aristide, an aristocratic young man, is leaning pensively on a mantelpiece.
uncle gustave enters.
good morning, uncle gustave.
good morning. as you know, aristide, i am your uncle gustave, and when your parents perished in a boating accident in switzerland, i took you in and raised you as i would my own son. you proved a terrible scamp, but after many scrapes due to your headstrong nature, you turned out a fine young man, and are due to be married tomorrow to mademoiselle cecile de fontmorency, the beautiful young heiress to some of the finest estates in france.
aristide passes his hand over his brow.
oh, but uncle, something terrible has happened!
and what is that?
last night i was celebrating my impending nuptials with some of my best friends - a merry band of impetuous and hotblooded daredevils like myself. after consuming copious draughts of strong wine we repaired to a house where fast play was in progress - and it seems that when i was well gone in my cups i gave offense to the marquis de maldoror!
what! the marquis de maldoror! the most notorious blackguard, seducer, and duelist in europe! what madness!
i have no excuse, aristide stated sadly. what must be, must be.
all is not lost, aristide. the marquis de maldoror’s game is well known. a few words in the right ears - and i know just the fellows - and the marquis will be well satisfied with a few bags of gold and a few acres of land - a few of the remoter farms of the vast estates you will inherit on your marriage day.
oh uncle, how can you suggest such a thing! shameful! shameful! to be known forever as a poltroon who traded honor for a few wretched years of life! never! i would forsake the finest estates in france and walk the highways a beggar, rather be a party to such infamy!
oh, my adopted son, your noblest of hearts does your ancient house honor! but what a tragedy! how i had hoped to see our house united with the fontmorencys, to produce a lineage that would spread like a mighty oak over the kingdom.
i must leave you now, uncle. the baron de beauville, who will act as my second, awaits me.
the marquise de saint-tourelle enters.
what is all this caterwauling? i thought a pack of goatherds had invaded the drawing room after breaking into the wine cellar.
oh marquise, cried uncle gustave, you are the wealthiest, noblest, and most pious lady in the kingdom! in the name of the blessed mother you have comforted the afflictied of christendom for well nigh half a century! but you have never heard such a tale of desolation as that which i have to relate!
the marquise listened intently as uncle gustave, with much snuffling and weeping, related aristide’s case.
is that all? pooh! you menfolk, with your foolish notions of honor! but do not despair, sirs, i will set everything straight.
you will? uncle gustave exclaimed.
of course. i will intercede with st michael. that heavenly personage owes me more than a few favors, and i will insist on his redeeming them.
uncle gustave brightened visibly. we can not thank you enough, marquise!
it is nothing. it is all in the day’s work, in the service of heaven and the blessed saints.
aristide bowed gravely and thanked the marquise as well.
later, on the dueling ground, the marquis de maldoror wasted no time in putting a bullet into aristide’s heart, killing him instantly.
although the marquise de saint-tourelle never wearied of beseeching all the saints in heaven to punish him, the marquis de maldoror continued to prosper in his wickedness and in the watering holes of europe , finally succumbing to syphylis in his eighty-third year.
after a suitable period of mourning for her betrothed, mademoiselle cecile de fontmorency made a splendid match with the baron de k——————, which united their combined estates in a virtual kingdom within the kingdom. she bore the baron twelve children, one for each of the twelve apostles, and died peacefully at the age of ninety-two.
on the untended field where aristide fell, a small red flower blossoms on each anniversary of the fateful day, but only for an hour.