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Title: The Belovéd Traitor
Author: Packard, Frank L. (Frank Lucius), 1877-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Belovéd Traitor" ***

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_The Belovéd Traitor_


BY

FRANK L. PACKARD


AUTHOR OF "THE MIRACLE MAN," "GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN," ETC.



THE COPP, CLARK CO., LIMITED

TORONTO



COPYRIGHT, 1915

BY FRANK L. PACKARD



There is a Valley called the Valley of Illusion, but beyond it,
sun-crowned, is the Peak of Eternal Truth--and the Way from the Valley
to the Peak is sore beset, for the Way is the Understanding of Things
Real, and its Achievement is the Fullness of Life.



CONTENTS


BOOK I: BERNAY-SUR-MER

CHAPTER

    I  THE HOUSE ON THE BLUFF
   II  THE KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT
  III  THE BEACON
   IV  STRANGERS WITHIN THE GATES
    V  "WHO IS JEAN LAPARDE?"
   VI  THE GIFT
  VII  WHERE GLORY AWAITS
 VIII  SHADOWS BEFORE
   IX  FORKED ROADS
    X  A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE
   XI  THE PENDULUM


BOOK II: TWO YEARS LATER

    I  THE DUPLICITY OF FATHER ANTON
   II  26 RUE VANITAIRE
  III  IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT
   IV  THE ACCUSATION
    V  THE SECRET MODEL
   VI  "JEAN MUST NOT KNOW"
  VII  MEA CULPA
 VIII  FLIGHT
   IX  MYRNA'S STRATEGY
    X  THROUGH THE FOG
   XI  THE "DEATH" OF JEAN LAPARDE
  XII  AT THE "GATEWAY"
 XIII  DAWN
  XIV  THE STATUE OF DREAMS



The Belovéd Traitor


BOOK I: BERNAY-SUR-MER


-- I --

THE HOUSE ON THE BLUFF

It was a wilder gust than any that had gone before.  It tore along the
beach with maniacal fury; and, shrieking in a high, devilishly-gleeful
falsetto, while the joints of the little inn, rheumatic with age,
squeaked in its embrace, shook the Taverne du Bas Rhône much after the
fashion of a terrier shaking a rat.  And with that gust, loosening the
dilapidated fastening on the casement, a window crashed inward,
shattering the pane against the wall.

"_Sacré bleu!_" shouted a man, springing smartly to his feet from his
seat at a small table as the rain lashed him.  "What a dog of a night!"

Against the opposite wall, tilted back in a chair, Papa Fregeau, the
patron, a rotund, aproned little individual, stopped the humming of his
song.

"_Tiens!_" said he fatuously.  "But it is worse than that, Alcide,
since it is bad for business--hah!  Not a franc profit to-night--the
Bas Rhône is desolated."  And he resumed his song:

  "In Languedoc, where the wine flows free,
    We drink to----"


"Hold your bibulous tongue, Jacques Fregeau, and get something with
which to fix that window before we are as wet inside as you!"--it was
Madame Fregeau, stout, middle-aged and rosy, already hurrying to the
aid of the first speaker, who was wrestling with the dismantled
fastening.

Usually the nightly resort of the little fishing village of
Bernay-sur-Mer, the Bas Rhône, inn, cabaret, tavern or cafe, as it was
variously styled, now held but two others in the room that was
habitually crowded to suffocation.  One was a young man, sturdily
built, with a tanned, clean-cut face, smooth-shaven save for a small
black moustache, whose rumpled black hair straggled in pleasing
disarray over his forehead; the other was older, a man of forty, whose
skin was bronzed almost to blackness from the Mediterranean sun.  Both
were in rough fishermen's dress, sitting at dominoes under the hanging
lamp in the centre of the room.  On the table, pushed to one side, were
the remains of a simple meal of bread and cheese; and from the inside
of the loaf, the younger man, somewhat to the detriment of his own game
and to the advantage of his opponent, had plucked out a piece of the
soft bread, which he had kneaded between his fingers into a plastic
lump, and thereafter, with amazing skill and deftness, had been engaged
in moulding into little faces, and heads, and figures of various sorts,
as he played.

The older man spoke slowly now:

"It is twenty years since we have had the like--you do not remember
that, Jean?  You were too young."

Jean Laparde, an amused smile lurking in his dark eyes as he watched
Jacques Fregeau waddle obediently to his wife's side, shook his head.

"I was on the _Étoile_ that night," said the other, pulling at his
beard.  "The good God dealt hardly with us--we lost two when we
beached; but not so hardly as with the _Antoinette_--none came to shore
from her.  It was a night just such as this."

"Ay, that is so," corroborated Papa Fregeau, removing his apron and
stuffing it into the broken window pane.  "It is, after all, small
blame to any one that they stay indoors to-night and forget my profits."

"Profits!" ejaculated Madame Fregeau tartly.  "You drink them all up!"
She shook her short skirts, damp from her skirmish with the storm, and
turned to Jean's companion at the table.  "Pray the blessed Virgin,"
she said softly, crossing herself reverently, "that there be no boats
out to-night, Pierre Lachance."

"And God for pity on them if there are!" returned the fisherman.  "But
there are none from Bernay-sur-Mer, that is sure."  He played the last
domino before him with a little triumphant flourish.  "Ah, Jean,
count--you are caught, my boy!  It will teach you to pay more attention
to the game, and less to the waste of Madame Fregeau's good bread!"

"She is used to that!" smiled Jean Laparde good-naturedly, as he faced
his dominoes, disclosing the measure of his defeat, and, pushing back
his chair, stood up.

"But," protested the other, "you are not going!  We will play again.
See, it is early, the clock has but just struck eight."

"Not to-night, Pierre," said Jean, laughing now, as he began to button
his jacket around his throat.  "Play with Alcide there."

"Chut!" cried Madame Fregeau, bustling forward, her eyes twinkling.
"The little minx will not expect you a night like this--Marie-Louise is
too sensible a girl to be piqued for that.  You are not going out
to-night, Jean, _ma foi_!"

"And why not?" asked Jean innocently.  "Why not, Mother Fregeau?  What
is a little wind, and a little rain, and a little walk along the beach?"

"But a night like this!" sighed Papa Fregeau dolorously, as he joined
the group, his forefinger laid facetiously against the side of his
stubby little nose.  "_Nom d'un nom_!  What constancy--what sublime
constancy!"

"Ah, you laugh at that, _mon petit bête_!" exclaimed Madame Fregeau
sharply, instantly changing front.  "You are an old fool, Jacques
Fregeau!"

"But I was a young one once, _ma belle_--eh?" insinuated Jacques,
pinching his wife's plump cheek, and winking prodigiously at Jean
Laparde.  "It is of that you are thinking, eh?"

"You are ridiculous!" declared Madame Fregeau, blushing and pushing him
away.

"You see, Jean?" said Jacques Fregeau plaintively, shrugging his
shoulders.  "You see, eh, _mon gaillard_?  You see what you are coming
to!  Oh, _là, là_, once I was young like you, and Lucille, _ma chérie_,
here, was like--eh?--like Marie-Louise.  You see, eh?  You see what you
are coming to!"

There was a roar of laughter from the man at the table in the rear,
that was echoed in a guffaw by Pierre Lachance, as Jean, leaning
suddenly forward, caught Madame Fregeau's comely, motherly face between
his hands and kissed her on both cheeks.

"I'd ask for no better luck, Jacques!" he cried--and ran for the door.

Laughing, and with a wave of his hand back at the little group, he
opened the door, closed it behind him with a powerful wrench against
the wind; and then, outside, stood still for a moment, as though taken
utterly by surprise at the abandon of the night.  He had not been out
before that day.  Like all, or nearly all of Bernay-sur-Mer he had
remained snugly indoors--for what was a fisherman to do in weather like
that!  Mend nets?  Well, yes, he had mended nets.  One must do that.
He shrugged his shoulders, making a wry grimace.  Nets!  But the night
was bad--much worse than he had imagined.  And yet--yes--the storm was
at its height now, but the wind had changed--by morning, thank the
saints, it would be better.

It was black about him, inky black--all save a long, straggling,
twinkling line of lights from the cottage windows that bordered the
beach, and the dull yellow glow from the windows of the Bas Rhône at
his side.  Around him a veritable bedlam seemed loosed--the wind, like
a horde of demons, shrieking, whistling and howling in unholy jubilee;
while heavier, more ominous, in a deeper roar came the booming of the
surf from where it broke upon the beach but little more than a hundred
yards in front of him.

Jean Laparde stood hesitant.  It was quite true; Mother Fregeau had
been right!  Marie-Louise would not expect him to-night, and it was a
good mile from the village to the house on the bluff, and yet--he
smiled a little, and suddenly, head down, struck out into the storm.

A flash of lightning, jagged, threw the night into a strange, tremulous
luminance--the headlands of the little bay; the mighty combers, shaking
their topped crests like manes, hurling themselves in impotent fury at
the shore, then spreading in thin creamy layers to lick up wide,
irregular patches of the beach; the sweep of the Mediterranean, so slow
to anger, but a tumbling rage of waters now as far as the eye could
reach; the whitewashed cottages; boats, dark objects without form or
shape, drawn far up on the sand; the pale, yellowish-green of the sward
stretching away behind the village; the road beneath his feet a pool of
mud--and then blackness again, utter, impenetrable, absolute.

Jean passed the last of the cottages--there were but four on that side
of the Bas Rhône--and kept on, following the curve of the beach toward
the eastern headland.  But now, the lightness of spirit that had been
with him but a few moments before was gone, and a restlessness,
bordering on depression, took its place.  What was it?  The storm?  No;
it could not very well be that, for it had come often to him before,
unbidden, unwelcomed, that same mood--even in the glorious sunlight,
even in the midst of song as he fished the blue, sparkling waters that,
more than anything else, had been his home ever since he could
remember.  It seemed, and it was a very strange and absurd fancy, but
it was always the same, that a voice, wordless, without sound, talked
speciously to him, talked him into a state of discontent that robbed
him of all delight in his work, his environment and his surroundings,
and, arrived at that stage, would suddenly bid him peremptorily to
follow--and that was all.  Follow!  Where?  He did not know.  It made
him angry, but it did not in any way lighten the mood that was forced
upon him in spite of himself.

And now, as it always came, unsought and unexpected, this mood was upon
him again; and, as he plunged through the storm, drawing the collar of
his jacket more closely around his throat against the sheets of rain,
he fought with himself to shake it off.  It was absurd.  And why should
he be unhappy for something that was absurd?  That was still more
absurd!  He was not sick, there was nothing the matter with him.  He
was strong--none was stronger than he, and he had matched himself
against them all in Bernay-sur-Mer.  True, it was a hard life, and
there were not riches to be found in the nets--but there were
friends--he was rich in friends--all Bernay-sur-Mer was his friend.
There were the Fregeaus, with whom he had lived at the Bas Rhône for
over ten years now since his father had died.  Madame Fregeau was a
mother to him, and Jacques was the biggest-hearted man in the whole
south of France.  And, _mon Dieu_!--he began to smile now--there
were--should he name every family in the village?--even to the children
for whom he made the clay _poupées_, the dolls that in their play lives
were, in turn, veritable children to them?  Ah, to be in ugly mind--it
was no less than a sin!  There were candles to burn for that, and the
good Father Anton would have a word to say if he knew!  And best of
all--there was Marie-Louise.  There was none, none _pardieu_, in the
whole wide sweep of France like Marie-Louise, with her eyes like stars,
and her face fresh as the morning breeze across the sparkling waters,
and a figure so beautiful, so lithe, so strong!  What charm to see
those young arms on the oars, the bosom heave, to feel the boat bound
forward under the stroke, and hear her laugh ring out with the pure joy
of life!

"Marie-Louise!" cried Jean Laparde aloud--and the wind seemed to catch
up the words and echo them in a triumphant shout: "Marie-Louise!"

It was gone--that mood.  And now, with the village well behind him, the
lights blotted out and seeming to have left him isolated even from
human proximity, another came--and he stood still--and this time it was
the storm.  And something within him, without will or volition of his,
spontaneous, leapt out in consonance with the wild grandeur of the
night to revel in it, atune with the Titanic magnificence of the
spectacle, as one who gazes upon a splendid canvas and, innate in
appreciation, is lost in the conception to which the master brush has
given life.  And so he stood there for a long time immovable, his
shoulders thrust a little forward, the rain streaming from his face,
his eyes afire, wrapt, lost in the clashing elements before him--and
fancy came.  The play of the lightning was more vivid now, and the
coast line took on changing shapes, as though seeking by new and
swiftly conceived formations to foil and combat and thrust back and
parry the furious attack of the breakers that hurled themselves onward
in their mad, never-ending charge; while behind again, in sudden
apparitions, like spectre battalions massed in reserve, the white
cottages appeared for an instant, and then, as though seeking a more
strategic position, vanished utterly, until a flame-tongue crackling
across the heavens searched them out again, laying their position bare
once more; and the headlands, vanguards where the fight was hottest,
were lost in a smother of spume and spray, like the smoke of battle
swirling over them--and it was battle, and the thunder of the surf was
the thunder of belching cannon, and the shriek of the wind was the
shriek of hurtling shells.  It was battle--and some consciousness
inborn in Jean Laparde awakened and filled him with understanding, and
in the terror; and dismay and awe and strife and fierce elation was the
great allegory of life, and suddenly he knew a lowly reverence for Him
who had depicted this, and a joy, full of a strange indefinable
yearning, in the divine genius of its execution.

"It is the great art of the _bon Dieu_," said Jean simply.

And after a little while he went forward on his way again.

The road led upward now in a gentle slope toward higher land, though
still following the line of the beach.  Near the extremity of the
headland was the cottage that the village always called the "house on
the bluff," and in a moment now he should be able to see the light.
There was always a light there every night, in good weather and in
stormy--and never in fourteen years had it been otherwise, not since
the night that Marie-Louise's father, the brother of old Gaston
Bernier, steering for the headland in a gale had miscalculated his
position and been drowned on the Perigeau Reef.  From that day it had
become a religion with Gaston, a sacred rite, that light; and, in time,
it had become an institution in Bernay-sur-Mer--not a fisherman in the
village now but steered by it, not one but that, failing to sight it,
would have taken it for granted that he was off his course and would
have put about, braving even the wildest weather, until he had picked
it up.

The light!  Jean smiled to himself.  He was very wet, but he had found
a most wonderful joy in the storm--and, besides, what did a little
wetting matter?  In a few minutes now Marie-Louise would cry out in
delight at seeing him, and he would fling off his drenched jacket and
pull up a chair to the stove beside old Gaston, and they would light
their pipes, and Marie-Louise would prepare the spiced wine, and--he
halted as though stunned.

He had reached the big rock where the road made its second turn and ran
directly to the house--and there was no light.  It was the exact spot
from which he should first be able to see it--a hundred times, on a
hundred nights, he had looked for it, and found it there--by the
turning at the big rock.  He dashed the rain from his face with a sweep
of his hand, and strained his eyes into the blackness.  There was
nothing there--only the blackness.  He reached out mechanically and
touched the rock, as though to assure himself that it was there--and
then he laughed a little unnaturally.  There must be some mistake--for
fourteen years that light had burned in the window, and it could be
seen from this point on the road--there must be some mistake.  Perhaps
just another step would bring it into view!

And then, as he moved forward, something cold gripped at Jean's heart.
There was no mistake--the light was out for the first time in fourteen
years!  The light that old Gaston had never failed to burn since the
night his brother died, the light that had become a part of the man
himself--was out!  Was he ill--sick?  Why, then, had Marie-Louise not
lighted it?  She had done it before, often and often before.  But now
neither one nor the other had lighted it, and they, just the two of
them, were the only occupants of the house--Marie-Louise and her old
uncle.  Just the two of them--and the light was out!

Jean was running now, smashing his way along the road through the
clayey mud and water, splashing it to his knees, buffeting against the
wind; and, with every step, the sense of dread that had settled upon
him grew heavier.  It was no ordinary thing this!  Old Gaston would
have lighted the lamp while there remained strength in his body to do
it; it was a sacred trust that he had imposed upon himself which had
grown more inviolable as the years had crept upon him and he had grown
older.  It brought fear to Jean, and the greater stab at the thought of
Marie-Louise.  Things were wrong--and what was wrong with one was wrong
with both.  Was it not Marie-Louise who polished the great lamp chimney
so zealously every morning and filled the big, dinted brass bowl of the
lamp with oil; and was it not Marie-Louise who watched with
affectionate understanding each evening as her uncle lighted it?

A shadowy mass, the house, loomed suddenly out of the darkness before
him.  It seemed to give him added speed, and in another moment he was
at the door--and the door was open, wide open, blown inward with the
wind.

"Marie-Louise!" he shouted, as he rushed inside.  "Gaston!  Gaston!"
And again: "Marie-Louise!"

There was no answer--no sound but the shriek of wind, the groaning of
the house timbers in travail with the storm.  He pushed the door shut
behind him, and something like a sob came from Jean's lips--and then he
shouted once more.

Still there was no answer.

He felt his way to the kitchen, and across the kitchen to the shelf by
the rear wall, found a candle, and lighted it.  He held the flame above
his head, sweeping the light about him, and, discovering nothing, ran
back into the front room--and, with a low cry, stood still.  On the
floor the great lamp lay broken, the chimney shattered into splinters.
He stared at it in a frightened, almost superstitious way.  The great
lamp broken!  Did it mean that--no, no, it could not mean that!  It was
the wind that had blown it there in bursting in the door.  See, there
was no disorder anywhere!  He ran into Gaston's room.  Nothing!
Nothing anywhere to indicate that anything had happened--and yet,
apparently, the house was empty--and that was enough!  Out?  They had
gone out somewhere, even in the storm, on some homely errand, to pay a
visit perhaps?  Impossible!  With the lamp for the first time in
fourteen years unlighted, and broken now upon the floor?  It was
impossible!  While Gaston Bernier lived the light would burn!

He climbed the stairs and stood on the threshold of the little attic
room, the flickering candle playing timorously with the darker shadows
where the roof in its sharp angle spread into an inverted V.  It was
the first time he had ever looked into that room.  It was
Marie-Louise's room.  It was all white, scrupulously white, from the
bare floor to the patched quilt on the little bed.  There was a
freshness, a sweetness about it that seemed to personify Marie-Louise,
to fill the room with her--and it swept him now with a sudden numbing
agony, and his face, wet with the rain that dripped from the hair
straggling over his forehead, showed grey and set as it glistened
curiously in the yellow, sputtering candle light.

And then, half mad with anxiety, the sure, intuitive knowledge of
disaster upon him, he rushed downstairs again; and, hurriedly
exchanging his candle for a lantern, went out into the night.

A search around the house revealed no more than within.  He ran then
down the path to the beach, to where, well up under the protection of
the low bluff and away from the reach of the highest tide, old Gaston
stored his boats and fishing gear.  And there, as Jean flashed his
lantern around him, a low, strained cry, for the second time, came from
his lips.  Three boats old Gaston owned--who should know better than
he, Jean Laparde, who fished with the other season after season!--but
of the three boats only two were there upon the beach.

As a man wounded then and dazed with his hurt, Jean stood there.  They
had gone--out into that--Marie-Louise and old Gaston--and they had not
come back.  It was not true--it was beyond belief!  No; it was not
true--something only had happened to the boat--no man in Bernay-sur-Mer
would have been so mad as to have ventured out!

Far to the south the heavens opened in a burst of flame, and,
travelling far and fast, a zigzag tongue of lightning, like the
venomous thrust of a serpent's fang, leaped across the skies.  It
lighted up the beach, and, further out over the waters, a quarter of a
mile away, played upon the smother of spray that like a shroud flung
itself over the Perigeau Reef--and the cry that came from Jean Laparde
was wild, hoarse-throated now.  What was that he had seen!

It was dark again out there.  He swung his lantern, signalling
frantically--then, holding it high and rigid, waited for the next flash.

It came.

"Marie-Louise," he whispered through white lips.

Far out on the extremity of the reef, a figure stood silhouetted
against the spray for an instant--and blackness fell again.



-- II --

THE KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT

For a moment's space Jean stood there measuring, as it were, the sweep
of waters, as one might measure the strength of some antagonist thrust
suddenly upon him--and then, turning, he ran back to the boats, and
began to drag one down the beach.

No man in all Bernay-sur-Mer would dare to venture out.  He had said
that himself--but there was no thought of that now.  Marie-Louise was
on the Perigeau Reef.  He was strong, strong as a young bull, and he
tugged now at the heavy boat with the added nervous strength of a man
near mad with desperation, heaving it swiftly across the sand.  At high
tide even in calm weather the Perigeau was awash--in storm, far better
to plunge into the water than to be pounded to death upon those
_diable_ rocks, lifted up and pounded upon the rocks, and lifted up and
pounded again, when the water should be high.  At ten o'clock it would
be full tide.  Thanks to the _bon Dieu_ it was not eight o'clock when
the water would be at its height, or else--

"_Sacré nom d'un nom, d'un nom_"--Jean was grinding words from between
his teeth.  They came utterly without volition, utterly meaningless,
utterly spontaneous from the brain afire.

It was the lee of the headland, and it was the mercy of the _Sainte
Vierge_ that it was so; otherwise, _baptême de baptême_! no boat could
live where a fish would drown.  But it was the smoother water of a
mill-race--in with the tide, out with the tide--between the headland
and the Perigeau it was like that.

With a wrench, Jean swung the boat around--he had been dragging it by
the stern--and, at the water's edge now, the dying efforts of a spent
and broken wave wrapped and curled around the bow in creamy foam.
Then, racing up the beach once more to the shelter of the bluff, he
knelt there to plant his lantern in the sand, ballasting it securely
with rocks, flung his jacket down beside it, and ran back to the
water's edge again.

He shoved the boat further out until it was half afloat, shipped the
oars--and waited, steadying the craft with an iron grip on the
gunwales.  A wave lifted her, the water swirled around his knees,
seethed behind him, rushed back hissing sharply in its retreat--and
Jean, bending, shoved with all his strength, as he sprang aboard.

The boat shot out on the receding wave, and, as he flung himself upon
the seat, smashed into the next oncoming breaker, wavered, half turned,
righted under a mighty tug at the oars, engulfed herself in a sheet of
spray--and slid onward down into the bubbling hollow.

None in Bernay-sur-Mer was a better boatman than Jean Laparde, and
Bernay-sur-Mer in that respect held its head above all Languedoc; for
at the water fêtes now for three years had not Jean Laparde secured to
it the coveted _prix_!  But to-night it was a different race that lay
before him.

For a little way, while the lee of the headland held, a child almost,
once the boat was free of the broken surf on the beach, might have held
the craft to her course--but only for that little way.  For fifty yards
perhaps the boat leapt forward, straight as an arrow, heading well
above the Perigeau Reef--and then suddenly the lighted lantern on the
beach seemed to travel seaward at an incredible speed, as the onrush of
tide, wind and sea through the narrows caught the boat, twisted it like
a cork, and, high-borne on a wave-crest, hurled it along past the
shoreline toward the lower end of the bay--and the twinkling lantern
was blotted out from sight.  Tight-lipped, his muscles cracking with
the strain, Jean forced the boat around again, and the tough oars bent
under his strokes.

There were two ways to the Perigeau Reef--he had thought of both of
them.  One, to go down in the shelter of the headland to the lower end
of the bay, circuit the shore-line there until he was free of the
mill-race through the narrows, then pull straight out for the
Perigeau--only, the _bon Dieu_ knew well, no man was strong enough for
that; it was too far, for the bay on this side, deeper than on the
other side of the headland by Bernay-sur-Mer, extended inward for
nearly two miles, and to pull back that distance against the full force
of the storm--only a madman would try it, and no boat would live!  The
other way was the only chance--the quarter mile across the narrows.

A quarter mile!  He pulled on and on, minute after minute that were as
endless periods of time; and whether he was making progress or losing
it he did not know, only that with each minute his strength was being
taxed to the utmost, until it seemed to be ebbing from him, until his
arms in their sockets caused him brutal pain.  And it was all like a
black veil that wrapped itself about him now, blacker than it had ever
been before that night--the loss of that tiny guiding light he had left
upon the beach seemed to make it so, and seemed to try to rob him of
his courage because it was gone.  The never-ending roar of buffeting
sea and surf was in his ears until his head rang with the sound--the
waves pounded his boat and tossed it like a chip upon their crests, and
slopped aboard and sloshed at his feet--and they thundered upon the
shore, and upon the headland, and they were mocking at him.  The
lightning came again--it lighted up the house upon the bluff and with
bitter dismay he saw that, too, was sweeping seaward--it flickered a
ghostly radiance upon dancing shore shapes--it played upon a tumbling
wall of water, onrushing, towering above his head from where the boat
quivered in the trough far down below.  And at sight of this, like a
madman, Jean Laparde pulled then--up--up--up--the crest was curling,
snarling its vengeance before it broke--and then it seethed away in a
great trail of murmuring foam that lapped at the boat's sides and crept
in over the gunwales.  And there were many more like that, so many that
they were countless--and they never stopped--and they were stronger
than he--and there was always another--and each was greater than the
one before--and he sobbed at last in utter weakness over the oars.

Marie-Louise, Gaston, the Perigeau, all were living before him in a
daze now--the brain became subordinate to the bodily exhaustion.  There
was only a jumbled medley of hell and death and eternal struggle around
him, and a subconsciousness that for him too the end had come--the good
Father Anton would say a requiem mass for him--and Bernay-sur-Mer would
tell its children that Jean would never make any more of the clay
_poupées_ for them--and the children would cry--and it was all very
droll.

He pulled on, mechanically, doggedly.  His face was wrinkled where the
muscles twisted in pain, drops that were not rain nor spray stood out
in great beads upon his forehead, his back seemed breaking, his arms
useless things that writhed with the strain upon them.

Wild thoughts came to him.  Why should he struggle there against the
pitiless strength that was greater than his, until he could no longer
even meet the waves with the bow of his boat, until they would turn him
over and over and afterwards roll him upon the shore, where Papa
Fregeau, perhaps, would find him!  See, it would be a very easy matter
to stop while he had yet a little strength left to guide the boat--and
run with the waves--and it would rest him--and by the time he got to
the shore he would be quite strong enough again to fight his way
through the breakers.  His lips moved, teeth working over them, biting
into them, tinging them with blood.  It came out of this hell and these
storm devils around him, that thought!  Marie-Louise was waiting, was
she not, upon the Perigeau--and when the tide was high and the sea was
calm one could row over the Perigeau, and sometimes see a _dragonet_,
with the beautiful blue and yellow marking on its white scaleless body,
looking for food in the rock crevices out of its curious eyes that were
in the top of its head!

A flicker of light!  Yes--yes--the lantern!  He was abreast of it
again.  The good God had not deserted him!  He was still strong--there
was iron in his arms again--the torture of pulling was gone.  He could
feel the boat lift now to the stroke.

He pulled, taking his breath in catchy sobs.  The boat swept downward
into a great trough, rose again, trembling, balancing on the next
crest--and the light had disappeared.  A cry gurgled from Jean's
throat, impotent, full of anguish.  It was an hallucination, a torture
of the devil!  No!  There it was once more--he caught it on the next
rise, and each succeeding one now.  And he, not it now, was making
headway seaward.  He was across the tide-race, it was the Madonna who
had prayed for him! and in another little while, soon now, just as soon
as the lantern showed a little further astern, he would get the lee of
the Perigeau itself--it would be broken water, but it would be like a
child's effort then.  And that!--what was that!

"Jean!"--it came ringing down with the wind, a brave, strong voice.
"_Jean!_"

It was Marie-Louise!  His strength was the strength of a god again.  He
shot a hurried glance over his shoulder--it was done--but one had need
for care that the boat should not thrash itself to pieces on the rocks.
Yes; he saw her now--like a dark, wind-swept wraith.

"To the right, Jean--there is landing to the right!" she called.

"Ay!" he shouted back; and, standing, swung in the boat.

The bow touched the edge of the rocks, grated, pounded, receded, and
came on again--there was no beach here--only the vicious swirl and chop
of the back-eddy.  But as the keel touched again, Jean sprang over into
the water; and as he sprang, a figure from the rocks rushed in waist
deep to grasp the boat's gunwale on the other side--and across the bow,
very close to him, Marie-Louise's white face was framed in the night.
It was very dark, he could not see her features distinctly, but he had
never seen Marie-Louise look like that before--it was not that her face
was aged, nothing, _bon Dieu_! could take the springtime from that
face, but it was very tired, and frightened, and glad, and full of
grief.

"Jean, ah, Jean, you--" the wind carried away her words.  Then she
shouted louder, a curious break, like a half sob, in her voice.  "Uncle
Gaston is hurt--very, very badly hurt.  He is up there a little way on
the reef.  You must carry him.  And if you hurry, Jean, I can hold the
boat."

"Gaston--hurt!" he cried in dismay.  "You are sure then you can hold
the boat, and--"

"Yes, yes, if you hurry, Jean--he is there, a few yards back, a little
to the left."

"Guard yourself then that it does not pull you off your feet!" he
cautioned anxiously, and began to scramble from the water and up the
slippery, weeded rocks.

And then, a few yards back on the ledge, as she had said, just out of
the reach of the spray that lashed the windward side of the Perigeau,
he came upon an outstretched form--and, kneeling, called the other's
name:

"Gaston!  It is I--Jean Laparde!"  He bent closer--one could not hear
for the _diable_ wind!  "Gaston!"  There was only a low moaning--the
man was unconscious.  "_'Cré nom d'une forte peine!_" muttered Jean,
with a sinking heart, and picked up the other tenderly in his arms.

But it was not easy, that little way back to the boat.  Burdened now,
the wind behind his back sent him staggering forward before he could
find footing, and ten times in the dozen steps he lurched, slipped and
all but fell before, close to the boat again, he laid Gaston down upon
the rocks.

"We must bale out the boat, Marie-Louise," he shouted, wading quickly
into the water; "or with what we take in on the way back she will not
ride.  See, I will hold it while you bale--it will be easier for you."

She answered something as she set instantly to work, but her words were
lost in the storm.  And Jean, through the darkness, as he gripped at
the boat, watched her, his mind a sea of turmoil like the turmoil of
the sea about him.  Gaston was hurt--yes, very badly hurt, it would
seem--how had it happened?--how had they come, Marie-Louise and Gaston,
to be upon the Perigeau?--and he, who had given up hope, who had
thought to perish out there in that crossing, he, too, was on the
Perigeau--the way to get back was to run straight in with the bay--it
would not be so hard if they could out-race the waves--if the waves
came in over the stern it would be to swamp and--God had been very good
to let them live and--

Marie-Louise's hand closed over his on the gunwale.

"It is done, Jean--what I could do," she said.  "I will hold the boat
again while you lift Uncle Gaston in."

And suddenly Jean's heart was very full.

"Marie-Louise, Marie-Louise!" he said hoarsely--and while her hands
grasped the rocking boat, his crept around the wet shoulders for an
instant, and to her face, and turned the face upward to his, and, in
that wild revelry of storm, kissed her; and with a choked sob he went
from her then and picked up the unconscious form upon the rocks.

And so they started back.

There was no sweep of tide to battle with now--the waves bore them high
and shot them onward, shoreward; and the storm was wings to them.  But
there was danger yet; on the top of the crests it was like a pivot,
each one threatening to whirl them broadside and capsize them on the
breathless rush down the steep slope that yawned below--that, and the
fear that the downward rush, breathless as it was, would not be fast
enough to escape the crest itself, which, following them always,
hanging over them like hesitant doom far up above, trembling, twisting,
writhing, might break in a seething torrent and, sweeping over them,
engulf them.  It was not so hard now, the way back, there was not the
pitiless current that numbed the soul because the body was so frail;
but all the craft Jean knew, all the strength that was his was in play
again.

The boat swept onward.  Marie-Louise was crouched in the stern
supporting Gaston's head upon her lap.  Jean could not see her face.
When he dared take his eyes for an instant from the racing waves behind
her, he looked at her, but he could not see her face--it was bent
always over Gaston's head.  And a fear grew heavy in Jean's heart--the
old fisherman had not moved since he, Jean, had found the other on the
reef.  Once he shouted at Marie-Louise, shouted out the fear that was
upon him--but she only shook her head.

The rain had stopped--he noticed the fact with a strange shock of
surprise--surprise that he had not noticed it before, as though it were
something extraneous to his surroundings.  And then he remembered that
as he had stood outside the Bas Rhône he had seen that the wind had
changed, and had told himself that by morning it would be better
weather.  He glanced above him.  The storm wrack was still there; but
it was broken now, and the low, flying clouds seemed thinner--yes, by
morning it would be bright sunshine, and of the storm only the heavy
sea would be left.

He gave his eyes to the tumbling waters again--and, suddenly, with a
great cry, began to pull until it seemed his arms must break.  Roaring
behind them, a giant wave was on the point of breaking--closer it
came--closer--he yelled to Marie-Louise:

"Hold fast, Marie-Louise!  Hold fast!"

And then it was upon them.

For a moment it was a vortex--a white, swirling flood of water churned
to lather.  It hid the stern of the boat, hid Marie-Louise and Gaston
at her feet, as it poured upon them--and the boat, lifted high up, hung
dizzily for an instant, poised as on the edge of an abyss, then the
wave rolled under them, and the boat swept on in its wake, the shipped
water rushing now this way now that in the bottom.

It was an escape!  The blessed saints still had them in their keeping!
Jean sucked in his breath.  A foot nearer when the wave had broken,
and, instead of the few bucketsful they had taken, the boat would have
filled!  And now Marie-Louise, already baling at the water, cried out
to him.

"See!  It was a mercy!"--her voice rang with a glad uplift.  "It was
sent by the _bon Dieu_, that wave!  It has brought life to Uncle
Gaston!"

It was true.  The deluge of water had, temporarily at least, restored
the old fisherman to consciousness, for he raised himself up now, and
Jean heard him speak.

After that, time marked no definite passing for Jean.  Occasionally he
heard Marie-Louise's voice as she spoke to her uncle; and occasionally
he heard the old fisherman reply--but that was all.  In nearer the
shore, where the current rushing through the narrows had lost its
potency, he edged the boat across the heavy sea, gained the comparative
calm under the lee of the headland, and began to work back to the upper
end--it was easier that way, difficult and slow as the progress was,
than to land and carry old Gaston along the beach.  An hour?  It might
have been that--or two--or half an hour--when he and Marie-Louise, in
the water beside him again, and close by where the lantern under the
bluff still burned as he had left it, were dragging the boat free from
the breakers and up upon the sand.

And then, while Marie-Louise ran for the lantern, Jean leaned over into
the boat.

"Gaston!" he called.  "See, we are back!  Can you hear me?"

"Yes," Gaston answered feebly.

"Then put your arms around my neck, _mon brave_, and I will lift you
up."

The arms rose slowly, clasped; and Jean, straightening up, was holding
the other as a woman holds a child.  Gaston's head fell on his
shoulder, and the old fisherman whispered weakly in his ear.

"My side, Jean--hold me--lower--down."

"But, yes," Jean answered cheerily.  "There--is that better.  We shall
get easily to the house like this, and Marie-Louise"--she was back
again now--"will lead the way with the lantern."

Gaston's only answer was a slight pressure of his arm around Jean's
neck--but now, as the lantern's rays for an instant fell upon the
other's features, Jean's own face set like stone.  The old fisherman's
eyes were closed, and the skin, where it showed through the grizzled
beard, wet and tangled now, was a deathly white--and Jean, motioning to
Marie-Louise, started hurriedly forward.

Only once on the way to the house, as Jean followed Marie-Louise up the
path from the beach, did Gaston speak again; and then it was as though
he were talking to himself, his tones low and broken, almost like the
sobbing of a child.  Jean caught the words.

"René--René, my brother--the light is out, René--the light is out."

And with the words, something dimmed suddenly before Jean's eyes, and
the path, for a moment, and Marie-Louise were as a mist in front of
him.  The light!  For fourteen years the man he held in his arms had
burned that light--and the light was out now forever.

He hurried on, and, reaching the house, laid Gaston on the bed in the
little room off the kitchen that belonged to the other; then turned
swiftly to Marie-Louise, for the old fisherman had lost consciousness
again.

"Cognac, Marie-Louise!" he said quickly.

She ran for the brandy--and while Jean forced a few drops through
Gaston's lips, holding up the lantern to watch the other, she went from
the room again and brought back a lamp.

"Jean," she cried pitifully, as she set it upon the table, "he is not--"

Jean shook his head.

"No; he will be better in a minute now.  It is but a little fainting
spell."

She did not answer--barefooted, the short skirt just reaching to the
ankles, her black hair, loosened, tumbling about her shoulders in a
sodden mass, she came a little closer to the bed, her hands clasped,
the dark eyes wide with troubled tenderness, the red lips parted, the
white cheeks still glistening with spray; and, unconscious of her pose,
the wet clothes, untrammelled in their simplicity, clinging closely to
her limbs and her young rounded bosom, revealed in chaste freedom the
perfect contour and beauty of her form.

Something stirred Jean's spirit within him, and for a moment he was
oblivious to his surroundings; for, as he looked, she seemed to stand
before him the living counterpart of a wondrous piece of sculpture, in
bronze it was, marvellously conceived, that he had dreamed of again and
again in vague, restless dreams--the statue, for it was always the same
statue in his dreams, that was set in the midst of a great city, in a
great square, and--

"Marie-Louise!" he said aloud unconsciously.

But she shook her head, pointing to the bed.

Gaston had stirred, and, opening his eyes now, fixing them on the glass
still held in Jean's hand, he motioned for more brandy.  And Jean, his
moment of abstraction gone as quickly as it had come, bent hastily
forward and gave it to him.

The raw spirit brought a flush to the old fisherman's cheeks.

"Father Anton," he said.  "Go for Father Anton."

"_Bien sûr!_" responded Jean soothingly.  "I will go at once.  It was
what I thought of when I was carrying you up the beach.  I said: 'Since
there is no doctor in Bernay-sur-Mer, I will get Father Anton, who is
as good a doctor as he is a priest, and he will have Gaston here on his
feet again by morning.'"  He moved away from the bed--but Gaston put
out his hand and stopped him.

"Not you, Jean; I want to talk to you--Marie-Louise will go."

"Marie-Louise!" exclaimed Jean, shaking his head.  "But no!  You have
forgotten the storm, Gaston--and, see, she is all wet and tired, and
she has been, I do not know how many hours, exposed out there on that
curséd Perigeau."

A smile, half stubborn, half of pride, struggled through a twist of
pain on the old fisherman's lips.

"And what of that!  She has been brought up to it.  A dozen times and
more she has been longer in a storm than this.  She is not of the
milk-and-water breed is Marie-Louise, she is a Bernier, and, the _bon
Dieu_ be praised, the Berniers do not stop for that!  Is it not so,
Marie-Louise?"

"Yes, uncle," she answered softly.  "I will go; and I will not be long."

"Go then, Marie-Louise," he said.  "I wish it."

She bent and kissed him, and picked up the lantern, and shook her head
in a pretty gesture at Jean, as though half to tease him for the
perturbed look upon his face, and half in grave wistfulness to charge
him with the sick man's care--and then she went from the room, and
presently the front door closed behind her.

The lamp flickered with the inrush of wind from the opening of the
door--flickered over a spotless bare floor, an incongruous high-poster
bed that had been a wedding gift to Marie-Louise's father and mother
from the man who lay upon it now, flickered over the raftered ceiling,
the scant furnishings which were a single chair and a table, flickered
over a crucifix upon the wall--and then burned on once more in a steady
flame.  It was like the shrug of Jean's shoulders, the flicker of that
lamp; for, with the shrug, he resumed again his former position over
Gaston--it was true after all, Marie-Louise would come to no harm, they
were used to that, they fisherfolk of Bernay-sur-Mer.

"_Tiens_, Gaston!" he said.  "See, we will get off your wet clothes,
and you will tell me how it happened this _misère_, and about the hurt.
But first this--_mon Dieu!_--but I did not guess it was like that--a
clean bandage, eh?--that is first--I will find something"--he had
unbuttoned the other's jacket, disclosing a rent shirt, and, on the
left side, a wad of cloth, blood-soaked now, where Marie-Louise
evidently had made a pad for the wound with her underskirt, and had
tied it in place with long strips torn from the garment.  He began to
loosen one of the strips; but Gaston, who until then had lain passive
with eyes closed, caught his hand.

"Let it alone, Jean--you will only make it bleed the more."

"Ay," agreed Jean thoughtfully; "perhaps that is so.  It would be
better maybe to leave it for Father Anton."

A wan smile came to Gaston's lips.

"Father Anton will not touch it either, Jean."

And then Jean, with a sudden start, stared into the other's eyes.

"It is destiny!" said Gaston slowly.  "Did you, too, like Marie-Louise,
think it was for that I sent for the good father?  It is the priest and
Mother Church I need, there is no doctor that could help."

"But, no!" Jean protested anxiously.  "You must not talk like that,
Gaston!  It is not so!  Wait!  You will see!  Father Anton will tell
you that in a few days you will be strong again.  It is the weakness
now."

Gaston shook his head.

"You are a brave man, Jean, but I, too, am brave--and I am not
afraid--not afraid for myself--it is for Marie-Louise--it is for that I
kept you here and sent her for Father Anton.  I know--something is hurt
inside--I am bleeding there."

And now Jean made no answer--no words would come.  The utter weakness
in the voice, the feeble movements of the hands, the greyer pallor in
the other's face seemed to dawn upon him with its full significance for
the first time--and for a moment it seemed to stun and bewilder him.

"It is destiny!" said Gaston again.  "Listen!  It is fourteen years
since René, my brother, Marie-Louise's father, was drowned on the
Perigeau.  I swore that night that through neither God nor devil should
another lose his life as René had--and for fourteen years I burned the
light, and laughed at the Perigeau as it gnawed its teeth in the
storms."  He stopped, and touched his lips with the tip of his tongue.
"It is the hand of God," he whispered hoarsely, "The light is out--and
it is the Perigeau again."

Jean pulled the chair closer to the bed, and took one of Gaston's hands.

"It means nothing that, Gaston," he said, trying to control his voice.
"It is bad to think such thoughts--and of what good are they?  You must
not think of that.  Tell me what happened, how you and Marie-Louise
came to be out there to-night."

Gaston lay quiet for a little while--so long that Jean thought the
other had not heard the question.  Then the old fisherman spoke again.

"Marie-Louise will tell you.  I have other things to say, and I have
not strength enough for all.  It is hard to talk.  Give me the cognac
again, Jean."

He drank almost greedily this time, and, as Jean held up his head that
he might do so the more readily, the grim old lips and unflinching eyes
smiled back their thanks.

"Listen to me well, Jean," he went on earnestly.  "Marie-Louise is very
dear to me.  I love the little girl.  All her life she has lived with
me--for two years after she was born in this house here, her mother and
René and I--and two years more with René and I--and then, after that,
it was just Marie-Louise and I alone.  She had no one else--and I had
no one else.  I have taught her as the _bon Dieu_ has shown me the way
to teach her to be a true daughter of France--to love God and be never
afraid.  Jean"--he reached out his other hand suddenly and clasped it
over Jean's--"do you love Marie-Louise?"

"Yes," said Jean simply.

"She will be alone now," said Gaston, and his eyes filled.  "She is a
good girl, Jean.  She is pure and innocent, and her heart is so full of
love, there was never such love as hers, and she is so gay and bright
like the flowers and like the birds--and happy--and sorrow has not come
to her."  He stopped once more, and the grey eyes searched Jean's face
as though they would read to the other's soul.  "Jean," he asked again,
"do you love Marie-Louise?"

Jean's lips were quivering now.

"Yes," he answered.  "You know I love her."

The old fisherman lay back, silent, still for a moment, but he kept
pressing Jean's hand.  When he spoke again, it seemed that it was with
more of an effort.

"This house, the land, the boats, the nets, they are hers--it is her
_dot_.  But it is not of that, I fear--it is not of that--" his voice
died away.  Again he was silent; and then, suddenly, raising himself on
his elbow: "Jean," he asked for the third time, almost fiercely now,
"do you love Marie-Louise?"

"But yes, Gaston," said Jean gently.  "I have loved her all my life."

"Yes; it is so," Gaston muttered slowly.  "I give her to you then,
Jean--she is a gift to you from the sea--from the sea to-night.  She
loves you, Jean--she has told me so.  You will be good to her, Jean?"

The tears were in Jean's eyes.

"Gaston, can you ask it?" he cried out brokenly.

"Ay!" said Gaston, and his voice rang out in a strange, stern note, and
his form, as he lifted himself up once more, seemed to possess again
its old rugged strength.  "Ay--I do more than ask it.  Swear it, Jean!
To a dying man and in God's presence, see, there is a crucifix there,
swear that you will guard her and that you will let no harm come to
her."

"I swear it, Gaston," said Jean, in a choking voice.

"It is well, then," Gaston murmured--and lay back upon the bed.

For a little while, Jean, dim-eyed, watched the other, a hundred
reminiscences of their work together stabbing at his heart, and then he
rose and began to remove what he could of the old fisherman's clothing.

"I will not touch the wound, Gaston," he said; "but the boots, _mon
brave_, and--"

Gaston did not answer.  He appeared to have sunk into a semi-stupor,
from which even the removal of his clothes did not arouse him.  Jean
pulled a blanket up around the other's form, and sat down again in the
chair.

Once, as Gaston muttered, Jean leaned forward toward the other.

"It is destiny--the Perigeau--the light is out--René, it is--"  The
words trailed off into incoherency.

The minutes passed.  Occasionally, with a spoon now, Jean poured a few
drops of brandy between Gaston's lips; otherwise, he sat there, his
head in his hands, tight-lipped, staring at the floor.  Outside, that
vicious howl of wind seemed to have died away--perhaps it was hushed
because old Gaston was like this--Marie-Louise had been gone a long
time--presently she and Father Anton would be back, and--

He looked up to find Gaston's eyes open and fixed upon him feverishly,
the lips struggling to say something.

"What is it, Gaston?" he asked.

"The light, Jean," Gaston whispered.  "It is--for--the last time.  Go
and--light--the--great lamp."

"Yes, Gaston," Jean answered, and went from the room--but at the door
he covered his face with his hands, and his shoulders shook like a
child whose heart is broken, as his feet in that outer room crunched on
the shattered glass of the lamp that would never burn again.  He dashed
the tears from his eyes, and for a moment stared unseeingly before him,
then turned and went back to Gaston's side again in the inner room.

Gaston's eyes searched his face eagerly.

"It burns?" he cried out.

"It burns," said Jean steadily.

And Gaston smiled, and the stupor fell upon him again.

And then after a long time Jean heard footsteps without, then the
opening of the front door--and then it seemed to Jean that a
benediction had fallen upon the room.

Framed in the doorway, a little worn black bag in his hand, his
_soutane_ splashed high with mud though it was caught up now around his
waist with a cord, stood Father Anton, the beloved of all
Bernay-sur-Mer.  And, as he stood there and the kindly blue eyes
searched the figure on the bed, the fine old face, under its crown of
silver hair, grew very grave--and without moving from his position he
beckoned to Jean.

"Jean, my son," he said softly, "make our little Marie-Louise here put
on dry clothing.  I will be a little while with Gaston alone."

Marie-Louise was standing behind the priest.  Father Anton stepped
aside for Jean to pass--and then the door dosed quietly.

"Jean!"--she caught his arm.  "Jean tell me!"

Jean did not answer--there were no words with which to answer her.

"Oh, Jean!" she said--and a little sob broke her voice.

"Go and put on dry things, Marie-Louise," he said.

"No--not now," she answered.  "Give me your hand."

They stood there in the darkness.  He felt her hand tremble.  Neither
spoke.  Father Anton's voice, in a low, constant murmur, came to them
now.

Her hand tightened.

"I know," she said.  "It is the Sacrament."

"He said he had taught you to be never afraid," said Jean.

Her hand tightened again.

It was a long while.  And then the door behind them opened, and Father
Anton came between them, and drew Marie-Louise's head to his bosom and
stroked her hair, and placed his other arm around Jean's shoulders--and
for a moment he stood like that--and then he drew them to the window.

"See, my children," he said gently, "there are the stars, and there is
peace after the storm.  It is so with sorrow, for out of the blackness
of grief God brings us comfort in His own good pleasure.  He has called
Gaston home."



-- II --

THE BEACON

It was half clay, half mud; but out of it one could fashion the little
_poupées_, the dolls for the children.  They would not last very long,
it was true; but then one fashioned them quickly, and there was delight
in making them.

Jean dug a piece of the clay with his sheaf knife, leaned over from the
bank of the little creek, and moistened it in the water.  He dug
another, moistened that, moulded the two together--and Marie-Louise
smiled at him a little tremulously, as their eyes met.

The tears were very near to those brave dark eyes since three days ago.
Jean mechanically added a third piece of clay to the other two.  Much
had happened in those three days--all Bernay-sur-Mer seemed changed
since that afternoon when Gaston, so Marie-Louise had told him, seeing
a boat adrift and fearing there might be some one in it, had tried
during a lull in the storm to reach it with her assistance, and an oar
had broken, and the tide on the ebb had driven them close to the
Perigeau where they had swamped, and somehow Gaston had been flung upon
the outer edges of the reef, and the boat, sodden, weighted, following,
had crushed him against the rocks.

Jean looked at Marie-Louise again.  She was all in black now--she and
good Mother Fregeau had made the dress between them for the church that
morning, when Father Anton had said the mass for Gaston.  But
Marie-Louise was not looking at him--her elbows were on the ground, her
chin was cupped in her hands, and the long black lashes veiled her
eyes.  She had not told him any more of the story--Jean could picture
that for himself.  How many times must she have risked her life to have
pulled Gaston to the rocks higher up upon the reef!  A daughter of
France, Gaston had called her.  _Bon Dieu_, but she was that, with her
courage and her strength!  One would not think the strength was there,
but then the black dress did not cling like the wet clothes that other
night to show the litheness of the rounded limbs.

His fingers began to work into the clay, unnaturally diffident and
hesitant at first, not with the deft certainty of their custom, but as
though groping tentatively for something that was curiously intangible,
that eluded them.  Marie-Louise, as she had been that night, was living
before him again--the lines of her form so full of grace and so
beautiful, so full of the virility of her young womanhood, the shapely
head, the hair streaming in abandon about her shoulders--and it was
like and yet not like that great bronze statue so often in his dreams,
imaginary and yet so real, that was set in the midst of that great city
in a great square.  And then suddenly, strangely, of their own
volition, it seemed, his fingers, where they had been hesitant before,
began now to work with a sure swiftness.

His eyes were drinking in the contour of Marie-Louise's face in a rapt,
eager, subconscious way.  There was something deeper there than the
mere prettiness of feature, something that was impressing itself in an
absorbing, insistent way upon him.  Her face made him think of the face
of that statue--there was a hint of masculinity that brought with it no
coarseness, nor robbed it of its sweetness or its charm, but like that
massive face of bronze that towered high, that people with uplifted
heads stood and gazed upon, that none passed by without a pause,
stamped it with calm fearlessness; and courage and resolve outshone all
else and alone was dominant there.

Marie-Louise sat up suddenly from the ground and turned toward him, her
brows gathered in a pretty, puzzled way.

"Why do you look at me like that, Jean?" she demanded abruptly.  "And
what are you doing there?  It is not the doll you promised to make for
little Ninon Lachance--it is much too big."  She leaned forward.  "What
are you making?"

"_Ma foi_!" Jean muttered, with a little start--and stared at the lump
of clay.  "I--I do not know."

"Well, then," said Marie-Louise gravely, "don't do any more.  I want to
talk to you, Jean."

"How, not do any more!" protested Jean whimsically.  "Was it not you
who said, 'We will go to the creek this afternoon and make _poupées_'?
And look"--he jerked his hand toward a large basket on the ground
beside him--"to do that I shall perhaps not keep my promise to meet the
_Lucille_ when she comes in and bring a panier of fish to Jacques
Fregeau at the Bas Rhône.  And now you say, 'Don't do any more'!"

"Yes; I know," admitted Marie-Louise.  "But I want to talk to you.
Listen, Jean.  To-morrow Mother Fregeau must go back to the Bas Rhône.
She has been too long away in her kindness now.  You know how she came
to me the next morning after Uncle Gaston died, and put her arms around
me and has stayed ever since."

Jean shifted the lump of clay a little away from Marie-Louise, but his
fingers still worked on.

"She has a heart of gold," asserted Jean.  "Who should know any better
than I, who have lived with her all these years?"

Marie-Louise's eyes travelled slowly in a half tender, half pensive way
over Jean.  His coat was off; the loose shirt was open at the neck
displaying the muscular shoulders, and the sleeves were rolled up over
the brown, tanned arms; the powerful hands, powerful for all their
long, slim, tapering fingers, worked on and on; the black hair
clustered truantly, as it always did, over the broad, high forehead.
She had known Jean all her life, as many years as she could remember,
and her love for him was very deep.  It had come to seem her life, that
love; and each night in her prayers she had asked the _bon Dieu_ to
bless and take care of Jean, and to make her a good wife to him when
that time should come.  It was so great, that love, that sometimes it
frightened her--somehow it was frightening her now, for there was a
side to Jean that, well as she knew him, she felt intuitively she had
never been able to understand.

She spoke abruptly again, a little absently.

"I do not know yet what I am to do.  There is the house, and Father
Anton says I must not live there alone."

"But, no!" agreed Jean.  "Of course not!  That is what I say, too.  It
is all the more reason why we should not wait any longer, you and I,
Marie-Louise."

A tinge of colour crept shyly into Marie-Louise's face, as she shook
her head.

"No; we must wait, Jean.  It is too soon after--after poor Uncle
Gaston."

"But it was Gaston's wish, that," persisted Jean gently.  "Have I not
told you what he said, _petite_?"

Again Marie-Louise shook her head.

"But one is sad for all that," she answered.  "And to go to the church,
Jean, when one is sad, when one should go so happy!  Oh, I want to be
happy then, Jean.  I do not want to think of anything that day but only
you, Jean--and sing, and there must be sunshine and fête.  But now, for
a little while, it is Uncle Gaston.  You do not think that wrong?"

"No," said Jean slowly, "it is not wrong, and I understand; but then,
too, Gaston would understand, for it was his wish."

Marie-Louise bent forward with a strange little impulsive movement.

"That is twice you have said that, Jean," she said.  "I--I almost wish
Uncle Gaston had not said what he did to you that night.  Jean, it--it
is not what he said, nor what you said to him.  That must not make any
difference.  Never, never, Jean!  One does not marry for that--it is
only if there is love."

"_Mais, 'cré nom_!" exclaimed Jean, suddenly setting aside his clay and
catching Marie-Louise's face between his hands.  "Why do you talk like
that?  What queer fancies are in that little head?  Now, tell me"--he
kissed her lips, while the blood rushed crimson to her cheeks--"tell
me, is that not answer enough?  And have we not loved each other long
before that night, and does not all Bernay-sur-Mer know that it will
dance at the _noces_?"

"Yes," whispered Marie-Louise, a little breathlessly.

"Ah, then," said Jean tenderly, "you must not talk like that.  What,
Marie-Louise, if I should say to myself, 'now perhaps Marie-Louise has
not loved me all these years, and--'"

She drew hurriedly away.

"Don't, Jean!" she said quickly.  "It hurts, that!  I love you so much
that sometimes I am afraid.  And to-day I am afraid.  I do not know
why.  And sometimes it is so different.  That night on the reef when I
thought that soon the rocks would be covered and that there was no help
for Uncle Gaston and myself, and that no one could come to us even if
we were seen, I saw your lantern and the _bon Dieu_ told me it was you
and I had no more fear.  I was so sure then--so sure then.  Oh, Jean,
you must be very good to me to-day.  It--it was so hard"--the dark eyes
were swimming now with tears--"to say good-bye to Uncle Gaston.
Perhaps it is that that is making me feel so strangely.  But sometimes
it seems as though it could never be, the great happiness for you and
me, it is so great to think about that--that it frightens me.  And I
have wanted to talk to you about it, Jean, often and often.  Does it
make you very glad and happy, too, to think of just you and me together
here, and our home, and the fishing, and--and years and years of it?"

"But, yes; of course!" smiled Jean; and, picking up the clay again,
began to scrape at it with his knife.

"But are you sure, Jean?"--there was a little tremor in her voice.  "I
do not mean so much that you are sure you love me, but that you are
sure you would always be happy to stay here in Bernay-sur-Mer.  You are
not like the other men."

"How not like them?" Jean demanded, surveying in an absorbed sort of
way the little clay figure that was taking on rough outline now.  "How
not like them?"

"Well--that!"--Marie-Louise pointed at the clay in his hands.  "That,
for one thing--that you are always playing with, that it seems you
cannot put aside for an instant, even though I asked you to a moment
ago.  You are always making the _poupées_, and if not the _poupées_
with mud and dirt, then you must waste the inside of Mother Fregeau's
loaves that she bakes herself, or steal the dough before it reaches the
oven to keep your fingers busy making little faces and droll things out
of it."

Jean looked up to stare at Marie-Louise a little perplexedly.

"_Mais, zut_!" he exclaimed.  "And what of that!  And if I amuse myself
that way, what of that?  It is nothing!"

"Nevertheless," Marie-Louise insisted, nodding her head earnestly, "it
is true what I have said--that you are not like the other men in
Bernay-sur-Mer.  Do you think that I have not watched you, Jean?  And
have you not said little things to show that you grow tired of the
fishing?"

"But that is true of everybody," Jean protested.  "Does not Father
Anton say that all the world is poor because there is none in it who is
contented?  And if I grumble sometimes, do not all the others do the
same?  Pierre Lachance will swear to you twice every hour that the
fishing is a dog's life."

She shook her head.

"It is different," she said.  "You are not Pierre Lachance, Jean, and I
want you to be happy all your life--that is what I ask the _bon Dieu_
for always in my prayers.  And I do not know why these thoughts come,
and I do not understand them, only I know that they are there."

