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第30节 九月五日 【
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本文地址:http://www.yeidj.com.cn/book/story.php?id=431
文章摘要:九月五日 ,钜人长德凹凸感理论学习,秋菊网情深弄口鸣舌。

汤姆生·弗伦奇银行的代表所提出的延期一事,当时是莫雷尔所万万想不到的。在可怜的船主看来,这似乎是他的运气又有了转机,等于命运之神在向人宣布,它已厌倦了在他的身上泄恨了。当天他就把经过的情形讲给了他的妻女和艾曼纽听。全家人即使不能说已恢复安宁,但至少又有了一线希望。汤姆生·弗伦奇银行这个慷慨的举动算作友谊的表示,而只能算作自私的做法,银行方面大概是这样想,“这个人欠我们将近三十万法郎,我们与其逼他破产,只拿到本金的百分之六到八,还不如支持他,在三个月以后收回三十万为妙。”不幸,不知究竟是出于仇恨还是盲目与莫雷尔的往来的商行却并不都是这样想。有几家甚至抱着一种相反的想法。所以莫雷尔所签出去的期票仍毫不客气地如期拿到他的办公室来兑现,而多亏了英国人延期之举,那些期票才得以由柯克莱斯照付。所以柯克莱斯依旧象他往日一样的泰然自若。只有莫雷尔惶恐地想到,假如十五日该付监狱长波维里先生的十万法郎和三十日到期的那几张三万二千五百法郎的期票不曾延期的话,他早已破产了。一般商界的人士,都以为莫雷尔在恶运不断的打击之下,是无法坚持下去。所以当他们看到月底来临,而他却照常能如期兑现他所有的期票时,不禁大为惊奇。

可是人们仍没有完全恢复对他的信心,一般人都说,那不幸的船主的整个崩溃的日子只能拖延到下个月月底。在那个月里,莫雷尔以闻所未闻的努力来回收他所有的资金。以前他开出去的期票,不论日期长短,人家总是很相信地接受的,甚至还有自动来请求存款的。现在莫雷尔只想贴现三个月的期票,但却发现所有的银行都对他关上了门。幸亏莫雷尔还有几笔钱可收回,那几笔钱收到以后,他才能把七月底的债务应付过去。汤姆生·弗伦奇银行的代表再也没在马赛露过面。在拜访过莫雷尔先生后的第二天或第三天里,他就失踪了,在马赛,他只见过市长,监狱长和莫雷尔先生,所以他这次露面,除了这三个人对他各自留下了一个不同的印象以外,再没有别的踪迹可寻。至于法老号的水手们,他们似乎无疑地已找到了另外的工作,因为他们也不见了。

茄马特船长病愈后从帕尔马岛回来了。他不敢去见莫雷尔,但船主听说他回来后,就亲自去看望他。这位可敬的船主已从佩尼隆的那里了解了船长在暴风中的英勇行为,所以想去安慰安慰他。他还把他该得的薪水也带了去,那原是茄马特船长不敢开口要的,当莫雷尔从楼梯上下来的时候,他碰见佩尼隆正要上去。佩尼隆似乎把钱花得很正当,因为他从上到下穿着新衣服。当他看到自己的雇主的时候,那可敬的水手似乎十分尴尬,他缩到了楼梯的拐角,把他嘴巴里的烟草块顶来顶去,大眼睛直勾勾地瞪着,只感到在握手的时候莫雷尔照常轻轻地回捏他一下。莫雷尔以为,佩尼隆的窘态是由于他穿了漂亮的新衣服的关系,这个诚实人显然从来不曾在自己身上花过那么多钱。他无疑的已在别的船上找到工作了,所以他的羞怯,说不定就是为了他已不再为法老号致哀的缘故。他或许是来把他的好运告诉茄马特船长,并代表他的新主人来请船长去工作的。“都是好人啊!”莫雷尔一边走一边说,“愿你们的新主人也象我一样的爱你们,并愿他比我幸运!”

八月份一天天地过去了,莫雷尔不断地努力,到处奔走借债,到了八月二十日那天,马赛盛传他搭乘了一辆邮车走了,据说他的公司月底就要宣告破产了。莫雷尔之所以要离开,就是为了避免目睹这个残酷的场面,而只留下他的助手艾曼纽和会计柯克莱斯去应付。但出乎大家意料之外的是,八月三十一日那天,公司仍照常开门,柯克莱斯坐在账台栅栏后面,照样仔仔细细地察看所有拿来兑现的期票,从第一张到最后一张,照样如数付清,其中有两张还是莫雷尔拿去贴现的保付支票,这柯克莱斯也照样兑付,就象是船主直接发出去的期票一样,这一切简直是不可思议的。可是,预言祸事的人总是不甘心罢休的,所以倒闭的日期又被定在了九月底。九月一日,莫雷尔回来了。全家人都极其焦急地在等着他,因为他们最后的希望就寄托在这次到巴黎去的旅程上了。莫雷尔想起了腾格拉尔,腾格拉尔现在非常有钱了,而以前他曾象受过莫雷尔许多恩惠,因为他那庞大的财富是在进西班牙银行服务以后开始积累起来的,而当时是莫雷尔介绍他去那儿工作的。据说腾格拉尔目前的财产已达六百万到八百万法郎,而且还有无限的信用。所以腾格拉尔如果肯救莫雷尔,他根本用不着从口袋掏一个铜板,而只在借款时说一句话,莫雷尔就得救了。莫雷尔早就想到过腾格拉尔。但他对他有一种无法抑制的本能的反感,所以莫雷尔是到了山穷水尽的地步才去求救于他的。莫雷尔当时的想法是对的,因为他想到了拒绝,屈辱地回家来了。回家以后,莫雷尔即没有一声怨言,也没说一句刻薄的话。

他同他那哀哀哭泣的妻女拥抱了一下,又带着友情的温暖同艾曼纽握了一下手,然后去他三楼的书房里了,同时派人去叫柯克莱斯来。

“这样看来”两个女人对艾曼纽说,“我们是真的破产了。”

他们匆匆商谈了一番,大家一致同意由尤莉写信给驻防在尼姆的哥哥,叫他赶快回家,这两个可怜的女人本能地感觉到她们必须以全部力量来承受这日益迫近的打击。马西米兰·莫雷尔虽还不满二十二岁,却很能左右他的父亲。他是一个刚毅正直的青年。当他决定入伍的时候,他的父亲原无意让他干那一行,于是就叫年轻的马西米兰考虑了一下自己的兴趣以后再做决定。他立刻宣布愿过军人的生活。他后来刻苦学习,在军官学校毕业时成绩极优,高校后就在五十三联队成了一名少尉。他当少尉已一年了,一旦有机会便可以升迁。在他那一联队里,马西米兰·莫雷尔是一个众所周知最严守纪律的人,不仅严守一个军人应尽的义务,而且还严守一个人应尽的责任,所以他获得了“斯多葛派”[斯多葛派是古希腊一种唯心主义哲学派别,摈弃享乐,提介寡欲。后来常以这个名称指刻苦自励的人。]这一美名。不言而喻,许多人喊他这个绰号,只不过是从旁人那儿听来的,有些人甚至根本不知道其真正的含义。

