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Chapter 14 THE WILL

  • The church was draped in black, and over the door a large escutcheo_urmounted by a coronet announced to the passers-by that a nobleman was bein_uried. The ceremony was just over; those present went out slowly, passing b_he coffin, and by Count de Vaudrec's nephew, who shook hands and returne_alutations.
  • When Georges du Roy and his wife left the church, they walked along side b_ide on their way home. They did not speak; they were both preoccupied. A_ength Georges said, as if talking to himself: "Truly it is very astonishing!"
  • Madeleine asked: "What, my friend?"
  • "That Vaudrec left us nothing."
  • She blushed and said: "Why should he leave us anything? Had he any reason fo_oing so?" Then after several moments of silence, she continued: "Perhap_here is a will at a lawyer's; we should not know of it."
  • He replied: "That is possible, for he was our best friend. He dined with u_wice a week; he came at any time; he was at home with us. He loved you as _ather; he had no family, no children, no brothers nor sisters, only a nephew.
  • Yes, there should be a will. I would not care for much—a remembrance to prov_hat he thought of us—that he recognized the affection we felt for him. W_hould certainly have a mark of friendship."
  • She said with a pensive and indifferent air: "It is possible that there is _ill."
  • When they entered the house, the footman handed Madeleine a letter. She opene_t and offered it to her husband.
  • > "OFFICE OF M. LAMANEUR, > Notary.
  • > 17 Rue des Vosges,"
  • > > "Madame: Kindly call at my office at a quarter past two o'clock Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, on business which concerns you."
  • > > "Yours respectfully,"
  • > "LAMANEUR."
  • Georges, in his turn, colored.
  • "That is as it should be. It is strange, however, that he should write to yo_nd not to me, for I am the head of the family legally."
  • "Shall we go at once?" she asked.
  • "Yes, I should like to."
  • After luncheon they set out for M. Lamaneur's office.
  • The notary was a short, round man—round all over. His head looked like a bal_astened to another ball, which was supported by legs so short that they to_lmost resembled balls.
  • He bowed, as Du Roy and his wife were shown into his office, pointed to seats, and said, turning to Madeleine: "Madame, I sent for you in order to inform yo_f Count de Vaudrec's will, which will be of interest to you."
  • Georges could not help muttering: "I suspected that."
  • The notary continued: "I shall read you the document which is very brief."
  • "'I, the undersigned, Paul Emile Cyprien Gontran, Count de Vaudrec, sound bot_n body and mind, here express my last wishes. As death might take me away a_ny moment, I wish to take the precaution of drawing up my will, to b_eposited with M. Lamaneur.'"
  • "'Having no direct heirs, I bequeath all my fortune, comprising stocks an_onds for six hundred thousand francs and landed property for five hundre_housand, to Mme. Claire Madeleine du Roy unconditionally. I beg her to accep_hat gift from a dead friend as a proof of devoted, profound, and respectfu_ffection.'"
  • The notary said: "That is all. That document bears the date of August last, and took the place of one of the same nature made two years ago in the name o_me. Claire Madeleine Forestier. I have the first will, which would prove, i_ase of contestation on the part of the family, that Count de Vaudrec had no_hanged his mind."
  • Madeleine cast down her eyes; her cheeks were pale. Georges nervously twiste_is mustache.
  • The notary continued after a moment's pause: "It is of course understood tha_adame cannot accept that legacy without your consent."
  • Du Roy rose and said shortly: "I ask time for reflection."
  • The notary smiled, bowed, and replied pleasantly: "I comprehend the scruple_hich cause you to hesitate. I may add that M. de Vaudrec's nephew, who wa_nformed this morning of his uncle's last wishes, expresses himself as read_o respect them if he be given one hundred thousand francs. In my opinion th_ill cannot be broken, but a lawsuit would cause a sensation which you woul_robably like to avoid. The world often judges uncharitably. Can you let m_ave your reply before Saturday?"
  • Georges bowed, and together with his wife left the office. When they arrive_ome, Du Roy closed the door and throwing his hat on the bed, asked: "Wha_ere the relations between you and Vaudrec?"
  • Madeleine, who was taking off her veil, turned around with a shudder: "Betwee_s?"
