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Title: A Girl of the Commune
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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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.

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A GIRL OF THE
COMMUNE

BY

G. A. HENTY
AUTHOR OF "IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE," "WITH LEE IN
VIRGINIA," ETC.


NEW YORK
R. F. FENNO & COMPANY
9 AND 11 EAST 16TH STREET


COPYRIGHT, 1895

BY G. A. HENTY



A GIRL OF THE COMMUNE.



CHAPTER I.


Jeremiah Brander was one of the most prominent personages in the
Cathedral town of Abchester. He inhabited an old-fashioned, red brick
house near the end of the High Street. On either side was a high wall
facing the street, and from this a garden, enclosing the house,
stretched away to a little stream some two hundred yards in the rear; so
that the house combined the advantage of a business residence in front,
with those of seclusion, an excellent garden, and an uninterrupted view
behind.

Jeremiah Brander enjoyed, in a very large degree, the confidence and
respect of his fellow-townsmen. His father and his grandfather had been,
like himself, solicitors, and he numbered among his clients most of the
county families round. Smaller business he left to the three younger men
who divided between them the minor legal business of the place. He in no
way regarded them as rivals, and always spoke of them benevolently as
worthy men to whom all such business as the collection of debts,
criminal prosecutions, and such matters as the buying and selling of
houses in the town, could be safely entrusted. As for himself he
preferred to attend only to business in his own line, and he seldom
accepted fresh clients, never, indeed, until a new-comer had taken his
place among the accepted society of the county.

In the public business of the city, however, he played a very important
part. He was Town Clerk, treasurer of several societies, solicitor to
the Abchester County and City Bank, legal adviser of the Cathedral
Authorities, deacon of the principal Church, City Alderman, president of
the Musical Society, treasurer of the Hospital, a director of the Gas
Company, and was in fact ready at all times to take a prominent part in
any movement in the place.

He was a man of some fifty years of age, inclined to be stout, somewhat
florid in complexion, and always dressed with scrupulous care. There was
nothing about him to indicate that he belonged to the legal profession.
His talk as a rule was genial and almost cheery, but his manner varied
according to the circumstances. In his capacity as treasurer he was
concise and business-like; in matters connected with the Church he was a
little given to be dogmatic, which, considering the liberality of his
subscriptions to all the Church objects and charities was but natural.

As president of the Musical Society he was full of tact, and acted the
part of general conciliator in all the numerous squabbles, jealousies,
and heart-burnings incidental to such associations. In every one of the
numerous offices he filled he gave unbounded satisfaction, and the only
regret among his fellow-townsmen was that he had on three occasions
refused to accept the honor of the Mayoralty, alleging, and with a fair
show of reason, that although ready at all times to aid to the utmost in
any movement set afoot for the advantage of the city, it was impossible
for him to spare the time required to perform properly the duties of
Mayor.

Jeremiah Brander had married the daughter of a gentleman of an old
county family which had fallen somewhat in circumstances. It was rumored
at the time that he had lent some assistance to the head of the family,
and that the match was scarcely a willing one on the lady's part.
However that might be, no whisper had ever been heard that the marriage
was an unhappy one. It was regarded as rather a come-down for her, but
if so she never showed that she felt it as a fall. The marriage had
certainly improved his standing in the county. His wife formed a sort of
link between him and his clients, and he occupied a considerably better
position among them than his father had done, being generally accepted
as a friend as well as a legal adviser.

It is not to be supposed that so successful a man had no detractors. One
of his legal brethren had been heard to speak of him contemptuously as a
humbug. A medical practitioner who had failed to obtain the post of
House Surgeon at the Hospital, owing to the support the President had
given to another competitor for the post, had alluded to him bitterly as
a blatant ass; and a leading publican who had been fined before the
magistrates for diluting his spirits, was in the habit of darkly
uttering his opinion that Jerry Brander was a deep card and up to no
good.

But as every great man has his enemies, the opinion of a few malcontents
went for nothing in the general consensus of admiration for one who was
generally regarded as among the pillars of Abchester society, and an
honor to the city.

"It is high time you did something, Jerry," his wife said to him one
morning after their three daughters had left the breakfast-table.

"In what way, Eliza?" Mr. Brander said, looking up from his newspaper;
"it seems to me I do a good deal."

"You know what I mean," she said, sharply. "You know you promised me a
hundred times that you would give up all this miserable business and
settle down in the county. The girls are growing up, Mary has just left
Girton and is of an age to go into society."

"She may be of age," Mr. Brander said, with an irritability unusual to
him, "but it strikes me that society is the last thing she is thinking
of. We made a mistake altogether in giving way to her and letting her go
to that place; she has got her head full of all sorts of absurd ideas
about woman's mission and woman's duties, and nonsense of that sort, and
has got out of hand altogether. You have not a shadow of influence over
her, and I can't say that I have much more. Thank goodness her sisters
don't take after her in any way."

"Well, that is all true," Mrs. Brander said, "and you know we have
agreed on that subject for a long time, but it is no answer to my
question. I have been content to live all these years in this miserable
dull place, because I was fool enough to believe your promise that you
would in time give up all this work and take a position in the county."

"To some extent I kept my promise," he said. "There is not a week that
we don't drive half-a-dozen miles, and sometimes a dozen, to take part
in a dull dinner."

"That is all very well so far as it goes, but we simply go to these
dinners because you are the family lawyer and I am your wife."

"Well, well, you know, Eliza, that I was in treaty for the Haywood's
Estate when that confounded mine that I had invested in went wrong, and
fifteen thousand were lost at a blow--a nice kettle of fish we made
between us of that."

"We," she repeated, scornfully.

"Yes, we. You know perfectly well that before I went into it I consulted
you. The mine was paying well then, and at the rate I bought in would
have paid twenty per cent on the investment. I told you that there was a
certain risk always with these mines, and that it was either a big
addition to our income or a total loss."

"Yes, but you said that coal mines were not like other mines."

"And as a rule they are not," he said, "but there was first that great
strike, then a fall in the price of coal, and then just when things
began to look better again we came upon that fault that nobody had
dreamt of being there, and then the whole thing went to smash. You must
not be impatient. I am as anxious as you are, Eliza, to have done with
all this, and I hope by the time Clara and Julia are ready to come out,
I may be able to carry out the plans we have always had--I as much as
you. Tancred takes a great deal of the work off my hands now, and I can
see that he has the confidence of most of my people. In another couple
of years I shall have no fear of the business falling off if I hand it
over to him entirely. You know he has only a fifth share, and I have no
doubt he will be glad to arrange to pay me half or perhaps three-fifths
when I retire. Now I must be going across to the office."

The office was situated in a smaller house standing opposite the
lawyer's residence. In his father's time a portion of the ground floor
of the house was devoted to business purposes, but after his marriage
Jeremiah Brander had taken the house opposite and made it his place of
business.

About twelve o'clock a gig drew up at the door; a moment later a young
clerk came in.

"Doctor Edwards wishes to speak to you, Mr. Brander."

"Show him in."

"Well, doctor," he said, as his visitor entered, "it is seldom that I
see you here, though we meet often enough elsewhere. Come you to buy or
to sell, or do you want a will prepared or a patient sued? If so you
know that's altogether out of my line."

"I quite understand that, Brander," the other said, as he took the
armchair the lawyer pointed out to him. "No, I have come to tell you
something you will be very sorry to hear. I have just come in from
Fairclose. I had a note from Hartington last night asking me to go over
first thing this morning."

"He does not look like a man who would require professional services,
doctor; he is sixty, I suppose, but he could tire out most of the
younger men either across country or after the partridges."

"Yes, he looks as hard as iron and sound as a roach, but appearances are
deceptive. I should have said as you do yesterday if anyone had asked
me. I have come to tell you to-day in confidence that he has not many
months, perhaps not many weeks to live."

The lawyer uttered an exclamation of surprise and regret.

"Yes, it is a bad business," the doctor went on, "he told me that when
he came back from hunting yesterday he went upstairs to change when
suddenly the room seemed to go round. Fortunately he had just sat down
on a couch and taken off his top boots, and he fell sideways on to it.
He says he was insensible for about half an hour; the first thing he was
conscious of was the servant knocking at the door, to say that dinner
was ready; he told the man that he did not feel well and should not go
down; he got off his things and lay down for an hour and then felt well
enough to write the note to me. Of course I made a thorough examination
of him, and found that, as I feared, it was a bad case of heart disease,
probably latent for a long time, but now I should say making rapid
progress. Of course I told him something of the truth.

"'Is it as bad as that?' he said. 'I have felt a lot of palpitation
lately after a hard run with the hounds, and fancied something must be
wrong. Well, say nothing about it, doctor; when it comes it must come,
but I don't want my affairs to be discussed or to know that every man I
meet is saying to himself 'poor old buffer, we shan't have him long
among us.'

"Then he said more seriously, 'I would rather it should be so than that
I should outgrow my strength and become a confirmed invalid. I have
enjoyed my life and have done my best to do my duty as a landlord and as
a magistrate. I am as prepared to die now as I should be twenty years
on. I have been rather a lonely man since I lost my wife. Cuthbert's
ways are not my ways, for he likes life in London, cares nothing for
field sports. But we can't all be cast in one groove, you know, and I
have never tried to persuade him to give up his life for mine, why
should I? However, though I wish you to tell no one else, I should be
glad if you will call on Brander and ask him to drive over. I made my
will years ago, but there are a few matters I should like to talk over
with him.'"

"This is sad, indeed," the lawyer said, sympathetically. "The
Squire--everyone about here calls him the Squire, you know, though there
are men with broader acres than his in the neighborhood--will be
terribly missed. Dear, dear, it will make a sad gap indeed: how long do
you think he is likely to last?"

"He might go at any moment, Brander; but as he has rallied from this
shock it may be some little time before he has another. I should give
him perhaps a couple of months. By the way, I think his son ought to be
informed of it."

"I will ask him about it," the lawyer said. "Of course Cuthbert ought
to know, but may be the Squire will keep it entirely to himself. I
should say there is nothing that would upset him more than the thought
of being fretted over, and I am not sure that he is not right. Of course
I shall drive over there this afternoon."

After Dr. Edwards had left, Jeremiah Brander sat for a long time in deep
thought. Once the clerk came in to ask for instructions about a deed
that he was drawing up, but he waved him away impatiently. "Put it
aside," he said, "I cannot see to it just now, I am busy, and not to be
disturbed for the next hour, whoever comes."

It was evidently a difficult problem Jeremiah Brander had to solve. He
took out his bank-book and went through his payments for a long while
back and then went through some bundles of old checks. One of these he
took off the file; it was for the sum of fifteen thousand pounds, made
payable to self.

"It is lucky now," he muttered, "that I drew it, as I didn't want it
known even in the bank what I was putting the money into," then from a
strongbox with the name "J. W. Hartington," he took out a bundle of
documents, many of which were receipts for money signed by the Squire,
carefully examined the dates and amounts, and put them down on a piece
of paper.

"There would be no difficulty about the signature," he said; "none
whatever; a child could imitate it."

Laying one of the sheets before him he wrote on a sheet of foolscap "J.
W. Hartington" a score of times, imitating the somewhat crabbed
handwriting so accurately that even an expert would have had some
difficulty in detecting the difference; he then tore the sheet into
small pieces, put them into the heart of the fire, and watched them
shrivel up to nothing.

"I think it could be done without the slightest risk," he said to
himself, "if one managed the details carefully." Then he sat down and
remained for half an hour without stirring. "It can be done," he said at
last, "it is well worth trying; the property ought to be worth seventy
thousand, but at a forced sale it might go for fifty-five or sixty. I
reckoned last week that I could sell out my stocks for twenty-six
thousand, which, with the fifteen thousand, would bring it over forty,
and I could raise the balance on the estate without difficulty; then
with the rents and what I shall draw for this business, I shall be in
clover." He locked up the papers carefully, put on his hat, and went
across the road to lunch.

There was no trace in his face or manner of the grave matters that had
occupied his thoughts for the last two hours. He was cheerful and even
gay over the meal. He joked Mary about the advancement of women, told
the other girls that he intended that they should take lessons in
riding, gave them an amusing account of the meeting of the Musical
Society he had attended the evening before, and told his wife that she
must dress specially well at the dinner they were going to that evening,
as he had heard that most of the county big-wigs would be there.

Mr. Brander was always pleasant in the bosom of his family, occasionally
sharp words might pass when he and his wife were alone, but when the
girls were present he was always the genial father. There is no better
advertisement for a man than his children's talk. They are unconsciously
his best trumpeters, and when Mr. Brander's name was mentioned and his
many services to his townsmen talked over, the fact that he was one of
the best and kindest of men in his family circle, and that his girls
positively worshipped him, was sure to be adduced as final and clinching
evidence of the goodness of his character.

After lunch he went down to the bank and had a private interview with
the manager.

"By the bye," he said, after a short talk, "I have a client who wants to
buy fifty shares."

The manager glanced sharply at him.

"They stand at a premium," Mr. Brander went on, as if not noticing the
glance; "though they have fallen thirty shillings lately. It is not an
investment I should myself recommend, but at the same time, for various
reasons, I did not care to endeavor to dissuade him; it would scarcely
do for it to be reported that I had said anything to the disadvantage of
this institution, standing as I do in the position of its solicitor. I
think you mentioned the other day that you held rather more shares than
you cared for, perhaps you could let me have some?"

The other nodded. "I could part with fifty," he said, dryly.

"Let me think, when was the last board meeting?"

"This day fortnight."

"I have rather neglected the matter in the pressure of business," Mr.
Brander said, quietly, "and my client thinks the matter is already
concluded, so perhaps it would be as well to date the transfer on the
day after the board meeting, and I will date my check accordingly."

"It will be all the same to me," the manager said, "shall I draw out the
transfer at once?"

"Do so. The shares stand at six pounds ten, I think, so I will draw you
out a check for three hundred and twenty-five pounds. That will be
right, I think," and he wrote a check and handed it across to the
manager.

"What name shall I put in as the purchaser, Mr. Brander?"

"James William Hartington."

The manager lifted his brows and hesitated for a moment, but then,
without a remark, filled in the transfer, dating it as requested.

"I must get two of the clerks to witness my signature," he said.

The lawyer nodded.

Two young clerks were fetched up by the messenger.

"I only want you to witness my signature," the manager said, as he
signed his name. "Please to sign here, Mr. Karford; now Mr. Levison, you
sign underneath." He held his finger to the spot where they were to sign
in such a way that they could not even if they wished read the name
inserted in the body of the document.

"I will take it away with me and obtain Hartington's signature," Mr.
Brander said, after they had left the room, "I am going over to see him
now. I will send it in to you before the next board meeting, and by the
way it would be as well when you get it stamped to pass it in with
several others. I know how these things are done, and in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred the directors don't even glance at the names on
the transfers. Of course they are nothing to them, they have other
things to think about, but there might possibly be some remark at your
transferring some of your shares just at the present moment. By the
way," he said, carelessly, "I don't think if I were you I would make any
further advances to Mildrake. Of course, he has a big business, and no
doubt he is all right, but I have learned privately that they are not
doing as well as they seem to be, and I know the bank is pretty deep
there already."

The manager turned somewhat paler, but said, though with manifest
effort--

"They are perfectly safe, Mr. Brander, as safe as a bank."

"No doubt, no doubt, Mr. Cumming, but you know all banks are not
perfectly safe. Well, I dare say you can manage that for me."

"Certainly, there can be no difficulty whatever about it. I have ten or
twelve other transfers, and there will doubtless be some more before
next board meeting. The affixing the stamp is a purely mechanical
business."

After the lawyer had left Mr. Cumming sat for some time passing his hand
nervously over his chin.

"Brander evidently has an idea that all is not right," he thought to
himself. "Of course he cannot know how things really stand or he would
never have let Hartington take shares. It is a curious transaction
altogether, and I cannot make head nor tail of it. However, that is no
business of mine. I will cash the check at once and send the money to
town with the rest; if Mildrake can hold on we may tide matters over for
the present; if not there will be a crash. However, he promised to send
me forty-eight hours' notice, and that will be enough for me to arrange
matters and get off."

Returning to his office the lawyer found his gig waiting at the door,
and at once drove over to Fairclose, Mr. Hartington's place.

"I am grieved, indeed, to hear the news Edwards brought me this
morning," he said, as he entered the room where the Squire was sitting.

"Yes, it is rather sudden, Brander, but a little sooner or a little
later does not make much difference after all. Edwards told you, of
course, that I want nothing said about it."

"That is so."

"Nothing would annoy me more than to have any fuss. I shall just go on
as I have before, except that I shall give up hunting; it is just the
end of the season, and there will be but two or three more meets. I
shall drive to them and have a chat with my friends and see the hounds
throw off. I shall give out that I strained myself a bit the last time I
was out, and must give up riding for a time. Have you brought my will
over with you?"

"Yes, I thought you might want to add something to it."

"That is right, there are two or three small legacies I have thought of;
there is a list of them."

Mr. Brander took out the will and added a codicil. The legacies were
small ones of ten or twenty pounds to various old people in the village,
and the work occupied but a few minutes. The housekeeper and one of the
men were called up to witness the signature, and when they had retired
Mr. Brander sat chatting for half an hour on general topics, Mr.
Hartington avoiding any further allusion to the subject of his illness.
Mr. Brander got back in time to dress comfortably for dinner.

"Really, Mary," he said, when he went into the drawing-room where his
wife and Mary were waiting ready for him, "I do think you might dress
yourself a little more brightly when we are going to such a house as we
are to-night. I don't say that that black silk with the lace and those
white flowers are not becoming, but I think something lighter and gayer
would be more appropriate to a young girl."

"I don't like colors, father, and if it hadn't been for mamma I should
never have thought of getting these expensive flowers. I do think women
lower themselves by dressing themselves as butterflies. No wonder men
consider they think of nothing but dress and have no minds for higher
matters."

"Pooh, pooh, my dear, the first duty of a young woman is to look as
pretty as she can. According to my experience men don't trouble
themselves much about the mind, and a butterfly after all is a good deal
more admired than a bee, though the bee is much more useful in the long
run."

"If a woman is contented to look like a butterfly, father, she must be
content to be taken for one, but I must say I think it is degrading that
men should look upon it in that light. They don't dress themselves up in
all sorts of colors, why should we."

"I am sure I can't tell you why, Mary, but I suppose it is a sort of
instinct, and instincts are seldom wrong. If it had been intended that
women should dress themselves as plainly and monotonously as we do, they
would not have had the love of decorating themselves implanted almost
universally among them. You are on the wrong track, child, on the wrong
track altogether, and if you and those who think like you imagine that
you are going to upset the laws of nature and to make women rivals of
men in mind if not in manner, instead of being what they were meant to
be, wives and mothers, you are althogether mistaken."

"That is only another way of putting it, father, that because woman have
for ages been treated as inferiors they ought always to remain so."

"Well, well, my dear, we won't argue over it. I think you are altogether
wrong, but I have no objection to your going your own way and finding it
out at last for yourself, but that does not alter my opinion that on an
occasion of a set dinner-party in the county where everybody will be in
their fullest fig, that dress, which is pretty and becoming enough in
its way, I admit, can hardly be considered as appropriate."

Mary did not answer, but gave an almost imperceptible shrug of her
shoulders, expressing clearly her absolute indifference to other
people's tastes so long as she satisfied her own. Mary was indeed
decided in most of her opinions. Although essentially feminine in most
respects, she and the set to which she had belonged at Girton, had
established it as a principle to their own satisfaction, that feminine
weaknesses were to be sternly discouraged as the main cause of the
position held relatively to men. Thus they cultivated a certain
brusqueness of speech, expressed their opinion uncompromisingly, and
were distinguished by a certain plainness in the fashion of their gowns,
and by the absence of trimmings, frillings, and similar adornments.

At heart she was as fond of pretty things as other girls of her age, and
had, when she attired herself, been conscious that she felt a greater
satisfaction at her appearance than she ought to have done, and doubted
whether she had not made an undue concession to the vanities of society
in the matter of her laces and flowers. She had, however, soothed her
conscience by the consideration that she was at home but for a short
time, and while there she might well fall in with her parents' views, as
she would be soon starting for Germany to enter upon earnest work. Her
father's remarks then were in a sense satisfactory to her, as they
showed that, although she had made concessions, she had at least gone
but half-way.

The dinner passed off well. Mary was fortunate in being taken down by a
gentleman who had advanced views on the necessity of British
agriculturists adopting scientific farming if they were to hold their
own against foreign producers, and she surprised him by the interest she
exhibited in his theories. So much so, that he always spoke of her
afterwards as one of the most intelligent young women he had ever met.

Mr. Brander was in remarkably good spirits. On such occasions he
entirely dropped his profession, and showed a keen interest in all
matters connected with the land. No one would that evening have supposed
that his mind was in the smallest degree preoccupied by grave matters of
any kind.



CHAPTER II.


As his father had said, Cuthbert Harrington's tastes differed widely
from his own. Cuthbert was essentially a Londoner, and his friends would
have had difficulty in picturing him as engaged in country pursuits.
Indeed, Cuthbert Hartington, in a scarlet coat, or toiling through a
turnip field in heavy boots with a gun on his shoulder, would have been
to them an absurd anomaly.

It was not that he lacked strength; on the contrary, he was tall and
well, if loosely, built. Grace is not a common manly attribute, but he
possessed it to an eminent degree. There was a careless ease in his
manner, an unconscious picturesqueness in his poses, a turn, that would
have smacked of haughtiness had there been the slightest element of
pride in his disposition, in the curve of the neck, and well-poised
head.

His life was chiefly passed among artists, and like them as a class, he
affected loose and easy attire. He wore turn-down collars with a
carelessly-knotted necktie, and a velvet jacket. He was one of those men
whom his intimates declared to be capable of doing anything he chose,
and who chose to do nothing. He had never distinguished himself in any
way at Harrow. He had maintained a fair place in his forms as he moved
up in the school, but had done so rather from natural ability than from
study. He had never been in the eleven, although it was the general
opinion he would have certainly had a place in it had he chosen to play
regularly. As he sauntered through Harrow so he sauntered through
Cambridge; keeping just enough chapels and lectures to avoid getting
into trouble, passing the examinations without actual discredit, rowing
a little, playing cricket when the fit seized him, but preferring to
take life easily and to avoid toil, either mental or bodily.
Nevertheless he read a great deal, and on general subjects was one of
the best informed men of his college.

He spent a good deal of his time in sketching and painting, art being
his one passion. His sketches were the admiration of his friends, but
although he had had the best lessons he could obtain at the University
he lacked the application and industry to convert the sketches into
finished paintings. His vacations were spent chiefly on the Continent,
for his life at home bored him immensely, and to him a week among the
Swiss lakes, or in the galleries of Munich or Dresden, was worth more
than all the pleasures that country life could give him.

He went home for a short time after leaving the University, but his stay
there was productive of pleasure to neither his father nor himself. They
had not a single taste in common, and though Cuthbert made an effort to
take an interest in field sports and farming, it was not long before his
father himself told him that as it was evident the life was altogether
distasteful to him, and his tastes lay in another direction, he was
perfectly ready to make him an allowance that would enable him either to
travel or to live in chambers in London.

"I am sorry, of course, lad," he said, "that you could not make yourself
happy with me here, but I don't blame you, for it is after all a matter
of natural disposition. Of course you will come down here sometimes, and
at any rate I shall be happier in knowing that you are living your own
life and enjoying yourself in your own way, than I should be in seeing
you trying in vain to take to pursuits from which you would derive no
pleasure whatever."

"I am awfully sorry, father," Cuthbert had said. "I heartily wish it had
been otherwise, but I own that I would rather live in London on an
almost starvation income than settle down here. I have really tried hard
to get to like things that you do. I feel it would have been better if I
had always stayed here and had a tutor; then, no doubt, I should have
taken to field sports and so on. However, it is no use regretting that
now, and I am very thankful for your offer."

Accordingly he had gone up to London, taken chambers in Gray's Inn,
where two or three of his college friends were established, and joined a
Bohemian Club, where he made the acquaintance of several artists, and
soon became a member of their set. He had talked vaguely of taking up
art as a profession, but nothing ever came of it. There was an easel or
two in his rooms and any number of unfinished paintings; but he was
fastidious over his own work and unable from want of knowledge of
technique to carry out his ideas, and the canvases were one after
another thrown aside in disgust. His friends upbraided him bitterly with
his want of application, not altogether without effect; he took their
remonstrances in perfect good temper, but without making the slightest
effort to improve. He generally accompanied some of them on their
sketching expeditions to Normandy, Brittany, Spain, or Algiers, and his
portfolios were the subject of mingled admiration and anger among his
artist friends in St. John's Wood; admiration at the vigor and talent
that his sketches displayed, anger that he should be content to do
nothing greater.

His days were largely spent in their studios where, seated in the most
comfortable chair he could find, he would smoke lazily and watch them at
work and criticise freely. Men grumbled and laughed at his presumption,
but were ready to acknowledge the justice of his criticism. He had an
excellent eye for color and effect and for the contrast of light and
shade, and those whose pictures were hung, were often ready enough to
admit that the canvas owed much of its charm to some happy suggestion on
Cuthbert's often ready part.

Every two or three months he went home for a fortnight. He was greatly
attached to his father, and it was the one drawback to the contentment
of his life that he had been unable to carry out the Squire's wishes,
and to settle down with him at Fairclose. He would occasionally bemoan
himself over this to his friends.

"I am as bad as the prodigal son," he would say, "except that I don't
get what I deserve, and have neither to feed on husks nor to tend swine;
but though the fatted calf would be ready for me if I were to return I
can't bring myself to do so."

"I don't know about being a prodigal," Wilson, one of the oldest of his
set would grumble in reply, "but I do know you are a lazy young beggar,
and are wasting your time and opportunities; it is a thousand pities you
were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Your father ought to have
turned you adrift with an allowance just sufficient to have kept you on
bread and butter, and have left you to provide everything else for
yourself; then you would have been an artist, sir, and would have made a
big name for yourself. You would have had no occasion to waste your time
in painting pot-boilers, but could have devoted yourself to good,
honest, serious work, which is more than most of us can do. We are
obliged to consider what will sell and to please the public by turning
out what they call pretty pictures--children playing with dogs, and
trumpery things of that sort. Bah, it is sickening to see a young fellow
wasting his life so."

But Cuthbert only laughed good-temperedly, he was accustomed to such
tirades, and was indeed of a singularly sweet and easy temper.

It was the end of the first week in May, the great artistic event of the
year was over, the Academy was opened, the pictures had been seen and
criticised, there was the usual indignation at pictures being hung
generally voted to be daubs, while others that had been considered among
the studios as certain of acceptance, had been rejected. Two or three of
Cuthbert's friends were starting at once for Cornwall to enjoy a rest
after three months' steady work and to lay in a stock of fresh sketches
for pictures for the following year.

"I will go with you," Cuthbert said when they informed him of their
intention, "it is early yet, but it is warm enough even for loafing on
the rocks, and I hate London when it's full. I will go for a fortnight
anyhow," and so with Wilson and two younger men, he started for Newquay,
on the north of Cornwall. Once established there the party met only at
meals.

"We don't want to be doing the same bits," Wilson said, "and we shall
see plenty of each other of an evening." Cuthbert was delighted with the
place, and with his usual enthusiasm speedily fixed upon a subject, and
setting up his easel and camp-stool began work on the morning after his
arrival. He had been engaged but a few hours when two young ladies came
along. They stopped close to him, and Cuthbert, who hated being
overlooked when at work, was on the point of growling an anathema under
his fair drooping mustache, when one of the girls came close and said
quietly--

"How are you, Mr. Hartington? Who would have thought of meeting you
here?"

He did not recognize her for a moment and then exclaimed--

"Why, it is Mary Brander. I beg your pardon," he went on, taking off his
soft, broad-brimmed hat, "I ought to have said Miss Brander, but having
known you so long as Mary Brander, the name slipped out. It must have
been three years since we met, and you have shot up from a girl into a
full-grown young lady. Are your father and mother here?"

"No, I came down last week to stay with my friend, Miss Treadwyn, who
was at Girton with me. Anna, this is Mr. Cuthbert Hartington. Mr.
Hartington's place is near Abchester, and he is one of my father's
clients."

Miss Treadwyn bowed and Cuthbert took off his hat.

"We have known each other ever since we were children," Mary went on,
"that is to say ever since I was a child, for he was a big boy then; he
often used to come into our house, while Mr. Hartington was going into
business matters with my father, and generally amused himself by teasing
me. He used to treat me as if I was a small sort of monkey, and
generally ended by putting me in a passion; of course that was in the
early days."

"Before you came to years of discretion, Miss Brander. You were growing
a very discreet damsel when I last saw you, and I felt rather afraid of
you. I know that you were good enough to express much disapproval of me
and my ways."

"Very likely I did, though I don't remember it. I think I was very
outspoken in those days."

"I do not think you have changed much in that respect, Mary," Miss
Treadwyn said.

"Why should one say what one does not think," Mary said, sturdily, "it
would be much better if we all did so. Do you not agree with me, Mr.
Hartington?"

"It depends upon what 'better' means; it would be awful to think of the
consequences if we all did so. Society would dissolve itself into its
component parts and every man's hand would be against his neighbor. I do
not say that people should say what they do not think, but I am sure
that the world would not be so pleasant as it is by a long way if every
one was to say exactly what he did think. Just imagine what the
sensation of authors or artists would be if critics were to state their
opinions with absolute candor!"

"I think it were better if they did so, Mr. Hartington; in that case
there would be fewer idiotic books written and fewer men wasting their
lives in trying vainly to produce good paintings."

"That is true enough," Cuthbert laughed, "but you must remember that
critics do not buy either books or paintings, and that there are plenty
of people who buy the idiotic books and are perfectly content with
pictures without a particle of artistic merit."

"I suppose so," she admitted, reluctantly, "but so much the worse, for
it causes mediocrity!"

"But we are most of us mediocre--authors like Dickens, Thackeray, and
George Eliot are the exception--and so are artists like Millais and
Landseer, but when books and paintings give pleasure they fulfil their
purpose, don't they?"

"If their purpose is to afford a livelihood to those that make them, I
suppose they do, Mr. Hartington; but they do not fulfil what ought to be
their purpose--which should, of course, be to elevate the mind or to
improve the taste."

He shook his head.

"That is too lofty an ideal altogether for me," he said. "I doubt
whether men are much happier for their minds being improved or their
tastes elevated, unless they are fortunate enough to have sufficient
means to gratify those tastes. If a man is happy and contented with the
street he lives in, the house he inhabits, the pictures on his walls,
and the books he gets from a library, is he better off when you teach
him that the street is mean and ugly, the house an outrage on
architectural taste, the wall-papers revolting, the pictures daubs, and
the books trash? Upon my word I don't think so. I am afraid I am a
Philistine."

"But you are an artist, are you not, Mr. Hartington," Miss Treadwyn
said, looking at the sketch which had already made considerable
progress.

"Unfortunately, no; I have a taste for art, but that is all. I should be
better off if I had not, for then I should be contented with doing
things like this; as it is I am in a perpetual state of grumble because
I can do no better."

"You know the Latin proverb _meliora video_, and so on, Mr. Hartington,
does it apply?"

"That is the first time I have had Latin quoted against me by a young
lady," Cuthbert said, smilingly, but with a slight flush that showed the
shaft had gone home. "I will not deny that the quotation exactly hits my
case. I can only plead that nature, which gave me the love for art, did
not give me the amount of energy and the capacity for hard work that are
requisite to its successful cultivation, and has not even given me the
stimulus of necessity, which is, I fancy, the greatest human motor."

"I should be quite content to paint as well as you do, Mr. Hartington,"
Anna Treadwyn said. "It must add immensely to the pleasure of travelling
to be able to carry home such remembrances of places one has seen."

"Yes, it does so, Miss Treadwyn. I have done a good deal of wandering
about in a small way, and have quite a pile of portfolios by whose aid I
can travel over the ground again and recall not only the scenery but
almost every incident, however slight, that occurred in connection
therewith."

"Well, Anna, I think we had better be continuing our walk."

"I suppose we had. May I ask, Mr. Hartington, where you are staying? I
am sure my mother will be very pleased if you will call upon us at
Porthalloc. There is a glorious view from the garden. I suppose you will
be at work all day, but you are sure to find us in of an evening."

"Yes, I fancy I shall live in the open air as long as there is light
enough to sketch by, Miss Treadwyn, but if your mother will be good
enough to allow me to waive ceremony, I will come up some evening after
dinner; in the meantime may I say that I shall always be found somewhere
along the shore, and will be glad to receive with due humility any
chidings that my old playmate, if she will allow me to call her so, may
choose to bestow upon me."

Anna Treadwyn nodded. "I expect we shall be here every day; the sea is
new to Mary, and at present she is wild about it."

"How could you go on so, Mary," she went on, as they continued their
walk.

"How could I?" the girl replied. "Have we not agreed that one of the
chief objects of women's lives should not only be to raise their own sex
to the level of man, but generally to urge men to higher aims, and yet
because I have very mildly shown my disapproval of Cuthbert Hartington's
laziness and waste of his talents, you ask me how I can do it!"

"Well, you see, Mary, it is one thing for us to form all sorts of
resolutions when we were sitting eight or ten of us together in your
rooms at Girton; but when it comes to putting them into execution one
sees things in rather a different light. I quite agree with our theories
and I hope to live up to them, as far as I can, but it seems to me much
easier to put the theories into practice in a general way than in
individual cases. A clergyman can denounce faults from the pulpit
without giving offence to anyone, but if he were to take one of his
congregation aside and rebuke him, I don't think the experiment would be
successful."

"Nathan said unto David, thou art the man."

"Yes, my dear, but you will excuse my saying that at present you have
scarcely attained the position of Nathan."

Mary Brander laughed.

"Well, no, but you see Cuthbert Hartington is not a stranger. I have
known him ever since I can remember, and used to like him very much,
though he did delight in teasing me; but I have been angry with him for
a long time, and though I had forgotten it, I remember I did tell him my
mind last time I saw him. You see his father is a dear old man, quite
the beau-ideal of a country squire, and there he is all alone in his big
house while his son chooses to live up in London. I have heard my father
and mother say over and over again that he ought to be at home taking
his place in the county instead of going on his own way, and I have
heard other ladies say the same."

"Perhaps mothers with marriageable daughters, Mary," Anna Treadwyn said
with a smile, "but I don't really see why you should be so severe on him
for going his own way. You are yourself doing so without, I fancy, much
deference to your parents' opinions, and besides I have heard you many a
time rail against the soullessness of the conversation and the gossip
and tittle-tattle of society in country towns, meaning in your case in
Abchester, and should, therefore, be the last to blame him for revolting
against it."

"You forget, Anna," Mary said, calmly, "that the cases are altogether
different. He goes his way with the mere selfish desire to amuse
himself. I have set, what I believe to be a great and necessary aim
before me. I don't pretend that there is any sacrifice in it, on the
contrary it is a source of pleasure and satisfaction to devote myself to
the mission of helping my sex to regain its independence, and to take up
the position which it has a right to."

"Of course we are both agreed on that, my dear, we only differ in the
best way of setting about it."

"I don't suppose Mr. Hartington will take what I said to heart," Mary
replied serenely, "and if he does it is a matter of entire indifference
to me."

The subject of their conversation certainly showed no signs of taking
the matter to heart. He smiled as he resumed his work.

"She is just what she used to be," he said to himself. "She was always
terribly in earnest. My father was saying last time I was down that he
had learned from Brander that she had taken up all sorts of Utopian
notions about women's rights and so on, and was going to spend two
years abroad, to get up her case, I suppose. She has grown very pretty.
She was very pretty as a child, though of course last time I saw her she
was at the gawky age. She is certainly turning the tables on me, and she
hit me hard with that stale old Latin quotation. I must admit it was
wonderfully apt. She has a good eye for dress; it is not many girls that
can stand those severely plain lines, but they suit her figure and face
admirably. I must get her and her friend to sit on a rock and let me put
them into the foreground of one of my sketches; funny meeting her here,
however, it will be an amusement."

After that it became a regular custom for the two girls to stop as they
came along the shore for a chat with Cuthbert, sometimes sitting down on
the rocks for an hour; their stay, however, being not unfrequently cut
short by Mary getting up with heightened color and going off abruptly.
It was Cuthbert's chief amusement to draw her out on her favorite
subject, and although over and over again she told herself angrily that
she would not discuss it with him, she never could resist falling into
the snares Cuthbert laid for her. She would not have minded had he
argued seriously with her, but this was just what he did not do, either
laughing at her theory, or replying to her arguments with a mock
seriousness that irritated her far more than his open laughter.

Anna Treadwyn took little part in the discussions, but sat an amused
listener. Mary had been the recognized leader of her set at Girton; her
real earnestness and the fact that she intended to go abroad to fit
herself the better to carry out her theories, but making her a power
among the others. Much as Anna liked and admired her, it amused her
greatly to see her entangled in the dilemma, into which Cuthbert led
her, occasionally completely posing her by his laughing objections. Of
an evening Cuthbert often went up to Porthalloc, where he was warmly
welcomed by Anna's mother, whose heart he won by the gentle and
deferential manner that rendered him universally popular among the
ladies of the families of his artist friends. She would sit smilingly by
when the conflicts of the morning were sometimes renewed, for she saw
with satisfaction that Anna at least was certainly impressed with
Cuthbert's arguments and banter, and afforded very feeble aid to Mary
Brander in her defence of their opinions.

"I feel really obliged to you, Mr. Hartington," she said one evening,
when the two girls happened to be both out of the room when he arrived,
"for laughing Anna out of some of the ideas she brought back from
Girton. At one time these gave me a great deal of concern, for my ideas
are old-fashioned, and I consider a woman's mission is to cheer and
brighten her husband's home, to be a good wife and a good mother, and to
be content with the position God has assigned to her as being her right
and proper one. However, I have always hoped and believed that she would
grow out of her new-fangled ideas, which I am bound to say she never
carried to the extreme that her friend does. The fact that I am somewhat
of an invalid and that it is altogether impossible for her to carry out
such a plan as Miss Brander has sketched for herself, and that there is
no opportunity whatever for her to get up a propaganda in this quiet
little Cornish town, has encouraged that hope; she herself has said but
little on the subject since she came home, and I think your fights with
Miss Brander will go far to complete her cure."

"It is ridiculous from beginning to end," Cuthbert said, "but it is
natural enough. It is in just the same way that some young fellows start
in life with all sorts of wild radical notions, and settle down in
middle age into moderate Liberals, if not into contented Conservatives.
The world is good enough in its way and at any rate if it is to get
better it will be by gradual progress and not by individual effort.
There is much that is very true in Miss Brander's views that things
might be better than they are, it is only with her idea that she has a
mission to set them right that I quarrel. Earnestness is no doubt a good
thing, but too much of it is a misfortune rather than an advantage. No
doubt I am prejudiced," he laughed, "because I am afraid that I have no
particle of it in my composition. Circumstances have been against its
growth, and there is no saying what I might be if they were to change.
At present, at any rate, I have never felt the want of it, but I can
admire it among others even though I laugh at it."

A month passed, and Wilson and his two companions moved further along
the coast in search of fresh subjects, but Cuthbert declined to
accompany them, declaring that he found himself perfectly comfortable
where he was, at which his companions all laughed, but made no attempt
to persuade him further.

"Do you know, Mary," Anna said, a few days later, "you and Mr.
Hartington remind me strongly of Beatrice and Benedict."

"What do you mean, Anna?" Mary asked, indignantly.

"Nothing, my dear," Anna replied, demurely, "except that you are
perpetually quarrelling."

"We may be that," Mary said, shortly, "but we certainly shall not arrive
at the same kind of conclusion to our quarrel."

"You might do worse, Mary; Mr. Hartington is charming. My mother, who is
not given to general admiration, says he is one of the most delightful
men that she ever met. He is heir to a good estate, and unless I am
greatly mistaken, the idea has occurred to him if not to you. I thought
so before, but have been convinced of it since he determined to remain
here while those men he was with have all gone away."

"You will make me downright angry with you, Anna, if you talk such
nonsense," Mary said, severely. "You know very well that I have always
made up mind that nothing shall induce me to marry and give up my
freedom, at any rate for a great many years, and then only to a man who
will see life as I do, become my co-worker and allow me my independence.
Mr. Hartington is the last man I should choose; he has no aim or purpose
whatever, and he would ruin my life as well as his own. No, thank you.
However, I am convinced that you are altogether mistaken, and Cuthbert
Hartington would no more dream of asking me to be his wife than I should
of taking him for a husband--the idea is altogether preposterous."

However, a week later, Cuthbert, on going up to Porthalloc one morning,
and catching sight of Mary Brander in the garden by herself, joined her
there and astonished her by showing that Anna was not mistaken in her
view. He commenced abruptly--

"Do you know, Miss Brander, I have been thinking over your arguments,
and I have come to the conclusion that woman has really a mission in
life. Its object is not precisely that which you have set yourself, but
it is closely allied to it, my view being that her mission is to
contribute to the sum of human happiness by making one individual man
happy!"

"Do you mean, is it possible that you can mean, that you think woman's
mission is to marry?" she asked, with scorn, "are you going back to
that?"

"That is entirely what I meant, but it is a particular case I was
thinking of, rather than a general one. I was thinking of your case and
mine. I do not say that you might not do something towards adding to the
happiness of mankind, but mankind are not yearning for it. On the other
hand I am sure that you could make me happy, and I am yearning for that
kind of happiness."

"Are you really in earnest, Mr. Hartington?"

"Quite in earnest, very much so; in the six weeks that I have been here
I have learnt to love you, and to desire, more earnestly certainly than
I have ever desired anything before, that you should be my wife. I know
that you do not credit me with any great earnestness of purpose, but I
am quite earnest in this. I do love you, Mary."

"I am sorry to hear it, and am surprised, really and truly surprised. I
thought you disapproved of me altogether, but I did think you gave me
credit for being sincere. It is clear you did not, or you could not
suppose that I would give up all my plans before even commencing them. I
like you very much, Cuthbert, though I disapprove of you as much as I
thought you disapproved of me; but if ever I do marry, and I hope I
shall never be weak enough to do so, it must be to someone who has the
same views of life that I have; but I feel sure that I shall never love
anyone if love is really what one reads of in books, where woman is
always ready to sacrifice her whole life and her whole plans to a man
who graciously accepts the sacrifice as a matter of course."

"I was afraid that that would be your answer," he said gravely. "And yet
I was not disposed to let the chance of happiness go without at least
knowing that it was so. I can quite understand that you do not even feel
that I am really in earnest. So small did I feel my chances were, that I
should have waited for a time before I risked almost certain refusal,
had it not been that you are on the point of going abroad for two years.
And two years is a long time to wait when one feels that one's chance is
very small at the end of that time. Well, it is of no use saying
anything more about it. I may as well say good-bye at once, for I shall
pack up and go. Good-bye, dear; I hope that you are wrong, and that some
day you will make some man worthy of you happy, but when the time comes
remember that I prophesy that he will not in the slightest degree
resemble the man you picture to yourself now. I think that the saying
that extremes meet is truer than those that assert that like meets like;
but whoever he is I hope that he will be someone who will make you as
happy as I should have tried to do."

"Good-bye, Cuthbert," she said, frankly, "I think this has all been very
silly, and I hope that by the time we meet again you will have forgotten
all about it."

There was something in his face, as she looked up into it, that told her
what she had before doubted somewhat, that he had been really in earnest
for once in his life, and she added, "I do hope we shall be quite good
friends when we meet again, and that you will then see I am quite right
about this."

He smiled, gave her a little nod, and then dropping her hand sauntered
into the house.

"It is the most foolish thing I have ever heard of," she said to
herself, pettishly, as she looked after him. "I can't think how such an
idea ever occurred to him. He must have known that even if I had not
determined as I have done to devote myself to our cause, he was the last
sort of man I should ever have thought of marrying. Of course he is nice
and I always thought so, but what is niceness when he has no aims, no
ambitions in life, and he is content to waste it as he is doing."

Five minutes later Anna Treadwyn joined her in the garden.

"So I was right after all, Mary?"

"How do you know, do you mean to say that he has told you?"

"Not exactly, but one can use one's eyes, I suppose. He said nothing
last night about going away, and now he is leaving by this afternoon's
coach; besides, although he laughed and talked as usual one could see
with half an eye that it was forced. So you have actually refused him?"

"Of course I have, how can you ask such a question? It was the most
perfectly absurd idea I ever heard of."

"Well, I hope that you will never be sorry for it, Mary."

"There is not much fear of that," Mary said, with a toss of her head,
"and let me say that it is not very polite, either of you or him, to
think that I should be ready to give up all my plans in life, the first
time I am asked, and that by a gentleman who has not the slightest
sympathy with them. It is a very silly and tiresome affair altogether,
and I do hope I shall never hear anything of it again."



CHAPTER III.


Cuthbert Hartington had been back in town but two days when he received
a letter from Mr. Brander apprising him of the sudden death of his
father. It was a terrible shock, for he had no idea whatever that Mr.
Hartington was in any way out of health. Cuthbert had written only the
day before to say that he should be down at the end of the week, for
indeed he felt unable to settle down to his ordinary course of life in
London. He at once sent off a telegram ordering the carriage to meet him
by the evening train, and also one to Mr. Brander begging him to be at
the house if possible when he arrived.

Upon hearing from the lawyer that his father had been aware that he
might be carried off at any moment by heart disease, but that he had
strictly forbidden the doctor and himself writing to him, or informing
anyone of the circumstances, he said--

"It is just like my father, but I do wish it had not been so. I might
have been down with him for the last three months of his life."

"The Squire went on just in his usual way, Cuthbert. I am sure that he
preferred it so. He shrunk, as he said, from knowing that people he met
were aware that his days were numbered, and even with me after our first
conversation on the subject, he made no allusion whatever to it. He was
as cheery and bright as ever, and when I last met him a week ago, even I
who knew the circumstances, could see no difference whatever in his
manner. I thought he was wrong, at first, but I came to the conclusion
afterwards that his decision was not an unwise one. He spared you three
months of unavailing pain; he had no fear of death, and was able to go
about as before to meet his friends without his health being a subject
of discussion, and in all ways to go on as usual until the call came.
His death was evidently painless; he sat down in his easy arm-chair
after lunch for his usual half-hour's nap, and evidently expired in his
sleep. The servant found him, as he believed, still asleep when he came
in to tell him that the carriage was at the door, and it was only on
touching him he discovered what had happened. They sent the carriage off
at once to fetch Dr. Edwards. He looked in at my office and took me over
with him, and I got back in time to write to you."

The shock that the Squire's sudden death caused in Abchester, was, a
fortnight later, obliterated by the still greater sensation caused by
the news that the bank had put up its shutters. The dismay excited
thereby was heightened when it became known that the manager had
disappeared, and reports got about that the losses of the bank had been
enormous. The first investigation into its affairs more than confirmed
the worst rumors. For years it had been engaged in propping up the firm
not only of Mildrake and Co., which had failed to meet its engagements
on the day preceding the announcement of the bank's failure, but of
three others which had broken down immediately afterwards. In all of
these firms Mr. Cumming was found to have had a large interest.

On the day after the announcement of the failure of the bank, Mr.
Brander drove up to Fairclose. He looked excited and anxious when he
went into the room where Cuthbert was sitting, listlessly, with a book
before him.

"I have a piece of very bad news to tell you, Mr. Hartington," he said.

"Indeed?" Cuthbert said, without any very great interest in his voice.

"Yes; I daresay you heard yesterday of the failure of the bank?"

"Dr. Edwards looked in here as he was driving past to tell me of it. Had
we any money in it?"

"I wish that was all, it is much worse than that, sir. Your father was a
shareholder in the bank."

"He never mentioned it to me," Cuthbert said, his air of indifference
still unchanged.

"He only bought shares a comparatively short time ago, I think it was
after you were here the last time. There were some vague rumors afloat
as to the credit of the bank, and your father, who did not believe them,
took a few shares as a proof of his confidence in it, thinking, he said,
that the fact that he did so might allay any feeling of uneasiness."

"I wonder that you allowed him to invest in bank shares, Mr. Brander."

"Of course I should not have done so if I had had the slightest idea
that the bank was in difficulties, but I was in no way behind the
scenes. I transacted their legal business for them in the way of drawing
up mortgages, investigating titles, and seeing to the purchase and sales
of property here in the county; beyond that I knew nothing of their
affairs. I was not consulted at all in the matter. Your father simply
said to me, 'I see that the shares in the bank have dropped a little,
and I hear there are some foolish reports as to its credit; I think as
a county gentleman I ought to support the County Bank, and I wish you to
buy say fifty shares for me.'"

"That was just like my father," Cuthbert said, admiringly, "he always
thought a great deal of his county, and I can quite understand his
acting as he did. Well, they were ten pound shares, I think, so it is
only five hundred gone at the worst."

"I am afraid you don't understand the case," Mr. Brander said, gravely;
"each and every shareholder is responsible for the debts of the bank to
the full extent of his property, and although I earnestly hope that only
the bank's capital has been lost, I can't disguise from you that in the
event of there being a heavy deficiency it will mean ruin to several of
the shareholders."

"That is bad, indeed," Cuthbert said, thoroughly interested now. "Of
course you have no idea at present of what the state of the bank is."

"None whatever, but I hope for the best. I am sorry to say I heard a
report this morning that Mr. Hislop, who was, as you know, the chairman
of the bank, had shot himself, which, if true, will, of course,
intensify the feeling of alarm among the shareholders."

Cuthbert sat silent for some time.

"Well," he said, at last, "this is sudden news, but if things are as bad
as possible, and Fairclose and all the estate go, I shall be better off
than many people. I shall have that five thousand pounds that came to me
by my mother's settlement, I suppose?"

"Yes, no doubt. The shares have not been transferred to my name as your
father's executor. I had intended when I came up next week to go through
the accounts with you, to recommend you to instruct me to dispose of
them at once, which I should have done in my capacity of executor
without transferring them in the first place to you. Therefore, any
claim there may be will lie against the estate and not against you
personally."

"That is satisfactory anyhow," Cuthbert said, calmly. "I don't know how
I should get on without it. Of course I shall be sorry to lose this
place, but in some respects the loss will be almost a relief to me. A
country life is not my vocation, and I have been wondering for the last
fortnight what on earth I should do with myself. As it is, I shall, if
it comes to the worst, be obliged to work. I never have worked because I
never have been forced to do so, but really I don't know that the
prospects are altogether unpleasant, and at any rate I am sure that I
would rather be obliged to paint for my living than to pass my life in
trying to kill time."

The lawyer looked keenly at his client, but he saw that he was really
speaking in earnest, and that his indifference at the risk of the loss
of his estates was unaffected.

"Well," he said, after a pause, "I am glad indeed that you take it so
easily; of course, I hope most sincerely that things may not be anything
like so bad as that, and that, at worst, a call of only a few pounds a
share will be sufficient to meet any deficiency that may exist, still I
am heartily glad to see that you are prepared to meet the event in such
a spirit, for to most men the chance of such a calamity would be
crushing."

"Possibly I might have felt it more if it had come upon me two or three
years later, just as I had got to be reconciled to the change of life,
but you see I have so recently and unexpectedly come into the estate
that I have not even begun to appreciate the pleasures of possession or
to feel that they weigh in the slightest against the necessity of my
being obliged to give up the life I have been leading for years. By the
bye," he went on, changing the subject carelessly, "how is your daughter
getting on in Germany? I happened to meet her at Newquay three weeks
ago, and she told me she was going out there in the course of a week or
so. I suppose she has gone."

"Yes, she has gone," Mr. Brander said, irritably. "She is just as bent
as you were, if you will permit me to say so, on the carrying out of her
own scheme of life. It is a great annoyance to her mother and me, but
argument has been thrown away upon her, and as unfortunately the girls
have each a couple of thousand, left under their own control by their
mother's sister, she was in a position to do as she liked. However, I
hope that a year or two will wean her from the ridiculous ideas he has
taken up."

"I should doubt whether her cure will be as prompt as you think, it
seemed to me that her ideas were somewhat fixed, and it will need a good
deal of failure to disillusionize her."

"She is as obstinate as a little mule," Mr. Brander said shortly.
"However, I must be going," he went on, rising from his chair. "I drove
over directly I had finished my breakfast and must hurry back again to
the office. Well, I hope with all my heart, Mr. Hartington, that this
most unfortunate affair will not turn out so badly after all."

Cuthbert did not echo the sentiment, but accompanied his visitor
silently to the door, and after seeing him off returned to the room,
where he reseated himself in his chair, filled and lighted his pipe, put
his legs on to another chair, and proceeded to think the matter out.

It was certainly a wholly unexpected change; but at present he did not
feel it to be an unpleasant one, but rather a relief. He had for the
last ten days been bemoaning himself. While but an heir apparent he
could live his own life and take his pleasure as he liked. As owner of
Fairclose he had duties to perform--he had his tenants' welfare to look
after, there would be the bailiff to interview every morning and to go
into all sorts of petty details as to hedges and ditches, fences and
repairs, and things he cared not a jot for, interesting as they were to
his dear old father. He supposed he should have to go on the Bench and
to sit for hours listening to petty cases of theft and drunkenness,
varied only by a poaching affray at long intervals.

There would be county gatherings to attend, and he would naturally be
expected to hunt and to shoot. It had all seemed to him inexpressedly
dreary. Now all that was, if Brander's fears were realized, at an end,
even if it should not turn out to be as bad as that, the sum he would be
called upon to pay might be sufficient to cripple the estate and to
afford him a good and legitimate excuse for shutting up or letting the
house, and going away to retrench until the liabilities were all cleared
off. Of course he would have to work in earnest now, but even the
thought of that was not altogether unpleasant.

"I believe it is going to be the best thing that ever happened to me,"
he said to himself. "I know that I should never have done anything if it
hadn't been for this, and though I am not fool enough to suppose I am
ever going to turn out anything great, I am sure that after a couple of
years' hard work I ought to paint decently, and anyhow to turn out as
good things as some of those men. It is just what I have always been
wanting, though I did not know it. I am afraid I shall have to cut all
those dear old fellows, for I should never be able to give myself up to
work among them. I should say it would be best for me to go over to
Paris; I can start on a fresh groove there. At my age I should not like
to go through any of the schools here. I might have three months with
Terrier; that would be just the thing to give me a good start; he is a
good fellow but one who never earns more than bread and cheese.

"There isn't a man in our set who really knows as much about it as he
does. He has gone through our own schools, was a year at Paris, and
another at Rome. He has got the whole thing at his fingers' ends, and
would make a splendid master if he would but go in for pupils, but with
all that he can't paint a picture. He has not a spark of imagination,
nor an idea of art; he has no eye for color, or effect. He can paint
admirably what he sees, but then he sees nothing but bare facts. He is
always hard up, poor fellow, and it would be a real boon to him to take
me for three months and stick at it hard with me, and by the end of that
time I ought to be able to take my place in some artist's school in
Paris without feeling myself to be an absolute duffer among a lot of
fellows younger than myself. By Jove, this news is like a breeze on the
east coast in summer--a little sharp, perhaps, but splendidly bracing
and healthy, just the thing to set a fellow up and make a man of him. I
will go out for a walk and take the dogs with me."

He got up, went to the stables, and unchained the dogs, who leapt round
him in wild delight, for the time of late had been as dull for them as
for him; told one of the stable boys to go to the house and say that he
would not be back to lunch, and then went for a twenty mile walk over
the hills, and returned somewhat tired with the unaccustomed exertion,
but with a feeling of buoyancy and light-heartedness such as he had not
experienced for a long time past. For the next week he remained at home,
and then feeling too restless to do so any longer, went to town, telling
Mr. Brander to let him know as soon as the committee, that had already
commenced its investigations into the real state of the bank's affairs,
made their first report.

The lawyer was much puzzled over Cuthbert's manner. It seemed to him
utterly impossible that anyone should really be indifferent to losing a
fine estate, and yet he could see no reason for Cuthbert's assuming
indifference on so vital a subject unless he felt it. He even discussed
the matter with his wife.

"I cannot understand that young Hartington," he said; "most men would
have been completely crumpled up at the news I gave him, but he took it
as quietly as if it had been a mere bagatelle. The only possible
explanation of his indifference that I can think of is that he must have
made some low marriage in London, and does not care about introducing
his wife to the county; it is just the sort of thing that a man with his
irregular Bohemian habits might do--a pretty model, perhaps, or some
peasant girl he has come across when out sketching."

"He never did care particularly about anything," Mrs. Brander said, "and
it may be he is really glad to get away from the country."

"That would be possible enough if he had a good income in addition to
Fairclose, but all that he will have is that five thousand that came to
him from his mother, and I should say he is likely enough to run through
that in a couple of years at the outside, and then where will he be?"

"I can't think, Jeremiah, how you ever permitted his father to do such a
mad thing as to take those shares."

"I know what I am doing, my dear, don't you worry yourself about that.
You have been wanting me for a very long time to give up business and
go into the country. How would Fairclose suit you?"

"You are not in earnest," she exclaimed, with an excitement very unusual
to her. "You can't mean that?"

"I don't often say what I don't mean, my dear, and if Fairclose comes
into the market, more unlikely things than that may come to pass; but
mind, not a word of this is to be breathed."

"And do you really think it will come into the market?" she asked.

"As certain as the sun will rise to-morrow morning. We only held our
first meeting to-day, but that was enough to show us that the directors
ought all to be shut up in a lunatic asylum. The affairs of the bank are
in a frightful state, simply frightful; it means ruin to every one
concerned."

"It is fortunate, indeed, that you did not hold any shares, Jeremiah."

"I was not such a fool," he said, shortly, "as to trust my money in the
hands of a body of men who were all no doubt excellent fellows and
admirable county gentlemen, but who knew no more of business than
babies, and who would be mere tools in the hands of their manager; and I
had the excellent excuse that I considered the legal adviser of a bank
should have no pecuniary stake whatever in its affairs, but be able to
act altogether without bias."

There was an ironical smile on his lips, and his wife said, admiringly--

"How clever you are, Jeremiah."

"It did not require much cleverness for that," he said, with some
complacency. "You can reserve your compliments, my dear, until we are
established at Fairclose. All I ask is that you won't ask any questions
or allude to the matter until it is settled, but leave it entirely in my
hands. So far things are working in the right direction."

"Perhaps it will be a good thing for Cuthbert Hartington after all," she
said, after sitting for some minutes in silence.

"No doubt it will," he said. "At any rate as he does not take it to
heart in the slightest degree, we need not worry ourselves over him."

"It is funny," she said, "but sometimes the idea has occurred to me that
Cuthbert might some day take a fancy to one of our girls, and I might
see one of them mistress at Fairclose; but I never dreamt I might be
mistress there myself, and I can't guess, even now, how you can think of
managing it."

"Don't you trouble to guess, at all, my dear; be content with the plum
when it falls into your mouth, and don't worry yourself as to how I
manage to shake the tree to bring the fruit down."

Three weeks later it became known definitely that after calling up the
remainder of the bank's capital there would be a deficiency of nearly a
million, and that every shareholder would be called upon to contribute
to the full extent of his ability, to cover the losses. One or two
letters from Mr. Brander had already prepared Cuthbert for the final
result of the investigation, and he had already begun to carry out the
plan he had marked out for himself. He had, as soon as he had returned,
astonished his friends by informing them that he found that instead of
coming into his father's estates, as he had expected, it was not likely
he would ever touch a penny from them, as his father had been a
shareholder in the Abchester Bank, and so he believed everything would
be swept away.

"Fortunately," he went on, "I have got enough of my own to keep my head
above water, and, I dare say you fellows won't believe me, but I mean to
go to work in earnest."

The announcement was made to a dozen men who were smoking in Wilson's
studio, he having returned the day before from Cornwall.

"Well, youngster, I won't commiserate with you," he growled. "I have
been wondering since I heard from King last night what had kept you
away, what on earth you would do with yourself now you have come into
your money. I often thought it was the worst thing in the world for you
that you had not got to work, and if you are really going to set to now,
I believe the time will come when you will think that this misfortune is
the best thing that ever happened to you."

"I am not quite sure that I do not think so already," Cuthbert replied.
"I am not at all disposed to fancy myself a martyr, I can assure you. I
mean to go over to Paris and enter an Art School there. I know what you
fellows are. You would never let me work."

There was a general chorus of indignation.

"Well, how much do you work yourselves? You potter about for nine months
in the year, and work for four or five hours a day for the other three."

"Saul among the prophets!" Wilson exclaimed. "The idea of Cuthbert
Hartington rebuking us for laziness is rich indeed," and a roar of
laughter showed the general appreciation of the absurdity.

"Never mind," Cuthbert said, loftily. "You will see; 'from morn till
dewy eve,' will be my idea of work. It is the way you men loaf, and call
it working, that has so far kept me from setting to. Now I am going to
burst the bonds of the Castle of Indolence, and when I come back from
Paris I shall try to stir you all up to something like activity."

There was another laugh, and then Wilson said, "Well, it is the best
thing you can do to go abroad. I don't believe you would ever make a
fresh start here."

"I have made fresh a start, Wilson; our respected brother Terrier here,
has undertaken to teach me the rudiments, and for the next three months
his studio doors will be closed to all visitors from ten to five."

"Is that so? I congratulate you, Cuthbert; that really looks like
business, and if Terrier can't teach you how to use the brush and put on
color no one can. Gentlemen, we will drink the health of the new boy.
Here is to Cuthbert Hartington, and success to him." Glasses were raised
and the sentiment heartily echoed.

For three months Cuthbert worked steadily; to his own surprise, not less
than to that of his instructor, he found the hours none too long for
him. During that time he had received a letter from Mr. Brander that
surprised him.

"Dear Mr. Hartington,--In accordance with your instructions I at once
informed the Receiver of the bank that you were prepared to hand over
the Fairclose estates for the benefit of the creditors, instead of
waiting for the calls to be made, and that you wished the matter to be
arranged as speedily as possible as you were shortly going abroad. The
necessary deeds will in a few days be prepared. You will doubtless be
surprised to hear that I have arranged with the Receiver for the
purchase of the estates by private treaty. I have long been intending to
retire from business, and have been on the lookout for an estate in the
county. I hope this arrangement will not be displeasing to you."

As Mr. Brander had the reputation of being a wealthy man, and his wife's
wishes that he should retire from business and purchase an estate in the
county were public property, Cuthbert was not surprised, but at the same
time he was not altogether pleased. He had never liked the lawyer. He
had no particular grounds for not doing so, but he had as a boy an
instinctive notion that he was a humbug.

"I wonder," he said to himself, "whether he has all along had an eye to
Fairclose, and whether he really did his best to dissuade my father from
making that disastrous investment. At any rate, it does not make any
difference to me who is there. It might have been some stranger, some
manufacturing fellow; I would rather think of Mary being at the old
place than a man of that sort. He would have been more likely than
Brander to be hard on the tenants, and to have sold off all the things
and have turned the place inside out. I don't say that under ordinary
circumstances I should choose Brander as a landlord, but he will know
well enough that there would be nothing that would do him more harm in
the county than a report that he was treating the Squire's tenants
harshly. Well, I suppose I had better write him a line saying that I am
glad to hear that he has bought the place, as I would naturally prefer
that it should be in his hands than those of a stranger."

A fortnight later, Cuthbert, in looking over the "Abchester Guardian,"
which was sent to him weekly, as the subscription was not yet run out,
read the following paragraph: "We understand that our greatly respected
townsman, Mr. J. Brander, has purchased the house and estate of
Fairclose, which has come into the market owing to the failure of the
Abchester Bank, in which the late Mr. Hartington was most unfortunately
a shareholder, and which has involved hundreds of families in ruin. The
greatest sympathy is everywhere expressed for Mr. Cuthbert Hartington.
We understand that the price given by Mr. Brander was £55,000. We
believe that we are correct in stating that Mr. Brander was the holder
of a mortgage of £15,000 on the estate."

"Mortgage for £15,000," Cuthbert repeated, "impossible. Why should my
father have mortgaged the place? He could have no occasion to raise the
money. His tastes were most simple, and I am sure that he never lived
beyond his income. He paid me a handsome allowance, but, thank God, I
never exceeded it. What in the world can this mean! I will write to
Brander at once. No, I won't, I will write to the liquidator. If there
was such a thing he is certain to have looked into it closely, for it
was so much off the sum available for assets."

By return of post Cuthbert received the following letter:

"Dear Mr. Hartington--In reply to your question I beg to confirm the
statement in the newspaper cutting you send to me. Mr. Brander was the
holder of a mortgage for £15,000 on your father's estate. I looked into
the matter very closely, as it came as a surprise upon us. Everything
was in proper order. Mr. Brander's bank-book showed that he drew out
£15,000 on the date of the mortgage, and the books of the bank confirm
his book. Notice had been given to them a week previously that he would
require that sum in notes and gold, and it was so paid over to him. His
books also show payment of the interest, and his receipts for the same
were found among Mr. Hartington's papers. There was, therefore, no
shadow of a doubt possible as to the genuine nature of the
mortgage.--Yours truly, W. H. Cox."

Although satisfied that for some reason or other his father had borrowed
this sum on mortgage from his lawyer, Cuthbert was no less puzzled than
before as to the purpose for which it had been raised, or what his
father could possibly have done with the money. He, therefore, wrote to
Mr. Brander, saying that though it was a matter in which he had himself
no pecuniary interest, he should be glad if he would inform him of the
circumstance which led his father to borrow such a sum.

"I thought," he said, "that I knew everything about my father's money
affairs, for he always spoke most openly about them to me, and he never
let drop a word as to the mortgage or as to any difficulty in which he
had involved himself, or any investment he had thought of making; and I
am, therefore, entirely at a loss to understand how he could have
required such a sum of money."

The lawyer's answer came in due course.

"My dear Mr. Hartingon,--I was in no way surprised at the receipt of
your letter, and indeed have been expecting an inquiry from you as to
the mortgage. It happened in this way: Some three years ago your father
said to me, 'I want to raise £15,000 on the estate, Brander.' I was
naturally greatly surprised, for acting for him as I did, I was, of
course, aware that he lived well within his income. He went on, 'Of
course you are surprised, Brander, but as you must know well most men
have a skeleton in a cupboard somewhere. I have one, and as I am getting
on in life I want to bury it for good. It makes no difference to you
what it is, and I have no intention of going into the matter. It
suffices that I want £15,000.' 'Of course there is no difficulty about
that, sir,' I said, 'the estate is unencumbered, and as there is no
entail you are free to do with it as you like. 'But I want it done
quietly,' he said, 'I don't want it talked about that I have mortgaged
Fairclose. The best plan by far would be for you to do it yourself,
which I have no doubt you can do easily enough if you like.' I said that
I would much rather have nothing to do with it, as I have always
considered it a mistake for lawyers to become principals in money
transactions with their clients, and had always refused to do anything
of the sort. However, he put the matter so strongly that he at last
induced me, against my better judgment, to consent to advance the money,
and at his earnest request I handed him the money in notes, so that no
one, even at the bank, should be aware that such a sum had passed
between us. Of course the mortgage was drawn up in the usual form and
duly executed and witnessed, and I have no doubt that the liquidator of
the bank will be happy to show you your father's receipt for the money
and the receipts given by me to him for the interest. As you say the
matter does not pecuniarily affect you now, but at the same time I am
naturally anxious you should satisfy yourself thoroughly that the
transaction was in every respect a bona fide one."

Cuthbert sat for some time with the letter before him.

"I suppose the dear old dad must have got into some scrape or other
years ago," he said to himself. "What it was it is no use wondering,
still less inquiring about. I am surprised he never told me, but I
suppose he could not wind himself up to the point, and I have no doubt
he intended to tell me some day, and would have done so if he hadn't
been carried off so suddenly. Anyhow, he knew me well enough to be sure
that when I heard of this mortgage, and learned how it had been done
that my love and respect for him would be sufficient to prevent my
trying to search into his past. He little thought that the mortgage
would not affect me to the extent of a penny. Well, there is an end of
it, and I won't think any more about the matter the secret is dead and
buried; let it rest there. And now it is time to be off to my work."



CHAPTER IV.


