The next day Gabrielle, mounted on an ass, followed by her nurse on foot, her father on his mule, and a valet who led two horses laden with baggage, started for the castle of Herouville, where the caravan arrived at nightfall. In order to keep this journey secret, Beauvouloir had taken by-roads, starting early in the morning, and had brought provisions to be eaten by the way, in order not to show himself at hostelries. The party arrived, therefore, after dark, without being noticed by the castle retinue, at the little dwelling on the seashore, so long occupied by the hated son, where Bertrand, the only person the doctor had taken into his confidence, awaited them. The old retainer helped the nurse and valet to unload the horses and carry in the baggage, and otherwise establish the daughter of Beauvouloir in Etienne’s former abode. When Bertrand saw Gabrielle, he was amazed.
“I seem to see madame!” he cried. “She is slim and willowy like her; she has madame’s coloring and the same fair hair. The old duke will surely love her.”
“God grant it!” said Beauvouloir. “But will he acknowledge his own blood after it has passed through mine?”
“He can’t deny it,” replied Bertrand. “I often went to fetch him from the door of the Belle Romaine, who lived in the rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine. The Cardinal de Lorraine was compelled to give her up to monseigneur, out of shame at being insulted by the mob when he left her house. Monseigneur, who in those days was still in his twenties, will remember that affair; bold he was,—I can tell it now—he led the insulters!”
“He never thinks of the past,” said Beauvouloir. “He knows my wife is dead, but I doubt if he remembers I have a daughter.”
“Two old navigators like you and me ought to be able to bring the ship to port,” said Bertrand. “After all, suppose the duke does get angry and seize our carcasses; they have served their time.”
Before starting for Paris, the Duc d’Herouville had forbidden the castle servants under heavy pains and penalties to go upon the shore where Etienne had passed his life, unless the Duc de Nivron took any of them with him. This order, suggested by Beauvouloir, who had shown the duke the wisdom of leaving Etienne master of his solitude, guaranteed to Gabrielle and her attendants the inviolability of the little domain, outside of which he forbade them to go without his permission.
Etienne had remained during these two days shut up in the old seignorial bedroom under the spell of his tenderest memories. In that bed his mother had slept; her thoughts had been confided to the furnishings of that room; she had used them; her eyes had often wandered among those draperies; how often she had gone to that window to call with a cry, a sign, her poor disowned child, now master of the chateau. Alone in that room, whither he had last come secretly, brought by Beauvouloir to kiss his dying mother, he fancied that she lived again; he spoke to her, he listened to her, he drank from that spring that never faileth, and from which have flowed so many songs like the “Super flumina Babylonis.”