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Title: Lorraine - A romance
Author: Chambers, Robert W. (Robert William), 1865-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lorraine - A romance" ***

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    LORRAINE

    A ROMANCE

    By ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

    Author of "Cardigan,"
    "The Maid at Arms,"
    "The Maids of Paradise,"
    "The Fighting Chance," etc.


    A. L. BURT COMPANY
    Publishers New York

    Published by arrangement with Harper & Brothers

    Copyright, 1897, by Harper & Brothers.

    All rights reserved.



    TO
    MY FATHER



    LORRAINE!

    _When Yesterday shall dawn again,
    And the long line athwart the hill
    Shall quicken with the bugle's thrill,
    Thine own shall come to thee, Lorraine!_

    _Then in each vineyard, vale, and plain,
    The quiet dead shall stir the earth
    And rise, reborn, in thy new birth--
    Thou holy martyr-maid, Lorraine!_

    _Is it in vain thy sweet tears stain
    Thy mother's breast? Her castled crest
    Is lifted now! God guide her quest!
    She seeks thine own for thee, Lorraine!_

    _So Yesterday shall live again,
    And the steel line along the Rhine
    Shall cuirass thee and all that's thine.
    France lives--thy France--divine Lorraine!_

    R. W. C.



    ACKNOWLEDGMENT

    The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to the
    valuable volumes of Messrs. Victor Duruy, Archibald Forbes,
    Sir William Fraser, Dr. J. von Pflugk-Harttung, G.
    Tissandier, Comdt. Grandin, and "Un Officier de Marine,"
    concerning (wholly or in part) the events of 1870-1871.

    Occasionally the author has deemed it best to change the
    names of villages, officers, and regiments or battalions.

    The author believes that the romance separated from the
    facts should leave the historical basis virtually accurate.

    R. W. C.

    New York, September, 1897.



  CONTENTS

    CHAPTER                                      PAGE

         I. A Maker of Maps                         1

        II. Telegrams for Two                      11

       III. Summer Thunder                         20

        IV. The Farandole                          30

         V. Cowards and Their Courage              39

        VI. Trains East and West                   51

       VII. The Road To Paradise                   59

      VIII. Under the Yoke                         63

        IX. Saarbrück                              79

         X. An Unexpected Encounter                95

        XI. "Keep Thy Faith"                      102

       XII. From the Frontier                     116

      XIII. Aide-de-camp                          131

       XIV. The Marquis Makes Himself Agreeable   139

        XV. The Invasion of Lorraine              157

       XVI. "In the Hollow of Thy Hand"           171

      XVII. The Keepers of the House              179

     XVIII. The Stretching of Necks               190

       XIX. Rickerl's Sabre                       205

        XX. Sir Thorald Is Silent                 213

       XXI. The White Cross                       226

      XXII. A Door Is Locked                      239

     XXIII. Lorraine Sleeps                       250

      XXIV. Lorraine Awakes                       258

       XXV. Princess Imperial                     270

      XXVI. The Shadow of Pomp                    278

     XXVII. Ça Ira!                               285

    XXVIII. The Braconnier                        297

      XXIX. The Message of the Flag               306

       XXX. The Valley of the Shadow              324

      XXXI. The Prophecy of Lorraine              334



LORRAINE

I

A MAKER OF MAPS


There was a rustle in the bushes, the sound of twigs snapping, a
soft foot-fall on the dead leaves.

Marche stopped, took his pipe out of his mouth, and listened.

Patter! patter! patter! over the crackling underbrush, now near,
now far away in the depths of the forest; then sudden silence,
the silence that startles.

He turned his head warily, right, left; he knelt noiselessly,
striving to pierce the thicket with his restless eyes. After a
moment he arose on tiptoe, unslung his gun, cocked both barrels,
and listened again, pipe tightly clutched between his white
teeth.

All around lay the beautiful Lorraine forests, dim and sweet,
dusky as velvet in their leafy depths. A single sunbeam, striking
obliquely through the brush tangle, powdered the forest mould
with gold.

He heard the little river Lisse, flowing, flowing, where green
branches swept its placid surface with a thousand new-born
leaves; he heard a throstle singing in the summer wind.

Suddenly, far ahead, something gray shambled loosely across the
path, leaped a brush heap, slunk under a fallen tree, and loped
on again.

For a moment Marche refused to believe his own eyes. A wolf in
Lorraine!--a big, gray timber-wolf, here, within a mile of the
Château Morteyn! He could see it yet, passing like a shadow along
the trees. Before he knew it he was following, running noiselessly
over the soft, mossy path, holding his little shot-gun tightly. As
he ran, his eyes fixed on the spot where the wolf had disappeared,
he began to doubt his senses again, he began to believe that the
thing he saw was some shaggy sheep-dog from the Moselle, astray in
the Lorraine forests. But he held his pace, his pipe griped in his
teeth, his gun swinging at his side. Presently, as he turned into
a grass-grown carrefour, a mere waste of wild-flowers and tangled
briers, he caught his ankle in a strand of ivy and fell headlong.
Sprawling there on the moss and dead leaves, the sound of human
voices struck his ear, and he sat up, scowling and rubbing his
knees.

The voices came nearer; two people were approaching the carrefour.
Jack Marche, angry and dirty, looked through the bushes, stanching
a long scratch on his wrist with his pocket-handkerchief. The people
were in sight now--a man, tall, square-shouldered, striding swiftly
through the woods, followed by a young girl. Twice she sprang
forward and seized him by the arm, but he shook her off roughly
and hastened on. As they entered the carrefour, the girl ran in
front of him and pushed him back with all her strength.

"Come, now," said the man, recovering his balance, "you had
better stop this before I lose patience. Go back!"

The girl barred his way with slender arms out-stretched.

"What are you doing in my woods?" she demanded. "Answer me! I
will know, this time!"

"Let me pass!" sneered the man. He held a roll of papers in one
hand; in the other, steel compasses that glittered in the sun.

"I shall not let you pass!" she said, desperately; "you shall not
pass! I wish to know what it means, why you and the others come
into my woods and make maps of every path, of every brook, of
every bridge--yes, of every wall and tree and rock! I have seen
you before--you and the others. You are strangers in my country!"

"Get out of my path," said the man, sullenly.

"Then give me that map you have made! I know what you are! You
come from across the Rhine!"

The man scowled and stepped towards her.

"You are a German spy!" she cried, passionately.

"You little fool!" he snarled, seizing her arm. He shook her
brutally; the scarlet skirts fluttered, a little rent came in the
velvet bodice, the heavy, shining hair tumbled down over her
eyes.

In a moment Marche had the man by the throat. He held him there,
striking him again and again in the face. Twice the man tried to
stab him with the steel compasses, but Marche dragged them out of
his fist and hammered him until he choked and spluttered and
collapsed on the ground, only to stagger to his feet again and
lurch into the thicket of second growth. There he tripped and
fell as Marche had fallen on the ivy, but, unlike Marche, he
wriggled under the bushes and ran on, stooping low, never
glancing back.

The impulse that comes to men to shoot when anything is running
for safety came over Marche for an instant. Instinctively he
raised his gun, hesitated, lowered it, still watching the running
man with cold, bright eyes.

"Well," he said, turning to the girl behind him, "he's gone now.
Ought I to have fired? Ma foi! I'm sorry I didn't! He has torn
your bodice and your skirt!"

The girl stood breathless, cheeks aflame, burnished tangled hair
shadowing her eyes.

"We have the map," she said, with a little gasp.

Marche picked up a crumpled roll of paper from the ground and
opened it. It contained a rough topographical sketch of the
surrounding country, a detail of a dozen small forest paths, a
map of the whole course of the river Lisse from its source to its
junction with the Moselle, and a beautiful plan of the Château de
Nesville.

"That is my house!" said the girl; "he has a map of my house! How
dare he!"

"The Château de Nesville?" asked Marche, astonished; "are you
Lorraine?"

"Yes! I'm Lorraine. Didn't you know it?"

"Lorraine de Nesville?" he repeated, curiously.

"Yes! How dares that German to come into my woods and make maps and
carry them back across the Rhine! I have seen him before--twice--drawing
and measuring along the park wall. I told my father, but he thinks only
of his balloons. I have seen others, too--other strange men in the
chase--always measuring or staring about or drawing. Why? What do
Germans want of maps of France? I thought of it all day--every day; I
watched, I listened in the forest. And do you know what I think?"

"What?" asked Marche.

She pushed back her splendid hair and faced him.

"War!" she said, in a low voice.

"War?" he repeated, stupidly. She stretched out an arm towards
the east; then, with a passionate gesture, she stepped to his
side.

"War! Yes! War! War! War! I cannot tell you how I know it--I ask
myself how--and to myself I answer: 'It is coming! I, Lorraine,
know it!'"

A fierce light flashed from her eyes, blue as corn-flowers in
July.

"It is in dreams I see and hear now--in dreams; and I see the
vineyards black with helmets, and the Moselle redder than the
setting sun, and over all the land of France I see bayonets,
moving, moving, like the Rhine in flood!"

The light in her eyes died out; she straightened up; her lithe
young body trembled.

"I have never before told this to any one," she said, faintly;
"my father does not listen when I speak. You are Jack Marche, are
you not?"

He did not answer, but stood awkwardly, folding and unfolding the
crumpled maps.

"You are the vicomte's nephew--a guest at the Château Morteyn?"
she asked.

"Yes," said Marche.

"Then you are Monsieur Jack Marche?"

He took off his shooting-cap and laughed frankly. "You find me
carrying a gun on your grounds," he said; "I'm sure you take me
for a poacher."

She glanced at his leggings.

"Now," he began, "I ask permission to explain; I am afraid that
you will be inclined to doubt my explanation. I almost doubt it
myself, but here it is. Do you know that there are wolves in
these woods?"

"Wolves?" she repeated, horrified.

"I saw one; I followed it to this carrefour."

She leaned against a tree; her hands fell to her sides.

There was a silence; then she said, "You will not believe what I
am going to say--you will call it superstition--perhaps
stupidity. But do you know that wolves have never appeared along
the Moselle except before a battle? Seventy years ago they were
seen before the battle of Colmar. That was the last time. And now
they appear again."

"I may have been mistaken," he said, hastily; "those shaggy
sheep-dogs from the Moselle are very much like timber-wolves in
colour. Tell me, Mademoiselle de Nesville, why should you believe
that we are going to have a war? Two weeks ago the Emperor spoke
of the perfect tranquillity of Europe." He smiled and added,
"France seeks no quarrels. Because a brute of a German comes
sneaking into these woods to satisfy his national thirst for
prying, I don't see why war should result."

"War did result," she said, smiling also, and glancing at his
torn shooting-coat; "I haven't even thanked you yet, Monsieur
Marche--for your victory."

With a sudden gesture, proud, yet half shy, she held out one
hand, and he took it in his own hands, bronzed and brier
scratched.

"I thought," she said, withdrawing her fingers, "that I ought to
give you an American 'shake hands.' I suppose you are wondering
why we haven't met before. There are reasons."

She looked down at her scarlet skirt, touched a triangular tear
in it, and, partly turning her head, raised her arms and twisted
the tangled hair into a heavy burnished knot at her neck.

"You wear the costume of Lorraine," he ventured.

"Is it not pretty? I love it. Alone in the house I always wear
it, the scarlet skirts banded with black, the velvet bodice and
silver chains--oh! he has broken my chain, too!"

He leaned on his gun, watching her, fascinated with the grace of
her white fingers twisting her hair.

"To think that you should have first seen me so! What will they
say at the Château Morteyn?"

"But I shall tell nobody," laughed Marche.

"Then you are very honourable, and I thank you. Mon Dieu, they
talk enough about me--you have heard them--do not deny it,
Monsieur Marche. It is always, 'Lorraine did this, Lorraine did
that, Lorraine is shocking, Lorraine is silly, Lorraine--' O
Dieu! que sais'je! Poor Lorraine!"

"Poor Lorraine!" he repeated, solemnly. They both laughed
outright.

"I know all about the house-party at the Château Morteyn," she
resumed, mending a tear in her velvet bodice with a hair-pin. "I
was invited, as you probably know, Monsieur Marche; but I did not
go, and doubtless the old vicomte is saying, 'I wonder why
Lorraine does not come?' and Madame de Morteyn replies, 'Lorraine
is a very uncertain quantity, my dear'--oh, I am sure that they
are saying these things."

"I think I heard some such dialogue yesterday," said Marche, much
amused. Lorraine raised her head and looked at him.

"You think I am a crazy child in tatters, neglected and wild as a
falcon from the Vosges. I know you do. Everybody says so, and
everybody pities me and my father. Why? Parbleu! he makes
experiments with air-ships that they don't understand. Voilà! As
for me, I am more than happy. I have my forest and my fields; I
have my horses and my books. I dress as I choose; I go where I
choose. Am I not happy, Monsieur Marche?"

"I should say," he admitted, "that you are."

"You see," she continued, with a pretty, confidential nod, "I can
talk to you because you are the vicomte's American nephew, and I
have heard all about you and your lovely sister, and it is all
right--isn't it?"

"It is," said Marche, fervently.

"Of course. Now I shall tell you why I did not go to the Château
and meet your sister and the others. Perhaps you will not
comprehend. Shall I tell you?"

"I'll try to comprehend," said Marche, laughing.

"Well, then, would you believe it? I--Lorraine de Nesville--have
outgrown my clothes, monsieur, and my beautiful new gowns are
coming from Paris this week, and then--"

"Then!" repeated Marche.

"Then you shall see," said Lorraine, gravely.

Jack, bewildered, fascinated, stood leaning on his gun, watching
every movement of the lithe figure before him.

"Until your gowns arrive, I shall not see you again?" he asked.

She looked up quickly.

"Do you wish to?"

"Very much!" he blurted out, and then, aware of the undue fervor
he had shown, repeated: "Very much--if you don't mind," in a
subdued but anxious voice.

Again she raised her eyes to his, doubtfully, perhaps a little
wistfully.

"It wouldn't be right, would it--until you are presented?"

He was silent.

"Still," she said, looking up into the sky, "I often come to the
river below, usually after luncheon."

"I wonder if there are any gudgeon there?" he said; "I could
bring a rod--"

"Oh, but are you coming? Is that right? I think there are fish
there," she added, innocently, "and I usually come after
luncheon."

"And when your gowns arrive from Paris--"

"Then! Then you shall see! Oh! I shall be a very different
person; I shall be timid and silent and stupid and awkward, and I
shall answer, 'Oui, monsieur;' 'Non, monsieur,' and you will
behold in me the jeune fille of the romances."

"Don't!" he protested.

"I shall!" she cried, shaking out her scarlet skirts full
breadth. "Good-by!"

In a second she had gone, straight away through the forest,
leaving in his ears the music of her voice, on his finger-tips
the touch of her warm hand.

He stood, leaning on his gun--a minute, an hour?--he did not
know.

Presently earthly sounds began to come back to drown the
delicious voice in his ears; he heard the little river Lisse,
flowing, flowing under green branches; he heard a throstle
singing in the summer wind; he heard, far in the deeper forest,
something passing--patter, patter, patter--over the dead leaves.



II

TELEGRAMS FOR TWO


Jack Marche tucked his gun under his arm and turned away along
the overgrown wood-road that stretched from the De Nesville
forests to the more open woods of Morteyn.

He walked slowly, puffing his pipe, pondering over his encounter with
the châtelaine of the Château de Nesville. He thought, too, of the old
Vicomte de Morteyn and his gentle wife, of the little house-party of
which he and his sister Dorothy made two, of Sir Thorald and Lady
Hesketh, their youthful and totally irresponsible chaperons on the
journey from Paris to Morteyn.

"They're lunching on the Lisse," he thought. "I'll not get a bite
if Ricky is there."

When Madame de Morteyn wrote to Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh on
the first of July, she asked them to chaperon her two nieces and
some other pretty girls in the American colony whom they might
wish to bring, for a month, to Morteyn.

"The devil!" said Sir Thorald when he read the letter; "am I to
pick out the girls, Molly?"

"Betty and I will select the men," said Lady Hesketh, sweetly;
"you may do as you please."

He did. He suggested a great many, and wrote a list for his wife.
That prudent young woman carefully crossed out every name, saying,
"Thorald! I am ashamed of you!" and substituted another list. She
had chosen, besides Dorothy Marche and Betty Castlemaine, the two
nieces in question, Barbara Lisle and her inseparable little German
friend, Alixe von Elster; also the latter's brother, Rickerl, or
Ricky, as he was called in diplomatic circles. She closed the list
with Cecil Page, because she knew that Betty Castlemaine, Madame
de Morteyn's younger niece, looked kindly, at times, upon this
blond giant.

And so it happened that the whole party invaded three first-class
compartments of an east-bound train at the Gare de l'Est, and
twenty-two hours later were trooping up the terrace steps of the
Château Morteyn, here in the forests and fragrant meadows of
Lorraine.

Madame de Morteyn kissed all the girls on both cheeks, and the
old vicomte embraced his nieces, Betty Castlemaine and Dorothy
Marche, and threatened to kiss the others, including Molly
Hesketh. He desisted, he assured them, only because he feared Sir
Thorald might feel bound to follow his example; to which Lady
Hesketh replied that she didn't care and smiled at the vicomte.

The days had flown very swiftly for all: Jack Marche taught
Barbara Lisle to fish for gudgeon; Betty Castlemaine tormented
Cecil Page to his infinitely miserable delight; Ricky von Elster
made tender eyes at Dorothy Marche and rowed her up and down the
Lisse; and his sister Alixe read sentimental verses under the
beech-trees and sighed for the sweet mysteries that young German
girls sigh for--heart-friendships, lovers, _Ewigkeit_--God knows
what!--something or other that turns the heart to tears until
everything slops over and the very heavens sob.

They were happy enough together in the Château and out-of-doors.
Little incidents occurred that might as well not have occurred,
but apparently no scars were left nor any incurable pang. True,
Molly Hesketh made eyes at Ricky von Elster; but she reproved him
bitterly when he kissed her hand in the orangery one evening;
true also that Sir Thorald whispered airy nothings into the
shell-like ear of Alixe von Elster until that German maiden could
not have repeated her German alphabet. But, except for the
chaperons, the unmarried people did well enough, as unmarried
people usually do when let alone.

So, on that cloudless day of July, 1870, Rickerl von Elster sat
in the green row-boat and tugged at the oars while Sir Thorald
smoked a cigar placidly and Lady Hesketh trailed her pointed
fingers over the surface of the water.

"Ricky, my son," said Sir Thorald, "you probably gallop better
than you row. Who ever heard of an Uhlan in a boat? Molly, take
his oars away."

"Ricky shall row me if he wishes," replied Molly Hesketh; "and
you do, don't you, Ricky? Thorald will set you on shore if you
want."

"I have no confidence in Uhlan officers," said her spouse,
darkly.

Rickerl looked pleased; perspiration stood on his blond eyebrows
and his broad face glowed.

"As an officer of cavalry in the Prussian army," he said, "and as
an attaché of the German Embassy in Paris, I suggest that we
return to first principles and rejoin our base of supplies."

"He's thirsty," said Molly, gravely. "The base of supplies, so
long cut loose from, is there under the willows, and I see six
feet two of Cecil Page carrying a case of bottles."

"Row, Ricky!" urged Sir Thorald; "they will leave nothing for
Uhlan foragers!"

The boat rubbed its nose against the mossy bank; Lady Hesketh
placed her fair hands in Ricky's chubby ones and sprang to the
shore.

"Cecil Page," she said, "I am thirsty. Where are the others?"

Betty and Dorothy looked out from their seat in the tall grass.

"Charles brought the hamper; there it is," said Cecil.

Barbara Lisle and sentimental little Alixe von Elster strolled up
and looked lovingly upon the sandwiches.

Cecil Page stood and sulked, until Dorothy took pity and made
room on the moss beside her.

"Can't you have a little mercy, Betty?" she whispered; "Cecil
moons like a wounded elephant."

So Betty smiled at him and asked for more salad, and Cecil
brought it and basked in her smiles.

"Where is Jack Marche?" asked Molly Hesketh. "Dorothy, your
brother went into the chase with a gun, and where is he?"

"What does he want to shoot in July? It's too late for rooks,"
said Sir Thorald, pouring out champagne-cup for Barbara Lisle.

"I don't know where Jack went," said Dorothy. "He heard one of
the keepers complain of the hawks, so, I suppose, he took a gun.
I wonder why that strange Lorraine de Nesville doesn't come to
call. I am simply dying to see her."

"I saw her once," observed Sir Thorald.

"You generally do," added his wife.

"What?"

"See what others don't."

Sir Thorald, a trifle disconcerted, applied himself to caviare
and, later, to a bottle of Moselle.

"She's a beauty, they say--" began Ricky, and might have
continued had he not caught the danger-signal in Molly Hesketh's
black eyes.

"Lorraine de Nesville," said Lady Hesketh, "is only a child of
seventeen. Her father makes balloons."

"Not the little, red, squeaky kind," added Sir Thorald; "Molly,
he is an amateur aeronaut."

"He'd much better take care of Lorraine. The poor child runs wild
all over the country. They say she rides like a witch on a
broom--"

"Astride?" cried Sir Thorald.

"For shame!" said his wife; "I--I--upon my word, I have heard
that she has done that, too. Ricky! what do you mean by yawning?"

Ricky had been listening, mouth open. He shut it hurriedly and
grew pink to the roots of his colourless hair.

Betty Castlemaine looked at Cecil, and Dorothy Marche laughed.

"What of it?" she said; "there is nobody here who would dare to!"

"Oh, shocking!" said little Alixe, and tried to look as though
she meant it.

At that moment Sir Thorald caught sight of Jack Marche, strolling
up through the trees, gun tucked under his left arm.

"No luncheon, no salad, no champagne-cup, no cigarette!" he
called; "all gone! all gone! Molly's smoked my last--"

"Jack Marche, where have you been?" demanded Molly Hesketh. "No,
you needn't dodge my accusing finger! Barbara, look at him!"

"It's a pretty finger--if Sir Thorald will permit me to say so,"
said Jack, laughing and setting his gun up against a tree.
"Dorrie, didn't you save any salad? Ricky, you devouring scourge,
there's not a bit of caviare! I'm hungry--Oh, thanks, Betty, you
did think of the prodigal, didn't you?"

"It was Cecil," she said, slyly; "I was saving it for him. What
did you shoot, Jack?"

"Now you people listen and I'll tell you what I didn't shoot."

"A poor little hawk?" asked Betty.

"No--a poor little wolf!"

In the midst of cries of astonishment and exclamations Sir
Thorald arose, waving a napkin.

"I knew it!" he said--"I knew I saw a wolf in the woods day
before yesterday, but I didn't dare tell Molly; she never
believes me."

"And you deliberately chose to expose us to the danger of being eaten
alive?" said Lady Hesketh, in an awful voice. "Ricky, I'm going to
get into that boat at once; Dorothy--Betty Castlemaine--bring Alixe
and Barbara Lisle. We are going to embark at once."

"Ricky and his boat-load of beauty," laughed Sir Thorald.
"Really, Molly, I hesitated to tell you because--I was afraid--"

"What, you horrid thing?--afraid he'd bite me?"

"Afraid you'd bite the wolf, my dear," he whispered so that
nobody but she heard it; "I say, Ricky, we ought to have a wolf
drive! What do you think?"

The subject started, all chimed in with enthusiasm except Alixe
von Elster, who sat with big, soulful eyes fixed on Sir Thorald
and trembled for that bad young man's precious skin.

"We have two weeks to stay yet," said Cecil, glancing
involuntarily at Betty Castlemaine; "we can get up a drive in a
week."

"You are not going, Cecil," said Betty, in a low voice, partly to
practise controlling him, partly to see him blush.

Lady Hesketh, however, took enough interest in the sport to
insist, and Jack Marche promised to see the head-keeper at once.

"I think I see him now," said Sir Thorald--"no, it's Bosquet's
boy from the post-office. Those are telegrams he's got."

The little postman's son came trotting across the meadow, waving
two blue envelopes.

"Monsieur le Capitaine Rickerl von Elster and Monsieur Jack
Marche--two telegrams this instant from Paris, messieurs! I
salute you." And he took off his peaked cap, adding, as he saw
the others, "Messieurs, mesdames," and nodded his curly, blond
head and smiled.

"Don't apologize--read your telegrams!" said Lady Hesketh; "dear
me! dear me! if they take you two away and leave Thorald, I
shall--I shall yawn!"

Ricky's broad face changed as he read his despatch; and Molly
Hesketh, shamelessly peeping over his shoulder, exclaimed, "It's
cipher! How stupid! Can you understand it, Ricky?"

Yes, Rickerl von Elster understood it well enough. He paled a
little, thrust the crumpled telegram into his pocket, and looked
vaguely at the circle of faces. After a moment he said, standing
very straight, "I must leave to-morrow morning."

"Recalled? Confound your ambassador, Ricky!" said Sir Thorald.
"Recalled to Paris in midsummer! Well, I'm--"

"Not to Paris," said Rickerl, with a curious catch in his
voice--"to Berlin. I join my regiment at once."

Jack Marche, who had been studying his telegram with puzzled
eyes, held it out to Sir Thorald.

"Can't make head or tail of it; can you?" he demanded.

Sir Thorald took it and read aloud: "New York _Herald_ offers you
your own price and all expenses. Cable, if accepted."

"'Cable, if accepted,'" repeated Betty Castlemaine; "accept
what?"

"Exactly! What?" said Jack. "Do they want a story? What do
'expenses' mean? I'm not going to Africa again if I know it."

"It sounds as though the _Herald_ wanted you for some expedition;
it sounds as if everybody knew about the expedition, except you.
Nobody ever hears any news at Morteyn," said Molly Hesketh,
dejectedly. "Are you going, Jack?"

"Going? Where?"

"Does your telegram throw any light on Jack's, Ricky?" asked Sir
Thorald.

But Rickerl von Elster turned away without answering.



III

SUMMER THUNDER


When the old vicomte was well enough to entertain anybody at all,
which was not very often, he did it skilfully. So when he filled
the Château with young people and told them to amuse themselves
and not bother him, the house-party was necessarily a success.

He himself sat all day in the sunshine, studying the week's Paris
newspapers with dim, kindly eyes, or played interminable chess
games with his wife on the flower terrace.

She was sixty; he had passed threescore and ten. They never
strayed far from each other. It had always been so from the
first, and the first was when Helen Bruce, of New York City,
married Georges Vicomte de Morteyn. That was long ago.

The chess-table stood on the terrace in the shadow of the
flower-crowned parapets; the old vicomte sat opposite his wife,
one hand touching the black knight, one foot propped up on a pile
of cushions. He pushed the knight slowly from square to square
and twisted his white imperial with stiff fingers.

"Helen," he asked, mildly, "are you bored?"

"No, dear."

Madame de Morteyn smiled at her husband and lifted a pawn in her
thin, blue-veined hand; but the vicomte had not finished, and she
replaced the pawn and leaned back in her chair, moving the two
little coffee-cups aside so that she could see what her husband
was doing with the knight.

From the lawn below came the chatter and laughter of girls. On
the edge of the lawn the little river Lisse glided noiselessly
towards the beech woods, whose depths, saturated with sunshine,
rang with the mellow notes of nesting thrushes.

The middle of July had found the leaves as fresh and tender as
when they opened in May, the willow's silver green cooled the
richer verdure of beach and sycamore; the round poplar leaves,
pale yellow and orange in the sunlight, hung brilliant as lighted
lanterns where the sun burned through.

"Helen?"

"Dear?"

"I am not at all certain what to do with my queen's knight. May I
have another cup of coffee?"

Madame de Morteyn poured the coffee from the little silver
coffee-pot.

"It is hot; be careful, dear."

The vicomte sipped his coffee, looking at her with faded eyes.
She knew what he was going to say; it was always the same, and
her answer was always the same. And always, as at that first
breakfast--their wedding-breakfast--her pale cheeks bloomed again
with a subtle colour, the ghost of roses long dead.

"Helen, are you thinking of that morning?"

"Yes, Georges."

"Of our wedding-breakfast--here--at this same table?"

"Yes, Georges."

The vicomte set his cup back in the saucer and, trembling, poured
a pale, golden liquid from a decanter into two tiny glasses.

"A glass of wine?--I have the honour, my dear--"

The colour touched her cheeks as their glasses met; the still air
tinkled with the melody of crystal touching crystal; a golden
drop fell from the brimming glasses. The young people on the lawn
below were very noisy.

She placed her empty glass on the table; the delicate glow in her
cheeks faded as skies fade at twilight. He, with grave head
leaning on his hand, looked vaguely at the chess-board, and saw,
mirrored on every onyx square, the eyes of his wife.

"Will you have the journals, dear?" she asked presently. She
handed him the _Gaulois_, and he thanked her and opened it,
peering closely at the black print.

After a moment he read: "M. Ollivier declared, in the Corps
Législatif, that 'at no time in the history of France has the
maintenance of peace been more assured than to-day.' Oh, that
journal is two weeks' old, Helen.

"The treaty of Paris in 1856 assured peace in the Orient, and the
treaty of Prague in 1866 assures peace in Germany," continued the
vicomte; "I don't see why it should be necessary for Monsieur
Ollivier to insist."

He dropped the paper on the stones and touched his white
mustache.

"You are thinking of General Chanzy," said his wife,
laughing--"you always twist your mustache like that when you're
thinking of Chanzy."

He smiled, for he was thinking of Chanzy, his sword-brother; and
the hot plains of Oran and the dusty columns of cavalry passed
before his eyes--moving, moving across a world of desert into the
flaming disk of the setting sun.

"Is to-day the 16th of July, Helen?"

"Yes, dear."

"Then Chanzy is coming back from Oran. I know you dread it. We
shall talk of nothing but Abd-el-Kader and Spahis and Turcos, and
how we lost our Kabyle tobacco at Bou-Youb."

She had heard all about it, too; she knew every étape of the 48th
of the Line--from the camp at Sathonay to Sidi-Bel-Abbès, and
from Daya to Djebel-Mikaidon. Not that she cared for sabres and
red trousers, but nothing that concerned her husband was
indifferent to her.

"I hope General Chanzy will come," she said, "and tell you all
about those poor Kabyles and the Legion and that horrid 2d
Zouaves that you and he laugh over. Are you tired, dear?"

"No. Shall we play? I believe it was my move. How warm it is in
the sun--no, don't stir, dear--I like it, and my gout is better
for it. What do you suppose all those young people are doing?
Hear Betty Castlemaine laugh! It is very fortunate for them,
Helen, that I married an American with an American's disregard of
French conventionalities."

"I am very strict," said his wife, smiling; "I can survey them en
chaperone."

"If you turn around. But you don't."

"I do when it is necessary," said Madame de Morteyn, indignantly;
"Molly Hesketh is there."

The vicomte laughed and picked up the knight again.

"You see," he said, waving it in the air, "that I also have
become a very good American. I think no evil until it comes, and
when it comes I say, 'Shocking!'"

"Georges!"

"That's what I say, my dear--"

"Georges!"

"There, dear, I won't tease. Hark! What is that?"

Madame de Morteyn leaned over the parapet.

"It is Jean Bosquet. Shall I speak to him?"

"Perhaps he has the Paris papers."

"Jean!" she called; and presently the little postman came
trotting up the long stone steps from the drive. Had he anything?
Nothing for Monsieur le Vicomte except a bundle of the week's
journals from Paris. So Madame de Morteyn took the papers, and
the little postman doffed his cap again and trotted away, blue
blouse fluttering and sabots echoing along the terrace pavement.

"I am tired of chess," said the old vicomte; "would you mind
reading the _Gaulois_?"

"The politics, dear?"

"Yes, the weekly summary--if it won't bore you."

"Tais toi! Écoute. This is dated July 3d. Shall I begin?"

"Yes, Helen."

She held the paper nearer and read: "'A Paris journal publishes a
despatch through l'agence Havas which declares that a deputation
from the Spanish Government has left Madrid for Berlin to offer
the crown of Spain to Leopold von Hohenzollern.'"

"What!" cried the vicomte, angrily. Two chessmen tipped over and
rolled among the others.

"It's what it says, mon ami; look--see--it is exactly as I read
it."

"Are those Spaniards crazy?" muttered the vicomte, tugging at his
imperial. "Look, Helen, read what the next day's journal says."

His wife unfolded the paper dated the 4th of July and found the
column and read: "'The press of Paris unanimously accuses the
Imperial Government of allowing Prim and Bismarck to intrigue
against the interests of France. The French ambassador, Count
Benedetti, interviewed the King of Prussia at Ems and requested
him to prevent Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern's acceptance. It
is rumoured that the King of Prussia declined to interfere.'"

Madame de Morteyn tossed the journal on to the terrace and opened
another.

"'On the 12th of July the Spanish ambassador to Paris informed
the Duc de Gramont, Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the Prince
von Hohenzollern renounces his candidacy to the Spanish throne.'"

"À la bonheur!" said the vicomte, with a sigh of relief; "that
settles the Hohenzollern matter. My dear, can you imagine France
permitting a German prince to mount the throne of Spain? It was
more than a menace--it was almost an insult. Do you remember
Count Bismarck when he was ambassador to France? He is a man who
fascinates me. How he used to watch the Emperor! I can see him
yet--those puffy, pale eyes! You saw him also, dear--you
remember, at Saint-Cloud?"

"Yes; I thought him brusque and malicious."

"I know he is at the bottom of this. I'm glad it is over. Did you
finish the telegraphic news?"

"Almost all. It says--dear me, Georges!--it says that the Duc de
Gramont refuses to accept any pledge from the Spanish ambassador
unless that old Von Werther--the German ambassador, you
know--guarantees that Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern will never
again attempt to mount the Spanish throne!"

There was a silence. The old vicomte stirred restlessly and
knocked over some more chessmen.

"Sufficient unto the day--" he said, at last; "the Duc de Gramont
is making a mistake to press the matter. The word of the Spanish
ambassador is enough--until he breaks it. General Lebœuf might
occupy himself in the interim--profitably, I think."

"General Lebœuf is minister of war. What do you mean, Georges?"

"Yes, dear, Lebœuf is minister of war."

"And you think this German prince may some time again--"

"I think France should be ready if he does. Is she ready? Not if
Chanzy and I know a Turco from a Kabyle. Perhaps Count Bismarck
wants us to press his king for guarantees. I don't trust him. If
he does, we should not oblige him. Gramont is making a grave
mistake. Suppose the King of Prussia should refuse and say it is
not his affair? Then we would be obliged to accept that answer,
or--"

"Or what, Georges?"

"Or--well, my dear--or fight. But Gramont is not wicked enough,
nor is France crazy enough, to wish to go to war over a
contingency--a possibility that might never happen. I foresee a
snub for our ambassador at Ems, but that is all. Do you care to
play any more? I tipped over my king and his castles."

"Perhaps it is an omen--the King of Prussia, you know, and his
fortresses. I feel superstitious, Georges!"

The vicomte smiled and set the pieces up on their proper squares.

"It is settled; the Spanish ambassador pledges his word that
Prince Hohenzollern will not be King of Spain. France should be
satisfied. It is my move, I believe, and I move so--check to you,
my dear!"

"I resign, dearest. Listen! Here come the children up the terrace
steps."

"But--but--Helen, you must not resign so soon. Why should you?"

"Because you are already beaten," she laughed, gently--"your king
and his castles and all his men! How headstrong you Chasseurs
d'Afrique are!"

"I'm not beaten!" said the old man, stoutly, and leaned closer
over the board. Then he also laughed, and said, "Tiens! tiens!
tiens!" and his wife rose and gave him her arm. Two pretty girls
came running up the terrace, and the old vicomte stood up,
crying: "Children! Naughty ones! I see you coming! Madame de
Morteyn has beaten me at chess. Laugh if you dare! Betty
Castlemaine, I see you smiling!"

"I?" laughed that young lady, turning her flushed face from her
aunt to her uncle.

"Yes, you did," repeated the vicomte, "and you are not the niece
that I love any more. Where have you been? And you, Dorothy
Marche?--your hair is very much tangled."

"We have been lunching by the Lisse," said Dorothy, "and Jack
caught a gudgeon; here it is."

"Pooh!" said the old vicomte; "I must show them how to fish.
Helen, I shall go fishing--"

"Some time," said his wife, gently. "Betty, where are the men?"

"Jack and Barbara Lisle are fishing; Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh
are in the green boat, and Ricky is rowing them. The others are
somewhere. Ricky got a telegram, and must go to Berlin."

"Tell Rickerl von Elster that his king is making mischief,"
laughed the vicomte, "and he may go back to Berlin when he
chooses." Then, smiling at the young, flushed faces, he leaned on
his wife's arm and passed slowly along the terrace towards the
house.

"I wonder why Lorraine has not come?" he said to his wife. "Won't
she come to-night for the dance?"

"Lorraine is a very sweet but a very uncertain girl," replied
Madame de Morteyn. She led him through the great bay-window
opening on the terrace, drew his easy-chair before his desk,
placed the journals before him, and, stooping, kissed him.

"If you want me, send Charles. I really ought to be with the
young people a moment. I wonder why Ricky must leave?"

"How far away are you going, Helen?"

"Only to the Lisse."

"Then I shall read about Monsieur Bismarck and his Spanish
friends until you come. The day is long without you."

They smiled at each other, and she sat down by the window.

"Read," she said; "I can see my children from here. I wonder why
Ricky is leaving?"

Suddenly, in the silence of the summer noon, far in the east, a
dull sound shook the stillness. Again they heard it--again, and
again--a deep boom, muttering, reverberating like summer thunder.

"Why should they fire cannon to-day, Helen?" asked the old man,
querulously. "Why should they fire cannon beyond the Rhine?"

"It is thunder," she said, gently; "it will storm before long."

"I am tired," said the vicomte. "Helen, I shall sleep. Sit by
me--so--no--nearer yet! Are the children happy?"

"Yes, dear."

"When the cannon cease, I shall fall asleep. Listen! what is
that?"

"A blackbird singing in the pear-tree."

"And what is that--that sound of galloping? Look out and see,
Helen."

"It is a gendarme riding fast towards the Rhine."



IV

THE FARANDOLE


That evening Dorothy Marche stood on the terrace in the moonlight
waving her plumed fan and listening to the orchestra from the
hamlet of Saint-Lys. The orchestra--two violins, a reed-pipe, a
biniou, and a harp--were playing away with might and main.
Through the bay-window she could see the crystal chandeliers
glittering with prismatic light, the slender gilded chairs, the
cabinets and canapés, golden, backed with tapestry; and
everywhere massed banks of ferns and lilies. They were dancing in
there; she saw Lady Hesketh floating in the determined grip of
Cecil Page, she saw Sir Thorald proudly prancing to the air of
the farandole; Betty Castlemaine, Jack, Alixe, Barbara Lisle
passed the window only to re-pass and pass again in a whirl of
gauze and filmy colour; and the swish! swish! swish! of silken
petticoats, and the rub of little feet on the polished floor grew
into a rhythmic, monotonous cadence, beating, beating the measure
of the farandole.

Dorothy waved her fan and looked at Rickerl, standing in the
moonlight beside her.

"Why won't you dance, Ricky?" she asked; "it is your last
evening, if you are determined to leave to-morrow." He turned to
her with an abrupt gesture; she thought he was going to speak,
but he did not, and after a moment she said: "Do you know what
that despatch from the New York _Herald_ to my brother means?"

"Yes," he said. His voice was dull, almost indifferent.

"Will you tell me?"

"Yes, to-morrow."

"Is--is it anything dangerous that they want him to do?"

"Yes."

"Ricky--tell me, then! You frighten me."

"To-morrow--perhaps to-night."

"Perhaps to-night?"

"If I receive another telegram. I expect to."

"Then, if you receive another despatch, we shall all know?"

Rickerl von Elster bent his head and laid a gloved hand lightly
on her own.

"I am very unhappy," he said, simply. "May we not speak of other
things?"

"Yes, Ricky," she said, faintly. He looked almost handsome there
in the moonlight, but under his evening dress the square build of
the Prussian trooper, the rigid back, and sturdy limbs were
perhaps too apparent for ideal civilian elegance. Dorothy looked
into his serious young face. He touched his blond mustache, felt
unconsciously for the sabre that was not dangling from his left
hip, remembered, coloured, and stood up even straighter.

"We are thinking of the same thing," said Dorothy; "I was trying
to recall that last time we met--do you remember? In Paris?"

He nodded; eyes fixed on hers.

"At the Diplomatic Ball?"

"Yes."

"And you were in uniform, and your sabre was very beautiful,
but--do you remember how it clashed and banged on the marble
stairway, and how the other attachés teased you until you tucked
it under your left arm? Dear me! I was fascinated by your
patent-leather sabre-tache, and your little spurs, that rang like
tiny chimes when you walked. What sentimental creatures young
girls are! Ne c'est pas, Ricky?"

"I have never forgotten that evening," he said, in a voice so low
that she leaned involuntarily nearer.

"We were very young then," she said, waving her fan.

"It was not a year ago."

"We were young," she repeated, coldly.

"Yet I shall never forget, Dorothy."

She closed her fan and began to examine the fluffy plumes. Her
cheeks were red, and she bit her lips continually.

"Do you particularly admire Molly Hesketh's hand?" she asked,
indifferently.

He turned crimson. How could she know of the episode in the
orangery? Know? There was no mystery in that; Molly Hesketh had
told her. But Rickerl von Elster, loyal in little things, saw but
one explanation--Dorothy must have seen him.

"Yes--I kissed her hand," he said. He did not add that Molly had
dared him.

Dorothy raised her head with an icy smile.

"Is it honourable to confess such a thing?" she asked, in steady
tones.

"But--but you knew it, for you saw me--" he stammered.

"I did not!" she flashed out, and walked straight into the house.

"Dorrie!" cried her brother as she swept by him, "what do you
think? Lorraine de Nesville is coming this evening!"

"Lorraine?" said his sister--"dear me, I am dying to see her."

"Then turn around," whispered Betty Castlemaine, leaning across
from Cecil's arm. "Oh, Dorrie! what a beauty!"

At the same moment the old vicomte rose from his gilded chair and
stepped forward to the threshold, saying, "Lorraine! Lorraine!
Then you have come at last, little bad one?" And he kissed her
white hands and led her to his wife, murmuring, "Helen, what
shall we do with the little bad one who never comes to bid two
old people good-day?"

"Ah, Lorraine!" said Madame de Morteyn; "kiss me, my child."

There she stood, her cheeks faintly touched with colour, her
splendid eyes shining like azure stars, the candle-light setting
her heavy hair aglow till it glistened and burned as molten ore
flashes in a crucible. They pressed around her; she saw, through
the flare of yellow light, a sea of rosy faces; a vague mist of
lace set with jewels; and she smiled at them while the colour
deepened in her cheeks. There was music in her ears and music in
her heart, and she was dancing now--dancing with a tall, bronzed
young fellow who held her strong and safe, and whose eyes
continually sought her own.

"You see," she said, demurely, "that my gowns came to-day from
Paris."

"It is a dream--this one," he said, smiling back into her eyes,
"but I shall never forget the scarlet skirt and little bodice of
velvet, and the silver chains, and your hair--"

"My hair? It is still on my head."

"It was tangled across your face--then."

"Taisez-vous, Monsieur Marche!"

"And you seem to have grown taller--"

"It is my ball-gown."

"And you do not cast down your eyes and say, 'Oui, monsieur,'
'Non, monsieur'--"

"Non, monsieur."

Again they laughed, looking into each other's eyes, and there was
music in the room and music in their hearts.

Presently the candle-light gave place to moonlight, and they
found themselves on the terrace, seated, listening to the voice
of the wind in the forest; and they heard the little river Lisse
among the rushes and the murmur of leaves on the eaves.

When they became aware of their own silence they turned to each
other with the gentle haste born of confusion, for each feared
that the other might not understand. Then, smiling, half fearful,
they reassured each other with their silence.

She was the first to break the stillness, hesitating as one who
breaks the seal of a letter long expected, half dreaded: "I came
late because my father was restless, and I thought he might need
me. Did you hear cannon along the Rhine?"

"Yes. Some German fête. I thought at first it might be thunder.
Give me your fan."

"You do not hold it right--there--"

"Do you feel the breeze? Your fan is perfumed--or is it the
lilies on the terrace? They are dancing again; must we go back?"

She looked out into the dazzling moonlight of Lorraine; a
nightingale began singing far away in the distant swamp; a bat
darted by, turned, rose, dipped, and vanished.

"They are dancing," she repeated.

"Must we go?"

"No."

In the stillness the nightingale grew bolder; the woods seemed
saturated with song.

"My father is restless; I must return soon," she said, with a
little sigh. "I shall go in presently and make my adieux. I wish
you might know my father. Will you? He would like you. He speaks
to few people except me. I know all that he thinks, all that he
dreams of. I know also all that he has done, all that he is
doing, all that he will do--God willing. Why is it I tell you
this? Ma foi, I do not know. And I am going to tell you more.
Have you heard that my father has made a balloon?"

"Yes--everybody speaks of it," he answered, gravely.

"But--ah, this is the wonderful part!--he has made a balloon that
can be inflated in five seconds! Think! All other balloons
require a long, long while, and many tubes; and one must take
them to a usine de gaz. My father's balloon needs no gas--that
is, it needs no common illuminating gas."

"A montgolfier?" asked Marche, curiously.

"Oh, pooh! The idea! No, it is like other balloons, except
that--well--there is needed merely a handful of silvery dust--to
which you touch a drop of water--piff! puff! c'est fini! The
balloon is filled."

"And what is this silvery dust?" he asked, laughing.

"Voilà! Do you not wish you knew? I--Lorraine de Nesville--I know!
It is a secret. If the time ever should come--in case of war, for
instance--my father will give the secret to France--freely--without
recompense--a secret that all the nations of Europe could not buy!
Now, don't you wish you knew, monsieur?"

"And you know?"

"Yes," she said, with a tantalizing toss of her head.

"Then you'd better look out," he laughed; "if European nations
get wind of this they might kidnap you."

"They know it already," she said, seriously. "Austria, Spain,
Portugal, and Russia have sent agents to my father--as though he
bought and sold the welfare of his country!"

"And that map-making fellow this morning--do you suppose he might
have been hanging about after that sort of thing--trying to pry
and pick up some scrap of information?"

"I don't know," she said, quietly; "I only saw him making maps.
Listen! there are two secrets that my father possesses, and they
are both in writing. I do not know where he keeps them, but I
know what they are. Shall I tell you? Then listen--I shall
whisper. One is the chemical formula for the silvery dust, the
gas of which can fill a balloon in five seconds. The other
is--you will be astonished--the plan for a navigable balloon!"

"Has he tried it?"

"A dozen times. I went up twice. It steers like a ship."

"Do people know this, too?"

"Germany does. Once we sailed, papa and I, up over our forest and
across the country to the German frontier. We were not very high;
we could see the soldiers at the custom-house, and they saw us,
and--would you believe it?--they fired their horrid guns at
us--pop! pop! pop! But we were too quick; we simply sailed back
again against the very air-currents that brought us. One bullet
made a hole in the silk, but we didn't come down. Papa says a
dozen bullets cannot bring a balloon down, even when they pierce
the silk, because the air-pressure is great enough to keep the
gas in. But he says that if they fire a shell, that is what is to
be dreaded, for the gas, once aflame!--that ends all. Dear me! we
talk a great deal of war--you and I. It is time for me to go."

They rose in the moonlight; he gave her back her fan. For a full
minute they stood silent, facing each other. She broke a lily
from its stem, and drew it out of the cluster at her breast. She
did not offer it, but he knew it was his, and he took it.

"Symbol of France," she whispered.

"Symbol of Lorraine," he said, aloud.

A deep boom, sullen as summer thunder, shook the echoes awake
among the shrouded hills, rolling, reverberating, resounding,
until the echoes carried it on from valley to valley, off into
the world of shadows.

The utter silence that followed was broken by a call, a gallop of
hoofs on the gravel drive, the clink of stirrups, the snorting of
hard-run horses.

Somebody cried, "A telegram for you, Ricky!" There was a patter
of feet on the terrace, a chorus of voices: "What is it, Ricky?"
"Must you go at once?" "Whatever is the matter?"

The young German soldier, very pale, turned to the circle of
lamp-lit faces.

"France and Germany--I--I--"

"What?" cried Sir Thorald, violently.

"War was declared at noon to-day!"

Lorraine gave a gasp and reached out one hand. Jack Marche took
it in both of his.

Inside the ballroom the orchestra was still playing the
farandole.



V

COWARDS AND THEIR COURAGE


Rickerl took the old vicomte's withered hand; he could not speak;
his sister Alixe was crying.

"War? War? Allons donc!" muttered the old man. "Helen! Ricky says
we are to have war. Helen, do you hear? War!"

Then Rickerl hurried away to dress, for he was to ride to the
Rhine, nor spare whip nor spur; and Barbara Lisle comforted
little Alixe, who wept as she watched the maids throwing
everything pell-mell into their trunks; for they, too, were to
leave at daylight on the Moselle Express for Cologne.

Below, a boy appeared, leading Rickerl's horse from the stables;
there were lanterns moving along the drive, and dark figures
passing, clustering about the two steaming horses of the
messengers, where a groom stood with a pail of water and a
sponge. Everywhere the hum of voices rose and died away like the
rumour of swarming bees. "War!" "War is declared!" "When?" "War
was declared to-day!" "When?" "War was declared to-day at noon!"
And always the burden of the busy voices was the same, menacing,
incredulous, half-whispered, but always the same--"War! war!
war!"

Booted and spurred, square-shouldered and muscular in his corded
riding-suit, Rickerl passed the terrace again after the last
adieux. The last? No, for as his heavy horse stamped out across
the drive a voice murmured his name, a hand fell on his arm.

"Dorothy," he whispered, bending from his saddle.

"I love you, Ricky," she gasped.

And they say women are cowards!

He lifted her to his breast, held her crushed and panting; she
put both hands before her eyes.

"There has never been any one but you; do you believe it?" he
stammered.

"Yes."

"Then you are mine!"

"Yes. May God spare you!"

And Rickerl, loyal in little things, swung her gently to the
ground again, unkissed.

There was a flurry of gravel, a glimpse of a horse rearing,
plunging, springing into the darkness--that was all. And she
crept back to the terrace with hot, tearless lids, that burned
till all her body quivered with the fever in her aching eyes. She
passed the orchestra, trudging back to Saint-Lys along the gravel
drive, the two fat violinists stolidly smoking their Alsacian
pipes, the harp-player muttering to the aged piper, the little
biniou man from the Côte-d'Or, excited, mercurial, gesticulating
at every step. War! war! war! The burden of the ghastly monotone
was in her brain, her tired heart kept beating out the cadence
that her little slippered feet echoed along the gravel--War! war!

At the foot of the steps which skirted the terrace she met her
brother and Lorraine watching the groom rubbing down the
messengers' horses. A lantern, glimmering on the ground, shed a
sickly light under their eyes.

"Dorrie," said Jack, "Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh think that we all
should start for Paris by the early train. They have already sent
some of our trunks to Saint-Lys; Mademoiselle de Nesville"--he
turned with a gesture almost caressing to Lorraine--"Mademoiselle
de Nesville has generously offered her carriage to help transport
the luggage, and she is going to wait until it returns."

"And uncle--and our aunt De Morteyn?"

"I shall stay at Morteyn until they decide whether to close the
house and go to Paris or to stay until October. Dorrie, dear, we
are very near the frontier here."

"There will be no invasion," said Lorraine, faintly.

"The Rhine is very near," repeated Dorothy. She was thinking of
Rickerl.

"So you and Betty and Cecil," continued Jack, "are to go with the
Heskeths to Paris. Poor little Alixe is crying her eyes out
up-stairs. She and Barbara Lisle are going to Cologne, where
Ricky will either find them or have his father meet them."

After a moment he added, "It seems incredible, this news. They
say, in the village, that the King of Prussia insulted the French
ambassador, Count Benedetti, on the public promenade of Ems. It's
all about that Hohenzollern business and the Spanish succession.
Everybody thought it was settled, of course, because the Spanish
ambassador said so, and Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern withdrew
his claim. I can't understand it; I can scarcely believe it."

Dorothy stood a moment, looking at the stars in the midnight
sky. Then she turned with a sigh to Lorraine.

"Good-night," she said, and they kissed each other, these two
young girls who an hour before had been strangers.

"Shall I see you again? We leave by the early train," whispered
Dorothy.

"No--I must return when my carriage comes back from the village.
Good-by, dear--good-by, dear Dorothy."

A moment later, Dorothy, flinging her short ermine-edged cloak
from her shoulders, entered the empty ballroom and threw herself
upon the gilded canapé.

One by one the candles spluttered, glimmered, flashed up, and
went out, leaving a trail of smoke in the still air. Up-stairs
little Alixe was sobbing herself to sleep in Barbara's arms; in
his own chamber the old vicomte paced to and fro, and to and fro,
and his sweet-faced wife watched him in silence, her thin hand
shading her eyes in the lamplight. In the next room Sir Thorald
and Lady Hesketh sat close together, whispering. Only Betty
Castlemaine and Cecil Page had lost little of their cheerfulness,
perhaps because neither were French, and Cecil was not going to
the war, and--after all, war promised to be an exciting thing,
and well worth the absorbed attention of two very young lovers.
Arm in arm, they promenaded the empty halls and galleries,
meeting no one save here and there a pale-faced maid or scared
flunky; and at length they entered the gilded ballroom where
Dorothy lay, flung full length on the canapé.