A year later Cuthbert Hartington was sitting in a room, somewhat better
furnished than the majority of the students' lodgings, on the second
floor of a house in Quartier Latin. The occupant of the room below,
Arnold Dampierre, was with him. He was a man three or four years
Cuthbert's junior, handsome, grave-eyed, and slightly built; he was a
native of Louisiana, and his dark complexion showed a taint of Mulatto
blood in his veins.

"So you have made up your mind to stay," he said.

"Certainly, I intend to see it through; in the first place I don't want
to break off my work, and as you know am ambitious enough to intend to
get a couple of pictures finished in time for the Salon, although
whether they will hang there, is another matter altogether."

"Don't pretend to be modest, Cuthbert. You know well enough they will be
hung, and more than that, they will be a success. I would wager a
hundred dollars to a cent on it, though you haven't as yet settled on
the subjects. You know that you are Goudé's favorite pupil and that he
predicts great things for you, and there is not one of us who does not
agree with him. You know what Goudé said of the last thing you did.
'Gentlemen, I should be proud to be able to sign my name in the corner
of this picture, it is admirable.'"

"It was but a little thing," Cuthbert said, carelessly, but nevertheless
coloring slightly, "I hope to do much better work in the course of
another year." Then he went back to the former subject of conversation.

"Yes, I shall see it through. We have had a good many excitements
already--the march away of the troops, and the wild enthusiasm and the
shouts of 'À Berlin!' I don't think there was a soul in the crowd who
was not convinced that the Germans were going to be crumpled up like a
sheet of paper. It was disgusting to hear the bragging in the studio,
and they were almost furious with me when I ventured to hint mildly that
the Prussians were not fools, and would not have chosen this time to
force France into a war if they had not felt that they were much better
prepared for it than Napoleon was. Since then it has been just as
exciting the other way--the stupor of astonishment, the disappointment
and rage as news of each disaster came in; then that awful business at
Sedan, the uprising of the scum here, the flight of the Empress, the
proclamation of the Republic, and the idiotic idea that seized the
Parisians that the Republic was a sort of fetish, and that the mere fact
of its establishment would arrest the march of the Germans. Well, now we
are going to have a siege, I suppose, and as I have never seen one, it
will be interesting. Of course I have no shadow of faith in the
chattering newspaper men and lawyers, who have undertaken the government
of France; but they say Trochu is a good soldier, and Paris ought to be
able to hold out for some time. The mobiles are pouring in, and I think
they will fight well, especially the Bretons. Their officers are
gentlemen, and though I am sure they would not draw a sword for the
Republic, they will fight sturdily for France. I would not miss it for
anything. I am not sure that I shan't join one of the volunteer
battalions myself."

"You have nothing to do with the quarrel," his companion said.

"No, I have nothing to do with the quarrel; but if I were walking along
the streets and saw a big lout pick a quarrel with a weaker one and then
proceed to smash him up altogether, I fancy I should take a hand in the
business. The Germans deliberately forced on the war. They knew
perfectly well that when they put up a German Prince as candidate for
the throne of Spain it would bring on a war with France. Why, we
ourselves were within an ace of going to war with France when Guizot
brought about the Spanish marriage, although it was comparatively of
slight importance to us that Spain and France should be united. But to
the French this thing was an absolutely vital question, for with Germany
and Spain united their very existence would be threatened, and they had
nothing for it but to fight, as Germany knew they would have to do."

"But the candidature was withdrawn, Hartington."

"Withdrawn! ay, after the damage was done and France in a flame of
indignation. If a man meets me in the street and pulls me by the nose,
do you think that if he takes off his hat and bows and says that he
withdraws the insult I am going to keep my hands in my pockets? Twice
already has France been humiliated and has stood it? Once when Prussia
made that secret treaty with Bavaria and Baden, and threw it scornfully
in her face; the second time over that Luxembourg affair. Does Germany
think that a great nation, jealous of its honor and full of fiery
elements, is going to stand being kicked as often as she chooses to
kick her? You may say that France was wrong in going to war when she was
really unprepared, and I grant she was unwise, but when a man keeps on
insulting you, you don't say to yourself I must go and take lessons in
boxing before I fight him. You would hit out straight even if he were
twice as big as yourself. That is what I feel about it, Dampierre, and
feeling so I fancy that when the thing begins here I shall get too hot
over it to help joining in. Ah, here come some of the lads."

There was a clatter of feet on the staircase, and a moment later half a
dozen young Frenchmen ran in in a state of wild excitement.

"They have entered Versailles, a party of their horsemen have been seen
from Valerian, and a shot has been fired at them. They have fled."

"Well, I should think they naturally would," Cuthbert said. "A handful
of horsemen are not likely to remain to be made targets of by the guns
of Valerian."

"It is the beginning of the end," one of the students exclaimed. "Paris
will assert herself, France will come to her assistance, and the Germans
will find that it is one thing to fight against the armies of a despot,
and another to stand before a free people in arms."

"I hope so, René, but I own I have considerable doubts of it. A man when
he begins to fight, fights because he is there and has got to do it. If
he does not kill the enemy he will be killed; if he does not thrash the
enemy he will be thrashed; and for the time being the question whether
it is by a despot or by a Provisional Government that he is ruled does
not matter to him one single jot. As to the Parisians, we shall see. I
sincerely hope, they will do all that you expect of them, but in point
of fact I would rather have a battalion of trained soldiers than a
brigade of untrained peasants or citizens, however full of ardor they
may be."

"Ah, you English, it is always discipline, discipline."

"You are quite right, René, that is when it comes to fighting in the
open; fighting in the streets of a town is a very different thing. Then
I grant individual pluck will do wonders. Look at Saragosa, look at
Lucknow. Civilians in both cases fought as well as the best trained
soldiers could do, but in the field discipline is everything. Putting
aside the great battles where your feudal lords, with their brave but
undisciplined followers, met our disciplined bow and billmen, look at
the Jacquerie, the peasants were brave enough, and were animated by hate
and despair, but they were scattered like chaff by mere handfuls of
knights and men-at-arms. The Swiss have defended their mountains against
the armies of despots, because they had mountains to defend, and were
accustomed to scaling the rocks, and all good shots, just as the people
of a town might hold their streets. I believe that you will hold Paris.
I doubt whether the Germans will ever be able to enter your walls, but
famine will enter, and, defend yourselves as obstinately as you may, the
time must come when food will give out."

"As if we should wait to be starved," another of the students said
scoffingly. "If the time comes when there's nothing to eat, we would set
Paris on fire and hurl ourselves every man upon the Germans, and fight
our way through. Do you think that they could block every road round
Paris?"

"I know nothing about military affairs, Leroux, and therefore don't
suppose anything one way or the other. I believe the Parisians will make
a gallant defence, and they have my heartiest good wishes and sympathy,
and when all you men join the ranks my intention is to go with you. But
as to the end, my belief is that it will be decided not by Paris but by
France."

"Bravo, bravo, Cuthbert," the others exclaimed, "that shows, indeed,
that you love France. René said he thought you would shoulder a musket
with us, but we said Englishmen only fought either for duty or interest,
and we did not see why you should mix yourself up in it."

"Then you are altogether wrong. If you said Englishmen don't fight for
what you call glory, you would be right, but you can take my word for it
that in spite of what peace-at-any-price people may say, there are no
people in the world who are more ready to fight when they think they are
right, than Englishmen. We find it hard enough to get recruits in time
of peace, but in time of war we can get any number we want. The
regiments chosen to go to the front are delighted, those who have to
stay behind are furious. Glory has nothing to do with it. It is just the
love of fighting. I don't say that I am thinking of joining one of your
volunteer battalions because I want to fight. I do so because I think
you are in the right, and that this war has been forced upon you by the
Germans, who are likely to inflict horrible sufferings on the city."

"Never mind why you are going to fight," Leroux said, "you are going to
fight for us, and that is enough. You are a good comrade. And your
friend, here, what is he going to do?"

"I shall join also," Dampierre said. "You are a Republic now, like our
own, and of course my sympathies are wholly with you."

"Vive la Republique! Vive l'Americain!" the students shouted.

Cuthbert Hartington shrugged his shoulders.

"We were just starting for a stroll to the walls to see how they are
getting on with the work of demolition. Are any of you disposed to go
with us?"

They were all disposed, being in so great a state of excitement that
anything was better than staying indoors quietly. The streets were full
of people, carts were rumbling along, some filled with provisions,
others with the furniture and effects of the houses now being pulled
down outside the _enciente_, or from the villas and residences at Sèvres
Meudon and other suburbs and villages outside the line of defence.

Sometimes they came upon battalions of newly-arrived mobiles, who were
loudly cheered by the populace as they marched along; sturdy sunburnt
peasants with but little of the bearing of soldiers, but with an earnest
serious expression that seemed to say they would do their best against
the foes who were the cause of their being torn away from their homes
and occupations. Staff officers galloped about at full speed; soldiers
of the garrison or of Vinoy's Corps, who had come in a day or two
before, lounged about the streets looking in at the shops. No small
proportion of the male population wore kepis, which showed that they
belonged either to the National Guard or to the battalions that were
springing into existence.

"Why do we not register our names to-day!" René exclaimed.

"Because a day or two will make no difference," Cuthbert replied, "and
it is just as well to find out before we do join something about the men
in command. Let us above all things choose a corps where they have had
the good sense to get hold of two or three army men, who have had
experience in war, as their field officers. We don't want to be under a
worthy citizen who has been elected solely because he is popular in his
quarter, or a demagogue who is chosen because he is a fluent speaker,
and has made himself conspicuous by his abuse of Napoleon. This is not
the time for tomfoolery; we want men who will keep a tight hand over us,
and make us into fair soldiers. It may not be quite agreeable at first,
but a corps that shows itself efficient is sure to be chosen when there
is work to be done, and will be doing outpost duty, whilst many of the
others will be kept within the walls as being of no practical use. Just
at present everything is topsy-turvy, but you may be sure that Trochu
and Vinoy, and the other generals will gradually get things into shape,
and will not be long before they find what corps are to be depended on
and what are not."

Crossing the river they made their way out beyond the walls. Even the
light-hearted students were sobered by the sight beyond. Thousands of
men were engaged on the work of demolition. Where but ten days since
stood villas surrounded by gardens and trees, there was now a mere waste
of bricks and mortar stretching down to the Forts of Issy and Vanves.
The trees had all been felled and for the most part cut up and carried
into Paris for firewood. Most of the walls were levelled, and frequent
crashes of masonry showed that these last vestiges of bright and happy
homes would soon disappear. A continuous stream of carts and
foot-passengers came along the road to the gate--the men grim and
bitter, the women crying, and all laden with the most valued of their
little belongings. Numbers of cattle and herds of sheep, attended by
guards, grazed in the fields beyond the forts.

"By Jove, Dampierre," Cuthbert said, "if I hadn't made up my mind to
join a corps before, this scene would decide me. It is pitiful to see
all these poor people, who have no more to do with the war than the
birds in the air, rendered homeless. A good many of the birds have been
rendered homeless too, but fortunately for them it is autumn instead of
spring, and they have neither nests nor nestlings to think of, and can
fly away to the woods on the slopes below Meudon."

"What a fellow you are, Hartington, to be thinking of the birds when
there are tens of thousands of people made miserable."

"I fancy the birds are just as capable of feeling misery as we are,"
Cuthbert said quietly, "not perhaps over trivial matters, though they do
bicker and quarrel a good deal among themselves, but they have their
great calamities, and die of thirst, of hunger, and of cold. I remember
during a very hard frost some years ago our garden was full of dying
birds, though my father had bushels of grain thrown to them every day.
It was one of the most painful sights I ever saw, and I know I felt
pretty nearly as much cut up at it as I do now. I hate to see dumb
animals suffer. There is a sort of uncomplaining misery about them that
appeals to one, at any rate appeals to me, infinitely. These poor
fellows are suffering too, you will say. Yes, but they have their
consolation. They promise themselves that as soon as they get into Paris
they will join a corps and take vengeance on those who have hurt them.
They may think, and perhaps with reason, that when the trouble is over,
they will find their cottages still standing, and will take up life
again as they left it. They have at least the consolation of swearing, a
consolation which, as far as I know, is denied to animals and birds."

"You are a rum fellow, Hartington, and I never know when you are in
earnest and when you are not."

"Let us go back," René Caillard, who, with the others, had been
standing silently, said abruptly. "This is too painful; I feel
suffocated to think that such a humiliation should fall on Paris. Surely
all civilized Europe will rise and cry out against this desecration." He
turned and with his comrades walked back towards the gate. Cuthbert
followed with Arnold Dampierre.

"That is just the way with them," the former said, "it would have been
no desecration had they encamped before Berlin, but now, because it is
the other way, they almost expect a miracle from Heaven to interpose in
their favor. Curious people the French. Their belief in themselves is
firm and unshakable, and whatever happens it is the fault of others, and
not of themselves. Now, in point of fact, from all we hear, the Germans
are conducting the war in a very much more humane and civilized way than
the French would have done if they had been the invaders, and yet they
treat their misfortunes as if high Heaven had never witnessed such
calamities. Why, the march of the Germans has been a peaceful procession
in comparison with Sherman's march or Sheridan's forays. They have
sacked no city, their path is not marked by havoc and conflagration;
they fight our men, and maybe loot deserted houses, but as a rule
unarmed citizens and peasants have little to complain of."

"That is true enough," the other agreed reluctantly.

"My opinion is," Cuthbert went on, "that all these poor people who are
flocking into Paris are making a hideous mistake. If they stopped in
their villages the betting is that no harm would have come to them;
whereas now they have left their homes unguarded and untenanted--and it
would not be human nature if the Germans did not occupy them--while in
Paris they will have to go through all the privations and hardships of a
siege and perhaps of a bombardment; besides there are so many more
hungry mouths to feed. In my opinion Trochu and the Provisional
Government would have acted very much more wisely had they issued an
order that no strangers, save those whose houses have been destroyed,
should be allowed to enter the city, and advising the inhabitants of all
the villages round either to remain quietly in their homes, or to retire
to places at a distance. Fighting men might, of course, come in, but
all useless mouths will only hasten the date when famine will force the
city to surrender."

"You seem very sure that it will surrender sooner or later, Hartington,"
Dampierre said, irritably. "My opinion is that all France will rise and
come to her rescue."

"If Bazaine cuts his way out of Metz they may do it, but we have heard
nothing of his moving, and the longer he stays the more difficulty he
will have of getting out. He has a fine army with him, but if he once
gives time to the Germans to erect batteries commanding every road out
of the place, he will soon find it well-nigh impossible to make a
sortie. Except that army France has nothing she can really rely upon. It
is all very well to talk of a general rising, but you can't create an
army in the twinkling of an eye; and a host of half-disciplined
peasants, however numerous, would have no chance against an enemy who
have shown themselves capable of defeating the whole of the trained
armies of France. No, no, Dampierre, you must make up your mind
beforehand that you are going in on the losing side. Paris may hold out
long enough to secure reasonable terms, but I fancy that is about all
that will come of it."

The other did not reply. He had something of the unreasoning faith that
pervaded France, that a Republic was invincible, and that France would
finally emerge from the struggle victorious.

"We shall try and find out to-night about the corps," René Caillard
said, as the others overtook them some distance inside the gates. "After
what we have seen to-day we are all determined to join without delay. I
heard last night from some men at Veillant's that they and a good many
others have put their names down for a corps that is to be called the
Chasseurs des Écoles. They said they understood that it was to be
composed entirely of students. Not all art, of course, but law and other
schools."

"That would be just the thing," Cuthbert said, "if they can only get
some good officers. One likes the men one has to work with to be a
little of one's own class. Well, if the officers are all right you can
put my name down. I suppose there is no occasion for me to go myself."

"Of course there is occasion, lazy one. You have to be sworn in."

Cuthbert nodded. "I suppose we shan't have to give up work altogether?"

"I should think not," René said. "I suppose we shall have two or three
hours' drill in the morning and nothing more till the time for action
comes. Of course the troops and the mobiles will do the work at the
forts and walls, and we shall be only called out if the Prussians
venture to attack us, or if we march out to attack them."

"So much the better. I came here to work, and I want to stick to it and
not waste my time in parades and sentry duty. Well, we shall meet at the
studio in the morning and you can give us your news then."

Some fifteen young men met on the following morning at Goudé's studio.

"Now, gentlemen," said the artist, a short man, with a large head, and
an abundant crop of yellow hair falling on to his shoulders, "please to
attend to business while you are here. Paint--you have plenty of time
outside to discuss affairs."

M. Goudé was an artist of considerable talent, but of peppery temper. He
had at one time gone to war with the Hanging Committee of the Salon
because one of his paintings had been so badly hung that he declared it
to be nothing short of an insult, and had forthwith proceeded to publish
the most violent strictures upon them. The result was that on the
following year his pictures were not hung at all, whereupon, after
another onslaught upon them, he had declared his determination never
again to submit a picture to the judgment of men whose natural stupidity
was only equalled by their ignorance of art.

This vow he had for eight years adhered to, only occasionally painting a
picture and selling it privately, but devoting himself almost entirely
to the studio he had opened, when he ceased exhibiting. He was an
admirable teacher and his list of pupils was always full. He was an
exacting master and would take none but students who showed marked
ability. As a preliminary picture had to be presented to him for
examination, and at least three out of four of the canvases sufficed to
ensure their authors' prompt rejection.

It was, therefore, considered an honor to be one of Goudé's pupils, but
it had its drawbacks. His criticisms were severe and bitter; and he fell
into violent passions when, as Leroux once observed, he looked like the
yellow dwarf in a rage. Cuthbert had heard of him from Terrier, who said
that Goudé had the reputation of being by far the best master in Paris.
He had presented himself to him as soon as he arrived there; his
reception had not been favorable.

"It is useless, Monsieur," the master had said, abruptly, "there are two
objections. In the first place you are too old, in the second place you
are a foreigner, and I do not care to teach foreigners. I never had but
one here, and I do not want another. He was a Scotchman, and because I
told him one day when he had produced an atrocious daub, that he was an
imbecile pig, he seized me and shook me till my teeth chattered in my
head, and then kicked over the easel and went out."

"You may call me an imbecile pig if you like," Cuthbert said with his
quiet smile, "it would hurt me in no way. I have come over to learn, and
I am told you are the best master in Paris. When a man is a great master
he must be permitted to have his peculiarities, and if he likes to treat
grown-up men as children, of course he can do so, for are we not
children in art by his side."

Monsieur Goudé was mollified, but he did not show it.

"Have you brought any canvases with you?"

"I have brought the last two things I did before leaving London."

"Well, you can bring them if you like," the master said, ungraciously,
"but I warn you it will be useless. You English cannot paint, even the
best of you. You have no soul, you are monotonous, but you may bring
them."

An hour later Cuthbert returned to the studio, which was now occupied by
the students.

"You are prompt," the master said, looking round from the student whose
work he was correcting with no small amount of grumbling and
objurgation. "Put your things on those two spare easels, I will look at
them presently."

Seeing that several of the other students were smoking, Cuthbert filled
and lighted his pipe, calmly placed the pictures on the easels without
taking off the cloths in which they were wrapped, and then put his hands
into the pockets of his velvet jacket and looked round the room. After
his experience of some of the luxuriously arranged studios at St. John's
Wood, the room looked bare and desolate. There was no carpet and not a
single chair or lounge of any description. Some fifteen young fellows
were painting. All wore workmen's blouses. All had mustaches, and most
of them had long hair. They appeared intent on their work, but smiles
and winks were furtively exchanged, and the careless nonchalance of this
tall young Englishman evidently amused them. In four or five minutes M.
Goudé turned round and walked towards the easels. Cuthbert stepped to
them and removed the cloths. The master stopped abruptly, looked at them
without speaking for a minute or two, then walked up and closely
examined them.

"They are entirely your own work?" he asked.

"Certainly, I did not show either of them to my master until I had
finished them."

They were companion pictures. The one was a girl standing in a veranda
covered with a grapevine, through which bright rays of sunshine shone,
one of them falling full on her face. She was evidently listening, and
there was a look of joyous expectancy in her face. Underneath, on the
margin of the canvas, was written in charcoal, "Hope." The other
represented the same figure, darkly dressed, with a wan, hopeless look
in her face, standing on a rock at the edge of an angry sea, over which
she was gazing; while the sky overhead was dark and sombre without a
rift in the hurrying clouds. It was labelled "Despair."

For two or three minutes longer M. Goudé looked silently at the pictures
and then turning suddenly called out, "Attention, gentlemen. Regard
these pictures, they are the work of this gentleman who desires to enter
my studio. In the eight years I have been teaching I have had over two
hundred canvases submitted to me, but not one like these. I need not say
that I shall be glad to receive him. He has been well taught. His
technique is good and he has genius. Gentlemen, I have the honor to
present to you Monsieur Cuthbert Hartington, who is henceforth one of
you."

The students crowded round the pictures with exclamations of surprise
and admiration. It was not until M. Goudé said sharply "to work," that
they returned to their easels.

"You will find canvases in that cupboard if you like to set at work at
once. Choose your own size and subject and sketch it out in chalk. I
should like to see how you work. Ah, you have a portfolio. I will look
through your sketches this afternoon if you will leave it here."

Cuthbert chose a canvas from a pile ready stretched, selected a sketch
from his portfolio of a wayside inn in Normandy, pinned it on the easel
above the canvas, and then began to work. M. Goudé did not come near him
until the work was finished for the morning, then he examined what he
had just done.

"You work rapidly," he said, "and your eye is good. You preserve the
exact proportions of the sketch, which is excellent, though it was
evidently done hastily, and unless I mistake was taken before you had
begun really to paint. You did not know how to use color, though the
effect is surprisingly good, considering your want of method at the
time. I will look through your portfolio while I am having my lunch. In
an hour we resume work." So saying he took up the portfolio and left the
room. The students now came up to Cuthbert and introduced themselves one
by one.

"You see our master in his best mood to-day," one said. "I never have
seen him so gracious, but no wonder. Now we have no ceremony here. I am
René, and this is Pierre, and this Jean, and you will be Cuthbert."

"It is our custom in England," Cuthbert said, "that a new boy always
pays his footing; so gentlemen, I hope you will sup with me this
evening. I am a stranger and know nothing of Paris; at any rate nothing
of your quarter, so I must ask two of you to act as a committee with me,
and to tell me where we can get a good supper and enjoy ourselves."

From that time Cuthbert had been one of the brotherhood and shared in
all their amusements, entering into them with a gayety and heartiness
that charmed them and caused them to exclaim frequently that he could
not be an Englishman, and that his accent was but assumed. Arnold
Dampierre had been admitted two months later. He had, the master said,
distinct talent, but his work was fitful and uncertain. Some days he
would work earnestly and steadily, but more often he was listless and
indolent, exciting M. Goudé's wrath to fever heat.

Among the students he was by no means a favorite. He did not seem to
understand a joke, and several times blazed out so passionately that
Cuthbert had much trouble in soothing matters down, explaining to the
angry students that Dampierre was of hot southern blood and that his
words must not be taken seriously. Americans, he said, especially in the
south, had no idea of what the English call chaff, and he begged them as
a personal favor to abstain from joking with him, or it would only lead
to trouble in the studio.



CHAPTER V.


There was no more talk after the master had given the order for work.
Most of the easels were shifted round and fresh positions taken up, then
there was a little pause.

"She is late," M. Goudé said, with an impatient stamp of the foot. The
words were scarcely out of his mouth when the door opened and a girl
entered.

"Good-morning, messieurs," and she made a sweeping courtesy.

"You are five minutes late, Minette."

"Ma foi, master, what would you have with the Prussians in sight and all
Paris in the streets--five minutes mean neither here nor there. I
expected praise for having come at all."

"There, there," the artist said hastily, "run into your closet and
change, we are all waiting."

She walked across the room to a door in the corner, with an expression
of careless defiance in her face, and reappeared in five minutes in the
dress of a Mexican peasant girl attired for a fête. The dress suited her
admirably. She was rather above the middle height, her figure lithe and
supple with exceptionally graceful curves; her head was admirably poised
on her neck. Her hair was very dark, and her complexion Spanish rather
than French. Her father was from Marseilles and her mother from Arles.

Minette was considered the best model in Paris, and M. Goudé had the
merit of having discovered her. Three years before, when passing through
a street inhabited by the poorer class of workmen in Montmartre, he had
seen her leaning carelessly against a doorway. He was struck with the
easy grace of her pose. He walked up the street and then returned. As he
did so he saw her spring out and encounter an older woman, and at once
enter upon a fierce altercation with her. It was carried on with all the
accompaniment of southern gesture and ceased as suddenly as it began;
the girl, with a gesture of scorn and contempt turning and walking back
to the post she had left with a mien as haughty as that of a Queen
dismissing an insolent subject.

"That girl would be worth a fortune as a model," the artist muttered. "I
must secure her; her action and gesture are superb." He walked up to
her, lifted his broad hat, and said "Mademoiselle, I am an artist. My
name is Goudé. I have an academy for painting, and I need a model. The
work is not hard, it is but to sit or stand for two or three hours of a
morning, and the remuneration I should offer would be five francs a day
for this. Have I your permission to speak to your parents?"

There was an angry glitter in her eye--a change in her pose that,
slight as it was, reminded the artist of a cat about to spring.

"A model for a painter, monsieur? Is it that you dare to propose that I
shall sit without clothes to be stared at by young men? I have heard of
such things. Is this what monsieur wishes?"

"Not at all, not at all," Mr. Goudé said hastily. "Mademoiselle would
always be dressed. She would be sometimes a Roman lady, sometimes a
Spanish peasant, a Moorish girl, a Breton, or other maiden. You would
always be free to refuse any costume that you considered unsuitable."

Her expression changed again. "If that is all, I might do it," she said;
"it is an easy way of earning money. How often would you want me?"

"I should say three times a week, and on the other three days you would
have no difficulty in obtaining similar work among artists of my own
acquaintance. Here is my card and address."

The girl took it carelessly.

"I will speak to my father about it this evening when he comes home from
work. You are quite sure that I shall not have to undress at all?"

"I have assured mademoiselle already that nothing of the sort will be
required of her. There are models indeed who pose for figure, but these
are a class apart, and I can assure mademoiselle that her feelings of
delicacy will be absolutely respected."

The next day Minette Dufaure appeared at the studio and had ever since
sat for all the female figures required. The air of disdain and defiance
she had first shown soon passed away, and she entered with zest and
eagerness upon her work. She delighted in being prettily and becomingly
dressed. She listened intelligently to the master's descriptions of the
characters that she was to assume, and delighted him with the readiness
with which she assumed suitable poses, and the steadiness with which she
maintained them.

There was nothing of the stiffness of the model in her attitudes. They
had the charm of being unstudied and natural, and whether as a
bacchanal, a peasant girl, or a Gaulish amazon, she looked the part
equally well; her face was singularly mobile, and although this was an
inferior consideration to the master, she never failed to represent the
expression appropriate to the character she assumed.

Her reputation was soon established among the artists who occasionally
dropped into Goudé's studio, and her spare time was fully occupied, and
that at much higher rates of pay than those she earned with him. After
the first two or three months she came but twice a week there, as that
amply sufficed for the needs of the studio. On his telling her that he
should no longer require her to come three times a week, as his pupils
had other things to learn besides drawing the female figure, the master
said--

"I must pay you higher in future, Minette. I know that my friends are
paying you five francs an hour."

"A bargain is a bargain," she said. "You came to me first, and but for
you I should never have earned a penny. Now we have moved into a better
street and have comfortable lodgings. We have everything we want, and I
am laying by money fast. You have always treated me well, and I like you
though your temper is even worse than my father's. I shall keep to my
agreement as long as you keep to yours, and if you do not I shall not
come here at all."

With the students Minette was a great favorite. In the pause of five
minutes every half-hour to allow her to change her position, she chatted
and laughed with them with the frankest good temper, more than holding
her own in the sallies of chaff. When they occasionally made excursions
in a body into the country to sketch and paint, she was always of the
party, going in the capacity of comrade instead of that of a model,
contributing a full share to the lunch basket, but ready to pose as a
peasant girl with a fagot on her head, a gleaner, or a country-woman
with a baby on her lap, according to the scene and requirements. It was
a matter of course that Minette should be present at every supper party
or little fête among the students, always being placed in the seat of
honor at the head of the table, and joining in all the fun of those
merry reunions. For a time she treated all alike as comrades, and
accepted no compliments save those so extravagant as to provoke general
laughter. Gradually, however, it came to be understood among the
students that Minette made an exception in the case of Arnold Dampierre,
and that on occasions when they happened to break up in pairs he was
generally by her side.

"One never can tell what women will do," René Caillard said one evening,
when five or six of them were sitting smoking together. "Now, Minette
might have the pick of us."

"No, no, René," one of the others protested, "most of us are suited
already."

"Well, several of us, then. I am at present unattached, and so are
André, and Pierre, and Jean; so is Cuthbert. Now, putting us aside, no
woman in her senses could hesitate between the Englishman and Dampierre.
He has a better figure, is stronger and better looking. He is cleverer,
and is as good-tempered as the American is bad; and yet she takes a
fancy for Dampierre, and treats all the rest of us, including the
Englishman, as if we were boys."

"I fancy women like deference," Pierre Leroux said. "She is a good
comrade with us all, she laughs and jokes with us as if she were one of
ourselves. Now the American very seldom laughs and never jokes. He
treats her as if she were a duchess and takes her altogether seriously.
I believe he would be capable of marrying her."

The others all burst into a laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" Cuthbert asked, as he entered the room at
the moment.

"Pierre is just saying that he thinks the American is capable of
marrying Minette."

"I hope not," Cuthbert said, more seriously than he generally spoke.
"Minette is altogether charming as she is. She is full of fun and life;
she is clever and sparkling. There is no doubt that in her style she is
very pretty. As to her grace it needs no saying. I think she is an
honest good girl, but the idea of marrying her would frighten me. We see
the surface and it is a very pleasant one, but it is only the surface.
Do you think a woman could look as she does in some of her poses and not
feel it? We have never seen her in a passion, but if she got into one,
it would be terrible. When she flashes out sometimes it is like a tongue
of flame from a slumbering volcano. You would feel that there might be
an eruption that would sweep everything before it. As you know, I gave
up painting her after the first two months, but I sketch her in every
pose; not always her whole figure, but her face, and keep the sketches
for use some day. I was looking through them only yesterday and I said
to myself, 'this woman is capable of anything.' She might be a Joan of
Arc, or Lucraetzia Borghia. She is a puzzle to me altogether. Put her in
a quiet, happy home and she might turn out one of the best of women. Let
her be thrown into turbulent times and she might become a demon of
mischief. At present she is altogether undeveloped. She is two and
twenty in years, but a child, or rather a piquant, amusing young girl,
in manner, and perhaps in disposition. She is an enigma of which I
should be sorry to have to undertake the solution. As she seems, I like
her immensely, but when I try to fathom what she really is, she
frightens me."

The others laughed.

"Poor little Minette," Pierre Leroux said. "You are too hard upon her
altogether, Cuthbert. The girl is a born actress and would make her
fortune on the stage. She can represent, by the instinct of art,
passions which she has never felt. She can be simple and majestic, a
laughing girl and a furious woman, a Christian martyr and a bacchanal,
simply because she has mobile features, intelligence, sentiment,
emotion, and a woman's instinct, that is all. She is a jolly little
girl, and the only fault I have to find with her is that she has the bad
taste to prefer that gloomy American to me."

"Well, I hope you are right, Pierre, though I hold my own opinion
unchanged--at any rate I sincerely trust that Dampierre will not make a
fool of himself with her. You men do not like him because you don't
understand him. You are gay and light-hearted, you take life as it
comes. You form connections easily and lightly, and break them off again
a few months later just as easily. Dampierre takes life earnestly. He is
indolent, but that is a matter of race and blood. He would not do a
dishonorable action to save his life. I believe he is the heir to a
large fortune, and he can, therefore, afford to work at his art in a
dilettante sort of manner, and not like us poor beggars who look forward
to earning our livelihood by it. He is passionate, I grant, but that is
the effect of his bringing up on a plantation in Louisiana, surrounded
by his father's slaves, for though they are now free by law the nature
of the negro is unchanged, and servitude is his natural position. The
little white master is treated like a god, every whim is humored, and
there being no restraining hand upon him, it would be strange if he did
not become hasty and somewhat arrogant.

"Not that there is any arrogance about Dampierre--he is unaffected and
simple in his tastes, except in the matter of his lodgings. I question
if there is one of us who spends less than he does, but he no more
understands you than you understand him; he takes your badinage
seriously, and cannot understand that it is harmless fun. However, he is
better in that respect than when he first came over, and in time, no
doubt, his touchiness will die out. God forbid that he should ever spoil
his life by such a hideous mistake as marrying Minette. Except on the
principle that people are always attracted by their opposites, I can't
account for his infatuation for this girl, or for her taking up with
him. He has never alluded to the subject to me. I don't know that her
name has ever been mentioned between us. I agree with you that I think
he is in earnest about her, but my conclusion is certainly not formed on
anything he has ever said himself. I have often thought that a good deal
of his irritability arises from his annoyance at her fun and easy way
with us all. He never comes to any of our little meetings. If he is
really in earnest about her, I can understand that it would be a
terrible annoyance to him to see her taking a lead in such meetings and
associating so freely with your, let us say, temporary wives. I have
seen him on some of our sketching excursions walk away, unable to
contain his anger when you have all been laughing and joking with her."

"I consider that to be an insolence," René said hotly.

"No, no, René, imagine yourself five years older, and making a fortune
rapidly by your art, in love with some girl whom you hope to make your
wife. I ask you whether you would like to see her laughing and chatting
_en bonne camarade_ with a lot of wild young students. Still less, if
you can imagine such a thing, joining heart and soul in the fun of one
of their supper parties. You would not like it, would you?"

"No," René admitted frankly. "I own I shouldn't. Of course, I cannot
even fancy such a thing occurring, but if it did I can answer for it
that I should not be able to keep my temper. I think now that you put it
so, we shall be able to make more allowances for the American in
future."

To this the others all agreed, and henceforth the tension that had not
unfrequently existed between Dampierre and his fellow-students was
sensibly relaxed.

"You were not here last week, Minette," M. Goudé said, as he went up on
to the platform at the end of the room to arrange her pose.

"I did not think that you would expect me, master," she said, "but even
if you had I could not have come. Do you think that one could stand
still like a statue for hours when great things were being done, when
the people were getting their liberty again, and the flag of the despot
was being pulled down from the Tuileries. I have blood in my veins,
master, not ice."

"Bah!" M. Goudé exclaimed. "What difference does it make to you, or to
anyone as far as I see, whether the taxes are levied in the name of an
Emperor or of a Republic? Do you think a Republic is going to feed you
any better and reduce your rents, or to permit Belleville and Montmartre
to become masters of Paris? In a short time they will grumble at the
Republic just as they grumble at the Emperor. It is folly and madness.
The Emperor is nothing to me, the Government is nothing to me. I have
to pay my taxes--they are necessary--for the army has to be kept up and
the Government paid; beyond that I do not care a puff of my pipe what
Government may call itself."

"You will see what you will see," said the girl, sententiously.

"I dare say, Minette, as long as I have eyes I shall do that. Now don't
waste any more time."

"What am I to be, master?"

"A Spanish peasant girl dancing; hold these slips of wood in your hand,
they are supposed to be castanets; now just imagine that music is
playing and that you are keeping time to it with them, and swaying your
body, rather than moving your feet to the music."

After two or three changes she struck an attitude that satisfied the
master.

"That will do, Minette, stand as you are; you cannot improve that. Now,
gentlemen, to work."

She was standing with one foot advanced, as if in the act of springing
on to it; one of her arms was held above her head, the other advanced
across her body; her head was thrown back, and her balance perfect.

Cuthbert looked up from his work, took out a note-book, and rapidly
sketched the figure; and then, putting his book into his pocket again,
returned to his work, the subject of which was a party of Breton
mobiles, with stacked arms under some trees in the Champs Elysée. He had
taken the sketch two days before and was now transferring it on to
canvas.

"I should not be surprised," he thought to himself, "if the girl is
right, and if there is not serious trouble brewing in the slums of
Paris.

"As soon as these fellows find out that they are no better off for the
change, and that a Republic does not mean beer and skittles, or, as they
would like, unlimited absinthe and public workshops, with short hours
and high pay, they will begin to get savage, and then there will be
trouble. The worst of it is one can never rely upon the troops, and
discipline is certainly more relaxed than usual now that the Emperor
has been upset, and every Jack thinks himself as good as his master.
Altogether I think we are likely to have lively times here before long.
I am not sure that the enemies within are not likely to prove as great a
danger to Paris as the foe without. It was a happy idea of mine to come
to Paris, and I am likely to get subjects enough to last for a
life-time, though I don't know that battle scenes are altogether in my
line. It does not seem to me that I have any line in particular yet. It
is a nuisance having to decide on that, because I have heard Wilson say
an artist, like a writer, must have a line, and when he has once taken
it up he must stick to it. If a man once paints sea pieces the public
look to get sea pieces from him, and won't take anything else. It is the
same thing if he accustoms them to Eastern, or Spanish, or any other
line.

"It maybe that this war will decide the matter for me, which will be a
comfort and relief, though I doubt if I shall ever be able to stick in
one groove. Goudé said only yesterday that I had better go on working at
both figure and landscape. At present he could not give an opinion as to
which I was likely to succeed in best, but that he rather fancied that
scenes of life and action, combined with good backgrounds, were my
forte, and battle scenes would certainly seem to come under that
category."

After work was over Cuthbert went out by himself and spent the afternoon
in sketching. He was engaged on a group of soldiers listening to one of
their number reading a bulletin of the latest news, when his eye fell on
a young lady walking with a brisk step towards him. He started, then
closed his note-book suddenly, and as she was on the point of passing,
turned to her and held out his hand.

"Have you dropped from the skies, Miss Brander?"

There was surprise, but neither embarrassment nor emotion on her face as
she said, frankly--

"Why, Cuthbert Hartington, this is a curious meeting. I did know you
were in Paris, for I had heard as much from my father, but I had no idea
of your address and I have wondered many times since I came here, five
weeks ago, whether we should run against each other. No, I have not
dropped from the clouds, and you ought to have known I should be here; I
told you that I was going to have a year in Germany and then a year in
France. My year in Germany was up two months ago. I went home for a
fortnight, and here I am as a matter of course."

"I might have known you would carry out your programme exactly as you
had sketched it, but I thought that the disturbed state of things over
here might have induced you to defer that part of the plan until a more
appropriate season. Surely Paris is not just at present a pleasant abode
for a young lady, and is likely to be a much more unpleasant one later
on."

"I think there could hardly be a more appropriate time for being here,
Mr. Hartington; one could have no better time for studying social
problems than the present when conventionalities have gone to the winds
and one sees people as they are; but this is hardly the place to talk. I
am boarding with a family at No. 15 Avenue de Passy. Will you come and
see me there?"

"Certainly I will, if you will allow me. What will be a convenient
time?"

"I should say three o'clock in the afternoon. They are all out then,
except Madame Michaud and her little daughter, and we shall be able to
chat comfortably, which we could not do if you came in the evening, when
the father is at home and two boys who are away at school during the
day. Will you come to-morrow?"

"Yes, my afternoons are free at present."

She held out her hand and then walked away with a steady business-like
step. Cuthbert stood watching her till she had disappeared in the crowd.

"She has no more sentiment in her composition at present," he said to
himself with a laugh that had some bitterness in it, "than a nether
millstone. Her mind is so wrapped up in this confounded fad of hers that
there is no room in it for anything else. I might have been a cousin,
instead of a man she had refused, for any embarrassment or awkwardness
she felt at our sudden meeting. It clearly made no impression at all
upon her. She remembers, of course, that she met me at Newquay. I don't
suppose she has really forgotten that I asked her to be my wife, but it
was a mere incident, and affected her no more than if I had asked her to
buy a picture and she had refused. I wish to goodness I had not met her
again. I had got fairly over it, and was even beginning to wonder how I
ever could have wanted to marry anyone so different in every way from
the sort of woman I fancied I should have fallen in love with. How
foolish of her coming over to Paris at this time. Well, I daresay it has
all saved a lot of trouble. I suppose at that time Brander would have
been delighted at the prospect, but it would have been a very different
thing after the failure of the bank. I don't think he would have made a
pleasant father-in-law under the present circumstances. He is an old
fox. I always thought so, and I think so more than ever now. It has been
a queer affair altogether. I wonder what Mary thinks of it all. I
suppose she will talk to me about it to-morrow afternoon. By the way, I
have to go this evening with René and the others to be sworn in or
attested, or whatever they call it, at the Mairie. Their report as to
the officers is satisfactory. I have heard that Longfranc was an
excellent officer before he came into some money, cut the army and took
up art. I have no doubt he will make a good major, and he understands
the men better than most army men would do. They say the Colonel is a
good man, too, and was very popular with his regiment before he retired
from the service."



CHAPTER VI.


On inquiry of the concierge at No. 15 Avenue de Passy, Cuthbert was
informed that Madame Michaud lived on the third floor. On ascending and
ringing the bell the door was opened by an elderly servant.

"I have called to see Mademoiselle Brander, is she at home?"

"She is, sir."

"Would you give her my card, if you please?"

"Mademoiselle is expecting you," the servant said, and led the way at
once into a sitting-room.

It was of the usual type of such room--of good size but bare, with
bee's-waxed flooring, plainly frescoed walls, and a ceiling colored gray
and bordered with painted arabesques. Two or three small rugs relieved
the bareness of the floor. An oval table on very thin legs stood in the
middle; the chairs and couch seemed to have been made to match it, and
had an eminently bare and uncomfortable appearance; a vase of flowers
stood on a spindle-legged little table in front of one of the windows
which opened down to the ground. Some colored prints in frames of
stained wood hung on the walls, and some skimpy curtains draped the
windows.

Mary Brander was seated with a writing-pad on her knee at the window
unoccupied by the vase and its support. She put the writing-pad and a
book, evidently a large diary, down on the floor.

"You are punctual to the minute, Mr. Hartington. I should never have
credited you with that virtue."

"Nor with any other virtue, I imagine, Miss Brander," he said, with a
smile.

"Oh, yes, I do. I credit you with numbers of them. Now draw that chair
up to the window--it is not comfortable, but it is the best of them--and
let us talk. Now, in the first place you don't know how sorry, how
dreadfully sorry I have been about what has happened at home. I was
shocked, indeed, at the news of the sudden death of your dear father. He
was always so kind when he came to see us, and I liked him so much, I
felt for you deeply. It must have been an awful shock for you. I heard
it a few days after I got to Dresden. Then came the other news about
that terrible failure and its consequences. It seemed too shocking
altogether that you should have lost the dear old place, but I do think
I was most shocked of all when I heard that my father had bought it.
Somehow it did not seem to be right. Of course it must have been, but it
did not seem so to me. Did it to you, Cuthbert?" and she looked at him
wistfully.

"I have no doubt it was all right," he said, "and as it was to be sold,
I think I preferred it should be to your father rather than anybody
else. I believe I rather liked the thought that as it was not to be my
home it would be yours."

She shook her head.

"It does not seem to me to be natural at all, and I was miserable all
the time I was there the other day."

"Your father respected my wishes in all respects, Mary. I believe he
kept on all the old servants who chose to stay. He promised me that he
would not sell my father's hunters, and that no one should ride them,
but that they should be pensioners as long as they lived; and the same
with the dogs, and that at any time, if I moved into quarters where I
could keep a dog or two, he would send up my two favorites to me."

"Yes, they are all there. I went out and gave cakes to the dogs and
sugar to the horses every day, and talked to them, and I think regularly
had a cry over them. It was very foolish, but I could not help it. It
did all seem so wrong and so pitiful. I could not learn much about you
from father. He said that you had only written once to him on business
since things were finally settled; but that you had mentioned that you
were going to Paris, and he said, too--" and she hesitated for a moment,
"that although you had lost Fairclose and all the property, you had
enough to live upon in a way--a very poor way--but still enough for
that."

"Not such a very poor way," he said. "There is no secret about it. I had
five thousand pounds that had been settled on my mother, and fortunately
that was not affected by the smash, so I have two hundred a year, which
is amply sufficient for my wants."

"It is enough, of course, to live upon in a way, Cuthbert, but so
different from what you were accustomed to."

"I don't suppose you spend two hundred a year," he said, with a smile.

"Oh, no, but a woman is so different. That is just what I have, and of
course I don't spend anything like all of it; but as I said, it is so
different with you, who have been accustomed to spend ever so much
more."

"I don't find myself in any way pinched. I can assure you my lodgings in
the Quartier Latin are not what you would call sumptuous, but they are
comfortable enough, and they do not stand me in a quarter of what I paid
for my chambers in London. I can dine sumptuously on a franc and a half.
Another franc covers my breakfast, which is generally _café au lait_ and
two eggs; another franc suffices for supper. So you see that my
necessaries of life, including lodgings and fuel, do not come to
anything like half my income, and I can spend the rest in riotous living
if I choose."

The girl looked at him earnestly.

"You are not growing cynical, I hope, Cuthbert?"

"I hope not. I am certainly not conscious of it. I don't look cynical,
do I?"

"No," she said, doubtfully. "I do not see any change in you, but what do
you do with yourself?"

"I paint," he said.

"Really!"

"Really and truly, I have become what you wanted me to become, a very
earnest person indeed, and some day people may even take to buying my
pictures."

"I never quite know when you are in earnest, Cuthbert; but if it is true
it is very good news. Do you mean that you are really studying?"

"I am indeed. I work at the studio of one M. Goudé, and if you choose to
inquire, you will find he is perhaps the best master in Paris. I am
afraid the Prussians are going to interrupt my studies a good deal. This
has made me angry and I have enlisted--that is to say, been sworn in as
a member of the Chasseurs des Écoles, which most of the students at
Goudé's have joined."

"What! You are going to fight against the Germans!" she exclaimed,
indignantly. "You never can mean it, Cuthbert."

"I mean it, I can assure you," he said, amused at her indignation. "I
suppose you are almost Germanized, and regard their war against the
French as a just and holy cause."

"Certainly I do," she said, "though of course, I should not say so here.
I am in France and living in a French family, and naturally I would say
nothing that would hurt the feelings of the people round me, but there
can be no doubt that the French deserve all the misfortunes that have
fallen upon them. They would have invaded Germany, and all these poor
young Germans have been torn away from their friends and families to
fight."

"So have these young Frenchmen. To my mind the war was deliberately
forced upon France, but I think we had better agree to differ on this
subject. You have been among Germans and it is not unnatural that you
should have accepted their version. I have been living among Frenchmen,
and although I do not say that it would not have been much wiser if they
had avoided falling into the pit dug for them, my sympathies are wholly
with them, except in this outburst of folly that has resulted in the
establishment, for a time at any rate, of a Republic. Now, I have no
sympathy whatever with Republics, still less for a Republic controlled
by political adventurers, and like many Frenchmen I am going to fight
for France, and in no way for the Republic. At any rate let us agree to
avoid the subject altogether. We shall never convince each other however
much we might argue it over."

The girl was silent for two or three minutes, and then said--

"Well, we will agree not to quarrel over it. I don't know how it is that
we always see things so differently, Cuthbert. However, we may talk
about your doings without arguing over the cause. Of course you do not
suppose there will be much fighting--a week or two will see the end of
it all."

"Again we differ," he said. "I believe that there will be some sharp
fighting, and I believe that Paris will hold out for months."

She looked at him incredulously.

"I should have thought," she said, after a pause, "you were the last
person who would take this noisy shouting mob seriously."

"I don't think anything of the mob one way or the other," he said. "I
despise them utterly; but the troops and the mobiles are sufficient to
man the forts and the walls, and I believe that middle-class corps, like
the one I have entered, will fight manfully; and the history of Paris
has shown over and over again that the mob of Paris, fickle,
vain-headed, noisy braggadocios as they are, and always have been, can
at least starve well. They held out against Henry of Navarre till
numbers dropped dead in the streets, and until the Spaniards came at
last from the Netherlands and raised the siege, and I believe they will
hold out now. They have courage enough, as has been shown over and over
again at the barricades, but they will be useless for fighting because
they will submit to no discipline. Still, as I said, they can starve,
and it will be a long time indeed before the suffering will become
intense enough to drive them to surrender. I fear that you have
altogether underrated the gravity of the situation, and that you will
have very severe privations to go through before the siege is over."

"I suppose I can stand it as well as others," she laughed, "but I think
you are altogether wrong. However, if it should come it will be very
interesting."

"Very," he said, shortly, "but I doubt if you will see it quite in the
same light when it comes to eating rats."

"I should not eat them," she said, decidedly.

"Well, when it comes to that or nothing, I own that I myself shall eat
rats if I can get them. I have heard that the country rat, the fellow
that lives in ricks, is by no means bad eating, but I own to having a
doubt as to the Paris rat."

"It is disgusting to think of such a thing," she said, indignantly, "the
idea is altogether ridiculous."

"I do not know whether you consider that betting is among the things
that woman has as much right to do as man; but if you do, I am ready to
wager it will come to rats before Paris surrenders."

"I never made a bet in my life," she said, "but I will wager five francs
with you that there will be nothing of the sort. I do not say that rats
may not be eaten in the poor quarters. I do not know what they eat
there. I hear they eat horse-flesh, and for anything I know they may eat
rats; but I will wager that rats will never be openly sold as an article
of food before Paris surrenders."

"It is a bet," he said, "and I will book it at once," and he gravely
took out a pocket-book and made an entry. "And now," he said, as he
replaced the book in his pocket, "how do you pass your time?"

"I spend some hours every day at the Bibliothêque. Then I take a walk in
this quarter and all round the Boulevards. One can walk just as freely
there as one could in Germany, but I find that I cannot venture off them
into the poorer quarters; the people stare, and it is not pleasant."

"I certainly should not recommend you to make experiments that way. In
the great thoroughfares a lady walking by herself passes unnoticed,
especially if she looks English or American. They are coming to
understand that young women in those countries are permitted an amount
of freedom that is shocking to the French mind, but the idea has not
permeated to the lower strata of society.

"If you are really desirous of investigating the ways of the female
population of the poorer quarters, I shall be happy to escort you
whenever you like, but I do not think you will be altogether gratified
with the result of your researches, and I think that you would obtain a
much closer insight into French lower class life by studying Balzac and
some of the modern writers--they are not always savory, but at least
they are realistic."

"Balzac is terrible," she said, "and some of the others I have read a
little of are detestable. I don't think you can be serious in advising
me to read them."

"I certainly should not advise you to read any of them, Miss Brander, if
you were a young lady of the ordinary type; but as you take up the cause
of woman in general it is distinctly necessary that you should study all
the phases of female life. How else can you grapple with the question?"

"You are laughing at me again, Mr. Hartington," she said, somewhat
indignantly.

"I can assure you that I am not. If your crusade is in favor only of
girls of the upper and middle classes, you are touching but the fringe
of the subject, for they are outnumbered by twenty to one by those of
other classes, and those in far greater need of higher life than the
others."

"It seems rather hopeless," Mary Brander said, despondently, after a
pause, "one is so unable to influence them."

"Exactly so. You are setting yourself to move a mountain. When the time
comes there may be an upheaval, and the mountain may move of its own
accord; but the efforts of a thousand or ten thousand women as earnest
as yourself would be no more use in proportion, than those of a colony
of ants working to level the mountain."

"Don't discourage me, Cuthbert," she said, pitifully. "I do believe with
all my heart in my principles, but I do often feel discouraged. The task
seems to grow larger and more difficult the more I see of it, and I own
that living a year among German women was rather crushing to me."

"That I can quite understand," he said, with a smile, "the average
German woman differs as widely in her ideas--I do not say aspirations,
for she has none--from your little group of theorists at Girton as the
poles are apart."

"But do not think," she replied, rallying, "that I am in the least
shaken because I see that the difficulty is greater than I have looked
for. Your simile of ants is not correct. Great things can be done by
individuals. Voltaire and Rousseau revolutionized French thought from
the top to the bottom. Why should not a great woman some day rise and
exercise as great influence over her sex as these two Frenchmen did? But
do not let us talk about that any more. I want to hear more about what
you are doing. I have thought of you so much during the past year--it
has all seemed so strange and so sad. Are you really working hard--I
mean steadily and regularly?"

"You evidently think that impossible," he laughed, "but I can assure you
it is true. If you doubt me I will give you Goudé's address, and if you
call upon him and say that you have an interest in me--you can assign
any reason you like, say that you are an aunt of mine and intend to
make me your heir--and beg him to inform you frankly of his opinion of
my work and progress, I feel sure that he will give you an account that
will satisfy your doubts."

"I don't think I could do that," she said, seriously. "There, you are
laughing at me again," she broke off as she looked up at him. "Of course
I could not do such a thing, but I should very greatly like to know
about you."

"I do think, Miss Brander, I am working hard enough and steady enough to
satisfy even you. I did so for six months in England with a fellow named
Terrier. He was just the master I wanted. He had not a shadow of
imagination, but was up in all the technical details of painting, and in
six months' hard work I really learnt to paint; previous to that I knew
nothing of painting. I could make a colored sketch, but that was all,
now I am on the highway to becoming an artist. Goudé will only receive
pupils whom he considers likely to do him credit, and on seeing two of
the things I had done after I had been working with Terrier, he accepted
me at once. He is a splendid master--out and away the best in Paris, and
is really a great artist himself. He is a peppery little man and will
tolerate no nonsense, and I can assure you that he is well satisfied
with me. I am going to set to work to do a couple of pictures on my own
account for next year's Salon. I should have waited another year before
trying my wings, if he had not encouraged me to venture at once, and as
he is very much opposed to his pupils painting for exhibition until they
are sufficiently advanced to begin with a success, it is proof that he
has at least some hopes of me."

"I am glad indeed, Cuthbert. I shan't be quite so sorry now as I have
been about your losing Fairclose. It is so much nobler to work than it
is to fritter away a life doing nothing. How tiresome it is," she said,
"that you have taken this unfortunate idea in your head of joining a
French corps. It will unsettle you altogether."

"Really," he broke in with a laugh, "I must protest against being
considered so weak and unstable. You had a perfect right in thinking me
lazy, but I don't think you have any right in considering me a reed to
be shaken by every passing wind. I can assure you that I am very fixed
in my resolves. I was content to be lazy before simply because there was
no particular reason for my being otherwise, and I admit that
constitutionally I may incline that way; but when a cataclysm occurred,
and, as I may say, the foundations were shaken, it became necessary for
me to work, and I took a resolution to do so, and have stuck to it.
Possibly I should have done so in any case. You see when a man is told
by a young lady he is a useless idler, who does but cumber the earth, it
wakes him up a little."

"I am sure I didn't say that," Mary said, indignantly, but with a hot
flush on her cheeks.

"Not in those precise words, but you spoke to that effect, and my
conscience told me you were not far wrong in your opinion. I had begun
to meditate whether I ought not to turn over a new leaf when I came in
suddenly for Fairclose; that of course seemed to knock it all on the
head. Then came what we may call the smash. This was so manifestly an
interposition of Providence in the direction of my bestirring myself
that I took the heroic resolution to work."

Mary felt that it was desirable to avoid continuing the subject. She had
long since come to regard that interview in the garden as a sort of
temporary aberration on his part, and that although, perhaps, sincere at
the moment, he had very speedily come to laugh at his own folly, and had
recognized that the idea was altogether ridiculous. Upon her it had made
so little impression that it had scarcely occurred to her when they met,
that any passage of the sort had taken place, and had welcomed him as
the lad she had known as a child, rather than as the man who had, under
a passing impulse, asked her to marry him.

"I think," she said suddenly, "I will fetch Madame Michaud in. It will
be nice for you to come here in the evening sometimes, and it would be
better for her to ask you to do so than for me. These French people have
such funny ideas."

"It would certainly be more pleasant," he agreed, "and evening will be
the time that I have most leisure--that is to say, when we do not happen
to be on duty, as to which I am very vague at present. They say the
sailors will garrison the forts and the army take the outpost duty; but
I fancy, when the Germans really surround us, it will be necessary to
keep so strong a force outside the walls, that they will have to call
out some of us in addition. The arrangement at present is, we are to
drill in the morning and we shall paint in the afternoon; so the evening
will be the only time when we shall be free."

"What do you do in the evening generally? You must find it very lonely."

"Not at all. I have an American who is in our school, and who lodges in
the same house as I do. Then there are the students, a light-hearted,
merry set of young fellows. We have little supper-parties and go to each
other's rooms to chatter and smoke. Then, occasionally, I drop into the
theatre. It is very much like the life I had in London, only a good deal
more lively and amusing, and with a great deal less luxury and a very
much smaller expenditure; and--this is very serious I can assure
you--very much worse tobacco."

The girl laughed merrily.

"What will you do about smoking when you are reduced to the extremity
you prophesy?"

"That point is, I confess, troubling me seriously. I look forward with
very much greater dread to the prospect of having to smoke dried leaves
and the sweepings of tobacco warehouses, than I do to the eating of
rats. I have been making inquiries of all sorts as to the state of the
stock of tobacco, and I intend this evening to invest five pounds in
laying in a store; and mean to take up a plank and hide it under the
floor, and to maintain the most profound secrecy as to its existence.
There is no saying whether, as time goes on, it may not be declared an
offence of the gravest character for any one to have a private store of
any necessary. If you have any special weaknesses, such as chocolate or
tea, or anything of that sort, I should advise you not to lose a moment
in laying in a good stock. You will see in another week, when people
begin to recognize generally what a siege means, that everything
eatable will double in price, and in a month only millionaires will be
able to purchase them."

"I really will buy some tea and chocolate," she said.

"Get in a good stock," he said. "Especially of chocolate. I am quite
serious, I can assure you. Unfortunately, you have no place for keeping
a sheep or two, or a bullock; and bread, at the end of a couple of
months, could scarcely be eaten; but, really, I should advise you to
invest in a dozen of those big square boxes of biscuits, and a ham or
two may come in as a welcome addition some day."

Mary laughed incredulously, but she was much more inclined than before
to look at matters seriously, when, on fetching Madame Michaud in, that
lady, in the course of conversation, mentioned that her husband had that
morning bought three sacks of flour and a hundred tins of preserved
meats.

"He is going to get some boxes," she said, "and to have the flour
emptied into them, then the baker will bring them round in a cart, so
that no one will guess it is flour. He says it is likely that there will
be an order issued that everything of that sort is to be given into a
public store for general distribution, so it must be brought here
quietly. He tells me that every one he knows is doing the same thing. My
servant has been out this morning eight times and has been buying eggs.
She has brought a hundred each time, and we are putting them in a cask
in salt."

"Do you really think all that is necessary, madame?" Mary asked,
doubtfully.

"Most certainly I do. They say everything will go up to such prices as
never were heard of before. Of course, in a month or two the country
will come to our rescue and destroy the Prussians, but till then we have
got to live. Already eggs are fetching four times as much as they did
last week. It is frightful to think of it, is it not, monsieur?"

"If I were in your place, madame, I would not reckon too surely on
relief in a month. I think that there is no doubt that, as you say,
there will be a prohibition of anyone keeping provisions of any sort,
and everything will be thrown into the public magazines. Likely enough
every house will be searched, and you cannot hide your things too
carefully."

"But why should they insist on everything being put in public
magazines?" Mary asked. "It will not go further that way than if people
keep their own stocks and eat them."

"It will be necessary, if for nothing else, to prevent rioting when the
pinch comes, and people are starving in the poorer quarters. You may be
sure if they have a suspicion that the middle and upper classes have
food concealed in their houses, they will break in and sack them. That
would only be human nature, and therefore in the interest of order alone
a decree forbidding anyone to have private stores would have to be
passed; besides it would make the food go much further, for you may be
sure that everything will be doled out in the smallest quantities
sufficient to keep life together, and before the end of the siege comes
each person may only get two or three ounces of bread a day."

Madame Michaud nodded as if prepared to be reduced even to that
extremity.

"You are right, monsieur, I am going to get stuff and to make a great
number of small bags to hold the flour; then we shall hide it away under
the boards in many places, so that if they find some they may not find
it all."

"The idea is a good one, madame, but it has its disadvantages. If they
find one parcel they will search so closely everywhere that they will
find the rest. For that reason one good hiding-place, if you could
invent one, would be better than many."

"One does not know what is best to do," Madame Michaud said, with a
gesture of tragic despair. "Who could have thought that such a thing
could happen to Paris!"

"It is unexpected, certainly," Cuthbert agreed, "but it has been
foreseen, otherwise they would never have taken the trouble to build
this circle of forts round Paris. They are useful now not only in
protecting the city but in covering a wide area, where the cattle and
sheep may feed under the protection of the guns. I don't think we are
as likely to be as badly off for meat as for bread, for after the flocks
and herds are all eaten up there are the horses, and of these there must
be tens of thousands in Paris."

"That is a comfort, certainly," the Frenchwoman said, calmly, while Mary
Brander made a little gesture of disgust.

"I have never tried horseflesh myself, at least that I know of, but they
say it is not so bad; but I cannot think that they will have to kill the
horses for food. The country will not wait until we are reduced to that
extremity."

"Mr. Hartington has joined one of the regiments of volunteers, Madame
Michaud."

"That is good of you, monsieur; my husband is in the National Guard, and
they say every one will have to take up a musket; but as you are a
foreigner, of course this would not apply to you."

"Well, for the time being I consider myself a Parisian, and as a German
shell is just as likely to fall on the roof of the house where I live as
on any other, I consider myself to be perfectly justified in doing my
best in self-defence."

"I trust that you will call whenever you are disposed in the evening,
monsieur," Madame Michaud said, cordially; "it will give my husband
pleasure to meet an English gentleman who is voluntarily going to fight
in the cause of France."

"Thank you, madame. I shall be very glad to do so. Mademoiselle's father
is a very old friend of our family, and I have known her ever since she
was a little child. It will be pleasant to me to make the acquaintance
of monsieur. And now, Miss Brander, I must be going."



CHAPTER VII.


As he sauntered back into the city, Cuthbert met an English resident
with whom he had some slight acquaintance.

"So you are not among the great army of deserters, Mr. Phipson?"

"No, I thought it better to stay here and see it out. If the Germans
come in I shall hang out the English flag and I have no doubt that it
will be all right. If I go away the chances are that I should find the
place sacked when I return."

"Then, of course, you will keep your place open."

"It will be closed to the public to-morrow--to the public, mind you. My
English customers and friends, if they come to the little door in the
Arcade, and give two knocks, and then three little ones with their
knuckles on the door, will find it open, and can be served as long as
there is any liquor left; but for the last three days I have been
clearing out nearly all my stock. The demand has been tremendous, and I
was glad enough to get rid of it, for even if the place isn't looted by
the mob all the liquors might be seized by the authorities and
confiscated for public use. I shall be glad when the doors are closed, I
can tell you, for these people are enough to make one sick. The way they
talk and brag sets my fingers itching, and I want to ask them to step
into the back room, take off their coats, those uniforms they are so
proud of, and stand up for a friendly round or two just to try what they
are made of.

"I reckon if a chap can't take one on the nose and come up smiling, he
would not be worth much when he has to stand up against the Prussians. I
thought I understood them pretty well after having been coachman here
for over twenty years, but I see now that I was wrong altogether. Of
course I knew they were beggars to talk, but I always thought that there
was something in it, and that if it came to fighting they would show up
pretty well; but to hear them going on now as to what France will do and
doing nothing themselves, gives one a sickener. Then the way as they
blackguard the Emperor, who wasn't by any means a bad chap, puts my
monkey up I can tell you. Why there is not one in fifty of them as is
fit to black his boots. He had a good taste in horses too, he had; and
when I hear them going on, it is as much as I can do not to slip in to
them.

"That is one reason why I am stopping. A week ago I had pretty well made
up my mind that I would go, but they made me so mad that I says to
myself, I will stop and see it out, if it is only for the pleasure of
seeing these fellows get the licking they deserve. I was out yesterday
evening. There was every café crowded; there was the singing-places
fuller than I ever saw them; there were drunken soldiers, who ought to
have been with their regiments outside the walls, reeling about the
streets. Any one as seed the place would have put it down that it was a
great fête-day. As to the Prussians outside no one seemed to give them a
thought. If you went from table to table you heard everyone saying that
the Germans would be destroyed, and that every one who talked of peace
now was a traitor."

"I quite agree with you," Cuthbert said, "they are most extraordinary
people. Still I do think they will fight."

"Well, sir, I don't know whether you have heard the news that they have
been licked this morning somewhere out near Clamart. I heard just now
that a lot of the linesmen bolted and never stopped running till they
got into Paris, but they say the Breton mobiles fought well, though they
had to fall back at last."

"The troops are disorganized at present," Cuthbert said; "but when you
see what a tremendous thrashing they have had it is hardly to be
expected that they should fight with any confidence, but when discipline
is restored and they have had a few skirmishes they will be different
men altogether. As to the mobiles, they are mere peasants at present,
but a month of hard work will turn them into soldiers, and I should say
better soldiers than the linesmen; but I am afraid they will never make
anything out of the National Guard. The only way to do so will be to
establish big camps outside the walls and send them all out there and
put strict army men in command, with a regiment of regulars in each camp
to carry out their orders. It would be necessary, no doubt, to shoot a
few hundred of them before anything like discipline could be
established; and once a week the whole should be sent out to attack the
Germans so as to teach them to be steady under fire. In that way they
might be turned into decent soldiers."

"Lord bless you, sir, Government would never try that. There would be
barricades in the streets in no time, and as the soldiers are all
outside the walls the mob would upset the Government in a week."

"I am not at all saying it would do, but it is the only thing to make
soldiers of them."

"Well, sir, you will know where to come when things get bad. I don't
expect there will be any beer to be had, but I have been down with my
son Bob into the cellar for the last four nights. I could not trust the
French waiters, and we dug holes and have buried a couple of dozen kegs
of my best spirits, so if they make a clear sweep of the rest I reckon
we shall be able to keep that door open a goodish while."

"I shan't forget, and I hope that your spirits may escape the searchers,
but you know just at present we are not popular in Paris. They have got
an idea in their heads that we ought to have declared war against the
Germans on their behalf; why, Heaven knows, but you may be sure that all
the English places will be very strictly searched."

"Yes, I reckon on that, and we have got them twelve feet deep. It will
be a job to get them out as we want them, but there won't be anything
else to do and it will keep us in health."

Cuthbert had asked all the students to come in and smoke a pipe that
evening in his room, and had ordered supper to be sent in.

"I am going to have it there instead of one of the usual places," he
said, "because I don't think it is decent to be feasting in a public at
a time like this. I expect it is about the last time we shall have
anything like a supper. Things will be altogether beyond the reach of
our purses in another week. Besides, I hope we shall be outside before
long."

Arnold Dampierre was the first to come in.

"I am disgusted with the Parisians," he said, moodily.

"Well, yes, I am not surprised. It is not quite the spirit in which your
people entered on their struggle, Dampierre."

"No, we meant it; the struggle with us was to get to the front. Why, do
you know, I heard two or three of the National Guard grumbling in the
highest state of indignation, and why, do you think? Because they had to
sleep in the open air last night. Are these the men to defend a city?
There will be trouble before long, Cuthbert. The workmen will not stand
it; they have no faith in the Government nor in Trochu, nor in any one."

"Including themselves, I hope," Cuthbert smiled.

"They are in earnest. I have been up at----" and he hesitated,
"Montmartre this afternoon, and they are furious there."

"They are fools," Cuthbert said, scornfully, "and no small proportion
are knaves besides. They read those foul pamphlets and gloat over the
abuse of every decently dressed person. They rave against the Prussians,
but it is the Bourgeois they hate. They talk of fighting, while what
they want is to sack and plunder."

"Nothing of the kind," the American said, hotly. "They want honesty and
purity, and public spirit. They see vice more rampant than it was in the
days of the Empire. They see the Bourgeois shirking their duty. They see
license and extravagance everywhere."

"It is a pity they don't look at home," Cuthbert laughed
good-temperedly. "I have not yet learnt that either purity or honesty,
or a sense of duty are conspicuous at Montmartre or Belleville. There is
just as much empty vaporing there as there is down the Boulevards. As to
courage, they may have a chance presently of showing whether they have
more of it than the better class. Personally, I should doubt it." Then
he added more seriously, "My dear Dampierre, I can of course guess where
you have learnt all this. I know that Minette's father is one of the
firebrands of his quarter, and that since she has been earning an income
here he has never done a stroke of work, but has taken up the profession
of politician. I am not doubting his sincerity. He may be for aught I
know perfectly in earnest, but it is his capacity I doubt. These
uneducated men are able to see but one side of the question, and that is
their own.

