Between Two Thieves
A few days subsequently to that reception at the Hotel du Rhin, Dunoisse found his friend in tears, and asked the reason. She evaded reply, he pleaded for confidence. Then, little by little, he elicited that Henriette’s sensitive nature was wrung and tortured by the thought of that money borrowed from de Moulny.
Dunoisse asked of her:
“How much was the amount? I have earned the right to know.”
Her heart gave a great throb of triumph, but her eyelids fell in time to veil her exultation. She faltered, in her haste only doubling the sum:
“Sixty thousand francs.” She added, with a dewy glance and a quivering lip : “ But do not be distressed for me, dear friend. The money shall be repaid promptly. I have still a few jewels left that were my mother’s She will not blame me, sweet saint ! for parting with her legacy thus.”
He assumed a tone of authority, and forbade her to sacrifice the trinkets. She pleaded, but finally gave in.
“To-morrow,” he told her, “you shall receive from me a hundred thousand francs, in billets of a thousand ; the sole condition being that you send de Moulny back his money, and that from the hour that sees me break a vow for you, you swear to borrow from no man save me!”
She hesitated, paled, faltered. He kissed the little hands, and she gave in. Had lie been older, and wiser in the ways of the world, knowing that money is power, and that he who holds the key of the cashbox can dictate and be obeyed, he would have been more frugal. As it was, being what he was, he gave liberally with both hands. For there is
no prodigal like your poor devil suddenly become rich.
Next day, the dusty cheque-book that had lain for long years forgotten in the drawer of the lost Marie-Bathilde’s inlaid writing-table, came out and went into Dunoisse’s pocket, and so to the Rue d’Artois. No good angel in the Joinville cravat and the short-waisted, high-collared frock-coat of a somewhat rowdy young Captain of piou-pious met Hector on the steps of Rothschild’s Bank on this occasion.
He went in. The double doors thudded behind him; the polite, well-dressed Head Cashier looked observantly through his brazen lattice at the young man with the hard, brilliant black eyes and the face like a thin ruddy flame. He bowed with profound respect, did the stately functionary, when he heard the name of the owner of a deposit account of one million, one hundred and twentyfive thousand francs, and sent a clerk with a message to the Manager. And a personage even statelier, wearing black silk shorts—you still occasionally saw them in 1848—and hair-powder—a being with the benignant air of a Bishop and a dentist’s gleaming smile—issued from a shining cage at the end of a long vista of dazzling counters, and condescendingly assisted at the drawing of 'the First Cheque. Its magnitude made him smile more benignantly than ever.
The Head Cashier’s checking thumb quivered with emotion as it rapidly counted over a bulky roll of thousand-franc notes.
But, the happy owner of these crackling potentialities departed, the Manager returned to his golden cage, sat down and indited a little note to Marshal Dunoisse. Which missive, conveyed to the old gentleman’s residence by
an official in the Bank livery of sober grey, badged with silver, made its recipient—not chuckle, as one might have supposed, but gnash his costly teeth, and stamp up and down the room and swear.
For the old brigand of Napoleon’s army, the indefatigable schemer for Widinitz dignities, had been proud— after a strange, incomprehensible fashion—of the incorruptible honesty, the high principle, the unstained honor of his son. The Marshal had gloated oyer the set face of endurance with which the Spartan youth had borne the gnawing of the fox Poverty, beneath his shabby uniform. And that thumping cheque on Rothschild’s cost him a fit of the gout. When his apothecary had dosed and lotioned the enemy into partial submission, you may suppose the old man hobbling up the wide, shallow, Turkey-carpeted staircase to those rooms of Hector’s to find them vacant—their late occupant removed to a palatial suite of bachelor apartments in the Rue de Bac. A million odd of francs will not last forever; forty-five thousand English sovereigns—smooth, slippery, elusive darlings!—do not constitute a Fortunatus’ purse; and yet the sum represents a handsome golden cheese with which to set up housekeeping; though such sharp little gleaming teeth and such tiny white, insatiable hands belonged to the mouse that was from this date to have the run of Hector Dunoisse’s cupboard, that in a marvellously short space of time the golden cheese was to be nibbled quite away.
Henriette had carried out her tacit understanding with Monseigneur. She had lifted up her finger, and a golden plum of a hundred-thousand francs had fallen from the shaken tree. Do you suppose de Moulny had been paid? do you imagine that the Baal of her worship was to be propitiated with all that glittering coin?
Not a bit of it! For this Henriette, like all the others, had huge debts and rapacious creditors, the necessity of being always beautiful cost so much. And de Roux had his horses, gambling-losses, and nymphs of the Opera to maintain
and satisfy and keep in good-humor. And pious ladies, collecting at Church functions for the benefit of the poor, have been known ere now to slip their jewelled hands into the velvet bag, weighed down with the gold and silver contributions of the faithful, and withdraw the said hands richer than they went in.
The Empire was the religion of Henriette, and she made her collection in its interests tirelessly. If no more than a moiety of what she gathered clinked into the High Priest’s coffers, he did not know that—any more than those who had emptied their purses to fill the bag, so nobody was the worse.
The reader has not been invited to contemplate, in the person of Dunoisse, the phenomenon of the Young Man of Virtue. Of kindred passions with his fellow-men, of unblemished health, hot blood and vivid imagination, he was, per grace of certain honorable principles instilled into a boy’s mind by a poor old gentlewoman, no less than by an innate delicacy and fastidiousness, a cleanly liver; a man whom Poverty had schooled in self-restraint. Now Poverty was banished, and self-restraint was flung to the winds. And, regrettable as it is to have to state the fact, the lapse of Miss Caroline Smithwick’s late pupil from the narrow path of Honor was attended by no chidings of conscience, visited by no prickings of remorse.
Dunoisse was happy. The world took on a brighter aspect, the air he breathed seemed purer and more fragrant, the sunshine brighter and the moonlight lovelier, because of this his sin.
The eyes of men and women—especially of women!—met his own more kindly; there was no sense of strangeness barring social intercourse. . . .
Life was pleasanter as the months rolled into years.
Women like Henriette give out fascination as radium dispenses its invisible energies. Every tone of their voices is a call, every glance an appeal or an invitation, every rustle of their garments, every heave of their bosoms, con-
stitutes an appeal to the senses and a stimulant to the passions of men.
She was half-a-dozen women in one; you were master of a whole harem of beauties possessing her; a jewel cut in innumerable facets lay in your hand. She could be fierce and tender, pathetic and cynical, gay and sorrowful, delicate and robust, in the space of half-an-hour. Cigarettes calmed her nerves ; moonlight, music, tiny glasses of Benedictine, and minute pills of Turkish opium. Chloral and morphia had not at that date been discovered, else what a votary of the tabloid would have been found in Henriette.
She adored sweets, Chinese bezique and good cookery. Green oysters, bouillabaisse, poulet sauté Marengo, and peaches in Kirsch, were among her passions. But she was a pious Catholic, and observed with scrupulous rigor the fasts and feasts of the Church.
She had campaigned with the 999th in Algeria, wore a dagger sometimes in her girdle ; carried a tiny ivory-andsilver-mounted pistol—fellow to one de Moulny kept locked up—and was expert in its use, as in the handling of the fencing foil and the womanlier weapon, the needle. What webs of cunning embroidery grew under those little fingers! She wrought at these, sometimes for days together. Then she would pine for exercise and the open air: ride furiously in the Bois, with her plumed hat cocked à la mourquetaire, and her silvergrey veil and smoke-colored habit streaming; use the jewelled whip until her horse lathered, drive home the little silver-gilt spur of the dainty polished boot until his flank was speckled with bloód. Or she would shoot pigeons at Tivöli, handling her gun with ease, and vying with crack masculine sportsmen in her skilled capacity for slaughter. Or she would be driven in her barouche or landau, lying back among her silken cushions, as though too indolent to lift an eyelash, languid and voluptuous as any odalisque. Returning from these excursions, she would lie upon the sofa, silent, pale and mysterious, her vinaigrette at her nostrils, a silken kerchief bound about her brows. For a crown
of diamonds she could not, would not go to theatre, or ball, or supper that night ! She was fit to die—wanted nothing but to be left in solitude. . . . But she never failed to go ; and towards the end of some gay, boisterous midnight banquet she would move with that long, gliding, supple step of hers into the middle of the room, and dance you the cachucha, with coffee-spoons for castanets, if nobody could produce these.
Nor was she less bewitching, be sure, at those other moments when Dunoisse would be alone with her; when, snatching her Spanish guitar from clumsier hands, she would warble the naughtiest ballads of the cafés chantant, reproducing the cynical improprieties of Fanny Hervieu or Georgette Bis-Bis, with inimitable chic and go. Or she would sing a Spanish love-sing, vibrating with Southern passion; or sigh forth some Irish ballad, breathing of the green isle whence Nor ah Murphy sailed, to conquer with her beauty a guerrilla chief of Spain, and bear him Henriette, and die of sorrow; bequeathing her daughter a passionaate, emotional nature and an hereditary religion, and the memory of some kisses and cradle-songs.
The smile of the changeful fay in the rainbow was never inappropriate to her. What a charming mingling of inconsistencies, what a creature of contradictions was she. . . . When her Brazilian
cockatoo “Coco,” a magnificent bird, emerald-green as the Prince-Pretender’s dress waistcoat, with a crest of sulphuryellow and a beak as crimson as the Colonel’s own, was murdered by the Convent tom-cat how tragic was her grief! Coco was interred in the Convent gardens, beautiful still in those days, though filched from even then for the builders’ diabolical uses. And the glove-box that served Henriette ’s slaughtered darling as a coffin had been won at a pigeon-shooting match at Tivoli.
Those decapitated birds, fluttering on the smooth green turf in their deafjistruggles, had not drawn from the beautiful eyes a single tear. But Coco, who had been taught to shriek “Vive l’Empereur!” when he wanted fruit or bon-
bons, with loyalty quite as genuine as ‘M. de Persigny’s—Coco was quite a different affair. . . .
Mistigris must pay the death-penalty —upon that point Coco’s bereaved mistress was inexorable. The Augustinian Sisters pleaded for their darling; Madame de Roux would not budge. When she spoke of an appeal to the authorities—never reluctant at any time to impose penalties upon the Church—the Sisters caved in. At any rate, they ultimately produced a tail. . - . . And whether the caudal appendage had really belonged to Mistigris, or had been filched from an old cat-skin cape belonging to the portress, touched up with red ink at the end where it had been attached to the original wearer, to impart a delusive air of freshness, was never absolutely known. When a cat strangely resembling Mistigris, but called by another name, attracted the attention of Coco’s bereaved mistress a few weeks later, the retort was unanswerable: “But see, Madame—he has a tail!”