"Then--_voilà_!  We will drive them away, and they must never come
back!" Jean burst out, half gaily, half gravely.  "See, now,
Marie-Louise"--he caught her hand in both of his, putting aside the
lump of clay again--"it is true that sometimes I am like that, and I do
not understand either; but one must take things as they are, is that
not so?"

She nodded--a little doubtfully.

"Well, then," cried Jean, "why should I not be happy here?  Have I not
you, and is that not most of all?  And as for the rest, do I not do
well with the fishing?  Is there any who does better?  Do they not
speak of the luck of Jean Laparde?  _'Cré nom_!  Different from the
others!  Who is a fisherman if it is not I, who have been a fisherman
all my life?  And of what good is it to wish for anything else?  What
else, even if I wanted to, could I do?  I do not know anything else but
the boats and the nets.  Is it not so, Marie-Louise?"

"Y-yes," she said, and her eyes lifted to meet his.

"And happy!" he went on.  "Ah, Marie-Louise, with those bright eyes of
yours that belong all to me, who could be anything but happy?  _Tiens_!
You are to be my little wife, and Bernay-sur-Mer and the blue water is
to be our home, and we will fish together, and you shall sing all day
in the boat, and--well, what more is there to ask for?"

"Oh, Jean!"--she was smiling now.

"There, you see!" said Jean, and burst out laughing.  "Marie-Louise is
herself again, and--_pouf_!--the blue devils are blown away.  And now
wait until I have finished this, and I will show you something"--he
picked up the clay once more.  "Only you must not look until it is
done."

"Mustn't I?  Oh!"--with a little _moue_ of resignation.  "Well, then,
hurry, Jean," she commanded, and cupped her chin in her hands again,
her elbows propped upon the ground.

It was playfully that Jean turned his back upon her, hiding his work,
but as his fingers began again to draw and model the clay and his knife
to chisel it, the smile went slowly from his face and his lips grew
firmly closed.  It was strange that Marie-Louise should have known!  It
was true, the fishing grew irksome too often now; for those moods, like
the mood in the storm, came very often, much more often than they had
been wont to do.  He had laughed at her, but that was only to pretend,
to chase the sadness away and make her eyes shine again.  It was true,
too, as he had told her, that one must take things as they were.
Whether he wanted to fish or not, he must fish--_voilà_!  How else
could one make the _sous_ with which to live?

Oh, yes, he had laughed to make her laugh; but now, _pardieu_! it was
bringing that mood upon himself.  Where was that great city and that
great square, and what was that great statue before which the people
stood rapt and spellbound, and why should it come so often to his
thoughts and be so real as though it were a very truth and not some
queer imagination of his brain?  There were wonderful things in the
face of that bronze figure.  He leaned a little forward toward the clay
before him, his lips half parted now, his fingers seeming to tingle
with a life, throbbing, palpitant, that was all their own, that was
apart from him entirely, for they possessed a power of movement and a
purpose that he had nothing to do with.  He became absorbed in his
work, lost in it.  Time passed.

"Jean," Marie-Louise called out, "let me see it now."

"Wait!" he said almost harshly.  "Wait!  Wait!  Wait!"

"_Jean_!"--it was a hurt little cry.

He did not hear her.  There was something at the base of that statue of
his dreams that always troubled him, that the people always pointed at
as they gazed; but he had never been able to make out what it was there
at the base of the statue.  It was very strange that he was never able
to see that, when he could see the figure of the woman with the
wonderful face so plainly!

He worked on and on.  There were neither hours nor minutes--the
afternoon deepened.  There was no creek, no Marie-Louise, no
Bernay-sur-Mer, nothing--only those dreams and the little clay figure
in his hands.

And then Marie-Louise, her face a little white, timidly touched his arm.

"Jean!" she said hesitantly.

Her voice roused him.  It seemed as though he was awakened from a
sleep.  He brushed the hair back from his eyes, and looked around.

"_Mon Dieu_," he said, "but that was, strange!"  And then he smiled,
still a little dazed, and lifted around the clay figure for her to see.
"I do not know if it is finished," he said, staring at it; "but perhaps
I could do no better with it even if I worked longer."

Marie-Louise's eyes, puzzled, anxious, on Jean's face, shifted to the
little clay figure--and their expression changed instantly.

"But, Jean!" she cried, clasping her hands.  "But, Jean, that is not a
_poupée_ you have made there.  It--it will never do at all!  Ninon
Lachance would break the arms off at the first minute, and it is too
_charmante_ for that.  Oh, but, Jean, it--it is _adorable_!"

Jean was inspecting the figure in a curiously abstracted way, as though
he had never seen it before, turning his head now to this side, now to
that, and turning the clay around and around in his hands to examine it
from all angles, while a heightened colour crept into his face and dyed
his cheeks.  It was a small figure, hardly a foot and a half in
height--the figure of a fisherwoman, barefooted, in short skirts, the
clothes as though windswept clinging close around her limbs, her arms
stretched out as to the sea.  He laughed a little unnaturally.

"Well, then, since it will not do for Ninon Lachance, and you like it,
Marie-Louise," he said a little self-consciously; "it is for you."

"For me--Jean?  Really for me?" she asked happily.

"And why not?" said Jean.  "Since it _is_ you."

"Me!"--she looked at him in a prettily bewildered way.

"But, yes," said Jean, holding the figure off at arm's length.  "See,
it is a beacon--the welcome of the fisherman home from the sea.  And
are you not that, Marie-Louise, and will you not stand on the shore at
evening and hold out your arms for me as I pull home in the boat?  Are
you not the beacon, Marie-Louise--for me?"

Her hand stole over one of his and pressed it, but it was a moment
before she spoke.

"I will pray to the _bon Dieu_ to make me that, Jean--always," she said
softly.

He drew her close to him.

"It is the luck of Jean Laparde!" he whispered tenderly.

They sat for a little time in silence--then Jean sprang sharply to his
feet.

"_Ma foi_, Marie-Louise!" he called out in sudden consternation,
glancing at the sun.  "I did not know we had been here so long."  He
picked up the little clay figure hastily, placed it in the basket,
threw his coat, that was on the ground, over it, and, swinging the
basket to the crook of his arm, held out his hand to Marie-Louise.
"Come, _petite_, we will hurry back."

It was not far across the fields and down the little rise to the road
that paralleled the beach; and in some five minutes, walking quickly,
they came out upon the road itself by the turn near the rough wooden
bridge that crossed the creek halfway between the eastern headland and
the white, clustering cottages of Bernay-sur-Mer.  But here, for all
their hurry, they paused suddenly of one accord, looking at each other
questioningly, as voices reached them from the direction of the bridge
which, still hidden from their view, was just around the bend of the
road ahead.

      *      *      *      *      *

"But, my dear"--it was a man speaking, his tone a sort of tolerant
protest--"I am sure it is just the place we have been looking for.  It
is quiet here."

"Quiet!"--it was a woman's voice this time, in a wealth of irony.  "It
is stagnation!  There isn't a single thing alive here--even the sea is
dead!  It is enough to give one the blues for the rest of one's life!
And the accommodations at that unspeakable tavern are absolutely
appalling.  I can't imagine what you are dreaming of to want to stay
another minute!  I'm quite sure there are lots of other places that
will furnish all the rest and quiet required, and where, at the same
time, we can at least be comfortable.  Anyway, I'm not going to stay
here!"

"But, Myrna, you--"

"There is some one coming," said the girl.

      *      *      *      *      *

Jean and Marie-Louise were walking forward again.

"What are they saying, Jean?" asked Marie-Louise.

Jean shook his head.

"I do not know," he answered.  "It is English.  See!  There they are!"

An elderly, well-dressed man, grey-haired, clean-shaven, a little
stout, with a wholesomely good-natured, ruddy face, was leaning against
the railing of the bridge; and beside him, digging at the planks with
the tip of her parasol, stood a girl in dainty white, her head bent
forward, her face hidden under the wide brim of a picture hat.

Jean's eyes, attracted as by a magnet, passed over the man and fixed
upon the girl.  At Nice, at Monte Carlo, so they said, one saw many
such as she; but Bernay-sur-Mer was neither Nice nor Monte Carlo, and
he had never seen a woman gowned like that before.  _'Cré nom_, what
exquisite harmony of line and poise!  If she would but look up!  _Bon
Dieu_, but it would be a desecration of the picture if she were not
gloriously pretty!

The gentleman, nodding pleasantly, greeted them as they approached.

"Good afternoon!" he said smilingly, in French.

The girl had raised her head, grey eyes sweeping Marie-Louise with well
bred indifference--and Jean was staring at her.

"_Bon jour, m'sieu_!"--he spoke mechanically, lifted his cap
mechanically.

His eyes had not left the girl's face.  He could not take his eyes from
her face.  It was a wonderful face, a beautiful face, and something in
it thrilled him and bade him feast his eyes upon it to drink in its
beauty.  And, his head thrown back exposing the bare rugged neck, the
broad, sturdy shoulders unconsciously squared a little, the fine, dark
eyes wide with admiration and a strange, keen appraisement, the
splendid physique, the strength, the power and vigour of young manhood
outstanding in face and form, he gazed at her.  And her eyes, from
Marie-Louise, met his, and from them faded their expression of
indifference, and into them came something Jean could not define, only
that as the blood rushed suddenly unbidden to his face and he felt it
hot upon his cheeks, he saw the colour ebb from hers to a queer
whiteness--and then her hat hid her face again--and he had passed by.

It was as though his veins were running fire.  He glanced at
Marie-Louise.  Shyly diffident in the presence of strangers, her head
was lowered.  She had seen nothing.  Seen nothing!  Seen what?  He did
not know.  His blood was tingling, his brain was confusion.

He walked on, hurrying unconsciously.

It was Marie-Louise who spoke.

"They are of the _grand monde_," she said in a sort of wondering
excitement, when they were out of ear-shot.

"Yes," said Jean absently.

"And English or American."

"Yes," said Jean.

"But the rich people do not come to Bernay-sur-Mer where there is no
amusement for them," she submitted with a puzzled air.  "I wonder what
they are going to do here?"

Jean's eyes were on the road.  He did not raise them.

"Who knows!" said Jean Laparde.



-- IV --

STRANGERS WITHIN THE GATES

"Until to-morrow"--the words kept echoing in Jean's ears, as he hurried
now on his way back to the Bas Rhône.  "Until to-morrow"--Marie-Louise
had called to him, as he had left the house on the bluff after taking
her home.  Well, what was there unusual in that!  Though he went often,
he did not go to see Marie-Louise every evening, and it was not the
first time she had ever said it.  Why should he be vaguely conscious of
a sort of relief that she had said "until to-morrow" on this particular
occasion?  It was a very strange way to feel--but then his mind was in
the most curiously jumbled state!  That meeting at the bridge of less
than half an hour ago obsessed him.  Where had they come from, these
strangers?  How long were they going to stay?  Or, perhaps--an
unaccountable dismay suddenly seized him--perhaps they had already
gone!  But Papa Fregeau, of course, would know all that--therefore,
naturally, he was impatient to reach the Bas Rhône and Papa Fregeau.

The empty basket on his arm, for Marie-Louise had taken the beacon and
he had forgotten all about Papa Fregeau's fish, Jean paused as he
reached the bridge.  It was here that look had passed between them.  He
would never forget that.  It meant nothing--he was not a fool--it could
mean nothing.  It was only a look, only an instant in which those grey
eyes had met his--but he would never forget it!

He hurried on again.

Perhaps he had imagined that expression, that flash, that spark, that
something that was impellingly magnetic in those grey eyes.  No, he had
not imagined it; he had felt it, known it, sensed it.  In that one
instant something had passed between them that in all his life he would
never forget--it had left him like a man adrift on a shoreless sea with
the startling wonder of it.  She was of the _grand monde_--Marie-Louise
had said it.  And he was a fisherman.  She could have no interest in a
fisherman; and what interest could a fisherman--bah, it was pitifully
laughable!  But it was not laughable!  If he could only define that
look!  It was as if--_bon Dieu_, what was it!--as if she were a woman
and he were a man.  Yes; it was that!  It was only for a moment, by now
she would have forgotten it; but for that moment it had been that.
Only, whereas she would have forgotten, with him it remained.  It was
curious--her form was even more like that dream statue than was
Marie-Louise's.  If by any chance she should already have gone!  The
thought, recurring, brought once more that twinge of dismay.  Was it
strange that he should want to see her again!  True, she would never
look at him like that a second time, she had been off her guard for
that little instant when there had been no _grand monde_ and no
fisherman, but she was still the same beautiful woman, glorious in form
and face--and the allurement of her presence was like some rare,
exquisite fragrance stealing upon the senses, enslaving them.

And now, as he approached the little village, and passed the first
cottage, with the Bas Rhône in sight beyond, he found himself eagerly
searching the beach, the single street for sign of her.  But there was
no sign.  Everything about the village was as it always was every early
evening in Bernay-sur-Mer, when it was summer and the light held late.
Strewn out along the beach, the men were at work upon their boats and
nets; the children played about the doorways; through the open doors
one could see the women busy over the evening meal--nothing else!  And
surely there would have been some stir of excitement if the strangers
were still there, at least amongst the children--it was an event, that,
to Bernay-sur-Mer.  They had gone then, evidently!

Jean's eyes lifted from a fruitless sweep of the beach to fix on the
figure of Papa Fregeau emerging on the run from the Bas Rhône.

"The fish, Jean!  The fish!" the fat little man called out breathlessly.

"The fish?" repeated Jean--and then, a little sheepishly, stared into
the empty basket.

Papa Fregeau, who had reached Jean's side, was staring into it too.

"Yes--the fish!  The fish!" he shouted.  "Where are the fish you
promised to bring back?"

And then Jean laughed.

"Why," said Jean, "I--I think I must have forgotten them."

Papa Fregeau was excited.  He began to dance up and down, his fat
paunch shaking like jelly.

"Idiot!  Imbecile!" he stormed.  "Have I not had trouble enough without
this!  _Sacré bleu de misericorde_!  What an afternoon!  And you
laugh--_bête_, that you are!  And now what shall I do?"

"Do?" said Jean---and stopped laughing.  "What is the matter?"

"Matter!" spluttered the patron of the Bas Rhône.  "Matter!  Have I not
told you what is the matter?  The fish!"

"Yes, but a few fish," said Jean, eyeing the other in a half puzzled
way.  "What are a few fish that you--"

"You do not understand!"--Papa Fregeau was still dancing up and down as
he kept step with Jean, who had now started on again toward the Bas
Rhône.  "Listen!  They are Americans of Paris, they say!  They arrive
in an automobile this afternoon--mademoiselle and her father, the maid
and the chauffeur.  It is fine, they stop at the Bas Rhône and engage
rooms.  Excellent!  Nothing could be better.  There is profit in that.
I carry the trunks, the valises, a multitude of effects that are
strapped all over the automobile to the rooms, and am on the point of
sending for Mother Fregeau at Marie-Louise's.  _Sapristi_--I do not
pretend to be a cook!  They start out for a walk, the mademoiselle and
her father--and the mademoiselle, before they are out of sight from the
window, returns to say that they will not stay, that I shall repack
everything on that accursed car in readiness for their departure on the
return from their walk.  _Tourment de Satan_!--very good, I repack it.
And now you bring no fish!"

Jean shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, since they are gone, what does it matter?"

"Gone!  _Tonnerre_!"--Papa Fregeau's face was apoplectic, and his fat
cheeks puffed in and out like toy balloons.  "Gone!  Have I not told
you that they are not gone!"

"You have told me nothing"--there was a sudden, quick interest in
Jean's voice.  "They are gone--and they are not gone!  What are you
talking about?"

"I do not know what I am talking about!" snapped Papa Fregeau fiercely.
"How should I know!  It is first this, then that, then this, then
that--it is a _badauderie_!  She is crazy, the girl; the father is no
better; the maid, Nanette, is a hussy.  She slapped my face when I but
paid her a pretty compliment; and Jules, the chauffeur, is a pig who
lies on his back under the infernal machine and will not lift a finger
with the baggage.  Wait!  Listen!  Come here!"  He pulled Jean in
through the door and across the café to the bar at the far end of the
room, where he hastily decanted a glass of cognac and tossed it off.
"See!  Listen!" he went on excitedly, replenishing his glass.  "I
repack everything on the machine again, which is out there behind the
tavern.  I climb the stairs and I descend the stairs three dozen times,
there is always one more package.  And then fifteen minutes ago
mademoiselle returns from her walk alone, and waves her
hands--_pouf_!--just like that--and she says: 'Monsieur Fregeau, we
will stay; take the baggage back to the rooms!'  _C'est insupportable,
ça_!"  Papa Fregeau flung out his arms in abandoned despair.  "And now
there is no supper for them.  _Sapristi_, I am no cook; but I could
cook fish if you, _misérable_ that you are, had brought them--heh!  And
it is too late now to send for Mother Fregeau."

Jean was paying but slender attention.  They had not gone!  They were
going to stay!

"Get Madame Lachance, next door, to help you," he said absently.  Then
abruptly: "Mademoiselle returned alone, you say--and what of monsieur,
her father?"

Papa Fregeau made a gulp at his second glass.

"He is impossible!" he choked.  "With him it is the sunset!  Who ever
heard of such a thing!  He is on the beach to gaze at the sunset!  _Nom
d'un nom_, is it extraordinary that the sun should set!  But it is not
him, it is mademoiselle.  I am sure he knows nothing of all this, and
concerns himself less.  It is mademoiselle's doing.  And I have had
enough!  I will not any longer be made a fool of!"  He banged his pudgy
fist on the _comptoir_.  "Is it to stand on my head that I am patron of
the Bas Rhône!  _Sacré bleu_!  I will not support it!  I tell you that
I will not--"  Papa Fregeau's mouth remained wide open.

"Monsieur Fregeau!" a voice called softly in excellent French from the
rear door.  "Nanette is struggling with a valise on the back stairs
that is much too heavy for her, and perhaps if you--"

Papa Fregeau's mouth closed, opened again--and, in his haste to make a
bow, the cognac glass became a shower of tinkling splinters on the
floor.

"But _immediatement_!  Instantly, Mademoiselle!" cried Papa Fregeau
effusively.  "On the moment!  A valise that is too heavy for her!  It
is a sacrilege!  It is unpardonable!  Instantly, Mademoiselle, on the
instant!  On the moment!"--and he rushed from the room.

She stood in the doorway; and, from under bewitchingly half closed
lids, the grey eyes met Jean's.  And under her gaze that was quite
calm, unruffled, self-possessed now, the blood rushed tingling again
through his veins, and again he felt it mounting to his cheeks.  She
wore no hat now; and, with the sun's last rays through the doorway
falling softly upon her wealth of hair, it was as though it were a
wondrously woven mass of glinting bronze that crowned her head.

Jean's cap was in his hand.

"Oh!" she said.  "You are the"--there was just a trace of hesitation
over the choice of the word--"the man who passed us on the bridge a
little while ago, aren't you?"

There was something, a sort of indefinable challenge, in the voice and
eyes, a carelessness that, well as it was simulated, was not wholly
genuine.  Jean's eyes met the grey ones, held them--and suddenly he
smiled, accepting the challenge.

"It is good of mademoiselle to recognise me," he answered.

She stared at him for an instant, her eyes opening wide; and then, with
a contagious, impulsive laugh, she came forward into the room.

"Of course!" she cried.  "You would answer like that!  I knew it!  You
are less like a fisherman, for all your clothes, than any man I ever
saw."

"I?" said Jean, in quick surprise.  It was strange she had said that!
It was only that afternoon that Marie-Louise had said almost the same
thing.  Not like a fisherman!  Why not?  What was this imagined
difference between himself and the other men in Bernay-sur-Mer?

"Yes; you," she returned briskly.  "And now I suppose you will tell me
that you were born here, and have lived here all your life?"

"But yes, mademoiselle," he smiled again, and shrugged his shoulders;
"since it is so.  I have never been anywhere else."

"And since it is so, it must be so," she nodded.  "What is your name?"

"Jean Laparde," he replied.

"Jean"--she repeated the word deliberately.  "I like Jean," she
decided, nodding her head again.  "I like Laparde, too, but I will call
you Jean."

Jean's eyes met hers a little quizzically.  She carried things by
assault, this beautiful American girl!  There was a certain element of
intimacy, an air of proprietorship adopted toward him that somehow, at
one and the same time, quickened his pulse at the vague promise that
they would not be strangers if only she should stay in Bernay-sur-Mer,
and piqued his man-mind at the hint of mastery being snatched from him.

"All call me Jean," he said quietly.

"Then that is settled!" she announced brightly.  "Now tell me--Jean.
Is there any other place in the village besides this impossible Taverne
du Bas Rhône where we could stay for a week--a month--as long as we
liked?"

"A week--a month!"--Jean leaned suddenly toward her, an incredulous
delight unconsciously spontaneous in his voice.  "You are going to stay
that long?  But Papa Fregeau said you had no sooner arrived than you
decided to go again, and--"

"Your Papa Fregeau has a tongue that runs away with him," she
interrupted quickly.  "One may change one's mind, I suppose?  This
place will do for to-night; but afterwards--surely there is some other
place where we could stay?"

Jean shook his head.

"There is only the Bas Rhône," he said slowly.  "I--I am afraid--"

"And now, after all, you are going to be stupid!" she exclaimed
reproachfully.

What was it?  What did she mean?  It was not the words--they were
nothing.  It was the tone, her eyes, an appeal in the exquisite grace
of the lithe form bending toward him, the touch of the fingers laid
lightly on his sleeve, that look again that levelled all barriers
between them--until she was a woman and he was a man.  His mind was in
riot.  He was a fool!  And yet, fool or no, the thought would come.
Why did she want to stay now?  Papa Fregeau had said that almost on
their arrival they had decided to go on.  It was during her walk that
she had changed her mind.  What had happened on that walk to make her
change her mind?  A walk in Bernay-sur-Mer was not full of incident!
It was ridiculous, absurd, fantastical, but it was there, the thought,
sweeping him with a surge of wild emotion--was it that meeting on the
bridge?  But why?  How?  He was a rough-garbed fisherman, and she--

She laughed delightedly.

"What a frown!  How fierce you are!  Is it then such a terrible affair
to help me a little--Jean?"

"_Mon Dieu_!" cried Jean--and the words were on his lips with a rush.
"But--_no_!"

"Oh!" she murmured, and drew back a little; and the colour, rising,
glowed pink through her cheeks.  "You _are_ impulsive, aren't you?
Well, then, since you are to help me, what are we to do?"

Jean's eyes were revelling in that pink flush.  It was satisfying to
the man-mind, that--even though she were of the _grand monde_ then, a
woman was a woman after all.  It was a sort of turning of the tables,
that added to the magnetism of her presence because it put him suddenly
more at his ease.  But to help her--that was another matter.
Bernay-sur-Mer was--Bernay-sur-Mer!  _Voilà tout_!  Apart from the Bas
Rhône there was no accommodation for strangers, for there was nothing
stranger than strangers in Bernay-sur-Mer.  Since then there was no
other place for them to go, he could think of no other place.  And yet,
a week, a month--to think that she would spend that time in
Bernay-sur-Mer!  _Ciel_!  Where were his brains?

"Well?" she prompted, with alluring imperiousness.

It was the force of habit.  In trouble, in perplexity, in joy, in
sorrow, for counsel, for advice there was but one court of appeal in
Bernay-sur-Mer--the good Father Anton.  The rôle of Father Anton was
not only spiritual--it was secular.  Bernay-sur-Mer was a child and
Father Anton was its parent--it had always been so.

"I will ask Father Anton," said Jean.

"Father Anton?  Who is Father Anton?" she demanded.

"He is the curé," Jean answered.  "I do not know of any place, but
Father Anton will know if there is any, and--"

"Splendid!" she broke in excitedly.  "Let us go and ask Father Anton at
once.  Come along"--she crossed the café to the front door.  "Come
along, Jean, and show me the way."

Yes, certainly, she carried things by assault this American girl.  She
bubbled with life and vivacity.  And he was to walk with her now to
Father Anton's--half an hour ago he would as soon have dreamed of
possessing a fortune!  It was incredible!  It must be a marvellous
world that, where she came from--but no, even the women of her world
could not be like her!  The suppleness of her form, it was divine; the
carriage, the poise, the smile--it was intoxication, it went to the
senses!

"I am mad!  It is as though--as though I were drunk with wine!" Jean
muttered--and followed her across the room.

"Now where is this Father Anton of yours?"--as Jean joined her outside
the tavern.

"There," said Jean, and pointed along the street.  "Do you see the
church--behind the second cottage?  Well, it is there--just on the
other side."

She nodded--and Jean, glancing at her, found that she was not looking
in that direction at all.  Instead, she seemed wholly engaged in
watching a boat start shoreward, as it pulled away from the side of a
smack anchored out in the bay.  Father Anton might have been the last
thing that concerned her.  Jean's eyes, a little puzzled, followed
hers.  When he looked up again, the grey eyes were laughing at him.

"Is it quite safe out there?" she asked, waving her hand.

"Safe?" repeated Jean, in a bewildered way.

"Stupid!" she cried merrily.  "Yes, of course--safe!  If I am to stay
here, I cannot lie all day upon the beach and do nothing.  You have a
boat, haven't you, Jean?"

"But, yes," said Jean.

"Then I am quite sure it will be safe," she decided.  "I must have a
boat, and, of course, a boatman.  You will be the boatman, Jean.  Oh, I
really believe that, after all, Bernay-sur-Mer will be possible.  There
will be places where we can go, little excursions, and heaps of things
like that.  There, that is settled!  And now I am more eager than ever
to see Father Anton."

Yes; it was settled!  It was phrase of hers, that!  To have demurred
would have been as impossible as to have said no.  And, besides, he had
no wish to either demur or refuse.  It seemed as though he were hurried
forward captive into some strange, unknown land of enchantment.  It
staggered him, bewildered him, lured him, fired his imagination--and
there was no desire to rouse himself from what seemed like a wonderful
dream.  No woman that he had ever seen, or imagined was like her.  To
spend a day where he could feast his eyes upon her!--and did she not
now talk of many days!  Even a fisherman might lift his eyes as high as
that--since she gave him leave.  Afterwards, she would go away again;
but, _bon Dieu_, one could at least live in the present!  It would be
something to remember!  Her eyes were on him again.  He felt them
studying him.  Her hand brushed his arm.  There was a faint, enticing
fragrance of violets in the air about her.

"You are not very gallant, Jean!" she laughed out.  "Aren't you pleased
with the suggestion; or would you rather--fish?"

They had reached the church, and turned.

"I was thinking," said Jean, with unconscious naïveté, "that I was
afraid Father Anton would not know of any place."

She looked at him quickly, a flash in the grey eyes--then the lids
lowered.  The next instant she was pointing ahead of her.

"But there!" she cried out.  "There is Monsieur le Curé's house, is it
not?"  She clapped her hands in sudden delight.  "Why, it is a
play-house, only a make-believe one!  And how pretty!"

Behind the church was a little garden, full-flowered; a little white
fence; a little white gate; and, at the end of the garden, a little
cottage, smaller than any, where none were large, in Bernay-sur-Mer,
and which was white in colour, too, if one might hazard a guess for the
vines that grew over it, covering it, submerging it, clothing it in a
clinging mass of green, until only the little stubby chimney peeked
shyly out from the centre of the slanting roof.

"Yes," said Jean; "and there is Father Anton himself."

A bare-headed, silver-haired form in rusty black _soutane_, a watering
pot in hand, was bending over a bed of dahlias; but at the sound of
their approach the priest put down the watering pot, and came hurriedly
toward them to the gate.

"Ah, Jean, my son!" he cried out heartily--and bowed with old-fashioned
courtliness to Jean's companion.  "I heard there were strangers in
Bernay-sur-Mer, mademoiselle; but that they had gone on again.  You are
very welcome.  Won't you come in?"

She leaned upon the gate, smiling--and shook her head.

"No, thank you, Monsieur le Curé.  I must not stay long, or my father
will be wondering what could have become of me.  The truth is, that
I--we are in trouble, and Jean here has brought me to you."

"Trouble!" exclaimed Father Anton anxiously, and his face grew suddenly
grave.

She shook her head again, and laughed.

"Oh, it is not serious!  You see--but I must introduce myself.  I am
Myrna Bliss.  My father is Henry Bliss--I wonder if you have ever heard
of him?  We have lived for years and years in Paris."

Father Anton was genuinely embarrassed.

"I--I am afraid I never have," he admitted.

"Oh, well," she cried gaily, "you mustn't feel badly about it.  His is
entirely a reflected glory--that is what I tell him.  Art!  Everything
is art with him, painting, sculpture, literature; and, as he can do
neither one nor the other himself, he endows a school for this, or a
_société_ for that, and money exists for only one reason--the
advancement of art.  And since he calls Paris the home of art, we live
in Paris.  But now I am prattling like a school girl"--she laughed
infectiously.

The curé's old face wrinkled into smiles.

"It is very interesting, mademoiselle," he said.  "And here in
Bernay-sur-Mer I fear we know too little of such things."  He reached
across the fence and laid his hand affectionately on Jean's shoulder.
"But it is not quite all our fault, is it, Jean?  The _sous_ come hard
with the fishing, and we do not have much time for anything outside our
own little world.  I should greatly like to talk with monsieur, your
father.  Is it possible that you are to stay a little while here?"

"If we do"--the girl's face was a picture of roguish merriment--"you
will not be able to escape him, I promise you, Monsieur le Curé--so
beware!  But that is our trouble.  My father is on what he calls a
little holiday--it is really that he needs rest and quiet.  For a man
of his age, what with his own affairs and his 'art,' he is far too
active.  Very well.  Bernay-sur-Mer is ideal, only--except--Monsieur le
Curé, I am sure, will understand--except the Bas Rhône."

"Ah, the Bas Rhône!" said Father Anton.  "It is that, then--the Bas
Rhône?"

"Exactly!" she smiled.  "And so Jean has brought me to you to suggest
something else for us."

Father Anton joined his finger tips thoughtfully.

"Yes; I see," he said.  "My good friends, the Fregeaus, would do all in
their power for you, they are most excellent people; but, yes--h'm--I
see.  It is a café much more than an inn, and for a café it answers
very well; and, after all, it is not their fault that there are not
proper accommodations for guests.  Yes; I am afraid the accommodations
must be very inadequate.  But you see, mademoiselle"--Father Anton's
voice had a quaint, gentle note of pleading--"we are quite off the main
road, and it is rare that a stranger stops in Bernay-sur-Mer, and since
they are poor they could not afford, even if they had the money, to
make an investment that would bring no return.  But something
else--h'm!  Truly, mademoiselle, I do not know--there is certainly no
other place to board."

"Well, a little furnished cottage then," she suggested.  "I have my own
maid, and, if there were some one else to help a little, nothing would
suit us better.  Now, Monsieur le Curé, you are not going to be so
heartless as to tell me there are no cottages either!"

For a moment Father Anton did not answer--then his face broke suddenly
into smiles.

"But, no, mademoiselle," he declared quickly, nodding his head
delightedly at Jean, "I shall tell you nothing of the sort.  One might
say it was almost providential.  Nothing could be better!  And the
finest cottage in Bernay-sur-Mer, too!  Mademoiselle and her father
will be charmed with it--and all day I have been worrying about what to
do with Marie-Louise.  Would it not be just the thing, Jean?"

"_Ma foi_!" gasped Jean in surprise, staring from one to the other.
"The house on the bluff?"

"And what else?" said Father Anton enthusiastically.  "Listen,
mademoiselle; I will explain to you.  It is the house out there on the
headland, where Gaston Bernier lived with his niece, Marie-Louise.
Three days ago in the great storm _le pauvre_ Gaston was hurt, and that
night he died.  Marie-Louise can no longer live there alone--it is not
right for a young girl.  I thought to bring her here to live with me
and my old housekeeper; but now she can rent the house to you, and can
help with the work for she is a very good cook."

"Father Anton, you are a treasure!" cried Myrna Bliss vivaciously.  "We
will take the house.  And the rent?  Would, say, two hundred francs a
month be right?"

"Two hundred francs?" repeated Father Anton incredulously, his eyes
widening.

"Yes; and another hundred for Marie-Louise."

Three hundred francs!  It was not a large sum of money--it was a
fortune!  Father Anton, in his years of ministry at Bernay-sur-Mer,
could not remember ever having seen a sum like that all at one time;
also, it was out of all proportion to what he would have thought
Marie-Louise should demand.  The good curé's face was a picture with
its mingled emotions--he was torn between a desire that this good
fortune should come to Marie-Louise, and a fear in his honest heart
that he should be privy to the crime of extortion!

Myrna Bliss laughed at him merrily.

"Then that is settled!" she announced.  "Three hundred francs.  There
is nothing more to be said.  The only question is, will Marie-Louise
let us have the house?"

"Mademoiselle," said the old priest, his eyes twinkling, "may I say
it?--you are charming!  As for the arrangements, have no fear.  I would
go this evening, only I have some sick to visit.  But very early in the
morning I will see Marie-Louise, and by the time mademoiselle and her
father have had breakfast the house will be at their disposal."

She reached her hand across the gate to thank Father Anton and bid the
curé good evening--but Jean no longer heard a word.  His mind seemed to
be clashing discordantly; his thoughts in dissension, in open hostility
one to another.  She was to live in the house on the bluff.
Marie-Louise was to stay there, too.  One moment he saw no objection to
the plan; the next moment, for a thousand vague, fragmentary reasons,
that in their entire thousand would not form a single concrete whole
that he could grasp, he did not like it at all.

He answered Father Anton's "_au revoir_" mechanically, as they started
back for the Bas Rhône.  She was in a hurry now, all life, all
excitement--half running.

"Did I not tell you, Jean, that I would find just what I wanted?" she
called out in gay spirits.

She had told him nothing of the sort.

"Yes," said Jean.

They reached the Bas Rhône, and there, in the doorway, she turned.

"I must find my father, and tell him," she said.  There was a smile, a
flash of the grey eyes, a glint from the bronze-crowned head, a quick
little impetuous pressure on his arm, a laugh soft and musical as the
rippling of a brook; and then: "Until to-morrow, Jean."

And she was gone.

Until to-morrow!  The words were strangely familiar.  Papa Fregeau was
hurrying through the café.  Jean turned away.  He had no wish to talk
to Papa Fregeau--or any one else.  He walked down to the beach--and his
eyes, across the bay, fixed on the headland.  Yes, that was it!  Until
to-morrow--that was what Marie-Louise had said--until to-morrow.

He went on along the beach, his brain feverishly chaotic.  She had been
like a vision, a glorious vision, suddenly gone, as she had stood there
in the doorway.  Her name was Myrna Bliss.  Why not, since Father Anton
could not go that night, why not go to Marie-Louise himself and tell
her about the house?  Yes; he would do that.

He crossed the beach to the road again, and started on--walking
rapidly.  As he neared the little bridge, his pace slowed.  At the
bridge he halted.  Perhaps it would be better not to go--it would be
better left to Father Anton, that!

"_Sacré bleu_!" cried Jean suddenly aloud.  "What is the matter with
me?  What has happened?"

But he went no further along the road; for, after a moment, he turned,
retracing his steps slowly toward Bernay-sur-Mer.

And so that night Jean did not go to Marie-Louise.  But there, at the
house on the bluff, later on, Marie-Louise, after Mother Fregeau had
gone to bed, took the beacon that Jean had made and placed it upon the
table in the front room where, before, that other beacon, the great
lamp, had stood.  And for a long time she sat before it, her elbows on
the table, now looking at the little clay figure, now staring through
the window to the headland's point where sometimes she could see the
surf splash silver white in the moonlight.  It had been a happy
afternoon in many ways; but there was something that would not let it
be all happiness, for there was confusion in her thoughts.  The house
was lonely now, and Uncle Gaston had gone; it did not seem true, it did
not seem that it could be he would not open that door again and come
thumping in with the nets over his shoulders and the wooden floats
bumping on the floor--and the tears unbidden filled her eyes.  And her
talk with Jean somehow had not satisfied her, had not dispelled that
intuition that troubled her, for all that he had laughed at her for it;
and they had not, after all, settled what she was to do now that Uncle
Gaston was gone, for, instead of talking more about it, Jean had
forgotten all about her for ever so long while he had worked at the
little clay figure.

Her eyes, from the window, fastened on the beacon with its open,
outstretched arms--and, suddenly, confusion went and great tenderness
came.  He had made it for her, and he had said that--that it _was_ her.

"Jean's beacon," she said softly.

And presently she went upstairs to the little attic room, and
undressed, and blew out the candle; and, in her white night-robe, the
black hair streaming over her shoulders, the moonlight upon her, she
knelt beside the bed.

"Make me that, _mon Père_," she whispered; "make me that--Jean's beacon
all through my life."



-- V --

"WHO IS JEAN LAPARDE?"

The mattress was of straw--and the straw had probably been garnered in
a previous generation, if not in a prehistoric age!  It was so old that
it was a shifting, lumpy mass of brittle chaff, whose individual units
at unexpected moments punctured the ticking and, nettle-wise, stuck
through the coarse sheet.  It was not comfortable.  It had not been
comfortable all night.  Truly, the best that could be said for the Bas
Rhône was that, as Father Anton in his gentle way had taken pains to
make it clear, its proprietors were well-intentioned--and that was a
source of comfort only as far as it went!

Myrna Bliss wriggled drowsily into another position--and a moment later
wriggled back into the old one.  Then she opened her eyes, and stared
about her.  The morning sun was streaming in through the window.  She
observed this with sleepy amazement.  After all then, she must have
slept more than she had imagined, in spite of the awful bed.

The _lap-lap-lap_ of the sea came to her.  In through the open window
floated the voices of children at play in the street; from down on the
beach the sound of men's voices, shouting and calling cheerily to each
other, reached her; from below stairs some sort of a family reunion
appeared to be in progress.  She could hear that absurd Papa Fregeau
talking as though he were a soda-water bottle with the cork suddenly
exploded!

"Ah, _mignonne--chérie_!  You are back!  You will go away no more--not
for a day!  I have been in despair!  It is the Americans!  I have been
miserable!  _Tiens, embrasse-moi_, my little Lucille!"

There was the commotion of a playful struggle, then the resounding
smack of a kiss--and then a woman's voice.

"Such a simpleton as you are, _mon_ Jacques!"--it was as though one
were talking to a child.  "So they have put you in despair, these
Americans!  Well, then, I am back.  And listen!"--importantly.  "What
do you think?"

"Think?" cried Papa Fregeau excitedly.  "But I do not think!"

"That is true," was the response; "so I will tell you.  They are going
away this morning."

"_Merci_!" exclaimed Papa Fregeau fervently.  "I am very glad!"

"They are going to Marie-Louise's."

"To Marie-Louise's!"--incredulously.  "You tell me that they are going
to Marie-Louise's?"

"Yes; to Marie-Louise's, stupid!  Father Anton came an hour ago to make
the arrangements.  They are to rent the house, and Marie-Louise is to
remain there _en domestique_.  Now what have you to say to that?"

"_Mon Dieu_!" ejaculated Papa Fregeau, with intense earnestness.  "That
I am sorry for Marie-Louise!"

Myrna Bliss laughed softly, delightedly to herself--and then, with a
sudden little gasp, sat bolt upright in bed.  The whole thing,
everything since yesterday afternoon had been inconceivably
preposterous--and she herself preposterous most of all!  If her father
ever heard the truth of it, what a scene there would be!

She got out of bed impulsively, walked to the window, and leaned her
elbows on the sill, her brows gathered in a perplexed little frown.
Just what had happened anyway?  She had decided ten minutes after they
had arrived in Bernay-sur-Mer that she would die of ennui if she stayed
there.  They had started for a walk, she and her father, and, without
saying anything to him, she had turned back and taken it upon herself
to inform this fat, effervescent little hotel proprietor that they
would go on that afternoon.  She had intended, during the walk, to tell
her father what she had done, and, in fact, had told him; and then on
her return after that--yes, that meeting on the bridge--she had
countermanded her orders, and not only countermanded them but had even
rented a cottage!  Her father had seen nothing extraordinary in it,
which was natural enough--since he left all travelling arrangements to
her.  Indeed, on the contrary, as Bernay-sur-Mer had seemed to appeal
to him, he had been rather taken with the idea--if perhaps a trifle
sceptical as to the success of the housekeeping plan.  In a word, if
the discovery of what she believed to be suitable accommodations had
induced her to change her mind and stay in Bernay-sur-Mer, it was
perfectly satisfactory to him.  The brows smoothed out.  As far as her
father was concerned, that was all there was to it.  She had been the
practical manager ever since her mother had died five years before.

The brows puckered up again.  Her father would never give it a second
thought, he would never for an instant imagine there was any ulterior
motive for what she had done.  How could he--when the real reason was
so utterly absurd, ridiculous and unheard of!  Fancy!  What would that
select and ultra-exclusive set in Paris say?  What if it ever came to
the ears of New York!  Myrna Bliss to bury herself alive in a little
Mediterranean village that was probably not even on the map, and all at
a glance from the eyes of a--fisherman!  They wouldn't believe it.  Who
would believe it!  It was unimaginable!

Dainty little fingers reached up and drummed with their pink tips on
the window pane; the pucker became more pronounced.  Well, she _had_
done it, nevertheless.  And why was it so absurd, so ridiculous, so
impossible after all?  She would do exactly the same thing over again
without an instant's hesitation.  It was quite true the man was a
fisherman--but he did not _look_ like a fisherman.  He was magnificent!
It was not ridiculous at all--it was piquantly delightful.  Neither was
it so absurdly impossible--if she did not stay in Bernay-sur-Mer, it
would only be to choose some other place equally as tiresome--and
without even a "fisherman" to compensate for it.  What a face the man
had!  It was not merely handsome, it was--well, it was the prototype of
what the artist coterie that buzzed around her father day and night was
forever attempting to give expression to, but which, until now, she had
never believed could exist in real life.  He would be a refreshing
change this astounding man-creature, this Jean Laparde, after the vapid
attentions of the vapid men who made up her life in the social whirl of
Paris--Count von Heirlich and Lord Barnvegh, for examples, out of a
host of satellites who were constantly at her heels, because, of
course, she was an heiress; and whose attentions she endured because,
of course, some day she must marry, and because, of course again, to
marry anything less than a title, a name, fame, was quite out of the
question.  As for that, no one expected anything but a brilliant match
for her--and certainly she expected nothing less for herself.  What a
pity that they were not like Jean Laparde, those men of her world!

The fingers, from the window pane, tossed back a truant coil of hair;
the white shoulders lifted in a little shrug.  Paris--New York!  That
was all the world she knew.  New York once a year--Paris the rest of
the time.  Expatriates--for art!  That's what they were!  Art--her
father was obsessed with it.  It was a mania with him; it was the last
thing in the world that interested her.  As a matter of fact, she
couldn't seem to think of anything that particularly interested her.
One tired quickly enough of the social merry-go-round--after a season
it became inane.  One surely had the right to amuse one's self with a
new sensation--if one could find it!  The man had the physique of a
young god.  A fisherman--well, what of it?  He was splendid.  He was
more than splendid.  Even the crude dress seemed to enhance him.  It
was a face that had made her catch her breath in that long second when
their eyes had met.  Yes, of course--why not admit it?--he interested
her.  He was rugged, he was strong, and above all he was supremely a
man.  Of course, it was only a matter of a week, a month, the time they
chose to stay there; but it would be a decided novelty while it lasted.

She laughed suddenly aloud--a low, rippling little laugh.  Actually the
man was already her slave!  Imagine a man like that her slave!
Certainly it would be a new sensation.  What a strange thrill it had
given her when she had first caught sight of him on the bridge the
afternoon before.  Well, why shouldn't it have done so--a fisherman
with a face like that?  It was amazing!  Think of finding such a man in
such a situation!  Was it any wonder that she had thrilled--even if he
were only a fisherman?  In Paris, of course, she could not have done
what she had done, it would have been quite out of the question, there
were the conventions--but then in Paris one didn't see men like that!

"And since," confided Myrna Bliss to a little urchin running in the
street below, who neither saw nor heard her, "we are not in Paris, but
in Bernay-sur-Mer, which is quite another story, you see it is not
absurd or ridiculous at all, and I and my fisherman--"

She turned abruptly from the window at the sound of a knock and the
opening of her door.  It was Nanette, her maid, with a tray.

"I have mademoiselle's _déjeuner_," announced Nanette.  "Monsieur Bliss
has already finished his, and asks if mademoiselle will soon be ready.
He is waiting with Monsieur le Curé for you."

"Waiting--with Monsieur le Curé?"--Myrna's eyebrows went up in
well-simulated surprise.

"To visit the cottage mademoiselle has taken," amplified Nanette, and
her retroussé nose was delicately elevated a trifle higher.  Nanette,
very evidently, was one at all events who was not in favour of the plan.

"Oh, the cottage--of course!" exclaimed Myrna, as though suddenly
inspired.  "I had forgotten all about it.  Dress me quickly then,
Nanette."

Nanette tossed a shapely dark head.

"Is mademoiselle going to stay here long?"--Nanette at times felt
privileged to take liberties.

"Gracious, Nanette!" complained Myrna sweetly.  "What a question!  How
can you possibly expect me to know?"

Nanette arranged the tray perfunctorily.

"There was a man who left a message with that imbecile proprietor for
mademoiselle early this morning," she observed.  "Mademoiselle has
engaged a boatman?"

"A boatman?  Certainly not!" declared Myrna Bliss.  "Not without seeing
the boat--and I have seen no boat!"

"But mademoiselle engages a cottage without seeing the cottage,"
murmured Nanette slyly.

"That will do, Nanette!" said Myrna severely.  "There was but one
cottage; there are dozens of boats.  It is quite a different matter.
What did the man say?"

"That he was obliged to go out for the four o'clock fishing this
morning," said Nanette, pouting a little at the rebuke; "but that he
would go to mademoiselle at the cottage early in the forenoon."

A row of little white teeth crunched into a piece of crisp toast.

"Very well, Nanette."  Myrna's brows pursed up thoughtfully.  "You may
get out that new marquisette from Fallard's; and, I think"--she glanced
out of the window--"my sunbonnet.  And, Nanette"--suddenly
impatient--"hurry, please--since father is waiting."

Myrna's impatience bore fruit.  In ten minutes she was ready, and,
running down the stairs, went out to the street, where her father and
the curé, deep in conversation--on art undoubtedly, since her father
was doing most of the talking!--were pacing slowly up and down, as they
waited for her.

Her sunbonnet was swinging in her hand, the big grey eyes were shining,
the glow of superb health was in her cheeks.

"Good morning, Father Anton!" she called out gaily.  "What a shame to
have kept you waiting!"

The old priest turned toward her with unaffected pleasure, as he held
out his hand.

"Good morning to you, mademoiselle"--he was smiling with eyes as well
as lips.  "What a radiant little girl!  It makes one full of life and
young again; you are, let me see, you are--a tonic!"

She laughed as she turned to her father.

"'Morning, Dad!  Sleep well?"

Henry Bliss removed his cigar to survey his daughter with whimsical
reproach; then he patted her cheek affectionately.

"Fierce, wasn't it?" he chuckled.  "Those beds are the worst ever!  I
was telling the curé here about them."

"It is too bad," said Father Anton solicitously.  "It is regrettable.
I am so very sorry.  But"--earnestly--"you must not think too hardly of
the Fregeaus.  Since no guests sleep here, I am sure they can have no
idea that--"

"No; of course not!" agreed Henry Bliss heartily, and laughed.  "The
hard feelings are all in the beds--and we'll let them stay there.  Now,
then, Myrna, are you ready to inspect this new domain of yours?  And
shall we walk, or take the car?  Father Anton says it is not far."

"We will walk then," decided Myrna.

It was the walk she had taken yesterday, at least it was the same as
far as the little bridge; and for that distance she walked beside her
father and the curé, chatting merrily, but there she loitered a little
behind them.  Half impishly, half with a genuine impulse that she
rather welcomed than avoided, she told herself that it was quite unfair
to pass the little spot so indifferently.  Was it not here that this
most bizarre of adventures had begun?  She had stood here by the
railing, and he had stood there across on the other side, and--the red
leaped suddenly flaming into her cheeks.  She had never looked at a man
like that before--no man had ever looked at her like that before!  And
it had been spontaneous, instant, like a flash of fire that had lighted
up a dark and unknown pathway, which, in the momentary blaze of light,
was full of strange wonder; and which, because it was an unknown way,
and because the glimpse had shown so much in so brief an instant that
the brain fused all into confusion and nothing was concrete, resulted,
not in illuminating the way, but, the flash of light gone again, in
transforming the pathway only into a bewildering maze.

She laughed a little after a while, shaking her head.  Such an absurd
fancy!  But what an entrancing, alluring little fancy!  Decidedly, it
would be a new sensation to be lost in a maze like that--for a time.
She would tire of it soon enough--the thrill probably would not even
last as long as she would want it to.  No thrill ever did!  She bit her
lip suddenly in pretty vexation.  It was stupid of the man to go off
fishing!  Had he done it to pique her?  The idea!  He certainly could
not have the temerity to imagine that it lay within his power to pique
her.  The sunbonnet swung to and fro abstractedly from its ribbon
strings.  Wasn't it strange that he had--piqued her!

She went on after her father and the curé.  They were quite a way ahead
now, and she hastened to catch up with them.  As she drew near, she
caught her father's words.

"... Peyre on the _Histoire Générale des Beaux-Arts_, Monsieur le Curé,
I recommend it to you heartily.  It is a most comprehensive little
volume, embracing in a condensed form the story of the arts from the
time of the Egyptians down to the present day, and--"

Myrna, in spite of herself, laughed outright, at which both men turned
their heads.  Her father, incorrigible, was at it again; and, once
started, there was no stopping him.  Poor Father Anton!  For the rest
of the way he would listen to art!

"Did I not tell you to beware, Father Anton?" she cried out in comical
despair--and waved them to go on again.

She had no desire to listen to art, its relation to nature, its
relation to science, its relation to civilisation, nor, above all, to a
dissertation on the modern school.  She had heard it all before; and,
if it had not passed as quickly through one ear as it had come into the
other, her head, she was quite sure, would have driven her to
distraction.  Besides, it was much more important to think about
something else--no, not what she had been thinking about a moment ago;
but, for instance, to be practical, about this menage whose wheels,
without knowing whether they were oiled or not, she had impulsively set
in motion.  Would the cottage be at all habitable?  Would this
Marie-Louise be at all suitable?  Would Marie-Louise and Nanette get
along together?  Nanette was insanely jealous of Jules--nothing but the
fact that Jules was with them would have induced Nanette, to whom Paris
was the beginning and the end of all things, to have come on such a
trip.  Yes, there was a very great deal to think about--now that it
occurred to her!  Myrna fell into a brown study, quite oblivious to her
surroundings.

When she joined her father and the curé again, they had stopped at the
edge of the little wood on the headland, and a cottage, almost as
prettily vine-covered as Father Anton's, lay before them.

"Well, Myrna," her father called, with a smile, "I must say your plunge
in the dark looks propitious so far."

"No, no!  Not a plunge in the dark!" protested Father Anton quickly,
his eyes full of expectant pleasure on Myrna.  "That is not fair,
Monsieur Bliss!  It was on my recommendation, was it not, mademoiselle?
And now--eh?--what does mademoiselle think of it?"

It was like the imaginative conception of some painter.  The cottage,
green with climbing vines, spotlessly white where the vines were
sparse, nestled in the trees--in front, as far as the eye could reach,
the glorious, deep, unfathomable blue of the Mediterranean; nearer, the
splash of surf, like myriad fountains, on the headland's rugged point;
while a tiny fringe of beach, just peeping from under the edge of the
cliff at the far side of the cottage, glistened as though full of
diamonds in the sunlight.

"Father Anton--you are a dear!" Myrna cried impetuously.

Her eyes roved delightedly here and there.  There was a little trellis
with flowers over the back door--that little outhouse would do
splendidly as a garage.  And then the front door opened, and her eyes
fixed on a girl's figure on the threshold--and somehow the figure was
familiar.

"Who is that, Father Anton?" she demanded.

"But it is Marie-Louise--who else?" smiled the priest.  "I will call
her."

"No," said Myrna; "we will go in."

Of course!  How absurd!  She recognised the girl now.  It was the girl
who had passed them on the bridge--Myrna's sunbonnet swung a little
abstractedly again--with Jean Laparde.

Father Anton bustled forward.

"Marie-Louise," he said, as they reached the door, "this is the lady
and gentleman who are to take the house, and--"

"Oh, but I think we have seen each other before," interposed Myrna
graciously.  "Was it not you, Marie-Louise, who passed us on the bridge
yesterday afternoon?"

Marie-Louise's dark eyes, deep, fearless, met the grey ones--and
dropped modestly.

"Yes, mademoiselle," she said.

"Certainly!" said Henry Bliss pleasantly.  "I remember you too,
and--ah!"  With a sudden step, quite forgetting the amenities due his
daughter, he brushed by her into the room, and stooped over the clay
figure of the beacon.  He picked it up, looked at it in a sort of
startled incredulity, as though he could not believe his eyes; then,
setting it down, went to the window, threw up the shade for better
light, and returned to the clay figure.  And then, after a moment, he
began to mutter excitedly.  "Yes--undoubtedly--of the flower of the
French school--Demaurais, Lestrange, Pitot--eh?--which?
And--yes--here--within a day or so--it is quite fresh!"  He rushed back
to the doorway to Father Anton.  "Who has been in the village
recently?"--his words were coming with a rush, he had the priest by the
shoulders and was unconsciously shaking him.  "Was it a man with long
black hair over his coat collar and a beak nose?  Was it a little short
man who always jerks his head as he talks?  Or was it a big fellow,
very fat, and, yes, if it were Pitot he would probably be drunk?
Quick!  Which one was it?"

Father Anton, jaw dropped, dumb with amazement, could only shake his
head.  This American!  Had he gone suddenly mad?

"Good heavens, dad, what is the matter?" Myrna cried out.

He paid no attention to her.

"You, then!"--he whirled on Marie-Louise, grasping her arm fiercely.
"Who has been here?"

"But--but, m'sieu," stammered Marie-Louise, shrinking back in affright,
"no one has been here."

Myrna pressed forward into the room.

"Dad, what _is_ the--"  She got no further.

"It is true--I am a fool.  I was wrong.  Look, Myrna!"--his face
flushed, his eyes lighted with the fire of an enthusiast, he was at the
table, lifting up the little clay figure of the fisherwoman with the
outstretched arms, the beacon, in his hands again.  "Look, Myrna!  No,
I am not mad--I am only a fool.  I, who pride myself as a critic, was
fool enough for a moment to think this the work of perhaps Demaurais,
or Lestrange, or Pitot--when no one of the three even in his greatest
moment of inspiration could approach it!  There is life in it.  You
feel the very soul.  It is sublime!  But it is more than that--it is a
stupendous thing, for, since it has been freshly done, and no stranger
to these people has been here, the man who did it must be one of
themselves.  Don't you understand, Myrna, don't you understand?  The
world will ring with it.  It is the discovery of a genius.  I make the
statement without reservation.  _This is the work of the greatest
sculptor France will have ever known_!"

Father Anton had come forward a little timorously, lacing and unlacing
his fingers.  Upon Myrna's face was a sort of bewildered stupefaction.
Marie-Louise, her breath coming in little gasps, was gazing wide-eyed
at the man who held in his hands her beacon, the clay figure she had
seen Jean make.

"Is--is it true--what you say?" she whispered.

Henry Bliss looked at her for a moment, startled--as though he was for
the first time aware of her presence.

"You--yes, of course, you must know about this, as it is in the house
here," he burst out abruptly.  "You know who made it?"

"But, yes," said Marie-Louise, and now there was a sudden new note, a
trembling note of pride that struggled for expression in her voice.
"But, yes--it was Jean Laparde."

"Laparde--Jean Laparde?"--his voice was hoarse in its eagerness.
"Quick!" he cried.  "Laparde--Jean Laparde?  Who is Jean Laparde?"

A flush crept pink into Marie-Louise's face.

"He is my fiancé," she said.



-- VI --

THE GIFT

Father Anton, with a smile, his eyes twinkling, looked from one to the
other of the group as much as to say: "There!  Is that not an
altogether charming denouement?"  Myrna had yet to discover herself in
a situation to whose command she did not rise--inwardly a sudden
confusion upon her, her face expressed a polite interest.  As for Henry
Bliss, the words were without any significance whatever--it was not
what he wanted to know.

It was Marie-Louise, embarrassed, who broke the silence.

"Will mademoiselle and monsieur look through the house now, and tell me
what rooms they will occupy?"

Henry Bliss, for answer, caught Father Anton again by the shoulder.

"This Jean Laparde," he flung out excitedly, "you ought to know all
about him!  He must have done other things besides this"--he swept his
hand toward the beacon, which he had now very carefully replaced on the
table.

"But, of course!" declared Father Anton, still smiling.  "Mother
Fregeau will assure you--forever little faces and figures out of her
dough and the inside of her loaves."

"No, no--good Lord!" exclaimed Henry Bliss.  "I mean--"

"I am telling you," interrupted Father Anton mildly.  "He has been
forever at that since he was a boy, and then there are the clay dolls
for the children, of which there would be very many, at least a
hundred."

"A hundred!  A hundred clay _dolls_ by the man who did this!" shouted
Henry Bliss eagerly.  "And do you mean to say you never realised--oh,
good Lord!  Where are they?"

Father Anton's eyebrows went up in almost pitying astonishment.

"But, monsieur," he said patiently, "where would they be?  They do not
last long; and, even if the children did not break them almost
immediately, they would soon crumble to pieces like their own mud pies."

"Mud!"  Henry Bliss bent quickly over the beacon again.  "Yes, so it
is!  It is mostly mud.  It is unbelievable!  The man did not even have
modelling clay to work with!" He swung again on the curé.  "Well, where
is this Jean Laparde?  I want to see him at once!"

Myrna's laugh rippled suddenly through the room.

"Dad--don't get so excited.  Your Jean Laparde won't run away.  He's
out fishing now, but he said he would come out here this morning."

"Out fishing--come out here this morning?" repeated her father, staring
at her.  "How do you know?"

Myrna shook her finger at him in playful severity.

