The next day, Sunday, the whole town had heard of it; and as Ursula
entered and left the church she saw the groups of people who stood
gossiping about her, and felt herself the object of their terrible
curiosity. The serenade set all tongues wagging, and conjectures were
rife on all sides. Ursula reached home more dead than alive,
determined not to leave the house again,--the abbe having advised her
to say vespers in her own room. As she entered the house she saw lying
in the passage, which was floored with brick, a letter which had
evidently been slipped under the door. She picked it up and read it,
under the idea that it would obtain an explanation. It was as
"Resign yourself to becoming my wife, rich and idolized. I am
resolved. If you are not mine living you shall be mine dead. To
your refusal you may attribute not only your own misfortunes, but
those which will fall on others.
"He who loves you, and whose wife you will be."
Curiously enough, at the very moment that the gentle victim of this
plot was drooping like a cut flower, Mesdemoiselles Massin, Dionis,
and Cremiere were envying her lot.
"She is a lucky girl," they were saying; "people talk of her, and
court her, and quarrel about her. The serenade was charming; there was
"What's a piston?"
"A new musical instrument, as big as this, see!" replied Angelique
Cremiere to Pamela Massin.
Early that morning Savinien had gone to Fontainebleau to endeavor to
find out who had engaged the musicians of the regiment then in
garrison. But as there were two men to each instrument it was
impossible to find out which of them had gone to Nemours. The colonel
forbade them to play for any private person in future without his
permission. Savinien had an interview with the procureur du roi,
Ursula's legal guardian, and explained to him the injury these scenes
would do to a young girl naturally so delicate and sensitive, begging
him to take some action to discover the author of such wrong.
Three nights later three violins, a flute, a guitar, and a hautboy
began another serenade. This time the musicians fled towards
Montargis, where there happened then to be a company of comic actors.
A loud and ringing voice called out as they left: "To the daughter of
the regimental bandsman Mirouet." By this means all Nemours came to
know the profession of Ursula's father, a secret the old doctor had
Savinien did not go to Montargis. He received in the course of the day
an anonymous letter containing a prophecy:--
"You will never marry Ursula. If you wish her to live, give her up
at once to a man who loves her more than you love her. He has made
himself a musician and an artist to please her, and he would
rather see her dead than let her be your wife."
The doctor came to Ursula three times in the course of that day, for
she was really in danger of death from the horror of this mysterious
persecution. Feeling that some infernal hand had plunged her into the
mire, the poor girl lay like a martyr; she said nothing, but lifted
her eyes to heaven, and wept no more; she seemed awaiting other blows,
and prayed fervently.
"I am glad I cannot go down into the salon," she said to Monsieur
Bongrand and the abbe, who left her as little as possible; "HE would
come, and I am now unworthy of the looks with which HE blessed me. Do
you think HE will suspect me?"
"If Savinien does not discover the author of these infamies he means
to get the assistance of the Paris police," said Bongrand.
"Whoever it is will know I am dying," said Ursula; "and will cease to
The abbe, Bongrand, and Savinien were lost in conjectures and
suspicions. Together with Tiennette, La Bougival, and two persons on
whom the abbe could rely, they kept the closest watch and were on
their guard night and day for a week; but no indiscretion could betray
Goupil, whose machinations were known to himself only. There were no
more serenades and no more letters, and little by little the watch
relaxed. Bongrand thought the author of the wrong was frightened;
Savinien believed that the procureur du roi to whom he had sent the
letters received by Ursula and himself and his mother, had taken steps
to put an end to the persecution.
The armistice was not of long duration, however. When the doctor had
checked the nervous fever from which poor Ursula was suffering, and
just as she was recovering her courage, a rope-ladder was found, early
one morning in July, attached to her window. The postilion of the
mail-post declared that as he drove past the house in the middle of
the night a small man was in the act of coming down the ladder, and
though he tried to pull up, his horses, being startled, carried him
down the hill so fast that he was out of Nemours before he stopped
them. Some of the persons who frequented Dionis's salon attributed
these manoeuvres to the Marquis du Rouvre, then much hampered in
means, for Massin held his notes to a large amount. It was said that a
prompt marriage of his daughter to Savinien would save Chateau du
Rouvre from his creditors; and Madame de Portenduere, the gossips
added, would approve of anything that would discredit and degrade
Ursula and lead to this marriage of her son.
