The Clique of Gold
Dear woman! She would not have gone to bed so quietly, nor have fallen asleep so
comfortably, if she had suspected the truth.
What gave her such perfect peace was the certainty she had, that Henrietta had left the
house bareheaded, with wretched, worn-out shoes on her feet, with nothing but one
petticoat, and her thin alpaca dress on her body. Now, she was quite sure, that in such a
state of destitution, and in this cold December night, the poor young girl would soon be
weary wandering through the streets of Paris, and would be irresistibly drawn to the
waters of the Seine.
But it was by no means so. When Henrietta was alone, after the departure of Papa
Ravinet, she had only become confirmed in her determination to trust in him blindly: she
had even forborne to think it over, as she had, humanly speaking, no other choice on
earth. Thus, after having received Mrs. Chevassat's visit, and after having played the part
assigned to her by the old dealer, she rose, and, although quite exhausted yet, took her
place at the window to watch for the proper time. Four o'clock struck; and, as it was
growing dark, the concierge came out, with a light in his hand, and went up the big
staircase to light the lamps.
"Now is the time!" she said to herself.
And casting a last look at this wretched room, where she had suffered so much, and wept
so much, and where she had expected to die, she slipped out. The back stairs were quite
dark, and thus she was not recognized by two persons whom she met. The court was
deserted, and the concierge's room locked. She crossed the hall, and at one bound was in
the street. Some forty paces to the left she could see the place where Papa Ravinet was
waiting for her in his cab. She ran there, got in; and the driver, who had received his
instructions, whipped his horses as soon as he heard the door shut.
"And now, sir," she began, "where do you take me?"
By the light of the gas in the stores, which from time to time lighted up the interior of the
carriage, she could see the features of her neighbor. He looked at her with manifest
satisfaction; and a smile of friendly malice played upon his lips.
"Ah!" he replied, "that is a great secret. But you will know soon, for the man drives well."
The poor horses went, indeed, as fast as if the dollar which the driver had received had
infused the noble blood of the fastest racer into their veins. They drove down the whole
long street at a furious rate, turned to the right, and, after many more turns, stopped at last
before a house of modest appearance. Lightly and promptly, like a sheriff's clerk, Papa
Ravinet jumped out; and, having aided Henrietta to alight, he offered her his arm, and
drew her into the house, saying,--
"You will see what a surprise I have in store for you."