"I am not at all blind to the danger. I believe it is possible that we
are going to have another red revolution. Your men at Belleville and
Montmartre are capable of repeating the worst and most terrible features
of that most awful time, but you know what came of it and how it ended.
Even now some of these blackguard prints are clamoring for one man to
take the supreme control of everything. So far there are no signs of
that coming man, but doubtless, in time, another Bonaparte may come to
the front and crush down disorder with an iron heel; but that will not
be until the need for a saviour of society is evident to all. I hope, my
dear fellow, you will not be carried away with these visionary ideas. I
can, of course, understand your predilections for a Republic, but
between your Republic and the Commune, for which the organs of the mob
are already clamoring, there is no shadow of resemblance. They are both
founded, it is true, on the will of the majority, but in the States it
is the majority of an educated and distinctly law-abiding people--here
it is the majority of men who would set the law at defiance, who desire
power simply for the purposes of spoliation."

Dampierre would have replied angrily, but at this moment the door opened
and two or three of the other students entered.

"Have you heard about that affair at Clamart," they demanded eagerly.
"They say the line behaved shamefully, and that Trochu declares they
shall be decimated."

"You may be quite sure that if he said so he will not carry it out,"
Cuthbert said. "The army has to be kept in a good humor, and at any rate
until discipline is fully restored it would be too dangerous a task to
venture on punishing cowardice. It is unfortunate certainly, but things
will get better in time. You can hardly expect to make the fugitives of
a beaten army into heroes all at once. I have not the least doubt that
if the Germans made an attack in full force they would meet with very
slight resistance; but they won't do that. They will go to work in a
regular and steady way. They will erect batteries, commanding every road
out of the town, and will then sit down and starve us out, hastening the
process, perhaps, by a bombardment. But all that will take time. There
will be frequent fighting at the outposts, and if Trochu and the rest of
them make the most of the material they have at hand, poor as much of it
is, they will be able to turn out an army that should be strong enough
to throw itself upon any point in the German line and break its way
out; but it must be an army of soldiers, not a force composed of
disheartened fugitives and half-drilled citizens."

"The National Guard are drilling earnestly," René Caillard said. "I have
been watching them this afternoon, they really made a very good show."

"The father of a family with a comfortable home and a prosperous
business can drill as well as the most careless vaurien, René; better,
perhaps, for he will take much greater pains; but when it comes to
fighting, half a dozen reckless daredevils are worth a hundred of him. I
think if I had been Trochu I would have issued an order that every
unmarried man in Paris between the ages of sixteen and forty-five should
be organized into, you might call it, the active National Guard for
continual service outside the walls, while the married men should be
reserved for defending the _enceinte_ at the last extremity. The outside
force might be but a third of the whole, but they would be worth as much
as the whole force together. That is why I think that our corps may
distinguish itself. We have none of us wives or families and nothing
much to lose, consequently we shall fight well. We shan't mind hardships
for we have not been accustomed to luxuries. We are fighting as
volunteers and not because the law calls us under arms.

"We are educated and have got too much self-respect to bolt like
rabbits. I don't say we may not retire. One can't do impossibilities,
and if others don't stand, we can't oppose a Prussian Army Corps. There
is one thing you must do, and that is preserve good discipline. There is
no discipline at all in the National Guard. I saw a party of them
yesterday drilling, and two or three of them quietly marched out of the
ranks and remonstrated on terms of the most perfect equality, with their
colonel as to an order he had given. The maxim of the Republic may do
for civil life, though I have not a shadow of belief either in equality
or fraternity; nor have I in liberty when liberty means license; whether
that be so or not equality is not consistent with military discipline.
An army in which the idea of equality reigns is not an army but a mob,
and is no more use for fighting purposes than so many armed peasants.
The Shibboleth is always absurd and in a case like the present ruinous.
The first duty of a soldier is obedience, absolute and implicit, and a
complete surrender of the right of private judgment."

"And you would obey an officer if you were sure that he were wrong,
Cuthbert?"

"Certainly I would. I might, if the mistake did not cost me my life,
argue the matter out with him afterwards, if, as might happen among us,
we were personal acquaintances; but I should at the same time carry out
the order, whatever it might be, to the best of my power. And now I
propose that for this evening we avoid the subject of the siege
altogether. In future, engaged as we are likely to be, we shall hardly
be able to avoid it, and moreover the bareness of the table and the
emptiness of the wine-cups will be a forcible reminder that it will be
impossible to escape it. Did you show Goudé your sketch for your picture
for the Salon, René?"

"I did, after you had all gone, and I have not got over the interview
yet. His remarks on the design, conception, and the drawing were equally
clear and decisive. He more than hinted that I was a hopeless idiot,
that the time he had given me was altogether wasted, that I had mistaken
my avocation, and that if the Germans knocked me on the head it would be
no loss either to myself or to society in general. It is true that after
he had finished he cooled down a bit and made a number of suggestions
from which I gathered that if the whole thing were altered, my idea of
the background altogether changed, the figures differently posed, the
effect of light and shade diametrically reversed, and a few other
trifling alterations made, the thing might possibly be hung on the top
line. Ma foi, I feel altogether crushed, for I had really flattered
myself that the sketch was not altogether without merit."

When the laugh had subsided Cuthbert said--

"Courage, René, Goudé's bark is always worse than his bite, and I have
no doubt he will take a much more favorable view of it as you get on."

"It is all very well for you to say so," René said, ruefully. "You are a
spoiled child, Goudé has never a word of reproof for you."

"Probably because he knows very well that I shall not break my heart
over it. We must hold a committee of inspection on your work to-morrow;
none of us have seen your design yet, and we may be able between us to
make some useful suggestion."

"No, no," René exclaimed. "Heaven protect me from that. Do you come,
Cuthbert; none of us mind what you say about our pictures. Your
criticisms do not hurt. One would no more think of being angry with you
for using your knife than with a surgeon for performing an operation."

"Very well, René, I will come round early. I have no doubt your sketch
is a very good one on the whole, and after a few little changes it will
satisfy even Goudé. By the way, have you heard we are to elect our
company officers to-morrow?"

"Will you stand? I am sure you would have all our votes--that is
twenty-five to start with, and as we know most of the fellows in the
company we certainly could secure all those who have not any candidate
they want to run; besides, there are, of course, to be three officers,
so we should be able to traffic votes."

"No officering for me," Cuthbert laughed. "In the first place I have no
greater qualifications for the post than anyone else, and in the second
place, I am English, and though I might be elected--thanks to your
votes--I should never be liked or trusted; besides, I have not a shadow
of ambition that way. I am going to fight if necessary. I shall have my
note-book in my pocket, and I have no doubt that when we are lying
waiting for our turn to come, I shall have lots of opportunities for
jotting down little bits that will work into the great battle picture
which is to have the place of honor some day in the Salon. I think it
will certainly be pleasant to have one of our own number among the
officers, and I propose that each of us puts down on a slip of paper the
name of the man he thinks will make the best leader and throw it into a
hat; then, whoever gets the most votes, we will all support, and, as
you say, by a little traffic in the votes, we ought to be able to get
him in among the three."

"Are you absolutely determined not to stand?"

"Absolutely and positively. So please do not any of you put my name
down, two or three votes thrown away like that might alter the
decision."

He tore up a sheet of paper into small slips and passed them round.

"Before we begin to write," he said, "let it be understood that no one
is to vote for himself. I don't mind telling you who I am going to vote
for. It is Henri Vancour. This is a matter in which it should be no
question of personal liking. We should choose the man who appears to us
best fitted for the post."

The name came as a surprise upon the others, for Henri was one of the
last whom it would have occurred to them to choose. Pencils were already
in their hands and they were on the point of writing when he spoke, and
almost all would have given their votes either for René Caillard or
Pierre Leroux, who were the two most popular men among the party. There
was a pause for some little time before the pencils went to work.

They had not thought of Henri, but now they did think of him they
acknowledged to themselves that there was a good deal to be said in his
favor. He was a Norman--quiet, hard-working, and even-tempered. His
voice was seldom heard in the chorus of jokes and laughter, but when
asked for an opinion he gave it at once concisely and decidedly. He was
of medium height and squarely built. His face was cast in a rough mould
and an expression of resolution and earnestness was predominant. He had
never joined either in the invective against the Emperor, or in the
confident anticipations of glorious successes over the Germans.

He listened but said nothing, and when questioned would reply, "Let us
see some one do better than the Emperor before we condemn him. We will
hope for the best, but so far predictions have been so wrong that it
would be better to wait and see before we blow our trumpets." He had
but little genius, this young Norman, but he had perseverance and power.

M. Goudé scolded him less than others with far greater talent, and had
once said, "you will never be a great painter, Henri. I doubt if you
will ever be in the first line, but you will take a good place in the
second. You will turn out your pictures regularly and the work will
always be good and solid. You may not win any great prizes, but your
work will be esteemed, and in the end you will score as heavily as some
of those who possess real genius."

Yes, Henri was, they all felt, now they thought it over, one they could
rely upon. He would not lose his head, he would be calm in danger, as he
was calm at all other times, and he certainly would show no lack of
courage. Accordingly when the papers were opened he was found to have
received a considerable majority of the votes.

"Thank you for choosing me, comrades," he said, quietly. "I can only say
that if elected I will do my best. A man can't say more than that. Why
you should have fixed upon me I cannot think, but that is your business.
I think I can promise at any rate that I won't run away."

When the Franc-tireurs des Écoles assembled the next morning, half an
hour was given for consultation; then the vote was taken, and Henri
Vancour was declared elected first Lieutenant of the company composed
entirely of the art students, the Captain being François des Valles, who
belonged to an old provincial family, a tall, dark, handsome young man,
extremely popular among his comrades.

"I think he will do very well," Cuthbert said, as the company fell in.
"There is no fear of his leaving us when under fire; his failing, if he
has one, will be that he may want to keep us there too long. It is quite
as necessary when you are fighting by the side of fellows who are not to
be relied on, to know when to retreat as it is to know when to advance."

This was their first parade in uniform. This had been decided upon at
the first meeting held to settle the constitution of the corps, and a
quiet gray had been chosen which looked neat and workmanlike by the
side of many of the picturesque but inappropriate costumes, selected by
the majority of the Franc-tireurs. They had already had three days'
drill and had learned to form from line into column and from column into
line, to advance as skirmishers and to rally on the centres of the
companies. They now marched out through the gates and were first taught
to load the chassepots which had been bought by a general subscription
in the schools, and then spent the morning in practising, and
skirmishing, and advancing and retreating in alternate files.

When they were formed up again the old colonel said, "You are getting on
well, men. Two more mornings' work and we will go out and complete our
lessons in the face of the enemy."

When dismissed at the end of the third day, they were told to bring next
morning, the gray greatcoats and blankets that formed part of their
uniform. "Let each man bring with him three days' provisions in his
bag," the colonel said, "ammunition will be served out to you and you
will soon learn how to use it to advantage."



CHAPTER VIII.


M. Goudé grumbled much when he heard that his whole class were going to
be absent for three days.

"A nice interruption to study," he said, "however, you were none of you
doing yourselves any good, and you may as well be out in the fields as
hanging about the streets gossiping. We can always talk, but during the
past six weeks Paris has done nothing but talk. Don't come back with any
of your number short. You have all got something in you and are too good
for food for Prussian powder."

Cuthbert went that evening to the Michauds, in his uniform, not for the
purpose of showing it off, but because men in plain clothes, especially
if of fair complexions, were constantly stopped and accused of being
German spies, were often ill-treated, and not unfrequently had to pass a
night in the cells before they could prove their identity. Mary gave an
exclamation of surprise at seeing him so attired, but made no remark
until after chatting for half an hour with the Michauds. The husband
presently made the excuse that he had to attend a meeting and went off,
while madame took up some knitting, settled herself in an easy chair,
and prepared for a quiet doze, then Mary said in English--

"I have no patience with you, Cuthbert, taking part with these foolish
people. The more I see of them the more I get tired of their bombast and
their empty talk. Every man expects everyone else to do something and no
one does anything."

"They have had nothing to stir them into action yet," he said, "only the
regulars and the moblots go outside the wall, and the National Guard are
practically useless until the Germans make an assault. Besides, three
parts of them are married men with families, and nothing short of their
homes being in danger will stir them up to risk their lives. We are
going out for three days to the outposts, we fall in at five o'clock
to-morrow morning."

"You are going to risk your life," she said, indignantly, "for the
Parisians, who have no idea whatever of risking theirs. I call it
madness."

"You are going against your own doctrines, Miss Brander. Before you were
indignant with me for doing nothing and being in earnest about nothing.
Now that I am doing something and that in grim earnest, you are just as
indignant as you were before."

"I did not mean this sort of thing," she said.

"No, I don't suppose you contemplated this. But you wanted me to work
for work's sake, although as it seemed then there was no occasion for me
to work."

"If it had been on the other side I should not have minded."

"Just so," he smiled. "You have become Germanized, I have not. My
friends here have all enlisted; I am going with them partly because they
are my friends and partly because it is evident the Germans might have
well stopped this war before now, but they demand terms that France can
never submit to as long as there is the faintest hope of success. You
need not be at all anxious about me. We are not going to attack the
Prussian positions I can assure you. We are only going out to do a
little outpost duty, to learn to hear the bullets flying without
ducking, and to fire our rifles without shutting our eyes. I don't
suppose there are five men in the three companies who have ever fired a
rifle in their lives.

"You see the Franc-tireurs are to a great extent independent of the
military authorities--if you can call men military authorities who
exercise next to no authority over their soldiers. The Franc-tireurs
come and go as they choose, and a good many of them wear the uniform
only as a means of escape from serving, and as a whole they are next to
useless. I think our corps will do better things. We are all students of
art, law or physic, and a good deal like such volunteer corps as the
artists or 'Inns of Court.' Some of the younger professors are in the
ranks, and at least we are all of average intelligence and education, so
I fancy we shall fight if we get a chance. I don't mean now, but later
on when we have gained confidence in ourselves and in our rifles. Just
at present the Parisians are disposed to look upon the Germans as
bogies, but this will wear off, and as discipline is recovered by the
line, and the mobiles grow into soldiers, you will see that things will
be very different; and although I don't indulge in any vain fancy that
we are going to defeat the German army, I do think that we shall bear
ourselves like men and show something of the old French spirit."

"That will be a change, indeed," the girl said, scornfully.

"Yes, it will be a change," he answered, quietly, "but by no means an
impossible one. You must not take the vaporings and bombast of the Paris
Bourgeois or the ranting of Blanqui and the Belleville roughs as the
voice of France. The Germans thought that they were going to take Paris
in three days. I doubt if they will take it in three months. If we had
provisions I should say they would not take it in treble that time. They
certainly would not do it without making regular approaches, and before
they can do that they have to capture some of the forts. These, as you
know, are manned by 10,000 sailors, hardy marines and Bretons, well
disciplined and untainted by the politics which are the curse of this
country. Well, I must be going. I have to purchase my three days' store
of provisions on my way back to my lodgings and shall have to turn out
early."

"Don't do anything rash," she said, earnestly.

"I can assure you rashness is not in my line at all, and I don't suppose
we shall ever get within five hundred yards of a Prussian soldier. You
need not be in the least uneasy, even supposing that you were inclined
to fidget about me?"

"Of course, I should fidget about you," she said, indignantly. "After
knowing you ever since I was a little child, naturally I should be very
sorry if anything happened to you."

"By the way," he said, without pursuing the subject farther, "I hear
that there is a movement on foot for forming a corps of women. If they
should do so it will afford you another illustration of the equality of
your sex to ours in all matters, and I will go so far as to admit that I
would much rather lead a company of the market-women than one composed
of these Parisian shopkeepers."

"Don't, Mr. Hartington," she said, appealingly, "I don't feel equal to
fighting now."

"Then we won't fight. Good-bye! If we are not lucky enough to light upon
some empty cottages to sleep in I fancy the gloss will be taken out of
this uniform before I see you again." He picked up his cap, shook hands,
and was gone.

Madame Michaud woke up as the door closed.

"He has gone? your tall countryman."

"Yes, he is going out to-morrow to the outposts. I think it is very
silly of him and very wrong mixing up in a quarrel that does not concern
him, especially when there are tens of thousands here in Paris who,
instead of fighting for their country, are content to sit all day in
cafés and talk."

"They will fight when the time comes," Madame Michaud said,
complacently. "They will fight like heroes. The Prussians will learn
what Frenchmen are capable of doing."

But Mary had no patience just at present to listen to this sort of
thing, and with the excuse that her head ached went at once to her room.

"I do not understand these English," Madame Michaud thought, as she drew
the lamp nearer and resumed her knitting, "here are a young woman and a
young man who are more like comrades than lovers. She was angry, more
angry than I thought she could be, for she is generally good-tempered,
when I asked her, the first time he came, if they were _affiancés_, 'We
are old friends, madame,' she said, 'and nothing but friends. Cannot a
girl have a man as a friend without there being any thought of love? In
England people are friends, they can talk and laugh to each other
without any silly ideas of this sort occurring to them. This is one of
the things that keeps woman back in the scale, this supposition that she
is always thinking of love.' I did not believe her then, but I have
listened to-night when they thought I was asleep, and I even peeped out
two or three times between my eyelids. I could not understand a word of
what they said, but one can tell things by the tone without
understanding the words. There was no love-making. She scolded him and
he laughed. He sat carelessly in his chair, and did not move an inch
nearer to her. She was as straight and as upright as she always is.

"That is not the way lovers act when one is going out to fight. I peeped
out when he shook hands with her. He did not hold her hand a moment, he
just shook it. They are strange people, these English. It would be wrong
for a French girl thus to talk to a young man, but I suppose it is
different with them. Who can understand these strange islanders? Why, if
Lucien were going out to fight I should dissolve in tears, I should
embrace him and hang on his neck; I might even have hysterics, though I
have never had them in my life. She is a good girl, too, though she has
such strange ideas about women. What can she want for them? I manage the
house and Lucien goes to his office. If I say a thing is to be done in
the house it is done. I call that equality. I cannot tell what she is
aiming at. At times it seems to me that she is even more mad than her
compatriots, and yet on other subjects she talks with good sense. What
her father and mother can be about to let her be living abroad by
herself is more than I can think. They must be even more mad than she
is."

Work at M. Goudé's school went on steadily during the intervals between
the turns of the Franc-tireurs des Écoles going out beyond the walls.
Indeed M. Goudé acknowledged that the work was better than usual.
Certainly the studio was never merrier or more full of life. So far from
the active exercise and the rough work entailed by the constant
vigilance necessary during the long night-watches, diminishing the
interest of the young fellows in their work in the studio, it seemed to
invigorate them, and they painted as if inflamed with the determination
to make up for lost time.

It converted them, in fact, for the time, from a group of careless,
merry young fellows, into men with a sense of responsibility. Their time
when away from the studio had previously been spent in follies and
frivolities. They often drank much more than was good for them, smoked
inordinately, were up half the night, and came in the morning to work
with heavy heads and nerveless hands. Now they were soldiers, men who
matched themselves against the invaders of their country, who risked
their lives in her defence, and they bore themselves more erectly, a
tone of earnestness replaced a languid indifference and a carelessness
as to their work, and in spite of some privations in the way of food
their figures seemed to expand.

The loss of two nights' sleep a week rendered early hours necessary, and
ensured sound sleep during the remaining five. The discipline of the
studio had been relaxed. The master felt that at such a time he could
not expect the same silent concentration on work that it demanded at
other times, but he found to his surprise that while they laughed and
joked as they painted, they worked none the worse for this, and that in
fact there was a general improvement manifest.

Cuthbert heartily enjoyed the change; the prevailing tone was more like
that to which he was accustomed at the studios of St. John's Wood than
was the somewhat strict discipline that had before prevailed in the
studio, and he enjoyed the hard work and excitement outside the walls.
The fact that they were running the same risks and sharing in the same
work was an added bond of union among the students; and, although, when
they met, as they very frequently did in each other's lodgings, there
was less uproarious fun than before; there was a healthier atmosphere,
and more pleasant and earnest talk.

Arnold Dampierre was the only exception to the general rule. When in the
field he evinced no want of spirit, and upon the contrary was always
ready to volunteer when a few men were required to crawl forward at
night to ascertain the precise position of the Prussian outposts or to
endeavor to find out the meaning of any stir or movement that might be
heard towards their front. At other times his fits of moodiness seemed
to increase. He was seldom present at any of the gatherings of his
companions, but went off after work at the studio was over, and it was
generally late at night before he returned to his rooms.

Cuthbert felt that the American avoided all opportunities of
conversation with him alone. He replied cordially enough to his greeting
when they met, but they no longer dropped in to smoke a pipe in each
other's apartments as they formerly had done. Cuthbert had no great
difficulty in guessing at the reasons for this change in their
relations. He himself when he first noticed that Arnold was taking the
first place with Minette had spoken to him half-jestingly,
half-seriously, on the subject. He had never made any secret of his own
distrust of the model, and in the early days of their intercourse had
spoken freely to Arnold on the subject. He could understand that if the
American, as it appeared, had become really attached to her, he would
shrink from the risk of any expostulations on the course he had adopted.

Cuthbert believed that his comrade was at present in a state of
indecision, and that, although deeply in love, he had not as yet been
able to bring himself to the idea of taking Minette back as his wife to
his home in Louisiana.

"It would be sheer madness," he said to himself, "and yet I have no
doubt it will end in his doing so, but as he must know it is a piece of
stupendous folly, I can understand his reluctance to risk my speaking to
him on the subject. I am awfully sorry for him, but I know it is one of
those cases in which, now that it has gone as far as it has, it would be
worse than useless to try to interfere, and would only make him more
bent upon going through with it. I don't see that one can do anything
but trust to the chapter of accidents. Minette, dazzled as she might be
by the prospect of marrying a gentleman and a man of property, might
still hesitate to do so if it would entail her having to leave Paris and
live abroad.

"I have no doubt that she is very fond of Dampierre, but she may change
her mind. He may be killed before this business is over. He may decide
to return to America directly the siege ends, with the idea of coming
over to fetch her afterwards, and either he may get over his
infatuation, or on his return may find that some one else has supplanted
him in her affections. I should not fancy that constancy would be one of
her strong points; at any rate I do not see that I can do any good by
meddling in the matter, though if Dampierre spoke to me about it, I
should certainly express my opinion frankly. It is much the best that
things should go on between us as they are now doing. He is a hot-headed
beggar, and the probabilities are strong in the favor of our having a
serious quarrel if the subject were ever broached between us."

One evening Cuthbert had taken up a book after his return from the
studio, and sat reading until it was long past his usual dinner hour
before he went out. He passed through several badly lighted streets on
his way to the restaurant in the Palais Royal, where he intended to
dine. There were but few people about, for the evening was wet. He was
vaguely conscious that some one was going in the same direction as
himself, for he heard footsteps following him a short distance behind.
In one of the worst lighted and most silent streets the steps suddenly
quickened. Cuthbert turned sharply round. He was but just in time, for a
man who had been following him was on the point of springing upon him
with uplifted arm.

Cuthbert felt rather than saw that there was a knife in his hand, and
struck straight from the shoulder at his face; the fellow was in the act
of striking when he received the blow. He fell as if shot, the knife,
flying from his hand, clattering on the pavement several yards away.
Cuthbert stood for a moment prepared to strike again if the man rose,
but as he made no movement he turned on his heel and walked on.

"It would serve him right if I were to give the scoundrel in charge for
attempted murder," he said, "but it would give me no end of bother. It
would not be worth the trouble, and he has been pretty well punished. I
have cut my knuckles, and I imagine that when he comes to be will find
himself minus some of his teeth. I wonder what his object was robbery, I
suppose and yet it is hardly likely that the fellow would have singled
me out and decided to kill me on the off chance of finding something
worth taking. He could not have seen that I have a watch on, for my
greatcoat is buttoned. It is more like an act of private revenge, but I
have never given anyone of that class any reason to dislike me.
Cartainly the man followed me for some distance, for I have heard the
steps behind me ever since I turned off into these quiet streets.

"By the way," he exclaimed, suddenly, "I should not be at all surprised
if he took me for Dampierre. We are about the same height, and although
I am a good many inches wider than he is, that might not be noticed in
the dark. If the fellow was watching outside the door, and had known
nothing of there being another man of the same height in the house, he
might very well have taken me for Arnold. He spends half his time up at
Montmartre, and may likely enough have given offence to some of the
ruffians up there; when he is not in a pleasant temper he does not mind
what he says. Possibly, too, the fellow may be an admirer of Minette,
and the thing may be this outcome of jealousy. At any rate I will tell
him in the morning about the affair and let him take warning by it if he
chooses."

Accordingly, next morning he waited outside in the street for Arnold,
who was generally the last to arrive at the studio.

"Rather an unpleasant thing happened yesterday evening, Dampierre. I was
followed from here and attacked suddenly in one of the back streets
leading up to the Boulevards. I had heard footsteps behind me for a
little time and had a vague sort of idea that I was being followed. The
fellow ran up suddenly and I had just time to turn and hit out. He was
in the act of striking with a knife, and if I had been a second later he
would probably have settled me. As it was I knocked him down and I fancy
I stunned him. At any rate he did not move, so I walked on. Of course it
may have been a mere vulgar attempt at murder and robbery, but from the
fact that this man followed me for some considerable distance I should
say it was not so, but a question of revenge. I don't know that anyone
in Paris has any cause of quarrel with me, but the idea afterwards
occurred to me that it might be that he took me for you. We are about
the same height, and if he was watching the house he might, when I came
out, mistake one for the other. Of course I have not a shadow of reason
for supposing that you have an enemy, but at any rate I thought it as
well to tell you about it, so that you might be on your guard, as I
shall certainly be, in the future."

Arnold was silent for a minute.

"I should not be surprised if you are right, Hartington; they are a
rough lot at Montmartre, and it is possible that I may, without knowing
it, have rubbed some of them the wrong way. I suppose you did not notice
what he was like?"

"No, it was too dark, and the whole affair too sudden for me to see
anything of the features. He was in a blouse with the low cap workmen
generally wear. I should say he stood four or five inches shorter than
we do--about five feet eight or so. He was a square-built fellow. If you
happen to come across him I fancy you may recognize him, not from my
description but from my handiwork. You see," and he pointed to his right
hand, which was wrapped up in an handkerchief, "I hit him hard and have
cut two of my knuckles pretty badly--I fancy against his teeth. If so,
I think it likely that two or three of them will be missing, and as a
man of that sort is hardly likely to go at once to a dentist to have the
gap filled up, it may prove a guide to you.

"For the next day or two his lips are sure to be swollen pretty badly.
Of course if you have no one in your mind's eye as being specially
likely to make an attempt upon your life these little things will afford
you no clue whatever, but if you have any sort of suspicion that one of
three or four men might be likely to have a grudge against you, they may
enable you to pick out the fellow who attempted my life. Of course I may
be mistaken altogether and the fellow may have been only an ordinary
street ruffian. Personally it won't make much difference to me, for I am
pretty handy with my fists, but as I know you have had no practice that
way, I recommend you always to carry a pistol when you go out at night."

"I always do, Hartington; I always have one in each pocket of my coat."

"Well, they may be useful, but I should recommend you to be careful, and
to walk in the middle of the street when you are in doubtful
neighborhoods. A pistol is very good in its way, but it takes time to
get it out, and cock it, while one's fist is always ready for service at
an instant's notice."

By this time they had arrived at the door of the studio. Arnold made no
allusion to the subject for some days, and then meeting Cuthbert at the
door of his house, said--

"By the way, Hartington, I have reason to believe that you were right
that that blow you luckily escaped was meant for me. However, I don't
think there will be any recurrence of the matter; in fact, I may say
that I am sure there won't."

"That is all right then, Dampierre. Of course I don't want the matter
followed up in any way, and should not have spoken about it had I not
thought that I ought to give you warning."

"I feel very much indebted to you anyhow, Hartington. Probably had I
been in your place the matter would have gone altogether differently."

Arnold had in fact learnt with absolute certainty who had been
Cuthbert's assailant. When he went up to Montmartre he told Minette what
had happened, and added: "He suspects that the scoundrel took him in the
dark for me."

"Why should any one bear ill-will to you?" Minette asked.

"That I can't say, but I do think that very likely he is right. He keeps
himself to himself, never attends meetings of any kind, and can hardly
have made an enemy, while it is possible that I may have done so."

Minette was thoughtful for some time, and when her father joined them
and said that it was time to be off to a meeting, she asked him
abruptly--

"Have you seen Jean Diantre to-day?"

"Ay, I have seen him, and a pretty sight he is."

"How is that, father?"

"He took more liquor than was good for him and got a bad fall as he was
going upstairs to his room, and as luck would have it, his mouth caught
the edge of the stone step. His lips were all cut and swollen to four
times their usual size and three of his teeth are out. Mon Dieu, what a
crash he must have got! He has been drinking a great deal lately, and I
have warned him over and over again that he would get himself into
trouble; but as a rule liquor does not affect him that way, he gets
sulky and bad-tempered, but he can generally walk steadily enough."

"Father, you must come with us to his lodgings," Minette exclaimed. "I
have something to say to him. I suppose he is up?"

"But it is time to be at the meeting Minette. What do you want to see
him for?"

"Never mind the meeting," she said, impatiently. "We shall be there
before it is done. It is more important that I should see Jean."

"Well, if it must be, it must," Dufaure grumbled, shrugging his
shoulders. "When you take a thing into your head I know it is of no use
talking."

Jean Diantre was sitting with two or three of his mates in his attic
over a small brazier of charcoal. They rose in surprise at the entrance
of Minette and her father, followed by the American. The girl, without
speaking, walked straight up to Jean.

"I knew you were a miserable," she said, bitterly, "a drunken, worthless
scamp, but until now I did not know you were a murderer. Yes, comrades,
this man with whom you sit and smoke is a miserable assassin. Yesterday
evening he tried to take the life of Arnold Dampierre here, whom you all
know as a friend of freedom and a hater of tyranny. This brave companion
of yours had not the courage to meet him face to face, but stole up
behind him in the dark, and in another moment would have slain the man
he was following, when the tables were turned. The man he had followed
was not Arnold Dampierre but another; and before this wretch could
strike with his knife, he knocked him down, stunned him, and left him
like a dog that he is on the pavement. No doubt he has told you the lie
that he told my father, that he fell while going upstairs drunk. It was
a blow of the fist that has marked him as you see. The man he had tried
to murder did not even care to give him in charge. He despised this cur
too much, and yet the fellow may think himself fortunate. Had it been
Monsieur Dampierre it would not have been a fist but a bullet through
his head that would have punished him. Now mark me, Jean Diantre," and
she moved a pace forward, so suddenly that the man started back, "you
are a known assassin and poltroon. If at any time harm befalls Monsieur
Dampierre I will stab you with my own hand. If you ever dare to speak to
me again I will hold you up to the scorn of the women of the quarter. As
it is, your comrades have heard how mean and cowardly a scoundrel you
are. You had best move from Montmartre at once, for when this is known
no honest man will give you his hand, no man who respects himself will
work beside you. Hide yourself elsewhere, for if you stay here I will
hound you down, I will see that you have not an hour's peace of your
life. We reds have our ideas, but we are not assassins. We do not sneak
after a man to stab him in the dark, and when we have arms in our hands
we are not to be beaten like curs by an unarmed man."

The other men had shrunk back from him as she spoke. Jean quailed
beneath her torrent of contemptuous words and from the fury in her eyes.
There was no doubting the fact that her charges were true.

"Who drove me to it?" he said sullenly through his swollen lips.

"Who drove you! Drink and your evil temper drove you to it. You wanted
to marry me--me who never gave you a word of encouragement; who knew you
_au fond_, who knew that you were at the best an idle, worthless scamp,
and would never have married you had there been no other living man in
the universe. But enough. I have said what I came to say, and you had
best take warning. Come, father, you have stood this fellow's friend,
and you have been wrong, but you know him now."

Minette passed out through the door Arnold held open for her; her father
and Arnold followed, and the four other men, without a word to Jean
Diantre, went down the stairs after them, leaving him to himself.



CHAPTER IX.


"It is hardly worth while, Minette," Arnold said, when they reached the
street, "the man has had his lesson."

"I could not help it, dear," she said, in a voice so changed from that
in which she had spoken to Jean Diantre, that no one would have
recognized it as the same; "he had tried to kill you, to take you from
me. He thought it was you who had struck him and hated you worse than
ever. It is not because he has failed once that he might fail another
time. I should never have had a moment's peace when you were away from
me, but I think now you will be safe; he will remove his quarters and go
to Villette or to the South side; he will not dare to show his face in
Montmartre again. You are sure you always carry your pistol, Arnold?"

"Yes, I promised you I would and I have done so. I have a small revolver
in each pocket."

"Then in future, when you are out at night promise me always to walk
with one hand in your pocket, holding the butt of your pistol, so that
you can draw and fire instantly. He knows you have pistols and will not
dare to attack you singly, and even should he find two or three villains
as bad as himself you would be a match for them."

"I will take care of myself, Minette, but I do not think it likely that
he will renew the attempt. I could see that the man was a coward. He was
as pale as a sheet, partly with rage that he had been discovered and
exposed, but partly, I am sure, from fear too. I know you meant well,
dear, but I would rather that you had not done it. I love you best when
you are gentle and womanly. You almost frighten me when you blaze out
like that."

"I am sorry," she said, penitently; "but I felt for the time mad that
your life should have been attempted. I scarcely knew what I was saying.
Do you think that anyone could be gentle and mild when she had just
heard that her lover, her all, had been almost taken from her by a
cowardly blow. Still I know I am wrong. Do not be angry with me,
Arnold."

"I am not angry, dear," he said, and truly, for no man can feel really
angry with a woman for over-zeal in his own cause. "Do not let us say
any more about it; the fellow is not worth a thought. We shall probably
never hear of him again."

"I hope not, Arnold, but after what he tried to do I shall never feel
quite free from anxiety so long as you are in Paris. I wish your English
friend had handed him over to the police."

"I have no doubt he would have done so, but, as he told me, the idea
that the fellow was anything else than a street-ruffian did not come to
him till afterwards. You know what a business it is bringing a charge of
any kind here, and Hartington having himself punished him pretty
severely did not care for the trouble of carrying it further."

The news was rapidly spread in the cabarets by the men who had been
present at Minette's denunciation that Jean Diantre had endeavored to
assassinate the American, and much indignation was excited. Had he
drawn a knife upon a fellow-workman over their wine, the matter would
have excited but slight reprobation, but that he should have crept up in
the dark to attempt to assassinate one who was a denouncer of tyrants, a
representative of the great Republic, was voted to be infamous.

Various punishments were suggested as appropriate for such a crime, but
Jean did not appear at his accustomed haunts in the morning, and inquiry
showed that he had paid his rent the evening before, had sold his
furniture for a few francs to one of the other lodgers in the house, and
had left the quarter altogether. Resolutions were passed at the next
meeting denouncing him as a traitor to the sacred cause of humanity, and
then the matter was forgotten altogether save by Minette.

As time went on, the luxuries of life altogether disappeared from the
shop-windows, but there was still no lack of the absolute necessaries.
The stores of corn and rice turned out to be vastly larger than had been
supposed. The herds of cattle gathered under shelter of the guns of the
forts had disappeared, but horseflesh was still fairly abundant.
Vegetables were not dear, for numbers of people went out every morning
to the gardens and fields surrounding Paris and returned laden with
them.

The animals in the public collection were all killed and the carcasses
of all the eatable creatures sold at high prices, and for a time
elephant steak, camel hump, venison, and other meats could be purchased
at restaurants, although no doubt the horse furnished the foundation of
the greater portion of these dishes.

The swans and other aquatic birds fetched fabulous prices, and their
purchase was the occasion of many banquets in houses where such
entertainments had become rare. Still there were no signs that the time
when Paris was to make its attempt to burst its bonds was at hand. Among
the National Guard complaints at the long inaction were incessant, but
there was good reason for doubt whether the discontent was as general as
it seemed.

It was one thing to talk of sweeping the Prussians before them, quite
another to take a part in the performance. Still the steady drilling
that went on had its effect. If the National Guard did not learn
discipline they at least gained the power to make a respectable
appearance and to go through simple manoeuvres fairly.

They walked more erect and even assumed a military swagger and spoke
somewhat contemptuously of the line and mobiles, whose discipline was as
lax as their own, and among whom drunkenness was rife, for whatever else
failed, the supply of wine and spirits appeared inexhaustible. Cuthbert
went not unfrequently to dine at the English restaurant of Phipson,
where the utter and outspoken contempt of the proprietor for the French
in general, and the Parisians in particular, amused him greatly.

"To see these fellows giving themselves military airs when they take
care never to get within gunshot of the enemy, it is enough to make
one's blood boil, Mr. Hartington. I believe that a couple of score of
stable-boys with pitchforks would lick a battalion of them, and it is
worse still when one goes out on the Boulevards and sees them sitting at
the cafés drinking their absinthe as if there was no enemy within a
hundred yards of the place. I have never liked them, sir, but I am
downright sickened by them now. I shall sell out as soon as this is
over."

"I don't think they are as bad as they seem, Phipson. If the Prussians
ever do force a way into Paris, I think you will see that these fellows
can fight and fight desperately."

"So will a rat, Mr. Hartington, if you corner him, but he will run as
long as he gets the chance. I think it will do them a world of good, and
take down some of their cockyness, if the Prussians did come in. I could
not stand it, and as you see I have put my shutters up, and only let in
English customers I know. I tell you I can't bring myself to serving
horseflesh. I have got a few first-rate hams still hanging in the
cellar. As long as they last and I can pick up anything fit for a human
being to sit down to, I shall go on, but I ain't going to give my
customers grub that is only fit for hounds. I have not come down to be
a cat's-meat man yet. As to drink, I have got as you know a goodish
supply of as fine whisky as ever was brewed, but it won't be long before
that will be the only thing I shall have to sell. I see you still stick
to your soldiering, Mr. Hartington."

"Oh, yes, now I have begun, I shall go through with it, though it is not
so pleasant as it was a month ago, for the nights are getting cold;
still there is plenty of excitement about it, and we manage to keep the
Prussians awake as well as ourselves. Whatever it may be with the
National Guard there is plenty of pluck among the students. I could not
wish to have better comrades."

"Well, there is one advantage, sir, in that uniform. You can go about
without being suspected of, for being a foreigner is just the same in
the eyes of these chaps as being a spy. It is rum now that while this
place is pretty nigh kept up by the money the English and Americans
spend here, they don't like us not one bit."

"How do you make that out, Phipson?"

"I don't know that I can make it out at all. I take it it is because we
have always licked them, sir, and always shall do. There was the old
days when the Black Prince thrashed them. I am a Canterbury boy and have
seen his armor hanging up in the Cathedral many a time; that is how I
came to know about him, and then I have heard that Marlborough used to
crumple them up whenever he met them; and then there was Wellington
again. Why, they have never had so much as a chance with us, and on sea
we have licked them worse than on land. Well, it ain't in nature men
should like that."

"Those are old stories, Phipson, and I don't think they have much to do
with the dislike the French have of us. I think it is more because they
cannot help seeing for themselves that they are no longer the first
power in the world, and that England has passed them in the race."

"That may have something to do with it, sir, but from what I have heard
them say and from what I have seen myself, I think it is partly because
Frenchmen find themselves but poor sort of creatures by the side of
most Englishmen. I have heard them say that Englishmen walked about the
streets of Paris just as if the place belonged to them, and there ain't
no doubt that an Englishman does somehow or other put his foot down and
square his shoulders in a way you never see a Frenchman do. I have
noticed it myself many a time, and then, if he does get into a row with
a Frenchman, the fellow hasn't a chance with him. I expect that galls
him a bit. Anyhow they don't like it. They don't hate the Americans so
much as they do us, though why they shouldn't is more than I can see,
for there ain't much difference between us, except that there are very
few of them who know how to use their hands. Well, anyhow, I shall be
glad to have done with the French, though I will say for them that the
lot that uses my place is a good deal better than the generality. For
the most part they dress as English; that is to say they get their
clothes made by English tailors, but lor' bless you, it ain't no use.
They can't wear them when they have got them, not to look easy and
comfortable in them. I have scores of times wondered what the difference
is and I could not tell you to save my life, but for all that I can tell
a Frenchman the moment he comes in, no matter how he's got up. There
ain't no occasion for them to open their mouths. I can spot them as easy
as one could tell the difference between a thorough-bred and a common
roadster."

As a rule the Franc-tireurs des Écoles went out on the southern or
western sides of Paris, but one morning they marched out to St. Denis.

"There has been some pretty hot skirmishing on that side," the colonel
said to his officers before starting, "and I have been asked to march
you out in that direction, and to take up the outpost duties on a
portion of the line there. The troops have been having a pretty hard
time of it, and have been pushed backward once or twice, though they
have always ended by winning back the ground they had lost. We have a
reputation of keeping our eyes open, and the General told me this
morning that I might consider it as a compliment we were sent there."

They were marched to a small cluster of houses and relieved two
companies of the line who had been on duty there during the night. It
was the first time a specific post had been assigned to them, and the
men were in high spirits at what they considered an honor. The
authorities treated the Franc-tireurs as being valueless for any real
fighting: as being useful to a certain extent for harassing the enemies'
outposts, but not to be counted upon for any regular work, and so
omitted them altogether in the orders assigning the positions to be
occupied. The corps therefore considered it a feather in their caps to
be assigned a position by the side of the regulars. The fires of the
troops were still burning, and the men were soon at work cooking their
breakfast, one company being thrown out in the front of the village.

The houses all bore signs of the strife. Some were almost unroofed,
others had yawning holes in the walls, the work of shell from the
Prussian field-guns, while all were pitted with scars of bullets on the
side facing the enemy. Scarce a pane of glass remained intact. The
floors had been torn up for firing and the furniture had shared the same
fate. A breastwork had been thrown up some fifty yards in front of the
village and the houses had been connected by earthen walls, so that if
the outwork were taken the place could be defended until reinforcements
came up.

A hundred yards to the left there was a battery of six guns, and another
on a mound four or five hundred yards to the right. In the daytime their
fire covered the village, and there was little chance of the Germans
attempting an attack until after nightfall. The enemy occupied in force
a village of some size five hundred yards away, and had covered it with
strong earthworks. Their outposts faced those of the French with an
interval of some two hundred yards between them. The sentries on duty
were stationed at distances varying from ten to twenty paces apart,
behind walls or banks of earth. The enemies' outposts were similarly
protected.

Shots were exchanged at intervals throughout the day between French
batteries on the right and left and a redoubt the Germans had thrown up
on a rise four or five hundred yards behind their village; the gunners
on both sides occasionally directing their fire upon the houses; the
outposts were for the most part silent, as it was seldom indeed that
even a momentary glimpse was obtained of helmet or kepi, and the orders
were that there was to be no useless firing.

During the day the companies took turn at outpost duty, but when night
fell the line was strengthened, half the men being under rifles, while
the rest lay down with their arms by their side, ready to fall in at a
moment's notice. A dropping fire was kept up on both sides, but this was
rather for the purpose of showing that they were on the alert than with
any idea of harming the invisible foe.

At ten o'clock Cuthbert went out with the half-company to which he
belonged, to relieve their comrades who had been for the last three
hours in the front line. They had been some little time on duty when
Pierre Leroux, who was in charge of the half-company, said to Des
Valles, who commanded the whole of the outposts--

"It seems to me that I can hear a deep sound; it comes in pulsations,
and I think it is a considerable body of men marching."

The captain listened with bent head for a short time.

"You are right, Pierre, there is certainly a movement of some sort going
on in front, but I fancy it is some distance away; if they were marching
on the village in front we should hear it more plainly. You had better
send out three or four men from your right let them go some distance
along before they attempt to creep forward. The Prussian sentries are
too thick along there facing us, but the men might possibly crawl pretty
close up to their outposts farther along, they won't be so thick there.
Pick four good men, it is a dangerous service. Tell them to get as near
as they can to their sentries without being observed, and then to lie
and listen attentively. They will have a better chance of hearing there
than we have. There is no getting the men to lie perfectly quiet here."

"Can I take three men and go myself with them, Des Valles?"

"Yes, if you like. I will stop with the company until you return."

The lieutenant went along the line, stopping at each man to ask his
name. He chose Cuthbert and two men, one from each of the principal art
schools, as he thought it might look like favoritism if he took all from
among his own comrades. The sentries became more and more scattered as
he went along, the main body being posted in front of the village. The
last few men were warned that he was going forward, and that they were
not to fire until he returned. He sent the last man on the line to
communicate with the outposts, furnished by the corps occupying the
ground farther to the right, that some men were going out to
reconnoitre. Then he and his companions cautiously crawled forward.

They were rather more than half-way across the ground, when Cuthbert
uttered an exclamation as he came in sudden contact with a figure
advancing with similar caution in the opposite direction. It needed not
a guttural oath in German to inform him that it was an enemy. Touching
as they were, neither could use their arms, and instinctively they
grappled with each other as they lay on the ground.

"Look out, Leroux, I have got hold of a German," Cuthbert said in a low
voice, while at the same moment his antagonist said something to the
same effect in German.

The lieutenant and the other two men leapt to their feet, and as they
did so, four or five men sprang up close in front of them.

"Fire!" Leroux exclaimed, and the two men discharged their pieces! Some
shots flashed out in front of them but in the darkness none were hit,
and in a moment they were engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with their
foes.

In the meantime Cuthbert and his antagonist were rolling over and over,
locked closely in each other's arms. Seizing a moment when he came
uppermost, Cuthbert steadied himself, relaxed his hold of his opponent,
and, half-kneeling, managed to free himself from his embrace, and
gripped him by the throat.

The fight between the others was a short one. The lieutenant had run one
of his opponents through the body, but a German had equalized matters by
bringing the butt of his musket down on the head of one of the
Franc-tireurs, and being now but two against four, Pierre called to the
other to retreat. The Germans followed a few yards and then halted. As
they passed him Cuthbert gave a final squeeze to his antagonist's
throat, and, feeling sure that he would not be able to speak for some
time, he crept away for a few yards and lay still among the cabbages
that covered the field.

"Where is the sergeant?" one of the Germans said, in a low voice, as
they retraced their steps; "he must have been somewhere here when he
called."

After two or three minutes' search they came upon him.

"He is alive," one of them said, stooping over him, "he is gasping for
breath. I think he is dying, but, anyhow, we may as well carry him in."

They lifted the man, and as they did so several shots rang out from the
French outposts. As soon as they had gone on Cuthbert sat up to listen.
He could hear now the heavy tread of men who were, it seemed to him,
crossing from the right towards the German village. He listened for a
minute or two to assure himself that he was not mistaken, and then
crawled back towards his own outposts.

"Don't fire," he said, when he knew that he must be near to them, "I am
one of those who went out just now."

"Don't fire," he heard a voice he knew to be the lieutenant's repeat,
"It is Hartington. I was afraid he was done for." A minute later he
joined him.

At this moment a sharp fire broke out from the German lines, showing
that their party had also returned to their outposts.

"You will find Des Valles farther along, Hartington; if you have
anything to report you had better go to him at once, you can tell me
afterwards how you escaped. I had quite given you up."

"I suppose I had better go to him," Cuthbert said, "but I have not much
to report except that there is no doubt the noise we heard was caused by
a heavy column of men marching into the village over there."

Cuthbert found the captain and made his report.

"Thank you, Hartington. We were pretty well convinced it was so, for
even before the firing between your party and the Germans began, the
sound was loud enough to be clearly distinguished. I suppose you can
give no guess at their numbers?"

"They were a strong body, but how strong I could not tell. A hundred
Prussians marching will make as much noise as five hundred Frenchmen,
but even allowing for that I should think there will be at least one
strong battalion, perhaps more."

"If that is the case we must be on the lookout. Of course they may fancy
we mean to attack them, but on the other hand they may intend to push
forward. I will go with you to the colonel; he ought to know what you
think about it. He was along here a few minutes ago, but the noise was
not so plain then, and we did not estimate the force to be anything like
as strong as it is in your opinion."

Cuthbert made his report to the colonel, and the latter at once went
forward with Des Valles to the outposts, after giving orders for the men
in the houses to fall in at once and be ready either to advance to
support the front line, or to man the barricades and houses and cover
their retreat. Reaching the outposts the sound of marching was no longer
heard, but there was a faint continuous murmur which could be plainly
made out in the intervals of the fire kept up by the enemy.

"What do you think it is, Des Valles?" the colonel asked, after
listening some time.

"I should say, sir, that the column has broken up in the village, and
the men are making their way to the front in open order. If I were to
suggest, Colonel, I should say it would be as well to send off men to
the two batteries to tell them that the enemy are mustering in force in
the village opposite to us and that we expect to be attacked, and also
to the officers commanding the troops on either side of us."

Four men were at once despatched, and ten minutes later the batteries
almost simultaneously opened fire on the village. As if it had been a
signal a crashing volley was fired from the line held by the German
outposts.

"Here they come!" the colonel shouted, "steady, men, wait till you see
them; then open fire upon them as quickly as you can load, but aim
steadily. Captain Des Valles, will you warn the line to the left that
they are, when the word is given, to retreat at the double, bearing away
first to the left so as to clear the ground for the fire from the
houses. As soon as they are abreast of them they are to enter at the
rear and aid in the defence. Captain Rainault, will you take similar
orders away to the right? Ah, here they are."

As he spoke a storm of musketry broke out all along the line as a dark
mass could be seen approaching. But the enemy were too strong to be
resisted, and in a few seconds the colonel shouted the orders to
retreat. Then at the top of their speed the Franc-tireurs ran back, and
the instant they cleared off from the front of the houses the colonel
shouted to the officer in command there to open fire.

In half a minute the Franc-tireurs were in the enclosure. Each company
had already had its position in case of attack assigned to it. For a
short time only those on the side facing the enemy were engaged, but the
Prussians speedily overlapped the position and attacked it on all sides.
Several times they rushed up close to the barricades, but the fire was
so hot that they were compelled to fall back again. The circle of fire
afforded the gunners in the battery sufficient indication as to the
position of the defenders, and their shell fell rapidly both in front
and behind it.

The fight had lasted but a few minutes when a crashing volley was fired
from the left. The attack on the houses at once slackened, as the
Prussians turned to oppose the reinforcements that had come up; but
when, shortly afterwards, the regiment from the other side also reached
the scene of action their commander felt the surprise had failed, and
the Prussians retired to their former position, and the affair was over.
Four companies of the line were left to strengthen the position should
the enemy try another attack before daybreak, and then, after
congratulating the colonel of the Franc-tireurs on the vigilance that
had prevented his being taken by surprise, and the sturdy defence he had
made, the officers of the line withdrew their men to the positions they
had before occupied.

The loss of the Franc-tireurs was small. The volley that had preceded
the attack had done no execution whatever, and as they had fought in
shelter they had lost but eight men killed and a score wounded. It was
the sharpest affair in which they had as yet been engaged, and the old
colonel was highly pleased with the result. After the outpost had
resumed their former position Cuthbert related to his comrades the
particulars of his struggle with the Prussian sergeant.

"We were pretty well matched," he said, "and I suppose were equally
surprised when we found each other grappling in the dark. Of course
neither of us knew how many supporters the other had close at hand, but
the first thought that struck me was that I must silence him if possible
before his comrades came to his assistance. I was only afraid that I
should not be able to shake myself free from his grip so as to get to
his throat, but fortunately he relaxed his hold the moment he felt that
I had loosened mine, and as I was on the top of him the rest was easy."

"Well, you got well out of it anyhow, Hartington," Pierre said. "You did
not see anything of the man who was knocked down by a musket, did you?"

"No, it did not occur to me to look for him, but if you like I will go
out with you and bring him in."

"That is a very good idea, Hartington, probably he was only stunned. I
will go and get leave for us to do so."

However, just as he turned to go a call was heard in front, and a minute
later the man came in.

"He had," he said, when he recovered consciousness, "heard a tremendous
fire going on, and as soon as he could collect his thoughts became
assured that the enemy must be attacking the village. He therefore
concluded that the best thing was to lie still, which he did until the
fire ceased and he could hear the Prussians retreating. Then he had
crawled in until close to the line of outposts."

"I am heartily glad to see you back again," Pierre said, shaking him by
the hand. "It would always have been a subject of regret to me if the
expedition that I proposed had lost you your life. As to those who fell
in defence of the village I have no personal responsibility, but I
should certainly have felt that your death always lay at my door."



CHAPTER X.


Another month and a great change had come over Paris. The spirit of
empty gasconnade had been succeeded by one more befitting the time and
circumstances. As the hopes of assistance from without lessened, the
spirit of resistance grew stronger and firmer. There was no longer any
talk of sweeping the Prussians out of France, no longer was it an
article of faith that Paris would be saved; but the thought of surrender
was farther than ever from men's minds. Paris would resist to the last.
She would give time to France to reorganize herself, and would set such
an example of devotion and patience under suffering, that when at last
famine forced her to surrender, the world should at least say that Paris
had proved herself worthy of her reputation.

The defences had been strengthened to an enormous extent; the outlying
forts which, when the siege began, could have been carried without much
difficulty by a resolute attack, had now been rendered practically
impregnable, their approaches had been thickly mined, obstacles of all
sorts erected round them, and the casements, barracks, and magazines
protected by coverings of trunks of trees and so great a depth of earth
as to be able to defy the heaviest shell.

The walls of the _enciente_ had been repaired and greatly strengthened,
and covered by bastions and other works, so that even were one of the
forts taken the work of the enemy would but be begun. The theatres had
been closed from the first. The café's chantants, and the open-air
concerts had long since followed the example, partly because of the
increasing seriousness of the temper of the people, partly because of
the failure of the gas. The café's themselves were no longer crowded
until midnight; the dim lights of the lamps that had taken the place of
gas gave a sombre air to these establishments, and by eight o'clock in
the evening most of them put up their shutters.

The National Guard were being reorganized. From each battalion, three or
four hundred of the most able-bodied, for the most part unmarried, men,
had by order of the Government, been selected and formed into companies
for service in the field, and these promised in a short time to develop
into troops equal in physique and spirit to the mobiles, and vastly
superior to the line.

Ladies no longer appeared in the streets in rich dresses. It was felt
that these were out of place now, and all adornments had been rigidly
given up, and the women of the better class set the example of dressing
in the simplest of costumes and the quietest of colors. Great numbers
had devoted themselves to the services of the hospitals and ambulances,
and spent the whole of their time in ministering to the sick and
wounded.

As yet there was little real suffering in Paris, and the privations and
inconveniences were borne uncomplainingly, and even cheerfully. Beef had
become almost unobtainable, but it was agreed that horse-flesh was not a
bad substitute; cats and dogs were fast disappearing from the streets,
and their flesh, prepared in a variety of ways, took the place on the
cards of the restaurants of hares and game, and the change was hardly
noticed.

Cuthbert was working hard. The school was now definitely closed, but
those who liked to do so were free to work there when they chose. M.
Goudé had taken advantage of the cessation of lessons to paint on his
own account, and was engaged upon a large canvas which he announced was
intended for the Salon.

"All this," he said, "has wiped away old quarrels. If I were fit for it
I would do as so many of the artists of Paris have done--take my place
in the ranks--but I am past the age for marching and sleeping in
ditches; but I can entertain no further anger against men who are
fighting for France. It is the duty of those who cannot fight to paint.
When the Salon opens we must show the world that, in spite of these
barbarians, France still holds her head high, and is at the head of
civilization."

Cuthbert, however, was not among the number of those who used the
painting-room. He had chosen his lodging so as to have a north light,
and kept his door closed from early morning until the light faded. An
ardor for work had seized him, and it was with reluctance that he put
aside his brush when the day's work was over. He was engaged upon two
pictures, and worked upon them alternately as the mood seized him. When
he had done for the day the canvas was always covered up and the easels
placed behind a screen in the corner of the room and the doors opened to
his friends.

Once a week for two days, when the corps marched out to take its turn at
outpost work, the work was laid by. Between the regular troops on either
side there was but an occasional exchange of shots, except when one or
the other side attempted to advance its position, but this was seldom,
for every post of advantage and every village was now so strongly
fortified as to defy capture except by a large force.

The Germans had recognized already that Paris was not to be taken by
force, at the cost except of a tremendous expenditure of life,
therefore, they were content to close every avenue of escape and to
leave it to famine to do the work for them. The French on their side
felt that minor operations to enlarge their boundary somewhat, were but
a vain effort, and reserved themselves for a great attempt to break
through the line. The Franc-tireurs, however, were ever active. They
kept up an increasing fusilade upon the Prussian outposts night and day,
keeping them in a state of perpetual irritation and watchfulness.

Except when on this service, Cuthbert saw but little of Arnold
Dampierre. The latter had entirely given up painting and was seldom at
his lodgings; nor when at home did he join in the smoking-parties at one
or other of the students rooms. Other luxuries had given out, but
tobacco was still fairly cheap and its solace made up for many
privations. Nor was Arnold's absence regretted. He had never been
popular, and on the few occasions when he appeared among them, he was so
moody and taciturn that his absence was felt as a relief. When on duty
with the corps, however, he was always in good spirits. He seemed to
delight in action and was ever ready to volunteer for any dangerous
work, such as crawling up close to the German outposts to ascertain
their precise positions. He had so many narrow escapes that his comrades
declared that he held a charmed life against Prussian bullets.

"The American would be a pleasant fellow if we were always under arms,"
Pierre Leroux said one evening; "he is not the same man directly we get
outside the walls--he is cheerful, good-tempered, and full of
ardor--here he is a bear. He will get into trouble if he does not mind.
I was this afternoon opposite the Hôtel de Ville. There were many of the
unwashed denouncing the Government and its ways to all who would listen
to them. Dampierre was standing in one of the groups where a man, whom I
knew to be Minette's father, for he came to the studio one day to say
that she was unwell and could not come, was addressing them. He was
pouring out threats against the bourgeois, against the Government,
against every one in fact. He said that at present the true patriots,
the working-men of Paris, were disarmed, but even had they arms, they
would not imperil the defence of Paris by civil war; but that as soon as
the accursed Germans had turned their backs, their day would come, and
the true principles of the Republic, the principles of '79, would then
be triumphant, and France would be free of the incubus of the selfish
capitalists who ground down the people. I could see that Dampierre
thoroughly sympathized with the fellow, and I believe that if there is
trouble he is capable of putting on a red cap and marching with the scum
of Belleville.

"It is not Minette's father, but Minette, who has converted him. I saw
her marching at the head of one of the Belleville battalions the other
day, dressed as a cantinière, and carrying herself with the air of a
young Amazon."

"That girl is capable of anything," Cuthbert said; "I have always said
that she was a small sleeping volcano, and if there are barricades I can
fancy her standing on the top of one of them and waving a red flag,
however thickly the bullets might be whistling around. I went as far as
I could in the way of warning Dampierre in the early days, but I soon
saw that if we were to continue on terms of amity I must drop it. It is
an infatuation and a most unfortunate one, but it must run its course.
Dampierre is a gentleman, and although at present he may be carried away
by the enthusiasm of these people, I fancy that if they should happen,
which, God forbid, to get the upper hand, he would soon be shocked when
they proceeded to carry their theories into execution. As to Minette, if
he is ever mad enough to marry her, the best thing would be to do so as
soon as Paris is open and to take her straight away to New Orleans.

"She is a born actress, and is as clever as she is pretty, and I have no
doubt she would have the good sense to play the part of a grande dame
admirably, and would soon become a leader of French society there; but I
should be sorry to predict how long it would last and what would come
after it, and I believe in my heart that the best thing that could
happen for him would be to be knocked over by a Prussian bullet. But
after all the thing may never come off. A girl like Minette must have
lovers in her own class. I have no doubt she is fond of Dampierre at
present, but no one can say how long it will last. I can imagine that
she is proud of her conquest. He is good-looking, a gentleman, and rich.
No doubt she is envied in her quarter, and besides it must be a
gratification to her to have induced or fascinated him into casting in
his lot with the reds, but all that will pall in time. If I were in his
place I should never feel sure of her until I had placed the ring on her
finger."

"That is the time when I should begin not to feel sure of her," René
laughed, "my anxieties would begin then. She is as changeable as an
April sky. She could love passionately for a time, but for how long I
should be sorry to guess. You see her in the studio, she is delighted
with every fresh dress and fresh pose. Never was there so good a model
for a few days, then she gets tired of it, and wants something fresh.
She is like a child with a new doll; for a bit she will be wild over it;
she cannot sleep without it, she takes it with her everywhere, she
adores it, but will it soon be thrown by, and perhaps she will be
battering its head with a stick. When Minette first came to the studio I
was mad about her, now I would as soon have a tiger-cat for a mistress."

"That is too severe, René," a young man who had joined the studio but
three months before, expostulated. "She seemed to me a charming young
woman. I cannot understand what you and Cuthbert are talking of her in
this way for."

René laughed.

"Ah, you haven't got over the first stage yet, and many of the others
will agree with you. We all like her, you know, we are all glad to have
her with us; she is like a glass of champagne, and we cannot say
anything against her in that quality. It is only when one comes to talk
about her as a wife that one is frightened."

"I believe all this is on account of her standing last month as Judith
about to kill Holofernes."

"Perhaps you are right, Clement. I admit that was a revelation to me. I
used to laugh at Cuthbert, who declared she frightened him, but I felt
then he was right. Good heavens, what a Judith she was; it was enough to
make one shiver to see the look of hate, of triumph and of vengeance in
her face. One knew that one blow would do it; that his head would be
severed by that heavy knife she held as surely as a Maître d'Armes would
cut a dead sheep in two."

"It was only a piece of acting, René. You might as well say that a
tragedienne would be capable of carrying out a tragedy in her own
family."

"Perhaps so, Clement, but then you see it would never occur to me to
marry a tragedienne. I should imagine that she would ask for the salt in
the same tone that she would demand poison. I grant it was acting, but
there was a terrific truth about it that showed that she was at least
able to picture the position and feel it. I tried to sketch her, but I
gave it up as hopeless. It was beyond me altogether. I observed that all
the others failed, too, except Cuthbert here. He dashed it off in his
note-book, and if he ever paints it, I would not have it hung up in my
bedroom for a thousand francs, for I should never dare to go to sleep
with it looking at me. But, indeed, of late, Minette has changed a good
deal; the little fool is carried away by all this talk up at Belleville,
and takes it quite seriously. You remember she has refused our last
three invitations, and she said quite superbly when I asked her the last
time, 'This is no time for feasting and enjoyment, M. René, when Paris
is besieged and thousands are starving.'"

"Then I don't know where they are," Pierre said. "Belleville was never
so well off as it is to-day; every man gets a franc and a half a day for
wearing a kepi and going for a few hours once a week on duty on the
wall. His wife gets something, and they have so much for each child.
They have no work to do, and I am told that, although six francs a day
are offered by the Government for laborers, they cannot get enough men.
The fellows enjoy smoking, lounging, talking, and doing nothing too much
to be tempted by any offer. There may be starvation before we have done;
but at any rate there is none at present, for every man, woman, and
child draws their ration of meat, not a large one, but enough to get on
with; beside bread is not very dear, and there is no lack of vegetables,
brought in every day from beyond the forts."

"I said as much to Minette, Pierre, but she only muttered that
working-men would not always exist on charity, and the time would come
when there would be plenty for all. We shall have trouble with them
before we have done I expect, what do you think, Henri?"

The lieutenant took his pipe out of his mouth and nodded.

"There will be trouble," he said. "I have been up to Belleville several
times. This spell of idleness is doing much harm. As soon as we have
done with the Prussians we shall have the reds on our hands."

"We are seven to one against them," René said, contemptuously. "The
voting the other day showed that."

"Ah, but the seventh know what they want. They want to be masters. They
want money enough to keep them without work. They want to set the
streets flowing with blood. The other six only want to be left alone.
They have no idea of risking their lives, and you will see, when it
begins, they will hold the butts of their muskets up; they will say,
'Don't let us irritate these demons,' and each man will hope that, even
if others are robbed, he will somehow escape.

"You cannot rely on the National Guard, it is no use to count them in,
and the mobiles only want to be off to their villages. If the troops had
a leader they might fight, but who is to lead them? Trochu is an
imbecile, the real fighting army is in the prisons of Germany, and when
it is released will not care to embark in another war. I think things
look bad."

"What should we do?" Pierre asked.

"We should paint," Henri said, "that is to say we should paint if things
go as I think they will, and the National Guard refuse to fight. If the
men who have something to lose won't lift an arm to defend it, why
should we who have nothing at stake?"

"You might paint, but who is going to buy your pictures, Henri?"
Cuthbert said, quietly. "As soon as the reds get the upper hand we shall
have the guillotine at work, and the first heads to fall will be those
of your best customers. You don't suppose the ruffians of Belleville are
going to become patrons of art. For my part I would rather fight against
the savages than level my rifle against the honest German lads who are
led here against us. I should think no more of shooting one of these
roughs than of killing a tiger--indeed, I regard the tiger as the more
honest beast of the two. Still, if you Frenchmen like to be ruled over
by King Mob, it is no business of mine. Thank God, such a thing is
never likely to happen in England--at any rate in my time. In the first
place, we can trust our troops, and in the second, we could trust
ourselves. Were there not a soldier in the land, such a thing will never
happen. Our workmen have sense enough to know that a mob-rule would be
ruin to them as well as to the rich, and, were it needed, in twenty-four
hours half a million men could be sworn in as constables, and these
would sweep the rabble into the Thames."

"Your rabble would be unarmed; ours have at present all got muskets."

"More fools they who gave them to them, but what can one expect from
such a Government. There is not among them a single practical man except
Gambetta, and he is away at Tours. It is a Government of lawyers and
spouters; of words they give us plenty, of government nothing. I would
rather, infinitely rather, that the women at the Halles should chose a
dozen of the most capable women among them and establish them as the
Government. I will guarantee you would see a change for the better
before twenty-four hours were over. I doubt if you could see a change
for the worse. Jules Fauvre with his ridiculous phrase, not one foot of
our territory, not one stone of our fortresses, is no better than a
mountebank, and the others are as bad. Would that either Ducrot or Vinoy
had the firmness and half the talent of a Napoleon. They would march the
troops in, sweep away this gathering of imbeciles, establish martial
law, disarm Belleville and Montmartre, shoot Floureus, Pyat, Blanqui,
and a hundred of the most noxious of these vermin; forbid all
assemblages, turn the National Guards into soldiers, and after rendering
Paris impotent for mischief turn their attention to the Germans. The one
thing that can save Paris to my mind is a military dictator, but I see
no sign of such a man being forthcoming."

"Bravo! bravo!" several of the students shouted, "what a pity it is that
you are an Englishman, Cuthbert. You would be just the man for us
otherwise."

"At any rate, I should do something and not let everything drift,"
Cuthbert retorted, joining in the laugh at his own unaccustomed
vehemence; "but there, we have broken our agreement, now let us revert
to art;" but the effort was vain, the talk soon drifted back again to
the siege, and many were the conjectures as to what Trochu's famous plan
could be and which point offered the most hopeful chance for the army to
pierce the German cordon.

Mary Brander had a fortnight before enrolling herself among the nurses
at the American ambulance, which was doing admirable work, and was
admitted by the French themselves to be a model which could be followed
with great advantage in their own hospitals. Here everything was neat,
clean, and well arranged. The wounded were lodged in tents which were
well ventilated and yet warm. The surgeons and some of the nurses were
also under canvas, while others, among whom was Mary Brander, went back
to their homes when their turn of duty was over. They had, like the
ladies who worked in the French hospitals, adopted a sort of uniform and
wore the white badge with the red cross on their arms. With this they
could go unquestioned, and free from impertinent remarks through the
thickest crowds, everyone making way for them with respectful civility.