That tail was a morsel that stuck in Dunoisse’s throat. Another thing, as difficult to swallow, was the undeniable, apparent fact of the amiable, even affectionate relations existing between Madame de Roux and her fiery-faced, dyed, bandoliered and corseted mate. . . .
A further, even more indigestible discovery, was, that although the springs of the young bride’s heart had been so early frozen at their sources by etc., etc., the union of the couple had been blessed by children.
Three little girls in pigtails with ribbon bows, and Scotch plaid pelisses, ending in the dreadful frilled-cambric funnels that more adult skirts concealed, and which were known as pantalettes. Happening to come across a daguerreotyped group of these darlings—Henriette had been turning out a drawer in her writing-table — Dunoisse inquired who the children were? And was horribly discomfited at her reply:
“They are mine. Didn’t you know? Do you think them like me?”
_ They certainly were not like her. Nor did they resemble de Roux. And she
kissed the three glassy countenances, and murmured caressingly:
Adding, as Dunoisse looked round, uncertain whether the treasures might not appear in answer to this ebullition of maternal tenderness:
“They do not live with us. but with their foster-mother at Bagneres: an excellent person—married to a marketgardener. They had measles when last I heard of them, so, of course, I cannot go there just now. When they are well again you must see them. Ah! how I hope they will love you! . . Dear, what is the matter now?”
Dunoisse did not quite know. But he was sensible of a vigorous growth of distaste for plaid pelisses in combination with frilled pantalettes, and for at least a week, pigtails, whenever encountered—and they were everywhere— smote upon his naked conscience like scourges set with thorns.
# He rid himself of the absurd obsession presently, and was happier than ever. The world was a gay, bright, pleasant place when one took it easily, and did not demand too much virtue of oneself or the people of one’s set.
But yet, on those rare occasions when one was hipped and blue with overmuch wine, or gambling, or pleasure, there were moments when the words of that old boyish vow, so earnestly made, so painfully kept, so recently broken, would start out against the background of half-conscious thought as plainly as the Writing on the Wall, and he would hear himself saying to a woman whose face he had nearly forgotten, that he hoped the day that would see him broach that banked-up store of thousands might bear him fruit of retribution, in bitterness, and sorrow, and shame. . . .
What a fool he had been!—what a narrow-minded, straitlaced idiot ! Why, the money had procured Dunoisse everything that was worth having in the world.
The open companionship and secret possession of a beautiful, amorous, highbred woman; the friendship of many others, only a little less adorable, and
the good-fellowship of crowds of agreeable men. Membership of many fashionable Clubs, invitations to all the best houses. His brevet as Major, or chef de bataillon, though the General Staff appointment that should have accompanied it unaccountably delayed upon the road. And to cap all, life had been made yet easier by the removal of de Roux to a distant post abroad.
For happy as Dunoisse was, it had been constantly borne in upon him that he would be a great deal happier if the reproach of this man’s presence could be removed.
He hinted as much to Henriette. She looked at him with sweet, limpid eyes of astonishment. What! did he actually feel like that? How odd!
Dunoisse was secretly a little angry with her for not understanding. It showed a want of delicacy, not suspected in her before.
“Poor Eugène! So easy-going, goodhumored and amiable. And you really wish him . . . out of the way? . . .
She crumpled her slender eyebrows and pondered a while, her little jewelled fingers cupping hen adorable chin. “Perhaps the - Prince-President could offer him some foreign appointment,” she said at last. “Monseigneur is always so good!”
For the honest citizen Charles LouisNapoleon Bonaparte had been duly returned in June for the Department of the Seine and two other Departments.
Candidate for the Presidency, with what modesty and good sense he expressed himself. What noble enthusiasm glowed in him, for instance, when he said :
“The Democratic Republic shall be my religion, and I will be its High Priest. ”
“The Empire shall be the religion of the French people, the Tuileries its Temple, and I will be the god, enthroned and worshipped there!”
Words like these won him the Presidential elbow-chair on the platform be-
hind the tribune, placed in his neat white hand the coveted little bell with the horizontal handle ; procured for him. who had been reduced to pawningstraits to pay the rent of his London lodging, palatial quarters in the Palace of the Elysée at the end of the Faubourg Saint Honoré.
The taking of the Presidential Oath exorcised that haunting spectre, arrayed in the rags of the Imperial mantle. Calumny was silenced, suspicion was changed into confidence, France reposed her ringleted head in chaste abandonment upon the irreproachable waistcoat of her First Citizen, who waited for nothing but the laying of the submarine cable between Calais and Dover, the passing of the Bill restoring to the President of the National Assembly the right of absolute command over the military and naval forces of the country, to toss the trustful fair one over his saddle-bow, leap up behind her, and gallop—with his swashbuckling, roystering band of freebooters thundering upon his heels—with the shouts and pistol-shots of indignant pursuers dying upon the distance—away into the frosty December night.
France was to lose her Cap of Liberty as the result of that furious ride of the night of the coup d’Etat, and something more besides. . . .
But in the meanwhile she was content, suspecting no designs against her honor, and the Prince-President, established at the Palace of the Elysée, made himself very much at home.
Not that he cared about the place— he infinitely preferred the Tuileries. But by day the audience-rooms were packed with gold-encrusted uniforms and irreproachable dress-coats; and by night the whole place blazed with gaslight. Soirees, concerts, dinners, balls, and hunting-parties at St. Cloud of Fontainebleau, succeeded balls, dinners, concerts and soirées; and after the crush had departed there w^ere suppers, modelled on the Regency pattern, lavish, luxurious, meretricious, at which the intimate male friends of the host were privileged to be dazzled by a galaxy of beauties dressed to slay; scintillating
with jewels, lovely women who recalled the vanished splendors, as they reproduced the frailties, of the Duchesse de Berry and Madame de Phalaris.
His “flying squadron” he was wont to term them. They were of infinite use to him in the seduction and entanglement of young and gifted, or wealthy and influential men. With what enchanting grace and stateliness they rode the ocean, broke upon the breeze their sable flag of piracy, unmasked their deadly bow-chasers, and brought their broadside batteries to bear. How prettily they sacked and plundered their grappled, helpless prizes. With what magnificent indifference they saw their livid prisoners walk the plank that ended in the salt green wave and the grey shark’s maw.
The Henriette, that clipping war-frigate, had brought much grist to the mills of Monseigneur.
Therefore could he deny her this simple favor, the speedy removal of an inconvenient husband? When the soft caressing voice murmured the plaintive entreaty, Monseigneur stroked the chintuft that had not yet become an imperial, and thought the thing might be arranged.
De Roux was not an indispensable digit in connection with the brain that worked in the Elysée. He was of the old school of military commander, deeply imbued, in spite of all his Bonapartist professions, with the traditions of the Monarchy defunct. His removal from the command of the 999th of the Line had been contemplated for some time.
And the General in; charge of the Military Garrison at Algiers was desirous to resign his responsibilities in favor of a Home command, if one could be found presenting equal advantages in point of pay. Government, just at this juncture, could not afford to increase the emoluments of the only post that appeared suitable. But if a certain sum of money were placed, unquestionably, at the disposal of Government, the difficulty might be smoothed away.
So the Elysée had become a shop on
a vast scale, where anything desired of men or women with cash in hand could be bought for ready money. What Dunoisse wanted cost a heap of money. The cashier at Rothschild’s had long ceased to be reverential—every month’s audit showed such terrific inroads on the diminishing golden store. His eyebrows were almost insulting as he cashed the cheque that purchased exile for Henriette ’s inconvenient husband. Dunoisse began from that moment to realize that he had wasted his patrimony, and would very soon be poor.
Yet what a satisfaction it was to read in the official gazette of the Army, that in recognition of the eminent services of Colonel Count de Roux, the War Minister had appointed that distinguished officer to the vacant post of Commandant of the Garrison at Algiers.
So exit de Roux with the brevet-rank of General, after a farewell banquet from the Regiment and a series of parting dinners; amidst speeches, embraces, vivas, and votive pieces of plate. Madame did not accompany the new Garrison Commandant to the conquered stronghold of the Algerine pirates. The General’s villa at Mustapha was to receive a grass-widower. Henriette’s delicate health could not support the winds from the Sahara—the Prince-President ’s own physician, much to the chagrin of his fair patient, advised against her taking the risk.
And Dunoisse breathed more freely once his whilom Chief had departed. De Roux had been the kill-joy—the fly in the honey. Life was more pleasant now, and infinitely easier; there were so many things that had had to be done under the rose.
So our hero, presently finding himself at the end of his resources, fulfilled a certain paternal prophecy, uttered when he was yet a student at the Military School of Technical Instruction, and called one day at the hotel in the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, prepared to consume a certain amount of humblepie, provided that at the bottom of the unsavory dish the golden plums should be scattered thick enough.
For many months he had not crossed his father’s threshold. The great courtyard bore a look of squalor, grass was springing up between the flagstones. The hall-door stood open. The trophies of arms upon the walls looked dull and rusty, the bronze equestrian statue of the Emperor was covered with a patina of encrusted dirt. The black-and-white squares of the marble pavement were in shrieking need of a broom and soap-andwater. Then, to the tap-tapping of two ebony-handled crutch-sticks came Monsieur the Marshal, heralded by a dropping fire of oaths.
He stopped short, seeing his son, and the change in him was painfully apparent. He was hurrying down the hill that ends in an open grave. His morals were more deplorable than ever.
He opened fire directly, quite in the old manner.
‘ ‘ Hey ? What the devil ?—so you have remembered us, have you? Well? Was I not right in telling you that that affair of the fusilade would end to your advantage ? That the Court Martial was a piece of mummery—a farce—nothing more? There you are with promotion, and the patronage and goodwill of Monseigneur at the Elysée! Though for myself I cannot stomach that Bonaparte with the beak and the Flemish snuffle. Had Walewski but been born on the right side of the blanket—there would have been the Emperor for me!”
