by Alexandre Dumas, fils

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Chapter 27

"You have read it?" said Armand, when I had finished the manuscript.

"I understand what you must have suffered, my friend, if all that I read is true." "My father confirmed it in a letter." We talked for some time over the sad destiny which had been accomplished, and I went home to rest a little. Armand, still sad, but a little relieved by the narration of his story, soon recovered, and we went together to pay a visit to Prudence and to Julie Duprat. Prudence had become bankrupt. She told us that Marguerite was the cause of it; that during her illness she had lent her a lot of money in the form of promissory notes, which she could not pay, Marguerite having died without having returned her the money, and without having given her a receipt with which she could present herself as a creditor. By the help of this fable, which Mme. Duvernoy repeated everywhere in order to account for her money difficulties, she extracted a note for a thousand francs from Armand, who did not believe it, but who pretended to, out of respect for all those in whose company Marguerite had lived. Then we called on Julie Duprat, who told us the sad incident which she had witnessed, shedding real tears at the remembrance of her friend. Lastly, we went to Marguerite's grave, on which the first rays of the April sun were bringing the first leaves into bud. One duty remained to Armand—to return to his father. He wished me to accompany him. We arrived at C., where I saw M. Duval, such as I had imagined him from the portrait his son had made of him, tall, dignified, kindly. He welcomed Armand with tears of joy, and clasped my hand affectionately. I was not long in seeing that the paternal sentiment was that which dominated all others in his mind. His daughter, named Blanche, had that transparence of eyes, that serenity of the mouth, which indicates a soul that conceives only holy thoughts and lips that repeat only pious words. She welcomed her brother's return with smiles, not knowing, in the purity of her youth, that far away a courtesan had sacrificed her own happiness at the mere invocation of her name. I remained for some time in their happy family, full of indulgent care for one who brought them the convalescence of his heart. I returned to Paris, where I wrote this story just as it had been told me. It has only one merit, which will perhaps be denied it; that is, that it is true. I do not draw from this story the conclusion that all women like Marguerite are capable of doing all that she did—far from it; but I have discovered that one of them experienced a serious love in the course of her life, that she suffered for it, and that she died of it. I have told the reader all that I learned. It was my duty. I am not the apostle of vice, but I would gladly be the echo of noble sorrow wherever I bear its voice in prayer. The story of Marguerite is an exception, I repeat; had it not been an exception, it would not have been worth the trouble of writing it.

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