The King's Fool
Commencing a fascinating novel of love, adventure and intrigue in the time of Louis XV
LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM
GOD SPEED all travellers, Barney O’Pray; especially those whom the devil pursues. Haste, man, haste! Ahead are the lights of Waterford Inn ...”
Sir Michael Mohan’s dark, handsome face wore a reckless smile as he flung the words back over his shoulder, over the sweaty flanks of the big grey mare he bestrode, at his henchman, the O’Pray. Behind them—how fiar he did not know, but still a goodly distance—the ! King’s men rode in chase. But never a horse in all Ireland could match Grey Ellen’s speed, and Barney, on a ¡little roan, was hard put to keep his master in sight. Behind them lay the Glen of Morrah and the tumbledowry; ancestral home of the Mohans, granted now to a Sassenach, one Sir Peter de Launay, who, not content with that, had hastened Sir Michael’s departure from the home of his fathers by the old and easy trick of having his agents plant pikes and muskets at Mohan Hall, and raising the cry of “Rebel!”
Into the inn-yard, over the sounding cobbles, they clattered. It was a chill night of early autumn, the stars bright in a sky swept clean and blue by the ze.4ty wind. Lights glowed warmly from the mullioned windows of the tavern kept by Kate Rafferty, wife of the same Mark Rafferty whose lugger would this very night bear them away to France and safety, and such an adventuresome living as could be picked up by a penniless young knight whose sole fortune now was the horse he rode.
They sprang from their saddles, threw the bridles to a languid hostler and hastened indoors. Kate Rafferty, astonishment on her pretty face, met them at the threshold. She was related, in some labyrinthine way that Sir Michael could never make head or tail of, to Barney O’Pray.
“It’s off to France we are this night,” whispered Barney to the blue-eyed Mrs. Mark, after she had curtseyed thrice to his master. “Mark is always ready for us. An’ we are leavin’ Grey Ellen and the roan here with you, young Katie. Now we could do with a dhrop of the crathur—a farewell dhrop of Old Ireland’s best, for many’s the long day will go by before we taste the like again. Och, now, mavourneen!” Barney stayed the quick tears that beaded Katie’s lovely lashes. “Sure, we go with a smile ... on our lips ...”
Barney turned away from her and followed Sir Michael to a shadowed corner of the tap-room, beyond the wavering radiance of the candles. There were some dozen men in the room, seamen mostly, who had manifested little interest in the newcomers or in their whispered words to Katie Rafferty. Almost in the centre of the room, at a large table, three men were sitting, drinking the ale for which the Waterford Inn was famous, and annoying such of the barmaids as had to pass their way. Barney watched them with interest and presently leaned forward and whispered to Sir Michael, who sat, chin cupped in hands, seeing and hearing nothing.
“Did you mark that, your honor? See the gay blade in the russet coat and fine cuffs of lace. 'Tis Sir Peter de Launay, no less, and he’s no more than a drunken blaggard, if you can judge from his talk and actions here.”
Michael turned and looked at De Launay, a man some few years older than himself, but older far in the ways of wickedness. His face was thin, sharp, pallid, the eyes small, of a color grey as slate, and his white wig was carefully powdered as his hands, with rings bedight, were soft and slender. A fop, a rogue; withal, thought Michael, a dangerous man. Now, as Katie set food and drink before them, De Launay drew from his breast pocket a miniature. Its gold frame glinted dully as he set it on the wet table before him and bade his companions drink a toast to it.
“To Diane,” he cried, careless of who might hear, “the sweetest, the proudest lady in the Court of France -in all the world, by heavens, the finest! Is she not, Geoff Mardon? Is she not, Leffingwell?”
“I’ll brook no word to the contrary,” said De Launay with drunken dignity.
“For she is to be my lady and bring me great fortune. Let all drink to her.”
He swung about in his chair, asking those there to admit that his Diane was of all women the fairest and best.
But his speech was not good and Michael Mohan despised a man who would make the woman he loved the toast of a common tap-room.
Michael busied himself then, as did Barney O’Pray, with his food. From the corner of his eye he watched the progress of Sir Peter de Launay, who, not content with a general admission of Diune’s supremacy among her sex, was now going to each individual in the tap-room and exacting personal tribute. Into the shadowy nook close by the huge hearth whereon logs crackled and a big black kettle sang monotonously, he came. His hand descended roughly on Michael's shoulder and on Michael’s cheek his wine-freighted breath was hot.
“You with the pretty black curls,” said he. “Damme, are you indifferent to beauty, you rogue! Is not this”— he thrust the miniature before Michael’s eyes -“is not this the loveliest of women? Drink a toast to her,
I bid you, or
The face that Michael saw was indeed a lovely one, a soft, creamy oval, with eyes whose magic, whose wistfulness and laughter the painter had captured well. Her hair was a lighter gold than that which framed her, and the white, pure grace of her bosom, her gentle mouth, made Michael in some way sad, as great beauty always did to him.
“Yes,” he said softly, setting down his tankard and glancing over at Barney who was almost invisible in the gloom. “I do not hesitate to admit her lovely—even the loveliest among women; but how she could
He snatched the miniature from De Launay’s puralyzed hand and his cudgel was quick to parry the mad thrust of the outraged lover’s rapierto parry it, then to crash down on the wrist that held the sword and send it flying in a shining arc across the room. Barney was at Sir Michael’s side now. They whom De Launay had called Geoff Mardon and Leffingwell rallied with drunken slowness to their comrade’s assistance. Barney swiftly thrust u table in their way and tangled them with chairs and benches.