She submitted to Betty's caresses, and went away to bed with her,
saying good-night to Cecil in a tear-choked voice; and a moment
later Cecil sought his own chamber, lighted a pipe, and gave
himself up to delightful visions of Betty, protected from several
Prussian army-corps by the single might of his strong right arm.

At the foot of the terrace, Lorraine de Nesville stood with Jack,
watching the dark drive for the lamps of the returning carriage.
Her maid loitered near, exchanging whispered gossip with the
groom, who now stood undecided, holding both horses and waiting
for orders. Presently Jack asked him where the messengers were,
and he said he didn't know, but that they had perhaps gone to the
kitchens for refreshments.

"Go and find them, then; here, give me the bridles," said Jack;
"if they are eating, let them finish; I'll hold their horses. Why
doesn't Mademoiselle de Nesville's carriage come back from
Saint-Lys? When you leave the kitchens, go down the road and look
for it. Tell them to hurry."

The groom touched his cap and hastened away.

"I wish the carriage would come--I wish the carriage would
hurry," repeated Lorraine, at intervals. "My father is alone; I
am nervous, I don't know why. What are you reading?"

"My telegram from the New York _Herald_," he answered,
thoughtfully.

"It is easy to understand now," she said.

"Yes, easy to understand. They want me for war correspondent."

"Are you going?"

"I don't know--" He hesitated, trying to see her eyes in the
darkness. "I don't know; shall you stay here in the Moselle
Valley?"

"Yes--I suppose so."

"You are very near the Rhine."

"There will be--there shall be no invasion," she said,
feverishly. "France also ends at the Rhine; let them look to
their own!"

She moved impatiently, stepped from the stones to the damp
gravel, and walked slowly across the misty lawn. He followed,
leading the horses behind him and holding his telegram open in
his right hand. Presently she looked back over her shoulder, saw
him following, and waited.

"Why, will you go as war correspondent?" she asked when he came
up, leading the saddled horses.

"I don't know; I was on the _Herald_ staff in New York; they gave
me a roving commission, which I enjoyed so much that I resigned
and stayed in Paris. I had not dreamed that I should ever be
needed--I did not think of anything like this."

"Have you never seen war?"

"Nothing to speak of. I was the _Herald's_ representative at
Sadowa, and before that I saw some Kabyles shot in Oran. Where
are you going?"

"To the river. We can hear the carriage when it comes, and I want
to see the lights of the Château de Nesville."

"From the river? Can you?"

"Yes--the trees are cut away north of the boat-house. Look! I
told you so. My father is there alone."

Far away in the night the lights of the Château de Nesville
glimmered between the trees, smaller, paler, yellower than the
splendid stars that crowned the black vault above the forest.

After a silence she reached out her hand abruptly and took the
telegram from between his fingers. In the starlight she read it,
once, twice; then raised her head and smiled at him.

"Are you going?"

"I don't know. Yes."

"No," she said, and tore the telegram into bits.

One by one she tossed the pieces on to the bosom of the placid
Lisse, where they sailed away towards the Moselle like dim, blue
blossoms floating idly with the current.

"Are you angry?" she whispered.

He saw that she was trembling, and that her face had grown very
pale.

"What is the matter?" he asked, amazed.

"The matter--the matter is this: I--I--Lorraine de Nesville--am
afraid! I am afraid! It is fear--it is fear!"

"Fear?" he asked, gently.

"Yes!" she cried. "Yes, it is fear! I cannot help it--I never
before knew it--that I--I could be afraid. Don't--don't leave
us--my father and me!" she cried, passionately. "We are so alone
there in the house--I fear the forest--I fear--"

She trembled violently; a wolf howled on the distant hill.

"I shall gallop back to the Château de Nesville with you," he said;
"I shall be close beside you, riding by your carriage-window. Don't
tremble so--Mademoiselle de Nesville."

"It is terrible," she stammered; "I never knew I was a coward."

"You are anxious for your father," he said, quietly; "you are no
coward!"

"I am--I tremble--see! I shiver."

"It was the wolf--"

"Ah, yes--the wolf that warned us of war! and the men--that one who
made maps; I never could do again what I did! Then I was afraid of
nothing; now I fear everything--the howl of that beast on the hill,
the wind in the trees, the ripple of the Lisse--C'est plus fort que
moi--I am a coward. Listen! Can you hear the carriage?"

"No."

"Listen--ah, listen!"

"It is the noise of the river."

"The river? How black it is! Hark!"

"The wind."

"Hark!"

"The wind again--"

"Look!" She seized his arm frantically. "Look! Oh, what--what was
that?"

The report of a gun, faint but clear, came to their ears.
Something flashed from the lighted windows of the Château de
Nesville--another flash broke out--another--then three dull
reports sounded, and the night wind spread the echoes broadcast
among the wooded hills.

For a second she stood beside him, white, rigid, speechless; then
her little hand crushed his arm and she pushed him violently
towards the horses.

"Mount!" she cried; "ride! ride!"

Scarcely conscious of what he did, he backed one of the horses,
seized the gathered bridle and mane, and flung himself astride.
The horse reared, backed again, and stood stamping. At the same
instant he swung about in his saddle and cried, "Go back to the
house!"

But she was already in the saddle, guiding the other horse, her
silken skirts crushed, her hair flying, sawing at the bridle-bit
with gloved fingers. The wind lifted the cloak on her shoulders,
her little satin slipper sought one stirrup.

"Ride!" she gasped, and lashed her horse.

He saw her pass him in a whirl of silken draperies streaming in
the wind; the swan's-down cloak hid her body like a cloud. In a
second he was galloping at her bridle-rein; and both horses, nose
to nose and neck to neck, pounded across the gravel drive,
wheeled, leaped forward, and plunged down the soft wood road,
straight into the heart of the forest. The lace from her corsage
fluttered in the air; the lilies at her breast fell one by one,
strewing the road with white blossoms. The wind loosened her
heavy hair to the neck, seized it, twisted it, and flung it out
on the wind. Under the clusters of ribbon on her shoulders there
was a gleam of ivory; her long gloves slipped to the wrists; her
hair whipped the rounded arms, bare and white below the riotous
ribbons, snapping and fluttering on her shoulders; her cloak
unclasped at the throat and whirled to the ground, trampled into
the forest mould.

They struck a man in the darkness; they heard him shriek; the
horses staggered an instant, that was all, except a gasp from the
girl, bending with whitened cheeks close to her horse's mane.

"Look out! A lantern!--close ahead!" panted Marche.

The sharp crack of a revolver cut him short, his horse leaped
forward, the blood spurting from its neck.

"Are you hit?" he cried.

"No! no! Ride!"

Again and again, but fainter and fainter, came the crack! crack!
of the revolver, like a long whip snapped in the wind.

"Are you hit?" he asked again.

"Yes, it is nothing! Ride!"

In the darkness and confusion of the plunging horses he managed
to lean over to her where she bent in her saddle; and, on one
white, round shoulder, he saw the crimson welt of a bullet, from
which the blood was welling up out of the satin skin.

And now, in the gloom, the park wall loomed up along the river,
and he shouted for the lodge-keeper, rising in his stirrups; but
the iron gate swung wide, and the broad, empty avenue stretched
up to the Château.

They galloped up to the door; he slipped from his horse, swung
Lorraine to the ground, and sprang up the low steps. The door was
open, the long hall brilliantly lighted.

"It is I--Lorraine!" cried the girl. A tall, bearded man burst in
from a room on the left, clutching a fowling-piece.

"Lorraine! They've got the box! The balloon secret was in it!" he
groaned; "they are in the house yet--" He stared wildly at Marche,
then at his daughter. His face was discoloured with bruises, his
thick, blond hair fell in disorder across steel-blue eyes that
gleamed with fury.

Almost at the same moment there came a crash of glass, a heavy
fall from the porch, and then a shot.

In an instant Marche was at the door; he saw a game-keeper raise
his gun and aim at him, and he shrank back as the report roared
in his ears.

"You fool!" he shouted; "don't shoot at me! drop your gun and
follow!" He jumped to the ground and started across the garden
where a dark figure was clutching the wall and trying to climb to
the top. He was too late--the man was over; but he followed,
jumped, caught the tiled top, and hurled himself headlong into
the bushes below.

Close to him a man started from the thicket, and ran down the wet
road--splash! splash! slop! slop! through the puddles; but Marche
caught him and dragged him down into the mud, where they rolled
and thrashed and spattered and struck each other. Twice the man
tore away and struggled to his feet, and twice Marche fastened to
his knees until the huge, lumbering body swayed and fell again.
It might have gone hard with Jack, for the man suddenly dropped
the steel box he was clutching to his breast and fell upon the
young fellow with a sullen roar. His knotted, wiry fingers had
already found Jack's throat; he lifted the young fellow's head
and strove to break his neck. Then, in a flash, he leaped back
and lifted a heavy stone from the wall; at the same instant
somebody fired at him from the wall; he wheeled and sprang into
the woods.

That was all Jack Marche knew until a lantern flared in his
eyes, and he saw Lorraine's father, bright-eyed, feverish,
dishevelled, beside him.

"Raise him!" said a voice that he knew was Lorraine's.

They lifted Jack to his knees; he stumbled to his feet, torn,
bloody, filthy with mud, but in his arms, clasped tight, was the
steel box, intact.

"Lorraine!--my box!--look!" cried her father, and the lantern
shook in his hands as he clutched the casket.

But Lorraine stepped forward and flung both arms around Jack
Marche's neck.

Her face was deadly pale; the blood oozed from the wounded
shoulder. For the first time her father saw that she had been
shot. He stared at her, clutching the steel box in his nervous
hands.

With all the strength she had left she crushed Jack to her and
kissed him. Then, weak with the loss of blood, she leaned on her
father.

"I am going to faint," she whispered; "help me, father."



VI

TRAINS EAST AND WEST


It was dawn when Jack Marche galloped into the court-yard of the
Château Morteyn and wearily dismounted. People were already
moving about the upper floors; servants stared at him as he
climbed the steps to the terrace; his face was scratched, his
clothes smeared with caked mud and blood.

He went straight to his chamber, tore off his clothes, took a
hasty plunge in a cold tub, and rubbed his aching limbs until
they glowed. Then he dressed rapidly, donned his riding breeches
and boots, slipped a revolver into his pocket, and went
down-stairs, where he could already hear the others at breakfast.

Very quietly and modestly he told his story between sips of
café-au-lait.

"You see," he ended, "that the country is full of spies, who
hesitate at nothing. There were three or four of them who tried
to rob the Château; they seem perfectly possessed to get at the
secrets of the Marquis de Nesville's balloons. There is no doubt
but that for months past they have been making maps of the whole
region in most minute detail; they have evidently been expecting
this war for a long time. Incidentally, now that war is declared,
they have opened hostilities on their own account."

"You did for some of them?" asked Sir Thorald, who had been
fidgeting and staring at Jack through a gold-edged monocle.

"No--I--we rode down and trampled a man in the dark; I should
think it would have been enough to brain him, but when I galloped
back just now he was gone, and I don't know how badly he was
hit."

"But the fellow that started to smash you with a
paving-stone--the Marquis de Nesville fired at him, didn't he?"
insisted Sir Thorald.

"Yes, I think he hit him, but it was a long shot. Lorraine was
superb--"

He stopped, colouring up a little.

"She did it all," he resumed--"she rode through the woods like a
whirlwind! Good heavens! I never saw such a cyclone incarnate!
And her pluck when she was hit!--and then very quietly she went
to her father and fainted in his arms."

Jack had not told all that had happened. The part that he had not
told was the part that he thought of most--Lorraine's white arms
around his neck and the touch of her innocent lips on his
forehead. In silent consternation the young people listened;
Dorothy slipped out of her chair and came and rested her hands on
her brother's shoulder; Betty Castlemaine looked at Cecil with
large, questioning eyes that asked, "Would you do something
heroic for me?" and Cecil's eyes replied, "Oh, for a chance to
annihilate a couple of regiments!" This pleased Betty, and she
ate a muffin with appreciation. The old vicomte leaned heavily on
his elbow and looked at his wife, who sat opposite, pallid and
eating nothing. He had decided to remain at Morteyn, but this
episode disquieted him--not on his own account.

"Helen," he said, "Jack and I will stay, but you must go with the
children. There is no danger--there can be no invasion, for our
troops will be passing here by night; I only wish to be sure
that--that in case--in case things should go dreadfully wrong,
you would not be compelled to witness anything unpleasant."

Madame de Morteyn shook her head gently.

"Why speak of it?" she said; "you know I will not go."

"I'll stay, too," said Sir Thorald, eagerly; "Cecil and Molly can
take the children to Paris; Madame de Morteyn, you really should
go also."

She leaned back and shook her head decisively.

"Then you will both come, you and Madame de Morteyn?" urged Lady
Hesketh of the vicomte.

The old man hesitated. His wife smiled. She knew he could not
leave in the face of the enemy; she had been the wife of this old
African campaigner for thirty years, and she knew what she knew.

"Helen--" he began.

"Yes, dear, we will both stay; the city is too hot in July," she
said; "Sir Thorald, some coffee? No more? Betty, you want another
muffin?--they are there by Cecil. Children, I think I hear the
carriages coming; you must not make Lady Hesketh wait."

"I have half a mind to stay," said Molly Hesketh. Sir Thorald
said she might if she wanted to enlist, and they all tried to
smile, but the sickly gray of early morning, sombre, threatening,
fell on faces haggard with foreboding--young faces, too, lighted
by the pale flames of the candles.

Alixe von Elster and Barbara Lisle went first; there were tears
and embraces, and au revoirs and aufwiedersehens.

Little Alixe blanched and trembled when Sir Thorald bent over
her, not entirely unconscious of the havoc his drooping mustache
and cynical eyes had made in her credulous German bosom. Molly
Hesketh kissed her, wishing that she could pinch her; and so they
left, tearful, anxious, to be driven to Courtenay, and whirled
from there across the Rhine to Cologne.

Sir Thorald and Lady Hesketh lingered on the terrace after the
others had returned to the breakfast-room.

"Thorald," she said, "you are a brute!"

"Eh?" cried Sir Thorald.

"You're a brute!"

"Molly, what the deuce is the matter?"

"Nothing--if you ever see her again, I'll tell Ricky."

"I might say the same thing in regard to Ricky, my dear," said
Sir Thorald, mildly.

"It is not true," she said; "I did no damage to him; and you
know--you know down in the depths of your fickle soul that--that--"

"What, my dear?"

"Never mind!" said Molly, sharply; but she crimsoned when he
kissed her, and held tightly to his sleeve.

"Good ged!" thought Sir Thorald; "what a devil I am with women!"

But now the carriages drove up--coupés, dog-carts, and a
victoria.

"They say we ought not to miss this train," said Cecil, coming
from the stables and flourishing a whip; "they say the line may
be seized for government use exclusively in a few hours."

The old house-keeper, Madame Paillard, nodded and pointed to her
son, the under-keeper.

"François says, Monsieur Page, that six trains loaded with troops
passed through Saint-Lys between midnight and dawn; dis,
François, c'est le Sieur Bosz qui t'a renseigné--pas?"

"Oui, mamam!"

"Then hurry," said Lady Hesketh. "Thorald, call the others."

"I," said Cecil, "am going to drive Betty in the dog-cart."

"She'll probably take the reins," said Sir Thorald, cynically.

Cecil brandished his whip and looked determined; but it was Betty
who drove him to Saint-Lys station, after all.

The adieux were said, even more tearfully this time. Jack kissed
his sister tenderly, and she wept a little on his shoulder--thinking
of Rickerl.

One by one the vehicles rolled away down the gravel drive; and
last of all came Molly Hesketh in the coupé with Jack Marche.

Molly was sad and a trifle distraite. Those periodical mental
illuminations during which she discovered for the thousandth and odd
time that she loved her husband usually left her fairly innocuous.
But she was a born flirt; the virus was bred in the bone, and after
the first half-mile she opened her batteries--her eyes--as a matter
of course on Jack.

What she got for her pains was a little sermon ending, "See here,
Molly--three years ago you played the devil with me until I
kissed you, and then you were furious and threatened to tell Sir
Thorald. The truth is, you're in love with him, and there is no
more harm in you than there is in a china kitten."

"Jack!" she gasped.

"And," he resumed, "you live in Paris, and you see lots of things
and you hear lots of things that you don't hear and see in
Lincolnshire. But you're British, Molly, and you are domestic,
although you hate the idea, and there will never be a desolated
hearth in the Hesketh household as long as you speak your
mother-tongue and read Anthony Trollope."

The rest of the road was traversed in silence. They rattled over
the stones in the single street of Saint-Lys, rolled into the
gravel oval behind the Gare, and drew up amid a hubbub of
restless teams, market-wagons, and station-trucks.

"See the soldiers!" said Jack, lifting Lady Hesketh to the
platform, where the others were already gathered in a circle. A
train was just gliding out of the station, bound eastward, and
from every window red caps projected and sunburned, boyish faces
expanded into grins as they saw Lady Hesketh and her charges.

"Vive l'Angleterre!" they cried. "Vive Madame la Reine! Vive
Johnbull et son rosbif!" the latter observation aimed at Sir
Thorald.

Sir Thorald waved his eye-glass to them condescendingly; faster
and faster moved the train; the red caps and fresh, tanned
faces, the laughing eyes became a blur and then a streak; and far
down the glistening track the faint cheers died away and were
drowned in the roar of the wheels--little whirling wheels that
were bearing them merrily to their graves at Wissembourg.

"Here comes our train," said Cecil. "Jack, my boy, you'll
probably see some fun; take care of your hide, old chap!" He
didn't mean to be patronizing, but he had Betty demurely leaning
on his arm, and--dear me!--how could he help patronizing the
other poor devils in the world who had not Betty, and who never
could have Betty?

"Montez, madame, s'il vous plait!--Montez, messieurs!" cried the
Chef de Gare; "last train for Paris until Wednesday! All aboard!"
and he slammed and locked the doors, while the engineer, leaning
impatiently from his cab, looked back along the line of cars and
blew his whistle warningly.

"Good-by, Dorrie!" cried Jack.

"Good-by, my darling Jack! Be careful; you will, won't you?" But
she was still thinking of Rickerl, bless her little heart!

Lady Hesketh waved him a demure adieu from the open window,
relented, and gave his hand a hasty squeeze with her gloved
fingers.

"Take care of Lorraine," she said, solemnly; then laughed at his
telltale eyes, and leaned back on her husband's shoulder, still
laughing.

The cars were gliding more swiftly past the platform now; he
caught a glimpse of Betty kissing her hand to him, of Cecil
bestowing a gracious adieu, of Sir Thorald's eye-glass--then they
were gone; and far up the tracks the diminishing end of the last
car dwindled to a dark square, a spot, a dot, and was ingulfed in
a flurry of dust. As he turned away and passed along the platform
to the dog-cart, there came a roar, a shriek of a locomotive, a
rush, and a train swept by towards the east, leaving a blear of
scarlet in his eyes, and his ears ringing with the soldiers'
cheers: "Vive la France! Vive l'Empereur! À Berlin! À Berlin! À
Berlin!" A furtive-eyed young peasant beside him shrugged his
shoulders.

"Bismarck has called for the menu; his cannon are hungry," he
sneered; "there goes the bill of fare."

"That's very funny," said a fierce little man with a gray
mustache, "but the bill of fare isn't complete--the class of '71
has just been called out!" and he pointed to a placard freshly
pasted on the side of the station.

"The--the class of '71?" muttered the furtive-eyed peasant,
turning livid.

"Exactly--the bill of fare needs the hors d'œuvres; you'll go as
an olive, and probably come back a sardine--in a box."

And the fierce little man grinned, lighted a cigarette, and
sauntered away, still grinning.

What did he care? He was a pompier and exempt.



VII

THE ROAD TO PARADISE


The road between Saint-Lys and Morteyn was not a military road,
but it was firm and smooth, and Jack drove back again towards the
Château at a smart trot, flicking at leaves and twigs with
Cecil's whip.

The sun had brushed the veil of rain from the horizon; the
leaves, fresh and tender, stirred and sparkled with dew in the
morning breeze, and all the air was sweet-scented. In the
stillness of the fields, where wheat stretched along the road
like a green river tinged with gold, there was something that
troubled him. Silence is oppressive to sinners and prophets. He
concluded he was the former, and sighed restlessly, looking out
across the fields, where, deep in the stalks of the wheat,
blood-red poppies opened like raw wounds. At other times he had
compared them to little fairy camp-fires; but his mood was
pessimistic, and he saw, in the furrows that the plough had
raised, the scars on the breast of a tortured earth; and he read
sermons in bundles of fresh-cut fagots; and death was written
where a sickle lay beside a pile of grass, crisping to hay in the
splendid sun of Lorraine.

What he did not see were the corn-flowers peeping at him with
dewy blue eyes; the vineyards, where the fruit hung faintly
touched with bloom; the field birds, the rosy-breasted finches,
the thrush, as speckled as her own eggs--no, nor did he hear
them; for the silence that weighed on his heart came from his
heart. Yet all the summer wind was athrill with harmony.
Thousands of feathered throats swelled and bubbled melody, from
the clouds to the feathery heath, from the scintillating azure in
the zenith to the roots of the glittering wheat where the
corn-flowers lay like bits of blue sky fallen to the earth.

As he drove he thought of Lorraine, of her love for her father
and her goodness. He already recognized that dominant passion in
her, her unselfish adoration of her father--a father who sat all
day behind bolted doors trifling with metals and gases and little
spinning, noiseless wheels. The selfish to the unselfish, the
dead to the living, the dwarf to the giant, and the sinner to the
saint--this is the world and they that dwell therein.

He thought of her as he had seen her last, smiling up into the
handsome, bearded face that questioned her. No, the wound was
nothing--a little blood lost--enough to make her faint at his
feet--that was all. But his precious box was safe--and she had
flung her loyal arms about the man who saved it and had kissed
him before her father, because he had secured what was dearer to
her than life--her father's happiness--a little metal box full of
it.

Her father was very grateful and very solicitous about her
wounded shoulder; but he opened his box before he thought about
bandages. Everything was intact, except the conservatory window
and his daughter's shoulder. Both could be mended--but his box!
ah, that, if lost, could never be replaced.

Jack's throat was hard and dry. A lump came into it, and he
swallowed with a shrug, and flicked at a fly on the headstall. A
vision of Sir Thorald, bending over little Alixe, came before his
eyes. "Pah!" he muttered, in disgust. Sir Thorald was one of
those men who cease to care for a woman when she begins to care
for them. Jack knew it; that was why he had been so gentle with
Molly Hesketh, who had turned his head when he was a boy and
given him his first emotions--passion, hate--and then knowledge;
for of all the deep emotions that a man shall know before he dies
the first consciousness of knowledge is the most profound; it
sounds the depths of heaven and hell in the space of time that
the heart beats twice.

He was passing through the woods now, the lovely oak and beech
woods of Lorraine. An ancient dame, bending her crooked back
beneath a load of fagots, gave him "God bless you!" and he drew
rein and returned the gift--but his was in silver, with the head
of his imperial majesty stamped on one side.

As he drove, rabbits ran back into the woods, hoisting their
white signals of conciliation. "Peace and good will" they seemed
to read, "but a wise rabbit takes to the woods." Pheasants, too,
stepped daintily from under the filbert bushes, twisting their
gorgeous necks curiously as he passed. Once, in the hollow of a
gorge where a little stream trickled under layers of wet leaves,
he saw a wild-boar standing hock-deep in the ooze, rooting under
mosses and rotten branches, absorbed in his rooting. Twice deer
leaped from the young growth on the edge of the fields and
bounded lazily into denser cover, only to stop when half
concealed and stare back at him with gentle, curious eyes. The
horse pricked up his ears at such times and introduced a few
waltz steps into his steady if monotonous repertoire, but Jack
let him have his fling, thinking that the deer were as tame as
the horse, and both were tamer than man.

Excepting the black panther, man has learned his lesson slowest
of all, the lesson of acquiescence in the inevitable.

"I'll never learn it," said Jack, aloud. His voice startled
him--it was trembling.

Lorraine! Lorraine! Life has begun for a very young man. Teach
him to see and bring him to accept existence in the innocence of
your knowledge; for, if he and the world collide, he fears the
result to the world.

A few moments later he drove into Paradise, which is known to
some as the Château de Nesville.



VIII

UNDER THE YOKE


During the next two weeks Jack Marche drove into Paradise
fourteen times, and fourteen times he drove out of Paradise, back
to the Château Morteyn. Heaven is nearer than people suppose; it
was three miles from the road shrine at Morteyn.

Our Lady of Morteyn, sculptured in the cold stone above the
shrine, had looked with her wide stone eyes on many lovers, and
had known they were lovers because their piety was as sudden as
it was fervid.

Twice a day Jack's riding-cap was reverently doffed as he drew
bridle before the shrine, going and coming from Paradise.

At evening, too, when the old vicomte slept on his pillow and the
last light went out in the stables, Our Lady of Morteyn saw a
very young man sitting, with his head in his hands, at her feet;
and he took no harm from the cold stones, because Our Lady of
Morteyn is gentle and gracious, and the summer nights were hot in
the province of Lorraine.

There had been little stir or excitement in Morteyn. Even in
Saint-Lys, where all day and all night the troop-trains rushed
by, the cheers of the war-bound soldiers leaning from the flying
cars were becoming monotonous in the ears of the sober villagers.
When the long, flat cars, piled with cannon, passed, the people
stared at the slender guns, mute, canvas-covered, tilted skyward.
They stared, too, at the barred cars, rolling past in interminable
trains, loaded with horses and canvas-jacketed troopers who peered
between the slats and shouted to the women in the street. Other
trains came and went, trains weighted with bellowing cattle or
huddled sheep, trains choked with small square boxes marked
"Cartouches" or "Obus--7^me"; trains piled high with grain or
clothing, or folded tents packed between varnished poles and piles
of tin basins. Once a little excitement came to Saint-Lys when a
battalion of red-legged infantry tramped into the village square
and stacked rifles and jeered at the mayor and drank many bottles
of red wine to the health of the shy-eyed girls peeping at them
from every lattice. But they were only waiting for the next train,
and when it came their bugles echoed from the bridge to the square,
and they went away--went where the others had gone--laughing,
singing, cheering from the car-windows, where the sun beat down
on their red caps, and set their buttons glittering like a million
swarming fire-flies.

The village life, the daily duties, the dull routine from the
vineyard to the grain-field, and from the étang to the forest had
not changed in Saint-Lys.

There might be war somewhere; it would never come to Saint-Lys.
There might be death, yonder towards the Rhine--probably beyond
it, far beyond it. What of it? Death comes to all, but it comes
slowly in Saint-Lys; and the days are long, and one must eat to
live, and there is much to be done between the rising and the
setting of a peasant's sun.

There, below in Paris, were wise heads and many soldiers. They,
in Paris, knew what to do, and the war might begin and end with
nothing but a soiled newspaper in the Café Saint-Lys to show for
it--as far as the people of Saint-Lys knew.

True, at the summons of the mayor, the National Guard of
Saint-Lys mustered in the square, seven strong and a bugler. This
was merely a display of force--it meant nothing--but let those
across the Rhine beware!

The fierce little man with the gray mustache, who was named
Tricasse, and who commanded the Saint-Lys Pompiers, spoke gravely
of Francs-corps, and drank too much eau-de-vie every evening. But
these warlike ebullitions simmered away peacefully in the
sunshine, and the tranquil current of life flowed as smoothly
through Saint-Lys as the river Lisse itself, limpid, noiseless,
under the village bridge.

Only one man had left the village, and that was Brun, the
furtive-eyed young peasant, the sole representative in Saint-Lys
of the conscript class of 1871. And he would never have gone had
not a gendarme pulled him from under his mother's bed and hustled
him on to the first Paris-bound train, which happened to be a
cattle train, where Brun mingled his lamentations with the
bleating of sheep and the desolate bellow of thirsty cows.

Jack Marche heard of these things but saw little of them. The
great war wave rolling through the provinces towards the Rhine
skirted them at Saint-Lys, and scarcely disturbed them. They
heard that Douay was marching through the country somewhere, some
said towards Wissembourg, some said towards Saarbrück. But these
towns were names to the peasants of Saint-Lys--tant pis for the
two towns! And General Douay--who was he? Probably a fat man in
red breeches and polished boots, wearing a cocked-hat and a cross
on his breast. Anyway, they would chase the Prussians and kill a
few, as they had chased the Russians in the Crimea, and the
Italians in Rome, and the Kabyles in Oran. The result? Nothing
but a few new colours for the ribbons in their sweethearts'
hair--like that pretty Magenta and Solferino and Sebastopol gray.
"Fichtre! Faut-il gaspiller tout de même! mais, à la guerre comme
à la guerre!" which meant nothing in Saint-Lys.

It meant more to Jack Marche, riding one sultry afternoon through
the woods, idly drumming on his spurred boots with a battered
riding-crop.

It was his daily afternoon ride to the Château de Nesville; the
shy wood creatures were beginning to know him, even the younger
rabbits of the most recent generation sat up and mumbled their
prehensile lips, watching him with large, moist eyes. As for the
red squirrels in the chestnut-trees, and the dappled deer in the
carrefours, and the sulky boars that bristled at him from the
overgrown sentiers, they accepted him on condition that he kept
to the road. And he did, head bent, thoughtful eyes fixed on his
saddle-bow, drumming absently with his riding-crop on his spurred
boots, his bridle loose on his horse's neck.

There was little to break the monotony of the ride; a sudden gush
of song from a spotted thrush, the rustle of a pheasant in the
brake, perhaps the modest greeting of a rare keeper patrolling
his beat--nothing more. He went armed; he carried a long Colt's
six-shooter in his holster, not because he feared for his own
skin, but he thought it just as well to be ready in case of
trouble at the Château de Nesville. However, he did not fear
trouble again; the French armies were moving everywhere on the
frontier, and the spies, of course, had long ago betaken
themselves and their projects to the other bank of the Rhine.

The Marquis de Nesville himself felt perfectly secure, now that
the attempt had been made and had failed.

He told Jack so on the few occasions when he descended from his
room during the young fellow's visits. He made not the slightest
objections to Jack's seeing Lorraine when and where he pleased,
and this very un-Gallic behaviour puzzled Jack until he began to
comprehend the depths of the man's selfish absorption in his
balloons. It was more than absorption, it was mania pure and
simple, an absolute inability to see or hear or think or
understand anything except his own devices in the little bolted
chamber above.

He did care for Lorraine to the extent of providing for her every
want--he did remember her existence when he wanted something
himself. Also it was true that he would not have permitted a
Frenchman to visit Lorraine as Jack did. He hated two persons;
one of these was Jack's uncle, the Vicomte de Morteyn. On the
other hand, he admired him, too, because the vicomte, like
himself, was a royalist and shunned the Tuileries as the devil
shuns holy water. Therefore he was his equal, and he liked him
because he could hate him without loss of self-respect. The
reason he hated him was this--the Vicomte de Morteyn had
pooh-poohed the balloons. That occurred years ago, but he never
forgot it, and had never seen the old vicomte since. Whether or
not Lorraine visited the old people at Morteyn, he had neither
time nor inclination to inquire.

This was the man, tall, gentle, clean-cut of limb and feature,
and bearded like Jove--this was the man to whom Lorraine devoted
her whole existence. Every heart-beat was for him, every thought,
every prayer. And she was very devout.

This also was why she came to Jack so confidently and laid her
white hands in his when he sprang from his saddle, his heart in
flames of adoration.

He knew this, he knew that her undisguised pleasure in his
company was, for her, only another link that welded her closer to
her father. At night, often, when he had ridden back again, he
thought of it, and paled with resentment. At times he almost
hated her father. He could have borne it easier if the Marquis de
Nesville had been a loving father, even a tyrannically solicitous
father; but to see such love thrown before a marble-faced man,
whose expression never changed except when speaking of his
imbecile machines! "How can he! How can he!" muttered Jack,
riding through the woods. His face was sombre, almost stern; and
always he beat the devil's tattoo on his boot with the battered
riding-crop.

But now he came to the park gate, and the keeper touched his cap
and smiled, and dragged the heavy grille back till it creaked on
its hinges.

Lorraine came down the path to meet him; she had never before
done that, and he brightened and sprang to the ground, radiant
with happiness.

She had brought some sugar for the horse; the beautiful creature
followed her, thrusting its soft, satin muzzle into her hand,
ears pricked forward, wise eyes fixed on her.

"None for me?" asked Jack.

"Sugar?"

With a sudden gesture she held a lump out to him in the centre of
her pink palm.

Before she could withdraw the hand he had touched it with his
lips, and, a little gravely, she withdrew it and walked on in
silence by his side.

Her shoulder had healed, and she no longer wore the silken
support for her arm. She was dressed in black--the effect of her
glistening hair and blond skin was dazzling. His eyes wandered
from the white wrist, dainty and rounded, to the full curved
neck--to the delicate throat and proud little head. Her body,
supple as perfect Greek sculpture; her grace and gentle dignity;
her innocence, sweet as the light in her blue eyes, set him
dreaming again as he walked at her side, preoccupied, almost
saddened, a little afraid that such happiness as was his should
provoke the gods to end it.

He need not have taken thought for the gods, for the gods take
thought for themselves; and they were already busy at Saarbrück.
Their mills are not always slow in grinding; nor, on the other
hand, are they always sure. They may have been ages ago, but now
the gods are so out of date that saints and sinners have a chance
about equally.

They traversed the lawn, skirted the tall wall of solid masonry
that separated the chase from the park, and, passing a gate at
the hedge, came to a little stone bridge, beneath which the Lisse
ran dimpling. They watched the horse pursuing his own way
tranquilly towards the stables, and, when they saw a groom come
out and lead him in, they turned to each other, ready to begin
another day of perfect contentment.

First of all he asked about her shoulder, and she told him
truthfully that it was well. Then she inquired about the old
vicomte and Madame de Morteyn, and intrusted pretty little
messages to him for them, which he, unlike most young men,
usually remembered to deliver.

"My father," she said, "has not been to breakfast or dinner since
the day before yesterday. I should have been alarmed, but I
listened at the door and heard him moving about with his
machinery. I sent him some very nice things to eat; I don't know
if he liked them, for he sent no message back. Do you suppose he
is hungry?"

"No," said Jack; "if he were he would say so." He was careful not
to speak bitterly, and she noticed nothing.

"I believe," she said, "that he is about to make another
ascension. He often stays a long time in his room, alone, before
he is ready. Will it not be delightful? I shall perhaps be
permitted to go up with him. Don't you wish you might go with
us?"

"Yes," said Jack, with a little more earnestness than he
intended.

"Oh! you do? If you are very good, perhaps--perhaps--but I dare
not promise. If it were my balloon I would take you."

"Would you--really?"

"Of course--you know it. But it isn't my balloon, you know."
After a moment she went on: "I have been thinking all day how
noble and good it is of my father to consecrate his life to a
purpose that shall be of use to France. He has not said so, but I
know that, if the next ascension proves that his discovery is
beyond the chance of failure, he will notify the government and
place his invention at their disposal. Monsieur Marche, when I
think of his unselfish nobleness, the tears come--I cannot help
it."

"You, too, are noble," said Jack, resentfully.

"I? Oh, if you knew! I--I am actually wicked! Would you believe
it, I sometimes think and think and wish that my father could
spend more time with me--with me!--a most silly and thoughtless
girl who would sacrifice the welfare of France to her own
caprice. Think of it! I pray--very often--that I may learn to be
unselfish; but I must be very bad, for I often cry myself to
sleep. Is it not wicked?"

"Very," said Jack, but his smile faded and there was a catch in
his voice.

"You see," she said, with a gesture of despair, "even you feel
it, too!"

"Do you really wish to know what I do think--of you?" he asked,
in a low voice.

It was on the tip of her tongue to say "Yes." She checked
herself, lips apart, and her eyes became troubled.

There was something about Jack Marche that she had not been able
to understand. It occupied her--it took up a good share of her
attention, but she did not know where to begin to philosophize,
nor yet where to end. He was different from other men--that she
understood. But where was that difference?--in his clear, brown
eyes, sunny as brown streams in October?--in his serious young
face?--in his mouth, clean cut and slightly smiling under his
short, crisp mustache, burned blond by the sun? Where was the
difference?--in his voice?--in his gestures?--in the turn of his
head?

Lorraine did not know, but as often as she gave the riddle up she
recommenced it, idly sometimes, sometimes piqued that the
solution seemed no nearer. Once, the evening she had met him
after their first encounter in the forest carrefour--that evening
on the terrace when she stood looking out into the dazzling
Lorraine moonlight--she felt that the solution of the riddle had
been very near. But now, two weeks later, it seemed further off
than ever. And yet this problem, that occupied her so, must
surely be worth the solving. What was it, then, in Jack Marche
that made him what he was?--gentle, sweet-tempered, a delightful
companion--yes, a companion that she would not now know how to do
without.

And yet, at times, there came into his eyes and into his voice
something that troubled her--she could not tell why--something
that mystified and checked her, and set her thinking again on the
old, old problem that had seemed so near solution that evening on
the moonlit terrace.

That was why she started to say "Yes" to his question, and did
not, but stood with lips half parted and blue eyes troubled.

He looked at her in silence for a moment, then, with a
half-impatient gesture, turned to the river.

"Shall we sit down on the moss?" she asked, vaguely conscious
that his sympathies had, for a moment, lost touch with hers.

He followed her down the trodden foot-path to the bank of the
stream, and, when she had seated herself at the foot of a
linden-tree, he threw himself at her feet.

They were silent. He picked up a faded bunch of blue corn-flowers
which they had left there, forgotten, the day before. One by one
he broke the blossoms from the stalks and tossed them into the
water.

She, watching them floating away under the bridge, thought of the
blue bits of paper--the telegram--that she had torn up and tossed
upon the water two weeks before. He was thinking of the same
thing, for, when she said, abruptly: "I should not have done
that!" he knew what she meant, and replied: "Such things are
always your right--if you care to use it."

She laughed. "Then you believe still in the feudal system? I do
not; I am a good republican."

"It is easy," he said, also laughing, "for a young lady with
generations of counts and vicomtes behind her to be a republican.
It is easier still for a man with generations of republicans
behind him to turn royalist. It is the way of the world,
mademoiselle."

"Then you shall say: 'Long live the king!'" she said; "say it
this instant!"

"Long live--your king!"

"My king?"

"I'm his subject if you are; I'll shout for no other king."

"Now, whatever is he talking about?" thought Lorraine, and the
suspicion of a cloud gathered in her clear eyes again, but was
dissipated at once when he said: "I have answered the _Herald's_
telegram."

"What did you say?" she asked, quickly.

"I accepted--"

"What!"

There was resentment in her voice. She felt that he had done
something which was tacitly understood to be against her wishes.
True, what difference did it make to her? None; she would lose a
delightful companion. Suddenly, something of the significance of
such a loss came to her. It was not a revelation, scarcely an
illumination, but she understood that if he went she should be
lonely--yes, even unhappy. Then, too, unconsciously, she had
assumed a mental attitude of interest in his movements--of
partial proprietorship in his thoughts. She felt vaguely that she
had been overlooked in the decision he had made; that even if she
had not been consulted, at least he might have told her what he
intended to do. Lorraine was at a loss to understand herself. But
she was easily understood. For two weeks her attitude had been
that of every innocent, lovable girl when in the presence of the
man whom she frankly cares for; and that attitude was one of
mental proprietorship. Now, suddenly finding that his sympathies
and ideas moved independently of her sympathies--that her mental
influence, which existed until now unconsciously, was in reality
no influence at all, she awoke to the fact that she perhaps
counted for nothing with him. Therefore resentment appeared in
the faintest of straight lines between her eyes.

"Do you care?" he asked, carelessly.

"I? Why, no."

If she had smiled at him and said "Yes," he would have despaired;
but she frowned a trifle and said "No," and Jack's heart began to
beat.

"I cabled them two words: 'Accept--provisionally,'" he said.

"Oh, what did you mean?"

"Provisionally meant--with your consent."

"My--my consent?"

"Yes--if it is your pleasure."

Pleasure! Her sweet eyes answered what her lips withheld. Her
little heart beat high. So then she did influence this cool young
man, with his brown eyes faintly smiling, and his indolent limbs
crossed on the moss at her feet. At the same moment her instinct
told her to tighten her hold. This was so perfectly feminine, so
instinctively human, that she had done it before she herself was
aware of it. "I shall think it over," she said, looking at him,
gravely; "I may permit you to accept."

So was accomplished the admitted subjugation of Jack Marche--a
stroke of diplomacy on his part; and he passed under the yoke in
such a manner that even the blindest of maids could see that he
was not vaulting over it instead.

Having openly and admittedly established her sovereignty, she was
happy--so happy that she began to feel that perhaps the victory
was not unshared by him.

"I shall think it over very seriously," she repeated, watching
his laughing eyes; "I am not sure that I shall permit you to go."

"I only wish to go as a special, not a regular correspondent. I
wish to be at liberty to roam about and sketch or write what I
please. I think my material will always be found in your
vicinity."

Her heart fluttered a little; this surprised her so much that her
cheeks grew suddenly warm and pink. A little confused, she said
what she had not dreamed of saying: "You won't go very far away,
will you?" And before she could modify her speech he had
answered, impetuously: "Never, until you send me away!"

A mottled thrush on the top of the linden-tree surveyed the scene
curiously. She had never beheld such a pitiably embarrassed young
couple in all her life. It was so different in Thrushdom.

Lorraine's first impulse was to go away and close several doors
and sit down, very still, and think. Her next impulse was to stay
and see what Jack would do. He seemed to be embarrassed, too--he
fidgeted and tossed twigs and pebbles into the river. She felt
that she, who already admittedly was arbiter of his goings and
comings, should do something to relieve this uneasy and strained
situation. So she folded her hands on her black dress and said:
"There is something I have been wishing to tell you for two
weeks, but I did not because I was not sure that I was right, and
I did not wish to trouble you unnecessarily. Now, perhaps, you
would be willing to share the trouble with me. Would you?"

Before the eager answer came to his lips she continued, hastily: "The
man who made maps--the man whom you struck in the carrefour--is the
same man who ran away with the box; I know it!"

"That spy?--that tall, square-shouldered fellow with the pink
skin and little, pale, pinkish eyes?"

"Yes. I know his name, too."

Jack sat up on the moss and listened anxiously.

"His name is Von Steyr--Siurd von Steyr. It was written in pencil
on the back of one map. The morning after the assault on the
house, when they thought I was ill in bed, I got up and dressed
and went down to examine the road where you caught the man and
saved my father's little steel box. There I found a strip of
cloth torn from your evening coat, and--oh, Monsieur Marche!--I
found the great, flat stone with which he tried to crush you,
just as my father fired from the wall!"

The sudden memory, the thought of what might have happened, came
to her in a flash for the first time. She looked at him--her
hands were in his before she could understand why.

"Go on," he whispered.

Her eyes met his half fearfully--she withdrew her fingers with a
nervous movement and sat silent.

"Tell me," he urged, and took one of her hands again. She did not
withdraw it--she seemed confused; and presently he dropped her
hand and sat waiting for her to speak, his heart beating
furiously.

"There is not much more to tell," she said at last, in a voice
that seemed not quite under control. "I followed the broken
bushes and his footmarks along the river until I came to a stone
where I think he sat down. He was bleeding, too--my father shot
him--and he tore bits of paper and cloth to cover the wound--he
even tore up another map. I found part of it, with his name on
the back again--not all of it, though, but enough. Here it is."

She handed him a bit of paper. On one side were the fragments of
a map in water-colour; on the other, written in German script, he
read "Siurd von Steyr."

"It's enough," said Jack; "what a plucky girl you are, anyway!"

"I? You don't think so!--do you?"

"You are the bravest, sweetest--"

"Dear me! You must not say that! You are sadly uneducated, and I
see I must take you under my control at once. Man is born to
obey! I have decided about your answer to the _Herald's_
telegram."

"May I know the result?" he asked, laughingly.

"To-morrow. There is a brook-lily on the border of the sedge-grass.
You may bring it to me."

So began the education of Jack Marche--under the yoke. And
Lorraine's education began, too--but she was sublimely unconscious
of that fact.

This also is a law in the world.



IX

SAARBRÜCK


On the first day of August, late in the afternoon, a peasant
driving an exhausted horse pulled up at the Château Morteyn,
where Jack Marche stood on the terrace, smoking and cutting at
leaves with his riding-crop.

"What's the matter, Passerat?" asked Jack, good-humouredly; "are
the Prussians in the valley?"

"You are right, Monsieur Marche--the Prussians have crossed the
Saar!" blurted out the man. His face was agitated, and he wiped
the sweat from his cheeks with the sleeve of his blouse.

"Nonsense!" said Jack, sharply.

"Monsieur--I saw them! They chased me--the Uhlans with their
spears and devilish yellow horses."

"Where?" demanded Jack, with an incredulous shrug.

"I had been to Forbach, where my cousin Passerat is a miner in
the coal-mines. This morning I left to drive to Saint-Lys, having
in my wagon these sacks of coal that my cousin Passerat procured
for me, à prix réduit. It would take all day; I did not care--I
had bread and red wine--you understand, my cousin Passerat and I,
we had been gay in Saint-Avold, too--dame! we see each other
seldom. I may have had more eau-de-vie than another--it is
permitted on fête-days! Monsieur, I was tired--I possibly
slept--the road was hot. Then something awakes me; I rub my
eyes--behold me awake!--staring dumfounded at what? Parbleu!--at
two ugly Uhlans sitting on their yellow horses on a hill! 'No!
no!' I cry to myself; 'it is impossible!' It is a bad dream! Dieu
de Dieu! It is no dream! My Uhlans come galloping down the hill;
I hear them bawling 'Halt! Wer da!' It is terrible! 'Passerat!' I
shriek, 'it is the hour to vanish!'"

The man paused, overcome by emotions and eau-de-vie.

"Well," said Jack, "go on!"

"And I am here, monsieur," ended the peasant, hazily.

"Passerat, you said you had taken too much eau-de-vie?" suggested
Jack, with a smile of encouragement.

"Much? Monsieur, you do not believe me?"

"I believe you had a dream."

"Bon," said the peasant, "I want no more such dreams."

"Are you going to inform the mayor of Saint-Lys?" asked Jack.

"Of course," muttered Passerat, gathering up his reins; "heu!
da-da! heu! cocotte! en route!" and he rattled sulkily away,
perhaps a little uncertain himself as to the concreteness of his
recent vision.

Jack looked after him.

"There might be something in it," he mused, "but, dear me! his
nose is unpleasantly--sunburned."

That same morning, Lorraine had announced her decision. It was
that Jack might accept the position of special, or rather
occasional, war correspondent for the New York _Herald_ if he
would promise not to remain absent for more than a day at a time.
This, Jack thought, practically nullified the consent, for what
in the world could a man see of the campaign under such
circumstances? Still, he did not object; he was too happy.

"However," he thought, "I might ride over to Saarbrück. Suppose I
should be on hand at the first battle of the war?"

As a mere lad he had already seen service with the Austrians at
Sadowa; he had risked his modest head more than once in the
murderous province of Oran, where General Chanzy scoured the hot
plains like a scourge of Allah.

He had lived, too, at headquarters, and shared the officers' mess
where "cherba," "tadjines," "kous-kous," and "méchoin" formed the
menu, and a "Kreima Kebira" served as his roof. He had done his
duty as correspondent, merely because it was his duty; he would
have preferred an easier assignment, for he took no pleasure in
cruelty and death and the never-to-be-forgotten agony of proud,
dark faces, where mud-stained turbans hung in ribbons and
tinselled saddles reeked with Arab horses' blood.

War correspondent? It had happened to be his calling; but the
accident of his profession had been none of his own seeking. Now
that he needed nothing in the way of recompense, he hesitated to
take it up again. Instinctive loyalty to his old newspaper was
all that had induced him to entertain the idea. Loyalty and
deference to Lorraine compelled him to modify his acceptance.
Therefore it was not altogether idle curiosity, but partly a sense
of obligation, that made him think of riding to Saarbrück to see
what he could see for his journal within the twenty-four-hour
limit that Lorraine had set.

It was too late to ride over that evening and return in time to
keep his word to Lorraine, so he decided to start at daybreak,
realizing at the same time, with a pang, that it meant not seeing
Lorraine all day.

He went up to his chamber and sat down to think. He would write a
note to Lorraine; he had never done such a thing, and he hoped
she might not find fault with him.

He tossed his riding-crop on to the desk, picked up a pen, and
wrote carefully, ending the single page with, "It is reported
that Uhlans have been encountered in the direction of Saarbrück,
and, although I do not believe it, I shall go there to-morrow and
see for myself. I will be back within the twelve hours. May I
ride over to tell you about these mythical Uhlans when I return?"

He called a groom and bade him drive to the Château de Nesville
with the note. Then he went down to sit with the old vicomte and
Madame de Morteyn until it came dinner-time, and the oil-lamps in
the gilded salon were lighted, and the candles blazed up on
either side of the gilt French clock.

After dinner he played chess with his uncle until the old man
fell asleep in his chair. There was an interval of silence.

"Jack," said his aunt, "you are a dear, good boy. Tell me, do you
love our little Lorraine?"

The suddenness of the question struck him dumb. His aunt smiled;
her faded eyes were very tender and kindly, and she laid both
frail hands on his shoulders.

"It is my wish," she said, in a low voice; "remember that, Jack.
Now go and walk on the terrace, for she will surely answer your
note."

"How--how did you know I wrote her?" he stammered.

"When a young man sends his aunt's servants on such very
unorthodox errands, what can he expect, especially when those
servants are faithful?"

"That groom told you, Aunt Helen?"

"Yes. Jack, these French servants don't understand such things.
Be more careful, for Lorraine's sake."

"But--I will--but did the note reach her?"

His aunt smiled. "Yes. I took the responsibility upon myself, and
there will be no gossip."

Jack leaned over and kissed the amused mouth, and the old lady
gave him a little hug and told him to go and walk on the terrace.

The groom was already there, holding a note in one hand,
gilt-banded cap in the other.

His first letter from Lorraine! He opened it feverishly. In the
middle of a thin sheet of note-paper was written the motto of the
De Nesvilles, "Tiens ta Foy."

Beneath, in a girlish hand, a single line:

    "I shall wait for you at dusk.    Lorraine."

All night long, as he lay half asleep on his pillow, the words
repeated themselves in his drowsy brain: "Tiens ta Foy!" "Tiens
ta Foy!" (Keep thy Faith!). Aye, he would keep it unto death--he
knew it even in his slumber. But he did not know how near to
death that faith might lead him.

The wood-sparrows were chirping outside his window when he awoke.
It was scarcely dawn, but he heard the maid knocking at his door,
and the rattle of silver and china announced the morning coffee.

He stepped from his bed into the tub of cold water, yawning and
shivering, but the pallor of his skin soon gave place to a
healthy glow, and his clean-cut body and strong young limbs
hardened and grew pink and firm again under the coarse towel.

Breakfast he ate hastily by candle-light, and presently he
dressed, buckled his spurs over the insteps, caught up gloves,
cap, and riding-crop, and, slinging a field-glass over his
Norfolk jacket, lighted a pipe and went noiselessly down-stairs.

There was a chill in the gray dawn as he mounted and rode out
through the shadowy portals of the wrought-iron grille; a vapour,
floating like loose cobwebs, undulated above the placid river;
the tree-tops were festooned with mist. Save for the distant
chatter of wood-sparrows, stirring under the eaves of the
Château, the stillness was profound.

As he left the park and cantered into the broad red highway, he
turned in his saddle and looked towards the Château de Nesville.
At first he could not see it, but as he rode over the bridge he
caught a glimpse of the pointed roof and single turret, a dim
silhouette through the mist. Then it vanished in the films of
fog.

The road to Saarbrück was a military road, and easy travelling.
The character of the country had changed as suddenly as a
drop-scene falls in a theatre; for now all around stretched
fields cut into squares by hedges--fields deep-laden with
heavy-fruited strawberries, white and crimson. Currants, too,
glowed like strung rubies frosted with the dew; plum-trees spread
little pale shadows across the ruddy earth, and beyond them the
disk of the sun appeared, pushing upward behind a half-ploughed
hill. Everywhere slender fruit-trees spread their grafted
branches; everywhere in the crumbling furrows of the soil, warm
as ochre, the bunched strawberries hung like drops of red wine
under the sun-bronzed leaves.

The sun was an hour high when he walked his horse up the last
hill that hides the valley of the Saar. Already, through the
constant rushing melody of bird music, his ears had distinguished
another sound--a low, incessant hum, monotonous, interminable as
the noise of a stream in a gorge. It was not the river Saar
moving over its bed of sand and yellow pebbles; it was not the
breeze in the furze. He knew what it was; he had heard it before,
in Oran--in the stillness of dawn, where, below, among the
shadowy plains, an army was awaking under dim tents.

And now his horse's head rose up black against the sky; now the
valley broke into view below, gray, indistinct in the shadows,
crossed by ghostly lines of poplars that dwindled away to the
horizon.

At the same instant something moved in the fields to the left,
and a shrill voice called: "Qui-vive?" Before he could draw
bridle blue-jacketed cavalrymen were riding at either stirrup,
carbine on thigh, peering curiously into his face, pushing their
active light-bay horses close to his big black horse.

