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beauteous maiden. The dark shawl had fallen to her feet, and her snowwhite neck and shoulders shone out ghastly in the dim light, her long raven hair had fallen like a mourning veil over her pallid features, while the glittering spangles on her dress, and the flowers with which she was still adorned, gave her the look of a corpse already tricked out for the grave. I watched long and sadly by the maiden; at least, the time seemed long and tedious enough to me. I listened with intense eagerness for the grating hinges of the gate to give notice of the return of some one on whose assistance I could rely, for my alarm began now to increase with each moment as I saw the time pass away and the maiden still moved not nor uttered a single sound. At length, to my unspeakable relief, I heard a carriage stop at the gate. I opened the casement and looked out. The moon was shining, cold, and pale, and I saw plainly, as by daylight, the portly figure of the kind-hearted old professor traverse with hobbling step the wide court to gain the staircase leading to Paquerette's chamber, and I instantly seized the lamp from the chimney and hastened to light the stair.
"As I left the room, I turned to gaze once more at Paquerette. She was still reclining as before. Nought save the slight heaving of her bosom betrayed that she still existed. I hastened down stairs with something like joy at the arrival of old C. —, whom I knew to possess in so great a degree the gratitude and affection of Paquerette, and whose presence I thought might soothe her anguish and arouse her from her lethargy. Poor dear old man! his progress was but slow up that endless stair, for he was heavy with gout and rheumatism, and was compelled to pause at each step to gather breath and courage. He chuckled with delight as he beheld me descending to replace the old woman who acted as his guide, and as soon as he drew near, he exclaimed, pinching my ear rather sharply, as was his wont when he was more than usually pleased— Well, my pretty bouquetière, and what think you of our sweet flower of to-night?"
"I could not answer; for his mirth grated harshly on my ear. I merely told him not to laugh, for Paquerette was ill; but he continued as he came puffing and blowing at each step,
“Well, I am not surprised-we are always so after our début, especially when we have been smothered with flowers; but I tell you, girl, I must see her; I could not sleep if I did not embrace the dear child before I went to bed, and, besides,' here he laid his finger on his nose, and tried to look arch, the little gipsy, you know well enough, has a proud heart, and I have news for her will make it swell and swell until it shall grow too big for her bosom.'
"He paused, and leaning against the banister, looked in my face, while his own was beaming with delight, and added, cheerily—
"Now, did I not tell you that the little witch needed but to be seen to captivate the princess? Ha, see you that? Ask her now if I am dreaming-if I am led away by my love for a poor orphan?' imitating, as he spoke, the soft tones of poor Paquerette, who had used these expressions when he had spoken to her of his hopes.
"We were drawing near to her chamber, and I endeavoured to repress his mirth, by warning him that the maiden slept, overcome by fatigue and emotion, but he only laughed the louder, and struck his cane with a more violent jerk against the floor, as he exclaimed
"What, the little ungrateful traitress! did she think to escape me
thus ?-Did she think to rest before she had embraced her poor old professor? No, no, I heard her fly as I approached her room at the theatre; but, old as I am, she shall not escape. Besides, she owes me some sort of reparation for the sorry figure she made me cut, when I returned to tell the princess, who had despatched me to fetch her, that she was already gone. Ah, well, good fortune will surely overtake her, let her run never so fast. Shall I tell you my secret while yet I have breath, for this cursed stair will very soon have it all out of my body-her highness has declared to me that her imperial brother shall have no rest till the Lady of the Woods of this night becomes the Lady of Fontenay in the face of day! There now, think you she will be sorry to be awakened by such news as this?'
"My heart beat strangely at these words. A sudden hope arose within me, for I knew that whatever the cause of the cruel anguish which seemed so suddenly to have overcome the soul of Paquerette, this announcement would be in some degree as a healing balm to her sorrows, and while the poor professor puffed heavily up the remaining stairs, my pace could scarcely keep with his, so great was my impatience to be the first to break the news to her.
"At length, however, as might have been expected, both strength and courage failed the poor old man at sight of the last steep-winding flight of stairs, which as he gazed upwards, seemed to terminate in nothing but the roof, and he sat himself down in utter despair of being able to continue his progress for some time, while I, all impatience and happiness, placed the little lamp by his side, and hastened forward alone.