“I’ll keep this picture, De Launay,” said Michael. “I’ll take it in exchange for what you have taken from me. Perhaps who knows?— the better of the bargain will be mine. So until we meet .
With a light luugh, a wave of his hand, he followed Barney from the tap-room out into the cold clear moonlight of the autumn evening. They struck across the fields, through many a thick hedge and over many a grey stone wall. From the inn-yard, distantly, they heard shouts, the clatter of horses’ hoofs on the cobbles. But they did not fear pursuit. Barney knew every inch of this country, and for men far gone in liquor to pursue them on horseback over bog and hedge and wall would be worse than suicide.
“’Tis a fine prize you’ve won, your honor,” said Barney, “and it was a splendid winning.”
“It is something,” laughed Michael. “It may bring me luck. ’Twas no lie the fool gave us; she is very pretty, Barney.” He took the miniature from his pocket and studied it in the moon’s wan light. “No, Barney O’Pray; not pretty, not pretty, I tell you—divine!”
THEY came into the straggling streets of Youghal, Sir Michael and Barney O’Pray, walking briskly; for now, too early yet for the homesickness to come upon them, they were eager to be on their way. A sea voyage was no novelty to Michael who had studied for three years in France, going back and forth as many times. His father, Sir Patrick Mohan, in spite of the ceaseless
stoop to such an ineffable blackguard as yourself, defies my powers of understanding. At your service!”
He snatched the miniature from De levies of the De Launay clan, had prospered in a fashion, and had been able to give his motherless son an excellent education. Yes, it would be good to visit France again. It would be good, he told himself fiercely, fighting the sick pain in his breast, to be out of Ireland, away from the environment of penury and dire need, of futility and oppression. He must not look upon himself as a coward —not for this. He fled from no field of honor, but from a contest in which all the odds were against him. And he
could, he would, come back. Yet bitterly he thought: “How many others such as I, leaving this land they love, have promised themselves they would come back and set things to rights—and have never come back, or, having returned, fell again into the old ways of sadness.”
The night forbade such musing; the moon made silver on the sea and the tracery of masts and rigging was black, silhouetted against the bluish silvern sky. And down at the quays where they came now, the blocks creaked softly with the gurgling rise and fall of vessels, and all about was the salty, fishlike smell of ancient wharves and piling green with the corrosion of brine.
Mark Rafferty’s vessel was christened The Gull, than which in all the wide world there could be no greater misnomer, for she was a stub-nosed, wide-beamed, illfavored lugger that crept upon her way with such speed as would have shocked a turtle into swimming on his back. So Barney said, and though he knew nothing whatever about boats he was not far wrong.
In the stuffy, smoky little cabin below decks, Sir Michael sat facing his henchman across the swinging table. The miniature he had taken from De Launay was in his hand.
“Take not that which is precious,” said Sir Michael, “into the highways and byways for all men to look upon and cheapen it. But why I took it and why I kept it, I do not know. Perhaps, in milder mood I will return it.”
Barney nodded approvingly. He had boundless faith in witches, gipsies, banshees and in the “good people” whom he claimed often to have seen. Ould Meg, an ancient gipsy, who had foretold a great love for his young master and a happy marriage with “a daughter of Deirdre”—a girl of his own people—was a Delphian oracle to Barney, and the idea of Michael falling in love with some “foreign hussy” whose picture he had captured in a tavern brawl outraged the O’Pray sense of the proprieties.
“Barney,” said Sir Michael gravely, “what shall we do when we get to France? Perhaps I shall sing and dance jigs in the street and you collect the coins the Frenchmen throw us.” “God forbid,” said Barney. “Sure it’s a high post they’ll be givin' ye at once, your honor ”
“I could have had that without going to France; they would have given me a high post in Dublin—you know the kind—with hempen trimmings.”
MICHAEL liked being again in Paris. The Gull had set them ashore safe and sound at Havre de Grace and they had journeyed on foot to Paris. At an inn called Les Trois Canards, a haunt of Michael’s student days, they had taken a room, and now they were walking in the great square in front of Notre Dame de Paris, an edifice which delighted Barney far more than anything he had yet seen in France.
“If only poor Father Tom McCrory had a church like that now! Wirra, it would be fine! The roof of his own chapel leaks like a sieve. Och ! And such fine sweet bells are a credit to the priest in charge. And it must be a
proud beadle that rings them. Do you hear them now, your honor?”
Michael could not help but hear them as they rolled and clanged so sonorously that their music seemed to fill the
heavens. And the sunlightsshone on the great façade, towering like a cliff above tile pigmy host below. He had been a mere boy, carefree, spendthrift, thoughtless, when last he had stood there anci.,listened to the bells of Notre Dame; now he was Sir Michael Mohan, and boyhood, even youth, was behind him. He was a man with a man’s work to do. For such as he there was only one career—that of arms. Here he must write his epics with the sword and find his moments of high inspiration in the bloody heat of battle.
