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The young sister alone did justice to the
repast; but although the bridegroom could
not eat, he could swallow champagne in such
copious draughts, that ere long the terror
and remorse that the apparition of Jacques
Rollet had awakened in his breast were
drowned in intoxication. Amazed and
indignant, poor Natalie sat silently observing
this elect of her heart, till overcome with
disappointment and grief, she quitted the room
with her sister, and retired to another apartment,
where she gave free vent to her feelings
in tears.

After passing a couple of hours in
confidences and lamentations, they recollected
that the hours of liberty granted, as an
especial favour, to Mademoiselle Hortense,
had expired: but ashamed to exhibit her
husband in his present condition to the eyes
of strangers, Natalie prepared to re-conduct
her to the Maison Royale herself. Looking
into the dining-room as they passed, they
saw De Chaulieu lying on a sofa fast asleep,
in which state he continued when his wife
returned. At length, however, the driver of
their carriage begged to know if Monsieur
and Madame were ready to return to Paris,
and it became necessary to arouse him. The
transitory effects of the champagne had now
subsided; but when De Chaulieu recollected
what had happened, nothing could exceed
his shame and mortification. So engrossing
indeed were these sensations that they quite
overpowered his previous ones, and, in his
present vexation, he, for the moment, forgot
his fears. He knelt at his wife's feet, begged
her pardon a thousand times, swore that he
adored her, and declared that the illness and
the effect of the wine had been purely the
consequences of fasting and over-work. It
was not the easiest thing in the world to
re-assure a woman whose pride, affection, and
taste, had been so severely wounded; but
Natalie tried to believe, or to appear to do so,
and a sort of reconciliation ensued, not quite
sincere on the part of the wife, and veiy humbling
on the part of the husband. Under these
circumstances it was impossible that he should
recover his spirits or facility of manner; his
gaiety was forced, his tendemess constrained;
his heart was heavy within him; and ever
and anon the source whence all this
disappointment and woe had sprung would recur
to his perplexed and tortured mind.

Thus mutually pained and distrustful, they
returned to Paris, which they reached about
nine o'clock. In spite of her depression,
Natalie, who had not seen her new apartments,
felt some curiosity about them, whilst
De Chaulieu anticipated a triumph in
exhibiting the elegant home he had prepared
for her. With some alacrity, therefore, they
stepped out of the carriage, the gates of the
Hotel were thrown open, the concierge rang
the bell which announced to the servants
that their master and mistress had arrived,
and whilst these domestics appeared above,
holding lights over the balusters, Natalie,
followed by her husband, ascended the stairs.
But when they reached the landing-place of
the first flight, they saw the figure of a man
standing in a corner as if to make way for
them; the flash from above fell upon his
face, and again Antoine de Chaulieu
recognised the features of Jacques Rollet!

From the circumstance of his wife's
preceding him, the figure was not observed by
De Chaulieu till he was lifting his foot to
place it on the top stair: the sudden shock
caused him to miss the step, and, without
uttering a sound, he fell back, and never
stopped till he reached the stones at the
bottom. The screams of Natalie brought
the concierge from below and the maids
from above, and an attempt was made to
raise the unfortunate man from the ground;
but with cries of anguish he besought them
to desist.

"Let me," he said, "die here! What a
fearful vengeance is thine! Oh, Natalie,
Natalie!" he exclaimed to his wife, who was
kneeling beside him, "to win fame, and fortune,
and yourself, I committed a dreadful crime!
With lying words I argued away the life of a
fellow-creature, whom, whilst I uttered them,
I half believed to be innocent; and now, when
I have attained all I desired, and reached
the summit of my hopes, the Almighty has
sent him back upou the earth to blast me
with the sight. Three times this day–––
three times this day! Again! again!"–––and
as he spoke, his wild and dilated eyes fixed
themselves on one of the individuals that
surrounded him.

"He is delirious," said they.

"No," said the stranger! "What he says
is true enough,–––at least in part;" and bending
over the expiring man, he added, "May
Heaven forgive you, Antoine de Chaulieu!
I was not executed; one who well knew my
innocence saved my life. I may name him, for
he is beyond the reach of the law now,–––it was
Claperon, the jailer, who loved Claudine, and
had himself killed Alphonse de Bellefonds
from jealousy. An unfortunate wretch had
been several years in the jail for a murder
committed during the phrenzy of a fit of
insanity. Long confinement had reduced him
to idiocy. To save my life Claperon substituted
the senseless being for me, on the
scaffold, and he was executed in my stead.
He has quitted the country, and I have
been a vagabond on the face of the earth
ever since that time. At length I obtained,
through the assistance of my sister, the
situation of concierge in the Hôtel Marbœuf,
in the Rue Grange-Batelière. I entered on my
new place yesterday evening, and was desired
to awaken the gentleman on the third floor at
seven o'clock. When I entered the room to do
so, you were asleep, but before I had time to
speak you awoke, and I recognised your
features in the glass. Knowing that I could
not vindicate my innocence if you chose to