"If you had paid any more than the merest pretence of attention to me
last night, you would have remembered the name--no"--she laughed
again--"no, perhaps after all I didn't mention it, I'm not sure I
hadn't forgotten it myself; but he is the fisherman who took me to
Father Anton here, you know--the one I told you might possibly do as a
boatman for us while we were here."

"Great grief!  Do as a--_boatman_!" ejaculated Henry Bliss weakly.
"You, Monsieur le Curé, what time do these fishermen return?"

"But anytime, now," Father Anton answered.  "The boats go out very
early in the morning."

"Good!"  Henry Bliss pushed the curé impetuously toward the door.
"Then, you and I, Father Anton, will go right back to the village and
be there when he comes in."

"But"--Father Anton was quite bewildered--one was literally carried off
one's feet--were they all alike, these Americans!  "But," he protested
helplessly, as he was being pulled through the door, "but if the boats
are already in, and since mademoiselle said he was coming here, then--"

"Then we will meet him on the road"--they were already out of the
house.  "Now, then, Monsieur le Curé, if you are a loyal Frenchman,
step out quickly, for this is the greatest day in the history of
France, the greatest day, I tell you, in the"--the voice died away in
the distance.

Marie-Louise had not moved.  She was still standing in the centre of
the room, a strangely spellbound, dumfounded little figure.

"Mademoiselle," she ventured timidly, "what--what is--"

"I am sure I do not know," said Myrna languidly.  "Have you no shoes or
stockings?"

Marie-Louise glanced perplexedly at her small, bare feet.

"But, yes, mademoiselle--for the village sometimes, and when one walks
in the fields."

"Go and put them on, then," directed Myrna.  "And remember always to
wear them while we are here.  When you come back, I will go through the
house with you and tell you what to do."

"Yes, mademoiselle," said Marie-Louise nervously--there was a sense of
guilt upon her, but wherein lay the enormity of her offence she did not
understand.  Nevertheless, was not mademoiselle of the great world, and
since mademoiselle was displeased, surely mademoiselle must know.  She
turned hastily from the room.

"No--wait!"  Myrna's brain, for all her outward composure, was far from
calm.  It seemed as though the little stone she had started rolling
down the hill in a--well, was it a whim?--was gathering many other
stones in its course and developing into an avalanche.  She had no
desire to go into the details of the house with this Marie-Louise at
that moment; on the contrary, it was absolutely impossible.  The one
thing she wanted was to be alone--to clear all this muddle out of her
head.  "No--wait!" she repeated.  "There will be quite time enough to
attend to that when Nanette and Jules arrive; and in the meantime you
had better go down to the Bas Rhône and help Nanette if you can.  When
they are ready, come back with them."

"Nanette, mademoiselle?  But I do not know who Nanette is."

"My maid," said Myrna tersely.

"Yes, mademoiselle"--Marie-Louise, with a quick nod, was running from
the room.  "At once, mademoiselle--as soon as I have put on my shoes
and stockings."

Myrna tossed her sunbonnet on a chair, and walked over to the table to
inspect the little clay figure.  For ten minutes she stood in front of
it, now frowning, now with unconscious admiration the dominant
expression upon her face, now with puzzled bewilderment in her eyes.
Of the technique of any art she not only knew nothing, but secretly
held it in contempt; but she could not have been her father's daughter
to have lacked a sense of appreciation for the beautiful.  At the end
of the ten minutes she picked up her sunbonnet again, and walked slowly
out of the house.

At the headland's point, two hundred yards away, she sat down upon the
rocks.  She could not seem to get that little clay figure out of her
head now.  It was amazing how it took form before her eyes as
realistically as though it were still in front of her!  What a
wonderful charm and appeal there was in it!  She could see that for
herself, even if her father had not grown so excited over it.  "The
greatest sculptor in France"--well, perhaps that was a little
exaggerated!  But her father was nevertheless acknowledged to be a
critic second to none in the world of art, and he was far too chary of
his reputation to sacrifice it on a myth.  Certainly then, there was at
least a promise in the man's work.  What did her father mean to do?  He
had not rushed off that way for nothing.  It was really charming, that
little figure.  She would get Jean to let her have it, buy it from him.
Imagine possessing the first piece of his work, if the man ever
amounted to anything!

She threw a stone out into the water, watched it splash, watched the
spray of the breaking waves on what seemed like a reef away out to one
side of the headland, and watched a boat coming shoreward from out
beyond the reef again.  There was a disturbed little gathering of her
brows.  But suppose she did buy it, the thing would crumble to pieces
in a few days, and--stupid!  Of course!  Had she not been often in
those dirty _ateliers_ that were always in a mess with their clay and
their plaster?  One could send it to Marseilles to have a cast made;
and, afterwards, the cast could be sent home to Paris.

What was her father going to do with this "discovery" of his, as he
called it?  Discovery--_his_!  A little thrill ran through her.  It was
not his discovery--it was _hers_!  It was she who had discovered Jean
Laparde--in that one look.  The man's soul, a great smouldering volcano
of emotion, was in his face, his eyes.  It was amazing that this had
happened; amazing almost beyond credence that, hidden in the little
village, a fisherman, untaught, unconscious even of his own power, had
produced a piece of work that had aroused her father, one of the great
art critics in France, to such a pitch of elated excitement--but
somehow it was not in the least bit amazing that it was _Jean Laparde_
who had done it!

Her eyes fixed again on the boat, that was well in now between the reef
and the headland; and, with a sudden little gasp, she rose quickly to
her feet--it was Jean Laparde himself.  What splendid width of
shoulder, what strength, and ease, and assurance in the sweep of the
oars that bent the blades backward from swirling little eddies, that
lifted the heavy boat to send it bounding forward as though it were a
feather-weight.  It was Jean Laparde--the fiancé of Marie-Louise!

It was to the front at last, that thought!  It had been dominant from
the moment Marie-Louise had uttered the words, only she had attempted
to ignore it, lose it in the other phases of this bewildering morning.
But it was out now!  Well, what of it?  It was an impossible situation
this that she had created, was it not?  There was no use in denying
even to herself that the man had aroused in her--what should she call
it?--a desire to cultivate him a little, since he would be so new, so
fresh, so quite different.  And Marie-Louise was at the moment now
actually in her employ as--one could not call her a servant, it was
Marie-Louise's own house, and she was only there to help for a little
while at the curé's request--but still--the colour burned red in
Myrna's cheeks.

The next instant, she smiled a little.  What a simpleton she was!  What
on earth did it matter!  What could it possibly matter!  Good heavens,
she wasn't going to take this Jean Laparde away from Marie-Louise!
_She_ wasn't going to marry him!  There wasn't the slightest reason in
the world why, just when the man turned out to be an embryonic genius
and promised to prove really interesting, she should change her
attitude toward him--and, anyway, it was almost a foregone conclusion
that her father now would monopolise Jean Laparde morning, noon and
night.

She glanced at the boat--and started abruptly for the house.  To remain
there would have been almost too obviously--a meeting.  Jean had
evidently not gone to the village at all with the other boats--she
supposed there were other boats since the curé had spoken of them--but
had come directly in from wherever he had been fishing.

She reached the house and through the window watched Jean send the boat
sweeping up to the beach, leap from it, and, seemingly without
exertion, pull it higher over the sand.  He turned then, searching the
house with his eyes; and suddenly placed his hands trumpet-fashion to
his lips.

"Marie-Louise!  Ho, Marie-Louise!" she heard him shout, as he came
running up the cliff path from the beach.

Virile in movement, a striking figure, there seemed all of command,
something heroic even in the rugged strength, something absolutely
undauntable about the man.  And then she laughed merrily to herself, as
she stepped to the door.  What a change!  Who would have believed it!
Jean, at sight of her, had stopped as though he had been struck,
self-consciousness mocked at the air of command, and through the brown
tan of his face crept the red.

"Oh, it is you, Jean!" she exclaimed.

Mechanically he reached up for his cap.

"I--I did not think that mademoiselle had got here yet," he said, the
dark eyes in their steady gaze disconcertingly at variance with his
stammering speech.

"We've been here ages," she told him quickly.  "But the others have
gone back again.  Marie-Louise has gone to help Nanette with the
things.  And my father rushed off with that delightful old curé of
yours to look for you."

"Rushed off to look for me?" echoed Jean in astonishment.  "But I told
Jacques Fregeau to tell you that I would come here as soon--"

"Yes, of course, to look for you--but not for the purpose you imagine!"
she broke in smiling, and shook her head reproachfully at him.  "Jean,
do you know that I am quite angry with you!  Come here!" She led the
way into the house.  "Now!"--pointing to the clay figure on the table.
"Is not that your work?"

"But, yes, mademoiselle"--there was only a cursory glance at the
beacon; his eyes were on this fresh, glorious, wonderful woman, whose
white dress of some marvellous texture draped about her with such
exquisite, dainty grace ... and the throat was bare, and full, and
white as ivory is white ... that glint of bronze that was always
playing over the massive coils of hair ... the playful severity in the
pursed lips ... it was intoxication, it was fire ... he had been drunk
with it all the night, all that morning in the boat while he had fished.

"Then why did you not tell me about it last night?" she demanded.

With a start, he shrugged his shoulders--and perplexity came.

"But it is nothing--that," he said slowly.  "What was there to tell,
mademoiselle?"

"Nothing!"  She stared at him in amazement.  "Do you really mean to say
that you think it is--nothing?"

"But, of course!" he said simply.

And then suddenly she smiled, and shook her head at him again.

"Did I not tell you last night, Jean, that you were less like a
fisherman than any man I had ever seen?"

"Yes; mademoiselle said that."  Was there a word of hers that he had
forgotten!

"Very well, then," she began magisterially, "since you think nothing of
that little statue, I will tell you what I think.  It is so much more
than 'nothing' that I am going to buy it from you.  It is"--her voice
changed suddenly, soft in abandon, full in admiration--"oh, Jean, it is
superb, magnificent; it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen;
and--and I think I want it more than I have ever wanted anything
before."

She had come closer to him, touched him, her hand was on his sleeve,
her cheeks were flushed.  That look--God, was he mad?--that _same_ look
was in her eyes again.  Yes, he was mad--with a madness that bade him
sweep her into his arms and crush her there in all her alluring beauty.
He was white--he felt the blood leave his face.  She wanted
that--wanted that bit of clay that _he_ had made!

"It is not for sale, mademoiselle," he said hoarsely; "it is yours."

"No, no, Jean!" she cried.  "You do not understand.  It is worth--oh, I
do not know how much--ever so much money.  Father will be able to tell
us.  It is on account of this that he rushed off to try and find you.
He is terribly excited about it."

His hand at his side was clenched; his arm was rigid--he dared not move
it for fear she might draw her hand away--it would not come often, a
touch of intimacy like that.  What did it matter about her father!
What did anything matter--but that fiery tide that was whipping through
his veins.

"It is good of monsieur, it is good of mademoiselle to praise it," he
muttered.

"But it is not good of us!" she asserted earnestly.  "Really, I must
try to make you understand, Jean.  I can't take it under false
pretences, you know--you might hate me for it afterwards.  I am sure
you would.  My father says it is a wonderful piece of work--that you
are a great artist."

"I?" said Jean--and suddenly in a sweep of passion laughed a little
fiercely.  "Impossible!  But it is enough that mademoiselle, for some
reason that I cannot understand, thinks so much of it.  It is hers."

"And I tell you that it is not impossible!" she insisted seriously.
"Listen, Jean"--her hand closed a little tighter on his arm.  "Suppose
that I took it, accepted it, and some day you should find that it had
become a tremendously famous thing--what then?"

"It would still be unworthy of mademoiselle," he answered, in a low
tone.

With a little gasp, she drew back a step and looked at him--but it was
the grey eyes that dropped, and for a moment to Jean, unconscious of
his own tense poise, the rapt burning in his eyes, she seemed all
glorious with that play of colour now that was even in the pulsing
throat.  But the next instant she was smiling radiantly.

"Thank you, Jean," she said naïvely.  "I will take it very gladly, and
I will always keep it.  Father will have a cast of it made at once,
and--" she stopped suddenly, turning quickly toward the door.
"Listen!" she said.  "That's the motor, isn't it?  Marie-Louise must
have met it on the road."

An automobile had come to a stop by the side of the house; and, a
moment later, a girl's voice, high-pitched in sarcasm, reached them.

"_Ma foi_!  Fancy!  She owns the house!  What an aristocrat!  No doubt
she will expect mademoiselle and monsieur to invite her to table with
them next!  Oh, _là, là_, but you have lots to learn, _ma petite
paysanne_!"

"Oh, let her alone, Nanette!" exclaimed a man's voice sharply.  "She
has done nothing but answer your own questions, except"--with a
laugh--"that she has ridden on the front seat!"

It seemed to come with a shock to Jean that snatch of conversation, as
something cold, chilling the fire that but an instant gone had been
raging within him.  It was an arraignment of himself, a slap in the
face, sharply, curtly given, a reminder that for all his temerity he
was--a fisherman.  Myrna had gone to the front door.  He swept his hand
in a dazed way across his eyes, then straightened suddenly--it was a
spell that he had been under.  Nor was the spell gone; but now, at
least, he was in control of himself.  He walked across the room to
where Myrna stood.

"Mademoiselle," he offered quietly, "can I help with the baggage?"

She turned to him, smiling.

"Oh, if you will, Jean!" she cried gratefully.  "Please help Jules with
the trunks.  And afterwards"--her hand was on his sleeve again--"though
I must see about arranging things, you mustn't go away.  Father will be
back shortly, and you must wait."

"I will wait," said Jean.



-- VII --

WHERE GLORY AWAITS

His back to the cliff, and leaning against the gunwale of his boat,
which on landing a little while ago he had drawn up on the beach, Jean
dug abstractedly at the sand with the toe of his boot.  He had helped
Jules, the chauffeur, to carry the baggage into the house, where Myrna
Bliss, her maid and Marie-Louise were now busily engaged
within--occasionally he could hear one or other of their voices--and he
was waiting.  What for?  He did not know.  He had promised her that he
would wait.  Her father wanted to see him because he made _poupées_ out
of clay, and because he had made that little statue which, somehow, had
so delighted her.  It was very curious--very curious that a little
thing like that should have taken their fancy!

His hand passed nervously across his forehead.  But that was of no
account, the statue!  There were other things.  He was living in a
dream--no, not a dream--something much more vital than a dream.  From a
dream one awoke, and the dream was dispelled.  He was awake now and the
spell was still upon him.  In her presence he lost his reason, his
being seemed to become a seething furnace of passion that consumed him;
away from her, some strange, magnetic power kept bidding him return,
kept his mind picturing her, kept his thoughts upon her.  It was but
half an hour ago that, alone with her in the cottage, he had almost
utterly lost control of himself.

A hot flush was on his cheeks.  It was bad, that!  Some day he would
lose control of himself completely; some day the impulse to crush that
ravishing form in his arms, to look deep into those laughing,
self-possessed grey eyes until the laughter and the self-possession
were gone and he was master, would prove too strong for him.  And
then--what?

His hands clenched at his sides, the broad shoulders sloped a little
forward.  Well--what then?  His brain would not answer him, save only
with that persistent "she was a woman and he was a man."  He laughed
shortly aloud.  Was that true?  How true was it?  He glanced mockingly
at his clothes; his hands unclenched, and, feeling in a sort of
tentative way, slid along the gunwale of the boat.  Yes; it was quite
evident that he was what he had always been, what he always would be--a
fisherman.  It was quite evident too that he was mad.  It was only last
night that he had seen her for the first time, only since last night
that this enchantment had fallen upon him--and now it possessed him,
mind, soul and body.  One could not credit that!  He laughed out
again--and suddenly the laugh died on his lips.

He had heard no step upon the sand, but a hand now touched his arm.  He
turned quickly.  It was Marie-Louise.  He had forgotten all about
Marie-Louise--since yesterday evening.  He had seen her of course since
then, had walked home with her after that meeting on the bridge, had
called out for her when he had landed here on the beach a little while
ago, but for all that Marie-Louise had been forgotten.

"Jean"--she was speaking in a low, anxious voice--"it's--it's not true,
is it, Jean?"

The dark eyes were trying to smile through a troubled mist; the lips,
that he remembered he had likened yesterday to the divinely modelled
lips of that dream statue, were quivering now.

Jean stared at her.  What would she be like if she were dressed in
clothes, marvellous, dainty things, such as Myrna Bliss wore, with
little shoes and silken ankles?  She was pretty of course, Marie-Louise
had always been pretty; but there was not the physical thrill, the
witchery in the eyes that turned his head.  She was more sober--yes,
that was it--more sober.  Marie-Louise took things more seriously, and--

"Jean!"  She seemed almost frightened now in her appeal.  "Did you not
hear me?  Jean--it isn't true, is it?"

"True?" Jean roused himself with a little start.  "What is not true?  I
do not know what you are talking about."

"The beacon, Jean"--she spoke hurriedly, breathlessly now.  "A few
minutes ago mademoiselle told me to put it in the room she has chosen
for herself, and to be very careful of it because--because"--her voice
broke suddenly--"because she said that you had given it to her.
Jean--it's not true, is it?"

For a moment Jean did not speak.  There were tears in her eyes!  A
twinge of guilty confusion seized him.  Yes, it was so--Marie-Louise
had been forgotten.  Yesterday he had given it to Marie-Louise.  But
who would have thought it would make any difference to her--a thing
like that!  She was perhaps angry for the moment, but it would be only
for the moment.

"_Mais, sacré nom_!" he exclaimed, and forced a laugh.  "And what of
it?  It is nothing!  I will make you another."

She did not answer; but into the brown eyes came a miserable hurt, and
into the face a sudden whiteness.  It was only the day before that he
had given it to her, and had said it was a beacon, and that the beacon
was herself with arms outstretched to welcome him always.  It had meant
so much to her--and now it seemed to have meant so little to Jean.

Jean shifted uneasily, as she did not speak.

"I will make you another, Marie-Louise," he blurted out appeasingly.
"To-day--to-morrow--whenever you like, I will make you another.  Then
it will be all right, eh, _petite_?"

She shook her head--and the words came very slowly.

"You can never make another beacon, Jean."

"How--not another?" he cried impetuously.  "I can make a thousand!  Did
I not tell you that it was you--has it not those lips that I could
fashion even in the dark, even if you were far away from me!  _Tiens_,
do you not see--I could make a thousand!  And to-morrow you shall have
another."

The dark eyes were full.

"Was it yours to give, Jean?" she asked.

It was true!  He had nothing to say to that.  She was crying.  He was
angry now because he could say nothing, because there was no excuse for
what he had done--and yet he would do it again.  But he could not tell
Marie-Louise that though, _pardieu_!  She would only cry the harder.
And because she was right and he had nothing to say, he groped, angry
with himself, for some defence.

"Ah!" he burst out sharply.  "So that is it!  Yesterday you would have
thought nothing of it, but now you have been listening to what they
say, and you believe it all--that it is worth a great deal of money,
maybe a hundred francs, eh?  Well, it is not--it is worth nothing!  You
have nothing to cry over."

Wide-eyed, as though a whip-lash had curled across her face, she drew
back, her small hands shut tightly at her sides, as she looked at him.
And then somehow that little prayer that she had prayed to the _bon
Dieu_ last night came back to her--"make me that, _mon Père_; make me
that--Jean's beacon all through my life"--and the bitter words that
were on her lips were crowded back, and she turned slowly away.

But now Jean caught her arm.

"No, no, Marie-Louise, I did not mean that!" he cried penitently.
"See, I did not mean that!"

She made no answer.  Her head was averted; her eyes fixed far out over
the water.

Jean bit his lips.  Certainly he had had no right to give it away, but
it was a small matter to make such a fuss over, and he had already
promised her another.  Was it possible that she had sensed anything of
the wild passion that had come upon him for this beautiful American!
Was she already jealous?  Well, it was easily knocked out of her head,
that--if one took the bull by the horns!  And if he were mad it was no
reason that hurt should come to Marie-Louise because of it.  Some day
it would be all over this madness, and was it not Marie-Louise and he
who were to make their little home together?  He forced a laugh again,
and caught her shoulders and drew her closer.

"Confess, Marie-Louise," he said teasingly, "that it is because I gave
it to another woman.  Is it not so, eh?  That you are--oh, _là,
là_!--that little Marie-Louise is jealous of mademoiselle."

Her head lifted, a new light suddenly in her eyes--one of incredulous
amazement.

"Jealous of mademoiselle!" she repeated wonderingly.  "Of mademoiselle
who is of the _grand monde_ and so far above us and not of our world at
all--and you who are a fisherman!  How could I be jealous?  How could
such a thing be possible?  Oh, Jean, don't you understand, it is not
that you gave it to her--it is that you gave it at all."

"But what does it matter, then," demanded Jean, inwardly relieved,
"since I will make you as many more as you please?  To-morrow you shall
have another much better than this one."

Footsteps sounded from the gravel walk on the cliff above; and
Marie-Louise, glancing around, lifted Jean's hands from her shoulders.

"I have told you, Jean, that you can never make another," she said,
with a little catch in her voice; then hurriedly: "It is mademoiselle
and her father coming to see you.  I must go."

"And I have told you," declared Jean, with sudden, fierce assertion,
"that I can make a thousand, and all better than this one!"

She bent her head to hide the blinding tears that were filling her eyes
again.  It meant nothing to him, that which had been so great a pledge
to her.  It was only a _poupée_, a clay doll, one of dozens that he had
given to the children to amuse them.  And the things he had said about
it meant nothing--they had only been words--only words, but she could
not forget them.  A little sob rose in her throat, and was choked
bravely back.  They were coming down the path now, mademoiselle and her
father, and she must go.

"You do not understand," she said brokenly--and, turning, ran quickly
along the beach.

For a space Jean watched her as she sped over the sand, until, ignoring
the path, she climbed lithely up the rocks at the far end of the beach,
and disappeared in the direction of the house.  His hand, a knotted
lump, drawn back for a smashing blow on the gunwale of the boat, a blow
that should relieve his feelings, opened hesitantly instead and passed
a little dazedly across his eyes.

"_Sacré maudit_!" he muttered in slow earnestness under his breath.

Since last night the world was upside-down!  Since last night he did
not know himself!  He knew nothing!  Only that all Bernay-sur-Mer was
changed.  That everything was changed.  That he had made Marie-Louise
cry.  That they had talked about that accursed piece of clay that had
made Marie-Louise cry, as though it were worth talking about!

"_Sacré maudit_!" muttered Jean again.  "What does it all mean?"

And then he was watching her, this glorious American, coming now along
the beach toward him with the man who Marie-Louise had said was
mademoiselle's father.

"Jean!"--she was calling out to him.  "Here is father at last!  Did you
think we were never coming?"

Two hands fell upon his shoulders, holding him off at arms' length; and
the man, with frank eagerness, was staring into his face.  Over her
father's shoulder, Myrna was laughing roguishly.

"So you are Jean Laparde?" Henry Bliss exclaimed heartily.  "Well,
well!  My daughter told me I would lose half my surprise when I had a
good look at you, and I am free to admit she was right."  One hand fell
from Jean's shoulder, caught Jean's hand and wrung it in a genial grip.
"Well, Jean, my boy, I want to say to you that if you will listen to
me, this will be a day that you will remember as long as you live."

From one to the other Jean stared bewilderedly.

"It is to the clay figure that monsieur refers, I know," he said
slowly; "but I do not understand.  Mademoiselle was kind enough to
praise it, but--"  He shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly.

"But--nothing!" laughed Henry Bliss impulsively.  "Here--sit down!"  He
sat down himself on the boat's gunwale, and turned to his daughter.
"Myrna, we're going to talk business--are you going to stay?"

"Of course, I'm going to stay!" she declared merrily, perching herself
beside her father and smiling up at Jean, who still remained standing.
"It will take both of us to convince him.  Jean, father wants to take
you to Paris."

"To Paris!"--the words came from Jean with a sort of startled jerk.
His eyes searched the two faces for an instant uncertainly, and then he
smiled incredulously.  "Mademoiselle is pleased to have a little joke
with me--yes?" he said quietly.

It was Henry Bliss who answered.

"Indeed, she is not!" he asserted, with brisk emphasis.  "That is
exactly what I have to propose, my boy.  My daughter tells me she
cannot make you believe that the superb little statue you have made
amounts to anything more than a gouged-out piece of mud.  I'm not so
much surprised that you have not sensed its actual worth, for I think
that almost invariably the really big men in art, the men of real
genius, are the last to appreciate themselves; but the astounding thing
is that you have seen nothing in it at all.  As a matter of fact, I
can't believe it.  It is impossible!  It is simply that you have given
it no thought.  Think a little about it, Jean.  How did you come to
make it?  How did you conceive it?  Where did you get your model?"

"But I do not know," said Jean a little absently--something, the fire,
the enthusiasm, the earnestness in the other's voice was kindling a
strange response within him.  "I do not know.  I think it was the
bronze statue in the great square of the city."

"The--what?" demanded Henry Bliss quickly.  "What city?  I know them
all--and I do not recall anything that could have served as a model for
you."

"And you told me, Jean," Myrna added, wagging her finger at him in
pretty reproach, "that you had never been away from Bernay-sur-Mer."

Jean laughed uncomfortably, self-consciously.

"It is nothing!" he said.  "You do not understand.  It is foolish!  The
statue and the square and the city are only in the dream that comes
sometimes."

"Ah--a dream!" ejaculated Henry Bliss, with a quick nod of his head.

"Oh, Jean!"  Myrna clapped her hands delightedly.  "Tell us about it."

"There is nothing to tell, mademoiselle," he replied, colouring.  "It
is just a dream that comes sometimes when I am fishing, when I lie
awake at night, when I am not thinking of it.  That is all,
mademoiselle.  It means nothing."

"It means a great deal!" said Henry Bliss, jumping excitedly to his
feet.  "And at least it should help you to understand that it is not so
impossible after all when I tell you that, barring little crudities of
technique that are a paltry consideration, there is no sculptor in
France to-day could produce a piece of work comparable to that which
you have done."

Jean's lips were slightly parted.  Excitement was upon him too.  A
strange stirring was in his soul.

"But I cannot believe that," he said in a low voice.

Henry Bliss's hands were on Jean's shoulders once more, pressing them
in a hard, earnest grip.

"Nevertheless, it is true!" he asserted forcibly, "You do not know me;
but those who do could tell you that I am qualified to speak.  And I
tell you that it is true.  I tell you that in Paris fame, wealth, the
greatest name in France awaits you!  You are through to-day with this
life forever, my boy, if you will come with me to Paris."

Fame, wealth, the greatest name in France!  Jean felt the blood leave
his face.  His brain seemed to whirl and to be afire.  Yes, those were
the words, and the man was not playing with him; but it was some wild
hallucination, some bizarre mistake.  To-day, to be through with the
hard, penniless life of a fisherman forever--and to work hereafter only
with what before had been his play!  No, that was not true--it could
not be true.  He meant well, this man, the father of the girl whose
eyes seemed to burn into his now and insist too that it was true, but
the little statue had been too easily done to be anything more than
perhaps a pretty little thing.  Fame, a great name--that strange
stirring of his soul again!  God, why had this man aroused that thought
within him, when it was not, could not be true?

"Monsieur," he said, and his voice in its hoarseness sounded strangely
in his own ears; "monsieur, has made a mistake.  It cannot be so."

"Think so!" returned Henry Bliss bluntly.  "I do not make mistakes of
that kind, my boy.  But I will convince you.  In a few days you will
see.  I have telegraphed for some of the famous critics of France, men
of the Academy, men whose names are known all over Europe, and they
will tell you what I have told you--and their despair that it is I, not
they, who have discovered you will be so pitifully genuine that even
you will understand.  And to-morrow we will motor to Marseilles and get
some modelling clay for you, and you will see for yourself what you can
do with that.  And then, Jean, you will go to Paris with me--and work."

"If it were true, if it should be true," said Jean numbly, "still I
could not go.  One does not make _sous_ enough at the fishing to go to
Paris."

"But, great heavens!" ejaculated Henry Bliss.  "That is precisely what
I am offering you, young man--money.  I am rich.  I will pay every
expense.  I will establish you."

Jean shook his head.

"I could not do that--take your money," he said simply.

"Couldn't take it!" exploded the American earnestly--and then he
laughed--and then grew serious once more.  "Listen, my boy!  I do not
want you to think for a moment that this is a purely charitable little
scheme on my part--far from it!  It is most of it, I am afraid, utter
selfishness.  I love art--for many years I have devoted myself to it.
I cannot create myself--God knows the miserable attempts and the
miserable failures that have been mine!--and so I have tried to help
others to do what I could not do myself"--Henry Bliss was smiling now
in a kindly, wistful way.  "And now to discover the greatest sculptor
of the age, to bring him out of obscurity into fame and power--can you
not see, Jean, how selfish I am?  And so why do you stand there
hesitating?"

Into Myrna's face, for the girl had risen and was now standing beside
them, into the man's face so close to his, Jean stared--and then his
eyes swept about him, over his surroundings.  It was magnificent, but
it was not reality--for here was the beach, and here was the boat, and
in the boat were his nets, and there was the nick in the handle of the
oar where he had fended off that night from the Perigeau Reef, and out
there, surf-splashed, was the reef itself, and his clothes were the
same rough, coarse clothes that he always wore just like every other
fisherman in Bernay-sur-Mer.  It was magnificent, but it was not
reality--and yet his heart was pounding with mighty hammer beats, and
the blood was surging fiercely through his veins.

"And as for the money," Henry Bliss went on quietly.  "You need have no
qualms on that score, my boy.  Pay it back by all means, if you'll feel
the better for it.  In a year, two years, you'll be a wealthy man.
Why, Jean, don't you understand--there isn't one of the men who will be
here shortly but would pay you any price you chose to ask for that
little statue you gave to my daughter here?  So, even on a basis of
dollars and cents alone, as it stands now, you couldn't owe me
anything, don't you see?"

What were they saying to him!  Fame, a great sculptor, wealth, a name,
his name, the name of Jean Laparde to be known throughout all France!
Why did it come back to him now, that night of the great storm when he
had stood and watched the scene, rapt and awed, on his way to
Marie-Louise?  What strange blasphemy was that, that had been his, that
had envied the _bon Dieu_ the creation of that mighty picture?

"Jean"--Myrna had caught his arm, her head was between her father's now
and his, the soft, bronzed hair for an instant brushed his forehead,
her breath was on his cheek, the grey eyes were smiling into
his--"Jean, wouldn't you like to go to Paris?"

To Paris!  She lived in Paris--she was always in Paris--always there.
A day, a week, two weeks, a month he would have seen her here--in Paris
there would be neither days nor weeks nor months to count.  The grey
eyes were veiled suddenly, demurely, under the long lashes--but the
little hand on his arm, with a quick, added pressure, remained.  His
head swam dizzily--there was an untamed, pulsing elation upon him, a
greed for her that racked and tormented him, a greed to clasp her head
between his hands and lift up her face and press kiss after kiss upon
those eyelids, that mouth, until in the very insatiability of his
passion she should fling her arms around his neck and return his
embrace!

"Yes--_yes_!" he said tensely, fiercely.  "_Mon Dieu_, yes--I would
like to go to Paris!"

Her hand fell from his arm.

"Oh, Jean--I'm so glad!"--it seemed as though she were whispering
softly to him.

"Good!" cried Henry Bliss enthusiastically, with a double slap on
Jean's shoulder.

Jean did not speak.  It was not easy in an instant to quench that fire
that was devouring him, it was not easy to understand that to-day all
his life was to be changed.  He looked at Myrna--the grey eyes were
gaily mocking him, as she nodded her head.  He looked at her
father--Henry Bliss was laughing ingenuously like a pleased school-boy.

"I know just how you feel!" said Henry Bliss genially.  "All up in the
air--eh?  Well, I feel that way myself.  It is the most amazing thing
that ever happened!  It seems as though there were a dozen questions I
wanted to ask you all at once.  And to begin with, those _poupées_ now,
how did you--no, hold on!  Myrna, we'll motor over to Marseilles for
the clay to-day, instead of waiting until to-morrow.  We'll have
something else to show old Bidelot by the time he gets here!  You go up
to the house and order an early luncheon.  Jean will join us, and we'll
have from now to Marseilles and back again to talk."

"Splendid!" agreed Myrna.  "You will, won't you, Jean?"

"I?" said Jean, in sudden dismay.  He, to eat with the _grand monde_!
But perhaps he had not understood--they would give him lunch with Jules
and Nanette and Marie-Louise.  He had heard Nanette make that very
plain to Marie-Louise a little while ago.  "I--I have my dinner with
me," he stammered, and pointed to a paper parcel in the stern of the
boat.  "I will be ready when mademoiselle and monsieur are ready."

"Oh, will you?" laughed Henry Bliss.  "Well, I guess not!  You'll come
up and lunch with Myrna and me."

"No," said Jean, embarrassed, "I--"

"Yes, you will," insisted Henry Bliss.

"Why, Jean," expostulated Myrna, "of course you will, we--" she stopped
abruptly.  "Oh!" she exclaimed.  "I think I know!  It's what that
stupid Nanette said to Marie-Louise about sitting at table with us,
isn't it?"

"What's that?" demanded Henry Bliss quickly.  "What has Marie-Louise to
do with--h'm--yes--I remember"--his face screwed up perplexedly.  "Her
fiancé, she said--h'm--yes--it _is_ a bit awkward, isn't it?"

"It's nothing of the kind!" declared Myrna, and, with a laugh,
possessed herself of the paper parcel from the boat.  "It's quite a
different matter.  If only half of what father has said is true, Jean,
it would be an honour for any one to have Jean Laparde as a guest.  And
anyway I've got your lunch now!"  She waved it in the air, threatening
him merrily with it; then turned, and ran toward the house.  "You come
when you're called, sir!" she flung back over her shoulder, laughing
again.



-- VIII --

SHADOWS BEFORE

Who, in all France, a week ago, had heard of Bernay-sur-Mer?  Upon
whose lips to-day was not the name of that little Mediterranean
village?  Men, the great men of France, came at the bidding of their
confrere, the American millionaire art-critic; came sceptically--and
stayed to wonder.  And because there were no accommodations in
Bernay-sur-Mer, they made their headquarters at Marseilles, and their
daily pilgrimages from there; an arrangement that, if in a measure
inconvenient, was not without its compensation, for at Marseilles was
being made the plaster cast of that exquisite little figure, fashioned
so amazingly from scarcely more than mud, that marked a new epoch to
them in the world of sculpture, the birth of a supreme genius, a
surpassing glory for the art of France!

They came and watched Jean at his work; for there was clay now such as
Jean had never imagined, clay that seemed to give form itself, of its
own initiative, to wonderful conceptions.  They watched and marvelled;
and at night they carried him back with them to Marseilles to fête him,
until indeed to Jean the world of yesterday was as some vast haze,
befogged, that had shut down behind him.

"In a year, with the study of technique in Paris!" murmured Henry Bliss
ecstatically.

And old Bidelot, seventy years of age, grizzle-haired, the most
caustic, bitter critic of them all, stormed in his wrath.

"Technique!  You talk of technique--for _him_!  He is a school in
himself--a school that will revolutionise the art.  You talk of
technique for a genius awakened out of the sleep of ignorance, who in a
day accomplishes undying work that no other man in Paris, in Rome--bah!
where you will--could accomplish in twice a lifetime!  You are senile,
my poor friend Bliss--you are in your dotage!"

Jean Laparde!  Was it possible that this was Jean Laparde?  The simple
fisherfolk stared awe-struck at each other, at the metamorphosis that
had come to Bernay-sur-Mer, at the great people who came and went, to
whom one instinctively lifted one's hat--the great people who now
lifted their hats to Jean.  It was true!  Could they not see with their
own eyes?  One, too, then, should lift one's hat to Jean.  And did not
the good Father Anton read to them from the newspapers that all France
was ringing with the name of Jean Laparde?

"_Sacré nom d'un miracle_!" swore Pierre Lachance heavily.  "And once
he made clay _poupées_ for little Ninon!  _Bon Dieu_, think of that!"

Bernay-sur-Mer had set Jean apart, above itself.

But the old curé was troubled in his heart.  And one night, after a
week had gone since the American strangers had come to Bernay-sur-Mer,
Father Anton shook his head over his newspaper as he read of Jean
Laparde--and found difficulty with his spectacles, for his thoughts
were of Marie-Louise.

It was only a week ago that she had come to him so happily, so gladly,
the proud light in her eyes, to talk of the great thing Jean had
done--and she had changed a great deal in the week.  The proud light
would come back quickly enough at mention of Jean, but she had grown
strangely quiet and silent.  And Jean, too, had changed.  It seemed, as
indeed it was true, that Jean was no longer one of the village.

The old priest took off his offending spectacles, rubbed them with his
handkerchief, and replaced them only to find that the mistiness was in
his own wet eyes.

Jean did not seem the same in his new clothes.  Of course, it was quite
natural that Jean should have discarded his fisherman's dress.
Mademoiselle Bliss had said very truly that though it might be
picturesque in Bernay-sur-Mer, in Paris it would be only eccentric; and
besides, to go to Marseilles with his new friends of his new world, one
needed to be dressed as they were not to be ridiculous.  Monsieur Bliss
had been very generous.  The American was very whole-heartedly
interested in his protégé.  Jean would lack for nothing that either
money or influence could procure.

But it was not only the clothes--Jean himself had changed.  Father
Anton shook his head again slowly.  It had come gradually during the
week, and he, who loved Jean as a son, had not failed to see it.  At
first it had been amazement, bewilderment, incredulity, then a dawning
belief in the genius of his power that they preached to him, and then a
fierce assurance that it was so; it had begun with wonder at the
camaraderie with which the famous men who had come there treated him,
at the respect that Bernay-sur-Mer paid to him--and it had ended with
the acceptance of it as his due, and had come to be looked for with a
tinge of arrogance as though he had drunk of heady wine.  Yes, it was a
change!  Jean was afire now, a different man, consumed, possessed with
the lure of fame, the golden vista that was before his eyes, steeping
his soul in it, reaching out to it, straining toward it like a young
eagle that suddenly liberated from captivity takes wings to the great
void.

And so the paper slid unheeded to the floor from the old priest's knees
that night, a week after the American strangers had come to
Bernay-sur-Mer, and the spectacles were removed again--but this time
the eyes were wiped.  He was glad for Jean, proud in his love for the
greatness that was to come--but somehow in his heart there was sadness,
too.  It seemed that between Marie-Louise and Jean a shadow crept, and
lengthened, and there was a parting of the ways.

"I love you both, my children, Marie-Louise and Jean," the old curé
whispered.  "I am an old man.  Perhaps I am foolish in my fears.  I
pray the good God for you both."



-- IX --

FORKED ROADS

It was the room Myrna Bliss had occupied.  Mother Fregeau had insisted;
Jacques Fregeau had implored.  It was fitting that the best at the Bas
Rhône should be Jean's.  The little back room that had been his for ten
years was quite impossible.  It was different now.  It would be but to
make him ridiculous--what with all these grand strangers that were
around him!  And besides, _merveille du bon Dieu_, was he not now
himself the greatest of the great ones!

In through the window the late afternoon sun played over the faded
wallpaper of the _chambre de luxe_; from without there was the hum of
voices, exclamations of amazement, cries of delight and admiration, the
curious composite sound of a gathered, eager crowd.  And Jean, well
back from the sill that he might not be seen, glanced outside, it was
his--his!  The work that he had done during the past week in the
_atelier_ they had made for him in the barn behind the Bas Rhône!  It
was finished!  Monsieur Bidelot was exhibiting it now to
Bernay-sur-Mer.  The great Academician was standing in the tonneau of
the automobile and holding it up for every one to look at--the
fisherman with his boat and net in clay.  Ah, they understood that, the
people of Bernay-sur-Mer!  But they understood only that it was
magnificent because Bidelot and Monsieur Bliss and the great men who
had come amongst them told them that it was magnificent.

For years he had made the _poupées_, and they had seen nothing--and he
had seen nothing.  But now they knew because they were told; and now he
knew because his soul, his brain was ablaze with the knowledge of
creative power, because what had gone before was nothing, because what
was to come would sweep the past, that little thing that Bidelot in his
emotion cried over, into insignificance.

He drew back, his head high; his outflung arms, hands clenched,
stretched heavenward.  These strangers, these great critics had said
it, and it was so!  The name of Jean Laparde would never die!

He stripped off the long sculptor's apron that covered him from neck to
knees, and held it out at arm's length, gazing first at it and then at
the rough fisherman's clothes that hung, where Mother Fregeau had
placed them, on the end peg on the wall--a little apart, significantly
it seemed, whether by accident or design, from the new clothes that had
come from Marseilles.  And then he laughed out suddenly in a quick,
exalted way, and tossed the apron on the bed.  It was all changed,
that!  He was through with the fisherman's dress, he was through with
Bernay-sur-Mer!  To-night he was to dine with Bidelot and a score of
others in Marseilles, and after that in a few days it would be--Paris.

He undressed hurriedly, and began to dress again in a clean suit--but a
little slowly now, none too deftly.  They were still strange to him
these clothes; but then everything was strange.  The people around him
were strange.  At times he felt awkward, constrained in their
presence--and at times he could laugh down at them as from a superior
height.  Ay, he could laugh--they were at his feet!  Only--he frowned
heavily--he could not laugh at Myrna Bliss.  He was not master there!
And yet she, somehow, did not erect the barrier.  It was himself that
did that--because he could not forget that behind the roguish smile in
the grey eyes might lurk the thought that, after all, he was only a
fisherman.

A fisherman!  They were cheering now outside.  His hands shut tightly.
A fisherman!  He was no longer a fisherman!  He was Jean Laparde, a
sculptor of France, a man before whom lay a path of glory, a man whom
the nation would acclaim, a man of whose future all stood in envy!
They had told him that, these men whom France had already honoured,
these men who had accepted him as more than their equal.  But there was
no need for them to tell him--he knew it in his soul.  None, no man,
the world itself, could hold back now the genius of Jean Laparde!

Paris!  He was pacing the room now, his eyes afire.  To-morrow or the
next day, when the Blisses had made their plans, Paris and fame was
his.  What a life it was that now opened out before him!  A place
amongst the highest, the world to resound with the name of Jean
Laparde--and those grey eyes, that bronze hair, that glorious beauty of
the American--God! he would immortalise her in clay, in bronze, in
marble.

Ay, they might well cheer while the chance was theirs, these people of
Bernay-sur-Mer!  To-morrow or the next day he would be saying good-bye
to them, and--he stood suddenly still--and good-bye, too, to
Marie-Louise.  The thought put a damper upon his spirits; his brows
gathered in deep furrows of impatient perplexity.

He had not seen much of Marie-Louise in the last week--he had seen her
scarcely at all.  Only twice--when she with many others had stood in
the doorway to watch his work.  She had smiled at him then, as though
it were her work, too, as though it were a joint proprietorship--but
she had gone before he could speak to her.  And at the cottage, when he
had been there at the invitation of Myrna or her father, Marie-Louise,
strangely enough, now that he thought of it, was never to be seen.

He would have to speak to her, of course, about going away; but what
chance, with the whirl he had been in, had he had to do it?  She would
know that he was going to Paris, for everybody knew it--but he would
have to speak to her himself about it before he went.  And what was he
to say?  Certainly, he loved Marie-Louise--but the great chance of his
life was before him.  What was he to say to her?  He would go to Paris
for a time, make this great name for himself, and then
afterwards--_what_?

He refused to tolerate the question.  He had refused to tolerate it all
week.  It was enough for the present that he was going for a time to
Paris.  Marie-Louise was sensible enough not to make a scene.  She
could see readily enough that he must go and that she must stay.  How,
for instance, could she associate with women of fashion and society
like Myrna Bliss, who would be the women of the new world that must
necessarily form part of his life hereafter.  What was he thinking of?
Was it the "afterwards" again?  Was he not coming back to Marie-Louise?
Was he choosing now between his art and Marie-Louise?  No; he was
not--he would not!  That was an issue for the future.  It would work
itself out.  Why should he plague himself about it!

He loved Marie-Louise, of course; but it would have been easier now if
there had been nothing between them.  He could not go to Marie-Louise
and say: Marie-Louise, I love you; but it is finished--you can see that
the _grand monde_ would make a very great difference between Jean
Laparde, the great sculptor, and Marie-Louise the fisherwoman of
Bernay-sur-Mer.  No; he could not say that, but--_sacré nom_!--was he
back to the everlasting "afterwards" again, when he refused so
resolutely to go beyond the present?  Was it not enough that he was
simply going to Paris for a time--a matter that would seem natural
enough to her, and of which she would be glad because great things had
come to him?  He would talk to her like that--that would be
enough--Marie-Louise was a sensible girl.  One could not say to her
that it would be better to finish everything, he would never say that
to Marie-Louise--but if, _par example_, he and Marie-Louise had never
talked of the marriage there would be nothing now to trouble him.
And--he swung around sharply as a knock sounded on the door.

"Come!" he called.

Papa Fregeau stuck in his head.

"_Pardon_, Monsieur Jean"--it was "monsieur" now--"it is Mademoiselle
Bliss who is alone in the café below.  Will Monsieur Jean see her for a
moment before he goes out?"

"In an instant," Jean answered quickly.  "Tell mademoiselle that I will
be there in an instant."

Papa Fregeau hesitated, stared about the room, and stared at Jean, his
fat cheeks grotesquely expanded--and his arms rose suddenly in a
gesture of profound helplessness.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he muttered heavily.  "Is it possible that it is our
little Jean there--ah, _pardon_"--he stammered--"_Monsieur_ Jean"--and
made a hasty exit from the room, as though utterly confounded at his
own temerity.

But Jean, following his reply, had paid no further attention to Papa
Fregeau.  He had learned to knot the long, flowing tie that Myrna had
chosen as part of his dress, for she had said, had she not, that it was
the tie the artists wore in Paris?  He knotted it now with extra care,
put on his coat, snatched up his hat, and ran downstairs to the café
below.

She was waiting for him back by the little _comptoir_ where he had
stood that evening when she had first spoken to him.  She had been like
a glorious vision that had burst suddenly upon him that evening--she
was a thousand times more glorious now, for her smile was eager with an
intimacy that promised--what did it promise?  He did not know.  It was
there--and her eyes were shining, and the white throat was divinely
beautiful--and the thrill of her presence quickened the beat of his
heart.

Her laugh rang through the room, silver-toned.

"Jean," she cried merrily, "you are harder to see these days than a
prime minister!  What do you mean, sir?  Have you deserted us?"

"_Ma foi_!" protested Jean, a little anxiously.  "Mademoiselle does not
mean that!  Was I not at lunch with her to-day, and yesterday, and the
day before that?"

"Yes, and all day at the work, and every evening in Marseilles"--she
manufactured a dainty pout through her smile.  "And even now that I
have snatched a little moment, I must not keep you for they are waiting
for you outside."

"Let them wait!" said Jean tensely.

"Oh, no; we mustn't do that," she said laughingly, shaking her head.
"So listen, Jean.  I have come to tell you that--can you guess what?
That you are not going to Paris with us after all."

"Not going to Paris!"--Jean gazed at her bewilderedly, as he repeated
the words.

"With _us_--silly boy!" she smiled teasingly.  "Are you disappointed?"

She teased, and mocked, and delighted him, and fired his blood by
amazing and elusive turns.  He could not cope with her yet.

"But mademoiselle knows," he blundered.  "I--I do not understand.  It
is a great disappointment."

"Then it mustn't be!" she declared brightly.  "For it is my idea, and
if you are not pleased with it, it is I who will be terribly
disappointed.  It is just a little while ago that father and I arranged
the plans.  We are to go to-morrow direct to Paris, and as soon as we
get there--now listen very attentively, Jean!--we are going to pick out
an _atelier_ for you and fit it up.  And you are not to come until we
send you word that everything is ready.  And the day you arrive I shall
be hostess at the studio at a reception to which all Paris will be
invited.  Everybody that is worth while will come, and your entrée will
be a triumph.  Now, Jean, will that not be splendid?"

She was smiling at him, vivacious, flushed with excitement.
Splendid--yes, it would be splendid!  An entrée to Paris like that!  It
was the first tangible glimpse of reality out of the chaotic blaze of
luring, golden dreams.

"It--it is too good of mademoiselle!" he stammered excitedly.

Low, musical, her laugh rippled through the room again, as she looked
at him.  The man was magnificent--the head, the shoulders, the splendid
strength, the mobile, changing lights and shadows in his face like a
child who had not yet learned to mask its emotions, and all this
coupled with the deliciously picturesque background of the discovery of
his art, would make him the rage in Paris.  Paris would literally go
wild over him!  And she?  Well, he would be still more a new sensation
than ever--and perhaps, who knew?--but the man was too easily
aroused--and then there was the possibility that her father, that
Bidelot and the others had overrated him, that he would be but the
phenomenon of the moment, only to sink after a while into uninteresting
mediocrity--she would see.  But for the present at least Paris would
echo and re-echo with the name of Jean Laparde.  Her eyebrows arched
demurely, innocently.  There was something else she had to say to Jean.
She had never spoken to him of Marie-Louise--naturally.  But she must
speak now.  Marie-Louise, a peasant girl, a bare-footed fisherwoman, in
Paris as Jean's fiancée was perfectly impossible!

"Jean," she said ingenuously, "you know we took the cottage without
much formality as far as any definite length of time was concerned.  Of
course we expected to stay longer, and if all this had not happened we
certainly should have done so.  So, do you think, when we speak to
Marie-Louise about going, that she would be perfectly satisfied with a
month's rent?  I told father I would ask you."

Jean's face clouded.

"You have not told Marie-Louise then that you are going to-morrow?" he
asked slowly.

"How could we--when we did not know ourselves until a little while
ago?" she answered.

"No; that is so," he said.  Then, with a short, conscious laugh: "I
have not spoken to Marie-Louise myself."

"Of course you haven't!" she returned quickly, "And you have been wise."

"Wise?"--Jean looked at her, puzzled.

"Marie-Louise is not blind," said Myrna quietly.  "It is far better
that she should have seen things for herself--and she could not help
seeing them during the last week."

"You mean?" Jean began--and stopped.

"You know what I mean, Jean," she said gravely.  "That she must have
seen what everybody else sees--what you see yourself.  That if she ever
had any idea of going to Paris with you, it is quite out of the
question.  It is different now--everything is changed.  You are not a
fisherman any longer; you have a great place to take in the world that
she cannot take beside you.  A week in Paris and, even if neither of
you see it now, you would both see it only too bitterly and clearly
then.  For both your sakes it is better settled now."

Jean was staring across the room to where, outside, the crowd was
packed densely in the road.  Had he not thought of just those things
that she had been saying?  Had he not thought of them all week?  They
were true; but still there was Marie-Louise who--what was that?  They
were cheering him there outside--it made his blood tingle, he felt the
mad elation of it, his soul seemed to leap out to meet the acclaim!

"But that is not all, Jean"--she was speaking again.  "There is another
thing, something you owe to--oh, how shall I say it?--to your country,
and--"  She stopped suddenly and caught his arm.  "Listen!" she
breathed.  "Listen!"

It was Bidelot, the great Academician, his voice raised in impassioned
words.  Through the window they could see him standing, bare-headed, in
the automobile.

"... Bernay-sur-Mer will evermore live in the hearts of Frenchmen--you
have given to France the immortal name of Jean Laparde."

Her hands, both of them now, were clasped tightly on his arm.

"Jean!" she whispered.  "Jean!"

"_Mon Dieu_!"--the words came hoarsely from Jean's throat.  They were
cheering again.  He moved, like iron impelled to the magnet, across the
room.  He looked at Myrna.  He had never seen her eyes so bright.

"It is only the beginning, Jean"--she seemed half hysterical herself.
"But in Paris, Jean--in Paris you shall see!"

They were at the door, and suddenly she flung it wide open.  There was
a roar of voices.  She was smiling at him from the doorway.  They were
shouting his name.  They rushed at him, and, lifting him shoulder high,
carried him to the automobile.  Fame--was this only a taste of it?  No
more than that?  In Paris--what was it he should see in Paris?  They
were shouting again.  It was like some fiery draught that his soul was
drinking in.  He craved it with a lust that was passionate,
all-possessing.  He cried out to those around him.  He did not know
what he said.  And then Bidelot was speaking to him, and the automobile
was whirling down the road, followed by the shouts of all
Bernay-sur-Mer.

All Bernay-sur-Mer?  No; not all.  For as the car flashed by, halfway
between the little bridge and the eastern headland, the fringe of
bushes by the roadside parted, a dark head lifted, and Marie-Louise
gazed after it.  It was all so strange, and she could not quite
understand.  Once, twice before, on other evenings, she had watched the
car pass.  They were all of the great world those men with Jean in the
car; of the great world of which she knew nothing, only that the
village spoke of the strangers with awe.  And now Jean was one of
them--and they seemed so proud of him, so proud to make him one of
themselves, these great men.  And she was proud of him, too, oh, so
proud and glad and happy--only back of it all was a little chill of
dread and fear, and she could not quite understand.  She had smiled at
Jean from the edge of the crowd that was clustered around the door of
the barn those days when he had been working at the clay--and then she
had stolen away and cried so bitterly.  She did not know why she had
done that.  If only some one would tell her what it all meant!  Was it
because Jean was going away for a little time?  The dark eyes widened
slowly.  Was it only for a little time?  She had not talked to Jean
since that morning on the beach, and that was so long, long ago.  It
wasn't Jean's fault, though, nearly so much as hers.  She had really
tried to evade him.  No, not to evade Jean; but to evade the others out
of the shyness and diffidence for the great strangers who were now
constantly around him.  Would there be always these strangers around
him?

She drew herself up suddenly, her small hands fiercely clenched.  She
hated these strangers!  That was it!  They were always coming between
Jean and herself!  They were always there!  They made of Jean a
different man; they made him one of themselves, and in doing that they
were snatching him away from her, taking him across what seemed like
some vast gulf that she could not traverse herself.  She hated this
Monsieur American, and this mademoiselle; and she hated the day they
had come, for it had all begun that day.  The red burned angrily in her
cheeks, the lithe form quivered in a quick rush of passion--and then,
instantly penitent, with a little sob, she flung herself down upon the
grass.

No; she did not hate them!  What had she said!  The _bon Dieu_ would be
very angry with her for that.  And they had been very kind and good to
her, this monsieur and this mademoiselle.  And to hate all the others
was to commit a sin, for were they not there because Jean--she raised
her head quickly, parting the bushes again, as she caught the sound of
steps and voices from the road.

It was Monsieur Bliss speaking in French to Father Anton, who walked
between Monsieur Bliss and mademoiselle.

"Why should he not work here?  Why should he go to Paris?  What a
question, my dear Monsieur le Curé!  It is because here is nothing;
because in Paris there is everything.  It is there that he will study
the great works of famous sculptors; it is there that he will have
models and facilities for his work; it is there that he will have
inspiration from the art around him; it is there that, with his genius,
he will sift and choose, profiting from the different schools even as
he creates a new one for himself; and it is there that the leading men
of France will unite with the social world to make the name of Jean
Laparde known and honoured wherever art is known."

"But," said Father Anton anxiously, "but he will come back--to
Marie-Louise."

Henry Bliss's hand fell sympathetically upon the old priest's shoulder,
as he shook his head.

"I do not know," he said soberly.  "Who can tell?  It depends upon
Jean--and Marie-Louise.  Frankly, I do not think he will come back, for
there is always the danger that the greater he becomes the greater will
become the distance between them--and Jean will unquestionably become a
national figure.  But it is a vastly different thing with him than it
is with her.  It is innate in him to take that place gracefully, even
as his genius is innate in him.  To her, I am afraid, it would be an
impossible and an impracticable life.  It is likely she would be
miserable to begin with and feel herself a drag upon him, for, we must
admit, she could not, as we say in America, hold up her end in his new
life.  It is one of those tragedies of life, isn't it, that we cannot
shape one way or the other?  It is something they alone must work out.
It is not a little matter, this future of Jean's.  France has claimed
Jean, Monsieur le Curé, and it may well be, as Myrna here said a moment
ago, there is no place in his new life for Marie-Louise.  I--"

They had passed on.

It seemed to Marie-Louise that she was very cold, that somehow she
could not move.  There were three figures out there on the road walking
along.  It was very strange that so ordinary a thing as that should be
taking place.  She seemed to be numbed, to be waiting somehow for a
return to consciousness.  Was that consciousness that was returning
now, was that it--this dull, monotonous pain?  And that great choking
in her heart--what was that?  She was standing erect, and words were
quivering on her lips.

"There is no place in his new life for Marie-Louise."

She was staring out before her; but the road, and, beyond it, the white
beach, and, beyond that again, the blue of the sea with the great
golden shaft of light from the setting sun upon it was gone--and there
was only nothingness.  Only her lips moved.

"There is no place--in his new life--for Marie-Louise."



-- X --

A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE

How still the house was!  Only once during the night had Marie-Louise
heard a sound as she had sat, dressed, by the window in the little
attic room.  And that sound had been the whir of an automobile rushing
by on the road--it had been Jean returning from Marseilles.  That was
while it was very dark, very long ago--now it was daylight again, and
the sun was streaming into the room.

The chaste, sweet face was tired and weary and aged a little; but on
the lips, sensitive, delicate, making even more beautiful their
contour, was a brave, resolute little smile, as her eyes rested on the
small white bed, neatly made, unslept in.  It was over now, the fight
that had been so hard and so cruel to fight; and she needed only the
courage to go on to the end.

Over and over again, all through the night, she had thought it out.
She loved Jean.  She loved Jean so much!  She had trembled once when
she had tried to think how much, and the thought had come so quickly,
before she could arrest it, that she loved Jean as much as she loved
God--and then she had prayed the _bon Dieu_ not to be angry with her
for the sin, for she had not meant to think such thoughts as that.