A multitude poured, seemingly from all quarters, into the square. There was a tumult of shduting and laughter. Students, citizens, soldiers, civilians, mingled in the mêlée which, when they fought their way into it, they found to centre round a droll-looking vehicle made of a great tub set on four solid wooden iwheels and drawn by a dismal donkey. In the tub, strange charioteer, was a jester in motleyed costume, with ass-eared, tightfitting cap and its tinkling bells; in F^is hand a sceptre crowned by his likeness, and his f^ice was painted, seamed and marked after the manner i>f clowns, and his gestures were an exaggerated aping of\a king bestowing smiles and regal benediction upon -his worshipping subjects. \
Barney O’Pray was enthralled. His \voice rose above the rest in shouts of acclamation, bi^t Michael was silent and curious, for he had often speculated on persons such as this—the fools of princes, paid, earning their livelihood by pandering to the uncertain humor of rulers. And the fool’s chariot passing quite close to him, he had a good look at the charioteer. Beneath the fool’s masque was a young face, a fine fa£e, and though the mouth was parted in wild laugh and .elfin grimace, there was no laughter in the jester’s eyes.
“It is Pepin Clopinard,” Michael explained to his henchman when the procession had gone by. “He is the King’s jester and sort of a popular idol. Whenever he rides out in state as we have seen him n ow, the crowds acclaim him. Such strange acclaim! I wonder what he thinks, what he feels in his heart, that fool. Do you know, Barney? Can you guess?” “No, your honor. But he seems to be a very popular fellow and even the King need not be ashamed of such a welcome. But what does he feel in his heart, your honor?”
“Hatred,” said Michael, “and contempt for those who laugh. He is a man as much as they; not a beast to be caged and stared at and derided. Did you ever stop to consider how hideous it must be for a man who finds beauty in sunsets and green hills, in friends and a hearty fireside how hideous to be clad in motley and made forever to play the fool? In yon poor wretch’s eyes I saw . . .”
Barney walked pensively by the side of his young
“’Tis too old in his ways he is becoming,” thought Barney. “Now, with the gold Mark Rafferty gave me for Grey Ellen and the little roan and that I accumulated myself and gave to his honor, ’tis a fine coat of blue velvet and lace and a handsome sword he should be. getting for himself. And ’tis adventure he needs to shake him out of pondering on the fortunes of fools and kings.”
master, and to his own light, mercurial disposition this thoughtfulness of Sir Michael’s gave short-lived pause. For it was not in Barney’s merry heart to grieve much or worry long about the sorrows of this world. And why his master should be concerned with a jester was beyond comprehension.
For Grey Ellen, a brute much coveted by the horseloving gentry, Mark Rafferty had almost emptied the tin box of gold coins that was his bank on board the Gull. And whatever else there was, over and above what he had paid when he disposed of the mare, he would bring to Barney a week hence at Havre. Thus, there was no immediate worry and O’Pray’s thoughts dwelt persistently on the importance of Michael being clad as befitted a gentleman of noble birth.
It was well, perhaps, that Michael did not hasten to acquire finer raiment. The second afternoon of their stay in the capital of Louis le Bien-Aimé, he and Barney strolled again through the streets. This time they followed the winding lanes and tortuous byways of Montmartre, and Michael pointed out to his gaping henchman the queer little taverns and wine shops where he used to go in his student days at the Sorbonne.
“There,” said Michael, indicating a gabled old dwelling in the cellar of which was a tavern marked by a signboard bearing what once may have looked like a lion, “is the Tavern of the Lion, and many were the gay evenings we spent there. Is it only four years ago? It seems so long, so remote—hello!”
Out of the sunken doorway of the Tavern of the Lion, a noisy crowd of youths came pushing and streaming. The air was filled with snatches of song and doggerel verse, lampooning this preceptor and that; here was an epigram from Horace; there a shouted axiom of the scholastics. Then, suddenly, from the laughing group a tall, skinny youth detached himself and ran at breakneck speed across the cobbled lane, straight at Sir Michael and Barney O’Pray.
“The gay young blood!” said Barney. “An’ would he be makin’ sport of us! Sure, our fathers slit his fathers’ throats long years ago an’ if it’s a taste of the blackthorn he’s seeking—”
The youth was almost upon them. There was an ecstatic smile on his bright, impudent face. He wore an elegant jerkin of buff, a blue hat with a saucy cock’s feather. He was a most headlong and impetuous young man, for not until Michael had, perforce, to put out arms to catch him and keep them both from falling to the ground, did he stay his mad career.
“Michael, mon ange!” he cried. “Mon brave Irlandais! Mon—” He was too breathless to utter more, and
“What is he calling us, your honor? What is the young blaggard sayin’?”
Michael, what with astonishment and mirth and loss of breath from the violent impact, could for a moment find only words sufficient to restrain Barney from his obvious intention of taking the intruder by the scruff of the neck.
Michael was shaking hands warmly now with the other and speaking to him in English. The O'Pray learned that this was Louvigny de Dronsart, who had begun his studies at the University the last year Michael was there and who, since his family would not let him leave until he had taken his degree of Master of Arts, would likely—so he said himself remain there for ever, since he pursued learning mostly in such profane halls as the Tavern of the Lion and the other gay resorts of Montmartre, and much preferred the writing of amorous ballads to treatises in Latin and Greek.
“But what are you doing here, Michael Mohan?” Much to Barney’s disgust, the volatile Louvigny then forsook English for his native tongue and talked to Michael in the elegant jargon of the students. “And you bring your pet monkey with you this time?” Louvigny winked and jerked an insolent thumb at Barney.