"It is terrible," she said to Cuthbert, upon his calling one evening
when she was off duty, "and yet I do not feel it so trying as listening
to the silly talk and seeing the follies of the people in the streets.
The poor fellows bear their sufferings so patiently, they are so
grateful for every little thing done for them, that one cannot but feel
how much there is likable among the French in spite of their follies. I
talk to them a good deal and it is almost always about their homes and
their families, especially their mothers. Sometimes it is their
sweethearts or their sisters. With mobiles and linesmen it is just the
same. Sometimes I write letters for them--such simple, touching letters
as they are, it is difficult not to cry as they dictate, what are, in
many cases, last farewells. They always want those at home to know that
they have died doing their duty, but beyond that they don't say much of
themselves. It is of those to whom they are writing that they think.
They tell them to cheer up. They bid younger brothers take their place.
Besides the letters which will be photographed and sent off by pigeon
post, I have a pile of little packets to be despatched when Paris is
open--locks of hair, photographs, Bibles, and keepsakes of all kinds."

"I think at any rate, Mary, you have at present discovered one branch at
least of woman's mission upon which we cannot quarrel. We grant not only
your equality but your superiority to us as nurses."

Mary Brander smiled faintly, but ignored the opening for argument.

"Some of them are dreadfully wounded," she went on, her thoughts
reverting to the hospital. "It is terrible to think that when the great
battle everyone seems looking forward to takes place, there may be
thousands of wounded to be cared for. When do you think it will be?"

"Soon; of course no one can say when, but I don't see anything to gain
from waiting longer. The mobiles are as good as they are likely to be
made. One can't call the line disciplined, according to the English
ideas of discipline, but they are better than they were, and at any rate
all are anxious for something to be done."

"Do you think they will get through?"

He shook his head.

"If they could fall suddenly upon the Germans they might do so, but it
is no easy matter to move large bodies of men quickly, and to be
successful they ought to be able to hurl themselves against the Germans
before they have time to concentrate. I have no doubt whichever side we
issue out on, we shall get on fairly enough as long as we have the
assistance of the guns of the forts; but beyond that I don't think we
shall get. The Germans must by this time know the country vastly better
than we do. They are immensely better trained in making extensive
movements. They have excellent generals and good officers. I fancy it
will be the same thing that it has been before. We shall make an
advance, we shall push the enemy back for a bit, we shall occupy
positions, and the next day the Germans will retake them. We have no
method and no commissariat. Even now bodies of troops are outside the
walls frequently four-and-twenty hours without food. In the confusion
consequent on a battle matters will be ten times worse. In the morning
the troops will be half-starved and half-frozen, and there will be very
little fight left in them."

"What would you do if you were commander-in-chief, Cuthbert?"

"I am altogether unfit to make a plan, and still more unfit to carry it
out," he said, "but my idea would certainly be to attack somewhere with
half my force, to force the enemy back, and to hold positions at the end
of the day, so that the Germans would concentrate to attack in the
morning. At night I would withdraw the greater portion of them, march
them straight across Paris; the other half of the army would attack
there at daybreak, and would be reinforced soon after the fighting began
by those who had fought the day before. I think in that way they ought
to be able to cut their way out, but what they would do when they once
get out is more than I can tell you. They have no cavalry to speak of,
while the Germans have a splendid cavalry force who would harass them
continually. The infantry would pursue and would march infinitely better
than we should do. We should scatter to get food, whole regiments would
break up and become masses of fugitives, and finally we should be
surrounded, either cut to pieces or forced to surrender. Of two things,
I am not sure that it would not be best for us to be handsomely thrashed
on the first day of our sortie."

"You take a very gloomy view of things," she said, almost angrily.

"Why, I should have thought you would be pleased. I am prophesying
success for your friends, the Germans."

"I don't know why you should always insist that they are my friends. I
was of opinion that they were right at first, and am so still, but I
think they now are behaving hardly and cruelly; at least I think
Bismarck is. It was heartless for him to insist, as a condition of the
armistice, that Paris should not be re-victualled while it lasted. Of
course they could not agree to that, though they would have agreed to
anything like fair conditions. Everyone really wanted peace, and if the
Germans hadn't insisted on those terms, peace would have been made. So
things have changed altogether, and it is clear that not the Germans,
but their leaders, want to injure and humiliate France to the utmost.
They were not content with their pound of flesh, but they want to
destroy France altogether. I despised these people at first, but I don't
despise them now. At least they are wonderfully patient, and though they
know what they will have to suffer when everything is eaten up, no one
has said a word in favor of surrender, since Bismarck showed how
determined he was to humiliate them."

"I think I shall win my bet after all, Mary."

"I am not so sure as I was that you won't. I didn't think I could ever
have eaten horse-flesh, but it is really not so bad. Monsieur Michaud
told us, yesterday, that he dined out with some friends and had had both
cat and rat. Of course they were disguised with sauces, but the people
made no secret of what they were, and he said they were really very
nice. I don't think I could try them, but I don't feel as certain as I
did; anyhow, we haven't begun to touch our stores, and there is no talk
of confiscating everything yet."



CHAPTER XI.


Two men were sitting in a cabaret near the Halles. One was dressed in
the uniform of a sergeant of the National Guard. He was a
powerfully-built man, with a black beard and a mustache, and a rough
crop of hair that stuck out aggressively beneath his kepi. The other was
some fifteen years younger; beyond the cap he wore no military uniform.
He had a mustache only, and was a good-looking young fellow of the
Ouvrier class.

"I tell you it is too bad, Père Dufaure. A year ago she pretended she
liked me, and the fact that she wore good dresses and was earning lots
of money did not seem to make any difference in her. But now all that is
changed. That foreigner has turned her head. She thinks now she is
going to be a lady and has thrown me over as if I were dirt, but I won't
have it," and he struck his fist upon the table, "those cursed
aristocrats are not to have everything their own way."

"Patience, Jean. Women will be women, and the right way to win her back
is to have patience and wait. I don't say that just at present her head
is not turned with this American, who by the way is a good Republican,
and though he has money, has good notions, and holds with us that we
have too long been ground down by the bourgeois, still she may tire of
him after a while. He is not amusing, this American, and though Minette
may like being adored, she likes being amused also. Pooh, pooh, this
matter will come all right. Besides, although she likes the American at
present, she thinks more of the Commune than of any lover. Have patience
and do not quarrel with her. You know that I am on your side. But
Minette is a good deal like what her mother was. Ah, these women! A man
can do nothing with them when they make up their minds to have their own
way. What can I say to her? I can not threaten to turn her out of the
house for everything in it is hers. It is she who earns the money. She
is too old to be beaten, and if it comes to scolding, her tongue runs
faster than mine does, and you know besides she has a temper."

Jean nodded.

"She is worse than a wild-cat when her back is up," he said. "Why, when
this thing first began, and I told her to beware how she went on with
this American, for that I would kill him if he came in my way, she
caught up a knife, and if I had not run like a rabbit, she would have
stuck me, and you know how she went on, and drove me out of Montmartre.
After that affair I have not dared see her."

"Why not let her go? and take to someone else, Jean? There are plenty of
pretty girls in the quarter who would not say no to the best rising
worker in his trade."

"It is no use, Père Dufaure, I have told myself the same a hundred
times, but I cannot do it. She has her tempers, what woman has not; but
at other times who is so bright and gay as she is?"

"Well, well, Jean, we shall see what we shall see. You don't suppose
that if things do not turn out well, as we hope they will do, I should
let her carry out this whim of hers, and go off with the American, and
leave me to shift for myself. Not such a fool. At present I say nothing.
It is always better to hold your tongue as long as you can. I make him
welcome when he comes to our house; we go together to the meetings, and
sometimes he speaks, and speaks well, though he does not go far enough
for us. Well, no one can say what may happen--he may be shot by the
Germans, or he may be shot at the barricades, who knows. At any rate it
is best to hold my peace. If I leave things alone, Minette is as likely
as not to change her mind again, but if I were to say anything against
him--first, we should have a scene; secondly, she would be more than
ever determined on this whim. You must be patient, Jean, and all will
come well in the end."

"I am not so sure of that," Jean said, sullenly. "I was as patient as I
could be, but no good came of it; then, as you know, I tried to get rid
of him, but failed, and had to move away, but one thing is certain, if I
don't marry her he never shall. However, I can wait."

"That is all right, Jean; wait till our little affairs come off and the
bourgeois are under our feet. There will be good posts for true citizens
then, and I will see that you have one, and it will be time to talk
about marriages when everything is going on well. When we once get the
Germans out of the way, we shall see what we shall see, Sapristie! we
will make short work of the capitalists, and as for the troops, they
will have had enough fighting and will be ready enough to march off and
leave us alone."

At the time they were talking, the couple they were speaking of were
standing leaning on the parapet of the wall by the river. They met there
every evening when there was no assembly of importance to attend.

"I wish it was all over, Minette," he said, "and that we could leave
the city and be off. It would be a different life for you, dear, but I
hope a pleasanter one. There would be no cold weather like this, but you
can sit all the year round in the veranda without needing wraps. There
will be servants to wait on you, and carriages, and everything you can
wish for, and when you are disposed there will be society; and as all of
our friends speak French, you will soon be quite at home with them. And,
what one thinks of a good deal at present, there will be fruits and
flowers, and plenty to eat, and no sound of cannon, and no talk of wars.
We fought out our war ten years ago."

"It sounds nice, Arnold, very nice, but it will be strange not to work."

"You won't want to work there," he said; "in the day it is so hot that
you will be glad to sit indoors in a darkened room and do nothing. I
shall paint a good deal, and when you have the fancy, you can sit as my
model again."

"And is it a large city, Arnold? It seems to me now that I could not
live in the country, I should soon get dreadfully tired of it."

"It is a large city," he said, "though, of course, not so large as
Paris. There are theatres there and amusements of all sorts."

"I should be content with you, Arnold. It does not seem to me that I
could want anything else, but after all this excitement it will seem
strange to have nothing to do."

"I shall be glad to be out of it," he said. "Your father and the others
are quite right--the rich have too much and the poor too little. The
manufacturers gain fortunes, and the men whose work enriches them remain
poor all their lives. Still I fear that they will go too far, and that
troubles me."

She made a quick movement as if about to speak, but checked herself for
a moment, and then said, quietly--

"You know the proverb, Arnold, 'One cannot make an omelette without
breaking eggs.'"

"That is true," he said, "as to an omelette, but a change of Government
can be carried out without costing life, that is unless there is
resistance, and I hope there will be none here. The incapables over
there will slink away. Why, Flourens and a few hundred men were enough
to snatch the government out of their feeble hands. If the people
declare that they will govern themselves, who is to withstand them. I
hope to see the triumph and then to go. You know I am not a coward,
Minette; our corps have shown that they can fight, but I long for my
quiet home again, with its gardens and flowers, and balmy air, and I
like handling a paint-brush much better than a rifle, and above all to
see you mistress of my home, but I know there is a good deal to go
through first. Trochu's plans may be carried out any day."

"Ah! Those Prussians!" she exclaimed, in a tone of the deepest hate,
with a gesture of defiance towards Versailles. "They will dare to fire
at you!"

"Yes, I imagine they will do that, Minette," he said with a laugh, "and
pretty hotly, too."

"Well, if they kill you," she said, passionately, "I will avenge you. I
will go out through the outposts and will find my way to Versailles, and
I will kill William or Bismarck. They may kill me afterwards, I care
nothing for that. Charlotte Corday was a reactionist, but she slew Marat
and died calmly and bravely. I could do as much and would to revenge
you."

"I hope you would not attempt anything so mad, Minette. Of course, I
must take my chance as everyone else will do, and the Prussians will be
no more to blame if one of their bullets killed me than if it had struck
anyone else. Everyone who goes into a battle has to run his chances. I
had an elder brother killed in the civil war we had in the States. I
have no great love for the North, but I do not blame them especially for
the death of my brother. There were a great number killed on both sides,
and that he should be among them was the fortune of war. But it is
bitterly cold, Minette; let us be walking. I am glad we are not on
outpost duty to-night. I put on so many flannel shirts that I can hardly
button my tunic over them, but in spite of that it is cold work standing
with one's hands on one's trigger looking out into the darkness. It is
quite a relief when a rifle rings out either from our side or the
other. Then for a bit everyone is alive and active, we think the
Prussians are advancing, and they think we are, and we both blaze away
merrily for a bit. Then there is a lull again, and perhaps an hour or
two of dreary waiting till there is a fresh alarm. As soon as we are
relieved, we hurry off to our quarter, where there is sure to be a fire
blazing. Then we heat up the coffee in our canteens, pouring in a little
spirits, and are soon warm again."

"I cannot see why they don't form corps of women, Arnold; we have just
as much at stake as the men have, and I am sure we should be quite as
brave as the most of them, a great deal braver than the National Guard."

"I have no doubt you would, dear, but it will be quite time for you to
fight when all the men are used up. What the women ought to do is to
drive the men outside the walls. If the women were to arm themselves
with mops soaked in dirty water, and were to attack every man under
forty they found lurking in the streets, they would soon make a change
in things. You should begin in your own quarter first, for although they
are always denouncing the bourgeois for not fighting, I cannot see that
there is any more eagerness to go out at Montmartre than there is in the
quarter of the Bank--in fact, a great deal less."

"Why should the ouvriers fight with the Germans, Arnold--to them it
matters little whether Paris is taken by the Germans or not--it is not
they whose houses will be sacked, it is not they who will have to pay
the indemnity."

"No, but at least they are Frenchmen. They can talk enough about the
honor of France, but it is little they do to preserve it. They shout,
'the Prussians must be destroyed,' and then go off quietly to their
cabarets to smoke and drink. I do not admire the bourgeois, but I do not
see anything more admirable among the ouvriers. They talk grandly but
they do nothing. There is no difficulty in getting volunteers for the
war companies among the National Guard of the centre, though to them the
extra pay is nothing; but at Belleville and Montmartre the war companies
don't fill up. They rail at the bourgeois but when it comes to fighting
outside the walls I will wager that the shopkeepers show the most
courage."

"They will fight when there is anything to fight for," she said,
confidently, "but they don't care to waste their time on the walls when
there is nothing to do, and the Germans are miles away."

"Well, we shall see," he replied, grimly. "Anyhow, I wish it were all
over, and that we were on our way home. You have never seen a ship yet,
Minette. You will be astonished when you go on board one of the great
liners," and as they walked along the Boulevards he told her of the
floating palaces, in one of which they were to cross the ocean, and
forgetting for a time the questions that absorbed her, she listened with
the interest of a child hearing a fairy-tale. When they neared
Montmartre they separated, for Minette would never walk with him in her
own quarter.

The next morning, November 28th, the order was issued that the gates
were to be closed and that no one was to be allowed to pass out under
any pretext whatever. No one doubted that the long-expected sally was to
be carried out. Bodies of troops marched through the streets, trains of
wagons with munitions of war moved in the same direction, and in an hour
all Paris knew that the sortie was to take place somewhere across the
loop formed by the Marne.

"It is for to-morrow," Pierre Leroux exclaimed, running into Cuthbert's
room, "we are to parade at daybreak. The gates are shut, and troops are
moving about everywhere."

"All right, Pierre; we have been looking for it for so long, that it
comes almost as a surprise at last."

Cuthbert got up, made himself a cup of coffee, drank it with a piece of
dry bread, and then sallied out. Mary would be on duty at ten o'clock.
He knew the road she took on her way to the hospital and should meet
her. In half an hour he saw the trim figure in the dark dress, and the
white band round the arm.

"I suppose you have heard that we are going to stir up the German nest
to-morrow," he said gayly.

"Yes, I have heard," she said, sadly, "it is very dreadful."

"It is what we have been waiting for and longing for for the last two
months. We are to be under arms at daybreak, and as you will be at the
ambulance for the next twenty-four hours I thought I would make an
effort to catch you on the way. I want you to come round to my
lodgings."

She looked surprised.

"Of course I will come," she said frankly, "but what do you want me to
do that for?"

"Well, there is no saying as to who will come back again tomorrow, Mary,
and I want you to see my two pictures. I have been working at them for
the last two months steadily. They are not quite finished yet, but
another week would have been enough for the finishing touches, but I
don't suppose you will miss them. Nobody has seen them yet, and nobody
would have seen them till they were quite ready, but as it is possible
they never may be finished I should like you to see them now. I am not
taking you up under any false pretences," he said, lightly, "nor to try
again to get you to change your mission. I only want you to see that I
have been working honestly. I could see when I have spoken of my
painting there was always a little incredulity in the way in which you
listened to me. You had so completely made up your mind that I should
never be earnest about anything that you could not bring yourself to
believe that I wasn't amusing myself with art here, just as I did in
London. I had intended to have brought them triumphantly in a fiacre to
your place, when they were finished, and I can't deny myself the
pleasure of disabusing your mind. It is not far out of your way, and if
we walk fast you can still arrive at your ambulance in time. If there
were any fiacres about I would call one, but they have quite
disappeared. In the first place, because no one is rich enough to be
able to pay for such luxuries, and in the second, because most of the
horses have been turned to other uses."

She did not seem to pay very much attention to what he was saying, but
broke in with the question--

"Do you think there will be much fighting?"

"It would be folly to try to persuade you that there won't," he said.
"When there are so many thousand men with guns and cannon who are
determined to get out of a place, and an equal number of men with guns
and cannon just as determined to keep them in, the chances are that, as
the Irish say, there will be wigs on the green. I do not suppose the
loss will be great in comparison to the number engaged, because
certainly a good many of the French will reconsider their determination
to get out, and will be seized with a burning desire to get back as soon
as the German shells begin to fall among them, still I do hope that they
will make a decent fight of it. I know there are some tremendously
strong batteries on the ground enclosed by the loop of the Marne, which
is where they say it is going to be, and the forts will be able to help,
so that certainly for a time we shall fight with great advantages. I do
wish that it was not so cold, fighting is bad enough in summer; but the
possibility of lying out all night on the snow wounded is one I very
strongly object to."

He continued to talk in the same light strain, until they reached his
lodgings, in order to put the girl at her ease.

"So this is your sitting-room," she said, with a laugh that had a tremor
in it, "it is just what I supposed it would be, very untidy, very dusty,
and yet in its way, comfortable. Where are the pictures?"

"Behind that screen; I keep them in strict seclusion there. Now if you
will sit down by the window I will bring the easels out."

She did as he told her. The pictures were covered when he brought them
out. He placed them where the light would fall best on them, and then
removed the cloths.

"They have not arrived at the glories of frames yet," he said, "but you
must make allowances for that. I can assure you they will look much
larger and more important when they are in their settings."

The girl sat for a minute without speaking. They were reproductions on a
larger scale and with all the improvements that his added skill and
experience could introduce of the two he had exhibited to M. Goudé, when
he entered the studio.

"I had intended to do battle-pieces," he said, "and have made
innumerable sketches, but somehow or other the inspiration did not come
in that direction, so I fell back on these which are taken from smaller
ones I painted before I left London. Do you like them? You see I hang
upon your verdict. You at present represent the public to me."

There were tears standing in the girl's eyes.

"They are beautiful," she said, softly, "very beautiful. I am not a
judge of painting, though I have been a good deal in the galleries of
Dresden, and I was at Munich too; and I know enough to see they are
painted by a real artist. I like the bright one best, the other almost
frightens me, it is so sad and hopeless, I think--" and she hesitated,
"that girl in the veranda is something like me, though I am sure I never
look a bit like that, and I am nothing--nothing like so pretty."

"You never look like that, Miss Brander, because you have never felt as
that girl is supposed to be feeling; some day when the time comes that
you feel as she does you will look so. That is a woman, a woman who
loves. At present that side of your nature has not woke up. The
intellectual side of you, if I may so speak, has been forced, and your
soul is still asleep. Some day you will admit that the portrait, for I
own it to be a portrait, is a life-like one. Now--" he broke off
abruptly, "we had better be going or you will be late at your post."

She said no more until they were in the street.

"I have been very wrong," she said suddenly, after walking for some time
in silence. "You must have worked hard indeed. I own I never thought
that you would. I used to consider your sketches very pretty, but I
never thought that you would come to be a great artist."

"I have not come to that yet," he said, "but I do hope that I may come
to be a fair one some day--that is if the Germans don't forcibly
interfere--but I have worked very hard, and I may tell you that Goudé,
who is one of the best judges in Paris, thinks well of me. I will ask
you to take care of this," he said, and he took out a blank envelope.
"This is my will. A man is a fool who goes into a battle without making
provision for what may happen. When I return you can hand it to me
again. If I should not come back please inclose it to your father. He
will see that its provisions are carried out. I may say that I have left
you the two pictures. You have a right to them, for if it had not been
for you I don't suppose they would ever have been painted. I only wish
that they had been quite finished."

Mary took the paper without a word, nor did she speak again until they
arrived at the ambulance, then she turned and laid her hand in his.

"Good-bye, Mary, I hope I shall ask you for that envelope back again in
a couple of days."

"God grant that it may be so," she said, "I shall suffer so till you
do."

"Yes, we have always been good friends, haven't we? Now, child, you
always used to give me a kiss before I left you then. Mayn't I have one
now?"

She held up her face, he kissed her twice, and then turned and strode
away.

"I wonder whether she will ever grow to be a woman," he said to himself,
bitterly, "and discover that there is a heart as well as brains in her
composition. There was no more of doubt or hesitation in the way in
which she held up her face to be kissed, than when she did so as a
child. Indeed, as a child, I do think she would have cried if I told her
at parting that I was going away for good. Well, it is of no use blaming
her. She can't help it if she is deficient in the one quality that is of
all the most important. Of course she has got it and will know it some
day, but at present it is latent and it is evident that I am not the man
who has the key of it. She was pleased at my pictures. It was one of her
ideas that I ought to do something, and she is pleased to find that I
have buckled to work in earnest, just as she would be pleased if
Parliament would pass a law giving to women some of the rights which she
has taken it into her head they are deprived of. However, perhaps it is
better as it is. If anything happens to me to-morrow, she will be sorry
for a week or two just as she would if she lost any other friend, while
if Arnold Dampierre goes down Minette will for a time be like a mad
woman. At any rate my five thousand will help her to carry out her
crusade. I should imagine that she won't get much aid in that direction
from her father.

"Halloa, I know that man's face," he broke off as he noticed a
well-dressed man turn in at the door of a quiet-looking residence he was
just approaching, "I know his face well; he is an Englishman, too, but I
can't think where I have seen him." He could not have told himself why
he should have given the question a second thought, but the face kept
haunting him in spite of the graver matters in his mind, and as he
reached the door of his lodgings he stopped suddenly.

"I have it," he exclaimed, "it is Cumming, the manager of the bank, the
fellow that ruined it and then absconded. I saw they were looking for
him in Spain and South America and a dozen other places, and here he is.
By Jove, he is a clever fellow. I suppose he came here as soon as the
war broke out, knowing very well that the police would have plenty of
other things to think of besides inquiring as to the antecedents of
Englishmen who took up their residence here. Of course he has been
absolutely safe since the fall of the Empire. The fellow has grown a
beard and mustache; that is why I did not recognize him at first. Of
course he has taken another name. Well, I don't know that it is any
business of mine. He got off with some money, but I don't suppose it was
any great sum. At any rate it would not be enough to make any material
difference to the creditors of the bank. However, I will think it over
later on. There is no hurry about the matter. He is here till the siege
is over, and I should certainly like to have a talk with him. I have
never been able to get it quite out of my mind that there has been
something mysterious about the whole affair as far as my father was
concerned, though where the mystery comes in is more than I can imagine.
I expect it is simply because I have never liked Brander, and have
always had a strong idea that our popular townsman was at bottom a knave
as well as a humbug."

Mary Brander went about her work very quietly all day, and more than
one of the wounded patients remarked the change in her manner.

"Mademoiselle is suffering to-day," one of them said to her, as he
missed the ring of hopefulness and cheeriness with which she generally
spoke to him.

"I am not feeling well, I have a bad headache; and moreover I have
friends in the sortie that is to be made to-night."

"Ah, yes, mademoiselle, there must be many sad hearts in Paris. As for
me, my spirits have risen since I heard it. At last we are going to
begin in earnest and it is time. I only wish I could have been well
enough to have taken my share in it. It is tiresome to think that I have
been wounded in a trifling skirmish. I should not have minded if it had
been tomorrow, so that, when I am an old man, I might tell my
grandchildren that I got that scar on the day when we drove the
Prussians from the front of Paris. That would have been something to
say. Courage, mademoiselle, after all there are twenty who get through
these things safely, to every one that is hit, and your friends will be
covered with glory."

"I hope that it will be as you think," she said, "but it may be the
other way, and that the sortie will fail."

"You must not think that," he said. "We have not had a fair chance
before, now we have got one. But even should we not win the first time,
we will the second or the third. What, are Frenchmen always to be beaten
by these Prussians? They have beaten us of late, because we have been
badly led; but there must come another Jena to us one of these days."

Mary nodded and then passed on to the next patient. In the evening the
news came that things were not all in readiness, and that the sortie was
deferred at least for twenty-four hours.

"You are not well, Miss Brander," the chief surgeon of the hospital said
to her soon afterwards, "I have noticed all day that you have been
looking fagged and worn out. As it is certain now that we shall have no
unusual pressure upon our resources for another thirty-six hours at any
rate, I think you had better go home."

"I have a bad headache," she said.

"Yes, I can see that, and your hand is as cold as ice. Go home, child,
and have a long night's rest. This sort of work is very trying until one
gets hardened to it. Fortunately I have no lack of assistance. If you do
not feel better to-morrow morning take another twenty-four hours off
duty. You are likely to want all your strength and nerve on Monday if
this affair comes off in earnest, which I own I am inclined to doubt,
for, so far, there has been no shadow of earnestness about anything
since the siege began."



CHAPTER XII.


The Franc-tireurs des Écoles had marched out beyond the walls when the
order came that the affair was postponed, and that they would not be
required till the following day, when they were to parade at daybreak.
There was much indignation at the change and all sorts of causes were
suggested for it. One rumor was to the effect that the pontoon bridges
for crossing the river were of insufficient length. Others said that the
train of provisions that was to accompany the force after it had cut its
way through the Prussians was not ready. One rumor was to the effect
that the Prussians had been apprised by spies of Trochu's intentions and
had massed heavy bodies of men at the threatened point. The most
generally received opinion was that Trochu's object had been only to
make a demonstration on this side of Paris, with the object of deceiving
the Prussians and inducing them to weaken their lines at other points,
and that the real attack would be made in another direction altogether.

"It is a nuisance whichever way it is," Cuthbert said, as, after the
corps was dismissed, he walked back with a group of his friends, "it is
a mistake too. We had all got ourselves up to boiling heat, and had made
up our minds to go through with it, and this delay is like a dash of
cold water. Of course it is the same with the rest of the force. One
hates being humbugged, and it makes one doubt whether our generals know
their business. Well, there is one thing, the delay won't be a long
one; it is eight o'clock now, and as we must be up by six, I shall turn
in at once and get a good sleep. Be sure and don't forget your flasks in
the morning. The weather gets colder and colder."

The next morning, however, the men were again dismissed after parade,
and told they were to fall in again at daybreak next day. There was a
feeling of restlessness and disquiet throughout Paris. The town was
placarded with proclamations of Trochu and Ducrot. The latter was a sort
of valedictory letter to Paris, saying that he was going out to conquer
or to die, and that if defeated, he would never return to Paris alive.
It was evident by their tone that at the time the proclamations were
penned it was intended that the battle should take place on that day,
and that the delay was consequent upon a breakdown in the arrangements
and was not the result of any fixed plan.

Paris for once was serious. Special services were held in all the
churches and these were thronged by citizens and soldiers. Cuthbert went
to the building where a few of the English residents attended service
throughout the siege. Mary Brander was not present, but as she had said
the day before that she would be on duty for twenty-four hours, he had
not expected to see her.

In the afternoon he went to a restaurant and dined fairly well,
indulging himself in all the luxuries obtainable, and then returned and
spent the evening with René and Pierre. The next morning, when he
dressed himself for parade, he took the precaution of putting on as many
articles of underclothing as he could button his tunic over. This time
there was no mistake in the orders, as not a few of those who fell in
had hoped in their hearts might be the case. As soon as the corps was
formed up and their arms and ammunition-pouches examined, the word was
given and they marched away towards the gate of Charenton and issued
out. Many bodies of troops were converging upon it and the other gates
on that side of the city, with trains of ammunition and supply wagons,
and there was a delay of an hour before they could pass out. The greater
part of the force had left the city on the two previous days, and a
hundred thousand men under Ducrot were massed in the Bois de Vincennes
and between that point and the neck of the loop formed by the Marne.

The Franc-tireurs were halted near Charenton, and learning that the
attack would not take place till night, the colonel took possession of
an empty barn near the village. The men piled their arms outside and
made themselves as comfortable as they could. Now that there was no
longer any doubt that an engagement would take place in a few hours the
natural light-heartedness of the students revived. All had brought with
them a good store of provisions in their haversacks, and each man
carried a thick blanket besides his military cloak. Many of them had, in
addition to their flasks, slipped a bottle of wine into their
haversacks, and a meal was joyously partaken of, after which pipes were
lighted, and with their blankets wrapt round their legs, all were
inclined to agree that campaigning even in winter had its pleasures.

"We are a deal better off than most of the troops," Cuthbert said to
Arnold Dampierre, "it must be bitter in the snow out in the woods, and
it will be worse when it gets dark."

"It is better for all than it was for our fellows in the South,"
Dampierre said. "We have warm clothes and plenty to eat. They were in
rags and often well-nigh starving."

"Yes, that must have been a very rough business. It is a great advantage
that we are Franc-tireurs and therefore free, to a great extent, to
follow our own devices. I heard the colonel say that when he had applied
for orders he was told that none would be given to detached corps like
his, but that now, as at other times, they must make themselves useful
when they saw an opportunity. The line are to cross first, then the
mobile, and then the active battalions of the National Guards. If I
judge the colonel rightly he will manage to put us somewhere in front.
We stand well after that affair at Bourget, so I have no doubt he will
get us across one of the bridges as soon as the line are over."

Soon after four o'clock it began to get dusk.

The colonel, who had been away endeavoring to find out what was the
general plan of operations, returned soon after. The officers gathered
round him.

"Pontoon bridges will be thrown across the river on both sides of the
loop. The pontonners will set to work on them when it is dark. I fancy
the real attack will be through Champigny, and that on the other side
will be more of the nature of a false alarm; so we will go with the main
force. There are some strong batteries erected in the loop which will
prepare the way for us and a big train of field-guns. The troops will
begin to cross at early daylight, so we can't do better than remain
where we are until five o'clock. Then we will go and take our place near
one of the bridges and slip across as soon as we see an opportunity.
With such a mass of troops to move, there are sure to be delays in
bringing the regiments up, and the first that occurs, we will slip in
and get over. The men may as well lie down at once and get a good
night."

It needed somewhat close packing for the men to rest themselves, but the
crowding was more than counter balanced by the warmth, and it was not
long before all were asleep. At one o'clock in the morning, they were
awakened by a tremendous cannonade. All the forts round Paris had
suddenly opened fire upon the German positions. Believing that the enemy
must have obtained a knowledge of the approaching sortie and were
anticipating it by assaulting the forts, the colonel ordered the men to
stand to their arms. In an hour the firing ceased and all was quiet
again. The men, with a little grumbling at being taken out and chilled
in the night air, returned to the barn. At four o'clock they were again
aroused by the fire being resumed.

"We may as well be off, lads," the colonel said, "we have some distance
to march, and it is not worth while to turn in again."

Between the reports of the guns a dull rumbling sound could be heard.

"The artillery and train are on the move," Cuthbert said to René, who
was next to him in the ranks, "so we shall not be too soon if we are to
take our share in the early part of the fighting."

They left the main road and followed the fields, as many of them were
well acquainted with the country, and they had no difficulty in keeping
in the right direction. The men marched at ease, each picking his way as
best he could across the ground, which was broken up into small
enclosures and gardens. They halted outside a village on the banks of
the Marne where one of the pontoon bridges had been thrown across. Here
they piled arms and endeavored to keep themselves warm by stamping their
feet and swinging their arms.

Soon after morning dawned, heavy firing broke out suddenly behind them.
The colonel had learnt at Charenton that General Vinoy, with 15,000 men,
was to advance from between the southern forts to attack Ville Juif and
the heights of Mesly, so as to induce a concentration of the enemy in
that direction, and so to diminish the difficulties of the main advance.

For a time there was a sound of cannon only, then came a crackle of
musketry telling that the advance had begun. The battery on the
commanding position of St. Maur opened in earnest, and was aided by
several batteries of field artillery, the din being now incessant.
Gradually the rattle of musketry became fainter, showing that the French
were driving the enemy back, and a mounted officer riding past told them
that Montmesly was taken. The news raised the spirits of the soldiers to
the highest point, and their impatience was becoming almost
uncontrollable, when the order arrived for them to advance, and the
troops at once began to cross the six pontoon bridges that had been
thrown at different points across the Marne.

"There is no hurry, mes braves," the colonel said, as the Franc-tireurs
stamped with impatience as they saw the columns crossing the river,
while they remained in enforced inactivity. "At first the troops will
carry all before them as Vinoy's men have done. The fighting will only
commence in earnest when the Prussians bring up their supports. We shall
be in time for that, never fear. We ought to have begun at daybreak," he
growled, in a low voice, to the major, "four precious hours have been
wasted. By this time we ought to have gained at least three or four
miles of ground; in that case we might have been through the Prussian
lines before sunset. Every hour in these short days is of importance."

Presently the roll of musketry showed that the French skirmishers were
engaged with the German outposts. The Franc-tireurs had by this time
moved down close to the bridge; but it was not until midday that they
were able to cross; then the colonel, taking advantage of a short delay
on the part of one of the regiments to come up to the bridge, pushed the
men across, and leaving the road took them forward at the double. By
this time the roar of battle was unbroken. The batteries along the
heights behind them, the forts, and the field-guns in advance were all
hard at work, the shell flying over the heads of the advancing troops
and bursting in the villages held by the Germans. In front, the rattle
of musketry was deafening. Champigny, they learned from a wounded
soldier who was making his way to the rear, had been carried, and the
troops there had pushed some distance forward, but on the left
Villiers-la-Desert was found to be too strongly fortified to be taken.
The French batteries were, however, raining shell upon it.

As the Franc-tireurs approached Champigny they saw that the place had
not been taken without a severe struggle. The bodies of French soldiers
strewed the ground thickly, and as they passed through the streets, the
Saxon uniforms were mingled with those of their assailants. The corps
pushed forward until they ascended the low hills behind the village.
Here they found the French troops halted. It was evident Ducrot did not
intend to advance further until joined by the whole of his command.

"This is pure madness," the colonel said; "by to-morrow we shall have
fifty thousand Germans in front of us. If Ducrot hasn't got his whole
force, and his train and ambulances up, he might at least carry Villiers
by assault. Of course it could not be done without loss, but what have
we come out for but to fight. We cannot advance as long as they hold
that place, for when their supports come up, as you may be sure they
will do ere long, they can pour out from there and take us in the rear.
However, we may as well go forward to the skirmishing line. We will work
down by the right. If the German supports come up they are likely to
advance that way, and as I hear no firing in that quarter, we may find
some spot unoccupied by the line."

The order was given, and the corps marched off, and presently took up
their position between the river and the French regiment forming the
extreme right flank of the advance. In extended order and taking
advantage of every inequality of the ground, they pushed on, and after
advancing a quarter of a mile, were brought to a standstill by a sudden
outbreak of musketry fire at various points along the crest of a slight
rise some six hundred yards in front of them. Taking cover behind a low
wall running at right angles to the river, they opened a dropping fire
in return. This, however, was at once stopped by the colonel, who
himself went along the line.

"Don't throw away a shot, lads," he said, "you may want every cartridge
before you have done. It will be time enough to begin when they show in
force over that crest."

There was no more for the men to do than there had been when they were
waiting for their turn to cross the bridge, but they were satisfied, now
they were in the front line, and within shot of the enemy. The march had
set their blood in circulation, and while two or three of each company
kept a keen lookout over the top of the wall, the others laughed and
joked, after first employing themselves in knocking holes through the
wall, a few inches above the ground, so that they could lie and fire
through if the enemy advanced. The musketry fire had almost ceased away
to their right, and they hoped that Vinoy had established himself well
out in that direction. Various were the conjectures as to why the
advance had ceased on their own side. Some conjectured that Trochu's
plan consisted only in crossing the river and then marching back again
in order to accustom the troops to stand fire. One suggested that the
general had come out without ink or paper with which to write his
grandiose proclamations to the Parisians, and they were waiting until it
had been fetched from his office.

"What do you think, Henri?" René asked the lieutenant.

"I should say," he said, gravely, "that when our advance came upon the
real Prussian line of defence, they found it too strong to be carried.
They must have known that they could never hold Champigny under the fire
of our guns and forts, and used it only as an outpost. Of course it is
from this side they would think it likely that we should try to break
out, and they would certainly erect batteries to command all the roads.
They have had nothing else to do for the last ten weeks."

"I have no doubt that is partly the reason, Henri," Cuthbert said, "but
I think it may be principally due to the fact that Ducrot can't get his
troops across the river. Even with a well-organized army and a good
staff, and commanding officers who all know their duty, it is a big job
to get a hundred thousand men, with artillery, ambulances, and trains
across a river. Here, with the exception of Ducrot himself and a few of
the line officers, nobody knows anything about the matter. By what we
saw, I should think there are not more than twenty thousand men across
the river, and the confusion on the other side must be frightful. We
ourselves saw that the street of that village was absolutely choked up
with wagons, and I have no doubt all the roads are the same. Of course
they never ought to have moved forward at all till all the troops were
over. If Trochu really meant to break out, the north is the side where
he should have tried. The whole force could have been massed between the
walls and St. Denis and have been marched in regular order against the
Prussians, with the field-batteries at intervals and the trains
following at a proper distance on the various lines of roads.

"I hope that is his plan still, and that this attack from the South is
only a feint to draw as many of the Germans as possible over to this
side. We have a tremendous advantage in having this short line to march
across. If Trochu were to send the train off at once, while we recrossed
and followed as soon as it was dark, the whole army might be outside the
northern wall before morning. To-morrow we might get into position for
attack, make all the arrangements, and advance far enough to dash
forward at their lines as soon as it is light next day, and with
Ducrot's and Vinoy's force united, we ought to go right through them. We
should have 115,000 men, and I don't suppose they could oppose us with a
third of that number. However strong their positions, we ought to be
able to carry them if we went at them with a rush. Besides, we should
have the guns at the northern forts to help us. At any rate, after this
delay here, I consider the idea of any further advance in this direction
to be out of the question. By to-morrow morning they may have a hundred
thousand men facing us, and if we don't recross to-night, we may find it
very difficult business to do so to-morrow."

"We have got the batteries and forts to cover us," Henri Vaucour said.
"The Germans could never advance against us in force under their fire."

"I hope we are going to cross this evening, if we are going to cross at
all," Pierre Leroux said. "It is cold enough now, but if we are going to
pass the night here, it will be bitter."

"There are those houses by the river, we are a good deal nearer to them
than any other troops," Arnold Dampierre said; "they will hold us if we
pack in pretty closely."

As the afternoon wore on, the colonel sent two officers to inspect the
houses, which were all found to be empty. As soon as he received the
report, he sent twenty men off with orders to cut down hedges and form
fagots, and then to light fires in each room. There was no further
movement. A heavy musketry fire was kept up far away to the left, and
the batteries occasionally fired heavily; but all idea of movement was
evidently abandoned for the day, and the enemy were not in sufficient
force to take the offensive.

As soon as it became dark, therefore, half a company were left on guard
at the wall, and the rest of the corps marched off to the houses.
Roaring fires were blazing in every room, for some fruit trees had been
cut down and split up into logs. The party on guard were to be relieved
every two hours. As soon as the men were bestowed in their quarters, the
major went off to discover, if possible, what had been the result of
the fighting on the other side of the loop. It was two hours before he
returned, and the news he brought was dispiriting.

"I have been up to Creteil," he said, "and have learnt from the people
there who saw the whole affair what has happened. The advance was good.
We swept the Germans at first before us, and for a time our fellows made
a stand on the crest of Montmesly. But the enemy were reinforced and
drove us down the hill again. Then came a disgraceful panic. The
soldiers who had fought fairly at first, became a mob; the mobile, who
had not done as well as had been expected, were worse. There was a
battalion of the National Guard of Belleville, and the scoundrels ran
without firing a shot. At Creteil the men absolutely fought to get
through the street. It was disgraceful. I hear that further to the right
the line did better, and that we still hold Ville Juif and other
villages well in advance of our old position. That is all I could learn.
They say our losses have been pretty heavy; at any rate Creteil is full
of wounded, and the ambulances are taking them into Paris. There is
great confusion on the other side of the river. The roads are all choked
with the wagon-trains. Nobody has got any orders, nobody knows what is
going to be done, no one knows where Ducrot or Trochu are. It is enough
to make one tear one's hair to see such confusion and mismanagement."

The night passed off quietly. The next day, to the surprise of everyone,
things remained unchanged. No effort was made to pass the baggage-train
over the bridges. A portion of the troops had been put under canvas the
first evening, and save for the dead still lying about, the broken arms,
the stains of blood, and the parties engaged in carrying the wounded
across the river to the ambulance wagons, and others burying the dead,
the scene differed little from an ordinary encampment. The troops
laughed and jested round the camp-fires, and occupied themselves with
their cooking; the horses that had been killed were already but
skeletons, the flesh having been cut off for food. The advance parties
had been called in, and a barricade thrown up just beyond Champigny,
where the advance guard occasionally exchanged shots with the Prussians
a few hundred yards away. Strong parties were at work erecting a series
of earthworks on the hill.

The Franc-tireurs fell back from the position they had held the night
before, and established themselves in a few houses, half roofless and
shattered by shell, between Champigny and the river. Most of the houses
in the long straggling street of Champigny bore marks of the conflict
that had raged there before the Saxons had been driven out. Fortunately
large stores of straw were found in the village, and these added much to
the comfort of the troops, and the Franc-tireurs carried off a good many
trusses to their quarters. Considerable amounts of other stores were
also discovered there, and were thoroughly appreciated by the soldiers
after their restricted rations.

They smoked their pipes that evening feeling thankful that as they lay
behind Champigny there was no occasion for them to turn out on outpost
duty.

"They say we shall fight again to-morrow for certain," René said.

"I think it likely we shall, René, but I should be inclined to bet ten
to one, that it is the Prussians who will attack. They will have had
forty-eight hours to mass their forces here, and will be fools if they
don't take advantage of the opportunity we have been good enough to give
them."

Day was just breaking when a sharp rattle of musketry broke out. The
Franc-tireurs sprang to their feet.

"I should have won my bet, René, if you had taken it," Cuthbert
exclaimed, as he slung his cartridge-box over his shoulder. "They are on
us all along the line."

In less than a minute the rattle of musketry swelled into a continuous
roar, above which came the boom of cannon and the explosion of shells in
and around Champigny. Just as the corps was formed up, the heavy guns in
the battery of St. Maur behind them opened fire, their deep roar
sounding loud above the sharp explosion of the Prussian field-guns. As
they advanced at the double towards the village, they could see a mob of
panic-stricken men rushing from the front.

"The cowards, the vile cowards!" broke from the lips of the men, and as
some of the fugitives ran past them, they saluted them with yells and
cries of contempt. Fully five thousand panic-stricken men were in wild
flight, all rushing towards the bridge.

"If I were the commander of St. Maur," René said, "I would turn my guns
upon these cowards. They are greater enemies to France than are the
Prussians."

"Forward, my children," shouted the old colonel, "let us show them that
there are still some Frenchmen ready to fight and die for their
country."

The officer in command of St. Maur, and the general on the spot, were
equal to the situation. Seventy or eighty field-pieces were massed round
the redoubt, and a tremendous fire opened upon the Prussian batteries
out on the plain, while a strong guard was sent down to the end of the
bridge to bar the way to the mob of fugitives. The Germans had already
obtained possession of the other end of the village when the
Franc-tireurs entered it, but a small body of troops were standing firm.
Some barricades thrown up across the street were manned, and from these
and from every house they replied to the fire of the advancing
Prussians. But the latter were still pushing on, wresting house by house
from their hands, while a hail of shell from the German batteries fell
upon the part of the village still held by the French. As the
Franc-tireurs advanced the colonel ordered one company to wheel off on
either hand to occupy the gardens behind the houses, and so prevent the
enemy from taking the defenders in the rear. He himself pressed forward
down the street to aid the soldiers at the barricades.

The sun had by this time risen, and its light, glinting on the Prussian
helmets, showed strong bodies advancing down the slopes into the
village. The woods on either hand were still held by the French, but the
irregular fire showed that they were not in strong force. The din was
terrific, three or four of the French mitrailleuses were adding to the
roar, and sending streams of bullets into the advancing Germans. Nerved
by the desperation of the situation, and fiercely angered at the
cowardice of their countrymen, the young artists of Cuthbert's company
dashed forward, climbing walls, bursting through hedges, burning with
eagerness to meet the foe.

The Prussian shells were bursting all round, bullets sang above and
around them, the rattle of musketry grew louder and fiercer, but there
was not a moment's check until François des Valles shouted to them to
halt behind a low wall. The enemy were but a hundred yards away,
pressing forward through the gardens.

"Steady men, steady," he shouted. "Lie down for a minute to get breath,
then let every other man open fire, but don't throw away a shot. Let the
others try and get some stones out of the wall and make loop-holes."

As yet they had not been seen by the Germans, and these were but fifty
yards away in a thick line of skirmishers, when Des Valles gave the
word, and the Franc-tireurs, rising on one knee and resting their
muskets on the wall, opened a steady fire upon them. Many fell, and
taken by surprise the rest ran back to a wall some thirty yards in rear
and thence opened a heavy fire.

"Lie down, lads," Des Valles shouted, and all set to work to loop-hole
the wall. "Don't show your heads above it, unless they advance again.
All we have got to do is to hold our ground."



CHAPTER XIII.


By the aid of their sword-bayonets the Franc-tireurs soon pierced the
wall, and lying at full length a yard apart, replied to the enemy's
fire. Through the smoke they could just make out the upper line of the
wall, and as the Prussians stood up to fire picked them off. Henri
Vaucour crept along the line urging the men to fire slowly.

"They will advance presently," he said. "You can tell by the fire that
they are getting thicker and thicker. We must check their rush."

Five minutes later there was a deep cheer and a crowd of dark figures
leaped over the wall. A flash of fire ran along the line of defenders,
and then as fast as the Chassepots could be reloaded a rolling fire
broke out. So heavy was it that before crossing a third of the
intervening space the Germans wavered, hesitated, and then ran back to
their shelter.

"Bravo! bravo!" Des Valles shouted, springing to his feet in his
excitement, but as he spoke the enemy's fire broke out again, "Vive la
France!" he shouted, and then fell heavily backwards.

His fall was noticed only by those nearest to him, for the Franc-tireurs
were all busy. The rattle of musketry in the houses to their right
showed that the French were still holding their own.

The Germans were apparently waiting for reinforcements before they
attempted another rush against the position held by their invisible
foes. They in turn loop-holed the wall they held and the musketry duel
continued. Between the walls were two lines of low hedges, but the
leaves had fallen and each party could see the loopholes through which
their opponents fired. Henri Vaucour, who was now in command, ordered
half the men to crawl back to the next wall some fifty paces in the rear
and to loop-hole that.

"The next time they come," he said, "they will be too strong for us and
we must fall back." The remainder of the men he placed near the two ends
of the wall, so that as they fell back their comrades behind could open
their fire and so cover their retreat. It was another quarter of an hour
before the Germans made a move. Then a great body of men sprang over the
wall. Forty rifles were discharged simultaneously, then Henri's whistle
rang out. The men leaped to their feet, and at the top of their speed
ran to the wall behind them, from which their comrades were pouring a
stream of fire into the Germans. Several fell as they ran, the rest on
gaining the wall threw themselves over, and as soon as they had reloaded
joined its defenders. The Germans, however, were still pressing on, when
they were taken in flank by a heavy fire from the back of the houses
held by the French, and they got no farther than the wall that had just
been vacated. Then the musketry duel recommenced under the same
conditions as before. The company had already lost thirty men, ten lay
by the wall they had defended, killed by bullets that had passed through
the loop-holes; eight more were stretched on the ground that they had
just traversed. The rest had made their way to the rear, wounded.
Cuthbert had had a finger of the left hand carried away as he was in the
act of firing. He had felt a stinging blow but had thought little of it
until he had taken his position behind the second wall.

"Tie my handkerchief over this, René," he said, "fortunately it is only
the left hand, and a finger more or less makes little odds. Where is
Dampierre? I don't see him."

"I am afraid he is lying under that wall there," Rend said; "at any rate
I don't see him here; he ought to be the third man from me. Minette will
go out of her mind if he is killed," but they had no further time for
talking, and as soon as his hand was bandaged, Cuthbert took his place
at a loophole.

"I think things are better," he said, after a few minutes, to Rend. "The
shells are not falling round us as they did. The heavy guns at St. Maur
must have silenced the German batteries, and I fancy, by the heavy
firing from the other end of the village, that we have been reinforced."

This was indeed the case. For some time the Prussians continued to make
obstinate efforts to advance, but gradually the number of defenders of
the village increased, as the French officers managed to rally small
parties of the fugitives at the bridge and led them forward again, their
efforts being aided by the mounted gendarmes, who, riding among the
soldiers, beat them with the flat of their swords, and literally drove
them forward again.

By eleven o'clock the line of the Franc-tireurs had been thickened by
the fresh arrivals, and the roar of rifles along the wall was
continuous. The French, who had hitherto fought silently, now began to
cheer, and when a regiment came up in something like fair order through
the gardens, its colonel shouted, "Forward men, and drive the Germans
out."

With a cheer of anticipated triumph those who had so stubbornly defended
the position sprang up, and the whole rushed forward against the enemy.
A tremendous volley flashed from the wall in front of them. Cuthbert
felt that he was falling. The thought flashed through his mind that his
foot had caught in something, and then he knew nothing more. When he
recovered consciousness he was lying with a score of others on the floor
of a kitchen. There was a gaping hole in the roof and loop-holes in the
walls, but of this at present he saw nothing. A man with a lantern was
standing beside him? while another was doing something, he didn't know
what, to him.

"What is it?" he muttered.

"You are wounded, mon brave, and seriously I am afraid, but not
fatally--at least I hope not."

"Is this Champigny?"

"Yes."

"Then we have held the village?"

"Yes, we beat the Prussians back all along the line, they could not
stand our artillery-fire. There, I have bandaged you up for the present,
to-morrow morning you will be taken into Paris."

"I should like to go to the American ambulance, if you can manage it,
Doctor," Cuthbert said. "I am an Englishman and have friends there."

"I will manage it if I can for you, lad. Your corps has done splendidly
to-day. Everyone says if it had not been for you, Champigny would have
been lost. So you well deserve anything I can do for you."

The desperate defence of Champigny had indeed saved that portion of the
French army across the river from destruction. It had given time for the
fugitives to rally, and as if ashamed of the panic to which they had
given way, they had afterwards fought steadily and well, and had driven
the Germans back beyond the line they had occupied the night before,
Brie-sur-Marne being now in the possession of the French, having been
carried by a desperate assault, in which General Ducrot led the way at
the head of the troops. During the various operations they had lost
about 1,000 killed and 5,000 wounded.

The four days that had elapsed since Mary Brander had said good-bye to
Cuthbert at the entrance to the ambulance, had effected a marked change
in her appearance. She had returned to her work on the Monday morning,
but no fresh cases had come in, for there had been a lull in the
skirmishes at the outposts. During the last few days the beds had been
cleared out as much as possible to make room for the expected influx,
and there was but little for her to do. After going round the tent of
which she had charge, the American surgeon put his hand upon her
shoulder.

"You are no better, Miss Brander," he said. "This is too much for you. I
did not expect to see you break down, for I have noticed that your
nerves were as steady as those of an old hospital nurse. Though you
naturally lost your color, when standing by with the sponge at some of
those operations, there was no flinching or hesitation; but I see that,
though you did not show it at the time, it has told upon you. I shall be
sorry to lose your services, especially at the present moment; but I
think you had better give it up for a time. We have plenty of
volunteers, you know."

"I will stay on, if you please, Dr. Swinburne. It is not the work, but
the suspense, that has upset me. One has been expecting this dreadful
battle to begin for the last three days, and to know that at any moment
now 200,000 men may fly at each other, and that thousands upon thousands
may be killed is almost too awful to think about. The silence seems so
oppressive, one knows that they are gathering and preparing, and that
while all seems so still, we may suddenly hear the roar of the cannon
all round. I think when it once begins I shall be myself again. It is
the waiting that is so oppressive."

"I can understand that," he said, kindly. "It is the same thing with the
troops themselves. It is the pause before a great battle that shakes the
nerves of the men. As soon as the work begins the feeling passes off and
the man who, a few minutes before, was as weak as a child, feels the
blood rushing hotly through his veins, and the burning desire to get at
his enemy overpowers all sense of danger. Well, as there is really
nothing for you to do to-day, for there are three of you in this tent
and only four beds occupied, you had better put your bonnet on again,
child; a brisk walk will be the best thing for you; try and interest
yourself in what you see passing round you. From what I hear the
fighting will not begin until to-morrow morning, and it must be later in
the day before the wounded begin to come in. So, though you can return
and take charge again to-night if you like, there will be really no
occasion for you to do so until to-morrow, say at twelve o'clock; but
mind, unless you are looking a good deal better, I shall send you off
again; my assistants will need all their nerve for the work we are
likely to have on hand. Indeed, I must beg you to do so, Miss Brander,
nothing is so trying as sitting in idleness. I shall really want your
services to-morrow, and for my own sake, as well as yours, I must insist
upon my orders being obeyed."

Mary Brander conscientiously tried to carry out the doctor's
instructions, walked briskly along the Boulevards, and then going up the
Champs Elysées, and turning to the left, went to the edge of the plateau
above the river, and there sat down on a bench and looked over the
country to the south. There were many groups of people gathered at this
point; most of them, doubtless, like herself, had friends in the army
gathered outside the walls, and were too anxious and restless to remain
indoors; but although her eyes were fixed on the country beyond the
forts, Mary Brander did not take in the scene. She was thinking, as she
had been for the last two days, and was full of regrets for the past.
She had not altogether admitted this to herself, but she knew now that
it was so, although she had fought hard and angrily with herself before
she owned it.

"He was right," she said to herself bitterly, "when he said that I had
not yet discovered that I had a heart as well as a head. We are
miserable creatures, we women. A man can go straight on his way through
life--he can love, he can marry, but it makes no change in his course. I
know I read somewhere that love is but an incident in a man's life,
while it is a woman's all, or something of that sort. I laughed at the
idea then as absurd--now that it is too late I see it is true. He loved
me, or, at least he liked me so much that he thought it was love. I
laughed at him, I told him he was not worthy of a woman's love. He went
away. Here was an end of it, as far as he was concerned. He lost his
property and took to work nobly, and when we met he was just the same as
he had been before, and treated me as if I had been a cousin, and has no
doubt laughed many a time at the thought of that morning in the garden
at Newquay, and indeed thought so little of it that he did not mind my
seeing all those sketches of that woman in his note-books.

"There were three or four of them, too, stuck up on the walls of his
room. Of course she goes there. He said she was a model. Of course he is
fond of her. I should not have thought it of him, but men are wicked and
women are fools," she added, after a pause, "and I do think that I am
one of the most foolish of them. I am like a child who throws away a toy
one minute and cries for it the next. It is horrid, and I am ashamed of
myself, downright ashamed. I hate myself to think that just because a
man is nice to me, and leaves me two pictures if he is killed, that I am
to make myself miserable about him, and to feel that I could give up all
my plans in life for his sake. I understand now how it is that women are
content to remain what they are. It is because nature made them so. We
are like weathercocks, and have no fixed point, but can be turned by a
passing breath.

"We have no rights because we are content to remain slaves. Here is my
life spoilt. A week ago I was my own mistress and felt as free and
independent as any man; now a thrill runs through me at ever
cannon-shot. The things that had seemed so important to me then do not
occupy a thought now. However, I hope I am not quite a fool. I shall
shake it off in time perhaps," and she smiled pitifully, "it will even
do me good. I shall understand things better. Anna used to tell me I was
intolerant and made no allowance for human nature. I laughed then, but
she was right. When this is all over I shall go away. I don't suppose I
shall ever see him again, and I will make up my mind not to think of him
any more. I wonder what he is doing now, whether his corps went out last
night or will go to-day. I hope they won't be in front. They have no
right to put volunteers in front when they have got regular soldiers. It
is downright wicked that he should have enlisted when it was no business
of his. I wonder she let him do it."

Then she broke off, rose to her feet suddenly, and with an angry
exclamation, "Mary Brander, you are a weak fool," she started back at a
quick pace and with head erect. Again she walked round the Boulevards,
and having thoroughly tired herself, made her way home, drank a cup of
bouillon made from horse-flesh, went straight to bed and sobbed herself
to sleep. She woke up with a start. The house shook with the explosion
of heavy guns. She sprang up and went to her window, threw it open, and
looked out.

She could see Forts Issy and Vanvres. Both were firing heavily, while
between the booms of their guns she could hear the reports of others. No
flashes came back from Meudon or any of the Prussian positions. Nor,
though she held her breath to listen, could she hear the sound of
musketry. She struck a match and looked at her watch. It was but one
o'clock. She closed her window and wrapping herself up in her
dressing-gown sat there for some time looking out. Presently the fire
slackened and she crept back into bed, but again rose when the forts
re-opened fire. Then feeling that sleep was impossible she lighted a
candle and forced herself to read until daylight. She was dressing when
the roar again broke out. This time it was away to the left. She threw
on her things, put on her bonnet and cloak, and went out of her room
just as M. Michaud issued from his.

"You are going out, mademoiselle. So am I. I will walk with you if you
will allow me. I think the real thing has begun. The firing last night
was only, I fancy, to rouse the Germans and make them pass as bad a
night as our men were doing, but I think this is the real thing."

Mary was glad of his escort, it seemed to make it more bearable to have
someone to speak to. In a few minutes they reached the spot where she
had sat the day before. A crowd were already collected.

"Where is it?" M. Michaud asked, as they joined a group who were
gathered near the edge of the plateau.

"It is from the southern forts that they are firing," the man said;
"look at the smoke rolling up from them; they are clearing the way for
our men. There, do you see that puff of smoke away on the right? That is
from a battery up at Creteil, and now the Prussian guns on Montmesly,
and all the way round Ville Juif, are answering. The affair is becoming
hot. Listen, the Chassepots are at work."

Indeed, between the sounds of the cannon a continuous murmur could be
heard. It sounded like a railway train passing over a distant viaduct.

"Is there any place where we can see better from?"

"You would see better from the wall over on that side, but no one is
allowed there; half the National Guard are under arms, and have taken
the places on the walls of the mobiles, who have gone out."

"It is wretched seeing nothing here," she said, feverishly. "Do you
think we could get up to the top of the tower of Notre Dame?"

"It is a long way off," M. Michaud said, "and if people are permitted
there you may be sure by this time there is not standing room. Besides,
even from there the distance would be too great to make out the
movements of the troops."

Mary felt that he was right, and with a little shiver said, "I will
hurry back now and will then go down to the ambulance."

She swallowed a cup of coffee in which two eggs from the hidden store
had been beaten up; ate a piece of bread, and then started off. As she
went along she gathered from the talk in the streets that things were
believed to be going on well. The musketry was certainly a good deal
further off, and a light smoke was rising fur out upon the plain. "They
say that we have captured Montmesly, and on this side cannot be far from
Ville Juif."

"Ah, these Prussians have begun to learn what Paris can do."

"I expect William and Bismarck are by this time packing up at
Versailles," another said. "They will know that their day has come to an
end; everyone says they will both be hung if we catch them."

Mary hurried on. She knew that hours must elapse before the wounded
could be brought in, but felt a feverish anxiety to be at the ambulance
and to hear what was said there. Just before she reached it the roar of
the distant combat suddenly increased, but it seemed to her further away
to the left. Dr. Swinburne was standing outside the tents when she came
up.

"Do you know what is going on, sir?" she asked, breathlessly, as she
came up to him.

"I believe that the first firing you heard was the advance of Vinoy, who
moved out under cover of the guns of the southern forts. From all I hear
he has advanced a considerable distance across the plain. I believe that
the firing that has just begun away to the west, is the real battle.
Ducrot is out there with 100,000 men, and Vinoy's attack is but a feint
to draw the Prussians to the south, and so clear the way for Ducrot, who
crosses the Marne and advances through Champigny. I heard the plan last
night from one of Trochu's staff. It seems a good one, and if it is
carried out with spirit I see no reason why it should not succeed. Your
rest has done you good, Miss Brander; your eyes are brighter and you
look more like yourself."

"I feel better, Doctor. I have been rating myself soundly and it has
done me good. I feel quite ready for work again."

The doctor detected a little pathetic ring beneath the almost defiant
tone in which she uttered the words, but he only said--

"We all have need of a scolding occasionally, it acts as a tonic. I
should rather like to be braced up myself for to-night's work."

"It is too bad," Mary said, almost indignantly. "You are always
insisting on our resting ourselves and you have all the work on your
shoulders. There are eight or ten of us, and you are all by yourself."

"Not quite by myself. Mr. Wingfield is of great assistance to me, and
his aid will be invaluable when the rush comes. Besides, a surgeon,
after the first operation or treatment, has little more to do than to
watch his patient, if he has nurses that he can rely upon. As he goes
his rounds he gets their reports, he knows how the patients have passed
the night, and if there is any change in their condition, and if the
wounds require rebandaging you are at hand with all that is necessary.
It is the responsibility rather than the work which tries one. Still, if
one knows that one is doing one's best, and that at any rate the wounded
are very much better cared for, and have much better chances of recovery
here than in the city hospitals, one must be content. Worry does no good
either to one's patients or to oneself. That is a maxim that does for
both of us, Miss Brander. Now you had better go in and get everything
ready. It is probable that some of those wounded early this morning may
soon be brought in."

Mary went in to her marque.

"The child is herself on the list of wounded," the surgeon said, as he
looked after her. "She has been fighting a battle of some sort and has
been hit pretty hard. Her expression has changed altogether. There was a
brisk alertness about her before and she went about her work in a
resolute business sort of way that was almost amusing in a girl of
nineteen or twenty. It was easy to see that she had good health, plenty
of sense, and an abundant confidence in herself. At one moment she would
be lecturing her patients with the gravity of a middle-aged woman, and
five minutes later chattering away with them like a young girl. I should
have put her down as absolutely heartwhole and as never having
experienced the slightest real care or trouble, as never having quite
recognized that she had grown into womanhood. Well, something has
occurred to alter all that. She has received a blow of some sort, and
though she may soon get over it she will never be quite the same as she
was before. If one wasn't so weighed down with work, and had so many
serious matters to think of, she would be an interesting study. I never
quite understood what on earth she is in Paris for by herself at such a
time as this. But there is something that will give me other matters to
think of."

The something was an ambulance wagon which, a minute later, drew up in
front of the hospital, and from that moment there was, indeed, no time
for doctor or nurses to give a thought to anything save the wounded men
who continued to pour in until fully half the 200 beds were occupied.
All these men belonged to Vinoy's division. Dr. Swinburne would take no
more. There was already more work to do than he could get through before
next morning, and none of the wounded who came in later from beyond the
Marne were received there, but were distributed among the other
hospitals and ambulances, at all of which preparations on a very large
scale had been made.

By morning the most pressing part of the work had been done. The wounded
had been made as far as possible comfortable. Some of the bullets had
been extracted, some of the most urgent amputations made. A fresh batch
of nurses arrived to take the places of the white-faced women who had
nobly and steadily-borne their part in the trying work of the night.

"I thank you all, ladies," the doctor said, as they gathered outside the
tents before going away. "Your assistance has been invaluable; no
trained nurses could have shown more nerve and pluck than you have done.
I have just learned that it is not likely that there will be a renewal
of the fighting to-day, and you can therefore go home with the
conviction that you can take your twenty-four hours off duty without
fear that there will be any pressure in your absence. I am going to lie
down myself for three hours. Even a surgeon has nerves, and I must keep
mine steady. There are several operations that must be performed this
afternoon and some bullets to hunt up. I beg you all to force yourselves
to take something as soon as you get to your homes, and then to go to
bed and sleep as long as you can."

It did not seem to Mary Brander when she started that she would be able
to walk home, but the keen air revived her and she kept on until she
entered Madame Michaud's flat.

"Mon Dieu, my child, how white you look," the French lady exclaimed, as
the girl entered the room where she was taking her morning coffee. "What
a night you must have had!"

The need for strength was past now, and Mary sank into a chair and burst
into a fit of hysterical sobbing. Madame Michaud caressed and soothed
her as if she had been an over-tired child.

"There," she said, when Mary recovered a little, "take this cup of
coffee and drink it. I have not touched it and there are two eggs beaten
up in it. Margot will make me some more in a few minutes. Here is a
fresh roll. She made a batch this morning in the oven; try and eat it,
my child, and drink the coffee, and then I will help you into bed."

Mary, with a great effort, ate a mouthful of bread, and drank the
coffee, and in a quarter of an hour was asleep. It was growing dark when
she woke, and remembering the doctor's orders she got up and went into
the sitting-room. Madame Michaud kissed her affectionately.

"Now, you are looking more like yourself, my child; truly you looked
like a ghost when you came in. It is the husband's turn for duty on the
walls so we can sit and have a cosy chat together. Well," she went on,
when Mary had taken a seat that she had placed for her by the stove,
"all is going on famously. We have pushed the Germans back everywhere
and Trochu's proclamation says the plans have been carried out exactly
as arranged. There has not been much fighting to-day, we have hardly had
a gun fired. Everyone is rejoicing, and all the world agrees that now
the Prussians have seen how we can fight they will speedily take
themselves off altogether."

"I hope it is so, Madame Michaud; certainly the wounded said that they
had advanced a long way on the south side, but I have not heard at all
what was done on the other side of the Marne. None of the wounded from
there were brought to our hospital.

"Champigny was taken. They say that there was a hard fight there and we
pushed the Prussians back beyond it ever so far," and Madame Michaud's
arms expressed illimitable distance.

"I suppose there are no reports as to what regiments were engaged," Mary
asked.

"Oh, no, but everyone says that the soldiers fought like lions and that
the National Guard was splendid."

"There were none of the National Guards brought in wounded to our
ambulance," Mary said. "They were all linesmen and mobiles."

"Perhaps there were no National Guards engaged on that side, my dear."

"Perhaps not," Mary agreed. "No, I think they all went out by the east
gates."

"Yes, that was where Ducrot commanded and that was where the great fight
was to be," Madame Michaud said, complacently; "no doubt he wanted to
have the National Guards there."

Mary, having, as the result of her own observations and from imbibing
the very pronunced opinions of Cuthbert as to the efficiency of the
National Guard, formed an estimate the reverse of favorable to that
body, made no reply, but indeed derived some little comfort from a point
of view diametrically opposed to that of Madame Michaud, saying to
herself that Trochu probably sent the National Guard with Ducrot because
it was not likely that they would be called upon to do any serious
fighting there.

"Won't you let the boys in, Madame Michaud?" she said, changing the
subject. "I think their chatter would do me good, my brain seems stupid
still."

The boys were brought in from the next room, where they were doing their
lessons. They were full of the reports they had gathered from their
school-fellows, and if but half of these had been true it was evident
that the remnant of the German army were in full flight towards the
frontier, and that the bravest deeds of antiquity faded into
insignificance by the side of the heroism displayed by the French
soldiers. Their talk and excitement had the effect of rousing Mary and
preventing her thoughts reverting to the scene in the ambulance, and at
half-past nine she again went off to bed feeling more like herself than
she had done for some days.



CHAPTER XIV.


Mary Brander was, as usual, called before daylight by Margot, and was
dressing when a sound like the rumbling of a heavy wagon, caused her to
pause suddenly, and then hurry to the window and throw it open.

"They have begun again," she exclaimed, "and the firing is heavier than
it was before. It comes from the east. It must be Trochu's force engaged
again."

She hastily completed her toilet, drank off the coffee Margot had got
ready for her, and then started on her way to the ambulance.

"It is louder than ever," she exclaimed. "It must be a terrible battle."

The roar of the cannon never ceased. The windows and doors were all open
as she went along, and women in various states of dishabille were
talking excitedly to each other from the former across the street; while
the men, equally excited, were discussing the battle in groups. All
agreed that the forts in the loop of the Marne were engaged. This caused
some disappointment.

