He could not have heard, but he did not give in. . . . He was breathing yet, with his long neck thrown across the charred and floating wreckage of the fallen mainmast when the wild gray dawn broke, and the brig Maggie o’ Muirhead and the St. Domingo schooner overhauled the red-hot hulk of The British Queen.
The Captain and a trooper were rescued, Living, from her mizen channels, the perishing castaways in the boat were saved. Sailors are superstitious. Not being desirous of a mutiny in his forecastle, the master of the Maggie yielded to the pressure brought to bear by his crew. And they got the bight of a line round Blueberry, and hauled the horse aboard; dosed him, all limp and sprawling—with tincture of ginger— kept by the mate for stomachic chills— in hot water; doctored his burns with linseed oil—and presently he floundered up on those raw legs of his, and tried to be himself again.
Thenceforth he consorted with the ship’s goat until the Maggie reached Lisbon; and, though he bore the scars of that wild night’s work all the rest of his life, and the hair, where it grew again upon his flanks, came white in patches, he live to carry his master through the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and die at the long last of cold and famine at the Cavalry Camp on the slopes above Kadikoi.
Said Morty, coming up to a red-headed trooper on the forecastle-deck of the Maggie: “Look here! I’ve just found out it was you who saved my life. And I’m obliged to you—tremenjous!—and though all the money I’d got was burned on that dam’ ship, my father—Mr. Thompson Jowell—owner—will give you anything you want! See?”
And the speaker, attired in a cast-off pair of trousers of the master’s and a pea-jacket lent by the Maggie o' Muirhead’s second mate—and wearing a list slipper of the steward ’s on his right foot, and a half-boot contributed by another philanthropist, on the left one--held out his large hand to his saviour with genuine eagerness.
“Blast your father!” said the redheaded trooper, so suddenly and so savagely that Morty jumped in his odd foot-coverings. “Can he give me back my boy? And do you think—if I’d been let to have a chance o’ choosing—I’d ha’ put out my hand—knowingly—to save his son? Wait till next time, that’s all I ha’ got to say!—you wait till next time, that’s all!”
And Joshua Horrotian turned his back on the heir of his enemy, and spat over the bulwarks of the forecastle-deck in loathing, and then a thought occurred to him that brought his head round again.
His wish had been granted, he had lived to see Jowell’s son, half-clad and penniless, with an old boot on one foot and an old shoe on the other—asking— and asking vainly for the hand he had denied.
It was merely an odd chance. That experimental curse of Josh’s had had nothing to do with it. And yet—supposing Some One Above had heard—the granting of that ill wish had not spared misfortune to the wisher. The wife and the horse were safe, though ; and Corporal and Mrs. Geogehagan were in one of the boats that had been picked up by the St. Domingo schooner. One would do well not to grumble at one’s luck, reflected Joshua Horrotian.
The Tsar was right. Men who desire Death very keenly and bitterly, who seek the grim tyrant in his very citadel, find him difficult of access, as a rule.
Something that had been a man came staggering back out of the poisonous swamps of the delta of the Dobrudja, and—more dead than alive—reached the port of Kustendje on the Black Sea. what time Protestant England and Catholic France had allied with the Moslem against Christian Russia; and Lord Dalian, Commander-in-Chief of the British Force, and H.R.H. the Duke of Bambridge, were being entertained by Sire my Friend, at Paris.
As though the out-at-elbows refugee, the borrowing adventurer, the temporary occupant of the Presidential arm-chair had never existed, you are to see him Sire my Friend as the Ally of Great Britain, the gracious patron and protector of the Sick Man. He had had his will; his plot had blossomed in this gorgeous flower of International War the Allied Fleets were in the Black Sea - France was rent with the shouting of trumpets and the screaming of bugles, he quaked with the trampling of calvary, the ceaseless passing of batteries of artillery, and trains of waggons and ammunition-carts. And day by day his crowded transports steamed for the East from Toulon and Brest and Marseilles.
Sire my Friend was pleased, and extremely well contented. In the popular acclamations accorded to H.R.H. the Duke of Bambridge and the Commander of Brittania's Forces, their host had had his share. Also, the Empress's Monster Ball at the Elysee --given in honor of these distinguished visitors -- had come off successfully.
The honored guests of the Empire attended a Review on the Champ de Mars, and inspected the Barracks of the famous Regiment of Guides and dined at the Tuileries in Estate, and entertained Ministers of the Crown, Foreign Ambassadors, Nobles of the Empire and distinguished Members of the Senate, royally at the British Embassy, and presently—both French end English Commanders-in-Chief with their Staffs having sailed for Constantinople--Sire my Friend could draw unhampered breath. Despite his boast of belonging to the genus of Imperturbabics, his pulses had been unpleasantly quickened by something that had happened. For a moment he had seen the basilisk that Time and opportunity had hatched out of that egg of his, in danger; he had known the torture bred of long-meditated, almost-consummated vengeance that is about to be foiled. But all was well! —prompt measures had been taken. . . .Still, it was inconvenient that the man had lived to return. . .
The inconvenient thing had happened on the night of the Ball at the Elysee. Sire my Friend had dined early in private with the Empress—and was smoking in his peculiar snuggery at the Tuileries. And with him were the Duke de Morny, Persigny—also elevated to the Peerage—and the Commander-in-Chief of his Eastern Forces, Marshal de St. Arnaud.
He sat and smoked and ruminated, upon this April night of ’54. much as he had done upon that November night of '51, when he had received news of the laying of the Channel Cable. There was one now that reached from Marseilles to Constantinople: he could dictate his will by the mouth of his Ambassador to the Sublime Porte without delay or hindrance. And the burden of his hidden thought was that his Star had again befriended him. For when the time came to broach the great secret, his followers would believe the master-plan was solely his. There was no one now to start up before him and claim the credit. Months back he had information. . . . Today decisive intelligence had confirmed, the report. The officer who had devised the undertaking, the emissary who had been despatched to carry out the indispensable survey and make the secret treaties, was dead.