He trumpteted in a vast Indian silk handkerchief with something of the old vigor, and went on:
“Because all this swearing of fidelity to the Republic will end, as I have prophesied, in a coronation at Notre Dame, and a court at the Tuileries. My Emperor crowned himself without all this lying and posturing. He said to France : ‘You want a master. Well, look at me. I am the man for you! . . .’ ‘Just as he said to the Senate. ‘Decree me Emperor ! ’ While this fellow . . . sacred name of a pig!”
He tucked one of the crutch-sticks under his arm, got out his snuff-box, and said as he dipped his ringed, yellow old claws into the Spanish mixture:
“His cant about Socialism and Progress and the dignity of Labor gives me the belly-ache. His grovelling to the working man, and slobbering over the common soldier, make me want to kill him. His hand in his trousers-pocket and his eye on a plebiscite—there you have him—by the thunder of Heaven! A corporal of infantry said to me: ‘If I showed M. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte my back—he would kneel down and salute it. . . .’ My Napoleon would have said to that man : ‘ Lie down in the mud, so that I may walk dryshod upon your body ! ’ and the man would have obeyed him. But perhaps half an Emperor is better for France than none ! ’ ’
He fed each wide nostril with the Brobdingnagian pinch he had held suspended while he talked, and said, snorting:
“We shall see if, for all his cartloads of wine sent to their barracks, and his rolls of ten-franc pieces scattered among the rank-and-file, he is served better than the man who scorned to flatter, and more loved than he who did not bribe. . . . Who said: ‘Follow me,
and I will show you capitals to plunder!’ and when they were conquered, said: ‘Help yourselves, one and all, there are fat and lean!’ ”
He plunged his shaking fingers back into the box, sputtered a little, and said a trifle wildly:
“Though there was a good deal of fasting going to set against the seasons of plenty. During the Retreat from Moscow in October, 1812, I had a handful of unset diamonds in my haversack, and a beryl weighing thirteen pounds, worth ninety-five thousand francs, upon my word of honor! Well, I swopped that crystal with a Bavarian aide-decamp of the Staff for a pudding made of horse’s blood mixed with bran and flour. . . . The man who sold me the pudding was Luitpold van Widinitz, a cousin of your mother’s. It was a dirty action I have never pardoned. PardieuI Morbleu! A comrade, and sell—not share! Prince be damned! . . . Huckster ! Sutler ! Tschah ! Faugh ! Pouah ! ’ ’
He dropped the crutch he had tuck-
ed under his arm, and, recalled from his ancient reminiscences by Hector’s picking up the stick and giving it to him, said, with a formidable bending of the brows :
“You came here, not out of filial duty, but upon some private affair or other. Spit it out, and have done!—I have no time to waste.”
‘“I have spent my mother’s dowry as you always hoped I should. Chiefly upon gra t ifieations—pleasures—luxuries, that I once pretended to despise. I have acquired the taste for these things. That ought to gratify you. With the money I have wasted, many prejudices and convictions that you found objectionable in past days have been scattered to the winds. If you are still disposed to give, I am very willing to take. I have no more to say!”
Seldom has an appeal for pecuniary aid been preferred less ingratiatingly. The Marshal glared and champed for several moments before he could reply:
“I do not doubt you are willing, sir. i. . . ’Credieu! Do you suppose I
have not seen this coming?—though the insolence of your approach goes beyond anything that I could have conceived. . . . I have my informants, under-
stand! ... I am aware of your infernal folly, your crazy infatuation. . . . . As for that de Roux woman
who leads you by the nose, she is a jade who will land you in the gutter, and a harlot into the bargain. Do you hear ? ’ ’
The bellowed “Do you hear?” was followed by a shower of curses. When these imprecations had ceased to rattle among the trophies of arms and bronzes, and bring down sprinklings of dust from the gilded cornices, Hector said imperturbably :
“My father may insult my mistress with impunity. I cannot call him out
“If you did, and sat down on your tail—sacred name of a blue pig!—with the notion of sticking me in the gizzard, as yon did de Moulny Younger when you were boys—allow me to tell you— you would find yourself skewered and trussed in double-quick time!”
Never before in Hector’s hearing had the Marshal made reference to that old sore subject of the false step and the broken foil. He made a flourishing pass with one of the ebony-handled crutches, slipped on the polished marble pavement, and would have fallen but for the strong red hand of Marie Bathilde’s son.
Hector put the old man into the hall porter’s capacious chair, picked up his great curly-brimmed hat—the hat worn by Deans at the present moment— brushed it on his sleeve and handed it back again. He felt a good deal like Sganarelle before Don Juan, the case being reversed, and the homilist the elder libertine.
Meanwhile the gouty old soldier fulminated oaths, and hurled reproaches of a nature to make listening Asmodeus smile. He was scandalized at the life his son was leading. Sacred name of a pipe! A thousand thunders! He shook his clenched hand, as he demanded of Hector if he really supposed there was no Deity Who demanded an account from evil livers, and no Hell where sinners burned?
“For priests are rogues and knaves and liars, but there is such a place, for all that ! And you—living in open adultery—for you there will be Hell!”
Said Dunoisse, cool and smiling, standing before his iraate parent :
“I am a better theologian than you are. Hell is for the finally impenitent, I have always been instructed; and I am invariably scrupulous to repent before I sin. If it will afford you any particular gratification, I will undertake to perform a special act of contrition,” he looked at his watch, “punctually at the hour of twelve, to-night.”
“You are going to her to-night?” snarled the Marshal, adding: “Tell her from me that she deceives a blackguard for the sake of a booby. For one you are, by the thunder of Heaven ! who soil yourself and spoil yourself for such a drab as she!”
‘ ‘ What can you expect, ’ ’ said Hector, with the same cool offensiveness, “but that your son should follow in your steps? I am, as you have said, living
with the wife of another man in open adultery. You were bolder, and more daring, who with your master had discrowned kings and humiliated Emperors. You did not hestiate, at the pricking of your desire, to ravish the Spouse of God.”
“Your mother is a Saint!” cried the old Marshal, purple and gnashing with furious indignation. “Do not dare to mention her in the same breath with that—that—”
And ‘the coarse old man plumped out an epithet of the barrack-room, full-flavored, double-barrelled, of which Henriette, had she heard it, would have died.
‘ ‘ There is no need to tell me to honor my mother,” said the son. “She is sacred in my eyes. But do not venture to speak to me of Him Whom you have dishonored. I have thought ever since I was a boy that it would be better for me and for you if He did not exist. For the fact of my being is an insult to Him. I am a clod of earth flung in His face by your sacrilegious hand!”
He had often dreamed of speaking such words as these, face to face with his father. Now they poured from him, thick and fast. But pity checked them in mid-torrent, at the sight of the working mouth and nodding head, and trembling palsied hands of unrevered ignoble age.
The old man capitulated even as the young one relented. He got out, between spasms of wheezing, in quite a conciliatory snarl :
‘‘Well—well ! What if you have spent your mother’s dowry! there is more where that came from. You are my legitimate heir—and for me, I had rather you were a prodigal than a prig. And blood-horses and Indian shawls, wines, jewellery and cigars and bonnets —wagers on the Turf and bets on cards, are unavoidable expenses. ... I do not wish you to be a niggard. Only it seems to me that with your opportunities you might have invested well. Steel Rails and Zinc, those are the things to put money on. This will be the Age of travelling behind boilers and housing under roofs of metal. Ugh—ugh ! Ough, e’r’r—’aah!”
He stopped to have a bout of coughing and hawking, and resumed :
“Do you suppose I blame you for having been extravagant. Though it seems to me you have managed badly. This Bonaparte is one who takes with one hand and gives with the other—is bled or bleeds. He has never tapped my veins yet, nor shall for any hint of his. But I suspect he has had money of you. That woman of yours—never mind! I will not name her, the cockatrice !—but I have had it hinted to me that she is an agent in his pay. And he pays women with compliments and promises—he has probably promised to create her a peeress in her own right when he is Emperor. . . . Her Grace the Duchess of Trundlemop —that is the title she will get.”
Seeing Hector scowl forbiddingly at these unwelcome references, the Marshal made haste to conciliate.
“You have paid through the nose to get de Roux decanted to Algeria. You have been sweetly choused. One must live and learn. See!—I will strike a bargain with you. Do not you be stiffnecked any longer with regard to that question of the von Widinitz Succession, and I will unbutton my pockets. . . . You shall have money—plenty of money ! All that you need to make a splash. I suppose you know that there are millions of thalers waiting to drop into your pockets once the Council of the Germanic Confederation shall confirm your right to the Crown Feudatory. . . . You
will stand upon that right—it is patent and undeniable. And I will have the throne from under the Regent Luitpold in return for that lump of beryl the rogue once robbed from me!”
Absurd, formidable, gross old monster. Was the ravished crystal really the fulcrum of the lever with which the Marshal strove to upset the State? World-changes have been brought about by quarrels springing from causes even more trivial? The price of Luitpold’s blood-pudding had remained for thirtyseven years an undigested morsel in the Marshal’s system. It rankled in him to his dying day.
Though his gouty feet were tottering on the downward slope, his mental fac-
ulties were as clear as ever. He watched his son from under his bushy eyebrows as the young man gnawed his lip and drew patterns with his cane on the tesselated pavement of the hall. Hector had uttered sounding reproaches, arrayed himself on the side of Heaven a moment previously. The merry devil who laughs over human contradictions and mortal frailties, must have chuckled as he listened to the terms of the bargain now arranged between the father and the son.
Money. For the sake of the golden mortar without which the House of Hopes that Jack builds must inevitably tumble to ruin, Dunoisse reluctantly consented to become the puppet of an ambition he had scorned. The instrument of a desire for vengeance that had never ceased to rowel the old war-horse ’s rheumatic sides.
“So! It is understood, then, after all the fanfaronade of high-mindedness. You will meet my Bavarian agents, Köhler and von Steyregg—and you will be compliant and civil to them, do you understand ? ’ ’
He lashed himself into one of his sudden rages, the gouty old lion, and roared :
“For my Marie’s son shall not be slighted — kicked aside into a corner while that knave Lutipold holds the Regency of Widinitz from the Bund. I will give him a colic for the one his pudding gave me ! And I will have no more accusations and reproaches !—I will not permit you who are my son to taunt me with your own begetting, and throw your mother’s Veil of Profession,
He rapped his stick upon the pavement. He was strangely moved, and his chin was twitching, though his fierce black eyes were hard and dry.
“You have said that I stole my wife from God, and it is true; though I do not know that it is very decent in you to twit me with it. And do you suppose I have not smarted for the sin I committed ? I tell you I have shed tears of blood!”