“Ah, now, your honor! What does he say about me? Is it an insult
“No -oh, no,” said Michael. “He says you are, barring myself, the best looking Irishman who ever came to Paris.”
Barney, mollified but still suspicious, followed the two youths who walked arm-in-arm, talking volubly, down the ancient streets. And, with a touch of proper pride, Barney noted that, while De Dronsart’s clothes were of the finest, he was but an insignificant stripling beside the dark young Mohan.
“We are here, Louvigny,” Michael explained. “Because it was necessary either to leave Ireland or go to prison and perhaps stay there. You would not understand,* since you have never been one of a conquered race. In one way, I am glad I came; there is nothing in Ireland now for me, for any man; and yet—”
“Exile is not pleasant,” said Louvigny. “But for you, my master, so young, so strong ...” He pressed Michael’s biceps with awed appreciation. “And with the sword you have no equal. You speak French such as any Parisian might be proud of, and in the army of France you will find many of your countrymen. Very soon it will be an Irish army, they say. And you would be welcomed. We need such as you, what with our hands full at home and the English casting covetous eyes on our stronghold in New France.. Ah, that is where I should like to be, my brave Mohan ... in Quebec. There a man has a chance to prove himself, and here am I, a wretched schoolboy, useless both to God and country. Some of these days, mark you well, I shall go to New France.”
“A cold place, filled with snow, with savages and fierce beasts, I have heard tell,” said Michael. “You would not like it, Louvigny.”
“The great Champlain liked it so well that he gave up wealth and honors in France to live and die there.
So, too, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac. Thase who come back say there is a spell upon that land; a greut magic is there, even more than in your land of fuiries und witches. But what will you do, Sir Michael Mahon?”
“Oh, no doubt, I shall use my skill with the sword that you have vuunted, help fight another nation’s battles, be brave in a cause that's not my own, love where my love does not lie, and die with Erin’s name upon my lips. What more is there to look forward to for such as I?”
“A thousand things!” said Louvigny whose youthful dreams were outraged by this cynicism in one who should, he thought, think and feel as he. “A good cause makes always a gallant fight ...” He wielded an imaginary rapier, much to the edification of Barney O’Pray whase heart was already warming to him. “Bravery is always splendid for a man and it is not hard to love our women. Come, Michael, tomorrow night at the Comte de Lussac’s there is a levee. You must come. Some of your compatriots will be there, some who know your family, and there we can see about getting you a commission in the army. Tell me you will come!”
“But—” Michael hesitated to commit himself. The glitter and dazzle of such assemblages
had never appealed to him, now was heavy, that loneliness and care of the future seemed to press upon him, he had no inclination for the exquisite amenities of Parisian court life.
Louvigny was quick to perceive his indecisión “Tiens!” he said brightly with a birdlike smile at Michael. “You will come home with me —you and the red monkey here. There is only my father and he wilL remember you most kindly. Guy you knew Guy, my brother is now in Spain on some silly mission. He owned the finest wardrobe in Paris—la-la—such quantities of lace and ruffles, of silk shirts and velvet coats as would make Solomon’s glory pale. From it you shall choose what you will, since it appears you left Ireland in some haste, man brave. But come now—”
Louvigny would take no denial, and after an hour’s brisk walking they reached the town house of the Marquis de Dronsart, an imposing dwelling with a garden bright with autumnal bloom, with lawns shaven to miraculous smoothness and hedges trimmed to a nicety.
They went to the room set aside for Michael, a great, oak-panelled room with a wide casement, a quaint four-poster bed and an elegant Oriental carpet of blue and gold -strange contrast, thought Michael, with his stripped and barren chamber in the house of Mohan.
“I impose upon you, Louvigny,” he said.
“This is too much. And this.....” He pointed to
the clothes which were presently laid out on the long table, beside which hovered a smiling lackey. “I cannot ”
“But you must. Please, my dear fellow - ” Louvigny was most earnest now. His brown sparkling eyes pleaded with Michael and his thin face wore a tense expression as if, by a masterly effort of hia will, he could force Michael to array himself in this finery. “You must remember, Sir Michael,” he said with mock dignity, “you are our guest and a great ambassador from Ireland and you must not refuse me—I have found no friend since you went away who is so dear to me as you. You will. . . ah, bon!”
In his delight, he chased the lackey out of the room, ordering him to send Barney up from the kitchen, and himself superintended Michael’s change of costume. Louvigny’s admiration for the young Irishman was nothing short of hero-worship. Michael was some two years older than he, and Michael had the gifts he coveted great strength of body, poise, a face of striking interest. Louvigny was pale and weak; all his life seemed lived in the intensity of his spirit, seemed to be in his eyes, in his volatile ways and lively gestures.
“But what name of a name—is this? I must see let me see! You have a sweetheart then mon dieu!”
Louvigny’s hand shook as he held up the gold-framed miniature that Michael, preparatory to disrobing, had taken from his pocket. Michael looked uncomfortable, then concerned, as he saw the effect the picture had produced on Louvigny. It was as if he had seen an apparition. He held the miniature much as one might hold a smoking grenade likely at any minute to go off and blow one into limbo.
“Is the lady so hard to look upon then?” chided Michael. “Faith, there are those who think that beside her, Artemis and Aphrodite,
Helen and Cleopatra, fade into the insignificance of kitchen wenches. Sure, I might by now have been a corpse had I not admitted her ladyship there the most lovely of all women in merula saeculorum.”