"We can't be so far out as we thought," one said, "or we should be
beyond range of the guns."

"Perhaps the Germans are attacking us," an old man suggested, but the
idea was received with derision, and Mary caught no more of the
conversation as she hurried along.

It was an absolute relief to her when she entered the ambulance, for the
continued roar of the guns and the thought of what was going on were
well nigh intolerable to her nerves, and her hands were shaking as she
removed her bonnet and cloak. Even the quiet hospital tents shared in
the excitement outside. The patients whose hurts were comparatively
slight were sitting up in their beds discussing the battle eagerly.
Others more seriously hurt raised their heads to listen, while some
lying apparently unconscious moaned and moved uneasily, muttering
occasionally incoherent words, the quiver in earth and air arousing a
dim sense of battle and danger.

"More work for us," Dr. Swinburne said, as he passed her, while she was
trying to soothe a restless patient into quiet again.

"I am afraid so, Doctor, and by the sound it will be even worse than the
last."

"The loss is not always proportionate to the noise," he said,
cheerfully, "the forts may be merely preparing a way for a general
advance. They said it was to begin this morning."

As before it was not until evening that the wounded began to come in.
Those who were first brought were sombre and depressed. It was the
Germans who were attacking; the French had been surprised and badly
beaten. But later on the news was better. Champigny had been nobly
defended, the French had rallied, and, after hard fighting, the
Prussians were driven back and all the ground lost recovered. Some of
the wounded had been among those who had defended Champigny. To these
Mary put the question she had asked of others who were not too severely
wounded to be able to talk. "Who had taken part in the fight?" The
mobiles and the line had all been engaged.

"But there were no National Guards, Nurse."

"Had they seen any Franc-tireurs?"

Hitherto the answer to the question had been, no; but the men from
Champigny gave a different answer.

Yes, a corps had fought there; they did not know who they were. They
were dressed in gray. Whoever they were they fought like tigers. It was
they, they all agreed, who saved Champigny.

"The Prussians were advancing," one said, "and we could not have held
out much longer. They were advancing by the road, and through the
gardens; it was all over with us, when the men in gray came up."

"I was at the barricade," one said, "there were not twenty of us left
there when a company arrived. If they had fought in a hundred battles
they could not have done better. They had their colonel with them. A
fine old militaire. He was killed by my side. The Prussians never got a
foot further, for though we were hard pressed again and again we held
our ground till the cowards, who had run, began to come back again. It
was hot, mademoiselle. I can tell you it was a rain-storm of bullets,
and their shell fell every moment among us, and it would have been all
up with them if the batteries had not silenced their guns."

"I was in one of the houses," his comrade put in; "we were doing our
best to prevent the Prussians coming up through the gardens behind, but
there were but few of us, and they were some hundreds strong. If they
had gone on they would have caught us all in a trap, and we were just
going to warn the others to fall back when we saw the Franc-tireurs come
running up. They were smart fellows as well as brave ones. They knocked
loopholes through a wall in no time and clung to it for an hour, at
least. Then the Prussians were reinforced heavily. The Franc-tireurs
fell back to the next wall, and when the Prussians rushed forward, they
gave it them hotly while we took them in flank from the houses; they
must have a hundred and fifty men left behind them when they rushed back
to the wall they had advanced from.

"And did the Franc-tireurs suffer much?" Mary asked.

"I should say they lost more than half their number. When they formed up
after the fighting was over and the Prussians driven back, we gave them
a hearty cheer. I believe there were three companies of them when they
came up, and altogether there were not more than a strong company
paraded. You must not think that all the others were killed,
mad'moiselle," seeing by Mary's face that the news was terrible to her.
"Of those who didn't parade you may reckon that two-thirds were only
wounded."

"Not so many as that," the other, who had not observed Mary's face,
said, "they were not the fellows to fall out for a slight wound. Why,
the best part of those who paraded had hurts, and I fancy some of them
were serious, though they did their best to make light of it, and waved
their caps when we cheered them. You may be sure that those who were
missing must have been hard hit indeed."

"Imbecile beast," his comrade growled, as Mary moved silently away,
"could you not see by her face that the girl had friends in that corps?
Didn't you notice how pleased she looked when we praised their bravery
and how white her face came, when I said what their losses were. I tried
to comfort her by making out that most of the missing might be only
wounded, and then, imbecile that you are, you break in with your talk
and as good as tell her that if they ain't all dead, they are likely to
be so before long."

"I would have bit my tongue out before I would have said so," the other
said, penitently, "but I did not notice her looks. Do you think I would
have said it if I had, just as she had been bandaging our wounds, too,
like a little mother."

The Franc-tireurs remained in the village all night, and as soon as they
fell out had scattered over the whole ground, collected the dead and
laid them together and brought the wounded into the houses.

The soldier's estimate was not far wrong; the number of the dead
exceeded that of the wounded and most of these were very seriously hurt.
Of those found lying behind the walls many had been killed outright,
being struck on the head by bullets through the loopholes, behind which
they were firing; but of those hit during the retreat, or when at last
they took the offensive, many of the wounds, though of a disabling, were
not of a fatal nature. The company on the other side of the village had
not been pressed so severely, but the Prussian shell had fallen thickly
there, and a large proportion of the wounds were caused by fragments of
shell or stone. The company which held the barricade had comparatively
few wounded, but had lost half their number by bullets through the head
as they fired over its crest.

It was hard work, indeed, for the surgeons and nurses that night. For
many nothing could be done, they were beyond the reach of surgical aid;
but not only was there the work of bandaging wounds, but of giving drink
and soup to all that could take them, of writing down last messages to
friends from those among the dying who retained their consciousness, or
in aiding Dr. Swinburne and his assistant in their work, and in
temporarily bandaging the wounds of those for whom nothing else could be
done till daylight. At eight o'clock next morning an ambulance wagon
drew up to the door and an orderly came in to the doctor with a message.

"I have six wounded here. The surgeon told me to tell you that one of
them had particularly wished to be brought up to your ambulance, and as
the others all belonged to the same corps I was to leave them here."

"I will see if there is room," the doctor said, and calling one of the
gentlemen who aided in the service of the ambulance, asked him, "Do you
know, Wilson, how many have died in the night?"

"Eight or ten, Doctor."

"Well, get Phillips and Grant to help you to carry out six of them; lay
them in that empty tent for the present. As soon as you have done that
bring the six wounded in from the wagon outside."

In a few minutes the injured men were brought in.

"Ah, they are Franc-tireurs," the doctor said.

"They are Franc-tireurs des Écoles," the orderly, who had accompanied
them, said; "the surgeon said they were all students. They deserve good
treatment, Doctor, for no men could have fought better than they did.
Everyone says that they saved Champigny."

"Put them together, Wilson, if you can, or at any rate in pairs. They
are students of the University, the art schools, and so on. If there are
not two empty beds together put them anywhere for the present; we can
shift the beds about in a day or two when we get breathing-time."

"There are two vacant beds in No. 2 marque, Doctor."

The doctor stepped to the litter that had just been carried in. Its
occupant was sensible.

"Is there any one of your comrades you would prefer to be placed in the
bed next to you?" he asked in French.

"Yes, Doctor," he replied in English. "The tall fellow who was next to
me in the wagon. I am a countryman of yours, and he is an Englishman,
and we are in the same art school."

"An American?" Dr. Swinburne replied. "I am glad, indeed, they brought
you here. You may be sure that we will do everything we can to make you
comfortable. I will attend to you directly I have seen the others
brought in."

Mary Brander's heart gave a bound as she saw the wounded man brought in,
for she recognized the uniform at once. A glance, however, at the dark
head reassured her. As soon as the stretcher was laid down by the bed
which-was the last in the line, and the wounded man was lifted on to it
she went as usual with a glass of weak spirits and water to his side.

"Will you drink, monsieur," she asked, in French.

"I am an American," he said, with a faint smile, "as I suppose you are."

"No, I am English, which is nearly the same thing."

"I must trouble you to hold it to my lips," he said, "for as you see my
right arm is useless, my collar-bone is broken, I believe, and my
shoulder-blade smashed. However, it might be worse."

She held a glass to his lips. As he drank a sudden thought struck her.

"Are you Arnold Dampierre?" she asked.

"That is certainly my name," he said, "though I cannot think how you
guess it."

"I have heard of you from a friend of mine, Cuthbert Harrington. Can you
tell me, sir, if he is hurt?"

"Then you must be Miss Brander. Yes, I am sorry to say he is hurt. I
don't know how badly," he went on hurriedly, as he saw the look of pain
in her face. "I did not see him until we were put in the wagon next to
each other, and he was not much up to talking, and in fact its motion
was too much for him and he fainted, but no doubt he will soon come
round. They are bringing him into the next bed. Perhaps it will be
better for you if you were to let one of the other nurses attend to him
until he comes round a bit."

But Mary shook her head silently. She had been trembling as she asked
the question, but she stood stiff and rigid as Cuthbert was brought up.
She gave one short gasp when she saw his face as they lowered the litter
to the ground. Then she hurried to the table on which the glasses were
standing, poured some brandy into a tumbler, and was turning when the
surgeon entered the tent. She put down the glass, hurried up to him, and
laid a fluttering hand on his arm.

"Come, Doctor; please come quickly."

A momentary flash of surprise crossed his face. However, he said nothing
but quickened his steps and stood by the pallet on to which Cuthbert had
just been lifted. A shade passed over his face; he put his hand on
Cuthbert's wrist, then knelt down and placed his ear over his heart.

"Is he dead?" Mary asked in a whisper, as he rose to his feet again.

"No, no, my dear, I hope he is worth many dead men yet; he has fainted
from the jolting of the wagon just as many others that you have seen
have done. Fetch that brandy you have just poured out. He is hard hit,"
and he pointed to a bloodstained patch in his shirt just above the
waistband of his trousers. "There is no doubt about that, but we shall
know more about it presently."

As she hurried off to fetch the brandy the doctor's lips tightened.

"It is fifty to one against him," he muttered, "still, I have seen men
live with similar wounds."

He took the glass from Mary's hands as she returned and poured a little
between Cuthbert's lips. Then he listened to the heart's beating again.

"It is stronger already," he said, encouragingly to Mary. "Now, my dear,
you had better go out for a few minutes and get a little fresh air. Ask
Mrs. Stanmore to come here. I must try and find out where the bullet has
gone." As she moved away he went on, "Wait here a minute, Wilson, I
shall want to turn him over directly. Now for the wound. Ah! I thought
so!" as he removed a lightly fastened bandage and lifted a pad of lint
beneath it.

"There has been no bleeding since he was taken up. No doubt he fell
forward at first. Now turn him over. Ah, the bullet has gone right
through! He must have been hit by a shot fired at close quarters. Well,
that will save us trouble and the chances of complications. It is now a
simple question of how much damage it did as it passed through. Ah, Mrs.
Stanmore," he went on as the nurse came up with a tray of bandages and
other necessaries, "I find that there is not much to do here."

He took two small pieces of lint and rolled them up, poured a few drops
of carbolic acid on to them, placed one in each orifice, put pads of
lint over them, and passed a bandage twice round the body to keep them
in place.

"Thank you, Wilson, that will do for the present. Please pour a little
strong brandy and water down his throat, Mrs. Stanmore. Now I will see
to the next man. How are you hurt? In the shoulder, I see, by your
bandages."

"I was lying down behind a wall, Doctor, and raised myself slightly to
fire through a loophole when a bullet came through. I heard the surgeon
say that it had smashed the collar-bone, and had gone out through the
bone behind. I don't know what he called it, but it is what I should
call the shoulder-bone."

"Well, in that case you are in luck," the surgeon said, "if it had
glanced more downwards you would have been a dead man five minutes after
you were hit. Do you feel comfortable at present?"

"As comfortable as I can expect."

"Then in that case I won't disturb the bandages. They are all tight now,
and the man who bandaged you evidently knew what he was about, which is
more than I can say for some of those who have sent me in specimens of
their handiwork. For the present there is nothing for you to do but to
lie quiet. I will have a look at you again later, there are so many
cases that must be attended to at once."

"I am in no hurry, I can assure you, Doctor. I suffered too much when
they bandaged me to want a repetition of it until it is absolutely
necessary."

The doctor nodded and then hurried off to visit the men who had been
carried off into the other marquees. As he pushed aside the flaps at the
entrance he stopped abruptly, for a few yards away Mary Brander was
lying insensible on the ground, now covered with a light sprinkle of
snow that had fallen in the morning.

"Poor little girl!" he said, as he raised her in his arms, and carried
her into his own tent and placed her in a rocking-chair, "this affair
coming on the top of the work last night has been too much for her." He
went into the next marque.

"Miss Betham," he said to one of the nurses, "Miss Brander has just
broken down; she has fainted. You will find her in a chair in my tent.
Take a bottle of salts and a little brandy. When she comes round make
her lie down on the bed there, tell her that my orders are absolute,
that she is to keep quiet for a time. She is not to go to work in the
wards again and she is not to leave my tent until I have seen her. There
is no getting a conveyance, and she won't be fit to walk home for some
time."

An hour later Dr. Swinburne snatched a moment from his work and looked
in at his tent. Mary sprang up from the bed as he entered.

"That is right, my dear," he said, "I see you are active again. I am
sure you will be glad to hear that the patient you called me to has
recovered consciousness. The bullet passed right through him, which is a
good sign. So that trouble is disposed of. As to the future I can say
nothing as yet. Of course it depends upon what damage the ball did on
its way through. However, I am inclined to view the case favorably. I
can only judge by his face, and, although it is, of course, white and
drawn, there is not that ashen sort of pallor which is almost a sure
sign of injury to vital parts."

"Then you think there is some hope, Doctor," she asked, with her hands
lightly clasped before her.

"Honestly, I think there is. He must, of course, be kept absolutely free
from anything like agitation, and if you think your presence is likely
to agitate him in the slightest degree, I should say that when you come
to work again you had better exchange into one of the other wards."

"It will not agitate him in the least, Doctor," she said, after a
moment's pause, "I can answer for that. We are old friends, for he has
known me since I was a little child; we are more like cousins than
anything else, and if he knows which ambulance he is in, I am sure he
will be surprised if I do not come to him."

"I think it is likely he will guess," Dr. Swinburne said, "when he hears
the nurses speaking English; and, indeed, it seems that either he or one
of the others particularly asked to be sent here. If it is as you say,
your presence may do him good rather than harm, and you can go to him
for a short time; but remember that you are not fit for nursing and that
the sooner you are able to get home again the better. You have been on
duty more than twenty-four hours and it has been a terribly trying time
for you all."

Mary nodded.

"I really feel better now, Doctor. I have been very anxious about Mr.
Hartington ever since I knew that his corps had gone out, and I think
suspense is harder to bear than anything. You will see I shan't break
down again."

"If you do, Miss Brander, remember I shall have to take your name off
the list of nurses. We have enough to do and think about here without
having fainting young ladies on our hands." He spoke gravely, but Mary
saw he was not really in earnest.

"I never thought," she said, "that I should come under the category of a
fainting young lady, and I feel humiliated. Then I may go in, Doctor?"

"Yes, if you are sure of yourself and are certain that it won't agitate
him."

A minute later she stood by Cuthbert's side. He was lying on his back
with his eyes open. A hospital rug had been thrown over him. As she
bent over him his eyes fell on her face and he smiled faintly.

"I was wondering whether you had heard I was here," he said, in a voice
so low that she could scarce hear it. "Well, you see, I brought my eggs
to a bad market, and your friends, the Prussians, have given me a lesson
I would not learn from you. But we beat them fairly and squarely, there
is a satisfaction in that."

"There does not seem much consolation in it, Cuthbert," she said,
quietly.

"There is to me," he said, "that shows you are not a soldier. To a
soldier it makes all the difference as he lies wounded, whether he has
shared in a victory or suffered in a defeat."

"Then I am very glad that you have won if it makes any difference to
you, Cuthbert. Now you know you have to lie very still, and I am sure
talking is very bad for you."

"I don't suppose it makes any difference one way or the other, Mary. A
few hours, perhaps, but whether it is to-day or to-morrow is
immaterial."

"You must not talk like that, Cuthbert, and you must not think so. The
doctor says that although, of course, you are badly wounded, he thinks
there is every hope for you."

"So the surgeon said who dressed my wounds last night, Mary, but I knew
that he did not really think so."

"But I am sure Dr. Swinburne does think so, Cuthbert. I am certain that
he was not trying to deceive me."

"Well, I hope that he is right," Cuthbert replied, but with the
indifference common to men in extreme weakness. "I should certainly like
to give the finishing touches to those two pictures. There is nothing
else to show for my life. Yes, I should like to finish them. You are
looking bad yourself," he added, suddenly, "all this is too much for
you."

"I am only tired," she said, "and of course it has been trying work for
the last twenty-four hours."

"Well, you must go home and get some rest. If I had been going soon I
should have liked you to have stopped with me till I went, but if, as
you say, the doctor thinks I may last for a time it does not matter, and
I would rather know that you were getting a rest than that you were
wearing yourself out here. What o'clock is it now?"

"It is just two. Please don't worry about me. If I were to break down
there are plenty to take my place, but I am not going to. Anyhow I shall
wait to hear what Dr. Swinburne says when he next comes round, and then
if the report is favorable I shall go home for the night and be here
again the first thing in the morning. Are you in much pain, Cuthbert?"

"No, I am in no pain at all. I just feel numbed and a little drowsy, and
my feet are cold."

Mary went away, filled a tin bottle with hot water and placed it at his
feet, and then covered them over with another rug.

"Now you must not talk any more, Cuthbert. Your hands are cold, let me
put the rug over them. There, you look more comfortable. Now shut your
eyes and try to get to sleep until the doctor comes round."

Cuthbert closed his eyes at once. Mary went about the ward doing her
work for the next two hours, returning at frequent intervals to the
bedside, and seeing with satisfaction that he was sleeping quietly. At
four o'clock the surgeon came in. She was occupied in serving out some
soup to the patients and did not go round with him. She had finished her
work when he returned to where she was standing near the entrance.

"I did not wake him," he said, in answer to her look, "but his pulse is
stronger, and the action of his heart regular. There is certainly a good
chance for him. My hopes that there is no vital injury are strengthened.
He will, I hope, sleep for hours, perhaps till morning. By that time I
may be able to give a more decided opinion. Now, I think you had better
be off at once. I can see you have recovered your nerve, but there will
be a dozen fresh nurses here in a few minutes, and I shall clear you all
out. Do you feel strong enough to walk home?"

"Oh, yes, Doctor, I may come in the first thing in the morning, mayn't
I?"

"Yes, if you feel equal to it. It is possible," he thought to himself,
as he went to the next marquee, "that the poor fellow only regards her
as a cousin, but I am greatly mistaken if she has not very much warmer
feelings towards him, though she did so stoutly declare that they were
but old friends."

Mary, putting on her bonnet and cloak, went out. As she did so, a man,
in the uniform of the Franc-tireurs, and a young woman approached.

"Pardon, mademoiselle," he said, lifting his cap as he came up to her,
"is it possible for friends to visit the wounded?"

Mary glanced at the speaker's companion and at once recognized her. It
was the face of which she had seen so many drawings in Cuthbert's
sketch-book.

"It is not possible to-day," she said, "except in extreme cases. There
have been many applicants, but they have all been refused."

"I fear this is an extreme case," René, for it was he, urged. "It is a
comrade of mine, and the surgeon told me after examining him that he was
hit very seriously. This lady is his fiancée."

"I know who you mean," Mary said, after a moment's silence, "but she
could not see him even if she were his wife. He is asleep now and
everything depends upon his sleep being unbroken."

"If I could only see him I would not wake him," the woman wailed, while
René asked--

"Can you tell us if there are any hopes for him?"

"The surgeon says there are some hopes," Mary said, coldly, "but that
everything depends upon his being kept perfectly quiet. However, I have
no power in the matter. I am off duty now, and you had better apply to
Mrs. Stanmore. She is in charge of the ward. It is the farthest of the
three marquees."

"What is that woman to him?" Minette exclaimed, passionately, as Mary
walked on. "She loves him or she hates him. I saw her look at me as you
spoke first, and her face changed. She knew me though I did not know
her."

"Oh, that is all fancy, Minette. How can she know Arnold? She is tired
and worn out. Parbleu, they must have had terrible work there since the
sortie began. It is getting dark, but it is easy to see how pale and
worn out she looked. For my part I would rather go through that fight in
the garden again than work for twenty-four hours in a hospital."

"She knows him," the girl said, positively.

"Well, let us go on. This woman may give you leave to go in."

But Mrs. Stanmore was also firm in her refusal.

"We cannot allow even the nearest relatives to enter," she said, "we are
all taken up by duty and cannot have strangers in the wards; but if the
patient is likely to die and wishes to see a friend or relative in the
city we send for him or her. If you will give me your name and address I
will see that you are sent for should the patient ask for you. The rule
I can assure you is absolute, and I have no power whatever to grant
permission to anyone except in the case I have named."

Minette went away raving, and it needed indeed all René's remonstrances
and entreaties to induce her to leave.

"It is clear," he said, "that he cannot be near death; were he so he
would assuredly ask for you. So after all it is good news that you have
received, and as I told you all along, though the surgeon said that it
was a serious wound, he did not say that it was likely to be fatal, as
he did in the case of Cuthbert Hartington. These army surgeons do not
mince matters, and there was no reason why he should not have said at
once to me that the American was likely to die if he thought it would be
so."

"I will go to see him to-morrow," she said, with an angry stamp of her
foot. "If the women try to prevent me I will tear their faces. If the
men interfere to stop me I will scream so loud that they will be forced
to let me in. It is abominable to keep a woman from the bedside of the
man she loves."

"It is of no use you talking in that wild way, Minette," René said,
sternly; "how do you suppose a hospital is to be managed if every sick
man is to have women sitting at his bed. It is childish of you to talk
so, and most ungrateful. These foreigners are supporting this ambulance
at their own expense. The ladies are working like slaves to succor our
wounded and you go on like a passionate child because, busy as they
are, they are obliged to adhere to their regulations. At any rate I will
come here with you no more. I am not going to see these kind people
insulted."



CHAPTER XV.


Mary Brander made her way wearily home.

"You have had another terrible time, I can see it in your face," Madame
Michaud said, as she entered. "They say there have been four thousand
wounded and fifteen hundred killed. I cannot understand how you support
such scenes."

"It has been a hard time," Mary said; "I will go up to my room at once,
madame. I am worn out."

"Do so, my dear. I will send you in a basin of broth."

Without even taking her bonnet off Mary dropped into a chair when she
entered her room and sat there till Margot brought in the broth.

"I don't think I can take it, thank you, Margot."

"But you must take it, mademoiselle," the servant said, sturdily; "but
wait a moment, let me take off your bonnet and brush your hair. There is
nothing like having your hair brushed when you are tired."

Passively Mary submitted to the woman's ministrations, and presently
felt soothed, as Margot with, by no means ungentle hands, brushed
steadily the long hair she had let down.

"You feel better, mademoiselle?" the woman asked, presently. "That is
right, now take a little of this broth. Please try, and then I will take
off your cloak and frock and you shall lie down, and I will cover you
up."

Mary made an effort to drink the broth, then the servant partly
undressed her and covered her up warmly with blankets, drew the curtains
across the window and left her with the words. "Sleep well,
mademoiselle."

But for a time Mary felt utterly unable to sleep. She was too worn out
for that relief. It had been a terrible time for her. For twenty-four
hours she had been engaged unceasingly in work of the most trying
description. The scent of blood still seemed to hang about her, and she
vaguely wondered whether she should ever get rid of it. Then there had
been her own special anxiety and suspense, and the agony of seeing
Cuthbert brought in apparently wounded to death. The last blow had been
dealt by this woman. She said she was his fiancée, but although she had
it from her lips, Mary could not believe it. She might be his mistress
but surely not the other. Surely he could never make that wild
passionate woman his wife. Then she felt she was unjust. This poor
creature would naturally be in a passion of grief and agony, at finding
that she could not go to the bedside of the man she loved. She should
not judge her from that. She remembered how different was her expression
in some of the sketches she had seen in Cuthbert's book.

"At any rate," she said to herself with a hard sob, "I have no right to
complain. He told me he loved me and I was almost indignant at the idea,
and told him he was not worthy of my love. There was an end of it. He
was free to do as he liked, and of course put it out of his mind
altogether as I did out of mine. How could I tell that the time would
come when I should find out what a terrible mistake I had made, how
could I dream of such a thing! How could I guess that he would come into
my life again and that he would have the power to spoil it! What a fool,
I have been. What a conceited, silly fool," and so Mary Brander's
thoughts ran on till they become more and more vague, and sleep at last
arrested them altogether. She was awakened by Madame Michaud coming into
the room with a cup of coffee.

"Well, my child, have you slept well?"

"Have I slept, madame? It cannot have been for more than a minute or
two." She looked round in surprise. "Why, it is broad daylight, what
time is it?"

"It is eleven o'clock, my dear. I thought it was time to arouse you, and
in truth I was getting anxious that you had not made your appearance. It
is seventeen hours since you lay down."

"Good gracious!" Mary exclaimed. "And I was due at the ambulance at
eight. I must have been asleep hours and hours, madame. I lay awake for
a time--two hours, perhaps, and the last thing I thought was that I
should never get to sleep, and then I have slept all this dreadful
time."

"Not a dreadful time at all," Madame Michaud said with a smile. "You
have not slept a minute too long. I feared for you when you came in
yesterday. I said to my husband in the evening, 'That angel is killing
herself. She could scarce speak when she came in, and I cry when I think
of her face.' You may thank the good God that you have slept so long and
so soundly. I can tell you that you look a different being this
morning."

"I feel different," Mary said, as she sprang up, "will you ask Margot to
bring me my can of water at once."

"Yes, but drink your coffee and eat your bread first. Margot said you
only took a few spoonsful of broth last night."

"I must have my bath first and then I will promise you I will drink the
coffee and eat the last crumb of bread. You will see I shall be quite
blooming by the time I come down."

Madame Michaud was obliged to admit that Mary looked more herself than
she had done for days past when, half an hour later, she came downstairs
ready to start.

"I shall be scolded dreadfully, madame, when I get to the ambulance four
hours after my time."

"You look so much fitter for work, my dear, that if the doctor has eyes
in his head, he will be well content that you have taken it out in
sleep."

Mary walked with a brisk step down to the hospital.

"I will think no more of it," she said resolutely to herself. "I have
chosen to be a nurse and I will go through with it. I think when I get
home after this is over I will become a nursing sister--at any rate I
may do some good at that; there is plenty of work in the world, even if
it is not in the way I thought of doing it."

But she hesitated when she reached the tents, afraid to go in. One of
the other nurses came out presently.

"Which tent is Dr. Swinburne in?" she asked.

"In this," she said, "I was just speaking to him."

"Would you mind going in again and asking him to come out. I am
dreadfully late this morning and I should like to see him before I go
in."

A minute later the surgeon came out.

"What is it, Miss Brander?" he said, kindly. "I missed you this morning,
and hoped you were taking a good sleep."

"That was just it, Doctor, and I do feel so ashamed of myself. They
thought I looked tired, when I came in, and were silly enough not to
wake me this morning."

"Not silly at all, my dear. They did the very best thing for you, for
you had gone through a terrible strain here. I am glad, indeed, it was
sleep and not illness that kept you away. You are looking quite a
different woman this morning."

"I am so glad that you are not angry. Please tell me how the wounded are
getting on?"

"There were ten deaths in the night," he said, "but as a whole they are
going on well. You will be glad to hear that the young Englishman who
was shot through the body has passed a quiet night, and I have now an
almost assured hope that he will recover. Had there been any vital
injury its effects would be visible by now. Now run in and take up your
work."

With a grateful look Mary entered the tent and was soon engaged at her
work. She was some little time before she made her way to the farther
end of the tent. Then she went quietly up to Cuthbert's bedside.

"I have just had good news of you, Cuthbert. The doctor says he has the
strongest hopes now of your recovery."

"Yes, he has been telling me that I am doing well," he said. "Have you
only just come? I have been wondering what had had become of you. You
looked so pale, yesterday, that I was afraid you might be ill."

"I have been sleeping like a top," she said, "for I should be ashamed to
say how many hours. Of course I ought to have been here at eight, but
they did not wake me, and I feel all the better for it."

"I remember not so long ago," he said, "that a certain young lady
declared that it was ridiculous for persons to interfere in business
which did not concern them. Now here you are knocking yourself up and
going through horrible work for people who are nothing to you. That is a
little inconsistent."

"I do not argue with people who cannot speak above a whisper," she said.
"Another time I shall be able to prove to you that there is nothing
inconsistent whatever in it. Well, thank God that you are better,
Cuthbert. I should not have gone away yesterday afternoon if Dr.
Swinburne had not assured me that there was nothing that I could do for
you, and that he really thought you might recover. You believe me, don't
you?"

He nodded.

"I do believe you, Mary. I did not think myself that I had a shadow of a
chance, but this morning I began to fancy that the doctor may be right,
and that I may possibly live to be a shining light among artists."

"Did you sleep at all?" she asked.

"Yes, I have been dozing on and off ever since you went away. I have
drunk a good deal of brandy and water and I really think I could take
some broth. I told the doctor so this morning, but he said I had better
wait another twelve hours, and then I might have two or three spoonsful
of arrowroot, but the less the better. I suppose there is no list of
killed and wounded published yet. I should like to know who had gone.
They were good fellows, every one of them."

"I don't know, Cuthbert, but I should hardly think so. I think Madame
Michaud would have told me had there been a list published this
morning."

Mary now turned to the next bed, but the patient was lying with his eyes
closed.

"I expect he has gone off to sleep," Cuthbert said, "he has been in a
lot of pain all night and half an hour ago they took off his bandages
and put on fresh ones, and I fancy they must have hurt him amazingly. I
could tell that by his quick breathing, for he did not utter a moan. I
am glad that he has gone off to sleep. I heard the doctor tell him that
he thought he might get the use of his arm again, though it would
probably be stiff for some time."

"You must not talk, indeed you mustn't," she said, facing round again.
"I am sure the doctor must have told you to keep perfectly quiet. If you
are quiet and good, I will come to you very often, but if not I shall
hand you over to the charge of another nurse. I blame myself for asking
you any questions. Indeed I am quite in earnest; you are not fit to
talk; the slightest movement might possibly set your wound off bleeding;
besides you are not strong enough; it is an effort to you, and the great
thing is for you to be perfectly quiet and tranquil. Now shut your eyes
and try to doze off again."

She spoke in a tone of nursely authority, and with a faint smile he
obeyed her orders. She stood for a minute looking at him, and as she did
so her eyes filled with tears at the change that a few days had made,
and yet her experience taught her that it would be far greater before
long. As yet weakness and fever, and pain, had scarcely begun their work
of hollowing the cheeks and reducing him to a shadow of himself. There
was already scarcely a tinge of color in his face, while there was a
drawn look round the mouth and a bluish tinge on the lips. The eyes
seemed deeper in the head and the expression of the face greatly
changed--indeed, it was rather the lack of any expression that
characterized it. It might have been a waxen mask.

From time to time she went back to him, and although the soft clinging
material of her dress and her list slippers rendered her movements
noiseless, he always seemed conscious of her presence, and opened his
eyes with a little welcoming smile, as she stood beside him, sipped a
few drops from the glass she held to his lips, and then closed his eyes
again without a word. After a few hours the period of pain and fever set
in, but the doctor found no reason for anxiety.

"You must expect it, my dear," he said to Mary one day when the fever
was at its height. "A man cannot get through such a wound as his without
a sharp struggle. Nature cannot be outraged with impunity. It is
certain now that there was no vital injury, but pain and fever almost
necessarily accompany the efforts of nature to repair damages. I see no
reason for uneasiness at present. I should say that he has an excellent
constitution, and has never played the fool with it. In a few days in
all probability the fever will abate, and as soon as it does so, he will
be on the highway to convalescence."

During that ten days Mary seldom left the hospital, only snatching a few
hours sleep occasionally in a tent which had now been erected for the
use of the nurses on duty. At the end of that time the struggle was over
and the victory won, and Cuthbert lay terribly weak and a mere shadow of
himself, but free from fever and with perfect consciousness in his eyes.

"How long have I been here?" he asked Mary.

"I think it is a fortnight to-day since you came in, Cuthbert," she
answered, quietly. "Thank God you are quite out of danger now, and the
doctor says all we have got to do is to build you up."

"You have had a hard time of it, child," he said, "though I knew nothing
else, I seemed to be conscious that you were always near me."

"I have had plenty of sleep, Cuthbert, and am perfectly well," she said,
cheerfully.

"Then your look belies you," he said, "but I know that it is no use
arguing. What has been happening outside?"

"Nothing. The troops were withdrawn the day after the fight when you
were wounded, and nothing has been done since."

"How is Dampierre getting on?" he asked.

"He is getting on well, I believe," she replied. "He was delirious and
so restless, and talked so loud that the doctor had him carried into
another ward so that you should not be disturbed by it. I have not seen
him since, but I hear he is going on very well. Your friend René has
been here twice--indeed he has been every day to inquire--but he was
only let in twice. He seems a very kind-hearted fellow and was very cut
up about you. I am sure he is very fond of you. He says that Monsieur
Goudé and the other students have all been most anxious about you, and
that he comes as a sort of deputation from them all."

René had, indeed, quite won Mary's heat by the enthusiastic way in which
he had spoken of Cuthbert, and had quite looked forward to the little
chat she had with him every morning when he came to the ambulance for
news.

"He is a grand fellow, mademoiselle," he would say, with tears in his
eyes, "we all love him. He has such talents and such a great heart. It
is not till now that we quite know him. When a man is dying men speak of
things they would not tell otherwise. There are four or five that he has
helped, and who but for him must have given up their studies. The rest
of us had no idea of it. But when they knew how bad he was, first one
broke down and then another, and each told how generously he had come to
their aid and how delicately he had insisted upon helping them, making
them promise to say no word of it to others. Ma foi, we all cried
together. We have lost six of our number besides the five here. The
rest, except Dampierre, are our countrymen, and yet it is of your
Englishman that we think and talk most."

All this was very pleasant to Mary. Cuthbert was now of course nothing
to her, but it soothed her to hear his praises. He had been wicked in
one respect, but in all others he seemed to have been what she had
thought of him when he was a child, save that he developed a talent and
the power of steady work, for which she had never given him credit, for
on this head René was as emphatic as on other points.

"He will be a great artist, mademoiselle, if he lives. You do not
know how much the master thought of him and so did we all. He worked
harder than any of us, much harder; but it was not that only. He has
talent, great talent, while the rest of us are but daubers. You will
see his pictures hung on the line and that before long. We are all
burning to see those he was painting for the Salon this year. There
are only three of us painting for that, the master would not let any
others think of it. Pierre Leroux is the third and he would have had
little chance of being hung had not the Englishman gone into his room
one day, and taking his brush from his hand transformed his picture
altogether--transformed it, mademoiselle--and even Goudé says now that
it is good and will win a place. But Pierre declares that he has not
the heart to finish it. If Cuthbert dies he will put it by for another
year."

René was admitted to see Cuthbert the day after the fever had left him
and sat for an hour by his bedside telling, after his first burst of
emotion on seeing the change that had taken place in him, about the fate
of his comrades in the studio. Mary did not go near them. There were
questions Cuthbert would want to ask. Messages that he would want to
send that she ought not to hear. She had wondered that this woman, who
had for a time come every day and had as regularly made a scene at the
entrance to the ambulance, had, since Cuthbert was at his worst, ceased
coming.

She had never asked about her, and was ignorant that for the last four
days she had been allowed to sit for a time by the side of a patient in
another ward. She thought most likely that she was ill and had broken
down under the stress of her grief and anxiety. She had even in thought
pitied her. It was she and not herself that ought to be watching
Cuthbert's bedside. She might not be good, but she was a woman and she
loved, and it must be terrible for her to know how ill he was and never
to be allowed even to see him for a moment. It was evident that she had
been taken ill, and when on René's leaving she went to her patient she
expected to find him downcast and anxious. Sad he certainly was, but he
did not seem to her restless or excited as she had expected.

"I have been hearing of the others," he said. "Six of them are gone, all
merry lads, taking life easily, as students do, but with plenty of good
in them, that would have come to the surface later on. It will make a
sad gap in our ranks when the rest of us come together again. The
wounded are all going on well, I hear, that of course is a great
comfort. I hear the other two companies suffered much more than we did.
The walls we fought behind saved us a good deal you see. René says the
troops all went out again three days ago, and that there was a talk of
a great fight, but there has only been some skirmishing and they have
begun to come back into the town again. Our corps did not go out. They
think they have done a fair share of the work, and I think so too. René
says the old major, who is now in command, is so furious at the
cowardice shown last time by the National Guards and some of the troops
that he declares he will not take out his brave lads to throw away their
lives when the Parisians will not venture within musket-shot of the
enemy.

"I think he is quite right. I hope there will be no more sorties, for I
am sure it would be useless. If you had seen, as I did, seven or eight
thousand men running like a flock of frightened sheep, you would agree
with me that it would be hopeless to think of breaking through the
Germans with such troops as this. One victory would make all the
difference in the world to their morale, but they will never win that
one victory, and it will take years before the French soldier regains
his old confidence in himself. Have you taken to rats yet, Mary?" he
asked, with a flash of his old manner.

"No, sir, and do not mean to. We are still going on very fairly. The
meat rations are very small, but we boil them down into broth, and as we
have plenty of bread to sop into it we do very well; our store of eggs
have held on until now. We have been having them beaten up in our
morning coffee instead of milk, but they are just gone, and Madame
Michaud says that we must now begin upon the preserved meat. We are a
long way from rats yet, though I believe they are really hunted and
eaten in great numbers in the poorer quarters."

"And there is no talk of surrender?"

"No talk at all; they say we can hold on for another month yet."

"What is the news from the provinces?"

"Everywhere bad. Bourbaki has been obliged to take refuge in Switzerland
and his force has been disarmed there. Chanzy has been beaten badly near
New Orleans, and the Prussians have probably by this time entered Tours.
Faidherbe has gained some successes in the north, but as the Germans
are pushing forward there, as well as everywhere else, that does not
make very much difference to us."

"Then what on earth's the use of holding out any longer," he said. "It
is sheer stupidity. I suppose the Parisians think that, as they can't
fight, they will at least show that they can starve. What is the weather
like? I felt very cold last night though I had plenty of blankets on."

"It is terribly cold," she said. "The snow is deep on the ground--it is
one of the coldest winters that has been for years."

"What is the day of the month?"

"The 26th."

"Then yesterday was Christmas Day."

"Yes," she said, "not a merry Christmas this year to any of us--no roast
beef, no plum-pudding, no mince-pies--and yet, Cuthbert, I had every
reason to be thankful, for what a much more unhappy Christmas it might
have been to me."

He nodded.

"I know what you mean. Yes, you would have missed me, child, cut off as
we are from the world here. I am, as it were, the sole representative of
your family. Of course, you have not heard from them."

She shook her head.

"I don't suppose they trouble much about me," she said, a little
bitterly, "I am a sort of disappointment, you know. Of course I have
been away now for nearly two years, except for the fortnight I was over
there, and even before that I scarcely seemed to belong to them. I did
not care for the things that they thought a great deal of, and they had
no interest in the things I cared for. Somehow I don't think I have got
on well with them ever since I went up to Girton. I see now it was
entirely my own fault. It does not do for a girl to have tastes
differing from those of her family."

"I felt that, Mary. I felt it very much. I have told myself ever since
the day of dear old father's death that I have been a brute, and I wish
with all my heart I had put aside my own whims and gone in for a country
life. It is all very well to say I did not like it, but I ought to have
made myself like it; or if I could not do that, I ought to have made a
pretence of liking it, and to have stuck to him as long as I lived. I
hadn't even the excuse of having any high purpose before me."

"We all make mistakes in our lives, Cuthbert," the girl said, quietly,
"and it is of no use bemoaning them--at any rate you have done your best
to retrieve yours, and I mean to do my best to retrieve mine. I have
quite made up my mind that when this is over I shall go to London and be
regularly trained as a hospital nurse, and then join a nursing
sisterhood."

"What! and give up woman in general?" Cuthbert said, with a faint laugh.
"Will you abandon your down-trodden sisters? Impossible, Mary."

"It is quite possible," she said, in a business-like manner.

"Become a back-slider! Mary, you absolutely shock me. At present you
have got nursing on the brain. I should have thought that this ambulance
work would have been enough for a life-time. At any rate I should advise
you to think it over very seriously before you commit yourself too
deeply to this new fad. Nursing is one of the greatest gifts of women,
but after all woman wasn't made only to nurse, any more than she was to
devote her life to championing her sex."

Mary did not reply but silently moved off with an air of deeply-offended
dignity.

"What an enthusiastic little woman she is," Cuthbert laughed quietly to
himself; "anyhow she is a splendid nurse, and I would infinitely rather
see her so, than as a female spouter on platforms. I fancied the siege
might have had some effect on her. She has seen something of the
realities of life and was likely to give up theorizing. She looks older
and more womanly, softer a good deal than she was. I think I can improve
that picture now. I had never seen her look soft before, and had to
trust to my imagination. I am sure I can improve it now."

Another fortnight and Cuthbert was out of bed and able to walk about in
the ward and to render little services to other patients.

"Do you know, Mary," he said, one day, when she happened to be idle and
was standing talking to him as he sat on the edge of his bed, "a curious
thing happened to me the very day before we went out on that sortie. I
saw that fellow, Cumming, the rascal that ruined the bank, and then
bolted, you know. For a moment I did not recall his face, but it struck
me directly afterwards. I saw him go into a house. He has grown a beard,
and he is evidently living as a quiet and respected British resident. It
was a capital idea of his, for he is as safe here as he would be if he
were up in a balloon. I intended to look him up when I got back again
into Paris, but you see circumstances prevented my doing so."

"Of course you will get him arrested as soon as the siege is over,
Cuthbert. I am very glad that he is found."

"Well, I don't know that I had quite made up my mind about that. I don't
suppose that he made off with any great sum. You see the companies he
bolstered up with the bank's money, all smashed at the same time. I
don't suppose that he intended to rob the bank at the time he helped
them. Probably he had sunk all his savings in them, and thought they
would pull round with the aid of additional capital. As far as I could
make out, from the report of the men who went into the matter, he did
not seem to have drawn any money at all on his own account, until the
very day he bolted, when he took the eight or ten thousand pounds there
was in the safe. No. I don't think I meant to hand him over or indeed to
say anything about it. I thought I would give him a good fright, which
he richly deserves, and then ask him a few questions. I have never quite
understood how it was that dear old dad came to buy those shares. I did
inquire so far as to find out it was Cumming himself who transferred
them to him, and I should really like to hear what was said at the time.
If the man can prove to me that when he sold them he did not know that
the bank was going to break, I should have no ill-will against him, but
if I were sure he persuaded him to buy, knowing that ruin would follow,
I would hunt him down and spare no pains to get him punished."

"Why should he have persuaded your father to buy those shares?"

"That's just what I cannot make out. He could have had no interest in
involving him in the smash. Besides they were not on intimate terms in
any way. I cannot imagine that my father would have gone to him for
advice in reference to business investments. It was, of course, to your
father he would have turned in such matters."

"How long had he been a shareholder?"

"He bought the shares only two months before his death, which makes the
matter all the more singular."

"What did father say, Cuthbert?" the girl said, after a short pause. "I
suppose you spoke to him about it."

"He said that my father had heard some rumors to the effect that the
bank was not in a good state, and having no belief whatever in them, he
bought the shares, thinking that his doing so would have a good effect
upon its credit, in which as a sort of county institution, he felt an
interest."

"But did not father, who was solicitor to the bank, and must have known
something of its affairs, warn him of the danger that he was running?"

"That is what I asked him myself, but he said that he only attended to
its legal business, and outside that knew nothing of its affairs."

"It seems a curious affair altogether," Mary said, gravely, "But it is
time for me to be at work again."



CHAPTER XVI.


While in the ambulance, Mary Brander resolutely put her conversation
with Cuthbert aside, but as soon as she started for her walk home, it
became uppermost in her thoughts. It was certainly a curious affair.
From time to time friends at home with whom she corresponded, sent her
local newspapers, and this had especially been the case during the first
few months of her stay in Germany, as they naturally supposed she would
be greatly interested in the calamity of the bank failure.

She had, at the time it was issued, read the full report of the
committee of investigation upon its affairs, and, although she had
passed lightly over the accounts, she had noticed that the proceeds of
the sale of the Fairclose estates were put down as subject to a
deduction of fifteen thousand pounds for a previous mortgage to Jeremiah
Brander, Esq. The matter had made no impression upon her mind at this
time, but it now came back to her remembrance.

Of course it was perfectly natural that if Mr. Hartington wished to
borrow money it was to her father, as his solicitor and friend, that he
would have gone. There could be nothing unusual in that, but what
Cuthbert had told her about Mr. Hartington buying the shares but two
months before his death was certainly singular. Surely her father could
have prevented his taking so disastrous a step. Few men are regarded by
members of their family in exactly the same light as they are considered
by the public, and Jeremiah Brander was certainly no exception. While
the suavest of men in the eyes of his fellow-townsmen, his family were
well aware that he possessed a temper. When the girls were young his
conversation was always guarded in their hearing, but as they grew up he
no longer felt the same necessity for prudence of speech, and frequently
indulged in criticisms of the colleagues, for whom he professed the most
unbounded respect and admiration in public.

Mary had often felt something like remorse at the thought that the first
time she read Martin Chuzzlewit, many touches in the delineation of Mr.
Pecksniff's character had reminded her of her father. She believed him
to be a just and upright man, but she could not help admitting to
herself that he was not by a long way the man the public believed him to
be. It was a subject on which she rarely permitted herself to think.
They had never got on very well together, and she acknowledged to
herself that this was as much her fault as his. It was not so much the
fact that she had a strong will and was bent on going her own way,
regardless of the opinion of others, that had been the cause of the
gulf which had grown up between them, as the dissimilarity of their
character, the absolute difference between the view which she held of
things in general, to that which the rest of her family entertained
regarding them, and the outspoken frankness with which she was in the
habit of expressing her contempt for things they praised highly.

Thinking over this matter of Mr. Hartington's purchase of the bank
shares, she found herself wondering what motive her father could have
had in permitting him to buy them, for knowing how the Squire relied
upon his opinion in all business matters, she could not doubt that the
latter could have prevented this disastrous transaction. That he must
have had some motive she felt sure, for her experience of him was amply
sufficient for her to be well aware that he never acted without a motive
of some sort. So far as she could see, no motive was apparent, but this
in no way altered her opinion.

"Cuthbert thinks it a curious affair, and no wonder," she said to
herself. "I don't suppose he has a suspicion that anything has been
wrong, and I don't suppose there has; but there may have been what they
call sharp practice. I don't think Cuthbert likes my father, but he is
the very last man to suspect anyone. It was horrid, before, being at
Fairclose--it will be ten times as bad now. The whole thing is
disgusting. It is wicked of me to think that my father could possibly do
anything that wasn't quite honorable and right--especially when there is
not the slightest reason for suspecting him. It is only, I suppose,
because I know he isn't exactly what other people think him to be, that
makes me uneasy about it. I know well enough that I should never have
gone away from home as I did, if it had not been that I hated so to hear
him running down people with whom he seemed to be so friendly, and
making fun of all the things in which he seemed so interested. It used
to make me quite hateful, and he was just as glad, when I said I should
like to go to Girton, to get rid of me as I was to go.

"It is all very well to say, honor your father and mother, but if you
can't honor them what are you to do? I have no doubt I am worrying
myself for nothing now, but I can't help it. It is dreadful to feel
like that towards one's father, but I felt quite a chill run through me
when Cuthbert said he should go and see that man Cumming and try to get
to the bottom of things. One thing is certain, I will never live at
Fairclose--never. If he leaves it between us, Julia and Clara may live
there if they like, and let me have so much a year and go my own way.
But I will never put foot in it after father and mother are gone. It is
all very miserable, and I do think I am getting to be a most hateful
girl. Here am I suspecting my own father of having done something wrong,
although of what I have not the least idea, and that without a shadow of
reason, then I am almost hating a woman because a man I refused loves
her. I have become discouraged and have thrown up all the plans I had
laid down for myself, because it does not seem as easy as I thought it
would be. No, that is not quite true. It is much more because Cuthbert
has laughed me out of them. Anyhow I should be a nice woman to teach
other women what they should do, when I am as weak as the weakest of
them. I don't think there ever was a more objectionable sort of girl in
the world than I have become."

By the time that she had arrived at this conclusion she had nearly
reached home. A sudden feeling that she could not in her present mood
submit to be petted and fussed over by Madame Michaud struck her, and
turning abruptly she walked with brisk steps to the Arc de Triomphe and
then down the Champs Elysées and along the Rue Rivoli, and then round
the Boulevards, returning home fagged out, but the better for her
exertion. One thing she determined during her walk, she would give up
her work at the ambulance.

"There are plenty of nurses," she said, "and one more or less will make
no difference. I am miserably weak, but at any rate I have sense enough
to know that it will be better for me not to be going there every day,
now that he is out of danger. He belongs to someone else, and I would
rather die than that he should ever dream what a fool I am; and now I
know it myself it will be harder and harder as he gets better to be
talking to him indifferently." Accordingly the next morning, when she
went down, she told Dr. Swinburne that she felt that she must, at any
rate for a time, give up nursing.

"You are quite right, Miss Brander," he said, kindly, "you have taxed
your strength too much already, and are looking a mere shadow of what
you were two months ago. You are quite right to take a rest. I have
plenty of assistance, and there is not likely to be such a strain again
as that we have lately gone through. Paris cannot hold out many weeks
longer, and after the two failures I feel sure that there will be no
more attempts at a sortie, especially as all hopes that an army may come
to our relief are now at an end."

She found it more difficult to tell Cuthbert, but it was not necessary
for her to begin the subject, for he noticed at once that she had not
the usual nursing-dress on.

"You are going to take a holiday to-day, I suppose?" he said, as she
came up to his bedside.

"I am going to take a holiday for some little time," she said, quietly.
"They can do very well without me now. Almost all the patients in this
ward are convalescent, and I really feel that I need a rest."

"I am sure you do," he said, earnestly, "it has been an awful time for
you to go through, and you have behaved like a heroine. A good many of
us owe our lives to you, but the work has told on you sadly. I don't
suppose you know yourself how much. We shall all miss you at this end of
the ward--miss you greatly, but I am sure there is not one who will not
feel as I do, glad to know that you are taking a rest after all your
work. Of course you will look in sometimes to see how your patients are
progressing. As for myself I hope I shall be able to come up to see you
at the Michauds in another ten days or so. Now that the doctor has taken
to feeding me up I can feel that I am gaining strength every day."

"You must not hurry, Cuthbert," she said, gravely. "You must keep quiet
and patient."

"You are not in your nursing-dress now, Miss Brander, and I decline
altogether to be lectured by you. I have been very good and obedient up
to now, but I only bow to lawfully constituted authority, and now I
come under the head of convalescent I intend to emancipate myself."

"I shall not come down here to see you unless I hear good accounts of
your conduct," she said, with an attempt to speak playfully. "Well,
good-bye, Cuthbert. I hope you will not try to do too much."

"Good-bye, dear, thanks for all your goodness to me," he said,
earnestly, as he held her hand for a moment in his.

"He had no right to call me dear," Mary thought, almost indignantly, as
he left the hospital, "and he does not guess I know why he is longing to
be out again. I almost wonder he has never spoken to me about her. He
would know very well that I should be interested in anything that
concerns him, and I think he might have told me. I suppose he will bring
her up some day and introduce her as his wife. Anyhow I am glad I know
about it, and shall be able to take it as a matter of course."

Mary did not pay another visit to the ambulance. Now that she had given
up her work she felt the reaction, and although she refused to take to
her bed she passed her time sitting listless and weak in an easy-chair,
paying but slight attention to Madame Michaud's talk, and often passing
the greater part of the day in her own room.

Madame Michaud felt so uneasy about her that she went down to the
ambulance and brought up Dr. Swinburne, who scolded Mary for not having
sent for him before. He prescribed tonics, sent her up a dozen of wine
from the hospital, ordered her to wrap herself up and sit at an open
window for a time each day, and to make an effort to take a turn round
the garden as soon as she felt strong enough to do so.

On his return to the ambulance the surgeon said carelessly to Cuthbert,
who had now gained sufficient strength to be of considerable use as an
assistant in the ward--

"I have been up to see your late nurse, Miss Brander. There is nothing
serious the matter with her, but, as I thought likely would be the case,
she has collapsed now that her work is over, and will need a good deal
of care and attention to build her up again. You will be out in a few
days now and I am sure it will do her good if you will go up and have a
chat with her and cheer her up a bit. She is not in bed. My visit did
her good; but she wants rousing, and remember if you can get her to
laugh, and joke her about her laziness, it will do more good than by
expressing your pity for her."

"I think I am well enough to be discharged now, Doctor,' Cuthbert said,
eagerly.

"Yes, but you will have to be very careful for some time. You will want
generous food, and I don't see how you are to get it outside."

"I suppose the restaurants are still open?"

"The common ones are closed, but you can-still get a dinner at some of
the best places, although you will have to pay very heavily for it."

"I don't mind that, Doctor; and besides I am very anxious to be at work
again. It will be no more tiring standing at an easel than it is doing
what I can to help here."

"That is true enough, providing you do not do too much of it. Up to a
certain extent it will be a good thing for you, but mind, I distinctly
forbid you to attempt any such folly as to try to walk from the Quartier
Latin up to Passy. Let me see," he added, thoughtfully. "Yes, I think it
can be managed. I will send you home by the ambulance that will be here
to-morrow morning at eight o'clock. You are to keep yourself quiet all
day, and I will get Madame de Millefleurs to send her carriage round for
you at eleven o'clock next day, to take you round by Passy. She has told
me many times that it is always at the disposal of any of my patients to
whom it would be useful. I will see her some time to-morrow and arrange
about it."

"Thank you, indeed, Doctor. I need not say how grateful I am to you for
all the kindness I have received here."

"We have done the best we could for you," the doctor said, "and I am
sure there is not one of those who have provided funds for this
ambulance but feels well rewarded by the knowledge that it has been the
means of saving many lives. I think we may say that we have not lost
one whom it was humanly possible to save, while in the French hospitals
they have lost hundreds from over-crowding, want of ventilation, and
proper sanitary arrangements. The mortality there has been fearful, and
the percentage of deaths after amputations positively disgraceful."

René came late that afternoon to pay a visit to Cuthbert, and was
delighted to find that he was to be out next morning.

"I have kept your rooms in order," he said, "and will have a big fire
lighted in them before you arrive. They will give you breakfast before
you leave, I hope."

"They will do that, René, but I shall manage very well if there is still
anything left of that store of mine in the big cupboard."

"You may be sure that there is," René replied. "I am always most
particular in locking up the doors when I come away, and I have not used
the key you gave me of the cupboard. I was positively afraid to. I am
virtuous, I hope, but there are limits to one's power to resist
temptation. I know you told me to take anything I liked but if I had
once began I could never have stopped."

"Then we will have a feast to-morrow, René. Ask all the others in to
supper, but you must act as cook. Tell them not to come to see me till
eight o'clock. If they kept dropping in all day it would be too much for
me. I wish Dampierre could be with us, but he has not got on so fast as
I have. His wounds were never so serious, but the doctor said the bones
were badly smashed and take longer to heal. He says he is not a good
patient either, but worries and fidgets. I don't think those visits of
Minette were good for him, the doctor had to put a stop to them. He
would talk and excite himself so. However, I hear that he is likely to
be out in another fortnight."

"By that time it will be all over," Rend said, "negotiations are going
on now, and they say that in three or four days we shall surrender."

"The best thing to do, René. Ever since that last sortie failed all hope
has been at an end, and there has been no point in going on suffering,
for I suppose by this time the suffering has been very severe."

"Not so very severe, Cuthbert. Of course, we have been out of meat for a
long time, for the ration is so small it is scarcely worth calling meat,
but the flour held out well and so did the wine and most other things. A
few hundred have been killed by the Prussian shells, but with that
exception the mortality has not been very greatly above the average,
except that smallpox has been raging and has carried off a large number.
Among young children, too, the mortality has been heavy, owing to the
want of milk and things of that sort. I should doubt if there has been a
single death from absolute starvation."

To M. Goudé's students that supper at Cuthbert Harrington's was a
memorable event. The master himself was there. Two large hams, and
dishes prepared from preserved meats were on the table, together with an
abundance of good wine. It was the first reunion they had had since the
one before the sortie, and it was only the gaps among their number, and
the fact that their host and several of their comrades were still weak,
and greatly changed in appearance, that restrained their spirits from
breaking into hilarity.

The next morning Madame de Millefleurs' carriage came to the door and
Cuthbert was driven to the Michauds. For a moment Margot failed to
recognize Cuthbert as she opened the door. As she did so she exclaimed--

"Mon Dieu, Monsieur Hartington, you look like a ghost."

"I am very far from being a ghost, Margot, though there is not much
flesh on my bones. How is Mademoiselle Brander? I hear she has not been
well."

"She is as pale as you are, monsieur, but not so thin. She does nothing
but sit quiet all day with her eyes wide open--she who was always so
bright and active and had a smile for every one. I go out and cry often
after going into her room. She has just gone into the parlor. You will
find her alone there," she added, for Margot had always had her ideas as
to the cause of Cuthbert's visits.

Mary was sitting at the open window and did not look round as Cuthbert
entered.

"Well, Mary, is it actually you, doing nothing?" he said, cheerily.

She turned round with a start, and a flush of color swept across her
face.

"How you startled me," she said. "I am glad indeed to see you. I did not
think you would be out so soon. Surely it is very foolish of you coming
so far."

"Still thinking you are a nurse, Mary," he laughed. "I can assure you I
am very prudent, and I have been brought up here in a carriage a
carriage--with live horses. Dr. Swinburne told me you had not got over
the effects of your hard work, and that he had had to order you to take
tonics, so you see instead of being a nurse you are a patient at
present, while I am a free man. I came out of hospital yesterday
morning, and we had a grand supper last night out of my hoards, which I
found just as I had left them, which says wonders for the honesty of the
Parisians in general, and for the self-denial of my friend René Caillard
in particular."

"Why, I should have thought----" and she stopped, abruptly.

"What would you have thought, Miss Brander?"

"Oh, nothing."

"No, no, I cannot be put off in that way. You were going to say that you
thought I should have distributed my stores long ago, or that I ought to
have sent for them for the use of the hospital. I really ought to have
done so. It would have been only fair, but in fact the idea never
occurred to me. René had the keys of my rooms and I told him to use the
stores as he liked, meaning for himself and for our comrades of the
studio."

"I should have thought," she began again, and then, as before,
hesitated, and then asked, abruptly, "Have you not something to tell me,
Cuthbert--something that an old friend would tell to another? I have
been expecting you to tell me all the time you were in the hospital, and
have felt hurt you did not."

Cuthbert looked at her in surprise. There was a slight flush on her
cheek and it was evident that she was deeply in earnest.

"Tell you something, Mary," he repeated. "I really don't know what you
mean--no, honestly, I have not a notion."

"I don't wish to pry into your secrets," she said, coldly. "I learned
them accidentally, but as you don't wish to take me into your confidence
we will say no more about it."

"But we must say more about it," he replied. "I repeat I have no idea of
what you are talking about. I have no secret whatever on my mind. By
your manner it must be something serious, and I think I have a right to
know what it is."

She was silent for a moment and then said--

"If you wish it I can have no possible objection to tell you. I will
finish the question I began twice. I should have thought that you would
have wished that your stores should be sent to the lady you are engaged
to."

Cuthbert looked at her in silent surprise.

"My dear Mary," he said, gravely, at last, "either you are dreaming or I
am. I understood that your reply to my question, the year before last,
was as definite and as absolute a refusal as a man could receive.
Certainly I have not from that moment had any reason to entertain a
moment's doubt that you yourself intended it as a rejection."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, rising to her feet with an
energy of which a few minutes before she would have deemed herself
altogether incapable. "Are you pretending that I am alluding to myself,
are you insulting me by suggesting that I mean that I am engaged to
you?"

"All I say is, Mary, that if you do not mean that, I have not the most
remote idea in the world what you do mean."

"You say that because you think it is impossible I should know," Mary
retorted, indignantly, "but you are mistaken. I have had it from her own
lips."

"That she was engaged to me?"

"She came to the hospital to see you the night you were brought in, and
she claimed admittance on the ground that she was affianced to you."

Cuthbert's surprise changed to alarm as it flashed across him that the
heavy work and strain had been too much for the girl, and that her brain
had given way.

"I think that there must be some mistake, Mary," he said, soothingly.

"There is no mistake," she went on, still more indignantly; "she came
with your friend, René, and I knew her before she spoke, for I had seen
her face in a score of places in your sketch-book, and you told me she
was a model in your studio. It is no business of mine, Mr. Hartington,
whom you are going to marry. I can understand, perhaps, your wish that
the matter should remain for a time a secret, but I did not think when I
told you that I knew it, you would have kept up the affectation of
ignorance. I have always regarded you as being truthful and honorable
beyond all things, and I am bitterly disappointed. I was hurt that you
should not have given your confidence to me, but I did think when I told
you that I knew your secret you would have manfully owned it, and not
descended to a pretence of ignorance."

For a moment Cuthbert's face had expressed bewilderment, but as she went
on speaking, a smile stole across his face. Mary noticed it and her
voice and manner changed.

"I think, Mr. Hartington," she said, with great dignity, "you must see
that it will be pleasanter for us both that this interview shall
terminate."

He rose from his seat, took his hat off the table, and said, quietly--

"I have but one observation to make before I go. You have discovered,
Miss Brander, that you made one mistake in your life. Has it never
struck you that you might also have made a mistake this time? I think
that our very long acquaintance might have induced you to hesitate a
little before you assumed it as a certainty that your old acquaintance
was acting in this way, and that for the sake of old times you might
have given him the benefit of the doubt."

The strength that Mary's indignation had given her, deserted her
suddenly. Her fingers tightened on the back of the chair by her side for
support.

"How could there be any mistake," she asked, weakly, her vigorous attack
now turned into a defence, more by his manner than his words, "when I
heard her say so?"

"Sit down, child," he said, in his old authoritative manner. "You are
not fit to stand."

She felt it would be a step towards defeat if she did so, but he brought
up the chair in which she had before been sitting and placed it behind
her, and quietly assisted her into it.

"Now," he went on, "you say you heard it from her lips. What did she
say?"

"She said she insisted on going in to see you, and that as your
affianced wife she had a right to do so."

"She said that, did she? That she was the affianced wife of Cuthbert
Hartington?"

Mary thought for a moment.

"No, she did not use those words, at least, not that I can remember; but
it was not necessary, I knew who she was. I have seen the sketches in
your book, and there were several of them on the walls of your room. Of
course I knew who she was speaking of, though she did not, so far as I
can remember, use your name."

"Did it never occur to you, Miss Brander, that it was a natural thing
one should have many sketches of the girl who always stood as a model in
the studio, and that every student there would have his sketch-book full
of them? Did you not know that there were three or four other wounded
men of the same corps as myself in the hospital; that one at least was a
fellow-student of mine, and also a foreigner, and that this young woman
was just as likely to be asking to see him as to see me?"

An awful feeling of doubt and shame came with overpowering force over
Mary Brander.

"No," she said, desperately, "I never thought of such a thing. Naturally
I thought it was you, and there was no reason why it shouldn't be. You
were perfectly free to please yourself, only I felt hurt that when you
got better you did not tell me."

Her voice was so weak that Cuthbert poured some water into a glass and
held it to her lips.

"Now, child," he went on in a lighter voice, "I am not going to scold
you--you are too weak to be scolded. Some day I may scold you as you
deserve. Not only is Minette--I told you her name before--nothing to me,
but I dislike her as a passionate, dangerous young woman; capable,
perhaps, of good, but certainly capable of evil. However, I regret to
say that Arnold Dampierre, the man who was in the next bed to me, you
know, does not see her in the same light, and I am very much afraid he
will be fool enough to marry her. Actually, she did a few days later
obtain permission to see him, and has, I believe, seen him several times
since; but as he was moved out of your ward whilst I was battling with
the fever, I have not seen her. Now don't cry, child, you have been a
goose, but there is no harm done, and you ought to be glad to know that
your old friend is not going to make a fool of himself; and he can still
be regarded by you as truthful and honorable. Do you think I would have
taken you round to my rooms if I had been going to make her their
mistress?"

"Don't, don't!" the girl cried. "Don't say anything more, Cuthbert. I
cannot bear it."

"I am not going to say any more. Madame de Millefleurs' horses must by
this time be half-frozen, and her coachman be out of all patience, and I
must be going. I shall come again as soon as I can, and I shall be very
angry if I don't find you looking much more like yourself when I next
come."



CHAPTER XVII.


The belief that in a few hours the siege would come to an end was so
general the next morning, that Cuthbert determined to lose no time in
seeing Cumming. As soon as the way was open the man might take the
opportunity to move off to some other hiding-place; and, therefore,
instead of bringing out his canvases, as he had intended, Cuthbert
decided to call on him at once. Having chartered one of the few
remaining fiacres, at an exorbitant rate, he drove to the house where
he had seen Cumming enter, and went into the concierge.

"I want some information, my friend," he said, laying a five-franc piece
on the table. "You have a foreigner lodging here?"

The man nodded.

"Monsieur Jackson is a good tenant," he said. "He pays well for any
little services."

"How long has he been here?"

"He came just after war was declared."

"Has he taken his apartments for a long period?"

"He has taken them for a year, monsieur. I think he will take them
permanently. I hope so, for he gives no trouble, and has never been out
late once since he came here."

"I want to see him," Cuthbert said, "I believe he is an old acquaintance
of mine."

"If you ring his bell he will open himself. He keeps an old woman as
servant, but she has just gone out to do his shopping. He always take
his meals at home. He is on the second floor--the door to the left."

Cuthbert went up and rang the bell. Cumming himself opened the door. He
looked at his visitor inquiringly.

"You do not remember me, Mr. Cumming?" Cuthbert said, cheerfully. "I am
not surprised, for I have but just recovered from a very serious wound.
I will come in and sit down, if you don't mind; I want to have a chat
with you. My name is Cuthbert Hartington!"

The man had given a violent start when his name was mentioned, and his
face turned to an ashy pallor. He hesitated for a moment, and then, as
Cuthbert entered, he closed the door behind him, and silently led the
way into the sitting-room.

"I happened to see you in the street," Cuthbert went on, pleasantly, as
he seated himself. "Of course, your beard has altered you a bit, and I
could not at first recall your face, but it soon came back to me. It was
a happy idea of yours shutting yourself up here when there was no chance
of an extradition warrant being applied for. However, to-morrow or next
day that little difficulty will be at an end. I thought I would come
and have a conversation with you, and naturally the course that I shall
take will depend a good deal on the results. I may mention," he went on,
taking a revolver from his pocket and laying it on the table before him,
"that I thought it as well to bring this with me, for just at present I
don't feel quite up to a personal tussle."

"What do you want to talk about?" the man asked, doggedly. "I may tell
you at once that I placed what little money I got where it will never be
found, and beyond sending me up for some years, there will be nothing to
be gained by denouncing me."

"There might be some satisfaction though in seeing a man who has ruined
you punished--at least there would be to some men. I don't know that
there would be to me. It would depend upon circumstances. I am ready to
believe that in those transactions of yours that brought the bank to
ruin, you honestly believed that the companies you assisted would turn
out well, and that things would come out right in the end. I do not
suppose you were such a fool as to run the risk of ruin and penal
servitude when you had a snug place, unless you had thought so; and,
indeed, as the directors were as responsible as yourself for making
those advances--although they were, of course, ignorant of the fact that
you held a considerable interest in those companies--there was nothing
actually criminal in those transactions. Therefore, it is only for that
matter of your making off with the contents of the safe that you can be
actually prosecuted. At any rate, I have no present intention of
interfering in the affair, and you can remain here as Mr. Jackson up to
the end of your life for what I care, if you will give me the
information that I desire."

The look on the man's face relaxed.