这位青年人就是他的母亲和他的妹妹求援的目标,她们觉得严重的局势就要到来了,所以召他回来支援她们。她们并没有错估这件事的严重性,因为莫雷尔和柯克莱斯同进办公室以后,尤莉看到后者出来的时候脸色苍白,浑身发抖,神色惊恐不安,当他经过她身边的时候,她本来想问问他,但那老实人一反常态,竟慌慌张张地急忙奔下楼去,只是举手向天,惊叹道:“噢,小姐,小姐!多可怕的祸事!谁能相信啊!”过了一会儿,尤莉又看到他上楼来,手里捧着两三本厚厚的账簿,一册笔记本和一袋钱。

莫雷尔查看了账簿,翻开了笔记本,数了数钱。他所有的现金约为七八千法郎,他应收的账款,到五号为止,约有四五千,加起来,最多不过只有一万四千法郎,而要付的那些期票却达二十八万七千五百法郎之多。他是无法对债主这样开口的。但是,当莫雷尔下楼去用午餐时,他外表看来却非常的平静。这种平静的态度比最大的忧郁更使两个女人感到惊惶。午餐以后,莫雷尔通常总要出去,照例到佛喜俱乐部去喝咖啡,读《讯号报》的,但这一天他没有离家,却回到了他的办公室里。

至于柯克莱斯,他似乎完全给弄糊涂了。那天下午他走到天井里,光着头坐在一块石头上,曝晒在炽热的阳光底下。艾曼纽想设法安慰一下两个女人,但他又不知该说些什么。这个年轻人对于公司的业务知道得很清楚,决不会不知道一场大祸已笼罩在莫雷尔全家的头上。夜晚来临了。两个女人没法睡觉,在房间里守着,希望莫雷尔在离开办公室以后会到她们这儿来。但她们听到他经过她们的门口时,故意放轻了脚步。

她们听见他已走进他的卧室,并在里面把门关上了。莫雷尔夫人叫女儿上床去睡。尤莉走后,她又等了半个钟头,然后站起身来,脱掉鞋子,偷偷地沿着走廊摸过去,想从钥匙孔里看着她的丈夫在做什么。在走廊里,她遇到了一个后退的黑影,那是尤莉,她也心中不安,比她的母亲先来了一步。那年轻姑娘向莫雷尔夫人走过来。“他在写东西。”她说道。她们不必说话就都已互相了解了对方的心思。莫雷尔夫人再从钥匙孔里望进去。莫雷尔果然在写东西,但莫雷尔夫人却注意到了一件她女儿没注意到的事,就是她的丈夫正在一张贴着印花的纸上写字。一个恐怖的念头闪过了她的脑子:他正在写遗嘱。她不禁浑身打了个寒噤,可是却没有力气说出一个字来。第二天,莫雷尔先生似乎象往常一样的平静,照常走进他的办公室,按时来用早餐,但在午餐以后,他就把女儿拉到了自己身边,抱住她的头贴在自己的胸前,拥抱了她很长一段时间。到了晚上尤莉告诉她的母亲,说他在外表上虽然是这样的平静,但她注意到父亲的心跳得很剧烈。以后的两天也是这样地过去了。到了九月四日晚上,莫雷尔向他的女儿要回了他办公室的钥匙。

尤莉一听到这个要求立刻就发抖了,她觉得这是一个恶兆。这把钥匙一向是由她保存着的,只有在她童年的时代,有时向她讨回只不过当作一种惩罚罢了,而现在她的父亲为什么要讨回这把钥匙呢?那年轻姑娘望着莫雷尔。“我做错了什么事,父亲?”她说,“你要向我讨回这把钥匙?”

“没什么,我的宝贝,”那不幸的人回答道,一听到这个简单的问题,泪水便盈满了他的双眼,“没什么,只是我要它。”

尤莉假装在身上摸钥匙。“我一定把它掉在我的房间里了。”她说道。于是她走了出去,但她并没有回她的卧室,却赶快去和艾曼纽商量。“这把钥匙不要给你的父亲,”他说,“明天早晨,要是可能的话,一刻都不要离开他。”她问艾曼纽是怎么回事,但他也什么都不知道,或许是不肯说,在九月四日到五日的那个晚上,莫雷尔尔夫人留心倾听着每一个声音,她听到自己的丈夫焦躁不安地在房间里踱来踱去,一直到早晨三点钟。他是在三点钟才躺到床上去的。那一夜母女两人厮守着挨了过去。她们也在期待着马西米兰,他本该在傍晚时就到的。早晨八点钟,莫雷尔走进了她们的房间。他很平静,但在他那苍白和忧伤的脸上,显然可看出那一夜的焦虑。她们不敢问他睡得好不好。莫雷尔一生中从来也没象今天这样对他的妻子如此温柔,对他的女儿如此充满了父爱。他不断地凝视着娇美的姑娘,不断地吻她。尤莉没忘艾曼纽的话,当她的父亲离开房间的时候,就跟着他一起出去了,但他却急忙对她说,“去陪着你的妈妈吧。”尤莉想陪他。“我要你这样做。”他坚持说。这是莫雷尔生平第一次对女儿说,“我要你这样做。”但他说这句话的时候,语气中仍满带着父亲的慈爱,尤莉不敢不从命。她站在老地方,哑口无言,一动也不动,片刻以后,门开了,她觉得有两只手臂抱住了她,两片嘴唇亲到了她的前额上。她抬头一望,发出一声惊喜的喊声。“马西米兰!哥哥!”她喊道。

听到这几个字,莫雷尔夫人站起身来,扑入她儿子的怀抱。

“妈,”青年叫道,他望望莫雷尔夫人,又望望他的妹妹,“怎么啦?你们的信吓了我一跳,所以我尽快赶回来了。”

“尤莉,”莫雷尔夫人边说,边对那青年作了一个表示,“快去告诉你父亲,说马西米兰回来了。”那年轻姑娘急忙冲出房间,但在楼梯口,她碰到一个人手里正拿着一封信。

“你是尤莉·莫雷尔小姐吗?”那人带着浓重的意大利口音问道。

“是的,先生,”尤莉吞吞吐吐地答道,“你有何贵干?我不认识你呀。”

“请读一读这封信吧,”他说完就把信交给了她。尤莉犹豫了一下。“这封信对令尊大有好处。”信差补充道。

年轻姑娘急忙接过信赶紧拆开,读道:

马上到梅朗巷去,走进门牌是十五号的那座房子,向门房要六楼上的房门钥匙。走进那个房间,在壁炉架的角落里有一只红丝带织成的钱袋,拿来给令尊大人。注意,他必须在十一点以前收到这只钱袋。你答应过要照我说的去做的。要履行你的诺言。

水手辛巴德上。

年轻姑娘发出一声欣喜的呼喊,抬起头来,四顾寻觅那信差,但他已经不见了。她的目光又回到了那封信上,又读了第二遍,发现原来还有一小段附言。她读道:“记住,你必须亲自去完成这项使命,而且必须单独去。要是让别人去,或由别人陪你去,则门房就会回答说他根本不知道有这回事。”