"The door was open as I had left it on descending, and I entered softly and with uncertain step, for the moonbeams no longer shone in as before, and the room was darkened I knew not why; I paused ere I advanced, for the low soft murmuring tones of Paquerette fell upon my ear. Finding thus that she had awakened, I remained motionless, fearing to alarm her, and listened attentively, thinking that perhaps she might be calling me to her side. But-these were the words she uttered in a hurried and broken whisper, as of one speaking in a troubled dream, and despite of the mysterious terror which they called up in my mind each one fell distinctly on my ear amid the tomb-like stillness which reigned around :
"The hand of death is then upon me,' murmured she, they say that 'tis an hour of dread, of terror, and despair. They speak false who call it so 'tis one of joy, of hope, of rest from sorrow. But I must not act a selfish part-I must not die thus with calmness and content for my portion, leaving him nought but remorse and grief for his, for I know well that he will sink with misery and despair when I am gone; neither would I have him deem that he has caused my death, for he has a gentle heart, and would perish at the thought; but, moreover, it is not so,-long, long, has my soul been yearning for this hour. Then in compassion will I go and seek him, and tell him that I forgive him all, and that from the place to which I am now hastening I will watch over him, and pray that he may live long and happily, and that he may rejoice in his love. Did I not go in secret once before when he was departing, and I remained? Did I not bend over him and bless him as he slept, and was it not my blessing which brought him back unharmed and scatheless?-and shall I shrink from going now to say one last farewell, to breathe one last word of blessing and forgiveness?
"Now did I perceive with dismay that she was standing on the sill of the open window. It was no form which darkened the light from without. My God! she was seeking to step upon the parapet as she had done before she had forgotten that it had been removed since that day. I sprang forward with a loud and frantic shriek! There was a sudden spring, a crash, the darkness disappeared, and the moonbeams glared into the empty chamber with a fierce and lurid light! Oh, do not urge me further— I was too late, the torn remnants of the green and silver gauze of her woodland dress remained in my extended hand; 'twas well I looked not from the casement, for my burning brain already reeled. I rushed from the chamber, and flew down the stairs, making the long corridors ring with my frantic shrieks. C— has told me since that he used almost violence as I passed him to compel me to stop, but I recollect it not! I know not how indeed I reached the court; I remember nought but stumbling over the broken fragments of the geranium, and falling upon the lifeless bosom of her whom I had loved with more than a sister's love.
"When my senses returned, I found myself still lying there and surrounded by Françoise, and Melanie, and the old professor, whose low bursting sobs and falling tears mingled with those of the two women. They were awaiting the arrival of the commissaire ere they dared remove the body, and stood gazing in mute agony upon that pale face turned upwards to the cold moon. Not a feature was disturbed from its calm repose-you might have thought her sleeping, but for the thin crimson stream which trickled slowly from her parted lips, and soaked with ghastly contrast the gauze and spangles in which she was attired. She was covered with the leaves and blossoms of her loved geranium, which had in mysterious sympathy accompanied her in her fall. I stooped and gathered up the branch which had fallen next her heart. As the commissaire entered, I seized her cold thin hand and carried it to my lips in token of a last farewell:-as I replaced it wet with my tears by her side, the fingers unclosed, and a paper fell from their loosened grasp, which I picked up and placed within my bosom, but it was not till long after these events, and Paquerette was laid in her lonely grave, that I found courage to examine its contents."
The poor bouquetière, whose words had grown scarcely audible as she ended her sad story, here made a dead pause, and hid her face in her hands, while neither of her listeners could find heart to urge her to resume, although there was yet much left unexplained. I turned to R-, he was drumming with his fingers upon the marble counter, and I thought I saw a tear fall upon his hand; but I may have been deceived, for my own vision had grown dim while I gazed upon the wreath of newlywoven "paquerettes" which still lay unfinished before the narrator of the tale.
When the good old lady raised her head, she took the wreath and kissed it fervently, and then looking up, renewed with more composure, although in a graver and more melancholy tone than she had as yet assumed.
"It was a dark-a mournful fate for one so young and beautiful! and her rude undeserved destiny seemed to pursue her even when it would have been natural to suppose that all must have been accomplished. All the influence which the kind princess had promised to exert to restore to Paquerette de Fontenay her birthright, was now required to obtain for her-so angel-like and pure-even the last rites of Christian burial in
hallowed ground, because, forsooth, she had died as it were in the very exercise of her unholy calling. She lies buried in the most lonely corner -beneath the southern wall of the Champ du Repos-you will know her grave without much pains, although no marble marks the spot, for I, who knew and loved her, have raised the monument which I knew would be most pleasant to her, and flowers-dear flowers, the flowers she loved best, still bloom upon her grave the whole year long. I had gathered together, as well as I was able, the remnants of her geranium. I would have loved to have possessed it as a memorial of her, and did my best to keep it, but it would not grow with me, it would not blossom, and pined away when, with superstitious faith, I planted it by her side. There it has grown and spread, and flourished until it has become the wonder of all who behold it. It needs no removal in the winter-it needs but to be screened from the northern blast. The guide, who will show it to strangers as one of the marvels of the place, will tell them 'tis the dryness of the soil, and the heat of the southern wall, which has brought it to its beauty; but I know that it is not so, and will not suffer the arguments of work-a-day philosophy to shake my belief in that mysterious sympathy."