  • "Yes, between you and him! One does not leave one's entire fortune to a woma_nless—"
  • She trembled, and could scarcely take out the pins which fastened th_ransparent tissue. Then she stammered in an agitated manner: "You are mad—yo_re—you are—you did not think—he would leave you anything!"
  • Georges replied, emphazing each word: "Yes, he could have left me something; me, your husband, his friend; but not you, my wife and his friend. Th_istinction is material in the eyes of the world."
  • Madeleine gazed at him fixedly: "It seems to me that the world would hav_onsidered a legacy from him to you very strange."
  • "Why?"
  • "Because,"—she hesitated, then continued: "Because you are my husband; becaus_ou were not well acquainted; because I have been his friend so long; becaus_is first will, made during Forestier's lifetime, was already in my favor."
  • Georges began to pace to and fro. He finally said: "You cannot accept that."
  • She answered indifferently: "Very well; it is not necessary then to wait unti_aturday; you can inform M. Lamaneur at once."
  • He paused before her, and they gazed into one another's eyes as if by tha_ute and ardent interrogation they were trying to examine each other'_onsciences. In a low voice he murmured: "Come, confess your relations."
  • She shrugged her shoulders. "You are absurd. Vaudrec was very fond of me, very, but there was nothing more, never."
  • He stamped his foot. "You lie! It is not possible."
  • She replied calmly: "It is so, nevertheless."
  • He resumed his pacing to and fro; then pausing again, he said: "Explain to me, then, why he left all his fortune to you."
  • She did so with a nonchalant air: "It is very simple. As you said just now, w_ere his only friends, or rather, I was his only friend, for he knew me when _hild. My mother was a governess in his father's house. He came her_ontinually, and as he had no legal heirs, he selected me. It is possible tha_e even loved me a little. But what woman has never been loved thus? H_rought me flowers every Monday. You were never surprised at that, and h_ever brought you any. To-day he leaves me his fortune for the same reason, because he had no one else to leave it to. It would on the other hand hav_een extremely surprising if he had left it to you."
  • "Why?"
  • "What are you to him?"
  • She spoke so naturally and so calmly that Georges hesitated before replying:
  • "It makes no difference; we cannot accept that bequest under those conditions.
  • Everyone would talk about it and laugh at me. My fellow-journalists ar_lready too much disposed to be jealous of me and to attack me. I have to b_specially careful of my honor and my reputation. I cannot permit my wife t_ccept a legacy of that kind from a man whom rumor has already assigned to he_s her lover. Forestier might perhaps have tolerated that, but I shall not."
  • She replied gently: "Very well, my dear, we will not take it; it will be _illion less in our pockets, that is all."
  • Georges paced the room and uttered his thoughts aloud, thus speaking to hi_ife without addressing her:
  • "Yes, a million—so much the worse. He did not think when making his will wha_ breach of etiquette he was committing. He did not realize in what a false, ridiculous position he was placing me. He should have left half of it t_e—that would have made matters right."
  • He seated himself, crossed his legs and began to twist the ends of hi_ustache, as was his custom when annoyed, uneasy, or pondering over a weight_uestion.
  • Madeleine took up a piece of embroidery upon which she worked occasionally, and said: "I have nothing to say. You must decide."
  • It was some time before he replied; then he said hesitatingly: "The worl_ould never understand how it was that Vaudrec constituted you his sol_eiress and that I allowed it. To accept that legacy would be to avow guilt_elations on your part and an infamous lack of self-respect on mine. Do yo_now how the acceptance of it might be interpreted? We should have to fin_ome adroit means of palliating it. We should have to give people to suppose, for instance, that he divided his fortune between us, giving half to you an_alf to me."
  • She said: "I do not see how that can be done, since there is a formal will."
  • He replied: "Oh, that is very simple. We have no children; you can therefor_eed me part of the inheritance. In that way we can silence malignan_ongues."
  • She answered somewhat impatiently: "I do not see how we can silence malignan_ongues since the will is there, signed by Vaudrec."
  • He said angrily: "Do you need to exhibit it, or affix it to the door? You ar_bsurd! We will say that the fortune was left us jointly by Count de Vaudrec.
  • That is all. You cannot, moreover, accept the legacy without my authority; _ill only consent on the condition of a partition which will prevent me fro_ecoming a laughing-stock for the world."
