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The Stain Of Parentage

The Stain Of Parentage image
Parent Issue
Day
11
Month
January
Year
1878
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

In the woods forrning what remains of the forest of Aruennes, about a mile trom a email village called Soleiithal, a narrcw path leads f rom a high road to a spot once oecupied by charcoal burners, bnt bow abandoned. It was a glooruy place. The ground for about an acre was black, where charcoal had been burned and etored, while a small fringe of greca grasa had perched itself forward from the forest, and commeneed reguining the lost ground. In the center was a deep hole, to be entered only on one side by a path of narrow dimensions. In this was a small hut, of wretched aspect, one of millions in Prance, where glitter and g!ory hide rnisery werse than that of Ireland in her worst days, where souud and show conceal from us 16,000,000 of paupers. This hut had no window. It was curved in shape and closely resembled a wigwam of the poorest class. It consisted of three poles stuck in the ground, meeting at the top, these tied together, and then, of course, thatch and mud. A hole was left in the top for the smoke to pass through. The floor was of mud. In one corner was a pile of straw, which, wifch two chairs and a table, formed the whole of the furniture. It was occupied by two women and a large dog. At the moment when our narrative commences one only was at home. She was about 50, poorly but not meanly olad. She was clean, neat and tidy, and she plied her needie váth uncen sing energy. She was sewing for a livelihood. A short distance off, on the edge of the wood, another woman, or rather a young girl, dressed in the same manner, was picking up wood and laying it in an outspread cloth on the ground. She, too, plied her work industriously, for, until sufficieTit fuel had been coïiected she could rot cook their humble dinner. Presently sne seerned satisfled with what she had done, and was about to proceed. when two horsemen issued from the wood and came along, walking their horses slowly. One was a young man, about flve-and-twenty, rosy-cheeked, handsome and f uil of nealth; the other was ten years older, and evidently an habitué of the boulevards and the cafes of Paris. His pale face, made paler by a thin, black mustache and jet-black hair, his hollosr, sunken eyes, spoke of the man of late hours and pleamres. His face was cold and repulsive, while that of the other was open and frank. "What a wretched occupation for so pretty a girl," said the young man, riding quickly on, so as to speak first; " surely, ma cheie, you might put your taper flngers to a better use. Here's will buy you firewood for months." And he cast a doublé Napoleon at her feet. The girl raised hor angelic face te his, padly and reproachfully. She was aboul 18. Her white skin, lier blue eyes, her curly, golden hair, her simple, childlike manner, waa something he had never seen before. Her expression was timid and yet proud, and, looking into her eyes, the young man was not surprised at the reply he received. "Monsieur, I have done nothing to give you a right to insult me. What you have done may have been meant kindly, but I ask alms of no one." "Pardon, mademois -lle," exelaimed the other, confused and stammering. " I meant no insult. Pardon me, mademoiselle, I pray jou. I thought you poor, and my impulse was to aid you." " Thank you, monsieur, for tb e first kind word I have heard these iifteen yenrs, except from my own mother," said the young girl. "But go your way, or else the whole country will shun you í o. " "Begone, wretch !" exclaimed the otlier, ridiog up and raising his whip mcnacingly ; "hegone, viper, and dare not speak to an honestman." The young man listened in amazement. "I did not speak to monsieur ; monsieur spoke to me," said the girl gently, with, however, a smile of pityandaontempt. " Raise your aceursed lips to me again," crie-d the other furiously, " and I will scourge you with my whip." " Monsieur is perhaps a coward," said the gentle girl, stung to anger for once, turning at the sfime time to face his insnlts. "What! you dare amwer me," and he raised his hand again. " Nay, Edward, you would not hit a woman ?" " A. woinnn ! Do you cali Madeleine de Pierrepont, the child of the assassin of my Únele Dubois, a woman? Say, rnther, a fiend," Bcreamed the usually calm dandy. "Madeleine de Pierrepont!" replied the other, staggering so that his friend had to turn his npsistanee to him. " Madeleine de Pierrepont'? And this is Madeleine de Pierrepont! Truly," he muttered, as he remounted his horse, " she is not a woman." The other imitated him. and they rode off, leaviug the young girl to weep alone. In a few minutes, however, she wiped her eyes, and then, fearf'ul she might be suspeeted of appropriating the gold-piece, she took it up, wrapped it in a piece of paper, with the intention of returning it to its owner. She then Jifted up her bundie and walked slowly toward the hut. " Teil me the story of the girl," Baid the young man, gravely. The other told it : "Fifteen years before, the father of Madeleine de Pierrepont and a Monsieur Dubois, a rieh proprietor, had been intímate friends. De Pierrepont was comfortably off, from the fact of his having several oecupations. He was collector of the rent of a. rich member of his noble family; he was tax-gathorer and adjoint to the Maire. The Maire was M. Dubois, a rich man, but somewhat of a miser. It appeared that one af ternoon Dubois asked Pierrepont to walk over to a small town at some distance to receive with him a large remittance, with which he had to pay a body