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you desire to enter into any speculation, you may rely upon the credit, the good will, and the support of your friends of Lyons.'
• Thank Heaven,' cried I, with delight, 'half my troubles are removed ! I can now supply all the wants of my adored wife.'
The other letter was from Aurora, and contained these words : • Some feeling of pity which I still retain for you, notwithstanding your conduct toward me, induces me to inform you of my proceedings thus far. By the time you receive this letter, I shall be in Lyons, where it is my intention to retire to a convent, in which I shall be secure from
generous enemy, I make known to you that it is my purpose to appeal to every
tribunal in the country, until I find one which will do me justice, by breaking the chains of your victim, and punishing the vile traitors who have sacrificed me.'
The perusal of this letter threw me into the most violent agitation. At first I thought of pursuing Aurora, and forcing her to obey the man whom fate had made her husband; but this was only an idea of the moment, for I felt an invincible repugnance to persecute a woman I so truly and tenderly loved : and beside, the thing was impracticable, as she had already been gone several hours, and it was in vain to hope to overtake her. I could procure no horses nearer than Montélimart, and it was useless to attempt it on foot. My greatest desire now was to quit a place so fraught with bitter and sorrowful recollections; and fortunately, I had just money enough to take me to Lyons. Before my departure, I questioned both the curate and his niece, in hopes of ng some clue to my wife's place of concealment; but neither prayers nor threats were of any avail : they pleaded utter ignorance of her intentions, although I afterward discovered them to have been the projectors of the whole plan.
When I arrived at Lyons, new difficulties presented themselves. Where was I to commence my search? How, in so large a city, was I to discover the asylum in which Aurora had taken refuge ? I dared not appeal to her father, justly incensed, as he must be, against the deceiver of his daughter; nor could I wander from one convent to another, making such unusual inquiries, without running the risk of being arrested and imprisoned as an accessory in so culpable a plot. In my dilemma, I had recourse to my friends, the engravers, who advised me to remain perfectly quiet, and wait until the suit instituted against me should become the subject of general conversation in Lyons, when, without doubt, I should discover all I desired to know. I followed their advice; and in the mean while, occupied myself industriously in endeavoring to increase my fortune, being well convinced tbat without wealth and character, I could never hope to recover the esteem and affection of my wife.
After the sale of the various articles of which I could now make no use, I found myself possessed of ten thousand crowns. There were rumors of a war between some of the principal powers of Europe, of which, aided by my generous friends, I took advantage to make a bold speculation, which, if it failed, would again plunge me into misery and poverty, but if successful, would at least quadruple my funds. Thus while my commercial operations were made with the greatest secresy, the history of my marriage became the subject of universal conversation ; for from the seclusion of her convent, Aurora continued to denounce my friends and myself. Their want of address and caution had brought all the persecution upon themselves; but it was most advantageous to me, as their own interests obliged them to take up my defence. Aurora pleaded that our marriage should be annulled. The abbess of the convent, a lady highly esteemed for her excellence and noble birth, warmly supported her; while her father and his friends used all their influence, and made every exertion in their power; so that we were menaced on every side with a defeat, the shame of which would indeed have fallen upon the engravers, but by which I alone should be the sad and heart-broken sufferer. They even laughed at the whole affair, and were much amused to find how completely Aurora's pride became her greatest punishment, through the publicity to which it subjected her. But their merriment could not delay the course of justice. An order was issued for my arrest, which I only escaped through the obscurity in which I lived.
The day of the trial arrived. Aurora demanded a guard to attend her to the tribunal by which our marriage was to be declared either null or valid. She appeared there in all the brilliancy of beauty, heightened by an air of unfeigned diffidence and modesty. Never had any trial drawn together so large a concourse of people; and her counsel pleaded her cause with so much feeling and eloquence, that he was frequently interrupted by the tears and sobs of the whole assembly. The interest manifested by the judges, left but little doubt as to the nature of their verdict; and the expectant assembly awaited with enthusiastic eagerness: when, no one coming forward to undertake my defence, the engraver whom Aurora had rejected, asked permission of the court to plead my cause, which was immediately granted. In a few words, he related my history, exaggerating in nothing, excepting in the praises he bestowed upon me. He acknowledged that the circumstances under which my marriage had taken place, would fully authorize the judges to declare it null. He appeared to hesitate for a moment. ... The most profound silence reigned throughout the court ; when, turning to Aurora, he said, in a calm and impressive manner :
be true, madame, that you were not intended to be the wife of a bellows-mender ; but nature obliges you to be the mother of his child! Listen to the pleadings of your unborn infant, and say if you desire a freedom, which will condemn it to the infamy of an illegitimate birth.'