So far from this being true, the old lady was well-nigh vanquished by
the sufferings of the innocent girl. The abbe was so painfully
overcome by this act of infernal wickedness that he fell ill himself
and was kept to the house for several days. Poor Ursula, to whom this
last insult had caused a relapse, received by post a letter from the
abbe, which was taken in by La Bougival on recognizing the
handwriting. It was as follows:--
My child,--Leave Nemours, and thus evade the malice of your
enemies. Perhaps they are seeking to endanger Savinien's life. I
will tell you more when I am able to go to you.
Your devoted friend,
When Savinien, who was almost maddened by these proceedings, carried
this letter to the abbe, the poor priest read it and re-read it; so
amazed and horror-stricken was he to see the perfection with which his
own handwriting and signature were imitated. The dangerous condition
into which this last atrocity threw poor Ursula sent Savinien once
more to the procureur du roi with the forged letter.
"A murder is being committed by means that the law cannot touch," he
said, "upon an orphan whom the Code places in your care as legal
guardian. What is to be done?"
"If you can find any means of repression," said the official, "I will
adopt them; but I know of none. That infamous wretch gives the best
advice. Mademoiselle Mirouet must be sent to the sisters of the
Adoration of the Sacred Heart. Meanwhile the commissary of police at
Fontainebleau shall at my request authorize you to carry arms in your
own defence. I have been myself to Rouvre, and I found Monsieur du
Rouvre justly indignant at the suspicions some of the Nemours people
have put upon him. Minoret, the father of my assistant, is in treaty
for the purchase of the estate. Mademoiselle is to marry a rich Polish
count; and Monsieur du Rouvre himself left the neighbourhood the day I
saw him, to avoid arrest for debt."
Desire Minoret, when questioned by his chief, dared not tell his
thought. He recognized Goupil. Goupil, he fully believed, was the only
man capable of carrying a persecution to the very verge of the penal
code without infringing a hair's-breadth upon it.
A TWO-FOLD VENGEANCE
Impunity, secrecy, and success increased Goupil's audacity. He made
Massin, who was completely his dupe, sue the Marquis du Rouvre for his
notes, so as to force him to sell the remainder of his property to
Minoret. Thus prepared, he opened negotiations for a practice at Sens,
and then resolved to strike a last blow to obtain Ursula. He meant to
imitate certain young men in Paris who owed their wives and their
fortunes to abduction. He knew that the services he had rendered to
Minoret, to Massin, and to Cremiere, and the protection of Dionis and
the mayor of Nemours would enable him to hush up the affair. He
resolved to throw off the mask, believing Ursula too feeble in the
condition to which he had reduced her to make any resistance. But
before risking this last throw in the game he thought it best to have
an explanation with Minoret, and he chose his opportunity at Rouvre,
where he went with his patron for the first time after the deeds were
Minoret had that morning received a confidential letter from his son
asking him for information as to what was happening in connection with
Ursula, information that he desired to obtain before going to Nemours
with the procureur du roi to place her under shelter from these
atrocities in the convent of the Adoration. Desire exhorted his
father, in case this persecution should be the work of any of their
friends, to give to whoever it might be warning and good advice; for
even if the law could not punish this crime it would certainly
discover the truth and hold it over the delinquent's head. Minoret had
now attained a great object. Owner of the chateau du Rouvre, one of
the finest estates in the Gatinais, he had also a rent-roll of some
forty odd thousand francs a year from the rich domains which
surrounded the park. He could well afford to snap his fingers at
Goupil. Besides, he intended to live on the estate, where the sight of
Ursula would no longer trouble him.
"My boy," he said to Goupil, as they walked along the terrace, "let my
young cousin alone, now."