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THE POISONED MEAL.

IN FIVE CHAPTERS.

CHAPTER THE FIRST. THE POCKETS.

THE story takes us across the Channel to
Normandy; and introduces us to a young
French girl, named Marie-Fran├žoise-Victoire
Salmon.

Her father was a poor Norman labourer.
Her mother died while she was a child.
From an early age Marie had learnt to get
her own living by going out to service.
Three different mistresses tried her while
she was a very young girl, and found every
reason to be satisfied with her conduct. She
entered her fourth place, in the family of one
Monsieur Dumesnil, when she was twenty
years of age. This was the turning-point in
her career; and here the strange story of
her life properly begins.

Among the persons who often visited
Monsieur Dumesnil and his wife was a
certain Monsieur Revel, a relation of Madame
Dumesnil's. He was a man of some note
in his part of the country, holding a
responsible legal appointment at the town of
Caen in Normandy; and he honoured Marie,
when he first saw her at her master's house,
with his special attention and approval. She
had a fair innocent face, and a modest,
winning manner; and Monsieur Revel became
almost oppressively anxious, in a highly
paternal way, that she should better her
condition, by seeking service at Caen, where
places were plentiful and wages higher than
in the country; and where, it is also necessary
to remember, Monsieur Revel himself
happened to live.

Marie's own idea, however, of the best
means of improving her condition was a little
at variance with the idea of her disinterested
adviser. Her ambition was to gain her
living independently, if she could, by being a
sempstress. She left the service of Monsieur
Dumesnil of her own accord, and without so
much as the shadow of a stain on her
character, and went to the old town of
Bayeux to try what she could do by taking
in needlework. As a means of subsistence,
needlework soon proved itself to be insufficient;
and she found herself thrown back
again on the old resource of going out to
service. Most unfortunately, as events afterwards
turned out, she now called to mind
Monsieur Revel's paternal advice, and
resolved to seek employment as a maid-of-all-
work at Caen.

She left Bayeux with the little bundle of
clothes which represented all the property
she had in the world, on the first of August,
seventeen hundred and eighty-one. It will
be well to notice this date particularly, and
to rememberin case some of the events of
Marie's story should seem almost incredible
that it marks the period, the wicked and
tyrannical period, which immediately
preceded the first outbreak of the French
Revolution.

Among the few articles of the maid's
apparel which the bundle contained, and to
which it is necessary to attract attention at
the outset, were two pairs of pockets, one of
them being still in an unfinished condition.
She had a third pair which she wore on her
journey. In the last century a country girl's
pockets were an important and prominent
part of her costume. They hung on each
side of her, ready to her hand. They were
sometimes very prettily embroidered, and
they were almost always large and of a bright
colour.

On the first of August, seventeen hundred
and eighty-one, Marie left Bayeux, and early
on the same day she reached Caen. Her
good manners, her excellent character, and
the modesty of her demands in the matter of
wages, rendered it easy for her to find a
situation. On the very evening of her
arrival she was suited with a place; and her
first night at Caen was passed under the roof
of her new employers.

The family consisted of Marie's master and
mistress, Monsieur and Madame Huet Duparc
(both highly respectable people); of two
sons, aged respectively twenty-one and eleven
years; of their sister, aged seventeen years;
and of Monsieur and Madame de Beaulieu,
the father and mother of Madame Duparc,
one eighty-eight years old, the other eighty-
six.

Madame Duparc explained to Marie the
various duties which she was expected to
perform, on the evening when she entered the
house. She was to begin the day by fetching
some milk, that being one of the  ingredients
used in preparing the hasty-pudding which

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