M. Lecoq narrowly watched Laurence as he spoke, and perceived that he had touched her. Still, her eyes were dry, and were lit up with a strange light.
“Besides, your life is not your own—you know.”
“Ah,” she returned, “I must die now, even for my child, if I would not die of shame when he asks for his father—”
“You will reply, Madame, by showing him an honest man and an old friend, who is ready to give him his name—Monsieur Plantat.”
The old justice was broken with grief; yet he had the strength to say:
“Laurence, my beloved child, I beg you accept me—”
These simple words, pronounced with infinite gentleness and sweetness, at last melted the unhappy young girl, and determined her. She burst into tears.
She was saved.
M. Lecoq hastened to throw a shawl which he saw on a chair about her shoulders, and passed her arm through M. Plantat’s, saying to the latter:
“Go, lead her away; my men have orders to let you pass, and Palot will lend you his carriage.”
“But where shall we go?”
“To Orcival; Monsieur Courtois has been informed by a letter from me that his daughter is living, and he is expecting her. Come, lose no time.”
M. Lecoq, when he was left alone, listened to the departure of the carriage which took M. Plantat and Laurence away; then he returned to Tremorel’s body.
“There,” said he to himself, “lies a wretch whom I have killed instead of arresting and delivering him up to justice. Have I done my duty? No; but my conscience will not reproach me, because I have acted rightly.”
And running to the staircase, he called his men.
The day after Tremorel’s death, old Bertaud and Guespin were set at liberty, and received, the former four thousand francs to buy a boat and new tackle, and the latter ten thousand francs, with a promise of a like sum at the end of the year, if he would go and live in his own province. Fifteen days later, to the great surprise of the Orcival gossips, who had never learned the details of these events, M. Plantat wedded Mlle. Laurence Courtois; and the groom and bride departed that very evening for Italy, where it was announced they would linger at least a year.
As for Papa Courtois, he has offered his beautiful domain at Orcival for sale; he proposes to settle in the middle of France, and is on the lookout for a commune in need of a good mayor.
M. Lecoq, like everybody else, would, doubtless, have forgotten the Valfeuillu affair, had it not been that a notary called on him personally the other morning with a very gracious letter from Laurence, and an enormous sheet of stamped paper. This was no other than a title deed to M. Plantat’s pretty estate at Orcival, “with furniture, stable, carriage-house, garden, and other dependencies and appurtenances thereunto belonging,” and some neighboring acres of pleasant fields.