这段附言使年轻姑娘的欢喜打了个折扣。她可以毫无担心地去吗?那儿会不会有某种陷阱在等待着她呢?她还很天真,不知道象她这种年龄的年轻姑娘可能遇到的种种危险。但对于危险的恐惧是不必事先知道的,真的,说起来,常常是不可知的危险会使人产生极大的恐怖。

尤莉心里犹豫不决,决定找人商量一下。可是,由于一种奇特的情感,她所要商量的对象既不是她的母亲也不是她的哥哥,而是艾曼纽。她急忙下楼去,把汤姆生·弗伦奇银行代表来见他父亲那天所发生的事情告诉了他,把楼梯上的那幕情形讲给他听,并说她当时已答应过他,然后又把那封信拿给他看。

“那么,你一定得去,小姐。”艾曼纽说道。

“到那儿去吗?”尤莉问。

“是的,我可以陪你去。”

“但你没看到上面要求我一定要一个人去吗?”尤莉说。

“你是一个人去,”青年答道。“我可以在穆萨街的拐角上等你,假如你去得太久了,使我感到了不安,我就赶去接你,谁要是找你麻烦,我就要他好看!”

“那么,艾曼纽,”年轻姑娘吞吞吐吐地说道,“你的意见是我应该服从这个命令了?”

“是的,那送信人不是说这关系到你父亲能否得救吗?”

“他倒底有什么危险呀,艾曼纽?”

艾曼纽犹豫了一会儿,但为了使尤莉立刻做出决定,他不得不把实话说出来。

“听着,”他说,“今天是九月五日,是不是?”

“是的。”

“那么,在今天十一点钟,你的父亲差不多有三十万法郎要付。”

“是的,那我知道。”

“但是,”艾曼纽又说道,“我们公司里的现款还不够一万五千法郎。”

“那可怎么办呢?”

“所以,假如在今天十一点钟以前,你父亲找不到人来帮他,则到了十二点钟他就不得不宣布破产啦。”

“噢,来吧,来吧!”她大喊一声,急忙拖了那个青年就跑。

这时,莫雷尔夫人已把发生的一切都讲给她的儿子听了。

那青年已知道得很清楚了,自从灾祸接二连三地降临到他的身上以来,家里的生活已起了很大的变化,但他不知道事情竟会发展到这步境地。他吓得呆如木鸡。然后,他冲出房间,奔上楼梯,想在办公室里找到父亲,但他敲了很长时间门,里面毫无动静。当他还站在办公室门口的时候,他听到卧室的门开了,转过身来,看见了自己的父亲。原来莫雷尔先生并没有直接到他的办公室去,而是回到了他的卧室,直到这时才出来。

莫雷尔一看见自己的儿子,就发出了一声惊喊,他根本不知道他会回来的。他一动不动地站在老地方,用左手紧按着一件藏在他衣服底下的东西。马西米兰三步两步跳下楼梯,扑上去搂住了他父亲的脖子,突然他缩回了身子,用右手按在莫雷尔的胸膛上。“父亲!”他喊道,脸刷地变成死灰色,“你衣服底下藏着这对手枪干什么?”

“噢,我也害怕这东西!”莫雷尔说道。

“父亲,父亲!看在老天的份上,”青年惊喊道,“告诉我,您究竟拿这些武器要做什么?”

“马西米兰,”莫雷尔眼睛一眨不眨地望着自己的儿子回答说,“你是一个男子汉,而且是一个爱名誉的男子汉。来,我解释给你听。”

于是莫雷尔跨着坚定的步子向他的办公室走去,马西米兰跟在他的后面,一路走,一路发抖。莫雷尔打开门,等他的儿子进来以后就把门关上了,然后,穿过前厅,走到他的写字台前,把手枪放在上面,手指一本摊开的帐簿。这本帐簿准确无误地记录着公司的财务状况。半小时后,莫雷尔就得付出二十八万七千五百法郎。而他现在仅有一万五千二百五十法郎。

“看吧!”莫雷尔说道。

青年读着,感到愈来愈绝望。莫雷尔一言不发。他还能说些什么呢?在这样一个绝望的数字面前,还要什么解释呢?

“父亲,你已经想尽了一切办法了吗?”青年过了一会儿问道。

“是的。”莫雷尔答道。

“你再没有可收回的钱了吗?”

“一点也没有了。”

“你在各方面都搜尽了吗?”

“都搜空了。”

“这么说半小时之后,”马西米兰用一种阴沉的声音说,“我们的名誉就要蒙受耻辱了。”

“血可以洗清耻辱的。”莫雷尔说道。

“你说得对,父亲,我了解你。”于是他伸手去拿手枪,说道,“一支给你,一支给我,谢谢!”

莫雷尔拉住了他的手。“你的母亲!你的妹妹!谁去养活她们呢?”

一阵寒颤流过青年的全身。

“父亲,”他说,“你想好了是要我活下去吗?”

“是的,我要你这样做,”莫雷尔答道,“这是你的责任。马西米兰,你有一个冷静坚强的头脑。马西米兰,你不是普通人。

我什么都不希望,我什么命令都没有,我只想对你说,你设身处地仔细为我想一想,然后你自己来作出判断吧。”

年轻人想了一会儿,他的眼睛流露出一种崇高的听天由命的表情,用一种缓慢的,悲伤的姿势扯下那表示他的军衔的两个肩章。“那么,好吧,父亲,”他伸手给莫雷尔说道,“安心地死去吧,父亲。我会活下去的。”

莫雷尔几乎要跪到儿子的面前,但马西米兰抱住了他,于是这两颗高贵的心在一霎间紧紧地贴在了一起。“你知道,这不是我的错。”莫雷尔说道。

马西米兰微笑了一下。“我知道的,父亲,你是我生平所知道的最可尊敬的人。”

“好了,我的儿子,现在一切都说明白了,现在回到你母亲和妹妹那儿去吧。”

“父亲,”青年跪下一条腿说道,“祝福我吧!”

莫雷尔双手捧起他的头,把他拉近了一些,在他的前额上吻了几下,说道:“噢是的,是的,我以自己的名义和三代无可责备的祖先的名义祝福你,他们借我的口说:‘灾祸所摧毁的大厦,天命会使之重建。’看到我这样的死法,即使铁石心肠的人也会怜悯你的。他们拒绝给我宽限,对你,或许会给的。要尽量不说出有失体面的话。要去工作,去劳动,年轻人,要热忱而勇敢地去奋斗,要活下去,你,你的母亲和你的妹妹,都要克勤克俭地生活下去,这样,你的财产或许会一天天地增加,把我所欠下的债还清。到全部还清的那一天,你就可以在这间办公室里说:‘我父亲的死,是因为他无法做到我在今天所做到的事。但他是平静地死去的,因为他在临死的时候知道我会做到的。’想想看,那一天将是多么光荣,多么伟大,多么庄严埃”“父亲!父亲!”青年哭道,“你为什么就不能活下去呢?”

“假如我活着,一切就都改变了,假如我活着,关心会变成怀疑,怜悯会变成敌意。假如我活着,我只是一个不信守诺言,不能偿清债务的人,实际上,只是一个破了产的人。反过来说,假如我死了,要记得,马西米兰,我的尸首是一个诚实而不幸的人的尸首。活着连我最好的朋友也会避开我的屋子,死了,全马赛的人都会含泪送我到我最后的安息地。活着,你会以我的名字为耻,死了,你可以昂起头来说:‘我父亲是自杀的,因为他生平第一次在迫不得已的情形之下没有履行他的诺言。’”年轻人发出了一声呻吟,但看来已屈服了。因为他的头脑不是他的心已被第二次说服了。

“现在,”莫雷尔说,“让我单独留在这儿吧,想法带开你母亲和妹妹。”

“你不再见见妹妹了吗?”马西米兰问道,在这次会见中,青年的心里还藏着一个最后的朦胧的希望,他是为了那个理由才这样建议的。莫雷尔摇了摇头。“我今天早晨见过她了,”他说,“和她告别过了。”

“你没有特别的嘱咐留给我吗,父亲?”马西米兰哑着嗓子问道。

“有的,我的孩子,有一个神圣的嘱托。”

“说吧,父亲。”

“只有一家汤姆生·弗伦奇银行曾同情过我,是出于人道,还是出于自私,我不知道。它的代理人曾给了我,我不愿说赐给我三个月延期的时间,他在十分钟之后就要来收那笔二十八万七千五百法郎的期票了。这家银行应该最先还清,我的孩子,你必须尊重那个人。”

“父亲,我会的。”马西米兰说。

“现在再向你说一次,永别了,”莫雷尔说。“去吧!去吧!

我要独自呆在这儿。你可以在我卧室的写字台里找到我的遗嘱。”

青年仍旧一动不动地站在那里,心里虽想服从,但却没有勇气来实行。

“听我说,马西米兰,”他的父亲说。“假若我是一个象你这样的军人,受命去攻克某一个城堡,而你知道我肯定会在进攻时被杀的,难道你不愿意象现在这样的对我说一声:‘去吧,父亲,因为倘若您留下来就要名誉扫地,宁愿死,别受辱’!”

“是的,是的!”青年说道,“是的!”于是又浑身痉挛地用力拥抱了他父亲一次,说,“就这样吧,父亲。”说完他便冲出了办公室。

在儿子离开以后,莫雷尔两眼盯住门口,静静地站了一会儿,然后他伸手去拉铃。过了一会儿,柯克莱斯进来了。

他已不再是往常那个人了,最近三天来的可怕的一切已压垮了他。莫雷尔父子公司就要付不出款的这个想法完全把他压倒了,二十年来他从未感到过这样的屈辱。

“我的好柯克莱斯,”莫雷尔用一种难以形容的表情说道:“你去等在前厅里。当三个月前来过的那位先生,汤姆·弗伦奇银行的代表来的时候,向我通报一声。”柯克莱斯没有回答,他只是点了点头,走进前厅里,坐了下来,莫雷尔倒入他的椅子里,眼睛盯在钟表上,现在还剩七分钟,只有七分钟了。表针的移动快得令人难以相信,他象是能看到它在走动似的。

这个人,他还依旧年轻,但却为了一种或许是虚妄但至少在表面上看来很正当的理由,就要和世界上他所爱的一切告别,放弃充满家庭乐趣的生命了,在这最后的一刻,他的脑子里究竟在想些什么,实在是无法表达。他的额头挂满了冷汗,可是并不怨天尤人,他的眼睛润湿着,但却是向着天空的。时钟的针继续向前走着。手枪的保险机已打开了。他伸出手去,拿起了一支,喃喃地念着女儿的名字。然后他又放下了这致命的武器,拿起笔,写了几个字。他似乎象是和他那心爱的女儿还告别得不够似的。然后他又把目光盯到了时钟上,他不再计算分数了,而是以秒数来计算了。他又拿起了那致命的武器,他的嘴是半张着,他的眼睛盯在时钟上,当他想到扳动枪机时那格的一声时,不禁打了一个寒颤。这时,一片冷汗湿透了他的额头,一阵要命的剧痛咬着他的心。他听到了楼梯口那扇门的铰链的转动声,时钟轧轧地响了几声,预示要敲十一点了,突然办公室的门开了。莫雷尔没有转身,他在等待着柯克莱斯说这几个字:“汤姆生·弗伦奇银行代表到。”他已把手枪的枪口放在了牙齿中间。突然他听到一声大喊,这是他女儿的喊声。他转过身来,看见了尤莉的枪掉了下来。

“父亲!”年轻姑娘大声喊道,她欢喜得几乎喘不过气来了,“得救了,你得救啦!”她扑到了他的怀里,一只手高高地举着一只红丝织成的钱袋。

“得救,我的孩子!”莫雷尔诧异地问道,“你在说什么?”

“是的,得救啦,得救啦!看,快看呀!”年轻姑娘说道。

莫雷尔接过钱袋,微微吃了一惊,因为他朦胧地记得,这只钱袋一度是属于他自己的。钱袋的一端缚着那张二十八万七千五百法郎的期票,期票虽然是已经签收了的,另一端则系着一颗榛子般大的钻石,还附有一张羊皮纸的字条,上面写着:“尤莉的嫁妆。”

莫雷尔用手抹了一下额头,他觉得这似乎是一个梦。正当这时,时钟连敲了十一下,这震颤的声音直穿进他的身体,每一下都象是一把锤子敲在他的心上一样。“快说,我的孩子。”

他说,“快说说!这个钱袋你是在哪儿找到的?”

“在梅朗巷十五号六层楼上的一个小房间的壁炉架上找到的。”

“可是,”莫雷尔大声说道,“这个钱袋不是你的呀!”

尤莉把早晨收到的那封信交给了父亲。

“你是单独一个人去的吗?”莫雷尔读了信以后问道。

“艾曼纽陪我去的,父亲。他本来说好在穆萨街的拐角上等我的,但说来奇怪,我回来的时候他不在那儿了。”

“莫雷尔先生!”这时楼梯上有一个声音喊道,“莫雷尔先生!”

“这是他的声音!”尤莉说道。这时艾曼纽已走了进来,他的脸上洋溢着兴奋色彩。“法老号!”他喊道,法老号!”

“什么!什么!法老号!你疯了吗,艾曼纽?你知道那艘船已经沉没了。”

“法老号,先生!他们发出的信号是法老号!法老号进港了!”

莫雷尔倒在他的椅子里。他浑身无力,他的理智无法接受这种闻所未闻,令人难以相信的,不可思议的事。这时他的儿子进来了。

“父亲!”马西米兰喊道,“你怎么说法老号已沉没呢?了望塔上已经得到了它的信号,他们说它现在正在进港。”

“我亲爱的朋友们!”莫雷尔说道,“假如的确如此,这一定是上天的一个奇迹,太不可能!太不可能了!”

但真实而同样令人难以相信的,是他手中所握着的那只钱袋,那张签收了的期票,那光彩夺目的钻石。

“啊,先生!”柯克莱斯喊道,“那是怎么回事,法老号?”

“来吧,我亲爱的孩子们,”莫雷尔站起身来说,“我们去看看吧,假如这个消息是假的,愿苍天可怜我们!”

他们都走出去,在楼梯上遇到了莫雷尔夫人,莫雷尔夫人实在怕到办公室来。一会儿,他们便到了卡尼般丽街。这时码头上已聚满了人。人们都让路给莫雷尔。“法老号!法老号!”

每一个声音都这样说。

说来奇怪,在圣·琪安了望塔前面,有一艘帆船的尾部用白漆漆着这些字样:“法老号(马赛莫雷尔父子公司)”,它简直和原先那艘法老号一模一样,而且是满载着货物,大概还是装着洋红和靛青。它抛了锚,收了所有的帆,甲板上是茄马特船长在那儿发号施令,而佩尼隆正在向莫雷尔先生打旗语。再也不容怀疑了!眼前亲眼所见,亲耳所闻的事是真实的。而且一万余人都在场当见证人。莫雷尔父子在岸上激动地拥抱起来,市民们望着这奇迹都在欢呼鼓掌,这时,有一个留着一脸黑胡须的男子,正躲在一处哨兵的岗亭里,望着这个令人激动的场面,低声说道:“快乐吧,高贵的心呀!愿上帝祝福您所做的和将要做的种种善事,让我的感激和您的恩惠都深藏不露吧!”

于是,带着一个愉快的微笑,他离开那隐身的地方,神不知鬼不觉地走下一侧岸边的便梯,高呼三声:“雅格布!雅格布!雅格布!”于是一艘小艇向岸边划来,接他上了船,送他到了一艘豪华的游艇旁边,他象一个水手那样灵活地跃上游艇的甲板,从那儿再回过身来望了一眼莫雷尔,只见莫雷尔正欢喜得热泪盈眶,正在极其亲热地和他周围的人一一握手,并以感激的目光望着天空,似乎想在天上寻觅那不可知的造福者似的。

“现在,”那位无名客说道,“永别了,仁慈,人道和感激!永别了,一切高贵的情意,我已代天报答了善人。现在复仇之神授于我以权力,命我去惩罚恶人!”随着这些话,他发出一个信号,而象是就只等待这个信号似的,游艇立刻向港外开去了。
 

THE EXTENSION provided for by the agent of Thomson & French, at the moment when Morrel expected it least, was to the poor shipowner so decided a stroke of good fortune that he almost dared to believe that fate was at length grown weary of wasting her spite upon him. The same day he told his wife, Emmanuel, and his daughter all that had occurred; and a ray of hope, if not of tranquillity, returned to the family. Unfortunately, however, Morrel had not only engagements with the house of Thomson & French, who had shown themselves so considerate towards him; and, as he had said, in business he had correspondents, and not friends. When he thought the matter over, he could by no means account for this generous conduct on the part of Thomson & French towards him; and could only attribute it to some such selfish argument as this:--"We had better help a man who owes us nearly 300,000 francs, and have those 300,000 francs at the end of three months than hasten his ruin, and get only six or eight per cent of our money back again." Unfortunately, whether through envy or stupidity, all Morrel's correspondents did not take this view; and some even came to a contrary decision. The bills signed by Morrel were presented at his office with scrupulous exactitude, and, thanks to the delay granted by the Englishman, were paid by Coclès with equal punctuality. Coclès thus remained in his accustomed tranquillity. It was Morrel alone who remembered with alarm, that if he had to repay on the 15th the 50,000 francs of M. de Boville, and on the 30th the 32,500 francs of bills, for which, as well as the debt due to the inspector of prisons, he had time granted, he must be a ruined man.

The opinion of all the commercial men was that, under the reverses which had successively weighed down Morrel, it was impossible for him to remain solvent. Great, therefore, was the astonishment when at the end of the month, he cancelled all his obligations with his usual punctuality. Still confidence was not restored to all minds, and the general opinion was that the complete ruin of the unfortunate shipowner had been postponed only until the end of the month. The month passed, and Morrel made extraordinary efforts to get in all his resources. Formerly his paper, at any date, was taken with confidence, and was even in request. Morrel now tried to negotiate bills at ninety days only, and none of the banks would give him credit. Fortunately, Morrel had some funds coming in on which he could rely; and, as they reached him, he found himself in a condition to meet his engagements when the end of July came. The agent of Thomson & French had not been again seen at Marseilles; the day after, or two days after his visit to Morrel, he had disappeared; and as in that city he had had no intercourse but with the mayor, the inspector of prisons, and M. Morrel, his departure left no trace except in the memories of these three persons. As to the sailors of the Pharaon, they must have found snug berths elsewhere, for they also had disappeared.

Captain Gaumard, recovered from his illness, had returned from Palma. He delayed presenting himself at Morrel's, but the owner, hearing of his arrival, went to see him. The worthy shipowner knew, from Penelon's recital, of the captain's brave conduct during the storm, and tried to console him. He brought him also the amount of his wages, which Captain Gaumard had not dared to apply for. As he descended the staircase, Morrel met Penelon, who was going up. Penelon had, it would seem, made good use of his money, for he was newly clad. When he saw his employer, the worthy tar seemed much embarrassed, drew on one side into the corner of the landing-place, passed his quid from one cheek to the other, stared stupidly with his great eyes, and only acknowledged the squeeze of the hand which Morrel as usual gave him by a slight pressure in return. Morrel attributed Penelon's embarrassment to the elegance of his attire; it was evident the good fellow had not gone to such an expense on his own account; he was, no doubt, engaged on board some other vessel, and thus his bashfulness arose from the fact of his not having, if we may so express ourselves, worn mourning for the Pharaon longer. Perhaps he had come to tell Captain Gaumard of his good luck, and to offer him employment from his new master. "Worthy fellows!" said Morrel, as he went away, "may your new master love you as I loved you, and be more fortunate than I have been!"

August rolled by in unceasing efforts on the part of Morrel to renew his credit or revive the old. On the 20th of August it was known at Marseilles that he had left town in the mailcoach, and then it was said that the bills would go to protest at the end of the month, and that Morrel had gone away and left his chief clerk Emmanuel, and his cashier Coclès, to meet the creditors. But, contrary to all expectation, when the 31st of August came, the house opened as usual, and Coclès appeared behind the grating of the counter, examined all bills presented with the usual scrutiny, and, from first to last, paid all with the usual precision. There came in, moreover, two drafts which M. Morrel had fully anticipated, and which Coclès paid as punctually as the bills which the shipowner had accepted. All this was incomprehensible, and then, with the tenacity peculiar to prophets of bad news, the failure was put off until the end of September. On the 1st, Morrel returned; he was awaited by his family with extreme anxiety, for from this journey to Paris they hoped great things. Morrel had thought of Danglars, who was now immensely rich, and had lain under great obligations to Morrel in former days, since to him it was owing that Danglars entered the service of the Spanish banker, with whom he had laid the foundations of his vast wealth. It was said at this moment that Danglars was worth from six to eight millions of francs, and had unlimited credit. Danglars, then, without taking a crown from his pocket, could save Morrel; he had but to pass his word for a loan, and Morrel was saved. Morrel had long thought of Danglars, but had kept away from some instinctive motive, and had delayed as long as possible availing himself of this last resource. And Morrel was right, for he returned home crushed by the humiliation of a refusal. Yet, on his arrival, Morrel did not utter a complaint, or say one harsh word. He embraced his weeping wife and daughter, pressed Emmanuel's hand with friendly warmth, and then going to his private room on the second floor had sent for Coclès. "Then," said the two women to Emmanuel, "we are indeed ruined."

It was agreed in a brief council held among them, that Julie should write to her brother, who was in garrison at N?mes, to come to them as speedily as possible. The poor women felt instinctively that they required all their strength to support the blow that impended. Besides, Maximilian Morrel, though hardly two and twenty, had great influence over his father. He was a strong-minded, upright young man. At the time when he decided on his profession his father had no desire to choose for him, but had consulted young Maximilian's taste. He had at once declared for a military life, and had in consequence studied hard, passed brilliantly through the Polytechnic School, and left it as sub-lieutenant of the 53d of the line. For a year he had held this rank, and expected promotion on the first vacancy. In his regiment Maximilian Morrel was noted for his rigid observance, not only of the obligations imposed on a soldier, but also of the duties of a man; and he thus gained the name of "the stoic." We need hardly say that many of those who gave him this epithet repeated it because they had heard it, and did not even know what it meant. This was the young man whom his mother and sister called to their aid to sustain them under the serious trial which they felt they would soon have to endure. They had not mistaken the gravity of this event, for the moment after Morrel had entered his private office with Coclès, Julie saw the latter leave it pale, trembling, and his features betraying the utmost consternation. She would have questioned him as he passed by her, but the worthy creature hastened down the staircase with unusual precipitation, and only raised his hands to heaven and exclaimed, "Oh, mademoiselle, mademoiselle, what a dreadful misfortune! Who could ever have believed it!" A moment afterwards Julie saw him go up-stairs carrying two or three heavy ledgers, a portfolio, and a bag of money.

Morrel examined the ledgers, opened the portfolio, and counted the money. All his funds amounted to 6,000, or 8,000 francs, his bills receivable up to the 5th to 4,000 or 5,000, which, making the best of everything, gave him 14,000 francs to meet debts amounting to 287,500 francs. He had not even the means for making a possible settlement on account. However, when Morrel went down to his dinner, he appeared very calm. This calmness was more alarming to the two women than the deepest dejection would have been. After dinner Morrel usually went out and used to take his coffee at the Phocaean club, and read the Semaphore; this day he did not leave the house, but returned to his office.

As to Coclès, he seemed completely bewildered. For part of the day he went into the court-yard, seated himself on a stone with his head bare and exposed to the blazing sun. Emmanuel tried to comfort the women, but his eloquence faltered. The young man was too well acquainted with the business of the house, not to feel that a great catastrophe hung over the Morrel family. Night came, the two women had watched, hoping that when he left his room Morrel would come to them, but they heard him pass before their door, and trying to conceal the noise of his footsteps. They listened; he went into his sleeping-room, and fastened the door inside. Madame Morrel sent her daughter to bed, and half an hour after Julie had retired, she rose, took off her shoes, and went stealthily along the passage, to see through the keyhole what her husband was doing. In the passage she saw a retreating shadow; it was Julie, who, uneasy herself, had anticipated her mother. The young lady went towards Madame Morrel.

"He is writing," she said. They had understood each other without speaking. Madame Morrel looked again through the keyhole, Morrel was writing; but Madame Morrel remarked, what her daughter had not observed, that her husband was writing on stamped paper. The terrible idea that he was writing his will flashed across her; she shuddered, and yet had not strength to utter a word. Next day M. Morrel seemed as calm as ever, went into his office as usual, came to his breakfast punctually, and then, after dinner, he placed his daughter beside him, took her head in his arms, and held her for a long time against his bosom. In the evening, Julie told her mother, that although he was apparently so calm, she had noticed that her father's heart beat violently. The next two days passed in much the same way. On the evening of the 4th of September, M. Morrel asked his daughter for the key of his study. Julie trembled at this request, which seemed to her of bad omen. Why did her father ask for this key which she always kept, and which was only taken from her in childhood as a punishment? The young girl looked at Morrel.

"What have I done wrong, father," she said, "that you should take this key from me?"

"Nothing, my dear," replied the unhappy man, the tears starting to his eyes at this simple question,--"nothing, only I want it." Julie made a pretence to feel for the key. "I must have left it in my room," she said. And she went out, but instead of going to her apartment she hastened to consult Emmanuel. "Do not give this key to your father," said he, "and to-morrow morning, if possible, do not quit him for a moment." She questioned Emmanuel, but he knew nothing, or would not say what he knew. During the night, between the 4th and 5th of September, Madame Morrel remained listening for every sound, and, until three o'clock in the morning, she heard her husband pacing the room in great agitation. It was three o'clock when he threw himself on the bed. The mother and daughter passed the night together. They had expected Maximilian since the previous evening. At eight o'clock in the morning Morrel entered their chamber. He was calm; but the agitation of the night was legible in his pale and careworn visage. They did not dare to ask him how he had slept. Morrel was kinder to his wife, more affectionate to his daughter, than he had ever been. He could not cease gazing at and kissing the sweet girl. Julie, mindful of Emmanuel's request, was following her father when he quitted the room, but he said to her quickly,--"Remain with your mother, dearest." Julie wished to accompany him. "I wish you to do so," said he.

This was the first time Morrel had ever so spoken, but he said it in a tone of paternal kindness, and Julie did not dare to disobey. She remained at the same spot standing mute and motionless. An instant afterwards the door opened, she felt two arms encircle her, and a mouth pressed her forehead. She looked up and uttered an exclamation of joy.

"Maximilian, my dearest brother!" she cried. At these words Madame Morrel rose, and threw herself into her son's arms. "Mother," said the young man, looking alternately at Madame Morrel and her daughter, "what has occurred--what has happened? Your letter has frightened me, and I have come hither with all speed."

"Julie," said Madame Morrel, making a sign to the young man, "go and tell your father that Maximilian has just arrived." The young lady rushed out of the apartment, but on the first step of the staircase she found a man holding a letter in his hand.

"Are you not Mademoiselle Julie Morrel?" inquired the man, with a strong Italian accent.

"Yes, sir," replied Julie with hesitation; "what is your pleasure? I do not know you."

"Read this letter," he said, handing it to her. Julie hesitated. "It concerns the best interests of your father," said the messenger.

The young girl hastily took the letter from him. She opened it quickly and read:--

"Go this moment to the Allées de Meillan, enter the house No. 15, ask the porter for the key of the room on the fifth floor, enter the apartment, take from the corner of the mantelpiece a purse netted in red silk, and give it to your father. It is important that he should receive it before eleven o'clock. You promised to obey me implicitly. Remember your oath.

"Sinbad the Sailor."

The young girl uttered a joyful cry, raised her eyes, looked round to question the messenger, but he had disappeared. She cast her eyes again over the note to peruse it a second time, and saw there was a postscript. She read:--

"It is important that you should fulfil this mission in person and alone. If you go accompanied by any other person, or should any one else go in your place, the porter will reply that he does not know anything about it."

This postscript decreased greatly the young girl's happiness. Was there nothing to fear? was there not some snare laid for her? Her innocence had kept her in ignorance of the dangers that might assail a young girl of her age. But there is no need to know danger in order to fear it; indeed, it may be observed, that it is usually unknown perils that inspire the greatest terror.

Julie hesitated, and resolved to take counsel. Yet, through a singular impulse, it was neither to her mother nor her brother that she applied, but to Emmanuel. She hastened down and told him what had occurred on the day when the agent of Thomson & French had come to her father's, related the scene on the staircase, repeated the promise she had made, and showed him the letter. "You must go, then, mademoiselle," said Emmanuel.

"Go there?" murmured Julie.

"Yes; I will accompany you."

"But did you not read that I must be alone?" said Julie.

"And you shall be alone," replied the young man. "I will await you at the corner of the Rue de Musée, and if you are so long absent as to make me uneasy, I will hasten to rejoin you, and woe to him of whom you shall have cause to complain to me!"

"Then, Emmanuel?" said the young girl with hesitation, "it is your opinion that I should obey this invitation?"

"Yes. Did not the messenger say your father's safety depended upon it?"

"But what danger threatens him, then, Emmanuel?" she asked.

Emmanuel hesitated a moment, but his desire to make Julie decide immediately made him reply.

"Listen," he said; "to-day is the 5th of September, is it not?"

"Yes."

"To-day, then, at eleven o'clock, your father has nearly three hundred thousand francs to pay?"

"Yes, we know that."

"Well, then," continued Emmanuel, "we have not fifteen thousand francs in the house."

"What will happen then?"

"Why, if to-day before eleven o'clock your father has not found someone who will come to his aid, he will be compelled at twelve o'clock to declare himself a bankrupt."

"Oh, come, then, come!" cried she, hastening away with the young man. During this time, Madame Morrel had told her son everything. The young man knew quite well that, after the succession of misfortunes which had befallen his father, great changes had taken place in the style of living and housekeeping; but he did not know that matters had reached such a point. He was thunderstruck. Then, rushing hastily out of the apartment, he ran up-stairs, expecting to find his father in his study, but he rapped there in vain.

While he was yet at the door of the study he heard the bedroom door open, turned, and saw his father. Instead of going direct to his study, M. Morrel had returned to his bed-chamber, which he was only this moment quitting. Morrel uttered a cry of surprise at the sight of his son, of whose arrival he was ignorant. He remained motionless on the spot, pressing with his left hand something he had concealed under his coat. Maximilian sprang down the staircase, and threw his arms round his father's neck; but suddenly he recoiled, and placed his right hand on Morrel's breast. "Father," he exclaimed, turning pale as death, "what are you going to do with that brace of pistols under your coat?"

"Oh, this is what I feared!" said Morrel.

"Father, father, in heaven's name," exclaimed the young man, "what are these weapons for?"

"Maximilian," replied Morrel, looking fixedly at his son, "you are a man, and a man of honor. Come, and I will explain to you."

And with a firm step Morrel went up to his study, while Maximilian followed him, trembling as he went. Morrel opened the door, and closed it behind his son; then, crossing the anteroom, went to his desk on which he placed the pistols, and pointed with his finger to an open ledger. In this ledger was made out an exact balance-sheet of his affair's. Morrel had to pay, within half an hour, 287,500 francs. All he possessed was 15,257 francs. "Read!" said Morrel.

The young man was overwhelmed as he read. Morrel said not a word. What could he say? What need he add to such a desperate proof in figures? "And have you done all that is possible, father, to meet this disastrous result?" asked the young man, after a moment's pause. "I have," replied Morrel.

"You have no money coming in on which you can rely?"

"None."

"You have exhausted every resource?"

"All."

"And in half an hour," said Maximilian in a gloomy voice, "our name is dishonored!"

"Blood washes out dishonor," said Morrel.

"You are right, father; I understand you." Then extending his hand towards one of the pistols, he said, "There is one for you and one for me--thanks!" Morrel caught his hand. "Your mother--your sister! Who will support them?" A shudder ran through the young man's frame. "Father," he said, "do you reflect that you are bidding me to live?"

"Yes, I do so bid you," answered Morrel, "it is your duty. You have a calm, strong mind, Maximilian. Maximilian, you are no ordinary man. I make no requests or commands; I only ask you to examine my position as if it were your own, and then judge for yourself."

The young man reflected for a moment, then an expression of sublime resignation appeared in his eyes, and with a slow and sad gesture he took off his two epaulets, the insignia of his rank. "Be it so, then, my father," he said, extending his hand to Morrel, "die in peace, my father; I will live." Morrel was about to cast himself on his knees before his son, but Maximilian caught him in his arms, and those two noble hearts were pressed against each other for a moment. "You know it is not my fault," said Morrel. Maximilian smiled. "I know, father, you are the most honorable man I have ever known."

"Good, my son. And now there is no more to be said; go and rejoin your mother and sister."

"My father," said the young man, bending his knee, "bless me!" Morrel took the head of his son between his two hands, drew him forward, and kissing his forehead several times said, "Oh, yes, yes, I bless you in my own name, and in the name of three generations of irreproachable men, who say through me, 'The edifice which misfortune has destroyed, providence may build up again.' On seeing me die such a death, the most inexorable will have pity on you. To you, perhaps, they will accord the time they have refused to me. Then do your best to keep our name free from dishonor. Go to work, labor, young man, struggle ardently and courageously; live, yourself, your mother and sister, with the most rigid economy, so that from day to day the property of those whom I leave in your hands may augment and fructify. Reflect how glorious a day it will be, how grand, how solemn, that day of complete restoration, on which you will say in this very office, 'My father died because he could not do what I have this day done; but he died calmly and peaceably, because in dying he knew what I should do.'"

"My father, my father!" cried the young man, "why should you not live?"

"If I live, all would be changed; if I live, interest would be converted into doubt, pity into hostility; if I live I am only a man who his broken his word, failed in his engagements--in fact, only a bankrupt. If, on the contrary, I die, remember, Maximilian, my corpse is that of an honest but unfortunate man. Living, my best friends would avoid my house; dead, all Marseilles will follow me in tears to my last home. Living, you would feel shame at my name; dead, you may raise your head and say, 'I am the son of him you killed, because, for the first time, he has been compelled to break his word.'"

The young man uttered a groan, but appeared resigned.

"And now," said Morrel, "leave me alone, and endeavor to keep your mother and sister away."

"Will you not see my sister once more?" asked Maximilian. A last but final hope was concealed by the young man in the effect of this interview, and therefore he had suggested it. Morrel shook his head. "I saw her this morning, and bade her adieu."

"Have you no particular commands to leave with me, my father?" inquired Maximilian in a faltering voice.

"Yes; my son, and a sacred command."

"Say it, my father."