“No! no !' cried the trembling Aurora, bursting into tears; while the spectators deeply moved, echoed her words, as with one voice ; and No! no !' resounded throughout the assembly.
The voice of maternal love decided the cause. The judges de clared the marriage valid, as the contract was signed with my true name; and they even admitted that our situations were not so unequal as to justify the dissolution of our ties. But in order to diminish the triumph of an adventurer, they declared that my wife was at liberty to remain in the convent she had chosen for her retreat, and that her husband could neither reclaim, nor molest her, without incurring the penalty of the law; that the child should be baptized by
• It may
my name; and that I could assert no right over it; and the rest of the sentence relating to details more interesting to the lawyers than the readers of my history, I here omit. Aurora left the hall of justice in a sort of triumph, escorted to her asylum by the crowd, loud in its praises of the touching sacrifice she had made to her maternal feelings.
Such was the result of this celebrated trial, during the progress of which I was ill at ease. Obliged to remain concealed, I took advantage of my person being unknown, to mingle with the crowd, feeling secure that no one would recognize, in a handsome, well-dressed man, with the manners and appearance of a gentleman, the poor bellowsmender, whom they so much abused. I even forced myself to join in the laugh, when they made amusing and ridiculous remarks upon my marriage and absence; though I felt humbled to observe that even those who were most vehement in declaiming against what they called my infamy, were equally lavish in their jests and sarcasms at the expense of Aurora. My own wishes, confirmed by the advice of
my friends, determined me to quit Lyons, and transfer my funds to some other city, where my name and history were unknown. I made choice of Paris, which, from its size and population, would enable me to escape all observation, and there I could employ my capital to greater advantage. Here your friend, the poor bellows-mender, with one hundred thousand francs, and the credit of his kind benefactors at Lyons, established a commercial house, which succeeded beyond his utmost hopes; and for five years, I was the favorite of fortune, although my conscience bears me witness, that I have no cause to blush for a single transaction during that time.
My correspondence with Lyons was very extensive ; and upon one occasion, I was so happy as to be able to render an essential service to one of the first bankers of that city. His gratitude induced him to urge me strongly to pay him a visit; and at last I consented to do 80, actuated by an irrepressible desire to breathe again the same air with my beloved Aurora. I went with my own equipage and servants, in the best style; and this time my luxury was not borrowed, but being the fruits of my own industry, I felt happy, and secure of its duration.
Even my old friends, the engravers, scarcely recognized me; so that I had nothing to fear from casual acquaintances. Without appearing to evince too great an interest in the subject, I spoke of the celebrated trial which had caused so much excitement throughout the city, five years before, and made some inquiries about Aurora and her family, as if it were a mere matter of curiosity. I learned that her father died some years before, leaving his affairs in so bad a condition, that Aurora was almost penniless, and indeed in some degree dependent upon the kindness of the abbess, with whom she still remained. I was told, at the same time, that independently of the general interest she had inspired, her conduct had been such as to win the respect and admiration of every one. They observed, also, that the bellows-mender had never disturbed her tranquillity, or attempted to reclaim the rights of which he had been deprived.
I could not listen to this recital, without the deepest emotion. During my four years' residence in the capital, my thoughts had been incessantly occupied in efforts to acquire a fortune, in the hope of re. VOL. XY.
gaining the sole object of my labors. But my return to Lyons, and the unfeigned admiration of all who spoke of Aurora, revived with increased strength the love which I had never ceased to cherish for her. The form of my adored wife was for ever present to me, and I felt how utterly worthless would be the fortune I had so labored to acquire, should she refuse to share it with me. And my child ! alas ! was I never to strain him to my heart ? Never to enjoy his infantine caresses, or to experience those paternal feelings, which imagination pictured to me in such glowing colors ? I could bear this suspense no longer, but resolved that nothing should prevent me from meeting my wife and my son.