Louvigny had in part recovered his equilibrium, but his astonishment had not abated and his curiosity had grown mightily. ,
"I can name offhand,” said he, “a dozen men who would kill you for that picture. Where in heaven’s name did you get it? Why do you carry it about with you? And—”
“Wait,” said Michael. “Your questions come like apples from an inverted sack. I can tell you it all in a few words: I took the miniature from one Sir Peter de Launay in the course of a tavern brawl the night 1 left Ireland, in exchange for my house and lands, and because I did not think him proper custodian for so much of this world’s beauty.”
“At that,” said Louvigny, “many would say you made a goodly exchange. So lovely, so seemingly fickle, so miserable in her heart— ”
“Is she that?”
Louvigny had taken the picture to the window, better to study those baffling, wondrous eyes, the aureate hair and winsome face. Now he turned quickly.
“She must be miserable,” he said fervently. “Perhaps no one other than myself thinks that there is sorrow in her, but I—somehow, I can tell where sorrow is. I have seen her—this Diane de Merville, ward of the King -and the moment I saw her I said to myself, Tn her heart she is not happy’.”
“Diane de Merville,” repeated Michael. “Faix and troth, Louvigny, ’tis a charming name she has!” “She is as lovely,” said Louvigny simply, “as all the goddesses and women you have named. Much of her beauty, I think, comes from your own people; her mother was an Irishwoman, Ora Esmond. The family were, like yourself, exiles. The Comte de Merville loved his Ora well. Now they are both gone; there is only Diane and, if something is not done, there will be a dearth of young men in France, since the fools persist in killing one another for love of her.”
“Quite so,” said Michael. “And she is a daughter of Deirdre ! Barney, you scamp”—the O’Pray had appeared and hovered in the background—“the lady whose picture we stole with the blackthorn is an Irishwoman, no less. At least, in part. Her mother was an Esmond.”
“Then God be praised!” said Barney.
“I hope, Michael, that you, too, will not hit upon the rock of disaster for love of her,” said Louvigny. “This De Launay you speak of I seem to recall. He has many friends in France and, yes, I think he was seeking her hand in marriage. If she gave him this picture he is the only one among the dozens who have loved her to be so honored. But no doubt he pilfered it. She would give her picture to no man—especially this one, which was painted by Armand Giroux. She valued it greatly. It is most like her of all her portraits. Mon dieu, it speaks, smiles at one!”
“Then I shall return it to her,” said Michael. “It is of no value to me.”
“Do not, if you love life and happiness, tell her that, or she will scratch your eyes out first and then have you thrown into the Bastille, later to be torn by angry wolves. Diane’s picture of no value to you! It is unheard of. I can get you a thousand gold pieces for it tomorrow, tonight even. More, . . . it is priceless.” “To me," repeated Michael, his lips twisted in a queer little smile, “it is of no value. So much beauty saddens me, and beauty so remote piques me. Why should a man who cannot read carry a precious book about with him? Or a man who cannot hear have a godlike harper at his beck and call? Would you have the fair Diane make of me a Tantalus, starving for that which is ever beyond his reach?”
“No,” said Louvigny. “And you would not enter the lists and fight for her favor? She has one of the amplest fortunes in France.”
“Still less then would I enter the lists,” said Michael. “Not but what I could do with a fortune. But it were enough to be a fool without being a greedy one. And, in fine, my heart is free.”
In the shadows where he sat now, Louvigny smiled. He had heard others boast, even as Michael boasted now, that Diane could not trouble them. And then they had seen Diane— Louvigny wondered if she would not be at the Comte de Lussac’s tomorrow night with the fat old ogress who was her duenna. La Marquise Santoyard, always looking like a great cat filled to repletion with plump mice. Perhaps Diane would be there and Louvigny hoped that Michael, for his own sake would not, in return. ing Diane’s picture, tell her it was of no value to him.
OUT of the hundreds who thronged, the next night, the grand salon of the Comte de Lussac’s palace, Diane, it seemed to Michael’s eyes, blazed as a great beacon among a forest of tiny tapers. They all receded into a blurred, hazy back-drop against which, small, haughty, breath-taking in her loveliness, she stood alone. Yes, she was all that De Launay, all that Louvigny de Dronsart had said. And Louvigny, standing now at his side, pressed his arm and muttered:
“Have a care, Michael! You see I have not exaggerated. There are many here who can lay strong claim to beauty, but beside her claims, theirs are a mockery. When you are presented to her? you will, I pray, be careful; for even in such assemblages as this, she has been known to lose her lovely temper and, careless of who might hear, make known her feelings. It is her Irish heritage, I suppose, to have those spells of temper and even at such moments she is lovely. And, of course, she is always forgiven her outbursts, though a blind man could see she does not care whether or not one condones— if you will come with me—”
“But is it necessary that I be presented to her?” demanded Michael. “Perhaps it were better that we wait, my friend. The picture I can return to her tomorrow—”
“Then you do not wish to keep her picture?” “It is not for me to choose. I have no right to it. She need not know whence it comes to her.”
“She will turn Paris inside out to learn and she will be as angry with you for returning it as she would be if she found it in your possession.” Louvigny sighed. “No man can know how to please her. She is most difficult.”