Dead. . . . Thenceforth Dunoisse ’s vast capacity for toil, his discretion and silence; his powers of concentration, his geographical, topographical, and scientific knowledge; his consummate powers of arrangement and organization, his command of tongues, were lost to his master at the Tuileries. He was—his great task complete—to have had high military rank and a great guerdon in money. He had been asked to name his price, and he had stipulated for One Million One Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand Francs. Sire my Friend smiled, knowing this to be the exact amount of a fortune its owner had squandered—remembering who had helped Dunoisse to scatter the glittering treasure to the four winds of the world. He wondered whether Madame de Roux had heard of the death of her old lover? She came to Court but seldom now, and then only to those unimportant functions to which the stars of lesser social magnitude were invited. The violent colors and bizarre fashions of the Second Empire did not suit her style of beauty—only ugly women looked really well in them!—or she was getting a little passee—the poor Henriette! She had a new liaison—an intrigue with one of the Generals of the Army of Algeria, recently appointed to the command of the Fourth Division of his Eastern Forces. It was said that she was to accompany Grandguerrier on the campaign. Pleasant for de Roux, who was still at Aligiers—very pleasant! The dull eyes of Sire my Friend almost twinkled as this occurred to him. He smiled, caressing the chin-tuft that had become an imperial.
Said de Morny, Duke and Peer of France, gracefully masking a yawn with three long, slim fingers:
“Sire, if Your Majesty has anything amusing to impart to us—and your smile conveys the idea that you have— we entreat you not to withhold it. We are all dull, drowsy, and damnably out of spirits! . . . These imported fogs of Britain have chilled us to the bone!”
His Imperial Majesty exhaled a cloud of smoke, leaning his long thick body back in the well-cushioned corner of an Oriental sofa. Then, barely lifting those sick, faded eyes of his to the face of de Morny, he answered in his drawling, nasal tones:
“Since my smile must be translated into words, it had at that moment occurred to me how consummately foolish our British guests would look, did they know why they were embarking on this Eastern Expedition.” He caressed his high instep with musing approbation. De Morny said :
Sapristi ! I presume they are no more ignorant than ourselves that this is a war without an adequate reason. Monseigneur the Duke of Bambridge, if he be ever to succeed the Earl of Dalgan at the War Office, must see some Active Service—that is undeniable. M. de St. Arnaud requires a dress-rehearsal with volleys of real ball-cartridge, in his role of a Marshal of France. Also, your Army is plethoric—its health requires blood-letting. Beyond these reasons— none that I can see. . . . Unless you, Sire, by personally leading your hosts to battle, intend to follow the glorious example of the Emperor Napoleon the First?”
Sire my Friend detecting a supercilious smile upon the face of the speaker, leaned back, with an exaggerated affectation of indolence, and said deliberately :
“As a fact, my dear fellow, I weary of the achievements of my glorious uncle. I prefer to strike out a line extraordinary—astounding— marvellous -- above all, original and new ! ’ ’
De Morny merely bowed, but the bow was to Sire my Friend superlatively offensive. He rose up, forgetful of his disadvantages of stature, and said, looking round upon the dyed heads of hair and painted elderly faces surmounting the brilliantly laced and bedizened uniforms—and as of habit, assuming his Napoleonic attitude.
“These English are bound to the East to carry out my Mission—to fulfil the destiny presaged by my Fortunate Star. You, my brother, who found it inconvenient to know me when that Star was below the horizon, have since accused me to your confidants of abrogating to myself the credit of success that others helped me to achieve. You taunt me perpetually with the desire to emulate the First Napoleon. Well! I shall show you soon—very soon—some things accomplished that he could not do. I will avenge at one blow the catastrophe of the Moskva, the defeat of Waterloo, and the humiliation of St. Helena. How? Did you ask how? By all means you shall learn !”
He laughed, and that outrageous mirth did such violence to the sense of hearing that even de Morny shuddered, and St. Arnaud made a clicking sound of dismay with his tongue against his teeth. The speaker resumed, looking glassily about him :
“My uncle would have declared war against the nation he designed to crush and conquer. His nephew, wiser than he, will share with her the apple of amity, cut, Borgia-like, with a knife poisoned only on one side! Needed only to further my plan that Russia should pick a quarrel with Turkey. The old question of her authority over the Eastern Christians—the smoldering grudge in the matter of her claim to precedence of admission to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—served me excellently! And I have championed the cause of the Sultan—I take the field against the Northern Power, with England as my Ally!”
He lifted the drooping lids of those eyes of his, and they were dim and lacklustre no longer. They blazed with a radiance that was infernal and malign. He said—and the breathless silence of his hearers was intoxicating joy to him:
“And, blinded by that stiff-necked pride of hers, she will walk into a deathtrap, planned and devised and perfected by the man she has despised! Russia shall have supremacy over the Danubian Principalities. I may even cede her Constantinople—I am not quite certain. . . But Great Britain shall be France’s footstool and East India her warming-pan !”
He fancied de Morny about to interrupt, and said, turning upon him with a tigerish suavity:
“Proofs—you require proofs! Assuredly, you shall have them. Be good enough to follow me. This way, Messieurs !”
He led the way into a room at the end of the suite, the walls of which were hung _ with maps, plans and diagrams, and lined with bookshelves and presses; whose tables were loaded with models of public buildings, steam-boilers, and engines of artillery; and where the gilded cornices and moulding were chipped with rifle and revolver bullets, as had been those of the smaller cabinet at the Elysee. Lamps burning under green shades illuminated this place of labor. He took a Bramah key from under the setting of a signet ring he wore, unlocked a press and racked back the sliding doors in their grooves with a gesture of the theatre. The alphabetically-numbered shelves were loaded with papers. He said, indicating these:
“You see there the fruit of three years of unremitting labor, performed in secrecy. To-night there is an end to secrecy. I hardly thought the hour would come so soon!”
He took from a compartment of the shelves two square sheets of yellow, semi-transparent tracing-paper, and turned to face his audience exactly as an actor would have done upon the stage. He was master of the situation—he was making the great disclosure just as he had mentally rehearsed it. Not for nothing had he trusted in his Destiny and his Star.
“The sealed orders you, M. de St. Arnaud, were to have received from me upon your departure for Marseilles tomorrow,” he said, addressing the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Army, “would have made you sole participator in my secret Yet I feel no hesitation or reluctance at enlarging the circle of my confidence,” he added, as he encountered the satirically-smiling glance of de Morny. “To betray me would be an act of madness. For—insignificant as I may appear—I am the Empire ! Remember that Messieurs!”
He delicately laid one of the semitransparent, crackling papers upon the lamp-illumined Russia leather surface of a writing-table near him. A pencil tracing of just such a map of Eastern Europe as was habitually in use at his Ministry of War, and in his Military Institutes—only that the tracing was enriched with added lines, diagrams and notes, in red and blue and various-colored inks. He said, as his followers crowded to look at this—and now there was a shiny gray dampness on his cheeks and forehead, and he secretly dried the palms of his hands with bis delicate handkerchief.