It was true what they had said when they had passed by on the road
yesterday evening.  There was no place in his new life for her.  A
hundred little things all through the week had shown her that, only,
until yesterday evening when Monsieur Bliss had spoken, she had not
understood what they meant--Nanette, that first day, when Jean had come
to lunch with mademoiselle and monsieur; the curious, side-long glances
that the villagers gave her now; a strange, embarrassed reserve in
Father Anton, when the good curé had spoken to her lately; that wide,
vast gulf that lay between the world mademoiselle lived in, the world
that Jean was going to, and her own world.  They had all seen
it--except herself.  And she had not understood because she had not
allowed herself to think what it might mean, what she knew now it
meant--that she must lose Jean.

To let Jean go out of her life because France had claimed him--that was
what her soul had whispered to her all through the night.  A Daughter
of France, her Uncle Gaston had called her proudly--it was Jean who had
told her what her uncle had said--that he had taught her to love God
and be never afraid.  But she was afraid now, she had been afraid all
through the night, for it seemed as if there were no more happiness, as
though a great pain that would never go away again had come to her.

France had claimed Jean.  He was to be a famous man.  Did they not all
talk of his glorious future?  It was different with Jean--years ago
even she had known that.  She herself had told him he was different
from the fishermen of Bernay-sur-Mer.  Jean was born to the life that
he was going to.  Was he not even now taking his place amongst these
great strangers as though he had been accustomed to do so always?  And
she, if she should try to do it, they would laugh at her, and she would
bring ridicule upon Jean, and she could not do what Jean could do.  She
was a peasant girl whom mademoiselle scolded about going without shoes
and stockings.

And Jean must surely have seen these things, too.  But Jean, though he
had heedlessly hurt her so when he had given away again the little
beacon, would never speak to her of this, because this was a much
greater thing which was to change all their lives.  It was she who must
speak to Jean, it was she who must tell him that she understood that
the great future which lay before him must not be harmed; that she must
not hold him back; that she must not stand in his way; that she would
only hurt him in that dazzling, bewildering world that would disdain a
fishergirl; that it was France, not she, who came first.

The night had brought her that.  It was only the courage she needed now
to act upon it.

She stood up, looking through the window--and the great dark eyes
filled with a blinding mist.

"Jean!  Jean!" she said brokenly aloud.

A little while she stood there, and then walked slowly across the room
to the bed.  And as once she had knelt there before, she dropped again
upon her knees beside it.  And now the smile came bravely again.  They
were wrong.  It was not true.  There was a place in his life for
her--something that she could do now.  There was one way in which her
love could still help Jean in the wonderful life that had come to him.

The dark head bent to the coverlet.

"_Mon Père_," she whispered, "make me that--Jean's beacon now."

And after a time she rose, and bathed her face, and fastened the black
coils of hair that had become unloosed, and, as she heard Nanette
stirring below, went quietly downstairs.

She must see Jean.  They were going away to-day, mademoiselle and
monsieur, and Nanette and Jules; and Jean was to follow them in a few
days.  She had heard mademoiselle and her father discussing it at their
supper last evening.  She must see Jean now before the others went,
so--so that everybody would understand.

She stole out of the house, gained the road and started to run along it
toward the village.  Jean would be up long ago, all his life he had
risen hours before this, and she would be back by the time mademoiselle
and monsieur were up and needed her.  She stopped suddenly, and in
quick dismay glanced down at her bare feet.  She had forgotten to put
on her shoes and stockings.  Suppose mademoiselle should see her
returning like that!

And then Marie-Louise shook her head slowly, and went on again.  It was
not right to disobey, but it could not matter very much now, for
mademoiselle was going away in the afternoon.  And besides she could
run much faster without them, and--the tears came with a rush to her
eyes--they seemed all at once to mean so much, those shoes and
stockings.  It--it was the shoes and stockings and all they meant that
was taking her out of Jean's life.  She understood it all so well now.

She brushed the tears a little angrily from her eyes.  She must not do
that.  To go to Jean and cry!  Far better not to go at all!
Afterwards, when they were gone, these Americans, and when Jean was
gone, and she was alone and only the _bon Dieu_ to see, then perhaps
the tears would be too strong for her.  But now she must talk very
bravely to Jean, and not make it harder for him; for, no matter what
happened or what was to come, Jean, too, in his love, would feel the
parting.

She understood Jean better now, too.  The night had made so many things
much clearer.  Had he not confessed that he was not always happy as a
fisherman in Bernay-sur-Mer?  And must it not have been just this, this
greatness within him, that had made him discontented?  And now that it
had come true, a far greater thing than he could have dreamed of,
changing his whole life, must it not for the time have made him forget
everything else?  It had not killed his love for her, it had not done
that--but this thing must be first before either of their loves.
Afterwards, perhaps, it might kill his love--afterwards, yes,
afterwards it might do that.  She tried to smile a little.  It was what
she was going now to bring about--afterwards it _must_ kill his love.
It was the only way.  And that would come surely, very surely--his
giving away of the beacon, so lightly forgetting what he told her it
had meant, taught her that.  If he went now, if she bade him go now, it
was not for a little time--it was for always.

She was running, very fast, breathlessly--as though she were trying to
outrun her thoughts.  It was coming again, the same bitter fight that
she had fought out through the darkness, through all those long hours
alone--but she must not let it come, that sadness, that yearning that
tried to make her falter and hold back.  The way was very plain.  If
she loved Jean, if she really loved him, she must not let that love do
anything but what would help him in his new, great life--she must cling
to that.  It would not be love if she did anything else; it would only
mean that she loved herself more than she loved Jean.

"To be never afraid"--Uncle Gaston had taught her that, and the words
were on her lips now--"To be never afraid."

She was walking again now, for she had reached the village.  Some one
called to her from a cottage door, and she called back cheerfully as
she passed on to the Bas Rhône, where Papa Fregeau was standing in the
doorway.

"_Tiens, petite_!" the fat little proprietor cried heartily.  "But it
is good to see our little Marie-Louise!  You do not come often these
days.  They make you work too hard, those Americans, perhaps?  But
to-day they are going--eh?  Wait, I will call Lucille."

"Good morning, Jacques," she answered.  "Yes; it is to-day that they
are going, so do not call Mother Fregeau, for there is a great deal to
do at the house and I must hurry back."

"Ah!" observed Papa Fregeau.  "You have come then with a message?"

"Yes," she said hurriedly; "for Jean.  Do you know where he is?"

"But, _là, là_!" chuckled Papa Fregeau.  "But, yes; he is upstairs in
his room.  But wait--I must tell you.  I have just helped him carry it
up.  It is a very grand American affair, and he is like a child with
it.  It arrived from Marseilles last night after he had gone."

"What did?" inquired Marie-Louise patiently.

"What did!" ejaculated Papa Fregeau.  "But did I not tell you?  The
American trunk, _pardieu_! that he is to go away with, and--"  The fat
little man grew suddenly confused.  "_Tiens_!" he stammered.  "He is
upstairs in his room, Marie-Louise.  I am an old fool--eh--an old
fool!"--and he waddled away.

Why should it have hurt a little more because Jacques Fregeau had said
Jean was going away?  And why should Jacques Fregeau have been able to
read it in her eyes?  She was not so brave perhaps as she had thought.
And her heart was pounding now very quickly and so hard that it brought
pain, as she went up the stairs.

"_Mon Père_"--her lips were whispering the same prayer over
again--"make me that--Jean's beacon now."

And then she was knocking at the door.

For an instant she hesitated, as his voice called to her to enter; then
she opened the door and stepped inside.  It was Jean, this great fine
figure of a man, who turned so quickly toward her; but it was already
the Jean of the world where they wore shoes and stockings, and his
clothes were like the clothes of Monsieur Bliss.  They made him very
handsome, very grand; only somehow they made it seem that her errand
was useless now, that she had come too late, that Jean was already gone.

Her eyes met his, smiled--and, from his face, strayed about the room.
It was very fine that American trunk, but not very large.  It was like
one that mademoiselle had, that she called a steamer trunk, and carried
on the automobile--and the trunk was empty, and the tray was on the
floor beside it.

"Marie-Louise!" he cried--and then, a little awkwardly, he caught her
hands.  "But--but what has brought you here, Marie-Louise?"

"To see you, Jean," she told him simply.

For a moment he stared at her uneasily.  Was this then to be the scene
that he had dreaded, that he had been putting off?  And then he laughed
a little unnaturally.

"Ah, did you think, then, Marie-Louise, that I had forgotten you?  You
must not think that!  Only, _mon Dieu_, what with Bidelot, and the
critics, and Marseilles, and the work all day at the new design, what
could I do?  But Bidelot and the rest have returned to Paris, and
mademoiselle and monsieur go to-day; and this afternoon I was going to
find you and tell you about the great plans they have all made for me."

"Yes; I know, Jean," she answered.  "And that is what I have come
for--to have a little talk about you and me."

"About my going away, you mean?" he said, infusing a lightness into his
voice.  "But you must not feel sad about that, Marie-Louise.  You would
not have me lose a chance like that!  And it is only for a little
while, until I have learned what, they say, Paris will teach me.  I
shall do great things in Paris, Marie-Louise--and then I shall come
back."

She shook her head slowly.

"Jean," she said very quietly, "it is about your coming back that I
want to speak to you.  I have thought it all out last night.  It is not
for a little while.  When you go it is for always.  You can never come
back."

"Never come back!  Ah, is it that then that is troubling you?" he said
eagerly.  "You mean that you would not mind my going for a little
while, only you think it is for more than that?"

"You do not understand, Jean"--it seemed as though she must cry out in
wild abandon, as though the tears must come and fill her eyes, as
though she were not brave at all.  Would not the _bon Dieu_ help her
now!  She drew her hands away from him, and turned from him for an
instant.  "You can never come back, Jean; you can never come back to
the old life.  You will go on and on, further and further away from it,
making a great name for yourself, and your friends will be all like the
_grand monde_ who have been here, and I know that I cannot go into that
life, too--I understand that all so well.  And--and so, Jean, I have
come to tell you that you are free."

"Free!" he cried--and gazed at her in stupefaction.  The colour came
and went from his face.  He had not thought of this from her!  And yet
it was what he had said in his soul--if only there were nothing between
Marie-Louise and himself!  It was as if a weight had been lifted from
him--only replacing the weight was a miserable pricking of conscience.
"Free!  What are you saying?"

And now the dark eyes were bright and deep and unfaltering--and
suddenly she drew her form erect, and her head was thrown proudly back.

"Free, Jean, because you must not think any more of me; because you are
to be a great man in your country and it is your duty to go, for France
has called you, and France is first; because"--her voice, quivering,
yet triumphant, was ringing through the room--"because I give you to
France, Jean!  You do not belong to me now--you belong to France!"

For a moment he did not speak.  There seemed a thousand emotions,
soul-born, surging upon him.  Her words thrilled him; it was over;
there was relief; it was done.  She had gone where he had not dared to
go in his thoughts--to the end.  He would never come back, she said.
He was free.  But he could not have her think that he could let her go
like that!

"No, no, Marie-Louise!" he burst out.  "Do you think that even if I
belonged to France, even if all my life were changed, that I could ever
forget you, that I could forget Bernay-sur-Mer, and all the people and
my life here?"

"Yes," she said, "you will forget."

"Never!" he asserted fiercely.

"Jean"--her voice was low again--"it is the _bon Dieu_ last night who
has made me understand.  I do not know what is in the new world that
you are going to, only that you will be one of the greatest and perhaps
one of the richest men in France.  And I understand you better, Jean, I
think, than you understand yourself.  This fame and power will mean
more to you than anything else, and it will grow and grow and grow,
Jean.  And, oh, Jean, I am afraid you will forget that it is not you at
all who does these great things but that it is the _bon Dieu_ who lets
you do them, and that you will grow proud, Jean, and lose all the best
out of your life because you will even forget that once those clothes
hanging there"--she pointed toward the rough fisherman's suit--"were
yours."

It was strange to hear Marie-Louise talking so!  He did not entirely
understand.  Something was bewildering him.  She was telling him that
he must think no more of her, that it was finished.  And there was no
scene.  And she did not reproach him.  And there were no tears.  And it
did not seem as though it were quite real.  He had pictured quite
another kind of scene, where there would be passion and angry words.
And there was nothing of that--only Marie-Louise, like a grown-up
Marie-Louise, like a mother almost, speaking so gravely and anxiously
to him of things one would not expect Marie-Louise to know anything
about.

She turned from him impulsively; and from the peg took down the cap and
the rough suit, and from the floor gathered up the heavy boots with the
coarse socks tucked into their tops--and, as he watched her in
amazement, she thrust them suddenly into his arms.

"Promise me, Jean," she said in the same low way, "that you will keep
these with you always, and that sometimes in your great world you will
look at them and remember--that they, too, belong to France"--and then
suddenly her voice broke, and she had run from the room.

She was gone.  Jean's eyes, from the doorway, shifted to the clothes
that cluttered up his arms--and for a long time he did not move.  Then
one hand lifted slowly, and in a dazed sort of way brushed the hair
back from his eyes.  It was a strange thing, that--to take these things
with him to remember--what was it she had said?--to remember that they,
too, belonged to France.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he whispered--and, with a queer lift of his shoulders,
turned mechanically to the trunk beside him.  "_Mon Dieu_!" he
whispered again--and now there was a twisted little smile of pain upon
his lips as understanding came, and almost reverently he laid the
things in the bottom of the trunk.



-- XI --

THE PENDULUM

How many miles had they come?  Jean did not know.  It had been far--but
far along a road of golden dreams, where time and distance mattered
only because they were so quickly passed.

It was Myrna Bliss who had suggested it because, had she not said? she
wanted to have a little talk with him alone before she left for Paris
that afternoon--and they would walk out along the road before her
father started, and the automobile would pick her up on the way.

And so they had come, and so she had talked and he had
listened--feasting his eyes upon the superb, alluring figure that
swung, so splendidly supreme, along beside him.  She had told him of
Paris--Paris, the City Beautiful--of the great city that was the glory
of France, of its magnificent boulevards, its statues, its arches, its
wonderful architecture, its wealth of art garnered from the ages, its
happy mirth, its gaiety, its richness and its life, the life that would
now be his.  And he had listened, rapt, absorbed, fascinated, as though
to some entrancing melody, now martial, now in softer strain, that
stirred his pulse as it carried him beyond himself, and unfettered his
imagination until it swept, free as a bird in air, into the land of
dreams, that knew a fierce, ecstatic echo in his soul--the melody of
her voice.

But now there had come a jarring note into that melody; and a sudden,
swift emotion, that mingled dismay, a passionate longing, a panic sense
of impotency, was upon him.  The quick throb of the motor was sounding
from down the road behind them.  Monsieur Bliss was coming now.  In a
moment she would be gone.

She had heard it, too, for she ceased speaking abruptly, and, halting,
turned to face him.

"Isn't it too bad, Jean?" she cried disappointedly.  "And I had hardly
begun to tell you about it!  But then, never mind, the rest of it all
you will see for yourself in a few more days, when you get to Paris."

In a moment she would be gone!  What was it that held him back--that
had always held him back before?  He was strong enough--strong enough
to crush her to him, to cover that gloriously beautiful face with his
kisses, to bathe his face in the fragrance of her hair, to feel her
heart, the throb, the pulse, the life of her body against his own!
What was it that, strong as he was, was stronger than he?

"It--it is good-bye," he said, in a low, tense way.

She felt the passion that was possessing him--he read it in the
startled glance of the grey eyes before they were veiled; in the ivory
of the perfect throat grown colourful with the mounting red; in the
parted lips before the teasing, merry smile was forced there, as she
stepped back a little away from him.  She knew!  She knew, as he knew,
that his soul was aflame--and it was she, not he, who dammed back the
tide of his passion with that "something" that was so powerful an ally
of hers, so readily, so always at her instant command.  She knew, as he
knew, that his soul was aflame--and yet she had not repulsed him.  What
did it mean?  That she _cared_!  But why did she laugh so lightly now,
why was she so perfectly self-possessed?  What did it mean?  That she
was playing with him!

"How absurd, Jean!" she laughed gaily.  "Of course, it isn't
'good-bye'; that is"--she glanced at him demurely--"that is, unless
you've changed your mind about coming to Paris."  Then, impulsively
eager: "But you haven't done that, have you?  And you want to come more
than ever now after what I have told you, don't you?  And, Jean"--she
came suddenly close to him again, and her face, its demureness gone,
was puckered up in very earnest little wrinkles--"there isn't anything,
you won't let anything keep you from coming--will you?"

Keep him from Paris--from her!  Why had she asked that?  He laughed out
boisterously, harshly.  It was very near now, that accursed automobile!
Monsieur Bliss was calling out to them.  Keep him from--Paris!  He
could only laugh out again wildly, as he looked at her.

"Jean!"--it was a quick, hurried exclamation, not all composure now,
and her eyes were hidden, and her face was turned away.  "Jean, good
gracious, don't you hear father calling to you?  Look, here he is!"

Jean swept his hand across his eyes.  It was the madness upon him.
Yes, here was Monsieur Bliss beside him, and she and her father were
both talking at once.  It was Paris!  Always Paris that they talked of!
In a week, in ten days, he would be there.  And then they had both
shaken hands with him, the grey eyes had smiled into his for an
instant, and she had sprung from him into the automobile.  It was a
daze.  They had gone.  He was standing in the road watching them.  She
was fluttering a scarf at him, as she leaned far over the back of the
car--her voice, full-throated, was throbbing in his ears.

"_An revoir_, Jean!  _Au revoir_--till Paris!"

The car disappeared over the brow of a little hill, came into sight
again as it topped the opposite rise, became a blur and then a tiny
dot, scarcely discernible, far on along the road.  And still he stood
there.

It was gone at last.  He turned then, and started back along the road
toward Bernay-sur-Mer; now walking slowly, now suddenly changing his
pace to a quick, impulsive stride.  His eyes were on the road before
him, but he saw nothing.  Her voice was ringing in his ears again, and
again he was living in that golden land of dreams--with her.

Paris!  The City Beautiful!  Paris--where he should know fame and
power, where his genius should kindle a flame of enthusiasm that would
spread throughout all France!  Paris--where men should do him honour!
Paris--where riches were!  Paris--where she was!

His brain reeled with it.  It was not wild imagining.  A power, a
mighty power, the power that made him master of his art lived and
breathed in every fibre of his being.  He needed no tongue of others
now to tell him that this power was his; the knowledge of it was in his
soul until he knew, knew as he knew that he had being and existence,
that the work of Jean Laparde would stand magnificent and supreme
before the eyes of the world.  He saw himself the centre, the leader of
a glittering entourage.  Fame!  Men of the highest ranks should envy
him--the gamins of Paris should know his name.  He threw back his head
on his great shoulders.  Conceit, all this?  No; it was stupendous--but
it was not conceit.  He knew--his soul knew it.  He was more sure of
himself now than even those great critics of France had been sure.
They had seen nothing--he had not begun.  A year, two years in Paris,
the tools to work with, the models of flesh and blood at his
command--and, ah, God, what would he not do!  They should see, they
should see then!  And they should stand and wonder, as they had not
wondered before--at Jean Laparde!

He laughed suddenly aloud.  Father Anton had preached a sermon once in
the little church, he remembered it now--that fame was an empty thing.
An empty thing!  He laughed again.  It was the simplicity of the good
curé, who believed such things because, _pardieu_! the curé was a
gentle soul and knew no better.  What should Father Anton, who never
went anywhere, into whose life came nothing but the little daily
affairs of the fisherfolk in Bernay-sur-Mer, who could never have had
any experience in the things outside the life of the village that
turned everlastingly like a wheel in its grooves, know of fame?  It was
not the fault of Father Anton that he talked so, for he got those
things out of his books, and, having no reason out of his own knowledge
of life to know any better, believed them!

Jean shrugged his shoulders.  One felt sorry for Father Anton!  Perhaps
once in two years the curé journeyed as far as Marseilles--and the few
miles was a great event!  What could one expect Father Anton to
discover for himself out of life?

Fame--an empty thing!  Poor Father Anton, who, because he believed it,
so earnestly preached it to Papa Fregeau and Pierre Lachance who never
went even as far as Marseilles, and who therefore in turn were very
content to believe it, too!  An empty thing?  It was _everything_!

He drew in his breath sharply; his hand was feverishly tossing back the
hair from his forehead.  It was everything!  It was wealth, it was
power, it was might, it was greatness.  It was real; it brought things
to the very senses one possessed, things that one could see and hear
and touch and taste and smell.  They were real--real, those things!  It
brought money that bought all things; it brought position, honour and
command, a name amongst the great names of France; it thrilled the soul
and fired the blood; it was limitless, boundless, without horizon.  It
brought all things beyond the dreams that one could dream, the plaudits
of his fellow-men, the wild-flung shouts of acclamation from
hoarse-throated multitudes; it brought riches; it brought affluence;
and it brought--love.

Love!  Ay, it would bring love!  It would bring him that more than it
would bring him any other thing.  He knew now what had held him back
from crushing that maddeningly alluring form in his arms, from giving
free rein to the passion that was his, from giving him the mastery of
her.  It was that same thing that Marie-Louise sensed between herself
and what she called the _grand monde_.  He, too, had not yet bridged
the gulf.  He had not yet been able to look into those grey eyes of the
beautiful American and forget, deep in his soul, that she was
different, that he had been Jean Laparde the poor fisherman and not
always Jean Laparde the great sculptor.  Was she playing with him?
What did it matter?  The day would come when she would not _play_!  She
would be his--and this fame, that was so empty a thing, would give her
to him.  If for no other thing than that he would go to Paris.  She
would be his--as all the world would be his!  His!  That is what fame
would bring him!  Would she play with him then in his greatness!

Paris!  Paris!  It lay before him, a glittering, entrancing vista; it
held out its arms to him, and beckoned him; it heaped honour and glory
and riches upon him; it gave him---her!

His hands were clenched at his sides, and the skin over the knuckles,
tight-drawn, showed white; his stride was rapid, fierce; he was
breathing quickly; his face was flushed; his eyes were burning.  Paris,
his art that would bring him fame, the fame that would bring him
her--nor heaven nor hell would hold him back!

And then suddenly in the middle of the road he stopped, and his hand
tore at his collar as though it choked him.  Subconsciously he had seen
stretching out before him the sparkling blue of the quiet sea, the
headland, the little strip of beach where he and Gaston used to keep
the boats, a blur of white where the house on the bluff showed through
the trees--he had come that far on his way back.  Subconsciously, in a
meaningless way, he had seen this; but now it was blotted from him in a
flash, and in its place came a scene that, though imaginary, was vivid,
real, actual, where before reality itself had meant nothing.

It was black, intensely black, and the wild howling of the wind was in
his ears.  The rain was lashing at his face, and all along the beach
echoed the terrific boom and roar of the surf.  And now there came the
crash of thunder, and quick upon its heels the heavens opening in
darting, zigzag tongue-flames, lurid, magnificent, awesome, as the
lightning flashes leapt across the sky.  And he was standing on that
little strip of beach, and far out across the waters, shrouded in a
white smother of spume and spray, the figure of Marie-Louise stood
outlined on the edge of the Perigeau Reef.  And now he was crossing
that stretch between them, and living again the physical agony that had
been his; and now he was in the water, clinging to the gunwale of the
boat, and in all the wild abandon of the storm her lips and his were
pressed together in that long kiss that seemed to span all life and all
eternity.

As though spellbound, a whiteness creeping into his face, Jean stood
tense and motionless there in the road.  Why had this come now--he had
never let it come in the week that was past.  Why should it have come
now, like floodgates opened against his will, to overwhelm him?  Ah,
was it that?  That little figure, that was just discernible, far off on
that beach, the little figure, bare-footed, that was sitting now on the
stem of his boat where it was drawn up on the sand, and whose face was
cupped in her hands, and who seemed to be staring so intently out
toward the Perigeau Reef!  That was Marie-Louise there--Marie-Louise.
Was it the sight of her that had brought this thing upon him?  And now
the scene was changed again.  And it was against the window panes that
the rain lashed, and against the sashes that the wind tore, and the
lamp threw its light on the grey-grim face of old Gaston Bernier on the
bed.

Jean shivered a little.  What was coming now?  What was that?  Gaston's
hand was upon his.  He could hear Gaston's voice: "Jean, do you love
Marie-Louise?"  And then Gaston was repeating the question, and
repeating it again: "Jean, do you love Marie-Louise?"  And the old
rugged strength seemed back again in Gaston Bernier, as he, rose up in
bed, and his voice in a strange, stern note rang through the room:
"Swear it, Jean ... to a dying man and in God's presence ... swear that
you will..."

"God!  My God!" Jean cried out aloud--and like a blind man feeling
before him, turned from the road, stumbled a little way through the
fields, and flung himself face down upon the grass.

There was torment and dismay upon him.  His mind was in riot; his soul
bare and naked now before him.  Paris!  No; he must go instead to
Marie-Louise and tell her that he would stay in Bernay-sur-Mer, that
they would live their lives together, because they loved each other.
Yes; he loved Marie-Louise, not with the mad passion he had for this
American who bewitched him, but as he had loved her all the years since
they were children.  He had told Gaston that, and it was true.  It was
the act of a _misérable_ to go away!  No; he would not go now.  It was
true, all that he had told Marie-Louise, that she should stand on the
beach and hold out her arms to him in welcome when he pulled ashore
from the fishing, and that they would be always happy together.  And
yet--and yet had not Marie-Louise herself said that he belonged to
France, and said herself that he must go for the great career that lay
before him, for the great work that he was to do?

He cried out aloud sharply, as though in hurt--and prone upon his face,
his hands outstretched before him, lay still for a little time.

It seemed to come insidiously, calling to him, luring him, wrestling,
fighting, battling with the soul of him--Paris!  Here there was love,
but there, too, was love.  One was calm; the other like the wild tumult
of the storm that in its might, primal, elemental, swept him blindly
forward.  Paris--she would be there, she who held him in a spell, who
made him forget Marie-Louise.  And there was fame and glory there,
honour and wealth--all, all, everything that the world could give.  And
it was his, all his--he had only to reach out and take it.  There, all
France would be at his feet.  It made his brain swim with the mad
intoxication of it.  It was as a man dying with thirst who sees afar
the water that is life to him.  Here, he could never be contented now,
he could never be happy, and in a year, two years, Marie-Louise,
therefore, would be unhappy, too.  But--but he could not go ... that
night that he had held Gaston Bernier's hand ... and there was
Marie-Louise that he loved ... Marie-Louise with the pure, fearless
face, the great eyes that were full of a world of things, of calm, of
trust, of tenderness and love, the lips, the wonderful lips that were
so divinely carved, the lips like which there were no others.  And he
must choose now forever between Marie-Louise and--Paris.  If he went,
he would never come back.  He was honest with himself now.  He knew
that.  Marie-Louise knew that.  He must choose now.  Choose!  Had he
not already decided that he would--that he would--_what_?

It began all over again, and after that again for a hundred times,
until the brain of the man was sick and weary, and the torment of it
had brought the moisture to his forehead and into his eyes a fevered,
hunted look--and still he lay there, and the hours went by.  And after
a time, beneath the rim of the sea in the west, the sun sank down, and
the golden afterglow, soft and rich and warm, was as a gentle, parting
benediction upon the earth--and Jean's head was buried in his outflung
arms.  And twilight came--and after that the evening--then darkness,
and the myriad, twinkling stars of a night, calm and serene, were
overhead--and it grew late.

And there came a soul-wrung cry from Jean, as he lifted a worn and
haggard face to the moonlight.

"What shall I do?  What shall I do?"



BOOK II: TWO YEARS LATER



-- I --

THE DUPLICITY OF FATHER ANTON

It was early evening in Paris; an evening in winter--and cold.  Father
Anton drew his chair quite close to the little stove that, not without
some prickings of conscience at his prodigality, he had fed lavishly
with coals from the half empty scuttle beside it; and, leaning forward,
alternately extended his palms to the heat and rubbed them vigorously
together.  The room, or rather the two small rooms, that comprised his
lodgings in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of the city, were, since
the windows were tightly closed and the sides of the stove a dull red,
stifling hot; but Father Anton was not a young man, and the winter of
Paris was not the balmy winter of his beloved South.

He took off his spectacles, polished them abstractedly on the sleeve of
his _soutane_, replaced them, and picked up a book.  He opened the
book, turned a few pages without looking at them, and with a little
sigh laid the book upon his knees.  It was only in strict privacy that
he permitted himself an indulgence in regrets and the somewhat doubtful
solace of retrospection.  And now he opened the stove door.  It always
seemed that in the glowing coals and the little spurts of flames one
could picture so much more clearly the blue of the Mediterranean, the
sunny skies, the clean white cottages of Bernay-sur-Mer, the boats
dotting the sea and beach, and Papa Fregeau standing in the doorway of
the Bas Rhône, and Pierre Lachance trudging along the street with a
great pile of nets slung over his shoulders.

Father Anton shook his head slowly.  It was very strange, the workings
of Providence.  He had always thought to die in Bernay-sur-Mer.  And
now already he had been in Paris a year!  But the sacrifice was very
little, it mattered nothing at all, and if he had longings and dreams
of the days that were gone, he was still very happy here and should be
thankful to God for the wonderful work that had been given him to do;
only he remembered his dismay that morning, when, unannounced, the
bishop had come to Bernay-sur-Mer and had told him word had been
received from Paris that Monsieur Bliss, the millionaire American,
would give the enormous sum of five hundred thousand francs a year to
be distributed amongst the poor of Paris on the condition that he,
Father Anton, would undertake its distribution.  And he remembered how
the bishop had explained that it had been suggested to Monsieur Bliss
that perhaps he, Father Anton, would not care to leave Bernay-sur-Mer
and his people there, and that there were others, younger men, nearer
at hand, who, under the guidance and direction of the ecclesiastical
authorities, would willingly and gladly undertake the work.  And, above
all else, he remembered what monsignor had told him had been the reply
of Monsieur Bliss: "No; it isn't because Father Anton is a clergyman
that I want him, it's because he's the man I've been looking for," that
most astounding American had said.  "There isn't any creed, or
religion, or sect, or anything like that in this--or any supervision.
What I'm after is practical results, and nothing else.  I just want a
piece of bread to go where it is needed, and no questions asked.  I've
always had the idea, but I didn't have the man.  I've got him now.
Father Anton might not care to leave Bernay-sur-Mer--eh?  H'm!  There's
five hundred thousand francs a year at his disposal for the poor of
Paris--ask him if he thinks he can do any good with it?"

And so he had come to Paris.  It was magnificent that--the generosity
of Monsieur Bliss!  And Monsieur Bliss was amazing!  He had found a
most beautiful little apartment, most beautifully furnished, in a very
fashionable part of the city, and with two servants already installed,
awaiting him.  Imagine!  It was impossible!  How could one reach the
poor unless one lived amongst them?  And to maintain an establishment
when--Father Anton sighed again--when even the enormous sum of five
hundred thousand francs was all too little!

He glanced around the room.  Even as it was, his quarters must seem
ostentatious compared with the poverty about him--the Widow Migneault,
for example, in the rear room of the _troisième étage_ above him.  But
what could one do?  There was no arguing with those Americans!  They
had insisted on furnishing the place to their own satisfaction.

Father Anton's eyes returned to the glowing coals in the stove.  He was
very happy because his work was the work that he, too, had dreamed of;
but one could not help thinking sometimes of Bernay-sur-Mer, and all
the lifelong friends, and the people who were so close to his heart.
And if he loved to picture them in his mind, and if there was perhaps a
little ache at the thought that he had left them, he was none the less
thankful to the _bon Dieu_ that he could do so much now with what was
left of his life.

What were they all doing in Bernay-sur-Mer to-night?  What was
Marie-Louise doing?  It was two months now since she had written him.
She did not write as often as she used to write.  He shook his head
sadly.  She had had her sorrow, poor Marie-Louise!  What a boundless
store of love there was in that brave little heart!  If only it would
be given to some worthy young fellow now--Father Anton wrinkled his
brows in deep thought, as though he would decide the matter on the
spot--say, Amidé Dubois, who was a fine, honest lad; they would both be
very happy, and Marie-Louise would forget the sooner.  Yes, certainly,
Amidé Dubois would do admirably.

A clatter of hoofs, the rattle of wheels over the cobble stones on the
street, and the sudden cessation of both in front of the house, broke
in on the curé's musings.  He rose slowly from his chair, and, going to
the window, peered out.  His curiosity was rewarded only to the extent
of seeing a fiacre driving away again.  It was rather strange, that!
Fiacres were not in the habit of stopping before any house in that
section of Paris.  It would be some one for him then undoubtedly.
Monsieur Bliss, perhaps.  No; not Monsieur Bliss, for was there not the
grand reception to-night that the Société des Beaux-Arts was tendering
to Jean Laparde, and for which Monsieur Bliss had sent him a card, but
to which he was not going.  It was to be a great affair at which the
President of the Republic was to be present, and a rusty _soutane_
would be not a little out of place there--and besides, the Jean of
Bernay-sur-Mer and the Jean of Paris were not the same.  Perhaps one
should not let such thoughts come--but it was true.

Father Anton listened.  Yes; he had been right.  Some one was knocking
at the door now.

"Yes--come!" he called, and hurried hospitably across the room, as the
door opened--and stopped in stunned amazement--and ran forward again,
holding out his arms.  "Marie-Louise!" he cried.

Half laughing, half crying, she was in his arms; her own around his
neck.

"Oh, Father Anton!  Dear, dear Father Anton!" she was repeating over
and over again.

"Well, well--but, but--well, well," was all he could say--and kissed
her, and pressed her face against his shoulder, and patted her head.

And then he held her off to look at her.  It was the same Marie-Louise,
with the same bright eyes, even if they were glistening now with tears;
the same Marie-Louise, just as though this was Bernay-sur-Mer and not
Paris at all, for there was no hat to hide the great black tresses of
hair, and there was just the same simple style of loose blouse and
ankle skirt that she always wore in the little village, and it might
well have been that he and she were there again, there in
Bernay-sur-Mer--only on the floor, where she had dropped it as she ran
to meet him, was a neatly tied-up little bundle that spoke of the long
journey.

"Well, well!" he ejaculated helplessly again, and closed the door, and
drew her to a chair and sat down, while she knelt affectionately on the
floor at his knees.

"Oh!" she said excitedly.  "I did not think Paris could be so big a
place.  And there was such a crowd in the station, and such a crowd
outside, and so many streets, and all the people I spoke to only shook
their heads when I asked for Father Anton, and--and then I began to be
a little frightened.  And then--what do you think?  Imagine!  Was I not
grand?  For a franc-fifty a _coccer_ said he would drive me to the
address, and--_me voici_!  Did I not do well?"

"Splendidly!" he agreed approvingly.  "But, Marie-Louise, I do not
understand.  It is a great surprise.  You did not write; you said
nothing about coming to Paris.  Why did you not tell me you were
coming?"

She looked up at him merrily.

"Must I answer that--quite truthfully?"

"Of course!" he said, smiling indulgently.

"Well, then," she said demurely, "I was afraid you would say I should
not come--and now that I am here you cannot say it."

"Ah," he exclaimed, with mock severity, "that is a serious confession
you are making, Marie-Louise!  So!  And you thought I would not
approve, eh?  What then has happened in Bernay-sur-Mer?"

"Nothing has happened," she answered--but now she looked away from him
as she spoke.  "I have sold my house there."

"Nothing!  Sold your house?"  Father Anton began to take alarm.  He
took Marie-Louise's face between his hands and forced her to look at
him.  Yes, yes, the gaiety, the lightness of spirit was only
make-believe; the tears were more genuine than the smile that came
tremulously to her lips.  "Marie-Louise," he said anxiously, "what is
it?"

"Nothing!" she said again.  "Only--only I could not stay there any
longer"--and suddenly, in a flood of tears, she buried her face on the
old priest's knees.

"But, Marie-Louise--Marie-Louise!" he protested in helpless dismay--and
laid his hand soothingly on the bowed head.

She looked up in an instant, dashing the tears away angrily.

"I am a baby!" she cried, trying to laugh.  "It was the journey, and
the new things, and seeing you again--but it is over now."  Then, a
little hesitantly: "Tell me of Jean."

"Jean?" repeated Father Anton, startled.  "Jean?"  He looked at her
closely.  Could it be that?  And then, with a little gasp, as he seemed
to read the truth in her eyes: "It--it is Jean then, Marie-Louise, who
has brought you to Paris?"

"Yes," she answered, in a low voice.

The curé's face grew very grave.

"You have heard from him?"

She shook her head.

"I have never heard from Jean since the day he left
Bernay-sur-Mer"--she was plucking with her fingers at the skirt of the
priest's _soutane_.

There was a long silence, broken at last by the old priest's deep sigh.

"You still love Jean, my child?" he asked gently.

"I have always loved him," she said simply.

Father Anton fumbled with his spectacles.  His heart had grown very
heavy.  It seemed that the cruelest, saddest thing in the world had
happened.

"Tell me about him!" she demanded eagerly.  "You see him every day,
father."

"I have not seen Jean in many months," he replied sadly.

"Not seen him!" she echoed in consternation.  "But he is here--in
Paris--isn't he?"

"Yes; he is here," the curé said slowly.  "But Paris is a big place,
and--and even old friends sometimes do not meet often."

"But tell me about him!" she persisted.  "He has become a great man--a
very great, great man?"

"Yes," said Father Anton gravely, "he has become a great man--the
greatest perhaps in all of France."  Then suddenly, laying his hands on
Marie-Louise's shoulders: "Marie-Louise, what is in your heart?  Why
have you come here?"

"But I have told you, and you know," she said.  "To see Jean."

The curé's hands tightened upon her shoulders.  What was he to say to
her?  How was he to tell her of the danger she in her innocence would
never guess, that lay so cold and ominous a thing upon his own heart?
How was he to put into words his fear of Jean for this pure soul that
was at his knees?  As wide as the world was the distance that lay now
between Marie-Louise and Jean--but it was not that, not even that Jean
was openly attentive to Myrna Bliss--that was only a little thing.
Jean was not the Jean of Bernay-sur-Mer.  The man was glutted now with
power and wealth.  And swaying him was not the love of art that might
have lifted him to a loftier plane, it was the prostitution of that
divine, God-given genius for the lust of fame.  And for fame he had
exchanged his soul.  What was there sacred to Jean now?  It was a life
closely approximating that of a roué that Jean lived.  And for
Marie-Louise, with her love a weapon that might so easily be turned
against her, to come in touch with--no, no; it was not to be thought of!

"Marie-Louise," he said hoarsely, "you must go back.  You do not
understand.  Jean is very different now--he is not the Jean--"

"I know," she interposed, with a catch in her voice.  "I know--better
than you think I know.  It is you who do not understand.  He is of the
_grand monde_, I understand that; and I--I am what I am, and it must be
always so.  But I love him, father.  Is it wrong that I should love
him?  I will never speak to him, and he shall never know that I am
here; but I must see him, and see his work, and--and--oh, don't you
understand?"

"And after that?" asked the old priest sorrowfully.

"What does it matter--after that?" she said tensely.  "I do not know."

"No, Marie-Louise," he said earnestly, "no, my child, no good can come
of it.  You must go back to Bernay-sur-Mer."

She drew away from him, staring at him a little wildly.

"But do you not understand?" she cried out with a sudden rush of
passion.  "But do you not understand that it is stronger than I--that I
could not stay in Bernay-sur-Mer because I was always thinking,
thinking--that I could not go back there now any more than I could stay
there before?  I must do this!  I will do it!  Nothing shall stop me!
And if you will not help me, then--"

Father Anton drew her gently back against his knees.  Yes; he was
beginning to understand--that the problem was not to be settled so
easily as by the mere expedient of telling Marie-Louise she must go
back to Bernay-sur-Mer.  Those small clenched hands, those tight lips
were eloquent of finality.  It became simply a matter of accepting a
fact.  He might insist a dozen times that she should go.  It would be
useless.  She would not go!  The old priest's brows furrowed in
anxiety.  This love for Jean was still first in the girl's heart.
Words, arguments, were of no avail against the longing that was supreme
with her, that had brought her on the long journey across all France.
But her love was the love that pictured the frank, strong, simple
fisherman of Bernay-sur-Mer.  If she should see Jean as he really was!
If she should see for herself the change in him, the abandon of his
life; and, too, see the glittering circles in which he moved!  The
first would dispel her love for him; the second would show her in any
case the utter futility of it.  As long as she held this love, that he
had hoped and prayed she had forgotten, it spoiled her life.  It could
only bring her misery, unhappiness and sorrow.  It would hurt cruelly,
this disenchantment; but it would save her, this poor child, whom he
loved as he would have loved a daughter of his own.  Yes; if she should
see Jean as he really was, see him intimately enough to realise the
truth of the life he was leading!  But how could that be brought
about--and at the same time protect her and keep her _safe_?

She rose slowly to her feet, and stood before him, her hands still
tightly shut at her sides.

"I was so sure, so sure that you would help me!" she said miserably.
And then, in pleading abandon, she flung out her arms to him.  "Oh,
won't you, Father Anton, won't you?  Won't you try to understand?  It
can do no harm, only--only it is all my life--just to see him, to be
near him for a little while, to know that it has all been a wonderful
thing for him--and he will never know, I will not let him know."

The curé's hands clasped and unclasped nervously.

"Would you promise that, Marie-Louise?  That you would not speak to
him, that you would not let him know you were here in Paris?"

She answered him almost passionately, in hurt pride.

"Oh, how little you understand!" she cried.  "Do you think that my love
is like that?  Do you think that for anything in the world I would
force myself into his life?  Do you think that is why I came?  Yes; I
will promise that!"

"Well, well," said Father Anton soothingly, "we will see.  But
first--eh?--a little supper?  You are tired, my little Marie-Louise,
and hungry after the long journey.  Come now, you will help me!  We
will make a little omelette, and boil the coffee, and pretend that we
are in Bernay-sur-Mer--eh?"

He began to bustle around the room, setting out bread and cheese from
the cupboard, and putting the coffee-pot upon the stove--and presently
they sat down to the simple meal.

Marie-Louise ate very little; and finally, when she pushed her plate
away, the tears were in her eyes again.

"I cannot eat any more," she said.  "I--oh, Father Anton, you said that
you would see.  You meant that--that you _would_ help me, didn't you?"

It was plain, it was very plain that nothing would distract her for a
moment!  Father Anton sighed again, and got up from his chair, and
began to pace the room.  He had been turning a plan over and over in
his mind while he had watched her so anxiously during the meal.  It was
strange how readily it had come to him, that plan!  A monitor within
whispered the suggestion that perhaps it had come readily because it
was deception!  The curé passed his hand in a troubled way back and
forth through his white hair.  He had seen little of Jean--it was
perhaps because he reminded Jean of Bernay-sur-Mer and the past that
Jean was anxious to forget, that Jean had gradually come, in manner
more than words, to intimate that the old friendship was distasteful.
But if latterly he had seen little of Jean, at least when he had first
come to Paris his visits to the studio had been frequent enough to
enable him to form an intimate acquaintance with Hector, the red-haired
concierge of Jean's studio and apartment, and with madame, Hector's
wife.  Nor had he permitted this intimacy to wane.  He could not forget
that he had loved Jean, and through these good people he still kept his
interest alive.  It was but a few days ago that Hector had complained
that the work was too much for his wife alone, that after some nights
at the studio with a gay company the morning presented a debacle to
clear up that was a day's work in itself.  It was too much for her; and
they came often, those nights.

Father Anton glanced at Marie-Louise.  She was still watching him, a
sort of pitiful, eager expectancy in her face.  His eyes fell to the
floor, as he continued to pace up and down.  It could be arranged.
Jean rose very late.  Marie-Louise could go early in the mornings to
tidy up the studio and the _atelier_.  He could tell Hector she was a
charge of his, an honest girl to be trusted, who would do the work for
a few francs; and Hector in turn could obtain Jean's consent.
Marie-Louise would see for herself the life Jean led--and, besides,
Hector and his wife were not tongue-tied!  But it was a terribly cruel
thing to do!  The old priest's hands clasped and unclasped again in
genuine distress.  It was terribly cruel!  But it was little
Marie-Louise, whom he loved so tenderly, whose future was at stake.  It
must not always be as it was to-day--sadness and hopelessness for the
brave young heart that should be so full of joy and life.

He halted before Marie-Louise.  Yes, it was the right thing to do;
there was no other way; she must be disillusioned; she should see
Jean's life at the studio; and to-night at the great reception she
should see Jean himself.  Only his heart was very heavy--it was so hard
a thing to do.

"Listen, Marie-Louise," he said abruptly.  "I will help you, but it is
on the condition to which you have agreed--that Jean is in no way to
know that you are here.  I will arrange with his concierge that very
early in the mornings, before Jean is up and when nobody is there, you
shall have the care of his studio and _atelier_, so you will be able to
see all you want to of his work; and to the concierge you are simply a
charge of mine who is in need of the few francs you will earn."

"Oh, Father Anton, how good you are!"--she had jumped up joyfully from
her chair, and was in his arms again.  "But I do not want the money.  I
have plenty--from my house, you know."

"But if you took no money, they would not understand why you would
work," explained Father Anton hurriedly.  The depth of his duplicity
was very great!  The gentle soul of Father Anton was conscience
stricken at her gratitude, her innocence.  If he had not gone so far he
would retreat.  She was crying in his arms.  Never before had he known
what it was not to be able to look another in the eyes.  He was glad
that Marie-Louise's head was hidden on his shoulder for he could not
have looked at her.  Father Anton felt himself a criminal.  It was not
a rôle that lay lightly upon him.

"And Jean himself," she whispered.  "When shall I see Jean?"

Father Anton coughed nervously.

"There--there is a reception to-night," he said hesitantly.  He coughed
again.  "For Jean.  You might see him there perhaps--from the gallery.
I--I have a card."

She sprang away from him, with a quick exclamation of excitement.

"Oh, come then!" she cried impulsively, and caught his hand to pull him
toward the door.

Father Anton turned away his head.  Tears had sprung to his eyes.  He
was indeed a criminal--the criminal of the ages!  But if it would save
Marie-Louise!  Ah, yes, he must keep that thought always before him.
He looked at her again, as he fumbled once more with his spectacles.

"Yes, yes; at once!" he said mechanically.  "But"--he was staring at
her now in sudden consternation--"but you cannot go like that!  Have
you no other clothes?"

She pointed at the little bundle on the floor.

He shook his head.

"No hat?  No coat?"

"No-o," she said tremulously, as though she sensed an impending tragedy.

"But this is not Bernay-sur-Mer, Marie-Louise!" he said, in concern.
"You cannot go about dressed like that in Paris; and, besides, you
would freeze, my child."

She looked at him in silence--a sort of pitiful despair, mingling
bitter disappointment and helpless dependence, in her eyes, in the
expression of her face.

"Tut, tut!" murmured Father Anton, pulling at his under lip.  And then
quickly: "But wait--wait!  We shall see!"  And he ran into the other
room.

There were always clothes there--for his poor.  The rich people, the
friends of Monsieur and Mademoiselle Bliss were always sending him
their old things for distribution amongst his poor.  Mademoiselle Bliss
had sent him a package that afternoon.  He remembered that there was a
long cloak and a hat amongst the other things.  Ah, yes; here they
were!  He held them up to look at them in the light from the doorway of
the connecting rooms.  They had strange notions about "old things," the
rich!  These, for example--he turned them about in the light--were as
good as new.  They bought clothes one day, the rich, wore them the
afternoon, and gave them to him the next morning--because overnight
there had been created a new style!  Father Anton smiled at his little
conceit.  But it was almost literally true.  He had seen Myrna Bliss
wearing these very things only a few days ago--the same black velvet
cloak, and the same black velvet turban with the little white cockade.
At least, he supposed it was a cockade!  Ah, well--he shrugged his
shoulders--his poor were the gainers!

"Here, Marie-Louise!" he called out, returning into the front room.
"You may have these, child."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, as she took them.  Her eyes widened.  "Oh--they
are pretty!  But--but, Father Anton, where did you get them?  They are
new."

"No, not quite," he smiled; "but new enough, I think, to last you all
the winter.  They were"--he stopped suddenly, in gentle tactfulness.
Marie-Louise knew Myrna Bliss--it might cause her diffidence if she
were aware that the cloak and hat had been mademoiselle's.  "They were
sent to me by the rich people amongst many other things," he amended,
"to be distributed where"--he smiled again--"where I think they will do
most good.  So now they are yours.  Put them on, and we will go."

"Oh, Father Anton!" she cried again, in wonder at the sudden luxury
that was hers--and slipped on the cloak; and ran to the curé's shaving
glass, which was the only semblance of a mirror in evidence, to set the
turban daintily upon her head.  "Dear, dear Father Anton--how good you
are!"

But Father Anton did not answer.  He was brushing his threadbare black
overcoat--and making a very poor business of it.  There was a great
lump in his throat that refused to go either up or down--and he brushed
continuously at one sleeve, because that was all he could see through
the sudden mist that had come before his eyes.  And then, as he caught
her gazing at him, he put on the coat hurriedly.

"Yes, yes," he said hastily.  "But we are all ready, are we not--eh?
Come then, Marie-Louise, we will go."

And presently they were on the street--and somehow to Father Anton the
crisp cold of the night was very grateful, preferable for once to the
soft warmth of his far-away South, since the hot flushes now kept
coming and burning in his cheeks, as he walked abstractedly along.  And
they were silent for a little while, until a pressure of her fingers on
his arm aroused him, and he turned his head to look at her.  Her
cheeks, too, he could see even in the murky light from the street
lamps, were flushed, and the dark eyes were very bright.

"Couldn't--couldn't we hurry a little, Monsieur le Curé?" she suggested
timidly.

"Hurry?  Ah--you are cold!" he said contritely, and quickened his step.

"No," she answered.  "I--it is only that it might be over--that we
might be too late."

The words brought an added twinge to the already sore and overburdened
soul of Father Anton.  It was the heart of Marie-Louise that spoke, the
heart that had no room but only for Jean.  Ah, yes; but did he not
understand that already!  Had she not come across all France for Jean?
But that was not all!  How ignorant of this great world-city, its life,
its customs, its fineness, its sordidness her words proclaimed her to
be--how dependent they proclaimed her to be!  But did he not know that
too?  How great indeed had been his own bewilderment, and confusion,
and dismay when he had first come to Paris a year ago--even he who was
accustomed to journeying, for had he not gone almost once a year from
Bernay-sur-Mer to Marseilles?  How well he remembered it--but, tut,
tut--of what avail was that?  This was a vastly different matter, a
very serious matter.  Marie-Louise was a woman, so young, so beautiful,
and in her ignorance, in her ingenuousness which was so marked a trait
because she was so purely innocent, she--ah!--he found himself asking
the _bon Dieu_ to watch very carefully over Marie-Louise; and, very
earnestly, with sad misgivings, as a corollary to that prayer, to
forgive him if he were doing wrong in betraying the very innocence, the
trust and simple confidence for which he asked protection for her from
others.

"Father Anton, will--will we be late?" she ventured, evidently alarmed
into the belief, since he had not replied, that so dire a misfortune
was even more than a possibility.

And then he answered her very gravely.

"No, Marie-Louise.  You need have no fear.  It will only have begun;
and even if it were midnight we should still be in time.  Affairs like
this are for all the evening, you see.  Indeed, before going there, now
that I come to think of it, perhaps we had better see about finding
lodgings for you first.  I know several very estimable families in this
neighbourhood who would be glad to give you a room for a small sum, and
you would be quite close to me, and--"

"But could we not do that afterwards?" she interposed quickly.

"Why, yes, of course, afterwards--if we do not stay too long at the
reception," Father Anton acquiesced.  "You would rather do that,
Marie-Louise?"

"Yes!" she said--and the word came tensely--and she pulled impulsively
upon his arm.

And so then they hurried along, and after a little time the streets
grew brighter, better lighted, and from streets became great
boulevards, and from an occasional passer-by they were in the midst of
many people where one must needs elbow one's way to get along; but
Marie-Louise, save in a subconscious way that brought no concrete sense
of meaning, saw none of this--she saw only Jean again, the sturdy,
rugged figure that seemed to stand so clearly outlined now before her,
so real, so actual, so living, as he had been that night when he had
borne Gaston up the path in his strong arms; and the roar of the
traffic upon the streets was as the roar of that mighty storm and the
thunder of the sea breaking so pitilessly, so unceasingly upon the
rocks.  And Father Anton spoke to her, pointing to this and that as
they went along--but she did not hear the curé.  She was listening only
to another voice.  "In just a little minute I shall see Jean ... I
shall see Jean ... I shall see Jean," her soul said.  "I shall see
Jean."

And then she was standing before a great building, and the building was
ablaze with lights, and carriage after carriage, automobile after
automobile was drawing up before a strange sort of canopy where even
the street itself was laid with crimson carpet, and out of the
carriages and the cars poured a constant stream of wonderfully dressed,
fur-clad women and their escorts.  And suddenly she drew back with a
start.  What had she done?  She had stepped upon the soft carpet and in
under the canopy--and a man bewilderingly covered with gold lace, who
could be no less than a Marshal of France, though he seemed so effusive
and polite as he opened the carriage doors to welcome each new arrival,
was fixing her sternly with his eyes.

"Come, Marie-Louise," prompted Father Anton.

She felt the blood leave her face, and she drew very close to Father
Anton, clinging tightly to his arm.  How fast her breath came!  There
was laughter, merriment around her; they pressed against her, they
touched her, these wonderfully dressed people.  How soft the carpet
was!  How one's feet sank into it!  It was a sacrilege that she should
walk upon it!  How that constant murmur of voices rose and fell, rose
and fell!  What were they saying?  It seemed that she should know!
What was it?  Yes, yes!  "Jean Laparde ... Jean Laparde ... Jean
Laparde."  From in front, from behind her, on either side, on every
tongue was the name of Jean Laparde.  And it thrilled her, and her soul
in a clarion echo caught up the refrain.  "Jean Laparde ... Jean
Laparde ... Jean Laparde!"  And it seemed as though a thousand emotions
surging upon her were welded together and massed and made into one, and
that one was comparable to none she had ever known before because it
was too great, and overpowering, and bewildering to understand.  Only
now she could lift up her head, and the blood was rushing proudly to
her cheeks again.

And now they were in a great marble vestibule, and Father Anton was
handing a card to an attendant, and speaking to the man.

"But Monsieur le Curé has full _entrée_--to the floor," the man replied.

She did not catch Father Anton's answer--but the attendant was bowing
and speaking again.

"But certainly, monsieur--as Monsieur le Curé desires.  To the right,
monsieur."

And then there were stairs, beautiful wide marble stairs, and the press
of people was left behind, for there seemed to be but few who climbed
the stairs; and then--and then--she was in a balcony, and below
her--ah, she could not see--it was all blurred before her--and there
seemed a great fear upon her, for her heart pounded so hard and so
fiercely.  And then, strangely, as a mist rises from the sea, it began
to clear away, that blur from before her eyes, and myriad lights from a
massive chandelier, that was suspended from a great dome overhead,
played on the bare, flashing shoulders of women on the floor below her,
played on the jewels that adorned coiffures and necks, played on
glittering uniforms, on a scene magnificent and splendid--and focused,
as her eyes fixed and held, on that one outstanding figure, the figure
that was like to the figure of a demi-god, the only figure, the only
one that she saw now in all that vast assemblage, who stood erect,
strong and massive-shouldered, the black hair, a little longer now,
flung in careless abandon back from the broad, white forehead.  It was
Jean!  It was Jean!

"Jean!" she whispered--and her hand stole into Father Anton's.  "Jean!"

And he was not changed--only that short, pointed beard, that seemed to
add a something, that made him more imposing.  It was Jean, the same
Jean--only there was a grace, an ease, a command, a kingship in his
poise as he stood there, and--yes--yes--they came--one after the
other--the men, the women--and bowed before him.

"Do you remember Monsieur and Mademoiselle Bliss?" Father Anton said
gently.  "See--they are there beside Jean.  And that tall man to whom
they are talking is a very famous statesman for one so young.  His name
is Paul Valmain."

They did not interest her.  There was only Jean.  And she could not
look long enough at him.  There was music playing somewhere, softly,
very softly, scarcely audible above the sound of so many voices all
talking at once, voices that ascended in a subdued roar like the sound
of a shell that one held to one's ear.  She tried to think, and she
could not.  Afterwards she would think.  Now she could only look.

Father Anton touched her arm.  Was it already time to go?  No, no--not
yet!  Not yet--for a little while!  She had come so far, so long a way
just for this--to see Jean.

"It is the President of the Republic coming, Marie-Louise--see!
Listen!"

There was tumult about her.  Those in the gallery around her were
clapping their hands, waving their handkerchiefs; and the music she had
heard playing so softly crashed suddenly into the strains of that song
of glory, immortal, undying, that was cradled in the very soul of
France itself--the Marseillaise.  And as it fired the blood, that
melody, martial, stirring, that men had died for, ay, and women, too,
the outburst around her rose to hysterical heat, and thunders of
applause rolled and reverberated through the room that was bigger than
any room she had ever seen or dreamed of.  And they were calling Jean's
name again--and the President, the great President was there with Jean.

"Jean Laparde!  Jean Laparde!  _Vive_ Jean Laparde!"

She could not see any more.  Her eyes were blinded with tears now, and
they were proud tears, and they were glad tears, and they were
wondering tears that she could not comprehend herself.  Jean's beacon!
Had the _bon Dieu_ permitted her to be that in a little way, given it
to her to have helped just a little, to have had just a little share in
bringing Jean to this great moment, this wonderful triumph?  Jean's
beacon!  How vividly that scene of the years ago came back, when she
had told Jean he did not belong to her--and reliving that scene, here
in the presence of its great fulfilment, she spoke aloud unconsciously.

"It is true!  He does not belong to me.  He belongs to France!"

And Father Anton, because he did not understand, because it seemed that
the disillusionment must have been so much more complete and so much
more cruel and hard to bear than he had feared it would be, and because
her renunciation was accepted so bravely, turned away his head and did
not answer.

And Marie-Louise's fingers closed in a tense, involuntary pressure over
Father Anton's hand--and she spoke again.

"He belongs to France!"

And then, after another moment:

"Take me--back now--Father Anton, please."