of workmen employed on public works, and other expenses incurred in the building of a church and schoolroom. Dubois feit safer with a companion. It was aiterward proved that they received the money, dined togetlier at tlie Soleil d'Or, drank rather more than they were used to, and then, despite every representation, set out to walk home, though De Pierrepont wished to hire a gig. Nexfc morning the body of Dubois was found about a, huudred yards beyond the house of De Pierrepont, which was at the foot of a bilí that led up to the village. All hia money was gone as well as his watch and rings. ."A search teok place instantly, and De Pierrepont, as his companion, was visited by the polics agent. De Pierrepoüt deposed that Dubois, on his reaching his íiouse, bade him go in, for that he could go the hill saíely alone; but still he requested him to keep a bag of 1,000 francs in silver, because it was so heavy, until the morning. This 1,000 frenes he gave up to the pólice. Of 1(5. 000 francs in notes he solemnlv clared he knew nothing. On this he was arreeted as the ussassin, tñed, found guilty and sent to the galleys for lite. His wife solemnly declared that she hearct Dubois wish her husband gooduight, and say, laugbiwgly, "i'll seud a eart for the silver iu the morning." But, ' instead of benefiting kim. in the eyes of ; the world, she beoiiine his accomplioe. 1 To avoid being hooted at in the streets, she lcft the village, and, every penny , being spent ere her husband's trial wjs over, she obtained reluotant permission to dweil in the charcoal-burner's serted hut. But a'l shunned her and her child as they would lepers, and, to live, she was obliged to walk nine miles in searoh of work of the coarsest description. Leavc the country she would not, because feke was bom ïhere, and she feit convinced that her husband would be nltimately pardoned." "And you join, Edward, in the infamous pergecution. Supposing the father guilty (which to me is not clearly : proved - and you know I am a lawyer), why should this poor girl suffer for the sins of her father ? Why, the savages of North America, where I have just come from, are more civilized than you. I see in this heroio couple subject oi wonder and admiration, but not of hate. Poor creatures ! Puteen jears oi misery have not satisfled yon all, but you must still treat them as outcasts." " My dear Arthur, you have just come from America, where it appears to me you piek up very singular notions. For my part the wife and daughter of an assassm, tul xhe assassin of my unele, are detestable wretches whom I must hate," said the other, in his usual cool way. His fit of anger was passed. " Injustice, infamous injustice ! Poor girl ! I think I seo her meek face now, looking at me so proudly and yet so sweetly. I never saw anything so lovely in my life." "Why, the man is inlove !" exclaimed Edward Dubois, the heir to the murdered man's property. " Half; and what's more, Edward, do you know I'd marry that girl to-morrow if sbe'd have me, but I know she ■vouldn't." "Bymyfaith," said Edward, "you ama ze me, and I am not easily amazed. Of course you are joking." " Time will show. But now, my dear fellow, adieu; you follow that patn in search of pleasure, I this on businees." "Adieu, a demain." "Yes. You breakiast with me at the little inn, you know." " Agreed, my philosopher. Adieu." And Edward Dubois galloped down a narrow path leading to the chateau of a certain Oount de Jesson, who that day gave a grand dinner and evening party. As soon as Arthur saw that he was out of sight he turned his horse's steps and gmloped hard toward the chn.rcoal-bi.irner's hut. When Madeleine returned to the hut and began making a íire she told kei mother whnt had passed and showed huthe gold piece. They were nsed to this kind of treatment, and the mother did aot feel it mucli now. The scorn of ñíteen years had made her despise the world. But Madeleine seemed hurt. " I do not care," she exclaimed aloud, ■it last, " for what young Monuieur Duijois said; but I am vexed that the goodtooking stranger should have said that I was not a woman." " Yoa are not a woman, but an angel," .■xolaimed Arthur, solenmly. He had ipproached on foot anr1 had heard a portion of their conversation. The mother and daughter stood still in dumb amazement. "Youseem Burprised, madam," said the young man, ad dressing the mother. " You will be still more so when 1 ndd that I bave returned with the delibérate intention of imploring you to give me your daughter's hand in marringe; not now, inetantly, bilt -when you know me better." " Monsieur !" exclaimed the inother, indignantly, " this is too muoli. Go. The felon's daughter is still too good for insult." "Madam," said Arthur, respectfully, " perhaps your astonishment will cease wïten I add 'that yourhusband is innocent, and that I have come 16,000 miles to prove ït." " You are - speakiDg - seriously ?" gasped the poor woman. "On my soul and conscienoe," said Artbur, solemnly. " Oh joy I oh joy !" shrieked the girl, clasüing the stranger round the neck, " the savior has come at last." "Be calm, my dear young lady, and I ■will teil you my story in a few words. You will tnen understand my motives in coming bere. I scarcely expected to find you at Solenthal, but at last determined to try. I carne yesterday night, and soon heard of your heroic resignation and courage. Be seated, dear girl, and listen to tidings that will be joyful indeed to your filial heart. " Madeleinc, blushing, her color going and coming, obeyed aud seated herself on a log near the young stranger. " I am a young Frenchman, and about seven years ago I emigrated to Peru in search of fortune. I started