“These numbered circles and squares in colored inks represent depots of timber, cattle, salted provisions, forage, and grain, established by me—under private names of ownership—at Sinope, Bourgas, Varna, Kustendje, and other places on the shores of the Black Sea. So that, in the case of an army of invasion marching from Varna towards the frontiers of Bessarabia, or maintaining a siege, shall we say?—of any fortified harbor on the coasts of the Crimea- You are surprised, M. de Moray? That is gratifying indeed!”
De Moray had given vent to a long shrill street-boy’s whistle, about as expressive of astonishment as it could be. But he did not possess the quality of reverence. He sang, in English, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his wide-hipped, silver-striped, white cashmere pantaloons, and executing a cancan step cleverly and neatly :
“That’s the way the milliard went-Pop! goes the weasel!”
and ceased as Sire My Friend went on, rolling his handkerchief-—dampened with his hidden agony of exultation—into a ball between his palms :
“Immense contracts for the further supply of cattle, provisions, cereals and fodder to France, have been signed by the heads of the principal firms in the Levant and Eastern Europe. Much of the land-transport throughout the Danubian Principalities had already been chartered by Russian agents—a partial cheek, I must admit, to my views in this direction. Yet thousands of wagons, arabas, telegas, and other vehicles; hundreds of teams of horses, yokes of bullocks, strings of baggage-mules, are at my sole disposal—their proprietors having received liberal payment on account, and having before them the hope of treatment still more generous. Do I weary you? Am I prosy? Do stop me if I bore you!” entreated Sire my Friend.
Nobody stirred or spoke. He went on, savouring his triumph, tasting each sentence as a morsel of some delicate dish:
“Without spies, informers, interpreers, and agents of all grades, an invading army is blindfold and helpless. Thus, the assistance of pachas, boyards, consuls, attaches, secretaries, postmasters, innkeepers, will be ours, having been secured on liberal terms. Every commissariat-clerk, commercial traveller and correspondent who could be bought to serve my purpose has found in me a ready purchaser. And every Turk or Tartar has made oath upon the beard of the Prophet—every Jew is sworn upon the Ark of the Tabernacle—every Bulgarian is pledged upon the Blessed Sacrament—not to supply the English with wood for gabions or shelters, with provisions, grain, fodder, horses, waggons, or carts. Wherefore if they need these things, they must draw supplies from Great Britain, or from Italy. And, failing these sources-”
The speaker shrugged again, and said with a sardonic affectation of humility:
“For the unworthy successor of my glorious uncle, it seems to me that I have hit upon a very good idea ! ’ ’
He smiled upon them, saying it, and between that swelling sense of achievement, and his inward laughter at having thus duped and distanced those who thought they swayed and guided him, he seemed to increase in stature and gain in dignity. Even de Moray was momentarily bankrupt of a gibe to throw at him. De Fleury could only gape and goggle at him. St. Arnaud said, in a voice broken by surprise and admiration :
“My master—my Emperor, you are greater than Napoleon the Great!”
Persigny went over and knelt down upon the carpet before him. He bent over and kissed one of the little diamond-buckled pumps fervently, as a Dervish might have kissed the Holy Stone of Mecca. He said, in a voice that shook and wobbled:
“I say that you are neither my master or my Emperor. From this moment you are my God!”
“Absurd!” said Sire my Friend. But he smiled as Nero might have smiled upon Tigellinus, and said, still smiling:
“Wait—wait! I have not told everything! You have yet to look at the second chart !”
He laid it down upon the first, which it exactly resembled, save that the numbered rounds and squares indicating the depots were missing, and that along the conjectural route of the Army of Invasion certain areas were staked off with green or blue or vermilion dots, and labelled “Malarious,” or “Insalubrious,” or “Salubrious,” as the case might be, and others “Pestilential,” in a tremulous, uncertain handwriting that told its story to at least one pair of eyes there. Looking up with a vexations expression of cynical intelligence on his well-bred, rakish countenance, said de Moray :
“And your man, your administrative, polyglot genius who planned and carried out”—he tapped the first chart with a polished finger-nail—“this masterpiece of organization, and later made this survey of Death’s garden—what has become of Dunoisse?” He added: “For this is Dunoisse’s handwriting—and two years ago he went East upon your business, and has not since been heard of. Did he die out there in Death’s garden? or—as the possessor of an inconvenient amount of secret information—have you quodded him in some snug dungeon at the Fortress of Vincennes, or the Prison of Mazas? Or have you had him shot, or scragged him, before putting him to bed in quicklime blankets? Kif—kif—burrico!—a quietus, either way!”
Horribly meaningful as the words were, the gesture accompanying them was even more significant. It brought a dull, scorched flush into the pasty cheeks of Sire my Friend. But he maintained his boasted imperturbability, and answered, with his quiet smile of menace:
“It pleases you to be offensive. Pursue your vein if you imagine it will serve you—I am indifferent to your opinion of me! As for General Dunoisse—who, as you rightly guess, acted as my instrument in carrying out these comprehensive arrangements for commissariat and transport—who completed this sanitary survey of the debatable ground—that unhappy officer expired of fever in the swamps of the Dobrudja, some months ago. These charts were brought me by his confidential secretary—one Michaelis Giusko—to whom the dying man entrusted them.” He added, in answer to de Moray’s smile: “Your perspicuity is not at fault. . . . Lest his silence and discretion should fail us at this crucial moment—M. Giusko is in safe-keeping —where, there is no need to say! . . As for this second chart of the Unseen Dangers, by following its guidance our Army will not encamp within insalubrious or pestilential areas. While our Allies—unless they have taken similar precautions—are likely more or less to suffer!” He ended meditatively, stroking his imperial:
“We share with them the Borgian apple—we take the half that is not poisoned. The whole is simple. It is not we who die!”
He opened his eyes widely and looked upon his followers. It seemed to them that through those blazing windows they saw down into hell. As he said again how simple the thing was, a rattling oath of the canteen and the barrack-room escaped from de Fleury, that caused the green shades of the table-lamps to shiver in their gilded sockets. Persigny’s teeth were chattering, though the April night was almost sultry. De Moray broke out peevishly as he wiped his clammy face :
“Zut!—there is no doubt you have got them in the treacle! But why did your Majesty not wait to tell us this until Lord Dalgan and the Duke had left for Marseilles? I am sick in my stomach with funk, absolutely!—at the thought of doing the civil to them and their men to-night ! ’ ’
“Be uncivil, then,” advised his Imperial master. “Between your compliments and your insults there is so subtle a distinction that neither the Duke or Dalgan will be the wiser, you may be sure!”