She paused again, endeavouring to resume the train of her recollections, and continued.
"Our first care after the catastrophe, when we could think of aught besides Paquerette, was for Louis Girardot. A messenger was despatched in all haste to his lodgings, but he came not, and the messenger returned to say that he had not appeared at home that night. He had long before this event obtained leave of absence from his regiment, and no tidings could be procured of his retreat. I saw soon after, that his regiment was ordered to the south, thus years, long and had passed weary years, away ere I beheld his face again.
"The grief of Melanie for the fate of her old companion was loud, and I verily believe sincere, while it lasted; for, from the bottom of my soul, do I acquit her of any knowledge or even suspicion of the truth. But she was not one to lose time in grieving, and soon resumed her old habits and her old affections, and sought again the love of the tromboneplayer and the second tenor's double. She was fortunate enough soon after this to procure an engagement at one of the theatres. Her fine showy person and amazingly powerful voice soon rendered her a general favourite, and she advanced with rapid strides on the road to fortune. I loved her well enough-for she brought back the memory of my soul's darling, and was fond of seeking her society with the usual inconsistency which makes us seek to look upon what sometimes gives us pain, until I one day heard her laugh heartily (the old laugh which used to make me so nervous) as she described the rage into which old C, the professor, had been thrown upon overhearing one of her admirers exclaim, when she had finished singing with powerful effect one of her best bravuras; that she must have surely caught the mantle of Paquerette as it fell! I could not bear her after that speech.
"The good kind Françoise died not long after, and she was the only one who ever had any suspicion that all was not quite clear in the manner of Paquerette's death, and who maintained that the general belief of her having overbalanced herself while endeavouring to gaze from the casement, was improbable and absurd. At the death of her mother, Melanie accepted a lucrative engagement in one of the large provincial
towns, and poor Paquerette was seemingly forgotten by all save the professor and myself. But I rejoiced in the belief that there was yet another one, if in life, must remember her with tears of anguish and remorse. Often when returning from my visits to her grave, would I re-peruse the billet which I had stolen from her death-cold hand, and which had entered like a poisoned dagger into her very soul to deprive her of life and reason. It was, as you may have already guessed, in the handwriting of Louis Girardot, and ran as follows, for I have read it so often that each word is graven upon my memory.
"You ask me, dearest girl, what it is hard to grant. How shall I be able to break the truth to Paquerette? once so fond and so confiding. How shall I dare to tell her that she is no longer loved, and that another has usurped her image in this heart once so entirely her own? Think, Melanie, once more, and retract thy determination, for think-that Paquerette cannot possibly suspect as yet that all my love for her has, I know not why, changed into awe, all my confidence into dread of her displeasure, and now, after the success which cannot fail to attend her to-night, this feeling will surely increase more and more. She already holds herself at too great a distance from me, and forgets, to use a simile which she would understand-that the topmost flowers of the tree require a bolder hand to gather them, and often wither while yet they are waiting to be plucked. No, believe me, it were far more prudent to act as I proposed this morning. Fear not, weariness and disgust will ere long grow upon her, and then I shall be spared the necessity of taking the painful step thou wouldst impose upon me; for, notwithstanding her ardent melancholy nature, she is of a resolute uncompromising disposition, and would scorn to tamper with herself, or to deceive me. now it is not me she loves, it is the memory of what I was when innocent and generous as herself, I knew nought else, besides she cannot love me long, as I have now become the hard-minded, pleasure-loving soldier, and will be the first to break-rely upon it.
"You will now see why I bade you so earnestly keep the bouquet of bruyère which I have separated from the one that Georgette has made to throw to Paquerette. The bouquetière will be furious, I know, but she little dreams that 'tis her own constant watching and suspicious listening to all we say, which have rendered it necessary method of communication.'
to hit upon some secret
"It was this precious piece of weak-minded eloquence, of dastardly compromise, which had killed my sweet Paquerette-alas, alas, that it should have been me who loved her best on earth who had thrown the bouquet at her feet! But it was a decree of Providence! Who could have foreseen that such would have been the issue? It was, indeed, a fatal chance, for, had the letter borne the name of her for whom it was intended, the poor maiden would most probably have been ignorant to this day of its contents, but the superscription was dubious, smacking of the garrison elegance and gallantry which the writer had of late adoptedTo the Lady of my Thoughts-my Soul's delight!'-Had it not been for this she would most probably not have opened it; but, vulgar as it was, and especially unsuited to her, yet, in Louis' handwriting she must have imagined it intended for no other but herself.
It was many years after this, and all the