Jack laughed good-humouredly and fumbled in the breast of his
Norfolk jacket for his papers.

"I'm only a special," he said; "I think you'll find the papers in
order--if not, you've only to gallop back to the Château Morteyn
to verify them."

An officer with a bewildering series of silver arabesques on
either sleeve guided a nervous horse through the throng of
troopers, returned Jack's pleasant salute, reached out a gloved
hand for his papers, and read them, sitting silently in his
saddle. When he finished, he removed the cigarette from his lips,
looked eagerly at Jack, and said:

"You are from Morteyn?"

"Yes."

"A guest?"

"The Vicomte de Morteyn is my uncle."

The officer burst into a boyish laugh.

"Jack Marche!"

"Eh!" cried Jack, startled.

Then he looked more closely at the young officer before him, who
was laughing in his face.

"Well, upon my word! No--it can't be little Georges Carrière?"

"Yes, it can!" cried the other, briskly; "none of your damned
airs, Jack! Embrace me, my son!"

"My son, I won't!" said Jack, leaning forward joyously--"the
idea! Little Georges calls me his son! And he's learning the
paternal tricks of the old generals, and doubtless he calls his
troopers 'mes enfants,' and--"

"Oh, shut up!" said Georges, giving him an impetuous hug; "what
are you up to now--more war correspondence? For the same old
_Herald_? Nom d'une pipe! It's cooler here than in Oran. It'll
be hotter, too--in another way," with a gay gesture towards the
valley below. "Jack Marche, tell me all about everything!"

On either side the blue-jacketed troopers fell back, grinning
with sympathy as Georges guided his horse into a field on the
right, motioning Jack to follow.

"We can talk here a bit," he said; "you've lots of time to ride
on. Now, fire ahead!"

Jack told him of the three years spent in idleness, of the vapid
life in Paris, the long summers in Brittany, his desire to learn
to paint, and his despair when he found he couldn't.

"I can sketch like the mischief, though," he said. "Now tell me
about Oran, and our dear General Chanzy, and that devil's own
'Legion,' and the Hell's Selected 2d Zouaves! Do you remember
that day at Damas when Chanzy visited the Emir Abd-el-Kader at
Doummar, and the fifteen Spahis of the escort, and that little
imp of the Legion who was caught roaming around the harem, and--"

Georges burst into a laugh.

"I can't answer all that in a second! Wait! Do you want to know about
Chanzy? Well, he's still in Bel-Abbès, and he's been named commander
of the Legion of Honour, and he's no end of a swell. He'll be coming
back now that we've got to chase these sausage-eaters across the
Rhine. Look at me! You used to say that I'd stopped growing and could
never aspire to a mustache! Now look! Eh? Five feet eleven and--_what_
do you think of my mustache? Oh, that African sun sets things growing!
I'm lieutenant, too."

"Does the African sun also influence your growth in the line of
promotion?" asked Jack, grinning.

"Same old farceur, too!" mused Georges. "Now, what the mischief
are you doing here? Oh, you are staying at Morteyn?"

"Yes."

"I--er--I used to visit another house--er--near by. You know the
Marquis de Nesville?" asked Georges, innocently.

"I? Oh yes."

"You have--perhaps you have met Mademoiselle de Nesville?"

"Yes," said Jack, shortly.

"Oh."

There was a silence. Jack shuffled his booted toes in his
stirrups; Georges looked out across the valley.

In the valley the vapours were rising; behind the curtain of
shredded mist the landscape lay hilly, nearly treeless, cut by
winding roads and rank on rank of spare poplars. Farther away
clumps of woods appeared, and little hillocks, and now, as the
air cleared, the spire of a church glimmered. Suddenly a thin
line of silver cut the landscape beyond the retreating fog. The
Saar!

"Where are the Prussians?" asked Jack, breaking the silence.

Georges laid his gloved hand on his companion's arm.

"Do you see that spire? That is Saarbrück. They are there."

"This side of the Rhine, too?"

"Yes," said Georges, reddening a little; "wait, my friend."

"They must have crossed the Saar on the bridges from
Saint-Johann, then. I heard that Uhlans had been signalled near
the Saar, but I didn't believe it. Uhlans in France? Georges,
when are you fellows going to chase them back?"

"This morning--you're just in time, as usual," said Georges,
airily. "Do you want me to give you an idea of our positions?
Listen, then: we're massed along the frontier from Sierk and Metz
to Hagenau and Strasbourg. The Prussians lie at right angles to
us, from Mainz to Lauterburg and from Trier to Saarbrück. Except
near Saarbrück they are on their side of the boundary, let me
tell you! Look! Now you can see Forbach through the trees. We're
there and we're at Saint-Avold and Bitsch and Saargemünd, too. As
for me, I'm with this damned rear-guard, and I count tents and
tin pails, and I raise the devil with stragglers and generally
ennui myself. I'm no gendarme! There's a regiment of gendarmes
five miles north, and I don't see why they can't do depot duty
and police this country."

"The same child--kicking, kicking, kicking!" observed Jack. "You
ought to thank your luck that you are a spectator for once. Give
me your glass."

He raised the binoculars and levelled them at the valley.

"Hello! I didn't see those troops before. Infantry, eh? And there
goes a regiment--no, a brigade--no, a division, at least, of
cavalry. I see cuirassiers, too. Good heavens! Their breastplates
take the sun like heliographs! There are troops everywhere;
there's an artillery train on that road beyond Saint-Avold. Here,
take the glasses."

"Keep them--I know where they are. What time is it, Jack? My
repeater is running wild--as if it were chasing Prussians."

"It's half-past nine; I had no idea that it was so late! Ha!
there goes a mass of infantry along the hill. See it? They're
headed for Saarbrück! Georges, what's that big marquee in the
wheat-field?"

"The Emperor is there," said Georges, proudly; "those troopers
are the Cuirassiers of the Hundred-Guards. See their white
mantles? The Prince Imperial is there, too. Poor little man--he
looks so tired and bewildered."

Jack kept his glasses fixed on the white dot that marked the
imperial headquarters, but the air was hazy and the distance too
great to see anything except specks and points of white and
black, slowly shifting, gathering, and collecting again in the
grain-field, that looked like a tiny square of pale gilt on the
hill-top.

Suddenly a spot of white vapour appeared over the spire of
Saarbrück, then another, then three together, little round clouds
that hung motionless, wavered, split, and disappeared in the
sunshine, only to be followed by more round cloud clots. A moment
later the dull mutter of cannon disturbed the morning air,
distant rumblings and faint shocks that seemed to come from an
infinite distance.

Jack handed back the binoculars and opened his own field-glasses
in silence. Neither spoke, but they instinctively leaned forward,
side by side, sweeping the panorama with slow, methodical
movements, glasses firmly levelled. And now, in the valley below,
the long roads grew black with moving columns of cavalry and
artillery; the fields on either side were alive with infantry,
dim red squares and oblongs, creeping across the landscape
towards that line of silver, the Saar.

"It's a flank movement on Wissembourg," said Jack, suddenly; "or
are they swinging around to take Saint-Johann from the north?"

"Watch Saarbrück," muttered Georges between his teeth.

The slow seconds crept into minutes, the minutes into hours, as
they waited there, fascinated. Already the sharper rattle of
musketry broke out on the hills south of the Saar, and the
projectiles fell fast in the little river, beyond which the
single spire of Saarbrück rose, capped with the smoke of
exploding shells.

Jack sat sketching in a canvas-covered book, raising his brown
eyes from time to time, or writing on a pad laid flat on his
saddle-pommel.

The two young fellows conversed in low tones, laughing quietly or
smoking in absorbed silence, and even their subdued voices were
louder than the roll of the distant cannonade.

Suddenly the wind changed and their ears were filled with the
hollow boom of cannon. And now, nearer than they could have
believed, the crash of volley firing mingled with the whirring
crackle of gatlings and the spattering rattle of Montigny
mitrailleuses from the Guard artillery.

"Fichtre!" said Georges, with a shrug, "not only dancing, but
music! What are you sketching, Jack? Let me see. Hm! Pretty
good--for you. You've got Forbach too near, though. I wonder what
the Emperor is doing. It seems too bad to drag that sick child of
his out to see a lot of men fall over dead. Poor little Lulu!"

"Kicking, kicking ever!" murmured Jack; "the same fierce
Republican, eh? I've no sympathy with you--I'm too American."

"Cheap cynicism," observed Georges. "Hello!--here's an aide-de-camp
with orders. Wait a second, will you?" and the young fellow gathered
bridle and galloped out into the high-road, where his troopers stood
around an officer wearing the black-and-scarlet of the artillery. A
moment later a bugle began to sound the assembly; blue-clad cavalrymen
appeared as by magic from every thicket, every field, every hollow,
while below, in the nearer valley, another bugle, shrill and fantastic,
summoned the squadrons to the colours. Already the better part of a
regiment had gathered, four abreast, along the red road. Jack could
see their eagles now, gilt and circled with gilded wreaths.

He pocketed sketch-book and pad and turned his horse out through
the fields to the road.

"We're off!" laughed Georges. "Thank God! and the devil take the
rear-guard! Will you ride with us, Jack? We've driven the
Prussians across the Saar."

He turned to his troopers and signalled the trumpeter. "Trot!" he
cried; and the squadron of hussars moved off down the hill in a
whirl of dust and flying pebbles.

Jack wheeled his horse and brought him alongside of Georges' wiry
mount.

"It didn't last long--eh, old chap?" laughed the youthful hussar;
"only from ten o'clock till noon--eh? It's not quite noon yet.
We're to join the regiment, but where we're going after that I
don't know. They say the Prussians have quit Saarbrück in a
hurry. I suppose we'll be in Germany to-night, and then--vlan!
vlan! eh, old fellow? We'll be out for a long campaign. I'd like
to see Berlin--I wish I spoke German."

"They say," said Jack, "that most of the German officers speak
French."

"Bird of ill-omen, croaker, cease! What the devil do we want to
learn German for? I can say, 'Wein, Weib, und Gesang,' and that's
enough for any French hussar to know."

They had come up with the whole regiment now, which was moving
slowly down the valley, and Georges reported to his captain, who
in turn reported to the major, who presently had a confab with
the colonel. Then far away at the head of the column the mounted
band began the regimental march, a gay air with plenty of
trombone and kettle-drum in it, and the horses ambled and danced
in sympathy, with an accompaniment of rattling carbines and
clinking, clashing sabre-scabbards.

"Quelle farandole!" laughed Georges. "Are you going all the way
to Berlin with us? Pst! Look! There go the Hundred-Guards! The
Emperor is coming back from the front. It's all over with the
sausage-eaters, et puis--bon-soir, Bismarck!"

Far away, across the hills, the white mantles of the
Hundred-Guards flashed in the sunshine, rising, falling, as the
horses plunged up the hills. For a moment Jack caught a glimpse
of a carriage in the distance, a carriage preceded by outriders
in crimson and gold, and followed by a mass of glittering
cuirassiers.

"It's the Emperor. Listen, we are going to cheer," cried Georges.
He rose in his saddle and drew his sabre, and at the same instant
a deep roar shook the regiment to its centre--

"Vive l'Empereur!"



X

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER


It was a little after noon when the regiment halted on the
Saint-Avold highway, blocked in front by a train of Guard artillery,
and on either flank by columns of infantry--voltigeurs, red-legged
fantassins loaded with camp equipment, engineers in crimson and
bluish-black, and a whole battalion of Turcos, scarlet fez rakishly
hauled down over one ear, canvas zouave trousers tucked into canvas
leggings that fitted their finely moulded ankles like gloves.

Jack rested patiently on his horse, waiting for the road to be
cleared, and beside him sat Georges, chatting paternally with the
giant standard-bearer of the Turcos. The huge fellow laughed and
showed his dazzling teeth under the crisp jet beard, for Georges
was talking to him in his native tongue--and it was many miles
from Saint-Avold to Oran. His standard, ornamented with the
"opened hand and spread fingers," fluttered and snapped, and
stood out straight in the valley breeze.

"What's that advertisement--the hand of Providence?" cried an
impudent line soldier, leaning on his musket.

"Is it the hand that spanked Bismarck?" yelled another. The
Turcos grinned under their scarlet head-dresses.

"Ohé, Mustapha!" shouted the line soldiers, "Ohé, le Croissant!"
and their band-master, laughing, raised his tasselled baton, and
the band burst out in a roll of drums and cymbals, "Partons pour
la Syrie."

"Petite riffa!" said the big standard-bearer, beaming--which was
very good French for a Kabyle.

"See here, Georges," said Jack, suddenly, "I've promised to be
back at Morteyn before dark, and if your regiment is going to
stick here much longer I'm going on."

"You want to send your despatches?" asked Georges. "You could
ride on to Saarbrück and telegraph from there. Will you? Then
hunt up the regiment later. We are to see a little of each other,
are we not, old fellow?"

"Not if you're going Prussian-hunting across the Rhine. When you
come back crowned with bay and laurel and pretzels, you can stop
at Morteyn."

They nodded and clasped hands.

"Au revoir!" laughed Georges. "What shall I bring you from
Berlin?"

"I'm no Herod," replied Jack; "bring back your own feather-head
safely--that's all I ask." And with a smile and a gay salute the
young fellows parted, turning occasionally in their saddles to
wave a last adieu, until Jack's big horse disappeared among the
dense platoons ahead.

For a quarter of an hour he sidled and pushed and shoved, and
picked a cautious path through section after section of field
artillery, seeing here and there an officer whom he knew, saluting
cheerily, making a thousand excuses for his haste to the good-natured
artillerymen, who only grinned in reply. As he rode, he noted with
misgivings that the cannon were not breech-loaders. He had recently
heard a good deal about the Prussian new model for field artillery,
and he had read, in the French journals, reports of their wonderful
range and flat trajectory. The cannon that he passed, with the
exception of the Montigny mitrailleuses and the American gatlings,
were all beautiful pieces, bronzed and engraved with crown and LN
and eagle, but for all their beauty they were only muzzle-loaders.

In a little while he came to the head of the column. The road in
front seemed to be clear enough, and he wondered why they had
halted, blocking half a division of infantry and cavalry behind
them. There really was no reason at all. He did not know it, but
he had seen the first case of that indescribable disease that
raged in France in 1870-71--that malady that cannot be termed
paralysis or apathy or inertia. It was all three, and it was
malignant, for it came from a befouled and degraded court, spread
to the government, infected the provinces, sparing neither prince
nor peasant, until over the whole fair land of France it crept
and hung, a fetid, miasmic effluvia, till the nation, hopeless,
weary, despairing, bereft of nerve and sinew, sank under it into
utter physical and moral prostration.

This was the terrible fever that burned the best blood out of the
nation--a fever that had its inception in the corruption of the
empire, its crisis at Sedan, its delirium in the Commune! The
nation's convalescence is slow but sure.

Jack touched spurs to his horse and galloped out into the
Saarbrück road. He passed a heavy, fat-necked general, sitting
on his horse, his dull, apoplectic eyes following the gestures of
a staff-officer who was tracing routes and railroads on a map
nailed against a poplar-tree. He passed other generals, deep in
consultation, absently rolling cigarettes between their
kid-gloved fingers; and everywhere dragoon patrols, gallant
troopers in blue and garance, wearing steel helmets bound with
leopard-skin above the visors. He passed ambulances, too, blue
vehicles covered with framed yellow canvas, flying the red cross.
One of the field-surgeons gave him a brief outline of the
casualties and general result of the battle, and he thanked him
and hastened on towards Saarbrück, whence he expected to send his
despatches to Paris. But now the road was again choked with
marching infantry as far as the eye could see, dense masses,
pushing along in an eddying cloud of red dust that blew to the
east and hung across the fields like smoke from a locomotive. Men
with stretchers were passing; he saw an officer, face white as
chalk, sunburned hands clinched, lying in a canvas hand-stretcher,
borne by four men of the hospital corps. Edging his way to the
meadow, he put his horse to the ditch, cleared it, and galloped on
towards a spire that rose close ahead, outlined dimly in the smoke
and dust, and in ten minutes he was in Saarbrück.

Up a stony street, desolate, deserted, lined with rows of closed
machine-shops, he passed, and out into another street where a
regiment of lancers was defiling amid a confusion of shouts and
shrill commands, the racket of drums echoing from wall to
pavement, and the ear-splitting flourish of trumpets mingled with
the heavy rumble of artillery and the cracking of leather
thongs. Already the pontoons were beginning to span the river
Saar, already the engineers were swarming over the three ruined
bridges, jackets cast aside, picks rising and falling--clink!
clank! clink! clank!--and the scrape of mortar and trowel on the
granite grew into an incessant sound, harsh and discordant. The
market square was impassable; infantry gorged every foot of the
stony pavement, ambulances creaked through the throng, rolling
like white ships in a tempest, signals set.

In the sea of faces around him he recognized the correspondent of
the London _Times_.

"Hello, Williams!" he called; "where the devil is the telegraph?"

The Englishman, red in the face and dripping with perspiration,
waved his hand spasmodically.

"The military are using it; you'll have to wait until four
o'clock. Are you with us in this scrimmage? The fellows are down
by the Hôtel Post trying to mend the wires there. Archibald
Grahame is with the Germans!"

Jack turned in his saddle with a friendly gesture of thanks and
adieu. If he were going to send his despatch, he had no time to
waste in Saarbrück--he understood that at a glance. For a moment
he thought of going to the Hôtel Post and taking his chances with
his brother correspondents; then, abruptly wheeling his horse, he
trotted out into the long shed that formed one of an interminable
series of coal shelters, passed through it, gained the outer
street, touched up his horse, and tore away, headed straight for
Forbach. For he had decided that at Forbach was his chance to
beat the other correspondents, and he took the chance, knowing
that in case the telegraph there was also occupied he could still
get back to Morteyn, and from there to Saint-Lys, before the
others had wired to their respective journals.

It was three o'clock when he clattered into the single street of
Forbach amid the blowing of bugles from a cuirassier regiment
that was just leaving at a trot. The streets were thronged with
gendarmes and cavalry of all arms, lancers in baggy, scarlet
trousers and clumsy schapskas weighted with gold cord, chasseurs
à cheval in turquoise blue and silver, dragoons, Spahis,
remount-troopers, and here and there a huge rider of the
Hundred-Guards, glittering like a scaled dragon in his splendid
armour.

He pushed his way past the Hôtel Post and into the garden, where,
at a table, an old general sat reading letters.

With a hasty glance at him, Jack bowed, and asked permission to
take the unoccupied chair and use the table. The officer inclined
his head with a peculiarly graceful movement, and, without more
ado, Jack sat down, placed his pad flat on the table, and wrote
his despatch in pencil:

    "FORBACH, 2d August, 1870.

    "The first shot of the war was fired this morning at ten
    o'clock. At that hour the French opened on Saarbrück
    with twenty-three pieces of artillery. The bombardment
    continued until twelve. At two o'clock the Germans,
    having evacuated Saarbrück, retreated across the Saar to
    Saint-Johann. The latter village is also now being
    evacuated; the French are pushing across the Saar by
    means of pontoons; the three bridges are also being
    rapidly repaired.

    "Reports vary, but it is probable that the losses on the
    German side will number four officers and seventy-nine
    men killed--wounded unknown. The French lost six
    officers and eighty men killed; wounded list not
    completed.

    "The Emperor was present with the Prince Imperial."

Leaving his pad on the table and his riding-crop and gloves over
it, he gathered up the loose leaves of his telegram and hastened
across the street to the telegraph office. For the moment the
instrument was idle, and the operator took his despatch, read it
aloud to the censor, an officer of artillery, who viséd it and
nodded.

"A longer despatch is to follow--can I have the wires again in
half an hour?" asked Jack.

Both operator and censor laughed and said, "No promises,
monsieur; come and see." And Jack hastened back to the garden of
the hôtel and sat down once more under the trees, scarcely
glancing at the old officer beside him. Again he wrote:

    "The truth is that the whole affair was scarcely more
    than a skirmish. A handful of the 2d Battalion of
    Fusilliers, a squadron or two of Uhlans, and a battery
    of Prussian artillery have for days faced and held in
    check a whole French division. When they were attacked
    they tranquilly turned a bold front to the French, made
    a devil of a racket with their cannon, and slipped
    across the frontier with trifling loss. If the French
    are going to celebrate this as a victory, Europe will
    laugh--"

He paused, frowning and biting his pencil. Presently he noticed
that several troopers of the Hundred-Guards were watching him
from the street; sentinels of the same corps were patrolling the
garden, their long, bayoneted carbines over their steel-bound
shoulders. At the same moment his eyes fell upon the old officer
beside him. The officer raised his head.

It was the Emperor, Napoleon III.



XI

"KEEP THY FAITH"


Jack was startled, and he instinctively stood up very straight,
as he always did when surprised.

Under the Emperor's crimson képi, heavy with gold, the old, old
eyes, half closed, peered at him, as a drowsy buzzard watches the
sky, with filmy, changeless gaze. His face was the colour of
clay, the loose folds of the cheeks hung pallid over a heavy
chin; his lips were hidden beneath a mustache and imperial,
unkempt but waxed at the ends. From the shadow of his crimson cap
the hair straggled forward, half hiding two large, wrinkled,
yellow ears.

With a smile and a slight gesture exquisitely courteous, the
Emperor said: "Pray do not allow me to interrupt you, monsieur;
old soldiers are of small account when a nation's newspapers
wait."

"Sire!" protested Jack, flushing.

Napoleon III.'s eyes twinkled, and he picked up his letter again,
still smiling.

"Such good news, monsieur, should not be kept waiting. You are
English? No? Then American? Oh!"

The Emperor rolled a cigarette, gazing into vacancy with dreamy
eyes, narrow as slits in a mask. Jack sat down again, pencil in
hand, a little flustered and uncertain.

The Emperor struck a wax-match on a gold matchbox, leaning his
elbow on the table to steady his shaking hand. Presently he
slowly crossed one baggy red-trouser knee over the other and,
blowing a cloud of cigarette smoke into the sunshine, said: "I
suppose your despatch will arrive considerably in advance of the
telegrams of the other correspondents, who seem to be blocked in
Saarbrück?"

He glanced obliquely at Jack, grave and impassible.

"I trust so, sire," said Jack, seriously.

The Emperor laughed outright, crumpled the letter in his gloved
hand, tossed the cigarette away, and rose painfully, leaning for
support on the table.

Jack rose, too.

"Monsieur," said Napoleon, playfully, as though attempting to
conceal intense physical suffering, "I am in search of a
motto--for reasons. I shall have a regiment or two carry
'Saarbrück' on their colours. What motto should they also carry?"

Jack spoke before he intended it--he never knew why: "Sire, the
only motto I know is this: 'Tiens ta Foy!'"

The Man of December turned his narrow eyes on him. Then, bowing
with the dignity and grace that he, of all living monarchs,
possessed, the Emperor passed slowly through the garden and
entered the little hôtel, the clash of presented carbines ringing
in the still air behind him.

Jack sat down, considerably exercised in his mind, thinking of
what he had said. The splendid old crusader's motto, "Keep thy
Faith," was scarcely the motto to suggest to the man of the Coup
d'État, the man of Rome, the man of Mexico. The very bones of
Victor Noir would twist in their coffin at the words; and the
lungs of that other Victor, the one named Hugo, would swell and
expand until the bellowing voice rang like a Jersey fog-siren
over the channel, over the ocean, till the seven seas vibrated
and the four winds swept it to the four ends of the earth.

Very soberly he finished his despatch, picked up his gloves and
crop, and again walked over to the telegraph station.

The censor read the pencilled scrawl, smiled, drew a red pencil
through some of it, smiled again, and said: "I trust it will not
inconvenience monsieur too much."

"Not at all," said Jack, pleasantly.

He had not expected to get it all through, and he bowed and
thanked the censor, and went out to where his horse stood,
cropping the tender leaves of a spreading chestnut-tree.

It was five o'clock by his watch when he trotted out into the
Morteyn road, now entirely deserted except by a peasant or two,
staring, under their inverted hands, at the distant spire of
Saarbrück.

Far away in the valley he caught glimpses of troops, glancing at
times over his shoulder, but the distant squares and columns on
hill-side and road seemed to be motionless. Already the thin,
glimmering line of the Saar had faded from view; the afternoon
haze hung blue on every hill-side; the woods were purple and
vague as streaks of cloud at evening.

He passed Saint-Avold far to the south, too far to see anything
of the division that lay encamped there; and presently he turned
into the river road that follows the Saar until the great highway
to Metz cuts it at an acute angle. From this cross-road he could
see the railway, where a line of freight-cars, drawn by a puffing
locomotive, was passing--cars of all colours, marked on one end
"Elsass-Lothringen," on the other "Alsace-Lorraine."

He had brought with him a slice of bread and a flask of Moselle,
and, as he had had no time to eat since daybreak, he gravely
began munching away, drinking now and then from his flask and
absently eying the road ahead.

He thought of Lorraine and of his promise. If only all promises
were as easily kept! He had plenty of time to reach Morteyn
before dark, taking it at an easy canter, so he let his horse
walk up the hills while he swallowed his bread and wine and mused
on war and love and emperors.

He had been riding in this abstracted study for some time, and
had lighted a pipe to aid his dreams, when, from the hill-side
ahead, he caught a glimpse of something that sparkled in the
afternoon sunshine, and he rose in his saddle and looked to see
what it might be. After a moment he made out five mounted troopers,
moving about on the crest of the hill, the sun slanting on stirrup
metal and lance-tip. As he was about to resume his meditations,
something about these lancers caught his eye--something that did
not seem quite right--he couldn't tell what. Of course they were
French lancers, they could be nothing else, here in the rear of the
army, but still they were rather odd-looking lancers, after all.

The eyes of a mariner and the eyes of a soldier, or of a man who
foregathers with soldiers, are quick to detect strange rigging.
Therefore Jack unslung his glasses and levelled them on the group
of mounted men, who were now moving towards him at an easy lope,
their tall lances, butts in stirrups, swinging free from the
arm-loops, their horses' manes tossing in the hill breeze.

The next moment he seized his bridle, drove both spurs into his
horse, and plunged ahead, dropping pipe and flask in the road
unheeded. At the same time a hoarse shout came quavering across
the fields, a shout as harsh and sinister as the menacing cry of
a hawk; but he dashed on, raising a whirlwind of red dust. Now he
could see them plainly enough, their slim boots, their yellow
facings and reverses, the shiny little helmets with the square
tops like inverted goblets, the steel lances from which black and
white pennons streamed.

They were Uhlans!

For a minute it was a question in his mind whether or not they
would be able to cut him off. A ditch in the meadow halted them
for a second or two, but they took it like chamois and came
cantering up towards the high-road, shouting hoarsely and
brandishing their lances.

It was true that, being a non-combatant and a foreigner with a
passport, and, furthermore, an accredited newspaper correspondent,
he had nothing to fear except, perhaps, a tedious detention and a
long-winded explanation. But it was not that. He had promised to
be at Morteyn by night, and now, if these Uhlans caught him and
marched him off to their main post, he would certainly spend one
night at least in the woods or fields. A sudden anger, almost a
fury, seized him that these men should interfere with his promise;
that they should in any way influence his own free going and coming,
and he struck his horse with the riding-crop and clattered on along
the highway.

"Halt!" shouted a voice, in German--"halt! or we fire!" and again
in French: "Halt! We shall fire!"

They were not far from the road now, but he saw that he could
pass them easily.

"Halt! halt!" they shouted, breathless.

Instinctively he ducked, and at the same moment piff! piff! their
revolvers began, and two bullets sang past near enough to make
his ears tingle.

Then they settled down to outride him; he heard their scurry and
jingle behind, and for a minute or two they held their own, but
little by little he forged ahead, and they began to shoot at him
from their saddles. One of them, however, had not wasted time in
shooting; Jack heard him, always behind, and now he seemed to be
drawing nearer, steadily but slowly closing up the gap between
them.

Jack glanced back. There he was, a big, blond, bony Uhlan, lance
couched, clattering up the hill; but the others had already
halted far behind, watching the race from the bottom of the
incline.

"Tiens ta Foy," he muttered to himself, digging both spurs into
his horse; "I'll not prove faithless to her first request--not if
I know it. Good Lord! how near that Uhlan is!"

Again he glanced behind, hesitated, and finally shouted: "Go
back! I am no soldier! Go back!"

"I'll show you!" bellowed the Uhlan. "Stop your horse! or when I
catch you--"

"Go back!" cried Jack, angrily; "go back or I'll fire!" and he
whipped out his long Colt's and shook it above his head.

With a derisive yell the Uhlan banged away--once, twice, three
times--and the bullets buzzed around Jack's ears till they sang.
He swung around, crimson with fury, and raised the heavy
six-shooter.

"By God!" he shouted; "then take it yourself!" and he fired one
shot, standing up in his stirrups to steady his aim.

He heard a cry, he saw a horse rear straight up through the dust;
there was a gleam of yellow, a flash of a falling lance, a groan.
Then, as he galloped on, pale and tight-lipped, a riderless horse
thundered along behind him, mane tossing in the whirling dust.

With sudden instinct, Jack drew bridle and wheeled his trembling
mount--the riderless horse tore past him--and he trotted soberly
back to the dusty heap in the road. It may have merely been the
impulse to see what he had done, it may have been a nobler
impulse, for Jack dismounted and bent over the fallen man. Then
he raised him in his arms by the shoulders and drew him towards
the road-side. The Uhlan was heavy, his spurs dragged in the
dust. Very gently Jack propped him up against a poplar-tree,
looked for a moment at the wound in his head, and then ran for
his horse. It was high time, too; the other Uhlans came racing
and tearing uphill, hallooing like Cossacks, and he vaulted into
his saddle and again set spurs to his horse.

Now it was a ride for life; he understood that thoroughly, and
settled down to it, bending low in the saddle, bridle in one
hand, revolver in the other. And as he rode his sobered thoughts
dwelt now on Lorraine, now on the great lank Uhlan, lying
stricken in the red dust of the highway. He seemed to see him
yet, blond, dusty, the sweat in beads on his blanched cheeks, the
crimson furrow in his colourless scalp. He had seen, too, the
padded yellow shoulder-knots bearing the regimental number "11,"
and he knew that he had shot a trooper of the 11th Uhlans, and
that the 11th Uhlan Regiment was Rickerl's regiment. He set his
teeth and stared fearfully over his shoulder. The pursuit had
ceased; the Uhlans, dismounted, were gathered about the tree
under which their comrade lay gasping. Jack brought his horse to
a gallop, to a canter, and finally to a trot. The horse was not
winded, but it trembled and reeked with sweat and lather.

Beyond him lay the forest of La Bruine, red in the slanting rays
of the setting sun. Beyond this the road swung into the Morteyn
road, that lay cool and moist along the willows that bordered the
river Lisse.

The sun glided behind the woods as he reached the bridge that
crosses the Lisse, and the evening glow on feathery willow and
dusty alder turned stem and leaf to shimmering rose.

It was seven o'clock, and he knew that he could keep his word to
Lorraine. And now, too, he began to feel the fatigue of the day
and the strain of the last two hours. In his excitement he had
not noticed that two bullets had passed through his jacket, one
close to the pocket, one ripping the gun-pads at the collar. The
horse, too, was bleeding from the shoulder where a long raw
streak traced the flight of a grazing ball.

His face was pale and serious when, at evening, he rode into the
porte-cochère of the Château de Nesville and dismounted, stiffly.
He was sore, fatigued, and covered with dust from cap to spur;
his eyes, heavily ringed but bright, roamed restlessly from
window to porch.

"I've kept my faith," he muttered to himself--"I've kept my
faith, anyway." But now he began to understand what might follow
if he, a foreigner and a non-combatant, was ever caught by the
11th regiment of Uhlans. It sickened him when he thought of what
he had done; he could find no excuse for himself--not even the
shots that had come singing about his ears. Who was he, a
foreigner, that he should shoot down a brave German cavalryman
who was simply following instructions? His promise to Lorraine?
Was that sufficient excuse for taking human life? Puzzled, weary,
and profoundly sad, he stood thinking, undecided what to do. He
knew that he had not killed the Uhlan outright, but, whether or
not the soldier could recover, he was uncertain. He, who had seen
the horrors of naked, gaping wounds at Sadowa--he who had seen
the pitiable sights of Oran, where Chanzy and his troops had swept
the land in a whirlwind of flame and sword--he, this same cool young
fellow, could not contemplate that dusty figure in the red road
without a shudder of self-accusation--yes, of self-disgust. He told
himself that he had fired too quickly, that he had fired in anger,
not in self-protection. He felt sure that he could have outridden
the Uhlan in the end. Perhaps he was too severe on himself; he did
not think of the fusillade at his back, his coat torn by two bullets,
the raw furrow on his horse's shoulder. He only asked himself whether,
to keep his promise, he was justified in what he had done, and he felt
that he had acted hastily and in anger, and that he was a very poor
specimen of young men. It was just as well, perhaps, that he thought
so; the sentiment under the circumstances was not unhealthy. Moreover,
he knew in his heart that, under any conditions, he would place his
duty to Lorraine first of all. So he was puzzled and tired and unhappy
when Lorraine, her arms full of brook-lilies, came down the gravel
drive and said: "You have kept your faith, you shall wear a lily for
me; will you?"

He could not meet her eyes, he could scarcely reply to her shy
questions.

When she saw the wounded horse she grieved over its smarting
shoulder, and insisted on stabling it herself.

"Wait for me," she said; "I insist. You must find a glass of wine
for yourself and go with old Pierre and dust your clothes. Then
come back; I shall be in the arbour."

He looked after her until she entered the stables, leading the
exhausted horse with a tenderness that touched him deeply. He
felt so mean, so contemptible, so utterly beneath the notice of
this child who stood grieving over his wounded horse.

A dusty and dirty and perspiring man is at a disadvantage with
himself. His misdemeanours assume exaggerated proportions,
especially when he is confronted with a girl in a cool gown that
is perfumed by blossoms pure and spotless and fragrant as the
young breast that crushes them.

So when he had found old Pierre and had followed him to a
bath-room, the water that washed the stains from brow and wrist
seemed also to purify the stain that is popularly supposed to
resist earthly ablutions. A clean body and a clean conscience is
not a proverb, but there are, perhaps, worse maxims in the world.

When he dried his face and looked into a mirror, his sins had
dwindled a bit; when Pierre dusted his clothes and polished his
spurs and boots, life assumed a brighter aspect. Fatigue, too, came
to dull that busybody--that tireless, gossiping gadabout--conscience.
Fatigue and remorse are enemies; slumber and the white flag of sleep
stand truce between them.

"Pierre," he said; "get a dog-cart; I am going to drive to
Morteyn. You will find me in the arbour on the lawn. Is the
marquis visible?"

"No, Monsieur Jack, he is still locked up in the turret."

"And the balloon?"

"Dame! Je n'en sais rien, monsieur."

So Jack walked down-stairs and out through the porch to the lawn,
where he saw Lorraine already seated in the arbour, placing the
long-stemmed lilies in gilded bowls.

"It will be dark soon," he said, stepping up beside her. "Thank
you for being good to my horse. Is it more than a scratch?"

"No--it is nothing. The horse shall stand in our stable until
to-morrow. Are you very tired? Sit beside me. Do you care to tell
me anything of what you did?"

"Do you care to know?"

"Of course," she said.

So he told her; not all, however--not of that ride and the chase
and the shots from the saddle. But he spoke of the Emperor and
the distant battle that had seemed like a scene in a painted
landscape. He told her, too, of Georges Carrière.

"Why, I know him," she said, brightening with pleasure; "he is
charming--isn't he?"

"Why, yes," said Jack; but for all he tried his voice sounded
coldly.

"Don't you think so?" asked Lorraine, opening her blue eyes.

Again he tried to speak warmly of the friend he was really fond
of, and again he felt that he had failed. Why? He would not ask
himself--but he knew. This shamed him, and he began an elaborate
eulogy on poor Georges, conscientious, self-effacing, but very,
very unsatisfactory.

The maid beside him listened demurely. She also knew things that
she had not known a week ago. That possibly is why, like a little
bird stretching its new wings, she also tried her own resources,
innocently, timidly. And the torment of Jack began.

"Monsieur Marche, do you think that Lieutenant Carrière may come
to Morteyn?"

"He said he would; I--er--I hope he will. Don't you?"

"I? Oh yes. When will he come?"

"I don't know," said Jack, sulkily.

"Oh! I thought you were very fond of him and that, of course, you
would know when--"

"Nobody knows; if he's gone with the army into Germany it is
impossible to say when the war will end." Then he made a silly,
boorish observation which was, "I hope for your sake he will come
soon."

Oh, but he was ashamed of it now! The groom in the stable yonder
would have had better tact. Truly, it takes a man of gentle
breeding to demonstrate what under-breeding really can be. If
Lorraine was shocked she did not show it. A maid unloved,
unloving, pardons nothing; a maid with a lover invests herself
with all powers and prerogatives, and the greatest of these is
the power to pardon. It is not only a power, it is a need, a
desire, an imperative necessity to pardon much in him who loves
much. This may be only because she also understands. Pardon and
doubt repel each other. So Lorraine, having grown wise in a week,
pardoned Jack mentally. Outwardly it was otherwise, and Jack
became aware that the atmosphere was uncomfortably charged with
lightning. It gleamed a moment in her eyes ere her lips opened.

"Take your dog-cart and go back to Morteyn," said Lorraine,
quietly.

"Let me stay; I am ashamed," he said, turning red.

"No; I do not wish to see you again--for a long, long
time--forever."

Her head was bent and her fingers were busy among the lilies in
the gilded bowl.

"Do you send me away?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because you are more than rude."

"I am ashamed; forgive me."

"No."

She glanced up at him from her drooping lashes. She had pardoned
him long ago.

"No," she repeated, "I cannot forgive."

"Lorraine--"

"There is the dog-cart," she whispered, almost breathlessly. So
he said good-night and went away.

She stood on the dim lawn, her arms full of blossoms, listening
to the sound of the wheels until they died away beyond the park
gate.

She had turned whiter than the lilies at her breast. This was
because she was still very young and not quite as wise as some
maidens.

For the same reason she left her warm bed that night to creep
through the garden and slip into the stable and lay her
tear-stained cheeks on the neck of Jack's horse.



XII

FROM THE FRONTIER


During the next three days, for the first time since he had known
her, he did not go to see Lorraine. How he stood it--how he ever
dragged through those miserable hours--he himself never could
understand.

The wide sculptured eyes of Our Lady of Morteyn above the shrine
seemed to soften when he went there to sit at her feet and stare
at nothing. It was not tears, but dew, that gathered under the
stone lids, for the night had grown suddenly hot, and everything
lay moist in the starlight. Night changed to midnight, and
midnight to dawn, and dawn to another day, cloudless, pitiless;
and Jack awoke again, and his waking thought was of Lorraine.

All day long he sat with the old vicomte, reading to him when he
wished, playing interminable games of chess, sick at heart with a
longing that almost amounted to anger. He could not tell his
aunt. As far as that went, the wise old lady had divined that
their first trouble had come to them in all the appalling and
exaggerated proportions that such troubles assume, but she smiled
gently to herself, for she, too, had been young, and the ways of
lovers had been her ways, and the paths of love she had trodden,
and she had drained love's cup at bitter springs.

That night she came to his bedside and kissed him, saying:
"To-morrow you shall carry my love and my thanks to Lorraine for
her care of the horse."

"I can't," muttered Jack.

"Pooh!" said Madame de Morteyn, and closed the bedroom door; and
Jack slept better that night.

It was ten o'clock the next morning before he appeared at
breakfast, and it was plain, even to the thrush on the lawn
outside, that he had bestowed an elaboration upon his toilet that
suggested either a duel or a wedding.

Madame de Morteyn hid her face, for she could not repress the
smile that tormented her sweet mouth. Even the vicomte said: "Oh!
You're not off for Paris, Jack, are you?"

After breakfast he wandered moodily out to the terrace, where his
aunt found him half an hour later, mooning and contemplating his
spotless gloves.

"Then you are not going to ride over to the Château de Nesville?"
she asked, trying not to laugh.

"Oh!" he said, with affected surprise, "did you wish me to go to
the Château?"

"Yes, Jack dear, if you are not too much occupied." She could not
repress the mischievous accent on the "too." "Are you going to
drive?"

"No; I shall walk--unless you are in a hurry."

"No more than you are, dear," she said, gravely.

He looked at her with sudden suspicion, but she was not smiling.

"Very well," he said, gloomily.

About eleven o'clock he had sauntered half the distance down the
forest road that leads to the Château de Nesville. His heart
seemed to tug and tug and urge him forward; his legs refused
obedience; he sulked. But there was the fresh smell of loam and
moss and aromatic leaves, the music of the Lisse on the pebbles,
the joyous chorus of feathered creatures from every thicket, and
there were the antics of the giddy young rabbits that scuttled
through the warrens, leaping, tumbling, sitting up, lop-eared and
impudent, or diving head-first into their burrows.

Under the stems of a thorn thicket two cock-pheasants were having a
difference, and were enthusiastically settling that difference in the
approved method of game-cocks. He lingered to see which might win,
but a misstep and a sudden crack of a dry twig startled them, and
they withdrew like two stately but indignant old gentlemen who had
been subjected to uncalled-for importunities.

Presently he felt cheerful enough to smoke, and he searched in
every pocket for his pipe. Then he remembered that he had dropped
it when he dropped his silver flask, there in the road where he
had first been startled by the Uhlans.

This train of thought depressed him again, but he resolutely put
it from his mind, lighted a cigarette, and moved on.

Just ahead, around the bend in the path, lay the grass-grown
carrefour where he had first seen Lorraine. He thought of her as
he remembered her then, flushed, indignant, blocking the path
while the map-making spy sneered in her face and crowded past
her, still sneering. He thought, too, of her scarlet skirt, and
the little velvet bodice and the silver chains. He thought of her
heavy hair, dishevelled, glimmering in her eyes. At the same
moment he turned the corner; the carrefour lay before him,
overgrown, silent, deserted. A sudden tenderness filled his
heart--ah, how we love those whom we have protected!--and he
stood for a moment in the sunshine with bowed head, living over
the episode that he could never forget. Every word, every
gesture, the shape of the very folds in her skirt, he remembered;
yes, and the little triangular tear, the broken silver chain, the
ripped bodice!

And she, in her innocence, had promised to see him there at the
river-bank below. He had never gone, because that very night she
had come to Morteyn, and since then he had seen her every day at
her own home.

As he stood he could hear the river Lisse whispering, calling
him. He would go--just to see the hidden rendezvous--for old
love's sake; it was a step from the path, no more.

Then that strange instinct, that sudden certainty that comes at
times to all, seized him, and he knew that Lorraine was there by
the river; he knew it as surely as though he saw her before him.

And she was there, standing by the still water, silver chains
drooping over the velvet bodice, scarlet skirt hanging brilliant
and heavy as a drooping poppy in the sun.

"Dear me," she said, very calmly, "I thought you had quite
forgotten me. Why have you not been to the Château, Monsieur
Marche?"

And this, after she had told him to go away and not to return!
Wise in the little busy ways of the world of men, he was
uneducated in the ways of a maid.

Therefore he was speechless.

"And now," she said, with the air of an early Christian
tête-à-tête with Nero--"and now you do not speak to me? Why?"

"Because," he blurted out, "I thought you did not care to have
me!"

Surprise, sorrow, grief gave place to pity in her eyes.

"What a silly man!" she observed. "I am going to sit down on the
moss. Are you intending to call upon my father? He is still in
the turret. If you can spare a moment I will tell you what he is
doing."

Yes, he had a moment to spare--not many moments--he hoped she
would understand that!--but he had one or two little ones at her
disposal.

She read this in his affected hesitation. She would make him pay
dearly for it. Vengeance should be hers!

He stood a moment, eying the water as though it had done him
personal injury. Then he sat down.

"The balloon is almost ready, steering-gear and all," she said.
"I saw papa yesterday for a moment; I tried to get him to stay
with me, but he could not."

She looked wistfully across the river.

Jack watched her. His heart ached for her, and he bent nearer.

"Forgive me for causing you any unhappiness," he said. "Will
you?"

"Yes."

Oh! where was her vengeance now? So far beneath her!

"These four days have been the most wretched days to me, the most
unhappy I have ever lived," he said. The emotion in his voice
brought the soft colour to her face. She did not answer; she
would have if she had wished to check him.

"I will never again, as long as I live, give you one
moment's--displeasure." He was going to say "pain," but he dared
not.

Still she was silent, her idle white fingers clasped in her lap,
her eyes fixed on the river. Little by little the colour deepened
in her cheeks. It was when she felt them burning that she spoke,
nervously, scarcely comprehending her own words: "I--I also was
unhappy--I was silly; we both are very silly--don't you think so?
We are such good friends that it seems absurd to quarrel as we have.
I have forgotten everything that was unpleasant--it was so little
that I could not remember if I tried! Could you? I am very happy
now; I am going to listen while you amuse me with stories." She
curled up against a tree and smiled at him--at the love in his eyes
which she dared not read, which she dared not acknowledge to herself.
It was there, plain enough for a wilful maid to see; it burned under
his sun-tanned cheeks, it softened the firm lips. A thrill of
contentment passed through her. She was satisfied; the world was
kind again.

He lay at her feet, pulling blades of grass from the bank and
idly biting the whitened stems. The voice of the Lisse was in his
ears, he breathed the sweet wood perfume and he saw the sunlight
wrinkle and crinkle the surface ripples where the water washed
through the sedges, and the long grasses quivered and bent with
the glittering current.

"Tell you stories?" he asked again.

"Yes--stories that never have really happened--but that should
have happened."

"Then listen! There was once--many, many years ago--a maid and a
man--"

Good gracious--but that story is as old as life itself! He did
not realize it, nor did she. It seemed new to them.

The sun of noon was moving towards the west when they remembered
that they were hungry.

"You shall come home and lunch with me; will you? Perhaps papa
may be there, too," she said. This hope, always renewed with
every dawn, always fading with the night, lived eternal in her
breast--this hope, that one day she should have her father to
herself.

"Will you come?" she asked, shyly.

"Yes. Do you know it will be our first luncheon together?"

"Oh, but you brought me an ice at the dance that evening; don't
you remember?"

"Yes, but that was not a supper--I mean a luncheon together--with
a table between us and--you know what I mean."

"I don't," she said, smiling dreamily; so he knew that she did.

They hurried a little on the way to the Château, and he laughed
at her appetite, which made her laugh, too, only she pretended
not to like it.

At the porch she left him to change her gown, and slipped away
up-stairs, while he found old Pierre and was dusted and fussed
over until he couldn't stand it another moment. Luckily he heard
Lorraine calling her maid on the porch, and he went to her at
once.

"Papa says you may lunch here--I spoke to him through the
key-hole. It is all ready; will you come?"

A serious-minded maid served them with salad and thin
bread-and-butter.

"Tea!" exclaimed Jack.

"Isn't that very American?" asked Lorraine, timidly. "I thought
you might like it; I understood that all Americans drank tea."

"They do," he said, gravely; "it is a terrible habit--a national
vice--but they do."

"Now you are laughing at me!" she cried. "Marianne, please to
remove that tea! No, no, I won't leave it--and you can suffer if
you wish. And to think that I--"

They were both laughing so that the maid's face grew more
serious, and she removed the teapot as though she were bearing
some strange and poisonous creature to a deserved doom.

As they sat opposite each other, smiling, a little flurried at
finding themselves alone at table together, but eating with the
appetites of very young lovers, the warm summer wind, blowing
through the open windows, bore to their ears the songs of forest
birds. It bore another sound, too; Jack had heard it for the last
two hours, or had imagined he heard it--a low, monotonous
vibration, now almost distinct, now lost, now again discernible,
but too vague, too indefinite to be anything but that faint
summer harmony which comes from distant breezes, distant
movements, mingling with the stir of drowsy field insects, half
torpid in the heat of noon.

Still it was always there; and now, turning his ear to the
window, he laid down knife and fork to listen.

"I have also noticed it," said Lorraine, answering his unasked
question.

"Do you hear it now?"

"Yes--more distinctly now."

A few moments later Jack leaned back in his chair and listened
again.

"Yes," said Lorraine, "it seems to come nearer. What is it?"

"It comes from the southeast. I don't know," he answered.

They rose and walked to the window. She was so near that he
breathed the subtle fragrance of her hair, the fresh sweetness of
her white gown, that rustled beside him.

"Hark!" whispered Lorraine; "I can almost hear voices in the
breezes--the murmur of voices, as if millions of tiny people were
calling us from the ends and outer edges of the earth."

"There is a throbbing, too. Do you notice it?"

"Yes--like one's heart at night. Ah, now it comes nearer--oh,
nearer! nearer! Oh, what can it be?"

He knew now; he knew that indefinable battle--rumour that steals
into the senses long before it is really audible. It is not a
sound--not even a vibration; it is an immense foreboding that
weights the air with prophecy.

"From the south and east," he repeated; "from the Landesgrenze."

"The frontier?"

"Yes. Hark!"

"I hear."

"From the frontier," he said again. "From the river Lauter and
from Wissembourg."

"What is it?" she whispered, close beside him.

"Cannon!"

Yes, it was cannon--they knew it now--cannon throbbing,
throbbing, throbbing along the horizon where the crags of the
Geisberg echoed the dull thunder and shook it far out across the
vineyards of Wissembourg, where the heights of Kapsweyer,
resounding, hurled back the echoes to the mountains in the north.

"Why--why does it seem to come nearer?" asked Lorraine.

"Nearer?" He knew it had come nearer, but how could he tell her
what that meant?

"It is a battle--is it not?" she asked again.

"Yes, a battle."

She said nothing more, but stood leaning along the wall, her white
forehead pressed against the edge of the raised window-sash. Outside,
the little birds had grown suddenly silent; there was a stillness
that comes before a rain; the leaves on the shrubbery scarcely moved.

And now, nearer and nearer swelled the rumour of battle,
undulating, quavering over forest and hill, and the muttering of
the cannon grew to a rumble that jarred the air.

As currents in the upper atmosphere shift and settle north,
south, east, west, so the tide of sound wavered and drifted, and
set westward, flowing nearer and nearer and louder and louder,
until the hoarse, crashing tumult, still vague and distant, was
cut by the sharper notes of single cannon that spoke out,
suddenly impetuous, in the dull din.

The whole Château was awake now; maids, grooms, valets,
gardeners, and keepers were gathering outside the iron grille of
the park, whispering together and looking out across the fields.

There was nothing to see except pastures and woods, and
low-rounded hills crowned with vineyards. Nothing more except a
single strangely shaped cloud, sombre, slender at the base, but
spreading at the top like a palm.

"I am going up to speak to your father," said Jack, carelessly;
"may I?"

Interrupt her father! Lorraine fairly gasped.

"Stay here," he added, with the faintest touch of authority in
his tone; and, before she could protest, he had sped away up the
staircase and round and round the long circular stairs that led
to the single turret.

A little out of breath, he knocked at the door which faced the
top step. There was no answer. He rapped again, impatiently. A
voice startled him: "Lorraine, I am busy!"

"Open," called Jack; "I must see you!"

"I am busy!" replied the marquis. Irritation and surprise were in
his tones.

"Open!" called Jack again; "there is no time to lose!"

Suddenly the door was jerked back and the marquis appeared, pale,
handsome, his eyes cold and blue as icebergs.

"Monsieur Marche--" he began, almost discourteously.

"Pardon," interrupted Jack; "I am going into your room. I wish to
look out of that turret window. Come also--you must know what to
expect."

Astonished, almost angry, the Marquis de Nesville followed him to
the turret window.

"Oh," said Jack, softly, staring out into the sunshine, "it is
time, is it not, that we knew what was going on along the
frontier? Look there!"

On the horizon vast shapeless clouds lay piled, gigantic coils
and masses of vapour, dark, ominous, illuminated by faint, pallid
lights that played under them incessantly; and over all towered
one tall column of smoke, spreading above like an enormous
palm-tree. But this was not all. The vast panorama of hill and
valley and plain, cut by roads that undulated like narrow satin
ribbons on a brocaded surface, was covered with moving objects,
swarming, inundating the landscape. To the south a green hill
grew black with the human tide, to the north long lines and
oblongs and squares moved across the land, slowly, almost
imperceptibly--but they were moving, always moving east.

"It is an army coming," said the marquis.

"It is a rout," said Jack, quietly.

The marquis moved suddenly, as though to avoid a blow.

"What troops are those?" he asked, after a silence.

"It is the French army," replied Jack. "Have you not heard the
cannonade?"

"No--my machines make some noise when I'm working. I hear it now.
What is that cloud--a fire?"

"It is the battle cloud."

"And the smoke on the horizon?"

"The smoke from the guns. They are fighting beyond
Saarbrück--yes, beyond Pfalzburg and Wörth; they are fighting
beyond the Lauter."

"Wissembourg?"

"I think so. They are nearer now. Monsieur de Nesville, the
battle has gone against the French."

"How do you know?" demanded the marquis, harshly.

"I have seen battles. One need only listen and look at the army
yonder. They will pass Morteyn; I think they will pass for miles
through the country. It looks to me like a retreat towards Metz,
but I am not sure. The throngs of troops below are fugitives, not
the regular geometrical figures that you see to the north. Those
are regiments and divisions moving towards the west in good
order."

The two men stepped back into the room and faced each other.

"After the rain the flood, after the rout the invasion," said
Jack, firmly. "You cannot know it too quickly. You know it now,
and you can make your plans."

He was thinking of Lorraine's safety when he spoke, but the
marquis turned instinctively to a mass of machinery and chemical
paraphernalia behind him.

"You will have your hands full," said Jack, repressing an angry
sneer; "if you wish, my aunt De Morteyn will charge herself with
Mademoiselle de Nesville's safety."

"True, Lorraine might go to Morteyn," murmured the marquis,
absently, examining a smoky retort half filled with a silvery
heap of dust.

"Then, may I drive her over after dinner?"

"Yes," replied the other, indifferently.

Jack started towards the stairs, hesitated, and turned around.

"Your inventions are not safe, of course, if the German army
comes. Do you need my help?"

"My inventions are my own affair," said the marquis, angrily.

Jack flushed scarlet, swung on his heels, and marched out of the
room and down the stairs. On the lower steps he met Lorraine's
maid, and told her briefly to pack her mistress's trunks for a
visit to Morteyn.

Lorraine was waiting for him at the window where he had left her,
a scared, uncertain little maid in truth.

"The battle is very near, isn't it?" she asked.

"No, miles away yet."

"Did you speak to papa? Did he send word to me? Does he want me?"

He found it hard to tell her what message her father had sent,
but he did.

"I am to go to Morteyn? Oh, I cannot! I cannot! Papa will be
alone here!" she said, aghast.

"Perhaps you had better see him," he said, almost bitterly.

She hurried away up the stairs; he heard her little eager feet on
the stone steps that led to the turret; climbing up, up, up,
until the sound was lost in the upper stories of the house. He
went out to the stables and ordered the dog-cart and a wagon for
her trunks. He did not fear that this order might be premature,
for he thought he had not misjudged the Marquis de Nesville. And
he had not, for, before the cart was ready, Lorraine, silent,
pale, tearless, came noiselessly down the stairs holding her
little cloak over one arm.

"I am to stay a week," she said; "he does not want me." She
added, hastily, "He is so busy and worried, and there is much to
be done, and if the Prussians should come he must hide the
balloon and the box of plans and formula--"

"I know," said Jack, tenderly; "it will lift a weight from his
mind when he knows you are safe with my aunt."

"He is so good, he thinks only of my safety," faltered Lorraine.

"Come," said Jack, in a voice that sounded husky; "the horse is
waiting; I am to drive you. Your maid will follow with the trunks
this evening. Are you ready? Give me your cloak. There--now, are
you ready?"

"Yes."

He aided her to mount the dog-cart--her light touch was on his
arm. He turned to the groom at the horse's head, sprang to the
seat, and nodded. Lorraine leaned back and looked up at the
turret where her father was.

"Allons! En route!" cried Jack, cheerily, snapping his
ribbon-decked whip.

At the same instant a horseless cavalryman, gray with dust and
dripping with blood and sweat, staggered out on the road from
among the trees. He turned a deathly face to theirs, stopped,
tottered, and called out--"Jack!"

"Georges!" cried Jack, amazed.

"Give me a horse, for God's sake!" he gasped. "I've just killed
mine. I--I must get to Metz by midnight--"



XIII

AIDE-DE-CAMP


Lorraine and Jack sprang to the road from opposite sides of the
vehicle; Georges' drawn face was stretched into an attempt at a
smile which was ghastly, for the stiff, black blood that had
caked in a dripping ridge from his forehead to his chin cracked
and grew moist and scarlet, and his hollow cheeks whitened under
the coat of dust. But he drew himself up by an effort and saluted
Lorraine with a punctilious deference that still had a touch of
jauntiness to it--the jauntiness of a youthful cavalry officer in
the presence of a pretty woman.

Old Pierre, who had witnessed the episode from the butler's
window, came limping down the path, holding a glass and a carafe
of brandy.

"You are right, Pierre," said Jack. "Georges, drink it up, old
fellow. There, now you can stand on those pins of yours. What's
that--a sabre cut?"

"No, a scratch from an Uhlan's lance-tip. Cut like a razor,
didn't it? I've just killed my horse, trying to get over a ditch.
Can you give me a mount, Jack?"

"There isn't a horse in the stable that can carry you to Metz,"
said Lorraine, quietly; "Diable is lame and Porthos is not shod.
I can give you my pony."

"Can't you get a train?" asked Jack, astonished.

"No, the Uhlans are in our rear, everywhere. The railroad is torn
up, the viaducts smashed, the wires cut, and general deuce to
pay. I ran into an Uhlan or two--you notice it perhaps," he
added, with a grim smile. "Could you drive me to Morteyn? Do you
think the vicomte would lend me a horse?"

"Of course he would," said Jack; "come, then--there is room for
three," with an anxious glance at Lorraine.

"Indeed, there is always room for a soldier of France!" cried
Lorraine. At the same moment she instinctively laid one hand
lightly on Jack's arm. Their eyes spoke for an instant--the
generous appeal that shone in hers was met and answered by a
response that brought the delicate colour into her cheeks.

"Let me hang on behind," pleaded Georges--"I'm so dirty, you
know." But they bundled him into the seat between them, and Jack
touched his beribboned whip to the horse's ears, and away they
went speeding over the soft forest road in the cool of the fading
day; old Pierre, bottle and glass in hand, gaping after them and
shaking his gray head.

Jack began to fire volleys of questions at the young hussar as
soon as they entered the forest, and poor Georges replied as best
he could.

"I don't know very much about it; I was detached yesterday and
taken on General Douay's staff. We were at Wissembourg--you know
that little town on the Lauter where the vineyards cover
everything and the mountains are pretty steep to the north and
west. All I know is this: about six o'clock this morning our
outposts on the hills to the south began banging way in a great
panic. They had been attacked, it seems, by the 4th Bavarian
Division, Count Bothmer's, I believe. Our posts fell back to the
town, where the 1st Turcos reinforced them at the railroad
station. The artillery were at it on our left, too, and there was
a most infernal racket. The next thing I saw was those crazy
Bavarians, with their little flat drums beating, and their
fur-crested helmets all bobbing, marching calmly up the Geisberg.
Jack, those fellows went through the vineyards like fiends
astride a tempest. That was at two o'clock. The Prussian
Crown-Prince rode into the town an hour before; we couldn't hold
it--Heaven knows why. That's all I saw--except the death of our
general."

"General Douay?" cried Lorraine, horrified.

"Yes, he was killed about ten o'clock in the morning. The town
was stormed through the Hagenauer Thor by the Bavarians. After
that we still held the Geisberg and the Château. You should have
seen it when we left it. I'll say it was a butcher's shambles.
I'd say more if Mademoiselle de Nesville were not here." He was
trying hard to bear up--to speak lightly of the frightful
calamity that had overwhelmed General Abel Douay and his entire
division.

"The fight at the Château was worth seeing," said Georges,
airily. "They went at it with drums beating and flags flying. Oh,
but they fell like leaves in the gardens, there--the paths and
shrubbery were littered with them, dead, dying, gasping, crawling
about, like singed flies under a lamp. We had them beaten, too,
if it hadn't been for their General von Kirchbach. He stood in
the garden--he'd been hit, too--and bawled for the artillery.
Then they came at us again in three divisions. Where they got all
their regiments, I don't know, but their 7th Grenadier Guards
were there, and their 47th, 58th, 59th, 80th, and 87th regiments
of the line, not counting a Jäger battalion and no end of
artillery. They carried the Three Poplars--a hill--and they began
devastating everything. We couldn't face their fire--I don't know
why, Jack; it breaks my heart when I say it, but we couldn't hold
them. Then they began howling for cannon, and, of course, that
settled the Château. The town was in flames when I left."

After a silence, Jack asked him whether it was a rout or a
retreat.

"We're falling back in very decent order," said Georges,
eagerly--"really, we are. Of course, there were some troops that
got into a sort of panic--the Uhlans are annoying us considerably.
The Turcos fought well. We fairly riddled the 58th Prussians--their
king's regiment, you know. It was the 2d Bavarian Corps that did
for us. We will meet them later."

"Where are you going--to Metz?" inquired Jack, soberly.

"Yes; I've a packet for Bazaine--I don't know what. They're
trying to reach him by wire, but those confounded Uhlans are
destroying everything. My dear fellow, you need not worry; we
have been checked, that's all. Our promenade to Berlin is
postponed in deference to King Wilhelm's earnest wishes."

They all tried to laugh a little, and Jack chirped to his horse,
but even that sober animal seemed to feel the depression, for he
responded in fits and starts and jerks that were unpleasant and
jarring to Georges' aching head.

The sky had become covered with bands of wet-looking clouds, the
leaves of the forest stirred noiselessly on their stems. Along
the river willows quivered and aspens turned their leaves white
side to the sky. In the querulous notes of the birds there was a
prophecy of storms, the river muttered among its hollows of
floods and tempests.

Suddenly a great sombre raven sailed to the road, alighted,
sidled back, and sat fearlessly watching them.

Lorraine shivered and nestled closer to Jack.

"Oh," she murmured, "I never saw one before--except in pictures."

"They belong in the snow--they have no business here," said Jack;
"they always make me think of those pictures of Russia--the
retreat of the Grand Army, you know."

"Wolves and ravens," said Lorraine, in a low voice; "I know why
they come to us here in France--Monsieur Marche, did I not tell
you that day in the carrefour?"

"Yes," he answered; "do you really think you are a prophetess?"

"Did you see wolves here?" asked Georges.

"Yes; before war was declared. I told Monsieur Marche--it is a
legend of our country. He, of course, laughed at it. I also do not
believe everything I am told--but--I don't know--I have alway
believed that, ever since I was, oh, very, very small--like that."
She held one small gloved hand about twelve inches from the floor
of the cart.

"At such a height and such an age it is natural to believe
anything," said Jack. "I, too, accepted many strange doctrines
then."

"You are laughing again," said Lorraine.

So they passed through the forest, trying to be cheerful, even
succeeding at times. But Georges' face grew paler every minute,
and his smile was so painful that Lorraine could not bear it and
turned her head away, her hand tightening on the box-rail
alongside.

As they were about to turn out into the Morteyn road, where the
forest ended, Jack suddenly checked the horse and rose to his
feet.

"What is it?" asked Lorraine. "Oh, I see! Oh, look!"

The Morteyn road was filled with infantry, solid, plodding
columns, pressing fast towards the west. The fields, too, were
black with men, engineers, weighted down with their heavy
equipments, resting in long double rows, eyes vacant, heads bent.
Above the thickets of rifles sweeping past, mounted officers sat
in their saddles, as though carried along on the surface of the
serried tide. Standards fringed with gold slanted in the last
rays of the sun, sabres glimmered, curving upward from the
thronged rifles, and over all sounded the shuffle, shuffle of
worn shoes in the dust, a mournful, monotonous cadence, a
hopeless measure, whose burden was despair, whose beat was the
rhythm of breaking hearts.

Oh, but it cut Lorraine to see their boyish faces, dusty, gaunt,
hollow-eyed, turn to her and turn away without a change, without
a shade of expression. The mask of blank apathy stamped on every
visage almost terrified her. On they came, on, on, and still on,
under a forest of shining rifles. A convoy of munitions crowded
in the rear of the column, surrounded by troopers of the
train-des-equipages; then followed more infantry, then cavalry,
dragoons, who sat listlessly in their high saddles, carbines
bobbing on their broad backs, whalebone plumes matted with dust.

Georges rose painfully from his seat, stepped to the side, and
climbed down into the road. He felt in the breast of his dolman
for the packet, adjusted his sabre, and turned to Lorraine.

"There is a squadron of the Remount Cavalry over in that
meadow--I can get a horse there," he said. "Thank you, Jack.
Good-by, Mademoiselle de Nesville, you have been more than
generous."

"You can have a horse from the Morteyn stables," said Jack; "my
dear fellow, I can't bear to see you go--to think of your riding
to Metz to-night."

"It's got to be done, you know," said Georges. He bowed; Lorraine
stretched out her hand and he gravely touched it with his
fingers. Then he exchanged a nervous gripe with Jack, and turned
away hurriedly, crowding between the passing dragoons, traversing
the meadows until they lost him in the throng.

"We cannot get to the house by the road," said Jack; "we must
take the stable path;" and he lifted the reins and turned the
horse's head.

The stable road was narrow, and crossed with sprays of tender
leaves. The leaves touched Lorraine's eyes, they rubbed across
her fair brow, robbing her of single threads of glittering hair,
they brushed a single bright tear from her cheeks and held it,
glimmering like a drop of dew.

"Behold the end of the world," said Lorraine--"I am weeping."

He turned and looked into her eyes.

"Is that strange?" he asked, gently.

"Yes; I have often wished to cry. I never could--except once
before--and that was four days ago."

The day of their quarrel! He thrilled from head to foot, but
dared not speak.

"Four days ago," said Lorraine again. She thought of herself
gliding from her bed to seek the stable where Jack's horse stood,
she thought of her hot face pressed to the wounded creature's
neck. Then, suddenly aware of what she had confessed, she leaned
back and covered her face with her hands.

"Lorraine!" he whispered, brokenly.

But they were already at the Château.

"Lorraine, my child!" cried Madame de Morteyn, leaning from the
terrace. Her voice was drowned in the crash of drums rolling,
rolling, from the lawn below, and the trumpets broke out in harsh
chorus, shrill, discordant, terrible.

The Emperor had arrived at Morteyn.



XIV

THE MARQUIS MAKES HIMSELF AGREEABLE


The Emperor dined with the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn that
evening in the great dining-room. The Château, patrolled by
doubled guards of the Cent Gardes, was surrounded by triple
hedges of bayonets and a perfect pest of police spies, secret
agents, and flunkys. In the breakfast-room General Frossard and
his staff were also dining; and up-stairs, in a small gilded
salon, Jack and Lorraine ate soberly, tenderly cared for by the
old house-keeper.

Outside they could hear the steady tramp of passing infantry
along the dark road, the clank of artillery, and the muffled
trample of cavalry. Frossard's Corps was moving rapidly, its back
to the Rhine.

"I saw the Prince Imperial," said Jack; "he was in the
conservatory, writing to his mother, the Empress. Have you ever
seen him, Mademoiselle de Nesville? He is young, really a mere
child, but he looks very manly in his uniform. He has that same
charm, that same delicate, winning courtesy that the Emperor is
famous for. But he looks so pale and tired--like a school-boy in
the Lycée."

"It would have been unfortunate if the Emperor had stopped at the
Château de Nesville," said Lorraine, sipping her small glass of
Moselle; "papa hates him."

"Many Royalists do."

"It is not that only; there is something else--something that I
don't know about. It concerns my brother who died many years ago,
before I was born. Have I never spoken of my brother? Has papa
never said anything?"

"No," said Jack, gently.

"Well, when my brother was alive, our family lived in Paris. That
is all I know, except that my brother died shortly before the empire
was proclaimed, and papa and mamma came to our country-place here,
where I was born. René's--my brother's--death had something to do
with my father's hatred of the empire, I know that. But papa will
never speak of it to me, except to tell me that I must always
remember that the Emperor has been the curse of the De Nesvilles.
Hark! Hear the troops passing. Why do they never cheer their
Emperor?"

"They cheered him at Saarbrück--I heard them. You are not eating;
are you tired?"

"A little. I shall go with Marianne, I think; I am sleepy. Are
you going to sit up? Do you think we can sleep with the noise of
the horses passing? I should like to see the Emperor at table."

"Wait," said Jack; "I'll go down and find out whether we can't
slip into the ballroom."

"Then I'll go too," said Lorraine, rising. "Marianne, stay here;
I will return in a moment;" and she slipped after Jack, down the
broad staircase and out to the terrace, where a huge cuirassier
officer stood in the moonlight, his straight sabre shimmering,
his white mantle open over the silver breastplate.

The ballroom was brilliantly lighted, the gilded canapés and
chairs were covered with officers in every conceivable uniform,
lounging, sprawling, chatting, and gesticulating, or pulling
papers and maps over the floor. A general traced routes across
the map at his feet with the point of a naked sword; an officer
of dragoons, squatting on his haunches, followed the movement of
the sword-point and chewed an unlighted cigarette. Officers were
coming and going constantly, entering by the hallway and leaving
through the door-like windows that swung open to the floor. The
sinister face of a police-spy peered into the conservatory at
intervals, where a slender, pale-faced boy sat, clothed in a
colonel's uniform, writing on a carved table. It was the Prince
Imperial, back from Saarbrück and his "baptism of fire," back
also from the Spicheren and the disaster of Wörth. He was writing
to his mother, that unhappy, anxious woman who looked every day
from the Tuileries into the streets of a city already clamorous,
already sullenly suspicious of its Emperor and Empress.

The boy's face was beautiful. He raised his head and sat silently
biting his pen, eyes wandering. Perhaps he was listening to the
retreat of Frossard's Corps through the fair province of
Lorraine--a province that he should never live to see again. A
few months more, a few battles, a few villages in flames, a few
cities ravaged, a few thousand corpses piled from the frontier to
the Loire--and then, what? Why, an emperor the less and an
emperor the more, and a new name for a province--that is all.

His delicate, high-bred face fell; he shaded his sad eyes with
one thin hand and wrote again--all that a good son writes to a
mother, all that a good soldier writes to a sovereign, all that a
good prince writes to an empress.

"Oh, what sad eyes!" whispered Lorraine; "he is too young to see
such things."

"He may see worse," said Jack. "Come, shall we walk around the
lawn to the dining-room?"

They descended the dark steps, her arm resting lightly on his,
and he guided her through a throng of gossiping cavalrymen and
hurrying but polite officers towards the western wing of the
Château, the trample of the passing army always in their ears.

As he was about to cross the drive, a figure stepped from the
shadow of the porte-cochère--a man in a rough tweed suit, who
lifted his wide-awake politely and asked Jack if he was not
English.

"American," said Jack, guardedly.

The man was apparently much relieved. He made a frank, manly
apology for his intrusion, looked appealingly at Lorraine, and
said, with a laugh: "The fact is, I'm astray in the wrong camp. I
rode out from the Spicheren and got mixed in the roads, and first
I knew I fell in with Frossard's Corps, and I can't get away. I
thought you were an Englishman; you're American, it seems, and
really I may venture to feel that there is hope for me--may I
not?"

"Why, yes," said Jack; "whatever I can do, I'll do gladly."

"Then let me observe without hesitation," continued the man,
smiling under his crisp mustache, "that I'm in search of a modest
dinner and a shelter of even more modest dimensions. I'm a war
correspondent, unattached just at present, but following the
German army. My name is Archibald Grahame."

At the name of the great war correspondent Jack stared, then
impulsively held out his hand.

"Aha!" said Grahame, "you must be a correspondent, too. Ha! I
thought I was not wrong."

He bowed again to Lorraine, who returned his manly salute very
sweetly. "If," she thought, "Jack is inclined to be nice to this
sturdy young man in tweeds, I also will be as nice as I can."

"My name is Marche--Jack Marche," said Jack, in some trepidation.
"I am not a correspondent--that is, not an active one."

"You were at Sadowa, and you've been in Oran with Chanzy," said
Grahame, quickly.

Jack flushed with pleasure to find that the great Archibald
Grahame had heard of him.

"We must take Mr. Grahame up-stairs at once--must we not?--if he
is hungry," suggested Lorraine, whose tender heart was touched at
the thought of a hungry human being.

They all laughed, and Grahame thanked her with that whimsical but
charming courtesy that endeared him to all who knew him.

"It is awkward, now, isn't it, Mr. Marche? Here I am in France
with the army I tried to keep away from, roofless, supperless,
and rather expecting some of these sentinels or police agents may
begin to inquire into my affairs. If they do they'll take me for
a spy. I was threatened by the villagers in a little hamlet west
of Saint-Avold--and how I'm going to get back to my Hohenzollerns
I haven't the faintest notion."

"There'll surely be some way. My uncle will vouch for you and get
you a safe-conduct," said Jack. "Perhaps, Mr. Grahame, you had
better come and dine in our salon up-stairs. Will you? The
Emperor occupies the large dining-room, and General Frossard and
his staff have the breakfast-room."

Amused by the young fellow's doubt that a simple salon on the
first floor might not be commensurate with the hospitality of
Morteyn, Archibald Grahame stepped pleasantly to the other side
of the road; and so, with Lorraine between them, they climbed the
terrace and scaled the stairs to the little gilt salon where
Lorraine's maid Marianne and the old house-keeper sat awaiting
her return.

Lorraine was very wide-awake now--she was excited by the stir and
the brilliant uniforms. She unconsciously took command, too,
feeling that she should act the hostess in the absence of Madame
de Morteyn. The old house-keeper, who adored her, supported her
loyally; so, between Marianne and herself, a very delightful
dinner was served to the hungry but patient Grahame when he
returned with Jack from the latter's chamber, where he had left
most of the dust and travel stains of a long tramp across
country.

And how the great war correspondent did eat and drink! It made
Jack hungry again to watch him, so with a laughing apology to
Lorraine he joined in with a will, enthusiastically applauded and
encouraged by Grahame.

"I could tell you were a correspondent by your appetite," said
Grahame. "Dear me! it takes a campaign to make life worth
living!"

"Life is not worth living, then, without an appetite?" inquired
Lorraine, mischievously.

"No," said Grahame, seriously; "and you also will be of that
opinion some day, mademoiselle."

His kindly, humourous eyes turned inquiringly from Jack to
Lorraine and from Lorraine to Jack. He was puzzled, perhaps, but
did not betray it.

They were not married, because Lorraine was Mademoiselle de
Nesville and Jack was Monsieur Marche. Cousins? Probably.
Engaged? Probably. So Grahame smiled benignly and emptied another
bottle of Moselle with a frank abandon that fascinated the old
house-keeper.

"And you don't mean to say that you are going to put me up for
the night, too?" he asked Jack. "You place me under eternal
obligation, and I accept with that understanding. If you run into
my Hohenzollerns, they'll receive you as a brother."

"I don't think he will visit the Hohenzollern Regiment," observed
Lorraine, demurely.

"No--er--the fact is, I'm not doing much newspaper work now,"
said Jack.

Grahame was puzzled but bland.

"Tell us, Monsieur Grahame, of what you saw in the Spicheren,"
said Lorraine. "Is it a very bad defeat? I am sure it cannot be.
Of course, France will win, sooner or later; nobody doubts that."

Before Grahame could manufacture a suitable reply--and his wit
was as quick as his courtesy--a door opened and Madame de Morteyn
entered, sad-eyed but smiling.

Jack jumped up and asked leave to present Mr. Grahame, and the
old lady received him very sweetly, insisting that he should
make the Château his home as long as he stayed in the vicinity.

A few moments later she went away with Lorraine and her maid, and
Jack and Archibald Grahame were left together to sip their
Moselle and smoke some very excellent cigars that Jack found in
the library.

"Mr. Grahame," said Jack, diffidently, "if it would not be an
impertinent question, who is going to run away in this campaign?"

Grahame's face fell; his sombre glance swept the beautiful room
and rested on a picture--the "Battle of Waterloo."

"It will be worse than that," he said, abruptly. "May I take one
of these cigars? Oh, thank you."

Jack's heart sank, but he smiled and passed a lighted cigar-lamp
to the other.

"My judgment has been otherwise," he said, "and what you say
troubles me."

"It troubles me, too," said Grahame, looking out of the dark
window at the watery clouds, ragged, uncanny, whirling one by one
like tattered witches across the disk of a misshapen moon.

After a silence Jack relighted his half-burned cigar.

"Then it is invasion?" he asked.

"Yes--invasion."

"When?"

"Now."

"Good heavens! the very stones in the fields will rise up!"

"If the people did so too it might be to better purpose,"
observed Grahame, dryly. Then he emptied his glass, flicked the
ashes from his cigar, and, sitting erect in his chair, said,
"See here, Marche, you and I are accustomed to this sort of
thing, we've seen campaigns and we have learned to judge
dispassionately and, I think, fairly accurately; but, on my
honour, I never before have seen the beginning of such a
tempest--never! You say the very stones will rise up in the
fields of France. You are right. For the fields will be ploughed
with solid shot, and the shells will sow the earth with iron from
the Rhine to the Loire. Good Lord, do these people know what is
coming over the frontier?"

"Prussians," said Jack.

"Yes, Prussians and a few others--Würtembergers, Saxons,
Bavarians, men from Baden, from Hesse, from the Schwarzwald--from
Hamburg to the Tyrol they are coming in three armies. I saw the
Spicheren, I saw Wissembourg--I have seen and I know."

Presently he opened a fresh bottle, and, with that whimsical
smile and frank simplicity that won whom he chose to win, leaned
towards Jack and began speaking as though the younger man were
his peer in experience and age:

"Shall I tell you what I saw across the Rhine? I saw the machinery
at work--the little wheels and cogs turning and grinding and
setting in motion that stupendous machine that Gneisenau patented
and Von Moltke improved--the great Mobilization Machine! How this
machine does its work it is not easy to realize unless one has
actually watched its operation. I saw it--and what I saw left me
divided between admiration and--well, damn it all!--sadness.

"You know, Marche, that there are three strata of fighting men in
Germany--the regular army, the 'reserve,' and the Landwehr. It
is a mistake into which many fall to believe that the reserve is
the rear of the regular army. The war strength of a regiment is
just double its peace strength, and the increment is the reserve.
The blending of the two in time of war is complete; the medalled
men of 1866 and of the Holstein campaign, called up from the
reserve, are welded into the same ranks with the young soldiers
who are serving their first period of three years. It is an utter
mistake to think of the Prussian army or the Prussian reserves as
a militia like yours or ours. The Prussian reserve man has three
years active service with his colours to point back to. Have ours?
The mobilization machine grinds its grinding in this wise. The whole
country is divided into districts, in the central city of each of
which are the headquarters of the army corps recruited from that
district. Thence is sent forth the edict for mobilization to the
towns, the villages, and the quiet country parishes. From the forge,
from the harvest, from the store, from the school-room, blacksmiths,
farmers, clerks, school-masters drop everything at an hour's notice.

"The contingent of a village is sent to headquarters. On the
route it meets other contingents until the rendezvous is reached.
And then--the transformation! A yokel enters--a soldier leaves.
The slouch has gone from his shoulders, his chest is thrown
forward, his legs straightened, his chin 'well off the stock,'
his step brisk, his carriage military. They are tough as
whip-cord, sober, docile, and terribly in earnest. They are
orderly, decent, and reputable. They need no sentries, and none
are placed; they never get drunk, they are not riotous, and the
barrack gates are never infested by those hordes of soldiers'
women."

He paused and puffed at his cigar thoughtfully.

"They are such soldiers as the world has not yet seen. Marching?
I saw them striding steadily forward with the thermometer at
eighty-five in the shade, with needle-gun, heavy knapsack, eighty
rounds of ammunition, huge great-coat, camp-kettle, sword, spade,
water-bottle, haversack, and lots of odds and ends dangling about
them, with perhaps a loaf or two under one arm. Sunstroke? No.
Why? Sobriety. No absinthe there, Mr. Marche."

"We beat those men at Saarbrück," said Jack.

Grahame laughed good-humouredly.

"At Saarbrück, when war was declared, the total German garrison
consisted of a battalion of infantry and a regiment of Uhlans.
Frossard and his whole corps were looking across at Saarbrück
over the ridges of the Spicheren, and nobody had the means of
knowing what everybody knows now, the reason, so discreditable to
French organization, which prevented him from blowing out of his
path the few pickets and patrols, and invading the territory
which had its frontier only nominally guarded. I was in Saarbrück
at the time, and I had the pleasure of dodging shells there, too.
Why, we were all asking each other if it were possible that the
Frenchmen did not know the weakness of the land. Our Uhlans and
infantry were manipulated dexterously to make a battalion look
like a brigade; but we had an army corps in front of us. We held
the place by sheer impudence."

"I know it," said Jack; "it makes me ill to think of it."

"It ought to make Frossard ill! Had a French army of invasion
pushed on through Saint-Johann on the 2d of August and marched
rapidly into the interior, the Germans could not possibly have
concentrated their scattered regiments, and it is my firm
conviction that Napoleon would have seen the Rhine without having
had to fight a pitched battle. Well, Marche, I drink to neither
one side nor the other, but--here's to the men with backbones.
Prosit!"

They laughed and clinked glasses. Grahame finished his bottle,
rose, politely stifled a yawn, and looked humourously at Jack.

"There are two beds in my room; will you take one?" said the
young fellow.

"Thank you, I will," said Grahame, "and as soon as you please, my
dear fellow."

So Jack led the way and ushered the other into a huge room with
two beds, seemingly lost in distant diagonal corners. Grahame
promptly kicked off his boots, and sat down on his bed.

"I saw a funny thing in Saarbrück," he said. "It was right in the
midst of a cannonade--the shells were smashing the chimneys on
the Hotel Hagen and raising hell generally. And right in the
midst of the whole blessed mess, cool as a cucumber, came
sauntering a real live British swell with a coat adorned with
field-glasses and girdle and a dozen pockets, an eye-glass, a dog
that seemed dearer to him than life, and a drawl that had not
been perceptibly quickened by the French cannon. He-aw-had been
going eastward somewhere to-aw-Constantinople, or Saint-Petersburg,
or-aw-somewhere, when he-aw-heard that it might be amusing at
Saarbrück. A shell knocked a cart-load of tiles around his head,
and he looked at it through his eye-glass. Marche, I never laughed
so in my life. He's a good fellow, though--he's trotting about with
the Hohenzollern Regiment now, and, really, I miss him. His name is
Hesketh--"

"Not Sir Thorald?" cried Jack.

"Eh?--yes, that's the man. Know him?"

"A little," said Jack, laughing, and went out, bidding Graham
good-night, and promising to have him roused at dawn.

"Aren't you going to turn in?" called Grahame, fearful of having
inconvenienced Jack in his own quarters.

"Yes," said the young fellow. "I won't wake you--I'll be back in
an hour." And he closed the door, and went down-stairs.

For a few moments he stood on the cool terrace, listening to the
movement of the host below; and always the tramp of feet, the
snort of horses, and the metallic jingle of passing cannon filled
his ears.

The big cuirassier sentinel had been joined by two more, all of
the Hundred-Guards. Jack noticed their carbines, wondering a
little to see cuirassiers so armed, and marvelling at the long,
slender, lance-like bayonets that were attached to the muzzles.

Presently he went into the house, and, entering the smoking-room,
met his aunt coming out.

"Jack," she said, "I am a little nervous--the Emperor is still in
the dining-room with a crowd of officers, and he has just sent an
aide-de-camp to the Château de Nesville to summon the marquis. It
will be most awkward; your uncle and he are not friendly, and the
Marquis de Nesville hates the Emperor."

"Why did the Emperor send for him?" asked Jack, wondering.

"I don't know--he wishes for a private interview with the
marquis. He may refuse to come--he is a very strange man, you
know."

"Then, if he is, he may come; that would be stranger still," said
Jack.

"Your uncle is not well, Jack," continued Madame de Morteyn; "he
is quite upset by being obliged to entertain the Emperor. You
know how all the Royalists feel. But, Jack, dear, if you could
have seen your uncle it would have been a lesson in chivalry to
you which any young man could ill afford to miss--he was so
perfectly simple, so proudly courteous--ah, Jack, your uncle is
one in a nation!"

"He is--and so are you!" said Jack, kissing her faded cheek. "Are
you going to retire now?"

"Yes; your uncle needs me. The lights are out everywhere.
Lorraine, dear child, is asleep in the next room to mine. Is Mr.
Grahame comfortable? I am glad. The Prince Imperial is sleeping
too, poor child--sleeping like a worn-out baby."

Jack conducted his aunt to her chamber, and bade her good-night.
Then he went softly back through the darkened house, and across
the hall to the dining-room. The door was open, letting out a
flood of lamp-light, and the generals and staff-officers were
taking leave of the Emperor and filing out one by one, Frossard
leading, his head bent on his breast. Some went away to rooms
assigned them, guided by a flunky, some passed across the terrace
with swords trailing and spurs ringing, and disappeared in the
darkness. They had not all left the Emperor, when, suddenly,
Jack heard behind him the voice of the Marquis de Nesville,
cold, sneering, ironical.

"Oh," he said, seeing Jack standing by the door, "can you tell me
where I may find the Emperor of the French? I am sent for."
Turning on the aide-de-camp at his side: "This gentleman
courteously notified me that the Emperor desired my presence. I
am here, but I do not choose to go alone, and I shall demand,
Monsieur Marche, that you accompany me and remain during the
interview."

The aide-de-camp looked at him darkly, but the marquis sneered in
his face.

"I want a witness," he said, insolently; "you can tell that to
your Emperor."

The aide-de-camp, helmet under his arm, from which streamed a
horse-hair plume, entered the dining-room as the last officer
left it.

Jack looked uneasily at the marquis, and was about to speak when
the aid returned and requested the marquis to enter.

"Monsieur Marche, remain here, I beg you," said the marquis,
coolly; "I shall call you presently. It is a service I ask of
you. Will you oblige me?"

"Yes," said Jack.

The door opened for a second.

Napoleon III. sat at the long table, his head drooping on his
breast; he was picking absently at threads in the texture of the
table-cloth. That was all Jack saw--a glimpse of a table covered
with half-empty glasses and fruit, an old man picking at the
cloth in the lamplight; then the door shut, and he was alone in
the dark hall. Out on the terrace he heard the tramp of the
cuirassier sentinels, and beyond that the uproar of artillery,
passing, always passing. He stared about in the darkness, he
peered up the staircase into the gloom. A bat was flying
somewhere near--he felt the wind from its mousy wings.

Suddenly the door was flung open beside him, and the marquis
called to him in a voice vibrating with passion. As he entered
and bowed low to the Emperor, he saw the marquis, tall, white
with anger, his blue eyes glittering, standing in the centre of
the room. He paid no attention to Jack, but the Emperor raised
his impassible face, haggard and gray, and acknowledged the young
man's respectful salutation.

"You have asked me a question," said the marquis, harshly, "and I
demanded to answer it in the presence of a witness. Is your
majesty willing that this gentleman shall hear my reply?"

The Emperor looked at him with half-closed, inscrutable eyes,
then, turning his heavy face to Jack's, smiled wearily and
inclined his head.

"Good," said the marquis, apparently labouring under tremendous
excitement. "You ask me to give you, or sell you, or loan you my
secret for military balloons. My answer is, 'No!'"

The Emperor's face did not change as he said, "I ask it for your
country, not for myself, monsieur."

"And I will give it to my country, not to you!" said the marquis,
violently.

Jack looked at the Emperor. He noticed his unkempt hair brushed
forward, his short thumbs pinching the table-cloth, his closed
eyes.

The Marquis de Nesville took a step towards him.

"Does your majesty remember the night that Morny lay dying in the
shadows? And that horrible croak from the darkness when he
raised himself on one elbow and gasped, 'Sire, prenez garde à la
Prusse!' Then he died. That was all--a warning, a groan, the
death-rattle in the shadows by the bed. Then he died."

The Emperor never moved.

"'Look out for Prussia!' That was Morny's last gasp. And now?
Prussia is there, you are here! And you need aid, and you send
for me, and I tell you that my secrets are for my country, not
for you! No, not for you--you who said, 'It is easy to govern the
French, they only need a war every four years!' Now--here is your
war! Govern!"

The Emperor's slow eyes rested a moment on the man before him.
But the man, trembling, pallid with passion, clenched his hands
and hurled an insult at the Emperor through his set teeth:
"Napoleon the Little! Listen! When you have gone down in the
crash of a rotten throne and a blood-bought palace, then, when
the country has shaken this--this thing--from her bent back, then
I will give to my country all I have! But never to you, to save
your name and your race and your throne--never!"

He fairly frothed at the lips as he spoke; his eyes blazed.

"Your coup-d'état made me childless! I had a son, fairer than
yours, who lies asleep in there--brave, gentle, loving--a son of
mine, a De Nesville! Your bribed troops killed him--shot him to
death on the boulevards--him among the others--so that you could
sit safely in the Tuileries! I saw them--those piled corpses! I
saw little children stabbed to death with bayonets, I saw the
heaped slain lying before Tortoni's, where the whole street was
flooded crimson and the gutters rippled blood! And you? I saw you
ride with your lancers into the Rue Saint-Honoré, and when you
met the barricade you turned pale and rode back again! I saw you;
I was sitting with my dead boy on my knees--I saw you--"

With a furious cry the marquis tore a revolver from his pocket
and sprang on the Emperor, and at the same instant Jack seized
the crazy man by the shoulders and hurled him violently to the
floor.

Stunned, limp as a rag, the marquis lay at the Emperor's feet,
his clenched hands slowly relaxing.

The Emperor had not moved.

Scarcely knowing what he did, Jack stooped, drew the revolver
from the extended fingers, and laid it on the table. Then, with a
fearful glance at the Emperor, he dragged the marquis to the
door, opened it with a shove of his foot, and half closed it
again.

The aide-de-camp stood there, staring at the prostrate man.

"Here, help me with him to his carriage; he is ill," panted
Jack--"lift him!"

Together they carried him out to the terrace, and down the steps
to a coupé that stood waiting.

"The marquis is ill," said Jack again; "put him to bed at once.
Drive fast."

Before the sound of the wheels died away Jack hastened back to
the dining-room. Through the half-opened door he peered,
hesitated, turned away, and mounted the stairs slowly to his own
chamber.

In the dining-room the lamp still burned dimly. Beside it sat the
Emperor, head bent, picking absently at the table-cloth with
short, shrunken thumbs.



XV

THE INVASION OF LORRAINE


It was not yet dawn. Jack, sleeping with his head on his elbow,
shivered in his sleep, gasped, woke, and sat up in bed. There was
a quiet footfall by his bed, the scrape of a spur, then silence.

"Is that you, Mr. Grahame?" he asked.

"Yes; I didn't mean to wake you. I'm off. I was going to leave a
letter to thank you and Madame de Morteyn--"

"Are you dressed? What time is it?"

"Four o'clock--twenty minutes after. It's a shame to rouse you,
my dear fellow."

"Oh, that's all right," said Jack. "Will you strike a
light--there are candles on my dresser. Ah, that's better."

He sat blinking at Grahame, who, booted and spurred and buttoned
to the chin, looked at him quizzically.

"You were not going off without your coffee, were you?" asked
Jack. "Nonsense!--wait." He pulled a bell-rope dangling over his
head. "Now that means coffee and hot rolls in twenty minutes."

When Jack had bathed and shaved, operations he executed with
great rapidity, the coffee was brought, and he and Grahame fell
to by candle-light.

"I thought you were afoot?" said Jack, glancing at the older
man's spurs.

"I'm going to hunt up a horse; I'm tired of this eternal
tramping," replied Grahame. "Hello, is this package for me?"

"Yes, there's a cold chicken and some things, and a flask to keep
you until you find your Hohenzollern Regiment again."

Grahame rose and held out his hand. "Good-by. You've been very
kind, Marche. Will you say, for me, all that should be said to
Madame de Morteyn? Good-by once more, my dear fellow. Don't
forget me--I shall never forget you!"

"Wait," said Jack; "you are going off without a safe-conduct."

"Don't need it; there's not a French soldier in Morteyn."

"Gone?" stammered Jack--"the Emperor, General Frossard, the
army--"

"Every mother's son of them, and I must hurry--"

Their hands met again in a cordial grasp, then Grahame slipped
noiselessly into the hallway, and Jack turned to finish dressing
by the light of his clustered candles.

As he stood before the quaintly wrought mirror, fussing with
studs and buttons, he thought with a shudder of the scene of the
night before, the marquis and his murderous frenzy, the impassive
Emperor, the frantic man hurled to the polished floor, stunned,
white-cheeked, with hands slowly relaxing and fingers uncurling
from the glittering revolver.

Lorraine's father! And he had laid hands on him and had flung
him senseless at the feet of the Man of December! He could
scarcely button his collar, his fingers trembled so. Perhaps he
had killed the Marquis de Nesville. Sick at heart, he finished
dressing, buttoned his coat, flung a cap on his head, and stole
out into the darkness.

On the terrace below he saw a groom carrying a lantern, and he
went out hastily.

"Saddle Faust at once," he said. "Have the troops all gone?"

"All, monsieur; the last of the cavalry passed three hours ago;
the Emperor drove away half an hour later with Lulu--"

"Eh?"

"The prince--pardon, monsieur--they call him Lulu in Paris."

"Hurry," said Jack; "I want that horse at once."

Ten minutes later he was galloping furiously down the forest road
towards the Château de Nesville. The darkness was impenetrable,
so he let the horse find his own path, and gave himself up to a
profound dejection that at times amounted to blind fear. Before
his eyes he saw the pallid face of the Marquis de Nesville, he
saw the man stretched on the floor, horribly still; that was the
worst, the stillness of the body.

The sky was gray through the trees when he turned into the park
and skirted the wall to the wicket. The wicket was locked. He
rang repeatedly, he shook the grille and pounded on the iron
escutcheon with the butt of his riding-crop; and at length a
yawning servant appeared from the gate-lodge and sleepily dragged
open the wicket.

"The marquis was ill, have you heard anything?" asked Jack.

"The marquis is there on the porch," said the servant, with a
gesture towards the house.

Jack's heart leaped up. "Thank God!" he muttered, and dismounted,
throwing his bridle to the porter, who now appeared in the
doorway.

He could see the marquis walking to and fro, hands clasped behind
his strong, athletic back; his head was turned in Jack's
direction. "The marquis is crazy," thought Jack, hesitating. He
was convinced now that long brooding over ancient wrongs had
unsettled the man's mind. There had always been something in his
dazzling blue eyes that troubled Jack, and now he knew it was the
pale light of suppressed frenzy. Still, he would have to face him
sooner or later, and he did not recoil now that the hour and the
place and the man had come.

"I'll settle it once for all," he thought, and walked straight up
the path to the house. The marquis came down the steps to meet
him.

"I expected you," he said, without a trace of anger. "I have much
to say to you. Will you come in or shall we sit in the arbour
there? You will enter? Then come to the turret, Monsieur Marche."

Jack would have refused, but he had not the courage. He was not
at all pleased at the idea of mounting to a turret with a man
whom he had laid violent hands on the night before, a man whom he
had seen succumb to an access of insane fury in the presence of
the Emperor of France. But he went, cursing the cowardice that
prevented him from being cautious; and in a few moments he entered
the chamber where retorts and bottles and steel machinery littered
every corner, and the pale dawn broke through the window in ghastly
streams of light, changing the candle-flames to sickly greenish
blotches.

They sat opposite each other, neither speaking. Jack glanced at a
heavy steel rod on the floor beside him. It was just as well to
know it was there, in case of need.

"Monsieur," said the marquis, abruptly, "I owe you a great deal
more than my life, which is nothing; I owe you my family honour."

This was a new way of looking at the situation; Jack fidgeted in
his chair and eyed the marquis.

"Thanks to you," he continued, quietly, "I am not an assassin, I
am not a butcher of dogs. The De Nesvilles were never public
executioners--they left that to the Bonapartes and Monsieur de
Paris."

He rose hastily from his chair and held out a hand. Jack took it
warily and returned the nervous pressure. Then they both resumed
their seats.

"Let us clear matters up," said the marquis in a wonderfully
gentle voice, that would have been fascinating to more phlegmatic
men than Jack--"let us clear up everything and understand each
other. You, monsieur, dislike me; pardon--you dislike me for
reasons of your own. I, on the contrary, like you; I like you
better this moment than I ever did. Had you not come as I
expected, had you not entered, had you refused to mount to the
turret, I still should have liked you. Now I also respect you."

Jack twisted and turned in his chair, not knowing what to think
or say.


"Why do you dislike me?" asked the marquis, quietly.

"Because you are not kind to your daughter," said Jack, bluntly.

To his horror the man's eyes filled with tears, big, glittering
tears that rolled down his immovable face. Then a flush stained
his forehead; the fever in his cheeks dried the tears.

"Jack," he said, calling the young fellow by his name with a
peculiarly tender gesture, "I loved my son. My soul died within
me when René died, there on the muddy pavement of the Paris
boulevards. I sometimes think I am perhaps a little out of my
mind; I brood on it too much. That is why I flung myself into
this"--with a sweep of his arm towards the flasks and machinery
piled around. "Lorraine is a girl, sweet, lovable, loyal. But she
is not my daughter."

"Lorraine!" stammered Jack.

"Lorraine."

The young fellow sat up in his chair and studied the face of the
pale man before him.

"Not--your child?"

"No."

"Whose?"

"I cannot tell."

After a silence the marquis stood up, and walked to the window.
His face was haggard, his hair dishevelled.

"No," he said, "Lorraine is not my daughter. She is not even my
heiress. She was--she was--found, eighteen years ago."

The room was becoming lighter; the sky grew faintly luminous and
the mist from the stagnant fen curled up along the turret like
smoke.

Jack picked up his cap and riding-crop and rose; the marquis
turned from the window to confront him. His face was no longer
furrowed with pain, the cold light had crept back into his eyes.

"Monsieur," said Jack, "I ask your permission to address
Lorraine. I love her."

The marquis stood silent, scarcely breathing.

"You know who and what I am; you probably know what I have. It is
enough for me; it will be enough for us both. I shall work to
make it enough. I do not expect or wish for anything from you for
Lorraine; I do not give it a thought. Lorraine does not love me,
but," and here he spoke with humility, "I believe that she might.
If I win her, will you give her to me?"

"Win her?" repeated the marquis, with an ugly look. The man's
face was changing now, darkening in the morning light.

"Monsieur," he said, violently, "you may say to her what you
please!" and he opened the door and showed Jack the way out.

Dazed, completely mystified, Jack hurried away to find his horse
at the gate where he had left him. The marquis was crazy, that
was certain. These unaccountable moods and passions, following
each other so abruptly, were nothing else but reactions from a
life of silent suffering. All the way back to Morteyn he pondered
on the strange scene in the turret, the repudiation of Lorraine,
the sudden tenderness for himself, and then the apathy, the
suppressed anger, the indifference coupled with unexplainable
emotion.

"No sane man could act like that," he murmured, as he rode into
the Morteyn gate, and, with a smart slap of his hand on Faust's
withers, he sent that intelligent animal at a trot towards the
stables, where a groom awaited him with sponge and bucket.

The gardeners were cleaning up the litter in the roads and paths
left by the retreating army. The road by the gate was marked with
hoof and wheel, but the macadam had not suffered very much, and
already a roller was at work removing furrow and hoof-print.

He entered the dining-room. It was empty. So also was the
breakfast-room, for breakfast had been served an hour before.

He sent for coffee and muffins and made a hasty breakfast,
looking out of the window at times for signs of his aunt and
Lorraine. The maid said that Madame de Morteyn had driven to
Saint-Lys with the marquis, and that Mademoiselle de Nesville had
gone to her room. So he finished his coffee, went to his room,
changed his clothes, and sent a maid to inquire whether Lorraine
would receive him in the small library at the head of the stairs.
The maid returned presently, saying that Mademoiselle de Nesville
would be down in a moment or two, so Jack strolled into the
library and leaned out of the window to smoke.

When she came in he did not hear her until she spoke.

"Don't throw your cigarette away, monsieur; I permit you to
smoke--indeed, I command it. How do you do?" This in very timid
English. "I mean--good-morning--oh, dear, this terrible English
language! Now you may sit there, in that large leather arm-chair,
and you may tell me why you did not appear at breakfast. Is
Monsieur Grahame still sleeping? Gone? Oh, dear! And you have
been to the Château de Nesville? Is my father well? And contented?
There, I knew he would miss me. Did you give him my dearest love?
Thank you for remembering. Now tell me--"

"What?" laughed Jack.

"Everything, of course."

"Everything?"

She looked at him, but did not answer.

Then he deliberately sat down and made love to her, not actual,
open, unblushing love--but he started in to win her, and what his
tongue refused to tell, his eyes told until trepidation seized
her, and she sat back speechless, watching him with shy blue eyes
that always turned when they met his, but always returned when
his were lowered.

It is a pretty game, this first preliminary of love--like the
graceful sword-play and salute of two swordsmen before a duel.
There was no one to cry "Garde à vous!" no one to strike up the
weapons that were thrust at two unarmoured hearts, for the
weapons were words and glances, and Love, the umpire, alas! was
not impartial.

So the timid heart of Lorraine was threatened, and, before she
knew it, the invasion had begun. She did not repel it with
desperation; at times, even, she smiled at the invader, and that,
if not utter treachery, was giving aid and encouragement to the
enemy.

Besieged, threatened, she sat there in the arm-chair, half
frightened, half smiling, fearful yet contented, alarmed yet
secure, now resisting, now letting herself drift on, until the
result of the combination made Jack's head spin; and he felt
resentful in his heart, and he said to himself what all men under
such circumstances say to themselves--"Coquetry!"

One moment he was sure she loved him, the next he was certain she
did not. This oscillation between heaven and hell made him
unhappy, and, manlike, he thought the fault was hers. This is the
foundation for man's belief in the coquetry of women.

As for Lorraine, she thrilled with a gentle fear that was the
most delightful sensation she had ever known. She looked shyly at
the strong-limbed, sunburned young fellow opposite, and she began
to wonder why he was so fascinating. Every turn of his head,
every gesture, every change in his face she knew now--knew so
well that she blushed at her own knowledge.

But she would not permit him to come nearer; she could not,
although she saw his disappointment, under a laugh, when she
refused to let him read the lines of fate in her rosy palm. Then
she wished she had laid her hand in his when he asked it, then
she wondered whether he thought her stupid, then--But it is
always the same, the gamut run of shy alarm, of tenderness, of
fear, of sudden love looking unbidden from eyes that answer love.
So the morning wore away.

The old vicomte came back with his wife and sat in the library
with them, playing chess until luncheon was served; and after
that Lorraine went away to embroider something or other that
Madame de Morteyn had for her up-stairs. A little later the
vicomte also went to take a nap, and Jack was left alone lying on
the lounge, too lonely to read, too unhappy to smoke, too lazy
to sleep.

He had been lying there for an hour thinking about Lorraine and
wondering whether she would ever be told what her exact relation
to the Marquis de Nesville was, when a maid brought him two
letters, postmarked Paris. One he saw at a glance was from his
sister, and, like a brother, he opened the other first.

    "DEAR JACK,--I am very unhappy. Sir Thorald has gone off
    to St. Petersburg in a huff, and, if he stops at
    Morteyn, tell him he's a fool and that I want him to
    come back. You're the only person on earth I can write
    this to.

    "Faithfully yours, MOLLY HESKETH."

Jack laughed aloud, then sat silent, frowning at the dainty bit
of letter-paper, crested and delicately fragrant. Yes, he could
read between the lines--a man in love is less dense than when in
his normal state--and he was sorry for Molly Hesketh. He thought
of Sir Thorald as Archibald Grahame had described him, standing
amid a shower of bricks and bursting shells, staring at war
through a monocle.

"He's a beast," thought Jack, "but a plucky one. If he goes to
Cologne he's worse than a beast." A vision of little Alixe came
before him, blond, tearful, gazing trustingly at Sir Thorald's
drooping mustache. It made him angry; he wished, for a moment,
that he had Sir Thorald by the neck. This train of thought led
him to think of Rickerl, and from Rickerl he naturally came to
the 11th Uhlans.

"By jingo, it's unlucky I shot that fellow," he exclaimed, half
aloud; "I don't want to meet any of that picket again while this
war lasts."

Unpleasant visions of himself, spitted neatly upon a Uhlan's
lance, rose up and were hard to dispel. He wished Frossard's
troops had not been in such a hurry to quit Morteyn; he wondered
whether any other troops were between him and Saarbrück. The
truth was, he should have left the country, and he knew it. But
how could he leave until his aunt and uncle were ready to go? And
there was Lorraine. Could he go and leave her? Suppose the
Germans should pass that way; not at all likely--but suppose they
should? Suppose, even, there should be fighting near Morteyn? No,
he could never go away and leave Lorraine--that was out of the
question.

He lighted a match and moodily burned Molly's letter to ashes in
the fireplace. He also stirred the ashes up, for he was
honourable in little things--like Ricky--and also, alas!
apparently no novice.

Dorothy's letter lay on the table--her third since she had left
for Paris. He opened his knife and split the envelope carefully,
still thinking of Lorraine.

    "MY OWN DEAR JACK,--There is something I have been
    trying to tell you in the other three letters, but I
    have not succeeded, and I am going to try again. I shall
    tuck it away in some quiet little corner of my page; so
    if you do not read carefully between every line, you may
    not find it, after all.

    "I have just seen Lady Hesketh. She looks pale and
    ill--the excitement in the city and that horrid National
    Guard keep our nerves on edge every moment. Sir Thorald
    is away on business, she says--where, I forgot to ask
    her. I saw the Empress driving in the Bois yesterday.
    Some ragamuffins hissed her, and I felt sorry for her.
    Oh, if men only knew what women suffer! But don't think
    I am suffering. I am not, Jack; I am very well and very
    cheerful. Betty Castlemaine is going to be engaged to
    Cecil, and the announcement will be in all the English
    papers. Oh, dear! I don't know why that should make me
    sad, but it does. No, it doesn't, Jack, dear.

    "The city is very noisy; the National Guard parade every
    day; they seem to be all officers and drummers and no
    men. Everybody says we gained a great victory on the 2d
    of August. I wonder whether Rickerl was in it? Do you
    know? His regiment is the 11th Uhlans. Were they there?
    Were any hurt? Oh, Jack, I am so miserable! They speak
    of a battle at Wissembourg and one at the Spicheren.
    Were the 11th Uhlans there? Try to find out, dear, and
    write me _at once_. Don't forget--the _11th Uhlans_. Oh,
    Jack, darling! can't you understand?

    Your loving sister, DOROTHY."

"Understand? What?" repeated Jack. He read the letter again
carefully.

"I can't see what the mischief is extraordinary in that," he
mused, "unless she's giving me a tip about Sir Thorald; but
no--she can't know anything in that direction. Now what is it
that she has hidden away? Oh, here's a postscript."

He turned the sheet and read:

    "My love to aunt and uncle, Jack--don't forget. I am
    writing them by this mail. Is the 11th Uhlan Regiment in
    Prince Frederick Charles's Army? Be sure to find out.
    There is absolutely nothing in the Paris papers about
    the 11th Uhlans, and I am astonished. But what can one
    expect from Paris journals? I tried to subscribe to the
    _Berlin Post_ and the _Hamburger Nachrichten_ and the
    _Munich Neueste Nachrichten_, but the horrid creature at
    the kiosk said she wouldn't have a German sheet in her
    place. I hope the _Herald_ will give particulars of
    losses in both armies. Do you think it will? Oh, why on
    earth do these two foolish nations fight each other?

    "DORRIE.

    "P. P. S.--Jack, for my sake, pay attention to what I
    ask you and answer every question. And don't forget to
    find out all about the 11th Uhlans. D."

"Now, what on earth interests Dorrie in all these battle
statistics?" he wondered; "and what in the name of common-sense
can she find to interest her in the 11th Uhlans? Ricky? Absurd!"

He repeated "absurd" two or three times, but he became more
thoughtful a moment later, and sat smoking and pondering. That
would be a nice muddle if she, the niece of a Frenchman--an
American, too--should fix her affections on a captain of Uhlans
whose regiment he, Jack Marche, would avoid as he would hope to
avoid the black small-pox.

"Absurd," he repeated for the fourth time, and tossed his
cigarette into the open fireplace. And as he rose to go up-stairs
something out on the road by the gate attracted his attention,
and he went to the window.

Three horsemen sat in their saddles on the lawn, lance on thigh,
eyes fixed on him.

They were Uhlans!



XVI

"IN THE HOLLOW OF THY HAND"


For a moment he recoiled as though he had received a blow between
the eyes.

There they sat, little glistening schapskas rakishly tilted over
one ear, black-and-white pennons drooping from the lance-points,
schabraques edged with yellow--aye, and tunics also, yellow and
blue--those were the colours--the colours of the 11th Uhlans.

Then, for the first time, he fully realized his position and what
it might mean. Death was the penalty for what he had done--death
even though the man he had shot were not dead--death though he
had not even hit him. That was not all; it meant death in its
most awful form--hanging! For this was the penalty: any civilian,
foreigner, franc-soldier, or other unrecognized combatant, firing
upon German troops, giving aid to French troops while within the
sphere of German influence, by aiding, abetting, signalling,
informing, or otherwise, was hung--sometimes with a drum-head
court-martial, sometimes without.

Every bit of blood and strength seemed to leave his limbs; he
leaned back against the table, cold with fear.

This was the young man who had sat sketching at Sadowa where the
needle-guns sent a shower of lead over his rocky observatory;
the same who had risked death by fearful mutilation in Oran when
he rode back and flung a half-dead Spahi over his own saddle, in
the face of a charging, howling hurricane of Kabyle horsemen.

Sabre and lance and bullets were things he understood, but he did
not understand ropes.

He could not tell whether the Uhlans had seen him or not; there
were lace curtains in the room, but the breeze blew them back
from the open window. Had they seen him?

All at once the horses jerked their heads, reared, and wheeled
like cattle shying at a passing train, and away went the Uhlans,
plunging out into the road. There was a flutter of pennants, a
fling or two of horses' heels, a glimmer of yellow, and they were
gone.

Utterly unnerved, Jack sank into the arm-chair. What should he
do? If he stayed at Morteyn he stood a good chance of hanging. He
could not leave his aunt and uncle, nor could he tell them, for
the two old people would fall sick with the anxiety. And yet, if
he stayed at Morteyn, and the Germans came, it might compromise
the whole household and bring destruction to Château and park. He
had not thought of that before, but now he remembered also
another German rule, inflexible, unvarying. It was this, that in
a town or village where the inhabitants resisted by force or
injured any German soldier, the village should be burned and the
provisions and stock confiscated for the use of King Wilhelm's
army.

Shocked at his own thoughtlessness, he sprang to his feet and
walked hastily to the terrace. Nothing was to be seen on the
road, nor yet in the meadows beyond. Up-stairs he heard
Lorraine's voice, and his aunt's voice, too. Sometimes they
laughed a little in low tones, and he even caught the rustle of
stiff silken embroidery against the window-sill.

His mind was made up in an instant; his coolness returned as the
colour returns to a pale cheek. The Uhlans had probably not seen
him; if they had, it made little difference, for even the picquet
that had chased him could not have recognized him at that
distance. Then, again, in a whole regiment it was not likely that
the three horsemen who had peeped at Morteyn through the
road-gate could have been part of that same cursed picquet. No,
the thing to avoid was personal contact with any of the 11th
Uhlans. This would be a matter of simple prudence; outside of
that he had nothing to fear from the Prussian army. Whenever he
saw the schapskas and lances he would be cautious; when these
lances were pennoned with black and white, and when the schapskas
and schabraques were edged with yellow, he would keep out of the
way altogether. It shamed him terribly to think of his momentary
panic; he cursed himself for a coward, and dug his clenched fists
into both pockets. But even as he stood there, withering himself
with self-scorn, he could not help hoping that his aunt and uncle
would find it convenient to go to Paris soon. That would leave
him free to take his own chances by remaining, to be near
Lorraine. For it did not occur to him that he might leave Morteyn
as long as Lorraine stayed.

It was late in the afternoon when he lighted a pipe and walked
out to the road, where the smooth macadam no longer bore the
slightest trace of wheel or hoof, and nobody could have imagined
that part of an army corps had passed there the night before.

He felt lonely and a little despondent, and he walked along the
road to the shrine of Our Lady of Morteyn and sat down at her
naked stone feet. And as he sat there smoking, twirling his
shooting-cap in his hands, without the least warning a horseman,
advancing noiselessly across the turf, passed him, carbine on
thigh, busby glittering with the silver skull and crossbones.
Before he could straighten up another horseman passed, then
another, then three, then six, then a dozen, all sitting with
poised carbines, scarcely noticing him at all, the low, blazing
sun glittering on the silver skulls and crossed thigh-bones, deep
set in their sombre head-gear.

They were Black Hussars.

A distant movement came to his ear at the same time, the soft
shock of thousands of footfalls on the highway. He sprang up and
started forward, but a trooper warned him back with a stern
gesture, and he stood at the foot of the shrine, excited but
outwardly cool, listening to the approaching trample.

He knew what it meant now; these passing videttes were the dust
before the tempest, the prophecy of the deluge. For the sound on
the distant highway was the sound of infantry, and a host was on
the march, a host helmeted with steel and shod with steel, a vast
live bulk, gigantic, scaled in mail, whose limbs were human,
whose claws were lances and bayonets, whose red tongues were
flame-jets from a thousand cannon.

The German army had entered France and the province of Lorraine
was a name.

Like a hydra of three hideous heads the German army had pushed
its course over the Saar, over the Rhine, over the Lauter; it
sniffed at the frontier line; licked Wissembourg and the
Spicheren with flaming tongues, shuddered, coiled, and glided
over the boundary into the fair land of Lorraine. Then, like some
dreadful ringed monster, it cast off two segments, north, south,
and moved forward on its belly, while the two new segments,
already turned to living bodies, with heads and eyes and
contracted scales, struggled on alone, diverging to the north and
south, creeping, squirming, undulating, penetrating villages and
cities, stretching across hills and rivers, until all the land
was shining with shed scales and the sky reeked with the smoke of
flaming tongues. This was the invasion of France. Before it
Frossard recoiled, leaving the Spicheren a smoking hell; before
it Douay fell above the flames of Wissembourg; and yet Gravelotte
had not been, and Vionville was a peaceful name, and Mars-la-Tour
lay in the sunshine, mellow with harvests, gay with the scarlet
of the Garde Impériale.

On the hill-sides of Lorraine were letters of fire, writing for
all France to read, and every separate letter was a flaming
village. The Emperor read it and bent his weary steps towards
Châlons; Bazaine read it and said, "There is time;" MacMahon,
Canrobert, Lebœuf, Ladmirault read it and wondered idly what it
meant, till Vinoy turned a retreat into a triumph, and Gambetta,
flabby, pompous, unbalanced, bawled platitudes from the Palais
Bourbon.

In three splendid armies the tide of invasion set in; the Red
Prince tearing a bloody path to Metz, the Crown Prince riding
west by south, resting in Nancy, snubbing Toul, spreading out
into the valley of the Marne to build three monuments of bloody
bones--Saint-Marie, Amanvilliers, Saint-Privat.

Metz, crouching behind Saint-Quentin and Les Bottes, turned her
anxious eyes from Thionville to Saint-Julien and back to where
MacMahon's three rockets should have starred the sky; and what
she saw was the Red Prince riding like a fiery spectre from east
to west; what she saw was the spiked helmets of the Feldwache and
the sodded parapets of Longeau. Chained and naked, the beautiful
city crouched in the tempest that was to free her forever and
give her the life she scorned, the life more bitter than death.

Something of this ominous prophecy came to Jack, standing below
the shrine of Our Lady of Morteyn, listening to the on-coming
shock of German feet, as he watched the cavalry riding past in
the glow of the setting sun.

And now the infantry burst into view, a gloomy, solid column tramp,
tramp along the road--jägers, with their stiff fore-and-aft shakos,
dull-green tunics, and snuffy, red-striped trousers tucked into
dusty half-boots. On they came, on, on--would they never pass? At
last they were gone, somewhere into the flaming west, and now the
red sunbeams slanted on eagle crests and tipped the sea of polished
spiked helmets with fire, for a line regiment was coming, shaking
the earth with its rhythmical tramp--thud! thud! thud!

He looked across the fields to the hills beyond; more regiments,
dark masses moving against the sky, covered the landscape far as
the eye could reach; cavalry, too, were riding on the Saint-Avold
road through the woods; and beyond that, vague silhouettes of
moving wagons and horsemen, crawling out into the world of valleys
that stretched to Bar-le-Duc and Avricourt.

Oppressed, almost choked, as though a rising tide had washed
against his breast, ever mounting, seething, creeping, climbing,
he moved forward, waiting for a chance to cross the road and gain
the Château, where he could see the servants huddling over the
lawn, and the old vicomte, erect, motionless, on the terrace
beside his wife and Lorraine.

Already in the meadow behind him the first bivouac was pitched;
on the left stood a park of field artillery, ammunition-wagons in
the rear, and in front the long lines of picket-ropes to which
the horses were fastened, their harness piled on the grass behind
them.

The forge was alight, the farriers busy shoeing horses; the
armourer also bent beside his blazing forge, and the tinkling of
his hammer on small-arms rose musically above the dull shuffle of
leather-shod feet on the road.

To the right of the artillery, bisected as is the German fashion,
lay two halves of a battalion of infantry. In the foreground the
officers sat on their camp-chairs, smoking long faïence pipes; in
the rear, driven deep into the turf, the battalion flag stood
furled in its water-proof case, with the drum-major's halberd
beside it, and drums and band instruments around it on the grass.
Behind this lay a straight row of knapsacks, surrounded by the
rolled great-coats; ten paces to the rear another similar row;
between these two rows stood stacks of needle-guns, then another
row of knapsacks, another stack of needle-guns, stretching with
mathematical exactness to the grove of poplars by the river. A
cordon of sentinels surrounded the bivouac; there was a group of
soldiers around a beer-cart, another throng near the wine-cart.
All was quiet, orderly, and terribly sombre.

Near the poplar-trees the pioneers had dug their trenches and
lighted fires. Across the trenches, on poles of green wood, were
slung simmering camp-kettles.

He turned again towards the Château; a regiment of Saxon riders
was passing--had just passed--and he could get across now, for
the long line had ended and the last Prussian cuirassiers were
vanishing over the hill, straight into the blaze of the setting
sun.

As he entered the gate, behind him, from the meadow, an infantry
band crashed out into a splendid hymn--a hymn in praise of the
Most High God, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.

And the soldiers' hoarse voices chimed in--

    "Thou, who in the hollow of Thy Hand--"

And the deep drums boomed His praise.



XVII

THE KEEPERS OF THE HOUSE


The candles were lighted again in the ballroom, and again the
delicate, gilded canapés were covered with officers, great
stalwart fellows with blond hair and blue eyes, cuirassiers in
white tunics faced with red, cuirassiers in green and white,
black, yellow, and white, orange and white; dragoons in blue and
salmon colour, bearing the number "7" on their shoulder-straps,
dragoons of the Guard in blue and white, dragoons of the 2d
Regiment in black and blue. There were hussars too, dandies of
the 19th in their tasselled boots and crimson busby-crowns; Black
Hussars, bearing, even on their soft fatigue-caps, the emblems of
death, the skull and crossed thigh-bones. An Uhlan or two of the
2d Guard Regiment, trimmed with white and piped with scarlet,
dawdled around the salon, staring at gilded clock and candelabra,
or touching the grand-piano with hesitating but itching fingers.
Here and there officers of the general staff stood in consultation,
great, stiff, strapping men, faultlessly clothed in scarlet and
black, holding their spiked helmets carefully under their arms.
The pale blue of a Bavarian dotted the assembly at rare intervals,
some officer from Von Werder's army, attentive, shy, saying little
even when questioned. The huge Saxon officers, beaming with
good-nature, mixed amiably with the sour-visaged Brunswick men
and the stiff-necked Prussians.

In the long dining-room dinner was nearly ended. Facing each
other sat the old Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn, he pale,
dignified, exquisitely courteous, she equally pale but more
gentle in her sweet dignity. On the right sat the Red Prince,
stiff as steel, jerky in every movement, stern, forbidding,
unbending as much as his black Prussian blood would let him; on
the left sat a thin old man, bald as an ivory ball, pallid,
hairless of face, a frame of iron in a sombre, wrinkled tunic,
without a single decoration. His short hawk's nose, keen and fine
as a falcon's beak, quivered with every breath; his thin lips
rested one upon the other in stern, delicate curves. It was
Moltke, the master expert, come from Berlin to watch the wheels
turning in that vast complicated network of machinery which he
controlled with one fragile finger pressing the button.

There, too, was Von Zastrow, destined to make his error at
Gravelotte, there was Steinmetz, and the handsome Saxon prince,
and great, flabby August of Würtemberg, talking with Alvensleben,
dainty, pious, aristocratic. Behind, in the shadow, stood
Manstein and Goben, a grim, gray pair, with menacing eyes.
Perhaps they were thinking of the Red Prince's parting words at
the Spicheren: "Your duty is to march forward, always forward,
find the enemy, prevent his escape, and fight him wherever you
find him." To which the fastidious and devout Alvensleben
muttered, "In the name of God," and poor, brave Kamecke,
shuddering as he thought of his Westphalians and the cul-de-sac
where he had sent them on the 6th day of August, sighed and
looked out into deepening twilight.

Outside a Saxon infantry band began to play a masterpiece of
Beethoven. It seemed to be the signal for breaking up, and the
Red Prince, with abrupt deference, turned to Madame de Morteyn,
who gave the signal and rose. The Red Prince stepped back as the
old vicomte gave his wife a trembling arm. Then he bowed where he
stood, clothed in his tight, blood-red tunic, tall, powerful,
square-jawed, cruel-mouthed, and eyed like a wolf. But his
forehead was fine, broad, and benevolent, and his beard softened
the wicked curve of his lips.

Jack and Lorraine had again dined together in the little gilded
salon above, served by Lorraine's maid and wept over by the old
house-keeper.

The terrified servants scarcely dared to breathe as they crept
through the halls where, "like a flight of devils from hell" the
"Prussian ogres" had settled in the house. They came whimpering
to their mistress, but took courage at the calm, dignified
attitude of the old vicomte, and began to think that these
"children-eating Prussians" might perhaps forego their craving
for one evening. Therefore the chef did his best, encouraged by a
group of hysterical maids who had suddenly become keenly alive to
their own plumpness and possible desirability for ragoûts.

The old marquis himself received his unwelcome guests as though
he were receiving travelling strangers, to whom, now that they
were under his roof, faultless hospitality was due, nothing more,
merely the courtesy of a French nobleman to an uninvited guest.

Ah, but the steel was in his heart to the hilt. He, an old
soldier of the Malakoff, of Algeria, the brother in arms of
Changarnier, of Chanzy, he obliged to receive invaders--invaders
belonging to the same nation which had lined the streets of
Berlin so long ago, cringing, whining "Vive l'Empereur!" at the
crack of the thongs of Murat's horsemen!

Yet now it was that he showed himself the chivalrous soldier, the
old colonel of the old régime, the true beau-sabreur of an epoch
dead. And the Red Prince Frederick Charles knew it, and bowed low
as the vicomte left the dining-hall with his gentle, pale-faced
wife on his arm.

Jack, sitting after dinner with Lorraine in the bay-window above,
looked down upon the vast camp that covered the whole land, from
the hills to the Lisse, from the forest to the pastures above
Saint-Lys. There were no tents--the German army carried none.
Here and there a canvas-covered wagon glistened white in the
moonlight; the pale radiance fell on acres of stacked rifles, on
the brass rims of drums, and the spikes of the sentries' helmets.
Videttes, vaguely silhouetted on distant knolls, stood almost
motionless, save for the tossing of their horses' heads. Along
the river Lisse the infantry pickets lay, the sentinels,
patrolling their beats with brisk, firm steps, only pausing to
bring their heavy heels together, wheel squarely, and retrace
their steps, always alert and sturdy. The wind shifted to the
west and the faint chimes of Saint-Lys came quavering on the
breeze.

"The bells!" said Jack; "can you hear them?"

"Yes," said Lorraine, listlessly.

She had been very silent during their dinner. He wondered that
she had not shown any emotion at the sight of the invading
soldiers. She had not--she had scarcely even shown curiosity. He
thought that perhaps she did not realize what it meant, this
swarm of Prussians pouring into France between the Moselle and
the Rhine. He, American that he was, felt heartsick, humiliated,
at the sight of the spiked casques and armoured horsemen,
trampling the meadows of the province that he loved--the province
of Lorraine. For those strangers to France who know France know
two mothers; and though the native land is first and dearest, the
new mother, France, generous, tender, lies next in the hearts of
those whom she has sheltered.

So Jack felt the shame and humiliation as though a blow had been
struck at his own home and kin, and he suffered the more thinking
what his uncle must suffer. And Lorraine! His heart had bled for
her when the harsh treble of the little, flat Prussian drums
first broke out among the hills. He looked for the deep sorrow,
the patience, the proud endurance, the prouder faith that he
expected in her; he met with silence, even a distrait indifference.

Surely she could comprehend what this crushing disaster
prophesied for France? Surely she of all women, sensitive,
tender, and loyal, must know what love of kin and country meant?

Far away in the southwest the great heart of Paris throbbed in
silence, for the beautiful, sinful city, confused by the din of
the riffraff within her walls, blinded by lies and selfish
counsels, crouched in mute agony, listening for the first ominous
rumbling of a rotten, tottering Empire.

God alone knows why he gave to France, in the supreme moment of
her need, the beings who filled heaven with the wind of their
lungs and brought her to her knees in shame--not for brave men
dead in vain, not for a wasted land, scourged and flame-shrunken
from the Rhine to the Loire, not for provinces lost nor cities
gone forever--but for the strange creatures that her agony
brought forth, shapes simian and weird, all mouth and convulsive
movement, little pigmy abortions mouthing and playing antics
before high Heaven while the land ran blood in every furrow and
the world was a hell of flame.

Gambetta, that incubus of bombastic flabbiness, roaring prophecy
and platitude through the dismayed city, kept his eye on the
balcony of the particular edifice where, later, he should pose as
an animated Jericho trumpet. So, biding his time, he bellowed,
but it was the Comédie Française that was the loser, not the
people, when he sailed away in his balloon, posed, squatting
majestically as the god of war above the clouds of battle. And
little Thiers, furtive, timid, delighting in senile efforts to
stir the ferment of chaos till it boiled, he, too, was there,
owl-like, squeaky-voiced, a true "Bombyx à Lunettes." There, too,
was Hugo--often ridiculous in his terrible moods, egotistical,
sloppy, roaring. The Empire pinched Hugo, and he roared; and let
the rest of the world judge whether, under such circumstances,
there was majesty in the roar. The spectacle of Hugo, prancing on
the ramparts and hurling bad names at the German armies, recalls
the persistent but painful manœuvres of a lion with a flea. Both
are terribly in earnest--neither is sublime.

Jack sat leaning on the window-ledge, his chin on both hands,
watching the moonlight rippling across the sea of steel below.
Lorraine, also silent, buried in an arm-chair, lay huddled
somewhere in the shadows, looking up at the stars, scarcely
visible in the radiance of the moon.

After a while she spoke in a low voice: "Do you remember in
chapel a week ago--what--"

"Yes, I know what you mean. Can you say it--any of it?"

"Yes, all."

Presently he heard her voice in the darkness repeating the
splendid lines:

"'In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and
the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease
because they are few, and they that look out of the windows be
darkened.

"'And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of
the grinding is low, and they shall rise up at the voice of a
bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.

"'Also they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fear shall
be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the
grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail.

"'Because man goeth to his long home--'"

Her voice broke a little.

"'And the mourners go about the streets--'"

He leaned forward, his hand stretched out in the shadows. After a
moment her fingers touched his, moved a little, and were clasped
close. Then it was that, in her silence, he read a despair too
deep, too sudden, too stupefying for expression--a despair
scarcely yet understood. A sensitive young mind, stunned by
realities never dreamed of, recovers slowly; and the first
outward evidence of returning comprehension is an out-stretched
hand, a groping in the shadows for the hand of the best beloved.
Her hand was there, out-stretched, their fingers had met and
interlaced. A great lassitude weighed her down, mind and body.
Yesterday was so far away, and to-morrow so close at hand, but
not yet close enough to arouse her from an apathy unpierced as
yet by the keen shaft of grief.

He felt the lethargy in her yielding fingers; perhaps he began to
understand the sensitive girl lying in the arm-chair beside him,
perhaps he even saw ahead into the future that promised
everything or nothing, for France, for her, for him.

Madame de Morteyn came to take her away, but before he dropped
her hand in the shadows he felt a pressure that said, "Wait!"--so
he waited, there alone in the darkness.

The bells of Saint-Lys sounded again, scarcely vibrating in the
still air; a bank of sombre cloud buried the moon, and put out
the little stars one by one until the blackness of the night
crept in, blotting out river and tree and hill, hiding the silent
camp in fathomless shadow. He slept.

When he awoke, slowly, confused and uncertain, he found her close
to him, kneeling on the floor, her face on his knees. He touched
her arm, fearfully, scarcely daring; he touched her hair, falling
heavily over her face and shoulders and across his knees. Ah!
but she was tired--her very soul was weary and sick; and she was
too young to bear her trouble. Therefore she came back to him who
had reached out his hand to her. She could not cry--she could
only lie there and try to live through the bitterness of her
solitude. For now she knew at last that she was alone on earth.
The knowledge had come in a moment, it had come with the first
trample of the Prussian horsemen; she knew that her love, given
so wholly, so passionately, was nothing, had been nothing, to her
father. He whom she lived for--was it possible that he could
abandon her in such an hour? She had waited all day, all night;
she said in her heart that he would come from his machines and
his turret to be with her. Together they could have lived through
the shame of the day--of the bitter days to come; together they
could have suffered, knowing that they had each other to live
for.

But she could not face the Prussian scourge alone--she could not.
These two truths had been revealed to her with the first tap of
the Prussian drums: that every inch of soil, every grass-blade,
every pebble of her land was dearer to her than life; and that
her life was nothing to her father. He who alone in all the world
could have stood between her and the shameful pageant of
invasion, who could have taught her to face it, to front it
nobly, who could have bidden her hope and pray and wait--he sat
in his turret turning little wheels while the whole land shook
with the throes of invasion--their native land, Lorraine.

The death-throes of a nation are felt by all the world. Bismarck
placed a steel-clad hand upon the pulse of France, and knew
Lorraine lay dying. Amputation would end all--Moltke had the
apparatus ready; Bismarck, the great surgeon and greater
executioner, sat with mailed hand on the pulse of France and
waited.

The girl, Lorraine, too, knew the crisis had come--sensitive
prophetess in all that she held sacred! She had never prayed for
the Emperor, but she always prayed for France when she asked
forgiveness night and morning. At confession she had accused
herself sometimes because she could not understand the deeper
meaning of this daily prayer, but now she understood it; the
fierce love for native soil that blazes up when that soil is
stamped upon and spurned.

All the devotion, all the tender adoration, that she had given her
father turned now to bitter grief for this dear land of hers. It, at
least, had been her mother, her comforter, her consolation; and
there it lay before her--it called to her; she responded passionately,
and gave it all her love. So she lay there in the dark, her hot face
buried in her hands, close to one whom she needed and who needed her.

He was too wise to speak or move; he loved her too much to touch
again the hair, flung heavily across her face--to touch her
flushed brow, her clasped hands, her slender body, delicate and
warm, firm yet yielding. He waited for the tears to come. And
when they fell, one by one, great, hot drops, they brought no
relief until she told him all--all--her last and inmost hope and
fear.

Then when her white soul lay naked in all its innocence before
him, and when the last word had been said, he raised her head
and searched in her pure eyes for one message of love for
himself.

It was not there; and the last word had been said.

And, even as he looked, holding her there almost in his arms, the
Prussian trumpets clanged from the dim meadows and the drums
thundered on the hills, and the invading army roused itself at
the dawn of another day.



XVIII

THE STRETCHING OF NECKS


For two days and nights the German army passed through Morteyn
and Saint-Lys, on the march towards Metz. All day long the hills
struck back the echoes of their flat brass drums, and shook with
the shock of armed squadrons, tramping on into the west.
Interminable trains of wagons creaked along the sandy Saint-Avold
road; the whistle of the locomotive was heard again at Saint-Lys,
where the Bavarians had established a base of supplies and were
sending their endless, multicoloured trains puffing away towards
Saarbrück for provisions and munitions of war that had arrived
there from Cologne. Generals with their staffs, serious, civil
fellows, with anxious, near-sighted eyes, stopped at the Château
and were courteously endured, only to be replaced by others
equally polite and serious. And regularly, after each batch left
with their marching regiments, there came back to the Château by
courier, the same evening, a packet of visiting-cards and a
polite letter signed by all the officers entertained, thanking
the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn for their hospitality.

At last, on the 10th of August, about five o'clock in the
afternoon, the last squadron of the rear-guard cantered over the
hills west of Morteyn, and the last straggling Uhlan followed
after, twirling his long lance.

Every day Lorraine had watched and waited for one word from her
father; every day Jack had ridden over to the Château de
Nesville, but the marquis refused to see him or to listen to any
message, nor did he send any to Lorraine.

Old Pierre told Jack that no Germans had visited the Château;
that the marquis was busy all day with his machinery, and never
left his turret except to eat at daylight in the grand salon
below. He also intimated that his master was about ready to make
another ascension in the new balloon, which, old Pierre affirmed,
had a revolving screw at either side of the wicker car, like a
ship; and, like a ship, it could be steered with perfect ease. He
even took Jack to a little stone structure that stood in a
meadow, surrounded by trees. In there, according to Pierre, stood
this marvellous balloon, not yet inflated, of course. That was
only a matter of five seconds; a handful of the silver dust
placed at the aperture of the silken bag, a drop of pure water
touched to it, and, puff! the silver dust turns to vapour and the
balloon swells out tight and full.

Jack had peeped into the barred window and had seen the wicker
car of the balloon standing on the cement floor, filled with the
folded silken covering for the globe of the balloon. He could
just make out, on either side of the car, two twisted twin
screws, wrought out of some dull oxidized metal. On returning to
Morteyn that evening he had told Lorraine.

She explained that the screws were made of a metal called
aluminum, rare then, because so difficult to extract from its
combining substances, and almost useless on account of its being
impossible to weld. Her father, however, had found a way to
utilize it--how, she did not know. If this ascension proved a
success the French government would receive the balloon and the
secret of the steering and propelling gear, along with the
formula for the silvery dust used to inflate it. Even she
understood what a terrible engine of war such an aërial ship
might be, from which two men could blow up fortress after
fortress and city after city when and where they chose. Armies
could be annihilated, granite and steel would be as tinder before
a bomb or torpedo of picric acid dropped from the clouds.

On the 10th of August, a little after five o'clock, Jack left
Lorraine on the terrace at Morteyn to try once more to see the
marquis--for Lorraine's sake.

He turned to the west, where the last Uhlan of the rear-guard was
disappearing over the brow of the hill, brandishing his pennoned
lance-tip in the late rays of the low-hanging sun.

"Good-by," he said, smiling up at her from the steps. "Don't
worry, please don't. Remember your father is well, and is working
for France."

He spoke of the marquis as her father; he always should as long
as she lived. He said, too, that the marquis was labouring for
France. So he was; but France would never see the terrible war
engine, nor know the secrets of its management, as long as
Napoleon III. was struggling to keep his family in the high
places of France.

"Good-by," he said again. "I shall be back by sundown."

Lorraine leaned over the terrace, looking down at him with blue,
fathomless eyes.

"By sundown?"

"Yes."

"Truly?"

"Yes."

"Tiens ta Foy."

"Always, Lorraine."

She did not chide him; she longed to call him Jack, but it stuck
in her white throat when she tried.

"If you do not come back by sundown, then I shall know you
cannot," she said.

"But I shall."

"Yes, I believe it."

"Come after me if I don't return," he laughed, as he descended
the steps.

"I shall, if you break your faith," she smiled.

She watched him out of sight--he was going on foot this
time--then the trees hid him, and she turned back into the house,
where Madame de Morteyn was preparing to close the Château for
the winter and return to Paris.

It was the old vicomte who had decided; he had stayed and faced
the music as long as there was any to face--Prussian music, too.
But now the Prussians had passed on towards Metz--towards Paris,
also, perhaps, and he wished to be there; it was too sad in the
autumn of Lorraine.

He had aged fearfully in the last four days; he was in truth an old
man now. Even he knew it--he who had never before acknowledged age;
but he felt it at night; for it is when day is ended that the old
comprehend how old they are.

This was to be Lorraine's last night at Morteyn; in the morning
Jack was to drive her back to her father and then return to
Morteyn to accompany his uncle and aunt to Paris. The old people
once settled in Paris with Dorothy and Betty Castlemaine, and
surrounded by friends again, Jack would take leave of them and
return to Morteyn with one servant. This he had promised
Lorraine, and she had not said no. His aunt also wished it, but
she did not think it time yet to tell the vicomte.

The servants, with the exception of one maid and the coachman,
had gone in the morning, by way of Vigny, with the luggage. The
vicomte and his wife were to travel by carriage to Passy-le-Sel,
and from there, via Belfort, if the line were open, to Paris by
rail. Jack, it had been arranged, was to ride to Belfort on
horseback, and join the old people there for the journey to
Paris.

So Lorraine turned back into the silent house, where the
furniture stood in its stiff, white dust-coverings, where cloths
covered candelabra and mirror, and the piano was bare of
embroidered scarfs.

She passed through darkened rooms, one after another, through the
long hall, where no servants remained, through the ballroom and
dining-room, and out into the conservatory, emptied of every
palm. She passed on across the interior court, through the
servants' wicket, and out to the stables. All the stalls save one
were empty. Faust stood in that one stall switching his tail and
peering around at her with wise, dark eyes. Then she kissed his
soft nose, and went sadly back to the house, only to roam over it
again from terrace to roof, never meeting a living soul, never
hearing a sound except when she passed the vicomte's suite, where
Madame de Morteyn and the maid were arranging last details and
the old vicomte lay asleep in his worn arm-chair.

There was one room she had not visited, one room in which she had
never set foot, never even peeped into. That was Jack's room. And
now, by an impulse she could not understand, her little feet led
her up the stairway, across the broad landing, through the
gun-room, and there to the door--his door. It was open. She
glided in.

There was a faint odour of tobacco in the room, a smell of leather,
too. That came from the curb-bit and bridle hanging on the wall, or
perhaps from the plastron, foils, and gauntlets over the mantle.
Pipes lay about in profusion, mixed with silver-backed brushes,
cigar-boxes, neckties, riding-crops, and gloves.

She stole on tiptoe to the bed, looked at her wide, bright eyes
in the mirror opposite, flushed, hesitated, bent swiftly, and
touched the white pillow with her lips.

For a second she knelt there where he might have knelt, morning
and evening, then slipped to her feet, turned, and was gone.

At sundown Jack returned, animated, face faintly touched with red
from his three-mile walk. He had seen the marquis; more, too, he
had seen the balloon--he had examined it, stood in the wicker
car, tested the aluminum screws. He brought back a message for
Lorraine, affectionate and kindly, asking for her return home
early the next morning.

"If we do not find you at Belfort to-morrow," said Madame de
Morteyn, seriously, "we shall not wait. We shall go straight on
to Paris. The house is ready to be locked, everything is in
perfect order, and really, Jack, there is no necessity for your
coming. Perhaps Lorraine's father may ask you to stay there for a
few days."

"He has," said Jack, growing a trifle pink.

"Then you need not come to Belfort at all," insisted his aunt.
Jack protested that he could not let them go to Paris alone.

"But I've sent Faust on already," said Madame de Morteyn,
smiling.

"Then the Marquis de Nesville will lend me a horse; you can't
keep me away like that," said Jack; "I will drive Mademoiselle de
Nesville to her home and then come on horseback and meet you at
Belfort, as I said I would."

"We won't count on you," said his aunt; "if you're not there when
the train comes, your uncle and I will abandon you to the mercy
of Lorraine."

"I shall send him on by freight," said Lorraine, trying to smile.

"I'm going back to the Château de Nesville to-night for an hour
or two," observed Jack, finishing his Moselle; "the marquis
wanted me to help him on the last touches. He makes an ascent
to-morrow noon."

"Take a lantern, then," said Madame de Morteyn; "don't you want
Jules, too--if you're going on foot through the forest?"

"Don't want Jules, and the squirrels won't eat me," laughed Jack,
looking across at Lorraine. He was thinking of that first dash in
the night together, she riding with the fury of a storm-witch,
her ball-gown in ribbons, her splendid hair flashing, he
galloping at her stirrup, putting his horse at a dark figure that
rose in their path; and then the collision, the trample, the
shots in the dark, and her round white shoulder seared with the
bullet mark.

She raised her beautiful eyes and asked him how soon he was going
to start.

"Now," he said.

"You will perhaps wait until your old aunt rises," said Madame de
Morteyn, and she kissed him on the cheek. He helped her from her
chair and led her from the room, the vicomte following with
Lorraine.

Ten minutes later he was ready to start, and again he promised
Lorraine to return at eleven o'clock.

"'Tiens ta Foy,'" she repeated.

"Always, Lorraine."

The night was starless. As he stood there on the terrace swinging
his lantern, he looked back at her, up into her eyes. And as he
looked she bent down, impulsively stretching out both arms and
whispering, "At eleven--you have promised, Jack."

At last his name had fallen from her lips--had slipped from them
easily--sweet as the lips that breathed it.

He tried to answer; he could not, for his heart beat in his
throat. But he took her two hands and crushed them together and
kissed the soft, warm palms, passive under his lips. That was
all--a touch, a glimpse of his face half lit by the lantern
swinging; and again she called, softly, "Jack, 'Tiens ta Foy!'"
And he was gone.

The distance to the Château de Nesville was three miles; it might
have been three feet for all Jack knew, moving through the
forest, swinging his lantern, his eyes on the dim trees towering
into the blackness overhead, his mind on Lorraine. Where the
lantern-light fell athwart rugged trunks, he saw her face; where
the tall shadows wavered and shook, her eyes met his. Her voice
was in the forest rumour, the low rustle of leafy undergrowth,
the whisper of waters flowing under silent leaves.

Already the gray wall of the park loomed up in the east, already
the gables and single turret of the Château grew from the shadows
and took form between the meshed branches of the trees.

The grille swung wide open, but the porter was not there. He
walked on, hastening a little, crossed the lawn by the summer
arbour, and approached the house. There was a light in the
turret, but the rest of the house was dark. As he reached the
porch and looked into the black hallway, a slight noise in the
dining-room fell upon his ear, and he opened the door and went
in. The dining-room was dark; he set his extinguished lantern on
the table and lighted a lamp by the window, saying: "Pierre, tell
the marquis I am here--tell him I am to return to Morteyn by
eleven--Pierre, do you hear me? Where are you, then?"

He raised his head instinctively, his hand on the lamp-globe.
Pierre was not there, but something moved in the darkness outside
the window, and he went to the door.

"Pierre!" he called again; and at the same instant an Uhlan
struck him with his lance-butt across the temples.

       *     *     *     *     *

How long it was before he opened his eyes he could not tell. He
found himself lying on the ground in a meadow surrounded by
trees. A camp-fire flickered near, lighting the gray side of the
little stone house where the balloon was kept.

There were sounds--deep, guttural voices raised in dispute or
threats; he saw a group of shadowy men, swaying, pushing,
crowding under the trees. The firelight glimmered on a gilt
button here and there, on a sabre-hilt, on polished schapskas and
gold-scaled chin-guards. The knot of struggling figures suddenly
widened out into a half-circle, then came a quick command, a cry
in French--"Ah! God!"--and something shot up into the air and
hung from a tree, dangling, full in the firelight.

It was the writhing body of a man.

Jack turned his head away, then covered his eyes with his hands.
Beside him a tall Uhlan, swathed to the eyes in his great-coat,
leaned on a lance and smoked in silence.

Suddenly a voice broke out in the night: "Links! vorwärts!" There
came a regular tramp of feet--one, two! one, two!--across the
grass, past the fire, and straight to where Jack sat, his face in
his arms.

The bright glare of lanterns dazzled him as he looked up, but he
saw a line of men with bared sabres standing to his right--tall
Uhlans, buttoned to the chin in their sombre overcoats,
helmet-cords oscillating in the lantern glow.

Another Uhlan, standing erect before him, had been speaking for a
second or two before he even heard him.

"Prisoner, do you understand German?" repeated the Uhlan,
harshly.

"Yes," muttered Jack. He began to shiver, perhaps from the chill
of the wet earth.

"Stand up!"

Jack stumbled to his numbed feet. A drop of blood rolled into his
eye and he mechanically wiped it away. He tried to look at the
man before him; he could not, for his fascinated eyes returned to
that thing that hung on a rope from the great sprawling
oak-branch at the edge of the grove.

Like a vague voice in a dream he heard his own name pronounced;
he heard a sonorous formula repeated in a heavy, dispassionate
voice--"accused of having resisted a picquet of his Prussian
Majesty's 11th Regiment of Uhlan cavalry, of having wilfully,
maliciously, and with murderous design fired upon and wounded
trooper Kohlmann of said picquet while in pursuit of his duty."

Again he heard the same voice: "The law of non-combatants
operating in such cases leaves no doubt as to the just penalty
due."

Jack straightened up and looked the officer in the eyes. Ah! now
he knew him--the map-maker of the carrefour, the sneak-thief who
had scaled the park wall with the box--that was the face he had
struck with his clenched fist, the same pink, high-boned face,
with the little, pale, pig-like eyes. In the same second the
man's name came back to him as he had deciphered it written in
pencil on the maps--Siurd von Steyr!

Von Steyr's eyes grew smaller and paler, and an ugly flush mounted
to his scarred cheek-bone. But his voice was dispassionate and
harsh as ever when he said: "The prisoner Marche is at liberty to
confront witnesses. Trooper Kohlmann!"

There he stood, the same blond, bony Uhlan whom Jack had tumbled
into the dust, the same colourless giant whom he had dragged with
trailing spurs across the road to the tree.

From his pouch the soldier produced Jack's silver flask, with his
name engraved on the bottom, his pipe, still half full of
tobacco, just as he had dropped it when the field-glasses told
him that Uhlans, not French lancers, were coming down the
hill-side.

One by one three other Uhlans advanced from the motionless ranks,
saluted, briefly identified the prisoner, and stepped back again.

"Have you any statement to make?" demanded Von Steyr.

Jack's teeth were clenched, his throat contracted, he was
choking. Everything around him swam in darkness--a darkness lit
by little flames; his veins seemed bursting. He was in their
midst now, shouldered and shoved across the grass; their hot
breath fell on his face, their hands crushed his arms, bent back
his elbows, pushed him forward, faster, faster, towards the tree
where that thing hung, turning slowly as a squid spins on a
swivel.

It was the grating of the rope on his throat that crushed the
first cry out of him: "Von Steyr, shoot me! For the love of God!
Not--not this--"

He was struggling now--he set his teeth and struck furiously. The
crowd seemed to increase about him; now there was a mounted man
in their midst--more mounted men, shouting.

The rope suddenly tightened; the blood pounded in his cheeks, in
his temples; his tongue seemed to split open. Then he got his
fingers between the noose and his neck; now the thing loosened
and he pitched forward, but kept his feet.

"Gott verdammt!" roared a voice above him; "Von Steyr!--here! get
back there!--get back!"

"Rickerl!" gasped Jack--"tell--tell them--they must shoot--not
hang--"

He stood glaring at the soldiers before him, face bloody and
distorted, the rope trailing from one clenched hand. Breathless,
haggard, he planted his heels in the turf, and, dropping the
noose, set one foot on it. All around him horsemen crowded up,
lances slung from their elbows, helmets nodding as the restive
horses wheeled.

And now for the first time he saw the Marquis de Nesville, face
like a death-mask, one hand on the edge of the wicker balloon-car,
which stood in the midst of a circle of cavalry.

"This is not the place nor is this the time to judge your
prisoners," said Rickerl, pushing his horse up to Von Steyr and
scowling down into his face. "Who called this drum-head court? Is
that your province? Oh, in my absence? Well, then, I am here! Do
you see me?"

The insult fell like the sting of a lash across Von Steyr's face.
He saluted, and, looking straight into Rickerl's eyes, said, "Zum
Befehl, Herr Hauptmann! I am at your convenience also."

"When you please!" shouted Rickerl, crimson with fury. "Retire!"

Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, scarcely had he backed
his startled horse, when there came a sound of a crushing blow, a
groan, and a soldier staggered back from the balloon-car, his
hands to his head, where the shattered helmet hung by one torn
gilt cord. In the same instant the marquis, dishevelled, white as
a corpse, rose from the wicker car, shaking his steel box above
his head. Then, through the ring of nervous, quivering horses the
globe of the balloon appeared as by magic--an enormous, looming,
yellow sphere, tense, glistening, gigantic.

The horses reared, snorting with fright, the Uhlans clung to
their saddles, shouting and cursing, and the huge balloon,
swaying from its single rope, pounded and bounced from side to
side, knocking beast and man into a chaotic mass of frantic
horses and panic-stricken riders.

With a report like a pistol the rope parted, the great globe
bounded and shot up into the air; a tumult of harsh shouts arose;
the crazed horses backed, plunged, and scattered, some falling,
some bolting into the undergrowth, some rearing and swaying in an
ecstasy of terror.

The troopers, helpless, gnashing their teeth, shook their long
lances towards the sky, where the moon was breaking from the
banked clouds, and the looming balloon hung black above the
forest, drifting slowly westward.

And now Von Steyr had a weapon in his hands--not a carbine, but a
long chassepot-rifle, a relic of the despoiled franc-tireur,
dangling from the oak-tree.

Some one shouted, "It's loaded with explosive bullets!"

"Then drop it!" roared Rickerl. "For shame!"

The crash of the rifle drowned his voice.

The balloon's shadowy bulk above the forest was belted by a blue
line of light; the globe contracted, a yellow glare broke out in
the sky. Then far away a light report startled the sudden
stillness; a dark spot, suspended in mid-air, began to fall,
swiftly, more swiftly, dropping through the night between sky and
earth.

"You damned coward!" stammered Rickerl, pointing a shaking hand
at Von Steyr.

"God keep you when our sabres meet!" said Von Steyr, between his
teeth.

Rickerl burst into an angry laugh.

"Where is your prisoner?" he cried.

Von Steyr stared around him, right and left--Jack was gone.

"Let others prefer charges," said Rickerl, contemptuously--"if
you escape my sabre in the morning."

"Let them," said Von Steyr, quietly, but his face worked
convulsively.

"Second platoon dismount to search for escaped prisoner!" he
cried. "Open order! Forward!"



XIX

RICKERL'S SABRE


Jack, lying full length in the depths of the forest, listened
fearfully for the sounds of the human pack on his heels. The
blackness was stupefying; the thud of his own heart seemed to
fill the shrouded forest like the roll of a muffled drum.
Presently he crept on again, noiselessly, painfully, closing his
eyes when the invisible twigs brushed his face.

He did not know where he was going, he only thought of getting
away, anywhere--away from that hangman's rope.

Again he rested, suffocated by the tumult in his breast, burning
with thirst. For a long while he lay listening; there was not a
sound in the night. Little by little his coolness returned; he
thought of Lorraine and his promise, and he knew that now he
could not keep it. He thought, too, of the marquis, never
doubting the terrible fate of the half-crazed man. He had seen
him stun the soldier with a blow of the steel box, he had seen
the balloon shoot up into the midnight sky, he had heard the shot
and caught a glimpse of the glare of the burning balloon.
Somewhere in the forest the battered body of the marquis lay in
the wreck of the shattered car. The steel box, too, lay
there--the box that was so precious to the Germans.

He rose to his knees, felt around among the underbrush, bent his
head and crept on, parting leaves and branches with one hand,
holding the other over his eyes. The thought that he might be
moving in a circle filled him with fear. But that was exactly
what he was doing, for now he found himself close to the park
wall; and, listening, he heard the river murmuring among the
alders. He halted, utterly at a loss. If he were caught again
could Rickerl save him? What could a captain of Uhlans do? True,
he had interfered with Von Steyr's hangman's work, but that was
nothing but a reprieve at best.

The murmur of the river filled his ears; his hot throat was
cracking. Drink he must, at any rate, and he started on in the
darkness, moving stealthily over the moss. The water was closer
than he had imagined; he bent above it, first touching it with
groping hands, then noiselessly bathed his feverish face in the
dark stream, drinking his fill.

He longed to follow the shallow stream, wading to Morteyn, but he
dared not risk it; so he went along the bank as far as he could,
trying to keep within sound of the waters, until again he found
himself close to the park wall. The stream had vanished again.

Dawn began to gray the forest; little by little the nearest trees
grew from the darkness, and bushes took vague shapes in the
gloom. He strained his eyes, peering at every object near him,
striving to recognize stones, saplings, but he could not. Even
when dawn at last came up out of the east, and the thickets grew
distinct, he did not know where he was. A line of vapour through
the trees marked the course of the little river. Which way was
it flowing? Even that he could not tell. He looked in vain for
the park wall; that had vanished utterly with the dawn. Very
cautiously he advanced over the deep forest mould to the
willow-fringed bank of the stream. The current was flowing east.
Where was he? He parted the willows and looked out, and at the
same instant an Uhlan saw him and shouted.

Running swiftly through the trees, head lowered, hands clenched,
he heard the sound of galloping on a soft road that seemed to run
through the forest, parallel to his own course. Then, as he bore
hastily to the right and plunged into the deeper undergrowth, he
caught a glimpse of the Château close by through the trees.
Horrified to find himself back at the place from which he had
started, he doubled in his tracks, ran on, stooping low, splashed
into the stream and across, and plunged up to the shoulders
through the tall weeds and bushes until again he felt the forest
leaves beneath his feet.

The sudden silence around him was disconcerting. Where had the
Uhlan gone? He ran on, making straight for the depths of the
woods, for he knew now where he was, and in which direction
safety lay.

After a while his breath and legs gave out together, and he
leaned against a beech-tree, his hands pressed to his mouth,
where the breath struggled for expulsion. And, as he leaned
there, two Uhlans, mounted, lances advanced, came picking their
way among the trees, turning their heads cautiously from side to
side. Behind these two rode six others, apparently unarmed, two
abreast. He saw at once that nothing could save him, for they
were making straight for his beech-tree. In that second of
suspense he made up his mind to die fighting, for he knew what
capture meant. He fixed his eyes on the foremost Uhlan, and
waited. When the Uhlan should pass his tree he would fly at him;
the rest could stab him to death with their lances--that was the
only way to end it now.

He shrank back, teeth set, nerving himself for the spring--a
hunted thing turned fierce, a desperate man knowing that death
was close. How long they were in coming! Had they seen him? When
would the horse's nose pass the great tree-trunk?

"Halt!" cried a voice very near. The soft trample of horses
ceased.

"Dismount!"

It seemed an age; the sluggish seconds crawled on. There was the
sound of feet among the dry forest leaves--the hum of deep
voices. He waited, trembling, for now it would be a man on foot
with naked sabre who should sink under his spring. Would he never
come?

At last, unable to stand the suspense, he moved his eyes to the
edge of the tree. There they were, a group of Uhlans standing
near two men who stood facing each other, jackets off, shirts
open to the throat.

The two men were Rickerl and Von Steyr.

Rickerl rolled up his white shirt-sleeve and tucked the cuff into
the folds, his naked sabre under his arm. Von Steyr, in shirt,
riding-breeches, and boots, stood with one leg crossed before the
other, leaning on his bared sabre. The surgeon and the two
seconds walked apart, speaking in undertones, with now and then a
quick gesture from the surgeon. The three troopers held the
horses of the party, and watched silently. When at last one of
the Uhlans spoke, they were so near that every word was perfectly
distinct to Jack:

"Gentlemen, an affair of honour in the face of the enemy is
always deplorable."

Rickerl burst out violently. "There can be no compromise--no
adjustment. Is it Lieutenant von Steyr who seeks it? Then I tell
him he is a hangman and a coward! He hangs a franc-tireur who
fires on us with explosive bullets, but he himself does not
hesitate to disgrace his uniform and regiment by firing explosive
bullets at an escaping wretch in a balloon!"

"You lie!" said Von Steyr, his face convulsed. At the same moment
the surgeon stepped forward with a gesture, the two seconds
placed themselves; somebody muttered a formula in a gross bass
voice and the swordsmen raised their heavy sabres and saluted.
The next moment they were at it like tigers; their sabres flashed
above their heads, the sabres of the seconds hovering around the
outer edge of the circle of glimmering steel like snakes coiling
to spring.

To and fro swayed the little group under the blinding flashes of
light, stroke rang on stroke, steel shivered and tinkled and
clanged on steel.

Fascinated by the spectacle, Jack crouched close to the tree,
seeing all he dared to see, but keeping a sharp eye on the three
Uhlans who were holding the horses, and who should have been
doing sentry duty also. But they were human, and their eyes could
not be dragged away from the terrible combat before them.

Suddenly, from the woods to the right, a rifle-shot rang out,
clear and sharp, and one of the Uhlans dropped the three bridles,
straightened out to his full height, trembled, and lurched
sideways. The horses, freed, backed into the other horses; the
two remaining Uhlans tried to seize them, but another shot rang
out--another, and then another. In the confusion and turmoil a
voice cried: "Mount, for God's sake!" but one of the horses was
already free, and was galloping away riderless through the woods.

A terrible yell arose from the underbrush, where a belt of smoke
hung above the bushes, and again the rifles cracked. Von Steyr
turned and seized a horse, throwing himself heavily across the
saddle; the surgeon and the two seconds scrambled into their
saddles, and the remaining pair of Uhlans, already mounted,
wheeled their horses and galloped headlong into the woods.

Jack saw Rickerl set his foot in the stirrup, but his horse was
restive and started, dragging him.

"Hurry, Herr Hauptmann!" cried a Uhlan, passing him at a gallop.
Rickerl cast a startled glance over his shoulder, where, from the
thickets, a dozen franc-tireurs were springing towards him,
shouting and shaking their chassepots. Something had given
way--Jack saw that--for the horse started on at a trot, snorting
with fright. He saw Rickerl run after him, seize the bridle,
stumble, recover, and hang to the stirrup; but the horse tore
away and left him running on behind, one hand grasping his naked
sabre, one clutching a bit of the treacherous bridle.

"À mort les Uhlans!" shouted the franc-tireurs, their ferocious
faces lighting up as Rickerl's horse eluded its rider and crashed
away through the saplings.

Rickerl cast one swift glance at the savage faces, turned his
head like a trapped wolf in a pit, hesitated, and started to run.
A chorus of howls greeted him: "À mort!" "À mort le voleur!" "À
la lanterne les Uhlans!"

Scarcely conscious of what he was doing, Jack sprang from his
tree and ran parallel to Rickerl.

"Ricky!" he called in English--"follow me! Hurry! hurry!"

The franc-tireurs could not see Jack, but they heard his voice,
and answered it with a roar. Rickerl, too, heard it, and he also
heard the sound of Jack's feet crashing through the willows along
the river-bottom.

"Jack!" he cried.

"Quick! Take to the river-bank!" shouted Jack in English again.
In a moment they were running side by side up the river-bottom,
hidden from the view of the franc-tireurs.

"Do as I do," panted Jack. "Throw your sabre away and follow me.
It's our last chance." But Rickerl clung to his sabre and ran on.
And now the park wall rose right in their path, seeming to block
all progress.

"We can't get over--it's ended," gasped Rickerl.

"Yes, we can--follow," whispered Jack, and dashed straight into
the river where it washed the base of the wall.

"Do exactly as I do. Follow close," urged Jack; and, wading to the
edge of the wall, he felt along under the water for a moment, then
knelt down, ducked his head, gave a wriggle, and disappeared.
Rickerl followed him, kneeling and ducking his head. At the same
moment he felt a powerful current pulling him forward, and, groping
around under the shallow water, his hands encountered the rim of a
large iron conduit. He stuck his head into it, gave himself a push,
and shot through the short pipe into a deep pool on the other side
of the wall, from which Jack dragged him dripping and exhausted.

"You are my prisoner!" said Jack, between his gasps. "Give me
your sabre, Ricky--quick! Look yonder!" A loud explosion followed
his words, and a column of smoke rose above the foliage of the
vineyard before them.

"Artillery!" blurted out Rickerl, in amazement.

"French artillery--look out! Here come the franc-tireurs over the
wall! Give me that sabre and run for the French lines--if you
don't want to hang!" And, as Rickerl hesitated, with a scowl of
hate at the franc-tireurs now swarming over the wall, Jack seized
the sabre and jerked it violently from his hand.

"You're crazy!" he muttered. "Run for the batteries!--here, this
way!"

A franc-tireur fired at them point-blank, and the bullet whistled
between them. "Leave me. Give me my sabre," said Rickerl, in a
low voice.

"Then we'll both stay."

"Leave me! I'll not hang, I tell you."

"No."

The franc-tireurs were running towards them.

"They'll kill us both. Here they come!"

"You stood by me--" said Jack, in a faint voice.

Rickerl looked him in the eyes, hesitated, and cried, "I
surrender! Come on! Hurry, Jack--for your sister's sake!"



XX

SIR THORALD IS SILENT


It was a long run to the foot of the vineyard hill, where, on the
crest, deep hidden among the vines, three cannon clanged at
regular intervals, stroke following stroke, like the thundering
summons of a gigantic tocsin.

Behind them they saw the franc-tireurs for a moment, thrashing
waist-deep through the rank marsh weeds; then, as they plunged
into a wheat-field, the landscape disappeared, and all around the
yellow grain rustled, waving above their heads, dense, sun-heated,
suffocating.

Their shoes sank ankle-deep in the reddish-yellow soil; they
panted, wet with perspiration as they ran. Jack still clutched
Rickerl's sabre, and the tall corn, brushing the blade, fell
under the edge, keen as a scythe.

"I can go no farther," breathed Jack, at last. "Wait a moment,
Ricky."

The hot air in the depths of the wheat was stifling, and they
stretched their heads above the sea of golden grain, gasping like
fishes in a bowl.

"Perhaps I won't have to surrender you, after all," said Jack.
"Do you see that old straw-stack on the slope? If we could reach
the other slope--"

He held out his hand to gauge the exact direction, then bent
again and plodded towards it, Rickerl jogging in his footprints.

As they pressed on under the rustling canopy, the sound of the
cannon receded, for they were skirting the vineyard at the base
of the hill, bearing always towards the south. And now they came
to the edge of the long field, beyond which stretched another
patch of stubble. The straw-stack stood half-way up the slope.

"Here's your sabre," motioned Jack. He was exhausted and reeled
about in the stubble, but Rickerl passed one arm about him, and,
sabre clutched in the other hand, aided him to the straw-stack.

The fresh wind strengthened them both; the sweat cooled and dried
on their throbbing faces. They leaned against the stack,
breathing heavily, the breeze blowing their wet hair, the solemn
cannon-din thrilling their ears, stroke on stroke.

"The thing is plain to me," gasped Rickerl, pointing to the
smoke-cloud eddying above the vineyard--"a brigade or two of
Frossard's corps have been cut off and hurled back towards Nancy.
Their rear-guard is making a stand--that's all. Jack, what on
earth did you get into such a terrible scrape for?"

Jack, panting full length in the shadow of the straw-stack, told
Rickerl the whole wretched story, from the time of his leaving
Forbach, after having sent the despatches to the _Herald_, up to
the moment he had called to Rickerl there in the meadow,
surrounded by Uhlans, a rope already choking him senseless.

Rickerl listened impassively, playing with the sabre on his
knees, glancing right and left across the country with his
restless baby-blue eyes. When Jack finished he said nothing, but
it was plain enough how seriously he viewed the matter.

"As for your damned Uhlans," ended Jack, "I have tried to keep
out of their way. It's a relief to me to know that I didn't kill
that trooper; but--confound him!--he shot at me so enthusiastically
that I thought it time to join the party myself. Ricky, would they
have hanged me if they had given me a fair court-martial?"

"As a favour they might have shot you," replied Rickerl,
gloomily.

"Then," said Jack, "there are two things left for me to do--go to
Paris, which I can't unless Mademoiselle de Nesville goes, or
join some franc-tireur corps and give the German army as good as
they send. If you Uhlans think," he continued, violently, "that
you're coming into France to hang and shoot and raise hell
without getting hell in return, you're a pack of idiots!"

"The war is none of your affair," said Rickerl, flushing. "You
brought it on yourself--this hanging business. Good heavens! the
whole thing makes me sick! I can't believe that two weeks ago we
were all there together at Morteyn--"

"A pretty return you're making for Morteyn hospitality!" blurted
out Jack. Then, shocked at what he had said, he begged Rickerl's
pardon and bitterly took himself to task.

"I _am_ a fool, Ricky; I know you've got to follow your regiment,
and I know it must cut you to the heart. Don't mind what I say;
I'm so miserable and bewildered, and I haven't got the feeling
of that rope off my neck yet."

Rickerl raised his hand gently, but his face was hard set.

"Jack, you don't begin to know what a hell I am living in, I who
care so much for France and the French people, to know that all,
all is ended forever, that I can never again--"

His voice choked; he cleared it and went on: "The very name of
Uhlan is held in horror in France now; the word Prussian is a
curse when it falls from French lips. God knows why we are
fighting! We Germans obey, that is all. I am a captain in a
Prussian cavalry regiment; the call comes, that is all that I
know. And here I am, riding through the land I love; I sit on my
horse and see the torch touched to field and barn; I see
railroads torn out of the ground, I see wretched peasants hung to
the rafters of their own cottages." He lowered his voice; his
face grew paler. "I see the friend I care most for in all the
world, a rope around his neck, my own troopers dragging him to
the vilest death a man can die! That is war! Why? I am a
Prussian, it is not necessary for me to know; but the regiment
moves, and I move! it halts, I halt! it charges, retreats, burns,
tramples, rends, devastates! I am always with it, unless some
bullet settles me. For this war is nearly ended, Jack, nearly
ended--a battle or two, a siege or two, nothing more. What can
stand against us? Not this bewildered France."

Jack was silent.

Rickerl's blue eyes sought his; he rested his square chin on one
hand and spoke again:

"Jack, do you know that--that I love your sister?"

"Her last letter said as much," replied Jack, coldly.

Rickerl watched his face.

"You are sorry?"

"I don't know; I had hoped she would marry an American. Have you
spoken?"

"Yes." This was a chivalrous falsehood; it was Dorothy who had
spoken first, there in the gravel drive as he rode away from
Morteyn.

Jack glanced at him angrily.

"It was not honourable," he said; "my aunt's permission should
have been asked, as you know; also, incidentally, my own.
Does--does Dorothy care for you? Oh, you need not answer that; I
think she does. Well, this war may change things."

"Yes," said Rickerl, sadly.

"I don't mean that," cried Jack; "Heaven knows I wouldn't have
you hurt, Ricky; don't think I meant that--"

"I don't," said Rickerl, half smiling; "you risked your skin to
save me half an hour ago."

"And you called off your bloody pack of hangmen for me," said
Jack; "I'm devilish grateful, Ricky--indeed I am--and you know
I'd be glad to have you in the family if--if it wasn't for this
cursed war. Never mind, Dorothy generally has what she wants,
even if it's--"

"Even if it's an Uhlan?" suggested Rickerl, gravely.

Jack smiled and laid his hand on Rickerl's arm.

"She ought to see you now, bareheaded, dusty, in your
shirt-sleeves! You're not much like the attaché at the
Diplomatic ball--eh, Ricky? If you marry Dorothy I'll punch your
head. Come on, we've got to find out where we are."

"That's my road," observed Rickerl, quietly, pointing across the
fields.

"Where? Why?"

"Don't you see?"

Jack searched the distant landscape in vain.

"No, are the Germans there? Oh, now I see. Why, it's a squadron
of your cursed Uhlans!"

"Yes," said Rickerl, mildly.

"Then they've been chased out of the Château de Nesville!"

"Probably. They may come back. Jack, can't you get out of this
country?"

"Perhaps," replied Jack, soberly. He thought of Lorraine, of the
marquis lying mangled and dead in the forest beside the fragments
of his balloon.

"Your Lieutenant von Steyr is a dirty butcher," he said. "I hope
you'll finish him when you find him."

"He fired explosive bullets, which your franc-tireurs use on us,"
retorted Rickerl, growing red.

"Oh," cried Jack in disgust, "the whole business makes me sick!
Ricky, give me your hand--there! Don't let this war end our
friendship. Go to your Uhlans now. As for me, I must get back to
Morteyn. What Lorraine will do, where she can go, how she will
stand this ghastly news, I don't know; and I wish there was
somebody else to tell her. My uncle and aunt have already gone to
Paris, they said they would not wait for me. Lorraine is at
Morteyn, alone except for her maid, and she is probably
frightened at my not returning as I promised. Do you think you
can get to your Uhlans safely? They passed into the grove beyond
the hills. What the mischief are those cannon shelling, anyway?
Well, good-by! Better not come up the hill with me, or you'll
have to part with your sabre for good. We did lose our franc-tireur
friends beautifully. I'll write Dorothy; I'll tell her that I
captured you, sabre and all. Good-by! Good-by, old fellow! If
you'll promise not to get a bullet in your blond hide I'll promise
to be a brother-in-law to you!"

Rickerl looked very manly as he stood there, booted, bareheaded,
his thin shirt, soaked with sweat, outlining his muscular figure.

They lingered a moment, hands closely clasped, looking gravely
into each other's faces. Then, with a gesture, half sad, half
friendly, Rickerl started across the stubble towards the distant
grove where his Uhlans had taken cover.

Jack watched him until his white shirt became a speck, a dot, and
finally vanished among the trees on the blue hill. When he was
gone, Jack turned sharply away and climbed the furze-covered
slope from whence he hoped to see the cannon, now firing only at
five-minute intervals. As he toiled up the incline he carefully
kept himself under cover, for he had no desire to meet any lurking
franc-tireurs. It is true that, even when the franc-tireurs had
been closest, there in the swamp among the rank marsh grasses, the
distance was too great for them to have identified him with certainty.
But he thought it best to keep out of their way until within hail of
the regular troops, so he took advantage of bushes and inequalities
of the slope to reconnoitre the landscape before he reached the
summit of the ridge. There was a tufted thicket of yellow broom in
flower on the crest of the ridge; behind this he lay and looked out
across the plain.

A little valley separated this hill from the vineyard, terraced
up to the north, ridge upon ridge. The cannon smoke shot up from
the thickets of vines, rose, and drifted to the west, blotting
out the greater portion of the vineyard. The cannon themselves
were invisible. At times Jack fancied he saw a human silhouette
when the white smoke rushed outward, but the spectral vines
loomed up everywhere through the dense cannon-fog and he could
not be sure.

However, there were plenty of troops below the hill now--infantry
of the line trudging along the dusty road in fairly good order,
and below the vineyard, among the uncut fields of flax, more
infantry crouched, probably supporting the three-gun battery on
the hill.

At that distance he could not tell a franc-tireur from any
regular foot-soldier except line-infantry; their red caps and
trousers were never to be mistaken. As he looked, he wondered at
a nation that clothed its troops in a colour that furnished such
a fearfully distinct mark to the enemy. A French army, moving,
cannot conceal itself; the red of trousers and caps, the
mirror-like reflections of cuirass and casque and lance-tip,
advertise the presence of French troops so persistently that an
enemy need never fear any open landscape by daylight.

Jack watched the cannonade, lying on his stomach, chin supported
by both hands. He was perfectly cool now; he neither feared the
Uhlans nor the franc-tireurs. For a while he vainly tried to
comprehend the reason of the cannonade; the shells shot out
across the valley in tall curves, dropping into a distant bit of
hazy blue woodland, or exploded above the trees; the column of
infantry below plodded doggedly southward; the infantry in the
flax-field lay supine. Clearly something was interfering with the
retreat of the troops--something that threatened them from those
distant woods. And now he could see cavalry moving about the
crest of the nearer hills, but, without his glass, it was not
possible to tell what they were. Often he looked at the nearer
forest that hid the Château de Nesville. Somewhere within those
sombre woods lay the dead marquis.

With a sigh he rose to his knees, shivered in the sunshine,
passed one hand over his forehead, and finally stood up. Hunger
had made him faint; his head grew dizzy.

"It must be noon, at least," he muttered, and started down the
hill and across the fields towards the woods of Morteyn. As he
walked he pulled the bearded wheat from ripening stems and chewed
it to dull his hunger. The raw place on his neck, where the rope
had chafed, stung when the perspiration started. He moved quickly
but warily, keeping a sharp lookout on every side. Once he passed
a miniature vineyard, heavy with white-wine grapes; and, as he
threaded a silent path among the vines, he ate his fill and
slaked his thirst with the cool amber fruit. He had reached the
edge of the little vineyard, and was about to cross a tangle of
briers and stubble, when something caught his eye in the thicket;
it was a man's face--and he stopped.

For a minute they stared at each other, making no movement, no
sound.

"Sir Thorald!"--faltered Jack.

But Sir Thorald Hesketh could not speak, for he had a bullet
through his lungs.

As Jack sprang into the brier tangle towards him, a slim figure
in the black garments of the Sisters of Mercy rose from Sir
Thorald's side. He saw the white cross on her breast, he saw the
white face above it and the whiter lips.

It was Alixe von Elster.

At the same instant the road in front was filled with French
infantry, running.

Alixe caught his arm, her head turned towards the road where the
infantry were crowding past at double-quick, enveloped in a
whirling torrent of red dust.

"There is a cart there," she said. "Oh, Jack, find it quickly!
The driver is on the seat--and I can't leave Sir Thorald."

In his amazement he stood hesitating, looking from the girl to
Sir Thorald; but she drew him to the edge of the thicket and
pointed to the road, crying, "Go! go!" and he stumbled down the
pasture slope to the edge of the road.

Past him plodded the red-legged infantry; he saw, through the
whirlwind of dust, the vague outlines of a tumbril and horse
standing below in the ditch, and he ran along the grassy
depression towards the vehicle. And now he saw the driver,
kneeling in the cart, his blue blouse a mass of blood, his
discoloured face staring out at the passing troops.

As he seized the horse's head and started up the slope again,
firing broke out among the thickets close at hand; the infantry
swung out to the west in a long sagging line; the chassepots
began banging right and left. For an instant he caught a glimpse
of cavalry riding hard across a bit of stubble--Uhlans he saw at
a glance--then the smoke hid them. But in that brief instant he
had seen, among the galloping cavalrymen, a mounted figure,
bareheaded, wearing a white shirt, and he knew that Rickerl was
riding for his life.

Sick at heart he peered into the straight, low rampart of smoke;
he watched the spirts of rifle-flame piercing it; he saw it turn
blacker when a cannon bellowed in the increasing din. The
infantry were lying down out there in the meadow; shadowy gray
forms passed, repassed, reeled, ran, dropped, and rose again.
Close at hand a long line of men lay flat on their bellies in the
wheat stubble. When each rifle spoke the smoke rippled through
the short wheat stalks or eddied and curled over the ground like
the gray foam of an outrushing surf.

He backed the horse and heavy cart, turned both, half blinded by
the rifle-smoke, and started up the incline. Two bullets,
speeding over the clover like singing bees, rang loudly on the
iron-bound cartwheels; the horse plunged and swerved, dragging
Jack with him, and the dead figure, kneeling in the cart, tumbled
over the tail-board with a grotesque wave of its stiffening
limbs. There it lay, sprawling in an impossible posture in the
ditch. A startled grasshopper alighted on its face, turned
around, crawled to the ear, and sat there.

And now the volley firing grew to a sustained crackle, through
which the single cannon boomed and boomed, hidden in the surging
smoke that rolled in waves, sinking, rising, like the waves of a
wind-whipped sea.

"Where are you, Alixe?" he shouted.

"Here! Hurry!"

She stood on the edge of the brier tangle as he laboured up the
slope with the horse and cart. Sir Thorald's breathing was
horrible to hear when they stooped and lifted him; Alixe was
crying. They laid him on the blood-soaked straw; Alixe crept in
beside him and took his head on her knees.

"To Morteyn?" whispered Jack. "Perhaps we can find a surgeon
nearer--"

"Oh, hurry!" she sobbed; and he climbed heavily to the seat and
started back towards the road.

The road was empty where he turned in out of the fields, but,
just above, he heard cannon thundering in the mist. As he drew in
the reins, undecided, the cannonade suddenly redoubled in fury;
the infantry fire blazed out with a new violence; above the
terrific blast he heard trumpets sounding, and beneath it he felt
the vibration of the earth; horses were neighing out beyond the
smoke; a thousand voices rose in a far, hoarse shout:

"Hurrah! Preussen!"

The Prussian cavalry were charging the cannon.

Suddenly he heard them close at hand; they loomed everywhere in
the smoke, they were among the infantry, among the cannoneers; a
tall rider in silver helmet and armour plunged out into the road
behind them, his horse staggered, trembled, then man and beast
collapsed in a shower of bullets. Others were coming, too,
galloping in through the grain stubble and thickets, shaking
their long, straight sabres, but the infantry chased them, and
fell upon them, clubbing, shooting, stabbing, pulling horses and
men to earth. The cannon, which had ceased, began again; the
infantry were cheering; trumpets blew persistently, faintly and
more faintly. In the road a big, bearded man was crawling on his
hands and knees away from a dead horse. His helmet fell off in
the dust.

Jack gathered the reins and called to the horse. As the heavy
cart moved off, the ground began to tremble again with the shock
of on-coming horses, and again, through the swelling tumult, he
caught the cry--

"Hurrah! Preussen!"

The Prussian cuirassiers were coming back.

"Is Sir Thorald dying?" he asked of Alixe; "can he live if I lash
the horse?"

"Look at him, Jack," she muttered.

"I see; he cannot live. I shall drive slowly. You--you are
wounded, are you? there--on the neck--"

"It is his blood on my breast."



XXI

THE WHITE CROSS


At ten o'clock that night Jack stepped from the ballroom to the
terrace of the Château Morteyn and listened to the distant murmur
of the river Lisse, below the meadow. The day of horror had ended
with a dozen dropping shots from the outposts, now lining the
banks of the Lisse from the Château de Nesville to Morteyn. The
French infantry had been pouring into Morteyn since late
afternoon; they had entered the park when he entered, driving his
tumbril with its blood-stained burden; they had turned the river
into a moat, the meadow into an earthwork, the Château itself
into a fortress.

On the concrete terrace beside him a gatling-gun glimmered in the
starlight; sentinels leaned on their elbows, sprawling across the
parapets; shadowy ranks of sleeping men lay among the shrubbery
below, white-faced, exhausted, motionless.

There were low voices from the darkened ballroom, the stir and
tinkle of spurred boots, the ring of sabres. Out in the hard
macadamized road, cannon were passing into the park by the iron
gate; beyond the road masses of men moved in the starlight.

After a moment Jack turned away and entered the house. For the
hundredth time he mounted the stairs to Lorraine's bedroom door
and listened, holding his breath. He heard nothing--not a
cry--not a sob. It had been so from the first, when he had told
her that her father lay dead somewhere in the forest of Morteyn.

She had said nothing--she went to her room and sat down on the
bed, white and still. Sir Thorald lay in the next room, breathing
deeply. Alixe was kneeling beside him, crying silently.

Twice a surgeon from an infantry regiment had come and gone away
after a glance at Sir Thorald. A captain came later and asked for
a Sister of Mercy.

"She can't go," said Jack, in a low voice. But little Alixe rose,
still crying, and followed the captain to the stables, where a
dozen mangled soldiers lay in the straw and hay.

It was midnight when she returned to find Jack standing beside
Sir Thorald in the dark. When he saw it was Alixe he led her
gently into the hall.

"He is conscious now; I will call you when the time comes. Go
into that room--Lorraine is there, alone. Ah, go, Alixe; it is
charity!--and you wear the white cross--"

"It is dyed scarlet," she whispered through her tears.

He returned to Sir Thorald, who lay moving his restless hands
over the sheets and turning his head constantly from side to
side.

"Go on," said Jack; "finish what you were saying."

"Will she come?"

"Yes--in time."

Sir Thorald relapsed into a rambling, monotonous account of some
military movement near Wissembourg until Jack spoke again:

"Yes--I know; tell me about Alixe."

"Yes--Alixe," muttered Sir Thorald--"is she here? I was wrong; I
saw her at Cologne; that was all, Jack--nothing more."

"There is more," said Jack; "tell me."

"Yes, there is more. I saw that--that she loved me. There was a
scene--I am not always a beast--I tried not to be. Then--then I
found that there was nothing left but to go away--somewhere--and
live--without her. It was too late. She knew it--"

"Go on," said Jack.

Suddenly Sir Thorald's voice grew clear.

"Can't you understand?" he asked; "I damned both our souls. She
is buying hers back with tears and blood--with the white cross on
her heart and death in her eyes! And I am dying here--and she's
to drag out the years afterwards--"

He choked; Jack watched him quietly.

Sir Thorald turned his head to him when the coughing ceased.

"She went with a field ambulance; I went, too. I was shot below
that vineyard. They told her; that is all. Am I dying?"

Jack did not answer.

"Will you write to Molly?" asked Sir Thorald, drowsily.

"Yes. God help you, Sir Thorald."

"Who cares?" muttered Sir Thorald. "I'm a beast--a dying beast.
May I see Alixe?"

"Yes."

"Then tell her to come--now. Soon I'll wish to be alone; that's
the way beasts die--alone."

He rambled on again about a battle somewhere in the south, and
Jack went to the door and called, "Alixe!"

She came, pallid and weeping, carrying a lighted candle.

Jack took it from her hand and blew out the flame.

"They won't let us have a light; they fear bombardment. Go in
now."

"Is he dying?"

"God knows."

"God?" repeated Alixe.

Jack bent and touched the child's forehead with his lips.

"Pray for him," he said; "I shall write his wife to-night."

Alixe went in to the bedside to kneel again and buy back two
souls with the agony of her child's heart.

"Pray," she said to Sir Thorald.

"Pray," he repeated.

Jack closed the door.

Up and down the dark hall he wandered, pausing at times to listen
to some far rifle-shot and the answering fusillade along the
picket-line. Once he stopped an officer on the stairway and asked
for a priest, but, remembering that Sir Thorald was Protestant,
turned away with a vague apology and resumed his objectless
wandering.

At times he fancied he heard cannon, so far away that nothing of
sound remained, only a faint jar on the night air. Twice he
looked from the window over the vast black forest, thinking of
the dead man lying there alone. And then he longed to go to
Lorraine; he felt that he must touch her, that his hand on hers
might help her somehow.

At last, deadly weary, he sat down on the stairs by her door to
try to think out the problems that to-morrow would bring.

His aunt and uncle had gone on to Paris; Lorraine's father was
dead and her home had been turned into a fort. Saint-Lys was
heavily occupied by the Germans, and they held the railroad also
in their possession. It seemed out of the question to stay in
Morteyn with Lorraine, for an assault on the Château was
imminent. How could he get her to Paris? That was the only place
for her now.

He thought, too, of his own danger from the Uhlans. He had told
Lorraine, partly because he wished her to understand their
position, partly because the story of his capture, trial, and
escape led up to the tragedy that he scarcely knew how to break
to her. But he had done it, and she, pale as death, had gone
silently to her room, motioning him away as he stood awkwardly at
the door.

That last glimpse of the room remained in his mind, it
obliterated everything else at moments--Lorraine sitting on her
bedside, her blue eyes vacant, her face whiter than the pillows.

And so he sat there on the stairs, the dawn creeping into the
hallway; and his eyes never left the panels of her door. There
was not a sound from within. This for a while frightened him, and
again and again he started impulsively towards the door, only to
turn back again and watch there in the coming dawn. Presently he
remembered that dawn might bring an attack on the Château, and he
rose and hurried down-stairs to the terrace where a crowd of
officers stood watching the woods through their night-glasses.
The general impression among them was that there might be an
attack. They yawned and smoked and studied the woods, but they
were polite, and answered all his questions with a courteous
light-heartedness that jarred on him. He glanced for a moment at
the infantry, now moving across the meadow towards the river; he
saw troops standing at ease along the park wall, troops sitting
in long ranks in the vegetable garden, troops passing the
stables, carrying pickaxes and wheeling wheelbarrows piled with
empty canvas sacks.

Sleepy-eyed boyish soldiers of the artillery were harnessing the
battery horses, rubbing them down, bathing wounded limbs or
braiding the tails. The farrier was shoeing a great black horse,
who turned its gentle eyes towards the hay-bales piled in front
of the stable. One or two slim officers, in pale-blue fur-edged
pelisses, strolled among the trampled flower-beds, smoking cigars
and watching a line of men shovelling earth into canvas sacks.
The odour of soup was in the air; the kitchen echoed with the din
of pots and pans. Outside, too, the camp-kettles were steaming
and the rattle of gammels came across the lawn.

"Who is in command here?" asked Jack, turning to a handsome
dragoon officer who stood leaning on his sabre, the horse-hair
crinière blowing about his helmet.

"Why, General Farron!" said the officer in surprise.

"Farron!" repeated Jack; "is he back from Africa, here in
France--here at Morteyn?"

"He is at the Château de Nesville," said the officer, smiling.
"You seem to know him, monsieur."

"Indeed I do," said Jack, warmly. "Do you think he will come
here?"

"I suppose so. Shall I send you word when he arrives?"

Another officer came up, a general, white-haired and sombre.

"Is this the Vicomte de Morteyn?" he asked, looking at Jack.

"His nephew; the vicomte has gone to Paris. My name is Marche,"
said Jack.

The general saluted him; Jack bowed.

"I regret the military necessity of occupying the Château; the
government will indemnify Monsieur le Vicomte--"

Jack held up his hand: "My uncle is an old soldier of France--the
government is welcome; I bid you welcome in the name of the
Vicomte de Morteyn."

The old general flushed and bowed deeply.

"I thank you in the name of the government. Blood will tell. It
is easy, Monsieur Marche, to see that you are the nephew of the
Vicomte de Morteyn."

"Monsieur Marche," said the young dragoon officer, respectfully,
"is a friend of General Farron."

"I had the honour to be attached as correspondent to his
staff--in Oran," said Jack.

The old general held out his hand with a gesture entirely
charming.

"I envy General Farron your friendship," he said. "I had a
son--perhaps your age. He died--yesterday." After a silence, he
said: "There are ladies in the Château?"

"Yes," replied Jack, soberly.

The general turned with a gesture towards the woods. "It is too
late to move them; we are, it appears, fairly well walled in. The
cellar, in case of bombardment, is the best you can do for them.
How many are there?"

"Two, general. One is a Sister of Mercy."

Other officers began to gather on the terrace, glasses
persistently focussed on the nearer woods. Somebody called to an
officer below the terrace to hurry the cannon.

Jack made his way through the throng of officers to the stairs,
mounted them, and knocked at Lorraine's door.

"Is it you--Jack?"

"Yes."

"Come."

He went in.

Lorraine lay on the bed, quiet and pale; it startled him to see
her so calm. For an instant he hesitated on the threshold, then
went slowly to the bedside. She held out one hand; he took it.

"I cannot cry," she said; "I cannot. Sit beside me, Jack. Listen:
I am wicked--I have not a single tear for my father. I have been
here--so--all night long. I prayed to weep; I cannot. I
understand he is dead--that I shall never again wait for him,
watch at his door in the turret, dream he is calling me; I
understand that he will never call me again--never again--never.
And I cannot weep. Do you hate me? I am tired--so tired, like a
child--very young."

She raised her other hand and laid it in his. "I need you," she
said; "I am too tired, too young, to be so alone. It is myself I
suffer for; think, Jack, myself, in such a moment. I am selfish,
I know it. Oh, if I could weep now! Why can I not? I loved my
father. And now I can only think of his little machines in the
turret and his balloon, and--oh!--I only remember the long days
of my life when I waited on the turret stairs hoping he would
come out, dreaming he would come some day and take me in his arms
and kiss me and hold me close, as I am to you. And now he never
will. And I waited all my life!"

"Hush!" he whispered, touching her hair; "you are feverish."

Her head was pressed close to him; his arms held her tightly; she
sighed like a restless child.

"Never again--never--for he is dead. And yet I could have lived
forever, waiting for him on the turret stairs. Do you understand?"

Holding her strained to his breast he trembled at the fierce
hopelessness in her voice. In a moment he recognized that a
crisis was coming; that she was utterly irresponsible, utterly
beyond reasoning. Like a spectre her loveless childhood had risen
and confronted her; and now that there was no longer even hope,
she had turned desperately upon herself with the blank despair of
a wounded animal. End it all!--that was her one impulse. He felt
it already taking shape; she shivered in his arms.

"But there is a God--" he began, fearfully.

She looked up at him with vacant eyes, hot and burning.

He tried again: "I love you, Lorraine--"

Her straight brows knitted and she struggled to free herself.

"Let me go!" she whispered. "I do not wish to live--I can't!--I
can't!"

Then he played his last card, and, holding her close, looked
straight into her eyes.

"France needs us all," he said.

She grew quiet. Suddenly the warm blood dyed her cheeks. Then,
drop by drop, the tears came; her sweet face, wet and flushed,
nestled quietly close to his own face.

"We will both live for that," he said; "we will do what we can."

For an hour she lay sobbing her heart out in his arms; and when
she was quiet at last he told her how the land lay trembling
under the invasion, how their armies had struggled and dwindled
and lost ground, how France, humbled, drenched with blood and
tears, still stood upright calling to her children. He spoke of
the dead, the dying, the mutilated creatures gasping out their
souls in the ditches.

"Life is worth living," he said. "If our place is not in the
field with the wounded, not in the hospital, not in the prisons
where these boys are herded like diseased cattle, then it is
perhaps at the shrine's foot. Pray for France, Lorraine, pray and
work, for there is work to do."

"There is work; we will go together," she whispered.

"Yes, together. Perhaps we can help a little. Your father, when
he died, had the steel box with him. Lorraine, when he is found
and is laid to rest, we will take that box to the French lines.
The secret must belong to France!"

She was eager enough now; she sat up on the bed and listened
with bright, wet eyes while he told her what they two might do
for her land of France.

"Dear--dear Jack!" she cried, softly.

But he knew that it was not the love of a maid for a man that
parted her lips; it was the love of the land, of her land of
Lorraine, that fierce, passionate love of soil that had at last
blazed up, purified in the long years of a loveless life. All
that she had felt for her father turned to a burning thrill for
her country. It is such moments that make children defenders of
barricades, that make devils or saints of the innocent. The maid
that rode in mail, crowned, holding aloft the banner of the
fleur-de-lys, died at the stake; her ashes were the ashes of a
saint. The maid who flung her bullets from the barricade, who
carried a dagger to the Rue Haxo, who spat in the faces of the
line when they shoved her to the wall in the Luxembourg, died too
for France. Her soul is the soul of a martyr; but all martyrs are
not saints.

For another hour they sat there, planning, devising, eager to
begin their predestined work. They spoke of the dead, too, and
Lorraine wept at last for her father.

"There was a Sister of Mercy here," she said; "I saw her. I could
not speak to her. Later I knew it was Alixe. You called her?"

"Yes."

"Where is she?"

"Shall I speak to her?"

He went out into the hall and tapped at the door of the next
room.

"Alixe?"

"Yes--Jack."

He entered.

Sir Thorald lay very still under the sheets, the crucifix on his
breast. At first Jack thought he was dead, but the slight motion
of the chest under the sheets reassured him. He turned to Alixe:

"Go for a minute and comfort Lorraine," he whispered. "Go, my
child."

"I--I cannot--"

"Go," said Sir Thorald, in a distinct voice.

When she had gone, Jack bent over Sir Thorald. A great pity
filled him, and he touched the half-opened hand with his own.

Sir Thorald looked up at him wistfully.

"I am not worth it," he said.

"Yes, we all are worth it."

"I am not," gasped Sir Thorald. "Jack, you are good. Do you
believe, at least, that I loved her?"

"Yes, if you say so."

"I do--in the shadow of death."

Jack was silent.

"I never loved--before," said Sir Thorald.

In the stillness that followed Jack tried to comprehend the good
or evil in this stricken man. He could not; he only knew that a
great love that a man might bear a woman made necessary a great
sacrifice if that love were unlawful. The greater the love the
more certain the sacrifice--self-sacrifice on the altar of
unselfish love, for there is no other kind of love that man may
bear for woman.

It wearied Jack to try to think it out. He could not; he only
knew that it was not his to judge or to condemn.

"Will you give me your hand?" asked Sir Thorald.

Jack laid his hand in the other's feverish one.

"Don't call her," he said, distinctly; "I am dying."

Presently he withdrew his hand and turned his face to the wall.

For a long time Jack sat there, waiting. At last he spoke: "Sir
Thorald?"

But Sir Thorald had been dead for an hour.

When Alixe entered Jack took her slim, childish hands and looked
into her eyes. She understood and went to her dead, laying down
her tired little head on the sheeted breast.



XXII

A DOOR IS LOCKED


Lorraine stood on the terrace beside the brass gatling-gun, both
hands holding to Jack's arm, watching the soldiers stuffing the
windows of the Château with mattresses, quilts, and bedding of
all kinds.

A stream of engineers was issuing from the hallway, carrying
tables, chairs, barrels, and chests to the garden below, where
other soldiers picked them up and bore them across the lawn to
the rear of the house.

"They are piling all the furniture they can get against the gate
in the park wall," said Jack; "come out to the kitchen-garden."

She went with him, still holding to his arm. Across the vegetable
garden a barricade of furniture--sofas, chairs, and wardrobes--lay
piled against the wooden gate of the high stone wall. Engineers were
piercing the wall with crowbars and pickaxes, loosening the cement,
dragging out huge blocks of stone to make embrasures for three cannon
that stood with their limbers among the broken bell-glasses and
cucumber-frames in the garden.

A ladder lay against the wall, and on it was perched an officer,
who rested his field-glasses across the tiled top and stood
studying the woods. Below him a general and half a dozen
officers watched the engineers hacking at the wall; a long,
double line of infantry crouched behind them, the bugler
kneeling, glancing anxiously at his captain, who stood talking to
a fat sub-officer in capote and boots.

Artillerymen were gathered about the ammunition-chests, opening
the lids and carrying shell and shrapnel to the wall; the
balconies of the Château were piled up with breastworks of rugs,
boxes, and sacks of earth. Here and there a rifleman stood, his
chassepot resting on the iron railing, his face turned towards
the woods.

"They are coming," said a soldier, calling back to a comrade, who
only laughed and passed on towards the kitchen, loaded down with
sacks of flour.

A restless movement passed through the kneeling battalion of
infantry.

"Fiche moi la paix, hein!" muttered a lieutenant, looking
resentfully at a gossiping farrier. Another lieutenant drew his
sword, and wiped it on the sleeve of his jacket.

"Are they coming?" asked Lorraine.

"I don't know. Watch that officer on the wall. He seems to see
nothing yet. Don't you think you had better go to the rear of the
house now?"

"No, not unless you do."

"I will, then."

"No, stay here. I am not afraid. Where is Alixe?"

"With the wounded men in the stable. They have hoisted the red
cross over the barn; did you notice?"

Before she could answer, one of the soldiers on the balcony of
the Château fired. Another rose from behind a mattress and fired
also; then half a dozen shots rang out, and the smoke whirled up
over the roof of the house. The officer on the ladder was
motioning to the group of officers below; already the artillerymen
were running the three cannon forward to the port-holes that had
been pierced in the park wall.

"Come," said Jack.

"Not yet--I am not frightened."

A loud explosion enveloped the wall in sulphurous clouds, and a
cannon jumped back in recoil. The cannoneers swarmed around it,
there was a quick movement of a sponger, an order, a falling into
place of rigid artillerymen, then bang! and another up-rush of
smoke. And now the other cannon joined in--crash! bang!--and the
garden swam in the swirling fog. Infantry, too, were firing all
along the wall, and on the other side of the house the rippling
crash of the gatling-gun rolled with the rolling volleys. Jack
led Lorraine to the rear of the Château, but she refused to stay,
and he reluctantly followed her into the house.

From every mattress-stuffed window the red-legged soldiers were
firing out across the lawn towards the woods; the smoke drifted
back into the house in thin shreds that soon filled the rooms
with a blue haze.

Suddenly something struck the chandelier and shattered it to the
gilt candle-sockets. Lorraine looked at it, startled, but another
bullet whizzed into the room, starring the long mirror, and
another knocked the plaster from the fireplace. Jack had her out
of the room in a second, and presently they found themselves in
the cellar, the very cement beneath their feet shaking under the
tremendous shocks of the cannon.

"Wait for me. Do you promise, Lorraine?"

"Yes."

He hurried up to the terrace again, and out across the gravel
drive to the stable.

"Alixe!" he called.

She came quietly to him, her arms full of linen bandages. There
was nothing of fear or terror in her cheeks, nothing even of
grief now, but her eyes transfigured her face, and he scarcely
knew it.

"What can I do?" he asked.

"Nothing. The wounded are quiet. Is there water in the well?"

He brought her half a dozen buckets, one after another, and set
them side by side in the harness-room, where three or four
surgeons lounged around two kitchen-tables, on which sponges,
basins, and cases of instruments lay. There was a sickly odour of
ether in the air, mingled with the rank stench of carbolic acid.

"Lorraine is in the cellar. Do you need her? Surely not--when I
am ready," he said.

"No; go and stay with her. If I need you I will send."

He could scarcely hear her in the tumult and din, but he
understood and nodded, watching her busy with her lint and
bandages. As he turned to go, the first of the wounded, a mere
boy, was brought in on the shoulders of a comrade. Jack heard him
scream as they laid him on the table; then he went soberly away
to the cellar where Lorraine sat, her face in her hands.

"We are holding the Château," he said. "Will you stay quietly for
a little while longer, if I go out again?"

"If you wish," she said.

He longed to take her in his arms. He did not; he merely said,
"Wait for me," and went away again out into the smoke.

From the upper-story windows, where he had climbed, he could see
to the edge of the forest. Already three columns of men had
started out from the trees across the meadow towards the park
wall. They advanced slowly and steadily, firing as they came on.
Somewhere, in the smoke, a Prussian band was playing gayly, and
Jack thought of the Bavarians at the Geisberg, and their bands
playing as the men fell like leaves in the Château gardens.

He had his field-glasses with him, and he fixed them on the
advancing columns. They were Bavarians, after all--there was no
mistaking the light-blue uniforms and fur-crested helmets. And
now he made out their band, plodding stolidly along, trombones
and bass-drums wheezing and banging away in the rifle-smoke; he
could even see the band-master swinging his halberd forward.

Suddenly the nearest column broke into a heavy run, cheering
hoarsely. The other columns came on with a rush; the band halted,
playing them in at the death with a rollicking quickstep; then
all was blotted out in the pouring cannon-smoke. Flash on flash
the explosions followed each other, lighting the gloom with a
wavering yellow glare, and on the terrace the gatling whirred and
spluttered its slender streams of flame, while the treble crash
of the chassepots roared accompaniment.

Once or twice Jack thought he heard the rattle of their little
harsh, flat drums, but he could see them no longer; they were in
that smoke-pall somewhere, coming on towards the park wall.

Bugles began to sound--French bugles--clear and sonorous. Across
the lawn by the river a battalion of French infantry were
running, firing as they ran. He saw them settle at last like
quail among the stubble, curling up and crouching in groups and
bevies, alert heads raised. Then the firing rippled along the
front, and the lawn became gray with smoke.

As he went down the stairs and into the garden he heard the soldiers
saying that the charge had been checked. The wounded were being
borne towards the barn, long lines of them, heads and limbs hanging
limp. A horse in the garden was ending a death-struggle among the
cucumber-frames, and the battery-men were cutting the traces to give
him free play. Upon the roof a thin column of smoke and sparks rose,
where a Prussian shell--the first as yet--had fallen and exploded
in the garret. Some soldiers were knocking the sparks from the roof
with the butts of their rifles.

When he went into the cellar again Lorraine was pacing restlessly
along the wine-bins.

"I cannot stay here," she said. "Jack, get some bottles of brandy
and come to the barn. The wounded will need them."

"You cannot go out. I will take them."

"No, I shall go."

"I ask you not to."

"Let me, Jack," she said, coming up to him--"with you."

He could not make her listen; she went with him, her slender arms
loaded with bottles. The shells were falling in the garden now;
one burst and flung a shower of earth and glass over them.

"Hurry!" he said. "Are you crazy, Lorraine, to come out into
this?"

"Don't scold, Jack," she whispered.

When she entered the stable he breathed more freely. He watched
her face narrowly, but she did not blanch at the sickening
spectacle of the surgeons' tables.

They placed their bottles of brandy along the side of a
box-stall, and stood together watching the file of wounded
passing in at the door.

"They do not need us here, yet," he said. "I wonder where Alixe
is?"

"There is a Sister of Mercy out on the skirmish-line across the
lawn," said a soldier of the hospital corps, pointing with bloody
hands towards the smoke-veiled river.

Jack looked at Lorraine in utter despair.

"I must go; she can't stay there," he muttered.

"Yes, you must go," repeated Lorraine. "She will be shot."

"Will you wait here?" he asked.

"Yes."

So he went away, thinking bitterly that she did not care whether
he lived or died--that she let him leave her without a word of
fear, of kindness. Then, for the first time, he realized that she
had never, after all, been touched by his devotion; that she had
never understood, nor cared to understand, his love for her. He
walked out across the smoky lawn, the din of the rifles in his
ears, the bitterness of death in his heart. He knew he was going
into danger--that he was already in peril. Bullets whistled
through the smoke as he advanced towards the firing-line, where,
in the fog, dim figures were outlined here and there. He passed
an officer, standing with bared sword, watching his men digging
up the sod and piling it into low breastworks. He went on,
passing others, sometimes two soldiers bearing a wounded man, now
and then a maimed creature writhing on the grass or hobbling away
to the rear. The battle-line lay close to him now--long open
ranks of men, flat on their stomachs, firing into the smoke
across the river-bank. Their officers loomed up in the gloom,
some leaning quietly back on their sword-hilts, some pacing to
and fro, smoking, or watchfully steadying the wearied men.

Almost at once he saw Alixe. She was standing beside a tall
wounded officer, giving him something to drink from a tin cup.

"Alixe," said Jack, "this is not your place."

She looked at him tranquilly as the wounded man was led away by a
soldier of the hospital corps.

"It is my place."

"No," he said, violently, "you are trying to find death here!"

"I seek nothing," she said, in a gentle, tired voice; "let me
go."

"Come back. Alixe--your brother is alive."

She looked at him impassively.

"My brother?"

"Yes."

"I have no brother."

He understood and chafed inwardly.

"Come, Alixe," he urged; "for Heaven's sake, try to live and
forget--"

"I have nothing to forget--everything to remember. Let me pass."
She touched the blood-stained cross on her breast. "Do you not
see? That was white once. So was my soul."

"It is now," he said, gently. "Come back."

A wounded man somewhere in the smoke called, "Water! water! In
the name of God!--my sister--"

"I am coming!" called Alixe, clearly.

"To me first! Hasten, my sister!" groaned another.

"Patience, children--I come!" called Alixe.

With a gesture she passed Jack; a flurry of smoke hid her. The
pungent powder-fog made his eyes dim; his ears seemed to split
with the terrific volley firing.

He turned away and went back across the lawn, only to stop at the
well in the garden, fill two buckets, and plod back to the
firing-line again. He found plenty to do there; he helped Alixe,
following her with his buckets where she passed among the
wounded, the stained cross on her breast. Once a bullet struck a
pail full of water, and he held his finger in the hole until the
water was all used up. Twice he heard cheering and the splash of
cavalry in the shallow river, but they seemed to be beaten off
again, and he went about his business, listless, sombre, a dead
weight at his heart.

He had been kneeling beside a wounded man for some minutes when
he became conscious that the firing had almost ceased. Bugles
were sounding near the Château; long files of troops passed him
in the lifting smoke; officers shouted along the river-bank.

He rose to his feet and looked around for Alixe. She was not in
sight. He walked towards the river-bank, watching for her, but he
could not find her.

"Did you see a Sister of Mercy pass this way?" he asked an
officer who sat on the grass, smoking and bandaging his foot.

A soldier passing, using his rifle as a crutch, said: "I saw a
Sister of Mercy. She went towards the Château. I think she was
hurt."

"Hurt!"

"I heard somebody say so." Jack turned and hastened towards the
stables. He crossed the lawn, threaded his way among the low sod
breastworks, where the infantry lay grimy and exhausted, and
entered the garden. She was not there. He hurried to the stables;
Lorraine met him, holding a basin and a sponge.

"Where is Alixe?" he asked.

"She is not here," said Lorraine. "Has she been hurt?"

"I don't know."

He looked at her a moment, then turned away, coldly. On the
terrace the artillerymen were sponging the blood from the breech
of their gatling where some wretch's brains had been spattered by
a shell-fragment. They told him that a Sister of Mercy had passed
into the house ten minutes before; that she walked as though very
tired, but did not appear to have been hurt.

"She is up-stairs," he thought. "She must not stay there alone
with Sir Thorald." And he climbed the stairs and knocked softly
at the door of the death-chamber.

"Alixe," he said, gently, opening the door, "you must not stay
here."

She was kneeling at the bedside, her face buried on the breast of
the dead man.

"Alixe," he said, but his voice broke in spite of him, and he
went to her and touched her.

Very tenderly he raised her head, looked into her eyes, then
quietly turned away.

Outside the door he met Lorraine.

"Don't go in," he murmured.

She looked fearfully up into his face.

"Yes," he said, "she was shot through the body."

Then he closed the door and turned the key on the outside,
leaving the dead to the dead.



XXIII

LORRAINE SLEEPS


The next day the rain fell in torrents; long, yellow streams of
water gushed from pipe and culvert, turning the roads to lakes of
amber and the trodden lawns to sargasso seas.

Not a shot had been fired since twilight of the day before,
although on the distant hills Uhlans were seen racing about,
gathering in groups, or sitting on their horses in solitary
observation of the Château.

Out on the meadows, between the park wall and the fringe of
nearer forest, the Bavarian dead lay, dotting the green pelouse
with blots of pale blue; the wounded had been removed to the
cover of the woods.

Around the Château the sallow-faced fantassins slopped through
the mire, the artillery trains lay glistening under their
waterproof coverings, the long, slim cannon in the breeches
dripped with rain. Bright blotches of rust, like brilliant fungi,
grew and spread from muzzle to vent. These were rubbed away at
times by stiff-limbed soldiers, swathed to the eyes in blue
overcoats.

The line of battle stretched from the Château Morteyn, parallel
with the river and the park wall, to the Château de Nesville; and
along this line the officers were riding all day, muffled to the
chin in their great-coats, crimson caps soaked, rain-drops
gathering in brilliant beads under the polished visors. That they
expected a shelling was evident, for the engineers were at work
excavating pits and burrows, and the infantry were filling sacks
with earth, while in the Château itself preparations were in
progress for the fighting of fire.

The white flag with the red-cross centre hung limp and drenched
over the stables and barns. In the corn-field beyond, long
trenches were being dug for the dead. Already two such trenches
had been filled and covered over with dirt; and at the head of
each soldier's grave a bayonet or sabre was driven into the
ground for a head-stone.

Early that morning, while the rain drove into the ground in one
sheeted downpour, they buried Sir Thorald and little Alixe, side
by side, on the summit of a mound overlooking the river Lisse.
Jack drove the tumbril; four soldiers of the line followed. It
was soon over; the mellow bugle sounded a brief "lights out," the
linesmen presented arms. Then Jack mounted the cart and drove
back, his head on his breast, the rain driving coldly in his
face. Some officers came later with a rough wooden cross and a
few field flowers. They hammered the cross deep into the mud
between Sir Thorald and little Alixe. Later still Jack returned
with a spade and worked for an hour, shaping the twin mounds.
Before he finished he saw Lorraine climbing the hill. Two wreaths
of yellow gorse hung from one arm, interlaced like thorn crowns;
and when she came up, Jack, leaning silently on his spade, saw
that her fair hands were cut and bleeding from plaiting the
thorn-covered blossoms.

They spoke briefly, almost coldly. Lorraine hung the two wreaths
over the head-piece of the cross and, kneeling, signed herself.

When she rose Jack replaced his cap, but said nothing. They stood
side by side, looking out across the woods, where, behind a
curtain of mist and rain, the single turret of the Château de
Nesville was hidden.

She seemed restless and preoccupied, and he, answering aloud her
unasked question, said, "I am going to search the forest to-day.
I cannot bear to leave you, but it must be done, for your sake
and for the sake of France."

She answered: "Yes, it must be done. I shall go with you."

"You cannot," he said; "there is danger in the forest."

"You are going?"

"Yes."

They said nothing more for a moment or two. He was thinking of
Alixe and her love for Sir Thorald. Who would have thought it
could have turned out so? He looked down at the river Lisse,
where, under the trees of the bank, they had all sat that day--a
day that already seemed legendary, so far, so far in the
mist-hung landscape of the past. He seemed to hear Molly
Hesketh's voice, soft, ironical, upbraiding Sir Thorald; he
seemed to see them all there in the sunshine--Dorothy, Rickerl,
Cecil, Betty Castlemaine--he even saw himself strolling up to
them, gun under arm, while Sir Thorald waved his wine-cup and
bantered him.

He looked at the river. The green row-boat lay on the bank, keel
up, shattered by a shell; the trees were covered with yellow,
seared foliage that dropped continually into the water; the river
itself was a canal of mud. And, as he looked, a dead man, face
under water, sped past, caught on something, drifted, spun
giddily in an eddy, washed to and fro, then floated on under the
trees.

"You will catch cold here in the rain," he said, abruptly.

"You also, Jack."

They walked a few steps towards the house, then stopped and
looked at each other.

"You are drenched," he said; "you must go to your room and lie
down."

"I will--if you wish," she answered.

He drew her rain-cloak around her, buttoned the cape and high
collar, and settled the hood on her head. She looked up under her
pointed hood.

"Do you care so much for me?" she asked, listlessly.

"Will you give me the right--always--forever?"

"Do you mean that--that you love me?"

"I have always loved you."

Still she looked up at him from the shadow of her hood.

"I love you, Lorraine."

One arm was around her now, and with the other hand he held both
of hers.

She spoke, her eyes on his.

"I loved you once. I did not know it then. It was the first night
there on the terrace--when they were dancing. I loved you
again--after our quarrel, when you found me by the river. Again
I loved you, when we were alone in the Château and you came to
see me in the library."

He drew her to him, but she resisted.

"Now it is different," she said. "I do not love you--like that. I
do not know what I feel; I do not care for that--for that love. I
need something warmer, stronger, more kindly--something I never
have had. My childhood is gone, Jack, and yet I am tortured with
the craving for it; I want to be little again--I want to play
with children--with young girls; I want to be tired with pleasure
and go to bed with a mother bending over me. It is that--it is
that that I need, Jack--a mother to hold me as you do. Oh, if you
knew--if you knew! Beside my bed I feel about in the dark, half
asleep, reaching out for the mother I never knew--the mother I
need. I picture her; she is like my father, only she is always
with me. I lie back and close my eyes and try to think that she
is there in the dark--close--close. Her cheeks and hands are
warm; I can never see her eyes, but I know they are like mine. I
know, too, that she has always been with me--from the years that
I have forgotten--always with me, watching me that I come to no
harm--anxious for me, worrying because my head is hot or my hands
cold. In my half-sleep I tell her things--little intimate things
that she must know. We talk of everything--of papa, of the house,
of my pony, of the woods and the Lisse. With her I have spoken of
you often, Jack. And now all is said; I am glad you let me tell
you, Jack. I can never love you like--like that, but I need you,
and you will be near me, always, won't you? I need your love. Be
gentle, be firm in little things. Let me come to you and fret.
You are all I have."

The intense grief in her face, the wide, childish eyes, the cold
little hands tightening in his, all these touched the manhood in
him, and he answered manfully, putting away from himself all that
was weak or selfish, all that touched on love of man for woman:

"Let me be all you ask," he said. "My love is of that kind,
also."

"My darling Jack," she murmured, putting both arms around his
neck.

He kissed her peacefully.

"Come," he said. "Your shoes are soaking. I am going to take
charge of you now."

When they entered the house he took her straight to her room,
drew up an arm-chair, lighted the fire, filled a foot-bath with
hot water, and, calmly opening the wardrobe, pulled out a warm
bath-robe. Then, without the slightest hesitation, he knelt and
unbuttoned her shoes.

"Now," he said, "I'll be back in five minutes. Let me find you
sitting here, with your feet in that hot water."

Before she could answer, he went out. A thrill of comfort passed
through her; she drew the wet stockings over her feet, shivered,
slipped out of skirt and waist, put on the warm, soft bath-robe,
and, sinking back in the chair, placed both little white feet in
the foot-bath.

"I am ready, Jack," she called, softly.

He came in with a tray of tea and toast and a bit of cold
chicken. She followed his movement with tired, shy eyes,
wondering at his knowledge of little things. They ate their
luncheon together by the fire. Twice he gravely refilled the
foot-bath with hotter water, and she settled back in her soft,
warm chair, sighing contentment.

After a while he lighted a cigarette and read to her--fairy tales
from Perrault--legends that all children know--all children who
have known mothers. Lorraine did not know them. At first she
frowned a little, watching him dubiously, but little by little
the music of the words and the fragrance of the sweet, vague
tales crept into her heart, and she listened breathless to the
stories, older than Egypt--stories that will outlast the last
pyramid.

Once he laid down his book and told her of the Prince of Argolis
and Æthra; of the sandals and sword, of Medea, and of the
wreathed wine-cup. He told her, too, of the Isantee, and the
legends of the gray gull, of Harpan and Chaské, and the white
lodge of hope.

She listened like a tired child, her wrist curved under her chin,
the bath-robe close to her throat. While she listened she moved
her feet gently in the hot water, nestling back with the thrill
of the warmth that mounted to her cheeks.

Then they were silent, their eyes on each other.

Down-stairs some rain-soaked officer was playing on the piano old
songs of Lorraine and Alsace. He tried to sing, too, but his
voice broke, whether from emotion or hoarseness they could not
tell. A moment or two later a dripping infantry band marched out
to the conservatory and began to play. The dismal trombone
vibrated like a fog-horn, the wet drums buzzed and clattered, the
trumpets wailed with the rising wind in the chimneys. They
played for an hour, then stopped abruptly in the middle of
"Partons pour la Syrie," and Jack and Lorraine heard them
trampling away--slop, slop--across the gravel drive.

The fire in the room made the air heavy, and he raised one window
a little way, but the wet wind was rank with the odour of
disinfectants and ether from the stable hospital, and he closed
the window after a moment.

"I spent all the morning with the wounded," said Lorraine, from
the depths of her chair. The child-like light in her eyes had
gone; nothing but woman's sorrow remained in their gray-blue
depths.

Jack rose, picked up a big soft towel, and, deliberately lifting
one of her feet from the water, rubbed it until it turned rosy.
Then he rubbed the other, wrapped the bath-robe tightly about
her, lifted her in his arms, threw back the bed-covers, and laid
her there snug and warm.

"Sleep," he said.

She held up both arms with a divine smile.

"Stay with me until I sleep," she murmured drowsily. Her eyes
closed; one hand sought his.

After a while she fell asleep.



XXIV

LORRAINE AWAKES


When Lorraine had been asleep for an hour, Jack stole from the
room and sought the old general who was in command of the park.
He found him on the terrace, smoking and watching the woods
through his field-glasses.

"Monsieur," said Jack, "my ward, Mademoiselle de Nesville, is
asleep in her chamber. I must go to the forest yonder and try to
find her father's body. I dare not leave her alone unless I may
confide her to you."

"My son," said the old man, "I accept the charge. Can you give me
the next room?"

"The next room is where our little Sister of Mercy died."

"I have journeyed far with death--I am at home in death's
chamber," said the old general. He followed Jack to the
death-room, accompanied by his aide-de-camp.

"It will do," he said. Then, turning to an aid, "Place a sentry
at the next door. When the lady awakes, call me."

"Thank you," said Jack. He lingered a moment and then continued:
"If I am shot in the woods--if I don't return--General Chanzy
will take charge of Mademoiselle de Nesville, for my uncle's
sake. They are sword-brothers."

"I accept the responsibility," said the old general, gravely.

They bowed to each other, and Jack went out and down the stairs
to the lawn. For a moment he looked up into the sky, trying to
remember where the balloon might have been when Von Steyr's
explosive bullet set it on fire. Then he trudged on into the
wood-road, buckling his revolver-case under his arm and adjusting
the cross-strap of his field-glasses.

Once in the forest he breathed more freely. There was an odour of
rotting leaves in the wet air; the branches quivered and dripped,
and the tree-trunks, moist and black, exhaled a rank aroma of
lichens and rain-soaked moss.

Along the park wall, across the Lisse, sentinels stood in the rain,
peering out of their caped overcoats or rambling along the river-bank.
A spiritless challenge or two halted him for a few moments, but he
gave the word and passed on. Once or twice squads met him and passed
with the relief, sick boyish soldiers, crusted with mud. Twice he met
groups of roving, restless-eyed franc-tireurs in straight caps and
sheepskin jackets, but they did not molest him nor even question him
beyond asking the time of day.

And now he passed the carrefour where he and Lorraine had first
met. Its only tenant was a sentinel, yellow with jaundice, who
seized his chassepot with shaking hands and called a shrill "Qui
Vive?"

From the carrefour Jack turned to the left straight into the
heart of the forest. He risked losing his way; he risked more
than that, too, for a shot from sentry or franc-tireur was not
improbable, and, more-over, nobody knew whether Uhlans were in
the woods or not.

As he advanced the forest growth became thicker; underbrush, long
uncut, rose higher than his head. Over logs and brush tangles he
pressed, down into soft, boggy gullys deep with dead leaves,
across rapid, dark brooks, threads of the river Lisse, over stony
ledges, stumps, windfalls, and on towards the break in the trees
from which, on clear days, one could see the turret-spire of the
Château de Nesville. When he reached this point he looked in vain
for the turret; the rain hid it. Still, he could judge fairly
well in which direction it lay, and he knew that the distance was
half a mile.

"The balloon dropped near here," he muttered, and started in a
circle, taking a gigantic beech-tree as the centre mark.
Gradually he widened his circuit, stumbling on over the slippery
leaves, keeping a wary eye out for the thing on the ground that
he sought.

He had seen no game in the forest, and wondered a little. Once or
twice he fancied that he heard some animal moving near, but when
he listened all was quiet, save for the hoarse calling of a raven
in some near tree. Suddenly he saw the raven, and at the same
moment it rose, croaking the alarm. Up through a near thicket
floundered a cloud of black birds, flapping their wings. They
were ravens, too, all croaking and flapping through the
rain-soaked branches, mounting higher, higher, only to wheel and
sail and swoop in circles, round and round in the gray sky above
his head. He shivered and hesitated, knowing that the dead lay
there in the thicket. And he was right; but when he saw the
thing he covered his eyes with both hands and his heart rose in
his throat. At last he stepped forward and looked into the vacant
eye-sockets of a skull from which shreds of a long beard still
hung, wet and straggling.

It lay under the washed-out roots of a fir-tree, the bare ribs
staring through the torn clothing, the fleshless hands clasped
about a steel box.

How he brought himself to get the box from that cage of bones he
never knew. At last he had it, and stepped back, the sweat
starting from every pore. But his work was not finished. What the
ravens and wolves had left of the thing he pushed with sticks
into a hollow, and painfully covered it with forest mould. Over
this he pulled great lumps of muddy clay, trampling them down
firmly, until at last the dead lay underground and a heap of
stones marked the sepulchre.

The ravens had alighted in the tree-tops around the spot,
watching him gravely, croaking and sidling away when he moved
with abruptness. Looking up into the tree-tops he saw some shreds
of stuff clinging to the branches, perhaps tatters from the
balloon or the dead man's clothing. Near him on the ground lay a
charred heap that was once the wicker car of the balloon. This he
scattered with a stick, laid a covering of green moss on the
mound, placed two sticks crosswise at the head, took off his cap,
then went his way, the steel box buttoned securely in his breast.
As he walked on through the forest, a wolf fled from the
darkening undergrowth, hesitated, turned, cringing half boldly,
half sullenly, watching him with changeless, incandescent eyes.

Darkness was creeping into the forest when he came out on the
wood-road. He had a mile and a half before him without lantern or
starlight, and he hastened forward through the mire, which seemed
to pull him back at every step. It astonished him that he
received no challenge in the twilight; he peered across the
river, but saw no sentinels moving. The stillness was profound,
save for the drizzle of the rain and the drip from the wet
branches. He had been walking for a minute or two, trying to keep
his path in the thickening twilight, when, far in the depths of
the mist, a cannon thundered. Almost at once he heard the
whistling quaver of a shell, high in the sky. Nearer and nearer
it came, the woods hummed with the shrill vibration; then it
passed, screeching; there came a swift glare in the sky, a sharp
report, and the steel fragments hurtled through the naked trees.

He was running now; he knew the Prussian guns had opened on the
Château again, and the thought of Lorraine in the tempest of iron
terrified him. And now the shells were streaming into the woods,
falling like burning stars from the heavens, bursting over the
tree-tops; the racket of tearing, splintering limbs was in his
ears, the dull shock of a shell exploding in the mud, the splash
of fragments in the river. Behind him a red flare, ever growing,
wavering, bursting into crimson radiance, told him that the
Château de Nesville was ablaze. The black, trembling shadows cast
by the trees grew blacker and steadier in the fiery light; the
muddy road sprang into view under his feet; the river ran
vermilion. Another light grew in the southern sky, faint yet, but
growing surely. He ran swiftly, spurred and lashed by fear, for
this time it was the Château Morteyn that sent a column of sparks
above the trees, higher, higher, under a pall of reddening smoke.

At last he stumbled into the garden, where a mass of plunging
horses tugged and strained at their harnessed guns and caissons.
Muddy soldiers put their ragged shoulders to the gun-wheels and
pushed; teamsters cursed and lashed their horses; officers rode
through the throng, shouting. A squad of infantry began a
fusillade from the wall; other squads fired from the lawn, where
the rear of a long column in retreat stretched across the gardens
and out into the road.

As Jack ran up the terrace steps the gatling began to whir like a
watchman's rattle; needle-pointed flames pricked the darkness
from hedge and wall, where a dark line swayed to and fro under
the smoke.

Up the stairs he sped, and flung open the door of the bedroom.
Lorraine stood in the middle of the room, looking out into the
darkness. She turned at the sound of the opening door:

"Jack!"

"Hurry!" he gasped; "this time they mean business. Where is your
sentinel? Where is the general? Hurry, my child--dress quickly!"

He went out to the hall again, and looked up and down. On the
floor below he heard somebody say that the general was dead, and
he hurried down among a knot of officers who were clustered at
the windows, night-glasses levelled on the forest. As he entered
the room a lieutenant fell dead and a shower of bullets struck
the coping outside.

He hastened away up-stairs again. Lorraine, in cloak and hat, met
him at the door.

"Keep away from all windows," he said. "Are you ready?"

She placed her arm in his, and he led her down the stairs to the
rear of the Château.

"Have they gone--our soldiers?" faltered Lorraine. "Is it defeat?
Jack, answer me!"

"They are holding the Château to protect the retreat, I think.
Hark! The gatling is roaring like a furnace! What has happened?"

"I don't know. The old general came to speak to me when I awoke.
He was very good and kind. Then suddenly the sentinel on the
stairs fell down and we ran out. He was dead; a bullet had
entered from the window at the end of the hall. After that I went
into my room to dress, and the general hurried down-stairs,
telling me to wait until he called for me. He did not come back;
the firing began, and some shells hit the house. All the troops
in the garden began to leave, and I did not know what to do, so I
waited for you."

Jack glanced right and left. The artillery were leaving by the
stable road; from every side the infantry streamed past across
the lawn, running when they came to the garden, where a shower of
bullets fell among the shrubbery. A captain hastening towards the
terrace looked at them in surprise.

"What is it?" cried Jack. "Can't you hold the Château?"

"The other Château has been carried," said the captain. "They are
taking us on the left flank. Madame," he added, "should go at
once; this place will be untenable in a few moments."

Lorraine spoke breathlessly: "Are you to hold the Château with
the gatling until the army is safe?"

"Yes, madame," said the captain. "We are obliged to."

There came a sudden lull in the firing. Lorraine caught Jack's
arm.

"Come," cried Jack, "we've got to go now!"

"I shall stay!" she said; "I know my work is here!"

The German rifle-flames began to sparkle and flicker along the
river-bank; a bullet rang out against the granite façade behind
them.

"Come!" he cried, sharply, but she slipped from him and ran
towards the house.

Drums were beating somewhere in the distant forest--shrill,
treble drums--and from every hill-side the hollow, harsh Prussian
trumpets spoke. Then came a sound, deep, menacing--a far cry:

"Hourra! Preussen!"

"Why don't you cheer?" faltered Lorraine, mounting the terrace.
The artillerymen looked at her in surprise. Jack caught her arm;
she shook him off impatiently.

"Cheer!" she cried again. "Is France dumb?" She raised her hand.

"Vive la France!" shouted the artillerymen, catching her ardour.
"Vive la Patrie! Vive Lorraine!"

Again the short, barking, Prussian cheer sounded, and again the
artillerymen answered it, cheer on cheer, for France, for the
Land, for the Province of Lorraine. Up in the windows of the
Château the line soldiers were cheering, too; the engineers on
the roof, stamping out the sparks and flames, swung their caps
and echoed the shouts from terrace and window.

In the sudden silence that followed they caught the vibration of
hundreds of hoofs--there came a rush, a shout:

"Hourra! Preussen! Hourra! Hourra!" and into the lawn dashed the
German cavalry, banging away with carbine and revolver. At the
same moment, over the park walls swarmed the Bavarians in a
forest of bayonets. The Château vomited flame from every window;
the gatling, pulled back into the front door, roared out in a
hundred streaks of fire. Jack dragged Lorraine to the first
floor; she was terribly excited. Almost at once she knelt down
and began to load rifles, passing them to Jack, who passed them
to the soldiers at the windows. Once, when a whole window was
torn in and the mattress on fire, she quenched the flames with
water from her pitcher; and when the soldiers hesitated at the
breach, she started herself, but Jack held her back and led the
cheering, and piled more mattresses into the shattered window.

Below in the garden the Bavarians were running around the house,
hammering with rifle-butts at the closed shutters, crouching,
dodging from stable to garden, perfectly possessed to get into
the house. Their officers bellowed orders and shook their sabres
in the very teeth of the rifle blast; the cavalry capered and
galloped, and flew from thicket to thicket.

Suddenly they all gave way; the garden and lawns were emptied
save for the writhing wounded and motionless dead.

"Cheer!" gasped Lorraine; and the battered Château rang again
with frenzied cries of triumph.

The wounded were calling for water, and Jack and Lorraine brought
it in bowls. Here and there the bedding and wood-work had caught
fire, but the line soldiers knocked it out with their rifle-butts.
Whenever Lorraine entered a room they cheered her--the young
officers waved their caps, even a dying bugler raised himself and
feebly sounded the salute to the colours.

By the light of the candles Jack noticed for the first time that
Lorraine wore the dress of the Province--that costume that he had
first seen her in--the scarlet skirt, the velvet bodice, the
chains of silver. And as she stood loading the rifles in the
smoke-choked room, the soldiers saw more than that: they saw the
Province itself in battle there--the Province of Lorraine. And
they cheered and leaped to the windows, firing frenziedly, crying
the old battle-cry of Lorraine: "Tiens ta Foy! Frappe! Pour le
Roy!" while the child in the bodice and scarlet skirt stood up
straight and snapped back the locks of the loaded chassepots, one
by one.

"Once again! For France!" cried Lorraine, as the clamour of the
Prussian drums broke out on the hill-side, and the hoarse
trumpets signalled from wood to wood.

A thundering cry arose from the Château:

"France!"

The sullen boom of a Prussian cannon drowned it; the house shook
with the impact of a shell, bursting in fury on the terrace.

White faces turned to faces whiter still.

"Cannon!"

"Hold on! For France!" cried Lorraine, feverishly.

"Cannon!" echoed the voices, one to another.

Again the solid walls shook with the shock of a solid shot.

Jack stuffed the steel box into his breast and turned to
Lorraine.

"It is ended, we cannot stay--" he began; but at that instant
something struck him a violent blow on the chest, and he fell,
striking the floor with his head.

In a second Lorraine was at his side, lifting him with all the
strength of her arms, calling to him: "Jack! Jack! Jack!"

The soldiers were leaving the windows now; the house rocked and
tottered under the blows of shell and solid shot. Down-stairs an
officer cried: "Save yourselves!" There was a hurry of feet
through the halls and on the stairs. A young soldier touched
Lorraine timidly on the shoulder.

"Give him to me; I will carry him down," he said.

She clung to Jack and turned a blank gaze on the soldier.

"Give him to me," he repeated; "the house is burning." But she
would not move nor relinquish her hold. Then the soldier seized
Jack and threw him over his shoulder, running swiftly down the
stairs, that rocked under his feet. Lorraine cried out and
followed him into the darkness, where the crashing of tiles and
thunder of the exploding shells dazed and stunned her; but the
soldier ran on across the garden, calling to her, and she
followed, stumbling to his side.

"To the trees--yonder--the forest--" he gasped.

They were already among the trees. Then Lorraine seized the man
by the arm, her eyes wide with despair.

"Give me my dead!" she panted. "He is mine! mine! mine!"

"He is not dead," faltered the soldier, laying Jack down against
a tree. But she only crouched and took him in her arms, eyes
closed, and lips for the first time crushed to his.



XXV

PRINCESS IMPERIAL


The glare from the Château Morteyn, now wrapped in torrents of
curling flame, threw long crimson shafts of light far into the
forest. The sombre trees glimmered like live cinders; the wet
moss crisped and bronzed as the red radiance played through the
thickets. The bright, wavering fire-glow fell full on Jack's
body; his face was hidden in the shadow of Lorraine's hair.

Twice the timid young soldier drew her away, but she crept back,
murmuring Jack's name; and at last the soldier seized the body in
both arms and stumbled on again, calling Lorraine to follow.

Little by little the illumination faded out among the trees; the
black woods crowded in on every side; the noise of the crackling
flames, the shouting, the brazen rattle of drums grew fainter and
fainter, and finally died out in the soft, thick blackness of the
forest.

When they halted the young soldier placed Jack on the moss, then
held out his hands. Lorraine touched them. He guided her to the
prostrate figure; she flung herself face down beside it.

After a moment the soldier touched her again timidly on the
shoulder:

"Have I done well?"

She sobbed her thanks, rising to her knees. The soldier, a boy of
eighteen, straightened up; he noiselessly laid his knapsack and
haversack on the ground, trembled, swayed, and sat down,
muttering vaguely of God and the honour of France. Presently he
went away, lurching in the darkness like a drunken man--on, on,
deep into the forest, where nothing of light or sound penetrated.
And when he could no longer stand he sat down, his young head in
his hands, and waited. His body had been shot through and
through. About midnight he died.

When Jack came to his senses the gray mystery of dawn was passing
through the silent forest aisles; the beeches, pallid, stark,
loomed motionless on every side; the pale veil of sky-fog hung
festooned from tree to tree. There was a sense of breathless
waiting in the shadowy woods--no sound, no stir, nothing of life
or palpitation--nothing but foreboding.

Jack crawled to his knees; his chest ached, his mouth cracked
with a terrible throbbing thirst. Dazed as yet, he did not even
look around; he did not try to think; but that weight on his
chest grew to a burning agony, and he tore at his coat and threw
it open. The flat steel box, pierced by a bullet, fell on the
ground before his knees. Then he remembered. He ripped open
waistcoat and shirt and stared at his bare breast. It was
discoloured--a mass of bruises, but there was no blood there. He
looked listlessly at the box on the leaves under him, and touched
his bruised body. Suddenly his mind grew clearer; he stumbled up,
steadying himself against a tree. His lips moved "Lorraine!" but
no sound came. Again, in terror, he tried to cry out. He could
not speak. Then he saw her. She lay among the dead leaves, face
downward in the moss.

When at last he understood that she was alive he lay down beside
her, one arm across her body, and sank into a profound sleep.

She woke first. A burning thirst set her weeping in her sleep and
then roused her. Tear-stained and ghastly pale, she leaned over
the sleeping man beside her, listened to his breathing, touched
his hair, then rose and looked fearfully about her. On the
knapsack under the tree a tin cup was shining. She took it and
crept down into a gulley, where, through the deep layers of dead
leaves, water sparkled in a string of tiny iridescent puddles.
The water, however, was sweet and cold, and, when she had
satisfied her thirst and had dug into the black loam with the
edge of the cup, more water, sparkling and pure, gushed up and
spread out in the miniature basin. She waited for the mud and
leaves to settle, and when the basin was clear she unbound her
hair, loosened her bodice, and slipped it off. When she had
rolled the wide, full sleeves of her chemise to the shoulder she
bathed her face and breast and arms; they glistened like marble
tinged with rose in the pale forest dawn. The little scrupulous
ablutions finished, she dried her face on the fine cambric of the
under-sleeve, she dried her little ears, her brightening eyes,
the pink palms of her hand, and every polished finger separately
from the delicate flushed tip to the wrist, blue-veined and
slender. She shook out her heavy hair, heavy and gleaming with
burnished threads, and bound it tighter. She mended the broken
points of her bodice, then laced it firmly till it pressed and
warmed her fragrant breast. Then she rose.

There was nothing of fear or sorrow in her splendid eyes; her
mouth was moist and scarlet, her curved cheeks pure as a child's.

For a moment she stood pensive, her face now grave, now
sensitive, now touched with that mysterious exaltation that glows
through the histories of the saints, that shines from tapestries,
that hides in the dim faces carved on shrines.

For the world was trembling and the land cried out under the
scourge, and she was ready now for what must be. The land would
call her where she was awaited; the time, the hour, the place had
been decreed. She was ready--and where was the bitterness of
death, when she could face it with the man she loved.

Loved? At the thought her knees trembled under her with the
weight of this love; faint with its mystery and sweetness, her
soul turned in its innocence to God. And for the first time in
her child's life she understood that God lived.

She understood now that the sadness of life was gone forever.
There was no loneliness now for soul or heart; nothing to fear,
nothing to regret. Her life was complete. Death seemed an
incident. If it came to her or to the man she loved, they would
wait for one another a little while--that was all.

A pale sunbeam stole across the tree-tops. She looked up. A
little bird sang, head tilted towards the blue. She moved softly
up the slope, her hair glistening in the early sun, her blue eyes
dreaming; and when she came to the sleeping man she bent beside
him and held a cup of sweet water to his lips.

About noon they spoke of hunger, timidly, lest either might think
the other complained. Her head close against his, her warm arms
tight around his neck, she told him of the boy soldier, the
dreadful journey in the night, the terror, and the awakening. She
told him of the birth of her love for him--how death no longer
was to be feared or sought. She told him there was nothing to
alarm him, nothing to make them despair. Sin could not touch
them; death was God's own gift.

He listened, too happy to even try to understand. Perhaps he
could not, being only a young man in love. But he knew that all
she said must be true, perhaps too true for him to comprehend. He
was satisfied; his life was complete. Something of the contentment
of a school-boy exhausted with play lingered in his eyes.

They had spoken of the box; she had taken it reverently in her
hands and touched the broken key, snapped off short in the lock.
Inside, the Prussian bullet rattled as she turned the box over
and over, her eyes dim with love for the man who had done all for
her.

Jack found a loaf of bread in the knapsack. It was hard and dry,
but they soaked it in the leaf-covered spring and ate it
deliciously, cheek against cheek.

Little by little their plans took shape. They were to go--Heaven
knows how!--to find the Emperor. Into his hands they would give
the box with its secrets, then turn again, always together, ready
for their work, wherever it might be.

Towards mid-afternoon Lorraine grew drowsy. There was a summer
warmth in the air; the little forest birds came to the spring
and preened their feathers in the pale sunshine. Two cicadas,
high in the tree-tops, droned an endless harmony; hemlock cones
dropped at intervals on the dead leaves.

When Lorraine lay asleep, her curly head on Jack's folded coat,
her hands clasped under her cheek, Jack leaned back against the
tree and picked up the box. He turned it softly, so that the
bullet within should not rattle. After a moment he opened his
penknife and touched the broken fragment of the key in the lock.
Idly turning the knife-blade this way and that, but noiselessly,
for fear of troubling Lorraine, he thought of the past, the
present, and the future. Sir Thorald lay dead on the hillock
above the river Lisse; Alixe slept beside him; Rickerl was
somewhere in the country, riding with his Uhlan scourges; Molly
Hesketh waited in Paris for her dead husband; the Marquis de
Nesville's bones were lying in the forest where he now sat,
watching the sleeping child of the dead man. His child? Jack
looked at her tenderly. No, not the child of the Marquis de
Nesville, but a foundling, a lost waif in the Lorraine Hills,
perhaps a child of chance. What of it? She would never know. The
Château de Nesville was a smouldering mass of fire; the lands
could revert to the country; she should never again need them,
never again see them, for he would take her to his own land when
trouble of war had passed, and there she should forget pain and
sorrow and her desolate, loveless childhood; she should only
remember that in the Province of Lorraine she had met the man she
loved. All else should be a memory of green trees and vineyards
and rivers, growing vaguer and dimmer as the healing years passed
on.

The knife-blade in the box bent, sprang back--the box flew open.

He did not realize it at first; he looked at the three folded
papers lying within, curiously, indolently. Presently he took
them and looked at the superscriptions written on the back, in
the handwriting of the marquis. The three papers were inscribed
as follows:

    "1. For the French Government after the fall of the
    Empire."

    "2. For the French Government on the death of Louis
    Bonaparte, falsely called Emperor."

    "3. To whom it may concern!"

"To whom it may concern!" he repeated, looking at the third
paper. Presently he opened it and read it, and as he read his
heart seemed to cease its beating.

    "_TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN_!

    "Grief has unsettled my mind, yet, what I now write is
    true, and, if there is a God, I solemnly call His curses
    on me and mine if I lie.

    "My only son, René Philip d'Harcourt de Nesville, was
    assassinated on the Grand Boulevard in Paris, on the 2d
    of December, 1851. His assassin was a monster named
    Louis Bonaparte, now known falsely as Napoleon III.,
    Emperor of the French. His paid murderers shot my boy
    down, and stabbed him to death with their bayonets, in
    front of the Café Tortoni. I carried his body home; I
    sat at the window, with my dead boy on my knees, and I
    saw Louis Bonaparte ride into the Rue St. Honoré with
    his murderous Lancers, and I saw children spit at him
    and hurl curses at him from the barricade.

    "Now I, Gilbert, Marquis de Nesville, swore to strike.
    And I struck, not at his life--that can wait. I struck
    at the root of all his pride and honour--I struck at
    that which he held dearer than these--at his dynasty!

    "Do the people of France remember when the Empress was
    first declared enciente? The cannon thundered from the
    orangerie at Saint-Cloud, the dome of the Invalides
    blazed rockets, the city glittered under a canopy of
    coloured fire. Oh, they were very careful of the Empress
    of the French! They went to Saint-Cloud, and later to
    Versailles, as they go to holy cities, praying. And the
    Emperor himself grew younger, they said.

    "Then came the news that the expected heir, a son, had
    been born dead! Lies!

    "I, Gilbert de Nesville, was in the forest when the
    Empress of the French fell ill. When separated from the
    others she called to Morny, and bade him drive for the
    love of Heaven! And they drove--they drove to the
    Trianon, and there was no one there. And there the child
    was born. Morny held it in his arms. He came out to the
    colonnade holding it in his arms, and calling for a
    messenger. I came, and when I was close to Morny I
    struck him in the face and he fell senseless. I took the
    child and wrapped it in my cloak. This is the truth!

    "They dared not tell it; they dared not, for fear and
    for shame. They said that an heir had been born dead;
    and they mourned for their dead son. It was only a
    daughter. She is alive; she loves me, and, God forgive
    me, I hate her for defeating my just vengeance.

    "And I call her Lorraine de Nesville."



XXVI

THE SHADOW OF POMP


The long evening shadows were lengthening among the trees; sleepy
birds twitted in dusky thickets; Lorraine slept.

Jack still stood staring at the paper in his hands, trying to
understand the purport of what he read and reread, until the page
became a blur and his hot eyes burned.

All the significance of the situation rose before him. This
child, the daughter of the oath-breaker, the butcher of December,
the sly, slow diplomate of Europe, the man of Rome, of Mexico,
the man now reeling back to Châlons under the iron blows of an
aroused people. In Paris, already, they cursed his name; they
hurled insults at the poor Empress, that mother in despair.
Thiers, putting his senile fingers in the porridge, stirred a
ferment that had not even germinated since the guillotine towered
in the Place de la Concorde and the tumbrils rattled through the
streets. He did not know what he was stirring. The same impulse
that possessed Gladstone to devastate trees animated Thiers. He
stirred the dangerous mess because he liked to stir, nothing
more. But from that hell's broth the crimson spectre of the
Commune was to rise, when the smoke of Sedan had drifted clear of
a mutilated nation.

Through the heavy clouds of death which were already girdling
Paris, that flabby Cyclops, Gambetta, was to mouth his monstrous
platitudes, and brood over the battle-smoke, a nightmare of
pomposity and fanfaronade--in a balloon. All France was bowed
down in shame at the sight of the grotesque convoy, who were
proclaiming her destiny among nations, and their destiny to lead
her to victory and "la gloire." A scorched, blood-soaked land, a
pall of smoke through which brave men bared their breasts to the
blast from the Rhine, and died uncomplainingly, willingly,
cheerfully, for the mother-land--was it not pitiful?

The sublime martyrdom of the men who marched, who shall write it?
And who shall write of those others--Bazaine, Napoleon, Thiers,
Gambetta, Favre, Ollivier?

If Bazaine died, cursed by a nation, his martyrdom, for martyrdom
it was, was no greater than that of the humblest French peasant,
who, dying, knew at last that he died, not for France, but
because the men who sent him were worse than criminal--they were
imbecile.

The men who marched were sublime; they were the incarnation of
embattled France; the starving people of Metz, of Strassbourg, of
Paris, were sublime. But there was nothing sublime about Monsieur
Adolphe Thiers, nothing heroic about Hugo, nothing respectable
about Gambetta. The marshal with the fat neck and Spanish
affiliations, the poor confused, inert, over-fed marshal caged in
Metz by the Red Prince, harassed, bewildered, stunned by the
clashing of politics and military strategy, which his meagre
brain was unable to reconcile or separate--this unfortunate
incapable was deserving of pity, perhaps of contempt. His cup
was to be bitterer than that--it was to be drained, too, with the
shouts of "Traitor" stunning his fleshy ears.

He was no traitor. Cannot France understand that this single word
"traitor" has brought her to contempt in the eyes of the world?
There are two words that mar every glorious, sublime page of the
terrible history of 1870-71, and these two words are "treason"
and "revenge." Let the nation face the truth, let the people
write "incapacity" for "treason," and "honour" for "revenge," and
then the abused term "la gloire" will be justified in the eyes of
men.

As for Thiers, let men judge him from his three revolutions, let
the unknown dead in the ditches beyond the enceinte judge him,
let the spectres of the murdered from Père Lachaise to the
bullet-pitted terrace of the Luxembourg judge this meddler, this
potterer in epoch-making cataclysms. Bismarck, gray, imbittered,
without honour in an unenlightened court, can still smile when he
remembers Jules Favre and his prayer for the National Guard.

And these were the men who formed the convoy around the chariot
of France militant, France in arms!--a cortège at once hideous,
shameful, ridiculous, grotesque.

What was left of the Empire? Metz still held out; Strassbourg
trembled under the shock of Prussian mortars; Paris strained its
eyes for the first silhouette of the Uhlan on the heights of
Versailles; and through the chill of the dying year the sombre
Emperor, hunted, driven, threatened, tumbled into the snare of
Sedan as a sick buzzard flutters exhausted to earth under a
shower of clubs and stones.

The end was to be brutal: a charge or two of devoted men, a crush
at the narrow gates, a white flag, a brusque gesture from
Bismarck, nothing more except a "guard of honour," an imperial
special train, and Belgian newsboys shrieking along the station
platform, "Extra! Fall of the Empire! Paris proclaims the
Republic! Flight of the Empress! Extra!"

Jack, sitting with the paper in his hands, read between the
lines, and knew that the prophecy of evil days would be
fulfilled. But as yet the writing on the wall of Alsatian hills
had not spelled "Sedan," nor did he know of the shambles of
Mars-la-Tour, the bloody work at Buzancy, the retreat from
Châlons, and the evacuation of Vitry.

Buzancy marked the beginning of the end. It was nothing but a
skirmish; the 3d Saxon Cavalry, a squadron or two of the 18th
Uhlans, and Zwinker's Battery fought a half-dozen squadrons of
chasseurs. But the red-letter mark on the result was unmistakable.
Bazaine's correspondence was captured. On the same day the second
sortie occurred from Strassbourg. It was time, for the trenches
and parallels had been pushed within six hundred paces of the
glacis. And so it was everywhere, the whole country was in a
ferment of disorganized but desperate resistance of astonishment,
indignation, dismay.

The nation could not realize that it was too late, that it was
not conquest but invasion which the armies of France must prepare
for. Blow after blow fell, disaster after disaster stunned the
country, while the government studied new and effective forms of
lying and evasion, and the hunted Emperor drifted on to his doom
in the pitfall of Sedan.

All Alsace except Belfort, Strassbourg, Schlettstadt, and Neuf
Brisac was in German hands, under German power, governed by
German law. The Uhlans scoured the country as clean as possible,
but the franc-tireurs roamed from forest to forest, sometimes
gallantly facing martyrdom, sometimes looting, burning,
pillaging, and murdering. If Germans maintain that the only good
franc-tireur is a dead franc-tireur, they are not always
justified. Let them sit first in judgment on Andreas Hofer.
England had Hereward; America, Harry Lee; and, when the South is
ready to acknowledge Mosby and Quantrell of the same feather, it
will be time for France to blush for her franc-tireurs. Noble and
ignoble, patriots and cowards, the justified and the misguided
wore the straight képi and the sheepskin jacket. All figs in
Spain are not poisoned.

With the fall of the Château Morteyn, the war in Lorraine would
degenerate into a combat between picquets of Uhlans and roving
franc-tireurs. There would be executions of spies, vengeance on
peasants, examples made of franc-tireurs, and all the horrors of
irregular warfare. Jack knew this; he understood it perfectly
when the muddy French infantry tramped out of the Château Morteyn
and vanished among the dark hills in the rain.

For himself, had he been alone, there would have been nothing to
keep him in the devastated province. Indeed, considering his
peculiarly strained relations with the Uhlans of Rickerl's
regiment, it behooved him to get across the Belgian frontier
very promptly.

Now he not only had Lorraine, he had the woman who loved him and
who was ready to sacrifice herself and him too for the honour of
France. She lived for one thing--the box, with its pitiful
contents, its secrets of aërial navigation and destruction, must
be placed at the service of France. The government was France
now, and the Empress was the government. Lorraine knew nothing of
the reasons her father had had for his hatred of the Emperor and
the Empire. Personal grievances, even when those grievances were
her father's, even though they might be justified, would never
deter her from placing the secrets that might aid, might save,
France with the man who, at that moment, in her eyes, represented
the safety, security, the very existence of the land she loved.

Jack knew this. Whether she was right or not did not occur to him
to ask. But the irony of it, the grim necessity of such a fate,
staggered him--a daughter seeking her father at the verge of his
ruin--a child, long lost, forgotten, unrecognized, unclaimed,
finding the blind path to a father who, when she had been torn
from him, dared not seek for her, dared not whisper of her
existence except to Morny in the cloaked shadows of secret
places.

For good or ill Jack made up his mind; he had decided for himself
and for her. Her loveless, lonely childhood had been enough of
sorrow for one young life; she should have no further storm, no
more heartaches, nothing but peace and love and the strong arm of
a man to shield her. Let her remember the only father she had
ever known--let her remember him with faithful love and sorrow
as she would. For the wrong he had done, let him account to
another tribunal; her, the echo of that crime and hate and
passion must never reach.

Why should he, the man who loved her, bring to her this heritage
of ruin? Why should he tear the veil from her trusting eyes and
show her a land bought with blood and broken oaths, sold in blood
and infamy? Why should he show her this, and say, "This is the
work of your imperial family! There is your father!--some call
him the Assassin of December! There is your mother!--read the
pages of an Eastern diary! There, too, is your brother, a sick
child of fifteen, baptized at Saarbrück, endowed at Sedan?"

It was enough that France lay prostrate, that the wounded
screamed from the blood-wet fields, that the quiet dead lay under
the pall of smoke from the nation's funeral pyre. It was enough
that the parents suffer, that the son drag out an existence among
indifferent or hostile people in an alien land. The daughter
should never know, never weep when they wept, never pray when
they prayed. This was retribution--not his, he only watched in
silence the working of divine justice.

He tore the paper into fragments and ground them under his heel
deep into the soft forest mould.

Lorraine slept.

He stood a long while in silence looking down at her. She was
breathing quietly, regularly; her long, curling lashes rested on
curved cheeks, delicate as an infant's.

Half fearfully he stooped to arouse her. A footfall sounded on
the dead leaves behind him, and a franc-tireur touched him on the
shoulder.



XXVII

ÇA IRA!


"What do you want?" asked Jack, in a voice that vibrated
unpleasantly. There was a dangerous light in his eyes; his lips
grew thinner and whiter. One by one a dozen franc-tireurs stepped
from behind the trees on every side, rifles shimmering in the
subdued afternoon haze--wiry, gloomy-eyed men, their sleeveless
sheepskin jackets belted in with leather, their sombre caps and
trousers thinly banded with orange braid. They looked at him
without speaking, almost without curiosity, fingering their
gunlocks, bayoneted rifles unslung.

"Your name?" said the man who had touched him on the shoulder.

He did not reply at once. One of the men began to laugh.

"He's the vicomte's nephew," said another; and, pointing at
Lorraine, who, now aroused, sat up on the moss beside Jack, he
continued: "And that is the little châtelaine of the Château de
Nesville." He took off his straight-visored cap.

The circle of gaunt, sallow faces grew friendly, and, as Lorraine
stood up, looking questioningly from one to the other, caps were
doffed, rifle-butts fell to the ground.

"Why, it's Monsieur Tricasse of the Saint-Lys Pompiers!" she
said. "Oh, and there is le Père Passerat, and little Émile Brun!
Émile, my son, why are you not with your regiment?" The dark
faces lighted up; somebody snickered; Brun, the conscript of the
class of '71 who had been hauled by the heels from under his
mother's bed, looked confused and twiddled his thumbs.

One by one the franc-tireurs came shambling up to pay their
awkward respects to Lorraine and to Jack, while Tricasse pulled
his bristling mustache and clattered his sabre in its sheath
approvingly. When his men had acquitted themselves with all the
awkward sincerity of Lorraine peasants, he advanced with a superb
bow and flourish, lifting his cap from his gray head:

"In my quality of ex-pompier and commandant of the 'Terrors of
Morteyn'--my battalion"--here he made a sweeping gesture as
though briefly reviewing an army corps instead of a dozen
wolfish-eyed peasants--"I extend to our honoured and beloved
Châtelaine de Nesville, and to our honoured guest, Monsieur
Marche, the protection and safe-conduct of the 'Terrors of
Morteyn.'"

As he spoke his expression became exalted. He, Tricasse,
ex-pompier and exempt, was posing as the saviour of his province,
and he felt that, though German armies stretched in endless ranks
from the Loire to the Meuse, he, Tricasse, was the man of
destiny, the man of the place and the hour when beauty was in
distress.

Lorraine, her eyes dim with gentle tears, held out both slender
hands; Tricasse bent low and touched them with his grizzled
mustache. Then he straightened up, frowned at his men, and said
"Attention!" in a very fierce voice.

The half-starved fellows shuffled into a single rank; their faces
were wreathed in sheepish smiles. Jack noticed that a Bavarian
helmet and side-arm hung from the knapsack of one, a mere
freckled lad, downy and dimpled. Tricasse drew his sabre, turned,
marched solemnly along the front, wheeled again, and saluted.

Jack lifted his cap; Lorraine, her arm in his, bowed and smiled
tearfully.

"The dear, brave fellows!" she cried, impulsively, whereat every
man reddened, and Tricasse grew giddy with emotion. He tried to
speak; his emotion was great.

"In my capacity of ex-pompier," he gasped, then went to pieces,
and hid his eyes in his hands. The "Terrors of Morteyn" wept with
him to a man.

Presently, with a gesture to Tricasse, Jack led Lorraine down the
slope, past the spring, and on through the forest, three
"Terrors" leading, rifles poised, Tricasse and the others
following, alert and balancing their cocked rifles.

"How far is your camp?" asked Jack. "We need food and the warmth
of a fire. Tell me, Monsieur Tricasse, what is left of the two
châteaux?"

Lorraine bent nearer as the old man said: "The Château de Nesville
is a mass of cinders; Morteyn, a stone skeleton. Pierre is dead.
There are many dead there--many, many dead. The Prussians burned
Saint-Lys yesterday; they shot Bosquet, the letter-carrier; they
hung his boy to the railroad trestle, then shot him to pieces. The
Curé is a prisoner; the Mayor of Saint-Lys and the Notary have
been sent to the camp at Strassbourg. We, my 'Terrors of Morteyn'
and I, are still facing the vandals; except for us, the Province
of Lorraine is empty of Frenchmen in armed resistance."

The old man, in his grotesque uniform, touched his bristling
mustache and muttered: "Nom d'une pipe!" several times to steady
his voice.

Lorraine and Jack pressed on silently, sorrowfully, hand in hand,
watching the scouts ahead, who were creeping on through the
trees, heads turning from side to side, rifles raised. They
passed along the back of a thickly wooded ridge for some
distance, perhaps a mile, before the thin blue line of a
smouldering camp-fire rose almost in their very faces. A low
challenge from a clump of birch-trees was answered, there came
the sound of rifles dropping, the noise of feet among the leaves,
a whisper, and before they knew it they were standing at the
mouth of a hole in the bank, from which came the odour of
beef-broth simmering. Two or three franc-tireurs passed them,
looking up curiously into their faces. Tricasse dragged a
dilapidated cane-chair from the dirt-cave and placed it before
Lorraine as though he were inviting her to an imperial throne.

"Thank you," she said, sweetly, and seated herself, not
relinquishing Jack's hand.

Two tin basins of soup were brought to them; they ate it, soaking
bits of crust in it.

The men pretended not to watch them. With all their instinctive
delicacy these clumsy peasants busied themselves in guard-mounting,
weapon cleaning, and their cuisine, as though there was no such
thing as a pretty woman within miles. But it tried their gallantry
as Frenchmen and their tact as Lorraine peasants. Furtive glances,
deprecatory and timid, were met by the sweetest of smiles from
Lorraine or a kindly nod from Jack. Tricasse, utterly unbalanced by
his new rôle of protector of beauty, gave orders in fierce, agitated
whispers, and made sudden aimless promenades around the birch thicket.
In one of these prowls he discovered a toad staring at the camp-fire,
and he drew his sword with a furious gesture, as though no living
toad were good enough to intrude on the Châtelaine of the Château de
Nesville; but the toad hopped away, and Tricasse unbent his brows
and resumed his agitated prowl.

When Lorraine had finished her soup, Jack took both plates into
the cave and gave them to a man who, squatted on his haunches,
was washing dishes. Lorraine followed him and sat down on a
blanket, leaning back against the side of the cave.

"Wait for me," said Jack. She drew his head down to hers.

They lingered there in the darkness a moment, unconscious of the
amazed but humourous glances of the cook; then Jack went out and
found Tricasse, and walked with him to the top of the tree-clad
ridge.

A road ran under the overhanging bank.

"I didn't know we were so near a road," said Jack, startled.
Tricasse laid his finger on his lips.

"It is the high-road to Saint-Lys. We have settled more than one
Uhlan dog on that curve there by the oak-tree. Look! Here comes
one of our men. See! He's got something, too."

Sure enough, around the bend in the road slunk a franc-tireur,
loaded down with what appeared to be mail-sacks. Cautiously he
reconnoitred the bank, the road, the forest on the other side,
whistled softly, and, at Tricasse's answering whistle, came
puffing and blowing up the slope, and flung a mail-bag, a rifle,
a Bavarian helmet, and a German knapsack to the ground.

"The big police officer?" inquired Tricasse, eagerly.

"Yes, the big one with the red beard. He died hard. I used the
bayonet only," said the franc-tireur, looking moodily at the
dried blood on his hairy fists. "I got a Bavarian sentry, too;
there's the proof."

Jack looked at the helmet. Tricasse ripped up the mail-sack with
his long clasp-knife. "They stole our mail; they will not steal
it again," observed Tricasse, sorting the letters and shuffling
them like cards.

One by one he looked them over, sorted out two, stuffed the rest
into the breast of his sheepskin coat, and stood up.

"There are two letters for you, Monsieur Marche, that were going
to be read by the Prussian police officials," he said, holding
the letters out. "What do you think of our new system of mail
delivery? German delivery, franc-tireur facteur, eh, Monsieur
Marche?"

"Give me the letters," said Jack, quietly.

He sat down and read them both, again and again. Tricasse turned
his back, and stirred the Bavarian helmet with his boot-toe; the
franc-tireur gathered up his spoils, and, at a gesture from
Tricasse, carried them down the slope towards the hidden camp.

"Put out the fire, too," called Tricasse, softly. "I begin to
smell it."

When Jack had finished his reading, he looked up at Tricasse,
folding the letters and placing them in his breast, where the
flat steel box was.

"Letters from Paris," he said. "The Uhlans have appeared in the
Eure-et-Seine and at Melun. They are arming the forts and
enceinte, and the city is being provisioned for a siege."

"Paris!" blurted out Tricasse, aghast.

Jack nodded, silently.

After a moment he resumed: "The Emperor is said to be with the
army near Mézières on the south bank of the Meuse. We are going
to find him, Mademoiselle de Nesville and I. Tell us what to do."

Tricasse stared at him, incapable of speech.

"Very well," said Jack, gently, "think it over. Tell me, at
least, how we can avoid the German lines. We must start this
evening."

He turned and descended the bank rapidly, letting himself down by
the trunks of the birch saplings, treading softly and cautiously
over stones and dead leaves, for the road was so near that a
careless footstep might perhaps be heard by passing Uhlans. In a
few minutes he crossed the ridge, and descended into the hollow,
where the odour of the extinguished fire lingered in the air.

Lorraine was sitting quietly in the cave; Jack entered and sat
down on the blankets beside her.

"The franc-tireurs captured a mail-sack just now," he said. "In
it were two letters for me; one from my sister Dorothy, and the
other from Lady Hesketh. Dorothy writes in alarm, because my
uncle and aunt arrived without me. They also are frightened
because they have heard that Morteyn was again threatened. The
Uhlans have been seen in neighbouring departments, and the city
is preparing for a siege. My uncle will not allow his wife or
Dorothy or Betty Castlemaine to stay in Paris, so they are all
going to Brussels, and expect me to join them there. They know
nothing of what has happened at your home or at Morteyn; they
need not know it until we meet them. Listen, Lorraine: it is my
duty to find the Emperor and deliver this box to him; but you
must not go--it is not necessary. So I am going to get you to
Brussels somehow, and from there I can pass on about my duty with
a free heart."

She placed both hands and then her lips over his mouth.

"Hush," she said; "I am going with you; it is useless, Jack, to
try to persuade me. Hush, my darling; there, be sensible; our
path is very hard and cruel, but it does not separate us; we
tread it together, always together, Jack." He struggled to speak;
she held him close, and laid her head against his breast,
contented, thoughtful, her eyes dreaming in the half-light of
France reconquered, of noble deeds and sacrifices, of the great
bells of churches thundering God's praise to a humble, thankful
nation, proud in its faith, generous in its victory. As she lay
dreaming close to the man she loved, a sudden tumult startled the
sleeping echoes of the cave--the scuffling and thrashing of a
shod horse among dead leaves and branches. There came a groan, a
crash, the sound of a blow; then silence.

Outside, the franc-tireurs, rifles slanting, were moving swiftly
out into the hollow, stooping low among the trees. As they
hurried from the cave another franc-tireur came up, leading a
riderless cavalry horse by one hand; in the other he held his
rifle, the butt dripping with blood.

"Silence," he motioned to them, pointing to the wooded ridge
beyond. Jack looked intently at the cavalry horse. The schabraque
was blue, edged with yellow; the saddle-cloth bore the number
"11."

"Uhlan?" He formed the word with his lips.

The franc-tireur nodded with a ghastly smile and glanced down at
his dripping gunstock.

Lorraine's hand closed on Jack's arm.

"Come to the hill," she said; "I cannot stand that."

On the crest of the wooded ridge crouched Tricasse, bared sabre
stuck in the ground before him, a revolver in either fist. Around
him lay his men, flat on the ground, eyes focussed on the turn in
the road below. Their eyes glowed like the eyes of caged beasts,
their sinewy fingers played continually with the rifle-hammers.

Jack hesitated, his arm around Lorraine's body, his eyes fixed
nervously on the bend in the road.

Something was coming; there were cries, the trample of horses,
the shuffle of footsteps. Suddenly an Uhlan rode cautiously
around the bend, glanced right and left, looked back, signalled,
and started on. Behind him crowded a dozen more Uhlans, lances
glancing, pennants streaming in the wind.

"They've got a woman!" whispered Lorraine.

They had a man, too--a powerful, bearded peasant, with a great
livid welt across his bloodless face. A rope hung around his
neck, the end of which was attached to the saddle-bow of an
Uhlan. But what made Jack's heart fairly leap into his mouth was
to see Siurd von Steyr suddenly wheel in his saddle and lash the
woman across the face with his doubled bridle.

She cringed and fell to her knees, screaming and seizing his
stirrup.

"Get out, damn you!" roared Von Steyr. "Here--I'll settle this
now. Shoot that French dog!"

"My husband, O God!" screamed the woman, struggling in the dust.
In a second she had fallen among the horses; a trooper spurred
forward and raised his revolver, but the man with the rope around
his neck sprang right at him, hanging to the saddle-bow, and
tearing the rider with teeth and nails. Twice Von Steyr tried to
pass his sabre through him; an Uhlan struck him with a lance-butt,
another buried a lance-point in his back, but he clung like a
wild-cat to his man, burying his teeth in the Uhlan's face, deeper,
deeper, till the Uhlan reeled back and fell crashing into the road.

"Fire!" shrieked Tricasse--"the woman's dead!"

Through the crash and smoke they could see the Uhlans staggering,
sinking, floundering about. A mounted figure passed like a flash
through the mist, another plunged after, a third wheeled and flew
back around the bend. But the rest were doomed. Already the
franc-tireurs were among them, whining with ferocity; the scene
was sickening. One by one the battered bodies of the Uhlans were
torn from their frantic horses until only one remained--Von
Steyr--drenched with blood, his sabre flashing above his head.
They pulled him from his horse, but he still raged, his bloodshot
eyes flaring, his teeth gleaming under shrunken lips. They beat
him with musket-stocks, they hurled stones at him, they struck
him terrible blows with clubbed lances, and he yelped like a mad
cur and snapped at them, even when they had him down, even when
they shot into his twisting body. And at last they exterminated
the rabid thing that ran among them.

But the butchery was not ended; around the bend of the road
galloped more Uhlans, halted, wheeled, and galloped back with
harsh cries. The cries were echoed from above and below; the
franc-tireurs were surrounded.

Then Tricasse raised his smeared sabre, and, bending, took the
dead woman by the wrist, lifting her limp, trampled body from the
dust. He began to mutter, holding his sabre above his head, and
the men took up the savage chant, standing close together in the
road:

    "'Ça ira! Ça ira!'"

It was the horrible song of the Terror.


    "'Que faut-il au Républicain?
    Du fer, du plomb, et puis du pain!

    "'Du fer pour travailler,
    Du plomb pour nous venger,
    Et du pain pour nos frères!'"


And the fierce voices sang:


    "'Dansons la Carmagnole!
    Dansons la Carmagnole!
      Ça ira! Ça ira!
    Tous les cochons à la lanterne!
      Ça ira! Ça ira!
    Tous les Prussiens, on les pendra!'"


The road trembled under the advancing cavalry; they surged around
the bend, a chaos of rearing horses and levelled lances; a ring
of fire around the little group of franc-tireurs, a cry from the
whirl of flame and smoke:

"France!"

So they died.



XXVIII

THE BRACONNIER


Lorraine had turned ghastly white; Jack's shocked face was
colourless as he drew her away from the ridge with him into the
forest. The appalling horror had stunned her; her knees gave way,
she stumbled, but Jack held her up by main force, pushing the
undergrowth aside and plunging straight on towards the thickest
depths of the woods. He had not the faintest idea where he was;
he only knew that for the moment it was absolutely necessary for
them to get as far away as possible from the Uhlans and their
butcher's work. Lorraine knew it, too; she tried to recover her
coolness and her strength.

"Here is another road," she said, faintly; "Jack--I--I am not
strong--I am--a--little--faint--" Tears were running over her
cheeks.

Jack peered out through the trees into the narrow wood-road.
Immediately a man hailed him from somewhere among the trees, and
he shrank back, teeth set, eyes fixed in desperation.

"Who are you?" came the summons again in French. Jack did not
answer. Presently a man in a blue blouse, carrying a whip,
stepped out into the road from the bushes on the farther side of
the slope.

"Hallo!" he called, softly.

Jack looked at him. The man returned his glance with a friendly
and puzzled smile.