as a lawyer, and foimd business plentiful enough. I knew rxwny Frenchnien in the place, but a merchantof the name of Gaillard was my most intimate friend. He was twice ■ my age, grave even sullen and saturnine; but h e had quaint ways, was very charitable, ard ï liked him. Besides, the others were married, had families, and ; he was alone. We used to meet of an : evening at a cafe, play piquet, drink sherbet, and then walk home together. He was rich, and lived in great style, but not in any way up to his income. ' People wondered he never married, but he said he had been married, and was not inclined to try the experiment again. He looked with alarm at the prospecta of my settling in life, and did all he coulci to preserve unto himself one bachelor friend. " About a year ago he feil il], and the doctor at once intimated to him that he would not recover. Apart f rom disease, it was a general break-up of nature. " When he found there was no hope he sent for me. " ' Versan,' said he, ' listen to a dying man, and interrupt me not. You see on this bed an assassin, a thief, a murderer. Fourteen years ago, sitting in a hotel, I saw two men dining, one of whom had received tdxteen or seventeen thousand francs. A dreadful thonght came into my head. I was not poor, but I was wicked. I followed these two men. They walked on their way to Solenthal together. I dare not attack botb, and once or twice I thougbt of giviog up my fearf ui design. Bilt at the, house of one De Pierrepont they parted, and my victim, Dubois, advimced alone. " 'I was monster enough tothinkthat Heaven gave him up to me. I bounded aïter him ; I gave myself no time for tbought ; I stobbed him in the neck ; killed him ; took his money and fied. I spare you my thoughts and my flfteen years of suffering. I flfd my country ; I beeame a mercbaat - rich - respeeted ; but I have never had one happy moment. Not only had I murdered him, but Pierrepont was euspected, and seutenced for my orime, only not todeath, bc-cmse the jury hesitated. I thus ruined an hnnest man, and sent his family to beg their bread.' "Hepaused. I spoke not; too absoibed in my horror. " ' De Versan, listen to me, my friend. j Do not turn against me; I have lelt you my sole heir.' " ' Never will I ' " 'Hark! you must and you will. Take my property, and think, when you en joy it, with pity on its guilty present öwner, aud I will make a public cenfesmon, pay the heirs of Dubois their 10,000 francs, and, byproving my own guilt, obtain the pardon of the innocent Do Pierrepont. Befuse and I will die impenitent, for my only friend will have deserted me.' " I accepted." " And ra ay Heaven blees yon!" said the weeping aud sobbing mother, wMle Madeleine hid her head in her mother's lap. " An hour later, in presence of the French and English Consuls - four Englishmen and four Fcenchmen, two priests and the Alcalde - Gaillard, or rather, Mesnard, made his solemn confession, which was signed by all present, sealed, and one of two copies given to me. That copy is now in the hand of the Minieter of Justice, and here," drawing forth a letter, "is a copy ot your father's free pardon." A wild shriek from both women was his reply. "And now, Madeleine," said he, taking the girl's hand, " bef ore I have the chance of rivals may I renew my request for your hand and heart ?" " Monsieur, no man on earth can ever do for me what you have done. In an hour I have lived years of joy ; that joy I owe to you. Give me my father, and the love of my whole life, if you value it, shall be your poor reward." This sudden resolution of the young girl, so natural under the circumstances, was approved oï' heartily by the mother. Next morning there sat in a small inn in Solenthal, waiting fer breakfast, a man, not old, but bowed by years of woe. gray-haired and pale. On each sid-i of him eat a woman - one his wife, the other his daughter. They had been talkiug for hours, and were not wearied yet. A young man sat opposite, his face beaming with ueiight. Severa! times the waiter had annonnced breakfast, but the young man had always bade him be quiet and wait stil! a while. At length a hurried step was heard, and the young Edward Dubois entered. He fitarted as if bit by a snake, and would have lelt the room. "Stop:" said Arthur, sternly, ns he oaught him by the wrist. "Ral her knee) and ask for pardon than fly. Kead this, man," and he put in his hand the printed bill proclaiming the injustice ol Piorrepont's sntence, hie free pardon, md coutaining the certified con fession ot Mesnard. Edward Dubois read it in silenee Wben he had flnished he tumed and grasped the ex-couvict's hand. "Ño apology can. make up for my oonduct," he said, " but what I can do I will. This bill will satisfy the whole country. " "Monsieur," replied De Pierrepont, in husky tones, "you did but as thf world did. Appearances wcrii agaiust me aud all condemued me. " "Edward, my friend," said Arthur, "you see the danger of judging from appearances, Had De Pierrepon been truly guilty, bis wife and child would have been pitied, not scorned. As it is, i vile prejudice lias made these two wome.n for fiiteen years outcasts and parinhs." Edward made no reply, as the breakfast came in. He, liko all the country round, was horrified now they found how unjust they had been; and nevei was wedding more tumultuously liailed and feted than that of Arthur de Versan and Madeleine de Pierrepont. Still I have not heard that ono man, woman or child in the fore&t of Ardennes has beeu cured of the evil habit ot' judging alwajs f rom appearanoes, and visiting on the innocent the sins of the guilty.

Article

Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus