Part 7. Chapter I. The danger of confiding one’s secret to a goat
Many weeks had elapsed.
The first of March had arrived. The sun, which Dubartas, that classic ancestor of periphrase, had not yet dubbed the “Grand-duke of Candles,” was none the less radiant and joyous on that account. It was one of those spring days which possesses so much sweetness and beauty, that all Paris turns out into the squares and promenades and celebrates them as though they were Sundays. In those days of brilliancy, warmth, and serenity, there is a certain hour above all others, when the façade of Notre-Dame should be admired. It is the moment when the sun, already declining towards the west, looks the cathedral almost full in the face. Its rays, growing more and more horizontal, withdraw slowly from the pavement of the square, and mount up the perpendicular façade, whose thousand bosses in high relief they cause to start out from the shadows, while the great central rose window flames like the eye of a cyclops, inflamed with the reflections of the forge.
This was the hour.
Opposite the lofty cathedral, reddened by the setting sun, on the stone balcony built above the porch of a rich Gothic house, which formed the angle of the square and the Rue du Parvis, several young girls were laughing and chatting with every sort of grace and mirth. From the length of the veil which fell from their pointed coif, twined with pearls, to their heels, from the fineness of the embroidered chemisette which covered their shoulders and allowed a glimpse, according to the pleasing custom of the time, of the swell of their fair virgin bosoms, from the opulence of their under-petticoats still more precious than their overdress (marvellous refinement), from the gauze, the silk, the velvet, with which all this was composed, and, above all, from the whiteness of their hands, which certified to their leisure and idleness, it was easy to divine they were noble and wealthy heiresses. They were, in fact, Damoiselle Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier and her companions, Diane de Christeuil, Amelotte de Montmichel, Colombe de Gaillefontaine, and the little de Champchevrier maiden; all damsels of good birth, assembled at that moment at the house of the dame widow de Gondelaurier, on account of Monseigneur de Beaujeu and Madame his wife, who were to come to Paris in the month of April, there to choose maids of honor for the Dauphiness Marguerite, who was to be received in Picardy from the hands of the Flemings. Now, all the squires for twenty leagues around were intriguing for this favor for their daughters, and a goodly number of the latter had been already brought or sent to Paris. These four maidens had been confided to the discreet and venerable charge of Madame Aloïse de Gondelaurier, widow of a former commander of the king’s cross-bowmen, who had retired with her only daughter to her house in the Place du Parvis, Notre-Dame, in Paris.
The balcony on which these young girls stood opened from a chamber richly tapestried in fawn-colored Flanders leather, stamped with golden foliage. The beams, which cut the ceiling in parallel lines, diverted the eye with a thousand eccentric painted and gilded carvings. Splendid enamels gleamed here and there on carved chests; a boar’s head in faïence crowned a magnificent dresser, whose two shelves announced that the mistress of the house was the wife or widow of a knight banneret. At the end of the room, by the side of a lofty chimney blazoned with arms from top to bottom, in a rich red velvet arm-chair, sat Dame de Gondelaurier, whose five and fifty years were written upon her garments no less distinctly than upon her face.
Beside her stood a young man of imposing mien, although partaking somewhat of vanity and bravado—one of those handsome fellows whom all women agree to admire, although grave men learned in physiognomy shrug their shoulders at them. This young man wore the garb of a captain of the king’s unattached archers, which bears far too much resemblance to the costume of Jupiter, which the reader has already been enabled to admire in the first book of this history, for us to inflict upon him a second description.
The damoiselles were seated, a part in the chamber, a part in the balcony, some on square cushions of Utrecht velvet with golden corners, others on stools of oak carved in flowers and figures. Each of them held on her knee a section of a great needlework tapestry, on which they were working in company, while one end of it lay upon the rush mat which covered the floor.
They were chatting together in that whispering tone and with the half-stifled laughs peculiar to an assembly of young girls in whose midst there is a young man. The young man whose presence served to set in play all these feminine self-conceits, appeared to pay very little heed to the matter, and, while these pretty damsels were vying with one another to attract his attention, he seemed to be chiefly absorbed in polishing the buckle of his sword belt with his doeskin glove. From time to time, the old lady addressed him in a very low tone, and he replied as well as he was able, with a sort of awkward and constrained politeness.
From the smiles and significant gestures of Dame Aloïse, from the glances which she threw towards her daughter, Fleur-de-Lys, as she spoke low to the captain, it was easy to see that there was here a question of some betrothal concluded, some marriage near at hand no doubt, between the young man and Fleur-de-Lys. From the embarrassed coldness of the officer, it was easy to see that on his side, at least, love had no longer any part in the matter. His whole air was expressive of constraint and weariness, which our lieutenants of the garrison would to-day translate admirably as, “What a beastly bore!”
The poor dame, very much infatuated with her daughter, like any other silly mother, did not perceive the officer’s lack of enthusiasm, and strove in low tones to call his attention to the infinite grace with which Fleur-de-Lys used her needle or wound her skein.
“Come, little cousin,” she said to him, plucking him by the sleeve, in order to speak in his ear, “Look at her, do! see her stoop.”
“Yes, truly,” replied the young man, and fell back into his glacial and absent-minded silence.
A moment later, he was obliged to bend down again, and Dame Aloïse said to him,—
“Have you ever beheld a more gay and charming face than that of your betrothed? Can one be more white and blonde? are not her hands perfect? and that neck—does it not assume all the curves of the swan in ravishing fashion? How I envy you at times! and how happy you are to be a man, naughty libertine that you are! Is not my Fleur-de-Lys adorably beautiful, and are you not desperately in love with her?”
“Of course,” he replied, still thinking of something else.
“But do say something,” said Madame Aloïse, suddenly giving his shoulder a push; “you have grown very timid.”
We can assure our readers that timidity was neither the captain’s virtue nor his defect. But he made an effort to do what was demanded of him.
“Fair cousin,” he said, approaching Fleur-de-Lys, “what is the subject of this tapestry work which you are fashioning?”
“Fair cousin,” responded Fleur-de-Lys, in an offended tone, “I have already told you three times. ’Tis the grotto of Neptune.”
It was evident that Fleur-de-Lys saw much more clearly than her mother through the captain’s cold and absent-minded manner. He felt the necessity of making some conversation.
“And for whom is this Neptunerie destined?”
“For the Abbey of Saint-Antoine des Champs,” answered Fleur-de-Lys, without raising her eyes.
The captain took up a corner of the tapestry.
“Who, my fair cousin, is this big gendarme, who is puffing out his cheeks to their full extent and blowing a trumpet?”
“’Tis Triton,” she replied.
There was a rather pettish intonation in Fleur-de-Lys’s laconic words. The young man understood that it was indispensable that he should whisper something in her ear, a commonplace, a gallant compliment, no matter what. Accordingly he bent down, but he could find nothing in his imagination more tender and personal than this,—
“Why does your mother always wear that surcoat with armorial designs, like our grandmothers of the time of Charles VII.? Tell her, fair cousin, that ’tis no longer the fashion, and that the hinge (gond) and the laurel (laurier) embroidered on her robe give her the air of a walking mantlepiece. In truth, people no longer sit thus on their banners, I assure you.”
Fleur-de-Lys raised her beautiful eyes, full of reproach, “Is that all of which you can assure me?” she said, in a low voice.
In the meantime, Dame Aloïse, delighted to see them thus bending towards each other and whispering, said as she toyed with the clasps of her prayer-book,—
“Touching picture of love!”
The captain, more and more embarrassed, fell back upon the subject of the tapestry,—“’Tis, in sooth, a charming work!” he exclaimed.
Whereupon Colombe de Gaillefontaine, another beautiful blonde, with a white skin, dressed to the neck in blue damask, ventured a timid remark which she addressed to Fleur-de-Lys, in the hope that the handsome captain would reply to it, “My dear Gondelaurier, have you seen the tapestries of the Hôtel de la Roche-Guyon?”
“Is not that the hôtel in which is enclosed the garden of the Lingère du Louvre?” asked Diane de Christeuil with a laugh; for she had handsome teeth, and consequently laughed on every occasion.
“And where there is that big, old tower of the ancient wall of Paris,” added Amelotte de Montmichel, a pretty fresh and curly-headed brunette, who had a habit of sighing just as the other laughed, without knowing why.
“My dear Colombe,” interpolated Dame Aloïse, “do you not mean the hôtel which belonged to Monsieur de Bacqueville, in the reign of King Charles VI.? there are indeed many superb high warp tapestries there.”
“Charles VI.! Charles VI.!” muttered the young captain, twirling his moustache. “Good heavens! what old things the good dame does remember!”
Madame de Gondelaurier continued, “Fine tapestries, in truth. A work so esteemed that it passes as unrivalled.”
At that moment Bérangère de Champchevrier, a slender little maid of seven years, who was peering into the square through the trefoils of the balcony, exclaimed, “Oh! look, fair Godmother Fleur-de-Lys, at that pretty dancer who is dancing on the pavement and playing the tambourine in the midst of the loutish bourgeois!”
The sonorous vibration of a tambourine was, in fact, audible. “Some gypsy from Bohemia,” said Fleur-de-Lys, turning carelessly toward the square.
“Look! look!” exclaimed her lively companions; and they all ran to the edge of the balcony, while Fleur-de-Lys, rendered thoughtful by the coldness of her betrothed, followed them slowly, and the latter, relieved by this incident, which put an end to an embarrassing conversation, retreated to the farther end of the room, with the satisfied air of a soldier released from duty. Nevertheless, the fair Fleur-de-Lys’s was a charming and noble service, and such it had formerly appeared to him; but the captain had gradually become blasé; the prospect of a speedy marriage cooled him more every day. Moreover, he was of a fickle disposition, and, must we say it, rather vulgar in taste. Although of very noble birth, he had contracted in his official harness more than one habit of the common trooper. The tavern and its accompaniments pleased him. He was only at his ease amid gross language, military gallantries, facile beauties, and successes yet more easy. He had, nevertheless, received from his family some education and some politeness of manner; but he had been thrown on the world too young, he had been in garrison at too early an age, and every day the polish of a gentleman became more and more effaced by the rough friction of his gendarme’s cross-belt. While still continuing to visit her from time to time, from a remnant of common respect, he felt doubly embarrassed with Fleur-de-Lys; in the first place, because, in consequence of having scattered his love in all sorts of places, he had reserved very little for her; in the next place, because, amid so many stiff, formal, and decent ladies, he was in constant fear lest his mouth, habituated to oaths, should suddenly take the bit in its teeth, and break out into the language of the tavern. The effect can be imagined!
Moreover, all this was mingled in him, with great pretentions to elegance, toilet, and a fine appearance. Let the reader reconcile these things as best he can. I am simply the historian.
He had remained, therefore, for several minutes, leaning in silence against the carved jamb of the chimney, and thinking or not thinking, when Fleur-de-Lys suddenly turned and addressed him. After all, the poor young girl was pouting against the dictates of her heart.
“Fair cousin, did you not speak to us of a little Bohemian whom you saved a couple of months ago, while making the patrol with the watch at night, from the hands of a dozen robbers?”
“I believe so, fair cousin,” said the captain.
“Well,” she resumed, “perchance ’tis that same gypsy girl who is dancing yonder, on the church square. Come and see if you recognize her, fair Cousin Phœbus.”
A secret desire for reconciliation was apparent in this gentle invitation which she gave him to approach her, and in the care which she took to call him by name. Captain Phœbus de Châteaupers (for it is he whom the reader has had before his eyes since the beginning of this chapter) slowly approached the balcony. “Stay,” said Fleur-de-Lys, laying her hand tenderly on Phœbus’s arm; “look at that little girl yonder, dancing in that circle. Is she your Bohemian?”
Phœbus looked, and said,—
“Yes, I recognize her by her goat.”
“Oh! in fact, what a pretty little goat!” said Amelotte, clasping her hands in admiration.
“Are his horns of real gold?” inquired Bérangère.
Without moving from her arm-chair, Dame Aloïse interposed, “Is she not one of those gypsy girls who arrived last year by the Gibard gate?”
“Madame my mother,” said Fleur-de-Lys gently, “that gate is now called the Porte d’Enfer.”
Mademoiselle de Gondelaurier knew how her mother’s antiquated mode of speech shocked the captain. In fact, he began to sneer, and muttered between his teeth: “Porte Gibard! Porte Gibard! ’Tis enough to make King Charles VI. pass by.”
“Godmother!” exclaimed Bérangère, whose eyes, incessantly in motion, had suddenly been raised to the summit of the towers of Notre-Dame, “who is that black man up yonder?”
All the young girls raised their eyes. A man was, in truth, leaning on the balustrade which surmounted the northern tower, looking on the Grève. He was a priest. His costume could be plainly discerned, and his face resting on both his hands. But he stirred no more than if he had been a statue. His eyes, intently fixed, gazed into the Place.
It was something like the immobility of a bird of prey, who has just discovered a nest of sparrows, and is gazing at it.
“’Tis monsieur the archdeacon of Josas,” said Fleur-de-Lys.
“You have good eyes if you can recognize him from here,” said the Gaillefontaine.
“How he is staring at the little dancer!” went on Diane de Christeuil.
“Let the gypsy beware!” said Fleur-de-Lys, “for he loves not Egypt.”
“’Tis a great shame for that man to look upon her thus,” added Amelotte de Montmichel, “for she dances delightfully.”
“Fair cousin Phœbus,” said Fleur-de-Lys suddenly, “Since you know this little gypsy, make her a sign to come up here. It will amuse us.”
“Oh, yes!” exclaimed all the young girls, clapping their hands.
“Why! ’tis not worth while,” replied Phœbus. “She has forgotten me, no doubt, and I know not so much as her name. Nevertheless, as you wish it, young ladies, I will make the trial.” And leaning over the balustrade of the balcony, he began to shout, “Little one!”
The dancer was not beating her tambourine at the moment. She turned her head towards the point whence this call proceeded, her brilliant eyes rested on Phœbus, and she stopped short.
“Little one!” repeated the captain; and he beckoned her to approach.
The young girl looked at him again, then she blushed as though a flame had mounted into her cheeks, and, taking her tambourine under her arm, she made her way through the astonished spectators towards the door of the house where Phœbus was calling her, with slow, tottering steps, and with the troubled look of a bird which is yielding to the fascination of a serpent.
A moment later, the tapestry portière was raised, and the gypsy appeared on the threshold of the chamber, blushing, confused, breathless, her large eyes drooping, and not daring to advance another step.
Bérangère clapped her hands.
Meanwhile, the dancer remained motionless upon the threshold. Her appearance had produced a singular effect upon these young girls. It is certain that a vague and indistinct desire to please the handsome officer animated them all, that his splendid uniform was the target of all their coquetries, and that from the moment he presented himself, there existed among them a secret, suppressed rivalry, which they hardly acknowledged even to themselves, but which broke forth, none the less, every instant, in their gestures and remarks. Nevertheless, as they were all very nearly equal in beauty, they contended with equal arms, and each could hope for the victory. The arrival of the gypsy suddenly destroyed this equilibrium. Her beauty was so rare, that, at the moment when she appeared at the entrance of the apartment, it seemed as though she diffused a sort of light which was peculiar to herself. In that narrow chamber, surrounded by that sombre frame of hangings and woodwork, she was incomparably more beautiful and more radiant than on the public square. She was like a torch which has suddenly been brought from broad daylight into the dark. The noble damsels were dazzled by her in spite of themselves. Each one felt herself, in some sort, wounded in her beauty. Hence, their battle front (may we be allowed the expression,) was immediately altered, although they exchanged not a single word. But they understood each other perfectly. Women’s instincts comprehend and respond to each other more quickly than the intelligences of men. An enemy had just arrived; all felt it—all rallied together. One drop of wine is sufficient to tinge a glass of water red; to diffuse a certain degree of ill temper throughout a whole assembly of pretty women, the arrival of a prettier woman suffices, especially when there is but one man present.
Hence the welcome accorded to the gypsy was marvellously glacial. They surveyed her from head to foot, then exchanged glances, and all was said; they understood each other. Meanwhile, the young girl was waiting to be spoken to, in such emotion that she dared not raise her eyelids.
The captain was the first to break the silence. “Upon my word,” said he, in his tone of intrepid fatuity, “here is a charming creature! What think you of her, fair cousin?”
This remark, which a more delicate admirer would have uttered in a lower tone, at least was not of a nature to dissipate the feminine jealousies which were on the alert before the gypsy.
Fleur-de-Lys replied to the captain with a bland affectation of disdain;—“Not bad.”
The others whispered.
At length, Madame Aloïse, who was not the less jealous because she was so for her daughter, addressed the dancer,—“Approach, little one.”
“Approach, little one!” repeated, with comical dignity, little Bérangère, who would have reached about as high as her hips.
The gypsy advanced towards the noble dame.
“Fair child,” said Phœbus, with emphasis, taking several steps towards her, “I do not know whether I have the supreme honor of being recognized by you.”
She interrupted him, with a smile and a look full of infinite sweetness,—
“Oh! yes,” said she.
“She has a good memory,” remarked Fleur-de-Lys.
“Come, now,” resumed Phœbus, “you escaped nimbly the other evening. Did I frighten you!”
“Oh! no,” said the gypsy.
There was in the intonation of that “Oh! no,” uttered after that “Oh! yes,” an ineffable something which wounded Fleur-de-Lys.
“You left me in your stead, my beauty,” pursued the captain, whose tongue was unloosed when speaking to a girl out of the street, “a crabbed knave, one-eyed and hunchbacked, the bishop’s bellringer, I believe. I have been told that by birth he is the bastard of an archdeacon and a devil. He has a pleasant name: he is called Quatre-Temps (Ember Days), Pâques-Fleuries (Palm Sunday), Mardi-Gras (Shrove Tuesday), I know not what! The name of some festival when the bells are pealed! So he took the liberty of carrying you off, as though you were made for beadles! ’Tis too much. What the devil did that screech-owl want with you? Hey, tell me!”
“I do not know,” she replied.
“The inconceivable impudence! A bellringer carrying off a wench, like a vicomte! a lout poaching on the game of gentlemen! that is a rare piece of assurance. However, he paid dearly for it. Master Pierrat Torterue is the harshest groom that ever curried a knave; and I can tell you, if it will be agreeable to you, that your bellringer’s hide got a thorough dressing at his hands.”
“Poor man!” said the gypsy, in whom these words revived the memory of the pillory.
The captain burst out laughing.
“Corne-de-bœuf! here’s pity as well placed as a feather in a pig’s tail! May I have as big a belly as a pope, if—”
He stopped short. “Pardon me, ladies; I believe that I was on the point of saying something foolish.”
“Fie, sir” said la Gaillefontaine.
“He talks to that creature in her own tongue!” added Fleur-de-Lys, in a low tone, her irritation increasing every moment. This irritation was not diminished when she beheld the captain, enchanted with the gypsy, and, most of all, with himself, execute a pirouette on his heel, repeating with coarse, naïve, and soldierly gallantry,—
“A handsome wench, upon my soul!”
“Rather savagely dressed,” said Diane de Christeuil, laughing to show her fine teeth.
This remark was a flash of light to the others. Not being able to impugn her beauty, they attacked her costume.
“That is true,” said la Montmichel; “what makes you run about the streets thus, without guimpe or ruff?”
“That petticoat is so short that it makes one tremble,” added la Gaillefontaine.
“My dear,” continued Fleur-de-Lys, with decided sharpness, “You will get yourself taken up by the sumptuary police for your gilded girdle.”
“Little one, little one;” resumed la Christeuil, with an implacable smile, “if you were to put respectable sleeves upon your arms they would get less sunburned.”
It was, in truth, a spectacle worthy of a more intelligent spectator than Phœbus, to see how these beautiful maidens, with their envenomed and angry tongues, wound, serpent-like, and glided and writhed around the street dancer. They were cruel and graceful; they searched and rummaged maliciously in her poor and silly toilet of spangles and tinsel. There was no end to their laughter, irony, and humiliation. Sarcasms rained down upon the gypsy, and haughty condescension and malevolent looks. One would have thought they were young Roman dames thrusting golden pins into the breast of a beautiful slave. One would have pronounced them elegant grayhounds, circling, with inflated nostrils, round a poor woodland fawn, whom the glance of their master forbade them to devour.
After all, what was a miserable dancer on the public squares in the presence of these high-born maidens? They seemed to take no heed of her presence, and talked of her aloud, to her face, as of something unclean, abject, and yet, at the same time, passably pretty.
The gypsy was not insensible to these pin-pricks. From time to time a flush of shame, a flash of anger inflamed her eyes or her cheeks; with disdain she made that little grimace with which the reader is already familiar, but she remained motionless; she fixed on Phœbus a sad, sweet, resigned look. There was also happiness and tenderness in that gaze. One would have said that she endured for fear of being expelled.
Phœbus laughed, and took the gypsy’s part with a mixture of impertinence and pity.
“Let them talk, little one!” he repeated, jingling his golden spurs. “No doubt your toilet is a little extravagant and wild, but what difference does that make with such a charming damsel as yourself?”
“Good gracious!” exclaimed the blonde Gaillefontaine, drawing up her swan-like throat, with a bitter smile. “I see that messieurs the archers of the king’s police easily take fire at the handsome eyes of gypsies!”
“Why not?” said Phœbus.
At this reply uttered carelessly by the captain, like a stray stone, whose fall one does not even watch, Colombe began to laugh, as well as Diane, Amelotte, and Fleur-de-Lys, into whose eyes at the same time a tear started.
The gypsy, who had dropped her eyes on the floor at the words of Colombe de Gaillefontaine, raised them beaming with joy and pride and fixed them once more on Phœbus. She was very beautiful at that moment.
The old dame, who was watching this scene, felt offended, without understanding why.
“Holy Virgin!” she suddenly exclaimed, “what is it moving about my legs? Ah! the villanous beast!”
It was the goat, who had just arrived, in search of his mistress, and who, in dashing towards the latter, had begun by entangling his horns in the pile of stuffs which the noble dame’s garments heaped up on her feet when she was seated.
This created a diversion. The gypsy disentangled his horns without uttering a word.
“Oh! here’s the little goat with golden hoofs!” exclaimed Bérangère, dancing with joy.
The gypsy crouched down on her knees and leaned her cheek against the fondling head of the goat. One would have said that she was asking pardon for having quitted it thus.
Meanwhile, Diane had bent down to Colombe’s ear.
“Ah! good heavens! why did not I think of that sooner? ’Tis the gypsy with the goat. They say she is a sorceress, and that her goat executes very miraculous tricks.”
“Well!” said Colombe, “the goat must now amuse us in its turn, and perform a miracle for us.”
Diane and Colombe eagerly addressed the gypsy.
“Little one, make your goat perform a miracle.”
“I do not know what you mean,” replied the dancer.
“A miracle, a piece of magic, a bit of sorcery, in short.”
“I do not understand.” And she fell to caressing the pretty animal, repeating, “Djali! Djali!”
At that moment Fleur-de-Lys noticed a little bag of embroidered leather suspended from the neck of the goat,—
“What is that?” she asked of the gypsy.
The gypsy raised her large eyes upon her and replied gravely,—
“That is my secret.”
“I should really like to know what your secret is,” thought Fleur-de-Lys.
Meanwhile, the good dame had risen angrily,—“Come now, gypsy, if neither you nor your goat can dance for us, what are you doing here?”
The gypsy walked slowly towards the door, without making any reply. But the nearer she approached it, the more her pace slackened. An irresistible magnet seemed to hold her. Suddenly she turned her eyes, wet with tears, towards Phœbus, and halted.
“True God!” exclaimed the captain, “that’s not the way to depart. Come back and dance something for us. By the way, my sweet love, what is your name?”
“La Esmeralda,” said the dancer, never taking her eyes from him.
At this strange name, a burst of wild laughter broke from the young girls.
“Here’s a terrible name for a young lady,” said Diane.
“You see well enough,” retorted Amelotte, “that she is an enchantress.”
“My dear,” exclaimed Dame Aloïse solemnly, “your parents did not commit the sin of giving you that name at the baptismal font.”
In the meantime, several minutes previously, Bérangère had coaxed the goat into a corner of the room with a marchpane cake, without any one having noticed her. In an instant they had become good friends. The curious child had detached the bag from the goat’s neck, had opened it, and had emptied out its contents on the rush matting; it was an alphabet, each letter of which was separately inscribed on a tiny block of boxwood. Hardly had these playthings been spread out on the matting, when the child, with surprise, beheld the goat (one of whose “miracles” this was no doubt), draw out certain letters with its golden hoof, and arrange them, with gentle pushes, in a certain order. In a moment they constituted a word, which the goat seemed to have been trained to write, so little hesitation did it show in forming it, and Bérangère suddenly exclaimed, clasping her hands in admiration,—
“Godmother Fleur-de-Lys, see what the goat has just done!”
Fleur-de-Lys ran up and trembled. The letters arranged upon the floor formed this word,—
“Was it the goat who wrote that?” she inquired in a changed voice.
“Yes, godmother,” replied Bérangêre.
It was impossible to doubt it; the child did not know how to write.
“This is the secret!” thought Fleur-de-Lys.
Meanwhile, at the child’s exclamation, all had hastened up, the mother, the young girls, the gypsy, and the officer.
The gypsy beheld the piece of folly which the goat had committed. She turned red, then pale, and began to tremble like a culprit before the captain, who gazed at her with a smile of satisfaction and amazement.
“Phœbus!” whispered the young girls, stupefied: “’tis the captain’s name!”
“You have a marvellous memory!” said Fleur-de-Lys, to the petrified gypsy. Then, bursting into sobs: “Oh!” she stammered mournfully, hiding her face in both her beautiful hands, “she is a magician!” And she heard another and a still more bitter voice at the bottom of her heart, saying,—“She is a rival!”
She fell fainting.
“My daughter! my daughter!” cried the terrified mother. “Begone, you gypsy of hell!”
In a twinkling, La Esmeralda gathered up the unlucky letters, made a sign to Djali, and went out through one door, while Fleur-de-Lys was being carried out through the other.
Captain Phœbus, on being left alone, hesitated for a moment between the two doors, then he followed the gypsy.