"I will give you any information you desire, I have nothing to conceal.
Of course, they can obtain a conviction against me for taking the money,
but I should save them trouble by pleading guilty at once. Therefore, I
don't see that I could harm myself in any way by answering any questions
they may choose to ask me."

"I want to get to the bottom of what has all along been a mystery to me,
and that is how my father came to take those shares, just at the moment
when the bank was so shaky."

"That is more than I can tell you, Mr. Hartington. It has been a puzzle
to myself."

"But they were your shares that were transferred to him."

"That is so, and the money came in useful enough, for I knew that the
smash must take place soon, and that possibly I might not be able to lay
my hands on much ready cash. However, I will tell you exactly how it
came about. Brander, the lawyer came to me and said his client, Mr.
Hartington, wanted fifty shares. I own I was astounded, for Brander knew
perfectly well that things were in a very bad way. By the way he spoke I
saw there was something curious about the affair, but as he put the
screw on, and as much as hinted that if I did not follow his
instructions he would blow the whole thing into the air, I made no
objections, especially as he proposed that I should transfer some of my
own shares. The transfer was drawn up in regular form. He brought it to
me duly signed by your father.

"I noticed that his own clerks witnessed the signature, so I supposed it
was done in the office. He made a point that I should get the transfer
passed with some others without the attention of the directors being
called to the matter. I got the transfer signed and sealed by two of the
directors while there was a talk going on about other things, and they
signed without looking at names. So far as I am concerned that was the
beginning and ending of the matter. Oh, there was another point, the
transfer was ante-dated three weeks. Of course, it might have been lying
in Brander's office all the time. It was dated on the day after the
previous board meeting, so that in the ordinary course it would not be
passed until the next meeting, and it might very well have remained in
Brander's hands until he knew that the directors were going to meet
again. I have often wondered what Brander's game was, and of course I
thought all the more of it when I saw that he had bought Fairclose. He
was a crafty old fox, Brander, but I have never been able to understand
why he permitted your father to ruin himself."

Cuthbert remained silent for some time.

"Your explanation only thickens the mystery," he said. "I can no more
understand his motive than you can. Brander's explanation of the affair
to me was that my father insisted against his advice in buying the
shares, as he did not believe in the rumors to the discredit of the
bank. He was a strong county man, as you may know, and thought that when
people heard that he had taken shares, it would tend to restore
confidence in the concern. Now, as, on the contrary, Brander seems to
have taken special pains to prevent the transaction being known even by
the directors, it is clear that his explanation was a lie, that for some
reasons of his own he wished to defeat my father's intentions. I think I
must get you to put the statement you have made to me on paper, and to
get it sworn before a public notary--at least I think that is the way
out here."

"I have no objection to do that, but as it is my intention to continue
to live here where I am now known as a resident and feel myself pretty
safe, except from some chance meeting like that of yours, I would rather
that it should be done somewhere else."

"That is reasonable enough," Cuthbert agreed. "I expect the gates will
be open in a day or two, and I shall go to England at once and try to
get to the bottom of this matter. I should think the Prussians will let
Englishmen pass out at once. Would you mind going with me as far as
Calais? We can get the document sworn to in legal form and you can then
come back here."

"I would rather go to Brussels," the man said.

"No doubt that would be best," Cuthbert agreed. "It might be as well
that it should not be done at any place in France. Well, Mr. Cumming,
your secret is safe with me. I will call on you again as soon as I find
that we can get across to Brussels."

"I shall be ready whenever you are, Mr. Hartington. Of course, I don't
quite see what you will do with this document, but I am perfectly ready
to sign it."

"I don't see either. I shall want to think the matter over. At present I
feel in a complete fog."

"I can quite understand that. I may tell you that Brander puzzled me a
good deal the last two or three months before the bank stopped. He spent
two or three hours going into the affairs with me. He knew generally how
matters stood, but he had never gone thoroughly into them before. When
he had done he said, 'I knew you were in a very bad way before but I did
not think it was as bad as this. I want to see whether the smash could
not be postponed. Things have been bad lately, but I think they are
improving, and some of these affairs that you have been bolstering up
might pull round if you had time given you."

"I did not see much chance of that. However, I did not say so in fact, I
wanted to hear what he was driving at. He went on, after looking through
the list of mortgages we held, 'Of course, Cumming, it is to your
interest to hold on here as long as possible, and I may have mine for
wishing the bank to keep its doors open for some little time yet. It
would never do for you to be going into the market to try and transfer
any of these mortgages, but I have clients in London who would, I think,
take some of them over. Of course, I have taken good care that in no
cases did the bank lend more than fifty per cent. of the full value of
the lands, and the mortgages are all as safe as if they were on consols.
So if you will give me a fortnight's notice when there is anything
pressing coming forward, I think I can manage to get twenty thousand
pounds' worth of these mortgages taken off our hands altogether. I might
repeat the operation three or four times, and could get it done quietly
and with no fuss. In that way the bank could be kept going for a good
many months, which would give time for things to take a turn. In case of
anything like a run taking place, which I think is unlikely, I could let
you have fifteen thousand of my own in a few hours. I have it standing
at call and could run up to town and bring it down by the next train.'

"Why he should make such an offer as this puzzled me, but his reason for
wanting to prop the bank up was no business of mine, and there was no
doubt if he could get fifty or sixty thousand pounds' worth of mortgages
taken off our hands, it would enable us to hold on for some time. He
did, in fact, get one batch of twenty thousand pounds' worth
transferred, but about a month before we stopped he came in one morning
and said, 'I am sorry to tell you, Cumming, that I have heard from the
people in town I had relied on to help us about those mortgages, and
they tell me they have undertaken the financing of a contractor for a
South American railway, and that, therefore, they are not inclined at
present to sink money farther in mortgages, so I am afraid, as far as I
am concerned, things here must take their course,' and, as you know,
they did take their course. Naturally, I did not believe Brander's
story, but it was evident he had, when he made the offer, some reason
for wanting the bank to keep its doors open for a time, and that that
reason, whatever it was, had ceased to operate when he withdrew the
offer."

"I don't see that that part of the business has any bearing upon my
affair," Cuthbert said, "beyond helping to show Brander was playing some
deep game of his own."

"I don't know, Mr. Hartington. However, I will think the matter over,
and we shall have opportunities for discussing it again on our way to
Brussels."

"I almost wish I had let the matter alone altogether," Cuthbert said to
himself as he drove back to his lodgings. "I wanted to clear up what
seemed a mystery, and I find myself plunged much deeper into a fog than
ever. Before I only dimly suspected Brander of having for some reason or
other permitted my father to take these shares when a word from him
would have dissuaded him from doing so. I now find that the whole
transaction was carried out in something like secrecy, and that so far
from my father's name being used to prop up the bank, it was almost
smuggled into the list of shareholders, and that even the directors were
kept in ignorance of the transfer of Cumming's shares to him. The whole
business has a very ugly look, though what the motive of this secrecy
was, or why Brander should be willing to allow, if not to assist, in my
father's ruin is more than I can conceive. The worst of the matter is,
he is Mary's father. Yes, I wish to goodness that I had left the whole
business alone."

Cuthbert had given his address to Cumming, and to his surprise the man
called on him that evening.

"You did not expect to see me again to-day, Mr. Hartington," he said,
when he entered, "but thinking the matter over a fresh light has struck
me, and I felt obliged to come round to tell you. I hope I am not
disturbing you."

"No, I have been so worried over the confounded business, that I have
given up going to some friends as I had promised, as I didn't feel that
I could talk about indifferent matters."

"Well, Mr. Hartington, my idea will surprise you; it will seem
incredible to you, and it almost seems so to myself, and yet it all
works in so that I can't help thinking it is near the mark. I believe
that your father never signed that transfer at all that his signature
was in fact a forgery."

"The deuce you do," Cuthbert exclaimed; "what on earth put such an idea
into your head? Why, man, the idea is absurd! If it was a forgery it
must have been done by Brander, and what possible motive could he have
had for such an act?"

"That I don't pretend to say. If I could see that, I should say it was a
certainty, but I own the absence of motive is the weak point of my idea.
In all other respects the thing works out. In the first place, although
your father was not a man of business, it was singular that he should go
out of his way to take shares in the bank, when he must have known that
in the case of things going wrong his whole property would be involved.
No doubt that idea must have occurred to yourself."

"Certainly; it astonished me beyond measure that he should have done
such a thing. I wrote to Brander at once hoping for some sort of
explanation. I was at the time satisfied with that that he gave me, but
it was, as you know, because the matter, on reflection, has since seemed
so extraordinary that I came to you to try and get some further
information about it."

"You saw your father after this supposed transaction, Mr. Hartington?"

"Yes, I was down there for a fortnight."

"And he did not mention it to you?"

"Not a word!"

"Was it his habit to talk on business matters with you?"

"He never had any business matters except about the estate, and he
generally told me if he had any difficulty about his rents, and
discussed any improvements he thought of making, but beyond that there
was never any question of money. Sometimes he would say 'My balance at
the bank is rather larger than usual, Cuthbert, and if you like an extra
hundred you can have it,' which I never did."

"Well, of course it is only negative evidence that he made no allusion
to his having purchased those shares, still, as he was in the habit of
speaking to you about things, he might very naturally have said 'I have
been investing some spare cash in the shares of the bank here.'"

"Yes, I should have thought he would have done so!"

"You don't think he would have abstained from telling you, because he
might have thought you would have considered it a rash speculation."

"Certainly not," Cuthbert said, warmly, "I should no more have thought
of criticising anything he chose to do with his money, than I should of
flying."

"Well, at any rate, you may take it that there is no proof whatever that
Mr. Hartington was aware of this transaction at the time of your visit,
nor that he was aware of it up to the time of his death." Cuthbert
nodded. "Now let us suppose that this transfer was a forgery, and was
committed by Brander, what course would he naturally pursue? Exactly
that which he followed, namely, to get it placed on the register without
its being noticed by the directors. These men were all personal friends
of your father's. Knowing to some extent, though I admit without
realizing the peril, that the bank was seriously involved, they might
have refused to register the transfer until they had privately
remonstrated with him, especially as I was the vendor, even had they
not done this one or other of them would almost certainly have alluded
to the subject the first time they met him. Brander might have intended
later on to re-transfer the shares to some bogus purchaser, but at any
rate, if he knew your father was in bad health he would have wanted to
keep the bank from putting up its shutters until after his death. You
will remark that he did assist in that way, while your father was alive,
and that almost immediately after his death, he declined to support the
bank farther. What his motive can have been in all this I own that I
cannot imagine, but, given a motive, my supposition appears to be
perfectly feasible. That the motive, whatever it was, must have been a
very strong one, I admit, for in the first place he was running the risk
of being detected of forgery, and in the second must have been three
hundred pounds out of pocket, for that was the amount of the check he
handed to me."

"It was his own check, then, and not my father's?"

"Yes, he said he had rents in hand and therefore paid it out of them,
which seemed natural enough. But how about the signatures of the two
clerks?"

"They may be forgeries too, or possibly, knowing your father's
signature, they may have signed as a matter of course without actually
seeing him affix it. You will admit that all this is possible."

"It seems possible enough," Cuthbert said, "but what motive could there
have been on Brander's part? He could never have run such a risk merely
to gratify any special fancy he may have had for Fairclose."

"Certainly not, Mr. Hartington. Jeremiah Brander has not a particle of
sentiment in his composition. Of course, as he was the solicitor of the
company, I made it my business to study the man pretty closely, and I
came to the conclusion that he was a rank humbug, but that he was a
humbug because it paid him to be one."

"That is quite my own idea of him, but that does not help us in the
slightest towards an explanation as to why he should risk everything
when he had nothing whatever to gain by it."

"No, I feel that difficulty myself," Cumming said, stroking his chin
thoughtfully, "I admit that beats me altogether. By the way," he said,
suddenly, "I saw in the official report that he had a mortgage of
fifteen thousand on the estate. Do you mind telling me how that came
about? It may possibly help us."

"I have not the least idea. I never heard of the existence of the
mortgage until Brander wrote to me himself about it at the time he
bought the estate; but he gave me an explanation that perfectly
satisfied me at the time."

Mr. Cumming looked at him inquiringly.

"It was an explanation," Cuthbert said, after a pause, "that closed my
lips altogether on the subject. But in the present strange state of
affairs I do not know that I need abstain from mentioning it to you.
Brander explained that my father said that he required it to close up a
matter that had long been troubling him. I gathered from the way he put
it that it was some folly with a woman in his early years, and I need
not say that respect for my father's memory prevented me from pursuing
the matter further. Brander said that he had himself advanced the money
on the mortgage in order that the business should be done privately and
without any third person being cognizant of it."

Cumming sat thoughtfully for a minute without speaking and then he leapt
suddenly to his feet and put his hand on Cuthbert's shoulder.

"You take my word for it, Mr. Hartington, that mortgage was just as much
a bogus affair as the transfer. The one supplies the motive we have been
looking for for the other. The failure of the bank brought Fairclose
into the market, and not only did Brander purchase it for ten or fifteen
thousand below its value at any other time, but he gained another
fifteen thousand by this bogus mortgage. There is your motive for the
forgery of your father's name on the transfer."

"I cannot believe it," Cuthbert said, slowly. "Brander could never be
such a scoundrel as that. Besides, of course, the men who wound up the
affairs of the bank would look closely into the mortgage. Whether it
was real or whether it was a forgery, Brander would equally have
obtained the money at my father's death, so your supposition of a motive
fails."

"I do not know. Had the claim been made direct to you, you would
naturally have got some sharp lawyer to investigate it, and, it would
have been inquired into a good deal more closely than the official
liquidator probably took the trouble to do. A mortgage, of which no one
knows anything until after the mortgagor's death, would always be looked
upon with suspicion, and some collateral proofs would be required. Of
course, I may be wrong altogether, but it would be well for you to
ascertain whether the official liquidator did take any steps to obtain
such evidence."

"That I will certainly do," Cuthbert said. "I did write to him at the
time, and I am bound to say his answer seemed entirely satisfactory and
straightforward. He said that Mr. Brander had given proof that he did
draw a check for the amount of the mortgage on the day on which it was
executed, and although he did not show that interest had been
specifically paid by checks from my father, there were receipts found
among my father's papers for the half-yearly payments of interest. These
were, it seemed, settled, when Brander, who collected his rents, made up
his accounts with him."

"That all seems straightforward enough, Mr. Hartington, and as long as
there was no ground for suspicion would doubtless pass muster, but it is
certainly worth while inquiring into."

Cuthbert sat silent for some time.

"After all the whole of this is but the barest suspicion," he said. "The
only thread of fact being that the transfer was kept secret from the
directors, of which no doubt Brander will be able to give some plausible
explanation, and his character stands so high at Abchester that the
question, if raised, would be scouted as an atrocious libel upon him.
But supposing that we had absolute proof, I don't see how I should
stand. If my father was not a shareholder in the bank its creditors had,
of course, no claim whatever on his property, but as the property has
in fact been sold and the proceeds divided long ago who should I have to
go against?"

"That is a matter for the lawyers, Mr. Hartington, but I imagine you
would not have to go back on the creditors to the bank. You would simply
prove that the bank was not in a position to give a title, and that,
therefore, the sale was null and void. It would be argued, of course,
that you gave the title, as I suppose you signed the deeds, and your
plea would be that the signature was obtained from you by fraud."

"I did not sign the deeds," Cuthbert said. "Brander pointed out that, as
I had not received any rents or profits, it would be better that I
should stand out of it altogether, and that the will should not be
proved, as otherwise the death dues would be charged upon it, and
therefore it remained in the hands of the executors of whom he was one,
and it was they who gave the titles."

"Whoever gave the titles, I should say that, as the bank had no claim
whatever on the property, if the transfer was a forgery, the sale would
be declared void and the loss would fall on the purchaser. This would,
in the case of anyone but Brander, have been very hard, but would, in
his, be in strict accordance with justice. However, this is a matter for
which, of course, you will require the best legal opinion, but all that
is for after consideration. The great difficulty, and I grant that I
don't see how it is to be got over, is to prove that your father's
signature to the transfer was a forgery. The first step is to ascertain
whether the attesting witnesses were actually present as they should
have been when your father's signature was affixed."

"I will clear up that point anyhow," Cuthbert said; "I will go straight
from Brussels to England, see the clerks, and hear what they have to say
on the matter. If they were present and saw my father sign the transfer
there is an end to the whole affair."

The other nodded.

"I would not mind wagering a hundred pounds to one that you find that
they were not present."

"Well, that will soon be settled, for I have heard this afternoon that
the conditions of surrender were signed this morning and that to-morrow
the forts are to be given over, and an armistice will commence. In that
case I suppose that foreigners will meet with no difficulty in obtaining
passes to leave at once. Well, I am very much obliged to you for the
suggestion you have made, Mr. Cumming, though I have, I confess, very
little faith indeed that anything will come of it, and just at present
it seems to me that I would much rather the matter had remained as it
was."



CHAPTER XVIII.


The next morning Cuthbert drove to Madame Michaud's.

"You are looking better, Mary," he said, as he entered; "why, you have
got quite a pretty color in your cheeks."

"Don't talk nonsense, please. I am better, a great deal better, but it
is no wonder I have a color, I have been blushing with shame at my own
folly ever since you were here."

"If you never do anything more foolish than that, you will get through
life well enough. Appearances were against me, and you jumped at
conclusions a little too fast. Let us say no more about it."

"You are not looking so well, I think, Cuthbert."

"No. I have been a little bothered."

"Have you seen that man Cumming?" she asked, quickly.

"Yes," he answered, in some surprise, "though what should make you
associate him with my being bothered I don't know."

"You said that you were going to see him, and somehow, I don't know why,
I have been rather worrying over it. Was the interview satisfactory, did
you learn what you wanted?"

"Not altogether," he said, "but it is all a matter of conjecture, Mary,
and I own that it has worried me a bit, and, indeed, I am sorry I went
to him at all. However, as it is business and ladies are not good at
business, suppose we talk of something else."

Mary made no reply, but sat looking at him while she twisted her fingers
nervously before her. "May I ask one question, Cuthbert?"

"Yes, if you like, but I don't promise to answer it?"

"Do you think that there is any blame attached to my father?"

Cuthbert was startled. He had certainly not expected this question.

"What on earth should put that idea into your head, Mary?"

"I don't know," she replied, "but it has always struck me as so strange
that he should not have prevented Mr. Hartington from buying those
shares. I don't know much of business, but I have thought a great deal
about it, and it has always seemed a strange affair to me, and I have
worried a great deal over it since he bought the house. That is one
reason why I hate going there."

"Perhaps your father was not quite so prudent in the matter as he might
have been, Mary," Cuthbert said, trying to speak lightly, though he
found it difficult to do so with the girl's earnest eyes fixed on him,
"but even of that I am not sure. Now, suppose we change the subject
again--it seems that we are to hit on difficult subjects this morning.
The gates will probably be opened, at any rate to the foreigners, in a
day or two. Are you thinking of going home to prepare yourself for
taking up your vocation as a nurse?"

"Not yet," she replied, "there is no hurry for that, and it will be some
time before the country is settled."

"You are sure that you have not changed your mind again?"

"No, why should I?"

"I thought perhaps you might have done so, and might possibly be
inclined towards the vocation you so scornfully repudiated when I
suggested it before. I intended to ask you yesterday, but it would not
have been fair when you were so weak and shaken."

The girl had glanced at him and had then flushed hotly.

"I don't know--I am not sure--what you mean."

"And I am sure that you know very well, Mary, that I mean the vocation
of taking care of me, which you repudiated with scorn--in fact refused
to entertain it seriously at all. Of course there may have been other
grounds, but the one you laid stress on was that I was lazy and
purposeless, and that if you ever did take up such a vocation it would
be to take care of some one you could respect. I don't say for an
instant that I approach to that altitude, but at least I may say I am no
longer an idler, that I have worked hard, and that I have every hope of
success. You see, too, that I want you more than I did then. I am a poor
artist and not the heir to a good estate. But as you are fond of
sacrificing yourself, that may not be altogether an objection. At any
rate, dear, I think I shall be able to keep you comfortably. I am not
sure I should ever have mustered up courage enough to have spoken on
this subject again, had it not been for yesterday. But that gave me a
little hope that you really had come to care about me a little, and that
possibly you might be willing to change your plans again in my favor."

"I did not think you really loved me then," she said. "I thought it was
just a passing fancy."

"You see it was not, dear. All these months that I have worked hard, it
was partly from the love of art and with the hope that I might be a
really great artist, but at the bottom of it all along has been the
thought of you and the determination that in one respect I would become
worthy of you."

"Don't talk like that, Cuthbert. I know now that I was a headstrong,
conceited girl, thinking I was strong when I was as weak as water. You
were right when you said I was not yet a woman, for I had never found
that I had a heart. It is I who am unworthy."

"Well, it is no question of worthiness now. The question is do you love
me as I love you."

"Are you sure you do, Cuthbert? I have thought all these months that you
had taken me at my word, and that it was but as a friend you regarded
me. Are you sure it is not gratitude for what little I did for you in
the hospital! Still more that it is not because I showed my feelings so
plainly the day before yesterday, and that it is from pity as well as
gratitude that you speak now."

"Then you were really a little jealous, Mary?"

"You know I was. It was shameful of me to show it, so shameful that I
have hated myself since. I know that after doing so, I ought to say
no--no a thousand times. I love you, Cuthbert, I love you; but I would
rather never marry you than feel it was out of pity that you took me.
That would be too hard to bear."

They were both standing now.

"You are talking nonsense, child," he said, tenderly, as he took her
hand. "You know I love you truly. Surely my pictures must have told you
that. Honestly now, did you not feel that it was so?"

"I did not know you loved me then, Cuthbert. There were other things,
you know, that made me feel it could not be so, but then that for the
first time I really knew----" and she stopped.

"That you loved me, darling?" and he drew her closer to him. "Now, you
gave me a straightforward answer before--I insist on as straightforward
a one now."

And this time the answer was not, No.

"Mind," he said a few minutes afterwards, "your vocation is definitely
fixed at last, Mary, and there must be no more changing."

"As if you did not know there won't be," she said, saucily. And then
suddenly altering her tone she went on, "Now, Cuthbert, you will surely
tell me what you would not before. What did you find out? It is
something about my father, I am sure."

"Let me think before I answer you," he said, and then sat silent for two
or three minutes. "Well," he said, at last, "I think you have a right to
know. You may be sure that in any case I should before, for your sake,
have done everything in my power towards arranging things amicably with
him. Now, of course, that feeling is vastly stronger, and for my own
sake as well as yours I should abstain from any action against him.
Mind, at present I have only vague suspicions, but if those suspicions
turn out true, it will be evident that your father has been pursuing a
very tortuous policy, to put it no stronger, in order to gain possession
of Fairclose. I cannot say definitely as yet what I shall do, but at
present I incline to the opinion that I shall drop the matter
altogether."

"Not for my sake, Cuthbert," she said, firmly. "I have always felt
uneasy about it. I can scarcely say why, but I am afraid it is so. Of
course I know my father better than people in general do. I have known
that he was not what he seemed to be. It has always been my sorest
trouble, that we have never got on well together. He has never liked me,
and I have not been able to respect him. I know that if he has done
anything absolutely wrong--it seems terrible that I should even think
such a thing possible--but if it has been so--I know you will not expose
him."

"We will not talk any more about it, dear," Cuthbert interrupted; "it is
all the vaguest suspicion, so let us put it aside altogether now. Just
at present I am a great deal too happy to give as much as a thought to
unpleasant matters. We have to attend to the business of the hour, and
you have the two years of love of which I have been deprived to make up
for."

"I am very, very glad, Cuthbert, that I was not in love with you then."

"Why?"

"Because we should have started all wrong. I don't think I should ever
have come to look up to you and honor you as I do now. I should never
have been cured of my silly ideas, and might even have thought that I
had made some sort of sacrifice in giving up my plans. Besides, then you
were what people call a good match, and now no one can think that it is
not for love only."

"Well, at any rate, Mary, we shall have between us enough to keep us out
of the workhouse even if I turn out an absolute failure."

"You know you won't do that."

"I hope not, but at any rate one is liable to illness, to loss of
sight, and all sorts of other things, and as we have between us four
hundred a year we can manage very comfortably, even if I come to an end
of my ardor for work and take to idleness again."

"I am not afraid of that," she smiled, "after painting those two
pictures, you could not stop painting. I don't think when anyone can do
good work of any sort, he can get tired of it, especially when the work
is art. My only fear is that I shan't get my fair share of your time."

"Well, if I see you getting jealous, Mary, I have the means of reducing
you to silence by a word."

"Have you, indeed? Will you please tell me what word is that?"

"I shall just say, Minette!"

Mary's color flamed up instantly.

"If you do, sir; if you do----" and then stopped.

"Something terrible will come of it, eh. Well, it was not fair."

"It was quite fair, Cuthbert. It will always be a painful recollection
to me, and I hope a lesson too."

"It will not be a painful recollection to me," he laughed. "I think I
owe Minette a debt of gratitude. Now, what do you say to taking a drive,
Mary? Horse-flesh has gone down five hundred per cent. in the market in
the last three days, and I was able to get a fiacre on quite reasonable
terms."

"Is it waiting here still? How extravagant, Cuthbert, it must have been
here nearly an hour."

"I should say I have been here over two hours and a quarter according to
that clock."

"Dear me, what will Madame Michaud think? Shall I tell her, Cuthbert?"

"I don't care a snap what she thinks. You can do just as you like about
telling her. Perhaps it will be as well, as I intend to see a good deal
of you in the next few days. But if you write home don't say anything
about it. There are reasons which we can talk over another time, why it
will be best to keep it to ourselves for a time."

Mary nodded. That he wished a thing was quite sufficient for her at the
present moment.

"Do you want me to go out with you?" she asked.

"Just as you like. I believe that as a rule a ring has to be purchased
at the conclusion of an arrangement such as we have just entered into,
and I thought you might just as well chose one yourself."

"Oh, I would much rather not," she exclaimed, "and besides, I think for
to-day I would rather sit quiet and think it all over and realize how
happy I am."

"Well, for to-day you shall have your own way, Mary, but you have been
doing a good deal more thinking than is good for you, and after to-day
we must go out for a good walk regularly. You see we have both to get up
our strength. I had quite forgotten I had anything the matter with me,
and you only wanted rousing, dear. The doctor said as much to me, and
you know, after all, happiness is the best tonic."

"Then I must be perfectly cured already, Cuthbert, but remember you must
take care of yourself. The best of tonics won't set any one up at once
who has had a real illness as you have had. You want something more
substantial. Good strong soups and roast beef are the essentials in your
case. Remember, sir, I have been your nurse and mean to continue so till
your cure is complete. You will come again to-morrow, Cuthbert?"

"Of course, dear. Now about that ring. I have observed you never wear
one. Have you one you can lend me, or must I measure with a piece of
thread?"

"I will get you one, Cuthbert. I am not without such a possession
although I have never worn one. I looked upon it as a female vanity,"
she added, with a laugh, "in the days when I thought myself above such
things. What a little fool you must have thought me, Cuthbert?"

The next morning when Cuthbert came Mary had her things on in readiness
to go out with him, and after a short delay to admire and try on the
ring, they set out together.

"I did not tell you yesterday, Mary," Cuthbert said, after they had
walked a short distance, "that as soon as the arrangements for
foreigners to leave the town are settled, I am going to Brussels with
Cumming. He is going to make an affidavit, and this he cannot do here,
as, if I should have occasion to use the document, it would be the means
of enabling the police to trace him here and to demand his extradition.
After that I shall go on to England to make some inquiries that are
essential. I will give you all particulars if you wish it, but I think
it will be very much better that you shall know nothing about the
matter; it may turn out to be nothing at all; it may on the other hand
be extremely important. It is a painful business anyhow, but in any case
I think it will be much the best that you should know nothing about it.
You can trust me, can you not?"

"Altogether," she said, "and certainly I would rather know nothing about
it. But mind, Cuthbert, you must do what you think is right and best
without any question about me. If you have been wronged you must right
yourself, and I am sure that in doing so you will do it as gently and
kindly as possible."

"I will try to do so," he said. "At present, as I told you, the
suspicions are very vague and rest entirely upon the statement Cumming
has made. If those suspicions should be verified, a great wrong has been
done and that wrong must be righted, but that can no doubt be arranged
without publicity or scandal. The reason why I do not wish you to say a
word about our engagement is, that were it known it would tie my hands
terribly and render it so impossible for me to take any strong ground,
that I should be altogether powerless."

"Do entirely as you think best, Cuthbert. Of course, beyond the fact
that perhaps something wrong may have been done, I have not an idea what
it can be, and I do not want to know, unless it must be told me. How
long are you likely to be away and do you think you are fit to travel?"

"There is no great fatigue in travelling," he said. "I can't say how
long I shall be, not long I hope. You may be sure that I shall not be
longer than I can possibly help."

"I shall miss you dreadfully, but of course if you think it necessary,
you must go. Besides," she said, saucily, "if you are in no hurry about
me I know you will be anxious to get back to finish your pictures. No,
Cuthbert, I really can't have that. There are people in sight."

"I don't care if there are," he laughed.

"I do, very much. Whoever heard of such a thing? What would they think
of me?"

"I did not know that you cared what people thought of you, Mary."

"Not about some things, perhaps, but there are limits, you know."

A week later, duly provided with passes, Cuthbert and Cumming made their
way in a carriage to the Belgian frontier, and then went on by train to
Brussels, where, on the day after their arrival, Cumming drew up and
signed a statement with reference to the details of his transference of
the shares to Mr. Hartington, and swore to its contents before a Belgian
legal official.

"I shall stay here for a few days," he said to Cuthbert, as the latter
started the next morning for England. "I am quite safe for the present,
and after a long course of horse-flesh I really cannot tear myself away
from decent living, until Paris is re-victualled, and one can live there
in comfort again. I wish you every success in your search. The more I
think of it the more convinced I am that we are not far wrong as to the
manner in which Brander has got hold of your estate."

Cuthbert, on arriving in London, took up his quarters at the Charing
Cross Hotel. On the morning after his arrival he wrote a letter to Dr.
Edwardes, at Abchester.

     "MY DEAR DOCTOR,--I have just returned from Paris, where I have
     been shut up for the last four months. I do not care about coming
     down to Abchester at present. I suppose I have not quite got over
     my soreness over matters in general, but for reasons which I need
     not enter into, I want to know if Brander's clerks, who were with
     him when I was last there, are still with him in his office, and,
     if not, where they are employed. I do not know anyone else to write
     to on the subject, and I am sure you will not mind taking the
     trouble in the matter for me."

The answer came back by return of post.

     "MY DEAR CUTHBERT--I was very glad to hear of you again. I have
     asked Brander from time to time about you, and he always says that
     he has not heard from you for months, and though your letter says
     nothing beyond the fact that you are alive, I was glad to get it. I
     hope next time you write you will give me full details about
     yourself, and that ere long you will make up your mind to come
     down. I need not say that we shall be delighted to put you up when
     you do come. I should imagine you would not care to go to
     Fairclose. Now as to your question. Harford, the elder of the two
     clerks, left the office here very shortly after you went away.
     Levison, the younger, is still here. I put myself in the way of
     meeting him as he went to the office this morning. I stopped and
     chatted with him for a minute or two, and asked him carelessly how
     Mr. Harford was and whether he ever heard from him. He said he
     heard occasionally and that he was well. 'By the way, where is he
     working now?' I asked, 'I know he went up to a firm in town.' 'Oh,
     yes, he is with Barrington and Smiles, of Essex Street. He is
     getting on very well there, I believe. He is head of their
     conveyancing branch. I wish I could drop into as good a billet,
     Doctor. I should be very glad of a change.' So much for that
     business. Things are getting on pretty much the same up at the old
     place. Brander still comes up to his office for an hour or so every
     day. I don't think he cares much for the county gentleman's life. I
     fancy Mrs. B. is rather a disappointed woman. The fact is there was
     a good deal of feeling in the county as to Brander's connection
     with the bank. Almost everyone was let in more or less, you know,
     for the depositors have only got eight shillings in the pound so
     far, and I don't suppose they will ever get much more. There is an
     idea that Brander ought to have found out what was going on, and
     indeed that he must have known a good deal about it, and that at
     any rate what he did know should have been ample to have rendered
     it his duty to warn your father against taking shares so short a
     time before the smash. His purchase of Fairclose did not improve
     matters, and so far from their taking your father's place in the
     county, I may say without being absolutely cut they are much more
     out of it than they were before. However, when you come down I will
     give you all the local gossip."

It was late in the afternoon when Cuthbert received the letter and he at
once went to Essex Street. Several clerks were writing in the office. A
lad came forward to ask him his business.

"I want to speak for a moment to Mr. Harford."

The lad went up to one of the desks and the clerk came forward.

"I don't know whether you remember me," Cuthbert said, "my name is
Hartington."

"I remember you very well, Mr. Hartington, though you are changed a good
deal."

"I have had a sharp illness, but I am getting over it now. I
particularly wished to speak to you about a matter in connection with my
father's affairs. I am staying at the Charing Cross Hotel and should
feel very much obliged if, when you leave here, you would come round for
a few minutes."

"With pleasure, sir, but I shall not get away till seven."

"That will do very well," Cuthbert said. "I would not have troubled you
had it not been important."

A few minutes past seven the clerk was shown into Cuthbert's room. After
asking him to take a chair Cuthbert said--

"As you are aware, Mr. Harford, my loss of the Fairclose estates arose
from the unfortunate circumstances of my father having taken a few
shares in the Abchester and County Bank. The matter has always been a
puzzle to me. I have been abroad for the last eighteen months, and now,
having returned, am anxious to get to the bottom of the matter if I can.
The transfer of the shares from Cumming, the manager of the bank, to my
father, was signed at Mr. Brander's office, I fancy. At any rate, you
and Mr. Levison were the attesting witnesses to my father's signature.
Have you any memory of the transaction, and would you object to tell
what took place?"

"I remember about the transfer, Mr. Hartington, because, when the crash
came, everything connected with it was talked over. In point of fact, we
did not see Mr. Hartington's signature actually attached. He called at
the office one day, and just after he had left Mr. Brander called us in
and said, 'Please witness Mr. Hartington's signature.' Of course, we
both knew it very well and witnessed it. I did not notice the names on
the body of the transfer, though, of course, I knew from the appearance
of the document what it was, but Mr. Brander just pointed out where we
were to sign and we signed. The only thing I noticed was that as I wrote
my eye fell on the top line, and I saw that it was dated ten days
earlier."

"Was that unusual?"

"No, documents are often dated at the time they are drawn up, although
they may not be signed for some days later. Of course it is not exactly
regular, but it often happens. A form is filled up and one or other of
the parties may be away or unable to sign. I happened to notice it, but
it did not strike me in any way."

"And were you often called upon to attest signatures in this way without
seeing them written?"

"There was nothing unusual in it. As a general rule we were called into
the room when a signature had to be witnessed, but it occasionally
happened, in the case where it was a well-known client and we were
perfectly acquainted with the signature, that we did not sign until he
had left the office."

"Do you remember if such a thing ever happened any other time in the
case of my father!"

"Only once, I think, and that was afterwards. We signed then as
witnesses to his signature to a legal document. I don't know what its
nature was. It was done in the same manner directly Mr. Hartington had
driven away."

"It might have been a mortgage deed."

"It might have been, sir, but as I saw only the last page of it, and as
there were but three or four lines of writing at the top of the page,
followed by the signatures, I have no idea even of the nature of the
document."

"May I ask if you have left the office at Abchester on pleasant terms
with Mr. Brander and his partner, for, of course, you know that he still
takes an interest in the firm."

"Oh, yes, it is still carried on as Brander and Jackson, and Brander
still goes down there for an hour or two every day. Yes, I left on
pleasant terms enough, that is to say, I left of my own free will. I had
for some time wished to come up to London, and hearing through a friend
in this office of a vacancy at Barrington and Smiles, I applied and was
fortunate enough to get it."

Cuthbert sat silent for a time. So far the answers he had received
tallied precisely with Cumming's theory. He did not see how he could
carry the inquiry farther here at present. The clerk, who was watching
him closely, was the first to speak.

"I own, Mr. Hartington, that I do not in the slightest degree understand
the gist of your questions, but I can well imagine that at the present
moment you are wondering whether it would be safe to ask farther. I
will, therefore, tell you at once that one of my reasons for leaving Mr.
Brander's employment was that I did not like his way of doing business,
nor did I like the man himself. The general opinion of him was that he
was a public-spirited and kind-hearted man. I can only say that our
opinion of him in the office was a very different one. He was a hard
man, and frequently when pretending to be most lenient to tenants on the
estates to which he was agent, or to men on whose lands he held
mortgages, he strained the law to its utmost limits. I will not say more
than that, but I could quote cases in which he put on the screw in a way
that was to my mind most absolutely unjustifiable, and I had been for a
very long time trying to get out of his office before the opportunity
came. I may also say, Mr. Hartington, that I had the highest respect for
your father. He always had a kind word when he came into the office, and
regularly at Christmas he handed Levison and myself a check for ten
pounds each, for, as he said, the trouble his business gave us. I tell
you this in order that you may feel you can safely repose any confidence
in me, and that my advice will be wholly at your service if you should
think fit to give me your confidence in this matter, whatever it may
be. But at the same time I must say it would be still better if you put
yourself in the hands of some respectable firm of solicitors. I do not
suggest my own principals more than others, although few men stand
higher in the profession."

"There are reasons against my laying the matter before any firm of
solicitors, and the chief of these is that my hands are tied in a
peculiar manner, and that I am unable to carry it through to its natural
sequence, but I will very thankfully accept your offer and will frankly
tell you the nature of my suspicions, for they are nothing more than
suspicions. I may first say that the news that my father was a
shareholder in the Abchester Bank astounded me. For a time, I put it
down to one of those sudden impulses that are unaccountable, but I may
tell you, and here my confidence begins, that I have come across
Cumming, the bank manager, and from him have obtained some curious
particulars of this transaction--particulars that have excited my
suspicions.

"You wondered why I asked you those questions. I will tell you. You did
not see my father affix his signature to either of those documents. The
one being certainly the transfer of some of Cumming's shares to him. The
other being, as I believe, the mortgage that, as you doubtless heard,
Mr. Brander held over my father's estate. How could you tell those two
signatures were not clever forgeries?"

Mr. Harford gave a start of surprise.

"God bless me, sir," he exclaimed, "such an idea never entered my mind."

"That I can quite understand," Cuthbert said, quietly, "but you must
admit it is possible."

"But in that case," the clerk said, after a pause, "Brander himself must
have been the forger, and surely that is not possible. I fancy I know
Mr. Brander pretty well, but I should never have dreamt him capable of
forgery. Not because I have a high opinion of his honesty, but because I
believe him to be a cautious man, and besides I do not see what possible
interest he could have had in ruining your father by putting his name
on to the register of shareholders. Even if he had an interest in so
doing the risk of detection would be frightful, for not only would the
matter be known to the directors, but, as you are aware, any shareholder
has a right on the payment of a nominal fee to inspect the list of
shareholders."

"Precautions were taken against this," Cuthbert said. "Just glance
through this paper, which has been signed and sworn to by Cumming in
proper form at Brussels."

Mr. Harford ran his eye over the document and then read it through
carefully word by word.

"This is an extraordinary statement," he said, gravely, "do you believe
it, Mr. Hartington?"

"I believe it implicitly. I had the man practically at my mercy. As you
know, there is a warrant out for his arrest and a word from me would
have set the police on his track and led to an application for his
extradition. Therefore he had every motive for telling me the truth, and
I am as certain as I can be, that he did so."

"If so there can be no question that Mr. Brander had some very strong
reason indeed for preventing the knowledge of this transfer having ever
been made from being known; but in any case it must have come out when
the bank failed and of course he must have had a pretty accurate
knowledge of the state of its affairs."

"Yes, but it man be that he had an equally accurate knowledge of the
state of my father's health. That would account for what Cumming says as
to his offer to bolster up the bank for a time, and for a retraction of
that offer within a few days after my father's death."

"But why on earth should he have run all this risk merely to ruin you?
He had no cause of enmity against you, had he, sir?"

"None, so far as I knew but now we come to the other document where you
witnessed the signature without having seen it signed. If the signature
on the transfer was a forgery, why not that on the mortgage, if it was
the mortgage. If so you see the motive of the transfer. The smash of the
bank brought a good many estates into the market and they would
consequently go cheap. Not only would he get it far below its value, but
by reason of this pretended mortgage he would get a further drawback of
£15,000 from the price he would pay as its purchase."

"Good heavens, Mr. Hartington! You take my breath away! Have you any
reason whatever for believing that the mortgage was a bogus one?"

"None, beyond the fact that I was ignorant of its existence. I was so
surprised that I not only wrote to Brander himself but to the official
liquidator. The former said he had advanced the money at the urgent
request of my father, who told him he wished to settle a very long
standing claim upon him, and that he desired that the transaction should
be kept an absolute secret. The official liquidator said he had gone
carefully into the question of the mortgage, that it was of three years,
standing, that the receipts Mr. Brander had given my father for the
half-yearly interest on the money had been found among my father's
papers, and that Brander had moreover produced a document, showing that
he had sold securities to that amount, and had drawn the money from his
bankers in town by a singled check for £15,000. Do you remember whether
such a deed was ever drawn up in the office?"

"Certainly it was not, but you see that proves nothing, for it was to be
kept a secret. Brander might have had it drawn up by some solicitor in
London."

"I see that. Well, then, this deed, whatever it was that you witnessed,
was that drawn up in the office?"

"No. I remember Levison and I talked it over and said it was curious
that a deed between Brander and Mr. Hartington should not have been
given to us as usual to be drawn up."

"You witnessed his signature then as well as that of my father?"

"Yes, I have a particular reason for remembering that, for I had sat
down hurriedly after he had signed it, and dipping my pen too deeply in
the ink, made a blot. It was no doubt a stupid thing to do, but Brander
was so unreasonably angry about it, and blew me up so roughly that I
made up my mind there and then to stand it no longer, and wrote that
very evening to my friend in my present office the letter which led to
my getting the situation there two or three months later."

"That blot may be a most important one," Cuthbert said, "if it occurs on
the mortgage deed on Fairclose, it is clear that document was not, as it
professes on its face, executed three years earlier."

"That would be so indeed," Mr. Harford exclaimed, excitedly; "it would
be a piece of evidence there would be no getting over, and that fact
would account for Brander's anger, which seemed to me was out of all
proportion to the accident. If you could show that the mortgage deed on
which Brander claimed is really that document we witnessed, it would be
all up with him. As to the receipts for the payments of interest they
proved nothing as they were, of course, in Brander's own handwriting and
were found where he put them. If you could find out that Brander had
knowledge of Mr. Hartington's state of health about the time that
transfer was produced you would strengthen your case. It seems to me
that he must have got an inkling of it just before he filled up the
transfer, and that he ante-dated it a week so that it would appear to
have been signed before he learnt about his illness. I can see no other
reason for the ante-dating it."

"That may have been the reason," Cuthbert agreed. "It was one of the
points for which Cumming and I, talking it over, could see no motive.
Certainly he would wish that if anyone said to him you ought to have
prevented Mr. Hartington buying those shares when you knew that he was
in a precarious state of health, to be able to reply that when the
shares were bought he had not the slightest idea of his being in
anything but the best of health."

"At any rate I will see Dr. Edwardes, and ascertain exactly when he did
tell Brander. He is certain to be able by turning back to his visiting
book, to ascertain when he himself became aware of my father's danger,
and is likely to remember whether he told Brander at once."

"But even without that, Mr. Hartington, if you can prove that question
of the date of the deed you have him completely on the hip. Still it
will be a very difficult case to carry through, especially if you cannot
get Cumming to come into court."

"But, as I began by telling you, I cannot carry out the case to a
legitimate conclusion, nor do I want the intervention of lawyers in the
matter. I want the estate back again if I can get it, but rather than
this matter should be made public I would not lift a little finger to
regain the property. It happens," and he smiled dryly, "that Mr.
Brander's reputation is almost as dear to me as it is to him, for I am
going to marry his daughter. We should not feel quite comfortable
together, you see, at the thought that the father was working out a
sentence of penal servitude."

"That is an unfortunate combination indeed, Mr. Hartington," Mr. Harford
said seriously, though he could not repress a smile of amusement at the
unexpected news. "Then it seems to me, sir, that Brander may in fact
snap his fingers at any threat you may hold out, for he would feel
certain that you would never take any steps that would make the matter
public."

"Fortunately," Cuthbert replied. "Mr. Brander is wholly unaware of the
little fact I have mentioned, and is likely to remain so until matters
are finally arranged between us."

"That is indeed fortunate. Then I understand, Mr. Hartington, your
object is to obtain so strong a proof of Brander's share in this affair
as will place you in a position to go down to him, and force him into
some satisfactory arrangement with you."

"That is it, and it is clear the first step will be to see the official
liquidator and to obtain a sight of the mortgage."

"I suppose you know that he is the head of the firm of Cox, Tuke, and
Atkinson, in Coleman Street. I suggest that the best plan will be to see
him to-morrow, and to make an appointment with him for you to inspect
the mortgage. You would wish me, of course, to be with you when you do
so?"

"Think you very much. I will go round there in the morning, and will
call at your office afterwards and let you know if I have arranged the
matter, and the time at which I am to call to inspect the mortgage."



CHAPTER XIX.


Cuthbert, on calling upon the head of the great firm of accountants, was
courteously received by him.

"Of course, I remember your name, Mr. Hartington, with reference to the
Abchester Bank failure. It seemed a particularly hard case, and I know
our Mr. Wanklyn, who had charge of the winding up, took particular
interest in it, and personally consulted me more than once about it,
though I cannot exactly recall the circumstances now. What is it that
you say you want to examine?"

"I want to have a look at the deed of mortgage that Mr. Brander, who
purchased the property, had upon it."

"Yes, I remember now, that was one of the points on which Mr. Wanklyn
consulted me. It struck him at first sight as being rather a remarkable
transaction, and he went into it carefully, but it was all proved to be
correct to his satisfaction. It is unfortunate that the system of
registering mortgages is not enforced everywhere as it is in London--it
would save a great deal of trouble in such cases as the present."

"Are the affairs of the bank quite wound up?"

"Dear me, no, Mr. Hartington. Why, it is but two years since the
failure. There are properties to be realized that cannot be forced on
the market without ruinous loss. There are assets which will not be
available until after death; it is not the assets of the bank, but the
assets of individual shareholders and debtors of the bank that have to
be collected. I should say it will be at least twenty years before the
last dividend will be divided. I am sure Mr. Wanklyn will be happy to
let you see any document you desire. I will take you to him."

Mr. Wanklyn had a room on the same floor with his principal, and Mr. Cox
took Cuthbert and introduced him to him.

"Mr. Hartington wants to have a look at the mortgage that Brander held
on the late Mr. Hartington's estate. You remember we had several talks
about it at the time, and you took a good deal of pains about the
matter. Mr. Hartington wrote to me about it from Paris, if you
recollect, and you replied to him in my name. I will leave him with you
to talk it over."

"Have you any particular reason for wanting to see the deed, Mr.
Hartington?" the accountant asked, when Mr. Cox had left the room. "I
only ask because I suppose the documents connected with the winding up
of the bank must weigh several tons, and it will take a considerable
time for a clerk to hunt out the one in question. If you have really any
motive for examining it I will get it looked out for you by to-morrow,
but it will put us to a great deal of trouble."

"I am really anxious to see it for a special purpose, Mr. Wanklyn. I
have reason to believe there was some irregularity in the matter."

"I am afraid it will make but little difference to you whether it was so
or not, Mr. Hartington. The creditors of the bank have been the
sufferers if there was any irregularity in it."

"Yes, I suppose so, and yet I assure you it is not a mere matter of
sentiment with me. Other questions might turn upon it."

"Then I will certainly have it ready for you by to-morrow--give me until
the afternoon. Will four o'clock suit you?"

"Very well. I will, with your permission, bring with me one of the
attesting witnesses to my father's signature. He was one of Mr.
Brander's clerks at the time."

Mr. Wanklyn looked up keenly.

"You can bring whom you like," he said, after a pause, "and I will put a
room at your disposal, but of course the document cannot be taken away."

"Certainly not, Mr. Wanklyn, and I am very much obliged to you for
granting my request."

Cuthbert called for James Harford at the hour at which he had said he
went out to lunch, and told him of the appointment he had made.

"I have been thinking it over, Mr. Hartington, and I should recommend
you to bring Cooper with you."

"Who is Cooper?"

"He is one of our greatest experts on handwriting. I don't know whether
you have any of your father's letters in your possession."

"Yes, I have several. I brought over the last two I had from him,
thinking they might be useful."

"Well, his opinion on the signatures may be valuable, though as a rule
experts differ so absolutely that their evidence is always taken with
considerable doubt, but it is part of his business to look out for
erasures and alterations. It is quite possible Brander may have removed
that blot, and that he has done it so well that neither you nor I could
detect it; but whether he did it with a knife or chemicals you may be
sure that Cooper will be able to spot it, whichever he used. I have very
little doubt that your suspicions are correct and those parchments were
really the pretended mortgage deeds. If you like I will go round and see
Cooper at once and arrange for him to meet us in Coleman Street
to-morrow at four o'clock."

"Thank you very much. The idea of the blot being erased had never struck
me."

The next day Cuthbert met James Harford and Mr. Cooper at the door of
the accountants, and after being introduced by the clerk to the expert
they went up together. On giving his name in the office a clerk came
across to him.

"If you will come with me, gentlemen, I will lead you to the room that
is ready for you. This is the document that you desire to see."

As soon as they were alone they sat down at the table, and opened the
deed.

"How is it for size?" Cuthbert asked.

"It is about the same size, but that is nothing. All deeds are on two or
three sizes of parchment. The last page is the thing."

Cuthbert turned to it. There were but four lines of writing at the top
of the page, and below these came the signatures.

"Of course I could not swear to it, Mr. Hartington, but it is precisely
in accordance with my recollection. There were either three, four, or
five lines at the top. Certainly not more than five, certainly not less
than three. As you see there is no blot to my signature. Now, Mr.
Cooper, will you be kind enough to compare the signatures of these two
letters with the same name there?"

Mr. Cooper took the letter and deed to a desk by the window, examined
them carefully, then took out a large magnifying glass from his pocket,
and again examined them.

"I should say they are certainly not by the same hand," he said,
decisively. "I do not call them even good imitations. They are nothing
like as good as would be made by any expert in signing other people's
names. The tail of the 'J' in James in these two letters runs up into
the 'a' but as you will notice the pen is taken off and the letter 'a'
starts afresh. Here on the contrary you see the pen has not been taken
off, but the upstroke of the 'J' runs on continuously into the 'a.' More
naturally it would be just the other way. In these two letters the
writer would be signing his name more hurriedly than to a formal deed,
and would be much more likely to run his letters into each other than
when making a formal signature on parchment.

"Looking through this glass you will observe also that although the
letters run on together there is a slight thickening in the upstroke
between each letter as if the writer had paused, though without taking
his pen off, to examine the exact method of making the next letter in a
copy lying before him. In the surname there are half a dozen points of
difference. To begin with, the whole writing slopes less than in the
other signatures. In both your father's letters the cross of the first
't' is much lower than usual and almost touches the top of the 'r' and
i.' The same peculiarity is shown in the second 't' in both letters,
while on the deed the 't's' are crossed a good deal higher. The whole
word is more cramped, the flourish at the end of the 'n' is longer but
less free. In the capital letter, the two downstrokes are a good deal
closer together. There has been the same pause between each letter as
those I pointed out in the Christian name, and indeed the glass shows
you the pen was altogether taken off the paper between the 'o' and the
'n,' as the writer studied that final flourish. My opinion is that it is
not only a forgery but a clumsy one, and would be detected at once by
anyone who had the original signatures before him. I will even go so far
as to say that I doubt if any bank clerk well acquainted with Mr.
Hartington's signature would pass it."

"And now for the blot," Cuthbert said. "There was a blot somewhere near
the signature of Mr. Harford."

"Don't tell me where it was, Mr. Harford. I would rather not know its
exact position."

With the aid of the magnifying glass the expert carefully examined the
parchment and then held it up to the light.

"The blot was in the middle of the signature and involved the letters
'a' and 'r.' Is that right?"

"That is right, Mr. Cooper; he used blotting paper to it at once, and it
did not show up very strongly."

"An eraser has been used and a chemical of some sort, and the two
letters involved in the blot have been re-written, or at any rate
touched up, but they have run a little. You can see it quite plainly
through this lens. The difference between their outline and that of the
other letters is quite distinct, and by holding the parchment so that
the light falls across it, you can see that, although it has been
rubbed, probably by the handle of a penknife to give it a gloss, the
difference between that gloss and the rest of the surface, is distinctly
visible."

"I see that," the clerk said, "and I should be quite prepared to swear
now, Mr. Hartington, that this is the document I signed some three weeks
after I signed as witness to the transfer."

"That is quite good enough, I think," Cuthbert said. "Thank you, Mr.
Cooper, you have quite settled the doubt I had in my mind. I do not
think I shall have occasion to ask you to go into court over this
matter, but should I have to do so I will, of course, give you due
notice."

After paying the expert's fee Cuthbert went into the office and handed
the document over to the clerk from whom he had received it.

"Would you kindly put it where it can be got at easily should it be
wanted again. It is of the highest importance."

After parting with Mr. Cooper at the door, Cuthbert walked westward with
Mr. Harford.

"So far you have proved that your suspicions are correct, sir, and I
have not the least doubt that your father's signature to the transfer
was, like this, a forgery. May I ask what step you propose to take next?
Of course if your object was not to prevent publicity your course would
be clear. You would first apply for a warrant for the arrest of Brander
on a charge of double forgery. When that was proved, you would have to
take steps to apply to have it declared that your father's name was
wrongfully placed among the shareholders of the bank, and then endeavor
to obtain a decree ordering the liquidator to reimburse the proceeds of
the sale of the estate and all other moneys received by him from your
father's executor. Lastly, you would apply to have the sale annulled,
not only on the ground of fraud on the part of Mr. Brander, but because
the liquidators could not give a title. Of course in all these steps you
would have to be guided by a firm of high standing, but as you
particularly wish to avoid publicity, I suppose your first step will be
to confront Brander with the proofs of his guilt. I suppose you would
wish me to go down with you. I shall be able to do so without
difficulty, for I took no holiday last year and can, therefore, get two
or three days whenever I choose to ask for them."

"Thank you, Mr. Harford. It will certainly be desirable that I should be
backed up by your presence. The first thing I shall do will be to go
down to Abchester to see Dr. Edwardes. I want to ascertain from him when
he first knew of my father having heart-disease. That he did know it
before his death I am aware, though, at my father's particular request,
he abstained from informing me of the fact. He may also know when
Brander first became acquainted with it. It will strengthen my case much
if I am in a position to show that it was after he had the knowledge
that my father's death might take place at any moment, that he committed
these frauds. As soon as I find this out, which will probably be in a
few hours after my arrival there, I will send you a telegram. I am
anxious to lose no time, because I do not want Brander to know of my
arrival in Abchester until I confront him. If I could find out what he
did with the £15,000 he proved to the liquidator that he had drawn out
on the day this mortgage was said to have been executed, I should have
the chain of evidence complete, but I don't see how that is to be got
at."

"It might be got at by advertisements, Mr. Hartington; £15,000 is a
large sum, and were you to advertise a reward of £100 for information as
to whom Mr. Brander paid the sum of £15,000 on the date named in the
mortgage, it is quite probable you might obtain the information."

"I might get it that way, but unless it is absolutely necessary I would
rather not do so. Were I to advertise before I see him, he might have
his attention drawn to it, and it would put him on his guard. I can but
resort to it afterwards if he refuses to come to terms."

Accordingly, the next day Cuthbert went down to Abchester, travelling by
a train that arrived there after dark, and taking a fly, drove to Dr.
Edwardes'.

The servant took in his name and the doctor at once hurried out into the
hall.

"Why, my dear Cuthbert, I am glad indeed to see you, though from your
letter I had hardly hoped to do so for some little time. Come in, come
in; my wife will be delighted to see you. Dinner is just on the table,
so you have arrived at precisely the right moment."

"Dear me, Mr. Hartington, you are looking terribly ill," Mrs. Edwardes
exclaimed, after the first greetings were over.

"I have been ill, but I am quite convalescent now. I did rather a
foolish thing, Doctor. I joined a corps of Franc-tireurs raised in the
schools and studios, and the Germans put a bullet through my body. It
was a very near squeak of it, but fortunately I was taken to the
American ambulance, which was far the best in Paris, and they pulled me
through. It is but ten days since I was discharged cured, but of course
it will be some little time before I quite get up my strength again."

"Where was it, Cuthbert? Then you were fortunate indeed," he went on, as
Cuthbert laid his finger on the spot; "the odds were twenty to one
against you. Did they get the bullet out?"

"It went out by itself, Doctor. We were at close quarters in the village
of Champigny when we made our sortie on the 1st of December, so the ball
went right through, and almost by a miracle, as the surgeon said,
without injuring anything vital. There is the dinner-bell, Doctor. I
will go into your surgery and wash my hands. I remember the ways of the
place, you see."

During dinner-time the talk was entirely of the siege. When the meal was
over, the doctor and Cuthbert went to the former's study, where the
doctor lighted a cigar and Cuthbert his pipe.

"How are they getting on at Fairclose?" Cuthbert asked, carelessly.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"I should say they heartily regret having changed their quarters. Of
course it was her doing that they did so. She is a curious mixture of
cleverness and silliness. Her weak point is her ambition to be in county
society, and to drop the town altogether. She has always been hankering
for that. No doubt it is partly for the sake of the girls--at least she
always lays it to that. But when I used to attend them as babies, she
was always complaining to me that the air of the town did not suit her.
However, so far from gaining by the exchange, she has lost.

"As the leading solicitor here, and I may say the leading man in the
place, Brander went a good deal into the county. Of course his wife did
belong to a county family, and no doubt that helped open the doors of
many good houses to him. Well, he is in the county now, but he is not of
the county. There was naturally a lot of bad feeling about the smash of
that bank. A good many men besides yourself were absolutely ruined, and
as everyone banked there, there was scarce a gentleman in the county or
a tradesman in the town, who was not hit more or less severely. The idea
was that Brander, whose name had been a tower of strength to the bank,
had been grossly negligent in allowing its affairs to get into such a
state. I think they were wrong, for I imagine from what I heard, that
Brander was correct in saying that he was not in any way in the counsels
of the directors, but confined himself to strictly legal business, such
as investigating titles and drawing up mortgages, and that he was only
present at the Board meetings when he was consulted on some legal
questions.

"Still there is no stemming the tide of popular opinion. Abchester
demanded a scapegoat. Cumming had disappeared, the five directors were
ruined, and so they fell upon Brander. He could have got over
that--indeed he has got over it as far as the town is concerned--but his
purchase of Fairclose set the county against him. They considered that
he got it for £20,000 below its value, which was true enough; the other
estates that went into the market were all sold at an equal
depreciation, but it was felt somehow that he at least ought not to have
profited by the disaster, and altogether there was so strong a feeling
against him that the county turned its back on Fairclose."

"By the way, Doctor, can you tell me when and how you first became aware
of the state of my father? The loss was so recent that I asked but few
questions about it when I was here, though you told me that you had
known it for some little time."

"I can give you the exact date," the doctor said, stretching out his
hand for a book on his desk. "Yes, here it is; it was the 23rd of March.
His man rode down with the news that he had found him insensible. Of
course I went up as hard as my horse could carry me. He had recovered
consciousness when I got there, and his first request was that I should
say nothing about his illness. When I examined him, I found that his
heart was badly diseased, so badly that I told him frankly he had not
many weeks to live, and that, as the slightest shock might prove fatal,
I absolutely forbade him to ride. He said he hated to be made a fuss of.
I urged him at least to let me write to you, but he positively refused,
saying that you would be greatly cut up about it, and that he would much
rather go on as he was. The only exception he made was Brander. He was
the only soul to whom I spoke of it. I called in and told him directly I
got back here and he went that afternoon to Fairclose."

The date was conclusive to Cuthbert. The transfer had been ante-dated
some three weeks; and the two clerks, therefore, attested it on the 24th
or 25th of March; so Brander had lost no time in conceiving his plan and
carrying it into execution.

"By the way, Doctor," he said, after a pause, "I shall be glad if you
will not mention to anyone that I am here. I don't want people to be
coming to see me, and I would especially rather not see Brander. I never
did like the man from the time I was a boy, and I don't think I could
stand either his business manner or his hearty one. I thought I would
come down and have the pleasure of a chat with you again for a day or
two, but I don't mean to stir out while I am here."

The next morning Cuthbert obtained a telegraph form from the doctor and
sent his man with it to the post-office. It was directed to Harford, and
contained only the words, "Come down this evening if possible. Put up at
the George. Come round in the morning to Dr. Edwardes.'"

Cuthbert was really glad of the day's rest, and felt all the better for
it. On the following morning Harford's name was brought in just as
breakfast was over.

"It is the man who was Brander's clerk, Doctor," he said. "I met him in
town and he has come down to see me on a little matter of business."

"Take him into the consulting-room, Cuthbert, I am not likely to have
any patients come for the next half-hour."

"That settles it, sir," the clerk said, when he heard from Cuthbert of
the date which he had obtained from the doctor, "though I cannot swear
to a day."

"I hear that Brander comes to his office about eleven o'clock. He is
sure to be there, for I hear that Jackson has gone away for a few days.
I will go at half-past. If you will call here for me at that time we
will walk there together. I will go in by myself. I will get you to call
two or three minutes after me, so that I can call you into his private
room if necessary."

"You have soon done with him," the doctor said, as Cuthbert returned to
the breakfast-room.

"I have given him some instructions and he will call again presently,"
Cuthbert replied. "By the way, we were talking of Brander; how have his
two girls turned out? I mean the two younger ones; I met Mary in Paris
during the siege."

"Ah. I heard from Brander that she was shut up there, and I was
wondering whether you had run against her. He is very savage at what he
calls her vagaries. Did she get through the starvation all right?"

"Oh, yes, she was living in a French family, and like most of the middle
class they had laid in a fair stock of provisions when it became evident
the place was to be besieged, and though the supply of meat was stinted
I don't think there was any lack of other things."

"I liked Mary," the doctor said, warmly; "she was a straightforward,
sensible girl, till she got that craze about woman's rights in her mind;
in all other respects she was a very nice girl, and differed from the
rest of them as much as chalk from cheese."

"And what are the sisters like?"

"They are like their mother, vain and affected, only without her
cleverness. They feel bitterly their position at Fairclose, and make
matters worse by their querulous complainings. I never go into the house
unless I am sent for professionally, for their peevishness and bad
temper are intolerable. If things had gone differently, and they had
made good marriages, they might have turned out pleasant girls enough.
As it is they are as utterly disagreeable as any young women I ever came
across."

"Then Brander must have a very bad time of it."

"Yes, but from what I have seen when I have been there I don't thing
they show off before him much. I fancy Brander's temper has not
improved of late. Of course, in public, he is the same as ever, but I
think he lets himself loose at home, and I should say that the girls are
thoroughly afraid of him. I have noticed anyhow that when he is at home
when I call, they are on their best behavior, and there is not a word of
any unpleasantness or discontent from their lips. However, I suppose the
feeling against Brander will die out in time. I think it was unjust,
though I don't say it was not quite natural, but when the soreness wears
off a bit, people will begin to think they have been rather hard on
Brander. There's the surgery bell, now I must leave you to your own
devices."

At half-past eleven James Harford called, and Cuthbert at once went out
with him, and they walked towards Mr. Brander's office, which was but a
couple of hundred yards away.

"How do you do, Mr. Levison?" Cuthbert asked as he entered. "Is Mr.
Brander alone?"

"Yes, he is alone, Mr. Hartington. I am glad to see you again, sir."

With a nod Cuthbert walked to the door of the inner office, opened it,
and went in. Mr. Brander started, half rose from his chair with the
exclamation--

"My dear----!" then he stopped.

There was something in the expression of Cuthbert's face that checked
the words on his lips.

"We need not begin with any greetings, Mr. Brander," Cuthbert said,
coldly. "I have come to tell you a story."

"This is a very extraordinary manner of address, Mr. Hartington," the
lawyer said, in a blustering tone, though Cuthbert noticed his color had
paled, and that there was a nervous twitching about the corners of his
lips. Brander had felt there was danger, and the blow had come so
suddenly that he had not had time to brace himself to meet it. Without
paying any attention to the words, Cuthbert seated himself and
repeated--

"I have come to tell you a story, Mr. Brander. There was once a man who
was solicitor, agent, and friend of a certain land-owner. One day he had
heard from his client's doctor that he had had an attack of
heart-disease and that his life was only worth a few weeks' purchase;
also that the landowner desired that an absolute silence should be
observed as to his illness. Then, like another unjust steward, the
lawyer sat down to think how he could best turn an honest penny by the
news. It was rather a tough job; it would involve forgery among other
things, and there was a good deal of risk, but by playing a bold game it
might be managed."

"What do you mean by this?" the lawyer exclaimed, furiously.

"Calm yourself, Mr. Brander. There is no occasion for you to fit the cap
on to your own head yet. If you think there is anything in my story of a
libellous nature you are at liberty to call your two clerks in to listen
to it. Well, sir, the scheme this lawyer I am telling you about worked
out did credit to his genius--it was complicated, bold, and novel. It
happened he was solicitor to a bank. He knew the bank was hopelessly
involved, that it could last but a few weeks longer, and that its
failure would involve the whole of the shareholders in absolute ruin.
If, therefore, he were to contrive to place his client's name on the
register of shareholders that point would be achieved. Accordingly,
having forms by him he filled one up, forging the name of his client. It
would not have done to have had the date of the transfer later than the
seizure of that gentleman, for manifestly no man, aware that he had but
a few days or weeks to live, would have entered on a fresh investment.
He, therefore, ante-dated the transfer by some three weeks.

"As to the witnesses to the forged signature there was no difficulty. He
waited for a few days till his client called upon him, and then, after
his departure, called in his two clerks, who witnessed the signature as
a matter of course,--an irregular proceeding, doubtless, but not
altogether uncommon. That matter concluded he went to the bank. It was
above all things important that none of the directors should be
cognizant of his client having been put on the register, as being
friends of that gentleman they might have mentioned the matter to him
when they met him. Having the manager a good deal under his thumb, from
his knowledge of the state of affairs, he requested him to pass the
transfer with others at the next board meeting, in such a way that it
should be signed as a matter of routine without the names being noticed,
suggesting that the manager should transfer some of the shares he held.
This little business was satisfactorily performed and the name passed
unnoticed on to the register. There was one thing further to be done in
this direction, namely, that the bank should not fail before the death
of his client, and he therefore requested the manager to let him know
should there be any pressure imminent on the bank's resources, offering
to get some of the mortgages it held transferred, and so to bolster up
the bank for a considerable time. As a matter of fact he did raise
£20,000 in this manner, and so kept the bank going until after his
client's death, when he withdrew the offer, there being no longer any
occasion to keep it on its legs. You follow this, I hope, Mr. Brander.
It is interesting for ingenuity and boldness."

The lawyer made no reply. As Cuthbert spoke the ruddy color on his
cheeks had been replaced by a ghastly pallor. An expression of
bewilderment had come across his face, the perspiration stood out in big
drops on his forehead.

"Thus far you see, Mr. Brander," Cuthbert went on, "the first part of
the scheme had been ably carried out, but it still remained to reap the
benefit of this ingenuity. In the first place it was certain that the
estate of his client would, on the failure of the bank, come into the
market. Under such circumstances, and seeing there would be widespread
ruin in the county, the estate would fetch far under its value. It would
be advisable to get it cheaper still, and this could be managed by the
production of a mortgage upon it, and by the invention of a plausible
tale to account for that mortgage having been kept a secret even from
the dead man's son. As to the deed itself, the matter was easy enough;
the document would only have to be drawn up by himself, or in some
office in London, the signature of his client affixed as before and the
two clerks be called in to witness it.

