The Clique of Gold
At the same hour when Papa Ravinet, on the deck of "The Saint Louis," was pressing
Daniel's hand, and bidding him farewell, there were in Paris two poor women, who
prayed and watched with breathless anxiety,--the sister of the old dealer, Mrs. Bertolle,
the widow; and Henrietta, the daughter of Count Ville-Handry. When Papa Ravinet had
appeared the evening before, with his carpet-bag in his hand, his hurry had been so
extraordinary, and his excitement so great, that one might have doubted his sanity. He
had peremptorily asked his sister for two thousand francs; had made Henrietta write in all
haste a letter of introduction to Daniel; and had rushed out again like a tempest, as he had
come in, without saying more than this,--
"M. Champcey will arrive, or perhaps has already arrived, in Marseilles, on board a
merchant vessel, 'The Saint Louis.' I have been told so at the navy department. It is all
important that I should see him before anybody else. I take the express train of quarter
past seven. To-morrow, I'll send you a telegram."
The two ladies asked for something more, a hope, a word; but no, nothing more! The old
dealer had jumped into the carriage that had brought him, before they had recovered from
their surprise; and they remained there, sitting before the fire, silent, their heads in their
hands, each lost in conjectures. When the clock struck seven, the good widow was
aroused from her grave thoughts, which seemed so different from her usual cheerful
"Come, come, Miss Henrietta," she said with somewhat forced gayety, "my brother's
departure does not condemn us, as far as I know, to starve ourselves to death."
She had gotten up as she said this. She set the table, and then sat down opposite to
Henrietta, to their modest dinner. Modest it was, indeed, and still too abundant. They
were both too much overcome to be able to eat; and yet both handled knife and fork,
trying to deceive one another. Their thoughts were far away, in spite of all their efforts to
keep them at home, and followed the traveller.
"Now he has left," whispered Henrietta as it struck eight.
"He is on his way already," replied the old lady.
But neither of them knew anything of the journey from Paris to Marseilles. They were
ignorant of the distances, the names of the stations, and even of the large cities through
which the railroad passes.
"We must try and get a railway guide," said the good widow. And, quite proud of her
happy thought, she went out instantly, hurried to the nearest bookstore, and soon
reappeared, flourishing triumphantly a yellow pamphlet, and saying,--
"Now we shall see it all, my dear child."