St. Arnaud roared at this mordant witticism. De Moray was about to launch a return-shaft, when there came a gentle, significant knocking—not upon the door through which they had previously passed, but another, communicating with the outer gallery.
“Enter!” commanded Sire my Friend, for the knocker had given the prescribed number of taps that heralded his Private Military Secretary.
And the door opened, and there entered, gently closing it behind him, the very man who had died in the marshes of the Dobrudja months before.
He was so strangely altered, aged, bleached and wasted, that for some moments Sire my Friend and the other owners of the curled and made-up heads that had pivoted round upon his entrance regarded him in the silence that is born of dismay. The color of old wax, or of a corpse some days dead, an atmosphere of such chilly isolation surrounded this pale spectral figure, that even de Moray, that cool smiling sceptic, knew the shudder of superstitious terror and felt his thin hair stiffen on his scalp. A worn and shabby Staff uniform of the date of the Presidency hung in folds upon the intruder's lean and stooping body. His black eyes burned in caves hollowed by protracted mental labours and immense physical exertions. His black hair, long uncut, and mingled with streaks and patches of white, hung in tangled elflocks to his tarnished epaulets, and drooped in a heavy matted plume upon his brow. To the gaunt hollows beneath his haunted eyes he was raggedly bearded with this piebald mixture. And as he stood before them, intermittent gusts of fever seized and shook him, until his teeth chattered audibly, and his bones seemed to rattle in his baggy, withered skin. As, in one of these gusts, he coughed, and pressed to his parched lips a yellowed cambric handkerchief that was presently blood-stained, de Fleury— reassured by this incontestable proof of mortality—took courage and called him by his name:
“Dunoisse! ... A thousand welcomes, mon cher General!” Sire my Friend, instantly assuming his urbane and benignant air, stepped towards the shabby scarecrow with graciously extended hand. But the scarecrow raised its own, and waved Imperial Majesty back with a gesture so expressive of warning, if not of menace, that the action sent a shudder through its witnesses. Again they doubted if this were not some ghostly visitant from the world that is beyond the grave. . . . And again the hacking, tearing cough came to convince them that this was no spirit, but merely a dying man.
Said Sire my friend, after that slight pause of consternation:
“My good Dunoisse, you have dropped on us—literally from the heavens. As a fact, we had heard on excellent authority that you were—ill—and that the pleasure of welcoming you must be —indefinitely deferred. Upon this account excuse what may strike you as lack of cordiality in our greeting!” He added, and his growing confidence permitted an outcrop of anger upon the smooth polish of his accents. “And explain to us—the rules denying unknown officers access to the Emperor’s private apartments being even more stringent than those which protected the President from such intrusion — how you gained admittance here?”
For all answer, the shape he spoke to lifted its left hand, and showed, hanging loosely on a wasted finger, a signet ring. Sire my Friend, recognizing the token conferring upon his Equerry General, Private Secretary, and Military Secretaries, access to his person at all hours, shrugged his chagrin; and tapped his daintily-shod foot impatiently upon the floor.
“Of course! Naturally! Pardon my forgetfulness !” he said urbanely. ‘ ‘ I myself bestowed that Open Sesame upon you, when your skill, and intelligence, and ability prompted me to promote you to a confidential post upon my Staff. And later—when my reliance in your discretion and fidelity led me to place in your most able hands the task which you have so superbly completed—you took the ring, with you when you left Paris for the East.” He added, discerning that the black eyes burning in their shadowy caves glanced at the faces of his merry men with doubtfulness :
“Have no fear! These trusted friends who shared with me the secret of the intended coup d’Etat participate in knowledge of this latter—measure of diplomacy. . . . You have arrived at the very moment of disclosure. . . . Therefore speak out quite freely, my very good Dunoisse! ...”
Dunoisse opened his cracked lips, and said, in a voice so faint and hollow that it might have answered from the sepulchre of Lazarus when the Voice bade the dead come forth:
“I will speak out freely. To do so is my right. None can dispute it.”
“I have spread your nets,” he said, in the voice that had lost its clear, sharp ring, and was feeble, and flat, and broken. “From the Balkans to the Pruth I have set your springes—dug your pitfalls—sharpened your hidden stakes. I have put it in your power to precipitate a crisis. To meet events and grapple Fate I used all the strength and all the skill I had.”
He drew a shaken breath and went on :
“I have subsidised scores of men into this service—no man knowing his neighbour for a fellow-conspirator — every man secretly bound by the oath that is most sacred in his sight. Turks, Greeks, Tartars, Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Wallachs — all have been pledged not to give aid to Russia, or England the Ally of Russia, in the great War that was presently to be waged with France and the Ottoman Empire—over the Debatable Ground.
A rush of fever dyed his sallowness to dusky crimson. The heat that radiated from his burning body struck upon the bodies of the other men.
“I served you,” he said, fixing his sunken, glittering eyes upon the face of Imperial Majesty, “to the very gates of death. Believing myself to be dying, I placed—in the hands of two men who had sought me out and found me—the original charts that proved my task completed, and the tracings of those charts. One, at least, of my messengers could not fail to reach you-”
De Moray said, pointing to the writing-table, where the squares of shiny tracing-paper, covered with spidery diagrams and dotted lines in red and blue and green and vari-colored inks, lay in the yellow radiance cast by the green-shaded lamp:
“There are the proofs that one of your messengers did reach his destination. We had been looking at those marvellous charts the moment before you came in.”
De Moray, Duke and Peer of France, might have been a mouse squeaking in a corner, or one of the love-birds twittering in its gilded window-cage. For Dunoisse neither saw nor heard him, but folded his thin arms upon his hollow breast, and spoke with his haggard eyes on the face of Sire my Friend.
“I came back to civilization to learn the truth of you. I was not the keeper of your secret, the agent of your power, set to pit craft against craft and insure victory by wise precaution—I was your dupe, your accomplice, and your tool. Judas! Oh, Judas!” said Dunoisse, in a dry, fierce rustling whisper that was like the sirocco passing through a field of withered maize-stalks. “How is it that I believed you—knowing you besmeared with blood, and rotten to the soul with deceits and falsehoods? How should I not be among the number of those you have flattered and swindled and betrayed?”
The silence of sickening consternation was on each of those who beard him. Their crests of false curls drooped; the paint faded from their faces under the lashing hail of his words. They were crimson or leaden or sea-green according to their various temperaments— the complexion of Sire my Friend having undergone this last and most unbecoming change. And Dunoisse went on speaking, almost without a gesture, as a man whose bodily weakness compelled economy of breath and action.