"It would be necessary to satisfy the official liquidator, however, who
might make some inquiries concerning it. It happened that some time
before the lawyer had had occasion to pay over the sum of £15,000, as he
would be able to prove by his bank-book. Therefore, £15,000 was the sum
fixed upon for the mortgage, and the date of that document was made to
coincide with that of the payment of that amount. It was easy enough to
place among the dead man's papers receipts for the half-yearly payment
of this interest. It was not necessary to show that his client had paid
these sums by check, as they would, of course, have been deducted from
the amount to be handed over by him as agent to his client.

"The scheme worked admirably. After the death of his client, the bank
was allowed to break, the estate fell into the hands of the official
receiver of the bank, the mortgage was presented, and the proofs
considered satisfactory. The lawyer bought the estate for some £20,000
below its value, and this with the mortgage brought the purchase money
down from £70,000 to half that sum. The story is interesting, and if
anyone should doubt it I am in a position to prove it up to the hilt. I
have the sworn statement of the bank manager as to the particulars of
the interview with him, the injunction that the transfer should be
passed unnoticed, the offer to support the bank, and the partial
fulfilment of that offer. I have the opinion of an expert that the
signature is not only a forgery but an exceedingly clumsy one. I have
the statement of one of the clerks that the signature of both the
transfer and the mortgage was witnessed by him and his fellow-clerk in
obedience to the orders of the solicitor, but they did not see the
signature affixed.

"Lastly, I have a singular piece of evidence that the mortgage was
signed not on the date it purported but shortly after the seizure of the
client. The clerk might have had some difficulty in swearing that this
mortgage was the document that he signed, as the signatures were written
on the last sheet of the parchment, and he saw nothing of the contents.
But it happened that there were only four lines of writing on that page,
and there are four on the mortgage in the hands of the official
liquidator, but this is not the crucial point. The clerk, in making his
signature, dropped a blot of ink on the parchment. Now it was clear that
this blot of ink might prove the means o identifying this document and
of proving the time at which it was signed; therefore it was necesssary
that it should be erased. This the lawyer proceeded to do and so
cleverly that an unpracticed eye would not detect it. The expert,
however, though not knowing where the blot had fallen, detected the
erasure at once, and noticed that in erasing it two of the letters of
the name had been involved, and these had been retouched so as to make
them the same darkness as the rest. The chain of evidence is therefore
complete."

The last blow had proved too crushing. There was a sudden rush of blood
to his face, and, with a gasping sob, Mr. Brander fell back in his chair
insensible. Cuthbert ran to the door and opened it.

"Mr. Levison, your employer is taken ill. Send the other clerk to fetch
Dr. Edwardes at once, he will not have started on his rounds yet. Bring
some water in here."

With the assistance of the clerk, Cuthbert loosened the lawyer's necktie
and collar, swept the papers off the table, and laid him upon it,
folding up his great coat and placing it under his head.



CHAPTER XX.


"Apoplexy!" Dr. Edwardes exclaimed, as soon as he entered. "Cut his
sleeve open, Cuthbert. Fetch a basin, sir, and some water," he added to
the clerk.

He took a lancet from his pocket and opened a vein in the arm. At first
only a few drops of dark-colored blood issued out.

"Dip a cloth in cold water and wrap it round his head; and do you, lad,
run down to Miggleton, the confectioner, and get some ice, quick; it is
a matter of life or death!"

At last the blood began to flow more freely.

"I think he will do now," the doctor said, "it is his first seizure. I
have told him a good many times that he was too fond of good living and
did not take exercise enough. What brought this about, Cuthbert?"

"We had an unpleasant interview, Doctor. I had some ugly truths to tell
him and did not spare him."

"Then I think you had better go before he comes to his senses again.
Tell my man to bring down a mattress, pillows, and blankets. He won't be
fit to be moved to-day, and we must make him up a bed here. Directly I
see that he is out of immediate danger, I will send over to Fairclose to
break the news to his wife. Yes, I will come round and let you know how
he is going on as soon as I can leave him."

Cuthbert nodded and put on his hat and went out. James Harford was
standing a few paces from the door.

"He has had a fit," Cuthbert said, as he joined him.

"I thought that was it when I saw the clerk run down the street without
a hat and come back with the doctor two or three minutes later. Will he
get over it?"

"The doctor thinks so, and I am sure I most sincerely hope he will do
so--it would be a bad business in all ways if he did not. Now, Mr.
Harford, I don't think there is any occasion to detain you here longer;
it may be days before I can see him again, and I don't think it will be
needful for you to confirm my statements. I fancy the fight is all out
of him--it came upon him too suddenly--if he had known that I was here
he might have braced himself up, but coming down like an avalanche upon
him it stunned him. Now, Mr. Harford, you must permit me to draw a check
for ten pounds for your expenses down here; when I come to my own again
I shall be able properly to show my gratitude for the inestimable
services you have rendered me."

"I will take the money for my expenses, Mr. Hartington, but I can assure
you that I have no thought or wish for payment of any kind for my share
in this business, and am only too glad to have been able to give some
little aid towards righting the grievous harm you have suffered, to say
nothing of paying off my old score against Brander."

Half an hour later Dr. Edwardes returned home.

"He is conscious now," he said to Cuthbert. "That is to say, vaguely
conscious. I have not let him speak a word, but simply told him he had
had a fit and must remain absolutely quiet. I don't suppose he has as
yet any recollection whatever of what preceded it. I am going to write a
note and send it up to Fairclose. I must keep a close watch over him for
a bit, for I have taken a good deal of blood from him."

"I would rather you did not mention to anyone, Doctor, that I was
present at the time he had the fit, as things may happen ere long that
will set people talking, and if it was known that it was during an
interview with me that he had this apoplectic stroke it might give rise
to unpleasant surmises--unpleasant not only to him but to me, for--this
is also a secret at present--I am going to marry his eldest daughter!"

"You don't say so, Cuthbert. Well, I congratulate you, for she is a
charming girl. I need not say that you can rely upon my keeping it quiet
until you choose to have it published."

"Well, Doctor, as it may be some days before I can see Brander again, I
will go back to town this evening. I did not see anyone I knew as I went
to his office, and I would rather that it should not be known that I am
down here. As you are going back there now you might ask Levison to come
round here to see me. I will then tell him that neither Brander nor
myself would wish it mentioned that I was with him at the time he had
that seizure."

"Then I suppose the fact is, Cuthbert, that while I have been flattering
myself your visit was to me, you really came down to see Brander?"

"I am rather afraid, Doctor, that had some influence in bringing me
down, but you must forgive me this time."

"All right, lad, I am glad to have had a glimpse of you again, whatever
your motive was in coming down."

It was ten days before Cuthbert received a letter from the doctor saying
that Mr. Brander was now strong enough to see him.

"He has asked to see you several times," he said, "but I have told him
that I could not permit him to talk. However, he is a good deal
stronger now and is downstairs, again, and as I am sure some worry or
other is preying on his mind and keeping him back, I told him this
morning that I would send for you."

Cuthbert went down by the next train and was driven over in the doctor's
gig to Fairclose. It was strange to him to enter the familiar house as a
visitor, and he looked round the library into which he was shown upon
giving his name, with a sort of doubt whether the last two years had not
been a dream.

He had not much time for thought for the door opened and Mr. Brander
entered. Cuthbert was shocked at his appearance. He looked a mere wreck
of himself. He walked feebly and uncertainly. His face was pale and the
flesh on the cheeks and chin was loose and flabby. He made his way to an
armchair and sank wearily into it.

"What are you going to do with me, Cuthbert Hartington?" he asked in a
weak voice. "Does all the world know that I am a forger and a swindler?"

"No one knows it, Mr. Brander, nor need anyone know it. If you make
restitution as far as is in your power, the matter may rest entirely
between us. With the evidence in my possession I am in a position to
obtain a judge's order striking out my father's name from the list of
shareholders of the bank and annulling the sale of Fairclose, of
regaining my own, and of securing your punishment for the offences you
have committed. The latter part, as I have said, I have no desire to
press. I consider that you have been punished sufficiently already, but
I must insist upon the restoration of the estates of which I have been
wrongfully deprived."

"And you will say nothing of what I have done?"

"Nothing whatever; it will be for you to offer any reason you choose for
resigning Fairclose to me, but there is one other point that I must
insist on, namely, that you leave Abchester. Your illness will be a
valid excuse for retiring altogether from an active share in the
business and of relinquishing the part you have taken in the affairs of
the town. As the senior partner you will doubtless receive a sufficient
income from your business to enable you to live in comfort elsewhere,
and it will be for your own benefit as much as mine for you to leave
the place, for it will be painful for both of us to meet."

"I cannot give up Fairclose altogether unburdened," the lawyer said.
"£15,000 of the purchase money I found myself. The other £20,000 I
raised on mortgages of the estate, and although that mortgage would be
invalidated by the proof that I had no power to give it, the mortgagee
would, of course, fight the question, and the whole matter would be made
public."

Cuthbert was silent for a minute, not from any great doubt or
hesitation, but he did not wish the man to see that he was eager to make
terms, for he would at once think that he was not in the position to
prove the statement he had made.

"It is a large sum," he said, "a very large sum to lose, and then there
are two years' rents that you have received."

"These I could repay, Mr. Harrington," the lawyer said, eagerly. "I have
six thousand pounds invested in securities I could realize at once."

Cuthbert was silent again.

"Mr. Brander," he said at last, "I feel, and I think naturally, very
sore at the cruel wrong that has been inflicted upon me, but I cannot
forget that in my boyhood I was always received with kindness by your
wife, and for her sake, and that of your daughters, I am most anxious
your reputation should remain untarnished. I am willing to believe that
this crime was the result of a sudden impulse, and that in other
respects you have been an honest man. I cannot forget, too, that my
father had a great esteem for you. As to the two years' rents you have
received, I will not claim them. I have done well enough without them,
and in fact the necessity for working for my living has been of great
advantage to me, and that alone makes me less inclined than I otherwise
might be to press hardly upon you. I will, therefore, make this offer.
You shall sign a paper that I have drawn up confessing the share you
have taken in this business. That paper I pledge myself solemnly to keep
a profound secret, unless by any subsequent actions you force me to use
it in self-protection, and that you will sign a deed of gift to me of
Fairclose and its estates, subject to the mortgage of £20,000. You can
hand me over the deeds of the estate and I will have the deed of gift
drawn up. You will also give me your promise to leave this town and
settle elsewhere. On these conditions, I pledge you my word that the
transactions by which you obtained possession of the estates shall not
be divulged, and that the high reputation you bear shall be altogether
unsullied."

"God bless you, Mr. Hartington," the lawyer said, in a broken voice,
"for your generosity in sparing my wife and children from the shame and
disgrace that would have fallen upon them had you insisted on your
rights. It is more than I deserve. I have never had a day's happiness
since I came here; it seemed to me that all danger of detection had
passed, and yet it was ever before me. I was ever dreading that in some
way I had not provided against, it would come out."

"May I ask what income you will draw from your business?"

"The business is worth between four and five thousand a year, and by my
deed of partnership I was to receive two-thirds of that as long as I
myself chose to take a share in the management, and one-third when I
like to retire altogether. A thousand a year is to be paid to my widow
after my death, and two hundred apiece to my daughters at her death."

"So you will have some fifteen hundred a year, Mr. Brander, and with
that and the six thousand you have invested you will not do badly. I
shall return to town this evening again and will bring down the deed as
soon as it is prepared."

"The papers connected with the estate are in a tin box at my office, Mr.
Hartington," Mr. Brander said, in a voice more like his own than he had
hitherto used. "I will write an order to Levison to hand it over to you.
I feel a different man already," he went on, as he got up and took a
seat at the table; "before, it seemed to me, there was nothing but
disgrace and ruin staring me in the face. Now, I may hope that, thanks
to your forbearance, I may enjoy in peace what remains to me of life.
You may not believe me, Mr. Hartington, there is no reason why you
should--but I swear to you I have been a miserable man ever since your
father's death. It was not that I was afraid of detection--it seemed to
me in that respect I had nothing to fear--and yet I was miserable.
Before, I was proud of the respect in which I was held in the town, and
felt to some extent I deserved it, for I had given up well nigh every
moment of my spare time to its service. Since then I have known that the
poorest man in the town would draw aside from me did he but know what I
was. To my family it has been a terrible disappointment that the county
has turned its back on us. To me it has been a relief. I have felt a
sort of satisfaction at finding that, in this respect at least, I had
sinned in vain. Were it not for my wife and girls I would even now
prefer that all should be known and that I should take the punishment
that I deserve. I could bear prison-life better than to go about and mix
with other men, knowing what I know of myself and feeling always what
they would think of me did they know it also----" and he broke down and
buried his face in his hands.

Cuthbert put his hand on his shoulder.

"You have done wrong, Mr. Brander, but as you have repented of it, you
may fairly hope it will be forgiven you as freely and as fully as I
forgive you. You may take it from me that I feel I have been greatly
benefited by what has taken place, and that I have reason to bless the
necessity that fell upon me for working for my living. I was spending a
very useless and indolent life, and had nothing occurred to rouse me,
should probably have led it to the end. Now I have worked hard for two
years, and my masters tell me that I have every prospect of rising to
eminence as an artist. There will be no occasion for me to rely upon
that as a profession now, but the good the necessity for work has done
me will remain, and at any rate I shall continue to work at it until
this mortgage is paid off. It has in another way brought happiness into
my life. Therefore, on my account at least, you need not regret what has
happened. I should say nothing at present as to your intention of
leaving here. Possibly we may hit upon some reason for your doing so
that will be accepted as a natural one. I can assure you I am as anxious
as you are yourself, indeed more so, that no shadow of suspicion of
anything wrong should rest upon you. So do not worry yourself about it.
You can safely leave it in my hands. Now I will say good-bye. I hope
that when I return I shall find you stronger and better. I do not know
that there is any occasion for you to sign this paper I have brought."

"I would rather do so," the lawyer said, firmly. "It will be a relief to
me to know that I have at least made a full confession."

He took the document Cuthbert had drawn up, read it through carefully,
then took a pen and added at the bottom--

"The fifteen thousand pounds mentioned above as having been drawn by me
from my bank for the purpose of the mortgage, was really used for the
payment of calls on shares held by me in the Oakhurst Mining Company.
This can be established by a reference to the accounts of that company
in the hands of the liquidator."

He then signed his name and handed the paper to Cuthbert.

In spite of the efforts the latter made to hurry on Messrs. Barrington
and Smiles, it was nearly three weeks before the deed of gift was
prepared. It had, in the first place, been sketched out by Cuthbert,
with the assistance of James Harford, and recited "That Mr. Brander, of
Fairclose, handed back that estate, together with the house and all
appurtenances appertaining thereto, to Cuthbert Hartington as a dowry
with his daughter Mary upon her marriage with the said Cuthbert
Hartington, being moved thereto partly by his love and affection for his
daughter, partly by the desire to restore to the said Cuthbert
Hartington the family estates of which he had been deprived, partly from
the want of care of the said Jeremiah Brander in failing to represent to
the late J. W. Hartington, father of the said Cuthbert Hartington, the
grievous nature of the liability he would incur by taking shares in the
Abchester and County Bank."

Cuthbert was the more anxious to get the affair arranged, as the
insurrection in Paris had broken out, and he was eager to return there.
At last the deed was drawn up and he returned to Abchester, and taking a
fly at the station drove straight to Fairclose.

He had written several times to Mary lamenting that business had
detained him longer than he expected, and suggesting that it would be
better for her to leave Paris at once, but she had replied that she
would rather remain there, at any rate, until his return. As he did not
wish her to come to Abchester at present, he abstained from pressing the
point, believing that McMahon would speedily collect a sufficient force
at Versailles to suppress the insurrection.

He found Mr. Brander looking much more himself. It was a very subdued
likeness, but he had evidently gained strength greatly.

"I have been longing for your return," he said, as soon as Cuthbert
entered the library. "I am eager to get out of this and to go away. Have
you brought down the deed?"

"Here it is; it is all stamped and in due form, and needs only your
signature and that of two witnesses."

Mr. Brander rang the bell.

"John, call Gardener in. I want you both to witness my signature." The
coachman came in.

"Glad to see you again, Mr. Cuthbert," he said, touching an imaginary
hat.

"I am glad to see you, Gardener. I knew you were still here."

All was ready for the signature. While waiting for the men's entry
Cuthbert had said--

"I would rather you did not read this deed until you have signed it, Mr.
Brander. I know it is a most unbusiness-like thing for you to do, but I
think you may feel sure you can trust me."

"I have no intention of reading it," the lawyer said. "Whatever the
conditions of that paper I am ready to comply with them."

After the signatures had been affixed, and the witnesses had retired,
Cuthbert said--

"Now, Mr. Brander, you are at liberty to read the deed. I think you will
find its provisions satisfactory."

Mr. Brander, with a slight shrug of his shoulders that signified that
he was indifferent as to the details of the arrangement, took the paper
and began to run his eyes carelessly through it. Suddenly his expression
changed. He gave a start of surprise, read a few lines farther, and then
exclaimed--

"Can this be true, are you really going to marry Mary?"

"It is quite true," Cuthbert said, quietly. "I first asked her a few
weeks before my father's death when I met her down at Newquay. She
refused me at that time, but we have both changed since then. I saw a
great deal of her in Paris and she worked as a nurse in the American
ambulance during the siege. I was one of her patients, having been shot
through the body and brought in there insensible. Having assisted in
saving my life she finally came to the conclusion that she could not do
better than make that life a happy one. She had refused me because she
considered, and rightly, that I was a useless member of society, and the
fact that I was heir to Fairclose had no influence whatever with her,
but finding that I had amended my ways and was leading an earnest and
hard-working life, she accepted me, small though my income was."

"God bless her!" Mr. Brander said, fervently. "We never got on well
together, Mr. Hartington. I had always an uneasy consciousness that she
disapproved of me, and that she regarded me as a humbug, and as I was
conscious of the fact myself this was not pleasant. So I was rather glad
than otherwise that she should choose her own path. But I am indeed
delighted at this. She is honesty and truth itself, and I pray she may
make up to you for wrongs you have suffered at my hands."

"She will do much more than that, Mr. Brander, and you see I have good
reason for what I said when I was here before, that the change in my
fortune had been a benefit, since it had forced me to take up a
profession and work at it. Had it not been for that I should never have
won Mary. My being once again master of Fairclose would not have weighed
with her in the slightest. She would not have married a mere idler, had
he been a duke. Now you had better finish reading the deed."

The lawyer read it through to the end.

"You have indeed made it easy for me," he said, when he had laid it
down.

"You see, I have an object in doing so, Mr. Brander. I told you that my
interest in your reputation was as great as your own. I hope that in any
case I should not have made a harsh use of the power I possessed. I am
sure that I should not, especially as I felt how much I had benefited by
the two years of work, but perhaps I might not have felt quite so
anxious that no breath of suspicion should fall upon you had it not been
for Mary."

"Does she know?" Mr. Brander asked.

"She does not know and will never hear it from me. She may have vague
suspicions when she hears that you have made over Fairclose to me, but
these will never be more than suspicions. Nor need your other daughters
know. They may wonder, perhaps, that Mary should have so large a share
of your property, but it will be easy for you to make some sort of
explanation, as is given in this deed, of your reason for restoring
Fairclose to me with her."

"They will be too glad to get away from here, to care much how it was
brought about, and if afterwards they come to ask any questions about
it, I can tell them so much of the truth that it had been found the sale
of the property to me had been altogether illegal and irregular, and
that in point of fact you had a right not only to the estate but to the
£20,000 for which I mortgaged it to raise the purchase money, and to the
two-years' rents.

"That is what I shall tell my wife. I think she has always had a vague
suspicion that there was something shady about the transaction, and I
shall tell her that, so far from regarding the loss of Fairclose as a
hardship, I consider you have behaved with extreme generosity and
kindness in the matter. Women do not understand business. I am sure it
won't be necessary to go into details. She, too, will be heartily glad
to leave Fairclose."

"Shall we go in and see them, Mr. Brander? You can tell them as much or
as little of the news as you think fit, and after that you can give me
some lunch. I want it badly."

"Thank you," Mr. Brander said, gratefully. "I did not like to ask you,
but it will make matters easier."

He led the way into the drawing-room. Mrs. Brander was sitting at the
window with an anxious look on her face. She knew of Cuthbert's former
visit, and that he was again closeted with her husband, and had a strong
feeling that something was wrong. The girls were sitting listlessly in
easy-chairs, not even pretending to read the books that lay in their
laps. They rose with a look of bright surprise on their faces as
Cuthbert entered with their father.

"Why, Mr. Hartington, it is ages since we saw you."

"It is indeed--it is over two years."

"I have two surprising pieces of news to give you, Eliza. In the first
place it has been discovered that there was a very serious flaw in the
title to Fairclose, and that the sale to me was altogether illegal. Mr.
Hartington has behaved most kindly and generously in the matter, but the
result is he comes back to Fairclose and we move out."

The three ladies uttered an exclamation of pleasure. Fairclose had
become hateful to them all, and at this moment it mattered little to
them how it had come about that they were going to leave it.

"You don't mean to go back to the High Street, father?" Julia, the elder
of the girls, asked anxiously.

"No, my dear; it will be a question to be settled between us where we
will go, but I have decided to leave Abchester altogether. I feel that I
require rest and quiet and shall give up business and go right out of
it."

The girls both clapped their hands.

"And now for my second piece of news which will surprise you as much as
the first. Your sister Mary is going to marry Mr. Hartington. The matter
was settled in Paris, where they have both been shut up during the
siege."

"That is, indeed, good news," Mrs. Brander said cordially, foreseeing at
once the advantage of such a marriage.

The girls took their cue from her, and professed great pleasure at the
news which, however, was not altogether welcome to them.

Mary, whom they had never liked, was to be mistress of Fairclose, and
was to gain all the advantages that they had expected but had never
obtained. The thought was not pleasant, but it was speedily forgotten in
the excitement of the other news. Her mother, however, seeing the
pleasure that her husband unmistakably felt at the thought of the
marriage, was genuinely pleased. Not only might the connection be useful
to the girls, but it might be invaluable in covering their retirement
from Fairclose. There might be something more about that than her
husband had said. At any rate this would silence all tongues and put an
end to the vague anxiety that she had long felt. She had always liked
Cuthbert, and had long ago cherished a faint hope that he might some day
take to Mary.

"This all comes very suddenly upon us, Mr. Hartington. I suppose I ought
to call you Cuthbert again, now."

"It would certainly sound more like old times, Mrs. Brander."

"Only think, my dear," the lawyer put in, "he proposed to Mary more than
two years ago and she refused him. I suppose she never told you?"

"She never said a word on the subject," Mrs. Brander said, almost
indignantly. "Why, it must have been before----" and she stopped.

"Before my short reign here as master, Mrs. Brander. Yes, I was down at
Newquay sketching, when she was staying with her friend, Miss Treadwyn,
and Mary was at the time too much occupied with the idea of raising
womankind in the scale of humanity to think of taking up with a useless
member of society like myself."

Mrs. Brander shook her head very gravely.

"It was a sad trouble to her father and myself," she said; "I hope she
has got over those ideas."

"I think she has discovered that the world is too large for her to
move," Cuthbert replied, with a smile. "At any rate she has undertaken
the task of looking after me instead of reforming the world; it may be
as difficult, perhaps, but it sounds less arduous."

At lunch the girls were engaged in an animated discussion as to where
they would like to move to, but Mrs. Brander put an end to it by
saying--

"We shall have plenty of time to talk that over, girls--it must depend
upon many things. Your father's health will, of course, be the first
consideration. At any rate, I shall set my face against London. So you
can put that altogether out of your minds. An income that would be
sufficient to establish one in a good position near a country or seaside
town would be nothing in London. And now, Cuthbert, we want to hear a
great deal more about our dear Mary. She writes so seldom, and of course
she has been cut off for so long a time from us that we scarcely know
what she is doing. In Germany she did not seem to be doing anything
particular, but as she said in her letters, was studying the people and
their language."

"That is what she was doing in Paris--at least that is what she came to
do, but the siege put a stop to her studies, and she devoted herself to
the much more practical work of nursing the wounded."

"Dear me, what an extraordinary girl she is," Mrs. Brander said, much
shocked. "Surely there were plenty of women in Paris to nurse the
wounded without her mixing herself up in such unpleasant work, of which
she could know absolutely nothing."

"She was a very good nurse, nevertheless," Cuthbert said, quietly. "She
worked in the American ambulance, under an American doctor, the other
nurses and assistants being all American or English."

"How do you know she was a good nurse, Mr. Hartington?" Clara asked.

"Simply because I was one of her patients, Miss Brander. I joined one of
the corps of Franc-tireurs, in which most of my student-friends enrolled
themselves, and had the bad luck to get shot through the body in the
sortie at Champigny, and as your sister was one of the nurses in the
tent where I lay, I think that I am a pretty fair judge as to her powers
of nursing. She was often there during the heaviest time for twenty-four
hours at a stretch, and completely knocked herself up by he continued
labors. At any rate I consider I owe my life in no small degree to her
care."

"I don't think we ever understood Mary," Mr. Brander said, in a more
peremptory tone than the girls had heard him use since his seizure.
"There is no doubt that it was as much our fault as it was hers. I feel
proud to hear that she has done such noble work. Mr. Hartington tells
me," he said, abruptly changing the conversation, "that he has been
working hard with the intention of making art his profession as it has
long been his amusement. He seems to think that although he will, of
course, be no longer obliged to look upon it as a necessary career, he
intends at any rate to pursue it for a time."

"That will be very interesting," Mrs. Brander said, "and it is quite the
fashion in our days."

"It is very nice when you haven't to live by it," Cuthbert said. "When
you are obliged to do that, and instead of painting what you like, have
to paint things that will sell, it is up-hill work, and none but men of
real talent can push their way up out of the crowd. I shall be more
happily situated, and shall therefore be able to devote an amount of
care and time to a picture that would be impossible to a man who had his
daily bread and cheese to earn by his brush. And now, Mr. Brander, we
will have a few more words together and then I must be off. I shall most
likely return to town this evening."

"It must be for you to decide, Mr. Brander," he went on, when they were
alone in the study, "how this news shall be broken to the public. I am
quite ready to be guided entirely by your wishes in the matter."

"The sooner the better. I would suggest that you should see Dr. Edwardes
before you go up to town. If you will tell him what I told them in the
next room, that it has been discovered that there is a flaw in the sale
of Fairclose, and that as you are engaged to marry Mary, we have arrived
at an amicable agreement under which you will return at once to
Fairclose, while I intend to seek an entirely new scene and to retire
altogether from business, there will be very little more needful. The
news will spread like wildfire over the town and county. After that I
shall have very few questions asked me. None that I shall not be able to
answer without difficulty. The state of my health will form an excuse
for my cutting my farewells short. There will, no doubt, be some gossip
and wonder as to how it has come about, but the county will be so
pleased at your coming back again to your father's place, that they will
not be very curious as to how it occurred. I shall go off as quickly and
as quietly as I can, after calling to say good-bye to those with whom I
have been so long associated in the municipal business.

"It matters not where we go. I can take a furnished house at some
seaside watering-place. The doctor will advise which is most likely to
suit me, and we can then look round and settle on our future plans at
our leisure. If I gain strength I think it likely enough we may travel
on the Continent for a time. The girls have never been abroad and the
prospect would go a long way towards reconciling them entirely to the
change."

"I think that a very good plan," Cuthbert said. "I was intending to call
upon the doctor on my way down and he will at once set the ball
rolling."

Mr. Brander went to the door where the fly had been waiting for two
hours.

"God bless you!" he said. "I cannot tell you how deeply grateful I am to
you for your forbearance and generosity."

"Don't worry any more about it, Mr. Brander," Cuthbert said, as he shook
his hand, "it has been a temporary change, and good rather than bad has
come of it. Believe me, I shall put the matter out of my mind
altogether."

"Back again, Cuthbert," the doctor said, when he was shown into the
consulting-room. "I was down just now at the station to see a man off,
and the station-master said you had arrived by the 11.30 train, and that
he had seen you drive off in a fly. I could hardly believe it, but as
you are here in person I suppose that there can be no mistake about it.
Of course you have been up to Brander's again?"

"I have, Doctor, and for the last time. That is, the next time I shall
go up it will be to take possession of Fairclose."

"My dear lad, I am delighted," the doctor said, shaking him heartily by
the hand, "how has this miracle come about?"

"I cannot give you all the details, Doctor. I will simply give you the
facts, which, by the way, I shall be glad if you will retail to your
patients for public consumption," and he then repeated the statement
that he had arranged with Mr. Brander that he should make.

"And that is the tale you wish me to disseminate?" the doctor said, with
a twinkle of his eye, when Cuthbert concluded.

"That is the statement, Doctor, and it has the merit of being, as far as
it goes, true. What the nature of the illegality of this sale was, I am
not at liberty to disclose, not even to you, but I have discovered that
beyond all question it was irregular and invalid, and Brander and I have
come to a perfectly amicable understanding. I may tell you that to
prevent the trouble inseparable even from a friendly lawsuit he assigns
the property to me as Mary's dowry, and as a sort of recognition of the
fact that he acted without sufficient care in advising my father to take
those shares in the bank. Thus all necessity for the reopening of bygone
events will be obviated."

"A very sensible way, lad. You will understand, of course, that I know
enough of Jeremiah to be quite sure that he would not relinquish a fine
property if he had a leg to stand upon. However, that is no business of
mine, and I have no doubt that the fact that he is going to be your
father-in-law, has had no small influence in bringing about this very
admirable arrangement. Of course the matter will make a good deal of
talk, but these things soon die out, and the county will welcome you
back too heartily to care how your return has been brought about. You
can rely upon my action in the part of town-crier, and I am sure to some
of my patients the flutter of excitement the news will occasion will do
a great deal more good than any medicine I could give them. Of course
you are going to stay here?"

"Only to dinner, Doctor. I shall run up to town again this evening."



CHAPTER XXI.


It was on the last day of March that Cuthbert Hartington reached Paris.
During the six weeks that had elapsed since he had left it many events
had taken place. He himself had gone away a comparatively poor man, and
returned in the possession of the estates inherited from his father,
unimpaired save by the mortgage given upon them by Mr. Brander. He had
succeeded beyond his hopes; and having obtained unlooked-for proofs of
the fraud that had been practised, had been able to obtain
restitution--which was to him the most important point--and all had been
done without the slightest publicity. In Paris, the danger he had
foreseen had culminated in the Commune. The battalions of National
Guards from Montmartre and Belleville had risen against the Provisional
Government; the troops had fraternized with them and their generals had
been murdered in cold blood.

The National Guards of the business quarters had for a time held aloof,
but, in the absence of support from without and being enormously
outnumbered, they were powerless, and the extreme party were now in
absolute possession of the city. M. Thiers and the Assembly at
Versailles had so far been unable to take any steps to reduce the
revolted capital. Such troops as had been hastily collected could not be
relied upon to act and it seemed probable that the National Guards and
Paris would, in a short time, take the offensive and obtain possession
of Versailles, in which case the flame of insurrection would spread at
once to all the great towns of France, and the horrors of the Terror
might be repeated.

The line of railway to Paris was still open, for upon the Communists
preparing to cut off all communications, the Germans, still in great
force near the town, pending the carrying out of the terms of the treaty
of peace, threatened to enter Paris were such a step taken. A vast
emigration had taken place among the middle classes, and over fifty
thousand persons had left Paris. So far the Communists had abstained
from excesses, and from outrage upon peaceable citizens; had it been
otherwise, Cuthbert would have returned to fetch Mary away at once. Her
letters to him, however, had assured him that there was no cause
whatever for uneasiness about her, and that everything was going on
precisely as it had done, during the siege by the Germans. He had been
anxious that she should, if possible, remain for the present in Paris,
for he did not wish her to return to her family, and had made up his
mind that if it became absolutely necessary for her to leave Paris she
should arrange to go straight down to Newquay and stay there with her
friends.

As he alighted from the carriage at the Northern Railway Station he
found the place occupied by National Guards. There was no semblance of
discipline among them; they smoked, lounged about, scowled at the few
passengers who arrived, or slept upon the benches, wrapt in their
blankets. There were none of the usual hotel omnibuses outside and but
one or two fiacres; hailing one of these he was driven to his lodgings.
He was greeted by the concierge with surprise and pleasure.

"So monsieur has come back. We did not expect you, though Monsieur
Caillard, who comes here every day, told us that you would be sure to be
back again in spite of the Reds. Ah, monsieur, what horror to think that
after all Paris has gone through, these monsters should have become
masters of the city! It would have been a thousand times better to have
had the Prussians here, they would have kept order, and those wild
beasts of Montmartre would not have dared even to have murmured. You
have heard how they shot down peaceful citizens in the Rue de la Paix?
Have you come to stay, monsieur?"

"For a time, anyhow;" and taking the key of his rooms Cuthbert carried
up his pormanteau, and then at once came down and drove to Madame
Michaud's.

Mary was half expecting him, for in his last letter to her he had told
her he hoped to arrive in Paris that evening.

"I have been horribly anxious about you, Mary," he said, after the first
greeting.

"There was no occasion for your being so," she replied, "everything is
pefectly quiet here, though from what they say there may be fighting any
day, but if there is it will be outside the walls and will not affect us
here."

"I don't think there will be much fighting," he said; "if the troops
fraternize with the Communists there's an end of the business, all
France will join them, and we shall have the Reign of Terror over again,
though they will not venture upon any excesses here in Paris, for,
fortunately, the Germans are still within gunshot, and they would have
the hearty approval of all Europe in marching in here, and stamping the
whole thing out. If the troops, on the other hand, prove faithful, I
feel sure, from what I saw of the Belleville battalions, that there will
be very little fighting outside the walls. They may defend Paris for a
time, and perhaps bravely, for they will know they are fighting with
ropes round their necks, and the veriest cur will fight when cornered.
Your people here are not thinking of leaving, I hope?"

"No, and they could not now if they wanted; the Commune has put a stop
to emigration, and though the trains still run once or twice a day, they
go out as empty as they come in. Have you got through your business?"
she asked, with a shade of anxiety.

"Yes, dear, and most satisfactorily; everything has been arranged in the
happiest way. I unexpectedly obtained proofs that the sale of Fairclose
was altogether irregular, and indeed, invalid. I have seen your father,
who at once, upon my laying the proofs before him, recognized the
position. Our arrangement has been a perfectly amicable one. He is going
to retire altogether from business, and will probably take up his
residence at some seaside place where there is a bracing climate. The
doctor recommends Scarborough, for I may tell you that he has had a
slight stroke of apoplexy, and is eager himself for rest and quiet.
Fairclose and the estate comes back to me, nominally as your dowry, and
with the exception that there is a mortgage on it for £20,000, I shall
be exactly in the same position that I was on the day my father died. I
may say that your mother and the girls are delighted with the
arrangement, for, somehow, they have not been received as cordially as
they had expected in the county--owing of course to a foolish prejudice
arising from your father's connection with the bank, whose failure hit
everyone heavily--and they are, in consequence, very pleased indeed at
the prospect of moving away altogether."

Mary's forehead was puckered up in little wrinkles of perplexity as she
listened. "I am glad of course, very glad, that you have got Fairclose
back," she said, "though it all seems very strange to me--is that all
that I am to know, Cuthbert?"

"That is all it is necessary that you should know, Mary, and no one else
will know any more. Your father's illness and the doctor's injunctions
that he should retire from business altogether and settle in some place
with a mild climate, is an ample reason for his leaving Fairclose, and
your engagement to me, and my past connection with the place are equally
valid reasons why I should be his successor there. I do not say, Mary,
that there may not have been other causes which have operated to bring
about this result, but into these there is no need, whatever, for us to
enter. Be contented, dear, to know that all has turned out in the best
possible way, that I have recovered Fairclose, that your family are all
very pleased at the prospect of leaving it, and in that fact the matter
ends happily for everyone."

"I lunched at the old place only yesterday," he went on lightly, "and
the girls were in full discussion as to where they should go. Your
father is picking up his strength fast, and with rest and quiet, will, I
hope, soon be himself again. I expect, between ourselves, that he will
be all the better for getting away from that work in the town, with its
lunches and dinners. The Doctor told me that he had warned him that he
was too fond of good living, specially as he took no exercise. Now that
he will be free from the office, and from all that corporation business,
he will no doubt walk a good deal more than he has done for many years
and live more simply, and as the doctor told me yesterday, the chances
are that he will have no recurrence of his attack. I may tell you that
from a conversation I had with him I learned that your father will still
draw a very comfortable income from the business, and will have amply
sufficient to live in very good style at Scarborough."

The fact that Cuthbert had lunched at Fairclose did more to soothe
Mary's anxiety than anything else he had said. It seemed a proof that
however this strange change had come about, an amicable feeling existed
between Cuthbert and her father, and when he wound up with "Are you
contented, dear?" she looked up at him with tears in her eyes.

"More than contented, Cuthbert. I have been worrying myself greatly
while you have been away, and I never thought that it would end as
happily as this. I know, dear, that you have concealed a great deal from
me, but I am contented to know no more than that. I am as sure as if you
had told me that you have brought all these things about in this
friendly way for my sake. And now," she said after a pause, "what are
your plans for yourself?"

"You mean for us, Mary. Well, dear, my plan is that we shall wait on
here and see how things turn out. I don't want to go back to England
till all these arrangements are carried out. I don't intend to have to
go to Scarborough to marry you, and I think it will be vastly better for
us to be married quietly here as soon as the chaplain at the embassy
returns, which, of course, he will do directly these troubles are over.
My present idea is, that I shall let the house at Fairclose, or shut it
up if I cannot let it, and let the rents of the property go to paying
off this mortgage, and I intend to take a modest little place near
London, to live on our joint income, and to work hard until Fairclose is
clear of this incumbrance."

"That is right, Cuthbert. I have been wondering ever since you told me
you were to have Fairclose again, if you would give up painting, and
hoping that you would still go on with it. I should so like you to win a
name for yourself as a great painter."

Cuthbert laughed. "My dear child, you are jumping a great deal too fast
at conclusions. I am not yet out from school. I have painted my two
first pictures, which you like, principally because your face is in one
of them, but that is a short step towards becoming a great artist. You
are like a young lady in love with a curate, and therefore convinced
that some day he will be Archbishop of Canterbury, and with almost
equally good foundation; however, I shall do my best, and as I shall
still have a strong motive for work, and shall have you to spur me on I
hope I may make a modest success."

"I am sure you will, and more than that," she said, warmly; "if not,"
she added, with a saucy laugh, "I think you might as well give it up
altogether; a modest success means mediocrity, and that is hateful, and
I am sure you yourself would be no more satisfied with it than I
should."

"Well, I will go on for a bit and see. I agree with you, that a thing is
not worth doing unless it is done well, but I won't come to any final
decision for another year or two. Now it is past ten o'clock, and I must
be going."

"When will you come? To-morrow?"

"I will come at three o'clock. Have your things on by that time, and we
will go for a ramble."

René Caillard came into Cuthbert's room at nine o'clock the next
morning.

"I came round yesterday evening, Cuthbert, and heard from the concierge
that you had arrived and had gone out again. As she said you had driven
off in a fiacre, it was evidently of no use waiting. I thought I would
come down and catch you the first thing this morning. You look well and
strong again, your native air evidently suits you."

"I feel quite well again, though not quite so strong. So things have
turned out just as I anticipated, and the Reds are the masters of
Paris."

René shrugged his shoulders. "It is disgusting," he said. "It does not
trouble us much, we have nothing to lose but our heads, and as these
scoundrels would gain nothing by cutting them off, I suppose we shall be
allowed to go our own way."

"Is the studio open again?"

"Oh, yes, and we are all hard at work, that is to say, the few that
remain of us. Goudé has been fidgeting for you to come back. He has
asked several times whether I have news of you, and if I was sure you
had not left Paris forever. I know he will be delighted when I tell him
that you have returned; still more so if you take the news yourself."

"I suppose Minette has resumed her duties as model?"

"Not she," René said scornfully, "she is one of the priestesses of the
Commune. She rides about on horseback with a red flag and sash.
Sometimes she goes at the head of a battalion, sometimes she rides about
with the leaders. She is in earnest but she is in earnest theatrically,
and that fool, Dampierre, is as bad as she is."

"What! Has he joined the Commune?".

"Joined, do you say? Why, he is one of its leaders. He plays the part of
La Fayette, in the drama, harangues the National Guards, assures them of
the sympathy of America, calls upon them to defend the freedom they have
won by their lives and to crush back their oppressors, as his countrymen
crushed their British tyrants. Of course it is all Minette's doing; he
is as mad as she is. I can assure you that he is quite a popular hero
among the Reds, and they would have appointed him a general if he had
chosen to accept it, but he said that he considered himself as the
representative of the great Republic across the sea, that he would
accept no office, but would fight as a simple volunteer. He, too, goes
about on horseback, with a red scarf, and when you see Minette you may
be sure that he is not far off."

"Without absolutely considering Dampierre to be a fool, I have always
regarded him as being, well, not mad, but different to other people. His
alternate fits of idleness and hard work, his infatuation for Minette,
his irritation at the most trifling jokes, and the moody state into
which he often fell, all seem to show as the Scots say, 'a bee in his
bonnet,' and I can quite fancy the excitement of the times, and his
infatuation for that woman may have worked him up to a point much more
nearly approaching madness than before. I am very sorry, René, for there
was a good deal to like about him, he was a gentleman and a chivalrous
one. In Minette he saw not a clever model, but a peerless woman, and was
carried away by enthusiasm, which is, I think, perfectly real: she is in
her true element now, and is, I should say, for once not acting. Well,
it is a bad business. If the Commune triumphs, as I own that it seems
likely enough, it will do, he will in time become disgusted with the
adventurers and ambitious scoundrels by whom he is surrounded, and will,
like the Girondists, be among the first victims of the wild beasts he
has helped to bring into existence. If the troops prove faithful, the
Commune will be crushed, and all those who have made themselves
conspicuous are likely to have but a short shrift of it when martial law
is established. Well, René, as there is nothing that can be done in the
matter, it is of no use troubling about it. None of the others have gone
that way, I suppose."

"Of course not," René exclaimed indignantly. "You don't suppose that
after the murder of the generals any decent Frenchman would join such a
cause, even if he were favorable to its theories. Morbleu! Although I
hate tyrants I should be tempted to take up a rifle and go out and
defend them were they menaced by such scum as this. It is not even as it
was before; then it was the middle class who made the Revolution, and
there was at least much that was noble in their aims, but these
creatures who creep out from their slums like a host of obnoxious beasts
animated sorely by hatred for all around them, and by a lust for plunder
and blood, they fill one with loathing and disgust. There is not among
them, save Dampierre, a single man of birth and education, if only
perhaps you except Rochefort. There are plenty of Marats, but certainly
no Mirabeau.

"No, no, Cuthbert, we of the studio may be wild and thoughtless. We live
gayly and do not trouble for the morrow, but we are not altogether
fools; and even were there nothing else to unite us against the Commune,
the squalor and wretchedness, the ugliness and vice, the brutal
coarseness, and the foul language of these ruffians would band us
together as artists against them. Now, enough of Paris, what have you
been doing in England, besides recovering your health?"

"I have been recovering a fortune, too, René. A complicated question
concerning some property that would, in the ordinary course of things,
have come to me has now been decided in my favor."

"I congratulate you," René said, "but you will not give up art, I hope?"

"No, I intend to stick to that, René. You see I was not altogether
dependent on it before, so that circumstances are not much changed."

"You finished your pictures before you went away, did you not? The
temptation to have a peep at them has been very strong, but I have
resisted--nobly it was heroic, was it not?"

"It must have been. Yes, I put the finishing touches to them before I
went away, and now I will show them to you René; it is the least I can
do after all your kindness. Now go and look out of the window until I
fix the easels in a good light, I want your first impressions to be
favorable. There," after a pause, "the curtain is drawn up and the show
has begun." He spoke lightly, but there was an undertone of anxiety in
his voice. Hitherto no one but Mary had seen them, and her opinion upon
the subject of art was of little value. He, himself, believed that the
work was good, but yet felt that vague dissatisfaction and doubt whether
it might not have been a good deal better, that most artists entertain
as to their own work. In the school René's opinion was always sought for
eagerly; there were others who painted better, but none whose feeling of
art was more true or whose critical instinct keener.

René looked at the pictures for a minute or two in silence, then he
turned to Cuthbert and took one of his hands in his own. "My dear
friend," he said, "it is as I expected. I always said that you had
genius, real genius, and it is true; I congratulate you, my dear friend.
If it were not that I know you English object to be embraced, I should
do so, but you are cold and do not like a show of feeling. These
pictures will place you well in the second rank; in another year or two
you will climb into the first. They will be hung on the line, that goes
without saying. They are charming, they are admirable, and to think
that you are still at the school. I might paint all my life and I should
never turn out two such canvases; and it is a sin that one who can paint
like that should expose himself to be shot at by Prussians. Now, do you
sit down and let me look at them."

"Do so, René, and please remember that I want not praise, but honest
criticism; I know they have defects, but I want you to point them out to
me, for while I feel that they might be improved, I have my own ideas so
strongly in my head, that I cannot see where the faults are as you can.
Remember, you can't be too severe, and if possible to do so, without
entirely having to repaint them, I will try to carry out your
suggestions."

René produced a pipe, filled and lighted it, then placed a chair so that
he could sit across it and lean upon the back. He sat for upwards of a
quarter of an hour puffing out clouds of tobacco-smoke without speaking.

"You mean what you say, Cuthbert?" he said at last. "Very well, I will
take the bright one first. As to the figure I have nothing to say; the
effect of the light falling on her head and face is charming; the dress
is perhaps a little stiff, it would have been bettered if relieved by
some light lace or gauze, but we will let that pass; it is a portrait
and a good one. It is your pretty nurse at the Ambulance. Am I to
congratulate you there too?"

Cuthbert nodded.

"I thought so," René went on, without moving his gaze from the pictures,
"and will congratulate you presently. The background of the figure is
the one weak point of the picture, that, too, like the portrait, I doubt
not, was taken from reality, for with your artistic feeling you would
never have placed that bare wall behind the figure. You have tried by
the shadows from the vine above to soften it, and you have done all you
could in that way, but nothing could really avail. You want a vine to
cover that wall. It should be thrown into deep cool shadow, with a touch
of sunlight here and there, streaming upon it, but less than you now
have falling on the wall. As it is now, the cool gray of the dress is
not sufficiently thrown up, it, like the wall, is in shade except where
the sun touches the head and face; but, with a dark cool green, somewhat
undefined, and not too much broken up by the forms of the foliage, the
figure would be thrown forward, although still remaining in the shade,
and I am sure the picture would gain at once in strength and repose.
Now, as to the other. It is almost painfully sombre, it wants relief. It
expresses grief and hopelessness; that is good; but it also expresses
despair, that is painful; one does not feel quite sure that the young
woman is not about to throw herself into the sea. Now, if you were to
make a gleam of watery sunshine break through a rift in the cloud,
lighting up a small patch of foam and breaker, it would be a relief; if
you could arrange it so that the head should stand up against it, it
would add greatly to the effect. What do you think?" he asked, breaking
off suddenly and turning to Cuthbert.

"You are right in both instances, René. Both the backgrounds are from
sketches I made at the time; the veranda in the one case, and the sea
and sky and rock in the other are as I saw them, and it did not occur to
me to change them. Yes, you are a thousand times right. I see now why I
was discontented with them, and the changes you suggest will be
invaluable. Of course, in the sea-scene the light will be ill-defined,
it will make its way through a thin layer of cloud, and will contrast
just as strongly with the bright warm sunshine on the other picture, as
does the unbroken darkness. There is nothing else that you can suggest,
René?"

"No, and I almost wish that I had not made those suggestions, the
pictures are so good that I am frightened, lest you should spoil them by
a single touch of the brush."

"I have no fear of that, René, I am sure of the dark picture, and I hope
I can manage the other, but if I fail I can but paint the wall in again.
I will begin at once. I suppose you are going round to Goudé's; tell him
that I am back, and will come round this evening after dinner. Ask all
the others to come here to supper at ten; thank goodness we shall have a
decent feed this time."

Directly René had left, Cuthbert set to work with ardor. He felt that
René had hit upon the weak spots that he had felt and yet failed to
recognize. In four hours the sea-scape was finished, and as he stepped
back into the window to look at it, he felt that the ray of misty light
showing rather on the water than on the air, had effected wonders, and
added immensely to the poetry of the picture.

"I have only just time to change, and get there in time," he said, with
a very unlover-like tone of regret, as he hastily threw off his painting
blouse, ate a piece of bread left over from breakfast, and drank a glass
of wine. He glanced many times at the picture.

"Curious," he muttered, "how blind men are to their own work. I can
detect a weak point in another man's work in a moment, and yet, though I
felt that something was wrong, I could not see what it was in my own. If
I succeed as well with the other as I have done with this I shall be
satisfied indeed."

"You are a quarter of an hour late, sir," Mary said, holding up her
finger in reproof as he entered. "The idea of keeping me waiting, the
very first time after our engagement. I tremble when I look forward to
the future."

"I have been painting, Mary, and when one is painting one forgets how
time flies; but I feel greatly ashamed of myself, and am deeply
contrite."

"You don't look contrite at all, Cuthbert. Not one bit."

"Well, I will not press for forgiveness now, I think when you see what I
have been doing you will overlook the offence."

"What have you been doing? I thought you told me that you had quite
finished the two pictures, the day you came to say good-bye before you
started for Brussels."

"René has been criticising them and has shown me where I committed two
egregious blunders."

"Then I think it was very impertinent of him," Mary said in a tone of
vexation. "I am sure nothing could have been nicer than they were even
when I saw them, I am certain there were no blunders in them, and I
don't see how they could be improved."

"Wait until you see them again, Mary. I altered one this morning, but
the other will take me three or four days steady work. I am not so sure
of success there, but if you don't like it when you see it, I promise
you that I will restore it to its former condition, now let us be off;
if I am not mistaken there is something going on, I saw several
battalions of National Guards marching through the streets; and there is
a report that 50,000 men are to march against Versailles. We may as well
see them start, it may turn out to be an historic event."



CHAPTER XXII.


The march against Versailles did not take place on the first of April,
although the Communists had every reason to believe that they would meet
with no opposition, as on the previous night two regiments of the army,
forming the advanced guard between Versailles and Paris, came in,
together with a battery of artillery, and declared for the Commune. The
next morning Cuthbert went up at nine o'clock, as he had arranged to
take Mary out early, and to work in the afternoon. Just as he reached
the house he heard a cannon-shot.

"Hurry on your things," he said as he met her, "a gun has just fired; it
is the first in the Civil War; perhaps the National Guard are starting
against Versailles; at any rate it will be worth seeing."

The girl was ready in two or three minutes, and they walked briskly to
the Arc de Triomphe. As they did so they could hear not only the boom of
cannon, but the distant firing of musketry. Around the Arch a number of
people were gathered, looking down the long broad avenue running from it
through the Porte Maillot, and then over the Bridge of Neuilly to the
column of Courbeil. Heavy firing was going on near the bridge, upon the
banks of the river, and away beyond it to the right.

"That firing means that France is saved from the horrors of another red
Revolution, Mary," Cuthbert said. "It shows that some of the troops at
least are loyal, and in these matters example is everything. There was
a report that Charrette's Zouaves and the gendarmes have been placed at
the outposts, and if the report is true, it was a wise step, indeed, for
McMahon to take, for both could be relied upon; and now fighting has
begun, there is hope that the troops behind will stand firm."

"Why should they, Cuthbert?"

"Some of the shots from this side are sure to fall among them, and if a
few are killed and wounded the rest will get angry, and all idea of
fraternizing with the men who are firing on them will be at an end. I
should like to see how that crowd of National Guards are behaving."

"Shall we go down and look, Cuthbert. See, there is an omnibus going
down the hill, so I don't suppose there can be much danger."

"I don't think that there is any danger at present, Mary; the balls will
hardly come so far, but if the troops open fire with cannon, they will
send shell right up this avenue."

"Would you go by yourself if I were not here, Cuthbert?"

"Well, I certainly should, but that is no reason why I should go with
you."

"I can see women looking out of the windows," she said, "so we will go
down together, Cuthbert. We had the German shell falling near us while
the siege was going on, and things went on just as usual."

"Come on then, dear; at any rate it will be only field-guns and not
heavy siege artillery, and I dare say we can get into one of the houses
and look out from them; a twelve-pounder would scarcely do much harm to
one of these solid stone buildings."

They went quietly down the road. No whiz of bullet or crash of shell was
heard, and without interruption they continued their course until they
arrived near the gate. Near it were two battalions of the National
Guard, who were in a state of utter disorder. Some of the men were
quietly walking away with their rifles slung behind them, in spite of a
line of sentries placed across the road and the efforts of their
officers. Cuthbert questioned some of the men, as they came along, as to
what had happened, but the most contradictory answers were given. They
had been fired upon from Fort Valerien; they had been attacked from
Courbevoie; they had been betrayed; they had been sent out without any
cannon: ammunition was short; they were not going to stay to be shot
down; they were going to the Hôtel de Ville to turn out the traitors who
had sent them out without a proper supply of ammunition. That they had
some ammunition was evident from the fact that several muskets went off
accidentally, the result of nervousness on the part of those that held
them.

"We won't stay here to risk being shot by these cowardly fools,"
Cuthbert said, "let us get into one of the houses."

They went back a short distance, and Cuthbert spoke to a man standing at
his door. "This lady and myself are English," he said, "would you allow
us to go up and stand at one of the windows to see what is going on?"

The request was at once acceded to, and they were soon posted at a
window on the fifth floor.

"Look at them," Cuthbert said in disgust, "these are the heroes who
clamored to go out and destroy the Germans."

The scene below was certainly singular--the bugles and drums sounded the
assembly and beat the rappel alternately, but the men paid not the
slightest attention to the call, but continued to slink away until the
drummers and buglers remained alone. Of the two battalions, some fifty
men posted at the loop-holes of the crenelated wall by the gate
remained; the rest had melted away. From the balcony at the window a
fine view was obtained across the country. A heavy musket-fire was still
maintained along the river-side, and there was a continuous roll of
musketry at Courbevoie, where, as one of the National Guard had told
them, a battalion which occupied the barracks there had been cut off by
the advance of the troops. Artillery and musketry were both at work
there, but elsewhere there was no artillery fire.

Close to the bridge at Neuilly the struggle was maintained for a time,
and presently a column of troops were seen advancing against the bridge.
As it did so the firing there ceased at once, and it was soon evident
that the troops had gained the position. Numbers of National Guards soon
came trooping in at the gate. A very few remained there; the rest,
without waiting for orders, hurried on into Paris. A dark group now
appeared on the road leading up to Courbeil; there was a white puff of
smoke and a shell exploded a hundred yards on the other side of the
gate. A steady fire was now kept up by two guns, the greater part of the
shells exploded beyond the outer works; but several came up the avenue,
two of them striking houses, and others exploding in the roadway. Each
time when the whistle of a shell was heard approaching, Cuthbert drew
Mary back from the balcony into the room.

"I fancy," he said, "the troops have an idea that there are masses of
the Communists assembled near the gates in readiness for a sortie, and
they are firing to prevent their coming out, until they have fortified
the bridge and the other points they have occupied."

The firing continued for some time. At other windows the inhabitants
were watching the conflict, and Cuthbert pointed out, to Mary's great
amusement, the precautions that some of them were taking to ensure their
personal safety. One woman had drawn down the Venetian blinds, and was
looking between them, another was peering out with a pillow held over
her head. The few National Guards who remained at their post were men of
courage, for they showed no signs of flinching even when shells exploded
within a few yards of the position they occupied. Presently there was a
sound of wheels, and two four-pounder guns were brought up and placed
one on each side of the gate to sweep the approaches.

Between one and two o'clock several battalions of National Guards came
leisurely up, piled their arms and sat down under shelter of the wall.
It was evident they had no idea of making a sortie, but had been brought
up to defend the gate in case it was attacked. Soon after their arrival,
a party that had remained near the river returned and it was clear that
at least a portion of the troops had proved faithless, for with them
were forty or fifty soldiers, who had come over during the fight. They
were disarmed and then escorted into the town, where, as Cuthbert
afterwards learned, they were received with enthusiasm by the mob.

"It is evident that there is no idea of any attempt being made to
recapture the bridge at present, Mary; I don't know how you feel but I
am getting desperately hungry, so I think we may as well be going back.
I should like to see what is going on in the city. Will you come with
me? I have no doubt we shall be able to get a voiture up at the arch,
and we can have lunch there."

Mary was as anxious to see what is going on as he was, and in a quarter
of an hour they alighted in the Rue Rivoli. As yet the population had
heard but vague reports that fighting was going on, and matters were
comparatively quiet, for so many rumors had pervaded the town during the
last few days, that they were not generally believed. Accordingly, after
lunch, Cuthbert took Mary home in a fiacre.

"I have been quite alarmed about you, my dear, where have you been?"
Madame Michaud said as they entered.

"We have been seeing the fighting, madame, and the Reds have been
beaten."

"I have heard all sorts of stories about it, but most of them say that
the Versailles people got the worst of it."

"Then the stories were not true," Mary said, "most of the National Guard
wouldn't fight at all, and the regiments all broke away and went into
Paris without firing a shot, the troops have taken the bridge of
Neuilly."

"The good God be thanked," Madame Michaud said piously, "my husband was
afraid the troops would not fight, and that we were going to have
terrible times; but there is a hope now, that the Commune will be put
down."

"Every hope, madame," Cuthbert said. "I was sure this scum of Paris
would not fight if the troops would do so. They have too much regard for
their worthless skins. It may be some time before McMahon can get a
force together sufficient to take Paris, but sooner or later he will do
so, though it will be a serious business with the forts all in the hands
of the Communists. If they had but handed over one or two of the forts
to the gendarmes, or kept a company or two of sailors there, there would
have been a line by which the troops could have approached the town, as
it is they will have to bring up siege-guns and silence Issy and Vanves
before much can be done."

An hour later Monsieur Michaud arrived; he too had been in the city and
was in ignorance of what had taken place during the morning.

"That accounts for it," he said, "we are all ordered to be under arms at
eight o'clock this evening."

"But you will not go?" his wife exclaimed anxiously.

"But I must go, my dear. I have no desire to be shot, and I think there
is much more fear of my being shot, if I don't answer to the call of my
name than there will be if I do. In the first place, we may not go out
beyond the wall, in the second place, if there is I may see a chance of
running away, for mind you, though I hope I should have fought as
bravely as others if the Germans had come, I do not feel myself called
upon to fight against Frenchmen and in a cause I hate."

"You will find yourself in good company anyhow, Monsieur Michaud,"
Cuthbert laughed. "We have seen nineteen hundred and fifty men out of
two thousand march off without firing a shot to-day."

"So much the better, monsieur, four out of five of the National Guards
hate it all as much as I do. Will you dine with us to-day, monsieur, and
then we can go down together afterwards."

Cuthbert accepted the invitation willingly. "Yes, you can come down with
us, Mary," he went on, in answer to a look of appeal from her. "I will
bring her back safely, Madame Michaud, the sight will be well worth
seeing. Before I go I will have a look round and see if I can get a bed
for the night, it is a long way out from my lodgings and I should like
to be out here by daylight, for if they mean to march on Versailles they
are sure to start as soon as it is light."

"We have a spare room," Madame Michaud said, "and it is quite at your
disposal. It will be doing us a kindness if you will accept it, for when
my husband is away I always feel nervous without a man in the house, and
as it is but ten minutes' walk from here to the Arc de Triomphe, you
will be on the spot, and indeed from the roof of this house you can
obtain a view all over the country."

A great change had taken place in the appearance of Paris when they went
down in the evening, the town was in a state of the wildest excitement,
everywhere drums were beating and trumpets sounding, everywhere National
Guards mustering. The streets were crowded, the most violent language
uttered by the lower classes, and threats of all kinds poured out
against the 'butchers of Versailles.' On the walls were red placards
issued by the Commune and headed "Men of Paris. The butchers of
Versailles are slaughtering your brethren!!!"

"As a rule the brethren decline to be slaughtered, Mary," Cuthbert said
as they read the proclamation. "You see, if the troops fire they are
butchers, if the National Guards fire they are heroes. Considering that
Paris has ten armed men to every one McMahon has got, even if all the
troops could be relied upon, the Parisians must indeed be of a mild
temper if they submit to be butchered."

Monsieur Michaud now left them to take his place in the ranks of his
battalion. It was not long before the National Guards were in motion,
and for hours columns of troops moved up the Champs Elysées. The Rue
Rivoli was actually choked with the men; the mob shouted "Vive la
Commune" until they were hoarse, and the battalions from the working
quarters lustily sang the chorus of the Marseillaise.

At ten o'clock Cuthbert and Mary arrived at the Arc de Triomphe on their
way back. Along the whole line from the Tuileries the National Guard
were bivouacked. The arms were piled down the centre of the road, and
many of the men had already wrapped themselves in their blankets and
lain down to sleep with their heads on their knapsacks. The wine-shops
in the neighborhood were all crowded, and it was evident that many of
the men had determined to keep it up all night.

Madame Michaud had coffee ready for them on their return, and after
drinking it they went to their rooms, Mary being completely tired out
with the fatigue and excitement of the day. At five o'clock Cuthbert was
up; he had told Mary the night before that he would return for her at
eight. On arriving at the Arc de Triomphe he found the National Guards
pouring down the avenue to the Fort Maillot. Three heavy columns were
marching along the roads which converged at the Bridge of Neuilly. Here
Cuthbert expected a desperate struggle, but a few shots only were fired,
and then a small body of troops covered by a party of skirmishers,
retired up the hill, and then turning off made their way towards Fort
Valerien.

The force was evidently insufficient to hold the bridge against the
masses of revolutionists advancing against it, and the real resistance
to the forces of the Commune would commence further back. Crossing the
bridge the National Guard spread out to the right and left and mounted
the hill, as they did so some eighteen-pounder guns which had been the
day before mounted on the Fort, opened fire on the bridge, and for a
time the forward movement ceased, and the regiment on their way down
towards the gate were halted. Cuthbert chatted for some time with one of
the officers and learnt from him that this was not the real point of
attack.

"It is from the other side of the river that the great stroke against
the Versaillaise will be struck," he said, "a hundred and fifty thousand
National Guards advanced on that side; they will cross the heights of
Meudon, and move straight to Versailles. We have but some twenty-five
thousand here, and shall advance as soon as the others have attacked
Meudon."

In an hour the forward movement had again commenced, a heavy column
poured across the bridge, the firing from Valerien having now ceased.
Cuthbert watched the black mass advancing up the slope towards Courbeil.
It was not until they reached the top of the slope that Valerien
suddenly opened fire. Puff after puff of white smoke darted out from its
crest in quick succession, the shells bursting in and around the heavy
column. In a moment its character changed; it had been literally cut in
half by the iron shower. Those in front of the point where the storm had
struck it, broke off and fled to the village of Nanterre on the left,
where they took shelter among the houses. The other portion of the
column broke up as suddenly, and became at once a disorganized mob, who
at the top of their speed rushed down to the slope again to the bridge
at Neuilly. Across this they poured in wild confusion and made no halt
until they had passed the Fort Maillot. There the officers attempted to
rally them, but in vain; many had thrown their muskets away in their
flight, the rest slung them behind them, and continued their way to
Paris, all vowing that they had been betrayed, and that they would have
vengeance on the Commune. Seeing that there was no more probability of
fighting on his side, Cuthbert returned to Madame Michaud's.

"Madame is on the roof," Margot said as he entered; "everyone is up
there: she said I was to give you breakfast when you came in; the coffee
is ready, and I have an omelette prepared, it will be cooked in three
minutes; Madame said that you would be sure to be hungry after being out
so long." In a quarter of an hour he ascended to the roof. The resident
on the ground-floor had an astronomical telescope with which he was in
the habit of reconnoitring the skies from the garden. This he had taken
up to the roof, where some twenty persons were gathered. A magnificent
view was obtained here of the circle of hills from Valerien round by
Meudon, and the whole of the left bank of the river. It needed but a
glance to see that the army of the Commune had made but little progress.
Although the fighting began soon after two o'clock in the morning, and
it was now nearly mid-day, the heights of Meudon were still in the hands
of the troops.

From among the trees by the chateau white puffs of smoke shot out, many
of the shells bursting in and around the fort of Issy, which replied
briskly. The guns of Vanves joined in the combat, their fire being
directed towards the plateau of Chatillon, which was held by the troops.
Round Issy a force of the National Guard was assembled, but the main
body was in the deep valley between the forts and Meudon, and on the
slopes nearly up to the chateau; the rattle of musketry here was
continuous, a light smoke drifting up through the trees. After a time it
was evident that the line of musketry fire was lower down the hill,
descending, showing that the troops were pressing the Communists
backwards, and presently one of the batteries near the chateau shifted
its position, and took ground some distance down the hill, and this and
a battery near the end of the viaduct by the chateau, opened a heavy
fire on the forts.

A look through the telescope showed that the Communists were crouching
behind walls and houses, occasionally, when the fire of the guns was
silent, a few of them would get up and advance into the open, but only
to scamper back into shelter as soon as they reopened fire.

"That settles it, monsieur," Cuthbert said, to the owner of the
telescope, after taking a long look through it, "hitherto, the
Communists have believed that Versailles was at their mercy, and they
had but to march out to capture it. They have failed, and failure means
their final defeat. They say that the prisoners of war are arriving in
Versailles at the rate of two or three thousand a day, and in another
fortnight, Thiers will have a force sufficient to take the offensive,
and by that time, will doubtless have siege-guns in position. I don't
say that Paris may not hold out for a considerable time, but it must
fall in the long run, and I fear, that all who have got anything to lose
will have a very bad time of it."

"I fear so, monsieur; as these wretches become more desperate, they will
proceed to greater lengths. You see they have already insisted that all
the National Guard--whatever their opinions--shall join in the defence
of the city. They have declared the confiscation of the goods of any
member of the Guard who shall leave the town. I hear a decree is likely
to be published to-morrow or next day confiscating all Church property;
already they have taken possession of the churches, and turned them into
clubs. If they do such things now, there is no saying to what lengths
they may go as they see their chances of success diminishing daily."

Although the artillery fire was maintained for some time longer, it was
by three o'clock evident that the battle was virtually over. The party
therefore descended from the roof, and Cuthbert strolled back to the
centre of Paris. The streets, that evening, presented a very strong
contrast to the scene of excitement that had reigned twenty-four hours
before. There was no shouting and singing; no marching of great bodies
of troops. An air of gloom pervaded the lower classes, while the
bourgeois remained for the most part in their houses, afraid that the
deep satisfaction the events of the day had caused them, might betray
itself in their faces.

For the next few days Cuthbert worked steadily, going up late in the
afternoon to Passy. The Commune had, on the day after the failure
against Versailles, issued a decree that all unmarried men from
seventeen to thirty-five, should join the ranks, and a house-to-house
visitation was ordered to see that none escaped the operation of the
decree. One of these parties visited Cuthbert: it consisted of a man
with a red sash, and two others in the uniform of the National Guard. As
soon as they were satisfied of Cuthbert's nationality, they left, having
been much more civil than he had expected. He thought it advisable,
however, to go at once to the Hôtel de Ville, where, on producing his
passport, he was furnished with a document bearing the seal of the
Commune, certifying that being a British subject, Cuthbert Hartington
was exempt from service, and was allowed to pass anywhere without
molestation.

Equal good luck did not attend the other students, all of whom were, to
their intense indignation, enrolled upon the list of the National Guard
of their quarter. Cuthbert had difficulty in retaining a perfectly
serious countenance, as René, Pierre, and two or three others came in to
tell him what had occurred.

"And there is no getting away from it," René said. "If we had thought
that it would come to this, of course we would have left Paris directly
this affair began, but now it is impossible: no tickets are issued by
the railways except to old men, women and children, no one is allowed to
pass through the gates without a permit from the Commune, and even if
one could manage to get on to the wall and drop down by a rope one
might be taken and shot by the Communist troops outside, or, if one got
through them, by the sentries of the army of Versailles. What would you
advise us to do, Cuthbert?"

"I am afraid I can't give you any advice whatever, René, it is certainly
horribly unpleasant being obliged to fight in a cause you detest, but I
don't think there will be a very great deal of fighting till an assault
is made on the city, and when that begins, I should say the Communists
will be too busy to look for absentees from the ranks."