“Oh,” said Michael, “any man who knew how to handle her sisters could deal with her. But perhaps I have the advantage of you Frenchmen, since I am Irish and know what it is that makes her, as you call it, difficult. And now to wear the glassy smile, Louvigny, and make my compliments to our host.”
make my compliments to our host.”
my compliments our
The young Irishman attracted much attention. He was one of a nation which had many strong, individual links with France; his warlike countrymen held high offices in the armies of Louis XV; and this youth, assured, smiling,
Presently Louvigny was at his elbow rescuing him from two bewhiskered generals and a captain of dragoons.
“Your hour,” whispered Louvigny, “has come. She has stooped for the first time in my recollection, or in that of any other man . . . She commands . yes, that is the word that you be presented to her
Michael, a strange, unfamiliar throbbing in his breast, walked at Louvigny’s side through the laughing groups of revellers. He had not sought this meeting, he told himself. He did not want to meet her. And yet it was foolish to be agitated over this pretty, spoiled minx, who would doubtless try to pay him back for not having at once sought to be presented to her. Louvigny made him quickly known and melted away, and Michael stood alone before her.
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debonair, pleased the nice fancy of the gay courtiers. The men admired his sturdy carriage and fearless, sparkling eye; the women his dark, curly hair and whimsical ways. But Michael did not like their interest. His thoughts tonight were far away.
The Man Who Wrote
Takes you to New France in the second installment of
this exciting new serial and thrills you with as dramatic a
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wherein, among many other big features, you will find
“CANADIANS—BUT NOT A RACE," by Grattan O'Leary. An explanation of the Census insistence on racial origin.
“THE ONEEYED PARTNERSHIP,” by T. Morris Longstreth and Henry Vernon. Another true and exciting detective story from the records of the Mounted Police.
Another Limerick Contest—Four Fine Short Stories AND THAT ISN’T THE HALE OF IT.
The King’s Fool
Continued from page 6
There was challenge in her eyes and in his own. There was faint whimsy in his smile and he knew she did not like it. He saw a quick movement of her foot and he, from having met her like before, knew that she wanted to stamp it. But her voice was soft, velvety even, and her manner most gracious.
“You are from Ireland, they tell me; so I wanted to meet you. My mother told me so much of that country when I was little. My mother was one of your people.”
“Ah, sure you are, too,” said Michael, and his voice, in spite of his resolve to be cool and aloof, was a caress. “Your blue eyes are like the sky of night in the Glen of Morrah and your hair is the gold flax the fairies weave, and all about you is the wistfulness of the Celt.”
Diane frowned. It was not usual for strange young men to speak thus to her, to be so ready with their compliments. She had expected him to be shy, embarrassed, dumbfounded by her beauty. And still, in his eyes, at the corners of his mouth, was that suggestion of a smile, as if he talked to a child amusing it and being amused by it. And his words reached her, as the light compliments of the others failed to do. Perhaps it was the mystic way he said them, the low music of his voice.
“No doubt,” she said with a pert toss of her gleaming head, “you speak thus to any and all young ladies, even Chinese, if they have had an Irish ancestor somewhere in the past. Is there not a stone you kiss that renders your tongue ready with such pretty words whether your heart feels them or not?”
“So ’tis said,” laughed Michael, enjoying her. Yes, she was one of his own. There was wildness, fiercenass there with her beauty and youth. Suddenly, or perhaps from long gazing at her likeness in the quiet hours of his dreaming, he loved her and knew himself a fool for loving her.
“And are there not, too, some others who have heard these same things from your lips?”
Michael looked thoughtful and studied his brown hands, guiltless of jewels. Then he looked whimsically up at her and it was not he but some spirit which had crept into him, that spoke now.
“Only one other, milady, have I told them to—or so you might say. I have spoken such pretty things to the picture I carry next my heart.”
In her eyes coldness covered the ancient curiosity of woman. Her red lips
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“I knew it,” she said. Her finger petulantly touched her lips. “Is she one of your own race—an Irish girl? Is she— like me? Are her eyes blue and is her hair like mine?”
“She might be your sister,” said Michael, “so much alike are you.”
“I do not believe it,” said Diane angrily, and this time her foot did stamp the floor. “Oh, go away from me—stay— oh, why do you annoy me ! Please, please, let me see—just one look !”
“I cannot . . . here,” Michael was uneasy. Louvigny had told him and, anyway, he knew that she might make a scene. With that hair and those fearless eyes—
“Then where?” she demanded. “Oh, I don’t want to see the silly old picture anyway. Probably she is ugly!”
“Love sees through its own eyes,” teased Michael. “Would you stroll in the garden with me?”
The leaves were cool and green and the grass still wet and silvered with gossamer. Diane wore blue lighter than her eyes, and her hair was bright in the moonlight that filtered down through the leafscreen .
They stood in silence, the challenge had died from their eyes and now was a questing, old, old as the world, yet newer than the rose that on the bush hard by would open at dawn from its bud in the sun.
“Now, Sir Michael, you will let me see?” she said. “And you will not think me a wanton, silly thing for askmg?”
Wordlessly, and his hand somewhat a-tremble, Michael took the miniature from his pocket and held it face down. But she must have seen. She gave a little cry and, reaching, turned it up. Her lips parted and she stared from it to him. And, without further ado, he took her in his arms and his lips lingered long on hers.