A harsh sound came from his throat; he swallowed and blinked and went on talking :
“Listen to me, you who are more my son than Marie’s, though you tell me that you hold her memory sacred, and denounce me as the plunderer of Christ ? When her youngest child, your sister, died, Marie saw in that the beginning of Heaven’s vengeance; the price that must be paid, the punishment that must be borne. And she prayed and wept— what tears !—and gave me no peace untill she had wrung from me my promise that she should go back to her Convent if the Chapter would receive her. . . . I am an old tactician—I gave the pledge in the full belief that never would they open their doors. . . . And when she brought me the Prioress’s letter, it was as though a spent cannon-ball had hit me on the headpiece. Then I had an idea. The dowry of three hundred thousand silver thalers. What the Church had once got her claws on I knew she would never let go. . . . So I blustered and raved and swore to Marie. . . . ‘The dowry, or I keep my wifeV ”
His pendulous cheeks and chin shook as he wagged his head at Hector.
“Do you suppose I wanted the accursed dross? No! by the thunder of Heaven! I was greedy of something else. The woman—my wife—who lay in my arms and sighed, and kissed me, and wept. . .
His voice cracked. He said:
“Do you think she did not know the truth? You shall never make me believe she did not. Even while I bragged and blustered about a lawsuit—even when my notary wrote a letter. I had fears and quakings of the heart. When no answer came from the Mother Prioress, I rubbed my hands and congratulated myself. Thrice-accursed fool who thought to outwit God—”
He rummaged for his snuff-box, tapped it wrong way up, opened it in this position, spilt all its store of snuff swore, and pitched it across the hall.
“He is the King of strategists—the Marshal of Napoleon’s Grand Army, compared with Him, was a blind beetle. The Prioress’s answer came: ‘We concede you this money,’ said the letter, ‘as the price of a soul.’ Enclosed was a draft on the Bank of Bavaria. That
night Marie left me. Without even a kiss of farewell, she who had been my wife for nine years, and borne me a boy and a girl. . . . Imagine if the money did not weigh on me like the dead horse I lay under all through the night of Austerlitz, with the bone of my broken leg sticking through my boot! Conceive if it did not smell to me of beeswax candles, brown serge habits, incense and pauper’s pallets! Pshaw! Peugh! Piff!”
He blew his old nose and swore a little, and then went on:
“I did not send back the three hundred thousand thalers. True ! they were so much dirt in my eyes! . . . But
cash is cash, and to part with it would not have brought my Marie bhck again. I let the stuff lie and breed at my bank. I would have raked the kennels for crusts rather than touch it. Not that I have ever needed money. The old brigand of the Grand Army has known how to keep what he had gained. Though I have lived up to my income . . .
drank, gambled, amused myself with women! What matter the women? Did Marie suppose I should spend my time in stringing daisy-chains when she had gone away?”
He laughed in his formidable, ogreish way, and said, still laughing:
‘ ‘ She knew me better, depend upon it. Though, mind you, I had been true to Marie. But a wife who is a mín is a dead wife. I was a widower—the boy motherless. . . . And He up above
us had another score to make off me!
. . . When the boy—Death of my
soul ! ’ ’
He struck one of his crutches on the marble pavement with such force that the stick broke.
“A day came when you looked at me with my own eyes shining out of Marie’s face, and said : ‘ I have heard the story. The terms upon which you let my mother resume the Veil were vile!’ Impudent young cockerel! Was it to be supposed that I should try to justify myself in the eyes of a stripling? A man to whom the Emperor used to say : ‘Well, Dunoisse, let us have your opinion on such and such a plan?’ So I
laughed at you for a nincompoop— boasted of the pail of milk I had drawn from the Black Sow, saying to myself: ‘All right! He is; Marie’si son, that boy! When he is a man grown, I will give him that accursed money, smelling of candles and incense, and he will give it back to the nuns.’ And when time was ripe I transferred the whole lump to your name at Rothschild’s. You made virtuous scruples about taking it, but you never restored it whence it came! . . . Now you have showed
your breed—you have poured it into the lap of a light woman. And you come to me and own that, and ask for more to pitch after it ! ” He rapped out a huge oath. “Am I not justified in thinking you more my son than Marie’s? Have I not the right to say I am disappointed in you?”
His voice was a mere croak. He went on, with his fierce, bloodshot eyes fixed on vacancy :
“Do you suppose I did not love your mother—have never longed for her— have ever forgotten her ? I use her chocolate-set every morning. . . . Her Indian shawl is the coverlet of my bed. When I have the gout in my eyes I tie a scarf she used to wear over them, like a bandage. There is virtue in things that have been used by a Saint.”
‘ ‘ For a Saint she is . . and though, as you say I stole my joy in her from Heaven—do you suppose, for one moment, a woman like that is going to let me be damned ? She will wear her knees to the bone first ; and so I tell you !... Was it not for the sake of my soul she went back to her cell at the Carmel ? At the Day of Judgment one voice will be heard that pleads for old Achille Dunoisse. ’ ’
One scanty teardrop hung on his inflamed and reddened underlid.
‘ ‘ But Saint or none, she loved me, like twenty women, by Heaven ! And if she says she repents of that, again, by Heaven !—she lies!”
The solitary tear fell on his discolored hand. He shook it off, angrily. Somewhere in the middle of that gross bundle of contradictions, absurdities, appetites, vices, resentments, hatreds, calling itself
Achille Dunoisse—there beat and bled a suffering human heart. And the distance that separated the father and the son was bridged by a moment of sympathy and understanding. And a pang of envy pierced it through. . . .
For the supreme jewel that Fate can bestow upon mortal, is the love that will even yield up the Beloved for Love’s sake. To this gross old man, his sire, had been given what would never fall to the younger Dunoisse.
By the radiance of this great passion of Marie Bathilde’s, her son saw himself in like case with some penniless student in a Paris garret, crouching, upon a night of Arctic cold, over a fire of paper and straw. When the small fierce flame of Henriette’s slight sensuous fansy should have sunk down into creeping ashes under the starved hands spread above it, what would be left to live for? His heart was sick within him as he went away.
He returned to Madame de Roux with the news that his application to the Marshal had succeeded. She threw her arms about him, in a transport of joy.
“Ah, then, so you really love me?” the poor dupe asked, putting the most fatal of all questions. For it sets the interrogataed he or she wondering, ‘ ‘ Do I?” and hastens the inevitable end.
“How can you doubt it?” she queried, hiding an almost imperceptible yawn behind her tiny fingers. “Did I not send away Eugene for youV*
She passed by gentle degrees to a question possessing much more interest. The amount to be placed upon the books at Rothschild’s to the credit of the Marshal’s son.
So thickly did the deposit of golden plums lie at the bottom of the pie-dish —so handsomely did the Marshal keep his given word, that at the suggestion of Henriette, Hector did some more shopping at that vast comprehensive mart of the Elysée. General de Roux, puffing a cheroot and sweltering in his cane chair at the Military Club of Algiers, was to read in the official Gazette of the Army—a special copy, thought-
fully forwarded by an anonymous friend—that his late Assist ant-Ad jutant had received yet further promotion. That the Cross of the Legion of Honor had been conferred upon him by the Prince-President, with his appointment as extra aide-de-camp of the Staff of the Elysée.
Thenceforwards at Reviews, Inspections, and other public functions, you saw the keen dark face shaded by the plumed cocked hat of a Lieutenant-Colonel—the slender active figure set off by a brilliant uniform, as mounted on Djelma, or some animal even more beautiful and spirited, the lover of Henriette brought up the rear of the showy cavalcade of Marshals, Generals, foreign envoys, aides-de-camp and Staff officers, galloping at the flying heels of the spirited English charger ridden by Monseigneur.
What could the heart of man want more? At State dinners at the Elysée, shooting-parties at Fontainebleau, hunts at Compiègne, balls at the Tuileries, Colonel Hector Dunoisse cut a gallant figure. His intrigue with Madame de Roux became a recognized liaison. Monseigneur was so kind—the world was so charitable. Nobody dreamed of censuring, or even looking askew.
In the galaxy of beautiful women that glittered about that rising planet of Monseigneur’s, Henriette shone prominently. Many men’s eyes were fixed in longing on that throbbing, radiant star. The man on whom its rays were shed knew himself envied. Secure in possession of what others keenly desired, he believed himself happy at last.
Happiest when, with that little hand of Henriette’s upon his arm, in some crush of gold-laced uniforms, diplomatic dress-coats, silks, satins, flowers, feathers and diamonds, he would encounter a tall, bulky, officially-attired figure topped with a heavy, ugly, distinguished face; and meet the cold, repellent, cynical stare of de Moulny’s hard blue eyes.
The eyes would meet Redskin’s, the head would move slightly, responding to Dunoisse’s own chilly, perfunctory salutation. Once or twice they had been
near neighbors at the dinner-table. . . . What of that? In civilized society one eats with one ’s enemy. Only the nomad of the desert and the savage of the jungle refuse to break bread with those they hold in suspicion or hate. And it is easy to forget a great injustice done you, by a friend you have ceased to care for ; and to forgive a wrong wrought by a man off whom you have doubly scored.
For de Moulny had been paid his money, had not Henriette said so? Besides, she had never exchanged a word with him alone since that night of the fusillade.
She assured Dunoisse of this ; and that their intercourse when they met was limited to the briefest utterances compatible with common civility. Then, no matter for de Moulny, now Representative for the Department of Moulny upon Upper Drame, and Secretary-Chancellor at the Ministry of the Interior. Success was his, though the woman he had desired had given her favors to another. Without the bliss that he had vainly coveted, let de Moulny go upon his way. . . .
• Dunoisse believed that Henriette loved him, as he her, with passion and fidelity. He asked nothing better of Fate than that he should be permitted to pass through life with those fairy fingers twined about his own. But sometimes when her beautiful hair was shed upon his breast and her lustrous eyes looked into his, and her lovely lips gave back his kisses, the thought of the strange face that might be lurking behind those beautiful, beloved, familiar features would strike him cold with dread.
He thrust it from him, that conjectured image, but always it hovered in the background of his mind. By the blood-red December dawn that followed on the crime of the coup d’Elat another glimpse of the Medusa visage was to be vouchsafed to him. The day was not yet when it should be revealed in all its terror, and strike the man to stone.