“I was to have had a great reward of you for my services. One million one hundred and twenty-five thousand francs, to be definite ! Keep your stolen money! Could I buy back self-respect with the price of blood? As for you, you have won your Empire — have brought about the War you schemed and plotted for; you will take the field with Turkey and your Ally of England, shoulder to shoulder—side by side! . . Ah!—you read Machiavelli at the Fortress of Ham to good purpose! . . . You grew more than violets upon the ramparts, Monseigneur! You matured plans for revenge. . . . And you will have your honeyed vengeance,” said Dunoisse, in that distinct, rasping whisper. “And gall will mingle with the sweetness as you suck it. For those old associates of yours—those men of the Reform and Carlton Clubs of London—-will say of you: ‘By God! — this Emperor of France is a damned scoundrel!’ And, by God! — they will be right !"
The sentence, spoken in English, cut like a tandem-whip. As it hissed through the stagnant, perfumed, tobacco-laden atmosphere of the room, the speaker drew his sword. Sire my Friend recoiled and cried out at the sharp hiss of the steel, and de Fleury, brave as a bulldog, sprang before his master instantly. But Dunoisse only balanced the weapon a moment with the deftness of a master of fence, ere, with an effort that taxed his feebleness to the utmost, he snapped the tarnished steel across his thin knee, and said, as he threw the pieces down clattering at the dainty buckled feet of Imperial Majesty :
“My military oath of allegiance was to the President, not to the Emperor. I will serve you no longer, be that understood! And—though the work I have done has been fatally well done!—in so far as it be possible, I will unmesh the net I have wovon. . . . Therefore be warned, Monseigneur!“
With this, as a man might shake off from his hand some venomous insect, he dropped the loosely-fitting signet ring upon the carpet, ground it with a sudden, savage impulse underneath his heel, and went out, leaving them staring and short of breath.
A moment later Sire my Friend, whose complexion of sea-green had suffered change to a congested purple, staggered and clutched at nothing, and fell down frothing in an epileptic fit.
By the advice of Persigny—who had seen him before in that pitiable condition — they moved the furniture away from his vicinity, and left his devil to use him at its will. And presently he came to, staring and shuddering, with a bitten glove between his teeth; and was very feeble and exhausted, and full of fears lest the Empress had seen him thus afflicted. But by-and-by, when reassured, and restored, and renovated, he was able to interview the Chief of his Secret Police, and gave orders for an arrest. . . .
He was peculiarly benevolent, urbane and smiling, an hour later, when, to the united strains of “God Save the Queen” and “Partant Pour La Syrie,” he entered the fairyland of blue-andwhite striped awnings, blue carpets, gold-tasselled hangings of pink satin, and elfin grottos of green gauze, full of palms and hot-house roses, illuminated with pink, blue and yellow Chinese lights. Leading the beautiful Empress —who rested her gloved hand on the happy arm of the Duke of Bambridge— followed by the French and British Commanders-in-Chicf, with their Staffs, his brothers and his uncle, he looked — or might have with the addition of a few more inches—every inch an Emperor.
Amidst the general joyousness, the depression of de Morny — that usually light-hearted cynic—was curiously apparent. Lord Dalgan noticed this, and commented upon it in his exquisite polished French.
“By my faith, Monseigneur!“ returned de Morny, in the English language, “I cannot deny it, I am confoundly hipped to-night! Absolutely, I am like the Princess in the Suabian fairy legend— there is a rose-leaf under my twenty-ninth feather-bed. Why? I am envious —absolutely envious! I have seen a poor man throw away one million one hundred and twenty-five thousand francs for the privilege of enjoying a luxury that I, who am a rich man, cannot afford.”
“Really! And what is that costly form of indulgence?” asked my lord.
De Morny answered, with a curious smile on that well-bred rakish face of his:
“The luxury of telling the truth!”
He could not afford it, though be would have liked it ... It was not yet convenient to break with Sire my Friend. . . .
And so the Monster Ball spun and whirled itself out, dancing becoming public after the departure of the Imperial Party and their guests. At three in the morning a prison-van, bolted on a railway-truck—having a carriage containing an Imperial aide-de-camp and two Commissaries of Police in front of it, and another full of gendarmerie behind it—was being whirled by a special engine into the Northern Department of the Somme.
At the station where the van was unbolted from the railway-truck an escort of Lancers waited ; also a one-horse brougham, an open brake, drawn by a pair; and a couple of spare horses. These being harnessed to the van, the aide, after exchanging a sentence or two with the commander of the cavalry escort, stepped into the brougham, followed by the police-officers, who modestly took the front seat. Then at a curt word of command the party put itself in motion, and clattered and clinked and rolled away.
And presently the prison-van, with its wheeled and mounted guardians, passed —with a challenge from a sentry and the giving of a countersign at each—over two draw-bridges, and clattered and rolled—the prisoner judged by the damp chill and the hollow echo—under a heavy archway of stone. And then, with the grinding of heavy iron wands in locks, and screaming of solid iron bolts in stony groovings, the van came to a halt; the steps were banged down, the door was opened ; and the yawning jailers who had travelled with the prisoner unlocked his narrow cell.
Dunoisse was invited to get out. He moved his cramped limbs with difficulty, and descended the iron steps in the gay sunshine of an April morning, which painted long blue shadows of a lofty wall centred by a massive gateway with a square watch-tower, across the stones of a flagged courtyard.
Two huge round towers flanked the south and west angles of the courtyard. A block of buildings was upon 'his right hand that looked like a Barracks. Another. smaller, on his left, was probably the dwelling of the Commandant. A gray-haired, stout man in the undress uniform of a field-officer of the Line, came out of the house, saluted the Imperial aide, and returned the salute of the officer of the escort. He had a blue paper in his hand.
He said, addressing the prisoner after a brief colloquy with the Imperial Staff officer:
“You will be confined here during the pleasure of the Emperor.”
Dunoisse knew that meant for life. He lifted his haggard eyes as he asked the question :
“Where am I?“
The answer came:
“You are in the Fortress of Ham.”
“Camp near Varna, “June.
“My Dearest Mother,
“We arrived Here all Safe, and are Incampt with the Division on a Scrubby Plane by a Lake full of Leaches about 2 milse inland of Varna, Which is the Beastliest Town you ever Saw. It is Full of English, French, Turks, Bulgarians, Jews, Infadels, and Herraticks. ; Every now and Then a Fire brakes out which Marshal St. Arnod the French Commander-in-Chief says is Dew to insendiary Greekse. Yesterday it Was the House next our Powder Maggazine, but luckily the Wind Changed, and we Lost neerly all our Stores of Barly, Biskits, Tea, Sugar, Coffy, Flower, and so on. N.B.—How does He know it was insendiary Greekse?
