hunted through it, drew out a paper, found the
place, and read:--
"'Item, one certificate'-- Here, read for yourself--under the number
23,533, letter M."
"Do me the kindness to let me have a copy of that clause within an
hour," said Bongrand.
"What good is it to you?" asked Goupil.
"Do you want to be a notary?" answered the justice of peace, looking
sternly at Dionis's proposed successor.
"Of course I do," cried Goupil. "I've swallowed too many affronts not
to succeed now. I beg you to believe, monsieur, that the miserable
creature once called Goupil has nothing in common with Maitre Jean-
Sebastien-Marie Goupil, notary of Nemours and husband of Mademoiselle
Massin. The two beings do not know each other. They are no longer even
alike. Look at me!"
Thus adjured Monsieur Bongrand took notice of Goupil's clothes. The
new notary wore a white cravat, a shirt of dazzling whiteness adorned
with ruby buttons, a waistcoat of red velvet, with trousers and coat
of handsome black broad-cloth, made in Paris. His boots were neat; his
hair, carefully combed, was perfumed--in short he was metamorphosed.
"The fact is you are another man," said Bongrand.
"Morally as well as physically. Virtue comes with practice--a
practice; besides, money is the source of cleanliness--"
"Morally as well as physically," returned Bongrand, settling his
"Ha! monsieur, is a man worth a hundred thousand francs a year ever a
democrat? Consider me in future as an honest man who knows what
refinement is, and who intends to love his wife," said Goupil; "and
what's more, I shall prevent my clients from ever doing dirty
"Well, make haste," said Bongrand. "Let me have that copy in an hour,
and notary Goupil will have undone some of the evil deeds of Goupil
After asking the Nemours doctor to lend him his horse and cabriolet,
he went back to Ursula's house for the two important volumes and for
her own certificate of Funds; then, armed with the extract from the
inventory, he drove to Fontainebleau and had an interview with the
procureur du roi. Bongrand easily convinced that official of the theft
of the three certificates by one or other of the heirs,--presumably by
"His conduct is explained," said the procureur.
As a measure of precaution the magistrate at once notified the
Treasury to withhold transfer of the said certificates, and told
Bongrand to go to Paris and ascertain if the shares had ever been
sold. He then wrote a polite note to Madame Minoret requesting her
Zelie, very uneasy about her son's duel, dressed herself at once, had
the horses put to her carriage and hurried to Fontainebleau. The
procureur's plan was simple enough. By separating the wife from the
husband, and bringing the terrors of the law to bear upon her, he
expected to learn the truth. Zelie found the official in his private
office and was utterly annihilated when he addressed her as follows:--
"Madame," he said; "I do not believe you are an accomplice in a theft
that has been committed upon the Minoret property, on the track of
which the law is now proceeding. But you can spare your husband the
shame of appearing in the prisoner's dock by making a full confession
of what you know about it. The punishment which your husband has
incurred is, moreover, not the only thing to be dreaded. Your son's
career is to be thought of; you must avoid destroying that. Half an
hour hence will be too late. The police are already under orders for
Nemours, the warrant is made out."
Zelie nearly fainted; when she recovered her senses she confessed
everything. After proving to her that she was in point of fact an
accomplice, the magistrate told her that if she did not wish to injure
either son or husband she must behave with the utmost prudence.
"You have now to do with me as an individual, not as a magistrate," he
said. "No complaint has been lodged by the victim, nor has any
publicity been given to the theft. But your husband has committed a
great crime, which may be brought before a judge less inclined than
myself to be considerate. In the present state of the affair I am
obliged to make you a prisoner--oh, in my own house, on parole," he
added, seeing that Zelie was about to faint. "You must remember that
my official duty would require me to issue a warrant at once and begin
an examination; but I am acting now individually, as guardian of
Mademoiselle Ursula Mirouet, and her best interests demand a
"Ah!" exclaimed Zelie.
"Write to your husband in the following words," he continued, placing
Zelie at his desk and proceeding to dictate the letter:--
"My Friend,--I am arrested, and I have told all. Return the
certificates which uncle left to Monsieur de Portenduere in the
will which you burned; for the procureur du roi has stopped
payment at the Treasury."
"You will thus save him from the denials he would otherwise attempt to
make," said the magistrate, smiling at Zelie's orthography. "We will
see that the restitution is properly made. My wife will make your stay
in our house as agreeable as possible. I advise you to say nothing of
the matter and not to appear anxious or unhappy."
Now that Zelie had confessed and was safely immured, the magistrate
sent for Desire, told him all the particulars of his father's theft,
which was really to Ursula's injury, but, as matters stood, legally to
that of his co-heirs, and showed him the letter written by his mother.
Desire at once asked to be allowed to go to Nemours and see that his
father made immediate restitution.
"It is a very serious matter," said the magistrate. "The will having
been destroyed, if the matter gets wind, the co-heirs, Massin and
Cremiere may put in a claim. I have proof enough against your father.
I will release your mother, for I think the little ceremony that has
already taken place has been sufficient warning as to her duty. To
her, I will seem to have yielded to your entreaties in releasing her.
Take her with you to Nemours, and manage the whole matter as best you
can. Don't fear any one. Monsieur Bongrand loves Ursula Mirouet too
well to let the matter become known."
Zelie and Desire started soon after for Nemours. Three hours later the
procureur du roi received by a mounted messenger the following letter,
the orthography of which has been corrected so as not to bring
ridicule on a man crushed by affliction.
To Monsieur le procureur du roi at Fontainebleau:
Monsieur,--God is less kind to us than you; we have met with an
irreparable misfortune. When my wife and son reached the bridge at
Nemours a trace became unhooked. There was no servant behind the
carriage; the horses smelt the stable; my son, fearing their
impatience, jumped down to hook the trace rather than have the
coachman leave the box. As he turned to resume his place in the
carriage beside his mother the horses started; Desire did not step
back against the parapet in time; the step of the carriage cut
through both legs and he fell, the hind wheel passing over his
body. The messenger who goes to Paris for the best surgeon will
bring you this letter, which my son in the midst of his sufferings
desires me to write so as to let you know our entire submission to
your decisions in the matter about which he was coming to speak to me.
I shall be grateful to you to my dying day for the manner in which
you have acted, and I will deserve your goodness.
This cruel event convulsed the whole town of Nemours. The crowds
standing about the gate of the Minoret house were the first to tell
Savinien that his vengeance had been taken by a hand more powerful
than his own. He went at once to Ursula's house, where he found both
the abbe and the young girl more distressed than surprised.
The next day, after the wounds were dressed, and the doctors and
surgeons from Paris had given their opinion that both legs must be
amputated, Minoret went, pale, humbled, and broken down, accompanied
by the abbe, to Ursula's house, where he found also Monsieur Bongrand
"Mademoiselle," he said; "I am very guilty towards you; but if all the
wrongs I have done you are not wholly reparable, there are some that I
can expiate. My wife and I have made a vow to make over to you in
absolute possession our estate at Rouvre in case our son recovers, and
also in case we have the dreadful sorrow of losing him."