-- II --

26 RUE VANITAIRE

Myrna Bliss tapped petulantly with the toe of her small shoe on the
floor of the limousine, glanced at the diamond-encircled bracelet watch
on her wrist, remarked more or less abstractedly that it was a minute
or so after five o'clock, and stared through the plate glass windows at
the backs of her liveried chauffeur and footman.  The reception of the
night before had, so far as she was concerned, been marked by two
incidents, which, at the present moment, were very fully occupying her
thoughts.

It had required all her tact and ingenuity to avert a declaration from
Paul Valmain, which would have been a disaster, because any declaration
was a disaster until that moment arrived when one reached the point
where one began to fear that horrible word "passée" and it became
necessary to accept the inevitable--and marry.  A declaration, as any
one could see, whether it was accepted or refused, had its
consequences--one's proprietorship in a man became either restricted to
that one man alone, which in turn was very like locking one's self in a
cage and handing over the key; or it was lost altogether.  And Paul
Valmain was almost as much run after by her set as Jean Laparde!
Fancy!  Only thirty, a bachelor--and already the leader of his
political party!  Yes, decidedly, besides being amazingly handsome and
amazingly brilliant, Paul was a figure in France!

The man was passionately, madly in love with her; and so was
Jean--which went without saying!  Imagine!  The two lions of social
Paris!  Nothing, not an affair, was complete without them--and she had
only to lift a finger as to two slaves!  Therefore social Paris was
utterly and completely under her domination.  She, literally, was
Paris.  It was very plain!  So long as she exercised a proprietorship
over both of them, Paris was at her feet.  It was not a question of
choice between them--not at all.  Jean was the lion, so much so that
she could even hold court with Jean alone; but with both, her position
was impregnable.  The trouble was--her brows puckered into anxious
little furrows--that at the first opportunity Paul would renew the
attack.  It was very nice to have Paris at one's feet, but it was quite
another matter to keep it there.  Paul, of course, was the more
difficult of the two to keep in hand.  Jean, because he had never
seemed to shake off entirely that diffidence toward her born of
Bernay-sur-Mer, she had so far been able to manage quite simply,
only--her eyes shifted from the chauffeur's back to the toe of her
shoe, and her foot ceased its petulant tapping on the floor--that was
the other incident of last night.

It had happened just after the arrival of the President.  Jean had
sought her out.  She remembered the heightened colour in his cheeks,
the sort of nervous brilliance in his eyes.  He had been drunk--drunk
with the wealth, the glamour, the power that was his; intoxicated with
the fame, the adulation, the triumph of the moment.  He was a glutton
for that--for fame.  There was very little else that mattered to Jean.
He was the supreme type of egoist.  She could dissect Jean very coolly
and with precision, she thought.

"The studio, to-morrow afternoon at five, Myrna--don't fail," he had
said--and had passed on.

There had been a certain air of authority in his tones--to which she
had promptly taken exception, and to which, in an annoying and
persistent way, she still took exception.  Furthermore, it conveyed a
possible, and alarming hint that his docility perhaps was wearing thin.
Well, that would never do at all!  She was going, of course, to the
studio now---but she would take care of Jean!  Five o'clock, he had
said.  She would be a little late--as she intended to be.  At half past
five she had asked Paul Valmain and a choice circle of the younger set
to drop in at 26 Rue Vanitaire, as a graceful little courtesy, so to
speak, to congratulate Jean on his triumph of the night before!  The
grey eyes held a smile in which mockery and merriment were mingled.
One's defences should always be in order!

The small shoe began to tap on the floor of the car again.  What a
short time--what a long time those two years had been since sleepy,
anæsthetised Bernay-sur-Mer!  Jean had attracted her then because he
had been a "new" sensation--and he had attracted her ever since because
he continued to be "the" sensation.  But attraction and love were quite
different, were they not?  Success after success, triumph after triumph
had been his.  It had been astounding, stupefying, magnificent!  At
first it had been the inner circle of devotees of art, such as those
who had gone to Bernay-sur-Mer, who had hailed him; then, in furious
and bewildering sequence, Paris, then France, then Europe--and,
equally, so her letters told her, he was the rage in America.  None
made comparisons--there were no comparisons to make.  The man towered,
stood alone, without rival, as the greatest sculptor of the age.  And,
in a sense, he had not begun.  Men like old Bidelot and her father said
that, stupendous as it already was, his genius had not yet attained its
full development; that, marvellous as was the power, force and realism
of his conceptions, the exquisite beauty of his execution, there still
remained an intangible something yet to be achieved.

Myrna shrugged her pretty shoulders.

"Ah, just that _tout petit chose_!" old Bidelot called it.  "So
fleeting, so evanescent, so--so--" and he would wave his arms like a
grand opera conductor.  "Soul," her father called it, in his turn.
"The boy hasn't lived enough yet.  He'll get it, and then--well,
there's only one word to describe it--immortal!"

Myrna made a wry grimace.  What was the use of all that?  What did they
want?  And what rubbish!  A man whose work was incomparable, that all
the world was going crazy over!  And what, after all, did old Bidelot
and her father know about it, anyway?  Old Bidelot, for example,
couldn't make a piece of clay resemble a doughnut, except for the hole,
if he tried for a thousand years.  And as for her father--Myrna choked
a laugh.

She glanced at her watch again--and then, quickly, out of the window.
It was ten minutes past five, and the car was slowing up in front of
the studio.  In twenty minutes the others would be here--she had told
_them_ to be prompt.  Some day, it was very possible, she might marry
Jean--but not yet.  She was far too well contented with her life as it
was!  She had managed Jean and his tentative outbursts--for his
docility, as she dubbed it, had not been mere tameness--with perfect
success for two years; and now, if, as she was somewhat inclined to
surmise, his actions of last evening presaged another, she was quite
capable of managing that--for twenty minutes.

She alighted from the car, and, instructing her chauffeur that he need
not wait, ran up the steps of the sort of stoop that was over the
concierge's door and apartment beneath.  Hector's red head and
doll's-blue eyes, for once, a little to her surprise, were not in
evidence on the arrival of a car.  The front door, however, was not
locked.  She pushed it open, entered the hallway, crossed to the door
of the salon, and knocked.  There was no answer.  There was, however,
nothing strange about that--Jean, probably, was in the studio proper,
the _atelier_ beyond.  Well, she would surprise him!

She opened the salon door softly, closed it softly, stepped into the
centre of the large, magnificently appointed room, whose decorations
and remodelling she and her father had planned; and, calmly unbuttoning
her long glove, stood looking around her.  And then her fingers held
quite rigidly on a glove button.  She had not seen him as she had
entered!  Jean was rising from a divan behind her, near the door.  Her
arm, still extended, the other hand still on the glove button, she
turned her head and shoulders like a statue on a pivot, to watch him in
amazement.  Without a word, he had stepped swiftly to the door, locked
it--and now he was putting the key in his pocket.

"Jean, what are you doing?" she exclaimed sharply.

He laughed a little--in a low way.  It was the first sound he had made.
She stared at him, a thrill upon her that she could not quite
define--it was not fear; it was more an uncomfortable disquiet, in
which surprise and bewilderment were dominant.  But now, as he faced
her, she noticed that the same high colour was in his cheeks, the same
nervous brilliancy was in his eyes as had been there the night
before--and he was not even dressed, he who was so punctilious in the
late afternoons in that regard.  It was as though he might have but
thrown aside his big sculptor's over-dress, for he was in loose white
shirt with flowing tie, and belted trousers.  Usually she liked him
like that; it seemed to accentuate, bring out, unfetter the splendid
physique of the man; but now--she shrugged her shoulders with
well-affected composure.  Myrna Bliss was too self-poised to be swept
from her feet by any situation.  Jean was acting very strangely!  What
was the matter with him?  She stripped off her gloves coolly, and
tossed her outer wraps on a chair.

"You have been working long hours to-day perhaps, Jean"--her voice
expressed cold disapproval--"you are not dressed yet."

Jean's hand swept the great shocks of hair back from his forehead, and
again he laughed in the same low way.

"I have not been working to-day.  I have been waiting--for five
o'clock."

What did he mean?  She was genuinely disturbed now.  Had he been
drinking--after the reception--through the night--and since?  He was
certainly not himself!  It was outrageous, if it were not in fun, that
he had locked the door!  She walked across the room to the bell-cord
and pulled it.  The bell rang clamorously in the concierge's apartment
below.

"I will have Hector prepare some coffee, while you are upstairs
dressing, Jean," she said imperiously.  "Now, go and dress.  You are
behaving in a most peculiar manner."

He made no answer--only stood there looking at her, his head thrown
back on his powerful shoulders, his eyes still abnormally bright,
though the flush was receding now from the strong, handsome face, that,
as it grew white, grew very set.  Where was Hector?  She pulled the
cord again.  Again the bell jangled in the concierge's below.

"Hector and Madame Mi-mi, his wife, are on a holiday--with five francs
apiece in their pockets--at the Bois, I think--to celebrate last
night"--he jerked out the words in a colourless, even way.

She noticed that his lips twitched, that the knuckles of his hands were
white because his hands at his sides were so tightly clenched.  He had
sent Hector and madame away--she was quite alone in the place with him.
What did it mean?  Jean had never been like this before.  But she was
at least quite mistress of herself!  She drew herself up, walked back
across the room, picked up her gloves and wraps, and returned to the
door.

"Open that door!" she commanded levelly.  "What do you mean by acting
like this?  How dare you act like this?  Are you mad--have you lost
your senses?  Do you realise what you are doing?"

He laughed outright now--with sudden harshness, bitterly.

"Mad?" he repeated in a choked voice.  "Yes; I am mad!  I have been mad
for two years--and I have been a fool.  I am mad now--but I am no
longer a fool.  I am going to know now--I am going to have an answer
now--this afternoon--before you leave this room.  When are you going to
marry me?"

"Marry you?"--she started back.

"Don't do that!" he flung out passionately.  "Don't _act_!  It is no
surprise, that--eh?  You know!  Your soul knows!  I love you--I have
loved you since that first time on the bridge, you remember, don't
you--that bridge--when your eyes turned my blood to fire?  You knew it
then--you know it now!"

Once she had told herself, once in those early days before familiarity,
intimacy perhaps, had blunted the eager edge of curiosity and interest
with which she had studied her new sensation much as one might study a
specimen under a microscope, that the man was a smouldering volcano,
the soul of him elemental and turbulent.  It had grown dim and hazy,
that little mental note of classification--but she remembered it now.
It was true!  Why had she ever lost sight of it?  What would he do?
She was not afraid, only--only--he must not have the mastery, even for
a single instant.  There had been eruptions before--little ones.  She
had always controlled him--he was just like some great, big animal--one
must never let go the leash!  And, besides, some day, probably, she
_would_ marry him!

She laughed now in her turn--shortly.

"And do you think, do you imagine, Monsieur Jean"--her voice rang
sharply through the room--"that you will attain your object any the
more readily by acting like this?"

"Yes; I think so!"--Jean was stepping toward her, reaching out his arms
to grasp her.

"_Jean_!"--she retreated backward, with a startled cry.  The man's face
was positively livid, the eyes were burning into hers.

"I love you!"--his voice was hoarse, shrill, out of control.  "I love
you!  My God, I love you!  Do you think that you can own a man's soul
and not pay the price?  You made me love you!  In a thousand ways you
asked for my love--in a thousand ways you--"

"Jean!" she cried at him again--half running now back across the room.

"Yes, you did!" he shouted passionately, following her.  "Yes, you
did--or you have been playing with me!  But if you have been playing
with me, the playing is ended now, do you understand?  It is ended!
And whether you have been playing or not, you have made me love you,
and you are mine--you belong to me--you shall be mine!  That is how
much I love you!  You are mine--_mine_!  You shall tell that cursed
Paul Valmain to go about his business!  Do you understand that, too?  I
saw you last night!"

She caught at the straw--as, flinging aside the portières in her
retreat, she backed through the archway into the _atelier_.

"Ah, it is that, then?  It is Paul Valmain then, that is the cause of
this!  Well, at least, Paul Valmain is incapable of such actions!"

"There is much that Paul Valmain is incapable of!" he answered
furiously.  "And one thing is that he, or any other man, shall ever
have you!"

She glanced hurriedly over her shoulder.  It was a large room, the
_atelier_, larger even than the salon, but she was almost across it
now, and the huge statue of Jean's "_Fille du Régiment_," his "Daughter
of the Regiment," his newest work, that was nearing completion, blocked
the way.

"Jean," she burst out desperately, "what is it?  What do you mean?
There is no need for this!  There--there was no need to lock that door,
to send Hector away!  Do you know what you are doing?  Have you lost
your reason to treat me like this?  Have you forgotten what--what you
owe to my father--that--that I am his daughter?"

"Ah, you will twist and wriggle, and you will not answer, eh?"--the
words seemed to scorch and burn on his lips.  "It is always like this!
You evade, you elude, you ask other questions.  You know why I have
done this!  I have told you.  I owe your father nothing--nothing!  Do
you hear--nothing!  It is he who owes!  Ask him!  They are his own
words come true.  Ask him what the name of Jean Laparde has done for
him!  He is not merely a paltry millionaire to-day--he is a famous man!
The debt is paid a thousandfold--even to the money, franc for franc,
that he has spent.  You know well enough why I have done this!  It is
not like the days of Bernay-sur-Mer when the poor fisherman dared only
dream and smother the passion in him like some mean, crawling thing,
and thank the God who made him, and hold himself blessed for the crumbs
that were flung to him--a smile from those lips of yours--a finger
touch upon the sleeve, when it seemed all heaven and hell could not
keep my arms back from you!  I have waited!  I let you put me off
until--until the hour should come when no man or woman in the world
should put off Jean Laparde!  Until--yes, _sacré nom de
misericorde_!--until I should be able to forget, forget, forget, do you
understand, _forget_ that I was once a poor fisherman when I looked at
you.  Well, it has come, that hour!  What tribute in all the history of
France was ever paid to man as was paid to me last night?  _Sacré nom_,
it is no fisherman that speaks to you now!  It is I--Jean Laparde, the
sculptor of France!  I am rich!  Kings, princes, the nobles, the world
comes to my door and begs--do you hear, _begs_ the entrée!  What more
do you ask?  My God"--he was clutching at his cravat, loosening it from
his throat, as though it were choking him--"you shall no longer put off
my love!"

She had halted--because she could retreat no further.  The face of the
statue, a life-size figure of a girl in tattered uniform, the corsage
torn, the hair dishevelled, the form crouched a little as though
pressing forward in the face of mighty stress, the hands beating at a
drum that was slung from the shoulders, looked down upon her.  And it
seemed to bring quick, instant, another weapon to her hand.  That
_something_ in the face, those lips!  It was in every piece of work he
had ever done.  All talked of it, all saw it--and wondered.  A strange
exhilaration was upon her.  She was not afraid.  In his passion,
passion like this, Jean was superb.  To have aroused passion such as
this in a man was as to have drunk of wine!  But to yield?
Never--until the day when she was quite ready to yield.  To master him,
hold him, curb him--yes, a thousand times!  His face was close to hers,
his breath was hot upon her cheeks, his hands were stretching out for
her again.  She pushed him away violently.

"You talk of love!" she flashed out.  "What do you know of love?  What
_kind_ of love could you have for me?"  She swept her hand around,
pointing to the statue.  "Who is this secret model that all Paris talks
about--that everybody has been talking about for months--that lives in
the face and always in the lips of everything you do?  That though the
face of one statue is like the face of no other one, yet she is there!
You talk to me of love!  At what strange hours does she come here, that
no one sees her?  How does she come?  Where do you keep her?"

For an instant, Jean drew back, staring at her wildly--but only for an
instant.  The next, he had caught her arm in an iron grip.

"You are clever!" he whispered hoarsely.  "You are too _damned_ clever!
You are at it again, eh--to sidetrack me?  It has been like that for
two years now--always in some way, by some trick, you put me off!  But
you will put me off no more.  You can play no trick here.  We are
alone, and I will not be tricked.  It is not true what you say!  There
is no model like that!  It is a lie!"  His voice swelled until it rang
out in a strong, vibrant note.  "The model is here--here in my
heart--in my brain!  That face and form is the face and form of France!
It is the womanhood of France, the glory of my country!  No man before
has ever conceived it.  It was for me--for me--Jean Laparde--to do!  Do
you hear--it is the face and the womanhood of France!  You do not
understand--you are not a Frenchwoman.  And you do not understand
me--who am a Frenchman!"  His voice dropped low again, hoarse in its
passion.  "You have gone too far!"  His grip on her arm tightened.
"You love me, or you have played with me--it is all the same!  The two
years have made you mine!  You _are_ mine--now--now!  You would starve
my love, would you, you wonderful, beautiful, glorious woman!"

He was drawing her closer and closer to him.  Passion, loosened, freed,
rocking the man to the soul, was in eyes and face, in the half parted
lips, in the short, quick, panting breath.  And for a moment,
fascinated, she was lifeless; then with all her strength she wrenched
and strove to free herself.

"You would not _dare_!" she gasped.  "You would not--"

"Dare!"--the word was a wild, hollow laugh.  "Dare!  Does a man dare to
save his soul from torment?  See--your lips!  Your lips!  Ah, God--your
lips!"

She was his--_his_!  She was in his arms, crushed to him!  His--as his
mad desire had bade him crush her in his arms long since in that other
life in Bernay-sur-Mer; his--as he had dreamed of crushing her in his
arms, of crushing her ravishing form close to him in the dreams of the
days and nights, every day and night since then.  It was all blind
madness, a delirium of ecstasy.  How warm and hot those lips of hers
from which his soul was drinking!  God, how she struggled!  But her
lips--her lips were his--his to rain his kisses of passionate thirst
upon--and upon her face, and upon her eyes, and upon her hair.  If only
she would not struggle so, that he might smother his face, bury it in
the intoxicating fragrance of that hair!

She beat at him with her fists.  He could not hold her still.  She was
strong, strong as some young lioness.  They were swaying around the
room, now this way, new that--and now through the portières into the
salon.  She made no cry--how could she cry?--he strangled the cries
unborn upon her lips with his kisses!  Ah, he had her now--she was
passive at last--her head was bent far back in his arms.  Yes,
now--now!  To feel the life, the heart throb, the pulse of that lithe
form against his own--to hold his lips to hers in a kiss long as all
eternity--to--

And then in a numbed, blank way he was standing back and staring at
her.  Footsteps, laughter, voices were coming from the street outside,
coming up the steps--and, where it had seemed that her strength was
gone, in a paroxysm of terror, of desperation, she had torn herself
away from him.  And now--yes--her face was as white as death itself.
What made it like that?  What had happened?  He passed his hand dazedly
across his eyes.

"Quick!  That door!" she breathed frantically.  "They must not find it
_locked_!"  She snatched up her outer wraps, slipped them on, and, with
a most marvellous display of composure, assumed a languid attitude in a
chair.  Outwardly, Myrna Bliss was quite calm and undisturbed again.
"Quick!  The door--_quick_!" she whispered.

The door!  Some one was coming!  Yes, of course!  His brain was
reeling, stupefied.  The door!  He fumbled in his pocket for the key,
and in a mechanical way turned it in the lock.  And then they were
trooping into the salon, a dozen of them, men and women.

"Wasn't it a charming idea!" some one exclaimed in effusive greeting.
"But the credit is all Myrna's, of course.  We've come, you know, to--"

Jean did not hear any more.  With a start, he raised his head and
glanced down the room.  Myrna's idea--this!  A little twisted smile of
understanding came to Jean's lips.  Self-possessed, animated, she was
already the centre of a group where everybody was talking at once.

And then Paul Valmain's pale, aristocratic, esthetic face came before
him.  The man was bowing, murmuring polite conventionalities; only
somehow the man's eyes, instead of meeting his, seemed to be set with
peculiar fixedness upon some object.  Automatically, Jean followed
their direction with his own--to his own hand hanging at his side.

The door key was still clasped in his fingers!



-- III --

IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT

The temptation was very great.  But what would Father Anton say?  What
would Madame Garneau, with whom she lodged, _think_?  To go out at this
time of night!  It was very late.  It was long after midnight, because
it was very long ago when she had heard some distant church clock
strike twelve--and since then it had struck many times, the quarters,
the half hours, only she had lost count.

Marie-Louise drew her cloak a little more closely around her, as she
leaned on the casement of her open window--and then remained quite
still and motionless again.

Irrelevantly it seemed, her thoughts turned on Hector, the concierge.
How very blue Hector's eyes were, and how very red his hair, and
altogether how very droll a figure he made with his absurd
self-importance; and how fat his wife was, whom he so ridiculously
called Mi-mi!  And then that conversation between the concierge and his
wife in Jean's salon early that morning, at which she had been present,
began to run through her mind.

"_Tiens_!" Hector had said to his wife.  "But will she not make the
thrifty wife for some lucky fellow, our little Louise Bern, here--eh?
She is already waiting an hour in the mornings to be let in.  An hour,
mind you, _ma belle_ Mi-mi--and we who think we rise so early!  It is a
lesson that!  Would you have her standing out in the cold?  Why not a
key that she may come in and do her work?"

"But Monsieur Jean," madame had objected mildly, "might be angry if he
knew."

"Monsieur Jean," Hector had replied fatuously, and folding his arms
with an air, "is very well content to leave such matters to me.  I do
not pester Monsieur Jean with details.  On the night after the
reception, even in the exceedingly bad humour in which I found him,
when I told him that I had thought the matter over, and that the work
was too hard, and that you were wasting away--you see, _ma_ Mi-mi, how
I lie for you--and that I had decided--'decided' was the word I
used--that I must have some one in the mornings to help with the work,
did he not say: 'But assuredly, Hector, assuredly; whatever you think
is right.  I depend upon you, _mon ami_.'  And does that not show that
we understand each other, Monsieur Jean and I--eh?"

"It was Father Anton, not you, whose idea it was," madame had corrected
with conscientious earnestness.  "It was Father Anton, that evening
after we had returned from the Bois and before you had seen Monsieur
Jean, who suggested it, and spoke of Louise here.  And that was not
what Monsieur Jean said, for I was listening outside the door.  He said
you were a red-headed buffoon, and to go to the devil and not bother
him."

"And what then?"  Hector, though slightly disconcerted, had rejoined
with acerbity.  "Your tongue is forever clacking!  Do I ever recount an
event but that you must put in your word?  But that is not the point.
It is Father Anton who says Louise is an honest girl and to be
trusted--and that is enough!"

It was not so irrelevant after all.  She was twisting the key in her
fingers now.  The key to Jean's house in the Rue Vanitaire.  How still
the night was!  It seemed so strange that in so great a city where
there were such multitudes of people it could be so still.  It was
almost as still as that other night when she had sat at her window in
Bernay-sur-Mer, that night when the _bon Dieu_ had made her see that
for Jean's sake their ways lay so very wide apart.  She was glad, very
glad that the _bon Dieu_ had helped her then to put nothing in Jean's
way, because Jean had done so very much more even than any one had
dreamed of.

But it was so strange, so strange!  To hear everybody talking about
Jean--on the streets--little snatches of conversation--even here
amongst the very poor--even Madame Garneau, who that afternoon had
stopped in the scrubbing of the floor, and, waving the scrubbing brush
excitedly to point the words, must needs tell her, Marie-Louise, all
about the great Laparde!  How proud they all were of Jean, because Jean
had brought such honour upon their beloved France!  But it was so
strange, so strange--that they did not know--that they did not know
that, oh, for so many, many years it had been just Jean and
Marie-Louise, and glad, glad days, with the blue sky above, and the
strong arms upon the oars--and--and that she loved Jean, that all her
life she had loved him, that all her life until she should come to die
she would love Jean.  It was strange that all these people did not
know, because it seemed that she knew nothing else, because it seemed
to be the only thing in all the world.  But it was good that they did
not know, because otherwise she could not even be here as she was, she
could not even be Louise Bern for a little while, and be near Jean, and
see the work that she loved because it was Jean's work, and
because--and because those marvellous figures that he fashioned seemed
somehow now to mean everything that there was in life for her, as
though her own life were wrapped up In them, given in exchange for
them, as though indeed she were a very part of them, and they were of
her blood and flesh.

She pressed her hands very tightly together over the key, and then
opened them and let the key lay in her palm to look at it in the
moonlight.  She had seen so little in the studio, so very little!  In
the three mornings she had been there, there had always been Madame
Mi-mi to fuss around her, to instruct her in her work, or, failing that
as an excuse--to gossip.  And if it were not madame, then it was
Hector--and often it was both.  And she had so wanted to be alone
there--it was not very much to ask, that--just to be alone there for a
little time with Jean's things around her, to be very quiet, to be
alone.

Why should she not go now?  It was not a sin that she would commit.  It
was only that if Father Anton knew, or Madame Garneau knew they would
not understand--but they would never know.  No one would ever know.
Jean would be upstairs asleep; and Hector and his wife would be
downstairs in bed.  That statue, that wonderful statue of the girl with
the drum, would be more wonderful than ever with the bright moonlight
pouring in upon it through that great glass roof of the _atelier_.  She
had seen so little of it, because when she was there it was always
wrapped up in damp cloths; she had seen it only when that absurd Hector
had exhibited it to her with a patronising air as though he had
modelled it himself, making use of a flood of technical expressions of
which she did not understand a word, and of whose meaning she was quite
sure he was equally ignorant, but having heard the words around the
studio repeated them like a parrot.  She had seen so little of it, when
her soul cried out to see so much.  It haunted her, that statue--why,
she did not know.  It was before her always--in her dreams, which were
always dreams of the salon and the _atelier_, the figure with the drum
always stood out above everything else, even though everything else,
even though the very smallest things and details there were so dear and
intimate too.  Was it a sin to go and stand and look, when her heart
was so full of the longing that it would not be denied?  Who was there
to say, "you went to Jean's studio at two o'clock in the morning,"
when, in the quiet and the stillness there, there would be only
herself, and that great figure with the drum, and the _bon Dieu_, who
made Jean do such wondrous things, to know?

She turned from the window and tiptoed across the little room, and took
the little black velvet turban with its white cockade, that Father
Anton had given her, down from where it hung upon a nail on the wall,
and fastened her cloak tightly about her for fear that it might brush
against something and make a noise, and stole then to the door, and out
into the hallway, and to the front door of the tenement.  Yes, she
would go--but no one must know--only herself, and that great figure
with the drum, and--and the _bon Dieu_, who would understand.

And so she went out into the night, and across the city, and to the Rue
Vanitaire, and to Jean's studio; and all the way her heart was beating
quickly, and she was a little frightened, and avoided the people that
she met, for no one must know--and even at the last, when the goal was
reached, and she stood before the house and saw that it was dark in all
the windows, and she had only to enter, there came even then a little
added thrill of fear.  The street, she had thought, was deserted, and
suddenly, as she stood there, it--it seemed as though some one hiding
across the street had stepped out of concealment, and as suddenly had
disappeared again.  She caught her breath, and stood for a long tense
moment gazing in that direction.  And then at last she smiled a little
tremulously.  It--it was only a shadow.  Yes, she was quite sure now
that it was only a shadow--she could see the flickering of the street
lamp on the wall of the building, where she had thought she had seen
something else.  It was very foolish of her to be like this.  She had
never been afraid in Bernay-sur-Mer--only everything here was so
strange--and it was very late--and--and she was going into Jean's
studio--and no one must know.  And then she mounted the steps very
cautiously, and unlocked the door and closed it softly--and in another
moment, slipping across the hall, past the foot of the stairs that led
to Jean's sleeping apartments above, she had entered the salon and shut
the door behind her.

It was quite dark here, too dark almost to distinguish anything--the
only light was a tiny, truant moonbeam that strayed in from the
_atelier_ between the portières of the archway.  It was in there--the
great figure with the drum!  But she would not go there for a moment
yet.  It was here, too, that Jean was present in everything about her.
It was here that his friends, those that he cared for now, the people
of the _grand monde_ came to see Jean.  She could not see the things
around her, but they were very clearly pictured in her mind--the
beautiful rugs, so soft and silky to the touch, that hung from the
walls; the queer, spindly furniture, that did not seem made for use at
all, that she had been afraid to touch at first for fear it would
break, it looked so fragile; the dark, glossy floor, like a mirror,
that she had polished only that morning; the--her thoughts were
suddenly, disturbingly, flying off at a tangent.

That morning!  It brought a quick twinge of pain to Marie-Louise's
heart.  The salon had been--had been--oh, she did not know how to
describe it--only Madame Mi-mi had said it was often like that, that
Jean led the gay life, and why not, since he had the _sous_ to pay and
was rich?  There had been broken glasses, and confusion, and callous
ruin of things that were priceless, and cards strewn over the
floor--and--and somehow she had not been able to keep her eyes from
being wet all the time she had been cleaning up the room.  It--it made
her heart very heavy, and very sorrowful.  And yet, too, in a way, she
could understand--because she understood Jean.  Long, long ago she had
been afraid--afraid of his success for him, even while she had prayed
for it.  If Jean had only a mother, only some one whose love would hold
him back.  If he were married--if he had a wife--it would change all
this sort of life that he led now.  Yes; if he were married!  She could
think of that quite calmly, in a perfectly impersonal way.  Why should
she not?  Some day Jean would marry--marry some one out of this new
world in which she had no part, which to her was so very strange and
foreign and hard to understand; but which to Jean was so natural, and
which, henceforth, could be the only life he would know.  Yes; she
could think of his marrying quite calmly.  And why not?  She had no
longer part in that--she had passed out of Jean's life long ago, that
day in Bernay-sur-Mer.  Perhaps it would be Mademoiselle Bliss--Hector
had hinted at it and winked prodigiously.  She found her hand clenching
very hard at her side.  It seemed very, very strange, and it was very,
very curious that, while she could think quite calmly of Jean marrying
some one because it would be very good for Jean to marry, a pang came
and her heart rebelled when the "some one," instead of being vague and
general and indefinite, became a particular "some one" that was very
definite and was not vague at all!

Marie-Louise sighed a little.  She did not understand.  Everything was
so hard to understand.  She sighed again--and then, walking slowly
across the room, she parted the portières and stepped into the
_atelier_.

Here, for an instant, she stood hesitant, just inside the archway,
looking about her.  How bright the moonlight was, and how it poured in
and bathed everything in its soft luminous glow, except that,
strangely, there seemed to be a shadow on the white-wrapt statue of the
girl that puzzled her for a moment--ah, yes, it was the door of the
dressing-room, the room where Hector said the models prepared for their
poses, that was wide open and kept the moonlight from the statue.  She
moved forward, closed the door quietly, and went then and uncovered the
clay figure and stood before it.  She could look her fill now--yet it
seemed that she could never do that, for her craving and her longing
were insatiable.  All other things in this life of Jean's, in this life
of hers that she was living for a little while, filled her with dismay
and confusion; but this, this work of Jean's, this figure before her
was real, it seemed somehow to bring her closer to her own world, to
those things she could understand.  She did not know why--only that it
was so, and that it was perhaps because of that the girl with the drum
had been haunting her so constantly.

She sat down at last on the little platform that served Jean to stand
upon for his work.  It thrilled her, made her pulse leap, this strong,
magnificent figure of womanhood, this torn and tattered soldier-girl;
and one sensed and felt and lived, it seemed, the battle-wrack around
the figure; one saw, it seemed, the stern, set-faced, shot-thinned
ranks that followed to the beating of the drum; one listened to catch
the tramp of feet, the hoarse cheers, the roar of guns.  It seemed to
be the call of France, the call to victory and glory, or to death
perhaps, but to dishonour never; it seemed to breathe the love of
country that was beyond all thought of self, fearful of no odds; it
seemed to mean that in the heart of France itself lived the courage
that had never measured sacrifice; it seemed as though those clay lips
parted, and above the din of conflict, of battle and of strife she
could hear the voice ring out in deathless words: "Forward--for France!"

But it was not only that alone that held her enthralled.  It was the
face, with the moonlight full upon it now.  It was beautiful, it was
glorious--but there was something more.  There was something in the
face that seemed to stir a memory, a world of memories within her.
There was something familiar in the face--there seemed to be something
there that she recognised and yet could not define.  She had seen that
face all her life--all her life.  It belonged to every one that she had
ever known in Bernay-sur-Mer--and yet it belonged to no one at all that
she could name.  But then--it was not finished yet.  Perhaps when it
was finished she would know.  It would be finished now in a few days
more, Hector had said; and he had said, too, that it would be the
greatest work Jean had ever done.

If she could only watch it until it was finished!  If she could only do
that--afterwards she would go away.  It was only for a little while
that she had come to Paris--only for a little while.  If she could do
that!  If she could come to-morrow night, and the nights after that
until it was all finished, just as she had come to-night!  Yes,
yes--_yes_!  Yes, she would come!  She would watch it grow, and watch
so eagerly and so tensely the face that was so well-known yet so
elusive now!

"_La Fille du Régiment_!"  Her hands cupping her chin, she sat there as
motionless, as silent as the statue itself; sat there absorbed,
unconscious of the passing time.  It was strange the face should be
familiar!  It was strange that there, too, had been something familiar
in the face of that figure in the park that Father Anton had taken her
to see, in the face of every other figure that the curé had pointed out
to her as Jean's work!  She had gone back to look at them alone; but
they, although they were finished, had not answered her question, had
not told her who they were.  But this one, this one was _almost_
telling her now--there was only to come a touch, just a touch from
Jean's hand--that would perhaps be there when she came to-morrow
night--and then she would know.

And so she sat there, and the hours passed, and the moonlight faded,
and the grey of dawn crept into the room--and Marie-Louise roused
herself with a start.  And at first dismay was upon her.  It was
morning--too late to go home!  And then she shook her head, and smiled
happily--happily, because she had spent glad and happy hours, and there
was no need to be dismayed.  Presently, she would go about her work--to
which she had come early, that was all.  And at her lodging, Madame
Garneau would find the bed made because it was always made before she
left there in the morning, before Madame Garneau was up.



-- IV --

THE ACCUSATION

There was a sullen, angry set to Jean's lips, a scowl on his face that
gathered his forehead into heavy furrows, as, at his accustomed morning
hour, a little after nine, he entered the _atelier_.  He had not slept
well the night before--nor for the nights before that--not since that
afternoon here with Myrna.  How could one sleep with things in the mess
they were--to say nothing of the night before last when he had not
tried to sleep, and had held high revel with a few choice spirits in a
sort of dare-devil challenge to the premonition that promised him a
reckoning for those few moments in which he had sought to quench the
passion that raged in his soul, that set his brain afire!

He crossed the room, mechanically donned his sculptor's blouse, or
over-dress, threw off the wrappings from the "Fille du Régiment,"
picked up a modelling tool, stepped upon the platform--and stared into
the face that looked back at him from the high-flung, splendid head of
clay.  He snarled suddenly, clenching his fist.  They prated to him of
secret models!  Bah!  It was too much for them!  They could not
understand--it was beyond them--that was all!  It was there, all of it,
the courage, the resolution, the purity, the strength, the virility of
the womanhood of France--all--all--it was all there--and they thought
it wonderful, incomparable--only they prated of a secret model--_nom de
Dieu_--when it was themselves, when it was France that was the
model--and they had not grasped the apotheosis of their separate
individualities in the sublime glory of the composite whole!  Ha,
ha--perhaps it was because they were modest!

He smiled with intolerant contempt.  They prated of a secret model,
they applauded, they cheered, they showered him with wealth, with fame,
the world knew the name of Jean Laparde--and, because they were unable
to comprehend, they asked for something more, something that, no doubt,
should label his work like raised letters for the blind--and then
perhaps it would be only to find that they had still to acquire the
alphabet!  Bah--it was sickening, that!  But it was also maddening!
There was old Bidelot, who came each day to the studio.  Bidelot was a
fool--a senile old fool, who sat and wept weak tears because the statue
was so beautiful; and wept weaker tears because, like a spoilt child,
he cried for something that he wanted without knowing what it was!

"You talk--you rant--you whimper--you bemoan!" he had flared out
angrily at Bidelot yesterday afternoon.  "Well, what is it?  Do you
find it a pitiful affair, then, my '_Fille du Régiment_'?"

"Ah, Jean!  Ah, no!  Ah, no!" old Bidelot had cried.  "It is not that!
It is exquisite, it is magnificent, it is superb, it transcends
anything the world has ever seen.  It is so great that if only there
were a little something, ah, _mon_ Jean, a little something, it would
be the work of a god and not a man!"

"And that something?  What is it?" he had demanded.

And old Bidelot had wrung his hands, and the tears had coursed down his
cheeks.

"I do not know!  I do not know!" the famous critic had answered almost
hysterically.  "If I knew I would tell you.  It is but a touch--but a
touch."

Old Bidelot was emotional--an ass!  Old Bidelot was fast approaching
his dotage!  Jean shrugged his shoulders wrathfully.  It was not true,
of course!  It lacked nothing, that face--and yet--and yet that sort of
thing disquieted him, irritated him.  It was a masterpiece--and its
only fault was that it had not been made by a god!  _Ciel_!  Was there
ever anything more absurd than that!  Well, in any event, it was to
bring him one hundred and twenty-five thousand francs; and his next
commission, which was for the Government of France, would be for double
that amount.  Old Bidelot and his "touch"!  For France, when this was
finished, he would do that dream statue, if--_damn_ that dream statue!

Jean snarled again.  What was the matter with him!  The cursed thing
was always in his mind; but never would it come and appear before him,
lifelike and actual, that bronze figure of the woman, as once it had
done.  Instead, it seemed to have faded more and more completely away,
until it was as invisible as the base of the statue which he had never
been able to see at all, and yet at which the passers-by in his dreams
had gazed with the same rapt attention as at the woman's figure--it had
faded until the whole existed simply as an indistinct blur upon the
memory.  If he could visualise that figure again, get the detail, he
could supply a base of some sort that would go with it; that would come
simply enough once he got to work.  _Would_ it!  He had thought until
his brain was sick, for hours on end, trying to imagine a fitting
subject, big enough, splendid enough to harmonise with what he
remembered was the majestic beauty of the woman's figure--and the hours
had only made the task seem the more beyond him, his each succeeding
imaginary design the more inadequate and pitiful.

It made him angry now, increased and inflamed his already irritable and
savage mood.  Why had he started in to think of that!  Why, in heaven's
name, should he think of everything that morning that he did not want
to think of!  Why, when nothing else would come, should the cold,
enigmatical face of Paul Valmain staring at that confounded key, come
so readily before him, and--he hurled his modelling tool suddenly,
savagely, into the far corner of the room; and, stepping down from the
platform, pulled viciously at the bell.  He was yanking his blouse off
over his head, as Hector appeared.

"Get my car, Hector!" he snapped tersely.  "I am going out."

Hector's blue eyes widened in amazement.  The car in the morning--the
morning that was sacred to work!

"The car, m'sieu?" he repeated, as though he had not heard aright.

"Yes, imbecile--the car!" Jean snapped again.

"But, m'sieu!"  It was unheard of!  It had never occurred before!  "But
is m'sieu not going to work this morning, and--"

"The _car_!"

"But, yes, m'sieu--instantly--instantly, m'sieu!" Hector stammered--and
retreated hastily from the room.

Jean followed him--spent a few impatient moments kicking at the
sidewalk while he waited; and then, at the wheel of his big, powerful
machine, went tearing up the street.  Work!  It was worse than useless
in the vile humour he was in.  The car had been an inspiration; he
would go nowhere in particular, but he would drive--fast.  That was
what he wanted, some excitement, some exhilaration.  He would go out
into the country, anywhere, with the whole day before him, and--no!  He
would go first to Myrna's house!  Why not!  He scowled heavily again.
It was getting beyond endurance, that sort of thing!  There had been
three, no, four days of it now!  The decision quite fitted in with his
mood--whatever might be the result.  Yes, _nom d'un nom_, he would go
there--and at once!

It was but a short way; and, at the expiration of a few minutes, Jean
stopped his car in front of the magnificent residence that Henry Bliss
maintained in a style that was almost regal, jumped out, and ran up the
steps.

"Mademoiselle Bliss," he said to the liveried automaton that answered
his summons.

"Mademoiselle Bliss is out, Monsieur Laparde," replied the man.

"Very well, then--Monsieur Bliss," returned Jean, a little grimly.

"Monsieur Bliss is not at home, Monsieur Laparde," replied the man.

Jean bit his lip.  That Henry Bliss might still be away, since he had
gone to London some days before, was probably true; but that Myrna was
out at ten o'clock in the morning--the man, under instructions, was
lying, of course!  He stood hesitant, his rage increasing, half
inclined to reach out and twist the neck of this bedecked
functionary--and then, with a short laugh, he swung on his heel, went
down the steps again, and climbed back into the car.

The car shot forward in a savage bound.  She was probably watching him
from behind the curtain of a window!  His hands clenched fiercely on
the steering wheel--and he flung the throttle wide.  It was enough!
This had lasted long enough!  It was her idea of punishment, perhaps!
"Mademoiselle Bliss is out, Monsieur Laparde"--he mimicked the
colourless-voiced flunky viciously.  To telephones, personal calls--the
same answer; to notes--no answer at all.  Well, she would answer--and
soon!  He would take care of that, and--he jammed the brakes
frantically on the machine, as a figure, barely escaping disaster as
the result of his reckless driving, jumped wildly away from in front of
the car; while a voice shouted in sharp protest:

"Hey, there--where are you going!"

"To the devil!" snarled Jean--and chuckled the next instant with sudden
malicious delight, as he recognised the other.  It was Father Anton--on
his way to the Bliss residence, probably.

"You are travelling fast, my son!"--grave and quiet, the note of
protest gone, Father Anton's voice came back from the curb--and then
the old priest was blotted from sight, and the car was speeding down
the boulevard again.

Hah!  Father Anton!  Father Anton--the grandmother!  Father Anton, who
had thought on arriving in Paris to lecture him, Jean Laparde, on how
he should live, and sermonise on the pleasures of the flesh, and the
dangers of power and wealth and position, and to haunt the studio with
a sanctimoniously grieved expression everlastingly on his face!  Ha,
ha!  Father Anton!  Father Anton was the man who once had preached so
fatuously on the nothingness of fame!  Well, Father Anton, if he were
not blind, could--again Jean checked the car violently, this time in
response to a harsh, strident, authoritative command.

And then a gendarme was running alongside, gesticulating furiously--but
the next moment the man was touching his cap.

"Ah, it is Monsieur Laparde!  _Pardon, mille pardons_, Monsieur
Laparde!"  The man's voice dropped to a low tone, as he leaned in over
the side of the car.  "But if monsieur will be good enough to have a
care.  It will get us into trouble if we do not do our duty, and
monsieur would not like that to happen.  Ah, monsieur"--at Jean's
five-franc piece.  "Ah--"

The car was off again.  But now Jean laughed aloud.  Fame!  Who was
there that did not know Jean Laparde--from the President of France to
the gamin of the gutters!  It began to salve a little his irritation,
his ugly mood.  To the devil with Father Anton--as he had just now had
the pleasure of intimating to him.  There was little that was empty in
the fame that was his.  Wealth had been poured upon him; there was
nothing, nothing that was beyond his reach, nothing that he could
desire and be obliged to refuse himself; and, yes--_'cré nom_, one
could say it for it was true--throughout all France he was worshipped
as though he were a demigod.  He had only to enter a café anywhere, and
in a moment from the tables around he would catch the whispers: "Look!
There is Jean Laparde, the great sculptor!"  And position--what man in
all of France, or in Europe, occupied a position comparable to his!
None!  There was none!  He would change places with no one!  He owed
allegiance to none; he received it from all.  He received the cheers,
the acclaim of the populace; the decorations of governments and
royalty!  And none could take this from him.  It was his!  And there
were to be years of it--all the years he lived.  He was young yet.
Years of it!  He was Jean Laparde, Jean Laparde, Jean Laparde--the man
whose name sent a magic thrill even to his own soul.  God, how he loved
it all with a passion and a desire and an insatiability that was rooted
in his very breath of life!

The car was speeding now out through the suburbs of the great
city--on--on--on!  His thoughts were bringing him exhilaration in
abundant measure; something in the sense of freedom, in the swift
motion, brought him elated excitement.  His blood was whipping
buoyantly through his veins.  There would be a day of this--to go
somewhere, anywhere--without plan, or predetermination, this road or
that, it mattered not at all--a day of it--prompted no longer by the
sullen, disgruntled mood that had caused him to set out, but by a more
potent and saner spirit of almost boyish vagabondage that bade him keep
on.

Myrna!  He smiled now.  He was a fool to have spoilt the last few days
for himself just because he had not seen her!  Let her have her way for
a while, if it pleased her!  No doubt she was trying to discipline him!
It was delightful, that!  Discipline Jean Laparde!  It was he who would
play the rôle of disciplinarian before he was through--not she!  He
loved her, wanted her--and, by Heaven, he was Jean Laparde!  And what
Jean Laparde wanted was his!  She belonged to him, and his she would
be, and no other man's!  Paul Valmain, eh?  Next time he would deal
with Paul Valmain, and not with Myrna.  The poor fool--who ranted and
raved and screamed like a cockatoo on the floor of the Chamber of
Deputies, and dreamed that it was impassioned eloquence!  It would be
well for Paul Valmain to take another road than that of Jean Laparde!
The poor fool--that did not know the power of Jean Laparde!  He held
Paul Valmain, as he held every other man in France, between his thumb
and forefinger--to pinch, if he saw fit.  A whisper in the ear of this
one and that, and Paul Valmain was as dead politically as though he had
never been born.

And now Jean threw back his head and laughed boisterously.  All that
was no exaggeration; it was literally true.  He even held Myrna in
exactly the same position.  He could break her socially--as readily as
he could break a twig from a tree!  It was even ludicrous, it was so
simple.  Imagine Myrna in such a state!  Imagine what would happen if
he let it be known that Jean Laparde would attend no function at which
Mademoiselle Bliss was a guest!  It was too funny, too droll!  And she
had dreams perhaps of disciplining Jean Laparde!

His face flushed a little.  She was his!  He had felt those warm, rich
lips against his own!  He would feel them there again a thousand
times--ay, and soon again!  He would not wait this time--as he had
waited, fool that he had been, before!  But for a day or so, if it
pleased her to ride upon a high horse, let her go fast and
furious--afterwards, that was quite another matter.  Afterwards, those
lips would be his again, that glorious, pulsing body would be in his
arms again--and in the meantime--here was a great level stretch of road
before him--and the day was before him--and the to-morrow could take
care of itself!

And so Jean rode far that day; and lunched at a quaint little village
near the Belgian frontier; and quite lost himself; and dined in a
farmhouse; and finally, set upon the road again, reached Paris after
midnight, where he alighted in front of his club.  He was in a "humour"
now, as he put it himself.  A little supper and a hand at cards would
complete, round out a day of rare delight.  He was even humming an air
to himself, as he entered the club.

"_Pardon_, Monsieur Laparde!"--the doorman was bowing respectfully.
"Monsieur Valmain is in one of the private writing rooms--the one at
the head of the stairs, monsieur."

Jean stopped his humming, and stared at the man.

"Well--and what of that?" he demanded.

"But, monsieur!" murmured the man, a little abashed.  "Monsieur expects
to meet Monsieur Valmain, does he not?  Monsieur Valmain left word."

Jean scowled, and passed on.  Paul Valmain!  Paul Valmain!  Paul
Valmain!  What devil of perversity had seen fit to drag Paul Valmain
upon the scene?  Was his day to be ruined by a bad taste in his mouth?
What did the man want?

He went upstairs, knocked upon the door indicated, and, without waiting
for an answer, opened it rather brusquely, stepped inside--and, with an
exclamation of angry surprise, gazed at the man who seemed literally to
have rushed across the room to confront him.  Paul Valmain's face was
positively livid, the eyes burned as though consumed with fever, the
hands shook, and the tall form quivered in the most astonishing
fashion.  Was the man mad?

"Ah, Monsieur Jean Laparde!" the other cried out.  "You have come at
last!  You saw fit to absent yourself to-day!  I have been five times
to the studio!  But you thought it better to answer my message finally,
eh?  You did well!  I should have gone again in an hour to dig you out!"

Jean eyed the other for a moment, contempt struggling with bewilderment
for the mastery at the man's actions and incoherent outburst.

"You have perhaps been drinking," he said coldly.  "I received no
message until I entered the club here an instant ago.  And I am not to
be 'dug out,' Monsieur Valmain!  You are using strange language.  If
you are drunk, apologise; otherwise--"

"Otherwise!"--the word came like a devil's laugh from Paul Valmain; and
before Jean could move, or, taken by surprise, guard himself, the flat
of Paul Valmain's hand had swung in a stinging blow across Jean's
mouth.  "You--_hound_!"

The blood came surging into Jean's face, and with a bound he had the
other by the shoulders--and then, somehow, he found himself
laughing--not merrily--laughing in a sort of contemptuous rage.  He
could take Paul Valmain with his own great strength and do with him
what he pleased.  But that was not the way a blow such as he had
received was to be answered!  And, anyway, what was the matter with the
man?  He must have lost his senses!

"You--hound!"--Paul Valmain was repeating hoarsely, his lips twitching
in his passion.  "I watched last night outside your studio.  I watched,
and oh, God!--I saw her enter."

Jean's hands dropped from the man's shoulders in blank amazement.  Yes,
certainly, the man was either drunk or mad!  Certainly, he was not
responsible for what he was saying.

"There was no one who entered my studio last night," he said almost
pityingly.

"You liar!"--Paul Valmain was like a man beside himself, demented.
"You liar--you liar--you liar!  I saw her!  I know now who this secret
model is whose divine form you desecrate, you black-souled libertine!
I saw her go in at two o'clock in the morning--_and at daylight she had
not come out again_."

Jean shrugged his shoulders intolerantly.  The man was quite out of his
head from some cause or other, but that was no reason why he should be
called upon to endure the other's irresponsible ranting.

"You poor fool!" he exclaimed irritably.  "So you know who it is, do
you?  And what then?  If it brings you such poignant, personal grief,
why did you let her go in?  Why did you not tell her that--"

"It was too late"--white to the lips, Paul Valmain raised his clenched
fists--"it was too late--after months of it!  I could save her only one
thing--the knowledge that I knew her shame.  I was across the street--I
saw her--God pity me--I loved her--the black cloak and hat she wore
only a few days before when we were together!  I have lived in hell and
torment and fear that it might be so since that afternoon--that
afternoon--did you think I did not see the key in your hand, and--"

"What do you mean?"--there was a sudden blackness curiously streaked
with red before Jean's eyes; the blood was sweeping in a mad tide
upward in his face to pound like trip-hammers at his temples--the man's
words could bear only one interpretation, a hideous one, that outraged
his soul, and roused a seething fury within him.  "What do you mean?"
he said again between his teeth.

"I mean," Paul Valmain answered, "I mean--damn you, you know what I
mean!  I mean that from two o'clock in the morning until daylight Myrna
Bliss was in your rooms, and--"

"You devil from hell!" Jean shouted--and leaped at the other's throat.
If the man struggled he did not realise it.  The man was only an
impotent, powerless thing in his grasp--and he flung him away, flung
him crashing to the floor.  "I will kill you for that!" he whispered.
"To-night--you can find a friend downstairs to act for you--I another."

Paul Valmain staggered to his feet.

"I have waited all day for the same purpose!"  The devil's laugh was on
the grey lips again.

"It is _à l'outrance_, Monsieur Valmain--you understand!"--Jean choked
in his fury.  "_A l'outrance_!"

"As you shall see!"

"And the studio--if it suits you!  We shall not be disturbed.  There is
room there, and you will find it as pleasant a place as any in which to
die!"

"Where you will!" retorted Paul Valmain.  "Where you will--so there is
no delay!"



-- V --

THE SECRET MODEL

Marie-Louise glanced quickly up at the house.  Yes; it was all dark!
There was no light in Hector's apartments below; nor in the salon; nor
in Jean's rooms above.  She had scarcely dared to look, for fear that
she had come too soon, that Hector perhaps was still up, that Jean
perhaps might be with some of his friends in the salon.  But it was all
dark.  She was quite breathless, for she had run nearly all the way
from Madame Garneau's in her eagerness; but that did not matter at all
now, for she was not to be disappointed, since, after all, she had not
come too soon.  It was much earlier than it had been last night, when
she had come for the first time to be all alone there in the studio in
the moonlight, where the hours had passed so swiftly and been all too
short; but it had seemed that the day would never end, that night would
never come again, and the evening had dragged so cruelly as she had sat
by her window--and so when that church clock from somewhere in the
distance had struck midnight she could wait no longer, for perhaps
to-night Jean would have finished the face, and perhaps to-night it
would not all be so vague and trouble her so because it seemed that in
some strange way it was so familiar, though she could not tell why.

She took the key from the pocket of her dress, and stole softly up the
steps.  How glad she was now that she had not waited any longer!  She
would have so much more time there in the _atelier_ with the wonderful
figures that Jean made, that were not clay at all, but that breathed
and lived, and to whom she could talk about Jean, and about his great
triumph, and tell them all that was in her heart, and they would listen
to her and understand as no one else could, and never tell any one that
she had been there.  And she would not be afraid of them at all any
more, not even at first, as she had been last night because they looked
so ghostlike in the white cloths that were wrapped around them.

She looked hurriedly about her, then opened the door, stepped inside,
and crossed noiselessly into the salon.  She could not quite still the
pounding of her heart, because it was night, and because it was dark,
and because she was doing something that no one must know; but she was
not at all afraid now.  Since last night she had been so sure that
there was nothing to fear.  Hector and Madame Mi-mi had thought it the
most natural thing to find her working there that morning when they had
got up.  Was it not for that she had been given the key?  And to-morrow
morning again when daylight came it would be the same; and now--she was
hurrying through the salon to the _atelier_--and now she was to see
that splendid, glorious figure, the "_Fille du Régiment_," again, and
see the face that perhaps, oh, perhaps to-night, after Jean's work of
the day upon it, would be finished, and that she would recognise.

She slipped between the portières into the moonlit room, and--she could
not wait even to take off her cloak and turban--tiptoed eagerly,
excitedly across the _atelier_, mounted upon the modelling platform,
and threw back the white damp cloth, revealing the figure's head.  And
then, for a moment, she could only gaze at it, puzzled and bewildered;
and then, very slowly and regretfully, she sat down upon the platform.
The face had not been touched.  It--it was exactly as it had been last
night.  Somehow, Jean had not done any work that day--or else, perhaps,
he had worked on some of the other figures.

She sat staring at the face of the clay figure in a disappointment that
was almost dismay--and then suddenly she smiled.  After all, it was she
herself who was the cause of her disappointment; she had wanted to see
that face with its finished touch so much that, in her eagerness, she
had quite made herself believe that she would find it so--whereas it
might be days and days yet before Jean would have completed it.  And
instead of being disappointed, she should be very happy that the _bon
Dieu_ had made it possible for her to come here at all, to be so close
to Jean, and to be able to spend these hours here with his work--and
even if it were days and days before it was finished, could she not
still come here every night until it was done, and could she not still
be able to see it then?

As she looked around her, the white-wrapt figures seemed to nod to her
and promise her that it would be so.  How quiet and still it was, and
how peacefully the moonlight filled the _atelier_--Jean's _atelier_.
It was so different a scene from that magnificent reception where
France in all its glory had honoured Jean; where the marble stairs, the
lights, the throngs, the glittering uniforms, the marvellously dressed
women with their furs and jewels had awed and frightened her, and yet
had filled her, too, with ecstasy because it was Jean's triumph, and
had brought thankfulness into her resignation because she had seen with
her own eyes how great he had become and how little had been her own
sacrifice to achieve so much.  Yes, it was strange how different was
that scene and this around her now--and yet they were both so intimate
a part of Jean's life.  And they were so very different to her in a
personal way.  She did not want to see that world of the rich and the
great any more, because she could not understand it, and no one there
could understand her; but here--she was so glad and happy to be
here--here she could understand, and here these figures understood her
when she spoke to them because they knew that she had given all she had
to give, not out of her own strength but out of the strength that the
_bon Dieu_ had given her, that they might be created by Jean's hands.
Here, Jean was so near to her; there, in that other world, he was so
far away--so far away that she had gone utterly out of his life, even
out of his thoughts.

She sighed a little as she sat there on the modelling platform; and
then there came again that little smile of self-reproof, and with it a
chiding shake of her head.  It was well that it was so.  There was no
other way.  It would have brought only distress and pain to Jean if he
were always to remember, and--and it was far better so.  The gulf
between them was so wide and deep that it could never be passed, and if
she were still living in Jean's heart it could only make life a very
terrible thing for them both.  And so--and so--yes, she should be very
thankful for that, too; be very thankful for both their sakes that he
had so entirely forgotten her.

The white-wrapt figures seemed to nod most gravely in assent again--it
was only a tree branch in the courtyard frolicking with a moonbeam and
sending a little playful shadow over them that seemed to make them
move, but that was how they always talked to her, and made their
understanding seem so real.

She sat quite still for a little while, gazing at the face of the
"_Fille du Régiment_" before her; and then, clapping her hands softly
together and with an impulsive little exclamation of delight she stood
up excitedly.  Perhaps Jean had been working upon the statue, even if
he had not touched the face.  And, anyway, there was more to see than
just the face--the figure itself was just as wonderful, just as
beautiful.  Quickly, but very carefully, she loosened and removed the
covering from the body and base of the figure, let the covering fall
upon the floor--and, stepping back to look at it, stood suddenly
transfixed, her hands pressed tightly against her bosom, her face white
with fear.

Some one was coming!  She strained her eyes across the _atelier_,
holding them for an instant, fascinated, upon the portières.  No, no;
surely she had been mistaken!  It could have been only fancy, and--a
low cry came from her lips.  The front door had closed; there were
footsteps in the hall, a number of them it seemed; and--and that was
Jean's voice!

"The salon, messieurs, if you please!"

They were coming!  They were entering the salon!  What could she do?
She could not get away or escape!  There was no way to get out!  They
were already in the salon!  She looked wildly, helplessly around
her--and then, with a little gasp that mingled relief and trepidation,
her eyes fixed on the door of the models' dressing room.  She began to
steal toward it, holding her breath.  How terribly her heart pounded!
She could not go very fast, because then she would make a noise and
they would hear her.  And that was Jean's voice again, this time from
the salon itself, from just on the other side of the portières, it
seemed.