“Tell my Father that the Army is short of Otse and Forridge. Though we have Not quite 4,000 Beests of Transport to move an Army of 27,000 Men! ! ! We Have Hardly Annything to Give them, ; And the Noise they make is something Friteful, and every day Lotts of them die. The Cavalry Horses are Fed at preasent, that is all One can Say. I am quite Well, so you must not be Fritened when you Read in the Paperse that Colera has broken out among the Troops. ’’
“Odly enuf, the French on the Hites have got it Though their Camps are better Plaiced than what ours Are. They have sent 3 Divisions into the Dobrudja, where 90 thowsand Russians are being held in Chek by Omar Pasha. They are putting Whole Regiments on their Transports and sending Them out to Sea.
“Yesterday I saw the lovliest Girl I ever saw in my Life out Riding on the Road to Aladyn on the Finest Brown Horse I ever Saw in my life. She comes from the Bashi’s Camp. None of the Officers know her Naim, but all of them call her Golden Cloak, bicause of her Hair, which is the most Wonderful I ever Saw in my Life. A man of Ours told me Her Father is a Colonel of Bashis and that her mother was a Georgian Princess. I Never saw such Hair or such Eyes in all my life.
“I am your loving son,
“P.S.—I forgot to tell my Father that the Trooper who saved my life in the Reck of The British Queen is my Cousin Sarah’s Son, Joshua Horrotian. When I thanked him and asked him to Shake Hands he Rifused. I Think it is bicause of Something My Father Has Done about his Mother’s Property. Tell my Father I do Not want a Hunting Box and that I had rather die a Beggar than That enny man should be Wronged for me. Mind you tell that to my Father. And tell him I have Not yet Had His Anser to a Certain Letter he knose of. And that I Mean it Every Word.
“P.P.S.—You must Not supose that Bicause she Comes from the Bashis’ Camp she is Not a Lady. If she is Not One I never Saw one in my Life.
“P.P.P.S.—Love and Thanks for the Caises of Good Things which were Hily appreciated.
That is, by the rank-and-file. For Morty, mentally burdened by the paternal confidences as to cabbaging, declined to partake of the luxuries sent out to him in huge consignments by special deliveries, week and week about. You saw the Ensign turning these over to the men of his company, and living on Service rations of fresh or salt pork, biscuit, rice, and rum.
You may gather that from the very outset of the Eastern Campaign the names of Cowell, Sewell, Powell, and many others of the fraternity had not infrequently reached Morty’s ears, in conjunction with expressions of disapprobation. Nor, despite all the consideration shown him by his comrades, could references to Thompson Jowell, couched in terms the reverse of admiring, fail to find utterance in the presence of the great man’s son.
Sometimes he would begin to fear that he hated the man who had begotten him. This acute stage of his complaint was reached when it began to be known that the Allies would winter on the Black Sea. For forage, and clothing, and provisions, and all that the Army needed, it was said, was being sent out in the great Government transport, The Realm, from Portsmouth Dockyard. . . .What wonder that the boy, unwilling sharer in the grisly secret that made the stiff grey hair of Thompson Jowell bristle on his head o’ nights, was galled and tortured! His apprehension had ridden him as though he had been another Sindbad, throttled by the hairy incubus of the immortal story. Then he had hit on a plan for getting rid of this dreadful Old Man of the Sea.
He had taken his courage in both hands and written boldly to his father, maintaining at the same time a caution that made him shudder at himself. For lest Jowell’s murderous secret should leave bloody finger-marks on every page, it was necessary to be ambiguous. Yet he had conveyed his meaning clearly, and the final sentence, with all its crudity, had the ring of steel on stone.
“Sinse I Caim out Here I Have Bigun to understand Better than I did Bifore What you Meant by What you Said that Night at Dinner. And if you Do this Thing that you have Planned to do, I will never come Home Agane or call myself by your Naim, or take another Sixpens of your Money. As God lives, I won’t, so now you Know! My mother shall hear the Truth and Chuse between us! It is Hard on a Fellow To have to rite like this to His Father, but You Have Brought it on yourself!”
There was a postscript :
“Remember I will never come Home or Call myself by your Naim, or Take another Peny of your Monney. Don’t do it, Gov.! Don’t do it for God’s saik. He might Forgive you. I Never shold, I Know !
You are to imagine Thompson Jowell perusing this composition. The letter had been directed to his place of business in the City. When he blundered up out of his office-chair, crumpling it in his shaking hand, he was dizzy, and there was a singing in his ears.
It was his Fate, that, priding himself as he did upon the doggedness of will and tenacity of purpose that had combined with unscrupulousness in the making of his fortune, he could not recognize in his son the first-named qualities. He had begotten his own judge. Though he blinked the fact, it was presently to come home to him, after a method unexpected, terrible, and strange.
The dizziness passed off; his reply to Morty’s letter was a masterpiece in its way.
For it reminded the son, indirectly, of all that the father had done for him, and temptingly enlarged upon all that he meant to do. . . . At the end came the pregnant intimation that Mortimer was not to flurry himself about affairs that were no concern of his. And that—in a particular instance not more definitely specified, Sturdy Stephen Standfast was the name of his old Gov.
“For he don’t mean that letter! Not a word of it!” snorted Thompson Jowell. “Throw his old Gov. over! . . . By Gosh! he ain’t capable of it. By Gosh! if an Angel came down from Heaven”— one would like to hear Jowell’s conception of heaven—"and told me he was, I wouldn’t take its word.”
When it comes to a tussle between Old Standfast and Young Standfast, one may be pretty certain as to which is going to win. . . . Having marked out, in his blundering boyish way, a line of conduct, Mortimer Jowell meant to follow it unswervingly. Hence the answer to the letter was a blow to all his hopes. He wrote no more to his father, though the dowdy woman regularly received his ill-spelt letters! And being of a kindly, affectionate disposition, he was profoundly wretched, in anticipation of the coming hour when he must keep his word.
Dunoisse had been arrested on the steps of the English Embassy upon the night of the Monster Ball at the Elysee. Not a moment too soon, it may have been, for the safety of the chicken that had hatched out of the basilisk-egg.