"What do you want?" asked Jack, suspiciously.

"Parbleu! what do you want yourself?" asked the peasant, and
showed his teeth in a frank laugh.

Jack was silent.

The peasant's eyes fell on Lorraine, leaning against a tree, her
blanched face half hidden under the masses of her hair. "Oho!" he
said--"a woman!"

Without the least hesitation he came quickly across the road and
close up to Jack.

"Thought you might be one of those German spies," he said. "Is
the lady ill? Cœur Dieu! but she is white! Monsieur, what has
happened? I am Brocard--Jean Brocard; they know me here in the
forest--"

"Eh!" broke in Jack--"you say you are Brocard the poacher?"

"Hey! That's it--Brocard, braconnier--at your service. And you
are the young nephew of the Vicomte de Morteyn, and that is the
little châtelaine De Nesville! Cœur Dieu! Have the Prussians
brutalized you, too? Answer me, Monsieur Marche--I know you and I
know the little châtelaine--oh, I know!--I, who have watched you
at your pretty love-making there in the De Nesville forest, while
I was setting my snares for pheasants and hares! Dame! One must
live! Yes, I am Brocard--I do not lie. I have taken enough game
from your uncle in my time; can I be of service to his nephew?"

He took off his cap with a merry smile, entirely frank, almost
impudent. Jack could have hugged him; he did not; he simply told
him the exact truth, word by word, slowly and without bitterness,
his arm around Lorraine, her head on his shoulder.

"Cœur Dieu!" muttered Brocard, gazing pityingly at Lorraine;
"I've half a mind to turn franc-tireur myself and drill holes in
the hides of these Prussian swine!"

He stepped out into the road and beckoned Jack and Lorraine. When
they came to his side he pointed to a stone cottage, low and
badly thatched, hidden among the trunks of the young beech
growth. A team of horses harnessed to a carriage was standing
before the door; smoke rose from the dilapidated chimney.

"I have a guest," he said; "you need not fear him. Come!"

In a dozen steps they entered the low doorway, Brocard leading,
Lorraine leaning heavily on Jack's shoulder.

"Pst! There is a thick-headed Englishman in the next room; let
him sleep in peace," murmured Brocard.

He threw a blanket over the bed, shoved the logs in the fireplace
with his hobnailed boots until the sparks whirled upward, and the
little flames began to rustle and snap.

Lorraine sank down on the bed, covering her head with her arms;
Jack dropped into a chair by the fire, looking miserably from
Lorraine to Brocard.

The latter clasped his big rough hands between his knees and
leaned forward, chewing a stem of a dead leaf, his bright eyes
fixed on the reviving fire.

"Morteyn! Morteyn!" he repeated; "it exists no longer. There are
many dead there--dead in the garden, in the court, on the
lawn--dead floating in the pond, the river--dead rotting in the
thickets, the groves, the forest. I saw them--I, Brocard the
poacher."

After a moment he resumed:

"There were more poachers than Jean Brocard in Morteyn. I saw the
Prussian officers stand in the carrefours and shoot the deer as
they ran in, a line of soldiers beating the woods behind them. I
saw the Saxons laugh as they shot at the pheasants and partridges;
I saw them firing their revolvers at rabbits and hares. They brought
to their camp-fires a great camp-wagon piled high with game--boars,
deer, pheasants, and hares. For that I hated them. Perhaps I touched
one or two of them while I was firing at white blackbirds--I really
cannot tell."

He turned an amused yellow eye on Jack, but his face sobered the
next moment, and he continued: "I heard the fusillade on the
Saint-Lys highway; I did not go to inquire if they were amusing
themselves. Ma foi! I myself keep away from Uhlans when God
permits. And so these Uhlan wolves got old Tricasse at last. Zut!
C'est embêtant! And poor old Passerat, too--and Brun, and all the
rest! Tonnerre de Dieu! I--but, no--no! I am doing very well--I,
Jean Brocard, poacher; I am doing quite well, in my little way."

An ugly curling of his lip, a glimpse of two white teeth--that
was all Jack saw; but he understood that the poacher had probably
already sent more than one Prussian to his account.

"That's all very well," he said, slowly--he had little sympathy
with guerilla assassination--"but I'd rather hear how you are
going to get us out of the country and through the Prussian
lines."

"You take much for granted," laughed the poacher. "Now, did I
offer to do any such thing?"

"But you will," said Jack, "for the honour of the Province and
the vicomte, whose game, it appears, has afforded you both
pleasure and profit."

"Cœur Dieu!" cried Brocard, laughing until his bright eyes grew
moist. "You have spoken the truth, Monsieur Marche. But you have
not added what I place first of all; it is for the gracious
châtelaine of the Château de Nesville that I, Jean Brocard, play
at hazard with the Prussians, the stakes being my skin. I will
bring you through the lines; leave it to me."

Before Jack could speak again the door of the next room opened,
and a man appeared, dressed in tweeds, booted and spurred, and
carrying a travelling-satchel. There was a moment's astonished
silence.

"Marche!" cried Archibald Grahame; "what the deuce are you doing
here?" They shook hands, looking questioningly at each other.

"Times have changed since we breakfasted by candle-light at
Morteyn," said Jack, trying to regain his coolness.

"I know--I know," said Grahame, sympathetically. "It's devilish
rough on you all--on Madame de Morteyn. I can never forget her
charming welcome. Dear me, but this war is disgusting; isn't it
now? And what the devil are you doing here? Heavens, man, you're
a sight!"

Lorraine sat up on the bed at the sound of the voices. When
Grahame saw her, saw her plight--the worn shoes, the torn,
stained bodice and skirt, the pale face and sad eyes--he was too
much affected to speak. Jack told him their situation in a dozen
words; the sight of Lorraine's face told the rest.

"Now we'll arrange that," cried Grahame. "Don't worry, Marche.
Pray do not alarm yourself, Mademoiselle de Nesville, for I have
a species of post-chaise at the door and a pair of alleged
horses, and the whole outfit is at your disposal; indeed it is,
and so am I. Come now!--and so am I." He hesitated, and then
continued: "I have passes and papers, and enough to get you
through a dozen lines. Now, where do you wish to go?"

"When are you to start?" replied Jack, gratefully.

"Say in half an hour. Can Mademoiselle de Nesville stand it?"

"Yes, thank you," said Lorraine, with a tired, quaint politeness
that made them smile.

"Then we wish to get as near to the French Army as we can," said
Jack. "I have a mission of importance. If you could drive us to
the Luxembourg frontier we would be all right--if we had any
money."

"You shall have everything," cried Grahame; "you shall be driven
where you wish. I'm looking for a battle, but I can't seem to
find one. I've been driving about this wreck of a country for the
last three days; I missed Amonvillers on the 18th, and Rezonville
two days before. I saw the battles of Reichshofen and Borney. The
Germans lost three thousand five hundred men at Beaumont, and I
was not there either. But there's a bigger thing on the carpet,
somewhere near the Meuse, and I'm trying to find out where and
when. I've wasted a lot of time loafing about Metz. I want to see
something on a larger scale, not that the Metz business isn't
large enough--two hundred thousand men, six hundred cannon--and
the Red Prince--licking their chops and getting up an appetite
for poor old Bazaine and his battered, diseased, starved,
disheartened army, caged under the forts and citadel of a city
scarcely provisioned for a regiment."

Lorraine, sitting on the edge of the bed, looked at him silently,
but her eyes were full of a horror and anguish that Grahame could
not help seeing.

"The Emperor is with the army yet," he said, cheerfully. "Who
knows what may happen in the next twenty-four hours? Mademoiselle
de Nesville, there are many shots to be fired yet for the honour
of France."

"Yes," said Lorraine.

Instinctively Brocard and Grahame moved towards the door and out
into the road. It was perhaps respect for the grief of this young
French girl that sobered their faces and sent them off to discuss
plans and ways and means of getting across the Luxembourg
frontier without further delay. Jack, left alone with Lorraine in
the dim, smoky room, rose and drew her to the fire.

"Don't be unhappy," he said. "The tide of fortune must turn soon;
this cannot go on. We will find the Emperor and do our part.
Don't look that way, Lorraine, my darling!" He took her in his
arms. She put both arms around his neck, and hid her face.

For a while he held her, watching the fire with troubled eyes.
The room grew darker; a wind arose among the forest trees,
stirring dried leaves on brittle stems; the ashes on the hearth
drifted like gray snowflakes.

Her stillness began to trouble him. He bent in the dusk to see
her face. She was asleep. Terror, pity, anguish, the dreadful
uncertainty, had strained her child's nerves to the utmost; after
that came the deep fatigue that follows torture, and she lay in
his arms, limp, pallid, exhausted. Her sleep was almost the
unconsciousness of coma; she scarcely breathed.

The fire on the hearth went out; the smoking embers glimmered
under feathery ashes. Grahame entered, carrying a lantern.

"Come," he whispered. "Poor little thing!--can't I help you,
Marche? Wait; here's a rug. So--wrap it around her feet. Can you
carry her? Then follow; here, touch my coat--I'm going to put out
the light in my lantern. Now--gently. Here we are."

Jack climbed into the post-chaise; Grahame, holding Lorraine in
his arms, leaned in, and Jack took her again. She had not
awakened.

"Brocard and I are going to sit in front," whispered Grahame. "Is
all right within?"

"Yes," nodded Jack.

The chaise moved on for a moment, then suddenly stopped with a
jerk.

Jack heard Grahame whisper, "Sit still, you fool! I've got
passes; sit still!"

"Let go!" murmured Brocard.

"Sit still!" repeated Grahame, in an angry whisper; "it's all
right, I tell you. Be silent!"

There was a noiseless struggle, a curse half breathed, then a
figure slipped from the chaise into the road.

Grahame sank back. "Marche, that damned poacher will hang us all.
What am I to do?"

"What is it?" asked Jack, in a scarcely audible voice.

"Can't you hear? There's an Uhlan in the road in front. That fool
means to kill him."

Jack strained his eyes in the darkness; the road ahead was black
and silent.

"You can't see him," whispered Grahame. "Brocard caught the
distant rattle of his lance in the stirrup. He's gone to kill
him, the bloodthirsty imbecile!"

"To shoot him?" asked Jack, aghast.

"No; he's got his broad wood-knife--that's the way these brutes
kill. Hark! Good God!"

A scream rang through the forest; something was coming towards
them, too--a horse, galloping, galloping, pounding, thundering
past--a frantic horse that tossed its head and tore on through
the night, mane flying, bridle loose. And there, crouched on the
saddle, two men swayed, locked in a death-clench--an Uhlan with
ghostly face and bared teeth, and Brocard, the poacher, cramped
and clinging like a panther to his prey, his broad knife flashing
in the gloom.

In a second they were gone; far away in the forest the hoof
strokes echoed farther and farther, duller, duller, then ceased.

"Drive on," muttered Jack, with lips that could barely form the
words.



XXIX

THE MESSAGE OF THE FLAG


It was dawn when Lorraine awoke, stifling a cry of dismay. At the
same moment she saw Jack, asleep, huddled into a corner of the
post-chaise, his bloodless, sunken face smeared with the fine red
dust that drifted in from the creaking wheels. Grahame, driving
on the front seat, heard her move.

"Are you better?" he asked, cheerfully.

"Yes, thank you; I am better. Where are we?"

Grahame's face sobered.

"I'll tell you the truth," he said; "I don't know, and I can't
find out. One thing is certain--we've passed the last German
post, that is all I know. We ought to be near the frontier."

He looked back at Jack, smiled again, and lowered his voice:

"It's fortunate we have passed the German lines, because that
last cavalry outpost took all my papers and refused to return
them. I haven't an idea what to do now, except to go on as far as
we can. I wish we could find a village; the horses are not
exhausted, but they need rest."

Lorraine listened, scarcely conscious of what he said. She leaned
over Jack, looking down into his face, brushing the dust from his
brow with her finger-tips, smoothing his hair, with a timid,
hesitating glance at Grahame, who understood and gravely turned
his back.

Jack slept. She nestled down, pressing her soft, cool cheek close
to his; her eyes drooped; her lips parted. So they slept
together, cheek to cheek.

A mist drove across the meadows; from the plains, dotted with
poplars, a damp wind blew in puffs, driving the fog before it
until the blank vapour dulled the faint morning light and the
dawn faded into a colourless twilight. Spectral poplars, rank on
rank, loomed up in the mist, endless rows of them, fading from
sight as the vapours crowded in, appearing again as the fog
thinned in a current of cooler wind.

Grahame, driving slowly, began to nod in the thickening fog. At
moments he roused himself; the horses walked on and the wheels
creaked in the red dust. Hour after hour passed, but it grew no
lighter. Drowsy and listless-eyed the horses toiled up and down
the little hills, and moved stiffly on along the interminable
road, shrouded in a gray fog that hid the very road-side
shrubbery from sight, choked thicket and grove, and blotted the
grimy carriage windows.

Jack was awakened with startling abruptness by Grahame, who shook
his shoulders, leaning into the post-chaise from the driver's
seat.

"There's something in front, Marche," he said. "We've fallen in
with a baggage convoy, I fancy. Listen! Don't you hear the
camp-wagons? Confound this fog! I can't see a rod ahead."

Lorraine, also now wide awake, leaned from the window. The blank
vapour choked everything. Jack rubbed his eyes; his limbs ached;
he could scarcely move. Somebody was running on the road in
front--the sound of heavy boots in the dust came nearer and
nearer.

"Look out!" shouted Grahame, in French; "there's a team here in
the road! Passez au large!"

At the sound of his voice phantoms surged up in the mist around
them; from every side faces looked into the carriage windows,
passing, repassing, disappearing, only to appear again--ghostly,
shadowy, spectral.

"Soldiers!" muttered Jack.

At the same instant Grahame seized the lines and wheeled his
horses just in time to avoid collision with a big wagon in front.
As the post-chaise passed, more wagons loomed up in the fog, one
behind another; soldiers took form around them, voices came to
their ears, dulled by the mist.

Suddenly a pale shaft of light streamed through the fog above;
the restless, shifting vapours glimmered; a dazzling blot grew
from the mist. It was the sun. Little by little the landscape
became more distinct; the pallid, watery sky lightened; a streak
of blue cut the zenith. Everywhere in the road great, lumbering
wagons stood, loaded with straw; the sickly morning light fell on
silent files of infantry, lining the road on either hand.

"It's a convoy of wounded," said Grahame. "We're in the middle of
it. Shall we go back?"

A wagon in front of them started on; at the first jolt a cry sounded
from the straw, another, another--the deep sighs of the dying, the
groans of the stricken, the muttered curses of teamsters--rose in
one terrible plaint. Another wagon started--the wounded wailed;
another started--another--another--and the long train creaked on, the
air vibrating with the weak protestations of miserable, mangled
creatures tossing their thin arms towards the sky. And now, too, the
soldiers were moving out into the road-side bushes, unslinging rifles
and fixing bayonets; a mounted officer galloped past, shouting
something; other mounted officers followed; a bugle sounded
persistently from the distant head of the column.

Everywhere soldiers were running along the road now, grouping
together under the poplar-trees, heads turned to the plain. Some
teamsters pushed an empty wagon out beyond the line of trees and
overturned it; others stood up in their wagons, reins gathered,
long whips swinging. The wounded moaned incessantly; some sat up
in the straw, heads turned also towards the dim, gray plain.

"It's an attack," said Grahame, coolly. "Marche, we're in for it
now!"

After a moment, he added, "What did I tell you? Look there!"

Out on the plain, where the mist was clearing along the edge of a
belt of trees, something was moving.

"What is it?" asked Lorraine, in a scarcely audible voice.

Before Grahame could speak a tumult of cries and groans burst out
along the line of wagons; a bugle clanged furiously; the
teamsters shouted and pointed with their whips.

Out of the shadow of the grove two glittering double lines of
horsemen trotted, halted, formed, extended right and left, and
trotted on again. To the right another darker and more compact
square of horsemen broke into a gallop, swinging a thicket of
lances above their heads, from which fluttered a mass of black
and white pennons.

"Cuirassiers and Uhlans!" muttered Grahame, under his breath. He
stood up in his seat; Jack rose also, straining his eyes, but
Lorraine hid her face in her hands and crouched in the chaise,
her head buried in the cushions.

The silence was enervating; even the horses turned their gentle
eyes wonderingly to that line of steel and lances; even the
wounded, tremulous, haggard, held their breath between clenched
teeth and stiff, swollen lips.

"Nom de Dieu! Serrez les rangs, tas de bleus!" yelled an officer,
riding along the edge of the road, revolver in one hand, naked
sabre flashing in the other.

A dozen artillerymen were pushing a mitrailleuse up behind the
overturned wagon. It stuck in the ditch.

"À nous, la ligne!" they shouted, dragging at the wheels until a
handful of fantassins ran out and pulled the little death machine
into place.

"Du calme! Du calme! Ne tirez pas trop vite, ménagez vos
cartouches! Tenez ferme, mes enfants!" said an old officer,
dismounting and walking coolly out beyond the line of trees.

"Oui! oui! comptez sur nous! Vive le Colonel!" shouted the
soldiers, shaking their chassepots in the air.

On came the long lines, distinct now--the blue and yellow of the
Uhlans, the white and scarlet of the cuirassiers, plain against
the gray trees and grayer pastures. Suddenly a level sheet of
flame played around the stalled wagons; the smoke gushed out
over the dark ground; the air split with the crash of rifles. In
the uproar bugles blew furiously and the harsh German cavalry
trumpets, peal on peal, nearer, nearer, nearer, answered their
clangour.

"Hourra! Preussen!"

The deep, thundering shout rose hoarsely through the rifles'
roaring fusillade; horses reared; teamsters lashed and swore, and
the rattle of harness and wheel broke out and was smothered in
the sheeted crashing of the volleys and the shock of the coming
charge.

And now it burst like an ocean roller, smashing into the wagon
lines, a turmoil of smoke and flashes, a chaos of maddened,
plunging horses and bayonets, and the flashing downward strokes
of heavy sabres. Grahame seized the reins, and lashed his horses;
a cuirassier drove his bloody, foam-covered charger into the road
in front and fell, butchered by a dozen bayonets.

Three Uhlans followed, whirling their lances and crashing through
the lines, their frantic horses crazed by blows and wounds. More
cuirassiers galloped up; the crush became horrible. A horse and
steel-clad rider were hurled bodily under the wagon-wheels--an
Uhlan, transfixed by a bayonet, still clung to his shattered
lance-butt, screaming, staggering in his stirrups. Suddenly the
window of the post-chaise was smashed in and a horse and rider
pitched under the wheels, almost overturning carriage and
occupants.

"Easy, Marche!" shouted Grahame. "Don't try to get out!"

Jack heard him, but sprang into the road. For an instant he
reeled about in the crush and smoke, then, stooping, he seized a
prostrate man, lifted him, and with one tremendous effort pitched
him into the chaise.

Grahame, standing up in the driver's seat, watched him in
amazement for a moment; but his horses demanded all his attention
now, for they were backing under the pressure of the cart in
front.

As for Jack, once in the chaise again he pulled the unconscious
man to the seat, calling Lorraine to hold him up. Then he tore
the Uhlan's helmet from the stunned man's head and flung it out
into the road; after it he threw sabre and revolver.

"Give me that rug!" he cried to Lorraine, and he seized it and
wrapped it around the Uhlan's legs.

Grahame had managed to get clear of the other wagon now and was
driving out into the pasture, almost obscured by rifle smoke.

"Oh, Jack!" faltered Lorraine--"it is Rickerl!"

It was Rickerl, stunned by the fall from his horse, lying back
between them.

"They'd kill him if they saw his uniform!" muttered Jack. "Hark!
the French are cheering! They've repulsed the charge! Grahame, do
you hear?--do you hear?"

"I hear!" shouted Grahame. "These horses are crazy; I can't hold
them."

The troops around them, hidden in the smoke, began to cheer
frantically; the mitrailleuse whirred and rolled out its hail of
death.

"Vive la France! Mort aux Prussiens!" howled the soldiers. A
mounted officer, his cap on the point of his sabre, his face laid
open by a lance-thrust, stood shouting, "Vive la Nation! Vive la
Nation!" while a boyish bugler shook his brass bugle in the air,
speechless with joy.

Grahame drove the terrified horses along the line of wagons for a
few paces, then, wheeling, let them gallop straight out into the
pasture on the left of the road, where a double line of trees in
the distance marked the course of a parallel road.

The chaise lurched and jolted; Rickerl, unconscious still, fell
in a limp heap, but Jack and Lorraine held him up and watched the
horses, now galloping under slackened reins.

"There are houses there! Look!" cried Grahame. "By Jove, there's
a Luxembourg gendarme, too. I--I believe we're in Luxembourg,
Marche! Upon my soul, we are! See! There is a frontier post!"

He tried to stop the horses; two strange-looking soldiers,
wearing glossy shakos and white-and-blue aiguillettes, began to
bawl at him; a group of peasants before the cottages fled,
screaming.

Grahame threw all his strength into his arms and dragged the
horses to a stand-still.

"Are we in Luxembourg?" he called to the gendarmes, who ran up,
gesticulating violently. "Are we? Good! Hold those horses, if you
please, gentlemen. There's a wounded man here. Carry him to one
of those houses. Marche, lift him, if you can. Hello! his arm is
broken at the wrist. Go easy--you, I mean--Now!"

Lorraine, aided by Jack, stepped from the post-chaise and stood
shivering as two peasants came forward and lifted Rickerl. When
they had taken him away to one of the stone houses she turned
quietly to a gendarme and said: "Monsieur, can you tell me where
the Emperor is?"

"The Emperor?" repeated the gendarme. "The Emperor is with his
army, below there along the Meuse. They are fighting--since four
this morning--at Sedan."

He pointed to the southeast.

She looked out across the wide plain.

"That convoy is going to Sedan," said the gendarme. "The army is
near Sedan; there is a battle there."

"Thank you," said Lorraine, quietly. "Jack, the Emperor is near
Sedan."

"Yes," he nodded; "we will go when you can stand it."

"I am ready. Oh, we must not wait, Jack; did you not see how they
even attacked the wounded?"

He turned and looked into her eyes.

"It is the first French cheer I have heard," she continued,
feverishly. "They beat back those Prussians and cheered for
France! Oh, Jack, there is time yet! France is rising now--France
is resisting. We must do our part; we must not wait. Jack, I am
ready!"

"We can't walk," he muttered.

"We will go with the convoy. They are on the way to Sedan, where
the Emperor is. Jack, they are fighting at Sedan! Do you
understand?"

She came closer, looking up into his troubled eyes.

"Show me the box," she whispered.

He drew the flat steel box from his coat.

After a moment she said, "Nothing must stop us now. I am ready!"

"You are not ready," he replied, sullenly; "you need rest."

"'Tiens ta Foy,' Jack."

The colour dyed his pale cheeks and he straightened up. "Always,
Lorraine."

Grahame called to them from the cottage: "You can get a horse and
wagon here! Come and eat something at once!"

Slowly, with weary, drooping heads, they walked across the road,
past a wretched custom-house, where two painted sentry-boxes
leaned, past a squalid barnyard full of amber-coloured, unsavoury
puddles and gaunt poultry, up to the thatched stone house where
Grahame stood waiting. Over the door hung a withered branch of
mistletoe, above this swung a sign:

ESTAMINET.

"Your Uhlan is in a bad way, I think," began Grahame; "he's got a
broken arm and two broken ribs. This is a nasty little place to
leave him in."

"Grahame," said Jack, earnestly, "I've got to leave him. I am
forced to go to Sedan as soon as we can swallow a bit of bread
and wine. The Uhlan is my comrade and friend; he may be more than
that some day. What on earth am I to do?"

They followed Grahame into a room where a table stood covered by
a moist, unpleasant cloth. The meal was simple--a half-bottle of
sour red wine for each guest, a fragment of black bread, and a
râgout made of something that had once been alive--possibly a
chicken, possibly a sheep.

Grahame finished his wine, bolted a morsel or two of bread and
râgout, and leaned back in his chair with a whimsical glance at
Lorraine.

"Now, I'll tell you what I'll do, Marche," he said. "My horses
need rest, so do I, so does our wounded Uhlan. I'll stay in this
garden of Eden until noon, if you like, then I'll drive our
wounded man to Diekirch, where the Hôtel des Ardennes is as good
an inn as you can find in Luxembourg, or in Belgium either. Then
I'll follow you to Sedan."

They all rose from the table; Lorraine came and held out her
hand, thanking Grahame for his kindness to them and to Rickerl.

"Good-by," said Grahame, going with them to the door. "There's
your dog-cart; it's paid for, and here's a little bag of French
money--no thanks, my dear fellow; we can settle all that later.
But what the deuce you two children are going to Sedan for is
more than my old brains can comprehend."

He stood, with handsome head bared, and bent gravely over
Lorraine's hands--impulsive little hands, now trembling, as the
tears of gratitude trembled on her lashes.

And so they drove away in their dog-cart, down the flat,
poplar-bordered road, silent, deeply moved, wondering what the
end might be.

The repeated shocks, the dreadful experiences and encounters, the
indelible impressions of desolation and grief and suffering had
deadened in Lorraine all sense of personal suffering or grief.
For her land and her people her heart had bled, drop by drop--her
sensitive soul lay crushed within her. Nothing of selfish despair
came over her, because France still stood. She had suffered too
much to remember herself. Even her love for Jack had become
merely a detail. She loved as she breathed--involuntarily. There
was nothing new or strange or sweet in it--nothing was left of
its freshness, its grace, its delicacy. The bloom was gone.

In her tired breast her heart beat faintly; its burden was the weary
repetition of a prayer--an old, old prayer--a supplication--for
mercy, for France, and for the salvation of its people. Where she
had learned it she did not know; how she remembered it, why she
repeated it, minute by minute, hour by hour, she could not tell.
But it was always beating in her heart, this prayer--old, so
old!--and half forgotten--

    "'To Thee, Mary, exalted--
    To Thee, Mary, exalted--'"

Her tired heart took up the rhythm where her mind refused to
follow, and she leaned on Jack's shoulder, looking out over the
gray land with innocent, sorrowful eyes.

Vaguely she remembered her lonely childhood, but did not grieve;
vaguely she thought of her youth, passing away from a tear-drenched
land through the smoke of battles. She did not grieve--the last sad
tear for self had fallen and quenched the last smouldering spark of
selfishness. The wasted hills of her province seemed to rise from
their ashes and sear her eyes; the flames of a devastated land
dazzled and pained her; every drop of French blood that drenched
the mother-land seemed drawn from her own veins--every cry of
terror, every groan, every gasp, seemed wrenched from her own
slender body. The quiet, wide-eyed dead accused her, the stark
skeletons of ravaged houses reproached her.

She turned to the man she loved, but it was the voice of a dying
land that answered, "Come!" and she responded with all a passion
of surrender. What had she accomplished as yet? In the bitterness
of her loneliness she answered, "Nothing." She had worked by the
wayside as she passed--in the field, in the hospital, in the
midst of beleaguered soldiers. But what was that? There was
something else further on that called her--what she did not know,
and yet she knew it was waiting somewhere for her. "Perhaps it is
death," she mused, leaning on Jack's shoulder. "Perhaps it is
_his_ death." That did not frighten her; if it was to be, it
would be; but, through it, through the hideous turmoil of fire
and blood and pounding guns and shouting--through death
itself--somewhere, on the other side of the dreadful valley of
terror, lay salvation for the mother-land. Thither they were
bound--she and the man she loved.

All around them lay the flat, colourless plains of Luxembourg; to
the east, the wagon-train of wounded crawled across the landscape
under a pallid sky. The road now bore towards the frontier again;
Jack shook the reins listlessly; the horse loped on. Slowly they
approached the border, where, on the French side, the convoy
crept forward enveloped in ragged clouds of dust. Now they could
distinguish the drivers, blue-bloused and tattered, swinging
their long whips; now they saw the infantry, plodding on behind
the wagons, stringing along on either flank, their officers
riding with bent heads, the red legs of the fantassins blurred
through the red dust.

At the junction of the two roads stood a boundary post. A
slovenly Luxembourg gendarme sat on a stone under it, smoking and
balancing his rifle over both knees.

"You can't pass," he said, looking up as Jack drew rein. A moment
later he pocketed a gold piece that Jack offered, yawned,
laughed, and yawned again.

"You can buy contraband cigars at two sous each in the village
below," he observed.

"What news is there to tell?" demanded Jack.

"News? The same as usual. They are shelling Strassbourg with
mortars; the city is on fire. Six hundred women and children left
the city; the International Aid Society demanded it."

Presently he added: "A big battle was fought this morning along
the Meuse. You can hear the guns yet."

"I have heard them for an hour," replied Jack.

They listened. Far to the south the steady intonation of the
cannon vibrated, a vague sustained rumour, no louder, no lower,
always the same monotonous measure, flowing like the harmony of
flowing water, passionless, changeless, interminable.

"Along the Meuse?" asked Jack, at last.

"Yes."

"Sedan?"

"Yes, Sedan."

The slow convoy was passing now; the creak of wheel and the harsh
scrape of axle and spring grated in their ears; the wind changed;
the murmur of the cannonade was blotted out in the trample of
hoofs, the thud of marching infantry.

Jack swung his horse's head and drove out across the boundary
into the French road. On every side crowded the teams, where the
low mutter of the wounded rose from the foul straw; on every side
pressed the red-legged infantry, rifles _en bandoulière_,
shrunken, faded caps pushed back from thin, sick faces.

"My soldiers!" murmured Lorraine, sitting up straight. "Oh, the
pity of it!--the pity!"

An officer passed, followed by a bugler. He glanced vacantly at
Jack, then at Lorraine. Another officer came by, leading his
patient, bleeding horse, over which was flung the dusty body of a
brother soldier.

The long convoy was moving more swiftly now; the air trembled
with the cries of the mangled or the hoarse groans of the dying.
A Sister of Mercy--her frail arm in a sling--crept on her knees
among the wounded lying in a straw-filled cart. Over all, louder,
deeper, dominating the confusion of the horses and the tramp of
men, rolled the cannonade. The pulsating air, deep-laden with the
monstrous waves of sound, seemed to beat in Lorraine's face--the
throbbing of her heart ceased for a moment. Louder, louder,
nearer, more terrible sounded the thunder, breaking in long,
majestic reverberations among the nearer hills; the earth began
to shake, the sky struck back the iron-throated echoes--sounding,
resounding, from horizon to horizon.

And now the troops around them were firing as they advanced;
sheeted mist lashed with lightning enveloped the convoy, through
which rang the tremendous clang of the cannon. Once there came a
momentary break in the smoke--a gleam of hills, and a valley
black with men--a glimpse of a distant town, a river--then the
stinging smoke rushed outward, the little flames leaped and sank
and played through the fog. Broad, level bands of mist, fringed
with flame, cut the pasture to the right; the earth rocked with
the stupendous cannon shock, the ripping rifle crashes chimed a
dreadful treble.

There was a bridge there in the mist; an iron gate, a heavy wall
of masonry, a glimpse of a moat below. The crowded wagons,
groaning under their load of death, the dusty infantry, the
officers, the startled horses, jammed the bridge to the parapets.
Wheels splintered and cracked, long-lashed whips snapped and
rose, horses strained, recoiled, leaped up, and fell scrambling
and kicking.

"Open the gates, for God's sake!" they were shouting.

A great shell, moaning in its flight above the smoke, shrieked
and plunged headlong among the wagons. There came a glare of
blinding light, a velvety white cloud, a roar, and through the
gates, no longer choked, rolled the wagon-train, a frantic
stampede of men and horses. It caught the dog-cart and its
occupants with it; it crushed the horse, seized the vehicle, and
flung it inside the gates as a flood flings driftwood on the
rocks.

Jack clung to the reins; the wretched horse staggered out into
the stony street, fell, and rolled over stone-dead.

Jack turned and caught Lorraine in both arms, and jumped to a
sidewalk crowded with soldiers, and at the same time the crush of
wagons ground the dog-cart to splinters on the cobble-stones. The
crowd choked every inch of the pavement--women, children,
soldiers, shouting out something that seemed to move the masses
to delirium. Jack, his arm around Lorraine, beat his way forward
through the throng, murmuring anxiously, "Are you hurt, Lorraine?
Are you hurt?" And she replied, faintly, "No, Jack. Oh, what is
it? What is it?"

Soldiers blocked his way now, but he pushed between them towards
a cleared space on a slope of grass. Up the slope he staggered
and out on to a stone terrace above the crush of the street. An
officer stood alone on the terrace, pulling at some ropes around
a pole on the parapet.

"What--what is that?" stammered Lorraine, as a white flag shot up
along the flag-staff and fluttered drearily over the wall.

"Lorraine!" cried Jack; but she sprang to the pole and tore the
ropes free. The white flag fell to the ground.

The officer turned to her, his face whiter than the flag. The
crowd in the street below roared.

"Monsieur," gasped Lorraine, "France is not conquered! That flag
is the flag of dishonour!"

They stared at each other in silence, then the officer stepped to
the flag-pole and picked up the ropes.

"Not that!--not that!" cried Lorraine, shuddering.

"It is the Emperor's orders."

The officer drew the rope tight--the white flag crawled slowly up
the staff, fluttered, and stopped.

Lorraine covered her eyes with her hands; the roar of the crowd
below was in her ears.

"O God!--O God!" she whispered.

"Lorraine!" whispered Jack, both arms around her.

Her head fell forward on her breast.

Overhead the white flag caught the breeze again, and floated out
over the ramparts of Sedan.

"By the Emperor's orders," said the officer, coming close to
Jack.

Then for the first time Jack saw that it was Georges Carrière who
stood there, ghastly pale, his eyes fixed on Lorraine.

"She has fainted," muttered Jack, lifting her. "Georges, is it
all over?"

"Yes," said Georges, and he walked over to the flag-pole, and
stood there looking up at the white badge of dishonour.



XXX

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW


Daylight was fading in the room where Lorraine lay in a stupor so
deep that at moments the Sister of Mercy and the young military
surgeon could scarcely believe her alive there on the pillows.

Jack, his head on his arms, stood by the window, staring out
vacantly at the streak of light in the west, against which, on
the straight, gray ramparts, the white flag flapped black against
the dying sun.

Under the window, in the muddy, black streets, the packed throngs
swayed and staggered and trampled through the filth, amid a crush
of camp-wagons, artillery, ambulances, and crowding squadrons of
cavalry. Riotous line soldiers cried out "Treason!" and hissed
their generals or cursed their Emperor; the tall cuirassiers
surged by in silence, sombre faces turned towards the west, where
the white flag flew on the ramparts. Heavier, denser, more
suffocating grew the crush; an ambulance broke down, a caisson
smashed into a lamp-post, a cuirassier's horse slipped in the
greasy depths of the filth, pitching its steel-clad rider to the
pavement. Through the Place d'Alsace-Lorraine, through the Avenue
du Collège and the Place d'Armes, passed the turbulent torrent of
men and horses and cannon. The Grande Rue was choked from the
church to the bronze statue in the Place Turenne; the Porte de
Paris was piled with dead, the Porte de Balan tottered a mass of
ruins.

The cannonade still shook the hills to the south in spite of the
white flag on the citadel. There were white flags, too, on the
ramparts, on the Port des Capucins, and at the Gate of Paris. An
officer, followed by a lancer, who carried a white pennon on his
lance-point, entered the street from the north. A dozen soldiers
and officers hacked it off with their sabres, crying, "No
surrender! no surrender!" Shells continued to fall into the
packed streets, blowing horrible gaps in the masses of struggling
men. The sun set in a crimson blaze, reflecting on window and
roof and the bloody waters of the river. When at last it sank
behind the smoky hills, the blackness in the city was lighted by
lurid flames from burning houses and the swift crimson glare of
Prussian shells, still plunging into the town. Through the crash
of crumbling walls, the hiss and explosion of falling shells, the
awful clamour and din in the streets, the town clock struck
solemnly six times. As if at a signal the firing died away; a
desolate silence fell over the city--a silence full of rumours,
of strange movements--a stillness pulsating with the death gasps
of a nation.

Out on the heights of La Moncelle, of Daigny, and Givonne
lanterns glimmered where the good Sisters of Mercy and the
ambulance corps passed among the dead and dying--the thirty-five
thousand dead and dying! The plateau of Illy, where the cavalry
had charged again and again, was twinkling with thousands of
lanterns; on the heights of Frénois Prussian torches swung,
signalling victory.

But the spectacle in the interior of the town--a town of nineteen
thousand people, into which now were crushed seventy thousand
frantic soldiers, was dreadful beyond description. Horror
multiplied on horror. The two bridges and the streets were so
jammed with horses and artillery trains that it seemed impossible
for any human being to move another inch. In the glare of the
flames from the houses on fire, in the middle of the smoke,
horses, cannon, fourgons, charrettes, ambulances, piles of dead
and dying, formed a sickening pell-mell. In this chaos starving
soldiers, holding lighted lanterns, tore strips of flesh from
dead horses lying in the mud, killed by the shells. Arms, broken
and foul with blood and mud--rifles, pistols, sabres, lances,
casques, mitrailleuses--covered the pavements.

The gates of the town were closed; the water in the fortification
moats reflected the red light from the flames. The glacis of the
ramparts was covered by black masses of soldiers, watching the
placing of a cordon of German sentinels around the walls.

All public buildings, all the churches, were choked with wounded;
their blood covered everything. On the steps of the churches poor
wretches sat bandaging their torn limbs with strips of bloody
muslin.

Strange sounds came from the stone walls along the street, where
zouaves, turcos, and line soldiers, cursing and weeping with
rage, were smashing their rifles to pieces rather than surrender
them. Artillerymen were spiking their guns, some ran them into
the river, some hammered the mitrailleuses out of shape with
pickaxes. The cavalry flung their sabres into the river, the
cuirassiers threw away revolvers and helmets. Everywhere
officers were breaking their swords and cursing the surrender.
The officers of the 74th of the Line threw their sabres and even
their decorations into the Meuse. Everywhere, too, regiments were
burning their colours and destroying their eagles; the colonel of
the 52d of the Line himself burned his colours in the presence of
all the officers of the regiment, in the centre of the street.
The 88th and 30th, the 68th, the 78th, and 74th regiments
followed this example. "Mort aux Vaches!" howled a herd of
half-crazed reservists, bursting into the crush. "Mort aux
Prussiens! À la lanterne, Badinguet! Vive la République!"

Jack turned away from the window. The tall Sister of Mercy stood
beside the bed where Lorraine lay.

Jack made a sign.

"She is asleep," murmured the Sister; "you may come nearer now.
Close the window."

Before he could reach the bed the door was opened violently from
without, and an officer entered swinging a lantern. He did not
see Lorraine at first, but held the door open, saying to Jack:
"Pardon, monsieur; this house is reserved. I am very sorry to
trouble you."

Another officer entered, an old man, covered to the eyes by his
crimson gold-brocaded cap. Two more followed.

"There is a sick person here," said Jack. "You cannot have the
intention of turning her out! It is inhuman--"

He stopped short, stupefied at the sight of the old officer, who
now stood bareheaded in the lantern-light, looking at the bed
where Lorraine lay. It was the Emperor!--her father.

Slowly the Emperor advanced to the bed, his dreary eyes fixed on
Lorraine's pale cheeks.

In the silence the cries from the street outside rose clear and
distinct:

"Vive la République! À bas l'Empereur!"

The Emperor spoke, looking straight at Lorraine: "Gentlemen, we
cannot disturb a woman. Pray find another house."

After a moment the officers began to back out, one by one,
through the doorway. The Emperor still stood by the bed, his
vague, inscrutable eyes fixed on Lorraine.

Jack moved towards the bed, trembling. The Emperor raised his
colourless face.

"Monsieur--your sister? No--your wife?"

"My promised wife, sire," muttered Jack, cold with fear.

"A child," said the Emperor, softly.

With a vague gesture he stepped nearer, smoothed the coverlet,
bent closer, and touched the sleeping girl's forehead with his
lips. Then he stood up, gray-faced, impassive.

"I am an old man," he said, as though to himself. He looked at
Jack, who now came close to him, holding out something in one
hand. It was the steel box.

"For me, monsieur?" asked the Emperor.

Jack nodded. He could not speak.

The Emperor took the box, still looking at Jack.

There was a moment's silence, then Jack spoke: "It may be too
late. It is a plan of a balloon--we brought it to you from
Lorraine--"

The uproar in the streets drowned his voice--"Mort à l'Empereur!
À bas l'Empire!"

A staff-officer opened the door and peered in; the Emperor
stepped to the threshold.

"I thank you--I thank you both, my children," he said. His eyes
wandered again towards the bed; the cries in the street rang out
furiously.

"Mort à l'Empereur!"

The Sister of Mercy was kneeling by the bed; Jack shivered, and
dropped his head.

When he looked up the Emperor had gone.

All night long he watched at the bedside, leaning on his elbow,
one hand shading his eyes from the candle-flame. The Sister of
Mercy, white and worn with the duties of that terrible day, slept
upright in an arm-chair.

Dawn brought the sad notes of Prussian trumpets from the ramparts
pealing through the devastated city; at sunrise the pavements
rang and shook with the trample of the White Cuirassiers. A Saxon
infantry band burst into the "Wacht am Rhine" at the Paris Gate;
the Place Turenne vomited Uhlans. Jack sank down by the bed,
burying his face in the sheets.

The Sister of Mercy rubbed her eyes and started up. She touched
Jack on the shoulder.

"I am going to be very ill," he said, raising a face burning with
fever. "Never mind me, but stay with her."

"I understand," said the Sister, gently. "You must lie in the
room beyond."

The fever seized Jack with a swiftness incredible.

"Then--swear it--by the--by the Saviour there--there on your
crucifix!" he muttered.

"I swear," she answered, softly.

His mind wandered a little, but he set his teeth and rose,
staggering to the table. He wrote something on a bit of paper
with shaking fingers.

"Send for them," he said. "You can telegraph now. They are in
Brussels--my sister--my family--"

Then, blinded by the raging fever, he made his way uncertainly to
the bed, groped for Lorraine's hand, pressed it, and lay down at
her feet.

"Call the surgeon!" he gasped.

And it was very many days before he said anything else with as
much sense in it.

"God help them!" cried the Sister of Mercy, tearfully, her thin
hands clasped to her lips. Alone she guided Jack into the room
beyond.

Outside the Prussian bands were playing. The sun flung a long,
golden beam through the window straight across Lorraine's breast.

She stirred, and murmured in her sleep, "Jack! Jack! 'Tiens ta
Foy!'"

But Jack was past hearing now; and when, at sundown, the young
surgeon came into his room he was nearly past all aid.

"Typhoid?" asked the Sister.

"The Pest!" said the surgeon, gravely.

The Sister started a little.

"I will stay," she murmured. "Send this despatch when you go out.
Can he live?"

They whispered together a moment, stepping softly to the door of
the room where Lorraine lay.

"It can't be helped now," said the surgeon, looking at Lorraine;
"she'll be well enough by to-morrow; she must stay with you. The
chances are that he will die."

The trample of the White Cuirassiers in the street outside filled
the room; the serried squadrons thundered past, steel ringing on
steel, horses neighing, trumpets sounding the "Royal March."
Lorraine's eyes unclosed.

"Jack!"

There was no answer.

The surgeon whispered to the Sister of Mercy: "Don't forget to
hang out the pest flag."

"Jack! Jack!" wailed Lorraine, sitting up in bed. Through the
tangled masses of her heavy hair, gilded by the morning sunshine,
her eyes, bright with fever, roamed around the room, startled,
despairing. Under the window the White Cuirassiers were singing
as they rode:

    "Flieg', Adler, flieg'! Wir stürmen nach,
    Ein einig Volk in Waffen,
    Wir stürmen nach ob tausendfach
    Des Todes Pforten Klaffen!
    Und fallen wir, flieg', Adler, flieg'!
    Aus unserm Blute mächst der Sieg!
        Vorwärts!
      Flieg', Adler, flieg'!
        Victoria!
        Victoria!
      Mit uns ist Gott!"

Terrified, turning her head from side to side, Lorraine stretched
out her hands. She tried to speak, but her ears were filled with
the deep voices shouting the splendid battle-hymn--

    "Fly, Eagle! fly!
    With us is God!"

She crept out of bed, her bare feet white with cold, her bare
arms flushed and burning. Blinded by the blaze of the rising sun,
she felt her way around the room, calling, "Jack! Jack!" The
window was open; she crept to it. The street was a surging,
scintillating torrent of steel.

    "God with us!"

The White Cuirassiers shook their glittering sabres; the
melancholy trumpet's blast swept skyward; the standards flapped.
Suddenly the stony street trembled with the outcrash of drums;
the cuirassiers halted, the steel-mailed squadrons parted right
and left; a carriage drove at a gallop through the opened ranks.
Lorraine leaned from the window; the officer in the carriage
looked up.

As the fallen Emperor's eyes met Lorraine's, she stretched out
both little bare arms and cried: "Vive la France!"--and he was
gone to his captivity, the White Cuirassiers galloping on every
side.

The Sister of Mercy opened the door behind, calling her.

"He is dying," she said. "He is in here. Come quickly!"

Lorraine turned her head. Her eyes were sweet and serene, her
whole pale face transfigured.

"He will live," she said. "I am here."

"It is the pest!" muttered the Sister.

Lorraine glided into the hall and unclosed the door of the silent
room.

He opened his eyes.

"There is no death!" she whispered, her face against his. "There
is neither death nor sorrow nor dying."

The clamour in the street died out; the wind was still; the pest
flag under the window hung motionless.

He sighed; his eyes closed.

She stretched out beside him, her body against his, her bare arms
around his neck.

His heart fluttered; stopped; fluttered; was silent; moved once
again; ceased.

"Jack!"

Again his heart stirred--or was it her own?

When the morning sun broke over the ramparts of Sedan she fell
asleep in his arms, lulled by the pulsations of his heart.



XXXI

THE PROPHECY OF LORRAINE


When the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn arrived in Sedan from
Brussels the last of the French prisoners had been gone a week;
the foul city was swept clean; the corpse-choked river no longer
flung its dead across the shallows of the island of Glaires; the
canal was untroubled by the ghastly freight of death that had
collected like logs on a boom below the village of Iges.

All day the tramp of Prussian patrols echoed along the stony
streets; all day the sinister outburst of the hoarse Bavarian
bugles woke the echoes behind the ramparts. Red Cross flags
drooped in the sunshine from churches, from banks, from every
barrack, every depot, every public building. The pest flags waved
gaily over the Asylum and the little Museum. A few appeared along
the Avenue Philippoteaux, others still fluttered on the Gothic
church and the convent across the Viaduc de Torcy. Three miles
away the ruins of the village of Bazeilles lay in the bright
September sunshine. Bavarian soldiers in greasy corvée lumbered
among the charred chaos searching for their dead.

The plain of Illy, the heights of La Moncelle, Daigny, Givonne,
and Frénois were vast cemeteries. Dredging was going on along the
river, whither the curious small boys of Sedan betook themselves
and stayed from morning till night watching the recovering of
rusty sabres, bayonets, rifles, cannon, and often more grewsome
flotsam. It was probably the latter that drew the small boys like
flies; neither the one nor the other are easily glutted with
horrors.

The silver trumpets of the Saxon Riders were chorusing the noon
call from the Porte de Paris when a long train crept into the
Sedan station and pulled up in the sunshine, surrounded by a
cordon of Hanover Riflemen. One by one the passengers passed into
the station, where passports were shown and apathetic commissaires
took charge of the baggage.

There were no hacks, no conveyances of any kind, so the tall,
white-bearded gentleman in black, who stood waiting anxiously for
his passport, gave his arm to an old lady, heavily veiled, and
bowed down with the sudden age that great grief brings. Beside
her walked a young girl, also in deep mourning.

A man on crutches directed them to the Place Turenne, hobbling
after them to murmur his thanks for the piece of silver the girl
slipped into his hands.

"The number on the house is 31," he repeated; "the pest flag is
no longer outside."

"The pest?" murmured the old man under his breath.

At that moment a young girl came out of the crowded station,
looking around her anxiously.

"Lorraine!" cried the white-haired man.

She was in his arms before he could move. Madame de Morteyn clung
to her, too, sobbing convulsively; Dorothy hid her face in her
black-edged handkerchief.

After a moment Lorraine stepped back, drying her sweet eyes.
Dorothy kissed her again and again.

"I--I don't see why we should cry," said Lorraine, while the
tears ran down her flushed cheeks. "If he had died it would have
been different."

After a silence she said again:

"You will see. We are not unhappy--Jack and I. Monsieur Grahame
came yesterday with Rickerl, who is doing very well."

"Rickerl here, too?" whispered Dorothy.

Lorraine slipped an arm through hers, looking back at the old
people.

"Come," she said, serenely, "Jack is able to sit up." Then in
Dorothy's ear she whispered, "I dare not tell them--you must."

"Dare not tell them--"

"That--that I married Jack--this morning."

The girls' arms pressed each other.

German officers passed and repassed, rigid, supercilious, staring
at the young girls with that half-sneering, half-impudent,
near-sighted gaze peculiar to the breed. Their insolent eyes,
however, dropped before the clear, mild glance of the old
vicomte.

His face was furrowed by care and grief, but he held his white
head high and stepped with an elasticity that he had not known in
years. Defeat, disaster, sorrow, could not weaken him; he was of
the old stock, the real beau-sabreur, a relic of the old régime,
that grew young in the face of defeat, that died of a broken
heart at the breath of dishonour. There had been no dishonour, as
he understood it--there had been defeat, bitter defeat. That was
part of his trade, to face defeat nobly, courteously, chivalrously;
to bow with a smile on his lips to the more skilful adversary who
had disarmed him.

Bitterness he knew, when the stiff Prussian officers clanked past
along the sidewalk of this French city; despair he never dreamed
of. As for dishonour--that is the cry of the pack, the refuge of
the snarling mob yelping at the bombastic vociferations of some
mean-souled demagogue; and in Paris there were many, and the pack
howled in the Republic at the crack of the lash.

"Lady Hesketh is here, too," said Lorraine. "She appears to be a
little reconciled to her loss. Dorothy, it breaks my heart to see
Rickerl. He lies in his room all day, silent, ghastly white. He
does not believe that Alixe--did what she did--and died there at
Morteyn. Oh, I am glad you are here. Jack says you must tell
Rickerl nothing about Sir Thorald; nobody is to know that--now
all is ended."

"Yes," said Dorothy.

When they came to the house, Archibald Grahame and Lady Hesketh
met them at the door. Molly Hesketh had wept a great deal at
first. She wept still, but more moderately.

"My angel child!" she said, taking Dorothy to her bosom. Grahame
took off his hat.

The old people hurried to Jack's room above; Dorothy, guided by
Lorraine, hastened to Rickerl; Archibald Grahame looked genially
at Molly and said:

"Now don't, Lady Hesketh--I beg you won't. Try to be cheerful. We
must find something to divert you."

"I don't wish to," said Molly.

"There is a band concert this afternoon in the Place Turenne,"
suggested Grahame.

"I'll never go," said Molly; "I haven't anything fit to wear."

In the room above, Madame de Morteyn sat with Jack's hand in
hers, smiling through her tears. The old vicomte stood beside
her, one arm clasping Lorraine's slender waist.

"Children! children! wicked ones!" he repeated, "how dare you
marry each other like two little heathen?"

"It comes, my dear, from your having married an American wife,"
said Madame de Morteyn, brushing away the tears; "they do those
things in America."

"America!" grumbled the vicomte, perfectly delighted--"a nice
country for young savages. Lorraine, you at least should have
known better."

"I did," said Lorraine; "I ought to have married Jack long ago."

The vicomte was speechless; Jack laughed and pressed his aunt's
hands.

They spoke of Morteyn, of their hope that one day they might
rebuild it. They spoke, too, of Paris, cuirassed with steel,
flinging defiance to the German floods that rolled towards the
walls from north, south, west, and east.

"There is no death," said Lorraine; "the years renew their life.
We shall all live. France will be reborn."

"There is no death," repeated the old man, and kissed her on the
brow.

So they stood there in the sunlight, tearless, serene, moved by the
prophecy of their child Lorraine. And Lorraine sat beside her husband,
her fathomless blue eyes dreaming in the sunlight--dreaming of her
Province of Lorraine, of the Honour of France, of the Justice of
God--dreaming of love and the sweetness of her youth, unfolding like
a fresh rose at dawn, there on her husband's breast.


 THE END



 BOOKS BY
    ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

    LORRAINE. Post 8vo                             $1.25

    THE CONSPIRATORS. Ill'd. Post 8vo               1.50

    A YOUNG MAN IN A HURRY. Ill'd. Post 8vo         1.50

    CARDIGAN. Illustrated. Post 8vo                 1.50

    THE MAID-AT-ARMS. Illustrated. Post 8vo         1.50

    THE KING IN YELLOW. Post 8vo                    1.50

    THE MAIDS OF PARADISE. Ill'd. Post 8vo          1.50

    IN SEARCH OF THE UNKNOWN. Ill'd. Post 8vo       1.50

    OUTDOORLAND. Ill'd in Colors. Sq. 8vo, net      1.50

    ORCHARDLAND. Ill'd in Colors. Sq. 8vo, net      1.50

    RIVERLAND. Ill'd in Colors. Sq. 8vo, net        1.50

    THE MYSTERY OF CHOICE. 16mo                     1.25

    HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, N. Y.





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enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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