  • She glanced sharply at him: "As you will. I am ready."
  • He seemed to hesitate again, rose, paced the floor, and avoiding his wife'_iercing gaze, he said: "No—decidedly no—perhaps it would be better t_enounce it altogether—it would be more correct—more honorable. From th_ature of the bequest even charitably-disposed people would suspect illici_elations."
  • He paused before Madeleine. "If you like, my darling, I will return to M.
  • Lamaneur's alone, to consult him and to explain the matter to him. I will tel_im of my scruples and I will add that we have agreed to divide it in order t_void any scandal. From the moment that I accept a portion of the inheritanc_t will be evident that there is nothing wrong. I can say: 'My wife accepts i_ecause I, her husband, accept'—I, who am the best judge of what she can d_ithout compromising herself."
  • Madeleine simply murmured: "As you wish."
  • He continued: "Yes, it will be as clear as day if that is done. We inherit _ortune from a friend who wished to make no distinction between us, thereb_howing that his liking for you was purely Platonic. You may be sure that i_e had given it a thought, that is what he would have done. He did no_eflect—he did not foresee the consequences. As you said just now, he offere_ou flowers every week, he left you his wealth."
  • She interrupted him with a shade of annoyance:
  • "I understand. No more explanations are necessary. Go to the notary at once."
  • He stammered in confusion: "You are right; I will go." He took his hat, and, as he was leaving the room, he asked: "Shall I try to compromise with th_ephew for fifty thousand francs?"
  • She replied haughtily: "No. Give him the hundred thousand francs he demands, and take them from my share if you wish."
  • Abashed, he murmured: "No, we will share it. After deducting fifty thousan_rancs each we will still have a million net." Then he added: "Until later, m_ittle Made."
  • He proceeded to the notary's to explain the arrangement decided upon, which h_laimed originated with his wife. The following day they signed a deed fo_ive hundred thousand francs, which Madeleine du Roy gave up to her husband.
  • On leaving the office, as it was pleasant, Georges proposed that they take _troll along the boulevards. He was very tender, very careful of her, an_aughed joyously while she remained pensive and grave.
  • It was a cold, autumn day. The pedestrians seemed in haste and walked alon_apidly.
  • Du Roy led his wife to the shop into the windows of which he had so ofte_azed at the coveted chronometer.
  • "Shall I buy you some trinket?" he asked.
  • She replied indifferently: "As you like."
  • They entered the shop: "What would you prefer, a necklace, a bracelet, o_arrings?"
  • The sight of the brilliant gems made her eyes sparkle in spite of herself, a_he glanced at the cases filled with costly baubles.
  • Suddenly she exclaimed: "There is a lovely bracelet."
  • It was a chain, very unique in shape, every link of which was set with _ifferent stone.
  • Georges asked: "How much is that bracelet?"
  • The jeweler replied: "Three thousand francs, sir."
  • "If you will let me have it for two thousand five hundred, I will take it."
  • The man hesitated, then replied: "No, sir, it is impossible."
  • Du Roy said: "See here—throw in this chronometer at fifteen hundred francs; that makes four thousand, and I will pay cash. If you do not agree, I will g_omewhere else."
  • The jeweler finally yielded. "Very well, sir."
  • The journalist, after leaving his address, said: "You can have my initials G.
  • R. C. interlaced below a baron's crown, engraved on the chronometer."
  • Madeleine, in surprise, smiled, and when they left the shop, she took his ar_uite affectionately. She thought him very shrewd and clever. He was right; now that he had a fortune he must have a title.
  • They passed the Vaudeville on their way arid, entering, secured a box. The_hey repaired to Mme, de Marelle's at Georges' suggestion, to invite her t_pend the evening with them. Georges rather dreaded the first meeting wit_lotilde, but she did not seem to bear him any malice, or even to remembe_heir disagreement. The dinner, which they took at a restaurant, wa_xcellent, and the evening altogether enjoyable.
  • Georges and Madeleine returned home late. The gas was extinguished, and i_rder to light the way the journalist from time to time struck a match. O_eaching the landing on the first floor they saw their reflections in th_irror. Du Roy raised his hand with the lighted match in it, in order t_istinguish their images more clearly, and said, with a triumphant smile:
  • "The millionaires are passing by."