Having himself suffered the slow torture of imprisonment, who should know better than Sire my Friend how to refine and embroider upon the sufferings of a prisoner? Dunoisse was assigned to the care of the Commandant of the Fortress under minute and particular instructions, which were, by that official, scrupulously carried out.
Solitude and Silence were the regimen prescribed for the captive. Save the Commandant, or the priest who would on rare occasions be admitted to administer religious consolation—no one might speak to Dunoisse, or answer when spoken to, save by certain strictly-regulated signs.
With the fever and ague of the Dobrudja still upon him, Dunoisse, denied the comfort of fire or extra bedding, invalid nourishment, medical attendance, or the commonest human intercourse; would have died, or sunk into a lethargy of inertia ending in death, but for one thing.
The Breviary and Vulgate, with the Imitatione Christi of Thomas a Kempis —left in Dunoisse’s cell by some cynical whim of his Imperial jailer—proved to contain within them fountains of healing for his sick and suffering soul. Unguessed, undreamed-of beauty and delight and sweetness had lain hidden in the narrow columns as in the closely printed pages. The casual reader became a student, the student a scholar, long before he knew. . . . And the Denier denied no longer. Dayspring banished the darkness; Faith revived in him—he could pray again. How strange it is, that only when the meanest and humblest of our fellow-creatures turn from us, do we seek the companionship of One Who is King of Kings.
At Christmastide—for the snow lay on the marshes and the ramparts—the fosse and the canal were frozen—and the church bells of the distant town had rung the carillon of Noel at midnight— they admitted a confessor to the prisoner in his cell.
“What is the news, my Father? What has happened in the great roaring world whose voice has never reached me since these walls of Cyclopean masonry rose up about and penned me in? War had been proclaimed when I was arrested. . . . Has there been War? Is there War now?” Dunoisse asked.
But the priest made answer to his eager questions:
“My dear son, to gain admittance here I have pledged my word that I will not discuss with you any worldly matter. Let me, while I have the opportunity, give you news of the Kingdom of God.”
Dunoisse, so long a willing exile from that Kingdom, had been by slow and painful stages finding his way back there. Now, with the aid of the Church, he cleansed his sin-stained soul in the lustral waters of Confession. He was absolved. He received the Bread of Life.
It seemed to him at the supreme moment that a burning ray of Divine Light penetrated and illumined him. He saw himself clearly as he had never seen himself before. He understood how he had fallen from his old ideals, and strayed from the way of cleanliness and honor. He realized that Sympathy had been the missing link between himself and his fellow-men. He had loved one man. He had worshipped one woman with an overwhelming, guilty passion. Both friend and mistress had deceived him; and for this reason he had reared a wall of icy doubt between himself and the rest of Humanity.
Once he had met a woman with a noble, earnest face and calm, pure, radiant eyes, and bad gone upon his world’s way and bad forgotten her. They had met again, on the night of the coup d’ Etat, at the French Embassy in London. And her glance had pierced to the quick through his armour of selfishness, and vanity and lust. She had not spared him reproach, though at their parting she had softened and relented. She had said in effect: “Though you are nothing to me now, I might have loved the man yon used to be!” What had he not lost by that change? What might he not have gained had he chosen, instead of the easy road of pleasure, the stony path of rectitude ! Dimly he began to realize what an inestimable treasure of tenderness, what an inexhaustible mine of shining loyalty, and glowing faith, and pure passion, had lain hidden in the heart of Ada Merling, for the lover who should prove himself worthy of the supreme boon.
He loved her. Happy for her that Fate had sundered them, if by any remote chance she might have loved a man so little worthy of her as Hector Dunoisse. But she never would have . . . she never could have. ... He tried to follow her in thought as she went upon her selfless way. He saw her pure, sweet influence shed on other hearts to soften, and uplift,' and cheer them. He saw the poor relieved by those generous hands. He heard the sick, healed by her skilled and gentle ministrations, blessing her. He dreamed of her—with a cruel pang— as endowing some true man with the priceless treasure of her love. He pictured her with their children rocked in her arms and nourished at her bosom. He imagined her growing old, and moving down the vale of years, leaning on the stalwart sons and matronly, handsome daughters, who should look up to her even as they aided her, in perfect confidence; and whose children, inheriting their tender reverence for that dearest mother, should love and trust her, too. And a great yearning swelled in his desolate heart, and his aching, mateless soul rushed out across the void to her. . . .
“Ada! . . .”
In the anguish of his loneliness he lifted his arms to the wild, gray sky of March, and, in a voice that was like the wailing of the bitter wind across the marshes, cried on the beloved name: “Oh, Ada!—Ada! . . .”
And—spun to the merest spider-thread of sound by infinite distance, her unforgettable voice answered . . . beyond doubt or question answered:
“I hear you. . . . Oh! where are you?”
He could not doubt that she had heard and answered. There was no explanation possible. It had happened, that was all.
Not long after, during an attack of fever, Dunoisse dreamed that he awakened in the chill gray dawn of a February morning to see Ada Merling sitting by his bed. It seemed so natural to have her there, and so divinely sweet and comforting, that he lay for a long time gazing at her, dwelling on each dear, remembered trait and lovely feature, breathing her atmosphere, drinking her in. She wore in this his vision of her, not the gray nurse’s dress of Cavendish Street, but a plain black gown, though the frilled white muslin cap. of his remembrance sat close and sober, as of old, upon her rich, brown, waving hair, and the cambric apron made a splash of white upon the blackness of the dress. The lines of the pure features were a little sharpened, the eyes larger, the sensitive, clearly-cut lips were closely folded. She looked sadder . . . older. . . . Even as he realized this she smiled; and such a radiance of beauty kindled in her, and shone forth from her, that he cried out in rapture and awakened; and in his weakness shed tears on finding himself a prisoner and alone.
But the dream, following the answer on the ramparts, left a clear impression. She was living, and yet unwedded, and she had not forgotten him—not quite forgotten him! The conviction of this gave him new strength to live. Later on he received another intimation, not from the living world beyond the ramparts and the poplared marshes, but from the other World that is beyond the Veil.
It came to him one day at dusk with a crisping of the hair and a shuddering of the flesh that was not terror—rather wonder and awe, and solemn gladness. The day had been dark and rainy. His lamp had not been lighted, the scanty fire burned low in the rusty grate. Dunoisse sat thinking, leaning his elbows on the table where bis silent servitor had set bis meagre supper. And suddenly the recollection of his mother as he had last seen her rose up in him. The whisper of her woollen draperies seemed to cross the rough brick floor, her thin light touch was between his eyebrows, tracing there the Sacred Sign. And almost without conscious volition her son rose up, placed a rush-seated chair opposite his own at the poorly-furnished table; filled a goblet with pure water, cut bread, laid it upon a plate, sprinkled a Cross of salt upon it, and set it for his unseen guest. . . .Then he resumed his own seat and ate, comprehending that she wished it. And as he ate he talked, in low, soft murmurs, as though answering. . . . Depend upon it, one never pours out one’s hidden self so freely as when one speaks with the beloved dead.