"The _atelier_ will serve us better than this polished floor,
messieurs."

Oh, if she could only reach the dressing room in time!  How hoarse
Jean's voice seemed to be!  She was nearly there now--nearly there!  If
only the _bon Dieu_ would help her!  It was only a step more--just one!
Now--now she was there!  She slipped into the little place that was
hardly any bigger than a large closet, and drew the door shut behind
her, as the portières were swished apart and the rings on the pole
clattered with a terrifying noise.  And then she found that she was
very weak, and that her knees were trembling as though they would give
way beneath her.

It was very dark.  She dared not move for fear she might knock into
something and make a noise.  She told herself that she must stand very
still.  She could hear them out in the _atelier_ now in a muffled sort
of a way; they were walking around and around, and it sounded as though
they were moving things about.  And then she seemed to go cold with
fear again, and a sense of dismay surged upon her.  The "_Fille du
Régiment_" was uncovered!  She had had no time, even if she had thought
of it, to replace the covering.  What would Jean do?  Would he think it
was an accident, that the wrapping had been carelessly done, would he
blame Hector, or--would he think some one had been there, that some one
was perhaps there now, and--and suppose he should come to the dressing
room door, and open it, and--and find her there!

She was frightened now, terribly afraid--more afraid than she had ever
been in her life before.  If Jean should find her there, what would he
think of her?  The blood rushed in a fierce crimson tide to her face.
She would rather die than that!  But it was not only herself, it was
not only that--there was Jean.  She had no right to obtrude herself
into his life and to disturb it.  But surely--surely the _bon Dieu_
would keep him away from the door!  She had been very foolish and very
wicked ever to have come, ever to have risked so much, only the
temptation had been so great, and her heart had pleaded so hard;
but--but if only no harm should come of it all this time, she would
promise that--that she would not come there any more like this at night.

Perhaps he had not seen it!  Perhaps he had not noticed it!  And yet it
was not just moonlight out there any more, and the _atelier_ was
lighted now, for she could see the tiny rays as they filtered in under
the door where it did not fit well over the threshold.  She listened
intently, almost expecting to hear Jean cry out about the covering of
the "_Fille du Régiment_," but they still seemed to be moving around a
great deal, and the voices were indistinguishable, and she could
understand nothing of what they were saying, except only a name that
she caught because it was repeated several times--the name of Paul
Valmain.  It seemed somehow to be familiar.  Yes; she remembered.  He
was one of Jean's friends of the _grand monde_, the man that Father
Anton had pointed out beside Monsieur and Mademoiselle Bliss in that
group with Jean on the night of the great reception.

It seemed as though hours were passing as she stood there.  It seemed
to grow unbearably hot in that small, dark place; it seemed even that
it was hard to breathe.  Perhaps it was her fear that was suffocating
her!  She unfastened the black velvet cloak and let it hang more
loosely, wide apart, upon her shoulders--and held her hand agitatedly
upon her bare throat, that was now exposed by the low-necked blouse.
Would they never go!  And what were they doing there?  It was very
strange!  They seemed to keep on tramping and even running around, and
there was no sound of voices now--only a most peculiar sound that made
her think of Papa Fregeau when he stood in the kitchen of the Bas Rhône
and sharpened his carving knife on his long bone-handled steel.

Then all grew suddenly quiet--and the quiet was as suddenly broken by a
voice, loud enough and distinct enough for her to hear.

"It is nothing!  But a touch, monsieur--continue!"

Marie-Louise's eyes widened, and slowly her form grew rigid and tense,
and her hand at her throat slipped away and caught at the neck of her
blouse, and in a spasmodic clutch tore it wider apart.  That voice--she
did not know whose it was--but there was no mistaking the cold, sullen
fury in it.  And the tramping of feet had begun again--and that sound
again, the rasp of steel, was hideous now, bringing her a sickening
dread.

It was as though for a moment she were too stunned to move.  They were
fighting out there in Jean's _atelier_--with--with swords.  And
perhaps--perhaps it was Jean who was fighting.  And if--if he should
be--no, no!--she dare not even let the thought take form in her mind.
But she must see--somehow, she must see!  How dark it was, and how
those sounds brought terror now!  She could not stand there and--and
think; she must see that at least it was not Jean, or else--or else she
would scream out in her agony of suspense.

She groped out with her hand for the door.  She could open it very
silently, just a little way--they would be too occupied to notice it.
Her hand trembled as it fell upon the knob.  She pushed the door open a
crack, an inch.  There seemed to burst in upon her, in upon the
contrasting utter darkness, a blinding light that dazzled her so that
she could see nothing; and to burst in upon her a horrible riot of
noise--heavy, panting gasps for breath, the quick shuffle of feet upon
the floor, the grating, the ring, the metallic grinding of rapier
blades.

In terror, she pushed the door open another inch--and held it rigidly,
as, suddenly, her heart seemed to stop its beat.  There came a gurgling
moan--then--then an instant's deathlike silence--and then, with a wild
cry, she flung the door wide open, and, as it crashed back against the
wall, she stumbled out into the _atelier_.

She could see now, but it was as though it were not herself at all who
looked around the room, for her brain seemed suddenly to be acting in
an impersonal, numbed, apathetic way.  She could see everything very
clearly, but it was as though some one else, not she, were seeing it.
She stretched out her arms before her like one who was blind to feel
her way, and started across the _atelier_.  She should have run, she
should have run so fast, so fast, something within her told her she
should run, but her limbs seemed scarcely able to support her
weight--she could only stumble across the _atelier_ with her arms
stretched out.  That was not Jean who stood in the centre of the room
holding a rapier in his hand, it was Paul Valmain.  And the man who
stood beside Paul Valmain was not Jean.  And there were two other men,
but neither of them was Jean.  But they held a silent, grey-faced,
unconscious form in their arms that they were lowering to the
floor--and that was Jean.  And they looked at her as she came, looked
at her in so strange and startled a way; and Paul Valmain took a step
toward her, and cried out, and drew suddenly back--and then--and then
she was on her knees, and Jean's head was gathered into her arms, and
he was so white, so terribly white, and he made no sound--and--and--

"Jean!  Jean!"--she was crying his name passionately, piteously, crying
it over and over again.  "Jean!  Jean!"

And he made no answer--only lay there white and still.  And then some
one took her arm and tried to draw her away--and some one spoke to her.

"Mademoiselle must permit me," the voice said gravely.  "I am the
doctor."

They took Jean from her, and the man who had said he was the doctor
bent over Jean--and, still on her knees, she watched them.  Why should
they take him from her--now?  It could do no one any harm now that she
should have Jean, when Jean did not know, when perhaps--she lifted her
head quickly, lifted it far back until the white throat and bosom lay
bare; until the pure, glorious face, with its wonderful contour, its
divinely beautiful lips, tense with outraged grief, looked full into
another face that was thrust suddenly before her.  It was Paul Valmain
who had done this, and he dared to come and stand over her now, and
hold in his hand the--why did she not scream out---the blade was red!

"Look!  Look!"--his face ashen, Paul Valmain was pointing to the
unwrapped figure of the "_Fille du Régiment_."  "The face--the lips!"
he whispered hoarsely.  "The lips--it is you who are his model!  It was
you--last night!  That hat!  That cloak!  My God!" he cried out, and
the rapier, falling from his hand, clattered upon the floor.  "My God,
what have I done!"



-- VI --

"JEAN MUST NOT KNOW"

Jean's model!  Even in that moment, when it seemed that all else was
extraneous, that nothing mattered save that white face, that still form
on the floor, the thought brought a strange, troubled amazement--but it
was gone almost instantly, as her mind, still refusing to centre on
anything but the one great fear that perhaps Jean might die, carried
her swiftly back to what was passing around her.  She looked again at
the doctor as he knelt on the floor and worked with deft fingers over
Jean, and something in those grey hairs, in that kindly face, even if
it were so grave now, gave her a little courage--surely, surely he
would not let Jean die; she looked at the man who, too, was kneeling
beside Jean--but he meant nothing to her, she could only wonder why he
was there; she looked at Paul Valmain--and shuddered.  It was Paul
Valmain who had done this, who perhaps had killed Jean--and he was
still staring at her in such a fixed, horrible, fascinated way.  She
rose quickly to her feet, clenching her hands.

And then the doctor, raising his head suddenly, was speaking in quiet
tones:

"I need hardly say that if Monsieur Laparde recovers, we are in honour
pledged to secrecy, messieurs.  Monsieur Vinailles and I will carry
Monsieur Laparde upstairs to his bed, so that clatter-tongued concierge
and his wife will know nothing of this--and to-morrow, if they are told
that Monsieur Laparde has met with an accident it will be enough.
Monsieur Vinailles and I will attend to everything here; and I would
suggest, Monsieur Valmain, that you and Monsieur LeFair withdraw at
once.  I will send you a report in half an hour."

Paul Valmain shook his head.

"No," he said, in a low, shaken voice.  "LeFair will go--I remain
here."  He pointed suddenly to Marie-Louise.  "I must speak to
her--alone.  Go, LeFair--wait for me at my rooms."

Marie-Louise drew hurriedly back.

"No, no!" she exclaimed sharply.  The man filled her with abhorrence;
and now, besides, he was trying to keep her away from Jean--and
nothing, nothing in all the world would make her leave Jean's side now.

But no one seemed to be paying any attention to her--not even Paul
Valmain any more, who had turned away, and, whispering as he went, was
walking rapidly into the salon with the man they had called LeFair.
The doctor had slipped his wrist through the handle of his black bag to
leave his hands free, and he and the other man were lifting Jean up in
their arms--and then, numbly, as they carried him from the room, she
followed.

She saw nothing now only Jean's face, so ghastly in pallor, with its
closed eyes, and with the black hair tumbling over his forehead.  It
brought a greater fear upon her; but she kept telling herself that she
must be brave, for perhaps they would let her help them when they got
upstairs, perhaps there would be something that she could do.

They went on through the salon, and out into the hall, and began to
mount the stairs--and then some one, hurrying from the direction of the
front door, caught her arm.

"Wait, mademoiselle, wait!" a voice said hoarsely.  "Wait--I must speak
to you!"

It was Paul Valmain again.  She pushed him violently away from her,
and, without looking back at him, went on after the others.

On the landing at the head of the stairs, they halted for a moment to
open a door, and then for the first time the doctor appeared to notice
that she had been following.

"_Pardon_, mademoiselle," he said a little brusquely.  "If mademoiselle
will be good enough to wait below!"

They were trying to keep her from Jean again.  Every one tried to keep
her from Jean.  She clenched her hands passionately.  But now--now they
should not keep her away any longer.

"No!" she cried out fiercely.  "You shall not send me away!  I will not
go--I will not!"

He stared at her for an instant, then shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well, mademoiselle.  It is perhaps your privilege.  I have not
time to question it.  But since you remain, perhaps you will be good
enough to help us."

"Yes!" she said eagerly.  "Oh, yes!  Tell me what to do."

"Water!" he said tersely.  "A basin--cloths!"

With a quick nod of understanding, she ran ahead of them through the
door, and hurried on down the hall.  She had never been there in Jean's
apartment before, but Madame Mi-mi had not been loath to tell her all
about it--and so it was not strange to her, and there was something to
do now and that seemed to relieve the dull pain that had been torturing
her brain, and she could remember again every little detail that Madame
Mi-mi had described.  The sitting-room, the dressing-room, the bedroom,
the dining-room, and from the dining-room into the kitchen--it was a
complete menage, though Jean used it so little, save to sleep there,
and for his _déjeuners_ which Madame Mi-mi prepared.  She procured the
basin, filled it, and hurried back with it--going through the rooms
this time instead of the corridor--to where in the bedroom they had
placed Jean upon the bed.  And then there were the cloths--a sheet
would serve best for bandages, and that was kept in the linen closet,
where too there were clean towels, Madame Mi-mi had said.  She could
think very clearly now, and she could be much more brave because there
was something to do.  She flew to the closet, tore a sheet into strips,
gathered up some towels, and returned with them again to the bedroom.

The doctor glanced at her approvingly.

"Thank you, mademoiselle," he said, in a much more kindly tone.  "That
will be all for the present."

But if they were more kindly, his words, they were too a sort of
dismissal.  She did not know what to do for a moment; and then she went
slowly to the foot of the bed and knelt down--she would be out of their
way there, and ready in an instant if the doctor called again.  She
would have given so much to help him in the intimate way this Monsieur
Vinailles was helping, to hold Jean, to touch Jean, but--but they
seemed so occupied, both of them, and--and she must not interfere.  She
could only watch, while the agony of suspense crept upon her again;
watch the grey-haired man, in his shirt sleeves now, working so
quickly, so silently--and then suddenly she turned away her head, and
her heart sank with dread.  It was so terrible a wound that she had
caught sight of in Jean's side, as the doctor straightened up for an
instant!  It--it did not seem that any one could live with--with that.
And Jean lay so still, so motionless, and in his unconsciousness seemed
so much like--like dead.  She shivered a little, and fought back the
tears, and tried resolutely to think of something else--of anything--of
how beautifully Madame Mi-mi had told her Jean's rooms here were
furnished.

She forced herself to look around her.  Yes, yes, it was as Madame
Mi-mi had said--the carpet seemed to shine as though it were of silk;
and the bed was very large and made of brass, which was something she
had never seen before; and in all the rooms, as she had passed through
them, she had been conscious that everything was very magnificent, just
as the salon downstairs was very magnificent.  And here on that big,
carved dresser were wonderful candlesticks like those Father Anton used
to have at the altar in Bernay-sur-Mer, only these were perhaps real
silver, just as Father Anton had said that some day, when the parish
grew very rich, theirs would be instead of only looking like it,
and--she turned quickly back again toward the bed.  Monsieur Vinailles
and the doctor were speaking.

"But what would you have!" Monsieur Vinailles was exclaiming in a low
voice.  "I know no more than you what it was about--and neither does
LeFair.  We tried to bring about an understanding, LeFair and I, before
we called for you, or at least get them to consent to a delay in which
their tempers might cool; but neither Valmain nor Jean would listen to
us.  Not a word!  If LeFair and I would not act for them, they would
get some one else.  _Voilà tout_!  What would you have!"

"H'm!" returned the doctor gruffly.  "Well, then, Vinailles, as I shall
not need you any more for the moment, I think you had better go and
tell Monsieur Bliss what has happened."

"_Sacré_--no!" ejaculated Vinailles.  "I prefer some one else should do
that!  And besides, I do not think that he has returned to Paris yet."

"Then Mademoiselle Bliss," insisted the doctor quietly.  "It is all
one!  They are Jean's family, as it were, are they not--eh?  And then
is not Mademoiselle Bliss as good as his fiancée?  Well?  I consider
that she, or Monsieur Bliss, or both of them, should know."

"You mean," said Vinailles, in a startled tone, "that Jean is--"

"I mean nothing!" answered the doctor bluntly.  "He is a long time
unconscious, and he is not responding well to stimulants, that is all.
On the other hand, you need not unnecessarily alarm any one; if I get
him through the next hour or so, and no septic complications set in
later on, we'll have him on his feet in a few days.  If you take Jean's
car you should be back in fifteen or twenty minutes.  Go at once,
Vinailles."

"Very well," Vinailles agreed a little reluctantly--and left the room.

What did the doctor mean?  Marie-Louise crept timidly around to the
opposite side of the bed where she could watch his face, and where she
could see Jean's face too.  What did the doctor mean?  If--if
everything went right, Jean would be well in a few days, but--but he
was in danger now.  She questioned the grave face piteously with her
eyes--but received no response.  The doctor was bending over Jean, and
did not look up.

The minutes passed, ten, fifteen perhaps, as she knelt there--and then
it seemed that she could not endure it any longer, and that all her
self-restraint was at an end.

"Jean!" she whispered--and because they were stronger than she, and
because she could keep them back no longer, the tears came in a flood,
and she reached out and caught Jean's hand that was outstretched on the
bed, and held it between both her own, and buried her face between her
own two arms.

She felt the doctor's hand laid gently on her shoulder.

"Do not give way, mademoiselle," he said soothingly.  "Courage!  We
shall win, I promise you."

She grew quieter after a little while--and again she tried to think.
They had sent for Mademoiselle Bliss, and very soon mademoiselle would
be here.  It was the mademoiselle who had spoken to her so sharply that
day because she had not put on her shoes and stockings....  Hector had
said that Mademoiselle Bliss and Jean were to marry ... and--and that
was what the doctor had just said to Monsieur Vinailles ... and--and so
it was true.  And what then?  What--if Mademoiselle Bliss found her
here?  She would do Mademoiselle Bliss no harm to stay here!  Her hands
closed tighter over the one in her grasp.  How cold Jean's hand was!
What would she do--what would she do?  She did not want to go, it
seemed so hard to go, and it was so little to ask, so little out of all
her life, just to stay there and kneel beside Jean and hold his hand,
and--she raised her head, quickly, suddenly.  The hand in hers twitched
a little, there came a half moan, half gasp, and then Jean's voice,
mumbling, wandering, reached her.

"Gaston, see, we are back!  Put your arms around my neck, _mon brave_,
and I will lift you up, and--"  The words grew thick upon his tongue,
lost their coherence, and died away.  And then he began to speak again,
and Marie-Louise leaned closer to catch the words.  "See, it is a
beacon--and it is for you, Marie-Louise, because it is you ... _sacré
nom_, why do you say that? ... I can make a thousand ... has it not
those lips that I could fashion even in the dark ... a thousand, I tell
you ... how--not another, when--"

"_Tiens_!" exclaimed the doctor briskly.  "That is good!  He is
regaining consciousness now, and--heh!--but what is the matter,
mademoiselle?"

With a startled little cry, Marie-Louise was on her feet.  She was
vaguely conscious that, while they seemed to call up all her life, all
the old life of Bernay-sur-Mer, her life and Jean's when they had been
together, Jean's words too held some strange relation to something that
had just happened here that night, some strange, puzzling, bewildering
significance--and that then all this seemed swept away from her on the
instant before a still greater significance in the doctor's words.
What had the doctor said--that Jean was returning to consciousness!  It
brought joy and gladness and hope surging over her; but it brought too
something cruel and hard and cold, as though a sentence had been
pronounced upon her.  She must go now, whether she wanted to or not.
Jean must not see her.  It was not Mademoiselle Bliss she had to
consider now--it was Jean.  He must not see her--he must not even know
that she had been there.  He must not, he must not see her--he must not
know!  And then a sort of panic fear seized her, and she ran around the
bed to the doctor's side.

"Monsieur, monsieur, I must go!" she cried agitatedly.  "And he must
not know--he must not know that I--that--that any one has been here.
Monsieur, will--will you promise that?"

"But, mademoiselle!"--he looked at her in amazement.  "But,
mademoiselle, I--"

She caught his hands wildly, and dropped upon her knees.

"See, monsieur, see, I beg it of you!" she pleaded almost hysterically.
"It is not much to ask--that you will not tell.  Promise me, monsieur,
promise me!  Why should he know, why should any one know?  I have done
no harm!  And it--it is for his sake that I ask it.  Monsieur,
monsieur, you will promise!"

"I see no reason now why I should say anything," he answered gravely;
"but if I promise it must be with a reservation.  I will promise you,
mademoiselle, that unless circumstances leave me no choice I will say
nothing."  Then, quickly, as he leaned toward the bed: "But if he is
not to see you, you must go at once!"

"Yes!" she breathed.  "Yes!  You are good, monsieur--you are very, very
good.  And--and Monsieur Vinailles, and Mademoiselle Bliss, if Monsieur
Vinailles should have told her--you will not let them tell Jean any one
was here?"

"I will speak to them," he said quietly.  "But go then, mademoiselle,
immediately!"

"And--and, monsieur"--her voice breaking--"Jean will not--not die?"

"No, mademoiselle, he will not die, I think I can promise that now
without any reservation," he replied with a smile.  "But, _ma foi_, if
he is not to know--eh!"

She stole a half frightened, half wistful glance toward the bed--then
ran from the room and out into the hall.

"He must not know!  He must not know!"--she kept saying that to
herself; repeating it again and again, as she went slowly down the
stairs.  It seemed as though those were the words that summed up her
life, that she had been saying them in her soul ever since the day
those strangers had come to Bernay-sur-Mer.  "Jean must not know!"

She halted suddenly on the lower step, and her face whitened a little.
Paul Valmain was standing in the doorway of the salon.  He was still
here then, this Paul Valmain, the man who--who had tried to kill Jean!

"Mademoiselle!" he cried out.  "See, I am still waiting!  I must speak
to you--here--in the salon--in the _atelier_ for a moment!"

It seemed that she must run from him, that she abhorred him--and
yet--and yet--"Jean must not know!"  She must get Paul Valmain to
promise too--Paul Valmain, and that other man who had been with him.

"Mademoiselle!" he said again.  "I--"

"Yes," she said--and stepped past him through the salon door.



-- VII --

MEA CULPA

The man frightened her.  He had caught her arm the moment she had
entered the salon, and had hurried her roughly across the room and into
the _atelier_; and, besides, his face was ghastly it was so colourless,
and it kept twitching, and his eyes burned with such an unnatural light.

"My arm, monsieur!" she cried out.  "You are hurting me!"

He laughed at her in a hollow way, and only tightened his hold, as he
pulled her in front of the clay figure of the "_Fille du Régiment_."

"Stand so!" he burst out.  "With your head--so!  As you were when you
came from that dressing room!  So--so!"--he pushed her chin up, and
grasped her by the shoulders.

"Monsieur!" she cried out again, and struggled to free herself.
"Monsieur, what are you doing?"

"Wait, I tell you!" he almost shouted.

Frightened before, she was terrified now, and besides she hated the man
with all her strength, and her soul shrank from him because it was he
who had so nearly killed Jean; but she had come to plead with him, she
must not forget that, only--only he was acting so strangely.  And then
suddenly, startling her, she remembered that it was he who had said she
was Jean's model.  That was why he was staring so wildly first at her
and then at the face of the girl with the drum, and back at her again,
and then at the clay figure.

"It is so!" he said hoarsely.  "It is so!  But wait--wait!"  His hands
dropped from her shoulders, and he ran from one figure to another about
the studio, pausing before each one to gaze at it fixedly and intently.
"The lips--always the lips--always your lips--the wonderful,
inscrutable lips that all France is forever raving about!"--the words
came in sharp, broken snatches.  "Never the face in its entirety, but
always the lips--and always with the lips some additional feature, the
forehead, or the poise, or the eyes--always you!"

At first she followed the man with her eyes in a sort of incredulous,
fearsome wonder; and then slowly, seemingly without volition of her
own, drawn to it as by a magnet, she turned to face and stare at the
figure of the "_Fille du Régiment_."  Was it true, could it be true
that it was she, her lips that Jean had made there in those lips of
clay?  Was that what that strange sense of familiarity had meant, and
which she had not understood?  No, no--Jean had forgotten, forgotten
long ago!  It was not true, it was not possible!  And yet--and yet they
_were_ her lips--her eyes would not lie to her.  And this then was what
had seemed to give a significance, that she could not explain at the
time, to those words of Jean's of a little while ago.  This man Paul
Valmain had said she was Jean's model before she went upstairs, and
then Jean had talked about the beacon.  "It is a beacon--and it is for
you, Marie-Louise, because it is you ... has it not those lips that I
could fashion even in the dark?" he had said.  She had not been able to
connect the two things then; but now--now she knew.  Jean's model--all
through those two years she had been Jean's model!  And yet how could
it be possible!  The very thought seemed to leave her abashed--it--it
seemed as though she were committing a sacrilege to let herself imagine
that she, who was only Marie-Louise Bernier, a fishergirl of
Bernay-sur-Mer, was the model for Jean's beautiful work that made all
the great people of France so proud to call him one of themselves!  It
was not strange that she had failed to understand what that sense of
familiarity in the clay faces had meant--she would never, never have
dared to think of such a thing by herself--and it would have been so
far away, that thought, that of itself it would never have come.  Why
was she suddenly so weak now, as though a wondrous joy, so great that
it overwhelmed her, was surging upon her--and why was that cold fear,
that seemed to tell the joy that it was trespassing where it had no
place, stirring within her?  What did this thing mean for her--that
those lips of clay were hers!  It brought so much, so many different
emotions, and each of them was so overpowering in itself, and they all
came crowding so upon her at once, that it seemed she must cry out in
her cruel bewilderment.

And then Paul Valmain was standing before her again.

"So!"--he flung out his arms.  "So--it is out at last, the secret!  He
has kept you well under cover, mademoiselle!"

The words came to her with a shock, rousing her from her thoughts.  He
did not understand.  He must not think that Jean knew; because that was
why she was there now--to tell him that Jean must not know.

"No!" she said quickly.  "No, no, monsieur!  And, oh, monsieur, you
must not let--let Jean know that I was here to-night.  It--it is some
mistake about--about the model, monsieur.  He has not seen me since he
has been in Paris, and--"

"What!" he broke in harshly.  "You deny that you have been coming here?"

"Only last night, monsieur," she said eagerly.  "Only last night for
the first time."

"It is well that you admit at least that!" he jeered, in a sort of
furious irony.  "I congratulate you, mademoiselle!  My profound
respects!  In a single visit then you have accomplished wonders, even
with so beautiful a face and figure!  You have made Jean Laparde famous
all over the world; and you have made me perhaps--a murderer!"

She stared at him wide-eyed.  What did he mean?

"But, monsieur--monsieur--I swear it to you!" she stammered.  "It was
only last night for the first time."

He laughed mirthlessly, and shrugged his shoulders.

"As you will, mademoiselle!  A night or a thousand spent with Monsieur
Laparde, it is all one to me!  It is your own affair!  But"--his voice
rose suddenly in uncontrollable passion--"but, _sacré nom de Dieu_,
there is something that is my affair!  That cloak!  That hat!  Where
did you get them?"  He was clutching with one hand at the garment,
pulling at it with vicious twitches to emphasise his words.

She drew back from him, the blood hot and burning in her cheeks.  A
night or a thousand with Jean!  He thought--he thought--_that_!  And he
talked of her hat and cloak!  What did they matter, what did anything
matter, except that--that shameful thought of his that stabbed at her,
and, with its sudden pain, brought a horrible giddiness and a horrible
ringing in her ears?

"Answer me!" he cried fiercely.  "Why are you wearing those things now?
Where did you get them?  Why were you masquerading last night in that
hat and cloak, that belong to Mademoiselle Bliss, when I saw you enter
here?"

"Mademoiselle Bliss!"--she could only repeat the words numbly.  "It is
her hat and coat?"  The room seemed to swim around her.  She put her
hands to her eyes.  A new terror was creeping upon her.  The hat and
cloak belonged to Mademoiselle Bliss!  Vaguely, dimly, understanding
began to come.  He had thought that she was Mademoiselle Bliss, and
because of that--no, no!  The _bon Dieu_ would not let her suffer that
too!  It was so terrible--everything was so terrible this night--there
could not be anything more, for it was already beyond what she could
bear.  She stretched out her hands to him imploringly.  "It--it is not
because you thought that I was Mademoiselle Bliss"--she was pleading
piteously for a denial--"that--that you--that it is because of me you
fought with Jean, and that Jean is--is--"

"Are you trying to play with me?" he rasped out savagely.  "What else
but that?  You were here all night last night.  Yes, I thought you were
Mademoiselle Bliss!  Yes, it was because of that I would have killed
Monsieur Laparde!  Is that plain enough, mademoiselle?  And now will
you answer me?  Where did you get those things, and for what hellish
reason were you wearing them?  Answer me, I tell you!"  He caught her,
and shook her violently.  "Answer me!" he fumed.

"Yes, answer him!" came a mocking voice suddenly from the archway of
the salon.

With a cry, Marie-Louise tore herself away--and, swaying, stared wildly
across the room.  It was mademoiselle!  It was Mademoiselle Bliss
standing there between the portières!

A low laugh rippled through the _atelier_--unmusically, because it held
a jarring, ominous note; and then Myrna Bliss was speaking again.

"Monsieur Vinailles told me that some girl here had made quite a _coup
de théâtre_," she said calmly--too calmly to be natural.  She fixed her
grey eyes, narrowed a little now, on Marie-Louise.  "I had no idea that
it was _you_.  How astounding!"  She swung toward Paul Valmain.  "Yes;
Monsieur Valmain, I have been listening behind the portières.  From the
hall door, when I entered the house with Monsieur Vinailles a few
moments ago, I caught sight of mademoiselle and yourself across the
salon, thanks to the half open portières; and--mademoiselle, there,
will perhaps understand this better than you--in spite of my anxiety
for Jean, I sent Monsieur Vinailles upstairs alone.  Do I make it
plain, Monsieur Valmain, that I overheard your last remarks?"

Marie-Louise glanced distractedly from one to the other.  Mademoiselle
Bliss was smiling--only it was a very strange smile.  Why was she
smiling like that?  And Monsieur Valmain's face was twitching again,
only it seemed that, where there had been anger before, there was now a
curious mingling of confusion and passionate eagerness.

"Then," he said, and took a step forward, "then--"

"Then," Myrna Bliss interrupted evenly, and came slowly across the
_atelier_, "then, of course, I understand everything, Monsieur Valmain.
And I suppose I should feel flattered that you should take it upon
yourself to avenge"--her voice was rising now, and the grey eyes were
flashing dangerously--"to avenge my honour!  How like a knight of old,
Monsieur Valmain!  How heroic!  I have heard that Monsieur Valmain is
one of the finest swordsmen in France; I have never heard that Monsieur
Laparde was an adept at the art, but that, indeed, he was almost
ignorant of it, and--"

"Mademoiselle!" he exclaimed hoarsely.  "Mademoiselle--Myrna!  You have
no right to say that!  It is not true!"  He drew himself up, clenching
his hands.  "By God, not even you shall say that to me, to Paul
Valmain!  I offered--no, I insisted that we should fight with pistols.
Laparde would not hear of it--they would make too much noise."

"Ah--a noise!" she said colourlessly.  "And what then, Monsieur
Valmain?  Have you any other excuse for what you have done?"

"You know why I did it, if you have been listening!" he cried out.
"You know why!  You know that it was because I loved you--that I love
you!  That my soul was in hell with what I believed to be true!"

It seemed to Marie-Louise that she was living through some terrible,
horrible dream.  She reached out behind her, groping for the modelling
platform, and sank down upon it.  Mademoiselle's laugh was echoing
through the room again, and there was something--something so menacing
in it that it made her shudder.

"Love!"--Myrna Bliss was quivering with passion, as she stepped
fiercely toward Paul Valmain.  "Love!  If I were a man, I would kill
you for that kind of love!  I would kill you!  You beast!  You dared to
think--to think that I had come here in the middle of the night alone,
to--to spend the night here!  You dared to think that of me!
That--that I was--"

"Myrna!  Mademoiselle!"--his hands went out to her.  His face was
ghastly white.  "Wait!  For God's sake--wait!  You do not understand!"
He whirled around and pointed to Marie-Louise.  "Look at her!  Look!
It is your cloak--your hat!  It was dark across the street.  She was
wearing your hat and cloak!"

"I heard you say all that before!" she retorted instantly.  "I do not
care what she was wearing!  I do not care what she looked like!  You
dared to think that it was me!  You dared to hold me as little better
than a woman of the streets!  You dared to do that--you despicable
hound!"  Her fingers were opening and shutting spasmodically.  "I hate
you!  I loathe you!  I would strangle you for it, if I were strong
enough!"

He shrank back from her, his lips working.

"You are merciless!" he said in a choked way.  "You--you do not
understand.  You--you do not understand what helped to make me--to--why
I came to be there last night.  It was the key of that door there, the
key of the door to the salon, the afternoon after the reception."

Myrna Bliss appeared to control herself with an effort.

"The key!"--there was well-simulated bewilderment in the quick, angry
exclamation.

"When we came in," he said hurriedly.  "Laparde, who was acting
strangely, had just unlocked the door, and he was still holding the key
in his hand without knowing it."

It was a moment before she spoke--while her eyes swept him scornfully
from head to foot.

"I wish Jean had killed you!"--her lips were just parted over her
clenched teeth.  "So--you have the temerity to add another insult to
the first!  That Jean and I were together in a locked room!  I remember
the key now.  And so Jean was acting strangely!  It was to be a little
surprise party for Jean--was it not?  Is it strange if he were
surprised then?  When he heard all of you coming, laughing and talking
and tramping up the stairs, he ran to the door to open it, and I
remember now that the key fell out of the lock and to the floor, and
that he picked it up.  How amazing that perhaps he held it in his hand,
Monsieur Valmain!  And do you imagine, Monsieur Valmain, that it was an
opportune time for me, who not only knew you were coming, but who had
arranged the affair, to indulge in the amours that your vilely fertile
mind--"

"Stop, mademoiselle!" he cried wildly.  "I was mad--mad with my love
for you.  I understand too well now!  I understood that I had made a
terrible mistake, _misérable_ that I am, when this girl, when it was
too late, came out of that dressing room there, when--when Laparde had
fallen.  I am a fool, a blind, senseless fool; but--but, mademoiselle,
it was my love--you will forgive, you--"

"Besides a fool, you are a coward!" she said pitilessly.  "But you do
not understand everything yet--and you shall have no further chance to
warp and twist things to suit your perverted fancy, Monsieur Valmain.
I think I could quite easily tell you where this girl, in whom you
imagine you have discovered Jean's model, obtained those clothes--and
if she will not tell you, I will.  And then you will leave here, and
you will take pains, Monsieur Valmain, that we do not meet again.  Do
you hear that?  I tell you again that I hate you, that I loathe you,
and that if I were a man I would know how to make you answer for it!"
She stepped quickly to Marie-Louise's side.  "Look up at me!" she
ordered curtly.  "This man says that hat and cloak are mine, and it is
true--they were mine.  Tell him where you got them!"

Marie-Louise did not move, except that she clasped her hands together a
little more tightly in her lap.  She could not tell; for suddenly she
thought of Father Anton, and a sense of loyalty to Father Anton
insisted that she should not tell.  If mademoiselle knew, as
mademoiselle said, that was another matter, and she could not change
that now; but to tell it herself--no, she could not do that, for that
was to admit that the good curé was in the secret of her presence in
Paris, and after that it would be known almost surely that he had
arranged with Hector and Madame Mi-mi for her to come there to the
_atelier_.

"Well?" prompted Myrna Bliss, sharply.

Marie-Louise shook her head.

Myrna Bliss stamped her foot angrily.

"Are you stupid enough to imagine that you are protecting Father Anton?
I promise you I shall have a word with that gentleman in the morning!
And since you could have got that hat and cloak nowhere else, tell
Monsieur Valmain that Father Anton gave them to you, and have done with
it!"

Marie-Louise looked up.  Mademoiselle had said it, and--and Father
Anton certainly would not deny it.

"Yes," she said under her breath.  "Father Anton gave them to me."

"Well, why didn't you say so at first?" snapped Myrna.  She turned
again furiously on Paul Valmain.  "You hear, Monsieur Valmain!  You are
well acquainted with Father Anton.  Go to him, if you have any doubts.
You have only to know now how Father Anton obtained them"--her words
were curling, biting, stinging like a whiplash in their bitter scorn.
"Well, listen!  I and a few of my friends have become _charitable_
since father established his fund.  It is contagious, Monsieur Valmain!
We, too, give bounteously to Father Anton for distribution amongst the
poor--we give our discarded garments!  I sent him that hat and cloak in
a bundle with some other things, a few days ago.  Is it quite plain,
Monsieur Valmain?  Are you satisfied?  Well, then"--she swung an
outstretched arm toward the door--"go!"

"But, mademoiselle--_pour l'amour de Dieu_!" he protested brokenly.
"Do you not see that I am in agony, in torment for what I have done,
that--"

"Go!" she raged--and stamped with her foot upon the floor again.

For a moment he stood lurching a little on his feet, as though he had
been struck a blow; and then, white-faced, he drew himself up and bowed
to her.

"As you will, mademoiselle!" he said in a low voice, and walked past
her toward the door.

Myrna Bliss turned to watch him--and halfway across the room halted him.

"Wait!"--she pointed to the rapiers lying on the floor.  "Take those
things with you!  And one word more, Monsieur Valmain!  I do not intend
to pose in Paris in the abandoned rôle you were so quick to cast me
for.  You perhaps understand that!  I do not propose that anything
shall be known of what has happened here to-night.  I shall see to it
that nothing is said by the others, but a word of this from you,
Monsieur Valmain, or from Monsieur LeFair, who Monsieur Vinailles tells
me was acting as your second, and--"

"Mademoiselle might have spared me that!" he said monotonously--and,
picking up the rapiers, walked on through the salon and out into the
hall.

In a sort of miserably fascinated way Marie-Louise had followed him
with her eyes.  She heard the outer door close behind him--and then
mechanically she rose to her feet, as Myrna Bliss came and stood before
her.

"So"--Myrna's voice was quivering, tense with passion--"so it remained
for Monsieur Valmain to discover the secret of the wonderful,
beautiful, entrancing model!  Monsieur Valmain is right, of course.  I
knew it at once, the moment I heard him say so.  I was not very clever,
I suppose, or I should have seen it for myself long ago; only--you
quite understand this of course--I had forgotten, utterly forgotten,
that you even existed!  But it seems that Jean could not live without
his little peasant; nor the little peasant without Jean!  It is
perfectly comprehensible now why there should have been such secrecy
about his model.  And so you have been living with Jean, have you, ever
since he came to Paris?  The naïve, innocent little _ingénue_ of
Bernay-sur-Mer!"

And then Marie-Louise lifted her head high again, and, while the hot
flushes came and swept her face, the great dark eyes held steadily on
the grey ones that were hard and cold like steel.  It was not
mademoiselle of the _grand monde_ before her any more; it was a woman
whose tongue was making a sacrilege of all that was holy and cherished
in her life, making a hideous mockery of her love that was so sacred
and pure to her, making it a foul thing, smirching it, defiling it--it
was not Mademoiselle Bliss of another world than hers whom she
approached with diffidence and awe; it was a woman taunting her with a
shame from which her soul recoiled, and there came surging upon her,
born of the primitive, elemental life that had been hers, the days upon
the oars, the nights of rugged battling with the storms, a fury that
was physical in its cry for expression.

"It is not true!  It is not true!" she panted--and, her hands clenched
tightly, raised as though to strike, she took a quick step forward.

Startled, Myrna Bliss involuntarily sprang back--but the next instant
she was laughing threateningly.

"You little spitfire!" she exclaimed angrily.  "And so it is not true!
Look at that statue behind you, look at any in this room, at any Jean
has ever done since he has been in Paris, and--oh, yes, I see it quite
plainly myself, now that I have been shown--it is you, you everywhere!
And you have the brazenness, the impudence to say that you have not
been living with Jean, that you have not been coming here at all hours
of the night for the last two years--as you have to-night--as you did
last night!  Bah, you pitiful little hypocrite, would any one believe
you?"

"Yes, they would believe me!" Marie-Louise cried passionately.  "And
_you_ will believe me!  I will make you believe me!  I will make you!
I will make you!  I--"  Her voice broke suddenly, and with a half sob
she dropped her hands to her sides.  Her fury had gone and in its place
had come only a desperate earnestness to make mademoiselle believe.
She had been thinking of herself alone--and there was Jean!  If
mademoiselle would not believe her, the shame would be Jean's too, and
the guilt that mademoiselle imagined would be Jean's guilt too.  And
even if she must tell all about Father Anton bringing her to Hector and
Madame Mi-mi, she must make mademoiselle believe.  "Mademoiselle"--she
was pleading now, her voice choking as she spoke--"mademoiselle,
see--listen!  You must--you must believe!  It is true, every word I
have said is true!  And it is true that I love Jean, and that that is
why I came, but--but Jean has never seen me since that day he left
Bernay-sur-Mer.  See, mademoiselle--listen!  It is only a few days
since I came to Paris--see, mademoiselle, even this hat and cloak
proves it.  I did not know that it was cold, that one needed such
things in Paris, and I had nothing except just the clothes I had worn
in Bernay-sur-Mer, and the night I came I went to Father Anton and he
gave the hat and cloak to me--but I did not know, mademoiselle, that
they had been yours.  I wanted to see Jean again, not to let him know
that I was here, but only to see him, only to see his work.  It was two
years, mademoiselle, two years--and Father Anton understood, only he
made me promise, mademoiselle, that I would not speak to Jean, that I
would not let Jean know that I was here.  Listen--listen,
mademoiselle!"  Marie-Louise's hands were raised again--but
entreatingly now.  "It was only to see Jean again, and see his work,
and then I was going away.  For nothing, for nothing in the world would
I let Jean know that I had come.  And so--and so, mademoiselle, so
Father Anton arranged with Hector that I should do the work about the
salon and the _atelier_, but very early in the mornings before Jean was
up; and then because I came so early Hector gave me the key--and last
night--oh, mademoiselle, mademoiselle, can you not understand?--I came
here, and--and I came again to-night.  See, mademoiselle--it is so easy
to believe!  You do believe!  Father Anton will tell you that it is all
true, and that I have been in Bernay-sur-Mer all this time.
Mademoiselle, mademoiselle--you do believe!"

Myrna Bliss was staring at Marie-Louise in startled amazement.

"You mean--you mean," she said, in a low, tense way; "you mean that
Jean knows nothing of this--that he does not know that you are even in
Paris, that he has not seen you since he left Bernay-sur-Mer?"

"But, yes; yes, yes, yes, mademoiselle, it is so, all that--it is so!"
Marie-Louise answered feverishly.  "And--and he must not know now,
mademoiselle--he must not know now."

And then Myrna Bliss smiled ironically.

"I will see to that!" she said grimly.  "You need have no fear on that
score, if what you say is true!"  She turned abruptly from
Marie-Louise, walked straight to the "_Fille du Régiment_," and gazed
at it for a moment.  Then, scarcely aloud: "'The womanhood of France,'
he had said ... 'The model in his heart.'"  And so Jean did not know!
Well, if that were so, she would take very good care that he never did
know!  It seemed incredible, but the girl's sincerity was not to be
denied.  She laughed out sharply, and wheeled back upon Marie-Louise.
"Well, and what now?" she said coldly; and then, thrusting quickly:
"Are you aware that I am to marry Monsieur Laparde?"

Marie-Louise's face blanched.

"Yes," she said faintly.

"And so"--the scathing tones were back in Myrna's voice--"and so you
were just playing with fire!  Well, are you satisfied with what you
have done?  If Jean Laparde lives it will be no thanks to you; if he
dies it will be you who--"

Marie-Louise put out her hands as though to ward off a blow.  She was
swaying upon her feet.

"Not that--not that, mademoiselle!"--she could scarcely force the words
to her lips.  "Do not say it, mademoiselle!  I know that it is
true--God in his infinite pity, have pity on me!--but do not say it!  I
will go away, mademoiselle--I will go away--for always.  I will wait
only to know that--that Jean is well, for the _bon Dieu_ will not let
him die--and then--and then I will go--and then I--"  A great sob shook
her frame, and covering her face with her hands she sank down again
upon the modelling platform.

She was conscious that Mademoiselle Bliss was standing there, that the
grey eyes were fixed upon her; and then that from the salon some one
called to mademoiselle--but she did not hear mademoiselle go, only when
she looked up again she was alone in the atelier.  And it was very kind
of mademoiselle to go so softly, and to say no more.

She rose slowly to her feet, and passed through the atelier, and
through the salon, and out into the hall, and to the stairs--and paused
there to listen with pitiful eagerness.  But there was no sound from
above--there was only the voice of her soul that kept whispering so
cruelly, "it is you ... it is you ... it is you ... it is not Paul
Valmain who has done this ... it is you ... it is you."

And there at the foot of the stairs she knelt down for a moment; then
rose, and crossed the hall slowly to the door, and opened it--and
walked blindly out.



-- VIII --

FLIGHT

Madame Garneau's hair straggled untidily about her head, her hands were
red, calloused, inclined indeed to be grimy, she had passed even that
poets'-consolation-prize age of forty, and she had no figure; but
Madame Garneau was possessed of a heart.  She pushed open the door of
Marie-Louise's room, and dangled in her hand a yellow paper bag that
was grease specked on the bottom.

"_Voilà_, my little lodger!" she cried gaily.  "I have this for you,
and you will never guess what it is; and, besides, I have something
else--a message for you from Father Anton.  Now which will you have
first?"

Marie-Louise, from her chair by the window, rose quickly to her feet,
with a little exclamation of pleased surprise.

Madame Garneau immediately pushed her back into the chair.

"But you are to remain quiet--eh, _ma petite_!"  She wagged her finger
severely in front of Marie-Louise's nose.  "Now sit still, or you shall
have neither one nor the other!"

"What nonsense!" laughed Marie-Louise, as she stood up once more.  "I
am quite well again--and I am even to go out this morning."

The paper bag banged belligerently on Madame Garneau's hip, as she
placed her arms akimbo.

"You are to go out!  And who said you are to go out?"

"But, who else--the doctor," Marie-Louise answered with a smile.

"Ah, the doctor!" sniffed Madame Garneau disdainfully.  "I have my
opinion of doctors!  In two or three days it will be time enough!"  She
wagged her forefinger again, and held up the bag.  "Eh, _bien_--can you
guess?"

"Never!" admitted Marie-Louise, shaking her head prettily.

"Cream-puffs!" announced Madame Garneau triumphantly.  It was perhaps
the most indigestible edible with which she could have outraged a diet
list, but in that quarter of Paris, where _sous_ were scarce,
cream-puffs were the delicacy _par excellence_, and therefore a
delicacy for all occasions, rare enough in any event, when they could
be obtained.  And besides, as Madame Garneau had said, she had her
opinion of doctors--Madame Garneau, even if unconsciously so, was
consistent!  "Cream-puffs, _ma petite_!  From the _patisserie_ around
the corner--I sent the gamin, who brought the message from Father
Anton, for them.  And now what do you say?"

Marie-Louise had neither heart nor appetite for cream-puffs, but she
must needs peek excitedly in through the top of the bag, and thank
Madame Garneau effusively, while she protested earnestly at the
extravagance.

"It is nothing!" declared Madame Garneau, her honest face flushed with
pleasure.  She placed the bag on the foot of the bed.  "It is
nothing--_ma foi_!  And now about Father Anton.  He was to have come
this afternoon, eh?"

"Yes," said Marie-Louise.

"Well, then," said Madame Garneau, "he is not coming."

"Not coming!"

"It is his poor!" Madame Garneau exclaimed tartly.  "Your Father Anton
has no sense!  I would teach him a lesson if I had anything to do with
him!  Fancy!  The idea!  And at his age!  He will kill himself!  The
gamin's mother was sick, and Father Anton must sit up the night, and
stay there all this day!  And it is not once, but all the time he does
that!  Bah, I have no patience with him!  His heart is too soft!  It is
well for his poor that I am not Father Anton!"  There was finality in
the shrug of Madame Garneau's shoulders.  She glanced at Marie-Louise,
and then her eyes fell upon the paper bag.  "Oh, I forgot to tell you!"
she said anxiously.  "There is a cream-puff gone from the
quarter-dozen.  I gave one to the gamin, he made such eyes at the bag."
She tucked in a refractory wisp of hair that was straying over her ear.
"Well, then, as I was saying, he is not coming this afternoon, but he
will come this evening; and he said you were not to worry at all,
because what he was talking to you about yesterday--whatever that
is!--is all arranged."

All arranged!  It came as a sudden shock.  Marie-Louise turned her head
quickly away, and, with her back to Madame Garneau, stood looking out
of the window.  All arranged!  Then what should she do--what should she
do?  She put her hands wearily to her eyes.

"_Mais, là, là_!" soothed Madame Garneau.  "You must not be
disappointed.  It is only for a few hours.  He will come this evening."

Marie-Louise forced a laugh.

"But I am not disappointed," she answered.  "I do not mind at all."
She was still staring down into the street.  If Madame Garneau would
only go so that she could think what to do, and--no!  She knew what she
must do, she had thought it all out before; it was only that the moment
when she must act upon her decision was thrust so suddenly upon her.
"Oh, Madame Garneau, I was almost forgetting!" she cried--and, turning
from the window, ran to the dilapidated and wobbly bureau, pulled open
a drawer, and took out her purse.  "It is a week since I have paid for
my room--a week to-day, isn't it?"

Madame Garneau promptly retreated toward the door.

"_Mais, non_!  _Mais, non_!" she protested.  "When one is sick, one
does not earn the _sous_!  Next week, the week after, when you are at
work again, you shall--"

Marie-Louise laughingly caught Madame Garneau's hand, and began to
count the franc pieces into it; while Madame Garneau, still protesting,
kept up her retreat for the door.

"There!"--Marie-Louise triumphantly closed the other's fingers over the
money.

"But, no!" Madame Garneau expostulated vigorously.  "But I will not
hear of it!  What do you imagine!  I--"

And then Marie-Louise pushed the other playfully through the door, and
closed the door, and placed her back against it, and laughed as she
heard Madame Garneau grumbling outside and finally go grumbling
away--but the laugh was all for Madame Garneau.  When she could no
longer hear Madame Garneau, she clasped her hands tightly to her bosom,
and caught her breath.  That was done!  She had both paid and got
Madame Garneau from the room.

She stood still by the door, her shoulders drooped; her hands dropped
to her sides, and her fingers began to pluck nervously at the folds of
her dress, as she stared unseeingly before her.  Father Anton had it
all arranged--the words brought so much, meant so much, and seemed to
embody in themselves all that had happened in the week that had passed
since the night when Jean and Monsieur Valmain had fought in the
studio.  She had wandered blindly and like one dazed all the rest of
that night through the streets of Paris; and it must only have been the
_bon Dieu_ who had led her at last to where, lying unconscious on the
floor outside the door of his room, Father Anton had found her in the
morning.  And then--how good they had all been to her!--Father Anton,
and Madame Garneau, and Doctor Maurier, the grey-haired, kindly doctor
who had been with Jean that night, and who would take not a _sou_ for
his visits to her, but only fill the room with sunshine through his
good news of Jean.

She remembered that she had asked Father Anton for Jean's doctor
because then she would always have word of Jean--and she remembered
Father Anton's dismay at the request.  "But, Marie-Louise," Father
Anton had said anxiously, "you do not know what you are asking!  He is
the most famous man in Paris, and--"  "And he will come," she had told
Father Anton.  And she had been right, for Doctor Maurier had come; and
so each day she had had news of Jean, and now Jean was so well that he
was walking about the studio again.

But most of all how good Father Anton had been!  She had told him
all--everything--and he had not been angry with her; though she knew,
from little things he had said inadvertently, that Mademoiselle Bliss
had been very angry with him.  Dear old Father Anton!  He had tried to
take all the blame upon himself, because he said he had been
deceitful--though she could not understand that, no matter how hard he
tried to make her believe it, for he had only helped her to see Jean
and to be near Jean, and that was what she herself had pleaded with him
to do.

And then, as she had grown stronger and had begun to talk of going
away, Father Anton had agreed with her, but he had insisted that she
should go back to Bernay-sur-Mer.  And he had become so earnest and
determined that it must be Bernay-sur-Mer, and because she knew that it
was his love for her that made him so anxious about her future, she
could not bring herself to tell him what she really meant to do, what,
in the long hours through the nights as she had lain awake, she had
made up her mind to do--to go somewhere, she did not know where, but
somewhere far away where there would be nothing to remind her of
Jean--not that she could forget, no matter where she went, but that
scenes and associations, as they had done in the past two years, might
not again prove too strong for her.  And so, rather than pain Father
Anton by an absolute refusal, or the admission that even he was to go
out of her life, she had told him only that she did not want to go back
to Bernay-sur-Mer, that her house was sold, and that every one there
would think it very strange that she had gone away like that only to
return again so soon.

But he was not to be shaken in his determination.  "Ah, even if that
were true," Father Anton had said to her only yesterday, "nevertheless,
my little Marie-Louise, it is the thing you must do.  I cannot let you
do anything else; and in a little while--who knows!--you will be very
happy there again.  But it is not true, for there is a way that I have
been thinking about as I came here.  As for the house, it is as well
that it is sold; you have the money, and besides it is much better that
you should not live there alone--you will live for a while with those
honest Fregeaus, who will be overjoyed.  And as for the rest--see,
Marie-Louise, this is what we will do!  I will speak to Monsieur Bliss
and tell him that I wish to go back for a little visit, and we will go
together--and the good people of Bernay-sur-Mer will not think it
strange at all then, for I will tell them that you have been with me
here in Paris, and that it is I who have persuaded you that it is best
for you to go back and live in Bernay-sur-Mer.  _Tiens_, could anything
be better?  And I will speak to Monsieur Bliss at once."

She knew quite well what was in Father Anton's mind.  If she were in
Bernay-sur-Mer he would feel that she was quite safe, that no harm
could come to her; and he had mentioned, so innocently as he believed,
Amidé Dubois once or twice, and he was perhaps imagining that some day
she would marry there.  But he did not understand!  She shook her head
slowly; and then, suddenly rousing herself, she walked across the room
to the little bureau, and took out her things, and laid them upon the
bed, and began to make them up into a little bundle--the same bundle
she had carried with her from Bernay-sur-Mer.  He did not understand!

It was all arranged!  Father Anton had seen Monsieur Bliss then--and
perhaps it would be to-morrow, or maybe even to-night that Father Anton
would want her to go with him.  But she could not go back to
Bernay-sur-Mer!  For nothing in the world would she go back there!  If
there were no other reasons, there was one that alone made it
impossible--some day Jean might return there himself for a visit.  And
she must go somewhere where there was no possibility that she and Jean
should ever see each other--and she must go now while she had the
chance.  There was nothing to keep her any longer; she was quite well
and strong again, and she knew that Jean was getting well, and--and she
had seen Jean and his work, and she could picture his splendid life
stretching out before him in which even his marriage with Mademoiselle
Bliss, who was very rich and of the _grand monde_, would help to make
him even greater, and--and so there remained nothing more to hold her
there.  It was very wonderful that it should be her lips that Jean had
fashioned--unconsciously, as Father Anton said--into his clay.  It was
very wonderful!  It was something that the _bon Dieu_ had given her to
make her glad; to make the sadness and remorse for the tragedy she had
brought about less terrible; to make her know that, after all, her
share in Jean's career had not just ended with that day, so long ago in
Bernay-sur-Mer, when she had given him to France.

She tied the bundle neatly.  She was ready to go now, and she picked it
up, took a step toward the door--and, holding the bundle in her hand,
paused hesitantly.  She could not go like that--Father Anton would be
in a state of frenzy over her.  She--she could write him a little note.
Yes; she would do that.  She set the bundle down, and hurriedly untied
it.  She remembered that when she had written down Father Anton's
address before leaving Bernay-sur-Mer she had put the pencil in the
pocket of her apron.  Yes; here it was, but--she looked around her in
sudden anxiety--there was nothing, no paper to write on.  Her eyes
rested upon the bed.  Madame Garneau's cream-puffs!  She picked up the
bag, tore a piece from it, and, taking it to the window sill, wrote a
few hurried sentences.  It was just to say that she could never go to
Bernay-sur-Mer; just to say that she was going away, very far away
somewhere, and that he must not be sad about her, or try to find her
for she did not know where she was going herself; just to say that she
loved him, and that he had been so good, so very, very good to her, and
that she would pray always to the _bon Dieu_ for him.

There was a mist in her eyes as she folded the yellow, grease-spotted
paper--she could buy an envelope and a stamp and mail it to Father
Anton.  She took up her bundle again, and went to the door; and, making
sure that Madame Garneau was not in sight, hurried out of the house to
the street.  Here, she ran until she had turned the first corner and
could no longer be seen from the house, then walked quietly along.

Blocks away, she stepped into a little store.

"Monsieur," she said to the man who served her with her envelope and
stamp, "monsieur, will you be kind enough to tell me the way to the
railway station?"

"To which one, mademoiselle?" he inquired politely.  "The _Gare de
l'Est, the Gare du Nord, the Gare St. Lazare_, the--"

She had not thought that there might be more than one, but one would
take her away equally as well as another--it made no difference.  Only
he would think it very strange that she did not know which one she
wanted.

"The _Gare St. Lazare_, if you please, monsieur," she ventured
quickly--and thanked him when he had told her, and went out on the
street again.



--IX--

MYRNA'S STRATEGY

"Two months--three months in America!  And to be married there!"
ejaculated Henry Bliss, as he stared at his daughter in utter
bewilderment.

Myrna, from the depths of her father's favourite lounging chair, which
she had appropriated on entering the library after dinner that evening,
nodded her head in a quite matter-of-fact way.

"Isn't this rather--rather sudden?" inquired Henry Bliss, mustering a
facetious irony to his rescue.

"Oh, no!" said Myrna demurely.  "I decided upon it almost a week ago."

"Oh, you did!"--a wry smile flickered on her father's lips.  "A week
ago, eh?  And what does Jean say?"

"Jean doesn't say anything," replied Myrna complacently.  "He doesn't
know anything about it--it wasn't necessary until the time came.  I
haven't said anything to any one--until now."

"Well, upon my soul!" exclaimed her father.  "You are beginning early
with your future husband, Myrna!  So then, we are both to be twisted
around your finger--eh?  I shall have to speak to Jean--warn him.  For
myself, of course, it's quite hopeless, I've given it up years ago; but
as for Jean, that's quite another matter--it's all in starting right,
with a firm hand, you know!"  His eyes twinkled.  "I'll have a little
confidential talk with Jean."

"Don't be ridiculous, father!" she laughed.  She rose from her chair.
"Well, that's settled; and now I--"

"Eh--what?  Settled!  Nothing is settled!  What's settled?" he
spluttered anxiously.

"That we are going to America, of course," said Myrna sweetly.  "You,
and Jean, and I."

"Now, see here, Myrna," protested her father, with what he meant for
severity, "a trip to America is all very well, but it isn't the sort of
thing one decides on the spur of the moment."

"Of course it isn't!"--Myrna's eyebrows went up archly.  "Didn't I tell
you that I have been arranging it for a whole week?  I was only waiting
for cable replies to some of my letters before speaking to you, and--"

"And of course as you have not overlooked minor details, I suppose we
sail sometime next week!" her father interrupted with mild sarcasm.