France had not taken kindly to the notion of a plebiscite. The good city of
Paris had had an indigestion of proclamations—was beginning to suspect the motives of her leading citizen. And the capital roared and buzzed like a beehive of angry bees.
As the neat white fingers of France’s First Citizen twisted comic figures out of paper, taken from a little inlaid table beside him where writing-materials were, his brain was busy with this vexing question of how to get more cash. Hundreds of millions of francs had been expended during his tenure of office. The china, pictures and other Art treasures of the Crown had been converted into bullion. The diamonds of the Crown and the Crown forests had become gold in the crucible of the auction-room. And—presto ! the vast sums thus realized had vanished—nobody could exactly indicate how or whither—it was a puzzle to baffle Houdin. Nor could anyone point out the winners of the chief prizes advertised in the Lottery of the Golden Ingots, which had, with much tootling of official trumpets and banging of official drums, been drawn some days before.
There was a reception upon this particular evening ; the little Palace and its courtyard blazed with gas. It was nearly midnight, and yet the sun had not risen; the magnificent band of the —th Hussars, stationed in the splendid gilt ballroom where the Prince-President had as a child witnessed the second abdication of the Emperor Napoleon, had not yet crashed into Partant Pour La Syrie. It had been given out that Monseigneur was delayed by the non-arrival of despatches, detained by urgent affairs of State. Detectives, mingling with the throng of guests in the reception-rooms, kept their ears open for unfavorable comments; their eyes skinned for the possible interception of significant glances. Of which, had they but chosen to step outside the courtyard-gates, they might have gathered store.
For to be plain, Paris was in a state of ferment and disruption. Disaffection prevailed. Insurrection was rising to its old high-water mark. And the cries
were: “Down with Bonaparte! Long live the Republic ! Long live Law ! Long live the Constitution! Down with the Army, the paid tool of the President who wants to be Emperor in spite of all his oaths!” And the ganglion of narrow streets that made the centre of the city’s nervous system were being rapidly blocked by barricades built higher than before. . . .
What wonder if at this juncture, the crying need of Monseigneur for money opened a Gargantuan mouth for the bottle. Without money at this juncture, the contemplated masterstroke of policy must fall as harmlessly as a blow from Harlequin’s lathen sword.
Money, money, money! . . .
And there were twenty-five millions of francs, belonging to the Orleans Princes, lying in the Bank of France, which by a Presidential Decree, countersigned by the Home Secretary Count de Morny, might be profitably sequestrated. And, contained in a series of great painted and emblazoned deedboxes, occupying a row of shelves in the strong-room at the Ministry of the Interior, were the title-deeds to estates of the value of three hundred thousand millions more, vested in the hands of mere Trustees; who might argue and protest, but could, if it proved necessary, be gagged. And de Morny had just threatened to resign the Home Secretaryship if Monseigneur persisted in his intention of laying violent hands on these unconsidered trifles—an exhibition of obstinacy both ill-timed and in bad taste.
De Morny insisted that the night grew old; that the reception-rooms were crowded to suffocation; that the longdelayed appearance of the President had provoked unfavorable comparisons, and created a bad impression; that he must come without delay.
“Let them wait!” he said, with a dull flash of ill-humor, in answer to the expostulations of Persigny. “Who are they, that they should not be kept waiting? Whom have we? A damnable rabble of bankers, stockbrokers, judges, generals, senators. Representatives and their wives and mistresses. . . . You
know very well that what the English would call the ‘best people’ are those who do not come. . . .”
Which was true. The private secretaries of the aged Duchesse de Veillecour, of the Faubourg st. Honoré, and of the venerable Marquis de l’Autretemps, being invariably instructed to return M. Bonaparte’s card of invitation, with the intimation that their respective employers had not the honor of knowing the gentleman who had sent it—or with no intimation at all. . . .
“Let them wait!” he said again. “Am I not waiting? For this message from Walewski—for this ultimatum of my Lord Walmerston—for this establishment of the submarine electric telegraph between England and France. That gutta-percha covered wire stretching between the cave under the South Foreland at Dover and the cliff station at Cape Grisnez is the jugular vein of my whole system of policy. Had it not broken twice, should I not have papered Paris with my proclamations—should I not have struck the blow?”
He stuck out his chin as he rolled his head upon the cushioned back of his armchair and stared at the painted ceiling, and went on in his droning voice: “That is, if I had had money—sufficient funds at my disposal. That a man like me should want money at such a moment proves that the Devil is a fool.”
St. Arnaud turned his long emaciated body and sagacious greyhound-face towards the speaker. The sofa creaked beneath his weight, and one of his gold spurs, catching in the costly brocade cover, tore it with a little ugly, sickening sound. He said, stroking the dyed tuft upon his chin with a gaunt pale hand glittering with rings of price: “Monseigneur, pray do the personage you mention better justice. He really has served you better than you think!” He had. The steam-packet Goliath of Dover, towing the ancient cable-hulk Blazer, the latter rolling fearfully, with a direfully seasick crew, and a hold containing but a few hundred yards of so of the twenty-seven miles of cable which had been smoothly paid out over the Channel sea-floor, had dropped her an-
chors off Cape Grisnez an hour before sunset; and the end of the wire-bound rope on which so much depended having been landed at the village of Sangatte, distant some three miles or so from Calais, communication had been established with the operators in the cave under the South Foreland lighthouse at Dover. And a gun had been fired from the Castle; and telegrams announcing the fact had been sent by the Chief Magistrate of Dover to the Queen and the Prince Consort, thei Duke of Wellington, the King of Prussia, and a few other important personages. And the Mayor had then despatched a message of congratulation to the French Prince-President, which was being transmitted to Paris by means of Ampère’s coil and needle, and the underground wire that followed the track of the Great Northern Railway Line.
But meanwhile a courier from the Embassy of France in Belgrave Square, London, chilled and hoarse from rapid travelling in the wintry weather, had arrived with the letter from Walewski. And when the neat white hands for which it was destined had snatched the envelope from the sumptuous golden salver upon which it was respectfully presented by the President’s second aide-de-camp, its contents proved discouraging, to say the least.
> Count Walewski had pleaded his relative’s cause with eloquence. The enclosure would prove with what result.
A cheque for two thousand pounds, enfolded in a sheet scrawled with a brief intimation in my Lord Walmerston’s stiff, characteristic handwriting, that no more of the stuff was to be had.
“IIow like the man! The icy, phlegmatic islander ! Two thousand pounds ! A nothing! A bagatelle!”
The little gentleman removed his polished boots from the chased silver-gilt fender. He was strongly tempted to throw the cheque into the fire. But money is money, and he restrained himself. He folded the oblong slip of pink paper stamped with the magic name of Coutts and slipped it into his pocket
note-case, gnawing, as was his wont, at the ends of his heavy moustache and breathing through his nose. He got up and looked upon his merry men with an ugly, livid smile, and said, still smiling:
“So be it! We take my Lord’s charity and we repay it. Without doubt—it shall be repaid by-and-by—with otheç debts owed by me to England. Her grudging shelter, her insulting tolerance, her heavy, insolent, insular contempt. ’ ’
Something in the speaker ’s short thick throat rattled oddly. His eyes, that were usually like the faded negatives of eyes, glittered with a dull, retrospective hate. The white hand shook as it stroked the brown chin-tuft, and a greyish shiny sweat stood upon his face.
“I am to be upheld and supported by Great Britain if I accomplish miracles—but I am to accomplish them unaided. Two thousand pounds! We are infinitely indebted to my Lord Walmerston’s generosity!”
St. Arnaud, who had got off the sofa, remarked with a full-fiavored oath: .
“It is rating the Army cheap, by— !’’ De Morny said, shrugging one shoulder and toying with his watch-chain : “Two regiments of Russian Guards made an Empress of the Grand Duchess Catherine. Will not a couple of brigades do your little job for you? For my life, I cannot see why not?”
The tallow-candle-locked little man on the hearthrug retorted as he warmed himself :
“Catherine only strangled her husband Peter. I have the Assembly to throttle—a very different thing. To carry out my plan successfully I must subsidize the whole Army—cram the pockets of every officer according to his grade—with thousand-franc billets— descend upon the rank-and-file in a shower of wine and gold.”
He assumed his favorite pose, borrowed from the great Napoleon, his short right leg advanced, his chin turned at an acute angle, his left hand thrust behind the broad red ribbon, a finger hitched between two buttons of his tightwaisted general’s coat, and said with his most pompous air:
“M. De Morny, in answer to your objections to my proposed course of policy, I reply by dictating a Proclamation addressed by the President of the Republic to the French People. Be good enough to take your seat at the writingtable. ’ ’
De Morny obeyed. Monseigneur cleared his throat and reeled off:
“Our country is upon the horns of a dilemma, in the throes of a crisis of the gravest. As her sworn protector, guardian, and defender, I take the step necessary to her rescue and salvation—I withdraw from the Bank twenty-five millions of francs wrung from her veins by the masters who have betrayed her—I apply them as golden ointment to stanch her bleeding wounds.”
Said de Morny, with imperturbable gravity, speaking in the English language, as he selected a sheet of paper and dipped his pen in the ink:
“Article T. will provide that hereafter stealing is no robbery. Article II. should ordain that hence forth it is not murder to kill.”
The coldly-spoken words dropped one by one into a silence of consternation. St. Arnaud sat up; de Fleury dropped his cocked hat upon the carpet. Persigny grew pale underneath his rouge. Monseigneur alone maintained his urbane coolness, looking down his nose as he stroked his heavy brown boustache with the well-kept hand that, with all its feminine beauty, was so pitiless. Thus his blinking glance was arrested by the letter on the hearthrug. And a postscript that he had overlooked now caught his eye. Pie stooped, lifted the letter, and read, written in WalewskPs fine Italian script:
“Walmerston is cooling; there is no doubt about the change in him. Better strike whilst the iron is hot, or decide to abandon the idea.”
“And risk all . . . or give up all. Very well, my friend!” he said, apostrophizing the absent writer as though he could hear him, “I will risk all. I wait for nothing but the cable now.” Even as he said the words the privileged elderly aide-de-camp entered with the thin blue envelope that held
the cablegram. He tore it open, and read:
“Town — Dover — congratulates — Prince-President — on — establishment
— submarine — telegraphic — communication — between — France — and
— England. William — John — Tomlinson. — Mayor.”
