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A Book of Remarkable Criminals by Irving

Gaudry was then sent away till ten o'clock


This eventful day, which, to quote Iago, was either to "make or fordo quite" the widow, found her as calm, cool and deliberate in the execution of her purpose as the Ancient himself. Gaudry came to her apartment about five o'clock in the afternoon. The widow showed him the vitriol and gave him final directions. She would, she said, return from the ball about three o'clock in the morning. Gaudry was then sent away till ten o'clock, as Georges was dining with her. He returned at half-past ten and found the widow dressing, arraying herself in a pink domino and a blonde wig. She was in excellent spirits. When Georges came to fetch her, she put Gaudry into an alcove in the drawing-room which was curtained off from the rest of the room. Always thoughtful, she had placed a stool there that he might rest himself. Gaudry could hear her laughing and joking with her lover. She reproached him playfully with hindering her in her dressing. To keep him quiet, she gave him a book to read, Montaigne's "Essays." Georges opened it and read the thirty-fifth chapter of the second book, the essay on "Three Good Women," which tells how three brave women of antiquity endured death or suffering in order to share their husbands' fate. Curiously enough, the essay concludes with these words, almost prophetic for the unhappy reader: "I am enforced to live, and sometimes to live is magnanimity." Whilst Georges went to fetch a cab, the widow released Gaudry from his place of concealment, exhorted him to have courage, and promised him, if he succeeded, the accomplishment of his desire. And so the gay couple departed for the ball. There the widow's high spirits, her complete enjoyment, were remarked by more than one of her acquaintances; she danced one dance with her lover, and with another young man made an engagement for the following week.

Meanwhile, at the Rue de Boulogne, Gaudry sat and waited in the widow's bedroom. From the window he could see the gate and the lights of the cab that was to bring the revellers home. The hours passed slowly. He tried to read the volume of Montaigne where Georges had left it open, but the words conveyed little to him, and he fell asleep. Between two and three o'clock in the morning he was waked by the noise of wheels. They had returned. He hurried downstairs and took up his position in the shadow of one of the pavilions. As Georges de Saint Pierre walked up the drive alone, for the widow had stayed behind to fasten the gate, he thought he saw the figure of a man in the darkness. The next moment he was blinded by the burning liquid flung in his face. The widow had brought down her pigeon.

At first she would seem to have succeeded perfectly in her attempt. Georges was injured for life, the sight of one eye gone, that of the other threatened, his face sadly disfigured. Neither he nor anyone else suspected the real author of the crime. It was believed that the unfortunate man had been mistaken for some other person, and made by accident the victim of an act of vengeance directed against another. Georges was indeed all the widow's now, lodged in her own house to nurse and care for. She undertook the duty with every appearance of affectionate devotion. The unhappy patient was consumed with gratitude for her untiring solicitude; thirty nights she spent by his bedside. His belief in her was absolute. It was his own wish that she alone should nurse him. His family were kept away, any attempts his relatives or friends made to see or communicate with him frustrated by the zealous widow.


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