"No," said Myrna placidly.  "From Havre, the day after to-morrow, by
the _Lorraine_."

Henry Bliss sat down weakly in a chair.  He removed his cigar from his
lips, and made one or two helpless passes with it in the air.

"Impossible!" he finally exploded.  "Absolutely impossible!  Utterly
out of the question!"

"I don't see why," observed Myrna, quite undisturbed.

"You don't see why?  No, of course, you don't see why"--Henry Bliss was
still waving his cigar.  "Well, I can't run away at a moment's notice,
can I?  Good heavens!  The day after to-morrow!  There's a thousand and
one affairs that would have to be attended to before I could even think
of it!"

"Which, of course, isn't true at all"--Myrna's laugh rippled merrily
through the room.  "There are perhaps a dozen social engagements, and
two or three other affairs for which you will have to send 'regrets,'
and"--she perched herself cosily on the arm of her father's chair--"and
your secretary will do that for you.  In fact, I told him he was to do
it to-morrow morning."

"You--_what_?  Well, I'll be damned!" gasped Henry Bliss.

"Father!"

"Well, it was excusable!" muttered Henry Bliss.  "I--I am half inclined
to repeat it."

Myrna's arm slipped around her father's neck.  He was quite manageable,
of course--but still he had to be managed.  For, if what had come
within so narrow a margin of being a tragedy with a fatal ending had
forced her hand and forced the inevitable, as it were, upon her, she
could at least see to it that the adjustment of the new order of things
was of her own arranging.  It was inevitable that she would marry Jean,
she had decided that long ago; it was only the "day" itself which,
until all this had introduced a new factor into her plans, had been at
all vague in her mind.  But with Paul Valmain eliminated, and her
quarrel with Jean made up as he had lain there dangerously hurt that
night of the duel, everything had taken on a totally different aspect.
Perhaps she had yielded a little weakly under sick-bed influences, but
however that might be, she was now Jean's fiancée, though it was not
publicly announced; as, coming upon the heels of Jean's mysterious
accident and Paul Valmain's sudden departure from Paris, it would to a
certainty have caused talk and gossip, which for very good reasons she
was most anxious to avoid; for, a wheel within a wheel, if talk went
too far the truth might come out, and the truth at all hazards was the
one thing that Jean must not know.  This was one reason why, almost
from the moment that she had grasped the situation that night in Jean's
studio, she had determined to get Jean away from Paris the instant he
was able to go.  But there was a still stronger and more potent reason.
The marriage of Jean Laparde, the world-famous sculptor, and Myrna
Bliss, heiress to millions, a society leader in both Paris and New
York, was not an affair to be consummated in a moment, nor to have its
preparations go unmarked.  It would be the most brilliant function that
society had ever known on either side of the water--to that she had
quite definitely made up her mind!  But all that would take time; and
meanwhile, more to be feared than any talk, was the possibility of Jean
seeing Marie-Louise--and the possibility, or rather, perhaps, the
opportunity that would be afforded to Marie-Louise herself, whom she,
Myrna, was by no means inclined to trust!  She was quite convinced that
Jean had not seen the girl since he had left Bernay-sur-Mer, that to a
certain extent the girl had told the truth, but that made it all the
more imperative that he should not see her now; for if, though
unconsciously so, Marie-Louise was so intimate a part of his life that
the girl took form constantly in his work, it would be, to put it
mildly, just as well if they did not meet--until after Jean was
married.  After that--well, after that, she was quite capable of
looking after a _husband_!  In the meantime she would take good care
that the possibility of such a contretemps was entirely obviated by
going to America, spending the few months necessary for the marriage
preparations there, months in which Jean would be the recipient of even
greater honours than Paris had accorded him, be married, and--well,
that was all!  It was very simple!  What this impertinent little
peasant girl had attempted once, even if Father Anton did intend to
take her back to Bernay-sur-Mer, she was quite capable of attempting
again--if she had the chance!

Myrna nestled her arm snugly around her father's neck, and held up two
daintily extended fingers before his eyes.

"Now, listen, father," she said, puckering up her forehead prettily.
"Now I am going to be very serious.  There are two very good reasons
why we will go.  First, now that Jean is able to be up again, a sea
trip is the one thing above all others that he needs.  Doctor Maurier
prescribes it."

"Insists on it, I suppose!" observed Henry Bliss dryly.

"He will," said Myrna, laughing, "if I ask him to."

"H'm!" commented Henry Bliss, the wrinkles around his eyes beginning to
nest into a smile.  "Well--and the other reason?"

"The other one," said Myrna, and laid her head down against her
father's cheek; "the other one is--I must whisper it--now, listen--is
because I've set my heart on it, and I want to go."

"Which settles it!" groaned Henry Bliss, with mock lugubriousness.
"Well"--he got up from his chair, and brushed vigorously at the cigar
ash which, incident to Myrna's embrace, bedecked his waistcoat--"well,
I'll see what Jean says about it."

"Why, of course!" agreed Myrna innocently.  "It all depends upon Jean.
We'll leave it that way, father."

Henry Bliss looked at her, gasped once--and grinned in spite of himself.

"There isn't any other trifling matter you'd like to call my attention
to this evening, is there?" he hazarded, pinching his daughter's cheek
playfully.  "Because, if there is, I'm--"  He paused, as a footman
coughed discreetly from the doorway.  "Well?" he demanded.

"It is Monsieur le Curé, Monsieur Bliss," said the man.

"Show him in," instructed Henry Bliss--and, as the man retired, glanced
quickly at his daughter.  "I hope, Myrna, that--"

"That we've made up our differences!" she supplied, with sudden
impatience.  "That I quite understand that the gentle old soul in an
endeavour to set the world right meant well, and was actuated by the
loftiest of motives!  Oh, yes, I think Father Anton and I understand
each other perfectly, and--"

"Monsieur le Curé!" announced the footman.

Myrna calmly turned her back--but only to whirl suddenly around again,
as, with a sharp exclamation, her father stepped quickly toward the
door.

"Good heavens, my dear man, what is the matter with you?" Henry Bliss
cried out in consternation.

Father Anton's white hair was unbrushed; he was unshaved; and his face
already haggard, his eyes already deep-set and blue-circled from his
twenty-four hours of bedside vigil, now bore added and unmistakable
signs of violent mental agitation and distraction.  His hand, that held
a piece of torn yellow paper, trembled as though with the ague.

"Ah, Monsieur Bliss--ah, _pardon_, mademoiselle!" he stammered, and
attempted a bow.  "I--I have run very fast--and--I--I--"

"Is anything the matter?" inquired Myrna coolly, joining the two at the
door.

Father Anton looked at her piteously.

"She is gone!" he said, his lips quivering.

"Gone!" repeated Henry Bliss bewilderedly.  "Who is gone?"

"Our charming little Marie-Louise of Bernay-sur-Mer, of course!  Who
else?"--Myrna laughed sharply.  "Well, _mon cher_ Monsieur le Curé,
will you tell us how it happened?  I had an idea you were very shortly
to return with her to Bernay-sur-Mer.  It seems I was mistaken!"

"But I do not know how it happened!"--Father Anton shook his head
distractedly.  "I was away last night and to-day.  This evening when I
returned to my rooms I found this letter from her"--he stared at the
torn yellow paper in his hand, and the tears began to well into his
eyes.  "She said that she was going away--that she could not go back to
Bernay-sur-Mer--that I was not to look for her--that she did not know
where she was going herself.  I waited for nothing.  I ran at once to
Madame Garneau's.  Madame Garneau had seen nothing of Marie-Louise
since this morning.  We looked in Marie-Louise's room.  Her clothes
were gone.  And then--and then I ran here to get help to find her."

"And so," said Myrna icily, "are we never to hear the last of her?  The
trouble in the first place is of your own making, Father Anton--it is
unfortunate that others have to suffer for it!  Well, what does it
mean?  She did not want to go back to Bernay-sur-Mer--she has run away
from you--from everybody that could keep track of her.  Why?  That she
can go to Jean again without being found out?"  She shrugged her
shoulders.  "However, under the circumstances, if that is so, it will
do her little good, since Jean himself is going away to--"

"No, no!" Father Anton cried out brokenly.  "You do not know
Marie-Louise!  You do not know Marie-Louise to say that!  She, more
than any one else, would not let Jean know.  It is because her heart is
broken that she has gone.  And it is true, I am to blame."  The tears
were running down his cheeks; he held out his hands to them
imploringly.  "She is not well--she is only just recovered from her
illness, my little Marie-Louise, and--and--" the words died away in a
sort of frightened sob, at a quick, warning touch upon his arm from
Myrna.

Steps came running across the hall--and the next moment Jean himself
was standing in the doorway.

"_Tiens_!" he cried out gaily.  "It is the first time I have left the
studio.  I would not let the man announce me.  _Me voici_!  Here I am!
It is a surprise--eh?  But--eh!--what is the matter?"  He stared at the
three--at Henry Bliss, who was evidencing palpable confusion; at Myrna,
who seemed suddenly to have lost her colour; at Father Anton, who had
tears trickling down his face, and acted as though he were gazing at a
ghost.

"It--it is Jean!" faltered Father Anton nervously, the letter
fluttering from his hand to the floor.

"But, yes, of course, it is Jean!  Who else?"  Jean laughed--and
stepped forward mechanically to pick up the paper.  "Permit me.  I--"

A dainty satin-slippered toe was covering the letter.  Myrna was
smiling reprovingly.

"It is quite time enough for you to be gallant, Jean, when you can do
so without the danger of reopening your wound!" she said sweetly.
"Have you not been told often enough that you are not to stoop down
like that?  Father Anton is much better able than you to pick it up!"

"Yes, yes," said Father Anton hurriedly, reaching for the paper and
tucking it into the breast of his _soutane_.  "Yes, you--you must be
careful of yourself, Jean."

"Nonsense!" declared Jean.  "I am perfectly recovered!"  He stared at
the three in turn again for a moment.  "But--but perhaps I am
intruding--_de trop_?"

"Not at all!" Myrna answered composedly.  "It is a matter that concerns
only father and Monsieur le Curé; and they"--she glanced brightly at
her father--"I am sure, will be only too glad to get away to father's
den where they can discuss it by themselves."

"Yes--er--yes, of course," coughed Henry Bliss.  "It's--er--good to see
you out again, Jean, my boy."  Then jocularly, in an attempt to
disguise his self-consciousness: "Come along, Father Anton"--he caught
the other's arm, and led the curé out of the room--"there are perhaps
others who prefer to be by themselves."

A slightly puzzled expression on his face, Jean watched them out of
sight across the hall; then turned inquiringly to Myrna.

Myrna's shoulders lifted daintily.

"If it isn't one thing, it's another," she said, as though the subject
bored her.  "There has always been something or other ever since father
started that fund of his; and the curé trots to father with everything.
This time, it seems that one of Father Anton's protégées has run away
from him; and, as you saw, the curé is beside himself."  Again the
shoulders lifted "But you, Jean"--infusing a sudden note of perturbed
anxiety into her voice--"are you sure you were wise in coming out
to-night?  What brought you?"

And then Jean threw back his head, and laughed, and closed the
door--and caught her in his arms.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he cried, holding her close to him, and trying to kiss
the suddenly averted face.  "Do you ask what brought me?  Well, then, I
will tell you!  Did you not say that you would come this afternoon, and
did you not promise that we would settle about our marriage?  And you
did not come, and all the afternoon I was waiting, and now"--his face
fell a little, as she slipped away from him--"and now that I am here
you run away from me."

"You are too impulsive, Jean!  You are destruction on gowns!" she
laughed, and backed merrily away from him to sink down gracefully in a
chair.

"Gowns!" he echoed, a sudden flush of anger coming to his cheeks, as he
followed her.  "What does it matter, a gown, when--"

"Now, don't be cross!" she commanded teasingly; and, gaily regal,
extended her hand.  "See, here is my hand to kiss."

He hesitated; and then, as, a little sullenly, he bent and touched her
fingers with his lips, she laughed again.  She loved to excite and
watch moods in Jean--as now for instance, when the tall, strong figure
was drawn up haughtily, and the emotions, that he would never learn to
hide, were so apparent in his face, as he bit his lips and pulled at
his short, pointed beard.  Jean was as readable as a book at all times,
and always would be--which was not a bad trait for a husband to
possess!  And this was Jean Laparde, the man of genius, unquestionably
at that moment the most famous man in France!  She smiled at him
through half veiled eyes.  To be Madame Laparde!  Socially, it meant an
incomparable triumph; intimately, it meant--well, at least, it was
obvious enough that the marriage need hold no terror of tyranny in
store for her!  Jean, for all his greatness, and save for his
occasional passionate outbursts, was as plastic as his own clay.  Her
eyelids lifted, and in the grey eyes was laughter.

"Well, and why the brown study?  What are you thinking about?" she
demanded pertly.

"I was thinking of Paul Valmain," he answered abruptly.

"Paul Valmain!" she repeated--and sat suddenly upright in her chair.

"Yes," said Jean, a little bitterly.  "That he would have small reason
to be jealous, even now that we are engaged."

"Don't be absurd!" she retorted sharply.

Jean shrugged his shoulders.

"And speaking of Paul Valmain," he went on, a menacing note creeping
into his tones, "I have been talking to Hector again this afternoon
about that night--the night that Valmain said he saw you enter the
house."

She looked at him quickly.  Surely, after what she had said to Hector,
Hector had not dared to speak of the girl to whom he had
given--reprehensibly, she had taken pains to make Hector understand--a
key to Jean's studio.  She believed she had frightened Hector and
Madame Mi-mi too thoroughly for that, and yet--if he had!

"Well?"--serenely, as her eyebrows went up.

"Nothing!  He knows nothing!  He heard nothing!" Jean flung out
impatiently.  "But Hector is a fool, and Valmain said he saw you go in."

"Well, was I there?" she inquired frigidly.

"No, you were not there--naturally!" he asserted with wrathful
finality.  "But--I have been thinking--if it were some one else!"

"Ah!"  Myrna's smile was cold, as she rose with a curiously ominous air
from her chair.  "Ah!  Some one else!  Well, since you bring up the
subject again, do you imagine I am so stupid that such a possibility
has not also occurred to _me_?  Your conscience seems to trouble you,
Monsieur Jean!  If there was some one else--a woman in your rooms from
two o'clock at night until daylight--you should know better who it was,
I imagine, than either Hector or Madame Mi-mi!  And since I am your
fiancée, Monsieur Jean--perhaps you will explain!"

"But, _sacre nom d'un diable_!" Jean shouted in angry amazement.  "I
know of no woman!"

"If there was a woman there it is inconceivable that you should not
know it"--Myrna's voice was monotonous, relentless.

"But, I tell you--_no_!"--Jean's hands went up in the air, as he raged
in exasperation.  "Do you understand, that I tell you--no?  It is not
so!  There was no woman there!"

"Well, then?"--still monotonously.

"Well, then?" Jean stormed furiously, clenching his fists, "it can be
nothing but that cursed Valmain and his damned jealousy!  It can be
nothing but a lie, all of it, that he has made up!  It is all a lie
then--nothing but a lie!  And so I am not through with him!  He will
answer for it!  I am not through with him!  It will not be with swords
this time--we will fight with pistols, and I will kill him!  He thinks
he has no longer any reason to hide and stay away--but, _nom de Dieu_,
he will see!  I promise you that!  Vinailles told me that Valmain would
be back the day after to-morrow, and"--he laughed out harshly--"the day
after to-morrow--"

"You are going to America," said Myrna calmly.

Jean's clenched fist, raised, remained motionless in mid-air.  He
stared at her open-mouthed.

"To--to America!" he gasped.

"To be married there," supplemented Myrna composedly.

"To be married there!"--he repeated the words in his bewilderment like
a parrot.

"And to receive an ovation, to be accorded a triumph such as you have
never dreamed of."  Her laugh trilled out deliciously.  "You will see
how they do things in America!"

He was still staring at her in dumfounded amazement.

"To America--to be married--a triumph!" he mumbled dazedly.  "But--but
who--"

"I did," said Myrna, laughing at him again.  "Did you not remind me
that I had promised to tell you about our marriage to-day?  Well, we
are to be married in America.  Are you not delighted?"

"But--but, yes!  _Mon Dieu_!  But--but, yes!" stammered Jean helplessly.

"Well, then," said Myrna, puckering up her brows in prettily affected
deliberation, "I think, Monsieur Jean, you may kiss me--once."



-- X --

THROUGH THE FOG

With an angry tightening of his lips, as he caught sight of Myrna still
the centre of the same masculine _entourage_, Jean turned from the
window where he had paused for an instant to glance into the ship's
main saloon, transformed for the moment into a ballroom, and resumed
his moody pacing up and down the deck.  He pulled his ulster more
closely about him, for the night was cold, lighted a cigarette and
puffed at it irritably, as he was forced to acknowledge the, for the
most part effusive, salutes that his fellow passengers went out of
their way to accord him, as in couples and groups they constantly came
and went between the saloon and the deck.  Then, after another turn or
two, he tossed away his cigarette with a vicious jerk, sought out the
most secluded portion of the deck--a recess near the ship's
funnels--and, appropriating a steamer chair, flung himself into it.

He had barely ensconced himself there, however, when, with a muttered
oath, he sat angrily upright in the chair again.  Was there no place on
the cursed ship where he could be alone for five minutes with his own
thoughts?  He had left the dance after a heated, if short, altercation
with Myrna, been annoyed by the advances of those on deck, and now two
women had elected to halt within earshot of him around the corner to
_discuss_ him!

"Well," murmured a voice sweetly, "have you met the famous Monsieur
Laparde yet?"

"No"--eagerly.  "Have you?"

"No--not exactly, my dear"--patronisingly.  "But I'll promise to
introduce you in the morning."

"Oh, _will_ you?  How perfectly gorgeous!  You _are_ a dear!  But how
have you managed it?  Tell me all about it!  I'm simply dying to know
how you succeeded!"

"It wasn't at all difficult"--in naïve self-disparagement.  "I met Mr.
Bliss.  He's simply charming, and so unaffected!  He is going to tell
me all about the art schools in Paris--of course, I'm terribly
interested!  There are three in their party, you know--Mr. Bliss and
his daughter, and Monsieur Laparde."

"Do you think she's pretty?  I don't see what all the men are raving
about!  And did you notice her dress to-night--those black velvet
shoulder straps are actually startling!"

"Yes--_aren't_ they?  I've heard so many remarks about them!  But I
suppose she is pretty--in a way.  It's being whispered around that she
is going to marry Monsieur Laparde.  I wonder if it's true?"

"Huh!"--with a sniff.  "Well, if it is true, Monsieur Laparde does not
do what I would do if I were a man in his place.  It's simply
outrageous the way she carries on, if she's engaged.  I wouldn't stand
it for a moment!  She must have the wool pretty thoroughly pulled over
his eyes, if he imagines she is in love with him!"

"In love with his name, my dear"--in cooing amendment.  "I don't
suppose she _does_ care for anything else.  She doesn't appeal to me as
that kind of a woman.  I'm sure I think just as you do about her.  I
wouldn't care to trust her very far from what I've seen of her--she's
the sort that always strikes me as being capable of saying _anything_
behind one's back!  She flirts mercilessly!"

"Yes; and fancy a man like Monsieur Laparde permitting himself to be
made ridiculous!  Did you notice this morning, when everybody wanted to
walk, that the deck was utterly impassable with her court spreading
their chairs two or three deep all around her?  Of course, one can't
_say_ anything!  And all the time she had Monsieur Laparde trotting
back and forth like an overgrown errand boy, carrying books and wraps
and--"

"No, my dear, you are quite wrong there.  She couldn't make a man like
Monsieur Laparde ridiculous--she could only make one feel sorry for
him."

"Well, anyway, it's quite evident that she--oh, isn't that Lord Mornely
just going inside?  Gracious, I had no idea I was getting so cold!  Do
come!  I'm nearly perished!  We'll catch our deaths out here!"

The arms of the steamer chair creaked as Jean's hands clenched upon
them.  His face was crimson with passion.  What right had these cursed
and _banale_ women to meddle in his affairs, and to discuss him?  His
hands gripped harder on the chair and it creaked again.  So, then, this
was the talk and gossip of the ship--and everybody knew it!  If it were
idle talk he could have laughed at it, and gone and bowed before them
sardonically, and taken his revenge in their confusion; but it was
true, and it only made his fury the greater.  They had but voiced his
own thoughts of five minutes ago, and his thoughts of yesterday, and of
the day before, and of the days before that, since almost from the
moment indeed that Myrna had promised to be his wife--the moment that
once, like a poor, deluded fool, he had thought would be counted the
greatest in his life!  A hundred little things during his convalescence
had been like signposts of bitter disappointment.  She cared nothing
for Jean Laparde the man; she was marrying Jean Laparde the
sculptor-genius, whose name was on every tongue!  She did not know the
meaning of love!  She loved only what his name might bring her.  There
was no tenderness, no intimacy.  She _put up_ with him--_sacré
nom_!--that was all!  He had refused to believe it in those few days in
Paris.  He had shut his eyes to it then.  He could not shut his eyes to
it here on board ship--where everybody's eyes, even those damned cats'!
were open.  And now she seemed to assume that, since he was her
property, her possession, and that the whole matter, as far as it
concerned her, was quite and entirely settled to her satisfaction, she
could devote herself to a new affair every half-hour, while he, he,
Jean Laparde, the great Laparde, looked on--and grinned!

He rose savagely from his chair, and, turning up the collar of his
ulster and pulling his cap far down over his eyes, went along to the
extreme end of the deck.  Here, unprotected by the canvas
weather-cloths such as those along the ship's side that closed in the
promenade, sheltering the passengers from the damp, driving mist of a
North Atlantic fog, it was wet and uninviting enough to guarantee him
immunity from any intrusion.  Below him, as he looked over the rail,
the steerage deck, dim, dismal, forbidding, was deserted save for a few
people, who, probably choosing the lesser of two evils, braving the
night in preference to sharing the fetid atmosphere below with many
hundred others, were huddled about in miserable discomfort.  He stared
at this sight for a moment; then turned around, and leaned with his
back against the rail to face the gay, brilliantly-lighted scene far
down at the other end of the promenade deck.  He watched this
sullenly--the extravagantly gowned women and their escorts coming and
going like hiving bees from the deck to the saloon ... clustering
around the entrance ... retailing the ship's gossip ... a breath of air
... a cigarette ... and back to the dance again.  Who cared what the
night was like?  Who cared if, far up above on the mighty liner's
bridge, oil-skinned figures peered out anxiously into the night?  Who
cared or thought of those huddled forms on the steerage deck?  Who
cared--the sea was smooth, and one could dance?

Jean dug his hands deep down into his pockets and closed them fiercely.
The long, hoarse-throated cry of the fog siren boomed out and vibrated
through the ship--and died away; and, sharp in contrast, came again the
calm, steady pulse and throb of the engines, and laughter, and the
dreamy, sobbing notes of a waltz.

And now a depression, utter and profound, a more grievous thing than
the fury that had preceded it, was settling upon him.  It was not only
Myrna, the knowledge forced home upon him that he was but a vehicle for
her ambitions, that their marriage was to be a hollow thing, a form, a
husk covering the semblance of love--it was the sea!  Until this trip
he had not seen it since he had left Bernay-sur-Mer.  It held a
thousand memories.  He had fought them back angrily, defiantly ever
since he had come on board--but they had been present almost from the
hour that the shores of the France he loved had faded from sight, and
at unexpected moments this thing and that had flashed suddenly upon
him, striking with quick, stabbing passes under his guard.  But now,
his spirits at a low ebb, reckless of combating even poignant
memories--those memories were surging overwhelmingly upon him.  It
seemed to mirror his life like some strange kaleidoscope, the sea that
he had always known; it seemed to stir something within him that was
soul-deep in his life--the smell of it in his nostrils, the feel of it
upon his cheeks was flinging wide apart now the floodgates of the past.

Living, vivid before him was the sparkling, wonderful blue of that
southern sea, fringed with the little white cottages of Bernay-sur-Mer
that had been his home; and beneath bare feet he felt again the smooth,
fine, yielding sand upon the beach where as a baby he had crawled,
where still a baby he had taken his first step, where as a man he had
struggled for his place among men and once had played a man's part.
The cheery voices of the fishermen as they launched their boats were in
his ears; they called to him; and laughed; and, because all were his
friends, twitted him good-naturedly, twitted him and teased him
about--about Marie-Louise.  Marie-Louise!  A low, sharp, involuntary
cry of pain rose to his lips.  With a violent effort he tried to shake
himself free from his thoughts--but it was as though he were in the
grip of some strange, immutable power that held him bound and shackled,
while with lightning-like rapidity, whether he would or no, upon him
rushed the ever-changing scenes.  The face of Madame Fregeau, his
foster-mother, coarse-featured perhaps, but beautiful because it was a
sweet and wholesome face, came before him; and her arms that were
rough, and red, and shapeless were around his neck in an old-time
embrace.  She had loved him, the good Mother Fregeau!  Came the faces
of Pierre Lachance, of Papa Fregeau, of little Ninon, of a score of
toddling mites clapping their hands in childish ecstasy over the clay
_poupées_ he had made for them--and all these had been his friends.
And all these were gone now, all were gone, and in their place
was--what?  He raised his head.  Hoarse-tongued, the siren cried again.
It seemed like the wail of a lost soul out-flung into the night, into
the vastness, calling, calling where there was none to answer--echoing
the loneliness that was filling his heart that night.

He had forgotten all these things in Paris; he had made himself
forget--and besides there had been Myrna.  He had fought for her,
striven for her tempestuously, fiercely, as a prize that nor heaven nor
hell could hold back from him--and, ghastly in its mocking irony, it
was only when the prize was won that, like some wondrously beautiful,
iridescent bubble, glorious in its colours as the sunlight played upon
it, it burst and nothing but the dregs of it remained as he reached out
and grasped it in his hands.  He had looked for the love, the passion
that he could give in return; he had found only a cold-blooded
strategical move on the checkerboard of social aspirations.  He was not
blind any more--nor angry.  It was only a profound and bitter
loneliness that he knew.  It would be a dreary thing, that
marriage--and dreary years.  Once, when he had no right, he had forced
his kisses upon her; he had no more inclination now to force from her
what should be so freely offered--and was withheld!

Who cared for Jean Laparde?  Not Myrna!  He had bought her as he had
sworn he would buy her, and his own words had come true--with fame.  He
was the great Laparde!  But who cared for _Jean_ Laparde?  None that he
knew now!  All that was in the past; all that was in the little village
on the Mediterranean shore in the days when he had made the clay
_poupées_ on the banks of the creek, and dreamed of that wondrous dream
statue that had been so real a thing to him--and now even that was
gone--and he was alone.

Ah, they were back again, those scenes of Bernay-sur-Mer!  Whose face
was that?  Gaston Bernier!  Old Gaston!  And what was this that he was
living again, that was so cruel in its realism?  That night on the
Perigeau ... that night when old Gaston died ... that day when he had
made the beacon for Marie-Louise, the beacon with its arms outstretched
that--he covered his face suddenly with his hands.  If he could only
strangle these thoughts--God, the loneliness and the pain they brought!

How the strains of that waltz seemed to sob out like some
broken-hearted, lost and wandering thing!  He shivered a little.  How
cold the night was, how wet and damp!  How the engines throbbed,
throbbed, throbbed, and seemed to catch the tempo of the distant music,
and like muffled drums beat time to it as to a dirge!

His hands dropped to his sides.  From far down the deck came Myrna's
rippling, silvery peal of laughter; and, through the group around her,
he caught the sparkle of the magnificent diamond necklace at her
throat, the white, fluffy wrap of fur thrown across her shoulders--and
heard her laugh again.  And at her laugh, he turned bitterly around to
the rail to face the night as the ship drove into it, to let the wind
and the wet mist blow into his face, to look down on the steerage deck
below him.  What a contrast!  There, just beneath where he stood, in
the filmy light that shone out from an open alleyway, alone,
unsheltered, a pathetic figure in the drifting mist, her clothes damp
around her, a woman leaned with bowed head against the ship's side.  A
wave of pity, but a pity that knew bitterness and irony, came upon him.
What would he read in the face of this poor immigrant if he could but
see it?  Misery?  She looked miserable enough!  Loneliness?  Was she
lonely, too?  Was she as lonely as he?  And then, as though in answer
to his thoughts, she turned suddenly, lifting her face, and with a
gesture of infinite yearning, of infinite longing, stretched out her
arms toward the land, toward France, so far behind.

He did not move.  He uttered no sound.  In that moment, as she made
that gesture, he was living only subconsciously.  It was his beacon
with outstretched arms, with those pure, perfect lips, with that sweet,
gentle face, beautiful even with the pallor that was upon it.  _It was
Marie-Louise_!

The voices, the waltz strains, the throb of the engine, the sounds
about him, the lift and fall of the liner's deck, the blackness of the
night, all were blotted from him.  He was conscious only of that figure
on the deck below.  There she stood, her arms
outstretched--outstretched as he had modelled her in that figure that
first had brought him fame, and his own words of the days gone by were
ringing in his ears again.  "See, it is a beacon--the welcome of the
fisherman home from the sea.  And are you not that, Marie-Louise, and
will you not stand on the shore at evening and hold out your arms for
me as I pull home in the boat?  Are you not the beacon,
Marie-Louise--for me?"  A welcome he had called it then, that posture
of outstretched arms, that now symbolised, mute in its anguish, the
tearing away from her of all that life had ever held to make it glad
and joyous, the love of cherished France, her native country, her home,
the friends that made home dear, those that loved her, those she loved.
Those she loved!  And of them all, she had loved him, Jean Laparde--the
most!  It seemed to sound the depths of some abysmal treason in his
soul.  Whom or what had she to welcome now?  It seemed to sum up all
the tragedy that life could hold, and sweep upon him and engulf him.
It was Marie-Louise standing there on the steerage deck!  It was
Marie-Louise!  He did not need to ask why--the answer was in his own
soul.

And now a moan broke from his lips; and condemnation, stripped of
mercy, naked, bare in its remorseless arraignment, surged upon him.
Honour, and glory, and wealth, and power, and fame, and luxury were
his--and what had she, alone here in the cold, wet misery of the
steerage, driven to the deck perhaps for a breath of pure air from
where below a thousand, babel-tongued, were cattle-herded?  What had
she--where he had all?  If the memories of that little white-cottaged
haven on the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean had brought him a
bitter loneliness--what must those memories be bringing to her?  There,
in Bernay-sur-Mer, was the only life that she had ever known; there
were the simple folk who loved her; there were her friends, her
associations; there was her little world; there was her all--and he had
driven her from it!  As surely as though by brutal physical force, he
had driven her from it!  Yes; he had done that!  That was why she was
here!

His face, grey as the mist around him, went down on his arms upon the
rail, and a sob shook the great shoulders.  Where were the dreams that
she and he had dreamed of life there together in the love that had
known its birth in childhood?  Where were they?  Who had shattered
them, that she was no longer there, but stood an outcast, friendless
and alone, here in the steerage of the ship that was taking her from
France?  Where was the oath that he had sworn to Gaston as the brave
old fisherman had died?  "There is a crucifix there; swear that you
will guard her and that you will let no harm come to her."  Forsworn!
A traitor!  He had chosen fame, and power, and position--and she, in
her pure, unselfish love, had stood aside for him!

Again the sullen boom of the siren mourned out into the night, held,
quavered, died away.  Silence, intense, absolute!  Then, stealing again
upon the senses, the slap and wash of water against the liner's hull,
the medley of a thousand ship sounds.

"_God_!"--the soul-torn cry fluttered from Jean's lips.

He had chosen wealth, and power, and fame, and position, and they had
been Marie-Louise's gift to him--and his gift to her in return had been
the bitterest dregs of life!  And now wealth, and power, and fame, and
position were his to-day, his beyond that of any other man's, he knew
them all; they were his; he knew the adulation and the fawning of the
great; but out of it all, out of the pomp and pageantry and the
glitter, the tinsel and the gleam of gold, where was the one supreme,
undying, immortal truth of life--who cared for Jean Laparde?

And then, as he raised his head and looked at her again, a strange,
glad wonder crept upon him.  Who cared for Jean Laparde?  Out of all
the world, who cared for Jean Laparde?  In the figure there,
wind-swept, the damp, thin clothing clinging closely about her form, in
the face, half-veiled by the night and mist, he saw again that figure
on the Perigeau Reef that once he had been man enough to risk his all,
his life to save; and the kiss that had been his, the kiss that pledged
them to each other in the fury of that storm, seemed warm again upon
his lips--a pledge again--his answer!  Who cared for Jean Laparde?

He strained toward her over the rail.  It seemed as though some flame
of glory were lighting up her face, and, reflected back, was lighting
up his own soul with understanding.  Those lips, the face, the throat,
everything, all--he knew it now!--it was _she_ that he had been
modelling there in Paris!  It was she who was the womanhood of France
to him because her soul and his were one, she who had been living in
his heart, she that he loved--she who cared for Jean Laparde!

He lifted his head, bared now, far back on the massive shoulders.
There was one way, and one way only, that he could claim her now.  To
be the Jean Laparde of old again!  To slough from him the trappings
that had stood a barrier between them!  To be the Jean Laparde again of
the world she knew!

He leaned further over the rail.  She was moving away.  He watched her,
his face aglow--watched her until she was lost in the darkness along
the deck.

"Marie-Louise!  Marie-Louise!" he whispered, and reached out his arms.
"I am coming to you, Marie-Louise--my beacon--to you, Marie-Louise."



--XI--

THE "DEATH" OF JEAN LAPARDE

How wonderful the metamorphosis in all around him!  How glad and gay
and happy were the waltz strains floating merrily upon the air from far
down the deck, how exquisite the melody and harmony rippling through
the chords!  And the chill and ugliness of the night were gone; and the
loneliness was gone; and it was as though a glorious moonlit,
star-decked sky were overhead; and the wet mist that drove upon him was
as some magical, refreshing balm that laved his face!  And in his heart
was song.

"Marie-Louise!  Marie-Louise!  I am coming to you, Marie-Louise--my
beacon--to you, Marie-Louise."  He stretched out his arms again across
the rail; and then turning, and hurrying because there was a lightness
in his steps that would not let them lag, he sought the deck
companionway close at hand, and ran up to the deck above.

Not concrete yet, only dim and misty in his mind a plan took form.
Only one thing stood out, sharp-lined, clear, absolute, irrevocable in
itself--he must go to Marie-Louise paying the price.  For, apart from
all else, apart from the certainty that if he went to her as the great
Laparde she would only bid him return again, not in bitterness but in
her splendid self-abnegation, apart from this--how else could he make
her believe him?  He, a man who once had forsworn his oath; he, who
once, in her stead, had chosen in ghastly selfishness the fame, the
position, the place that were now his--how else could he make her
believe him?  How else, unless he flung them from him, when once for
these very things, a traitor to his manhood and to her, he had turned
his back upon her, could she believe that now he held them as naught
compared to her; how else could she believe that in his soul and heart,
dominant, supreme, lived now only a love for her, greater than it had
ever been because it was chastened now, a love near like to her own
great wondrous love that she had offered him--and he had spurned?  How
else--unless to-night the great Laparde should die, and in his place
should live again the Jean Laparde she once had known, the humble
fisherman of Bernay-sur-Mer?  The fisherman of Bernay-sur-Mer!  Yes,
that was it!  It seemed to crystallise suddenly, sharply, into
definite, tangible form, the shadowy, nebulous plan that, from the
moment his decision had been made as he had stood and watched her there
below him on the steerage deck, had been seeking for expression in his
mind.  The fisherman of Bernay-sur-Mer!  None would recognise in the
fisherman of Bernay-sur-Mer the Jean Laparde that the world knew--none
save her!

He was before the door of his luxurious deck-suite, and in feverish
excitement now he flung it open, closed and locked it behind him,
switched on the lights, and ran through the sitting-room into the
bedroom beyond.  Here, where there had been confusion, his things
thrown everywhere when he had dressed for dinner and the dance, all was
now in order, and his two steamer trunks were neatly stowed away--the
steward's work--beneath the brass bed.  He dropped on his knees, and
hurriedly dragged one out--the one that Myrna Bliss had chosen for him
that day when they had gone to Marseilles from Bernay-sur-Mer.  If only
Hector had not disturbed it!  _Bon Dieu_, if Hector had not meddled
with it!  He wrenched up the lid.  It was Marie-Louise who had thrust
that fisherman's suit into his arms that day when she had told him he
was free!  What was it she had said?  Yes, yes!  "Promise me, Jean,
that you will keep these with you always, and that sometimes in your
great world you will look at them and remember--that they too belong to
France."  And he had laid them in the bottom of the trunk; and, because
he had not forgotten so soon, when Hector, whom he had found already
installed at the studio, had unpacked for him on his first arrival in
Paris, he had told Hector always to leave them there, never to take
them out--but after that he had forgotten.  He lifted out the tray, and
began to remove the clothing that lay beneath it.  It was Hector who
had packed the trunk for the journey, and--with an exultant cry, he
straightened up, the old, worn, heavy boots, the coarse socks still
tucked into their tops, in his hands.

He put these down, and reached into the trunk again.  Yes, they were
all here--the cap; the woollen shirt; the rough suit, crumpled,
white-spotted with the old salt stains of the sea.

And then for a moment he stood and looked at them--and looked about the
cabin--and for a moment fear came.  As a blow that staggered him there
fell upon him the full significance of their glaring contrast with the
rich fittings of the stateroom-de-luxe about him.  They seemed to mock
at him, these garments, and jeeringly bid him put them back again into
the trunk--as he _had_ done once before.  What hideously insincere jest
did he imagine he was playing with himself, they sneered at him!  What
had he to do with toil, and poverty, and hardship, with the life these
things stood for--he who knew the palaces of kings, he who had luxury,
he who had fame, he who had all that he had ever longed for, he who had
everything that money, that position, that authority could procure, he
who had but to rub the lamp and demand of the world his will?

"No, no!" he cried out suddenly aloud--and, with a quick, impulsive
movement, tore off his ulster and threw it on the bed.  It was
Marie-Louise now--Marie-Louise!  Once she had given her all for him.
It was Marie-Louise, wonderful, beautiful, pitiful, the saddest soul in
all the world, out there alone on the steerage deck!

And then he stood still again, hesitant, listening.  Some one was
knocking on the cabin door.  And now the door was tried--the knock
repeated.  Disturbed, uncertain, he still hesitated--then, stepping
into the sitting-room, he closed the connecting door between it and the
bedroom, and unlocked and opened the door to the deck.

It was Henry Bliss.

"Ah, you're here, Jean!" the other exclaimed, with what was obviously
an attempt at unconcern, as he stepped into the cabin.  "I've been
looking for you all over the ship.  What are you doing up here in your
room alone, with all this gaiety going on below?  Eh--what's the
matter?"

Jean stared at Henry Bliss a little sullenly.  Since the other had
come, was there--it remained only to get rid of him as soon as possible.

"There is nothing the matter," he said shortly--and shrugged his
shoulders.

Henry Bliss frowned, and rubbed his hand over his chin nervously.

"Confound it, Jean!" he burst out abruptly.  "I know better!  You and
Myrna have been having another--er--another misunderstanding.  In fact,
she--that is, I discovered it a few moments ago.  I"--he glanced about
him as though to make sure they were alone, and caught Jean's arm
confidentially--"I spoke to her very seriously, very seriously about
it.  I--I am sure it is nothing.  It is only that you take these things
very much to heart, Jean, while she laughs at them."

"_Pardieu_!" ejaculated Jean ironically.  "That is so!"

"No, no!" said Henry Bliss, hurriedly and in confusion.  "No--I--that
is not what I meant, Jean.  Not at all what I meant!  I mean that if
she takes it lightly, it cannot--er--be so--er--"

"I know what you mean," said Jean moodily.  "I have discovered it for
myself."

"Tut, tut!" protested Henry Bliss anxiously.  "This will never do at
all, Jean!  You must both make an effort to understand each other
better.  Myrna is very--er--high-spirited--very!  You see that, of
course, Jean--eh?  Well?  Tut, tut!  That is all!  You must not be too
firm or--er--exacting with her at first.  I have found--that is, I have
not found that to be the most tactful way of handling her.  Now slip on
your overcoat, my boy, and we'll go down together."

Again Jean shrugged his shoulders.  Would it be necessary to open the
door and bow even Henry Bliss out?

"No," he said, with pointed finality; "not now.  I prefer to remain
here for a little while--alone."

Henry Bliss, perturbed and upset, coughed uneasily--and suddenly began
to fumble through his pockets.  His fingers encountering first a cigar,
he took it out mechanically, and, as evidence of the composure he did
not possess, bit off the end with deliberate care.  Then he fumbled
through his pockets again, and this time produced a marconigram.  He
tapped it playfully with one finger, and smiled engagingly at Jean.

"Well, well, I knew I had a panacea with me," he said cheerily.  "This
came by wireless half an hour ago; it's what sent me out on the hunt
for you, and ran me into Myrna, and made me stumble on the lovers'
quarrel that I am sure will end just like all the rest of them--eh--my
boy?  Listen!"--unfolding the message.  "It is from a gentleman with
whom I am well acquainted, who is very prominent in art circles in New
York, stating that he has just learned that you are en route for
America, and asking, on behalf of the leading New York societies, if
you will accept a public reception on the steamer's arrival in New
York.  There you are, my boy!  Think of that!  I promise you that it
will be something to eclipse anything you could imagine.  We _do_
things in America--if I say it myself!  It will be the triumph of your
career.  Bands, flags, bunting, cheers, the dock _en fête_--to say
nothing of reporters"--he was laughing now, and patting Jean's arm
excitedly.  "They'll show you, my boy, what they think of Jean Laparde
in America!  That's the kind of a welcome they're getting ready for
you--it will be the greatest moment of your life!  But here"--he stole
an almost wistful glance at Jean, and stepping over to the writing desk
at the side of the cabin, laid the marconigram down--"I'll just leave
this here, and"--he coughed again, and moved tactfully to the
door--"and you just kind of think about that instead of anything else,
and--er--in about half an hour or so, I'll bring Myrna along up, and
we'll talk it all over together--eh--my boy?"

He waved his hand genially, and, without waiting for a reply, went out.

For a moment Jean did not move; then his eyes, as though drawn
irresistibly in that direction, shifted from the door that had closed
on Henry Bliss to the marconigram lying on the desk--and abruptly he
walked over and picked up the wireless message.  He read it through
laboriously, for his English still came hard to him--and read it again,
more slowly, lingering over the words, muttering snatches of the
sentences aloud.  "... Shall spare no effort ... endeavour worthily to
express our sentiments ... splendid genius of which France is so justly
proud..."

And, holding it there in his hands, a dull flush came and spread itself
over Jean's face.  The triumph of his career, Henry Bliss had said--the
greatest moment of his life!  This great and wonderful America, of
which he had heard so much, was waiting for him eagerly--waiting for
him--Jean Laparde--Jean Laparde!  This was to be his welcome to that
New Land where all was on a scale so tremendous and magnificent.  To
his ears there came the mighty roar of thousands shouting again and
again the name of Jean Laparde; before his eyes a sea of faces looked
up into his from dense-lined streets as he drove along--and all, all in
that vast multitude were cheering, waving, acclaiming Jean Laparde.
They were waiting for him there at the gateway to America, open-handed,
royal in their hospitality, to pay him honour such as he had never
known before.  They were waiting for him there--for him--for Jean
Laparde!  They were waiting--

The flush faded from his face, and a whiteness came, and upon his
forehead oozed out a bead of moisture--and, as the seconds passed, he
hung there almost limply, swaying a little in the agony that was upon
him.  And then slowly the paper that was in his hands was torn across,
and the pieces fluttered to the floor, and the great head rose proud in
kingship on the broad shoulders--the kingship of himself, the kingship
of Jean Laparde.

Ay, they were waiting for him--but there was another beside who was
waiting too!  He looked at the torn pieces of paper on the floor--and
his laugh rang suddenly clear and buoyant through the cabin.  Once he
had sold his soul for such as that; but to-night, in spite of these
devil's tempters that sought to shake his resolution--there was his
answer!  There was his answer--the answer that had come to him through
the fog and mist as through a veil rent suddenly asunder, the answer
that was in Marie-Louise's outstretched arms, the answer that was in
her banishment from the friends and the France she loved, in the bitter
wrong that he had done, in her love that now he knew for its priceless
worth!  There in that torn paper was his answer!

And he laughed again--and as he laughed, he ran to the door and locked
it for the second time.  There would be no more of that, no more
interruption, no more of those tempter thoughts, no more of them!  And,
for the moment, no more thought even of Marie-Louise.  He had need to
centre all his attention upon his immediate acts now, for he must be
very careful what he did.  And he had little time--had not Henry Bliss
said that in half an hour he would return with Myrna?

He ran back into the bedroom, tore off his coat, vest and shirt; and,
catching up his toilet-case, hurried into the bathroom.  Here, he
clipped off his beard and shaved it close--then quickly, a sort of
tense, keyed-up excitement constantly growing upon him, he returned
once more to the bedroom, and, stripping off the remainder of his
clothes, began to put on the fisherman's suit.  How heavy and stiff the
boots felt upon his feet, how rough and coarse the socks were against
his skin--and yet how their familiarity thrilled him!  He swung his
arms, wondering and laughing at the free play of his muscles in the
loose shirt, and memories and thoughts began to press upon him--but he
checked them almost instantly, for there was no time now for that.

He finished dressing hastily.  He must leave no clue behind him that
would occasion even a suspicion that he had not carried out the purpose
that the world, and essentially those on board the ship, must be made
to believe was the last act of Jean Laparde.  Amongst a thousand,
amongst the conglomerate races that cluttered the ship's steerage,
where even amongst themselves few knew each other, where difference in
language precluded all but the most scattered and superficial
acquaintanceship, none would recognise Jean Laparde in the rough-garbed
fisherman--provided always that no search was instituted, provided
always that there should be no _incentive_ in the mind of any one to
search, provided always that it was accepted as a fact--that Jean
Laparde was dead!  He could not hope perhaps, between now and the time
they reached New York, or, at least, on landing, to escape the
attention of the ship's officers or the shore officials; but with Jean
Laparde a suicide in the mist and fog of that Atlantic night, he would
be no more to them than one as rough and ignorant and poor as those
others in the steerage--no more than a stowaway.

Jean dropped down on his knees again beside the trunk, and began to
replace the articles he had been obliged to remove in order to get at
the fisherman's suit.  Nothing--not a sign of anything approaching
disorder must appear.  They would look through everything--Myrna and
her father!  He shrugged his shoulders whimsically.  The visit of Henry
Bliss to the cabin, the other's knowledge of the quarrel with Myrna,
the other's concern over his, Jean's, moodiness, was, after all, not to
be regretted!  It would have its significance for Henry Bliss!

He pushed the trunk back beside its mate under the bed.  Money now!  A
sudden, sharp exclamation, almost of dismay, escaped him.  He had
little or no money--a few French notes, sufficient for his needs on
board ship only.  Monsieur Bliss had said more was unnecessary--that he
could make drafts through the other's banking connections in New York
as he needed them.  He searched through the clothes he had taken off,
found his pocketbook, opened it, and counted the contents--five
twenty-franc notes, a ten-franc gold piece, some silver--that was all!
Less than twenty-five dollars in American money!  Well, if it was
all--it was all!  It could not be helped!  He shoved the pocketbook
philosophically into his pocket; and, gathering up the clothes he had
worn, tied them into a bundle.  There remained only the heavy ulster.

He looked slowly, critically about him; and, satisfied that he had
overlooked nothing, walked swiftly into the sitting-room, seated
himself at the writing desk, and, from one of its pigeon-holes, pulled
out a sheet of the ship's notepaper.  He hesitated a moment
thoughtfully--then picked up a pen.

"_Je m'ennui de tout_--I am tired of it all," he wrote.  He balanced
the pen in his fingers, and stared at the words cynically.  What a
commotion it would cause!  What food for excitement, for the hysteria
of those who cared nothing save for the self-importance it brought them
in being so intimately connected with so famous a tragedy as to have
been on the _same_ ship where it occurred!  They would remember what he
had eaten for dinner that night, and quarrel over who had last seen
him; and they would envelope themselves with an air of pained and
morbid gloom--and cling to the gloom tenaciously because they delighted
in it!  What an event!  And out of them all, with the exception of
Henry Bliss, there was none who--ah, yes!  Ironically, as the grim
humour of it struck him, a smile curled Jean's lips.  The stewards who
had looked after him would care very much!  That one might die, if one
wished, was all very well; but to be inconsiderate enough to jump
overboard without leaving the _douceurs_ of the voyage behind, could be
construed as nothing less than a personal affront!  He reached suddenly
into his pocket, the irony of the thought lost in a flash of
inspiration, and pulled out his pocketbook.  It was the one crowning
touch required to stamp as a fact, beyond a peradventure of doubt, the
conviction that he had made away with himself.  He could ill spare any
of the money; but he could much less afford to ignore anything that
would lend colour to his plan and so minimise the risk of discovery!
He opened the pocketbook again, took from it three of the twenty-franc
notes, tucked these into his pocket, and laid the pocketbook with the
balance of the money inside of it down upon the desk.  It was not a
fitting amount, doubtless--but there was his pocketbook and all there
was in it!  What more could any one give?  He took up his pen, and
finished his note.  "Please divide what is in my pocketbook amongst my
stewards.  Adieu!  Jean."

He folded the note, placed it in an envelope, sealed it, addressed it
to Henry Bliss, and, carrying it with him, returned to the bedroom and
pinned it securely to the sleeve of his ulster.  Then, taking up both
the ulster and the bundle he had made of the clothes in which he had
been dressed that evening, and leaving the lights turned on, he went to
the outer cabin door, opened it cautiously, and peered out.  Here, on
the upper deck, there was no one in sight.  He opened the door wide,
marked the spot where the light, flooding from the room, lay across the
ship's rail; then, stepping out on the deck, he closed the door softly
behind him.

For a moment he stood in the darkness, looking about him, listening.
There was nothing--only the ship-sounds--only the confused voices and
laughter of the passengers on the deck below--only, faint-borne, the
music from the ship's saloon.  And then, he crept across the deck to
the rail; and, drawing himself back to give his arm full play, he
hurled the bundle with all his strength far out over the ship's
side--and as he hurled it, in requiem as it were for Jean Laparde,
through the night there crashed, and boomed, and moaned, and whined
anew the sullen blast of the siren.

It startled him momentarily; but the next instant he stooped and laid
the ulster upon the deck beside the rail.  It was perhaps fastidious in
a suicide to remove his ulster, but the light from his room, when the
door was opened, that would shine upon the white paper pinned on the
sleeve, would disclose a sufficient motive!

It was done!  In all the world now for him there was only one to share
his life--a life whose future course he could not see, nor guess; but a
life where, greatest of all gifts, most splendid of all splendours, was
love.  There was but one--only one--and that one out of all the world
was she alone who cared for Jean Laparde.  And she did not know yet
that he was there, that he was going to her, that he would never leave
her again--but in a moment she would know!  In only another moment now
I Ah, he could see the pure, beautiful face shine in welcome with the
gladdest light it had ever known; the great eyes, deep, true and
fearless, grow dim and misty in their wondrous smile; those lips,
divine in contour, lift in tenderest passion to his; her arms stretch
out, no more in cruel longing, in bitter emptiness, but stretch
out--stretch out to him!

"Marie-Louise!  Marie-Louise!"--like a prayer, softly, he breathed her
name; and, thrilled, eager, his blood afire, he turned from the rail,
and ran to the deck companionway.

Barring a possible encounter with a ship's officer who might stop and
question him, he would have little trouble in reaching the steerage
deck.  He was not obliged to enter any part of the ship's saloons or
alley-ways--he had only to descend to the deck below, and from there it
was but a half dozen steps to the head of the ladder with its little
sign "passengers forbidden" that led directly to the steerage deck.
True, it was possible that some of the steerage passengers might notice
him descending the ladder, but they would be too far away and it was
too dark for them to see his face from any distance; and to them, in
any event, unaccustomed to question, it would mean nothing more, if
indeed they gave it any thought at all, than some one of the ship's
crew in the ordinary performance of his duty.

At the head of the companionway Jean stopped to assure himself that the
saloon passengers were still avoiding the wet, unsheltered portion of
the deck beneath; and then, descending quickly, he stole across the
deck-space below, gained the second ladder, and, boldly now, but with
the swift agility born of the fishing days of Bernay-sur-Mer that any
seaman might have envied, swung himself down to the steerage deck.  And
here, almost leisurely, he turned, and, seeking the darkest shadows,
and so disappearing from the sight of any of the steerage passengers
who, still huddled about the deck, might have noticed him, he stood
motionless, close up against the ship's superstructure.  It was perhaps
an exaggerated precaution; but it would preclude the possibility of any
one of them connecting him, when he eventually went amongst them, with
the man who had come down the ladder and presumably had disappeared in
some, to them mysterious, where all was mysterious, recess of the ship.

His heart was pounding, he could feel the hot blood flush his cheeks,
as his eyes strained through the gloom and semi-darkness, searching the
deck.  Was she still there--somewhere?  Surely, surely she had not yet
gone below!  For then it would be very hard, perhaps impossible, to
find her until to-morrow, and he could not wait so long as that; for it
was to-night that he was to take Marie-Louise in his arms again, and
hold her there, and stand, they two, and look into each other's eyes,
glad, beyond any gladness else, in the love that God had given back to
them.  To-morrow?  No!  To-night!  To-night!  It must be to-night!
Surely she was still here!  Yes--who was that, whose form he could just
make out in the darkness at the ship's side far along the deck?

He moved quickly now, still keeping in the shadows, until he reached
the side of the ship furthest away from the ladder by which he had
descended, and then stepped out across the deck.  He passed little
knots of people, and voices in strange tongues that he had never heard
before fell upon his ears; but he gave them no heed--there was only
that figure, alone, apart, toward which he was hurrying.  And
now--yes--he was sure!  Her back was turned, and, as before, she was
leaning ever the ship's side, but--yes--yes--it was Marie-Louise!

He halted a yard away from her, trembling with an emotion that brought
a strange weakness to his limbs, and reached out his arms--her name
quivering, low and passionate, his soul in his voice, upon his lips.

"Marie-Louise!"

She turned sharply, in a frightened, startled way, and for a moment
stared at him; and then, even in the darkness, he could see her face
grow deathly white, while her hand groped blindly out behind her for
support.

"Dead!" she whispered.  "I was praying to the _bon Dieu_ for you, Jean.
And now you are dead, and you have come to me."

"Ay!" he cried blunderingly in his joy.  "Ay, that is true,
Marie-Louise!  Jean Laparde is dead!"

She moaned a little, and shrank back, and pressed her hands to her face.

"Dead!" she whispered again.  "You are dead, Jean, and you have come to
me."

She was swaying as he caught her in his arms.  Fool, accursed fool,
that he had not understood!

"No, no; Marie-Louise, _chérie, ma bien-aimée_!" he said tenderly.
"See, are my arms not real about you?  See, it is I, it is really I!
It is not death, it is love that has brought me!  See, Marie-Louise,
lie very still for a little while in my arms, and you will not be any
more afraid."

It seemed as though for a space she were in a faint, so white her face
was, so quiet she lay; and then her hand felt out and touched his
shoulder, and his face, and his hair in a wondering, hesitant,
incredulous way.

Her lips moved.

"You--you are like Jean as he used to be before he went away to the
_grand monde_."

He bent his head, and laid his cheek against her cheek.

"Yes, Marie-Louise," he said softly.  "And now I shall always be that
Jean.  Try very hard now to understand, little one!  See, I am back
again--for always--for always--and I will never go away from you any
more.  Don't you see, _petite_, that it is really Jean?"

"Yes," she said, in a low, dead voice, "it is Jean; but how can it be
Jean--here--on this great ship--when Jean, I know, is in France--for I
left Jean in France."

And then Jean laughed--because it would help to drive the sense of
unreality from her mind, and because in his heart was only joyous
laughter.

"It is very simple, that!  I came with Monsieur Bliss and mademoiselle.
And it is no more strange for me to be here than for you--than that I
should have seen you a little while ago from the deck up there,
Marie-Louise."

She seemed to rouse herself as though in dawning comprehension, raising
herself a little in his arms.

"But the clothes--those clothes that you are wearing!" she faltered.

"Ah, Marie-Louise!" he cried out happily.  "Do you not remember?  Was
it not you who told me that day that I was to keep them with me always?
And see, I have kept them--and they have brought me back to you!"

He felt her tremble suddenly, and draw away.

"Let me go, Jean."  And, as he released her, she stood for an instant
clinging to the ship's side, her head turned away, before she spoke
again.  "You--you put them on to come down here to me?" she said dully,
at last.

"But, yes!  But, yes!  What else?" he answered eagerly.  "To come to
you, Marie-Louise!"

She faced him, pitifully white.

"Oh, Jean, Jean!  Why did you do it?"--it was a bitter, hopeless cry.
"What good could this hour bring to you, what could it give you when
you go back there that you have not already got, while for me"--her
voice broke--"it was so hard before--so hard before, and now--"

She did not understand!  She did not understand!  He caught her hands.

"It is not for an hour!"--his voice was ringing, vibrant, glad.  "It is
not for an hour, Marie-Louise, it is for--always--always!  I am not
going back.  I have come for always--to be with you always now,
Marie-Louise, as long as we shall live.  Look up, Marie-Louise!  Look
up, and smile with those wondrous lips, and put your arms around my
neck, and lay your head upon my shoulder, for there is none here to see
or heed."

She did not move; and, as she stood there staring at him, the colour
came into her face--and went again, leaving it as white and drawn as it
had been before.

"You are not going back"--she scarcely breathed the words.  Then,
almost wildly: "Jean, what do you mean?  Your life, your work, your--"

"Are yours, my Marie-Louise," he said quickly.  "It was that I meant
when I told you Jean Laparde was dead."