It was given to William John Tomlinson to rouse the venomous reptile that lay hidden in this man out of his wintry torpor. A bitter oath broke from him as he read the message. He tore the fiimsy scrawled paper and the blue envelope into a dozen pieces, and scrunched them in his small neat hand before he threw the lump of paper on the Persian hearthrug, and spat upon it with another oath, and ground it under his spurred heel.
“The Mayor, . . .” he croaked,
after a dumb struggle for speech. “The Chief Magistrate of Dover congratulates the Chief Magistrate of Paris. Damnably amusing! . . . Good—very good!”
His laugh was a snapping bark, like the sound made by a dog in rabies. He went on, heedless of the faces gathered about him, speaking, not to them, but to that other hidden self of his; the being who dwelt behind the dough-colored mask, and looked through the narrow eye-slits, guessed at, but never before seen :
“You comprehend, Madame of England and that sausage of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld, her Consort, think it beneath their exalted dignity to bandy courtesies with me . . . Me, the out-at-elbows
refugee, the shady character—the needy Prince-Pretender—admitted upon sufferance to West of London Clubs; exhibited as a curiosity in the drawingrooms of English Society—stared at as some cow-worshipping jewel-hung Hindu Rajah, or raw-meat-eating Abyssinian King.” He clenched his pretty hand and went on, carried away by the tide of bitter memories:
“Do you know what Queen Victoria once said of me to Lady Stratelyffe?
(My dear, let me beg of you not to mention M. Bonaparte before Albert. He
considers him hardly a person to be spoken of—not at all a person to know! And yet how can one deny him some measure of respect and consideration— as a near relative of Napoleon the Great.’ ”
He had another struggle with his rending devil, and said, when he had found his speech again:
‘ ‘ ‘ Great ! ’ Was he so great, that man for whose sake Victoria would accord me ‘respect and consideration’? True, he humbled Emperors, browbeat and bullied Kings. ... He kicked the board of Europe, and armies were jumbled in confusion. His screaming eagles carried panic, and terror, and devastation as far as the Pyramids. The East bowed her jewelled forehead in the dust before him—a nation of beef-fed islanders put him to the rout!”
His eyes, wide open now and glazed, looked upon the men who listened, unseeing as the eyes of a somnambulist. He said in that voice that was a croak: “And he died, the prisoner and slave of England. Before I die, England shall be mine!”
“Now, if you will give me pen, ink, and paper, I will write the answer to this letter from Belgrave Square.” They supplied him with these things, and he wrote, in his pointed spidery hand, stooping over the desk of an inlaid ivory escritoire—a dainty thing whose drawers and pigeon-holes had contained the political correspondence of Queen Marie Antoinette and the loveletters of amorous Josephine :
“Tell my Lord that I carry out my programme. Upon the morning of the second of December, at a quarter-past six punctually, 1 strike the decisive blow.”
He signed the sheet with his initials, folded and slipped it in an envelope, and motioned to de Monry to prepare the wax to receive his signet. While the red drops were falling on the paper, like gouts of thick blood, he said, with his smile :
“It may be that this second of December will prove to be my eighteenth Brumaire.”
And when Persigny inquired to which
of the official messengers the letter should be entrusted for conveyance to London, he replied:
“To none of them. An aide-de-camp will attract less notice. And he must be a mere junior, an unimportant person whom nobody will be likely to follow or molest.”
An ugly salacious humor curved his pasty cheeks and twitched at his nostrils as he went on:
“Suppose we send Dunoisse? Madame de Roux adores him, but there are occasions upon which she would find it more convenient to adore him from a distance. One can easily comprehend that!”
He added, as his merry men roared with laughter:
“It is decided, then. Colonel Dunoisse shall be our messenger. Pray touch the bell, M. de St. Arnaud.”
A moment later the band of the —th Hussars crashed magnificently into the opening bars of “Partant Pour La Syrie.” and Monseigneur, imperturbable and gracious as ever, was smiling on the “damnable rabble” crowding to bask in the rays of their midnight-risen sun. And beyond the big gilded gates of the little palace, Paris buzzed and roared like an angry beehive into which some mischief-loving urchin had poked a stick.
The egg of the coup d’Etat was hatched as the train that carried Monseigneur’s secret messenger rushed over the iron rails that sped it to the sea.
We know his programme, masterly in detail, devilish in its crushing, paralysing, merciless completeness. The posting of notices at every street corner, in every public square, on every tree of the boulevards, proclaiming that crowds would thenceforth be dispersed by military force, Without Warning; the distribution of troops; the disposition of batteries; the arrests of the Representatives, the publication of the Decree dissolving the Assembly ; the seizure of the Ministry of the Interior; the closure of the High Courts of Justice—a symbolical gagging and blinding of the law.
And Paris, rising early on that red December morning, turned out under the chilly skies to read her death-sentence, ignorant of its true nature ; and to wonder at the military spectacle provided for her eyes.
For the five brigades of Carrelet’s Division, vavalry and infantry, extended in echelon from the Rue de la Paix to the Faubourg Poissonière. Each brigade with its artillery, numbering seventeen thousand Pretorians, five additional regiments, with a reserve of sixty thousand men, being held in readiness to use cannon, sabre, pistol, and bayonet upon the bodies of their fellow-countrymen and women, that France might be saved, according to Monseigneur.
It was late, and raining heavily, when the Folkestone train clanked into Waterloo Station. The yellow gaslights were reflected in the numerous puddles on the slippery wooden platform; in the shiny peaks of porters’ caps, and in the dripping oilskins of cabmen. A rednosed Jehu, suffering from almost total extinction of the voice, undertook to convey Dunoisse to Belgrave Square, the haggard beast attached to the leaky vehicle accomplishing the journey in a series of stumbles, slides, and collapses.
The windows of the Embassy blazed with lights, police were on duty in unusual force, and the six tall cuirassiers of the Embassy were dwarfed into insignificance by a British guard-of-honor, betokening the presence of Royalty; stately, splendid Household Cavalrymen, whose gold-laced scarlet, blue velvet facings, gleaming steel cuirasses, and silver, white-plumed helmets lined the flowerdecked vestibule, and struck savage splendid chords of color amidst the decorations of the marble staircase, where Gloire de Dijon roses and yellow chrysanthemums were massed and mingled with the trailing foliage of smilax, and the tall green plumes of ferns.
The Tricolor was barely in evidence. The Imperial colors of green and bold, displayed i nthe floral decorations, predominated in the draperies that hung below the carved and gilded cornices, and beneath the pillared archways that
led to the lining and reception rooms. The full-length portrait of the PrincePresident that hung over the sculptured marble fireplace had a canopy of emerald velvet spangled with fleurons, and upheld by eagles perched on laurelwreathed spears. And above the head of the portrait, concealed by a garland of trailing rose-boughs, lurked another more significant device. . .
Thus much evidence of preparation at the Embassy for some event of profound importance was evident to the bearer of the letter from the Elysée, before the steward of the chambers, a stately goldchained personage in discreet black, accosted the stranger, and at the sight of a signet bearing a familiar coat-of-arms, conducted him in haste to an apartment on the rear of the ground-floor, reserved for similar arrivals; set sandwiches, cold game, and champagne-cup, before him; indicated a dressing-room adjoining where the stains of travel might be removed ; and disappeared ; to return before the rage of hunger had been halfappeased, ushering in a handsome personage in a brilliant Hussar uniform, who greeted Dunoisse as an acquaintance, and shook him warmly by the hand.
“There has been a great dinner this evening, ’ ’ explained this personage, who held the post of First Military Attaché to France’s Embassy. “The entire Corps Diplomatique accredited to the Court of St. James’s, to meet the Duke of Bambridge and Lord Walmerston. His Royal Highness will be leaving directly; those Life Guards in the square and in the vestibule are his escort of honor. Magnificent men, are they not? But less active dismounted than our own Heavy Cavalry. Are you sufficiently refreshed? You will take nothing more? You are positive? Then be good enough to come with me.”
And they returned to the hall, to commence the ascent of the great staircase, as a steady, continuous stream of well-bred, well-dressed people began to flow downwards in the direction of the refreshment buffets.
And the attaché, whose loquacious vivacity could not hide the excitement
and suspense under which he was laboring, and which were palpably shared by every official encountered on the way upstairs, paused at a curtained archway at the end of a short corridor on the second floor, and said, lifting the velvet drapery that Dunoisse might pass within:
“This is His Excellency’s library. Wait a moment, and I am instructed to say that he will join you here. Excuse me that I am compelled to leave you now ! ’ ’
The curtain fell heavily, blotting out the handsome martial figure. Dunoisse moved forwards, and found himself in the middle of an octagonally-shaped library, furnished in the sombre, sumptuous style of the Empire. A glowing fire of billets burned on the bronze dogs of the fireplace. Above the carved walnut mantelshelf, where groups of wax tapers burned in silver candelabra, hung a fine replica from the brush of David, of the painter’s imposing, heroic, impossible portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps. And Dunoisse, sinking down with a sigh of relief amongst the cushions of a capacious armchair and stretching his chilled feet towards the cheerful hearthglow, looked at the picture between half-closed eyelids; and the spirited charger had begun to shrink into a mule, and the red woollen shawl of homely truth had covered up the laced cocked hat of ornamental fiction, when the imperative summons of a door-bell pealed through the house, and was succeeded by a sudden lull in the Babel of general conversation.
Dunoisse, roused by the unmistakable double ring of a telegraphic messenger, started to his feet. The undelivered letter in his breast seemed to burn there like redhot iron. His keen ears pricked themselves for what he knew must come, if this were as he suspected, a cable from Paris.
He stepped towards the door, put aside the velvet draperies of the portiere and turned the handle He emerged upon the landing, where a few persons were gathered, conferring eagerly in un-
dertones. He moved to the balustrade of the great well-staircase, and looked down into the flower-decked, brilliantlyilluminated hall, to find it packed with a solid mass of heads of both sexes, all ages, and every shade of color. And all these heads, it seemed to Dunoisse, were turned towards the full-length portrait of Monseigneur, attired in the uniform of a General of the French Army, smiling with his imperturbable amiability above the marble fireplace.
For what were they all waiting ? Leaning over the balustrade above, Dunoisse could see that a small round ventilator in the wall immediately above the picture, and hidden from the persons assembled in the hall below by the bespangled canopy, was open. Through the aperture came a hand holding a lighted taper; and in another moment, with a faint hissing sound, the initial N and an Imperial crown above it leaped into lines of vivid wavering flame.