At my desire, one of the engravers assembled all her father's creditors, whom I immediately paid, and at the same time exerted myself to recover many things which I knew long habit had made dear to his daughter, and the loss of which I was sure she must regret. My friend the banker had spoken so handsomely of her, and was himself so generally esteemed, that I determined to make him my confidant, and induce him to aid me in my project; for I knew his name alone would diminish many of my difficulties. He possessed a beautiful villa upon the borders of the Rhone, to which I accompanied him; and having one day obtained from him a promise of secresy, I spoke thus :
• Hitherto, you have known me only as a merchant, who is indebted to his talents, industry, and probity, for fortune, and an honorable name. My wayward fate has obliged me to appear under a kind of mask to those whose esteem I most fondly covet. Formerly, I deceived my mistress; but let me no longer impose upon you, my friend, who already know one half of my history. Listen, now, to the rest. You see before you that unfortunate bellows-mender, chosen by a set of thoughtless young men, as the instrument of their revenge.'
At this unexpected avowal, my friend started with surprise, and incredulity and doubt were expressed in his countenance. But I continued :
*I am indebted to nature for many faculties, which study and education have more fully developed. The generosity of my friends, and successful fortune, have achieved the rest. You have spoken kindly of Aurora. It is my intention soon to leave Lyons; but I solemnly declare to you, I will not depart without an effort to see her. Will you, my dear friend, who enjoy the esteem and consideration of all who know you, will you consent to be our mediator, and let me owe to you the happiness of my life ?'
Recovering from his astonishment, he assured me he did not doubt being able to bring about the reconciliation I so ardently desired. • The Abbess of the convent in which your wife resides,' said he, * honors me with her friendship: we are not far from the city ; let us at once order our carriage, and seek Aurora ; when, I trust, we shall be able to remove all difficulties.' I eagerly agreed to this plan, for I was now as anxious to see her, as I had once been to avoid her; and I ardently desired to embrace my son.
We reached the convent, where the banker was announced under his true name, and introduced me as one of the first merchants of Paris. We were admitted. What a picture presented itself to our
Aurora, my beloved wife, more beautiful than ever, was seated near the venerable Abbess. A child, the personification of infantine loveliness, slept upon her knee, and appeared to absorb the attention of the mother so entirely, that she scarcely noticed our respectful salutation. The first moment she cast her eyes upon me, I perceived, by an involuntary shudder, that my appearance recalled to her mind some painful idea; but my being introduced by a man whom she knew, presented as the head of one of the first commercial houses in Paris, with the obscurity of the approaching evening, contributed to dissipate her suspicions; and she was far from recognizing in the rich stranger her despised and long-neglected husband. My friend opened the conversation by some vague remarks upon my approaching departure from Lyons. He spoke of the extent of my connections; and inquired of the Abbess if she had not some commission to charge me with, for the capital.
During this conversation, the child awoke, and instead of being alarmed at the sight of strangers, smiled gaily, and after gazing at us both for some time, in uncertainty ran toward me. Oh, my friend! you may imagine what were my feelings, when I first received the sweet caresses of my child! I covered his little face with kisses. I could restrain myself no longer; but seizing him in my arms, I threw myself at the feet of my wife : ‘Aurora ! Aurora !' I exclaimed, • behold
your child ! Your son pleads for his father! for ever suffer pride to triumph over affection ? While I pronounced these words, in a deeply agitated voice, Aurora, taken by surprise, seemed ready to swoon. She gazed alternately upon me and my son, who clasped her knees, as if to implore pardon for his father. At length, she burst into tears; at which, the child, not being able to comprehend the reason of his mother's emotion, mingled bis plaintive cries with my entreaties. Aurora replied by throwing herself into my arms : 'I know not,' she said, ' whether you seek again to deceive me; but your child pleads too strongly in your favor: henceforth, I am yours for ever!
She pressed me to her heart, and for some moments we were incapable of uttering a word. Our happiness, the caresses of our child, the tears of my friend, and the solemn influences of the place, all served to increase our emotion. • My children,' said the Abbess, gazing upon us with an eye glistening with sensibility, you will, i trust, each fulfil your duty. Mr. is too sincere to prove a traitor; and maternal love is too powerful in the bosom of Aurora, to suffer her again to become the victim of a foolish pride! May this union, so touchingly renewed in my presence, be more happy than the first; and may you long enjoy that felicity which virtue alone can give !
These words, pronounced in a grave and solemn tone, calmed our excited feelings; and I proceeded to recount my adventures, neither omitting my faults, nor the remorse which they had occasioned. And I remarked with delight, that the hand of Aurora often gently pressed mine, whenever I spoke of the projects that my love for her had inspired; although she appeared to listen with indifference, when I dwelt upon the riches I had acquired. The part of the narrative which touched her most sensibly, was the payment of her father's debts, and my successful endeavors to rescue from the hands of the