"Mine!  You would do this--for me--for me--Jean?"--it was as though she
were speaking to herself, so low her voice was, as she leaned slowly
toward him.  "For me?" she said again; and in a tender, wistful way
took his face between her hands, and looked a long time into his eyes
while her own grew dim.  "You are very wonderful, and big, and brave,
and strong, Jean," she whispered presently; and there was a little
quickened pressure of her hands upon his cheeks, and then they fell
away--and she shook her head.  "But it can never be, Jean--it can never
be.  You must go back."

"Never be!" Jean echoed--but now there was a sudden fierce triumph in
his voice.  "It _must_ be now, for there is no other way.  I cannot go
back!  Have I not told you that Jean Laparde is dead?  Listen, listen,
Marie-Louise, my little one.  Up there I have destroyed all traces of
myself, and in a little while they will find the note I left, and
believe that I have thrown myself overboard.  Ah, Marie-Louise, when I
saw you here to-night--see, you were standing down there with your arms
stretched out!  But how can I tell you--the joy, the grief, the
_misérable_ I had been?  But it was only you then--you, Marie-Louise,
my Marie-Louise again!  And I must show you it was true that my life
should be yours, that I knew at last all else against your love was
nothing, that I had been as some sick soul wandering, deluded, in a
world of phantom things--ah, I do not say it well, Marie-Louise, but
you must read my heart, and out of that great love of yours forgive.
And I must make you believe--my beacon!  Do you remember that?  My
beacon!  Ah, Marie-Louise, for a little while I lost it in the darkness
and the storm, but now it is bright again, and it shall always burn for
me.  And so, see, I have come; and it is the long past back again, and
the between is gone, and it is again as the night old Gaston died, and
you and I, Marie-Louise, are alone together in all the world."

"Jean!  Jean!" she said brokenly--and turned away her head, and,
leaning there, buried it in her arms.  When she looked up again her
face was wet with tears.

He held out his arms to her, and smiled.

But now again she shook her head; and, as her lips quivered, gently
pushed his arms away, and took one hand of his in both her own.

"Jean, it is not too late," she was trying bravely to control her
voice.  "You must go back.  The _bon Dieu_ has given you a great life
to live, and a great work to do--the work you love."

"It was not the work that I loved--it was Jean Laparde," he said, with
a bitter laugh.  "But now, I tell you again, Jean Laparde is dead."

"There is your life and there is your work," she went on, as though she
had not heard him.  "And, Jean--Jean, I have seen them both, and--and
so I know."

"You have seen them!" he repeated in a puzzled way.  "What is that you
say?"

"Yes," she said.  "Jean, it was I who went to your studio that night.
It was I that Monsieur Valmain saw enter there.  I had a cloak and hat
that Father Anton had given me that had belonged to Mademoiselle Bliss."

"You?" he cried out, in wild amazement.

"Wait!" she said tensely.  "It does not matter if you know now, since
you have seen me here; and I am telling you because--because I must
make you understand that I know what your life is there in the great
world, and how the name of Jean Laparde is honoured, and how now, more
than ever before, Jean, you belong to France--and that you must go
back--and that this can never, never be, Jean--and that I can never let
you do this thing."

He stared at her for a moment and could not speak.  It was Marie-Louise
who had been at the studio that night!  There was bewilderment upon
him; and there was something of finality in the gentle voice that swept
the laughter from his heart, and brought a cold, dead thing there in
its place.  And then a sudden, eager uplift came.

"You were there that night!" he said swiftly.  "What brought you there,
Marie-Louise?  What brought you there--to Paris--from Bernay-sur-Mer?"

She did not answer.

"Ah, I know!  I know!" he cried out joyously.  "It was your love,
Marie-Louise--your love that brought you there.  And so you love me
now, Marie-Louise--and how then can you talk of sending me away?"

"I have always loved you, Jean," she said simply.  "It is because I
love you that I must not let you do this thing."

"And it is because I love you that I _will_ do it!" he burst out
passionately.  "Marie-Louise, you were there that night!  But is that
all?  You do not say it, but perhaps you are thinking of Mademoiselle
Bliss.  You have seen her?  She knew you were there?  That you were in
Paris?  You knew that we--"

"She told me that you were to be married, Jean," Marie-Louise
interrupted quietly.  "But it is not of her that I am thinking."

"She does not love me, I do not love her--_voilà_!  There is the end of
that!"  Jean flung out his arms.  "It is the work then?  Well, listen,
Marie-Louise, to a wonderful secret that came to me to-night.  It is
you--you--your eyes, your face, your lips, your beauty, that has made
the name of Jean Laparde!  It is you that I have been modelling all
this time--it is you who have been my model--you, my Marie-Louise!  And
I in my blind conceit did not realise it, and dreamed that I was
creating out of my own genius the true, perfect, glorious womanhood of
France--and it was you!  You did not know that, my little one!"

"I am not that, Jean," she said steadily.  "But I knew that night.
Monsieur Valmain, when he saw me, when I stepped out into the studio
and you--you were lying there on the floor, Jean--Monsieur Valmain said
so.  And afterwards, Mademoiselle Bliss said so too."

"Monsieur Valmain!  Myrna!  The others too--they all saw you there!
They knew!  Ah!"--he cried, a gathering fury in his voice.  "Ah, I
begin to understand Myrna's sudden desire for a voyage to America!
There was to be no chance that we should meet, you and I, Marie-Louise!
_Nom de Dieu_, I begin to see--many things!  And you, meanwhile--how
did she get rid of you?  She made you leave Paris, eh?  You were to go
away!"

"It was what I must do.  It was not mademoiselle who made me," she
answered.  "I was sick for a little while, and then I went away.  Oh,
Jean, can you not see what I have been trying to make you understand?
I had no right even to have _risked_ your seeing me, and I had meant
that it should never be possible again--and so--and so that is why I am
here.  And now you have come to-night, Jean!  It is very, very strange,
and--and"--her voice was breaking again, despite the brave efforts at
self-control--"but it cannot change anything--and you must go back--to
France--and to your work.  Go, Jean; go now, or I--I must go,
because--because--"

"Marie-Louise!"--it was like some panic fear at his heart.
"Marie-Louise--you do not mean that?"

"There is no other way," she said.

"But it is you who do not understand!" he told her frantically.  "My
work!  Can I not still work anywhere--anywhere where you and I can live
our lives together, anywhere so that the world cannot come between us
again?  Somewhere in America and we will begin a new life together.
And is it not you that I need for that work?  Is it not you that I must
have if I am to work at all?"

"I was not with you, Jean, in Paris," she said, and tried to smile,
"and yet all the world knows the name of Jean Laparde."  She held out
her hands.  "I am going now, Jean--and you must go back to that world.
It was so grand and big, Jean, for you to do what you have done
to-night--but there is _to-morrow_.  Jean, dear Jean, in your great
loving impulse you have not counted that.  You could not live without
the world you have come to know.  You think you could to-night, because
to-night there is only love; but to-morrow all that you would so
splendidly have thrown away would begin to call to you again, and it
would grow stronger and stronger, and you could never forget, and
misery would come."

"You do not believe me?"--it was like some cruel amazement upon him.
"You do not believe me?  It is because once I thought those things
greater than your love!  And you do not believe me now, Marie-Louise!"

"It is because I will not let you spoil your life that I am going," she
said slowly; "it is because I must make you understand that I will not
let you do this thing; because you must, and I must make you--go back."
She stood an instant looking at him, the dark eyes wide and tearless
now, the lips parted bravely in a smile--and then she turned and walked
from him along the deck.

"Marie-Louise!  No!" he cried out hoarsely, and stepped after her.  "I
will not go back, Marie-Louise!  I will never go back!  It is done!
Marie-Louise!  Marie-Louise!"

She did not answer him until she had reached the head of the steerage
companionway that led below--and then for a moment she paused.

"All your life, Jean," she whispered, "you will be glad of what you
have done to-night, because it was so brave a thing to do; and it will
make you a better man, and I am no more afraid, as once I was, that you
will forget that it is the _bon Dieu_, and not yourself, who has made
you great.  And after a little while you will be glad too that I--that
I have gone."

She was gone!  He stood there in a numbed way.  She was gone!  He could
not seem to realise that.  Go back!  Go back--and leave Marie-Louise!
Only that one thing was clear out of his dazed and staggered
consciousness.  He would not go back!  He would never go back!
To-morrow, ay and the to-morrows all through life, Marie-Louise would
find him there!

He raised his head suddenly, and turned and looked behind him.  High
above on that upper deck there seemed a strange confusion--and on the
moment, from the bridge shrilled out an officer's whistle.  Then, from
deep down within the ship, the engine-room bell sounded in a muffled
clang; and an instant later dark forms were scurrying around one of the
lifeboats; and now there were shouts, the creak of tackle--and the
vibration of the ship was gone.

He moved back along the deck to stand close below the rail of the main
deck where, oblivious to the damp and wet now, the passengers in
low-necked gowns, in evening dress, the dance forgotten, were crowding,
jostling and pushing each other in mad excitement.

A dozen voices spoke at once.

"Somebody has fallen overboard! ... Who is it? ... Who is it? ... How
did it happen? ... Who is it? ... Who is it?..."

Jean's brows gathered in perplexed, strained furrows.  Myrna and
Monsieur Bliss had made their discovery of course, that was evident;
but to stop the ship, to lower a boat when it was obviously absurd,
when they had every reason to assume that his body by then must be
miles astern!  What was the meaning of that?

The ship was silent, still, motionless now, save for the tumult of the
excited passengers; the lifeboat dropped into the water and rowed
away--and then a queer smile flickered on Jean's lips.  Ah, yes!  It
was Myrna--mistress of every situation!  Her fiancé as a _suicide_ was
impossible; an _accident_ of course was quite another thing--that was
only deplorable!  She and her father had influence enough with the
captain, in whom no doubt they had confided what they believed to be
the truth, to induce him to carry out, for the benefit of the
passengers and all else on board, the semblance of accident, and the
attempt at rescue; and, besides, as far as the captain was concerned,
was it not the great Laparde, the most famous of his passengers, who
was involved--whose name was to be preserved from infamy and dishonour?
He shrugged his shoulders.  What story had that clever brain of Myrna's
devised to fit the case?  Had she _seen_ the accident itself?

"Who is it? ... Who is it?" cried the passengers above him.  "How did
it happen? ... Who is it? ... Who is it?..."

And then a voice above the others, breathless with importance:

"It was Jean Laparde!  He was up on the deck above with Mr. and Miss
Bliss.  He dropped his cigarette-holder, it rolled across the deck and
went outside the rail, where the boats are, you know, and the ship
lurched as he stooped to pick it up, and--"

"And so, you see, Marie-Louise," completed Jean to himself, in
whimsical wistfulness, "and so, you see, Marie-Louise, that Jean
Laparde is dead."



-- XII --

AT THE "GATEWAY"

What confusion, what noise, what bewilderment--tugs pulling and
snorting as they warped the great liner into her berth; orders shouted;
the cries of passengers leaning from the upper decks to the knot of
people gathered on the pier below; and, distant, like the muffled roll
of a drum, the roar from the city streets!

Marie-Louise clasped at her little bundle of clothing timidly.  For
hours she had stood there on the crowded steerage deck; for hours she
had strained her eyes toward the land, and then at the mighty city
unfolding itself as the liner steamed up the harbour.  And she had
gazed long, too, at that majestic, towering figure on the little island
that had evoked such strange emotions from all these people around
her--a figure whose fame must be very great, for of these, who could
not read or write, who were ignorant and poor, who came from so many,
many lands, none, it seemed, even to the little children, but knew and
reached out their arms to it, some laughing in hysteria, and some with
tears, but all with the one word upon their lips that neither dialect
nor tongue confused--liberty!

It was that they had come for, these Czechs of Moravia, these
Croatians, these Slovenes from the Austrian provinces of Carinthia and
Styria, these Lithuanians and Magyars; it was that, too, that had
brought these Jews from a score of lands where the blessed cross that
Father Anton had taught her to adore symbolised neither love nor rest
for them.  How many stories of oppression, and cruelty, and
hopelessness had she listened to on the voyage from such as she could
understand?  It was not the dream of money alone that brought them; it
was because, they had told her over and over again, that here they had
heard was the land of freedom, that here they could work with no
tyranny to rob them of their toil or of their souls, that here they
were to know happiness because here was liberty.

How they laughed, and talked, and sobbed, and whispered around her now!
How they crowded, and pushed, and swayed in their excitement!  How
eager some were, how dazed and frightened were others!  What a riot of
colour and strange dress the women and the men wore!  How they clung to
their bundles, as instinctively she clung to hers!

What did it mean, that word--liberty?  She too, had come for liberty.
She, too, had fled from her native country; she, too, had fled to seek
freedom from the scenes and memories that were there.  That day when
she had gone so blindly to the _Gare St. Lazare_ and a train had taken
her to Havre, that day when she had no thought of any definite place to
go save that she must first of all leave Paris and then go far away, it
had seemed like an answer to her perplexity when, in Havre, she had
seen the sign in the window of the steamship office about the ship
sailing for America from there.  And she had bought a ticket; and
then--and then that night, here, here on the ship, Jean had come to her.

Her lips quivered suddenly, and her eyes filled with tears.  None, none
but the _bon Dieu_ and herself knew how near she had come that night to
yielding to her love; none else knew how through that brave, splendid
act of Jean's her love had seemed suddenly a thousand-fold greater,
making it that much the harder to deny, as it pleaded with her to
answer the cry of her soul.  Oh, it had been so hard, so hard before to
let Jean go, to send him from her--but that night when she had turned
from him here upon the deck it had been as though she were walking out
into some cold, dread place of eternal darkness, where there was no
life, no living thing, and all was utter desolation.  Why--why had she
done it?  She had asked herself that a thousand times in the days since
then, in the nights when she had lain sleepless in her bunk; and yet,
even while she asked, the answer was always present, always there,
repeating itself over and over again--Jean had not realised what he was
doing, Jean had not realised what he was doing.  It was like Jean, so
like the big, brave Jean of the old days to give his all on the impulse
of the moment, and never a thought to what it might mean in the
afterwards.  That was why she had sent him away that night--that was
why.  She would not have been strong enough to have done it for any
other cause.  She had only been strong because of the bitter regret,
the misery that would have come when he began to realise, even with a
few hours of the hardships of the steerage, what he had lost--he who
would have come from comfort, from refinement to where even soap and
water were luxuries; to food that he could not eat, dealt out of huge
kettles into dinner pails; to where there was little light and the air
was foul; to where like cattle in a pen they slept two hundred in a
compartment; to where, instead of servants at his beck and call, there
was cold, brutal contempt--and oftentimes a curse; to where, even to
her, who had not known the luxuries of Jean's life, it had brought
dismay!  Yes; in a day of this, even in a few hours of it, with its
terrific contrast, he would have known, and--and his love, great as it
must have been to have prompted his impulse to the sacrifice that he
had tried to make, would not be strong enough to compensate for what he
had lost, to make him happy.  And so--and so she had sent him back.
And the _bon Dieu_ had been very good to her to give her the strength
to do it, for she had been right, and she had known Jean better than he
knew himself.  She had been right; it had been only impulse, stronger
than himself for the moment, that had brought him to her, only
impulse--for he had gone back.  She had not seen him since that night,
not even a glimpse of him amongst the passengers on what little of
those decks above that she could see, though she had looked whenever,
safe from observation herself amongst a crowd of the steerage
passengers, she had ventured out on deck.  She would have liked to have
asked about him, but who was there to ask?  To the steerage the life of
the great ship was as a thing apart; no news, nothing came to the
steerage--sufficient to the steerage was the babel of its own
hundred-tongues.

She brushed the tears angrily from her eyes.  She should be glad and
thankful that she had not been unfair to Jean, that she had not taken
advantage of that moment of impulse to so tremendous a sacrifice; she
should be glad, not sorrowful--and yet it was not easy to be glad when
the pain in the heart was always there, and there was loneliness that
would not let her spirits be gay or bright.  Liberty!  What did it
mean, that word--liberty?  She had left her native land to seek it--and
what she had found so far could only make the memories keener, add to
them, and bring a greater sadness.

About her every one was talking, some boisterously, some whose cheeks
were wet, some who swore valiantly, some as though they prayed; but all
eager, all expectant, all with that word "liberty" continuously upon
their lips.  It meant that, throughout all the remote places of Europe,
in the mountains, in the valleys, in the plains, in the towns and
villages of countries she had never heard of before, this great new
land of America was known, and meant--liberty.

She wondered if it could be true, if this could be a land of magic that
transformed all bitterness and misery into sunshine and song.  She
wondered if the dreams of all these strange creatures who had come from
so many different worlds to this one because its name was liberty would
find their dreams realised--if there might not be for some a cruel
awakening that would be more than they could bear.  This woman who
stood beside her, old before her prime, who was very dirty, who was so
queerly dressed, who crooned incessantly to the child in her arms--what
dreams was she dreaming, what hopes had she, what was it that this new
land was to bring to her?  And then a great, tender wave of pity swept
Marie-Louise.  They had been standing there so long!  And how drawn and
weary the woman's face was, and how her arms must ache!

"Give me the baby for a little while," she said--and placed her bundle
at her feet, and took the child in her arms.

And now the confusion around her and about the ship increased.  They
had come alongside an enormous shed; and, though she could not see, she
was sure from the noise and commotion that the rich passengers were
getting off.  But it was well that she could not see.  She was glad of
that.  Jean would be amongst them, and she could not have helped
looking, and--and to have watched him go and know that it was for the
last time, would have been but to torture herself beyond her strength.

She was very tired, for still they were kept standing there for so
long, long a time, until her arms too ached, and the child grew leaden
in its weight.  Then the woman took the baby back again, and said
something that Marie-Louise could not understand--but the touch of the
brown hand as it patted gratefully on her arm brought a quick mist to
her eyes, because it was human, a human touch, and out of all the
strangeness around her, out of her loneliness it seemed so priceless a
thing to win.

And then there came harsh, strident commands, and the press around her,
carrying her with it, began to surge forward; and presently she found
herself inside the shed on the pier--and then it was like the deck of
the ship again, for she stood and waited so long and so interminably.
Why did they still have to wait?  It could not be here that one must be
examined before one could go out into those streets whose rumble and
noise was louder now!  Some one on board, a man who knew a few words of
French, who had made the voyage before, had told her that every one
must be examined; only he had said it was in a vast hall where there
were two big American flags that hung out over it from the gallery, and
that men sat at high desks at the end of long rows of benches, and that
one was towed to it in droll-looking barges that had two decks and were
all closed in like arks.  So it could not be here--that place!  And
then, more attentive to the details about her, she remembered the
_octroi_ when she had entered Paris from Bernay-sur-Mer.  One's things
too must be examined--and she opened her bundle until one of the men
with uniforms should have come and looked at it.

After that, she waited again; and then she was carried forward once
more with the movement of those about her; and, passing out of the
shed, was crowded onto a barge such as the one that the man on the ship
had described to her.

And then here again they waited; for all these people could not get on
one barge, even though it held so many and was so closely packed--and
there were other barges to be filled.  She could not see very much, for
she was in the centre of the crowd on the barge's upper deck, and could
only occasionally obtain a glimpse through the little windows that were
in rows on each side--but, at last, she could tell by the motion that
they had started.

There did not seem to be quite so much talking, or chattering, or
confusion now.  It was as though, hanging over all these people, had
come a subdued sense of disquiet and trepidation, the sense of some
ordeal to be faced, vaguely grasped, save that it loomed ominously, an
unknown, perhaps impassable barrier erected against the fulfilment of
their hopes; and men and women alike were nervously beginning to handle
the white cards with the big red figures on them, which every one had
attached to his or her clothing.

Marie-Louise found herself involuntarily doing the same--staring at the
little punch-holes along the bottom edge of the card that the doctor on
the ship had put there, one for each day.  And there was her name
written there at the top--"Marie-Louise Bernier."  And underneath it,
"Paris"--for she had given that as her last residence, because in this
new country none was to know that she had come from Bernay-sur-Mer.
For who could tell what these people here might not do?  They might
write to Bernay-sur-Mer, and then all her efforts would have been in
vain, for some one in Bernay-sur-Mer would write to Father Anton,
and--the card dropped from her fingers, and dangled by its string from
the button of her blouse.

The hot, scalding tears were in her eyes again.  Memories!  Always
memories!

On the faces of those around her, so many of them anxious now, was
written the question that lips in so many different languages were
whispering to each other.

"Will they let me in?  What will they do?  Will they let me in?  Will
they let me in?"

Liberty--for them!  Yes, they would go in, as she would go in--and some
of them, perhaps many of them, would find what they had sought.  But
she--even here in this strange country, where she could understand no
single word that was spoken, where, surely, now that Jean was gone
again, there would be nothing, no familiar scenes to come to her to
revive those memories--could she find liberty in some day learning to
forget?

It did not seem so now, for it seemed as though all her strength, her
resistance had gone out from her that night in her struggle to send
Jean away, and that it had not come back again.  Why--oh, why had the
_bon Dieu_ sent Jean upon that ship?  It had been so cruelly hard
before!  It did not change anything that he was in the same country,
for he would not stay long, and the country was so many times bigger
than France that they were utterly separated, but it was making it so
hard to be brave now---so much harder--so much harder!  And then
suddenly she lifted her head proudly, even though the lips would still
quiver, and though the lashes of her eyes were still wet.  What was it,
that old and simple faith, that her Uncle Gaston in his rugged, honest
way had taught her?  Yes, the words came back, and they came now like a
benediction to send her on her way with hope and comfort--"to love God
and be never afraid."

She kept repeating that to herself all the rest of the way--until she
was leaving the barge again, and, with the hundreds of her
fellow-passengers, still so curious a sight to her in their many
costumes, began to file in through the doorway of a huge building that
was red-roofed and had towers.  And here, once inside, they went very
slowly at first, for they must pass between railings one at a time,
while the doctors looked at each in turn.  This frightened her a
little, but they did nothing more to her than to stamp her card; and
then, after that, there was a big, broad staircase--and then, as she
climbed to the top, the vast hall was before her, with its many rows of
benches, and its two great flags hanging out from the balcony, that the
man had told her about.

What a buzz of noise--so many voices; the constant, shuffling tread of
feet; the cry of an infant; the stir and movement of such a crowd of
people!  And the sounds, floating upward, seemed to form themselves
into a strange, humming echo that was forever swirling around and
around at the roof of the hall over the gallery.  It bewildered her.  A
man in uniform--there were so many men in uniform!--spoke to her.  She
did not understand; but somehow, nevertheless, she found herself seated
on one of the long benches that ran nearly the whole length of the hall.

For a little while she remained quiet, staring down at her bundle that
she had placed upon the floor.  And then, as her confusion and
bewilderment gradually passed away, she began to look around her.  She
had never imagined that any hall could be so big--it was bigger even
than that place with the marble staircase where she had seen the great
reception to Jean.  How many hundreds would it hold?  Still the people
who had been with her on the ship kept coming up the stairs, and still
the benches were not nearly filled!

She turned and looked in the other direction, to where, quite close to
her, for she was almost at the head of the line, an officer sat at a
high desk, with one of the passengers standing before him.  And there
were many of these desks, each with an officer seated at it, just as
many as there were rows of benches, for there was one at the head of
every line; and behind these there was an open space beneath the
gallery; and against the wall of the building there were some little
railed-off enclosures; and doors that were constantly opening and
shutting, one of which, at least, seemed to lead into a corridor; and,
too, there was another wide stairway, down which some of those who had
come with her were already passing.

Her eyes came back to the inspector at the head of her own line, and
she watched him eagerly, as he kept writing all the time he talked to
the man who stood in front of him.  It would be her turn in a moment.
What was he doing?  What was he saying?  And then, as she watched, the
man in front of the inspector swung a large, ungainly valise to his
shoulder, and passed behind the desk, and crossed the open space
beyond, and went down the stairs.

There was only one more now before her--another man.  Her heart began
to pound rapidly.  She was not afraid of the inspector at the desk; she
was not afraid that he would refuse to let her through--why should she
be?  It was not that--it was only that the moment had come now when she
was to go out into this new land, and face new conditions where even
the language was unknown to her, and--and begin her life over again.
It was only that this moment seemed so big with finality--the threshold
between the future and the past.

It was her turn now.  Mechanically she took up her bundle, and stepped
to the desk.  "To love God and be never afraid"--she was saying that to
herself again.

"Your name?" demanded the inspector.  He spoke in French, in quick
appreciation of her nationality.

"Marie-Louise Bernier," she answered in a low voice, her eyes on the
bundle in her arms.

"Your age?  And"--he added kindly--"do not be nervous."

She raised her eyes to smile gratefully back at him--and then, with a
cry that rang and rang again through the immense hall and stilled all
else to silence, she flung herself madly past the desk, and ran across
the open space behind it.

"_Jean!  Jean!  Jean!_"

A figure, grimy, dirty, disreputable, whose hands were manacled, rose,
with an answering cry, from within one of the railed-off enclosures.

"Jean!  Jean!"--she had reached him now, and was sobbing, clinging to
him.  "Jean--you--here!  These things on your wrists!  And your face is
so white, Jean!  Jean, Jean, what does it mean?  Jean--"

And then she was conscious of a rush of men, and hands were upon her
trying to tear her away--and then, with a strength that was greater,
that seemed to mock at the strength of all these hands that snatched at
her, she was whirled off her feet, and Jean, towering there in all his
great might, snarling like some beast at bay, was between her and the
others.

"_Let her alone_!"--Jean's steel-locked wrists and clenched hands were
raised above his head.  "Let her alone!"--his voice was hoarse, low
with a murderous fury.  "I'll kill, do you understand--with these"--he
shook the steel bracelets on his wrists--"I'll kill--the first
man--that tries to take her away!"

Before the white, livid face, the passion in the mighty, quivering
form, they fell back instinctively; and for an instant that tense,
bated silence fell again upon the hall--and then a child cried
peevishly--and then a voice spoke authoritatively.

She did not understand what was said; but she was clinging to Jean
again, and the crowd of men in uniform were going away, leaving only
one or two near them.

"What was it?  What did he say?" she asked wildly.

"That there must be something in common between us--and to bring us
both together before the special inquiry board," he answered
mechanically--and because he could not spread his hands apart, he laid
them, still trembling with the fury that had been upon him, both
together on her shoulder, and drew her to him.

It terrified her, the sight of those manacles on his wrists.  Why--why
were they there?  What were they going to do with him?  What was this
inquiry--was it to send him to prison?

"Jean, what is it?" she whispered piteously.  "What does it mean?  What
are they going to do with you?"

"I do not know," he said, and smiled at her.  "I only know that for a
little while at least you are here with me again."

"Jean--answer me!" she cried out in her fear.

"But I do not know what they will do," he said again.  "I am a
stowaway.  They caught me that night on the ship when I was trying to
find some place to sleep--and, _pardieu_, they were not too gentle
until one or two were hurt!--and then they made me work my passage in
the stokehole."

It seemed so hard to think!  Some wonder, that was a glorious wonder,
was in her heart.

"You--you did not go back, Jean; I--I thought you had gone back,
Jean"--it was as though she were telling, in a low, whispering way,
some great, glad, joyous thing to herself.  And then there came a
sudden whiteness to her face, but her head was lifted bravely until her
eyes met his.  "Jean, tell them!" she said steadily.  "You must tell
them now who you are.  Tell them, Jean, and they will let you go."

"Tell them now!" Jean cried--and shook his head, and drew his shoulders
back.  "Tell them--_now_!  Did I tell them that night, Marie-Louise?
Look!"--he thrust out his handcuffed wrists before him.  "Is this not
proof, Marie-Louise, that I will never tell them, that I will never go
back--alone?  If the world is ever to hear of Jean Laparde again, it
will be because he has won back the only thing he has to live
for--you--you, Marie-Louise, my little Marie-Louise.  I told them my
name was Jacques Legault--and Jacques Legault I will always be until
you have made Jean Laparde live again, until--until--you are his
wife--as in God's sight you have been, Marie-Louise, since we were
little children, as in God's sight you were when I swore that oath to
Gaston as he died, as in God's sight you have been though I was a
traitor to that oath.  Look, Marie-Louise!  Look at these things again,
these irons on my wrists, are they not proof that there is nothing now,
that I will have nothing, that I will know nothing but your love?  Ah,
Marie-Louise, once you said that I belonged to France, and you bade me
go alone and work; and I forgot France, and love, and there was only
Jean Laparde, and I forgot the God that gave the gift--but now,
Marie-Louise, look up into my face and answer, shall I work this time
for France and you and love, or shall I never work again?
Marie-Louise, see"--his voice broke in its passionate pleading--"they
are coming!  Marie-Louise, do you not know now that there is only
you--only you, Marie-Louise--for always?"

She did not answer.  They were taking Jean, and taking her somewhere
now.  She walked almost blindly.  Jean had not gone back that night,
and--and those things on his wrists were proof that--that he would
never go back.  Proof that, whatever might happen now, whatever he was
going now to face, whatever they might do with him, the choice he had
made that night was made for all his life; that she, even if she would,
could not alter it now--proof that his love was so great and wonderful
and strong and big that nothing could bend or break or shatter
it--proof it was a love so pure that it had risen in sacrifice so high
as to make a glory of the years when he had forgotten it!  Yes; she
knew now!  Her heart, and her soul, and the _bon Dieu_ told her so!
What was it he had said that night on the ship--that even in those
years she had been his inspiration?  Yes; she knew that, too, for she
had seen it, and others had seen it.  It was true!  And he had said
that he would never work again--never do that great, wondrous work of
his again--alone--without her--never return to it--without her.  And he
had said that the _grand monde_ that once had taken her place in his
life, the _grand monde_ in which she could have no part, was of the
past now--the past to which he would never return--no matter what she
did or said now--to which he would never return.

They were in a corridor; and from the corridor they entered a room,
where there were three men seated in a row at desks.  These men began
to talk amongst themselves; but it was only when an interpreter, who
was also present, put questions to Jean that she could understand
anything.

"To love God and be never afraid"--she tried to think of that again,
tried to say it over and over.  But she _was_ afraid.  There was
terror; and, besides terror, there was that new wonder in her
soul--and, mingling, they brought confusion upon her, and at first even
the words in her own tongue conveyed no meaning, and possessed for her
only an unnatural sense of familiarity.  And then, in snatches, she
began to catch the drift of what was going on around her--a stowaway in
any case was almost invariably deported ... undesirable for other
reasons ... murderous assault upon one of the crew when he was
discovered ... his outburst of fury and threat of attack upon the
officers only a few moments ago ... medical examination ... stab wound
in side barely healed ... a vicious character....

The wound!  The wound in Jean's side!  She had forgotten that!  It
brought a sharp cry to her lips, that caused them all to turn and look
at her.  But she did not care.  What if they looked!  She was looking
at Jean--looking at the gaunt, white, haggard-faced giant, who smiled
and shrugged his shoulders to every question that was put to him.  His
wound--barely healed!  What must those days and nights of torturing,
brutal work in the stokehole of that ship have meant to him--and she
had thought so pitiful a thing as an hour of the coarse food, the
paltry misery of the steerage, would have made him falter and regret!

They kept on questioning him--but she was not listening now.  Her soul
was whispering to her: "It is Jean; it is Jean; Jean that you love;
Jean that you have loved all your life, all your life, who has done
this for you.  It is Jean who has lived through black hours where only
a courage and a heroic love, so splendid and so true that it will last
while life will last, has kept him from the single word, the single act
that could so easily have brought back to him again everything in the
world--save you."  Her eyes were filling with tears.  It was
Jean--Jean--Jean--who had done this for her.  Jean who stood there with
irons upon his wrists--for her.  Jean who had--

"Who is this woman?" the interpreter demanded abruptly of Jean.  "Is
she any relation to you?"

There was no answer--save only in Jean's eyes, as he turned and looked
at her.

"Tell him, Marie-Louise," Jean's eyes seemed to say.  "Tell him,
Marie-Louise, for it is you who must answer now--for always."

"You, then," the interpreter asked, addressing her.  "Are you any
relation to this man?"

She felt her face grow very white.

"You must tell the truth," the interpreter cautioned sharply.  "It is
evident on the face of it, from what happened out there in the hall,
that there is something between you.  Tell the truth for your own sake.
This man is to be deported, and he will not be allowed to come back.
Do you understand that?  If he is any relation to you, say so--unless
you want to be separated.  Well?"

Separated!  Marie-Louise raised her head a little--and looked at
Jean--and at the interpreter--and at the officers.

"I"--oh, it was true; true as life was true; true as love was true;
true in God's sight, as Jean had said it was true; true because all
through the years to come, through the sunshine and the storm and until
death it would be true!--"I--I am his wife," she said.

"Marie-Louise!"

She heard Jean breathe her name, she heard the half sob upon his lips,
she felt the cold steel of the handcuffs touch her wrist as his hand
found and closed on hers--but she was looking only at the officers,
hanging, her heart stilled in suspense, upon their every act, trying to
read their faces where she could not understand their words.  And then,
involuntarily, because they told her nothing, because the seconds as
they passed were as eternities, she flung out her hands to the
interpreter.

"What are they saying?  What are they saying?" she cried imploringly.

But it was Jean who answered--and his voice was lifted as though in
song, radiant, triumphant, deathless.

"You are to be sent back to France, Marie-Louise, Marie-Louise--with
me."



-- XIII --

DAWN

Strange noises!  The myriad voices of the ship talking one to
another--the creak and grind of girders and stringers; the grunting,
faintly from far above, of the wooden superstructure; the whine and
complaint of the deck-beams as the vessel lurched to the sea; the
sibilant hiss and whir of the racing screws lifting from the water; the
swift infuriated response of the unfettered engines, chattering
angrily, as it were, in wrath for the scurvy trick played upon them;
the eternal dull, moaning throb, throb, throb from everywhere, that
seemed finally to absorb these voices unto itself and stand as
spokesman for them all.  Strange noises--a medley of pain, of travail,
of strain, human almost in its outcry, seeking relief from unendurable
effort and distress.

For days and days they had talked like that, and Jean had
listened--listened through the watches of the day and night, listened
through the hours of his own toil and pain, and the cursings of the
raw-boned, wizened apparition that came and went through the murky
gloom of the bunker, and croaked continually like some ill-omened thing
for coal, coal, coal, lifting a brutal fist at times to enforce the
words.  But, too, as he had listened, through the plaint of this
strange medley had come the lilt, underlying all, of another refrain
that all these voices seemed to sing--a refrain that found a deeper
echo in his own soul, that seemed to make the kin between him and these
inanimate things the closer, a refrain of hope, a refrain in which lay
immortal happiness.

"In five days ... in three days ... in one day more we shall reach
France, France, France--and the end of strife--France--and the end of
strife."

And now that refrain was changed again, and it made his heart leap, and
he laughed out in pure joy, as he swept the great sweat beads from his
forehead.

"To-day--to-day--_to-day_ we shall reach France--reach France--reach
France!"

Over yonder through the murk of the dimly lighted bunker, through the
swirling coal dust, another trimmer shovelled his barrow full of coal,
and then the wheel _clacked, clacked_ over the steel deck plates, and
steel rang against steel as the barrow was whipped over on its side to
send its load tumbling down the chute to the boiler-room below--but
Jean's own barrow lay idly for a moment beside the black, mountainous
heap of coal, and his shovel hung idly in his hand.

"To-day--to-day!  France, and the end of strife!"--how joyously the
voices trilled in his ears!  "France, and life to begin anew!
France--and Marie-Louise!  France, and--"

"You damned loafer!" snarled a voice beside him--and quick, with the
words, a stinging blow fell upon Jean's face.

It was the raw-boned, wizened engineer--the man above all others who
was responsible for his, Jean's, presence there in the bunker again on
this return voyage to France--the man who had made of the voyage a
living hell.  Marie-Louise's money, her attempt to pay his passage back
and save him from this had counted for nothing--against this man.  Two
trimmers had deserted almost on the hour of sailing--he, Jean, was
lawful prey--a stowaway being deported--and there had been a vicious
smirk of satisfaction on the man's face, reminiscent of Jean's
unruliness that night on the outward voyage when he had been
discovered, as the engineer had claimed him for one of the vacancies.

The shovel clanged on the steel plates of the deck as it dropped from
Jean's hands.  He whirled like a flash, and, grasping the engineer by
the shoulders, lifted the other off his feet, and held him as powerless
as in the clutch of an iron vise; held the other off at arms' length in
his mighty strength to wriggle impotently; held the other there--and
laughed out with that wondrous surge of joy that was upon him.

"I will not hurt you!" cried Jean--and laughed in a big, glad way.  "I
am too happy!  See, I will not hurt you!  I am too happy!  Do you know
what it is to be happy?  To love everything--to have your heart
singing, singing all the time!  Ah, if you could but know!  But, go
now--for see, I will not hurt you!  I am too happy!"--and laughing
again, he released the man.

The engineer stood for an instant gazing at Jean.  Happy!  This great
giant of a man, in torn clothes, the sweat rolling furrows down the
grime-smeared face--this man, a stowaway on the voyage out--this man,
deported from America--this man, forced to work here on the voyage
back, who was to be treated, and had been treated like a dog--this
man--_happy_!  Happy!  Was the man mad?  The engineer, muttering in his
amazement, wondering and dazed and awed at the strength that had made
of him a puny thing, edged away, and disappeared in the gloom.

Two little incandescents burned yellow from the stanchions
overhead--there was no other light.  There was nothing but the choking
swirl of the coal dust, the rasp of the shovels, the clack of the
barrow wheels, the clang as they were dumped--and the voices that told
of France, and life, and love, and joy again.

"To-day--to-day!"--how the words rang in his heart and soul and mind
like some silver-throated clarion call!

To-day, when the shores of France should loom in sight, the last of all
barriers between Marie-Louise and himself would be swept away forever.
There, on Ellis Island, they had kept him and Marie-Louise apart; and
here on the ship again, the same ship that had brought them
out--"guests" of the company that was forced by the government to
return them to France--they had seen each other little.  For, though it
had not been as on the outward voyage when he was held a prisoner and
closely watched even when he was off duty, and though he was now at
least as free as any of the crew, it had only been at odd moments
snatched here and there, usually in the early morning hours while it
was still dark and he had gone off watch to the steerage deck, and she
had come up from below to meet him, that he had seen Marie-Louise--that
was all, the very little when their souls cried out for so much, that
they had been together.

But what did it matter now?  To-day--to-day all that was to be ended!
To-day--how his heart leaped, and his being thrilled at the
thought!--to-day they were to be together for always, to-day was to
know the fulfilment of their love.

And then, too, there was another joy--the joy of a new and beautiful
thing that had come into his life.  The joy, pure, without alloy,
unsmirched by sordid aims--the joy of work.  How it brought a feverish
excitement, how his fingers tingled for the touch of clay, how he
yearned to give expression to that with which his soul was now aflame,
the statue of dreams, real before him now, that mighty picture, that
splendid allegory that should tell his beloved France that Jean Laparde
lived again--but lived a new Laparde, and, if the good God willed it
so, worthy in a humble way of the great gift that was his, worthy in a
glad, tender way of the love that, so steadfast and so true, so
unselfish and so pure, had saved him from himself.  Yes, it had come to
him--come to him at last, the base of that statue that he had never
been able to see before.  It had come to him here in the gloom, and
struggle, and sweat, and toil of this miserable coal bunker; come to
him, leaving him to stand a chastened man before the picture that was
held up, perfect in every detail, before his mind's eye for him to gaze
upon, leaving him to tremble with emotion at the thought that he should
give it to the world to see.

It was a secret yet from Marie-Louise--a secret that was to be told
to-night.  There were to be just they two--and--yes, Father Anton, who
would be there to bless them--to know.  No one else, least of all
Monsieur and Mademoiselle Bliss, who would in that case come hurrying
back from America.  No one else to know that he lived until the dream
statue was done.  There was the dream statue to make, and then all
France, and all the world, if it would, should know that Jean Laparde
still lived; for then the world would understand why the Jean Laparde
it knew--had died.

He filled his barrow, emptied it, and filled it again--and worked
on--and, strangest sound of all, strange indeed for that dark, joyless
place, as he worked, he sang.

Came at last, faintly, the four double strokes of the ship's bell.
Eight bells--four o'clock in the morning--the watch was ended.  Jean
handed his barrow and shovel to his relief, and, mounting the
succession of steep, iron-runged perpendicular ladders, climbed upward
from the ship's black depths, and made his way to the steerage deck.

It was dark here--with the darkness before the dawn.  A fresh wind was
blowing, and he put on his jacket; and, leaning over the side, watched
the racing waves, and laughed at the buoyant lift of the deck beneath
his feet, and threw back his head to drink into his lungs for the first
time in many hours the sweet, fresh, God-given air.

"Marie-Louise!  To-day--Marie-Louise!  Marie-Louise!" his heart was
saying.

And presently she came along the deck, and her hand stole into his.  It
was too dark to see her face; but her hair, truant in the wind, swept
his cheek, and close to him he could feel her heart beat against his
own.  And as he held her there, there came upon him, softly, like some
sacred presence, moving the soul of him with an holy joy, the wonder of
her, and the great, immeasurable, priceless worth of the love she had
given him.

"Marie-Louise," he whispered tenderly.  "Your lips, _ma bien-aimée_!"

And in the darkness she raised her face to his, and he kissed her--and
suddenly he found his eyes were wet.  Glad tears they were; and yet,
too, a pledge between himself and God that he would hold her always as
he held her now, her life and happiness his dearest trust--a pledge
that in itself asked grace and pardon in contrite penitence for that
pledge of other days that he had broken.

His arms were around her.  God, the sorrow and the misery he had
brought to her, who had so freely laid aside her own happiness that
he--that he--  He drew her closer still.

"Marie-Louise, are you happy?" he cried out, and it was his soul that
spoke, yearning, pleading fiercely for the assurance that meant all in
life to him now, the assurance that alone could stand, radiant and
thankful, where before, in keen, bitter pangs of remorse, had stood the
memories of the past--of her betrayal.  "Marie-Louise, are you happy?"
he cried out again.

"I did not know that one could be so happy, Jean," she said softly--and
her hand lifted to touch his face, and linger there, smoothing the hair
back from his forehead.

They were silent for a little while in each other's arms--a deep peace,
a quiet thankfulness in their hearts.

And then Jean spoke again.

"Look, Marie-Louise!" he said, and pointed out far over the waters to
the horizon line ahead.  "It is the dawn.  _Our_ dawn, Marie-Louise.
The dawn of the day when we shall be together always."

Grey it was in the east; faint and timorous streaks of light that
seemed like skirmishers flung out in tentative attack upon the massed
blackness of the night.

Her hands tightened about him.

"To-day!  Oh, Jean!  It is like a dream--like a wonderful dream that
the _bon Dieu_ has brought to us."

He drew her head to his shoulder.  Presently, when in the east that
greyness should have grown pink and golden with awakening day, he would
drink in the pure, glorious beauty of the sweet, chaste face, look into
the dark, brave, tender eyes and read in her soul the happiness that
God had restored to them; but now he could only hold her close and feel
the lithe young form against his own, and feel her heart throb against
his breast.

"A dream, little one, that shall always last," he said.  "Ah,
Marie-Louise, it is our dawn, our day, the beginning of a new life,
_chérie_, where there shall be only love--our love, yours and mine, the
love of old friends, of those we love, the love of work--ah, you shall
see what that will be!"  His voice thrilled suddenly.  "You shall see,
for now Bidelot shall have that 'touch' he asked for--for now I know!
I know!  It was you I modelled, Marie-Louise--your face, your form--and
they were perfect, beautiful; but I was blind to what was most
beautiful of all!  I modelled only features--and I forgot the soul, for
I had forgotten love, and I could not see the dearer things.  I forgot
the soul that should soften so tenderly and refine the courage and the
resolution and the purity of that dear face of yours and make nobility
divine.  I forgot--"

"Jean!"--her fingers were laid tightly upon his lips.  "Jean, you must
not say such things!  Jean, Jean, I am so far from that--so far from
that!"

He could just see her face now in the growing light--see the eyes shine
through a mist of happy tears, see those perfect lips quiver in their
smile, as she shook her head.

"But you shall see!" he told her eagerly.  "A little while in
Paris--ah, Marie-Louise, that is a secret that I have for you!--a
little while there, and then you shall see!  And all France shall
see--and France shall tell you that it is so!  Ah, Marie-Louise,
perhaps some day they will forget Jean Laparde; but France shall always
remember one who is worthier far, and in that one see its hope, its
inspiration and its glory, for France shall never forget--Marie-Louise!"

She had slipped from his arms.  Her face was full of wonder, and upon
it fell the soft glow of light that now was tinging the eastern sky.
How pure, how brave, how beautiful she was!  How love shone in the eyes
that were like Heaven's stars; how the soft light seemed to caress her
face and rejoice in the radiant happiness that was there, a happiness
that even her wondering bewilderment for the moment seemed to enhance!
How the strong, young form swung free and lithesome to the lifting
deck, and found a wondrous joy in its own glorious virility!

"Jean, what do you mean?" she said breathlessly.

"You shall know!" he laughed, and laughed because there was only joy
and gladness in all the world--in the waves that tumbled and frolicked
and played, and tossed their white manes at each other and the ship; in
the breeze that sang merrily its way along on its busy errand into the
great everywhere; in the vibrant throb of the mighty ship, in that
spokesman's voice--for it was to be to-day--to-day!  "You shall know,
Marie-Louise--to-night, when Father Anton is there to hear, and has
blessed us, and made Marie-Louise my little wife!  And then that little
while in Paris that you will understand--and then--_home_!  Ah,
Marie-Louise, can you not see it now--the blue water, blue with the
wonderful colour that only God can make, and the white beach where we
played when we were little children, and the boats, Marie-Louise, and
the brave, true, loyal friends!  Home, Marie-Louise, home, home,
home--to Bernay-sur-Mer!  Ah, is not God good?  We shall go home, _ma
bien-aimée_--and there we shall live, and there I shall work for you,
and France, and love, and there old Bidelot and those who really love
the things we do shall come at times to make us proud and happy!  Ah,
it will be a _grand monde_, Marie-Louise, a _grand monde_ of wealth and
riches, and a very proud _grand monde_, careful of those who shall have
the entree there--for it shall be a _grand monde_ where you, my little
Marie-Louise, are queen, a _grand monde_ of love and happiness."

Purple and golden and pink and crimson was the east--and over the
horizon rim rose the sun.  And it mounted higher, and the dawn was
gone, and the day had come.

"Look!" he said suddenly.

And a cry rose to Marie-Louise's lips; and her eyes grew dim and misty
again until she could no longer see.

"It is the land!  It is France!" she whispered.

It was light now, men and women were moving about the steerage deck, he
could no longer hold her in his arms; but, standing there at the ship's
side, her hand was tightly clasped in his.

There were glad words on Jean's lips:

"It is France, Marie-Louise--and home."



-- XIV --

THE STATUE OF DREAMS

Four months had passed.  The spring had come.  France mourned for Jean
Laparde.  Old Bidelot shook his grizzled head, and pushed away, with a
curiously reproachful motion of his hand, the mass of sketches and
designs that lay upon the desk before him.  If France grieved for the
loss of one of her most brilliant sons, the great critic of France
grieved besides for the loss of a personal friend that he had loved.
Of these competitive designs that he had been appointed to judge for
the statue with which France was to commemorate Jean Laparde--none
would do!  Not one!  Not one, but was so far from the genius of Jean's
own work that there seemed something mocking and incongruous in the
thought that it should aspire to perpetuate and typify the work of the
master-sculptor who was gone!  Not one would do--and meanwhile they
besieged him, those who had submitted their designs, to cast Jean's
mantle upon them!  They came at all hours; they waited interminably on
his door-step for him to return; they buttonholed him on the streets
and in the cafés to urge their claims and to explain the allegory of
their conceptions, lest some subtle beauty in their work might have
escaped his eye!  One would not think they would do that--eh?  That it
was not dignified?  No?  Well--there was the mantle of Jean Laparde!

"_Mon Dieu_!" sighed Bidelot heavily--and suddenly raised his head at a
timid knocking upon the door.  Here was another of them then, no doubt!
He had been wrong to let his servant take the afternoon, and leave his
apartment so unguarded that his very door was at their mercy!  "Well,
come!" he called out, querulously--but the next instant he had risen,
and was smiling, as he extended his hand.  It was Father Anton.  "Ah,
Father Anton!" he cried.  "This is a pleasure!  This is a pleasure
indeed!  I do not often see you these days!  As a matter of fact--let
me see--not since Monsieur Bliss went away to America, and the evenings
at his house were at an end."

"That is so," agreed Father Anton.  "But then, I have been very busy;
and besides, for a little while, I was in Bernay-sur-Mer."

"_Tiens_!  So!  But, tell me, what is the news from Monsieur Bliss?
When will he return?"

"I do not know," Father Anton replied.  "He has said nothing about it
in his letters; but I have a letter to write him to-day, that may
perhaps bring him back at once."

"Then write it, my dear Father Anton--write it, by all means!"  Bidelot
burst out with a vehemence that, if exaggerated, was at least sincere,
as he waved his hand helplessly toward the desk.  "I am in despair!  I
have been on the point of writing Monsieur Bliss myself."

Father Anton's eyes followed the direction of the gesture, and fixed
interrogatively on the desk.

"The competitive designs," explained Bidelot.  "None are worthy!  It is
tragic!"

But now Father Anton smiled, and shook his head, and laid his hand on
Bidelot's arm.

"But Jean still lives," he said, in his gentle way.  "Jean is not dead."

"It is the Church that speaks," old Bidelot answered.  "I know what you
mean.  That is all very well, and it is also true in a material sense
that men like Jean Laparde do not die; but what of the work that he had
yet to do?  What of that, Monsieur le Curé?  Will you say that his work
was finished?  Then I, who went there every day, who knew so well, who
looked for that final master-touch that was yet to come--I tell you,
no!  He had still his masterpiece before him!  And then, with that
achieved"--the caustic old critic's hand swept a dozen sketches from
the desk to the floor--"bah, he would have no need of these in any
case!--but with that achieved, then, I tell you then, that"--his hands
dropped to his sides, and he shrugged his shoulders.  "Ah, well, I had
thought to see it before I died; and yet I, who am an old man, whose
work is over, am still alive, and Jean Laparde is dead.  Will you
explain that, Monsieur le Curé?"

Father Anton's smile now was one of kindly amusement.

"But Jean is not dead," he said again.  "It is to tell you that, that I
have come."

"Hey!" cried Bidelot.  He stared at Father Anton in startled and amazed
incredulity.  "Hey!" he cried hoarsely, and grasped with both hands at
Father Anton's shoulders.  "What is this you say?  Are you mad,
Monsieur le Curé?  Not dead!  You say that Jean Laparde is not dead!
It is impossible!  It is inconceivable!"

"And yet," said Father Anton, still smiling, "since I married him at
the studio--eh?  And since I am here now from him with a message for
you!"

"Married!  At the studio!"  Old Bidelot gazed wildly around him.  "My
hat!" he ejaculated excitedly.  "Where is my hat?  I will go at once!
At once!  Jean--at the studio!  It is not possible--but I will go!"

"Yes," Father Anton nodded, "we will go to the studio, for that is what
Jean wanted you to do.  But Jean himself is no longer there."

Old Bidelot, already halfway to the door, stopped abruptly and whirled
around.

"Not there!  Then--then what?  He is not dead!  He is married!  He is
at the studio!  He is not at the studio!  I do not understand!  I
understand nothing!"

"I will explain it all to you," Father Anton told him soothingly.  "But
let us go.  It will take time to tell it, for it is a long story, and
we can talk on the way."

"Yes--well, then!  Well, then!  But make haste!"  Bidelot dragged at
the skirt of Father Anton's _soutane_, and led the way from the
apartment, exclaiming as he went.  Then, as they reached the street, he
caught Father Anton's arm and shook it almost as he would a refractory
child's.  "Now, then!  Now, then--tell me!"

"But be calm, Monsieur Bidelot; I pray you to be calm!" expostulated
Father Anton gently.  "See"--stepping out--"I will tell you as we walk
along.  Well, then--listen!  One night, a little over four months ago,
Hector came to my rooms in such excitement that I thought he was ill.
He told me that Jean had come back.  Like you, I could not believe it.
I hurried there--I ran.  It was true!  It was Jean--not like the Jean
that went away; but like the Jean when you first saw him, the Jean of
Bernay-sur-Mer.  And with him was--ah, but what amazement!--was my
little Marie-Louise--no, Jean's Marie-Louise, for I married them there
that night, and--"

"But," interrupted Bidelot, gesticulating with his hat, for he had
forgotten to put it on, "but, still I do not understand!  Over four
months ago!  And since then?  Where has he been since then?"

"He has been working there at the studio in secret," Father Anton
answered.

"Working!  Ah!  Let us hurry--faster then!" urged Bidelot eagerly.
"But why has he gone away?  Why did he not wait?  But
to-morrow--eh--to-morrow, he will be back to-morrow?"

"No," said Father Anton slowly.  "I do not think Jean will come back
any more to Paris."

"Monsieur le Curé," spluttered Bidelot, halting suddenly in the middle
of the street, "what is the matter with you?  Enough of these riddles!
Jean not come any more to Paris!  I can understand nothing!"

"But you would understand," said Father Anton patiently, "if only you
would let me tell you.  See now, listen--it is the story as Jean told
it to me that night"--and, as he took old Bidelot's arm, and they
walked on again, Father Anton, smiling sometimes radiantly, fumbling
sometimes with his spectacles, told of the old days in Bernay-sur-Mer,
of Marie-Louise, of how she came to Paris, of how Jean "died" that
night at sea, and of how they came to France again.  And they were at
the studio and mounting the steps, as Father Anton ended.

"And so," he said, "and so, that night I married Jean and Marie-Louise.
And what days after that!  If you could but have seen Jean in the joy
of his work, and Marie-Louise there beside him!  And I must needs go to
Bernay-sur-Mer to buy back Marie-Louise's house without her knowing it,
and see to the building of an _atelier_ to be added to it.  And--it is
there they went this morning--to live."

And Bidelot was very quiet now, and his eyes were wet.

"I understand," he said, as Father Anton opened the door with a key.
"But"--shaking his head a little--"even in Bernay-sur-Mer Jean will be
famous, and the world will follow to Bernay-sur-Mer."

"That is perhaps true, and it would be a sad thing if it were
otherwise," said Father Anton, with his rare, grave smile, "for there
is a pride that is pure, and a joy like no other joy in the tribute
that is paid to one for work well done.  And if the world follows to
Bernay-sur-Mer, it can be only to the life that it will find there, the
life in which Marie-Louise has her glad place, a life that the world,
as you speak of it, will never mould or change."

They passed in across the hall, and entered the salon, and walked down
its length to the portières that hid the _atelier_ from view--but here
Bidelot paused.

"Wait!" he said.  "Tell me one thing more.  Why has Jean stayed here in
Paris to work in secret like this for all these months since he came
back?"

"I think you will find the answer here," said Father Anton--and,
reaching out his hand, drew the portières quietly apart.

And Bidelot, with a low, sudden cry, stepped forward into the
_atelier_--and after that stood still, and neither spoke nor moved.

Two life-sized figures were before him--a woman, and a man.  And the
woman, a fishergirl, stood as on a perilous, wave-swept ledge, and
leaning forward was stretching out her hands; and at her feet, from
storm-lashed waters that swirled around him, rose the head and
shoulders of the man, one hand clasped in both of hers, the fingers of
the other clawing into the crevice of the rock, the muscles of the bare
arm, where the shirt had been torn away, standing out like whip-cords
as he drew himself to safety.  And as Bidelot gazed, the studio, the
surroundings, all were gone.  Alone those figures--as in some mighty
power that was supreme, that knew naught but itself, but in itself knew
all of triumph, of defeat, of struggle, of glory, of undying love, of
victory, that knew the sadness and the joys of life, its empty things
and its immortal truth!  And in the wind-wrapt, wave-wet clothes that
clung about the fishergirl, disclosing in pure, chaste beauty the
strong young limbs and form, in the torn and bleeding shoulders of the
man, buffeted, near spent, there seemed to fall upon the studio the
darkness of blackened skies, to come the roar of waters in turbulent
unrest, the play of lightning, the roll of thunder, now ominous, now
dying muttering away--and all was storm and battle and dismay and
death.  And then, as sunshine breaking through the clouds--a glad and
perfect triumph--victory!  It was in the woman's face that was rigidly
set with high, unfaltering courage, yet softened as by some divine
touch with a wondrous tenderness until the beautiful lips, as they
panted in the struggle, smiled, and the brave, fearless eyes held trust
and love; it was in the man's face, shining like some radiant glory
from out the drawn and haggard features, as though the physical
evidence of the torture and pain of one who had been near to death were
lost in the joy and wonder of life regained--is though his soul were in
his face.

It was long before Bidelot spoke.

"There are no words," he said.  "It is what I dreamed and hoped that I
might see."

"It is Marie-Louise--his wife," said Father Anton softly.  "It is his
statue of dreams, with the base at last that he could never see before."

There were tears upon old Bidelot's cheeks.

"I understand," he said.  "It is Jean himself."  He moved closer to the
figures, and stood silent again.  "It is a priceless thing," he said
presently.  "It is not himself alone; it is the womanhood of France,
pure in her courage and her love, immortal in her sacrifice, that is
the inspiration, the life, the anchorage, the guiding star, the hope of
France itself!  Ah, my friend"--the grizzled head was high, the eyes
were shining with pride and a glad excitement--"I speak for this for
France.  All must see it--the France as yet unborn, the children when
we are dead and gone who shall serve their country better for the
masterpiece of Jean Laparde and the story that it tells.  I go
to-night!  I go to-night to Bernay-sur-Mer to Jean--to speak for this
for France!"

Father Anton made no answer; but he stooped and from the pedestal of
the group removed the cloths that, as though they had fallen in a
careless heap when the figures had been uncovered, were bedded around
it.  He was smiling through misty eyes, as he stood up again.

"It was the message that I had for you," he said.  "Read!"

And Bidelot, bending forward, read the words that were carved there in
the clay:


  TO FRANCE--FROM JEAN LAPARDE



THE END





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