And then he found himself rising up, bidding God-speed and farewell to the guest unseen, in a solemn form of words quite strange to him. And then he knew himself alone.
Upon the following morning, being unexpectedly visited by the Commandant, he said to the official:
“Sir, I already know what you have come to tell me. My mother died yesterday.”
The Commandant started, and dropped a paper. It was a telegraphic message from the Minister of the Interior, conveying, and bidding him impart the news. He asked the prisoner:
“How did you hear this?”
And Dunoisse smiled so strangely in answer that the Commandant’s next official report contained the sentence quoted hereunder:
“No. X.—The officer confined during His Imperial Majesty’s pleasure—is undoubtedly becoming insane.”
“Zut!” said De Morny with a shrug, when Sire my Friend showed him this communication. “That is what you wanted, is it not?” He added: “You have used the man, and broken the man ! When you need him again—he will not be available. Brains of such calibre as his are not often found under a Staff-officer’s cocked hat. Leave him shut up —and they will find them plastered on the wall one morning. . . . Heads are softer than walls; madmen always remember that!”
He shrugged again, and the shrug and the cynical inflection dismissed the subject of discussion. But not many weeks subsequently the Commandant again visited Dunoisse, and said to him abruptly:
“You are free.”
“Free! . . .”
Dunoisse trembled in every limb, and caught at the table to save himself from falling. So well had the instructions of Sire my Friend been carried out, that all hope of being delivered out of his bondage had abandoned him. It was almost appalling to learn that he might now ask questions. He faltered out :
“How long have I been here?” and was told:
‘ ‘ About six months. ’ ’
Six months !... If they had said six years, Dunoisse would have believed them. Could it be possible that such slow, interminable agonies as he had drunk of, such painful resignation as he had fought for and won, had been packed into so short a space of time as half-a-year! He asked for the mirror he had been denied—and they brought him one. He looked in it, and saw a face bleached to the tint of reddish ivory, framed in white hair that fell in waving locks almost to the shoulders. The long straggling moustache and beard were of white with streaks of blackness. From the deep caves under the arched black eyebrows the bright black eyes of Hector Dunoisse looked back at him. But they looked with a gentleness that was new. And the smile that hovered about the sharply-modelled lips had in it a sorrowful, patient sweetness that the smile of Dunoisse had never had previously. It was partly this change that had caused the Commandant to report the prisoner as insane.
Dunoisse’s watch and chain, with his penknife, pencil-ease, and razors were now restored to him, with his clothes and a portion of the considerable sum of money that had been taken from him at the time of his arrest. A military barber of the garrison trimmed his hair and reduced the moustache and heard to more conventional proportions. Attired in a well-worn suit of gray travelling clothes, hanging in folds upon his stooping emaciated figure, you saw the late prisoner take leave of the Commandant and step into a closed carriage that was waiting in the courtyard, with an officer of police in plain clothes seated by the driver on the box. When the carriage rumbled out under the great square gate-tower erected in the fifteenth century by the Count of St. Pol, the man inside had an access of nervous trembling. He shut his eyes, and presently the shadow passed, and he could look upon the free, fair world again.
It was the end of October; the gaunt poplars had shed their yellowed leaves, and the haws were scarlet on the bushes. Mists hung over the marshes—the odour of decaying vegetation came to Dunoisse with each free breath he drew.
He could no longer judge of time, and the watch they had returned to him had not been wound up. It seemed to him a drive of many hours before the carriage stopped. He was told to get out, and obeyed. He found himself in a gravelled enclosure outside a railway-station. His meagre baggage was deposited. The carriage was driven away. It was so marvellous to have a porter come and pick up his battered valise and light portmanteau, and so overwhelming to be asked where the latter was to be labelled for, that Dunoisse, standing on the Paris departure platform, could only stare at the interrogative porter, and answer after a bewildered silence:
“I really do not know!”
He knew a few months later. For a gray-painted express rushed, with a winnowing and fanning as of giant wings, through the station. The train was full of English soldiers, their unbuttoned coats testifying to the heat of the closely-packed compartments. Their fresh-colored faces crowded at the windows; they left behind with their cheers and fag-ends of comic songs an impression of rude health and pathetic ignorance, above all, of extreme youth.
Dunoisse, unnerved by captivity, rendered dizzy by the sudden shock of revelation, reeled back and collided with a person who stood behind him, and proved to be a humpbacked, withered little old man, in charge of the station newspaper-stall. The little old man—who wore a black velvet cap, and had a ginger-colored chin-tuft, and spoke French with a curious hissing accent— received his apologies with a smiling air. “A nothing! A mere touch! Monsieur was momentarily startled by the passage of the monster. For months those expresses from Boulogne have been thundering through here. Full—as Monsieur saw—of soldiers, French soldiers at the beginning. . . . Regiments of the Line from Helfaut, batteries of Artillery from Lille, and St. Omer, and other fortresses; then English, English, nothing but Englishmen. . . . Via Paris for Marseilles and Toulon, to be shipped for the Bosphorus and the black Sea.”
The prattle of the newspaper stallkeeper had never before been listened to so greedily as by this white-bearded, haggard, shabbily-clothed traveller. The little man went on. plainly revelling in the sound of his own queer voice:
(To be continued.)
The story has for its main subject the sufferings of the English soldiers in the Crimean War, due to the malpractices of the British Army contractors and the treacherous conduct of the Emperor of the French, who is depicted as having drawn England into war with a view to her defeat and discomfiture.
Hector Dunoisse, the hero of the tale, and the chief tool of the Emperor, In laying his plans, was unaware of the object of the net he himself was engaged in spreading. He is supposed to have perished in the swamps of Southern Russia, but reappears unexpectedly. The present chapter continues the description of a fire on a troopship at sea and the rescue of Joshua Horrotian, a trooper In the army, on his way out to the war, and of Mortimer Jowell, a British officer, son of one of the contractors responsible for the bad forage and stores supplied to the army.
Florence Nightingale, so well known in connection with her hospital work at the Crimea, is the prototype of Ada Merling, whom Dunoisse has met upon two occasions, and for whom he has conceived a strong attachment.