Babel broke loose then. Questions, ejaculations, explanations, congratulations, in half-a-dozen European languages, crossed and recrossed in the air like bursting squibs. And seeing officials and attachés of the Embassy beset by eager questions; and conscious that curious glances from below were raking his own dark, unfamiliar features, Dunoisse, as a wave of excited humanity began to roll up the grand staircase, retreated to the library, knowing that the coup dfEtat was an accomplished fact.
He had left the library empty, but he found it occupied. A lady and a gentleman had entered by a door at the more distant end. The lady’s back was towards Dunoisse. Her male companion, a tall and handsome man of barelv middle age, wearing the gold-embroidered uniform of the diplomatic corps with grace and distinction, said to her. in the act of quitting the room:
“Wait here. T will go and order the carriage, but the crush is so great that some delay is unavoidable. Mary shall come and keep you company.”
The speaker withdrew by the more distant door, softly closing it behind him. And Dunoisse stood still in the shadow of a massive writing-table, flung
by the light of fire and candle upon the heavy velvet curtain behind him, uncertain whether to remain or to retreat. One moment more ; and then, as the tall, slender, white-robed figure of the lady turned and moved towards him across the richly hued Oriental carpets, a memory, faint as a whiff of sweetness from some jar of ancient pot-pourri, wakened in him, quickening as she drew nearer into fragrance fresh and as living as that exhaled by the bouquet of pure white roses clustering in their glossy dark green leaves, that she carried in her slight gloved hand; and by their fellow-blossoms, drooping in the graceful fashion of the day, amidst the heavy shining coils of her rippling gold-brown hair.
For it was Ada Merling.
He drew noiselessly back into the shadow, looking at her intently. A dress of costly fabric, frost-flowers of Alençon lace wrought upon cloudy tulle, billowed and floated about her slender, rounded form. Glimpses of shimmering sea-blue showed through the exquisite folds. The moonv glimmer of great pearls, and the cold white fire of diamonds crowned her rich hair and clasped her fair throat, circled her slight wrists, and heaved on her white bosom. Jewels and laces could not add to her beauty in the eves of those who loved her. To Dunoisse the revelation of the loveliness that had been gowned in Quaker grey, crowned with the frilled cap of the nurse, and uniformed with the bibbed apron, came with a shock that took his breath away.
She had not seen him, standing by the curtain. She evidentlv believed herself alone when she dropped her fan and bououet on a divan, as though their inconsiderable burden had oppressed her, and moved towards the fireplace. She looked steadfastlv at the replica of the David portrait of the Great Napoleon that hung above. Her name was upon Dunoisse’s lips, when the sound of the nnforgotten voice of melodv arrested it. She spoke; and her words were addressed, not to the living man who heard but to the deaf, unheeding dead.
“Oh! you with the inscrutable pale
face and the cold, hard, pitiless eyes! who point forwards ceaselessly,” she said, “scourging your dying soldiers along the road of Death with the whip of your remorseless, merciless will, do you know what he has done, and is doing? . . . You were a magnificent
despot, a royal tiger, but this man is—”
“Mademoiselle!” broke from Dunoisse, as with a most painfully-embarrassing conscience upon him that his unsuspected presence should in decency have been made known to here ere now, he moved from the shadow of the doorway,
“Who is it?”
She turned her face to him, and it was pale and agitated, and there were tragic violet circles round the great brilliant blue-grey eyes. They recognized Dunoisse, and she held out her hand in the frank way that he remembered, and he took it in his own.
“Monsieur Dunoisse! . . . Colonel Dunoisse I should say now, should T not?”
“I thank you,” he said, “for not completely forgetting me ; otherwise, I hardly know how I should have recalled myself to you.”
“Why so? You have not changed,” she answered, looking in the dark keen face. And then, as the light of fire and candles showed the fine lines graven about its eyes and mouth, and the sprinkling of grey hairs upon the high, finely modelled temples, she added; “And yet I think you have.”
“Time is only kind to beautiful women!” Dunoisse responded, paying her the implied compliment with the gallantry that had become habitual. But she answered with a contraction of the brows ;
“Time would be kind if this December day, that dawned upon the betrayal of the French Republic, and set upon the massacre and slaughter of her citizens, could be wiped from the calendar for ever.”
“I speak thus to you, who are an officer of the Army of France; who hold a post of confidence—or so I have been given to understand—on the Prince’s Military Staff. Tt may be that you
prize Success above Integrity, that the result of the coup d’Etat will justify in your eyes the measures that have been taken to carry it out. But, knowing what I know of you—having heard from that dear lady—who is now, I earnestly believe, crowned in a more glorious life than that of earth, with the reward of her pure faith and simple virtues— the story of your renunciation of great fortune and high prospects for the sake of principle and honor—I cannot believe this. If it were so, you would be changed, not only in outward appearance, but in mind, and heart, and soul. ’ ’
She added, with an almost wistful smile :
‘ ‘ And I do not wish to find you so. I prefer, when it is possible, to keep my ideals intact.”
“Miss Merling,” returned Dunoisse, “I break no bond of secrecy in saying to you that the coup d‘Etat has long been expected, both by the enemies and the friends of Monseigneur the PrincePresident. The ways of Government and Rule are bestrewn with obstacles and beset with perils, and Expediency demands many moral sacrifices on the part of those who sit on the coachboxes of the world. As a man of honor” —the well-used word fell lightly from his lips as he slightly shrugged his shoulders—“I deplore that they should be necessary ! But in the years that have passed since it was my privilege to meet you, I have learned to swim with the stream: to take Life as I find it; and not to ask a greater excess of nobility and virtue from my neighbors than I possess in myself.”
His slight momentary embarrassment had passed away. He had recovered his customary ease and sangfroid, and the acquired manner of his world, self-confident, almost insolent in its cool assurance, lent its meretricious charm to the handsome face and upright gallant figure as he faced her smiling, the ruddy firelight enhancing the brilliancy of his black eyes and the ruddy swarthiness of hue that distinguished him, his supple, well-shaped hand toying with a fine waxed end of the neat black moustache.
“Nothing, Mademoiselle,” he went
on, “would distress me more profoundly than to think that credit was given me for opinions I have long learned to regard as prejudiced and crude, and a course of conduct subsequent experience has proved to have been so mistaken that I have long since endeavored to correct its errors by adopting an opposite policy. I—”
He ceased, for a sudden burning wave of color flooded her to the temples. Her white throat and bosom were tinged with the red stain.
He bit his lip in chagrin, seeing her recoil from him. Fair women were not wont to turn their eyes from Dunoisse. He began, in much less confident tones, to exonerate himself:
“In the world of to-day, Mademoiselle, especially the world of Paris, one is compelled to abandon high ideals of life and forsake the more rigid standards of conduct. One is forced. . . .” She looked at him full, and the scathing. merciless contempt in her great eyes both froze and scorched him. He stammered, bungled, broke down. The clear voice said with a cutting edge of irony: “The boy of whom my dear old friend, Miss Caroline Smith wick, spoke with so much affection ; the young man of whom she was so proud, was not to be ‘compelled’ or ‘forced’ to turn from the path of truth and honor by any stress of circumstances. You have changed very much. Colonel Dunoisse, since you visited her in Cavendish Street ! Good-night to vou, and good-bye!”
The tall, white-robed figure was sweeping to the door, when it stopped, and turned, and came hack again. She said, with almost a pleading look:
“But I cannot leave you so. remembering how true and kind you were to her. My fault is to be over hastv in judgment. T fear.” She added: “There must be many excuses that you could make for yourself, and are too proud and too reserved to offer. . . . Especially to one who has no claim upon your confidence: so let us part friends, even though we never meet as friends again !” He took the white, firm hand she held
out. He had thought her insular and prejudiced, narrow-minded and intolerant. Some magic in her touch wrought a change in him. He said in a far different tone:
“That I have sinned against your ideals of character and principle is my punishment. Tell me—Miss Merling— if I had been the kind of man you thought me—if I had come back to Cavendish Street and sought your friendship—would it have been denied?”
“No!” she said, looking in his face with beautiful candor. “For I saw much to admire and to respect in you— as you were in days gone by.”
“The world dubbed me, very plainly —a fool for being what I was in those days,” returned Dunoisse, with a slight deprecatory lift of shoulders and eyebrows. “And frankly, Mademoiselle, I had not the courage requisite to go against the world.”
“If you were a fool, you were God’s fool,” she answered him, “and such folly is superior to the wisdom of the sages. Now, good-bye, Colonel Dunoisse.”
And, with a slight inclination of the head, she withdrew her hand and moved away, as the farther door of the library opened, admitting Madame Walewski, her homeliness painfully accentuated by her dazzling dress of gold brocade and famous parure of Brazilian emeralds; and another lady, dark-haired, sweetfaced, and of middle height, dressed in half-mourning, towards whom Ada Merling hurried, saying in a tremulous whisper as she caught the outstretched hand :
“Oh, Mary, come! . . .”
And then the three ladies were gone, retreating by that farther door into unknown, conjectural regions ; and the velvet curtain lifted and dropped behind Dunoisse, and he turned, instinctively drawing the Prince’s letter from his breast, to meet the radiant blue eyes and graceful, cordial greeting of Count Walewski, and to be presented to the Ambassador’s companion, Lord Walmerston. . . .
You saw the all-powerful Foreign Minister as a hale, vigorous, elderly gen-
tleman, displaying a star, and the broad red ribbon and oval gold badge of a Civil G.C.B., and the befrogged and gold-laced swallow-tail of official ceremony rather awkwardly, upon a heavyshouldered, somewhat clumsy figure, though the black silk stockings showed well-made legs, and gold-buckled, patent-leather shoes set off the small, neat feet.
One phrase employed by him was to linger in Dunoisse’s memory. He said, as Walewski handed him the letter from the Elysée, and he wiped his tortoiseshell-rimmed eyeglasses to read:
“You herald the event after its occurrence, Colonel.”
And a moment later, folding up the sheet and returning it :
“His Imperial Highness certainly owes less to a fortuitous concourse of atoms than to his own ability, energy, and tact.” He added with emphasis: “This is an immense act; its importance can hardly be overestimated. For my part, I officially recognize it, and shall adhere to my determination to support it.”
Then, as Walewski, flushed with a triumph he could hardly control, murmured a gracefully-worded, low-toned entreaty, he responded:
“Ah! I understand. You wish me to write a line to His Imperial Highness, recapitulating what I have just said, to be conveyed with your own loyal congratulations by his messenger? . . .”