“It is strange,” said Michael, “it is wondrous, Diane. And to you . . . is it the same?”
“Yes. But we are mad,” she whispered. “I ...” She looked fearfully about her. “They would put you away from me.”
“And I should love you more. Sure, love is a kind of madness, I’ve heard tell. And this must be love that makes ugly the thought of parting from you even for a moment, that makes long absence something to be dreaded. Once an old gipsy told me I should love a daughter of Deirdre, and I laughed at her, for I dared not think of love ...”
His face clouded and a pensiveness as somhre as his declaration of love had been light-hearted and thoughtless, came upon him. He dared not think of love, yet here was love, this that made the world a lovelier, brighter place and made life, ah, so easy, since his battles would be fought for her, and for her his victories won . . .
“You are not happy,” chided Diane. “If to love me is to suffer, then better not to love.
Michael shook his head impatiently.
“I love you,” he said “That much is settled. It is as irrevocable as the words snatched from one’s Iip3 by the winds. But now, what?”
“Now,” said Diane hastily, placing a steady hand upon his shoulder and standing on tiptoe to peer through the hedge. “Now you must go, for there comes a slow, stately and ominous figure under a purple shawl, and I must have time to compose myself. Go, Michael and and ...”
She clung closely to him, her hands hard upon his arms, her lips against his. Then she pushed him lightly away and averted her face. She cried.
“Why ... !” began Michael; then yielding to her insistent gestures, he went reluctantly away.
That night he dreamed, and in his dreams he was winning great victories and splendid acclamations. Then he found himself in the crowded square before Notre Dame. Once more he saw the ridiculous cart, made of a great tub on large wooden wheels, and a weary ass hauling it, and in the tub was Pepin Clopinard, the King’s Fool, his face ghastly with the stuff he put on it, and there was hell in Clopin’s eyes.
IN THE darkness, rain dripped from the leaves of a great chestnut tree and the gusts of autumnal wind shook it now and then as if a giant’s fingers had clasped the trunk and sought to uproot it from its stronghold in the earth. In the streaming mist the coach and its span of sodden greys was scarcely visible to the two men, Sir Michael Mohan and Barney O’Pray, who waited by the west gate of the Marquis Santoyard’s garden—the gate that had been several times the entry to Michael’s fond trysting with her, for whom now he waited with an expectancy breathless and strangely sweet.
“’Tis hard to believe, Barney,” he ! whispered for the third time in the halfhour they had waited there, drenched but careless of the drenching. “Think you she will come, man? Or can it be that at the last minute something prevented her, i our plans were found out and ...”
“Devil a bit of it,” said Barney, whose I ideal night for an elopement was something far remote from this, but who was enjoying it nevertheless hugely. “She will come any minute now, your honor. Sure, heaven has smiled upon your suit and you will win to wife the fairest lady ! in all France. Didn’t the Marquis of ; Waterford himself pay you well for Grey ! Ellen, and is not the snug little brig, the IBonhomme Lafarge, waitin’ for us at Havre, ready to put to sea ...”
The gate latch rattled softly and the gate swung open just wide enough to I admit the slight figure of Diane, enj veloped in a dark rain-cape, its hood framing her face as soft and starlike as a nun’s. She laughed gleefully, and Sir Michael muttered thanksgivings to heaven for such women as this, who could laugh when a strong man’s nerves were strained and worn to shreds and jumped at every untoward sound—the neigh of the horses, the creak of the carriage.
There was a tender moment which rejoiced the heart of Barney. Then Michael helped her into the chaise and climbed in beside her while Barney stuffed bags and portmanteaux, shawls and umbrellas securely into the boot. Then they were off, down the narrow lane to the high road that led through the outlying villages of the Seine toward Havre. She sat silently, happily, her hand in Michael’s. It seemed that even now their joy was beginning, for they were free. In a short time they would be on the water, leaving France, leaving the old things that they loved and hated far behind, going to a new life in a new world and taking youth and love, most priceless things, there with them.
“Just a short while now, Diane,” said Michael. “It is all arranged. To the Carolinas we go, and there my cousin, Evan Redmond, will be waiting to receive us, and there is land for the asking. Then the long, full years stretch before us. You won’t regret leaving ... all this?” ¡
“I leave nothing, but I go to all,” she said with pretty seriousness. “Without | you, Michael . . . the sound of your; voice, that is a caress, the smile in your eyes ...”
There arose a wild shout from the O’Pray’s lips—the sound of the whip. They were jolted cruelly in their seat athe chaise leaped ahead. Diane clung close to him, fear beyond all words in her heart. The chaise rocked, jolted, slipped. Like sudden fireflies, pine links glowed, crackled, smoked darkly in the mist, their light gleaming on the trappings of horses, on drawn swords held by figures that loomed giantesque in the garish light.
Michael cautioned her to sit still. He' leaped from the coach and stood side by side with the O’Pray, who, with wild Gaelic cries and fiercely swinging blackthorn, beat back the soldiers who pressed in upon him. Michael’s rapier was out of its scabbard even as his foot touched the ground. With a ringing, clashing sound, almost joyous in his ears, it parried a vicious thrust, its point shooting down to his attacker’s wrist, which went limp, the sword clattering on the cobbled way. But others, more than Michael could count, took his place; a lightning of clashing steel played about him. There was a wild, barbaric cry—the ancient slogan of the Mohans on his lips as he cut and slashed, parried and thrust; and it was echoed from Barney O’Pray who beat the dancing blades aside like reeds and cracked many a Frenchman’s skull.
Backs against the chaise now, they fought; the rapier seemed to leap from Michael’s right hand to his left. Ah, this man was wise with his sword, this tall fellow who forced himself ahead of the others. Michael’s tricks were not new to him. Perhaps he, too, had studied in the school of Maître Falconard. He was a very devil. But there—in the shoulder. And even so, he was not finished. Others bore in from the sides. But to hurl the blazing pine-knot was a sickening thing. Straight at the chaise window it flew and Michael, catching it, hurled it back. But in that instant he was hit—a burning, stabbing pain in his side and the warm wet of blood. Then they bore him down, down into swimming darkness out of which he called to her. “Diane . . . Diane ...”
FAIX an’ troth, ’tis a fine prison, it is, taken all in all,” said Barney. “None better have I been thrown into. Shame on Ireland that Dublin Gaol is the best it can boast. Sure, next to this it looks like a hencoop no less and the straw here is neither moldy nor stale.”
Michael, despite the stiffness of hn side, the ringing ache of his head and the bitterness in his heart, was forced to smile at the spirit of a race that would compare the Bastille with Dublin Gaol and draw comfort from the fact that the straw in one was better than in the other. Michael found no comfort in that fact, but he was thankful that Barney had been permitted to share the same cell. Beyond a cracked skull and a face lined redly by rapier cuts, the O’Pray was undamaged and his spirits had suffered not at all.
“They didn’t make such quick work of us, your honor. And had Mark Rafferty, say, or me Uncle Thomas been there, it j would have been a different story. But | how, think ye, did they get wind of it?” “That I do not know. Nor does it matter,” said Michael with a shrug. “There were so many who wanted her and for it to be even whispered that she was running off with me. I dare say it is a serious offense in France to go off with a young lady for love, when a number of the courtiers want her for money. Even her picture they have taken from me.”
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Barney sighed deeply.
“We’ll be of stout heart and good spirits, your honor, an’ wax fat on cold water and black bread. It’s pampering us, they are here.”
The yellow sunlight of morning streamed down upon the straw where Sir Michael lay, his white ruffled linen shirt stained with blood and torn; mud dried upon his stockings and buckled shoes. He stretched, the pain in his side made him grimace and in his ears was a loud ringing.
“I hope they give us time to get well before they execute us,” announced the O’Pray, and with this cheery wish sat himself down in a corner.
In the days that followed, Barney had opportunity to relate his stories, endless though they were. No letters might the prisoners send out, and no visitors were permitted them; otherwise had Louvigny surely come to cheer them up. Two weeks went by, and Barney, so he said, w'as just becoming fond of his surroundings, when their gaoler, a merry, rolypoly little Gascon with a hook-nose and brown beard, announced that they would be taken away after nightfall.
“Where?” He shrugged, although Michael had not questioned him. “For what?” Again he shrugged. “Who can tell?” He spread his hands in a gesture of nescience, picked up the empty earthen amphora in which their water was brought and trundled out of the cell. • “We go from here this night,” explained Michael to his henchman, who knew no words of French save “yes” and “no” and often confused them. “The turnkey does not know where we are to be taken or what will be done with us.”
“Indeed a pleasant prospect,” said Barney.
The bells of the city—Orleans, Beaugency, Notre Dame de Paris—chimed and clanged sonorously at evening, and below and about them was the hum of the great metropolis. And somewhere there, mused Michael sadly, was Diane, alone with the little ghosts of all their splendid visions. Chin cupped on hands, even as his, no doubt she looked, too, into nothingness and had no thoughts but of him, as he thought only of her.
Continued on page 71
The King's Fool
Continued f rom page 67
They came when the prison-watch called the midnight hour, dark figures caped and booted, guided by the turnkey’s smoky lanthorn. The prisoners’ hands were bound; they marched with their silent guards down the prison corridors and out into the courtyard where no moon shone, where they could feel the dust whirling dry about their legs and shivered in the chill wind of night. Then they were placed in tumbrils and driven from the Bastille—surely, thought Michael to their death.
But the drive was long, too long for those who were to die. They passed out of Paris, the wooden wheels loud on the deserted highways. Barney O’Pray sang softly and Michael listening, thought of other nights, velvet, cool, magicked by the stars and the shadowed lakes of Ireland. This ride was interminable. The two guards who sat in the rear of the tumbril were as silent as mutes; the driver said an occasional word to his horses. It occurred to Michael that they were going to the sea—but why to the sea? Were they being sent back to Ireland or perhaps to be sold as slaves in the islands of the Antilles?
The tumbril rumbled down narrow lanes now, and dark against the dark sky he saw the tracery of spars and rigging; heard the gurgle and rush of the water and in his nostrils felt the salt sea savor and the smell of tar and fish.
They were hurried aboard a vessel —a small brig, as far as Michael could judge — and thrust below hatches into a windowless, evil-smelling cubbyhole with only sacks to lie on. The hatch above was battened down, the tramp of feet on the deck-planking receded and died, Barney O’Pray said, “Thanks be to God for this small favor—suffocation instead of guillotination or strangulation!” And then even he lapsed into silence and pillowed young Mohan’s throbbing head on his breast.
To be Continued