"The house of Thomson & French is the only one who, from humanity, or, it may be, selfishness--it is not for me to read men's hearts--has had any pity for me. Its agent, who will in ten minutes present himself to receive the amount of a bill of 287,500 francs, I will not say granted, but offered me three months. Let this house be the first repaid, my son, and respect this man."

"Father, I will," said Maximilian.

"And now, once more, adieu," said Morrel. "Go, leave me; I would be alone. You will find my will in the secretary in my bedroom."

The young man remained standing and motionless, having but the force of will and not the power of execution.

"Hear me, Maximilian," said his father. "Suppose I was a soldier like you, and ordered to carry a certain redoubt, and you knew I must be killed in the assault, would you not say to me, as you said just now, 'Go, father; for you are dishonored by delay, and death is preferable to shame!'"

"Yes, yes," said the young man, "yes;" and once again embracing his father with convulsive pressure, he said, "Be it so, my father."

And he rushed out of the study. When his son had left him, Morrel remained an instant standing with his eyes fixed on the door; then putting forth his arm, he pulled the bell. After a moment's interval, Coclès appeared.

It was no longer the same man--the fearful revelations of the three last days had crushed him. This thought--the house of Morrel is about to stop payment--bent him to the earth more than twenty years would otherwise have done.

"My worthy Coclès," said Morrel in a tone impossible to describe, "do you remain in the ante-chamber. When the gentleman who came three months ago--the agent of Thomson & French--arrives, announce his arrival to me." Coclès made no reply; he made a sign with his head, went into the anteroom, and seated himself. Morrel fell back in his chair, his eyes fixed on the clock; there were seven minutes left, that was all. The hand moved on with incredible rapidity, he seemed to see its motion.

What passed in the mind of this man at the supreme moment of his agony cannot be told in words. He was still comparatively young, he was surrounded by the loving care of a devoted family, but he had convinced himself by a course of reasoning, illogical perhaps, yet certainly plausible, that he must separate himself from all he held dear in the world, even life itself. To form the slightest idea of his feelings, one must have seen his face with its expression of enforced resignation and its tear-moistened eyes raised to heaven. The minute hand moved on. The pistols were loaded; he stretched forth his hand, took one up, and murmured his daughter's name. Then he laid it down seized his pen, and wrote a few words. It seemed to him as if he had not taken a sufficient farewell of his beloved daughter. Then he turned again to the clock, counting time now not by minutes, but by seconds. He took up the deadly weapon again, his lips parted and his eyes fixed on the clock, and then shuddered at the click of the trigger as he cocked the pistol. At this moment of mortal anguish the cold sweat came forth upon his brow, a pang stronger than death clutched at his heart-strings. He heard the door of the staircase creak on its hinges--the clock gave its warning to strike eleven--the door of his study opened; Morrel did not turn round--he expected these words of Coclès, "The agent of Thomson & French."

He placed the muzzle of the pistol between his teeth. Suddenly he heard a cry--it was his daughter's voice. He turned and saw Julie. The pistol fell from his hands. "My father!" cried the young girl, out of breath, and half dead with joy--"saved, you are saved!" And she threw herself into his arms, holding in her extended hand a red, netted silk purse.

"Saved, my child!" said Morrel; "what do you mean?"

"Yes, saved--saved! See, see!" said the young girl.

Morrel took the purse, and started as he did so, for a vague remembrance reminded him that it once belonged to himself. At one end was the receipted bill for the 287,000 francs, and at the other was a diamond as large as a hazel-nut, with these words on a small slip of parchment:

 

"JULIE'S DOWRY."

Morrel passed his hand over his brow; it seemed to him a dream. At this moment the clock struck eleven. He felt as if each stroke of the hammer fell upon his heart. "Explain, my child," he said, "Explain, my child," he said, "explain--where did you find this purse?"

"In a house in the Allées de Meillan, No. 15, on the corner of a mantelpiece in a small room on the fifth floor."

"But," cried Morrel, "this purse is not yours!" Julie handed to her father the letter she had received in the morning.

"And did you go alone?" asked Morrel, after he had read it.

"Emmanuel accompanied me, father. He was to have waited for me at the corner of the Rue de Musée, but, strange to say, he was not there when I returned."

"Monsieur Morrel!" exclaimed a voice on the stairs.--"Monsieur Morrel!"

"It is his voice!" said Julie. At this moment Emmanuel entered, his countenance full of animation and joy. "The Pharaon!" he cried; "the Pharaon!"

"What--what--the Pharaon! Are you mad, Emmanuel? You know the vessel is lost."

"The Pharaon, sir--they signal the Pharaon! The Pharaon is entering the harbor!" Morrel fell back in his chair, his strength was failing him; his understanding weakened by such events, refused to comprehend such incredible, unheard-of, fabulous facts. But his son came in. "Father," cried Maximilian, "how could you say the Pharaon was lost? The lookout has signalled her, and they say she is now coming into port."

"My dear friends," said Morrel, "if this be so, it must be a miracle of heaven! Impossible, impossible!"

But what was real and not less incredible was the purse he held in his hand, the acceptance receipted--the splendid diamond.

"Ah, sir," exclaimed Coclès, "what can it mean?--the Pharaon?"

"Come, dear ones," said Morrel, rising from his seat, "let us go and see, and heaven have pity upon us if it be false intelligence!" They all went out, and on the stairs met Madame Morrel, who had been afraid to go up into the study. In a moment they were at the Cannebiere. There was a crowd on the pier. All the crowd gave way before Morrel. "The Pharaon, the Pharaon!" said every voice.

And, wonderful to see, in front of the tower of Saint-Jean, was a ship bearing on her stern these words, printed in white letters, "The Pharaon, Morrel & Son, of Marseilles." She was the exact duplicate of the other Pharaon, and loaded, as that had been, with cochineal and indigo. She cast anchor, clued up sails, and on the deck was Captain Gaumard giving orders, and good old Penelon making signals to M. Morrel. To doubt any longer was impossible; there was the evidence of the senses, and ten thousand persons who came to corroborate the testimony. As Morrel and his son embraced on the pier-head, in the presence and amid the applause of the whole city witnessing this event, a man, with his face half-covered by a black beard, and who, concealed behind the sentry-box, watched the scene with delight, uttered these words in a low tone: "Be happy, noble heart, be blessed for all the good thou hast done and wilt do hereafter, and let my gratitude remain in obscurity like your good deeds."

And with a smile expressive of supreme content, he left his hiding-place, and without being observed, descended one of the flights of steps provided for debarkation, and hailing three times, shouted "Jacopo, Jacopo, Jacopo!" Then a launch came to shore, took him on board, and conveyed him to a yacht splendidly fitted up, on whose deck he sprung with the activity of a sailor; thence he once again looked towards Morrel, who, weeping with joy, was shaking hands most cordially with all the crowd around him, and thanking with a look the unknown benefactor whom he seemed to be seeking in the skies. "And now," said the unknown, "farewell kindness, humanity, and gratitude! Farewell to all the feelings that expand the heart! I have been heaven's substitute to recompense the good--now the god of vengeance yields to me his power to punish the wicked!" At these words he gave a signal, and, as if only awaiting this signal, the yacht instantly put out to sea.
 



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