Walewski, unable to trust himself to speak, bowed assent. Perhaps the hand that held the tortoiseshell-rimmed eyeglasses knew a moment of unsteadiness as its owner’s swift brain balanced the question of risks. Then, with characteristic boldness, my lord took the leap.
“Certainly, my dear Count—certainly. I see no objection at all!”
And, with a slight jerky nod of dismissal for Dunoisse, accompanied by a not unkindly glance of the hard, powerful, dark brown eyes, the stooping figure of England’s great Foreign Minister moved forwards to the writingtable and penned the single, brief, emphatic line of approval, that burned the writer’s boats and brought about the
downfall from which he was to rise, with popularity enhanced and power redoubled, within the space of a year.
An hour or so of fevered sleep in a luxurious bedroom, ringing with the clatter of late cabs and early milk-carts upon London paving-stones, and Dunoisse was on the iron road again. As he leaned back, with folded arms, in the class compartment that had no other passenger, his imagination followed Ada Merling back to the Hospice in Cavendish Street. But it was to a house in Park Lane that swiftly-trotting hoofs and rapidly-rolling wheels had carried her when she had left the Embassy on the night before.
The shadow of Death brooded over the great canopied bed in the luxurious chamber, where a face that was the pallid wraith of Ada’s own lay low amidst the lace-trimmed pillows. And as her daughter bent above the sick woman and kissed the fair, unwrinkled forehead between the bands of grey-brown, the sunken eyes opened widely, and the weak voice said:
“You have come back! ... Is it very late? . . . The time has seemed long!
“Dear mother, I should never have left you had you not wished it so. Have you been lonely in the midst of all the pain?”
“I have been thinking! . . .” said the toneless voice.
“Of me, dear mother?”
“Chiefly of you, my own.
“It is you who will be lonely, child, when I am gone. Then you may think more favorably of—of the course that others follow, and welcome those natural ties, my Ada, that make the happiness of life.”
Adà answered, putting up a hand to hide her tears:
“When you are with God I shall be lonely, dearest, but not sorrowful, knowing you in His safe keeping. As for marriage, urge it upon me no more, my mother! For something tells me that these natural ties you speak of, sweet
and pleasant as they are, are not destined for me.”
“My daughter,” the dying woman said, “I am only grieved for you. . . . For I have fancied—if, indeed, it was fancy?—that your heart was not quite free; that your imagination had been touched, your thoughts attracted, Ada, by someone of different religion, language, and nationality, met and known abroad. Someone, the recollection of whom—forgive me if I am wrong, dearest!—has made you indifferent to the good qualities of Englishmen of your own rank and social standing, cold to their merits and blind to their attractions—”
“Mother, are you not talking too much? Will you not try to sleep?” “My dear, I have but little time left for talk, and in a very few hours my sleep will know no earthly waking. Answer my question now!”
Ada Merling laid down the thin, frail hand that she had clasped, rose up, and went to the window, moved the blind, adjusted the curtain, went a step or two about the room, and having, possibly, controlled some emotion that had threatened to master her, resumed her seat beside the pillow and took the feeble hand again, saying:
“Mother, there can be no concealment between us !... I have allowed myself to think too constantly of a man whom I met not quite three years ago; and who appeared to be, morally and mentally, as he undoubtedly is physically, as superior to the common run of men as Hector must have seemed, compared with the other sons of Priam. Your daughter, of whom you are so proud, threw away her heart unasked ; and on the strength of a single meeting, built up the flimsy fabric of her house of dreams. To-night I met the man again, and the charm was broken. I saw him, not as I had imagined him to be, but as he is! Not the young Bayard of my belief, but the beau chevalier of Paris salons; not as the man of unstained honor and high ideals, but as the attache of the Elysée, the servant of its unprincipled master—the open lover of Madame de Roux.”
She hid her face, but her shoulders shook with weeping, and little streams of bright tears trickled between the slender white jewelled fingers, and were lost amidst the snowy laces of her dress.
“I cannot conceive it!” the mother faltered. “The man was hardly known to you? ...”
“I had heard him glowingly described and fondly praised by one who loved him. . . .”
“He is a foreigner? ... A Frenchman? ... A Roman Catholic? . . .”
“He is a Bavarian Swiss by birth; French by naturalization and education, and a Catholic, without doubt.”
“And had he asked you, you would have left us all to follow him?”
“Mother, you did the like at my father’s call!”
“Our parents approved!”
“If they had not, would you have abandoned him?”
“I cannot reply; it is for you to answer me. . . . Would you, had this man loved and sought you in marriage, have changed your religion and embraced his?”
“Mother, you ask a question I need not answer. He did not love me . . . he never sought me. . . . Were our paths, that lie so far apart, to cross now . .. did he ask of me that which
I might once have gladly given, I should deny it, knowing him to be unworthy of the gift.”
“Ada, I must have your answer! Would you have deserted the faith of your Protestant forefathers?”
“It may be, mother, that I should have returned to the faith in which their fathers lived and died. Remember, we Merlings were Catholic before the Reformation.”
“Those were dark days for England. A purer light has shown the path to a better world since then.”
“Dear one,” the sweet voice pleaded,
‘ ‘ we have never thought alike upon this matter. ’ ’
‘ ‘ I shall know peace, ’ ’ said the relentless voice from the pillow, “only when I have your promise—a pledge! that, once given, I know my Ada will keep. Say to me : ‘ Mother, I will never become
a Romanist, or marry any man who holds the Catholic faith!’ That pledge once given will be kept by you, I know !
In her very feebleness lay the strength that was not to be gainsaid or resisted. Her daughter’s tears fell as she whispered in the dying ear:
“Dear little mother, when you have crossed the deep, swift river that separates Time from Eternity, and the Veil has fallen behind you, you will be so wise, so wise! . . . Not one of the kings, and priests, and prophets who lived of old, will have been so wise as you. Think, dearest and gentlest!—if, by the light that shines upon you then, you were to see that the ancient Faith is the true Faith and the Mother Church the One Church . . . would you not grieve to know your Ada shut off from peace—deprived of the true and only Bread of Life—fettered and shackled, body and soul, by an irrevocable vow?
. . . Would you not?”
Her voice broke and faltered. But the pale head upon the pillow made the negative sign, and she went on:
“Will not you—who have submitted yourself so meekly to the will of Almighty God in accepting this cup of death that He now offers you, leave the issue of affairs—in faith that He "will do all for the best—to Him? and forbear to exact this promise, which my heart tells me will bring me sorrow and pain ! ”
In vain her pleading. The tongue that was already stiffening uttered one inexorable word.
“Oh, then I promise, mother!” she cried through bursting tears. ‘ ‘ And may God forgive me if I promise wrongly, seeing how much I love you, dearest dear!”
There were not lacking signs by the wayside, as Dunoisse was whirled along the iron road to Paris, of the bloody drama that had begun upon the previous morning, and was being played to the bitter end.
Troops and bodies of police lined the
platforms of the railway stations. Pale faces, downcast looks, and mourning attire distinguished those members of the public whom business or necessity compelled to travel at this perilous time. Glimpses of towns or villages, seen as the train rushed over bridges or in and out of stations, showed closed shops and jealously shut-up houses, many of them with bullet-pocked walls and shattered windows; more police and soldiers patrolling the otherwise deserted thoroughfares; and agents in blouses, with rolls of paper, ladders, brushes, and paste-pots, posting the proclamations of Monseigneur upon walls, or trees, or hoardings, or wherever these had not already broken out like pale leprous sores.
Paris had never seemed to Dunoisse so crowded and so empty as when, on foot—for no public conveyance was obtainable—he returned to his rooms in the Rue du Bac. Entire regiments of cavalry, riding at a foot’s pace in close column, flowed in slow, resistless rivers of flesh and steel, along the boulevards. And brigades, with their batteries of artillery, were drawn up in the great squares and public places, waiting the signal to roll down and overwhelm any organized attempt at resistance, under cataclysms of disciplined force.
Turning the corner of one of the narrower thoroughfares, where a single unbroken oil-lamp made a little island of yellow light upon the murkiness, Dunoisse came upon two persons who were, for a wonder, conversing so earnestly • that neither paid attention to the light, even footstep drawing near. Said one of the couple, a bloused, shaggy-headed man of the artisan type:
“They kept up the ball at the palace last night with a vengeance !... Champagne flowed in rivers; I had it from Francois.”
The sallow, taller man laughed in an ugly way, and said, spitting on the pavement :
“And women were to be had for the asking. Such women! . . .”
Envy and scorn were strangely mingled in his tone as he said, again spitting:
‘ ‘ Such women ! Not only stunners like Kate Harvey and that red-haired, blue-eved wench they call Cora Pearl, that drives the team of mouse-grey ponies in the Bois, and curses and swears like a trooper; but real aristocrats, like the Marquis de Baillay and Madame de Kars, playing the prostitute for political ends—you twig? There was one whose name I do not know—an ivory-skinned creature, with ropes of black hair and eyes like emeralds. . . . She was half-naked and covered with jewels. . . . The Secretary-Chancellor of the Ministry of the Interior received a warning—that was at four o’clock in the morning, when they were still supping. . . . Word came to him that the Ministry was to be seized ... he rose from the table, saying that his place was in the office of his Department. . . . And she put her arms round him before them all. . . . She kissed him full upon the mouth, and said. ‘Stay!’ ”
“And he stayed?” asked the stout man eagerly.
“By my faith, my friend!” rejoined the tall man, “he did as you or I should have done in his place, you may be sure!”
The echo of the speaker’s ugly laugh was in Dunoisse’s ears as he passed on, and the image of the black-haired, cream-skinned woman whose kiss had stifled the voice of conscience upon the lips of the Government official rose up in resistless witchery before his mental vision ; and would not be banished or exorcised by any means he knew. . . .
So like!—so like! . . . Thus would Henriette have tempted and triumphed, provided that Hector Dunoisse had not been absolute master of her heart, and supposing that to tempt and triumph had been to serve that idol of hers, the Empire. . . . He drove away the thought, but it returned, bringing yet another bat-winged, taunting demon, who reminded him in a shrill, thin, piercing whisper that de Moulny was Secretary-Chancellor of the Ministry of the Interior. . . .
This story will bp oontinnpd In the September issue of this magrnzinp.—Editor.