"We shall be in double danger then," Pierre Leroux put in. "We run the
risk of being shot by the Communists for not fighting at the barricades,
and if we escape that, we have a chance of being shot by the Versaillais
as Communists. It is a horrible position to be placed in."

"Well, I should say, Pierre, keep your eyes open and escape if you
possibly can before the assault takes place. I should think some might
manage to get out as women, but, of course you would have to sacrifice
your mustaches. But if you did that, and borrowed the papers of some
young woman or other, you might manage it. No doubt it would be awkward
if you were found out, but it might be worth trying. If I cannot leave
before the assault takes place I mean to go to one of the English hotels
here, Meurice's or the Dover, and establish myself there. During such
fighting as there may be in the streets, there will be very few
questions asked, and one might be shot before one could explain one was
a foreigner, but the hotels are not likely to be disturbed. Seriously I
should say that the best thing you can all do when the fighting begins
in the streets, is to keep out of the way until your battalion is
engaged, then burn anything in the way of uniform, get rid of your rifle
somehow, and gather at Goudé's. He could vouch for you all as being his
pupils, and as being wholly opposed to the Commune. His name should be
sufficiently well known, if not to the first officer who may arrive, at
least, to many officers, for his testimony to be accepted. Still, I do
think that the best plan of all will be to get out of the place when you
get a chance."

Some of the students did succeed in getting out. Pierre and two others
made their way down through the drains, came out on the river at night,
and swam across. One of the youngest went out by train dressed as a
woman, but the rest were forced to don the uniform and take their places
in the ranks of the National Guard. The question of leaving Paris was
frequently discussed by Cuthbert and Mary Brander, but they finally
determined to stay. It was morally certain that the troops would enter
Paris either at the Port Maillot or at the gate of Pont du Jour; or at
any rate, somewhere on that side of Paris. Once inside the walls they
would meet with no resistance there--the fighting would only commence
when they entered the city itself. Passy was to a large extent inhabited
by well-to-do people, and it was not here that the search for Communists
would begin. The troops would here be greeted as benefactors.

"I do not think there is the smallest risk, Mary; if there were, I
should say at once that we had better be off, and I would escort you
down to Cornwall, but as there seems to me no danger whatever, I should
say let us stick to our original plan. I own I should like to see the
end of it all. You might amuse yourself at present by making a
good-sized Union Jack, which you can hang out of your window when the
troops enter. When I see the time approaching, I intend to make an
arrangement with the Michauds to establish myself here, so as to
undertake the task of explaining, if necessary, but I don't think any
explanation will be asked. It is likely enough that as soon as the
troops enter they will establish themselves in this quarter before
making any further advance; they will know that they have hard fighting
before them, and until they have overcome all opposition, will have
plenty to think about, and will have no time to spare in making
domiciliary visits."



CHAPTER XXIII.


Arnold Dampierre had moved from his lodgings in the Quartier Latin at
the outbreak of the insurrection, and had taken up his abode in one of
the streets leading up to Montmartre. There he was in close connection
with many of the leaders of the Commune, his speeches and his regular
attendance at their meetings, his connection with Dufaure, who was the
president of one of the revolutionary committees, and with his daughter,
and the fact that he was an American, had rendered him one of the most
conspicuous characters in the Quarter. He would have been named one of
the delegates of the Council of the Commune, but he refused the honor,
preferring to remain, as he said, "the representative of the great
republic across the seas."

More than once Cuthbert met him as he rode about, but only once did they
speak. Cuthbert was crossing the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville,
when he saw Arnold Dampierre. The latter was on foot and did not notice
Cuthbert until he was within a few yards of him; as his eye fell on him
he hesitated and then walked on as if about to pass without speaking;
Cuthbert, however, held out his hand.

"Why, Dampierre," he said, "you are not going to cut me, are you? There
has been no quarrel between us, and the last time we met was when we
were lying next to each other in the ambulance."

Dampierre took the offered hand. "No, no," he said with nervous
quickness, "no quarrel at all, Hartington, but you see we have gone
different ways, that is to say, I have gone out of your way, and thought
that you would not care to continue the acquaintance."

"There is no such feeling on my part, I can assure you. There need be no
question between us as to the part you have taken. I am sorry, but it
is no concern of mine, and after living in the same house for a year or
so, and having faced death side by side at Champigny, no difference of
political opinion should interfere with our friendship. Besides, you
know," he added with a laugh, "I may want to get you to exert your
influence on my behalf. Events are thickening. In troubled times it is
always well to have a friend at court, and if I come to be treated as a
suspect, I shall refer to you for a character as a peaceable and
well-intentioned student of art."

"There is no fear of anything of that sort, Hartington; but should you,
by any possibility, get into trouble, you have but to send to me.
However, this state of things will not last long, the people are fairly
roused now and will soon sweep the butchers of Versailles before them,
and a reign of perfect freedom and equality will be established, and the
world will witness the spectacle of a free country, purging itself from
the tyranny of capital and the abuse of power, under which it has so
long groaned. But I have much to do and must be off," and with a hasty
shake of the hand he hurried away again.

Cuthbert looked after him. "The poor fellow is fast qualifying for a
mad-house," he said; "he has changed sadly, his cheeks are hollow and
his eyes unnaturally brilliant. Those patches of color on his cheeks are
signs of fever rather than of health. That woman, Minette, is
responsible for this ruin. It must end badly one way or the other; the
best thing that could happen to him would be to fall in one of these
sorties. He has made himself so conspicuous that he is almost certain to
be shot when the troops take Paris, unless, indeed, he becomes an actual
lunatic before that. Wound up as he is by excitement and enthusiasm he
will never bring himself to sneak off in disguise, as most of the men
who have stirred up this business will do."

The time passed quickly enough in Paris, events followed each other
rapidly, there was scarce a day without fighting, more or less serious.
Gradually the troops wrested position after position from the
Communists, but not without heavy fighting. The army at Versailles had
swelled so rapidly by the arrival of the prisoners from Germany that
even in Paris, where the journals of the Commune endeavored to keep up
the spirits of the defenders by wholesale lying as to the result of the
fighting outside its walls. It was known that at least a hundred
thousand men were now gathered at Versailles.

"There is no doubt of one thing," Cuthbert said, as standing with Mary
on the Trocadero, they one day watched the duel, when the guns at Meudon
were replying vigorously to the fire of the forts, "I must modify my
first opinions as to the courage of the Communists. They have learnt to
fight, and allowing for all the exaggeration and bombast of their
proclamations, they now stand admirably; they have more than once
retaken positions from which they have been driven, and although very
little is said about their losses, I was talking yesterday to a surgeon
in one of the hospitals, and he tells me that already they must be as
great as those throughout the whole of the first siege.

"They are still occasionally subject to panics. For instance, there was
a bad one the other night when the troops took the Chateau of Becon, and
again at Clamart, but I fancy that is owing to the mistake the
Communists made in forcing men who are altogether opposed to them into
their ranks. These men naturally bolt directly they are attacked, and
that causes a panic among the others who would have fought had the rest
stood. Still, altogether, they are fighting infinitely better than
expected, and at Clamart they fought really well in the open for the
first time. Before, I own that my only feelings towards the battalions
of beetle-browed ruffians from the faubourgs was disgust, now I am
beginning to feel a respect for them, but it makes the prospect here all
the darker.

"I have no doubt that as soon as McMahon has got all his batteries into
position he will open such a fire as will silence the forts and speedily
make breaches in the walls; but the real fighting won't begin till they
enter. The barricades were at first little more than breastworks, but
they have grown and grown until they have become formidable
fortifications, and, if stoutly defended, and with every house occupied
by desperate men, it will be terrible work carrying them by assault.
However, there are few places where the main defences cannot be turned,
for it is impossible to fortify every street. However, if the Communists
fight as desperately as we may now expect, in their despair, the work of
clearing the whole city must occupy many days."

"It will be very unpleasant in Passy when the batteries on all those
heights open fire."

"It would, indeed, if they were to direct their fire in this direction,
for they could wipe Passy out altogether in a few hours; but everything
shows that Thiers is anxious to spare Paris itself as much as possible.
Not a shot has been fired at random, and scarcely a house has been
injured. They fire only at the forts and at the batteries on this side,
and when they begin in earnest I have no doubt it will be the same. It
would be a mere waste of shot to fire up there, and if the Versailles
people were to do unnecessary damage it would bring them into odium
throughout all France, for it would be said that they were worse than
the Prussians."

On the 25th of April, at 8 o'clock in the morning, the long silence of
the besiegers' batteries ended. Cuthbert was taking his coffee when he
heard a sound like the rumble of a heavy wagon. He ran to his window.
There was quiet in the street below, for everyone had stopped abruptly
to listen to the roar, and from every window heads appeared. Completing
his dressing hastily, he went out and took the first fiacre he met and
drove to Passy. The rumble had deepened into a heavy roar; the air
quivered with the vibrations, and the shriek of the shells mingled with
the deep booming of the guns. When he entered Madame Michaud's, she, her
husband and Mary were standing at the open window.

"We have just come down from the top of the house," Mary said, "it is a
grand sight from there; will you come up, Cuthbert?"

"Certainly, Mary; you see I was right, and there do not seem to be any
shell coming this way."

"No. But we were all desperately alarmed, were we not madame, when they
began."

"It was enough to alarm one," Madame Michaud said indignantly, "half the
windows were broken, and that was enough to startle one even without the
firing."

"It was perfectly natural, madame," Cuthbert agreed; "the first shock is
always trying, and even soldiers with seasoned nerves might be excused
for starting, when such a din as this commenced."

Cuthbert and Mary went up at once to the roof, where the old gentleman
from below had already set up his telescope. He did not need that,
however, to observe what was going on. Along almost the whole crest of
the eminences round the south and west, heavy guns were playing upon the
defences. From the heights of Chatillon, the puffs of white smoke came
thick and fast, the battery at the Chateau of Meudon was hard at work,
as were those of Brimborien and Breteuil. Mount Valerien was joining in
the fray, while batteries on the plateau of Villejuif were firing at the
forts of Montrouge and Bicêtre. Without exception, the greater part of
the fire was concentrated upon the forts of Issy and Vanves, while
attention was also being paid to the batteries at Point de Jour and
Porte Maillot.

The Communists replied to the fire steadily, although Issy, which came
in for by far the largest share of the attentions of the assailants,
fired only a gun now and then, showing that it was still tenanted by the
defenders. It was difficult indeed to see how often it replied, for the
shell burst so frequently on it that it was difficult to distinguish
between their flashes and those of its guns. Through the telescope could
be seen how terrible was the effect of the fire; already the fort had
lost the regularity of its shape, and the earth, with which it had been
thickly covered, was pitted with holes. Presently there was an outburst
of firing comparatively close at hand.

"That is the battery on the Trocadero," one of the party exclaimed. "I
think that they must be firing at Valerien, I saw several spurts of
smoke close to it."

"I hope not," Cuthbert said, "for if Valerien answers, our position here
will not be so pleasant."

For an hour Valerien disregarded the shells bursting in and around it,
and continuing its fire against Issy.

"That was a good shot," the astronomer said, as he sat with his eyes at
his telescope watching the fort. "A shell burst right on one of the
embrasures." A minute or two later came a rushing sound, rising rapidly
to a scream; instinctively most of those on the roof ducked their heads.

"Valerien is waking up," Cuthbert said; "here comes another."

For an hour Valerien poured its fire upon the battery on the Trocadero,
and with so accurate an aim that at the end of that time it was reduced
to silence. While the fire was going on, those on the roof went below,
for although the precision with which the artillerymen fired was so
excellent that there was but slight danger, the trial to the nerves from
the rush of the heavy shell was so great that they were glad to leave
the roof and to take their places at the windows below. The danger was
no less, for had a shell struck the house and exploded, it would have
wrecked the whole building, but there was some sense of safety in
drawing back behind the shelter of the wall as the missiles were heard
approaching.

To the disappointment of the middle class who still remained in Paris,
the bombardment was only partly renewed on the following day, and then
things went on as before. It was supposed that its effects, great as
they had been on the forts most exposed to it, had not come up to the
expectations of the besiegers, and the telescope showed that the troops
were hard at work erecting a great battery on Montretout, an eminence
near St. Cloud. On the night of the 5th of May the whole of the
batteries opened fire again, and the troops made a desperate effort to
cut the force in Issy from communication either with the town or with
Vanves. The National Guard poured out from the city, and for some hours
the fighting was very severe, the troops at last succeeding in their
object; but as soon as they had done so, the guns on the enciente and
those of Vanves opened so tremendous a fire upon them, that they were
forced to abandon the positions they had won.

At the Railway Station at Clamart there was also heavy fighting; the
National Guard attacked suddenly and in such overwhelming numbers that
after a short but desperate resistance, the garrison of the station were
forced to retire. Reinforcements were soon brought up, the troops again
advanced and the insurgents were driven out. Their loss during the night
was put down as a thousand. On the 8th Montretout, which was armed with
72 heavy guns, opened fire, the rest of the batteries joined in, and for
a couple of hours the din was terrific. The next day Issy was captured
by the troops. They attacked the village at daybreak, and advancing
slowly, capturing house by house, they occupied the church and
marketplace at noon. Just as they had done so, a battalion of Insurgents
were seen advancing, to reinforce the garrison of the Fort. They were
allowed to advance to within fifty yards when a heavy volley was poured
into them. They halted for a moment, but their colonel rallied them. He
was, however, killed by another volley, when the men at once broke,
threw away their arms, and ran back to the city gates. The rest of the
village was carried with a rush, and when the troops reached the gate of
the Fort, it was found open. It was at once occupied, the whole of the
defenders having fled, as they saw that the steady advance of the troops
would, if they remained, cut them off from escape. The fall of the Fort
was so unexpected that the batteries on the heights continued to fire
upon it for some time after the troops had gained possession.

The capture of Issy created an immense effect in Paris. General Rossel
resigned the command of the insurgent army. He had been a colonel of the
engineers, and was an officer of merit, but his political opinions had
proved too much for his loyalty to his country and profession; doubtless
he had deemed that if, as at first seemed probable, the insurrection
would be successful and the revolution triumph, he would become its
Napoleon. He now saw the ruin of his hopes; he had forfeited his
position and his life, and in the proclamation he issued announcing his
resignation he poured out all the bitterness of his disappointment, and
told the Commune his opinion of them, namely, that they were utterly
incapable, without an idea of the principles either of liberty or of
order, and filled only with jealousy and hatred of each other. So
scathing was the indictment, that he was at once arrested, but managed
to make his escape.

The fire from the batteries on the assailants' right, was now
concentrated upon Vanves, which was evacuated by the insurgents two days
later. The fall of these forts left the position at Point de Jour
unsupported, and indeed the guns remounted at Issy took its defenders in
flank, and rendered it impossible for them to work their guns. In their
despair the Commune now threw off the mask of comparative moderation,
and proceeded to imitate to its fullest extent the government of the
Jacobins. Decrees were passed for the establishment of courts to arrest,
try, and execute suspected persons without delay, and under the false
pretence that prisoners taken by the troops had been executed, the
murder of the Archbishop of Paris and other priests, who had been taken
and thrown into prison as hostages, was decided upon.

Upon the fall of Issy being known, Cuthbert considered the end to be so
near that it would be better for him to take up his abode permanently at
Madame Michaud's. She had been pressing him to do so for some time, as
she and her husband thought that the presence of an English gentleman
there would conduce to their safety when the troops entered Paris. He
had indeed spent most of his time there for the last three weeks, but
had always returned to his lodgings at night. He, therefore, packed up
his pictures and his principal belongings and drove with them to Passy.
Two days later he met Arnold Dampierre.

"I am glad to have met you," the latter said, "I have been to our old
place, and found that you had left. Minette and I are to be married
to-morrow, a civil marriage, of course, and I should be very glad if you
will be present as a witness. There is no saying who will be alive at
the end of another week, and I should like the marriage to be witnessed
by you."

"I will do so with pleasure, Arnold, though it seems scarcely a time for
marrying."

"That is true, but if we escape we must escape together. If I am killed
I wish her to go over to America and live as mistress of my place there,
therefore, I shall place in your hands an official copy of the register
of our marriage. Where will she be able to find you after all this is
over?"

Cuthbert gave his address at Madame Michaud's.

"I don't suppose I shall stay there long after all is finished here," he
said, "but they will know where to forward any letters to me. Would it
not be better, Arnold, for you to throw up all this at once and return
to your old lodgings, where you may perhaps remain quietly until the
search for the leaders of this affair relaxes?"

Arnold shook his head gloomily; "I must go through it to the end. The
cause is a noble one, and it is not because its leaders are base, and at
the same time wholly incapable men, that I should desert it. Besides,
even if I should do so, she would not. No, it is not to be thought of.
The marriage will take place at the Mairie of Montmartre, at eleven
o'clock tomorrow."

"I will be there, Arnold." Cuthbert walked slowly back to Passy. He was
shocked at the dismal shipwreck, of what had seemed a bright and
pleasant future, of the man of whom he had seen so much for upwards of a
year. Dampierre's life had seemed to offer a fairer chance of happiness
and prosperity than that of any other of the students at Monsieur
Goudé's. He had an estate amply sufficient to live upon in comfort, and
even affluence; and he had artistic tastes that would save him from
becoming, like many southern planters, a mere lounger through life. His
fatal love for Minette had caused him to throw himself into this
insurrection, and to take so prominent a part in it that the chance of
his life being spared, did he fall into the hands of the troops, was
small indeed; even did he succeed in escaping with Minette his chances
of happiness in the future seemed to Cuthbert to be faint indeed. With
her passionate impulses she would speedily weary of the tranquil and
easy life on a southern plantation, and, with her, to weary was to seek
change, and however that change might come about, it would bring no
happiness to her husband.

"I am going to see your rival married to-morrow," he said to Mary.

"What, the model? Don't call her my rival, Cuthbert, it makes me ashamed
of myself, even to think that I should have suspected you of caring for
that woman we saw on horseback the other day."

"Then we will call her your supposed rival, Mary; yes, she is going to
be married to Arnold Dampierre, to-morrow."

"What a time to choose for it," she said, with a shudder. "In a few days
Paris will be deluged with blood, for the Commune boasts that every
street is mined."

"We need not believe all that, Mary; no doubt the principal streets have
been mined, but the Commune have made such a boast of the fact, that you
may be sure the French generals will avoid the great thoroughfares as
much as possible, and will turn the barricades by advancing along the
narrow streets and lanes; besides, it is one thing to dig mines and
charge them, and quite another thing to explode them at the right moment
in the midst of a desperate fight. However, I agree with you that it is
a dismal business, but Arnold explained to me that he did it because he
and Minette might have to fly together, or, that if he fell, she might
inherit his property. He did not seem to foresee that she too might
fall, which is, to my mind as likely as his own death, for as in former
fights here, the female Communists will be sure to take their place in
the barricades with the men, and, if so, I will guarantee that Minette
will be one of the foremost to do so. The production of female fiends
seem to be one of the peculiarities of French revolutions. As I told
you, I am going to the wedding in order to sign as a witness; I could
hardly refuse what I regard as the poor fellow's last request, though it
will be a most distasteful business."

"The last time you spoke to him, you said it struck you that he was
going put of his mind."

"Yes, I thought so and think so still; his manner was changed to-day;
before, he had that restless, nervous, excitable look that is the
indication of one phase of insanity; to-day there was the gloomy,
brooding sort of look that is equally characteristic of another form of
madness.

"At the same time that might be well explained by the circumstances, and
I have not the same absolute conviction in his sanity that I had before.
I suppose you will not care to honor the wedding ceremony by your
presence."

"No, no, Cuthbert, not for anything. You cannot think that I should like
to be present at such a ghastly ceremony. I thought the churches were
all shut up."

"So they are; the marriage is to be a civil one. They will merely
declare themselves man and wife in the presence of an official; he will
enter them as such in a register, and the affair will be over. I would
not say so to Arnold, but I have serious doubt whether the American
authorities would recognize the ceremony as a legal one, did she ever
appear there to claim possession. Of course, if he gets away also, it
can be put right by another marriage when they get out, or they can stop
for a few weeks on their way through England, and be married again
there."

"It is all most horrid, Cuthbert."

"Well, if you see it in that light, Mary, I won't press you to go
to-morrow, and will give up any passing idea that I may have had, that
we might embrace the opportunity and be married at the same time."

"It is lucky that you did not make such a proposition to me in earnest,
Cuthbert," Mary laughed, "for if you had, I would assuredly have had
nothing more to do with you."

"Oh, yes, you would, Mary, you could not have helped yourself, and you
would, in a very short time have made excuses for me on the ground of my
natural anxiety to waste no further time before securing my happiness."

"No one could expect any happiness after being married in that sort of
way. No, sir, when quite a long time on, we do get married, it shall be
in a church in a proper and decent manner. I don't know that I might
not be persuaded to make a sacrifice and do without bridesmaids or even
a wedding-breakfast, but everything else must be strictly _en règle_."

The next morning at the appointed hour, Cuthbert went up to Montmartre.
Several men, whose red scarfs showed that they belonged to the
Government of the Commune were standing outside. They looked with some
surprise at Cuthbert as he strolled quietly up. "I am here, messieurs,
to be a witness to the marriage of my friend, Arnold Dampierre."

The manner of the men instantly changed, and one said, "We are here also
to witness the marriage of our noble American friend to the daughter of
our colleague, Dufaure. Dampierre is within, Dufaure will be here with
his daughter in a few minutes." Cuthbert passed through and entered the
office where a Commissary of the Commune was sitting at a table. Arnold
was speaking to him. He turned as Cuthbert entered.

"Thank you, Hartington. This is not exactly what I had pictured would be
the scene at my wedding, but it is not my fault that it must be managed
this way, and I intend to have the ceremony repeated if we get safely to
England. After all, it is but what you call a Gretna Green marriage."

"Yes, as you say, you can be married again, Arnold, which would
certainly be best in all respects, and might save litigation some day.
But here they come, I think."

There was a stir at the door, and Minette and her father entered,
followed by the Communists with red scarfs. Arnold also wore one of
these insignia. Minette was in her dress as a Vivandière. She held out
her hand frankly to Cuthbert.

"I am glad to see you here, monsieur," she said. "It is good that Arnold
should have one of his own people as a witness. You never liked me very
much, I know, but it makes no difference now."

"Please to take your place," the officer said. Cuthbert stepped back a
pace. Arnold took his place in front of the table with Minette by his
side, her father standing close to her.

"There is nothing, Arnold Dampierre," the official asked, "in the laws
of your country that would prevent you making a binding marriage."

"Nothing whatever. When a man is of age in America he is free to
contract any marriage he chooses without obtaining the consent of any
relation whatever."

The official made a note of this. "Martin Dufaure, do you give your
sanction and consent to the marriage of your daughter with Arnold
Dampierre, American citizen."

"I do," the Communist said.

"Take her hand, Arnold Dampierre."

"Do you take this woman as your wife?"

As the words left his lips, there was a pistol-shot. With a low cry,
Arnold fell across the table. Cuthbert had turned at the report, and as
the man who had fired, lowered his pistol to repeat the shot, he sprang
forward, and struck him with all his weight and strength on the temple.
The man fell like a log, his pistol exploding as he did so. With a cry
like that of a wounded animal Minette had turned around, snatched a
dagger from her girdle, and, as the man fell, she sprang to his side and
leant over him with uplifted knife. Cuthbert caught her wrist as she was
about to strike.

"Do not soil your hand with blood, Minette," he said quietly as she
turned fiercely upon him. "Arnold would not like it; leave this fellow
to justice, and give your attention to him."

Dropping the knife she ran forward to the table again, two or three of
Arnold's colleagues were already leaning over him. Believing that her
lover was dead, Minette would have thrown herself on his body, but they
restrained her.

"He is not dead, Minette, the wound is not likely to be fatal, he is
only hit in the shoulder."

"You are lying, you are lying, he is dead," Minette cried, struggling to
free herself from their restraining arms.

"It is as they say, Minette," her father said, leaning over Arnold,
"here is the bullet hole in his coat, it is the same shoulder that was
broken before; he will recover, child, calm yourself, I order you."

Minette ceased to struggle, and burst into a passion of tears.

"You had better send a man to fetch a surgeon at once," Cuthbert said to
one of the Communists. "I have no doubt Arnold has but fainted from the
shock, coming as it did at such a moment," He then looked at the wound.

"'Tis not so serious as the last," he said, "by a long way, it is higher
and has no doubt broken the collar bone, but that is not a very serious
matter. I think we had better lay him down on that bench, put a coat
under his head, pour a few drops of spirits between his lips, and
sprinkle his face with cold water."

Cuthbert then went across the room. Several of the Communists were
standing round the fallen man.

"He is stunned, I think," Cuthbert said.

"He is dead," one of the men replied. "Your blow was enough to kill an
ox. It is the best thing for him, for assuredly he would have been hung
before nightfall for this attempt upon the life of our good American
colleague."

Cuthbert stooped down and felt the pulse of the fallen man.

"I am afraid he is dead," he said, "certainly I had no intention of
killing him. I thought of nothing but preventing him repeating his shot,
which he was on the point of doing."

"It does not matter in the least," one of the men said, "it is all one
whether he was shot by a bullet of the Versaillais, or hung, or killed
by a blow of an Englishman's fist. Monsieur le Commissaire, will you
draw up a proces-verbal of this affair?"

But the Commissary did not answer; in the confusion no one noticed that
he had not risen from his chair, but sat leaning back.

"Diable, what is this?" the Communist went on, "I believe the Commissary
is dead." He hurried round to the back of the table. It was as he said,
the shot fired as the man fell had struck him in the heart, and he had
died without a cry or a movement.

"Morbleau," another of the Communists exclaimed, "we came here to
witness a comedy, and it has turned into a tragedy."

An exclamation from Minette, who was kneeling by Arnold, called
Cuthbert's attention to her. The American had opened his eyes.

"What has happened, Minette," he asked, as she laid her head down on his
breast and burst into another fit of passionate sobbing.

"You are out of luck, Arnold," Cuthbert said, cheerfully; "a villain has
fired at you, but you have got off this time more lightly than the last,
and I think it is nothing more than a broken collar-bone, and that is
not a very serious business, you know; be quiet for a little time; we
shall have the surgeon here directly. Of course Minette is terribly
upset, for she thought for a moment that you were killed."

Arnold lay still, stroking Minette's head gently with his right hand;
gradually her sobs ceased, and Cuthbert then left them to themselves.
The two bodies had by this time been carried into another room, and one
of the delegates took his seat at the table and drew out a formal report
of the occurrences that had taken place which was signed by the others
present and by Cuthbert. A surgeon presently arriving confirmed
Cuthbert's view that the collar-bone had been broken, and proceeded to
bandage it.

As soon as it was done Arnold stood up unsteadily. "Citizen Rigaud, I
presume that, as a high official of the Commune, you can replace the
citizen who has fallen and complete the ceremony."

"Certainly, if it is your wish."

"It is my wish more even than before."

"The matter is simple," the delegate said, "my predecessor has already
recorded your answers, there remains but for me to complete the
ceremony."

A minute later Arnold Dampierre and Minette were pronounced man and
wife, and signed the register, Martin Dufaure, Cuthbert, and the various
deputies present signing as witnesses. A fiacre had been called up, and
was in readiness at the door. Cuthbert assisted Arnold to take his place
in it.

"If I were you, Arnold," he whispered, "I would go to the old lodgings;
of course they are still vacant; if you prefer it, you can take mine, I
still keep them on though I have moved for a time. It will be better for
you in every way not to be up here at Montmartre."

"Thank you; it would anyhow be quieter. Will you tell the coachman where
to drive?"

"I will go on the box," Cuthbert said, "of course Dufaure will go with
you." He told the Communist what they had decided on.

"That will be best," he agreed; "this is not a quiet quarter at present.
What with drumming and drinking, it is not a place for a wounded man."

"You had better go inside with them, and I will go on the box," Cuthbert
said, "keep Minette talking, it will prevent her breaking down, it has
been a terrible shock for her."

The landlady was heartily glad to see Dampierre back again. Cuthbert and
the Communist assisted the wounded man to bed.

"I will see about getting things in at present," Cuthbert said, "so do
not worry over that, Minette; if everything goes well he will be about
again in a few days, but keep him quiet as long as you can, I will come
in to-morrow and see how he is getting on."

After going round to a restaurant and ordering meals to be sent in
regularly, with some bottles of wine for Martin Dufaure's benefit,
Cuthbert returned to Passy.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Mary was greatly shocked upon hearing the tragic circumstances that had
occurred at the wedding.

"Who is the man that fired, Cuthbert?"

"His name is Jean Diantre. I heard from Dufaure that he has been a lover
of Minette's; he said she had never given him any encouragement, but
acknowledged that he himself believed she might have taken him at last
if she had not met Dampierre. He said that he had been uneasy for some
time, for the man had become so moody and savage that he had feared ill
would come of it. He was the same man who nearly stabbed me three months
ago, taking me for Dampierre."

"It is shocking to think that you have killed a man, Cuthbert."

"It may be shocking to you, Mary, but the matter does not weigh on my
conscience at all. In the first place I had no idea of killing him, and
in the second, if I had not hit hard and quickly he would have fired
again and killed Arnold; lastly, I regard these Communists as no better
than mad dogs, and the chances are ten to one that he would have been
shot at the barricades, or afterwards, if he had not died when he did."

"It is all very terrible," Mary sighed.

"It has all been terrible from beginning to end, Mary, but as hundreds
of men are killed every day, and there will probably be thousands shot
when the troops enter Paris, I cannot regard the death of a would-be
murderer as a matter that will weigh on my mind for a moment. And now
what has been going on here? I hardly had time to notice whether the
firing was heavy."

"It has been tremendous," she said. "Several houses have been struck and
set on fire lower down but no shells have come this way."

"I have no doubt the troops imagine that all the houses down near Pont
du Jour, are crowded with Communists in readiness to repel any assault
that might be made. The army is doubtless furious at the destruction of
the Column of Vendome, which was in commemoration, not only of Napoleon,
but of the victories won by French armies. Moreover, I know from
newspapers that have been brought in from outside, and which I have seen
at the café, that they are incensed to the last degree by being detained
here, when but for this insurrection, they would have been given a
furlough to visit their families when they returned from the German
prisons. So that I can quite understand the artillerymen taking a shot
occasionally at houses they believe to be occupied by the insurgents.

"You may be sure of one thing, and that is that very little quarter
will be shown to the Communists by the troops. Even now, I cannot but
hope, that seeing the impossibility of resisting many days longer, and
the certainty of a terrible revenge if the troops have to fight their
way through the streets, the Communists will try to surrender on the
best terms they can get. Thiers has all along shown such extreme
unwillingness to force the fighting, that I am sure he would give far
better terms than they could have any right to expect, rather than that
Paris should be the scene of a desperate struggle, and, if the
Communists fulfil their threats, of wholesale destruction and ruin."

Two more days passed. Cuthbert went down each day to his old lodging and
found that Arnold was doing well. On the second day, indeed, he was out
of bed with his arm in a sling and sitting partly dressed in an
easy-chair. Martin Dufaure had left that morning for his own lodging,
having slept for the last two nights on the sofa. Minette had made
everything about the rooms tidy and fresh, the windows were open, and
the distant roar of the bombardment could be plainly heard. She had a
white handkerchief tied over her head, a neat, quiet dress, and was
playing the rôle of nurse to perfection. Cuthbert had been round to
Monsieur Goudé and had told him what had happened, and he had the
evening before dropped in for a talk with Arnold.

"I am getting on wonderfully, Cuthbert," Arnold said, on the latter's
second visit. "Of course it is trying to be sitting here incapable of
taking a part in what is going on."

"You have taken quite enough part, Arnold, and I own I think your wound
at the present moment is a fortunate one, for it will keep you out of
mischief. When the surgeon comes next I should strongly advise you to
get him to write you a certificate certifying that you have been wounded
by a pistol ball, so that if, as is probable, there will sooner or later
be a general search for Communists, you can prove that your injury was
not received in the fighting outside the walls, and you can refer to
Goudé and me as to the fact that you are an art student here. Both
documents had better be made out in another name than your own, for,
unfortunately, yours has been rendered familiar to them by the frequent
notices of your doings and speeches in the papers here."

"I will see about it," Arnold said; "I do not know that I can bring
myself to that."

"You will be very foolish and wrong not to do so, Arnold. You are a
married man now, and have your wife to think about as well as yourself.
You may be sure that there is not a single leader of the insurrection
here who will not endeavor to escape under a false name; besides, even
granting that, as you believe, the cause is a righteous one, you
certainly cannot benefit it in the slightest by sacrificing your life.
Your wife was a Communist Vivandière a few days ago, now she is a quiet
little wife nursing a sick husband." Glancing at Minette he saw an angry
flush on her face, and a look of dogged determination; he made no
remark, however, and after chatting with Arnold for some time returned
to Passy.

"That woman will bring destruction on them both or I am mistaken," he
said to Mary; "fond as she may be of Dampierre, her enthusiasm for the
Commune will take her from his side when the last struggle begins. Do
you know, Mary, my presentiments about her have turned out marvellously
correct." He opened his sketch-book. "Look at that," he said; "at the
time I sketched it she was poised as a Spanish dancer, and had castanets
in her hand; the attitude is precisely that in which she stood as a
model, but it struck me at the moment that a knife would be more
appropriate to her than a castanet, and you see I drew her so, and that
is the precise attitude she stood in, dagger in hand, when I caught her
wrist and prevented her from stabbing the man at her feet."

"Don't show them to me, Cuthbert, it frightens me when you talk of her."

"You must remember that she is a mixture, Mary; she is like a panther,
as graceful, and as supple; a charming beast when it purrs and rubs
itself against the legs of its keeper, terrible when, in passion, it
hurls itself upon him. In the early days the students were, to a man,
fascinated with her. I stood quite alone in my disapproval. Seeing her
as I saw her to-day, I admit that she is charming, but I cannot forget
her fury as she bounded, knife in hand, upon the man I had knocked down.
Listen! do your hear that rattle of musketry down by Pont du Jour? The
troops must be working their way up towards the gate. Possibly, it is
the beginning of the end."

Presently a Communist, with a red sash, rode furiously past, and in a
quarter of an hour returned with a battalion of National Guards who had
been stationed near the Arc de Triomphe.

"Evidently, there is a some sharp business going on, Mary. It is hardly
likely the troops can be attacking at this time of day, they would be
sure to choose early morning, mass their forces under cover of darkness,
and go at the gate at daybreak; still, there is no doubt from that
musketry firing, they must be trying to establish themselves nearer the
gate than before."

The batteries that had all day been playing upon Pont du Jour, had
suddenly ceased firing, but the rattle of musketry in that direction
continued as hotly as ever for another two hours, and a number of
field-guns joined in the conflict on the side of the Communists.

"I really must go and find out what it is all about," Cuthbert said; "if
I could get up near the Viaduct, I should be able to look down into the
bastions at Pont du Jour."

"Don't be away long," Mary urged, "I shall be feeling very nervous till
you get back."

"I won't be long; I shan't stay to watch the affair, but only just to
find out what the situation is. The fact that the Communists have
brought up Field Artillery, shows that it is something more than
ordinary, although, why the batteries opposite should have ceased to
play I cannot make out; they are hard at work everywhere else."

Cuthbert made his way towards the Viaduct, and as he approached it saw
that some of the field-guns he had heard had been placed there, and that
the parapet was lined with National Guards who were keeping up an
incessant fire. Shells from Meudon and Fort Issy were bursting thickly
over and near the bridge, and Cuthbert, seeing that he could not get
further without being exposed to the fire, and might, moreover, get
into trouble with the Communists, made his way down towards Pont du
Jour. Several people were standing in shelter behind the wall of one of
the villas.

"You had better not go farther," one of them said, "a shell burst twenty
yards lower down a few minutes ago. Several of the villas are in flames,
and bullets are flying about everywhere."

"What is going on, gentlemen?" Cuthbert asked, as he joined them.

"The troops have entered Pont du Jour."

"Impossible!" Cuthbert exclaimed, "the firing has been heavy, but no
heavier than usual, and although the village is knocked to pieces, as I
saw for myself yesterday, no great harm was done to the bastions."

"They have entered for all that," one of the gentlemen said. "Several
wounded Communists have come along here, and they have all told the same
story. Of course, they put it down to the treachery of their leaders,
but at any rate, owing to the tremendous fire from the upper batteries
and Issy, it was absolutely impossible to keep men in the bastions, and
they were all withdrawn. A few were left in the houses and gardens, but
the greater part fell back behind the Viaduct, which afforded them
shelter. Somehow or other, the troops in the sap that had been pushed
forward to within fifty yards of the gate must have come to the
conclusion that the bastion was not tenanted, and trying the experiment,
found themselves inside the wall without a shot having been fired. More
must have followed them, at any rate a considerable force must have
gathered there before the Communists found out they had entered. There
can be no doubt that it was a surprise, and not a preconcerted movement,
for the batteries continue to fire on the place for some time after they
had entered.

"In a short time, small bodies of soldiers ran across the open where the
shells were still bursting thickly, established themselves in the ruins
of the village, and, as they received reinforcements, gradually worked
their way forwards. The Communists have brought up strong forces, but so
far, they have been unable to drive back the troops, and, of course,
their chance of doing so grows less and less. We can hear heavy firing
all along to the right, and it seems as if the troops were pushing
forward all along the line from here to Neuilly. Thank God, the end of
this terrible business is approaching, and by to-morrow morning we may
see the troops in Passy, where there is scarce a soul but will welcome
them with open arms. Our battalion of National Guards was one of the
last to accept the orders of the Commune, and as it must be known in
Versailles as well as in Paris, that this quarter is thoroughly loyal,
we need fear no trouble. We are going back there with the news, for we
can see nothing here, and if a battalion of Communists came along
beaten, they would be as likely as not to vent their fury on all whom
they see by their appearance and dress are likely to sympathize with the
troops."

Cuthbert walked back with them to Passy.

"Good news," he exclaimed, as he entered the room, where Mary and the
Michauds were standing at the open window; "the troops are masters of
Point du Jour, and the Communists have tried in vain to drive them back.
No doubt, at present, the whole French army is being brought up, in
readiness to enter as soon as it is dark, and by to-morrow morning this
part of the town at any rate may be clear of the Communists."

Exclamations of delight burst from the others. "I will run up to the
roof," Cuthbert said, "there is heavy musketry fire going on all along
this side, and one may get an idea how matters are going, but we may be
sure that the Communists will all fall back upon the city as soon as
they know the troops have entered here."

Mary went up with him, and they found the astronomer had already his
telescope in position.

"I have good news for you, Monsieur," Cuthbert said; "the troops have
entered Pont du Jour, and although the Communists are opposing them in
great force, they are making their way forward. It has evidently been a
surprise all round, and so far no great body of troops have been brought
up, but no doubt they will soon be ready to advance in force."

"That is good news indeed. I have been watching Asnieres, and as far as
I can make out a large body of troops have crossed the bridge there, and
are skirmishing towards the enciente, and gradually driving back the
Communists. They have advanced too from Neuilly and are pressing forward
towards Porte Maillot. Mount Valerien seems to be firing at Montmartre."

Nightfall brought no cessation of the roar of cannon, and the roll of
musketry seemed to be continuous, both from the left and right. Every
window at Passy was lit up; there was a crowd of women at every shop
where colored materials could be obtained, and in every house the
females were engaged in sewing red, white, and blue stuff of every
description to make the National tri-colored flags, in readiness to hang
out when the troops came along. Occasionally adventurous boys and young
men came in with scraps of news; the Viaduct had been carried before
darkness set in, a heavy column of troops had captured a strong
barricade across the road, and, following the bank of the river, had
taken possession of the bridge of Grenelle. Another division turning to
the left had carried the gas works, while a third had captured the
Asylum of St. Perrine.

It was at the Trocadero that the insurgents were expected to make a
stand in earnest. Here they had erected formidable works, and were
reported to be hard at work mounting guns and mitrailleuses there. The
troops, however, gave them no time to complete their preparations. A
column entered a little before midnight by the gate of Passy, pushed on
to the bridge of Jena, carried it after a sharp fight, and then charged
at the double towards the heights of the Trocadero, where the
Communists, taken completely by surprise, fled precipitously after a
slight resistance, and at one o'clock in the morning the loyalists were
in possession of this important position. At midnight another division
entered at the Porte Maillot, and advancing took possession of the Arc
de Triomphe.

At two o'clock the head of the French column came down the street. In an
instant candles were placed at every window, flags were hung out, and
the inhabitants poured into the street and welcomed their deliverers
with shouts of joy. The troops piled their arms and fell out, and as
soon as they did so, men and women brought out jugs of wine and
provisions of all kinds. In half an hour the inhabitants were ordered to
return to their houses, and the troops wrapping themselves in their
blankets laid down in the roadway to get two or three hours, sleep
before the heavy work expected in the morning. At five they were on
their feet again. Already the din of battle had recommenced. At daybreak
Bruat's division crossed the Seine by the Viaduct, kept along the left
bank, drove the insurgents from the great iron foundry of Cail, and
entered the Champs de Mars.

The Communists fought stubbornly here, but a corps was sent round to
turn their position, and seeing their retreat threatened, they broke and
fled, and the École Militaire was taken possession of without further
resistance. General Cissey's division entered by the gate of Mont Rouge,
where the Communists, threatened in the rear by Bruat's advance, fell
back at their approach. Moving along the Boulevard Mont Rouge they came
upon very strong and formidable barricades, defended by six cannon and
mitrailleuses, supported by musketry fire from the houses. The position
was so strong that even with the assistance of the artillery Cissey was
unable to advance farther in this direction.

Bruat's division met with strong opposition at the Cartridge Factory in
the Avenue Rapp, and the Reds were only driven out at last by artillery
being brought up, and shelling them out. After this Bruat pushed on,
captured and occupied without resistance the Invalides, and the Palais
Legislatif, opposite the Place de la Concorde.

On the right bank the troops advanced from the Arc de Triomphe at the
double and carried the Palais de L'Industrie after a short resistance.
By mid-day the whole of the Champs Elysées as far as the barrier of the
Place de la Concorde were in possession of the troops.

Late in the afternoon the division of General Clinchamp marched down on
the Rue Faubourg St. Honoré, came out upon the Boulevard and took
possession of the Madeleine and the Grand Opera House. While these
operations had been carried on the Communists, batteries on Montmartre
had thrown shells over the whole area occupied by the troops, while Mont
Valerien and the other batteries facing the western side maintained a
heavy fire upon those of Montmartre.

Early in the morning all the members of the National Guard of Passy and
Auteuil were summoned to arms and ordered to assist the troops, and were
specially enjoined to maintain order in their rear as they advanced.
Numbers of Communist prisoners were taken by the troops as they worked
their way forward, and upwards of 8,000 were despatched under a strong
escort to Versailles. The order for the National Guard to assemble was
received with intense satisfaction, the younger and unmarried men had
been forced into the ranks of the Communists, but many had during the
last day or two slipped away and remained in hiding, and all were
anxious to prove that it was loyalty and not cowardice that had caused
them to desert.

Cuthbert was out all day watching, from points where he could obtain
shelter from the flying bullets, the advance of the troops. When he
returned he told Mary that everything was going on well so far, but he
added, "The work is really only beginning; the barrier at the Place de
la Concorde and the batteries on the terrace of the Tuileries are really
formidable positions, and I hear that on the south side the advance has
been entirely arrested by one of the barricades there. The Insurgents
never intended to hold the outlying suburbs, and even the batteries on
the Trocadero were built to aid the Forts and not for fighting inside
the walls. You see every yard the troops gain now drives the Communists
closer and closer together, and renders the defence more easy. It may be
a week yet before the Commune is finally crushed. I should think that
before the troops advance much further on this side they will storm
Montmartre, whose batteries would otherwise take them in rear."

The next day three divisions marched against Montmartre, and attacked it
simultaneously on three sides. The Communists here who had throughout
the siege been the loudest and most vehement in their warlike
demonstrations, now showed that at heart they were cowards. Although
their batteries were armed with over a hundred guns, they offered but a
momentary resistance and fled, panic-stricken, in every direction, some
thousands being taken prisoners by the troops. On the other hand,
throughout the rest of Paris, the fighting became more and more severe
and desperate. The Northern Railway Station was defended successfully
throughout the day. On the south side of the river but little progress
was made by the troops, and they remained stationary also in the Champs
Elysées, the barriers in front being too strong to be stormed without
frightful loss. These, however, would be turned by the divisions who had
captured Montmartre, and the troops descending by different routes to
the Boulevard des Italiennes, worked their way along as far as the Porte
St. Denis, and this threatened the flank of the defenders of the Place
de la Concorde and the Tuileries.

The roar of fire was unbroken all day, the Forts, that had not yet
fallen into the hands of the troops, bombarded all the quarters that had
been captured, and were aided by powerful batteries at Belleville, at
Vilette, and above all by those on the Buttes du Chaumont, where the
Cemetery of Père la Chaise had been converted into an entrenched camp,
the positions here being defended by 20,000 of the best troops of Paris.
In the western quarters things had resumed their normal state; the shops
were opened, children played in the streets, and women gossipped at the
doors, there were men about too, for the order for the reassembling of
the National Guard of this quarter had been cancelled, having met with
the strongest opposition in the Assembly at Versailles.

The astronomer downstairs turned out a very useful acquaintance, for
hearing from Cuthbert, that he was extremely anxious to obtain a pass
that would permit him to move about near the scenes of fighting without
the risk of being seized and shot as a Communist, he said that he was an
intimate friend of Marshal McMahon and should be glad to obtain a pass
for him. On going to the quarters where the Marshal had established
himself, he brought back an order authorizing Cuthbert Hartington, a
British subject, to circulate everywhere in quarters occupied by the
troops.

"It is too late to go down this evening, Mary," he said, "but I expect
that to-morrow a great attack upon the positions round the Tuileries
will take place, and I shall try and get somewhere where I can see
without being in the line of fire. I will take care to run no risk,
dear; you see my life is more precious to me now than it was when I
joined the Franc tireurs des Écoles."

It was difficult to stop quietly indoors when so mighty a struggle was
going on almost within sight, and at ten o'clock in the evening he and
Mary went out to the Trocadero. The flashes of fire from the Loyal and
Communist batteries were incessant. Away on the south side was a
constant flicker of musketry as Cissey's troops struggled with the
defender of the barricades. An incessant fire played along the end of
the Champs Elysées, flashed from the windows of the Tuileries and
fringed the parapet of the south side of the river facing the Palais.
Fires were blazing in various parts of Paris, the result of the
bombardment. The city looked strangely dark, for the men at the gas
works were for the most part fighting in the ranks of the insurgents.
The sky was lined with sparks of fire moving in arcs and marking the
course of the shell as they traversed to and fro from battery to
battery, or fell on the city.

"It is a wonderful sight, Mary."

"Wonderful, but very terrible," she replied; "it is all very well to
look at from here, but only think what it must be for those within that
circle of fire."

"I have no pity for the Communists," Cuthbert said, "not one spark. They
would not pull a trigger or risk a scratch for the defence of Paris
against the Germans, now they are fighting like wild-cats against their
countrymen. Look there," he exclaimed, suddenly, "there is a fire broken
out close to the Place de la Concorde, a shell must have fallen there. I
fancy it must be within the barricades, but none of the batteries on
either side would have been likely to send a shell there at night, as
it is so close to the line of division that the missile would be as
likely to strike friend as foe."

Higher and higher mounted the flames, spreading as they went till a huge
mass of fire lighted up all that part of Paris.

"It must be a great public building of some sort," Cuthbert said.

"See, another building is on fire a short distance away from it; look,
Cuthbert, look is that the reflection of the flames in the windows of
the Tuileries or is it on fire?

"It is fire," Cuthbert exclaimed after a minute's pause; "see the flames
have burst through that window on the first floor. Good heavens, the
Communists are carrying out their threat to lay Paris in ashes before
they yield."

In five minutes all doubt was at an end, the flames were pouring out
from every window on the first floor of the Palais, and it was evident
the fire must have been lighted in a dozen places simultaneously.

By this time the Trocadero was thronged with spectators attracted by the
light in the sky, and by the report that one of the public buildings was
on fire; exclamations of fury and grief, and execrations upon the
Communists rose everywhere, when it was seen that the Tuileries were in
flames. From points at considerable distances from each other fresh
outbreaks of fire took place. Most of those standing round were able to
locate them, and it was declared that the Palace of the Court of
Accounts, the Ministries of War and Finance, the palaces of the Legion
of Honor and of the Council of State, the Prefecture of Police the
Palace de Justice, the Hôtel de Ville and the Palais Royale were all on
fire. As the night went on the scene became more and more terrible.
Paris was blazing in at least twenty places, and most of the
conflagrations were upon an enormous scale. The scene was too
fascinating and terrible to be abandoned, and it was not until the
morning began to break that the spectators on the Trocadero returned to
their homes.



CHAPTER XXV.


Armed with his pass Cuthbert started for the city at ten o'clock next
morning. A dense pall of smoke hung over Paris. On the south side of the
river the conflict was still raging, as it was also on the north and
east, but the insurgents' shells were no longer bursting up the Champs
Elysées and the firing had ceased at the Place de la Concorde. It was
evident that the insurgents, after performing their work of destruction,
had evacuated their position there. On reaching the bottom of the Champs
Elysées he found that a breach had been made in the barricade and that a
considerable number of troops were bivouacked in the Place de la
Concorde itself.

The fire-engines from Versailles, St. Denis, and other places round were
already at work, but their efforts seemed futile indeed in face of the
tremendous bodies of fire with which they had to cope. Just as Cuthbert,
after passing through the breach in the barricade, on the presentation
of his pass to the sentries, arrived at the end of the Rue Rivoli, a
mounted officer dashed up to the two engines at work opposite the
building that had first been fired, and said--

"You can do no good here. Take your engines to the courtyard of the
Tuileries and aid the troops in preventing the fire from spreading to
the Louvre. That is the only place where there is any hope of doing
good. Now, monsieur," he said to Cuthbert, "You must fall in and aid the
Pompiers. The orders are that all able-bodied men are to help in
extinguishing the fire."

Cuthbert was glad to be of use, and joining the firemen ran along with
the engines down the Rue Rivoli and turned in with them into the
courtyard of the palace. The western end, containing the State
apartments, was a mass of fire from end to end, and the flames were
creeping along both wings towards the Louvre. In the palace itself a
battalion of infantry were at work. Some were throwing furniture,
pictures and curtains through the window into the courtyard; others were
hacking off doors and tearing up floors, while strong parties were
engaged on the roofs in stripping off the slates and tearing down the
beams and linings.

Other engines presently arrived, for telegrams had been sent off soon
after the fires broke out to all the principal towns of France, and even
to London, asking for engines and men to work them, and those from
Amiens, Lille, and Rouen had already reached Paris by train.

After working for three hours Cuthbert showed his pass to the officer
and was permitted to pass on, a large number of citizens being by this
time available for the work, having been fetched from all the suburbs
occupied by the troops. Before going very much farther Cuthbert was
stopped by a line of sentries across the street.

"You cannot pass here," the officer in charge said, as Cuthbert produced
his permit, "the island is still in the hands of the Communists, and the
fire from their barricade across the bridge sweeps the street twenty
yards farther on, and it would be certain death to show yourself there;
besides, they are still in force beyond the Hôtel de Ville. You can, of
course, work round by the left, but I should strongly advise you to go
no farther. There is desperate fighting going on in the Place de la
Bastille. The insurgent batteries are shelling the Boulevards hotly,
and, worst of all, you are liable to be shot from the upper windows and
cellars. There are scores of those scoundrels still in the houses; there
has been no time to unearth them yet, and a good many men have been
killed by their fire."

"Thank you, sir. I will take your advice," Cuthbert said.

He found, indeed, that there was no seeing anything that was going on in
the way of fighting without running great risks, and he accordingly made
his way back to the Trocadero. Here he could see that a number of fires
had broken out at various points since morning, even in the part of the
town occupied by the troops; and though some of these might be caused by
the Communists' shell it was more probable that they were the work of
the incendiary. He had, indeed, heard from some of the citizens to whom
he had spoken while at work at the pumps, that orders had been issued
that all gratings and windows giving light to cellars, should be closed
by wet sacks being piled against them, and should then be covered
thickly with earth, as several women had been caught in the act of
pouring petroleum into the cellars and then dropping lighted matches
down upon it.

These wretches had been shot instantly, but the fresh fires continually
springing up showed that the work was still going on.

It was strangely silent in the streets. With the exception of the
sentries at every corner there were few persons indeed abroad. Many were
looking from the windows, but few, indeed, ventured out. They knew not
what orders had been given to the sentries and feared arrest were they
to stir beyond their doors. Moreover, the occasional crash of a shell
from the insurgent batteries, the whistling of bullets, and the frequent
discharge of musket shots still kept up by groups of desperate
Communists who had taken refuge in the houses, was sufficient alone to
deter them from making any attempt to learn what was going on. But in
the absence of footfalls in the street and of the sound of vehicles, the
distant noises were strangely audible. The rustle of the flames at the
Hôtel de Ville and the great fires across the river, the crash of the
falling roofs and walls, the incessant rattle of distant musketry, and
the boom of cannon, formed a weird contrast to the silence that
prevailed in the quarter. Cuthbert felt that he breathed more freely
when he issued out again into the Champs Elysées.

The next day he did not go down. The advance continued, but progress was
slow. On the following morning Paris was horrified by the news published
in the papers at Versailles that statements of prisoners left no doubt
that the Archbishop of Paris and many other priests, in all a hundred
persons, had been massacred in cold blood, the methods of the first
revolution being closely followed, and the prisoners made to walk out
one by one from the gate of the prison, and being shot down as they
issued out. Another statement of a scarcely less appalling nature was
that the female fiends of the Commune not only continued their work of
destruction by fire, but were poisoning the troops. Several instances of
this occurred. In one case ten men were poisoned by one of these furies,
who came out as they passed, and expressing joy at the defeat of the
Commune, offered them wine. They drank it unsuspectingly, and within an
hour were all dead. Orders, were consequently issued that no soldier
should on any account accept drink or food of any kind offered them by
women.

"This horrible massacre of the Archbishop and the other prisoners is
next door to madness," Cuthbert said, as he read the account at
breakfast. "The Communists could have no personal feeling of hostility
against their victims, indeed, the Archbishop was, I know, most popular.
Upon the other hand it seals the fate of thousands. The fury excited by
such a deed will be so great that the troops will refuse to give quarter
and the prisoners taken will have to suffer to the utmost for the crime
committed by perhaps a handful of desperate wretches. The omnibuses
began to run yesterday from Sèvres, and I propose, Mary, that we go over
to Versailles to-day and get out of sound of the firing. They say there
are fully 20,000 prisoners there."

"I don't want to see the prisoners," Mary said, with a shudder. "I
should like to go to Versailles, but let us keep away from horrors."

And so for a day they left the sound of battle behind, wandered together
through the Park at Versailles, and carefully abstained from all
allusion to the public events of the past six months. The next day
Cuthbert returned to Paris and made his way down to the Place de la
Bastille, where, for the sum of half a Napoleon, he obtained permission
to ascend to the upper window of a house. The scene here was terrible.
On the side on which he was standing a great drapery establishment,
known as the Bon Marché, embracing a dozen houses, was in flames. In the
square itself three batteries of artillery belonging to Ladmirault's
Division, were sending their shell up the various streets debouching on
the place.

Most of the houses on the opposite side were in flames. The insurgent
batteries on the Buttes de Chaumont were replying to the guns of the
troops. The infantry were already pressing their way upwards. Some of
the barricades were so desperately defended that the method by which
alone the troops on the south side had been able to capture these
defences, was adopted; the troops taking possession of the houses and
breaking their way with crow-bar and pick-axe through the party wall,
and so, step by step, making their way along under cover until they
approached the barricades, which they were then able to make untenable
by their musketry fire from the windows. Cuthbert remained here for an
hour or two, and then making a detour came out on the Boulevards higher
up.

The Theatre of Porte St. Martin was in flames, as were many other
buildings. A large number of troops with piled arms occupied the centre
of the street, taking their turn to rest before they relieved their
comrades in the work of assault. Presently he saw down a side street a
party of soldiers with some prisoners. He turned down to see what was
going on. The officer in command of the party came up to him.

"Monsieur has doubtless a pass," he said, politely.

Cuthbert produced it.

"Ah, you are English, monsieur. It is well for you that your country
does not breed such wretches as these. Every one of them has been caught
in the course of the last hour in the act of setting houses alight. They
are now to be shot."

"It is an unpleasant duty, monsieur," Cuthbert said.

"It would be horrible at any other time," the officer said. "But we
cannot consider these creatures as human beings. They are wild beasts
and I verily believe the women are worse than the men. There is only one
I would spare, though she is the worst of all. At every barricade where
the fighting has been fiercest for the last four days she has been
conspicuous. The troops got to know her by her red cap and dress. She
has been seen to shoot down men who attempted to retire, and she has led
a charmed life or she would have been killed a thousand times. When she
was taken she had on an old dress over her red one, and a hideous bonnet
in place of the cap. She was caught just as she had dropped a lighted
match into a cellar. The flames flashed up at once, and two soldiers
near ran up and arrested her. She stabbed one, but the other broke her
wrist with a blow from the butt of his musket.

"Then came a curious thing. A man who had been standing in a doorway on
the opposite side of the street ran out and declared that he was a
sharer in her crime. His air was that of a madman, and the men would
have pushed him away, but he exclaimed, 'I am Arnold Dampierre, one of
the leaders of the Commune. This is my wife.' Then the woman said, 'The
man is mad. I have never seen him before. I know Arnold Dampierre
everyone knows him. He does not resemble this man, whose proper place is
a lunatic asylum.' So they contended, and both were brought before the
drumhead Court Martial.

"The man had so wild an air that we should not have believed his story,
but on his being searched his American passport was found upon him. Then
the woman threw herself into his arms. 'We will die together then!' she
said. 'I would have saved you if you would have let me.' Then she turned
to us. 'Yes, I am guilty. I have fought against you on the barricades,'
and she tore off her outer dress and bonnet. 'I have kindled twenty
fires, but in this I am guilty alone. He stood by me on the barricades,
but he would have nothing to do with firing houses. But I am a Parisian.
I am the daughter of Martin Dufaure, who was killed an hour since, and
my duty was to the Commune first, and to my husband afterwards. I hate
and despise you slaves of tyrants. You have conquered us but we have
taught a lesson to the men who fatten on our suffering.'

"Of course they were both ordered to be shot. I have given them all five
minutes, but the time is up. Range them by the wall, men," he said,
turning to the soldiers.

Cuthbert glanced for a moment and then turned away. The other women were
mostly old, or at least middle-aged, and they stood scowling at the
soldiers, and some of them pouring out the foulest imprecations upon
them.

Minette stood in the centre of the line conspicuous by her red dress.
One hand grasped that of Arnold, who was gazing upon her as if oblivious
to all else. Her head was held erect and she looked at her executioners
with an air of proud defiance.

Cuthbert hurried away, filled with an intense feeling of pity and
regret. He heard Minette cry in a loud clear voice, "Vive la Commune!"
Then there was a sharp volley and all was over, and a minute later the
soldiers passed him on the way to join their comrades.

He stood for a time at the corner of the street irresolute. He had seen
scores of dead in the streets. He had thought he could see nothing worse
than he had witnessed, but he felt that he could not go back, as he had
first thought of doing, to the scene of execution. Comrades had fallen
by his side in the fight at Champigny, but he had not felt for them as
for this comrade who lay behind him, or for the girl who, with her
talents, might have had a bright future before her had she been thrown
amid other surroundings. He wondered whether he could obtain their
bodies for burial.

It did not seem to him possible. Vehicles could not be obtained at any
price. The very request would seem suspicious, and suspicion at that
hour was enough to condemn a man unheard. The difficulties in the way
would be enormous. Indeed, it would matter nothing. Arnold and Minette.
They had fallen together and would lie together in one of the great
common graves in which the dead would be buried. It would be little
short of a mockery to have the burial service read over her, and had
Arnold been consulted he would have preferred to lie beside her to being
laid in a grave apart.

So after a pause of five minutes Cuthbert moved away without venturing a
single look back at the group huddled down by the wall, but walked away
feeling crushed and overwhelmed by the untimely fate that had befallen
two persons of whom he had seen so much during the past year, and
feeling as feeble as he did when he first arose from his bed in the
American ambulance.

Several times he had to pause and lean against the wall, and when he
had passed the barricade at the Place de la Concorde, towards which he
had almost instinctively made his way, he sat down on one of the
deserted seats in the Champs Elysées, and burst into tears. It had
hardly come upon him as a surprise, for he had felt that, conspicuous as
he had made himself, the chances of Arnold making his escape were small
indeed, especially as Minette would cling to the Commune until the very
end. Still it never struck him as being possible that he himself might
witness the end. He had thought that the same obscurity that hung over
the fate of most of the other leaders of the Commune would envelop that
of Arnold. He would have fallen, but how or when would never have been
known. He would simply have disappeared. Rumor would have mentioned his
name for a few days, the rumor that was already busy with the fate of
other leaders of the insurrection, and he had never dreamt that it would
be brought home to him in this fashion. After a time Cuthbert pulled
himself together, waited until a fiacre came along for on this side of
Paris things were gradually regaining their usual aspect and then drove
back to Passy.

"What is the matter, Cuthbert?" Mary exclaimed as she caught sight of
his face. "Are you ill? You look terribly pale and quite unlike
yourself. What has happened?"

"I have had a shock, Mary," he said, with a faint attempt at a smile, "a
very bad shock. Don't ask me about it just at present. Please get me
some brandy. I have never fainted in my life, but I feel very near it
just at present."

Mary hurried away to Madame Michaud, who now always discreetly withdrew
as soon as Cuthbert was announced, and returned with some cognac, a
tumbler, and water. She poured him out a glass that seemed to herself to
be almost alarmingly strong, but he drank it at a draught.

"Don't be alarmed, Mary," he said, with a smile, at the consternation in
her face. "You won't often see me do this, and I can assure you that
spirit-drinking is not an habitual vice with me, but I really wanted it
then. They are still fighting fiercely from Porte St. Martin down to the
Place de la Bastille. I believe all resistance has been crushed out on
the south side of the river, and in a couple of days the whole thing
will be over."

"Fancy a week of fighting. It is awful to think of, Cuthbert. How many
do you suppose will be killed altogether?"

"I have not the least idea, and I don't suppose it will ever be known;
but if the resistance is as desperate for the next two days as it has
been for the last three, I should say fully 20,000 will have fallen,
besides those taken with arms in their hands, tried, and shot. I hear
there are two general court-martials sitting permanently, and that seven
or eight hundred prisoners are shot every day. Then there are some
eighteen or twenty thousand at Versailles, but as these will not be
tried until the fighting is over, and men's blood cooled down somewhat,
no doubt much greater leniency will be shown."

"There is a terrible cloud of smoke over Paris, still."

"Yes, fresh fires are constantly breaking out. The Louvre is safe, and
the firemen have checked the spread of the flames at the public
buildings, but there are streets where every house is alight for a
distance of a quarter of a mile; and yet, except at these spots, the
damage is less than you would expect considering how fierce a battle has
been raging. There are streets where scarce a bullet mark is to be seen
on the walls or a broken pane of glass in a window, while at points
where barricades have been defended, the scene of ruin is terrible."

Two days later a strange stillness succeeded the din and uproar that had
for a week gone on without cessation night and day. Paris was conquered,
the Commune was stamped out, its chiefs dead or fugitives, its rank and
file slaughtered, or prisoners awaiting trial. France breathed again. It
had been saved from a danger infinitely more terrible than a German
occupation. In a short time the hotels were opened and visitors began to
pour into Paris to gaze at the work of destruction wrought by the orgie
of the Commune. One day Cuthbert, who was now installed in his own
lodging, went up to Passy.

"I hear that the English Church is to be open to-morrow, Mary. I called
on the clergyman to-day and told him that I should probably require his
services next week."

"Cuthbert!" Mary exclaimed in surprise, "you cannot mean----" and a
flush of color completed the sentence.

"Yes, that is just what I do mean, Mary. You have kept me waiting three
years and I am not going to wait a day longer."

"I have given up much of my belief in women's rights, Cuthbert, but
there are some I still maintain, and one of these is that a woman has a
right to be consulted in a matter of this kind."

"Quite so, dear, and therefore I have left the matter open, and I will
leave you to fix the day and you can choose any one you like from Monday
to Saturday next week."

"But I must have time, Cuthbert," she said, desperately. "I have, of
course, things to get."

"The things that you have will do perfectly well, my dear. Besides, many
of the shops are open and you can get anything you want. As for a dress
for the occasion, if you choose to fix Saturday you will have twelve
days, which is twice as long as necessary. Putting aside my objection to
waiting any longer I want to get away from here to some quiet place
where we can forget the events of the past month, and get our nerves
into working order again. If there is any reason that you can declare
that you honestly believe to be true and valid of course I must give
way, but if not let it be Saturday week. That is right. I see that you
have nothing to urge," and a fortnight later they were settled in a
châlet high up above the Lake of Lucerne.

René and Pierre acted as Cuthbert's witnesses at the marriage. Pierre
had escaped before the fighting began. René had done service with the
National Guard until the news came that the troops had entered Paris,
then he had gone to M. Goudé's who had hidden him and seven or eight of
the other students in an attic. When the troops approached, they had
taken refuge on the roof and had remained there until the tide of battle
had swept past, and they then descended, and arraying themselves in
their painting blouses had taken up their work at the studio; and when,
three days later, the general search for Communists began, they were
found working so diligently that none suspected that they had ever fired
a shot in the ranks of the Communists.

When the salon was opened, long after its usual time, Cuthbert's
pictures were well hung and obtained an amount of praise that more than
satisfied him, although his wife insisted that they were not half as
warm as the pictures deserved. It was not until they had been for some
time in Switzerland that Mary had learned the details of the deaths of
Arnold and Minette Dampierre. That both were dead she knew, for when she
mentioned their names for the first time after the close of the
fighting, Cuthbert told her that he had learned that both were dead, and
begged her to ask no question concerning them until he himself returned
to the subject.

Mary wrote to her mother a day or two after she was married giving her
the news. An answer was received from Scarborough expressing great
satisfaction, and saying that it was probable that the family would
settle where they were. Neither Cuthbert nor his wife liked the thought
of returning to England, and for the next five years remained abroad.
After spending a few months at Dresden, Munich, Rome, and Florence, they
settled at Venice. Cuthbert continued to work hard, and each year two or
three of his pictures hung on the walls of the Academy and attracted
much attention, and were sold at excellent prices. All his earnings in
this way and the entire income of Fairclose were put aside to pay off
the mortgage, and when, at the end of the five years, Cuthbert, his
wife, and two children returned to Fairclose, the greater portion of the
mortgage had been paid off, and three years later it was entirely wiped
out.

Although very warmly received by the county, Cuthbert retained his
preference for London, and during the winter six months always moved up
to a house in the artists' quarter at St. John's Wood. Although he no
longer painted as if compelled to do so for a living, he worked
regularly and steadily while in town, and being able to take his time in
carrying out his conceptions, his pictures increased in value and he
took a place in the front rank of artists, and some fifteen years after
the siege of Paris was elected Academician. Before this he had sold
Fairclose and built himself a house in Holland Park, where he was able
to indulge his love for art to the fullest extent.

Of his wife's family he saw but little. Mary's sisters both married
before he and his wife returned from abroad. Mary went down occasionally
to Scarborough, and stayed with her father and mother, but Mr. Brander
steadily refused all invitations to visit them in London, and until his
death, fifteen years later, never left Scarborough, where he became a
very popular man, although no persuasions could induce him to take a
part in any of its institutions or public affairs.

Cuthbert has often declared that the most fortunate event in his life
was that he was a besieged resident in Paris through its two sieges. As
for Mary she has been heard to declare that she has no patience,
whatever, with the persons who frequent platforms and talk about women's
rights.

Not far from the spot in la Chaise where the pits in which countless
numbers of Communists were buried are situated, stands a small marble
cross, on whose pedestal are inscribed the words:--"To the memory of
Arnold Dampierre and his wife, Minette, whose bodies rest near this
place."


THE END.



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